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Grilled Chicken and Zucchini

26 Jun

Last Christmas I received a gift certificate to Amazon.com. Ah, but deciding what to get, that took about 3 months of debating and comparing, but I finally settled on a Lodge Grill-Griddle. I could finally grill properly in my apartment! When it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to use it, but alas, my busy schedule kept it in my cupboard for another few weeks! But I already knew what I wanted to make: grilled chicken and grilled zucchini. Grilled zucchini is one of my favorite ways to prepare zucchini. At my parents house when we barbecue, there’s always zucchini. It’s super easy, super yummy, and healthy! Hope you enjoy!

I used Tangerine Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper for my marinade.

I used Tangerine Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper for my marinade.

GRILLED CHICKEN AND ZUCCHINI (serves 1)

  • 1 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Small to Medium Zucchini
  • 3 or 4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (regular or flavored)
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Marinate your chicken breast in about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and one tablespoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper the chicken breast as well. Feel free to add other herbs and spices like garlic powder, ground ginger, thyme or rosemary. Use flavors you like. You can also have your chicken marinating for as little as five minutes and as long as all day or night. While the chicken breast is marinating prep your zucchini. Slice off the tip with the “stem” and then cut lengthwise about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Season both sides of each slice with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Zucchini

Marinating my zucchini in the same chicken marinade

Marinating my zucchini in the same chicken marinade

I placed my Lodge Grill on a stove burner and turned the heat on medium high. Once the grill was hot I placed my chicken breast in the center. Cook each side of the chicken for about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the breast is. A few minutes before you turn over the piece of chicken, place your zucchini slices on the grill surrounding the chicken breast.

Starting the chicken on my Lodge Grill

Starting the chicken on my Lodge Grill

Grilling Chicken and Zucchini

Grilling Chicken and Zucchini

Flip over each slice after about 4 minutes. There should be grill marks. The zucchini will be done once it has become soft and the white of the zucchini should start to become translucent. The zucchini will probably finish before the chicken does. If you’re not sure if the chicken is done don’t be afraid to cut into it. Chicken can be difficult to cook, especially if the breast is thick. I’m going to fill you in on a secret, I’ve stuck my chicken breasts in the microwave when the very center hasn’t cooked through. Don’t be afraid to do the same if need be.

Grilling Chicken and Zucchini

Grilling Chicken and Zucchini

Once the zucchini and chicken are done move to a plate and season with more salt and pepper if need be. I usually do because I love me my salt and pepper! You can also make rice to serve with this as well, but it’s not needed as the dish is filling as is. Either way, enjoy!

Grilled Chicken and Zucchini ready to eat!

Grilled Chicken and Zucchini ready to eat!

Bamboo Cutting Boards

11 Feb

Cutting board, an obvious tool for the kitchen, but such a difficult (and sometimes pricey) purchase. Do you get wood or plastic? And which type of wood? Or which type of plastic? Lots of research has been done and many opinions have been published. After culling through quite a few of these I did find one that put forth the pros and cons quite well from The Reluctant Gourmet. Ultimately you need to use cutting boards that you like and are right for your kitchen and your cooking. You don’t need a thick cutting block if you’re a vegetarian and never have meat in your fridge.

My old wooden cutting board is very scarred.

My old wooden cutting board is very scarred.

When I moved into my first apartment I bought myself a couple of boards, a wooden one and a set of plastic ones of various sizes all from IKEA. The wooden one had a groove around the edge which is great for cutting meat and catching the juices. I used the plastic ones for chopping vegetables and such. After more than five years of cooking with them they were beginning to show their age, especially the wooden one. Last summer a crack started in the wooden one and the plastic ones had many knife “scars”. I knew that I would need to invest in new boards sooner rather than later. So when I was given a gift certificate to Sur La Table for Christmas from my aunt and uncle, I knew exactly what I was going to get-new cutting boards!I decided that I wanted wooden boards. They tend to last longer, especially if you take good care of them. You want to rub them down with mineral oil to keep them in good condition. You don’t have to buy the fancy oil from the companies, my dad told me I could find it at my local pharmacy, and I did. With the laxatives, LOL!

Bamboo Cutting Boards

Bamboo Cutting Boards

I first thought about getting a Boos block. They are a high quality cutting board that the pros love. My dad bought himself one and loves it so I looked at them first. The big downside of a Boos block is the weight. They are a thick board and in a small kitchen can seem bulky. They are also a little pricier than most blocks, starting around $50. After looking at the other boards and debating with my dad, I decided on a set of bamboo boards from Totally Bamboo of three sizes. They are thin, lightweight, and excellent quality (and a great price for a frugal chef!). And since they were on sale my gift card covered the cost of the set with a couple of dollars left over! Yay! I love sales! I was excited to have 3 new boards and they would fit nicely in my small kitchen. And for some unknown reason, I prefer cutting on a wooden board rather than a plastic one. To me it feels…cleaner…I think. Either way, when it comes to kitchen appliances, the biggest deciding factor in a purchase should be how comfortable you feel using it, because if you can’t use it, or don’t like the way it feels in your hand, you won’t use it, and it becomes a wasted purchase.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

31 Dec

The stand mixer. One of the greatest kitchen inventions since the modern oven (in my humble opinion). It’s also one of the pricier items for your kitchen (at least $300 retail, so look for it on sale) and a true prize should you get one. Last year I started saving my pennies and put it on my ultimate wish list. I have a hand mixer, and while it does the job better than a wooden spoon like our grandmothers would use, it’s just not the same, especially if you do the amount of baking I do. My birthday last year landed on the night of the Oscars so I decided to throw an Oscar-Birthday party and my dad came down and cooked all the party food and made my favorite-a chocolate cheesecake. He brought his Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (not the exact one, but the current model closest to it) to help. What I didn’t know until the morning of my birthday was that he was leaving it for me! He had bought himself a new one at a post-Christmas sale and knew that I wanted one for my kitchen. Best dad ever!

My lovely 5 qt stand mixer from Kitchen Aid.

My lovely 5 qt stand mixer from Kitchen Aid.

The handle on the right is what brings the bowl up or down.

The handle on the right is what brings the bowl up or down.

I do believe this stand mixer is older than me (you can see the not so perfect metal and the encrusted dough from years of use) but it’s still in tip-top shape. About five years ago my dad did have to buy a new beater and because it’s made for the newer models (and bowls) it’s about 1/8″ shy of the bottom of the bowl. So when I use it I have to remember to lift the bowl for part of the mixing so it gets everything. It also weighs a ton, which is something that hasn’t changed from the specs online (listed at 30 lbs, OK not a ton, but definitely use two hands to move it). You can get them in multiple colors, in 4.5, 5 or 7 qt bowl sizes (stainless steel or glass), a lift mechanism for the bowl or the head will tilt back (the tilt back is new within the last five years or so) and with so many attachments you’ll need a whole drawer to store them. Most of the mixers come with the three basic accessories: a flat beater, a dough hook and a wire whip. The flat beater is the most commonly used and now they make one with a spatula on one edge so nothing is left on the side of your bowl.

From L-R: Wire Whisk, Dough Hook, Flat Beater

From L-R: Wire Whisk, Dough Hook, Flat Beater

You can also purchase numerous attachments to do more with your mixer. On the front of the mixer head is a metal cap that says “Kitchen Aid”. You unscrew it and the attachments go there. Hidden in plain sight. They have one to make pasta, sausage, ice cream, ravioli, citrus juicer, a pouring shield (which I have!) and various other mixers and beaters, check out the entire collection here. Maybe next Christmas I’ll get the pasta attachment and try my hand at homemade pasta! Oh the possibilities!

Unscrew the black knob and the metal cap comes off and various attachments get locked in.

Unscrew the black knob and the metal cap comes off and various attachments get locked in.

I love my stand mixer. It made Christmas baking this year so much easier. I could prep the next steps while it was mixing away. My arms were also appreciative, as it can be quite a work out using a hand mixer on bread dough. I hope she continues for another 20+ years as there’s something wonderful about baking using the mixer from my childhood that I learned to bake with. (Although I would love to get a purple one someday…) If you love to bake I hope you get a stand mixer (if you don’t already have one). And get a Kitchen Aid as they are timeless and will last a lifetime. So start saving those pennies and start watching those sales, it will be one of your best investments. Happy baking and mixing!

Knife Etiquette

9 Oct

The kitchen knife. They’re like men, they come in all shapes and sizes, you need to find one that fits you, and used correctly they make your life better and easier. But if you don’t use it properly, you’ll just end up hurting yourself. I should know, both have happened to me. I like to think that every chef has cut themselves, especially after all the Chopped episodes I’ve watched (which will be addressed in future posts), so don’t feel bad when it happens to you. And I will spare you the pictures of my finger, (it took about a month to be round again-lol) but at least you know I’m talking from experience.

First, have a good chef’s knife. It’s the knife you will use THE MOST, promise. Fortunately you don’t have to spend one week’s pay on one if you’re broke like me. I found mine at Target in Giada De Laurentiis’ new kitchen line. Yes, I said Target. Who’s not addicted to Target? And when I saw that Giada had teamed up with them, I about fell over. Because who doesn’t love Giada? I’ve had her knife for almost two years now and it’s so wonderful. Light, sleek, easy to handle. I think I paid about $20. They don’t sell it by itself anymore, but it does come in the set. And don’t buy knives online, you want the chance to hold the knife and feel it in your hand. It’s like meeting a guy for a drink, give it a quick test before committing. (When you have the money to buy a $100+ chopping knife from a fancy cooking store you’ll get the chance to actually test it out. They say to go with a Wusthof or Zwillig/Henckels. Hopefully when that happens for me you’ll still be following! haha!) Just remember, trust the knife as it will be your constant companion in the kitchen.

Like in acting, one headshot won’t get the job done, you need a few. The same goes for knives. While your chef knife will get the job done about 95% of the time, you will need a couple special knives: a serrated knife and a small paring knife. For these knives, I got them somewhere else while I was in college and on a much tighter budget: IKEA. Yup, another favorite store of mine for you budget minded chefs. It’s also just a fun place to go. Your serrated knife is for foods like breads and tomatoes (that skin can be tough for your chef knife, although it will get the job done). Your paring knife is for more precise work: coring apples and slicing small things like garlic, dates, grapes, etc

Giada’s Chef Knife and IKEA 365+ Serrated and Paring Knives

I could go on and on about knives, which means I will have future posts so as not to go on and on. For now, I will leave you with this instructive video from America’s Test Kitchen about the proper way to sharpen your knife and how to hold it and cut (so as not to cut off your fingertip). I can’t wait to share other (fun) kitchen accessories with you so stay tuned!

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