Better-Than-Dad’s Chicken Parmesean

My dad is a phenomenal cook. He’s one of those cooks that keeps it very simple but always turns up something fantastic. Some of his all time best are his grilled chicken, steak fries, and his world-famous spaghetti sauce (which I make all the time). He also makes a pretty good chicken parm…but the other night I as able to call him and tell him I bested his cooking.

Yup that’s right, I beat my dad. Of course he was skeptical, but he said I could cook it for him when I come home for Thanksgiving.

It’s cheesy, saucy and really good. I made it with baked eggplant fries…sooo good. Get excited for those…

Better-Than-Dad’s Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Food.com  (and Dad)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • tomato sauce (plain)
  • diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups italian dressing
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano, divided
  • tsp dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
How-To:
Marinate the chicken in the dressing. You can use whatever you have in the fridge…mine was something like zesty italian. Mmm.
Let it marinate for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
When the oven’s ready. In a bowl mix together the parm and the remaining herbs. Dredge the marinated chicken in the mixture. Put the chicken in a baking dish and top with your now-simmered-to-perfection tomato sauce. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
This is a great time to work on your sauce. The key to my dad’s sauce (I kept that part of his recipe) is PLAIN tomato sauce. Sautee the onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Let those carmalize. Once they’re done, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, half of the oregano and a bay leaf. Cover and simmer.
The longer it simmers, the more flavor.
Pour the sauce over the chicken when your timer goes off. Top it with the cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.
Now trust me, you’re going to want to dive right in, but for the sake of your taste buds. Hold off for 10 seconds…if you can….
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All American Dinner Party

When I heard we were having a country themed party with my sorority I was beyond excited! First off, I love, love, love country music. It’s a constant soundtrack in my life. I used to hate it, but when I was fifteen and working at camp, country stations are the only ones that exist in rural Missouri. So after three months of it, I learned to not only like it, I came to love it.

Not only would a country themed party allow me to listen country all night long but I would get to wear cowboy boots and it would be the perfect opportunity for me to finally host a dinner party!

I came up with a menu and made a guest list (as well as a great playlist!). I spent Friday cooking away and had a fantastic time. That is until about 30 minutes before people started to arrive and the temperature was reaching 86 degrees in my apartment and I had way to many things happening.

But it all turned out perfect! People arrived and we had waaaay more than enough food. I had a chance to curl my pigtails and slip into my cowboy boots.

Here are some tips I learned from hosting my first ever dinner party:

1. Turn the air conditioner waaaaaay down several hours before guests arrive.
2. Set up a separate table for drinks and another for the food. Keep them on other ends of the room so people aren’t crowded into one area.
3. Buy ice!! Whoops…
4. Include things in the menu that can be prepared earlier in the day (apple crisp!)
5. Have fun and enjoy yourself! There’s probably no real reason to freak, you’re guest are probably not stressing over the fact that the corn is cold.

There are very few pictures of finished food because as it came closer to arrival time, my camera was the farthest thing from my mind. It was more focused on ah! my chicken is burning but the inside is raw! My guests are going to get salmonella!

But here’s a peak at the menu along with the recipe for perfect fall off the bone chicken. The rest of the recipes are to come.

And no, thankfully no one was poisoned from raw chicken…crisis averted.

Menu:

Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken
Corn Bread with Bacon Butter
Corn on the Cob
Bacon Green Beans
My Famous Apple Crisp

I tried to prep as much as I could before hand.  Cooking for almost 30 people is a very daunting task and I knew that the crazy amount of chicken I needed to cook was going to take ages.

So let me break it down.

When I woke up I went to work on my apple crisps. I’m not going to be modest when I say I make a mean apple crisp. It’s very simple – just butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and apples. Bake it. Done. Don’t you worry, I’m going to give more details in another post.

Next I made the cornbread. I’m not a huge cornbread fan so I did some research and found that cornbread takes a bit of work (and I was not about to go out and buy corn meal on top of everything else). So I read on several blogs that Trader Joes makes a great box mix. Egg, oil, mix, boom – done. And it must have been good because by the time I got around to getting a plate of food for myself, the corn bread had disappeared.

Then came the chicken. Oh the chicken. I went to Sam’s to buy in bulk and had my mom on the phone guiding me in how much chicken I would need. I got two packs of breast (5 each), one pack of drumsticks (around 20), and a pack of thighs (15 or so). Oh silly mommy, waaaay more chicken then necessary (I’ll have chicken leftovers well into next week). But here’s the recipe because honestly, it was pretty amazing chicken.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken (with skin)
  • BBQ sauce – I used KC Masterpiece Kansas style, but your favorite will do
  • Garlic Salt
  • Salt and Pepper
How – To:
First off place the chicken in your baking pans. I bought disposable big aluminium pans I could throw away when done. Coat the chicken with garlic salt, pepper and a bit of salt. Now douse those puppies (chickies?) in BBQ. Let them chill in the fridge for several hours (like the time it takes to bake the other things!).
I did mine in batches, but cook the chicken, covered with foil, at 400 degrees for around 45 minutes. Check it out. Does it look really raw still? Stick it back in. Ovens differ, some chickens are fatter than others, so these times are very temperamental. But after 45 to an hour, uncover the chicken and put it in for 30 minutes. This will give it a nice crunchy skin texture and allow it to brown up a bit.
Take it out and poke around to make sure it’s not raw (it is? put it back in the oven! No food poisoning for our guests!)
Cover it with foil until you’re ready to serve! Or until you’re finished cooking the three other batches…
While the chicken’s doing it’s thing – boil the corn, fry some bacon (reserve a 2 strips) and to the rest add steamed green beans with lots of fresh cracked pepper.
What is that reserved bacon for? Oh you remember me mentioning bacon butter? Yup. Got that idea from HowSweetEats. She put her’s on grilled corn which my guests could also use it on, but I was thinking more along the lines of slathering it on the cornbread (yeah the one I didn’t get to eat…but don’t worry there was leftover and I made toast in the morning.)
And it’s very simple. Fry bacon. Chop it up. Mix into butter. Slather generously.
Serve everything on a checkered table-cloth and have someone pour you a drink! American only please. Whiskey and American beer all the way.
Hosting a dinner party is quite the task…but one I am willing to do again and again! Just maybe fewer people…

A Whirl of a Weekend

This weekend was packed full of so much fun – it deserves several posts! From a dinner party, to a country party, to a trip to Lake Arrowhead with my best friends, I’m still recuperating! And now that my camera is finally cooperating with my computer, I have lots of yummy recipes to catch up on.

But for now here’s a peak at my trip up the mountain where we spent the weekend lounging on the boat, drinking lots of great beer and eating waaaay too much food. Basically, my version of the perfect weekend getaway.


{lake arrowhead}


{my friend’s amazing lake house – the huge windows are my fav}


{the gang’s all here!}


{big fluffy clouds}


{everyone had to bring a different type of craft brew and we all got to taste test}


{a picture of friendship}

Vodka Mint Lemonade

I am so sorry that I am such a blog tease.

WEEKS ago, I posted this picture – taunting you with a drink hiding in the background of my lemon sorbet recipe that I promised I would share with you.

And I failed. Blog fail. It’s funny because teasing is a trick we use in journalism all the time. “Coming up – which of your favorite vegetables could cause cancer…At the top of the hour we’ll bring you the latest on the Casey Anthony trial…etc.”  You know what I’m talking about.

It’s all a teasing game (I even wrote an article about it once) but the key is that if you tease it, you have to dish it.

So better late than never…I present you with Vodka Mint Lemonade…you can go make some and forget all about my little blog fail.

Vodka Mint Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • several sprigs of mint
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • extra sugar for rim
How-To:
Start with the hardest task of squeezing your lemons (I say hard because remember when I squeeze all these lemons…hands hurt for days). For 1 oz of lemon juice you’ll need about one lemon.
In a martini shaker, add juice, vodka and sugar. Shake well. Take your martini glass and rub a lemon along the rim, dip in sugar.
Pour your cocktail into the glass and top with club soda and mint.

If you’re like me and the best part of any drink is the sugary rim, you’ll find yourself with half a drink left but a sugarless rim.
This is where you get creative and find ways to put more sugar onto the rim…this might include using your finger…or some other trick that you should probably share with me now.
Again apologizes for the tease but hopefully now that you’re all liquored up on vodka and hyped up on sugar, you’ll forgive me!

Happy Thoughts

It’s been a while since I posted a Happy Thoughts page. Not to say that nothing has made me happy in the past couple of weeks, it’s just I’ve been having too much fun (oh yeah, and working way too much) to take photos of all the things that catch my eye. But here is just a glimpse at the things that have brightened my days over the last couple of weeks, including the start of USC football!!!!


{the grilled chicken cobb salad and mint lemonade at Tender Greens in WeHo}


{my first time at the Hollywood Bowl! B-52s & The Human League }


{macaroons from the always amazing Botegga Louie in Downtown}


{best time of the year! USC football season! Go Trojans!}

Greek Chicken Burgers

Greek food is a weakness of mine. Probably because my dad’s side of the family is from a little town in Greece (actually because of some war, it’s in Turkey now…but that’s just a technicality) and I have been eating incredible Greek food since I was a baby.

From spanikopita to lamb to saganaki, if it’s Greek, I probably love it. But sadly my cooking skills have failed when I try to copy my family’s recipes. But I have found that I can incorporate the flavors of the food I love into things that are simple enough to make.

I can make hamburgers. Simple. You mix some spices with some ground beef, mash into a patty and grill. Ta da! So when I came across a Greek chicken burger recipe I had to try it out. Spinach, feta, oregano and a sad attempt at tzatziki sauce and I have a delicious dinner!

Greek Chicken Burgers
Adapted from Kitchen Parade

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces frozen spinach leaves (defrosted and drained)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp panko or dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken
How-To:
First off defrost your spinach. If you have time set it out in the morning, if not place it in a colander with a paper towel (to prevent little spinach particles from escaping!) and place under hot water. After it’s defrosted you want to make sure to squeeze out ALL of the excess water, otherwise your burgers will be soggy.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients. I used my hands – and it was VERY messy. But also kind of fun. Squishy, squishy chicken goo.
Form the chicken goo into five patties. (I was only cooking for myself so I put four of the patties into individual ziplock bags and froze  them. Hello easy dinner for the next week!)
Grill the patties on a grill, grill pan or frying pan. Let sit in the pan for five minutes without touching, flip and cook the other side. If you’re fancy, check their doneness with a thermometer (should be 165F) or if you’re like me, mutilate your burger a little and peek in the middle.
As for serving. I was trying to be healthy so I didn’t put it on a bun. I just topped mine with red onions and served it with cucumbers and my sad attempt at tzatziki sauce.
Ok let’s talk about this sauce. So I really like tzatziki sauce. But the one I made was not so great… The recipe called for 1) a food processor – which I don’t have and 2) tomatoes – which I don’t like.
But I made it anyway. In a blender I combined 1/2 green pepper, 1/4 cucumber, 1 roma tomato, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Well it was disgusting. It was watery and tasted like a took a bite out of a tomato. Gross. So I tossed it in the garbage disposal.
Attempt number 2: I blended the remaining Greek yogurt, cucumber and salt/pepper.  That was MUCH better. No tomato nonsense. Still wasn’t great, but it was decent. Next time, I’ll probably stick with store-bought.

Perch

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a month and I have to say I am very proud of myself. I have been venturing out to different bars and restaurants! I believe it is all inspired by my very successful to-do list from this summer. I made it a goal to explore St. Louis and I was able to hit up 90% of the places on my list. My list for LA is much longer, and unfortunately I don’t think I’ll finish it before I leave in December, but hey a girl can try!
Last week, I headed downtown to Perch. The original plan was to go there because some one told me they had a special whiskey bar and as my boyfriend is a HUGE whiskey fan (myself, not so much), I thought it would be great for his birthday.

Unfortunately (but not actually at all) that someone gave me bad advice. But it was wrapped in good advice because the place was amazing. Perch is a rooftop bar near Pershing Square. The menu and decor are French inspired and just adorable.


I knew I loved it when we walked in and 1) there was no cover (granted it was Thursday) and 2) it was in an art deco style apartment building and we had to take an elevator to the top. The only indication where the restaurant/bar is located is a cute little gold bird next to the button for floor 13.

The floor, the huge double french doors and the decor of the bar transport you to the 1920s. I loved it. We got a great seat out on the rooftop patio.

The bartenders were great about making me a drink based on my few requests – vodka, something sweet, and just a little bit fruity.
First up – the Moscow mule. The boyfriend stuck with straight whiskey but he enjoyed it as much as I did my cocktails.
Second was something with mint and cucumber. Perfect combination of mint and vodka and not too much cucumber. Sometimes I think cucumber in my drink tastes too much like Bath & Bodywork’s Cucumber Melon Body Spray (you know what I’m talking about…)


{for the occasion – I wore a skirt I got at a vintage store in Paris}

We took the stairs up to the second rooftop bar. Just as gorgeous up there. The view is incredible. And the whole rooftop is surrounded by glass so nothing obstructs the view. A cute little cabana bar serves up similar cocktails with a couple of changes to the menu. I got a glass of rose to transport me back to my summer trip to Paris.


There are fire pits and best of all, trees with big glass twinkle lights.

Perfect bar, perfect night with the perfect guy. Cheers! And look for my full to-do list for LA coming soon….

Fudgey Gluten-Free Brownies

Gluten-Free is the way to be.

Ha, that’s a joke right? Well in my book it is because I simply cannot imagine a world where I can’t consume pasta, bread, cookies and the thousands of other things that contain gluten that also happen to make me very happy. But sadly some people cannot eat gluten (yes, it really is very sad for them). And my friend Elyse (and fellow Executive Producer at ATVN) is one of those people, and even worse, it was only this summer that she discovered this fact.

Years ago I baked a friend who was allergic to gluten some brownies that tasted like cardboard. But because he had been diagnosed as a kid with his allergy he thought they were delicious because he had never eaten anything else. I knew the situation would not be the same for Elyse. So when it came time to bring some baked goods into the newsroom I leaped onto the gluten-free bandwagon (haven’t you heard it’s ALL the rage?) and whipped up some brownies. 

Let me tell you. They were pretty darn good! I ended up using a mix (Bob’s Red Mill Brownie Mix) but am also going to try this recipe at some point. 

Moist, fudgey and a little cakey. They were just what a brownie should be (although they did lack that crisp top that I enjoy so much, but hey, they were a far improvement from chocolate cardboard.)

Fudgey Gluten-Free Brownies

How-to:
Preheat your own to 350 and spray a 13×9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, pour in the mix.
Melt your butter and gather up the other ingredients.  
Add the butter, egg, warm water and vanilla to the bowl. 
You could also add in nuts or chocolate chips to the mix at the moment (I almost put in some nuts to keep me from eating the brownies but decided that for the sake of this blog I should be able to tell you what they taste like. So it’s all for you blog friends.)
Spread batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. I always check on my brownies at five-minute intervals, poking them with a toothpick (or in this case a fork because we don’t seem to have toothpicks in our new apartment – add that to the list of toaster and electric mixer) to ensure they don’t overcook.
Let the brownies cool and slice ’em up to serve to your newsroom full of hungry journalist who never even guessed these chocolate morsels lacked gluten!
You won’t see me swearing off pasta or cookies anytime soon but it’s good to know that I could get by with this (slightly) healthier version of one of my favorite desserts. Enjoy!

A Decade Later

It’s been 10 years but I still remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling on that fateful September day.

I was in Ms. Allen’s 7th grade social studies class and because we never actually did work, we were watching TV. We were watching the news as the second plane hit and we all thought it was must be some type of joke. A boy in the class even made a joke about the situation. But once we realized what we were watching, silence fell over the room.

The principal came in moments later and told us to turn the TV off, saying that the images weren’t appropriate for us to see. After she left, Ms. Allen turned it back on and told us that it was a moment in history that we would remember the rest of our lives.

She might not have been a great teacher, but she was right about that.

Today marked the 10th anniversary of that day and I had the privilege of covering it for ATVN. I got the opportunity to speak with a woman who survived the attacks as well as hear from Los Angeles firefighters, police officers and city officials who shared what they remember and what they learned from that day.

Here’s the story (video and print article) I did for ATVN’s website. 

Here a just a few photos I took at the event. Wish I had taken more but it was a busy day putting together the story.

{a piece of steel from the World Trade Center stands as a monument}
{city officials gathered at the LAFD Training Center to remember 9/11}
{the bell was run 10 times to honor the lives lost on 9/11}

To all those who lost someone on 9/11, my thoughts are with you.

Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s nothing better than a combination of two delicious things to create one even more amazing thing. So when I found a recipe for these m&m cookies, I decided to add chocolate chips, therefore turning my favorite cookie (chocolate chip) into something even better because it uses my favorite candy. (I mean really, m&m’s are the best. Am I right? Some might say boring but I say simple and perfect.)

So many pretty colors!

The recipe was a little…well specific. The eggs needed to be room temperature and the butter needed to be melted and then cooled. And wait till you see how it suggested to shape the cookie… But what I have learned from my recent cooking adventures is that for best results, it is KEY to follow those tiny details. One detail of this recipe was altered and I paid the price. Again, I’m learning here people, learning with every recipe and every recipe misstep.

Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from HowSweetEats 

Ingredients:
2 cups + 2 tbsp enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup giant chocolate chips

How-To:

Mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside (yes, include those two extra tablespoons…why? Well I have no idea but it says to so do it). Then in a larger mixing bowl mix the sugar and butter. (Make sure it’s cooled, this may force you to just hang out and stare at your mix for a quite a bit of time…you could pass some of that but sneaking m&m’s from the bowl…)


They should look like the photo below.

Side note: This step I feel is the key reason why homemade cookies are so much more superior than store-bought dough. The brown sugar. Brown sugar gives cookies (and more specifically the dough) that really sweet, grainy texture that just melts in your mouth. End side note.

Next add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and stir until mixed. Slowly add the flour. Mix it all together. 
Fold in the m&m’s and giant chocolate chips (if you must use regular size ones…well I won’t judge you. You could also use mini m&m’s. Those are pretty cute).

OK this is where it gets strange. Form a ball with the dough. For large cookies, 1/4 cup size balls, for smaller ones, 2 tablespoon six balls. Now tear the ball in half (weird I know). And then stack the torn up halves on top on each other on your cookie sheet. Repeat.

{see how they’re little cookie dough stacks? Cute and functional}


Now I was a skeptic too. And I’m not totally sold on the fact that this really changed the cookies tastiness or not, but it did look like a puffier cookie and it did do something about making it softer or something. I don’t understand the “science” behind this cookie tearing method, but just do it and you’ll have happy cookies for a happy stomach.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. This will depend on the size of your cookie. So basically just watch them. Because there’s nothing worse than walking away for a minute to pour another glass of wine and your cookies have browned. So sad. But that didn’t happen this time! (Probably because I kept the wine close to the oven…)

I was making my cookies for the Open House for Annenberg TV News, so I practiced super self-control and only ate two. But everyone LOVED them at the open house so I was happy my cookies went to making other people happy instead of simply making my butt bigger…

Oh right. You want to know what that tiny detail was that I skipped out on? So take note that the recipe called for salted butter. Didn’t have any of that. So I just added salt to my flour, baking soda mixture. Hmmm. Wrong move. Not sure if I simply added to much salt (since I was just guestimating) or if I shouldn’t have added any, but the cookies were definitely a bit on the salty side. Luckily they were crammed full of so many m&m’s and chocolate chips that really no one cared that there was a pinch too much salt.

It’s a learning process people. And one I don’t mind doing homework for.