Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mexican Pulled Chicken & Week's Menu Plan

Since we had Thanksgiving a little late this year so my sister could join us, I was able to use Thursday and Friday for prepping all things Thanksgiving.  However, I had also promised to bring Bryant and his co-workers dinner for Friday.  Since I was busy making cranberry relish, sweet potato casserole, pie dough, gravy, etc, etc, I didn't have much time to make an elaborate or complicated meal.  So I just sauteed some onions and dumped frozen chicken breast (I remove the fat and portion chicken breast before freezing it) and a few other ingredients into the slow cooker and cooked on low for 8 hours.  The result was surprisingly moist chicken that was great for burritos (and we used the leftovers in quesadillas the next day).

I highly recommend this recipe if you have time to throw the ingredients together in the morning to make an effortless meal that night.  Plus, when you serve it tons of extras - we had lettuce, cheddar cheese, black beans, guacamole, homemade salsa, and tortillas - it not only tastes great but it also looks like you worked a lot harder than you did!

Mexican Pulled Chicken
Taken from: Handle the Heat (great in burritos, tacos, quesadillas, etc)
Serves 4-6
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup salsa (homemade is better but jarred is fine for a quick dinner!)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
-In a nonstick skillet, bring to a medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion, cumin, chili powder and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Cook onion, stirring regularly until it starts to soften (about 5 minutes). Add half a cup of chicken stock.
-Add skillet mixture to slow cooker.  Add chicken, salsa and the rest of the chicken stock.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
-Shred chicken in slow cooker with two forks (it should be tender enough to easily shred).  Continue cooking for 15 minutes or more or low. Add lime juice to chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Week's Menu Plan

 Monday: Grilled Mahi Mahi with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and quinoa

Tuesday: Thai chicken soup

Wednesday:  turkey mole

Thursday: Rice and Bean Casserole

Friday: Penne with Italian sausage & bell peppers

Saturday: ground beef wellington

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teriyaki Chicken & Caribbean Chicken Salad

Is is appropriate to have a completely un-related Thanksgiving post on Thanksgiving Day? It is when you are celebrating Thanksgiving two days later! So while everyone else is in the throes of turkey roasting/potato mashing/pie baking, I'm just starting the Thanksgiving process today by making the easy things ahead of time (pie crust, cranberry relish, etc).

So while this meal probably isn't for Thanksgiving, definitely save it for another day.  This teriyaki chicken is so good and is actually even better great on top of the Caribbean Chicken Salad.

I actually found the Caribbean Chicken Salad first and just couldn't wait to make it.  However, it called for a store-bought teriyaki marinade; I definitely didn't want to buy a marinade (which not only is expensive but probably is chock full of extra sugar and other unnecessary ingredients) so I found my own recipe. This recipe caught my idea because it got high marks from about 2,00 reviews on  It was also surprisingly easy to make - just dump a few ingredients in a saucepan and simmer to make the marinade, then cook chicken breast for about 20-30 minutes.

So whether you make this teriyaki chicken all on its own or as a great addition to the Caribbean Chicken Salad, enjoy!

Teriyaki Chicken
Taken from: AllRecipes
Serves 4
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cold water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced (used ground ginger as a substitute)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4-6 skinless chicken breasts (I cut my chicken in half lengthwise; this makes the chicken pieces thinner and cuts down on the cooking time)
-In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cornstarch, cold water, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and ground black pepper. Let simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.(You can make this ahead of time and refrigerate.)
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
-In a 9x13 inch baking dish, cover bottom with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and then spray with cooking spray. Add chicken pieces and then brush chicken with half the sauce.
-Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Turn pieces over, and brush with more sauce.  Bake for another approximately 10 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Brush with sauce every 10 minutes during cooking. (If you are making the Caribbean Chicken salad, assemble the salad while the chicken cooks.)

Caribbean Chicken Salad
Taken from: AllRecipes
Serves 4
  • Teriyaki chicken (see recipe above)
  • Pico de gallo or salsa
  • 1/8 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice (or you can use white sugar)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 3/4 pound mixed salad greens (I used baby spinach and romaine)
  • 1/2 of 8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve juices)
  • 2 cups corn tortilla chips
-In a small bowl, mix the mustard, honey, sugar, oil, vinegar, and lime juice. Cover dressing, and refrigerate.
Preheat the grill for high heat.
-Arrange mixed salad greens on plates. Spoon some of the salsa over each salad, and sprinkle with 1/4 of the pineapple chunks. Break tortilla chips into large chunks, and sprinkle over salads. Lay some of the grilled chicken strips on each salad. Finally, drizzle dressing over each salad, and serve.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cream of (Roasted) Tomato Soup

This tomato soup is perfect for the cold nights that we've been having the last few days (although perhaps I just got wimpier since we've moved to California). And it was even better serving it with grilled cheese sandwiches and a cabbage salad. (We might have including crispy bacon inside our grilled cheese. I like to call it our almost non-meat meal.)

I couldn't decide whether to call this roasted tomato soup or cream of tomato soup, so why not combine the two?  Roasting whole peeled canned tomatoes (I did this ahead of time), stirring in a spice or two, adding just a touch of cream and whisky...whew!  We pureed half of the soup in the blender which made a very creamy texture but kept nice chunks of tomato.  I also lightened this recipe and we didn't miss the extra butter/cream/etc. 

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup
Taken from: Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained, juices reserved
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of large minced shallots, about 4 (I used minced onion instead)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Pinch ground allspice (you can substitute equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, black pepper or omit entirely)
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned low-sodium
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used fat free half-and-half)
  • 1 tablespoon brandy, dry sherry, whiskey (optional)
  • Salt and ground pepper 

-THIS STEP CAN BE DONE AHEAD OF TIME: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450°F. Lined rimmed baking sheet with foil. With fingers, carefully open whole tomatoes over strainer set in bowl and push out seeds, allowing juices to fall through strainer into bowl. Spread seeded tomatoes in single layer on foil. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. Let tomatoes cool slightly, then peel them off foil; transfer to small bowl and set aside.
-Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan until foaming. Add shallots/onions, tomato paste and allspice. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Gradually add chicken stock, whisking constantly to combine; stir in reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes (this is an excellent time to make the grilled cheese sandwiches!)
-Pour half to 3/4 of the mixture to blender and puree until smooth. Place pureed mixture back into saucepan with remaining soup. Add cream and warm over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in brandy and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. (Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blazin' Buffalo Chicken Calzones & Menu Plan

As promised, here is the chicken calzones recipe.  These went over very well at the hospital this weekend: spicy, a nice amount of melted cheese and a crispy crust.  The recipe said it served 4 but as I was dividing out the buffalo chicken, I was worried it wouldn't really be enough. However, it worked out perfectly - it was definitely enough to go around. Not only are they really satisfying, they're also really easy to make. If you don't have time to make your own pizza dough, you can always find dough at a grocery store (or use this incredibly quick no-rise dough recipe).

Before our meal, Bryant had told his co-worker Greg what I was making.  By the time I got to the hospital, Greg had given them a much more colorful name, something to the effect of Blazin' Ragin' Wild Western Buffalo Bill Chicken Calzones. So here you have it: the recipe for Blazin' Ragin' Wild Western Buffalo Bill Chicken Calzones.

I've also included our week's menu plan.As you can see, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving two days later than the official day. My sister is coming to visit for our Thanksgiving weekend and we are so excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with her! This will also be my first year cooking the Thanksgiving meal and I am really excited for it.  I can't wait to try this new slow cooker stuffing recipe and attempt to make Carolyn's delicious pecan pie. We loved a brined turkey breast recipe I had made a couple months ago so that will appear again (Who says turkey has to be once a year?).  To round it out, we'll also be having cranberry relish, green beans (both classic Thanksgiving dishes for my side of the family) and sweet potato casserole (courtesy of Bryant's side).  Finally, since I hate pumpkin pie but actually really like all other pumpkin dishes, our nod to this famous dessert will be to have pumpkin bread (with a cinnamon pecan swirl) in the morning.

Blazin' Ragin' Wild Western Buffalo Bill Chicken Calzones
Taken from: Healthy Food for Living
Serves: 4
  • 1 whole wheat pizza dough, at room temperature (I used this recipe made ahead of time but if you're pressed for time, use this one)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (add more if desired)
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
-Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
-Make pizza dough (this can be made up to a day ahead of time). If made ahead and refrigerated, set on counter to bring to room temperature.
-Make blue cheese sauce.
-Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
-Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to heated pan, and cook until done, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Reduce stove heat to low.
-Melt butter in the skillet and stir in Worcestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and remove from heat. Add the cooked chicken to the buffalo sauce, and stir to coat evenly.
-Divide pizza dough into four equal portions. Roll each out into a circle on a lightly floured surface.
-Working with one dough circle at a time, spoon 1/4 of the chicken onto one half of the circle. Top with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar and 1 tablespoon sliced green onion. Drape other half of the dough circle up and over the filling, and pinch edges together to seal the dough.
-Repeat with remaining three dough circles. Transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets or preheated pizza stone (sprinkle the baking sheet/pizza stone with cornmeal). Using the tines of a fork, pierce the top of each calzone a few times to let steam out while cooking.
-Place calzones into the oven, and cook for 10-12 minutes. Let calzones sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Serve with the blue cheese-yogurt dip and extra hot sauce.

Week's Menu Plan

Monday:  grilled cheese & tomato soup and Napa cabbage salad

Thursday: pumpkin bread for breakfast, Maely's chili for dinner

Friday: Mexican pulled chicken with nutella blondies

Saturday (Thanksgiving observed!): brined turkey breast, slow cooker stuffing, Carolyn's sweet potato casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, Carolyn's pecan pie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apple Caramel Crisp with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Now that Bryant's back on inpatient and having to work part of the weekend, we're back to our tradition - I bring him and his coworkers dinner at the hospital.  If you have to work on the weekend, you might as well have some good food and enjoy it a bit.  And it is a lot of fun - often, the residents' wives/girlfriends will come and hang out and eat (well, for an hour or two until the boys need to get back to work).

This time, I made buffalo chicken calzones (which will be my next entry) and apple caramel crisp (oh, and threw a spinach salad on the side to add a vegetable or two!).  I obviously didn't judge the recipe enough because this apple crisp was just MASSIVE.  Seriously. Perhaps good for a potluck or a Thanksgiving style feast but not exactly what I had in mind for feeding 4 or 5 people.  So we currently have a lot of leftovers.  Luckily, it was absolutely delicious. (I suggested to Bryant we could have it Thursday and he replied, "Well, if it lasts that long.")

The homemade caramel sauce for the crisp was simple, easy to make ahead of time and so, so good.  It's a perfect combination with tart Granny Smith apples.  The buttery oatmeal crust is on the top and bottom; the top layer is crisp and the bottom layer soaks up all the extra caramel and juices.  I allowed myself to lick the bowl, spoon and spatula as a reward for a job well done.

Below, I've actually halved the recipe (which I think could still serve 6 or 8). 

Apple Caramel Crisp
 Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Serves 6-8 (This is half of the original recipe but it would be easy to double  - just cook in a 9 x 13" baking dish)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup for thickening the caramel sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 small/medium apples (or 2 large), chopped or thinly sliced (tart green ones works best for baking)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
-Make the caramel sauce below.
-Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, oatmeal, baking soda, and pinch of salt. Add the softened butter, and with your hands, incorporate until the mixture is crumbly. Press half of the crumb topping into a 8x8 baking dish (or 9" round pan) and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven.
-Meanwhile, bring the caramel sauce and 1/2 cup flour to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
-Toss apples with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon until coated.
-Sprinkle apples and nuts on the baked crust. Pour caramel sauce over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
-Let sit for 30 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream. (If you serve it immediately it will be too runny.)
Caramel Sauce
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salted butter (salted is necessary; you can soften unsalted butter and mix in 1/4 tsp salt if you don't have salted on hand)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used fat-free half and half)
-To make the caramel sauce, whisk sugar and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. I also used a spatula to scrap the bottom toward the middle of the pan to make sure all the sugar dissolves.
-Let cool. It can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza & Menu Plan

This wasn't even supposed to be our main meal of the day. This was the kind of lunch where you scrounge through the refrigerator to see what you can throw together.  And luckily for us, that something that started as the last ingredients in our fridge ended with a delicious roasted butternut squash pizza with caramelized red onions, sauteed spinach and rosemary. 

We love, love, love pizza but I such a marinara fan that I've only made pizza with different toppings on top of tomato sauce. However, I had some leftover pizza dough that needed to be used today (since it wasn't on my menu plan for the week). However, we didn't have any good toppings to be used on tomato sauce and wasn't about to go to the store.  I did, however, have a leftover half of a butternut squash, half a bag of baby spinach and leftover fresh mozzarella.  I vaguely remembered reading that that to use up leftover butternut squash, someone suggested making a pizza of roasted butternut squash, spinach, feta and pine nuts. And this is a very versatile recipe. I added caramelized red onions but nixed the pine nuts. Feel free to do the same - throw in something extra or leave out what you don't have.  Even as a marinara lover, I highly recommend this pizza!

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza
Adapted from: A Hint of Honey
  • 1/2 of no-rise pizza dough recipe
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh chopped rosemary or dried (and any other herbs you want to throw on - I used dried thyme)
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Asiago/mozzarella/fresh mozzarella, grated
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Spinach or baby spinach, washed
Roasted Butternut Squash:
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and ground black pepper
Caramelized Onions:
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
-Prepare no-rise pizza dough.
-If using caramelized onions, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and caramelized, 30-40 minutes.
-Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F. Spread cubed squash on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss with minced garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
-In a skillet over medium to medium-high heat in skillet (could be the same skillet as the onions), add a little olive oil or cooking spray.  Add spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until completely wilted.
-Add pizza stone to oven and cover with cornmeal.  Let heat for 10 minutes.
-While stone is heating, roll out the dough into a thin crust.  Transfer dough carefully to pizza stone.
-Bake crust 8-9 minutes (mine actually puffed up and I had to press down with a spatula to let out the air).
-Brush the crust with the remaining Tbsp. of olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary (I also threw in some dried thyme). Sprinkle with a little cheese. Distribute the roasted squash, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach and feta over the crust. Top with any remaining cheese.
-Bake in oven for about 8 minutes until cheese has melted.
-Remove from the oven and let cool several minutes before slicing. 

Menu Plan

Sunday: Balsamic roasted chicken with couscous and salad

Tuesday: Cajun Shrimp Po'Boys with sweet potato fries and Napa cabbage salad

Wednesday: Mexican seven-layer dip

Thursday:  Butternut Squash and Coconut Curry with rice and green peas

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Asian Salmon

Happy Veteran's Day! Bryant and I both had the day off and spent a wonderful day relaxing and doing little chores around the house (I was also trying to fight off a small cold).  This Asian salmon was great for dinner tonight.  All you do is throw some ingredients in a ziploc bag, let it marinate and then broil for about 7 minutes.  It needed to be marinated for 1-2 hours which makes it more difficult to make for a quick weeknight meal, but overall, this is an incredibly simple and easy dish to make for a day at home.   

We served the Asian salmon with not only leftover sweet potatoes (that I wanted to use up) but also with brown rice - this delicious sauce really needed something to soak up all the juices! We also had roasted brussels sprouts but steamed green beans would have also been excellent.

Asian Salmon
Taken from: AllRecipes
Serves: 2-3
  • 1 pound salmon fillets (I removed the skin)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
-Make several shallow slashes in the skinless side of the salmon filets. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, pepper, onion and sesame oil. Pour half of the marinade  in a ziploc bag and add the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
-Preheat the oven to broil. In a 8-inch square baking dish or a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, add salmon.  Broil for approximately 4 minutes on one side and 3 minutes on the other, until fish flakes easily.
-In a medium saucepan, add the second half of the marinade.  Warm over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. 
-Pour the heated sauce over the salmon. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crumb (Coffee) Cake

To celebrate Bryant taking his Step 3 exam on Friday, I asked him what he wanted as a celebratory dinner and dessert.  His answer? Fish'n'chips.  Let me preface this by saying that was understood that this fish'n'chips was to be purchased from a restaurant. I have a quite a story of my disastrous attempt to make healthy fish'n'chips - let's just say the fish resembled smushed pancakes and I threw a small tantrum and refused to eat anything. Bryant was game enough to try it but before his first bite, he found a worm in his fish (even though it had been purchased from a more upscale grocery store).  Of course, the worm just made this story laughable.  And I've learned not to attempt a healthy version of fish'n'chips and stick with the restaurants (or Uncle John) that do it right.

But I digress.  My point was that while I wasn't going to be making dinner, I knew I could make a celebratory dessert.  However, instead of dessert, Bryant requested a coffee cake for breakfast the next morning.  And not just any coffee cake.  A crumb coffee cake.  Actually, the crumb coffee cake.  The kind that uses more butter than I use in a typical month.  The kind that might as well be dessert (correction: this coffee cake IS dessert - I found an almost identical recipe for crumb cake in my Cook's Illustrated magazine).  The kind that elicited a "Best damn coffee cake I've ever had" (his words, not mine) from a coworker of Bryant's when I brought it to the hospital for Bryant and his team on an overnight shift.

My final words of wisdom: This coffee cake isn't for every day (or even every month).  But it is so, so good, no matter if you're serving it for dessert or breakfast. And if you find a worm in your fish, bring both the fish and the worm into the store as proof and they should give you a refund.

Crumb (Coffee) Cake
Taken from: Smitten Kitchen & Cook's Illustrated (May 2007)
Serves 8

For the crumbs:
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (Cook's Illustrated did not include this)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose which worked fine)
 For the cake:
  • 1/3 cup sour cream (Cook's Illustrated used buttermilk instead)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour (same thing as above - subbed in all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbsp. softened butter, cut into pieces
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan.
-To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a thick dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.
-To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream/buttermilk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla.
-Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula.
-Scrape batter into prepared pan.
-Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs (Cook's Illustrated suggests breaking apart crumb dough, and then rolling broken dough between your thumb and forefinger to form crumbs the size of large peas). They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter, 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before serving (approximately 20-30 minutes).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Curried Lentils & Sweet Potatoes, Week's Menu Plan

This recipe was pretty impressive.  Not just because Bryant deemed it "blogworthy" but really because it took ingredients like lentils and swiss chard and turned it into a good dish.  Not only a good dish but a healthy dish, too.  Lentils are incredibly good for you (particularly high in folate and fiber), sweet potatoes provide Vitamin A and swiss chard are high in Vitamin A and K.  You can check World's Healthiest Foods for more:

This lentils & sweet potato dish needs time (about 45 minutes of cooking time) to soften the lentils so I wouldn't recommend it for a weeknight meal. (I actually had it on for a weeknight last week but then wimped out.)  However, it is nice that not only is it a one-dish meal but it doesn't have to be served immediately - it can just simmer until you're ready to serve.  We had it with some good homemade bread on the side and thoroughly enjoyed this meal!

Curried Lentils & Sweet Potatoes
 Taken from: Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6-8
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded if desired, then minced
  • 4 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, as needed
  • 2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped tamari almonds, for garnish (optional, I omitted)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, for garnish
-In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, curry powder and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
-Stir in 4 cups broth, sweet potatoes, lentils and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. (If lentils seem dry, add up to 1 cup stock, as needed.)
-Stir in chard and salt and pepper, and continue cooking until lentils are tender and chard is cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes total.
-Just before serving, stir in cilantro, lime zest and juice. Spoon into a large, shallow serving dish. Garnish with almonds if desired and scallions.

Week's Menu Plan:
Sunday:  Lentils & Sweet Potatoes 

Monday:  pasta primavera

Tuesday: Asian Salmon

Wednesday: beef bulgogi w/ leftover moo shu veggies

Friday: out!

Saturday: ground turkey and spinach ravioli

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I hadn't made this lasagna in almost a year but I definitely remembered it.  It had been on my to-make list while I (impatiently) waited for the right season.  And even though we had unseasonably warm weather this week, I decided I had waited long enough.

I made it for dinner Friday night. I roasted the vegetables the night before and it still took me an hour to make and cook after getting home on Friday.  The reason I say this is not to scare you from making it - it is SO, SO worth it! - but to warn you about trying to make it for a quick weeknight meal.  However, if you do the prep work ahead of time, it could be an easy dinner to stick in the oven. And since lasagna typically makes a lot, the leftovers can also be a quick meal (lasagna is also known for being an easily freezable meal, too)!

While I like meat, I didn't even miss it one bit in this lasagna.  It's incredibly hearty and the flavors meld really well together. I love lots of sauce and this roasted tomato sauce is pretty delicious (I added a little extra marinara because I didn't have enough). There are tons of layers in this lasagna, too - it was almost overflowing out of the pan.

To sum it up, let's just say it was so good, we even took pictures!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Taken from: Everyday Food
Serves 6-8
  • 14 plum tomatoes (about 3 pounds total), halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced inch thick
  • Feel free to add in extra vegetables - I roasted zucchini and red pepper (but you could also use onions, green peppers, etc) 
  • 2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed (I had some kale to use, so I did about 1/3 kale and 2/3 baby spinach; swiss chard or mustard greens would work well, too)
  • 1 container (15 ounces) skim-milk cottage cheese (you can also use ricotta, which is more classic but I prefer cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 9 to 12 no-boil lasagna noodles (preferably whole-wheat)
  • 1/3 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into pieces 

You can actually prep all the steps up to assembling the lasagna ahead of time (up to 2 days before): 
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, and 2 cloves chopped garlic; season with salt and pepper (I also threw cut zucchini and red pepper on one side of this baking sheet, too).
-Brush another rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Arrange squash in one layer; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash until tender, about 20 minutes, and tomatoes until slightly shriveled, about 40 minutes.  Stir veggies about every 10 minutes). In a blender, puree 20 tomato halves. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. 
-In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add 2 cloves garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually add 2 pounds spinach and toss until wilted, about 4 minutes. Transfer spinach to a strainer and press to release liquid. When cool, chop spinach and season with salt and pepper.
-In a large bowl, mix ricotta/cottage cheese, cup Parmesan, egg, and nutmeg until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
-Coat a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread one-quarter the tomato sauce in dish (I used about 5-6 oz of sauce), top with 3 to 4 noodles, breaking to fit as needed. Top with half the ricotta mixture, squash (and any other roasted vegetables), one-quarter the tomato sauce, and 3 to 4 noodles. Top with remaining ricotta mixture, cooked spinach, one-quarter the sauce, and 3 to 4 noodles. Top with remaining sauce, mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

 -Set rack in middle of oven. Bake lasagna on a rimmed baking sheet until golden brown at 400 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes. Let lasagna cool 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Light Loaded Potato Soup

I love soup.  I think there was a month there where I might have made a different kind of soup every week. It also might have been a month when it was 90 degrees outside each day.  So imagine my excitement that we finally have (much more) appropriate weather for soup!  And as soon as I saw two different blog posts about this Light Loaded Potato Soup from Cooking Light, I immediately put it on our week’s meal plan.  It didn’t hurt that I had leftover red potatoes, broccoli was on sale and I always have bacon in the freezer.
The soup is remarkably true to its name – it tastes exactly like a loaded potato! The soup is extremely thick and creamy, even though I used skim milk.  Throwing a little bacon on the top (just a little) makes each bowl that much more luxurious. However, I had the leftovers for lunch today without the bacon and it held up just fine without it.  I tweaked the recipe by pureeing ½ of the potatoes in the food processor and mashing the rest. I also threw in some steamed broccoli which I really enjoyed.

Light Loaded Potato Soup
Taken from: Ezra Pound Cake
Serves 4-6
  • 4 (6-ounce) red potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I did 2 Tbsp all-purpose, 1 Tbsp. white whole wheat)
  • 2 cups skim milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 bacon slices
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 1-2 heads of broccoli, steamed
-Steam broccoli.
-Scrub red potatoes and dice into about 1 inch cubes. Place potatoes in sauce pan, cover with water and then bring to a boil.  Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes until cubes are easily pierced with a fork (meanwhile, start cooking onions as below).  Drain potatoes into a colander.  Mash potatoes (I used a whisk) and then transfer half of the potatoes to a food processor.  Pulse until potatoes are creamy.
-While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add broth.
-In a small bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup milk. Add the mixture to the pan with 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook for 1 minute.
-Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in sour cream, salt and pepper. Set aside.
-Move oven rack to the top-middle section and heat broiler. Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place bacon strips on top of cooling rack. Broil for approximately 3-5 minutes.  Flip over and cook 30 second to 1 minute on the other side.  Drain bacon on paper towels and then crumble.
-Serve soup with cheese, green onions, crumbled bacon and broccoli.