Saturday, February 19, 2011


Anyone who tells you that guacamole is just a mashed avocado with a little salsa and lime juice is out of their minds. While I'm the first to admit avocados are delicious on their own (or mashed into toast with a little salt--yum), guacamole deserves to be as interesting and spicy as your favorite salsa. It just takes a little legwork. Or in this case, wrist work.

It bears mentioning that I will almost always find a way to incorporate smoked Spanish paprika into my food. I would highly recommend that you pick some up. It gives everything an addictive smoky complexity. Great on meats, in soups, salad dressing, eggs, popcorn...actually I struggle to think of something it wouldn't improve. Whole Foods sells it, but I tend to buy mine in bulk from here.

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 4 tsp hot sauce (Tapatio is my weapon of choice)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (optional)

Place garlic and onion in a medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce and paprika. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes and then whisk again. Place the meat of the avocado in the bowl and use a fork to mash until very smooth and creamy and hot sauce mixture has been incorporated, about 5 minutes. Season with additional hot sauce & salt to taste. It's best given a bit of time to sit, so I try to remember to make this a couple hours ahead of time. But sometimes I don't. And sometimes the bag of tortilla chips is calling to me, and it's still delicious.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Chicken Breast

The Boneless Skinless Chicken breast is ubiquitous. It's our go-to, stored-in-the-freezer, low-fat protein of choice. While I know it's easy to throw it in the pan, smother it in sauce, or marinade it beyond all recognition, I challenge you to try this method. It's adapted from the old school Joy of Cooking and I promise you, it works every time.

I would recommend doing about 4 or 5 chicken breasts at a time so you have some left over to add to other things throughout the week. Trust me, after you try this, you'll be looking to include this chicken into anything you can.

The Perfect Chicken Breast
  • 1 to 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped herbs (optional)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 10-inch skillet with lid

Pound your chicken breasts to an even thickness with the flat of a knife. Lightly salt and pepper them on both sides.

Mix some salt and pepper and your herbs in with the flour and dredge the chicken breasts in the flour until they have a light dusting on all sides.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and then add olive oil and butter. Let them melt and then swirl them together.

Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken breasts. Cook for about a minute on one side so it gets golden brown, flip breasts over. Set the heat to low, cover the pan, set a timer for 10 minutes and walk away. Don't peek! This is really important. Make a salad, wash some dishes, call your mother. Do whatever you need to do to keep from lifting that lid.
Once your timer goes off, turn off the heat and reset it for another 10 minutes. Keep that lid on tight.

When your timer goes off the last time, lift the lid and reveal the most delicious and juicy chicken breasts you've ever had. Slice and toss into last night's leftovers, a bowl of pasta, or top off a crunchy salad. Protein all around!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Crispy Kale (Mac + Cheese)

Mac and cheese is just about the the only thing my 4 year-old sister eats with impunity. And while I'm not at all interested in say, tricking children into eating hidden vegetables, I was interested in developing a way to incorporate a little greenery, and in the process make something friendly to tastebuds of all ages. Basically, I think this is the ultimate recipe for a bowl full of cheesy, salty pasta with crispy kale chips. Serve with a simple side salad and a cup of fresh fruit for dessert. If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it does quite well in the lunchbox.

Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Crispy Kale

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 slices prosciutto/pancetta, diced
  • 1 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups coarsely grated sharp reduced fat cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 pound whole wheat Penne

Preheat oven to 375. Tear kale into bite size pieces, discarding the stems. Toss on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Bake until crispy, about 12 minutes. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove and set aside. Add onion to pan juices and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, allow to melt, and then add the flour and stir. Gradually whisk in 3 cups of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 1/4 cups of cheddar and all of the Parmesan cheese and cream cheese. Return prosciutto to sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and stir until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in kale chips.

Butter a 13x9x2 inch glass casserole dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until very al dente. Drain well. Toss pasta and cheese sauce and season again with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until hot and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.