Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

So let me preface this recipe by saying that I am by no means an authority on Middle Eastern cuisine nor am I an expert on the traditional means of cooking shawarma. What I DO know is that I am exceptionally glad that I can close my office door when I eat lunch, because I’m pretty sure I moaned in ecstasy when eating this oven roasted chicken shawarma and accoutrements for lunch today. It’s just. so. good. Tender chicken thighs are marinated in a garlicky, lemony spice blend and are quickly roasted in the oven then crisped under the broiler. The result is out of this world delicious. Topped with a quick garlic sauce made with pantry and fridge staples and a fresh and crunchy tomato cucumber salad, this meal is truly a symphony of flavor and texture. This dinner has definitely earned a spot in our regular meal rotation.

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

It’s hard to believe that something this flavorful can be simple to make, but it’s true. The marinade comes together in a snap and the chicken marinates on your schedule. Only have an hour? Great. Need to toss everything together the prior evening or before work in the morning? You are in for a treat, my friend. You can’t argue with that kind of versatility. When you’re ready to make the chicken, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and place the chicken in a hot oven. While the chicken cooks, whip up a quick (and yummy) garlic sauce and a fresh cucumber tomato salad. The cucumber tomato salad is a riff on Tabbouleh sans the grains. You know I love carbs, but save them for the naan (a soft, delicious flatbread) in this case. I found mini naan in the refrigerated section at Costco and I am obsessed, because they fit in the toaster. Warm, toasty naan on demand? Yes, please!

Once the chicken comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces. Drain excess juice from the sheet pan and place the chicken back on the pan. Broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes until edges have crisped and you’re ready to eat! The richly spiced, tender chicken, fresh salad and tangy garlic sauce complement each other so perfectly you’ll be amazed that this came from your own kitchen and not an NYC food truck. And since you’ve made it at home, you’ve controlled the amount of oil, fat and sodium in the dish so you can go back for seconds (or thirds) guilt free. If you make ONE dish in the next week, promise me you’ll make this. Please also promise me you’ll call me so I can come over. I’ll bring the wine!

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

Chicken:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large wedges
  • Naan bread, for serving

Garlic Sauce:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayo (low-fat is fine)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Cucumber Tomato Salad:

  • 4 firm Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 ½ seedless (English) cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 green onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions: 

Add chicken thighs and onion wedges to gallon sized resealable plastic bag. In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in bowl until well combined. Pour marinade into bag with chicken and seal. Massage chicken until thoroughly coated. Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate at least an hour, up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook chicken, preheat oven to 425. Spread remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil on rimmed baking sheet. Remove chicken and onion from marinade and place on sheet pan. Bake 25-30 minutes. When chicken is done, take out of oven and remove chicken to cutting board. Preheat broiler. Chop chicken into small pieces. Pour juices from baking sheet into a bowl. Place chicken under broiler for 5-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crisp edges have formed.

While chicken is cooking, prepare garlic sauce and cucumber tomato salad.

To make garlic sauce, add all ingredients to medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

To make cucumber tomato salad, toss vegetables and herbs in olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve chicken with sauce and salad and warm toasted naan bread.

Serves 4.

Shawarma recipe adapted from the New York Times

Tabbouleh recipe adapted from The Mediterranean Dish

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

Frosted Brown Sugar Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze

frosted-brown-sugar-cookies-with-apple-cider-glaze

Well friends, we’ve made it. This has been quite the week and I think we’ve earned ourselves a cookie. Or twelve. But not just any cookie. No, no, no. We’ve earned ourselves a proper, decadent, multi-dimensional cookie. Lucky for us, I’ve got just the one. These Frosted Brown Sugar Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze are bananas (well, apple, but you get the picture.) Chewy, warmly spiced brown sugar cookies are topped with cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese frosting and finished with a caramel-like apple cider glaze. OMG, these are so stinkin’ good. Each element individually is delicious, but combined they are really something else. I am sorely disappointed that I only got to eat two. Between friends and my husband these babies were gone in a day. So set aside an hour or two this weekend, pull out your apron and your mixer and get baking. I promise you will not be sorry. frosted-brown-sugar-cookies-with-apple-cider-glaze

I love the look and taste of frosted sugar cookies, but sometimes between rolling and re-rolling the dough, cutting out the cookies, baking, cooling and meticulously frosting each one, they lose a little bit of their allure. Especially when I’m trying to fit them into an already jam-packed weekend. These brown sugar cookies solve the problem. The dough is portioned with a small dough scoop and flattened slightly with your fingers. The unadorned cookies on their own are a showstopper. They are like a cross between a snickerdoodle and a gingersnap. If you’re looking for a quick and straightforward cookie, prepare and bake the batter (or roll in sugar prior to baking) and you’re in for a treat. But if you’ve got just a bit more time and energy to make the frosting and glaze, you will be rewarded.

You don’t need me to tell you that cream cheese frosting is marvelous. But holy moly, have you ever tried brown sugar cream cheese frosting? Prior to this recipe I had not and now I am a changed woman. So, SO good. Not quite as smooth as traditional cream cheese frosting, due to the brown sugar granules, but I think that adds a fun and unique texture. Add in a little vanilla and cinnamon and I’ve found my new go-to frosting for fall baking. Of course, you could stop here with the frosted cookies and be hailed as a rockstar for the spectacular cookies you’ve put forth. But give me a few more minutes and a handful of ingredients for the glaze and I promise you a treat worthy of any fancy bakery.

The apple cider glaze is thick and caramel-y and the element that pushes these cookies over the top. Reduce a cup of apple cider with some brown sugar and cinnamon while preparing and baking the cookies. Once the liquid has reduced, fortify it with a tablespoon of butter and brighten it up with a squeeze of lemon juice. Artfully drizzle over the cookies and eat the rest with a spoon. Or drizzle over apple slices. Or…eat with a spoon.

I wish I could make you a batch of these cookies so I could show you how wonderful they are but you’ll have to trust me and bake some up yourself. You can thank me later. Happy weekend!

frosted-brown-sugar-cookies-with-apple-cider-glazeFrosted Brown Sugar Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze 

Ingredients: 

Cookies:

  • 1 ½ sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt

Apple Cider Glaze

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or ½ tsp cinnamon)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Instructions: 

For glaze:

Bring cider and brown sugar to a boil in small saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until reduced to about 1/3 of original volume, stirring frequently. Once thickened, turn off heat and add butter and lemon juice. Set aside.

For Cookies:

Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

In bowl of stand mixer, add butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add egg and vanilla and beat for 1 more minute.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add flour mixture to sugar/butter/egg in 3 batches, allowing dry ingredients to be absorbed before each batch.

Using medium cookie scoop (holding approx. 1 ½ tbsp. dough), scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheets. Wet fingers and press down lightly on each cookie to flatten top. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are set and lightly brown, rotating sheets halfway through baking.

When cookies are done, allow to cool on sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove to baking racks to cool completely. Once cool, finish with frosting and glaze as outlined below.

For Frosting:

In bowl of stand mixer, add butter, cream cheese and beat on medium speed until combined. Add powdered and brown sugars, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Starting on low speed gradually increase speed and beat for 3-4 minutes until sugars are well incorporated.

To Assemble:

Spoon frosting generously (about 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp frosting per cookie) onto cookies and spread with offset spatula. Drizzle apple cider glaze on top as desired.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

frosted-brown-sugar-cookies-with-apple-cider-glaze

Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken

cheesy-bacon-guacamole-chicken

By the time I’m halfway through the work week, I need all the help I can get. Is anyone available to do my laundry, pick up my dry cleaning, clean my house and maybe just do my job for me, too? No takers? Darn. I don’t know how those of you with kids do it. I’m lucky if my shoes match by Wednesday. Luckily I have a few simple and tasty last minute dinner recipes up my sleeve to save me from the after work hangries (hunger + anger, for those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted.) This chicken, for example, is ready in a snap and checks enough delicious boxes to keep me going until Friday. Cheese? Check. Bacon? Check. A heaping pile of guacamole? Ohhhhhh, check. Served over a bed of greens dressed with olive oil and lime juice, this is a delicious, relatively healthy low carb dinner. Served with tortilla chips and margaritas… can I come over?

This recipe has a lot going for it even beyond deliciousness. It’s done in 30 minutes and leaves virtually no dirty dishes in its’ wake. Start by lining a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and bake the bacon in a hot oven. No greasy splatters and the bacon grease can be rolled up in the foil and thrown out once you’re done. While the bacon sizzles away in the oven, prepare the remaining ingredients. Chicken cutlets are a favorite of mine for a quick weeknight protein. They’re easy enough to make yourself with a chicken breast, a sharp knife and a steady hand, but if you’re really pressed for time they are also easy to find in the grocery store. While the bacon is cooking you’ll have plenty of time to season the chicken, shred some cheese and mix a quick guacamole. The chicken is baked on the same sheet you use for the bacon, then topped with shredded cheese and bacon and popped back in the oven until the cheese and bacon melt into the chicken in a gooey delicious mess. Top each chicken cutlet with as much guacamole as you please and you are DONE! You could also use shredded cheese and store bought guac to make this even more of a time saver. Enjoy this quick and easy mid-week dinner and keep your chin up. There’s light at the end of this tunnel.

cheesy-bacon-guacamole-chicken

Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken cutlets (either purchased as cutlets or 4 chicken breasts cut in half to make cutlets)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 heaping cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450. Line rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack inside of sheet. Spray baking rack with cooking spray. Place bacon on rack and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from rack and chop when cool enough to handle.

While bacon is cooking, season chicken cutlets with chili powder, cumin, 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. When bacon is done, wipe excess grease from sheet with paper towels and place chicken on baking rack. Cook chicken 3-4 minutes, then remove from oven. Divide bacon evenly over chicken cutlets and top with cheese. Place chicken back into the oven for 2-3 minutes.

While bacon and chicken are cooking, prepare guacamole. In medium bowl, mix avocados, tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, remaining 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper.

Once chicken is completely done, spoon guacamole on top and serve.

Serves 4, 2 cutlets per serving.

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Maple Cider Vinaigrette

autumn-quinoa-salad

Hi there! How was your first weekend of fall 2016? Mine was an ideal mix of productivity and active relaxation. A couple of spin classes, ALL the laundry and a Thanksgiving style turkey dinner on Sunday evening have left me renewed and invigorated…and just a little sleepy. I’m no good at inactive relaxation (aka sitting on the couch.) I need to be doing something, which is why this blog makes such a great hobby. If I have the time during the weekend, I love to prep something healthy and yummy for easy lunches or dinners for the week ahead. One of my favorite make-ahead dishes is a veggie filled quinoa salad. I vary the ingredients based on the season. This time of year, butternut squash, kale, cranberries and pumpkin seeds are in season and heavenly. Nothing brightens up a long work-day like a hearty bowl of fall’s bountiful goodness.

This Autumn Quinoa Salad fits the bill. I’ll be happy to face plant  in a bowl of this salad during lunch this week. All of my fall favorites make an appearance in this dish. The butternut squash, in particular, steals my heart. It’s roasted in a bit of butter until caramelized, browned and tender. It’s sweet and slightly savory and all autumn. The secret to perfectly roasted squash is two-fold. First, of course, is the butter. Second, you have to let it cook longer than you think it needs to. After about 20 minutes in the oven, the squash will be tender and almost too soft, but have faith. With time, more of the water evaporates from the squash and it caramelizes beautifully. A few handfuls of hearty kale add a healthy, delicious bitterness. Sweet dried cranberries are a must in any fall salad. Pumpkin seeds add a seasonal nuttiness and cheese (of your choice- I used parmesan, but blue or goat cheese would be divine) round out the additions. Toss everything in a sweet and savory maple cider vinaigrette that I would gladly eat with a spoon.

Start by preparing and roasting the butternut squash and everything else will be ready by the time the squash is through roasting. Serve the salad immediately and it’s warm and toasty, or prepare in advance and let the flavors mingle in the fridge. This makes a great side dish to roast chicken or pork. Or, top with grilled chicken or shrimp and serve as a light but satisfying main course.

autumn-quinoa-salad

 

Autumn Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped, cleaned kale
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • ½ cup cheese (parmesan shreds, blue cheese crumbles or goat cheese crumbles)
  • Maple Cider Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Instructions:

First, prepare butternut squash. Preheat oven to 425.

Spray large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and add butternut squash, butter and 1 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Mix ingredients until squash is coated. Bake squash 25-30 minutes, until side resting on baking sheet is browned. Then flip squash and return to oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, until it reaches desired brownness.

While squash is cooking, prepare quinoa. Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan and add quinoa. Once water returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer 12-15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Allow quinoa to rest, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with fork and add to large bowl.

Once quinoa is in bowl, add kale, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cheese. Add butternut squash once it is done. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Add about half of the maple cider vinaigrette and taste. Add more vinaigrette as desired. Serve hot, room temperature or chilled.

Makes 4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings.

Maple Cider Vinaigrette: 

In mason jar, add:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place lid on jar and shake thoroughly, until ingredients are well mixed.

 

Brown Butter Parmesan Polenta

brown-butter-parmesan-polenta

I had my first taste of fall on the drive home from work this evening and it was delightful. While the temperatures are still summer-like, the rest of nature is easing its’ way into autumn. The light in the afternoon is softer and more golden. A few overly ambitious trees have already started to make the change from green to vibrant yellow, and a few overly ambitious neighbors have already put their mums and pumpkins out on the front porch (slow down and let me catch up, guys!) All we need now are cool temperatures and oversized scarves.

Nothing drives home the feel of fall like creamy, cheesy comfort food. If the comfort food in question combines cheese AND carbs, I’m even happier. And if wine is involved- I’m in heaven! Wine, cheese and carbs form the holy trinity in my kitchen. Which means that served with a glass of wine, this brown butter parmesan polenta is ideal autumn comfort food. Polenta is sometimes overlooked as a side dish for more common carbs like pasta and potatoes. But when treated with a little TLC it is more than deserving of a spot on your table. Like pasta and potatoes, it is super versatile and can work with whatever flavor profile you’re aiming for. In this case we’re dressing up creamy, mild polenta with rich and nutty brown butter. Earthy sage and salty parmesan cheese round out the perfect fall side. The end result is creamy, warm and divine, like a soft checkered blanket wrapped around your shoulders. Excuse me while I have a moment.

This brown butter parmesan polenta makes a perfect side to a fall staple like Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce. Or you could easily turn it into a main course on its’ own with the addition of sautéed shrimp or grilled chicken. If you wind up with leftovers, be warned that the polenta will solidify once refrigerated. Don’t sweat it. Turn it into a new dish by warming it in a skillet until the exterior is browned and top it with sautéed greens and a fried egg.

I hope you enjoy this one! What are your favorite fall comfort foods?

Brown Butter Parmesan Polenta   .jpgBrown Butter Parmesan Polenta

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 1 cup medium or coarse grind cornmeal (Bob’s Red Mill sells cornmeal packaged as polenta, but medium to coarsely ground cornmeal is fine)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

In medium saucepan, bring milk and 2 cups water to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt. Reduce heat to a simmer, then add cornmeal, whisking as you add it. Continue whisking until no lumps remain. Allow cornmeal to come to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook the cornmeal 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until creamy. You may need to add additional water to stop the cornmeal from getting too dry. Add about ½ cup at a time as needed.

While cornmeal is cooking, prepare brown butter. In small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Once butter starts to foam, add sage. Continue to cook butter and sage until the butter starts to brown. Then remove pan from heat and transfer butter and sage to a bowl to stop cooking.

When polenta is finished cooking, add ¾ of the butter and parmesan to the polenta. Stir to combine. Add remaining 1 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer polenta to serving bowl, and top with remaining brown butter and parmesan.

Serves 4-6.

 

Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce     .jpg

Do you ever get stuck in a rut when it comes to an ingredient? When I was a kid my mom made (really excellent) pork chops dipped in an egg wash and tossed with breadcrumbs and topped with onions. For the longest time, that was the only place my mind would go when it came to pork chops. More recently I’ve come to appreciate the versatility of quick cooking pork chops on nights when I just can’t deal with the thought of one. more. chicken breast. Of course, pork chops and apples are old pals, a classic pairing. However, classic doesn’t always mean delicious. Too frequently, the pork winds up dry and flavorless and the apples turn to mush. This recipe remedies both of those problems and restores the classic duo to their rightful glory.

This dish is a delightful autumn dinner, fast enough to whip up on a weeknight but special enough for company on the weekend. Thin cut pork chops are quickly seared to form a flavorful crust while the interior stays moist and tender. Then sweet and tart apples and onions are sautéed in the same pan. Finally a savory, herby cream sauce comes together at the last minute in the pan, lightly coating the pork and apples with just a bit of richness. Serve this with mashed potatoes or polenta (hint hint, an awesome recipe is coming your way tomorrow) for a hearty supper or serve along side a mixed salad for a lighter, low carb option. Either way, you’ll have a cozy, tasty fall dinner on your table in no time.

quick-pork-chops-and-apples-in-sage-cream-sauce

Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 (5-6 oz) thin cut bone-in pork chops
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Instructions:

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. With paper towels, dry pork chops. Season pork chops with ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Add oil and butter to skillet. Once oil and butter shimmer in pan, add pork chops and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove pork chops from pan to a plate. Reduce heat to medium.

While pork chops are browning, mix mustard and wine in small bowl. Once pork chops are removed from skillet, add wine and mustard, stirring to scrap up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add apples, onions and herbs. Cook apples and onions until softened and wine has reduced, about 3-4 minutes. If pan becomes too dry, add water or wine. Add pork chops back to pan and cook until cooked through, about another 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add heavy cream and remaining ½ tsp each salt and pepper to pan, stirring until sauce is combined.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Cooking Light

quick-pork-chops-with-apples-and-sage-cream-sauce