Kale Pesto over Pork Chops and Polenta

I know, right? How amazing does that sound?!? Mr. J was in charge of dinner and that is seriously what he came up with. I loved it! It was really good and actually surprisingly easy. I assisted as his sous-chef so I snapped some photos as he cooked.

This is super easy feels totally special and is such a wow meal.

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He found the pork chops with roasted kale and walnut pesto on the food network site. It was so good and definitely one to jot down. If you think you aren’t into pork chops then get a meat thermometer. If you’ve had hard-as-rock pork it isn’t pretty. The thermometer will save the day.

The pesto takes 10 minutes. Polenta takes about 5 minutes. The pork cookes quickly too.

Roasted Kale Pesto

from Food Network
Ingredients:

1 head of kale
olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbs lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Tear the kale off the stems and spread onto a sheet pan.
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Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper.
Roast for about 5 minutes (be careful not to let it burn)
Transfer into a food processor with walnuts, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
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Blend until smooth while slowly streaming in the olive oil until you reach your desired thickness (add more olive oil if using with pasta, add less for topping on meat).
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It stores well and we froze half for a “rainy day”. This pesto would be amazing for a vegetarian dish. It is so flavorful, unique, and not overpowering at all.

For the pork chops we used were boneless but bone-in would be fine as well. Season generously with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary, on both sides.

In a pan large enough to fit all the chops, preheat it to medium-high heat.
Add the pork chops to sear on one side for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook until the center reaches 140-150 degrees on a thermometer.
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We made some polenta too. I haven’t had polenta in awhile but I forgot how quick it is. As in, 5 minutes quick. It makes dinner feel really different.
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Have leftover pesto? Spread it into a panini and dip the grilled cheese into marinara for an Italian grilled cheese. Or use it on pizza or pasta. Leftover polenta? Form into patties and fry like I did here with scallops. Polenta works well with anything spicy like chorizo or with anything earthy like duck.

Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Mustard Dressing

I love brussels sprouts. I was wanted a really fall-inspired side dish. This was a really quick side dish that actually has tons of room for customization. I used Israeli couscous because it is really fast and versatile especially for a his & hers night. I don’t eat red meat and Mr. J isn’t into fish so we share side dishes. Mr. J had some venison tenderloin and I made some shrimp.

The brussels sprouts dish was sweet from the honey mustard and has really crisp apples. It is really comforting and took less than 15-minutes to whip up.
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Ingredients:

2-3 cups brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 medium apple, chopped
3 tbs dijon mustard
3 tbs honey

Directions:

Heat a medium stock pot to medium heat.
Add couscous and 1 tbs olive oil, stirring to toast couscous.
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In a large flat pan over medium heat, add brussels sprouts, and 1 tbs butter or oil.
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Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and 1 cup of water to the couscous, stirring well and reducing heat to medium-low.
Cook the couscous through, about 4 minutes.
Mix up the mustard and honey.
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Add the couscous and honey mustard dressing to the brussels sprouts.
Stir well, turn off heat, and add the apples.
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Gently stir again and serve.
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Couscous is a pasta so there’s literally zero health benefit from it. I like the soft nutty flavor from couscous but this brussels sprout side dish would be good with brown rice, or barley, or quinoa, or beans. There’s a lot of nutritious alternatives. Nuts would be good in here for crunch. I love the honey mustard with the apples but you could swap the apples for dried cranberries.

Pumpkin Risotto

I haven’t made risotto for awhile, but figured it was perfect for pumpkin week! I wanted a savory pumpkin dish since the first thought with pumpkin is pie.

The Three Bite Rule - Pumpkin Risotto
One of my favorite risottos is tomato and zucchini risotto using tomato juice for even more flavor. Risotto gets bad wrap for being difficult. I think it is just a dish that requires some attention. This risotto gets pure pumpkin cooked in with the liquid. It makes it more like a flavor boost than an addition (like butternut squash chunks would be). I like to stir. I come from a family of folks who like to stir. This is the perfect dish for that!

Ingredients:

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat rice and 2 tbs olive oil in large pot, over medium heat to toast the rice a bit (about 3-5 minutes).
In another pot over low heat, warm the broth, pumpkin, and water.
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Stir the rice as it toasts and begins to get lightly tanned. Reduce heat to medium low.
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Add a cup of the pumpkin liquid to the rice and stir.
Continue adding liquid in 1 cup increments adding more once the last liquid gets absorbed.
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Continue cooking, stirring, and adding liquid until all the liquid gets absorbed. When the rice is cooked add in the nutmeg and Parmesan.
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I love the flavors in this. It is so easy and goes with anything. Sage would be good with this but I find it a bit intense and it is hard to justify a $4 herb that I only want one leaf from. The risotto takes about 20-25 minutes. It isn’t that much work with other easy-ish dishes going on. I think I grilled some chicken sausages and tossed a salad that night.

I used this as a side dish but it could serve as a whole meal. Spinach or arugula would be good for some color. Mushrooms would make it more meal-centric.

We even fried up some leftover risotto into cakes from the leftovers. Nothing else added, just risotto crisp-a-fied. So good, and wayyy easier than aranchini. I don’t have photos of that because it basically was a no-fuss dinner one night. I feel so productive, grown up, and accomplished when leftovers get created into something amazing.

Need more pumpkin dinner ideas? I’ve made a pumpkin pasta that is so easy and a great variation. I owe you a pumpkin black bean soup I repeatedly fall in love each fall.

What do you like for savory pumpkin dishes?

Quick Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

I was craving spinach and artichoke dip and remembered thinking it could pretty easily be a pasta dish. Last year I made a 1-dish pasta that cooked in it’s own liquid. This time I tweaked the original thought and went with creamed spinach which is totally decadent and such a perfect secret ingredient . Shhh! I once used it in deep dish pizza and it was the best I ever made! I figured the beauty of this dinner is the speed!

Ingredients:

8 oz frozen artichokes
8 oz frozen creamed spinach
8 oz dried pasta
2 chicken sausage links, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
6 oz swiss cheese

Directions:

Boil water for pasta.
Defrost creamed spinach and artichokes in a large pan over medium-low heat.
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Cook pasta until aldante.
Drain and reserve some of the cooking water (about a cup).
Add the pasta, sausage, garlic, salt, and pepper to the spinach and artichoke.
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Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, adding a splash of cooking water and stir well. Add more cooking water to loosen depending on your preference. Sprinkle with a little cheese and toss before serving.

I liked this one. It was so fast and really easy.
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This could be tweaked. Add cream cheese to make it thicker. Add fresh spinach for more texture. Add mushrooms, chicken, or onions. Add a roux and some cream for a truly thick sauce. Swap out the creamed spinach and make your own if the prepared part isn’t your thing.

I was going for speed and ease, but you get to make that call. I also avoid oily artichoke hearts but again, go for what you like!

Other spinach and artichoke hankerings? I made spinach and artichoke pockets in puff pastry. I made spinach and artchoke nachos. I made spinach and artichoke calzones.

Cost Breakdown: 
8 oz frozen creamed spinach: $2.19
frozen artichokes: $1.45
2 chicken sausage links: $2.00
1/2 box pasta: $0.75
Total = $6.39 or about $2.13 per person for 3 servings

Greek Pasta Salad

Before I get to any Parisian treats or Czech delights, I have a weekend trip to Maine and I’m prepping for San Fran. I unpack to repack. I wanted to share a Greek inspired dish with you. This is a quick meal that I knew would include leftovers and would use tomatoes from our garden.

I settled on a Greek inspired pasta salad. It would be super easy to customize too. We ate this as a meal served with some hummus & pita chips, but I’ll have to keep it in mind for the next BBQ.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

⅔ pound of pasta (I used our fav shape Campanelle)
1 cup Greek salad dressing
1 large tomato
½ cucumber
½ cup creamy Caesar dressing (optional)
Salt & pepper
1 tsp oregano (or basil)
⅓ cup feta

Directions:

(to be partially made/prepped the night before)
Boil pasta in a very large pot of salted boiling water.
Cook pasta through to your liking (for pasta salad, I think it is better a touch past al dente). Drain pasta and transfer pasta to a large bowl or container that can be covered.
When pasta cools a bit to room temperature, mix most of the Greek dressing over the pasta.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad
Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
The next day, mix pasta and chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and dice red onions.
The Three bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad
Mix veggies into the pasta and mix in creamy Caesar dressing. Add salt, pepper, and oregano. Refrigerate until serving.
Sprinkle feta over the top and serve.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad

I loved this. Greek flavors are some of my favorites. I never think of pasta in the summer but why not a cool pasta. This is salad minus the lettuce! It is filling and flavorful. The creamy Caesar dressing was something I had, but could easily be omitted.

Pasta salad is really lackluster if it isn’t made in advance enough. I set a timer and went about the rest of my evening while the water was boiling and while the pasta cooked. Prep the night before or it’ll be a let down. It would be easy enough to throw together in the morning before heading off to work too.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad

I don’t do olives, but they would be a great addition for some Greek-ness. Grilled chicken, artichokes, chopped/shaved asparagus, sausage, mushrooms, or chopped spinach would be lovely as well. This is the summer equivalent of a one-pot-wonder.

Green Smoothie

I did it. I mean, in my defense, what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t give a green smoothie a shot and get on that bandwagon finally?
The Three Bite Rule - Green Smoothie

I’ve snuck some spinach into a smoothie before, but I did it with blueberries which hide the green-ness. I think this is more about the color and texture than about the flavor. Let’s be real: raw spinach blended doesn’t give off any huge aggressive flavor. It seems about time to blog about a green smoothie, with spinach, and avocado.

Ingredients:

1 green apple
2 cups fresh spinach
1 small avocado (or ½ of a regular avocado)
1/2 banana, frozen
6 oz greek yogurt
1 tbs honey
⅓ cup milk

Directions:

Blend all the ingredients.
Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Green Smoothie

I liked this green smoothie a lot. It wasn’t as sludge seeming as I’ve heard the green juiced drinks are. I didn’t include any parsley or lemon which bottled green ones often have.

I didn’t feel like I was doing a cleanse detoxing. That scares the beejesus out of me. Do you know people who’ve done it? Bahhh. Yikes. Eeeek. I can’t imagine. I like the idea of detoxing off overly processed foods or striving for as many raw/whole/real foods. I’d rather try to eat more veggies or really, anything other than all liquids.

This smoothie isn’t exactly going to detox you, but the yogurt makes it come together and the milk & honey make it slightly sweet and drink-able. The apple & banana are both sweet and the spinach and avocado are kind of neutral to me. It is for sure a good way to get some more veggies into your day. That’s a plus for everyone.
The Three Bite Rule - Green Smoothie

Avocado – good for fiber & good fat
Spinach – barely any calories, more vitamin A than your usual bfast
Apple – upps your vitamin C & fiber
Banana – Potassium is ideal after an intense workout, or after an evening of drinks.
Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt has about 2x – 3x the protein of regular yogurt and wayyy more protein than just milk would give you, making this smoothie be filling enough for a meal. It’ll help get to your calcium daily suggested amount.

All that being said, I’d do it again. Do I want to juice green things? No thanks.

Tomato Ricotta Pie

Summer is the best for being up-to-your-eyeballs in fresh tomatoes. All our tomato plants are doing really well this year. Hallelujah. The cherry tomatoes seem to produce a handful per day and the larger tomatoes thankfully ripen just a few at a time. My rents have a bumper crop of cukes and tomatoes which we’ve “helped” to consume.

Sometimes on an ‘anything goes’ night our mystery ingredient is…surprise, tomatoes. I had a few large ones at the same time so I wanted to plan something that would really highlight tomatoes. I adapted a Cooking Light Tomato Ricotta Pie which was more about the shredded cheese and Martha Stewart’s Tomato Ricotta Tart which uses breadcrumbs for the base/crust.

Three Bite Rule - Tomato Ricotta Pie

Ingredients:

1 pie crust, thawed (or made from scratch)
3 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
2 eggs
½ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup light alfredo sauce (optional)
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Gently unroll pie crust into a pie dish sprayed with non-stick spray, poking a few holes into the crust with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes.
While crust is pre-baking, whisk together ricotta, eggs, parmesan, alfredo sauce, garlic, salt and pepper.
Three Bite Rule - Tomato Ricotta Pie
Remove crust from oven and pour the cheese mix.
Lay the tomatoes over the top slightly overlapping.
Three Bite Rule - Tomato Ricotta Pie
Sprinkle with extra sea salt or fleur de sel.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Three Bite Rule - Tomato Ricotta Pie
Optional: broil for the last 3 minutes to give the tomatoes more color.
Let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
Three Bite Rule - Tomato Ricotta Pie

I liked that this was light but filling. It was kind of along the lines of quiche, but less eggy. I am pretty obsessed with ricotta so I enjoyed this. It could easily pretend to be brunch food too. I liked the leftovers too.

I didn’t happen to have any fresh basil but a little bit of that would be good. I absolutely don’t think this would have been the same with grocery store tomatoes. Quick! Find a farmer’s market near you!

Maybe I’ll try the breadcrumb as crust idea for a zucchini pie next.

Cost Breakdown:
crust: $1.84
tomatoes: free! (or about $2 at a farmer’s market)
ricotta: $2.19
eggs: $0.32
alfredo sauce: (half of a jar) $1.34
parmesan cheese: $1.19
total: $6.69 (serves 4 as a meal ($1.67 per person), or 6 as a meal/brunch accompaniment ($1.11 per person)

Can’t beat that price per person!

Falafel Burgers & Basil White Bean Spread

I’ve been all about the meatless meals lately. Summer seems like such a perfect time for that. I saw Jess Fuel make a white bean and basil spread and I thought it would be really good as a hummus alternative. I make baked falafel regularly so this was a perfect time to make a spread. It would be a good dip as well, but I used mine on a falafel “burger” as a condiment.

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Ingredients:

1 can white beans
2 cups basil
1 tbs garlic, chopped
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tbs olive oil
salt & pepper

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, add all the ingredients.
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Blend well, taste, and season with added salt and pepper accordingly.
Enjoy!
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This is so simple. The beans make it thick and hearty and the basil adds the freshness. I don’t know that it would be my go-to dip or anything, but I liked the flavors and love how easy it was. It was a great way to use fresh basil since it only has a few days of shelf life. It would be easy to customize with roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, lemon + mint, or adding cuke chunks and feta. I have to remember this when needing to make something cheap or easy.

For the falafel, I baked them like usual, but I made us each a big patty rather than a bunch of small falafel balls. I served them like a burger but with the bean spread, lettuce, and cucumber slices. These were good, but probably won’t be my go-to for falafel night. I think I still like them in a pita or wrap with feta and hummus. They make great little sliders for an appetizer too!
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Have more basil? Use it for Strawberry Basil Sangria or Grilled Bruschetta Pizza or on a made-at-home sub!

Zucchini Pasta with Burrata

Last year about this time I was working an event in Cali, and I wasn’t psyched to be “on-event” again. In the fall, I tend to travel to Cali 2-3 times in just a few weeks. But then, one staff dinner I was introduced to burrata cheese. I hadn’t ever had it before and it was amazing. It made me so happy and all was right with the world.

We went to Pitfire Pizza and were served family style. One of the pizzas was the Burrata Pie: tomato sauce, burrata cheese, wild arugula, caramelized onion, hazelnuts, and pesto drizzle. Thankfully a few of my colleagues thought it was a bit weird. All the more for me. I have no recollection as to what else was served.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

I couldn’t get enough of the burrata. It was mystical. It is too good to be sold at grocery stores. #truestory. We may have given thousands? hundreds? of bicycle riders the weekend of a lifetime. I mostly remember the burrata.

I happened upon some at the farmer’s market and didn’t have to think twice. I figured with such a decadent cheese I would do a somewhat lighter pasta. I made way too much pasta with such a large zucchini. Half the pasta unless you want to be eating/serving 6 servings like me.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

Ingredients:

1 lbs angel hair/linguine/other thin pasta
1 large zucchini
16 oz Pastene kitchen ready tomato
1 cup basil leaves
2 tbs garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1 medium/large burrata

Directions:

Boil generously salted water in a large pot for the pasta.
Using a box grater or mandolin, cut zucchini the long direction.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Drop pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the packaging.
Heat tomato sauce over medium heat in a very large skillet (big enough to fit the pasta once it cooks).
Add garlic, half the basil, and zucchini to the tomato sauce when the pasta is almost cooked (for the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking).
When pasta is cooked but still al dente, remove and put directly into the tomato sauce skillet (do not drain).
Cook while mixing for just a minute or two while gently tossing in the sauce.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Serve the pasta with the remaining basil, and a touch of salt and pepper (I used some rosemary fleur de sel). Finally top with burrata.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Cut the burrata when ready to eat.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

This was lovely. I was so happy when the pure tomato sauce became pink with burrata cream. The flavors were perfect. The zucchini adapted to its role as pasta easily.

If you haven’t had burrata then you have to try it. It is like mozzarella to the extreme. The center is filled with cream that just tastes like cheese. Burrata is delicious so it would be great on salad and hunks of good bread.

Grilled Bruschetta Pizza

People always tell me that pizza dough is hard to work with. I swear by my pizza stone, but I also wanted to be sure to make some pizzas with alternative crust options. I’ve made french bread pizza and Greek Pita Pizza too if pizza dough isn’t your thing.

I grabbed some ready-made crusts and think they’re a fool-proof option. I did one grilled flatbread and some naans as crust for lunch ones.
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Ingredients:

1 flatbread (or 2 naan)
1 cup tomato sauce (or my fav Kitchen Ready Pastene)
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1-2 medium tomatoes
4 oz fresh mozzarella
4 leaves fresh basil (don’t substitute)
salt & pepper

Directions:

Grill flatbread on hot grill for just a few minutes, flipping once
Top with tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and chopped tomato.
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Gently lay slices of fresh mozzarella on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
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Grill for just a few minutes, until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the grill and immediately top with fresh basil.
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Let sit for about 3 minutes before cutting.
Enjoy!

This pizza is ready in just a few minutes. It seriously takes less time than pre-heating the grill (or oven). I made the flatbread on the grill and made the naan in the oven to be lunch the next day.

The flatbread was chewy and got a touch crisp from the grill. The naan was thinner and I liked the slight sweetness of the wheat dough. This bruschetta pizza requires so few ingredients I strongly urge you not to skip the fresh mozzarella and the fresh basil. These two ingredients make the pizza flavorful.
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This is such an easy way to whip up pizza. The naan was perfect for individual servings and I loved something different off the grill! Who’s excited for the Bachelorette finale? I totally called last week’s action and I’m curious what this next one will be. I can’t imagine a 2 hour finale to have her pick nobody. It can’t take 2 hours to break up with 2 guys. We’ll see what shakes out with this last rose and if they announce the next Bachelor. I don’t think it’ll be Brooks. He can’t express himself. Mr. J hears it in passing and a) wants nothing to do with it and b) thinks this guy will be the next one. All this being said, I’m reading a 700-something page book right now so that my head doesn’t turn to mush with this trash & RHONJ. #guiltypleasure

Bruschetta Pizza Cost Breakdown
This breakdown is for either the flatbread or the naan. There would be enough sauce, cheeses, and basil to make both!
crust: $3.30
tomato: $0.50
shredded mozzarella: $2.50
fresh mozzarella: $2.00
fresh basil: $1.00
total = $9, serves 2 for $4.50 each