Monday, August 31, 2009

Turkey, Feta and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

These peppers were a big hit. I think the key to yummy stuffed peppers is using red peppers. How many people have made stuffed peppers and then not even eat the pepper? Right, Mom? Well, red peppers are much more milder in flavor than green ones. Plus, they have more vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Yellow or orange ones would also be great choices. My husband found this recipe and it was a great find. I am always looking for new ways to use ground turkey and this one is a keeper.

4 large red bell peppers - tops trimmed off, seeds and ribs removed
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup cooked orzo pasta (about 3/4 cup uncooked and cook really al dente, only about 6 minutes in boiling, salted water)
½ cup diced onion
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp minced garlic
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (or crushed Ritz crackers)

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl, add orzo (let it cool slightly first), onion, tomatoes, garlic, spices and dill. Mix well and gently fold in ground turkey and ½ cup of feta cheese. Spoon equal amounts of turkey-feta filling into the bell peppers. Bake peppers, in a greased casserole dish, for 45 minutes.

Add the remaining feta cheese to the panko breadcrumbs and set aside. Once the peppers cook for 45 minutes, remove from the oven and top them with the panko-feta cheese and return to oven for 15 more minutes.

(Note that the crushed tomatoes in this dish give a reddish color to the meat. To ensure the turkey is cooked completely, be sure that the internal temperature reaches 165F. Place a meat thermometer into the center of the pepper to read the temperature.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner: Frittata

Like we often do, we made breakfast for dinner tonight. This is one of our favorite things to do. Tonight I made a frittata and my husband made homemade hash browns. Frittatas are so easy and versatile. You can basically throw in anything you have lying around the house, which is what I did tonight.

I started out with a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and preheated my broiler. I added a tablespoon of butter and olive oil each. Added some chopped up portabello mushroom and cooked for about 5 minutes, until softened a bit.

While the mushrooms were cooking, I whisked 5 eggs in a small bowl with 2 tbsps of half & half and a couple spoonfuls of grated parmesan. The cream and cheese add a little richness.

Now back to the skillet. I then added 1 diced tomato (seeds removed), some leftover asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces, and some diced ham. Cook for a minute or two until heated through. Then I poured the egg mixture into the skillet. Stirred it a few times, added some feta cheese on top, and covered with a lid. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until the bottom is set, but still a little runny on top.

Place the skillet under the broiler to allow the top to cook. This will take a few minutes. Once it is set on top, remove from your oven, very carefully. Remember to use a potholder. Then cut into wedges like a pie. Makes 3-4 main servings.

I just used what I had around. You could do frittatas with bacon, potatoes and chedder cheese. Spinach would be great. Turkey and fresh dill is another great combination.

By the way you could totally eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Just reheat in a toaster oven or microwave.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dinners This Week

This week's dinners have been and will continue to be a bunch of oldies, but goodies.

Last night:
Last night I made chicken topped with a basil pesto. Check out my previous post. Although, I didn't have parmesan, so I added a little feta instead. Quite good. I wish I had a yard where I could grow basil, because I would make big batches of pesto. You can really put it on anything. I served it with lemon orzo and my roasted asparagus.

We had good 'ole chicken fajitas. I love just using the seasoning packet because it reminds me of when my mom used to make when I was growing up. Check out the recipe here.

Turkey meatballs over pasta with homemade marinara.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Marinated and Grilled Zucchini

I have been making zucchini this way for awhile. It is so tasty. You don't have to have a real grill for this, no worries, you could use a grill pan or a George Foreman grill (everyone has one of those, right?).

(Trust me, these don't have to be exact)
2 zucchinis
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
a splash of worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
olive oil (about 2 or 3 tablespoons)

Cut the zucchinis in half, then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside. In a medium bowl add the vinegar, garlic, oregano, worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the zucchini slices and let marinate for at least half an hour, but up to a couple of hours. Grill over medium heat until grill marks appear and the zucchini is tender, but still has some bite.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with a Basil, Garlic Butter

I am housesitting and doggysitting for my parents while they're at the beach with my younger brothers. I am taking full advantage by using their grill, and if the weather cooperates, I'll be using the pool this weekend as well. I picked up some filets at Land and Sea today, which we will make tomorrow night. I then stopped by my happy place, The Fresh Market, to get some fish. We wanted something atypical, so I picked up some Chilean Sea Bass. It was expensive, but well worth it. It almost tasted like lobster. It just melts in your mouth and is so buttery.

handful of flat leaf parsley
10 leaves of basil
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
zest and juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb of Chilean Sea Bass (or other white fish, halibut would be good as well)
olive oil

In a food processor, chop the basil, parsley and garlic. Cut up the butter in 4 to 5 pieces and place in the processor, pulse until combined with the herbs. Add the zest, juice and salt and pepper and pulse again. Remove from the food processor and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap and form back into a log. Refrigerate until ready for it.

Preheat the grill to medium-low heat. Rub the seabass with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on thickness. The fish should be firm, but still a little moist in the center. Remove from the grill and top with pats of the herb butter. Serves two.

You will have leftover butter, but save it for bread or another dish. I am going to use leftovers on my filets tomorrow. I suggest having some good bread nearby to sop up the melted butter that is left on your plate. You could also sautee the seabass if you don't have access to a grill (which is my case most of the time).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Just In...Turkey Bacon is Not Healthier than Real Bacon

So, while I was working from home the other day I was watching Oprah. She had on the guy who wrote the books Eat This... Don't Eat That or something like that. Anyway, the episode was about childhood obesity and they were trying to educate obese tweens and teens on healthy eating habits.

They played a little quiz with the audience asking what is healthier (or at least better) to eat between two choices. Well, one of the questions was, what is better, real bacon or turkey bacon? It turns out the better choice is REAL BACON! Who would've thought, right? Not me. For the past 4 years I have been eating turkey bacon thinking it is better for me. Apparently, they have the same fat and calorie count, but turkey bacon has more sodium.

I totally feel like have been cheating myself this whole time. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't mind turkey bacon, but I would much rather have regular bacon. So, no more denying myself the pleasure of real bacon. I will practice some self-control, though. I'm not going to start eating bacon on a regular basis or anything.

Roasted Pork Loin Chops with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette and Roasted Potatoes

On Monday I spent a horrible and exhausting day at jury duty where I was asked by lawyers some very personal questions in front of a room about 40 strangers. Needless to say I was not in the mood to cook when I got home. Luckily, my loving and adoring husband offered to step in and cook dinner. He made a fabulous meal, what a modern househusband he is!

Ingredients for the Roasted Pork Loin Chops and Potatoes:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary (You could use fresh, but we didn't have any, plus I prefer dried rosemary because fresh is so strong)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 boneless pork loin chops, each about two inches thick
1 and a 1/2 lbs. red or gold potatoes, quartered

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with nonstick spray.

Combine the oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss the potatoes and the pork chops in the mixture.

In a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear all sides of the pork chops until golden brown, a couple minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and place in the middle of the roasting pan. Add the potatoes to the pan, around the pork chops. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the potatoes halfway through. The pork should reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Top with the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (see below). Serves four.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup shallots, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. capers
salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients together except for the olive oil in a food processor. While the processor is running, slowly add the oil until combined.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beef Bolognese Sauce Over Creamy Polenta

I have made bolognese sauce before, but have always served it over pasta, which is traditional. Tonight I served it over creamy polenta. It was absolutely heavenly. Usually to make this sauce from scratch you start with carrots, onions and celery. But since last week I made Giada's homemade marinara sauce, which already has those vegetables, I just used the sauce I had in my freezer. This saved a lot of time.

Ingredients for the Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cups of Giada's marinara sauce (Find the recipe here.)
8 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

Ingredients for the Polenta:
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil. Once hot add the ground beef. While it browns, break up the meat with a wooden spatula so there aren't any large lumps. Add the sauce, basil, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Check for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and milk to a boil. (Keep an eye on it because as soon as I turned my back for one second, it boiled over and made a mess on my stovetop. Some of my readers may have remembered this happen to me before. I don't know what my deal is with polenta, but I digress.) Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and whisk in the polenta. Continue to stir for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Serve the polenta in the bottom of a bowl and top with some of the bolognese sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches

This recipe is courtesy of my mom and her co-worker Carol. Italian beef sandwiches are a staple of Chicago. I'm not sure how authentic these are, but my dad, a Chicago native, says they're pretty on par with what you find there. Husband loved this one - another great Crock Pot recipe for the arsenal.

3 to 5 lb sirloin roast or rump roast (I used the latter)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 (10-ounce) jar mild pepperoncini peppers (preferably ones presliced)

Trim the roast of any excess fat. Rub the roast with the garlic powder, Italian seasoning and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Cut the roast into three large chunks. Place in Crock Pot or slow cooker. Add the entire contents of the jar of peppers, the bouillon cubes and cover (or nearly cover) the roast with water.

Cook on low for 8 hours or until the beef shreds easily. Serve on toasted buns with a slice of provolone cheese. I like to pour some of the juice over the meat and even dip the top bun into the juice.

These sandwiches do have a bit of kick. If you don't like spicy, don't use the entire jar of peppers or drain some of the juice from the jar before adding to the Crock Pot.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oatmeal Craisin and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love oatmeal raisin cookies, but I really love Craisins, so I decided to swap them out. But you could really use any type of dried fruit. I had some leftover white chocolate chips that I decided to throw in, too. It made a great combination.

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried Craisins
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture and stir until well blended. Fold in the Craisins and white chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool.

Italian-Style Meatloaf

My husband loves the meatloaf at our favorite local Italian restaurant, so I thought I'd try to replicate it. I haven't had it myself, so I went by his description. I doubt mine was as good as Gino's, but it was good and my husband said it was on par. I served it with garlic mashed potatoes, but now that I am thinking about it, polenta would be really good. Oh well, there's always next time.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 lbs. ground beef/pork combination
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 grated parmesan cheese
1 cup marinara sauce (I made a batch of homemade sauce. Get the recipe here.)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and sautee until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for a couple of more minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the fresh bread crumbs, tear 4-5 slices of white bread into pieces, add to a food processor, pulse until fine. Add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

In a large bowl, place the ground beef/pork combination, bread crumb mixture, eggs, milk and cheese. Mix well, but be careful not overwork. Place the meat mixture onto a greased 9 x 13 pan and form into the shape of a loaf.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes. Once it's done, spoon the marinara sauce over it and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place back in the oven and allow the cheese to melt for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off and turn the broiler on low. Broil for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chicken and Broccoli with Spaghetti

Here is another pasta dish I threw together this past week. (Sorry to my low-carb readers, but I may have something for you later this week.)

1 head of broccoli, florets trimmed into smaller pieces
1 lb chicken cutlets, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lb spaghetti (I used a whole-wheat, chive and garlic spaghetti I got at the Farmer's Market.)
lots of olive oil and parmesan cheese

Bring about a cup of water to a boil in a skillet with a lid. Add the broccoli florets and season with a little salt. Place the lid on the skillet and let the broccoli steam for a few minutes. The broccoli should be a little tender and bright green. Remove to a plate.

Drain the water from the skillet. Add a little oil to the pan and cook the chicken on both sides until cooked through. About 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and slice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Allow to cook for 10 minutes.

In the skillet, add more oil and the garlic; cook for a couple of minutes. Add the parsley. Return the broccoli and chicken to the skillet to re-heat. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss the pasta with the chicken and broccoli. Add a little more oil, season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates and top with lots of fresh parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Mushrooms

While at Publix last weekend I saw this Italian sausge with parsley and cheese. I was intrigued, so I bought them. I realized I had a couple jars of marinara from a previous shopping trip and decided to make a little pasta dish.

1 package of Italian sausage, your favorite kind
1-2 portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
parmesan cheese

In a skillet with a tight-fitting lid, add the sausage with a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain the water, return the skillet to the heat, add a little oil and brown the sausage on each side for another 5 minutes. Remove the sausage to a plate. Add a little more oil to the skillet and add the mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper, sautee the mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the jar of sauce and can of tomatoes. Slice the sausages and add back to the pan. Allow to simmer together while the pasta cooks.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, divide the pasta among plates and top with the sauce. Serves 4.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Busy Week

So, I'm sorry I've been neglectful this week and haven't posted anything since Saturday. It has been a busy week, but I promise to post some new recipes this weekend.

Just a reminder Julie & Julia opens tomorrow! I'm very excited. I'm not sure when I'm going to see it because I have like 4 people who want to see it with me. I have a feeling I'll be seeing it in the theatres more than once. And I have a feeling after seeing it I am going to be very hungry and craving pastries.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And the winner is...

Middle-Aged Diva! She submitted three ideas/recipes, and they all sound delicious. I will probably make all three at some point. Check out her recipe suggestions here:

The other two people were disqualified because one was my husband and the other emailed me the recipe instead of posting it. It does sound good though, so I have posted it below.

Congratulations, Middle-Aged Diva and you can expect your Old Bay Seasoning gift basket soon.

Steamed Shrimp and Old Bay Aioli (Idea from my sister, who is also a great cook)
Last night I played around with my shrimp idea. I put about a half a pound of shrimp (peels on) in a steamer bag and then added a few pieces of sliced lemon and sprinkled in a couple of tablespoons of old bay. I closed the bag and shook it up and put it in the microwave for 2 and a half minutes. Be careful opening the bag because the steam is hot. The shrimp were cooked nicely and had a nice flavor from the lemon and old bay.

I was out of horseradish so instead of cocktail sauce I made a sort of remoulade but Brad renamed it Old Bay Aioli. I mixed equal parts mayo and ketchup and added a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, salt and old bay seasoning. Brad loved the dipping sauce. This is a great quick appetizer if you have people drop by because I usually have lemons on hand and you can keep shrimp in the freezer. In fact, you can add the shrimp right to the bag frozen if you want to. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to make. I also, thought that this might work with salmon or other types of fish.

Snow Crab Legs

There is nothing my husband loves more to feast on then Snow Crab Legs, so when I noticed Publix had them on sale this weekend for half the normal price, I knew I had to pick some up. And indeed I did, 4 pounds to be exact. I know that sounds a little excessive for two people, but it doesn't happen often, so when it does, you must indulge yourself.

Fill a big pot with water. Season with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and Old bay (about 1/4 cup). Cut two lemons in half, squeeze in the juice and just throw them in the pot, too. Bring it all to a boil. Add the crab legs in batches and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove and repeat. Serve with melted butter.

Delicious. It just melts in your mouth.