What is your favorite cooking show? A couple at the top of my list are The Barefoot Contessa and Giada at Home. I love the way they’re taped. The food is always gorgeous, and the girls seem so relaxed. They talk as if you’re their friend, standing there across the island keeping them company in the kitchen.
I prefer them to other cooking shows where it feels like the star is in a studio, talking loudly to the viewers, trying to convince them of how easy something is to cook, like a commercial.
I have seen dozens of recipes for niçoise salad over the years. But to tell you the truth, they’ve never looked that appetizing to me. Maybe it’s my childhood aversion to green beans coming out, or maybe it’s that I expect the potatoes to be too bland and starchy. Even the niçoise salads with fresh ahi tuna never sparked much of my interest.
But I recently bought a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, and she features two niçoise salads: one cool, and one warm. The photographs of both make the salad look so rustic and inviting, that I began to reconsider my prejudice against the salad from Nice.
As for the potatoes, my mom and I have been replacing regular starchy potatoes with sweet potatoes lately—they’re higher in nutrients and flavor, so I thought I’d add those to the salad instead.
Not to mention, I have been getting these gorgeous eggs from my neighbor lately, so I knew the bright yolks would make the salad stunning to look at.
I figured it was time to finally try my own version.
I discovered this recipe while raiding someone else’s fridge.
I was sixteen (Ugh—that was almost twenty years ago. I need to throw up), and was babysitting a boy and girl in our neighborhood. Their mom was classy and dignified, and although she always told me to help myself to any of the food in the house, I’m sure she didn’t anticipate all her chicken leftovers to be gone by the next morning. She was probably expecting that the kids and I would open a couple sodas and pop a bag of popcorn. Newman’s Own, incidentally enough—their natural flavor. (Now that was a completely unintentional plug for their popcorn. Cross my heart. It was honestly the popcorn we ate every time I babysat at their house).
The kids would watch me, standing near the fridge with an open Rubbermaid container, gobbling down cold pieces of chicken. I felt a little guilty, I guess. But the truth was, my will was no match for that chicken. And it was best for their family and myself if I could make it on my own instead of mooching off of them whenever I was at their house.
I guess I was too embarrassed to ask their mom how she made it, so I asked the kids instead. They told me they thought their mom called it “Celebration Chicken.” We then went through the cabinets and fridge together to piece together the ingredients. It ended up being a rather simple recipe: Dredge chicken tender strips in creamy Italian dressing. Coat with breadcrumbs and cook to perfection.
When Newman’s Own* contacted me to take a recipe and then make it my own, using their salad dressings, I remembered the Celebration Chicken. To make it my own, I used Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Italian Dressing and panko breadcrumbs. Of course, if you want to change it up to make it your own, you could add fresh basil to the bread crumbs, switch out the Parmesan for Romano cheese, fry it in butter, bake it, whatever.
I’m so happy today. I’m sitting at my new iMac.
I’m not new to Macs—I’ve been using them since college when I was a design student. After that, when I lived (very briefly) in Montana, I bought my own. I remember taking it out of the box—giddy and overcome with art.
My laptop, which I bought four years ago to start my career as a novelist, has been unfailingly loyal. When I put my writing on hold and dove into blogging like a crazy person, my little white box held on while I ran Adobe programs almost constantly. Sadly, it is now too slow to do what I need it to do, and today was claimed as the “kids’ computer” by my five-year-old.
To add to my happiness today, it rained. For the first time this year, it really felt like spring. Oh, we’ve had warm days here and there, but today, when the rain didn’t turn to snow, or chill me to my bones, I knew that spring has finally arrived.
I made this risotto, full of fat asparagus spears and peas, to celebrate the season which could not be anymore welcome.
This is just a quick salad I threw together to go with the sloppy joes. I love how light it is, and with the cucumber sliced in ribbons, it’s much more tender than a regular cucumber salad—it almost provides the same satisfaction as eating a bowl of pasta.
Is that an oxymoron? Well, maybe it is.
Now don’t get me wrong. But just because sloppy joes are . . . sloppy, that’s not a reason to hate them. Once, when I was a teenager, and staying with my sister who lived in Provo, Utah, the youth group at church went on a rafting trip, and I got to go along, too.
After a long day of rafting on the Green River, we were all sunburned, with chapped lips and sore muscles. The youth leaders had made a huge pot of sloppy joe mix, and let me tell you, I remember thinking that sandwich was the best thing I had eaten in my entire life.
Hopefully, this recipe will taste good whether you’re exhausted with heat stroke or not.
Okay, so technically it isn’t Friday anymore, but I had a long day. Besides, it’s still Friday in California.
This is just a quick post—I’m sure most of you know how to cook a salmon fillet, but this is my favorite way to eat it, and I thought maybe you’d like to know.
But first I’ll plug the salmon. Salmon—wild caught is best—is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, B vitamins, and vitamin D, among other nutrients. It’s widely available across the country, and the best part: every kid in my family loves it. Even my daughter.
I had a few minutes before the end of the night to add in one last Valentine’s post.
This is what I had for lunch. I roasted the beets a couple of days ago, actually, and was going to put this up on Friday for a “power food friday” post. But, you know me. I got busy. I wasn’t kidding when I said my kitchen was a mess.
Anyway, these cute little beet hearts have been waiting ever so patiently in my fridge, and I wanted to add something special to them. I remembered how well goat cheese goes with beets, so I thought I’d try a little idea I saw on the Food Network, which was goat cheese balls, coated in panko, and fried.
It was a great combination. The beets were sweet and earthy, and the goat cheese was warm and tangy. Perfect.
The big game. I am writing this post specifically for Weight Watchers, so I don’t know all the laws about saying words like super and bowl in the same sentence. But you know what I mean.
My mother-in-law always made a big slow cooker full of this fantastic bean dip. I thought there would be no better thing to make with Weight Watchers Natural Four Cheese Mexican blend, especially for the big game. As healthy as the beans are, the recipe’s major downfall is the large amount of cheese you are supposed to add. So I have lightened it up, and used the Weight Watcher’s cheese for the perfect compromise.
Hmm, perhaps power food and macaroni and cheese don’t exactly go together. And maybe they don’t.
But let’s face it, the worst part about dieting is letting go of some of the warm comfort foods that we crave during the winter months. It’s kind of cruel when you think about it—that everyone should feel the need to diet in January—amongst raging blizzards and ice storms—and then feel guilty if they eat anything richer than a bowl of quinoa.
So I am here with a recipe to warm your soul and make you feel pretty good about your diet at the same time. The people at Weight Watchers sent me some of their cheese, and asked me to make up several recipes with it. Each week for the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a new recipe with the cheese, so stay tuned.
Though I was skeptical to use a reduced calorie cheese, I tried their Natural Mexican Four Cheese Blend (worth 2 points per serving), and found it to be much better than I thought.
I first tested it for taste. I found the cheese to be mild, and spot on for flavor compared to other full fat cheeses of the same variety.
Secondly, I tested it for meltiness. Twelve seconds in the microwave showed it melted just as nicely as regular cheese, lacking only in the grease film on the top. I’d say that’s a plus.
Once it checked out on those two points, I knew I could cook with it, so I put it right to work and made this whole grain macaroni and cheese.