A favorite quick-and-easy dinner

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a cooking post, so I wanted to share recipes for one of Nick’s and my favorite and simplest meals: spatchcock cilantro lime roasted chicken, baked sweet potatoes with a scallion yogurt sauce, and a basic tomato and cucumber side salad with a lemon-olive oil dressing. 

I wrote last year about how we plan and prepare our meals, and shared that while we love to cook and usually make full course dinners throughout the week, we strive for simple, healthy and easy meals to help cut down on our time in the kitchen, and this is one of those!

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I have to note in advance, that this meal is very simple to prepare and doesn’t require an elaborate ingredient list, but it does take about 45 minutes of prep and oven cooking time – it’s totally worth it though since it looks like it comes straight from a restaurant’s kitchen.

So let’s get started with the spatchcock chicken. Have you prepared poultry this way? It’s a technique that I’d definitely recommend since it cuts roasting time almost in half, which helps it retain much more of its natural juices. The process is pretty simple: use a sharp knife or sheers to remove the backbone of the chicken and press it flat. It sounds complicated, but this quick video shows just how easy it is. (Last year my sister-in-law even cooked her turkey this way with great results)!

Spatchcock cilantro lime chicken (from The Frugal Paleo Cookbook, a great cookbook gifted to me by my father-in-law). 

Ingredients: 

  • Whole chicken (about 3-4 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 TB coconut oil*
  • 1-2 TB chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

*The coconut oil is key here, the flavor infuses into the chicken and really makes the dish. Thankfully, a jar isn’t too expensive and is available at most groceries (coconut oil also has many other cooking and beauty uses!). 

Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the spatchcock chicken, season with salt and pepper, and place into a gallon-sized plastic bag. In a small bowl combine the lime juice, garlic, salt and coriander. Melt the coconut oil in another dish in the microwave for a few seconds. Slowly whisk the coconut oil into the lime juice mixture and immediately pour over the chicken in the bag. Close the plastic bag and smooth the mixture over the entire chicken. Set aside for 15 minutes or longer. (These steps could be prepared the evening before if you are having guests).

Chickenbag

Now get started on the yams. 

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients
  • 2-4 yams
  • 8 oz. container Greek yogurt
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 2 scallions

Instructions: Wash the yams and cut in half lengthwise. Place the yams on a sheet of aluminum foil, coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down and add 2 TB of water around the yams. Cover with a top sheet of aluminum foil and roll to tightly seal the edges. 

Sweetpotatoes

It’s time to put the chicken in the oven!  Transfer the chicken from the plastic bag into a roasting pan (and any juices) and set the timer for 15 minutes. 

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the scallion yogurt sauce (right in the yogurt container!). Start by removing the lid from the yogurt and seasoning with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the scallions (the white bottoms and green tops) and add to the yogurt. Add the tablespoon of red wine vinegar and stir. 

Greekdip

After the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes add the sweet potato packet along with the chicken in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. 

While the chicken and potatoes are cooking, get started on the salad. Nick and I love this salad, which is tangy and light and very flavorful for being so simple. It’s actually a popular Indian salad, which matches perfectly with the spicy dishes we love to prepare, but goes with pretty much anything. 

Simple Salad with Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing

Ingredients

  • 2-4 cups of romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1-2 diced roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 diced cucumber
  • 1-2 TB chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • Drizzle of olive oil 

Chop and combine the first six ingredients of the salad. Right before serving add the lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat (the lemon juice will wilt the salad, so hold off adding until just before serving). 

Salad

The chicken and sweet potatoes should be done by now. Remove from the oven and garnish the chicken with the cilantro and the potatoes with the yogurt sauce. Plate and serve!

Finalmeal

*Note that Nick and I always prepare chicken without the skin, but if you left it on, the bird would be a beautiful roasted color!

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The sweet potatoes and chicken reheat so well (and are often even better the second time around), so this is a great meal for two nights. Enjoy!

Recently read

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When I was in Wisconsin  over the holidays, Nick’s mother and I chatted about what we were reading, which gave me the idea to share some of my favorite and recently read books here, in case anyone else is looking for suggestions.

I’ve always enjoyed reading for pleasure and typically read at least a book a week. I rarely sit and read for any real length of time though, except in summer when we are on the boat; I sneak in most of my reading to and from work on the subway, at lunch while I eat, and for a few minutes before heading to bed.

If you are a book lover like I am, I recommend Good Reads, a free website and mobile app for book descriptions, reviews and ratings. It also allows you to track what you’ve read and would like to in the future, and you can even follow friends and peruse their reading lists. At the beginning of the year, Good Reads challenges you to enter a reading goal for the year and tracks your progress. I challenged myself to read 40 books for the year; so far I have nine books done and just started another.

Just a note that while I like nonfiction, I tend to read mostly fiction (who doesn’t need a break from reality?), and I rarely read the most current books, since I (electronically) check out all of my books from the D.C. public library.

1. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

From the author of The Emperor’s Children (also a great book), the main character is a lonely unwed school teacher who dreamed of living another life as an artist, but has instead become the quiet, trusty woman upstairs. A new student appears in her class and she becomes heavily entwined with and used by each member of the family.

2. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

The main character Anna has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II; half the story is told from her perspective, and the other half from her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by Americans. Trudy slowly uncovers her mother’s story and realizes much of what she thought to be true is actually not.  

3. The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi 

This story is about a young Afghan girl who chosen by her family to live as a bacha posh, a common practice that allows daughters to dress and live as boys, allowing her to go to school and run errands for the family. Unfortuantely, her opium-addicted father is indebted to a vicious warlord, who takes the 13-year-old as a bride. Her story of suppression and survival is told alongside that of her great-aunt Shekiba’s, whose life took a similar path.

4. The House Girl by Tara Conklin

A young lawyer takes the lead on a class-action lawsuit seeking repararions for families of slaves. In her pursuit to find a “face” for the lawsuit, she uncovers the story of Josephine Bell, a runaway slave who’s name has long been entangled in an art world controversy since many believe that she was the actual creator of work credited to her owner, Lu Anne Bell.

5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This book is set in the future, after a flu has caused civilization to collapse. The book follows several of those that are left and tasked with trying to survive, rebuild their lives and find purpose and meaning.

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

A fantastic book about two brave French sisters who struggle to survive and save the lives of others, each in their own way, through World War II.

7. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

The main character Georgie is a successful sitcom writer who lands the opportunity of a lifetime, which requires her to be away from her family and husband during the holidays and causes strife in her marriage. During the trip, Georgie’s calls to her husband go unanswered, until she calls him from the old landline phone in her childhood bedroom; she quickly realizes she’s speaking to her husband in the past, early in their relationship when they were first dating, which gives her the opportunity to make different decisions about their relationship in the present. 

8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Despite being authored by horror novelist Stephen King this book is a science/historical fiction story about a man who finds a portal to travel back in time to the 1960s, where it becomes his mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. He quickly realizes that every time he interrupts or alters history that the future is also rewritten. The main character ends up spending more and more of his time building and living a life in the past.

9. All the Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr

This is a lovely story about the parallel journeys of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy during World War II, but whose paths eventually cross and have a lasting impact.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The main character Rachel is an alcoholic and jobless, but continues to take the train into the city everyday to keep up the charade that her life is on track. Rachel frequently sees a woman who’s house faces the train tracks, and one day sees a news report that the woman has gone missing. Rachel fumbles her way through solving the crime (and while the book can be a bit slow in parts, there are a few twists at the end that make it worth reading).

What about you; do you have any must-read book suggestions?

Hoppy, hoppy Easter

I’ve always enjoyed celebrating holidays, and really, any excuse to eat jelly beans and color eggs continues to appeal to the child in me. Aside from Easter’s traditional meaning, the holiday also makes me feel excited because it often arrives with Spring in tow.

Easter is early this year and thankfully, it brought the spring weather with it. Despite our big blizzard in January, overall D.C. had a pretty mild winter, so spring is in full swing and many of the flowers and plants around the city are blooming, including the cherry blossom trees, which are very close to peak bloom.

To celebrate the arrival of Spring and the Easter holiday, I wanted to share our dinner menu below. You can check out our previous Easter dinner menus here and here.

Signature cocktail

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Appetizers

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  • An easy and tasty starter of goat cheese, pesto and sun dried tomato served with garlic crostini (from one of my cookbooks; recipe is below)

Main course

  • Maple mustard glazed pork loin with roasted fennel and apple. (We dined on traditional ham last year so we wanted something different this year; you can’t go wrong with a glazed pork loin.)

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  • Classic lemon bars (there is a bowl of lemons ready for Nick-the-baker to squeeze fresh)
Just as no holiday celebration is complete without a signature cocktail, neither is one without place cards. I rolled napkins around craft eggs to create these super simple and cute bunny ears napkin place holders.

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Recipe for the Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pesto Torta:

  • Line a small ramekin withe plastic wrap.
  • Combine 4 ounces goat cheese and 1 package of cream cheese (at room temperature).
  • Take 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture and combine with 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (finely chopped) and 3 TB tomato paste.
  • Press half of the goat cheese-cream cheese into the ramekin. Cover with 2/3 cup pesto, then the cheese-tomato mixture. Top with the remaining cheese mixture.
  • Cover and chill for several hours. Serve with toasted baguette slices that have been drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with a head of garlic.

I hope our menu provides some inspiration for a lovely Easter holiday. Enjoy!

A Better Night’s Sleep

Our sailboat Houd Vast is currently still on the hard, but in less than a month, she could be back in the water. Over the weekend, we removed the winter cover, and tackled the first of many spring projects.

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At the top of our wish list was getting a better night’s sleep aboard. Last year, Nick and I spent nearly every weekend on the boat, and it didn’t take very long for us to realize that the cheap foam mattresses that came stock on the cabin beds didn’t make for good sleeping.
We typically sleep in the boat’s aft cabin, which has a large and spacious (but not very comfortable) king-size bed.

 

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Unfortunately, replacing the old foam cushions wasn’t as simple as purchasing a new king-size mattress; if you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that the foot area on either side of the aft cabin is not square – one side has a cutout and the other side an angled base.

Nick and I researched many different options, including a custom mattress…which was so very costly! Also, we really needed two separate cushions in the cabin for ease of removal; if you check out the graphic above again, our engine compartment is below the companionway stairs and is accessible through panels in both the head/shower area and the aft cabin – since Nick has to routinely access the engine for maintenance, we have to remove the right side cushion. When we do that, we either stack the two cushions to the left side of the cabin or pull one out into the salon. Having one large mattress would make that process nearly impossible.

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After lots of research, we finally settled on a memory foam topper based on comfort reviews and the ability for us to cut the foam to the exact size we needed. We purchased this 4-inch Serta 4-pound density memory foam mattress from Overstock.

Most memory foam mattress toppers are 2 inches; since the cabin cushions on the boat rest on wood (with no box spring) we went for a thicker 4-inch mattress (we also opted for pure memory foam; many come in memory foam/basic foam combos). Also, the denser the foam the firmer it is; 3-to-4 pounds is recommended for stomach/side sleepers and 4-to-6 pounds is recommend for back sleepers.

Below are the original foam cushions after we removed them from the mattress covers.

Mattressbefore

You can see in this closeup that the previous mattress was just cheap foam padding.

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After we received the new memory foam mattress, we unrolled it and let it expand for almost three days. Before we decided to cut it into pieces, Nick and I carried it up to our bedroom and slept on it, right on the floor, for a night! Thankfully, while sleeping on memory foam does take some getting used to, we both found it to be very comfortable.

After letting the mattress fully expand, we laid out both mattresses and used the old foam cushions as a template.

Mattressprecut

Mattressmeasure

Measured

After we had the cushions traced, Nick used an electric carving knife to cut away the extra foam. (It’s hard to tell below, but we set the new memory foam mattress on top of the old cushions, so the knife cut into those rather than the wood floor.)

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Since the memory foam mattress was nearly the same thickness as the original foam, they fit perfectly back into the original mattress covers.

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It only took about half an hour before we had both mattresses cut and back into their covers. It was an inexpensive and simple project, but I think it will make a world of a difference and bring us a much better night sleep, especially since we are looking to take a few longer trips this summer.

Mattressdone

Since we had great success with this project, we may tackle the bed in the V-berth cabin later this summer.

Until then, happy resting 🙂