Cookbook Challenge – Cucumber Dill Salad

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The cookbook/magazine challenge is still doing strange things to my recipe selection. I don’t want to say that I’m not a salad person, because I do enjoy a nice big salad sometimes…but I can’t say that it’s normal for me to flip through a magazine and be drawn to so many salad recipes. Simple ones too! Since I don’t make salad very often, I really like making my own small batches of dressing when the impulse hits. It’s way easier than you might think and it’s pretty sweet that you can make a tasty dressing with only a few ingredients rather than the loads of complicated things that are listed on a bottle. This salad was very fresh with nice crunch and paired well with my…oh.so.sophisticated mac & cheese bites. Heh, kind of cut down on the classy, healthy thing didn’t I? I tend to do that. Paul bought us the Trader Joe’s mac & cheese bites so that I would have something quick to eat when I returned from my Colorado trip. They were good! Try both, I say!

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Crispy & Lemony Salad (From Martha Stewart Everyday Food March 2013)

1 head romain, chopped

1/4 cup dill sprigs

1 english cucumber

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine the salad ingredients in one bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients in another; season. Drizzle over salad and toss. Top with cracked black pepper. Serves 4.

Country Fried Steak + Gravy

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Deciding between country fried steak and french toast is always a huge dilemma when I go to a diner. Ultra savory or ultra sweet? I love both, so it depends on the place and my mood, I guess. It took some time for me to find cube steak, but I wanted to do it right no matter how impatient it made me! I asked my mom for advice before I attempted this and she said it’s easy, but it never seems to be as good as the diner. She suggested that Pioneer Woman would probably have a perfect recipe, and duh! She was correct! Definietly satisfied our diner meal craving.

But, really why should we have to choose between country fried steak and french toast? When you cook at home, you don’t really have to…steak for dinner and french toast for breakfast! Yep, that’s what I did – check out this post for those pics!

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…or French Toast

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Country fried steak or french toast? Tough question, right? That’s why I had to make a country fried steak and french toast joint post. I said in the other post that if these two items are on a diner menu, I have a really hard time picking between them. Of course, there’s always biscuits and gravy…pancakes…oh and anything smothered in green chile…oops I’m getting off course. So yeah, I made my country fried steak and then had to make french toast for breakfast.

In addition to this being a joint post, it kind of feels like a continuation of my waffle/blogger brain post, which has been one of my favorite posts to write. This french toast process was a lot less blogger brainy than my waffles…I almost didn’t even take photos! But of course, once they were done and lookin’ so pretty, I had to snap a few pics. We still got to eat warm french toast though! I really try not to keep people waiting too long when I take pictures of our food. Maybe someday I’ll plan ahead enough to create a nice food styling ‘set.’ But, for now, I guess I’ll continue with my casual, in-the-moment style. We’ll see how it goes! It’s always nice to have something to strive towards. : )

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Egg Salad Appetizer Night

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Appetizer night is probably my all time favorite way to eat. I was prompted to make egg salad sandwiches after Paul and I shared one from a convenience store…it was terrible. We were in a rush! Maybe it’s not fair to say it was disgusting because it didn’t really taste like anything. It was like eating a sponge. Anyway, I promised Paul that I would make some awesome egg salad (mostly because he wasn’t as disgusted by it as I was and I needed to prove that I could do better). We saw a picture of a really delicious looking open-faced egg salad sandwich only to scroll down and realize that it was made from fake eggs…sorry, not really our thing. I copied the look, but used real eggs and added stuff that sounded good to make it more ‘gourmet’. I did a basic (chunky) egg salad recipe with some lemon, chopped mint, paprika, plus a little cayenne, I think. Ah, so simple, but so much better! We cut up a baguette and created a spread of egg salad, burrata, tomatoes, and avocado. We were two happy eaters!

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Yes, It’s Kale

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Are you sick of hearing about kale yet? Yeah, me too, but I had to try out the craze. It seems like everyone is always completely surprised that they end up enjoying raw kale. Needless to say, I was skeptical and thought wow, this stuff must taste really weird. Turns out, it doesn’t taste weird at all. It tastes like leafy broccoli to me, and I love broccoli. I can’t say that I’ve purchased a bundle of kale since I made these chips, but I’m certainly not scared of it anymore.

These kale chips actually were really tasty. I tried out three flavors to make this experiment more interesting: sesame oil, soy sauce, and plain olive oil with sea salt. I liked all of the flavors, but be really careful about adding salt. See, I tossed my whole tray with olive oil and salt before I decided to break them up into three groups. Sooo, my soy sauce chips were mega salty! Valuable lessons in this post: 1. don’t over salt your kale chips and 2. don’t be scared of kale because it just tastes like broccoli…really leafy broccoli that kind of gets stuck in your throat…do you think it tastes like broccoli, or am I the crazy one??

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Quinoa Two Ways

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Ok, so I’m not really that into quinoa. And these are pretty much my only two quinoa recipes. But, they are really good and I’ve been making them for years. I was inspired by a Southwestern style quinoa salad that my mom and I picked up randomly at Whole Foods once. It was surprisingly enjoyable so we decided to recreate it for our work lunches. Quinoa salad makes a great to-go lunch because it’s filling, flavorful, and doesn’t even need to be heated up. Plus, there are tons of ways to switch up the recipes to get some variety in your daily brown bag.

There are two variations that I tend to stick to: Southwest and Mediterranean. When I have the urge to make these for the work week, I usually make one big batch of quinoa and then divide it in two containers. That way I can make both flavors at once and alternate throughout the week. Once you’ve made the quinoa, the rest is just tossing in veggies and seasonings. There’s not really a recipe, but I’ll list the combinations I use below. One big tip though: the last time I made these I added taco seasoning to the Southwest salad, which is now a must! Gives it a nice kick and ties the theme all together. Let me know if you have any quinoa combos that I should try! We have way too much of it in the pantry and it would be nice to switch things up a bit!

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Mediterranean: cucumber, tomato, lemon juice, feta, salt and pepper. I can’t remember the exact herbs/seasoning I used, but I think I kept it simple! I had a little extra steak and avocado from the Southwest salad, so I threw it in here too.

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Southwest: corn, black beans, tomato, avocado, taco seasoning, lime juice. Perfect lunch!

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Cookbook Challenge – Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken

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This is the best chicken I’ve ever made. Third time really is the charm because I’m pretty sure this was my third time roasting a whole chicken. I used yet another Martha Stewart recipe and I am so in love with it. It’s not going to be a weekly staple or anything, but I know it will be a great recipe to have in my back pocket for special occasions. I also don’t know if I’ll ever roast a chicken whole again after trying the butterfly, or spatchcock, method. It was a little tricky (and gross) at first, but in the end it’s so much easier. It cooks faster and it makes carving a cinch.

Once you’ve butterflied the chicken, it’s pretty simple to throw together. Apple, fennel, and leek get tossed into the pan with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then you cover your seasoned chicken with sage and prosciutto! Woo! My chicken cooked for about an hour (in my kind of crappy oven) and came out crispy, flavorful, and moist. Really moist. It was perfect and I was proud. Paul and I both absolutely loved it. I highly recommend this recipe! The prosciutto skin is so good – I feel like maybe it’s part of what helped the chicken stay so moist? Just a guess. In any case, it’s just plain good and you should try it. Recipe can be found here!

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Cookbook Challenge – Peach Cake Dippers

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The thing I have been loving most about this cookbook/magazine challenge is trying new things that I never pick when I’m exclusively googling. I’m realizing how much I stay inside the (recipe) box when I google as I go. Flipping through books and magazines has opened my eyes to lots of ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. Now, this recipe isn’t so out there. I’ve made a couple of fruity cake/bread type desserts on the blog already. I was slightly surprised by how much I needed to make this though because I’m not usually drawn to cinnamon topped desserts (ugh, another weird, unreasonable food preference). In fact, when I took my first sneaky sample I seriously considered leaving out the cinnamon topping because I already liked the taste so much. I talked myself into sticking with the recipe though and am really glad I did. It’s so much tastier with cinnamon!

By the way, the recipe is for a full sized bundt cake, but sadly I don’t have a bundt pan at the moment. It’s ok though – I love when I have a reason to use this cute pan that reminds me of mini sand castles! The peaches and cream bundt recipe can be found here. I halved the recipe, which gave me enough for 30 mini cakes and one mini loaf. Dipping them in whipped topping was really fun and I think would be great for a party! It’s kind of like fondu. You gotta give these a try. They are incredibly light and moist with a nice hint of peach. The cinnamon and whipped topping is a must – it makes it takes like peach pie…in cake form! Yum!

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Cookbook Challenge – Roasted Tomato + Capicola Pasta

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I am loving this challenge so far. Eventually I will move on to the cookbooks that I originally intended to utilize for this challenge, but for now I am totally hooked on my Everyday Food magazines. It still counts, okay? I don’t make pasta dishes like this very often. Usually when I crave pasta it’s the creamy, saucy, comfort type. This fresh, simple pasta recipe is so awesome though and still just as satisfying. Plus it’s just so pretty (I got a little picture happy)! The magazine recipe called for pancetta and penne. I had some other kind of tubular pasta that I am blanking on at the moment…and I bought capicola in a pack with prosciutto for another dish that I will be sharing soon. I think it worked out great! Bacon would also be good, of course. Oh, and I also added some garlic to the roasting pan just cuz.

It’s pretty hard to mess this up, I think. You basically throw some tomatoes, onions, meat, and oil into the oven and then stir it into the pasta with some herbs. On the table in 30 minutes. Here’s a link to the full recipe. It’s kind of like magic the way this sauce forms so quick right out of the oven. As you stir everything into the pasta the meat crumbles apart while the pasta water and bursted tomatoes combine and coat the noodles. Super flavorful and the red pepper flakes make it a little spicy too. It’s pretty good cold too, so it could be a nice picnic pasta! And by the way, the recipe is dairy free aka no cheese…but I don’t see how a little parmesan cheese would hurt?

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Cookbook Challenge – Baked Eggs + Grits

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It’s time for a challenge! I’ve posted before about my love for collecting cookbooks. I’ve been realizing more and more that despite having some great books and magazines around, I typically end up just doing a quick Internet search for recipe ideas. I’m obviously all for digital recipes and food blogs, but I thought it would be fun to challenge my kitchen creativity a bit with a cookbook only cooking challenge. I’m not totally sure how long this will go on (a month?) or even how strict I’m going to be on myself…but I think it’s going to be super fun to learn some new recipes that have been sitting on my shelf just hoping to be used.

I’m including magazines too mostly because I have recently become obsessed with Everyday Food Magazine. I got an email that the issues are free on the iPad so I downloaded a few for my latest plane ride. A plane is like the worst place to read food magazines by the way – so hungry! The issues are short and sweet, but I got tons of ideas and couldn’t wait to start my challenge. I based my shopping list on a few of their recipes, so this week will probably be mostly Everyday Food posts! Starting with this one – baked eggs and grits. I love me some grits! Always have (I’m a southern baby). This was a delicious start to the day and something I’ll definitely continue making. From start to finish it only took about 30 minutes and 15-20 of those minutes were spent waiting for the eggs to bake. I made some minor changes to their recipe (which is here if you can’t get your hands on the latest issue) based on what I bought. I’m sure there are tons of ways you could adapt this! Have fun! My adaptation is listed below.

Cookbook challenge is off to a great start! I feel inspired already. I hope you all enjoy the challenge and feel free to join in!

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Baked Eggs + Grits (Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine May 2013)

2 servings

– butter or oil for brushing

– 1/4 cup instant grits

–  about a 1/4 cup of chopped leeks

– 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped sage

– 1 ounce cheese of your choice (I used a few chunks of provolone…)

– 2 eggs

– salt, pepper, and parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or oil two ramekins. Cook grits according to package instructions. Stir in cheese, leeks, and sage. Season with salt and pepper and stir until cheese is melted.

2. Pour half of grits into each ramekin. Make a well in the middle and crack 1 egg into each well. Season egg with salt and pepper. Sprinkle any leftover leeks, sage, or cheese over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes until whites are set. Rotate pan after 10 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and black pepper.