Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

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It's no surprise that I'm a fan of buffalo chicken. My baked buffalo chicken salad has been one of our most popular posts! But I like to find new and interesting ways to consume it, so when I stumbled upon some inspiration for buffalo chicken with quinoa, I knew it had my name written all over it. 

For this recipe you will need:
1 cup raw quinoa (2 cups cooked)
2 cups water
1 1/4 pound chicken breast
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
4 scallions (green onions), diced
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup hot sauce, divided

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Then, prep your chicken. If you don't buy it thin, pound it out! Season the chicken with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. 

Place chicken in an oven-safe baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup of hot sauce on both sides of the chicken breast. I use Frank's, but any hot sauce will do! Bake the chicken on each side about 12 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the quinoa.  Follow the directions on the package, but generally the ratio is 1 cup uncooked quinoa : 2 cups water or broth. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the water is evaporated.  When the quinoa is done, transfer it to a large bowl to cool.

While the chicken and quinoa are cooking, dice the scallions and shred the carrots and cabbage. Set aside to wait for the other inredients.

Once the chicken has finished cooking, cut into small cubes. 

Combine the chicken with cooked quinoa. Add diced green onions and shreded cabbage and carrots. Add 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles and additional hot sauce to taste. Mix well.

Serve topped with additional green onion and blue cheese crumbles as desired. 

I love to make this dish for lunch, it keeps well and is really filling! 

baked buffalo chicken

Monday, October 20, 2014

worlDCrave: Little Goat Chicago

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This post is long (read: 6 months) overdue, but my mom always said, 'better late than never'. So, here goes! My girlfriends and I decided to meet for a weekend getaway in Chicago. It was my first time, and I was so excited to check out the major sites, and of course, the food scene. Knowing me all too well, my friends left weekend reservations up to me. Since we got in on a Thursday afternoon, I was able to score Friday brunch reservations at The Little Goat.

Head chef Stephanie Izard owns both The Little Goat, and upscale Girl and the Goat across the street (note: Liz recently visited The Girl and the Goat and swears it is heaven for brave carnivores). She was on the fourth season of Top Chef, and was the first female winner of the show. I'd heard nothing but great things about this place, and was psyched to check it out. We strolled up on an unusually gorgeous  April morning for Chicago and quickly decided to sit outside.

Our waiter was wonderful and played along in our fun as we explained the purpose of the trip. We knew this was going to be a leisurely and boozy brunch. For cocktails we sampled a variety of beverages. I, of course, went with the bloody. It was refreshing, spicy, and definitely house made. A few of the girls tried the Rosemary Daly, which was basically an Arnold Palmer with vodka and St. Germain. Mollie kept it casual with a grapefruit juice and vodka. 

Once we had our drinks, we relaxed and enjoyed the sun. Mollie had recently gotten engaged and at that point pulled out cards and asked all of us to be her bridesmaids. This was now a celebratory brunch as well!

The food options were so amazing that many of us had trouble deciding. Jackie had the Spanish omelet. Cooked to perfection, sizable, and with delicious toppings, she was beyond satisfied.

Although Mollie's the tiniest one amongst our group, she definitely has a big time inner fat kid. She immediately decided on the Fat Elvis Waffles. This dish was traditional waffles topped in bananas, bacon maple syrup, and peanut butter. We all had to steal a bite based on her reaction. She loved the dish and said the waffles were perfectly fluffy.

Meredith kept it traditional with chocolate chip pancakes. The moist and gooey chocolate kept her coming back for more. She wasn't able to polish off this enormous portion, but enjoyed it.

Ali decided to try to omelet of the day. Again, this was a more traditional dish, and featured ham and cheese. She thought it was good, but definitely was not as exciting as some of the other dishes on the table.

I went all out and chose the Bull's Eye French Toast. Essentially, french toast with a sunny side up egg in the middle, fried chicken, strawberries, and maple syrup. It might sound like a strange combination but it was perfection. The fried chicken was cooked wonderfully. The egg added another level of flavor to the dish. The strawberries balanced out the saltiness. I wish I could splurge on this dish more often in DC!

We ordered a number of sides for the table including the biscuit, home fries, bacon, and sausage. Traditional brunch sides, they did not disappoint. 

Overall, the amazing food, delicious drinks, and awesome service made our first meal together in Chicago one for the books! The amazing weather didn't hurt either. If you're in Chicago, I highly recommend snagging a reservation. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Cobb-inspired" kale and grilled steak salad

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I've always loved Cobb salads, but never made one at home because, well, they just are not very creative. You can order a traditional Cobb salad at almost every American food bar/restaurant in the country.  But maybe that's because there's a certain genius to the ingredients - the freshness of the crisp lettuce, the saltiness of the chicken and bacon, balanced by the creaminess of the avocado, and the tang of blue cheese. And of course, the hard boiled egg for good measure. On a recent eventing, I was craving an avocado salad, but wanted it to be more filling. My mind went to Cobb salads, but then I started thinking how I could take the common salad and make it my own. 

My version has kale and arugula instead of the traditional iceberg or romaine. I roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled steak instead of chicken, used Roquefort - a type of stinky blue cheese, and topped the whole thing with a runny fried egg. I don't know about you guys, but I've recently come to the decision that few dishes don't taste better with a fried egg on top. I skipped the bacon, but don't skimp on my account! Add it if that's your thing. This salad is seriously awesome.

Ingredients (for two)

Kale + Arugula mixture (use best judgment of amount -depending on number of people serving)
1 pint container of cherry tomatoes 
1/4 cup Roquefort or blue cheese (crumbled)
6-8 oz Skirt steak
1 Avocado
2 Eggs
2-3 tsp butter
Salt & pepper
Garlic powder 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cherry tomatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Roast in oven for 20 minutes or until they burst from the touch of a fork. I used this really pretty pack of colorful heirloom tomatoes. 

While the tomatoes are roasting, remove the  kale from stems. Cut up kale and arugula into bite size pieces. Cut up the avocado and toss it into the greens. Then crumble up Roquefort - use sparingly b/c it's really strong- and toss into the mix.

Next cook the steaks. Drizzle skirt steak with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil or melted butted and salt & pepper on each side. Grill the skirt steaks on a hot grill pan over high heat - if you want to keep it medium rare, cook for about 3 minutes per side.

Pull steak off the grill and take the cherry tomatoes out of the oven. Let the steak sit on a cutting board to rest while you cook the eggs. It should rest for 6-8 minutes before you slice it. 
Using a small frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the egg and fry, flip, and fry- try to keep a sunny side up consistency.  Do only one egg per time and carefully  slide it onto a plate. I didn't put this on top of the salad because I wanted it to rest on top of all the ingredients at the end. 

At this point the tomatoes should be ready. Use a slotted spoon to remove the roasted tomatoes and place over the salad mixture. Reserve the tomato and olive liquid for dipping with good bread.
Then, slice steak and toss over the salad with the roasted cherry tomatoes. 

Beautiful, eh? Plate a generous portion of salad per plate and top with a fried egg.  With the amount of flavors and juices, you won't even need to add any additional dressing!  

Monday, October 6, 2014

True Food Kitchen

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True Food
Image Courtesy of True Food Kitchen
First off, thanks for being patient with us while we took an extended summer break! A great friend of ours who works for C.Fox Communications, Sara, invited us to a preview dinner at True Food Kitchen. We paused to ponder why we hadn't heard about this place, and after a quick Google search, we realized why. It's in the Mosaic District. A new up-and-coming area in Merrifield, Virginia. We liked that True Food Kitchen tries to make regular dishes healthier by using all natural ingredients. We decided to pony up the car trip for Sara, hopped in my Jetta, and headed out to VA.

When we arrived to True Food Kitchen, we were immediately attracted to the great outdoor seating options, and the huge industrial/rustic space. Nothing like the tiny DC restaurants we are accustomed to.  Thank you, suburbia!  The event was packed, and we were told that we'd have to wait 45 minutes for a table even though we had an 8:30 reservation.  Frustrated, we decided to just take a spot at one of the long high top tables near the bar.  It ended up being serendipitous, as we sat next to True Food Kitchen marketing moguls and learned a ton about the restaurant concept and had details on each dish we sampled.  We learned that True Food Kitchen will cater any dish to different dining restrictions. They can make any dish gluten free or dairy free.   This will be a blessing for families in NOVA who are looking for a place to take kids with different food allergies! (FYI: We also learned that True Food Kitchen doesn't normally take reservations, so we'll let this one slip.).  

On to the good stuff.  The drinks.  Wow, the drinks.  We, of course, were immediately attracted to the many ginger-inspired drinks. I ordered the "Spontaneous Happiness," a cross between a St. Germain Cocktail and a Moscow Mule.  It appeared and disappeared as I sucked it down in under 10 minutes.  Liz decided to go with the ginger margarita and thought it was a flavorful twist on the classic.  TFK has a ton of hand crafted cocktails and we watched all throughout dinner as juices were created for each beverage.

We sampled three appetizers. First, the edamame dumplings. These were a light twist on a classic dish. Better than the original, I thought. They had an ultradelicate wonton-wrapper and filled with a creamy edamame filling. They were topped with a very light savory sauce that perfectly complemted the dumplings.

Next up, we had the caramelized onion "tart", with black fig and Gorgonzola. The title was a bit misleading though, as this dish turned out to be more of a flatbread than anything. It was very good, but nothing that we couldn't get elsewhere.

We definitely saved the best for last. The kale and avocado dip was phenomenal. Like guacamole but with shredded bits of kale mixed in for that hidden health kick. Served with crispy pitas and cotija cheese, we devoured it, agreeing that we need to start making this for our next party in lieu of traditional guac.

The list of entrees was seafood heavy, a great thing in our book. I went with the red chili shrimp pasta. It reminded me of a healthy lo mein and was a plentiful serving. I loved it and took the leftovers home to my boyfriend, who also agreed it was delicious.

Liz sampled the miso-glazed black cod. It was served in a bowl with bok choy and was swimming in a soy sauce based broth, but she found the broth to overwhelm the fish. Basically, she was jealous of my amazing shrimp pasta.

For dessert, we tried the banana chia seed pudding and flour-less chocolate tart. At this point we were so stuffed, but both were a delicious way to end the meal.
The pudding was reminiscent of rice pudding, but the chia seeds added an additional textural element. It was heavy on the banana flavoring and topped with banana chips. I wasn't so sure about this one when Liz ordered it, but actually enjoyed it. 

The chocolate tart was decadent and delicious.  Topped with a generous heaping of vanilla ice cream, it only would have been improved only if served warmer.

Overall, we really enjoyed True Food Kitchen. We think it will be a great option for VA residents and know it will do well in the popular Mosaic District.  We can't wait until one opens in DC....fingers crossed....

*Please note that while we did receive this meal for free, the opinions expressed here are our own. And, though the meal was free, we always tip our server.