Hungry & Tired Reflects on a Delicious Summer Meal

I love summer — the hot days, constant barbecue, and the prevalence of rose in the afternoon. When fall begins to emerge, I like to think about some of the wonderful times I have had during the summer. Most of those times involve food! I’ve had many wonderful summer meals, and wanted to share one particularly delightful evening with you.

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This meal was incredible — we smoked some ribs, made with a rub and a spicy plum sauce from Weber’s Way To Grill, which is an absolutely fantastic grilling manifesto. I love inventing my own recipes, but it’s also fun and instructive to learn from other people who make delicious items. Smoking the ribs makes them super succulent, and the sauce is just really good. It cuts through a hot night like nothing else. 

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For the sides, we made Thomas Keller’s creamed corn and a panzanella salad (Italian grilled bread with heirloom tomatoes, basil, soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Mr. Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook contains the best creamed corn recipe on the planet. I think the secret is cayenne pepper and lime zest. Also lots of butter and cream. Mr. Keller sure can cook, and I recommend any of his books for all aspiring chefs (and for those who like looking at really pretty photos of food). We also had these great rolls from a Danish Bakery in Oakland. 

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Top the meal off with a big glass of wine, some fancy soda, and wonderful company. And of course, a dog who requests a plate of his own.

 

Salmon Baked in Foil with Lemon and Fennel

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After a BBQ-heavy long labor day weekend, welcome the [short] week with a simple salmon suggestion. It’s a light, healthy, and fast dish that can be served any time of the year, but is especially lovely at the end of the summer. It also requires minimal skill (i.e. can you cut up a tomato? You’ve got this!) and is one of those dishes that looks pretty on the plate. I serve this recipe on a bed of sautéed baby kale and a side of tomatoes kissed with balsamic vinegar for color and extra nutrients. They’re pretty tasty, too.

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Serves: 4 People

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 large filets of salmon
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 bulb of fennel and fronds
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet, put one large sheet of aluminum foil, and run another sheet on top of that, perpendicular to it, so it looks like an “X”. Place your salmon filets (skin side down if yours have skin) on the aluminum foil.

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Coat the salmon with 1/2 Tb. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Then, chop up your fennel bulb:

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Chop your fennel fronds (these give such a delightful flavor, I promise!)

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Cut up your two lemons into thin circles

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Take your chopped fennel, and your lemon, and layer these on top of the seasoned salmon. The fennel bulb has a slight licorice aroma, that diminishes as it’s roasted. The fronds taste fresh, like herbs. And, lemons give the salmon a zing and a brightness that brings out the almost nutty flavors in the fish. 

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Wrap up the tin foil into a packet. Start with the innermost tin foil, and then do the same with the outer one

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Place your packet in the 400 degree oven, and set the timer fro 25 minutes. While the salmon is baking, you will chop your tomatoes and sauté your baby kale.

Chop the  tomatoes and drizzle them with 1tsp. of balsamic. Let the tomatoes soak up the balsamic while the salmon cooks. They’ll pair nicely with the lemon infused salmon.

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Five minutes before the salmon is done, place your baby kale in a large pan on the stove top. Turn the stove up to “high”, throw in 2 Tb. of water, and quickly stir. The kale will almost immediately begin to wilt. The kale should be completely sautéed within 1-2 minutes. 

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When it’s done, transfer to plates, in preparation for plating the salmon. The buzzer should be going off on the oven soon. Pull out your packet, and using oven mitts, carefully unwrap. It should look something like this:

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You can tell the salmon is done because the salmon will be sweating white, as you can see above.

All that’s left is plating the salmon on top of the baby kale, and arranging the tomatoes around the plate. Dinner is served!

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Tilapia Burrito Bowl

If you feel like you’re in a rut with your weeknight meals, try something a little different. Be adventurous! I was feeling a little bored with my typical weeknight dinners, and made the choice to pair some ingredients that I would not ordinarily put together. The result was delicious! Who would guess that tilapia and sweet potatoes would be such a delightful combination!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 small filets of tilapia, boneless
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 large roasted sweet potatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • vinegar to taste if desired for mixed greens
  • 1 Tb. paprika
  • Your favorite salsas to taste

Serves: 2 hungry people/4 normal people

I frequently roast sweet potatoes on Sunday nights so that I can eat them during the week. Sweet potatoes are amazing! If you roast them ahead of time, you can have them ready for dozens of very exciting recipes. Coat a baking sheet with tin foil, put your sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and then roast at 425 degrees for 40 minutes. That’s it! They’re roasted!

The first thing that you’ll want to do is cook the fish. Put a cast iron skillet on the stove top and turn it to high. Add 1 Tb. of olive oil. While the oil is heating up, season one side of the fish with 1/2 Tb. Paprika and 1/2 of a lemon’s juice. Add the fish to the pan, seasoned side down and cook on high for two minutes. While the fish is cooking, season the other side with paprika and juice from the other lemon half (you can squeeze with a juicer or just squeeze it with your hand!) After two minutes, flip, and cook for two more minutes. The fish will be flaky and white when it’s cooked. Tilapia filets are usually very thin and cook exceptionally quickly.

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While the fish is cooking, heat up some black beans on the stove. If you’d like, throw a splash of hot sauce on the beans while they’re cooking. I like my beans to have a little but more flavor and spice, so I always add hot sauce.

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While the fish is cooking, put some mixed greens in a bowl, add dressing if you want (maybe just a splash of olive oil and your favorite vinegar) and cut up some tomatoes:

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Then, plate your sweet potatoes, tomatoes and mixed greens:

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Add your fish, salsa to taste, and you’ve got a meal!

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And with very little effort and skill, you have a very delicious, healthy meal!

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Hungry & Tired Throws A Garden Party

One of the side effects of gaining more confidence in the kitchen is that you may want to share your new passion for cooking with others. This past weekend, my wife and I invited thirty of our friends, family and neighbors over for a garden party celebration of my birthday. With the help of my family and friends (and our local party rental place) we created quite an amazing evening.

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We started the evening off with Campari and Sodas, rose,  and a phenomenal appetizer prepared by my very talented chef of a brother-in-law. The appetizer consisted of a “gastronomy” version of a caprese salad — there was a small plate squiggled with arugula and basil “spaghetti”. Centered is a disc of whole mozzarella, topped with a perfectly cut slice of heirloom tomato, Lumped on top of that is a healthy dollop of balsamic vinegar “caviar”. Of course, this is served with the concoction called a “parmesan cloud” which would make any high school chemistry teacher blush. Essentially, it’s a bunch of parmesan and water that gets frothed, frozen, and then enjoyed. It started the evening on a high note. We joke that If my brother-in-law had a blog, it would be called something along the lines of tedious & inaccessible, but his cooking is always amazing, if not simple, and it is always so much fun to cook with your friends and family.

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After enjoying an appetizer, our guests went outside to enjoy their beverages and a charcuterie plate. My mom always said that the secret to a good party is a great cheese plate. It’s a great gathering place for your guests to chat. Plus, it’s delicious.

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For the main course, we decided on a simple arugula, melon, and prosciutto salad. You can find that recipe right here on this blog: http://hungryandtired.net/2014/06/22/melon-prosciutto-arugula-fusilli-pasta/

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On the side, we served a salad with baby lettuces, quartered figs, pistachios, and feta, topped with a light balsamic. It was such a summery, delightful and delicious evening.

We finished the night off with a fantastic birthday cake, made by the oh-so-talented/wonderful baking team of my mom and sister.

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I could not have had a better night, with better food, or more wonderful people. Get bit by the cooking bug, and throw a garden party of your own!

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p.s. it may have all been an excuse for me to buy and have an occasion to wear this dress…

Guest Post: A Serving of Susie’s Polenta Tomato Tart

This week, we are so lucky to have a guest post from my lovely cousin Susie. Susie and I love food — she makes the best cheese plate on the West Coast (perhaps the whole country), and throws a mean brunch.  Susie is also a hungry and tired professional, and is sharing a recipe for a Pinterist-inspired polenta tomato tart, that even the most exhausted among us can create. The recipe looks amazing, easy, and the only thing stopping me from rushing out to the grocery store to get the ingredients now is this sleeping, 7-pound terrier on my lap. There’s always tomorrow!  The internet is such a great resource to find inspiration for recipes, and I am so happy that Susie has so graciously shared her cooking adventures with us. Please enjoy!

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Being an adult is pretty lame sometimes: despite the grandeur and fanfare of “real world” that you imagined as an angsty teen waiting for your mom to pick you up outside the mall, once you finally arrive at adulthood, it’s a completely different scene. Hello, excel spreadsheet budget. Nice to see you, cable bill.

The point is, with power (to make your own decisions) comes great responsibility, and not all of it is awesome. In order to avoid the daily caffeinated pendulum swing from bed to desk to couch, you’ve got to carve out time for replenishing, rewarding activity. That’s right, you need a HOBBY. And no, drinking a bottle of chardonnay and falling asleep at 9PM to a Bob’s Burger’s marathon is not a hobby.

Recently, on one of my daily crawls from home to work, NPR aired an interesting story involving stress-relieving foods. As in life, the moral of the story was that you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. Basically, eat fresher, better-rounded meals, and see a commensurate uptick in abilities to cope with those last minute deadlines, angry people on the phone, and freeways moonlighting as parking lots.

While I’m not a mathematician, you don’t need a calculator for this: carve out time for a rewarding activity + increase stress relieving capabilities = treat yourself to a relaxing dinner routine and start to feel better. Emotionally. Physically. Metaphorically.

By carving just an hour out of your day, you can give yourself the opportunity to unwind and disengage from the constant buzzing of your professional life, and immerse yourself in bettering, er—yourself.

Here’s a Simple Formula to get started

1)      Pull yourself out of your desk and head over to your nearest grocery store.

2)      Plant your feet in the middle of the produce section, and look for the brightest, most fragrant, and (usually) sign-centric items. Chances are, those are in season, and that means they taste better.

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3)      Start with a vegetable foundation and build your world around it. It’s so easy to get into a chicken-rut. Really, you start to feel all cooped up (ha!) with meal after meal of the stuff. And while you can put lipstick on a boneless, skinless chicken breast, it’s still, well, a chicken…

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4)      Add a grain/carb. Carbs make you not crabby. I promise. And, when paired with a vegetable, they make you feel full and happy, without the need to take a burrito nap. Complex carbs like quinoa and couscous are the best.

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5)      “Whole” ingredients are your friend. Garlic. Onions. Butter. Milk. Cheese. Salt. Pepper. Fresh Basil. Lemon zest.

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6)      Wine. Self explanatory—no further commentary required.

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The great thing about centering your meals around vegetables and grains is that you can get out of the grocery store for way less.  Case in point, I think I spent $10 total on the following Pinterist-inspired meal:

 Roasted Tomatoes + Sauteed Leeks + Goat Cheese Boops + Garlic Polenta Pie.

(Serves 1 really hungry person to the point of feeling ill, or 4 normal people)

Things to Put in Your Basket (Ingredients):

1)      Polenta Log

2)      Little guy of milk

3)      2 Leeks

4)      A big box of little tomatoes

5)      Goat Cheese Log

6)      Fresh Basil

Things you should put in your pantry:

1)      Salt

2)      Black Peppercorns in a Grinder

3)      Red Pepper Flakes

4)      Olive Oil

5)      Butter

Since this is my first post and I ate this entire pie, you’re going to have to look at This Pinterest Post (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/32088216070164583/) (from which I loosely adapted my pie), or just web-inquiry “piepiepie”  (JK don’t, it won’t work):

 What you do:

1)      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2)      Find yourself a circle pan, a sautee pan, pot, baking sheet, as long as it’s oven safe.

3)      In a pan on the stove turned up to medium, smoosh the polenta out of the log into a pot & add some milk until the mixture is…milky. Add salt, and pepper, then stir it around until it’s warm. Right when it’s looking like the consistency of hummus, turn off the heat, add a little butter, a dollop of goat cheese, and a chopped up handful of basil.

4)      Coat your circle pan in olive oil and pour in the mixture (like a pie!). Stick that pie in the oven for 20 minutes.

5)      In the meantime, LEEKS! Take them. Slice them thin like onions, up to where the stalks start splitting. Put them in a pan with butter and chopped garlic. Turn the heat down low, low, low, and stir them every once in a while until translucent (about 20 mins).

6)      Somewhere in between/before/after/at the same time as the polenta and the leeks: TOMATOES! Take your tomatoes, roll them out on a baking sheet. Shower with olive oil, salt, black and red pepper. Stick those guys in the oven for 20 minutes as well.

7)      Relax. (I know it’s hard).

8)      Everything will wrap up right about the same time—then it’s time to build your pie! Crust, then leeks, then tomatoes (without the juice), then cheese dollops! Turn on the broiler, and broil for ten minutes.

9)      After you reach 10 minutes, plop your pie on a heat resistant surface, sprinkle with additional basil, and then let rest while you get out plates and prepare your face for the epic meal you’re about to consume.

10)   If you used a cheesecake pan, just pop off the outside. If you used another type of circle pan, just slice in the pan (into fours, threes, one slice… whatever)

11)   If you’re feeling extra crazy, I think this would be delicious with a little extra salt and pepper on top, as well as maybe a balsamic glaze, truffle oil, or grated parmesan.

But, those things are not necessary for this to be delicious and also something that you will then eat for lunch the next day and is sure to spread joy throughout your whole office. Taking the time to make a healthy meal, even if it’s only every once in a while, will give you the ability to conquer those impending deadlines. Enjoy!

 

 

Three Ingredient BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Watermelon Smiles

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Don’t put your slow cooker away just because it’s summer! Slow cookers are great for hearty stews in the winter, but continue to be wonderful resources for lighter summer meals. I love this recipe because it takes absolutely no skill, very few ingredients, and is just a delight. The only challenging thing is that you have to remember to put everything in the slow cooker in the morning. This means remembering to pull out your slow cooker the night before, and get your shopping done. You are totally capable of accomplishing these things.

When watermelon’s in season, I always make sure to have some in my home. I forget just how good watermelon is — the “watermelon smiles” are simply watermelon slices, but watermelon makes me so happy, I think it’s more appropriate to call the slices “smiles”. Plus, the slices sort of look like smiles.

Ingredients

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  • 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder
  • 1 pack of sliced sourdough bread
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce (your favorite kind, or what’s on sale!)
  • 1 medium seedless watermelon
  • [optional] sliced pepperjack cheese

Serves: will make 6 really big sandwiches

Time: 5 minutes actual preparation; 8-12 hours for the pork in the slow cooker

Step 1: Preparing the Slow Cooker

On the morning that you would like to have pulled pork sandwiches for dinner, take the pork shoulder out of the fridge, and put it in your slow cooker.

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Open a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, and pour it all over the meat. Make sure the meat is fat side up. This means, the thick white part of the meat should be on top.

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Put your slow cooker on low, and go to work. The pork should cook for anywhere between 8-12 hours (depending on how long your day is).

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When you get home, the pork will be fully cooked, and really succulent. Using two forks, pull apart the pork shoulder. It should shred really easily, and look like this:

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Step 2 — Cut the Watermelon and Toast the Sourdough

Put two slices of sourdough bread in the toaster. While the bread is toasting, cut up your watermelon into little slices

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Step 3 –Putting Everything Together

Using a slotted spoon, place the pulled pork on the sourdough. If you like, add a slice of pepperjack cheese. Add a few slices of watermelon to your plate, and you’ve got a really easy meal!

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Greek Salad with Chicken

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Tonight’s recipe screams “summer” — it’s light and refreshing, and a perfect table topper for a hot summer evening. As usual, it’s also quick and easy and sure to put a smile on all of your hungry friends’ faces. I am so excited that some of you have tried out a handful of Hungry & Tired recipes. I really want to inspire you to cook, and for you to know that you can make a delicious dinner! I love hearing your stories — keep them coming!

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Ingredients:

Chicken

  • 2-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (small chicken breasts feed one person, larger breasts will feed two)
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Tb. olive oil

Salad

  • As much of your favorite greens as you’d like. I use about 4 cups of a “power greens” mix. It’s a melange of baby spinach, baby arugula, and baby kale.
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 2 Persian Cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

Dressing

  • 2 Tb. of your favorite salad dressing; or
  • 1 Tb. of olive oil
  • 1 Tb. balsamic vinegar

Time: 15 Minutes

Serves: 2-4

Preparation for the Chicken

The first thing you’ll want to do is prepare the chicken. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a heavy, cast iron skillet or other “stove-top to oven” sauté pan on the top of the stove. Turn to burner up to high. Add the 1/2 Tb. of olive oil to the skillet and heat. After the oil is hot (about 1 minute) throw the chicken breasts into the pan. While the oil is heating up, season one side of the chicken breasts with 1/2 tsp. of Kosher Salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper.

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Sear the chicken breasts on this side for three minutes. While the chicken is searing, season the other side with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. After three minutes are up, flip the chicken and sear for another three minutes on high.

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The chicken will have a lovely, light brown sear to it. After both sides have seared on the stove top, using an oven mitt, transfer the chicken to the 450 degree oven. set the timer for four minutes. After four minutes, flip the chicken and cook for another four minutes if your breasts are thin, or six minutes if they’re thick.

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When the chicken is done, pull the pan out using an oven mitt, and set it on top of the stove. The chicken should be crispy and toasted on the outside, and khaki colored on the inside. If you cut into your chicken and it’s pink, throw it back in the oven, and give it another three minutes. Wash the knife you used to cut it with. Chicken is one dish you really can’t serve al dente.

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Using tongs, put the chicken on a cutting board to cool, and then cut into thin strips for the salad.

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Preparation for the Salad

While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the salad. Start by cutting the Persian Cucumbers. Persian Cucumbers a more mellow and petite than the average cucumber. I really like the way they taste, and because of their size, they are much easier to slice than big cucumbers. They also don’t have big seeds. I’m a big fan.

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Then, half the cherry tomatoes in half. You can also use any other kind of tomato that smells good to you. Just make sure you slice it into bite sized pieces.

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Once you have your tomatoes and cucumbers cut, add them to the big bowl of salad:

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Then, add the Feta and Kalamata Olives — I give measurements, but you can adjust depending on what flavors you like.

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Toss the salad with either your favorite dressing or 1 Tb. of olive oil and 1 Tb. of balsamic vinegar, and plate it:

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Using a big knife, carefully slice the chicken into slim pieces and pair with the salad:

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That’s it! You’ve made a delicious and healthy dinner! Enjoy!