Watermelon-Mint Salsa

I vaguely recall promising to post this watermelon salsa recipe several weeks ago…you know…when it was still summer.  And here in the Pacific Northwest, it is going back to our drizzling dreariness (kinda love it, not gonna lie!).  Therefore, the intrigue of summer food has kind of faded away for many of us.
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BUT, since when do I subscribe to social norms?  I have been known to grill outside in rain and windstorms and go out for tacos (mmm I miss Moe’s!) in hurricanes…so why not post a summer salsa recipe in the fall? ;)

In any case, I don’t have a link for this recipe, as it came from a coupon book I got from Fred Meyer.  I made it on a day that we were having company over, I needed to make a yummy appetizer, and we had 1/2 a watermelon gifted to us from my mother that I wanted to use up.  I was a bit worried that our guests wouldn’t like it (not everyone is food-venturous), but 4 of us adults just gobbled it all right up! (though I don’t think the 3 kids in tow tried it).  It was a wonderful blend of spicy/zesty, with a faint hint of sweet, and great to pair with chips (or top grilled seafood or a pork chop with, or whatever you want!).
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Watermelon-Mint Salsa

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
-2cu seedless watermelon, diced (I’m not sure how much I used, I don’t think I actually measured)
-1cu cucumber, diced and seeded (I just used an entire cucumber)
-2tbsp red onion, finely minced
-1tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
-1tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
-1/4tsp hot sauce (I think I added a few extra shakes)
-salt, to taste

Directions:
-Combine all ingredients, mixing gently to make sure they are well incorporated.
-Cover and let chill for one hour in the fridge.
-Leftovers can be refrigerated for several days.

Spaghetti Squash with Spaghetti Sauce

I have been meaning to try out spaghetti squash for over a year now.  My friend Alysha and I were discussing it recently and it turned out she had been intending to try it also.  We decided to get together last weekend to join efforts…this was actually a HUGE deal for her, as she is one of the pickiest eaters ever (by her own admission!)…and honestly, I have never been a huge fan of other squash.
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We were both a little nervous.  We also had no idea what we were doing.  I googled a lot of recipes and ways to prepare it and it seemed that roasting it was the most popular and reportedly tastiest method.  We merged this Dashing Dish microwaved spaghetti squash recipe with this Martha Stewart roasted spaghetti squash recipe, and adapted our own version from there.
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IT WAS SO GOOD!  I think we were both a little surprised at how much we enjoyed the final product.  It was a bit on the crunchy side, which I actually really liked.  Alysha observed that the slight sweetness from the squash made the sauce a bit sweeter, also.  Also: one squash will yield a TON of “spaghetti.”  We each ate large portions that night, and it created about 4-6 leftover servings.
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It was also really fascinating how it really does look like spaghetti!  I realize it’s called “spaghetti squash” for a reason, but was still neat to see how it literally came out in spaghetti-like strands when we scraped each half with a fork.  I have been told if you want to do a quicker version, you can simply nuke it for 6-10 minutes and it will be ready.
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The spaghetti sauce is a recipe that Alysha got from her mother-in-law and is now her and her husband’s go-to sauce – and it’s really obvious as to why.  It was delicious!!

Bottom line: if you are wary of trying out spaghetti squash – don’t be!  If a squash-disliker and a picky eater ended up loving it, then it must be a keeper! ;)
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Spaghetti Sauce

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-1lb ground beef
-1/2 an onion, diced
-2tbsp minced garlic
-salt and pepper, to taste
-a couple shakes of basil
-a couple shakes of oregano
-one shake of rosemary
-one shake of thyme
(note: there are no specifications for precise amounts – do it to your taste and what seems right for you)
-one small can of tomato paste
-one medium can of tomato sauce
-one large can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings (blend it ahead of time if you don’t like chunky tomatoes, like the two of us!)

Directions:
-In a frying pan, brown the meat with the onion, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper.
-Once browned, drain the grease and add to the crock pot, along with the spices, tomato paste, one can of water (in the paste can), sauce, and diced tomatoes with the juice. Mix together.
-Cover and cook on low for as long as you like (about 8 hours at the most).
-This can be done on the stove top, as well.
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 Spaghetti Squash

serves about 6

Ingredients:
-one spaghetti squash (mine was about 4lbs)
-olive oil
-dash of garlic powder or salt

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-Puncture the squash a few times with a fork or knife.
-Microwave the squash for about 5-6 minutes, then cut it in half (it will be nearly impossible to cut if you don’t microwave it first). Scoop out the seeds and any gunk that you can see.
-Line a baking dish with parchment paper or foil (or just put it directly on, if you prefer) and set the squash in, face up. Using a basting brush, spread some olive oil on each side, and sprinkle some garlic over it.
-Roast it in the oven for about 30 minutes. It should be easily punctured with a fork.
-Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash to create spaghetti-like strands. You can keep scraping until you get down to the skin!

Chicken Parmesan Meatball Soup

A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted chicken parmesan for dinner.  Like, badly.  I looooove chicken parm (I sound like a broken record, cuz I know I’ve said that a lot!).  In any case, I had not had it in awhile, so I was jonesing.  However, it was also a dreary day outside, so I was also thinking it would be a perfect day for soup.  Warm, comforting, relaxing, homemade soup.  Mmmm.

But then the most amazing thing happened.  I went onto my “Chicken Dishes” Pinterest board to look for chicken parm and I found Chicken Parmesan Meatball Soup by Chocolate Moosey.  Seriously.  Chicken Parm + Soup = I died and went to Heaven.  Again, SERIOUSLY – the most genius idea in the world.

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I am still excited about it today.  And I might have to break my “never cook the same dish twice” rule in order to make this dish again because it was fan-freaking-tastic.  How long can I rave about this, you wonder?  ;)

My husband was joking that it was like eating chicken meatballs in marinara sauce for dinner.  Ours was probably quite a bit thicker than the original recipe, as it calls for canned crushed tomatoes, and I just used canned tomato sauce.  I don’t like chunky tomatoes, and I could have blended the tomatoes, but that felt like an extra step.  However, now that I think about it, it probably would have been a thinner soup had I done that. 
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Also, I know that it is pretty ingredient-heavy, but the good news is that most of the ingredients are things you already have in your cabinets!  Also, don’t do what I did and almost forget the cheese at the end – I had started to dish it up in our bowls, then was like I FORGOT THE CHEESE, and dumped them back into the pot.  That’s really how my mind works sometimes, haha.

In related news, sorry for posting 3 pictures of essentially the same thing.  I didn’t take any preparation pix, so I figured I’d over-compensate this way.

Also: this would have been great with some pasta, too!
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Chicken Parmesan Meatball Soup

serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)

Ingredients:
For the meatballs
-1/4cu + 1tbsp panko breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes
-1lb ground chicken
-1/4cu finely chopped onion (roughly half a small onion)
-1 clove garlic, minced
-2tbsp parmesan cheese
-1/2tsp salt
-1/2tsp dried basil
-1/2tsp dried parsley
For the soup
-1tbsp olive oil
-1tbsp butter
-1/2cu chopped onion (you can use the rest of the onion from above)
-1/4tsp salt
-1/4tsp ground black pepper
-1/8tsp dried basil
-1/8tsp dried oregano
-1/8tsp dried thyme
-1/8tsp paprika
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2tbsp tomato paste
-28oz canned tomatoes with juice (I used tomato sauce, which provided a thicker soup)
-2 cu + 1cu chicken broth
-1/4cu shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more to garnish)

Directions:
For the meatballs
-In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup panko/corn flakes, then in a large bowl, mix together the chicken, onion, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, remaining 1 tablespoon panko, basil, and parsley.
-Make one inch meatballs (mine might have been bigger), then roll them into the panko. Keep them refrigerated on a tray while you make the soup.
For the soup
-In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter on medium-low or medium until melted. Add the onion and cook until soft, 5-8 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, garlic, and tomato paste. Stir all together and cook another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 2 cups broth. Bring a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook 30 minutes.
-Add the soup mixture to a blender and puree until smooth (FYI – I skipped this, because it seemed like too much work, as I would have had to do it in batches, and then it’d also be more dishes to wash, and I was so happy with the result).
-Add back to the pot with the remaining 1 cup broth and bring to a boil.
-Once boiling, add the meatballs. Cook 7-10 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked (now this was actually a bit tricky – I had more meatballs, most likely, because I used more chicken – also be careful, as I had to cover the pot at this point, since everything was popping, and sauce/broth was getting everywhere, including on me, which kinda hurt! Every so often, I would lift the lid just far enough to stick a spoon in to stir/rotate the meatballs, but not enough to let the sauce pop on me and all over the stove).
-Stir in the cheese until melted. Serve in bowls and garnish with extra mozzarella cheese.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Grilling season may be coming to a close for most people, but it never comes to a close for us!  So if you are looking for a last hurrah for grilling, this cedar-plank salmon recipe from Real Simple is one option!

As you can see in the picture below, there is a LOT of topping on it.  I used far less salmon than the recipe called for, so I did my best to cut down the marinade/rub accordingly, but clearly I did not do a good enough job.  I wanted to get the most out of my rub, therefore I just slathered it on. 

IT WAS SO SWEET.  I cut down the brown sugar considerably, but there is just not enough of the other ingredients to counteract the sweetness.  My husband enjoyed it, but I had to scrape most of the rub off of my piece in the end – once I did that, it was more of a nice hint of sweet and spice.
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Another side note – the original recipe’s picture shows what looks like a completely different rub – I actually had to add more liquid in order to make it not a huge clump of brown sugar – yet theirs is far more sugar and less liquid than I used, and looks so much nicer.  Who knows…

Because of this, I am going to post the recipe as it was on the original page, and you can adjust it for your own amount of fish.

Let me know what you think!
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Cedar-Plank Salmon

serves 4

Ingredients:
-1 2-pound salmon fillet, skin on
-1 cedar plank, soaked according to package instruction
-1/2cu brown sugar
-2tbsp canola oil
-1tbsp dried thyme leaves
-1tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
-Soak the plank according to package instructions (my planks require 2 hours).
-Preheat the grill to medium.
-Place the salmon skin-side down on the cedar plank.
-Combine the brown sugar, oil, thyme, and cayenne in a bowl. Spread over the salmon.
-Place the planked salmon on the grilling grate and cook, with grill covered, about 40 minutes or just until the surface fat begins to turn white (be sure to adjust this for how much salmon you are using, and how thick it is!)

PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef (Copycat)

A quick and easy recipe is a great thing to have – if you’re short on time, short on energy, or even if you have tons of time! ;)  This PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef copycat recipe from Damn Delicious is exactly that!  I have found Damn Delicious to be one of my newest cooking blog addictions – the recipes are typically pretty simple with minimal ingredients.
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Moving right along – there is not really much to say about it, as it’s pretty straight foward!  I have to admit, though, that while I loooooove PF Chang’s, I have not been there in years, so I am not sure if it’s a true copycat.  Also, I added some green beans for a vegetable.

Enjoy!
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PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef (Copycat)

serves 4

Ingredients:
For the steak-1lb flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
-1/4cu cornstarch
-1/2cu vegetable oil (I used as little as possible)
-2 green onions, thinly sliced
For the sauce
-1/2cu soy sauce
-1/2cu brown sugar, packed (I only used 1/4cu, though the original recipe did call for 1/2cu)
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2tsp grated fresh ginger
-2tsp vegetable oil

Directions:
-In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/2 cup water.
-Heat the mixture in a medium saucepan until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes; set aside.
-In a large bowl, combine flank steak and cornstarch.
-Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add beef and fry until browned and cooked through, about 1-2 minutes.
-Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and discard excess oil.
-Add beef and soy sauce mixture to the saucepan over medium heat and cook until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in green onions.
-Serve immediately.

Asian-Style Chicken Nuggets

Welcome back!  To me, that is. ;)  Life has been crazy-hectic and I’m a little embarrassed to say that I have not been cooking as much.  However, I have such a back-log of recipes to post, that it doesn’t matter – good news for my readers.  I will say that I have gotten into Jamberry nail wraps and a dear friend of mine is a consultant!  You can click this link to search her site for all the neat styles of nail wraps/decals.  I am definitely known as the party-hoster, that’s for sure.  So far this year, I have hosted parties for Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, and Jamberry.  Next up: Scentsy.

Onto the most important part of this post…the food!  Recently I made these Asian-Style Chicken Nuggets by Damn Delicious.  The first item on my agenda is to apologize profusely for the horrible pictures.  I do not know what was going on with my phone, my kitchen, the lighting, or the food, but the pictures just would NOT take very well.  In any case, please just pretend that the pictures are halfway decent, and I will try to figure out the issue!
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I feel like these nuggets were good, and definitely a nice play on the traditional chicken nuggets, but there were a bit odd.  Not odd in a bad way, just odd in an odd way.  I realize that makes SO MUCH sense.   I guess that when I think of chicken nuggets I think of nicely breaded and toasted nuggets, and these do not really have a breading.  Also, I really need to get those little stir fry tongs, because when I use my regular tongs to turn the chicken pieces, it makes the breading fall off.  Furthermore, I did not marinade the chicken quite as long as I would have liked (the original recipe says to marinate for at least 2 hours, but even that is likely too short).  I feel like I did not taste very much of the marinade flavour, but tasted mostly the glaze (which thankfully was good!).

If I were to make this again (or if you are to make it), I’d recommend using the thin stir fry tongs to flip the chicken, and to marinade the chicken overnight.  Regardless, though, it is tasty.

Side note: This requires oil…quite a bit more than I’d like, to be honest.  I used as little as possible, though.  Thankfully, I don’t normally cook with a lot of oil, so it’s ok to splurge every now and then.  But I know some people are anti-oil, so I wanted to make sure to make that disclaimer!  I am sure you can bake these, as well.
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Asian-Style Chicken Nuggets

serves 4

Ingredients:
For the chicken-4tbsp rice vinegar
-2tbsp soy sauce
-2tbsp mirin
-2tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1tbsp freshly grated ginger
-4 green onions, sliced
-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces (I used 2 large chicken breasts)
-1/3cu all-purpose flour
-1/2cu peanut oil (I used olive oil, and much less than 1/2cu)
For the lemon glaze
-1/4cu rice vinegar
-3tbsp sugar (I used a bit less)
-1 lemon, zested and juiced
-1tbsp cornstarch

Directions:
-In a large bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, sesame seed oil, garlic, ginger and green onions. In a gallon size Ziploc bag or large bowl, combine the marinade and chicken; marinate at least 2 hours, turning the bag occasionally (I highly recommend to marinade overnight!)
-Drain the chicken from the marinade and discard.
-In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and the flour.
-Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the chicken and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side (the amount of time depends on the heat of your skillet, oil, and stove), then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
-To make the glaze, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, lemon zest and juice, cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium low heat. Bring to a boil, simmering until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
-Serve the chicken nuggets immediately, tossed or drizzled with the lemon glaze.

Barbecued Chicken Tenders

In less than twenty four hours, I have walked into TWO spider webs.  And I may have screamed both times.  The first time I was with my mom, and she got worried (obviously when your daughter screams out in fear you pay attention), then I showed her what happened and she laughed at me.  Thanks, mom.  The second time was this morning, walking to my car, a spider had built a nice little HUGE web between my driver’s side door and another person’s passenger side door.  Thankfully, I managed not to spill my coffee all over my clothes in my freak-out.
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I don’t know why I decided to tell that story, but it’s recent and on my mind, so there ya go.  However, I do have good news – like this barbecued chicken tenders recipe from my favourite lady, Martha Stewart!  The thing is – it is really, really a stretch to refer to this as a “recipe.”  It’s basically: buy chicken and barbecue sauce, baste chicken with sauce, and grill.  No fancy marinade, no super secret weapon homemade BBQ sauce…just simple and to the point!
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That being said, sometimes you need something just that quick and yet tasty for a weeknight meal.  Bonus: it’s an excuse to use my favourite Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce!  Normally I just buy the plain SBR’s, but recently I had bought a special honey chipotle flavour and it is sooooo good!  It is not too sweet (for my liking) and not too spicy (for my husband’s liking).  Perfection. =)

Side note: they only look burnt, but really they weren’t! I just took a pic of the only parts that were charred-looking. Go me.

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Barbecued Chicken Tenders

serves 2-3

Ingredients:
-Vegetable oil, for the grates
-chicken tenders (I just cut 2 chicken breasts into tender-size, which created some leftovers, too!)
-Coarse salt and ground pepper
-1/4-1/2cu store-bought barbecue sauce

Directions:
-Heat grill to medium-high; lightly oil grates.
-Place chicken in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour some of the barbecue sauce over the chicken and toss to coat it well.
-Grill chicken, turning and basting occasionally with reserved basting sauce, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Remove chicken from grill and serve with any remaining barbecue sauce.