Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Meatless Menu

Still hungover from all the red meat I ate last week, I decided to go vegetarian tonight. I often make meatless dinners featuring portobello mushrooms because they are so meaty they really fill up the tummy. They even satisfy my husband's hunger, and believe me that is quite a fete. Going meatless can also be very affordable. Tonight I made marinated portobello mushroom caps topped with tomatoes and fontina cheese. I served it with a greek orzo salad. The recipes are below.

Portobello Mushrooms, Tomato and Fontina Cheese
4 Portobello mushroom caps
1 Tomato thickly sliced
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tsp dried oregano
Salt and Pepper

In a large, sealable plastic bag, pour in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper. This doesn't have to be an exact science, just eyeball it. Add the portobello caps to the bag, seal it and toss it around to coat the caps. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Once marinated, heat a non-stick pan or grill pan over medium to medium-high heat and place the mushrooms in the pan. Cook until tender, flipping occasionally. This will only take a few minutes. Top the mushrooms with the tomato and turn off the heat. Distribute the cheese evenly among the mushrooms. Tint with a piece of foil until the cheese melts.

Greek-style Orzo Salad
1/2 pound of orzo (1/2 the box)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp fresh oregano or 1 Tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup olive oil
feta cheese
A combination of any of the following vegetables you like and however much of each you like: kalamata olives, chopped; cucumber, chopped; sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped; canned artichoke hearts, chopped; scallions, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, oregano and olive oil together. Add the vegetables. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt liberally. Add the orzo and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the orzo and add to the bowl, mix well. Lastly, add the feta cheese. This salad can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

I often make this salad into a main course by adding shrimp. Peel and devein a pound of large shrimp. When the orzo has about 3 minutes left to cook, add the shrimp to the boiling water. Shrimp is done when they are bright pink and curled up. It doesn't take long. Then just drain both together and add to the bowl with the dressing and veggies.

Monday, December 29, 2008

J. Alexander's Orzo and Wild Rice Salad

One of my favorite things to make is a salad using a starch like orzo, rice, barley or couscous. I went to J. Alexander's (a restaurant in Tampa located at Dale Mabry and I-275) about a month ago for a friend's birthday and had the best orzo and wild rice salad. It is loaded with peppers, onions, corn, fresh herbs, and currants with an amazing dressing. I have been thinking about it ever since. Well, a couple of days ago a lightbulb went off in my head - Google it! So this evening I did just that, and I found several websites with the recipe posted. I'm going to try out the recipe and once I do I will post it here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tonight's Menu: Chicken Cutlets with Blue Cheese Sauce

Tonight's menu featured pan-fried chicken cutlets with a blue cheese sauce. This sauce would have been very good on a steak, but since I am still detoxing myself from all the red meat I consummed this past week, I decided to try it out on chicken. And it was very good. You could also substitute the blue cheese for any cheese you like or have on hand. I served the chicken with green beans that I steamed until just tender. I then tossed the beans with olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, and salt and pepper. The recipe for the chicken is below.

Chicken Cutlets with Blue Cheese Sauce
4 chicken cutlets
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus some to dust the cutlets with
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 to 1 cup of crumbled blue cheese or other cheese, crumbled or shredded

Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Pour some flour on a plate and coat both sides of the chicken with the flour, dust off any excess. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until both sides are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the pan onto a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter. Add the 2 Tbsp of flour and stir until the butter absorbs the flour, making a rue. Slowly add the broth and milk and continue to stir so the rue is incorporated into the liquid. This will thicken your sauce. It won't take long to thicken, so keep your eye on it. Once it thickens add the cheese and stir until melted. Plate the chicken and spoon the sauce over it. Serve with the green beans.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Recipe: Pan-Seared Salmon with Dill Sauce

After all the (delicious) red meat I ate this week, I felt like I needed a break and decided to make salmon for dinner tonight. I make salmon a lot, more than any other kind of fish. It is very versatile, and forgiving. I served it with roasted potatoes and my roast asparagus (see previous post for the recipe).

Pan-Seared Salmon with Dill Sauce
2 Salmon fillets (skin removed; ask the fish department at your local grocery store to do this for you)
2 Tbsp olive oil
sour cream
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp fresh dill (chopped)
1 Tbsp horseradish
pinch of cracked red pepper

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the salmon in the preheated pan and sear it on each side for about 3 minutes. This will give a moist, medium center. If you like it cooked more well done, sear it for about 5 minutes per side.

To make the sauce, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, fresh dill, horseradish, and cracked red pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Feel free to add more or less of any ingredient. It is all about what flavors you like. Serve the sauce over the salmon.

Roasted Potatoes
4-5 red potatoes
herbes de provence
olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

Wash and cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, herbes de provence, salt and pepper. Lay out in an even layer on a cookie sheet. Place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 2o minutes, toss halfway through.

Herbes de provence is a spice mixture of rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory. If you don't have this on hand you can substitute dried rosemary or thyme. Just make sure to use dried spices because fresh ones could burn in the oven at such a high degree.

I had left over potatoes that I am going to serve as home fries tomorrow morning with breakfast. I'll just heat them up in a skillet to get them nice and crispy.

New Cookbooks

My lovely husband bought me two new cookbooks today: Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book and KitchenAid's Great Baking and More. The KitchenAid cookbook has more than just dessert recipes. It also has appetizer and entree recipes. I am very excited to try out my new standing mixer with some of the recipes. I was taking a break from Racheal Ray for a little while, but flipping through the pages at Border's today a lot of the recipes jumped out at me. I'll let you know more about these cookbooks once I try them out. And of course any recipes I love I will post here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake

One of my favorite desserts to make - and eat - is cheesecake. Below is a recipe for Chocolate Marble Cheesecake. I have made this a couple of times before and it is absolutely heaven on a plate. This recipe is from a cheesecake cookbook I got as a gift a couple of years ago, I believe from my mom. I'll be honest, even though I have made this before, I am a little nervous about how it is going to turn out this time. The recipe says to bake for 25 minutes, which I followed, but it didn't seem set enough in the center. It was a little too jiggly, so I am hoping it firms up while it is in the refrigerator overnight. So, I would suggest baking it for more like 30 minutes. Anyway, the full recipe is below, and I will let you know the final outcome with mine.

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (found in the baking aisle)
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the filling:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 pound regular cream cheese, at room temperature (that is two 8 ounce packages, use regular cream cheese, not reduced fat and I stick with the Philadelphia name brand)
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (again, don't go with reduced fat or fat free, it just isn't the same)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
For the crust: In a bowl, mix together the cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Pat into the bottom and partly up the sides of a greased 9-inch spring-form pan. (Go up the sides about an inch.) Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling: Place chocolate in a microwavable bowl and microwave on medium for 2 minutes, or until melted. Let cool. Place cheese and sugar in a food processor or mixer, and process or beat until blended. (I of course used my new KitchenAid mixer.) Add the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and mix until smooth. Spoon out 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture and stir into the chocolate. Pour remaining filling into the baked crust. Spoon chocolate mixture over the filling in distinct blobs. With a fork, gently swirl chocolate into the filling to marble it. Bake on a middle rack in the 325 degree oven for 30 minutes or until just barely set in the middle. Now, turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in there. Open the oven door and leave it ajar for 1 hour. The cheesecake will slowly cool, but continue to bake just a little bit more allowing it to set. I like to chill it in the refrigerator overnight. To serve, remove pan sides and cut into wedges. Serves 10.

My tip: Cheesecake has a tendency to crack on the top while baking. To prevent this, I always wrap the bottom of the pan with foil before I pour in the filling. I then place the pan on a cookie sheet that has an edge to it. I add just a little water to the cookie sheet, maybe 3/4 of a cup, surrounding the cheesecake pan ever so slightly. The water will evaporate while baking, but it keeps the air in the oven moist. Thus, preventing the cheesecake to dry out and crack.

Great Friends, Great Food and Great Wine

I am happy to report that my dinner party with friends last night was quite the success. We had a great time and all the food was delicious. I have to give special thanks to my husband who was very helpful in the preparations and helping me clean up the house, particularly making his man room look presentable. He also took responsibility for the roast beef. Of course he then went on to take credit for its deliciousness. However, I still take credit for the supervising and for the amazing sauce that accompanied it.

One thing I cannot take credit for was our beautiful dessert. My friend Jeanne made the best chocolate brownie trifle. If you want to make it, follow the easy recipe below.

Chocolate Brownie Trifle
prepared brownies (just make your favorite batch from a box)
chocolate mousse or pudding
whipped cream or cool whip
fresh sliced strawberries/raspberries or combination of the two

Take a trifle dish or other clear bowl and layer the ingredients, starting with the brownies. Followed by a thin, even layer of the mousse or pudding, then the whipped cream and lastly the fruit. Repeat two more times, ending with the sliced strawberries. Finish off the dessert by dusting with cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanks, Jeanne! I'll definitely be making this in the future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dinner Party with Friends

Every year my friends and I always get together for a little holiday celebration. For the past three years I have hosted it at my house. The first year I made baked ziti and salad and was so excited to use my new wedding china. Last year, due to hectic schedules we had a lovely champagne brunch. This year, due to low funds, we are having a potluck dinner. I am still hosting because I love to have dinner parties. I am making the main course, a delicious roast beef with a spicy parsley tomato sauce, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. I have pasted the recipe below. This is a great dish to entertain with. I have made this once before and the sauce is so good, perfect on roast potatoes as a side dish. Any leftover sauce could be used another night on sauteed chicken breasts or your favorite fish.

Roast Beef with Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Beef Roast:
1 (2 to 2 1/2-pound) sirloin tip or chuck beef roast
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/2
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence (you can find this in the dried spices aisle of any grocery store)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce:
1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make the beef roast, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Season the beef with salt and pepper. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.

Place a medium, heavy roasting pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Heat the olive oil. Sear the beef over high heat on all sides. Turn off heat. Place the seasoned tomatoes around the seared beef and place the pan in the oven. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees F. for medium rare, 135 for medium, about 30 to 40 minutes. Take the roast out of the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The internal temperature of the meat should rise 5 degrees F more and the juices will redistribute into the roast.

To make the sauce, place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the parsley is finely chopped. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, red wine vinegar and the roasted tomatoes from the beef pan and process until pureed. Add the olive oil in a steady stream with the machine running. To serve, slice the roast and place on a serving platter. Drizzle a little sauce over the meat. Serve the remaining sauce in a small bowl alongside.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Preparations

I have been running around all weekend preparing for the Christmas festivities. I finally finished my Christmas shopping and my gift wrapping. I also went grocery shopping to pick up some baking needs. My sister and I have decided to bake Christmas gifts for each other this year in lieu of material gifts. I am working on that today. I am baking something for her that I know she is going to love. I have to work this week, including Christmas Eve, so I am baking it today and it will freeze rather nicely. Plus I will be spending Christmas Eve night making cheesecake for dessert on Christmas Day. Since my sister reads this blog I don't want to ruin the surprise for her. I will post the "secret" recipe later this week. Are you ready for the holidays?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Per a Request: My Roast Asparagus

One of my favorite people asked me to post about how I make asparagus. My absolutely favorite way is to roast it in the oven. It comes out so tasty and delcious. I never make it any other way.

Start by trimming the edges of a bunch of asparagus. When picking out fresh asparagus, make sure the tips aren't droopy, but standing up nice and tight. Then you want to trim the bottoms. The easiest way to do this is hold one at each of the ends and bend until it snaps. (Wow, that sounded just like the 'bend and snap' scene from Legally Blonde.) Anyway, this point will give you a good guide and then you can use a knife to cut the rest of the bunch at the same place.

I then lay the asparagus out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. I also like to squeeze fresh lemon juice on top. Bake the asparagus in a pre-heated oven at around 400 degrees. You want to use a fairly hot oven. Cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. At about halfway turn the asparagus.

Roasting asparagus this way makes it very versatile. You can add any flavors you like. I like to roast some kalamata olives with the asparagus and once it comes out of the oven top it off with some feta cheese. Mmmm, yummy!

New Feature on A Modern Housewife

On the right-hand side of the screen you'll notice a new feature I just added. It is a list of my favorite cookbooks. I probably reference one or two of these a week. I will continue to add to the list. I have several on my Christmas wish list. We'll see if my husband picks up on the little hints I have been dropping lately. If you have any faves you think I would like, please post them in the comments section and I will certainly check them out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update: Stuffing Recipe

Mentioned in a previous post was a stuffing recipe I tried out for the first time on my husband and all of his co-workers for their holiday party. The dish was a big hit with all of them. After trying out a few others I think I finally found my go-to stuffing recipe. Thanks, Paula Dean! Below is my version. I hope you'll try it, too.

Southern-style Cornbread Stuffing
Cornbread, I just made a cornbread mix from a package
8 slices white bread
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 cups of celery, chopped (about 8 stalks)
1 onion, chopped
6-7 cups of chicken stock
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
5 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the slices of white bread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for just a few minutes, until lightly toasted. In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread, white bread, and saltines together; set aside. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onion, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and poultry seasoning. Pour the vegetable mixture over the bread mixture. Add the stock and a little more salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Now add the beaten eggs; mix well. Pour mixture into a lightly greased cooking pan (9x13) and bake until dressing is cooked through and lightly brown on top, about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Story of a Girl and Her Mission to Get a KitchenAid Mixer

I have been wanting a KitchenAid Standing Mixer since I registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond for my wedding three years ago. I didn't get the mixer as a wedding gift, which is understandable, they cost up to $300 or $400.

My second chance for a KitchenAid mixer was last Christmas. I thought for sure my husband was going to buy me one, my sister even bought me an attachment for it. But instead, my husband bought me diamond earings... the nerve of him!!

So, when Black Friday approached this year I was determined to find one for a great deal. I searched the ads on Thanksgiving Day for the best deal I could find, and there were some good ones out there, but the best one was at Wal-Mart for $130! Awesome! I decided I would do the leg work and try to get it, if my husband would pay for it as an early Christmas present. He agreed.

Now, I don't usually go shopping on Black Friday, but this year I was on a mission. I committed myself to going to as many Wal-Marts as it took until I found my cherished mixer. So, I got up early Friday morning and was out the door, arriving at the first Wal-Mart by 7:00 a.m. I ran in, zig-zagged through the crowds of people, heading straight to the kitchen department. I asked for assistance and felt a sting of disappointment when the associate told me all the mixers were gone.

I was off to the next location. I ran out of the store, got in my car and speeded down the road to the next closest Wal-Mart. I got there in record time, thanks to all the green lights I caught on Dale Mabry. Again, I ran into the store, zig-zagged and arrived at the kitchen department. I didn't see what I was looking for. But, I didn't panic. I asked an associate and she took me to the aisle and said, "I think we're all out of those." But something inside me didn't believe her. I went up to another associate and a manager and asked them. The associate took me to the area where they had been on display. We saw a lone mixer, the one priced for $130, in a shopping cart. We looked around wondering if it was someone's cart. After a few seconds, no one claimed it, so I grabbed it and wheeled it straight to the nearest checkout aisle.

Was it someone else's cart? I don't know. But look, if you leave your cart unattended on Black Friday, that's your fault. You're asking for someone to jack your stuff.

Mission: Accomplished!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe of the Day

So, my dear, lovely husband, whom I adore, volunteered me to make stuffing and green bean casserole for his work's holiday luncheon party that takes place tomorrow. Don't worry he didn't spring it on me at the last minute. I think I had a month or so advanced notice. Today when I got home from work at 5 p.m. I started cooking the very minute I walked in the door. Granted he did help me prep. His words were something like, "I'd feel like an a#*hole if I didn't help you." Ahhh, what a sweetie.

Anyway, I had only made stuffing once before and I wasn't crazy about how it turned out. So last Sunday I tested a cornbread stuffing recipe, but wasn't crazy about that one either. This weekend I searched on the Food Network website and found a Southern cornbread stuffing recipe by Paula Dean that sounded more to my husband's liking. I made my version of it. I just pulled it out of the oven and haven't tried yet, so I am hoping it is a winner, and if it is I'll post the recipe here at a later time.

As for the green bean casserole I opted out of making traditional green bean casserole, and instead made a green bean dish that I have made several times in the past for holiday gatherings, and it has always been a hit. It is a little fancier and more contemporary than the traditional casserole, but probably easier to make. I also saved myself some trouble and snagged a few scoops of it for my side dish tonight to accompany my dinner, the filet mignons mentioned in my previous post about the Land and Sea Market.

Green Beans with Carmelized Onions and Sliced Almonds
2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and rinsed
1 yellow or sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 small package of sliced almonds (can be found in the baking aisle of your grocer)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

In a large nonstick pan over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter into the oil. Once the butter melts, add the onion and sautee until carmelized, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile in another shallow pan with tight-fitting lid, add a couple of inches of water. Bring to a boil. Season well with a few good pinches of the salt. Add the green beans and put on the lid. Let steam for about 3-5minutes. They should be bright green and still have some crunch. Drain the green beans and shock them by running cold water on them. This allows the beans to maintain that great bright color. Once the onions are carmelized, add the almonds to the pan and let brown for just a minute. Then add the green beans and sautee to coat them in the oil and allow for the onions and almonds to distribute. Season well with pepper and a little more salt.

Another great addition to this would be sauteed mushrooms. Just add sliced mushrooms a few minutes after the onions. You may need to add a little more butter and oil.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Recipe for Snickerdoodles

This is one of my favorite Christmas cookies. I'm not sure of this recipe's origin, my mom gave it to me. These are very easy to make and don't call for too many ingredients. Most of the ingredients you probably always have in your pantry. Enjoy!

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 and a 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 and 2/3 cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time and the vanilla. Stir in flour. Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon. Combine the 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Then roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place each ball two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool. Makes about 44 cookies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tip of the Day

I just got home from a lovely shopping excursion with my husband. To all the local ladies out there, you have to check out Land and Sea Market on Gunn Highway. There is also a location in New Tampa. You can buy 5 pounds of ground sirloin all individually wrapped per pound for only $3 per pound. It is a great savings. They also carry all kinds of meat and seafood at unbelievable prices. Another great deal I got was the deal of the week. For $24,99 I got crab bisque for 2, 2lbs of ground sirloin, a pound of deli ham, greek potato salad, 2 filet mignons, and pot roast soup for 2. They have some great dips, spreads and premade meals as well. It definitely makes weeknight cooking a breeze.

My other tip is to shop at Farmer's Markets and produce stands. There is a great one by my house that carries fresh, local produce for way less than a grocery store. I hardly shop at the grocery stores anymore. I can get my meat and seafood at Land and Sea, and then my produce and even my milk and eggs at the stand. I encourage everyone to find local meat markets and produce stands in their areas. More than likely the quality and price is better than at your local grocer.

My first blog post...Ahhh!

So, I'll admit it. I don't really know what I'm doing here. This is my first blog post on my first blog. All I can say is that I hope any readers that I do get will enjoy it. My goal here is to help other busy, modern housewives by offering tips and sharing quick recipes for weeknight meals. I also hope to entertain you with my own stories of shopping expeditions and kitchen nightmares.

I have only been a modern housewife for a few years, and when I started out it wasn't pretty. I had to teach myself how to cook, mainly with the help from Rachel Ray. I hope this blog will also help out all the single ladies out there and soon-to-be-housewives with simple recipes that are still impressive. I hope I will inspire you to try cooking from time to time. Please come back often to see what I'm cooking up.