Lazy Shish Taouk Bites

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

I’ve only had two jobs in my life that were so unbearably horrible that I hate to think back on. The first was when I was sixteen — I worked at one of those tutoring centers in the San Fernando Valley. Not the good kind, where parents send their over ambitious children to get ahead… it was the opposite, where lazy parents sent their rowdy, manner-less kids to terrorize sixteen-year olds, like me. I lasted three months — and when I gave my four weeks’ notice, my manager took me outside and gave me this incredible look, and scolded me for not giving her enough notice. She was terrible.

The other was my first real-life job after graduation, when I was twenty-two. I was working for an agency selling Xerox machines, six months after the big recession hit in 2008. It. was. terrible.

It was one of those work environments that was really responsible for giving sales people a bad name. The managers preyed on their employees’ profits, the company tried to sell products that were clearly terrible, and literally every person in that office spent a good deal of time applying to other jobs. Anything. I was even interviewing at restaurants all over Los Angeles, and striking out, partially because I had left restaurant work already, for a desk job. What they didn’t understand was that I would have gladly gone back to a job that I really loved — waiting tables — to escape the terrors something I hated and just wasn’t cut out for.

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

Anyway, the three months I spent at Xerox weren’t a complete loss — I became friends with someone I’m still friends with today. In fact, she came to visit DC once (and we frolicked around Dupont Circle with Kristen in leotards) and we even traveled to Bogotá together. And when we were both incredibly miserable at Xerox, we would drive off to our sales territories together, do the minimum required to make a few sales/not get fired, and spend the rest of our time applying to jobs. A regular lunch spot there was a little Mediterranean sandwich shop which has since shut down — but I became friends with the owners, who were very Lebanese, so I got to exchange a little Arabic banter and enjoy their amazing Lebanese sandwiches.

I’ve since gone back to Monrovia, hunting for that shop, and that’s how I know it’s now gone. And I’ve been hunting for similar shops that mimic that impeccable flavor, but have really just failed.

So when Food 52 published a recipe for shish taouk, I couldn’t help but try it. And while I almost always turn to F52 as a cooking resource, this recipe was just a tad complicated and involved for me to carry out fully. So I broke it down, and simplified it into a meal that I could quickly throw together after a long day at work or a rough spin class at the gym.

And, being an apartment-dweller without a grill, I’m limited to a cast iron skillet and a George Foreman… so I opted for the latter.

shish taouk // sweetsonian

shish taouk // sweetsonian

Lazy shish taouk bites with whipped garlic and Greek yogurt, adapted from Food 52  Continue reading “Lazy Shish Taouk Bites”

Easy as Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

The last time I was in New York, it was frigid. We spent our Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn — I spent more money than necessary on handmade jewelry at Artists and Fleas (quite possibly my favorite place on the earth), and after wandering to the waterfront for pretty photos of Manhattan and strolling around Brooklyn in the Nordic-temperature shade, we stumbled into a little cash-only joint named Juniper.

It smelled delicious, and had a space heater at the door. And right as we walked in, we eyed a giant bowl of mac and cheese that had just arrived at a nearby table. We salivated. So, we stayed.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

For being a restaurant with maaaaybe 6 tables, it took an unnecessarily long time to get our diet cokes and later, the check, but the comfort food was pretty amazing. I had the chicken pot pie, which I instagrammed and later dreamed of. After a few bites, I looked up at Shaeda and said, “We have to make this.”

She agreed.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

It seemed to be no coincidence that both Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living featured chicken pot pie recipes. It’s like their editors knew that we’d all be facing a brutal winter this year. In the past two months, I’ve seen more snow than I’ve seen in the three years it’s been since Snowmageddon. It’s lovely, but I do find myself checking flight prices to Miami every other day.

So today, I was determined to make this. I found the adorable mini saucepans at the TJ Maxx downtown (score! Similar ones here) and came up with a simple, but comforting recipe for chicken pot pie. Most recipes called for potatoes, and some for cream, but y’all know about my attempts to stay on track with some form of a healthy diet. I was surprised to realize that chicken pot pies don’t actually need much, other than chicken, vegetables, butter and puff pastry. It’s high in flavor, low in guilt. I’m okay with that.

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

chicken pot pie // sweetsonian

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup carrots, sliced into coins
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • About 3/4 lbs. chicken, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 or 3 cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallot and onions. Once the onions start to brown (maybe after 3-4 minutes), add the carrots, celery, and chicken. When the chicken starts to brown and burnt bits start to collect at the bottom of the pan, stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour.
  3. Add the chicken broth, and a pinch or two each of salt and pepper. Also add the spinach and stir, letting the stew simmer and thicken.
  4. Transfer your stew to two oven-safe bowls, dividing evenly. When I made this, I placed my puff pastry directly on top of the bowls. The puff pastry didn’t rise as high as it normally would, which I believe had something to do with the dough touching the stew directly — so on my next batch, I cooked the puff pastry on a baking sheet separately, and then placed the cooked puff pastry on the stew afterwards.
  5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until the puff pastry has risen and turns a golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Chicken Marsala + a Birthday Giveaway!

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Today, reader, I’m 26.

Hitting the second half of my twenties, unlike all of the previous birthdays, has me thinking about the next five years more than anything. The big 3-0 used to be something that you’d see twenty-somethings dreading. But not this girl.

When I was younger, I noticed a recurring theme on sitcoms and in dreaded sentiments from older people on birthdays — people complaining about age. And once, on my dad’s birthday, I asked him if he hated getting older, too.

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His response was different. He told me that age was an accomplishment. And we should be proud of every year we live.

It was a great shift from the general “I hate birthdays” and “oh no, wrinkles” grumbles. Or the classic response from teachers and relatives when I’d talk about the excitement of getting older and growing up: “Oh, honey, you’ll get over that. That will change.”

Nope, I still get excited about birthdays. And you know what? The years only get better and better. Each and every year, each and every candle makes me happy about the life I live, the people I love, and amazing world I wake up to every morning.

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Today, I’m celebrating my birthday by setting up a giveaway for you! I’ve been pretty obsessed with Knork flatware for the past two years — my former roommate and amazing friend Kristen introduced me to the brand when she first moved into her own apartment. And since then, I knew that I would want a set for myself when I moved into my own place.

The Knork concept that I love is that just one utensil blends the function of a knife and a fork into one beautiful design. My own mother taught me to cut food with the edge of a fork, so I’ve been doing this for years, but Knork takes it to the next level — the edges of the forks are beveled, making it easier to cut your food. They have finishes in both glossy and matte brushed silver (if they ever get a line of gold flatware, I’ll be first in line).

I’ve already had people over for dinner parties and explained the brilliance of the flatware to my friends. The general reaction is “but isn’t that dangerous? Will I cut myself on the edge of the fork?”

Come on, friends. They’re not that sharp — if you’re dining on a hearty steak, then you’ll probably need a knife, too. But the Knorks were exactly what I needed to enjoy this plate of chicken marsala.

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So, like the communications professional I am, I stalked them online and got in contact with their communications team — and Knork will be sponsoring a 20-piece flatware set for the winner of this contest!

To enter, check out Knork’s pretty flatware selections on Knork.net, and leave a comment below — be sure to let me know which finish (matte or shiny) of the flatware you’d be interested in!

One week from today, I’ll use a random generator to select a winner — and we’ll get in contact so I can forward your information to the folks at Knork, who will promptly send your flatware set!

I honestly can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday with you via Sweetsonian. Good luck!

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Chicken Marsala for two

2 cups chicken broth
1 shallot, minced
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced
A few sprigs of fresh sage, leaves julienned
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 thin-sliced chicken breast halves (or two breasts pounded thin with a hammer)
3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Juice from 1 lemon

In a small saucepan, bring your chicken broth to a boil. Let it reduce to about half it’s original volume.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and melt about 3 tablespoons of the butter. Then, saute the minced shallot until brown — this should take just a minute or two. Add mushrooms, and sprinkle with sage, salt, and pepper for seasoning. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, letting the mushrooms sweat a bit to give some liquid to the pan. It should take about 10 minutes for the mushrooms to brown. Once they do, transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and set aside.

Pat the chicken breasts dry, season with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour. You don’t need a lot of flour — just a light coating is sufficient. Heat a tablespoon of butter in the skillet, and saute the chicken. Do not crowd the pan, or else the chicken will not brown. Flip the chicken once, when it turns golden and is clear that it’s cooked halfway through. Repeat with each side and each slice of chicken.

Once cooked, remove each slice of chicken and set aside.

Then, add about 1/2 cup of the Marsala wine to the skillet and bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Then, add your broth, mushrooms, shallots, and heavy cream. Stir occasionally and let the broth thicken a little — it should only take a few minutes. Then, stir in the remainder of the wine, and a few squeezes of juice from a lemon.

Plate your chicken, and generously top with your mushrooms and marsala sauce. Garnish with remaining sage.

Chicken Adobo

The pictures really say it all — Filipino comfort food, which iFlipforFood, a fellow food blogger in Washington (but soon to be Los Angeles) got me going on.  Can’t write now, must rush off.  Will be back with baked surprises soon.



WHAT YOU NEED:

2 to 3 chicken breasts (my mom always used a whole chicken, skin and all… this is my healthier remix)
1 onion
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of a neutral oil (I use vegetable oil)
a few bay leaves
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup of a white vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
fresh black pepper
steamed rice (to serve with)

WHAT TO DO:

First, heat the oil with the garlic and onions in a medium-sized saucepan.  Once hot, place the chicken in the pan — let each side cook for 1 to 2 minutes on high, allowing the surface to brown.  Then, remove the chicken and set aside.

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, and pepper in the saucepan over low heat.  Once the sauces start to simmer (and consequently deglaze the marks left by your searing chicken), place the chicken back into the pan, and cover.  Let it simmer for ten to fifteen minutes — and about half way through, stir the chicken around.  You want it to soak up all the tastes from this surprisingly amazing combination of flavors.

Creamy Spinach Vodka Sauce and Sautéed Chicken

I spent the past few days at the beach — happily so, since Washington has proven unable to supply weather suitable to foster my addiction to running (see previous beach running entry here).  It was beautiful, active, and as expected, it brought back my memories of growing up in sunny Southern California.  It’s funny, really — I truly believe I’m a rare breed of the East coast girl who accidentally grew up surrounded by the beach bum culture that California breeds.  I wouldn’t have my upbringing any other way —  I lived on the beach for a couple of wonderful years.  Sometimes I catch myself feeling out of place, particularly in the deep south or more commonly in Virginia, but I remember the weather and the politics and the history and the creativity that oozes out of every street corner on this coast, and then I feel at home.  And I remember that I found myself, and my ability to channel my own creativity through writing and food, upon moving to this coast.
The beach, naturally, reminds me of living in Santa Barbara.  For a year, my dorm friends and I ate dorm food and wore bikinis to class and ran to the goleta pier on a daily basis.  We had family dinners at a round table surrounded by glass windows as the sun set across campus, and we smuggled nalgene bottles filled with cranberry juice and backpacks stuffed to the brim with fruit for snacks the following day.  And then we finished our first year, and some moved into houses and apartments on the oceanside cliffs of Isla Vista, and our family dinners continued, oftentimes evolving into family brunches — the key factors included good food, music, and company.  And then I left that beachside paradise for a university that was closer to home and better for my interests and degree, but I found myself returning to those same friends, for family dinners and brunches (in different houses), where my transition to adult life began.  Point being, I am writing this under a beach umbrella from my iPhone; the setting, as unsatisfying as it is compared to my Isla Vista beach, makes me remember how wonderful UCSB appealed to my senses. Even a small, smelly, overpopulated beach can make me feel slightly closer to what I called home for decades.
I don’t mean to offend any East Coasters, but the beaches just don’t compare. It’s like comparing plain, canned tomatoes to a homemade mushroom and spinach vodka reduction, poured over freshly browned organic chicken breast slices. I may be an East coast girl these days, but I will always be a Gaucho at heart. Well, I’m a Bruin for athletics and academics, but for natural aesthetics and appreciation for small communities, I revert to my Gaucho past. But I guess what this weekend came down to is the fact that I’m just a beach snob.

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 chicken breasts, sliced into tenders
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized onion
2 to 3 cups fresh spinach (or mushrooms, both work wonders)
1 cup tomatoes (I used small heirlooms from my garden)
3/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
WHAT TO DO:
First, slice the chicken breasts into tenders, about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Pat them dry with paper towels (wet chicken tends not to brown). Heat a skillet over a low flame and sautee the garlic and onions. Add the chicken tenders, and let them cook until browned on both sides. If you are having trouble browning the chicken, brush a little bit of all-purpose flour on each slice, which will encourage better browning. After the chicken is finished, remove from the skillet and cover.
With the garlic and onions still in the skillet, dice or slice the tomatoes according to your preference and add them to the other ingredients. If you are using mushrooms, add them now. If you use spinach, let the tomatoes cook down for about 10 minutes. Then, add the vodka and let simmer for another minute or so. Then, add the spinach, stirring until it collapses. Drizzle olive oil if necessary. When the sauce forms a nice texture, remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Serve over chicken, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Feta Artichoke SDT Stuffed Chicken

It’s true, I’m infatuated with the combination of home made pesto and feta cheese. Considering this is my second savory post has both those ingredients, you’ll probably see this combination come up again relatively soon (I can assure you of this, since I already have my next non-dessert recipe planned).
Maybe I’m just on a pesto-feta kick. Maybe not. The “kick” has lasted at least four years. Anyway, normally I include sun-dried tomatoes in the chicken, but a friend came over for dinner, so I thought I’d mix it up and relocate the sun-dried tomatoes into couscous as a side dish. Note to self: experiment when you are not cooking for anyone else… especially friends donating their photography skills, like the one that joined me for dinner that night.
Not that the couscous wasn’t enjoyable… it was okay. I’ve adjusted the recipe to include almonds, pine nuts, basil, and oregano. Will post later. These pictures really focus on the couscous, but the meal was all about the chicken. Use your imagination to understand how awesome the stuffed chicken is–It blew my photographer’s mind (in his words, anyway).

WHAT YOU NEED:
Preheated oven to 350 degrees
Appox. 8-inch baking dish
2 breasts of chicken
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3-4 artichoke hearts (either soaked in water or oil, both work well)
2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine of choice
salt and pepper to taste
WHAT TO DO:
First, chop the artichoke hearts into small chunks, maybe a quarter of an inch big. Then, dice the sun-dried tomatoes into similar pieces. Combine the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, pesto, feta, mozzarella, and olive oil in a regular-sized serving bowl, and toss thoroughly. I prefer to just use my hands to mix this–it’s easier. Just make sure your hands are clean.
Then, carefully make an incision into the side of the chicken breasts, parallel to the cutting board, and slice open a pocket as large as you can without piercing the other sides of the meat. Fill each breast with as much of the stuffing as you can, and press down to seal. Place both in your baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, pesto, salt, and pepper, and then baste in the white wine for flavor and moisture. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until the juices run clear. For decoration, pull the dish out 5-10 minutes before it is ready, and sprinkle some leftover artichoke-pesto-feta mix on top of each, and let it bake for the remaining time.