Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is a great takeout meal that you can make at home.  We all know that takeout food is amazing, but also full of tons of sodium, additives, and, often times, MSG.  It may take a little more time than calling for delivery, but the taste just can't compare.

This is one of Jason's absolute favorites and he isn't even that big of a fan of Asian food!  Next time you reach for the phone for takeout, try making this dish instead.

Sweet and Sour Chicken



Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp liquid aminos or soy sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into 2 inch chunks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces
3 cups fresh pineapple cut into bite sized pieces
Rice, for serving

Directions:

1.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, ketchup, liquid aminos, vinegar, garlic powder, and pepper flakes.  Whisk occasionally until heated through and sugar is completely dissolved.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 and coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Coat the bottom of the baking dish with 1/4 cup of the sauce.


2.   Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Set up a 3 stage dredging station:  in a large, shallow dish, combine the two eggs with 2 tbsp prepared sauce, next combine the cornstarch with salt and pepper in another dish, and, lastly, the flour.  Coat the chicken pieces by dipping in egg, cornstarch, then flour.  Once dredged, place the chicken in the hot oil and shallow fry until just brown on both sides.  Work in batches so the pan does not get over crowded.


4.  Once chicken has browned on all sides, add it to the baking dish with the peppers and pineapple.  Pour on the remaining sauce and toss to coat.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the mixture once or twice while baking.

 

5.  Remove from oven, and serve over rice if desired.  Enjoy!


Bon Appetit!!

~ Sara :)


Friday, August 19, 2016

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Napoleons

These are amazing!  An awesome way to use fresh veggies from your garden.  We have had a surplus of zucchini this year and this was a delicious way to use it up.  My mom had given us lots of fresh garlic (is there anything better!?) and eggplant, we had the zucchini, tomatoes, and basil.  This dish was fresh, light, and absolutely delicious!

This would make an excellent appetizer, side dish, or a light dinner for two.

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Napoleons


Ingredients:
1lb cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
10 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
Olive oil
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1.  Slice the zucchini and eggplant into 1/4-1/2 inch slices on an angle.  Place on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.  Let sit for 30-60 minutes, wipe off excess moisture, flip and repeat. 


2.  Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes.  Set aside and let cool.


3.  Heat a grill to medium heat and place a cast iron pan (or other grill friendly pan) on the grates.  Toss the tomatoes with olive oil and place in heated pan.  Grill the tomatoes until they begin to crack and burst, tossing occasionally, about 10 minutes.
 

4.  While the tomatoes are cooking, toss the zucchini and eggplant with two tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.  Mince the garlic and chiffonade the basil.


5.  Once the tomatoes have begun to soften and burst, transfer to indirect heat and add the garlic and basil.  Place the zucchini and eggplant slices directly on the grill and cook until lightly brown, approximately 2-4 minutes per side.



6.  Assemble the napoleons:  layer zucchini, eggplant, mozzarella, then tomatoes.  Repeat one more time ending with tomatoes.  Drizzle with the balsamic reduction and garnish with fresh basil.  Enjoy!


                       


Bon Appetit!!

~ Sara :)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gazpacho

This is a great hot summer day meal.  A fresh, cold soup is just what you need when the sun is beating down.  All of the veggies can easily be chopped in a food processor if you want to bring the soup together faster.  This is a great make ahead meal and will stay fresh in the fridge for a few days.

Gazpacho


Ingredients:
1 lb Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 English/Hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
3 cups low sodium tomato or vegetable juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
Dash of hot sauce (optional)

Garnishes (optional):
Sour cream, goat cheese, diced jalapeno, diced cucumber for garnish

Directions:

1.  Combine all ingredients other than garnish(es) into a large bowl.  Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until chilled completely.  Serve and garnish as desired.  Enjoy!


Bon Appetit!

~ Sara :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract is a staple in everyone's house.  Right!?!?  It's used in so many things - cookies, muffins, cakes, pancakes, ice cream, waffles, the list goes on.  One of the best things about vanilla extract?  It is so easy to make!  All it takes is two ingredient.....and time. 

As the great Tom Petty once said, "the waiting is the hardest part..." and that's the truth with homemade vanilla extract.  Once it's made, it just gets better as it sits.  At a minimum you'll need it to sit for 30 days.  But, 4-6 months is more ideal.  The great part about it?  It's good indefinitely.  I'm still working through a batch I made almost a year ago.  It makes a great holiday gift too - I filled up small bottles like these and added it to teacher gift baskets for Christmas.  Redmond and Ashlyn's teachers loved it!!

As for the beans, I prefer to use Madagascar Vanilla Beans such as these or these.  I would imagine these Bourbon Vanilla Beans would work great too.

The other ingredient is liquor.  I've only ever used vodka, but I've read that rum or brandy work well too.  I'm a fan of vodka so I've just stuck with that ;)  When choosing a liquor you don't have to get too extravagant, but don't be too cheap either. 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:
Vanilla Beans (you'll want 4 per cup of alcohol)
Vodka

Directions:
1.  Cut vanilla beans into 1 inch pieces and place in a jar.  Pour alcohol over the vanilla beans, close the jar and transfer to a cool, dark place.  Allow to sit for at least 1 month, but 4-6 is optimal.  Shake jar every so often.


2.  Store in your pantry or cabinet and use as needed.


~ Sara :)

*this post contains affiliate links

Friday, July 8, 2016

Peace Out, Preschool!

So something big happened just over a month ago.  Something HUGE, actually.  Redmond, my first born, my baby, finished preschool.


He is done with preschool.


And, even though he's been done and out of school for over a month, I'm still having a hard time acknowledging that my little guy will be starting kindergarten in a little less than two months.


He's going to be gone all day.  I have spent almost every.single.day. of his last five and a half years on earth with him.  What a huge adjustment this is going to be.  For both of us!


He has grown so much in his last year of school.  We couldn't be more proud of the little man he's becoming.  He's smart, helpful, kind, generous, and sooo funny!  And, apparently, he prefers pictures taken on the first day of school opposed to the last ;)


We are so happy with the school we chose for him.  Picking a preschool is tough!  But, he has thrived, made a lot of new friends, had lots of fun, and learned so much!


Redmond, we are SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!  We couldn't ask for a better son, and I know your sister could never ask for a better brother.  Keep being you are and you are going to soar!  Can't wait for all the adventures and stories Kindergarten will bring your way. 
  

Love,
Mommy and Daddy <3

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cream of Anything Soup

It's not often I am in need of a can of Cream of (whatever) Soup, but every once in awhile, I am.  One thing is for sure - you won't find me using the sludgy stuff from a can!  Making your own is super simple and quick.  All it takes is five minutes and, you most likely already have everything on hand.  This is how to make a Cream of Broccoli Soup.  To make a different cream soup, just switch out the 1/2 cup of broccoli for a 1/2 cup of something else (chicken, celery, asparagus, mushroom, potato, etc.).

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Equivalent to one 10oz can


Ingredients:
1 cup milk (skim, 2%, or whole)
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp vegetable bouillon (chicken or beef would work fine too)
Pinch of black pepper

Directions:
1.  Whisk together the milk and cornstarch in a small saucepan until well combined.  Turn the heat to medium and add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer until soup has thickened.


Bon Appetit!

~ Sara :)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Eggplant *or* Chicken Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is, hands down, my favorite meal.  Like, if I got to choose my last meal, this would be it.  What's not to love?  Cheese....eggplant.....breading....cheese....sauce....cheese.....  Did I say cheese???  It just so happens that one of Jason's absolute favorite foods is Chicken Parmesan.  How convenient is that!?!?  So, it's a great Carnitarian (I invented that word, patent coming soon.  Ha! ;) meal for me to make. 


We had a break in our summer temps earlier this week so I was able to actually use the oven without overheating the house.  Jason suggested chicken/eggplant parmesan and I was allllll about it!  I choose to bake instead of fry mine to keep it a little lighter.  I'm still able to get the crispy outside without all the extra calories from using oil.  It has great flavor and is such a hit in our house.

Eggplant or Chicken Parmesan


Ingredients:
(This was the perfect amount of ingredients for 1.5 lbs of chicken breasts and one medium eggplant)

1.5 lbs chicken breast
1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 eggs, lightly scrambled
Cooking spray or olive oil
Marinara
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Directions:

To prepare the eggplant:
Place the eggplant slices on a drying rack over a cookie sheet and gently sprinkle with kosher salt.  This will draw out excess moisture and will help result in a crisp coating on your eggplant.  Let sit for 30-60 minutes, wipe off excess moisture, flip and repeat on the other side.


1.  Preheat oven to 450.  Cover a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Create a dredging station - place the eggs in a large, shallow dish and combine the parmesan, panko, basil, oregano, and garlic powder in another dish.  Coat both sides of the eggplant/chicken with the egg, place in the panko mixture, flip, sprinkle with more panko and gently pat to get a good coating on it.  Shake off any excess and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat until all eggplant/chicken is coated.


2.  Spray the tops of eggplant/chicken with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, flip, spray with cooking spray and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the eggplant is tender. 


3.  Place a generous amount of marinara atop each chicken breast/eggplant slice and top with the mozzarella.  Place back in the oven and bake until cheese is melted, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.


Bon Appetit!

~ Sara :)