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Monday, December 26, 2011

Give Something Sweet

Nothing brings more smiles than a plate of gingerbread men or sugar cookies.  These holiday staples are not only easy, they're fun to decorate too! 'Tis the season for giving (and eating), so why not bake a batch of homemade goodness to share with family and friends?

Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from Food Network
3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 TSP baking soda
3/4 TSP ground cinnamon
3/4 TSP ground ginger
1/2 TSP ground allspice
1/2 TSP ground cloves
1/2 TSP salt
1/4 TSP freshly milled black pepper
8 TSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 Cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 Cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 Cup unsulfured molasses
1 Large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)

Let dough stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking (about 10 minutes, more if the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours).  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thickness, being sure that the dough isn't sticking to the work surface (dust the surface with more flour, if needed). For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Make sure to keep the remaining dough chilled before rolling out more cookies.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely. Decorate with icing.

Vanilla Frosted Cookies
Adapted from The New York Times
8 TBS (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup sugar
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 Egg
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 TSP baking powder
Pinch salt
1/4 Cup milk, plus more if needed
Vanilla frosting
Crushed candy canes, sprinkles or sanding sugar for decorating

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and egg and beat until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the dough, beat for a moment, then add the milk. Mix for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients and a little more milk, if necessary, to make a soft dough.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes.  Bake for 10 minutes on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Let cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew
Adapted from The New York Times
2 TBS EVOO, more for serving
1 LB sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 TBS tomato paste
1/2 TSP ground cumin
2 Medium carrots, finely diced
2 Celery stalks, finely diced
1 Onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 LB dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
2 TSP kosher salt, or to taste
2 Thyme sprigs
1 Large rosemary sprig
1 Bay leaf
1 Bunch of kale or spinach, chopped
2 TSP balsamic vinegar, more for serving
1/2 TSP ground black pepper, more to taste.

I used to never understand why anyone would waste their time cooking with dried beans, but this recipe has completely changed my mind.  While canned beans are perfectly fine in some situations, they can be mushy and bland - not ideal when they are supposed to be the star of your dish.  There's no need to soak the beans in this stew (which saves a ton of time), yet they still come out tender and flavorful.  Make on a snowy day for a soul-satisfying meal, and you may just become a convert too.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

Return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper.  Adjust the seasoning if needed.  Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil. 

If you like, you can add a bunch of chopped kale or spinach when you add the sausage for added color.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving Festivities

What could be better than a little pre-Thanksgiving celebration to get ready for the big day?  My office transformed our conference room into a dining room for our first annual Thanksgiving lunch.  Everyone pitched in by making (or buying) all the necessities from the wine to the dessert.  The highlights:  roasted squash and apple salad with pepitas and feta, maple-garlic roast turkey, stuffing and candied yams.  And no meal would be complete without something sweet.  We finished off our feast with my pumpkin pie and Italian goodies from Arthur Ave.  We had to make due with paper plates and microwaves, but everything was delicious.  I think we've started a great new tradition!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light
3 Cups fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 Cups water
1 1/2 Cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast
1 Cup dried shiitake mushrooms (or fresh)
1/2 Cup matchstick carrots
1/2 Cup snow peas, thinly sliced
2 TSP Sriracha
2 TSP low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger
3 OZ wide rice stick noodles
1 TBS lime juice
Green onion

Like so many staple dishes, chicken noodle soup is a blank slate.  You can add countless combinations of flavors and ingredients to make your own unique bowl.  I add Sriracha and ginger for just the right amount of heat and plenty of rice noodles (my favorite) in this Southeast Asian version.  While there's nothing quite like homemade chicken soup from scratch, there are plenty of shortcuts you can take without sacrificing flavor.   Good quality canned chicken stock, rotisserie chicken and pre-sliced vegetables save tons of time.  You can use fresh shiitakes, but the dried definitely impart more earthy flavors in a short amount of time.
Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil in a large soup pot.  Reduce heat, then let simmer until mushrooms are hydrated (about 20-25 minutes).

In the meantime, cook the rice noodles in boiling water.  Drain.  Divide the noodles among bowls.

Discard the ginger.  Ladle the broth into each bowl.  Garnish with lime juice, cilantro and green onions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Adapted from Food and Whine
1 Large butternut squash, roasted (or 2 packages frozen squash)
2 Cloves garlic, crushed
1 TSP oregano
1 TSP nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 10 OZ package chopped frozen spinach, cooked and drained
2 Cups low-fat cottage cheese
1 Package whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 1/2 Cups low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

I love using butternut squash in my dishes, especially this time of year. There's something really decadent about its velvety texture, yet it can instantly make a comfort dish (like lasagna) a little healthier.  The trouble with cooking a whole squash is that it can take a long time to roast, not ideal for a week night.  A great shortcut is to buy frozen butternut squash puree.  It's perfect in this lasagna, or in any recipe that calls for pureed roasted squash.  The cottage cheese adds a nice tang, but if you're a lasagna-purist feel free to use part-skim ricotta. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. 

Place the cooked pureed squash in a large bowl. Add garlic, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  If it's too thick, add in the water to thin it out.  In another bowl, combine spinach and cottage cheese.  Set aside.

Cook the noodles for half the cooking time (4-5 minutes).  Set aside.

Place 1/3 of the squash mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 12" baking dish. Layer with lasagna noodles. Spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Layer with more noodles. Repeat, finishing with the squash layer. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 45 minutes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Tomato Sauce

Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Tomato Sauce
1 large onion, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1 LB chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
Italian style bread crumbs
1 Jar tomato sauce

This simple recipe from my mom is perfect for when I have no idea what to make for dinner.  The main ingredients are items I always have on hand - chicken, onions and jarred tomato sauce.  It takes a little extra time, but breading the chicken and getting that golden crust makes all the difference in this dish.  The caramelized onions also add a little sweetness and an unexpected creamy texture.  I like this over pasta, but it's also great on a roll as a sandwich. 

Saute onions over medium low heat in 1 TBS of EVOO.  Season with salt and pepper and let cook down until caramelized (about 15 minutes).  Remove the onions from pan and set aside.

In the meantime, lightly dredge the chicken in flour.  Dip in the egg, then coat in bread crumbs.  In the same saute pan heat more EVOO over medium-high heat.  Saute chicken until golden brown on all sides, cooking in batches if necessary.  Return the onions to the pan with the cooked chicken, and add the tomato sauce.  Let simmer for a couple of minutes, and serve with some grated parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs
Adapted from
1 LB ground beef
3/4 Cup bread crumbs, soaked in 1/2 cup milk
1 Egg
1/2 Onion, grated and drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 TSP allspice
1/4 TSP nutmeg
4 TBS butter
1-1/2 TBS flour
1 Cup chicken stock
1/2 Cup sour cream
Lingonberry or raspberry jam for serving

While I appreciated the unusually warm October weekend, I'm ready for cooler temperatures and warm, comforting food.  There's nothing wrong with the grilled fare and cool salads of summer, but some of my favorite dishes happen to be much heartier. 

I love my mom's Swedish meatballs, but I have never made them myself even though Rich has put in several requests.  This is definitely the type of warm, comforting food I was looking for - ground beef infused with spices and a luscious gravy.  Rich, who has been to Sweden, taught me to serve with jam as the Swedish traditionally do.  It sounds really strange, but they actually work together really well!

Combine the beef, bread crumb mixture, egg, onion, salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl.  divide the mixture into 1-inch diameter meatballs.

Heat half the butter in a large skillet and begin to brown in batches.  About 10 minutes per batch. 

Set aside the meatballs and remove most of the drippings from the pan.  Stir in the flour and remaining butter to the pan.  Add the stock, and stir until the mixture begins to thicken.  Strain the sauce through a fine sieve to remove and lumps and return to pan.  Reduce heat to low and stir in the sour cream.  Return the meatballs to the pan and let cook for a few minutes more.

Don't forget the jam!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pumpkin Pickin'

Pumpkin-Currant Cookies
1 Cup butter, room temperature
1 Cup packed light brown sugar
1 Cup sugar
1 Egg
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 TSP vanilla
1 Cup whole-wheat flour
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 TSP baking soda
1 TSP ground cloves
1 TSP cinnamon
1/2 TSP salt
3/4 Cup rolled oats
1 Cup dried currants

It's a sunny October afternoon, ideal weather for a drive up to the farm for a little pumpkin picking.  There's a supposed shortage of pumpkins this year, so I wanted to make sure we got the perfect Halloween pumpkin early.  My pick will be for decoration purposes only, but I have the perfect pumpkin treat using the canned variety.  These cookies have all the best flavors of fall that I find irresistible and completely addictive.    

Warrup Farm-Redding, CT

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Combine with the egg, pumpkin and vanilla.  In a separate bowl sift together flours, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and salt.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until just combined.  Fold in the oats and currants.  Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Leftover Alert!  Use leftover pumpkin puree in your pancake batter, for a yummy fall breakfast.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tofu Tuesday

Vegetarian Tikka Masala
1 Package extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 TSP turmeric
Salt and pepper
1/2 Large white onion
1 Head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Jar tikka masala simmer sauce
2 Cups cooked basmati rice
1/4 Cup raisins
2 TBS sliced almonds 

I'm taking Tofu Tuesday to India, with a super-simple vegetarian tikka masala. I love paneer cheese in my Indian curries, but it's pretty hard to find in the supermarket sometimes.   Tofu is a great alternative, since it has a very similar texture.  Tonight I have a little help with a pre-made tikka masala sauce, which I don't usually use.  Maya Kaimal's All Natural Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce is a great option to achieve that silky, flavorful sauce without spending tons of time.  You also can actually pronounce all the ingredients, which include tomato paste, yogurt and spices.   

Toss tofu with turmeric, salt and pepper. Let marinate for several minutes. Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Shock in an ice bath, drain and set aside. 

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and sauté until each side is browned.  Add the onions and cauliflower and sauté for 5 minutes more.  Stir in the sauce, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

Toss cooked rice with the raisins and sliced almonds. Serve with the tikka masala.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Cheese & Spinach-Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
1 Box jumbo shells
1/2 Medium onion, diced
5 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Lb sausage or ground meat
1-28 Oz can crushed tomatoes, plus 1-15 Oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 Cup red wine
30 Oz ricotta cheese
1 Cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 Egg
12 Basil leaves, chiffonade, plus extra for serving
1-1/2 Cups packed cooked spinach, squeezed dry
Salt and pepper

I'm officially out of summer mode, which means more time at work and shorter days, so I need quick meals to get through the week.  I scoured my cookbooks and the internet for large casseroles and one-pot-meals to get me through the fall and winter.  My inspiration for this week comes from The Pioneer Woman's Three Cheese-Stuffed Shells with Meaty Tomato Sauce.  I added some cooked baby spinach to my ricotta mixture, and I used chicken sausage as my protein (any ground meat will do though).  While she claims this dish can be thrown together in no time, I believe stuffed shells are pretty labor intensive (stuffing dozens of slippery pasta shells ain't easy).  Either way, it's a good project for a Saturday or Sunday.  Did I mention that this recipe makes enough for a small army?  Enjoy hot, bubbly, cheesy goodness all week long!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the meat and cook until nicely browned.  Add the wine, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, cook the shells for about half the cooking time (they will finish cooking in the oven).  Drain.

In a large bowl combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, and spinach.  Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir in basil.

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with some of the sauce.  Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture, making sure not to over stuff.  Lay seam-side down in the baking sheet.  Repeat.

Pour the remaining sauce over the shells and bake for 25 minutes.  Finish with more fresh-grated parmesan cheese and basil.      

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Season: Eggplant

Nearly Naked Eggplant Parmesan
1 Large Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick and drained of excess moisture
1 Egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
1 Cup panko bread crumbs
1 TSP Italian seasoning
1 Cup marinara sauce
Fresh-grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves, torn

While it's depressing that summer is almost over, I am looking forward to fall, which is my favorite season. While I'm waiting for chilly days and pumpkins, I can still enjoy what's left of summer's produce, including eggplant. I've eaten and cooked eggplant many different ways, but my favorite will always be the classic eggplant parm. Really good eggplant parmesan should be all about the eggplant, which is why I'm using fresh-picked Japanese eggplant straight from the garden. No need to smother with cheese or sauce, just let the main ingredient shine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the egg with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix the Italian seasoning into the panko. Coat eggplant slices with egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Heat 2 TBS of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry in batches until brown and crisp, adding more oil if needed.
Layer eggplant with a spoonful of sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves to form towers (1 large eggplant will make 4-5 towers). Bake for 20 minutes. Top with more basil and cheese.

Have some eggplant leftover? A quick sauté of diced eggplant in olive oil with garlic, crushed red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts is the perfect combination. Lemon zest and lemon juice add brightness. Serve with your favorite pasta, polenta or couscous with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

After devouring both dishes, Rich confessed to me that he never really liked eggplant until now!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stuffed Roasted Bell Pepper Halves

Stuffed Roasted Bell Pepper Halves
Adapted from Bon Appétit
4 Red bell peppers (4 large and 1 small)
2 TBS olive oil, divided
1 1/2 Cups water
1 Cup Israeli couscous
1/2 Onion, diced
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Cup dried currants
2 TBS pine nuts
2 TSP ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 6-OZ bag fresh baby spinach leaves
4 TBS chopped fresh mint, divided
4 TBS chopped fresh dill, divided
1 Cup plain yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon

Stuffed peppers filled with rice, ground beef and covered in melted cheese was always a comforting dish my mom would often make for dinner.  I've lightened up this classic comfort food with veggies and Mediterranean flavors. I've made a few alterations to the original recipe, using Isaeli couscous instead of bulgar (brown rice, quinoa or regular couscous would work here too) and topping with a yogurt sauce instead of feta cheese.

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil, then add a cup of couscous, stir and cover immediately and remove it from the heat. Let sit for about 10 - 15 minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside.

To make the sauce, mix yogurt with lemon juice and stir in 1 TBS of mint and 1 TBS of dill. Set aside in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the large red bell peppers in half through stem end. Remove seeds and cut out ribs (you can leave in the stem). Finely chop small red bell pepper; set aside. Spread 1 TBS oil over rimmed baking sheet. Place pepper halves, cut side down, on prepared sheet. Roast 15 minutes. Turn over; roast until slightly softened, about 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining TBS oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and chopped red pepper; sauté about 3 minutes, or until tender. Add currants and pine nuts; sauté 2 minutes. Add cumin; stir 20 seconds. Mix in spinach; stir until beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in couscous, mint, and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Divide warm couscous mixture among pepper halves. Serve with yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicken Salad With Chunky Guacamole

Chicken Salad With Chunky Guacamole
2 Chicken breasts
1 Small bunch of thyme
1 Cup watercress
1 Cup mixed spouts and shoots
3 TBS mixed seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Ripe avocado
1 Cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 Small red onion
1 Small bunch of cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper

The iPad is quickly becoming my new favorite kitchen tool.  There are tons of food apps, so I've been having a field day exploring magazines, blogs and video demos.  I thought I would give some recipes a try from Jamie Oliver's app, just because the pictures are so gorgeous.  My weakness for anything avocado has led me to this unique salad, which goes to show that all you need are a few fresh ingredients to create a beautiful plate.  I couldn't find watercress in the market, so I thinly sliced some romaine to combine with pea shoots and broccoli sprouts.

Cover the chicken with parchment paper and pound to 3/4 inch thickness.  Cut 3 slits across each breast.  Mix chopped thyme leaves with a generous drizzle of olive oil.  Coat the chicken with the thyme mixture, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

In the meantime, mix together cress, sprouts, and seeds in a large bowl.  To make the dressing whisk together the juice of 1 lemon with 3 times as much olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  Dice the avocado, tomatoes and onion and combine in a small bowl.  Stir in lime juice, chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

When ready to serve toss the sprout salad with the dressing.  Slice the chicken thickly and arrange on plate with salad and scoop of guacamole.  So pretty!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Emeril's Quick Tortilla Soup on
  • 1 Cup chopped onions
  • 1 TSP chopped garlic
  • 1 Poblano pepper, seeded and chopped, or green bell pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 1/2 TSP ground cumin
  • 1/2 TSP ground coriander
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 6 Cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14 OZ can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Pound cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Tortilla chips
  • Avocado
It's not easy commuting, working 8 hours, commuting back and making dinner.  If I'm short on time I have my arsenal of quick and easy recipes, but there are some dishes that need to spend hours simmering on the stove to develop any flavor at all.  Can I pull together a flavorful chicken soup in 30 minutes?  I think so with a little help from this Emeril Lagasse recipe and a rotisserie chicken.  After chopping and sauteing, I can even hit the treadmill for a mile or two while the soup simmers!

I went all-out with the poblanos and jalapenos, so I added a can of tomatoes and extra lime juice to tone the spice down.

In a large dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onions, garlic, peppers, salt, cumin and coriander for 5 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more.  Add chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add shredded chicken, cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro and lime juice.  Ladle soup into bowls.  Garnish with tortillas, and chopped avocado as desired.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Tomato Bouillabaisse With Basil Rouille

Summer Tomato Bouillabaisse With Basil Rouille
Adapted from Bon Appétit
4 Cloves garlic, divided
1/2 Cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
5 TBS EVOO, divided
2 Anchovy fillets
1 TBS lemon juice
4 Cups cherry tomatoes
1 Small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved and sliced thin (fronds reserved)
Salt and pepper
1 TBS crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1 8-OZ bottle of clam juice
3 LBS mixed shellfish (I used littleneck clams and mussels), scrubbed
2 TBS parsley
1 TBS fennel fronds
Crusty bread for serving

Cancel that flight!  You won't need to travel far for a taste of the South of France.  I love getting recommendations for recipes, so when a co-worker told me this bouillabaisse was easy to prepare and delicious, I had to try this twist on a classic.  if you've never cooked with shellfish before, then this is a perfect recipe to start with since it is ridiculously simple.  The basil rouille is traditionally served with fish and fish stews, but I'll definitely be making it again for sandwiches and salads.

Combine 2 cloves of minced garlic, basil, mayo, 3 TBS of oil, anchovies and lemon in a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 TBS of oil in a dutch oven or large pot.  Add the cherry tomatoes and fennel, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes burst.  Add the remaining 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, and sauté for 1 minute more.  Add the wine, clam juice and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then add the cleaned shellfish.  Cook until the shellfish open (3-5 minutes).  Discard any that do not open.  Stir in the parsley and fennel fronds.  Serve with the bread and rouille.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Play With Your Food!

French Toast Skewers With Blueberry Sauce
Adapted from Yum Sugar
8 Eggs
2/3 Cup buttermilk
Pinch of salt
1/4 TSP vanilla
1 Loaf challah bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Cups blueberries
1/4 Cup sugar
1 TBS lemon juice

This breakfast dish will bring out the kid in anyone.  Not only is it fun to eat, it's fun to make too.  I halved the recipe, but this is an easy breakfast or brunch for a crowd.  The blueberry sauce is a great alternative to maple syrup, and leftovers would be delicious over vanilla ice cream.

For the sauce add blueberries, sugar and lemon juice to a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl  mix the eggs, buttermilk, salt and vanilla.  Toss the bread cubes into the eggs mixture.   

Heat a pan or griddle and coat with cooking spray.  Cook bread mixture in batches, browning on all sides.  Keep warm in oven, while remaining batches cook.  Thread French toast, bananas and raspberries on skewers.  Serve with blueberry sauce. Fork and knife totally optional. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Squash, Tomato & Pancetta Sauté Over Fresh Pasta

Squash, Tomato & Pancetta Sauté Over Fresh Pasta
2 Cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 TSP salt
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup pancetta (or thick cut bacon), cubed
1 Small onion, diced
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Cup yellow squash, diced
1 Cup zucchini, diced
Salt and pepper
1 TSP crushed red pepper (optional)
1 Cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 Cup low sodium chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 TBS basil, chiffonade
Parmesan cheese for serving

I picked the most perfect summer vegetables straight from my parents garden - yellow squash, zucchini, onions and basil.  What could be better then fresh vegetables served over fresh home made pasta?  Actually, bacon makes everything better.  If you feel like living on the edge, you can make your pasta the dangerous way (by hand, without a food processor or Kitchen Aid).  While it can get a bit messy, it really isn't that much more difficult. 

Mound the flour and salt onto a clean and dry work surface, making a well in the center (should look like a volcano).  Carefully add the eggs to the well.  Slowly mix the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour in the inside edges.  When the eggs begin to come together with the flour, use your hands until a ball of dough forms (using more flour if needed).  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Keep refrigerated until ready to roll the pasta. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta and cook until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the onions, garlic, squash and zucchini.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.  Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil then let simmer.

Roll out the pasta and cut into thick strips (pappardelle).  Place in boiling water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and add directly to the sauté pan and toss to coat.  Add the pancetta.  Serve with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad

Asian Chicken Salad
1 LB split chicken breasts, with skin
1/2 Cup cilantro leaves
1 Jalapeno, halved
1 Inch fresh ginger root, peeled
2 Cloves garlic, smashed
2 Green onions, roughly chopped
1 Lime, halved
Salt and pepper
Cooked soba noodles
Cucumber, sliced thin
Carrots, julienned
Red pepper, julienned
Snow peas
Green onions, sliced thin
Bottled Asian dressing for serving, such as Annie's Shitake Sesame

The heat is not letting up anytime soon, so I want to make sure I don't have to spend the rest of the week slaving over a hot stove.  Poaching (or roasting) chicken early in the week ensures you'll have healthy and delicious meals for at least the next couple of days.  Infusing the poaching liquid with aromatics like cilantro, hot peppers, ginger, limes will make the perfect chicken for this salad and a number of other dishes.  Use the leftover meat for tacos, BBQ sandwiches, or add to a curry dish.  

Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a large pot.  Add water until it covers chicken by at least half an inch.  Add cilantro, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, green onions, lime to the pot.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil then let simmer on low heat until chicken is fully cooked (about 30-45 minutes for 2 large split chicken breasts).  Remove chicken and allow to cool.

Arrange the soba noodles, lettuce and veggies on a plate.  Shred the cooled chicken meat, and place on salad.  Serve with your dressing of choice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tofu Tuesday

Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Salad
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Clove garlic, crushed
1 TBS fresh mint
1 TBS fresh oregano
1 TBS fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
14 OZ tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch slabs
1 Small zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 Small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
1 Red Pepper, sliced
2 Cups kale, sliced into thin strips
1 Tomato, sliced

Tahini Dressing
1/3 Cup tahini
1/3 Cup warm water
2 TBS lemon juice, plus more for serving
1 Clove garlic, grated finely
1 TSP sugar
Salt and pepper

A heat wave is sweeping across the country, so this week's edition of Tofu Tuesday is all about salads.  Crisp lettuce and a cool and creamy dressing are the perfect combination for a balmy night.  While I could easily eat a salad everyday in the summer, it can get boring with just plain old lettuce and vinaigrette.  I'm switching it up with hearty Tuscan kale and a tangy tahini dressing for a little variety.  Selecting nutritious and delicious ingredients are key for an entree salad that's not heavy, but still filling.

Heat grill over medium high heat.  Mix oil, herbs, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Toss the tofu, squash and peppers in the marinade.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Grill the tofu and veggies until veggies are soft and tofu has nice grill marks.  Set aside and allow to cool.

For the dressing mix the tahini with water, lemon juice, garlic.  Stir until smooth.  If the dressing is too thick, add more liquid.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange kale, tomatoes, tofu and veggies on a plate.  Top with dressing and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Panko Chicken With Watermelon-Tomato Salad

Panko Chicken With Watermelon-Tomato Salad
Adapted from  Bon Appétit
  • 1 Cup watermelon, cubed
  • 1 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Cup cucumber, cubed
  • 2 Cups (lightly packed) baby arugula
  • 4 OZ feta cheese
  • 1/4 Cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBS Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice plus
  • 1/2 TSP kosher salt
  • 1/4 TSP freshly ground black pepper plus more
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 4-OZ chicken breasts, pounded to 1/8" thickness
  • 6 TBS vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 Lemon wedges for serving

This dish was inspired by a Bon Appétit recipe which actually uses pork cutlets, but chicken will work just as well instead.  I love the pairing of a crispy-breaded cutlet with a refreshing salad for a summer dinner.  Watermelon may seem like an unusual ingredient, but it's mild flavor really lends well to savory dishes - especially salads (you can even grill it too).  While the combination of watermelon and tomato with the arugula is delicious on it's own, I'm adding feta cheese and cucumber to put this salad over the top.  

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil, 1 tbs mustard, and juice in a small bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Set salad and dressing aside.

Whisk eggs and 1 tablespoon mustard in a medium bowl. Combine panko, salt, and pepper on a large plate.  Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Dip in egg mixture to coat, then in panko (patting down to adhere).

Working in batches, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side, adding 1 tablespoon vegetable oil after turning. Drain on paper towels. Repeat for remaining cutlets.

Toss salad with dressing; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm chicken with salad and lemon wedges for squeezing over. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Best Ever

Blueberry Pancakes
3/4 Cup wheat flour
1/2 Cup white flour
1 TSP Baking powder
1/2 TSP salt
2 TBS sugar
1 Egg
1 1/4 Cup low-fat milk
2 TBS unsweetened applesauce
3/4 Cup blueberries, plus more for serving

I guess I out did myself this morning, because Rich said these pancakes were the best pancakes he ever had...ever!!  That's a bold statement to make since I'm always making pancakes on the weekends and I've probably made dozens of different kinds.  I have tried many recipes from scratch, experimenting with different ingredients and toppings.  I have even been guilty of using pancake mixes. But these may just be the best (and healthiest) I've made to date.  I love the texture of whole wheat pancakes, but adding some white flour keeps these from becoming too dense.  While you can certainly use oil, applesauce is an excellent substitute and reduces the fat content (then you can splurge on the butter and syrup). 

In a large bowl mix the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Beat the egg, milk and applesauce in a separate bowl.  Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.  Cook in batches on a griddle or hot pan. 

I like to serve with fresh blueberries and bananas (I love the combination of the two) and a healthy dose of pure maple syrup.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Salt & Pepper

Vegan Chinese Salt and Pepper Tofu
Adapted from Veggie Belly
1 Block extra firm tofu, drained
4 TBS corn starch
1/2TSP or to taste freshly cracked black pepper
Sea salt
Peanut oil for frying

Salt and pepper are essentials in every cook's kitchen. These basic seasonings should be at the base of every savory dish, but can easily stand on their own.  Amazingly, just a little bit of fresh cracked pepper and good sea salt transforms a usually bland ingredient like tofu. This simple preparation can be enjoyed with a dipping sauce, but they are quite delicious on their own hot off the pan. Frying in vegetable or canola oil is fine, but using peanut oil adds a nice nutty flavor.
Pat dry the drained tofu. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Place the tofu cubes in a large bowl. Add corn starch, salt and pepper. Gently toss till the tofu pieces are very well coated.

In a skillet, pour enough oil so that it comes up 1/2 inch. Heat over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the tofu in batches. If you fry too many at once they won’t crisp up. Fry the tofu pieces, flipping them around, so that all sides are golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with stir-fried veggies, rice and a dipping sauce of your choice.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Star-Spangled Dinner

Saucy and Spicy Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
2 LBS chicken breasts and thighs, bone-in and skin on
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 Red onion, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1 7 OZ can chipotle chilies in adobo
1 14 OZ can fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 Cup BBQ sauce
1 Cup of water
Whole wheat buns

In celebration of our independence I'm making an all-American feast, and what is more American then BBQ and coleslaw?  I'm putting a twist on pulled pork sandwiches by slow cooking chicken in a spicy and smoky sauce.  A classic, creamy coleslaw is perfect to balance the heat from the chicken.  For a little sweetness, I'm making baked sweet potato fries.

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  Generously season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Brown in batches and set aside.  Lower the heat and add the onions, peppers and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and cover.  Let the vegetables cook down for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the chilies, tomatoes, BBQ sauce and water.  Put the chicken back in, making sure its completely covered, and bring to a boil.  Cover, then reduce the heat and let cook for 1-1/2-2 hours. Remove chicken (bones too) and turn off the heat.  Let the sauce cool down, then puree in a blender until smooth. Once the chicken has cooled slightly, shred the meat.   Return the sauce to the pot, add the shredded chicken.  Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

Pile the meat high onto toasted buns.  Serve with extra BBQ sauce and all the fixin's.   

Leftover Alert:  Use the leftover chicken in a soft taco with avocado and pickled onions!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Home Gardening

City living is not exactly helpful for developing a green thumb, so Rich and I have had many failed attempts at home gardening.  Both of my parents are avid gardeners, so every summer their back yard is filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables.  I know it takes a lot of work and care, but they make it look so easy!  I purchased a Meyer lemon tree with the hope that I would never have to purchase a lemon again.  Unfortunately my lemon tree turned out to be a lemon, blooming once then withering away! Then there were the several other plants that went careening off our balcony one windy day.  I'm giving it another shot this summer with herbs.  I picked basil and thyme since they are so versatile and they smell amazing.  My little plants are actually doing pretty well so far.  So convenient for a deliciously fresh addition to any dish!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice Pasta

Summer Solstice Pasta
1 LB whole wheat pasta
1 Shallot, minced
1 Zucchini, diced
1 Yellow squash, diced
Salt and pepper
1 Pint cherry tomatoes
1 Cup sweet corn, fresh or frozen
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 Cup white wine
1 TBS fresh thyme
Chili oil for drizzling
Parmesan cheese

I'm making my bi-weekly trip to Grand Central Market to pick up some fresh vegetables for the week.  You never really know what they're going to have, or what's going to be the freshest, so I let the produce stand serve as my inspiration.  It's the official start of summer so my pasta dish is inspired by summer veggies like fresh-off-the-cob corn, yellow squash and tomatoes.  I added a drizzle of my dad's homemade chili oil at the very end for a little extra kick which goes nicely with the sweet corn.  You could also use crushed red pepper or some thinly sliced hot peppers.  This dish is pretty hearty on it's own, but these flavors would be great with sliced chicken or shellfish too.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and squash, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn and tomatoes; sauté until the tomatoes begin to blister.  Add the lemon juice and wine, let reduce slightly.  Toss in cooked pasta and mix in the thyme.  Before serving, drizzle with chili oil and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tandoori-Spiced Chicken With Mango-Jicama Salad

Tandoori-Spiced Chicken
From Cooking Light
1 1/2 Cups plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2 TBS grated onion
1 TBS grated peeled fresh ginger
1 TBS canola oil
1 TSP ground cumin
1/2 TSP ground red pepper
1/4 TS ground turmeric
3 Garlic cloves, minced
4 (6-ounce) Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 TSP salt
Cooking spray

Mango Salad
3 Mangoes, medium dice
1/2 LB jicama (about 1 small jicama), small dice
1/4 Cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn
2 TBSs freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 TSP kosher salt
1/4 TSP cayenne pepper

I have found that marinating chicken in yogurt always yields the tastiest, juiciest meat by far, no tandoori oven required.  If you're not a fan of Indian flavors, you can swap the spices for citrus and fresh herbs for an equally delicious chicken dinner.  A mango-jicama salad perfectly compliments the yogurt and spices in this chicken.  I've never cooked with jicama before, but I love the crisp texture and clean flavor - perfect for summer.

For the chicken, combine the first 8 ingredients in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning occasionally.  Place a small roasting pan in oven. Preheat broiler to high. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Season both sides of chicken evenly with salt. Place chicken on preheated pan coated with cooking spray. Broil in lower third of oven for 15 minutes or until done, turning after 7 minutes.

In the meantime toss the mangoes, jicama and mint with lime juice in a non-reactive bowl.  Season with salt and cayenne pepper.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes (can be made 1 day ahead).

To make a quick raita mix plain yogurt, diced cucumber, mint, cayenne pepper and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with warm naan bread.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Korean BBQ Night - Part II

Bulgogi (Seasoned sliced beef)
From Quick & Easy Korean Cooking
2 LBS rib eye steak, sliced thin
2 TBS soy sauce
2 TSP sesame oil
1 TBS sugar
1 Bulb garlic, minced
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 Onion, sliced thin
1 Cup sliced bell peppers
Sesame seeds for garnish

Korean Potato Salad
6 Medium-sized red potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 TSP sesame oil
2 TBS Rice wine vinegar
2 Cloves garlic, minced
Green onions, sliced

Marinated Cucumbers
1 Cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 Cup rice wine vinegar
1 TSP red pepper flakes

I decided to revisit my Korean cookbook for some inspiration this week.  I work near Koreatown in the city, so I've had the pleasure of eating at some really authentic restaurants.  It's great to have  these recipes on hand, so then I can try to create my own home versions of my favorites.  Bulgogi is delicious, easy to prepare and fun to say!  A sauteed potato and carrot dish also caught my eye, but I decided to go with my own creation instead - a potato salad infused with Asian flavors.  If you're not a huge fan of mayonnaise-laden potato salad, then this is your new go-to mayo-free version for this summer.  I always make these marinated cucumbers whenever I get the chance.  They're cool and refreshing with a hint of heat.

Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and black pepper in a bowl.  Add the steak slices, and let marinate for 30 minutes.  If slicing your own steak, place in the freezer for about 10 minutes to make the slicing easier.  Packaged steak strips would work perfectly fine here too, just depends on the quality and how much you want to spend.

While that's marinating, prepare your side dishes.  The steak and veggies will cook up in no time.  Boil the potatoes until fork-tender.  Let cool in a large bowl.  Season potatoes with salt and pepper.  Toss with vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and green onions.  Set aside.

In a small bowl toss the cucumber slices in the vinegar with the red pepper flakes.  Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Heat the grill or grill pan and coat with cooking spray.  Cook the steak 1-2 minutes per side, depending on the thickness.  Set aside and grill the veggies until they begin to soften and char.  Top with sesame seeds.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pizza Party

Pizza Dough For a Crowd
1 1/2 TSP dry yeast
1 3/4 Cups warm water
1 TSP salt
1 TBS sugar
5 Cups of flour

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears
12 Asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 LB prosciutto
Salt and pepper

What's a party without pizza?  As a kid, pizza parties meant greasy cheese pizza and some form of liquid carbonated sugar.  As an adult, pizza can still perfect for entertaining by swapping the grease for fresh toppings and the soda for alcoholic beverages.  Add a fancy, yet simple app like prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and a salad to round out the meal.  This is my mom's pizza dough recipe and it makes enough for 2-3 pizzas, so you can please all of your guests with a variety of toppings.  I made a white pie with fresh ricotta, fontina, shitake mushrooms and green onions and a spicy sausage and garlic with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.  When making the dough, you will want to make sure you have several hours to let the dough rise, as well as enough time to let the dough come to room temperature.  I also prepped all the toppings ahead of time, so putting the pizzas together would be a breeze.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil, set aside.  In a food processor or large bowl, combine yeast and warm water.  Let dissolve then add the oil, salt and sugar.  Mix well.  Slowly mix in the flour until a ball of dough forms.  Cover with a dish towel and let sit for 20 minutes.  Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface for 10 minutes, or until springy.  Place in the oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel.  Keep in refrigerator to let rise. 

Let the dough come to room temperature.  Divide into 2-3 balls of dough (depending on how big you want your pizzas to be).  Roll out with some more flour and stretch out to the desired thickness and shape.  Place on an oiled pizza pan or baking sheet.  Top with desired toppings and cheeses.  Add toppings then bake in a 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.    

For the appetizer, prepare the grill or grill pan just before your guests arrive.  Coat the asparagus in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Carefully wrapped the prosciutto around each spear.  Put on the hot grill, cooking until the asparagus gets tender and the prosciutto gets slightly crispy.  Impressive, delicious and so easy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tofu Tuesday

Grilled Veggie and Tofu Stack
From Bon Appétit
1/3 Cup balsamic vinegar
2 Garlic cloves, minced
2/3 Cup olive oil
1/3 Cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves plus sprigs for garnish
1 12-ounce container extra-firm tofu, cut crosswise into 8 slices, drained on paper towels
1 Zucchini, trimmed, cut lengthwise into four 4-inch-long slices
1 Red bell pepper, rounded ends trimmed, seeded, cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
1 Japanese eggplant, trimmed, cut lengthwise into four 4-inch-long slices
4 3-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1 Small head of radicchio, quartered through root end

Time for another addition of "Tofu Tuesday," and I'm especially excited to share this recipe since it's one of my favorite vegetarian summer dishes to make. I've made this recipe from Bon Appétit many times before, stacking different vegetables and marinating in different herbs. It's absolutely perfect for a hot summer night as a light and refreshing main that's still satisfying. This recipe makes a lot, but the left over veggies can be used in a sandwich or serve over pasta.

Prepare grill or grill pan (medium-high heat). Place vinegar and minced garlic in large bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Stir in sliced mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Working in batches, add tofu and vegetables to marinade in bowl and toss to coat. Place the veggies (except the radicchio) on the hot grill first and season with salt and pepper. Cook until charred and softened, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside. Place tofu and radicchio on grill and season with some more salt and pepper. Cook until tofu is charred and radicchio is charred and wilted, about 2 minutes per side.

Stack tofu and vegetables on plates. Garnish with more mint.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coffee Cake Muffins

Coffee Cake Muffins
Adapted from Annie's Eats
7 TBS unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 Cup sugar
1 Egg
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 TSP freshly grated nutmeg (I used 3/4 teaspoon ground Cinnamon)
1/2 Cup buttermilk
1 1/2 TSP vanilla extract

2 TBS flour
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
1 TBS cold butter (plus a little more if needed)

I had lots of buttermilk leftover from making Caesar salad dressing last week, but there are only so many salads one can eat, so I needed to find another use.  So I thought muffins would be perfect to bring to my parents when I see them this weekend.  I must warn you though, these muffins are insanely delicious and highly addictive.   The cinnamon-roll aroma of the batter was so enticing, they almost didn't make it to the oven!

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease the muffin tin with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into butter and sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir until just combined (may be slightly lumpy).

Fill the prepared muffin tin until each is a little more than half full.

For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles wet sand. Spread the topping evenly over batter, gently pressing down the topping.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let cool for several minutes before removing from tins.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little Quinoa Patties

Little Quinoa Patties
From Super Natural Everyday
2 1/2 Cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
4 Eggs, beaten
1/2 TSP fine-grain sea salt
1 TBS chives
1/4 Cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 Cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
3 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 Cup finely chopped cooked broccoli
1 Cup whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
Water, if needed

This recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday immediately caught my eye. What a brilliant use of left over quinoa! It's kind of like a veggie burger - meets potato latkes. I'm taking her up on her suggestion to add chopped veggies to the patties, using leftover broccoli. Serve on a bed of greens, dip in hummus, or enjoy as is!

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, garlic, and broccoli. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Form into 12 1-inch thick patties, adding more breadcrumbs of water if needed if the mixture is to moist or dry.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium-low heat. In batches cook the patties for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned (Turning up the heat if there is no browning). Carefully flip and cook the second sides for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chicken Caesar Wraps

Simple Roast Chicken
2-3 LB chicken
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Fresh thyme (optional)

Chicken Caesar Wraps
1/4 Cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press
2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 TBS light mayonnaise
6 OZ cubed cooked chicken breast
1 Heads  romaine lettuce, cut into pieces
2 Spinach wraps

It's a huge time saver when you have chicken (or any protein for that matter) ready to go for week night meals.  While it's easy to find a good rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, I wanted roast my own chicken this past weekend.  I just roasted a 1.5 pound breast, which yields enough chicken for 1 or 2 dinners, so a larger whole bird could definitely get you through the week.  This recipe from the great Thomas Keller seemed like the most straightforward method.

Rinse the bird inside and out, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Generously season with salt and pepper inside the cavity and on the outside (If using a whole bird you may want to truss before seasoning).  No butter or oil means less steam, thus creating that crispy skin.  Roast in a 450 degree oven, and leave it alone (50-60 minutes for 2-3 pounds).  Remove from oven and baste with the juices and sprinkle with fresh thyme.  Let sit for 15 minutes to rest.  Now you can use your chicken as a blank canvas for endless dinner possibilities you can whip up in no time, such as these salad wraps.

For the dressing combine buttermilk, lemon juice, garlic, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix with Mayonnaise, and set aside.  In a large bowl toss the dressing with the chicken and romaine.  Divide the salad among the wraps, roll-up and eat.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shrimp and Chorizo Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze

Shrimp and Chorizo Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze
Adapted from Bon Appétit
3/4 Cup olive oil
4 Large garlic cloves, pressed
2 TBS chopped thyme
5 TSP smoked paprika
4 TSP sherry vinegar
3/4 TSP salt
1/2 TSP freshly ground black pepper
1/2 TSP dried crushed red pepper
12 Uncooked extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
12 1-inch-long pieces chorizo or other fully cooked smoked sausages
12 Cherry tomatoes
12 2-layer sections of red onion wedges
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

All of this talk about The Rapture got me thinking...what would I want my last meal to be?  While it would be nice to splurge on a 10 course meal at Per Se or Jean Georges, it's hard enough to get a table on a Saturday night last minute as it is, let alone if the world is ending.  But I think there is nothing I would want more than an indulgent home cooked feast (that would include a variety of expensive, high-fat, cheesy/buttery foods), a bottle of wine, and a bunch of close friends and loved ones.  Since 6 PM came and went by the time I hit the market, I decided to hold off on the filet mignon, lobsters and brie.  Shrimp will do for now, and I can still get my surf and turf fix with these delicious shrimp and smoked sausage skewers from Bon Appétit.

Whisk oil, garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper in small bowl to blend for the glaze.  I made half the glaze here, but the extra can be used as a dipping sauce. 

Alternately thread shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, and onion wedges on each skewer.  Keep refridgerated until ready to grill. 

Coat grill rack or grill pan with nonstick spray and heat over medium-high heat. Brush skewers on both sides with glaze. Grill until shrimp are opaque in center, turning and brushing occasionally with more glaze, 6 to 8 minutes.

Serve with a salad, grilled bread and lemon wedges.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pizza Night

Spring Veggie Pizza
Pizza dough
EVOO, for drizzling
1 Cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 Cup Gruyère, grated
1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1/3 Cup shitake mushroom caps, sliced thin
1/3 Cup asparagus spears, sliced diagonally
1/3 Cup bell pepper, sliced thin
2 TBS green onions, sliced diagonally
Fresh cracked black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

I think it's been too long since I last made pizza...and I have a craving.  Luckily, I always keep spare pizza dough in my freezer for emergencies.  It's the perfect solution for when I have lots random vegetables and cheeses in my fridge, but not a lot of anything else.  It also gives me an opportunity to get creative!  A white pie with ricotta, Gruyère and Pecorino Romano cheeses calls for really fresh vegetables.  I left the vegetables raw to maintain their beautiful colors and not over-cook in the oven.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's For Dinner Tonight?

Salade Niçoise Pour Une
1/2 Shallot, minced
1 TBS chives, minced
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1 TBS honey
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1/4 Cup EVOO
2 Cups baby spinach
5 Kalamata olives, pitted, and sliced
1 Small tomato, diced
2-3 Cooked new potatoes, quartered
1/4 Cup green beans, blanched
1/2 Can of tuna, drained
1 Hard boiled egg, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

It's just me for dinner tonight!  I'm thinking I should treat myself to a nice, big, healthy salad for dinner.  I've been into Niçoise salads lately, and it's a great option for dinner since it's packed with veggies and protein.  The picture doesn't do this salad justice, because it really is a gorgeous dish.

In a small bowl mix the first five ingredients until well combined.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Toss the spinach with the olives, tomatoes, potatoes and green beans.  Top with tuna and egg.  Drizzle dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tofu Tuesday

Vegetarian Tostadas

Re-Fried Beans
1-14 OZ Can black beans, drained with liquid reservred
1/2 White onion, diced
1 Garlic clove, peeled
1 TBS of chipotle chilies in adobo
1 TSP fresh organo, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Package smoked tofu (I used Soy Boy's Hickory Smoked Tofu, but if you can't find you can marinate plain tofu in a little BBQ sauce)
1 Red bell pepper, cut into strips

Queso blanco, crumbled
Tomatoes, chopped
Romaine, shredded
Pickled red onions (See Side Note)
Lime wedges

It's Tuesday again, so that means another tofu wonder on the menu tonight.  Tofu is mostly associated with Asian dishes, but I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate into different cuisines.  I bought some smoked tofu, which I thought would go nicely in a Latin-American dish.  I'm going to grill with some veggies for my vegetarian take on the tostada.

For the beans, combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until a chunky puree forms.  Heat oil in a pan, add bean mixture and 1/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid.  Stir over medium heat until warmed through, adding more liquid if dry.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat.  Grill the tofu and red pepper, until nice grill marks have formed.  Set aside and keep warm.

Heat some oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat.  When almost smoking, add the tortilla and cook 30 seconds per side or until browned and slightly puffy.  Drain on paper towels.

To assemble:  Spread the re-fried beans on the tostada.  Cover with slices of the tofu and pepper.  Top with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and pickled onions.  Serve with lime wedges.

Side Note:  I was served pickled red onions at a Peruvian restaurant recently as a condiment, and I fell in love.  It's the perfect compliment for any Latin meal, and it's great to serve on the side with burgers or BBQ too.  Pour 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar over a thinly sliced red onion.  Stir in 1 TBS of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Can be made ahead, and kept refrigerated for a couple days.

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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.