The next question after “How many ways can I make a meatball?” (and I swear I will stop talking about meatballs for at least the next dozen posts) is “How many ways can I roast a chicken?” The answer, at least if you’re me: innumerable.

Scarpariello is a spicy Italian-style chicken with sausage and peppers. You can use sweet or spicy sausage based on your preference. Since the dish utilizes hot cherry peppers and I have one kid who can be a little spice-averse, I use sweet most of the time. The sauce accompanying the chicken has a great balance of tang and spice, and, though the chicken is cooked in the sauce, it’s browned and finishes cooking in the oven, so you retain that nice crispy skin.

The nice thing about this version of roasted chicken is that the chicken is cut up so, combined with the browning step, it doesn’t take nearly as long to cook as a whole bird. If you use breasts, you can also just cut them in half for an even quicker cooking time. The original recipe calls for bone-in chicken breast halves but as you know, we love dark meat. I ended up using a mix (since I happened to have a large breast in the freezer anyway), which is a good way to please everyone (but be sure if you do that you cook the larger pieces a little longer). I’ve made a lighter version of this dish from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook and the main difference is the use of boneless/skinless breasts and cooking them entirely on the stovetop. So, you could certainly do something like that if you wanted to lighten this. I use chicken or turkey sausage either way (but buyer beware, many turkey/chicken sausages have as many fat and calories as pork sausage), and the other ingredients in the dish are all pretty healthy. I think the b/s breast version is certainly delicious but is it as delicious as crispy chicken skin? Probably not. :)

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By now you may be wondering if “opa” means “meatball” but I assure you it does not. We just really like shaped meat around here, I guess? Also evidenced by the fact that our Valentine’s Day dinner was…meatloaf. What can I say? Why fix something that isn’t broken?

We eat pasta for dinner roughly once a week on average, but one of the reasons I make pasta weekly is because it’s guaranteed to make good and easy lunch leftovers. Since eating pasta for lunch, too, kind of kills the whole “limiting pasta” thing, I do try to make sure that it’s pretty healthy and wholesome and this pasta definitely fits the bill.  The meatballs are made with chicken (though I do recommend using dark meat or a combination of dark and white for a more tender meatball), I used whole wheat pasta, and the sauce is really just chicken broth and tomato juice. There is a fair amount of cheese in this, but spread across multiple servings it’s not bad. And, either way, I love how fresh mozzarella gets all gooey and delicious, so cheese calories be damned.

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Musings

February 15, 2016 · 5 comments

in misc.

As I mentioned in a prior post, the results of my first-ever reader survey indicated that about 87% of you would be down for some non-food related posts from time to time. Cool!

That said, I really want this to just be a space where, aside from sharing food (obviously), I can just share random things I want from time to time and not necessarily have it be “a thing,” or do it with specific regularity. I’m not calling this “monthly musings,” for example, because I don’t know that this will be a monthly occurrence. And I’m not calling it “stuff I like” or anything similar because I can’t guarantee I’ll actually be making any product or other recommendations (which should probably cause you a sigh of relief as I am neither fashionable nor on-trend in most cases).  It’ll just be a once-in-a-while space where I can share what my kids are doing, or maybe home decor items I’m lusting over. Complaints or things that are working for me. Books or music I’m digging, and so on.

Today’s post will sort of have a theme and it’s House Stuff for $200, Alex.

We were in our condo for over 5  years. When we moved in we had a perfect wall that we thought could be a photo wall. We “anchored” it with one large wedding photo and then…did nothing. For the whole  5 years.

We moved to the suburbs 2 years ago (so crazy) and we finally got our photo wall! This is our entryway, and I absolutely love how it turned out. We used a mix of frames, both in color and style (modern, vintage, etc.). Our house is decorated mostly modern but we definitely like “older” stuff like mid-century modern, industrial looking things, etc. In that regard, this was perfect for us.

We left room so we could move down (and to the right and left) if we want to some day but, let’s be real, it will be like this forprobablyever. :) Which is fine by me. We will likely get a lamp on the console to replace the mini vases.

I also want to show you this wreath we have on a small wall opposite to our new gallery wall. I’m not typically a traditional wreath kinda gal, but this wreath is pretty sentimental. My mother-in-law took some of my wedding flowers (unbeknownst to me!) and had someone turn them into a wreath. We only recently got around to hanging it in our house and it makes me smile every time I see it going down the stairs.

Another thing I wanted to share was how we’ve used kid art. Our kids bring home a loooooot of art. We have a wire in the entrance to the playroom (and plan to add an additional one in another spot) for some of their creations, but I’ve also liked sprinkling some throughout our house. Right now, it’s mostly Zachary’s art, but we’ll be adding some of Ian’s too.

We have this painting from Z in our half bathroom:

In our living room, we have a small succulent sitting in a pot colored by Z, a flower Ian created (the boy is a whiz with the pipecleaners, as is also evidenced by him making approximately 4 dozen beaded bracelets over the last few months), and a tile under the vase that Zachary made.

I plan on framing some more of their art and putting it in our upstairs hallway. It’s an easy way to get some stuff on the walls and it’s cheap. If you have kids, you likely have a bazillion art projects you don’t know what to do with (hint: many of ours also receive a permanent home in our recycling bin; don’t feel bad).

Finally, we are, uh, almost done with a bit of a laundry room makeover (those baseboards will get put on again someday…).

This room was…not a happy place. Our house doesn’t have a basement and while we don’t miss that living space, we DO miss potential storage space.  As far as storage, the laundry room had 1 shelf (that broke a week after we moved in, hah). Also, I mean…it’s a laundry room. This room will never be pinteresty or anything because we aren’t going to dump a bunch of money into a laundry room since we’re not ballers. Some things, like the sunken floor, are just flat out not in the cards to be fixed. And all our HVAC/utility stuff is in there, too, so it will never look pretty or anything. That said, I think we made some big improvements.

Forgive the before pictures as they weren’t actually intended to be shared before pictures. I am laughing as I post this because Ian is an entire year younger in these pics so…yeah. We were a little slow to move on this.

Before: (fixed) broken shelf, random plant our neighbors  had me take care of for a ridiculously long time, TV trays because who doesn’t keep those in the laundry room, storage included random bookshelves no longer in use

 

After: Color! Storage! A countertop! We also had some unused white curtains and a rod from the old version of Ian’s room, so we went ahead and hung that even if it’s a bit short

 

Before: ugly HVAC stuff, younger kid, no storage

After: ugly HVAC stuff, lots of storage, broom/mop holder (the first pic was taken before we added that), TV trays because who doesn’t keep those in the laundry room

  

 

PS – As I said, I intend for posts like these to not have a whole lot of structure or consistency, but if there is anything non-food-related you DO want me to discuss, let me know!

 

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I’ve used pesto meatballs for spaghetti and soup before, so it should come as no shock that I’ve made burgers using similar ingredients. The ingredients in this burger remind me of a toasted sub I used to get from a brick oven pizzeria many years back with grilled chicken, pesto, provolone, and tomatoes. It was fantastic. We’ve had a variation of this burger a few times and it’s one of my favorite healthy-ish burgers. The pesto adds a lot of flavor to otherwise pretty bland chicken, and the oil in the pesto also lends a little fat to a leaner meat, making the burgers more tender than a standard turkey/chicken patty. This time around I had an extra roasted red pepper and threw it into the mix. It was not a bad idea.

Like most burgers, these come together pretty quickly. I already had pesto on hand but if you don’t, it’s simple and quick enough to make the same night. We technically made 6 patties from the recipe below, but 2 of them were kid-sized, so it’s probably a closer equivalent to 5. Theoretically 6 (4 oz.) adult sized burgers can easily be made, but we had large buns to fill. ;)

(As was evidenced by my eldest hopping right into my picture-taking spot to say, “Oh hey mom, why is that such a GIANT burger?”)

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You might be out of tune with this whole blogging thing if instead of typing your post title into the title bar of your site publisher, you instead type it into the search bar on Amazon. Whoops.

Aaaanyway. As you may have noticed, we eat a fair amount of Mexican and Tex-Mex at home. I struggle with non-carby sides for a lot of these meals, and sometimes we do just do a regular old salad (calabacitas also tend to be our “something different”), but lately I’ve really been loving the combination of creamy avocado and crunchy, slightly spicy radishes. Mexican food often tends to be heavy and cheesy (which is also why it’s so good), and having something a little lighter and fresher on the side provides a great balance.

This salad is pretty basic and bare-bones but you can feel free to add other things if you like. Personally, I like the addition of pepitas because they provide a nice crunch and, well, they’re just tasty (also, they seem to come in gigantic bags, so using a little here and there assures I actually make it through said gigantic bags).

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Ah, yes. The whole resolution to “post more frequently” followed by over a week of radio silence. Sorry, guys. This whole frequent posting thing is hard. Especially when the computer with your photos happens to be the computer you basically never use any more, thanks to your Chromebook—AKA: internet machine—obsession.

So anyway. This stew. It’s pretty basic and no-frills, but also healthy, tasty, comforting, and easy. Not a bad combination. I used drumsticks because my kids love them and they’e really cheap, but I do think I would have preferred thighs if for nothing other than ease of eating. Although your sauce may not have quite as much depth of flavor, if you really want to make for some easy eating, boneless/skinless thighs would likely also work just fiiiine.

We had this with stew with fresh bread (these seeded whole grain loaves, in fact), since bread is the best accompaniment (to basically anything…) in my opinion, but it certainly would be delicious over rice, cannellini beans, or polenta. There’s a good chance you will have leftover sauce/peppers, depending on your eating habits. The article mentions scrambling eggs in the leftovers, like a piperade, and I can attest to this deliciousness. You’re welcome.

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When I did the reader poll a few months ago, one of the most common answers for what you’d like to see more of were Greek recipes. Given my blog’s moniker, I don’t blame you.

I’ve had a hard-ish time expanding the Greek repertoire on here because the blog’s been around for so long that I’ve posted nearly every Greek dish I’ve had growing up (although some of the posts are…not pretty, to say the least). There can be variations on common dishes, surely, but I often hesitate to call some things “Greek” when really they may be fusion or the only Greek thing about them is feta (a pet peeve of mine) and, anyway, I’d  have the European Blog Police on my hands for anything they did not deem 1 million percent authentic. Others I honestly haven’t thought to post because their commonality for me makes me not even consider it (I realize this is silly; they may not be common to YOU, after all). Finally, it can be because I just haven’t—or don’t—measure ingredients, which makes them difficult to blog. (OR, it’s a dish like gemista/stuffed vegetables, which I have made countless times and still cannot manage to get “right” enough to post. Sigh.)

Anyway, spanakopita is sort of a combination of many things. We don’t eat it often because…I don’t know. I guess I tend to make miniature “cheater” spanakopita. They aren’t really easier, I guess, but they are nice for when you don’t want to work with phyllo or you want to use them as appetizers or portioned items. I also like miniature spanakopites and tyropites better, probably because the crispy, buttery phyllo is the best part, so it’s nice to have it envelop everything. :) And, the measuring thing. I basically never measure fresh herbs. Never. Even here I kinda sorta did, like more than normal, so I could write something down. Basically because I didn’t think “a shitload” of dill was necessarily an appropriate measurement for a blog.

Spanakopita is really not difficult to make at all. I’ve had issues with phyllo over the years but honestly, it’s been so much easier for me to work with lately so maybe those Greek genes finally kicked in. Ian is not the world’s biggest spanakopita fan, which is a bummer (he likes the mini pies well enough, though, because there is less spinach and more crispy dough), but Zachary is spanakopita-obsessed. He is often telling me I don’t make it enough. When I did this last time he made me promise to save him some because he not only wanted to take it to school for breakfast, but wanted to eat it alongside other dinners for the week.

 

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2015 Year in Review

December 31, 2015 · 4 comments

in best of

Here we are. The end of another year. A year that included my NINTH (whoa) year of blogging.

My plans for this blog in 2016 are to finally have a site redesign (you’re going to love it, both for looks and functionality, I promise), post a little more often, and do a few non-food related posts. In the reader survey I did earlier this year, over 85% of you said you’d be interested in posts that are not food related (which made me feel great because I *think* that means you like me!) so I plan to occasionally do some touch-base-on-our-lives type of posts. (And I promise, non-food related posts does NOT mean a bunch of sponsored posts or trying to shill stuff. That’s not my style.)

This year didn’t have as many changes for us as many years prior. The biggest life event this year was that our eldest started kindergarten (!) but he won’t actually go to a new school until first grade, so it wasn’t a really big change for him, since he was already attending his current school. Our youngest, meanwhile, took probably the best school picture ever (dying).

Still, it’s been busy. My husband and I are still dealing with long commutes, our weeknights are a blur, and unfortunately no one has gifted me a cleaning service.

Before I get to the food, want to hear some of my other favorites of 2015? Suuuure you do.

Favorite books I read (this year I read 32, which is closer to my pre-kids total and good for me): Let the Great World Spin, The Martian, Ready Player One, Me Before You, Bad Feminist, I’ll Give You the Sun

Favorite albums that came out this year (I am not as hip and up-to-speed as I used to be, but alas): Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love, Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell, Courtney Barnett’s  Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, and Wilco’s Star Wars.

Favorite shows: Mad Men, Better Call Saul, Jessica Jones, Daredevil

So! Without further ado, I bring you my top 15 of 2015. These are my personal favorites. Traffic often tells a different story, and while I like everything I post (or I wouldn’t bother), I especially like highlighting MY favorites, in case you missed them.

And feel free to check out the best of years past.

Top 15 of ’15 (in order of posting date):

Bacon, Gruyere, and Scallion Muffins: I said when I posted these that even though it was really early in the year, I was fairly confident they’d end up on the “best of 2015” list. And here they are. Savory muffins with bits of bacon, dreamy gruyere, and instead of oil or butter—bacon fat. Yeah, these are good.

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Hi! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holidays. We had a really wonderful Christmas at home this year and, as an added bonus, our holiday travel is pretty spread out. We’re going to do Christmas with Tom’s side on new year’s eve and we won’t be doing it with mine until mid-January. Usually, even the years we have Christmas at home are not exactly relaxing because there’s packing, etc. to do for leaving the very next morning. We’ve all been enjoying the time off!

I know that a lot of people like to eat black-eyed peas on new year’s day for good luck, and with 2016 just around the corner, what better time to post this fantastic stew? Black-eyed peas are something none of us ate much of until pretty recently. No real reason other than not thinking about them and just a general lack of meals I’ve saved that include them. Or maybe because I got so homicidal hearing Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” so many times that I decided to ban anything with the words black-eyed peas from our home. Maybe.

Anyway, they’re good. The kids like them, as they seem to enjoy any sort of bean/legume, and they’ve been a nice change of pace from the other beans we eat more frequently. And this stew is hard not to like. My oldest kid, who has been having some issues with spice lately, did think this was a bit too spicy. He put it aside and I thought he was done, but then he went back to it and ate it in its entirety, so I guess it was too good for him not to keep eating. My youngest had no problems and loved it, and the adults were fans as well.

The first night, I completely forgot to add the cider vinegar to this, so I’ve been adding a bit to my bowl before warming it up, and it definitely adds just a slight tang and depth of flavor. This recipe claims to serve 4-6 but unless you are serving giants, I’m pretty confident you’ll get more than that. Thankfully, the leftovers are just as good if not better, and I have no doubts it would freeze wonderfully, too.

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Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2015 · 1 comment

in misc.

Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays from our family to yours!

Wishing you a very happy 2016!
 

 

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