Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!! I hope everyone had a joyous holiday season and that 2018 has started off on a great note! 

Three days in to the new year, I’m thrilled to feel refreshed and uplifted after 17 days away from the office.  Down time is so important!  I had grand plans to tackle and complete so many projects around our house during my time off, but I think only one of those projects was half checked off by the time I headed back to work.  Some of the downtime was dictated by illness.  My poor husband caught a nasty stomach bug our last week of vacation, but some of it was planned, and because of that, I feel no guilt.  I baked cookies, made an awesome Christmas Eve dinner, hung out with my husband (when he wasn’t sick) and our cats, visited with family, drank delicious wine, and watched lots of Netflix and Hulu. 

New Year’s resolutions have never been something I’ve pushed myself to set. Some years I don’t, some years I do, but the last few years I have really felt called to come up with a set of goals that help focus me throughout the year.  A list that isn’t so specific I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t achieve certain goals, rather something that guides me and hopefully helps me grow and a woman, as a friend, a daughter, and a wife.  With a piece of freshly baked bread smeared with real butter, and a cup of hot tea, I sat down on the 1st and wrote out my 2018 goals:

1.       Make mindful decisions that will impact my overall health in positive ways. Such as:
         - Eat more home cooked meals
         - Get up and move more throughout the work day
         - Take eye breaks, unplug and look away from screens
         - Make myself a priority (regular haircuts, putting on makeup, doing things that make me
           feel good about myself)
         - Prioritize down time and time away to recharge - MORE Chincoteague, less worry about
           work on weekends.
2.       Be bold, step out of my comfort zone, take chances, and don’t let fear of imperfection
          hold me back.
3.       Personal projects – flesh them out and START!
4.       Family art night – make this happen more often.

What are your goals for 2018?

Homemade Pho

It's hard to believe that fall is here!  Although the days are still warm, for the most part, there is a noticeable difference in the air.  One of the things I love most about living on the east coast is having four seasons, and like so many, fall is definitely my favorite time of year.  Pumpkin flavor seems to top many peoples palates as the days begin to cool, but for me, it's all about soup, stew, and hearty warm meals.

So...hearty and Pho may not go together for many people, but for those of you who are Pho lovers, I think you can understand why I love Pho in the winter (I actually can eat this year round).  I am so thankful for the Pho truck that visits my office during the colder months, as well as the nearby Vietnamese restaurant that I can grab my co-worker and head off to for a soothing warm lunch, but I am definitely lacking a great place for Pho close to my home.  Part of me loves that delicious Pho is not convenient to my home - it makes it a special treat, but part of me knows that when I want Pho, I want Pho now!

After doing a little research and trying my hand a making my own Pho, I think I've come up with a great homemade recipe.  Let me stress, this is just a great substitute and not the real thing.  What makes Pho so incredibly delicious is the broth and authentic broth takes a lot of time to make and ingredients I don't keep stocked in my kitchen at all times.  That said, the flavor of this homemade Pho definitely scratches my itch for Pho when it's not close enough to go out for.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups beef broth (4 cups for your soup broth, 1 cup for cooking your chicken)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, cut in to large pieces (I cut mine in to 4 large pieces)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 whole star anise (if you like anise flavor, add another half or whole piece)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 thumb length size knob of ginger (roughly 1 ½ - 2 inches), sliced into coins
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 package pho rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced very thinly *
  • Fresh basil and cilantro, bean sprouts, lime wedges, slicedgreen onion, and sliced jalapenos to garnish your soup with.

Directions:
In a large pot stir together 4 cups of broth, 2 cups of water, onion, garlic, star anise, cloves, ginger, cinnamon stick, fish sauce, soy sauce, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

While broth is simmering:

  • Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Immediately drain hot water from the noodles, and rinse with cold water to prevent over cooking and mushy noodles. Drain cold water and set aside.
  • Prep your soup garnishes
  • Cut chicken breast in to thin slices

When you Pho broth is just about finished, bring 1 cup of plain beef broth (you can add water if you need more liquid) to a boil in a small pot.  Once boiling add your thinly sliced chicken piece by piece to cook.  Chicken will be cooked through in 3-5 minutes.**

When your chicken is cooked and you are ready to serve up your Pho, fill your soup bowls halfway full with your rice noodles (it’s ok if your noodles are cold, the hot broth will warm them right up.)

When you are ready to serve the soup, fill the serving bowls about halfway full with noodles. Then cover with the hot broth, and immediately stir in the steak so that it cooks. Top with your desired garnishes. Add your cooked chicken and the garnishes you like to your soup. Stir and enjoy!

* Chicken in beef broth, what?!  YES!  This is the way I have had it and it is surprisingly delicious!

** Many recipes call for raw, thinly sliced beef to added to your bowl right before you ladle your finished broth over the rice noodles.  Because I like chicken as my protein (I, personally, would also use this technique if I were making it with beef) and I’m a little neurotic about food poisoning, I keep my raw chicken completely separate from everything, and cook it in plain beef broth that I discard once my chicken has cooked completely.

Enjoy!

Crispy Chicken Burritos

This is one of my favorite recipes!  It's easy, filling, and fast - perfect for leftovers and the nights I don't want multiple pots and pans to clean!

Ingredients:
Leftover shredded chicken
Leftover roasted vegetables
Leftover black beans
Avocado
Salsa
Goat Cheese
Burrito sized flour tortillas
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sour Cream

Directions:
You may notice that I haven't put any specific measurements in.  I always make this dish with leftovers and eyeball my amounts.

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie pan with parchment paper.

2.  Lay one tortilla in shallow bowl or on a flat surface, and add your preferred fillings, see the first six ingredients listed for mine. Careful not to over fill.

3.  Fold the sides of your tortilla over your filling, make sure that the tortilla sides over lap.

4.  Folded side down, place your tortilla on you parchment lined cookie pan.  Drizzle 1/8th of a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil over your burrito.

5.  Place in oven and bake for 6-7 minutes, then carefully flip burrito over so folded side is now up.  Bake for another 4-6 minutes.

6.  Enjoy!  I like a dollop of sour cream with a little lime juice and dried cilantro for dipping.  Careful, filling is VERY hot!

Happy eating, friends!

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Growing up, I used to love a very simple cucumber salad my grandmother used to make. It was cucumbers (of course), dill, and homemade vinaigrette.  She tossed all three ingredients together and what resulted was a deliciously refreshing salad, perfect for eating on hot summer days!

This past Saturday, my husband and I spent a large chunk of time in the car.  It was very warm (over 80 degrees) and our windows were down most of drive.  By the time we made it home, all I could think about was my grandmother's cucumber salad.  I was too tired to run out and buy cucumbers, but made sure they were bold and highlighted on my grocery list for my Sunday shopping.

My salad definitely differs from my grandmother's, but the cool crisp cucumbers still transport me to my grandparents small farm, and enjoying lunch together around the table in their kitchen.

Ingredients:
2 mini English cucumbers, roughly chopped
10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/8th of a small red onion, chopped and soaked in white balsamic vinegar
Crumble of soft goat cheese – optional
1 TBS – white balsamic vinegar
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (I use 1TBS of Lime infused evoo, and 1TBS or plain evoo)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Italian herbs
½  tsp red pepper flakes (use more or less depending on your personal preferences)
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp of pepper (again, more or less based on your preferences)
Pinch of Salt

Directions:
1.  Chop onion,  put into a small metal bowl and just cover with white balsamic vinegar.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

2.  Combine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, Italian herbs, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk together to make your vinaigrette.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you are ready to use.  You will only need to use half of this vinaigrette for this recipe.

3.  Chop cucumbers and quarter tomatoes and combine in a medium sized glass bowl.  Drain your marinating red onion and add to the cucumber/tomato mixture.

4.  Re-whisk your vinaigrette and drizzle half over you salad.  Toss to coat the salad in vinaigrette.

5. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Optional, crumble a little soft goat cheese over top of your salad before eating.

Happy eating, friends!

White-Bean Soup

Nothing warms my soul quite like a hearty bowl soup.

It’s hard to believe that the temperatures dipped low enough this weekend to bring snow to certain parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but they did!  Thankfully, despite the cold, we were spared from the white stuff.  The cold weather, along with some delicious artisan olive oils (a birthday present from my dad) were the perfect inspiration to whip up a batch warm, filling soup.

White Bean Soup
Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz. can of Cannellini Beans

  • Vegetable Stock.  I use the can the beans came in to measure out 1 can + ½ can (if needed) of stock.

  • 12 oz. Baby Red Potatoes, quartered (I buy a 24 oz. bag and use roughly half)

  •  4 oz.  Baby Portobello Mushrooms, quartered (I buy an 8 oz. package and again use roughly half)

  • small medium carrots, peeled and chopped.

  • ½ - medium sweet onion, chopped

  • 2 TBS butter

  • 2 tsp garlic

  • 1 pinch Black Truffle Salt

  • Pepper

  • White Truffle Oil

  • Sour Cream

Directions:

  • In a stock pot melt 2 TBS of butter over medium low heat.  Add carrots, garlic, and onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

  • To the soften carrots and onion, add the quartered potatoes,  mushrooms, and a pinch of black truffle salt and few grinds of black pepper.  Stir frequently for another 3-5 minutes.

  • Add Cannellini Beans and 1 bean can of vegetable stock in to your stock pot.  If needed add up to another ½ can of stock.  Allow soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

  • Remove soup pot from heat, and ladle ½ of your stock pot contents in to a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth, or reaches your desired consistency.  Add blended soup  back in to the pot with the remaining “chunky” soup, and simmer another 5 minutes.

  • Once ladled in to bowls, I love to finish each serving  with a small dollop of sour cream, a little drizzle of White Truffle Oil ( a little goes a really long way), and a small grind of fresh cracked black pepper.

  • Serve hot with a crusty piece of bread!

Enjoy!