Autumn apple and sausage scramble

More often than not, our dinners involve sauteing some meats and veggies on the stove with olive oil, salt and pepper. I call these “scrambles.” I also call scrambled egg dishes scrambles, but this one didn’t involve eggs. It was just a mishmash of ingredients.

For this week’s “theme eating,” we’re enjoying apples. All sorts of apples. I found several different recipes (here, here and here) via Pinterest and last night we tried out our first one.

This Autumn Apple Sausage Couscous looked good and piqued my interest.

The inspiration for our dinner

The inspiration for our dinner

I love couscous, but it didn’t seem right for this dish. I opted for faro instead. (It was a good move on my part!)

The recipe called for chicken sausage with Gouda, which I couldn’t find at the Trader Joe’s I was shopping at. (Plus Brandon doesn’t like cheese, so that would’ve been a no-go for him. Yes, he’s crazy for not liking cheese!) Instead I bought the Sweet Apple chicken sausages, which had some brown sugar and maple flavoring. I also picked up some reduced fat Gouda for my portions. All of the ingredients for this dish came from Trader Joe’s. I love grocery shopping and visiting lots of stores, but I also love one-stop shopping.

Here’s the ingredient list: 

  • (1) chopped Granny Smith apple (I could’ve used two)
  • (1) package of sliced Sweet Apple chicken sausage
  • (1) package of 10 minute quick-cooking farro (or couscous, or quinoa, or whatever!)
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans, lightly toasted
  • Salt, pepper to taste

And the instructions: 

  1. Brown the sausage with a light drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook the farro according to the package instructions. (We use the “boil” technique listed on the side of the package.)
  3. Add the chopped apple and chopped onion to the frying pan. Continue heating over medium heat. Stir occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Add cranberries and pecans to pan, with about 2-5 minutes remaining.
  4. Add cheese if you’d like and voila! Dinner is served!
Our dinner

Our dinner

It totally slipped my mind but I was going to add my favorite apple cider vinegar and shallot dressing (reprinted from FitSugar) to this dish (below). This is a delicious recipe with or without the dressing and would make an excellent Thanksgiving side dish!

Apple Cider Vinegar & Shallot Dressing

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
Directions

  1. Whisk together honey, apple cider vinegar, shallot, lemon juice, mustard powder, and dried basil.
  2. Slowly pour in olive oil while whisking to emulsify.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour into jar with lid and refrigerate. Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

 

 

 

Pizza, Pizza: We made pizza!!

WE DID IT! We made pizza in our backyard wood-fired oven!

Up to temp!

Up to temp!

After weeks of curing the oven and focusing on things other than delicious, delicious pizza, Brandon’s brother, James, and sister-in-law-to-be, Jessica, joined us for our inaugural pizza cooking event last weekend. We got the oven up to temp, approximately 800 degrees, in about 45 minutes.

Feelin' hot-hot-hot!!

Feelin’ hot-hot-hot!!

A wonderful shot of the flames leaping toward the pizza

A wonderful shot of the flames leaping toward the pizza

James brought homemade dough up from his house that he made the night before; it was chewy and fluffy and turned out so well. I’ll share the recipe when he sends it up. Until then, this is our favorite dough recipe.

Our first wood-fired pizza!

Our first wood-fired pizza!

We made four pizzas total, topped with different combinations of tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, salami, minced garlic, onions, black olives and fresh herbs (basil, sage, and rosemary from the garden). We devoured them while pairing them with my favorite kale salad and a bottle of the 2011 La Previa from Robert Ramsay Cellars.

My favorite meal: Pizza and kale salad

My favorite meal: Pizza and kale salad

In addition to James’ pizza experience (he used to work at a pizzaria), we’ve been using “The Art of Wood Fired Cooking” to help us understand how the oven works and for some great recipes.

Robert Ramsay La Previa + Pizza oven!

Robert Ramsay La Previa + Pizza oven!

We let the fire die down to just the embers and popped in a sage focaccia (from the aforementioned book). We left the oven a little too hot, and it cooked in half the called-for duration, but it turned out great!

The proud chef with his focaccia (before...)

The proud chef with his focaccia (before…)

Focaccia: after

Focaccia: after

This is only the beginning. We need to order a few more tools (a smaller peel for tuning the pizzas, an ember bucket, a fire poker, etc.).   Our theme for dinners for the week is “wood-fired” and we have some great ideas pinned in my “Pizza! Pizza” board.

We (James) also learned the hard way that you shouldn’t stand too close to the fire. I’m sure his hair will grow back…

Crispy hair: Don't get too close to the oven!

Crispy hair: Don’t get too close to the oven!

 

 

Dinner updates

The Chef and his feast

The Chef and his feast

One of this year’s resolutions was to incorporate “theme eating” into our weekly meal planning.

I’ve been pretty bad at posting updates, but rest assured we’ve been eating as themes, I just haven’t really been trying new dishes or taking photos of my meals. Some of the themes included “Market ingredients,” “Brandon’s favorites” (over his birthday), and “Quick and easy,” since I started a new job that added quite a few hours to my work week.

We really got back on track with “Mexican week” around Cinco de Mayo. I started off the week with the Huevos Gringos from the Burgundian. It was FABULOUS! I love cheese curds and having them like this for brunch was so tasty. Just looking back at that photo and thinking about the dish makes me want to go back to the Burgundian and have those… tomorrow. Yum.

 

Burgundian breakfast: Best ever

Burgundian breakfast: Best ever

For Cinco de Mayo itself, we went all out. We made tortillas from scratch, chipotle tofu tacos with a mango-strawberry-avocado salsa, cilantro-lime quinoa with kale, guacamole and strawberry margaritas.

Crispy chipotle tofu triangles

Crispy chipotle tofu triangles

The full meal deal: Cinco de Mayor feast

The full meal deal: Cinco de Mayor feast

I was too tired from making all of that to make a simple syrup for the margaritas, so the margaritas were a bit tart, but still refreshing and good. You really can’t go wrong with tequila and triple sec.

Margarita time! Cheers!

Margarita time! Cheers!

A thank you to the Lunch Box Bunch for the inspiration behind this feast! Read the original recipe here.

We also enjoyed tacos, taco salads, and nachos throughout the week. It was a great week, but we were ready for some non-Mexican food by Friday.

 

 

Week 9: Potatoes

With a quick trip to Idaho planned for the end of the week — including a really delicious meal at Snyder’s Winery — we knew that this week had to be potato as our theme of the week. Let me tell you… we didn’t slack off with this week’s special ingredient. We enjoyed potatoes at least once every day that week.

First, we started with sweet potatoes. We used our mandolin to cut some salt and pepper crinkle chips, cooking them per my friend Krissie’s recipe. They turned out pretty well. There were some mushy ones but then there were also some delicious crispy ones. And those delicious crispy chips? We paired them with homemade turkey burgers and my favorite kale salad. Man, were they good!

Sweet potato chips

Sweet potato chips

Turkey burgers, sweet potato chips and kale salad. YUM

Turkey burgers, sweet potato chips and kale salad. YUM

Next, we sauteed some red potato slices with rosemary, salt and pepper that we had with grilled salmon and asparagus. We were going to make the Pioneer Woman’s ‘crash hot potatoes,’ but were too hungry to wait that long to make them. We’ll make those some other time.

Salmon, red potatoes and asparagus

Salmon, red potatoes and asparagus

Did you know that gnocchi is often made out of potatoes? We did! And we made our gnocchi, turkey sausage, kale, and butternut squash dish. Delicious.

The best way to enjoy potato gnocchi

The best way to enjoy potato gnocchi

And then? We went to Idaho, land of potatoes…and we went potato crazy! We had hash browns at the hotel, a pizza with shredded potatoes (it was called “Idaho Ranch”) and this monster baked potato at Snyder’s Winery. This was the second time we’ve had this potato and steak feast, so we knew what we were up for. Not pictured: the coconut shrimp appetizer and house salad. Oy. So much food!

Snyder's Winery's baked potato and steak

Snyder’s Winery’s baked potato and steak (And I don’t have small hands)

Next up? Asparagus week. (Yes, I’m as far behind as ever on posting these, but I’ll get there!)

Week 8: Russian foods

Opening Ceremony Sochi ring fail

In honor of the Olympics, we chose “Russian foods” for the theme of the week in week 8. After finding some great (yet intense) recipes for Russian foods and looking at our calendars, we opted for “vodka”as an ingredient of the week instead.

What’d we have?

We sort of failed this week and while I had two vodka dishes planned, we only followed through on one:

Rotini with a vodka cream sauce with shrimp with a side of steamed broccoli. The pasta recipe is derived from Cooking Light.

Pasta with prawns in a vodka cream sauce

Pasta with prawns in a vodka cream sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound uncooked penne pasta (we used rotini)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Frozen de-veined prawns, tails removed
  • A few pinches of shaved Parmesan cheese

Preparation

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender.
  4. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  5. Add vodka; bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half.
  7. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, tomatoes and prawns; bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes; stir in cream.
  9. Stir in cooked pasta, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and basil. Serve immediately.
  10. Sprinkle with Parmesan and enjoy!

Tomato vodka sauce with prawns

I had planned on having a pork-and-pear sauté with lemon-vodka sauce but like I said, it wasn’t in our cards that week. Somebody out there make it and let me know how it is!

Next up? Potato week in anticipation of our weekend getaway to Idaho! (And with that, we’ll almost be caught up!)

Week 7: Heart-healthy foods

Yes, I’m a bit behind on my themed-meal posts, but that’s ok, right? For the seventh week of the year (ending on Friday, Feb. 14) we opted for heart healthy. Get it? Hearts and Valentine’s Day. They go hand-in-hand.

Our heart-healthy week started off with my favorite vegetarian faro Greek salad with tempeh, which is great warm or cold. I’m looking forward to making many more big batches of this once it gets nicer out, to enjoy on the patio with friends. If I close my eyes long enough to block out the sounds of the rain pounding on the roof right now, I can almost picture it!

Faro Greek salad with tempeh

Faro Greek salad with tempeh

Lean meats, like chicken, are also heart-healthy. We opted for two chicken recipes this week: simple grilled chicken (with quinoa and asparagus) and our favorite hominy chili (remember this from cilantro week?).

Grilled chicken, quinoa, asparagus

Grilled chicken, quinoa, asparagus

Another heart-healthy ingredient we added to the meal plan? Salmon. And spinach. Together they make a delicious dinner, as pictured below. In an effort to make this salad special, I sought out a new dressing recipe to try. And… I found one! The best part about this dressing recipe? It’s a dead ringer for the house salad dressing from Voila!, one of my favorite Seattle restaurants.

Salmon with spinach

Salmon with spinach

Here is the dressing recipe, so you can make it for yourself: (reprinted from FitSugar)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Whisk together honey, apple cider vinegar, shallot, lemon juice, mustard powder, and dried basil.
  2. Slowly pour in olive oil while whisking to emulsify.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour into jar with lid and refrigerate. Makes about 1 cup of dressing.

We finished the week with a not-so-heart-healthy food: pizza. We used the fresh Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough and made two individual heart-shaped pizzas, complete with heart-shaped pepperonis! A most romantic Valentine’s Day, indeed.

His and hers homemade pizzas

His and hers homemade pizzas

Romantic Valentine's Day pizza

Romantic Valentine’s Day pizza

Next up? Week 8 and Russian foods in honor of the Olympics that were happening that week.

Week 6: Winner, winner chicken dinners

Well, our second favorite team won the Super Bowl (the first day of week 6: winner, winner chicken dinner) so we celebrated with chicken for dinner all week.

What’d we have? Let me tell you…

Salad with canned chicken (a nice detox from the unhealthy fare of the Super Bowl):

Chicken salad | Megan's Island Blog

Chicken marsala:

Chicken marsala | Megan's Island Blog

I love, love, love this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s my go-to for chicken marsala and it’s been far too long since we’ve had it. We had it with orzo and asparagus and will be putting this one back in the rotation.

Penne with a sweet chicken sausage tomato sauce and a bottle of the Davenport Cellars Malbec:

Pasta deliciousness | Megan's Island Blog

And we made a new concoction, similar to this quinoa salad with chicken, avocado and oranges we had during orange week, and we will absolutely make this one again. However, Brandon had it for leftovers and said it wasn’t as good as the first time because of the spinach.

What is this delicious meal? 

Quinoa, spinach, chicken, avocado | Megan's Island Blog

We rubbed some chicken tenderloins with jerk seasoning and then grilled them. While the chicken was cooking, we cooked two servings of quinoa.

The magic of the meal is really in the presentation. We used my most favorite plate bowls and plopped down a handful of spinach. We placed the hot quinoa directly on top, allowing the spinach to wilt a bit. We added some crispy shallots, avocado and some fresh-squeezed orange and lime juice, with salt and pepper to top it off. Delicious.