Cooking with Cava: Baked Harissa Chicken Fingers Recipe

Cooking with Cava Foods: A Mediterranean twist on baked chicken fingers with tzatziki dipping sauce - DC Girl in Pearls

My day-to-day diet goes one of two ways: I either eat healthfully with brussels sprouts and veggie burgers OR I eat like a seven-year-old who’s been left home alone. At the top of my favorite “kid” meals on a gold pedestal, chicken fingers. Glorious, glorious ethereal chicken fingers.

I would eat chicken fingers every day if it meant I could still fit into my skinny pants. That’s the dream.

Spicy fingers dipped in Ranch dressing or bleu cheese. Plain fingers bathed in ketchup. I put ketchup on my ketchup, let’s move on.

There’s no wrong way to eat a chicken finger. But now, with some help from Cava Foods, I’ve discovered a Mediterranean twist on the classic for our “adult” taste buds.

Cooking with Cava Foods: A Mediterranean twist on baked chicken fingers with tzatziki dipping sauce - DC Girl in Pearls

Harissa brings.the.heat. On a healthy eating day, I love adding a spoonful of Harissa to sauteed brussels sprouts to liven things up. And I can’t say no to Cava Mezze’s Harissa Bloody Mary. So what else can I put Harissa on? I was racking my brain to come up with a Harissa dish for Sunday’s big game. I thought about adding a dollop to guacamole (still totally going to happen) or adding it to chili but then it came to me: Harissa chicken fingers. BRILLIANT!

Several months ago, I picked up Panko crumbs at Wegman’s on a whim. I kept seeing it in recipes and wanted to know what the fuss was all about. Well, Panko crumbs are a new pantry powerhouse for me. And they happen to make a ROCKIN’ chicken finger coating!!

Melted butter + Harissa + Panko crumbs = I want you, I need you.

Cooking with Cava Foods: A Mediterranean twist on baked chicken fingers with tzatziki dipping sauce - DC Girl in Pearls

This is a pretty straight forward baked chicken fingers recipe: Chicken tenders marinaded in buttermilk and then coated with a spicy Harissa breading. With a cool side of Cava Foods Tzatziki. Ooh, you could put these chicken fingers on your Greek salad!! Filing that away in Delicious Things To Eat. Another delicious idea: melting Crazy Feta on the fingers in the last couple of minutes in the oven. Back to the kitchen!!

P.S. I’ll be sharing more Super Bowl snacks + sips on Instagram this weekend so stay tuned : )

Ingredients (For Three Tenders)

3 chicken tenders

1 cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup Harissa

3 cups Panko crumbs

Tzatziki for dipping

Directions

1. Marinade the tenders in the buttermilk for at least 2 hours in the fridge or up to overnight.

2. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and get your coating assembly line ready!

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then add Harissa. Whisk to combine and add to a medium bowl with Panko crumbs. Mix to combine.

4. Remove the tenders from buttermilk and shake excess. Place in the Harissa-Panko mixture and press mixture into the tender to ensure an even coating.

5. Spray baking sheet with a cooking spray and place the tenders on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375, flipping once and then baking for another 10 minutes.

6. Serve with tzatziki sauce + enjoy!

Cooking with Cava Foods: A Mediterranean twist on baked chicken fingers with tzatziki dipping sauce - DC Girl in Pearls

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Pineapple Chipotle Margarita

Pineapple Chipotle Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

Super Bowl Sunday means tortilla chips and a mountain of guacamole accompanied by heaps of salsa.

Usually this feast of champions is washed down with sugary sweet strawberry-and-lime swirl margaritas.

Which doesn’t help with the tears from Budweiser’s commercials. Unlikely animal friendships turn me into a human Niagara Falls. But I digress.

It’s margarita o’clock!!

But this time, we’re swapping out the sweet agave nectar with one of my all-time favorite condiments: CHIPOTLE HOT SAUCE!

Real talk: my fridge is 85% condiments. When I moved, there was an entire box dedicated to hot sauces + mustards. Jury’s still out whether this is awesome or sad.

We know hot peppers + chocolate can be BFFs. But like a certain Clydesdale horse and roly poly puppy, pineapples + chipotle hot sauce are another unlikely friendship. And for that I am truly grateful.

Bring on the guac! And the puppies!

Pineapple Chipotle Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients

1 part Sauza® Blue Silver 100% Agave Tequila

1 part frozen limeade

2 parts pineapple juice

1-2 dashes chipotle hot sauce (But for me, it was more like 6-8 dashes)

Chipotle pepper for garnish (optional)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Serve on the rocks and garnish with a chipotle pepper.

Pineapple Chipotle Margarita - DC Girl in Pearls

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This post was sponsored by Sauza Tequila®.  All opinions and product sentiments are my own. 

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Rocksbox

Rocks Box - DC Girl in Pearls

When it comes to pulling together outfits for work, I try my best not to wear the same pieces together over and over again. Mix it up! But I’ll be honest, in the jewelry department, I usually reach for the same rotation of pearl necklace, gold bracelet + studs right before I head out the door. I was in desperate need of something to break me out of my accessorizing rut. Pretty certain my pearl studs were planning an intervention. Hellooo, Rocksbox!

Rocks Box - DC Girl in Pearls

Rocksbox sends you three pieces of designer jewelry that you can keep as long as you want. Sounds too good to be true, right? Once you send them back to Rocks Box, you get three more fun pieces. But it might seem a bit risky, what if you don’t like the pieces? Well, when you sign up, you take a short quiz for Rocksbox to get a sense of your style. Then, once you receive your box, you get a card listing the pieces in the set. Next to each, you can grade it as love it, like it or not my style. Think of it like Pandora but for your accessories.

And if you absolutely cannot live without a bracelet, necklace, earrings, Rocksbox lets you purchase the piece for 20% off. Consider your accessorizing rut permanently banished!

The BEST news?! Use the code LAURENXOXO3 to get your first month of Rocksbox fo’ FREE. Hurry though, it’s only good until Jan. 31st!

Rocks Box - DC Girl in Pearls House of Harlow Aztec Bangle // Margaret Elizabeth Cushion Cut Drop Earrings 

I really couldn’t pick a favorite piece from this set: I loved how each piece breathed new life into my outfit staples. The House of Harlow Aztec Bangle jazzed up a black work dress just as well as a chambray shirt + leggings for the weekend. I loved learning about the Aztecs in 5th grade history so I got a kick out of adding the pattern to my wardrobe! History nerds…accessorize!

I said earlier I’m guilty of over-wearing my pearl studs. Color you not surprised, right? I got some serious mileage out of these Margaret Elizabeth Cushion Drop Earrings, especially with my J.Crew Factory navy skirt. No such thing as too much navy!

Rocks Box - DC Girl in Pearls

The surprise piece would have to be the Gorjana Wrap Necklace. When it comes to my personal style, I opt for clothes that are classics that can be mixed and matched and rely on sparkly or colorful (or both) statement necklaces to make the outfit pop. So I never really gave dainty jewelry much thought, thinking it’d get lost in the shuffle. Well, dainty jewelry had its day and I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle sophistication it emitted.

Gorjana wrap necklace, I think I’ll miss you the most of all.

Rocks Box - DC Girl in Pearls

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Super Bowl Snacks Round Up

I originally had this post locked + loaded for tomorrow but with all this #snowmygod madness going on, I’m moving this post up from the minors to the big league. Being totally honest, I don’t really care about the Seahawks and as a Bills fan, I harbor a deep-seated hatred for the Patriots. Not gonna lie, kinda enjoying this whole Deflate-gate. Especially this.

But I do harbor a long, passionate love affair with Super Bowl snacks. Nachos, pizza, layers + layers of taco dip, guacamole and crockpot BBQ. Be still my beating heart and rumbling stomach.

You could be a responsible adult and spend the snow day(s) doing your taxes, cleaning your apartment and finally getting around to organizing your closet. Or you could do a taste test of Super Bowl snacks for Sunday. I vote for the second option and volunteer as tribute!

Super Bowl Snacks Round Up- DC Girl in PearlsSouthwest Stuffed Peppers // Candied Jalapeños // Grilled Naan Pizza

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip // Fried Pickles // Baked Tabouleh Quinoa Bites

Mediterranean Nachos // Orzo Salad // Cowboy Caviar Quesadilla

Southwest Stuffed Peppers: You can easily make these Southwest stuffed peppers vegetarian or you know, stuffed with spicy chorizo. You do you. The good news is if you make too much…BAM! You’ve got lunch + dinner set up for the next couple of days.

Candied Jalapeños: I try not to play favorites with recipes but if I did, candied jalapeños would be right up there, I tell you. Make a batch today and they’ll be hot hot hot by Sunday. Pile them on your nachos, toss them into your mac ‘n cheese or add them into your sandwich. You will regret nothing. Unless, you don’t like the heat and in that case, stay out of the jalapeños.

Grilled Naan Pizza: For an easy meal, create a pizza assembly line for you and your guests to build their own pie. Pick your toppings + a personal pizza is ready in 15 minutes! Plus, clean up’s a breeze.

Stuffed Banana Pepper Dip: Buffalo might not be playing in the Super Bowl (still too soon to talk about it) but WNY still has THE best tailgating food. Stuffed banana peppers are packed with cheese + spices and put on a grill. I mean, what’s not to love? I created a stuffed banana pepper dip so load up on crackers and chips and I hope you’re emotionally prepared to eat about a block of cream cheese by yourself. Totally worth it.

Fried Pickles: I won’t bore you with yet another ode to my love of pickles so I’ll be succinctly suggest if you need a snack for your guests to just pop, fried pickles are where it’s at. Get the hot ‘n spicy pickles from the In A Pickle stand at Eastern Market. You won’t be sorry.

Baked Tabouleh Quinoa Bites: Okay, I guess we should take a break from the carb + cheese lovefest and do something healthy, right? Love handles + thighs say yes. Mine, not yours. Packed with veggies + protein, these bites are perfect especially when dipped into Cava Foods harissa. Because harissa makes the world smile. And by world, I mean me.

Mediterranean Nachos: If you don’t feel like turning on the oven, Mediterranean nachos are the way to go. Just pile olives, feta, banana peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers on pita chips. Top with tzatziki and, you guessed it, harissa. God, I can be predictable.

Orzo Salad: This is sort of healthy but since orzo is pasta-adjacent, it totally counts for the carb love-athon. Yup, we’ve moved from lovefest to love-athon. Cook some orzo, load up on the veggies and toss with a red wine vinaigrette. Winner winner vegetarian option.

Cowboy Caviar Quesadilla: Worst case scenario that you run out of taco chips. Thankfully, these quesadillas take minutes to make and are a stellar guacamole vehicle. And isn’t that really what this day is all about? Guacamole.

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Margherita Eggplant Pizza

Margherita Eggplant Pizzas - DC Girl in Pearls

Lately, it’s been Carb City, Population: Me.

Pasta, General Tso’s, Chicken fingers. My diet lately resembles that of a seven-year-old who’s been left home alone. I’ve been on the Kevin McAllister Diet. But while it’s been a fun ride, I need to get a grip on reality and a better fit into my pencil skirts if we’re being totally honest.

Of course, I picked probably the worst possible time to jump on the clean eating bandwagon. Super Bowl weekend practically mandates you to sit on the couch with a big bowl of chips, dip, salsa and guacamole. And maybe some pulled pork. Oh, who are we kidding, definitely pulled pork.

The bad news: worst week to start up eating healthfully again. The good news: these margherita eggplant pizzas are tasty enough to make you forget those sinful thoughts about junk food. But I won’t blame you in the slightest if you top these eggplants with a schmear of BBQ sauce and pile it with pulled pork next weekend. It totally counts as low-carb, right?

Margherita Eggplant Pizzas - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients

1 eggplant (cut into about 1/2 inch slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt + pepper

Mozzarella

Pizza sauce

Basil + red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray and line up the eggplant slices.

3. Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the eggplant into the oven for about 8 minutes and take out once tender.

5. Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella + whatever toppings your little heart desires.

6. Put back into the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Margherita Eggplant Pizzas - DC Girl in Pearls

Margherita Eggplant Pizzas - DC Girl in Pearls

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Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese

Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese - DC Girl in Pearls

When the going gets tough, the tough go grillin’. Cheese, that is. Between Polar Vortex and life going a million miles per hour, comfort food is key. I know, you’re not supposed to turn to food for comfort but it’s supposed to snow tomorrow so screw it.

And let’s be real, what’s more comforting than melty, gooey cheese? Nothing, I tell you. Absolutely nothing.

If I had to think about the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had, my mind instantly goes to the “Thrilled Cheese” from The Big Cheese Truck. * Cue dreamy sequence *

Yes, I dream in jalapeños + guacamole. Thank you, melatonin!

Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients for Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

4 cups of chicken stock

1 tablespoon of salt + a pinch of pepper

A pinch of red pepper flakes

½ cup of heavy cream

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.
  2. Add the chopped onion and stir occasionally until golden. Then add the minced garlic.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir until combined.
  4. Toss in the salt and pepper and stir.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes, I recommend a pinch but I like their kick so I upped my pinch to a handful.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and then let the soup simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
  7. Pour in the heavy cream and stir. Let the soup simmer for about 5 more minutes.

Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients for Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese

Sourdough bread

Jalapeño Pepper Jack cheese

1 jalapeño

Guacamole (I used store prepared)

Directions

  1. Surprisingly, blistering jalapeños takes away their heat and leaves you with a smoky flavor. The best way to blister a jalapeño is to skewer it and hold it above the stovetop on medium-low heat for 60-90 seconds on each side. Eventually, the skin will break, creating a popping sound. Once each side is charred, place it on a plate and invert a soup bowl over the jalapeño. Let it sit for 15 minutes, it’ll steam and soften the jalapeño.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the grilled cheese as you normally would. Since I was adding guacamole, I toasted the top slice of bread separately.
  3. Layer the grilled cheese with a healthy scoop of guacamole and the blistered jalapeño.
  4. For best results, dip the grilled cheese into the tomato soup!

Jalapeño Guacamole Grilled Cheese - DC Girl in Pearls

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Thirsty Thursday: Dirty Shirley

Dirty Shirley with Sprite Zero and Grenadine - DC Girl in Pearls

Some of my earliest memories are from spring vacation in sunny Florida. Wading into the Gulf of Mexico to collect seashells, building sand castles and going to The Lazy Flamingo for happy hour. I know what you’re thinking but hey, my mom would get a daiquiri and I’d get chicken fingers and a Shirley Temple. Still the meal of champions, in my opinion. The manager even gave me a free tshirt to wear on the beach, which I totally rocked went down to my ankles. Very slimming, I must say.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Shirley Temple not only because grenadine is everything but I loved watching Shirley Temple movies growing up. HeidiRebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Curly Top. All classics. Then you grown up and those fun mocktails turn into cocktails. But I can’t bring myself to give ol’ Shirls the boot so let’s just make up by adding vodka to the party.

Round of chicken fingers + Dirty Shirleys, coming right up!

And can we talk about how much I love these glasses?!? I found them at a thrift shop for $2. Wonderfully kitschy and totally perfect for a Dirty Shirley. Bendy straw is a non-negotiable here.

Dirty Shirley with Sprite Zero and Grenadine - DC Girl in Pearls

Ingredients

Sprite Zero (or any citrus pop – yup, I say pop)

Grenadine

Vodka

Maraschino Cherries (optional)

Directions

Fill a Collins glass up halfway with ice and pour in a shot of vodka. Add the Sprite until the glass is almost full and then top with grenadine. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

You could even go a little wild and top with a splash of Prosecco to give it some extra bubbles!

Dirty Shirley with Sprite Zero and Grenadine - DC Girl in Pearls

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Power Dresses

After a long, crazy day at work, the last things you want to do in no particular order: cook dinner, think abut what to pack for lunch tomorrow and figure out what you’re going to wear. Really, all you want to do is order General Tso’s from Seamless and watch Netflix until you fall asleep. And there is really nothing wrong with that at all. To stop myself from spending so much money on ordering out, I do meal prep on Sundays so on nights when I come home and cannot even fathom the idea of leaving my comfy bed let alone cooking, I’ve got a meal all locked and loaded for tomorrow.

I try to do the same thing for work outfits by planning them out on Sunday but lately, I’ve been slacking. Hey, I’m only human!

Whether you are fresh out of work wear inspiration or simply need to toss on a cute 9-5 look because the snooze button would NOT take no for answer, work dresses are the answers to your prayers. They’re easy to toss on in the event of oversleeping and still give the air of being put together. Add a couple of accessories and we’re in business!

For Monday through Thursday…

How To Style Dresses for Work - DC Girl in Pearls

J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer // J.Crew Factory Draped Shift Dress // Jessica Simpson Nude Heels

Disclaimer: I normally absolutely detest paisley but it was the best example of a shift dress I could find. It’s flowy to forgive your late night Snackfest 2015 and a blazer gives structure to the loose lines of the dress in order to create a flattering silhouette. Throw on your classic nude heels + you’re out the door. TIP: if the shift dress is a single color, add a statement necklace to the ensemble.

For Casual Friday…

How To Style Dresses for Work - DC Girl in Pearls

Lilly Pulitzer Coco Short Sleeve Shift Dress // Sole Society Miia // BaubleBar Gold Tassel Bracelet

WOO HOO!!!! You made it through the week like a champ! But spoke too soon, tomorrow’s casual Friday and you’re not sure how to go about it. Simple: pick a colorful dress with an appropriate hemline and because it’s almost the weekend and you are ready to par-tay (read: sleep forever), go on and get a little wild with the accessories. I’ve been eyeing up BaubleBar’s tassel bracelet, it’s at the top of my baubles wish list! And let’s be real, who has the superhuman strength to resist leopard spots on a Friday?!

Do you have a formula for picking an outfit when you’re too exhausted?

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Favorite Podcasts

Union Market in Washington, DC - DC Girl in Pearls

This weekend was incredible! Baking, check. Reading for fun, check. Eating THE best black bean burger + fries with my college roomie, check. Conquering Making steps towards learning my camera’s settings, check. And I finally hit 10,000 steps on my pedometer yesterday! On a whim, I downloaded a free pedometer on my iPhone because I was curious to see how many steps I take in a day. I knew most of my exercise comes from walking to and from work each day but my god, I didn’t realize how sedentary I’d become until I looked at my pedometer. On a regular weekday, I’m lucky to hit 3,000 steps. No bueno.

So I’ve resolved to get myself walking more (When I say I can’t run, I mean it) and for that I need two things: better weather and entertainment. The weather, I get that I can’t control. And looking at DC’s 10 day forecast, I see not one but TWO snow shower days. Move to DC, they said. It’ll be so warm, they said. LIES!

Controlling the weather is off the table but hey, entertainment can be done. It seems like everyone is hooked on Serial, which makes me wonder: What solid podcasts are out there? Do you listen to podcasts? Recipes, politics, meditation, financial tips, the sky’s the limit! Anyone have a good recommendation for some walking amusement?!

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Time Out

Sunday in bed with Bae-gel

The month of December went by in a blur of wrapping paper, cookie exchanges and ugly sweaters. Now, January is on its way out and I feel like post-holiday life is still settling back into place. The last few weeks have been nonstop with work, friends, projects and some really exciting blog posts for you! Last August, I started using a Nikon to create better quality pictures for DC Girl in Pearls and discovered how much I love photography. I took a class in high school but was pretty intimidated by the darkroom and the many rules and lingo. But for New Year’s, I promised myself I would put on my big girl pants skirt and switch from automatic to manual and no longer fear aperture. I am woman, hear me roar. Or, click, in this case.

My photography resolution led to many other resolutions for this blog: better photos, high-quality creative content and a streamlined site. So I might have a little crazy and enrolled in a bunch of web development, photography and coding online courses. Which has made for many nights spent in front of my computer working until late. I’ve always loved learning new things so it really doesn’t feel like work at all but it didn’t really help the whole beauty sleep department zzzzz…..

This weekend, I managed to carve out some time for myself to just unwind and de-plug. Which was no simple feat since I recently downloaded Trivia Crack. They really weren’t joking around about the name!! I curled up in bed with a book and a jalapeño bae-gel from my favorite Bagels + Baguettes on Capitol Hill. Yup, I’m 25 years old and I put myself in a time out. It did wonders for my energy levels and I feel ready to take on the week! But since today’s a day off, I’m staying in my pjs all day long. Bagel non-optional.

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