Tag Archives: easy dinners

Micro-Whaaat? Microwaved Egg, Tomato and Kale Wraps

11 Jul

spring.earlysummer2013 055

Friends, you know how much GKG loves eggs as the basis of any meal. Protein + healthy fat + all in a neat little package? What’s not to love? I’ve made these hard-boiled egg snacks, these Italian-style baked eggs for supper, and even these other variations on egg-based meals.

But here’s an unexpected cookery equation for you: One Budding Chef+ One Standard Microwave + one serving of eggs = an unexpected match made in culinary heaven.

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New GKG Feature: Meat-Free Meals for Lent!

13 Feb

[Totally irrelevant side note: Found Maria Carey’s entire 1995 “Daydream” album on Youtube this morning. Good Lord, do I love the Interwebs sometimes. I’ll be jamming to “Fantasy” and “One Sweet Day” for the next month or so, just so y’all know. 🙂 ]

For my friends of the Christian and Catholic varieties (or simply for those wondering why a few folks are walking around with dark spots on their foreheads?), today’s observance of Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. While yesterday’s Mardi Gras was an opportunity to binge and go more than a little calorie-crazy (hello, paczkis that I ate en mass. NOM NOM NOM), Lent ushers in a time of penance, prayer and sacrifice. Even if you’re not particularly religious, a re-start on New Years Resolutions probably won’t hurt!

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February Resolution: A Month-Long Passport to … ?

3 Feb

nye 2013

Back again with my 2013 Monthly Blogging Resolutions! As I posted a month ago, I’ll be tackling monthly resolutions about GKG all through 2013. Rather than a few year-long goals, I’ve broken them up into month-by-month challenges. Here’s to growth and new adventures! Want to read the original post? Check out all of my 2013 girls here!

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Easy Dinners: Tortilla Pizza

11 Dec

late.oct.nov2012 047

Love pizza? (Who am I kidding? If you didn’t love pizza, I suspect you wouldn’t be on this pizza-loving woman’s blog.)

Don’t have the time to roll out fresh dough or whip up your own? (I.e. like every 20-something on a weeknight.)

Hunting through your fridge for some semblance of nutritious food, and coming up a bit short? (Again, like a lot of us. Unless you work at Whole foods. I bet their employee discount is ridiculous.)

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Kitchen Nightmares: FRANKENSTORM? Or, 8 Tips to Prep for Power Outages

29 Oct

Image sourced from ibtimes.com. No, it’s pronounced, “Eye-gore” of the storm.

Friends, it appears as thought the STORM OF THE CENTURY (AIEEEE ACK ACK DRAMA-FEST OH MY GOODNESS) is about to hit the DC area, and power outages are all but guaranteed. Hurricane Sandy is on her way, and she looks like a tempestuous chica with extra wrath to spare. (Insert bad “hell hath no fury like when Sandy was scorned by Danny Zuko” joke here.) The magic combination of a Category 1 Hurricane, low air pressure, and a serious cold front (thanks, Greenland?) means this strange, perfect storm is due to hit DC in t-minus 5 hours.

Until then, I’m holing up in my apartment, eating pretty much anything perishable and hyperactively charging my electronics before the inevitable power outage hits. I’ve shared my thoughts on disaster-based dining and “Will It All Rot?” fridge-managing earlier this year (all hail the 2012 Derecho), but with the prep-work that THT and I have done of the last few days, I figured a post on prepping your kitchen for potential storm-related drama would be helpful. Plus, it helps me perpetuate the illusion that I’m in control of the weather and its affects. Like Gaia on “Captain Planet!” Win!

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Budget Eats: Well, Stew Me Some Chili And Call Me Your Dinner

4 Oct

Image sourced from thepioneerwoman.com. Nommy nom nom.

This week’s Budget Eats entry is one of my favorites, mostly for the sheer ease of it all. If you’re looking to save some serious cash, get adventurous, and have yourself a tasty meal for days to come, give this idea a shot:

Cook a huge batch of soup, stew, or chili and divide it into individual portions.

Win! Here’s what I mean, in a bit more detail:

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Viva Italia: Healthful Chicken Parmigiana

23 Sep

When the History Teacher mentioned a craving for Chicken Parm recently, he and I both took a peek or two at various recipes in our collections. (Cookbooks, magazines, Pinterest — which is slowly becoming a recipe book-sized collection in itself!) Each recipe we found, it seemed, called for lots of oil, gobs of cheese, and a few more calories than either of us might need in one meal. Or an entire day.

I decided to tackle the beast that was one of Italian-American cuisine’s most iconic dishes, but in a healthier way. Could it be done? Would it be a fruitless effort, like whoever decided to try manufacturing fat-free ice cream? (Oxymoronic at best, nasty at worst. Oif.) Would I end up with a chicken-tasting hockey puck of low-fat grossness? Time would tell.

But, lo and behold, I came up with this beauty:

Nommy nom nom goodness.

The recipe’s low-fat, easy-prep secrets? (I’ll let you in, faithful GKG readers, because you’re lovely and awesome.)

  1. Pound the chicken breasts to tenderize the meat.
  2. Double-Bread the chicken (directions below) to seal in moisture and create a crispy crust
  3. Downplay the cheese by only adding enough for flavor, rather than letting the chicken drown in fromaggio.
  4. If you have it, use whole-wheat pasta, which has a nuttier flavor and a hefty “bite” when cooked al dente.

Now, some of you may be raising a red flag at the mention of lowering the recipe’s cheese content. After all, what’s Chicken Parm without gobs upon gobs of melted mozzarella? Here’s my reasoning: If the chef uses less, but makes the cheese available to her guests and patrons, then they can add as much cheese as they see fit. And, thus, their future heart attacks are not on the chef’s conscience. Plus, I like a lighter layer of cheese with the whole-wheat or whole-grain pastas. Something about their nutty, wholesome flavor screams “Please don’t drown me in dairy!”

And so, friends, here’s my recipe for an easy and surprisingly healthful Chicken Parmigiana. It’s really the meat-pounding-and-double-breading that makes this recipe special, and the techniques are so simple that they can be easily applied to any cut of meat that you choose. Try it with pork chops, chicken thighs, or even a thin steak if you’re feeling particularly Southern. Happy eating!

Surprisingly Healthful Chicken Parm — Serves 4 (easily reduced to 2 or doubled)

You’ll need:

  • 4 medium-sized or two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (regular, Italian-seasoned or panko are all fine)
  • A hefty sprinkle of Parmesan, plus more for serving (approx 1 tbsp)
  • 1-2 tsp Dried or fresh basil, parsley and oregano, crushed (if dried) or finely chopped (if fresh)
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 1 recipe homemade tomato sauce (or 1 jar of your favorite marinara)
  • 1 lb whole-grain or whole-wheat spaghetti (or 1 lb regular spaghetti. Your carbs are your prerogatives, my dears.)

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, set a pot of water (with a pinch of salt) to boil on high heat.
  • In a small saucepan, heat 2-3 cups pasta sauce.
  • Place your chicken breasts on a cutting board between two layers of wax paper or plastic wrap. (If you used 2 large breasts, cut ’em into evenly-sized portions). Using a meat tenderizer or whatever heavy, blunt object you don’t mind getting slightly covered in chicken guts (I used the bottom of a jar), pound out the breasts until they are at least 1/2 of their original thickness. They should end up about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. (The recipe can handle a little variation.)
  • Arrange 3 bowls or serving dishes. In the first, add the flour, some salt & pepper, and 1/2 of the herbs. In the 2nd, add the beaten egg (with an optional pinch of garlic salt). In the third, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and the rest of the herbs. Dredge the pounded breasts first in flour (shaking off the excess), then in egg, and finally in the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture. Set aside on a serving dish.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. (Optional: Add 1/2 tsp butter to the pan for additional flavor. Add the chicken breasts (2 at a time) and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until well browned. When browned, transfer to a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until completely cooked through.

“Hissssss.” — Breadcrumb coating meets olive oil.

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse lightly, and transfer to serving bowl / dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and a little remaining pasta water to keep pasta from sticking together until chicken is done.

Lonely pasta, just waiting for some friends.

  • To serve, top pasta with chicken breasts. Spoon sauce over breasts and pasta until well-covered. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to garnish, and top with additional dried or fresh herbs. Serve to the hungry hordes!

Almost ready! Check out that sweet crumb-coating.

Oh yeah. Sauce & cheese take that chicken to the next level.

A few final points, my dears:

First, if you’re serving this for dinner, a simple salad and crusty loaf of bread are the perfect side dishes. Secondly, you can up the veggie quantity by using a veggie-filled sauce, adding sauteed veggies to your premade sauce, or even using peeled eggplant slices / squash slices instead of chicken breasts. And if you’re really craving that cheesy goodness, assemble the dish in an oven-safe, deep-sided pan, top with mozzarella, and broil for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is gooey, bubbly and browned to your liking. (“All things in moderation, including moderation.” — some wise, awesome person.)

Lastly, what really makes the dish is that double-breading. It creates a crisp coating that locks in moisture, leaving your chicken breasts juicy and the outsides browned, crunchy and delicious. You really can’t go wrong!

Are you guys fans of this Italian-American classic? Have you ever double-breaded chicken breasts before? What are your favorite techniques for recreating this dish at home?

Viva Italia! Homemade Pesto & Tomato-Topped Pizza

17 Sep

“And they say pesto, pesto, pesto” — adapted from Michael Buble’s “Cuando, Cuando, Cuando.”

In the spirit of this post from the lovely Ree Drummond (a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, whose show you should watch and blog you should read. ‘Nuff said), I’ve been on a basil and pesto kick lately. And how could I not be? My basil, shockingly for this whatever-the-opposite-of-a-green-thumb-is lady, is abundant and so, so fragrant. Mmmmm!

Pesto, for the non-Italians, actually comes from Northern Italy’s region of Liguria — specifically, the city of Genoa. Check out this sweet map. What up, MS Paint arrow:

It’s practically Switzerland! (Well, not quite. But hey, you get the idea.)

Its combination of basil, parmesan, pine nuts, olive oil, and seasoning makes pesto an easy and deeee-LICIOUS sauce with Mediterranean flair and earthy flavor. Killer combination of tastes = one of my favorite toppers for pasta, pizza or, um, pretty much anything. Here are some easy-peasy pesto directions if you’re making it at home (note: this is enough for 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sauce:

The players — the walnuts added such a cool flavor to the mix.

  • Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts (though I used walnuts recently, and they were molto bene), and some salt & pepper (to taste) to a food processor or blender. Process / Blend at full blast. (WOOOOO! Listen to the whirring noises!)

  • Slowly add olive oil to the mixture as it blends, or add a splash or two of oil and pulse the sauce in your food processor until the pesto reaches a consistency that you like.

  • Eat. Ideally in something else, but I won’t judge you if you eat it with a spoon. Not one bit. 🙂

So how can you use this nectar of the Roman (Er … Ligurian?) Gods? Here are a few ideas that I love:

  • Mix your pesto with mayonnaise, then spread on a grilled cheese sandwich or panini.
  • Dress a pasta salad of whole wheat penne, peas, grape tomatoes and parmesan with pesto. Mix thoroughly for super-tastiness.
  • Stir a little pesto into your favorite tomato-based pasta sauces.
  • Try mixing pesto into unconventional combinations, like with scrambled eggs or as a garnish / topping on a grilled steak.
  • PIZZA! Pizza, pizza, pizza.

I love making pesto pizza — when I did a volunteer teaching program a few years ago, my housemates and I would often whip up this easy pesto pizza for Community dinner in 30 minutes flat. If you have homemade pesto or just bought a jar of the pre-made stuff (still delicious, by the way — no shame in a little convenience), here’s a vegetarian-friendly dinnertime treat for you.

“Community Living” Pesto Pizza — serves 4. Easily doubled or tripled!

Awwww yeaaaah.

You’ll need:

  • 1 batch pizza dough, or 1 store-bought pizza dough (wheat dough is especially good here)
  • 1 jar pesto sauce, or 1 batch homemade pesto
  • 1 small bag shredded mozzarella cheese, or 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
  • 1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Basil and parmesan for garnishing

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If you like to use a pizza stone, allow the stone to heat in the oven as well.
  • Roll out your dough to the desired size, and place on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel. (A cutting board works just as well!)

Aaand, glamor shot! Thanks, flash button …

  • Spread the dough with pesto sauce, in an amount that you prefer. Top with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, parmesan and torn basil leaves / up to 1 tsp dried basil.

  • “Shimmy” the dough onto the stone by shaking it off of your peel / cutting board. Quickly close the oven and allow the pizza to bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has bubbled and browned to your liking.

  • Eat. A lot. I also wouldn’t judge you if you ate the entire pizza yourself. Have I done that before? Um …. [she said, glancing awkwardly around the room.]

Not the greatest picture, but still. Now I’m hungry again. As usual. 🙂

  • Note: This pizza can easily be vegan with an alternative crust (cauliflower is popular right now), a cheese-free pesto (use a little Bragg’s nutritional yeast to add salt & flavor), and dairy-free cheese. To add a meat-lover’s twist, try adding grilled chicken or even sauteed shrimp to a smidgen of pesto sauce, then spread on TOP of the tomatoes before baking.

Are you guys and gals “pesto people?” How do you like to use pesto sauce? Do you make your own, or prefer jarred sauces? What else might you add to a pesto pizza?

Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata: Nothing, What’s-a-Frittata With You?

15 Sep

This post’s punny title was brought to you by The Lion King. Thank you, Nathan Lane’s Timon, for filling my childhood with wit and grub-eating. And fart jokes. “Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!” “Oh, sorry.” ba-DA!

As you lovely readers have probably gathered from this recipe and other mentions, I’m kind of a big fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook My Father’s Daughter. In hindsight, I think this comes from her approach to food and the kitchen — meals are, in their own way, the heart of a home, and the food you make can and should reflect that special, homey, come-together quality. Use good ingredients, be healthful (and let yourself indulge), and have fun. If you do, you’re usually left with something pretty darn tasty.

Which is what I found when I adapted Gwyneth’s Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata for dinner last week. Oh my heavens, this was one tasty meal. And so, so simple — it’s perfect for a weeknight supper, and a great way, if you’re cooking for one, to make enough food to portion out and eat for several meals.

The basic principles of frittata are, as outlined so cutely by Harrison Ford in the final scene of “Morning Glory,” pretty simple, as all beautiful Italian dishes should be:

  1. Get your pan really, really hot.
  2. Add butter.
  3. Add eggs and other fixins.
  4. Bake until the frittata becomes a fully set, crust-free quiche-esque pillow of tasty eggness.

Gwyneth adds another ingredient to the mix — her slow-roasted tomatoes, a staple in her recipe book. To slow-roast your tomatoes, follow these easy steps:

  • Slice tomatoes in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper

  • Roast for 3-5 hours in a 275 degree oven, or until the tomatoes are caramelized, almost free from moisture, and a deep red color.

Oh yeah. Need some ice for that burn … BURNING AWESOME.

The frittata uses slow-roasted tomatoes (which you could easily subsitute for sun-dried or just thinly7 sliced fresh tomatoes), mozzarella cheese (Gwyneth uses smoked; I used the shredded cheese I had on hand), and fresh basil. The basic recipe is easy to tweak, easy to cook, and easy to enjoy. Try it for brunch with friends, or just a simple Tuesday supper. Happy eating!

Slow-Roasted Tomato Frittata, adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter — serves 4-6, or 2 with leftovers!

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 shallots or 1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (or 1/2 cup unflavored soymilk)
  • 2-6 slow-roasted tomato halves — adjust to taste — or 2 medium raw tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 3/4 cup (ish) shredded mozzarella cheese, or 6-8 oz. sliced mozzarella
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in a 10-inch oven-safe skillet. (I used cast-iron, which is probably your best bet.) Saute the onions until soft and slightly brown, about 6 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

“Hissssssss.” — The Onions

  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs & milk until well-combined. Pour over the onions in the hot pan. Add tomatoes, cheese and basil to your liking. (The eggs will definitely still be funny in the middle!)

Ready to bake! Mmmmm.

  • Let the frittata cook for about 5 minutes, until the edges are set (ish). Move the pan to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fully set.

Are you folks fans of eggs for dinner? Do you prefer a crusty quiche to a lighter frittata? What else might you add to the inside? Get creative!

PS: To easily make this a vegan recipe, omit the butter before frying up your onions; use soymilk and egg subsitute; and indulge in some delicious soy cheese, rather than traditional mozzarella. To add a carnivore’s twist, add pan-cooked and crumbled pancetta, cubes of cooked chicken, or even slices of ham. Mmm! Love breakfast like whoa.

Budget Eats: Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe with 3 Variations

27 Aug

You WILL make this! Scrambled Egg Fried Rice? Mmm!

One of my best friends from college is starting a new graduate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. (Shout-out to Laura, the woman who first introduced me to the wonders of kimchi. You are amazing – miss you so much!) She and I were chatting recently about the big move – how a Minnesota girl like her was going to adapt to a slower, Southern pace of life in Tennessee.

As we were chatting, she posed a question to me and to my blog: How can a grad student – or, really, any young professional who’s just starting out on a somewhat limited budget – afford to feed herself semi-nutritious food, using some prepared items (frozen foodstuffs, canned and dried goods, etc.) and some fresh ingredients? Are there tasty, filling recipes that suit this kind of budget and lifestyle? What’s a food-loving girl to do?

Determined to rise to the challenge, I’ve started writing and testing a Budget Meals series. I’ll post meal ideas with average pricing based on my market research, including tips for stretching a dollar, basic nutrition advice (hey, a girl’s gotta get those vitamins) and ideas for multipurpose cooking. (I.e. how can I creatively twist one recipe into 3 or 4 different dishes?)

Today’s topic: Scrambled Eggs, an easy master recipe that we’ll be converting into 3 different budget meals: Egg Panini, DIY Fried Rice, and Breakfast Burritos. How yummy does that sound?

Grocery List (prices according to Peapod.com)

  • 1 dozen eggs –  $1.93
  • 1 quart skim milk – $1.49
  • 1 loaf of wheat bread – $2.50
  • 1 pkg tortillas – $2.09
  • 1 pkg sliced deli cheese – $3.59
  • 1 jar salsa – $3.00
  • Produce (tomatoes, frozen veggies, carrots, 1 bag spinach) – $8.20

Total Cost (excluding condiments, oil/butter and spices): $22.28

How doable is that? 3 meals and then some, using these ingredients in 4 different recipes listed below. Check ‘em out. Happy eating and happy shopping, my budget-friendly friends!

Scrambled Eggs Master Recipe – serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.)

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp milk
  • Salt, pepper & spices to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • In a small bowl, lightly beat together eggs, milk & spices. I recommend garlic powder, dill, or even some cumin.

Leggo my egg-o! Heh heh heh, I kill myself.

  • Heat oil or butter in a small sauté pan over medium-ish heat (4 or 5 on your stovetop). When the oil is hot, add the beaten egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir egg mixture constantly, folding it over onto itself and “scrambling” the contents. Cook egg mixture this way until completely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (Max.)

This will all happen …

… very, VERY quickly. I think about 1 minute elapsed between the previous pic and this one.

  • Use your rubber spatula to additional “chop up” or “scramble” the egg contents if any pieces are too large or chunky for your taste.

Variation One: Egg Panini – serves 1. This sandwich is a delicious way to use those scrambled eggs for lunch or dinner. Dried herbs – great to stock your budget pantry – really take this to the next level.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs Recipe
  • 2 slices Swiss, Cheddar or Provolone Cheese
  • 2-3 slices tomato
  • 3-5 basil leaves or baby spinach leaves (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or basil
  • 2 slices bread (whole grain is great, but buy what you can afford)

Here’s what you do:

  • Butter both slices on one side; sprinkle the buttered slices with dried herbs. On one slice’s unbuttered side, stack one slice of cheese; basil or spinach leaves; scrambled eggs (spoon gently onto bread); tomatoes; and your final slice of cheese. Top with 2nd bread slice, buttered side out.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add sandwich. Cook until pan side is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip, and cook until other side is also golden brown. Remove from pan, slice along the diagonal, and serve.

Variation Two: DIY Fried Rice – This is great for using leftovers lurking in your fridge. It can also be as gourmet or as simple as you like.

This is you, adding soy sauce LIKE A BOSS.

You’ll need:

  • 1 Master Scrambled Eggs recipe
  • 1 cup cooked rice (type and grain are totally your choice)
  • ½ to 1 cup frozen or fresh veggies (I like broccoli, peas, and carrots)
  • ½ cup cooked meat (chicken, pork, beef), if desired. (Leftover pork chop or steak, perhaps?)
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Additional spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat (7-ish on your stove dial). When hot, add the rice and frozen vegetables. (If your veggies are fresh, cook them first for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.) Stir the mixture frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until all frozen veggies are warm and rice is heated and starting to brown.
  • Add scrambled eggs, cooked meat, and additional spices as desired. Continue stirring the fried rice frequently with rubber spatula; drizzle with 1 tbsp soy sauce, and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl, and enjoy.

Variation Three: Breakfast Burritos – This is as easy as it gets. Take a tortilla; fill it with scrambled eggs, deli cheese, salsa, and anything else you feel like adding (whatever’s in the fridge). Give it a quick nuke in the microwave to melt the cheese / reheat the eggs, roll it up Chipotle-style, and you’re off!

Next time in Budget Eats, we’ll talk about making a big batch of something economical – like vegetarian or turkey chili – and storing / freezing individual portions to eat throughout the week. Nom nom nom!