Pan Seared Salmon with Arugula and Avocado

Simple ingredients come together super quick in this recipe. The flavors of the peppery arugula, the buttery salmon and the acidic dressing, play very well together. Definitely a weeknight dinner to put on repeat.

I used Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar in lieu of Parmesan, just because I wanted to. The addition of mustard to a vinaigrette acts as an emulsifier, and keeps the oil and vinegar together with a creamy consistency. Don’t forget to season your vinaigrette before dressing your greens.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Salmon filets, preferably wild

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups baby arugula

1 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

1 tsp Dijon mustard

crumbled parmesan cheese (or any sharp cheese that you prefer)

1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 tomato, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

 Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon filets skin side-down. Immediately reduce heat to medium, medium low depending on your stove. Cook, pressing gently on back of filets to ensure good contact with skin, until skin is rendered and crisp, about 6 minutes. If skin shows resistance when attempting to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook until it lifts easily.

While the first side of the salmon cooks, whisk lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the mustard in small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Flip salmon and cook on second side for another minute or two, or to your desired doneness. I like my salmon close to medium rare/medium at 125 to 130 degrees.

Plate the arugula and top with avocado and tomatoes, dress with the vinaigrette. Crumble on your chosen cheese, place salmon on bed of salad and serve with lemon wedge.

Enjoy!

*Double recipe for 4 servings

Lemon Talk

Our lemon tree is in full produce mode. I’ve always wanted a lemon tree for those moments when you randomly need a lemon but don’t have one. You know, maybe you decided to make a piccata dish or you wanted to make pesto. All you need is one lemon and clearly you don’t want to go to the store for one damn lemon, right? I used to visualize the neighborhood and picture which homes had lemon trees and then I may have helped myself to a lemon or two in a time of need (the tree would be in the front yard, I wasn’t hopping any fences you guys). Now that I have said lemon tree, I never have to buy lemons, but I’ve realized that I don’t use them very often.

The lemon tree was staring back at me probably wondering why I was neglecting it, I felt bad.

There is only so much you can do with an abundance of lemons. Lemonade, lemon bars, lemon cakes, lemon meringue pie, the list goes on. We still had cream cheese frosting in the fridge from Kaili’s birthday cake and I had puff pastry in the freezer, I didn’t see the harm in making lemon curd and then turn those three things into a lemon cream cheese danish.

This is the recipe I used to make the lemon curd.

INGREDIENTS

4 large egg yolks 

2/3 cup  granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons  butter, softened

 If you have a double boiler then pull that out. If not, like me, simply place a small heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water you will cook the curd in the top pot/bowl. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to low heat to keep the water at a simmer.

Place egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the top pot of your double boiler. Using a whisk, whisk until completely blended, then continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of hollandaise sauce, about 10 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and constantly whisk.

Remove pan from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces, then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed.

This can stay in the fridge for about 10 days.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When it comes to Tortilla soup, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to make it. You like what you like and as the master of your own kitchen, you get to decide how you want it. Tomatoeyy, creamyy, brothyy, chunkyy. I personally like a silky broth with bits of chicken and then topped with avocado, tortilla strips and cilantro. So that is what is what we have here.

I took a can of diced tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves diced, one small onion diced, and a diced serrano chili, and heated them in a pan with some olive oil. Once they were glistening like you are bathing in the Mexican sun, I tossed them into a blender, added 2 corn tortillas and 2 cups of chicken broth and pureed until smooth. I poured the blender mixture into my dutch oven over medium high heat. Next, I added 2 tablespoon of taco seasoning, and one more cup of chicken broth. I let that hang out for a few minutes and then threw in about 1 1/2 cup of shredded rotisserie chicken and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. The key is to keep tasting the soup as it cooks. Does it need salt, spice, acid? You are the only one who can answer that.

I added a tablespoon of sour cream and a 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro. Then I tasted it again for seasoning.

If you like what you have, ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, cilantro, a squeeze of lime and jalapeños if you like it spicy!

It’s good, multiple meals worthy of good. For someone who doesn’t love leftovers (raises hand), this one is solid.

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

This is a festive and easy activity to do for the holidays. Two ingredients, that’s it. These will make the house smell amazing and they make a great homemade gift.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup applesauce

4 oz. cinnamon

rolling pin

cookie cutters

glue

glitter various colors

straw

string

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 200°. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed, your hands are the best tool for this.

I divided the dough amongst the three girls.

Roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes

Make a hole at the top of ornament with a straw.

Place ornaments on baking sheet.

Bake for about 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on a wire rack.

Once completely cool. brush with glue and decorate with glitter.

Wrap them up as a gift or hang on the tree.

Throwback but Better

This recipe for an updated tuna noodle cazuela {casserole} is ridiculously good. While I was at Trader Joe’s trying to not buy all of the new products, and just focus on my list, ha ha, I realized that I wasn’t sure what the original recipe for tuna noodle casserole consisted of. Obviously canned tuna and a condensed soup of some sort. A no skill required, long shelf life ingredients and comfort food all rolled into one dish. Probably originated in the what, the 1940’s? By someone who thought fish and cheese should go together, because, that is not a popular culinary pairing. I don’t remember my mom making this really… ever. She isn’t a big casserole person, aside from her amazing tamale pie. Anyhow, long story short, this version of tuna noodle casserole is just as easy and doesn’t require canned cream soup, you’ll thank me.

Since I have made this a handful of times, I decided to try a different shape of pasta. Let me tell you, this lily shaped pasta was a perfect fit for this creamy baked dish.

TJ didn’t have Piquillo peppers so I grabbed jarred roasted red peppers, they will do in a pinch. Other than that, instead of canned soup, we make our own roux, I added a little garlic and crushed red pepper because you know me. This is a simple and straight forward recipe for any night of the week.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela

*recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients

12 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

3 cups whole milk or half-and-half

1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas

3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced (6 ounces) *substitute jarred roasted red peppers

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

One 6-ounce can or jar solid white tuna in oil, drained and flaked

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion (garlic and red pepper if you want) and cook over high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmesan cheese and tuna and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish, a cazuela (casserole dish).

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko breadcrumbs and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the casserole and bake for 10 minutes or until bubbling.

Serve right away. Pairs well with an Albariño or a good Chardonnay.

Spicy Beef with Peanuts and Cilantro

Our weekday dinners are planned ahead, some of the days the menu reads kid friendly and the other days have more inspiration behind it. Nights where I want to create something more complicated or technically challenging with bolder flavors and spice. Meaning the kids won’t eat it. So, half of the time we sit down at the table all together. Asking the girls about what they learned, and who got in trouble, kids always like to tattle, so that will get them talking. The other nights Shawna and I eat in the living room watching Jeopardy, where the girls are hanging out.

This recipe doesn’t fall under complicated, actually it’s quite easy to throw together, but it’s a tad spicy. So if you have children with more refined palates than ours, they might eat it for you.

*recipe adapted from https://www.nutmegnanny.com/spicy-beef-with-peanuts/

Spicy Beef with Peanuts

2 cups basmati rice

4 cups water

1 pound beef sirloin tips, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, diced or grated

1 small white or yellow onion, diced

3-4 teaspoons chile garlic paste

1/2 diced jalapeño (this can be omitted if you don’t want it spicy spicy)

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts-a little extra if you want to garnish

1/4 cup minced cilantro-a little extra if you want to garnish

Salt to taste

Sriracha for garnish

Directions

In a sauce pan cook the rice according to package directions. Or, the way I do it. Heat a drizzle of oil in the sauce pan and stir in rice, let it get a little toasty and then add the water. Season with a little salt and a dash of sugar and the cook as the package suggests.

While the rice cooks, combine the sliced beef, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, diced onion, garlic, ginger, chile paste, diced jalapeño’s and lime juice. Stir and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the meat and the sauce (everything in the bowl) to the skillet and cook, stir until meat is browned and the sauce thickens a bit. You can always add a little cornstarch slurry if you want the sauce thicker.

Remove from heat and stir in the chopped peanuts and cilantro, taste for seasoning.

Serve over your desired amount of rice, garnish with the extra cilantro and peanuts and drizzle with some sriracha.

Remind me Again

I’ve had a week long hiatus from classes, so now I am doing my best to catch up on life’s moments. However, I have been struggling with MO-MEN-TIA {MO’men(t)SH(ē)A}. “A persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by one or more children marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning.” In other words, losing my memory, madness due to said loss of memory and slight insanity. The worst part, I can’t blame it all on the the kids, I am doing it all on my own. Age I suppose? Too many balls in the air, I am not the best at compartmentalizing. I’m not even sure what I was going to write today, I had an idea, sat down at my computer, and then I was asked what 9 x 30 was. So obviously, I had to stop and ask Siri. The next thing I knew, I was up and preparing tomorrow’s lunches, then I put the girls stuff in the wrong backpacks. Luckily they caught me before they were stuck in class with the wrong lunch. I find myself having to go upstairs multiple times because I forgot what I went up there for in the first place. And, last weekend, I even forgot to feed the girls breakfast. I just went ahead with my morning workout and then Kaili comes in and asks me when she could have breakfast, uh crap, breakfast… So just in case I forget, I have ribs in the oven and cookies to bake.

Before our cruise, we all {sans kids}went out to dinner to celebrate my mom and uncle Brian’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you what we had but I’m not sure anymore, I know there was dessert.

I also took two of the girls out for a lunch date in Bay Park. Kaili ordered fish and chips, which were so good, Averi ordered….wait for it….mac and cheese, which she didn’t like because she is an animal and doesn’t like anything. I had poke, always the poke.

I found this picture on my phone later that day.

I think my original plan was to tell you guys about a recipe. This is an old Cooking Light recipe that I couldn’t even find on their site anymore. I have the recipe printed out, old school style.

I’ll tell you what, I had this dish prepped and in the oven in about 20 minutes. The fact that it can feed a handful of people and/or make for leftovers, it’s a perfect weeknight meal.

Obviously over the years my culinary talent has improved and I have become one with the kitchen. Since this is an old recipe, I made changes to suit our palates. Originally the recipe called for reduced fat cheese…um no thanks. Instead I used half shredded pepper jack and half Mexican blend. I changed the type of beans, the cheese, the oil and even the tortillas. You do you! Let this recipe be a starting point and then go for it. It’s a casserole, it will be so good in the end, no matter what cheese or sour cream you prefer.

The chicken is the most time consuming part of this recipe. If you can grab a rotisserie, you’ll save yourself an hour.

Cooking Light’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole

1 tablespoon canola oil (or olive oil)

1 cup chopped fresh onion

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper to taste

1 (15 ounce) can white Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (black beans are just as good)

2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken

1 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided

1/2 cup sliced ripe olives, divided

18 (6-inch) tortillas, divided (corn or flour)

Cooking spray

2 cups (8 ounces) preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided

1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 (16-ounce) jar salsa verde ( I used a medium spice level)

10 tablespoon sour cream, you can use light sour cream.

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°

Grab your 13 x 9 inch baking dish and spray with cooking spray.

Heat your oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, and pepper; cook a couple more minutes. Stir in the strained beans; cook 2 minutes. Add chicken, green onions and half of the olives, stir well, and then remove from heat.

Layer 6 tortillas on bottom Spread 2 cups chicken mixture over tortillas; sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 6 tortillas.

*Note, these measurements are completely at your discretion.

Combine the milk, chopped cilantro, and salsa in a blender, and process until smooth. Pour over top of tortillas. Cover and bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese, remaining cup green onions, and the remaining olives.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and you can’t wait any longer.

Serve with sour cream. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and your favorite hot sauce.

Take that Phyllo

I had this great plan of posting a delicious Jamie Oliver recipe for you guys, but as we all know, plans change. The recipe was very good, however my execution of it was not. Another time I suppose.

You know how when you buy the store bought pie dough, puff pastry dough or phyllo dough they always come in packs of two? Every time I end up only using one of them and the other goes in the freezer to die. Months go by, I forget I have it in there and then I buy more, literally life’s rotation. I am proud to say that I put my foot down and I was not going to put the leftover lonely roll of phyllo dough back into the freezer to meet it’s demise. Instead I made super simple apple turnovers. So easy there isn’t even a need for a recipe.

I peeled, cored and chopped two apples {I had Envy apples in the fridge} and sautéed them with a couple tablespoons of butter and a quick zest of lemon. I let those hang out at medium heat while I grabbed sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. I guestimated the measurements but I probably added in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar, the tarter the apples you use the more sugar you will need. I tossed in about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla. {Oh, the Mexican vanilla did make it home, Shawna put it in the pantry, phew!} Once the apples were pretty soft, maybe 10-15 minutes, I whisked in about one tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it up, added a pinch of salt and then I moved on to the phyllo dough.

I took two sheets of phyllo, brushed with melted butter and then folded it in half lengthwise. Brushed with more melted butter and folded it lengthwise again giving me one long strip. I added a scoop of the apple filling on one end of the pastry dough and folded it in the form of a triangle. Remember the triangle notes we would pass to friends in high school? That’s how you want to fold these. The two apples I used made enough filling for four pastries. Once they were all folded, I popped them onto a cookie sheet, brushed one more time with butter and put them into a 350 degree oven. My oven is on the hotter side, you could probably get away with 375 degrees. I set the time for 10 minutes, but they needed a little more time. I’d say by 15 minutes they were golden brown, the apple filling was bubbling and the house smelled amazing.

Once they were cool, I moved them onto a plate and sprinkled with powder sugar.

Yes, they were good, really good and also really messy, This would be something Averi would have to eat outside.

Averi is on another level when it comes to being a messy eater. If she isn’t complaining about not liking something then she is dropping food. It’s unreal.

We took the girls to Belmont park to celebrate the older ones half birthday’s. They each got a set amount of tickets and they chose what rides they wanted to spend them on. When the tickets were gone, they were gone. That made for some serious planning and contemplating on choosing the rides they were going to go on.

I think they enjoyed themselves, I know we did.

Black Rice Risotto with Garlic and Parmesan

I was sitting here, trying to write a lesson plan when my mind kept reliving an incredible dish we had months ago, making it very difficult to focus on learning standards. So, instead I switched gears and decided to try and dissect what we ate from memory and remake it, hoping for the same outcome.

Risotto is not in my wheelhouse. I make it often enough but I use only one recipe, the one that allows me to leave the stove because let’s be real, no one has time to stand, stir and repeat. I took this recipe but used black rice with the addition of some cream, fresh parmesan and garlic at the end.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty good. Rich and garlicky, probably best alongside a light main dish or a salad.

*recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Easy Risotto

Ingredients

5 cups simmering chicken stock, divided.

1½ cups black rice

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cups heavy cream

Minced fresh garlic, as much as you want.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the black rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, or a heavy bottomed stock pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente aka still a bit chewy.

Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the parm, wine, cream and your garlic and stir vigorously for 3 minutes. Taste for salt, add pepper for kicks.

Top with more parm and garlic (if you want to).

Creamy Eggplant Dip

Sometimes I just need some Middle Eastern slash Mediterranean food. Whether it’s a Gyro, hummus, Tzatziki, falafel or shawarma, or even fruit with cheese and olive oil, the need just hits hard sometimes. My mind went to making Baba ghanoush but I thought if I made it creamy, I could talk the girls into eating it. After a lot of recipe hunting I decided on a creamy eggplant dip using the essential Mediterranean ingredients. Roasted eggplant and garlic blended with Greek yogurt, Feta and some other goodies.

*Recipe adapted from here

INGREDIENTS

3 medium sized eggplants

olive oil

5 cloves of garlic

2 lemons juiced

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 Tbs tahini

1/3 cup feta cheese (I used sheep’s milk feta)

1/3 cup  milk

1 tsp paprika 

1/2 tsp cayenne (use 1/4 tsp if you don’t like spicy)

1/4 tsp red chili flakes 

2 tsp Kosher salt or more to taste

1 tsp Black pepper 

Sumac for garnish

Fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut eggplant long ways down the middle. Brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. I stuck the garlic cloves into the eggplant to roast. You can add the garlic raw, totally up to you.

Bake for 30 minutes and leave out to cool for another 30 min.

Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the roasted eggplant into a strainer to drain the excess liquid.

Add the eggplant into a blender with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, yogurt, tahini, feta, milk and spices. Blend on high until smooth. Add more of whatever seasonings to taste.

Drizzle with your best olive oil, sprinkle some sumac and fresh Italian parsley to garnish. Service with fresh pita, roasted chicken and veggies.

You don’t even have to tell the kids that this is an eggplant dip, they will be none the wiser!