Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pies

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As it turns out, making really good chicken pot pies, from scratch, is hard.  Making them gluten-free with the right dough is even harder!  However, I’ve finally managed to create on that works well!

Crescent Roll Dough Recipe

The best dough recipe that works with a pot pie is a crescent roll recipe.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • .25 oz. dry active yeast
  • 1 egg beaten, divided
  • 2 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1 tbsp. butter, softended
  • 1 tbsp. potato starch, or as needed

Directions

  1. Heat milk in a microwave-safe bowl until warm, about 30 seconds. Mix in 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey, and salt. Cool until lukewarm, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl. Let stand until dissolved and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Combine milk and yeast mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add half the beaten egg. Beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough pulls together. Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead lightly until dough is wet and sticky but forms into a ball, about 5 minutes.
  4. Grease a large bowl with 1 teaspoon softened butter. Use greased or wet hands to transfer dough into the bowl, turning to coat it with butter. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

 

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 sm. uncooked onion, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup canned chicken broth
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. fat-free evaporated milk
  • Crescent roll dough

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a 10-inch round shallow baking dish, or individual ceramic dishes, with cooking spray
  2. Coat a large pot with cooking spray.  Add butter and melt over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook, until tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Add vegetables, broth and chicken. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. In a small cup, combine flour and 1/4 cup of evaporated milk; stir into chicken mixture. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup of evaporated milk and cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

  4. Spoon chicken mixture into prepared baking dish. Place crescent roll dough on top of mixture for each (or on the whole dish). Bake until rolls are golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 15 minutes.

  5. Slice into 6 pieces and serve.  Or, if you use individual dishes, serve immediately.
Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Apple-Pear Crisp

Okay, so this is not my usual healthy post, but it IS gluten-free and so delicious! Recipe below.

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Serves: 9

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh apples, cored, and cut into 1-inch thick slices
  • 1 pound fresh Bartlett pears, cored, and cut into 1-inch thick slices
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp dark brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tbsp dark brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup Bob’s Redmill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
  • 6 tbsp organic, soy free butter (I used Nature’s Promise sweet cream)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a 9- X 9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place apple and pear slices in a medium bowl. Toss with lemon juice and sugar; set aside.
  3. To make topping, in another medium bowl, beat egg. Add sugar, salt and cinnamon; mix to combine. Add oats; mix well.
  4. Spoon fruit into prepared baking dish and evenly sprinkle oat mixture on top; drizzle with melted butter. Bake until fruit starts to bubble and topping starts to brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Allow crisp to cool for a minimum of 2 hours. Cut into 9 pieces and serve.
  5. Serving size: 1 piece – I topped with fat free whipped cream

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Notes:

  • The longer the crisp is cooled, the more the fruit juices will be absorbed. If the crisp is cut after two hours, the fruit will be a compote-consistency. Let it sit longer and it will become quite firm.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger for a more robust spice flavor.
Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Tacos for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

Ever have leftover taco fixings from the night before and you’re unsure what to do with them?  I have the solution!  See below for two great recipes that can extend your “taco experience” from night, to day.

Mango Chicken Tacos

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Serves 6 (based on two tacos per person)

Ingredients:

  • Old El Paso White Corn Taco Shells (other other preferred brand)
  • 4 chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup diced mangos in juice – reserve juice
  • diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked sweet corn

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • In a skillet, heat the olive oil and place the chicken strips in the skillet
  • Cook the chicken strips thoroughly – about 3 minutes on each side
  • Add the water, chili powder, and mango juice – let simmer for 5-6 minutes
  • Place the taco shells on a baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes
  • Meanwhile, combine the onion, mango, grape tomatoes, and cilantro together
  • Note: Ensure brown rice and sweet corn are cooked and ready to serve
  • Serve all ingredients warm (I layered

Notes:

  • I also used fat-free sour cream.  You can server with fresh avocado as well.
  • I layered the tacos in this order: Brown rice, corn, chicken, sour cream, mango/tomato/onion salsa
  • Reserve any leftover mix for the second recipe!

Breakfast Tacos

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Serves: 2 tacos per person

Ingredients: 

  • Leftover taco fixings
  • 1 cup of egg whites
  • 1/4 cup fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 sprays of cooking spray
  • Leftover white corn taco shells or fresh tortillas/shells

Directions:

  • Spray an omelet pan with the cooking spray and heat
  • Pour the egg whites into the plan and add in the taco fixings and cheddar cheese
  • Heat until cooked, stirring and scraping occasionally to create cooked scrambled eggs
  • Spoon the egg mixture into each taco shell

Notes:

  • Add sour cream and/or avocado if you desire
  • Serve the shells cold or hot – for tortillas, it is advisable to heat them first

 

Fun, Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Grilled Peaches

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This recipe makes for a great, healthy dessert, or even as a snack!

Serves: 6

Ingredients: 

  • 1 spray cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 3 large peaches, pitted and halved

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill. Off heat, coat grill rack with cooking spray.  If you do not have a grill, preset the broiler on low.
  2. Mash cream cheese and sour cream in a bowl with a fork; stir in honey until smooth.
  3. When grill/broiler is hot, grill peaches cut-side down until marked, about 1 minute.  If you are using the broiler, broil until the peaches are soft.
  4. Place peaches cut-side up on a platter; top each with 1 tablespoon sweetened cheese mixture. Yields 1 peach half per serving.

Notes:

  • If you prefer soft peaches, microwave for 1 1/2 minutes
  • Sprinkle nutmeg or cinnamon once the halves are filled

 

Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Ground Turkey/Rice Stuffed Peppers

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This is another one of my favorite meals to prep for lunches and dinners!

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red bell peppers
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped and divided in half
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped and divided in half
  • 1/4 freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 3/4 pounds uncooked 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold peppers with cooking spray.

  2. Slice tops off peppers; reserve tops. Carefully remove seeds and ribs from peppers; trim a thin sliver off bottoms if peppers don’t stand upright (being careful not to cut through into cavity).

  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine half the onion, half the garlic, parsley, dill, 1/4 c tomatoes, rice, turkey, 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper to make filling.

  4. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add remaining onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add remaining garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in remaining tomato, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 1 minute.

  5. Loosely stuff peppers with filling (leaving enough room for rice to expand – about 3/4 c in each) and nestle peppers in baking dish; replace pepper tops. Spoon tomato sauce around peppers in baking dish.

  6. Cover dish tightly with foil; bake until peppers are tender and rice is cooked, 75 to 90 minutes.

  7. Serving size: 1 stuffed pepper and 1/2 c sauce

Events/Performances, Fun, Travel, United States

DJ MLEM and Darude and Soundcheck

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Pretending like Darude wasn’t insanely awesome (he totally was).

On March 3rd, one of my favorite DJs from my college years (yes, I’m dating myself), came to Soundcheck to euphorically “bring the house down” and it was everything I ever could have hoped for.

Darude became a US icon in 2001 for releasing “Sandstorm”, which was one of very few EDM songs to hit mainstream airwaves in a time when pop music (especially boybands) was at a fervent pitch.  He, along with the likes of Armin Van Buuren, helped to create the “stickiness” of trance almost 20 years ago, which if you can remember back that far, all started to sound the same.

However, Darude, who needed to re-invent himself after massive success off of that one song, found a way to embrace “Sandstorm”, remix it… and then throw in live-recorded crowd-interactive hits that made us all stay until the very end of the night, to see what else he’d perform.

Check out some of my video clips below.  There’s a whole host of them on my YouTube Channel if you want to check out more of his new album.

NOTE: Scroll past the videos to read more.

Sandstorm Remixed:

Live-recorded “We Love DC” Crowd Chant, Mixed Into His Song:

One of Darude’s Newest Hits:

This post would not be complete without also mentioning the opener – DJ MLEM.  You guys have read many of my previous posts about my affinity for this up-and-coming EDM DJ, who has quickly found his own sound, to which is gaining a mass following.  His new mix, “Son of a Mix 004” has received rave reviews, and even got the attention of Darude, who danced in the crowd to DJ MLEM’s closing set.

This isn’t just a testament to MLEM’s work, but also to Darude’s fun-loving spirit, who spoke volumes by supporting an opening/closing act when no other veteran DJ has done the same.

If you have the ability to see Darude and/or MLEM perform, make it a must!

Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Four Bean Veggie Chili and Healthy Cheesecake!

Whether you are throwing a dinner party or are meal prepping for the week, I’ve included two delicious recipes that are completely guilt-free!

Four Bean Vegetarian Chili

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Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large uncooked red onion, diced
  • 1 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 3 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 45 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. can pinto, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. scallions

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, toss together onion, peppers, corn, zucchini, oil, salt and black pepper; spread evenly across prepared pans. Roast, stirring once halfway through cooking, until browned, about 30 minutes.

  3. Spoon roasted vegetables and remaining ingredients, except cilantro and scallions, into a large soup pot; stir well. Set pot over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, for flavors to blend, about 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and scallions just before serving.

  4. Serving size: 1 heaping cup

Dark Chocolate Berry Cheesecake

 

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Serves: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup gluten-free crushed graham crackers
  • 14 tbsp. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz. soft fat-free cream cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup + 2 tbsp. Truvia Baking Blend
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 10 oz. mixed frozen berries
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Truvia Baking Blend
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 1/2 oz. 60-69% dark cacao (I use Ghirardelli)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper liners.

  2. Toss graham cracker crumbs with 2 Tbsp yogurt; using the back of a spoon, press 1 Tbsp crumb mixture into bottom of each prepared muffin cup.

  3. Using an electric mixer, beat together remaining yogurt, cream cheese, eggs, 1/3 c sugar and vanilla; spoon evenly into muffin cups. Bake until top is set, 15-20 minutes; let cool and then chill in refrigerator 2 hours (can make up to 2 days ahead).

  4. Meanwhile, to make topping, combine cherries, remaining 1 Tbsp sugar, lemon juice and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Using a potato masher, lightly crush cherries. Combine cornstarch with cold water; stir into cherry mixture until thick. Cool cherry topping completely before using (may be made up to 1 day ahead).

  5. To serve, top each cheesecake with a heaping Tbsp cherry topping; evenly divide chocolate shavings over top.

  6. Serving size: 1 cheesecake

Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipe Box: Three Course Dinner Party

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This past week, I threw a three-course, gluten-free dinner party for some friends.  Below are my recipes:

Course 1: Zucchini Soup with Crème Fraiche and Parmesan Rosemary Cookies

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Zucchini Soup with Crème Fraiche

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 large poblano—cored, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 5 medium zucchini (2 1/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 small Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
  • One 6-ounce bunch cilantro, stemmed and coarsely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 cup crème fraîche

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the leek and poblano and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chicken broth and Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the zucchini is very tender and no longer bright green, about 15 minutes. Discard the Parmesan rind and add the chopped cilantro.
  2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot, whisk in the crème fraiche and reheat gently if necessary. Season the soup with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Garnish the soup with cilantro leaves and serve.

Parmesean Rosemary Cookies

Makes: 2 1/2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar (I use Truvia Baking Blend – 4 1/2 tsp)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 cups Bob’s Redmill all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, rub the sugar with the rosemary until moist and aromatic. In a food processor, combine the rosemary sugar with the flour, cheese and salt and pulse until the mix is coarse.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and pulse until large clumps of dough form.
  2. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead gently until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Slide the wax paper–covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible. Arrange the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

MAKE AHEAD

The rolled-out frozen cookie dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept frozen for 2 weeks. The baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

NOTE

The cookies are going to be highly crumbly – handle with care!

 

Course 2: Grilled Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Thyme, and Roasted Vegetables

Grilled Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Thyme

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, each cut in half

Directions:

  1. Light the grill or heat the broiler. In a shallow dish, combine the lemon juice with the thyme, red-pepper flakes, garlic, oil, salt, and black pepper. Coat the chicken with the mixture.
  2. Grill the chicken breasts over moderately high heat or broil them for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn and cook until the chicken is just done, about 10 minutes longer.

NOTE: You may also use a skillet – slow cook with the lid on for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Roasted Vegetables

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • Red pepper – chopped
  • Sweet onion – chopped
  • Squash – chopped
  • Zucchini – chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler
  2. Mix chopped vegetables together with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  3. Place on a baking sheet
  4. Broil about 5-6 minutes

Course 3: Goat Cheesecakes with Rosemary and Wildflower Honey and Warm Chocolate Cakes with Apricot and Cognac Sauce

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Goat Cheesecakes with Rosemary and Wildflower Honey

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

CRUST

  • 8 ounces gluten-free gingersnaps, crushed (I use Mi-del)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
FILLING
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • One 11-ounce log of fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I use 1/4 c. + 1/8 c. Truvia Baking blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • Wildflower honey, for serving

Directions:

  1. MAKE THE CRUSTPreheat the oven to 350 degrees; and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray eight 4-inch shallow ramekins with olive oil spray.  Set on the baking sheet.
  2. MAKE THE CRUSTIn a food processor, pulse the gingersnaps to fine crumbs. Add the butter and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crumbs into the ramekins in an even layer. Bake in the center of the oven for 12 minutes, until fragrant. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  3. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FILLINGIn a bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and goat cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar at medium speed until creamy, 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and yolks, one at a time, until smooth, then beat in the cornstarch and rosemary.
  4. Pour the filling into the ramekins and bake for 25 minutes, until just set. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour.
  5. To serve, unmold the cheese cakes onto dessert plates and drizzle with honey.

 

Warm Chocolate Cakes With Apricot and Cognac Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I use 1 1/2 tsp. Truvia Baking blend)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees; and spray 6 muffin tins with olive oil cooking spray. In a medium heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate chips with the butter, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly. Whisk in the whole eggs and the egg yolks.
  2. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, until set around the edges and soft in the center. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the apricot jam with the Cognac until smooth.
  4. Invert the cakes onto plates. Spoon the apricot-Cognac sauce around the cakes and serve.
Healthy & Beautiful

Recipe Box: Apple Braised Chicken With Rosemary Potatoes

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No need for a backstory – below is the recipe 🙂

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • One chicken breast, sliced
  • One granny smith apple, sliced
  • One russet potato
  • 1/2 red onion, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1 tsp of sage
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided

Directions – Chicken:

  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and place the chicken slices in the pan
  2. Cook 3-5 minutes each side, or until cooked
  3. Remove them from the plate
  4. Add the onion to the same pan and cook until soft
  5. Add in the broth, apple cider, 1 tsp. of salt, and sage – bring to a boil
  6. Place the chicken on top and flip once after 3 minutes
  7. Add in apples and mix together, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes

Directions – Potato:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Cook the potato (I usually put it in the microwave for 5 minutes)
  3. Cut into chunks and place it in a bowl, along with the other tbsp. of olive oil
  4. Add in the rosemary and the other tsp. of salt
  5. Mix together and place in a pan
  6. Let cook in the oven until golden brown – about 7-10 minutes

Serve both dishes warm.

Fun, United States

Date Night: A Taste of Vienna

Every once in a while, we venture to the suburbs of Virginia to try some new places and get further away from the city (okay, and I was also dog sitting, and home decor shopping).  Yesterday, we took advantage of the day and enjoyed both lunch and dinner out, in my hometown of Vienna, VA.

With the explosion of the D.C. Metropolitan Area food scene, it’s no surprise that this little town has taken advantage of the growth.  Below are our experiences with where we dined yesterday.

Lunch – MOD Pizza

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There’s an old shopping strip mall that used to hold some of my childhood favorites: a local family-owned grocery store, a Chinese restaurant, and an old drug store with a malt shop in it.  Today, it houses a strip of great new, quick, restaurants that provide a little something for everyone – including MOD Pizza.

Per their website, back in 2008, The Svensons wanted a way to go out for pizza but not wait forever to get it.  Thus, MOD Pizza was born.  What started as one shop in Seattle, now has locations all over the US and the UK!

But what makes this story even better is their hiring practices.  Not only do they offer above minimum wage and full benefits for their employees, they also offer employment to special needs and second chance people.  It was this part that truly made me want to come back again, to support one of very few businesses that keep an open mind (and the pizza is great too).

When my boyfriend and I went into the shop, we were greeted by a very nice, very enthusiastic team.  They explained to us that you pay for the crust (yes, they had gluten-free), and all of the toppings are included in the price.  For $25, we got two 11″ pizzas and two bottles of birch beer.

The pizzas are cooked in 800 degree ovens, which means within 7 minutes of the order being placed, your pizza is ready to eat.  Even the gluten-free crust comes out perfect!  Note: If you don’t want to order in the store, you can order online, or through their app, and pick it up!

Gluten-free friendly score: 10

Dinner – Clarity

In an older business complex in the heart of Vienna, sits a new concept, called Clarity.  Jon Krinn – the famed chef who helped to establish 2941, and eventually Inox (which shut down in 2009), is the mastermind behind this new place.

Clarity marries a hometown feel with artisanal dishes for an upscale experience in a rather suburban area. We ordered the Belgium Endive salad with blood oranges, Pork loin with sweet potato, and veal with yukon gold mashed potatoes and mushrooms. (Note: the menu changes seasonally.)  We also ordered the “Espress” (an amazing Espresso Martini) and the “Not Your Mother’s Apple Pie”.

Overall, the experience was slightly above average.

What was great:

  1. The drinks – the bartenders do a phenomenal job with not just the creation of your drinks, but the cocktail menu as well.
  2. The service – the servers were all incredibly attentive and very nice

What made it not exceptional:

  1. We both ordered meat that should have been tender enough to slice right through but unfortunately, the meat wasn’t cooked to expectation and the knives were incredibly dull.
  2. The menu descriptions didn’t truly capture the essence of the dish.  For example, my pork loin had a very smoky flavor – not a favorite of mine.  I had no idea that was part of the dish.  I ended up eating very little of it.
  3. The space tries to be everything to everyone.  The lighting, decor, and layout lend itself to more of a mom and pop restaurant than an upscale place.

My suggestion: Go there for the drinks.

Gluten-friendly scale: 8