Monthly Archives: April 2013

Perfect Roast Chicken

Crisp, juicy roast chicken

Crisp, juicy roast chicken

Are you ready for a recipe that takes less than 60 seconds to prepare, but looks like you spent hours cooking and makes your home smell incredible? Done.

Here’s how it all goes down: Place as many chicken pieces as you can comfortably fit into a baking dish. (I used four thighs and four legs, but you can use any kind that you like including chicken breast.) Drizzle chicken liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle (there was no measuring; as a devout measurer I promise you don’t need to) each piece with salt and ground black pepper. Sprinkle each piece lightly with some paprika and garlic powder. Place in a 425 degree oven and cook for 30-35 minutes. That’s it!

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I served the chicken with a mango, avocado, and strawberry salsa* on top of arugula for a light and fresh meal, but the options are truly endless when you start with juicy, flavorful roast chicken. Enjoy!

*Salsa recipe similar to this one, plus two mangoes, a handful of sliced strawberries, and chopped cilantro.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Ingredients

Bone-in skin-on chicken parts (I used 4 thighs and 4 legs)

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Paprika

Garlic powder

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425. Add chicken to baking dish. Drizzle liberally with olive il. Sprinkle each piece with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Bake 30-35 minutes until juices are clear. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Serve.

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Meaty Baked Ziti

Meaty Baked Ziti via ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Meat sauce + pasta + mozzarella = delicioso

Oh how I desperately wish I had better photography skills….and more sunlight in our apartment…and the ability to cook in the middle of the day so I could take photos in the daylight so you could more accurately see just how insanely delicious this meal was. Heck, I  wish you could come over for dinner and have a bite. We still have leftovers!

If the photo doesn’t do the meal justice (it doesn’t) I’m sure the recipe will: My favorite meat sauce recipe, plus almost fully cooked ziti, plus freshly shredded, soon to be gooey mozzarella cheese. Pour it into a casserole dish and cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Boom.

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True story: I cooked with cheese. I ate cheese. I liked cheese. Please don’t go spreading this around, it’ll tarnish my cheese-hating reputation.

Let’s move on.

I was so proud of my accomplishment that, upon tasting it, I declared to Robert  he should make me his wife. Good thing I happen to have a few other attributes going for me besides the occasional culinary success. Sometimes humility isn’t one of them.

This is what my Saturday night looked like!

Meaty baked ziti + arugula salad + fava beans 

Meaty Baked Ziti

Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp dried basil, crumbled

1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers

1 (28 oz) can  plum tomatoes, drained, chopped

1 (15 oz)  can tomato sauce

1/2 cup  red wine

1 pound ziti

2 cups shredded part-skin mozzarella cheese (I recommend buying a ball of fresh mozzarella and shredding it yourself)

Preparation

Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Tansfer beef to plate. Add onion and garlic to skillet and sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in  basil, oregano, paprika, and red chili peppers and continue cooking 1 minute. Return beef to skillet; add tomatoes, tomato sauce ,and wine. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400.

While sauce cooks, cook the pasta just shy of the recommended cooking time (about 7 minutes if the box says 9 minutes.) Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

Return pasta to pot, add meat sauce, and toss to coat evenly.

Pour half the pasta and sauce mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta and sauce and top with the remaining sauce.

Cook about 20-25 minutes until sauce is bubbly.

Wedding Wednesday: Our Save the Date!

Today’s the day! I’m over the moon excited to share our Save the Date with you! We had the most fun putting it together on Minted. We kept switching up the photo in the design process, but always came back to this one and I’m so happy we did. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before it always makes me smile.

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Coconut Lime Tilapia from Women’s Health magazine

Coconut Lime Tilapia

Coconut Lime Tilapia

Hi friends! Apologies for the radio silence here in the past week. I’m back and have a few posts coming your way over the next few days. Starting with this gem: Coconut lime tilapia. I’ve definitely been on a lime kick lately between this and my margarita lime chicken last week. Limes are just so bright and tangy – like a mouthful of spring on your palate! And when you add some coconut oil? Well, I could swear there was even a little taste of summer in there, too. A girl can dream, right?

I came across this recipe in Women’s Health magazine a little while ago. I know I’m partial because I’ve been writing for Women’s Health for nearly eight years (I can hardly believe it), but this recipe is truly outstanding.

Now, I don’t always go to the big stack of health and fitness magazines I receive each month for recipes–I usually rely on Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, and, most recently, Food & Wine for that. But lately Women’s Health has been killing it with their food section. Really, really great recipes and amazing photos. There’s an entire bonus cooking section in the May issue so definitely check it out! And while you’re at it see the Nutrition, Weight Loss, and Health Scoop pages in the front of the magazine by yours truly, too : )

Let’s discuss this fantastic coconut lime tilapia, shall we? It’s the most flavorful tilapia I’ve ever had, yet still feels light and healthy like you’d expect from the flaky white fish. Plus it’s easy to make: Coat tilapia in a mixture of lime zest, garlic, salt, pepper, and coconut oil then saute in some melted coconut oil. So simple, so great! And if you don’t already have coconut oil (I didn’t) it’s definitely worth buying for this meal (and others). I served the tilapia alongside steamed broccoli, but the original recipe suggests serving it with some tossed spinach or you could even make fish tacos. YUM!

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Coconut Lime Tilapia 

Serves 4

Ingredients 

3 limes, zested

4 garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper

4 tsp melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking

4 (5 oz) tilapia filets

Preparation

Combine lime zest, garlic, salt, pepper, and 4 tsp melted coconut oil in a bowl. Brush mixture on one side of tilapia filets.

Heat small amount (about 1/2 Tbsp) of coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once coconut oil is melted and the pan is hot, place 2 tilapia filets in the pan, seasoned side down. Brush tops of filets with lime zest mixture. Cook about 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining 2 filets.

Recipe from Women’s Health magazine 

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad via ABalancedLifeCooks.comHere’s how I know spring has finally arrived here in Chicago: On one of the first non-30 degree days I stepped outside, pointed my face toward the sun, and basked in its warmth. It has been a long, cold, grey winter and I’m so ready to finally emerge from hibernation.

Sometimes I like to coax the next season with the food I make. I love roasted veggies as much as the next gal, but it’s time for something a little lighter. What you see here: Raw organic arugula with yellow bell pepper, boiled and seasoned baby potatoes, steamed asparagus with shallot vinaigrette, and marinated flank steak. Can I get an OH YEAH? The perfect meal to bridge the seasons: light and fresh flavors with a few hearty slices of steak.

The great thing about this meal is you can serve it so many different ways. Check out the fixins’ below:

DSCN2202You prepare each component separately, which means you can pile everything together into a salad like I did or place each item on a different part of your plate if you’re not into your food touching. Either way it’s a tasty and refreshing way to celebrate the start of spring!

Steak & Asparagus Spring Salad

Since there are several different parts to this meal I offer instructions below on how to prepare each one so you can make it all or pick a few. 

Marinated Flank Steak

To a bowl or baking dish combine: 1 pound flank steak, 2 Tbsp olive oil,  juice of 1 lime, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped jalapeño (remove ribs and seeds), 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Refrigerate for 1 or more hours.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook 5 minutes (or more depending on desired degree of doneness) on each side. Remove steak to a plate and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Slice into thin strips.

Steamed Asparagus & Shallot Vinaigrette

Steam 1 bunch asparagus. Drain and place on a plate. In a bowl whisk together vinaigrette: 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp chopped shallot, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Pour vinaigrette onto asparagus.

Arugula Salad

In a bowl combine: 7 oz bag organic arugula, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 Tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

Baby Potatoes 

Boil 1 pound baby potatoes until fork tender. Drain. Remove to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Margarita Lime Chicken

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Every so often a meal comes around that completely takes me by surprise. I made this on Friday and I’m still giddy with excitement about how it came out. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make, yet it’s packed with so much flavor and uses all whole food ingredients (as long as you count tequila as a whole food, which I sure do.)

The inspiration for this meal started with a craving for chips and salsa. I knew I needed something to accompany the craving (besides a margarita) so I decided to turn my favorite cocktail into a marinade. It was purely experimental and I had no idea how well it would turn out. Plus, I figured that if it was a complete fail Robert and I’d both be okay calling chips and salsa dinner if we absolutely had to. Happily, that was not the case.

The marinade couldn’t be more simple: Some tequila, juice of four limes, juice of one orange, chopped jalapenos, fresh garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper. That’s it! I covered about a pound of boneless skinless chicken breast tenders in the marinade and stuck it in the fridge for about three hours. I went with the tenders because it was Friday, I was tired, and I knew they’d cook quickly. But I already can’t wait to use the marinade for chicken breasts and flank steak on the grill!

Easiest & tastiest marinade ever

Easiest & tastiest marinade ever

I cooked the chicken in a cast iron skillet on the stove and served it with some sauteed red onion and bell peppers for a kind of deconstructed fajita. You could totally use this recipe for actual chicken fajitas, a homemade burrito bowl (I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned my deep love for Chipotle here), or a simple salad topped with the delicious, spicy, tangy chicken.

Truly, the options are endless and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be seeing this margarita lime recipe again here and hopefully in your home, too.

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Margarita Lime Chicken 

Serves 3 (or 2 with leftovers)

Ingredients

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast tenders

1/3 c gold tequila (such as Jose Cuervo)

Juice of 4 limes

Juice of 1 orange

2 jalapenos, chopped (keep seeds if you like it spicy, remove ribs and seeds if you don’t)

4 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped

1 Tbsp chili powder

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Preparation

Combine chicken, tequila, lime juice, orange juice, jalapenos, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Cover and marinate in the fridge 1-3 hours.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and pour just enough marinade to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook about 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove chicken to plate and repeat with remaining chicken, again covering the bottom of the skillet with some marinade.

For the Peppers and Onions: In a separate skillet, sauté 1 sliced red onion and 3 sliced bell peppers with olive oil and salt and pepper  for about 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl and top with about 1 tsp lime zest.

Spring & Summer Goals

You guys. Last weekend was incredible. If you follow me on Facebook you may know that I flew to New York, got in a car with my sister and brother-in-law, drove four hours up to our family’s ski house in Vermont, and surprised my dad for his 65th birthday. He.was.shocked! I’ve never surprised anyone in my life and it was awesome. Then, of course, we proceeded to have a weekend packed with tons of food, fun, and family (and wine). Although I felt perfectly fine, I spent the entire day Saturday planted on the couch because I could.

I mean why would you leave this?

I mean why would you leave this?

We even managed to take a few ski runs on Sunday!

There was way more snow on the mountain than this photo would have you believe, but the wax sure came in handy!

There was way more snow on the mountain than this photo would have you believe, but the wax sure came in handy!

When I got back to Chicago on Monday I hit up Whole Foods to restock for the week. I must’ve seemed like a kid in a candy shop. After months of seeing all of the same foods over and over (I’m looking at you winter squash and sweet potatoes), there were so many foods I hadn’t seen in so long. Instead of shopping on autopilot like I’ve been doing lately I was stunned everywhere I turned: Gorgeous, thick asparagus, TONS of kale and chard in a kaleidoscope of colors, baby lettuces, and so much more. I have to admit I felt a little giddy just thinking about how much more new stuff there will be in the next few weeks and months. (OMG I CAN’T WAIT FOR STRAWBERRIES. YES I AM YELLING!)

Hello baby artichokes. You're very cute, but I have no idea how to cook you.

Hello baby artichokes. You’re very cute, but I have no idea how to cook you.

As I looked down at my grocery list of all too familiar ingredients I set goal #1 right then and there: I am going to branch out big time. If some kind of food scares me or stumps me then that’s a green light to get it. I’ve got to become more fearless. More specifically, I’m going to try one new food or plant per week. I’m also going to learn how to cook foods I’ve had before, like swiss chard, in more ways. (This weekend I had grilled romaine lettuce for the first time and it was mind blowing.)

In the produce section, I often step back and like to observe what people buy. I feel a sense of envy whenever people confidently reach for the odd looking ingredients (um daikon radish?) like they know exactly what to do with it. I want to be that guy!

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Chayote squash? No problem! (Uhhhhh…..)

In the bulk foods aisle yesterday I watched as a woman filled a giant bag with dried fava beans and even asked her what she planned to do with them. Hey, I never claimed to be shy. Unfortunately her accent was so thick it sounded to me like she was going to saute them with onions and then make a cake, but I can’t be sure I heard that right.

As I got home and started unpacking my (same old boring) groceries my eyes fixed on our poor neglected little deck and even more forgotten grill. That’s when I set goal #2: This gal is going to learn how to grill! Robert does most of the grilling around here in the summer, but there’s no reason I can’t learn, too! I have this weird thing with fire, but I just need to get back to goal #1 and be a little more fearless. And let’s face it, when goal #1 leads me to buy strange foods I have no idea what to do with, chances are they’ll taste pretty darn good when I fulfill goal #2 and learn how to grill. Because everything tastes better from the grill.

So here it goes! A spring and summer full of strange looking vegetables, tons of grilling, and a whole lot of fearlessness. Who’s in?!