a toast to new beginnings

I’ve always wanted to start a blog. Ok, I have started a blog or two in the past. So, why weren’t they successful? Well, one problem is that I would forget about it and not post anything. Another problem is that I had a ton of great ideas, but didn’t know how to put them into a format. I mean, if I have a crafting blog, does a recipe really fit? I needed something with multiple page capability, but it has been years since I enrolled in web design. I’ve since attended culinary and nursing school, so I’ll just consider myself a completely green newbie when it comes to this whole interwebs thing.

Hang in there with me. Worst case scenario, it will be entertaining to watch my sad attempts at blogging.

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lemoni patatas, as promised

Remember how I had this fantastic Greek inspired meal last night?

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Well, it would not have been the same without the lemoni patatas (aka lemon potatoes).  I’ve had a ton of variations on this tasty side dish, but I prefer small, slightly crispy, bite sized bits of lemony potatoey goodness.

Lemoni Patatas

  • 1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 a teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (425 if you have a convection oven). Next prepare a sheet pan by either lining it with parchment paper, or coating it with oil. I spray cooking spray (olive oil in this case), then wipe it with a paper towel to make sure the entire cooking surface is coated.

In a medium to large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients listed except the potatoes. I like to squeeze the lemon over a strainer to catch the seeds, then dump in all my herbs and spices, and whisk until it’s emulsified. Oh, there’s another $3 word! Emulsified just means blending two wet ingredients that don’t mix well together like oil and water – in this case it’s the olive oil and lemon juice. This is what will coat your potatoes, but it also works as a delicious salad dressing.

Alright, now for the potatoes. These baby yukon golds are pretty small, so most of them can be halved. Some are slightly larger, so I quarter the bigger spuds. Not sure whether to halve or quarter? If it’s 1 1/4 inches or smaller – half it. Up to 2 inches (which should be the biggest potato in a bag of babies) – quarter it. Here’s a visual so you’ll know the difference between halved and quartered:

Now that all of your potatoes are cut to roughly the same size, even if it’s not the same shape, dump them in the bowl with your dressing, and toss to coat. Get your hands in it! Clean hands make for excellent mixers.

Once everybody is coated, spread them out on your prepared sheet pan. I like to start with all the potatoes flesh side down/skin side up, but what’s most important is that they’re in a single layer. We’re roasting, not steaming. Place your sheet pan on the center rack of your oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.

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Make sure you turn your spuds every 15 minutes so they don’t stick, and brown evenly. Once they are golden brown all over, you’re ready to eat! If you stick to the baby yukon golds, it should take about 45 minutes. If you can’t find baby yukon golds, or your cuts aren’t quite as small as mine, it may take a full hour. Enjoy!

 

Greek, sort of.

Tonight, I made a Greek inspired chicken pita with “lemoni patatas.” Despite having a full plate, this dish is still on the lighter side, and could also be made as a salad (which I highly recommend).

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Instead of serving this pita style, you could always dress your greens, pile them on a plate, and top them with everything you see here. You could also toast the pita, and cut it into wedges to make little pita chips in lieu of croutons.

Greek Inspired Chicken Pita Wraps

Makes 4 pita wraps

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup Greek salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (extra virgin is fine, but I usually go for canola)
  • 1/2 cucumber, mostly peeled or completely peeled (if that’s how you like it) then sliced
  • 1 tomato, halved, then sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced super thin
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce (or other green leafy veg)
  • 4 tablespoons crumbled feta, divided
  • 4 tablespoons tzatziki sauce
    • 1 5.3 ounce container of Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
    • 1/2 a teaspoon of fine salt
    • 1 clove of garlic, peeled, and finely grated
    • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
    • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
    • 1 tablespoon mint, chiffonade

Ok, first things first: slice your chicken breasts and get them marinating.

Once everybody is all sliced up and smothered in Greek dressing, you can toss it back in the fridge, and prep your tzatziki. A lot of people make this light and creamy Greek yogurt dip in a food processor, but I like a little texture to mine. So, I do things old school. First, peel half a cucumber. Then you have two options: you can cut the peeled portion away from the rest of the cucumber, slice that peeled portion in half, scrape out the seeds with a small spoon, and shred the cucumber pieces with the large holed side of a box grater. OR you could use an apple corer or melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the center of the cucumber, and use the large holed side of a box grater to shred down to the unpeeled portion of the cucumber.

Once you have your cucumber shredded up, put it in a bowl lined with paper towels (cheesecloth would be a lot better if you can get it), and toss in the fine salt. Not only will this season your tzatziki, but it will draw the moisture out of your cucumber so you don’t have a watered down finished product.

After about 10 minutes of hang time, everything will be ready to be combined. Finely grate a clove of garlic into a small mixing bowl. Add the Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar and white pepper. Stir to combine well. Next, squeeze the excess moisture from your cucumber and add it to the yogurt mixture. Then, chiffonade a couple of mint leaves and add to the dip. After everything is well combined, cover and set it in the fridge to allow all the flavors to develop.

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Wait, did she say “chiffonade?” Yes… yes I did. It sounds super sophisticated, doesn’t it? It’s a lot easier to do than say with a straight face. Pick a few leaves: three large leaves, or five smaller leaves should be plenty. Stack the leaves one on top of another, then roll them up like a little mint leaf cigar. Slice your newly minted (tehehe) cigar into thin strips. That’s it! That’s a chiffonade of mint!

Alright, moving on. Our tzatziki is hanging in the fridge, our chicken is chilling. This is the perfect time to prep the potatoes patatas and get them in the oven. I’ll be sure to include the recipe later. Preheat your preferred skillet over medium heat. I just so happen to prefer cast iron because it’s non-stick and retains heat well. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and use a paper towel to make sure the entire surface is coated. Place your chicken pieces in the skillet in clockwise order (it makes it easier to tell where you started, so you’ll know who to turn first, and who to remove last). Let them cook for about 3 – 4 minutes per side to allow a little caramelization. That’s what helps develop a deeper flavor.

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As your chicken finishes cooking, pull it off into an oven safe container, and cover with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Wrap a stack of 4 pitas in another piece of aluminum and toss in the oven during the last 5 – 8 minutes of cooking.  If you have lemoni patatas in the oven, they’ve been roasting away at 400 degrees, so your oven should be good to go. If not, then just crank your oven up right before you start cooking your chicken, then turn it off when you’re about 10 minutes from finished.

I put everything on the table. These pitas wraps are a great way for everybody to get something totally custom to their taste preferences. One kid likes just cheese and leafy greens. Another just wants cheese and cucumbers with tomato slices on the side. My husband foregoes the feta and drowns everything in tzatziki. I’m not Greek, so I’m not offended. Are you Greek? Are you offended? I hope not. I promise if I ever am so fortunate to go to Greece, I will gladly eat whatever I am served and not change a thing. But tonight… I’m happy I can.

 

first attempted failures

I brought my nearly dead phone to the kitchen last night in an attempt to provide my first cooking tutorial. While several of the pictures were just fine, several were blurry, and some were just lacking context. Most unfortunately, a lot of content was missing entirely. It’s a learning curve to say the least.

Tonight, I am going to attempt to make some chicken pitas. I’m charging my phone now so I can take loads of pictures of all the prep steps. Maybe I can make a legitimate cooking post soon.

i paint my dream

Well, not so much. I’m not really a painter. I did some murals in my bedroom as a teenager (with my mother’s permission!), but I quit painting ages ago. One thing that always stuck with me was needlework. My grandma taught me to crochet when I was 9. When she felt like I could handle a smaller, pointed needle, I took up cross stitch. Now, that I’m in my early 30s, I get to sit around like a little old lady making scarves, blankets, and quilts.

Pinterest makes us all feel like anything is possible, and I am not immune to its charms. Here I will share with you my triumphs, and my failures. Either we’ll get it right, or we’ll have a good laugh. It should be pretty entertaining either way!

anyone can cook

I started cooking by peeling carrots for salads with great supervision from my mother as a small child. Eventually, I began following directions on the boxes of macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper. Finally I graduated to concocting spaghetti with raw ingredients, herbs, and spices.

After nearly a decade of working both front of house (waiting tables, hosting, and bartending), and back of house (preparing food, and washing dishes) in various chain restaurants, I decided to attend culinary school. Food Network’s Iron Chef had inspired me to push myself beyond the meat and three style cooking I had grown up with, and it seemed to be the only way I would get management’s attention that I was a serious candidate for a promotion. After a year of driving well over a an hour one way twice a week, I realized that this dream just wasn’t meant to come to fruition. I couldn’t afford to attend three days a week through the summer, because it meant paying for 2 children to attend daycare with astronomical summer rates.

I’m still grateful I had half a culinary education, and do my best to build upon the skills I learned. Here I will provide step-by-step instructions on how to make various dishes. Feel free to make requests!

eating is my favorite thing

Ok, maybe not my favorite thing. I mean, I’m definitely one of those “live to eat, not just eat to live” kind of people. My favorite way to eat is to have someone else do all the cooking and cleaning, and for me to just enjoy. That’s what this page is all about. Here, I will research restaurants, food trucks, humble taco stands, etc., and I’ll post about my experience. Most of these posts will probably be in and around the Atlanta metro, but I’ll do my best to include other areas, and I will be sure to post whenever I am fortunate enough to travel.