Honey Dijon Chicken Salad

In thick summer heat, I find having already-made proteins in the fridge is key. They can mean the difference between eating something homemade and (marginally) healthy or getting takeout – again – just to keep from turning on the cook top or oven.

Around our house, one of the best is chicken salad. My favorite is this gem of a recipe, but I decided to mix it up tonight. This recipe is loaded with additional protein from the pecans, and the honey dijon dressing is especially tasty. I also think chunks of bacon would make a delicious addition!

37215763_10156597962415746_5088622530122481664_o

Honey Dijon Chicken Salad
with Pecans and Cranberries
(Original recipe: Julia’s Album)

Salad
4 cups chicken breast , cooked, chopped
1 cup pecans , chopped (I used roasted and salted pecans)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 green onions , chopped

Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Whisk until well combined.
In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients.
Add salad dressing and toss to coat. Add salt to taste.
Serve or store in the fridge.

Advertisements

Grown-Up Tuna Casserole

Sometimes, you just crave comfort food, even when it’s the dead of summer outside. Fortunately, our air conditioner makes it bearable to turn on the oven and indulge when that happens. Even if that isn’t the case for you, bookmark this deliciousness to try in cooler months, because this hits the spot when all you want is carb-y, cheesy, tuna-y goodness!

Note: the next time I make this, I will definitely add some green veggies. I think fresh peas or artichoke hearts would make an excellent addition!

37047452_10156587159250746_6331772054848667648_o

Grown-Up Tuna Casserole
(Original recipe: Bon Appetit)

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
2½ cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; from about 2 large)
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
½ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
8 ounces wide egg noodles
½ cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 2½ ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped dill
10-oz albacore tuna (preferably packed in olive oil), drained, broken into ½-inch chunks
2 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (about 2 ounces)
S+P to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8×8″ glass baking dish.

Boil egg noodles in large pot of water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt unsalted butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and celery seeds to saucepan. Cook until leeks are tender but not brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles, leek sauce, Gruyère cheese, dill, and tuna. Fold gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbly, 10-15 minutes longer. Serve hot.

Answered prayers and a new home

Last year, the owners of our beloved townhouse rental decided to sell it as soon as our 2018 lease was up. We began searching for a way to buy it, as this home has served us well for many years. But as the months passed, it became clear that while staying would be the easier short-term option, it wasn’t the best long-term decision. However, we had no idea what that better decision was. As the weeks passed and the Seattle housing market became increasingly more challenging, the solution became even more elusive.

One day in January, I drove out to an open house in the next county on a whim. Asking prices, bidding wars, and taxes weren’t as bad across the county line; it was worth a peek. This particular open house was in a town some friends lived in, but I’d never really visited before. As I got closer, I realized it was in a huge, planned community that was still growing. Multiple builders building houses, schools, parks, hiking trails, and eventually retail, commercial, and dining spaces. The whole place felt right, like I belonged there. I loved the house itself. I started exploring the grounds, feeling more comfortable with every discovery. I Googled the address of a dear friend, laughing out loud when I realized I could literally see her house from my parking spot. I sent photos and descriptions to my husband who agreed: we would fit well there. This could be the answer we’d been searching for.

There was only one problem: most of these houses were enormous – far more square footage than our small family of two would ever need – and priced accordingly. I took this photo of Mt. Rainier from the neighborhood coffee shop that afternoon in January as a sort of heart’s prayer with absolutely no idea how to actualize it.

20180113_130922C

We began a whirlwind of researching, networking, scouting, and praying. For months, nothing happened; it felt like a losing battle. Prices were climbing further out of our reach with every passing week.

And then, an unforeseen opportunity: a smaller builder wanted to test the market to see if there was any demand for smaller houses in this highly-coveted neighborhood. They announced a limited number of smaller floor plans for smaller price tags. The response was fierce. These homes started selling lightning-fast; 12 lots sold in a single day.

But all that networking we’d done months prior? It paid off. Within a matter of hours, we got multiple phone calls from realtors we’d never even met. “Drop what you’re doing and get down here RIGHT NOW.”

So we did.

On Wednesday afternoon, the builder announced 19 new lots. We had no broker, no secured financing, and no realtor. By Friday morning, after a sequence of major life decisions in what felt like a split-second, we had a broker, the best financing we could’ve hoped for, an entire team of realtors, and a house. We were under contract for the 16th sale, with two couples literally standing around the corner, poised to strike if we changed our minds. The remaining three lots sold within the following two hours.

Our builder recently broke ground on our foundation; we close in the fall. It’s the perfect size for our small family, and we get to choose all our finishes. Our friends are right down the street. The timing works out better than expected, and by some miracle, it fits into our budget.

I’m still in shock; this is more than I even dreamed.

Believe me, we are under no delusion of the degree to which our lives are about to change. From becoming first-time homeowners, to the extended and unique challenges of new construction, to prepping our townhouse to be listed this summer, to the adjustments of moving to and commuting from a new county (neither of us is leaving our existing jobs). I plunged into an overwhelming case of Buyer’s Remorse for about a week afterward.

But once the clouds parted and I was able to face my fears with reason and faith, my outlook shifted to one of immense gratitude. We both have a profound sense of peace for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Any place we could have chosen would have its own pros and cons; this particular pro/con list fits us well. We’re ready for this next chapter. Sometimes the thing that scare you the most end up being the most worth it.

Stay tuned, because I intend to document this entire crazy journey. I have grand long-term plans for the interior design of our new home, but so many other aspects of this endeavor will be brand new to us. If nothing else, it should be greatly entertaining. I mean, we high-fived each other after we recently bought our first ladder, so…

Home-ownership, here we come. Here goes nothing!

Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie Orzo

One of my husband’s favorite meals is chicken pot pie. However, I have yet to perfect making pastry of any kind. My temporary solution? Substituting pasta. This one-dish meal comes together pretty quickly compared to traditional homemade pot pies, and it seems to temporarily satisfy that comfort food craving when it rages. It also makes enough to feed six hungry adults, so adjust as necessary.

32880570_10156447813550746_6086828828712239104_o

Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie Orzo
(Base recipe: Jo Cooks)

1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, and cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
12 oz orzo, uncooked
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup white cheddar or Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic to the pot; cook for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.
Add the chicken thighs to the pot and season everything with salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and vegetables and stir. Cook for a minute or two, then add the white wine. Simmer for another minute or two to cook off the alcohol. The mixture will thicken.
Add chicken broth, orzo, thyme, and sage. Stir everything together and adjust for seasoning as necessary with salt and pepper.
Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the frozen peas and the rosemary. Stir everything together and continue simmering until the pasta is cooked to your liking (up to 10 additional minutes).
Gently stir in cheese, garnish with fresh parsley, and serve.

Mushroom ravioli in rosemary butter sauce

Several weeks ago, a friend’s mother-in-law offered to teach us an old Italian recipe for homemade pasta. We decided to make ravioli, and almost as an afterthought, I realized I’d need a filling. I prepared two: one salmon that was okay, and this one, which turned out to be quite possibly the best ravioli I’ve ever eaten. Do yourself a favor, and make this soon. It’s divine!

Mushroom Ravioli in Rosemary Butter Sauce
(Original recipe: Half Baked Harvest)

MUSHROOM FILLING
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup whole milk Ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt + pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the balsamic coats the mushrooms, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
In a medium bowl, stir together the Ricotta, Fontina, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms.

 

 


PASTA FOR RAVIOLI*
150 grams of double-zero or all-purpose flour
50 grams of semolina flour
2 eggs

Combine flours and eggs until they become a dough. Knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let the gluten rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, cut off a third of the dough and re-wrap the remainder to keep it from drying out. Roll the dough through a pasta machine, starting from the thickest setting and slowly working down to the thinnest.
Lay out the large piece of thinly-rolled pasta; spoon enough of the filling on the bottom half so that folding over the top can still be sealed and cut around all sides. After pressing out all the air, press down the edges to seal and crimp the edges with a fork.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the ravioli in batches for 1-2 minutes or until they float. Drain to serve.
* Pasta recipe credit: M Zoda

 


ROSEMARY BUTTER SAUCE
8 tablespoon salted butter
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
chopped parsley

In a large skillet, brown the butter over medium heat, stirring often until the butter is golden and toasted. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook 30 seconds to a minute or until fragrant. Pour in the wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced slightly.

Divide the ravioli among bowls and ladle the sauce over the ravioli. Top with parmesan and parsley.

Pasta D

Two kinds of cookies

Sometimes you just need a homemade chocolate cookie. Here are two recipes I’ve made in the last couple of weeks, perfect for those wicked chocolate cravings that I know absolutely nothing about. Obviously.

Cowboy Cookies
(Original recipe: Brown Eyed Baker)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut
2 cups (8 ounces) chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the sugars until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. With a wooden spoon or large rubber spatula stir in the chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans.
For each cookie, drop ¼ cup dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Bake until the edges are set but the middles still look light and puffy, about 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Cool cookies on the baking sheets.

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies
(Original recipe: Cafe Delites)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, white sugar, butter and vegetable oil. Beat in egg and vanilla until fully incorporated.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until a dough forms; do not over beat. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop out 1-2 tablespoonful of dough with a cookie scoop and place onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press them down as thick or thin as you want your cookies to come out.
Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will come out soft from the oven but will harden up as
they cool. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Our weather has been very grey, wet, and dreary lately. Homemade soup always seems to take the edge off a soggy day. The only other chicken and rice soup I’ve tried came from a can, and I didn’t love it. The rice is always so mushy. This homemade version is a big improvement. It’s hot, hearty, thick, and filling. The recipe makes quite a bit, so I froze the rest. This is guaranteed to hit the spot on days we’re feeling under the weather.

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
(Original recipe: Food and Wine)

4 tablespoons butter
3 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wild rice (I really like Lundberg Farms)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups water
4 cups bite-sized pieces of roasted chicken
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Saute the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just start to soften.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, until evenly coated and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Add the wild rice to the saucepan and gradually stir in the stock and water.
Bring to a boil, then simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Add the cooked chicken and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the wild rice is tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

 

Bûche de Noël

Every Christmas, I challenge myself to at least one cooking/baking challenge. This year, I chose a Bûche de Noël, otherwise known as a Yule Log. It is a traditional French roulade (or jelly roll cake) filled with fruit and/or cream, covered in chocolate and decorated to look like a log. The most well-known in America is probably that of Julia Child, complete with meringue mushrooms.

After reading through many recipes, including Julia’s, I decided on the vanilla sponge cake and cream cheese filling from Natasha’s Kitchen, with the addition of strawberry jam. As this was my first attempt at a jelly roll, I allowed myself a few shortcuts, namely pre-made strawberry jam and chocolate frosting.

I gathered all my tips – including How to Cook by Julia Child and this helpful video from Sophia at My Great Challenge – and went for it. I used the damp towel trick for rolling the cake and used the fridge to cool it off whenever it got too warm to work with. I skipped the meringue mushrooms, opting instead for fresh cranberries and leaves for a holly decoration on top.

I was pleased enough with the exterior but didn’t know what to expect of the inside until we cut into it after Christmas dinner. Imagine my shock to find an almost-perfect – and rather delicious – spiral. I’m pretty darn proud of this first attempt! I’ll definitely try again next Christmas, only this time, I’ll make the fruit filling and chocolate ganache from scratch.

Bûche de Noël

Sponge cake:
6 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat Oven to 400˚F. Line 15×21″ baking sheet with parchment.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat 6 eggs with whisk attachment on high speed 1 minute. With mixer on, gradually add 2/3 cup sugar and continue beating on high 5 minutes. Mixture will be thick and fluffy (very important since you’re relying on egg volume for the cake to rise).
Sift 1 cup flour in thirds into batter, folding with a spatula between each addition and scraping the bowl to ensure you don’t have pockets of flour hiding at the bottom. Drizzle in 1/2 tsp vanilla and gently mix just until blended (do not over-mix or you will deflate the batter). Spread batter into prepared baking pan and bake right away at 400˚F approximately 12-14 minutes or until top is golden.
Remove from the oven and quickly loosen the edges with a thin spatula. Right away remove it from the baking sheet, flipping the top over onto a damp towel. Remove the parchment paper from the back and gently roll cake into a log with the towel, starting from the narrow end. Leave the cake tightly wrapped in the towel to cool on the counter until room temp.


For the cream cheese filling:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Additional ingredients:
Fruit spread, 4-6 ounces (I used strawberry jam)
Chocolate frosting, 1 can

While the cake is cooling, combine all ingredients to make the cream cheese filling.
When the cake has cooled, unroll and gently spread a thin layer of fruit spread over the entire cake, followed by a layer of cream cheese filling. Re-roll the cake tightly, making sure the seam is on the bottom. Place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Once cooled, trim the ends of the cake. Frost it with chocolate frosting, using the back of the knife or the tines of a fork to make the cake look like a log. The cake can be kept in the fridge in plastic wrap for up to 4 days, if needed. Before serving, sift powdered cocoa around the bottom to look like dirt, and dust confectioner’s sugar on top to look like snow.

Thanksgiving 2017

An overdue handful of shots from this year’s Thanksgiving:

Pumpkin pie A

Making pumpkin pie

Processed with VSCO with  preset

Experimenting with leaf cutters and a braided crust

20171121_121807

Simple tablescape with menus and name cards created on PicMonkey

20171123_152843

This year’s 16 lb herb turkey

20171123_152826

A new side this year: pear, Roquefort, and candied pecan salad

20171123_103510

Beverage station: coffee, apple cider, tea, cocoa

20171123_103219

Cheese, fruit, and nut board; served alongside creamy pumpkin soup

Hearty Guinness Beef Stew

Several nights ago, while watching a Chopped competitor attempt beef stew in 30 minutes, my usually-apathetic husband turned to me and asked if I would make “a better beef stew than that” for dinner this week. So I dug up a recipe I’d previously used for St. Patrick’s Day and modified it. Despite not being huge beer drinkers in our house, a dark stout like Guinness adds a delicious depth of flavor to beef stew. If you’re in the mood for something thick that will stick to your bones as winter settles in, try this stew.

NOTE: I was unable to find boneless chuck, so I went with a beef/lamb stew mix I found at Trader Joes instead, and it worked beautifully!

TIP: The stew will already be rather salty from the bacon and its fat. I recommend tasting before adding additional salt to the dish.

23550023_10155920676880746_7681073783142103476_o

Hearty Guinness Beef Stew
(Original recipe: Williams Sonoma)

3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
6 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBSP unsalted butter
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
1-14 oz bottle of Guinness
2 3/4 cups beef stock
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP minced fresh thyme
1 TBSP minced fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 lbs red potatoes

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.
In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl.
Return 2 TBSP of the fat to the pot and cook the beef, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides. If necessary, cook the meat in batches to avoid overcrowding. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook in the remaining fat and meat drippings, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens.
Stir in the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock (and Guinness, if using), and then stir in the tomato paste, the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the beef and bacon to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 90 minutes.
Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1-inch cubes, add them to the pot, stir, re-cover and continue cooking until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes more. Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste.