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Monday, November 22, 2010

Hungry Yuppies Take Turkey Day

Not only is Thanksgiving THE food holiday of the year, it also happens to be my favorite holiday. A day filled with eating, drinking and napping, and not feeling guilty about it either! This year I will be flying south with Rich for Turkey Day with his family, so it will be the first time in my 25 years that I won't be home. The weekend before I decided to invite my parents for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner over at our place. My mom is always hosting us and she will have plenty of cooking to do next week, so I thought it would be nice to cook instead. I didn't want to re-create the usual dishes (since we will all be eating them again in a few days), so I've found some new twists on the classics. For a starter I'm making baked brie and fresh figs. It is incredibly easy to make, yet so impressive (and decadent) when you serve to guests. I've had with with fruit filling before, but I'm using caramelized onions instead. Since I won't have all day to cook an entire bird, I'm preparing turkey breast cutlets with pancetta and sage from a Cooking Light recipe. My personal favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is the stuffing, and I have found a fun recipe from Rachel Ray that combines stuffing with my other favorite food group...muffins! And finally, I'm making roasted Brussels spouts sweetened with maple syrup and simply steamed green beans for some greenery.

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
Taken from Food Network's 5 Ingredient Fix
1 TBS unsalted butter
2 Large Vidalia or Spanish onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Cup water
1 Sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 (5-inch) rounds brie cheese
1 Large egg, lightly beaten

Stuffing Muffins
2 TBS EVOO, 2 turns of the pan
1 Stick butter, softened
1 Fresh bay leaf, available in produce department
4 Ribs celery and greens, from the heart, chopped
1 Medium to large yellow skinned onion, chopped
3 McIntosh apples, quartered and chopped
Salt and pepper
2 TBS poultry seasoning
1/4 Cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
8 Cups cubed stuffing mix (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
2-3 Cups chicken stock

Maple Brussel Sprouts
Taken from The New York Times
1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (or 10 grinds) black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Turkey Scaloppine Ingredients
1 1/2 LBS turkey breast cutlets (about 8 cutlets)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Cup flour
2 TBS olive oil
1/3 Cup thinly sliced pancetta (about 1 ounce)
2 TBS thinly sliced fresh sage
3/4 Cup white wine
1/2 Cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 TBS butter, cut into small pieces

To save time, get as much of the slicing and dicing done ahead of time. Start with the onions for the baked brie. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and saute until just brown, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook stirring often, until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. While that cools, dice the onions, celery and apples for the stuffing and clean the Brussel sprouts. Heat oil and 4 TBS butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When butter melts, add the bay leaf and add the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook 5 to 6 minutes to begin to soften vegetables and apples then add parsley and stuffing cubes to the pan and combine. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until all of the bread is soft but not wet. Butter 12 muffin cups, liberally with remaining butter. With a large spoon of ice cream scoop, fill and mound up the stuffing in muffin tins, removing the bay leaf as you go. Keep covered in the fridge.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the pastry to a 12-inch square. Spoon the caramelized onions in the center the pastry. Put a brie round on top of the onions and brush edges of both pastry squares with beaten egg. Fold pastry to completely enclose the cheese in the pastry. Press the seams together to completely seal. Arrange each pastry round, seam side down, on a lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each pastry round with beaten egg. Feel free to add decorations as well, I cut out leaf shapes and applied them with more egg. Bake until browned and puffed. In the meantime toss the Brussel sprouts in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Turn down oven to 375 degrees when brie is done, and roast the sprouts for 30 minutes. Toss with maple syrup and let cook for 15 minutes more. At the same time, bake the stuffing muffins for 15 minutes, or until browned on top.

Place each turkey cutlet on a large piece of saran wrap. Cover with another piece of saran wrap. Pound the cutlet until about 1/4-inch thickness (this can also be done ahead, but you want to cook the turkey last minute). Season the cutlets generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Coat lightly in the flour, shaking off any extra. Heat two large skillets over medium heat. Add 1 TBS of oil to each. Cook until the turkey is lightly browned and no longer pink on the inside, 5-7 minutes. Remove turkey from pan and keep warm. Add pancetta and sage to pan; cook 3 minutes or until pancetta is browned, stirring occasionally. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 3 minutes). Add broth; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to about 2/3 cup (about 2 minutes). Stir in butter. Add the turkey scaloppine back to the pan and turn to coat with sauce. Cook for another minute to blend flavors.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken in Red Curry Sauce

Chicken in Red Curry Sauce
3 Chicken breasts, cut into strips
Salt and pepper
1 Small onion
2 TBS vegetable oil
1-inch cube of peeled fresh ginger root, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Red bell pepper
2 TBS curry powder
1 TSP crushed red pepper
1 Cup low-salt chicken broth
28 OZ can plum tomatoes, drained well and chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Brown rice for serving

In Costa Rica we had a delicious curried coconut-crusted red snapper prepared by our chef, Johann. I wasn't able to gather all the ingredients for this dish, so I thought I would start experimenting with some flavors to get the curry sauce down. Since I didn't have snapper or coconut on hand, I would have to make due with chicken and a tomato-based sauce. I think adding coconut milk and smoothing out the sauce in a blender, will come pretty close to Johann's creation. You could also add plain yogurt to this sauce. Stay tuned as I explore further, but in the mean time this dish is pretty good as it is. I also used the Uncle Ben's 90 second microwavable pouches, to make this a super-quick and easy dinner.

Heat oil in a large saute pan, season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink. Add garlic, ginger, onions and peppers. Stir in curry powder and red pepper and cook until fragrant and veggies begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and broth, simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes and stir in the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with brown rice.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pesto "Spaghetti"

Pesto "Spaghetti"
1 Spaghetti squash, cut in half and seeds removed
3 TBS prepared pesto
3 TBS Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

I've never cooked a spaghetti squash before, but I bought one from the market anyway just to give it a try. I had to do a little research, since I had no idea what to do with it. There are a couple methods to cooking spaghetti squash - you can roast, boil, or microwave if you're in a hurry. I'm going to try the boiling method for my first time around, but it probably takes the same amount of time to roast. While it may not be a replacement for pasta, it's sure a fun and healthy alternative. I happened to have left over pesto, but you can also use tomato sauce or just butter and cheese.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add the squash, cooking until fork-tender (about 45 minutes). Remove and set aside in a large bowl until cool enough to handle. Using a fork, scrape the flesh until your "spaghetti" forms. Add in the pesto, cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir until combined.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hungry Yuppies Hit The Road

Hola amigos! We just returned from an amazing trip to Costa Rica. They're are so many things I love about travelling, one of them being the food. We stayed in Montezuma, a small backpacker town, in a beautiful resort lofted on top of a hill with spectacular views. Hats off to the chef there, Johann, who fed us delicious and organic meals all week long. It was hard to believe the dishes he created were healthy too, using the freshest ingredients available. Post-yoga every morning, we enjoyed breakfast which included fruit salad, fresh juices, and Costa Rican coffee. At lunch we dug into a huge salad with the best tahini dressing and lots of veggies. And dinner definitely did not disappoint, with a great variety of dishes from pad Thai with fish cakes, to veggie sandwiches with homemade rolls. After each dinner, we bombarded Johann with questions about how he created each dish. He gave up a few of his secrets, so I'm very anxious to recreate some of them including the coconut-crusted red snapper and the avocado-chocolate smoothie!

We couldn't eat at the hotel every night, just because we wanted to experience some local flavor in town. And what would a vacation be without fun tropical drinks? We wasted no time to enjoy pina coladas at one of the bars on the beach.

Cocolores was recommended by many locals (including Johann). Their Mediterranean-style ceviche with homemade bread, was muy delicioso, as were my chicken fajitas with fresh salsa and cotija cheese. And on Isla Tortuga, our guides cut up fresh coconuts to enjoy after a yummy lunch of stewed fish and rice.

Our last night we dined at Playa de los Artistas, which was probably one of the most unique restaurants I have been to. The beach front area was dimly lit by candles and gas lamps, complete with drift wood tables and funky chairs (and a fat, hungry cat). We had Peruvian ceviche spiced with ginger and chilies, peppers stuffed with shrimp and avocado, and hummus with toasted bread, and that's just for the starters! I had almond crusted mahi-mahi with yucca mash and grilled veggies, Rich had river prawns in an orange-rum sauce. The food was excellent, but the ambiance there made it a great end to a great week of food.

Luckily, we were able to get up early enough our last morning to enjoy breakfast at El Sano Banano in town where we shared banana pancakes and an omelet as we watched the monkeys in the trees. The perfect end to an adventurous journey.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Potato-Leek Frittata

Potato-Leek Frittata
6 Eggs
1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese
1 TSP salt
1/2 TSP fresh ground pepper
1/2 Cup leeks
1/2 Cup cooked baby Yukon Gold potatoes, diced

We're going on vacation next week, so I'm trying to utilize every last ounce of food in our kitchen before we leave Saturday. I had some left-over leeks from my soup and left-over potatoes from last night, and they both go quite well with each other. My secret weapon, Parmesan cheese, comes to the rescue to complete this frittata recipe.

If your potatoes are raw, boil them in water until fork-tender. Set aside. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper, add a handful of the cheese, stirring to combine. Preheat broiler. Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat, and add the potatoes and leeks. Cook for 5 minutes until leeks soften. Add the egg mixture and cook until egg are almost set. Pop under the broiler for a minute or two, until eggs are firm. Serve with a simple salad, or with pumpkin soup and crusty French bread.

Pesto Chicken with Parmesan Potatoes

Pesto Chicken
4 Chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1/4 Cup prepared pesto
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray

Parmesan Potatoes
1 Bag of baby Yukon Gold potatoes
3 Cloves crushed garlic
Salt and pepper
1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese

There are two things that I must always keep in my fridge for week-night dinners: Pre-made pesto and Parmesan cheese. These secret weapons are not just for pasta anymore, they can make any dinner staple flavorful and delicious.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then spread the pesto so each piece is coated on both sides. Keep in the fridge to marinate until ready to cook. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes in half and toss with olive oil, crushed garlic and salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or more, until browned and tender. In the meantime, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray then cook chicken until golden brown on both sides. Add the Parmesan cheese to the potatoes and let bake for 5-10 more minutes. Serve with a little fresh rosemary on top.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chili-Soy Marinated Flank Steak with Asian Pear Salad

Chili-Soy Marinated Flank Steak
1 Lb flank steak
1/4 Cup soy sauce
2 Dried red chilies
3 Cloves Garlic, crushed

Asian Pear Salad
1 Pear, cut into wedges
2 Cups baby spinach
1 Small shallot, thinly sliced
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
1 TBS Honey
1 Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

I think I'm going to make steak-night a weekly event. For a weeknight dinner I always would go for chicken or tofu as my protein, since red meat always intimidated me (and pre-conceived notions that it's unhealthy). But I'm learning that it's not that hard to prepare and if you get a well-proportioned, lean cut for the occasional meal, it's not that bad for you (grass-fed is even better as it's high in Omega-3's)! And it's something different, because 90% of the time I'm eating white meat (my sudden craving is probably from an iron deficiency).

This is a simple marinade fit for any meal. The soy sauce in this marinade adds a sweet glaze, and the homemade dried chilies from my dad add a nice kick (I was tearing-up as I was grilling). The salad is based on a Korean pickled cucumber I make with rice vinegar and crushed red pepper, but adding some sweetness with the pear and honey. You could swap the wilted spinach for fresh, and the pears for apples, but the pears actually go really well with the steak.

Marinate the steak in the soy sauce, garlic, chilies and olive oil for 30 minutes or more. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a saute pan. Saute spinach and shallots until spinach is just wilted. Toss in a bowl with the pears, vinegar, honey, red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the steak until desired done-ness. About 4-5 minutes per side for medium. Let the steak rest, then slice and serve with the salad.

The Great Pumpkin Soup

The Great Pumpkin Soup
1 TBS olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), sliced 1/4 inch thick and rinsed
3 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 Medium pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
6 Cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 TSP nutmeg
2 TSP kosher salt
1/4 TSP fresh ground pepper
1 TBS fresh rosemary
Plain Greek yogurt for serving


I'm ashamed to admit that we didn't have time to get a pumpkin before Halloween, so I needed my last-minute pumpkin fix on Halloween day. I had to stop at a few grocery stores before finding the perfect pumpkin. Or in this case, the not-so-perfect pumpkin, since I learned the heavy, blemished ones are the best to cook with. After over-indulging all weekend, I decided to pass on pumpkin bread or muffin, and go for a healthy soup.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and canned puree, then the broth. Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 45 minutes.

Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Divide among individual bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt and the rosemary. Serve with a multi-grain baguette.

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About Me

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.