Kitchen Adventures

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I don’t know what it is, but I have been on some kind of sugar kick over the last week. I’m going to blame it on the fact that my period finally came back after a year-and-a-half of pregnancy/breastfeeding hiatus. (Too much info? Then you’re reading the wrong blog.)

The point is, for the last five days, I’ve been craving a Double Stuf Oreo (yes, that’s really how it’s spelled) something fierce. So last Thursday, I finally bought a pack.

Which was a mistake. They should sell the Double Stuf in smaller portions. Because now I come home to a FULL PACK of Double Stuf Oreos every day. Send help.

But while the cookies were good for sating that particular craving, they also sparked a new issue: Now I wanted something else sweet. I wanted a dessert martini.

You guys? This is SO out of character for me. I do not like sweet drinks. The only sweet things I like are desserts, and even then, I prefer when there’s something salty or slightly bitter mixed in.

But here I was, craving the saccharine syrupy-ness of a dessert martini.

I didn’t even know where to begin, but I figured the least I could do was whip something up at home.

And thus, the Mounds Bar Martini was born.
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Here’s what you do:

Mounds Bar Martini Recipe

Ingredients:
1 oz whipped cream flavored rum
1 oz coconut vodka
1 oz half and half
drizzle of chocolate syrup
Oreo cookie dust for garnish (optional)

Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and shake vigorously until frothy. Draw a line of chocolate syrup around the inside of a martini glass, then pour in the cocktail mixture. Top with a pinch or two of Oreo cookie dust. (BECAUSE YOU HAVE A WHOLE PACK, AFTER ALL.)

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The result is decadent, rich, and exactly what I was craving. I think I’ll probably be good on dessert martinis for another five years, so it was definitely worth going all out on this one. Because sometimes you feel like a nut…and sometimes you just want to drink your dessert.

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I’ve never been a big fan of breakfast pastries. Or, really, pastry in general. It’s the way it basically melts away in your mouth. Did you even eat anything at all?

If I’m going to consume the calories, I better at least be sure I had a snack.

The only breakfast baked goods I tend to enjoy are scones. A scone is basically a cookie (which I love), and it’s got enough heft to it to leave me feeling full.

When I make them at home, I try to incorporate a few more nutritious ingredients as well. My homemade scones are usually made with almond flour (more protein and gluten-free for my pals that go that route), coconut oil (instead of butter, in case you’re watching your dairy intake), and agave nectar (instead of sugar). I like that they’re not super sweet. I’m not even sure you can technically still call it a scone, but, heck, I’m eating it for breakfast, so I will what I want.

This is the recipe I make most often, but when I found myself without any dark chocolate this past weekend (quelle horreur), I decided to get a little creative.

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I had a giant box of organic strawberries that I had picked up at Trader Joe’s (after promising myself that I would finish them before they went bad and I had to throw all that money in the trash), so my immediate thought was to make strawberry scones.

Then I had a flash of inspiration: peanut butter and jelly scones.

I used my chocolate chip scone recipe as a sort of outline for this recipe and then subbed in the new ingredients, and the results…well, put it this way: Joey’s response to eating one was, “This is the best thing you’ve ever baked.”

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He’s a bit of a peanut butter addict, but I’m still taking those kudos to heart.

Here’s how to whip up your own gluten- and dairy-free scones for a little weekend treat:

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Almond Flour Peanut Butter and Jelly Scones

Scone Ingredients:
2 1/2 c almond meal or flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 c chopped fresh strawberries

Icing Ingredients:
1/4 c creamy peanut butter
1/4 c almond milk
1 T powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine your scone dry ingredients.
3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk your scone wet ingredients, then pour into the medium bowl with the dry ingredients.
4. Fold in the strawberries.
5. Using an ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), scoop the batter into round lumps, about 3-4 T each, about 1 inch apart on the prepared pan. (They don’t spread, so don’t worry about fitting them all.)
6. Bake for 17-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
7. While the scones are baking, whisk your icing ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk if necessary to create a light, creamy consistency (sort of like toothpaste).
8. Spoon the icing into a piping bag (or a sandwich baggie with a corner cut out if you’re fancy like me). Once scones are cool, drizzle with the icing as desired.

One thing to note: The fresh berries carry a lot of water, so you may need to bake your scones a few minutes longer if you want the insides to be firmer. Mine were soft on the inside, which my family prefers. Alternately, you could dehydrate the strawberries in your oven prior to adding them to the batter to avoid excess moisture.

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Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

What’s that? Two cooking posts in a row? Aren’t I a little icon of domesticity these days? (Of course, “in a row” might be considered a stretch since my last post was a couple weeks ago. Oh, life with a baby!)

Anyway. As I said last time (because nothing has changed in my life, guys), I’m cooking more. Blah blah blah blah anecdotes.

The point is, I cooked this thing the other day, and it turned out pretty tasty, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Truth be told, it was one of those days when I had a few key ingredients in my fridge (in this case, gnocchi and chicken) and I decided to scan the interwebs for recipes I could make using said key ingredients. I found something that was generally what I was looking for, but I had to fill in a lot of gaps and improvise since I didn’t have everything that the original recipe called for. In this case, I substituted my favorite spices and a container of takeout Chinese broccoli left over from lunch the day before. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Or, in this case, leftovers I don’t want to throw out are the mother of dinner. Or something.

As I said, though, the resulting dish was met with positive reviews, so I figured it was worth a post. Especially considering the only other posts I have rolling around my head are Vivi updates (keep your eye out for her two-month post…it’s coming next week) and thoughts on my new life as a housewife. I’ll get around to those. Probably. At some point.

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Ingredients:

3 T olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups broccoli (or Chinese broccoli, which is what I used because multicultural fanciness!), roughly chopped
1 tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 T butter
2 T whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 chicken breasts, baked and shredded
1 package whole wheat gnocchi
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

Add the broccoli, rosemary, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove veggie mixture from skillet and put into a bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

Add butter to the skillet and melt. Stir in flour until mixed thoroughly.

Add the chicken broth, almond milk, and cinnamon. Cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes.

Stir in chicken and gnocchi until coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until slightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

I used to cook a lot when I was single and then when Joey and I first got married. I even had a whole section of this blog dedicated to what I dubbed my Kitchen Adventures.

But then around the time I was living on Long Island, I got a job back in the city and suddenly had a much longer commute to contend with. So Joey started taking over cooking duties. It started with a few nights a week, but it eventually became one of his primary responsibilities around the house.

What can I say? He’s good at it, and I’m a sucker for a man who can cook.

Over the last year or so, it has evened out a bit more as to who is wielding the spatula in our kitchen. But now that I’m home every day with the baby, I’ve tried to pick up more of the cooking slack. I mean, it’s not like I have tons of free time when I’m home, but I like to think that by taking one thing off Joey’s plate (by, you know, putting something on his plate) I’m giving him more time to spend with the Vivster when he gets home.

All of that is a long way of saying that I actually have a new recipe to post! My transition into total housewife is almost complete, you guys.

It all started with my book club. I’m in a club that meets about every two months. We try to read a variety of books in different genres and styles, and we do what we can to theme the food we eat to the book.

This month, we read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. After the necessary choices like tea and pastries had been covered by other book club members, someone suggested a meat pie of sorts to add some heartiness to the meal. I still hadn’t offered to bring anything yet, so I offered to make some kind of mini chicken pot pie. (Mostly because I had no idea what other kinds of meat pies exist, and I was scared to google it.)

After I made my offer, I decided it could be fun to create my own recipe using some of my favorite fall veggies. I’ve been cooking with a lot of fall produce lately, and I’ve never met a root vegetable I didn’t like. So the idea for my Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies was born.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could sub in basically any kind of vegetables you like, so get creative! Here’s what I used:

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

INGREDIENTS
1 chicken breast, baked and diced
1 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits

The most time consuming part of the recipe is chopping all of the veggies, but I promise it’s worth it.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Once everything is chopped, combine the vegetables, chicken, cream of chicken soup, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
  • To assemble the pies, lightly spray a muffin tin with coconut oil or the cooking spray of your choice. Flatten one biscuit dough in each muffin cup, making sure it extends up the sides. This creates the crust for each pie.
  • Fill each crust with a heaping pile of the veggie mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. (Check it around 12 minutes. You might need to bake for longer depending on your definition of “heaping.”)
  • Let stand for a few minutes after cooking and enjoy!

When I made this, I accidentally made way too much of the veggie mixture, so I used the leftovers to make a bigger chicken pot pie for Joey and me the next day. Dontcha love a twofer? The result was pretty delicious, and also pretty, well, pretty. Autumn is totally the best season, folks.

I also recently made a stuffed acorn recipe and salmon with roasted root veggies, but I forgot to take photos. If I make it again soon (which I probably will), I’ll write posts for those too.

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

What are your favorite fall recipes? Do you love root veggies as much as I do?

I’m a pretty lucky girl in that my husband does most of the cooking in our house. Occasionally, if he’s stressed with work or I’m craving something really specific, I’ll dust off my rusty culinary skills and whip up a little something, but in general, the kitchen is his domain.

Sometimes, though, neither of us is in the mood to do anything after work except to flop on the couch and have someone hand us a meal. That usually results in a sizable Seamless order, but recently we learned about a new option.

I’d like to introduce you to Kitchensurfing, an on-demand personal chef service where you can have a professional chef come to your home, prepare a meal, and clean up before you even sit down to eat. The result? A healthy, often locally sourced dinner in about 30 minutes time, cooked entirely to order.

The view.

The view.

Our chef, Claire, was delightful. She arrived promptly (even getting there a few minutes before we did), and quickly set up and started cooking. Joey and I sat at the table nearby and caught up on our days while the aroma of steak started to fill the kitchen.

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The talented Claire.

Before we knew it, Claire was done, the kitchen was cleaned up, and dinner was served. And, you guys? It was gorgeous.

Dins.

Dins.

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We had the Rosemary Beef Tagliata with Seared Polenta Cakes and an arugula salad with baby artichokes and a balsamic dressing. It was totally delicious.

The most amazing part of this service to us was that, besides being super quick and delicious, it’s not even insanely outside our price-range — at least as an occasional luxury. Weekly pricing (one meal per week) for couples is $59, for a young family is $79, and for a family of four is $95. If you consider what you would spend on an evening out with friends, it’s not that different (and you can do this in your pajamas!). Joey and I could also see using the service again for an anniversary or other special occasion.

My date.

My date.

Interested in trying it out for yourself? Click here to learn more.

Have you already tried Kitchensurfing? Can YOU think of anything fancier than having a personal chef for the night?

[Disclosure: All Kitchensurfing links used above are affiliate links.] 

How often do you cook at home each week?

When the hubs and I first got hitched, I cooked often. Joey hadn’t get discovered his love of the culinary, which meant it was either eggs every night or I take on most of the cooking duties. But while I enjoy cooking, I found myself often making pretty much the same thing every night. (This was a weekly staple.)

Fast-forward almost four (!) years later, and the roles have almost entirely reversed. And while I love (LOVE) how often and well Joey cooks, sometimes I miss it. But, to be totally honest, cooking had started to bore me. My veggie-loaded pastas were good, but not that exciting. And while I was pinning new recipes all the time, I rarely had the motivation to seek out new ingredients and learn new techniques.

I guess Joey must have been feeling stuck in a rut too, because a few weeks ago, we started using Blue Apron.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled -- so you really can't mess this up.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled — so you really can’t mess this up.

 

If you’re not familiar, Blue Apron is a service you can sign up for that will send you perfectly portioned ingredients and recipes so you can cook at home. We signed up to get three meals a week, and personally, I immediately loved the process. Every Wednesday night, we receive a shipment of super fresh produce, spices, and seafood (we didn’t want chicken, so that eliminated other meats from our plan as well), along with the recipes cards — complete with step-by-step photos — we need to create the meal. Of course, there have been a couple of recipes we weren’t as crazy about, but for the most part we’ve been pretty pleased with everything.

The best part for me? I’m cooking again — AND I’m learning new things all the time. I’ve cooked Thai food, Vietnamese food, and pot pies, I’ve experimented with new kinds of seafood (I’m making catfish this week!), and I’ve learned so much more about working with fresh spices. I’ve pickled my own raisins. I’ve grated my own horseradish. I’ve become an expert chopper. And I’ve kept all the recipes we loved, so I can create them again any time I want. It’s also surprisingly affordable — we’re not spending any more on groceries than we were before.

I didn’t really realize how much of an effect Blue Apron had had on my cooking until this past weekend. We took a trip to Vermont with a few friends, and I offered to cook dinner and lunch two of the days. My plan was to make venison chili with cornbread quiche for dinner and venison cutlets the next day for lunch. I had never cooked venison before, and I’m always nervous about cooking meat after the Meatloaf Disaster of 2011. But after reading over a couple of possible recipes, I realized that the skills I had picked up over the last two weeks would translate pretty easily.

And you know what? That venison turned out pretty darn good.

So, I’m curious: How do all of y’all learn new recipes? Do you tend to cook the same things over and over? Have you tried Blue Apron? What did you think?

(I feel obligated to clarify that this isn’t a sponsored post — I just wanted to share my opinion about a new service we’ve been trying!)