Much Needed Scutra for Dinner

Before we return from our honeymoon, I needed to share a drool-worthy meal we had before the wedding.During major wedding planning crunch time we were lacking groceries, we were in need of a date night, and we definitely needed a fun distraction while racking our brains for creative table themes. The wedding wasn’t a DIY affair, but Mr. J designed everything and the table blurbs in frames was our only project. Luckily we had a gift certificate to Scutra in Arlington that was burning a hole in our pockets!
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It was such a blissful and relaxing evening. We got dressed up, kissed the pup goodbye, and headed to our reservation. Of course I scoured the website menu before going and honestly I’m sure I would have enjoyed everything on the menu. Love Mediterranean food!
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I started with the garlic baked muscles. Garlic butter and feta? YES PLEASE! They were beautiful and thought the feta was great for a touch of saltiness.
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Mr. J had the roasted tomato soup with Parmesan encrusted scallops. He just recently started to enjoy scallops and I think the Parmesan crunchy exterior was a perfect contrast in texture for him.
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These aps were awesome and got us really excited for the main dish. Each was a perfect size to leave us adequate room to keep eating!

I got seafood crusted salmon. Oh. My. Goodness. My perfectly pink salmon was topped with crab and lobster. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was served with an asparagus risotto and a pesto drizzle. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It was hot and flavorful. Such a great combination of flavors that didn’t overpower one another.
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Mr. J got a special, and boy was it special. He had 14oz sirloin steak with a butter and raspberry beer sauce over mashed potatoes. Mr. J heard it listed with the specials and was hooked. He loved it and finished every bite.
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I had a crisp chardonnay knowing I’d have seafood for dinner and Mr. J had a final Sam Adam’s summer ale. I enjoyed every bite. This was such a wonderful dinner. Mr. J was happy with his choices and we definitely got dinners we couldn’t/wouldn’t make at home. There was no room for dessert.

The reviews seemed mixed regarding the service and atmosphere. We thought it had a really nice atmosphere, our server was friendly, and I’d be happy to go back anytime. I liked that it was classy and well decorated, allowing us to dress up a bit for a really special meal.

Have you had a meal recently that you just thoroughly enjoyed AND appreciated happening right when you needed it? This was one for me. I’ll be back next week with LOTS of tastes to relay from my trip to Spain & Italy! Stay tuned!

Taco Cup…Ole!

Once upon a time, I discovered Pinterest. All productivity went down from there. Just kidding. Errr…maybe not kidding. I do love a good pin and the food pins going around are making me very inspired.
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Ms. K pinned lasagna cups and then made them. They were so cute I promptly added wanton wrappers to my grocery list and planned some Taco Cups.

Ingredients

1 package wonton wrappers
⅓ pound ground chicken
3 scallions
1 ½ cups shredded cheese
½ can of black beans

Directions

Brown ground meat with taco seasoning and preheat the oven.
Lay a wonton into a muffin tin and top with the ground meat and cheese.
tacocup_layer1_290_200Top with another wanton, then black beans, chopped green onions, and more cheese.
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Bake 20 minutes at 350 until melty & crisp.
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These are super fun and a great way to stretch a few ingredients. The beans were the 2nd half of a can I used for the veggie burger I made recently too. The ground meat I froze after making ranch burgers the last time since I didn’t have an immediate use for it. These taco cups really only needed a few ingredients (for me: cheese & wanton wrappers).
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I think these would make a great “finger food” or appetizer. They also would be great when having guests since taco cups be all ready without a million dishes, lots of chopping, or cooking in front of everyone.

Even though I do love make-you-own food set ups, I think my next theme might have to be fun & assembled items or appetizers. What else can I make in cup form?

Double Rainbow

The most recent theme for our office potluck was RAINBOW! We each picked a color and brought something in with that color. It was such a fun one. I have to admit I wasn’t daring enough to choose certain colors…ahem:blue:cough:purple.I chose RED and made Strawberry Bruschetta. Toasted French bread + cream cheese + strawberries + balsamic reduction topped off with a little basil. Yum. I highly recommend bringing this one to your next bbq or summer party. I hadn’t ever made a balsamic reduction but it was so easy and worked really well. I loved this. The idea came from Mrs. C. She did a balsamic and honey drizzle and used goat cheese.

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Orange was out sick that day.

YELLOW was Lemon Squares! They were gooey with a fantastic shortbread crust.
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GREEN was guacamole! Ms. C learned how to pit an avocado while making it too!
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BLUE was blue corn tortilla chips and even a special blue dip! The veggie dip had a touch of blue food coloring. What would you bring for blue? Seriously a tough one but we’ve had at least one dip at every potluck. ever.
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PURPLE was Thai Lettuce Wraps in Radicchio! Some were vegetarian with tofu and some had ground turkey. I love bean sprouts so these were really fun finished off with a sprinkle of peanuts. Purple also had a blackberry fizzy drink too.

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BROWN was chocolate from a friend dropping by. We stressed she didn’t need to bring anything but this was a creative little something.

Hope the rainbow has you inspired for something new or different. Another blog I love recently posted about a Grilled Appetizer Party which is a fantastic theme! The photos will have your mouth watering but don’t let that stop you if you’re trying to come up with a fun theme! What’s the next office potluck theme? Ohh just you wait…

I’ve Got An Ap For That…

While I sadly do not yet have an iPhone I may have just made the best restaurant APpetizer at home!

In honor of my Mac & Cheese-loving-Mrs. Z, I made some fried mac & cheese bites when she was visiting Boston with her husband (who planned a guest blog post for me!). Mrs. A & Mr. D joined us for a mini staff (and husbands) dinner party.
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They were amazing. Albeit not perfect, they were still delectable and I’m onto a good thing. I think the technique was really important. I stole a tip from a blog, Dinner With Julie. She recommended making the mac & cheese then refrigerating it so it can easily be cut. Definitely a good tip. Check it out on her blog!

 

You may have seen me make mac & cheese before here or proclaim my love for it here. I wasn’t sure how this would go so I just whipped up some basic mac & cheese with small shells and cheddar.

Ingredients

mac & cheese (boxed or prepared as you like it)
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
2 eggs whipped
1 cup panko

Directions

Prepare mac & cheese
Refrigerate several hours in square dish 1” thick
Remove from dish in 1 piece and cut into cubes while oil is heating on medium heat in large skillet.
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Dredge the mac & cheese cubes in egg and panko before dropping into oil. Turn halfway until evenly golden brown.
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My oil wasn’t quite hot enough at first so the first round wasn’t as crisp but they were still good. Next time, as I’m sure there will be a next time, I would mix in some shredded cheese after preparing the mac & cheese so the bites would be more cheesy. I rarely fry anything because I think it’s such a bother and I don’t like the sputtering oil. Mr. J and I had JUST started a wedding registry and joked when we saw the a deep fryer…as if anyone needs that at home. Dangerous!

They were fun and more unusual than I go for aps. I was really happy with them but plan to only break them out on special occasions. I’m glad I attempted them. I now wonder if they could be made ahead of time and broiled briefly before serving to stay warm? We’ll see…

Marinate Those Mushrooms

I love marinated mushrooms and once I figured out the secret to making them I whip them up regularly. They’re so good on salad, antipasto, or on their own. Also, it’s easy to make marinated mushrooms in any quantity! That’s a perk for me who is the only fan of mushrooms around.
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I used balsamic vinegar to change it up but I normally go with cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. Once they marinate over night I usually drain out the excess marinade but I keep them in the same jar.

Ingredients:

6 large mushrooms, cut into quarters
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar (any variation)
1 tsp garlic
salt & pepper
dried spices that will compliment the vinegar choice
1 tsp sugar
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Directions:

Drop mushrooms into boiling water for 2 minutes and drain.
Mix oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and spices in a glass jar. Shake vigorously.
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Add mushrooms and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

I often use white button mushrooms but I had a few big ones that I just cut up and put onto my salad lunches this week. Lettuce is my least favorite part of the salad so I often just put a few veggies together and call it salad but I had some quinoa and some spinach and thought marinated mushrooms would be a great addition!

Do you know quinoa? I got red quinoa and have enjoyed it all week. My friend Ms. J LOVES quinoa and makes it all the time!
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Easy 3 Ingredient Dip

I made an ap for Easter and wanted something lighter and healthier than I’d usually head towards. This is a white bean based dip with homemade pita chips. This ended up being a good one to bring somewhere since it is served cold and the pita chips could be made ahead of time or purchased.

Ingredients

1 can white beans, drained
1 jar roasted red peppers (with liquid)
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tbs garlic
2 wheat pita pockets

Directions

Rinse and drain white beans
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Add beans, red peppers with liquid, parsley, and garlic to a food processer.
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Blend, stirring partway, and leaving some chunks.
Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
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I toasted some of my own pita chips. Tearing the pitas all the way apart made for a thinner chip with fewer calories. The dip was good, fresh, and super easy. It would be great on bread, stirred into pasta or soup, or anything!

I think you definitely have to like these ingredients to enjoy this but this handy dip includes a simple list of ingredients to have on hand.

What to Munch for Lunch

I was lacking on groceries (as well as energy, time, and creativity) but I really wanted to relax and whip up something for lunch for a few days. I found a zucchini that was nearing the end of it’s life in the fridge. I let that be my muse since I also wanted to put my new mandolin to use!
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Ingredients

1 sheet puff pastry
4 tbs pesto
1 cup grated gruyere
1 zucchini, sliced thin

Directions

Lay puff pastry out on a cookie sheet.
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Spread pesto to cover entire pastry sheet
Sprinkle cheese to cover entire pastry sheet
Carefully lay zucchini slices, overlapping slightly
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Bake 15-20 minutes at 350

This was just what I wanted. It was easy, had some great flavors, and packed well for lunch! I was meticulous about the rows of zucchini but I should have pushed the rows closer together. Budget for the puff factor.

I cooked it for about 15 minutes, knowing that I would put it in the toaster oven at work so I aired on the under-cooked side.

Although I haven’t made interesting just-for-lunch recipes lately this reminded me how just a few high quality ingredients make for a tasty dish. Any cheese would have worked well. Even other prepared sauces would work too.

What else should be some quick lunch fixes?

Spinach & Cheese Muffin Bites

Spinach-Cheese Bake

I really love quiche but when I pack it for lunch it seems soggy and the crust flakes. I tried this crustless spinach and Monterey jack cheese version and made it in a muffin tin.
crustless_quiche_done_290_200There isn’t anything super special in this but I was glad I went with a lighter protein & veggie option for a few days worth of lunch. It would be good for a bunch item but this didn’t rock my socks.

Ingredients

4 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/3  cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups milk
4 eggs
1  teaspoon  salt
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground red pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 13 x 9-inch baking dish or muffin tins with cooking spray. Place chopped spinach evenly in bottom of dish; sprinkle evenly with cheese.
crustless_quiche_spin_290_200Combine flour and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended.
crustless_quiche_liq_290_200Pour milk mixture over cheese. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
crustless_quiche_assemb_290_200I omitted 1 teaspoon of baking powder, by accident. These turned out a bit more spongy than I expected, probably because I forgot the baking powder.

Fav Comfort Apps

A lot of restaurants seem to be advertising their 500-calorie meals or the weight watchers specials but sometimes, you just need serious comfort food. Tavern On the Square is one of my regular comfort food places, and Phantom Gourmet agrees!

#1 Risotto Fritters

Parmesan risotto stuffed with pesto and mozzarella lightly breaded and fried. Served with tomato cream sauce and baby arugula.

The risotto is nutty with the perfect amount of pesto. The arugula is peppery and added a nice contrast to the salty parmesan.

#2 White Truffle Tator Tots

A heaping portion of our tator tots drizzled with aromatic white truffle oil and Parmesan cheese.

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The tator tots are truly a heaping portion. I think the truffle oil is a bit lacking and I’d prefer a better ratio but I wouldn’t pass on these…they’re just too addicting.

#3 Tropical Chicken Skewers

Chicken tenders coated in shredded coconut and panko breadcrumbs, fried to a golden brown and served with a pineapple curry sauce and fruit salsa.

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I was pleasantly surprised by these. The coconut was perfect and a great sweetness with the zip of the sauce.

These apps are really fun and make a meal to share.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip…with an Indian Twist

I needed to make a healthy appetizer for a non-profit having a get together for women. On The Rise is an amazing organization who supports women who are trying to move out of homelessness and women in crisis. I was in a hurry and didn’t have a ton of ideas. I knew my ap wouldn’t be able to be kept or served warm so I went with a semi-homemade dip.I had raita dip from Trader Joe’s so I used that as my starting point. I made this with the idea of spinach and artichoke dip without all the cheese and one that wouldn’t need to be served hot.

Ingredients
6 oz premade Raita
3 cups spinach, chopped
½ cup non-fat sour cream
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 pumpernickel bread loaf, uncut

Directions
1) Wilt spinach in a skillet.
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2) Slice the top of the loaf and hollow out the inside.

3) Mix raita, sour cream, artichoke hearts, and spinach.
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4) Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.
5) Serve in bread bowl with bread, baby carrots, and wheat thins to dip.This probably won’t be my claim to fame but it fulfilled the criteria I was looking for. It also was cheap, easy, and traveled well. I don’t have a final photo since they protect the anonymity of their clients so I wasn’t at the meal.

I’ve made lunch for these ladies and I really wonder how it has gone over. Again, the charge was healthy and minimal prep. Once I made sandwich filling options of grilled chicken salad with grapes or greek veggies (hummus, feta, cukes, tomatoes, and greek dressing) in pita pockets or bulkie rolls. Another time I made breakfast of baked blueberry french toast, hashbrown casserole, and mini bagels with cream cheese.