Just 2 More Weeks!

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In just 2 short weeks I’ll be jet setting around the world! I simply can not wait. I’ve already started setting things aside and this weekend I’ll probably start packing my suitcase. Never in my life did I think I would be able to spend 6 weeks in another country, let alone China! Of course the very best part of it all is that I finally get to see Jesse again, that week will mark 2 months apart for us. 🙁

I can’t really decide if it’s easier or harder to be apart now that I’m in San Diego. When I was in Ohio I felt like I was more disconnected, even though we would be apart anyway, China still somehow seemed like and even bigger step. Here, I still feel connected and somehow strangely a part of it. But of course in Ohio I had my friends and family to help me through too. I can’t tell you how many times Michelle saved me with a bottle of wine and girl talk. That sort of thing is probably one of the things I miss the most about Ohio. I really had some awesome friends there and my family was always there for me.


On a less serious note, one other thing I miss about Ohio is buffalo wings. (are buffalo wings? either way it doesn’t sound right, help me out grammar police!) Yes, there are wings here but I guess I grew used to Buffalo Wild Wings, or B-Dubbs, and now that’s the flavor and texture I crave. Lately I’ve been craving a chicken tender wrap, sub pico for tomato, with spicy garlic sauce (and extra on the side) and a side of tortilla chips from B-dubbs, like nobody’s business. In all honesty there is a B-Dubbs in Huntington Beach but that’s a pretty far drive for one measly chicken tender wrap. So when I saw this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could satisfy my buffalo tooth. (Like a sweet tooth only different)

Yeah, you’re going to need to try this. Like now. The spice, the cheese, the creaminess. Yum. Yum. Yum. I used 2 recipes for inspiration pulling a few ideas from each. And, because I like to use as few pots and pans as possible (Jesse will tell you that’s a lie, but I said I LIKE to, not that I always do), I tried to streamline the recipes.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
(Adapted from Foodnetwork and 1 Fine Cookie)

2 chicken breasts – marinade in 1 cup buttermilk and 2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot overnight*
1 lb elbow macaroni noodles, cooked and drained(shells would work too)
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped (about 2 large stalks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup half-half
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cups Franks Buffalo Red Hot (or other buffalo sauce), divided
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded**
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced or 2 tsp dry parsley
Blue Cheese dressing for drizzling over top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a grill pan over high heat, grill the chicken breasts until the juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of chicken. Chop the chicken into bite size chunks, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 4 minutes, or until the celery is soft and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, last 2 Tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of Franks, stir to coat the celery and onions. Sprinkle in the dry mustard and flour and stir well with a whisk. When the flour is fully combined, pour in the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. Then whisk in the remaining hot sauce and sour cream. Bring to a light simmer, continuing to whisk. Stir in the cheese until smooth and melted. Add the chicken and stir to combine. (at this point you can sing to yourself, just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add the panko, blue cheese, and parsley and stir.

Sprinkle the panko mixture over top of the mac and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Drizzle with blue cheese dressing to serve.

* I liked the idea Jasmin had for infusing the chicken with a subtle hot sauce taste by marinating over night. But I was way too lazy to bread the chicken and fry it in addition to all the stirring I had to do. So I just grilled it. The overnight soak made the chicken incredibly moist with just a hint of spice. You could take the even easier way out and use left over chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. I won’t judge ya if you’re lazy!

**I always recommend shredding your own cheese, from the block, for mac and cheese.

Margherita Time

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This time last year Jesse and I were taking the first giant step of this newest journey in our life. We left the Thursday before Memorial Day and made our way across the United States to San Diego. I’m pretty used to long drives but this was in a class of it’s own. Still it was amazing. It was great having a chance to spend 3 days with just the 2 of us. Plus let’s be honest, this is a pretty cool country and we went from lush farm lands in the midwest, to wide open spaces in Texas, to dry flat dessert in Arizona, then green beautiful mountains in Arizona, then the most amazing mountains that looked like giant mounds of over-sized pebbles, and finally we landed in San Diego where the palms trees are plentiful and the air smells of the ocean. Just awesome.

Looking back a year later I don’t think I could have guessed how many incredible changes and wonderful experiences we would have in just one year of our lives. Of course with the good came some bad. The worst of it being that we have been separated for more than half of the last year. That part sucks, no way around it. But we’ve made the best of it and in 3 weeks we’ll be together again! Here is to hoping that this next year is even better (and has us together more than we are apart!)

What’s all that have to do with Margherita pizza? Uh, nothing. I just had some things to get off my chest before sharing the recipe. This pizza tasted great and would be perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. You can double the dough recipe, divided it into 4 and freeze 3 parts individually so you always have homemade pizza dough on hand. You’ll never need a processed, sodium laden frozen pizza again!

Margherita Pizza

1 ball pizza dough (recipe below)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of garlic powder
1-1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup diced (or sliced) tomato
3-4 fresh basil leaves, julienne

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees, with rack in the lowest position in oven.

Roll out pizza dough until ~1/4 inch thick and ~10 inches across and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Spread the mozzarella cheese over the pizza dough and sprinkle the tomatoes and basil on top.

Remove hot pizza stone from oven and carefully transfer the pizza (parchment paper and all) to the stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it the whole time so the cheese doesn’t burn.

Easy Weeknight Pizza Dough
(Adapted from Amber’s Delectable Delights)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising (instant) yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a measuring cup, add the sugar to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Add the yeast and let rest while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of a food processor add the flour and salt. Pulse a few times to blend the flour and salt.

Turn the food processor on and stream in the water/yeast mixture. Turn the food processor off and stream in the olive oil. Then pulse in 4 second increments until a ball of dough is formed. It should be slightly sticky but not wet. If it is too dry add water a tablespoon at a time. If it is too wet add flour a tablespoon at a time.

At this point you can do one of two things. One, let the dough rest for 15 minutes while you gather your toppings, then roll out. Two, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until almost doubled in size. Then divide the dough in half and roll out. I typically let it rise, but the great thing about this recipe is that you don’t have too. I’m just used to letting it rise (for other recipes) and I like my dough to be a bit fluffier. I also feel like I have more dough to work with if I let it rise for longer (able to get 2 balls of dough).

Shrimp Fried Rice

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The first time Jesse was in China he had a lot of fun shopping for souvenirs. He brought home lots of really cool stuff. And when I say lots, I mean it. He had 3 suitcases, one of them the size of Texas. The suitcase that was the size of Texas was actually overweight to the point that he had to remove stuff and put it in a box to be shipped back. The airline rep at the counter said he couldn’t just pay the overweight fee because it was just too heavy for the workers to lift on to the plane. Yeah, that kind of “lots of stuff”. Granted he also had to TAKE a lot of stuff with him so it wasn’t all souvenirs, but a good amount.

Now, I know you can buy chop sticks here in the US, but I still thought it was awesome when he brought home a pack. He also brought a really nice Chinese tea set. Little yellow cups with black and red masks painted on the side and a matching teapot perfect for brewing tea. As cool as those things are I don’t always have a good excuse to use them. But this week a little celebration is in order. And I think the most appropriate way to celebrate is making Chinese food and using my chopsticks and tea set.

Why the celebration? Because, I AM GOING TO CHINA! I am so excited I can’t stand it. First and foremost, I get to be with my husband. Second, I get to travel to some where completely new and different to me. I hope to find ways to really immerse myself in the culture and learn lots of new things. And of course I plan to try lots of new foods!

As for the fried rice I made, it was delicious. It’s always fun when I get to use my wok and try new ingredients (Chinese cabbage). I can’t say how authentic this recipe is but I will definitely make it again.


Shrimp Fried Rice
(Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 medium head Chinese cabbage, coarsely chopped
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 soy sauce
1/8 rice vinegar
1/8 orange juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup frozen peas
8 ounces small shrimp, shelled, raw, deveined
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp green onion, sliced (for garnishing, and I forgot but will remember next time)

Heat the oil in a wok (or large skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 6 minutes, until it appears limp. Stir often.

Create a well in the cabbage and pour in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add the shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp is light pink then add the rice and peas. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly making sure to coat the rice evenly.

Make a well in the middle of the rice. Pour the eggs into the well and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a fork. Gently fold the eggs into the rice.

Serve immediately with green onions for garnish.

Southwest Marinade

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Would you consider San Diego to be Southwest? We are just about as far south and west as you can get. I actually think I must have been destined to live here because I have always been drawn to “southwestern” things, especially food. If I’m at a cook out and there is a choice between a regular pasta salad and a southwestern one, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll go with the latter. So when my aunt sent me an email with a recipe titled Southwest Marinated Pork Tenderloin I immediately knew that I would be making it, soon.

I’m ashamed to say that I don’t always use a grocery list when I do my shopping. Even when I do meal plans I mostly shop from memory. Not surprisingly I almost always make at least one extra trip to the store during the week to pick up an ingredient that I forgot to buy. It’s something I’m trying to work on. This time, I carefully wrote out my list and even checked the weekly ads for sales. And you know what, I still forgot something! I some how forgot the main ingredient, the pork tenderloin. Not wanting to give up on making this I decided to use chicken since I always have that. It turned out great!

I still plan to make this marinade with pork, but the chicken was not at all disappointing. I served the sliced grilled chicken over cheesy grits and the combination was near perfect. The chicken had a little heat and a nice smoky flavor that was complimented by the creamy cheesy grits. I can’t wait to make this again!

Southwest Marinade
(Adapted from an email sent by my Aunt Ari, unsure of the original source)

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or pork tenderloin
1/2 can (3.5 oz) chipotles in adobo sauce
2 cloves garlic
1/3 Cup orange juice
1/4 Cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth

In a measuring cup or small bowl, measure out the orange juice and olive oil then stir in the salt and pepper and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, puree together the chipotles and 2 cloves of garlic for 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary. With the food processor running, gently stream in the juice/oil mixture.

Place the chicken (or pork) in a *shallow dish and pour the marinade over top. Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Flipping the chicken over occasionally to evenly coat both sides. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Grill directly over **medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side (6-7 for pork) or until the juices run clear. If using pork, the inside will still be slightly pink. Remove from grill, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

While the meat is resting pour the remaining marinade and chicken broth into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until reduced by half. Spoon the sauce over the sliced meat and serve.

*You can also use a gallon ziploc bag
**Unfortunately we do not have a real grill right now, so I used my cast iron grill pan. I set the burner to medium-high heat and I used a large lid (from one of my pots) to set over the chicken to help cook it evenly and a little faster.