What a busy one. I can’t believe how crazy Mr. J and I both are at work. Looking back, I don’t know that July has been my best month in the kitchen, but I made some things we liked and more importantly, ate great stuff this month, even if it wasn’t all blog-worthy. We’re all about the grilled chicken thighs and Mr. J made a bourbon BBQ sauce that is fantastic. In July, I went to River Bar (loved the view), SmashBurgers (a new fav for something quick), Frogmore (undecided), Chilacates (ah-mazing tacos), and Lala Rokh (adorable and perfect for summer).
This burger with mushrooms, swiss, and herb aoli was the best thing I made this month. So good. I got a similar kind of thing as a chicken sandwich at SmashBurger and loved the combo of mushrooms and swiss.
My chicken salad with radish and dried blueberries was soooo fantastic. Make it immediately. Go on a picnic. Feel fancy.
Panzanella salad just says summer and the quickie dressing is useful for anything.
August has a trip to the Cape and lots more grilling in store. I’m itching to serve a burrata bar since it didn’t make the catering cut for one of my events. I have a few more burger ideas before the summer is over too.
The Little One:
He is just so funny. I love him to pieces. He’s 6 months old and doing SO much. He was perfecting the art of sitting and then all of a sudden figured out how to go from his belly to a seated position. He’s trying to crawl really hard so it is only a matter of time. He can scootch, so now it is time to baby proof. Wowza.
He loves applesauce and doesn’t like peas. Atta boy Thomas, Momma doesn’t like peas either. We did give it a valiant effort.
Thomas can find the tag on a toy so quickly…even his taggies toy, he finds the 1 real one. We all traveled to Maine and he was very well behaved. I was so proud and glad he got to meet family from all over the country. He was a CHAMP in the car even though coming home took a million hours.
Progress on this year’s goals:
The Year of the Earring: I think I missed July. I’ll get on it for August.
make more salad dressings: Sure did! I made a Teriyaki Sesame Dressing for a Baby Bok Choy salad.
factor more time into how long every-day tasks/trips will take: still learning, though I was super early to meet Mr. J for the baby’s check up so I got some steps in around the parking lot and circling the building.
recreate restaurant menu items: ehh. not this month I guess.
be more adventurous with my reading selections: I finished Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl and loved it. I’m ready for a new one now.
use the crockpot more: Yes! I made chicken mole for tacos! There was a ton leftover so I have a freezer stock of chicken mole burritos.
seafood once a month: ehh. not this month I guess. I’ll get on it.
Let’s talk about when dinner doesn’t go exactly according to plan. This one was one of those instantly needing to change the course of action. I had plans for a different topping, along the same idea of a breaded cutlet with a chopped, fresh topping. I started slicing into an avocado and muuuuush. I attempted to scrape the brownest avocado away but really, it was beyond use. That’s really sad because avocados cost a fortune right now. It was time to regroup, the chicken was cooking and I needed a plan b. pronto.
The chicken is coated in mustard and breaded with panko, thanks to the mustard idea from Ms. L. The cutlets were frying and my strawberry avocado topping wasn’t going to work out. I chopped the few little tomatoes we had in the garden and grabbed as many basil leaves as I could. Basil is not our strong suit over here. It was great, a quick recovery and meant we were eating pretty soon after.
chicken cutlets, 1-2 per person
3-4 tbs dijon mustard
1-2 cups panko breadcrumbs
~1 cup vegetable oil for frying
~4 cherry tomatoes
1 tbs fresh basil leaves
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
splash of olive oil
Mix mustard and a splash of water together in a shallow bowl large enough to dip the chicken in.
Spread the breadcrumbs with some salt & pepper onto a plate.
Bring a frying pan with the vegetable oil to medium heat.
Dip each chicken cutlet into the mustard, then the breadcrumbs.
Pan fry the chicken a few minutes on each side, ensuring the chicken cooks through. Then remove and keep warm in the oven.
Chop the tomatoes and basil. Add the vinegar and olive oil and stir.
Serve the chicken with a few spoonfuls of the tomato basil mixture. Enjoy!
Once I knew it was heading towards tomato and basil, I decided to serve it with some orzo since it cooks so quickly. It may not have been quite was I was going for but I was really happy with this regroup. Have you seen The Next Food Network Star? I regularly see one guy not being able to regroup, which is sooo important when cooking. I was determined not to be like that.
My breading didn’t stay on perfectly…that could be from the mustard instead of using egg, or my lack of patience frying. The topping hid any bald spots pretty well.
How do you regroup? Do you end up saving the dish in the end, or is it time to order pizza?
I quickly got into this book and then couldn’t put it down. I LOVED this writer and the life of a food critic is absolutely fascinating. Ruth Reichl became the New York Times food critic and then started with some disguises after learning every restaurant had her photo posted in the back for staff to be on the lookout. She wanted the true experience so her disguises allowed her to visit 3+ times to try everything. I felt like she was looking out for the normal people knowing that she got the best of the best when arriving as herself.
I don’t dine at the best restaurants ever, but I do work very closely with them for my event so I could truly picture a lot of this. Ruth also reviewed everything out there…tiny Korean restaurants and toured mom & pop shops. You definitely get the sense of how much she just adores food.
She does a fantastic job at showing what it is like, and how reviewing restaurants is actually work. When her little boy was wanting her home for dinner I can see it become tiresome, also when coupled with her thrift-store & wig shopping to create these personas. I think there’s a fine line for everyone to think of her very first-world problem of going out to eat every night. I get it. I found her warm and the struggle real that she didn’t get to be herself to do her job. She loves to cook and includes a recipe to wrap up each chapter. The reader falls in love with her characters, since the get-ups aren’t just costumes. She takes on the persona and uses her doorman as the tester.
I love her experiences when the food blows her away and when she’s so in the moment that she can’t even speak. I love how many details she shares for the restaurant, food, and service at one she doesn’t love…like an over-priced one that isn’t worth it. She has such a realistic life perspective that makes her experiences very genuine and easy to read.
For some reason, it never crossed my mind that a food critic would go to a restaurant 3-5 times before writing the review. The people and relationships Ruth has with her colleagues and friends at The New York Times was really captivating. I have seen what happens to restaurants and chefs when they’re nominated for prestigious awards. Certain ratings can do some of that as well.
I loved this and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the restaurant world with a fun reminder that outward appearances aren’t always what they seem.
This panzanella is the salad that can be dinner on its own, or for me, it was just part of a crazy salad night for dinner. I liked the crouton-ish part of this salad, and sometimes any salad without greens if a more-fun one for me. I don’t know that I’d make it all that often, but on a hot night panzanella hits the spot. Now, I just need the bigger tomatoes in the garden to ripen up. We’ve gotten some cherry tomatoes but the bigger ones are still green so I bought the tomatoes for this salad.
2 cups cubed & dried bread
2 large tomatoes
1/2 large cucumber
1 yellow/orange bell pepper
1/4 red onion
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbs red wine vinegar
splash of lemon juice
salt & pepper
Chop up the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onion. Let the onion soak for about 5 minutes in some cold water so they mellow out a bit.
Heat a large skillet to medium-low heat with about 2 tbs of olive oil.
Drop the bread in and toss it around to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes until it gets just a little golden and a little crusty.
In a glass jar, add in the garlic, mustard, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Shake it up!
Toss the veggies, bread, and some dressing together.
Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then add more dressing if needed. Enjoy!
If the tomatoes or cukes are really juicy you might not need any more dressing. I used just enough to get it all tossed – maybe half? Then another little splash before serving. I liked the bread getting a little crisp first and then soaking a bit of the dressing. I didn’t want it completed soaked and falling apart. The dressing takes 2 seconds and is an easy one to use again on any salad or adding some herbs to make it a marinade.
I don’t know that I’d make this all the time, but it was a great use for some leftover really good bread. I served it on a night of two unusual salads (the other being watermelon, feta & arugula) with grilled sausage. It probably didn’t really get to shine because I was sooo into the watermelon/feta/arugula salad.
Have you ever soaked onions? It is great for a raw use so they don’t overpower everything else. They maintain the crunch and some flavor but they won’t be the only taste in there.
Does the swiss cheese and arugula make this American burger acceptable for Bastille Day? Ohh well, not quite on-theme but I once went to Bastille Day at the French Library in Boston and the crepe toppings included M&Ms so this is wayyy more appropriate for this French holiday (or my fav Parisian Burger). This burger has the buttery sautéed mushrooms that remind me of a steakhouse side dish. They are little sponges to soak up the butter and give an earthy flavor. Some melted swiss + herb aoli + arugula round this out perfectly. This is soooo good as a burger, but could easily be a piece of chicken or steak on the grill then topped with the mushrooms & swiss.
2 burger patties seasoned with salt & pepper (mine was ground chicken & Mr. J’s was ground beef)
1 cup of baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs butter
2-3 tbs mayo
fresh herbs of your choosing: I used: oregano; basil; chives; & rosemary
2 slices of swiss
arugula or spinach
Heat the grill or a grill pan and begin cooking the burgers to your preferred done-ness.
Warm a skillet to medium-low heat. Add the butter to melt.
Sauté the mushrooms for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
Mix together the mayo & herbs. I have a bunch of thriving herbs so I grabbed some of a bunch of them. You could easily just use whatever 2 you might have on hand. I had a 1:1 ratio of the mayo so it was suuuuper herby.
Lightly grill the buns at the end and top the burgers with the mushrooms then the cheese.
Assemble each burger with bun > arugula > burger > mushrooms > swiss > herb aoli on the top bun.
It was Mr. J’s idea, our grillmaster, to hold the mushrooms on with the cheese. They were so good on this burger. I love mushrooms but not everyone is such a fan. I think because these are baby portobellos with a bit more flavor and after they’ve bathed in butter, anyone would like them!
One of the many perks of work is that we get scratch-made lunch everyday. It is family style and there’s salad. Every day! I know, so lucky! It is always a hot lunch but the other day, before the long weekend, we got some really amazing chicken salad. It was full of apples and dried cranberries. I put mine on top of my salad and was loving it. I was eating thinking,
“this is just so good.”
“I love the add-ins. I could make this.”
“I should make this.”
My sis brought over dinner of a roasted chicken with a Caesar salad kit for the perfect instant dinner. I used some leftovers for this chicken salad and it wasn’t just any chicken salad. You’re bananas if you think I would ever put celery into my chicken salad. Blech. This one gets crunch from radishes and some sweetness from dried blueberries.
(for 1 serving)
1-2 slices of a roasted chicken, chopped
2 tbs dried blueberries
1-2 tbs mayo
splash of milk
Chop the radish into a fine dice
In a bowl, add the chicken, radish, blueberries (and walnuts would be good!)
Mix in a small amount of mayo and stir to combine. Add the splash of milk to ensure it is wet enough. Then add more mayo, if needed.
Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Enjoy!
I put some on a sandwich loaded with arugula. Use good mayo for his. I like The Ojai Cook’s Lemonaise. The blueberries provide a sweet chewiness. My radish was from the farmers market. Those are zesty! Radishes from the grocery store have nowhere near the same flavor. It added the perfect zip and crunch. I didn’t have any apples and was using what I had on hand. The radish was my stroke of genius for the day.
I grabbed some baby bok choy at the farmer’s market without a plan for it. I went to trusty Pinterest and found a fun raw use for it on Culinary Hill. I tweaked the dressing by adding some stronger flavors of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. We added some grilled teriyaki chicken for a really great speedy dinner.
Get some chicken on the grill, shake up some dressing in a jar, and then chop up a few veggies. Poof. Instant dinner with some great flavors.
adapted from Culinary Hill
2-3 chicken thighs, marinated in teriyaki
2 baby bok choy bunches
2 large radishes
2 tbs sesame seeds
3 tbs brown sugar
1-2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup almond slivers
Grill the marinated chicken until cooked through, brushing with some teriyaki at the end.
Chop the bok choy, discarding the bottom pieces.
Chop the radishes into a small dice.
Toast some sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Watch carefully to toast them without burning.
In a small jar, add brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.
Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust as necessary.
In a large bowl, add the bok choy, radish, and toasted sesame seeds.
Add in some dressing and toss. Sprinkle with almonds.
Top with chicken to serve. Enjoy!
I liked the mild flavor of the bok choy. The almonds were pre-sesaoned with salt and pepper near the croutons. I might have toasted them if they were regular almond slivers. It was such a quick dinner that felt fresh, crunchy with juicy chicken.
The dressing was great. Make it, and then you’ll have sesame oil on hand for these (most Pinterest-pinned) sesame noodles and for Asian Broccoli Slaw with Peanut Butter Chicken and your next pork & veggie spring rolls, etc. You’ll use it, it isn’t such a crazy specialty ingredient.
I sometimes forget that the crockpot is actually really ideal for summer meals since it doesn’t heat up the whole house, annnnd it means dinner can be less fuss when it is just too hot to think. I hate being hot. I love the snow and can’t imagine regular triple-digit-temperature days. Some crockpot food is really heavy and winter-ish but I want to keep looking for those that aren’t. I hadn’t ever made mole before but it was good, and something different. We had them as tacos but the poor pups had to smell chicken cooking all. day.
I saw the slow cooker chicken mole recipe in a Cooking Light magazine and loved the idea of chicken thighs cooking all day and making a different type of taco. I decreased the chipotle chile in adobo to just 1 (instead of 2) in case it was too spicy. I didn’t have smoked almonds, but used some mixed nuts and thought it was pretty good. I’d add a bit more water to the slow cooker…mine was on low for 8 hours (as instructed) but part of it got kind of burned along the edge when it got too low.
Chicken Mole Tacos:
from Cooking Light
squeeze of lime
side of guacamole
It was good, maybe not my favorite taco ever, but the flavors were nice. The chicken had a light smokey flavor and the cocoa made it have a light earthy taste.
I froze the leftover chicken and corn. I’ll assemble some burritos to wrap individually and freeze for the next time we need an instant dinner. Or it’d be good as some nachos too.
I froze some blobs of tomato paste the last time I opened a can. Then for recipes like this I just pull one blob out and nuke it in the microwave since I rarely need a whole can at once…even though the cans are itty bitty.