"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Her Mother's Daughter: Lemon Butter Prawns, Cheesy Pasta, And Heirloom Tomato Salad

As the saying goes: "The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree!" Tonight, I have come to the realization that this saying is so true in my household. My 11-year-old daughter asked that she "design" and help make dinner tonight. She said that I deserved a "night off" and should relax! I am truly blessed to have the most thoughtful little chef as my daughter.  Her meal of choice: (1) Cheese Elbow Macaroni Pasta, (2) Sautee Prawns, and (2) Heirloom Tomato and Mixed Greens Salad. The meal was absolutely delicious. The boys said "great job, you should open up a restaurant and serve this every night!" My picky 5-year-old even asked if he could eat all the shrimp. I was speechless!

In case you and your little ones are interested in replicating this delicious meal, here is a rough recipe -- as designed by my baby girl!

Cheesy Macaroni Pasta:

Elbow Macaroni (I had a bag of Quinoa and Rice Elbow Pasta, which is healthier and simply yummy, according to the kids).

Cook pasta in boiling water, according to package (or for about 7-10 minutes until al dente).  Drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Season the pasta with salt, fresh ground pepper, a little bit of butter and olive oil, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Lemon Butter Sauteed Prawns (you may need to help with this one a bit):

Fresh jumbo prawns (deveined and cleaned). Chopped Shallots (about one small shallot).  Unsalted Butter.  Extra virgin olive oil. Lemon zest (about 1 teaspoon) and lemon juice (about 1 table spoon). Dry white wine (about 1/2 cup).

Season the Prawns with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Heat some butter and extra virgin olive oil. Add the shallots and sautee. Add the prawns and sautee until pink (turning half way through to cook both sides). Then, add the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir and remove from heat. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper (if needed). Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Heirloom Tomato/Mixed Green Salad

(your little one can make it all by himself/herself - help with the slicing):

Fresh mixed greens (cleaned). Heirloom tomatoes (sliced). Feta cheese. 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon). 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the mixed greens on a plate.  Add the tomatoes. Then, season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice on top. Drizzle the olive oil. Add the feta cheese. No heavy dressing, just natural and clean flavors, and easy enough for your youngest little chef. Voila!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Honey Baked Chicken with Apricots and Olives

Today's post is about those weeknight, make-ahead dinners! As you know, I love food. I love delicious food. I love to create savory and memorable food. And, when I am able to create delicious dishes during the week while spending time with my family or taking care of the things that need to get done on those school/work nights, I am beyond grateful.

As a working mom, it's a constant challenge balancing work demands and making sure my family eats healthy everyday. So, I am constantly trying to think of ways to prepare make-ahead meals that don't require me spending hours in the kitchen (although, the kitchen is one of my favorite places in the house), but that my whole family can enjoy. Sundays are usually my "planning" day when I think of what dishes I can make during the week (or prepare ahead of time and finish up when I get home from work).

Tonight, I made a chicken dish that is beyond delicious! And, the best part is: It was very low maintenance. I call it "Honey Baked Chicken with Apricots and Olives"

Here is a rough recipe that I came up with yesterday:

Chicken thighs (8-10 pieces, bone-in, skin-on)
Fresh cilantro (chopped, about 2 Tablespoons)
Fresh  Italian Parsley (chopped, about 2 Tablespoons)
Fresh green onions (chopped, about 1 Tablespoon)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 lemon (juice of 1/2 of the lemon squeezed into a large bowl, remainder sliced)
1 Tablespoon of honey
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
Pinch of sweet paprika
1/2 cup of dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried raisins
1/2 cup of green olives 
1/2 cup of white wine
2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Rinse the chicken under lukewarm water and lay flat on a baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. 

In the large bowl with the lemon juice, add the honey, fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, green onions),  garlic, honey, onion powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, cumin, and paprika, and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. 

Add the chicken pieces, and coat the chicken well with the herb mixture. Put the chicken and the mixture in a large ziploc bag, and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours). This allows the marinade to penetrate the chicken pieces and enhance the flavor. 

When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces (skin sides up) in a large baking dish (Pyrex or ceramic works well). Add the juices and herbs from the ziploc bag (discard the lemon pieces). Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes (or until you have a nice even brown color on the skins of the chicken pieces).  Take the baking dish out if the oven. 

Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Sprinkle the apricots, raisins, and olives around the chicken pieces. Add the wine over the chicken. Continue baking for about 45 minutes (enough time to check the kids' homework,  help them with their baths, or soak in a bubble bath yourself). 

Remove the chicken from the oven. You should have a dish of beautifully browned chicken with flavors that are about to explode in your mouth.  Serve the chicken with steamed rice (if you like) and your favorite vegetables. Depending on how many chicken thighs you made, you should have some leftovers for at least another dinner during the week. 

I hope you have wonderful (reduced stress) week.  Until next time . . . Cheers!