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).

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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. 

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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. 

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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!

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*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!
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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!

The Art of Cooking

I don’t recall exactly when in my adult life I started to enjoy cooking, but over the years it has grown into a passion. Despite the joy I take in preparing meals, I wouldn’t describe myself as a foodie, and I have no desire to make a career out of it, especially since I’m a terrible baker.

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Nick and I have very different cooking styles: Nick tends to follow recipes to a T, and I have a tendency to improvise dishes and substitute ingredients, but despite our differences, cooking a meal is something that we really enjoy doing together, especially since we don’t have the pressures of trying to quickly get a meal on the table to feed hungry mouths. For us, preparing a meal together gives us an opportunity to wind down after work and talk with one another about our workday or weekend plans.

I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks we have picked up over the years that help make our meal planning and preparation a little bit easier. We definitely are always learning as we go, so I would love to hear how you make it work for your family!

Meal Planning Inspiration

I’ve mentioned before that I love meal planning for holidays, but I also plan our weekly meals. My first step is to look at the grocery store sales flyer and see what items are on sale the next week.

Once I have a list of sale ingredients in my head, I turn to Pinterest and my cookbooks for recipes using those items. I love Pinterest for finding and storing links to recipes since it’s so visual; I have separate boards for main courses, sides and appetizers, beverages, breakfast and dessert to help make my recipe search easier.

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Typically if I pin a new recipe, I try to make it within a few weeks. If we like it, I keep it on my board, and if we don’t like it, I delete it. This helps keep the number of pins to a minimum, which makes sorting through them for meal planning much easier.

Recipes & Cookbooks

I use Allrecipes.com to create and store all of my family and all-time favorite recipes (I’ve used this site for years and have too many recipes to transfer over to Pinterest).

I also have a couple of go-to cookbooks for recipes, which I page through for inspiration, so we aren’t eating the same meals over and over again. Nick gifted me this Martha Stewart Living One Pot cookbook for my birthday, and it has a variety of simple but really tasty recipes for the stove top, oven, crock pot and pressure cooker. I also really like this Indian cookbook from Madhur Jaffrey (you can read more about our Indian cooking here).

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Buy ingredients for multiple meals

Another tip for making meal planning easier is to select recipes with similar ingredients, so that you can buy and use the same ingredients for multiple recipes.For example, these baked salmon cakes call for only half of a red and yellow pepper. Since I know we’ll have leftover peppers, I’ll plan to make chicken fajitas or shrimp fried rice later in the week to use the rest. This cuts down on our shopping bill and any items going to waste (I just hate throwing away uneaten food items!)

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Meal plan/grocery list

When it comes to planning our weekly meals and grocery list, I rely on a simple template like this one.

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I print out a few dozen copies and keep them in a kitchen drawer. I start a new sheet every Sunday, and throughout the week, if we run out of an ingredient, we simply write it down on the grocery list. Later in the week (typically Saturday), I sit down to plan our meals for the following week and quickly add any remaining grocery items to the shopping list.

After grocery shopping, I stick the meal plan/grocery list back in our kitchen drawer, so that Nick (who usually gets home from work before me) can reference the meal plan and help get dinner started.

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Love your leftovers

While we love to cook, it’s not practical for us to prepare intricate meals every night of the week, so we always prepare enough of a dish so that we can eat it again a second night. We especially like to do this on Sunday; it’s so nice to come home Monday evening and simply reheat our leftovers. This strategy isn’t for anyone not fond of leftovers, but it really saves time and makes our weeknights much easier.

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Nick and I spend nearly every weekend on the boat, and while I wanted meal planning for those weekends to be as stress-free as possible, I wasn’t willing to sustain on sandwiches. So instead, we’ve opted for a subscription meal service; have you heard of Blue Apron? It’s a weekly meal delivery service that provides you with all the fresh ingredients that you need to make three (really delicious!) meals.

**Below are pictures of actual Blue Apron dishes we’ve prepared on the boat!

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Every Thursday, a box of refrigerated ingredients arrives at our doorstep, and it’s so easy for us to plop the whole thing in a cooler and carry it to the boat for the weekend (you choose the delivery day, and they provide every ingredient you need for the three meals – except salt, pepper and olive oil).

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Nick and I subscribe to the 2-person plan, which costs $59 per week. While I originally hesitated about the price, the cost for three meals is cheaper than going out to eat, and we often have leftovers (so we are getting even more meals for the money). And honestly, the convenience is worth every penny!

The company allows you to skip as many weeks as you want and you can cancel anytime, which I’m likely to do once boating season ends. We’ve enjoyed the service so much though, I can’t imagine we won’t resume deliveries next spring.

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Even if you aren’t in the market for a meal subscription service, Blue Apron posts all of the recipes to their weekly meals, and it’s another helpful source of inspiration for meal planning,

I hope this was helpful. Have any tips or tricks of your own? I’d love to hear what works best for your family!

Hoppy Easter and Spring to You!

One of my favorite parts of preparing for a holiday is developing the menu. Since I shared our Easter/Spring menu last year, I thought I’d share our planned dishes for the holiday again this year.

For most holidays, Nick and I typically eat appetizers around lunchtime and then spend the afternoon   enjoying ourselves, relaxing or playing games. We usually wait to eat our traditional meal until dinnertime, since my holiday menus always include a signature cocktail 🙂

Beverages

  • I like a light, fresh cocktail for spring, so this Easter my signature cocktail is the Cherry beer margarita.

Appetizers

Main course

  • In recent years we’ve dined on pork loin, lamb chops and prime rib, so to mix it up once again, for our main course this year we’ll be having a traditional Sweet and smokey Spanish style ham.

Sides

  • Nick and I love fennel, so this citrus, fennel and avocado salad sounded light and fresh.
  • We always love to have a small side of soup, which is usually asparagus soup or roasted tomato, so this year we’ll change it up and make Carrot leek soup.
  • I have a couple of leftover small new potatoes, so I plan to make these simple Baked new potatoes.
  • Deviled eggs (no recipe, just toss egg yolks with a teaspoon of mayo and a dash of mustard powder).

Nick and I dyed our eggs earlier this evening, so they are ready to be prepared Sunday morning!

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Dessert

  • Poundcake strawberry shortcake. Nick (our in-house baker prepared pound cake tonight), which we’ll slice and top with macerated strawberries and creme.

I also made some simple bird nest name cards with some natural Easter basket grass and faux eggs, which I wrote our names on with a gold Sharpie pen.

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We have a few more preparations to make, but I’m excited to celebrate the Easter holiday and the coming of Spring. Wishing you all a blessed and Happy Easter!

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