When we arrived in Antigua, we were immediately greeted at our hotel with the hot, island air and a nice, strong Antiguan rum punch. We knew immediately that we were in paradise. After a week of rum punches and island sun, we decided that Caribbean rum and a homemade version of our new favorite drink would be the best souvenir to commemorate our honeymoon! The recipe below replicates our island favorite almost exactly! Today, we celebrate my husband’s admission to medical school and signing the lease to our first apartment! Hope you enjoy.
Question: What do you have to celebrate today?
Antiguan Rum Punch
makes 1 pitcher (serves 4-6)
1/2 cup lime juice (best when fresh squeezed)
1 cup simple syrup (simply boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar together until sugar is fully dissolved)
1 1/2 cups Cavalier Antiguan gold rum (or a similar light rum)
2 cups water
2-4 cups ice
Angostura bitters, key lime halves, and nutmeg (fresh grated if possible) for garnish
Prepare the simple syrup and allow to cool. Mix together lime juice, simple syrup, rum, and water. Pour over ice into a large pitcher. Add 2-3 ice cubes to an old fashioned glass with a key lime half. Fill with rum punch, then sprinkle with bitters and top with nutmeg. Swirl slightly before enjoying! (To make a single rum punch, mix 1 part (1/2 shot) lime juice, 2 parts (1 shot) simple syrup, 3 parts (1.5 shots) rum, and 4 parts (2 shots) water.)
The weather is finally starting to warm up in the New Jersey, getting me excited for grilling season! While many people think of seasons in terms of weather, I often think in term of food seasons. The fall and winter are roasting seasons, perfect for root vegetables and hearty meals; the spring and summer are grilling ones, great for fish and grilled peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing I like better than both cooking and eating outdoors when the weather allows. However, I will miss my oven, which usually goes neglected from May through September to keep the house cool. If you are looking for a final oven meal to warm up with during cooler early spring nights, this one is a great staple!
I found a basic roasted chicken recipe in one of my mom’s many food magazines. (Being on this extended vacation is seriously great for my cooking creativity!) I tweaked it slightly to use up what I had on hand, but have so many ideas for variations! I used red onion and thyme as called for in the original recipe, but decided to use chicken thighs and baby bella mushrooms for a bit more flavor and earthiness. I think that shallots or Vidalia onions would actually be even better than the red onions, and that a little more garlic would be welcome. I would also love to play with the herbs, switching out the thyme for rosemary or basil. If you aren’t a mushroom person, you could easily leave them out, or add some cherry tomatoes in their stead. Since I am currently cooking for 4-6 people on a regular basis, I couldn’t quite make it a one-skillet meal, but think this would be an easy task if cooking for one or two! Just throw some cubed potatoes (parboiled to make them cook at the same time), vegetables (I love asparagus and Brussels sprouts in the oven), and the chicken thighs into an oven safe skillet and bake!
Question: What is your favorite “food season?”
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Red Onions
2 tbsp olive oil
1 – 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (organic if possible)
1 red onion, sectioned
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, halved
salt, pepper and thyme to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Heat olive oil over high heat. Quickly sear the outside of each chicken thigh over high heat. Add red onion sections and mushroom halves, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and thyme. Place skillet in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken thighs are cooked through. Remove and allow to cool prior to serving.
Since we have some time off before moving for my residency, Dan and I have been enjoying knocking some things off our cooking bucket list. One of the first things that came to Dan’s mind was chicken pot pie. His list of comfort foods is rather polarized, reflective of his multicultural upbringing: Korean stew (soon doo boo jjigae), Brazilian feijoada, and American Mac n’ Cheese or Chicken Pot Pie. Since pot pie is a little labor intensive, we knew we wanted to tackle it while we had some time to spare!
We found this recipe on Allrecipes.com and decided to give it a try. Our results were both tasty and messy, but we were impressed by our first attempt. The only change we made was using coconut oil to cook the onions instead of butter to lighten the dairy load. We think that cooking a little more of the filling liquid off and adding a pinch more salt and pepper next time would make this recipe perfect. We also decided to make our own crust, using a double batch of this basic all-butter pie crust recipe. We replaced about half of the flour with whole-wheat, and also added a pinch of garlic powder, basil and black pepper to enhance the savory dish. The crust was perfect, with none of the artificial flavor that bugs me about store-bought pie dough. Most importantly, the Husband approved and had his comfort-food craving satisfied.
Will I be making chicken pot pie often? Unlikely! It is quite labor intensive, and still requires a good chunk of butter no matter how you slice it. It would, however, be an easy freezer meal to make this summer and have for a long, cold winter night ahead. Either way, this is a fun and comforting meal if you are looking to spend a little time in the kitchen this week!
Question: What is your comfort food?
To say that I have had a busy winter would be an understatement. Since August, pretty much every life changing event (in good ways) imaginable seemed to fall into one year. I got engaged in August and began planning an early spring wedding. I also started to freshen up my resume and write a personal statement in preparation for residency applications. I spent the fall traveling around the East Coast, analyzing program details and getting a “gut feeling” about where I would spend my next 3 years of training. During this time, my sister wrote a few posts to fill in the gaps. I thought things would slow down after the holidays, when I planned to go back to my normal life of medical school and wedding planning. However, in mid-January, the third floor of my house caught fire, forcing me to abruptly move out of my home of 3 1/2 years. Luckily, no one was injured and I lost few physical possessions. However, I also lost my “comfort zone,” my own kitchen. I spent the next two months living with two dear (and gracious) friends while finishing medical school and wedding planning. From January until March, it felt like all of my normal comforts had been stripped away and that God was asking me to trust solely in him.
Finally, in March, plans seemed to begin to fall into place. First, I finished my final rotation in medical school. Then, I matched into one of my top choice programs to begin a Family Medicine Residency in the fall.
On March 29, I married a man who inspires me to continue to learn and to grow.
Yesterday, we returned from our honeymoon, relaxed and ready to start a new adventure.
From now until June, I have some time to reflect and recover from this crazy year. I plan to make up for all of the cooking and the writing that life has pushed aside, and hope to share some recipes and reflections along the way. It feels good to be back :)
Question: What is one surprise life has brought your way this year?
written by Jen
Thanksgiving has to be one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a family of fantastic home cooks has always meant some pretty spectacular feasts. As a kid, Thanksgiving was always held at my maternal Grandmother’s house. We would start with Sweet Potato soup, a pureed soup similar to butternut squash soup but slightly thicker. Turkey was, of course, a highlight, but her creamy garlic mashed potatoes stole the show. After they retired to Florida, my mom took over hosting this holiday meal. Several new traditions were born, including a flavorful Cranberry-Apricot sauce and a crowd-pleasing French Bread Stuffing with Fennel and Sausage (both adapted from a Cooking Light cookbook). This year, I have the honor of hosting Thanksgiving in my Boston home. I will be keeping some traditions, as well as finding my own signature contribution. Here is a preview of some things that have caught Chelsea and my
eyes stomachs, all brought to you from fellow bloggers!
Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas by Two Peas & Their Pod
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon by My Kitchen College
Honey Butter Pumpkin Dinner Rolls by Averie Cooks
Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon & Apples by Little Pink Monster
Bourbon Apple Sangria by Climbing Grier Mountain
Hello! This is Jen, back for a quick post born out of a slow and reflective Saturday. My sister has done an AMAZING job with her last few posts, and has been brainstorming a few more ideas she has to share. I am so happy to share this creative arena with her, and am proud of her recent accomplishments in obtaining her board certification in Music Therapy! We are looking forward to a family Thanksgiving this year, that I will be hosting in Boston for the first time! I am sure that my sister and I will tag team a few posts featuring some of our family’s favorite holiday recipes and some that we are looking forward to trying! For now, I am excited to share some reflections that cooking has taught me about life.
1. It is okay to eat pizza and drink beer at the end of a really long week.
Currently, my fridge looks more like memories of my fiance’s college beer fridge than my normal, well-stocked produce preserver. This is a result of a LOT of recent traveling. Last week alone, I drove 650 miles, interviewed at 5 residency programs in 4 cities, and picked out the menu for my wedding. By the time Friday rolled around, I was exhausted. After a really brief trip to the gym, all I could think of doing was ordering a pizza, having a beer, and not moving for at least 12 hours. That is what I needed to recover in preparation for another tiring round of interviews, and so that is what I did.
Too often, I become regimented in life, and in eating. I feel guilty about my only vegetables for the day coming in the form of baby carrots on the fly or on top of my take-out pizza. I feel guilty for not filling my free minutes and hours with friends I haven’t talked to in weeks or chores that are slowly piling up. I am learning that, every once in a while, it is ok to just let go. Eat pizza. Sleep in. And refresh and recover, so that the minutes you do spend with friends and family are more enjoyable.
2. The more you learn, the more you realize that there is to know.
While I have spent a lot of time cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, there is still an entire world of cooking knowledge that I have yet to acquire. Similarly, I have spent the last 8 years of my life in higher education pursuing the now-near goal of becoming a physician. However, I know only the tip of the iceberg about medicine and patient care. I will spend the next 3 years in residency learning how to be a family physician, and then the rest of my life reading, practicing and growing that knowledge base. One question answered means that ten more are raised, both in and outside of the kitchen.
3. Some of the best meals, and the best parts of life, require patience…
Some of the best things that have come out of my kitchen involve slowing down and paying attention to details. I love making homemade pasta and ravioli, and continue to hone my skills in this art. My most exciting purchase this fall is a pasta drying stand – I have only used it once, but it has so much untouched potential! Since incorporating meat back into my diet, I have also fell in love with braising techniques. My fiance proudly advertises that my version of this Greek Lamb with Orzo by Frugal Feeding is better than a local restaurant’s.
Similarly, as with these meals, some of the best things in life are worth waiting for. Right now, I seem to be in a season of waiting. Waiting for my fiance to hear back about medical school acceptances. Waiting to finish my last year of medical school. Waiting to match at the right residency program. Waiting to get married. Waiting to start the next chapter of my life. All of these are incredible blessings, and will be worth the wait. Cooking slowly and waiting for the delicious results has taught me the importance of patience in the process.
4. And sometimes you just need instant gratification.
While homemade pasta and braised lamb have their place, so do quick meals and snacks. In this season of waiting, I have learned that there is also a place for instant gratification. This weekend, I needed to get my hands dirty in the kitchen. With an empty fridge and no desire to get out to the grocery store, I looked to my pantry for something quick and easy to make. I settled on Chocolate Covered Katie’s Healthy Nutella. If you haven’t made your own nut butters before, try it now. All you need are 15 minutes and a food processor! I love this drizzled on apples, but would also be great on toast in the morning!
5. You have to learn how to go with the flow.
In my need for instant gratification today, I decided to make Apple Butter Bread. I had some leftover Homemade Apple Butter that I knew would not get eaten on time, but no eggs and no loaf pan. Instead of finding another recipe, I simply replaced the egg with ground flax-seed, and turned the loaf cake into muffins by reducing the cooking time to 20 minutes. The result? Delicious. Sweet enough to be a dessert, but also healthy enough (sans glaze) to sneak into breakfast. Not only does this flexibility matter when cooking and baking, it also matters in life. Even the best planned schedules fall prey to life. Responding calmly and thinking of alternative strategies can help even the worst days run more smoothly.
Question: What life lessons have you learned in the kitchen?
Ok, so here’s my first attempt at a recipe post. I have made this sandwich for lunch three times this week and bragged to Jen about it so she encouraged me to share it as my first post!
So, who doesn’t love grilled cheese? There is something so remarkably comforting about a simple grilled cheese sandwich, especially when paired with a bowl of tomato soup. I also love the flavor combinations of Greek food, especially Tziki sauce. I was inspired to make this sandwich from a post I saw on Pinterest.
I love to make my own Tziki dip, but who wants to do all that work for a quick lunch sandwich, so I came up with a cheater to still get the flavor. This sandwich combines all the flavors I love, pumpernickel bread, cucumber, dill, and goat cheese, which packs a punch with flavor.
To begin, I weighed my goat cheese on a kitchen scale. It is easy to completely load or sandwiches up with unnecessary fat and calories, and until you have a great understanding of servings, this is the easiest suggestion to monitor calorie intake. You may be surprised with how much you end up with, a serving often being larger or smaller than you think. After weighing out an ounce of cheese, I popped it in the microwave for 10 seconds to make if more spreadable. You can skip this step if you leave the cheese sitting on the counter for a little bit, but let’s be honest, who thinks that far ahead? I know when I’m hungry, it is time to make that sandwich and eat it!I This makes the cheese wonderfully spreadable. Then layer the cucumbers up on top of the cheese. This is the fun part. No measuring, just as much as you desire. Nobody got fat by eating too many vegetables! I personally prefer my cucumbers sliced very thinly so I can pile them up higher and feel like there is more on there, but feel free to cut to your desire! I also peeled my cucumber, simply because it is on it’s way out of being good (frugality at its finest!) On this particular sandwich I photographed I do feel like I would have liked more cucumbers. Live and learn!
On the other piece of bread I make my quick tziki. I simply spread a thin layer of greek yogurt on the other piece of bread, sprinkled some onion powder and dill. These flavors combined with cucumber very successfully imitates the tziki flavor, though I will post the recipe at a later time, being that it is one of my favorite dips to make for veggies. After the sandwich was assembled, I sprayed both sides with cooking spray. This way, you achieve the buttery flavor on the outside without loading up on the calories of spreading butter all over. It also helps crisp up the bread. I cooked my sandwich on my George Foreman grill because I like the lines and even texture it gives, but there is nothing stopped you from throwing it in a frying pan the old fashioned way!
I accompanied my sandwich with a bunch of plain baby carrots. For me it added the crunch and sweetness I needed to feel completely full and satisfied. If you are counting calories or doing WeightWatchers, this entire sandwich is 7 points, mostly due to the pumpernickel bread which is 2 points a slice, but feel free to find a different brand!
Goat Cheese and Cucumber Grilled Cheese
serves 1, 7 points total
2 slices pumpernickel bread
cucumber (however much you desire)
1 ounce goat cheese
1 tsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp dill
1 tsp onion powder
2 sprays cooking spray