Sweet Potato Souffle

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I made this recipe for Thanksgiving dinner, and have been asked to make it again for Christmas. I am not much of a "Sweets" person, and while this recipe is inherently sweet because of the sweet potatoes, it is not sugary sweet w/ extra marshmallows, orange juice, etc. I have to send a shout out to my friend Bravo for sharing it with me twice!! I can't take credit for this one...

Sweet Potato Souffle

Here's what I used:

6 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (4-6 depending on size)
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup AP Flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Here's what I did:

First I skinned and cubed my sweet potatoes, and set them to boil in a large pot of water, until fork tender. Then I mashed them up with a hand-held potato masher, but you can also use a mixer or a fork to mash them up. Add the butter, vanilla extract and milk, and then put mixture in a glass casserole dish and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, melted butter, flour and walnuts. Then sprinkle/spread over top of the potatoes and bake another 15 minutes.

No Bake Peanut Butter Pie

Monday, November 30, 2009

This recipe is RIDICULOUS. Easy. Amazing. Hands down, this was a heavy favorite from all 13 guests we had for Thanksgiving. Which is saying a lot since we also had: Fried Turkey (awesome hubby's recipe), Mashed Potatoes, a TO DIE FOR Sweet Potato Souffle, Cornbread Stuffing, Fresh Cranberry Sauce, Giblet Gravy...etc, etc, etc.

Here's what I used:

8 oz Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cups Confectioners/Powdered Sugar
1 cup Milk
1 cup Peanut Butter (creamy or crunchy -I used Jif Creamy)
16 oz Frozen Whipped Topping (Cool Whip), thawed
2 graham cracker pie crusts

***Note to the health conscious: all ingredients can be subbed for their low-fat or no-sugar counterpart. I.e. - Skim Milk, Splenda, Fat Free Cool Whip, etc. I have heard these also taste very good!!

Here's what I did:

I used my Kitchen Aid electric stand mixer, but a hand mixer works too. First I whipped my cream cheese and powdered sugar together - it helps to let the cream cheese soften on the counter for a bit, so take it out of the fridge early... Then I added the milk and peanut butter and whipped all ingredients together until smooth. Then I tasted some. MMMmmmm. I digress.

Then with a spatula, I gently folded in the whipped topping until all ingredients were incorporated, and poured the mix into the pie crusts.

I made these a day ahead, so I froze them overnight and took them out just before serving. They are the consistency of a very light ice cream cake, so they don't stay frozen for very long. The recipe calls for 3 hours of freeze time though, so it can be made a little ahead of a dinner party, etc.

I can't describe the deliciousness and SIMPLEness of this recipe. It sort of defies logic. Something this good should be VERY hard to make...at least that would make it easier for me to NOT make this every day...

Mustard Crusted Steak with Lemon Asparagus and Brown Rice

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This is another South Beach recipe that I like. Similar to a brisket, round steak is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat that when marinated, cooked and cut properly really has all the appeal as an expensive filet or strip steak.

Mustard Crusted Steak

Here's what I used:

1.5 lb round steak/london broil
2 tbsp whole-seed dijon mustard
2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce

Here's what I did:

Mix all wet/dry ingredients together to make a sauce. Place meat on a foil-lined cookie sheet and cover meat surface with a thin, even layer of mustard sauce. Broil steak for 4 minutes per side on 2nd to highest oven rack, then allow to rest for 5 minutes, loosely tented with foil.

After allowing to rest, move steak to a cutting board, and cut into thin (1/8"ish) slices, widthwise. Once sliced, scoop remaining mustard sauce off of the cookie sheet, and spread among the tops of all slices of meat and serve.

Lemon Asparagus & Brown Rice

Here's what I used:

1 bunch asparagus spears, ends snapped off & rinsed
1/2 lemon, juice
1 tbsp butter

2 cups quick-cook brown rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbsp butter
S, P & Garlic Powder

Here's what I did:

Following ratio for rice/water on quick cook brown rice box, brought water to a boil and then added rice. Simmered 5 minutes (or as directed) and then added butter and seasoning then fluffed with a fork and allowed to sit away from heat for another 5. *I had to add a little bit more water at the end and let cook another few minutes to get a softer consistency.

While cooking the rice, I added my asparagus and enough water for all spears to float and brought to a simmer. I cooked asparagus spears until barely fork tender, as we like them with a little bite to them. Drained off water and seasoned with S, P, butter and lemon juice.

For plating, I added the brown rice first, then laid 1/2 asparagus spears overtop the rice and drizzled a little bit of the butter/lemon juice over top. Then I added several slices of meat to the other side of the plate.

Reviews. Meat was good, sauce is a little zippy. Asparagus were really yummy. Hubbs went to bed early, but despite feeling sick and tired, I don't think that it had ANYTHING to do with my cooking!! ;)

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts & Mashed Turnips

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Life has been crazy lately. Work has blown up, and so creative meals have lately become slim in my home. BUT, this past Saturday I DID put together a recipe and shopping list completely comprised of recipes from my South Beach Cookbook.

The one I made last night was easily one of the most tasty and succulent chicken recipes I've ever made. Sooo juicy and oozing melted goat cheese. YUMM.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Here's what I used:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 lb. fresh spinach, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 400 degrees.

First I rinsed my chicken breasts and patted them dry. Then I cut a pocket into the side of each breast with a sharp paring knife, 1" from the back and sides of breast, but deep enough to fit my filling. I seasoned the inside and outside (both sides) with salt and pepper.

Next, I added 2 tbsp of olive oil into a skillet, and added my garlic. I let the garlic cook for about a minute on medium heat, until fragrant, and then added the spinach leaves. I allowed the leaves to wilt and turn dark, about 6-8 minutes, stirring regularly to allow all leaves to heat up.

Once my spinach was wilted, I brought my skillet over to the counter and divided it into two portions. Using my kitchen tongs, I added 1/2 of the spinach to each chicken breast pocket. Then I cut the goat cheese into several 1/8" or so slices, and added that on top of the spinach in the pocket. Finally, I pressed the top of the pocket down firmly over the filling to meld the ingredients together.

Reusing the same skillet as before, I added the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. I carefully added the chicken breasts to the skillet, careful to keep ingredients together in the chicken. Cooked the chicken for 3 minutes per side, and then placed them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Then placed the sheet in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

If you like to use a thermometer, the chicken breast should register at about 160 degrees. Allowing it to rest outside of the oven, it will still cook a few more minutes, and the juices will remain in the bird.

Mashed Turnips

Here's what I used:

3 turnips, skinned and cubed
1/4 cup mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup fat free (or regular) sour cream
S, P & Garlic Powder

Here's what I did:

Added cubed turnips to large pot of boiling water. Allowed to cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes or so. Drained and set back on stove top to evaporate any remaining water off turnip cubes. Added cheese, sour cream and seasonings and then mashed liberally with a potato masher. Alternately, you could mash with the bottom of a drinking glass or use a food processor to reach desired consistency. I like a slightly chunky texture, so I did about 15-20 good mashes, and then allowed more liquid to cook off. After about 10 minutes on low heat, most of the turnip liquid had cooked off.

I didn't tell my husband what this was. I think he assumed lumpy potatoes. I KNEW if I told him they were turnips he wouldn't eat them!! So instead he said "what is this? its good!" I laughed and told him turnips. He didn't even know what they were - but that would have been enough for him to NOT eat them.

Review wise, this one was strong. We both commented that the moisture in the chicken easily rivalled a great restaurant, and definitely beat most. There is such a fear of undercooking chicken that it is often overcooked, stringy and dry. Not these bird boobs. They were awesome. And the goat cheese oozed out with the delicately garlic flavored fresh spinach. Very, very good.

Mia's Pinto Beans & Cornbread

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I have been MIA on two trips recently. I spent a few days with my mom in the Bahamas about a week ago, and more recently, the hubbs, Sydney and I flew to Louisiana for the weekend to go to the LSU/Auburn football game in Baton Rouge. So we've been busy!! And when not busy, we've been ordering DELIVERY!! haha. So not much cooking.

I did cook yesterday though...w/ my slow cooker.

One of my favorite meals also happens to be one of the cheapest and healthiest. Gotta love when that happens. ;) I can't say the same for a plate full of cheddar and jack cheese nachos with jalapenos. A bag of dried Pinto beans runs between 2-3 dollars, and feeds 3-4 easily. Corn Meal is equally inexpensive, but makes great cornbread. I grew up with this simple food - one that you can customize with all sorts of toppings and make it all your own.

I usually have the following toppings on hand: Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Jalapenos, Cilantro, Chopped Onions...

Mia's Pinto Beans

Here's what I used:

1 bag dried pinto beans
3 strips bacon, chopped into 2-3" pieces
1 onion, chopped into 1-2" pieces
dash: Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
4-6 cups water

Here's what I did:

Rinsed the beans thoroughly in a colander to weed out any little rocks (yes, rocks) that might be hiding. Added beans, bacon, onion, seasonings and water to slow cooker and set to high. Cooked on high for 2-3 hours, checking occasionally. Added water when some of the beans began to rise above the water level. Turned to low and let cook another 2-3 hours. They were probably done after 1-2, but it didn't hurt to continue to cook them and keep them warm.

Cheesy Cheddar Cornbread

Here's what I used:

1 cup corn meal
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 deli slices cheddar, broken into 1" pieces (shredded is fine too - about 1/2 cup)
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 400 degrees. Then I added all of the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl, and whisked to remove any lumps. Then I added the oil, milk and egg, and mixed just to incorporate. Lastly, I added my cheddar pieces and mixed them into the batter. I added my batter to a med-sized glass baking dish that had been sprayed well with PAM. After 20-25 minutes, the cornbread should be golden brown on top, mine was also oozing a little cheddar on top - YUMM.

I cut the cornbread into individual squares. This recipe mades about 9-12 good-sized pieces of cornbread.

On to reviews. My dad was over last night, and was pretty happy to hear I was making one of his favorite meals, too. Its his mom's recipe, so he's a long time fan. :) He added cheese, sour cream, jalapenos and broke his cornbread into his bowl. I like to add 2 big dollops of sour cream and a good amount of cheese - and then eat each bite with its own cornbread. And then pop a jalapeno here and there. Hubbs...well hubbs doesn't think beans are a REAL dinner. He was skeptical that BEANS stand on their own as an actual protein...but ate anyway. I think just because he was hungry. Oh! And Sydney Grace loved her beans and cornbread. She just popped those little puppies in one by one. I found a proten she likes! WHEEEE.

Whole Wheat Rotini Primavera

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We recently made our monthly pilgrimage to Costco, and picked up huge bags of cut broccoli and red/orange/yellow bell peppers. I wondered to myself how my little family of three would possibly consume all of it before it went back to God. I imagined all sorts of Broccoli soups, casseroles, steamed, etc. Not to mention that Sydney really won't eat her veggies, so she's out, in terms of help. So I decided to throw together a Pasta Primavera, in memory of a restaurant near my college that had an awesome Primavera with great veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, etc. in a light, fresh sauce.

Here's what I used:

2 cups broccoli flourettes
2 bell peppers, cut into 1" pieces
4 roma tomatoes, cut into 1" pieces
1 box Whole Wheat Rotini
1 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp butter (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch Red Pepper Flake
4-5 tbsp olive oil

Here's what I did:

Boiled water in a large stock pot with salt. Began to boil the Rotini.

Meanwhile, sauteed broccoli and peppers in a skillet with olive oil, garlic and butter. Once the broccoli and peppers began to soften, I added the tomatoes, chicken broth and red pepper flake.

After about 10 minutes the Rotini was cooked to al dente, and then drained.

I added my vegetable mix to my pasta, and mixed to incorporate. Served in large pasta bowls and sprinkled with shaved parmesan. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Spaghetti with Clams

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This is yet another EASY, healthy, South Beach Cookbook Recipe. And a dinner that can be prepared using mostly "staple" and pantry items. Which makes it a great just throw it together choice for dinner.

Spaghetti with Clams

Here's what I used:

2 small cans chopped clams in juice (separate clam meat from juice, retain juice)
1 box spaghetti (Whole Wheat if you have it)
1/2 cup Fat Free 1/2 and 1/2
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flake (great for HEAT)

Here's what I did:

Brought a large stock pot of water to a boil. Added my pasta, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, I added my olive oil to a sauce pan and allowed to warm up. Added my garlic to the oil and let soften until fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Garlic is SO EASY to burn, don't ignore it!). Then I added my clam juice, 1/2 and 1/2, parsley and red pepper flake. Allow this to cook down and thicken a bit, about 10 minutes.

Once my pasta was al dente (still a touch of bite), I drained it, and added it back to the pot. Then I poured my clam sauce over the pasta to mix thoroughly. I served this in large soup bowls so that we could fish out all the clam pieces. Also, topped with shaved parmesan.

Very yummy and easy.

All Clad sales are on!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The awesome husband emailed me a link to Williams-Sonoma's fall sale. Of particular interest was the 1.5 quart All Clad Saucepan. For 75.00. AWESOME! It gets better. Because I am the master of sales and discounts...I checked Amazon and they had it for 74.95 with FREE SHIPPING. SQUEEE!! I now have a gorgeous saucepan on its way to my house for 40.00 off retail AND no shipping fees.

Aaaaahhhhhh, yay!!

Greek Couscous

Friday, September 25, 2009

So this is an original recipe that I have made several times. I love the classic caprese salad, and I love greek salad. I also love renditions of recipes where warm ingredients, like brown rice, or in this case, couscous, are added to the fresh veggies and cheeses to make a warm salad. So in deference to those recipes, I thought up a greek couscous salad that can be served warm or cold. I prefer warm because it breaks down the cheese a little bit and makes it nice and luxurious to eat. Yes, I said luxurious. About a salad.

Greek Couscous (or Whole wheat couscous with feta, basil and tomato)

Here's what I used:

2 cups uncooked whole wheat couscous
2 1/2 cups water (or as directed by couscous instructions)
1 crate (~1 1/2 cups) quartered cherry tomatoes
1 package (~4 oz) low fat feta cheese (or mozzarella!)
1 package (~10 large leaves) fresh basil
2 tsp garlic powder
4-5 tbsp good olive oil

Here's what I did:

Brought water to a boil with a little salt, and half the garlic powder. Once boiling, quickly stirred in couscous, and removed from heat. Covered, and allowed to sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepared the vegetables. Quartered all of the cherry tomatoes, and stacked and rolled all the basil leaves into a cigar-shape, and then cut width-wise to "julienne" them into thin ribbons.

Once the couscous was done, transferred to a large mixing bowl and drizzled with olive oil. Added in the tomatoes, basil and feta, and stirred to incorporate all ingredients. Added 1 tsp salt, pepper to taste and remaining garlic powder.

I served this alongside a simple grilled chicken. Sydney also loved this, so she now has some waiting for her in her lunch bag. This is a great recipe to make a large batch of, and then save some to eat throughout the week. Its healthy, quick and packs a lot of flavor for very little effort.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My mom picked up the October Martha Stewart Living magazine for me the other day. I thumbed through all the cute project ideas for fall, and happened on a recipe towards the back. Beautiful acorn squash, stuffed with a mixture of bulgar wheat, ground beef, acorn squash and other hearty, yummy ingredients. Lo and behold, I had actually picked up an acorn squash at the store. I always love when gourds show up at the store, so I sometimes buy a few...and figure out what to do with them later. So I modified it a bit, but here's my version of Martha's stuffed acorn squash.

Stuffed Acorn Squash (for 2)

Here's what I used:

1 acorn squash
3/4 lb ground beef (calls for 90% lean, but I used what I had, 80/20)
1 cup quick-cook brown rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp good olive oil
2 tsp salt
pinch cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Here's what I did:

Set the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the acorn in half width-wise, and then cut a small amount off of each end so that when flipped over, they will sit flat. Turned upside down onto a baking sheet, and baked for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heated oil in a stock pot, and added ground beef, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/2 of the salt. Browned, and then reserved ground beef on a plate, using slotted spoon to keep juices in the pot.

Then, I added the onion and allowed it to soften for about 5 minutes. Added in garlic, and let cook for another minute. Finally, I added the rest of the salt, the uncooked brown rice and the water, brought to a boil, and allowed to simmer for 25 minutes (or as directions for your rice state).

By the time the rice mixture is cooked, the squash should be ready to come out of the oven. I did not remove the seeds from the inside prior to cooking, so I used an ice cream scoop (think of it as a giant melon baller) and gently scooped out the seeds and discarded. Then I scooped out most of the inside of each squash (leaving about 1/16" so that the sides don't fall in). This creates our "bowl" for the squash/rice/meat mixture.

Now that the rice was done, I added the ground beef back in, as well as the squash. Mixed well to incorporate all ingredients and then piled them into each "squash bowl". Here's where I deviated. This recipe is pretty sweet, and we tend to go with more savory meals. I sprinkled some shaved parmesan on top.

Then I popped the stuffed squash back in the oven for another 10 minutes so that the cheese would melt, and the mixture would get a little browned on top.

On to reviews. The only complaint I heard, and it was prefaced with "this is not a complaint", was that this was too sweet. Nick went back and added more parmesan to get a little more salt into his mix. I really liked it as it was, very subtle, and a little sweet. And the cinnamon and nutmeg add a really festive, fall-like vibe to the meal. I also did not serve this with anything else. I think it would have been nice with maybe some grilled asparagus or brussel sprouts, but I just ran out of time. Also, having a toddler attached to both legs while I hobble around the kitchen to produce something "gourmet-like", repeatedly saying "Mommy UP! Mommy UP!" tends to wittle down the variety that I can cook up.

AMAZING Child's DIY Kitchen

Friday, September 18, 2009

Check this out. AMAZING. I wish I were this handy!!!

South Beach Turkey Chili

I really, really, really love my South Beach Cookbook. Everything I find in that book is delicious, gourmet-tasting (without gourmet effort) and above all, HEALTHY. This Chili recipe is no exception. Its one of my top 5 recipes from this book (I have it linked in my Favorite Cookbooks Widget on the right-hand panel). The weather yesterday, and today, has been overcast, chilly, misty and gloomy...perfect CHILI weather. By 10am yesterday I knew exactly what I would be making for dinner.

South Beach Turkey Chili

Here's what I used:

1 lb ground turkey (naturally low fat)
2 sweet onions (vidalia), chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tbsp good olive oil
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
2/3 can tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth (I used bullion, and added water)
1 can black beans (drained, rinsed)
1 can navy beans (drained, rinsed)
1 can dark kidney beans (drained, rinsed)
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

2 tbsp sour cream
handful of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Here's what I did:

In large stock pot, I added the olive oil and then onions. Once the onions had softened (about 5 minutes) I added my garlic and turkey. I allowed the turkey to cook for about 8-10 minutes, and then added my bell pepper and spices. I allowed the bell pepper to cook for another few minutes and then added my canned tomatoes (with juice!), tomato paste and chicken broth. Stirred to fully incorporate and smooth out any lumps made by the tomato paste. Finally, I added all the beans.

Once all ingredients have been incorporated, check the seasoning. If you like more heat, add a pinch of cayenne pepper. I used a little bit of Tony Chacheries, which is a cajun seasoning. If you can find some at your local market, pick it up...its hard to find where I live. We often have to order from www.cajungrocer.com.

I allow the chili to simmer on low heat for about 20 or so minutes, this lets all the ingredients really meld together, and the sauce to thicken a bit.

Served in a large soup bowl, and topped with a small handful of cheddar cheese and sour cream (Disclaimer: This part is NOT SOUTH BEACH, and does add calories).

On to reviews: The hubbs really liked the chili. He added a touch of tabasco to his, but I left mine alone. He did say it was one of the best chili renditions I've done, and I think that's due to the fact that I allowed it to cook down for so long. It made the mixture much more rich and delicious. Can't wait for these leftovers. This recipe easily made enough for 6 people.

Mia's Chicken Enchiladas

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fall is starting to appear. Crisp air in the morning and a chilly breeze remind me that the leaves will change soon, and sweater weather will be here in no time at all. With that comes heartier meals like stews, casseroles....mmmm...some of my very favorites. One of those is my grandmother's Chicken Enchiladas. I have been enjoying this recipe since I was a child...and now enjoy making it for my own family.

Mia's Chicken Enchiladas

Here's what I used:

1 package corn tortillas
3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 bag/block shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups chicken stock (I used bullion cubes and water)
1 can Rotel (spicy tomato/green chilis)
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stick butter
2-3 tsp olive oil

Here's what I did:

First I prepared my chicken for a quick sear, by seasoning with S&P (both sides) and 1 tsp cumin. Then I added olive oil to a non-stick skillet and seared my chicken for 3 minutes per side on med-high heat. This adds a layer of flavor that boiling would not.

Meanwhile, I cut all corn tortillas into halves, and lined the bottom of a large glass casserole dish with the tortillas, I used about 8 tortillas, halved, to cover the bottom of the dish.

Once the chicken was seared, I removed them to a plate to rest. Added the butter to the same skillet that the chicken was in, and added my diced onions and minced garlic. I allowed them to soften, cooking about 8 minutes. Once translucent, I added my chicken stock, Rotel (juice too!), cumin and cream of chicken soup, stirring to remove any lumps. I allowed this mixture to cook down on high heat for about 20-25 minutes. You want to achieve a silky, gravy-like texture prior to adding to casserole dish. At the very end, once texture looked good, I added my chicken (chopped/torn into 1"ish pieces) into the mixture.

Now it was time to assemble the enchiladas. I added 1/3 of my chicken/sauce mixture to the casserole dish, and then topped with 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Then I laid another layer of halved corn tortillas, another 1/3 of the chicken/sauce, and then an other 1/3 of cheese. Finally, I added the third layer of corn tortillas, the remaining chicken/sauce and topped with cheese.

Cooked at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

The hubbs and my dad both agreed that this was my best rendition of this family classic. I attribute it to the use of the Rotel (the original recipe only calls for a small can of green chilis, but I used a large can of tomatoes/chilis instead) and the cayenne. This dish had a great Kick, and I can't wait to enjoy it a second time for lunch - I'm sure it will taste even better!!

Crispy Roasted Chicken with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Cauliflower

Monday, September 14, 2009

The name of the game Friday night was Roasted. I received my October issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and did a quick search for a recipe that would jive with the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts that I had. Luckily for me, there was a recipe that fit, and lo and behold the fingerling potatoes that I'd bought were also part of the pairing. What are the chances?? I modified it a bit as I didn't have a whole chicken as the recipe calls for, and thus was missing the gizzard and neck (for making a gravy), so this is more of an omage to the recipe than an actual "copy".

Crispy Roasted Chicken

Here's what I used:

3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
3-4 tbsp good olive oil
One lemon, sliced into 6 rounds

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 400 degrees F. Arranged one rack in the center of the oven, and one rack at the very bottom (for my vegetables - recipe below). Generously S&P the chicken breast and drizzle with olive oil, ensure breasts are evenly coated with oil. Lay 2 lemon slices over each chicken breast. These cooked for about 25-30 minutes. I used a meat thermometer to make sure they were at safe poultry temp, and not dry. The minute they hit 165 I pulled them out.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Cauliflower

Here's what I used:

1 bag fingerling potatoes, chopped into 1/2" rounds
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into small flourettes (about 1" pieces)
4-5 tbsp good olive oil

This is so easy... Prepare a cookie sheet with foil or other nonstick coating/cover (I wish I had done this, I lost a lot of crispiness off the potatoes that stuck to the bottom of my cookie sheet. Waaaah!!). In a bowl, coat vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle generously with S&P. Lay out in single layer on cookie sheet. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice throughout to ensure crispiness on all sides of vegetables. Potatoes should have crispy outer coating.

Since these two parts can cook together in the same oven, same temperature...its a great recipe to sort of "set and forget". You're not having to make a sauce while watching a timer, etc. The chicken was perfectly cooked, JUST right. You can really taste the lemon on the skin as well, subtle but delicious.

Whole Wheat Penne Pesto with Artichokes and Toasted Pine Nuts

Friday, September 11, 2009

Last night my dad hosted a family dinner to bid my sister farewell. She is on her way to Austin, TX right now to start her 4 years at AOMA for Accupuncture. We already miss her terribly, especially Sydney. I'm sure she'll be asking for "Aaaanti" tonight. :(

So in honor of Aaaanti and her own recipe, I give you...

Whole Wheat Penne Pesto with Artichokes and Toasted Pine Nuts

Here's what we used:

2 packages Whole Wheat Penne
2 packages basil pesto
1 package (~1/2 cup) raw pine nuts
1 container (~1 1/2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium jars artichoke hearts, quartered

Here's what we did:

Set water with salt to boil on stovetop in large stock pot. Meanwhile, toasted pine nuts in sauce pan on med-high heat for about 15 minutes (until golden brown and fragrant). Set aside pine nuts. Boiled penne until tender, drained and added back to stock pot. Heated pesto, tomatoes and artichokes until simmering, and added into stock pot with penne pasta. Stirred well to incorporate sauce and then added in pine nuts.

This was a large group, so this recipe easily served 8 people with leftovers. This would have also been really good with some shaved or shredded parmesan cheese. Yumm!!

Vacation is over...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We got back from Texas Tuesday afternoon. We've been "recovering" ever since. Tuesday night we just ordered pizza, and since I haven't had time to plan menu's or shop yet - Nick brought home Greek Salads last night. Yummy.

I promise to be up and running again soon... Shop. Plan. Laundry. Work. Sydney. Just super busy!

Salmon Chermoula with Nutty Brown Rice

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I discovered "Chermoula" in my South Beach Cookbook. Its a primarily Moroccan marinade, but if I didn't know better, I would say mexican or southwest due to the cilantro. If you love cilantro, you'll DIE when you try this sauce. (***If you HATE cilantro, you can make this same recipe with Parsley instead). You can pair it with any fish, though the recipe suggests Sea Bass, Trout or Salmon. I also make extra (double the chermoula recipe below) so I can dip my starch in it. Its zesty, tangy, zippy and YUM!

The nutty brown rice is also a South Beach Cookbook recipe, Phase 2. Toasted almonds, onion and brown rice. Seriously, what else could you ask for?? And guiltless carbs? Be still my belly!

Salmon Chermoula

Here's what I used:

2 6 oz salmon filets

1 bunch fresh cilantro (stems and leaves)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
4 cloves (peeled) garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 cup olive oil

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 450 F. Rinsed and patted salmon filets dry. Sprinkled both filets (both sides) with S&P and set aside. Set aside. In a food processor (or blender - both work fine) add cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, cumin and red pepper flake. Begin to pulse mixture, and slowly add olive oil until the ingredients bind into a liquid. Continue until chermoula reaches consistency of a thick salad dressing. It smells FANTASTIC. I think I could wear it as a perfume. I digress....

Place small amount of chermoula in bottom of a glass baking dish, and add salmon on top, skinside down. Cover salmon with remaining chermoula.

Bake 12-15 minutes, until fish is opaque and tender.


Nutty Brown Rice

Here's what I used:

3/4 cup slivered almonds
2 cups med-grain brown rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp butter

Here's what I did:

Heated oven (you could also use a toaster oven) to 350 F and toasted almonds for 5 minutes. Brought chicken broth, onion flakes, butter and S&P to a boil in a medium stock pot, and added brown rice. Reduced heat to a simmer and cooked 50 minutes (check instructions for your rice, cook times can vary due to grain types). Once cooked, added in toasted almonds and served immediately.

***The original recipe called for sauteed onions and quick-cook brown rice. So I cheated on the onions, but opted for better rice. You can easily substitute those two out.

On to the reviews. I discovered the Chermoula recipe a few weeks ago, and it was a major hit then...and its still one now. We mixed it up this time by placing the salmon on a soaked cedar plank and putting it on the grill. I like it either way. The nutty brown rice was also very good, and the quantity that I posted above could really feed 6 easily. I'm having some for lunch today, as a matter of fact.

Chicken Chevre with Creamy Basil Polenta

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This chicken recipe is soooo SIMPLE. It packs a gourmet punch without the effort or skill required. Sounds perfect to me. Also, I have never tried to make my own polenta, but its so inexpensive (corn meal and chicken stock, basically) and a very yummy, different starch to serve. It only takes about 15 minutes to make, too!

The original Barefoot Contessa recipe requires skin-on chicken breasts (which is the BETTER way to do this), but another way to do it, is to cut, lengthwise, into the top 1/3 of the chicken breast (skinless) and stuff it that way, being sure to smooth the flap back over the stuffing when finished and before oven time.

Chicken w/ Herbed Goat Cheese & Basil

Here's what I used:

3 skinless chicken breasts
4 oz Herbed Goat Cheese (Chevre, en francaise)
6 large, fresh basil leaves
3-4 tbsp good olive oil

Here's what I did:

Preheated oven to 375 F. Cut 1/3 lengthwise slit into chicken breasts to create a pocket for my stuffing. Seasoned entire chicken breast with S&P. Sliced the Chevre (cheese) into 6 or so pieces, and laid them inside pocket, followed by 2 basil leaves each. Smoothed top flap of chicken back over top of stuffing. Drizzled generously with olive oil. Let bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

ALTERNATIVELY:  Carefully separate three sides of the skin off of a bone-in, skin-on breast, and place cheese and basil leaves underneath.  Replace skin overtop the cheese and basil, and season.  Amazing.


Creamy Basil Polenta

Here's what I used:

1 cup cornmeal
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
1 tbsp julienned basil (roll into cigar shape, and cut widthwise)

Here's what I did:

Brought chicken stock and garlic to a boil in large nonstick stockpot. Once boiling, brought down to med/low heat, and slowly added cornmeal, whisking constantly to break up lumps. I then turned my flame down to low, and stirred constantly for 7 minutes. If you leave it, the polenta will burn/stick to bottom of pot, so you really have to watch it. Then, with a spatula, I mixed in the parmesan, cream cheese, basil and S&P.

I served the polenta immediately. Its not something that you can easily reheat, so make sure you time it towards the end of your meal preparation, and once your protein is nearly done. I added a large dollop to each plate, and then set my chicken breasts on top. I think this also would have been great with some sort of drizzle, so I might try that next time.

For reviews, my husband liked the chicken, as always. It is a meal favorite of ours. On the polenta, I don't think he's ever had it before. He did say it was a lot like mashed potatoes, but could have used a bit of a kick. I suppose I could add red pepper flake or maybe a touch more black pepper next time. I have no review from Sydney, due to the fact that she passed out cold at 6pm...about 20 minutes after we arrived home. I'm guessing growth spurt or missed 2nd nap. We missed her last night.

Weekend of Non-Cooking

Monday, August 31, 2009

I'm not slacking, I promise. We had a busy weekend of my niece's 1st Birthday on Saturday, and then lunch w/ an old friend on Sunday. Both were heavy "meals" so we didn't cook at home. I do have some great things in store for this week though.

Wanting to take advantage of fresh, summery ingredients before we move into fall. Here's my recipe list for this week:

Shrimp Stirfry w/ Brown Rice
Basil and Goat Cheese Chicken Breast w/ Whole Wheat Couscous
Summer Vegetable Pasta
Salmon Chermoula (amazing!) w/ TBD fresh veggies

With Labor Day fast approaching, I'm looking forward to some fall favorites. An amazing Cajun Chicken Soup, Turkey and Goat Cheese Lasagna (to die for), Chicken Pot Pies....mmMMmm. Fall foods are the BEST!!

We're actually heading to Texas later this week to visit family in Austin and Wimberley. I'm looking forward to gaining inspiration from my grandmother, who is an amazing South Texas/Mexican cook. Handmade tortillas, empanadas, and she cooks all by feel. No recipes. Just instinct. I hope to bring our video camera and set it up to record a few cooking sessions, so that we as a family can keep them on hand to TRY to recreate some of her amazing recipes ourselves.

More to come...

Ribeye Steaks with Sauteed Onions and Red Potatoes

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nick found a great deal at our local grocery store the other day. One ribeye steak was half off, and the other was .16. Yea, someone made a boo boo, but we reaped the rewards. Sweet. This is like every coupon mom's midsummer night's dream.

Ribeye Steaks with Sauteed Onions and Red Potatoes

Here's what I used:

2 ribeye steaks
1 cup soy sauce
2-3 tbsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp butter

2 medium onions, cut into rings
3 tbsp olive oil

12 small red potatoes, skinned
3-4 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, chopped
1 tbsp butter

I marinated the steak in the soy sauce and steak seasoning for about 20 minutes, flipping once to get both sides. Also threw skinned potatoes in stock pot of water, and set to high (added salt to water).

Meanwhile, I added olive oil to a saute pan at medium heat and added the onions. Sauteed onions until they were browning on the edges and limp/translucent, about 15 minutes. Sprinkled with S&P.

Removed onions from pan and put them on a plate to rest, and inverted another plate over top to keep them hot. In same pan as used for onions, I added another tbsp of olive oil and and 2 tsp butter. Immediately added my steaks and let cook for 3 minutes per side. I pulled them off and allowed them to rest for another 10 minutes.

Once my potatoes were done (check by piercing a potato with a fork, it should split the potato easily) I drained them into a colander and added them back to the stock pot. Added butter, cheese, scallions & S&P. Then I covered the stock pot, and gave the mixture a few good shakes. I find this an easy way to incorporate ingredients w/ cooked potatoes, it gives the dish a "beaten" texture/quality which keeps it more rustic but still really good.

I don't think there were any complaints from this meal. My steak was a little overcooked, but my piece was thinner (I suspect it was also the .16 piece. Hmph.) The potatoes and onions were delish.

Just a note...& Crispy Garlic-Thyme Chicken Breasts

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tuesday night my friend and hairdresser came over to do hair. My hair, my husband's hair, his cousin and her two kids hair, and my sister's hair. Dinner did not get cooked, but rather ordered. Pizza that was. It was yumm.

Wednesday night I went riding. Wheeeee!! Thus, another non-cooking night for me. Nick did make a yummy herbed chicken that he braised in butter and olive oil. MMmmmmm. I'll try to find the recipe.

Found it!

Crispy Garlic-Thyme Chicken Breasts (Douglas Keane of Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA)

Here's what he used:

2 large chicken breasts (w/ bones & skin)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
4 sprigs thyme, picked
2 tsp butter

Here's what he did:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Season both sides of chicken w/ S&P, and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm large saute pan over high heat, 2 minutes, then add canola oil. Place chicken in pan, skin side down, and shake pan to prevent sticking. The chicken should glide on tow of oil and should "crackle", continue to cook until skin is light brown.

Put entire pan into oven for 10 minutes, skin side of chicken still down. Flesh side of chicken should still be raw, don't worry.

Pull pan out, and back on burner on medium heat. Smash garlic cloves with palm of your hand and then add to pan. Add thyme as well. Add butter and carefully flip the chicken, use a spoon to baste top of chicken with frothy butter mixture. Continue to baste for 1 minute.

Remove chicken to a resting plate, and let sit 5 minutes.

We served this with leftover baked beans and cole slaw from the BBQ last weekend. My large chicken breast was still slightly raw, but it was a BIG breast. Nick put it back in the pan for another 5 minutes - I also think this happened because the original recipe calls for boneless, skin-on chicken, and we used bone-in skin-on chicken. I think the bones helped insulate the chicken from the heat, and therefore took longer to cook. This was yummy!!

Chicken Kabobs with Greek Salad and Hummus

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One of my favorite dinners is Greek Chicken Salad. There are a few places in the northern virginia area that make impressive Greek Salad's. One is Moby Dick's House of Kabob, another is Paisano's in Fair Lakes. While I enjoy patronizing our local stores, its also a challenge to try to recreate them in my kitchen. On top of that, I despise store-bought hummus. I think it tastes mealy and is too lumpy. So I have perfected my own recipe, after several middle-eastern friends and coworkers had provided me with several hints. I made this dinner in three parts: Chicken and Green Pepper Kabobs, Greek Salad with Calamata Olives & Feta, and Hummus with lightly toasted wheat pita wedges. Yummmmm.

Chicken and Green Pepper Kabobs

Here's what I used:

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 large green bell pepper
1/2 cup greek dressing
6 pre-soaked wooden skewers

Here's what I did:

Set the grill to Medium heat. Used kitchen shears and cut the chicken into large 1.5" cubes, and added them and the greek dressing into a dish to marinate. I also liberally sprinkled them with S&P. Chopped the bell pepper into 1" pieces. Alternated chicken and peppers onto each skewer, with a small space in between each piece. I put about 4 pieces each of chicken and peppers on each skewer...smaller skewers might require less per skewer.

Cooked skewers, turning occasionally, for about 6-8 minutes. Longer if chicken pieces are larger.


Greek Salad with Calamata Olives & Feta

Here's what I used:

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, skinned, halved lengthwise, and then chopped
2 tbsp reduced fat feta cheese
6-8 pitted Calamata olives
Greek Dressing as desired

Here's what I did:

Combine all ingredients into a large salad bowl. I don't add dressing until salad is plated. I let each person choose how much dressing they want to add. I also hold the olives for my husband, who doesn't like them, and just add them to mine.



Here's what I used:

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed well and drained
2-3 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
4-5 tbsp good olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves roasted garlic - yumm!)

Here's what I did:

In a food processor or blender, combine chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, vinegar and S&P. Slowly add olive oil until mixture binds together. Continue to add olive oil, and blend until mixture achieves smooth, peanut butter-like consistency. If you like your hummus more grainy, process it a little less. I like it the smoother the better, w/ no grainy or lumpy texture.

I also like to cut pita bread into 8 wedges, and then let toast in the toaster oven for about 2-3 minutes and serve hot with the hummus. Enjoy!!

Sunday Family BBQ (Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Caprese Salad & Strawberry Poundcake)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The hubbs and I (okay mostly the hubbs) cleaned the house top to bottom yesterday. He got up at 6:15am expressly for the purpose of doctoring & putting his 7 lb pork butt into the gas grill for what would be a 14 hour cooking marathon. Was it worth it? A resounding YES! from the 6 adults who waited, and waited, and waited some more. It was AMAZING. Now if I can dig up the recipe. I have already been turned down on my request for him to "guest blog" because he doesn't want to "have to write it all down".

My contributions to the evening were: Caprese Salad. Strawberry Poundcake. Recipes below.

Garden Grown Caprese Salad

Here's what I used:

2 dozen fresh-picked cherry tomatoes (usually use roma)
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese
1 bunch fresh sweet basil
2-3 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Here's what I did:

I halved all my homegrown cherry tomatoes (never refrigerated - please don't refrigerate your tomatoes!) and threw them into a serving bowl. Added olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and generously sprinkled w/ S&P. I then covered it and let it sit for several hours on the counter to marinate.

Once we got closer to eating (see "waiting" notes above), I plucked the biggest, best basil leaves, stacked them on top of one another, rolled them into a "cigar" shape, and chopped them across their width. This gives the basil a "string" shape. Then I chopped once across their length to shorten them. I also took my fresh mozzarella ball, and cubed the mozzarella into little 1/2 x 1/2 cubes. It probably would have been better to get the leetle balls, and half them, to mirror the cherry tomatoes - but alas they were not on SALE and mozzarella is "espensive" around here.

Throw cheese and basil into the mix, and stir. Serve immediately. AMAZING. And so satisfying that I grew the little "maters" myself.


Strawberry Poundcake

Here's what I used:

2 big containers of strawberries, pitted, cut into 1/2"-ish pieces
2 tsp splenda (or sugar)

1 loaf Sarah Lee Poundcake (CHEATER!! I know. I'm so ashamed)

1 can Whipped Cream

Here's what I did:

Super easy. Add strawberries to bowl, sprinkle with sugar. Cover and let sit for an hour or two. The strawberries will begin to break down and create a juice. When ready to serve, slice the poundcake (head hanging in shame), top with strawberries, strawberry juice and whipped cream.

The Caprese Salad was a huge hit with the family. Everyone said it was the best they've ever had. I attribute it to the fresh, never fridged tomatoes. They were so incredibly sweet, it was almost unbearable. The strawberries were delicious. I need to get the husband unit to give me the pulled pork recipe, it was ridiculously succulent and just amazing. He's a bbq master, I bow to his grilling power.

Meatloaf with Tomato Gravy

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I think Meatloaf is an ultimate comfort food. Add a pile of mashed potatoes, and you'd satisfy most. This particular recipe is exceptional, as far as meatloaf goes. It ain't your mama's meatloaf. haha. I think what makes it more interesting is not only the layering of flavors in both the meat and the gravy, but the flavor of the gravy itself. Velvety, tangy, and just jumps off your tongue. Yet another Ina Garten recipe, this is another family favorite.

Here's what I used:

Meatloaf Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (seasoned or not)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lbs ground beef (or meatloaf mix)
1/3 cup grated parmesan (powdered works too)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large eggs


Gravy Ingredients:
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz chicken broth
1/4 cup parmesan
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the breadcrumbs for several minutes in a large skillet, and then transfer to large mixing bowl. Add olive oil to skillet, and then onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer to same mixing bowl with bread crumbs. Also add in meat, Worchestershire and cheese. Incorporate ingredients together, add egg, and stir to coat. **This may seem unappealing, but here's where I use my hands. I don't think there's a better way to mix together the ingredients than freshly washed hands (sans any rings, etc.) and use your fingers!! haha.

Transfer meat mixture to a foil-lined cookie sheet and press into desired shape. I usually go for a small, short "loaf of bread" sort of shape. Rounded ends, straight sides and slightly rounded top. Bake for 45 minutes (internal temp of 160 F).


Cook onions, garlic and oregano in olive oil and butter until browned, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and bay leaf, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and crushed tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until sauce begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in parmesan cheese, vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf and transfer sauce to a serving bowl.

Once meatloaf is done in the oven, tent with foil, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Then slice, and serve with gravy and choice of sides.

I didn't have to ask my husband about this one because I've made it about 2 dozen times over the last few years. Its always a hit. Sydney liked it too!! I don't usually consider this a "summer" dish, but we had 80/20 ground beef in the fridge, and were all burgered out. So we decided on the "meatloaf recipe". We didn't have any sides w/ it, while its super yummy w/ potatoes, veggies, etc...its also heavy and can easily stand on its own. The husband unit followed his up with Peppridge Farm Chocolate Cake & Cool Whip...I went to sleep in a food coma.

Mia's Pico de Gallo (Guacamole)

Friday, August 21, 2009

My grandmother taught me this fresh, simple recipe years ago. Its a family & friend favorite, so I thought I would share it.

Here's what I use:

2 avocado's, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
juice from one lime
pinch of Red Pepper Flake (optional)

Here what I do:

Add all ingredients to a med/large mixing bowl and stir. Very difficult. Serve with tortilla chips. ;)

Black Bean & Cherry Tomato Dip with Goat Cheese

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My husband was playing golf last night, so it was just the girls. Sydney, myself, and our two dogs, Jazmyn and Madison. Since it was just us, I made snacks, which is something I love to do. I'm a grazer by nature; I love the variety that snacks offer. That said, I'm in dire need of FOOD, I haven't shopped for this week, so the kitchen is "running on empty". I still found a way to have a yummy snack AND satisfy the picky Ms. Sydney.

Sydney got baked Sweet Potato Fries. Yes they came from a bag in the freezer. (gasp). Sue me, it was easy, she'd eat it, and we HAD it.

I made a variation of an Ina Garten recipe, her's was entitled "Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes". I had fresh cherry tomatoes from my neighbor's garden, and a can of black beans, so this recipe fit the intent of my ingredients. I also had some left over goat cheese. YUMM.

Here's what I used:

2 tbsp good olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
12-14 cherry tomatoes, rough chopped
1/3 cup chicken stock

Here's what I did:

I added the olive oil to a sauce pan and put on medium heat. Once hot, I added my shallot, and allowed to soften for about 5 minutes, added garlic, and cooked for 1 minute. Then I added my black beans, tomatoes and chicken stock. I was going for a dip-like consistency, so took out my potato masher, and gave the whole mix about a dozen mashings. I let this cook down until it reached the consistency of hummus. At this point, I added S&P to taste and adjusted accordingly. I'm not shy on flavor, so I probably added a good tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper...but adjust to your liking.

I then used a spatula to transfer all my hot yummy dip to a bowl, and crumbled about 2 oz. of goat cheese on top. I enjoyed my dip with some whole grain flatbread crackers w/ the little seeds on top. It was SO YUMMY!!!

No reviews for this one other than mine. I loved it. It hit the spot. Sydney was not a fan, but I didn't expect her to be. It was mine, all mine. I think I'll have some for lunch wrapped in a spinach wrap. Ooooh, the possibilities. It would also be AWESOME as a burger topper, for those that like to add, add, add to their burgers.

Chicken Tomato Pesto with Whole Wheat Penne

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last night I was inspired by a Pesto Penne recipe, but wanted to use what was in my house, and try to "de-fatten" some parts of the recipe as well. I try to use whole wheat pasta whenever possible, and just overcook it slightly to take out some of the inevitable bite that whole wheat brings to the pasta's texture.

Here's what I used:

1 box Whole Wheat Penne Dried Pasta

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1" or so strips
3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp tomato pesto w/ olives (this is just what I already had, regular pesto is great too)
2 cups fat-free 1/2 and 1/2
2 tbsp butter (can substitute Smart Start)
1 tsp garlic powder

1 cup grated parmesan

Here's what I did:

First I started by filling a large stockpot with about 4" of water, added salt, set to high and put on the lid. Once boiling, I added my pasta and let cook, stirring occasionally (penne sometimes sticks together).

Meanwhile, I seasoned my chicken strips with S&P, and added the olive oil to a teflon-coated skillet, let it heat for a minute. Once the oil was hot, I added my chicken strips and cooked for about 2-3 minutes per side. (Cook longer if you leave the breasts in tact - strips cook much faster). I lined a plate with paper towels and removed the cooked chicken, and upturned another plate on top - to keep in the steam/heat.

Then I started my sauce. In the same skillet used for the chicken, I drained the olive oil, but didn't dry it out. I added the butter, and then 1/2 & 1/2 and garlic powder and let cook for about 5-10 minutes. The fat free 1/2 & 1/2 starts to develop a bit of a "skin" on the surface as it cooks, but don't worry, it will still taste great! Add the tomato pesto, and cook for another 5 minutes.

As the sauce was finishing off, I drained my pasta and added it back to the stock pot. I also cut my chicken on the diagonal, into 1" pieces (and cut a few even smaller for my daughter to eat). Finally, I added the sauce, and the parmesan cheese and gave it all a good stir.

This one was a huge hit with my daugher, she usually picks her way through her dinner, and most goes to our two dogs, who are hovering below. I call them the "sharks" because they just circle and stare up at the high chair, watching and jerking their heads looking for a spare, flying morsel. I think they were pretty dissapointed, she wasn't too into sharing.

My husband also liked it, but he is Italian, and loves his white pastas. He's still not a fan of whole wheat. I overcook it mostly to please him, and make it taste closer to white pasta. He said it was "good", but would have been better with white pasta. Yea, well, his waistline will thank me, and pretty sure he didn't go to bed hungry either. ;)

Filet Mignon with Sweet Potatoes & Onion Rings

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last night I made several of my favorite things for dinner. Steak. Potatoes. and something fried.

Here's what I used:

2 sweet potatoes

2 filet's of beef
about a cup Soy Sauce
1 tbsp. McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 vidalia onion
about a cup of AP flour
about a cup of Heavy Cream
2-3 cups of Olive Oil

Here's what I did:

First I washed and poked holes in the sweet potatoes and threw them in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.

Next, I marianated the filets in a glass baking dish by pouring about a cup of soy sauce, and generously shaking the steak seasoning into the dish (about a tablespoon). I allowed the steaks to marianate until about the last ten minutes of the sweet potatoe's cook time, so about 45-50 minutes.

Finally I skinned, and cut the onion into ringlets, and placed them into a bowl with the heavy cream (this gives my breading something to grab onto). I was out of Canola Oil, so I winged it with Olive Oil instead. I added about 2-3 cups of it to my skillet, and allowed it to heat up. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl I combined the AP Flour with a good amount of S&P, and then tested the oil with one little onion ring.... Once it got good an hot, I added just enough rings until the bottom of the skillet was full, you don't want to overfill the pan or the breading won't get nice and crispy, and the onions won't cook as well. It took about three rounds of rings until they were all a nice golden brown. As they cooked, I used tongs to move the rings onto a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Once all rings were on the towel, I sprinkled liberally with Tony Chacherie's Cajun Seasoning.

As the final round of onion rings were in the pan, I started up another skillet with about 2 tbsp. of butter. Once that was crackling, I added my steaks and let them sear for 2 minutes per side. Just as the sweet potatoes were coming out of the oven, I lowered the heat to 300 and popped my seared steaks in for about 5-7 minutes. This finishes off the cooking to about medium rare without burning the surfaces of the steak.

On to the plating: I cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise, and then pushed/mashed them in from the long sides to open them up a little. I don't feel the need to add any seasonings or butter to them, they're great as they are. Add the steak, and top with the onion rings. YUMMM.

This got very high reviews from my foodie husband - who is never shy to give me honest feedback on my cooking. His one remark was that he thought the Olive Oil may have made the onion rings a little greasy-tasting, and that Canola Oil may have been better.

C'est la Vie. Maybe next time...

First Post

Monday, August 17, 2009

So I thought I'd give this blog thing a try. My husband, 14 month old daughter and I live in a suburb of Washington D.C. About 3 years ago, my then-fiance and I made the plunge and bought a single family about 45 minutes from the city. Closer to my horses, and actually able to afford SPACE.

I guess I would like to post about what we are up to...and what we COOK. We love to cook. We have quite a collection of cookbooks, and love to gain inspiration from magazines, television shows (mostly Ina Garten), books and our backgrounds.

My husband spent 10 years in Louisiana, and learned to cook Cajun food. My father's family is from Texas, and I learned a lot from my grandmother. Collectively we LOVE to cook, eat, celebrate with friends and family.

So here we go...

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