Chicken Salad Obsession

So I was pretty bummed about not being able to have a kitchen adventure on Sunday, so I thought I would throw one in during the week!  The other night I realized I had put chicken in the refrigerator to thaw, and since I am leaving for the weekend, it needed to be cooked.  I am obsessed, and I mean this whole heartedly, with the Chicken Salad at Whole Foods.  You can ask my roommates and they will attest to this and explain to you my sick obsession with it.  Since Whole Foods is not in my budget on the regular…I thought I would try to make my own version!

Ingredients:

3 Boneless Chicken Breasts

Light Mayonnaise

Pepper

Craisins

Sliced Almonds

Red Grapes

Clean the chicken breasts and boil for 10 minutes.  Simmer for another 10 or until cooked through.  Do not over boil the chicken or it will dry out.  Once the chicken is cooked, shred in a bowl.  Add about 5 tablespoons of the mayonnaise or until there is enough covering the chicken (do not add too much or it will be soggy).  Add pepper to taste (if you can’t see the pepper, there isn’t enough).  Add the craisins, almonds, and grapes (sliced), mix together and let sit in the refrigerator until cooled.

This is kind of  a big deal for me, considering I tried chicken salad for the first time last August!  I really am starting to branch out when it comes to food…finally (thanks to my family and Ryan’s constant nagging).  I looked up a few recipes, but decided to jump ship and just come up with my own based on ingredients around the kitchen.  I boiled three chicken breasts and then shredded the chicken. Shredded is always the way to go in my opinion. I added light mayonnaise, pepper, craisins, red grapes, and sliced almonds (they are supposed to go in salads and were pre-packaged) and mixed together.  I let sit in the fridge over night, ready for me to take to work the next day!

It was so delicious!!   Alyssa and Jess were my tasters and they approved.  I will definitely be making this again and probably often!

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Food Extravaganza

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”― Anthony Brandt

I came across this quote and I wanted to share it.  Of everything I know, this quote is something I know to be 100% true.   No matter what, no matter where, no matter when, family should be at the core of you.  This is definitely a quote I try to live my life by, and I hope you all take a minute to appreciate your family today!

Last weekend I spent some time with my parents and on Saturday we went to the NRA Food Convention here in Chicago.  My Dad was helping out a friend, so my mom and I met him there for the end of the day.  We got to try some really good food…not healthy food, but good and saw some really cool companies!  I tried to hold off on the free samples considering we had a big dinner planned at Cibo Matto, but it was certainly hard to resist.  On the plus side, I was finally inspired for my sisters shower I am helping to plan with my aunts and came up with some great ideas for favors and table decorations. Below are a couple of photos I took at the convention.  The pickles picture was taken specially for Alyssa…

I loooove Gelato, so I couldn’t resist 🙂

Cibo Matto was a really good restaurant, but it was unanimous that we liked the wine more than the food.  I ordered the carbonara, and while it was really good, I must brag that mine tasted just as good, if not better.  I know I am biased, but I’m just throwing that out there.  Everything else we ate was good…but not amazing.  It could be because my parents are food snobs (in a good way) and I walked away happy, yet not ecstatic.  We went  to the Cheesecake factory for dessert because it was close to their hotel and my Dad wanted cheesecake.  Good thing we shared a piece between the three of us because the Red Velvet Cheesecake contains 1800 calories.  No, I did not go and look this up.  We asked the waiter and he told us…with much hesitation.  My Mom and I definitely let my Dad have the majority of the bites…

I was planning on spending Sunday in the kitchen making pizza dough and preparing the ingredients for my pizza party, but Chicago made other plans for me!  It was such a gorgeous day and I was forced to spend the day on the beach…tough life, I know!  I am heading home for the Indy 500 this weekend and am going to try my hardest to include a Kitchen Adventure into my weekend.  Hopefully Monday I can help prepare the food for my brothers graduation party.

CONGRATULATIONS Jack!!  I can’t belive you graduated high school and are so old….I remember the day you were born and I tried to send you back 🙂  You can thank Mom for not allowing that to happen….Love you!!

 

 

For the Love of Italy…and it’s Food!

So I first fell in love with cooking while I was in Italy.  It wasn’t the best place to start off my passion for food because no matter what, nothing I do now can live up to the amazingness that was created and eaten in Italy.  When my friend Jordan came to visit from Rome, we decided to have a BIG Italian feast.  I decided to  make Pasta Carbonara.  To say it was good is an understatement.  Later, when I came to Rome to visit Jordan, he bought a ton of pancetta, fresh from the butcher.  Unfortunately, I messed up the Carbonara…I forgot to put the boiling water in the egg mixture and I am sure a few other things.  Cooking while drinking a ton of wine (Chianti to be exact) in Italy does not necessarily help make a master chef.  Good thing the pancetta was SO good and flavorful that the pasta was not completely destroyed.

That is the thing with Italy.  The food is so good on its own, it makes cooking fairly easy!  Now that I do not have unbelievably fresh pancetta, fresh seasoning, and other delicious ingredients, it takes a little more effort and attention in the kitchen.

Jordan, Laura & I on a day trip to Pisa (sad I can actually say years ago…)

Carbonara Sauce

*Serves 4 people

Salt & pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper (eyeball it!)

Olive Oil

1 lb pasta (I prefer thick spaghetti)

4 large eggs

Garlic (3 cloves)

1/3 lb pancetta

Parsley (preferably fresh, but flakes work!)

Romano Cheese

Mix eggs in a separate bowl.  Add a little bit of salt and pepper, milk, red pepper, and parsley.  Set aside.

Start boiling your pasta water and cook pasta until desired.  I recommend cooking it more al dente for carbonara.  Save a ladleful of boiling pasta water to add to your egg mixture.

Finely chop the pancetta.  In a large skillet or wok, lightly saute garlic until translucent.  Add the pancetta and cook over medium heat.  Cook a total of 4-5 minutes, or until brown.

Drain the pasta and add directly to the skillet with the pancetta.  Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and continuously mix the pasta until the egg mixture is fully mixed in.  Add salt, pepper and cheese to taste.  Offer extra cheese to guest and enjoy!

The Egg Mixture

The Pancetta (unfortunately from a package)

Jordan enjoying my “American” Carbonara!

Halfway through the Meal…

I had not made Pasta Carbonara in a few years, and will admit I was a little nervous!  It’s not a difficult pasta to make, but I feel as if it is easy to make it under flavored or “eggy.”  I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out perfectly flavored and very good, in spite of the pre-packaged pancetta, which had little flavor and was extremely thin.  I was feeling a little under the weather all weekend, even though I had a surprise visitor (!!), or else I would have made an adventure to the butcher on Halstead.  I guess that will have to wait for another day…maybe when the weather stops acting up and just stays warm!

My parents will be here on Saturday, but I am hoping to make pizza next Sunday!!  Until then…healthy eating 🙂  Have a great week!

 

Kitchen Creations

 

Last week was a pretty busy week, but my roommates and I did a lot of baking and cooking!  Jess made Banana Bread one night and it was so good!  I had it for dinner and breakfast the next day.  I have never made Banana Bread, but it was fun watching her make it.  I hear it is pretty simple, so one of these days I will give it a try!

The next night Alyssa took over in the kitchen and made some really good Turkey Burgers.  She mixed the meat with spinach and goat cheese and added a little seasoning.  We also had some green beans and tomatoes on the side.  To continue on with our week full of kitchen adventures, Nikki and I made dinner the following night.  I rolled pesto and swiss cheese into chicken, added some pepper and baked it.  I kind of came up with this on my own and was a little nervous about the outcome, but it turned out really good!  Nikki made cous cous and added a few things…I can’t remember what, but it was SO good.  Everything was gone after dinner!

The Spinach Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers

Pesto Chicken Roll-Up

Chicken & Cous Cous Dinner

Once again I was out-of-town over the weekend, but was glad to be home.  I had a wedding to go to on Saturday.  One of my sisters best friends got married, whom I have known pretty much my entire life.  She looked beautiful, the wedding was so much fun, and it really was a special night.  Congrats Devin & Spencer!  I also got to spend Mother’s Day with my lovely Mom.  We surprised her with some great gifts and it was nice to spoil her a little bit!  As usual, we had dinner at my Grandparents, but this time we got a little entertainment!  My cousin Annabelle was the center of attention for a while, dancing on the table and making everyone laugh.  She just started walking, but can already dance and twirl!  She is just too cute so I thought I would share!  While she was entertaining us, it brought up some pretty funny memories.  I am not sure if this is an “Italian” thing or not, but all my cousins and I came to a consensus that we all spent a lot of time playing on tables and taking baths in the sink as little kids.  It’s always nice to look back on growing up and have a good laugh!

April Vacations Bring May Relaxations

May.  I can’t believe it is already MAY!!  The past 10 months have been so crazy…filled with ups, downs, fears, and excitement.  All the emotions have made this year just fly by.  Today was the first day of my REAL job.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working, but now I have a salary and benefits and can say I am a full-time employee.  It is weird to not have an end date in mind.  That has never happened to me before, but I’m so glad I can finally stop waiting for the day I have to look for another job!

Minneapolis was such a fun time.  It was so nice to spend time with my friend and catch up.   It was pretty rainy and dreary out all weekend, but we still managed to stay busy and have a blast.  Saturday we spent the day at the Mall of America.  For a girl who loves to shop, this place is still a little much.  I didn’t know which way to look, walk, or buy.  I found a few things of course…but this is not a place for a weak shopper to spend a Saturday.  We had lunch at the Nordstrom Café and I had some of the best Tomato Soup ever and my Pesto Chicken Sandwich was super delicious.  Since I didn’t cook, I thought I would share some of my tasty treats over the past week.

Saturday night I went to dinner with Laura, her two roommates, and some friends.  We went to this ADORABLE restaurant, Amore Victoria.  I don’t typically choose to go to Italian restaurants because, not only do I eat it all the time, I am a food snob when it comes to my sauces and Italian dishes, but this place was SO good.  I split the Pollo Bianco with Laura (chicken sautéed in a white cream sauce with fresh mushrooms, a layer of prosciutto and mozzarella.  Served over pasta), and it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  I am really glad we split it because if not, I would have eaten the entire dish.  Not joking.  Laura was my roommate when I studied abroad in Italy and she  joined me in my 4 month carb adventure, eating nothing but pizza and pasta.  She and I both could have eaten our plate, but remembering our appearances after that food adventure, it was a better idea to share.  She got sick of pasta after those 4 months, me on the other hand, I could eat it every day.  And then the next day. After a great weekend, I was sad to leave, but I was really excited to head to Florida to meet my mom and spend a relaxing week with her!

We both arrived at the airport around 11 PM, got our bags, and went straight to the rental car counter.  When we got to our car we both looked at each other in disbelief.  It was the funniest looking car I have ever seen.  We contemplated going back to request a new car, but we were so tired and neither one of us had the energy to go back and switch.  If you have never seen a Nissan Cube, let me have the pleasure of giving you a glimpse of what we drove around Naples all week.  We were stopped twice by people asking where we found this “car.”  My great Uncle wouldn’t get in it because he said it was so ugly.  the only positive I can share with you about the car is that it only cost $19.00 to fill up the gas tank.  I haven’t done that since  I had my first car in 2003 and it cost $20.00.

There is not much to say about my trip to Florida except one word.  RELAXATION.  I needed that trip more than anything and I am so glad I was able to spend so much time with my mom.  Below is a picture of my “desk” for the week.  This is where  I did all of my reading (Sarah’s Key and Eat, Pray, Love), emailing, chatting, and creative thinking.

I finally found some MUCH needed cooking inspiration while I was there.  I had forgotten how much I LOVED Carrabbas Margherita Pizza, so when I insisted we went there for dinner one night, and I fell in love with the pizza all over again, I decided it had to be my next cooking adventure.

I am going to get my Grandma’s pizza dough recipe and my roommates and I are going to have a “Pizza Party.”  We each can make our own pizza creations and share!  I am excited to finally be inspired again.  I guess now that my life has calmed down, I have been able to put my thoughts elsewhere (back on cooking).  I am not sure when this will be able to happen, considering I am going to be Indy this weekend for a wedding and Mother’s Day.  Hopefully next week I will have time to have a “kitchen adventure!!”

Sorry for the novel.  Have a great week!