Yesterday’s dinner, today’s lunch 

I know I already did arancini, but I just wanted to show you again how easy it is to use leftover risotto to make it.

I made risotto for dinner last night and there were, as usual, plenty of leftovers. The next day, the risotto is the perfect texture to make arancini.

Spoon out however much rice you need to make your arancini the size you want. Mine were about 1 ½” to 2”. Beat an egg in one bowl, spoon some flour in another, and panko bread crumbs in a third. I only made 4 balls because it was just a quick lunch for myself. I didn’t need much flour or bread crumbs, so just adjust as necessary to what you need.

Cut off about ½” piece of string cheese (for each ball) and form the rice around the cheese. Dip the ball in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and shake off the excess. Then finally, coat in the bread crumbs. Make all your balls and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat your oil in a skillet, enough to come about a quarter of half way up the side of the arancini. Let it brown, turning frequently to get it golden brown on all sides. Should be about a minute or so on each side.

Serve with some marinara sauce for dipping and you have the perfect little lunch.


  

Pea and Parmesan Risotto 

You may remember back in October, I made arancini which was one of my favorite foods from my trip to Italy. I said you start with risotto. You can use that as your risotto recipe, but this is my go-to risotto recipe. And yes, I have to have a go-to risotto recipe because my husband loves the stuff and requests it frequently. Plus, it’s easy because it uses ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

Pea and Parmesan Risotto

1 ¾ cups Arborio rice (this is important; it really needs to be Arborio)
4 cups chicken broth, warmed in a pan
½ cup dry white wine (optional. You can substitute for ½ cup chicken broth)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the leeks and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the rice and stir around until slightly toasted.

Add the wine to the rice and stir to combine into the rice. Turn the heat down to medium and about 1 cup at a time, add the chicken broth. Wait until each cup is absorbed before adding the next one. This is a low and slow process to allow the rice to absorb all the broth and release it’s starches, giving you a really smooth and creamy risotto. Make sure you are stirring frequently throughout.

After all the broth is incorporated, add your peas and cheese. The peas should thaw quickly and the cheese will melt into the rice.

And that’s it! It makes a great side dish, especially for chicken, which is how my hubby requests it.

Easy Apricot Chicken 

Growing up, my family ate a lot of chicken. You would think I would be sick of it by now, but it is way too versatile of an ingredient to get sick of chicken! You can change the flavors so much. And as long as you don’t overcook it (which I do sometimes; hey, I’ve got two kids who often distract me just long enough!) it is always yummy. Also, when I was pregnant with my youngest, my doctor had me on a high protein, low carb semi-diet and the eating habits just sort of stuck. Don’t get me wrong; I still love my pasta and bread, but in limited quantities.

I don’t remember when I first made this chicken, but I’m sure it was a really long time ago. I think I found it in a magazine or online somewhere. I don’t remember the origin of the recipe or the actual original recipe, but over time, it has evolved into my own recipe. Something I just make out of habit, you know?

This is another dish my husband requests a lot. And it is super simple so I don’t mind making it at all. It comes together really quick so it’s a perfect weeknight meal. Plus, my kids love it so that alone makes it a winner in my book.

Apricot Chicken

2 chicken breasts, butterflied in half so you have 4 thinner pieces
salt and pepper
½ cup apricot preserves*
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth**
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce**
vegetable oil for cooking

*I used ½ an 11oz jar of apricot preserves. It comes out to about ½ – ¾ cup preserves.
**Soy sauce is salty enough, even the low-sodium one, that you really need to make sure that the broth is low sodium also. Otherwise, your dish could end up being very salty tasting and that would not be good.

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. After splitting your chicken, lightly salt and pepper both sides and add to the oil. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, just long enough to brown the chicken. Remove from the skillet.

Add the preserves, broth and soy sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil. Stir to combine and melt the preserves into the sauce. Make sure to scrape up the yummy bits left from browning the chicken. Once the sauce is combined, turn the heat down and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the chicken back to the sauce and let it finish cooking, another 4 or 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over about half way to make sure it is coated in the sauce.

After the chicken is done, put it on a place and spoon some of the sauce over it. Add a quick side dish and dinner is served!

Healthier Choice Breakfast Burritos (Freezer friendly!)

Who doesn’t love breakfast burritos, right? Eggs, cheese, bacon or sausage, potatoes all wrapped up in a convenient package. Such a great way to start the day. Or end it. Breakfast for dinner is the best.

There is this place in Long Beach (where I grew up) called John’s and they make these amazing breakfast burritos. Seriously, they are so good. When I worked the early morning shift at It’s A Grind back in college a whole bunch of years ago, we would sometimes send someone on their lunch break to pick up a to-go order for us.

And if you ever find yourself in Los Alamitos, stop by Nick’s Deli. They have GREAT breakfast burritos, too.

Anyway, back to business. I moved to Culver City right after I graduated CSULB in 2006. I know now that there are plenty of places to get a yummy breakfast here, but at the time, I just wanted a John’s burrito and not have to drive 25 miles to get it, so I made them at home. My husband started calling them my “world famous breakfast burritos” even though they weren’t. They were full of fluffy eggs, melted cheese, crispy bacon, hash browns, and sour cream. I promise, they were delicious.

We ate those burritos frequently on the weekends. But that was back when we were in our early-mid 20’s. We’ve gotten a bit older since then and our metabolism isn’t quite what it used to be, so I had to change things up a bit and try to make the burritos a bit healthier. We still splurge on the “world famous” burritos every so often, but they’ve moved from the “Saturday Breakfast” category to the “Cheat Meal, and only if you run a mile or two afterwards” category. But that’s OK, because these alternatives are still really tasty!

(And special bonus: if you make a bunch like I did, you can freeze them and then just reheat them as you go along your week!)

Heathier choice breakfast burritos
This makes 7 burritos for freezing. Adjust as needed for how many you are making.

9 eggs
½ cup milk (optional, but it does make the eggs much fluffier)
1 package apple chicken sausage, sliced into half moons
4 mini sweet peppers, diced very small
½ large zucchini, chopped small
½ large leek, chopped small
coconut oil for cooking
burrito size tortillas
shredded cheese of your choice (For these, I used cheddar, but I love using pepper jack. It adds so much flavor!!)
plain Greek yogurt for serving (optional)

In a bowl, beat your eggs and milk together. Set aside.

In a large skillet, add coconut oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pan so your ingredients don’t stick). Add the peppers, zucchini, and leeks and cook until soft. Add the sausage and cook until heated through and you see the outsides starting to brown up.

Add the beaten eggs to the veggie/sausage mixture and cook over medium heat until the eggs are set. Some people like their scrambled eggs a bit softer, I like mine cooked pretty well. Your burrito, your preference.

Now, assemble:

Lay out your tortillas (I used spinach) and add the filling down the middle of the burritos. Enough that you get a satisfying burrito, but not too much that you can’t roll it up. Sprinkle some cheese on top and then roll it up.

You can eat it right away or wrap them in foil and put them in freezer bags. When you ready to reheat, put it in the microwave—frozen—for about 4ish minutes, turning over halfway. This depends on your microwave and how big you made your burritos, so you may need to go a little less or a little more. Mine were a bit soggy on the outside, so I put them in a skillet for a couple minutes to toast up the outside and they were perfect.

Serve them with some plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and you’ve got yourself a nice healthy breakfast!

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing 

Sometimes I think this recipe came out of thin air. I made a salad but I had no dressing in the house. I usually do, but this time I didn’t. Lately I’ve been making this ranch dressing, which is delicious, but I didn’t have it or the ingredients to make it. Luckily, I had what I needed for this dressing. It only has three ingredients and it is really yummy!

Vinaigrettes (a mixture of vinegar and oil with seasonings) come from the French word for Vinegar (obviously), but they are a pretty universal staple in most kitchens. They are most often used as a dressing, but can be a marinade as well. Generally speaking, the ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but I didn’t do that since I just sort of tossed everything into the blender until it looked good. And since I didn’t follow the vinaigrette rules, I’ll just call mine a dressing.

Traditionally, vinaigrettes are pretty basic: vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. In the US, we tend to add a lot of additions, like truffles, berries, garlic, blue cheese, etc. Seems pretty typical of the US, but also pretty yummy!

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

1-1/2 cups chopped strawberries
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until well combined.  

Can we talk about Chia Pudding for a second?

OK, so I’ve seen tons of recipes for Chia Pudding and I’ve heard all about how delicious it is and how it is a healthy addition to your diet. Well, who doesn’t like pudding?! I thought I’d give it a try.

Here’s how chia pudding works: when the chia seeds are soaked in liquid, they get all gelatinous, mixing with the liquid and forming a pudding-like consistency. You can leave the seeds as they are and it will be similar to tapioca, or you can blend them up and make it smoother. I’m a big texture person, so I blended mine up. I used chocolate almond milk as my liquid and mixed in slivered almonds, cinnamon, and a little vanilla extract. Sounds pretty tasty, right? Ugh… if only…


Let me break it down for you:

  1. When I opened the chia seed package, I expected to smell nothing. That is not the case. They smell earthy, and not in a good way. They smell like seeds. Like seeds you are planting in a garden. They do not smell like something I would put in my food.
  2. Everything mixed together fine and the “pudding” was ready in only a couple hours.
  3. The texture was weird with the seeds still whole, so I decided to blend it up. I saw a picture on another blog of blended up chia pudding and it was smooth and silky. I think she just used a photo of actual chocolate pudding because when I blended mine, you could still see bits of chia seed. It was fine, though, texturally speaking.
  4. The pudding tasted NOTHING like chocolate. Or pudding. Not even a teeny, tiny, little bit. You know what it tasted like? Seeds. Like seed you are planting in a garden. I could taste a hint of the cinnamon I added, but none of the almonds. I ended up adding a bit more vanilla, some sliced bananas, and peanut butter, but it was still very bland and seedy.

Bottom line: It was not good. I mean, it was edible enough in that it didn’t make my stomach turn. I ate it for breakfast 3 days in a row to give it a fair chance, so I feel like I’ve earned the right to say I do not like it. Maybe chia should just stay on weird pet-statues.

Cha-cha-cha- Chia!!

I cannot deny the health benefits of chia seed pudding, but I feel like I was duped, like that time I tried Kale Chips only to discover it was like eating bitter, crunchy leaves. “You won’t miss the real thing” they say.

Yeah, right.

Dish #12: Chicken Parmesan (Italy)

I love Chicken Parmesan. It’s so warm and comforting to me. I mean, you have pasta swimming in a rich tomato sauce topped with crispy chicken covered in gooey cheese. What’s not to like? And it’s easy to make, so even better!

Not surprising, this dish originates from Italy. While the exact origins are unknown, the northern town of Parma and the southern regions of Campania and Sicily all claim it as their own. The dish is referred to simply as parmigiana and is made with fried eggplant (aubergine). The version using a breaded and fried meat (veal, chicken) is popular in other countries, particularly those with a high Italian immigrant population.

My recipe is very basic:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied so you have 4 thin-ish pieces
salt
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use panko)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 sliced provolone cheese (mozzarella works great too)
Extra virgin olive oil (a couple big tablespoons is fine. Enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
Prepared spaghetti noodles
Tomato sauce (jarred or homemade ) /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_2889.jpg

In one bowl, beat up your eggs with a fork.

In a second bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, oregano, basil, and garlic powder.

Add your oil to your skillet over medium high heat. Prep the chicken while it gets up to a hot temperature.

Dip a chicken breast in the egg, covering all sides. Let the excess drip off.
Dip the chicken in the breadcrumb mix, covering all sides. Press the crumbs in so it really sticks.
Repeat with the other pieces of chicken.

When the oil is hot (flick a little water in the oil and it should sizzle), put the chicken in. Cook it for about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over to the other side. Ladle some sauce over the top and top with a couple pieces of cheese on each piece of chicken and put the skillet into a 350 degree oven (make sure your skillet is oven-safe. If not, you can let the chicken sit in the skillet for a couple minutes to crisp up and then transfer to a baking dish and add your sauce and cheese at that point). Let the chicken finish cooking in the oven, probably another 7 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and gooey. (Check the chicken before serving to make sure it’s cooked all the way. The timing depends on how thick the chicken is).

Coat the noodles with sauce and put on a plate. Top the noodles with the chicken and serve, probably with a light green salad because it’s a pretty rich dish. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_28911.jpg

If you’re feeling particularly carby, serve some garlic bread on the side. Because, yum. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_2892.jpg