Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers

Sometimes I search food blogs or flip through magazines and see all these inviting recipes that literally excite the senses. Then I tag them, think about them and plan when I'm going to prepare them. I build up all sorts of excitement behind them. More often than not, the meal does live up to the frenzy I've created.

But then sometimes I'm in a crunch and need something quick (like the roasted broccoli and shrimp). I may need to use something in my fridge before it goes bad or before I allow myself to go back to the grocery store again.

And just as how things always seem to happen, the recipe I discovered in a crunch (to use the ground chicken sitting in the fridge) turned out to be Mr. Foodie's favorite meal. Although Mr. Foodie has said it many times since, when I say this chicken burger is what's for dinner, he gets very excited. Hey, I'm not trying to toot my own horn, I'm just listening to my other half...wouldn't you?

But really, served with a side of sweet potato fries (I used the frozen ones by Alexia to save even more time) this is really a simple meal to make. The aroma created by the onion & parsley mixture that you add to the ground chicken is heavenly. Trust me on this one, this burger is very flavorful. This just may be your next favorite meal...for now.

Middle Eastern Chicken Burgers
makes 4-6 burgers (depending on size)
Printable Recipe

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound ground chicken
¼ cup plain yogurt

Burger Fixings:
4 burger buns
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
sliced provolone cheese (or you can use your preference)

Heat oil in skillet. Add onion, cinnamon, coriander, red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley. Cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and let cool. As the mixture cools, season the ground chicken with salt and pepper. Add the ground chicken and yogurt to the bowl with the mixture. Stir until chicken, yogurt and onion are all combined. Shape into four ½ inch patties (I usually get six patties).

Cook the patties in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Approximately 5 minutes per side. Set the burgers aside, once done cooking them all, and top with fixings of your choice.

adapted from Food Network Kitchens


Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut squash was one of those things I did not grow up eating but after discovering it this winter you would've never known this vegetable was a recent discovery. In reading several other blogs I quickly learned what a popular veggie this is. There were recipes from soups and salads to filling pasta dishes. Everyone seemed to rave over this winter vegetable. Seriously, where had I been. I continued to ponder what I had been missing all this time. I decided to confront the source of this oversight in my childhood and promptly called my mother. Why had she neglected to feed me this wildly popular orange veggie? Needless to say, I did not receive an answer that was well suited for my increasing level of curiosity. So I was going to have to venture out and try one of these recipes. But how will it really taste, which recipe would be best? Indecisiveness reared it's ugly head as the days and weeks continued to pass by.

Then it happened so unexpectedly, as these things often do. I attended an art auction and one of the items being served was none other than...drum roll please...a butternut squash lasagna. What?!?! A butternut squash dish that I was going to be able to sample before I went out and bought it. Well.....I tried it....... and Loved it. Two of my girlfriends were with me and they also enjoyed it. It had a lovely rich, sweet taste to it and the sauce was nice and creamy. I immediately knew this was the dish I was going to make at home. And of course I was eager for Mr. Foodie to taste the dish since he was unable to attend the auction.

I went home to scour the Internet along with a few cookbooks and came up with a very comparable recipe to which I could recreate the lasagna. And of course it was hit. Mr. Foodie loved it and was impressed as this winter vegetable was new to his palate as well

Even more recently, a few girlfriends and I threw a dinner party for one of our friends who just completed her doctoral degree. Go Tyfftyff!!!! Since most of the girls in attendance are vegetarian (there's one vegan so she couldn't sample the lasagna) I chose to wow them with the butternut squash lasagna. They too enjoyed the dish.

Now it' not as simple as the roasted shrimp and broccoli dish , but it's not hard and totally worth the time. Take it to a dinner party, potluck or just dinner to last your family a few days. The leftovers heat up very well. I know this post is late in the season so you better hurry up and make it. It's almost time for the summer squash recipes.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Printable Recipe

for the filling:
1 medium sized butternut squash (or the one pound bag, already diced, you can get from Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of freshly minced sage
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
1 cup of ricotta cheese
½ cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
If using fresh squash, cut into 1-inch pieces. To cut squash, peel the skin using a vegetable peeler. Beware, the squash will leave you hands with a very sticky residue which is difficult to wash off (I carefully wear gloves when I cut the squash). After peeling the squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Then cut the halves into 1-inch pieces.

Toss the squash in a bowl with the olive oil, sage, cinnamon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread the squash on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the squash is cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool. Lower oven to 375 degrees.

When squash has cooled, place the squash in a food processor or blender. Add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and egg and mix all ingredients.

Set aside.

For the sauce:
3 cups of milk
3 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of finely chopped sage
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

In a microwave proof bowl, warm the milk.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter of medium heat. As the butter begins to melt, add the garlic and sage and let cook for two minutes. Slowly whisk in the flour, making a roux. Whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes, until the smell of flour disappears.

Begin adding warm milk to the roux 1 cup at a time. Whisk continuously as the sauce begins to thicken and bubble. You want the sauce to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg to the sauce.

8 ounces no boil lasagna noodles
12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese

Make sure oven has been lowered to 375 degrees

Lightly butter a 9x13 casserole dish. Ladle enough sauce to make a thin layer on the bottom of the casserole pan. Cover the sauce with noodles. You may have to break some noodles to fit. Use a spatula to layer the squash mixture on the noodles, then ladle some sauce on the squash mixture and top with a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Repeat this process until you near the top of your casserole pan or are finished with ingredients. On top of your last layer of noodles, finish with the remaining sauce and top off with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil. A great tip is to spray the inside of the foil paper with cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil. Place dish in oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the top of the lasagna is lightly browned.

recipe adapted by theslowcook.blogspot.com


BBQ Chicken Pizza

Since Mr. Foodie is from deep dish pizza mecca of the world, Chicago, he feels that he is the authority on all things related pizza. I'm from Los Angeles. We aren't pizza snobs, although I don't like the store bought frozen assortment. I'll take a pan crust pizza from Pizza Hut any day. But not Mr. Foodie. Apparently, if you're from Chicago you're picky about your pizza. And to top it off, Mr. Foodie doesn't eat pork or beef. So that means no pepperoni or Italian sausage on my pizza. Meat on my pizza is a must.

When we go out to eat pizza, I get to indulge in toppings of my choice. But when we are at home, I have no choice but to compromise. Thank the food gods that there is turkey Italian sausage out there. But in the spirit of compromise and variety, I have started experimenting with different toppings. So in an ode to California Pizza Kitchen (a favorite high school hang out) I made this BBQ chicken pizza.

I haven't made pizza dough from scratch but I do like buying already made dough and rolling it out. I like having control of how thick or thin I want the crust to be, although the dough sometimes gets the best of me. To save time, I use store bought rotisserie chicken. This pizza is so quick to make and tastes just like it came from the restaurant. So next time you're in the mood for pizza, don't call the delivery guy, try this recipe and enjoy.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(8 slices)
Printable Recipe

flour, for surface
pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup of Gouda cheese, shredded
½ store brought rotisserie chicken, chopped
¼ cup BBQ sauce
½ medium red onion, sliced
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Mix the chicken with half of the BBQ sauce. Set aside

Flour your hands and work surface liberally. Knead dough and roll out using a rolling pin, to approximately 12-14 inches in diameter. Place on lightly floured baking sheet (I have a round one I use or you can use a pizza stone). Brush the dough with the olive oil and garlic mixture. Bake in oven for 5-6 min.

Remove from oven and spread remaining BBQ sauce on pizza dough. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Scatter the chicken over the entire pizza. Add the sliced onions and cilantro

Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes, until edges are brown and to your desired doneness. Remove from oven, slice and serve immediately.


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w/ Blueberries

I definitely do most breakfast experiments on the weekend. But if I'm feeling especially grand or want to remind Mr. Foodie what a great catch I am, I'll make a "fancy" breakfast during the week. Otherwise, it's oatmeal or an egg sandwich on our way out of the door.

Now you can wake up this weekend and go to brunch at a cute, neighborhood restaurant. Or you can wake up this weekend and make these fluffy, not too sweet, easy, lemon ricotta pancakes. My vote is for the latter and after you finish reading this post I think you will agree.

One of our growing favorites for weekend brunch is Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries. We went to Miami a couple of years ago for my b-day and one morning we ate breakfast at a restaurant called the Cafeteria, which I believe has now closed. I ordered these lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh blueberries and boy where they awesome. I had never had pancakes that were so light and fluffy and I was loving the subtle lemon flavor to them.

Now this was before I really started cooking but I definitely remembered these pancakes. Every time we went out to breakfast, I would eagerly peruse the menu in search of pancakes with ricotta cheese. Then one Saturday morning, I was going through my ritual of watching the food channel and previewing what the chefs were making, when I realized Bobby Flay was making Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Raspberries. I was so excited, I quickly got online and jotted down the recipe.

These are really our favorite pancakes. I now make them quite often and love to brag about them because they sound so "fancy". I even made them for my 92 y/o grandmother, who doesn't like "fancy" food at all, and even she liked them. Served with the fresh blueberries (or strawberries because that was what I had in the fridge) warmed lemon curd and a sprinkle of powdered sugar, this dish is definitely a pleasure to wake up to and get your day started. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes w/ Blueberries
makes 5-6 pancakes
Printable Recipes

¾ cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Butter, for griddle
1 jar prepared lemon curd
pint of fresh blueberries
powdered sugar

Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and sugar) in a small bowl. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk to combine the remaining ingredients (ricotta cheese, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice). Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.

Heat a nonstick pan or griddle. Once hot, add butter. Pour approximately ¼ cup of batter for each pancake in pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown*. Continue until all batter is used. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until you are done.

Empty lemon curd in a small bowl and warm in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds, stirring once. Drizzle over pancakes. Complete pancakes by topping with blueberries and sprinkling powdered sugar.

* Only flip the pancakes once. It is time to flip the pancakes when you begin seeing air bubbles in the batter.

adapted by Bobby Flay


Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

It was 5 0'clock and I was just about to leave work when I realized, I needed to figure out what to make for dinner. Unfortunately, this meant I had to stop at the store. But since that is my favorite place, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. I did a quick blog search and found this quick and easy recipe over at thewednesdaychef.com.

What was even more perfect about this recipe was it only called for two main ingredients (and other seasonings). And I already had broccoli at home. All I had to get from the store was 1 pound of shrimp.

This recipe is so simple, and so good, and literally takes 30 minutes. I decided to serve mine with brown rice, so it took a little longer. And did I mention how healthy this is.

This is a great meal to get in that serving of cruciferous vegetables for the day as well. Those are your veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy, that contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to your health. So make this your quick, weeknight meal. Your tummy and your tastebuds will thank you

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

Printable Recipe

2 pounds of fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 ½ teaspoon season salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
zest from 1 large lemon
lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 425
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper and chili powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper and lemon zest.

Line baking sheet with foil paper. Spread broccoli on baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in oven for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp to the baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Continue roasting, turning once halfway through until shrimp is pink, approximately 10 more minutes. When done, squeeze lemon juice and serve on top a bed of rice.

adapted by The Wednesday Chef


Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

I love browsing online through the many food blogs. I have such an exhaustive favorites library of favorite food blogs that I have only shared a few under my "food blog idols" list. I get so excited seeing what dishes look like, since many recipe books lack an abundance of photos. It gets my creative mind going as I so read some of the changes people have made to the recipe and seeing the feedback it gets. Anything that looks and sounds remotely good is something I feel that I have to try. The only problem with this is I end up making things only one time.

But thanks to this great idea and suggestion http://tastingspoons.com/archives/114 over at tastingspoons.com, I have been able to create what she calls a soup library this winter. The cold weather seems so perfect for sitting down and enjoying a nice bowl of warm goodness. So with this idea I have been able to make more soup than the recipe calls for and freeze the extra for a later date.....and the kicker is....it takes up less room in the freezer. How genius is that? The technique is so simple. When the soup you have prepared has cooled, fill a ziploc bag and lay it flat on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours or until the soup is frozen. Then you have a flat ziploc bag of soup that can stand upright in your freezer (I have three soups in my freezer pictured to the right). Again I ask, how genius is that?

One soup that I was dying to try this winter was the sweet potato and sausage soup I found it on one of my favorite food blogs, smittenkitchen.com. Each time I told one of my friends I made this sweet potato soup, they all seem so doubtful and declined an interest to taste it. But boy are they missing out (KOS, JPA and TCW). This soup is so hearty with a hint of sweetness from the sweet potatoes (there are regular potatoes in the soup as well so it is not too overpowering), a little spice from the chorizo (I used soy chorizo which surprisingly tasted great) and spinach! Seriously how does that not sound good. I served it with cornbread.......and I do have to say it is Delicious! It definitely got a thumbs up in my household. I even made extra and added it to my "soup library". And since winter is still debating on how long it is going to stay with us in Atlanta, I defrosted it last week, reheatd it in a pot and there you have it. I'm telling you it is one of the best soups I've had and never would have thought so.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
(serves 8)

Printable Recipe

2 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. of chorizo sausage, cut crosswise (I used soy chorizo and I was unable to cut it crosswise because it crumbled but it worked just fine)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic gloves, minced
2 pounds of sweet potatoes
1 pound of white skinned potatoes
6 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 9oz bag of baby spinach

Peel the sweet potatoes and the white potatoes. For the sweet potatoes, quarter them lengthwise and then cut into ¼ inch thick slices. For the white potatoes, halve them lengthwise and then cut into ¼ inch thick slices. Set the potatoes aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot. Add the sausage and cook until it is browned, stirring often. When cooked, transfer the sausage to a paper towel to drain. To the large pot, add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent, stirring often, approximately 5 minutes. Once cooked through, add all of the potatoes and cook until they begin to soften, stirring often. This will take approximately 12-15 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Make sure to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan (this is great flavor here). Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes, mash some of the potatoes in the pot using a potato masher or wooden spoon. Add the browned sausage to the soup. Then stir in the spinach and simmer until it has just wilted, approximately 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

adapted by Deb from Smitten Kitchen

why Passion Foodie

"What are we gonna eat?" This is such a common question in my household and most times, it falls on me to answer it. Which sometimes seems so unfair since I am extremely indecisive. But since I began dating Mr. Foodie I've started having so much fun trying to figure out that answer.

I certainly didn't grow up being an active contributor to my mom's kitchen. She was a workaholic so we did our fair share of eating out, especially when I was a teenager. My mom has always collected recipes from cookbooks and magazines, which often sat on her desk and bookcase waiting to be used. When she did cook, she didn't stray from the usual which included fried/baked chicken, broccoli, corn or potatoes. And we must not forget fried catfish on Friday's. sidebar note: My mom does make THE BEST fried chicken. My mom left the savory more complicated dishes to my aunts. But when I came home from college, my mom turned into an amateur chef and she wasn't bad. Those recipes were finally being put to use and she became an avid fan of the food channel, especially Emeril. I was thoroughly impressed but dumbfounded that she waited until I left home for school to begin experimenting in the kitchen.

As my mom jumped into her new hobby feet first, I became an active observer and critic of the dishes she made. I too began watching the food network, watching the chefs techniques and of course suggesting recipes for my mom.

And then it ended. I moved 3,000 miles away on my own. I was back to eating out or making quick meals with hamburger helper or my easy, old faithful cheese quesidilla (a simple flour tortilla filled with cheese). I so missed the home cooked meals from my mother's kitchen. I also missed the conversations we'd have while she was cooking. It was great bonding time. But it just is not as fun to cook for myself. I admit that some of the joy of cooking for me comes from someone else eating the food and enjoying it.

Fast forward to several years ago. Mr. Foodie and I had been dating for awhile and I of course bragged that I could cook. Well the time came where I had to prove it . That meant a call to my mother. It was Easter so she suggested I bake chicken, make macaroni and cheese (something I had made several times for family holiday dinners) and broccoli. It was simple but I was short on time and needed to make something I could serve with confidence. I was trying to make an impression here. Needless to say, he enjoyed the meal and was hooked. More so on me than the food but the food didn't hurt.

I started cooking more often. I had someone to cook for and I was enjoying it even more. I quickly realized that I didn't want to get stuck in a rut cooking the same things either. My mom always said all one needed to do was follow a recipe so I turned into my mother and began collecting recipes. But instead I vowed that I was going to use them. Mr. Foodie was more and more impressed with each dish. I figured he was either trying to inflate my ego so I would keep cooking and he could keep eating, or that I was actually a pretty decent cook. Either way, I discovered a passion and I must say a hidden talent. I even recently started a little catering business, Nita Scot catering and have gotten rave reviews so far.

With all that being said, I have decided to join the world of food blogging. And I want to invite you to join me as I share some of the dishes from my kitchen that also helped me "hook" Mr. Foodie. I hope you even try some of the dishes yourself. If I can do it, I'm pretty sure you can to.