Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Salmon Burgers

We know how good all the Omega-3 in salmon is for you, but the best part of salmon is how much we love the taste. We cook salmon very frequently and I'm always on the lookout for a new way to serve it so that I can blog about it. I already have 5 other salmon recipes posted and I'm happy to add another.

I finely diced 1/2 pound of fresh salmon fillet and combined it with some chopped red and yellow bell peppers, panko breadcrumbs, and minced garlic. I added another mixture of beaten egg white with soy sauce, lemon juice and salt and mixed everything well. I formed this mixture into two patties and grilled them indoors on my grill pan. I put them on my homemade hamburger buns and topped them with red onion slices, lettuce, tomato slices and a nice dollop of cilantro mayo.

Salmon Burgers
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1/4 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 pound salmon fillets, skinned, boned and finely chopped
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

For the Cilantro Mayo
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup cilantro
Dash of cayenne pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

For Serving:
Burger Buns
Green lettuce
Sliced red onion
Sliced tomatoes

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the diced bell pepper, panko, garlic and salmon. In a small bowl, combine the egg white, soy sauce, lemon juice and salt. Add the liquid mixture to the bowl with the salmon and toss gently until well incorporated. Form the mixure into two equal patties and set aside.

To make the cilantro mayo, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined and smooth.

Lightly coat a grill pan or skillet with the oil. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Cook the patties about 5 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Place burgers on the buns, spreading one side of the bun with the cilantro mayo. Top as desired with lettuce, onion and tomato.

Our rating:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crawfish Etouffee

I had a little bit of crawfish left from Saturday night's dinner so I knew I wanted to make etouffee with it today. I have ordered this out many times but have never tried to make it at home. I love the instant access the Internet gives the home cook now when trying to find a recipe like this. I chose an Emeril recipe with good reviews and a high rating and I was very pleased how this came out.

Crawfish Etouffee
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/2 stick butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 pound crawfish tails
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon fine chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped green onion

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and saute until the vegetables are wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the crawfish, garlic and bay leaf and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the crawfish for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the flour in the water. Add to the crawfish mixture. Season with salt and cayenne. Stir until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Stir in the parsley and green onions and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Serve over steamed rice.

My rating:

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pineapple, Corn, and Bell Pepper Relish

After the excess of food from Saturday's birthday celebration, I turned to a Cooking Light chicken recipe for Sunday dinner. This was a really quick and easy dinner to pull together as well as being healthy. Some chicken thighs were rubbed with a mixture of garlic powder, ground cumin, salt and pepper before going on a hot, well oiled grill to cook for 10 minutes on each side. The simply grilled chicken thighs were served with a pineapple, corn and red bell pepper relish. I also grilled a couple of slices of homemade bread drizzled with olive oil.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Pineapple, Corn, and Bell Pepper Relish
Adapted from The Best of Cooking Light 13

Cooking Spray
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple (about 1/2 pineapple)
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat, or light an outdoor gas grill. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray or oil grates of outdoor grill. Combine garlic powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl; sprinkle over chicken. Add chicken to pan or grill; cook 10 minutes on each side or until done.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pineapple, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve relish over chicken.

My rating:

Crawfish Boil

We had another birthday celebration on Saturday for David, our son-in-law. This is the second year that David has chosen crawfish for his dinner which is perfect for when they are in season. David is not really a breakfast person so he skipped breakfast and moved right to lunch. He wanted Eggplant subs for lunch with a salad dressed with the Best Salad Dressing in the World. He also chose two different cookies for the day rather than a dessert with dinner. For lunch, I made Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies. I just love it when the choices are things that I love to eat.

Dinner was the Louisiana Crawfish Boil full of spicy crawfish, potatoes, pieces of corn on the cob, smoked sausage, mushrooms, heads of garlic, onions and lemons. We bought a new pot with a portable jet burner to be able to cook these outside whenever we want (at least during crawfish season). We ended the day with Chocolate Crinkle cookies which was the other cookie that David wanted. I'm thinking the crawfish boil might become a tradition.

Louisiana Crawfish Boil (Serves 6)
Adapted from What's Cooking

10 pounds of live crawfish
3/4 cup kosher salt, for purging
1 (1 pound) sack of Louisiana Crawfish Boil Seasoning (also known as crab or shrimp boil seasoning)
3-4 lemons, sliced in half
2 small onions, peeled
Smoked sausage, cut up into large pieces
whole Mushrooms
Small red or new potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed
3 ears of fresh corn on the cob, shucked and broken in thirds
3 heads of garlic, split in half exposing pods

It is imperative to purge and thoroughly wash the crawfish before boiling them. Pour the sack of live crawfish in a large tub or a large ice chest. Pour the salt over the top of the crawfish. Add water to just cover the crawfish. Gently stir with a large paddle to mix the salt and water. Stir for 3 minutes, then rinse crawfish.

Be careful not to let them purge too long. You do not want them to be dead when you add them to the boil. Throw away all crawfish that have already died (the dead ones should float to the top).

After purging and cleaning, don't leave the crawfish covered with water, as they need air to stay alive. Keep the crawfish in a cool or shaded area until you're ready to start cooking.

Boiling Crawfish

In a large pot over high heat (propane fueled, jet burner) add enough water to fill a little more than halfway.

Squeeze the juice out of the lemon halves into the water and throw the lemon halves into the water.

Add crawfish or crab boil seasoning pack.

Cover pot, turn on the burner full blast, and bring water to a boil; boil 2 to 3 minutes to allow the spices to mix well.

Using a large wire basket that fits into the pot, add onions, sausage, mushrooms, and potatoes. Maintain a boil and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add crawfish to the wire basket, stirring them a bit. Once the water starts a rolling boil again, boil 5 minutes. Regulate the burner so the rolling boil is maintained, but where the pot does not boil over.

Turn the burner off, keep the pot covered and let the crawfish soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the wire basket from the pot.

Remove the strainer from the water, and rest it on the top of the pot using two boards laid on the top of the pot as a rack. Let the crawfish drain.

We served them the traditional way by covering a table which we set up in the garage since it was a little cool outside, covered with newspaper.

These were the best we have ever made at home!

Our rating:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chicken Marbella

Apparently this recipe was very popular over 25 years ago from the Silver Palate Cookbook. It is not a dish that I have ever had before, but one that I found intriguing based on the ingredients. Dinner started with chicken pieces simply seasoned with salt and pepper and browned skin-side down in a skillet and removed. Then in the same skillet a paste of green olives, prunes, olive oil, garlic, capers, anchovy fillets, oregano, pepper, salt and red pepper flakes were sauteed briefly until fragrant and started to stick slightly to the bottom of the skillet. The pan was then deglazed with chicken broth, white wine, more olives, capers and a couple of bay leaves. The chicken went back in the pan and went into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the chicken was coated with more of the paste and went back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

At this point the chicken was removed to a serving platter and covered with aluminum foil. The sauce was finished with some butter, vinegar, parsley and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. This recipe sounded wonderful, but in general I have had a problem with cooking chicken pieces on the bone to the point where it is safe to eat. This recipe left me with chicken that was not done; and I'm sure it is partially my fault. The recipe does indicate during the second roasting time in the oven that the leg quarters should register 175 degrees on a meat thermometer. I guess I need a lesson on exactly where to insert a thermometer in a leg quarter to get an accurate reading. I ended up separating the thigh from the drumstick after serving and putting it back in a 400 degree oven for another 15-20 minutes. It was perfect after this extra roasting time, however my egg noodles and green beans were quite cold.

As much as I loved the flavors in this recipe, I think it will be a while before I attempt it again.

Chicken Marbella
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Any combination of split breasts and leg quarters can be used in this recipe.

1/3 cup pitted green olives, rinsed
1/3 cup pitted prunes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch red pepper flakes

2 1/2-3 pounds bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts and/or leg quarters trimmed
Kosher salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 up pitted green olives, rinsed and halved
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup pitted prunes, chopped coarse
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

For the paste:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse all ingredients in food processor until finely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses. Scrape down bowl and continue to process until mostly smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. (Paste can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

For the chicken:
Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and season with pepper.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving it until well browned, 5 to 8 minutes Transfer chicken to large plate. Drain off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet and return to medium-low heat.

Add 1/3 cup paste to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and fond forms on pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, olives, capers and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Return chicken to pan, skin side up (skin should be above surface of liquid), and roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven and use back of spoon to spread remaining paste over chicken pieces; sprinkle prunes around chicken. Continue to roast until paste begins to brown, breast register 160 degrees, and leg quarters register 175 degrees, 7 to 12 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken to serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Remove bay leaves from sauce and whisk in butter, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce around chicken, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley, and serve.

My rating with reservations:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eggplant and Tomato Stew

I turned to my crockpot for tonight's dinner which is a very under-used appliance in my kitchen. It took me about 30 minutes to cut up all the vegetables and get everything in the crockpot and then I just set it to cook on low for 8 hours. All I had to do before dinner was cook some couscous. This stew consisted of eggplant, tomato, carrot, garbanzo beans, red kidney beans, onion, celery, garlic, vegetable broth, tomato paste and some herbs. It was extremely easy and just delicious!

My menu plan for today:
Breakfast - Soy milk smoothie with strawberries and frozen peaches, freshly baked sourdough bread

Lunch - Tomato and avocado sandwich with Vegannaise, Apple wedges with peanut butter and raisins

Dinner - Eggplant and Tomato Stew over Couscous

Eggplant and Tomato Stew (6 servings)
Adapted from Fatfree Vegan Recipes

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes
2 cups chopped tomato
1 1/2 cups sliced carrot
15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
6 ounces tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf

In a 3 1/2, 4 or 5-quart crockpot, combine eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, onion, celery and garlic.

Combine vegetable broth, tomato paste, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and bay leaf. Pour over vegetables.

Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Discard bay leaf.

Our rating:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fudgy, Chewy Brownies

For Tuesday night dinner, I made my Fusilli with 3 Cheeses and Red Peppers which my daughter requested. It is one of our favorites and is super simple to make. I'm not posting that recipe since I have already discussed it a few times on my blog. I served a simple green salad with the pasta and I made homemade brownies for dessert. The brownies came out beautifully and I hate to admit I usually make brownies from a box. I love this recipe since I will no longer have to turn to a box to get a freshly made brownie.

Fudgy, Chewy Brownies
Adapted from Annie's Eats Blog, originally from Baking Illustrated

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container.

My rating:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mushroom and Leek Tart with Gorgonzola

I decided to try this recipe from Cook's Illustrated for dinner tonight. This tart is a free-form savory tart. The pastry was sturdy and yet flaky and the filling was deliciously satisfying. The crust did take a couple of hours to make with a couple of chilling times of at least 45 minutes. I baked it on a piece of parchment paper directly on my pizza stone which made the bottom of the crust nice and crispy. This dinner was not a quick process since it took about 3 hours from start to finish, however none of it was particularly difficult and well worth the effort.

Mushroom and Leek Tart with Gorgonzola
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
7 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon white vinegar

3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced 1/2 inch thick and washed thoroughly (3 cups)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)

1 large egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

For the Dough:

Process flours, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, 2 to 3 pulses. Add butter and pulse until it forms pea-size pieces, about 10 pulses. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.

Sprinkle water and vinegar over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix until loose, shaggy mass forms with some dry flour remaining (do not overwork). Transfer mixture to center of large sheet of plastic wrap, press gently into rough 4-inch square, and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Roll into 11 by 8-inch rectangle with short side of rectangle parallel to edge of work surface. Using bench scraper, bring bottom third of dough up, then fold upper third over it, folding like business letter into 8 by 4-inch rectangle. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise. Roll out dough again into 11 by 8-inch rectangle and fold into thirds again. Turn dough 90 degrees counterclockwise and repeat rolling and folding into thirds. After last fold, fold dough in half to create 4-inch square. Press top of dough gently to seal. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

For the Filling:

Saute mushrooms in skillet in 1 tablespoon olive oil until softened and liquid is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. In same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add leeks and thyme, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl with mushrooms. Stir in creme fraiche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position, place pizza stone on oven rack and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. (Trim edges as needed to form rough circle.) Transfer dough to parchment paper. With tip of paring knife, cut five 1/4-inch circles in dough (one at center and four evenly spaced midway from center to edge of dough). Cutting a few small holes in the dough prevents it from lifting off the pan as it bakes. Brush top of dough with 1 teaspoon oil.

Spread half of filling evenly over dough, leaving 2-inch border around edge. sprinkle with half of Gorgonzola, cover with remaining filling, and top with remaining Gorgonzola. Drizzle remaining 1 teaspoon oil over filling. Grasp 1 edge of dough and fold up outer 2 inches over filling.Repeat around circumference of tart, overlapping dough every 2 to 3 inches; gently pinch pleated dough to secure but do not press dough into filling. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle evenly with kosher salt.

Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and filling is beginning to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool tart on wire rack for 10 minutes. Move tart to cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley, cut into wedges, and serve.

Our rating:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Coulibiac of Salmon

Sounds very interesting, doesn't it? I actually did research on the word coulibiac which is defined as a loaf of fish, meat or vegetables baked in a pastry shell. The traditional Russian version is made with salmon, mushrooms and dill which is what I tried tonight. This recipe reminded me a little of Beef Wellington which is where a tenderloin of beef is topped with a sauced mushroom mixture and wrapped in puff pastry. Tonight's version started with a piece of puff pastry, topped with a little leftover cooked white rice, topped with thawed, frozen, chopped spinach, topped with mushrooms sauteed with shallots, topped with a piece of salmon fillet, sprinkled with salt, pepper and fresh dill. The edges of the pastry bottom were brushed with beaten egg and another layer of puff pastry went over the top before going in a hot oven to bake for 30 minutes. This recipe was quite good, but I am looking forward to adding my own touches to it next time. I used a Sockeye salmon tonight which is really not my favorite and I think the entire thing would benefit from a mustard flavored Bechamel sauce before being sealed with the top layer. I'll let you know when I try my own version. I served this with a simple green salad dressed with a buttermilk dressing.

Coulibiac of Salmon (4 huge servings)
Adapted from A Spicy

2 sheets of thawed puff pastry (thaw overnight in refrigerator)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 cup cooked (leftover) rice
1 pound of salmon, cut in 4 square-ish pieces
10 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, sliced shallots and mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes to brown the mushrooms. Then salt and pepper to taste and add the wine. Allow the mushrooms to simmer until the wine has complete reduced and the mushrooms are nearly dry - about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut one sheet of puff pastry into 4 squares and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Top each square with 1/4 cup of cooked rice - make sure to leave a border around the edges.

Squeeze the spinach to remove any excess liquid, then layer the spinach over the rice. Sprinkle the spinach with a touch of salt.

Once the mushrooms have cooked down, layer them on top of the spinach.

Now top each stack with a piece of salmon. Salt and pepper the salmon and sprinkle with fresh dill.

Whisk the egg and brush it around the exposed puff pastry edges.

Roll the second piece of puff pastry out to a slightly larger square. Cut it into four smaller squares. Lay each square over a salmon stack. Gently seal the edges by crimping with a fork.

Brush the remaining egg over the tops. Cut a small vent in the top of each pastry.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the tops are golden.

Our rating:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spicy Thai Beef and Jasmine Rice

I turned to a spicy Thai dish for tonight's dinner and although it was a Thai inspired recipe, it could have used a little more spice for us. This recipe started with browning some lean ground beef and then adding some chopped onions, scallions, garlic, crushed red pepper and some soy sauce. After allowing that mixture to cook briefly, I added some carrots, red peppers, Jasmine rice, water, fish sauce and a little more soy sauce. Once everything came to a boil, I reduced the heat and covered to simmer for 20 minutes. Once done, I stirred in a good amount of chopped cilantro and it was ready to serve.

This dish was very good, but we found it was perfect with a few dashes of hot sauce.

Spicy Thai Beef and Jasmine Rice
Adapted from

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup Jasmine rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add beef and saute until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add onion, scallions, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Saute another 2 minutes. Add carrots, red pepper, rice, 2 cups water, fish sauce and remaining soy sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add cilantro and mix well.

Our rating:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hearts of Romaine, Palm and Artichoke Salad

I started our day with a special breakfast of Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with strawberries and bananas. It was a fabulous way to start the day.

Our routine tonight included the girls coming over for dinner since that is what we do on Tuesday nights. Dinner was Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes which I have made before and decided it was perfect for tonight because of its lovely pink color and scrumptious taste. I made a side dish of a salad of hearts of romaine, artichoke hearts, and hearts of palm with a little prosciutto tossed in and dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Dessert was Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Hearts of Romaine, Palm and Artichoke Salad
Adapted from Rachel Ray

1 heart of Romaine lettuce, shredded
Chopped fresh parsley
1 (14-ounce) jar grilled artichoke hearts
1 can hearts of palm
2 ounces prosciutto, shredded
Balsamic vinaigrette

Toss all ingredients, except the hearts of palm, with the vinaigrette. Divide salad between four plates and add a heart of palm, cut in half to each serving.

My rating:

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

I had a busy weekend which is why I haven't posted a new blog. Stephanie and David came in town late Thursday night so they could be here to help for his mom's surprise birthday party. The kids wanted to do Italian food for her party and so we made 3 different lasagnes: a meat lasagne, a turkey Italian sausage lasagne and the spinach mushroom lasagne that I had recently experimented with. I also made vodka cream pasta and an Italian Antipasto Salad. Roasted Shrimp cocktail was on the appetizer table and we bought some baguettes rather than try to make homemade bread. Karen was very surprised and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. I was very surprised to see that the spinach mushroom lasagne was the hit of the night.

Moving ahead to last night, I made a Tortilla and Black Bean Pie which turned out great. I cut 4 tortillas to fit in my springform pan. I then cooked up some chopped onion, jalapeno and garlic with some ground cumin and salt and pepper. I added a couple of of cans of black beans and a bottle of beer and allowed it to cook down. Some frozen corn and chopped scallions were stirred in off the heat. These seasoned beans were layered between the tortillas along with some shredded Mexican blend cheese in the springform pan. The entire thing went in a hot oven for about 20 minutes until the pie was hot and the cheese was melted. The pie was unmolded, garnished with more scallions and served. I added some jarred salsa and a spoonful of sour cream to each serving.

I really enjoyed the heartiness of this dish.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
Adapted from Annie's Eats blog

4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces shredded Mexican cheese
sour cream and salsa, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5-7 minutes.

Add beans and beer to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Fit a trimmed tortilla in the bottom of the springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans and sprinkle evenly with some of the cheese. Repeat three times, using all of the remaining cheese on the top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20-25 minutes. Unmold pie; garnish with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Our rating:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Black Bean Cakes with Yellow Pepper Coulis

I feel like I'm starting to get the feel for my Vegan Thursdays and I really enjoyed the cooking today. I'm glad I decided to dedicate a day every week to explore this avenue of food. Our dinner was a mixture of black beans, boiled potatoes, grated onion and carrot, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper all processed in the food processor. This mixture was formed into 4 patties, coated with breadcrumbs and refrigerated for 30 minutes. The patties were then fried in olive oil until golden brown on both sides. The patties were served surrounded by a yellow pepper coulis. A very nice dinner!

Today's meal plan -
Breakfast - Spiced Pumpkin Smoothie, Bagel with Tofutti Spread
Lunch - Pesto Polenta with Sauteed Portobello Slices
Dinner - Black Bean Cakes with Yellow Pepper Coulis and Almond Date Truffles

Black Bean Cakes with Yellow Pepper Coulis
Adapted from Vegan Planet

1 1/2 cups cooked or one 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large all-purpose potato, peeled, diced, cooked in water until tender and drained
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup Yellow Pepper Coulis (recipe follows)

Place the beans, potato, onion, carrots, parsley, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until well blended. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties. Coat each evenly with the bread crumbs and set on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot, surrounded by the coulis.

Yellow Pepper Coulis
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 medium-size yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, cover, and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water, season with salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Push the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan and heat over low heat. Use immediately or allow to cool and store in a tightly sealed container until ready to use. Reheat over low heat.

Gerry's rating:

My rating:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chili Roasted Cod

We love fish and since our market had cod on sale this week, I turned to this recipe to season this mild fish. The fish got a sprinkling of chili powder, dried oregano and salt before going into a 350 oven for 7-8 minutes. While the fish was roasting, I worked on melting some butter and swirling the pan until it started to turn golden brown. I then swirled in some lime juice and ground cumin and swirled for another minute or so. The cumin-lime browned butter was drizzled over the fish to finish it off.

This recipe was extremely simple and very tasty which is a great combination for a weeknight dinner. Our sides were orange scented mashed sweet potatoes and steamed sugar snap peas.

Chili Roasted Cod
Adapted from Sara's Secrets

1 pound fresh cod fillets (about 3/4-inch thick) skin on
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 lime, juiced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a roasting pan with vegetable cooking spray.

Arrange the cod fillets skin-side down. Sprinkle with the chili powder, oregano, and salt. Roast 7-8 minutes or until the cod is just opaque and flakes when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, swirling constantly, just until the butter begins to brown. Add the cumin and lime juice and continue to cook, swirling 1 minute longer.

Remove cod from the oven. Drizzle the cumim-lime butter over the cod.

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Chicken Paillard

Tuesday night dinner with my daughter and her friends was a very simple affair with Chicken Paillard with Caprese Field Salad as the side dish. I love the simplicity of this dish. Take a chicken breast (or half of one if it is big), pound it out to 1/4 inch thick, season with salt and pepper, dip it in buttermilk and dredge it in flour. Give it a quick saute in a skillet and dinner is done! How easy is that? Once the chicken was on the plate the salad was added partially over the chicken. The salad had a refreshing Honey-Buttermilk salad dressing over it which added a very nice element to the dish.

I rounded out dinner with a homemade apple pie since the entree was rather simple. It all turned out to be a very satisfying meal.

Chicken Paillard with Caprese Field Salad
Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two

For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (5 ounces each)
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the salad:
8 cups baby mixed salad greens (4 ounces)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup Honey-Buttermilk Salad Dressing
Parmesan shavings

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

Make salad dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to blend. Set aside. Store extra dressing in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Prepare chicken, pounding breasts in a resealable plastic bag 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 non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through and golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and cover with foil to keep warm. Saute remaining chicken breast halves.

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

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna

I have been wanting to try a spinach lasagne for a while and decided it was perfect for today's Meatless Monday dinner. This particular recipe used frozen spinach which was thawed and squeezed dry before being mixed with ricotta cheese and an egg. I made a white sauce and added freshly grated Parmesan cheese to it to make an Alfredo style sauce. I precooked my lasagna noodles and then started layering everything in my casserole dish, starting with sauce, a layer of noodles, a layer of spinach mixture, a layer of some raw sliced mushrooms and grated carrots and continued on, finishing with a layer of noodles topped with the remaining sauce and finally a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. This lasagna turned out beautifully and is a nice change from the typical tomato sauce lasagna.

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna

1 10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
8 ounces of lasagna noodles
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups milk
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13 lasagna pan with cooking spray.

Drain the spinach, wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Add dried spinach to a medium bowl and mix in ricotta cheese. Beat egg with a wire whisk and add it to the spinach and ricotta. Stir well to blend and set aside.

While heating the water to cook the lasagna, make the Alfredo sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour, salt and pepper and continue to whisk over medium heat until flour-butter mixtures comes to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to whisk and simmer for 1 minute. Raise heat to medium again and gradually add milk, stirring constantly and bring back to the boil. Simmer, stirring constantly for 1 more minute or until sauce is smooth and thickened. Off heat, stir in Parmesan until melted and set sauce aside.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.

Spread about 1/2 cup pasta sauce evenly in bottom of sprayed lasagna pan. Place 3 noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the spinach mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle with half of the carrots and mushrooms. Place 3 more noodles over the vegetable mixture. Pour 1 1/2 cups sauce over the noodles. Spread the remaining spinach mixture over the sauce, followed by layers of the remaining carrots and mushrooms. Place last 3 noodles over the vegetables. Pour remaining sauce evenly on top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Cover the dish tightly with the foil, spray side down.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove foil. Turn the oven off and let lasagne sit in the warm oven for 15 more minutes. Serve at once or let rest until ready to serve.

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Buffalo Style Drumsticks

For Superbowl Sunday, I made a twist on Buffalo Wings using chicken drumsticks instead of wings with the same flavor packed sauce on them. These drumsticks were actually rubbed with some spices before being baked on a rack in the oven to perfect doneness and crispness. They were then coated in the sauce and popped right back in the oven to continue cooking. I served these with carrot and celery sticks with homemade Blue Cheese dressing. We still got to have the Buffalo sauce flavor, but it was definitely a little healthier than the traditional fried chicken wings.

Buffalo Style Drumsticks
Adapted from Food Network

For the chicken
8 drumsticks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and black pepper

For the sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce

For the chicken:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and pat dry the drumsticks. Mix the oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper in a medium bowl or resealable plastic bag. Toss the drumsticks in the seasoned oil to coat completely. Bake the drumsticks on a wire rack placed on a foil-lined baking sheet (so air circulates around the chicken) until very tender and the skin is crisp, 50 minutes.

For the Sauce:
Mix together the melted butter, hot sauce and BBQ sauce in a large bowl.

Toss the drumsticks in about 3/4 of the spicy sauce until well coated. Place the drumsticks back on the rack and continue baking an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon remaining sauce over the drumsticks once they come out of the oven.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tofu Vindaloo

Whenever Gerry and I go out for Indian food, he orders some kind of Vindaloo dish. Since I have been making more Indian food at home, we rarely go out for it anymore, but that doesn't mean he has to go without his Vindaloo. Since one of my vegan cookbooks had a recipe for Tofu Vindaloo and we haven't had tofu in a while, it sounded perfect.

I started by making a spice paste in a mini food processor. I then sauteed the tofu cubes in a skillet until golden brown on all sides and set them aside. I proceeded to saute some onion, carrot and red pepper in the same skillet before adding the spice paste. A can of tomatoes finally went in with some peas and some water and allowed to stew for 10 minutes or so. Finally the previously browned tofu went back in the pan and allowed to simmer for 10 minutes so the tofu could absorb the flavors from everything else. I served this over some basmati rice.

My menu for today was:

Breakfast - Maple-Cinnamon Oatmeal with Slivered Almonds and Dried Cranberries
Lunch - Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)
Dinner - Tofu Vindaloo over basmati rice

Tofu Vindaloo
Adapted from Vegan Planet

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 16-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup water, or more as needed

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cumin, mustard, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Process until smooth and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a medium-size bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, peas, and water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the tofu and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes so that the tofu can absorb the flavors of the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the stew is too thick, add a little more water. Serve hot.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spicy Chicken Cacciatore

I turned to a trusty protein source for tonight's dinner; boneless, skinless chicken breast. I spiced it up with a red pepper tomato sauce and served it over Parmesan polenta. This dish had a nice bite from crushed red pepper flakes sprinkled on the chicken and also added to the sauce. It had a nice salty bite from fried prosciutto added near the end and was filled with sauteed onions, mushrooms and red pepper slices.

Spicy Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two

1 ounce prosciutto, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, seasoned with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes (5 ounces each)
2 cups quartered button mushrooms
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 can whole tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Fry prosciutto in 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until crisp, 2 minutes. Add chicken and sear about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken and prosciutto to a plate.

Saute mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper in 2 tablespoons oil in same pan over medium-high heat until onion softens, 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano and pepper flakes; cook 30 seconds.

Deglaze with wine, scraping bits form the bottom of the pan. Simmer until wine is nearly evaporated. Add tomatoes, crushing slightly, and bring to a boil. Return chicken and prosciutto to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in parsley.

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