Category Archives: What’s Cookin’?

What’s Cookin’?

Happy Friday! Are you as happy to see the weekend as I am? I’m especially excited about today because (drumroll please)….we have our tasting this afternoon! This has been something we’ve looked forward to ever since the very, very beginning of wedding planning. Any time we’d contact or visit a venue one of the first questions we’d ask is whether we’d get to do a tasting. They don’t do very many weddings at our venue – just a few per year – so the chef allowed us to dream up our entire menu from hors d’oeuvres through dessert and late-night snacks.

At first I thought this was the coolest thing ever, but do you how overwhelming it is? We could have ANYTHING? I finally got my wits about me and we came up with super fun, clever ideas for hors d’oeuvres, a farm-to-table approach for dinner (that’s all I’m letting slip by at this point), and for dessert…well that’s been pretty hysterical, too. Since a wedding cake is something that’s been super important to Robert all along (I’ve totally gotten on board and can’t wait) he came up with the flavors and, well, let’s just say some of them aren’t very traditional. Happily, the pastry chef is really excited about them, too! I can’t wait to see how they came out. We also picked out a design for the cake that doesn’t scream WEDDING CAKE. Instead, it looks so delicious that it makes me want to put my whole face in it rather than having something that looks way too beautiful to cut into.

After the tasting we’re heading over to the Chicago Craft Beer Festival so we’ll be washing down out potential wedding dinner with some delicious Midwestern-made brews. Now that’s what I call a Friday!

But let’s get back to the point of today’s post. I’m finally back with some FOOD around here. These are two recent recipes I’ve made and we’ve totally loved.

Teriyaki Salmon via Skinnytaste (originally from the cookbook Steamy Kitchen’s Healthy Asian Favorites


Teriyaki Salmon

Oh where do I ever begin? It’s hard to believe there’s so little work to be done (combine soy sauce, mirin, and honey; marinate fish; cook for about 10 minutes total) for how much flavor this piece of salmon contains. It’s so good, in fact, that I had it two Mondays in a row and you can rest assured I’ll be eating it again this Monday. (Side note: Last week on Instagram I hash-tagged #mondaynightsalmon and it was totally a thing. Anyone else eat salmon every Monday? I highly recommend it.) What I love about this recipe, too, is the cooking method: Cook salmon in a pan for about two minutes on each side, add the rest of the marinade, cover and cook for another 4-5 minutes. The fish comes out perfectly. You could follow the recipe exactly as written or make the changes I did, which include skipping the sake (I didn’t want to buy it since it’s not something we drink/use very often) and adding two chopped green onions (white and green parts) to the marinade.

Caprese pasta via How Sweet It Is 

Caprese Pasta

Caprese Pasta

Whole wheat shells that scoop up every ingredient, tiny balls of mozzarella that become melty (is that even a word? it appears that it is…), and flecks of fresh basil. In case you were wondering the answer is no–no life doesn’t get much better than this bowl of goodness right here. The only change I made that’s different from what you’ll find in that link is omitting the mini meatballs – I was feeling more of a vegetarian meal where we could let the little the fresh basil and mozzarella balls (called cieglini) shine. Mission accomplished.

What’s Cookin’?

Hello there! I’m so excited to bring you another round of What’s Cookin’ today with three tasty recipes. If you’re new to What’s Cookin’, it’s a round-up of some recipes I’ve recently made and loved with very few, if any, changes to the original. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Lemon Blueberry Bread via PBS Fresh Tastes Blog 

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I am a sucker for lemony things. I just love the bright, tangy flavor. So when I saw this recipe I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened in my kitchen (now that blueberries are easy to find). Happily, that time arrived this weekend and it was just as good as I had hoped it would be. I increased the zest to 3 tsp rather than the recommended 2 tsp. I highly recommend doing the same, but if you’re making this for someone who’s not as crazy about citrus 1 or 2 tsp will do. It tastes like a giant muffin and the center stays super soft. Add a smear of room temperature butter and all is right in the world.

Red Pepper Pasta with Mushrooms and Spinach via What’s Gaby Cooking

Red Pepper Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach

Red Pepper Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach

Weeknight pasta dishes don’t get much easier than this: Boil some whole wheat fettuccine; saute mushrooms and spinach; blend jarred roasted red peppers and garlic. Combine everything together and dinner is served. The sauce develops a creaminess–at times it even reminded me of vodka sauce–yet there’s not a single drop of cream (or any dairy for that matter) in the whole thing. I also love the fact that you make the sauce yourself so you can totally control the amount of sodium that you put in. It’s a vegetarian recipe, but you could easily add some sauteed chicken breast to up the protein content.

Salmon with Sriracha Sauce and Lime via SELF magazine 

Sriracha Salmon

Salmon with Sriracha Sauce and Lime

I have a saying in life: If it’s good enjoy for Gwyneth it’s good enough for me. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, but I pretty much knew this recipe–from Gwyneth’s new cookbook It’s All Good–would be a winner before I even made it. We eat salmon nearly every Monday night and I’m so happy to have another option in the mix that we love so much. Another reason this dish rocks: It only has five ingredients (six if you count cilantro) and half of them–maple syrup, sriracha, and sea salt–you may already have in your home. I served it with some brown rice and broccoli for a deliciously easy meal.

What’s Cookin’?

Hello there! I’m sorry to say I don’t have a Wedding Wednesday planned for today, but I expect to be back with one very soon. I definitely won’t leave you hanging, though, so I’m here with another installment of What’s Cookin’?! And boy have things been cookin’ over here every chance I get.

I must admit I’ve been crushing on Asian flavors a lot lately. Like a lot a lot. I don’t know what it is–I guess Asian flavors are somewhat comfort food like for me. Plus, they’re an awesome way to create mega flavor and still keep things healthy. I may actually attempt to not cook something Asianish next week since it seems to be my new default and I should probably push the envelope a little more. But after looking over these recipes again I can’t make any promises…

Asian Pork Meatballs via Martha Stewart 

Asian Pork Meatballs served with brown rice and steamed broccoli

Asian pork meatballs served with brown rice and steamed broccoli

The original recipe calls for turkey, but I decided to give it a whirl with ground pork and it.was.awesome. While eating the meatballs Robert wanted to know how I got the meat so creamy. There’s nothing cream related involved, but the meatballs certainly have a kind of smoothness to them inside. I’m not exactly sure if “smooth” is an attractive way to describe meatballs so I’ll leave it at that and just say they’re great. Make them.

Roasted Salmon with Soy-Marmelade Glaze via Cooking Light 

Roasted salmon with soy-marmelade glazed, brown rice, and sauteed broccolini

Roasted salmon with soy-marmelade glaze, brown rice, and sauteed broccolini

This meal came after a very busy end to a very busy week last Friday. I met up with Robert after work to run errands at the Apple Store, Best Buy, and Binny’s to pick up some libations for the evening. (Boulevard wheat beer for him chilled white wine for me.) As we pulled into our apartment complex we noticed there was a pop up dog park happening across the street (in the park where we got engaged!) We grabbed both dogs, poured our cocktails into traveler mugs, and allowed the dogs to run their little hearts out while we sipped our drinks and shmoozed with neighbors. It was so fun and even though it was still pretty chilly outside it made me so excited for summer! There were also two adorable puppies that totally gave me puppy fever, but that’s another story. I got to work on this salmon as soon as we came back home. It was so easy to make and before I knew it we were enjoying a deliciously healthy and completely satisfying Friday night dinner.

Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken Curry via Love at Home  

Slow coooker thai peanut chicken curry

Slow coooker thai peanut chicken curry served over brown rice (noticing a trend?)

Another winner I discovered on Pinterest! It’s a total toss in the slow cooker and wait 6 hours meal. If you’re ever craving Thai this is an awesome way to skip take out and get something even better with minimal effort. I followed the recipe as is except I subbed about 1 1/2 cups of frozen edamame for the peas (achem….someone in this household doesn’t like peas..) and I increased the coconut milk to about 3/4 cup because I love it so much. Don’t forget to top with cilantro and chopped peanuts! It totally makes the meal.

New Series: What’s Cookin’?

Hi Friends!

When I started this blog a year and a half ago I wasn’t really sure what it would become. I knew I enjoyed writing here and sharing my kitchen adventures with you. This blog has become so much more to me. It’s given me so much more purpose whether I’m cooking alone in the kitchen, sharing a meal, dreaming up recipes, having adventures, planning our wedding, and more. Sometimes I ask myself, “what would I want to share about this moment?” And that’s lead me to create even more ways to share even more of my life with you like what I’ve got in store for you today.

And so…

I’m excited to launch a new series on A Balanced Life Cooks called What’s Cookin’? With these posts I’ll share images and links to recipes I’ve recently made and include any tweaks or tidbits based on my experience. Sometimes I may not have time to invent a new recipe, but I’m still cookin’ around here every chance I get. So I want to be able to share those delicious outcomes with you.

My mom has often said that coming up with what to cook is the most difficult part about cooking. She’s so right. Once you know what to make the rest is pretty easy (unless you decide to make something really challenging, but that doesn’t happen much around here!) Fortunately I have LOTS of answers for you. And if this helps you plan your menu in some way, to answer that what are we having for dinner question, well, my work here is done.

To kick things off, here are some recent favorites (if you follow me on Instagram (@pngpics) some of these may look familiar, but now you don’t have to wait for a recipe from me to get cookin’!)

Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa via 

Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa

I pretty much followed the recipe to the word and OH MY GOODNESS. First of all, pulled pork in general is just the best (and this was the first time I’ve made it….the next time will involve globs of BBQ sauce I’m sure.) The flavors in here are wonderful and so unusual. I actually ordered the jerk seasoning the blogger recommends, but it took a little trip around the world and only arrived yesterday from London (I made this recipe a week ago). I kind of winged the seasoning with a random mixture of spices I already had and it was still fab. Make this. Just do it.

Spicy Tomato Lentil Soup via Heather Christo Cooks  

Doctored tomato soup

Doctored tomato soup

Let’s just call this doctored tomato soup becuase there’s very little cooking. And let’s face it, you don’t always have time or energy to cook, but you can still have something delicious for dinner. In all fairness my soup didn’t involve lentils because Trader Joe’s was out (even though I eye them every single week and finally had a reason to buy them–oh well!) The recipe I made involved these ingredients: Half an onion, two cloves of garlic, boxed creamy tomato soup from Trader Joe’s (you guys….it’s amazing…just buy it and you’ll see), 1 1/2 cups precooked brown rice, and a few heaping handfuls of pre-cut, pre-washed kale. In other words it took me about 7 minutes to make, which meant I barely had to step away during a House of Cards marathon with Robert last Sunday. See that cornbread? It’s from a mix from Trader Joe’s. Can you tell I’m totally becoming a convert? It’s awesome.

Foil-Baked Lemon-Garlic Fish and Asparagus via Pink Parsley


I used cod, added some sliced bell pepper, and served with whole wheat couscous mixed with freshly chopped parsley. Other than that, I followed the recipe as-is. Fantastic weeknight meal. If this is your first time making compound butter, allow me to say this: It will change your life.