Sunday, September 16, 2012

Antipasto Pasta Salad Salad

This dish is a pasta salad and a salad; hence the title of this recipe. This is a great dish to make and have for a healthy lunch during the week. I explain the best way to prepare and pack it below. I used some of my favorite antipasto staples, but you could use whatever are your favorite items. A little tuna or shrimp (instead of the salami) would be good additions to this, too.

Half a pound of penne pasta
4 ounces Italian dry salami, diced
8 ounces (1 ball) fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Romaine lettuce chopped
(Additional items could include artichoke hearts, cooked asparagus, red onion, cucumber, garbanzo or cannellini beans, etc.)

Herbed Red Wine Vinaigrette:
¼ cup good red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or 2 tsps garlic paste from the tube
½ tsp good Dijon mustard
½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
½ cup good olive oil

Bring a pot of water to boil; salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, approx. 10-11 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain again and let sit so it dries some. Prepare the rest of the salad while this is happening.

Add the salami through the parsley to a bowl. Set aside.

Make the dressing by adding all of the ingredients to a small bowl, except the oil. Whisk together and then slowly add the oil while whisking.

Add the pasta to the bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients. Toss with some of the dressing.
To plate, add some chopped lettuce to a bowl, dress it a little bit with the vinaigrette. Add some pasta salad and serve.

This is a great recipe to make ahead for lunches during the week. Just pack the lettuce and pasta salad separately so the lettuce doesn’t wilt. Pack a little extra vinaigrette on the side, just in case you need it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Muffins

More pumpkin spiced items for your Fall season.

These muffins are slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger's Pumpkin Pie Muffins. I changed up the spices and used maple syrup instead of molasses.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¾ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla
¾ cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, maple syrup, oil and one of the eggs until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about two-thirds full. (From here you could sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon and sugar, or pumpkin seeds, as Ellie Krieger does in her recipe. You could also wait until you take the muffins out of the oven and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar.) Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let the muffins cool in the pan for five minutes and then take them out of the pan to cool on a wire rack. You could enjoy the warm or let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Pumpkin Granola

'Tis the season... pumpkin season that is. It's official; Starbucks' pumpkin spiced latte has returned to much anticipation while my personal favorite, Dunkin Donuts' pumpkin donuts, are also back. So I am jumping on the bandwagon and have come up with a pumpkin granola recipe to share with all of you.

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup chopped or sliced almonds
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup dried cranberries (or raisins, your preference)
¼ cup roasted sunflower kernels

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, almonds and walnuts.

In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, pumpkin puree and vanilla. (Here’s a tip when measuring sticky ingredients like maple syrup, honey, molasses, etc. Spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray first. The syrup will pour out easier.)

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture and stir until coated well. Add the cranberries to the mixture and toss again.

Spread the granola onto the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes total. (I stir every 10 minutes.) After 20 minutes, add the sunflower seeds and stir again.
Finish baking for the remaining 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Store the granola in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Buffalo Shrimp Po' Boys

I got the idea for this sandwich after making buffalo chicken tacos a couple of weeks ago. I love anything buffalo-style, as does my husband, and this sandwich now ranks pretty high up there among the different buffalo variations.

3/4 of a pound Florida or U.S. shrimp, peeled and deveined (I only use shrimp from the gulf or U.S. The shrimp from Asian countries might be cheaper, but it is well documented that the farm raised shrimp from there are fed antibiotics and other chemicals. So sorry, I just don't buy it. To each its own though.)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Cayenne pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of wing sauce (or make your own with 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup hot sauce)
4 hoagie rolls
Garnish: blue cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, lettuce, tomato

Combine the flour, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl or plastic bag. Add the shrimp to coat with the flour mixture.

Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon or two of oil, until the skillet is coated. Add the shrimp to the pan. Don't crowd the skillet, work in batches if you have to. If the pan is crowded the shrimp will just steam, not brown. Cook the shrimp on both sides until lightly brown. About 3 minutes. Shrimp will curl up when they are done. Remove to a plate.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, return to the heat, but reduce to low. Add the wing sauce or butter/hot sauce combo until heated. Add the shrimp back to the pan to coat in the sauce and warm through.

Build the sandwiches by slicing the rolls, spread on some blue cheese dressing, add some shrimp and top with blue cheese crumbles, lettuce and tomato.

Makes 4 sandwiches. (However, since there are only two of us, I am using the leftover shrimp and making Buffalo shrimp salads for lunch tomorrow.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Fridge!

After 6 years of quietly, and not so quietly cursing my fridge, I have finally upgraded to a new fridge that I must say is so freaking sweet! Putting groceries away now is actually fun because I have room for everything and all of these great drawers and shelfs and compartments for organizing everything, plus it's pretty. It's a Samsung in stainless steel with French doors and freezer on the bottom. I love it!

Cooking Shortcut Tips

In my previous post, I mentioned a cooking class I went to last week with High Hopes in High Heels. The cooking instructor was wonderful. She provided some great tips for us on products to use and cooking methods that would make cooking easier and faster.

1. Garlic paste. It comes in a tube and can be found in the produce section. This is much easier than peeling and mincing garlic, but tastes much better than the pre-chopped garlic that is jarred in olive oil. And on this note, why not try out those herb blends found in a tube. No worries about fresh herbs going bad or not using the whole bunch.

2. Dry vermouth instead of white wine. Often recipes call for dry white wine. Our instructor recommended buying a bottle of dry vermouth as it can be stored at room temperature and has a much longer shelf life once the bottle is opened.

3. Better than Bouillon. Instead of buying boxes and cans of broth that also don't last long once opened, our instructor suggested this Better than Bouillon product, which is a concentrated base that is more flavorful than broth.

4. Tubed tomato paste. This one I had already discovered, but look for tube of tomato paste, usually found in the spaghetti sauce, canned tomato aisle. It looks like a tube of toothpaste and will last forever in your fridge. No more opened cans of unused tomato paste in your fridge again.

5. Cooking rice. For a small number of guests (4-6) treat rice like pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1 to 1 and half cups rice. Cook 10-12 minutes, until tender, then drain in a colander or fine mesh strainer. For large groups, try the method of taking equal amounts of rice and water. For 10 people, use 3 cups of Uncle Ben's Original Converted Rice - NOT INSTANT! and 6 cups of water. Combine in a baking pan. Cover tightly with double layer of aluminum foil. Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure all water is absorbed. Rice will be tender, fluffy, and separate.

Incredibly Good Salad Dressing

I am vice president of High Hopes in High Heels, a professional women's group that gets together for networking and charitable giving. We attended a cooking class last week where we made some delicious dishes and learned some great tips, which I'll share in a separate post. This post is dedicated to an incredibly good, as the name suggests, and incredibly easy salad dressing. I have already whipped up a batch for myself. All the ladies at the cooking class were raving about this one.

1 Tablespoon garlic paste (this was one of her great tips) or a clove of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons honey (I love honey with all my heart, tastebuds and stomach)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (use a good one, people)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a small jar, put garlic, honey, vinegar and a dash of fresh black pepper and Kosher salt. Shake well to combine. Add olive oil and continue to shake until well mixed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Shrimp Stir-Fry

I loved this stir-fry that features shrimp and summer vegetables like corn and zucchini. But you could really use any veggies that you have on hand. I served the stir fry over rice, but you could also put it over noodles. This is a recipe inspired by the Pioneer Woman. I just swapped out some of the ingredients. For instance, I forgot to buy cherry tomatoes, so I used a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles. The chiles actually added a nice spicy kick to the dish.

2 Tbsps butter
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed (You could leave the tails on, but I find that really annoying. Your call though.)
4 garlic cloves, minced (Or one big ass one like I had)
2 zucchini, diced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed (I suppose you could use frozen or canned, but fresh corn in this really does add a great sweetness and texture.)
1 can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, drained (I used the original flavor. If you wanted to use fresh tomatoes, add about 1 cup and half of a combination of red and yellow grape or cherry tomatoes.)
Salt and pepper
Handful of fresh chopped cilantro (Pioneer Woman uses basil, but I had cilantro)
Juice of 1 lemon
Rice or pasta, for serving (optional)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. (I used my cast-iron skillet.) Add the shrimp and saute for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to saute for another minute until the shrimp are curled up and opaque. Remove the shrimp to a plate.

Increase the heat to high, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil, then throw in the zucchini. Stir it around for about a minute. Then scoot the zucchini to the edges of the pan. Throw in the corn and cook it for a minute. Then push it to the edge of the pan. Throw in the tomatoes. Stir for a minute and season with salt and pepper.

Throw the shrimp back in. Stir everything for a minute until it's all hot and combined. Then pour into a platter. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and squeeze with the fresh lemon.

The Pioneer Woman suggests a couple of variations for this dish, one in which you place some of the mixture between two tortillas with grated cheese and make it into a quesadilla. I think that would be a wonderful way to use any leftovers, so make extra of this if you want.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pesto Pasta Salad

I am going to make this pasta salad all the time. I am so glad I found it. It's perfect for barbecues, family gatherings, picnics, and even brunch. Recipe is courtesy of Cuisine at Home.

1 lb. dry penner pasta
2 cups frozen green peas

1/2 cup purchased refrigerated pesto (I used Buitoni basil pesto)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Stir in:
4 cups fresh baby spinach (could also use arugula for a little peppery bite)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Toast pine nuts in a stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Stir and toss until pine nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.

Cook penne in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; add peas during the last three minutes. Transfer penne and peas to a bowl of ice water; drain well.

Whisk together pesto, lemon juice, olive oil, zest and garlic in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Stir in penne, peas, spinach, Parmesan, pine nuts; season with salt and pepper.

Strawberry Shortcake

For the Fourth of July I made a perfect berry shortcake that was patriotic in its presentation, but also super fast and easy. I loved that this shortcake recipe doesn't use sugar, but honey instead. It makes me feel like it's a little healthier, plus I love honey. Recipe altered from Food Network Magazine.

1 pound cake (I didn't have time to make one, so I just bought one at the store. You could also use angel food cake.)
2 pints strawberries or mixed berries (I used mainly strawberries, but added blueberries too so I could have the red, white and blue thing going on.)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt
whipped cream

Wash the berries, slice the strawberries and place in a bowl. Set aside. In a small pot, add the honey and water and bring to a simmer over medium heat; add a pinch of salt. Stir and allow to simmer for 5 minutes so everything dissolves together. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pour the honey/water mixture over the berries and stir. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. (I made this the night before.)

When ready to serve, slice the cake and top with the berries and whipped cream.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A.1. Pot Roast

Today turned out to be a perfect Sunday for a pot roast dinner since tropical storm Debby has been dropping buckets of rain on our area all day. It was so nice to dump everything in my slow cooker and let it do all the work while I laid around in my pjs all day and napped.

My husband recently saw a pot roast recipe on the side of an A.1. sauce bottle, so I thought I'd try it out, but I put my own spin on the recipe. And I must say, it came out pretty darn good, and I've tried out several different pot roasts over the years. In fact, I don't think I have ever made the same one twice. This one might very well be my favorite so far.

1/2 cup A.1. Sauce
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 onion, sliced
1 beef chuck roast, 2 and 1/2 pounds
salt and pepper
1 lb pound baby carrots
1 lb baby red potatoes

In a bowl, whisk together the A.1. sauce, beef broth, seasonings and flour. Set aside.

Place the slice onions on the bottom of your slow cooker. Season the chuck roast on all sides with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the roast on top of the onions. Add the potatoes and carrots around and on top of the roast. Pour the sauce all over the top.

Place the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6-7 hours. Serve with some fresh baked rolls or bread and a side salad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jäger Schnitzel

Last year my husband and I finally tried, and immediately fell in love with, this German restaurant in Tampa called Schnitzelhaus. It quickly became one of our most frequently visited restaurants and we introduced family members and friends to it as well. Everyone we brought also became fans. Sadly, last month, after 16 years in business, Schnitzelhaus closed. Leaving a hole in our hearts and our stomachs.

One of our favorite dishes at Schnitzelhaus was the Jager Schnitzel, breaded veal, chicken or pork cutlets topped with a creamy, rich mushroom sauce. I went on a hunt for the recipe, hoping to find our Jager Schnitzel fix. I found the below recipe on a German Food Guide Web site. It's not exactly like the restaurant's, but it's pretty close and it was definitely delicious. My next German feat will be to tackle Spätzle. It's about time I master the cuisine of my heritage.

Number of Servings: 4
For the Schnitzel
1 pound thin veal cutlets (I used chicken cutlets because I had them, but I'm all for making it with veal)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Sauce
1 lb Mushrooms, washed and cut into bite-size slices
2-3 slices Bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Vegetable Broth (I used chicken broth)
1/2 cup Cream (I used milk but sprinkled in a little flour before adding the liquids)
1/2 teaspoon dry Thyme
A small bunch Parseley, finely chopped
A little extra milk as needed

Season each veal cutlet with salt and pepper (both sides). Let stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare your work area. You will need 3 plates - add the flour to the first one, add the eggs to the second one, and add the bread crumbs to the third plate. Arrange the plates in a row, close to the stove. Heat the butter and oil in a large, heavy skillet or pan over moderately high heat for about 2 minutes. For each veal cutlet, coat the cutlet with flour, dunk it in the eggs, then coat it with bread crumbs. Put the coated veal cutlet immediately in the hot skillet. Cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until each side is a deep golden brown. Remove the schnitzel and place on a plate lined with paper towels (to absorb any extra oil). Keep warm.

Using the same pan as you made the Schnitzels in, fry the mushrooms until they begin releasing water. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Add a little butter to the same pan. Add onions and bacon. Cook until onions begin to brown. Add mushrooms back to the pan, then add the broth and cream. Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring mixture up to a simmer, and continue simmering until liquid has noticeably reduced (about 15-20 minutes) - stir occassionaly.

Stir in milk into the sauce until the sauce reaches the desired consistency (the sauce shouldn't be too thin and be creamy). Remove pan from heat. Stir in 2/3 of the chopped parsely. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, place a Schnitzel on a plate and top with the sauce. Sprinkle some chopped parseley over the sauce.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken Saltimbocca with Artichoke Sauce

What's not to love about chicken wrapped in prosciutto? This recipe is courtesy of Sara Moulton, but I simplified it a bit.

Makes 4 Servings
Hands-On Time: 35 Minutes
Total Preparation Time: 45 Minutes

Suggested Accompaniments
spinach sautéed with garlic chips and couscous

4 boneless, chicken cutlets
12 large fresh sage or basil leaves (optional)
2 to 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1/3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c dry Marsala or sherry
One 14-oz can artichoke hearts
1 c Homemade Chicken Stock
T unsalted butter

Put 3 sage leaves on each chicken cutlet. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each chicken cutlet; press until they adhere.

On a plate or in a pie dish, add the flour. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium. Sauté the chicken for 2-4 minutes per side, or until the pieces are golden and just cooked through; remove them to a plate and cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Add the Marsala to the skillet; bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan, and simmer for about 1 minute, or until the pan is almost dry.

Drain and coarsely chop the artichoke hearts (about 1 1/3 cups). Add them to the skillet along with the chicken stock and simmer until reduced by half. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer just until reheated. Add the butter to the pan and swirl until it has melted. Divide the chicken among 4 dinner plates; spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

My hubby and I found that there was a little too much artichoke in the sauce, so next time I think I'll add just half a can.

Jalepeno Popper Chicken Breasts

How did I not think of this one? If you love jalepeno poppers, you'll love this chicken dish. It is so simple and only calls for three ingredients. This recipe is also courtesy of the Rachael Ray magazine.

1/4 cup chopped pickled jalepeno chiles
6 oz. room temperature cream cheese
2 skin-on, bone-in split chicken breasts

Mix jalepenos into cream cheese. Spread mixture evenly underneath chicken skin; season with salt and pepper. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees until cooked through. 30-35 minutes; crisp skin under broiler. (I didn't need to that final step. The chicken skin was pretty crispy just baking in the 400 degree oven.)

Buttermilk Ranch Chicken

This recipe is courtesy of the Rachael Ray magazine. This chicken dish was very flavorful without having a sauce. I mean who isn't always looking for a new chicken recipe, right?

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp. dried dill
salt and pepper
4 thin cut chicken breast cutlets
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Combine all ingredients up to oil; marinate for 45 minutes or overnight. (I placed the marinade and chicken in a plastic storage bag in the morning and let it marinade all day until I was ready for dinner.)

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; brown cutlets on both sides until cooked through; about 7 minutes. Serves 4.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja

I have decided to make my life easier by making one Crock Pot recipe a week. I love this Cuban dish and I love it even more when I can just throw everything in my Crock Pot and forget about it. I love the olives that are added to this dish at the end. I have never had this in ropa vieja (translation = old clothes), but I like the brinyness it adds. Serve over white or yellow rice. Another Food Network Magazine recipe.

• 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons ketchup
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (with seeds)
• Kosher salt
• 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak or flank steak (I prefer skirt)
• 2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), sliced 1/2 inch thick
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives, plus 1 tablespoon brine from the jar
• Cooked white rice, for serving

Combine the tomatoes, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, cumin, jalapeno and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker. Add the steak, bell peppers and onion and toss to coat. Cover and cook on low, undisturbed, 8 hours.

Uncover and skim off any excess fat. (I accidentally forgot to do this step. Or did I? I didn't really notice a lot of fat hanging out on the surface anyway.) Coarsely shred the meat with 2 forks, then stir in the olives and olive brine. Serve over rice.

Per serving: Calories 464; Fat 16 g (Saturated 6 g); Cholesterol 83 mg; Sodium 837 mg; Carbohydrate 39 g; Fiber 4 g; Protein 38 g

Blackened Salmon with Blue Cheese Sauce

I am always looking for salmon recipes. I love the fish, but sometimes it can end up dried out. This recipe keeps salmon nice and moist while adding a little heat. I used my trusty cast-iron skillet because, well, it's perfect for blackening, but any oven-safe skillet will do here. The blue cheese sauce is equally good over roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus. I have offered two blue cheese sauces below. One is original to the recipe, while the other is a healthier one, which I used. Recipe courtesy of The Food Network.

• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
• 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil, for frying
• 4 (6-ounce) portions skinless and boneless salmon fillets

Blue Cheese Sauce:
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the Italian seasoning, black pepper, paprika, salt, and cayenne. Season each piece of fish with the rub.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted, add the fish and cook about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer the whole pan to the oven and cook for another 4 to 6 minutes.

For the sauce:
Place the white wine into a medium saucepan and reduce by half. Add the heavy cream and allow to reduce. Add the blue cheese and whisk until smooth. Serve on top of the salmon.

Lighter blue cheese sauce:
Mix equal amounts of blue cheese crumbles and lowfat butter milk. Stir with a fork while breaking up the blue cheese, until smooth. Add a splash of worchestershire sauce and a spoonful or so of light sour cream, if it needs a little thickening.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesy Hash Brown Bake

This might just be the most perfect dish for leftover chili. During the Fall/Winter, my husband makes chili about half a dozen times. He always makes a ton and we have leftovers for the entire week. Sometimes we top baked potatoes with leftovers or make chili dogs, but this might be our new fave. So the next time you have leftover chili, try this quick and easy dish. Recipe courtesy of Everyday Food.

4 cups leftover chili
1 bag (16 ounces) fresh or frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed if frozen
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425, with rack set in upper third. Divide chili among four individual baking dishes (10 to 12 ounces each). Set aside.
2. Place potatoes in a double layer of paper towels; squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
3. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Scatter potato mixture over chili. Place baking dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are golden brown and chili is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve.
Cook's Note
You can also make this in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake in an oven heated to 425 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if the top browns too quickly.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl 2012 Snacks

Here are two items I am making for Super Bowl Sunday, in case you need a couple of ideas. First up is a Beer-Cheese Dip from Food Network Magazine.

Pulse 1/2 pound cubed extra-sharp white cheddar in a food processor until finely chopped. Add 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder, a pinch each of salt and sugar, and 1/2 cup pilsner beer. Process until smooth. It's as easy as that. Serve with pretzels, crackers, chunks of bread, and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cooked potatoes, etc.

The second dish I am making is Bacon-Cheddar Crescent Pinwheels, utilizing Pillsburgy refrigerated Crescent rolls.

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
¼ cup cooked real bacon pieces or 4 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
½ cup finely shredded Cheddar cheese (2 oz)
¼ cup chopped green onions (4 medium)

Heat oven to 350°F.
If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; press each into 12x8-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; press each into 12x8-inch rectangle.
Spread dressing over each rectangle to edges. Sprinkle each with bacon, Cheddar cheese and onions.
Starting with one short side, roll up each rectangle; press edge to seal. With serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 slices; place cut side down on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 to 17 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

40 Cloves and a Chicken

My BFFs make this dish all the time and rave about it. I finally made it tonight and it's a winner for sure. No vampires will be bothering us tonight with the 40 cloves of garlic that make this dish so delicious. This recipe calls for a whole chicken, broken down into 8 pieces. I prefer to just use the breast, but suggest using bone-in chicken breast otherwise the chicken will dry out. The chicken is seared on the stove top first but then roasted in the oven with olive oil and garlic, which gets soft and spreadable. Serve with a yummy loaf of crusty bread to sop up the oil and spread the garlic on. This recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown.

1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces (or 4 bone-in chicken breasts)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
40 peeled cloves garlic (you can find already peeled garlic in the produce section)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. (I used my cast-iron skillet, but just make sure your skillet or pan is oven safe.) Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cider-Glazed Pork Chops

Pork chops are a very economical and versatile option for dinner. Apples and pork just go together and I love how when the cider thickens and forms a glaze, it really concentrates the flavor. The only thing I would change about this is next time I am going to double the glaze so I have more to drizzle over the finished chops and potatoes. Oh yeah, this dish is great with roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes doused with the cider glaze. This recipe is courtesy of iVillage.

1 cup apple cider    
2 cloves garlic, minced    
Leaves from one 2-inch rosemary sprig (I used fresh thyme leaves because that is what I had)
2 center-cut bone-in pork chops
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Bring the apple cider to a boil and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Brush the pork chops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a heavy ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add the pork chops to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes per side to brown the meat.

Brush the pork chops with the cider glaze and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork chop reads 145˚.

Drizzle the chops with additional glaze before serving.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

My husband loves Chinese food, especially General Tso's Chicken. Here is a lighter version from Everyday Food. I am not going to pretend that this is anything like what you get from the neighborhood Chinese takeout restaurant, but it was good and approved by my taste tester, my husband.

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice (or any rice that you like)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled (I despise ginger, so I left this ingredient out)
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (please use a low sodium variety)
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Creamy Polenta

This recipe has been adapted from an Everyday Food recipe.

Skirt steak might be my new favorite. Last night was my first night cooking it and it was so easy. It literally only takes 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare. This is not a steak that works cooked well done, but what steak really does work at well done? Anyway, I wasn't expecting it to be so tender and flavorful, but it was. And another positive is that skirt steak is very economical. I definitely like it better than a flank steak. This cut of meat would be great for fajitas.

Reducing balsamic vinegar down, thickens it and turns it into a great sauce. Place the steak on a bed of creamy polenta and drizzled with the vinegar glaze is an absolute pefect combination of flavors. I completed the meal with sauteed mushrooms and a side salad. (The mushrooms complemented the steak and polenta wonderfully.)

If you're making this for two people, consider cutting the polenta serving in half because it does make quite a bit.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (cut into 2 or more pieces, if necessary, to fit in skillet)
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Bring milk and chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt; reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer very gently over low heat, whisking occasionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Whisk in butter and Parmesan, and keep warm over very low heat (whisk in some more broth or milk just before serving if polenta becomes too thick).

Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet over high. (I used my cast-iron skillet.) Season steak with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Cook, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).

While steak is resting, add vinegar to skillet, and boil over high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes; stir in any juices from resting steak. Slice steak, and serve with vinegar sauce and polenta.