Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chipotle Grilled Pork Chops

Any plans for the long weekend? I started talking about it yesterday - Monday - which is going to make this feel like a loooong week.  KK will be a groomsman for the first time this weekend in the wedding of his oldest friend from middle school.  After the wedding festivities, we're heading down to my brother-in-law's house to meet the newest additions to the family.  I cannot wait to become an aunt!! With that being said, I'm admittedly slightly terrified of holding a newborn for the first time.  There's a first time for everything though, right?

We changed it up a bit and had pork instead of chicken.  KK bought pork (on sale) for the Cinnamon Spiced Pork Skewers I made for camping in July, and there was a little meat to spare that he was determined to find use for.  The pork had already thawed in a plastic Ziploc bag, so I poured the remaining marinade ingredients into the bag, squished everything around to ensure all of the ingredients were blended, and marinated for 6 hours in the refrigerator.  You can get by with only an hour of soaking, but your meat may get mushy if you marinate for more than 8 hours because of the citrus in the orange juice.  If you want to make the dish less spicy, reduce the amount of chipotle in adobo you use, and make sure the seeds are removed from the pepper.  Depending on the temperature of your grill, the pork should cook in 8-10 minutes.  Watch the meat carefully as it cooks to ensure it doesn't overcook and become overly chewy.  If you don’t already have one, I strongly suggest investing in a meat thermometer; it’s recently become one of my favorite cooking tools.  According to Food Safety, the pork will be cooked and safe to eat once the internal temperature reaches 145 °F.  I served the pork with a side of Chicken & Garlic Rice-a-Roni, and a mix of peas and corn. Yum!

Chipotle Grilled Pork Chops
Adapted from Plain Chicken
Time: 15 minutes + marination time (1-8 hours)
Serves 2

¾ lb. pork chop, 2 pieces
1 ½ Tbsp pureed chipotle in adobo

½ cup orange juice
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Place pork in a plastic Ziploc bag; add chipotle, orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, oregano, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper to the bag.  Squish all ingredients together to thoroughly coat the pork.  Marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 8 hours.

2.  Heat a grill or grill pan to medium.  Grill pork 4-5 minutes per side.  Let meat rest 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cauliflower Pepperoni Casserole

KK found a great bargain for early bird Thai food on Friday night.  We met a friend at Pinto at 5:45 (deal ended at 6!) and each enjoyed a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), appetizer, and entree for $15.  What a steal!  Along with it being an amazing deal, Pinto is also very PATH-friendly for those coming from Jersey.  Dinner was quicker than we expected, so we grabbed a quick beer at Lederhosen before heading deep into Brooklyn (Crown Heights) for my co-worker friend's birthday.  We hung out at his apartment for awhile before migrating to Franklin Park; we enjoyed the unseasonably cool summer weather on the bar's large outdoor patio.  Friday was the highlight of the weekend; KK and I spent the remainder of the weekend catching up on sleep, errands, and cleaning.

I did, however, get to have my first experience cooking with cauliflower.  Along with broccoli, I tend to avoid cauliflower when it's an option on a crudite platter.  That being said, I was slightly intrigued because the guy I used to sit next to at work was into Paleo for awhile, and he constantly talked about the different things he and his girlfriend cooked up using cauliflower as a base.  When KK added this to the menu rotation, I was excited yet nervous to give it a try.  I had a little trouble pureeing the cauliflower, perhaps because my blender wasn't working properly and my food processor was too small.  I strongly recommend using a properly functioning blender because I had to use a hand blender and that got a little messy (picture flying cauliflower puree - whoops).  Casserole assembly was simple, and it looked nicely crisped on the edges in 20 minutes.  I've updated the ingredient list below because I recommend adding a bit of seasoning to the cauliflower crust.  KK and I easily finished this by ourselves, but it would serve 4-6 as a side dish.

Cauliflower Pepperoni Casserole

Adapted from I Breathe... I'm Hungry...
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2

1 medium head of cauliflower
4 Tbsp evaporated milk
1 Tbsp butter
20 slices pepperoni, divided
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Cooking spray

1. Clean and trim the cauliflower, breaking it into medium sized pieces.  Place in a microwave safe bowl with evaporated milk and butter.  Microwave uncovered for 10 minutes on high.  Stir to coat, then microwave for another 6 minutes.  Cauliflower should be tender.

2.  Preheat oven to 375.

3. Place cauliflower into a blender or food processor; add 8 slices of pepperoni and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Puree mixture until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

4. Grease an 8x8 oven-safe casserole dish with cooking spray, and spread cauliflower puree evenly over the bottom of the dish.  Cover with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and layer with remaining pepperoni. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tomato & Corn Quiche

100 posts! Woo!! 3D Dinners is about 8 months old, and I'm impressed that I've been able to keep it up relatively consistently for this long.  Of course, I wouldn't have been able to do it without help from my trusty sous chef, blog editor, and husband extraordinaire.  And of course you readers! Thanks so much for following me!

My favorite school lunch as a child was breakfast-for-lunch.  The other night, KK and I had breakfast-for-dinner instead.  This quiche could really be served for any meal - breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner.  It reminds me a bit of KK's favorite Corn, Pesto, and Tomato Pizza, but with less pesto and more egg.  I made the pie dough around lunchtime, so it chilled in the fridge for about 5 hours.  I don't have much experience with pie crusts, so I don't know if there's any benefit for chilling it longer.  Instead of using only all-purpose flour, I used half whole wheat flour.  If you do the same, you'll need to add a little more water to get the dough to the right consistency.   The addition of vermouth gives the caramelized onions a subtle herb/citrus flavor which I quite like.  Although there was already a good portion of vegetables in the quiche, I served it with a spinach salad on the side.

Tomato & Corn Quiche

Adapted from A Hint of Honey
Time: 2 hours chill time + 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Crust Ingredients
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, diced
3-4 Tbsp ice water

Quiche Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
3-5 Tbsp white cooking wine or vermouth
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 tsp dried basil
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Make the pie crust first.  Mix flour and salt in food processor; add diced butter and pulse until a coarse mixture forms.  Gradually blend in water until dough begins to clump.  Using your hands, form dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. When ready to prepare the quiche, preheat oven to 450.  Lightly dust working surface with flour; using a rolling pin, roll dough to fit a 9-inch pie dish.  Place crust into dish, and press it evenly into the bottom and sides.  Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork several times.

3. Bake crust for about 10 minutes, until it turns golden brown.

4. While the crust bakes, heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and season with salt and pepper.  Caramelize onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden brown, about 25 minutes.  For added flavor, mix in cooking wine and stir until all liquid is evaporated.  If necessary, reduce heat to prevent onions from burning.

5. When the crust is finished, reduce oven heat to 350.  Spread caramelized onions over the bottom of the crust.  Toss tomatoes, corn, and basil in a medium bowl, and then spread over the onions.

6.  Using the same bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, and pour over the filling in the pie dish.

7. Bake 45-60 minutes, until the center is set and the top is golden brown.  Cover edges of the dish with tin foil if the pie crust begins to burn before the quiche is finished cooking.  Cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuscan Garlic Chicken

Last night, KK and I went on the 4th annual (although it was our 1st) Guac Rock cruise/concert/guacamole-eating festival/boat ride with my coworker friends.  We got there early enough to snag seats on the deck for the group, the weather was perfect, and the views of NYC were incredible.  They served Sixpoint beer which I'd  not had before; I highly recommend The Crisp and Sweet Action.  We sampled about five different guacamole recipes, including the mix from the winner of Guactacular 2013.  Understandably, the Guactacular winners wouldn't share their award-winning recipe with us, but I think the key to their success was the Modelo/lime juice/salt mixture they sprayed on top of each serving.  I will definitely be on the lookout for this event next year!

To be honest, I am not a huge fan of Olive Garden.  There are so many Italian restaurants to choose from, especially in Hoboken and NYC, that I prefer avoiding chain restaurants.  When KK told me that this recipe was a re-creation of an Olive Garden dish, I was immediately skeptical.  The end result, however, was delicious! I really liked the sauce, with the fresh veggies adding to the flavor.  As the chicken cooks,  do not move it around in the skillet.  By leaving it in one place, the flour mixture forms a crust on the chicken.  One last piece of advice: I recommend doing all of your prep work first (chopping, mincing, measuring) because things move quickly in this recipe so it helps to have everything ready to use in advance!

Tuscan Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Cooking spray
1 lb. chicken breasts
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp flour
½ Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
8 oz. fettuccine
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
½ cup chicken broth
6 oz. fresh spinach
2 tsp cornstarch
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup skim milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly grease it with cooking spray.

2. Combine ¾ cup flour, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a shallow dish.  Butterfly chicken into thin pieces, and cut into smaller servings, about 4 pieces in total.  Coat each piece of chicken thoroughly with flour mixture.

3. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until the oil is hot. Place chicken breasts in the skillet, and cook for 3-4 minutes each side, until golden brown.  Chicken will not be cooked all the way through.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and place it on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Set aside and tent with foil.

4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

5.  Wipe the previously used skillet with paper towels.  Return the skillet to medium heat and add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to the pan.  Once hot, add garlic and red pepper, and saute for 3 minutes.

6.  Stir in 1 Tbsp flour and stir constantly while cooking for 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

7. Whisk in cornstarch, evaporated milk, and skim milk; then stir in the spinach.  Keep the mixture at a simmer and continue to cook until spinach wilts and sauce thickens, about 3-4 additional minutes.  Finally, stir in Parmesan cheese.

8. Toss pasta with the cheese sauce.  Serve immediately, serving the breaded chicken breasts on top of the pasta.  If the pasta and sauce mixture seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Oven-Baked Chimichangas

Well the weekend of no plans turned into quite a busy one! KK met his cousin at Pilsner Haus, Hoboken's biergarten, while I stayed home to relax on Friday night.  We spent the majority of Saturday in Brooklyn.  We walked half of the Brooklyn Bridge (the Brooklyn side) for the  surprise engagement of two of my friends! After the big question (with the answer being YES, of course!), we hung out at a friend's apartment, BBQ'd on the roof with panoramic views of downtown NYC, and celebrated the engagement with a few champagne toasts.  After dinner, we headed out to Ceol and met up with some of my coworker friends for some karaoke.  I spared everyone, but KK definitely did a duet with one of our friends! On Sunday, we went to Anthony David's for a BYOChampagne brunch, and then fulfilled some bridesmaid duties with a little wedding arts and crafts! I'm feeling slightly exhausted right now, but it was an amazingly fun weekend!

Oven-baked chimis.  This was one of KK's favorite NYC-friendly meals.  The dish's spice comes from the chipotle peppers, so there's no need to have additional herbs in the pantry.  The rest of the dish's ingredients were the basic essentials KK used to keep on hand - rice, beans, and tortillas.  Perfect! If you have extra filling, you can either make additional chimis or just eat the rice and bean mixture on the side as a snack while the chimis are in the oven.  Make sure to coat the chimis with oil before baking them.  It may seem like a superfluous step, but the oil makes the outside of the tortillas nice and crispy.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, or guacamole if you have it on hand.

Oven-Baked Chimichangas
Adapted from Mel's Kitchen
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4


3/4 cup brown or white rice
3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 lb. chopped chicken
1 onion, chopped fine
16-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese 
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 large burrito-size flour tortillas
Salsa and sour cream, for serving


1.  Place rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450.  Cook rice according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil over in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook chicken until no longer pink inside.  Plate and set aside.

3.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same skillet, and cook onion until softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the beans, rice, chicken and chipotle.  Cook until the mixture is heated through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, stir in cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place tortillas on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave until warm, about 30 seconds.  Top each tortilla with a scoop of the chicken mixture, leaving a 1-2 in. border around the edges.  Fold in the sides and roll up the tortillas into tight wraps.

5. Remove prepared baking sheet from oven and carefully cover with tinfoil.  Brush tortillas with remaining oil; place seam-side down on the baking sheet.  Bake until chimichangas are golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.  Serve topped with salsa and/or sour cream.

Friday, August 16, 2013

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Happy weekend! Have I mentioned that my sister-in-law is pregnant? Well – she is! As an only child, I never thought much about being an aunt, but that obviously changed when I married KK because his brother has been happily married for 10 years.  We’re staying local the next two weekends as we anxiously await the arrival of our twin niece and nephew! We’ll race down to Delaware as soon as my SIL goes into labor so we can meet the newest additions to the family as soon as they arrive.  If that doesn't happen this weekend, we might spend some time wandering NYC or maybe we’ll drive down to the beach for a day trip.  It’s been such a busy summer that I’m actually looking forward to two unplanned weekends.  What are you doing this weekend?

I keep seeing one-pot meals on Pinterest and on blogs I follow, so I was eager to give one a try.  This was a perfect meal for Tuesday night when I got home late from the gym – I chopped the ingredients, threw them into the pot, left KK on stirring duty while I took a quick shower, and then dinner was ready to serve by the time I was showered! SO simple!  Cleanup was also a breeze, so I know KK is now a fan of one-pot meals.  I wish I’d taken a before picture like Emily from The Culinary Couple.  But, to be honest, I wasn't careful when I combined the ingredients in the Dutch oven, so it wasn't necessarily something pretty enough to be posted on the blog.  I used garlic salt instead of regular table salt, and didn't have fresh basil so I was forced to used dried basil instead.  I’ll get an herb garden going one of these days (probably not until we move somewhere with a yard or balcony though…).  I didn't realize it at first, but I let too much broth absorb when I cooked the dish.  The first serving was fine, but the pasta looked a little dry when I went back for seconds.  I added a little hot water from the tap to the pot, gave the remaining pasta a quick stir, and it was as good as new! I’m really looking forward to leftovers of this one. Enjoy!

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta
Adapted from The Culinary Couple
Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1 lb. linguine
28-oz. can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 ½ cups vegetable broth
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 ½ tsp dried basil, or 2 large springs of fresh basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, for garnish

1. Place pasta, diced tomatoes and juices, onion, garlic, and vegetable broth in a large stock pot or Dutch oven.  Sprinkle oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, sage, and thyme on top; drizzle top with olive oil.

2. Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring every 2 minutes, about 10-15 minutes in total.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teriyaki Fried Rice

While home last weekend, KK and I helped my dad clean out the pantry and fridge.  KK noticed a nearly empty bottle of Teriyaki sauce in the cabinets and, after my dad confirmed he had no plans to use it, KK confiscated it.  Little did I know that KK already had a recipe in mind for Sunday night, so the bottle never made it past our kitchen counter!

This dish catered to KK’s not-so-secret love of Chinese takeout, and my new-found love for my wok.  This recipe would be great for leftover cooked chicken, or even beef or pork.  Use any veggies you have on hand – water chestnuts, edamame, broccoli (can you believe I’m even suggesting this?!?), asparagus, baby corn, cabbage – I don’t think it’s possible to have too many vegetables! If you’re adding different veggies, make sure you give the most dense varietals a few additional minutes of cook time in your wok.  Start by adding ¼ cup Teriyaki sauce, and then add additional sauce if you think the mixture looks dry.  I measured ¼ cup, but then poured the remainder of the bottle in; I’m guessing it was about cup in total.  Since I can’t remember us ever ordering Chinese takeout, KK was in heaven… he had seconds and thirds.  Needless to say, there were no leftovers!

Teriyaki Fried Rice
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2-4

1 cup uncooked rice
1 tsp vegetable oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 red pepper, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup cubed chicken breast
2 whisked eggs
¼ to ½ cup Teriyaki sauce
Sriracha sauce

1. Cook rice according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat ½ teaspoon oil in the wok; cook chicken until no longer pink inside.  Remove chicken from wok, plate and set aside.

3. Heat the remaining oil in the same wok.  Cook garlic until golden brown, about 1 minute.

4.  Add carrots and cook 3-4 minutes until slightly tender.  Add corn, peas, red pepper, and onion to wok and cook another 3-4 minutes until veggies are tender and start to brown.  Add chicken and warm through.

5. Push vegetable mixture to the sides of the wok.  Add whisked eggs to the center and stir gently until they set.  Add Teriyaki sauce and cooked rice to the wok, and stir until all ingredients are well combined.  Serve and, if desired, top with Sriracha sauce.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cajun Stuffed Chicken

My dad’s birthday was last week, so KK and I drove down to Virginia to visit him.  We took Friday off from work and planned a big day out in DC.  Instead of driving and dealing with downtown parking, we opted to take the Metro and KK was strangely excited about his first Metro experience.  We had lunch at Thaaja, which is a Chipotle-inspired Indian restaurant KK’s brother-in-law, SK, opened in January.  SK developed all of the flavor-combinations and recipes himself, and the food did not disappoint.  I had a Thaaja wrap with paneer (delicious), while my dad and KK each ordered two smaller kati rolls, allowing them to sample several different combinations.  We practically licked our plates clean and will definitely be back to visit next time we’re in the area!

After lunch, we headed over to the Newseum.  The original Newseum, located in Virginia, was one of my dad’s favorite museums but I never had the chance to visit it.  It closed in 2002, and reopened in a larger building in DC in 2008.  Outside the front doors, the museum displays the daily front pages from every state.  Inside, the gallery continued with front pages from several international papers around the world.  It was interesting to see the range of stories on the front pages (football, gas prices, lotto numbers, politics…).  The entrance fee was a little steep ($22/person), but the museum allows you to visit the next day for free using the same ticket.  We really enjoyed all of the exhibits we saw, especially the 9/11 Gallery, the Berlin Wall Gallery, and the JFK exhibit (on display through January 5, 2014).

Our final, and most important stop of the night was Nationals Park.  KK is on a life-long quest to visit all of the MLB stadiums across the country (and Canada)! Nationals Park marked his 8th stadium; it was my 9th, and my dad’s been to so many stadiums that he’s lost track!  We grabbed beers and fit in a game of cornhole at The Bullpen before the game.  Given the Nationals are on a losing streak, tickets were very inexpensive so we were about 20 rows up from the first baseline.  Nothing really stood out as particularly interesting at the stadium – built in 2008, it’s a nice, new stadium with easy public transportation via Metro.  It was a boring game, but the Nationals beat the Phillies 9-2.  We did, however, enjoy watching the Racing Presidents at the bottom of the 4th inning – George Washington won despite the fact that Teddy Roosevelt was dressed as a shark in honor of Shark Week!

The rest of the weekend was pretty low key.  Since we were out all day Friday, I cooked my dad a birthday dinner on Saturday.  I doubled the recipe below because both my dad and KK tend to eat a lot.  I turned the 2 lbs. of chicken I bought (3 breasts) into 6 pieces of stuffed chicken.  Depending on the size of each piece and how well I rolled, I used anywhere between 4 and 8 toothpicks on each piece of chicken.  It’s OK to have the toothpicks sticking out when you put the chicken in the oven because the chicken expands as it’s cooked, making it sometimes difficult to locate the toothpicks before serving.  I suggest counting the number of toothpicks you use at the beginning, and then finding the same number of toothpicks once you’re done cooking! I used the store-bought Cajun seasoning my dad had in the pantry, but I wish I’d made my own because I found the store-mix to be overly salty.  I served the Cajun chicken with a side salad and Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf.  This was my first attempt at making stuffed chicken breasts, and thankfully it was a success.  KK suggested we buy more toothpicks at the grocery, implying there will be future renditions of stuffed chicken on our menu in the future!

Cajun Stuffed Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Creations
Time: 1 hour
Serves: 2-3

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
10-oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 Tbsp breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Cover a baking sheet with tin foil.

2.  Butterfly chicken breasts, and use a kitchen mallet to flatten each piece to 1/4-inch thickness.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. In a medium bowl, combine pepper jack cheese and spinach.  In a small bowl, combine the Cajun seasoning and breadcrumbs.

4. Divide spinach mixture between each chicken breast, and spoon on top of the chicken.  Roll each chicken breast tightly around the spinach mixture and fasten the seams with toothpicks.

5.  Brush each chicken breast with the olive oil.  Sprinkle Cajun seasoning evenly over each piece, including underneath the chicken.

6. Place the chicken seam-side up onto the prepared baking sheet, and cook 30 to 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  Remove the toothpicks before serving. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cinnamon-Spiced Pork Skewers

Camping was a success! There were a few minor hiccups before we got on the road – one of my passengers was late due to a messy dog and then my car battery needed a jump because we waited with the radio on for too long – but everyone made it to the campsite by 8PM on Friday.  With 14 of us at the campsite, we quickly got the tents up, built a fire, and had the grill going for dinner (more on that later).  After dinner, we sat around the campfire, ate s’mores and Firecracker Cookies, and played drinking games.  Thanks to one of the newbies, we learned a new drinking game called Drink While You Think.  Try it – it’s loads of fun! As soon as we put everything away on Friday night and got into our tents, it started to rain.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

When we woke up on Saturday morning, the rain had cleared.  It turned into a beautiful day which we spent floating down the river, sometimes in rafts and sometimes just swimming.  We spent Saturday evening in a similar fashion as we did on Friday, and enjoyed a traditional campsite dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers.  We let the morning dew dry and used up the rest of our firewood before packing up camp and returning to civilization (a.k.a. Dunkin' Donuts) on Sunday.  As much as I love camping and spending the weekend outside, I was glad to be at home and in a bed on Sunday night!

Back to Friday’s dinner! After prepping the skewers on Friday morning, I had my first experience cooking on a grill that night! We couldn't find the tongs at first, so I had a little trouble rotating the first batch of skewers, but things got much easier once the tongs were located! It was a gas grill, so the meat didn't finish with a smokey, charcoal taste to it, but I did blacken the skewers more than I do on the grill pan at home... because I'm usually worried about the apartment's smoke detectors going off! Watch the pork carefully because it can get tough and chewy if cooked for too long.  All of the skewers were devoured meaning they were a hit! The Chipotle Chicken Kabobs were slightly more popular than the pork, but I really enjoyed the flavor combination of cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  It reminded me a bit of the Moroccan Chicken Thighs I made at the beach this year.  Real Simple also noted that the spice mixture works equally as well on beef or chicken, so maybe I'll try with poultry next time!

Cinnamon-Spiced Pork Skewers
Adapted from Real Simple
Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2-4


6-8 skewers
1 lb. boneless 1-in. thick pork chops, cut into 1/4-in. cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooking spray


1.  Soak 6-8 wooden skewers in water for 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toss together pork, olive oil, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper.  Let marinate for 5-10 minutes.  Thread pork onto skewers.

3. Heat grill or grillpan to medium-high.  Just before grilling, spray with cooking spray.  Grill skewers 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally until pork is cooked through.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Corn & Goat Cheese Quesadillas

When this publishes, we'll be rafting down the Delaware River, so keep your fingers crossed for good weekend weather in Pond Eddy, NY! 

Rewinding for a second: I don't think I've mentioned it before, but KK and I met at work in 2005, but we didn't start dating until he left the company in 2009.  We have a joint group of coworker friends that we hang out with a good bit.  This weekend is our 6th annual camping/rafting trip with these coworker friends, and it's something we all look forward to every year! Two of the usual couples couldn't make it this year - one's wife just had a baby, and another coworker is due in September - but we're forging on without them! Before leaving, I marinated chicken for Chipotle Chicken Kabobs and pork for Cinnamon-Spiced Pork Skewers (recipe forthcoming) for Friday night's dinner.  We'll either cook them directly over the campfire or on a charcoal grill.  I'll let you know how they turn out!

Remember that third ear of free corn I mentioned the other day? Well here it is! I husked the cork, cut off the kernels, browned them up a bit over the stove, and made these quesadillas! Despite the fact that he has a slight aversion to goat cheese, KK's been nice enough to include it in the menu rotation every now and again because it is one of my favorite cheeses.  Instead of waiting for your goat cheese to come to room temperature, throw it into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it for about 10 seconds.  After briefly heating it, it should be very easy to combine the cheese and corn.  With the 8-inch tortillas, I made 2.5 quesadillas.  If you don't have 8-inch tortillas (the original recipe called for 6-inch), use whatever size you have and use your judgement when dividing the cheese into servings/quesadillas.  KK was excited to switch from traditional red salsa (Chi Chi's always seems to be on sale) to salsa verde when we snagged this jar of Rosa Mexicano Salsa Verde de Habanero on super sale for $1.25.  The salsa verde was a nice change of pace, but be warned if you get the same kind because the habanero peppers make it HOT!!! And finally - cleanup was a breeze since the corn and quesadillas were cooked in the same skillet!

Corn & Goat Cheese Quesadillas
Adapted from myrecipes.com
Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

1 ear corn, kernels removed
5-oz. goat cheese, softened
4 to 6 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
2 Tbsp salsa verde, plus more for serving
Cooking spray
Red salsa and sour cream, for serving

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté corn 3-5 minutes, until browned.

2. Combine corn, goat cheese, and 2 Tbsp salsa verge in a small bowl; stir until combined.

3. Spread desired quantity of cheese mixture onto two tortillas, leaving 1/4 inch bare around the edges; cover with remaining tortillas.  If additional cheese mixture remains, make another quesadilla.

4. Reheat skillet over medium-high, and coat with cooking spray.  Cook one quesadilla at a time, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Recoat pan with cooking spray before each quesadilla.  Cut into wedges and serve with additional salsa verde, red salsa, and/or sour cream.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Jalapeño Cheddar Chicken Burgers

I don't know how she did it, but somehow my favorite bride-to-be found time in her busy schedule to share her bridal shower pictures.  She really is the best!  To the left you can see the beautiful bridesmaids, the almost-newleyweds, and the margarita making station! Aren't the margarita glasses so fun?

As if I hadn't had enough Mexican food on Saturday, KK decided we'd try a Mexican twist on chicken burgers.  Thankfully, my first attempt at homemade guacamole was a success, because it really made the meal! My guac was a trial-and-error experiment, so I don’t have a recipe to share.  My method was simple: slice up the avocado, add ½ diced onion (leftover from the burgers themselves), throw in some diced tomato, and then start tossing in spices.  I used garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper (be careful with that last one!), added them gradually, and taste-tested frequently until the flavor combination was right.  These burgers are extremely quick to assemble and cook.  Really dice up the onions and jalapeños into small pieces so your burgers aren’t chunky.  The leftover burgers should heat up nicely as leftovers for lunch or dinner later this week, but it’s too bad there isn't any leftover guac to top them with! In the spirit of summer, and because we had a coupon for three free, I quickly microwave-cooked a couple of corn cobs to go with the burgers.  Check back over the weekend to see how I used the third ear of corn!

Jalapeño Cheddar Chicken Burgers
Adapted from Annie’s Eats
Time: 15 minutes
Serve: 4

1 lb. ground chicken
½ small onion, diced
⅓ c. fresh cilantro, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp lime juice
⅓ c. shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
Cooking spray
4 burger buns
Guacamole and salsa, for topping

1. To make the burgers, combine ground chicken, onion, cilantro, garlic cloves, jalapeño, cumin, paprika, lime juice, and ⅓ cup shredded cheddar; season with salt and pepper.  Form mixture into 4 patties.

2. Heat grill pan or gas grill to medium-high heat; spray grill grates with cooking spray to prevent burgers from sticking.

3. Cook the patties on the grill, 3-4 minutes per side.  Just before the burgers are done, top with additional shredded cheddar cheese if desired.  Plate burgers and let rest a few minutes before serving.  Top buns and burgers with guacamole and salsa.
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