Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recipe Exchange

Last week I got an email from my mom about participating in a recipe exchange. What is this recipe exchange, you ask? Well it's sort of like one of those chain emails you receive where if you don't forward it to twenty people within an hour you'll secure yourself a destiny of living alone, loveless... with a blind cat. Except this one has less consequences and more gain. The idea is that you send a recipe to someone on the list and copy twenty friends and so on and so forth until in the end you're supposed to receive a boatload of new recipes from people across the interweb. Normally chain emails aren't my thing, but this one sounded like a fun experiment because it requests only the simple, go-to, weeknight meal recipe that you can recall off the top of your head. No fancy ingredients, no special equipment, just the basic always satisfying recipe you find yourself returning to again and again. For me, that recipe is a panko-coated chicken schnitzel by one Mr. Thomas Keller.

Who knew such an easy dish to make at home would come from the well renowned chef/owner of The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon? Of course, I take my own shortcuts to make it a bit easier, which makes it the perfect recipe for me to share in the recipe exchange. If you have chicken breasts in the fridge, then odds are you have the rest of the ingredients to make this yummy meal that's good enough for Thomas Keller.

Take those chicken breasts, and despite what TK says, you can go ahead and leave them be. When I make this "schnitzel" I don't butterfly and pound my chicken thin because I like the juiciness created by pan frying the whole breasts and then finishing them off in the oven. Simply dredge your seasoned chicken breasts in flour, shake off the excess, dip in egg then panko, and place in a hot pan with canola or vegetable oil.

When the chicken is golden and crispy on both sides, place in an ovenproof dish and pop in a 350 degree oven for another fifteen to twenty minutes. Your cooking time will vary depending on how thick your chicken breasts are. I always cut into the middle of the thickest breast to take a peak at the doneness of its center before I determine if they're ready.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. Then sprinkle with a little salt and prepare your simple sauce. All that involves is melting some butter and adding capers, lemon juice and parsley (if you have it). Mmmmm, butter and lemon. Drizzle a spoonful of that goodness over each piece of chicken and you're all done.

So let's recap - All we did was gather less than ten ingredients, dip, dredge, fry, cook, melt, spoon and plate. That was it! In the time the chicken was cooking in the oven we might have even had time to whip up some delicious roasted potatoes and a vegetable on the side.

Crunchy, juicy, salty and slightly briny from the capers, this chicken always satisfies. When another salad for dinner just won't cut it, remember the crispy panko chicken. You don't even have to forward an email to twenty friends, I'm just going to go ahead and give you the recipe.

Panko-Coated Chicken Schnitzel
(Adapted from Thomas Keller in Food & Wine)

1 cup of flour
3 beaten eggs
2 cups panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4-6 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons capers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Place flour, eggs and panko in three separate plates. Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off the excess. Next, dip each breast in the eggs and coat thoroughly in panko. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes each. Transfer chicken to an ovenproof dish and place in a 350 degree oven until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. In a small sauce pot, melt the butter and cook until slightly browned. Add capers and lemon juice and stir. Spoon over the chicken and garnish with parsley. Serve hot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Salad Love

I'm in love. In love with a salad, from the most unlikely of places. This weekend we scoped out a new spot in Studio City called Take a Bao. It's a casual Asian spot to grab a quick steamed bun, rice bowl, salad or stir fry with a cold beer on the side. We only had time for a quick bite so we thought we'd be in and out, but I was surprised to find such a gorgeous and welcoming interior awaiting us.

I learned that Take a Bao has an impressive selection of draft beer, bottled beer, wine, sake and house cocktails. On my next visit I will definitely be sampling some booze. But back to that salad...

Justin ordered bao while something on the salad menu caught my eye. Something called the Eight Veggie Salad. You know I love me some vegetables, so cue the chorus.

I was anticipating something light and healthy, but what I got was a salad so beautiful I had to snap a picture on my iPhone. You can't picture the scale from the photo, but I assure you, this bowl was grandiose. The fresh salad included roasted corn, edamame, sugar snap peas, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts and romaine hearts, topped with sesame seeds and an Asian vinaigrette. The tangy flavors and crunch instantly won me over and I immediately wanted to share the salad with other salad-loving friends. Can you think of the last time you got excited about a salad? Exactly. It's that good. Even Justin, who isn't a salad guy, gladly ate half.

Inspired by my meal at Take a Bao, I tried to recreate my beloved salad at home for a healthy and portable lunch for the work week.

I included many of the essentials in a tupperware- corn, edamame, cucumber, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sesame seeds - but added sliced red bell pepper, shredded carrot and green onions. Then I packed a separate container with a Cashew Tamari dressing my bestie gifted me from Mother's Cafe and Garden in Austin. It has just the right amount of Asian influence to go perfectly here.

A minimal amount of work in the evening, just chopping and slicing really, amounts to a feast you can enjoy the next day right at your desk if you wish.

I'm always looking for new ideas for healthy, packable lunches so I'm so glad this salad inspiration came my way. What are some of your favorite portable lunches?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I have a confession to make. I hate my dishes. When I plate up delicious meals and eagerly photograph them to share with you, I always cringe knowing that you'll judge me for the funky, retro dinnerware they're served upon. Please know that I did not select these dishes, and that they are simply the circumstance of my mother giving away her eighties plates so she could buy pretty new ones and me being too cheap to buy my own set.

They're awful. I mean what's with the yellow/orange stripes accented by floating green leaves? I'm sure you've wondered this yourself from time to time. (PS, I'm just going to go on pretending that you care anything about my ugly dishes, ok?) So as you can imagine, one of the things I was most excited about in the whole getting married process was the part where you get to pick out things you want other people to buy for you. I'm talking about a wedding registry!

Justin and I took advantage of our long weekend by trying to tackle at least some of the registry. As much as I have been looking forward to this experience my entire life, I quickly discovered that registering for wedding gifts is actually quite exhausting and extremely overwhelming. In a world of online shopping, I found it difficult to make decisions on certain items without reading user reviews first. We ended up using the scan gun in-store mostly on items we knew we needed but didn't need advice on (think coffee mugs, spatulas, food storage containers, etc.) but left off many big kitchen appliances, cleaning appliances, bedding, and dinnerware so we could do research online to make sure we're selecting quality products that fit our needs.

So friends, I'm coming to you now for advice on dinnerware. What was your experience and what do you recommend? I think I'm liking the idea of one set of dishes that are nice enough for guests, but casual enough for everyday use. Storage is a concern, so I'm not that interested in two sets of dishes. This is what I've narrowed down as options for our grownup, married person dinnerware:

These are the most formal dishes of the lot. I love their simplicity but surprising pearly shine. Aren't they just classy and impressive? I could see them gracing my holiday table in the future.

This next set is a little more casual, yet still nice enough to make a beautiful table setting for dinner parties. I love the unusual square plates and unique hammered porcelain.

Oh boy, I am always drawn to this aqua blue color and especially in the kitchen. It's just so spa-like and fun! My only concern with these is that they may not be appropriate for all seasons. But they sure are pretty, don't you think?

This last set of stoneware reminds me of something you'd see at Pottery Barn. I like the rustic hints on antiquing against the clean white glaze.

All options are dishwasher safe, which is a requirement for me, and most are microwave safe as well. I welcome your thoughts and opinions on these options or recommendations for others. Let the dish debate begin!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Turkey Burgers with a Surprise

Don't you just love surprises? With the exception of those tenderly disguised but actually far from great surprises like "surprise your house guests are staying a few extra days" or "surprise you just ate horse," I usually tend to enjoy a good surprising. These turkey burgers fall under the category of ooey gooey great surprises, in the form of mozzarella tucked inside. INSIDE the burger!

And the surprise doesn't stop there because this burger is also drizzled with a thick, sweet and tangy balsamic glaze. You can make your own or go the easy route and buy it at a specialty food store. Chula not included.

This meal comes together really easily, but you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. I followed this recipe, but started by preparing the bruschetta topping so the flavors could meld in the refrigerator while the burgers were being assembled and grilled.

The bruschetta topping contains diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. These bright and fresh flavors perfectly compliment the melty mozzarella and juicy grilled turkey. Imagine, if you will, turning a caprese salad into a burger. Should you feel bad about turning a beautiful and healthy Italian dish into a hamburger? Maybe. But I don't.

This is where you get your hands dirty. After you mix your ground turkey with salt, pepper and dried basil you'll divide the mixture into four equal mounds. From there you'll divide each mound in half and flatten each to form the top and bottom of each of four patties. The recipe also called for adding parmesan cheese to the ground turkey mixture, but I found that I didn't taste it the first time I made these burgers so I left it out this time. I also used smoked mozzarella to stuff my burgers because hello, why wouldn't that be amazing? I might have been too lazy to shred it this time but I'll definitely try shredded next time to compare which makes for a better melt.

Sandwich the mozzarella between the top and bottom portions of turkey and then squeeze them together on all edges so you don't have any cheese seepage when you take them to the grill.

I used my beloved panini press to grill these bad boys indoors and the burgers were ready in about 3-4 minutes. Why hello there, cheese in my burger.

I know burgers are traditionally eaten between buns and all but with so much going on here - the bruschetta topping, the hidden mozzarella, the balsamic glaze - this burger is just as satisfying when eaten with a fork and knife. 

Speaking of surprises, I was surprised to find that after one day of being back at work I was hit with the flu. This is the first year I didn't get a flu vaccine so I suppose I've learned my lesson the hard way. Save for canned soup, this turkey burger is the only cooking I've done in a week. It feels good to be back in the kitchen and rid of the flu. I don't think it's possible to watch any more Say Yes to the Dress than I did while I was home sick. I'm breaking records, people!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Holiday Recap

I've been on vacation for the past two glorious weeks. Vacation from work, vacation from blogging, vacation from exercise... oops! I haven't stepped foot in my office, nor opened my work email since December 20th. I exercised exactly three times and watched exactly eight movies. Yea, it's been real. Since we're being honest I can tell you that I did not take a vacation from cooking and/or eating, obviously.

Mom made this CHEESECAKE STUFFED chocolate cake!

Brother carving the Christmas roast

While home for Christmas I finally had the opportunity to put my trusty tart pan to use again, this time with a savory Bacon and Caramelized Onion Tart. The answer to your question is yes, I did pack my tart pan in my suitcase to Texas with me for this very purpose. And I have no regrets because the tart was such a cinch to whip up as a little pre-dinner snack for my family.


I caramelized my onions and cooked the bacon the day before. All I needed to do on Christmas day was par-bake a store-bought pie crust, combine the ricotta mixture with half the onions, smooth the mixture into the semi-cooked crust, top with remaining onions and bacon and bake until golden.


I used Gruyere cheese instead of Parmesan (family preference) and bacon on only half of the tart since we had two vegetarians in the house.

We sliced ours into thin strips to snack on during the day while playing over sized Jenga. I think a slice of tart served along with some mixed greens would also make an excellent lunch.

After many a game of Jenga, I also scoped out the new Austin Cake Ball Kitchen & Bar while I was home and got my fried okra fix at Pok-e-Jo's BBQ. So, you know, a really healthy holiday.

Can someone please tell me why cake balls are so expensive? At $2.50 a pop, I expect them to be dipped in gold and truffles. Two bites and they're gone, and so is my money! After stuffing myself in Texas I made it back to LA in time to spend New Years with friends and fiance.

And of course this little lady.

I'm looking forward to 2012 for so many reasons. Between getting married and being there for one of my best friends when she gets married, meeting more of my soon to be new family (at yet another wedding, of course), new opportunities, new holiday traditions and new travels, It's gonna be a wild year. I hope you'll stick around for the ride!