Venturing out

So one good thing about this whole real foods adventure is that it is forcing me to be more creative not only eating out but also in the kitchen. I am trying to find ways to eat less meat since that is what is recommended, and also it gets expensive buying organic meat. I came across a recipe for Quinoa Zucchini Fritters, I have never made fritters before, but I had all the ingredients already and thought why not?! OH….MY….GOODNESS!!!

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These are my new favorite! They were so delicious and filling! The crispiness on the outside and then the cheesy goodness on the inside….yum! I am not goonna lie, the husband  looked at me like ‘this is what we are really having for dinner??’ But he even thoroughly enjoyed them (or was nice enough to eat them and say he loved it for my sake 😉 ). They take a little time to prep, which I am finding is going to be something I am just going to have to get used to in this whole process, but they make 12 fritters. It was even better for my lunch the next day!

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Parmesan Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients: 

  1. 3 medium zucchini, grated
  2. 1/2 cup quinoa
  3. 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  7. salt and pepper

Directions: 

  1. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Toss the grated zucchini with salt and place in the strainer. Allow zucchini to sit about 12 minutes, then press and squeeze all water from zucchini. Repeat the process, tossing with an additional salt and allowing zucchini to sit an additional 10 minutes. Again press and squeeze all water from zucchini.
  2.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, about 6-9 minutes
  3. Combine zucchini, quinoa, parmesan, egg, thyme, garlic powder, and black pepper. Scoop small handfuls of the zucchini mixture and form small, round patties.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the fritters to the pan and allow to cook until edges begin to turn golden, about 4-6 minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook about 4 minutes more.

Bye bye processed foods

So this year for lent I am giving up processed foods.  After watching the movie Food Inc. and recently finishing the book, “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan, I have decided its time to really cut out a lot of the food thats actually not food. I have learned so much on this topic, its even turned my husband away from certain foods. For one, we will NEVER ever eat subway again, I just cant do it (wont spoil it for subway lovers). And yes for about a year now, I have been that crazy person in the grocery store standing in the aisle, reading the ingredients. But when we go out to dinner or we travel, I am not as conscious as to what I am putting into my body. My guildines are based off of the 100daysofrealfood.com site. So here goes the next 40 days…….

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Luckily the first meal of this no processed ordeal is actually something I cook all the time and is one of my favorites! I LOVE curry. I have found that most people either love curry or hate it. Luckily the husband loves it as well (or at least pretends to enjoy it). Not only does this dish taste phenomenal, look how pretty it is! Served over brown rice and this is a very satisfying “real” food dinner.  Maybe this wont be such a hard 40 days after all……

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Chicken Curry

Ingredients: 

  1. 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 15oz can coconut milk (full fat and organic for real food)
  4. 2 chicken breasts cut into pieces
  5. 1 tablespoon curry powder
  6. 4 bell peppers of any color, chopped
  7. 1 leek, chopped
  8. 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute olive oil and curry paste, pressing the paste into the oil for 1 minute.
  2. While that sautes, combine chicken, curry powder, salt & pepper in a small bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.
  3. Add half the coconut milk into the pan and whisk together until it’s incorporated with the curry paste. Then add remaining coconut milk and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Add seasoned chicken and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add vegetables and cilantro, stir, cover and cook for about 5-7 more minutes until chicken is fully cooked.
  6. Serve over brown rice and garnish with additional cilantro.

Honey Cashew Chicken

Chinese food is my all time favorite food.  I could seriously eat it all day every day, and it does not help that PF  Changs is right across the street from our house! But the reality is my favorite chinese food is not a healthy choice to eat everyday.  So when I am craving the deliciousness of chinese takeout and feeling the laziness of ordering in, this is my go to recipe.

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Oh my this satisfies every taste bud! The sweetness from the honey and the spiciness from the Sriracha (which if this is not part of your pantry it should be!) really brings this dish together.  And its so easy to make! It takes less time to make this then to call in and pick up chinese takeout. I added way more veggies to this dish then chicken and served with brown rice.

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If you are a lover of chinese food like me, then is a definite must try!!

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Honey Cashew Chicken 

Adapted from Cooking Light:

Ingredients:

– 1 Chicken breasts cut into small cubes

– 1 tablespoon olive oil

– 2 cups broccoli florets

-1 zucchini cubed

– 1 red pepper diced

– 1 onion chopped

– 1 cup of baby bella mushrooms

– 1/4 cup cashews

– 3 tablespoons honey

-1 tablespoon rice vinegar

-2 tablespoons soy sauce

-1 tablespoon Sriracha (and if you are like us more for topping!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper

2. Heat a large skillet over medium- high heat. Add olive oil. Once hot add the chicken mixture and saute for 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add all the veggies to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is done. Stir in cashews

3. Combine the honey, vinegar, soy sauce and sriracha in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over chicken and veggie mixture. Cook until thickened and serve over rice!

Cast Iron Cooking

I LOVE my cast iron skillet! Nothing gets a better sear, which in turn provides the meat with so much flavor that you just cant get from a regular nonstick pan. I know they get a bad rep for being heavy, hard to clean and a process to season blah blah… But trust me, once you have a seasoned cast iron skillet, taking care of it really isn’t as much of as hassle.   For me I have found if I clean it with warm water and a sponge right after cooking works best. You will be left with a pan that provides the best even cooking, easy stove top to oven transition, and a sear that just cant be beat.

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As I was flipping through my Southern Living I came across this recipe that not only recommended a cast iron skillet but also was a one pot meal. Done and done!   Let me say it did not disappoint! I am not normally a fan of cooked apples, but in this dish they worked really well. I didn’t cook them for as long so they still had a little crunch to them and were not mushy. This will definitely be a recipe I use when I need a quick, tasty weeknight meal! Its even good enough to impress company with!

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Skillet Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients: 

  1. 2 bone-in pork chops (1 to 1 1/4 inches thick)
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 granny smith apple cut into slices
  4. 1 medium onion cut into thin slices
  5. 1/3 cup chicken broth
  6. 1 cup whipping cream
  7. 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  8. 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used jack daniels b/c it was what we had)
  9. 8 fresh thyme springs
  10. salt and pepper

Directions: 

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet (or a regular non stick skillet) over medium heat. Cook the pork chops 5 to 6 mins on each side till they are nice and golden brown. Remove from the skillet.

2. Add the apples and onions to the skillet. Cook until browned about 4 to 5 mins (I added my apples a couple mins after the onions). Remove from skillet.

3. Add the broth to the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes loosening the browned bits from the skillet. Whisk together the cream and mustard and then add to the skillet. Cook and stir constantly until bubbly.

4. Remove skillet from the heat and stir in the bourbon. Add the pork, apples, onions and thyme to the skillet.

5. Bake at 450 for 10 mins and then let stand in skillet for 5 mins before serving!

Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

We had a rare event here in Charleston, a forecast with snow in it!  Of course the news stations were making a huge deal out of it calling it “Winter Storm 2014”. Me being from Boone, where we get lots of snow, kinda laughed at the reactions to the possibility of an inch of snow. I will say though that everyone was on top of it, and we did not have the traffic nightmare that other places like Atlanta experienced, so well done Charleston! While the event came with more ice then snow, we did get to see some of the biggest snow  flakes I have seen in a long time! I will admit me and the husband were giddy over seeing snow (even if it only lasted for 1o mins). After living in the mountains my whole life, while glad to escape the cold weather, I definitely have a soft spot for snow!

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On this cold winter day (and plenty of leftover kale), I came across this recipe in my Southern Living magazine. It did not disappoint! It was the perfect comfort food for this (sorta) snowy day. The spiciness of the sausage and red pepper flakes combined with the silkiness the splash of cream added to the soup….perfection! And I have found another recipe where I enjoy kale! Maybe jumping on the kale bandwagon wont be as hard as I thought.

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Sausage Kale and Potato Soup

Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pound spicy italian sausage
  2. 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  3. 1 large onion, chopped
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  6. 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  7. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  8. 2 large bunches of kale, stemmed and chopped, about 4 overflowing handfuls
  9. 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  10. 4 medium or 2 large russet baking potatoes, sliced
  11. 8 cups chicken broth or stock, 2 boxes
  12. 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions: 

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Brown the sausage. Once the sausage is browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Saute until translucent then add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook until they start to caramelize. Add the kale and cook until its bright green and wilted. Add the nutmeg and stir. Throw in the sausage and potatoes.
  3. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer until the potatoes are done. Once the potatoes are fully cooked add the cream and serve!

Seafood Risotto with a Beurre Blanc Sauce

For the past 7 years me and the husband have forgone Christmas gifts and decided to do a nice meal together instead. When we were dating it took the pressure off of figuring out what to get the other person, and now that we are married  it gives us the quality time we need during the chaos of the Christmas season. This year I made a seafood risotto with a beurre blanc sauce out of a cookbook I borrowed from my aunt. Now let me just say, I wasnt even really sure what a beurre blanc sauce was so dont think I am all fancy. It was actually surprisingly easy to follow the recipe 😉 .

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Oh my this was delicious! The original recipe called for lobster, but like I mentioned before I wanted to spend quality time with my husband and who really has time to boil lobster then shell it for just a tiny piece of meat. I went the easy route and used crab instead, which honestly I dont think I could taste the difference. It called for a truffle risotto but I opted to just use my go to Parmesan risotto recipe instead. Also I was really excited when my sauce did not break and kinda shocked at how easy it was to make, not to mention how delicious! Seriously if you need a meal to impress this is the one you should use! It came together fairly quick and the recipe was really easy to follow.

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Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years like we did!

Seafood Risotto with a Beurre Blanc Sauce

Adopted from Alexander’s

Ingredients: 

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 6 scallops
  3. 6 shrimp peeled and deveined
  4. 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  5. 1/4 cup white wine
  6. 3/4 crab meat
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  8. 1/2 parmesan cheese
  9. 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  10. beurre blanc sauce (recipe below)
  11. Parmesan risotto (recipe below)

Directions: 

  1. Prepare the beurre blanc sauce and keep warm
  2. Prepare the risotto just before serving
  3. In a sauce pan heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the scallops and brown on one side, turn the scallops over. Add the shrimp and cook until pink. Add the shallots, white wine, and crab meat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chopped chives. Remove from heat and keep warm with foil.

Beurre Blanc sauce

Ingredients: 

  1. 1/2 cup white wine
  2. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  3. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  4. 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  5. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  6. 1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into cubes
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

  1. Over medium heat combine the wine, vinegar, lemon juice, and shallots. Bring to a boil. Reduce until the liquid becomes syrupy. Add the cream. Reduce by half
  2. Turn the heat to low and gradually add the butter while stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not boil the sauce or it will separate. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

*The original recipe called for straining the sauce through a sieve, 1. I dont own a sieve and 2. I was just being lazy so I did not complete this step but honestly the way its served I dont think it made a difference!

Risotto

Ingredients:

  1. 3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  2. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  6. 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc
  7. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer and keep warm over low heat.
  2. In a separate medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion qand garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is well coated with the butter and starts to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer gently until all the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle 1/2 cup of the warm broth into the rice mixture and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broth is absorbed. Repeat, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the rice is cooked through but still firm, 20 to 25 minutes total.
  4. Add the remaining butter and the salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Stir to incorporate. Adjust seasoning with more salt to taste. Serve immediately, topping with additional Parmesan.

To serve assemble the risotto on a plate then add the sauce and top with the seafood mixture, you will not be disappointed!! 🙂

Chicken pot pie

My husband has been begging me to make a chicken pot pie for dinner. I have never attempted a chicken pot pie and lets be real, he is used to my mother in laws perfected chicken pot pie. While I have come into my own cooking, I am no where near as talented, and its an intimidating task to try to recreate her home cooking. The smell, the flavors, the taste, the texture….I knew if I took on this challenge that it had to be just right.

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So on a cold day here in Charleston, when comfort food was just what was needed in our house, I made the decision to attempt a chicken pot pie. I found a recipe that seemed fairly simple and something I should be able to follow pretty well (I mean it had step by step pictures, how hard can it be?!).  I made a few changes to the original recipe and oh man! I was very shocked and surprised with the outcome! While this was in no way healthy (I served it with a salad so that helps right?? ha), it is something I will definitely be making again when the need arises for good ole comfort food in the Gabriel household!  I even got a close 2nd to my mother in laws from the husband (I mean no ones cooking is better then your moms 😉 ). This is also a great way to use up your left over turkey from Thanksgiving!!

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Chicken Pot Pie

Adapted from: Pioneer women (original recipe)

Ingredients: 

  1. 4 tablespoons of butter
  2. 1/2  chopped onion
  3. 1 chopped carrot
  4. 1 chopped celery rib
  5. 2 chicken breasts shredded
  6. 1/4 cup flour
  7. 3 cups chicken broth
  8. splash of white wine
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. Thyme to taste
  11. 1/4 cup of 1/2 & 1/2
  12. 2 packaged pie crusts
  13. 1 whole egg
  14. 2 tablespoons water

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place one pie crust in a pie baking dish, poke a few holes with a fork and back for 10-15 mins until golden brown
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat and then add onions, carrots and celery. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 mins.
  4. Stir in the shredded chicken and then sprinkle the flour over the top. Stir until its all combined and cook for 1 min. Then add the chicken broth and a splash of wine and let cook until its thickened.
  5. Once it starts to thicken add salt, pepper, and thyme.
  6. Add the 1/2 & 1/3 and let bubble until the mixture had thickened (if it seems to thick you can always add more chicken broth) then turn off the heat
  7. Place mixture into the baked pie crust. Lay the 2nd pie crust over the top of the mixture. (the recipe said to press the edges to stick to the outside of the pan, but when we did this it just made a huge mess cutting it once it was cooked so I would just recommend making sure the pie crust stays on top of the mixture)
  8. Use a knife and cut little vents here and there on the surface of the dough
  9. Mix together the egg with water and brush it on the surface of the crust
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Fettuccine with brussel sprouts in a creamy sauce

When it comes to cooking, I have my few staples that I can cook by heart without looking at a recipe. But when it comes to being adventurous and trying new things, I always have a recipe I follow. Sometimes I vary here and there  and add my own touch, however I usually follow 90% of the recipe.  Recently I got inspired by 2 different recipes, but then after thinking about what I had in my refrigerator,  I completely changed both to make my own! Our Bible study group was the guinea pig, bless their sweet hearts, and PF Changs was on speed dial  because lets be real this could have been a disaster…….

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BUT to my surprise, it turned out really tasty!! I saw a recipe that had Brussel sprouts in a pasta dish. I love brussel sprouts and I am always looking for a new way to cook them. My fridge was stocked full of veggies that needed to be used so I figured why not make a pasta dish that incorporated all of the things I already had on hand. This meal came together so quick and was super simple to make! I did not add any meat to the dish but this dish would be great to add chicken or steak.  While it isn’t the healthiest dish I have made (especially if you have two heaping bowls as the husband did) it is way better then eating a pasta dish out at a restaurant (or so I tell myself 😉 ).

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I am very happy with my first non recipe dish and it was widely approved by my brave guinea pigs :).

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Fettuccine with brussel sprouts in a creamy sauce: 

Ingredients:

  1.  1lb brussel sprouts quartered
  2. 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  3. 1 chopped  medium onion
  4. 1 cup mushrooms
  5. 1 chopped red pepper
  6. 2/3 cup heavy cream
  7. 1/3 cup 1/2 & 1/2
  8. 1 cup parmesan cheese
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions: 

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and prepare according to directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat. Add brussel sprouts and sprinkle with brown sugar and salt (to taste) and let sit for 1 min. Then saute for 5 mins. Add onion, mushrooms, and red pepper and cook until tender. (Can adjust the heat to med if needed, you just want a nice golden brown color on the brussel sprouts)
  3. Add heavy cream, 1/2 & 1/2, paremsan cheese, and salt. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5-10 mins.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauce mixture and combine and serve!

*If sauce is to think you can save some pasta water and add it to the sauce to adjust the thickness

Friendsgiving

We hosted a friendsgiving this past weekend. I cooked my very first turkey ever. I was sure it was going to be an epic disaster! I read lots of recipes, watched multiple videos on how people cooked their turkeys, and no lie I even had my computer set up in the kitchen, watching a youtube video while trying to truss the turkey. Luckily no one was around to witness how comical this all really was. To my surprise, it actually turned out really good! I was kinda shocked….

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I am not going to lie, I was totally intimated by cooking a turkey. The ways I could royally screw this up were endless, and I kept picturing the scene from Christmas Vacation where they go to cut the turkey and it deflates. But to my surprise this did not happen! It was actually quite tasty and not near as hard as I was expecting, messy yes, but a fairly easy process.

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I am so blessed and thankful to have the group of friends we have down here. I love that they can enjoy my organized chaos in the kitchen and while it was a lil hectic at the end, I would say Friendsgiving was a success and a tradition we will keep alive for years to come! Thanks Kaitlyn and JD for ensuring we got pictures to document this 🙂

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Friendsgiving Turkey:

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Ingredients: 

– 13lb. Turkey

– 3/4 cup butter, softened

– 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

– 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

-2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme – plus extra stems for stuffing the turkey

– Salt and pepper to taste

– 1 carrot

– 1 celery stalk

– 1 medium onion

– 32oz chicken broth

Instructions: 

(If you turkey has been in the fridge ensure to set it out an hr before you want to cook it)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Mix together softened butter, parsley, sage, and thyme

3. Remove the neck and other innards from the turkey cavity. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the carrot, celery and onion quarters into the cavity of the turkey.

4. Truss your turkey (this is the video I attempted to follow)

5. Starting at the neck end, slide your hands under the breast skin to loosen. Smear 3 tablespoons of the herb butter underneath the breast skin. Smear another 4 tablespoons of the herb butter over the entire topside of the turkey.

6. Place the turkey in the roasting pan, breast side up. Pour the chicken broth into the roasting pan.

7. Cover the breasts with foil and place the turkey in the oven. Roast the turkey for 2 hours, basting every 30 mins.

8. Remove the foil from the breast. Roast the turkey until the thermometer registers 165 degrees F. (For us this only took 45 more mins) Continue basting every 30 mins.

9. Once turkey reaches 165 degrees F remove from oven and let rest for at least 30 mins before carving. – We let our rest for over an hr while we used the oven to cook other things and it was still warm when we carved it!

Enjoy 🙂

Who doesn’t love a one pot meal?!

Anyone who has seen me in the kitchen before knows I am not a clean cook. I get sucked into a new recipe, making sure I get the timing of each component correct, or the taste just right. I want it to be perfect so sometimes I over look the disaster I am turning my kitchen into. In the Gabriel household we have a system, I plan, shop and then prepare the dinner, so naturally the husband cleans up after…..  Lets just say sometimes I get a little grief over how messy my cooking adventures can be. When I came across this one pot meal that not only looked delicious but sounded super simple and an easy clean up after a long Monday, I knew it would be the perfect choice for our dinner. I was half way correct….

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I found the original recipe from http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/. I made some changes to the dish I prepared. I did not use chicken thighs like the recipe called for, instead I used thin chicken breasts.   I knew they would not take the whole 1hr 15min the recipe called for so I started the veggies 30 mins before.  I also switched up the veggies based on what I had in the house.  I added a little olive oil to the veggies and why I did this I do not know, but it was a mistake. I could definitely taste to much olive oil!  However the chicken was cooked perfectly and tasted delicious! Also I hate rosemary so I didn’t use it at all but I still think the dish had great flavor (minus the olive oil soaked veggies).

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This is a dish I would do again but I think next time I will stick to the original recipe and try it with chicken thighs and definitely will not add more oil to the veggies! Eh you live and you learn, at least it was an easy clean up ;).

Mustard Balsamic Baked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Recipe adapted from: Joyful healthy eats

Ingredients:

– 4 chicken breasts

– 1/2 head of cauliflower chopped into larger florets

– 1 zucchini chopped

– 1/2 red onion quartered

– 5 red potatoes quartered

Marinade:

– 1 tablespoon of spicy mustard

– 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar

– 1/2 cup of olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, add spicy  mustard, minced garlic clove, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper. Whisk to combine, slowly add in olive oil.

  2. Place chicken breasts in bowl with mustard balsamic marinade. Toss to coat with marinade. Let sit for 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 375º

  4. Place all the veggies in a 13×9″ baking dish. Bake for 30 mins

  5. Add chicken breasts and marinade to the top of the veggies for 45 mins or until chicken is done and vegetables are soft. Remove from oven and serve!