Sunday, February 22, 2009

This Week's Menu

It's been a while since I've posted my weekly menu. I guess I just haven't felt all that inspired to share our meals, but today I feel like sharing. So here it is...

Sunday - Leftovers smorgasbord including: shrimp and mussels over homemade pasta with vodka sauce (more on that later), roasted brussels sprouts, salad, garlic bread
Monday - Seared Tuna Steaks with Lemon, Dill and Caper sauce, broccoli, quinoa
Tuesday - Tomato-Lime Chicken Soup, crispy baked tortilla chips
Wednesday - Crispy chicken salad with low-cal homemade ranch
Thursday - Quick Spicy Black Bean Soup, cucumber salad

Friday, February 13, 2009

Food of Love

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, a day that brings to mind lacy, red, shiny, heart-shaped boxes of—let's face it—chocolates that aren't very good. Not to knock Russel Stover, but the waxy, mostly flavorless chocolates enclosed in these big silly boxes just aren't worth the calories.

I'm not really a candy person, but I do love dark chocolate. Fortunately for me, Jason knows this. So my version of Valentine's chocolates was an assortment of artisan chocolate bars. The selection includes Gran Saman Dark Chocolate Venezuelan Single-Bean Origin (70% cacao, almost bitter, and delicious), 3400 Phinney Nib Brittle (65% cacao with teensy little crunchy bits of cacao nibs), Newman's Own Sweet Dark Espresso Organic Dark Chocolate (mmmm, coffee and chocolate), and the most interesting bar of all, Dagoba Organic Lavender Blueberry (59% cacao with the essence of lavender and tiny wild blueberries). As you can see, I've already devoured half of the lavender-blueberry bar. To me, there's just nothing better than chocolate at its (almost) truest form highlighted with interesting, delicate flavors.

I hope you'll eat something that makes your heart go pitter-patter tomorrow.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Allow Me Just a Moment...

Is there anything more comforting than a big bowl of grits with melting butter and a generous dose of Franks Red Hot? I mean, seriously. Swoon.


I'm feeling bit under the weather, which is unfortunate, mostly because I feel I've lost the bragging rights to my super immune system. I managed to avoid all the pre-Christmas illness that was going around, so I was quite proud of my immune system's capability. I guess it couldn't last forever.

I'd been wanting to make something with miso for a while, so when I came home from work with a scratchy throat and feeling yucky all over, I knew it would be the perfect night for it. I started with leftover rice and some fresh spinach, topped it with roasted miso-marinated chicken, then ladled nourishing, steamy miso broth over everything. I'm feeling better already...

Miso Chicken Bowls
serves 2

3 1/2 to 4 tablespons white miso paste, divided
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, 1 inch grated, 1/2 inch sliced, divided
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 meaty bone-in chicken thighs, skin and as much fat as possible removed
4 green onions, root and top ends trimmed, very thinly sliced
1/2 (10-oz) bag baby spinach
1 cup cooked rice, reheated if needed
Garnish: chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso paste, ginger, garlic, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons water. Place chicken thighs in a large shallow dish. Pour marinade over chicken, and turn to thoroughly coat. Cover refrigerate for at least 40 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400º. Shake off excess marinade from chicken. On a foil-lined baking sheet, place the chicken in a single layer, and bake for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Set chicken aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Whisk in remaining 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons miso paste (taste as you go to determine if you need more miso). Add sliced green onions and sliced ginger. Let simmer, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes.

Separate cooked chicken from bones. Remove ginger from broth, and discard. Place spinach in broth, stir, and cover for 2 minutes.

In each of 2 shallow bowls, spoon 1/2 cup rice. Use tongs to strain spinach from broth, and top each bowl with an even amount of spinach. Evenly top each with chicken, then whisk the mis broth, and ladle about 1 cup over the dish. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

If you have ever found yourself looking for a quick chicken dish, whether for a weeknight or for a party, this one should be high on your list. Tender, juicy chicken and a nice little dipping sauce can be yours with very minimal effort and time. I totally forgot to post this after our Christmas party! So here it is, just a few months late...

Start with chicken, white or dark meat, preferably skinless and boneless. If it's for dinner, you'll probably want to leave the pieces whole; if it's for a party, cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, whisk together one part fresh lemon juice to two parts olive oil. Zest the lemons before you squeeze them, and add the zest to the juice-oil mixture. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, and whatever herbs you like. {Herbs are optional but add nice flavor. Dill and parsley are my favorites.} Taste, and adjust as needed—you want it to be tart and lemony but not sour.

Place the marinade and the chicken in a big zip-top bag, and seal it. Then squish and smoosh the bag, distributing the marinade all over the chicken. Don't leave any pieces naked. Then stash the bag in your fridge for about an hour. Or more—whatever. Just don't leave it more than 6 hours.

When you're ready to cook, you've got options. If you've made a lot of small pieces for a crowd, then just shake off as much marinade as possible {reserve the marinade}, and place chicken on large rimmed baking sheets. Bake at 425º for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. You can also skewer them on well-soaked bamboo skewers for easy eating. If you've got whole breasts {or thighs}, bake at 400º for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken.

For the sauce, put the reserved marinade in a small saucepan over high heat, and boil {seriously, vigorously boil to kill any bacteria} for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside. Chop some fresh herbs {whatever you used in the marinade} and place the herbs and the cooled boiled marinade in a bowl. Whisk in some mayonnaise until you get the consistency you like. Serve the sauce with the chicken.

Easy, right? Tasty, too, I promise.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Keen

Have you tried quinoa? It's this fantastic, crunchy little grain that's native to the Andean region of South America (largely Bolivia and Peru). It's light and fluffy, and each tiny grain pops just so in your mouth. It's very mild tasting, so it's perfect with nearly any flavor you want to give it.

Sometimes I make it, plain, cooked in chicken broth, as an alternative to rice. It cooks in a flash (just 20 minutes) and it contains more protein than any other grain. It's also great as the base to salads. In short, it's a really great pantry staple. You can find it in bulk bins, some grocery stores, and health food stores. Whole Foods sells a big bag of it for around $3.

For a healthy Friday afternoon lunch, I made a pot of quinoa, tossed it in a gingery vinaigrette, and loaded it with veggies for a colorful, healthy, and filling one-bowl meal.

Asian Quinoa-Vegetable Salad
Makes about 3 lunch servings or 2 dinner servings

1 cup quinoa
1 small bag frozen shelled edamame, corn, and red pepper mix
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sriracha (Asian chile-garlic sauce)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 handfuls washed baby spinach

Wash quinoa in a fine-mesh seive until water runs clear. In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook quinoa for 10 minutes. Drain in the fine-mesh seive, and fill the saucepan with 2 inches water; bring to a boil. Set the seive with quinoa over the saucepan (don't let seive touch water). Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and the pan lid, and steam for 10 minutes, or until quinoa is dry and fluffy.

Meanwhile, cook edamame mix according to package directions.

Combine vinegar and grated ginger in a large bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add sriracha and soy sauce, and whisk in oil until dressing is uniform in consistency. Add cooked quinoa and spinach, and toss well. Add the cooked edamame mix, and toss again. Add extra soy sauce and sriracha to taste.


A group of girlfriends and I were talking the other day about how our lives would be different if we made a six-figure salary. One friend said she'd buy a beautiful home, another said she’d spend nearly every afternoon at Anthropologie. I, however, waxed poetic about the amazing ingredients I’d buy. Organic, free-range poulet rouge, black truffles, and heirloom tomatoes. Humanely raised lamb and ribeyes, and sushi-grade yellow tail. Salumi from Italy, and an entire leg of prociutto, a wheel of parmesan the size of my torso. Blue Point Oysters and Osetra caviar. True, I do buy some of these things, but sporadically. And every time I do, it’s a splurge.

I know I’m fortunate—in this economy or otherwise—to have a career in the field that I’m passionate about. I’m in no way complaining about my salary, but I have recently been very conscientious about the way I spend it, particularly on food, so I can make what I do have go further.

From the time I’ve spent in the blogosphere, I read here and there about something called The Grocery Game, aka The Coupon Game. These incredible people (mostly stay-at-home or work-at-home mothers) were buying hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and other goods for a fraction of the retail value. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves, online resources…and a whole lot of determination.

Because I know we’re all trying to hold on to every dollar we can, I thought I’d spread the money-saving love and share what I've learned from these ladies.

Do you shop at Publix? If you do…
  • BOGO= buy one, get one free. There are different BOGO deals each week at Publix. If it’s something that either keeps well (i.e. canned goods, cereal, or frozen foods) stock up! Here’s the best tip I’ve gotten about BOGO: Publix allows you to use one coupon per item. That means you can use a coupon for the free item, saving you double. So if Quaker Oatmeal is BOGO at $2 a carton, and you have two $.50-off coupons, you can use both for $1 savings, and you’ll get two cartons of oats for $1. Make sense? This has made a huge difference in my grocery bills!
  • Many Publix stores accept competitor’s coupons. Just ask the manager before you get to the register. Target often has great coupons, and my favorite are the Walgreens $5 off $20 purchase, or even $10 off $40. And your Publix may accept them! Look for them on the Walgreens web site – there’s usually one every few months.
The following web sites update between once a week and once a month, and you can print manufacturer’s coupons right from the web site. (Target coupons) 

Last, but most certainly not least, the following are my very favorite money-saving blogs. These three wonderful ladies are so smart and such great stewards of their money. I encourage you to check them out! Sarah of Fiddledeedee outlines all the Publix sales, and matches them to printable coupons, as well as any coupons that have appeared in the newspaper in weeks past. She’s my Publix hero!

The others also outline grocery deals, as well as great deals around the web.

The Money Saving Mom
The Coupon Game