Friday, November 27, 2009

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

As promised, here is the blue cheese dressing recipe I made for husband's birthday and served on a wedge of iceberg. I wanted to test it first because it was something I played with. I am happy to report it was really good. The dressing would be great with buffalo wings or a vegetable platter for your next get together.

3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled domestic blue cheese
1 head iceberg lettuce, core trimmed, cut lengthwise into quarters
small grape or cherry tomatoes (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, shallot, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir in blue cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. Place each wedge of lettuce on an individual plate. Drizzle each wedge with dressing and garnish with tomatoes and bacon, if desired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, so I always try to make something special for him. Last year I made Chicken Carbonara, a dish I usually ridicule him for ordering at restaurants because I am sure it takes a year off of his life, but I figured for his birthday I would make an exception. And boy was it good! This year I am making Penne with Vodka Sauce and serving it with a wedge salad topped with homemade blue cheese dressing. Below is the recipe I am using for the main course. I will post the blue cheese dressing recipe tomorrow after I try it out. I am sort of experimenting, so want to make sure it is delicious before I pass it on.

(This is Giada De Laurentiis' recipe from her cookbook, Everyday Italian)
1 quart (4 cups) simple tomato sauce, blended until smooth (see my Holy Marinara post and do yourself a favor and double the recipe. Freeze the extra in freezer bags in 2 cup portions)
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pound penne

Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Puree

This one is for all my low carb lovers. I have recommeded before taking cauliflower and mashing it up in the place of mashed potatoes, so here is a great recipe. I haven't actually tried it, but I plan on making it soon. This recipe is courtesy of my boss via Eating Well Magazine. If my boss and fellow foodie likes it, it has to be good.

8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot.

Veggie Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

Roasting vegetables is a very healthy and delicious way to cook vegetables. It enhances the flavors of the vegetables without losing any of the nutrients. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. You could also use some fresh or dried herbs, a squeeze of lemon, etc.

Roast Asparagus
Start by trimming the ends of a bunch of asparagus. The easiest way to do this is hold one at each of the ends and bend until it snaps, this will give you a good guide and then you can use a knife to cut the rest of the bunch at the same place.Lay the asparagus out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. You could squeeze a little fresh lemon on top. Bake the asparagus in a pre-heated oven at around 400 degrees. Cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. At about halfway turn the asparagus.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I know most people don't like brussel sprouts, but that is probably because your mom used to boil the hell out of them until they were mushy and lacked all flavor. This is a much tastier wa of preparing them. Lay out the brussel sprouts on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil; season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Here is a more modern and healthier take on the traditional green bean casserole.
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 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 small package of sliced almonds (can be found in the baking aisle of your grocer)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until caramelized, 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 3-5 minutes. They should be bright green and still have some crunch. This maintains flavor and nutrients. Drain the green beans and shock them in a bowl of ice water. This allows the beans to maintain that great bright color. Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and almonds to the pan and let brown for just a minute. Then add the green beans and sauté to coat them in the oil and allow for the onions and almonds to distribute. Season well with pepper and a little more salt.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Re-post: Southern-style Cornbread Stuffing

I posted this recipe last year after my husband asked me to make a stuffing to bring to his work holiday luncheon. Well, he signed me up again this year for their Thanksgiving luncheon that is tomorrow. I happily obliged, even though he forgot to tell me and remembered on Monday. But, he did make it up, by going to the store and buying everything and helping me as my sous chef chopping up the onions that always make me cry and doing all the dishes!

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
4-6 cups of chicken stock (start with 4 and add more if it isn't moist enough)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
4-5 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, November 17, 2009

Pork Chops with a Caper Sauce

Here is another great Mediterranean-inspired meal. Nice and healthy, utilizing ingredients you may already have in your pantry.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 boneless pork chops, about an inch or two thick
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 generous handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices (I like to use the no salt added tomatoes)
1/2 lemon, zested and the juice
2 tablespoons capers

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Add the shallots and half of the parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pork back into the pan, so they are mostly submerged in the pan juices and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

Place the pork on a serving dish. To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, remaining parsley, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Spoon over the pork chops and serve immediately.

I served it with rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.

Monday, November 16, 2009

White Chipotle Chicken Chili

My husband's co-worker sent us this recipe courtesy of the South Beach Diet, so it's healthy and low-carb. It was very flavorful and we made only a couple slight changes. We ended up putting in a entire 7.5 ounce can of chipotle peppers when the recipe only calls for a teaspoon. It was pretty spicy, so if you don't like spicy, I recommend sticking to the recipe's guidelines. Also, removing the seeds will take away most of the heat, as the seeds are where most of the heat is stored. However, if you like spicy go our route.

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 ¾ lb), cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
3 cans (14.5-oz size) white kidney or cannellini beans, drained (save ½ cup draining liquid) and rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 tsp canned chipotle chili, seeded and minced
½ cup nonfat half-and-half (I used regular half-and-half, so I am sure I added a few more calories and fat grams)
Garnishes: Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Warm oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes, stirring. Push onion mixture to one side; add chicken to skillet; sprinkle mixture with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add 2 cans of the beans and draining liquid, 1 ¼ cups broth, and chipotle; bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 can beans and ¾ cup broth in bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth. Add to soup in pot, along with half-and-half. Simmer a few minutes, stirring, until warmed through and flavors incorporated. Serve hot; garnish with cheese and cilantro.

Nutritional Information:
360 calories
41g protein
33 g carbohydrate
8 g fiber
5 g total fat
1g saturated fat
85 mg cholesterol
671mg sodium

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Publix Apron's Recipe: Tuscan-Style Chicken

I made my first Publix Apron's Simple Meals recipe tonight. I picked up the flyer this week while grocery shopping and saw this recipe. It was pretty good. What is nice about the Simple Meals is that they are quick and usually use only one or two pots/pans. Plus you can find all the ingredients right there in the store.

Here is a link to the Tuscan-Style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans:

I perused around a little bit and saw some other yummy-sounding recipes as well. Yet another great resource for quick, healthy and family-friendly meal ideas.

I'm Back

Sorry I have been M.I.A the past week. I have honestly been overwhelmed with my new dog, Lily. She is a very sweet, well-behaved girl, but I can tell she is also very sensitive. I have just been worried about her. I want to make sure she is happy and adjusting well. And to be honest, I have been adjusting, too. I have never really had a dog of my own, so I guess the responsibility has just been a little overwhelming. Not to mention I am a total worry wart anyway, so I have just been a bundle of nerves lately.

Things are getting better though. I am getting used to it and we are getting in a bit of routine. Luckily, my husband seems to be quite fond of her as well. He didn't really want a dog, but gave in to make me happy (I know, sweet). But he has been very patient with not only Lily, but more with me. He has been reassuring and really helpful. He even gave her a bath - solo - the other night when I was out at an event.

It's been only a little over a week and we've already had to attend our first vet appointment. I honestly didn't think we'd have to worry about that yet because she is an older dog and supposedly the breeder took her to the vet a couple days before sending her. But, I noticed she was really scratching and rubbing at her ear, and when we were over at my friend's house on Saturday we noticed her ears were really dirty, so we cleaned them. We thought she might have an infection, and boy did she! The vet let us look into her ears and they were filled with all kinds of crap; yeast and bacteria. So know were are flushing her ears out with cleaner, putting these other drops in and giving her oral medication. She already seems better though and she is very cooperative.

Anyway, with everything going on I haven't been cooking much, but I am getting back on track.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome Lily to the Family

Meet the new addition to my family, Lily. She's an adorable, sweet, almost five year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we adopted. She flew in yesterday from Alabama. For years I have wanted a Cavalier and now I have one. I am so excited. She is still adjusting, but doing well. You can count on more Lily-related posts in the future.