Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

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I’ve just noticed something… Either we eat WAY healthier than I think we do (relatively so anyway) or I’ve only been blogging the healthy stuff. Either way… These are a great, light option for lunch or dinner. I know you’re probably thinking “tofu *insert regurgitation noise here*”. But honestly, the pieces get broken up SO small, and the flavors cooked into it are so yummy, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself it’s just chicken 😉 These would also make a nice appetizers, ala PF Chang’s. I highly encourage you to give these a try! I mean look how few ingredients:

20140528-223241-81161791.jpgAnother trend – I ❤ Trader Joe’s. 4-EVER!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 package romaine hearts, rinsed

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add tofu, breaking up into small pieces. Cook until most of the liquid is cooked off and pieces begin to golden.

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  • Next, add the corn to your tofu. No need to cook long, as you want your corn to have some crunch. Finally, add the chili powder and soy sauce. Cook until liquid is absorbed into the tofu.

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  • Assemble your wraps, adding whatever toppings you like. We like cheese (duh), but per the original recipe, some balsamic vinegar during the cooking process is lovely, and avocado slices could add some good fat to these. Enjoy! 😄

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And yep… We were fancy with the paper plates again. Ha!

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Grilled SPG Pizza

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I couldn’t tell you where I got the idea for this combination of pizza toppings (Pinterest, probably), but man, oh, man… it’s gooood. The creaminess of the goat cheese, the snappy crunch (is that even the right word?) of the shrimp, and the overall amazingness that is basil pesto combine to form quite possibly the most decadent yet somewhat healthy pizza on earth. The one thing we’ve always found lacking has been the crust. Every other time we’ve made this pizza, we’ve baked it in the oven, using a variety of crusts each time. The toppings were always great together, but the crust was just… meh. Worse still, the oil in the pesto combining with the cheese tended to make it soggy. Lo and behold, Pinterest again held the answer. Why not GRILL the pizza? Of course! This time around, I picked up some frozen organic pizza crusts from Trader Joe’s and decided to throw some spinach on it as well, just to squeeze in a veggie serving. I don’t know if it was grilling the crust or the crust itself, but it was phenomenal! The toppings were again perfect and the crust was crispy and delicious. With the weather getting warmer, I have a feeling we’ll be grilling our pizzas to avoid heating up the kitchen… and I don’t mind one bit. Bonus –  if you’re having company, this is a tasty dish to serve that looks fancy but is not at all complicated to make.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (either frozen or make your own, if you’re good with dough… I am NOT!)
  • 1 small jar of basil pesto
  • 1 cup frozen precooked salad shrimp, thawed
  • ~ 1 oz goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • Handful of washed spinach leaves
  • Olive oil, for brushing
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Spinach not pictured, because I’m a derpy-derp.

Directions:

  • Thaw pizza dough and shrimp per package directions. Assemble your ingredients and place them in close proximity to your grill.
  • Heat grill to high heat. Brush one side of your dough lightly with olive oil. Once the grill has reached the appropriate temperature (hot enough that you can’t hold your hand over the grate for more than 2 seconds), use a pair of tongs to brush a paper towel soaked in olive oil along the grates of the grill. Carefully place your dough, oiled side down, onto the grill (a rimless cookie sheet or pizza peel is helpful for sliding pizza on and off the grill, but not necessary. We used the cardboard bottom from our crust and a pair of tongs). Close grill lid and let cook for about 2 minutes, or until the top of the crust starts forming bubbles. Remove from grill and try not to eat plain crust.

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  • Now that you’ve got one gloriously toasted side of pizza crust, flip it over. Use some oil from your jar of pesto to (VERY) lightly coat the ungrilled side of your crust. Next, spoon some pesto onto the crust and spread evenly. (For 1 pizza, we used about 1/4 of the jar.). Add spinach leaves. Crumble the goat cheese across your crust, followed by the shredded cheese. I’m a cheese girl; the more the better. You can obviously adjust to your liking. Finally, scatter your tiny salad shrimp onto the pizza. Image
  • At this point, turn down the heat on your grill. Slide the pizza back onto the grates and close the lid. Check in about 2 minutes; if your cheese is at a good melty point, turn the heat back up so your crust gets good and crispy. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from grill. Slice and serve ASAP!

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This pizza is the perfect size for two people. Since we had the ingredients and the package I bought contained 2 crusts, we went ahead and made both pizzas and saved 1 for a late snack/next day’s lunch. This is great leftover (and those of you who know me know I DO NOT do leftovers, so that’s saying something). Hope you enjoy!

Skillet Lasagna

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If you haven’t already noticed, the things I make for dinner have a trend… they require few ingredients and take as little time as humanly possible (see previous post about tiny demanding human). This pasta dish is again quick and easy, but it looks impressive and of course, is super delish. We typically use the spicy Italian sausage that the recipe calls for, but we have also used ground beef (ok, not as tasty) and this time around, some spicy Italian chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s. Mark said he actually kind of preferred the chicken sausage to pork! Even better, this is one of those one-dish meals, so clean up is minimal.

The perfect cooking/pasta companion. <3

The perfect cooking/pasta companion. ❤

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (28 oz) can tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (I used about 1/4 tsp)
  • ¾ tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 8-10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
  • ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese*
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese*
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese*

*These are the measurements called for in the recipe I used. If you’re like me and are too lazy, just throw some cheese in there til it looks good to you. Okay? Okay.

Directions:

 

 

Ignore my filthy stove top, por favor.

Ignore my filthy stove top, por favor.

 

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This meal is Jack approved!

 

Restaurant Review: South of Chicago Pizza & Beef

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Fellow displaced Chicagoans/Region Rats/ deep dish enthusiasts: rejoice. If you’ve been seeking out a great slice of pizza (Chicago style or thin crust) or the elusive (good) Chicago style Italian beef in Indianapolis, look no further than SoC. With locations in Fletcher Place and now Fishers, the owner GETS it. This city needed some good pizza, and he has been more than happy to provide! As a former long-time Aurelio’s employee, he’s taken his experience to his new indianapolis home and applied their amazing sauce (the best pizza sauce EVER, in my humble opinion) to the best crust this side of 65. I know, I know, I hear the detractors already… “Bazbeaux! Jockamo!” No. I’m talking about the kind of pizza that makes a NWI’er like myself long for the days of grabbing a pie after a day at Wrigley, shopping on the Mag Mile or sitting in traffic on the Dan Ryan (ok, not so much on the last one).

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I mean, just look at it! The crust manages to be both crisp and chewy, with just the right amount of seasoning and not over-floured (I LOATHE when the bottom of my pizza is coated in flour. BLEGH). The sauce is perfection, just a hint of sweetness balancing the acidity of the tomatoes. We opted for sausage and pepperoni (again, because I’m a plain Jane). 2 toppings besides cheese are included with each pie, but you can obviously add more if you choose. For the love of Pete, always get sausage on your pizza here- the owner gets his driven down from Chicago every week. It’s legit! And like any good deep dish pizza, you will drown in cheese. Oooh, the cheese! The thin crust is just as tasty (again it invokes Aurelio’s, never a bad thing). While we did not get sandwiches this time around, Mark ranks SoC’s beef as the absolute best in Indy. Fat Dan’s comes second, and Chicago’s (RIP) pulled up 3rd. Chips come with each sandwich, or you can upgrade to fries for $1 (honestly, stick with the chips. The fries are meh). They also offer a meatball sandwich, BBQ beef, and Italian sausage, which you can also add to your beef sammie for a delish heart attack in a basket 😊 Of course, there are also breadsticks, cheese sticks, etc offered for appetizers. During the week, lunch goers can take part of their pizza, salad and drink buffet. As night shifters, it’s hard for us to be anywhere by 2 pm but we fully intend to check it out.

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Our biggest caveats with this place are that they are CLOSED on Sundays and Mondays (aka prime pizza eating days, especially during football season!), and they only deliver to 10th street (which we are blocks north of). Otherwise, this is the perfect neighborhood pizza joint, down to the typical red-and-white checkered tables and tea lights in cut-glass votives on the table. Bonus points for Chicago fans – Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears, Sox and Cubs paraphernalia cover the walls in addition to views of Navy Pier and Soldier Field. Sit down and have a beer while you wait on your carryout, or dine in and watch (what else) ESPN. The prices are great, the atmosphere is friendly, and you can’t beat the food. You won’t be disappointed!

Black Bean Burgers

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Now I’ll be honest- one of my favorite things about this meal is that you can make them in advance, freeze ’em, and pull them out when you’re ready to eat them. As anyone with a needy toddler knows, it can be a tad difficult to prepare a healthy dinner while attempting to satisfy the demands of a tiny, crazy human. Throw a few of these in a skillet, make some sweet potato fries (our side of choice with this dinner), and boom. Satisfying, just a little kick of spice, and super delicious. One note- I’ve tried making them in the past with dried cilantro in lieu of fresh to avoid a trip to the store, and they were fine. But fresh cilantro just takes these to a whole. ‘notha. level.  I’m a plain Jane, so I just top mine with some co-jack. If you’re more adventurous like my dear husband, try one with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a dab of 1000 island dressing (he swears it’s amazing!). Even the little guy loves these burgers. We use whole wheat buns but have also used sandwich thins and plain ol’ hamburger buns in the past with equally yummy results. Happy eating!

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And heck yes, those are paper plates. Oooo, we fancy! 😉

Ingredients:

Restaurant Review: Shoefly Public House

Full disclaimer: I started out wanting to love this place because it’s maybe a 5 minute walk from our house. Well… Closer to 10 since this little nugget decided he’s too big to be carried.

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Mark and I stopped into Shoefly for a nightcap shortly after they opened last year and knew we wanted to come back and try the food. Once I found out kiddos were welcome, that sealed the deal. They locally source most of their ingredients, and their menu changes seasonally (so alas, none of the fabulous brownie batter wontons we’d sampled previously). They also feature a constantly changing beer list, both draft and bottle with many local offerings, as well as a decent wine list.

This visit, we decided to forgo appetizers and just dove right into food and beers. I tried a Bier Brewery pilsner, while Mark opted for a Daredevil IPA. Ok on both counts… I wish I’d opted for something a little more flavorful but took the waitress’s suggestion for a light, summery beer.

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Mark has had his heart set on trying the walleye fish and chips (a mainstay on the menu). I found the pretzel flatbreads intriguing, so I decided on the Cuban pork, capocolla, mozzarella, and grain mustard option (it also comes with pickles, but those who know me know I do NOT do pickles. Barf!). Little buddy Jack got the Avalena, or grilled cheese with regular potato fries. They have an awesome selection for kids! The owner named everything on the kid’s menu after little ones in their family, which I find incredibly endearing.

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Clearly, Jack found his so yummy looking he couldn’t wait 😉

Oh my goodness. Guys, the food here is A…MAZING. My flatbread was crispy, cheesy, meaty awesomeness with a little sprinkle of green onion and parsley on top for good measure. Mark’s fish had a light, flaky beer batter and was not super greasy (that is my biggest complaint about Chatham Tap’s fish and chips, which now comes in a distant 2nd as best fish and chips in Indy) and of course, fries. Even Jack’s little kiddie meal was delicious. Thick buttered Texas toast with a mix of cheeses, grilled to perfection, and accompanied by a generous serving of their scrumptiously seasoned potato fries (I keep saying potato because they also offer sweet potato and yucca fries).

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We took advantage of their newly opened patio since the weather was particularly nice that night. The host warned us if it got busier outside another couple may be seated at the other end of our picnic table, which we said was fine as long as those people didn’t mind being seated across from a crazy, food throwing toddler. Haha! Shoefly has ample seating indoors as well, whether it be at a table or the light wood bar. They do also have flat screen TVs behind the bar, for those who are into that kind of thing 😉

Shoefly’s prices are a bit on the high side (for us anyway) for a casual dinner, but absolutely reasonable for the caliber of the meal. We will definitely be back… There were too many tasty sounding options and not enough room in our tummies! A must try if you’re in Indianapolis or surrounding ‘burbs.

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Shoefly Public House is located at 122 E 22nd St, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (right at the intersection off 22nd and Talbott St).

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Photo credit: historicindianapolis.com

Strawberry filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

So I’m kind of known as the cupcake queen at work… I wanted to whip up something a little different this week rather than making something I’ve made a thousand times before. This combo popped into my head one day and so I decided to give it a try. They wouldn’t crack my personal top 5, but they did turn out yummy! The lightness of the cake balances well with the richness of the strawberry sauce and Nutella frosting.

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Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:

  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sour cream ( you can also use Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese if that’s what you have on hand/prefer!)

Recipe barely adapted from Annie’s Eats

For the strawberry sauce:

  • 2 cups diced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch

Original recipe

For the frosting:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Nutella

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and line your cupcake pans with liners (this recipe makes about 2 dozen). To make your sauce, throw your strawberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, they’ll gradually start softening and oozing this delicious, fragrant sauce. Once you’ve got them fairly  mushy, mix in your sugar and corn starch until completely combined. Set aside to cool.

Next, combine the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl, combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend. Set those aside, they’ll come later!

Combine your butter and sugar in a saucepan set over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted completely and the mixture looks smooth. You can also take the lazy/genius route and microwave your butter and sugar in 30 second intervals until the butter is melted… Same result! Pour your butter/sugar blend into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on med-low until mixture is cool (about 5 minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.  Add your vanilla and then the cocoa/water mixture until smooth.  On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream, start and ending with the dry ingredients and just until incorporated (I did 3 flour additions to 2 sour cream, if that makes sense).

Divide batter between liners, filling about 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking (for my oven, 18 minutes). Cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before adding sauce and frosting.

While your cupcakes are cooling, make your frosting! Whisk the butter in your stand mixer for about 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Starting on low speed, add the confectioner’s sugar and gradually increase speed until sugar is fully incorporated. Add vanilla and continue whisking until light and fluffy (some scraping of the bowl may be needed at this point). Once you’ve achieved maximum fluff (after about 5 minutes), add the deliciousness that is Nutella. Whisk for another 5 minutes or so til your frosting is fluffy again.

Whew, ready to assemble these bad boys? If you have a cupcake corer, great. Use that. If not, cut a small cone from the center of each cupcake using a butter knife/inverted round frosting tip/whatever you have handy. Now, I just used a teaspoon to drop/drizzle my strawberry sauce into the cupcakes just until it formed a meniscus at the top of my cutout (Mark would be so proud that I just used the word meniscus). Lastly, I used a disposable pastry bag fitted with a large star tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I promise I knocked them out in about 1 hour. If you have a chocolate/strawberry/Nutella lover in your life, these little beauties are the perfect treat! Enjoy 🙂

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