Monday, April 30, 2012

Cheese Tortellini with Pesto

I was craving pasta tonight, but didn't want a dish with a lot of cheese or tomato sauce so a pesto sauce sounded like the perfect pairing.  This particular recipe was delicious, healthy, quick to prepare and from Cooking Light.  How can you go wrong?  I guess you would have to like pesto to enjoy this which Gerry and I both love.

Cheese Tortellini with Pesto (Serves 4)

1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini
1 1/3 cups fresh baby spinach
2/3 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 plum tomato, diced
1/2 cup shaved fresh Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Cook tortellini according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain.

Combine spinach, basil, salt, red pepper, and garlic in a food processor.  With processor running, add broth, olive oil, and lemon juice through chute until mixture is smooth.

Combine tortellini, pesto, and plum tomato in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook 1 minute or until warm.  Spoon 3/4 cup pasta mixture into each of 4 bowls, and sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and about 4 teaspoons nuts.  Garnish with basil leaves, if desired.

Adapted from The Best of Cooking Light 13

My rating:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blackberry Ice Cream

A couple of weeks ago when I made my blackberry jam, I ended up with a couple of extra containers of blackberries and since I also had extra heavy cream in the refrigerator, ice cream immediately came into mind. I did have to go out and get some half and half, but it was a small price to pay for such a delicious treat. I'm usually a pretty plain ice cream fan with some form of vanilla being my choice when we're out, but it's a whole different ballgame with homemade ice cream. This blackberry ice cream was so good, it has me dreaming about what other flavors I want to tackle next.

Blackberry Ice Cream (makes about 1 quart)
1 1/2 cups half-and half
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups strained blackberry puree
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Warm the half-and-half and sugar in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the blackberry puree and lemon juice, then stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, but to preserve the fresh blackberry taste, churn the ice cream within 4 hours after making the mixture.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

My rating:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Truffled Mac and Cheese

I have been making homemade mac and cheese for 30+ years and every once in a while it's fun to try a grown-up version, especially one that has an ingredient that I have been wanting to try; white truffle oil. Even though lots chefs on televised cooking competitions seem to dislike it, I have been curious about it. I found this recipe in the Jan/Feb. 2012 issue of Cooking Light and knew this would be my first venture with this ingredient. This recipe used 12 ounces of macaroni serving 6 people and had just 1 1/2 teaspoons of white truffle oil which gave it just a hint of something unique. Gerry and I both enjoyed this take on mac and cheese, although I will cut down the recipe to make it more reasonable for 2 people. I served Oven Roasted Broccoli as our side dish.

Truffled Mac and Cheese (Serves 6)

2 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
2 cups sliced onion (about 1 medium)
1 bay leaf
12 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Comte or Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil
2 ounces French bread baguette, torn
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat 1 3/4 cups milk, onion, and bay leaf in a large saucepan to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around edges (do not boil). Cover and remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Strain milk mixture through a colander over a bowl; discard solids. Return milk to saucepan over medium heat. Combine remaining 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Gradually stir flour mixture and salt into warm milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; let stand 6 minutes or until mixture cools to 155 degrees. Gradually add fontina and Comte cheeses, stirring until cheeses melt. Stir in pasta and truffle oil. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart broiler-safe glass or ceramic baking dish.

Preheat broiler.

Place bread, Parmesan cheese, and garlic in a food processor; process until coarse crumbs form. Drizzle with olive oil; pulse until fine crumbs form. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta. Place dish on middle rack in oven; broil 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2012

My rating:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Barbecue Meatballs

This barbecue meatball recipe reminded me of a variation of a meatloaf when I first read it and based on the recommendation of my daughter (who said both her 5 year old daughter and her 1 year old son loved these), I decided to make these tonight. They did not disappoint us since they were full of flavor and very tender. I served these meatballs with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots and we both loved our comfort food dinner.

Barbecue Meatballs (Serves 6)

For the meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cups oats
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons very finely minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Plenty of ground black pepper to taste

For cooking meatballs:
1 cup all-purpose flour (coating for frozen meatballs)
Canola Oil

For the Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 tablespoons (up to 6 tablespoons) onion, finely diced
1 dash Tabasco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer for five minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour. Brown meatballs in canola oil on all sides until just brown. Place into a baking dish.

Combine all sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or crusty French bread.

Adapted from The Pioneer

Our rating:

Chicken Pomodoro

I'm always on the lookout for different chicken breast recipes and this one sounded really good. Chicken and pasta is a sure winner. The chicken cutlets were sauteed in a skillet and then the sauce was made in the same skillet. The chicken cutlets were then returned to the skillet to finish warming through for a couple of minutes. This was served with garlic spaghetti which was cooked spaghetti tossed in a light sauce of garlic, a little pasta water, chopped parsley, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. The final touch was to toss it with some crumbled ricotta salata.

Chicken Pomodoro with Garlic Spaghetti(4 servings)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved, pounded to 1/4-inch thick (8 oz. each)
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup halved heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup minced scallions

Garlic Spaghetti
8 ounces dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
Salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata

Put large pot of water on to boil for pasta. Meanwhile, prep all ingredients. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside. While pasta is cooking, season cutlets with salt and pepper and then dust with flour. Coat a saute pan with nonstick spray. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium-high.

Saute cutlets in a large saute pan until brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a plate; set aside.

Off heat, deglaze pan with vodka and cook until liquid evaporates. Add broth and cream and reduce until thick, 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Return cutlets to the pan and cook to warm through, 1 minute per side.

Once the pasta is cooked and you have reserved 1/2 cup pasta water, drain all remaining water from pasta.

Heat oil in same pot over medium-high. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in pasta water, parsley, zest, and spaghetti; toss to coat. Season mixture with salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes, then stir in ricotta salata.

Serve pasta with cutlets drizzled with sauce and tomatoes and garnish with scallions.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home, Cuisine Tonight, Summer 2012

My rating:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato-Olive-Caper Tapenade

I turned to the sea for inspiration for dinner tonight especially since my market had wild-caught cod fillets on sale this week. I loved the simplicity of this recipe since the cod fillets were simply rubbed with olive oil, seasoned with black pepper and roasted in a hot oven until perfectly cooked. The fillets were then topped with a combination of tomatoes, cured olives and capers which was a warm and flavor-packed topping for the mild white fish. This dish had a very Mediterranean feel to it (and taste). My sides were white rice and steamed green beans.

Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato-Olive-Caper Tapenade
(Serves 4)

1 pound cod fillet
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cured olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Rub cod with 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Place on prepared baking sheet. Transfer to oven and roast until the fish flakes easily with a fork 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften about 20 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add olives and capers; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Stir in oregano and vinegar; remove from heat. Spoon the tapenade over the cod to serve.

Adapted from Eating Well

Our rating:

Quick Black Bean Chili

I turned to this very quick and easy chili for dinner tonight for Vegan Thursday and it was delicious. I started by caramelizing some onions in a wok and once browned I added some minced garlic and allowed it to cook briefly. A can of black beans went in next with some canned fire-roasted tomatoes and the seasonings. I simmered it for 7 or 8 minutes and dinner was ready.

I also made a mango salsa to garnish the chili with and it was a beautiful burst of color and flavor to the chili. This was so easy and delicious it can be made for any day of the week.

My menu for the day:
Breakfast-Toast with peanut butter and banana
Lunch-Lentil Mediterranean Salad with homemade pita bread

Dinner-Quick Black Bean Chili with Mango Salsa

Quick Black Bean Chili (Serves 2)

1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces cooked rinsed black beans
8 ounces crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano (Mexican preferably) I used plain oregano since that is what I had
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Mango Salsa, optional (recipe follows)

Over medium-high heat, saute the onion until most of the pieces are significantly browned. Add a thin layer of water and quickly stir the onion. Let the onion sit and the water evaporate. Repeat this process two to four more times (the more you do it, the deeper the flavor of the onion grows). Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and oregano, mixing everything together. Simmer for at least 5 minutes. This recipe works best in a wok.

Mango Salsa Makes about 1 cup (4 servings)

1/2 large mango or 2 1/2 ounces frozen mango , thawed and chopped
1 small tomato, chopped (seeds removed if desired)
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Peel and dice mango and place it in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Let stand 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, leftover Mango Salsa will stay fresh for up to one day.

Both recipes slightly adapted from 21 Day Vegan Kickstart

My rating:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Souvlaki on Homemade Pitas with Tzatziki

I have been craving Greek food lately and even though I was by myself for dinner Tuesday night, I decided this was my menu. I started by making the pita bread dough which I chose to knead by hand today rather than use my mixer. Sometimes I just like to feel the dough change beneath my fingertips. While the dough was rising, I worked on the tzatziki so I could let the grated cucumbers drain. I move on to combining all the ingredients in the marinade for the chicken. This still left me spare time while waiting for my dough to double.

After the dough doubled in size, I punched it down, divided it into 8 pieces, rolled them into balls and let them rest for 20 minutes. I then proceeded to roll them out and bake them in a hot oven for about 5 minutes. It's really fun to watch these puff up as they bake. These came out wonderfully soft and tender.

I marinated my chicken for 20 minutes while I finished up the tzatziki and then grilled it and my dinner for one was ready. It was a fun way to fill up part of the afternoon and a very tasty dinner which satisfied my Greek food craving.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Souvlaki
Adapted from Cook Like a Champion Blog

Juice of 1/2 large lemon, plus water to equal 1 cup liquid
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, chopped rosemary, plus a little more for sprinkling
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, water, zest, salt and rosemary in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high power for 1-2 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from microwave, stir until salt is dissolved, and allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Cut the chicken into large chunks and place it in a bowl or baking dish. Add the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. If using wooden skewers, prepare by soaking them in water for 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the brine and toss with olive oil, garlic, and pepper. Skewer and sprinkle with additional rosemary. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through.

My rating:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Key Lime Pie Bars

If you are a reader of my blog, you may remember that I made Key Lime Panna Cotta last week and since I still had more than half of a bag of key limes left, I decided to make these Key Lime Pie Bars. I liked the idea of these since I knew I could cut them into smaller squares which seems much more reasonable than eating a slice of pie. These bars are really very easy to make; the only hard part was squeezing the tiny little limes to get a total of 3/4 cup fresh lime juice. I used the entire rest of the bag (minus one little key lime) to get the necessary juice and my hands smelled great the rest of the afternoon. These were definitely delicious (although absolutely not low-cal) and sure to make the occasional appearance on our dessert table.

Key Lime Pie Bars (Makes 16)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
Whipped cream, for serving, (optional
Toasted coconut, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch pan with parchment, leaving a few inches overhang on two sides. Butter the parchment and set pan aside.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and coconut in a medium bowl. Pour melted butter over and stir to combine. Press mixture into prepared pan and bake for 8-9 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.

While crust is cooling, make filling by whisking together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour filling into cooled piecrust and return to oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the filling feels just firm to the touch. Do not brown. Cool at room temperature, then chill thoroughly. Cut into bars and top with whipped cream and toasted coconut, if desired.

Slightly adapted from Cook like a Champion blog

My rating:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Halibut with Brown Butter, Crushed Chickpeas and Carrots

I turned to fish for our dinner tonight and I love it when halibut is on sale at one of the markets I like. I had tried this recipe quite a while ago and decided I needed to refresh my memory by making it again. This is without a doubt, one of the best fish recipes I have on file. I rounded out our meal with a decadent dessert of Key Lime Pie Bars which were fabulous and I will post that recipe soon.

Some halibut fillets are simply seasoned with salt and pepper and seared in olive oil in a skillet on both sides until done. The fillets are plated on a bed of partially crushed chickpeas flavored with garlic, lemon zest and juice, parsley and green olives. The fillets were then drizzled with some browned butter that was flavored with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The crowning touch to this dish was oven roasted carrots that were seasoned with crushed cumin seeds in addition to the usual salt and pepper. All the components to this dish work together to tantalize your taste buds. I'm glad I chose this recipe for tonight and I know it will be making more frequent appearances on my menus.

Halibut with Brown Butter, Crushed Chickpeas with Olives and Roasted Cumin Carrots (Serves 4)

For the chickpeas:
1 cup or 14-ounces dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 onion quartered
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pitted green olives
Handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the carrots:
8 slender carrots, with tops
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 teaspoons cumin seed, lightly crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the halibut:
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter
1 lemon halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (4-ounce) halibut fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chickpeas:
Soak the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water overnight. Drain and rinse, then put in a pot with the onion and bay leaf. Cover the beans just with water. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until very tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the beans, discarding the onion and bay leaf

Heat the oil in a saute pan, and gently fry the garlic, 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, salt and pepper to taste and heat through. Crush a bit here and there with a potato masher, leaving some chickpeas whole. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives, parsley, and lemon zest. Add lemon juice, to taste. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve as a base for the fish.

For the carrots:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the carrots lengthwise, leaving a bit of green top attached for looks. Toss on a baking sheet with the olive oil, crushed cumin seed, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender and golden edged, about 30 minutes, depending on their size. They should be slightly crinkly and golden-edged.

For the halibut:
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and cook until lightly brown and foaming. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides, place the fish in the hot pan, and fry 4 minutes. Flip and cover to finish 4 to 6 minutes. Serve the fish with some brown butter drizzled over.

For plating:
Spoon a small pile of the crushed chickpeas and olives on the plate. Top with the fish and drizzle with the brown butter. Top with the roasted carrots.

Adapted from Laura Calder's French Food at Home

Our rating:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Strawberry Scones

After picking some perfectly ripe strawberries, I decided to make these scones since they came highly recommended by my daughter, Valerie. I have to admit that I have never made scones before and I found these to be easy to make and delicious to eat. I love the convenience of this recipe as well. You simply make the scones, cut them into wedges, flash freeze them and then bake what you want the morning you want to eat them. It took a total of 25 minutes this morning to enjoy a freshly baked scone full of fresh strawberries. I can't wait to explore more scone recipes now.

Strawberry Scones

1 large egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 heaping cup diced fresh strawberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and orange zest until blended; set aside. In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse briefly to blend. Add the butter pieces to the bowl with the dry ingredients and pulse several times to cut the butter into the flour, until the largest butter pieces are the size of small peas. (If you don't have a food processor, you can just as easily mix up the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives or forks.) Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Add the strawberries to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a fork or spatula until a sticky dough has formed. Knead just a few times to ensure that all the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough is cohesive.

Transfer the dough to a well floured work surface and pat into a disc about 7-8 inches in diameter. Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar. Slice the disc into 8 wedges.

To bake the scones, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Place the shaped scones on the prepared baking sheet and bake until browned on top, about 15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

To freeze, transfer the baking sheet with the shaped scones to the freezer and let them chill until they are firm, 30-60 minutes. Wrap the scones individually and store in a freezer-safe bag until ready to bake. Bake as originally indicated, adding a few minutes to the baking time (about 20 minutes for me).

Adapted from Annie's Eats

My rating:

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken

Have you ever read any of the Laura Numeroff picture books, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Her very funny books all start with a sentence like "if you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a glass of milk" and on and on the story goes. I couldn't help but think about her books all day as I cleaned out every cupboard and drawer in my kitchen (it will start to make sense in a minute). My story all starts with a wonderful organic farm where I picked beautiful strawberries. I made lots of jars of jam and had so much fun, I decided I needed to go back to pick more berries so then I had to make more jam. I needed to move the 50 jars of jam off my dining room table which meant I had to make space in my pantry which meant I had to relocate what I moved out of the pantry, etc. I ended up spending 12 hours cleaning and sorting through every cupboard and drawer in my kitchen - all because I found a farm with great strawberries.

I asked my husband if he would be willing to cook dinner while I took a much needed shower and break and it worked out great. Gerry enjoyed having the chance to grill outside and pull our dinner together which he did perfectly. I had the chicken marinating in a mixture of tequila, lime and orange juice, chili powder, diced jalapeno, garlic and salt and pepper.

Gerry grilled the chicken outside on our gas grill and cooked the black bean and corn mixture. Everything came out wonderful with the chicken perfectly cooked and the beans were a very flavorful base.

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken (Serves 2)

For the chicken:
1/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

For the beans:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Cumin, fajita or taco seasoning and cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Dash of hot sauce
1/2-3/4 cup frozen corn

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl or plastic bag. Mix well; add the chicken breasts to the container. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat a grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates to prevent the meat from sticking. Once the grill is heated, cooked the chicken until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can sear the chicken in a grill pan and then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through.) Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the beans. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and saute for 1 minute more. Add the black beans to the pan and cook for a few minutes until warmed through. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Season with cumin, fajita or taco seasoning, and cayenne pepper to taste (Gerry used 1/4 teaspoon of each and it was perfect). Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Allow the mixture to simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. Stir in the hot sauce and frozen corn, cook for 2-3 minutes more. Divide the bean mixture between two serving plates and top with the grilled chicken. Garnish with lime wedges, if desired.

Adapted from Annie's Eats

Our rating:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Portobello Fajitas

These portobello fajitas sounded perfect for tonight. I like portobello mushrooms, but in controlled portions. I love the first few bites of a portobello burger (using a portobello mushroom cap instead of a burger) but find it very difficult to eat a whole burger. I guess I can handle them sliced a lot better than left whole. I really liked the idea of sliced portobellos with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, garlic and seasonings in a tortilla. I served these with Ina Garten's guacamole and tortilla chips.

Gerry's comment at dinner was how much he loved both lunch and dinner, enough to say that he could do a vegan diet. Of course, he did have an egg for breakfast instead of a soy smoothie and an applesauce muffin (which I had stashed in the freezer).

My menu for the day:
Breakfast - Soy milk smoothie with strawberries and banana, applesauce muffin
Lunch - Mixed Green Salad with Strawberries, Mango, Edamame and Honey-Lime Dressing
Dinner - Portobello Fajitas, Guacamole and Tortilla chips

Portobello Fajitas (Serves 2)

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
Splash of water (about 3 tablespoons)
2 large portobello caps, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 large roasted red pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Flour tortillas
Salsa or lime wedges

Over medium-high heat, saute the onion until they just start to brown. Add the portobellos and sear them until you see some of the outer bits start to crisp. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder; saute for 15 to 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the roasted red peppers and cilantro. Serve with tortillas as well as salsa or lime wedges.

Adapted from 21 day Vegan Kickstart

My rating:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Sweet White Balsamic Vinaigrette

I think Gerry's favorite thing to have for lunch is a nice big salad and now that the weather is getting warmer, I find myself looking forward to a salad as well. I can't get myself to eat a salad as a meal in winter simply because it makes me too cold. I don't know if anyone else is affected this way, but I know this to be true for me. I do love a good salad when the weather permits it however.

I chose this one to kick off the warm weather salad lunches simply because it is a very simple salad consisting of baby spinach, fresh parsley leaves, dried cranberries, sliced avocado, and some Candied Spiced Almonds. The dressing had a far number of ingredients and used white balsamic vinegar which was the one ingredient I had to go out and buy.

This salad was fabulous and I highly recommend it when you are tired of your usual salad and want to try something new.

Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Sweet White Balsamic Vinaigrette
(6 entree salads or 8 side salads)

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1 tablespoon sweet onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Salad:
12 ounces baby spinach
1 small bunch parsley, washed and dried, leaves removed whole from stems
2 medium avocados, peeled and halved
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup Candied Spiced Almonds (Recipe follows)

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a pint sized glass jar and shake well to dissolve sugar.

For the salad, place greens and parsley leaves in a large bowl. Add avocado and dried cranberries and about 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss gently. Scatter candied almonds over salad and sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pass extra dressing at the table.

Candied Spiced Almonds

2 1/2 cups sliced almonds (1/2 pound)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (or butter substitute)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
sea salt, for finishing

Place a large sheet of foil on a work surface. spray with cooking spray or rub a teaspoon of oil over foil with a paper towel.

Place sugar in a large non-stick saute pan and heat over medium heat, occasionally tipping and swirling the sugar until it is all melted into a pale golden syrup.

Lower heat immediately and add butter, cinnamon, smoked paprika and vanilla. Stir until well combined and all the butter is incorporated into the sugar syrup.

Add the nuts and stir gently to coat. Don't worry if you have some clumps of caramelized sugar - they will melt as you continue to saute the almonds. Cover and continue to cook on low, stirring every minute or so, until almonds are a delicious golden brown. Watch very carefully as they can go from beautiful to burned very quickly! Turn out onto prepared foil and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Spread on foil to cool.

Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine Blog

My rating:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Key Lime Panna Cotta with Berry Coulis

A few weeks ago, my daughter Elizabeth mentioned how much she was craving her best friend's mother's recipe for Red Beans and Rice. Later that week, I dug through some recipes that I had collected over the years and found the coveted recipe. I recreated this dish for her tonight and will tweak the recipe a little bit before posting it.

I also made a batch of my homemade dinner rolls since I always try to have some of these on hand in the freezer.

I rounded out dinner with Key Lime Panna Cotta. I found a big bag of key limes on sale yesterday for less than $2.00, so I will be trying a few key lime recipes. Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream. Basically the cooked cream can be flavored any way you want. This one was flavored with key lime juice, grated zest and some coconut milk. I had never made a Panna Cotta before and was very pleased with how this came out. I also made a mixed berry coulis to go over it which was delicious. I let each person decorate their own dessert plate which was very fun. I will be posting several pictures from this adventure. I will definitely be trying another key lime dessert later this week.

Key Lime Panna Cotta with Berry Coulis (Serves 6)

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 package unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon grated Key lime zest
1/4 cup fresh Key lime juice

In a saucepan, gently heat the cream, half and half, and coconut milk. Add the sugar and gelatin. Once dissolved, add the grated lime zest and juice. Bring the cream to a simmer and keep at a low simmer for about 10 minutes to meld the flavors then pour into 6 ramekins. Place in the refrigerator to chill and set for about 6 hours or overnight. Serve with Berry Coulis (recipe follows) and top with a fresh fruit, if desired.

To unmold, place ramekins in very hot water for a moment. Run a small spatula around the sides to release. Turn onto a plate, with a vigorous motion if necessary.

Berry Coulis
1 (12 ounce) package frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Triple Sec or other orange flavored liqueur, optional

Place berries and sugar in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Place in a blender or food processor and puree. Add Triple Sec (if using) and lemon juice and strain mixture through a fine strainer. Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine

My rating:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rigatoni with Creamy Eggplant and Mozzarella

We drove back from Austin this morning after spending the weekend with Stephanie and David. We had a great time cooking our dinner together. We had the usual Spiral sliced Honey Ham, au Gratin Potatoes, Glazed Carrots, Roasted Asparagus and ended with a slice of cheesecake. It was a very delicious feast.

I turned to a pasta dish for dinner tonight with rigatoni as the base for a creamy tomato sauce with eggplant and finished with basil and fresh mozzarella. This is a fabulous pasta dish for a meatless Monday.

Rigatoni with Creamy Eggplant and Mozzarella (Serves 4)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 medium Japanese eggplant, medium dice (about 4 cups)
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 pound rigatoni
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, small dice

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook until just softened. Add eggplant, stir to coat in oil, then let cook, stirring rarely, until softened and golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove half eggplant mixture and reserve.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, cream, and half the basil, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld and sauce is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Drain pasta and return to the pot off the heat. Pour sauce over top and stir until well coated. Add reserved eggplant, remaining basil, and mozzarella and mix until the cheese starts to soften. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

My rating:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blackberry Jam

Since this was a long holiday weekend, Gerry and I decided to travel to Austin to spend the weekend with Steph and David. We hit the road yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a wonderful dinner out at Jack Allen's Kitchen last night. This was a new experience for us and we were not disappointed. Today we ventured out to South Congress Street to sample some of the Food Truck options that I have frequently seen featured on the Food Network. The variety of choices was really fun with three of us choosing Coat and Thai and one choosing Short Bus Subs. The food was very fresh and flavorful and the experience very much a part of the Austin food scene.

Tonight's dinner was a superb Broccoli and Cheese Risotto with marinated baked chicken which we cooked at home. This was a really wonderful meal that Steph and I enjoyed cooking together. What a joy to visit your children and cook a wonderful meal with them.

On another note, before we left Plano, my local supermarket had blackberries on sale so I bought a package to make sure they were really good which they were. I went back and bought lots more to make some jam with it. I recently made strawberry jam which used pectin as the thickening agent. This recipe had two ingredients - blackberries and sugar. I wanted to make it seedless, so I went out and bought a food mill which I thought would make the process a lot easier which it did. The trick to this kind of jam (without pectin) is in boiling it to the just right consistency. I also used a thermometer to help me judge when it was ready. I was really pleased with the way this came out and can't wait to try it with other berries.

Blackberry Jam (makes about 7 half-pint jars)

9 cups crushed berries
6 cups sugar

Combine berries and sugar in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to gelling point which means to boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes until the jam starts to drop off the side of a spoon in sheets rather than in drops. Another way to check it is to cook it until it registers 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Note: If seedless jam is preferred, crushed berries may be heated until soft and pressed through a sieve or food mill; measure pulp and proceed as above.

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving

Our rating:

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grill-Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

This is the recipe for the potatoes I served on Wednesday night with the Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken. These are a cinch to prepare and are a nice addition to any grilled meat dish. If you are already grilling the protein, you may as well grill the potatoes too.

I started with a 1 1/2 pound bag of small yellow potatoes which I scrubbed clean. They went into a pot, covered with water, salted and brought to a boil. I reduced the heat to allow the potatoes to simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. This par-boiling can be done early in the day but should be done about an hour before grilling time. It is much easier to slice cooled potatoes and they will hold their shape better. The sliced potatoes were tossed in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated before going on the grill (save oiled bowl). Once the potatoes are on the grill, add some lemon zest, chopped rosemary and minced garlic to the remaining olive oil in the bowl. Once the potatoes are golden and crispy, put them back in the bowl and toss again gently to coat with the herb mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Grill-Roasted Rosemary Potatoes (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds small yellow potatoes (each 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter, scrubbed
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of 1/2 lemon (finely zested)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Place potatoes in a large pot of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes (potatoes will not be completely cooked).

Drain potatoes well and allow to cool for at least an hour, preferably several hours, then cut in half. In a large bowl combine 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add potatoes and toss gently to coat.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Transfer potatoes to hot grill, letting excess oil drip into bowl (save bowl with oil). Add chopped rosemary, lemon zest and minced garlic along with the 1 tablespoon extra olive oil to the same bowl and stir to combine. Grill potatoes, covered, turning once or twice, until crispy and golden about 5-8 minutes.

As soon as potatoes come off the grill, add them to the bowl with the herbed oil and again toss gently to coat. Sneak a potato for taste testing and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.


Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine Blog

My rating:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lentil Sloppy Joes

I loved this dish the first time I prepared it and decided I needed to share it with everyone. This has the classic flavor of a wonderful Sloppy Joe but the meat is replaced with brown lentils. It is so flavorful you don't even realize the meat isn't there. I cooked the lentils earlier in the day so they would be ready for me as I pulled together the sauce at dinner time.

My menu for the day:
Breakfast - Oatmeal cooked in Vanilla Soy milk with chopped apples and raisins
Lunch - Cranberry-Avocado Salad with Candied Spiced Almonds, freshly baked Sourdough Bread
Dinner - Lentil Sloppy Joes, Kale Chips

All I had to do at dinner time is saute some onions and add garlic near the end of the saute time. Then I added some ketchup, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, ginger, Tabasco, salt and pepper and allowed the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes. The cooked lentils were added and simmered to warm through for a couple of minutes. I served these on hamburger buns.

I served my Kale Chips as our side dish.

Lentil Sloppy Joes (Serves 4)

1/2 cup brown lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
pinch ground ginger
Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
whole wheat buns, toasted
dill pickles
green leaf lettuce
red onion slices

Sort through the lentils, picking out stones or debris, then rinse lentils thoroughly. Add lentils and water to a saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat until lentils are tender but not mushy, 30-40 minutes. Drain and set lentils aside.

Saute onion in oil in a saute pan over medium heat until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute.

Add ketchup, syrup, mustard, vinegar, ginger, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce is thickened and darker in color, 8-10 minutes. Stir in lentils and simmer to warm through, 2-3 minutes.

Serve lentil mixture on buns with pickles, lettuce, and onions.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home for Two

My rating:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken Breasts

Do you ever have a day where you spend it doing what you love? Today was one of those days for me since I spent it in the kitchen feeding my passion for various food things. I started my day by tracking down a food mill so I could make my blackberry jam in a much quicker and easier fashion. Without the food mill, I was faced with the process of pressing 10 containers of blackberries though a sieve to strain out the seeds. Since I wanted to end up with 9 cups of blackberry puree, I decided the food mill was the way to go and I was definitely right. The ease of turning a handle back and forth versus pressing crushed berries through a sieve was remarkable. I added 7 jars of blackberry jam to my collection of strawberry jams. Since this particular jam had no pectin added to it, the process took quite a bit longer for it to get to the gelling point before canning. I loved the learning process.

I ended up with a couple of extra blackberry containers, so I decided to puree them in my new food mill and use the puree to make blackberry ice cream which turned out perfectly delicious. I'll try to post both of these recipes in the next few days.

I then realized that it was time to either feed my sourdough starter or start the process of making a couple of sourdough loaves. I chose to make the bread so at the moment I have two round sourdough loaves rising overnight in the refrigerator. They will be ready to pop in the oven first thing tomorrow morning.

In addition to all of this I tried a new recipe for dinner which turned out beautifully. I made Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken Breasts with Grilled Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and both were quite easy and very flavorful.

I started with taking bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves and pounding them (bones included) to about 1/2-inch thickness. I dried them off and set them on a rack on a baking sheet and into the refrigerator they went for a few hours.

I brought them out of the refrigerator just before I had Gerry light the grill and as I started the sauce. The chicken was brushed with canola oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled for about 5 minutes and once flipped over, the skin side was then basted with a barbecue sauce. The chicken continued to be flipped and based until tender and the sauce had caramelized.

This chicken dish is sure to make a frequent appearance on my menu this summer.

Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken Breasts (Serves 4)

4 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Sriracha

Rinse and dry the chicken. Trim any excess fat and place, skin side up between two heavy duty plastic bags. With a meat mallet, pound the chicken vigorously until flattened evenly and approximately 1/2 inch thick. Pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.

Meanwhile, combine the butter, sugar, lemon juice, marmalade, mustard, Sriracha and smoked paprika. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick. Transfer half of the sauce to a small bowl for basting and keep the remaining sauce warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Brush the skin of the chicken with the canola oil and season both sides generously with kosher salt and pepper. Clean and oil the grill grates. Place the chicken skin side down. Cover the grill and cook until the skin is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken so that the skin side is up and, using a basting brush, brush with some of the sauce. Cover and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Carefully turn the chicken again and brush underside with more sauce. Cover, lower heat a bit and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Turn chicken one more time and cook until done, about 4-5 minutes, or until the breasts register 150 degrees, checking to make sure the sauce isn't caramelizing too quickly. If it is, move the chicken to a part of the grill that has indirect heat.

(The temperature will continue to rise as the chicken rests). Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, brush with additional sauce, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with the reserved warms sauce.


Adapted from The Cafe Sucre Farine blog

My rating: