Saturday, July 2, 2016

S'mores Rice Krispies Treats

One of my favorite things about summer is being able to eat s'mores at every opportunity possible. It's like the calories don't count because it's just a necessary summer treat! Because I don't have a fireplace or outside fire pit I'm limited to the traditional roasting s'mores and love trying new ways of consuming them. A method I've been thoroughly enjoying lately is S'mores Rice Krispie treats. I've made them a few different ways and you can decide what you prefer. There really isn't a right or wrong way to make these and I'll be honest with you, I didn't exactly measure the good stuff, aka the s'more part. Just eyeball'll pretty much want every inch of it covered with the chocolate and graham cracker goodness.

To make the Rice Krispies I followed the recipe (here) which made a delightful base. Actually...I may have added a whole stick of butter, not 5 tbl. It felt unnatural  to leave such a small amount behind! I like this recipe because there's little bits of marshmallow that melt and give that luscious pull when you bite into it. Holy moly.

S'mores Rice Krispies Treats

You'll Need:
1 stick butter
8 cups mini marshmallows, divided
1 tsp vanilla (optional!)
6 cups rice cereal
1/2 cup min chocolate chips
1 Hershey's chocolate bar
1 cup Golden Grahams cereal
8x8 baking dish
plastic wrap
nonstick spray

Follow your favorite recipe for rice krispies treats and add in mini marshmallows to the coated cereal mixture. Line your baking dish with the plastic wrap and give it a light mist of nonstick spray.

Pour half of the cereal mixture in the baking dish and reserve the rest in the pot, for a quick second. Work quickly because you want the mixture to still be warm! Press the mixture lightly into an even layer, don't compact it too much.

Add in the chocolate chips first and you'll see them melt almost immediately! Next break off the Hershey's squares and arrange them evenly around.

Taking the graham cereal in your hand, lightly crush them as you sprinkle them on top. Use as little or as much as you like. Eyeball it!

Pour the rest of the marshmallow cereal mixture over top and even it out, again, not pressing too much. Keep them light and airy.

Let the bars sit for a half hour or so (if you can wait) and pull the plastic wrap up and out to cut the bars easier.

I like the squares of Hershey because it's pretty much traditional but I also like to sprinkle on a layer of mini chocolate chips because they melt and ensure that every bite will be equally as chocolatey. 
You can also throw in different forms of chocolate in between such as peanut butter cups and let me tell's a must try!

Goodness gracious.
I made these a few times with the s'mores part on top and tossing it in the broiler for a few second to toast the marshmallows. This way looks super cute and screams S'mores! I did find they were a little harder to eat.
These are what S'more dreams are made of!

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gardener Goals

I've always had a fascination for gardening but don't possess the skills to keep plants alive. I watched my parents successfully grow tomatoes, jalapeños, bell peppers, and herbs in their garden and I've kept a wish list of produce I wanted to grow myself. Since I'm now an adult and have my own yard I figured I'd give it a whirl and plant my own garden this spring! I bought a raised bed since, let's be honest, kneeling in dirt and fighting off rodents doesn't sound too appealing. I bought mine from Williams Sonoma and so far am very pleased with it! I love the looks of these raised beds and it seems relatively straightforward. I dabbled in researching how to grow produce but ultimately relied on advice and common sense...we'll see how successful that turns out!

I started with seedlings in decomposable cups indoors, for about 9 week. We had a long stint of dark and gloomy days and I learned that my seedlings were "leggy" which meant they were getting taller to find sun but ultimately weren't strong enough. As soon as I saw the forecast in lows above 50 I took the plunge and planted my little seedlings in the raised bed. It may have been a little premature but truthfully, I was anxious to get my kitchen table back :) I'm growing cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, bell peppers, carrots, jalapeños, and a variety of fresh herbs. The herbs aren't looking too good at this moment but everything else is showing progress!

It's been so fun watching these little sprouts grow and I'm hopeful for a fruitful harvest later this summer! There's so much to learn and I'm excited to share the progress with you! Feel FREE to send me an email or reach out on social media for advice on anything you've learned about gardening! I could use the help.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chardonnay Day!

With National Chardonnay Day on the horizon (May 26th) I wanted to divulge my favorite way to sip.

Truthfully, I'm a Sauvignon Blanc devotee first and foremost. The few encounters I had with Chardonnay were very heavy and oaky and although not bad, it wasn't my first choice. I like the crisp lightness that other varietals lend. However, in recent months I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone and broadening my horizons. To others, that may mean trying a new workout or traveling to unique spots...but for me, it's changing the wine varietal for the week! Although I typically wouldn't open a bottle to taste and drink by myself, it's the perfect thing to open with friends over to sip, dissect, and discuss. What I've learned from these tastings is that Chardonnay is full of stereotypes and there are some light, non-oaky, crisp bottles out there! Before saying, "I don't like Chardonnay", give it a go. Try it and try it again. You may surprise yourself!

My first "ah ha!" moment of actually enjoying Chardonnay was at a wine tasting this past winter. Our friends host an annual party with a huge wine tasting that outdoes itself every year.
Not all bottles were shown in this picture ;)
Winner winner chicken dinner!!

Each year we try a different varietal and everyone brings a bottle. This year was be honest, I wasn't pumped about it. As luck would have it, the bottle I brought (thank you Line39!) won the blind taste test and I felt converted from that moment on. Since then, I've held two Chardonnay tastings at home and slowly but surely, am appreciating the grape more than I thought. Here's a few I've tried recently and recommend you try as well!

The key to a wine tasting is grabbing the same varietal from different regions. It's so interesting to learn how different climates (and TLC) can affect the same grape! They don't have to be expensive either. Grab a variety-whatever is in your price point and have fun with it. When doing a tasting with one varietal I actually don't like to pair food with it. I would have plain crackers or nuts around but keep them neutral. You can hide the bottles in bags or just leave them out exposed. Keep it casual and easy.

You can put out tasting sheets and make it competitive or if it's a small group just taste each one at the same time and converse about it. It's fun to hear how people interpret the flavors and how vastly our taste buds are from one another.

Pour a glass and email me your favorites. I'm excited to hear what you all enjoy and why!


{Some of the bottles shown were given to me as samples but the opinions on this post are my own.}

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Asparagus Arancini

Spring time is upon us, although it's been rather chilly in Chicago, spring blooms have me looking forward to warm weather and storing away my winter wardrobe (finally)! I don't know about you but warmer weather inspires me to entertain and cook things besides frozen pizza and ordering takeout!

A recent bottle of rose had me all sorts of excited and these asparagus arancini are the perfect bite to serve along side! I like the contrast that they provide. The arancini are crisp and salty, creamy and lightly citrusy on the inside. The rose is crisp, slightly sweet and perfectly acidic. This is an easy drinking wine that's slightly fruity (think strawberries and citrus) without being too sweet. It's delicate but complex and not overpowering which makes it the perfect accompaniment to these rich bites.
I made risotto the traditional way (with lemon and diced asparagus) and then poured it out onto a foil-lined baking sheet to chill in the fridge. Once cooled, I added a beaten egg, fresh parsley, and more parmesan cheese. I then rolled into 1" (or so) balls with a small scoop, and dredged in egg wash and panko bread crumbs. I rarely fry anything at home since it uses a ton of oil, it's unhealthy, and its messy! But hey, it's a new season and I need to step out of my comfort zone!
You can use any ingredients in your risotto, in fact, sun dried tomatoes, fresh peas, mushrooms, leaks, would all be delish! I also contemplated stuffing each ball with cheese but I wanted these to be a little on the slighter side...after all, I am frying these!
Back to the wine. I'm a sucker for anything pink! I've always been very girly and clearly have never grown out of it. I love crisp whites but there's something about a glass of pink wine that just makes me giddy! I've had multiple bottles of wine from Balletto Vineyards and honestly? There's no clear winner. They know how to make great wine!
Cheers to spring and the start of a new season :)

{The Balletto Rosé was given to me as a sample but the opinions on this post are my own.}

Monday, April 25, 2016

Taking in Spring

Sometimes I see something that stops me in my tracks and puts life into perspective. This weekend it happened to have been two things. As some of you know my husband and I bought our first house together last summer prior to getting married, which meant I was so preoccupied to enjoy the nuances of our new surroundings.

Since it's our first spring in this house I have loved walking the property(it's tiny!) on a nice night and weekends to observe what we've acquired. I've learned we have a beautiful magnolia tree, daffodils (small yellow ones and larger white and pale yellow ones), and about 7 tulips! Thinking they were weeds just 2 weeks ago I almost pulled them while weeding but luckily my mom stopped by and told me what they were, thanks mom!
It's crazy how quick these spring marvels stick around for and if you aren't looking, you'll miss them! My magnolia tree blossomed and the next 3 days were cold and windy-taking 90% of the flowers out. I'm really glad I spent that first night taking pictures and standing in awe because if I had waited, I wouldn't have seen this.

My tulips bloomed in a similar fashion. Sunday they were tight little buds leaving me giddy to see what color they were hiding and after a few days of rain they had completely opened! 
I was just thinking about the short lifespan of nature (odd coincidence that earth day was Friday) and went for a walk around my neighborhood to enjoy the spring blooms. I saw sidewalk chalk as I was walking and but didn't look down to see what it was. Fun that kids got out on Saturday to play! It took me a minute but I decided to turn around to see what the pictures were and I am truly thankful I did! This is what I saw. 
We are all so busy with our daily lives juggling work, family, kids, pets, friends, etc but if we don't slow down to enjoy life's little treasures, we'll miss it in a flash. To the person who wrote this in sidewalk chalk, thank you! This weekend was a wake up call for me and I hope you get out to enjoy the little things as well. 

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Classic Chicken Pot Pie

Happy Pi Day! I love an excuse to create meals around a theme and Pi Day, is one of them. Although math isn't my strongest skill, my husband impressively rattled off about 12 digits following 3.14, so that's worthy of pie! Since its cold and rainy here in Chicago I have been craving comfort food and decided on one of my very favorites, chicken pot pie. There are thousands of versions of this dish and surely they are all delicious! I actually love the filling so much that I'd much prefer a big bowl of the stuff topped with a flaky round of puff pastry...mmm, so good! I'm keeping it classic today with pie crust but feel free to modify this recipe to your liking! I should also mention that I doubled this recipe, so the pictures show larger quantities than this recipe yields.

Chicken Pot Pie
You'll need:
2 tbl butter or oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 stick butter 
3/4 c celery, medium dice
3/4 c onion, medium dice
3/4 c carrot, medium dice
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
(Optional) 1/4 c white wine
1/2 c all purpose flour
2 c milk (I like 2% or whole for cooking/baking but use whatever you have)
1/2 c Organic Valley heavy cream (there's a specific flavor of the cream that I love the addition of)
1/8 tsp nutmeg (just a pinch!)
1 chicken bouillon cube
(Optional) 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 c frozen peas
2 pie crusts, thawed
1 tbl butter, room temperature (or nonstick pan spray)
1 egg (for an egg wash just crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk until combined)

In a large pot over medium-high heat add in butter or a drizzle of olive oil.
Sear your chicken breasts on both sides and season simply with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat until the chicken is tender and cooked through.  
Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour out any juices or drippings into a small bowl, we'll add that glorious chicken flavor back in shortly. Dice or shred the chicken and set aside.
Add butter to the same pot and sauté your mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) over medium heat until tender. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine. 
This part is totally optional but I like to deglaze the pan with a little splash of white wine. It just adds slight sweetness and a depth to the sauce that I really like.
Now we'll add in the milk and cream and season with salt, pepper, fresh thyme, chicken bouillon, and a hint of nutmeg. Nutmeg is the secret to most white sauces that adds that unmistakable somethin'somethin'. Bring the milk up to a simmer and the sauce will thicken almost instantly.
 Add the cooked chicken, reserved chicken drippings, and peas to the pot and give it a good stir. The peas will defrost quickly in that bubbly white sauce! Taste for seasoning and make sure it really is flavorful. This mixture is the essence of the dish so if it's flavorless now, it will be later too! I like quite a bit of black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes to add a slight kick.
Butter your pie dish so it doesn't stick...for goodness sake, there's no reason to go through all of this trouble if you can't even get the pie out of the dish! You can make your own pie crust but for those like me, store-bought is just fine! I got in a bit of an altercation with my crust, as you'll see in the picture. I may have had to roll out each layer more than once..or twice. All in the name of pie!
Pour your pot pie filling into the raw crust. Gosh it already looks good.
Seal the bottom and top crust around the edges with an egg wash. Trim and tuck the edges under and crimp to your best ability. If you lack the skills necessary for this, you can use a fork. This is supposed to be rustic...don't stress out if it isn't perfect!
Brush the top of the crust with the egg wash and cut little slits to give the steam somewhere to vent. I like to sprinkle leftover thyme, salt and pepper on top to give a visual that it's savory. Totally optional!
Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 35-45 min or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling!
Serve with a glass of white wine or bubbles to cut through the richness, again, optional!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Crispy Seared Salmon

I posted a picture of my dinner last night and received a few questions on how I made it. I love being asked questions like that, keep them coming! It always surprises me when spontaneous food posts cause more traction than when planned!

I have a love/hate relationship with salmon. I want to love it! I've had it many times and enjoyed it but then takes a not-so-good experience to make my nose turn up to it again.

I decided to buy different types of seafood this week to switch up my go-to protein sources like chicken, pork, and beef. I love seafood for quick weeknight meals and ended up having salmon two nights in a row, rather than saving the extra filets in the freezer for next week.
Sesame crusted tuna from Saturday night
Fish tacos with avocado, lime juice, pineapple salsa, and chipotle yogurt slaw from Monday night,
Similar to my {perfect filet} method, it's really important to pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. If the fish is wet it will likely steam instead of giving you that nice crispy crust. 

Seared Salmon
6-8 oz salmon filet, skin on or off
Salt and pepper
Favorite seasoning blend ( I used cajun seasoning last night and herbs de Provence tonight)
1tbl coconut oil  (or olive oil, whatever you prefer)
Oven safe nonstick pan

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Pat the salmon dry with paper towel. 

Season lightly with salt, pepper, and a spice blend. 

Preheat your pan over medium high heat until light wisps of smoke appear. 

Add the coconut oil and swirl to coat the pan evenly. Add the salmon, presentation side down! If you are serving with the skin side up that would be your "presentation side". If you're taking the skin off then sear with the flesh side down. I like to sear the flesh side first but keep the skin on. It's so much easier to remove the skin after its cooked!

Sear for 2-3 minutes or until it's golden brown. Flip the fish carefully and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes. Stand back when the skin hits the hot pan! It'll spit hot oil around and you don't want to get burned, that'll leave a mark.
Transfer the pan to the oven and continue cooking for 6-10 minutes. 
I don't particularly enjoy eating the skin but I will tell you, it was so crispy, it actually could have been picked up and eaten like a potato chip. I had a bite, just to test this theory of course! 
Last night I served this with sesame brown rice, a nice arugula salad with avocado and tomato, and a healthy drizzle of Sriracha.
Tonight I served it with an arugula salad with quinoa and tomatoes with a drizzle of fresh chimichurri sauce. 


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blood Orange Margarita

Happy National Margarita Day! 
So, maybe it isn't an official holiday, but I like to celebrate the small things in life! Although I'm not a huge tequila fan and the thought of a tequila shot turns my stomach, I love margaritas. It's the perfect summer beverage and Saturday afternoon sipper! In recent days, Chicago has been in the 50s and 60s and it's making me more than ready for spring! I'm craving a good spring cleaning, pastels, and all things citrus. Maybe I'm in need of a vacation, that's quite possible, but more than ever, I love a new fresh season. I originally intended on making a grapefruit margarita until a blood orange caught my eye at the grocery store and I changed my mind instantly. 
I love blood oranges! They are similar to an orange but sweeter and almost tart, not to mention the gorgeous color!

I made a few rounds of these margaritas and truthfully, there's no right or wrong way to make these. Margaritas are a pretty personal cocktail. Some prefer salt over sugar. Some prefer over-the-rocks over blended. Some prefer dark tequila over light. Take this recipe and make it how you like!

In celebration of the holiday I'll be eating fish tacos with pineapple salsa and a pitcher of these blood orange margaritas! More on the tacos to come.

Blood Orange Margaritas
(makes one margarita)
You'll Need:
2 oz tequila (whichever one you like)
2 oz blood orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 oz Elderflower liquor
slice of blood orange or lime for garnish

In a glass measuring cup, combine the tequila, blood orange juice, lime juice, and elderflower liquor. Give it a good stir and set it aside.

Meanwhile, take a lime wedge and run it along the rim of the glass and then dip it into a plate of sugar or salt. You can also omit both if you like. Fill the glass with ice (crushed or cubed).

Fill your cocktail shaker with crushed ice and pour the margarita mixture in and give it a good shake for about 30 seconds. Alternatively you could blend with ice!
Strain into your glass and garnish with a slice of blood orange or lime.

*Chef's note-
I like to use St. Germain instead of a sweetener like simple syrup. It adds a floral sweetness with a little complexity, that I really like! Feel free to sub out for agave, triple sec, etc.