New & Improved Tuna Wrap

29 Jun

I love watching Paula Deen.  I don’t love her cooking, but I love HER.  She is so funny, so sweet, so southern and cute.  She reminds me of Mrs. Pots (Beauty & the Beast).  I can’t bring myself to make any of her recipes, though, because it could quite possibly lead to cardiac arrest.  Nonetheless I DVR her shows all the time because who doesn’t love watching a cute old southern lady make meals with enough sugar and butter to feed an army?  So without further adieu, I’d like to share with you a direct (dirty) quote from the celebrity chef herself that made me rewind and playback more times than I’d like to admit:

“I like the bone in my fish.” – Paula Deen

Yummy.  Speaking of fish, I invented a tuna wrap yesterday that came out so incredibly delicious.  Ever get the urge to just throw some good ingredients together and see what happens?  Well that’s what I did and the result was better than I ever thought it would be.

I “fried” up 3 tbsp egg whites in a mini pan with canola oil spray and threw it on a whole wheat wrap.  I then sliced up a tomato and added that to the wrap.  On top of that went two romaine lettuce leaves.  I then drained a can of tuna and mixed in 1 tbsp of sweet  red pepper hummus, a quirt of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper.  Onto the lettuce the tuna went and then I rolled it on up and zapped it in the microwave for 15 seconds while I sliced up a granny smith apple.

Oh. My. Lord.  It was amazing.  I loved the crunch of the lettuce and the warm egg whites.  The sweet red pepper hummus really made this wrap a 10 in my book.  The apple on the side gave the meal a sweet touch.  It was so simple to make – it will definitely be one of my go-to lunches from now on.

Sorry Paula, ain’t no bones in this fish.

- Alex

Wheat & Brown Sugar Crusted Chicken Sandwich

22 Jun

A few weeks ago my mom, Keira and I took a drive to Albany, NY to visit my grandma and help her move in to my aunt’s house. After we arrived there Friday afternoon, we spent the rest of the day moving things here and there, organizing and getting ready for the more labor-induced Saturday that was quickly approaching. By 6pm we were starving. And so Omi (my gma), Maria (Mama Roy), Aunt Susie, Keira and I set out to find some grub.

“Oh look!” says Maria excitedly as we begin to approach a cute little bar/restaurant called The Ginger Man. “There’s my old stomping grounds!”

[Stomping grounds? Nerd alert…]

alloveralbany.com/images

Then she talked enthusiastically about how she and her friends used to “hang there” when she was in high school. The twinkle in her eyes was unavoidable. There you have it – we would dine at The Ginger Man.

It was in an interesting location – sandwiched between two multi-family homes that were obviously used for housing University of Albany students. I was skeptical at first but figured I’d go along with it – for Maria.

I ordered the Hazelnut Crusted Chicken: A thinned chicken breast coated with finely ground hazelnuts on grilled focaccia bread with lettuce, tomato, basil mayo and roasted red peppers. My mouth is watering as I type this. It. Was. Un. Be. Lievable. The side of sweet potato fries didn’t hurt, either.

To this day, I still think about this dish. And so I decided to do my best to replicate it however instead of using a hazelnut coating, I used whole wheat flour and sweetened it up a little with some brown sugar. I also used red pepper hummus in place of the mayo to make it even healthier. And finally, because I didn’t have any focaccia rolls, I used whole wheat Kaiser rolls instead.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large chicken breast, sliced in half lengthwise

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tbsp red pepper hummus

2 tbsp roasted red peppers

2 slices provolone cheese

A few slices of red onion

A couple lettuce leaves

A few slices of tomato

2 whole wheat Kaiser rolls

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  On a plate or in a shallow bowl, mix together the flour and brown sugar and set aside.

3.  Wash and dry chicken thoroughly then coat both pieces well with the flour and brown sugar mixture.

4.  Place the chicken in a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes in your preheated oven.

5.  While chicken is cooking, toast your rolls and start assembling the sandwich with your lettuce, tomato and onions on the bottom half of the roll.  Spread hummus on the top half of your rolls.

6.  When chicken is done cooking, cut each piece of chicken in half so that both pieces fit nicely on your roll.  Top with roasted red peppers  – which truly take this sandwich to the next level – and provolone cheese and then add the “lid” to your sandwich.

7.  Try very hard not to scarf this brilliance down… savor every bite!

I added a little ketchup to mine.... holy perfection.

I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow… because yes, I made enough to carry on this meal into tomorrow afternoon.  MMmmm… enjoy!

- Alex

Chicken and Shrimp Drowned in Veggies

21 Jun

I feel like it’s been sooo long since the last post but there’s a good reason for it:  The Sliva clan went to a wedding over the weekend and then celebrated Father’s Day so it was certainly a pretty busy weekend.  The wedding was great – we all had a really good time just all being together.  It’s tough to get ALL the sibs together (and they’re significant others) in one room at any given time!!

Jaxon & Alex

Mr. & Mrs. Bear

The whooole gang... minus Keira Bedeira

Meg (Jimmy’s girl), Jim Bob, Andrew (sister Dan’s man), Jackie, Mom, Dad, Bridgey Boo, Alex & Mike

All the girlies plus lucky Andrew

Yup, a good time was had by all…. between eating (fantastic) food and drinking (yummy/sinful) cocktails, we were in for a good cleanse in the days to come… which brings me to my next recipe: chicken & shrimp covered in veggies with a lil’ whole wheat pasta.

I’m going to give you just a rough idea of what I did because I really didn’t measure anything – just threw it all into a pan and brilliance was made.

Ingredients:

Some chicken, cubed into bite-sized pieces

A good handful of uncooked shrimp

Lots of red/green/yellow bell pepper slices

3 or 4 Asparagus spears, chopped into thirds

Red and white onion slices

A little bitta garlic

A splash of white wine

A squirt or two of lemon juice

A healthy handful of fresh basil, chopped

2 oz cooked whole wheat spaghetti

A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Make the spaghetti according to package directions.

2.  Sautéed the peppers, onions and chicken in the garlic, white wine and lemon juice until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes or so (depending on how big your pieces are).  Add the shrimp and cook until pink.  Add salt and pepper and toss.

3.  Add cooked pasta, toss together and throw it into a nice big bowl.  Add basil and cheese.  Dig.  In.  YUM.

There’s nothing like a big bowl of colorful, crunchy, vegetabely (yup, new word in our book) healthiness to get back on track for the week!  Bon Appétit!

Lemon Bars

17 Jun

My Father-in-Law is one of the hardest people to shop for.  We never know what to get him for Christmas or his birthday… or Father’s Day.  In fact, my sisters-in-law were all in Europe a couple months ago and brought home gifts for everyone:  an Irish teddy bear for Keira, a claddagh ring for yours truly, a beer opener for my husband, a dish for my mother-in-law, a t-shirt for my brohan-in-law.  They were stumped on what to bring home for Dad.  They finally decided he would be most grateful for good European chocolate that you just can’t get here in the states.  They brought home a stash of assorted ridiculously good dark chocolate candy in the form of bars, truffles, baggies – you name it, they bought it – that should last the average person at least 3 months (though I think he happily finished it all in about two weeks).

He loves Harley Davidson paraphernalia.  But he’s got a big ol’ bike and Harley coffee mugs galore.  His tools and garage are his most prized possessions.  But not only do I know nothing about tools, he’s got duplicates of just about everything.  He’s been happily married for 30 years and has a big loving family to show for it… and we already gave him his first grandchild!!

One thing I can always fall back on for the guy is sweets.  He.  Loves.  His.  Sweets.  He’s got a sweet tooth that just won’t quit.  Though he’s probably one of chocolate’s biggest fans out there, if it’s got sugar in it he’s all in.

I thought about what kind of treat I could surprise him with for his special day.  I had already made dark chocolate truffles at Easter and wanted to mix it up a little bit.  I remembered that a few years ago Mama Roy brought over lemon bars for Christmas to my in-laws.  Dad raved about them forever after that.  And so, I grabbed the oh-so-easy recipe from her and on this dreary, rainy, chilly June day, I made the bars to give to Dad for Father’s Day.

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 stick softened butter

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

For the lemony top:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 lemons, juiced

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix together the butter, sugar and flour.  Press into the bottom of a greased baking pan (I used a 9 x 13 ceramic dish).  Bake for 15-20 minutes until firm.

3.  While the crust is baking add eggs, sugar, flour and lemon juice in to a clean bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  Pour mixture over your baked crust and stick it back into the oven for 22 minutes.

When I took it out of the oven, I felt like they still needed more time but followed the recipe exactly.  Within a few minutes of cooling I could tell that it was beginning to firm up.  Just let the dish cool to room temp before cutting and they should be easy to remove from the dish.

4.  Dust the bars lightly with powdered sugar.

- Alex

5K Day

16 Jun

Yesterday, Mama Roy and I ran our first 5K together!  It was so much fun and I can’t wait to participate in more races… I’d like to find a 10K to compete in this summer – now THAT would be awesome.

When I run in the morning, I keep myself at around a 10-minute mile.  It’s a comfortable pace for me.  Could I go slower?  Of course.  Could I go faster?  Yeah, I definitely could – but it would give me that gasping-for-air type feeling and I personally like to keep at a more comfortable pace for the duration of 5 miles.

Race day, though, is a little different as far as my pace goes.  Between nerves and excitement, I ended up really pushing harder than I had anticipated.  I finished my 5K in 27 minutes and 14 seconds, making my pace 8:46/mile.  I was really proud of myself and more importantly I loved the feeling of running a race and crossing the finish line.

Fueling your body properly before a race (or any kind of workout) is pretty important.  The food you eat prior to your workout could contribute to how hard you’re really “sticking it out”.  Running, in particular, requires good carb intake.  I don’t eat at all in the mornings before my runs because I go so early that I just can’t stomach anything.  But in the case of yesterday’s race that took place at 6:30 in the evening, I knew that what I ate during the day beforehand would ultimately effect my performance.

I researched here and there a little bit to figure out what to eat before a race and more importantly when to eat.  I already knew that carbs and proteins are essential before a race but what I didn’t realize is that fats can give you a feeling of fullness that lasts hours without weighing your stomach down.  I’m not talking about greasy crap-food from 5 Guys.  I’m talking about healthy unsaturated fats that is in…. peanut butter, for example.  This is the article I read that makes me feel less guilty about my(often large) spoonful of peanut butter daily ritual.

And so, I decided that three hours prior to racing I would eat a bowl of overnight oats… a meal inspired by my good friend at Chocolate and Chaturangas.  It wasn’t made exactly how Evan’s incredible recipes state (she’s got LOTS and I’ve tried almost every single one) because  a meal too high in density would linger in my stomach during the race which is something I wanted to avoid.  I simply soaked 1/2 cup old fashioned oats in 1 1/2 cups of water and zapped it in the microwave for about 4 minutes.  I let them cool to room temp for a while and then stuck them in the fridge for about 8 hours.  I added a spoonful of Greek nonfat vanilla yogurt (to give it body and creaminess), a touch of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and then stirred it around til it was nice and creamy.  I swirled a tbsp. of peanut butter throughout and sliced up 1/2 a banana in there.  Hello, running fuel.  And thank you, Evan!

Looks good, right?  But please, do yourselves a favor and get the real deal right here.

- Alex

Happy (5-days-early) Father’s Day

14 Jun

Tonight we celebrated Father’s Day early because, as mentioned in my dessert post for tonight, the next few days will be busy and we’ll be spending the whole weekend at home with our parents and Mike’s siblings.

After my run this morning I did a fun round of P90X kickboxing (or Kenpo, as Mr. Horton calls it) and since I’ve done it SO many times, I really only need to watch the DVD for guidance.  And so, while Kenpo plays on Keira’s portable DVD player, Giada plays on the big T.V. behind it.  Tony Horton on mute.  Giada on loud.  Now that’s more like it.

Now, I’m not a fan of Giada’s recipes.  I’ve tried making her dishes before in the past and I always find myself adding something here or subtracting something there.  Her recipes to me are never just right.  She’s more entertaining for me than she is an inspiration.  This morning was a different story.  She made short rib lasagna rolls that looked a-maz-ing.  I had never been more genuinely intrigued by her before.  There I was, counting reps, kicking and punching the air, and all the while drooling over this dish she so effortlessly is whipping up before my eyes.

That right there did it for me.  After some breakfast and morning cartoons with the goofball we headed to the grocery store to pick up everything I needed to replicate these short rib lasagna rolls for the Bear’s special Father’s Day dinner.

I cut the original recipe in half since it was only meant to feed Mike and me so here’s exactly what I used..

Ingredients

Ribs:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1.5 pounds beef short ribs

2 tsp. kosher salt plus extra for seasoning

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

A couple pinches of rosemary

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef broth

Filling:

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 packet (10-ounce) frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess liquid

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt plus extra for seasoning

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper plus extra for seasoning

6 lasagna noodles

Cooking spray

1/2 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Olive oil for drizzling

Directions

For the ribs:

1.  In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the ribs with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Add the ribs to the pan and cook until brown, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the ribs and set aside.

2.  Add the onions, garlic, and rosemary.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions are translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.

3.  Increase the heat to high, add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Add the beef broth and ribs to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the meat is very tender , 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4.  Remove the ribs and set aside until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.  Discard the bones and cooking liquid.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat.

For the filling:

1.  In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low.  Add the cheeses and whisk until melted and the sauce is smooth.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spinach, basil and garlic.

2  Place the shredded meat in a medium bowl and pour the spinach mixture on top.  Add the salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix until combined.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4.  Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

5.  Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Lay noodles flat on a dry work surface and Spread 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling mixture evenly along each noodle.

6.  Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and filling to make 6 lasagna rolls.

7.  Spoon the remaining marinara sauce on top and sprinkle with Parmesan.

8.  Drizzle with olive oil, and bake until the lasagna rolls are heated through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

Hot and sizzling finished product straight from the oven!

I naturally paired this with Mama Roy Salad which happened to compliment it oh so deliciously well.

All the flavors blended beautifully together... melted in my mouth.

First words out of my husband’s mouth post-first bite:  “Out of this world.”

Chew.  Chew.  Swallow.  Breathe.

“This is like restaurant good.”

Chew.  Chew.  Chew.  Chew.  Breathe.  Swallow.

“Are you going to become a chef now?”

Need I say more?

And so, to all the dads out there in the world who miiiiiight just be reading this:  Here’s to you, Dads.  Happy (early) Father’s Day.

- Alex

Simple Choco-Chip Cookies on a Stick

14 Jun

This Sunday is Father’s Day and what better way to celebrate than to bake up some good ol’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies for the one I love?  These are not the most healthy version… mainly because I had all these ingredients in my pantry and just wanted to get rid of it all!  It’s a simple dessert that will pair nicely with the more involved dinner I’ve got planned.

We’re celebrating Father’s Day tonight because the rest of the week is busy, busy, busy and we’ll be spending the weekend with our families.  I like to cook up fun meals for special occasions so I thought today is as good a day as ever to celebrate Father’s Day just the three of us as a family.  I found this recipe here.

I decided to put some of the cookies on sticks and into the mug I bought for Mike… just to make it cuter and more interesting :)

Yields about 20 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. hot water

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth.  Beat in the egg then stir in the vanilla.  Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add to the batter along with the salt.  Stir in flour, chocolate chips and walnuts.

3.  Form dough balls using your hands and drop onto baking sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Cookies will be crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside… mmmm.

If you know Mike & me, you know that we very seldomly call each other by our first name... it's always just "Bear"... hence the mug.

Keira (with my help) made this frame in art class a couple weeks ago!

And in the words of Keira “ta-da!”  A simple Father’s Day dessert is done!  Just wait until you see what I’ve got cookin’ for dinner… Check back lata!

- Alex

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