Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Chicken Pasta Salad

First, let me say sorry for the bad photos. My camera battery died (why can't I remember to keep it charged?) AGAIN so I had to use my crappy cell phone camera that has no flash. (Thanks, Samsung)

This is a dish that Chris learned from his Mom. She made it when he was growing up and he wanted me to try it.

Ok so we started with some really amazing Heirloom Tomatoes that we got at a local farm stand. Heirloom Tomatoes have a much better flavor than your boring old beefsteak tomato. We also got a few English cucumbers at the grocery store. We only ended up using the one large tomato because that was enough for the dish.

Next we pan seared some chicken breast in olive oil to get a nice crust on it. We only seasoned with kosher salt and some black pepper.

I made a vinaigrette with two cloves of garlic, pressed, half of a lemon's worth of juice, kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme. Just whisk it in a bowl. I used a little more vinegar than olive oil and about double the amount of olive oil than lemon juice. (Algebra, anyone?)

So everything gets cut into bite sized pieces and then everyone goes into a big bowl with one can of black olives (drained) and one pound of rotini pasta (cooked al dente, we use Dreamfield pasta). Only use enough of the vinaigrette to coat everything, you don't want a big pool of it at the bottom of the bowl.

You can eat this salad hot/warm like we did for dinner or put it in the fridge and eat it cold. I usually take the left overs for lunch the next day and I don't heat it up. It is really refreshing and has a nice bite from the balsamic and lemon. We also added a little grated Parmesan cheese, but I really didn't taste it at all and you can save the calories and just leave it out. We might try adding some feta next time, but probably to the plate and not to the big bowl because I don't think it will hold up well in the fridge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kitchen Project: Magnetic Spice Rack

Chris and I used to have all of our spices in the cabinet over the stove on a lazy susan. The problem was that we had more than really should fit on there so when you would spin it sometimes one in the back would get stuck and then a whole bunch would come flying out at you. Also, it was really hard for me to reach over the pot/pan that was being used on our gas stove without burning myself or being in fear that I would catch my shirt on fire.

We learned from Alton Brown on Good Eats episode "Spice Capades" that you really shouldn't keep your spices above your stove because the heat is not good for them. AB stores his spices in different size round tins that he writes on with what I think is a grease pencil and sticks to the inside of his cabinets with velcro. (I tried to find a picture, but I cannot. You can YouTube the episode though if you want to, its a good one)

I loved the idea of having my spices in tins and having easy access to them while I'm cooking. I went searching for magnetic spice racks and found them to be expensive and generally they didn't come with enough tins for the number of spices we have. Then I came across Amber's blog over at myaimistrue.com. She made a magnetic spice rack out of magnetic knife racks from Ikea and some tins from Leigh Valley. I thought 'Awesome!' I showed it to Chris, he loved it and so we got the magnetic knife racks from Ikea and ordered the tins from Leigh Valley... and I hated the tins when they came. They were thin and small and cheesy looking (they looked so great in Amber's pictures! I was really shocked.) So I sent them back. Leigh Valley was really great about it and returned my full price paid plus shipping to me in cash. So then I went on the hunt for tins... and I searched and searched and searched until I finally found these from Specialty Bottle :

And I absolutely love them. They were inexpensive, sturdy and (most importantly) good looking. I put all of our spices into the tins (with a few exceptions that we decided were 'baking spices' and so they went into the baking cabinet such as poppy seeds, pumpkin pie spice & caraway seeds). I wrote the names on the bottom with a black Sharpie marker. Then Chris got to do the manly thing and drill holes in the wall (after of course measuring three times and writing all over the wall in pencil, very necessary for a good home improvement project) and hang up the knife racks and then....!!!

Voila! They were done! I purposely did not straighted out the tins when I took that picture because I'm trying really hard not to be OCD about the fact that they are not at perfect right angles. They look great! Really colorful and very much a piece of usable art. We put the spices we use a lot of (oregano, basil, parsley) and our spice mixtures (Chris' Spice Rub and our homemade Taco Seasoning) into the big tins and all the other spices into the small tins. We also have about 12 extra small and two extra big tins for expansion in the future. Its been about two weeks since we put them up and they are really convenient since that is the counter we use to cook on. We made sure that I could reach them without a problem (or a step stool :P) before we put them up, so they really are at the perfect height.

We really love it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Julia Child's book has a great section on Quiche. I have made a variation of the basic recipe 4 or 5 times now. I made two different versions on Sunday to take over to Uncle Richie's birthday brunch. One was Jalapeno, Sweet Red Pepper, Homemade Sausage and Cheddar and the other was Baby Zucchini, Jarlsberg cheese and Homemade Sausage. (Sorry no pictures, there was an Incident Regarding The Number Of Eggs In The House which took up all my photo taking time. You can blame Chris :P) The Jalapeno version was SO good. We will definitely be making that one again.

I had some left over pie dough from Sunday so last night for dinner we made little quiche cups. I cut dough rounds to fit the bottom of my ramekins, pricked them with a fork and baked them in the ramekins for about 7 or 8 minutes. We added crispy bacon bits on top of that and pressed them into the crust (Julia suggests doing it this way). Then we added the egg mixture on top (eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg) which had some Jarlsberg and sweet yellow and orange peppers. They baked for about 25 minutes. I did forget to dot the tops with butter the way Julia says to (which in all honesty might not be necessary but it sure does make it taste goooood). They came out great. It was a quick and delicious dinner for Chris and me. We made six and each ate two.

I really recommend making a quiche using Julia's recipe. Especially if you have friends coming over for brunch. You can put it in the oven and let it bake and serve it with some toast or bagels, maybe a pastry or two and you don't have to stand over the stove cooking while your company waits for you (because really you can't cook eggs early, they get cold and gross or dried out and gross if you try to keep them hot). You really can put whatever you think sounds good in there too. My only tip would be that if you are going to use something that is a little wet (like my shredded baby zucchini), you want to dry it out or drain it in a paper towel before adding it, or your egg mixture might become too watery. MMMmmmMMM! Yum!