Crowd Pleasin’ Cheesy Bruschetta

Around the holiday season, I find that short-notice entertaining of friends happens more often than the rest of the year. And trust me when I tell you, I have absolutely no complaints. There truly are few things I love more than preparing food and feeding people. But when I’m in a time crunch, Bruschetta is one of my go-to appetizers.

I’ve already shared with you all how to turn the bold flavors of basil, garlic, and tomato into a main dish by pouring it over chicken. But how could I forget to talk about the simple appetizer version of these favorite ingredients of mine?

Ingredients

3 large, ripe tomatoes

1 clove garlic, chopped

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped or shredded

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2  tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pepper to taste

1 long baguette

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Chop tomatoes, and place them in a large bowl with garlic, balsamic vinegar, pepper and basil leaves. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. Cut baguette into circular rounds, about 1-inch in thickness. Drizzle rounds with olive oil. Top rounds with tomato mixture and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to oven for 2 minutes. Serve hot 🙂

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I love serving dishes that seem fancier and more difficult to prepare than they actually were. This bruschetta dish fits that description! These ingredients serve 3-6 people as an appetizer, so make sure to double it if you have a bigger crowd to feed.

If you give this recipe a try, enjoy!

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Veggie Packed Chicken Soup Because I’m Freezing Cold

Hi friends! How goes life? I am just cruising along this week, working and counting down the minutes until the holiday season officially begins! I’m so ready to begin Thanksgiving day with a Turkey Trot 5K Race with my dad and Derek. We all decided to run together this Thanksgiving, instead of trying to set PRs. None of us have been training for speed lately (Derek and I have been preparing for our upcoming half marathon), so we thought it would be nice to run together this turkey trot!

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I’m so excited that the weather in Tampa will be chilly this Thanksgiving. Who wants 80+ degree weather during the holidays? Not this girl! As you can see from my picture from last year’s turkey trot, I was sufficiently freezing (don’t let my dad’s outfit fool you – it was in the 40s and that’s cold for us down here!).

Speaking of chilly weather…. As the temperature outside starts to get a little cooler ( in the 60s here in Tampa, and that’s cold for us), I always start to crave soup more than any other time of the year. What warms your heart more than a large bowl of homemade soup? Nothing, that’s what.

Last weekend, I was really longing for some homemade soup, and we had tons of veggies and chicken on hand that I put to use to create this vegetable packed chicken soup! Here’s the recipe, I hope you all enjoy!

Veggie +  Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces chicken tenders, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 2 small zucchini, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 28 oz. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons orzo (or another tiny pasta)
  • 3  cups packed baby spinach

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Directions

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add chicken to pan, and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. In a large pot, add zucchini, onion, oregano, and salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, white wine, and orzo, and cook on high heat until the soup begins to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes. Add in spinach and chicken and cook for 2 more minutes.

This soup is the perfect meal for freezing and re-heating on chilly nights or as a special lunch treat at work. I enjoyed the soup 3x this past week and it didn’t grow old once!

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Buon Appetito! And enjoy your Turkey Day-Week 🙂

Zucchini Bites + My Tasty Week

Happy Hump Day, friends! I hope you are all having a great week thus far. I’m enjoying my time + food here in Atlanta (you’d think I came here just for the food with all I talk about it), but I’m looking forward to get home to my loved ones and Louie this weekend.

On Monday I took a break from working out – it was one of those days where I needed the break both mentally and physically. You ever feel that way? Anyways, to treat myself on this lovely rest day, I went to Tin Lizzy’s in Atlanta with three girlfriends from work, and it was delicious. I had an awesome salad topped with grilled shrimp, and loads of chips and guacamole. This made for one happy gal.
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I got back to the gym on Tuesday, and got a 4 mile interval run in, which coincided with our half marathon training plan! The run on Tuesday felt as good as the rest day on Monday did – funny how that happens, huh? Tuesday evening some friends and I went to eat at a seafood restaurant and all ordered the same seafood chopped salad and shrimp and grits. IT. WAS. DIVINE. We left feeling happy and full 🙂

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Now on to a recipe I promised you all! When I made this for my family last week, it was devoured in seconds. And the best part: this zucchini appetizer was as quick as it is healthy and tasty!

Ingredients

2 large zucchini

1/3 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1 tbsp panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°and prepare a baking pan. Slice the zucchini into thin circular rounds. Place on baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and top each round with tomato sauce, panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes. Serve hot! (Makes about 30 pieces)

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Zucchini are one of my favorite vegetables to cook with, and pack some great nutrients. They are a good source of Vitamin C, folate and potassium – this recipe is a great dish to make when entertaining guests, and they won’t even know they’re eating healthy!

Cedar Plank Heaven

Did I say heaven?? I meant salmon. Slip of the tongue! Wednesday night for dinner I cooked salmon over a cedar plank for the first time, and it most definitely will not be the last. I’m still over here day dreaming about that smell….. But before I share that recipe, I know you guys are dying to hear about my day. Breakfast started out with a plate of cheesy eggs and hot salsa, just the way vacation days should start.

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After I let breakfast settle, I drove over to the gym and jogged for 15 minutes to warm up before going to the cycling room for a new-to-me cycling class. Naturally, I needed help setting up my bike, and the instructor noticed immediately and came over to help. Can’t reach the pedals = no bueno. As soon as the class started, I knew it was going to be a toughie, but I knew I was going to love it. The music was mostly 80s throw backs, and all of the songs kept me pumped up. The class was wonderful and I didn’t even have to wait ’till the following day to be sore! I was sore immediately!

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Lunch time rolled around and I was so excited because I had a lunch date planned with my sweet grandparents. They are as precious as precious can be, and we very much enjoyed our lunch at Pane Rustica. I especially enjoyed my massive salad, which was topped with roasted zucchini, eggplant, peppers, fresh mozzarella, and various fresh fruit. It held me over ALL.DAY.LONG. Eureka!

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I ran some errands and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to start preparing dinner. Now here comes the good stuff, the cedar-y sweet goodness that I promised. Like I mentioned, this was my first time grilling anything on planks, but I knew I wanted to try it out a few weeks ago when Derek’s mom made the most delicious salmon I’ve ever eaten on cedar planks. I purchased planks several months back and never used them, but Wednesday night was the night!

Cedar Plank Salmon

1 1/2 pound fresh salmon

1 T thyme

1 T cumin

1 T garlic powder

1 T brown sugar

2 lemons

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cedar planks, soaked in water at least 2 hours (I soaked mine in the kitchen sink)

Directions

Cut salmon into 4 fillets and set aside. Cut both lemons in half, and set one half aside. Cut the other 3 halves into slices to place on top of the cedar planks, under the salmon. Squeeze the juice from the remaining half into a bowl, and add vegetable oil to the lemon juice. Whisk together. Place salmon fillets atop the lemon slices on the cedar planks.

In a small bowl, mix garlic powder, thyme, cumin and brown sugar. Rub spice mixture over salmon, and cook over medium-high heat on a grill for 30-40 minutes, or until flaky and cooked through.

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image-321I served the cedar salmon with green beans that I blanched and sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

image-320I think I will have serious trouble going back to regular ole grilled salmon anytime soon. The thought is horrifying.

Anyone else ever grill over planks before?

A Weekend in Foodie Paradise + Chicken Milanese

Happy Monday, friends! I’m finally getting around to sharing the recipe I promised you all last Thursday.  But first I’ll recap you on my weekend.

My taste buds were truly spoiled on Friday. I was so excited to have lunch with my friends Laura and Liz, and we went to a cute cafe in the Hyde Park area of Tampa called Piquant. Laura just returned from graduate school in Paris – she’s been there for a year and I seriously missed her! It was only fitting that we go to a French restaurant – I’m sure she’s having withdrawals.

Fast forward about 6 hours and I find myself at Bern’s Steakhouse, one of my favorite restaurants in Tampa (that was recently voted the 2nd best steakhouse in America by The Daily Meal)! Bern’s is a Tampa landmark and always a special place to go. Since it was my nephew’s birthday, we followed our dinner with a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar (largest private wine cellar in the world), and finally ended up in my happy place – The Harry Waugh Dessert room atop Bern’s. I had to roll myself home.

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On Saturday morning, after a 4 mile run with Derek in the new ‘hood, I spent the day shopping for an outfit for a special occasion with my mom. It was a successful trip! Plenty o’ hours were spent studying, and when the evening rolled around Derek and I met his sister and friend Maddie for a wine tasting and dinner. More foodie happiness for this girl.

And yesterday was spent churching, drinking coffee, studying, cooking and a lousy/slow 3.5 mile run!

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Finally the good stuff!!!!!

This spin on a chicken milanese dish was the first meal I cooked in the new kitchen – it’s always weird finding your way around and  working in an unfamiliar kitchen, but I can’t wait to get used to this one. Here is how the dish came together:

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Ingredients

6 thin chicken cutlets

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 tomato diced
1/3 onion, diced
2 tbsp oregano
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°. In a mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and oregano and add in the diced tomato and onion. Set aside and let marinate. Place chicken in a large glass baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray). In a separate bowl, mix together crumbled feta and panko bread crumbs. In a measuring cup, mix together olive oil and lemon juice, and then pour over chicken, making sure to coat both sides. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the chicken, also coating both sides. Top the breaded chicken with the tomato and onion mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
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I served the chicken with couscous and an arugula and spinach salad.

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Homemade Basil Pesto

I just wanted to pop on in to share with you an integral recipe-within-a-recipe from a dish I posted last week!

Last week I shared with you all a recipe for a basil pesto and mozzarella chicken dish that I adapted from Skinny Taste. The recipe required homemade basil pesto sauce ( a skinny version, of course ) and I was so excited to make my own basil pesto for the first time! The Skinny Taste recipe was almost identical to a traditional basil pesto (only thing it lacked was pine nuts). I was so surprised at how easy it was to make, and was knocked off my feet by the way it tasted. Here is how it went down:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cup basil
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 5 tbsp olive oil

Add basil, garlic, grated parmesan, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse. After about 30 seconds of pulsing, begin to slowly add the olive oil. Continue to pulse until everything is incorporated. Scoop out of food processor, and serve over your meal or store in air tight container (it’s freezable)!

Makes a little over 1/2 cup of basil pesto.

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photo-99I served this basil pesto sauce atop a chicken dish last week and the basil pesto seriously stole the show!

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You have to make this or you won’t truly experience all the joys that life can bring you. I swear.

Halfway There!

Ooooh we’re half way there! Ooooh livin’ on a prayer! Obviously Bon Jovi was talking about Wednesdays when he wrote that song. Happy hump day everyone and congratulations on being halfway to the weekend. I’ve got quite the busy day ahead of me so I know it will go by super fast!

On Tuesday I began my day with a Barre class at a Tampa pilates studio. My friend Sara did the class with me (Sara introduced me to barre class several months ago), as did her sweet mom and friend of her mom.

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The pic isn’t blurry, that’s just how we naturally look.

After the class, I tended to the sweet dog clients I’m sitting,photo-81

and went to Starbucks to get some fuel for the day

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Mallor-ey. Close enough.

I won’t bore you with the details of work,  so let’s skip to the evening meal!

I knew I’d be eating dinner with my dad and nephews, so I needed to make a kid/man friendly meal and excessive veggies were out of the question. I made some greek-inspired chicken kebabs with tomato, onion, and zucchini (and just as I suspected, my nephews were successful in avoiding the zucchini). I served the skewers with homemade hummus (will share the recipe ASAP) a large salad, and a cheesy potato concoction my dad cooked on the grill.

Ingredients

1 zucchini, sliced

1/2 of large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces

cherry or grape tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. large chicken breasts

2 T oregano

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 T olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Wooden Skewers, soaked in water for 15-20 min

Directions

Cut your chicken breasts into small cubes and place in a large freezer bag. Add 1/2 clove of minced garlic, 1 1/2 T oregano, 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice, 1/2 T olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste to the bag. Seal and shake and let marinate. In another large bag, add sliced zucchini, onion, and tomatoes. Add remaining lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and seasoning. Seal and shake.  Thread your chicken and vegetables onto the skewers in whatever order you like. Grill until completely cooked (took me about 3 minutes per side).

image-146Whoo hoo using my new grill-pad from a LivingSocial impulse buy!

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I was feeding my nephews snacks all before dinner, and I, too, engaged in some hardcore snackage (anyone surprised?). Since I was so proud of my hummus, I went to town on that also. And who could turn down ice cream sundaes with a Wright’s chocolate cake at the bottom? Not this girl. Anywho, I’d imagine my food baby is weighing in at about 6 lb 5 oz.

In other exciting news, my dad and I finally finished Homeland Season 2 last night. If you’ve read the blog for a bit, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how much I love this show. Derek and I started watching it last fall with my nephew Fuller, and once I completed both seasons, I KNEW my dad would love it too, and I HAD to watch it all the way through with him (in case he had any pressing questions, of course). My dad uttered the words, “please don’t let it be Sal”, several times last night. I agree dad, please don’t let it be Sal!