Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seared Scallops with Tomato Cream Linguine

Last night Brady and I accomplished something that we are both very proud of, we successfully made scallops for the first time. To be fair I should say that Brady cooked them and I watched as he pan seared them to perfection. He didn't overcook them, under cook them, burn them, or mess them up in some way that would have caused disappointment after shelling out $14 for them.  Let me just say it again, they were perfect.  Maybe it was the fact that Brady watched various tutorials on how to cook scallops (kind of nerdy but apparently helpful), whatever it was, they turned out great.

Apprehension about cooking the scallops aside, this recipe was incredibly easy and quick to toss together.  Plus it was adapted from a Cooking Light recipe so it's relatively healthy.  The sauce on the pasta is a very light cream sauce with a hint of lime and ginger which really compliment the sweetness of the scallops.  What we realized and what I think the real key to the success of this dish is, plan to under cook the scallops because they will continue to cook once you take them off the heat and in turn they will be cooked perfectly!

 Seared Scallops with Tomato Cream Linguine
** adapted from Framed Cooks who adapted a Cooking Light recipe.
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. minced shallots
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. fresh minced ginger
2 T. whipping cream
1 T. butter
1 plum tomato, chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. linguine
3/4 pound large sea scallops
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Combine the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, start boiling a large pot of water for the linguine. Once the wine mixture is boiling let it cook till reduced to about a 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes).  Drain mixture into a bowl, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

Once the large pot of water is boiling, add linguine and cook for about 8 minutes, or until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking return wine mixture to the saucepan and add cream, cooking over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until melted.  Add chopped tomato and season with salt and pepper.  Reduce to low.

Heat a large skillet, adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel and then season with salt and pepper.  Once the pan is good and hot arrange the scallops in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.

Drain the pasta water, leaving about 1/4 cup water remaining in the pan. Stir in the tomato cream sauce.  Dish pasta into bowls, top with a few scallops and garnish with chopped parsley.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Greek Stuffed Chicken

The other night Brady and I both wanted to make dinner but we were not in the mood for anything too labor intensive.  Brady found a recipe for Greek Stuffed Chicken on the We Are Not Martha blog and it sounded perfect. Their recipe used words like "a handful of," "a bunch of," and "a splash of"- no measuring required, just tossing stuff in a bowl and spooning it into a piece of chicken.  This recipe is about as easy as it gets, in terms of effort level it's just a step above opening the freezer and pulling out a Lean Cuisine.  Besides being easy to prepare the stuffed chicken tasted great!

Greek Stuffed Chicken
** adapted from We Are Not Martha
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes 

half a red onion, chopped
small roma tomato, chopped
a handful of feta cheese, crumbled
a bunch of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
handful of parsley, chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Cut slits in both chicken breasts, being careful not to cut all the way through. Spoon the onion/tomato/cheese mixture into the chicken breasts. Season the chicken breasts with pepper. 

Cover a small pan or baking dish with foil. Spray the pan with PAM cooking spray. Place the stuffed chicken breasts on the pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pozole Verde (Tomatillo and Hominy Braised Pork)

Recently my brother and I took a cooking class at the Chopping Block.  The Chopping Block offers two types of classes, Hands-On or Demonstration.  We opted for the demonstration class so we could relax with a drink while the demonstrating chef prepared the food for us.  I really like this option because in watching the chef I can pay more attention to what they are doing, ask questions about the products and techniques and just enjoy a night out of the kitchen!

We took the Slow Cooking class which was great because all of the recipes could be used in a crock pot for all day cooking or on the stove on low for a few hours.  The Pozole Verde was by far my favorite dish.  It was hearty and perfect for a cold winter night. The demonstrating chef showed us how to make this on the stove using a Le Creuset pot but also said that the recipe would work in a crock pot for 8 hours.  I like the idea of using the crockpot but there is definitly some prep work beforehand, this is not one of those dishes where you can toss everything in to the crock pot, turn it on and 8 hours later you are ready to go.

I made this dish last Sunday, opting for the stovetop version. I can't imagine spending $200 on Le Creuset so I used my fake Le Creuset pot from Marshalls and it turned out great!  My only problem with the dish was that there could have been more sauce. When we had the dish at the Chopping Block it was a bit soupier so I have slightly modified the directions so you have a little more sauce. 

Pozole Verde (Tomatillo and Hominy Braised Pork)
** modified from the Chopping Block Cooking School
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Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes or up to 8 hours in a crockpot

For the Sauce
3small onions
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 to 2 jalapeno's, quartered (leave the seeds in if you want more spice)

2 T. grapeseed oil (or canola oil) ** Don't use olive oil because you need an oil with a larger heat factor
2 pounds pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2 inch cubes (I had the butcher do this for me)
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin

2 poblano peppers, roasted and cut into strips
1 28 oz. can hominy, drained
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

To prepare the sauce set the broiler on high. Place onions, garlic, tomatillos, and jalapeno peppers on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler and cook, turning occasionally until nicely charred, about 6 minutes.  Remove the tray from the oven and transfer items to a blender and puree until smooth.  Set the sauce aside.

To prepare the pork, heat a heavy pot over medium high heat and add oil (just enough to cover the bottom).  Season pork with salt and pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown. Once brown remove pork from the pan and set aside. You may need to do this in multiple batches because you don't want to overcrowd the meet, I did three batches.

Once the meat has all been seared, reduce the heat to medium low and deglaze the pan with the tomatillos sauce, scraping up any bits of pork. Stir in the cumin and then add the pork back to the meat. Allow to cook on medium low for 2 hours.  Or if you were using this crock pot, this is the point where you would add everything to the crockpot and set on low for 6-8 hours.

To roast the pobablo peppers, set the oven to broil.  Cut the poblano peppers in half and place on a baking sheet.  Broil the peppers until slightly charred, about 6 minutes.  Place the peppers in a paper bag for 10 minutes and then take them out and remove the skin.  Cut the peppers into strips and set aside.

After 2 hours, or a 1/2 hour before serving if using the crock pot method, add the hominy and poblano peppers. Right before serving fold in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pretzel Rolls

I am a huge fan of pretzel rolls.  I honestly deem some restaurants as better solely on the fact that they have pretzel rolls on the menu (having sweet potato fries is also a huge plus). Jerry's, my favorite sandwich shop here in Chicago, serves over 100 different types of sandwiches, all of which can be made on a pretzel roll and they have sweet potato fries, can't beat that!

Last year I came across a recipe for pretzel rolls on Smitten Kitchen and knew I had to give them a shot.  The first time I made the recipe I was pretty certain it would be a failure, everyone talks about how hard it is to work with yeast, my expectations were definitely very low.  I was pleasantly surprised when they worked and tasted exactly the way they were supposed to.  Plus they were incredibly easy and require only basic baking ingredients. I have made these about a half dozen times since then and every time they work. I am going to make a very bold statement and say this is a no-fail recipe, if you follow the directions, you will end up with perfect pretzel rolls!

Pretzel Rolls
** found on Smitten Kitchen, originally posted in Bon Appetite
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Serves 8
Prep/Bake Time: 1 hour 30 mins

2 3/4 c. bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c. plus 2 T. hot water (125 to 130 degrees)
8 c. water
1/4 c. baking soda
2 T. sugar
1 egg white, beaten
Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, envelope of yeast, teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed slot, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease a medium size bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let dough rise in warm area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

Clear area of counter and sprinkle with flour. Lightly kneed dough on floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Place dough on baking sheet, flattening each slightly, and then use a serrated knife to cute X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes. While you are waiting for dough to rise, boil 8 cups of water in a large saucepan.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Once dough as risen, add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up) to the boiling water. Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Use a slotted spoon to flip and then transfer the rolls to the prepared baking sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining 4 rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pomegranate-Ginger Pork Chops

I'm shocked I am just now posting a pork chop recipe.  Not only are pork chops healthy, but they are great for weeknight dinners because of the short cooking time and are incredibly cheap.  Brady (a huge fan of pork chops) recently found this recipe on We Are Not Martha and not only was the dish a success but the recipe provided some much needed instruction on how to remove pomegranate seeds.  

Last week when I made the Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip cookies I could have really used the instructions that We Are Not Martha provided on how to remove the pomegranate seeds.  My kitchen honestly looked like a crime scene, and the white sweatshirt I was wearing (not smart on my part) did not fare well.  To view the instructions click here.

Pomegranate-Ginger Pork Chops
** modified from We Are Not Martha
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Serves 3
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

4 oz POM juice
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 T. light soy sauce
3 tsp ginger, minced
3 tsp garlic (3 cloves), minced
3 boneless pork chops
1/2 fresh pomegranate, opened with seeds removed

Over medium heat, mix POM juice, sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes in a medium size saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until a thick syrup forms (about 10 minutes). Set the syrup aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, ginger, and garlic and set aside. Open the pomegranate and remove seeds (use the instructions provided above). 

Add some olive oil to a medium size skillet and heat on medium-high.  Add the pork chops and spoon half of the soy-garlic-ginger mixture on top of each.  Cook for about 4 minutes. Then flip and spoon the remaining sauce over each pork chop.  Cook for another 4 minutes. Remove the pork chops from the skillet.  Turn off the heat and add the syrup mixture to the skillet, stir for a couple of minutes to thicken and scrape up any pork bits.

Spoon the syrup over each of pork chop (you'll have more sauce then you probably need) and sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I may have failed to mention this, but I love soup. I have tossed around the idea of opening a restaurant serving primarily soup for years- my only dilemma, what do you do during the summer???  Because of this concern and a million others I don't see my business plan coming together anytime soon...I think for the time being I will stick to working on the menu for my imaginary restaurant- that part sounds like the most fun anyway!

If I were to open a soup restaurant here is a soup that I would most definitely include on the menu.  My mom passed along this recipe and it's great.  I love that the dish tastes hearty yet it's also healthy and easy to make.  Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and you have a great winter meal.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
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Serves 6
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

8 c. water
5-6 chicken bouillon cubes
3 c. diced chicken
2 c. diced carrots
2 c. diced celery
1 box instant wild rice
2 T. butter
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Boil water and bouillon. Add carrots and celery and cook until done. Add the wild rice and seasoning packet and cook accordingly to directions on box. In a skillet, cook mushrooms in butter and then remove. Add chopped onions to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, onions, and cooked chicken to pot with broth and rice.

* To give soup a more homemade taste you can use a roast chicken, remove the meat and then boil the bones in the pot of water with the bouillon cubes, this will give the soup more flavor. Just make sure to remove the bones before adding in the vegetables, rice and chicken.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chicken Quesadilla with Cranberry Salsa

I was so happy to come across this Cooking Light recipe a while back.  Chicken Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa was a favorite dish of mine at Coyote Grill, a Southwest-inspired restaurant in Kansas City. I had tried to recreate the dish but it just never turned out quite as good.  Then I found this recipe and honestly it is just as good, if not better!

Chicken Quesadillas with Cranberry Salsa
** Adapted from Cooking Light
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 c. whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. chopped green onions
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Anjou pear, cored and finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 c. sliced green onions
3/4 c. shredded light Monterey Jack cheese
4 (8 in. four tortillas)
1 cups chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)

To prepare salsa, combine first 7 ingredients. Cover and chill.

To prepare quesadillas, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add 1/4 cup sliced onions to pan; saute for about 3 minutes or until tender. Remove onions from the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and coat skillet with cooking spray. Add a tortilla to the pan, top with half the cheese, half the chicken, and half the green onions, and another tortilla.  Cook for about 2 minutes and then carefully flip and cook the other side for an additional 2 minutes are until the cheese is melted.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges and serve with the cranberry salsa.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's holiday baking season!  I love this time year and all of the good food and fun festivities it brings. The other day I came across a recipe for these cookies on Two Peas and Their Pod and I thought it sounded like the perfect recipe to kick off my holiday baking.  I made them last night and brought them into work for a friends birthday and came home with empty tupperware, a sure sign that they were a winner!  The cookies were soft and chewy and the combination of the white chocolate and pomegranate seeds was unique and a nice change from the typical holiday cookies I usually make. 

Pomegranate White Chocolate Chip Cookies
** from Two Peas and Their Pod
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Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. white chocolate chips, or white chocolate chunks
1 c. pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

In bowl, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Stir in the oats and white chocolate chips. Spoon dough, about 1 tablespoon per cookie, onto the cookie sheet. Tuck about 6 pomegranate seeds in each cookie.  (I know seems tedious but it's the only to keep the dough from turning pink). Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on cookie sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Grilled Halibut with Fennel Puree

During our recent trip to Seattle Brady and I ate at the excellent restaurant Tilth. Chef Maria Hines, a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award, menu focuses on organic sustainable foods. We had the Chefs Tasting Menu and everything that we ate was absolutely delicious.  One of my favorite dishes was grilled halibut served over a fennel puree. I have been wanting to recreate this dish ever since we had it back in September, we finally made the dish on Sunday night and it turned out great!

If you haven't checked out the William-Sonoma site they have a huge collection of recipes. I recently came across a halibut dish on their website and thought that it would be similar to what we had at Tilth. The William-Sonoma recipe included a recipe for fennel puree but I already had a Giada DeLaurentis recipe that  I had been meaning to try.  I mixed the two recipes and while it wasn't quite the same caliber as Maria Hines dish it was definitely a success.

Grilled Halibut with Fennel Puree
** Adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Food Network
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

Grilled Halibut
2 skinless halibut fillets, each about 6 oz. and 1 inch thick
1 T. olive oil
1 T. chopped fresh chervil, plus more for garnish (or parsley if you can't find chervil)
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Fennel Puree
2 large fennel bulbs
1 medium potato
2 garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 cups milk
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (you could substitute light cream cheese)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Brush the halibut fillets with the olive oil. In a small bowl, stir together the chervil, fennel seeds, orange zest, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the halibut fillets, distributing it evenly so that all sides are seasoned. Set aside while you prepare the fennel puree.

Trim the fennel bulbs of their stalks and bottom root. Halve the fennel and slice each half into 1/4-inch thick slices. Peel the potato, halve, and thinly slice. Place the fennel, potatoes, garlic, chicken broth, and milk in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue cooking until the fennel and potatoes are soft, about 20 to 30 minutes.

When the fennel is about cooked heat a grill pan and lightly coat with olive oil. Grill the halibut fillets, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 4 minutes per side.

Once fennel is soft, drain the liquid. Place the fennel mixture in a food processor or use an immersion blender and puree.  Add the mascarpone cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish the fish with chervil and serve immediately with the fennel puree alongside.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A West Coast Thanksgiving

Yesterday I came home from a week long family vacation in California. I didn't do any of the traditional Thanksgiving cooking this year but I did a lot of eating so I thought it was still blog worthy.  Our trip started in Sonoma County where we explored beautiful wineries and took a hands-on cooking class at Relish. The cooking class was definitely one of the the highlights of the trip for me. It was great that while we were miles away from home my family could still spend the evening in the kitchen together. 

                                                 Chateau Ste. Michelle, Sonoma County

                                                       Ferrari-Carano, Sonoma County

The theme of the class was Moroccan and my family and I, as well as a few other couples, prepared a meal consisting of Moroccan Flatbread, Pomegranate Glazed Moroccan Lamb with Dried Apricots and Bay Leaves, Halibut and Pumpkin Tangine with Chickpeas and Oil-cured Olives, Saffron-Orange Couscous, and a Fig-Orange Tart with Pistachio Crust for dessert. I thought all of the food turned out delicious but I will tweak a few things when preparing these items again and at that point I promise to share the recipes!

From Sonoma we headed to San Francisco where we spent two days exploring the city.  We ate steamed Dungeness crab at Fisherman's Wharf, sampled Sourdough Bread at Boudin Bakery, had fresh pasta at Trattoria Pinocchio in Little Italy and awesome fish tacos at Fog City Diner. We also explored China Town which was a very eye opening experience, ie. grocery stores with roasted ducks, chickens and other unknown small birds hanging in the store front.  

       This is as close as I came to seeing turkey this Thanksgiving!
                                                        Chinese Fortune Cookie Factory

After spending two days in San Francisco we flew down to Orange County where I had ample opportunities to enjoy more fish tacos.  Unfortunately the weather was too cool to take full advantage of the beach but we bundled up to walk the trails along the beach and watched as surfers braved the cold.  We drove along Pacific Coast Highway and explored Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point,.  I think the highlight of the trip for my brother was when he spotted Lauren, aka LC, Conrad's parents home from back in her Laguna Beach days.  That was as close as we got to a celebrity spotting...

While this was not our traditional Thanksgiving spent at my Grandmas house eating turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie it was a fun trip exploring a part of the country I had never been and it was so nice to be with my family.  I am now looking forward to what the rest of the holiday season will bring- making Christmas cookies, walking through Lincoln Park Zoo's Christmas light display and a traditional Christmas at my Grandma's!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweet & Sour Pork

Stir fry is a great dinner option because it's fast, healthy and always satisfying.  There isn't much to the stir fry I typically make: pieces of cut up chicken, frozen stir fry vegetables from Costco and House of Tsang Szachuan Spicy Stir Fry Sauce.  Pretty simple, basically a step above dialing for take out.  I have collected numerous recipes for Chinese take-out inspired dishes and have all of the standard sauce ingredients, I really don't have an excuse but pure laziness. 

Last week Brady found a recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork on Handle the Heat. It sounded great and I was very excited to make a stir fry dish that didn't involve frozen vegetables and jarred sauce.  We gave it a try on Friday night and it was great!  I loved the flavor that the Chinese Five Spice brought to the dish, I had never used this before and it was a great addition.  The sweetness of the pineapple went perfectly with the pork and this honestly tasted like a dish that you would get at a good Chinese restaurant. 

Sweet & Sour Pork
** adapted from Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 25 minutes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c. long-grain or basmati rice
½ pound pork tenderloin
1 small red onion
1 red or yellow bell pepper (or ½ of each)
A thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
2 cloves of garlic
½ - 1 fresh red chile or jalepeno pepper
a small bunch of fresh cilantro
peanut or vegetable oil
1 heaped teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 8-ounce can of pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and add the rice. Cook according to package directions. Drain the water and cover to keep warm until needed.

Meanwhile, halve the pork tenderloin and cut into ¾ inch cubes. Peel and halve the red onion, then dice into ¾ inch cubes. Halve the bell pepper, seed, and cut into ¾ inch cubes. Peel and finely slice the ginger and garlic. Finely slice the chile. Chop the cilantro and set aside.

Preheat a wok or large frying pan on high heat and once it’s very hot, add enough oil to coat the pan (a couple teaspoons should do) and swirl it around. Add the pork and five-spice powder and stir. Cook for a few minutes until browned, then transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon.

Carefully give the wok or pan a quick wipe with a ball of paper towels and return to the heat. When it’s really hot, add more oil (another teaspoon should do) and all the chopped ingredients. Stir everything together and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Let everything cook for 30 to 40 seconds, then add the pineapple chunks with their juice, the browned pork and balsamic vinegar. Season with black pepper and a little more soy sauce, if needed.  Break open a piece of the pork, check to see if it’s cooked through, and remove from the heat. Reduce the sauce to a gravy-like consistency by cooking for a few minutes more.

To serve the stirfry, divide the rice between two bowls or plates. Spoon the pork, veggies, and sauce over the top and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and reserved cilantro leaves.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Southern Birthday Dinner at Table Fifty-Two

I love the South, I love its old charm, the beaches and of course the food.  My family used to vacation at Wild Dunes, a beach resort in South Carolina and I have some of the best memories of hours at the beach, crabbing in the intercoastal and eating bowls of She-Crab soup at night. 

Right down the street from my apartment is Table Fifty-Two, Chef Art Smith's restaurant known for bringing Southern classics to Chicago.  Sunday night Brady took me there for my birthday dinner and I was able to get a little taste of the South.  It was AMAZING.  I loved everything that I ate, and trust me I ate a lot! Definitely not a healthy dinner by any means but if you are going to go all out why not do it with biscuits, grits, and fried chicken?!

Dinner started off with complimentary deviled eggs for each of us and a goat cheese biscuit to share.  The biscuit was so flavorful and I loved the addition of the goat cheese.  I have already searched online and found Art Smiths recipe. For an appetizer Brady and I shared Low Country Shrimp and Grits- shrimp sauteed in a spicy tomato sauce served over stone ground grits.  This dish definitely made me feel like I was back in the Carolina's!

 For our entrees Brady and I both ordered the Fried Chicken which is only available on Sunday nights.  I was a bit unsure of how you eat fried chicken at a nice restaurant but quickly learned that you just use your hands and dig right in- thankfully it wasn't our first date!  The Fried Chicken was nice and crispy, wasn't greasy and was well seasoned.  As a side dish we ordered Three Cheese Mac which came to the table piping hot and with a nice crust on top.  Is your mouth watering??  Unfortunately no room for dessert but we'll definitely be going back because the menu had so many other items to choose from.

Besides the food being everything that I had hoped, the restaurant itself was beautiful.  I felt like we were in someones Charleston home. The restaurant is set in a charming house which after checking out the restaurants website I learned was the 19th Century carriage house of the Briggs Mansion which survived the Great Chicago Fire (Brady, this answers your question as to what the restaurant was in its prior life).  The copper ceilings, low lighting and candles and the open hearth oven in the back of the restaurant make it an absolutely beautiful dining experience.  It would have been a great birthday dinner anywhere we went but I am so glad that we went to Table Fifty-Two, it's nice to know that my Southern favorites are no longer a plane ride away.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sausage, Grape and Gorgonzola Flatbread

One of my favorite food blogs is We Are Not Martha.  It's a blog written by two twenty-something women who have been friends since 2nd grade and live in Boston.  Their recipes always sound so good and they are always throwing fun theme parties and well frankly, I really want to be their friend.  I kept a eye out for them when Brady and I recently visited Boston, we even went to one of their favorite restaurants.  I am pretty sure that had I run into Sues and Chels we would have hit it off and been instant friends :)

I have been wanting to make the Sausage, Grape and Gorgonzola Flatbread featured on their blog for awhile now and finally had the opportunity to make it this weekend.  It was delicious!!  Brady and I both loved it and the great thing is it was easy to make.  The recipe required minimal ingredients and was ready in 20 minutes.

I would typically just buy my pizza crust from Trader Joes but the We Are Not Martha girls provided a link on their blog to a homemade pizza dough recipe and I figured why not give it a try. The recipe came from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day which is apparently a favorite amongst many home cooks.  I now see why, this was the easiest pizza dough recipe.  You can either mix up the dough, let it sit for 2 hours and then it's ready for use or you can mix the dough, cover it and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  I did the overnight version and it turned out perfectly.  The other great thing is that the recipe makes 4 pizzas!  I used a grapefruit size ball to make our pizza and then formed three other dough balls and froze them for later use. You really can't beat that!

No Kneed Pizza Dough
** from Steamy Kitchen and found in the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Makes: 4 pizza's
Prep: 5 minutes to mix, two hours or overnight to rise

2 3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 T granulated yeast (I used rapid rise)
1 1/2 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plan to look into a whole wheat version of the recipe next time)

Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a large bowl. Mix in the flour without kneading, with a large spoon.  Then cover the bowl and let it rest at room temperature for 2 hours or you can refrigerate and use over the next 12 days. The dough can also be frozen for later use.

 Sausage, Grape, and Gorgonzola Flatbread
** from We Are Not Martha
print recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes

1 1/2 T olive oil
3 links sausage (whatever kind you like, I used sweet Italian turkey)
1/2 cup grapes, halved
3/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
1/2 onion, sliced
pizza dough, grapefruit size amount

Before you start, preheat your oven to 500, or however high it goes and put the baking sheet you’ll use in the oven. Then roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface. You can do it by hand or with a rolling pin. Roll the dough into what shape pan you will be using, I used a round pizza pan so my dough was round.

Remove casings from sausage and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked through.  Set aside. 

Caramelize half an onion in another skillet and set aside.  Cut grapes in half and set aside.

Remove baking sheet from the oven and work quickly to to put the rolled dough on the pan.  Drizzle the olive oil over the dough and use a spoon or pastry brush to spread it out.  Next top the dough with the grapes, the sausage, sprinkle with gorgonzola and then put the onions on top.

Put the flatbread in the oven for about 7-10 minutes but keep an eye to make sure it is browning nicely but not burning.  Mine took longer because I didn't turn my oven up as high out of fear of it burning.  My oven has a tendency to burn things though.  I would suggest following the recipe and just watching the pizza closely.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Healthy Cinnamon Apple Muffins

I have been craving some sort of fall muffin or bread for weeks and finally broke down and baked muffins last night.  I found this recipe for Cinnamon Apple Muffins on the Cooking Light website and actually had all of the ingredients- too perfect!  These muffins are low in fat and calories and after reading the recipe reviews I was able to find a few ways to lighten it up even more.  Not only did the muffins turn out great but now my apartment smells like apples, cinnamon and sugar!

Healthy Cinnamon Apple Muffins
** Adapted from Cooking Light
printable recipe

Makes 18 Muffins
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. finely chopped peeled Golden Delicious apples, I only had to use 1 large apple
1 c. nonfat yogurt
1/3 c. skim milk
1/3 c. light ricotta cheese
3 T. unsweetened applesauce
1 T. vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
Cooking spray
3 T. sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in apple, and make a well in center of the mixture. Combine yogurt and next six ingredients (yogurt through eggs) in a separate bowl.  Add yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir. Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Combine 3 T. sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes or until done.  Be careful not to over bake. Remove from pans immediately; cool on wire rack.

** The recipe is great as is but if you don't want to use ricotta I think apple butter would be a great substitute.  I plan to try this next time.  I use apple butter in my oatmeal cookie recipe and I love the flavor it adds and I also think the muffins might turn out a little more moist. 

** According to reviews these muffins freeze well.  I froze half and brought the rest into work.  I figure I don't really need 18 muffins tempting me and they'll come in handy the next time I have a craving for a healthy muffin and don't feel like baking!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Seared Mahi Mahi with Edamame Succotash

I have made this Cooking Light recipe a few times now and each time I think to myself I should make it more often because it is incredibly easy, tasty and healthy. While the original recipe tastes great, it involves broiling red peppers and removing the skin, chopping and then mixing the peppers with frozen corn and edamame.  Not incredibly difficult but I have found a way to cheat and make it a little easier without giving up any of the flavor. I use frozen premixed Edamame Succotash from Trader Joe's which consists of frozen corn, red pepper and edamame, how perfect is that?!

Seared Mahi Mahi with Edamame Succotash
** adapted from Cooking Light
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes

1 cup frozen Trader Joe's Edamame Succotash- or other brand containing corn, red pepper and edamame
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Mahi Mahi:
Cooking Spray
2 (6 oz) mahi mahi fillets, or other firm white fish
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Heat grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high heat.  Coat grill pan with cooking spray.  Season fish with salt and pepper and place on grill plan.  Cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat frozen succotash in microwave safe bowl for 2 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, thyme through garlic, to the bowl and stir to combine.  Serve with grilled fish.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta

While in Seattle over Labor Day weekend I bought various dried pastas from Papparedelle's at Pike's Place Market.  I bought a Lemon Garlic Orzo that Brady and I have been meaning to make but just haven't come across the perfect recipe.  Last week Brady found a recipe on for Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta and we knew we had a winner. 

Last night we made the dish and we both absolutely loved it.  Not only did it taste great, but it was cheap, healthy, and quick to make on a busy work night.  Plus it had olives which some of you may know from earlier posts makes me very happy :) 

Brady and I were both in agreement that this was a great dish for this time of year.  I'm not sure how to describe it, but it just tasted like fall.  I think that it had to do with the incredibly flavorful lamb and the touch of cinnamon.  The dish was filling but not heavy and in my mind seems like perfect comfort food without all the calories.

The Lemon Garlic Orzo that we used was great and I definitely recommend ordering some pasta from Papparedelle's but I think the recipe would be just as good with regular orzo.  Beef could definitely be substituted but I have to say that the lamb had a flavor all of its own that we both really enjoyed.  This isn't an overly meaty dish, but again due to the great flavor, a little goes a long way- which I plan to go back to Whole Foods and tell the butcher because he seemed very skeptical that we could make anything with only 6oz of ground lamb- I think we proved him wrong!!

Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta
** from
print recipe

Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4, about 1 1/2 cups each

6 oz. lean ground lamb, or ground beef
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary, or oregano- I did both
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 14oz can whole tomatoes, undrained
2 T. chopped, pitted black olives
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. orzo
crumbled feta to garnish

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Cook lamb (or beef) in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain any grease and then set aside. 

Heat oil in Dutch oven or a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, rosemary (or oregano) and crushed red pepper.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add lamb (or beef).

Puree tomatoes and their juices in a food processor until smooth. Add to the meat mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile while meat mixture is thickening cook orzo for about 8 minutes. Once meat mixture is thickened, remove from heat and stir in olives. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cooked orzo and toss with meat mixture. Serve garnished with feta.

Per Serving: 461 Calories, and 9 g Fat

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

Most people assume that Eggplant Parmesan is loaded with calories- and in most cases it is.  Typically the eggplant is fried and covered in tons of cheese. Sounds good right?  It is good, but it isn't very good for you.  Luckily there is a way to make this dish healthier and still maintain the flavor of the original dish.  By simply coating the eggplant in breadcrumbs and then baking it, you get the same crispy eggplant as the fried version but with a fraction of the calories and fat.

The ingredient list and preparation directions may look like a lot but the majority of the ingredients you should already have and the dish really isn't challenging to make.  I made the recipe in just under an hour- perfect for a Sunday evening when you have extra time.  The original recipe, which I have provided a link to below, serves 10, which is great for a crowd but since I am just feeding myself this week I halved the recipe and will have leftovers for the next few night.  Luckily this is a dish that I won't get sick of by the 4th night!

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
** adapted from Cooking Light
printable recipe

Serves: 4-5
Prep Time: 10
Bake Time: 45

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 T. water
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/8 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 (1 pound) eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
Cooking spray

1/4 cup torn fresh basil
1/8 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
8 ounces light ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

Remaining Ingredients
12 ounces pasta sauce- any brand or style
3 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese- cut into 4th's
1/4 cup finely grated fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Combine egg and 1 T. of water in a shallow dish. Combine panko and 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture. Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 12 minutes, flip eggplant over and then bake for an additional 12 minutes on the other side.

To make filling, combine basil and next six ingredients (through egg).

To assemble, spoon 1/4 cup pasta sauce on bottom of 9x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce (my pan had room for 4 large and 1 small eggplant slices). Top each piece of eggplant with a large spoonful of sauce and then use half of the ricotta mixture to cover each piece of eggplant. Place a fourth of a piece of mozzarella on each piece of eggplant and sprinkle with 1/8 cup grated fontina cheese. Repeat layers once and then top each piece of eggplant with a large spoonful of sauce.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with torn basil and any remaining fontina cheese as a garnish.

** According to Cooking Light one eggplant stack has 318 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Pair with a side salad and you have a healthy and filling dinner!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tomato Soup and Bruschetta Grilled Cheese

I have a guest blogger!! Brady made me a great dinner of tomato soup and bruschetta grilled cheese last week.  It was such a good soup recipe, I can't wait to make it again.  I loved that it had a creamy consistency yet was wasn't filled with butter and heavy cream. And grilled cheese, you really can never go wrong with that! I didn't think it would be fair if I wrote about the process so I asked Brady if he would be a guest blogger and this is what he had to say...

I have been asked to be the first guest blogger (and perhaps the last depending on how this goes) following a successful attempt at cooking dinner for a bona fide food blogger (Noelle) after her busy day.  Needless to say the pressure was on, so my first thought was to order out, and plate the food as if it were my own.  Deciding not to take the easy way out, I began searching for a dish I knew we would both like – soup!  As I was searching different recipes, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head of how much I liked tomato soup and grilled cheese.  I realized however that preparing a dinner with the help of our friends Campbell and Kraft might not wind up as a blogworthy meal.   So I focused on finding a healthy version of homemade tomato soup along with a fun way to make a variation of grilled cheese. 

To my luck, I was able to find a recipe for tomato soup which would be reasonably easy to make and had some really fresh ingredients.  I set out to find a more “adult” version of grilled cheese and found a recipe for grilled cheese bruschetta.  The soup turned out to be really flavorful – only requiring a large pan and a blender.  I really like my soup to have a little kick and by doubling the amount of red pepper, this one definitely had it.  The time consuming part for me was chopping all of the ingredients that were used, however, I assume everyone reading this blog is faster at this than I am so adjust the time as you see fit.  The grilled cheese bruschetta was a perfect complement to the soup.  I simply used wheat bread, and took a pizza cutter and cut out large circles to use for the base.  Topping the bread with the roasted cherry tomatoes and melted mozzarella made for a perfect side-dish to a great bowl of soup. 

As you may be able to tell, my cooking acumen could be described as average.  However these two dishes were relatively easy to make without a lot of time and made for a great cold weather meal.  I mean at the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese?  Mark me down as a fan of both. 
Everything's Going to Be Alright Tomato Soup
*** from Spoon with Me

Serves 4
Cook Time: 45 minutes

2 pounds ripe, in-season tomatoes, chopped (about 5 cups
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small bunch fresh thyme (about 6 sprigs), leaves picked and chopped
1 small bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked and finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Kosher salt to taste
Basil leaves to garnis

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onions and saute for about 6 minutes until soft.  Add the thyme, garlic, and crushed red pepper.  Saute for an additional minute.  Add the tomatoes, oregano, and salt.  Saute, stirring often for about 10 minutes, allowing some of the moisture to cook down.  Add 2 cups of the broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Blend together with an immersion blender, or allow soup to cool slightly before blending in a standing blender.  Add additional broth if needed to reach the desired consistency.  Garnish with torn basil. 

Mozzarella, Basil and Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 4

4 pieces whole grain bread, crust removed and cut in to circles
one pint cherry tomatoes
4-8 ounces Mozzarella cheese
handful fresh basil, sliced thinly
garlic salt to tastes
black pepper to taste
garlic oil or olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the center of oven. Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic salt & pepper. Roast tomatoes for about 20 minutes or until the skins have popped and the tomatoes are softened.

Set broiler to low heat. Brush a light later of garlic oil or olive oil on bread. Toast bread about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from oven. Top each toasted bread round with about 6 tomatoes. Press a round of cheese (1-2 ounces) gently on top of the tomatoes. Broil for about 6-8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Watch carefully towards the end of cook time that your grilled cheese does not burn. 

Top with fresh basil, cracked pepper and garlic salt.


Mom's Oven "Fried" Chicken

Monday night my brother came over for dinner and I made him one of our favorite meals- oven "fried" chicken.  This is a dish that my mom would make for Sunday dinners, birthdays and other special occasions.  There really isn't anything fancy about the dish, the recipe is actually incredibly simple, but the chicken always tastes great and reminds me of home.  Plus a major bonus is that the chicken isn't actually fried and therefore is much better for you!

My mom typically uses Chex or Corn Flakes as the crunchy coating for the chicken.  I didn't have either so I used panko bread crumbs that I had recently purchased.  The panko worked just as well and provided the same crunchy consistency that I was hoping for.  She usually uses a egg wash prior to coating the chicken with Chex- again I didn't have eggs (not very prepared apparently) so I made a marinade of a little Dijon mustard and honey.  Either way works and I have noted instructions for both below.

I served the chicken with basic mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans.  I have to admit that I need to work on my timing on everything, the potatoes may have been a lukewarm by the time the chicken was ready but that's nothing that the microwave couldn't fix :)

Mom's Oven "Fried" Chicken

Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45min-1 hour depending on oven temperature and size of chicken breasts

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skin removed
2 cups panko (chex or corn flakes work too)
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
6 T. flour
1 egg, beaten with 2 T. water (or mix 2 T. Dijon mustard and 1 T. honey)
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 tsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.  On a large dinner plate mix panko, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; set aside.  In bowl, mix 1 egg with 2 T. water; set aside.  Put 6 T. flour on another large dinner plate.  Set up assembly line of flour, egg mixture (or mustard/honey mixture) and then bread crumbs.  Take chicken breast, coat in flour mixture, dip in egg, and then roll chicken in bread crumbs; repeat with the remaining chicken.  Place chicken breasts in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle 2 tsp of melted butter over the chicken.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until chicken is no longer pink.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thai Red Curry

I discovered my love for curry years ago at Thai Place in Overland Park, Kansas.  Their red curry and panang curry dishes are amazing.  Last year I was searching the web for a similar but healthier version of these dishes and came across a recipe on Whole Foods website.  At the time I didn't realize that Whole Foods website even had recipes, but turns out they have some pretty good ones. 

This dish is great for two reasons, the first being that it's completely adaptable, you can use whatever protein and vegetables that you want.  The other reason why I love making this dish is that besides the protein and the vegetables, every other ingredient is one that you'll buy once (or may already have) and it will last you for awhile- major plus when you want a cheap and quick meal that tastes just as good if not better than take out!

Thai Red Curry
** from Whole Foods website
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1-2 T. Thai red curry paste, I use Thai Kitchen brand
1 14oz can lite coconut milk
3 T. fish sauce
1/4 c. low sodium chicken or veggie stock
2 T. brown sugar
1 small red bell pepper, cute into bite size pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Ib. chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or tofu, cut into strips or chunks
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
brown rice for serving

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine curry paste and coconut milk, continuously whisking for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook protein over medium high heat till no longer pink, set aside.

To the saucepan, add fish sauce, stock and brown sugar, along with the veggies and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add protein and simmer until just heated through. Serve over brown rice and top with fresh basil.

** If you aren't sure how hot you want this dish, start off with just 1 T. of the red curry paste.  You can always add more if you don't think it's spicy enough.  Always better to start of mild and then kick it up! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I came across this recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese awhile ago and after months of talking about it and speculating how wonderful it would be Brady and I finally made it this past Sunday.  It was everything we had hoped for; it was delicious!  Many of the lobster mac and cheese recipes that I came across used tons of butter, cream and cheese.  This recipe is on the lighter side but is still creamy and loaded with flavor. 

We served our lobster mac and cheese with a black olive and provolone stuffed chicken breast.  Brady found the recipe on and it tasted great. This is a low calorie dish that was easy to throw together while making the mac and cheese.  I will definitely be making this recipe again, with our without the lobster mac and cheese!

Lobster Mac and Cheese
** adapted from Healthy.Delicious
printable recipe

Serves 2-4
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1/2 lb rotini pasta

1 tsp olive oil
1 leek, cut into half moons
1 T. flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup fontina, shredded
black pepper to taste
3 lobster tails (about 1.5 pounds), steamed
1/4 cup panko (japenese bread crumbs)

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add leeks and sautee until they begin to soften. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add milk, and cook until it begins to thicken – about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and cayenne and cook another minute or two. Stir in fontina and allow to melt. Set aside.

Remove lobster meat from the shell. Set aside a few nice looking pieces to use as garnish, and roughly chop the rest. Stir chopped lobster into the cheese sauce. Fold pasta into the sauce. Season to taste with black pepper.

Spray the insides of 2-4 ramekins or crocks with cooking spray. Fill with lobster and pasta mixture and top with panko. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, or until panko begins to brown and crisp up. To serve garnish with small pieces of reserved lobster.

** To steam the lobster I used a steamer insert in a medium size saucepan.  I added about a cup of water to the saucepan and then laid the lobster tails down in the steamer.  I steamed on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the lobster shells turned red.  To remove the meat I used kitchen scissors to cut open the shell and then pulled the meat out.  I promise this is not as scary or difficult as it sounds!  Having an uncooked lobster tail waived in your face is much more traumatic...

Provolone and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts
** adapted from eatingwell
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes

1/8 cup shredded provolone cheese

2 T chopped California Ripe Olives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup panko, Japanese breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with sides with cooking spray.

Combine the provolone, olives and pepper in a small bowl.

Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each breast and place one half of the cheese filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with remaining chicken breast and filling. Hold each chicken breast half together and dredge in panko. (Discard leftovers.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to the prepared baking sheet, browned-side up, and bake until it is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Tonight I made a great side dish with my new favorite grain quinoa.  This is an incredibly easy dish to toss together on a week night and it's healthy and flavorful too.  I served mine with a southwest tilapia fillet from Costco (wish I could say that I had something to do with how great the fish tasted, but I can't take the credit, it was all Costco!) 

Southwest Quinoa Salad
** adapted from Fresh Clean Start
(printable recipe)

Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Southwest Quinoa Salad

1 cup cooked quinoa (or brown rice)
1 cup or so chickpeas (any bean will do)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 avocado, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
small handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cumin, chile powder, paprika (optional)

Prepare quinoa according to directions.  Meanwhile prepare all other ingredients.  Once quinoa is finished cooking, toss everything together and serve. 

** I refrigerated mine for about 30 minutes and served it as a cold salad.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

I recently came across this recipe on Chaos in the Kitchen's blog.  I love risotto but I have always been a little apprehensive to try making my own.  On Top Chef someone always goes home for messing up their risotto so it has to be hard right? Wrong!  This recipe was quick and easy and tastes like something you would get at a restaurant.  Plus the food looks very impressive so it's a great dish to serve company. 

Lemon Sauced Chicken
** adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen
(printable recipe)

Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp butter, such as Smart Balance
1 tsp oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then when hot, add the butter and oil. You may want to spray the pan with a little nonstick spray as well.  Once butter is melted, season chicken with salt and pepper then place in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 4 minutes. Flip chicken with tongs and cook about 4 more minutes on the other side.  Place skillet in the oven and cook an additional 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove skillet using an oven mitt, skillet handle will be very hot.  Move chicken to a serving plate and keep warm under foil.

Add lemon juice and white wine to the skillet, scraping up all of the browned bits. Add chicken broth and boil until reduced by about half and sauce is slightly thick. Serve chicken drizzled with about 1 to 2 tbsp of sauce.

Basic Mushroom Risotto
Serves 2 - 4
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min

5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp oil
1 tsp butter
8 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced or chopped
1 cup arborio or long grain rice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)

Boil chicken broth then turn down to a simmer. Heat a pan to medium and add oil and butter. Once butter is melted add mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown. When mushrooms are starting to turn golden, add rice and stir. Toast rice, stirring, until it turns golden. Ladle one cup of hot broth into rice and mushrooms and stir to combine. You do not have to stir constantly but just give it a good stir every now and then.

When most of the liquid is absorbed and the pan is beginning to get dry, stir in another cup of liquid. Continue stirring in hot liquid as it is absorbed until rice is tender and creamy. When rice is done, remove from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle individual servings with a small amount of truffle oil of a pinch of truffle salt if desired (we omitted this step and it still tasted great). 

** To time the preparation of the chicken and the risotto correctly I would suggest starting the risotto first. Once you get the mushrooms browned and rice added to the pan you can start cooking the chicken.  The chicken doesn't require much attention so you will be able to concentrate on adding the broth at the appropriate times and stirring occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting

I love cupcakes.  I love making them, decorating them and of course eating them.  Cupcakes are great because there are so many flavor combination's that your options are pretty much endless.  Recently I saw cupcakes with bacon on them, yes bacon, so I think its safe to say that anything goes with cupcakes.

Cupcakes are perfect for any occasion. I have been known to bring cupcakes to important events- my grandmas 80th birthday party, my best friend Lesley's engagement party and her bachelorette party.  I can't take all of the credit though, my mom loves to make cupcakes as much as I do and the below two pictures are cupcakes she and I made together.  How stinking cute are these?!

Picture from Lesley and Tom's Engagement Party- Devils Food Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
topped with chocolate hearts and plastic rings

Picture from Lesley's bachelorette party- Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
topped with gingersnap cookies

This week we had a fundraiser bake sale at work and I decided it was the perfect excuse to try out a new cupcake recipe I recently discovered on Carrots N' Cakes' blog.  I like that the cupcake recipe is lightened by using unsweetened applesauce instead of the oil and egg substitute instead of eggs.  While the cupcakes aren't too bad for you the frosting is definitely not healthy- but it's really good and worth the extra calories!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
** Adapted from Carrots N' Cake
(printable recipe)

Makes 24 cupcakes, or 12 cupcakes and 1 9-inch cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18-20 minutes

1 box spice cake mix
1 15oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice- if you can't find this just add in a dash of nutmeg, cloves, and allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Paper-line or grease 24 muffin cups. Blend cake mix, pumpkin, egg substitute, applesauce, water, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-23 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. After 10 minutes, remove from pans, place on wire racks, and cool completely.

Prepare frosting according to directions and spread evenly on cupcakes.

Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
** Courtesy of Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life

Prep Time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. honey
2-4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the honey and cinnamon, and gradually add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add the milk and more powdered sugar (if needed) until you get your desired consistency.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup

While I am not quite ready for the start of fall and the cold weather ahead, I am very excited about the start of soup season!  Last week I was telling a coworker how anxious I was to start making homemade soup  and she looked at me like I was crazy.  Her response was "you can do that?"  She thought making soup was an all day process.  For those of you that have made soup before you know that it doesn't have to be an all day event.  While I have a few soup recipes that are more labor intensive most can be made in under 30 minutes.

I came across this recipe for Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup years ago in Cooking Light Magazine and it is one of my favorites.  This soup is quick and easy to throw together and requires a limited amount of ingredients. 

Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup
** adapted from Cooking Light

Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
2 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped (I add 2 chipotle chiles because I prefer it spicier)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1/2 pound)
sour cream (optional garnish)
cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Partially mash tomatoes and beans with a potato masher. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. 

Top each serving with a bit of sour cream and chopped cilantro if desired.

** If you have an Immersion Blender I would highly recommend using it to mash the tomatoes and beans, it works really well.  A food processor could be used as well.