Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

One GIANT Sabbatical.

Is there anyone left coming to this blog after my insanely large sabbatical?? I promise I have a valid excuse. I misplaced my camera cord so therefore, I wasn’t able to upload any of my pictures. Over the weekend I spent time looking for it and thankfully it turned up! Without bombarding you with a day-to-day detail of all food-I’m just going to run through the highlights of what’s been going on this past week and a half. Ready everyone? Deep breaths…

Last Monday night we did have Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes, it was good but not as good as I hoped. It lacked in flavor so I’ll have to come up with some spices to add to this dish. For as fattening as it was, it needed to at least be great-and it wasn’t.

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Recipe courtesy of the Martha Stewart


  • 6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 ounces each), halved horizontally
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan (4 ounces)


    Preheat oven to 400. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot.

    In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.

    In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Off heat, gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.

    Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes; sprinkle each with cup Parmesan.

    Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    Prepare through step 4; let cool. Cover tightly with foil, and freeze, up to 3 months.

    Preheat oven to 400, and bake (still covered in foil) on a rimmed baking sheet until center is hot, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil; bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.

    Moving on to Tuesday, the Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa and Garlic mashed potatoes was much better and easier. This adds up to a “win” in my book. My avocado unfortunately wasn’t the freshest but where that lacked, the chicken made up in flavor.

    Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa

    Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart (apparently I was on a kick)


  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Hass avocado, pitted and cut into chunks


    In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne; rub all over chicken.

    In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add chicken, and cook until browned on the outside and opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine onion and lime juice; set aside. Just before serving, fold avocado chunks into onion mixture; season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken topped with salsa.

    Wednesday we ended up skipping the mini-deep dish pizzas and had a frozen pizza instead. I stayed late at work and only had time to scarf something down before going to the NC Music Factory’s Haunted House. Chris and I had a blast! We met up with some friends beforehand at the Black Bear Saloon and after a few drinks attempted the haunted house. It wasn’t that scary but it had been years since I’ve really enjoyed Halloween traditions and this was a great night-totally worth the $8 tickets.

    Thursday was the family dinner at Mama Ricottas and I apologize for the un-pictured special but it was just too good to document. I dove right in to the pasta with carmelized onions, apples and bacon. I didn’t even have leftovers, which was really sad, but that is how good it was. Another great night with family and food.

    Friday I was supposed to have steak and rice cuban-style, courtesy of my best friends father but she ended up having to cancel her trip to Charlotte 😦 I miss seeing her and her husband and new baby boy, but I think they are coming up the first week in November. Friday and Saturday night were spent at home in resting in preparation for the huge Sunday plans I had.

    Chris has been out-of-town doing research at John Hopkins in Baltimore so Sunday I was left to hang by myself. Luckily for my birthday my uncle Kenny gave me his Panther’s tickets and they were great seats! I grabbed my friend Jane and made a day of it-and it wasn’t half bad.

    Beforehand we were able to attend the Charlotte City Club for an 11:00 brunch and it was so nice! I love going there when I get the opportunity but it’s few and far between because they have an exclusive membership. Thankfully my uncle pulled some strings and we were able to go. The food was on point and the service was even better.

    Later that night I had a few ladies over to my house to have a pumpkin carving party! This is one of my favorite things to do during the fall. It gives us a good excuse to get together, drink some wine and enjoy the season’s festivities. There was such great food there too! Pumpkin break, cookie cake amongst other munchies.

    (Jess with her cute little pumpkin!)

    Somewhere in between all of this madness I also made this dinner-which I had to write about. The corn-torilla scrambled dish was so good and filling and the black bean cornbread went perfectly! Chris and I were stuffed for hours, and it was exactly what we wanted for comfort food.

    unfortunately I did not have the right pan to make this dish (thank goodness for our Macy’s registry!) but it still turned out so good. I love cornbread!

    Corn Tortilla Scrambled

    If you would like the recipe to this, just let me know! It was quick and easy and would be a good breakfast as well!

    As for last night, it was Monday night TV and sister time. My sister Kate always comes over so I can feed her and watch our Monday night shows. Unfortunately she does nothing for building my culinary skills because she is such a picky eater. I’ll have to keep that in mind when doing the meal plan. I give you…pasta with marina and meatballs…

    No meal plan for this week! I’m trying to get creative with the food left over in my fridge and pantry and Chris comes back tonight. Thursday we are going out to dinner for my birthday but it’s a “mysterious” location. I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted!




    IT’S ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!

    The Produce Bible has arrived! My very sweet, soon-to-be, but already feels like, sister-in-law bought me the coveted Produce Bible for my birthday 🙂 THANKS MICHELLE! I love getting birthday presents early!

    I can NOT wait to dive into this tonight in bed! I want to learn so much more about produce and farmer’s markets and what exactly you do with a kumquat. The book came in perfect time because I had an exciting vegetable and fruit day yesterday…

    For lunch I had Panera’s Mediterranean veggie sandwich with some tomato soup and an apple for dessert. The sandwich included Zesty Peppadew piquant peppers, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cilantro Jalapeño hummus on Tomato Basil bread. It was delish.

    Who would have thought that I would ever be eating a sandwich with no meat? Moving on, for dinner I was anxious to try baked eggs in tomatoes and I thought it would pair well with some Tilapia.

    For the baked eggs you want to take a melon baller or spoon and gut the beefsteak tomato, leaving only the membrane.

    Then you want to fill it with the egg mixture (I did 3 eggs for 2 tomatoes and added in some herbs along with some Gruyère cheese, the recipe called for chives and parmesan cheese.)

    The oven was set to 350 degrees and the side dish took about 45 minutes for the eggs to set. Serve while hot!

    Be extra careful not to cut the tomato membrane, otherwise it will look like this:

    Tilapia Recipe


    • Tilapia-4 fillets
    • salt-1 teaspoon
    • black pepper-1/2 teaspoon
    • all-purpose flour-1/2 cup
    • olive oil-1/2 cup
    • unsalted butter-2 tablespoons
    • capers-2 tablespoons (drained)


    Salt and pepper the tilapia fillets and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour.
    Spread the all-purpose flour across a plate.
    Take a tilapia fillet and gently pat each side into the all-purpose flour. You’re looking to lightly coat the tilapia fillet.
    Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan and add the lemon slices. Fry for about 5 minutes and remove.
    In batches fry the tilapia fillets in the lemon infused olive oil for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Place on your serving dish.
    Increase the heat of the sauté pan to high and add the unsalted butter and capers.
    Gently stir for about 2 to 3 minutes.
    Spoon the sauce over the tilapia fillets and serve.

    For breakfast this morning I was craving and I mean CRAVING a smoothie. It’s been a while since I made a banana and strawberry smoothie for an “ode to the produce bible”-I revisited my favorite breakfast (on the go) today!

    Do you incorporate enough fruits and veggies in your diet? What are your favorite recipes? I know I could do better but it helps to find great recipes to incorporate the everyday veggies into something more unique and delightful! 😉

    Bagged It!

    Last night I will admit that I “bagged” dinner. It’s pretty rare these days that I will take something frozen and heat it up for dinner but I couldn’t resist picking up some Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken. It’s really good for a frozen meal and I’d like to think that with a side of edamame beans, eating it every once in a while is OK. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare with rice and the beans just needed boiling. Not exactly my top post on “dining” but hey-it was Monday, I was tired and this was still so good.

    TJ’s Mandarin Orange Chicken

    I heated the chicken and the sauce up in our wok and boiled the beans for 5 minutes. I had some sesame seeds on hand so I added them to the mix. Easy Peasy! I had plenty of beans leftover so I decided to take them with me for a snack at work. These will come in handy this afternoon!

    I’m going to take extra precaution with what I eat today as well as drinking plenty of water. I have my weekly Tuesday night run with some people from work and the last thing I want is to look like a wimp. Generally the group will do a long 6 mile run at the park where the trails are anything but flat.

    I was feeling dessert last night….

    The seasons have officially clicked and therefore I have been craving some apple crisp. I love love love this dessert. It might be my favorite. It’s easy to make and so satisfying. I tried out a new recipe but I have to say I like this one better.

    Warm Apple Crisp

    (Recipe from The Food Network)


    • 6 McIntosh apples, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour or fine graham cracker crumbs
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 stick butter
    • 1 pint vanilla ice cream


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a 9 by 12 baking dish, combine apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In a small bowl, mix flour or graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and butter together using the tines of a fork and your fingers, working until even, small crumbles form. Sprinkle topping evenly over apples and bake 15 to 20 minutes until apples are just tender and topping is golden brown. Top dishes of apple crisp with small scoops of vanilla ice cream. YUM!

    One last thing that was bagged last night was the Braves by the SF Giants! They now are progressing on to the NCLS where they will play the Phillies! Sorry to all my Georgia friends but GO SAN FRAN!!


    Squeezing A Lot into a Little.

    This weekend has turned out to be pretty successful as far as productivity goes. Friday night I decided to go out to the restaurant Killington’s and have a few draft beers with friends. Work was a little hectic over the week and a $2.75 Fat Tire was too tempting to miss out on. After blowing off some steam on Friday, I was up and ready to go early Saturday morning. I was on a mission to finally finish my save-the-dates so that they could be sent out on Monday. I’m happy to report after finalizing our guest list, compiling all our addresses, printing out our return labels and hand writing everyone’s personal envelope, we are DONE 🙂 No turning back now! Before we got started on them I felt the need for a hearty breakfast for the long day ahead and I had been dying to make the bacon, egg and toast cups I had seen in a Martha Stewart magazine.

    Bacon, Egg and Toast Cups

    I took a slight short-cut by not rolling the toast or cutting off the crusts. It was still very good but I think next time I will follow the directions, for no other reason than giving the bacon and egg more room in the baking sheet.


    • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sandwich bread
    • 6 slices bacon
    • 6 large eggs
    • coarse salt and ground pepper


    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter 6 standard muffin cups. With a rolling-pin, flatten bread slices slightly and, with a 4 1/4 inch cookie cutter, cut into 8 rounds. Cut each round in half, then press 2 halves into each muffin cup, overlapping slightly and making sure bread comes up to the edge of the cup. Use extra bread to patch any gaps. Brush bread with remaining butter.

    In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium, until almost crisp, 4 minutes, flipping once. Lay 1 bacon slice in each bread cup and crack an egg over each. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until egg whites are just set, 20 to 25 minutes. run a small knife around cups to loosen toasts. Serve immediately.

    Saturday night, Chris and I decided to go see the new Ben Affleck movie, Town. It was really entertaining and it was nice to go so early in the evening to miss the crowds. After the movie I was in the mood to cook. I started tinkering around in the kitchen and with my weekly grocery ship on Sundays, there was slim pickin’s in the pantry and refrigerator. I realized I had salmon in the freezer that I never made last week and scrounged up just enough baby potatoes to complete a meal. I was happy to realize I could make “salmon skewers” and “smashed potatoes” from the same Martha Stewart magazine (love her!) Knowing I could have left it at that, I really wanted to use the baking dish for some type of veggie tart. We only had a few mushrooms left over so I sautéed those along with some broccoli florets and some cherry tomatoes. Using a pie crust I used the same cookie cutter from earlier to make little tartlets.

    Salmon Skewers with Smashed Potatoes and Veggie Tartlets

    After placing the circular pie crust cut-outs in their individual cups in the baking sheet I filled it with the sautéed vegetables as well as shredded Gruyère cheese. They baked in the oven for about 10-12 minutes and till they were golden brown. The dinner plus the two sides was a really good Saturday night meal and Chris was thankful for the surprising cooking motivation. 🙂


    • 1.5 pounds potatoes
    • coarse alt and ground pepper
    • 1.5 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons honey
    • 3 cups baby spinach
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


    Heat broiler, with rack in top position. In a medium saucepan, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, thread 3 pieces salmon onto each of eight 6-inch wooden skewers. Place skewers in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold foil over exposed areas of skewers to prevent burning.

    Broil salmon until opaque throughout, about 6 minutes, flipping once. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey (this was the best part!)

    Drain potatoes. While still hot, gently smash each potato with the back of a spoon to flatten slightly and place, along with spinach and butter, in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Serve salmon skewers with potatoes and spinach.

    Sunday I went to Trader Joes to go grocery shopping and picked up some really good stuff! I’ve been wanting to make some Black Bean cornbread as well as some apple crisp for dessert one night this week. I’m excited for this week’s meal plan because I will be focusing more on sides and desserts rather than just the main course. Whenever I get back from grocery shopping I’m always starving. Chris has been studying rigorously for his PhD qualifier test he has coming up next week so I’ve been trying to be a good fiance by cutting him some slack on the household chores and making sure he has a full belly. He was craving a BLT so a BLT is what I made. I spruced it up a bit (thanks to my TJ’s companion cookbook) and opted to use Herb Focaccia bread over regular sandwich bread. I also used turkey bacon and balsamic vinaigrette to give an old favorite a little kick…

    As good as this looked, I wasn’t feeling bacon twice in once weekend so I opted to go with a salad, mainly because I picked up some cranberry walnut Gorgonzola dressing that I was salivating over.

    This dressing made my salad like a dessert. My salad included spring mix, blue cheese crumbles, walnuts and this dressing, and together, was a little slice of heaven! The weekend is coming to a close but I’m off to run 7 miles. Apart of me wishes I hadn’t waited till the last minute but it’s a beautiful day out and not to hot. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have fueled my body enough to handle the run and that it’s a positive one-Wish me Luck!