Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Phily Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Tonight's quick dinner came from a Cooking Light Fast and Fresh recipe.  Even though the sandwich looks decadent it was actually just under 400 calories which makes it a delicious treat.  This was really a quick and easy recipe to make as well.

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Makes 4 servings

Cheddar Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)
3/4 pound boneless sirlon steak
Cooking spray
2 cups total sliced green, yellow and red bell pepper strips
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (2 1/2-ounce) hoagie rolls

Prepare Cheddar Cheese Sauce

While sauce cooks, cut steak diagonally across the grain into 1/8-inch thick slices. 

Heat a large cast iron skillet 2 minutes over high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add steak, bell pepper, and onion to pan.  Sprinkle steak and vegetables with black pepper; saute 5 minutes or until meat is browned and vegetables are tender.  Drain.

Fill each roll with about 3/4 cup steak mixture.  Spoon about 3 tablespoons Cheddar Cheese Sauce over each sandwich.  Serve immediately.

Cheddar Cheese Sauce
About 3 tablespoons per serving

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Place flour in a small saucepan.  Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Cook over medium-high heat until thick (about 3 minutes), stirring frequently.  Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.  Stir in salt, pepper,  and onion powder. 

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light, Fresh Food Fast

My rating:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tortilla Soup

I have been making this soup for several years now and I have just realized I haven't shared this recipe yet.  It is one of my go-to soups... it's a beautifully creamy soup packed with flavor, spice, and protein from the chicken.  This particular tortilla soup is on the hearty side which is what I love about it.  The garnishes manage to put it just over the edge to perfection.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes 4 servings

6 tablespoons cooking oil
8 6-inch tortillas, halved and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch strips
1 onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
3 cups crushed tomatoes in thick puree, 28 oz. can
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
1 3/4 pounds chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 avocado, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/4 pound Cheddar cheese, grated
Lime wedges, for serving

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over moderately high heat.  Add half the tortilla strips and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining tortilla strips.

Reduce the heat to moderately low.  Add the onion, garlic and spices; cook, stirring for 5 minutes.  Add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro leaves, if using, and one-third of the tortilla strips.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook uncovered, for 30 minutes, remove the bay leaves.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches; pour it back into the pot.  Add the chicken, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook until just done, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the avocado.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with the remaining tortilla strips, and cheese.  Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, if using and serve with lime wedges.

From Food and Wine

My rating:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vegetarian Gyro Salad

I turned to a grain as one of the main components of the dinner salad we had tonight.  I have been wanting to try some of the ancient grains like farro and wheat berries and tonight we had the farro.  I really liked the texture of the farro in the salad.  This salad definitely had a Greek streak to it which I thought was wonderful.  I love all the ingredients in this salad individually and when blended together with the red wine vinaigrette it was perfectly flavored.

Vegetarian Gyro Salad
Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
1 zucchini, halved
4 pitas or flatbread (7-inch)
2 lemons, halved
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup sliced pepperoncini
1/3 cup pitted, halved kalamata olives
1/4 cup diced red onion

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard or place all ingredients in a tightly sealed jar and shake well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Salad:
Preheat the grill to medium-high.  Brush grill grate with oil.

Prepare farro according to package directions, then rinse.

Brush zucchini and pitas with the red wine vinaigrette.  Grill zucchini, covered, until tender, 5 minutes, pitas until toasted, and lemons until browned.  Slice zucchini halves into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, dill, feta, pepperoncini, olives and onion in a large bowl with farro, zucchini, and remaining vinaigrette; toss to coat.  Cut pita into wedges and add to salad.  Serve salad with lemon halves.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home

My rating:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Butternut Squash Crostini

This was a wonderful start to our Sunday night dinner - a toasted slice of a baguette topped with a thin slice of pancetta and topped with perfectly sauteed butternut squash.  When just about done, the squash got some sliced garlic and crushed red pepper added to round it out.  The final addition to the squash was an equal amount of sherry vinegar and honey.  This crostini was the perfect combination of sweet and spicy from the butternut squash mixture, the crunch from the crostini and the saltiness from the pancetta.  The garnish of fried sage leaves was the perfect ending.

Butternut Squash Crostini
Makes 4 servings

4 thin slices pancetta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 sage leaves
2 cups diced, peeled butternut squash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black peper
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
8 baguette slices, toasted

Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning once, until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towel, then break each piece in half.

Add the olive oil to the skillet.  Add the sage and fry until crisp, about 20 seconds.  Remove the sage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Discard all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet.

Increase the heat under the skillet to high.  Add the suash and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally until golden and tender, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute, then stir in the vinegar and honey.  Top the baguette slices with a piece of the fried pancetta, top with the squash mixture and finally place a fried sage leaf as a garnish.

Recipe from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013 

Our rating:


Friday, January 18, 2013

Rice Veracruz

The sunrise that I could see from the front of the motor home this morning in Destin was beautiful.  What a great way to start the day.

My post today is about the Rice Veracruz that was our side dish with the Chicken Tinga we had the other night.  This dish was so good it was worth a separate blog post.  It started with converted rice that was simply cooked in water.  It was then combined with sauteed onion, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, garlic and paprika.  It was finished with pimento-stuffed olives, parsley and capers.  Each bite was packed with a burst of flavor.

Rice Veracruz
Makes 4 servings

1 cup dry converted white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1/3 cup each diced onion, red bell pepper, and poblano chile pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare rice according to package directions using only water.

Saute onion, bell pepper, and poblano in oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until soft, about 3 minutes.  Stir in garlic and paprika; saute 1 minute more.

Off heat, stir in rice, olives, parsley, capers, salt and black pepper.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home online

Our rating:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roasted Beet Salad

I happen to love roasted beets and when combined with a salad with a flavorful honey mustard vinaigrette and topped with goat cheese...what could be better?  The addition of candied walnuts is the perfect crunchy bite to put it over the edge.  We have had this salad a few times in the past month and I devour every bite.  It is the perfect winter salad.

Roasted Beet Salad
Makes 4-6 servings

For the beets:
1 bunch medium beets (about 3)
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Salad:
10 ounces mixed greens (I like a blend of arugula and mixed baby greens)
3 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup candied walnuts, coarsely chopped

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

For the beets:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wipe or scrub beets clean, then trim stems down to one-inch (leave "tails" on).  Place beets on a large piece of foil; drizzle with olive oil, the wrap foil around them to form a neat packet.  Roast directly on rack in middle of oven until tender, about 1 hour.  Test for doneness by piercing the largest beet with a knife.  If it enters easily, it's done.  Unwrap beets and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Use your hands (I like to use rubber gloves) or a paring knife to peel skin, then cut into wedges.  I usually do this right on the aluminum foil but you can also use a stain-proof cutting board or plate.  While the beets are roasting, make vinaigrette.  Add half of dressing to warm beets and set aside.

For the vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, shallots, , salt and pepper.  Whisking constantly, slowly add the oil in a steady stream.  (Alternatively, add all your ingredients to a jar, cover with lid, and shake vigorously to blend.)  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

For the salad:
Place the greens in a large bowl, drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and toss to combine.  Add as much of the remaining vinaigrette as desired and toss again.  Divide greens onto plates, then sprinkle with beets, walnuts and goat cheese  (The reason you don't just mix it all together in a salad bowl is that the beets would cause the whole salad to turn pink.)  Serve immediately.

 Our rating:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chicken Tinga

This recipe had all the components of a dish that we would love.  It had the perfect amount of spicy heat and beautifully moist shredded chicken in it.  There is something special about the smoky heat from chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce that add a unique spice to whatever dish it is being added to.  Gerry and I both loved the heat level of this dish.  We served it with a side of rice veracruz and I will post that recipe tomorrow since it was aslo fabulous.

Chicken Tinga
Makes 4 servings

For the chicken:
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt added whole tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
1 dried ancho chile, seeded
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds total)

For the sauce:
2 cups sliced onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon sugar
4 cups husked and chopped tomatillos (about 1 pound)
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced

Lime wedges

For the chicken, combine tomatoes, broth, chopped chipotle and ancho in a saute pan over high heat.  Add chicken and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 12-15 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan, reserving tomato mixture.  When cool enough to handle, shred chicken with two forks.  Puree tomato mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth; set aside. 

For the sauce, saute onion in oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and sugar; cook until onions bgin to caramelize, 7-9 minutes.  Add tomatillos and minced chipotles.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer sauce until tomatillos are soft, 12-15 minutes.

Stir in shredded chicken and 1/2 cup of pureed tomato mixture (reserve the rest for another use); heat thoroughly.  Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Garnish servings with lime wedges.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home

My rating:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

I recently made this pie for dessert since I have always been intrigued with the idea of it.  Since we moved to Texas 17 years ago, buttermilk pie has cropped up in conversations here and there.    It is a southern dessert and it turned out beautifully.  It was definitely a dessert without being overly sweet.  It is really something different for the end of a meal.

Buttermilk Pie
Makes 8 servings

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg

For the filling:
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the dough:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour.  Process in short bursts until the butter is the size of the peas.  Add the egg and process in long pulses, about 5-7 seconds until the dough has started to clump.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough onto the surface.  Using the plastic wrap and the back of your hands, gently press the dough into a disk.  Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  If refrigerated overnight, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle, flouring the dough and surface as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it over a 9-inch pie plate.  Trim the excess dough from the pie plate and crimp the edges.  Place pie crust in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Line the pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool completely.  Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

For the filling:
Place the cooled pie plate on a baking sheet. 

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and lemony in color.  Gradually add the flour to the egg mixture.  Mix in butter.  Dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk and add to the egg mixture.  Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla.

Pour in the prebaked pie shell and bake for 8 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes or until the pie is set.  Cool completely.  The filling will fall.  Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh berries or both.  Enjoy!

Recipe from the Gourmet

Our rating:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sweet and Savory Coconut Rice

What makes this coconut rice is using some coconut milk.  I tend to use lite coconut milk unless instructed specifically to use whole milk.  The other part of this recipe is that the coconut milk is diluted with water and a splash of vinegar and a little sugar are added giving it that perfect blend of sweet and savory.  I have made this rice a few times now and it is always delicious.

Sweet and Savory Coconut Rice
Makes 8 servings

2 cups white or jasmine rice
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Splash of white vinegar
2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onions, plus chopped green onion tops
Black pepper to taste

Combine rice, coconut milk, water, salt, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and cover for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Allow to stand 5 minutes.  Add chopped green onion bottoms, black pepper (if desired), and additional salt if necessary.

Garnish with green onion tops and serve immediately.

Recipe from Our Best Bites Cookbook

Our rating:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Spicy Honey Chicken

This has become one of my favorite chicken recipes since it has the perfect combination of spice and sweetness.  It starts with some boneless, skinless chicken thighs that are rubbed with a spice mixture before going on the grill.  During the last few minutes of grill time, it got a glaze of honey with cider vinegar.  The flavor contrasts on this chicken is what made it the perfect bite.  If you're looking for a new twist on chicken, then I recommend you give this recipe a shot.

Our sides were Sweet and Savory Coconut Rice and oven roasted asparagus.  I'll share the rice recipe soon, since it too was a keeper.

Spicy Honey Chicken
Makes 2-3 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

Preheat grill to medium-high heat or about 400 degrees.

Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl.

Trim any visible fat off the chicken thighs, rinse, and pat dry with a paper towel.  Drizzle oil over chicken and rub it in with your hands.  Rub the spice rub into the chicken thighs.  Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side.

For the glaze:  while the chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave for about 15 seconds.  Whisk in vinegar.  Reserve 1 tablespoon glaze and brush the rest on the chicken in the final moments of cooking.  Remove chicken from the grill and allow to stand 3-5 minutes.  Drizzle reserved tablespoon of glaze over the chicken while it is standing. 

Slightly adapted from Our Best Bites Cookbook

Our rating:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leg of Lamb with Roasted Garlic and Mint

Do you remember the meat counter I mentioned at the local grocery store?  Well, in addition to the veal scallopine I purchased they also had boneless leg of lamb in decent sizes for a small dinner.  The recipe called for a boneless leg of lamb of 3 to 3 1/2 pounds and the one I found was just under 3 pounds.  The advantage was that it was also a boneless leg of lamb.  We know from experience, how much easier it is to buy a boneless leg of lamb rather than trying to bone it yourself.

This leg of lamb was simply prepared with a paste of roasted garlic with fresh herbs added and rubbed over the butterflied leg of lamb and the rest of the paste rubbed over the outside  of the leg before being grilled.

The components of the paste penetrated every bite of the lamb packing each mouthful with a punch of flavor.  I served the lamb with sides of buttermilk mashed potatoes and oven roasted carrots.

Leg of Lamb with Roasted Garlic and Mint
Makes 6 servings


2 medium heads of garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground blak pepper

1 boneless leg of lamb, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, butterflied

To make the paste: 
Remove the loose, papery outer skin from the heads of garlic.  Using a sharp knife, cut about 1/2 inch off the top to expose the cloves.  Place each garlic head on a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the cloves.  Fold up the foil sides and seal to make a packet, leaving a little room for the expansion of steam.  Grill over Indirect Medium heat until the cloves are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Alternatively, roast the foil wrapped packets of garlic in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic cloves into a medium bowl.  Add the remaining paste ingredients, including the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Using the back of a fork, or a mortar and pestle, thoroughly combine the ingredients to create a paste.

Carefully remove any excess fat and sinew from both sides of the lamb and lay it, skin side down on a flat surface.  It should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Spread half of the paste over one side of the lamb and roll the lamb tightly into a long cylinder.  Usting twine, tie the lamb at 2-inch intervals.  Trim off the loose ends of twine  Spread the remaining half of the paste over the outside of the lamb.  If not grilling immediately, cover and refrigerate.  Allow the lamb to stand at room temperature 30 to 40 minutes before grilling.

Sear the lamb over direct medium heat until brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes, turning as necessary (if flare-ps occur, move the lamb temporarily over indirect medium heat heat).  Move the lamb over indirect medium heat and continue grilling to desired doneness, 1 to 1 1/4 hours more for medium-rare.  Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove the twine.  Cut the lamb crosswise into 1/4-inch slices and serve warm.

Adapted from Weber's Real Grilling

Our rating:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Veal Marsala

I happen to love veal and I find it unusual these days to find veal scallopine in the meat case of a grocery store.  I have been shopping at a local Publix store here in Fort Walton Beach and they had several packages of veal scallopine and so one found its way into my shopping cart.  I usually make veal parmagiana but since we just had Pasta Bolognese, I decided to make Veal Marsala (another favorite).  Flavorful slices of veal, quickly sauteed, covered with sauteed mushrooms with shallots and garlic and smothered with a Marsala sauce...YUM!

I served the veal with egg noodles and steamed French green beans.

Veal Marsala
Makes 4 servings

4 pieces of veal scallopine
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of assorted mushrooms (portobello, button, oyster, etc.)
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup of Marsala wine
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

In a large frying pan, saute mushrooms in oil and 1 teaspoon of butter for about 1 minute.

Add garlic and shallots for about 2 minutes.  Remove from pan, set aside and keep warm.

Dredge veal in flour, salt and pepper.

Add remaining butter to skillet and saute veal for about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan.  Add wine to deglaze the pan and reduce about 5 minutes.  Stir to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the cream and stir occasionally for about 1 minute.

Plate veal, top with mushrooms.  Then pour over the wonderful sauce and garnish with parsley.

Recipe adapted from Great Italian

Our rating:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Weeknight Bolognese

I happened to have the Food Network on while Gerry and I had lunch yesterday.  The episode we watched was the Barefoot Contessa making a weeknight Bolognese and Gerry requested that I put it on this week's menu.  Since he so rarely requests something, I decided to go with his choice for tonight.  Ina's recipe is wonderful, it is hearty and flavorful without being too heavy.  The sauce is made with ground sirloin, garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper and red wine.  Of course, it has crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and salt and pepper.  It is finally finished with basil, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.  I rounded out the sauce by letting the cooked pasta shells finish cooking in the sauce.  I simply garnished with a little more grated Parmesan cheese.

Weeknight Bolognese
Makes 4-5 servings

2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown.  Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute.  Pour 1 cup of wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and cook according to the directions on the package.

While the past cooks, finish the sauce.  Ad the basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the suce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.  When the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the sauce to allow to heat together.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well.  Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Our rating:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sauteed Red Snapper

In our travels in the motor home, we never know what to expect.  When we left the DFW area after the holidays, we ran into a couple of snags which delayed our travels.  We ended up in Port Arthur, Texas waiting for a part that had to be ordered.  The fact that it broke on a Sunday morning did not help our case in trying to find a replacement.  The next day was New Year's Eve day and further delayed our options in ordering our part.  With the delays of the weekend and holiday it ended up taking 9 days to get and have installed the needed part.  We are thrilled to be on the road again.  We are now in Fort Walton Beach, Florida which is just west of Destin. 

We arrived yesterday afternoon and will be here for a week.  We checked out a couple of local fish markets while we scoped out the area yesterday and I decided on red snapper fillets for dinner tonight.  The local fish markets had an ample supply of whole red snappers which looked absolutely fabulous and so I knew the snapper fillets would be impeccably fresh. 

I decided on a very simple process for the fish so that we would be able to simply enjoy the taste of the snapper.  It turned out very well as far as the taste of the fish, however I did fail to get a crispy fish skin in the process which is one thing I was aiming for.  The fish itself was superb, but I think the contrast of the crispy skin would have elevated the dish to a whole different level.  I can't wait to buy another fillet and experiment with the right pans, oils, and temperatures to achieve that crispy skin.  I'll keep you posted when I succeed.

I served the fish fillets with simply boiled red potatoes and oven roasted broccoli.

Sauteed Red Snapper
Makes 4 servings

1 red snapper fillets (10 to 12 ounces), with skin
Coarse salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil

Cut the snapper fillet in half crosswise.  Season flesh with salt and cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet (I used my stainless steel All-Clad) over medium-high heat until hot (but not smoking).  Place snapper fillets, skin sides down, in skillet, pressing on fish with a spatula for 1 minute to prevent curling.  Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Flip, and cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes minutes more.

Slight adapted from Martha

Our rating:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Homemade Boursin Cheese

I love those little packages of Boursin cheese and so I knew I had to try this recipe when I came across it.  It is very simply made with cream cheese (I used light), butter, herbs and some grated garlic.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy the homemade version.  I love the fact that I can control the amount of processed ingredients we consume on a routine basis.

Homemade Boursin Cheese
Makes about 1 1/2 cups cheese

1 (8-ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4-ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 medium clove of garlic, finely grated on a microplane
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt to taste

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  (You can do this by hand or with a handheld mixer).  Add the garlic and herbs and mix until thoroughly combined.  Season  to taste with kosher salt.  Transfer to a small crock or airtight container.  Refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight to allow the flavors to develop.  Serve at room temperature with baguette slices, crackers, crudite, or use in your favorite recipe.  Enjoy!

Adapted from The Galley

My rating:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mini Cream Cheese Crab Cakes

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know my recent delight with crab meat.  I love crab cakes and dishes made with crab meat and have often been disappointed with the quality of the seafood.  Within the past year, I found that buying jumbo lump crab meat at Central Market gave me superb results and buying crab meat from a little street side fish market in Port Aransas, also brought me wonderful results.  This week we tried a few fish items from our local grocery store and since all the fish we purchased was quite fresh, I decided to try the crab meat.  Once again the results were good but not as spectacular as I would have hoped.  It all comes down to the impeccable freshness of the ingredients.  I will try this recipe again with better crab meat since I believe the recipe to be sound.

Mini Cream Cheese Crab Cakes
Makes 24

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream, light or full fat
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
8 ounces fresh lump or special crabmeat, picked over, patted dry if overly wet
1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan, melted
Lemon wedges

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand held mixer until smooth.  Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and egg; beat to blend.  Beat in sour cream, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of chives, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Fold in crabmeat.  (Mixture can be made 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a 24-cup mini muffin pan; set aside .

In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, the remaining Parmesan, and the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped chives.  Drizzle the 5 tablespoons of melted butter over, tossing with a fork until evenly moistened.  Press 1 tablespoon of the panko mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, pressing down with the back of the tablespoon forming a shallow cup.  Divide the crab mixture (about 1 tablespoon) evenly into each muffin cup.  Sprinkle the remaining panko mixture over each cup.

Bake crab cakes until golden on top and set, about 30 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Run a knife around each cake and gently life out of the pan.  (Crab cakes can be made 2 hours ahead.  arrange on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature.  Rewarm in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes)

Arrange crab cakes on a serving platter; garnish with chives.  Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco.

Recipe from The Galley

Our rating:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Baked Tilapia with Arugula Walnut Pesto and Breadcrumbs

Since we both love fish, I decided this recipe was perfect for tonight.  It was simply baked tilapia fillets coated with an arugula pesto and coated with seasoned breadcrumbs.  This was a very simple recipe to prepare and the results packed a punch of flavor.  I served it over a bed of couscous which was the perfect combination.  The final touch was a squirt of fresh lemon juice on the plate before eating. 

Baked Tilapia with Arugula Walnut Pesto and Breadcrumbs
Makes 4 servings

For the pesto:
2 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup raw walnuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 For the tilapia:
4 (6 ounce each) tilapia fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the pesto:
In a bowl of a food processor or a blender, briefly pulse arugula leaves.  Add chopped, toasted walnuts and minced garlic.

Pulse several times until mixture is finely chopped, but still with some texture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necesary.

Add finely grated Parmesan cheese, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

With the motor running, slowly pour in extra-virgin olive oil and run until combined.

For the tilapia:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Lay the tilapia fillets in the baking dish and spread 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto on top of each fillet.

Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.  Top the tilapia with the seasoned breadcrumbs.

Bake until the tilapia is just cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe from

My rating:


Friday, January 4, 2013

Chili with Chickpeas and Acorn Squash

I found this recipe on Cooking Light which I am trying to focus on a little more with the new year.  The original recipe called for either bison or lean ground sirloin but I used the groud sirloin since I couldn't find the bison where we are.  I like the way this chili was put together by starting with a couple dried ancho chiles brought to a simmer in beef broth and allowed to simmer for 10 minutes.  The simmered chiles, with the broth were then pureed with 1/2 pound of fresh mushrooms.  This mixture was added to the browned beef a little later in the process adding a nice layer of flavor.  The other unusual addition to this chili was the addition of chopped acorn squash and canned chickpeas bringing the nutritional level up.

When following the serving size of 1 1/2 cups of chili with 1 tablespoon light sour cream and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, the calories come in at just under 300.  This bowlful of deliciousness did not taste like 300 calories.   The only downside to this recipe was that you need to allow a couple of hours to make it.

Chili with Chickpeas and Acorn Squash
Makes 8 servings (about 1 1/2 cups chili, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley)

2 dried ancho chiles
2 cups unsalted beef stock
1 (8-ounce) package fresh cremini mushrooms
Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds 90% lean ground bison or ground sirloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark Mexican beer
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed, peeled acorn squash
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Combine chiles and stock in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn heat off and allow to stand for 10 minutes.  Remove stems.  Combine chile mixture and mushrooms in a blender; process until smooth.

Heat a Dutch oven over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add bison or ground sirloin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook 6 minutes or until brown, stirring to cumble.  Remove meat from pan.  Reduce heat to medium-high, add onion and bell pepper to pan; saute 5 mintes.  Stir in garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add chili powder, oregano, coriander, and cumin; saute 30 seconds.  Return browned meat to pan.  Stir in beer; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  Stir in mushroom mixture and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.  Stir in squash and chickpeas; simmer 45 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 

Top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream and 1 tablespoon parsley.

Slightly adapted from Cooking

Our rating:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Garden Vegetable Soup

I made a wonderful vegetable soup for lunch today which is a Weight Watcher recipe.  Not only was it packed with vegetables, but it was also low in calories.  It was a complete win-win recipe.  This is a freebie point value recipe for Weight Watchers.  If you are counting calories, it comes in at about 20 calories per serving.

Garden Vegetable Soup
Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/4 cup diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
3 cups fat free chicken broth
1 cup diced green cabbage
1 cup chopped spinach
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced zucchini

Spray a large saucepan with nonstick cooking spray, heat.  Saute the carrot, onion, and garlic over low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, cabbage, spinach, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the zucchini, and cook 3-4 minutes more.  Serve hot.

Adapted from

Our rating:


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Classic Fried Chicken

I have been craving comfort foods lately and this classic fried chicken recipe certainly fell in the comfort food category.  This was the best fried chicken I have ever made and I have been cooking for 38 plus years, so that says a lot right there.  It is a recipe that I will probably wait a whole year to make again since it is totally not the healthy kind of food I usually strive for.   Just for the record, it was worth every calorie and bit of fat consumed in the process.

Since I cooked it on my stovetop in a large skillet, I oven roasted our side dish of potatoes, carrots and onions.  I must admit that I did miss my mashed potatoes with my fried chicken.

Classic Fried Chicken
Makes 4-6 servings

1 3-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces or 3 pounds of chicken pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart buttermilk
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
3 cups all purpose white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for frying
vegetable shortening, for frying

Season the chicken generously with salt and black pepper; place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, bay leaf, garlic and thyme in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add the chicken, makng sure the pieces are submerged.  Seal and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

Mix the flour, baking powder, paprika, onion powder, cayenne, 3 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a resealable bag.

Fill a deep 12-inch heavy skillet halfway with equal parts vegetable oil and shortening.  Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees.

Remove about half of the chicken pieces from the buttermilk mixture, letting the excess drip off.  Transfer to the bag of seasoned flour; seal and shake to thoroughly coat.  Remove from the bag, shake off any excess flour and transfer to a rack.

Carefully lower the coated chicken into the oil.  The temperature will drop to 300 degrees to 325 degrees; adjust the heat to maintain this temperature so the crust doesn't burn before the meat is cooked.  Fry, undisturbed, 2 to 3 minutes to set the crust, then carefully lift with tongs to check the browning; continue to fry, turning as needed, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 14 more minutes for smaller pieces and 14 to 16 more minutes for larger ones.  (A thermometer should register 160 degrees in the breasts and 170 degrees in the thighs and drumsticks.)

Remove the chicken to a clean rack to drain, sprinkle with salt and let rest a few minutes.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

From Food Network Online

Our rating:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beouf Bourguignon

Beef in Burgundy can you go wrong?  This is a classic french dish and Julia Child's favorite.  I chose a Barefoot Contessa version to try for tonight's dinner.  I do love Julia's classic recipes, but sometimes I like the current touches that Ina puts on classic recipes.  Although the two recipes are very similar, Ina speeds up the process a little instead of the very intricate step by step process that Julia lays out.  In the end these are both fabulous dishes and unless I were tasting them side by side, I might be able to determine a sure winner.

Beouf Bourguignon
Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, slices
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth (or homemade beef broth)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole pearl onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:
Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with a cut garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol.  Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices.  Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat.  Add the tomato paste and thyme.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew.  Add the frozen onions.  Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew.  Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven.  Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic.  For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.