Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce

Tonight's dinner menu was inspired by a post on Annie's Eats blog and the original recipe came from Bon Appetit's July issue. Ironically, I have a subscription to this magazine and skipped right over this recipe since it is a simple recipe containing a mere 8 ingredients but packs a punch in flavor. This recipe only takes 30 minutes to prepare in addition to being wonderful. It's a keeper in my book.

I made the Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf as one of our sides which was very good and I also oven roasted some broccoli which I drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I roasted the broccoli right along side the rice in the oven for the last 30 minutes of the rice recipe.

From Annie's Eats website, adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce (Serves 4)

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and halved (4 halves total)
Salt and pepper
¾ cup flour

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tsp. fresh oregano, minced
½ tsp. sweet paprika
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.)
1/3 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, oregano, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the oregano butter with the olive oil. Place the chicken breast halves in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to char and burst, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter mixture to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue stirring until the butter is melted. Add the wine or broth to the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits. Cook for a minute more until well blended.

Slice the chicken, transfer to serving plates, and top with the pan sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

From Annie's Eats website - Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf (Serves 4)
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup long-grain white rice
2½ cups chicken broth, divided
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Have ready a covered casserole dish. In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth, the salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Note: This recipe can be doubled without increasing the baking time.

Our rating:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vodka Cream Pasta

I went back to an old favorite for dinner tonight and made Rachel Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta. I had half of a can of crushed tomatoes left in the refrigerator from Monday night's Chana Masala and I had a little bit of heavy cream left as well and so Vodka Cream Pasta immediately came to mind. I grow basil in my little outdoor herb garden every summer which is what I used to garnish this pasta tonight. The only two ingredients I needed to buy to make dinner was a shallot and a box of penne rigate. I did cut the recipe in half since I only had 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes and I was only feeding two of us. I had everything else on hand and I decided to make some homemade French bread to have with this. We also had a green salad with a vinaigrette as our side dish.

I will be trying my hand at an Italian baguette in the near future and I'll be sure to post about it once I have it mastered. As a quick little side note, I did try making my first batch of homemade English muffins this afternoon and they do need some tweaking before I post that recipe as well.

Adapted from Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals
Vodka Cream Pasta - Serves 4

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Crusty bread, for passing

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

My rating:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dinner Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration for a dinner seems to come from the most unlikely place. I had leftover chickpeas that I had soaked and cooked over the weekend to be used for Monday night's Meatless Monday dinner of Chana Masala. I decided that those leftover chickpeas needed to be processed into a hummus and what goes better with hummus than pita chips? I made homemade pita bread which I started yesterday and then the rest of the menu evolved around hummus and pita breads. I went to Greece for inspiration and made Lamb Kebabs which I served in warm pita breads. I also made a Greek salad to go with the kebabs.

It was absolutely delicious with lots of flavor without a lot of heat. The hummus made with chickpeas that I lovingly soaked and cooked was by far the best I have ever made. The pita bread was a little bit of a disappointment to me...I've made pita breads from scratch years ago but I can't remember which recipe I used since it was pre-MacGourmet days. I used my Bread Bible cookbook for this batch which was rather complicated. I started it yesterday afternoon and finished baking them this afternoon. The dough was really soft and sticky this afternoon and they stuck frequently to my counter as I tried to shape and roll them out and some didn't puff up the way a pita should. They were still good, especially the ones I cut into wedges

and fried for pita chips but I know there is lots of room for improvement. Gerry thought they were fine, but I have had the real thing in Greece and these left much to be desired. I will post a recipe for Pita bread when I have found one that I am happy with.

The rest of the dinner was fine with the Greek Salad being superb. My butcher today gave me some cubed leg of lamb for the kebabs which I think were fine, but there must be a better cut of lamb for this.

Adapted from Gourmet Meals in Minutes Cookbook
Hummus with Pita Chips (Serves 8)

2 cups chickpeas, cooked, (drained and rinsed if using canned)
3 tablespoons tahini
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or as needed
2 cloves garlic, or as needed
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 pieces pita bread, cut into 6 pieces

Puree the chickpeas, tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor, adding water to thin the mixture as necessary.

Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice and garlic, as needed. Refrigerate the hummus until needed.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute 6 pita wedges for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown at the edges and crisp.

Repeat with remaining olive oil and pita wedges. Serve warm with the hummus.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Marinated Lamb Kebabs (Serves 4-6)
1 pound plain yogurt (regular or lowfat), I used nonfat Greek
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
5 tablespoons fresh whole rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds lamb
1 red onion

Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add the lamb, making sure it is covered with the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.

Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals. Spread the coals in one tight layer on the grill.

Cut the lamb in 1 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 20 cubes.

Cut the red onion in 8 pieces and separate each piece into 3 or 4 sections. Loosely thread 3 or 4 pieces of lamb onto skewers alternately with sections of onion. Sprinkle both sides of the lamb cubes with salt and pepper. Place the skewers on the hot grill and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times, until the lamb is medium-rare.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Greek Salad (Serves 6)

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large-diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large-diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half-rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil


Place the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta and olives and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

My rating overall, (except for the pita breads):

Tuesday's Marsala Burgers

Time to tally our food costs for this past week. I have tracked costs from Wednesday's menu through Tuesday night's dinner. In the total I have included any ingredient that I needed to buy to complete that meal, for example if I needed 2 eggs and I was out of eggs, I included the cost of a dozen eggs. My total for week was $102.33 and let me recap what the dinner menu was every night.

Wednesday - Weekday Cassoulet, Blueberry Lemon Crepes (with leftovers)
Thursday - Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels
Friday - Mustard-Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Salad (with leftovers)
Saturday - East Meets West Salmon with Mango Masala, Rice (with leftovers)
Sunday - Crusted Chicken, Squash and Parsnip Hash, Forest Berry Bread Pudding (with leftovers)
Monday - Chana Masala, Potatoes and Cauliflower (with leftovers)
Tuesday - Marsala Burgers (with leftovers)

Last night's dinner was a simple but delicious burger. I decided to make something simple since I was leaving at 6:15 for an author visit. Richardson, which is the next town over, does a program every year called Richardson Reads One Book and they then sponsor the author for a visit. This year the book was The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. It is also the book that my book club has chosen for October. The book is wonderful, set in Seattle around the time of Pearl Harbor and focuses on the American treatment of the Japanese and relations between the Chinese and the Japanese. Mr. Ford's quick take on his book - it's a love story. We all really enjoyed his visit - he is a great storyteller and graciously handled the Q&A time.

Hence the reason for the quick and easy dinner. I seasoned some ground sirloin, shaped them into patties which went on the grill. I meanwhile cooked up some bacon and then used the rendered fat to cook mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Once everything was cooked the pan was deglazed with Marsala wine and allowed to cook down. The saucy mushrooms were finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and some butter. I had 4 leftover hamburger buns stashed in my freezer from the last time I made some and they were just as good as the day I made them. The burgers got a slice of provolone cheese in the last minute or two of grilling and then they were topped with the Marsala mushrooms.

This was a really flavorful burger!

Adapted from Annie's Eats website
Marsala Burgers - serves 4
For the burgers:
1 lb. ground sirloin
2 tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

For the topping:
4 slices of bacon or pancetta, chopped (I used bacon)
2 cups white or cremini mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. minced shallot
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 ½ cups Marsala wine (sweet)
1 ½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 small lemon)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Sliced provolone cheese, for serving
Hamburger buns, for serving

Heat the grill to medium-high. To prepare the burger patties, combine the ground sirloin, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl. Mix together until well combined. Form into 4 equal sized patties. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the topping, place a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan; sauté, stirring occasionally until pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate. Add mushrooms and increase heat to medium-high; sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping pan bottom, until liquid released by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and shallot; sauté for 1 minute.

Return the cooked pancetta to the pan and add the tomato paste. Stir while sautéing, until tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off heat, add Marsala; return pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping browned bits from pan bottom until sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Whisk in the butter until completely melted. Keep the sauce warm over low heat while grilling the burgers.

Grill the burgers, 3-5 minutes per side, until cooked through and no longer pink (160˚ F on an instant read thermometer). Place a slice of provolone on top of each patty during the last few minutes of cooking. Toast the burger buns on the grill until light golden. Assemble the burgers on the buns and spoon the Marsala topping over the patties. Serve immediately.

My rating:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday's Indian Flair

I'm sure I have probably mentioned once or twice how much I love Indian food and so tonight's dinner was Chana Masala which are curried chickpeas with a side of Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes. The Chana Masala is what I cooked the dried chickpeas for. I love the lingering heat left in my mouth as I write this post - just lingering, not too hot. When I planned the menu, I had 3 tomatoes sitting in my fresh veggie/fruit basket and I proceeded to use two of them during the week as part of my lunch. The recipe called for 2 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes or a 15 ounce can of whole tomatoes and since the only thing I had in the pantry was a 28 ounce of crushed tomatoes, I decided to substitute a 1/2 can of that instead. The crushed tomatoes made the dish was too tomato-y (is that a word?). This is the same problem I have had with my Chicken Tikka Masala which makes me realize I need to make that recipe again. I am now craving Chicken Tikka and homemade Samosas which I will have to incorporate into my menu next week.

The side dish of Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes paired nicely with the Chana Masala since a lot of the same ingredients and spices were in both of the dishes.

I'm looking forward to trying the Chana Masala recipe again with the appropriate tomato component since the spices in this dish were spectacular.

From the Smitten Kitchen website adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe
Chana Masala

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon amchur powder (dried mango powder)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lemon (juiced)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, amchur, paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

From Smitten Kitchen website via Gourmet
Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Overall Rating:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Dinner of Chicken and Gravy

Even though chicken and gravy can be quite decadent, the version we had tonight was really flavorful and came in at 170 calories per piece for the chicken and 55 calories for the White Thyme Gravy. We had chicken drumsticks and thighs and I removed the skin. The chicken was dipped in lowfat buttermilk and breaded with a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, crushed sliced almonds and chopped fresh sage. It was then baked in a hot oven to make everything crispy without frying.

Instead of a cream gravy, we had a white thyme gravy which had chicken broth and skim milk in it instead of cream. It was flavored with fresh thyme which was so good you didn't even miss the cream.

Our side dish was a Squash and Parsnip Hash which consisted of a total of 4 ingredients, was easy to prepare and came in at 128 calories per serving.

We also had a dessert tonight Forest Berry Bread Pudding which was good; not great, but good.

Gerry and I really enjoyed the chicken, white gravy and the hash, but I would rather have no dessert that have something that leaves me wanting more.

Tonight's menu came from my most recent Cuisine at Home magazine in the Cuisine Lite section which I didn't realize until I started cooking (I just liked the way the recipes looked and sounded).

Crusted Chicken with Almonds and Sage

6 bone-in chicken pieces, skin removed (I used 2 drumsticks and 4 thighs)
Salt and Black Pepper
1 cup crushed sliced almonds
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a wire rack with nonstick spray and set inside a baking sheet. Season all chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

Combine almonds, panko, and sage in a dish. Place buttermilk in a separate dish.

Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk, roll in almond mixture to coat, and place on prepared rack.

Roast chicken until crisp and golden brown, about 50 minutes. Chicken is cooked when an instant-read thermometer registers 175 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

White Thyme Gravy
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Heat broth and milk in a saucepan over medium-low until simmering.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook until roux is a light tan color, about 2 minutes. Whisk in broth mixture until there are no lumps

Stir in thyme, salt, vinegar, and pepper, and cook until the gravy thickens, 3-4 minutes.

Squash and Parsnip Hash
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced butternut squash
2 cups diced parsnips
1/2 cup sliced shallots

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high until it shimmers, 1-2 minutes.

Add squash and cook, without stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir squash, then add parsnips and cook 5 minutes. Add shallots and cook vegetables, without stirring, until they caramelize, 5 minutes.

Turn pieces over and cook until browned, 5 minutes more.

Gerry and I agree on our rating for dinner:

The Fruits of My Labor

It is only 9:15 on Sunday morning and I have already had a very productive day. I woke up to the heavenly smell of apples and cinnamon permeating the house from my apple butter that cooked all night in the crock pot.

I also had my new sourdough starter sitting on the counter waiting to be fed again. I fed the original starter about 7:00 last night since it had to rest for 8-12 hours, however I missed the fine print that said it should be left in a room temperature of 68-70 degrees. I was not about to turn the air conditioning to 68 degrees so I set my alarm for 4:00 to check on it which gave it 8 hours. It was perfect at 4:00 a.m., so I proceeded to throw half of it away and feed it again as instructed. It then got to rest for another 2 hours at which point it was ready to have part of it used for bread.

After feeding the starter, I turned my attention to the apple butter. I stirred it really well and left the cover off for another hour to darken and thicken while I sterilized my canning jars. Once the jars were ready, the apple butter got a quick blend with my immersion blender before being spooned into the waiting jars.

The lids were put on and they went into the water bath canner for 5 minutes of processing time. I love the sound that the jars make as they cool on the counter (you can actually hear them pop as they seal).

I have 6 (8-ounce) jars of apple butter plus a tiny 4 ounce jar cooling on the counter, I have sourdough bread dough rising on the counter and my overnight soaked garbanzo beans are simmering on the cooktop. A very productive day and it isn't even 10:00 yet. I do feel a nap coming on this afternoon though.

Apple Butter (from the Simply Canning website)

5 pounds apples (I used 5 pounds since my crock pot has a 5 quart capacity), peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Fill crock pot with sliced apples (I used 3 pounds Granny Smith and 2 pounds Pink Lady). In separate bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt. Sprinkle over apples, cover crock pot and cook on high for 1 hour.

Stir apples, reduce heat to low and allow to cook on low for 10 hours or overnight. In the morning stir well to break up apples and allow to cook uncovered for last hour. I like a smooth apple butter so I used my immersion blender to smooth it out.

I ladled the butter into hot sterlized jars and processed in my water bath canner for 5 minutes.

I did have a little bit left in the crock pot and I find myself going back again and again for spoonfuls of this luscious spread. I'm really looking forward to a slice of my homemade sourdough bread with my homemade apple butter for breakfast tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Salmon with a Bite

Tonight's dinner was a salmon fillet with an Indian twist and spice to it. The recipe is from Bal Arneson's Spice Goddess show and I have made it before. For some reason it seemed particularly hot to me tonight. Gerry loved it since it just started to make him break out in a sweat (his measure of how good spicy food is). The salmon got a coating of grapeseed oil, sprinkled with salt and then rubbed with an indian spice mixture before going on the grill. It got a topping of mango Masala. I made some Jasmine rice to go with all of this which was a nice neutral base for the spice level.

This salmon recipe makes three definite excellent salmon recipes in our repertoire, however I might play around a little with the spices next time to tone it down just a notch.

Time to get back to the kitchen; I have a new sourdough starter which I just fed, I have garbanzo beans soaking overnight so I can cook them tomorrow to use for Monday night's dinner and I have 5 pounds of apples waiting for me to start an apple butter which will cook overnight in my crock pot. I love fall cooking!

Grilled Salmon with Mango Masala

2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons curry leaves*
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida*
2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Pinch salt

Mango Masala
1 large ripe mango, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons mango juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch Salt

* Can be found at specialty Asian and Indian markets

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

First grind the garam masala, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and asafoetida in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

Gently rub each salmon fillet with oil and season with the salt and ground spices. Lightly oil the grill and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes and then flip and cook the other side for an additional 5 minutes, until salmon is cooked and flakes with gentle pressure form a fork. Serve the salmon fillets with the Mango Masala.

Mango Masala
Mix all ingredients until well combined.

Gerry's rating:

My rating:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mustard Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

A nice lean pork tenderloin sounded just perfect for tonight's dinner and as I browsed through MacGourmet, I came across this recipe from Cooking Light. The pork tenderloin got a rub of Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, and garlic before being dredged in a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, fresh parsley, freshly grated cheese, and fresh thyme. Not only was this pork perfectly cooked and full of flavor, but it came in at 184 calories per serving. That makes it a perfect recipe in my book. I served this with mashed potatoes and a green salad with the Best Salad Dressing in the World.

The entire menu was really simple to pull off since the pork tenderloin only took a total of 35 minutes and the mashed potatoes took about 25 minutes as well. The salad was prepackaged (all I did was rinse it again) and I had leftover salad dressing in the refrigerator that I took out about 15 minutes before dinner.

From Cooking Light's website - Mustard Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin (Serves 4)

1 (1/2-oz.) slice white bread
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh Romano Cheese, grated
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 1 lb tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place slice of bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/4 cup. Combine the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup parsley, cheese, and 2 teaspoons thyme in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Combine Dijon mustard, fennel seeds, and garlic in a small bowl. Rub pork with mustard mixture, and dredge in bread crumb mixture.

3. Place the pork on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Gerry and I disagree on the rating for this meal:


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels

I love both clams and mussels and so when I stumbled on this recipe incorporating both, it sounded just perfect for us. Pasta combined with crushed red pepper along with clams and mussels...what's not to love? This dish was very easy to make and had a nice spice to it; just enough heat. Our side dish was a simple baby green salad with the Best Salad Dressing in the World (recipe below)

This recipe is from Giada's at Home show - Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels (Serves 4-6)

1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small shallots, sliced
Kosher salt, for seasoning, plus 2 teaspoons
Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning, plus 1 teaspoon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine (recommended: Pinot Grigio)
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
12 littleneck claims, cleaned
12 mussels, cleaned

Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the butter and parsley and toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Sauce: In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, red pepper flakes, clams and mussels. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook until all the shellfish have opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Discard any unopened shellfish.

Using tongs, remove the shellfish from the pan and reserve. Season the cooking liquid with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour the shellfish cooking liquid over the pasta and toss well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the reserved shellfish on top of the pasta and serve.

From a Google search - Best Salad Dressing in the World
Olive Oil, 3 parts
Balsamic Vinegar, 1 part
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
1 pinch salt and pepper
few drops Tabasco Sauce

Shake all ingredients well.

My rating for the linguine:

The Best Salad Dressing in the World:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weekday Cassoulet

I have had this recipe saved on my MacGourmet for a long time now. In watching as many hours of food shows as I do, I have seen many variations of cassoulet made. It is basically a peasant dish originating in France consisting of white beans flavored with some cuts of meat and cooked long and slow in the oven. Julia Child's recipe indicates that it can be made in one day, but it is better to spread it out over two to three days.

This recipe aired on Melissa D'Arabian's show on May 5, 2010 and it has been in my MacGourmet program ever since. I finally made it tonight and Gerry and I are amazed at how good it was. It has the same homey, earthy feel as a Coq au Vin, but I think this is actually better. Melissa's version can be made in just under 2 hours and tasted like it cooked for hours. I served this simply with some French bread that I had stuck in the freezer last time I baked French bread.

I rounded out the French Bistro meal with Blueberry Lemon Crepes with Custard Sauce which were also featured on the same show and these were very good (not spectacular, but very good).

I enjoyed this cassoulet so much that I am considering changing my birthday menu (a month away) from Beouf Bourguignon to this Cassoulet (this is seriously good stuff).

From Melissa D'Arabian's $10 Dollar Dinners - Weekday Cassoulet (Serves 4)

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, cut in half through the bone (I actually had Gerry do this since I couldn't quite get all the way through the bone)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound slab bacon, sliced into large lardons
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups cooked Northern white beans
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tomato, sliced very thinly
Garlic Bread Crumbs, recipe follows
1 baguette, sliced for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse and dry the chicken well and season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven, over medium-low heat, add the bacon and slowly render the fat. Remove the bacon to a plate when crispy, leaving the fat in the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken on both sides and then remove to a plate. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce by half. Stir in the beans, bay leaf and thyme. Nestle the chicken thighs and bacon into the pot. Add the chicken stock, cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the lid and top the cassoulet with sliced tomatoes and the Garlic Bread Crumbs. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer. Serve the cassoulet with baguette slices.

Garlic Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 slices slightly stale or dried bread, pulsed into crumbs in food processor
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saute pan over low heat, add the oil and the garlic. Stir until the oil is fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss in the bread crumbs and cook until the bread crumbs start to turn golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.

Blueberry Lemon Crepes with Custard Sauce (Serves 4)


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
Pinch kosher salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted, divided

Blueberry Filling:

2/3 cup blueberry jam or preserves
1/2 lemon, juiced

Custard Sauce:

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch kosher salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon confectioner's sugar, for garnish

To make the crepes: Whisk the flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a medium bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, egg and 1 tablespoon of butter. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.

In a heavy small saute pan or crepe pan, lightly brush the pan with a layer of melted butter and heat over medium-high heat. Working quickly, pour in about 3 tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan to coat. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes and then flip with a thin metal spatula to finish cooking the other side, another minute. Repeat with remaining batter. Keep the crepes warm while preparing the rest of the dessert.

To make the Blueberry Filling: Heat the jam in a small pan over low heat or microwave until warm and syrupy. Whisk in the lemon juice and set aside.

To make the Custard Sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together until well blended. Whisk in the milk and cook over low heat until almost boiling, then remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla until well blended. Add a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk from the saucepan and whisk to temper the egg. Add resulting egg mixture to the rest of the warm milk in the pan, whisking to combine. Cook over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken (do not boil). Let the sauce cool slightly while assembling the crepes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fishy Tuesday

I will start this post with a review of the week in general as far as what I spent and a recap of what we ate. I spent a total of $114.20 for all of our meals for the week. This total includes all 3 meals every day except for one lunch that we had out. This total does include food for only 2 people. Let me recap what we ate for a week.

Weds.-Chicken Paillard with Caprese Field Salad (enough left for lunch on Thurs.)
Thurs.-Tacos with Refried Beans (enough left for lunch)
Fri.-Wasabi and Panko Crusted Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Snow Peas (enough left for lunch on Saturday)
Sat.-Fish and Chips (enough for leftovers on Sunday)
Sun.-Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans (enough left for Gerry)
Mon.-Thai Red Curry with Tofu and Rice (no leftovers since we devoured it all)
Tues.-Red Snapper on Rice with Curry Carrot Sauce (no leftovers)

This week we probably had more meat than we usually eat and we are looking forward to a little more variety next week. I will try to track costs for one more week to see how we compare.

Now about tonight's dinner - fish is an absolute favorite in our house and there are very few fish that we don't like. I probably have a few more fish that I don't like than Gerry does: I don't like oysters, anchovies, calamari (unless battered and deep-fried, on another note anything battered and deep-fried is delicious), sardines and herring either pickled or in cream sauce. All other fish are fabulous in my book. According to research that I have done, fish should be bought and served on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. There are people that will tell you to never order fish in a restaurant on a Monday since it has been sitting there since Saturday. I'm not sure if this still holds true but I like to stick to the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday rule.

Tonight's red snapper is a recipe that I probably haven't made in a couple of years and since it's been that long Gerry thought it was a fabulous brand-new recipe. He enjoyed it so much that his comment was he will probably request this for his birthday dinner meal. It has a lot of the flavors from last night's dinner with Thai red curry sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce being components of the sauce. The other great thing about this meal is the visual impact of the bright orange sauce and then you are not disappointed with the flavor. I made a half recipe for dinner tonight and it worked out perfectly.

This recipe is from my Food and Wine One Dish Meals Cookbook
Red Snapper on Rice with Red-Curry Carrot Sauce (Serves 4)

1 cup jasmine rice, or other long grain rice
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 lb. carrots (about 4) cut in to 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
1 3/4 teaspoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 lbs. red snapper fillets
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, optional
lime wedges, for serving

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit, without removing the lid, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, bring the carrot, garlic, and broth to a boil. Cook, covered, over moderately low heat until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the carrots, garlic, and broth in a blender and pour back into the pan. Add the milk, fish sauce, curry paste, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Season the fish with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook the fish, skin-side down, until golden about 4 minutes. Turn, reduce the heat to moderate, and continue cooking until just done, about 4 minutes longer for 1-inch-thick fillets. Mound the rice on plates and top with the fish and the sauce. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using, and serve with the lime wedge.

Gerry and I agree:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thai Red Curry Celebration

I absolutely love Thai Red Curry with Tofu and I finally found a way to make it that I really enjoyed. I did lots of research on the red curry and found lots of different ways to make this dish. Some called for ingredients like lemongrass and shrimp paste (available at Asian markets). After reading a bunch of different recipes, I decided to trust my instincts with modifying what I had done before. I always have my curry with tofu and so I added that component and finished the dish with simple white rice. I am really happy with the way that this came out tonight. This is a keeper for me that I will go back to again and again. YEAH!!!

Thai Red Curry with Tofu

16 oz. extra-firm tofu (I prefer organic)
Grapeseed oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste
1 can coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade (Thai basil preferably, however I used fresh basil from my herb garden)

Drain tofu and place between layers of paper towels between plates and weigh top plate down. Rotate tofu and replace paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible. Cube drained tofu into 1-inch pieces.

Start curry sauce by sauteing sliced onion in a tablespoon or so of hot grapeseed oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add minced garlic and red bell pepper slices and saute, stirring frequently for a couple of minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste (I added a heaping tablespoon) and stir constantly for 30 seconds. Whisk in 1 can of coconut milk (do not use coconut cream) and stir well. Add the brown sugar and Fish Sauce and stir to combine. Allow sauce to come to the simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. At this point, I added a little more curry paste to enhance the color of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and taste to adjust seasonings.

Meanwhile season the tofu cubes with salt and pepper and brown the cubes in a separate skillet in a little grapeseed oil until browned on all sides.

Gently stir the browned tofu cubes into the the curry sauce and allow to combine or a minute or two. Stir in the basil just after turning the heat off.

Ladle some of the curry mixture into a bowl with the tofu and vegetables and top with some of the rice.

Gerry and I disagree on the rating for tonight's dinner, so I will post both of them.

Gerry gives this

I give this dish

Sunday's Flat Iron Steak

There is something about football season that makes me want to have hearty meals and we love this Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce. This is a Giada recipe that I go back to again and again because it is just so good. The other thing I have been doing is making one sweet treat per week. Two weeks ago it was Red Velvet Cupcakes; last week it was Raspberry Lemonade Bars and this week I made Ina's Chocolate Chunk Blondies which are yummy!

I made a half recipe of the steak and our side dishes for the steak were garlic mashed potatoes and green beans.

From Giada De Laurentiis - Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce

2 (1-pound) flat iron steaks or tri-tip steaks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 cups dry red wine

Prepare the grill or barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper and drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. season with salt. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Strain the sauce into a small bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the strainer and return the sauce to the saucepan and bring back to a slow simmer. Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into small 1/2-inch chunks and whisk into the sauce a little at a time. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the steaks across the grain. Divide the steak slices among 6 plates. Drizzle the sauce over the steak, drizzle a little more extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

Serves 6

Barefoot Contessa's - Chocolate Chunk Blondies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks (I roughly chopped a block of chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well, scraping down the bowl. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and with the mixer still on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Fold the walnuts and chocolate chunks in with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes exactly. Don't overbake! A toothpick may not come out clean. Cool completely in the pan and cut into bars.

The whole meal gets:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Fish Fry

I love fried fish; even in my fish tacos, I prefer fried fish to grilled and every once in a while I crave just a good piece of fried fish. Fresh, wild-caught cod fillets were on sale at one of my grocery stores this week and I decided it was time to try a different version than the last one I made. There are two different ways to make fried fish: one is to season the serving size pieces of cod and then dip them in a wet batter before frying them. This way makes for a very light batter, but I find it often separates from the fish and I don't know the science behind why, but it will be further research for me another day.

Today, I went back to an old Rachel Ray 30 Minute dinner (probably from 8-10 years ago). This recipe calls for the serving size pieces of fish to again be seasoned with salt and pepper, then the fillets are dredged in flour, dipped in beaten eggs, and tossed in plain breadcrumbs that were simply seasoned with dry mustard and cayenne pepper. The breadcrumb coated pieces of fish are fried just as the batter dipped. I think I prefer this method since it does seem to coat the fish a little better and it is a little heartier.

Our side was Rachel's Oven Fries and I made Ina's Tartar sauce.

Recipe from Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals:
Fish Fry
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh cod
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons cold water
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Wedged lemons

Pour 2-inches of vegetable oil into a large skillet. Place skillet over large burner and heat oil over medium high heat. To check if the oil is hot enough, drop in 1-inch cube of white bread. The bread should brown in a 40 count.

Cut cod into 4 servings, 6 to 8-ounce portions and season with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a pie tin. Combine egg and water in a second pie tin. Season plain bread crumbs with mustard and cayenne in the third pie tin. Coat fish in flour, then egg, and then bread crumbs. Gently set coated fish into hot oil and fry 5 minutes on each side until medium golden brown in color.

When the fish is evenly golden all over, remove and drain on paper towels or brown paper sacks.

Serves 4

From Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals:
Oven Fries
2 1/2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons melted butter
Coarse Salt
Malt vinegar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 550 degrees, or highest setting

In a large mixing bowl, toss potato wedges with oil and melted butter. Spread potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast potatoes 20 minutes, turning once, until deeply golden all over.

Season with salt and sprinkle with malt vinegar, is using. Pile fries into a basket or shallow dish, lined with brown paper.

Gerry and I agree:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wasabi and Panko Crusted Pork Chops with Gingered Soy Sauce

Gerry and I both love this dish - pork chops coated in panko breadcrumbs and sauteed in a little bit of peanut oil and then sauced with a thin sauce containing ginger and soy sauce. I'm not sure exactly what in this combination works so well for us but the crispy coated pork chops coated with the taste of soy sauce and ginger hint of the dipping sauce for sushi. Maybe that's what works for us. It is one of our favorites.

I served this with simple mashed potatoes and stir-fried snow peas.

From a Cooking Light online recipe that I found years ago:

Wasabi and Panko-Crusted Pork with Gingered Soy Sauce

2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
Cooking spray
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (can substitute bottled ground fresh ginger)
1/3 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry (I use dry sherry)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1/3 cup thinly slice green onions

Place panko in a shallow dish. Place egg white in another shallow dish. Dip pork in egg white; dredge in panko

Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat; add pork. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork from pan; sprinkle with salt.

Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Combine broth and the next 4 ingredients (through wasabi) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk Add broth mixture to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in green onions. Spoon sauce over pork.

This recipe comes in at 215 calories but you would never guess it.

In spite of it being healthy, Gerry and I agree:

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I watched Ethan today and we are keeping him overnight. I had already planned something simple for dinner tonight which was fabulous. Fortunately, Ethan will eat almost anything so I knew I was pretty safe with soft tacos. I made my own taco seasoning mixture from Annie's Eats website and I already had some homemade tortillas stashed in the freezer. All I had to do was brown my ground beef, add the taco seasoning mix and stir in water to let it cook together. The taco flavoring was good but I found it was missing salt and pepper. I think next time I will season the ground beef with salt and pepper before adding the spice mixture and the water. I also made refried beans for our side dish. I love Ellie Krieger's recipe for refried beans.

Ethan loved the homemade tortilla, he did eat a little of the taco meat, but he was all about finishing the tortilla.

From Annie's Eats Website
Homemade Taco Seasoning
4 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To prepare taco meat, use 2 heaping tablespoons in place of a package of taco seasoning (cook approximately 1 lb. of beef or chicken, season meat with salt and pepper to taste; add 1 cup of water with the seasoning, and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone.)

From Ellie Krieger
Refried Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or other chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, preferable low-sodium, drained and rinsed
2/3 cu low-sodium chick broth, plus more if needed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro.

Makes 4 servings (1/2 cup each)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Staying Organized and Inspired

Wednesday is the day that the food ads come out for the week and since I am unemployed at the moment and have the time, I check the weekly ads for 3 different grocery stores that I like. The first one I check is for Market Street which is the furthest of the 3 stores (less than 5 miles), but my favorite with the best produce, meat and seafood. I then check Kroger which is the grocery store literally (yes, I did say literally on my blog) in my backyard. The other store I check is Sprouts which has really good deals on produce and meats and fish and they are less than 2 miles away. I have found that I need to use Sprouts produce within a day or two however.

I jot down the specials that interest me at each of these stores and then I go to MacGourmet. MacGourmet is a program that I have on my Mac computer that I use constantly to store my favorite recipes. As of today, I have 493 of my favorite recipes on my MacGourmet which eliminates the need to start searching through cookbooks trying to remember which one has the recipe I have in mind. I love MacGourmet! I can search by topic and pull up all my recipes using a particular ingredient.

After I searched the weekly ads today, I planned my dinner menu for the next 7 days just based on proteins that were on sale (except for Meatless Monday). I try to vary the menu based on proteins; tonight we had chicken, tomorrow ground beef in tacos, Friday will be pork chops, etc.

I am keeping track of what I spend on food this week and will tally up at the end of the day on Tuesday. I think we should eat quite well on what I spend, but we'll see.

Tonight's dinner was Chicken Paillard with Caprese Field Salad from Cuisine at Home for Two. I love the simplicity of this recipe. The chicken is pounded thin, seasoned with salt and pepper, dipped in buttermilk and dredged in flour before being sauteed. The salad on top and next to is baby greens with a dressing that is perfect: the tartness of the buttermilk, with the sweetness of the honey, topped with the Parmesan shavings make this the perfect chicken dish. You need to try this!

Chicken Paillard with Caprese Field Salad

For the Chicken:
2 5-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup all purpose white flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Salad:
4 cups mesclun salad greens 2 oz. (I substituted Baby Salad Greens since I couldn't find the mesclun mix)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
1/4 cup Honey-Buttermilk Salad Dressing (recipe follows)
Parmesan shavings

For the Dressing:
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
salt and black pepper to taste

For the Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to blend. Set aside. Store extra dressing in the refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Prepare the chicken by pounding breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thick using a meat mallet. Season with salt and pepper, dip in buttermilk, then dredge in flour.

Saute chicken in oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through and golden, about 3 minutes per side.

Toss greens, tomatoes, herbs and dressing together in a bowl. Top each paillard with salad.

Garnish with Parmesan.

I love this recipe so much that I cooked two extra chicken pieces for us to have for lunch tomorrow. The dressing makes enough for 4 servings so all I will have to do for lunch is pull together another salad while the chicken is warming up.

Gerry and I give this recipe:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orange-Glazed Salmon Again

Salmon was on sale this week and so this recipe has been in the back of my mind all week. I made this salmon recipe earlier this summer and it stuck in my mind because it is so good. It's nice to have a few variations for an ingredient that you love to cook. Our favorite will always be the Brown Sugar and Mustard Glazed Salmon, but this one definitely gives our original a run for the money.

I made the Home-Style Fries again and our other side was a squash saute (a little onion, a zucchini and a yellow squash both cut into half-moons sauteed in a little olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness of the vegetables).

The salmon recipe is from Cuisine at Home for Two.

Orange-Glazed Salmon

2 tablespoons Cajun spice
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 6 oz. boneless, skinless fresh salmon fillets
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
lime wedges

Combine Cajun spice, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Rub mixture over all surfaces of fillets. Saute fillets in oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Turn fish and saute an additional 2-3 minutes.

Blend marmalade and lime juice in a small bowl add to pan with salmon. Swirl mixture in pan until marmalade is melted. Carefully turn fish to coat all sides with the glaze. Fish is done when it begins to flake with a fork.

Serve fillets with lime wedges.

Our rating:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baked Ziti for a Meatless Monday

A dear friend of mine invited me to attend a cooking demo with her at Williams Sonoma Saturday morning and so, of course, I went. This particular series of demos is all about the cuisine of Rome. Saturday morning it was all about Pasta (it is partially a pitch for their products since they now sell beautiful dried pastas and jars of unique pasta sauces at a 10% discount since you have attended their little class). I did get to taste a baked ziti dish while I was there along with some freshly cooked bucatini topped with two of their different sauces. I have to say I really enjoyed the Lemon Caper Sauce. I will need to jot down the ingredients next time I'm there so I can try to recreate it at home.

I served the pasta with some leftover homemade French bread which was drizzled with olive oil and cooked on the grill pan. Once grilled, I rubbed them with a sliced garlic clove to gently flavor them with the garlic. We also had a simple salad of Romaine lettuce with fresh tomato wedges dressed with the Best Salad Dressing in the World.

Tonight's dinner is adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian Cookbook.

Baked Ziti with Eggplant - Serves 4

1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. eggplant, peeled and cubed
4 oz. baby portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
1 garlic clove, crushed flat but left whole
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (I used San Marzano whole tomatoes in puree, which I crushed by hand)
3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 lb. dried ziti, penne or other short, sturdy pasta
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and mushrooms and stir to coat with the oil. Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Saute until the vegetables are tender and browned in spots, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining olive oil and the garlic and warm until the garlic begins to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Press the garlic with the back of a wooden spoon to release its aroma. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Slowly pour the tomatoes into the pan. Be careful, because the oil and juice will spatter. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until nicely thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Cover the sauce to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, the return the pasta to the pot. Add the eggplant and mushrooms, about two-thirds of the sauce and the mozzarella and toss gently but thoroughly. Add a splash or two o the pasta-cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed.

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

Spoon the dressed pasta into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce and the Parmiagiano-Reggiano. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

This dinner gets:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seafood Sunday

I love seafood (oysters excluded) and decided today was the perfect day for steamed mussels. I had seen Ina cook Mussels in White Wine and just tucked that episode in the back of my mind. Today was the perfect day for it. I had baked a fresh batch of Sourdough Bread early this morning, so I knew I just wanted some nice bread to go with the mussels. I had also filed in my memory a recipe from the Annie's Eats site that I wanted to make for dessert - Raspberry Lemonade Bars and so the very simple menu came together.

I started with the Sourdough bread yesterday afternoon since I knew I either had to bake bread today or just feed my starter. In order to feed the starter I would need to remove 1 cup of it and then add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Since I needed to remove 1 cup of the starter, I decided to bake more sourdough bread. It came out superb, just as it did the last time.

I then made the dessert by starting with the crust layer and while it was baking, I prepared the filling. I added the filling to the crust and baked it again. I let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerated it for a couple of hours. Since it was just the two of us for dinner tonight, I made the half recipe of this and baked it in an 8 x 8-inch pan.

I made the mussels and dinner was ready! I loved the addition of garlic and tomatoes to the mussel recipe. It added a really nice touch to the broth. A really very simple dinner.

Slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa - Mussels in White Wine

2 1/2 lbs. cultivated mussels
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1/2 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes, or until the mussels disgorge any sand. Drain the mussels, them remove the "beard" from each with your fingers. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water. Discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut.

In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot.

From Annie's Eats website:
Raspberry Lemonade Bars

For the crust:
2 1/4 sticks (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

For the raspberry lemon layer:
3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
6 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

*This recipe can be halved and baked in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with a slightly reduced baking time.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour and salt just until incorporated. Add the dough to the prepared baking pan. Press into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven, maintaining the temperature.

While the crust is baking, make the top layer. Combine the sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Add the raspberries to a fine mesh sieve and press through, mashing with a spatula, to extract as much juice and pulp as possible, straining out the seeds. Add the egg whites and eggs to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk well to blend. Whisk in the raspberry puree and lemon juice until smooth.

Pour the mixture over the crust and bake until the center is just set and no longer jiggles when gently shaken, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill well in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, use the parchment paper to lift the bars from the pan. Place on a cutting board and slice into bars. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar if desired.

Gerry and I agree:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chicken and Rice

Tonight I went back to an old favorite for dinner; Cumin-Dusted Chicken Breasts with Guacamole Sauce and Yellow Rice. The sweet and smoky rub on the chicken contrasts beautifully with the bit of spice in the guacamole sauce. This is a recipe that I found several years ago on the Cooking Light website and I printed it off, which is a good thing since I can no longer find it on their website. It is one of my favorite chicken recipes. The yellow rice is simply long-grain white rice cooked in chicken broth with some turmeric to give it the bright yellow color.

Cumin Dusted Chicken Breasts with Guacamole Sauce

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne pepper)
1 avocado, seeded and coarsely mashed

For the Chicken:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peper
4 6-oz. chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
Olive Oil

Prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the chicken, combine the sugar, cumin, salt, and black pepper; sprinkle evenly over chicken. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with olive oil. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over. Place pan in oven; bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until done. Serve chicken with sauce.

Yellow Rice

2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup long-grain white rice

Bring broth to a boil, add salt and turmeric. Stir in rice and cook according to package directions.

I started dinner tonight by making the sauce for the chicken and setting it aside. I then started the rice which took 15 minutes to cook once I added the rice. I allowed it to sit, covered for another 5 minutes when the timer went off. While the rice was simmering, I sauteed the chicken and then popped it in the oven once I flipped it.

This is a very easy dinner to pull together, it is relatively inexpensive, it seems to be pretty healthy and above all it is delicious.

I rate this meal:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chili and Cornbread

With the cooling off of the weather this week, I have been craving some cooler weather classic dishes and what is more fall like than chili (especially the week that the regular season NFL starts)? By the way, the weather has cooled down to the 80's today which felt great. I love Ree Drummond's chili recipe from her Pioneer Woman Cookbook which I have owned for quite a while. She now has her own show on Food Network which I have enjoyed watching; both episodes so far have been great and I'm sure it will be a hit.

The other component to dinner was cornbread and for this recipe, I turned to Melissa D'Arabian who makes a wonderful cornbread which she calls Brunch Cornbread. She adapted a cornbread recipe for her French husband who did not grow up eating cornbread which is why I like this recipe. I also did not grow up eating cornbread. What makes this cornbread recipe unique is that it has a lot more flour than cornmeal and so has a different texture in the end. I also served it with the Maple Lime Butter which she recommends.

Simple, Perfect Chili (from Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook) Serves 6
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 lbs. ground beef
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup masa (corn flour)

Optional Ingredients
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 can Rotel tomatoes

For Service
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Chopped Onion

Begin by measuring the spices, chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and chili powder.

Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook the beef until brown and drain off the excess fat.

Pour in the tomato sauce, followed by the spices and the salt. Stir together well, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add in 1/2 cup water at a time as needed.

After an hour, place the masa in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili.

Stir together well, taste, adjust the seasonings, and add more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor. Add the beans, jalapeno, and tomatoes if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with shredded cheddar and chopped onions. I enjoyed just a small dollop of sour cream in addition to the cheddar and onions.

Brunch Cornbread
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (not coarse)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the Maple Lime Butter
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lime zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together very well the eggs, milk, butter, applesauce, and maple syrup. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir or incorporate (do not overmix). Pour into the prepared dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve with Maple Lime butter.

Maple Lime Butter: In a small bowl, mix the softened butter, maple syrup, lime zest and salt. Mix together until well incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up slightly before serving.

Gerry and I agree this meals gets: