guacamole (with bacon!)

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I used to be afraid of guacamole.  The thought of eating an avocado scared me.  They were green and mushy and terrifying and who oh why would anyone want to put that in their mouth?!  It seriously baffled me.  I went through almost 25 years of avoiding avocados at restaurants, asking for it to be omitted from sandwiches, shoving free guacamole to the side of my plate when i went out for Mexican food, turning my nose up at pretty much anything that came in contact with an avocado.

Then something magical happened.

Once thing that i love about cooking is that it has gotten me to try so many foods that I would never normally try.  There is something about starting from scratch and really understanding where the flavors come from that sheds a whole new light on a dish.  It somehow makes even the weirdest ingredients seem less scary.

Enter: avocados.

My boyfriend could only put up with my avocado and guacamole aversion for so long.  At his breaking point, he took it upon himself to make some from scratch and to force me to try it, and I haven’t looked back.

We’ve made this recipe countless times now and I think we’ve finally perfected it.  Although I now welcome restaurant-made guacamole into my hear with open arms, there is nothing like this version that we developed in our own kitchen, complete with chunky tomatoes and crunchy bacon bits.

guacamole
3 avocados
4 cloves of garlic
2 serrano peppers
1/2 small white onion
juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters*
6 strips bacon, cooked until crispy and finely chopped**
kosher salt

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Cut avocados in half and remove pits.  Scoop out the pulp of the avocados into a large bowl.

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Peel cloves of garlic and cut stems from serrano peppers.  Chop the garlic and peppers together, until minced.  Combine garlic and serranos with avocado and mash with a potato masher until you reach your desired consistency.  I like a chunkier guacamole so I don’t mash it to death in this early step.

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Finely chop half of a white onion and rinse in a colander under cold water.  This will get rid of some of the sharpness of the raw onion flavor.  Add onion to avocado mixture and mix together.  Add juice of 1/2 lime and mix.

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Chop up both the leaves and stems of your cilantro-  there is a lot of flavor packed into the stems! Add cilantro to avocado mixture and stir to combine.

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Gently mix in the tomatoes and bacon.

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Finally, salt the guacamole to taste.  I recommend salting at the very end, as the bacon will impart some salty flavor into the guacamole.

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Let guacamole sit in the refridgerator for at least an hour to allow the flavors to come together.  There are rumors out there that keeping an avocado pit in your guacamole will keep it from browning, but it’s never worked for me.  Instead, make sure to place plastic wrap directly over the guacamole and then cover with a tight fitting lid to prevent browning.

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Now all you need are some chips and a football game, and you’ve got a perfect afternoon snack!

* I like the crunch and sweetness of using cherry tomatoes, but roma tomatoes would be a good substitute if you don’t have any cherry tomatoes on hand.

** You can prepare the bacon one of two ways.  When I don’t have the time or energy to stand in front of the stove, I place the bacon on a greased wire rack over a sheet pan in a 425° oven for about 25 minutes, until crispy.  However, there is no comparing the crispiness you get from cooking your bacon on the stove-top in a skillet, preferably cast-iron.

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box lunches: summer veggie pasta + lemon garlic chicken

There are only a few weeks left of summer and it is making me incredibly sad, mostly because that means there are only a limited number of Saturday mornings left where I can wander down the street to the farmer’s market with my coffee and meander between the fresh fruits and veggies daydreaming about all of the wonderful things I could make.  I usually go in with a plan and leave with a basket of whatever-looks-good and throw the plan out the window as soon as I get home.

Market Veggies

This pasta is a direct result of farmer’s market meandering and has become one of my favorite dishes to make in the summer.  Sure, you can make it any time of year, but fresh summertime veggies turn this somewhat simple pasta dish into something absolutely delicious.

Kitchen Setup

I got the Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment for Christmas last year and haven’t stopped making fresh pasta since then.  It’s addictive and will change everything you’ve ever known to be true about pasta.  A full post dedicated to pasta-making is coming up, but for now, here’s my favorite thing to do with it.

Pasta 4

summer veggie pasta
1 pound pasta (I like to use fettuccine noodles)
4 tablespoons olive oil2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a non-stick saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until golden brown.  Add asparagus and mushrooms and cook until tender but crispy, about 5-8 minutes.

Asparagus and Mushrooms

Add tomatoes, sugar, and red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and allow vegetables to cook down while you boil your pasta.  Once the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan and toss to coat with the veggie mixture.  Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Veggies in Pan

This pasta is delicious on it’s own, but it really becomes a meal when you add grilled chicken.  Here’s a simple chicken marinade that complements these fresh veggies well.  One pound of pasta with 4 chicken breast will make 6-8 hearty lunches.

Box 2

lemon + garlic marinated chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
4 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk together garlic, lemon, and olive oil.  Season marinade with salt and pepper.  Allow chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Grill chicken breasts (or cook in a cast iron skillet) for about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on the thickness.

Boxes

 

 

salted caramel + chocolate covered potato chip ice cream

I have an obsession with all things salty-sweet. Regular sweets just don’t cut it for me. I’m a sucker for chocolate covered pretzels, and don’t even get me started on pretzel M&Ms. There will never be enough pretzel M&Ms to satisfy me, but that’s another post for another day. Today we are talking about ice cream.

Last summer I discovered the greatest ice cream I have ever had in my life: Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack. Jimmy Fallon smiles on the packaging because he knows what’s up: vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl and fudge covered potato chip clusters.

WHAT.

The first time I bought it, I devoured the whole pint in one sitting and I didn’t regret a single bite. It is safe to say there was always a pint of it in my freezer last summer and it never lasted very long. Wintertime is for cookies and pies and other assorted delicious baked things, so I didn’t give the ice cream another thought until the warm weather crept back in. When I finally went to buy some, my greatest fear had been realized: no more Late Night Snack.

WHY, Ben & Jerry’s?! WHY?

After searching far and wide (and in every grocery store within driving distance of my apartment), I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Creamers

I bought the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment a few years ago and have made a handful of ice creams, but this one really takes the cake. It is salty and sweet and creamy and crunchy and all of the wonderful things that the perfect ice cream should be.

For this recipe, the ice cream base and caramel sauce are made from scratch.  You can go the extra mile and dip your own chocolate covered potato chips, but I used the Trader Joe’s variety and it turned out perfectly.

Chippies CaramelJar

salted caramel + chocolate covered potato chip ice cream
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 large vanilla bean, scraped
1 cup sugar
10 yolks
chocolate covered potato chips, roughly chopped
1/2-1 cup salted caramel sauce, to taste

VanillaBean

If using the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, be sure to place it in your freezer when starting your ice cream base.  It needs to sit in your freezer overnight before it is cold enough to churn ice cream.

Pour the heavy cream, milk, sugar and vanilla into a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Add the vanilla bean and the scrapings and whisk to combine.  Once the mixture has come to a simmer, remove the pan from heat and let it steep for at least an hour.  This will allow the vanilla to really infuse the cream.   When you’re ready to move onto the next step, bring the cream mixture back to a simmer.

Steep

While the cream mixture returns to a simmer, whisk the egg yolks in a glass bowl and set aside.

Yolks

Once the cream mixture has returned to a simmer, remove it from the heat and discard the vanilla bean.

Pour 1/3 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Once the eggs and cream have been incorporated, repeat by pouring another 1/3 cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Repeat this step one more time, so that you have combined 1 cup of the hot cream with the egg yolks.

Setup

You want to incorporate the cream mixture in small amounts to slowly warm up the egg yolks (you don’t want them to scramble).

Once you have whisked in 1 cup of the cream and the eggs have warmed up, pour the egg/cream mixture into the pot of cream remaining on the stove.  Stir this mixture over low heat until it starts to thicken and reaches 170-175 degrees on a candy thermometer.  You will know it is done when the mixture sticks to the back of your spoon.

Strain the ice cream base into a shallow dish and allow it to come to room temperature before covering and putting in the fridge.  Allow it to set up in your refrigerator over night.

Custard

Once your ice cream base is cooling, you can make your salted caramel! I used this recipe, which made plenty of caramel sauce to swirl into the ice cream, with some to spare.

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The next day, remove your ice cream base from the refrigerator.  It should be thickened and cold.   Pour the mixture into your ice cream make and churn until it is thick and creamy, almost like a thick soft-serve ice cream.  This should take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your ice cream maker.  It took about 20 minutes using my KitchenAid attachment.

Mixer

Pour the ice cream into a wide flat container and mix in your chopped up chocolate covered potato chips.

MixIns

Swirl in the caramel last and allow the ice cream to set up in the freezer for at least four hours.

Scoop

Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

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chipotle crusted scallops + roasted poblano and sweet corn risotto

My lack of blogging over the last few weeks can undoubtedly be attributed to the fourth of July holiday.  I had a glorious 11 day vacation from work, during which I rode my bicycle, laid on the beach, played with my dog, drank margaritas in the middle of the afternoon, and indulged in daily afternoon naps.   As cheesy as the term “staycation” may be, it was one of the most relaxing and fun vacations I’ve had in a while.  I avoided all sense of responsibility and normalcy, including cooking (and the impending pile of dishes that would inevitably clutter my tiny apartment kitchen).

But after a few weeks of take-out and meandering boozy brunches, I was itching to get back into the kitchen and make something comforting and familiar.  Nothing new and nerve-wrecking, nothing that would require research and planning.  So, I went with an old favorite: risotto.

Ingredients

Everyone always talks about how difficult and time-consuming making risotto can be, but it’s the first thing I ever taught myself to cook and have made countless variations of the dish over the last several years.  I think that with risotto, practice just makes perfect.  Lucky for you, I have plenty of practice!  I promise to share many more variations of risotto on the blog in the future, but I thought this was a great summery place to start.

I like to do as much of my weekly grocery shopping at the farmer’s market during the summer months, and this is the perfect recipe to use some of that delicious sweet corn that only comes around during this time of year.  Roasting the poblanos gives the rice a deep smoky flavor that compliments the pops of crunchy sweet corn thrown in right at the end.

Roasted Poblano and Sweet Corn Risotto
2 poblano peppers
2 cobs of sweet corn, husks removed
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minces shallot
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup queso fresco
salt + pepper

Roasted Poblanos

Spray poblano peppers with cooking spray and set on a sheet pan in your broiler.  Broil peppers about 10 minutes per side, until the skin is dark and wrinkly.  When removing the pepper from the broiler, immediately place them in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid for 15 minutes.  This will steam them and allow the skin to separate from the meat of the pepper and will make your life oh-so-much-easier.  Once the 15 minutes are up, remove the skin and seeds from the peppers, roughly chop them and set them aside.

Poblano in Pot

Next you want to prepare your corn.  The magic of sweet corn is that you don’t even need to cook it.  It is sweet and delicious on its own, so this cooking step is quick.  Turn a burner on your stove to high heat and place a cob directly over the flame.  Rotate the cob every few seconds until the corn is slightly blackened on all sides.  Repeat with remaining cobs and let cool.  When the corn has cooled cut the kernels from the cobs and save the kernels for later.

Roasted Corn

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Place the cobs in a medium saucepan with the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil and then keep at a simmer until you are ready to start adding the stock to your rice.  Boiling the corn cobs in your chicken stock will really enhance the flavor of the sweet corn in the risotto.

Corn in Stock

Veggies

Set your non-stick pan over medium heat (I love to use my ceramic dutch oven for making risottos for the evenly distributed heat).  When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil.  Once melted, add the garlic, shallots and celery.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened, but not brown.  Next you will add the arborio rice.

Starting Rice

Toasting the rice is a very important step in making a good risotto. You’ll know when it’s ready by the smell.   The rice will give off a nutty, toasty aroma that will fill your kitchen.  Once your rice is toasted, add the poblano peppers and continue to toast for a minute or two to infuse the rice with the poblano flavor.

Add the wine to the rice mixture and cook until the pan is almost dry.  Remove the corn cobs from the chicken stock and discard them.  Once the wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken stock and stir until the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock.  this is where the “babysitting” aspect of cooking risotto comes into play.  You want to allow the rice to absorb almost all of the stock before adding more, but you don’t want to let the pan completely dry out.  Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time until the rice is creamy, but still has a slight bite to it.  This will take about 30 minutes.  You may not need all of the chicken stock.

Add Stock

The trickiest part of making risotto is knowing when to stop adding the chicken stock.  Adding too little yields a crunchy risotto, but adding too much yields a mushy risotto.  You’re looking for the middle ground.  The best way to achieve a perfect risotto is to taste the rice after each addition of stock, once it has absorbed most of the moisture.

When the rice has reached the perfect consistency, season with salt and pepper.  Add remaining two tablespoons of butter .  Once the butter has melted, add the corn kernels and stir.  Add the crumbled queso fresco at the very end and stir to combine.

chipotle crusted scallops
1 pound fresh sea scallops
1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt + pepper
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons butter

Scallops in Pan

Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Combine flour with chipotle powder.  Lightly dredge the scallops in the flour mixture, making sure to shake off the excess.

Crusty Scallops

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.  When hot, add butter.  When the butter has melted, add scallops in a single layer and cook for 3 minutes per side.  You may need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your scallops

Done

Bonus:  If you have leftover risotto, stick it in the fridge overnight.  When chilled, it will be easy to roll into balls, lightly flour, and pan (or deep) fry.  Risotto cakes are a great appetizer or can be turned into a full-blown meal when served with a salad.

Dinner for 2

 

 

box lunches: chile rubbed chicken + tomatillo salsa + mexican rice

I know that Friday afternoons are not usually the best time to consider the following work week, but I do all my meal planing on Fridays.  I hate spending the whole weekend doing chores and shopping and cooking, so I plan out the following week’s meals on Friday nights, shop on Saturday, and usually spend Sunday in a whirlwind cooking up delicious things to feed me and Mike for the next week.  Spreading out the process makes it seem far less daunting (and it gives me ample opportunity to add forgotten items to my grocery list).

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This week I bring you one of the oldest box lunches in my arsenal.  It’s one that I’ve been making for a few years now and it’s a favorite in our rotation:  chile rubbed chicken with tomatillo salsa and Mexican rice.  I use this Food Network recipe for the chicken and salsa.  I use 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and usually double the marinade.  I also tend to double the salsa recipe because it’s delicious and I like to eat it with chips, on tacos, with quesadillas…you get the point.

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When I lived in my mom’s house, we would cook the chicken on the grill, which gave it a great smoky flavor.  Now that I’m trapped in a teeny tiny apartment, I cut the chicken into strips before marinating overnight and cook it on a foil-lined pan at 425° for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

This combination of recipes (and 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts) yields 8 box lunches, with some rice to spare.

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I’ve played my Mexican rice recipe over the last few years and have finally got it down to a science.  The trick for a great Mexican rice is to prepare the salsa the night before you plan on cooking the rice.  This lets the flavors deepen and creates a much more flavorful end result.

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Mexican Rice
6 medium tomatoes on the vine
2 large jalapenos
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, divided in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups medium grain rice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 lime

Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet in your broiler for about 10-15 minutes per side, flipping halfway through.  You’ll know they’re done when the skin shrivels and blackens.  Let tomatoes cool.  Once cool, peel the skin off the roasted tomatoes and discard.

While the tomatoes are roasting in the broiler, place unpeeled garlic and jalapenos in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Roast vegetables until blackened on all sides.  (If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, this step can be done in the broiler while the tomatoes are cooling.) When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic and roughly chop the peppers.

Place the chopped onion in a colander or strainer and rinse under cool water for a minute or two, then shake out the excess water.  This will help to remove the sharp raw onion taste and will help the salsa flavors meld together more evenly.

Puree garlic, jalapenos and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor to form a paste.  Add the tomatoes and their juices and puree until you reach your desired consistency (I like to puree until smooth, but if you like a chunkier salsa in your rice, go for it).  Next, add chopped onion and pulse until everything is incorporated.  Chop half of the cilantro and add to the salsa mixture.  Pulse a few more times to evenly incorporate the cilantro.  The salsa can be used immediately to make the rice, but i find that the flavor is much better if left in the fridge in an airtight container overnight.

Be sure to take the salsa out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before continuing onto the next step.

To make the rice, preheat your oven to 350° and heat a ceramic dutch oven on the stove-top over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Add oil and allow it to heat up for a minute or two.  Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes to, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if some kernels brown.

Add the salsa mixture to rice and let it sear for 1 minute.  Then, add the chicken stock and the remaining teaspoon of kosher salt.  Once the mixture has come to a boil, stir it once before covering with a tight-fitting lid.  Baked at 350° for 25 minutes. After removing the rice from the oven, keep the lid on and let it stand for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking.  Lastly, chop and add the remaining cilantro and the juice of 1/2 of a lime.  Fluff the rice with a fork and it’s ready to eat!

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My favorite way to eat this meal is to reheat the chicken and rice, then mix in the cold fresh salsa.  The salsa offsets the heat of the chicken and rice, so it’s a a refreshing way to have lunch at your desk.

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boozy banana walnut muffins + cinnamon crumble

For most of my life, I did not get along with bananas.  Everything about them was wrong: the weird smell, the mushy texture, the overpowering taste.  Bananas were one of the only fruits that I could not get myself to like no matter how hard I tried.  I would see happy people wandering about in the world, enjoying bananas with smiles on their faces and wonder: what am I missing?

Then I met my new best friend, banana bread.

All of the things that I hated about bananas suddenly disappeared.  The spices mellowed out that harsh banana taste that turned me off for so many years.  The bananas gave the bread such a deep, delicious moisture.

Prep

Since then, my life has improved greatly.  Banana bread for breakfast.  Banana bread for a midnight snack.  Banana bread because it’s Thursday and why not?

When baking, I tend to gravitate towards smaller, single-serving sized treats.  Maybe it’s easier to justify eating just one banana muffin instead of manually slicing off a chunk every time I walk into the kitchen.  Maybe it’s because I am generally drawn to adorably small things.  Who knows?  Either way, these muffins make a great on-the-go breakfast and an even better dessert when warmed up and served with a heaping scoop of french vanilla ice cream.

boozy banana walnut muffins + cinnamon crumble
adapted from the smitten kitchen
makes 12 muffins

cinnamon walnut crumble
1 cup walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1/3 cup whole oats
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

boozy banana muffins
4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon
1 cup walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon salted butter, softened (for greasing cupcake pan)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Place 2 cups whole walnuts on an un-greased baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when you can smell them.  Trust me.  You’ll know.  Remove walnuts from oven and cool.  Give them a rough chop and divide in half.  You’ll need half for the crumble and half for the muffins themselves.

Chopped

Prepare the crumble. Place oats in a food processor and grind them into an oat flour.  Add the flour, cinnamon, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined.  Pour oat mixture into a small mixing bowl and add 1 cup of the chopped walnuts and melted butter. Stir to combine. Try your hardest not to eat the bowl of crumble with a spoon.

Crumble

Start the muffin batter by mashing your ripened bananas.  I use a potato masher for this step since I like to get the bananas as mushy as possible.  If you like bigger chunks of bananas in your banana bread, go for it!

Bananas

Stir melted butter into mashed bananas with a wooden spoon.  Next, stir sugar, egg, vanilla, and bourbon into banana and butter mixture.  Add cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (use freshly grated nutmeg if you have it available).  Mix in salt and baking soda. Add flour and mix until fully incorporated.  Mix the remaining 1 cup of roasted and chopped walnuts with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of  all purpose flour, making sure each piece is lightly coated.  This will ensure the walnuts will rise with the muffins and will not all sink to the bottom of your muffin pan (this is a good trick to remember when adding anything from nuts to chocolate chips to baked goods). Add the walnuts to the batter and stir to combine.

PreBake

Using your fingers, butter the insides of your 12-cup cupcake pan thoroughly to ensure the muffins will not stick.  Divide batter evenly among 12 cups and top with crumble mixture.  Baked at 350°F for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Baked

 

box lunches: chicken shawarma + hummus roasted mashed potatoes

Mike left this week’s worth of lunches in a bag on the CTA early Tuesday morning. Not a great start to the week.  He was lunchless and disappointed, mostly because these chicken shawarma lunches happen to be his favorite.  Our only solace comes from the hope that some hungry stranger found them and was able to enjoy them, but who am I kidding? RIP delicious shawarma, you’re just another casualty of public transportation.

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The inspiration for these lunches came from a very dark place. Some of you may be familiar with my unhealthy obsession with hummus. I know, I have a problem.  I’m yet to discover a dippable snack that isn’t heavenly smothered in it.  Pitas! Pretzels! Baby Carrots! Roasted broccoli! French fries!

And here is where things got out of control.  The french fries.  I never should have dunked a french fry in hummus.  It opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities because if there is any food obsession that rivals my obsession with hummus it would be potatoes.  Hummus and potatoes?  I need to lie down now…

The great thing about these hummus mashed potatoes is their texture.  I do not tolerate soupy mashed potatoes.  That’s why red potatoes are my favorite to mash.  This recipe takes them even further and you’re going to think I’m crazy but I need you to trust me on this one.  Roast your potatoes first.  Mash them second.  I kid you not, it will change your life.  Roasting them in the oven first gives them that really crunchy exterior and keeps the insides pillowy and soft, so they mash up perfectly chunky and creamy at the same time.  I imagine they’d pair well with any flavor combination, but the hummus adds just the right amount of tang that goes perfectly with the chicken shawarma.  Roasting the potatoes first does add a bit of time to this recipe, but I promise you it’s worth every second.

RoastedPotatoes

hummus roasted mashed potatoes
3 lbs red potatoes, cut into quarters
olive oil
salt + pepper
1 cup hummus
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place potatoes on a sheet pan and coat with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste. Roast potatoes in oven for approximately 1 hour, flipping halfway through.  (I always put the hummus in a glass bowl on the stove-top while the potatoes are roasting- this takes the chill off and makes it easier to incorporate later on.)  When the potatoes are finished roasting, immediately place them in a saucepan with the butter and cover with a tight fitting lid.   Let them steam for 5 minutes, allowing the butter to melt.  Mash the potatoes a bit before adding the milk.  I always start with 1/4 cup of milk to avoid soupy potatoes.  You may need to add a bit more to get the right consistency.  Once the potatoes have reached the perfect mash, mix in the hummus.

And there you have it- hummus roasted mashed potatoes.  It’s a mouthful, a wonderfully delicious mouthful.

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I used this recipe for chicken shawarma.  I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinated them in 1.5 times the spice mixture overnight.   I also opted out of pan frying the chicken after taking it out of the oven.  If you’re going to eat it right away, I think pan frying would give it a nice little crunch, but since I microwave these lunches again at work, I find that it dries out the chicken a little too much.

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The above mashed potato recipe and 3 chicken breasts cooked using the recipe linked above made enough for 8 lunches.  Roasted broccoli will probably pop up in many box lunch posts because I can’t get enough.  I like to stuff everything (potatoes included) into a pita.  It’s a great way to break up a mundane work day.

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shredded pork tacos + carmelized onions + apple slaw

I Mexican’t contain myself when it comes to tacos.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up, it’s all I want to eat.  Fish tacos! Chicken tacos! Steak tacos!  Shrimp tacos!  I promise there will be an iteration of each of these on the blog eventually.  Today I bring you the infamous pork taco.

SpiceRub

I never ate much pork when I was growing up.  It wasn’t on my mother’s regular rotation.  Mike’s family was another story, though, so he is always begging me to incorporate more pork into our diet.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but I just never really consider it as an option.

These tacos are pretty simple.  The pork is cooked in the slow cooker, so there isn’t much activity involved in the pork prep.  Throw a pork loin roast in a citrus marinade overnight and it’s ready to toss into your slow cooker.  You can brown the sides of the roast before putting it in the slow cooker, but it won’t stay crunchy so I think it’s an unnecessary step.

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The hardest part of this recipe is the caramelized onions, but even those aren’t difficult.  They just require a lot of time (about 2 hours, start to finish).  Because they take so long, I’d recommend cooking 4-5 very large yellow onions and freezing the rest for later.  Or put them on a panini for lunch tomorrow.  Or in your scrambled eggs.  Or anywhere.  Really.  I promise it won’t be a bad idea.

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slow cooker pork loin roast
2-3 lb pork loin shoulder, scored
1 head of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 pint orange juice
6 limes, juiced
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 12 ounce beer
1 small jalapeno, halved

Grind garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste.  Combine herb paste with juices.  Add pork and onions to marinade and let marinate in the fridge over night.  Place pork in slow cooker with onions reserved from marinade.  The rest of the marinade can be discarded.  Add a 12 ounce beer into the crock pot (we used a Fat Tire).  Let the pork loin roast cook for 6-8 hours on low.  When the pork is tender, pull it by hand and return it to the broth with the jalapeno.  Let it hang out on your slow cooker’s warm setting until you’re ready to eat.

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We topped our pork tacos with a little bit of chihuahua cheese, some fresh cilantro and a simple apple slaw made with sliced green apples tossed with a bit of lime juice.

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It’s a relaxing Sunday night meal.  I don’t even want to taco ’bout how delicious it is.

box lunches: asian style chicken + soy glazed carrots + roasted broccoli + brown rice

When i first started working in an office, I didn’t understand how much of my money would be wasted on buying lunch.  Not only was I spending $10+ per day on food, but the food was never any good.  The never ending marathon of fast food took a toll on both my wallet and my waistline and I knew that buying lunch everyday was not a sustainable way to live.

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Bring on the box lunches! Spending Sunday afternoons cooking lunches was the first change I made when Mike and I decided to start eating healthier.  A few hours in the kitchen ended up saving us so much money, and we end up with a well balanced and delicious meal to break up the monotony of the work day.  It might seem silly, but having a home-cooked meal at my desk somehow makes the day seem so much brighter (but then again, most of my days are spent counting down the minutes until my next meal, so I may be crazy).

This is my most recent version of our lunch assembly line: Asian style chicken, soy glazed carrots, roasted broccoli, and brown rice.

veggies

I only use chicken breasts, as they’re always available in my freezer, and make sure to marinate them overnight for optimal flavor.  Baking the chicken is a good way to multi-task!  You can get the carrots and brown rice done on the stove-top while the chicken and broccoli cook in the oven.

chicken

Coat the broccoli with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasting broccoli at 475° should only take about 15 minutes.  Once it’s all brown and crispy, I like to finish it with a squeeze of lemon (or lime) juice.

broccoli

For the carrots, it’s important to use carrots that have dried out for a few days in the fridge.  It really makes a huge difference in the caramelization.

And that’s it!  I usually try to make 8-10 lunches to feed both me and Mike for one workweek, so I double the recipes above.  This combo only takes about an hour to put together, but it definitely beats anything I could buy on my lunch break at work.

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