New Blog Site: Please Update Your Bookmark!

I’ve moved my blog! Le Culinary Creusette is now Commuter’s Kitchen.

Why? Well I already have five Le Creuset items, so it’s hard to aspire to own more. Plus over the past year, my daily driving commute has started to compete with my cooking time, and I realized this was a better topic that more people can probably relate to.

Read what Commuter’s Kitchen is all about here and check out the sharing links follow the new blog by Facebook or through an email subscription.


Gym Dinner: Spicy Cashew Chicken

So I've sold my soul and joined a gym, which is great for my health, but sad for my weekday dinners. I use to come home around 6:30, but now it's late and I'm tired and take out is not an option. So I've started collecting a few quick dinners that require fewer ingredients and even less prep, but aren't your typical boring meals: introducing Gym Dinners.

This first recipe was something I've been meaning to try for awhile, taken from my sister's blog, Brioche & Bourbon. It was spicy, filling, and tasty.

Perfectly cooked chicken!
Chipotle Cashew Chicken
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2-3 chipotles en adobo 
  • 1 Tbl. cilantro- chopped finely 
  • 1 tsp. lime zest 
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar 
  • 2 Tbl. tamari or soy sauce 
  • 2 garlic cloves- finely chopped 
  • 2 Tbl. fat free mayo 
  • 1 tsp. olive oil 
  • 1/2 c. roasted cashews, plus more for garnish
  1.  Preheat oven to 425. Roast cashews on a low heat for 5 minutes until nicely browned. 
  2. Combine all ingredients, except the chicken, in a food processor.
  3. In an oven safe pan place the chicken and pat dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. 
  4. Rub the marinade over chicken and bake in the oven for 45 minutes until breasts are plump. Serve with lime wedges.
Side Dish Idea: I bought two small sweet potatoes, and roasted those at the same time as the chicken. Just peel, toss with a little olive oil, brown sugar, and salt, and roast until tender. Add in half a red onion, cut in large slices, to give it extra depth.


Recipe Revamp:
Eggplant Pizza

Last summer I discovered the joys of putting eggplant on pizza, and while it's an absolutely amazing recipe in terms of gooey deliciousness, I found an even better one a few weeks ago that adds in even more levels of flavor to the pie. The za'atar I used I had brought back from Jordan, and this was really a great way to use it up.

The Sprouted Kitchen
Roasted Eggplant & Za'atar Pizza
Dough Recipe
2 c. bread flour
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 T. olive oil
1 c. warm water

Tahini Spread
3 Tbsp. Tahini
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, minced
Pinch of Salt + Pepper

1 Eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/4" discs
2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Generous Pinch of Dried Oregano
1 Small Yellow Onion, in large slices
3/4 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1 Tbsp. Za’atar
1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta
Fresh Thyme Leaves
Salt + Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 500. Mix dough ingredients together and let rise for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Mix all of the tahini spread ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Drizzle eggplant and onions in a roasting pan and toss with salt, oil, and dried oregeno. Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once dough has risen, spread it out on a pizza stone and place the tahini spread across the surface, followed by the za'atar. Sprinkle the mozzarella, the eggplant chunks and charred onions, and the crumbled feta. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and baking the pizza for 12-15 minutes until the edges crisp up. Garnish the top with a generous sprinkle of the fresh thyme leaves.


Pork Tonkatsu (aka Japanese Schnitzel)

Chris recently took two work trips, one to Germany and the other to Japan. Upon his return, he could not stop raving about the schnitzel he had over in Germany. It was so good, he ordered it every night.

Chris in love with Schnitzel
When I saw this recipe in July's Bon Appetit, I thought it would be a fun way to combine his two experiences into one meal. While I don't pan fry often, if you control the heat of your pan well you don't use that much oil, and the panko crunch kind of simulated a deep fry without all that fat.

It was also incredibly fast to make, the only prep I recommend is pounding down the cutlets to an even width around 1/8-inch so they cook evenly and quickly.

My version
Pork Tonkatsu
Bon Appetit, July 2011 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 
  • 4 4-ounce boneless center-cut pork chops, pounded to 1/8" thickness 
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided 
  1. Whisk eggs and 1 tablespoon mustard in a medium bowl. Combine panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on a large plate. Season pork lightly with salt and pepper. 
  2. Dip in egg mixture, then in panko, pressing to adhere. 
  3. Working in 2 batches, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook pork until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side, adding 1 tablespoon vegetable oil after turning. Drain on paper towels. 
Step 1

Step 2

Step 3


A Food Memorial:
Beef Brisket

Tata's Brisket
All week long I've listened to a lot of memorials and remembrances of people speaking of those they loved who were lost ten year ago today. They bring back memories of my own, except not ones that happened on 9/11, but those who were important to me who were lost in the last ten years, especially my grandfather, George Weaver.

I've already gone into detail about my quest to remember my grandmother through food, but when I think of an actual food memory, I jump immediately to Tata. After Maria's death, I remember my parents were worried because George had lost his appetite amid his grief. He loved strong flavors, especially garlic, but in the last few years of Maria's life, her allergies and body really couldn't tolerate those flavors.
Tata, after 9/11
I'm not sure how it started, maybe because I borrowed his car every day for school, but at some point in the following months, I would come home from school and eat small meals with my grandfather. The meal I remember most was when I walked in and just smelled an overpowering odor of garlic. Garlic bread, Garlic Salad—just about everything was covered in cloves.

We didn't eat a lot, but kept each others company, and over time, both of our spirits lifted. My family continued our Sunday night traditions of eating over at his house. I started picking up menudo, his favorite tripe soup, at drive-thru Mexican restaurants. He went on to live until 2007, eating exactly what he wanted right until the end.

My grandfather didn't cook a lot, but his signature dish he made for the family was the following brisket recipe. The sauce, a fantastically delicious mixture of horseradish and cream, is legendary—originally gaining fame as a favorite dish of Stanley Marcus, of Neiman-Marcus. Everything my grandfather loved about flavor can be told through this recipe. Definitely for horseradish lovers, the sauce also has a subtleness that comes from the apples and cream so it won't scare away those with a more modest love of the root.

The Original Recipe, taken from an ancient newspaper
Boiled Brisket with Horseradish Sauce
Helen Corbitt Cooks for Company
5-6 lb. beef brisket, with fat
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, with leaves
2 carrots
2-3 Sprigs Parsley
6 Peppercorns
1 bottle Beer (Darker is better)
1 t. salt (added after 1 hour of cooking)

Horseradish Sauce
1 cup cream
1 cup reserved juice from meat (fat removed)
1/4 c. grated horseradish or horseradish sauce
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 t. chopped chives (very thin)
1/4 c. diced apple (very thin)
  1. Place beef with fat in dutch oven with the rest of the brisket ingredients. Bring to a boil, add salt, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 3-4 hours, until meat is tender.
  2. After 2 hours, remove 1 cup of the liquid from the pot and cool, skimming off the fat. When the brisket has around 30 minutes left, make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients and heat on low. Note: Be careful not to bring the sauce to a boil, or else the cream will curdle.
  3. When brisket is tender, remove from pot. Cut away all excess fat, and then slice the meat in long, skinny pieces. Serve with sauce and white rice.


Recipe Revamp:
Turkey Chile

A really great recipe is never finished. After reading about Endless Simmer's impossible quest for recipe perfection, I began thinking about my own tried and true recipes and how I could revamp them.

The rain this week in the DC area has brought my mind to fall, and SOUPS, so the first place I turned to is the turkey chile recipe I've made for a few years now (courtesy by sister's friend Robin). The combination of the beer, chocolate, and molasses makes it a great recipe in its own right, but yesterday night I found a way to make it even better, with an ingredient that should be in every chile recipe from now on: chiles!

The recipe below is the same as previous, but includes two types of dried chiles, although the types can vary depending on what you have around. Adding the chiles at the beginning made the broth both rich and smokey, and added a level of depth that the chili that reminded me of mole. While this recipe was never very spicy to begin with, there was now a nice bite at the end. I also threw in some bell peppers for good measure, which went well with the smokiness of the broth.

Turkey Chile
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 dried ancho chile, deseeded and diced
  • 1 dried New Mexico or California chile, deseeded and diced
  • 16 oz. package ground turkey
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 2 t. paprika
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz. water
  • 12 oz. beer--amber or darker brew preferred
  • 1 c. frozen okra (optional)
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn (optional)
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 T. dark chocolate
  • Garnishes: cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, Fritos (if you don't want to make corn bread), and bacon from the first step.

  1. In a dutch oven, cook two strips of bacon, cubed into small slices, and remove when cooked. Leave the bacon grease in the pot to use to cook the rest of the chili---the flavor you get out of it will really make this dish!
  2. Dice 1 medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic and add to pot. Saute 2-3 minutes. Add in dried chilies and bell peppers, saute until onions are translucent.
  3. Add in ground turkey-cook for 5 minutes (should only be partially cooked)--then add in your spices (more cayenne if you want a spicier finish) and then your beer, tomotoes, and water. Keep the mixture at a simmer for about an hour, adding more water as needed if the liquid level gets too low. 
  4. After an hour, add in your molasses, chocolate, and optional frozen veggies as needed.  Cook additional 10-15 minutes until chili thickens to your likening. Season with salt and pepper---garnish with cheese, bacon bits, sour cream. Serve with corn bread.


How to Grill a Pizza: Party Style

I've hosted pizza parties before, and while having 10-15 people over to make their own individual pizzas is fun, it has its down side too. Unless you have a large kitchen, crowding around a stove can turn a room into a messy sauna pretty quickly.

A perfect solution presented itself this weekend, when I was away at the lake for Labor Day. In a house without AC, I decided to finally give grilled pizza a try. Taking the party outside let everyone come and go from the grill as their pizza-making turn arose, but didn't have the claustrophobia of my kitchen.

I had heard a few stories about how to grill pizza from friends, who assured me placing a pizza directly on the grill would work. My instinct, knowing how my dough tends to be more on the sticky, gooey side, was that the pie would fall straight through the cracks of the grill, so to prevent this, I took my typical dough recipe and adjusted it slightly, using bread flour, and letting the dough rise for a full hour.

For the party, I also tripled the following recipe, and formed five smaller pizza balls from the group. Below are my notes, and pictures of my first efforts. Super thanks to my friends who had done this before and manned the grill, assuring me it would work.

Finished pizza--all in one piece!
Grilled Pizza Dough
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 t. yeast
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. oil
  • 2 cups bread flour plus more
  1. Preheat the grill to a medium heat.
  2. Mix the yeast, oil, and water together until combined, then add it to the bread flour. Stir together, or knead by hand, until dough forms a solid ball. Add more flour, up to another quarter cup, until it looses its sticky consistency and forms a ball.
  3. Let rise for at least one hour, punch it down, and then work it into a flat dough, oiling your hands if necessary. A ball the size of your hand should flatten out to a medium pizza that is easily handled on the grill itself and serves up around 6-8 slices.
  4. Oil the grill grates, and one side of the pizza. Place the oiled side onto the grill and grill until the dough moves easily around on the grill and has browning marks on its side.
    Dough on the Grill
  5.  Oil the second side of the pizza, and flip it on the grill.
    Grilled Side Up

  6. Working quickly, spoon the sauce and all toppings except cheese on the grill. Note: Grilling shortens the cooking time of veggies, especially bell peppers or onions, so if you like those less crispy, consider slightly sauteeing them before adding them to the grill.
    Add toppings directly to grill
  7. Close grill cover and let the veggies cook on the pizza for 3-5 minutes. Move the pizza to the top rack if possible to avoid direct access to the heat and add cheese. Keep on grill until cheese melts, but be sure to watch the bottom and make sure it doesn't get too crispy.
Two pies cooking at once.


Stir Fry Saturday: Beef With Peppers

This was a last minute recipe I found on Punkfork, my new favorite recipe aggregate. The site collects recipes from a good selection of national food blogs and aggregates them into a really pretty website with lots of nice tiled photos. You can search by ingredients or popularity. The following was from Pioneer Woman:

Beef with Peppers
Pioneer Woman
  • 1½ pound Flank Steak, Sliced Very Thin Against The Grain
  • ½ cups Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Sherry
  • 2 Tablespoons Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Red Chile Paste (or A Few Dashes Red Chile Oil)
  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Yellow Onion Sliced
  • 2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Cored And Sliced Into Rings
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Fresh Jalapeno (or 1 Teaspoon Dice Hot Pepper)
  • Red Pepper Flakes, For Sprinkling
  • Cilantro Leaves
  1. Mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, and chili paste (or chili oil.) Place sliced beef in the mixture and toss to coat. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high heat. When it is very hot, throw in the onions and cook for less than a minute. Remove to a separate plate. Return skillet to flame, allow to reheat, and add bell peppers (and hot pepper/jalapeno if using.) Cook for a minute, tossing, until peppers have brown/black bits but are still firm. Remove to a plate.
  3. Return skillet to heat and allow to get hot. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add 1/3 of the meat mixture, evenly distributing over the surface of the skillet. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 seconds, then turn with tongs. Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove to a separate plate. Repeat with remaining meat until all brown.
  4. Reduce heat to low. Add all meat, onions, and peppers to the skillet and toss to combine. Pour in remaining sauce (the sauce the meat marinated in*) and stir. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes. Sauce will slowly thicken. Turn off heat.


Perfect Weather for a Kabob Party

While August usually gets a bad rap for its weather, I actually enjoy the month because every now and then, you get those cool nights that remind you fall is on the way. After finding so many fun kabob recipes in this summer's Everyday Food, I decided to invite a few friends over and have a kabob sampler that included Shrimp, Beef, Pork, and Butternut Squash (recipes for all are below).

Kabob Rock Star

Tips for A Successful Kabob Party:
  • Skewer Ahead of Time. Because of the risk of cross contamination when it comes to raw meats, I chose to do all the hard-core assembly beforehand while saving the sauces for the party itself.
  • Have a Grilling Partner. You will be busy making sauces, entertaining friends, and prepping what is going on the grill next, so for the best outcome you should assign someone to the grill itself.
  • Always have a pineapple on hand. No sauces, no seasoning---just caramelization at work on a delicious fruit.

Beef with Veggies, Squash with Indian Spices
Flank Steak Kebabs with Peanut Sauce
Everyday Food
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped roasted salted peanuts
  • 1 pound flank steak, cut against the grain into 1/2-inch slices (halved crosswise if long)
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lime, quartered (optional)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. Place a small flameproof pot on grill; add peanut butter, coconut milk, chili sauce, and fish sauce and whisk until smooth and heated through. Transfer sauce to a serving bowl and top with peanuts.
  2. Alternately thread steak, zucchini, bell pepper, and lime onto four 8-inch skewers, beginning and ending with steak. Season with salt and pepper and grill, turning occasionally, until steak is browned and cooked medium and peppers are crisp-tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve with peanut sauce.
Indian Spiced Squash Kebabs
Cooking Light, June 2008
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound baby pattypan squash, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves (Optional)
  1. Note: Due to the season, I was only able to secure a Butternut Squash. While the end result still ended up quite tasty, the squash took a lot longer to cook until tender (ending up charred), and it was hell getting them on to the skewers. If you are in the same boat, slice the pieces smaller to shorten the cooking time, or consider blanching them first to soften them up before placing them on the grill.
  2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well. Thread squash and onion alternately onto each of 8 (10-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes or until tender, turning frequently. Drizzle with juice. Sprinkle with mint.

    Shrimp Boil Kebabs
    Shrimp-Boil Kebabs
    Everyday Food
    • 1/2 pound small new potatoes (Requires Precooking)
    • 2 small ears corn, cut into 1 1/2-inch rounds
    • 1/2 pound andouille, cut into 1-inch rounds
    • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    • 4 teaspoons hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
    • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
    • Lemon wedges, for serving (Optional)  
    1. Note: Of all the kebabs I made, this was the only one where things were not cooking at the same time. Resist the urge to grill the shrimp and andouille on the same skewer, as the sausage will end up underdone. Instead, split the skewers so the shrimp cooks with the pre-cooked potatoes and the andouille is with the corn.
    2. In a medium pot, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water over medium-high. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Alternately thread potatoes, corn, andouille, and shrimp onto four 8-inch skewers.
    3. Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. In a small bowl, combine butter, hot-pepper sauce, and Old Bay Seasoning. Grill kebabs, turning and brushing with butter mixture occasionally, until shrimp are opaque throughout and corn is tender and beginning to char, about 8 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

    And of COURSE my famous Pork Kebabs with Hoisin Glaze
    Finally, we grilled the trusty, most amazingly sweet/savory kebab you will ever try, the Everyday Food recipe for Pork Kebabs with Ginger Hoisin Glaze. Still amazing.


    Le Creuset Passes the Earthquake Test!

    So we had an 5.9 earthquake here in DC today! While it was a odd 20 seconds, and my feet are still shaking 3 hours later, everyone seemed to come out of this historic event okay, with very little damage or injuries---including my kitchen!

    When I came home, it looked at though the only thing in our house that moved at all was my Le Creuset 7 qt. dutch oven. What always rests on top of our fridge was on the floor, and still in one piece:

    Exactly where it landed, from the top of the fridge
    While it might be luck, I'm still REALLY impressed the pan didn't even crack after it's fall. In a day where my friends and loved ones all came out of an earthquake safely and without injury, it's not the best part of the day, but more like icing on the cake. So happy everyone is safe!


    2941: A Celebratory Surprise

    I had heard a little about 2941, which is pretty much a constant on Washingtonian's Top 100, but I hadn't thought to try it yet for whatever reason. Boy was that a mistake. To think that this gourmet restaurant, healmed by Bertrand Chemel (who worked as Chef de Cuisine at Café Boulud in New York) was right around the corner from me in Falls Church for the past three years just makes me sad for all the missed opportunities.

    But first things first. The decor is awe-inspiring not only because everything from the pond and fountains outside to the jellyfish chandeliers inside are exquisite, but also because the sheer amount of open space is such a rare treat in DC. You don't realize the claustrophobia of most DC restaurants until you are in the presence of three-story windows that face a glowing pond and treeline. Amazing that this little Eden is within the beltway.  

    Chris and I after our feast
    Because our trip here was a double celebration for Chris and I (we've both had great news recently), there was really no choice but to get the tasting menu. While it was a little on the high side, $105 for six courses, there wasn't one thing on the menu that sounded familiar or easy to make. Each course promised a new experience and exciting combination, and we were blown away by everything. The sauces all stood out in amazing ways, and one of the best testaments to the chef was the way that the ingredients combined in your mouth to create a completely different, final, perfect flavor profile after you were finished.

    Below is our menu, although I'm told it changes constantly. I made a few notes on each course to give you an idea of the meal.
    • Amuse Bouche: Watermelon Martini. Watermelon in a pool of vanilla, lemon thyme, and vodka with cantaloupe and basil. The cantaloupe was a little salty, and the basil left a strong taste in your mouth, but the afterglow of the merged flavors in your mouth was a really amazing treat.
    • Big Eye Tuna: Lightly seared and served over a spiced date marmalade with fennel-yuzu and tuna tartare. The date marmalade was a standout in this dish.
    • Garganelle: Seafood pasta with Lobster, Maine sea urchin, sepia, little neck clam, sea trout caviar. The garganelle was black from squid ink, which was fun, and I ate something new in Sepia (which is a cuttlefish?). During dinner we couldn't figure it out, as it was in perfectly square cubes, but I guessed a firmer type of scallop as it had a similar taste. The liquid sauce was slightly salty, but that was masked by the other ingredients.
    • Grilled Pacific Monchong: Cocochas de bacalao, citrus cauliflower florets, mustard sauce. Chris' favorite. The fish, which had a similar texture to swordfish, was served over a mustard sauce that was truly exceptional.
    • Domestic Lamb Saddle: Kalamata olive, cumin, chick pea puree, fried ratatouille. Definitely my favorite with a Mediterranean feel. The ratatouille was fried in a springroll, and mixed with the lamb and puree was fantastic. There was some type of fruit, maybe a gooseberry, on top that was a great tart surprise with the mellowness of the rest of the dish. 
    • Athena Cantaloupe Pre-dessert: White sangria infusion, watermeon granite, lemon verbena. What I loved about this sorbet-like tasting was how they took the amuse at the beginning of the meal and turned it around in a completely different way. Really helped prepare us for the dessert.
    • Ricotta Gnocchi: Virginia blackberry jam, mascarpone cream, amaretti cookies. Another reason to get the tasting menu is that you will try desserts you would never think to try otherwise. Instead of serving something traditional as an afterthought, this has to be the most creative dessert I've had in awhile. Creamy cheese mixed with blackberries had a smooth taste, while the cookie gave it that punch of sugar to perfectly round out the meal.
    All in all, it was a fantastic dinner. Our server was new, and it was cute watching him muster his way through the course descriptions. I got the wine pairings, which were exceptional, but may be a little pricy considering it's almost as much as the meal itself. Although the explanation that went into each pairing far exceeded a normal experience and were fantastic compliments to each course. Two standout wines for us were the 2005 Odysseus Tinto-White Label Priorat from Spain, served with the lamb, and the 2009 Adesso, Cagnina di Romagna from Italy, served at the end with the dessert.

    Will I return? Most definitely. I'm excited to see what a full entree feels like here, and I want to come earlier when we can still enjoy the scenery outside. Plus they gave us a loaf of French bread as we left---what hospitatlity!

    I will leave you with this. Restaurant Week starts on the 15th, and while dinners have already been snapped up, there are still plenty of lunch reservations open and the menu looks quite good. Will you give it a shot?


    More Cassis Prettiness for my Kitchen

    More Le Creuset!
    So everyone knows how happy I was when I got my very first Le Creuset. It was a life goal for me, and long before I ever thought I would, one landed in my lap thanks to a lot of votes from my friends. Well, my friends have helped me again, specifically my very good friend Robin. I helped her out with some design work for her wedding, and she went WAY over the top to thank me with a plethora of Le Creuset cookware.

    In a complete surprise package, I got the above casserole dishes and a multi-function pot, with a small frying pan that doubles as a lid for the larger pot. Because I'm cooking for two-three people at most, I love the small size of the casserole dishes, and the space saved by the two-pots-in-one. The latter came with a booklet of recipes to try, so look for those coming up.

    What made getting the Le Creuset even better was the fact that Chris returned last week from Japan with some really cool gifts for me. He brought back a fun sake set, and some painted serving bowls that are just gorgeous. Both are below.

    sake set

    Japanese Bowls


    Star Power Pasta

    So I have to stop making fun of the fact Gwyneth Paltrow put out a cookbook. This recipe was amazing:
    Doesn't that look tasty...
    I could go on and on about how amazing this pasta is, but really you can take the above picture as proof that you need to try this out. While you may be weary of anchovies---trust me---mixing a little bit of the breaded, baked, anchovy with some of the sweet, roasted tomatoes is just a perfectly, salty-sweet bite. This even has Chris' approval—Mr. "I hate tomatoes" had seconds!

    Roasting the Tomatoes
    The anchovies are underneath, but can be separated pretty easily with a knife.

    Gwyneth Paltrow's Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta
    Bon Appetit  
    Note: I removed a lot of the salt from this recipe because the anchovies gave you plenty...season lightly throughout to your own preference. You can also cut the oil in this recipe in half, just add in more pasta liquid at the end.
    • 4 cups cherry tomatoes, divided
    • 9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Or less)
    • 1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
    • Large pinch dried oregano
    • 16 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and flat
    • 12 ounces spaghetti
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • Small handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
    1. Preheat oven to 200°. Place 2 cups tomatoes on a baking dish and sprinkle with oil. Roast, stirring occasionally, until they start to shrivel up but haven't dried out (3-4 hrs.) The outsides should be chewy, but the insides still juicy.
    2. Increase oven temperature to 400°. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place breadcrumbs and herbs in a small bowl. Drizzle oil over and stir until mixture resembles damp sand. Lay anchovies about 1/4" apart on prepared sheet. Evenly pack breadcrumb mixture over; drizzle with more oil. Bake until golden brown, 3-5 minutes; set aside.
    3. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
    4. Meanwhile, place remaining 2 cups tomatoes in a large bowl. Crush tomatoes with your hands. Heat 2-3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until juices thicken, 6-7 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes.
    5. Add drained spaghetti to skillet; toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water by 1/4-cupfuls if dry. Remove from heat; stir in basil. Divide among bowls. Top each with 1/4 of the anchovy oreganata and Parmesan.


    Welcome Home Meatloaf

    Sometimes all you need is meat and potatoes...
    Chris has been traveling for most of July, but returned home on Friday night and I wanted to make him something he loved. He'd told me about his mother's meatloaf, and how he loved it as a kid, so I asked Judy for the recipe so I could make it for him once he returned. In my view, the first thing you want to do after a hard-core trip is indulge in a little comfort food that reminds you of home.

    Judy's Meatloaf 
    Served with roasted potatoes, although mashed might be a better option to mix in with the meat.

    • 1.5 lbs. 85% lean ground beef
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 c. ketchup
    • 1/2 c. Italian flavored bread crumbs
    • 1/4 c. Worchestershire sauce
    • 1/4 c. A1 sauce
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place beef in a bowl and add all the ingredients. Mix all together (I use my hands!) and form an oval. Don't pack it too tightly.
    3. Place on a baking dish and place uncovered in a 350 degree oven. Cook for 45 minutes, or until well done (using a meat thermometer). Turn the oven to broil and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the top of the loaf gets a nice, blackened crust.
    4. A little grease will form in the dish, so be careful getting it out.


    Making the Most of Leftovers

    So tonight I was cooking just for myself and didn't really feel up to exploring new recipes, so I turned to what was left in the fridge: a frozen chicken breast, some lemon basil ricotta, a fennel bulb, and a tomato. Doesn't sound like much does it?

    Or does it?
    Looks pretty tasty doesn't it? It was. And it was a Teresa original! Although I took a few notes from the stuffed chicken recipe I did a few weeks ago, the salad is a complete first--and turned out fantastic! I'd make both again.

    The Ricotta Stuffing is originally from a Health Magazine. I made it again last week as a quick dinner, but had extra ricotta that worked perfectly as a quick stuffing for chicken as well. Did I mention everything tonight came from leftovers in the fridge?!

    Stuffed Chicken with Lemon Ricotta 
    • 2 Chicken Breasts, butterflied to create a pocket
    • 1/4 c. Chicken Stock
    • 1/2 c. Ricotta Cheese
    • 1/2 t. lemon zest
    • 1/2 T. lemon juice
    • 2 T. Basil leaves, thinly chopped
    • pinch of salt and pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Mix the stuffing together, and add a heaping spoonful into the butterflied chicken breasts. Secure with toothpicks.
    3. Heat an oven-safe skillet (cast iron if you have it) with a little oil and add the chicken breasts when it's reached a medium-high heat. Brown both sides of the breasts (3-4 minutes), remove from heat, and add chicken stock. Let the steam die down, then cover and place in an oven for 15 minutes.

    Fennel Salad with Tomatoes and Parsley
    The Salad could have been just a bunch of ingredients thrown together, but I decided to saute the fennel for a few minutes first. Not only did it loosen up some of the stronger liquorice notes, it also helped the fennel grab on to some of the other flavors in the salad.
    • 1 fennel bulb, diced
    • 1 medium tomato, diced
    • 1 T. lemon juice
    • 1/2 c. garbanzo beans, drained and rinse
    • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
    • 1 T. Parmesan cheese
    • Dash of salt/pepper
    1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet to medium heat, and add in fennel. Saute for a few minutes until slightly tender. Remove from heat and add in garbanzo beans. Cool to room temperature.
    2. Combined remaining ingredients with fennel in a bowl, add a little more lemon juice as needed, and serve!


    I Challenge You To Make It Better: Sugar Snap Salad

    For last week's dinner, I choose to make this Sugar Snap Salad recipe I found in July's Bon Appetit.  Unfortunately for us, it did not turn out the best. I feel there was too much dressing, and not enough of something. But I'm not one to give up on a recipe that has potential, and I do feel like the following salad could be made great, with a few minor tweaks.

    So I'm challenging you, the reader, to make it better and share with the rest of us! Give the following recipe a try this week and share your tweaks in the comment section. Maybe it's need additional ingredients? Maybe a few less? Experiment, and report back:

    Snap Pea and Radish Salad in the back
    Sugar Snap Salad
    • 1.5 lbs Sugar Snap peas, trimmed, stringed, and cut in half on diagonal
    • Kosher Salt
    • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
    • 1 t. white wine vinegar
    • 1/2 t. sumac, plus more for garnish
    • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
    • 4 oz. ricotta salata or feta, crumbled
    • black paper
    • 2 T. coarsely chopped fresh mint
    1. Fill a large bowl with ice water, set aside. Cook peas in a pot of boiling, salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, transfer to bowl with ice water to cool. Drain and transfer to a kitchen towel to dry.
    2. Whisk oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and sumac in a small bowl. Toss peas, radishes, and cheese in a large bowl. Add dressing, season with salt/pepper/and more lemon juice. Garnish with mint and sprinkle with sumac.


    Grill Much?

    HOT coals!
    So it's week two of eating healthy and this week, I had a boy to please as well. Also, without really realizing it, I selected three delicious recipes that all use a grill. Too bad it's a heat wave, but we just waited until a little later in the night to start, and everything was peachy.

    All of these recipes are great as alternatives to the usual hamburgers and brats—it was healthier, delicious, and definitely a change of pace from the traditional chicken breast recipe I've made in the past. Below you will find recipes for Teriyaki Chicken (my mother's recipe), a Grilled Pork Tenderloin (with cherry salsa), and a Yogurt Marinated, Indian Spiced Chicken Beast.

    But I'd have to give my 'best of the week' recommendation in a tie to two SIDE dishes I made: the Walnut Basil Pesto on Squash and the Parmesan Peppers. Both used the grill, and were new and exciting flavors I hadn't tried before. Make both of those immediately.

    Grill Night # 1:
    Basic, Can't-Fail Chicken Breast

    Teriyaki Chicken (courtesy my mother)
    *2 hour minimum marinating time required*
    • 6-10 Chicken Thighs (we used breasts)
    • 1 c. soy sauce
    • 1 c. sake (or crisp white wine as a substitute, I used a Viognier)
    • 1/3 c. brown sugar
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • 1 t. red pepper flakes
    • 1 T. powdered ginger (I used fresh, grated---I would highly recommend the upgrade)
    1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a sauce pan, and cook until sugar melts. Pour on top of chicken and marinate overnight, or at least 2-3 hours.
    2. Broil in oven, or over the grill. Turn chicken once, after around 10 minutes. Cook until done (20-25 minutes). 

    served with
    Grilled Squash with Walnut Parsley Pesto (Everyday Food)

    • 1 cup tightly packed, fresh parsley leaves
    • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
    • 1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled
    • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • 1/4 t. finely grated lemon zest
    • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
    • salt/pepper
    • 2 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and seasoned with salt and pepper
    1. Preheat Grill.
    2. Using a food processor, pulse pesto ingredients (everything except squash and olive oil) for 10 seconds. Then, with the machine running, slowly add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until a paste forms.  Season with salt/pepper and transfer to a small bowl.
    3. Grill Squash, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and tender. (About 10 minutes)

    Grill Night #2:
    Pork, The Other Grill Meat
    Parmesan Peppers in the back stole the show
    Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Salsa
    (Bon Appetit June)

    *15 minute marinating time, although overnight is preferred*
    • 1 c. coarsly chopped cilantro, divided
    • 1/2 c. minced shallots, divided
    • 6 T. fresh lime juice, divided
    • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
    • 2 pork tenderloins, about 2.5 lbs (one could feed 3-4 people)
    • 1/2 lb. fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted, halved
    • 1 fresh Fresno chilie, red jalepeno, or Holland--thinly sliced crosswise. (I used a green jalapeno)
    • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
    •  Salt/Pepper
    1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
    2. Combine half the cilantro, half the shallots, 4 T. lime juice, and vegetable oil in a resealable plastic bag. Add pork, and seal. Turn to coat, and marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
    3. Combine the rest of the shallots, cilantro, lime juice, cherries, chile, and olive oil in a bowl and set aside.
    4. Remove tenderloin from marinade and season generously with salt/pepper. Grill, turning frequently, until meat registers 145 degrees (about 15 minutes). Let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with salsa.
    I had made a similar recipe before, but while the cherry salsa stands out, the pork wasn't anything special. This time around, grilled, the pork held its own. Plus—we used the second tenderloin the next night for Taco Meat. THAT was another tasty meal that allowed me to indulge in dairy without also worrying about greasy meat. Just shred and reheat the meat.

    served with
    Parmesan Peppers
    (Bon Appetit June)
    • 4 bell peppers
    • 1 clove, thinly sliced garlic
    • 8 thyme sprigs
    • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
    • salt/pepper
    • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced (optional)
    1. Stem, corn, and quarter the peppers and toss with all remaining ingredients except cheese. Place on baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees until softened (or use the grill). Top with cheese, and broil until cheese melts and peppers are slightly charred. Juice lemon over peppers, if desired.

      Grill Night # 3: Exotic Chicken
      I say exotic because the kitchen smelled like Indian food all night, but this recipe was just as easy to make as the Teriyaki Chicken on night one--make whichever one sounds fantastic for the moment! This one was slightly jucier, and had those fantastic ginger/garam marsala spice notes to it.

      Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken (Bon Appetit)
      • 8 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
      • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek)
      • 1 cup coarsley chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
      • 1/2 large onion, coarsley chopped
      • 1/3 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing
      • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
      • 1 T. fresh lime juice
      • 1 T. garam marsala
      • 2 t. salt
      • 1 t. pepper
      • 1 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
      1. Pound each breast of chicken between two sheets of waxed paper until they are an even 1/2" thick. Transfer to resealable plastic bag.
      2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken and marinate at least 3 hours, or overnight.
      3. Build a medium fire, brush grill with oil (this meat stuck to an un-oiled grill, so I'd recommend). Scrape excess marinate off chicken and season with salt. Grill chicken, turning once, until browned and cooked through. (The recipe says 3-4 minutes, but ours needed at least 8-10 per side).


      Healthy Meals by Land and Sea

      I added another rule to my diet: One Bad Thing a Day. I really can't go without things like cheese or Dr. Pepper forever—but if I can try to keep it under control. Monday and Tuesday, I had a soda, and today I indulged in pizza (thin crust). So far it's working out pretty well.

      I also made these tasty dried tomatoes my sister told me about with some cherry tomatoes I picked up at the farmers market.  They were a great snack, and I used the rest of them in the couscous I served with tonight's chicken.

      But on to the recipes--here's a check in with two fantastic dinners I made myself. One fish, one chicken, but both really easy to make and great for someone looking to feed one or two. Both had a side dish too!

      Eggplant and Chickpea Salad
      Eggplant & Chickpea Salad
      Two major changes from the original recipe: I cut the feta cheese to 1/4 cup (that's plenty), and I only cooked the eggplant for 10 minutes, until it was just starting to get tender. This recipe was also even better the next day for lunch, when the flavors had really meld together.

      Panko & Mustard Crusted Salmon
      Panko & Mustard Crusted Salmon
      Took no time at all---the mustard and salmon worked really well together. A .8 pound filet gave me two nice servings, too.

      Stuffed Chicken with Couscous
      Stuffed Chicken with Feta, Spinach & Pine Nuts
      Cooking Light
      • 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
      • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
      • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
      • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
      • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
      • 2 garlic cloves, minced
      • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
      1. Preheat oven to 350°.
      2. Heat a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach to pan; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, tossing constantly. Place spinach in a colander; press until barely moist. Wipe pan clean.
      3. Combine spinach, cheese, nuts, thyme, juice, and garlic. Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff 3 tablespoons filling into each pocket. Seal with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
      4. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until brown. Add broth, and cover pan. Place pan in oven. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until done


      Keeping A Healthy Eating Schedule: The Plan

      In an effort to eat healthier, I've decided to start planning out my weekly meals on Sunday in order to prevent those last minute "I Can't Think of Anything" Fast Food breaks. I've created a separate Google Calender for my work out schedule, listing a work out for EVERY day of the week (including Rest Days), and will add on my menu to the same calender to they can coincide with each other.

      While I'm not dieting, or holding to any hard and fast rules, I've come up with a few goals for myself:
      • Less Bread. And when I must, multi-grain if I can
      • No Soda. Water, water, everywhere. I'm so getting to 8 glasses a day
      • More SIDES and SMART SNACKING! More vegetables, fruits, and snacks that aren't a complete waste. 
      • Vary it up a bit. I'm trying to mix my proteins. Fish/Vegetarian/Chicken, all at least once a week.
      My goal is to keep it up for at least three weeks and see where we go from there. Hopefully I'll come up with a lot of quick, healthy recipes that can be used over and over again. Plus I now have over a year of Blog recipes to make use of!

      Let's see how this goes, shall we? Here's the plan for the week:

      Lunch: Tuna Fish Sandwich with Greek Yogurt/Hard Boiled Egg
      Dinner: Mustard Salmon with Eggplant/Chickpea Salad

      Lunch: Eggplant/Chickpea Salad leftovers with Hummus
      Dinner: Evening Out! Looking for something that includes veggies. Maybe Sweetgreen or a Chioptle Salad

      Lunch: Tuna Fish Sandwich with Greek Yogurt/Hard Boiled Egg
      Dinner: Stuffed Chicken with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts and Currant Couscous

      Lunch: Leftover Stuffed Chicken
      Dinner: Chicken Breast and Grilled Squash w/Walnut Parsley Pesto, Spinach Salad

      Lunch: Leftovers/Eating Out--depending what's left
      Dinner: CHRIS COMES HOME! We're so celebrating with a fun evening out. Will try my best to order the healthy option that comes with less cheese and more veggies.

      Marinate Tonight: Lemon Garlic Chicken

      The charred, eatable lemon is great mixed into the mashed potatoes
      This can be a fast recipe, ready after a quick 30 minute marinate, but we prepped it the day before and let it sit for 24 hours and the lemon REALLY stood out in a way that makes it a great, refreshing summer meal. 

      A Few Notes:
      • Watch the time cooking---we let it go for 30 minutes, and the chicken was way too dry. 20 minutes to start should be plenty, and then maybe another 5 to brown if you think it needs it.
      • The recipe calls for Garlic Oil, which you can make ahead the day before (if you marinate), or just forgo it completely it you're looking for something quick. While it sounds cool, the lemon overpowers the oil in a way that makes its assembly almost worthless.

      Chicken Marinated in Garlic Oil
      Everyday Food, July/August

      1/4 c. Garlic Oil (or regular Olive Oil, plus 4-6 garlic cloves smashed and peeled)
      1 lemons, cut into rounds
      1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
      4 chicken pieces (we used breasts, with or without skin)
      salt/pepper to taste
      1. To Make Garlic Oil: Smash and peel 1 head of garlic and heat over a medium-low heat with 1 cup Olive Oil until it starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes (don't let the garlic brown). Remove from heat and let cool at room temp, at least 45 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
      2. In a zip-top bag, combined all ingredients and shake to coat. Let sit 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
      3. Preheat the oven 45 degrees. Transfer to baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and roast until skin is golden, 20-25 minutes. Turn in the final 5 minutes to brown other side, if desired.


      Hummus: Back to the Basics

      This is another recipe I got from my Arab Table Cookbook, which not only has fantastic, authentic (from what I can tell) middle eastern recipes, but amazing pictures as well.

      I use to be quite the hummus connoisseur, going through most of the national brands before I finally got fed up with it. Too much of a good thing, especially if you have it everyday for lunch. 

      But this recipe, which I first tried back in February, has drawn me back into the dish. It's a simple recipe, without any bells and whistles, and I kind of like that. My vegan friend Jim has also given it his seal of approval, saying it was one of the best he's tried (which I take as a huge compliment!)

      Some Notes:
      • It's heavy on the tahini, which makes it thicker than most, but feel free to cut it in half if you don't like that nutty flavor. 
      • I've found while the first day is fine, you might need to add some olive oil in as the week goes by to keep its 'sour cream' like consistency.  
      • A Food Processor makes this recipe SO MUCH EASIER. I wouldn't recommend making it without it (although I did get it to work once with my emulsion blender)
      • For those who like bells and whistles, consider adding roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, or pine nuts to the mixture.

      2 15 oz. cans garbanzo beans
      2-4 cloves garlic, mashed
      1/2 t. salt, plus more to taste
      1/2 c. tahini (or less)
      1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
      Extra virgin Olive Oil (for drizzling on top)
      1/2 t. smoked paprika
      1. Drain all the water out of the garbanzo beans and rinse in cold water THREE times. Place them in water, covered by 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of liquid, then drain and set aside.
      2. Place garlic and salt in the food process and pulse three times. Add chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and pulse until the mixture is thick and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 5 minutes, or until it has the consistency of sour cream. Add the cooking liquid in tablespoon quantities as needed (2-6 T.).  Season with paprika/salt/lemon juice as needed.
      3. When you serve the hummus, create a bowl with a center indentation where you can add olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, or other garnishes.


      A Great Birthday Present from an Awesome Sister...

      My sister is coming down for my birthday this weekend...and making me a cake! Vote at her blog for what kind:



      Summery Succotash

      How can you not love this?
      Not that the picture is a perfect example, but I have learned that succotash is a dish composed of mostly corn and lima beans—and then mixed together with any number of other ingredients. Thanks to some leftover queso fresco from the jalapeno poppers, I decided to try out this Everyday Food recipe from the July/August issue. It's also a great second recipe to keep up your sleeve when you have leftover rottisserie chicken in your fridge.

      Chicken Succotash with Avocado
      Serves 4

      3 large tomatoes, cut into 1" wedges
      2 small zucchini, diced medium
      2 c. corn kernels (from 3 ears)
      2 c. frozen lima beans (from a 10 oz. package), thawed
      1/2 rotisserie chicken (skin removed, meat shredded. ~2 cups)
      1 avocado, thinly sliced
      3 oz. farmers cheese (queso fresco), crumbled (1/2 cup)
      6 small red potatoes, quartered into bite-sized chunks
      1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season potatoes with salt/pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until insides are mushy.
      2. Season zucchini with salt/pepper and cook on medium heat until slightly soft (4-5 minutes). Add corn and lima beans and cook until corn is cooked through and lima beans are softened (~3 minutes). Season with salt/pepper, then add in chicken. Cook until meat is warm.
      3. Remove potatoes and add them to the mixture. Divide on to plates, and then add avocado, tomatoes, and farmers cheese.
      The freshness of the avocado, cheese, and tomatoes really makes this a great summer dish that is light, yet still satisfying. Feel free to be more adventurous with the ingredients you add to it—the potatoes was my own addition because we had them around. The side starch ended up being fantastic with the rest of the dish, and we just mixed it all together.


      Adding Some Heat: Jalapeno Poppers and Stuffed Chicken

      Jalapeno poppers have got to me one of my guilty pleasures, right up there with crab rangoon. What can be better than cheese oozing out of a spicy shell? While the fried, freezer options can taste heavy and fattening, this recipe I discovered last week sounded both delicious, and relatively easy.

      Be warned: these turned out pretty hot. Our theory is that grilling doesn't remove the chili fire like a fried popper will, so a less heat-intense option is to split them in half—reduce the chili heat-to-cheese ratio.

      Anaheim Chili Popper, oven baked

      Grilled Jalapeno Poppers
      • 1/2 white onion, thinly diced
      • 4 garlic cloves, diced
      • 8 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
      • 4 oz. Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
      • 2 T. lime juice
      • 1 t. cumin
      • Salt/Pepper to taste
      • 15 jalapeno peppers (or milder peppers like green Anaheim Chilies, if you can't stand the heat)
      1. Saute the white onions in olive oil on a medium-low heat until they start to sweat, around 10 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Let sit to cool.
      2. If you have contacts on, make sure you wear gloves. Chop off the top of the jalapeno, and slice the peppers length-wise almost all the way down—leaving the end together. Remove the veins and seeds with a small spoon. Line up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
      3.  Mix together your cheeses, lime juice, cumin, and spices, and then add the onion/garlic mixture to it. Stuff the cheese mixture into the poppers.
      4. Fire up the grill, leaving the poppers on the foil and on the top rack that is away from the heat. Close the grill and let cook until the cheese starts to ooze out. At this point, feel free to add your burgers/hotdogs/other items to the grill. Let the poppers continue to cook until the jalapeno skin has charred up and become soft. (We left ours on for another 10 minutes).
      5. For indoor baking: Heat the oven to 350 degrees, place the chilies in for 15 minutes, or until cheese is oozing out. Then, place the oven on a high broil and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the skin starts to burst.
      If the heat from jalepeno poppers isn't your thing, I would recommend the following Stuffed Chicken recipe that I created from scratch on Day 2, made with the leftover cheese mixture. We served a jalapeno popper with the chicken, but the mild Anaheim was so great mixed with the chicken, I'm going to adjust the recipe below and have you add the pepper to the actual chicken recipe.
      I forgot to saute the breast on the stove, and so the meat turned out white
      Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breast
      • 1 chicken breast, butterflied
      • Cheese Mixture from Above
      • 1 Mild Anaheim Pepper
      • Salt/Pepper/Cumin to taste
      1. Preheat the oven to 350.
      2. Butterfly the chicken breast (leave attached).  Season the inside with salt, pepper, and cumin.
      3. Slice the top of the pepper, and half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and veins. Slice the chili into flat, thin squares.
      4. Stuff your butterflied chicken by layering chili squares first, then a spoonful of cheese, then another layer of chili squares. Fold the top of the chicken breast over the mixture, and secure with toothpicks or string. Season outside with spices.
      5. Heat up a cast iron (or oven safe) skillet with oil, and saute the breasts 1-2 minutes per side to brown the skin. Transfer pan to oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until chicken is done and cheese is oozing out.


      Easy Picnic with Dip & Sangria

      Here's my second post that appeared on Wolf Trap's Insider Blog:


      If you want to follow one rule to picnicking on the lawn, it should be to keep it simple. Don’t try to overdo anything, or stress out about what to bring. Some of the best picnics are the ones where you walk into Whole Foods or Trader Joes without a game plan, and just grab what sounds good. But for those who want more direction, I can start you out with one word: dips.

      When it comes to a dip, there are a million options out there, from salsa and chips, pita and hummus, or potato chips and ranch dip. For something a little different, I offer up the following recipe for Pebre.

      prep time: 10-20 minutes
      Similar to a salsa, without the heat, or bruschetta, without the balsamic, Pebre is one of many recipes that help bring me back to my South American roots. It's traditionally used as a topping for grilled meats, but is fantastic on its own, served with bread or chips for dipping.

      • 1/3 c. olive oil
      • 2 T. red wine vinegar
      • 1 T. lemon juice
      • 1 c. parsley, chopped
      • 1 c. cilantro, chopped
      • ¾ chopped onions
      • 1 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped
      • 1 T. garlic, diced
      • OPTIONAL (if you can find it): 2 fresh aji peppers, or 1-2 T. aji amarillo paste. (The paste is easier to find in the DC area, and can be found at South American food marts)
      • Salt and pepper, to taste

      The recipe is simple. Mix it all together, and let it marinate. It's actually better on day two or three, so feel free to make this ahead of time.

      I made this recipe for last Saturday's Bright Eyes show at Wolf Trap, and served it in a trio of dips that included a cream cheese and pickled zucchini mixture (4 oz. of cream cheese to one large spoonful of pickled veg), and a horseradish cheese dip that my friend Megan found. With a few assorted cheeses and meats, this was quite a feast.

      Sangria! Sangria!
      I did a little investigating this past week at a certain pavilion in Columbia, Maryland that shall remain nameless, and discovered they had taken down the best beverage sign ever created! But have no fear, Sangria! Sangria! lives on via Wolf Trap's blog.

      This is another great recipe that you can make ahead of time. Add whatever fruit works for your taste—but the most important part is to give the concoction a few hours to marinate. This is my mother's tried-and-true recipe, and while its a fantastic red wine recipe--if you prefer rose or white, just adding some strawberry slices can do wonders for a $10 bottle snagged at Arrowine.

      • 1 bottle red wine, chilled (Spanish rioja or tempranillo)
      • 1/2 orange, in thin slices
      • 1/2 lemon, in thin slices
      • 4 large oranges, juiced or 1 qt orange juice
      • 2 T. sugar
      • 4 lemons, juiced
      • 24 oz. soda water, chilled

      Combine the wine, thin orange and lemon slices, and sugar into pitcher and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. When you are ready to serve, add the rest of the fruit juice and soda water.

      If you have your own tried-and-true recipes, feel free to add them in the comments section to share with the rest of us.


      Packing the Perfect Picnic

      I'll be writing a few posts for Wolf Trap's Insider blog, From the Inside Out, and wanted to share with you the first post! Check out the original post here.

      Today's blog post comes from Teresa Weaver, one of our staffers who also keeps up a personal recipe blog, Le Culinary Creusette. After four summers picnicking on the lawn, she's seen it all, and we turn to her to get some tips and tricks to having an amazing lawn experience.


      I've planned a lot of picnics in my time at Wolf Trap--from rocking out to Belinda Carlisle or Rodrigo y Gabriela with my friends to hearing a thunderstorm keep time with the timpani in Carmina Burana--it's hard to have the same experience twice. Each show brings with it new friends, new bands, and new recipes to try. Over the years I've eyed the best and worst lawn blankets and come up with a solid list of do's and dont's for picnicking on the lawn.

      There is a great lineup of shows this week—Frankie ValliThe Levon Helm Band w/ .moeThe Go-Go's, and Bright Eyes w/ M. Ward and Dawe
      s—that all have great lawn party potential—so before you head out, read through my list below and make sure you are all stocked up for the summer.

      So what should you pack? The beauty of Wolf Trap is that the answer could be nothing and you will still have a fantastic time (although a blanket is h
      elpful). I've seen folks show up with a pizza box and Big Gulps, and they are having just as good a time as the enviable picnic spreads that include cheese plates, wine holders, and frittatas. It's all about matching your own mood with the evening show, and planning everything else accordingly.

      To make it easy, I've broken it up into two groups—equip
      ment and edibles—both of which you should consider before coming out. Today's postfocuses on the equipment—and while I've linked to a few different retailers, remember to shop around for the best price.

      • Selecting a Blanket

      Make sure you have a waterproof blanket. Even 
      if it's sunny outside, if it rained in the past day or two, there's a good chance the ground could still be damp. A lot of folks lug out a tarp and a blanket, but I would try to find one that is waterproof on one side and felt on the other—so you have the added comfort without the hassle of carrying around two separate items.($30 at LL Bean)

      Nice spread here. A picnic basket can also double as a table.

      • Rolling, Expandable Coolers. ($40 at Bed,
       Bath & Beyond)
      I found one at Costco last year that expands out—leaving me room to pack my food, drinks, AND blanket in the same place. It's not a
      vailable via Costco anymore unfortunately but check out the Bed, Bath & Beyond link above. Look for ones that have side or front pockets, or detachable bags (for the smaller gathering). These can be pricey—so be sure to shop around and find one that matches your own personalized needs.

      • Wine Bottle and Glass Holders you can stick in the ground($10 on Amazon)

      Definitely a nice way to class up your picnic spre
      ad without spilling the pino.

      • Legless Seat Cushions. ($45 at REI)

      Remember any seat with legs must move to th
      e back of the lawn behind the signs (usually strictly enforced).
      • And finally don't forget your outdoor basics: su
      nscreenan umbrella orraincoatbug spray, and utensils.
      Think he's trying to make a point?

      For In-House Patrons: Remember that you might not want to lug around a lot of picnic equipment to your seat. Try to snag a picnic tab
      le in the meadow for your meal, and consider Ziploc or paper plates so you don't have that much to store once you're in your seat. If you are extra nice an usher will watch a cooler for you by the wing. Please remember, you are only allowed to bring bottled water to your seat with you

      So those are the basics—if there's anything 
      you've noticed sitting on the lawn that I forgot to include, please add it below in the comments. Also, next week I tackle the most important part of any picnic: THE FOOD. If you have any tried-and-true recipes that you've used for years on the lawn, shoot me an email and I'll include the best ones in my post. Until then!
      Seat cushions are available to rent for the night at our gift shop for $6