July Recap

As July comes to a close it makes me feel like the summer is zooming by. July was #hothothot and I wouldn’t mind if that was the hottest we see this summer. It definitely got me thinking of meals not requiring a ton of cooking or the oven.

July seemed to have the right amount of social festivities and downtime to hang at home and do as I please. I got my butt in gear and upped my workouts a bit. I survived just a few bootcamp sessions and I fit in some better workouts. I’m trying to pretend that I don’t hate running.

July unfortunately ended a seizure-free record streak for our pup Windsor. He hadn’t had one since Christmas and then he had a rough couple of days.

This month also involved a sad farewell to the R family pup. Piccadilly lived to 13.5 years old and was a beloved member of the family. I cooked some bacon for him because when you’re 94 in dog years, you should have anything you want.
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My tastes have been quite varied, so hopefully you all enjoyed some different posts this month.

The easiest thing I made this month was cinnamon roll waffles:
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On anything-goes dinner night I whipped up a seemingly random combo of ingredients which ended up as a chilled Shrimp and Couscous Salad that was stellar!
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I made a bevy to beat the heat. It was a pinky Passion Fruit tea and Lemonade. It was delightful.

After sooning over the idea of a trip to Paris and we made it happen! We booked an anniversary trip to Paris & Prague so I announced that with some Bacon & Leek Crepes if you’re feeling Francais.
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The most popular post this month was a quickie Italian Grilled Cheese with 2 cheeses and breaded eggplant. It was delicious and I like to pretend that the many views mean lots of readers made it themselves.
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We’ll see what August has in store. Definitely a sangria recipe I owe you and some ice cream recipes. Maybe something red for the Bachelorette finale. Any suggestions?

Bacon and Leek Crepes

PARIS & PRAGUE! Mr. J and I booked a 2nd anniversary trip to Paris and Prague in September!

I cannot contain myself. It makes me just want to skip down the streets of Paris munching on a fresh baguette. I was so fearful that it wouldn’t happen. I’ve been obsessively dreaming about going to Paris for uhh, at least a YEAR. My fall calendar was filling up and I was afraid that the idea of the trip would keep getting bumped back. It’s happening! I’m just so psyched. It’ll be a whirlwind (or as the Jersey housewives would say: world wind) but that’s just how we do.

Because I’ve been Paris obsessed, I wanted to make some French food. It was uuuuber hot here in Boston so I also was figuring out meals that didn’t require any oven action. I got this electric crepe maker back in high school. Probably around the time I went to Paris on an exchange when I stayed with a family in a suburb between Paris and Versailles. Yup, pretty awesome.

Crepe night was like a sophisticated taco-night to them. It meant there weren’t a million courses (unlike usual) and it meant that dessert was crepes too. It was the dad’s-cooking-dinner-tonight meal for the family I stayed with.
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Now, for the crepes. The batter is really simple but I don’t think it’d be as simple to actually cook it in a regular pan. The French don’t really use crepe makers like this, but it is fool-proof for me. Of course, it is an art form in France with a dramatic dowel-like-tool swooped across a hot griddle or pan. Ohh well. This is delicious enough for me.

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I figured bacon + veg + cheese + ready-made sauce would be perfect. I wanted bacon, leeks, gruyere, and bechamel sauce. I couldn’t find any gruyere, so I got gouda. I decided that I wasn’t wanting to make my own sauce, so I chose light asiago cream sauce from a jar for the win.

Ingredients:

1 large leek stalk, chopped
1 egg
⅔ cup milk
¼ cup water
½ cup flour
2 tbs melted butter + 1 tsp butter
4 slices of bacon, chopped
4 oz grated cheese (I used gouda)
1/2 cup bechamel sauce (I used Asiago Romano jarred sauce)

Directions:

If using fresh leaks: Soak leaks in water, and let sit for 5 minutes. Sift them out (without letting any sand from the bottom get back into the leeks). Repeat again until no sand/dirt comes out to the bottom of the water bath. Mine were already washed & chopped leeks in a bag from Trader Joe’s.
Whisk or blend together egg, milk, water, flour, and melted butter. Then let sit for 5 minutes.
In a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat, until crisp.
While bacon is cooking, grate cheese and warm sauce.
Discard bacon fat but use the same pan to cook the leeks. Add one tsp of butter to deglaze the pan from the bacon, and add the leeks to cook for about 5 minutes.
While leeks are cooking, set up for the crepes.
If using an electric crepe pan, pour batter onto a plate. “Dip” the crepe maker upside down onto the crepe batter plate. Swiftly turn upright and let it cook for 1-2 minutes.
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Repeat to use all the batter.
Add the bacon back into the leeks.
Fill crepes with bacon/leek mixture, then cheese, then sauce. Roll up and serve or keep warm as you fill them.
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I loved this dinner. I served them with some salad which made it feel super easy. I enlisted Mr. J to the assembly line to fill. The crepe itself isn’t quite sweet or savory. I adore the consistency. Crepes are super thin and have the slightest egg flavor without feeling like breakfast. I love how soft and delicate they are.
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It only made me wish I had dessert fillings around. More crepes to come!

Have leftover leeks? Make Potato, Leek, & Bacon Pizza or chop it up to freeze it so you can add it into your lasagna/soup/enchiladas next time!

What I Ate: Rodeo Burgers

‘What I Ate’ is a series of posts for so-easy-this-doesn’t-need-a-recipe but I’m sharing with ya for the idea or inspiration.

Sometimes the burger is about the quality and correct cooking. This burger is all about the toppings.
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I topped these burgers with cheese, onion rings, and barbecue sauce. Ohhh wow. This is amazing. It is so fun to have bbq sauce dripping even when there isn’t a bone in sight!

Ingredients:

2 burgers (we did 1 beef for Mr. J and one ground pork for me)
½ chopped onion
1 tsp spice rub
2 burger rolls
4-6 onion rings (I used some frozen o-rings)
3-5 tbs barbecue sauce

Directions:

Finely chop the onion and mix it into the ground meat.
Form the patties and sprinkle the outside with the bbq spice rub mix.
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Grill until cooked to your liking.
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It was so good. I like the spice rub with the sweet BBQ sauce. The onion ring was the best part. I love onion rings so this was just perfect.

Enjoy the weekend! I’m looking forward to celebrating my dad’s bday with a FEAST! and the whole C family is coming so we can take the cutest nephews to a baseball game! We’ll be enjoying some lobsters and hoping for sunshine. Yay! I have a super exciting surprise for Monday so stay tuned!! :D

Tropical Mango Smoothie

I haven’t come up with many new smoothies in a while. Back in March I was whipping up new smoothie ideas every other day. Literally. I’ve made a bunch lately, but none have been uber creative. Greek yogurt with 2 frozen fruits is delicious, but does not warrant a blog post. Some smoothie tips are here.

I need ideas folks. That’s where you come in. Comment with an idea below. Please & thank you.

This smoothie was inspired by my other-half at work. She’s into coconut milk which sounded delightful in a smoothie. Thanks for the inspiration Ms. K!

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Ingredients:

6 oz vanilla Greek yogurt
1 peach sliced & frozen (or the rough equivalent of pre-cut frozen pieces)
4 strawberries with the tops cut off
3 tbs coconut flakes
¼ – ½ cup of liquid (juice, milk, etc. I used crystal light pink lemonade)

Directions:

Assemble in a blender.
Blend & enjoy.

I loved this one! The coconut bits in there were delightful. I felt like I was on a beach, rather than getting ready for work.

Frozen fruit makes for the frostiest of smoothies. You could always use fresh fruit and ice too.  I’m the only fruit eater at home so if I’m not up to speed on my fruit I freeze it before it goes bad then it can star in a smoothie whenever I get to it.

The liquid in a smoothie is the only way it’ll be drinkable. I don’t often have juice around but a single-serve low-cal drink mix is perfect. I don’t love lots of milk in my smoothie. It can make it seem ice-creamish which is awesome, but it can also just make me feel like I’m drinking milk, which I don’t really do. Your call on that one.

Now, what are your smoothie recommendations?

Open Faced Greek Salad Pockets

It is Monday. Shall we detox on something healthy?

This meal was all over the place. I was thinking of making a Greek dip-ish. Then I was thinking Greek pizza-ish. I ended up with a sort of open-faced Greek “un”Wrap.
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Ingredients:

2 thin chicken breasts, marinated
2 wheat pita pockets
1 cup ricotta
2 thin chicken breasts, marinated in Greek/Italian dressing
2 cups of mixed greens/spinach/romaine
1 tomato
¼ cup red onion
½ cucumber
2 -3 tbs Italian Dressing/Greek Dressing/Olive Oil & Vinegar
2 tbs Creamy Greek dressing (optional)
½ cup feta cheese

Directions:

Grill the chicken.
Assemble the salad by mixing the lettuce greens, chopping the tomato, chopping the onion, chopping the cucumber.
Mix in salad dressing and feta.
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Heat a skillet over medium heat. It should be sized to fit the pita pocket.
Once hot, add 2 tbs olive oil to the pan then add the pitas one at a time, flipping once.
Spread half the ricotta onto each pita pocket.
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Top with salad mix, then feta.
Slice and top with grilled chicken.
Drizzle some additional dressing over the whole thing or the creamy Greek dressing.
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I liked the crispness of the pita… toasting them up was in my best interest, since my pitas were not exactly fresh anymore. It was a great weird mix of not a salad, not a pizza. Not a pizza topped with salad. It was tricky to eat, but that’s a challenge I was happy to accept.

This is a refreshing summer meal. I love that is has some great flavors, freshness, and uses only a few ingredients. There is only a small amount of chicken in/on this. Once again, it was a good reminder that those super skinny breast pieces are useful when cut up or one normal size chicken breast would easily serve 2-3 people this way. I had some green onions hanging around so those went on top too.

I’ve proclaimed my love for ricotta, haven’t I? It is true. I love it. Ricotta on toast + avocado = delicious. I had leftover ricotta from making personalized Pizza Dip so I figured this was definitely a different use for it. Whipped feta would be great on this too.  These would be fun on little mini pitas for an appetizer. Pita bread is a great pizza crust. I need to do that again!

What I Ate: Starbucks Copycat Iced Passion Fruit Tea Lemonade

‘What I Ate’ is a series of posts for so-easy-this-doesn’t-need-a-recipe but I’m sharing with ya for the idea or inspiration.

Who doesn’t love a good ole Arnold Palmer? I saw this deviation of tea/lemonade on Pinterest. It seems to have arose to copy a Starbucks treat.

Brew 3 cups of strong passion fruit tea
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Mix up some lemonade. Crystal Light is my fav and makes this beverage have far fewer calories than Starbuck’s version. I like that this lemonade isn’t as mouth-puckeringly tart as some others. I didn’t add any sweetener. Crystal Light is sweet enough.

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Mix them together. Mine was about 1/3 tea to 2/3 lemonade, saving some lemonade asside. The mixture quantity came about according to what fit in my pitcher. #exactscience

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It is such a delightful pink in a happy-fushia kind of way. Let chill and serve on ice.  Some ruby red vodka or grand marnier would be just lovely for an evening/poolside variation as well!

Check out other What I Ate posts for easy ideas!

Italian Grilled Cheese

This summer has been pretty hot. I don’t like temperatures that start with a ’9′, and three-digitis? #forgetaboutit

I’ve been trying to limit my oven use for dinner planning when it gets that hot. I’ve also been OBSESSED with using stuff up. Pantry items and freezer finds alike have been gracing my plates. I had some breaded eggplant hanging around (circa Eggplant Parm Pizza) and thought tucking those buggers into grilled cheese could be fun.
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Italian Inspired Grilled Cheese (for 2)

Ingredients:

4 slices of bread
3 tbs pesto (or marinara or tapanade or alfredo)
2-3 slices American cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
6 pieces of breaded eggplant (substitutions below)
olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Bake the eggplant in a flat layer for about 10-minutes or until heated through, flipping once (or pan fry or pop in a toaster oven)
Reduce heat to 250-degrees if both sandwiches don’t fit in the skillet at the same time.
Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat.
Spread pesto onto one slice of bread for each sandwich (or both pieces of both sandwich if you LOVE pesto).
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Layer American cheese, then eggplant, then mozzarella onto each sandwich.
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Drizzle olive oil into the pan and put sandwiches in.
Cook a few minutes, until the crispness of your preference, before gently flipping over.
Cook on the 2nd side a few minutes and serve immediately (or keep 1st sandwich warm in the oven until the 2nd sandwich is ready.

I loved this. Mr. J did too. I didn’t want the pesto to overtake all the flavors, but I could have upped it to both sides. I loved the marinara for dipping. The eggplant had a perfect crispness even surrounded by cheese.

Now, for the cheese. Don’t judge the American cheese in there. Other cheeses (more fancy, more authentic, more worldly cheeses) will not melt as perfectly as American cheese. I may have snuck a little sprinkle of Parmesan in there too. Maybe.
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The eggplant is an easy thing I grab at Trader Joe’s and keep in the freezer. It makes for a super easy & quick Eggplant Parmesan or sub, or pizza. No eggplant? No problem! Another veggie would be good too, or bread your own! I like the breaded eggplant for the crunch, so the sandwich doesn’t get too soggy, but maybe grilled zucchini/eggplant/summer squash is right for you! Chop up some artichokes or roasted red peppers or whatever you have!

This is kind of like lazy-man’s pizza or pizza-leftovers in a hurry. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Easy Sesame Noodles

I don’t make many Asian inspired dishes but I love using rice wine vinegar + sesame oil + soy sauce. It is such a great combo. It is really great in this noodle dish and I love it as a marinate for chicken wings too. This trifecta is also delicious for a salad dressing base. I saw The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for sesame noodles and thought it just looked too easy…would it have enough flavor? Turns out, it does.

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Sesame Noodles by Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

9 oz Chinese style fresh pasta (or linguini fini, or thin spaghetti)
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (or soy sauce)
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs garlic, minced
3 tbs rice vinegar
3 tbs sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot sauce
3 tbs vegetable oil
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbs sesame seeds

Directions:

Boil water for the pasta
Cook the pasta just under according to the package (9-10 minutes if it says 10-12)
Heat a dry small frying pan over medium heat
Whisk together the teryiaki sauce, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, and oil.
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Toast the sesame seeds in the frying pan for about 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove them from the heat once they start to get tan colored.
Remove pasta and put it in a serving dish.
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Mix in the sauce, half the green onions, and half the sesame seeds.
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Top with the rest of the green onions & sesame seeds to serve!
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I loved how much the noodles soaked up the sauce. They were seriously sesame-y. I thought the flavor was spot on. This dish had great flavors and couldn’t be easier.
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This dinner is suuuuper cheap too. I love adding some meatless wonders to my plans for the week.

Sesame Noodles Overall Cost Breakdown:
(I’m way over estimating the sesame oil & rice vinegar. Buy them! They’re inexpensive and don’t go bad forever).
Chinese style noodles: $2.99
sesame oil ($6.00 for the whole bottle): $1.00
rice vinegar ($2.50 for the whole bottle): $0.50
green onions (1/2 of bunch): $0.49
garlic could be optional in a pinch & sesame seeds are a nice-to-have, not a have-to-have
total = $5.00 for the whole thing, it serves 3 good portions or $1.66 per person.

Impressive, no? Once you have the sesame oil and rice vinegar you’ll definitely use the rest of them. These egg rolls were so stinky easy and worth it to have them freshly baked. Make this Chinese Pork in the Crockpot, it is ahhhhmazing. Or marinate chicken wings in it like these. Add sesame oil to your own crab rangoons and they’ll taste so much more flavorful.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

My idea for these stuffed peppers was an adapting one, get ready. You’ve been warned…

I got peppers on sale at the grocery store. I always check out the discount produce. There’s so much good stuff for a fraction of the price. I got 3 peppers (red, green, yellow) for a buck-something. Crazy. Thus, here’s the foundation of this meal.
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Then, I wanted to get out of making rice. I think it is just annoying how long it takes. It gets sticky and the pot is obnoxious afterwards. I know, first world problems. I also didn’t have any rice around anyway, so it was a moot point. I had used up the couscous making a Shrimp and Couscous Salad (with the yellow pepper from this trio of peppers) so that wasn’t an option either. I wasn’t feeling the red quinoa I had around. That pretty much rounds out the options except then I spotted orzo and thought that would be fun. #winner

I added beans because a) they’re good for you and b) the beans would make it filling and I’d add less orzo which does nothing for you. The beans get the credit for started the Mexican twist.

I skipped the ground meat because turkey kielbasa is smokey and almost like chorizo, just not spicy. I thought it would make dinner feel a bit different too. This would be a really great use for the many scant packs of ground meat I freeze. I don’t usually want that meat to become a burger anyway so Mexican often wins out for their fate.

Hmmm. That’s it. I guess that’s where dinner came from. I made wayyy too much filling for just 2 peppers (4 halves). It became a sort of weird lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

½ package of turkey kielbasa, chopped
1 onion, chopped (I used ½ of a red onion)
½ cup dried orzo
1 can red beans, rinsed
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
¼ cup tomato sauce (optional)
¼ cup salsa
2 tbs taco seasoning (or your own combo of chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes)
2 peppers, halved
⅓ cup monterey jack cheese

Directions:

In a large pan over medium heat, fry kielbasa and onion in a tablespoon of oil until the onion starts to get cooked through and more transparent. (about 5 minutes)
Boil water for orzo. Add orzo and cook until totally cooked.
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Add corn, beans, tomato sauce, salsa, taco seasoning to the kielbasa and onion pan.
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Drain orzo and add to the pan with everything else.
Stir well.
sprinkle half the cheese into the the peppers.
Spoon the filling into the peppers.
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Bake for 15 minutes, then top with remaining cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.
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These were good, but not exactly life changing. I liked all the flavors and they brought a nice freshness and to the weekly meal schedule. The stuffed peppers were filling and not too heavy since there was just a tiny sprinkle of cheese. I liked the colors and textures. I don’t hate 1 pot meals either.

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I think stuffed peppers are just a bit hard to eat. The red one was thinner and ended up being better than the green one.

Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls

On vacation to Bermuda, Mr. J became OBSESSED with a pork and vegetable spring roll. I think he ordered it almost every night. I recreated them for Dad & Mr. J’s combo birthday/father’s day meal. Our theme was “best of vacation” foods.

The eggroll wrappers are from the produce section of the grocery store. They feel like fresh pasta and are easy to use. There are about 20 in a package and I made them all. They were easy to make in advance and bake for a few minutes when it was time to eat.
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Ingredients:

3/4 pound ground pork
10 oz cole slaw mix (or chopped cabbage)
2 tbs garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tbs cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 package eggroll wrappers
1 tsp cornstarch & 2 tsp water

Directions:

Fry pork in a large pan until mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes over medium heat.
Drain excess oil off the pork and add in the cabbage and garlic to the pan.
Add in sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce.
Mix well and cook another few minutes. The cabbage quantity will shrink up.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lay out wonton wrappers. Add about 3 tbs of the filling onto each one. Brush the edges with the cornstarch/water mix.
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Fold the point in the front over the filling, then fold the side points inward towards the filling. Then roll the whole thing over, continuing to wrap the sides towards the center.
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Place the spring rolls on a baking sheet, sprayed with non-stick spray.
Bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees.
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Then flip and bake another 5 minutes.
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I sprayed them and flipped them often. I wanted them crisp all the way around. They also could be pan fried, but I thought baking would keep them from being oily or greasy.

Sesame oil and rice wine vinegar are ingredients I try to keep around. They take any Asian-inspired dishes to the next level and they never go bad. They are good for vinaigrette on salad or a stir fry.  I have another dish to blog for you next week that uses them…stock up now!

I served them with a chipotle orange ginger barbecue sauce. They were a hit!