Sunday, September 15, 2013

Deli Mustard Chicken and Summer Salad Bar

Deli Mustard Chicken and Summer Salad Bar

The Challenge: got home from a 2 week vacation the night before, having parents over for dinner to view vacation photos, and Mom is on a lean and green diet.

Challenges are my favorite way to come up with new things to cook.  It forces me to think more creatively and try something new based on the challenge restrictions.  In this case a lean and green meal was required, and something I didn't have to slave over considering there wasn't any food in the house and the humidity was killing us.  And time couldn't have been better because a Whole Foods opened about 1 mile from our house that I wanted to explore anyway.

The Plan: Chicken was my first thought because it takes a quick marinade well and I can grill it in no time.  And I wasn't quite sure about all of my mom’s diet restrictions so I went with a deconstructed salad, or salad bar with some special ingredients.

Deli Mustard Chicken
Prep time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min

2 chicken breasts – butterflied into two thin pieces each and 4 large boneless skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup deli mustard – or Dijon with whole mustard in it
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
Whisk together mustard, oil, and wine in a large bowl.  Toss chicken to coat and leave covered in the fridge until ready to grill.  I recommend about an hour, and no more than three hours.  When your dinner guests arrive you just need about 10 minutes to grill the chicken over medium high heat.  I grill 7 minutes on one side, flip and finish for about 3 minutes on the other side.

Summer Salad Bar
Prep each of the different elements before dinner, cover and refrigerate in separate serving bowls.  When your guests arrive; set out the different items for a build your own salad bar.

The Greens
Prep Time: 5 min
2 cups baby kale
2 cup of baby spinach
2 cup of mixed greens

Toss greens together and they can be refrigerated in a serving bowl. Most people are used to mixed greens and baby spinach, but this mix is a great way to get the healthy kale hidden in there.

Assorted Tomatoes
Prep Time: 5 min
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
1 cup yellow pear tomatoes halved (or 2 cups of whatever tomatoes you'd like.)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Whisk together 1 tbsp. of good olive oil and 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, in the bottom of a serving bowl.  Toss the tomatoes and refrigerate up to 1 hour.

Pickled Vegetables
Prep Time: 15 min
1 cucumber - sliced in half moons
1 small zucchini - sliced in half moons
1 red onion - quartered then thinly sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/8 cup of pickling spice - Ball Kosher Dill Pickling Mix

Stuff the cut vegetables into a 1 quart jar – or you a large bowl.  Prepare the pickling liquid by combining water, white vinegar and pickling spice in a small sauce pan. Heat to a boil over the stove.  Pour hot liquid over the vegetables.  Let vegetables cool on the counter for a half hour then move to the fridge for at least an hour and up to three weeks.  Strain before serving.

Herb Goat Cheese
Prep Time: 5 min
4 oz of plain goat cheese
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
1 tsp. of dried rosemary
1 tsp. of dried parsley

Combine all ingredients thoroughly with a fork, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mustard Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 5 min
1 tbsp. of mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup of white wine
¼ cup of good olive oil for the dressing

I like to shake up my dressing in a ½ pint jar or whisk in a bowl.  Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Blogger Chili Party!

Do you remember the blogger taco party?  Well, it's football season and what better way to kick it off than with a blogger chili party?  My Turkey Pumpkin chili is still a bit of a work in progress (recipe perfection takes time my friends) but I still had to share what I made.  Also - please excuse the sub-par iphone photos.  I totally forgot I lent my camera to my sister this past weekend!

This recipe is inspired by the Pork-and-Pumpkin Chili from Food Network Magazine - though I've made plenty of modifications that its hardly the same.  I actually wasn't able to eat this the first few times I made it because the original recipe was so spicy!  The biggest change was switching to turkey from pork, and I do not add the chipolte peppers in the chili - instead I added about 1/2 tsp of just the sauce to the pumpkin sour cream.  I also choose kale instead of mustard greens because it's easier to find.

I always start with roasting the poblano peppers (and another random hot pepper) over my gas stove.  You can also do this under the broiler in the oven, just keep a really close eye on them.  It takes about 5 minutes to really char the whole pepper.

Then wrap them up tightly in aluminum foil.  You're going to want them to hang there for a good 20 minutes so this is a perfect do ahead while prepping everything else.  This foil packet will let them steam, after 20 minutes, or when cool enough to handle, rub off the skin with a paper towel.  No need to go nuts here, just rub of what you can - it should be about 75% of the skins and dice the peppers for the chili - throwing out the seeds.

Most soups, stocks, and slow cooking stews like a chili have some kind of holy trinity of starter veggies - these are mine.  One big white onion diced, 3 cloves of garlic minces, and the 2 hot roasted peppers diced.

These guys go in the pot with chili seasoned turkey tips, 2 tbsp of tomato paste and 2 tbsp of flour before adding in a can of chick peas, a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, all but 1/4 cup of the pumpkin puree and a bottle of beer.  I recommend a brown ale or American Oktoberfest.  Once you're about a half hour into the chili doing it's simmering thing - I add in ribbon sliced kale.  Don't forget to de-rib the kale!

The kale needs about 5 minutes to cook down into the chili.  Then serve with a sour cream mixture of 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup of pumpkin, and 1/2 or 1 tsp (depending on your spice tollerance, mine is low) of the chipolte sauce.  A lime wedge is also a nice touch.  

 Now who's ready for some football!  Go Pats!
(Sorry for an imperfect recipe - an update will be available in the near future - in time for many more fall football games!)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Guest Bedroom - DONE!

Does anyone remember our little story about using our three day Memorial Day weekend to bust out a guest bedroom renovation? 
Does this before photo jog your memory?

What about this gorgeous inspiration board that Paige at Little Nostalgia put together for us?  Paige is currently studying interior design and she couldn't have been a more perfect designer to work with.  We have similar taste, and she has the skills to put everything together and provide a cohesive look for a space.

Have you caught on yet that I said Memorial Day weekend and here we are at the next three day weekend of the year in September?  Have you found the irony in the print Paige picked out above and provided us February 21st? So this projected ended up being a bit more complicated than planned - and we added a bit more scope than what Paige gave us. (Matt's working on installing new recessed lighting as I put this post together. But I couldn't wait any longer to share this:

I'm going to break down this room using Paige's list of suggestions.  We did purchase a few new tools for the project, but since they are investment items and the only way I could get Matt's buy in to help me, those aren't included in the pricing below.

-- Since Meg and her husband are into DIY, I think they should go for the wood ceiling! I would go with white, since the room needs the illusion of height.
This was the hardest part of the whole project - but we are so glad we went for it.  There will be no how-to on this, because it's not perfect.  The beadboard comes primed, and we did make the mistake of using the semi-gloss trim paint we used on the ceiling... this will unfortunately need a coat or flat paint to hide the non perfect spots.  $350 

-- As for the walls, I'd do a pale blue to keep the open feel while adding a touch of color. It's hard to pick one online, but Breathless from Olympic could be a starting point.
We went with Behr Wave Crest in eggshell on the walls - an almost perfect match to Paige's suggestion.  It's a personal preference but I prefer Behr Premium Plus paint.  We also needed primer and I updated all the trim to a fresh new white coat matching Behr semi-gloss to a BM Chantilly Lace. $76

-- Some dark bamboo shades from Home Depot ($37/ea.) will add contrast and keep the room from feeling too light. Keeping the existing wicker chair and dresser and spraying them dark brown to match would also provide some richness.
Check and Check - we went with some faux wood shades in espresso ($61 for both) and spray painted the chair and dresser with Rustolem 2X in Satin Espresso.  $12

-- I would center the double bed under the window and add a simple nightstand from IKEA ($70) on the left to balance out the AC unit. And keep that metal lamp, too! It's cute.
I really enjoy the look of the one bed in the center - much more than the two mismatches sizes.  I scored the night stand at a yard sale for $5!  It was dark wood and from Ethan Allen.  I'm sure wood purists would freak out (that's like a $250 night stand) but I sanded it down and sprayed it with Rustoleum 2X in satin Lagoon. $17

-- A turquoise throw pillow also from IKEA ($7) would work well in the chair. If a guest gets cold, a simple white quilt ($40) would be nice at the foot of the bed.
I'm so glad my mom taught me how to sew! - I purchased white and light blue linen fabric and made the simple cafe curtain and all the pillow covers.  The pillow inserts came from the craft supply stash. $20

-- Meg already has some colorful art, but if she needs more this print from Etsy would be fun ($18).
We actually haven't hung the art yet - but I decided to also include a print on the nightstand.  This one was also from an Etsy seller!  And she happens to be local to where I work in Boston.  $30 including the frame.

The last piece of scope we added was to replace a low ceiling mount light fixture with three energy efficient recessed lights.  $133

Grand Total: about $700.  We're happy with that number.  We got to it because of the DIY curtains and pillows, already owning all the bedding, accessories, and small light fixtures, and the super steal on the nightstand.  Not a bad transformation.