Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

Not many people know that my love for food has an even deeper connection because the first jobs I had starting from the age of 16 were in restaurants. From bussing tables to serving people fish and chips and burgers, I've seen it all and have a few too many horror stories to tell if you've got the time. But I'll spare you…for now! 

In college I worked at Red Robin (or, as we affectionately called it, The Dirty Bird) because, well, I needed to support my drinking habit like any good college student. Oh, and I guess pay the rent. Priorities! As you can imagine that Red Robin life was not entirely glamorous. We're talking dealing with inconsiderate tourist, singing that infamous happy birthday song more times than you can imagine and coming home after 12 hour shifts smelling like ranch and campfire sauce. Ah, the glory days! 

Even though I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to relive my time at the Dirty Bird, I still, to this day, find myself craving their food. It's not often, but sometimes I get a mean hankering for some fries with ranch and campfire sauce or a bleu ribbon burger. I know it's nothing fancy, but there's just nothing better than the taste of nostalgia. 

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Sausage Stuffed Mini Peppers

This whole entertaining business is something I've fantasized about for awhile now (yes, I really do fantasize about such things). There's nothing I love more than gathering people especially around food and drink. It's the basis for everything that is good in my world! 

But entertaining in our tiny 650 square foot apartment wasn't exactly ideal.  So now that we're living like royalty with luxurious extra 250 square feet in the new digs, I've been taking a crack at entertaining menus on the reg. I'm so into it that I may or may not have even gone as far as starting to map out our holiday menus….gotta stay prepared! 

In all seriousness, there's something so energizing about strategically planning out a menu to impress your friends and family. A good menu isn't just something that will keep people happy and satiated while you're partying the night away, but it's the blank canvas for you to tell your story as a cook. Whether you're wanting to showcase your socialities or just highlight the season's best, creating a killer entertaining menu is your chance to shine! 

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Lamb Naan Pizzas

The one caveat to moving into a grown-up house this summer has been our wallets have taken a teeny, tiny hit. Indeed it is sad that going out to try new restaurants, one of my favorite hobbies, isn't high on the priority list. Then again, our house looks supes cute so I'd say it was a fair trade-off!

But just because we're not going out as much doesn't mean I'm not trying to whip up some tasty eats at home. And it's definitely a good thing I like bringing the restaurant home with new recipe testing!

When we do go out to eat, one of our favorite restaurants is a place we discovered a few years ago, Mioposto. It's this quaint neighborhood Italian bistro that you could easily miss. We really only discovered it from taking a drive in this area while looking for apartments. We finally decided to try it last year for a date night and we've been going back ever since. 

What we ordered the first time became our order every other time we have gone because why mess with perfection? We get the ceci, roasted chickpeas with fried garlic and sage, oven roasted Hood Canal clams with white wine, butter and garlic, served with their housemade oven baked Mio bread (essentially like pizza dough-esque bread for sopping up all the juice), Caesar salad, a perfect rendition of a classic, and, the pièce de résistance, the spring lamb pizza. 

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Greek Chicken Pitas

Here we go again with this summer heat wave! If you're like me you're probably in a constant state of trying to keep cool at all costs. Cold showers at night? YUP. Wearing dresses to work on the daily? Oh yeah. Sticking my head in the freezer like a weirdo? Mmmhmm. Hey, whatever it takes, right??

But what's even higher on the priority list for me when it comes to keeping things cool as a cucumber is what's on the menu for dinner. I pretty much live by a golden rule that when the temperature rises about 75 degrees (aka my boiling point) dinners must be kept easy, quick, light and, most importantly, out of the oven. Because when it's too hot to move, let alone cook, the last thing I feel like doing is turning up the heat. 

My new favorite meal for hot summer nights that checks these boxes and more is my Greek-inspired chicken pitas. What I love about these pitas first and foremost is how little effort they require. Lemon juice, lots of fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano create the simple yet flavorful chicken marinade in a matter of minutes. Then its up to the grill to do the rest of the work. 

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Sweet and Sour Dill Cucumber Salad

Question: why do main dishes get all the glory? The burgers at the backyard barbecue, the beautiful pot roast on a Sunday night dinner, the turkey on Thanksgiving; they all get far too much attention, if you ask me. But let's talk about side dishes for a hot sec. 

Burgers would be nothing without a healthy portion of baked beans, potato salad and/or buttery corn on the cob. Your pot roast doesn't stand a chance without some gorgeous roasted root vegetables at the dinner table. And Thanksgiving? I don't have to tell you twice that mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and roasted Brussels sprouts can practically stand on their own without the turkey. Turkey Shmurkey, it's all about the sides, baby! 

So I'm here to declare my love for the very underrappreciated side dish, for clearly it's side dishes that can truly make or break a meal. A few of my favorite side dishes include the utterly decadent potatoes au gratin with white cheddar and tarragon, lemon and basil confetti corn for summer time and rustic ratatouille for a cozy night in. But a side dish I'm newly obsessed with that deserves equally as much love is my sweet and sour dill cucumber salad. 

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Coconut Curry Chicken

You may have seen if you follow my personal Instagram or read from a recent post that Cole and I just spent the last week moving into our very own house! Granted, we are still renting it but does it even matter?! You guys, this house is a literal dream. We keep talking about how we don't feel like we actually live there yet and we're just guests in a cute little Airbnb. But nope. I keep waking up each day to this cozy, cute "vacation home" and it's apparently ours!  

Arguably the best part of this house (even though it's seriously hard to choose a "best" part because I have 12,000 favorite parts of the house) is the backyard. This beautiful, magical, perfect backyard down below. 

Is that not the prettiest picture you've ever seen? All it's really missing is me in it with a glass of rose in hand and Cole firing up the grill for some grilling and chilling. 

Speaking of grilling and chilling, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that this backyard is the perfect setting for such activities! While we've had our grill for a few years, a tiny balcony is no place for a grill and chill sesh. With this new backyard, our grill has been born again and I'm all sorts of ready to prep some tasty foods for some backyard barbecue action. 

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Garlicky White Bean Dip

There are two types of people in this world: people who are meh about garlic and people who love garlic.

The first type of people, the people who are meh about garlic are ok with anywhere between 0-1 garlic clove per recipe. Giada de Laurentiis, who inspired the very recipe I'm talking about today, is one of these people. Sure, she's great and has some delicious recipes I've tried over the years. But if there's one critical flaw I've noticed in Giada is that she's "ok" with using 1 clove of garlic per recipe, if any garlic at all. And you know what I have to say to that? LAME. 

As for the people that love garlic, that's a whole other story. These are my people! They're the people that read a recipe for 1-2 cloves garlic and immediately double if not triple that amount. They're the people that prefer their garlic to taste so strong that it almost tastes spicy. They want their garlic to be the star and they want it to put a little hair on their chest, as all the best foods should. 

This very recipe for super garlicky white bean dip is an example of a recipe that was inspired from a non-garlic lover and turned into an instantly better dish from the addition of more garlic. This recipe is one of my entertaining go-tos because a) it's extremely easy to make, even in a last minute pinch – just a few zips in the food processor is all it takes, b) it's takes merely 5 ingredients and c) it's addictively tasty, with bright lemon, punchy garlic, rich olive oil and fresh parsley.

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Corn, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Pizza with Basil

Whenever I need cooking inspiration, I like to get myself out of the kitchen and into someone else's aka a restaurant. That's right, not only does going out to eat please my belly and spirits, but it doubles as a prime research opportunity! Multi-tasking at it's finest. 

My latest dining out slash research venture was made possible by a recent work trip down to LA. I ate so much amazing food, thanks to my impeccable Yelping skills and the natural ability to seek good restaurants in a new place (because there's nothing I hate more than wasting time or money on a bad meal). And while there are many dishes I had that left an imprint on my mind, it was burrata and I that really began a love affair. From having it served cold with marinated apricots, shiso and grilled bread to melted and bubbly on a wood fired pizza with squash blossoms and heirloom tomatoes, I knew burrata and I were going to become BFFs real soon after our encounters in LA. 

While I'm still on a mission to recreate the burrata with marinated apricots and shiso with smoky, grilled bread (because it was absolutely amaze balls), I knew immediately I wanted to recreate a burrata pizza at home using my mad pizza making skillz. The squash blossom pizza in LA was dynamite, to say the least. But I knew I wasn't easily going to get my hands on squash blossoms or a wood fired pizza oven anytime soon (wah wah). However, the creamy, mild burrata would also accentuate fresh, summery flavors like heirloom tomato, grilled corn and fresh basil. And just like that, I had my next all star homemade pizza recipe in the bag, courtesy of eating out in sunny Los Angeles. 

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Salty Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats

I'm no Martha Stewart, but if there's one thing I know about entertaining it's that you know you've succeeded when your dishes disappear quickly. It doesn't matter if your house is a mess or if your beautiful presentation took a few hard hits on the way over to the potluck; if it's devoured within minutes and then subsequently made the hot topic of conversation at the party, you know you've hit it out of the park. 

Because I'm always eager to please, whenever I'm heading to a party or hosting my own, I resort to only my best, tastiest of dishes that I know will be a huge crowd pleaser. [Insert plug for my curry deviled eggs, smoked salmon spread and Dr. Pepper pulled pork]

But this post is not about those other recipes which, frankly, fair insubordinate to those recipes (no offense, other also very delicious recipes). This recipe is about the decadent, salty, sweet chocolate rice krispie treats that you're going to fall head over heels in love for. 

To put it in perspective of just how delicious and popular these babies are, I took these to barbecue recently. Within the hour of me showing up with a huge platter of them, I not only heard from no less than three people how delicious they were but saw with my own eyes the disappearance of them. Guys, they were eaten before the entrees were even served. So, THAT good. 

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Carne Asada Tacos

It's safe to say that tacos are one of my favorite foods. No matter how hard I try to shake up my weekly dinner routine, tacos somehow end up in the rotation in some way, shape or form. But that right there is the beauty of tacos! There are infinite ways to cook and eat them that you could quite possibly never end up bored. 

When it comes to finding my next favorite taco recipe, my mind wanders to the authentic tacos I've tried straight out of taco trucks. To me, there's really nothing better than having some greasy, delicious tacos from something as modest and simple as a food truck. Some of my favorite tacos are carne asada tacos served simply with lime juice, white onions and cilantro on a corn tortilla where the juicy, flavorful carne asada is the true star. Served on a paper plate with a horchata to wash it down, it's best enjoyed standing up and in a convenient store parking lot. 

While I wish I could eat straight from a food truck every day of the week (because I honestly could), I thought I'd bring the food truck home in my next taco making venture with my own spin on juicy carne asada tacos. 

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