Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad

 

Broccoli salad is a cool, refreshing side dish that complements just about any grilled meat. It’s easy to make, and best of all, nearly any vegetables you have in the refrigerator can go in it. If you don’t have some of the vegetables listed, skip them or substitute something you have on hand. You can even include chopped nuts (like pecans or almonds) or raisins. This recipe makes two large side dish servings that won’t leave you hungry!

Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tbsp. white wine or rice vinegar
  • 4 strips bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 lb. broccoli, trimmed and broken into small florets
  • 1/2 c. red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 c. red onion, chopped
  • 1 c. red cabbage, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Blanch the broccoli: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add broccoli, and boil for about 3 minutes or until bright green but still firm. Immediately remove the broccoli using tongs or a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water. (This stops the cooking process and preserves the color and texture of the broccoli.)
  2. Fry bacon: place pieces in a cold skillet and place over medium heat. When bacon pieces release their fat and move easily, stir and flip until all pieces are cooked. The sizzling noise will subside and the bacon will no longer be pink, white, or translucent (except for the very fatty pieces). Remove the bacon pieces to a plate covered with a paper towel and allow to cool. (I recommend reserving the bacon drippings from the pan for a future use.)
  3. Whisk mayonnaise and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Add cooked broccoli, bell pepper, onion, cabbage, celery, and bacon. Stir with a large spoon or spatula until vegetables are well coated with mayonnaise and vinegar mixture. Add bacon pieces, salt and pepper to taste, and stir again.
  4. Broccoli salad can be prepared and refrigerated for 2-3 hours or served immediately.
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Honey Mustard Marinated Chicken

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Spring is a great time to grill: the weather is warm and mild without any of the humid, oppressive heat of summer. It’s a leisurely weekend activity for those with charcoal grills; propane grills are more weeknight-friendly.

These chicken breasts are marinated for a few hours in a delicious mixture of honey, mustard, and spices. They’re juicy and flavorful. Serve them with fresh grilled vegetables, a potato salad, or slaw, and you’ll have a perfect warm-weather meal.

Honey Mustard Marinated Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt (or any type with large, coarse flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preparation

  1. To make the marinade, whisk together all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl until smooth.
  2. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in about 2/3 of the marinade, reserving the other 1/3. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag several times to coat the chicken, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard bag. Grill chicken over direct medium heat* for about 8 minutes, or until chicken is firm to the touch, turning once. Brush chicken with reserved marinade while grilling. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

*Direct medium heat means cooking the food directly over the heat source at medium heat, between 350-450 degrees F.

Chicken with Pecan Sauce

Chicken with Pecan Sauce

 

In this easy-to-prepare dish, chicken is lightly coated in flour and pan-fried. The pecans add a rich flavor to the sauce. Roasted summer squash and zucchini round out the meal (and soak up extra sauce!).

Chicken with Pecan Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 chicken breast, halved and pounded to 1/2″ thickness
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Preparation

  1. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add pecans, stirring often, until toasted and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan.
  2. Sprinkle chicken breast halves with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.
  3. Add oil to skillet, and cook chicken 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove chicken to serving plates and top with pecans.
  4. Add chicken broth to skillet and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add sugar, vinegar, and thyme; cook for 3-4 minutes or until sugar is melted and sauce has  thickened slightly. Whisk in 1 tbsp. butter.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Kitchen Tools

Kitchen tools and accessories get me excited in a way which is only rivaled by office supplies. Some weekends, Johnny and I spend an afternoon perusing the surfeit of extraneous gadgets in Bed Bath & Beyond or politely declining the helpful salespeople of Williams-Sonoma. This is a dangerous game to play, though, as what begins as an innocent errand to purchase kitchen twine ends in a package of silicone trussing loops and a mandoline.

However enthusiastic I am for new kitchen tools, there are several faithful standbys that I cannot do without. They make cooking easier, faster, or simply more enjoyable. I haven’t been compensated for advertising these things, although they are products I fully endorse!

  • Narrow measuring spoons from Williams-Sonoma: These stainless steel spoons are perfect in every way. The measurement is etched into the handle of the spoon, so it will not rub off. They are dishwasher safe. They are narrow enough to easily fit into most spice jars. These spoons are plain, unadorned, and absolutely essential. $16
  • Oneida round pizza stone from Bed Bath & Beyond: While preheating the pizza stone is a long process, it’s well worth the time. This stone ensures every pizza has a crisp and even crust, regardless if it’s frozen or fresh. It can also be used to cook anything that requires a crispy crust, like frozen egg rolls. I typically cook everything directly on the stone; I like to think of the process as “seasoning”, although I suspect it’s closer to “laziness” as I have never washed the stone. $15
  • Cuisinart Mini Prep food processor (link goes to Amazon, also available at Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams-Sonoma): A mini food processor may seem like a waste of money, but it’s worth its weight in gold for the time it saves. It can be used to mince or puree vegetables for sauces or soups. It can be used to break up chunky canned tomatoes. It can be used to grate cheese. Best of all, you can put it in the dishwasher. Second best of all, it is much more easily stored than the behemoth that is a regular food processor. $33
  • Large Butcher Block from Totally Bamboo: You may think a cutting board is a cutting board, but it’s not so. This enormous, heavy bamboo cutting board has changed my life. It’s durable enough to sustain years of heavy use, large enough to chop anything, and the non-slip feet prevent the board from wiggling around during vigorous chopping. While it demands hand washing and the occasional oiling, it’s a fair exchange. $120
  • Wusthof Classic knife set from Williams-Sonoma: Good knives make cooking easier, faster, and safer. This set from Wusthof has served us well for years. They are well-made, feel good in the hand, and maintain a very sharp edge. The set is expensive; if I had to recommend one knife from the whole set, it would be the 5″ Hollow-Ground Santoku ($85). I recommend saving up for the set, though, as these have made chopping a much more pleasant and less dangerous task than it used to be. $400
  • OXO Good Grips Medium Grater from Amazon: A box grater is unwieldy and, more often than not, makes a mess. A hand grater is useful for grating cheese, zesting citrus, or grating spices like nutmeg. This piece from OXO is durable, dishwasher safe, and affordable. $10

Of course, there are many other kitchen tools I use when cooking (measuring cups, pans, citrus reamer, et cetera), but these are the things that I love! They’re also things I wholeheartedly recommend- I’ve used them in my kitchen with excellent results.

What kitchen tools and gadgets do you use? What can’t you do without?

 

 

Pizza Dough

I have a deep and abiding love for pizza. In college I spent the better part of two years making pizzas at Domino’s, where I received an education in proofing dough, appropriately applying cheese, and getting creative with topping combinations when the appeal of my usual pepperoni-and-mushroom combo ran thin. There was something immensely satisfying in being able to knock out a large order quickly, and I took pride in my ability to get a large pepperoni pizza from dough ball to oven-ready in under a minute. Was it haute cuisine? Of course not. Do I eat at Domino’s these days? Not usually; Tulsa has an astonishing number of excellent pizzerias. Most of the time, though, I simply prefer to make my own pizza.

I use the same basic dough recipe regardless of the toppings I choose. It’s a whole-wheat dough that yields a pleasantly thin and chewy crust. It’s ridiculously easy and requires no special equipment. I use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment to make this, but it can be made by hand- I’ve given instructions for both. Best of all, the recipe makes a lot of dough; it keeps in the refrigerator perfectly for about two weeks. The dough balls are fairly small; Johnny and I usually eat one small pizza each, with a salad on the side. (Confession: sometimes we bake another pizza and split it. They’re that good!)

Dough ball

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 1 tbsp.)
  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. flax or toasted wheat germ
  • Olive oil, for oiling bowl

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups all purpose flour and the salt, then stir in whole wheat flour, flax or wheat germ. Add remaining 1/2 c. all purpose flour 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough comes away from the bowl, but is still slightly sticky to touch.
  2. If using a stand mixer: use dough hook attachment to knead dough on low speed (I use speed 2 on my Kitchen-Aid mixer) for about 5-7 minutes or until dough is smooth and springs back when pressed. If kneading by hand: turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and springs back when pressed.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, add dough, and turn to coat. Cover surface of dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 1/2 hours.*
  4. When ready to use dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into 6 equal portions. Roll into balls, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest 30 minutes. To shape dough, gently flatten dough ball on well-floured surface. Form crust by pressing fingers into dough about 1/4″ from dough ball’s edge and rotating dough so crust is even. Gently stretch dough by keeping one hand steady and pulling dough outward with other hand. Continue to stretch dough until it is about 12″ in diameter. If dough rips, simply press back together and stretch a thicker part.
  5. Place dough round on a sheet of parchment paper and top with desired toppings. Bake at 450 degrees F for 13-15 minutes on a preheated pizza stone or inverted baking sheet; keep dough on parchment paper for ease of insertion and removal from oven.

*If you, like me, keep your thermostat set at a toasty 65 degrees all winter, your dough will not rise properly sitting on the kitchen counter. A very warm windowsill will work, but I find my dough rises best in a bathroom with the door closed and heating fan on. You likely know where the warmest room in your house is- get creative and use it!

I’ll share some of my favorite pizza topping combinations in later posts. What are your favorite toppings?

Linguine with Mushrooms, Red Pepper, & Garlic

Linguine

Pasta is one of those things that makes a cold winter night feel a little warmer. When you don’t want to spend the afternoon simmering a tomato sauce, put together this simple dish for a meal that’s easy, tasty, and filling. I used white button mushrooms, since that’s what I had on hand, but cremini or baby portobello mushrooms would be an extra delicious substitute.

Linguine With Mushrooms, Red Pepper, & Garlic

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. whole wheat linguine
  • 6 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. white wine
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse ground salt
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse ground pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Preparation

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 c. pasta water.*
  2. Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper; cook until fragrant and softened, about 1 minute.
  3. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook just soft, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft and have released their juices, about 3 more minutes.
  4. Toss drained pasta with mushrooms and parsley. If pasta seems dry, add reserved pasta water a little at a time until sufficiently moistened.
  5. Serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

*To reserve pasta water, use a ladle to spoon out water immediately before draining pasta. Be very careful, as water is extremely hot! 

 

Quinoa & Veggie Stuffed Peppers

 

Quinoa stuffed bell peppers

These stuffed peppers are packed full of goodness: quinoa and a variety of veggies make them a healthy weeknight meal. While the baking time is on the long side, they’re well worth the wait. A bell pepper and a half plus a side salad make for a filling and delicious dinner!

Quinoa & Veggie Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. chopped carrots
  • 4 bell peppers; 1 cored, seeded, and chopped; tops removed and reserved from remaining 3, then cored and seeded
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 2 oz. baby spinach
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 c. uncooked quinoa
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Combine quinoa with 1/2 c. water; bring to rapid boil, then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly oil small baking dish (8″x 6″ or 8″x 8″)
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and chopped peppers; cook until just softened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add parsley and spinach; cook until spinach is wilted. Stir in cinnamon, cumin, and cooked quinoa. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Divide quinoa mixture among remaining 3 bell peppers, gently packing it down so each pepper is fully filled. Top each pepper with reserved top and arrange in baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes. Serve immediately.