Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

letter butter chicken

There’s this specialty espresso shot at Starbucks that I really want to try, but haven’t felt bold enough to order it.

It’s sometimes called an Undertow, but I think the general Internet consensus is to not call “secret” Starbucks drinks by their made-up names and just order the drink the way you want. It’s a layered drink with vanilla syrup, milk and espresso. You take it all at once and taste the hot, bitter espresso first, then the creamy, cool milk, followed by the sweet syrup.

Sometimes you just want flavor to hit you in the face.

This dish has no vanilla syrup or creamy milk or bitter espresso, but it does hit you in the face.

Sometimes you just want to take a bite of chicken and taste every single ingredient you put into it in a perfect harmony of, well, POW.

There’s not so many ingredients here — some lemon, some lemon pepper, some butter and some breaded chicken. But it’s enough.

(Today is the last day to take the readers’ survey so if you haven’t yet, would you please? I have had 39 responses, and wouldn’t it be nice to get to a nice round 50?)

I started by pounding my chicken thin (doing this is really essential, and it really makes pan-frying a breeze). Then I breaded the chicken with a little flour, mixed with some salt and lemon pepper. [Read more...]

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta


You guys already know that I love pesto. I LOVE pesto. It’s like the best sauce ever. I also love Ranch dressing. Sometimes we order take out from a local restaurant, and when I ask for Ranch, they know it’s me calling, which sounds sort of pathetic now that I type that out. So this recipe inspired by Picky Palate’s combines two things I love, and then I took that and ran with it and thew some pasta and broccoli in there as well, and it was f-ing incredible.

To start, I combined pesto, chicken broth and Ranch dressing powder in a slow cooker with six chicken thighs. I let this cook for seven hours, removed it from the slow cooker and chopped it into bite-sized pieces. Then I boiled the pasta and broccoli (together in the same water for efficiency!), drained that, and threw that in the slow cooker, along with some Parmesan, to get it all mixed up in the sauce. Easy peasy, and so good!


Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Total Time: 8 hours

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

6 boneless chicken thighs
6 ounces pesto
1 package Ranch seasoning mix (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup chicken broth
16 ounces rotini (or other pasta)
10 ounces frozen broccoli florets
4 ounces Parmesan

Combine chicken, pesto, Ranch and chicken broth in a slow cooker, and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. In the last hour, remove chicken from slow cooker and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to slow cooker and boil pasta and broccoli until done (about 10 minutes). Drain and add to slow cooker, along with Parmesan, stirring to distribute evenly.


Adapted from Picky Palate.

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Understanding Marinades: Pollo Delicioso

Everyone loves chicken. It’s a staple on many a menu, and with good reason. Chicken is plentiful, cheap, healthy and, when cooked right, absolutely delicious. If you read my last article on red meat marinades, you already know that whipping up a fresh marinade for your meat can take it to the next level. Chicken is no different, but the marinade process is.

In review, remember that a marinade consists of three elements: an acidic element, oil and flavoring. With chicken, citrus is a fantastic choice that will actually combine the acidic and flavoring components. Take it easy though. A little bit goes a long way.

The important thing to remember with chicken is that it is a rather fragile meat when compared with something like steak. Instead of a marinade process lasting 12 to 24 hours, you should really never marinate chicken for more than 3 hours.

A unique option to consider for chicken is soaking the meat in a brine solution. This can be used in addition to the marinade, or it can be used as a substitute. A brine is a simple salt water solution used to enhance the “juiciness” of the meat. A single chicken breast should be soaked in the solution for about an hour.

This recipe is about as simple as it gets, but I absolutely love it. It’s a brine/marinade combination that I think you’ll find makes for some absolutely delicious chicken! [Read more...]

A brief review of food magazines and salmon in chermoula and Israeli cous cous

A brief review of food magazines and salmon in chermoula and Israeli cous cous


I subscribe to a number of food-related magazines: Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooks Illustrated and Food & Wine.

I think, this year, I’m going to trade Real Simple for Rachael Ray’s magazine. I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with the general lack of flavor in Real Simple’s food section, even though I really like the concept of a magazine dedicated to organization.

Anyway, if I had to personify these magazines — personifying inanimate objects is, after all, one of my favorite pastimes — Better Homes and Gardens would be the hippy, organic-only, down-to-earth friend that is best sought out for hiking or an outdoor arts fest. Real Simple is the Type A, completely put together friend who gives the best logic-filled advice. Cooks Illustrated is the super intellectual, museum-g0ing, lover of science. And Food & Wine is the snobby, rich, designer-clothes-wearing friend who throws the best parties and is most fun after a few glasses of wine.

Food & Wine likes to put fancy names on their recipes and use the most expensive, hard-to-find ingredients out there. They also like to use the most involved cooking methods out there.

I rarely make a recipe of theirs, because 1) I probably haven’t even heard of half the ingredients listed so there’s no clues as to how the dish will taste, and 2) I don’t have the time to search through 16 specialty grocery stores, located miles from each other, for freaking wheat berries or whatever .

But occasionally, I realize that a recipe isn’t as scary as it sounds, and I might know where to find all the ingredients, and then I’ll go ahead and try it.

Such as the case with this salmon (original F&W recipe here). Basically you marinate this salmon in chermoula, which is, specifically an Algerian seafood marinade, and then you grill it, and serve it atop this fancy cous cous.

I daresay this is the best salmon I’ve ever cooked. Perhaps it’s because I forgot it was in the fridge, and let it sit in the marinade for over a week. Perhaps it’s because it was grilled to perfection. I don’t know. Whatever it was, I’m going to do it exactly the same the next time I make it.

The recipe includes a sauce composed mostly of ground up cooked mushrooms, tahini (which is a paste made from sesame seeds) and dill. I made up my own sauce, after I didn’t love the F&W version. I found theirs too bitter. Mine is still full of mushrooms, tahini and a bit of dill, but I tried to soften the flavors a bit, so it didn’t over power the salmon infused with the delicate herbal marinade.

So I started by putting my fish fillets into a baggie with the chermoula  — made with fresh cilantro, oil (I used sunflower, but you could use canola or vegetable),  freshly minced garlic, freshly minced ginger, salt, paprika, turmeric and cumin.

IMG_3474 [Read more...]

Caesar dressing

Caesar dressing


I know you’re busy. I know you have a zillion things going on in your head, and you need more sleep, and you work long, intense hours. I know that your job sucks sometimes, and you really need a vacation. I totally get it. I know that coming home on Friday night after a long, hard week where you spent the last five days barely catching your breath, is not the time when you want to spend time in the kitchen. I know it’s easier to buy a bottle of salad dressing on your way home and pour it over bagged lettuce — still in the bag. I totally get it.

You just have to trust me and push through. But it will be quick and it will be painless.

You’re going to have to mince garlic and measure things and whisk. You can totally have a glass of wine in your hand while you do it.

And when it’s all over, you can still use the bagged lettuce, but you’ll have something fresh and wonderful, and it will taste more amazing than anything you can buy in a bottle. I promise.

You just have to trust me.

Caesar dressing has nine ingredients. Most of them you probably already have in your kitchen. They are: minced garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, olive oil, mayonnaise, S&p and anchovy paste. All of them are equally important. Don’t leave any one out. I don’t care how much the thought of anchovies turns your stomach. Remember this post is all about trust. Don’t leave it out. (Anchovies add the umami!)

So I whisked the nine ingredients together and out came Caesar dressing. I promise it’s worth it. [Read more...]

Slow cooker boneless chicken in osso buco sauce

Slow cooker boneless chicken in osso buco sauce


“Osso buco” is Italian for bone with a hole. Typically made with bone-in crosscut veal shank, the juices leach out of the bone marrow and flavor the meat and the sauce. Even though Better Homes and Gardens calls this dish osso buco, it’s totally not. For starters, it’s made with chicken and not veal. And my adaptation used boneless, skinless chicken thighs so there’s not even a bone there to have a hole in it.

However, the sauce flavored with tomato sauce, white wine, lemon juice and thyme is typical in modern versions of osso buco.

I started by adding flour, salt and pepper to a gallon-size resealable baggy. The chicken thighs went in there too, and I closed the bag and shook it up so the thighs were lightly coated in the flour mixture. [Read more...]

Homemade Alfredo sauce > jarred Alfredo sauce, always

Homemade Alfredo sauce > jarred Alfredo sauce, always

I had my first wedding-freakout-related dream two nights ago. I think it’s because The Knot sent me an email that said “five months to go!” Like, that should not induce some sort of panicky dream.

So I dreamed that it was the morning of the ceremony and I had forgotten to do the hotel welcome bags, and I was running around our house searching for Pennsylvania-related items to throw into some bags to make them last-minute. A.J. and my parents were there trying to convince me that it was too late to do them, and it was OK that I forgot them and no one was going to be disappointed that there wasn’t a welcome bag to greet them at the hotel. And I said, “BUT WE NEED TO HAVE WELCOME BAGS!”

So let’s all hope that by the time Wedding Week arrives, I’ll still be able to respond to arguments full of logic and facts.

And I’m hoping you all will respond to the logic and facts as to why you need to make your own Alfredo sauce. It’s so easy, you guys. There’s something about jarred Alfredo sauce that really freaks me out. It tastes metallic, and I don’t understand how something that’s supposedly full of dairy could have a room-temperature shelf life. And making your own is so easy. And it’s so delicious. Like, people will notice that this isn’t jarred sauce-delicious. Like, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done this your whole life-delicious. Like, you’ll be able to discern whether a restaurant is using jarred or homemade-sauce delicious. Like, really, really delicious.

I adapted this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, which is this awesome blog that talks about moving from a diet of highly processed items to more whole-grain, whole-food, natural consumption.

I started with a few tablespoons of unsalted butter and whole cream into a sauce pot over medium heat until the butter melted. [Read more...]

Slow cooker peppered beef shank soaked in red wine

Slow cooker peppered beef shank soaked in red wine


I always say how much I love my slow cooker because of how fast and easy it is to prepare a home-cooked dinner. And that’s true most of the time. But it also can be used as a cooking tool for more involved meals.

I made this slow cooker peppered beef shank soaked in red wine tonight. The recipe is involved in the beginning — it’s not going to save you on dishes or time — but the slow cooker is used to create tender pieces of meat and drain the marrow from bones for flavor.

Also, I feel like it’s important to note that this recipe calls for an entire bottle of wine. I feel like anytime a whole bottle of wine is involved, it’s a recipe I want to make.

I adapted this recipe from thekitchn.

The original recipe calls for 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of crosscut beef shank, a portion of leg that has tendons, muscles and bone. I could not find that in my local grocery store, so I ended up buying two leg bones and 2 1/2 pounds of boneless chuck eye. Brisket would work fine, too, I think.

I added the bones to my slow cooker. [Read more...]

Beef and mushroom ragu over fettuccine

Beef and mushroom ragu over fettuccine


For lunch today I had apple slices, cheese and crackers, which is my absolute favorite snack/meal ever. But I found myself wishing there were leftovers of this beef and mushroom ragu that we ate for dinner last night. If I’m willing to choose anything over apples, cheese and crackers, you know it must be good. Unfortunately for me, it was so good that we ate it all!

I adapted the recipe from Real Simple’s. Sometimes I’m really disappointed in their recipes because I feel like they lack flavor, but this was a good one!

I started with my main ingredients: ground beef (from a local farm!), sliced mushrooms, one chopped onion and a couple minced cloves of garlic.


I also got a pot of salted water boiling on the stove and added my fettuccine. [Read more...]

A burning house and roasted red pepper ravioli sauce

A burning house and roasted red pepper ravioli sauce


There’s this blog in the world called The Burning House. Basically people take pictures of the things they would want to be sure to grab if their home was on fire.

The photos are usually very artful and beautiful, but what I especially like about the blog is the diversity of people who submit their own photo and list.

People of all ages, professions and from all corners of the world submit posts, which goes to show the fear of a burning house, and thoughts of what you would take with you, is something that really unites us as humans.

(That’s another reason I love food blogging. Everyone has to eat and cooking something over fire or heat is an ancient ritual that has withstood the test of time for most of society.)

And what people pick on their burning-house lists is so interesting! Some people are very practical, such as Sweedish student Zina Shareef, and choose their shoes and sunglasses, and other people are more sentimental such as Brazil journalist Jessica Fiuza who includes a bottle of whiskey and a tattoo machine in her list.

Anyway, I’ve never submitted anything to The Burning House, mostly because gathering all my favorite things in one place to photograph seems like too much work, but here’s my list, assuming that A.J. is not injured, and I have arms free for things. (Sidebar: if he was not able to walk, I like to think that I would become one of those women who gets superhuman strength when someone they love is in danger, like the moms who can lift cars off their children.)

  • Our cat and his favorite possession a broken basket that he sleeps in.
  • A cookbook that my mom made for me containing about 50 handwritten recipes from her and my childhood and an apron my mom made for me that I wear every time I cook or bake.
  • Two quilts that my mom made of my grandmother’s clothes and my soccer jerseys
  • My Macbook, its charger and my electronic hard drive
  • My phone and its charger
  • A “You did it card!” that was the last thing my grandma ever sent to me
  • A poem that A.J. wrote and framed for me for my birthday last year
  • A bell ornament that A.J. had engraved for me from a famous Mt. Pleasant glass cutter
  • A flask decorated with graphics and articles that I wrote for my college paper, The Maneater, that my friend made for me
  • My engagement ring, my green coat and a pair of socks and shoes that I’m presumably wearing
  • A leather bag that I use every day that my dad bought for me
  • And if we’re living in fantasy land where I have unlimited strength and time, probably my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, my food processor and some cash

So now I’m totally curious what’s on your list. Leave a comment below and tell me! Do it!

If I had a way to bottle and preserve this roasted red pepper sauce, I would do it. We would have cabinets full of roasted red pepper sauce. And I would consider hauling that out of our burning apartment too.

What I’m trying to say through a poorly executed extended metaphor is that this sauce is so good. So good. It’s such a surprise sauce, because it looks sort of bland but it’s absolutely bursting with flavor.

I adapted this sauce from Your Homebased Mom.

The key is roasting the red pepper. Do not skip this step. Roasted red pepper is a whole lot better than regular red pepper.

To roast, I halved and seeded the bell peppers and poured some olive oil over each of them. [Read more...]