Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lemon-Vodka Pasta

I am a big fan of Trader Joe's. I think they have some really great products at a very reasonable price. I have many favorites at the store that have become staples in my pantry. Brady received the Trader Joe's Cookbook for Christmas and it was such a great gift. The cookbook is full of quick recipes with minimal ingredients. I had to "borrow" it so I could share the recipe on the blog, I haven't decided if I will return it or not....

This past week we made a Lemon-Vodka Pasta with Chicken. Probably not our healthiest meal but it was cold and snowy and we were both in the mood for something filling and comforting. I think that it could definitely be lightened but I thought it was worth the extra calories.

Lemon-Vodka Pasta
** adapted from The I Heart Trader Joe's Cookbook
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Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 (16 oz) bag whole wheat linguini, spaghetti, or capellini
2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 (8 oz) container mascarpone (or you could use light cream cheese)
zest and juice of one lemon
bunch of asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 T. vodka
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
lemon pepper
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta till al dente. While the pasta cooks, in a medium saucepan, warm the mascarpone, lemon juice and vodka. Season to taste with salt and pepper. About four minutes before the pasta is done add the asparagus to the pasta pot. Once cooked, drain the pasta water.

Meanwhile heat a skillet with a little bit of oil and add chicken to the skillet. Sprinkle chicken with lemon pepper and cook till no longer pink in the middle.

Add the cooked chicken to the vodka sauce and pour over the pasta and asparagus. Garnish with chopped basil. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Double Chocolate Souffles with Warm Fudge Sauce

Last weekend when we made our Valentine's Day dinner I wanted to make something fun for dessert. I love baking. I could make pies, cakes and cookies all day but the problem is I don't want it in my house tempting me. So for Valentine's Day I made individual chocolate souffles. I thought they turned out great. They puffed up the way souffles are supposed to and they were pretty easy to make, plus they aren't that bad for you. According to the directions on Cooking Lights website you can make these ahead of time and just bake before serving (which would have been better than trying to make four dishes at once).

Double Chocolate Souffles with Warm Fudge Sauce
** adapted from Cooking Light
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Serves 3
Prep/Cook Time: about an hour

Cooking spray
1/4 cup plus 1 T. sugar, divided
1.5 T. all purpose flour
1.5 T. unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 c. fat free milk
1.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3 large egg whites

1/2 T. butter
1/6 c. sugar
1 T. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 T. all purpose flour
1/4 c. fat free milk
1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Position oven rack on the lowest setting and remove middle rack. Preheat oven to 425.

To prepare the souffles, lightly coat 3 (8 ounce) souffle dishes with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside.

In medium saucepan over medium-high heat combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1.5 T flour, 1.5 T cocoa, and salt; stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the 2/3 cup milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly and then remove from the heat. Add 3 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla and egg yolk.

In large mixing bowl mix egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in one fourth of egg whites into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg whites. Gently spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Sharply tap dishes 2-3 times on counter to level. Place dishes on a baking sheet; place baking sheet on bottom rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake souffles for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the side of the souffle comes out clean.

To prepare sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/6 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon of cocoa, and 1/2 tablespoon of flour; stir well with a whisk. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Serve warm with souffles. Add vanilla ice cream on top if desired.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Healthy Caesar Salad with Spicy Croutons

To go along with our restaurant style Valentine's Day dinner I found a healthy Caesar salad recipe on Cooking I liked that this recipe called for minimal ingredients, most of which I already had at home and the dressing didn't use raw egg like many Caesar recipes. I thought this salad would be great as an easy main dish with some grilled chicken, plus there is only 137 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving.  You can't say that about any Caesar salad you would order from a restaurant!

Healthy Caesar Salad with Spicy Croutons
** adapted from Cooking Light
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Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes

1 garlic clove, halved
1/2 c. nonfat mayonnaise
2 T. red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp Tony's Creole Seasoning
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups (3/4 inch) sourdough bread crumbs
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Process garlic in a food processor until minced. Add mayo and the next 5 ingredients (mayo through pepper); process until well-blended. Cover and chill till salad is ready.

Combine oil, Creole seasoning, and minced garlic in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds. Add bread crumbs; toss gently to coat. Spread bread crumbs in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Place lettuce in a large bowl. Add dressing; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese, and top with croutons.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day Steak and Lobster Dinner

Valentine's Day has never been a favorite holiday of mine- quite possibly because it brings back memories of kids buying carnations for their crushes in grade school and the only boy that I would get one from was my brother. In the years past I have gotten over the trauma of not being anyone's crush in grade school but I still never acquired a love for February 14th. My idea for Valentine's Day was to avoid the crowded restaurants with love themed prix fixe specials and cook a nice meal with Brady and that is exactly what we did and it was honestly the best Valentine's Day!

For our restaurant style dinner we decided to go with steak and lobster. Neither are foods that I would typically order from a restaurant but it sounded fun to make something a little out of the ordinary. We thought the steak and lobster turned out great. I made a salad and a dessert at the same time which was probably a bit ambitious. Making four dishes in my tiny kitchen is just asking for disaster, but we survived and the only thing that didn't was the burnt salad croutons (minor in the scheme of things).

I do have to say though that while I am not a huge fan of the holiday I definitely didn't mind the hot pink roses from Brady and the giant chocolate heart from one of the little boys in my class :)

Lobster Tail Steamed with Champagne and Orange
** from Cooking Light
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 15 minutes

4 slices of orange
2 lobster tails
2 tsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/8 c. chopped fresh fennel fronds (the green part, not the bulb)
1/2 c. dry champage
1/8 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut out two large pieces of parchment paper. On each piece of parchment paper, layer two slices of orange, a lobster tail, 1 tsp butter and a little of the fennel. Sprinkle each with salt.

Pour champagne over each of the serving packets. Fold the parchment paper around the ingredients, using folds to seal each packet closed. Place the packets on a baking sheet, and bake for 12 minutes. To serve, drizzle the tails with the juices from the packet.

** I would recommend threading the lobster tail with a wooden skewer that has been soaked in water prior to cooking. This will keep the tails from curling during cooking.

Steakhouse Steaks
** from Barefoot Contessa

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 (2 inch thick) filet mignon
1 T. oil
1 T. sea salt
1 T. fresh cracked peppercorns
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400. Heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the filets dry with a paper towel, brush each with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When the pan is extremely hot, add the steaks and sear on all sides; about 2 minutes per side (top, bottom and sides). This should take about 10 minutes total.

Remove the pan from the heat and arrange the steaks in a baking dish. Top each with 1 tablespoon of butter and place in the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, to 120 degrees for rare and 125 degrees for medium rare. Remove the steaks to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil for 5-10 minutes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chipotle Honey Chicken with Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes

I cook with chicken pretty frequently. It's cheap, doesn't take long to cook, and you can buy it frozen and use it when you need it (huge plus in my book). I have a few favorite tried and true chicken dishes and am always on the search for new chicken recipes. This week Brady made Chipotle Honey Chicken with Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes from Eats Well With Others blog and it was awesome. I am definitely adding this to my "favorites" list and I am not just saying that to humor my boyfriend.

I can't say anything about the cooking process because I got there with only enough time to burn the walnuts for the salad (totally my fault) and help serve up the food. What I can say was that the food tasted great and was a perfect winter dish plus it's healthy! I thought there was just enough spice, the honey and cinnamon helps cut the heat from the chipotle peppers, but if you aren't a fan of a little heat I would suggest only using 2 or 3 of the peppers.

Chipotle Honey Chicken with Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes
** from Eats Well With Others
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Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour

20 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
20 oz sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
chopped cilantro or basil for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400.  Toss the sweet potatoes and butternut squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray and then spread the sweet potatoes and squash over it.  Roast for 15 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes and squash are cooking, in a small bowl, mix together the remaining tbsp of olive oil, chiles, garlic, honey, cider vinegar, salt, cumin, and cinnamon, until they form a paste.  Rub the paste all over the chicken.  Carefully place the chicken on top of the sweet potatoes and butternut squash.  Put back in the oven and continue to roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 25 minutes.  Serve garnished with cilantro or basil.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shrimp with Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta

Yesterday meteorologists throughout the Midwest had their dreams come true. "Blizzard 2011" hit and brought Chicago a lovely 20 inches of snow, thunder, lightening, and tsunami style waves along Lake Shore Drive. The upside of the snowstorm was that I got a snow day!!! This never happens in Chicago, I thought for sure I would be braving the 50 mile an hour winds and trekking to school today but thankfully they closed the schools. Not only have I been incredibly productive today: finished lesson plans for next week, did my taxes, and started a paper that's due next week, but I had time to cook dinner last night! 

With minimal groceries in my house and zero desire to run to the grocery store my options were a bit limited. I googled the few ingredients that I had in my house and stumbled upon a recipe for Shrimp with Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta. This dish was incredibly fast and tasted great. I love polenta but if you aren't a big fan you could use arborio rice and make risotto instead.

Spicy Shrimp with Roasted Corn and Poblano Polenta
** from Elly Says Opa blog
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Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 poblano pepper
3/4 cup roasted corn
2 tsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth (may want to add extra if you want a thinner consistency)
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne papper
1 tsp chili powder

Preheat broiler, one heated broil poblano pepper and corn on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes. Flip the poblano pepper and roast for another 4-5 minutes or until the skin of the poblano is blistery and black.  Put in the poblano pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Once cooled, peel and dice.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat  Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant.  Stir in the chicken broth, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in the polenta – it will absorb the liquid almost immediately.  Add the diced poblano and corn.  Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until cooked, about 10-15 minutes.

While polenta is simmering, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with PAM cooking spray. Once the skillet is hot, add the shrimp. Season shrimp with cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Saute till done, about 3 minutes. 

Remove the polenta from the stove and stir in the cheese and reseason if necessary.  Spoon polenta into bowls and top with sauteed shrimp.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

White Chicken Chili

Sunday was a perfect chili day, cold and dreary. Brady and I decided to go see "The Fighter" but I wanted a warm dinner waiting for us when we got home. So I pulled out the crock pot and threw in the ingredients for one of my favorite crock pot recipes, White Chicken Chili. The idea of my kitchen catching on fire definitely crossed my minds multiple times throughout the movie but luckily the crock pot worked the way it's supposed to and the chili turned out great.

My friend Sarah gave me this recipe a few years back and I love it. I have made it countless times and it never disappoints. It's great because you can let it cook on low for up to 10 hours and doesn't require too many ingredients. I tried a jalapeno cornbread recipe that I had been wanting to make for awhile and unfortunately you wont be seeing it on the blog. I like spicy food but this was just miserable. Brady couldn't stop coughing, I couldn't drink enough water; it wasn't pretty. But at least the chili turned out well! 

White Chicken Chili
** from my friend Sarah Kelly
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Serves: 8
Prep/Cook: 8-10 hours on low, 4 hours on high

3 15oz cans cannellini beans
2 1/2 c. cooked chicken, chopped (I just use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)
1 c. yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground oregano
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
shredded monterey jack cheese
broken tortilla chips
salsa verde

In a 3 1/2 - 5 quart crock pot combine drained beans, chicken, onion, peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, cumin, salt, and oregano. Stir in chicken broth. Cover; cook on LOW heat for 8-10 hours, or on HIGH for 4-5. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with cheese, tortilla chips, and salsa verde.