Chicken Pot Pie w/ Biscuits

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As promised, another chicken recipe! You’ll remember that Mr. Foodie and I often get the “family packs” of chicken breasts from our beloved Wegmans grocery store, so we are always on the lookout for new ways to prepare them so we don’t get bored. There are as many recipes for pot pie as there are days in the year, but I picked this rather simple casserole style one because I found it to be an excellent option for a weeknight meal. You’ll notice that this recipe calls for a LOT of veggies, but I restricted mine to onions and peas – very traditional.

What trips many people up when it comes to chicken pot pie is making the gravy. This is where recipes significantly differ. Some call for butter and flour, some milk, and even some others use other types of thickening agents. Thickening is part of what makes a chicken pot pie tasty. You don’t want to put biscuits or pie dough on top of what is essentially chicken soup.

When Mr. Foodie and I made this dish, we happened to be out of milk, so I made a very simple chicken-stock-and-flour gravy. Cook the onions, add the peas, pour in some chicken stock (1- 1.5 cups depending on how much veggies you’re using), add flour (1 tablespoon at a time) and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens into a gravy. I’ve found that overthinking gravy causes disastrous results. Embrace the uncertainty that is gravy-making and you will do fine. There is a fair amount of estimating that is done even if you are following a recipe – a little more flour, a little more liquid, etc. until you find the right consistency. Pop the uncooked biscuits on top, bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

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Et voila! Delicious chicken pot pie casserole. This is, by the way, a GREAT dish to use up leftover chicken and leftover veggies. And you don’t have to stop there – leftover turkey would be awesome here as well.

We also got to a little baking this week – I just haven’t had a minute to write about it yet because work has been running me ragged. Feeling super thankful that next week I get most of it off so I can do some other important work and have some fun with friends. I need to recharge!

For more foodie adventures, follow us on Instagram @fairfaxfoodie

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

2 leftover chicken breasts, shredded

1 medium onion

1 cup of frozen peas

1 cup of chicken stock

3-5 Tablespoons of flour

salt

pepper

8 biscuits (pre-made is fine!)

Sautee the onion in a little olive oil, add salt and pepper and frozen peas. Pour in chicken stock and heat. Add flour a bit at a time, stirring, until it thickens to desired consistency. Add more stock or water to loosen if it gets too thick. Add chicken and pour into casserole dish. Put uncooked biscuits on top and bake according to package instructions (we did 350 degrees for 20ish minutes) until the tops are golden brown and the filling is bubbling away!

Date Night Chicken Parmesan… without the Parmesan

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First, sorry about the blurry pic – I was in a hurry to eat it :). Second, this looks like a HUGE piece of chicken, but it is a normal breast, flattened. We did end up having leftovers. 

After perhaps the longest work week of my adult life, I am so unbelievably happy to be watching the Food Network in my jammies and blogging this morning! It was a bit of a lackluster cooking week because both Mr. Foodie and I were hella busy, but he did throw together an awesome new soup that we are calling ETP Soup – “empty the pantry soup.” It had black-eyed peas, kale, and chicken, but the exciting part was the base – sauteed onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes + homemade chicken stock, of course! It was just the ticket when I came home after a long day at the office. We popped the sliding glass door open, plugged in the twinkle lights, and sipped our delicious soup! I wish I had a picture of it, but we’ll just have to be satisfied with a word-picture lol

The weekend started off on a good note with some chill time with some of my girlfriends and a trip to the winery where we got married! My mom is a club member there, so I volunteered to “pick up” (aka drink) her latest wine shipment. It was so sunny that all my pics were washed out, but the wind kept it from being too warm – and overly crowded.

When I got home, Mr. Foodie was starting dinner – is there anything better than a partner who cooks?! – which consisted primarily of a version of chicken Parmesan and, again, miscellaneous pantry sides because we have yet to get groceries for the week. It turned out incredibly delicious! After dinner we snuggled on the couch and watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – such a good movie. I needed that day/night SO much.

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Mr. Foodie did not have any Parmesan on hand when he began his dinner prep, so we made do with shredded mozzarella. We used our new meat tenderizer to flatten two chicken breasts inside a plastic bag (this is fairly standard for chicken parm, but also helps speed up the cooking time/keep it consistent). He dredged the flattened breasts in an egg mixture and whole wheat panko bread crumbs which he seasoned with salt and pepper. Instead of frying the chicken, he baked it at 350 for 30 minutes. It was perfectly cooked and crunchy when he poured the tomato sauce over the chicken and sprinkled with the mozzarella. Then he popped it back in the oven to heat the sauce and melt the cheese. He maybe put a little too much sauce on for my taste, but he LOVES things covered in sauce. In any case, it worked wonderfully – it didn’t compromise the crunch of the panko breading in the least. The chicken was juicy, the breading was crisp, the sauce was tangy, and the cheese was perfectly creamy. You can see where a little salty/nutty parm would be a good addition to that mix, but sometimes you just have to work with what you got.

Last week we picked up a huge pack of chicken breasts and since our cooking last week was haphazard at best, we still have a LOT of chicken to work with. So this week we are finding some creative ways to utilize all this chicken without getting bored. What Mr. Foodie doesn’t know yet is I’m planning to make my first ever green curry chicken this week. Green curry is our favorite Thai dish, so he’s in for a treat!

For more Fairfax Foodie adventures, check us out on instagram @fairfaxfoodie (where I promise to update it a little more often this week lol)

Taco Thursday! Pulled Pork Tacos and Easy Southwest Salad + Homemade Guac

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What a week! Mr. Foodie and I both suffered a little random bad luck this week, so we were all too happy to drown our sorrows in tacos and beer last night. Someone hit my parked car at work and did NOT leave a note, but unfortunately for them (and fortunately for us) our building manager caught the incident (and their plate #) on tape, so boo-yah! to the inconsiderate person who hit my car and drove off. Also, Mr. Foodie’s phone died, so he took my upgrade and got a new Samsung 7. Bad luck for me, but not for him – Mr. Foodie loves new toys. It’s actually kind of funny how into new gadgets he is. Picture Gollum stroking his ring and saying “my precious.” Lucky for me, it wears off fairly quickly. It did, however, cause some marital discord this week when, in an effort to keep his new phone “pristine” he deleted some pictures of our dinner before I had the chance to email them to myself. So you’ll just have to be satisfied with my description of our cabbage steaks and potatoes* instead of the awesome photos I took.

We were so pleased with our bbq pulled pork shoulder in the crockpot from last week that we decided to do it again this week, but to change up the flavor profile for tacos. We prepped the shoulder the same way as last week, but we seasoned it instead with chili powder, lime juice, salt, cumin, garlic (we used fresh, but powder would be fine for this rub) and 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (you could use beer also, but we drank ours before we got it into the crockpot lol). Again, we eyeballed the measurements, but just know that we only used around a tablespoon of most of the seasonings and four limes worth of juice. We omitted the onions on the bottom this time, but that might not be a bad addition next time we make it.

For an appetizer we wanted to make homemade guac because a) we love it and b) we just added cilantro to our wall herb planter!  The only catch is that Mr. Foodie has developed an intolerance to tomatoes in almost every form except ketchup (which let’s face it is barely made from tomatoes). I’ve never made guac without them, and to be honest, I usually make guac with the powdered mix. This time, though, I wanted to experiment. I did find a tomato-less recipe for guac online, but I adapted it so I wouldn’t have to buy extra ingredients. For this recipe, I cubed the guac (see the easy way to do this) and squeeze lime juice from four limes over it (these weren’t the juiciest limes ever, but you need to make sure you have enough to cover every bit of that avocado so they don’t turn brown on you – the last think you want your guac to look like is baby poop lol). I added a good amount of salt (guac can stand up to quite a bit because it is so creamy) and I added finely minced fresh garlic. I also took the smallest onion I had, cut it in half, and diced one half finely. Lastly, I added a handful of cilantro, roughly chopped. Then I took the potato masher and mashed it all together. It was delicious. I didn’t even miss the tomatoes.

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For the Southwest salad, we really just used what we had plus some bell peppers. I diced the other half of my onion, tossed that in with a can of washed, drained black-eyed peas and two diced bell peppers (one yellow, one red). We had romaine, so we used romaine. our recipe made a big salad, so pick a lettuce that will be okay the next day so you can enjoy the leftovers. We made our own dressing as well – just olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and some cayenne. I admit I tried-and-errored it until I got the flavor right. You should have roughly equal amounts of lime juice and olive oil. If you add heat, you might want to add some sweetness (different recipes call for either sugar or honey, but agave might be good too), and remember that you can always add more salt, but you can’t subtract it once it’s in there. Put in a lidded container so you can shake to mix it up. It will separate if you make it ahead, but then just shake it again before you dress the salad.

Last but not least, the tacos! The pulled pork turned out wonderfully again – crockpots are the best!  I didn’t want to mask the taste of the delicious pork, so I served it with only three toppings – a bit of crystal hot sauce, some small scoops of the guac, and some shredded cheese. I like crunchy tacos and Mr. Foodie likes soft. We are going to experiment next time with corn tortillas which I’m sure will be lovely.

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We also played a new board game called Kill Dr. Lucky which has been around for many years, but is new to us. It is kind of like Clue, but where you are trying to kill a character instead of figure out who killed him. The turn-switching thing got the better of me, but that might have had more to do with the beer than the game 😛 I ended up winning, so all’s well that ends well!

*We used this Roasted Cabbage w/ Bacon Gremolata recipe because I can’t get enough of cabbage and I’m always looking for new ways to cook it. We tried sauteeing it a few posts ago and it was delicious. This way is easy because you slice it like a cut of steak, brush olive oil and salt/pepper on it (I might add red pepper flakes next time) and roast it at 400 for 30+ minutes (check for crispiness), flipping half-way. The gremolata was easy to make – just finely chop up some crispy bacon (or bacon substitute if you want to go veggie), zest 1 lemon, mince fresh parsley (we used cilantro because it’s what we had!), and I added some parmesan cheese instead of the almonds because…we didn’t have them lol I can’t stress enough how much you shouldn’t let absent ingredients stop you from trying a new recipe. Google “substitute for..” and you’ll find an answer for just about everything. The cabbage “steaks” were wonderful! The crispy edges were caramelized, and the cabbage was perfectly cooked in the middle. The gremolata added this zesty, salty flavor to the cabbage that was to die for. To stay veggie and keep with our “steak and frites” theme, we made simple, roasted potatoes to go with it. It was a lovely almost-meat-free (maybe meat-light is a better term) weeknight dinner.

Check us out on instagram @fairfaxfoodie 🙂

Chicken and Waffles, Again

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Mr. Foodie and I had an awesome weekend despite the fact that both of us had to work for a few hours on opposite days. We still managed to squeeze in some jacuzzi time to soak up the sun while we could and some face time with family. Last night we got to play with our nearly 2-yo niece for a few hours – reading her books and pretending to picnic. It was so cute seeing Mr. Foodie play with a baby! It also made me realize how lucky we are to live so close to our families. Sometimes I get tired of this area with all the traffic and never-ending road repairs, but weekends like this make me thrilled to be here.

So I discovered only after I went through the trouble of photographing our dinner that I’ve already written about my Chicken and Waffles – we could call this lazy blogging, then, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that this is just an awesome recipe that needs to be shared twice! Plus, we had leftover waffles from the weekend to use, so there you go. I used the same basic recipe as before, but my gravy was thicker (yum!) and of course the waffle recipe is made from scratch instead of a box mix. I also changed the chicken recipe a bit to use our leftover milk (with a little vinegar to make it a diy buttermilk) instead of eggs.

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In other news Mr. Foodie went grocery shopping today and surprised me with a thyme plant to go in our wall herb garden planter! I’ve been holding off filling it until spring arrives – the heat/cold flux is not great for keeping plants alive. I just love the smell of fresh herbs and of course the flavor they impart in recipes! Maybe I’ll dry some out to store in my little spice jars for next winter.

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Fear not, dear readers! Mr. Foodie and I have actual *new* recipes in the works for our upcoming week, so I will have more to post about than my foodie wall art 😛

In my search for Irish recipes leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, I stumbled upon a new way to cook cabbage that I can’t wait to try out. Plus, we have been slated to plan a cinco de mayo menu for our parents, so we’re redoing the pork shoulder recipe and putting it in tacos! Stay tuned for all THAT action later this week 😉

In the meantime, feel free to keep up with us on instagram! @fairfaxfoodie

Pulled Pork BBQ and Skillet Cornbread + Pie for Pi Day!

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So Mr. Foodie and I got to enjoy an unexpected snow day yesterday 🙂 Paradoxically, we had planned a dinner designed for being gone at work all day – crockpot pork bbq! As you know, we are trying to utilize our wedding presents in our cooking, so when Mr. Foodie spotted a huge pork shoulder at the grocery store last weekend, he pounced on it and quickly decided the optimal way to cook this massive thing was in the crockpot on low for 9 hours. I decided to take another stab at cornbread, and, this time, to use our new cast-iron pan. Since we popped the pork in early that morning, we had some time to break out Splendor – one of our favorite table games – and mid-game  I discovered (thanks so social media) that it was Pi day! So, of course, I had to make a pie as well 🙂  With all this glorious food we had to have someone over to share it, so my mother and my aunt joined us – thankfully because this really is WAY too much food for two people. We sent them home with leftovers also.

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The Pork

If you feel intimidated by an entire pork shoulder – don’t! It looks scary with the huge layer of fat on top and the big bone in the middle, but a little prep is all you need to turn this thing into the best bbq pulled pork you’ve ever eaten. Mr. Foodie handled the pork prep while I made the spice rub. To begin, trim the fat off the shoulder with a sharp knife, slicing in a downward motion and pulling the fat away from the meat as you go. Make a bed of diced onions and garlic for the bottom of the crockpot. The spice rub was super simple – salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. I didn’t do measurements, but basically, you should have an approximate ratio of 1 salt, 1/2 pepper, 1/3 garlic powder, and 1/4 cayenne – make enough to cover the shoulder. Rub the shoulder with a spice rub, then set the shoulder on the bed of veggies. Pour in 1/2 Cup of water (this is so you don’t crack the crockpot bowl when it heats up). Start on high for 2 hours, then low for 9-12 hours (use a meat thermometer towards the end of cooking to make sure it is safe. Once it is cooked, drain, discard the bone, and shred the meat with two forks – it should pull apart nicely. Cover with your choice of bbq sauce (see ours below) and set to “warm” until you are ready to serve. Mr. Foodie also diced up a small onion and included it with the bbq sauce for a little texture and additional flavor (don’t worry, the onion cooks up a bit so it isn’t totally raw and you can omit this step if you don’t care for onions). The meat was so tender and juicy – low and slow really is the best way to make pulled pork. And I did notice a difference between making it myself and eating pulled pork from the store – our version is less salty and not as tough and stringy as pre-made pulled pork is usually. And you can’t beat the value! We spent $15 on the shoulder which is a lot for a meat purchase, but it made a TON of pulled pork. We gave a bunch away and will still have plenty for leftovers tonight.

BBQ Sauce – Homemade

While the pork was cooking, we made the sauce. I’ve written before about the formula for a basic bbq sauce. Mr. Foodie and I eyeballed it entirely this time, and I’m afraid we were not writing down exactly how much of everything we were putting in. That being said, you should definitely try experimenting with your sauce! When experimenting, keep the golden rule in mind – you can always add, but you can’t subtract, so go easy on the various ingredients – you can always add more if you need to. We started with a basic ketchup, brown sugar, Worcester sauce, salt, pepper, vinegar concoction. We ended up adding garlic powder and hot sauce to our version. I kept testing it (since my palette is a little better than Mr. Foodie’s) to get the right balance of salt, sweet, tart, and spicy – once I was satisfied, we refrigerated it until the pork was done. Let me tell you, it turned the already amazingly delicious pork into the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. I wish I had written down what we were doing so I could replicate it easily –  next time, readers, next time! In any case, it was the perfect amount of sauce (we don’t like it smothering the good meat) and it was a delectable flavor!

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Skillet Cornbread – Basic

For this, I just used the recipe from the Food Network with no alterations. Since it was my first time using the skillet for this purpose, I wanted to follow the instructions exactly. It turned out okay, but I felt it could be better. It had an okay texture, but the flavor needed some punching up. Covered in some butter and honey, it was fine. Next time I might add some fresh corn or something. I know cornbread is one of those things that is easily bought at the store and largely tastes the same everywhere, but I really want to find a recipe that rocks Mr. Foodie’s socks for our bbq nights 🙂 If you do have a cornbread recipe that you like, please send it my way!

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Apple Pie w/ homemade crust

For this, I just used the apples I had in my fridge – you can really use any apples you like, but I do recommend that they at least be firm and slightly tart for the best results. For this filling, I peeled and sliced up the apples – a total of 5 medium sized ones –  squeezed lemon juice and orange juice over them, and sprinkled 1/2 cup sugar and 1 T cinnamon on them. I made my usual pie crust (Ina’s version). Let me tell you, readers, I almost threw this crust across the room yesterday. I made the crust exactly as I always make it, and chilled it for a good amount of time, but when I went to roll it out on the counter, it kept breaking at the edges and sticking no matter how much flour I used. It took both Mr. Foodie and I using hands, spatulas, and super-human will to get the f***ing crust into the pan. Normally, I roll it up on the pin, and gently unroll it into the pan -voila! But not yesterday. I don’t know if the kitchen was too hot, the counter was too warm, the fridge wasn’t cooling properly. I was at my wit’s end. We got it into the pan and I pressed it in to get it to fit, put the broken pieces over the holes, tried to make the top look somewhat normal. It could (very charitably) be described as “rustic,” but to me, it looked like a heaping mess. I’m sharing this little meltdown with you because I want you to know that even people like us who cook all the time face situations in the kitchen which are so. damn. frustrating. Even more so, perhaps, than normal because we are relatively used to things going our way in the kitchen. I’ve made this crust a million times! And yet this time it chose to torture me. The other reason I’m sharing it is because even though it was difficult to get into the pan and not the ideal thickness thanks to my patch job, it ended up tasting wonderful. My dinner guests loved it. Remember what’s important, dear readers 🙂

So that was our fun snow day! What did you end up doing? For more peeks at what Mr. Foodie and I are up to, check us out on Instagram @fairfaxfoodie

 

Irish Soda Bread

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I’ve heard before that the world breaks down into two kinds of people. Those who like to be taken care of when they are sick and those who do not. I am squarely in the second camp. At least I was until Mr. Foodie came along. The first major head cold I suffered, he was right there, making me tea with honey and restocking my bedside tissues. Somehow, I didn’t mind that he was seeing me in this vulnerable state, and somehow I started to like his quiet doting. Mr. Foodie was down for the count earlier tonight, having broken the new house rule to never ever purchase hot food from 7-Eleven. Sometimes he forgets he doesn’t have the stomach (or the metabolism) of a 20-year-old anymore. In any case, he was doubled up with stabbing pains and unable to find a comfortable position. I flapped around uselessly, offering him water and aspirin and trying to shove pillows in strategic places. I admit I am not inherently the best caregiver. As a former person who would rather hole up when sick instead of accepting help, I find I am sometimes stingy with sympathy and attention when it comes to illness. I remember being anxious about it before Mr. Foodie first fell ill. I worried that he had been babied by his loving mother and would expect similar treatment from me. It turns out, when you do genuinely love someone, you do not mind caring for them when they are sick. Mr. Foodie is fairly stoic when he is ill, so that helps.

Today, however, I felt like the QUEEN of caregiving after I baked this new recipe! I had already planned on making a recipe from the Ellis Island cookbook that I received as a gift a while back, but it came in super handy on this particular night. After Mr. Foodie’s stomach pains subsided, he had no appetite and was afraid to even try to eat anything. Except for my soda bread. I gave him little pieces, one at a time, until he started feeling even better. This will surprise no one who understands the magic of baking soda, but the bread helped settle his stomach and eventually brought back his appetite.

Additionally, it was delicious! This particular recipe was sent in for the Ellis Island cookbook project by a woman who described her mother as one of the most warm-hearted caregivers in the world. She was always hitting the pavement to raise funds for the community, bring turkey dinners to families in need, or welcome new Irish immigrants home with her for some cabbage. I felt a wave of gratitude pass over me as I made this recipe tonight for that woman’s bravery and kindness. In a world that looked down on her and those in her community, she held her head high and just kept feeding everyone.

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Although this cookbook is not fancy, contains some rather vague recipes, and lacks mouth-watering photos of the food, it is one of my favorite cookbooks to read. Preceding almost every recipe is a letter – usually sent by a friend or relative of a household cook – detailing the memories of being a first-generation immigrant to come through Ellis Island. Many of the stories are heartbreaking, but many are also immensely inspiring and uplifting. The recipes tell me so much more than just how to make something. They reveal the dire circumstances of many who came here looking for a better life. They reveal cultural traditions adapted to new ingredients. But mostly they reveal the resilience of the human spirit.

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For this soda bread, we used our cast-iron skillet. The only “unusual” ingredient besides the caraway seeds is buttermilk, but no need to buy buttermilk specially for this bread. Just take a cup of milk and let it sit with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for 5-10 minutes and voila! Buttermilk. You don’t even need to let any butter soften because it calls for melted butter, so woot! Basically, you mix all the dry ingredients together, make a well, pour the wet ingredients in, mix with a wooden spoon, and then plop into a buttered oven-safe skillet for an hour at 375. Before putting the skillet in the oven, cut a cross on the top and baste with some additional melted butter. We did not have caraway seeds on hand and I couldn’t say with certainty that I’ve ever even tasted them before, so I am not sure what flavor element was missing. But the slight sweetness of the raisins and the buttery lightness of the bread were simply wonderful. While I can’t taste the baking soda and powder, you can definitely smell it on the bread and see its work in the airiness of the bread’s interior. And, of course, you can see its effect on an upset stomach if you have a silly 7-Eleven-eating-husband lying around.

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The bread settled his stomach and brought back his appetite. Which is a good thing because I had also made sauteed cabbage and pork chops for dinner. The pork chops are just seared quickly, then baked alongside the soda bread for 30 minutes (don’t forget to let them rest under some tin foil before cutting). The cabbage is one medium head, core cut out, and sliced thinly as for slaw. Cook in some butter (or bacon fat if you have some) and season to taste. I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder – it was freaking delicious! One of my new favorite ways to eat cabbage now.

So there you have it, a week-night Irish meal that isn’t shepherd’s pie or beef stew.

For the soda bread, see the recipe snapped from the book below. For more Fairfax Foodie adventures, follow us on instagram @fairfaxfoodie

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Spirilized Zucchini and Mr. Foodie’s Famous RRP Turkey Burgers

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As I wrote about in the post-honeymoon post earlier this week, Mr. Foodie and I received a ton of awesome wedding gifts, many of them kitchen items of course. And we are determined to utilize each and every one in the coming weeks so we can familiarize ourselves with new recipes and express our sincere gratitude to our wonderful family and friends for supporting our cooking/baking habit!

This week we whipped out the spiralizer Kitchenaid attachment sent to us by my Aunt Katie. We are on our way to acquiring nearly all the attachments made for the Kitchenaid mixer, but I feel like this is going to be one of our most frequently used attachments from now on. I admit that I didn’t immediately see the benefit of spiralizing veggies apart from the simple novelty of eating them in a different form, but after tasting the spiralized zucchini, I became a convert!

Others have explained it better than I could, but there was something immensely satisfying about slurping these lightly cooked and lightly seasoned “noodles” of zucchini. My mind is already spinning with ideas for our next spiralizing adventure.

Of all my attachments, this one looked the most intimidating at first. It consists of entire box of parts and pieces, but it only took us a few minutes to read over the directions and find the right blade to make medium sized noodles. We happened to have VERY long zucchini, so I had to cut them in half in order to fit them into the attachment, but it still took just a few seconds to spiralize the whole zucchini. Afterward, you only have two pieces (the blade and the stake that holds it on) to clean, so that is a major plus in my book.

It was a week night, so I went super simple, deciding to simply saute the zucchini noodles with some light seasoning – salt, pepper, and garlic powder. It occurred to me that I could make a version of our favorite way to eat zucchini with onions, but I wanted to see how these noodles tasted on their own. Other recipes I saw said you could eat them raw with a sauce like pesto, so that is an option for another day.

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This cooked version had a consistency remarkably similar to pasta. I dropped a coin of olive oil in the pan and divided the zucchini into two batches to avoid steaming it. I sprinkled each half with a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Each half only took 3-4 minutes, tossing with tongs to ensure even cooking. I sprinkled the final product with a pinch of Parmesan cheese to add a salty, creamy lick to the top.

Mr. Foodie and I literally woolfed them down. We at every last noodle before we even touched our burgers. I could easily imagine eating an entire bowl of these all by themselves. Even Mr. Foodie, who doesn’t generally care for anything in the squash family, ate these noodles with gusto.

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I also wanted to report that we used our brand new cast-iron skillet for Mr. Foodie’s Famous Roasted Red Pepper Turkey Burgers. I have wanted a skillet for years, but found myself a little intimidated by the care of it. Luckily Mr. Foodie’s brother presented us with this skillet and some good advice for using/maintaining it. The burgers were as lovely as I remembered them and a great compliment to the star of this show – the zucchini noodles!!

Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

1 long Zucchini (ends cut, not peeled)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Pinch of Garlic Powder (or fresh minced garlic)

Pinch of Parmesan cheese

Spiralize the zucchini, keeping the skin on. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Divide zucchini to avoid steaming and cook each half 3-4 minutes until browning occurs. Season each half while it cooks. Sprinkle pinch of Parmesan cheese over the finished batch. You may want to cut some of the noodles as they can come out quite long.

You can find the recipe for Mr. Foodie’s burgers here:  https://flkeysfoodie.com/2016/08/23/poolside-eats-roasted-red-pepper-burgers-and-grilled-corn/

For more Foodie adventures, check out our instagram – we moved to a new handle to reflect our new living situation: @fairfaxfoodie

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

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My ideal Saturday mornings consist of taking a little time (maybe an hour or two) to flip on the Food Network, drink my coffee, and scroll through Pinterest. Even though I do these things separately throughout the week, there’s nothing like the slow, quiet luxury of doing them all at once for an our or two on Saturday morning. This past weekend I drifted across a pin on stuffed acorn squash. I immediately thought of my mother. Growing up, we always had the same squat, beige toaster oven on the counter top. Besides toast, the only things I ever saw my mother pop into it were store-bought, frozen mini-pies and acorn squashes that she cut herself. The preparation was minimal – salt, pepper, and a pat of butter, but she LOVED that acorn squash. Whereas many people might cook it with brown sugar or marshmallows, my mother liked to make squash savory instead of sweet – a preference I carry with me to this day.

Though the recipe on Pinterest was a vegetarian one, I decided it would be exquisite with some crumbled sausage. I like mild Italian sausage because a little goes a long way. I can buy one pack of sausages, remove what I need from the casing and save the rest to add to soup, sprinkle into mac n cheese, etc. It is versatile, and the heat from the seasonings pairs well with any rich dish.

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Acorn Squash is fairly easy to prep. Slice open each gourd, scoop out the seeds and strings, and then slice a little off the round side of each half so that they won’t tip over when flesh-side up. Rub the flesh with oil (or spray) and season liberally with salt (and pepper if desired). Recipes differ on the time and temperature for roasting acorn squash, but one thing they almost all suggest is to line your baking sheet with tin foil and place the squash flesh-side down. Some recipes suggest 400 degrees; others 375 – base this on how hot your oven usually gets. Mine runs hot, so I chose 375. The cooking time varies also, but that probably has to do with the size of your squashes and the temperature of your oven. Bank on something between 30 minutes and an hour. I ended up taking mine out at 45 minutes at 375. They are done when the flesh can be pierced easily with a fork.

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For the filling, I cooked up 1 lb of mild Italian sausage (you could cook less, but then you might want to add another veggie component like mushrooms or kale or grain like quinoa so you’ll have enough stuffing). I put the sausage aside and used the pan to cook down small diced onions and garlic. I combined these and stuffed the roasted acorn squash halves with them. I topped each one with Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and a small pat of butter (you could substitute a drizzle of oil for butter if you like). Then I broiled it for 2 minutes to melt the cheese and butter. The beauty of this recipe is that you can stuff the acorn squashes with whatever you like or have on hand. After tasting my version, Mr. Foodie and I decided it would have been absolutely perfect if we had added a few diced tomatoes to stuffing for a little acid and sweetness. Even without the tomatoes, the squash was rich and filling. The heat of the sausage paired well with the creamy flesh of the acorn squash. The cheese and bread topping added texture and a nutty bite.

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 Acorn Squashes, cut in half

Olive Oil, salt, and pepper

1 lb mild Italian sausage, removed from casing

1 small diced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

1-2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

Bread Crumbs for topping

1-2 Tbsp butter for topping

Preheat oven to 375 (or 400) and line baking sheet with tin foil. Oil prepped Acorn Squash Halves and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place flesh-side down on lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes to an hour. They are done when flesh is easily pierced with a fork. In the meantime, cook up the sausage, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Set aside and use the pan to cook the diced onion and garlic until softened. Mix the onions and sausage together for stuffing. Fill each roasted acorn squash half with sausage mixture. Top all with Parmesan, sprinkle of bread crumbs, and pat of butter. Broil for 2 minutes to melt butter and cheese. Enjoy!

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Ditch the Rice, Make Risotto

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Photo Credit: Food Highs

I’ve written before about how Mr. Foodie does not care for rice or pasta as much as some people do (me!), but what I’ve learned is that he is just picky with his rice and pasta. He likes only whole wheat pasta with a great tasting sauce. He likes flavored rice like fried rice or, one of my favorites, risotto. I learned about risotto from watching cooking shows which simultaneously left me feeling anxious about pulling off such a complicated dish and feeling comforted to know that it was, indeed, possible and even easy. I’ve now made it so many times that I don’t have to consult a recipe. It was even one of the dishes I made when Mr. Foodie and I were dating so I could impress him. But perhaps the major objection to risotto is the time and attention it takes to make it. This is a good 30-40 minute dish over which you have to preside the whole time – not everyone’s cup of tea. I personally find it relaxing. I prop up my ipad on the holder to watch a funny show while I sip white wine and ladle chicken stock – this is pretty much my happy place. The real question is: is it worth it? I answer with a resounding Yes!

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Risotto is just slowly cooked rice that is very flavorful because of the various additions. My base recipe has onions, white wine, chicken stock, and parmesan cheese. To this you can add whatever you like or have on hand. Last night, I added a sauteed zucchini, but I’ve also mooned over risotto with cooked mushrooms, steamed asparagus, and oven roasted tomatoes. Risotto, like regular rice or pasta, is a great blank canvas to which you can add some amazing flavor. Of course, it is also delicious by itself as well.

I thought I’d give some step-by-step instructions for this because I do remember how intimidated I was by it when I first made it, so hopefully this will demystify it for some of you and just be interesting for the rest. I begin with 1 cup of aborio rice (the rice used to make risotto – you will not be able to get the same results with other kinds of rice), 1 diced onion, two tablespoons of olive oil or butter, 1 cup white wine (I use a chardonnay), 1 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste) and about 4 cups chicken stock which has been heated. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, then add in the rice and stir until the rice is coated in the onions/oil. Cook for a minute on medium-low until rice has absorbed some of the oil. Add the white wine and cook until rice has absorbed most of the liquid.

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From then on you will add chicken stock to the dish one ladle at a time, letting the rice soak up the stock each time before adding more. Stir the rice often to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. I say “about 4 cups” of chicken stock because sometimes I use it all and sometimes I do not. I can usually tell when the rice has absorbed enough liquid because I’ve made it so many times – the object is to create a rice that is fully cooked, creamy, but not mushy or soupy which can happen if you cook too long or add too much liquid. Know also that you will be adding the cheese in at the end which will thicken the rice even more.

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I cook any veggies that I’m adding separately and add them last. You can also choose to season the dish, and typically I just add pepper since the cheese is salty as is the chicken stock. This is the kind of dish where, if you can afford it, it pays to use the best of each ingredient  – onion, stock, cheese, wine – they all shine in the finished dish. The sharpness of the onion, the richness of the stock, the saltiness of the cheese, and the tang of the wine are all present in this creamy, soul-satisfying treat.

This tastes best if eaten right away, although I’ve had leftovers before and enjoyed them. I had the best photo of the finished dish with steam coming off it and everything, but I accidentally deleted it when I meant to email it off Mr. Foodie’s phone (his phone has the best camera in the house). In any case, the header pic looks very much like my version of risotto with zucchini.  To “lighten” this recipe, you can choose to use veggie stock and omit the cheese, but it will lack some flavor and thickening without the cheese.

Zucchini Risotto (adapted from Ina Garten’s risotto recipe)

Serves 4 as a main

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (or butter)

1 Diced Onion

1 Cup Aborio Rice

1 Cup White Wine (Chardonnay works well)

4 Cups of Chicken Stock (or Veggie Stock)

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (or to taste)

Saute the onion in the oil until softened. Add rice and cook for a minute or two over medium-low heat. Add white wine and cook until rice has absorbed liquid. Ladle heated chicken stock in one ladle at a time, waiting for rice to absorb liquid before adding more. Stir rice often to prevent burning and sticking and to ensure even cooking. Add stock until rice is fully cooked, creamy, but not mushy or soupy. Take off the heat and add cheese and top with any cooked veggies. You can also season to taste.

For Zucchini: cut off ends, slice down the middle, then cut into thin half-moons. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat. Throw zucchini into pan with a little salt and pepper, cook undisturbed for a couple minutes, then turn – they should have tiny gold blisters on each side (this is my preference compared to steaming them, but you can do either method).

What is your favorite risotto topper?

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Oktoberfest Party!

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So even though I’ve written extensively about our soft pretzel experiments, I dropped off blogging this past week because I was up to my elbows prepping for our Oktoberfest party (and, you know, doing *real* work too :P). In my excitement for the party, I also did not take as many pictures of the food as I thought I would. It was definitely a party-food adventure! I also marveled a bit about how different this party was than the last one I hosted with my roomie years ago (let’s just say there was more kegs and fewer babies lol), but we had nothing but fun the whole night. Even Onyx (our kitty) enjoyed herself.

Mr. Foodie and I were only too happy to show off our winning pretzel recipe which still doesn’t resemble ball-park pretzels, but tastes delicious. We made bacon-wrapped potatoes which are the easiest thing in the world – just cut up a pack of bacon and wrap each small potato, securing the bacon with a toothpick. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. They are great warm, but also at room-temperature which is always preferable for party food. I also chopped up some bratwurst and bought some new mustards for variety.

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For appetizers and finger foods, I went with one oldie, but goodie–deviled eggs–and two new (to me) dishes: kale chips and roasted chickpeas. Is there any party food better than deviled eggs? I don’t think so. They are always the first to go no matter what else I’m serving. My deviled egg recipe is unfussy, but so tasty. I put eggs in room temp water to cover, bring to a boil, boil for 8-9 minutes, drain and fill with cold water, add ice, and let cool. This method makes fairly consistent, perfect boiled eggs (and if you do see the little green ring around the yoke, who cares? It still tastes great). I mash the yokes with a fork, add a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise and tablespoons of spicy brown mustard, mix together and scoop or pipe the filling into the egg whites. Then I top with a dash of cayenne pepper–not paprika, although that is good as well. I LOVE the slow heat of cayenne with the creamy-tangy egg mixture. It’s everything you love about deviled eggs without tasting overly salty, creamy, or sharp.

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If you haven’t noticed yet, I love Kale. I am definitely on that bandwagon. I use it in smoothies, in soup, I even put it in our omelettes this morning. I like it because of its bitterness which pairs well with a lot of dishes. And of course it has great nutritional value. But I had yet to make the crisp Kale chips I enjoyed at a friend’s party many years ago. And they are SO easy. Basically pull the leaves off the stems and cut into bite sizes, spread on a baking sheet and either drizzle with olive oil or spray with olive oil cooking spray (the easiest), massage into leaves and sprinkle sea salt and garlic powder over all. Bake at 300 for 15-20 minutes (there is major disagreement about oven temp and cooking time for kale chips throughout the interwebs – I recommend trying different temps and cooking times to achieve the crispiness you want).

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The Roasted Chickpeas were a hit! I used canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried on paper towels. Then you spread them out on a baking sheet to roast (I recommend putting something under them for easier cleanup). Roast at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until they are roasted through. They should be crunchy, but not burnt. While they’re cooking, mix together olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and lemon zest. As soon as the chickpeas are done, drop them in the oil mixture and toss to coat. Spread them out again to let the seasoning stick to them. After they cool, you can eat them with your hands. This crunchy, salty treat is elevated by the lemon flavor!

Normally, I do not recommend trying to make a new recipe for party because chances are, you are not paying as careful attention to the dish as you normally would and sometimes it takes two (or three or four) tries to get it right. Welp, I ignored myself and tried to make two versions of beer cheese soup for this party – one stovetop and one slow cooker). Both were spectacular fails. Why did I suppose beer cheese soup would be easy? I mean, I make soup all the time, but apparently including cheese causes massive issues. And because I’ve never successfully made it, I still do not know exactly what went wrong both times. Maybe it was the cheese I was using, or the heat level, or the liquid to solid ratio. It is a mystery. I will say that the slow cooker version smelled and tasted better, but it still wasn’t the thick, cheesey soup that it should be. Oh well, #soupgoals.

Everyone went home with a sweet treat – our gingerbread cookies with royal frosting! Mr. Foodie and I had a blast. With the wedding coming up it means a lot to us to take some time out and reconnect with friends!

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