Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich

10 Apr

I was flipping channels the other day and came across an episode of Sandwich King on the Food Network that was all about the brunchwich, a hearty gourmet version of your average breakfast sandwich that blends both breakfast and lunch flavors … hence the name.

Call it inspiration or just plain hunger, but I practically ran to the kitchen and got to work on my own variation. I give you the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich, one of the best sandwiches I have ever made! And the possibilities are endless—I can’t wait to see what other combinations I can come up with.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunchwich

Makes 2 sandwiches

2 eggs
6 slices thick-cut bacon
4 slices provolone cheese
1 small tomato, sliced
1 cup spring mix greens
2 hamburger buns
1 tbsp butter
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place the buns open faced on a cookie sheet and butter each half. Top each side with a slice of cheese. Toast buns in the oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess grease.

3. Pour grease from the skillet into a coffee mug and set aside for disposal once cooled. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.

4. Using the same skillet that you used for the bacon, fry each egg over medium (solid whites and a still liquid but thicker yolk).

5. Assemble each brunchwich: 3 slices of bacon, 2-3 slices of tomato, ½ cup, fried egg, salt and pepper to taste.

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Indian Chicken Curry à la the Eastern Spice Company

8 Apr

I love to make and introduce my family to diverse ethnic dishes. I think food is the perfect gateway to learning about other cultures. Growing up, we didn’t venture much outside of lo mein or spanakopita when it came to ethnic foods, mostly because there just wasn’t much else around.

Until I moved to the DC area 11 years ago, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know what shawarma, pho, falafel, or bi bim bap was, let alone ever eaten them. I’m excited that my girls will grow up with such a variety of cuisines at their fingertips and will, hopefully, see that delicious food is at the heart of every culture and that we aren’t as different as we may appear.

Indian Chicken Curry

The one thing that makes it difficult for me to cook outside of my comfort zone is the array of dish-specific, and often expensive, spices that you need to make a recipe truly authentic. So when the folks at Eastern Spice Company asked me to try out one of their spice blends, I jumped at the opportunity.

Eastern Spice Company specializes in bringing authentic eastern flavors into your kitchen one dish at a time. Simply choose a dish from their website and they will send you the exact amount and blend of spices needed to make the recipe, which you can conveniently pull up via the QR code on the tin. What I love most about this concept is that I was able to make a delicious Indian dish at home without having to spend a small fortune in the spice aisle.

I made the Indian Chicken Curry (Tamatur Murghi). It was a bit spicy for my three year old, but my husband and I both LOVED it. The recipe was easy to follow and completely doable for a busy week night—the entire thing took maybe 30 minutes total. The best part is, with the spices provided, all of the other ingredients are easily found in any grocery store in any town across the United States.

At $4 a tin (i.e. $4 per meal), these spice blends probably aren’t the most economical if you cook Indian food on a regular basis. But if you’re like me and you want to try something different, I would absolutely recommend giving one of the Eastern Spice Company’s blends a try. Use the code ESC10 for 10% off your purchase and get cooking!

The views and opinions presented in this post are my own. Other than a complimentary tin of spices, I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 Apr

It’s amazing the dishes you can create from cleaning out your pantry. My Stepmom threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot one day, and the result was a Southwestern Chicken Soup that has quickly become one of our family favorites. The best part about this dish is that it’s largely made from pantry staples, which makes it super easy to make on the fly.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

Southwestern Chicken Soup

3 large chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried cilantro (fresh is great if you have it)
1 can salsa verde
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 bag frozen corn
Shredded cheddar
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

1. Boil the chicken for 30-45 minutes or until done. Allow to cool on a plate and then shred each piece of chicken with a fork.

2. In a large pot, combine all ingredients through frozen corn and cook on medium for 45 minutes to an hour (you can also cook on medium-low for 2 hours).

3. Laddle soup into bowls and top with cheese, sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips.

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Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

27 Mar

The best part about this peanut chicken recipe from Cooking Light is that you can control the amount of heat that goes into the peanut sauce. I love the flavor of peanut sauce, but it can sometimes get a little spicy even for me, let alone my three year old. If spice isn’t an issue for you, you can always use store-bought peanut sauce to save a bit of time.

The cucumber soba noodles are a fantastic, light side to go along with the chicken, though I have to admit that I preferred the soba noodles I made a while back to these—still, these were tasty, just a bit less flavorful.

Peanut Chicken Soba Noodles

Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

7 oz uncooked soba noodles
3 tbsp rice vinegar, divided
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tbsp honey, divided
¼ tsp sugar
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 medium cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Cooking spray
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp water
2 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or chile garlic paste
Chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine 2 tbsp vinegar, sesame oil, 1 tbsp honey, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the noodles, onions, and cucumber; toss to combine.

2. Combine remaining 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, ginger, and peanut oil in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Thread chicken evenly onto 4 (10-inch) skewers.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add kebabs to pan; cook 12 minutes or until done, turning to brown all sides.

4. Combine remaining 1 tbsp vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp soy sauce, peanut butter, 2 tbsp water, and sambal oelek in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle mixture over chicken. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with noodles.

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Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

24 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, we had lunch at Ray’s to the Third in Arlington and split a milkshake for dessert. The “Elvis” milkshake is a blend of banana, peanut butter, butterfingers and bacon (yes, bacon) … and it is AMAZING.

So in honor of my husband’s birthday today (Happy Birthday!!), I decided to try and recreate this ridiculously good combination in the form of a cupcake—though I did decide to leave off the bacon simply because I wasn’t up for making my own candied bacon this weekend.

But seriously, if you’re in Northern Virginia and happen to be near Ray’s to the Third, you need to try that milkshake.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 cup water
1/3 cup applesauce (I use this in place of oil)
5 oz peanut butter chips
1 tbsp flour
Chocolate Frosting (store-bought works too)
1 Butterfingers candy bar, crushed

 

1. Preheat oven to 350° and line 24 cupcake cups with silicone or paper liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. Add cake mix, eggs, water and applesauce and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, add peanut butter chips and flour. Toss to coat the chips and then discard the excess flour.

4. Slowly fold in the peanut butter chips to the cake batter, mixing well.

5. Fill liners ¾ of the way with cake batter and bake for 19-23 minutes.

6. Allow to cool completely before frosting and topping with a sprinkle of Butterfingers.

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Hearty Beef Stew

6 Mar

I am always looking for ways to make recipes easier, faster, and more weeknight-doable. I won’t say that I never make complicated or time consuming recipes, but it’s just not realistic for me to do it on a regular basis and especially not in the 30 minutes I am allotted during the week to get dinner on the table.

So I decided to take this multi-step recipe for Hearty Beef Stew from Cooking Light and just toss everything in the Crock Pot, crank it up, and cross my fingers that I’d end up with something edible. Could the beef have been a bit more tender had I followed the actual recipe? Yeah, probably. But considering how quickly I was able to throw this together in the morning, not bad … not bad at all. The fact that all I had to do when I got home was toast some bread and ladle the stew into bowls certainly didn’t hurt either. So it’s up to you. Follow the recipe at the link above or follow my shortcut and just wing it. You pretty much can’t lose either way.

Beef Stew

Hearty Beef Stew

16 oz boneless beef chuck
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
1 ½ cups baby carrots
6 oz sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
2 lbs new potatoes
3 thyme sprigs
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp minced garlic
1 ½ cup Guinness beer
4 cups unsalted beef stock
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

Place all ingredients in a large Crock Pot and stir well. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 6-8 hours.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

3 Mar

I recently made these frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites from Fabulessly Frugal. I liked the idea that they were a two-bite, healthier dessert option that I could easily store in the freezer. So one Saturday, I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and went to work. Once the little bites were frozen, I popped them off the sheet and put them in a freezer bag for easy storage.

While I don’t think my husband was a huge fan, both my three year old and I loved them! I do recommend letting them sit out for a few minutes before eating them so they thaw just a bit. That way, they’re soft and creamy, just like banana ice cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

3 large bananas
½ cup chocolate chips (either semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
Toppings (optional- peanuts, coconut, etc.)

1. Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

2. Cut up the bananas into ½-inch pieces. Each banana should give you around 6-8 pieces.

3. Heat the peanut butter and chocolate chips in the microwave on high for about a minute. Then stir until smooth.

4. Dip the banana pieces in the chocolate-peanut butter mixture, being sure to coat all sides.

5. Place them evenly on the parchment or wax paper.

6. Top with toppings if desired.

7. Transfer to the freezer for about an hour until hardened. Once frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag or an air-tight container.

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Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

10 Feb

I tend to find Asian food intimidating. My lo mein never tastes as good as our local delivery place—it is clearly a white girl’s lame attempt at “authentic” Chinese food. So when I saw this recipe for Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps in Cooking Light, I initially just flipped the page, looking for a different recipe to try. But then I decided to go back and read through it, and I figured it seemed easy enough to give it a shot. Turns out, it was one of the tastiest things I have made in a while!

Mu Shu Chicken

Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 (14-oz) package coleslaw (about 4 cups)
6 oz shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup sliced green onions, divided
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
¼ cup chopped cashews

 

1. Combine first 4 ingredients (through rice vinegar) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic and ginger to pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add soy sauce mixture and coleslaw; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

4. Add chicken and ¼ cup onions to pan; cook 1 minute or until coleslaw just begins to wilt.

5. Divide chicken mixture evenly among lettuce leaves; sprinkle evenly with remaining ¼ cup onions and cashews.

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Dear Mr. Thompson, THANK YOU.

7 Feb

For the second time in as many weeks, there has been a story in the news about students’ lunch accounts being overdrawn and lunches being thrown away. Luckily, this most recent story had a happy ending. That’s because Kenny Thompson in Houston, TX decided to do something about it. When he learned that children at the elementary school where he was a mentor and tutor were eating cold cheese sandwiches or going without lunch because they didn’t have enough money in their accounts to pay for a hot meal, he decided to pay off all of the overdrawn accounts—to the tune of $465.

I was overcome when I read about what Mr. Thompson had done for those children—because I used to be one of them. There was a time growing up when my family struggled financially. My brother and I qualified for the free or reduced lunch program—it was the only way my mom could afford for us to have lunch everyday. Though I was by no means the only person I knew of in the lunch program, I was terribly embarrassed. So I either chose to skip lunch, saying I just wasn’t hungry, or I secretly used what little money I had saved to pay for my own lunch so that my friends wouldn’t know the truth. It’s been 20 years, and I can still remember how embarrassed I felt and how scared I was that I would be found out.

I ache to think how those children must feel when their trays full of healthy, hot food are thrown away in front of them, their shame for something over which they have no control put on display. I am beyond thankful that that was not common practice when I was in school, and I pray that my girls never have to endure such cruelty.

We try to teach our children empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, but this is the model they are seeing at school from adults who are supposed to help set an example. And we wonder why we are noticing more and more behavioral and emotional problems in kids today. I would challenge any adult to walk away from a similar humiliation unscathed and with their self-confidence and self-esteem fully intact. I am 32 years old—I have years of cognitive and emotional development on my side, and I think it would still reduce me to tears. Just think about how children process that type of behavior when they might not have the skills necessary to understand it or deal with it. Think about how they may emulate it in the future because they think it’s acceptable.

I understand that schools are businesses, with budgets and policies just like any other business. But taking away a child’s food is not the way to address a parent’s financial issues. Contact the parent, document the debt and then eventually turn it over to a collections agency—just like any other business would do. There is a serious flaw in our society when an inmate is fed better than a third grader, and even more so when people think that is okay.

So thank you, Mr. Thompson, for showing us that not everyone can just look the other way while a child goes hungry or is publicly shamed in the name of “policy.” Thank you for showing us that there are still kind and compassionate people in the world. Thank you for serving as a role model for children and parents alike and showing us all what acceptable behavior truly looks like. Thank you for inspiring us to open our eyes—and to do something about what we see.

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Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

28 Jan

I have learned from experience that just because something looks good on Pinterest does not mean it’s going to look (or taste!) Pinterest-worthy.

I happened to have some quinoa left over from dinner the night before, so I thought I’d check out my food board to see if I had previously pinned anything I hadn’t yet tried. These quinoa cakes caught my eye, so I figured I would give them a shot. Worst case scenario, we could always order a pizza for dinner. Luckily for me, this recipe from  Panini Happy delivered!

I served these in whole wheat pitas with the yogurt dill sauce and sliced cucumbers and couscous on the side. Delicious!!

Quinoa Cakes

Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

½ cup plain Greek yogurt, reduced-fat or whole
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 oz chopped baby spinach
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups cooked quinoa
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
¼ tsp grated lemon zest
½ cup bread crumbs

To make the Yogurt Dill Sauce:

Whisk together the yogurt, scallions, lemon juice, and 2 tsp of the dill in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate the sauce for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.

To make the Quinoa Cakes:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size bowl.
  2. Add the eggs, quinoa, feta, remaining dill, lemon zest, and about ¼ tsp black pepper and mix well. Mix in the bread crumbs and let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture.
  3. Heat a sauté or grill pan to medium-high heat.
  4. Form quinoa patties about 2 ½ inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. Place the patties on the pan, in batches if necessary, and close the lid. Grill the patties until they’re cooked through and browned on the outside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve warm with yogurt dill sauce.

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