Fridays are for Chicken [baked chicken with tomatoes and cheese]

Hallelujah, praise the Lord, I have found another “forget about it” chicken. You know, the kind of chicken which is almost effortless. And flavorful. And the kind that will go into heavy rotation in this household, I already know. Here is how you, too, can make this chicken.

You’ll need:

  • A glug of olive oil
  • A glug of your favorite boneless, skinless cut of chicken
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, also finely chopped
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 T mascarpone cheese
  • a giant sprig of fresh basil, or a tsp. of dried

Brown your chicken, plus salt and pepper, in the olive oil in an oven-proof dish. Remove to a plate. Add onion and garlic to the pan, and saute for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes (+ juice), and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add chicken back to the pan, and pop that sucker into the oven. Cook 10 minutes, flip the chicken, and cook 10 more. Done and done.

It should come as no surprise that this chicken comes from DALS, weeknight dinner champion.


Meals This Week

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers! This is the first week in FOREVER where we are just home. No one is going anywhere anytime soon, and I can plan for the week, but also start thinking about seriously restocking my pantry. During September and October it was never very long before we took another weekend trip, so we are down to the dregs of so many supplies.


Monday: My husband has a work event, so I’m fending for myself. I have some frozen ravioli I bought at an Italian market my parents frequent, and some tomatoes I’m going to chop and saute and call a sauce.

Tuesday: We’ll do just what we did last year, though I’ll likely put together a green salad as well.

Wednesday: Another night where I’m not home until it’s time to eat. I can prep the recipe Smitten just posted for sheet pan sausage and potatoes (I’ll add broccoli), and it will be ready for me upon my return.

Thursday: Leftovers! (Which is great because I’m making a late night Costco run before I host a sip and see this weekend.)

Friday: I’m hoping I can pull off the risotto I made with Sous Chef Lauren at home on Friday.


Halloween Beans [frankenbeans]

Just about a month ago, I made How Sweet’s slow cooker bourbon baked beans, and they left me wanting something a little more timeless.  And then shortly after that, my new favorite book ever, How to Celebrate Everything arrived, and within the first couple of pages, out popped the classic baked beans recipe everyone needs in his or her arsenal.  She makes hers on Halloween for her great launching of the children, and we used ours in much the same vein.


I followed Jenny’s recipe in terms of ingredients, but took her oven baked beans to the stove top.  She calls for these to sit in the oven for 5 hours, which sounds so dreamy, but I wasn’t going to be home for 5 straight hours on Halloween.*  As you can read in the recipe below I kept my pot on the stove all day, turning it on and off as I came and went.

These are a classic, and a new Halloween staple in our house, to be sure.

To make beans for 4-6 people, you will need:

  • 1 lb. dry navy beans
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (the real stuff, please)
  • 1/4 C ketchup (why yes, I did use this)
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 T spicy brown mustard
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 thick strip bacon
  • boiling water
  • 4 hot dogs, cut into rounds

At least one day before you need the beans: Soak beans overnight (cover with water in a pot and leave them on your counter).

This next step can be done the day before, or the day of: Bring water to a boil and let beans cook till tender, about 1 hour.  Drain.  If you’re not using them right away, put them in a container, seal it tightly, and refrigerate till you need ’em.

The day of: Bring a pot of water to a simmer.  In another large pot, combine onion, maple syrup, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, salt, pepper, bacon strip (yes, uncooked!) and whisk around a little bit.  Add beans, and just enough simmering water to cover.  Let that cook on the stovetop.  For as long as you want.  Keep adding water to keep everything just covered.  I probably simmered mine about 2 or 3 hours in the morning, another hour in the afternoon, and even another hour or two before we enjoyed them.

*Side note: Halloween as a parent?  Holy fun!  But holy exhausting!

A New Favorite Sprout [brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins]

For three years, I’ve been devouring Ina’s roasted brussels sprouts about as fast as I can make them.  But when my favorite foodie friend sent me this recipe from Jenny Rosenstrach (of Dinner, a Love Story fame), I knew there could be room in my heart for another sprouts dish.


They’re similar enough that I don’t feel the need to declare a favorite, but I will tell you that the raisins in this add an amazing, unexpected twist.  Ina’s are a throw them in the oven and forget about them for almost an hour kind of dish, whereas these come together quickly, but require some hands-on, skillet time.  You can pick which ones you want to eat depending on what you’ve got time to make.

To make sprouts for 4, you will need:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups brussels sprouts (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Let cool. Coarsely crumble. (Make sure crumbled bacon is unreachable by children, or it will disappear before you need it again.)

While bacon cools, add brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5–7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1–2 minutes. Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


The Point of it All/How to Celebrate Everything [half birthday cake]

I am six months into life with The Gooplet, and I often tell people that I feel as though I have maybe, finally, possibly stopped treading water.  I say maybe, finally, possibly, because I’m so hesitant to commit to saying the words out loud, lest everything we worked so hard the past half a year to establish be swiftly taken from us in one blow.  Because babies.

But I think, maybe, finally, possibly, we have a semblance of normal.

I was big on half birthdays in elementary school, as I imagine almost anyone with a summer birthday would be.  I lived in the golden age of elementary school, when you could still bring in cupcakes on your birthday, which meant that those of us who celebrated in June, July, or August got to spice up those boring winter months by adding our half birthdays to the slate of students celebrating the real day  January 26 was my (half) moment to be the center of attention.  And oh man, am I ever into being the center of attention.

Fast forward thirty-odd years, and here I am with a little person celebrating his very first half birthday.  There must be cake!  Half a cake, to be exact.  We’ve done this before.  We’ll do this every year!  I made the cake on his birthday, but I wasn’t paying full attention, and it didn’t turn out.  Like, sunk completely, didn’t turn out.  What would Mary Berry say?

There must be some piece of me that knew not all was lost, because I hung onto the cake, and lived life for three more days, when Jenny Rosenstrach’s latest cookbook arrived on my doorstep.  Jenny speaks my love language.  It’s family dinner.  She writes about people and food and the serious connection between the two in ways that get at the deep, mushiest parts of my soul.  That’s not an exaggeration.  Ina is aspirational,  Jenny is inspirational.  And her newest book tells us to celebrate everything.  Because babies crave routines.  Families crave rituals.  And the best ones are the ones that happen around the table.

So about a week after Gooplet’s half birthday, we celebrated his half birthday anyway.


With the ugliest, and most disastrous half-cake ever.  But we started something.  And I hope it continues for years and years and years to come.

Thanks, Jenny.

On Photographing Gloop [baked ziti]

Elise posted 7 tips for photographing babies this morning and the second I read her blog post title, I wished it was slightly different.

Elise, I thought, I don’t have a baby.  I have casseroles. 

baked ziti.

Casseroles get a bad reputation, but when done right, they’re the best go-to dinners.  They can be made in advance, or they can be frozen, and if need be, they can be an all-in-one meal.  There are some nights where our vegetable is in that 9 x 13 pan, right along with our meat and our starch, and that’s the best I can do for dinner.  I love casseroles.

They are a beast to photograph, though.

baked ziti.

No matter how wonderful they taste, and this one ranks right up there, they typically end up looking like blobs and gloop on a plate.

And that’s quite tragic, if you think about it, because when you see the pictures for this post, I don’t know that you’ll want to make Dinner, a Love Story’s baked ziti, and that would certainly be your loss.  I don’t always think of casseroles as weeknight fare, because there are often multiple steps, pans, and layers that go into the work of just one dish.  But, in her ever-efficient manner, Jenny figured out how to get baked ziti made in just about one pan.  Seriously.  Not to mention she packs her casserole with mushrooms and spinach, so it doesn’t feel quite as indulgent, as say, lasagna.

To make ziti for a crowd, you will need:

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 1 1/2 C crushed tomatoes (I used 1, 15 oz. can)
  • 1/2 C shredded Fontina
  • 1/2 C shredded ricotta salata (though I had mozzarella, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 C baby spinach, chopped (I used way more…probably 3 C)
  • 8 shakes oregano
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • shake of red pepper flakes
  • 3 C mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (whoops, I didn’t read this and used 4…that was a lot of meat)
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 C whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 C plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 T olive oil (I totally left this out–one less step)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook for about 8 minutes.  (The pasta will finish cooking during baking.)  Drain the pasta well and rinse with cold water.

In a deep baking dish, combine the pasta, tomatoes, cheeses, spinach, and oregano.

In a large saucepan (like that one you just cooked the pasta in), melt the butter over low heat and add the garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sausage (breaking up the links with a fork or wooden spoon) and the salt and pepper.  Cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the flour to the mushroom-sausage mixture and cook, stirring continually for 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste, milk, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, whisking, and simmer for 30 seconds.  Pour the sauce over the pasta in the baking dish.  In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and oil.  Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for 30 minutes.

*If you want to make this in advance, skip the preheating, and prepare all the way through sprinkling the breadcrumbs on the dish.  Cover tightly with a lid or with foil (or both!), and freeze or refrigerate.

On Getting Out of a Rut [black bean burritos]

Last weekend, I had the biggest epiphany in terms of getting out of this cooking rut in which I am currently wasting away.

black bean quinoa burritos.

(Let the record show that I will not prate on about said rut anymore.)

black bean quinoa burritos.

I turn to blogs and Pinterest for dinner much more often than I turn the physical pages of a cookbook, so I’m always berating myself for not using the collection I’ve amassed over the years.   I’ve thought about cooking my way through one volume in its entirety, though that most certainly has been done, and choosing exactly which volume it would be seems an insurmountable task.

What I decided to do instead is plan my dinners using just one cookbook a week.  We’re entering into the summer months, when I have ample time, so I have no excuse to plug in search terms like “quick and easy” or “30 minute meals.”

I’m not going to set a course for which book I’ll use each week because I want to eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it.  What I mean is, this isn’t about rules as much as it’s about trying new things.  I also won’t promise a new venture each week because this coming week is packed with the usual spring busy-ness, and I am likely not making anything impressive.  Other weeks are for vacations and family time.  But during the normal weeks, ones in which I sit down and make a calculated list before my grocery trip, my dinners will come from one of my neglected cookbooks.

black bean quinoa burritos.

I started with a bang, The Dinner, a Love Story cookbook.  I’ll blather about my love for this in my next dinner post, but for now, let me tell you that Jenny and Andy pan-fry their burritos.  I made this on a weeknight, and as I read through the recipe, I scoffed at the idea.  Who has time to pan fry burritos?  But as so often happens, I started cooking and felt that ooey-gooey feeling I get when I’m making something that’s going to be amazing, and I decided to go all-in.  I pan fried the burritos.  Holy moly!  Why haven’t I done this before?  It’s the difference between a regular old taco Tuesday and a fiesta in your very own kitchen.

To make black bean and quinoa burritos for 4, you will need:

  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (whoops, I diced mine)
  • 3 T vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced (I used the whole thing, and discarded the ribs and seeds)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C corn kernels (I used frozen)
  • 6, 8 inch tortillas
  • 2 large handfuls grated cheddar cheese
  • a bunch of cooked quinoa or rice, if you already have it leftover
  • guacamole
  • handful chopped cilantro
  • toppings as you see fit (sour cream, salsa, lime wedges)

Quick-pickle your onions:  Bring vinegar, sugar, 2 C water, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add onion and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes.  Drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add garlic, scallions, cumin, jalapeno pepper, and salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.  Stir in the beans, mashing them with a fork.  Add another 1/3 C water, and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Toss in corn, and remove from heat.

Spread bean filling across the middle of each tortilla, leaving some space at both ends.  Add quinoa and guacamole.

Sprinkle each tortilla with cheese, your now quick-pickled onions, and a little cilantro.  Fold the ends of the tortillas over the filling, enclosing filling tightly.  You can do it!  You know you’ve watched the staff at Chipotle do this artfully for years.  Heat more oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You want the oil to coat the bottom of the pan in full.  Add 2 burritos at a time, seam side down, and fry until lightly browned on the underside, about 2 minutes.  Turn over and fry until golden, another 2 minutes.  Set fried burritos on a plate lined with paper towels to drain a bit of the excess oil.  Repeat with remaining burritos and serve with desired toppings.


The Dinner that Saved Dinner [chicken and broccoli]

We’ve been in a little dinner rut lately, in which getting quick options from any of my favorite DC joints is preferable to taking the time to turn on the stove.  Luckily, Dinner a Love Story swooped in to save me with a recipe that tastes like takeout, but isn’t.  There’s gotta be a reason that Chinese takeout places don’t offer you nutritional facts, so how much better this is for you than their equivalent is left to the imagination.

chinese chicken and broccoli.

I won’t lie to you and say it’s as easy as ordering out.  But I’ll tell you that in the time it takes you to order and wait for delivery, this will be done.  And it will probably cost less per serving.  And it tastes just as good, if not better.  I’ll let you make that dinner decision for yourself.

I love when Jenny writes a recipe as if she’s talking to you, so I’ll let her take over here.  To make Chinese Chicken and Broccoli (and Edamame)…

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, brown 3 or 4 chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces, tossed in a little cornstarch if you have time) in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. After a few minutes, push all the chicken to one side and turn down heat to medium-low. Add 2 cloves garlic (minced) and 1/2 large onion (chopped) and cook about 2 minutes until onions are soft. Mix together with the chicken, then add about 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, turn up the heat, and stir. Add 2 heaping tablespoons hoisin, 1/4 cup water and cook until chicken is heated through. Add steamed broccoli and cashews (my kids like it without cashews) and serve with rice.

*My notes:  We didn’t have cashews, but the crunch would have been exactly right here.  I did have some frozen edamame, which I added at the end.


The Perfect Potato

Though I tout my love of pasta frequently, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, dear readers.  I am an equal opportunity carb lover.  Especially if said carb is a potato.  Fried, baked, mashed, gratined, gnocchied–I love them with affection unspeakable.  I even love potato bread, for goodness sake.

greek potatoesEnter, the Greek potato, courtesy of Dinner, a Love Story.  I’m not a good Greek food eater.  Feta and dill aren’t my thing.  But these are Greek not for those two regulars, but because of the lemon and oregano that sizzle and pop in the oven right alongside the potatoes.  The best roasted potatoes I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had some good ones.  They’re roasted at 500 degrees, a temperature I’m a little afraid of.  I mean, seriously, how often do you turn the oven to 500 degrees?

What that absurd level of heat does, for these humble little spuds, is create the crunchiest shell imaginable, that upon one toothy bite, gives way to an oil-drenched, gushy center.  We blew through a 5 pound bag of potatoes using this cooking method, and I’ve got the next bag on the counter, ready for our cookout tomorrow.

greek potato lunch

To make a roasting pan full of Greek Potatoes, you will need:

  • a dish than can handle a heat of 500 degrees.  Not a glass one.  I used my roasting pan, but a cast-iron would work as well.
  • 3 large, russet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C good olive oil (holy yum!)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Place the potatoes in a single layer on the bottom of the dish.  Combine remaining ingredients in a measuring cup, or small bowl, and pour over potatoes.  Roast 45-50 minutes until potatoes are brown around edges, and most of oil has been absorbed.  Finish with another sprinkle of salt, if you like that kind of thing.

*a  note:  Remember when I said I needed to work on building my repertoire of foods that are low maintenance?  This is one of those.