We got back from our mini vacation on a Wednesday, and I decided to take Thursday and Friday off because why not? I have a good amount of PTO this year since my kids are at the age where they don’t really get sick often and have officially fought every daycare/school illness known to man. (I totally just jinxed myself, didn’t I?)

I wish I could tell you I used those 2 days for something really fun and interesting but actually what I did was…organize my pajamas. And stuff like that. Because, I’m old.

But, I did want to make some new stuff while I had the time, and I was thinking about a really delicious sandwich I’d had from the local Caribbean place recently (Caribbean Corner, if you happen to be in the Western Chicago suburbs!), which spurred me to make something Caribbean-y. You can’t really go wrong with bowls because as my 5  year old will tell you, meals are better when they include lots of different things.

These were delicious! There isn’t really anything in here that we don’t eat regularly but they just all go together really well. The chicken has a bright, citrusy marinade (and I reserved some of the marinade that didn’t go on the chicken to drizzle over the top of everything), the beans and rice and comforting are and homey, the plantains sweet with just a tiny bit of spice, and the salad nice and fresh for that crisp counterpoint.

This recipe looks rather…long, but I promise it’s not difficult or terribly time consuming. The chicken can be marinated early in the morning and can cook while your beans and rice cook. You can also chop the salad and pan-fry the plantains during that same time. So, really, however long it takes to make the rice (about 40 minutes) plus a little prep time is how long it will take to make the meal.

You may have a little of the rice/bean mixture leftover depending on how big you make your portions. I am here to tell you it makes a delightful breakfast with an egg and some hot sauce the next morning. :)

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This was the first year we were able to plant a garden (and by “we” I really mean Tom, since he and the kids did all the work). We had a great yield of tomatoes and spinach, a small yield of green beans, and like 2 jalapeños. Not sure what happened with our peppers (in addition to jalapenos, we also planted poblanos and red bell peppers), buuut better luck next year?

I’m not a canner (and am really too lazy to both learn how and actually do it) so I knew I needed to come up with some recipes to use with our tomatoes, other than throwing them on top of endless salads and making everything Caprese-esque. I asked Tom if he wanted roasted salsa or fresh salsa, and he chose roasted.

Salsa is one of those things that’s insanely easy to make. It has so few ingredients, takes almost no time, and comes out tasting worlds better than the stuff you buy in the jar.  The only bad thing about it is that there is no greater complement to it than tortilla chips, which are perhaps not the best thing to eat. I mean, they ARE, but you know.

This salsa had a nice kick to it, which we really enjoyed. Obviously the heat will depend on the jalapeños, so you may want to taste-test them first to see what their heat level is like before deciding whether to add 2 or 3 to the salsa.

 

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On our way home from our mini vacation on Lake Michigan, we stopped to pick blueberries. The kids really enjoyed it (and were very meticulous about which “good” blueberries should get picked and placed in the bucket) and we got about 7 lbs. of delicious berries for a crazy good price (though my husband is still complaining we didn’t get more like 20 lbs.). Afterward, one of the employees showed Zachary how the machines separate and package the berries for stores, including how the mushy or unripe ones are tossed, and in my head I imagined a golden egg/Veruca Salt situation.

When we got home I flipped through a couple cookbooks to find a new blueberry recipe and came across this one. I really liked that it used whole wheat and pure maple syrup vs. refined sugar. I mean, there’s butter and a good dose of said syrup, so I’m not going to say it’s super healthy but it’s not terrible for you, either.

The glaze for this…I don’t even know what to say. I will say if you can somehow manage to not swipe your finger through the drippings on the baking sheet and into your mouth over and over and over until you’ve completely wiped the baking sheet clean…well, you’re a better person than I. I want to make this glaze and put it on everything, from pancakes to ice cream. It tastes like butterscotch and tight pants.

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Mpizeli (bees-EL-ee) is one of those things that always seems to be hanging out on the stovetop of every Greek home. I ate truckloads of it growing up and I still love it. It’s great as a side, of course, but I will literally just eat it as a snack—sometimes even cold from the fridge (I know, I’m weird). I actually prefer this pea dish at room temperature, so it’s great for potlucks, parties, and picnics. This kind of-sort of made it on the blog a bazillion years ago, as an alternate version of Greek style okra. It’s one of those things that, while still pretty common for me to make, is so normal I don’t even think about blogging it (likely because until recently I thought I already had. ;))

I put a ballpark dill measurement below but, honestly, I’ve never truly measured it. Even when I’ve tried in an attempt to be more concise with a recipe, I end up adding more as I’m cooking, so it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line is add what you want to add. You’ll probably end up adding a lot more than you think you will, though. There’s something about copious amounts of dill that really makes this. I have a friend who dislikes dill and initially didn’t even want to try this before proceeding to eat bowls full of it.

Also, this is a really forgiving dish. Another reason I haven’t really blogged this before is because sometimes I add a little water or a little crushed tomato as I’m cooking it, and it’s fine for eating but perhaps not for recipe documentation. Bottom line is just taste and add as you go.

Common additions to this dish are potatoes or mushrooms. You can also make a one-dish meal, similar to this kokinisto, with chicken or another protein.

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Reader Survey

July 31, 2015 · 1 comment

in misc.

Why hello! I hope you’ll excuse my infrequent postings as of late. Things have been kind of crazy and, truth be told, I haven’t been really motivated, either. We just got back from a short vacation in Saugatuck/Douglas, MI and had a lot of fun, but coming back doesn’t have me gunning to be productive. :)

I’m currently in the middle of a site redesign (that I’m SO excited for, and I think you will be, too) and I was thinking this would also be a good time to collect some feedback from my readers. I hope you’ll fill out a quick survey to let me know what you like and what you don’t about this blog, and if there are any changes (layout or content-wise) that you’d like to see. I would really appreciate it. (And it’s anonymous.)

I’ll be back next week with new posts!

Survey Link – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FFDJZQN

 

(Also, as a housekeeping note, comments haven’t been displaying on posts for some reason. I do still receive the comments and appreciate them, and they will be fixed with the new design. If you post a specific comment, I will be sure to send you a response via email. Thanks!)

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This summer has been…well, perhaps not great, weather-wise. I don’t mind the cooler weather at all, so I don’t take issue with that (well, except that we’re going on vacation next week and Lake Michigan will be FREEZING) but the rain. SO MUCH RAIN. Until the fourth of July weekend, we literally hadn’t had a 2-day rain-free period since before Memorial Day. It’s been crazy and definitely makes outdoor activities, like grilling, less frequent. Never mind the 80 bajillion mosquitos residing in our backyard, thanks largely to the swampland created by the rain. I will say, at least the rain is a good excuse for the days when it IS 90 degrees out and my husband wants to “open the windows and let in the breeze” instead of turn on the air. Dude. No.

At any rate, Tom was able to get out the past couple weekends and do some grilling, and I was thankful to catch a break from making dinner. I’ll admit that when he grills, chicken is almost never our protein of choice. I don’t know, it’s kind of like how I never order chicken at a restaurant. It seems like you should eat something more…worth it. But after a weekend visiting my family eating nothing but red meat, chicken it was.

This is a pretty standard chicken marinade in that it uses herbs, garlic, and lemon juice. The buttermilk is great because it not only keeps you from using too much oil, but makes the chicken incredibly moist and tender (always a good thing with breasts, especially, since they tend to dry out).  We all really liked these (although, Ian doesn’t care for zucchini) and my weirdo kids ate basically all the red onions themselves.

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There are times when writing blog posts comes very easily to me and I’m done in 5 minutes. Truth be told, that’s nearly every blog post because if I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t get written at that moment. Then there are days like today when I really want to share something with you, especially because it’s been a while, but I truly have nothing to write. It’s especially unfortunate because I seem to have all the time in the world being stuck on a delayed Metra train that’s making countless stops.  Random thoughts I’ve been having:

  • Why do Netflix original series have the longest theme songs ever?
  • Does everyone realize how funny Aziz Ansari is?
  • I don’t go to Starbucks often, and rarely get “fancy” stuff, so I’m still a little taken aback that I spent over $5 on a drink that doesn’t even have alcohol in it.
  • It’s even weirder when you see the old guy from your gym who makes sex faces outside the gym context.
  • E-books from the library are wonderful things.

Anyway, most of these things cannot be expanded upon (and I’m guessing you really wouldn’t want them to be) so let’s just talk about this pasta. This is another one-pot meal because if there’s anything you can count on in the blog these days it’s one pot meals or meatballs or maybe one pot meals featuring meatballs. And, like I said, I want to share it with you because you’re going to love it.

I changed the amounts a bit to suit our family/leftover situation, and I also didn’t use as much liquid as Tara. I’m not sure if I had thinner marinara or quicker cooking pasta, but either way, I started with less, thinking I could always add more, but didn’t need to. Also, while I have no qualms about using heavy cream (or half and half) what usually happens is I buy it for a recipe, forget to use the rest, and end up pitching it. To avoid the inevitable waste, I used Greek yogurt instead (bonus points, of course, for it being healthier), which worked great.  Finally, I wilted down some spinach into the pasta at the end.

Do I even need to say we all loved this? I mean, what is not to love about pasta, period? Let alone creamy pasta studded with sausage that can be cooked in one pot (okay, no one cared about that last part except for me).

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Even though I have long (LONG) been obsessed with fattoush, I was never a huge fan of tabouli growing up. I think maybe it was too much fresh parsley for me, which sounds silly considering there is a decent amount in fattoush and plenty in Greek cooking, but for some reason tabouli didn’t do it for me. Plus, I’ve only recently come around to mint in savory foods (and our mint plant is out of control, so I guess that’s  a good thing).

I’ve had it a few times as an adult and though it will never replace my beloved fattoush, I find that I enjoy it much, much more now. I love bulgur, but we were really low on it when I decided to make tabouli, so I used quinoa instead. It’s a great substitute but both are really healthy and good for you so this isn’t one of those times when quinoa necessarily adds a ton of added benefits (it does add slightly more protein and has fewer carbs). I of course increased the lemon juice/ratio to oil and did decrease the mint by a bit.

We had this one night with a pork tenderloin I marinated in my shawarma marinade and the roasted vegetables with za’atar and it was definitely one of my favorite recent meals (but I could eat Middle Eastern food every day so I guess  you’ll have to take that for what it’s worth). While Zachary was asking for more zucchini over and over, Ian kept asking for more quinoa, so things ended up working out perfectly. :)

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There are plenty of things I didn’t like or didn’t give a chance to when I was a kid, but the two that stick out most are beans and peppers. At a restaurant, everything ordered would need to have these omitted. Mexican food? Double rice and don’t even bother with anything but the meat for the fajitas. Sandwiches or pizza? Keep your peppers to yourself. And with anything at home, these would be pushed to the side or never added to my plate to begin with. I don’t even know that I tried these things. I just decided I didn’t like them.

It’s funny because I love love LOVE these things now. I posted a picture of charred Anaheim and poblano pictures to Instagram recently and titled it “my BFFs” because they kind of are. I am pepper-obsessed, especially when it comes to green chiles. We started a small garden this year but you better believe it still contained poblanos and jalapeños.

Obviously, I adored these burgers. They reminded me a lot of my other potentially favorite (or at least top 3) burgers, these queso fundido ones. These use peppers that are a little spicier (Anaheim vs. poblano) and don’t have chorizo, but otherwise they’re very similar and both ridiculously delicious.

These are in a grilling cookbook, but you can definitely make them indoors. The chiles can be charred directly on the gas flame of your range, or under the broiler. I like to use a cast iron skillet when cooking burgers indoors. Illinois doesn’t actually want us to do much grilling out this year, as evidenced by the nonstop rain we’ve been receiving since Memorial Day, so contingency plans are key.

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I mentioned recently that Zachary’s new favorite vegetable, until it inevitably got knocked out of contention, were broad/fava beans. Well, goodbye broad beans; zucchini with zaatar vinaigrette is in town.

Z has always liked zucchini/summer squash well enough. Like most vegetables he prefers it roasted or grilled. He won’t eat the version they have at school, and I think that’s because it may be steamed. So, it wasn’t surprising that he liked this version, but it *was* a bit surprising that he ate 4 servings of it, and only stopped because there was none left.

I added some lemon juice to the vinaigrette because I just feel like it goes so well with zaatar. The sumac will add some tartness already, but lemon vinaigrettes are the bee’s knees for me. This was a great side dish and a nice change of pace both from dressed salads and plain cooked vegetables. There is a good chance I will be dressing 90% of things with zaatar vinaigrette from now on.

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