Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

On Golden Globes Sunday, I had a bunch of savages over for a classy party. By savages, I mean five of my very good friends who just happen to eat and drink a lot. And by classy party, I mean I bought champagne. Ok, prosecco. Don't get particular with me.

We started the shindig when the E! Live from the Red Carpet coverage started because, lets be serious, that is the best part of the show. And everyone stayed until the final awards were announced. You know what that means? Lots of food had to be served periodically throughout the night.

Now I am a big fan of prepping dinner parties in advance so you can hang out with your guests. That being said, when you have some of your best friends over for six hours, your best friends who get hungry when they're drinking champagne (prosecco), you have to take some liberties. This is the perfect appetizer for an event like this as it takes only about three minutes to put together. Disappear into the kitchen for five minutes, go back ten minutes later to pull these out, and become your guests new favorite person. Or, if these are one of the last items you serve, like they were for me, you continue your run as the best host ever since you keep magically appearing with more food.

Hence the reason I love my friends.


Baby bella mushrooms, washed stems removed
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Prepared basil pesto (store bought or using this recipe)
Pam olive oil spray


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place mushrooms cap down on a baking tray.

2. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil so mixture begins to stick together but you don't want it to actually become wet.

3. Using a teaspoon, stuff the mushrooms with your breadcrumb and parmesan mixture. Top each with a small spoonful of basil pesto. Spray top of all mushrooms with Pam olive oil.

4. Bake in oven until browned, about 10 minutes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Italian Veggie Stuffed Chicken

Is anyone else out there dealing with ridiculously cold weather? The high in New York City today is 23 degrees and, with the windchill, it feels in the single digits. When did I move to Alaska?

Cold weather calls for warm food. And Italian food. But I'm on a "healthy eating kick" (read: diet. But I don't like saying the "d" word cause then I freak out an eat a pound of chocolate. Yeah, issues, I know) so heavy pasta is out of the questions.

Hence, chicken stuffed with a selection of Italian ingredients, like roasted red peppers, tomatoes, basil and spinach. Yum.


Chicken breasts, trimmed
Small tub of ricotta
One bag of baby spinach
Jar of roasted red peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil
Salt and pepper
White wine
Olive oil


1. Preheat your oven to 350F.

2. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, baby spinach, roasted red peppers (in bite-size pieces), cherry tomatoes (quartered, seeds scooped out) and chopped fresh basil.

3. On a clean surface, lay out your chicken breasts. Spoon the stuffing mixture into the middle of the breast and roll like a jelly roll. Use the toothpicks to secure.

4. Place the chicken in a casserole dish. Pour olive oil on top of each chicken breast. Place a sliced red pepper on top of the seam. Pour white wine into casserole so it covers the bottom.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until, if pierced, the chicken runs clear. Serve with a bit of the white wine poured over top and enjoy!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Meal Planning

Better late than never I guess. Yesterday I hosted a Golden Globes party with a group of my friends, which involved an inordinate amount of champagne cocktails, very carb-heavy food and even Crumbs cupcakes (yeah, we do Sunday Funday like the best of them). 

This calls for a food intervention. Or a cleanse. But cleanses are, as we all know, the worst. So food intervention it is.

I'm also participating in Dinner: A Love Story's Seven Days, Seven Meals challenge --basically, you need to try out seven new recipes in seven days so you can break out of your rut. Since I've basically been eating the same meal since New Years, this is timed perfectly for me. Wish me luck! 

Monday: salmon florentine

Tuesday: sausage, peppers and onions

Wednesday: spinach and cheese ravioli with pesto

Thursday: salmon with avocado remoulade

Friday: teriyaki marined salmon

Saturday: dinner here 

Sunday: french beef and red wine stew on garlic mashed potatoes

I am going home this weekend to belatedly celebrate my mum's birthday (hence the dinner out on Saturday). But don't feel bad for her, we also celebrated her birthday the weekend before the big day. My family fully believes in birthmonths rather than birthdays. It's pretty much the best.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Oldschool Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

As I said in my sole previous baking post, I'm not a big baker. And I'm not. With one exception. Every holiday season, my mum and I spend a day baking cookies. Nothing fancy--we're a pretty basic family and none of us are huge into sweets. We either bake oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip cookies or, if we're feeling bold, both.

Now this is what is called a family tradition. This year, for example, I took a train home to PA so that on Saturday I could bake with my mum, and then proceeded to drive up to the Catskills where my brother is building a cabin the next day, picking him up on the way. You know, the brother that lives 10 blocks away? Yeah that one. You know what would have been easier than taking an hour and a half train Friday night and then driving two hours back to NYC to drive two hours outside of it? Not leaving NYC. But that was our day to bake, and I was not going to be the one to disappoint my mum, especially not around the holidays. 

Besides that, the day that we bake cookies is also the day...we decorate the tree! And I love decorating the tree. We have another tradition in my house--every single year we each get an ornament with that date on it. So I have ornaments going back to my adorable first birthday, throughout my early childhood (which is ruled by ornaments with dogs on them...I guess my parents finally got the message), into my formative years (formative=teenage=bratty. just saying) and even through college. It is one of my favorite traditions ever in my house and one that I'll continue with my family. 

Tradition people! Tradition! What's next, lasagna with sausage in it? 

This year we made oatmeal raisin cookies. This is our riff on the old-fashioned oatmeal cookie recipe provided on every box of Quaker Oats since...ever. We've changed the rules a little to improve it, but this is the same deliciously classic recipe that made oatmeal raisin cookies a household love.


2 sticks of butter
3/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 c raisins


1. Heat oven to 350F. Get your electric mixer out and set that baby up.

2. Get out three bowls. In one bowl, combine your sugars and drop in your butter. In the second combine your beaten eggs and vanilla. In the third, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

3. Remove ingredients to a regular mixing bowl. Add oats and raisins to bowl and mix in.

4. Using a teaspoon, drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets (you can use a bigger spoon if you prefer a larger cookie; my preference is for small ones that are taller)

5. Bake eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to cookie sheet and cool. Then eat to your heart's content...which my family did, hence the lack of a finished picture. *sigh* Doesn't my family understand I'm a food blogger and i need the FINAL product more than the process?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Coq au Vin

To say that French food is not my favorite is an understatement. I mean, I do like some French food. Steak frites for example. Moules frites as another. Actually, if anything ends in "frites" I will probably like it--leather frites? I mean, there are possibilities there.

Cooking French food also freaks me out a bit. How many times have you heard famous chefs brag that they are "classically french trained." Like...ok I bet that is pretty hard if you're so proud of it. Congrats, you scared me out of ever trying to prepare anything french. Julia Child, you're out. Julie, whoever you are, who cooked from Julia Child's cookbook--you're crazy, and also out. 

This recipe though...this recipe made me feel comfortable. Partially because I took french for six years (although, to clarify, I took french 1 & 2 three times each. And I'm still not great at simple phrases. So, guess how good I am learning new languages...) and know that "vin" means "wine". And "wine" means "happy Andie." You didn't know that? Oh. Well. That's a rough translation I guess.

Well anyway, the ingredients in this were the same as any Italian beef recipe I've ever made, including pot roast, braciola and straccata. So I dove right in. This is definitely a Sunday night meal, similar to the three slow-cooked meat dishes I just mentioned, but it is a "Sunday night with the family running around the house so I can't stand over the stove for too long because I might miss something" kind of meal. You know, the best kind.


3 strips of bacon or pancetta, chopped small
Mix of chicken breasts and thighs (dependent on your preference; I used a combination)
1 large onion, chopped 
3 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp bourbon (or whiskey if you don't have it, just make sure you cook it completely off!)
3 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
4 bay leaves
8 sprigs of thyme
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp flour
one packet of baby bella or button mushrooms, trimmed and halved
about 12 cipollini or pearl onions, peeled


1. In a large pan, fry the bacon/pancetta over medium heat until the fat has rendered out. Do not fry until crisp. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, so the fat remains in the pan.

2. Generously salt and pepper the chicken and place in a hot pan (if you bought with skin on, make sure the skin side is down). Cook on one side for five minutes or until golden brown, the flip over and allow to brown. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon/pancetta.

3. Add the onion, celery and garlic; saute until soft. Make sure to scrap the pan so that the fat doesn't burn.

4. Pour the cognac or liquor into the pan to deglaze. Allow to evaporate. Once most does, add the red wine, chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme and tomato piece. Return the bacon/pancetta and chicken to the pan. Make sure the meat is submerged in the liquid. Cover with a lid that is slightly askew to ensure steam can escape; simmer over medium low until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.

5. Add flour to the pan to thicken the sauce up. Remove the chicken once tender; transfer to plate and tent with tinfoil. Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and increase heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the onions are cooked. Pour the sauce and veggies over the chicken. Garnish with parsley. 

I recommend serving with mashed potatoes, noodles or a crusty baguette to sop up the sauce. Yum!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Resolutions

I am one of those people who are huge fans of New Years resolutions. I just love the idea of having a day that you can really determine the things you would like to change about yourself and making it a goal to do so. What I don't love? Actually doing so.

I've read tons of articles about how New Years resolutions rarely stick, that it takes about 90 days to create new habits, etc. After 90 days, a resolution isn't a resolution anymore, it is a life change. 

In reading one of my favorite magazine's (Cooking Light, obviously), I've come to really adore their "12 Healthy Habits" program. The basic principle is that it is very hard to make life changes and if you try to do too much, you won't succeed at any. Each month, the magazine focuses on a healthy practice to incorporate into your life that won't overwhelm you.

So, since I adore Cooking Light's program, I am going to steal it, alter it, make it my own...must mostly steal it. Here are my twelve changes I will be making over 2013. Each month I will let you know my progress--hopefully with the food-based ones you will see a difference immediately!

As I'm sure you can see from all my posts, one of the things I struggle with the most is cooking at home. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook--obviously, or why would I have this blog? But when I come home from work late, it is just easier to order in than cook something. Well not this month. One full month of cooking at home will (hopefully) make it clear that there are simple meals that are done even faster than delivery can arrive and will (definitely) help my bank account--and help me save up for my trip to New Orleans in February!

Tomatoes. Corn. Avocados. Red onion. Pineapple. Strawberries. Sound familiar? Yeah, I bet they do, since I use a combination of those in pretty much every recipe on here. I miss the days of my summer CSA, which forced me to use a greater variety of veggies (kohlrabi? seriously?). I even miss the days of eating such "crazy" veggies as eggplant and squash during the summer. Well no more; February I will focus on picking a veggie or fruit I don't eat often and incorporating it into my meals at least twice a week.

Preparation is one of the biggest time savers when cooking. And already having your ingredients prepped makes it harder to deviate from the healthy meals you outlined during Sunday Meal Planning. Even little things like chopping your onion, cutting up your fruit that you'll eat for breakfast, or making sure you have enough of the dried ingredients saves just a little bit of time for you when you're focused on getting food on the table as quickly as possible.

I do not get very many carbs. Not that I'm a low carb diet mind you. Carbs can be found in vegetables, beans, and a large variety of foods that aren't bread or pasta. But the simple fact is that, when "white carbs" became an enemy of being healthy, I simply cut grains out completely. No more. Hello quinoa, whole-wheat couscous, bulgur and farro. The sad thing? I have all of these in my pantry already. Jenny from Dinner a Love Story got it right. I'm going to take a page out of her book.

I don't eat very much meat. Part of it is for environmental reasons, part for personal beliefs and, to be entirely honest, part is because raw poultry grosses me out like nobodies business. But rarely do I eat an entire meal that does not have a lick of meat (or seafood) in it. Breakfast maybe? Eating strictly vegetarian may sound hard, but it also sounds like an excuse to pull out some little used Mexican recipes, which often rely on veggies and beans rather than meat. Any reason to eat guacamole is a reason I can get behind!

There is a reason that TV dinner above has gone out of style, and it is not just because it probably tasted like crap. Sitting in front of the TV is no place to eat your dinner! Yet, living by myself, I often eat with the TV on, sitting at my coffee table. If I'm going to eat in front of the TV, I should have to suffer through eating a TV dinner; if I'm going to eat delicious food that I spent time making, I should probably focus on my meal. My parents never let us have the TV on during dinner, partially because it was one of the times the four of us sat around and talked about our days, but also because it was rude after my mum spent time cooking dinner. I deserve the same respect that we gave to my mum, even if it is just me respecting myself. I think I can wait another 30 minutes to catch up on that episode of the Real Housewives...

I can say, with a bit of pride, that I do eat breakfast daily. I can also say, with a bit of shame, that it is generally not a great breakfast. Not that it is unhealthy, but it isn't well-rounded or anywhere near the recommended number of calories for your first meal. My traditional breakfast? A Nature Valley oats and honey bar. Which weighs in at a whopping 190 calories. Which is nowhere near enough for someone my size. This month, I'm going to wake up 15 minutes earlier to make an omelet, I'm going to buy a tub of Greek yogurt and fruit and leave it in the office fridge, I'm going to take 30 minutes on a Sunday to make steel cut oats. The possibilities for a healthy breakfast are endless...

I belong to a phenomenal gym. My brother runs marathons and triathalons. My dad climbs mountains and spends an hour on the elliptical every day. My mum is one of the most dedicated exercisers I have ever met. Me? I have different priorities. Something comes up? Oh, I'll just skip the gym. I prioritize work, friends, even food over working out, which, in the winter, comes into play with the amount I get sick. It is time for me to stop thinking working out is something I'll do when I have time and start making time for it...period.

Drinking more water is my one yearly resolution. I am fairly often dehydrated. I think part of this is because I don't drink anything other than water (oh, and booze. but that is a given). I don't drink soda, I barely drink juice, I don't even do seltzer or sparkling water. September is the time I will focus on chugging down some water--one bottle of Poland Spring (the best water there is, for serious) as soon as I wake up and one before I go to bed, more water during the day. It is on like donkey kong.

Did you know that I don't like Indian food? Most of my friends do. My family is definitely aware. Want to hear something weird? I've never even tried Indian food. How exactly do I know that I don't like Indian then? Until three months ago, I "didn't like" falafel. Now I eat it bi-weekly for lunch. Again, I had never tried it but decided that I didn't like it anyway. Enough of those shenanigans. I resolve to try new foods, no matter what my preconceived notion is. My mum used to have a rule at our dinner table that we had to try everything. If we tasted it and didn't like it, we didn't have to eat it (minus our veggies, duh). I'm going to take my mums advice, 25 years later.

Making working out a priority is great, but if I don't like the workout, the time I spend doing it will drag on. The fix for that? Find one that I actually do like. My lovely gym has more than five classes a night--multiply that by the six locations I can visit, and I have the option of 30 workout classes every single day. I may be picky, but I'm willing to bet my life savings that one of those 30 classes I will actually like. Multiply that by seven, since the gym has a variety of classes each day, and there's got to be SOMETHING I can get excited to do. Added to that is the number of yoga and pilates studios, Soul Cycles and FlyWheels, crossfit and other studios in a 5 block radius around my apartment and my office. If I can't find a class I actually like, I have bigger problems than watching my weight...

I'm stealing this one straight from Cooking Light. While most of my goals are tangible--better diet, actually exercising, simplifying cooking--this goal is about being mindful. Cooking Light puts it perfectly: it is "less about doing and more about being--being mindful and thankful in a season that, despite the barrage of commercialism, is about both of those values. The two themes are interconnected. Mindfulness can help lower the anxiety...thankfulness brings the 'giving' theme back to center stage."

+ + +

I hope everyone had a fabulous start to their New Years and made resolutions that will have a positive impact on your life. I hope 2013 is everything that you dream it will be!