Cooking for 25… Happy belated birthday, Aunt Ginny!

My Aunt Ginny’s birthday party was last weekend, and my mother and I (and several amazing helpers) concocted and executed a menu for 25 people:

Appetizers:

Mini Sandwiches: Egg salad, Tuna salad and Avocado-Cucumber
Onion Dip

Potato Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Darlene)
Pasta Salad
Shrimp and Orzo Salad (contributed by my lovely Aunt Candace)
Arugula Salad (my mom made this is and it was far and away the most popular dish; almonds, green apples, fresh Parm, evoo and s&p – adapted from a Whole Foods salad)

Main Dishes:

Chicken-Zucchini Skewers
Poached Salmon w/ Avocado Sauce and Dill-Tomato Sauce

Desserts:

Birthday cakes!

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Tuna Salad Sandwich Rounds (20-24 rounds)

Ingredients:
2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained
3 tbsp mayo
1 large roasted red pepper bottled in oil , rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (I used less)
Salt and pepper
Unsalted butter, softened
24 thin slices whole grain bread (or whatever kind you like; we used a mixture of white and wheat)
Small bunch fresh parsley, very finely chopped

Method:

Mix the tuna and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; season to taste. Chill for 15 minutes up to overnight. When ready to prepare, Scoop salad onto rounds of bread, top with remaining rounds and lightly butter the edges of the sandwiches. Roll in fresh parsley. Stack, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Egg Salad Pita Pockets (20-24 pitas)

Ingredients:
8 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and chopped finely
4 tbsps mayonnaise
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
24 mini pita pockets (we used a mixture of white and wheat)
unsalted butter, softened
watercress sprigs for garnish

Chicken kebabs

Makes 6-8 kebabs (we quadrupled this recipe… it was epic)

1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 zucchini, sliced very thinly lengthways
6–8 metal or wooden skewers or sticks of fresh rosemary, lower leaves removed, tips kept on

Marinade
1 handful of fresh coriander
1 handful of fresh mint
3 cloves of garlic
6 spring onions
1 red chili
zest and juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl. Blanch the zucchini strips in salted boiling water for 30 seconds then drain and allow to cool.

Blitz all the marinade ingredients (except the olive oil) in a food processor, then loosen to a paste with a little olive oil. Add the marinade to the chicken pieces and mix well. Allow to sit for up to an hour. Then weave the zucchini strips in between the chicken pieces on the rosemary sticks or skewers. Grill for around 8 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked.

If you need to keep warm, sprinkle with a bit more oil and cover loosely with foil.

**Recipe from: JamieOliver.com

Poached Salmon with Dill-Tomato Sauce

Sauce (for 1lb salmon)
1/4 cup light mayo
1 tbsp low fat milk
1 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 small tomato, diced

Poaching (in the microwave!)
sprayed or lightly oil-coated ceramic or glass dish
2 salmon fillets
3 tbsps water, if more salmon use more water
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 lemon slices
Cover dish and salmon with plastic wrap; poke holes to vent.
Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, turning 1/2 way through (unless, of course, you have a rotating tray in your microwave). Fish should flake easily with a fork.
Let stand 2 minutes, serve with sauce.
Thanks to my Aunt Ginny for this recipe! So easy and so delicious.

Gemelli with Tomatoes, Olives & Ricotta

Coarse salt
8 ounces gemelli (or fusilli or penne)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
Fresh ricotta cheese, for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain. Drizzle with just enough oil to coat, so the pasta doesn’t clump.

Pulse sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss together pasta, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, grape tomatoes, olives, basil, and salt. Transfer to serving plates. Top with a scoop of ricotta, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with pepper.

**Recipe from: Zested (the picture here is prettier than mine… check it out)

Photos:

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It was a wonderful party. I got to see my cousin Anna for the first time in years, and our two new baby cousins were there looking precious and perfect. And my Aunt Ginny, who has been there for me my whole life, was I hope at least a little surprised that we were all there!

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Traveling: Brooklyn, New York

I love Brooklyn. You know how there are some places that you really feel could contribute to making you a different, maybe even better person? Despite the fact that you know deep down that no one and no place can bring you happiness and a feeling of home?

I feel that way about Brooklyn. Every part of my time there was the best part, and I was only there for a very fast-paced 40 hours. I saw a dear friend from high school, several friends from college, and even ran into a man I’d known as a teenager at a National Student Leadership Conference in 2003.

On Friday afternoon, March 16th I took the train from D.C. to New York, enjoying a chat with a very talkative college sophomore (I’m almost six years older than he is now… how did that happen…) along the way.

I arrived at Penn Station and tried very hard to follow Amanda’s directions “take the 2/3 to Borough Hall.” I did an okay job, asking only four or five people for help.

We decided to make these chicken meatballs from Inspired Taste I plugged earlier this week. I didn’t take many pictures while I was there as I had to do with my phone, but here they are, uncooked. They were amazing, and even better when we later reheated them in tomato sauce with vegetables. I’ve actually made these twice since then…

After dinner we stopped at our friend Matt’s place. We both knew him from college, and he’s a law student now too at the same school as Amanda. It’s wonderful having so many old friends concentrated in the same neighborhoods in New York.

I was lucky; my friend Dave from middle school and high school (which means we’ve known each other for ten years now…!) was in town that weekend as well. He went to college in New York and stayed there, as I did in D.C. We equipped ourselves with supplies and followed his directions to a friend’s apartment. One the resident’s friends had found this super awesome N*SYNC… cutout? that someone was just throwing away and decided it had to live over this doorway, in this particularly spectacular high-ceilinged apartment.

Dave seems happy and looks wonderful, and took us to see his friend’s band play at a bar. Everything about the experience was awesome. We stopped and got pizza slices and drinks for $1 each. Are there places in D.C. you can do that? Where are they? We walked through parks and alleys (well not many alleys) and passed sooo many people and places I’d never seen before. The bar was small but had large bouncy balls as chairs and also couches in the back, a raised platform serving as a stage, and a sweet list of caipirinha and sake-based cocktails. The band was wonderful and Dave’s friend enchanting. Her name is Sissy Clemens and the band is called Wax Poetic. Here’s them live at Joe’s Bar: 

We left around two a.m. and headed back across the bridge.

I woke up early and read, and enjoyed being in New York with Amanda. We have woken up in several countries together now… when we studied in Spain we traveled to Turkey, Greece and Italy. She had to head to school to work with the moot court in the afternoon, so we wandered around a bit and found things to do later in the day. There was a boutique where you could make bracelets and Peter Pan collars, a Middle Eastern cafe and hookah bar, and a small market in a square that stopped us briefly, and we moved on with the intent to return.

We had lunch at a Shake Shack, and it was my first time ever eating at one. It was pretty amazing: I had root beer on tap and a fried portabella mushroom with melted cheese and tomatoes. And crinkly fries!

I headed to Mocha Hookah, ordered a rosewater-flavored hookah and a mint tea, and read the fourth collection, “Season of Mists,” in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novel series. I’ve been having a wonderful time reading these… thanks, Ryan! Amanda eventually met up with me and we went back to her apartment to prepare for the evening.

(Source: NeilGaiman.com)

To prepare for the St. Patrick’s Day party and later events we made a version of a hot toddy: we put whole cloves and cinnamon sticks in a tea strainer and then boiling water, Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey whiskey and more honey in the teapot. After letting it steep we enjoyed the concoction along with leftovers crackers. The Amanda mentioned she saw friends taking shots of whiskey and then drinking pickle juice – pickle-backed shots. That seemed odd to me, but intriguing, though we amended it slightly and used actual pickles rather than pickle juice (the pickles were greener!)

Honey whiskey and pickles? Like orange juice and toothpaste. Not a good idea (we did two each anyway…)

After hot toddies and pickle-backed shots and getting all dressed up, we left the apartment and stopped at Amanda’s neighborhood liquor store for a whiskey tasting. I don’t remember the brand but the man serving it was fun and there was soda bread for accompaniment which brought back memories of Montessori school and baking themed treats all year round. We finally made it to the party on the roof an apartment building and it was in full swing. The party was from early afternoon to early evening and had been going strong for hours before we arrived. Good people, good music, lots to drink… good times all around.

As the gathering was winding down Amanda and I parted ways with plans to meet up later, and I headed to dinner with another old and beautiful friend, Sarah! Sarah and I were roommates in college and is among the few with which I”ve managed to stay in pretty constant contact.

And on the way I found…

We had dinner at a pasta place Sarah had been wanting to try called Oh My Pasta! It was incredible and perfect timing, as I’d been drinking for several hours and Sarah ran a half marathon Sunday the 18th! Carbs were key for both of us. It was lovely to catch up with her.

Sarah walked me back to the apartment and we passed the time til the early morning talking and eating and enjoying each other’s company. And she still kicked the half marathon’s ass the next day: 2:07: 25!!!!

Amanda and I had tea and breakfast together in the morning and then she sent me on my went to Penn Station and went to a Zumba class (before shoe shopping… I love her). I lost $2.50 from a machine that just decided at the last moment not to dispense a card, but luckily there was a man in the station selling swipes for $2.00 (again, really not something you’d ever see in D.C. Granted, I haven’t been everywhere in this vast city…) so I was good to go! On the subway (so hard not to call it the metro…) I saw many of the half marathon runners looking energized and proud, heading their various ways to clean up before a day of celebration.

One large coffee and thirty minutes later I was settled on an Acela train (really worth it sometimes).

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I had a wonderful time. New York is so fun. I love cities and people.

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… Peyton Manning to sign with the Broncos, Successes and Pitfalls of online dating algorithms

-o- I visited old friends in Brooklyn! -o-

Okay, so that’s not news… but it was still very funny (and fun)… details in my travel post on Thursday!

-o- Peyton Manning in talks to sign with the Broncos -o-

The waiting looks to be over and lots of people are disappointed… perhaps especially San Francisco football fans, who saw a Super Bowl title in their future with Manning on board. The biggest losers? Tim Tebow and all the Tebowmaniacs  out there. But maybe that’s a good thing considering where Lin-sanity has landed.

Here’s the news from Reuters.

(Source: Sports Illustrated.com)

-o- In-vitro and arcane survivor benefit laws -o-

A new Supreme Court case seeks to decide if a child conceived after the death of the father is entitled to survivor benefits.

In this case, after the husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and facing sterilization from chemotherapy, the couple decided to freeze some sperm so their already living child could grow up with siblings. Sadly, the father passed away, but true to his dying wish, the mother impregnated herself through in vitro fertilization. Once the child was born, she applied for Social Security survivor benefits.

The Social Security Administration balked and (like a true American) she sued. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

-o- Online Matchmaking:  Success?-o-

Jonah Leher of the WSJ offers an interesting piece on the nuances of online dating sites. About 20% of love birds now meet online with eharmony alone accounting for 5% of new wedding bells. (People are still unsure of where drunk in Vegas ranks.)

Despite the growth and popularity of the concept, Leher poignantly points out the many pitfalls of being matched by a computer algorithm.

What do you think? Personally, I think online dating seems like a way to meet people, if nothing else, and that is getting harder in today’s world of smaller yet ever more interconnected spheres.

-o- Spiders flee Australian flood – in pictures -o-

There were torrential rains in eastern Australia earlier this month, and large parts of New South Wales flooded. Daniel Munoz, a Reuters photographer, found an area swathed in spiderwebs. Why? How? Read the story to find out!

This is AMAZING: Gallery and story from The Atlantic.

(Source: Daniel Munoz, The Atlantic)

-o- Recipe of the Week: Goat-Cheese Stuffed Chicken Meatballs -o-

A new feature to conclude my Monday post… this week, Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs from Inspired Taste. Made this with my friend Amanda this weekend and will be making them with my man this week. Enjoy!

(Source: Inspired Taste)

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… An inspiring story for the would-be published novelist, Nile Gardner’s Top 10 Conservative Movies of the Modern Era

-o- It’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -o-

  • What’s been happening in the District this weekend? Find some of the events, lectures and discussions that occurred earlier this weekend and are continuing into the week here.
  • Read ABCNews‘ coverage of the quote controversy (just the newest of, in my opinion, unfortunate conflicts over this new impressive memorial) here.
                                            (photo credit: Rachel Cooper, about.com)
  • What’s cooking today? Epicurious suggests you regard the day off of work and the weather as reasons to break out the crock pot or the stock pot (and end up with leftovers for the week). Find “Federal Holiday Food Projects” here. I’ve been planning to make vegetable soup all week but will be waiting until Wednesday when I will have turnips and spinach (*see below). Here is a super yummy-looking chicken soup recipe from Foodista.

-o- And the winner is… -o-

                                                  (photo credit: The Inquisitr.com)
Check out the full list of Golden Globes nominees and winners; here are red-carpet photos from The Washington Post.

I didn’t get to watch the show, but there are a few categories in which I was interested.

  • Downton Abbey (Masterpiece) on PBS won the award for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television.
  • Martin Scorese won the Best Director award for Hugo.
  • Matt LeBlanc won the award for Best Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical for the Showtime production Episodes. Also nominated? Alec Baldwin from NBC’s 30 Rock and David Duchovny from Showtime’s Californication.
-o- One man’s list of the Top 10 Conservative Films -o-
I find even the idea of listing  “conservative” or “liberal” films a bit absurd (mostly because I think that all forms of art are by nature rather subjective) let alone ranking them not quite by quality but by their representation of certain values. But still, this was fun to read. I recommend you read the whole piece by Nile Gardner of The Telegraph. Well-written and intriguing.
Number one? Chariots of Fire,  directed by Hugh Hudson and released in 1981.
Find out why… Here’s the full list!
Read Asawin Suebsaeng‘s article “One Right-Winger’s Terrible List of ‘Top 10 Conservative Movies'” here in Mother Jones.
-o- The best Brunch blog post I’ve ever seen -o-
The White Library’s “Farmhouse Breakfast Brunch Inspiration” post is indeed inspiring, not to mention mouthwatering. On the menu? Quiche, maple bacon, and perfect little French toast triangles.
                                  (photo credit: Sandra of The White Library)
-o- Amanda Hocking, self-published millionaire -o-
Hocking, in need of a few hundred dollars to make ends meet, ending up making over a million dollars self-publishing her novels and selling them online. I found this story riding home on the metro one day and was truly inspired. Not for myself necessarily,  but for the several brilliant and creative people I know who have written novels and are truly, seemingly fruitlessly, to share them with the world.
I hope you too enjoy reading Amanda’s story. Here’s the article from The Guardian. And here’s the list of her books for sale on Amazon.com!
While you’re there, check out Underwood by A.M. Henry. I’m reading it now and enjoying it immensely. The author of Underwood is another writer using Amazon.com’s self-publishing options to distribute her book; you can get her book in paperback.

-o- What’s on my menu this week -o-

  • Schezuan tofu and green bean stir fry. Here’s the recipe from The Huffington Post.
    Szechuan Tofu & Green Bean Stir-Fry                                                             (photo credit: Ken Burris)
  • Turnip soup from Epicurious.

A funny thing happened on the way to this Monday… Salvador Dalí gave outlandish dinner parties; Dozens of chicken recipes from Punchfork and Cooking Light

-o- GOP: Romney v. … Santorum? Gingrich? -o-
I’m sticking with Romney (as is most of professional and popular opinion), but the news this week is still looking at Gingrich and the newcomer, Rick Santorum. And, despite numerous press gaffs, Rick Perry vows to press on.

Here’s The Washington Post‘s take on the state of the race; read NPR‘s article for more. Here’s the AP‘s story on Perry.

-o- Nicholas Lemann’s commentary on Ron Paul -o-
It’s been awhile since I had the time to read The New Yorker, but suddenly I spend hours (and so much money…) on the metro during the week and so have returned to reading it whenever possible.

Read the fun and fascinating commentary “Enemy of the State” here.

-o- Salvador Dalí gave off-the-wall parties -o-
Well, yeah… I have personally visited the Salvador Dali museum near Barcelona, Spain, and I would never have imagined otherwise. Check out the video below of one of Dalí’s dinner parties. I  wish I could see the full menu!


(image from Photos of Spain)


(image from my trip to Spain in Fall 2007)

View the video of the party here on Foodista.

-o- 10 most popular stories on TheNewYorker.com this year -o-
I really enjoy reading The New Yorker. Thanks to the sensitivity and generosity of my mom, I’ve had a subscription for a few years now. Though I have gotten very into the headline-based news gathering Twitter offers me, I still cling to “knowing a lot about a few topics” as a worthy pursuit. The New Yorker offers that, with features by regular and constantly improving writers such as Jeffrey Toobin and Malcolm Gladwell.

Among this year’s most popular stories: “The Tweaker” by Malcolm Gladwell, November 14, 2011 (“the real genius of Steve Jobs”) and “Looking for Someone” by Nick Paumgarten, July 4, 2011 (“Sex, love, and loneliness on the Internet).

Here’s the collection.

-o- Fantastic Collection of Chicken Recipes on PunchFork -o-
On top of my list to try: Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Melted Mozzarella.

Check out the whole gallery.

Also, get some of the featured chicken recipes in the January/February issue of Cooking Light below. Find all of the recipes from this issue here.

-o- Balsamic Chicken
-o- Chicken and Rice
-o- Chicken and Rice with Mushrooms
-o- Chicken Enchiladas
-o- Chicken Piccata
-o- Chicken Pizza
-o- Chicken Quesadillas
-o- Chicken Spaghetti
-o- Chicken with Olives and Lemons
-o- Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce
-o- Chicken with Root Vegetables
-o- Chipotle Chicken
-o- Creamy Chicken and Mushrooms
-o- Green Curry Chicken
-o- Maple-Brined Chicken with Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
-o- Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken
-o- Moroccan-Style Chicken Tagine
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Olive Tapenade
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Onion Jam
-o- Sautéed Chicken with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
-o- Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
-o- Szechuan Chicken Stir-Fry

-o- 6 Startups to watch this year -o-
Where would my weekly post be without a Mashable mention? Here are the 6 companies to watch in 2012, according to Sarah Kessler:

-o- Skillshare (website)
-o- Zaarly, Taskrabbit or something similar (Zaarly website | Taskrabbit website)
-o- LevelUp (website)
-o- Dwolla (website)
-o- Eventbrite (website)
-o- Codecademy (website)

How many of these have you heard of? Can you guess what they offer?
If you are part of a startup company, what is your new idea, and why does it deserve a place on this list?

Read Kessler’s article here.

-o- Where does the Nook stand in the eReader game? -o-
The New York Times looks into the eReader market and reports that, according to its sources, Barnes & Noble holds around 13 percent of the market. That’s certainly more than I would have guessed, considering the number of die-hard Apple fans and the fact that Amazon.com is a giant, and the Kindle was around first.

Read the article here.

-o- Nature’s Weirdest Events -o-
BBC Nature‘s  list of eerily strange natural events.

Among them: the tongue-biter, or Cymothoa exigua, one of hundreds of an isopod or louse which attaches itself to a fish’s tongue after entering through the fish’s gills.

Ceratothoa imbricata in Blacktail (c) Nico Smit
(image via BBC)

-o-  Random House’s collection of “Best of 2011” Book Lists -o-

Random House collected dozens of the year’s “Best of” lists in one place! Here’s the loot.

New Year’s Eve Dinner – Brie, Asparagus, Curried Chicken Bites, Salmon and Orzo with Olive-Mustard Butter

-o- Brie, Baguette and Strawberries -o-

No explanations needed here. We are on a budget, so we bought Simply Enjoy brand brie from Giant, and found it delicious. With baguette slices toasted into crostini and a few ripe strawberries, we had a very romantic first course for our 2011 New Year’s Eve dinner.

-o- Curried Chicken Bites with Lemon-Dill Yogurt -o-

First, prepare the yogurt so you can cover and chill. Mix 1 cup plain lowfat yogurt, 1 cup finely shredded peeled, seeded cucumber (with as much moisture removed as possible), 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (resist the urge to add more), and 1 tsp. dried dillweed in a small bowl. Cover and keep chilled until it’s time to serve the chicken bites.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into 1-in. pieces (*note: you will end up grinding this; I suppose you could buy ground chicken, but the recipe I used for inspiration called for grinding your own and I did like being able to remove most of the fat)
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

3 tbsps. flour (optional)
2 tsps. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. paprika

Method:
Add half of the chicken pieces to a food processor bowl. Pulse until pureed. Place in a large mixing bowl; repeat with remaining chicken. Add onion and garlic. Add the egg slowly, stopping when it looks wet enough. Mix together with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Mix together the dry ingredients (breadcrumbs and spices, minus the paprika). Add to chicken mixture. Mix well (I used my hands).

Shape the mixture into 40 (or so) 1-in. balls. If you are cooking them right away, dredge in flour (optional) and place half of the bites in a glass pie dish. Microwave for a few minutes, mixing halfway through. Fry over medium-heat in 1 tsp. vegetable oil and 1/8 tsp. paprika. Repeat with remaining bites.

If you want to freeze them (which I have been doing, because they are rather labor-intensive), skip the flour step and simply coat wax-paper-lined baking sheets with cooking spray. Spread the bites onto the sheets; coat with more spray. Freeze for an hour or so, then transfer to a cooking-spray-lined freezer bag. When you are ready to cook, microwave for a few minutes as directed above, then proceed.

Serve with yogurt.

Inspiration: Spicy Chicken Bites with Cucumber Dip, from the CookingLight Five-Star Recipes: The Best of 10 Years (1996).

-o- Simple Roasted Asparagus -o-

See the recipe for my favorite way to eat asparagus – simply – here. All you really need is good salt, freshly-cracked black pepper and a bit of olive oil.
You can see Brian’s favorite asparagus recipe, Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar and Tarragon, here,  featured as part of a weekend dinner menu.

Preheat the oven to 425 when you put the water on to boil for the orzo. When you add the to the boiling water, reduce the heat to 400 and add the salmon. Depending on your oven, stove, etc., everything should be finished around the same time!

-o- Roasted Salmon and Orzo with Olive-Parsley Butter -o-
Serves 4 

Ingredients:
4 salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each, skinned
8 oz. orzo pasta

*I made double the amount of olive butter and froze half for future use. If you want to do the same, double the amounts below and roll the unused butter into a log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Use within a month.
1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 a medium shallot (about 2 tsps.) minced shallot
2 tsps. chopped fresh parsley (or more, to taste)

Method:
Put a pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the orzo according to package directions and return to the pot.

To make the butter, put the butter, olives, mustard, shallot and parsley into a food processor. Process until smooth.

Coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the salmon fillets with good-quality salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 12-14 minutes, until just done in the center.

Add half of the butter to the orzo, toss well to coat. Place a small dab of the butter on each piece of salmon and garnish with fresh parsley and/or whole olives.

Enjoy!

Inspiration on Epicurious.

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Dinner Tonight – Simple Grill Pan Chicken and Sauteed Zucchini Medallions

It’s a short week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, so when grocery shopping I only purchased a few veggies and a few sources of protein: shrimp, asparagus, four small zucchinis, and chicken tenders. When all you have is your spice cabinet and some raw ingredients, you can still make a tasty and healthy dinner.

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-o- Simple Grill Pan Chicken -o-

Ingredients:
Chicken tenders or chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
olive oil, for pan
a mixture of salts and herbs – I used rosemary, herbes de provence, Borsari Original seasoned salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper
grated/shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400.
After pounding, sprinkle raw chicken with seasoned or regular salt, herbs, pepper and red pepper flakes on both sides (or you could add some cayenne pepper and maybe some diced fresh green and red pepper). Heat a grill pan or frying pan over medium-high heat. Grill on one side for 4-6 minutes until golden. Flip and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Move chicken to center of pan and sprinkle cheddar cheese (if using) over top. Bake in the oven for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through.

-o- Sauteed Zucchini -o-

Ingredients:
Zucchini (I used four small for two people, with leftovers)
A mixture of salt and pepper and herbs – black truffle seasoned salt, freshly ground black pepper, rosemary and herbes de provence
Olive oil, for frying

Method:
Slice zucchini into 1/2-inch thick medallions. Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt, pepper, and herbs. Cook for 10-12 minutes, tossing frequently. I sprinkled a bit of fresh lemon juice over the zucchini as it finished cooking, but you could also add a splash of red wine vinegar or a dusting of Parmesan cheese – or you could just leave it!

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I am literally eating it right now (sadly Brian won’t get to have any ’til later because he is in class) and it’s delicious.