Greek Couscous Salad with Chicken

IMG_4497

I like to snoop through friends cookbooks. So if you ever have me over and I spot a cookbook on your shelf, I’m likely to help myself to a peek. That’s how I found those orange creamsicle cookies I posted last. My next door neighbor/friend/babysitter has the Our Best Bites cookbook and I was perusing it one afternoon as our little ones played fought and scattered toys around her apartment. The cookies sounded amazing- and they were. Well, this salad comes from that same cookbook. Nicole (the friend I just mentioned) loves it and makes it often and passed along the recipe. We loved it too.

It makes a mountain of salad. Especially if you add the chicken, which I did, to make it a heartier meal. It takes some time to prep all the ingredients, but it makes for a great weeknight dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day (or few).

Greek Couscous Salad with Chicken

INGREDIENTS

14.5 oz. can chicken broth + enough water to make 2 cups (I used 2 cups homemade chicken broth)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. crushed dried rosemary
10 oz. couscous (whole wheat if available)
2 cups diced tomatoes or 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced (I used a combination of red and green onion)
1/2 cup kalamata or black olives, pitted and halved or sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese + a bit extra for serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and cubed (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Place the chicken broth/water and dried herbs in a small pot on the stove top and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, cover the pot with a lid, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled couscous, tomato, cucumber, onion, olives, cheese, parsley, and chicken.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Garnish with additional feta and serve immediately or refrigerate several hours before serving.

Serves 6-8.

(Adapted from Our Best Bites Cookbook)

Print Friendly
By in Chicken, Greek, Salad · Comments { 0 }

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

IMG_4640

I’ve shared these cookies with a few friends now and it’s unanimous: they’re awesome. They really do capture that orange-vanilla “creamsicle” flavor. Just as I was writing this I began wondering why I haven’t made a creamsicle flavored ice cream and then I found this recipe which I will for sure be trying shortly. Once it stops snowing.

IMG_4641-001

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. orange zest (approx. zest of 2 large oranges)
2 cups white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture until well combined. Stir in the orange zest and white chocolate chips.

3. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets (do not flatten cookies) and bake in preheated oven for 6-10 minutes (mine took 7 minutes) until golden brown around the edges. Remove from the cookie sheets to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

(Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)

Print Friendly
By in Cookies, Dessert · Comments { 2 }

Berry Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes

IMG_4518
While Dustin was flying all around for job interviews this weekend Clara and I went home (again, I know!) to VA to spend some more time with her grandparents. She’s only under-two for a few more weeks so we’re taking full advantage of her fleeting lap child status. Free airfare! She’s flown enough now that she’s we’ve gotten the hang of it. And age makes all the difference. Not having to nurse a baby on a plane makes the whole experience much less awkward/stressful. She can stay awake more than an hour two without a meltdown. And now toys/snacks/iPhone games/the endless supply of airplane magazines actually hold her attention. It’s not so miserable after all. I hope I’m not jinxing myself. We have a solo 3+ hour flight next week as we are bound for Utah for my other twin sister’s wedding.

While in VA with its beautiful spring weather, I made my family pancakes. These are a new favorite in our house. They’re traditional buttermilk pancakes improved with lemon zest and berries (oh and there’s some cinnamon in there, too). I used raspberries and blueberries but whatever you have works. They’re great topped with butter and maple syrup, a dollop of yogurt and drizzle of honey, or a pile of whipped cream and more berries. But also delicious just plain. They freeze well, too, so leftover can be enjoyed all week long.

Berry Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes

INGREDIENTS

1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. sugar
zest of 1 large lemon or 2 Meyer lemons
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. melted butter
fresh or frozen (and defrosted) berries of choice, for the batter and for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a small bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together. Whisk into the flour mixture.

2. In a large bowl, whisk to combine the buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and melted butter. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it will still be lumpy). You can stir in the berries at this point (coating them in a bit of flour before adding to the batter will prevent bleeding) or set them aside and drop them on top of the pancakes while cooking.

3. Preheat a nonstick or cast iron skillet to medium heat or griddle to 350 F. Lightly coat the pan with butter.

4. Pour scant 1/4-cup-fulls of batter onto the preheated skillet. (Drop berries on top at this point if they haven’t been stirred into the batter.) Once the pancakes have browned on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, flip and cook several more minutes on the other side until golden brown and cooked through. Cooked pancakes can be kept warm on a sheet pan in a 200 F oven while the remaining pancakes are cooking. Serve warm with fresh berries, butter, maple syrup, etc.

Makes about 16 pancakes.

(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Print Friendly
By in Breakfast, Fruit, Whole Wheat · Comments { 0 }

Sizzling Chicken Fajitas

IMG_4242

I have my go-to shrimp fajitas and my go-all-out grilled adobo chicken/beef fajitas, but this is the recipe I needed for quick anytime chicken fajitas. Just because they’re simple doesn’t mean they’re any less flavorful. No, these are BIG on flavor and they’re just as good better than any I’ve ordered at a Mexican restaurant. If you haven’t noticed we never get sick of Mexican food. We eat tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or enchiladas every week and I never get complaints. We’re always in the mood, so I hope you are too!

IMG_4243

If you have a cast iron skillet, this is the perfect time to use it. Letting the veggies and meat sit undisturbed in a hot pan for a few minutes is the key to getting a charred exterior. The chicken only marinates for half an hour (minimum, if it’s easier to make it ahead of time it can sit in the fridge for up to a day or so) so you can prep your peppers and onion and fixings during that time. Your chicken will be ready when you are.

Unrelated toddler story: (Actually, somewhat related because I was at the meat counter buying chorizo sausage for another Mexican recipe I’ll be sharing shorty.) The butcher had just handed me my package of chorizo when Clara looked up at him from the cart and clear as day said, “I want a pound of turkey!”. Hah. She’s almost 2 (on May 1st) and she talks and talks and sings all day long. Sometimes very well and other times still gibberish. But apparently she’s ready to take over the grocery shopping around here!

Sizzling Chicken Fajitas

INGREDIENTS

for the chicken:
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
few dashes hot sauce or pinch of cayenne pepper, optional

~ 2 Tbsp. canola, vegetable, or olive oil
2 large bell peppers (red, green, yellow, etc.), cut into thin strips
1 large white or yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for serving:
8-12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
salsa or pico de gallo
sour cream
avocado or guacamole
chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges

DIRECTIONS

1. To prepare the chicken, slice the chicken thighs into thin strips (1/4- to 1/2-inch wide). Place in bowl or freezer bag. Add lime juice and spices and mix together. Let marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days in the fridge.

2. To cook peppers, onions and chicken, heat your largest skillet (I use a 12-inch cast iron) on the highest heat. When very hot, drizzle in some oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (I used about 1 Tbsp.). When this is nearly smoking hot, add the peppers in a single layer. Wait. (This will be a theme.) Try to get them a little charred underneath before you move them around. Once they’ve begun to brown, add the onions, plus some salt. Wait again for some color to develop before you move them. When peppers are nicely charred in spots and onions have softened and sweetened, scrape mixture onto a plate or bowl to clear the skillet. Heat skillet again on a very high heat with a thin slick of oil (I used about 1 Tbsp.). Spread chicken strips in as much of a single layer as you can. Wait until they brown underneath to move them. Saute strips, regularly pausing so that they can get some color, until cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Return peppers and onions to skillet. Heat again until everything is sizzling and bring to the table. Serve with warmed tortillas, salsa/pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado/guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro, and/or lime wedges.

Serves 4-5.

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Print Friendly
By in Chicken, Southwestern · Comments { 1 }

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

IMG_4172

The closer we get to finishing residency, the more I realize how much fun we’ve had being students and putting off real life for, uh, 10 years. And the closer we get to moving “elsewhere”, the more I don’t want to leave Chicago. I still find city life completely obnoxious most days. But I’ve grown to love it here. Even despite this awful winter (which is still lingering- where is spring?!). In a weird way these past months of suffering have made me feel bonded to this city. We made it through something hard- together. And now I’m going to leave. But that’s what life brings.

Where are we heading to? We still don’t know. This next week my husband is visiting Portland and Denver and Colorado Springs interviewing for a few different jobs. All places I’d love to live, so if something works out then I’ll be happy. We’ll be in Chicago at least through June and get to enjoy the most beautiful months of the year here. A last chance to see and do and eat as much of this city as we can before we no longer call it home. And then I’ll have the chance to start all over again and fall in love with another place. That is the hope, anyway.

Today I’m sharing applesauce oatmeal muffins that are totally yummy and healthy. A great breakfast or snack, great for traveling or freezing, great for feeding an almost-2 year old or late-20-something like me. These muffins contain more oatmeal than flour and are light and fluffy (despite being 100% whole grain). They are naturally sweetened by the applesauce (and raisins if you add them) so you don’t need to add a whole lot of sugar. Just follow the two cardinal rules of muffin-making (there really is no such thing) and your muffins will be soft and tender as can be: 1) Don’t overmix your batter (or they’ll be tough). And 2) don’t over-bake (or they’ll be dry). Now, get baking!

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

INGREDIENTS

1 cup old-fashioned/rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil, melted (or another 1/4 cup applesauce)
1/4-1/3 cup sugar or honey (I used 1/4 cup brown sugar)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries, optional

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, butter (or whatever you’re using), and sugar until well combined.

3. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the applesauce mixture and stir until just combined (over-mixing will result in tough/dry muffins). Gently fold in the raisins or cranberries, if using.

4. Distribute the batter between the 12 prepared muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffins comes out clean. Let cool several minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 muffins.

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Print Friendly
By in Bread, Muffins, Whole Wheat · Comments { 2 }