Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spicy Thai Slaw

I must admit, I was immensely pleased with how well we ate down our fridge and freezer before our cross-country trip.  Partly because I absolutely hate throwing food away and partly because I liked the challenge, I planned our meals weeks in advance so we had very minimal food to throw away and also didn't have to eat out while we were still at home.  That extra pound of steak was turned into beef jerky, the extra pound of ground beef made meatballs, the extra cube of pesto was thrown into sauteed tomatoes and garlic to make a pesto tomato sauce for the meatballs...the list goes on.

One surprising victory was the spicy Thai slaw that I made as a side dish one night.  I had half of a head of Napa cabbage in the fridge so that instantly made me think of slaw.  We don't like mayo so traditional coleslaw was out of the question but when I mentioned to my husband that I had found a spicy Asian coleslaw, he said, "Spicy Thai slaw? I love that stuff from Claim Jumper!"  I'm not sure what the difference between this spicy Asian slaw recipe and Claim Jumper's spicy Thai but all I know was that it was good ("even better than Claim Jumper!") and used up even more food than I thought.  My extra carrots were grated into the slaw and red bell pepper was thinly sliced as were the forgotten-about radishes.  The tons of cilantro I found myself with were thrown into the dish and all of a sudden, I had this wonderful, vibrant dish with everything that would have gone to waste.  The name spicy Thai slaw stuck and we served it with smokey pulled chicken and whole wheat biscuits (Southern meets Asian?)...somehow, it worked.  And it worked the next day for lunch, too.

Spicy Thai Slaw
Taken from: Cookin Canuck
Serves 4-6
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 serrano chile, seeded and membranes removed, finely chopped (I substituted jalapeno instead)
  • 1 small Napa cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 4 scallions, sliced (I did not have any on hand so this was omitted)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Optional: sesame seeds and (if you want extra heat) crushed red pepper
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, canola oil, lime zest, lime juice, and chile. Set aside.
  2. Separate the cabbage leaves into a large bowl. Add carrots, scallions, extra vegetables, and cilantro, and toss well.
  3. Pour the dressing into the cabbage mixture and toss again. Let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4.  Serve with sesame seeds and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade Lara bars

By the time this is posted, my husband and I will be somewhere in the United States (how specific).  Not sure where but I do know that we'll have a long car trip ahead of us.  Last year, we actually had a great time on our drive out to California and the time passed surprisingly quickly with music, talking and podcasts.  Oh, and of course, trip food.  In anticipation for our trip, I've been busy in the kitchen the last few days making my first attempt at homemade beef jerky and homemade Lara bars for our trip, not to mention stocking up on some fresh fruit and crudites from the farmers market one more time.  The homemade jerky certainly tasted good to me but the Lara bars are really what I can't wait to eat.

I do like the Lara bars you can buy in the store because they always keep their ingredient list under ten (and it's always things you can pronounce) but they're just so expensive at $1+ for each bar.  So, of course, I made them myself instead of buying them.   These knock-off version of Lara bars are seriously good (even better than the official bars, we think) and cheaper to make.  Plus, they really don't take much time: throw things into a food processor, mix everything together by hand, refrigerate, and then you've got a delicious snack.  I added dried cranberries to these bars (and was this close to adding dried cherries but I wanted to eat them instead) because I ran out of dates and had cranberries in our pantry. We loved the flavor of these bars although it would be so easy to use different kinds of nuts or dried fruit to suit your tastes or what you have on hand.

Homemade Lara Bars Taken from: Deliciously Organic
Makes 10 bars (I halved this recipe and used a 4x8 loaf pan instead)
  • 4 1/2 cups pitted dates (I used the equivalent of 2 1/2 cups of dates and 2 cups of dried cranberries)
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of sea or kosher salt
  1. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper (horizontally and vertically) and then brush with coconut oil or canola cooking spray.
  2. Pour dates into food processor and process until they become paste-like and form a ball in the bowl (if your dates are very dry you can add a tablespoon or two of hot water to help them break down). Pour dates into a large mixing bowl. Place almonds and pecans in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour the nuts over the dates and also add the vanilla, cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until combined. Press mixture into baking pan, cover (I just used the parchment that was hanging over the sides of the pan) and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and cut into 10 evenly-sized bars.
**You can substitute just about any type of nut for the ones listed. If you used all almonds, then some almond extract would be great (omitting the cinnamon). Other dried fruits would work well with these too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Portobello & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

I dislike disliking foods.  And by that, I mean real foods, of course.  I'm not talking about my goal of never having a Twinkie pass my lips because Twinkies are simply not "real" food in my book.  I'm talking about my dislike for mushrooms and fresh tomatoes (although perhaps that's just a rule for grocery store tomatoes because farm or garden fresh tomatoes are so much better!).  But I'm trying to break out of that rut -- I've been able to sneak mushrooms into dishes and I recently made grilled portobello mushroom paninis (with mozzarella, basil pesto and roasted red peppers.  Highly recommended!). This week, we continued to break my dislike by having portobello and caramelized onion quesadillas.

These quesadillas originally called for brie cheese, and while that would have been delicious, I didn't have any on hand (I have a fridge that needs to be eaten down before our move).  So I opted to make these quesadillas more Mexican-infused by substituting cheddar cheese and serving it with refried black beans, homemade salsa, homemade guacamole and nonfat yogurt.  This was a great, easy meatless meal for us.  I cooked the caramelized onions the night before so I loved being able to throw everything in a skillet and have a quick dinner at the end of a long week.

Portobello & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Serves 3-4
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 oz. portobello mushrooms (about 2 large), stems and gills removed and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (I substituted 1 Tbsp. lime juice to keep with Mexican flavors for this dish)
  • handful or two fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
  • brie, thinly sliced (I substituted shredded cheddar cheese)
  1. Can be done up to 2 days before: To caramelize onions, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and caramelized, 25-35 minutes. (Reduce heat as necessary to prevent onions from browning too quickly.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a second large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the balsamic vinegar or lime juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Wipe out skillet with a wad of paper towels and then heat again over medium heat. Place the tortillas on the skillet and top half of each of the tortillas with thinly sliced brie or shredded cheddar, half of the caramelized onions, and half of the mushroom-spinach mixture. Fold over the second half of the tortillas. Cook, flipping halfway through, until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are golden brown. Slice and serve.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spinach Artichoke White Bean Crostini

Long name...delicious recipe.  I came across this recipe recently and since I had almost all the ingredients on hand (love when that happens!), I served it as the side dish to some pork tenderloin for dinner.  The pork tenderloin was great but I think this crostini was the star of the show.  In fact, since I reluctantly gave my husband the leftovers for lunch, I made it AGAIN as the main dish for my dinner the next night when my husband was out to dinner with some friends.

In the summer, I'm a big fan of all kind of bean salads.  And this is a great dish: cooked white beans combined with fresh spinach, basil, garlic (not surprisingly), marinated artichokes (I actually marinate my own frozen artichokes), lemon, cheese... the combination just screams summer to me. This is a great bean salad on its own but it's even better on top of toasted baguette slices.

So you could serve this spinach artichoke white bean crostini as an appetizer, side dish or main course...whatever suits you!

Spinach Artichoke White Bean Crostini
Taken from: Two Peas and Their Pod
  • 15 (1/4-inch thick) slices French baguette
  • Olive oil, for brushing baguette slices
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or white beans, rinsed and drained (I cook my own beans so this is approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (you can get them from a jar or marinate your own)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I didn't have so I substituted parmesan instead)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine white beans, artichokes, spinach, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and feta cheese. Stir gently. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Spoon spinach and artichoke mixture onto the toasted baguette slices. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roasted Artichokes

Artichoke season is coming to a close here. So it's a little mean that I've been holding out on you and am only now sharing this roasted artichoke recipe with you.  Especially because it's my favorite artichoke recipe.  However, our farmers market still has a few artichokes left (it has been a colder spring than normal around here), so we're going to enjoy them at least one more time.  And even if you have to save this recipe for next year, it's worth it.
I'm almost reluctant to call it a "recipe" because it just seems so easy and I don't really measure anything.  However, when I was talking to my mother-in-law and aunt (aunt-in-law?), they asked for the recipe.  And if you haven't tried it before, you should.  It combines some of my favorite things - lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.  You simply prep the artichoke, drizzle lemon juice and olive oil all over it and then stuff it with minced garlic.  Wrap all of it in aluminum foil, throw it in the oven and at end of the cook time (up to an hour for a large artichoke), you have this wonderful, delicious artichoke.  And serving the artichoke inside the foil is a must because all the olive oil/lemon/garlic goodness pools at the bottom of the foil, creating its own dipping sauce. We served this with salmon tonight but we've also really enjoyed it when we have appetizers for dinner, too.

For any artichoke amateurs out there, you eat an artichoke by peeling off the leaves one by one and scraping each leaf in between your teeth. The middle of the artichoke is the best part: with a spoon, scrape off the choke (the furry-looking stuff) and discard it; enjoy the artichoke heart beneath. 

Roasted Artichokes
Taken from: Pinch My Salt
Serves 4
  • 4 artichokes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oil (plus more if desired)
  • kosher or sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Prep each artichoke by slicing the top third of the artichokes (which is inedible) and then cutting off the stem right at the base of the artichoke (make sure it is even so that the artichokes stand up on their own).
  3. Place each artichoke in the middle of a large square of aluminum foil.
  4. Stuff the chopped garlic into the leaves of the artichokes and around the top.  
  5. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over top of each artichoke. Sprinkle salt.
  6. Completely cover the artichoke by wrapping it in the aluminum foil and sealing it.  Place in oven (make sure it stands upright or the juices will run out) and cook for approximately 45-75 minutes, depending on the size.  It is ready when a paring knife easily pierces the top of the artichoke.
  7. Serve in the aluminum foil which catches all the extra garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.  Serve with extra lemon wedges and olive oil, if desired.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Roasted Potato Salad

Often times, I need a side dish and a vegetable to go with our main course.  However, it's even better when you can kill two birds with one stone and combine those dishes into one! That's where this roasted potato salad was great for dinner tonight.  I had planned on this maple-dijon pork tenderloin (delicious, by the way!) but was still a little vague on what should accompany it.  This roasted potato salad recipe caught my eye and satisfied all the requirements for what I needed.

The potatoes were crunchy and a surprisingly little amount of parmesan made this salad taste very rich. Of course, you could just serve these two things separately but I really enjoyed it as one dish.

Roasted Potato Salad with Parmesan-Herb Dressing
Taken from: Perry's Plate
Serves 4
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes or small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 shallot, minced (I used 2 Tbsp of minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic)
  • 1/3 finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 cups (about 10 ounces) mixed salad greens
  • 2 tsp mixed dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) herbs such as oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley, thyme, and sage
  • sliced tomatoes and cucumber for garnish (optional, I omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, herbs (if using dried), and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking until fully combined and thickened. Season with a pinch or two of salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Place the potatoes and shallot on the rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 T of the vinaigrette and use hands to toss the mixture, ensuring the potatoes are coated. Arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Stir every 10 minutes or so for even cooking. When they're finished, sprinkle with half of the cheese, toss to coat, and set aside.
  5. Just before serving, combine the greens, potatoes, remaining cheese, and remaining vinaigrette in a large bowl. If you're using fresh herbs, now is the time to add them. Toss to mix. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with tomatoes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Excuse me...I just realized on my last post I mentioned that I forced my way into two kitchens on our recent vacation.  Well, that's wrong.  I had the audacity to weasel my way into three.  I realize now that I hadn't counted my sister's kitchen as we visited her on our way up to my husband's family.  Not only did I decide what we would cook that night with her (Mongolian beef with brown rice, in case you were wondering), I even brought many of the ingredients with me. (Luckily, we have a lot of fun in the kitchen together!)

Dessert, however, my sister and I decided on together.  I keep a running list of recipes that look good so we perused the list.  My sister finally selected sticky toffee pudding from the blog Elly Says Opa and after a quick trip to the grocery store to get dates (we found it amusing to say that we were picking up dates at the grocery store), we had a spectacular dessert that night.

When I first saw this sticky toffee pudding recipe, I have to admit that I was initially put off by the name.  I don't really like pudding or its consistency but the post reassured me that this wasn't so much of a traditional American pudding but more like a cake with caramel over it.  Caramel on top of cake? Now that was more like it to me.

My sister and I had a great time working in the kitchen together.  We cut the recipe into one-quarter (since it was only her, myself and my husband).  Also, my sister had these cute 1-cup ceramic dishes which were perfect for having individual dessert...not to mention cutting down the cooking time to about 15 minutes (I can get impatient for dessert)! The sticky toffee pudding was very rich and so, so delicious. And adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream took this dessert to a whole new level.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Taken from: Elly Says Opa
Serves 10-12 (very easy to halve or even quarter this recipe)

For the caramel sauce:
  • 4 cups heavy cream (we omitted but increased the butter to 1 cup)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
For the cake:
  • 2.5 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.25 cups chopped pitted dates
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  1.  To make the sauce:
    -Bring cream, brown sugar and butter to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce until reduced to 3.5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside.
  2. To make the cake:
    -Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 12-cup Bundt pan (or other pan/s). Whisk flour and baking powder in medium bowl to blend.  In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine the water, dates and baking soda; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool completely.
    -Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then mix in vanilla.  Add half of flour mixture, then date mixture. Blend in remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3.  Bake until cake rises and is golden on top, about 45 minutes. Pour 3/4 cup caramel sauce over cake; continue baking until tester inserted near center of cake comes out with no crumbs (only caramel sauce) attached, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. If using a Bundt pan, invert cake onto platter.
  4. Cut cake into slices; drizzle caramel sauce over each slice and (optional) serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream..

    Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cool it completely and then wrap cake airtight and store at room temperature. Cover remaining caramel sauce and refrigerate. Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, before using.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crab Cakes

Wow, I've been gone quite some time.  We were visiting family all of last week which was a wonderful time, as always.  And, true to form, I forced my way into two kitchens because a vacation for me just wouldn't seem complete without some time spent in there.

However, it was good to come home...especially to come home to California produce.  Incredibly sweet strawberries, cherries, tomatoes...I couldn't really stop myself when I got back to those roadside stands.  I have big plans for them this week (although the strawberries were already made into a sauce for our pancakes last night...delicious!) but for now, I'll share a favorite of ours from before our vacation... 

...Crab cakes.  Light, airy, and so good.  We loved this recipe although the crab cakes did fall apart on us a bit (I think I would try adding a few more breadcrumbs next time to help hold everything together).    I also used a bit of the leftover crab mixture to stuff mushrooms which worked incredibly well (and is highly recommended by my husband).   

While these crab cakes would do very well as an appetizer, we made this into a full meal, serving it with a simple salad on the side and garlic toast.  An easy summer meal...just how we like it!

Crab Cakes
Taken from: America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Serves 4
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (plus more if needed)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (I used plain Greek yogurt instead because mayo is not allowed in my kitchen)
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove cartilage or shell
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning 
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
  • Salt and ground white pepper 
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. canola oil 
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  1. Whisk mayo or yogurt, egg white, scallions, mustard, parsley, Old Bay, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Gently fold in crabmeat and breadcrumbs, being careful not to break up lumps of crab.  Add more breadcrumbs if necessary.
  2. Divide the crab mixture into four portions and shape each into a fat, round cake, about 1 inch thick. Arrange the cakes on a baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (The crab cakes can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.)  
  3. Put the flour on a shallow bowl, plate or pie tin. Lightly dredge the crab cakes in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick, skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Gently place chilled crab cakes in the skillet; pan-fry until the outsides are crisp and browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. 
  4. Gently transfer crab cakes to paper towel-lined plate and let drain briefly.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges or dipping sauce.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

This is a wonderful non-meat dish.  I found it on Perry's Plate and immediately bookmarked it for a future meal.  We eat a meatless meal at least once a week and I've enjoyed the chance to try lots of different (and mostly successful) vegetarian recipes.  My husband, of course, will eat just about anything I cook so I'm fortunate to have a husband that doesn't need meat every night.
However, I think that even meat-lovers would still enjoy this dish! Cheese, roasted vegetables, tortillas and salsa.  Not too difficult to make although it does take a little time to roast the vegetables.  However, I think the roasting step could be done beforehand if you increase the cooking time for the entire dish.  
This enchilada casserole was cheesy and I loved all the colors from all the different roasted vegetables. You could also change it up with the vegetables used - to use up what was in my fridge, I left out the spinach, added broccoli and zucchini and substituted an Anaheim chile (I broiled it until the skin blackened and then took the skin off) for the poblano pepper.  I originally meant to serve this with a side of black beans but totally forgot.  So it would be delicious with a side of black or refried beans (this would also increase the protein in the meal) but we loved it on its own!

Stacked Roasted Vegetables Enchiladas
Taken from: Perry's Plate
Serves 4-5
  • 1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks (I substituted an anaheim pepper, roasted it and removed the skin)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (I used half cauliflower, half broccoli)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and slivered
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • Optional: I added a zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 T heat-safe oil like grapeseed or coconut
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
  • 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls although I omitted)
  • 9-10 corn tortillas, halved (I used about 3-4 burrito sized flour tortillas instead, cut in large pieces)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-mozzarella blend)
  • Optional: sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet.
  2. Place poblanos, red bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernels onto cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin and minced garlic over top. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, then use your hands to mix everything together. After everything is coated well, spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots, stirring or shaking the pan every 10 minutes for even roasting.  While the vegetables were roasting, I made this salsa
  3. Remove roasted vegetables from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  4. Prepare an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa. Spread 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, to completely cover the salsa. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and cheese. Top with with a layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 10-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through. 
  6. Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and scallions, if desired.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homemade Twix Bars

Homemade candy bars: Yes. Yes, please.  Why it seemed daunting to me at first, I'm not sure.  To recreate homemade version of Twix bars, it only took about 5 ingredients and is obviously tastier and cheaper, too.  I did take a shortcut by using Trader Joe's honey whole wheat pretzel sticks (actually, I knew I had to make this recipe fairly quickly because those pretzel sticks don't always last long in our house).  And you can take another shortcut by using caramel candies but making your own caramel is so, so easy! And delicious.  And the leftovers can go on ice cream (or, you know, be eaten with a spoon when cooled).
The original recipe even called for adding Nutella but after I had spooned on the caramel and was about to add the melted chocolate, I had a feeling it didn't need any more.  And for us, it really didn't.  But feel free to add the Nutella before the final layer of chocolate! However, the sea (or kosher) salt sprinkled on top is a must -- we just loved that salty sweet combo!
Also, for any Seinfeld fans (I don't really watch it but my husband's a fan of some of the older ones), as I made these homemade Twix and placed them on a baking sheet to cool in the fridge, we both laughed at our " candy lineup." George would have been proud.

Homemade almond joys are next on my list!

Homemade Twix Bars
Adapted from: Savory Sweet Life (she gives a good step-by-step post)
Makes 4 bars
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 4-inch honey-wheat pretzel sticks like Rold Gold or Trader Joes
  • 3-4 Tbsp. dark chocolate chips or your favorite type of chocolate
  • optional: sea salt, Nutella
  1. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place two pretzels side by side (they should be touching each other).  Line up three other sets of 2 pretzels on the sheet. 
  2. In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla.
  3. Spoon caramel over each set of pretzels (be generous)!  Let cool for a little and then add another layer of caramel if desired (we did!). Add Nutella on top, if desired.
  4. Place chocolate chips in a double boiler and stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. microwave safe container and microwave for 1 minute and stir until smooth. Spoon chocolate all over the pretzels (including the bottom) and then smooth the top with a butter knife (I used this method to spread the chocolate but Savory Sweet Life used this way instead: Place the pretzel on a fork and carefully dip the pretzels in the chocolate rocking the pretzels side to side to get the pretzel bars completely coated). 
  5. Sprinkle sea salt over the chocolate, if desired.
  6. Place the parchment-lined baking sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes to help harden the chocolate coating.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crunchy Honey Chicken

While I'm always looking for fast recipes out there, that's not the only thing about this recipe that caught my attention.  What really did catch my attention is the title -- I love crunchy. I love honey. I love chicken.  How could it not be delicious?

And delicious it was!  The honey wasn't overpowering but added a light sweetness.  Like most stirfrys, this is a quick meal to make, especially if you have everything prepped beforehand.  But even taking that additional 10 minutes to prep the vegetables and chicken beforehand, this still was a 30 minute meal from start to finish.

My only complaint of the original recipe? 1 clove of garlic. Try four cloves and then come talk to me (well, just don't talk too close to me).   I even added in a freshly minced clove at the very end as well -- this definitely isn't for the faint of heart but if you really love garlic, we thought it was a delicious addition! I also added freshly minced ginger during the cooking as I thought it would play off the sweetness of the honey and bring a little extra spice.  We served this with brown rice for a delicious weeknight meal.

Crunchy Honey Chicken
Taken from: How Sweet It Is

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch or flour
  • 1-2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced (optional; I omitted)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup honey plus more for serving
  • sesame seeds, for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prep all veggies (feel free to add or take out whatever you like or have on hand). 
  2. In one shallow bowl, lightly beat egg.  In a second shallow bowl, add the cornstarch or flour (the cornstarch will yield a “crispier” chicken). 
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add veggies, 3-4 cloves of minced garlic and minced ginger to skillet (I added the broccoli first and let it cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the rest of the veggies since I think broccoli takes longer).  Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened  Add in soy sauce and stir so veggies are coated, about 60 seconds. Remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in egg whites and then lightly dredge in cornstarch.  
  5. Heat the same skillet (or you can use a different one, one just cleanup easier) over medium-high heat and add remaining oil.  Add chicken to the skillet (I had to cook the chicken in 2 separate batches) and let brown for 2-3 minutes, then flip. Cook for 2-3 more minutes until fully cooked through.  Continue with remaining chicken pieces in batches if needed.
  6. Once chicken is cooked, add veggies back in the skillet. Add honey and thoroughly mix to combine. If you really like garlic, add a freshly minced clove here.  Taste and season with salt, pepper, additional honey or soy sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Island Spice Pork Tenderloin

I can't believe that all these years, I've been missing out on pork tenderloin. Until recently, I just never made it, always assuming it would be stringy, dry and gray.   However, when done right, it's tender and juicy. It's also a great vehicle for some delicious rubs, glazes or bacon (Seriously. Try it wrapped in bacon.).  This Island Spice Pork Tenderloin is incredibly simple to prepare with great contrast of heat and sweet.  Also, it's so easy to prepare.  There's no marinading necessary and the only chopping involved is mincing garlic. 

Like many of the pork tenderloins I've done, this is seared on the stove and finished in the oven.  If you have a cast iron skillet or another oven-safe skillet, that's the easiest way to go (and one less pan to dirty!).  Otherwise, you can transfer the seared tenderloin to a baking sheet or roasting pan before throwing in the oven.

An instant read thermometer is also wonderful to help produce perfectly cooked pork. Cook until the center of the tenderloin registers 130-140 degrees (we like it a little on the rare side) and then let it sit covered for 10 minutes (although I often get too impatient to wait that long!).  My guess is that we served this with a side of polenta and roasted broccoli. (Namely, because I love polenta and roasted broccoli.  The joys of being the cook in the house!)
Island Spice Pork Tenderloin
Taken from: Annie's Eats
Serves 4 (I halved the original recipe)
  • 1 pork tenderloins (about 1-1 1/4 lbs. total)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
For the spice rub:
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. (2-3 cloves) finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Combine the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Stir together with a fork to blend.  Pat the mixture over the pork tenderloins.
  2. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the tenderloins in the skillet and brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from the heat, leaving the pork in the skillet.
  3. Stir together the brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco in a small bowl until blended.  Spread the mixture evenly over the tops of the tenderloins.
  4. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and roast about 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of each tenderloin registers 130-140˚ F.  Transfer to a serving plate, loosely tent with foil and let stand approximately 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cilantro Lime Rice

I have to admit, Cinco de Mayo is a favorite of mine.  It's not really celebrated by anyone in Mexico (their independence day is actually September 16) so I don't feel bad about making this day completely revolve around Mexican foods and drinks.

Well this year, I got a little carried away.  For dinner, we had slow-cooked barbacoa beef, cilantro lime rice, pinto beans, homemade mango salsa, homemade restaurant-style salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and chopped vegetables.  When there's only two of us, that makes for enough leftovers to feed a small army.  However, of all the different dishes we had on Thursday night, I believe the cilantro lime rice was my favorite (although with my husband's guac, it was a close call).

I almost always buy brown rice because of the higher nutrition content but this time, it was so, so worth it to have white rice.   The recipe is very simple, too.  A little chopping of cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a few teaspoons of canola oil really sets it apart from plain ol' white rice.  Bryant gave it the highest of compliments when he said that it tastes like Chipotle's rice (indeed, the recipe was branded as a knock-off of their rice!).  Although we had this as a filling for our burritos, it was also delicious on its own as a side dish.

Cilantro Lime Rice
Taken from: Gina's Skinny Kitchen
Serves 4
  • 1 cup extra long grain white rice or basmati rice
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  1. In a small heavy pot, add rice, water, 1 tsp oil and salt. Boil on high until most of the water evaporates. When the water just skims the top of the rice, reduce to low and cover about 15 minutes. Shut off flame and keep covered an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Add chopped cilantro, lime juice, and remaining oil to the pot and toss until completely mixed. Serve as a side dish or as a filling for burritos.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

When it comes to drinks, I'd say I'm pretty predictable.  The vast majority of what I drink is water and (good) black coffee...with a glass of wine thrown in on the side.  However, when my coworker gave me more lemons from her tree, I couldn't resist a recipe I had found for Strawberry Basil Lemonade.  Of course, I just so happened to have all the ingredients at my fingertips as well - those lemons from her garden, strawberries from our CSA box and basil from Trader Joe's.  I also used raw cane sugar by giving it a spin in the food processor to break it up into finer granules (you can also do this with regular sugar as it helps the sugar dissolve completely).

It's a wonderfully refreshing drink, especially with the temperatures already in the 80s around here!  We've been having a glass of lemonade in the evenings the last few days (spiked with a bit of rum).  Not only is it beautiful but it's also such a perfect drink for summer! Of course, tailor it to make it your own -- I used extra lemon juice because I like it a bit more tart but add more sugar for sweetness, more basil for extra flavor and of course, with or without alcohol.

Strawberry Basil Lemonade
Taken from: What's Gaby Cooking
  • 10 lemons, juiced, approx 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup super fine sugar (to make super fine sugar, put regular or raw cane sugar in food process and whirl for about 5-10 seconds to make finer granules)
  • 4 cups water
  • 8-10 strawberries, hulled
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • Optional: 1/2 cup vodka or rum (we added about a shot to individual glasses so each person could decide with our without alcohol!)
  1. Juice the lemons (I juiced over a fine mesh strainer to keep out pulp and seeds) and transfer the juice into a large pitcher. Add the sugar and the water and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the strawberries and basil. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture for about 20 seconds just until the mixture turns pink and the basil is finely chopped (or pour into a regular blender and blend until mixture turns pink and basil is finely chopped). Add alcohol if desired (or add to individual glasses). Serve with ice and enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Shrimp, Asparagus and Radish Pasta

There are a few dishes or ingredients that I like so much, it actually pains me a little to try a new recipe with them.  Take polenta, for instance.  I love polenta - a little honey and a little butter is all I need. I actually can't bring myself to add cheese to it and the one time that I topped polenta with a delicious vegetable tamale concoction, I scraped off the topping and ate the two separate.  To me, the sum was just not greater than the parts.
Asparagus is another ingredient that I don't very creative with.  Ever since I was little, it's been one of my top ten favorite foods.  I love roasted asparagus and since we've been getting it weekly in our CSA box, I've been roasting it weekly.  So finally, I forced myself to try something a little different.  I had seen a recipe for shaved asparagus pizza and while I wasn't making pizza that night, I thought that shaving asparagus sounded like an interesting trick. 
Also, my dad had told me how much he had liked a shrimp and radish pasta that was in one of the recent Everyday Food magazine issues.  We finally got radishes in our CSA box so I knew I had to try that recipe.  Only I decided to throw in some shaved asparagus.  And use less butter.  And add a little of that leftover white wine.  And top it off with a little lemon.  While I ended up deviating quite a bit from the original recipe, it was still a delicious pasta that seemed like a perfect spring dish.  And I didn't have to scrape off any toppings this time.
Shrimp, Asparagus and Radish Pasta
Loosely adapted from: Everyday Food magazine
Serves 4-6
  • 3/4 pound linguine or other long pasta (I used white whole wheat pasta)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided (plus more to taste)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch radishes, including greens
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 pound frozen large shrimp (peeled and deveined), thawed
  • 2-4 Tbsp white wine (I freeze my leftover white wine in ice cube trays for recipes like this!)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (plus more to taste)
  1. To prepare: Shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler into long, thin strips. Thinly slice or chop garlic.  Thinly slice radishes.  For the radish greens, rinse well and then give a rough chop.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions.  When there is only one more minute of cook time left for the pasta, drop the shaved asparagus into the boiling water and let the asparagus and pasta cook together for 1 minute.  Drain pasta and asparagus, saving 1/2 cup of pasta water if possible.
  3. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and radishes and cook, stirring occasionally, until radishes are crisp-tender, 3 minutes. Add radish greens and cook until wilted. 
  4. Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and the shrimp to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is opaque throughout, 4 minutes. Deglaze with white wine (I used approximately 4 tablespoons for a stronger wine taste in the dish).  Add pasta, asparagus, and remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and toss to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.  Add more white wine, butter, lemon juice, pasta water and/or salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thai Chicken & Noodles Salad

I often don't like salads for my main course. I know, I know, you can have your protein, carbs and, of course, vegetables in it but somehow, I don't seem to feel as full after a salad (purely psychological is my guess).  So a salad has to look pretty darn enticing for me to bookmark it and place it on our menu plan.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that we've been swimming in lettuce from our CSA box so I'm always looking for ways to use it (not that I'm complaining!). 
This Thai chicken and noodles salad is simple and delicious.  The marinade really is the star of the show.  I marinated the chicken for about 9 hours and it was incredibly flavorful.  We drizzled the extra marinade all over the salad which is a must. 
There's definitely room for imagination (or using up vegetables in your fridge).  Shaved carrots and thinly sliced cucumbers were great in the salad but next time, I'd probably include red peppers as well.  I brought the leftovers to work the next day and my coworker gave me some of her pineapple which I promptly added to my dish. The sweet and tropical flavors from the pineapple worked incredibly well with the dish!
Thai Chicken & Noodles Salad
Taken from: The Parsley Thief
  • 1 1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast {cut into thin slices}
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced {white & light green parts}
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (I omitted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 3 1/2 ounces Chinese rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled & sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • optional toppings: chopped peanuts, sliced scallions, sliced limes, bean sprouts, red pepper flakes, red bell pepper, pineapple, lettuce leaves
  1. Begin by making the marinade for the chicken: Add the scallions, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, light brown sugar, lime juice, anchovy paste and red pepper flakes to resealable plastic bag. Shake to combine.  Remove half of the marinade (which will be used as a sauce on top of the finished salad).  Place the chicken in the bag with the remaining marinade.  Coat all the chicken, seal & chill for at least 30 minutes (I placed mine the morning of dinner). 
  2. Cook the noodles, according to the package instructions, drain and transfer to a platter.
  3. Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken, in batches, for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until cooked through & golden brown. 
  4. Transfer the chicken to the platter with the noodles and top with the carrots, cucumber, basil and any additional toppings.  Serve with the remaining marinade on the side.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sauteed Orzo

I love risotto.  The creaminess, the flavors from chicken broth (especially homemade) and white wine, the versatility...what's not to love?
The time involved, that's what (especially if you're like me and use brown basmati rice). The stirring. The constant hovering to prevent any burning.  This dish had similar flavors to risotto but swapped out rice for orzo pasta which made for a faster and easier substitute. Altogether, it took about 20 minutes to cook this dish from start to finish and only a couple stirs.  We ended up eating later than planned so the orzo simmered away patiently for an extra half an hour.  This is a big plus for me because I find myself getting a little impatient when the-food-needs-to-be-on-the-table-and-eaten-right-this-second.
You still get the great flavors from using chicken broth and white wine and adding a touch (or more) of parmesan.  You can also add plenty of vegetables -- we added sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms and asparagus to ours and it was delicious (although pancetta, peas, and even shrimp or chicken would be wonderful, I'm sure!).  Overall, a more weeknight-friendly side dish, reminiscient of risotto.  A winner in my book!

Sauteed Orzo
Taken from: AllRecipes
Serves 6
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1/4 yellow onion, minced
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley 
  • extra add-ins of your choice such as peas, sauteed asparagus, cooked bacon, pancetta, sauteed mushrooms, etc
  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook until golden brown. Add in orzo and stir 3 minutes.
  2. Pour water and wine into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and season with salt and pepper. Cook 7 to 10 minutes, until orzo is al dente. Stir in the extra veggies, parmesan cheese, and parsley to serve.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coconut Bars

I grew up thinking that I didn't like coconut.  Well, more specifically, I didn't like the coconut flavor and coconut flakes that I had tasted in candy bars like mounds and almond joys. Recently, however, I've been using more coconut -- we've been putting coconut flakes in our granola (delicious) and I've discovered that the combination of coconut and chocolate is actually darn tasty. So I can't tell if coconut is growing on me or if I've been depriving myself for years because of fake flavors in a candy bar. Maybe a little of both. 
My husband, on the other hand, loves coconut.  He could probably talk for hours about his love for almond joys and mounds (just ask him about our time in Bartels).  So when I came across a recipe for coconut bars, I knew he would like them. What I didn't know is that I would end up loving them as well!  Surprisingly, I thought that these coconut bars tasted remarkably like pecan pie bars (which, coincidentally, I had been wanting to try for a while).  The coconut flavor is delicious but subtle - believe it or not, I think I'd actually increase the amount of coconut next time!  These bars were best when completely cooled, but of course I didn't wait that long for my first bite and it was still delicious. A buttery crust with a gooey topping...what's not to like?
Also, since we're talking about coconut, I learned this trick on how to un-sweeten coconut flakes from The Kitchen Generation. I can only find sweetened coconut flakes in my grocery store but if you place the sweetened flakes in a fine-mesh sieve or colander and then run water over the flakes until the water is clear, you remove the sugar. The spread the flakes on a cookie sheet to dry.  This tip isn't really relevant to this recipe (although I am sure you could use unsweetened flakes here) but how ingenious is that?
Ok, enough of sharing tips and onto finally sharing the recipe:
Coconut Bars
Taken from: Gourmet Magazine (the October 1953 issue!) via Honey & Jam
Serves 10-12 (I easily halved this recipe by using a loaf pan)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (I recommend adding more)
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • pinch of salt
  1. Cream 1/2 cup of butter. Add gradually 1/2 cup brown sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup sifted flour and spread batter in the bottom of a 8 inch square cake pan. Bake in a moderate oven (375) for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  2. While crust is baking, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup light brown sugar together until smooth. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2+ cup shredded coconut tossed with 2 tablespoons of flour and a pinch of salt. Spread this batter over the crust and continue to bake for 20 minutes longer. Cool completely (sticking it in the fridge helps speed up this process) and then cut into squares or bars.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Whole Wheat Knots & Week's Menu Plan

I've found it: my favorite rolls.  When my husband was working late one night, I realized I would have more time than usual before we had dinner.  So as soon as I got home from work, I got busy making these rolls.  Normally, these rolls would be near-impossible to make on our typical weeknight because they require a bit more time for steps like cooling the oats mixture and letting the dough rise (twice).  The majority of the time is hands-off, so if happen to have the chance, it is so, so worth it.

I couldn't believe how unbelievably light these knots tasted even though they're chock full of good for you ingredients like whole wheat flour, oats and flaxseed.  I had 2 right out of the oven because they were just that good.  Also, when I toasted one the next morning, it tasted a lot like a bagel! We've had them toasted for breakfast, as a sandwich bun, and served as a side dish for dinner and loved them each way.  I was originally going to brush them in a butter garlic topping which I think would still be wonderful.  I can promise I'll be making these again!

Whole Wheat Knots
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Makes 16-24 rolls (I believe I made 20
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water (100-110 F)
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. gluten (optional)
  • Approx. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, whisked + 1 tsp. water (optional, I omitted)
  • 1 Tbsp. rolled oats (optional, I omitted)
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds (optional, I omitted)
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds  (optional, I omitted)
  1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl, and add 2 cups boiling water, stirring until well blended. Cool to room temperature (I stuck mine in the freezer which took about 10-15 minutes to cool).
  2. Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add yeast mixture to cooled oats mixture; stir well. Stir in flaxseed meal.
  3. Gradually add 4 cups whole wheat flour to oats mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Knead about 1 minute and then let dough rest for 20 minutes.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes by hand, 5-6 minutes by stand mixer); add enough of all-purpose flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).
  4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, approx. 60 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide dough in half; cut each half into 8-12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent from drying), shape each portion into an 8-inch rope. Tie each rope into a single knot; tuck top end of rope under bottom edge of roll. Place each roll on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 30-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  7. Optional step: Combine water and egg in a small bowl; brush egg mixture over rolls. Combine oats, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds; sprinkle evenly over rolls.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
Week's Menu Plan

Sunday: Thai Chicken & Noodles
Monday: Cod with Coconut Curry Sauce, quinoa and roasted cauliflower
Tuesday: Southwest Sweet Potato & Black Bean Hash
Wednesday: Sweet & Sticky Chicken Breasts, Mashed Turnips & Potatoes, steamed broccoli
Thursday: Skirt Steak Salad with sauteed asparagus
Friday: out

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Crispy Bourbon Glazed Salmon

    When I found Jessica's post on How Sweet It Is for her crispy bourbon glazed salmon, I knew I had to drop everything -- rearrange my (somewhat) meticulous weekly meal plan -- because I needed to make that salmon that night.  I can't say that happens too often, even when I stumble across a delicious-looking recipe, but this was worth it.  It definitely lived up to our expectations; my husband couldn't stop talking about it - the sweet and tang together, a little bit of heat to add complexity - altogether a wonderful combination of flavors. 
    My only regret is that I halved the bourbon glaze recipe because it seemed like too much for just two of us and I hate wasting food.  That was a mistake - the glaze is the star of this dish so I highly recommend making the whole thing! 
    Sadly, we ate all of the salmon without taking a single picture until the very last bite.  But that means that you'll just have to make it yourself to see what it looks like! It would be so easy to serve with a few simple sides (like roasted cauliflower and rice pilaf).
    Crispy Bourbon Glazed Salmon
    Taken from: How Sweet It Is
    Serves 3-4 (makes about 1/2 cup of glaze)
    • 1 pound fresh salmon
    • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
    • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
    • 3/4 cup bourbon (I used whiskey)
    • 2/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
    1. Combine the bourbon, sugar, mustard, garlic, honey, vinegar and worcestershire in a small saucepan and whisk. Heat over high heat and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until mixture reduces by about half. Pour mixture in a bowl and let sit at room temperature while the salmon cooks. The glaze will thicken a bit at this time.
    2. Preheat the broiler in your oven. Make sure the salmon is dry and season it with the coarse salt and pepper on both sides. Lay it on a non-stick baking sheet.  Broil for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until the top develops a crispy crust. If your salmon is very thick, you may need to go a little longer.
    3. Remove the salmon from the oven and brush it with the bourbon glaze. Add as much or as little as you would like. Feel free to use it as a dipping sauce too. The glaze can be stored in the fridge for a week or two – just allow it to come to room temperature (or slightly warm it) before using.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Kale Chips

    If you don't know about kale chips...well, you should.  They're pretty incredible. Who knew taking kale, (arguably one of the healthiest foods), and a few other ingredients could make something that tastes remarkably like potato chips?  The kale ends up crisping in the oven so it gives you the same satisfying crunch as a potato chip.  You can keep it as simple as kale, salt and cooking spray (3 ingredients!) or add a few extra spices for a barbecue flavored chip. I did half of the chips just with salt and the other half as barbecue chips, and, honestly, we liked both equally. 

    We had our kale chips as a side for our spicy chicken and avocado sandwiches.  A delicious spring dinner!

    Kale Chips with Salt
    • 1 head kale (preferably curly kale)
    • salt
    • cooking spray
    Barbecue Kale Chips
    Taken from: Peas and Thank You
    • 1 t. paprika
    • 1/2 t. garlic salt
    • 1/2 t. sugar
    • 1/4 t. onion powder
    • 1/4 t. chili powder
    • 1/4 t. dry mustard (I omitted)
    • pinch of cayenne (optional)
    • 1 head kale
    • cooking spray
    -For BBQ kale chips, mix all spices together in a small bowl. 
    -Preheat oven to 300.  Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil (the foil is optional but makes for easy clean up) and then spray foil with cooking spray.
    -Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces and arrange leaves in a single layer on baking sheets.  Spray kale pieces with cooking spray and then sprinkle with salt or BBQ spice mixture.
    -Bake for approximately 20 minutes; after 10 minutes of cooking, rotate the pan and then check every few minutes so they don't burn. Chips should be light and crisp.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Cinnamon-Topped Baked French Toast

    On the rare occasions when Bryant and I go out to breakfast or brunch (my favorite meal of the day), I pick up the menu and study it intently, lost in the possibilities of what I should order.  Bryant, however, knows better.  He simply says, "I know you'll be ordering the French toast." And he's right...pretty much every single time. (Of course, we split our meals so I do know that I'll be getting half of a delicious savory breakfast item, too.  But I can't really help that I'm a sucker for French toast.)

    So when Bryant and I FINALLY got a quiet Saturday together, I knew I would be celebrating...with French toast.  So I found one of those delicious recipes that I had bookmarked a while ago that looked divine: a cinnamon and sugar topped baked French toast.  I loved that you prepare the night before so we still get a lazy morning together. It was also an incredibly easy recipe to halve or to third (like we did). Served with some fresh strawberries from our CSA box, Grade B maple syrup (maple syrup is a must!), and a side of eggs and bacon, it was exactly the kind of celebratory/lazy/delicious meal I was hoping for.

    Cinnamon-Topped Baked French Toast
    Taken from: Two Peas and their Pod
    Serves 16*
    *To halve this recipe to serve 8, halve the ingredients and use an 8x8 baking dish.  To cut this recipe into a third (like we did), cut the ingredients to approximately one-third and then serve in a 4x8 loaf pan (I had a glass loaf pan but a standard loaf pan would work as well).
    • 1 loaf French Bread (I used challah)
    • 8 large eggs
    • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
    • ½ cup heavy whipping cream (I used a little whole milk and one tablespoon of butter instead)
    • ¾ cups granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
    For Streusel:
    • ½ cup all-purpose flour
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
    1. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Tear French bread into chunks, or cut into cubes,  and evenly place in the pan. 
    2. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan with saran wrap and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
    3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter pieces and cut into the dry mixture using a fork or your hands. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with a few pea sized chunks. Cover and store mixture in the refrigerator.
    4. When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove casserole from refrigerator  and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown.
    5. Serve warm with maple syrup.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Spaghetti al Limone & Week's Menu Plan

    The other week just seemed like one big downpour of cold rain.  And this week? 80 degrees today! I believe we've skipped spring and went straight to summer (although I think it'll drop down to low 70s for the rest of the week).  And nothing seems like spring (or summer) more than bright yellow lemons.  And I just so happen to have 10+ lemons sitting in my kitchen that my co-worker picked from her tree for me (that's love right there).

    So to celebrate spring and to use some of these lovely lemons, we had spaghetti al limone.  Basically, it was spaghetti with olive oil, a touch of cream and lots of lemon.  Very light...actually, probably a bit too light for my starving husband without any other kind of side dish (we did eat at close to 9 pm) but really refreshing on a summer-like day.  Also, I served it with a roasted artichoke which we just LOVED.  Instead of the traditional mayonnaise-like dipping sauce, you place a artichoke in foil, drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, sliced garlic and salt and roast at 400 degrees for 45-75 minutes (depending on the size of the artichokes).  As you can tell, lots of lemon and olive oil in our life!

    Also, by popular demand, I am bringing back the menu plan.  And, of course, by popular demand, I mean me -- I happen to like having each night's meal a click away. Most of these meals happen to be quick weeknight dinners which I always like having in my arsenal.

    Spaghetti al Limone
    Taken from: Cook's Illustrated, January 2011 issue
    Serves 4 (I halved this recipe)

    • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
    • 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water (you can use regular water if you forget)
    • Salt
    • 3 lemons (approx. 1 tablespoon of zest and 1/4-1/2 cup of juice)
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for serving
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream (you could decrease this amount if desired)
    • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
    • Ground black pepper
    • Small handful fresh basil or arugula, chopped (approximately 1/8 cup)
    1. Bring water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente.
    2. While pasta is cooking, zest lemons until you have a little shy of a tablespoon of zest. Juice lemons — you’ll have anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice.
    3. Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water. Dry out your pot, then boil the olive oil, cream, zest and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water together for two minutes over high heat. Return pasta to pot and stir until coated. Add the cheese and 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss, toss, toss everything together. Add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if you’d like your dish a little looser. Quickly taste a strand of pasta and see if you want to add the remaining lemon juice . Stir in basil or arugula and season generously with salt and pepper.
    4. Serve immediately, drizzling individual portions with a bit of extra olive oil and sprinkling with extra Parmesan cheese.
    Week's Menu Plan

    Tuesday: Slow Cooker Coconut Chicken Curry with broccoli
    Wednesday: Stuffed Flank Steak with biscuits and roasted asparagus
    Thursday: Spicy Asian Noodles 

    Friday: Nachos 

    Saturday: Pepita Crusted Mahi-mahi with polenta and baked spinach

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Slow Cooker Pork Tinga Tacos

    I happen to love my slow cooker.  It was such a great wedding gift -- I just love the idea of throwing things in a pot, going to work and then coming home to a complete meal.  Who wouldn't want that? So when I found this slow-cooker taco recipe, I couldn't wait to try it!  

    This was a huge success, too! I only had pork tenderloin in our freezer instead of pork shoulder so I just cut down on the cooking time dramatically and it ended up being perfect - not too dry, which is usually the problem with using a lean cut of meat. The meat was so easy to shred with two forks.  I think one of my favorite things was that usually after work, my mind goes straight to cooking.  But for this meal, I threw it in the slow cooker at lunch time and forgot about it, had a great coffee date with Bryant after work and was still able to have dinner on the table within minutes of coming home.

    We thought these tacos did have quite a bit of heat (even after removing most of the seeds in the chile); the avocado helps cool it down but I cooled it a bit further with some nonfat yogurt.  We served it with some homemade refried beans on the side to round out an easy weeknight meal.

    Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos
    Taken from: Elly Says Opa via Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
    • 1 lb. redskin or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
    • 2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces OR 1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, fat removed
    • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), including juice
    • 3-4 chipotles in adobo, sliced (remove seeds for a milder dish)
    • 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce
    • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tsp. dried oregano
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4″ thick
    For serving:
    • 4 oz. fresh Mexican chorizo sausage (optional)
    • 24 warm corn or whole wheat tortillas
    • 1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese, such as feta or goat cheese
    • 2 large avocados, diced
    • nonfat yogurt (optional)
    1. Spread the potatoes over the bottom of a slow cooker and top with the pork.
    2. In a large bowl, mix the (undrained) tomatoes with the chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion, and about 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.
    3. Cover and slow cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 (if using pork tenderloin, cook on low for 5-6 hours - I had halved this recipe and the pork was perfect at 4 hours on low).
    4. When you’re ready to eat, fry the optional chorizo and then stir everything together, breaking the pork into smaller pieces (with pork tenderloin, shred with two forks).  Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.
    5. Serve with warm tortillas, cheese, avocados and optional yogurt for making soft tacos.

      Wednesday, March 30, 2011

      Homemade Wheat Thins

      I've begun to make more and more of our food at home.  I still prepare almost all of our meals but now, I've started to make some of the foods we used to just buy from the store - baguettes, granola bars, English muffins, bagels, cereal (a new venture for me), and crackers.  These latest crackers are not difficult at all - the recipe only has a few ingredients and since there's no yeast, you don't have to wait around for the dough to rise.   We really liked these mock wheat thins - not only are they tasty and pretty easy but they just look good, too. Using a pizza cutter to cut these crackers is a great tip because it gives them beautiful straight lines so they actually look similar to store-bought crackers.  Just without the suspicious additives and high price.  Served with some Tillamook cheddar cheese or hummus (or plain), it has been the perfect evening snack for us!

      Homemade Wheat Thins
      Taken from: Two Peas and Their Pod
      • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
      • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for topping
      • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
      • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
      • 1/4 cup water (you might need to add a little more)
      • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
      1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
      2. Add the flour, sugar, salt and paprika to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender, mix the butter into the dry ingredients thoroughly (I used two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture instead).  Combine the water and vanilla in a small measuring cup or bowl.  Add to the butter/flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms. If the dough is still dry, add a little more water.
      3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with a towel so they don’t dry out.  Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle.  Lift the dough and turn it as you roll to ensure it’s not sticking.  You want to roll the dough as thin as possible, try to make sure it’s 1/16-inch thick at most.  If you want all of your crackers to be perfect, trim the edges of the dough so you have a rectangle with even sides.  Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into squares about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide.
      4. Transfer the dough squares to the prepared baking sheets. You can place them close together because they will not spread.  Sprinkle the squares lightly with salt.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough.  Save all of your scraps under the towel to keep the dough from drying out; reroll them all at once to create a final batch of crackers.
      5. Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, about 5-10 minutes.  Check the crackers at 5 minutes, and if some of the thinner ones are browning too quickly, remove them from the oven.  The crackers can burn quickly so you want to keep a close eye on them.  Remove crackers from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Store the crackers in an airtight container.

      Sunday, March 27, 2011

      Lentils and Mushrooms (with Quinoa)

      I should be posting about delicious spring foods.  Asparagus (one of my favorite vegetables), strawberries, salads.  Instead, it's been one week-long rain storm in our area.  Of course, my husband is happy, the farmers are happy and the frog that has taken residence outside our home is happy.  And while I wait for the sun, the rainy weather makes me want warm soup and stews.  Like this lentils with mushrooms dish.

      I'm trying to teach myself to like mushrooms more and this is the perfect meal to do it! The mushrooms ended up being the exact same color as the cooked brown lentils so I could happily eat the mushrooms without really noticing them.  Also, who can turn down anything with bacon? Just a bit of crumbled bacon on top really makes this dish. 

      For lunch the next day, I happened to mix the leftover lentil and mushrooms dish with some leftover quinoa and I have to say, I liked the combination even more than just the lentils and mushrooms dish alone! The nuttiness of the quinoa is pretty perfect for the lentils and mushrooms.

      If you happen to have spring in your area, you may not want this recipe now.  But save it for a rainy day!

      Lentils with Mushrooms and Quinoa
      Taken from: Leite's Culinaria
      Serves 6
      • 1 1/4 cups small brown or green lentils, rinsed
      • 1 quart (4 cups) cold water or chicken stock or a combination
      • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
      • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
      • 2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
      • 6-8 ounces mushrooms, cut in pieces (original recipe suggested 4 oz. small cremini mushrooms and 4 ounces oyster mushrooms)
      • Salt and pepper
      • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
      • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
      • 3 to 6 slices bacon, preferably thick-cut (I used 4)
      • 1/2 cup quinoa
      • 1 cup water
      1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with 4 cups of water or stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until tender, at least 35 minutes or so. (The exact timing will depend on the type and age of the lentils.) Drain well.
      2. Meanwhile, rinse quinoa.  Add quinoa and 1 cup water to a pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and keep warm.
      3. Heat a pan to medium-high.  Add bacon and fry until crisp. Place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels.
      4. Lower heat to medium.  If you choose, keep the bacon fat (which is so good...otherwise, use 2 tablespoons of olive oil) and add the onion and carrots and sauté just until onion is softened and pale golden, 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lentils, the 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and heat, stirring, just until warmed through. Taste and season the lentils accordingly with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
      5. Top quinoa with lentil dish.  Sprinkle dish with extra parsley and crumbled bacon.

      Thursday, March 24, 2011

      Herb Crusted Fish

      Since we have seafood at least once a week, I'm always on the lookout for good recipes.  Of course, I prefer to find recipes that are fast, delicious and healthy, but you can't always get the trifecta.  But this recipe hits the nail on the head.  We made this herb-crusted fish -- the original recipe called for salmon but I only had tilapia in the freezer -- and it was so good!  It only calls for 6 ingredients (5 for me because I cheated by using panko instead of making my own breadcrumbs) and it is pretty versatile because it got great reviews for salmon but we loved it with white fish. Simple but I love that each ingredient can shine (serving it with lemon is a must for me because I think it just brightens up the dish).

      Served with roasted cauliflower and rosemary roasted potatoes, it was an ideal weeknight meal!

      Herb Crusted Fish
      Taken from: Martha Stewart
      Serves 4
      • 3 slices white sandwich bread (or substitute 1/2 cup of panko and omit the olive oil)
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
      • 4 6-oz skinless salmon fillets or any kind of white fish (we used tilapia)
      • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
      • lemon wedges, for serving
      • Coarse salt and ground pepper
      1. If making breadcrumbs: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. In a food processor, combine bread, parsley, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Pulse until coarse crumbs form.
      2. If using panko, combine panko and chopped parsley in a small bowl.
      3. Place salmon on prepared sheet; season with salt and pepper. Spread top of fillets with Dijon; top with crumb mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Roast until salmon is opaque throughout, 11 to 13 minutes (for white fish, I checked at 8 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges.