Monday, January 28, 2013

Taco Seasoning

Tacos make me happy. They are one of my desert island foods- ya know, if taco shells, tortillas, and all the fillings grew on islands! I love the traditional ones, the fancy ones, and the exotic ones- like the grasshopper tacos I ate last year at Oyamel in Washington, DC. So, so good!  Also delicious- these green chile chicken soft tacos. I need to make those again soon!

I love tacos so much that when I get married eventually I have decided that I really, really, really want a taco bar at my wedding! They are so customizable- whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc, I think that a taco can work for everyone. You don't even need a tortilla to enjoy something taco-like- a taco bowl is super-delicious as well. Check out this article on Serious Eats showing just how many types of tacos are out there!!

This won't be a post about how to make a taco, but rather be a recipe for homemade taco seasoning. I love those convenient little packets as much as the next guy, but making a homemade version is just so easy. All the spices that go into the seasoning are staples in my pantry, so there is no reason not to! There are a bunch of versions for homemade seasoning, all of which I'd like to try, but the one I used this time was great, so I figured I'd jot it down here for you, and so that I remember which ones I've tried. I figure someday I'll eventually have a favorite that I use consistently.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Makes about 2 3/4 Tbsps

1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

1. Mix together all the ingredients in a small container.
2. To season filling, use about 2 tbsp per pound of ground meat, Use more or less to taste. Add the desired amount of seasoning and 1/2 cup of water to the browned meat, and simmer until the water is absorbed.

Source: Allrecipes via The Girl Who Ate Everything

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pork Milanese

I've had Giada de Laurentis's cookbook Everyday Italian for years now, but haven't really made much out of it unfortunately, through no fault of the cookbook. That's definitely a problem I have- I buy these awesome cookbooks, make maybe one or two recipes, and then never venture further.  I really need to work on this, because there are so many amazing sounding recipes in all my cookbooks that I'd love to make. I need to be like Julie from Julie & Julia, and cook every recipe out of a cookbook or something.  Maybe I need to make a goal to cook 1 or 2 recipes a week from an actual cookbook. I get so many food magazines, and read so many blogs, that I have a pretty much unlimited supply of recipes to choose from, and it seems like sometimes the cookbooks get lost in the shuffle. Sad, because they are pretty much the books that I love best.

Anyway.... this pork was awesome!! As I mentioned in my last post, this is one of the best pork dishes I have ever personally made. The breading that coats the pork was so flavorful, and I think it would adapt well to swapping in chicken for the pork, if pork is not your thing.  It's shallow-fried, which is definitely not as intimidating as deep-frying, and only left a slight lingering smell of oil- one of my biggest turn-offs for frying things in my home.  I definitely recommend giving this recipe a try.  I know I'll be making it again!!

Pork Milanese
Serves 4

1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
4 8-ounce center-cut pork chops (about 1-inch thick)
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Place the flour in a wide shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Place the beaten eggs in another wide, shallow dish. In a third wide, shallow dish, mix together the breadcrumb, Parmesan cheese, basil, and thyme.
2. Place the pork chops between two pieces of plastic wrap, or in a large storage bag, and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin, until the pork is 1/4 inch thick. Season the pork chops on each side with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp of each for the four pork chops).
3. Dredge each pork chop (one at a time), first in the flour, then in the egg (let excess drip off), then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the mixture on gently. Place the pork chops, in a single layer, on a baking sheet.  (These can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Just cover and refridgerate until ready to cook.)
4. Preheat oven to warm (150 degrees, or as close as possible- the lowest my oven goes is to 200 degrees), and line a baking sheet with a rack.
5. Melt butter and oil together in a large saute pan with high sides over medium heat, until hot. Cook the pork chops, 2 at a time, about 3 minutes per side, until light golden brown. Transfer the cooked pork chops to the prepared baking sheet and season with more salt to taste. Place in the oven to keep warm, and repeat the process with the other 2 pork chops.
6. Serve the pork chops with the lemon wedges on the side. Squeeze the lemon juice over the pork chops if desired.

Monday, January 21, 2013


1. It's snowing out right now! I might be one of the only people who actually looks forward to snow. I always feel guilty showing how excited I am when the flakes start to fall as snow is my boyfriend's least favorite thing, but I think it is just so magical!! We are only supposed to get a little bit tonight- 3 inches max, but I always keep my fingers crossed that we get more than the estimate. I want a snowy winter this year, not a lame winter like last year, it has already been better, but still hasn't been enough for me. Don't tell Ron :)

2. There is less than a month to go until I turn 30, which is so scary! I waver between not caring at all, and mentally freaking out about this. I just feel so young still. I thought that by the time I turned 30 I would have things figured out and feel like an adult, but that doesn't seem to be the case. At least I'm more mature than I was as a 20 year old!

3. My best friend and I are going to be doing the 21 day detox in the January issue of Whole Living!! Starting after my birthday of course. I've never done a detox before, but this one sounds like its actually doable for me. You can eat real foods, and a good amount of food too, unlike one of those juice cleanses. Not that I'm knocking those, it's just something that realistically I don't think I would be successful at. I just LOVE to eat too much. This detox has you eliminate some things- processed foods, added sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol and coffee, but you can still eat fruits. veggies, nuts, and later on seafood, eggs and tofu. I don't think it'll be easy- especially giving up coffee for three weeks, but I believe I can do it. At least I'll be able to drink tea still.  I'll update you further later on in February!

4. So I saw something on Pinterest about paying yourself a dollar for each day you workout as a motivator. I think I'm going to put this into practice. When you reach your monetary goal, you can treat yourself to something you've been wanting. I think it'll help motivate me to get to the gym on those days I feel like slacking. Sometimes you just need a tangible goal to reach.

5. I went out to breakfast twice this weekend and it was the best! I love sitting down to a delicious, leisurely breakfast. Saturday my best friend and I had breakfast in a diner, and I had awesome French toast with a side of bacon. On Sunday, Ron and I went to breakfast at a little place close to us in CT where I got a mushroom, spinach and cheddar omelet with homefries and homemade toast. It was so wonderful. The unlimited coffee never hurts either :)

6. Last week I made tacos, a couple of chicken and veggie stir-fries, a chicken fajita bowl (so yummy I didn't even miss the tortilla), and then today I made pork Milanese using a Giada de Laurentis recipe. It was probably one of the best pork dishes I have ever personally cooked! I'll post recipes for these meals this week!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sweet Potato Latkes

After eating the same thing for dinner three nights in a row, I really needed a change. Since I've been trying to use up what is in my pantry, and Ron has been working the last three nights, I ended up making very simple cheese and jalapeƱo quesadillas with rice and beans for myself for the past few nights. Very yummy, but even quesadillas get old after having the same kind three days in a row, I suppose.

So for this dinner I needed something vastly different using ingredients I had in the pantry. I had a few sweet potatoes that I really wanted to use, and so after searching through some of my favorite blogs for ideas, I came upon these sweet potato latkes on Eat, Live, Run. Just a few staple ingredients, a little mixing together, a little frying, and bam, done. I don't generally like to fry things in my kitchen, but because you only need a little bit of oil for these, that wasn't a problem. I ate them with a little bit of pure maple syrup on top and they were so satisfying! I guess you probably would normally serve these as breakfast or as a side dish to a meal, but since it was just me, I decided to just make these my main dish and eat a simple salad on the side. I will definitely be making these again! I also would love to experiment with these a bit too- I'm thinking chipotle sweet potato latkes... And I also really need to make traditional potato latkes sometime as well.

Sweet Potato Latkes
Makes about 8 latkes

2 small to medium sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Canola oil, for frying
Maple syrup, optional

1. In a large bowl, mix together the shredded potatoes, eggs, flour, salt and cinnamon. 
2. Add about a tbsp of canola oil to a large skillet, and heat over medium-high heat.  When hot, using wet hands, form your latkes, and place in skillet.  (This will probably take you two batches- four latkes per batch). Fry about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining latkes.
3. Serve warm. Drizzle with maple syrup if desired!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Green Monster Smoothie

Did you know that the term Green Monster was coined by Angela over at Oh She Glows?  I didn't know that until this week when I was researching different Green Monster smoothie-type drinks.  I've been reading Oh She Glows for a while, and I found this news to be very exciting!  It's the small things that excite me- Dunkin' Donuts, a good burger, a basket of kittens, you know, the usual!

I've been very curious about these green drinks for a while, and because I'm really working on sticking to my New Year's resolutions of eating well, and exercising, I figured it was the perfect time to try one of these out. I am so happy to say that I loved my green monster.  There are a lot of variations of this smoothie, and I'm sure that I'll be experimenting with them frequently, but my very first try was awesome!  You can really barely taste the spinach- I think there is a very slight hint of something green, but except for the green color, I think you'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint it if you didn't know what was in this. Me?  I don't mind the green color at all- after all, it is my favorite color.

Green Monster Spinach Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup 0% vanilla Greek yogurt
1 banana, sliced, and preferably frozen
1 tbsp peanut butter
2-4 cups baby spinach
Ice, optional (I use about 3 ice cubes in mine)

1. Add all ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth.
2. Drink your greens :)

Source: Iowa Girl Eats and Oh She Glows

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lemon Chicken

So another food item that my boyfriend Ron and I recieved from his grandparents for Christmas were boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I was psyched about this because they are just so versatile! They are one of the staple grocery list items that I buy pretty much every week. I know that some people aren't big fans because they can be boring and dry, but I really believe that if cooked well, and paired with yummy flavors, that they are the best!

Now, because I've made it a priority to clean out my freezer, fridge and pantry, I wanted to choose a recipe that I didn't have to buy a million ingredients for, and use what I had already. This Lemon Chicken recipe is something I had bookmarked forever ago that uses very few, and simple ingredients, but packs a really nice flavor punch.  I loved it!  It was pretty light, which is perfect for my healthy eating resolution, was really nice and simple for a weeknight dinner, and was super yummy!  If you like lemon, you'll like this chicken!

Lemon Chicken
Serves 4

4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 lemon slices
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1. Place your chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, or in a gallon-size ziplock bag, and pound them until 1/4-inch thick.
2. Season both sides of your chicken with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet, over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp butter, and olive oil to the pan.  When the butter is melted, add your chicken.  Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, until the chicken is browned, and cooked through. Remove chicken to a platter, and tent with foil.
4. Reduce heat to medium.  Add chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the lemon slices, and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat, add the remaining butter and the parsley.  Stir together until the butter has melted.
5. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts and garnish with the lemon slices, or do like I did and return the chicken to the pan, flipping the chicken over once to coat with the sauce, and place the lemon slices on top of the chicken.

Source: Southern Living and via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Skillet Pork Chops and Rice with Parsley Butter

I don't cook with pork much (other than bacon, of course).  It's not that I dislike it, but it is something I'm not confident cooking. This turns into a continuous circle because how will I ever become more comfortable cooking with pork if I never even try?!

For Christmas, my boyfriend's grandparents gave us a great gift of food from the Omaha Steak Company, including some boneless pork chops. This was the perfect opportunity to increase my level of confidence!  Aren't gifts of food awesome?!

This recipe was very simple and tasty! I especially liked the way the rice came out with this method of cooking.  Why don't I cook my rice in chicken broth more often?!

Skillet Pork Chops and Rice with Parsley Butter
Serves 4

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and divided
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup long-grain white rice
4 (6 to 8 oz) boneless pork chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme

1. Stir together the parsley and 2 tbsp butter in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Combine the rice and 1 cup of chicken broth in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave for 6-7 minutes, or until broth is absorbed. Watch out when you remove this from the microwave- it will be HOT!  As will the steam when you open the plastic wrap!
3. Meanwhile, dry the pork with paper towels, and cut two slits about 2 inches apart in the fat cap on the outside edges of the pork chops- this will help them stay flat as they are cooking, instead of curling up. Season the pork on both sides with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of butter. When it's melted, and the pan is hot, add the pork chops.  Brown the pork chops on each side- about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the pork chops once browned to a plate, and tent them with foil.
5. Add the remaining tbsp of butter to the skillet.  When melted, add the onion and cook 6-7 minutes until browned. Add the garlic and thyme and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
6. To the skillet, add the rice and the remaining 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Nestle the pork chops into the rice, add any accumulated juice as well, lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for 10-14 minutes, until the broth is absorbed into the rice and the pork chops are fully cooked.
7. When serving, top the pork chops with parsley butter.

Source: Cook's Country, Aug/Sept 2011, via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lately I've Been...

Lately I've been thinking of how I need to stop neglecting my little blog here! I've been cooking and cooking and cooking but am always so concerned about trying to get a good picture of my food that I get frustrated and end up not blogging at all. I've decided to relax and not stress about the perfection of the pictures (since I'm still a very beginner photographer, although that's something that I really do want to work on), and the perfection of what to say about the recipe, and so on and so forth. I just want to enjoy this space, be able to record a good recipe, and also be able to use this space as a place to talk about other things that are going on in my life- things I'm enjoying lately, books I'm reading, things I'm obsessing about on Pinterest, etc. I just want to be a little more relaxed in general.

So that said, here are some things I've been doing recently.

1. Reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for my book club and loving it so far!! I'm all for suspense and thrillers so I'm super excited about this pick and I've read so many good things about this book!

2. Trying to put some of my Pinterest pins into action (if you are on Pinterest and want to follow me, you can find me at My first project was inspired by a few coffee bar pins. I thought this was a great idea and perfect for me because I love coffee, and I had a perfect spot for this in my kitchen already! It never occurred to me before that I didn't have to have my coffee maker on my counters! Not only does it look much better, it saves counter space! It is still a work in progress, but it's getting there! Oh... Also, I finally got a magnetic knife rack!! I've been wanting this forever! My boyfriend and I went to ikea on New Year's Eve and finally bought one! I also bought some nice, plain white dishes! Such a bargain :)

3.I'm starting to work out regularly again after the laziness of the holiday season! One of my New Year's resolutions is to work out at least 3 times a week. So far I met my goal last week, and as long as I work out tomorrow, I will have met it this week as well! Today I ran for 2.5 miles (at 6 mph)! It was hard, but I did it and I feel so proud of myself! Now that I have an iPhone it is even better to run because I can listen to Pandora radio! Today I listened to Cold-Hearted Snake radio- Paula Abdul, Madonna and Janet Jackson all made appearances! Also, I made a Green Monster for the first time last weekend to have after my workout... I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, vanilla Greek yogurt, banana, peanut butter and spinach. I loved it!!

4. This week my menu consisted of Skillet Pork Chops and Rice with Parsley Butter, Mushroom Bacon Swiss Burgers with Curly Fries, Lemon Chicken with Potatoes au Gratin and Dirty Risotto! There wasn't a bad recipe in the bunch, but my favorite was probably the burgers... What can I say? I love a good burger!

5. I tried Panera's new big kid grilled cheese last weekend! Soooo good! How can you go wrong with three types of cheese and bacon. Yum!!!!

I hope you enjoyed this little update! I have a feeling the blog is going to be more like this in the future. Don't worry though! Recipes will be included still :). I will post those soon!