Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

I will admit, I have not been the best blogger lately. Our lives have been so busy and sometimes unpredictable lately that I have been experimenting less in the kitchen. That said, I have made quite a few new and very delicious meals, but for some reason I forget to take pictures before we devour the food, or I have not dubbed the dish "blog worthy" - that is, until this meal.

When I first saw this recipe, I knew immediately that I needed to make it. For some reason, I have never prepared polenta at home before, but after my first experience making it for this dish, it sure to make more appearances in different dishes around here! It is so easy, and so delicious! Granted, I sort of cheated and used pre-prepared polenta from the grocery store, but I do know that it is also simple to make from scratch. Whatever suits you, it will work for this dish.

I got the idea for this dish from Epicurious, which you can view here, but sometimes I find that their recipes include too many redundant steps, so I simplified it to suit the 20 minutes I had to make dinner. First, I took 24oz of precooked polenta, broke it into pieces, and heated it in a medium sauce pan with approximately 2 cups of chicken broth, not only to heat it, but to soften it. Once the polenta dissolved into the broth, I added about a half cup of shredded parmesan and allowed it to melt while stirring. I removed the polenta from heat and added about a fourth cup of half and half to make the polenta creamy. It smelled amazing! Meanwhile, I sautéed 4 ounces of diced pancetta. Once it was done, I added 8 ounces of sliced specialty mushrooms (including baby bella and shiitake mushrooms), 3 cloves of diced garlic, and a few large handfuls of kale (previously washed, separated from the stalk, and broken into bite sized pieces). I continuously tossed this mixture while it sautéed for about 6 minutes, until the mushrooms were cooked and the kale was bright green. Then, I served this mixture on top of the polenta. Given the simplicity of this dish, it is one of the best tasting meals ever! The creamy polenta serves as a great base for each bite. The mushrooms bring wonderful earthy flavors that pair perfectly with the salty pancetta. The crunchy kale provides a perfect contrast to the texture of the polenta. It was an incredible meal and was perfect for an impromptu date night! Enjoy!

Yellow Curry with Chicken, Red Bell Pepper, and Pea Pods

Recently, Bryan and I were able to get away for a long weekend and we visited Toronto, Ontario, Canada! It was an amazing experience, and we both agreed that we will definitely go back for future weekend getaways!

Toronto is a quick 4 and a half hour drive from Cleveland, and the route goes straight through Niagara Falls. We were happy to have a leisurely lunch and take some fun photos of the falls! It was absolutely beautiful!

Toronto is located on Lake Ontario and has a stunning skyline! The spier tower is called the CN Tower, and it is the tallest single standing structure in North America. We were able to take an elevator to the lookout deck, and the views were stunning!

The city is also very international, with English and French as the dominant languages, but we also heard a lot of Asian languages being spoken that we couldn't distinguish. I was so excited to eat a lot of great Asian food while there, and we found some great restaurants that we thoroughly enjoyed!

At Khao San Road, we shared a Yellow Curry dish with shrimp as well as a Pad Thai dish. Both were absolutely incredible! At Momofuku, we had delicious ramen in two forms: the Momofuku ramen and veggie ramen, both of which were delicious!

After returning home, I craved yellow curry like no other! I've experimented a fair amount making curry dishes in the past, using red curry paste, so I sought out to try a new recipe using yellow curry paste. To make this dish, I simply whisked together a can of light coconut milk and a few tablespoons of yellow curry paste in a bowl. At this time, I also cooked some egg noodles in a separate pot. When they were done, I drained them and set them aside. Meanwhile, I sautéed diced chicken breast in olive oil until it was almost done. Then, I added minced garlic, diced yellow onion, diced red bell pepper, and sliced pea pods. After a few minutes, I poured the coconut milk and curry mixture over the sautéing chicken and veggies until the chicken was done and the vegetables were slightly cooked. I served the curry mixture on top of the noodles for a complete dish. It was delicious and definitely satisfied my yellow curry craving! Bryan really enjoyed the dish as well! Obviously, the chicken could be removed to make the dish vegetarian. Also, a variety of other mix-ins could be added or substituted like potato, cauliflower, or chick peas. I do not like that pictures of yellow colored food always appear more yellow than they actually are - but I figured that the recipe was worth sharing, regardless if the picture looked too yellow. Enjoy yellow food and get your carotenoids!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Last week I had time to do some spring cleaning, which involved cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator. I was actually pretty proud that I didn’t have to throw much out! I guess we have been doing a good job of eating the food that we buy and reducing food waste this year! Some pantry items even got placed on the “use for a dinner creation” list.

Enter: Orzo. I don’t use orzo often, but it seems to pop up around this time of year in cold salads and I thought it would be perfect for a simple dinner meal. We also needed to grill up some chicken to have on hand this week for Bryan’s lunch sandwiches, and I thought that grilled chicken would be a nice addition to an orzo salad.

After a quick search, I found this grilled chicken orzo salad recipe that was perfect. The orzo serves as the base of this salad, and the added chicken gives protein staying power. Veggies like diced onions, tomatoes, and red bell pepper add flavors and nutrients to the profile of this salad. Arugula also adds a nutty and peppery punch. The light vinaigrette in combination with the herbs gives it a ton of flavor while also remaining light. Topped with small pieces of goat cheese, this salad is perfection. It is great for a light summer dinner and will make enough for you to have leftovers for lunch the next day!

Chicken Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 4 servings


1 ¼ cups uncooked orzo (rice shaped pasta)

3 cups chopped grilled chicken breast

1 ½ cups trimmed arugula

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

¼ cup diced red onion

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 tsp chopped fresh oregano

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1 ½ oz crumbled goat cheese


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

2. Combine pasta, chicken, and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

3. Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Special K Bars

I grew up calling these wonderful little babies Special K Bars, but apparently they have a pseudonym and also go by Scotcheroos. Whatever you call them, these bars are delightful because they contain the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate. The butterscotch added to the chocolate topping adds a little more sweetness that makes me smile.

I love to make these bars because they remind me of my childhood. My mom used to make them frequently for me for various reasons. Not only to enjoy at home, but I'd also bring them to share at soccer games, give them to my orchestra teachers after a concert, or bring to a party or potluck. This week, I made them as a big thank you.

You see, my mom was a gardener. Big time. As an only child, one of my many jobs was to water all the gardens in the yard during the summer when I was young and on summer break. We had a three-tier vegetable garden (it sloped down a hill), and numerous flower gardens strategically placed around our spacious yard, as well as countless pots filled with beautiful flowers. Watering everything took hours!

My mom passed away when I was a young teenager, so I didn't have the opportunity to learn many things from her. As I grow up and do things on my own, especially things I learn to do for the first time, sometimes I don't know how or where to start. I had planned on starting a flower garden next to our patio this Spring, and my wonderful husband dug up the section of grass/weeds last weekend for me. Since I hadn't learned my mom's gardening skills, I had to do a lot of internet research and preparations to figure out how to start a flower garden from scratch.

I researched what flowers grow well in this area of Ohio and in direct sunlight, where our garden would be located. Feeling excited to try this on my own, I went to the nearby garden center ready to purchase flowers. An incredibly nice lady helped me design and pick options for my first flower garden. She was so excited at the prospect of helping me start my new flower garden, but when I told her my budget was "the least amount possible" she changed her tone. She altered her design, and offered for me to come to her house later that afternoon and she would dig up a peony for me, because they are too expensive at the garden center, but she thought I really should have one. Then, she instructed me to return to the garden center the next day to find options that would match it from the new shipment they were getting in later that afternoon. I told her that she was too kind and that wasn't necessary, but she insisted. She gave me some tips on how to get my plot ready for planting the flowers too.

I bought the materials I needed to prepare the plot for the garden and when I arrived at home I got it ready for planting. Later that afternoon, I drove to her house (only 4 blocks from ours!) and she was ready for me. She dug up the peony (my favorite!!), as well as a lily, lambs ear, and dianthus for me! She gave me so much that I didn't even need to go back to the garden center the next day, and I had plenty to plant in our garden. She wanted to charge me $5, and I gave her $10 which was all the cash I had on me at the time, but I would have planned on given her more if I knew she was going to give me so many flowers! She kindly replied, "One day, you'll pass on the favor." And I will, that's for sure! Thank you Lisa for being so incredibly kind and helpful!

I am dropping off the bars at her house this afternoon! Pictures of the patio garden will pop later, when it stops raining.

Special K Bars
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Yield: 1 13x9 pan
Prep time: 15 minutes

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Special K cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

1. Grease a 13x9 inch pan, and set aside.
2. Place sugar and corn syrup into a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in peanut butter until melted and combined.
4. Place cereal into a large bowl, and pour the peanut butter mixture on top. Stir until well coated.
5. Press the mixture into the prepared pan.
6. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together over a double boiler (or alternatively, in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second intervals). Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let sit until firm (or refrigerate for a faster setting time).


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Cleveland Orchestra at Spice Kitchen and Bar and The Happy Dog

Bryan and I have lived in Cleveland for a year now! It is hard to believe how time flies! When considering where to rank Bryan's residency options, Cleveland was high on the list for many reasons. One major perk (that wasn't a deciding factor) was that Cleveland has one of the top orchestras in the country, if not the world. Since Bryan and I are both cellists and studied classical music in college, we knew that we would enjoy living in a city that values the arts and Cleveland has exceeded our expectations!

In the year that we have lived here, we have enjoyed watching the Cleveland Orchestra play many concerts at Blossom, their summer/outdoor locations and at Severance Hall, their indoor location. In order to reach out to new audiences, members of the orchestra are playing in small ensembles at local restaurants, and last week we had the opportunity to attend a couple of these events!

We started the evening out at Spice Kitchen and Bar (where we had dinner the previous weekend with our amazing friends, Rob and Sarah, who came to visit us!). The restaurant was packed with reservations and standing room only, and we had planned on getting a cocktail and watching from the bar. A bass quartet serenaded everyone and it was a great prelude to the evening!

Next, we walked across the street to The Happy Dog. This casual restaurant serves hot dogs with a multitude of topping choices that each person selects individually.

I had been wanting come here and try their famous hot dogs for a while, so I was excited to have the chance to see members of the orchestra play here as well! This restaurant was already getting pretty crowded when we arrived, but we ended up sharing a table with some nice ladies who had two spare spots. We had a pretty good view of the stage and enjoyed hearing the incredible musicians play quartets that we hadn't heard before. It was such a fun evening!

The BBC just released a story on the Cleveland Orchestra reaching out to new audiences, which you can watch here, and Bryan and I have a short appearance! It's too bad I was looking to the side. I really was intrigued by the musicians the entire time!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Hiatus is Over!

That's right! I'm back!

The semester is over, and I am so happy! It was very busy and intense, but I'm happy to report that it went well. Dimitri is ready for me to come out and play!

Now I have some catching up to do on the blog! Stay tuned for new recipes and possibly some throwback posts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


As some of you may have noticed, I have not been keeping up with the blog very well lately. I have a long list of items to write about, and I will someday soon. But, graduate school and my career have taken over my life. Dimitri says, "When will you stop studying and come play with me?!"

Grad school is sucking the life out of me this semester. Here's what I've been up to lately: attending lots of classes, studying, printing research articles, reading research articles, reading textbooks, reading reference books, grueling over Powerpoint lectures, studying for exams, writing papers, working on projects, working, not sleeping much, and not having a life at all - and I'm only just 4 weeks into the semester. That means I've had no time for grocery store runs, no time for errands, and no time for workouts. Oh, cooking? Seriously, no time for that. Oh, and let's add in the part-time job I have... wait, where is there time in the week for that??? Let's just say that I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I am so incredibly thankful that I have an amazing husband who knows what it is like to be super busy too. Even though he is a resident and is working 80 hours a week, he's helping me out with simple things like going to the grocery store because we don't have any food in the fridge and helping clean the house. He's even cooked many of our recent meals because I simply don't have time! Don't worry, I've been documenting everything and it will pop up soon. If I didn't have 2 term papers to write, an exam to study for, and a couple projects to complete over Spring Break, I could fill you in then. But, blogging might actually have to wait until this semester is over.

This is just a short post to say, I'm sorry it's been a while, and it will probably be a while before you hear from me again. But, stay tuned, because I have some really great recipes to introduce you to and some fun things to catch you up on!

Until then, here's what my life will continue to look like:

At least reading and studying is more bearable with a snuggle kitty in my lap!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

3rd Wedding Anniversary!!!

Bryan and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary on January 2nd! I can't believe it's been three years already - the time has flown by! I am more in love with him every day and I am so excited to continue this life journey together. We celebrated by going to dinner at Lolita, a Michael Symon restaurant here in Cleveland that we'd been wanting to try for a while! It was delicious!

Shown above is one of our first minutes as a married couple! At this very moment, we were listening to a choir of our closest friends, conducted by a great friend, sing This Marriage by Erik Whitacre. Following that piece, another great friend played the Sarabande from the 6th Bach Suite on cello. Bryan and I both play the cello, and we met each other in the orchestra at St. Olaf College, so it was only fitting to have a cello piece be a big part of the ceremony. 

Our wedding was simply amazing. Which is exactly how I would describe my wonderful relationship with Bryan!

Turkey and Bean Chili

Bryan has this week off from work, and I'm on break from school, so it's been pretty lazy around here. I've been trying to put in a lot of work hours, and Bryan has been doing small house projects. In order to fuel our productive laziness, I had a craving for some chili! I don't have a go-to chili recipe and I like to try new types of chili when I have the opportunity. This recipe is simple and delicious, and I would definitely make it again!! I served the chili with cornbread muffins, which were a perfect match!

Turkey and Bean Chili
Adapted from My Recipes

1 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped and seeded poblano pepper (about 1)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 oz) fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add first 4 ingredients. Cook for 6 minutes or until turkey is done, stirring frequently to crumble.Stir in chili powder and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer at least 10 minutes. Serve when ready. Enjoy!


One of the presents I got Bryan for Christmas was a panini press! He is known as the "sandwich man" in our house. He makes any sandwich an incredible sandwich! I wanted to give him something new for him to play with to create wonderful creations. We tried it out over the weekend, and it was a major success!

If you don't have a panini press, you can make hot sandwiches on the stove top (like you would for a grilled cheese) with a flat pan. We used to use our flat pancake pan and flip the sandwich halfway in between it's cooking. But as we wanted to start adding more ingredients, it became harder to flip the sandwiches. Hence, my idea for a panini press!

There is no specific recipe to this post. For our first try at our own panini, we kept it simple. We layered cooked chicken, bacon, avocado, onion, tomato, and mixed greens on top of delicious bakery bread. We put the sandwich on the press, and voila, the bread was toasted and the sandwich was warm and melty! It was a perfect simple dinner that took no time at all!

I'm sure we'll be doing more panini experiments in the near future and I'll keep you updated!