Sunday, April 13, 2014

Baked Quinoa Crusted Chicken Parmesan

Quinoa is one of my favorite new obsessions.  It doesn't help the cause that Kroger now has two or three different quinoa options in their organic section, all of them with a slightly different but amazing taste.  We have cooked it is so many different ways, flavoring it with different ingredients, and enjoyed all of them.  I honestly don't think we have had one time where we didn't like how the meal ended up.  So, when I saw this, I obviously wanted to try it but was not sure how it would end up.  I couldn't imagine how cooked quinoa could possible coat my chicken, but it actually does a wonderful job!  The quinoa adds a slightly different taste to the chicken parm that is absolutely amazing.  I'm pretty sure we will never have regular chicken parm at our house again!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

  • 4 (4-6 ounce) boneless, and skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (~1/2 cup dry cooked with 1 cup liquid),  I used a mixture or red and regular quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon italian seasoning blend
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano regginao (parmesan), grated
  • 2 small containers of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons basil, torn
  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, dip in egg and coat in the mixture of the quinoa and italian seasoning.
  2. Place the chicken on a rack on a baking pan and bake in a preheated 400F oven until cooked and lightly golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish, top with the tomato paste spread thinly, and  cheese and broil until it has melted, about 2-4 minutes.
  4. Plate the chicken and garnish with fresh basil (ours is growing so well on our rooftop garden right now!)
    Image and recipe adapted from here

Dijon Almond Crusted Tilapia and Spaghetti Squash

As you know,  I am a big fan of fish, but you can only just stick in on the grill so many times before you want to mix it up.  Don't get me wrong, grilled salmon is amazing, but I always love my almond crusted, pistachio crusted, really anything crusted seafood at restaurants so I decided to give it a try on my own.  We recently received a new food processor from our registry so I really wanted to put it to good use.  We have had one before, but it was very small and terrible to use.  Now, we got the super heavy duty Kitchen Aid one and I am so excited to make pesto, hummus, etc. with it.  this time, we needed it to chop some almonds and it worked beautifully!  Below you will find the wonderful dinner we had.  With the Tilapia, we made spaghetti squash.  Let me tell you, I am a huge fan of it!  I tried it for the first time a while back at a restaurant and fell in love.  This was also an experiment, but after reading about it, it seemed simple enough.  I still don't understand how it comes out like spaghetti, but hey that is the fun of it!  Spaghetti squash is so simple to bake, and because it really doesn't have much of a flavor, whatever you put on it will be the flavor of the spaghetti squash.  I will put the recipe below but don't hesitate to experiment!    Enjoy!

Dijon Almond Crusted Tilapia

  • 2 filets of tilapia (about 1 pound)
  • ⅓ cup whole almonds
  • about ¼ cup dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil for pan-frying
  • lemon
  1. Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. About 20 seconds.
  2. Transfer chopped almonds to a shallow dish. Add paprika and mix together.  Make sure you don't overdo the paprika because the dish in general has a milder flavor.
  3. Season the tilapia filets generously with salt & pepper.
  4. Spread mustard on both sides of the filet and then transfer to the almond mixture to coat both sides.
  5. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  6. Once hot, place the filets in the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes per side or until the fish is cooked through. Exterior should be browned and crispy but not burnt.
  7. Serve warm and garnish with lemon.

Spaghetti Squash


1 small spaghetti squash (about 3-4 pounds)1 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder 


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.
2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds. Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
3. Add oil and butter to saute pan.  When pan becomes ho and butter is melted, add garlic and onion powder, and spaghetti squash strands.  Saute until desired consistency. The spaghetti squash should have a slight crunch (i.e. not mushy) - but if you like it softer, cover the pan and cook 2 more minutes. Garnish with diced parsley.

Tilapia Recipe and maged adapted from here
Spaghetti Squash image and recipe adapted from here

Creamy Chicken, Quinoa, and Broccoli Casserole

 So it has been a while since I have had a full week at home to cook a great meal!  I spent a full week at home about two weeks ago and had fun getting some new recipes cooked!  We are trying to eat very healthy so you will see a trend in that.  Casseroles can often be fattening are heavy and high in calories, but this one was so refreshing and used some of our favorite ingredients.  If you cannot find Gruyere cheese, Swiss cheese is a good replacement for it and has a similar taste. This was absolutely amazing and made for great leftovers! 

  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work)
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish  Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.  Do not add to quickly because then it may form chunks.
  2. Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, and quinoa, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dice the chicken and lay the chicken breasts cubes over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning if you would like. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water to blanch it. Set aside.
  4. Bake:  Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get the right consistency. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked and the sauce is thickened, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. The amount of water will depend on how thick the sauce is.  At times I do not add any.  Top with the cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.
    Recipe slightly changed and photo from here.

Planning a wedding and keeping up with life...

The past couple weeks have been filled with travel and work and of course wedding stuff.  I will recap the majority of the last couple of weeks here and am taking some time today to catch up on everything.  I continue to travel a lot for work, and got to see some lovely people in the past couple of weeks while doing it.  I traveled to Charlotte where I got to spend a lovely dinner with Amber (even though she was sick!)  It's crazy to think that we just met less than a year ago and have become such fast friends.  I also got to celebrate the lovely Caroline and baby J!  This was the first baby shower for one of my closest friends and everything surrounding her is so fascinating and so exciting.  Just seeing how she is now while she is pregnant makes you realize how wonderful she will be as a mom.  I cannot wait to meet the little girl in June!  This past week I also spent some time in California and got to eat dinner with Kristen two times!  It is always an adventure with her when I am in town, but YELP reviews never fail us when it comes to food, only when it comes to telling us if it is in a safe area :)

Dinner Date :)
The biggest event that happened was the Sam and Dem(Benz) wedding. Sam is a wonderful friend of ours who also grew up in SC swimming and then went to GT.  He was part of the wonderful swim class of 2011, but he also got to know Joe through taking a handful of management classes together.  To make it a small world,  Dem went to swim at Marshall, which is a school that a lot of the swimmers from my club team go to!  She knows so many of the swimmers that I grew up with, which is crazy (and awesome seeing them at the wedding)!  Their wedding was the last weekend in March, and it was so much fun seeing it all come together.  Sam and Dem followed a similar process as us while getting ready for the wedding, doing engaged encounter, food tastings, hair and makeup trials, etc, that it was so fun when it was all put together. The ceremony was beautiful (and made everyone laugh and cry at times) and the reception was a huge party!  It was such a fun time breaking it down on the dance floor, and getting to see some people we had not seen in quite some time!  The reception was at Monday Night Brewing and it was a perfect location for a low key reception that simply focused on people having a great time, and their food was amazing!  To wrap up their wedding, their exit was us waving glow sticks, which was something new that I had not seen before, and looked amazing!  I have never seen Sam as happy as he was in my life, and it was clear how happy and in love they were.  Seriously, he couldn't get a smile off his face!  It was crazy to think that our wedding was next, only 4 short weeks later!

Our wedding planning has been going quite smoothly with not too many bumps in the road.  It seems that everyone else is more worried about it than we are!  We did a great job delegating so it keeps us a little less stressed.  Kristina and her mom are doing our center pieces and flowers, so they have been working hard on designing what they would look like, and how we would accomplish the look.  We owe them so much, since they pretty much gave up their kitchen, living room, and dining room as well as their garage for getting everything ready!  We actually meet them today to discuss flowers and get them ordered, which means it is all finally coming to a close.  The biggest mess up we had with them was the table runners.  We had used a certain coral colored fabric before for some things, and wanted to use it again for table runners.  When it came in, it was a COMPLETELY different color.  Although I didn't think it was a huge deal, everyone else did, so it was time to fix it.  Luckily, Amanda (one of my bridesmaids) came to the rescue and ordered the fabric from the same store we originally got it from and it came in the same color since it was still from the same roll!  Things like that, I realize no matter what, they will work out, so there really is no need to worry too much about them!

We also did our programs and guest book cards on vista print.  We finally got them all set and ordered, and they came in last week.  After opening them this weekend, we realized they were both cut wrong, and there was a typo,  but VistaPrint was so easy to work with that they fixed the issue and reordered them free of charge.  It was the easiest customer service ever!  If you are looking at saving some cost in the wedding,  I would highly recommend them, since they have done everything from us, from save the dates to bridal shower invitations, to our actual invitations!  It has saved us a ton of money and they come out so pretty!  They have premade options, or you can design your own, which is what we did.

Another issue (but not really) that we had was with the wedding dress.  Although it had fit perfectly 8 months ago,  Kellie Ann told me to try it on one more time.  She happened to mention that it fit a bit looser and that I should take it in a bit, and after looking at pictures from when I initially bought it, she was correct.  Although nobody should complain about losing weight, I really have no idea how it happened since I am eating the same (minus desert and sweets for lent!) I was annoyed that I had to get the dress altered.  In the end,  I found a wonderful lady that put a bustle in the dress as well as altered it, so it was OK.

For hair and makeup, I had done my trial a long time ago, but had gone back and forth on if I liked it.  I received a call from the salon a couple weeks ago saying the lady that did my trial was no longer with the company.  They allowed me and my future mother in law to go do a retrial free of charge.  It was nice getting to go back in since I wasn't sure I liked the initial trial and I absolutely love the new lady that is working with me.  We are all going to Taylor Brooks Salon and they have a fantastic wedding coordinator that is easy to work with and very friendly.  I cannot wait to see everything put together on the big day!

Other than that, we have had small things to do like pick up our wedding license,  make sure that all of the groomsmen had their tuxes ordered,  get all the RSVPs in, and do table charts.  Luckily,  the table charts ended up  being fairly easy since we could fluctuate our table count between 9 and 11.  Everything worked out perfectly!  The other crafts DIY we did was the escort cards.  Instead of getting them made, we simply got card stock and made/wrote our own.  I had a long flight to LA to write them all so it kept me entertained on the flight!  So many details go into the wedding, but I am so lucky to have a lot of people by my side helping with everything.  Now,  with the majority of the details planned and timelines set for the days, I am ready for it to be here in less than two short weeks!
This weekend we had my parents in town on Saturday.  We went to the farmers market and hammered out some details with them and Joe's parents while grilling out on the rooftop.  We are so blessed to have two wonderful sets of parents that are so involved with the planning and make us think about the details we forget about.  After they left, we headed to the bar to meet up with some friends but called in an early night since we are getting old :)
And as another note,  my dad built me a beautiful vanity!!!