Monthly Archives: August 2013

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

If I had to list them, the very best parts of this meal–in no particular order– include:

  • It cost $15.16 total or $3.79 per serving.
  • It’s deliciously crunchy, peanuty, and the slightest bit spicy
  • It’s healthy (veggies, mango, and chicken breast…hello!)
  • It requires zero cooking, almost no chopping (veggies are pre-cut) and takes about 3 minutes to prepare.

When I dreamed up this meal I knew it could do no wrong and boy was I right.  Just like Tuesday’s post all ingredients are from Trader Joe’s. This makes me exceedingly happy because some grocery shopping days I can hit up to FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES for ingredients. Yes, you read that right: The farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Stanley’s Produce. Four…count them….four. There goes my Sunday! Yes, I realize that’s insane. So the idea of going to just one place is kind of life-changing to me.

Let’s break down what you see on this plate of chopped healthiness: Trader Joe’s chopped veggies, which includes of mix of eight different items including broccoli, carrots, green and red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery. The 16 oz container was on sale for…drumroll please…$2.99. Boom! A package of boneless skinless roast chicken breast (picture rotisserie chicken, but no skin, no bones, and white meat only). Sliced mango. Chopped cilantro. And a generous drizzle of TJ’s Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Get your hands on it ASAP. You’re going to want to dip every single item of your fridge into this dressing. Trust me. And when your fiance is traveling for work so there’s no one to witness, absolutely no one will know. Unless you confess it on your blog….d’oh!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

We’re off to New York tomorrow for a dear friend’s wedding and we’ll get to see my family, too! I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day Weekend!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course


1 (16 oz) package) Healthy 8 chopped veggie mix

1 (16 oz) package sliced roast chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mango, cut into chunks

1 handful cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette

1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, chopped


Combine veggie mix, chicken breast, mango, and cilantro in a bowl. Pour on desired amount of peanut vinaigrette and mix to combine. Top with chopped peanuts.

Antipasti Pasta Salad

Serves 8-10 people for under $20

Serves 8-10 people for under $20

I’m so thrilled to bring you not one, but two super budget-friendly meals this week! Starting with this gem: Antipasti pasta salad. It’s just in time for those Labor Day Weekend barbecues you’ve got lined up, too. This also happens to be an almost no-cook meal. Besides boiling water for the pasta all you have to do is open some jars/cans and get chopping, which is perfect since it’s about 300 degrees here in Chicago with 110% humidity.

If you happen to live near a Trader Joe’s you’re in luck because you can score all of these ingredients from their shelves. No TJ’s? No worries. I’m sure you can find these ingreds at any grocery store. Here’s what we’re working with:

Clockwise from left: Julienne cut sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and black olives. Not pictured: whole wheat fusilli, ciliegine mozzarella, and salami.

Clockwise from left: Julienne cut sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, marinated mushrooms with garlic, artichoke hearts, fire roasted red peppers, and sliced black olives. Not pictured: whole wheat fusilli, ciliegine mozzarella, and salami.

The final tally, counting everything above including the not-pictured ingredients (but not the olive oil & vinegar since you likely already have those) comes to just $15.33. As a side in a BBQ spread you could easily feed 8-10 people. Since this was dinner for me (and lunches for the next few days) I’d say you could serve it as din to about four adults. Not bad, not bad at all.

Oh and did I mention how delicious it is? Just look at those bites of Mediterranean goodness…delicious is pretty much the only direction this situation could go.

Antipasti Pasta Salad

Antipasti Pasta Salad

Serves 8-10 as a side, 4 as an entree


For the pasta salad:

3/4 to 1 pound whole wheat fusilli

1 jarred roasted red pepper, chopped

1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts in water, drained, chopped

1 (3.8 oz) can sliced black olives, drained

1/2 cup marinated mushrooms in garlic (from a 16 oz jar), not drained, chopped

1/2 cup julienne cut sun dried tomatoes (from a 3 oz bag), chopped

8 oz ciliegine fresh mozzarella (little mozzarella balls), drained, each ball quartered

3 oz calabrese or genoa salami (mine was in a 5 oz package), cut into thin strips


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

For garnish: 10-12 fresh basil leaves, chopped


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, set aside and let cool.

Once pasta has cooled, add to a bowl along with rest of pasta salad ingredients.

Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour onto pasta ingredients. Mix until pasta salad is coated in vinaigrette. Add basil and mix to distribute throughout salad. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Veggie Crab Cakes

Veggies crab cakes on an arugula salad with corn

Veggie crab cakes on an arugula salad with corn

If you’re looking for a classic crab cake recipe, this isn’t it. Sometimes it’s good to mix up the classics, right? The best way I can describe these crab cakes is more like a crab cake burger. I love my turkey burgers as much as the next gal, but sometimes I get a little bored of them — this is a great solution when you want a healthy, protein-packed dinner. Of course it wouldn’t be a crab cake without some Old Bay, so you can rest assured there’s a dash or two in here.

What else they’ve got: chopped scallion and red bell pepper, freshly squeezed lemon juice, some plain breadcrumbs and a little bit of mayo to bind it all together. They’re cooked in a skillet on the stove (about 4-5 minutes per side) and form a slightly crisp outer layer while the insides remain that m-word I avoid using at all costs. Ew. But also yum.

Once they were cooked I realized I hadn’t fully thought out this meal. I had already boiled some corn and sliced it off the cob, but that’s where my plan ended. Although these would be delightful on a soft hamburger bun, there were none to be found in this household. Arugula to the rescue! (Note to self: arugula is always a good idea.) I topped the arugula with the corn from one cob and two cakes and squeezed about half a lemon over everything. If that doesn’t taste like summer then I don’t know what does. Dig in!

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Veggie Crab Cakes

Serves 4


1 lb. lump crab meat

1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

1/2 red bell pepper chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 tsp Old Bay

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Salt & pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Canola oil


In a large bowl combine crab meat through lemon juice. Mix together with a fork until just combined. With your hands, form mixture into patties (about 10-12).

Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. In batches  (about 4 at a time) cook crab cakes 4-5 minutes until browned, flip, and cook 4-5 minutes more. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining crab cakes, adding additional oil to the pan as necessary.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Source: Lightly adapted from Health magazine 


Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Happy Friday, friends! Before we dive into the goodness that are these life-changing quesadillas I’d like to take a moment to let out a high-pitched squeal because this weekend is my bachelorette party! Just thinking those words–not even saying or writing them–blows my mind. Me? Bachelorette party? Whaaaaa? My sister will be landing in Chicago shortly and a weekend of girly fun will ensue. I absolutely can’t wait for Saturday night. I’ll be sure to give you all a recap just as soon as I can.

But first…these quesadillas.

grilled chicken quesadillas

Where’s the salsa? Gimme.

Fact: Before last week I had never had a quesadilla in my life. Because I don’t like cheese. And there’s always cheese. But earlier this year, I started making an effort to learn to like cheese for about a million different reasons. Among them: When you don’t eat cheese you realize how many foods contain cheese and I don’t want to miss out on so many foods in life. So basically my queso-phobia was giving me a serious case of FOMO. I’ve been making very small strides (I ate fried brie in Austin! And this meaty baked ziti!)  Quesadillas were my next accomplishment.

The ‘dilla you see in the first photo? That was Robert’s – ooey and gooey and packed with cheese. That’s probably what you want. The ones above? All mine. Just enough cheese to get a little melty action, but without too much, you know, cheesiness.

I’m obsessed. And it’s true–I have been missing out BIG time. I don’t need to explain the million reasons why quesadillas are amazing because you’ve probably had 10,000 more in life than I have. Although my basis for comparison is very small–as in, I’ve only ever had these (twice)–I like to think they’re especially delicious because the chicken and veggies are grilled.  That automatically gives you like a million bonus points in the taste department, right?

You may have plenty of quesadilla tricks already up your sleeve, but be sure to put these on your menu this summer while you’re still regularly firing up the grill.

Clockwise from left: Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Serves 4-6


2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (1 1/2 lbs will leave you with delicious chicken leftovers)

Salt & pepper

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), each cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Olive oil

Cheese of your choice, shredded (quantity is up to you!)

Chopped cilantro (optional)

6-8 whole wheat tortillas


In a small bowl combine marinade ingredients (olive oil through cumin). Place chicken in a bag or container for marinating. Season with salt and pepper. Add marinade to chicken and let it marinate anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Coat rack will cooking spray. Grill peppers and onions until tender and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside. Once slightly cooled, chop peppers and onions into small pieces.

Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Thinly slice.

Heat some olive oil to just coat the bottom of a medium-sized pan on the stove (an iron skillet works great.)

Prepare quesadilla: Sprinkle some cheese over half of each tortilla; add some vegetables and chicken; top with some cilantro. Fold tortilla in half over filling. Place 2 quesadillas in pan and cook about 3-5 minutes on each side until cheese melts and tortilla browns. Remove from heat. Repeat with remaining tortillas/ingredients. Once quesadillas slightly cool cut into four pieces each.

Serve with salsa.

Wedding Wednesday: iPhone Engagement Pics & GIF

Last Friday was so much fun. We went all around our little corner of Logan Square taking pictures with our photographer, Tim Tab. I know some people have mixed feelings about engagement pictures. They can look cheesy, awkward, or staged. When done right, however, I absolutely adore them. While looking at other people’s engagement photos I feel like I get a sense of how they really are as a couple–not just when they’re dressed up in a white dress and a tux. It’s how they are when walking around; sharing a meal; or waiting for the train. Maybe there’s a little more hand-holding and kissing than usual, but sometimes it’s fun to pretend like no one is watching.

I couldn’t wait to have this slice of our life captured for us to keep. I know we’ll look back at them and see all of the excitement, anticipation, and love we felt on that day. I also love that we got to take them all around this place we plan to call home for many years to come. We were having so much fun, in fact, that when Robert realized we didn’t bring any house keys with us I didn’t care one bit. (Yes, we had to call a locksmith later that evening. A true homeowner’s rite of passage, I suppose!)

We were lucky enough to do a little shoot with Tim in December for our Save The Date. This time around, we were so much more at ease in front of the camera and were truly able to be ourselves. We laughed when we felt like laughing; smiled because we were happy; and smooched because we couldn’t help ourselves.

At the end, when walking back to our house, Tim shot a few photos outside of the Boiler Room with his iPhone and Robert’s Galaxy. Here’s a little sneak peak.


We didn’t realize that the posters right behind us said “Voice of Addiction” and “Hump Days” while we were taking the photos. Oops! I just liked the colors : )




Our attempt at looking cool enough to live in Logan Square. We’ll keep working on that.

Our very own GIF!

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Roasted tomato & Corn soup

Roasted tomato & corn soup

I know what you’re thinking. Soup? In the summer? Just stay with me here. You won’t be disappointed.

Farmers market fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven until they spill their juices and slightly caramelize. Sweet kernels sliced off the cob cooked until they’re just golden around the edges. Bell pepper singed on an open flame and peeled down to its soft flesh. Now add all that to slightly sauteed yellow and red onions plus a fiery jalapeno. Some chili powder and seasonings. A little bit of vegetable broth. Then whip everything into a frenzy with an immersion or regular blender.

You feel me now?

If you’re like a certain someone I know and you love when food is a vehicle for toppers, well, then you’re in luck. The options are endless: Freshly chopped cilantro, chunks of buttery avocado, shreds of salty tortilla chips, I could go on…

Despite its creamy texture there’s not a drop of dairy in here–not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just foods from the earth hanging out in your soup bowl getting along famously.

Summer is served

Summer is served

Roasted Tomato & Corn Soup

Serves 4-6


4 ripe tomatoes, sliced in half horizontally

Olive oil

4-6 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cob, cobs discarded (or saved for future endeavors)

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

About 2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp chili powder

Salt & pepper

For garnish: Cilantro, avocado, paprika


Heat oven to 375. Place tomatoes flesh side down in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil. Roast until tomatoes get soft and juicy, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Spread the corn in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the edges begin to turn light brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Place bell pepper directly on the flame of a gas burner turned on high. Sear the pepper and use tongs to turn until each side is charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Place pepper in a brown paper bag and close tightly. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the skins and seeds. Chop pepper.

When the tomatoes have cooled slightly, peel off the skins and discard.

In a soup pot, heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute yellow onion, red onion, jalapeno, and garlic until onions soften, about five minutes. To the pot add the tomatoes including any accumulated juices, half of the corn, and red pepper. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the vegetables. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Using an immersion blender (or adding to a blender in batches), blend until just smooth. It’s okay if some smaller chunks of vegetables remain. Add the remaining corn to the pot and serve with desired garnishes.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Wedding Wednesday: 52 Days & Honeymoon Reveal!

Good morning! I was pretty torn over whether to make today’s post more wedding or home related since we’ve got lots going on on both fronts. However, since the days of blabbing all things wedding are getting down to the wire I’ll take that route today. There will be plenty of time to chat about the home (we met with our first contractor yesterday evening for a few projects we’ve got up our sleeves!) after September 28.

When it comes to our wedding I keep waiting to feel crazy or stressed, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve had about 10 months to plan (since finding the venue and setting the date) and as of this coming Sunday we’ll have been engaged for a full year. How crazy is that?!?!? Unbelievable. I still feel like our engagement was such a shock to me that sometimes I still can’t believe this is actually happening. But it is!!

So today, I thought I’d share with you a list of the big remaining items we have left to accomplish over the next 52 days. Keep reading because at the end I’ll spill the beans about our awesome honeymoon and would love your recommendations.

Our big remaining wedding To Do’s

  • Invitations – they’ll be mailed to guests by the end of this week. I got to see them (by the incredibly talented Megan of Ruby the Fox) and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve actually never received a suite quite like the one we’re sending. I may wait to share them until we have the professional photos because I’m pretty sure my iPhone could never do them justice.
  • Engagement pictures–we’re taking them this Friday with our wonderful photographer, Tim Tab. We plan to take some photos around our new home & some favorite spots in our new Logan Square neighborhood!
  • Final meeting with our florist next week.
  • Final meeting with our officiant, Rev. Bob. Next week we get to go through our whole ceremony with him, get his feedback, and continue to tweak it. I love our ceremony so much. Robert and I both need to write/edit our vows. We won’t know what the other has written until we say/read them at our ceremony.
  • My bachelorette party! Holy cow, it’s in two weekends. I am so excited about it and it’s all very…me. I can’t wait to spend the evening with some of my favorite ladies. I’ll be sure to share details and photos afterward.
  • Choose wedding music. In many ways, this has been coming together very organically. Any time I’ve tried to Google stuff like “processional music” I’m left feeling blah. Like whatever I find is inauthentic or has been done 10 million times before. However, over the past few weeks Robert and I’ve be listening to favorite stations on Spotify or Pandora (on our new awesome bluetooth speakers) and realize a song we’ve both loved forever and means something to us could be the perfect fit for any number of moments in our big day.
  • Finalize our day-of schedule.

Our honeymoon:

I’m so thrilled to share with you that shortly after our wedding weekend we’ll be heading off to spend a week in a cottage in Bay Harbor, Michigan. After lots of planning, dreaming, and guidebook buying to places all over the world we decided that this is the perfect place for us. A place where we can unplug, lay low, unwind, and spend our first days together as husband and wife. During the day, we plan to explore adorable nearby towns such as Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and others. (Any lunch/picnic spot suggestions??) In the evenings, we’re thinking there will be lots of delicious food and downtime by the fireplace. If you have any recommendations for what to see/do in northern Michigan, we’d absolutely love to hear it!

Pesto Grilled Shrimp

Pesto grilled shrimp with arugula salad & oven-roasted tomatoes

Pesto grilled shrimp with arugula salad & oven-roasted tomatoes

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. Mine was productive and relaxing–exactly what the doctor ordered.

A funny thing happened on Sunday. In the middle of the afternoon, despite the perfect weather outside, I got this unshakable craving to watch It’s Complicated. So I stopped what I was doing, cozied into our brand-new couch (love!) and found it On Demand. Oh my goodness. Now that my brain is in full on home decorating mode I was drooooooling over every detail of Meryl Streep’s home and bakery. There were definitely moments when I paused the TV, got up, and examined every square inch I could see. I just want to move right in or order one of everything for our new place (chocolate croissants included). In. My. Dreams.

Anyhoo, let’s talk shrimp. Delicious, pesto grilled shrimp. I’m so in love with the flavors this time of year, I can’t get enough. Can’t stop won’t stop. What you see here: Basil, garlic, squeezed lemon juice, sprinkle of s & p, all whirled in a blender with olive oil. That’s it! The hardest part of this meal is remembering to marinate the shrimp for a little while, but I’m sure it’d be just as spectacular if you only bathed them in the marinade while heating the grill.

We served the shrimp alongside roasted cherry tomatoes (toss with olive oil, s & p, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes) and a simple arugula salad, but absolutely any seasonal eats would do. Pour yourself a crisp glass of chardonnay and you’ve got yourself a stellar evening meal.

pesto grilled shrimp via

Dear summer, please never end.

Pesto Grilled Shrimp

Serves 2


1 cup fresh basil

1 clove garlic

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt & pepper

3 Tbsp olive oil

3/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined


In a blender or food processor combine basil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Blend/pulse until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil until combined.

In a bowl, combine shrimp and pesto and marinate 20 minutes to a few hours. Thread shrimp onto skewers (I used 3). Be sure to soak skewers for about 30 minutes ahead of time to prevent burning.

Heat grill to medium heat and grill shrimp about 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook 3 minutes more. Remove when all shrimp turn pink and opaque.

Thai-Style Chicken Stir-Fry

Chicken & veggies in a coconut-peanut sauce

Chicken & veggies in a coconut-peanut sauce

In a dream world my weekly shopping trips would look like this: Hit up the farmers market on Sundays where I intuitively pick up all of the produce we’ll need for the week; head to Whole Foods where I fill in the gaps with some organic protein, dairy, and whole grains. Each night I effortlessly scan the contents of the refrigerator and pantry and seamlessly know how they fit together. Then, miraculously, I have everything I need in the kitchen to whip up delicious meals full of layered flavors throughout the week.

This meal right here is the closest I’ve ever come to that dream scenario and it was every bit as fulfilling as I imagined it would be. Wax beans, squash, jalapeno,and bell pepper: Farmers market finds. Organic boneless skinless chicken breast, limes, and cilantro: Whole Foods. Coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, and other  ingredients: Pantry staples. The icing on the cake? Fresh organic basil from our patio garden! Dream. Come. True. The best part, of course, is that it was absolutely delicious.

It has all of the healthiness you get from a stir-fry–lean protein and veggies–with the sweet, creamy flavors of a Thai curry (except, uh, there isn’t actually any curry in here.) There’s also the juice of two limes in the sauce, which delivers the right amount of zesty brightness–perfect for summertime.

While I used vegetables I happened to have from the farmers market (at the time I had no idea they would become Thai stir-fry),  you could definitely switch them up with whatever you have on hand. In fact, all of the items I had–wax beans, squash, and bell pepper–happened to be yellow (certainly didn’t score in the color-variety department), but you could easily add more hues with green beans, squash or zucchini, and any color bell pepper.

Who knows when the next time a kitchen miracle like this will happen, but I couldn’t keep this cooking unicorn to myself a moment longer. Enjoy!

Thai-style stir-fry

Serve over brown rice or quinoa! 

Thai-Style Chicken Stir-Fry

Serves 4


1 can light coconut milk

2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter

Juice of 2 limes

3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 Tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 big handfuls (about 1 lb) yellow wax beans or green beans, ends removed

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 shallot, minced

1 jalapeño, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, sliced into strips

1 small yellow squash or zucchini

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized chunks

6-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients (coconut milk through sesame oil), whisk to combine and set aside.

In a pot of boiling water, add wax beans. Boil for two minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, jalapeno, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate and set aside.

To the skillet, add the bell pepper and squash. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add wax beans to the skillet. Add chicken. Give the sauce another whisk to make sure it’s combined and pour into skillet, stir. Increase heat to high and cook until sauce just starts to simmer.

Garnish with fresh chopped basil and cilantro. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.