Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Szechuan Chicken and Veggie Bowl



I recently gave a tour of the hospital campus and it followed with lunch in the cafeteria to continue discussion. Let me add that this cafeteria is amazing, it is not your average hospital food. The special of the day was a Szechuan chicken and I remember thinking to myself that I don't think I've ever actually opted for Szechuan anything, always choosing the sweet and sour, or teriyaki version. I didn't know anything about Szechuan sauce so I asked what it was, the answer? It's spicy. I decided to try it and I found that I really loved the savory heat of the sauce. My mouth was on fire and I loved it.

In forecasting the meal plan for the week, I thought about trying my own version at home for Mr. Max. I took to FoodNetwork.com and came across a few recipes that provided some good base ingredients, then continued with an inventory of our pantry/fridge to create my own recipe based on what I had and combinations I already knew we liked.

The nutrition facts for this meal are found here, calculated at SparkRecipes.com. If you want to try the sauce alone on your own creation, the nutrition facts for the full serving (5 servings worth) of the sauce can be found here.

Grocery List:
Yields 5 servings
  • 1 lb. chicken, cubed (about 2 chicken breasts)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, julienned (roughly 3/4 cup of carrot shreds)
  • 4 tbsp. Safflower oil, divided (or olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin
  • 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp. agave nectar 
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3/4 pack of whole wheat Udon noodles   
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
To begin, start by cooking your chicken in a large saute pan or wok. Everything will end up in the same pot so make sure you have something large enough to put it all in. Using about 2 tbsp. of safflower oil, heat to medium high and then add the chicken chunks to start cooking.

In a pot, boil water and then add the udon noodles. Cook until al dente (about 7 minutes), then drain in colander and set aside.

Once the chicken is almost cooked through, drain the skillet and then add the additional 2 tbsp. of oil. Add your onions, broccoli and bell pepper. Cover and let cook for about 5-6 minutes, allowing the veggies to soften and the chicken to finish cooking, then add the julienned carrot and cover again for an addition 3-4 minutes.

As you wait on your veggies to cook, begin the Szechuan sauce. Combine the tamari, hoisin, sriracha, agave, green onion, garlic and the melted butter in a dish. I rarely ever cook with butter but I needed an agent that would enrich the sauce, providing another dimension of flavor while also thickening it, clearly butter was the answer! When veggies and chicken are done, add the noodles to the pan and toss together with the sauce. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, I lightly dusted the pan, the sriracha was already working in the sauce but it just needed one more punch.

Plate and serve, using additional green onions as garnish if you prefer. Enjoy!
 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Salad Dressing, Ever.

 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-rUZXrkY8sj8/UAmLKwEXgbI/AAAAAAAAFAo/7uN_mFatANI/s320/Summer+cooking+451.JPG

I realize this title is a very bold claim. 

Let me rephrase this: if you like a hint of sweet and a punch of heat, if you are trying to get away from consuming fatty oils, if you are looking for a fat-free, sugar-free, practically carb-free salad dressing that you can make yourself... then yes, this is the best salad dressing ever

I came across the recipe last summer from Our Best Bites blog. It was a water-vinegar based marinade tossed with cucumbers, red pepper flakes and red onion. I made it as such, then put it on a bed of spinach leaves and paired it with simple chicken kabobs. It made for a wonderfully simple, delicious and nutritious dish!

Fast forward to now and I have my monthly girls-night-in cooking group. With swim suit season officially here, we decided to go with some light favorites with leafy greens and grilled lean proteins. I volunteered to contribute the salad and thought I would use this marinade as a salad dressing. Making a small edit to the original, I nixed the sugar and added a splash of red wine vinegar to the mix instead. Combining a plethora of baby greens, I added this cucumber and sweet/spicy "dressing" with avocado and feta cheese. We served it with chicken and shrimp skewers, the result was fantastic.

This week, I wanted to re-make that salad for Mr. Max in our weekly meal plan, but planned to take another past recipe that we loved and do a little recipe mash-up. For this dish I re-did the skinny Bangin' Good Shrimp originally acquired from Gina over at Skinnytaste. I made some very slight adjustments to her recipe the first time, mainly subbing the mayonnaise for Greek Yogurt to cut down on excess calories and fats, a wonderful result.

The two together were fantastic, it was perfect for a light week night meal, but definitely have a glass of water handy. The nutritional facts for the dressing alone can be found here; this is for a full 4 servings of the dressing, 1 serving would look more like this! The nutrition facts for the whole meal can be found here, both calculated by SparkRecipes.com.The meal combo is low in fat, calories, carbs, high in protein and fiber! Try this salad combo out, or make the dressing alone for your next summer salad and let me know how you like it!

Grocery List:
Recipe amount yields 3-4 servings

For Salad
*denotes ingredients used for dressing only
  • *1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • *1/4 cup water
  • *1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • *1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • *1/4 cup red onion
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, chopped (about 1.5 cups cucumber)
  • 3-4 cups mixed greens
  • 1 small avocado, chopped into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
For Shrimp
  • 1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, tail removed
  • 2 tbsp. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (I used Oikos)
  • 1 tbsp. green onion, diced (start chopping from white tips for most flavorful part of the bulb)
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha
  • 1 tsp. Sweet Red Chili Paste 
Start by making the dressing by combining all italicized ingredients into a small sauce pan, minus the red onion. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by almost 1/3 cup. This allows the liquids to thicken slightly and become a little more syrupy.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-eKW1yZiWwGY/UAmLJGamjKI/AAAAAAAAFAQ/WD-PhuFZxZg/s320/Summer+cooking+448.JPG

Once reduced, take off the heat and add the red onions. This time around, because I was adding a shrimp with some spice to them, I drained the liquid and discarded of the chili pepper flakes and seeds before adding the red onion. Let sit and cool for about 15 minutes or until room temperature.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-GujJmxqThSw/UAmLJmke6-I/AAAAAAAAFAY/E_uJEbcJ9zA/s320/Summer+cooking+449.JPG 

I chose to get already cooked shrimp on this grocery run. Okay, maybe it was not a cognitive decision, it was done on accident, but it worked to my benefit. It decreased the time to prep the meal, which is always nice! I simply took the cooked shrimp, removed the tails and combined them with the mixture of the greek yogurt, green onions, sriracha and sweet red chili sauce. 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NLbIvv1Bggs/UWA0nPihgeI/AAAAAAAAFOk/L6amGszQfAM/s400/march+2013+011.JPG 

I decided to heat this in the microwave for a mere 30 seconds to warm up the already cooked shrimp just a tad.  Adding the lettuce, feta, cucumber and avocado to the bowl, I poured in the dressing and mixed the contents well. Plated the result and topped with the shrimp (5 for me, 7-8 for Mr. Max). 



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day Gifts: Special Edition for the Expecting Mama



As soon as we finished a year of weddings, the next thing we know it's babies, babies, babies! I have four sweet friends all expecting little ones this fall and what a start to it all it has been! Recently attending my college roommate's gender reveal party, I returned home wanting to send her something special with Mother's Day around the corner and now that she knows she is seeing PINK.

Check out these gift ideas to love on an expecting mama to celebrate their exciting news!



You can go to Kendra Scott, in-store or online, to design jewelry at the Color Bar with four shades of pink to choose from and more than twenty jewelry piece options depending on your price range. Here are a few examples of designs to get your mind flowing: top left, Genny pendant necklace in Rose for $45; top right, Jayna bracelet in Coral $80; bottom left, Dayla earrings in Coral $65; bottom right, Rena earrings in Rose $85. They can wear this special jewelry to showers, baby events and more! The mama could even pass it down to that little girl someday as something special she wore during that time.


OPI Soft Shades Nail Polish - It's a Girl! NL-H39



You could send her a gift certificate to have a little maternity pampering with a nail appointment or simply gift this OPI color, It's a Girl, for $8.

Baby Headband, Girl Headband, Peach Coral Lace Headband, Baby girl Headband, newborn headband, vintage headband toddler fabric headband

 And what baby girl doesn't need enough bows! As seen on Etsy for $8.
 

Again, some of my Kendra Scott jewelry favorites. Choose from the hues ranging from cobalt to baby blue, or head to their Color Bar to create your own piece within your budget. Special tip, if you shop on a Wednesday night, their Ladies Night, there is a 15% discount off either a certain style in any color or off your entire purchase. From left to right we have: top left, Tavi stud earring for $50; top right, Carissa pendant in light blue for $45; bottom right, Genny pendant in Iolite for $45; bottom right is the Elle earring in turquoise for $52.

For little boy mommies, here are two colors they may love, Essie Baby's Breath for $8 or
Baby Blue from Sephora by OPI for $9.50


MUSTACHE PACIFIER

And a baby with a mustache is always funny, found here for $10



http://www.weddingandpartynetwork.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/gender-reveal.jpg

But what about those that don't know yet OR want to find out to find out when the little one arrives? Some special gift ideas for the surprise-loving mama include... 
You could give mother of pearl jewelry, like these Kendra Scott Elle earrings for $52.



My good friend has created a side business for paintings called MereWil Designs. I had her take this phrase and paint it for me on a pale yellow background for an expecting mom who does not know the gender. Click on her link to check out her store and contact her for your own custom 10x10 canvas for just $25! Or, for a quick fix, you can print it and frame it yourself.


Regardless of boy or girl, this is funny and fitting at the same time. Find it here for $8.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowl



Thai food. This is not something I can say we are very familiar with over here. 

I guess the only time we have made anything that could be considered Thai is when Mr. Max and I first started cooking together. One of our favorite dishes was a delicious chicken curry recipe that I had received in a random junk email from one of the many online subscriptions I had signed up for. The substance of the dish consisted of chicken chunks, red bell pepper, onions and sweet potatoes. Then, there were the combined spices of cumin, chili powder, and yellow curry powder all blended together in coconut milk to create a sauce. When all tossed together it was a tasty treat I served over brown rice. So that was one Thai recipe. Tonight we add number two. 

This dish comes from inspiration over on the How Sweet It Is blog. I was looking for a chicken dish that would be easy to whip up after a Tuesday evening workout, and one that would be more fun to make than a chicken breast with veggies. This dish certainly did not disappoint! How Sweet It Is raves about this Thai sauce, one she uses in various recipes, and I can see why. Girlfriend did goooood. I adapted her original recipe just a bit by excluding the peanuts and the cilantro. I also substituted PB2 for the peanut butter in order to reduce fat and calories where I could.

You can find the nutritional facts for this dish here, calculated at SparkRecipes.com.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 5 servings
  • 1 lb. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped thin
  • 1 cup edamame, shelled
  • 2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. PB2 (powdered peanut butter, squeezed of all fatty oils)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground ginger root
  • 1/4 cup green onion, chopped
To start, cook your quinoa according to package. While that cooks, combine the sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, coconut milk, brown sugar, PB2, garlic, lime juice and ginger in a bowl. Set aside.

 In a large saute pan, heat the frozen edamame and chopped carrots on low-medium heat to begin to cook and soften. Cook for about 5-8 minutes. When the quinoa is ready, add to the saute pan, followed by the chicken. Take the sauce and toss the contents of the pan to coat well.


Spoon into a bowl, garnish with green onion and enjoy!


Tastefully yours,

Make a Meal: Hoisin Grilled Salmon and Garlic-Ginger Bok Choy


 One thing you will not find a lack of around here is salmon recipes. 

Alas, here we go again with yet another fish dish starring the freshwater swimmer that inspired its very own color...the salmon. This is a tasty combination that I found in perusing Simply Recipes and seemed like a perfectly easy Monday night meal that also had a little "umph" to it. In this sense of "umph," I'm referring to pizazz - that's a fun word, pizazz - because each 8th of the month, I try to make sure I do something special for Mr. Max in honor of our wedding date. Okay, settle the gag reflexes. As we hit month four, he took my car in for me to find it had three nails in a single tire so in return, I got a bottle of our favorite Malbec that we discovered on our honeymoon, and made him dinner using his new favorite vegetable (bok choy) and a grilled salmon.

I took this Hoisin Salmon recipe and followed it exactly, but added some of my own...pizazz....to the bok choy. When we've bought bok choy prior to this, we've only been able to find the big momma kind, but this time, the baby bok bunches were on display so I grabbed two thinking one bunch would be enough for each of us. Note to self and to you: get more than that for two people. I forgot they wilt down, much like spinach, but not as volume decreasing. Try four and if you have leftovers, that's fantastic.

Nutritional facts can be found here, calculated at SparkRecipes.com.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 2 servings

For the salmon:

  • 2 salmon fillets (nutritional facts were based on a 4oz salmon fillet and an 6 oz salmon fillet)
  • 2 tbsp. Hoisin
  • 2 tsp. Tamari (low-sodium, organic soy sauce)
  • 1-2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Mirin (sweet rice wine - an adaption from original recipe)
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed then minced (smashing allows the garlic to release oils, creating a stronger flavor. Also by spreading it out and smashing before mincing, you are creating more of a minced paste, rather than minced bits, helping it to permeate into the sauce, rather than remain in chunks and burn - learned this at a Central Market cooking class and wanted to share that tidbit with you!)
For the bok choy:
  •  2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp. of freshly grated ginger root
  • 4 baby bok choy bunches, rinsed and leaves separated from the base, trimmed
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
We start be prepping the salmon. I felt compelled to take advantage of the nicer weather and use the grill for that nice, smokey taste. First, start your grill and let it get nice and hot. Next, we make the marinade/sauce for the salmon fillets. In a small bowl, combined the hoisin, tamari, Mirin, brown sugar and garlic.

Place the fillets skin up in a dish and cover in the sauce, reserving about 3 tbsp worth of sauce for later, then flip over to skin side down. Marinate for 15-20 minutes to allow the fish oils in the skin to seem down into the meat of the fillet for those omega 3s. By removing the skin prior to cooking, you do not reap the full health benefits of the fish. That one I learned from the meat counter man at Central Market. I looked it up, he is correct. Once it has marinated, set it on a grill pan and grill for 10-12 minutes.


Finally, take a saute pan, wok or large skillet and heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the green onion and cook for about 3 minutes, followed by the garlic. Add the bok choy, followed by the ginger and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes. Add a little more olive oil if needed. Place a lid over top and let wilt down for about 3 minutes.

Finally, we take the salmon, apply the left over glaze and turn on the broiler to low. Stick the salmon in for 2 minutes and broil to finish caramelizing the sauce onto the fish and adding a nice, crisp top. Dish the fish on a plate and pair with your greens, dinner is served!



Tastefully yours,


Monday, April 8, 2013

Wedding Gifts: Bridesmaids!


Your bridesmaids. 
They are your Xanax throughout the wedding process. 

They are your sounding boards when you have yet another idea for escort cards or "action stations" that may or may not be a good one. They are there to listen as you freak out about, well, anything. They will laugh with you and cry with you when you pick your dress. They plan with you and for you, they sacrifice their time to do things to help you and attend your events. They spend money on your behalf and they go out of their way to throw you an amazing Bachelorette party or come into town to be with you at a shower. This is so much to be thankful for and certainly something to give thanks about!

One of my favorite parts of the wedding planning process was planning on the gift giving. It was a different way to express creativity and also dote on others that are doing so much for you. I wanted my girls to feel special each month as they planned showers and attended special events for me, this was the time that they should be feeling appreciated, not just the weekend of the wedding. So, I sat down and thought out what I wanted to give them and started sending them little packages in the mail beginning four months out from the wedding, each small gift was something they would use for and after the wedding. Here are some ideas of gifts and where to find them!

Gift 1
I decided to start with something cutesy and simple. I found a nail polish color that I thought they would love to receive, but also the color I wanted them to wear. It is the perfect natural shade of pinky-nude, Ballet Slipper by Essie. I ordered it off Amazon.com and then bought 3 packs of mini emory boards at Ulta. I found small, beautiful cards at a local paper store, Needle in a Haystack, and bundled it all together in ivory sachets from Michael's. I wrote a thank you poem and sent it in a personalized card to each girl.


Gift 2
Three months out, I found a perfect bracelet on one of those Facebook Accessory Auction sites. My favorite one, Accessory Dash (seriously, check it out - Hilary is wonderful!), had a pearl bracelet with a diamond pave encrusted gold ball. It was classy and the perfect look for the day of. I knew this would be something the girls would be able to wear for and far after the wedding - heck, I got one for myself and wear it to work, LBD's and even little red crop pants and peplum top! Thinking about the "pearl," I wrote each girl a special message talking about the symbolism of a pearl and how that relates to our friendship then asked that she wear this on the wedding day. I got one for myself too and we all wore them together, as shown below!

Gift 3
Two months out, I was searching for the perfect earring. I wanted something to compliment the dress and the bracelet when I stumbled across a pair of earrings at Target. They matched the bracelet perfectly and again, would be a classy and timeless look the girls could wear not only for the wedding, but long after. I put them on red ribbon and then in a sachet. I sent them with a simple message to dress up their lobes on December 8!

Gift 4
One of my 'maids lives in New Jersey and frequently goes into NYC for work and fun. I casually asked her if she happened to be going before the end of October and if so, could she get me 6 ivory paschminas. I had bought a blue one earlier in the year when up there and the size and weight of the fabric was perfect. I had planned to buy the girls faux fur stoles that I had found, they looked classy and I thought they would be beautiful in pictures for a winter wedding. However, they were not practical and they would be solely for picture prop purposes, not really something that could be re-used. I wrote them a little note about how it was beginning to get colder and to wrap themselves up in warmth and love with this gift on the wedding day.

Gift 5
Finally, December came and it was wedding time! For their final gift, I went back and forth on a few options but in the end, I decided to go with over-sized, monogrammed buttoned down shirts to get ready in. After borrowing one of Max's button downs for the hair and makeup trials, it was so comfortable and I started wearing it around the apartment to clean or even to just lounge around in. I realized just how much I loved it, and it may be something the girls would use again and again. I ordered them at Lands End a few months before when they were having a "Friends and Family" deal so they were 30% off and only an additional $6 for monogramming. I decided to go with different shades of blue shirts for them, with me in white, and they were my somethings blue! I gave them their shirts at the bridal luncheon so they could arrive for hair and makeup the next morning with their "get ready" top.

It's been four months to the day, thank you ladies for being so special and such wonderful friends to Mr. Max and me. I love you each dearly!




Saturday, April 6, 2013

Make a Meal: Bang Bang Shrimp with Edamame "Fried" Quinoa



In my weekly pinterest perusing, I saw a shrimp recipe floating around from SkinnyTaste. Gina's blog was one of my initial inspirations when I was starting my adventure into the blogosphere and her recipes have met our top two criteria: delicious and nutritious. There is something about spring weather that strikes my fancy for seafood, particularly shrimp, so I added this into the meal plan for the week. When I clicked thru to her recipe, she had recommended an Edamame Fried Rice to pair with it, so I took that recommendation and adapted it just a bit, subbing quinoa for rice.

Here is my adaptation of her fantastic recipes! They are quick and easy to make with little prep time needs if you can get some of the ingredients pre-chopped at the store, like the onion and the carrots. I lightened the shrimp sauce by replacing the mayonaise with plain greek yogurt and kicked up the heat with a little more Sriracha.

My version nutrition facts were calculated at SparkRecipes.com and can be found here for the shrimp, and here for the edamame "fried" quinoa.

Grocery List:
Yields 4 servings

For the Shrimp

  • 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp 
  • 2 tbsp. plain Greek Yogurt (my modification from her 2.5 tbsp of mayonnaise) 
  • 1.5 tbsp. green scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Sweet Red Chili Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha (and maybe a little more if you want to up the heat)
For the "Fried" Quinoa
  • 2 egg whites + 1 whole egg scrambled
  • 1 cup quinoa 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped, including white part
  • 1/2 cup carrot, shredded or julienned
  • 1 cup ready to eat, shelled edamame
  • 2-3 tbsp. Tamari (low-sodium, organic soy sauce)
Start by preparing the shrimp. I used a griddle but feel free to use a grill and cook these kabob style! Go ahead and heat your grilling/cooking surface in preparation for the shrimp. In a bowl, mix together the greek yogurt, scallions, chili sauce and sriracha. Coat and toss the shrimp in it and let marinate for about 15 minutes.

In a pot, cook the quinoa according to the package. Make sure you rinse the grains first to remove any residue or film from the seeds. I then like to toast them for about 5 minutes on medium heat until it starts to smell a little like popcorn! The quinoa will take between 10-15 minutes to fully cook.

As your quinoa cooks, take a large skillet, wok or chef's pan and begin to heat the olive oil. Saute your onions until translucent, then add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Turn the heat down to medium low so you don't burn the garlic then add the scallions and carrot. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the edamame once the carrots have softened. 
 




Now it's time to cook the shrimp! Place them on the heat and let cook for about 8 minutes, then flip them to cook for another 5 minutes.
 

Once the quinoa is ready, add in with the vegetables, then add the cooked scrambled eggs and finally the tamari. Combine all contents well to create a nice blend in the pan. 
 

To serve, create a nice bed of the edamame fried quinoa, then top with the shrimp! Garnish with some additional scallions if you prefer and enjoy.

Tastefully yours,




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Print Friendly