Friday Five

You guys. College football starts tomorrow. If I could dedicate this whole post to Georgia Football and how excited I am, well, I would. But it is hard to come up with five food-related items that have to do with football. But I at least have one!

1) The return of football season means the return of football food. You know what I mean — the kind of stuff you’d eat at a tailgate. Chicken wings. Various dips. Tailgating in the South is almost as important as the game itself, so over the years I’ve seen a lot of impressive spreads. While I won’t be attending the game in person (sadly), I will be hanging out with some friends for an apartment-based tailgate. If I have the time to whip something up before tomorrow night, I might try out this Layered Greek Dip from Tasty Kitchen or this delicious looking artichoke bread.

2) I love tea. A lot of people know how much I love tea. I mean, my bridal shower had a tea party theme. I’m a big fan of loose leaf teas. I’ve dropped quite a bit of money at Tevana over the years. Last time I made a purchase, I bought some really fruity teas that I didn’t really care for when brewed hot. Now rather than just toss them, I decided to make iced tea with them after reading a blog post about it. And let me tell you: DELICIOUS. I used this Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate from Teavana with a little bit of rock sugar put in while steeping. I’ve drank two pitchers of it this week.

Rapsbery Riot Lemon Mate tea from Teavana.
Raspberry Riot Lemon Mate tea from Teavana. It doesn’t really look this pretty in the pouch.

3) And speaking of my love of tea, I am currently lusting over this Cuisinart electric tea kettle. It has specific temperature settings based on which tea you are making (green, oolong, etc). For a tea nerd like me, I feel like this is a necessity. Is it too early to start making a Christmas list? I don’t think so.

4) While I won’t go in to detail about everything I ate on my trip to DC last week (one highlight: chicken and waffles made with quail. OMG), I did pick up a food-related souvenir while shopping with some friends. We probably spent more time browsing the Williams-Sonoma outlet store than any clothing store. I restrained myself from walking away with a Dutch oven (I think the only thing that stopped me was the fact it would be a pain to carry on to an airplane) and instead picked up a few spices, including this one which is my current obsession.

img92oIt is Herbes de Provence Sea Salt. Now for those that don’t know, Herbs De Provence is a mixture of a bunch of spices usually including fennel, basil, thyme and lavender. This is all that mixed with some gray sea salt. I’ve used regular Herbs de Provence for roasted veggies or adding flavor to stews, but I use this specific blend on popcorn. Mix a little butter or olive oil together with this and pour it over warm popcorn. So yummy.

5) Now my last thing isn’t a favorite, but more of a pet peeve. Now I am just one of many people (well, women mostly) who goes crazy for pumpkin-flavored stuff during the fall. However, in my mind, pumpkin goodies shouldn’t start to appear until October. Starbucks will release the pumpkin spice latte September 1, which is awesome, but it’s just not time yet! In Atlanta, it is still close to 90 degrees. I don’t want a pumpkin spice latte when it is 90 degrees! It also bugs me that after Halloween, a lot of the pumpkin stuff starts disappearing from the shelves. Hello people! November is THE pumpkin month. Pumpkin pie?! Thanksgiving?! OK, end rant. I can’t say that I WON’T give in to temptation and have a pumpkin spice latte before October (I mean, they are super delicious), but if I do, I will drink it in protest.

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My cookbook collection

Last week, I posted about the hundreds upon hundreds of recipes I have stored on Pinterest and how I organize them. While I get the majority of ideas for what to cook via these pinboards, I still love everything about cookbooks.

I would definitely say I collect cookbooks. While I vary rarely consult them when I am menu planning, I love to have them to just flip through whenever I am bored or looking for some inspiration. I can still remember the very first cookbook I got: “The Joy of Cooking.”

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I can still remember the first recipe I made from “The Joy of Cooking.” It was orange and cranberry scones and I am pretty sure it didn’t turn out how I wanted it to. But that’s OK. Even back in the early stages of my love of cooking I realized that things didn’t always turn out perfectly.

Since the fire was sparked with “The Joy of Cooking,” I have since added quite a few cookbooks to my collection.

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… 25 more to be exact. And I can’t stop buying them. Whenever I go into thrift stores, I check out to see if there are any cookbooks I want to get. My Amazon Wishlist is full of tomes from the likes of The French Laundry Cookbook to Vintage Cocktails. My collection has moved with me from my college apartment in Athens, Georgia to four different places in DC and back to Georgia just this year — and moving books can be a pain. Literally.

Now truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I’ve opened a few of these cookbooks, but there are definitely a few that have remained favorites over the years.

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If I had to pick out the cookbook I have used the most, it is this one. I have tried so many recipes out of it. It’s a great resource for fast meals. I think they came out with another volume that I have resisted getting for years. My favorite recipes are the Mediterranean Chicken Stew and Chicken Chilaquiles.

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I have another cookbook fro Mark Bittman. He is a pretty famous food writer from the New York Times. Again with the previous cookbook, this has a bunch of quick and easy recipes which are great for weeknights. One of my favorite recipes is the paella.

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These are also well loved members of the collection. I have always loved Nigella Lawson (I’m sort of an anglophile so I am a big fan of her and Jamie Oliver) and this was the most approachable of her books at the time I bought it. Another book which features a lot of easy and quick choices. I loved Dave Lieberman. I am sad he is no longer on the Food Network. I got this book for Christmas and it includes one of my favorite go to recipes — garlic and rosemary chicken.

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Now I couldn’t talk about my cookbook collection without referencing this. As a gift at my bridal shower, my mom made this book filled with recipes that were contributions from all my friends and family. It is one of my most prized possessions because it is filled with so much love from the most important people in my life. Eric and I take it out all the time and pick something to make and it brings back so many memories of the individual who shared the recipe.

I am sure that by the time we settle down and buy a house, I’m going to have to have at least one bookshelf dedicated to my cookbook collection. And the thought of that is actually very exciting to me.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

Easy Greek Chicken with Mediterranean Quinoa

I have always been a fan of Greek flavors. Oregano. Garlic. Lemon. Feta. Tomatoes. Olives. All of those get mixed together in this simple dish.

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I took inspiration from a few recipes I had seen floating around on Pinterest. I didn’t use any exact measurements, but I got some feedback on Instagram asking for a recipe, so I decided to share it here.

Easy Greek Chicken with Mediterranean Quinoa

Serves: 2
Time: 30 minutes

For the chicken
2 chicken breasts
Cavendars greek seasoning
Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking

For the quinoa
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1 whole lemon
Garlic power
Oregano

For the topping
2 tomatoes, chopped (I used the vine ripened variety but any will work)
1 small can black olives (sliced, chopped or whole, whichever you prefer)
2 cups fresh spinach
1 tbls tomato paste
1 garlic clove, chopped
Feta cheese

1. Cook the quinoa. Bring the chicken stock or water to a boil. Once at a boil, add the quinoa and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the quinoa is cooked, season to taste with the lemon, garlic powder and oregano.

2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil. While the pan is heating up, sprinkle the Greek seasoning on both sides of the chicken. Once the pan is hot, place the chicken in the pan and let it cook for about 6 to 8 minutes on each side. The chicken should have a nice golden brown crust.

3. Heat another pan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add in the olives and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Next add the tomato paste and make sure it is mixed through. Finally add the spinach and cook the mixture until it has wilted down. Remove from the heat.

4. To serve, take a scoop of quinoa and put it on the plate. Add the chicken breast on top and spoon some of the tomato and spinach mixture over top. Add a bit of feta cheese over the entire plate and serve.

Friday Five

TGIF! You know what that means? Time for another Friday Five!

1) A month or so back, we dined at this place in Atlanta called MetroFresh. It’s this restaurant where the menu changes every day and they feature fresh (go figure) and healthy food. When we were there, Eric got this buffalo tuna salad and it was ah-mazing. So I have been recreating it at home for lunches. So yummy. It’s super easy too. Take a can of tuna (I prefer to use the kind packed in water, not oil). Drain it and put it in a bowl. Put in a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt (you could use mayo, but I use the yogurt so it’s a tad healthier). Then add whatever hot sauce or buffalo sauce you like. I actually prefer using the Kroger brand in medium.  Just add to taste and it’s ready to go. I eat it with celery stick for the full buffalo experience.

2) A perk of working from home is being able to actually cook lunches instead of eating a sandwich or tossing a frozen meal in to the microwave. This week I’ve been on a big portobello mushroom kick. I made these Mexican-style ones from greenlitebites one day and a variation of these quinoa stuffed mushrooms the next. Both delicious AND nutritious.

3) One thing I wish we had registered when we got married was a nice quality Dutch oven. You know, like one of the Le Creuset ones or something. As I mentioned previously, I don’t do a lot of slow braising or anything, but I think a nice sized Dutch oven is always a good kitchen tool to have. I have been stalking TJ Maxx and HomeGoods hoping to find one at a discounted price, but I might eventually take the plunge (and one of the Bed, Bath and Beyond gift cards we still have from the wedding) and buy one before cooler weather stars.

Le Creuset on the left. Lodge on the right.
Le Creuset on the left. Lodge on the right.

4) I’m heading up to DC tonight for a long weekend. I AM SO PUMPED. Last time we were there was for a wedding in May and I came down with some sort of plague right when we got there, so here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen this time. On the agenda is a lot of time with friends and my favorite activity — EATING. I’m hitting up some of my favorite places to eat in the area and am so so excited: The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg (they have great food and excellent wine flights); Dairy Godmother in Alexandria (the BEST frozen custard. Obama went there once so it has the presidential seal of approval); Cheesetique in Arlington (the name says it all. A RESTAURANT THAT SERVES AMAZING CHEESE DISHES. I LOVE IT.) and of course Potbelly. Oh how I have missed Potbelly since moving to Atlanta. I’m sure there will be plenty of documentation on my Instagram so check it out if #foodporn interests you.

5) I was doing my grocery shopping at Kroger this weekend when I saw this book near the wine section.

"The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, From Field to Farm to Table"
“The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, From Field to Farm to Table”

I promptly went home and ordered it off Amazon. I am a huge book nerd so I love reading, and I especially love reading books about food. It just sounded like an interesting read (and I love, love, love cheese) so I’m hoping it was a good purchase.

What were the highlights of your week? Share them in the comments.

The wonderful world of Pinterest

I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who has a love affair with Pinterest.

Pinterest it great. I could spend hours going through the pages and pages of pins. Clothing. Home decor. Puppies in tea cups. I love it all. When I first got on Pinterest, I was engaged, so of course I used it for bookmarking a lot of wedding ideas. Now that we’re married and I’m “nesting” (home nesting…not like pre-baby nesting) I on a big home decor kick on Pinterest. But my hands down favorite thing about Pinterest is using it for recipe bookmarking.

I am a recipe stockpiler. I used to have folders full of tear outs from cooking magazines (more on that later). I collect cookbooks. I like to have a wide variety of potential recipes to choose from. Prior to Pinterest, I was using One Tsp to organize all my recipes from the web. It was a great site, but you had to input all your recipes individually and couldn’t upload pics easily. Pinterest makes it so much easier — and prettier.

My recipe pinboards
My recipe pinboards

Not pictured: My boards for ice cream, non-baking treats and libations. I may have a problem.

I started off with just one massive Cooking board. But it became such a hassle to scroll through it looking for a specific recipe. So one tedious day, I went through and created separate boards for separate categories. When I’m having people over and need a good appetizer, I go to that board. Going to a potluck brunch? There’s a board for that. It has made it so much easier being able to pinpoint exactly where I should be looking. I have contemplated about breaking it down even further to include boards dedicated solely to poultry, beef and seafood, but for now, I’m avoiding that bout of OCD. I have found this organizing method works wonders for me when I am menu planning for the week.

If you do some quick math, you’ll see I have more than 500 recipes bookmarked on Pinterest. And there are just the ones I haven’t tried. I have a whole board dedicated to recipes I’ve made and deemed successful enough to make again. And I have deleted recipe pins that were deemed “meh.”

When using Pinterest, find what works best for you. I just wanted to share how I do it in case anyone was looking for some organization tips.

How do you organize your Pinterest boards?

P.S. Follow me on Pinterest.

Grillin’ and chillin’

Summertime and grilling go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Despite Atlanta’s recent streak of cool and rainy weather, I’ve still been craving grilled food. Until recently this was an issue as we did not own a grill. I would have to rely on going to a friend’s house or my parent’s to enjoy grilled delicacies. But not anymore. We recently just procured our first grill.

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Ain’t it cute? When we lived in DC, we shared a small one-bedroom apartment with zero outdoor space for any type of grill. Now in Atlanta, we have a little bit of a “patio” as I call is, so we took the plunge and got this little guy at Walmart. It isn’t the biggest of grills, but the price was right and it is just the perfect size for the two of us.

This is where I talk about how I used to be scared to grill. I just never felt comfortable manning the grill. Maybe it was the propane gas or the flames, but I just never could get the hang of it. One place where I lived in DC had community grills for residents to use, and my roommate would go and grill out all the time. I would just watch her in amazement as she knew just where to put the meats and veggies to get the right cook. She never had to cut open a chicken breast to see if it was done — she just knew. She tried to teach me her ways, but nothing really stuck.

The turning point this year was Father’s Day. I was over at my mom and dad’s house making brats and I had to ask my mom a million questions about if they were done, how hot should I make the grill, etc. So when Eric saw this grill at Walmart and said we should get it, I enthusiastically said YES.  Now I am on my way to becoming a grill master. So far we’ve tried grilling steak, chicken, fish, hot dogs and sausage. Most things have been successful, others have not, but I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Grill master at work.
Grill master at work.

Last night my parents and brother came over for a cookout to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We made burgers, something simple enough for a newbie. My mom (who is the one taking this picture) was a great teacher. She taught me to turn the grill up high and let it flame up so the burgers char a bit on each side. She showed me how to move the burgers around to take advantage of hot spots on the grill. She also gave me a tip for cleaning the grill (Next time you turn it on, set it to high and close the lid. This way all the stuff just burns off the grate). Overall, it was a great learning experience with delicious results.

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The finished product: burgers with cheddar and pepper jack.

I’m not going to be participating in any grilling competitions anytime soon, but I am looking forward to continuing my grilling journey.

What are your favorite things to grill?

New feature: Friday Five

I love routine. I have followed the same steps to get ready for bed for years. I love having things planned out. Hence why I am introducing a new weekly feature for Kitchen Casual: Friday Five.

A few of the blogs I regularly follow wrap up the week with a post about the things they did for the week, what they are loving at the moment etc. It is just good to have a standing post one day of the week that is easy peasy. So this will be mine. Every week, I’ll write up a post featuring five things about food. It could be a recipe I want to try, a book I am reading — anything as long as it relates to food. I saw that now, but before you know it, it is going to evolve in to a random mess. But let’s start off on the right foot.

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1) Trader Joe’s is this magical land. You enter and discover all sorts of treats. The Inner Peas snap pea crisps are my new obsession. Seriously. I have three bags of them in our pantry right now. They are the perfect balance of salty and crunchy and are low if calories and fat so they are a great guilt-free snack. I’ve seen different flavors of these carried at Whole Foods and I think Publix (for you Southerners), but the original is just perfection.

2) I will occasionally talk about a kitchen gadget I want. I love added fun new tools to our cooking collection, and I sometimes might want advice of if you have a favorite. Right now, I’m jonesing for a mandolin.

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Funny story actually. We got a mandolin as a wedding present. And I was all psyched to use it. Bring on the matchstick potatoes! But the first two times I used it, I cut myself so badly I thought I would need to seek medical attention. Yes, this was probably due to error on my fault, but I became so frightened of the mandolin, I trashed it. Well now, I am ready to conquer my fear. The above one is from Oxo and I’ve seen it talked about on other blogs. It looks a bit sturdier than the other one we had, so maybe my fingers will survive. I already know the first thing I’ll make when I get it — Sauteed Julienned Summer Vegetables from Skinny Taste.

3) Let’s talk about “Masterchef.” My mom and brother got me in to this show. I had never watched it until the current season. This week’s episode was a little over the top though, I will admit. They had all these live birds running around the kitchen and you kinda just maybe thought they were going to make the contestants kill the birds right there, but they didn’t. Phew. That aside, I love hearing Gordon Ramsay say “stunning” a million times an episode. My money is on Georgia girl Jessie to win.

4) I pinned this recipe for Creamy Caprese Quinoa Bake from Half Baked Harvest awhile back and keep wanting to try it out. It looks absolutely amazing. I mean, my mouth is watering as I type this. Might be added to next week’s menu planning…

5) Currently feeling the need to bake a pie. Specifically a blackberry one. This recipe from Saveur looks good. Anyone have another suggestion?

And that is the first edition of Friday Five! What have been your favorites this week?