Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Simmering Smells

Holiday Simmering Smells... So I know I'm odd man out here but I tend to hate strong smells, especially of the floral or sweet nature. They make me sneeze and give me a headache - which means we don't keep things like fresh flowers, scented candles, lavender soap, or smelly laundry detergent in our home. Of course the roomie loves these types of things so to get to some common ground around the Holidays I agreed to add some Holiday Smells to the place as long as I had control over the fresh ingredients that made said smell up. I happened to see a post recently on Half Baked Harvest which inspired this. I left out a couple of things either because I don't like them or didn't grab them from the grocery store but it was pretty simple and pretty yummy.

What I used:
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries (about 1.5 cups)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small spoonful of whole cloves
2 cups apple cider
3 cups water
2 tangerines cut in half
2 small spoonfuls of vanilla extract
*original recipe called for 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (mine had gone bad), 1 vanilla bean (didn't bother looking for it at the store), 1 piece of pine from a tree (which we don't have and I don't love that smell.

Basically dump everything into a deep sauce pan or pot and then bring it to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let it go as long as you want. On the Half Baked Harvest site she says she just turns it off and lets it cool over night then add a little more water the next day and let it simmer again for the smell on repeat.
Before adding the apple cider

Pre Simmer

Starting to simmer and give off a great smell

A few hours in

It smells really lovely in here, though for me the cloves are a little more than I love - I think the next batch I'd cut those down a little or even take them out. But the cinnamon and tangerine and cranberry and apple cider is just delightful.

Happy Holiday Smelling!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chopped Salad

Chopped Salad... So I got home from a week of Thanksgiving gluttony and have approximately three weeks here in Chicago to get back in shape before I take on a week in Mexico over Christmas at a Culinary Villa and a whole week at home in California catching up on my mom's best dishes and some SoCal favorites.

In this three week span we also have have two visitors, one of which is my dad and that was a full 4 day eating extravaganza. The other my college roommate - we managed to be somewhat healthful while she was here, but it's definitely a distraction from the normal healthy routine.

All of that means that on the few days I have to make dinner and eat at home, I'm doing my best to be SUPER healthful. This chopped salad was one of those said dinners and actually seemed to be a hit with the roomie who isn't usually so keen on salads for dinner.

This one was both "light and hearty" as he actually quoted which I think speaks well to this one. It's simple and like he said, "light", however you don't walk away feeling starved. 

What I used:
  • Romaine - chopped into bite sizes pieces
  • 1 chicken breast - cooked and shredded
  • 6-8 slices salami
  • handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 4-6 mini sweet bell peppers chopped
  • 3-4 small Persian cucumbers chopped
  • fresh mozzarella balls (1/2 of a container)
  • 1 avocado in hunks
  • Homemade vinaigrette
The Dressing:

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Grainy mustard
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dried ground oregano
Chop it all up and toss it together in a large bowl - simple as that!!!

pre toss

tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers

chicken & salami

fresh mozz & avocado


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving "Stuffins"

Thanksgiving "Stuffins"... For those of you who haven't caught on yet (or don't have a Pinterest) a "stuffin" is simply a stuffing muffin - cute right? Well this week is our annual Thanksgiving Potluck at work and my particular division was given "Stuffing & Cranberry Sauce" as our designated side dishes. As you might guess it was easy to get 3 people to sign up to bring Cranberry Sauce but the stuffing not so much. I ended up getting 2 volunteers who both went the sausage savory stuffing route so I figured to round it out I'd keep mine on the sweeter side. I also thought it would be fun, for presentations sake, to bring mine in the shape of muffins - single servings that people can pop on their plate if they choose to try one. They turned out adorable and were quite easy.

I've never made stuffing myself, besides for helping with it at my family's Thanksgiving celebration - but I've never ventured on my own to create one. So I started looking at the types I could go with... white bread, sourdough, cornbread, a mix? It could include already seasoned bits of dried bread or I could do that dirty work myself. The recipe could include celery and onion... or just onion. It could have fresh herbs... or it could not. I really found there were SOOO many options out there. Ultimately I drew my inspiration from a Tyler Florence recipe - however I omitted the egg & heavy cream and didn't caramelize my onions.

What I used:

  • 1 Package Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Mix
  • 6-7 Cornbread Muffins made at home
  • 1/2 package of Craisins (eyeball it)
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock
  • Palm full of fresh sage chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Disregard the eggs they were NOT used

Also disregard the poultry seasoning.. I never added that either - but you could!

For the Cornbread Muffins:

  • 1 packet of "Jiffy" corn bread mix
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk because that's what I had)
  • 1 egg

Simply beat an egg with the milk, whisk together with the dry mix and bake per the instructions

So Dahlish 

So the instructions on the Package of cornbread stuffing mix says to saute 1 onion (and celery which I omitted) in the 5 tbsp of butter until translucent, then add 2 cups of stock, bring to to a boil then add the dry mix to that once you remove from heat.

For my own modification, while the onion was sauteing in melted butter, I emptied the 14oz bag of stuffing mix into a large bowl, then crumbled my 6.5 cornbread muffins into the same bag to see how much the crumbled muffins were equal to compared to the bag (so that I could determine how much stock to use). It was almost exactly half, so I decided to add exactly 1 extra cup of stock.

Package mix on the bottom, my cornbread muffins crumbled on top 

Onions sauteing in butter, before adding the stock

Once the onions were ready I added the 3 cups of stock and brought it to a light boil then removed it from the heat. At that point I added my cornbread mix (store bought and home made) as well as my craisins and chopped sage to the liquid mix. I gave it a bit mix by folding all of it together until it was essentially a very thick paste.

Then I sprayed my muffin tins with Pam, used a large spoon to fill them up and pack them down tight (I found this made them hold together better in the end) and then popped them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They got golden on the top and stayed very moist in the center. Once they cooled slightly they were easy to remove from the tins and place in larger tupperware to bring to work today.

Pre Bake!

Post Bake!

All in all they were easy and Dahlish and fun! Can't wait to dig into everything else at the pot luck! Enjoy & Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Deconstructed Meatloaf & Other Meals Lately

Deconstructed Meatloaf... Do you ever plan to make something the normal way you always do it, and then the day before or a few hours before suddenly you think "what if i make that thing... but inside out..."? Well that happens to me often, either in the name of cutting corners and making dinner more quickly, or because I'm a little bored of the usual and feel like I could enjoy the same flavors but in a different... "format" if you will.

Anywho, that happened this week when I had planned to make a super standard dinner: meatloaf, baked potato, asparagus.

I started thinking about mixing the cold meat with all those breadcrumbs and it just sounded like something I wasn't up for. So alas I settled into the idea of a loaf less meatloaf... which I guess is just meat? With seasonings.. that taste like meatloaf.

What I used:
1lb ground beef
1 package meatloaf seasoning
1 squeeze of ketchup
liberal sprinkling of Worcestershire sauce

In a large saute pan I browned the meat with a bit of olive oil. Once browned I added in the seasoning, ketchup, and Worcestershire and let it simmer for a few minutes.

This really only takes about 8 minutes in total so this was the last step of my dinner making (assembling is more like it). About an hour before I popped the potatoes in the oven to bake until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside (1 hour at 425 should do the trick). I also added a foil packet of asparagus to the oven when the timer had about 15 minutes remaining.

To serve I split my potato, loaded it up with my deconstructed meatloaf added a dollop of sour cream and a bunch of asparagus on the side. YUM! It was easy and Dahlish and although I wouldn't say it was my MOST creative meal it felt a little different and I sure enjoyed it.

In other news here is what we have been eating lately:

Roasted Chicken with Squash and Asparagus:

Chicken White Bean Veggie Stoup:

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Mushrooms & Brocolini:

Bell Pepper Tacos with Black Beans:

Grilled Spiced Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Fries & Kale:

Open Faced Baguette Sandwich with Burrata, Sun dried Tomatoes & Prosciutto:

Whole Wheat Avocado Toast with Crispy Fried Eggs:

Still loving my Meal Board:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Butter Makes Everything Better

Butter Makes Everything Better... I have always been a butter lover. When I was little my dad used to tease "do you want some bread with your butter?". I am notorious for a small morsel of bread and a big slab of butter, because seriously, what is better?

Despite my love for butter being profound, I generally try to steer clear of using it often at home or in my regular cooking. I usually use grape seed oil or olive oil in it's place for normal weeknight dinners but over the past couple of days I've snuck in some butter instead and my oh my it is lovely.

On Sunday afternoon I was cooking up a storm - chicken/kale/white bean soup for a week's worth of lunch as well as beef/veal/pork meatballs and tomato sauce for 2 dinners. I took a break for lunch and decided to ladle myself a bit of the soup, but I really needed something else. GRILLED CHEESE. And what better way to fry up the perfect crispy crunchy grilled cheese but to add a heaping portion of butter to the pan. Yep, it was perfect.

After posting a quick insta of my delightful and Dahlicious Sunday lunch I noticed a comment from an old friend mentioning that organic grass fed butter is actually quite good for you. After a little research I do see that there are a number of health benefits and am going to be on the lookout next time I head to the store!

In the meantime I buttered up another meal - I just couldn't help myself. Last night between post work day yoga and an evening call with my team on the other side of the world, I prepared a quick but PERFECT meal.

I started with salmon, a really beautiful piece from wholefoods - skin removed. I laid it on a piece of foil with a tiny drizzle of oil, a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper, a big squeeze of half a lemon's worth of juice, a few sprigs of parsley, and a PAD of butter. I folded that bad boy up nice and tight in a little pouch and in the fridge it went until it was time to roast.

Meanwhile I popped a scrubbed & poked baking potato in the oven at 425 and set it for 60 minutes. When the timer had about 20 minutes left I added my salmon pouch to the potato in the oven as well as a little foil pouch of asparagus to steam along side.

When the time struck zero I was left with the most moist, decadent, flaky salmon I have ever made. Not to mention a super perfectly cooked potato with crispy skin and fluffy insides. The asparagus was good too, but let's be honest I just needed it there to feel like I wasn't just consuming fat and starch.

needless to say the meal was Dahlish - super simple but done just right. Hope everyone is having a fabulous week of eating

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arugula Salad with Baked Feta

Arugula Salad with Baked Feta... So the insanity is officially behind us, for a few brief weeks until the Holiday's kick in. Wedding season 2014 came to a beautiful close with two weddings near and dear to our hearts. They were both extremely different and extremely lovely and while I am sad that they're over it will be nice to settle back into life here in the increasingly chilly Windy city.

After weekends of stuffing my face with local delights and fabulous wedding meals, I am going to attempt to get on a health kick. Although a few special birthdays in the month of October (cough cough mine and the roomie's) are lending to a few more carbo-loaded meals out than are ideal when one is trying to be "good".

In any event, on the off night where we are actually eating at home and not celebrating someone's yearly milestone, we are eating LIGHT! Perhaps to the dismay of the other mouth I feed... but I think I will let that be his problem.. at least I warn him with my handy dandy weekly chalkboard menu on the wall.

Tuesday night was one of those I just got home from yoga at 7PM and am ravenous and must eat NOW sort of nights. So lucky for me the dinner I planned to throw together was quite fast.

A simple Arugula salad with a side of baked Feta.

For the Feta:
Slice a block of feta in half so you get two even, thin squares of cheese. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, a bit of cracked pepper, and a sprinkle of dried oregano. This should be in some sort of pyrex or other baking dish - best too if you can add something else in there like little tomatoes to roast or marinated artichokes, or kalamata  olives (or all three!). I didn't have a ton on hand and went the bare and simple route. Cheese and oil and seasoning. Pop that bad boy in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes. It will get lightly gooey but still very much keep it's shape. It is a Dahlicious side, great on some yummy crusty bread, or the most perfect topping ever on a homemade lamb burger. Just sayin.

Pre Bake

Post Bake

For the Arugula Salad:
I made a quick dressing of oil, balsamic, grainy mustard, salt, pepper, and crushed dried oregano. I added that to a big bowl of arugula and then added my toppings. Grilled shrimp which I had marinated in lemon, hunked avocado, and pomegranate seeds.

Super simple but got the job done, plenty of protein, lots of flavor between the salty tang of the feta, the creamy avocado, and the sweet pomegranate, and most importantly that night - FAST!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Turkey Meatballs Two Ways

Turkey Meatballs Two Ways... To expand further on my hectic October, let me just tell you that I am in plan ahead mode right now. This weekend's grocery trip was all about strategy and making the most of the 4 days I am home this week to be healthful in my eating habits before a fun filled wedding weekend in the desert. I figured that Turkey meatballs would be the perfect way to do some time saving for dinner prep later in the week, as well as the perfect solution for lunch. I will say I think by the end of this week I may be Turkey meatball'd out for some time, but that's OK!

On Sunday I decided to make two dozen turkey meatballs, half of which would be Italian style and half of which would have an Asian influence. I'd save 8 of each for dinner on Monday & Wednesday (that means 4 each for the roomie and me) - then the additional 8 meatballs (4 of each kind) were split among my 4 lunches this week:

Italian Turkey Meatballs (from this Turkey Meatball Soup Post):
Makes a dozen slightly larger than a golf ball

  • 1/2lb ground turkey breast
  • 1/2lb ground turkey thigh
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use panko)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • large palmful of chopped fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper

Add the bread crumbs to the beaten egg and let sit until it turns into a paste - a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, give it a big squishy mix with your hands. On a nonstick baking sheet lay out your meatballs (I also recommend doing this near the sink where you can occasionally run your hands under water to help keep the meatball forming process from getting too stuck on your fingers).

Pop them in the oven at 350-375 for about 30 minutes.

Italian Meatball Mix

Italian Meatballs Pre Bake

I'll be serving up these bad boys with Dream Fields pasta in Rao's marinara sauce with sauteed kale for a super quick dinner between a haircut and packing on Wednesday night.

Asian Turkey Meatballs:
Makes a dozen slightly larger than a golf ball
1/2lb ground turkey breast
1/2lb ground turkey thigh
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use panko)
1 egg beaten
2-3 cloves of garlic minced (I used a garlic press)
Tablespoon (guessing) of grated ginger
Large palmful of chopped green onion
Dash of soy sauce
Tablespoon (guessing) of Hoisin
*Note you can use any Asian sauce/seasonings the soy sauce & Hoisin were just what I had on hand. You could also use fresh chopped mint or cilantro for herbs, or Sriracha/chili flakes for some heat!

Use the exact same process with the bread crumbs and egg, then add the other ingredients, give it a mix and cook similarly to the Italian Meatballs. 350-375 degrees for about 30 minutes.


Asian Meatball Mix

I used the Asian inspired meatballs last night to make a brown rice bowl with sauteed kale, teriyaki mushrooms and the meatballs. Inspired by this Pinterst recipe that I've been mulling over for a while.

Asian Meatballs in the container, kale, soyaki sauce, brown rice, green onion, mushrooms!

Sauteed Mushrooms in Soyaki sauce, Meatballs added in to steam & heat!

Brown Rice Bowls

To continue with my meatball overdrive I portioned out two a day to pack with the rest of my lunch this week, which consists of grilled red and yellow bell peppers, grilled zucchini, and grilled broclini. So lots of veggies. Lots of Turkey Meatballs. So far so good, all has been Dahlish... but I am sort of starting to count down the minutes until Thursday night when I can stop eating turkey with every meal.

Lunch Veggies Pre Chop Pre Grill

Grillin Indoors

Finishing off in the oven

Monday - Thursday Lunch!