Friday, March 27, 2015

Strawberry Basil Chicken

Upon returning from Food Blog Forum, I did some thinking about the blog. The phrase, "Find a need, fill a need." was tossed around a few times during the conference and it made me wonder if my recipes were filling YOUR needs as readers. As much as I write this blog for me, it's important to me to provide some useful stuff for you, too!

Since wondering only goes so far, I asked some of you on Facebook to tell me what kinds of recipes you're looking for when you sit down at the computer and browse your favorite blogs and sites. {Gah, I love social media.}You know... recipes that you won't just "pin and forget." Here's what you told me:

- Recipes with few/easy to find ingredients
- Quick recipes
- Family-friendly options
- Make ahead meals
- Healthy recipes
- Recipes that help you overcome your fears of multi-step/advanced cooking

You sound like my kind of people!

I admit that sometimes I get carried away with inspiration and creativity, and I might post things that are fun to look at but unrealistic to make on a typical day. Those kinds of recipes won't ever be eliminated from the blog because I'm sure there are at least a few of you out there who love those kooky projects as much as I do from time to time! {No? Just me? Oh, ok.}

But, as much as I want to live on cookie-crusted, ooey-gooey, boozy things... I know we need to throw some fruits, veggies and lean proteins in there, too. Ugh, darn the responsible, grown up side of my brain.

So... I'm putting on my thinking cap and coming up with some of the best easy, minimal ingredient recipes just for you. And for me, too, because -- I'm not gonna lie -- this was one tasty dish.

Just because you're short on time and don't have a ton of expensive ingredients doesn't mean you can't make something that tastes really good. This is proof.

Turn simple chicken breast into a gratifying {even fancy!} dish. Who woulda thunk strawberry jam and chicken would make such a lovely pair? Served with a salad or some sautéed veggies, this is a dinner you can make any night of the week.

I'm hoping you'll find that this recipe "fills a need"... and your belly! Thanks for interacting with me and letting me know what you're looking for, and for stopping by to check out what's going on in my kitchen -- you keep me on my toes. Stay tuned for more quick and easy recipes coming your way!

Strawberry Basil Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
About 7 or 8 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
{Optional} Goat cheese, for sprinkling

1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Season chicken breasts with a sprinkle of salt on both sides and place in pan. Cook for about 5-6 minutes on one side or until a nice golden crust forms. Flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together strawberry jam, balsamic vinegar and water in a small bowl. When chicken is just about finished cooking, pour mixture over the top, nestling the chicken breasts into the sauce and scraping up brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

4. Reduce heat and bring sauce to a simmer, letting it bubble for 3 or 4 minutes or until it has reduced and thickened a bit. Stir in most of the basil {you may want to save a little for garnish}.

Remove chicken breasts from pan. Pour sauce over the top of each piece. Sprinkle with a little goat cheese if desired and garnish with remaining basil.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bacon & Kale Balsamic Turkey Burgers with Alexia Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries

I have a confession to make: Sometimes we eat burgers and fries for dinner. But it's not what you think.

Our schedule is probably a lot like yours. We're always rushing here or there to meetings, events, errands or family gatherings. It's constantly go, go, go. And it can be tempting to pick up something in a greasy paper bag to quiet growling stomachs at the end of a long day.

With a little bit of foresight and planning, putting a quick meal together at the end of the day is completely possible and not at all stressful.

One tip for making this possible is picking up some pre-made or quick cooking things to round out your meal. For ages, we have been totally smitten with Alexia Foods Frozen Sides. {Specifically their Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Fries. Oh my yum. The husband could take down a whole bag all by himself.} We appreciate the fact that they're creatively crafted with real ingredients, which is probably what makes them taste so darn good!

Keeping a bag of these {or one of their many tasty frozen sides} in the freezer is sort of like our version of "Break Glass in Case of Emergency". We don't eat them all the time, but they're sure nice to have around for those evenings when quick comfort food is all that will do.

Our version of "burgers and fries" is guilt-free and all natural. These "loaded" turkey burgers cover all the bases -- flavorful, satisfying and even filled with some greens! Wrapped with a big piece of Swiss chard or your favorite large leafy green, you get a double dose of veggies to even out the tiny bit of bacon that crept its way into this luscious burger. Caramelized onions and a splash of balsamic add a little extra something, too.

Served with a side of Alexia Waffle Cut Sweet Potato Fries {or Seasoned Waffle Cut Fries as pictured here}, you'll be glad you didn't pull up to the next window. It's the best version of "fast food" you can have!

Stay in the loop of Alexia's products and promotions by joining their Club 350 newsletter, or head over to their recipe page for more ideas!

Bacon & Kale Balsamic Turkey Burgers

1 bag Alexia Waffle Cut Fries
2-3 slices bacon
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cups finely chopped kale
2 tablespoons balsamic
2-3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
Pinch of salt
1 pound ground turkey meat
4-5 large leaves of Swiss chard or favorite large-leafed green, washed, dried & stemmed

1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a large baking pan with foil and bake fries as directed on package.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet {preferably non-stick} over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add bacon and cook until beginning to crisp up. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.

3. When the skillet begins to look a bit dry, deglaze the pan with balsamic and chicken broth or water. Add chopped kale and cook for about 2-3 more minutes until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

4. In a medium bowl, season turkey meat with a pinch of salt. Add cooled kale mixture. Gently incorporate throughout turkey meat; divide and shape into 4-5 patties.

5. In same skillet over medium-high heat, add a bit of olive oil or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place burgers in skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes on one side or until browned. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side or until burgers are cooked through. Remove from skillet and allow to rest.

**Don't forget your fries in the oven!**

For Assembly:

Place condiments & toppings on burger {tomatoes, sauces, etc.}. Place burger on top of Swiss chard leaf to create an edible wrapper.

Serve with Alexia Waffle Cut Fries!

Alexia Foods offers frozen potatoes, appetizers, breads and side dishes with minimal, but distinctive, real ingredients that serve-up exceptional taste. Alexia frozen sides are a delicious addition to a balanced meal with that little something extra and can be ready in 25 minutes—or less. Sign up for Alexia’s Club 350 newsletter for more great meal inspiration!

Alexia. Farm to Flavor.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alexia . The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Reasons Food Bloggers Should Attend Food Blog Forum

I had the distinct pleasure of attending my second Food Blog Forum a few weeks ago, and what an amazing time it was! My first FBF experience was 2 years ago, and I had such a great experience {as is evident from the 4-part recap I wrote} that I just knew I had to secure tickets again this time around {which is no easy feat -- they sell out in 2 seconds flat. Literally.}.

Fun fact: I missed out on the first round of tickets and wound up having to try to get them while I was in labor! I was huffing and puffing having contractions and also yelling at Steve to make sure he was in front of the computer exactly when they went on sale. That's dedication right there.

There are tons of reasons why food bloggers attend conferences. Think of them as "professional development" -- but way more fun! Now that I have several conferences under my belt, I can truly say that Food Blog Forum is a conference that's worth attending. Instead of recapping this year's experience in a 4-part series {because now I have a baby and zero time for such things}, I thought I'd share my top 5 reasons for specifically attending FBF!

1. The Food
Ok, so obviously there's going to be a lot of food at a conference for food bloggers. But, surprisingly, that doesn't mean it's always the best.

This year, they absolutely outdid themselves for our conference lunch. Though our sleeping accommodations were at The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the conference itself was held at The Contemporary Resort, which is conveniently just a monorail-ride away. For lunch, we were whisked up to the 15th floor to the Contemporary's California Grill where we were greeted with sweeping vistas {though, sadly, masked by the gloomy weather that day} and a dazzling array of bites created by some of Disney's best chefs.

They really went out of their way to spoil us. Each and every bite was delectable and gorgeous -- like little masterpieces on a plate. What more could you expect from one of the most magical places to visit?

Of course, holding the conference on Disney property means that there are other great dining opportunities that many attendees choose to take advantage of at the hotels, parks and surrounding areas. Steve and I didn't make any formal dining reservations, but we did nibble our way around the world at Epcot, which was lots of fun.

Some noshing at the Polynesian Resort.
On the last day of the conference, we had an amazing brunch at East End Market -- a "neighborhood market and cultural food hub." Not only did they make it entertaining, but the food... OH, the food! I was stuffed. Then again, that seems to be the theme of FBF!

2. The Friends
One of my favorite parts of attending conferences is getting to mingle with other bloggers. There are so many bloggers that I've admired from afar, and so many that I've become "friends" with via social media. It's a nice treat to be able to chat face-to-face with these talented people!

Photo Credit: Kasey's Kitchen
I loved catching up with Heather {Heather Likes Food}, Kasey{Kasey's Kitchen}, Jessica {My Baking Heart}, Katie {Katie's Cucina} and Tina {My Life as a Mrs.} -- most of whom I met at FBF 2 years ago. I also finally got to meet Jessica {from The Novice Chef, whose blog inspired ME to start a blog!} for the first time, and made new buddies when I ran into Becky {The Cookie Rookie} and Carla {Alyssa & Carla}. It's amazing how it feels like you've been friends with some people for ages when you start to chat.

And on that note, here's a tip: TALK TO PEOPLE. I generally can't shut myself up, so this isn't usually a problem for me, but I can't tell you how many times I've gone up to someone at a conference only to be greeted by averted eyes or awkward silence! I know a lot of times folks who are outgoing in writing are actually quite introverted in real life, and that's ok. But try to take advantage of the opportunity to connect with other people who understand what you do. You never know, you might make a good business contact or even a great friend!

3. The Fun
Oh my gosh, guys. I cannot tell you how much fun was had during this particular trip. The folks at Disney hooked us up with the most wonderful gift -- media fast passes. Or, as a cast member at the Grand Floridian called them, "Super Special Magical Fast Passes." What that meant was that we could walk up to any line at any park and automatically join the FastPass line, shaving HOURS of wait time off of each queue. There are no words. Disney VIPs.

A personalized "Magic Band" loaded with super special FastPasses.
One of the perks of attending FBF at Disney is the fantastic deal that is just too good to pass up -- a conference pass, event attendance, 4-day park hopper passes and a 3 night stay at the Grand Floridian for a minimal cost. Two years ago, I went as a single attendee meaning that I had to have a random roommate during the conference. {It wasn't so bad, I ended up with someone very nice!}

Oh, hi. I'm never leaving. K, thanks.
This year, I took advantage of the price to invite my family members along and we all shared a room. They also got the same park passes that I did, so they were able to play all weekend long, even while I was at the conference. It is so, so worth it.

My little guy got to take his very first trip to Disney! Thanks FBF!
4. The Favors
As in, party favors or "swag." Conference attendees leave room in their luggage for all the goodies that we receive from sponsors. And a lot of it is fantastic stuff! {::cough:: GooGoo Clusters!!}

You will leave with anything from pens, kitchen gadgets and USBs to quality ingredients and food products to manufacturer's coupons for free product. And if you're lucky, you might even win one of the giveaway prizes, which range from gift baskets of product to high end appliances! I never win anything, but this time I won a case of hummus from Sabra. YUM. Hummus party, anyone??

5. The Foundation

I know I've only talked about the frivolous parts of conference-going, but there are obvious professional benefits that come from attending as well. Learning from some of the pros in your field is a great way to lay the foundation for blog beginnings or make sure you're "on track" if you're already seasoned. Conferences are also a great place to get re-inspired!

Our sessions this year were chock-full of information -- from food photography to monetization strategies to managing and avoiding "blogger burnout". I know it probably seems like food blogging is a no-brainer, but I promise there are a lot of complexities involved, especially when it goes from hobby to business! It's nice to have other bloggers who have been successful share their tips and tricks.

There will be notes to take and plans to make, but try not to get bogged down by all the details. I like to jot down key points, but more importantly, take note of those "aha!" moments that pop into my thoughts while I'm listening. Heaven knows with all the info flying at my brain, I won't remember them later on!

So, yeah. If you get the chance {and are lucky enough to snag a ticket!}, go to FBF. It's a worthwhile investment for growing your craft and a great little getaway, too! A huge thanks to all those who put time and effort into making this an amazing weekend for all of us, and a standing ovation to Disney who never disappoints in making it a magical time!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Cheddar Bread

I don't know what it is about St. Patrick's Day. Every year, I plan all kinds of green/Irish-inspired/boozy recipes to share in the month of March. And every year the plans fall through/prove disastrous/I run out of time/I'm pregnant and too nauseous to cook {as was the case last year}, etc.

I guess the "luck of the Irish" is only reserved for the legit Irish folk!

This year hasn't been any different. The ideas were abundant, but the hours in the day were not.

So naturally, I baked bread.

I know what you're thinking: Homemade bread takes forever to make! And you'd be correct in some instances, what with proofing and kneading and all those other bread-baking steps.

But not this bread. Or any of the breads I usually bake, honestly. As much as I'd like to dedicate time and counter space to such projects, the reality of the situation is that I'm all about the last minute, easy-to-clean-up baking.

{I had to sneak a shamrock in there somewhere! ;)}

This bread only takes a few minutes of active prep time and the rest is relatively "inactive", leaving you a few hours to find something green to wear or enjoy a frothy Guinness or, you know, fold that load of laundry that you keep spinning in the dryer.

To give this bread an Irish twist, I added in some chunks of Isle of Man Cheddar that I found at Trader Joe's. It's a nice, aged cheddar with scallions and roasted onions speckled throughout for some extra savory goodness.

So, if you've never baked your own bread before but have always wanted to, I'd say this is a good time to try your luck!

Irish Cheddar Bread
Adapted from originally excerpted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes 2 loaves

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water {not too hot or it will kill the yeast}
1 packet yeast {2 1/4 teaspoons}
2 1/4 teaspoons sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Approximately 1 cup of your favorite Irish cheddar, cut into chunks or grated

1. In a large measuring cup with a spout or a bowl, combine water, sugar and yeast. Allow yeast to get frothy. {If the yeast doesn't begin to bubble after a few minutes, it may be old or dead. Make sure to check the expiration and use fresh yeast.}

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt and cheese until well-combined. Slowly pour in the liquid yeast mixture and mix until just combined and there are no more dry patches.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, dark place for about 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

{Go do something fun!}

4. Once the dough has doubled, scoop it out onto a well-floured surface and divide into two equal halves. Smooth out each piece by stretching the dough around the ball and tucking it underneath until you have a firm ball. Place each ball onto a liberally floured pan or baking stone and set aside to rise for another 40 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450. Place an empty baking or roasted pan on the top rack and leave space on the lowest rack for the bread pan.

6. When the loaves have risen the second time, dust each with a good dusting of flour and either slash the tops or use a stencil to create a design on each loaf if desired.

7. Just before putting bread in the oven, pour a few cups of water into the empty baking or roasting pan. Quickly put the bread on the bottom rack and bake for about 25-28 minutes or until the tops are browned and firm.

Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit before slicing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Hi guys! I'm back from trip to Disney for Food Blog Forum -- what a fantastic weekend! While I work on my recap post, I've got a great recipe for you over at The Cradle Coach's blog today!

Melissa's invitation to share my experiences with balancing blog and baby came at a time when I wasn't even sure how to get by from day to day! Three months later, I'm finally feeling like I'm getting the hang of things {whatever that means!}, and I'm sharing a little bit about my journey in hopes that it'll be helpful to other new moms, too.

Head over to the post to see my tips and to get the recipe for these easy Mediterranean Turkey Stuffed Peppers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whole Foods Market West Palm Beach!

Raise your hand if you get a little too excited about grocery shopping! ::: arm flails about over head :::

I'm not gonna lie, I am a bit of a shallow shopper. I am far more likely to make purchases when things are aesthetically pleasing and organized. Since a trip to the grocery store alone is like a mini-vacation these days, I appreciate a well-appointed store that also carries everything I need {and more!}.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I was invited to take sneak peek at the brand new Whole Foods that is opening TODAY in West Palm Beach. As it is, I can easily get lost in any Whole Foods wandering the aisles and discovering new products. But this store has really gone above and beyond with its fun features and offerings!

First of all, let's start with the obvious: The store is gorgeous. Inspired by Palm Beach's chic style, the store has pops of bright color {hello, pink espresso machine!} and modern patterns throughout its 42,000 square foot facility. Little hints of Lilly-esque motifs and clever designs, and cool, contemporary signage can be found around every corner.

But it's not just the look that impresses. Whole Foods West Palm Beach has its very own special touches to draw in crowds seeking everything from premium charcuterie to local brews.

Here are a few of my favorite unique features that make this store worth visiting:

1. The Coffee & Juice Bar. Whether you get your morning jolt from hot coffee, fresh squeezed juice or a vitamin-filled smoothie, the coffee and juice bar at this new location is well-stocked in whatever you sip. Buy a reusable coffee cup {or bring your own from home} and get coffee refills for just $1. Good deals for good deeds!

2. Palm Rotisserie. Need a tender, roasted chicken for an easy dinner? Want to impress company with a fancy board of sliced-to-order charcuterie? Looking for a quick bite to eat for lunch... like Moroccan lamb sausage with French fries? They've got you covered at Palm Rotisserie. Not sure what you want? No problem. The knowledgeable staff will lead you in the right direction whether that means recommending the Rotisserie Porchetta Sandwich or letting you sample the salami cotto.

3. La Creperie. Cue the concertina; we've got a little taste of France right here in Florida. Made-to-order crepes hot off the griddle will have you channeling your inner Parisian. Both sweet and savory crepes will be served up daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And, for Pierre's sake, try the chocolate hazelnut crepe. Mmm.....

4.  The Bakery. I mean, it's pretty clear that no one has to twist my arm to step foot in any bakery... but this one has some stand out features like scratch made desserts, bread baked fresh daily in their ceramic tile ovens and oodles of gluten-free & vegan options for special diets. My favorite feature? The bakery imports authentic Cuban desserts from Versailles Restaurant in Miami. Get yourself some Tres Leches, stat.

5. The Bulk Bins. Ok, so every store has one of these sections. But in this store, you can also stock up on grind-your-own nut butters and local honey. So worth the buzz. {Ha, see what I did there?}

6. Palm Beach Brews. If there was one feature that made my heart go pitter-pat, this would have to be it: The beer and grilled cheese bar. YOU HEARD ME RIGHT, FOLKS. Local brews on tap. Ooey, gooey gourmet sandwiches. It's a match made in heaven.

You guys, there is just so much good stuff at this new location that you have to go check it out yourself to fully appreciate it all. You won't want to miss out on all the grand opening deals and special events including a gift card giveaway for the first 500 customers in line {win anywhere from $5 to $50 or a grand prize of $500 for one lucky shopper!}.

I love Whole Foods' mission to promote eco-friendly, sustainable, healthy and philanthropic living. Getting to fill my fridge at this stunning location? It's the cherry on top! Welcome to the neighborhood, Whole Foods West Palm Beach!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Scones

My child has apparently inherited one of my worst characteristics: An inability to nap in the daytime hours. Poor baby. But mostly, poor mama.

Most days I can squeeze a few 30 minute snoozes out of him, which is nice and all... but how many tasks can you complete in 30 minute spurts? Give it a try if you're looking for a delightful challenge.

It is seriously by the grace of God that I accomplish anything at all during the day, because 3 month olds aren't able to entertain themselves just yet. So, I've discovered a talent for what I'll call "singing narration" in which I musically narrate just about everything I'm doing so that I can get something done and entertain this baby at the same time.

"Mama is washing her haiiiiiiir with cheeeeeap shampooooo!"

"Let me shaaaaaaaaaave my left leg now, babyyyyyy! Otherwise I will be forced to wear paaaants!"

"We're maaaaaking daddy dinner so he doesn't staaaaarve!"

It's a whole lot of fun, really. If "fun" is defined by the urge to gouge your eardrums out at the sound of your own voice.

My life has turned into the worst musical you've ever seen.

When I'm not at home singing myself into a frenzy and I actually have a few minutes to get out and do something alone, I sometimes notice that I'm starving on my way out the door. And, because my time is limited, sometimes I just need to grab something to hold myself over so I can run a few errands and get back to Life with An Infant: The Musical.

These Stonyfield Organic Protein Smoothies have been lifesavers more times than I care to admit! I can grab one from the fridge, drink it in the car and save myself from having a hunger-fueled meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. Because you know what happens when you don't? You buy anything on an endcap, in the checkout line or on a well-placed display. Or you almost cry when the 16 year old cashier asks you for your ID for the wine you're buying and you realize you don't have it with you. {Not that that happened to me last week or anything.} I'm way less emotionally stable when my stomach is growling.

Anyway, these little protein smoothies are quite handy. And they also make the perfect liquid component for scones. Because buttermilk, shmuttermilk! Who has time to run out for silly ingredients that can be easily substituted?? Not this singing nitwit.

It was purely by chance that I discovered that the same protein smoothies I love for a quick boost can be used for these tender treats. It was a good discovery.

My husband, who generally tries to maintain a gluten-free diet and is normally not interested by baked goods, pretty much polished off the entire tray of these by himself. They're that tasty.

So maaaaake these todaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Oops, sorry. Force of habit. :P

Disclosure:  I have an ongoing partnership with Stonyfield as a member of their Clean Plate Club and received this product for review. As always, the opinions here are all my own!

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Scones

2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup Stonyfield Vanilla Protein Smoothie, plus extra for brushing
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped strawberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl {or in the bowl of a stand mixer or a blender}, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

3. Add cold butter to dry ingredients. The goal is to incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles wet sand. There should be small pieces of butter distributed throughout the mixture. You can accomplish this by hand with a pastry cutter, by beating in the butter in your stand mixer, or by pulsing in the blender or food processor. It's up to you!

4. In a small bowl {or a measuring cup with a spout} stir together Vanilla Protein Smoothie and vanilla bean paste or extract. Pour into dry mixture and stir together just until a firm dough forms. Try not to overmix. Add strawberries and fold in gently.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat into a square, approximately 8 x 8 inches. {It doesn't have to be perfect!} Cut the square in half to form 2 long rectangles.

6. Beginning at the top of one rectangle, cut a diagonal slice to form a triangular scone. Continue to cut down the rectangle. You should be able to get about 8 scones from each rectangle. {16 total} You can also use a biscuit cutter or cut into whatever shape you'd like.

7. Place scones on prepared baking sheet and brush each one with yogurt, then sprinkle with granulated sugar or sanding sugar. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden on top.