Crazy Good Meal Planning Discount

I love a good bargain, don’t you? Things that are on sale are just better. They taste better, smell better, look better…just better! Call me crazy, but I think it’s time to make Menu Therapy meal planning an even better bargain than it already is. For a very short time I’ll be offering an INSANE discount on an annual membership to Menu Therapy.

Using the discount code “dinnerforoneyear”, you can receive access to Menu Therapy weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and one-on-one access to your very own personal chef- Me!- for just ten bucks. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this deal available, but I’m feeling super generous as the holiday season nears. 🙂  Give it a shot, tell your friends, and happy cooking!

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Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake

Olive Oil Chardonnay Cake

I recently had the opportunity to visit Round Pond Estate in the Napa Valley. Round Pound is a gorgeous property in the heart of Rutherford, CA, flanked by beautiful vineyards on all sides and unbelievable views from its outdoor patio. I was lucky enough to enjoy an amazing lunch on that patio, complete with an olive oil and red wine vinegar tasting. It was such a fun experience! Round Pond presses its own extra-virgin olive oil using olives picked from their very own trees. Our guide told us that these olives are rarely off of the tree for longer than forty minutes before they make their way to the olive press. Now that’s fresh olive oil! We tasted the Italian Varietal Extra-Virgin Olive Oil as well as their signature flavored oils including Blood Orange,  Meyer Lemon, Garlic, Basil, Lemon Pepper, Rosemary and Chili. Heeeeaaaa-vvvvennnnn. We were taught how to inhale and essentially slurp the oil down in order to get the right taste. So fun. I could have grabbed a loaf of bread and gone to town and that would have been enough for me, but it got even more interesting when we started tasting their red wine vinegars and artisan syrups. So much goodness.

We were served a beautiful lunch from Round Pond’s on-site garden, each course highlighting the olive oils and vinegars we had just tasted. It was divine. The main course was nothing more than a BLT, but when you have a garden-fresh BLT in Napa made with sweet heirloom tomatoes, peppery arugula and slow cooked pork belly, you’ll never look at that simple sandwich the same way again. It was slap-your-sommelier-good. The meal ended with olive oil pound cake and vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with blood-orange olive oil. Holy yum. One bite in and I knew I would be making it in my kitchen the first chance I got.  I may not have Round Pond’s garden in my backyard to recreate that entire lunch, but by golly I can have a jar of their Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. I found a few recipes for Olive Oil pound cake online and played with them until I had a version that sounded like it would produce the tangy, super-moist, subtly sweet cake from the Estate. I LOVE the way this cake turned out. Some may think it doesn’t rise enough, but I really like the way it comes out because it’s perfect for a delicate little slice of cake in the afternoon.

If you don’t have a chance to get to Napa, bring Napa to you. Get the best extra-virgin olive oil you can get your hands on- maybe even try Round Pond’s Italian Varietal– and make yourself this cake. It will do the trick; instantly transporting you to a breezy patio overlooking grapevines as far as the eye can see. Now that’s a happy Monday!

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil and Chardonnay Pound Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
â…“ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons half and half
Âľ cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup good chardonnay
3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line the bottom of 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan with parchment paper, butter the pan and the paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and lemon zest. Beat at medium speed until the mixture thickens, is pale yellow, and forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted, 3-4 minutes. Allow to sit.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat (or, whisk) the egg white to stiff peaks. Set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, milk, Greek yogurt, and chardonnay. Slowly drizzle in the oil mixture with the mixture in the electric mixer with the machine running. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix just to combine. Add in the butter and mix just to combine.
  6. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the stiff egg whites.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake, rotating the pan once after 25 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden, the center bounces back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 45 minutes.)
  8. Carefully remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Serve.

Adapted from lovetobeinthekitchen.com.

Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

Chicken BLT Pasta

More pasta to talk about, and this is a really good one. Anything with bacon usually is. And cheese. And leeks. Yum! This is the kind of thing I crave on a gloomy, rainy day, so it’s a good thing I live where it almost never rains or I would be eating this far too often. But guess what? Yesterday it rained! I had been promising Kellan for weeks months that the next time it rained we would go outside and play in it, so we did just that. We splashed around in puddles, got soaking wet, and pretty much had the best morning ever. So fun! If you see rain often, you might not think to go outside and enjoy it. But Kellan has been waiting for a while, (tough life, kid), so you would have thought he hit the lottery or something. I love the simple fun a three year old can have; if only all adults were so easily elated!

After about an hour of soggy fun, we came inside, dried off, and starting looking for lunch. Luckily, I had seen the forecast so this Chicken BLT Pasta was already made and hanging out in the fridge. I reheated the whole thing and we dug right in. Best move ever! This one-pot-wonder is pasta perfection. It smells so insane while you’re cooking it, and even better once the whole thing comes out of the screaming hot broiler. Of course, bacon can again take a lot of the credit for that, because there are few smells better than bacon. I’ll admit, sautĂ©ing leeks in bacon fat is an easy second. We have that here as well. Ahhhhhhh!!

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Put this on your list for the next time the weather takes a crappy turn. It will make the sun come out in your kitchen, for sure!

BLT Pasta with Arugula

Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
8 slices of bacon, chopped
3 T tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 cups pasta cooking water, reserved
2, 3 oz. bricks cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Toss chopped bacon in and slowly render fat (cook!) until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon. Reserve.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions and reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
  3. Add leeks to the pan with the bacon fat and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add crushed red pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Stir in half of the grated parmesan, then the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a sauce.
  4. Add the pasta and shredded chicken to the sauce and toss until well coated. Stir in diced tomatoes and crispy bacon. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned on top.
  5. Enjoy!

BLT Pasta

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Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Yay for Fall!!! Cooler weather, cuter outfits, and a wonderful excuse to start eating heartier dinners. I was all about the salad this summer, and honestly, I’ve been eating the Chopped Thai Salad at least 3 nights a week since I posted it on the blog. It was too hot to really cook this summer and I credit this salad with helping me bounce back to pre-baby weight. Yippee! But now it’s Fall and I’m my normal self, so I can start cooking and eating like my normal self. That means one word. Pasta. I’ve said it before, but pasta is without question my favorite thing to cook and eat. It’s so much more than spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is a blank canvas for whatever you’re in the mood for. It can be light, rich, loaded with veggies, loaded with cheese, full of protein or completely meatless. It’s basically the best. I love that you can easily find whole-wheat AND gluten-free pastas in your regular grocery store, so it’s not too difficult to amp up the health factor when you want to. I really love whole-wheat pasta. It’s rich and nutty and holds up really well against bold flavors, and this Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne is a great example of that.

There are a lot of bold, fall flavors in this pasta. Mushrooms are a quintessential fall ingredient. I love their earthiness and the perfect umami they bring to things. Balsamic vinegar, heavy cream and parmesan cheese melt into an unbelievable sauce that soaks into the ridges of the penne pasta. Throw in some butter-caramlized leeks and shallots and you have yourself a delicious plate of autumnal comfort. If you’re anything like me, you’re breaking out the fall decor this weekend.  This pasta would go great with that! Grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte in the morning, grab a few pumpkins at the farmer’s market, plant some mums in the front yard, take a stroll through a park showcasing the changing leaves, burn a cinnamon candle or twelve, and whip this up as the finale. That sounds like one pretty amazing day to me. Let me know how it goes! 🙂

Happy fall y’all! …And happy cooking!

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Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

16 oz. whole wheat penne pasta (can use regular if you prefer)
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Reserve.
2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat until butter is melted. Add leeks and shallot and sauté until beginning to caramelize, about 4 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 4 more minutes.
4. To the mushroom mixture, add balsamic vinegar and heavy cream. Stir until combine and simmer over low heat as it thickens, about 2 minutes.
5. Toss in parmesan cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.
6. Serve.

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