Orange Balsamic Roast Chicken

Do you ever get home from work and you’re so tired but so hungry and you want to eat something delicious but don’t want to spend a ton of time in front of the stove? Of course you do. Because I feel that way all the time. I’ve been so bad at going grocery shopping once a week, so that means when it comes to dinner I’m either left to my own devices and forced to eat chips or I have to schlep to the grocery store (at RUSH HOUR OMG) and figure out what’s cooking.

Did this entry just turn into a rant? I totally didn’t mean for that to happen. Oops.

Anyway, the bottom line is that we all want (and, let’s be honest, deserve) to eat a delicious home cooked meal that doesn’t take endless amounts of time or energy to get on the plate. Right? Right. Well, I just might have the answer. Maybe. Ok, I do.

Orange balsamic roast chicken.

Imma let that marinate with you for a bit…Ok, good to go? Good.

This recipe calls for four ingredients (HOLY MOSES!) and takes about 20 to 25 minutes to make. It’s easy peasy and you could probably be half asleep and still pull this off. This recipe uses skin-on (no groaning! The skin gets so crispy and delicious) halved chicken legs. I know, I’m not the biggest fan of dark meat but this might have converted me. The dark meat gets coated in a tangy orange and sweetly bitter (not bitter sweet, ha) balsamic vinegar. Steam some broccoli and cook up some rice while this is roasting in the oven, and you’ve got yourself a pretty gourmet dinner. That’s so gourmet, bro.

Orange Balsamic Roast Chicken

  • 4 skin-on chicken legs
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and heat olive oil in cast iron or oven-safe skillet. Season chicken legs with salt and pepper. OnceĀ  skillet and oil is hot, place the chicken legs skin side down and cook for about 7 minutes or until the skin is golden brown. Meanwhile, cut one orange into wedges and the other in half.

2. Remove chicken from skillet and discard the fat. Place chicken, uncooked side down, back in the skillet with the orange wedges. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through.

3. Remove chicken from the skillet again. Place skillet with oranges and balsamic vinegar on medium heat. Squeeze the juice from the halved oranges. Stir sauce and scrape up any browned bits for about 2 minutes then add butter until melted. Place chicken back in pan to coat.

Penne Arrabiatta with Bacon

For a minute I completely forgot it’s the beginning of March and spring is not quite here. The weather this weekend played a total trick on me and got me excited for stripey dresses and relaxing in the park. Not only was I tricked, but freaking mother nature tricked itself. My parents’ front yard had a few lilies sprouting out of the ground. You have lilies chillin’ in your front yard, what?

But, then, the weekend was over and we were plagued with nasty weather. So long, stripey dresses. Smell ya later, lilies. The quick change from beautiful sunshine to gloomy rain made me want to wear leggings as pants and watch reruns of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Rachel Zoe Project (love you, Bravo). The perfect addition to this lazy equation would be some no-fuss comfort food. Perhaps penne arrabiatta with bacon?

Penne arrabiata is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s spicy yet sweet and one of my favorite comfort foods. Plus, you can impress all your friends (or cat) with this simple homemade sauce. Yes, you read right. You’re making your own sauce. I’ve been a pasta fiend for the majority of my life and I never saw the point in making sauce. You can get it out a jar, why buy it? Trust me. This is so easy and doesn’t require hours of simmering. There are chunks of tomatoes, zesty garlic, sweet basil, and large pieces of bacon dancing around in this spicy sauce. If you need a little more substance to your dish, toss a sausage in the oven and let it roast while you’re making your pasta. This is lazy evening cooking, why make it more difficult than you need to?

Penne Arrabiatta with Bacon

  • 1/2 lb of dried penne pasta (half a box, use a full box if you’re serving more than 2)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large basil leaf, torn
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • 4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Cook bacon in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook penne pasta until al dente. Strain cooked pasta and add a teaspoon or so of butter to coat (optional), set aside.

2. While your pasta and bacon are cooking, heat about a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy bottom pan. Cook minced garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add torn basil leaves and stir a little. Add the can of chopped tomatoes, chilli flakes, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. Chop cooked bacon and add to the sauce. Toss cooked pasta to the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Staycation Part 1: California’s Central Coast

I took advantage of the three-day weekend during President’s holiday and met my BFF Kate on California’s Central Coast. It had been a while since we had seen each other and decided the easiest remedy would be to meet somewhere near the middle. And it certainly worked well considering I’ve neglected to spend much time on the Central Coast. Here are some snapshots of how we spent the weekend.

First up was Hearst Castle, a staple in California history and culture. This was my first time visiting this sprawling manor and I can’t wait to plan my second trip. There’s so much see and we were lucky to visit on such a beautiful day.

We took the Grand Rooms tour, which was recommended for first time visitors. We viewed the formal living room, dining room, billiards room, and the movie theater. Each room was filled with impressive art, relics, and tapestries from Europe.

After the tour you’re free to roam the grounds for as long as you want. We of course checked out the Neptune Pool first and imagined what an epic pool party we could throw. I’m thinking something with a Grecian theme.

Then there’s the indoor Azure Pool. You know, for days when you just want to get a quick lap around the pool in.

As you can see, I got a bit snap-happy at the Castle. More to come from my Central Coast visit soon.

My Take on Traditional English Scones

I love a good, hearty weekend breakfast. Fried, hashed and browned, and swimming in syrup. Don’t forget the butter. But on lazy days where I don’t need to consume a day’s worth of calories in one meal, I like to take it easy and enjoy something simple. This weekend was one of those weekends. Enter the scone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a red-blooded American girl and I love our crazy triangle breads we call scones. But there’s something about traditional English scones that make me want to live in an eternal tea party with the Queen of England.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the funds or time to fly off to London to get my scone fix, so I tried my hand at making them from scratch. These scones may look similar to biscuits but are completely different in taste. Where biscuits are flaky, scones are tender and crumbly and slightly sweet. Top with jam and cream while still warm, the perfect compliment to a cup of tea.

Scones

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs butter, cold
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl and mix. Incorporate the butter with your hands until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and milk. Mix until a dough forms.

3. Kneed the dough on a floured surface. Roll out to about 1 to 1 1/2 inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (or a drinking glass), cut out the scones and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until barely golden. Let cool for a couple of minutes. Serve with your favorite jam and clotted cream*.

*If you’re lucky enough to have access to clotted cream send me some! No, I’m kidding, but you’re lucky. To make a substitute, mix about a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream on high until medium peaks form. It doesn’t hold a candle to clotted cream, but it’ll suffice for me.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Sliders with Crispy Shallots

I don’t have to tell you what great American holiday just happened this past weekend. And I also don’t have to tell you how much I stuffed my face with snacks and brews. But, I do have to tell you how freaking awesome these sliders are. Ooh, doggie. First, I have to get a few things off my chest. Numero uno, I’m not a big football fan. Granted, I did go to a university where football was a religion and I will root for my hometown team from time to time, but I just don’t have the attention span for football. That’s why I watch it once a year. And the best part is that since my team usually doesn’t make it through the play-offs (boohoo, Chargers) I can just enjoy the game without any emotional investments. Except for when the football players get sassy with one another and dance and make hand gestures. I’m looking at you, dude who conducted the invisible orchestra. You get an extra slider.

Confession number two, I don’t eat red meat. What?! Shocking, considering this is my first recipe containing beef. Though I’ve never been a big beef eater, I have been known to indulge from time to time and what better time to indulge in the all-American meat than during the Super Bowl? Right? Right.

Well, If I’m going to eat a cow I’m going to do it my way and that’s with lots of blue cheese, bacon, and some fried up shallots. Did I mention this isn’t light eating? Oh, and we’re going to slather the buns in a horseradish mayonnaise. TOUCHDOWN! The flavors in these little sliders are big. The beef is mixed with minced garlic and thyme and super juicy. The blue cheese is tangy at first but reeled back in with the smokiness of the bacon. Then we have extra crispy shallots for a nice crunch. Perfect party food for various sport celebrations or just for a low key and easy dinner.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Sliders with Crispy Shallots

Makes about 20 sliders

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 shallots
  • Canola oil
  • Flour
  • 8 strips bacon, fried or baked in the oven
  • 20 small buns (such as King’s Hawaiian rolls)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbs horseradish
  • Blue cheese crumbles

1. Incorporate the minced garlic, thyme, Dijon mustard, and salt in pepper with the ground beef in a medium bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until fully incorporated. Form 1.5 to 2 inch balls and flatten in the palm of your hand or using a slider press. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how well-done you prefer your beef.

2. Slice shallots into thin rings. Toss in flour to coat. Pour about 2 inches of Canola oil into a large skillet. Once hot, fry shallots until golden. Remove from skillet with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt while hot. Crumble cooked bacon.

3. Mix mayonnaise and horseradish together. Add more horseradish if you prefer a hotter sauce. Coat buns with the mayo horseradish, place a pattie on the bun and top with crumbled blue cheese, bacon, and shallots. Serve hot.

Winter Citrus Salad

It’s no secret that for the past week the whole country has been laughing at how us Californians have been overreacting to how cold it’s been. Seriously though…it was freaking cold. Oh, believe me, I have spent some serious time in for real cold weather (four years in Nebraska, aka the ice box of our great nation.) I remember the days when I’d celebrate if the temperature hit 30 degrees. Well, after being back in California for about five years my body has quickly acclimated to our beautiful Mediterranean-like climate. And believe me, 50 degrees is freaking cold. But, after one week of roughing it in chilly winds and instagramming the frost on our car windows, we have been rewarded with summery 80 degree temperatures. Hallelu, child.

I’m not going to lie. I’m not especially fond of crazy heat when it’s supposed to be winter. My summer clothes are packed away and my toes ain’t ready for surprise sandal weather. However, I discovered a way to beat the heat with fresh wintery fruits. Behold, the winter citrus salad.

I guess the warm weather came at a good time since I’ve been stuffing myself with not-so-healthy foods. So…time to detox with a salad! How California, am I right? We’re inviting arugula, grapefruit, oranges, pomegranate, and goat cheese to this salad party. Oh, and we’re making a super easy dressing to…well…dress it. Dress it to the nines.

Let’s de-seed the pomegranate. Pro tip: fill a bowl with water and, with the halved fruit in the water, work the seeds out. The flesh of the fruit is almost foam-like, so it’s really easy to tear in half and get the seeds out. No mess, no stained cutting board or surface. You might want to still wear an apron in case a few seeds burst. I have a couple stains on my arms, but they just look like purple freckles.

This salad was perfect for today. Not only because it was refreshing, but the juicy citruses almost don’t belong as a winter fruit. Kind of like how today was uncharacteristically hot. Trust me though, this salad is good. The arugula is bitter and peppery, the oranges and grapefruit tart, creamy goat cheese, and the dressing was full and slightly sweet. I totally ate this at the table (I hardly ever eat at the table) with an iced tea while people watching. Ok, maybe I was spying on my neighbors with Ollie. She knows all the neighborhood gossip.

Winter Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese and Dressing

  • A bunch of arugula
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 1 pomegranate
  • Goat cheese

For the dressing

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place bunch of arugula in a medium-sized bowl. De-seed pomegranate and set aside. Peel the skin and pith off the grapefruit and orange. Slice fruit into chunks and place in bowl with arugula. Toss in pomegranate seeds.

2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and honey together. Add in mustard, I used a grainy Dijon, and lemon juice. Continue to mix until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Toss salad with dressing.

Homemade Pretzels

Are you one of those people that starts salivating the minute you catch the smell of freshly baked mall pretzels? Yeah, me too. It’s totally like a Pavlov’s dog type of thing…only it involves pretzels. Besides that mouthwatering smell, there’s something special about mall pretzels that you just can’t get from the frozen pretzels at the grocery store. They’re soft and golden brown.

Crap. Now I really want a pretzel. Not to worry! This recipe is so simple that you can practically whip up these puppies up whenever you please. Just make sure you bathe your pre-cooked pretzels in baking soda bath so we get that beautiful golden color. Yep, we’re giving these little dough boys a spa treatment.

Share your pretzels with friends or else you’ll probably eat them all. I’m serious…because that’s what happened to me…almost.

Homemade Pretzels

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbs baking soda
  • 1 tbs melted butter
  • kosher salt
  • optional: shredded cheese, cinnamon sugar, jalapenos, garlic powder

Dissolve the yeast in the 3/4 cup of warm water. Once dissolved, add to a mixing bowl with the brown sugar and salt. Stir in the flour. Once everything is incorporated, knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Grease the mixing bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Let it rise for about an hour.

Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll into 1/2 inch thick ropes. Form the ropes into the shape of a pretzel and let rise for another 15 minutes.

Fill another bowl with 1 cup of warm water and mix in the baking soda. Bathe each pretzel in the water for about 30 seconds. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the melted butter on each pretzel and sprinkle with salt. If you are using other toppings, this is the point where you’d dress them. Go crazy. Be true to your pretzel-loving self.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with dipping sauces. Honey mustard, melted cheese, icing. OMG, give me a pretzel.

 

Last Minute Christmas Cookie Baking

Has anyone else been stuffed to the brim with cookies? Yeah, me too. I’m getting them from everyone. Friends…coworkers…parents…regrifts from people who are too burned out on cookies. So you really don’t need another Christmas cookie recipe, right? Wrong! It’s Christmas Eve and if you’re like me you’re already plum out of cookies, and in T-minus six hours a fat man in a red suit is going to be making his way down the chimney. What the heck am I going to leave for that guy?

May I suggest some Linzer cookies? These are a favorite in my family and are almost too good looking to eat. The dusting of powdered sugar makes it look like a beautiful covering of snow. And you can use any sort of jam your taste buds are fond of. Raspberry, boysenberry, strawberry, maybe even some Nutella for you choco-freaks out there. Anyway, these cookies are so delicious I might actually make my way onto the nice list this year.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Linzer Cookies with Raspberry Jam

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/8 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Raspberry jam (or your favorite jam)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Grind the almonds, cornstarch, and white sugar in a food processor until it’s a fine mixture, set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar in mixer until fluffy and pale. While mixing, add vanilla extract and egg yolks, then add the almond and sugar mixture. Once incorporated, add flour, cinnamon, and salt and continue mixing. Wrap the dough in cellophane and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll your dough on a floured work surface and cut using Linzer cookie cutters. If you don’t have linzer cookie cutters, regular circle cutters will work. Make sure you make an even amount of “back” cookies and “front” cookies, which will have the hole in front. Bake for about thirteen minutes or until the edges are golden. Cool at room temperature.

To assemble, dust the front cookies with powdered sugar. Spread jam filling on the back cookies and sandwich.

 

Tiramisu Cupcakes

I remember the first time I had tiramisu. I was studying abroad in Paris and my roommate and I grabbed lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Italian place. At the end of our meal, my roommate suggested we split a piece of tiramisu. I thought there was no harm in trying something new, especially if it was a dessert combining chocolate and espresso, and agreed. My only regret was that I didn’t get my own slice. The spongy ladyfingers were saturated with strong espresso and sandwiched with creamy mascarpone cheese. Heaven on a plate.

Since then, I’ve eaten a lot more tiramisu and have even tried my hand at making my own. It wasn’t until recently I decided to take my love of this Italian dessert to the next level…in cupcake form. Yeah, yeah. Cupcakes are so hot right now, they’re practically on their way out. But I don’t care. I wanted a bite-sized version of my favorite dessert so if I eat three or so cupcakes I don’t feel as bad. Let’s be real here. These cupcakes are brushed with espresso, topped with a lightly sweetened mascarpone frosting, and then dusted with cocoa powder. Molto delizioso!

Tiramisu Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbs vanilla
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup espresso or freshly brewed coffee
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 0z mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup powder sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325 and line cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing powder. Heat milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear on the side on the pan. Remove from heat and mix in butter until melted.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches. Pour in the milk mixture and combine. Divide the batter in the cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Let cool and remove from tins. Brush cupcakes with the espresso.

To make the mascarpone frosting, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, combine the mascarpone and powder sugar until smooth. Fold into the whipped cream and place in a piping bag. Frost cupcakes and dust with cocoa powder to finish.

Emerald City

The news is out. Pantone just released its color for 2013 and its…drum roll, please…emerald! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty stoked. I’ve been totally into jewel tones lately and I’m super excited to include pops of green into my wardrobe and home furnishings. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that green is one of my favorite colors. Check out the moodboard below for some emerald inspiration.

1. Cocoona wool blend coat by J. Crew, via Netaporter. 2. Locked in studs by Kate Spade. 3. Dwell Studio zebra throw pillow. 4. Quay retro sunglasses, Nordstrom. 5. Cece suede ballet flats, J. Crew. 6. Legacy leather mini crossbag, Coach. 7. Nars long-wear eyeliner, Sephora.