Mozzarella Bites

Sometimes you just need a little bit of comfort food, even if it's for nothing more annoying than really bad traffic. I'm not sure how often I'll make these, because they're a bit fiddly, but they were really good. Original recipe for the balls here and the marinara sauce here, but I did change a few things.

1 tub of mozzarella balls
30-40 basil leaves*
1 package of square wonton wrappers
1 egg white
1 Tlbs milk
1 can tomato sauce
1 garlic clove
3 Tlbs fresh parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/3 cup minced onion
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1-2 Tlbs grapeseed oil

Make the marinara sauce first. Put the tomato sauce, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper into a food processor, and process until smooth. Then heat the grapeseed oil in a saucepan, and saute the onions for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce and the white wine vinegar, and let it simmer for half an hour or more while you prepare the mozzarella balls. Rinse, drain, and dry the balls, then cut them in half. Chiffonade (slice) the basil leaves. Then whisk the egg white and milk together in a small bowl, and open the package of wonton wrappers. Take a wonton wrapper, and brush the egg white mixture along two sides. Then put half of a mozzarella ball and a few slices of basil in the center and fold the un-egged sides up to make a triangular package. Press the edges together. Then brush more of the egg mixture on one side of the triangle, and fold the sides and top wings down to make a little envelope. Set it aside to cure for a while. Continue doing this until you have as many as you want. Let the last ones cure for about 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 350, and spray some olive oil on a baking sheet and let it heat as well. When it's hot, put the mozzarella envelopes on the pan, spray the tops lightly with olive oil, then let them bake for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, turn the  marinara sauce off and let it cool slightly. After removing the mozzarella balls from the oven, drain them (if needed) and let them cool slightly before eating.

*Basil. More is ALWAYS better. If you have extra, toss it in the marinara sauce.

This was good, but fairly time-consuming. It took me about an hour to prepare everything before putting the envelopes in the oven. This did not mesh with the time on the original recipe, so she might be a genie or something. I would assume you could make these ahead of time and refrigerate them for maybe 24 hours before cooking, but if you do, I would recommend keeping them in a sealed container, and make sure there is no moisture on them before you bake them.

Rating? 4/5
Why? They took a while to construct, but were really good once they were done. I ate too many. =)


Grilled Chicken and Barley Salad

Ugh....summer cooking. I just....don't. It's so much work. Fortunately, this one was easy, and only seems like it takes a long time. Most of it is just letting things cook while you watch Netflix in front of the fan. This was also the first time I have cooked with barley. It's pretty good, actually, and takes the same amount of time as regular rice. Original recipe here, which I followed with just a few tweaks.

1 chicken breast, fat cut off
1/2 cup barley*
1.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup fresh or thawed corn
3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup minced red onion
2-3 Tlbs cooked, chopped bacon**
10-12 leaves of basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1.5 Tlbs olive oil
1 Tlbs water
1 Tlbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tlbs red onion
salt and pepper

Put the marinade ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Put 1/4 of vinaigrette/marinade into a plastic bag, add the chicken breast, and toss it in the fridge. Set aside the other 3/4 of the vinaigrette. Heat the broth and barley until it's boiling, then put a lid on the pan and turn it to low. Let it simmer, untouched, for 40 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and fluff the barley with a fork. Drain well and let it cool. Put the corn, cherry tomatoes, onion, bacon, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl. When the barley is cooled down, add it and the remaining vinaigrette to the bowl and toss well. Meanwhile, grill  the chicken until done, then let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

*I used pearl barley.
**I used previously cooked turkey bacon because I had it, she used 3-4 strips.

This was good, and like I said, really easy. I probably spent 10 minutes doing hands on chopping and prep and it was a good summer dish.

Rating: 4/5
Why? I'm not sure how I feel about the marinade being used on the chicken. I might not do that next time.


Chicken Francese (Lemon Chicken)

Sometimes you look at the chicken and potatoes in front of you on the counter and you just feel uninspired and unmotivated. If I'm not careful, that will end up as a trip to Taco Time, so usually I try to plan my meals at least a week ahead of time (which also makes for faster shopping trips and less $ spent). Sometimes that still leaves me uninspired, or with a recipe that takes more time than I am willing to spend, so I'll browse pinterest, which is where I found this recipe. I've made it a couple of times now, and it's definitely a keeper.

1 chicken breast
1-2 Tlbs whole wheat flour
1 egg white, beaten
olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tlbs white wine vinegar
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 Tlbs whole wheat flour
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tlbs fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp coconut oil*

Slice the chicken breast in half by laying it flat, putting your hand on top of the chicken breast, and using a sharp knife to carefully slice the chicken horizontal to your hand. This will give you two thinner slices of chicken (cutlets). Put the flour in one small bowl and the beaten egg whites in another bowl. In a third bowl, put the lemon, white wine vinegar, chicken broth, 2 Tlbs whole wheat flour, black pepper, parsley and coconut oil. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, with a small amount of olive oil (if necessary). When the pan is hot, dip the chicken in flour, then in egg white, then saute it for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan, and pour in the lemon mixture. Heat it, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken, then add the chicken back into the pan for a minute or two. Serve by putting the chicken on a plate and spooning a small amount of sauce over the top.

*the coconut oil can be switched out with butter...melt the butter first if you use butter. There is absolutely no coconut taste if you use coconut oil instead and it tastes just as rich.

This is really good and very light. It's even better served with these roasted potatoes (which I've also modified slightly). I changed her recipe a little bit - reduced it by fourths (her recipe is for 12 cutlets), replaced the white wine with white wine vinegar, cut out the salt, cut down the amount of lemon, cut out the lemon slices altogether, and replaced the butter with coconut oil. I like lemon, but this was really strong the first time I made it. It is important to do all the prep first, because this only takes a few minutes from start to finish, once you put the chicken in the pan.

Rating: 5/5
Why? It's fast, easy, light, and filling.


Balsamic Vegetables and Meatballs

I've never been a huge fan of meatballs, and after a recent attempt to make burgers, I've realized that I am no longer a huge fan of raw beef either, but this recipe looked good and I thought I would give it a try anyway. It was definitely worth it, although I will be making a few changes to the original recipe (from Clean Eating, naturally).

2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 small pkg of lean ground turkey
1 egg white
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
olive oil (or coconut oil*)
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tlbs balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray it with olive oil. Spread the bell peppers and onion on the baking sheet, and bake for 40 minutes, until the edges are slightly blackened. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the turkey, egg white, pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and rosemary. Form into small (1 inch) meatballs. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tlbs of coconut oil over medium oil, then saute the meatballs one batch at a time, until browned and cooked all the way through (mine took about 6-7 minutes). Remove the meatballs from the heat, but leave the pan on medium. Add mushrooms and thyme to the skillet and saute the mushrooms until they are golden brown (mine took 3-4 minutes). Turn off the heat and add the vinegar, then add the meatballs back into the pan. When the bell peppers and onions are done, add them in the mixture as well, and toss everything together. Serve warm.

The original directions included a yellow summer squash which I ended up disliking, so I left it out of the recipe above. It also called for this to be served over pasta, but I didn't like that either. It also called for fresh thyme, but I forgot to buy it. Heh. I used turkey instead of beef and to make up some of the flavor, I added the garlic and onion to the meatball mixture.

This was a pretty good recipe and actually came together pretty quickly. The meatballs totally made this though, they were amazing, if I do say so myself. I had some issues with splatter in the pan, and they were shaped more like pyramids than balls, but they tasted fantastic.

*I started using coconut oil and I really like it. We'll see how it goes.

Rating? 4/5
Why? it does take a while to make this, because of roasting the peppers and onions, but it is still good.


Asian Chicken Salad Pitas

This is the time of year when I have a really hard time staying focused. There are only about 35 days of school left, it's almost May, the weather is warming up, and I am ready for a vacation. On top of that has been some added challenges this year - a new co-worker who requires some extra management, and my co-teacher took maternity leave so I've been supervising two new teachers for the last few weeks. Add to that my general unenthusiasm about cooking in general, and it's been a rough haul. I was (as always) finally inspired by Clean Eating, and picked this week's recipes entirely from that magazine.

1 Tlbs natural peanut butter
1 Tlbs low-sodium chicken broth
1.5 tsp apple cider vinegar
1.5 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp black sesame oil
1 chicken breast, cubed and cooked
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1 small carrot, grated or matchsticked
1 Tlbs chopped cilantro
whole wheat pita pockets

In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. In a medium sized bowl, toss the chicken, green onion, cucumber, carrot and cilantro. Drizzle the sauce over the top, then toss it together. Serve in warmed pita pockets.

I'm not a huge fan of cucumber (I've tried to like it, really!) but this was pretty good. I think it would be even better chilled, so I'm going to bring it for lunch tomorrow. It comes together fairly quickly, and would be a 5 minute meal if the prep work was done ahead of time. This made enough for about 4 small pita pockets.

The original recipe called for cashew butter (expensive) and I added the black sesame oil because the sauce seemed a little bland, but other than that the recipe is pretty close to the original.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? Cucumbers. Nice crunch, but I just don't like the flavor. =(


Asian Noodle Veggie Bowl

A few months ago, I stumbled across the Minimalist Baker (thanks Pinterest!) and fell in love with her recipes, her photography, and the good food. I don't love everything - she's vegan and I am most definitely not - but I do like that her goal is to use as few ingredients as possible and I appreciate the effort she puts into creating really great, healthy, filling food. This recipe popped up a few months ago, and it joined the many other recipes of hers on my pinterest page, until I decided to try it this week. Holy Deliciousness, Batman. This is going in the permanent rotation!

Thin rice noodles*
1 chicken breast
green onions
1 med-lg carrot
several basil leaves**
2 tsp sesame seeds
(Dressing Ingredients)
1 Tlbs black sesame oil
1 Tlbs honey
1 Tlbs peanut butter
2 tsp tamari soy sauce
1 tsp-ish of lime juice
1/4 tsp chili sauce
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger

*I bought these at Uwajimaya. I can't read the instructions. But it's cool. =) These would work too, and you can get them at most traditional grocery stores. Use about a handful.
**I have a deep and abiding love for basil, and I usually triple it, at a minimum. I used probably 10-12 large leaves for this recipe.

Heat up the grill, and put the chicken on it when it's hot. While it is grilling, boil some water and put the rice noodles in a dish that is deep enough for them to be covered. When the water is boiling, pour the water over the top of the noodles and without stirring, let them sit for 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the carrot into matchsticks and chop the basil. Then whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside. By this time the chicken should be done, so let it rest, then cube it. By this time the noodles should be cooked, so rinse them with cold water and let them drain. This recipe makes two servings, so split the noodles, carrots, basil, chicken and green onions between the two bowls. Drizzle the dressing over the top of the ingredients and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This is DELICIOUS and super fast. If I hadn't had to cook the chicken, it would have come together in ten minutes, a lovely end to a really busy day. In addition, it was really filling and tasted great. I didn't deviate much from the original recipe, but it would be delicious with edamame or fresh snow peas. In addition, I added sesame seeds to the recipe above because I thought it sounded good, but it wasn't part of the original recipe and I didn't put them in this time.

Rating? 5/5
Why? Fast, healthy, and delicious. Perfect.