11.16.2018

Mexican Style Zucchini Boats


A new "Taco" Tuesday idea? Low carb, fresh & delicious! When I decided to finally try these, my husband said, "are you sure that is going to be good?" I love zucchini so I had no doubts.. but he definitely was weary about trying them. One bite, and he was hooked.

See below for my spicy taco meat recipe, but the option of a sausage & pepper mixture, ground turkey, or shredded chicken all work in these zucchini boats! If you do make the Mexican style, try adding toppings such as sour cream, jalapeños, sliced olives, pico de gallo & more!


*TIP: You want to use LARGE zucchini if possible! They are sort of a pain in the butt to scoop out but it goes quickly. You want the zucc to really cradle the meat (or filling) for maximum flavor.


Servings 4-6

Ingredients:

3 large zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, and scooped out leaving about 1/2" layer (remove stems)
1 lb chop meat
1/2 cup salsa (I use chipotle corn or a medium chunky style)
3 tbs taco seasoning
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup shredded cheese and more to sprinkle on top
1 tbs sriracha
salt/pepper
Chopped chives for garnish


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large pan, brown beef on medium high heat. Once browned, drain fat/grease from meat and pat dry. Place beef back into the pan.

2. Lower heat to low. Add salsa, taco seasoning, water, cheese, & sriracha. Mix well and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the zucchini on the sheet. Fill each zucchini up with meat mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender (depending on size of zucchini - I cook larger ones closer to 20 minutes).

Garnish with freshly chopped chives & enjoy!




 My daughter approved!

Chicken Fantasy


One of the most popular chicken recipes in my family! It was found by my mom in the local newspaper over 20 years ago! She made it on a whim and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was! Now, at family gatherings it is usually present by the request of everyone! If you decide to try it, you most likely will make it again and again!



Serving: 4

Ingredients:
2-3 chicken breasts, sliced thin into 6 to 8 pieces
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs (I mix panko and regular together)
Olive oil for frying
5-6 slices of muenster cheese
2 tbs butter
1 oz fresh basil
3 scallions (or 8 chives)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
5-6 garlic cloves
1/3 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup chicken broth



Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Dip chicken cutlets into egg wash, then breadcrumb and set aside on plate.

2. On medium-high heat, heat oil in large sauté pan. Fry cutlets until golden brown but do not cook all the way through (since they will be baking in the oven after). Depending on thickness, I fry for 1 to 1 1/2 min on each side.

3. Place cutlets in a casserole dish (the foil ones are great), in a single layer. Top with muenster cheese.

4. Rinse basil & scallions, and place into food processor with garlic cloves. Blend into a mixture.

5. In a medium pan, melt butter and cook basil mixture for a few minutes on medium heat. Add in mushrooms and sauté for 7-8 minutes until golden in color.

6. Add in wine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in chicken broth and continue to heat to a simmer.

7. Pour sauce into chicken dish and bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees.

I serve this chicken with one of the following: couscous, roasted potatoes, brown rice, or a veggie.





Of course, it's always nice to taste some of the wine you are cooking with ;)



11.01.2018

3rd Annual Blind Wine Tasting Party 2018

Every time I post about our annual blind wine tasting party, the questions are endless!
  • How does it work?
  • Do you supply the wine?
  • What kind of cheeses do you get?
  • Do you rinse cups between tastings?
  • How much should each bottle cost?
  • Etc., etc., etc.
Quick rundown: I invite between 12-20 people. Each couple is asked to bring one bottle of wine (not per person, just per couple), of their choice. It can be a white, red, rose, something that they love, something they've never had, something cheap, something fancy. We ask that whites and roses are brought cold, and reds at room temperature. We all do a tasting from each bottle, and rate them using score cards. After a winning bottle (accumulated by most points) is chosen, prizes are given out by the hostess. All of this takes place around an endless array of cheeses, crackers, meats, fruit, nuts, and more.

I am going to share as many details as possible. This year we kept the party a bit more intimate by having less people (less bottles to rate), and it turned out to be a BIG hit! Let me start with decor. I decided to move our usual summer gathering to autumn, which we found to be a lot more cozy and beautiful. I put out all my autumn decor (pumpkins, candles, red/orange/yellow tablecloths and little  home stuff) which really set the mood. The weather was crisp, which allowed us to use our warm heater on the deck, under the cafe string lights.


Bags & glasses: Labeled paper bags with tissue paper are kept by the front door, to allow guests to hide their bottles upon arrival. These bags are labeled A through H (or more if you have more bottles). Luckily, we own about 30 stemless wine glasses, so I clean them all the day of the party (those glasses get dusty sometimes) and purchased wine glass pens in order to write names on each. In each glass is a score card and rating system chart, plus a cup full of pens/pencils for filling the cards out.



Pour system: Next, we made my husband the designated pour guy! Next year we spoke about doing a flight style, this way people can drink at their own pace. Anyway, Kevin walks around and pours a little into each glass for a tasting, again with the bottle being hidden by the tissue paper. After about 5 minutes, everyone rinses out there glass quick in the sink, and we pour the next round. We like doing a max of 8 bottles because it lasts about 1 hour, and gives a nice variety of different wines before they all start tasting the same!

Once all the bottles are rated, I add up each letter. The bottles never leave their designated bags so we can keep track of which bottle is which. Which ever bottle wins, I give out a small prize. Other prizes were given for guessing how many corks in a jar, and winner of a food trivia game.


Winning bottle: In this case, the below bottle was letter D and won by major points! My friends, Arielle & Bryan, bought this bottle after tasting it in the liquor store (they were having some tastings that day). It was only $8! This is the second time that the cheapest bottle of wine won with the most points! The coolest thing about this particular bottle, is that you can download an app for it. When you point the camera at the bottle (through the app), the man on the bottle starts moving and talking to you. They are supposedly real criminals and tell you what their crimes were! Bottle is called 19 crimes, and was a delicious red.


Cheeses: This can be overwhelming because there are soo many to choose from! My local cheese shopped helped me pick a variety of cheese, and we saved the more common cheeses to purchase at costco. Some specialty cheeses we got included a bay blue cheese, bella vitiano merlot, pecorino tartufo (truffle), cranberry walnut, creamy brie, and more. From costco, we had goat cheese, asiago, manchego, garlic herb, smoked gouda, mozzarella and french swiss.

Meats / nuts/ other: At costco, we purchased a big box of mixed crackers. I bought small bags of chocolate - some dark, some milk - and placed them into little bowls. At the local grocery store, we grabbed some different meats & nuts. This included pecans, peanut mixes, cashews, peppered salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, olives and also some dried apricots. Picking up some grapes for the table always adds some sweet freshness, and they look pretty!


Infused Oils & Balsamic: Besides the cheese, my favorite part of the table is the bread cubes and infused oils & balsamic. We have a local shop that sells them and they are always the biggest hit of the party! Garlic infused olive oil, and Fig balsamic are two of the most popular. Serving something different like this, in addition to a cheese board, brings unique tastings and conversations. If you don't have a local shop like this, you can order online here.


This year, we also served beef & turkey burgers along with homemade bacon mac and cheese (to stick with the cheese them, of course). Some other pics from the party below. Any questions please feel free to comment! If you'd like a copy of the score card or rating system you can email me at kissmyapron@aol.com.





                                                                   Individual cheese boards from Qualtry.

Bacon mac & cheese recipe, just add crispy bacon into the cheese sauce before baking!

10.27.2018

Kitchen Cabinets - Chalk Paint Makeover

Since the day we moved into our home 3 1/2 years ago, I hated the kitchen cabinets. They are from 1986, never been touched. Our priorities were never the kitchen though, because the cost of a kitchen renovation is way up there. We started with painting the walls, replacing the boiler because we had no hot water, installing central air, redoing a bathroom and finishing our basement.

*Before: taken the day we looked at the house in person for the first time

While scrolling through pinterest, I've seen countless posts about painting cabinets but I never had the energy to even think about it. It wasn't until a friend of mine posted her paint project on instagram, that made me say to myself, "I can do this."

I, of course, waited until I had emergency gallbladder surgery... and while sitting home recovering I ordered everything I needed to paint all my kitchen cabinets. After lots of research I settled on chalk paint. It requires NO PRIMING, NO SANDING, and no mess really! 5 days post surgery, I cleaned all of my cabinets (removing grease, stuck on food, baby drool lol), then removed all of the cabinet doors and hinges. The weather was nice and cool so I set the doors up on my deck and began painting. The chalk paint went right over the old dark brown wood, which absolutely amazed me since I was using a much lighter gray color.


I did a second coat on most of the doors and then tackled the inside. Annie sloan chalk paint has low VOC so you really don't smell anything while painting. It was the first thing my husband said when arriving home from work and being surprised by my project, "wait, how come it doesn't smell like paint in here at all?"

7 hours of painting the first day until I called it a night. I knew tomorrow I would be able to finish everything by myself, and I did. I finished the second coats everywhere, and then began using the Annie sloan wax sealer. I stood there in my kitchen looking around, just amazed at how simple the project of transforming the cabinets was. We went out on day 3 to pick up all the new hardware (since we never had any in this house), and it continued improving the look of our new kitchen drastically! So for $200 bucks, we have a whole new look and you bet your behind that I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner!


Of course a project like this has a domino effect... we want a new counter, a new sink, a new stove. But for now, until we make some decisions about possibly extending the back of our house for a bigger kitchen, we will wait a bit to see what plans lie ahead!




10.04.2018

Cooking Class at Sur la Table

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending my first Sur la table cooking class. I have taken cooking classes at Elegant Eating, a local catering company, but never at Sur la table. Two ladies, Sharon & Laurie, from an online cooking group met me there and we had an absolute blast! On the menu was pickle brined pork chops, black eyed pea and broccoli slaw (I thought I was going to hate this, but did just the opposite), and a pear crostata.


Since this was a mid week day time class, there was only 5 of us students that attended. This allowed for a good hands on experience, with the ability to ask lots of questions and take our time. Our specific group of three took turns with dicing pears, grating broccoli, mincing red onions (after being shown knife skills), rolling out dough, and more! Once we finished preparing both lunch and dessert, they finished cooking in the oven while us ladies got to shop around. Sur la table gives students 10% off in addition to any sales going on - I picked up some awesome stuff that I am excited to post about!

As we were leaving the store, I decided to sign up for another class next month. Wait until you hear what kind of class it is... I highly recommend giving one of there classes a try! If you've already been to one, what did you make? Let me know in the comments!

10.02.2018

Mexican Sloppy Joe Sliders

For these Mexican style sloppy joes, I took my go to taco meat recipe and added some ingredients to make them "sloppy." Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!


What you will need:
1 lb chopped meat
1/4 cup corn salsa
1 tbs sriracha sauce
1/4 cup shredded cheddar, plus extra for topping
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup beef broth
Salt & pepper, to taste
Slider buns


Directions:
1. In a medium sauté pan, brown the meat on medium high heat. Once browned, drain with paper towel on plate. Lower heat to medium, and return meat to pan.

2. Mix in corn salsa, sriracha, cheese, chili sauce, salt and pepper and heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add broth and simmer on lower heat for ~5 minutes until broth is reduced to the consistency you like.

4. Serve sloppy joe mixture on slider buns and top with cheese.



 My husband experimented with a plantain bun with the leftover sloppy joe meat!

9.26.2018

Cookbook Collections | Thursday Trials - Chicken Marsala

Before I begin, how awesome are these plates? My husband and I love to dip, so when I saw these plates had a little dipping section, I had to get them.
Anyway, here we go... this recipe is not from a cookbook, but from an online food blogger (Vikalinka) based in London. It is one of my favorite chicken marsala recipes, so I had to share it! Every time I make this dish, it comes out exactly the same... pure deliciousness! Try it out for yourself, and let me know what you thought!

Vikalinka
Chicken Marsala
Vikalinka | Chicken Marsala

Here are some photos as I was making dinner. I used baby bella mushrooms that I had on hand, and dried parsley this time, as I didn't have fresh. It was still just as tasty as every other time I've made this recipe!



9.21.2018

Raclette Dinner Party


What is a raclette grill? It is a grill, popular in Switzerland and Germany, that allows you to melt cheeses of your choice in a pan, and then scrape the cheese on to your food. Raclette is also a type of cheese, that has a really perfect melting point. Throwing a raclette party is a great way to have everyone be apart of making dinner. It is fun and unique way to bring friends together. I invited three of my girlfriends over for this dinner party. Being I work full time, and have a newborn, time is hard to find. I was able to roast everything ahead of time, which really helped prepare for a party like this.

I started by roasting vegetables - potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus. I drizzled olive oil on the veggies, and seasoned with salt and pepper before roasting them in the oven (1 hour for potatoes, 40 minutes for broccoli and 15 minutes for asparagus - all on 375 degrees). Next I fried up some bacon, and onion strings. Sauteing mushrooms is also a great side for raclette! Next, my husband Kevin, barbecued sliders outside on the big grill. This saves time and the house from smelling like smokey burgers. All of the food at this point was technically finished, just before our friends arrived.

Keeping the raclette grill on low will allow you to place your food on top to keep it warm. While the food warms up on the grill, our guests placed the cheeses they wanted into their pans, and began to melt them under the stone of the grill. Once the cheese begins to bubble, you can use your scraper to pour the cheese onto your burger and veggies. 


I have done raclette with many different cheeses, but was happy that this time my local cheese shop had actual raclette cheese. It was so delicious! Our friends always ask, "when is the next one going to be?!"