June 22, 2011

La Dolce Duchessa's Summer Salad

Every few weeks, my husband professes his desire to eat healthier. While this often gets thrown out the window when there's an attractive rib eye on the menu, he especially requests more healthy weeknight meals during the summer. What he really means is a great salad with some tasty grilled chicken. This is great for you, too- not only is it delicious, it's really not that much work. And, you can have enough leftover for a delicious lunch!

La Dolce Duchessa's Summer Salad


1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-2" strips (tenders)

4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) olive oil

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. sea salt

freshly cracked pepper (20 grinds)

1 tsp. rosemary (dried)

1/2 tsp. thyme (dried)


2 heads romaine lettuce

1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper (a sweet one, not a green one)

1 plum tomato

1 ear corn


2 Tbsp. lime juice

4 Tbsp. olive oil

sea salt

white pepper

While the little one is napping, marinate your chicken. Even if it's just a few hours, it will make a big difference! Our little boy takes a nap from 1-4 now, which is heavenly... I use his nap time to work on my garden beds. So! In a deep container, combine the olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Add the chicken and mix well to coat. Refrigerate and let this marinate for a few hours. I let mine sit for 2 1/2 hours before cooking.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat some olive oil. Once it's shimmering (that's when it looks sort of wobbly, if you find it hard to tell, get lower and look at it from a side angle, it may be easier to see that way). Add your chicken pieces and cook at about medium heat for about 8 minutes per side. Don't turn it over sooner- otherwise you won't get that nice browning. When it's been nicely browned on both sides, remove from the heat and place on a plate to cool.

While your chicken is cooking, you have the option of roasting your bell pepper. Never done this before? Don't worry, it is really, really simple. It works best with a gas stove. I really like cooking with a gas stove. My stove, as you can see in the pictures, has fairly open racks over the burner. I can just sit the (washed) bell pepper above the burner, the heat is a little higher than medium, and then using a pair of tongs, reposition when I get sufficient blistering. Have a zip lock bag or a bowl ready, once you've nicely blistered the outside, you need to either place it in the zip lock bag or in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. If you don't have a gas stove, give this a try over a conventional burner, using tongs. The results are not quite as dramatic, but they will taste just as good. After it's sat for about 10 minutes, using your hands, peel away what you can of the charred skin and loose skin. (If it's really hot, do this under running cool water) The flesh underneath likely won't be 'roasted' looking. It's ok if all the skin doesn't come off- you just want to remove what will texturally be unappealing, that's basically the charred and loose parts. Cut open the bell pepper, remove the stem and seeds. Chop into 1/2" pieces.

To assemble the remainder of the salad, wash your romaine, tomato and corn. Cut the romaine in 1" pieces, remove the stem portion of the tomato and cut into small pieces. Cut the ear of corn in half and then hold it vertically against the cutting board. Cut off the kernels using your knife. To make your lime dressing, combine the ingredients in a small mason jar. Shake well, that's it! On a plate or a bowl, place a mixture of the romaine, roasted bell pepper, tomato and corn. Top with the grilled chicken, you can cut it into smaller pieces or serve it in tact, up to you! Serve with the lime dressing. Enjoy! Have some cake for dessert. You can, because this dinner was so healthy!

We seriously are having cake for dessert. I am taking a cake decorating class! Here's an example of me practicing my shell border, rosettes and leaves. Hooray, cake!

June 16, 2011

Didn't My Jewelry Used to Be Sparkly?!

Summer- wonderful in many aspects, tough in others, especially tough on everyday jewelry! There is seriously so much crud in my engagement ring. Mostly it seems to be a combination of sunscreen (for myself and baby, which we wear every day) and taco juice. Taco juice? Yes. Here's why- remember how our refrigerator broke a little while back? It broke AGAIN- and was out of commission for another week, so we were eating every meal out of the house. And I happen to have a taco fixation. It certainly helps that the meat and three counter at Whole Foods got transformed into a taqueria, and there's a chipotle very near by- but it did get to the point that when we were deciding what to eat my husband would say, 'no more tacos!' Ok. So, what do you do? It couldn't be simpler, just get a little ball jar, put in just a drop of Dawn dish washing soap, add water about half way, and pop in your jewelry! A few things- first, I have used this method on diamonds set in both platinum and white gold and have gotten very good results. I would not, however, put in things that are more delicate (softer stones, metals, pearls, etc.). But, if your every day jewelry is made of these same materials, this will work really, really well. Here's all you do- put your jewelry in, shake a little, and leave for a little while, overnight if they are really dirty. When you're done soaking them, use a toothbrush to help loosen anything that's still stuck on there and rinse. Be careful when rinsing! They are slippery and you don't want them to fall down the drain! Finally, why Dawn? Well, Dawn is simply amazing for certain things. Its ability to cut grease is so good that rodeo cowgirls use Dawn to wash their horses to keep them looking sharp. How do I know? I have tied up a few goats in my life, doing high school rodeo. My goat string was pink, of course.

June 13, 2011

Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Mushrooms

This is a great weeknight dinner- or an anytime treat. It's tasty, easy to make, and reheats beautifully! What's also nice about it is that it doesn't have to be attended continually- you can be doing other things at the same time.

Tomato Sauce with Bacon and Mushrooms

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 yellow onion, chopped finely

4 pieces raw bacon, cut into 1/3" pieces

1 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (baby bella)

1/2 cup red wine

28 oz. canned diced tomatoes

sea salt



farfalle pasta

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion. It was hard to find regular yellow onions at the store this afternoon! They were really pushing the sweet onions and the yellow onions were tucked away in the back, and honestly, they'd seen better days. Poor, sad little onions :( Cook the onion for about five minutes, until the onion is getting a little browned in some parts. Did you know that you can keep the onion and garlic smell off your hands so, so easily? The trick is to wash your hands with COLD water after and during handling. It's hot water that will make the oils stick to you and the smell will linger. Give it a try, you'll be amazed!

While the onion is cooking, wash and chop your mushrooms and also cut the bacon. The easiest way to cut the bacon is to keep the 4 pieces together, don't separate them, and just cut perpendicular into pieces about 1/3" wide. Add the bacon to the onion in the pot, but separate a fair amount of the bacon pieces from each other first. Cook the bacon for about three to five minutes, you want it to cook a little, but not completely cook. Next, add the mushrooms. Give the mushrooms another five minutes. It's ok if there's some browning on the bottom of the pan. That's good, actually, because you'll use the wine to get the wonderful brown bits incorporated into your sauce.

Add the wine, taste a little to make sure it's good- it's for the good of the sauce, of course (wink), and then pour yourself a glass anyhow! Let the wine cook for a few minutes, you want it to reduce by about half. Now, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and set your timer for 25 minutes. Keep the heat low, stir every now and then, and go do something else (play in a sandbox, give a baby a bath, watch Game of Thrones on your DVR- or at least some of it).

We had this sauce with farfalle, but use whatever type of pasta you like! Although, because it's somewhat chunky, it will work best with pasta shapes that are medium in size and have some depth in their shape to hold sauce and pieces of bacon, mushroom and onion. Get your water boiling, when it's boiling add some salt (not before, it will adhere to the bottom of the pot and be very stubborn about being removed) and cook your pasta until it's just done- remove from the boiling water and rinse with cold water, this helps the cooked pasta from sticking together.

This is great with La Dolce Duchessa's Simple and Delicious Garlic Bread, here's the link:

Here's another handy thing about this dish- once the sauce has simmered for 25 minutes, you can just turn off the burner and leave it for a little while until you are ready to assemble the dish to eat- same thing with the pasta, especially if you rinse it with the cool water. I left both of these for a little while while we were upstairs putting the little one to bed. Then, we were ready to eat, so we came back downstairs and in the same pot I had used to boil the pasta, I spooned in some sauce, added some pasta, and heated both together, adding a little grated parmesan. This is a great thing to do with pasta, it really coats the pasta better than just placing the plain pasta in a bowl and then ladling sauce over the top. Once you've heated up the pasta and sauce sufficiently, place in bowls or on plates, and top with some additional grated parmesan. Place your garlic bread on the side. Enjoy! This amount served two adults with some leftover.

June 1, 2011

Super Easy Chicken Tacos

This is one of those great weeknight recipes- it's quick, but still healthy and delicious! No marinating time, either!

Chicken Tacos

1 lb. chicken breasts (whole or cut into 2" strips)

1 jalapeno (stemmed, seeded and chopped)

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced

juice 1 lime

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

canola oil

jack cheese, shredded

salsa verde (canned or in a jar)

guacamole (optional)

flour or corn tortillas

I used chicken breast meat that was already cut up into tenders / chicken finger pieces. In a bowl, combine the jalapeno (use gloves when you are handling and seeding), garlic, lime, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. If your chicken isn't already cut up into 2" strips, go ahead and cut it. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss to coat. Heat about 1 Tbsp. canola oil in a pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer over medium heat. Add the chicken and all of the bowl's contents. Cook about 10 minutes each side- you want it to cook mostly through, but if it hasn't browned, that's ok. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a new bowl, using two forks, shred the chicken. Meanwhile, pour about 4 Tbsp. canola oil into the pan you were just using. Add the shredded chicken back to the pan- you may need to do this in two batches, and turn up the heat to a little above medium. Fry the chicken for a few minutes, this will help it cook all the way through but also crisp and brown up the outside a little. Once it's nicely browned and a little crispy, place in a bowl.

Heat your tortillas, either in a pan over the stove or in the microwave (you can wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for about 15 seconds or so). To assemble the tacos, start with a warm tortilla, then spoon on some chicken, then sprinkle generously with the shredded jack, a spoonful or two of salsa verde and then guacamole (store bought or homemade). Salsa verde is primarily tomatillos- I buy mine in the Spanish food section of the grocery store. It comes in small cans or in glass jars.

You'll be pleasantly surprised that this is not only very fast and easy, but it tastes great! This also makes really good leftovers. You can have it the next day for lunch or dinner if you have enough. You can double the recipe if you want to have more- 1 lb. of chicken is probably going to only feed 2-3 people.