December Daily

scrapbooking

christmas trees

rice krispies

grading

sunset

selfie

auburn fan

december dailying

christmas sheets

wrapping

sunrise

card wall

I hope your December isn’t too hectic.

I hope you’re finding some joy in the annual baking of the cookies/mailing of the cards/buying of the gifts/wrapping of the gifts/whatever it is that seems to eat up all the time in December.  I’m working on a December Daily album, inspired by the amazingly talented Ali Edwards, and I have to say, it’s helping me slow down just a bit, and look for the best in each day.

sprouts

I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for my Christmas menu, but through some emailing with Wooden Nickels, we decided that if nothing else, we’d have brussels sprouts.  My husband and I have been eating these at least once a week, so I was looking for a new twist to add variety to our lives.  I came across citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts from the ladies behind A Beautiful Mess, and I knew that was our next recipe.  We are suckers for a good pomegranate anything, and the fresh crunch they provide would certainly be a far cry from the deep, smoky, bacon crunch we’re used to.

They hit the table, and the spot, last night.

To make citrus and pomegranate brussels sprouts that probably feed 4, unless I’m there and then it feeds 2 (I eat a lot of brussels sprouts), you will need:

  • 6 – 7 C halved brussels sprouts*
  • 1/2 C panko
  • 1/2 C pomegranate aerils
  • juice of half a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Roast brussels sprouts for 12 minutes, shake the pan to redistribute all those flavores, and roast another 12 minutes.

While brussels sprouts are cooking, heat 1 T olive oil in small skillet.  Add panko, stirring constantly until crumbs are toasted, and a golden brown color.  Remove from heat immediately and set aside.

Transfer brussels sprouts to serving dish, and squeeze a tablespoon or two of lemon juice over top.  Toss with breadcrumbs and pomegranate aerils, and serve immediately.

*A tip I got from my girl Ina–Don’t discard those outer leaves that flake off as you cut your brussels sprouts in half.  Save ’em, roast ’em right alongside the bigger pieces.  They crisp up, kale-chip style, and you’ll be in heaven over the results.

Nothing is Beneath Me

Cari Faye offered me a chicken recipe the other day, but it was so simple, she was worried it was beneath me.

Dear readers, I cannot think of anything that’s beneath me.  Especially when you consider that 5 out of 7 nights are weeknights, and dinner is that much harder then.  Especially when I vowed to coast through the next week, taking it as easy as possible, until I have some serious time off work.

Simple is the name of the game.

brown sugar garlic chicken

Cue Pinterest chicken.  There are millions of recipes out there for chicken, with some stuff poured over it, baked in the oven for a short amount of time.  I have tried, probably, half of these chicken recipes, to no avail.  They’re all fine but none is that special.  And despite CV(D) reminding me that trying the same thing again and again, and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, there I go, trudging back to the kitchen, and pouring more sauces over my boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Because sometimes you get a winner.

This was one of those times.  My husband told me this was my best chicken ever.  And when I reminded him that this was a thing, he backpedaled and said it was my second best.

I’ll take it.

To make Pinterest chicken for 4, you will need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 T shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute garlic and oil in a small saucepan until tender, about a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and salt.  Place chicken in oven-safe baking dish and cover with 3/4 sauce.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or till chicken is done.  Sprinkle cheese on top, add remaining sauce, and bake 5 more minutes.

What’s that Green Thing?

Growing up, we had a book with that title.  I don’t remember it well, nor is Google giving me any help, but I do remember the page where the younger sister pokes at something green on her plate, while her (no doubt bossy) older sister blathers on about it being some healthy vegetable or another.

brussels sprouts

I actually wasn’t terrible about eating vegetables when I was a kid.  I loved broccoli, green beans, and cooked carrots.  But I have vivid memories of Wooden Nickels trying to get us to eat steamed brussels sprouts.  Blech!  I wouldn’t go near them.

And then, a couple years back, those little green things I wouldn’t touch so many years ago were everywhere.  They popped up on food blogs around Thanksgiving time, and haven’t gone away since.  Were they always a Thanksgiving food, and I just didn’t notice because we never ate them on that holiday?  Are they a more recent foodie trend?  Are they here to stay?

brussels sprouts

When I caught on that people love them roasted, and with bacon, I started rethinking my point of view.  These brussels sprouts were deep in color, and caramelized round the edges.  I love food that’s deep in color and caramelized round the edges.  I love anything roasted.  I love bacon so much it hurts.  Do I love brussels sprouts?

I think I do.

Especially, and this is where we all gasp in shock, Ina’s brussels sprouts.  The difference between her recipe and the one I had been using till now is 1 T of balsamic vinegar.  That’s all it took to take brussels sprouts from something I felt noble eating on my own, to something I felt like shouting from the mountaintop that is this little old blog.

To make roasted brussels sprouts, you will need:

  • Several handfuls of brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half.  Ina taught me to leave those single leaves that flake off.  They crisp up as they cook and add to the finished product.
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 4 oz. bacon, 1-inch diced (Ina actually calls for pancetta which would be so much better, but who keeps that on hand?)
  • 1 T syrupy balsamic vinegar (Really good balsamic vinegar is syrupy.  Balsamic vinegar that you boil to half it’s size is syrupy.  Balsamic vinegar that we peons buy is not syrupy but will work just fine.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt and pepper.  Spread bacon pieces all over the baking sheet.  Give everything a good toss so it’s combined.  Roast for 35 minutes, stopping to toss things again halfway through.

When the brussels sprouts are fresh out of the oven, drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar, and serve immediately.

Trader Joes

I have a serious thing for Trader Joe’s.

Their food is amazing, not much of it makes me feel guilty, and a weekly trip down their aisles costs me way less than a weekly trip to the big-name grocery stores.

Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s could not be more inconvenient for me to get to.  Nor could it be more crowded on weekends, when I do the bulk of my shopping.

So now, when I make my weekend plans, I google the closest TJ’s, and make a stop there before I head home.  When we were in Charlottesville for AGOMYR’s wedding, we hit it up before our 3 hour ride back to DC.  That’s how inconvenient it is to go to the TJ’s around me.  I would rather keep their frozen food in the trunk of my car for 3 hours, than drive into the heart of the city and park my car in a space that’s too small, all the while fighting off my Lululemon-clad peers, just to get my hands on their pre-made salads.

bbq chicken salad

Oh, their pre-made salads are good.  But they’re one of the few grocery items at Trader Joe’s I’d call expensive.  And one in particular happens to be laced with a mayo-based dressing. It also happens to be amazing and hard to resist.

tossed salad

Lucky for the world, Tracy freshened the dressing up with a combination of yogurt and barbecue sauce, making it less fattening, while keeping it oh-so-tangy.  I took a couple liberties with her recipe, based on what was in my fridge, and put together a huge bowl of Trader Joe’s Barbecue Chicken Salad for dinner last night.  I ate the whole thing, guilt free.

Then I started dreaming of a vegetarian version, plus black beans and quinoa, sans chicken.

To make a giant bowl of salad, that is probably too large for you, but doesn’t intimidate me in the slightest, you will need:

  • A mixing bowl
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 slices of tomato, small diced
  • 1 ear of corn, cooked, kernels removed (about 3/4 C if you’re using canned or frozen)
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 2 oz. chicken breast, cooked, and chopped into bite-sized pieces (I buy bags of pre-cooked chicken breasts from, you guessed it, Trader Joes.  They are always in my freezer when the need arises.)
  • 1/4 C shredded cheddar (Which is in TJ’s version, but not in Tracy’s.  And I’m with her, it doesn’t need it.)
  • 1 T barbecue sauce
  • 1 T plain yogurt (Greek is fine)
  • a squeeze lime juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 5 or 6 tortilla chips, crushed

Place a heaping amount of lettuce in the bowl.  Add tomato, corn, avocado, scallion, chicken, and cheddar, if using.  In small bowl, combine barbecue sauce, yogurt, and lime juice.  Pour over salad and toss till combined.  Add a nice helping of salt and pepper, and toss again.  Top with chips.  Serve immediately.

This salad is pretty much this salad.  And so you might be reading it, wondering why I’d post something so closely related.  It’s the dressing.  The dressing is everything.

On the Humble Hamburger

I often neglect hamburgers when it comes to quick dinners.  Which is funny because they are one of my favorite things to go out to eat.  I doubt there’s a hamburger joint in the DC metro area that I haven’t hit up.  Medium rare, dripping with cheese.  Yes, please.

But when I’m planning dinners for the week, I simply forget they exist as an at-home option.

Until I saw this.  Hello weeknight dinner.

turkey chorizo burger

Yes I ate mine sans grocery store bun + perfectly cooked white rice.  I’m a carb snob.

To make 6 patties you will need:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb. chorizo sausage
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • cheddar cheese slices
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • hamburger buns (if you’re a normal human)

Combine turkey and chorizo in bowl.  Get your hands down in that mess and mix everything up till it’s well combined.  Score the meat with your hands and section it off like a 6-pack.  Shape meat into patties.  At this stage of the game, I will stack any patties I’m not cooking, with wax paper in between, seal them up tightly in a reusable container, and freeze them.  I find nothing more foul than a re-heated hamburger.  Blech. Okay, grab the patties you need for dinner tonight.

Pour oil in skillet and raise heat to high.  When oil is hot, add patties.  Cook about 5 minutes on one side, flip and cook five minutes on the next.  Lower the heat, add a slice of cheese, cover, and cook just till cheese melts, about 2 minutes.  Place on a bun and top with avocado.  Serve immediately.

Don’t Make it More Complicated than it Should Be

On my way out the door at work, I asked a coworker, “What can I make for dinner tonight that is quick, but isn’t frozen pizza?”

She told me pasta, and went on to describe the most beautiful dish with halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and Parmesan.  She told me to pair it with a big salad, and that it wouldn’t hurt to have really yummy garlic bread on the side.

Voila!

pasta alla Natalie

Pasta alla Natalie.

Dinners should be easy.

Don’t overthink them.

p.s.  Dessert was sliced banana and chocolate peanut butter Whips, another co-worker fave.  If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out.

Keep it Simple

Dear readers,

It’s Saturday.

I had lunch with a friend today.

Then I got my hair colored and cut.

Then I got my toes painted.

Then my husband left to go watch people hit each other with his friends.

And I was left alone.

On the couch.

With the entire first season of The Mindy Project on demand.

tomato, honey, ricotta bruschetta

Today was simple.

Today was perfect.

And with that, a simple and perfect snack (inspired by).

To make tomato, ricotta, and honey crostini, you will need:

  • 1 baguette, sliced into about 1/2-inch pieces, and toasted
  • 1/2 C ricotta (please use something like this, it’s so much silkier than chain-grocery store ricotta)
  • 2 or 3 farmers market tomatoes, small-diced
  • honey
  • sea salt

Spread ricotta on each slice of bread.  Top with tomatoes.  Drizzle with honey, and top with sea salt.  Snack all night.

The Mushy Part

Oh man did I love Full House growing up.  I’m not sure what it was about that show, but I couldn’t get enough of it.  Seriously, when my mom needed a solid punishment, taking away the new episode on Tuesday was about as rough as it could get for me.  And as Wooden Nickels watched over my shoulder more days than she’d probably care to admit, she noted that each show contained a “mushy part,” a vignette in which the synthesizer soundtrack kicks into high gear, and one of those adorable Tanner daughters realized the error of her ways.

Aside from a 90s sitcom or two (Dear readers, Steve came back!), I am not the most emotional person, which worked in my favor whilst I searched for an emotionally stable life partner.  I found one, we got married, and my world has continued to spin, mush-free, ever since.

With the exception of one little tradition.

drinks

Every year, we eat at the same place we ate (and loved) on our honeymoon.

It’s a tradition I look forward to all year.

And this year, I had the most amazing salad.

peach salad

Peaches,

Arugula,

Ricotta,

Country ham,

Salted pistachios,

And vanilla black pepper vinaigrette.

When I saw it on the menu, it reminded me of these, and I knew I had to have it.

market peach

And then it was a matter of time before I had to make it for myself.

peach salad

I couldn’t make it exactly as it was put before me back in North Carolina, but I came pretty close.  I swapped out the country ham for prosciutto, and the vanilla vinaigrette for honey.  It was a beautiful way to savor what summer has to offer.  And when we ate it, my icy-cold heart got to indulge in a little more mushiness over again.

I don’t have an exact recipe, but I’ll tell you what I did.

Place a generous schmear of ricotta (this is my fave) on a plate.  Pile a heap of arugula on top.  Tear up a piece of prosciutto and drop over top of salad.  Cut peach into large chunks, and nestle into greens.  Dress with this vinaigrette, sans shallots and garlic.

Better Than “Pretty Good”

Well hello, dear readers.  Sorry for the unannounced hiatus–it’s summer, it happens!  Today, I’m bringing back a post from April, 2012, now with 200% more photos!  In case evidence of my making a dish more than once isn’t evidence for you to go running to crank up the stove, maybe it would help if I told you we love this meal more every time?  This summer, we topped it with guac instead of avocado sliced, but please, you have to follow your own heart there.

chili lime burger 2

Most of my days have a similar rhythm.  I wake up, get dressed, make a smoothie, check Facebook and Twitter, make myself look slightly more awake than I feel, kiss my husband goodbye, and head to work.  I clock in, make the rounds, clock out, and I’m headed home.  When I arrive, I have anywhere between 1 and 8 hours before my husband returns.  That time is sacred and holy.  That time is for Pinterest and Homefries, talking on the phone with AGOMYR, and making a mess of the kitchen.  I lovingly prepare a balanced meal for my husband to enjoy when he returns from the mines.

We sit down.

He takes his first bite.

“What do you think?” I ask, before he even has a chance to chew.

He nods his head.

“It’s pretty good.”

Pretty good.  There it is.  The kiss of death.  Almost everything I make is “pretty good.”  It’s probably for the best as it certainly keeps my ego in check.  And it keeps me on my toes in the kitchen.

He tells me it should also help me know when something is amazing.  These dishes get a slightly more enthusiastic, and ever-elusive, “Really good.”  Previous “really good” meals have been this chicken, and this pork.

chili lime burger

The other night, we hit “really good” territory when I made Iowa Girl Eats’ chili lime chicken burgers.  This one picture is the only proof of its brief existence in our kitchen because when you put a gussied up burger, topped with cheese and guacamole in front of me, I can’t be bothered to do much else but eat.

To make 4, you will need:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 C minced bell pepper
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 4 slices cheese
  • 4 buns

Mix the meat, scallions, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper flakes, lime zest, and juice in a large bowl until combined.  Shape mixture into 4 patties.  Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan, and add patties.  Cook 3 or 4 minutes on each side.  Reduce heat and top with cheese.  Cover the pan, and cook another 2 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Transfer burgers to buns, and top with avocado slices.

Pesto Week – Friday

Dear readers, welcome to pesto week here at A Glass of Milk.  I’m hoping your garden is bursting at the seams with basil, just like K’s.  Since she asked me what to do with all that green, we’re spending the week talking about my favorite herb, and my favorite sauce.  Which also means taking a trip down memory lane.  Enjoy the ride!

Except today isn’t about pesto.  Today is just about basil.  It’s Friday.  It’s my birthday!  We’re breaking the rules!  It’s time for a drink.

I dare you to slip some vodka into this baby.  It remains the beverage of my dreams.

You know the day you can smell spring coming?  When it has been too cold for too long and suddenly you walk outside and it just feels different?  The first day you roll the windows down in your car?

I call it a Dave Matthews day, because that’s the kind of mood I’m in.  I switch to my “Chill” playlist and need fresh flavors in the kitchen.

In the fall and winter, I drink milk, water, beer and wine.  That’s it.  I don’t drink juice, I don’t drink soda, I don’t drink coffee(!).  Empty calories.

In the spring and summer I break my rules for lemonade.  I cannot resist fresh-squeezed.  I played around with the perfect ratio of lemons to water to simple syrup (and the ratio of sugar to water in that) and then I found this.  Giada.  You have truly outdone yourself.  Many reviewers called for more water, and I got on board with that.  But if you watch Giada make this, you’ll notice the glasses into which she pours the finished product are almost completely filled with ice.  In my head, a happy place where Giada can do no wrong, she has the situation covered with her large, ice-filled glasses.

The basil simple syrup makes the lemonade (do you believe it?) even cooler and more refreshing.  It feels like a drink someone would offer you at a spa.  Definitely one worth sipping on the porch.

**Updated** Ummmmmm, this is pretty much destiny, folks!  Now back to the show…

Italian Lemonade

*adapted from Giada De Laurentiis…I did add more water, and only filled the glasses with a couple of cubes of ice.  I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live their life.  Lemonade is a matter of taste as well as personal convictions.  You may enjoy different amounts of water, sugar and lemons.  This was what worked for me.

  • 2 C lemon juice (12-15 lemons)
  • 4 C water, flat or sparkling (ooh la la)
  • 1C water
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 bunch basil, washed and stemmed
  • Ice
  • lemon slices and basil sprigs for garnish (ups the glam factor)

First, you’re going to make basil simple syrup.  Simple syrup is sugar that’s heated up with water until it dissolves.  Basil simple syrup is sugar that’s heated up with water until it dissolves but also has basil added for infused flavor.  Don’t you want to be able to say you made a basil infused simple syrup?  You’ll be ready for Top Chef in no time!

Pour 1 C flat water in a small sauce pan, with basil and 2 C sugar.  Stir, stir, stir, until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Strain syrup through a fine mesh sieve.  Discard the basil leaves.  They’ve given you all they could.

From there, pour the lemon juice, simple syrup and water in a pitcher and give it a stir.  Serve in cute little glasses with ice and a lemon twist.  Get ready for spring.

*I am posting this under drinks as well as cocktails because it has serious potential.