Trader Joe’s Carne Asada

Trader Joe’s makes an amazing pre-marinated steak that I love to pick up every once in a while. It’s a great change of pace from my typical asian-flavored marinades I normally use.  This Carne Asada packs a PUNCH of Mexican flavor.  It is a bit spicy but super flavorful.  The steak is also sliced so thin that all you have to do is put it over some high heat (pan or grill) and it’ll be done in just a few minutes.

I cooked this batch up with some Parmesan Garlic French Fries and Sauteed Spinach.

For the Parmesan Garlic French Fries, I took a good ol’ bag of frozen fries my Dad keeps in the house and fried them in a pan with some Sunflower Seed Oil.  I added Minced Garlic, Sea Salt, Black Pepper, and some Smoked Paprika.  Once the fries were all crisped up, I removed them from the pan onto a wad of paper towels and shook off some of the oil.  Next, they went into a brown paper bag with a few shakes of Reduced Fat Parmesan Cheese.  I added a few shakes of Sea Salt too.  YUM.  What a great combination with the garlic and parmesan… seriously yum.

The spinach was frozen also, I just took a big hunk of it and threw it into a saucepan with maybe 1/4-1/2 Cup of water.  I let it cook over medium-high heat until all of the spinach “melted” and was stirable.  It is a pain in the ass (using frozen spinach) but you have to drain the water.  I take a colander and cover it with a few layers of paper towels, then use some paper towels for my hands and squeeze it all out.  Careful though, it can be really hot!  When serving, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a few sprays of butter spray, some salt and pepper and another shake of that Reduced Fat Parm Cheese.  That’s all you’ll need!

Deelish! Super fancy on our paper plates 🙂

Thank you, Instagram!

Chicken Parm & Oven Fries

One of Dave and my closest friends, Adam, is a VERY picky eater.  I didn’t realize how nervous I was to make him dinner until after I promised I would do so.  What if he doesn’t like what I make?  What if what I make is too complicated, or I use a spice he doesn’t like?  Ahh!  I figured it was best to start with something I KNEW was his favorite meal:  Chicken Parm.  I obviously had no idea what I was getting myself into here, on a Thursday night after work and pilates class.

Making Chicken Parm from scratch is very time consuming.  Of course you can take shortcuts, buying jarred sauce, or even pre-made chicken cutlets.  For the occasion of having Adam over, I was not taking any shortcuts!  Thank god my Mom came home just as I finished cutting up a few potatoes and a sweet potato to make Oven Fries as a side.  This is definitely not a meal I’d like to take on alone.

The fries are all cut and tossed in oil, salt, and pepper. That's it!

At this point, the chicken has been pounded, dredged, breaded, and is now browning in the pan with canola oil.

The chicken is in a baking dish topped with tomato sauce, and three cheeses!

The finished product: Sweet and Regular Potato Oven Fries! They were well done on the outside and soft on the inside.

The finished product: Fresh Home-made Chicken Parm

The meal was not only a huge success with the normal It’s Good To Be The Cook Family, but Adam loved it too!  We even got to relax and eat in our newly renovated dining room for the first time in almost a year.  The Chicken Parm was served with my Oven Fries, Broccoli, and a FRESH baguette with olive oil to dip.  Everything was a huge success and worth all of our hard work in the kitchen!

Chicken Parmesan (inspired by Neely’s Cheesy Chicken Parmesan)

Ingredients (chicken):

6 boneless Chicken Breasts

1 ¾ cups Flour

¾ cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs

¾ cup Cornflake Breadcrumbs

Egg Beaters (you can use 3 eggs worth… or real eggs!)

Salt & Pepper

Vegetable Oil

Shredded Romano Cheese

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients (tomato sauce):

1 Onion, chopped

1 teaspoon Minced Garlic

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 cans Crushed Tomatoes

Seasonings:  Red Pepper Flakes, Italian Seasoning Blend, Black Pepper, Basil

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the chicken of any fat.  Slice the chicken to make it thinner and smaller cutlets.  Pound the chicken to make it thin and uniform thickness.  This will help it cook faster and evenly.  Season the chicken with a little bit of salt & pepper.

2.  This is a good opportunity to start the tomato sauce, if you are making your own.  Cut the onion and throw it in a small saucepan with garlic and some olive oil over medium-high heat.  You can let this cook for a little while you complete the other steps for the chicken.  Then, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and cover, cooking over medium heat until you’re ready to use it.

3.  Set the flour, egg beaters, and mixed breadcrumbs on separate paper plates.  Dredge the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat completely.

4.  Heat just enough canola or vegetable oil to coat a frying pan (plus a tiny bit more).  Place (I fit four at a time) the chicken in the frying pan and heat for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Do not overcrowd the pan.

5.  Prepare a baking dish, coat with cooking spray.  Place the cooked chicken (it’s okay if it’s not fully cooked, it will finish in the oven) on the baking dish.  Coat the chicken with tomato sauce.  Then, top with slices of fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of shredded Romano, and a shake or two of grated Parmesan cheese.

6.  Stick in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or longer, depending on thickness of chicken and amount of cheese used.  Once it looks like it’s almost done, turn the oven on broil, leave the door a crack open and monitor.  Once the cheese starts to brown, remove and serve.

Sweet & Regular Potato Oven Fries

Ingredients:

2IdahoBaking Potatoes

1 Sweet Potato

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Sea Salt, Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Do NOT wash the potatoes.  The more they come in contact with water, the less the oil will stick and make it crispy.  Slice the potato into1 inchthick slices or desired thickness.

3.  Place cut potatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with olive oil (start with 1 Tablespoon, add more if necessary), salt, and pepper.

4.  Place in a baking dish prepared with cooking spray.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes – an hour or until they are browning and very soft when stabbed with a fork.

Gypsy Saloon

What every girl needs sometimes is a GIRLS NIGHT!  Lucky for me, one of my girlfriends Colleen is in agreement that every good girls night should start with some GOOD FOOD!

Colleen took me to a small bar in Conshohocken called The Gypsy Saloon.  We got there pretty late, so there was already a DJ blasting some dance music.  There were still a few tables left for dinner service, so we picked one in the corner so we could chat.

With the exception of the LOUD music, the place was awesome.  It took us forever to decide on what to order since everything on the menu sounded delish.  We started off with drinks and an order of the Island Grill’s Crabby Fries.  The fries were unbelievable.  I actually can’t stop thinking about them!  I’m afraid to say it but they are better than Chickie’s and Pete’s FAMOUS Crab Fries.  They’re that good!  The fries were perfectly hot and crispy, and they were tossed with huge pieces ofOldBay sautéed crabmeat.  Colleen had been here before and made a special request to add the “Italian Fondue” side of cheese dip that comes along with the other type of fries.  MMM!

Unbelievable Old Bay Fries WITH tons of Crabmeat

For our main dishes, Colleen ordered the Blue Cheese Flatbread and I ordered the Blackened Salmon.

The size of the serving of salmon on my dish was huge!  It was blackened and served over lobster mashed potatoes and sautéed baby bok choy.  They also topped it off with a reduced balsamic drizzle which was a nice tangy counter to the overpowering flavors from the blackening seasoning.

Blackened Salmon w/ Lobster Mac & Cheese and Baby Bok Choy

Colleen’s Blue Cheese Flatbread was mouthwatering.  Literally- I was still on my no-cheese diet and refused to try it.  I LOVE blue cheese and this flatbread had my name written all over it!  The flatbread was smothered with melted blue cheese and topped with caramelized onions and roasted red grapes- how interesting!  Colleen said it was really yummy.

Blue Cheese Flatbread with Roasted Grapes

I loved girls night, and we plan to have another one soon (so we can try Gypsy Saloon’s signature Lobster Mac & Cheese) !!