Monday, August 30, 2010

Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

I ended up making chicken pot pie to bring to Bryant and another resident at the hospital last night. I also made blondies for the first time, which is basically a brownie made of brown sugar instead of chocolate; they were decadent and delicious!

So if you're going to have a rich dessert, it should definitely be balanced out with a healthy dinner! Also, what guy doesn't like pot pie? Finally, since it had made our 5-star recipe list before, I figured this dish would be a safe bet to bring (I don't often try out new recipes on guests or strangers...just Bryant).

However, this chicken pot pie is a much healthier version of the typical dish. It's filled with vegetables, shredded chicken breast meat and topped with phyllo dough (instead of the heavy and calorie-laden pie crust). Add in a few herbs and some chicken broth and that's pretty much all that's in there. We had NO leftovers at the end of dinner so I have to think that it was a success!

Healthy Chicken Pot Pie
Taken from: Everyday Food
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots (sliced) OR 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 4 medium carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 medium celery stalks, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 0.75-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus about 1/2 cup leaves for crust and sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup slightly thawed frozen peas
  • 6 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling (optional but was delicious!)
  • Cooking spray (any kind) or melted butter

-To cook chicken, bring to boil a pot of salted water. Add in chicken breast (they can even be added frozen) and cook, 10-14 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink. Let the chicken cool and then shred with two forks. (This can be done several days in advance or in a pinch, you could even buy and shred a rotisserie chicken from the store).
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add shallots/onions, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots/onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup stock. Whisk remaining 1/2 cup stock into the flour in a small bowl. Whisk into shallot mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
-Add carrots and celery. Bring to a boil. Stir in chicken. Return to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in chopped parsley, dried oregano and dried thyme. Let cool. Stir in peas. Transfer to a 2-quart (8 1/2-by-12-inch) baking dish.
-Brush 1 sheet of phyllo with melted butter or spray with cooking spray. (Keep unused phyllo covered with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel so that it does not dry out.) Repeat with remaining pieces of phyllo dough. Drape crust over cooled filling; tuck in edges. Cut four 4-inch slits in crust for vents. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
-Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and recut vents. Serve immediately in shallow bowls.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week's Menu Plan & Sirloin Kabobs

Life seems to be back to normal - back to my menu plan and my farmers market shopping tomorrow. I did, however, go to a farmers market today to visit with a good friend. As a bonus, I got broccoli for the chicken chow mein and my friend gave me some blackberries as a (delicious) gift which I will promptly turn into blackberry crumb bars.

Week's Menu Plan

Friday: chicken chow mein with blackberry crumb bars for dessert

Saturday: spanakopita with Greek salad

Sunday: burgers (with roasted cauliflower and red bell peppers)

Monday: Italian wedding soup

Tuesday: eggplant curry with rice

Wednesday: balsamic chicken with mozzarella & basil

Thursday: ahi tuna bowl over rice

Also, the sirloin kabobs we had last night were delicious. They were so tender and moist, even though I forgot to use the extra marinade to baste the sirloin while grilling. Also, next time I'll toss the vegetables in olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper before grilling but they still turned out well.

We've been buying grass-fed beef (higher in omega-3s, lower in saturated fat) which is definitely better for you but more expensive. Since we keep a stricter budget, we buy a smaller amount and make it count when we do have it. Kabobs are a great way to stretch a budget. We got 4 meals out of 3/4 of a pound of beef (which means a lot for us!).

Sirloin Kabobs
Taken from: AllRecipes
  • 1/8 cup (equivalent to 2 Tb.) soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage (I used carbonated water with flavoring)
  • 1 pound beef sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers (if you have wooden skewers, soak them in water for 10-20 minutes and they won't burn on the grill)
  • 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup pineapple cubes (fresh or from a can)
-In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, light brown sugar, distilled white vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage. Reserve about 1/2 cup of this marinade for basting. Place steak in a large resealable plastic bag. Cover with the remaining marinade, and seal. Refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight.

-Toss vegetables with olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper.

-Preheat grill for high heat. Thread steak, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and pineapple onto skewers in an alternating fashion. Discard marinade and the bag.

-Lightly oil the grill grate. Cook kabobs on the prepared grill for 5-10 minutes (on a George Foreman grill, it was more like 3-5 minutes), depending on your desired doneness. Baste frequently with reserved marinade during cooking.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Portland Visit & BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

Well, I'm back. Back from a WONDERFUL 3 days of visiting my sister in Portland and back to cooking (and writing about it!). First of all, the trip was absolutely wonderful. We had a great mix of doing things and doing nothing. Laura did tons of research on things to do in Portland so after she picked me up at the airport Saturday morning, we picked from her long list of what the area has to offer. We spent Saturday wandering Portland. This included going to brunch at a small place with made-from-scratch breakfast and a violinist who wanders in and plays during brunch hours, trying on bridesmaids dresses, buying groceries and going back to make dinner (and dessert, of course).

After church on Sunday, we headed to Cannon Beach, a beautiful 2-hour drive from Portland. At Cannon Beach, we walked along the ocean, looked at the tidal pools and (I) slightly froze from getting ankle deep in the Pacific Ocean (needless to say, there were no swimmers in the water). Cannon Beach has these amazing 10 or 20-story high rocks jutting out of the water which have become nesting grounds for thousands of sea gulls (and apparently, feeding grounds for bald eagles). Since I'm used to East Coast beaches, I couldn't get over how the evergreens just drop off right at the beach. The Ecola State Park was a quick 5-mile drive from Cannon Beach and was beautiful - full of views and these trails that appear out of nowhere and led us down to the water. It was so beautiful that we went back to Cannon Beach for some seafood and brought it back for a picnic dinner. Monday was also tons of fun with walking the 4T trail in Portland, which takes you along the outskirts of the whole city by trail, tram, trolley and train. It was a beautiful, cloudless day and we had tons of great views of the city and Mount Hood.

But now I'm back - happy to be back with Bryant and back to my kitchen. We had BBQ chicken quesadillas for dinner last night with some (attempted) homemade whole wheat tortillas. I'm still working on the tortilla recipe but the quesadilla recipe is ready to share! It's such an easy and filling meal - the BBQ sauce makes all the difference so make sure to get a good one (we use TJ's Kansas City style but family members have given good reviews of both Stubb's and Sweet Baby Ray's sauces). Also, the chicken can be done ahead of time - I had already cooked and frozen the chicken so it was all ready to go to make this meal even quicker!

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
Taken from: A Hint of Honey

  • 4 whole wheat flour tortillas (if large tortillas, only 2 are necessary)
  • 1 cup pineapple, cut into small cubes
  • 1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar or monteray jack are good choices)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, sliced into rounds
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • barbecue sauce
-Preheat indoor grill pan to medium-high heat OR oven to 400.
-(NOTE: This step can be done ahead of time and refrigerator or frozen until needed.) Sprinkle the chicken with Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper and grill until the juices run clear. You can also bring water to a boil and let chicken breasts boil for approximately 10 minutes until registers at 165. Toss the chicken with Cajun seasoning and salt and pepper.
-Let chicken rest several minutes before slicing.
-Sprinkle half of the cheese over two tortillas. Top each with half of the grilled chicken, half of the pineapple, and half of the jalapeno rounds. Sprinkle with cilantro and top with the remaining cheese. Place the second tortillas on top (or fold over if have large tortillas).
-Grill on preheated grill pan or panini press until the outside is crisp and the cheese has melted. You can also set your tortillas on a baking sheet and bake for several minutes in the oven. Turn on the broiler and finish off with 1-2 minutes per side until brown spots start to appear.
-Slice and serve with BBQ sauce and, if desired, sour cream and pico de gallo.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baked Chicken Tenders and Basil Aioli

I love when you can take something that's typically not very healthy and turn it around. Chicken tenders are notorious for being high in calories and fat at fast-food restaurants. However, baking the chicken and substituting whole wheat breadcrumbs and flour (which adds complex carbohydrates and ups the fiber and protein to this dish) are great healthy fixes. This recipe could be great for families; I served the chicken tenders with aioli and marinara for dipping, whole wheat pasta and sauteed zucchini. Delicious! I've also served these tenders with a variety of sauces - barbeque, honey mustard (roughly a 2 to 1 ratio of mustard to honey and then adjust to taste), and buffalo wing sauce (roughly a ratio of 1 to 1 of hot sauce to butter and then add more hot sauce to increase heat to taste). There are so many possibilities out there!

The basil aioli ended up being a surprise hit! I used nonfat greek yogurt instead of mayo to make the recipe both higher in protein and lower in fat. It made it from an indulgent dip to a healthy (but indulgent-tasting) dip. It would be excellent to serve with crudites as well.

Baked Chicken Tenders

Taken From: Love & Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or breast tenders
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (you could also use store-bought whole wheat breadcrumbs OR grind up whole wheat bread in the food processor)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • Cooking spray
-Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with foil and lightly spraying with cooking spray. Set aside.
-In a small bowl or shallow dish, season the flour with salt and black pepper, and lightly beat the eggs in a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, combine panko breadcrumbs with basil, garlic, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
-If using chicken breasts, prepare by putting one breast in between two layers of plastic wrap. Pound to an even thickness of approximately 1/2″. Remove plastic and slice into strips.
-Dredge tenders in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess flour. Dip the floured chicken tenders into the egg and then coat the chicken tenders with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining strips. Spray tenders on rack with cooking spray (this helps them crisp in the oven).
-Bake chicken tenders for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping once part way through the cook time.
-Serve with basil aioli (recipe below), marinara sauce or honey mustard.

Basil Aioli
A great substitute for ranch dressing! I'll also be using this recipe to serve with cut vegetables in the future.
Taken from: Love & Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (or you could use low-fat)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
-Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blackened Salmon and Lemon Dijon Salad Dressing

Tonight, we'll be having leftovers from Sunday's dinner with Bryant's parents. I had made two pounds of blackened salmon which turned out to be a lot...that's why we can get another full meal out of it! I had served the salmon with corn on the cob and a salad with homemade dressing. It was a great combination of flavors! As a side note, go to your farmers market for corn on the cob - it was some of the best corn we've ever had.

Unfortunately, no more corn tonight but we still have more salad dressing for another salad! This salad dressing is light and easy to make. When we came to CA two months ago, I immediately bought my favorite Trader Joe's balsamic vinaigrette. But after using it once, it's been sitting in our fridge untouched. Why? The amount of sugar in the dressing seemed overwhelming. Bottled salad dressings have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup that just isn't necessary (not to mention added preservatives!). Making your own dressing is not only tastier and so much better for you but it is also more economical, saving you money.

When you make your own dressing, a good rule of thumb is about 2 parts oil to 1 part acid. Lemon juice and vinegars (balsamic and red wine vinegars are both good choices) are great for the acid part of the dressing. Also, you can always adjust to suit your taste!

Finally, both of these recipes are really easy and won't take much time to make. Enjoy!

Lemon Dijon Salad Dressing

Taken from: Herbivoracious
  • 2 Tb. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 Tb. canola or olive oil (canola is virtually flavorless and was part of the original recipe. However, I think I'll be trying this with olive oil next time!)
  • **Add 1/4 tsp. honey, if the dressing is a little too tart for you.
-Combine the lemon juice, mustard and salt in a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuosly.
-Taste and add more lemon juice, honey or olive oil as needed.

Blackened Salmon
Taken from: AllRecipes
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 salmon fillets, skin and bones removed (approximately 1 lb)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil (more as needed)
-In a small bowl, mix paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, salt, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, basil and oregano.
-Remove skin and bones from salmon.
-Brush salmon fillets on one side with some of the olive oil and sprinkle evenly with the spice mixture (pressing into fish). Brush over the mixture with olive oil again.

-In a large, heavy skillet, heat over high until skillet is hot. Cook salmon, spice-side down, until blackened, 2-5 minutes. While the first side is cooking, brush uncooked side with olive oil, sprinkle with rest of spices and brush again with olive oil. Turn fillets and continue cooking (2-5 minutes) until blackened and fish is easily flaked with a fork.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Entry: Rosemary Boule

Friend(s) of COWTC,

It is with great humility that I find myself writing this celebrity guest column. To be frank, when the editor-in-chief first broached the idea several days ago, I was hesitant to commit—hesitant to stake my reputation to this blog. But upon further consideration, I have accepted the invitation to toss in my own two scents, which in this case happen to be rosemary and pepper. I can only hope that this is the first in a series of changes for COWTC as it attempts to reach an edgier demographic of the culinary subculture that feels the need to knead.
A great heritage of bread baking surrounds me. My mom’s dad, who we called Boppa, was a professional baker for a good portion of his life. My father-in-law has dabbled in the art for some time himself, exploring the genre far and wide, from biscuit to loaf. In fact, the first time I visited my future in-laws’ home, having only dated their daughter for a mere three months, I was given the honor of rolling the pita dough. (It was, obviously, a crucial moment in the relationship, my steady grip on that pin belied only by the sweat on my brow [none of which found its way to the dough].)
Needless to say, that experience turned out alright, and so I find myself married to a blogger and baking my way through California. Thus far, in our ten weeks here, I have baked bread on five occasions. I started with a pair of half-white/half-wheat loaves, recipe courtesy of Gene, that turned out pretty good. This was followed by a pair of white/wheat/oat flour loaves which rose majestically and tasted delicious. We were not bouled over by the cinnamon and sugar round, nor were we impressed by a flattened version of the previously delicious white/wheat/oat flour loaves. But let us dwell not on yeasterday’s bread, for today I present a tasty rosemary boule adapted from a walnut boule recipe on Hope you have a pen and parchment paper handy:
1 c warm water (90-100 degrees F)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (we use King Arthur)
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour (we use Trader Joe’s)
2 Tbsp gluten
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp rosemary
1/8 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg white
1 Tbsp milk
Canola oil spray, for coating the bowl
Cornmeal, for dusting on parchment paper
Coarse salt, for top
1) In large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Add yeast and let sit 10 min.
2) Add olive oil, salt, all-purpose flour, and gluten, and mix. Add white whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Knead by hand (or in Cuisinart mixer), adding more flour as necessary so that it is no longer sticky. Place in coated bowl and cover with thick towel. (It often helps to put it in a warm location, such as in a warm oven with the door open.) Let rise until doubled in size (~1 hr).
3) Punch down dough and knead in rosemary and spices. Shape into round and place on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again (~1 hr).
4) Preheat oven and pizza stone at 350 degrees. Whisk together egg white and milk and gently brush onto dough (be careful because if you push too hard it may deflate).
5) Bake until it browns on top and sounds hollow when tapped (~25 min).
“Bowels of the Blog”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week's Menu Plan and Black Eyed Pea Salad

Well, we have had a whirlwind of guests and meals the last two weeks. The past weekend, Bryant's parents made the long drive down to visit us and it was so fun and relaxing. We were able to enjoy things unique to California - the perfect weather, Napa Valley and a local tomato festival! I also really enjoyed cooking for them, too; it is always easy to cook for such an appreciative audience! We made quite a variety of dishes - both new and old favorites (chicken tikka masala and blackened salmon, respectively), a brand new recipe (French Dip au jus sandwiches) and some reheated frozen leftovers (Minestrone soup).

Needless to say, Bryant and I have LOVED the visits so far and are hoping for many more!

Knowing we'd be having guests over the weekend, I actually wrote up this week's menu plan well in advance. I typically write them on Thursday or Friday but doing it earlier, I could get it out of the way (I was going to call menu planning a chore but truth is, I really like it!) and be able to fully enjoy their visit. Also, I was still fully prepared with my grocery list at the farmers market on Saturday. However, I've now realized that we have some extra food in the fridge so I've changed my original plan in order to do a bit of fridge-cleaning. I absolutely hate wasting food so we might have to get a bit creative to make sure we use everything up.

Week's Menu Plan

Monday: leftover Chicago style pizza dough with leftover homemade marinara and sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions

Tuesday: baked panko chicken tenders with basil aioli with sauteed zucchini

Wednesday: lentilles de puy with Bryant's rosemary boule bread (which he plans to blog about!)

Thursday: BBQ chicken pineapple quesadillas

Friday: depends on how bare the fridge is...but baked coconut shrimp is a strong possibility

Also, because I couldn't leave you without a recipe, here is a quick recipe of a delicious bean salad we had for lunch one day. Perfect for a light summer lunch (or a great side dish!), this black eyed pea salad is incredibly healthy thanks to all the vegetables plus fiber- and protein-rich beans.

Black Eyed Pea Salad
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
  • 3 cups of cooked dried beans (my post on cooking dried beans is here. However, you could also use 2 cans of drained and rinsed black-eyed peas instead.)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 small or 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (you could also try honey)
  • salt and pepper
-Toss together black-eyed peas, tomato, red onion, pepper, and jalapeno in a large bowl.
-In a separate small bowl, dissolve sugar in vinegar. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
-Pour dressing over bean mixture. Toss to coat. Stir in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve (the longer it sits the better the flavor will be).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

Several years ago, when I was just beginning to get interested in cooking, my sister Jane gave me a year's subscription to Cook's Illustrated as a gift. Well, that was definitely the gift that keeps on giving because I am still using those 2007 issues for delicious recipes! It already gave us one of our all-time favorites, blueberry scones; now, it's added a new one to the list of our best meals: chicken tikka masala. I LOVE that these people at Cook's Illustrated already do the work for you, experimenting with the best ingredients, cooking methods, etc. The only things I tweaked were (surprise!) a few things to make it a bit healthier.

I also served it with brown rice with black mustard seeds, peas, carrots and celery. I got this idea from the show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. They mentioned that sauteing whole black mustard seeds on a high heat actually brings out a nutty flavor, totally unlike the typical mustard taste. After I saw the show, I scoured the internet for a recipe. Nothing perfect came up but I found one that served as a base recipe and then I made several changes to it. Altogether, the combination of chicken tikka masala and rice with mustard seeds and vegetables makes quite a meal.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, Sep & Oct 2007 issue

Chicken Ingredients:
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
  • 1 c. low-fat (1% milkfat) plain yogurt (fat free never cooks well)
  • 2 Tb. canola oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press
  • 1 Tb. fresh ginger, grated
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 Tb. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (approx. 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (caution: the hottest part of the chile is the ribs and seeds so be very careful when handling because it gets on your fingers)
  • 1 Tb. tomato paste
  • 1 Tb. garam masala (or substitute 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper)
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen brand recommended) OR approx. 4 large tomatoes, crushed in food processor
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2/3 c. fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
-Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1 tsp. salt in small bowl. Sprinkle on both sides of chicken, pressing gently so spices adhere.
-Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.
-In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, 2 Tb. oil, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tb. ginger.
-Then, heat 3 Tb. oil in Dutch oven (or saucepan) over medium heat. Once heated, add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden (8-10 minutes).
-Add 2 minced garlic cloves, ginger, chile, tomato paste and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (about 3 min).
-Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (See next steps to cook chicken while sauce simmers.)
-Stir in half-and-half and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat or turn to low to keep warm.

-CHICKEN: While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 5 inches from heat) and heat broiler. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil; spray wire rack with cooking spray and then set wire rack in baking sheet
-Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture and make sure chicken has thick layer of it. (Throw away any extra yogurt.)
-Broil chicken for 10 minutes and then flip. Cook until thickest part is 160 degrees (chicken will be lightly charred in places). Time will depend on thickness of the chicken but will range from 15-25 total minutes.
-Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce. Stir in cilantro (or serve cilantro on side).

Brown Rice with Mustard Seeds, Carrots and Peas
Loosely adapted from: Group Recipes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 heaping tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ large onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped (if desired)
  • salt and pepper
-In a rice cooker or on the stove, cook brown rice according to directions (this should take at least 30 minutes).
-Heat the oil on high heat and fry the mustard seeds, covered, until they splutter for about 30 seconds.
-Add the onions and carrots to the mustard seeds and fry on medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions have turned a light golden brown, stirring occasionally.
-Add the peas and continue to cook, about 5 minutes.
-Add the cooked rice to dish and stir to incorporate. Keep on medium heat until heated throughout.
-Serve. You can also bring the temperature to low to keep warm until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Homemade Marinara Sauce & Ways to Save Money

I love tomato sauce. Love it. I use loads of any tomato-based sauce like salsa, pico de gallo and marinara whenever I can (I don't, however, like plain tomatoes which I find weird). As my friend Becca says, "I could eat salsa with a spoon." And I'm right next to her, spoon in hand.

However, while I've made fresh salsa, for some reason, I've never tried making my own marinara sauce. I don't know why it's taken me so much time! It's delicious. Bryant thought this was a great "summertime" marinara sauce. Light and fresh. We still have leftovers and I froze half so we'll be enjoying this for quite some time!

A couple changes I made: I used both fresh tomatoes from the farmers market as well as canned whole tomatoes in this sauce although you could use 2 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes (Cook's Illustrated recommends Muir Glen brand for crushed tomatoes). Another difference was that I cooked mine in a slow cooker although the original recipe is on the stove. Finally, I added more spices and 1/4 cup of red wine to give a bit more richness to the sauce.

Also, before I share the recipe, I wanted to share a way to save money on groceries! I'm always looking for ways to save - I look at grocery circulars, compare prices (my dad and I sometime discuss milk prices at grocery stores), cut coupons, print internet get the point. However, one way that is a GREAT way to save money in the kitchen is your local co-operative. A co-op has the BEST prices on spices, hands down. I recently refilled my bay leaf container for 26 CENTS and my dried oregano container for 25 cents. They're typically $2-3 at the grocery store. That really adds up! Also, you can buy as much or as little as you like. So, for example, I had been putting off trying recipes because you only needed a teaspoon of dried ginger and I just couldn't justify shelling out a few bucks for an entire container. However, at a co-op I could get just a tiny amount of these lesser-used spices. They also have cheap bulk foods with different kinds of oats, flours, dried fruit, trail mix, nuts, etc. I even found REAL maple syrup in bulk - grade B, of course. (My family is a bunch of maple syrup snobs. Seriously. We bring our own to restaurants.)

One thing about co-ops is that I believe they are often in cities so just check the internet for the closest one to you. The closest one for us is 45 minutes away so I don't go there a lot. Instead, I save up a list and pair it with some other shopping or errands to do in the city anyway.

Homemade Marinara Sauce
Taken from: AllRecipes (also, the meatball part of this recipe is excellent although I didn't use it this time)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen recommended by Cook's Illustrated) OR 56 oz. of fresh tomatoes crushed in a food processor (6-7 large tomatoes)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine
-In a skillet over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent.
-Add cooked onions and garlic to a slow cooker. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaves.
-Cover, set on low (you can change to high if pressed for time) and cook 5-6 hours (2 hours on high). Stir in tomato paste, dried spices, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and red wine and cook on high for 30 min (or set to low and let simmer until you're ready for dinner).
-If you like a smoother marinara sauce, take about 1/4 -1/2 of the sauce and add to a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds. Add back to slow cooker. Serve with pasta (I HIGHLY recommended Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti. Tastes like white spaghetti but has the nutrition of whole wheat (more protein and fiber than regular spaghetti). Also, you can find a 75 cent off coupon here: Smart Taste coupon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fun Weekend and This Week's Menu Plan

What a weekend! We had a great time with the Evans family who visited from Friday evening to Monday morning. We were able to fit in a lot in that time but there was still lots of time to catch up and enjoy each others' company. Friday evening after they arrived, we went to a local park so the boys could play some baseball while Maely and I chatted on the sidelines. Then we had 3 different kinds of pizza for dinner - Little Caesars, homemade Chicago deep dish with green and red peppers and half pepperoni (I think this is Bryant's new favorite pizza), and homemade thin crust with Canadian bacon and pineapple (my favorite of the three). Our niece Holly was a HUGE help in the kitchen and helped at every meal!

However, we did more than just eat. I love when people visit - we always see things that we've been meaning to see (but probably wouldn't get around to doing on our own). Saturday, we went to San Francisco and Muir Woods (Bryant really liked this...we're definitely going to try to go back) and then Six Flags on Sunday. We had such a wonderful time - the weekend just flew by!

We're so happy the Evanses made it down; now we're looking forward to more visitors this coming weekend! In the meantime, here's the meal plan for this week and weekend:

Menu Plan

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: chicken and cucumber salad w/ ginger sesame dressing (we really liked this...a great summer salad)

Wednesday: pasta with homemade marinara, zucchini crisps

Thursday: chicken tikka masala, brown rice with mustard seeds, celery, carrots, green peas

Friday: leftover minestrone soup and homemade bread (affogato vanilla ice cream with magic sauce for dessert)

Saturday: French dip au jus sandwiches, roasted vegetables

Sunday: blackened salmon, black eyed pea salad, corn, salad with homemade dressing

Friday, August 6, 2010

Moo Shu Pork with Vegetables, Homemade Crepes

We don't go out to eat often but when we go out, I often find myself wondering if I could recreate the meals we like. We visited my grandmother about a month ago and went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. We decided to have the food "family-style" and split everything. The best thing was definitely the moo shu pork that my grandmother ordered. It was so good and also made me wonder if it was possible to make it at home.

After some online searching, I found a moo shu pork recipe but it didn't seem like enough. Then I found a moo shu vegetable recipe, so I combined the 2 recipes to make one dish. Also, moo shu is served with Chinese pancakes and on several reviews, it was recommended to actually serve crepes because it most closely mimics the Chinese pancakes! I found a great recipe for crepes (which I made whole wheat, of course!) to complete the dish.

Altogether, the meal worked REALLY well. It was a create-your-own dinner so we put the crepes, vegetables and pork all on the table so both Bryant and I could make them as we'd like (plus, it made it really easy to go back for seconds!). Bryant actually declared this better than the delicious moo shu we had at the Chinese restaurant! The only thing I would change was that we didn't have plum sauce, the traditional sauce served with moo shu (I'm currently looking for a recipe for that!).

The crepe recipe was wonderful with the meal but it would also be easy to use for either sweet or savory fillings. We'll definitely make this again!

Moo Shu Pork
Loosely adapted from: AllRecipes
Is a slow cooker recipe so allow 2-6 hours to cook.
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 5 (4 ounce) boneless pork loin chops, cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (if you don't have hoisin, some people recommend replacing with BBQ sauce but I've actually never tried that myself)
-Trim all visible fat off pork.
-In a slow cooker, add all ingredients. boneless pork chops, chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Slather hoisin on pork. Cook on low for 6 hours (you could also try cooking on high for 2-3 hours if you're more pressed for time).
-Serve both pork and sauce.

Moo Shu Vegetables
Taken from: Eating Well
**If you want to make this recipe simple and save time, buy a bad of shredded mixed vegetables. If you want to go cheaper, I shredded red cabbage, grated carrots and cucumbers.
  • 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 12-ounce bag shredded mixed vegetables, such as “rainbow salad” or “broccoli slaw” OR chop up and core red or Napa cabbage head, grate 2-3 carrots, bean sprouts (if you'd like)
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced, divided
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
-Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs; cook, stirring gently, until set, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate.
-Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, 1 minute.
-Add shredded vegetables, half the sliced scallions, soy sauce and vinegar. Stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are just tender, about 3 minutes.
-Add the reserved eggs and hoisin; cook, uncovered, stirring and breaking up the scrambled eggs, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining scallions and remove from the heat.


Taken from: AllRecipes
I had never made crepes before but this was an incredibly simple and delicious recipe! It was perfect for the moo shu but after dinner, we had 2 leftover crepes which we turned into dessert! Extremely versatile and if you were going to use them for sweet crepes, you could probably add in vanilla or almond extract and/or some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim which worked really well)
  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or canola oil
-In a blender combine eggs, milk, flour, salt and oil. Process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
-Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Once the skillet is hot (if you flicked a drop or two of water on the surface, the water should sizzle), pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter into pan, tilting to completely coat the surface of the pan. Cook 2 to 5 minutes, turning once, until golden (mine took about 1 minute per side). Repeat with remaining batter.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Corn Chowder

While Bryant is very, very easy to cook for (he eats just about anything), he does have his favorites. The first time I made this corn chowder, I was actually a little nervous he didn't like it because he was so quiet while he ate it. Turns out it was a good silence, the kind where you just focus on your food. We actually have a "5 star menu" which lists our favorite recipes. And this chowder recipe is one of them. It's even better now with fresh corn in season.

Corn Chowder
Taken from: Everyday Food
Serves 4
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced (I used red onion because we didn't have scallions)
  • 2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 20 ounces frozen corn kernels OR 2 cups of fresh corn (approx. 2 ears)
  • 2 cans (approx. 30 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (I use skim)
-In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add white part of scallion, carrot, chili powder, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until scallion is soft, about 2 minutes.
-Add potato, corn, broth, and milk.
-Bring to a boil over medium-high, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until potato is easily pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
-Stir in green part of scallion, and season with salt and pepper.