Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lemon Square Bars

(Update 3/20: I made these bars again and snapped a picture -- however, it probably doesn't do these bars justice!)
These lemon square bars were good. SO good. In fact, I made both these bars and a Cook's Illustrated brownie recipe to bring to my grandmother's house for dessert.  Although I love chocolate and the brownies had a pretty perfect fudgy and chewy texture, I have to say the lemon bars won by a hair (luckily, just not one of my hairs).

These lemon bars are the right amount of sweet, tang and lemon-y goodness. The shortbread crust also goes perfectly with the lemon topping.  I was able to use lemons straight off of my coworker's tree (I have the best coworker who gives me wonderful produce from her garden). 

While this lemon bar recipe does take some time (the crust and then the whole bar have to chill in the fridge for a while), they are ideal for making ahead of time.  I made them the night before dinner with my grandmother which made life a lot easier. I also ended up halving this recipe by using a loaf pan instead of a square baking dish. 

Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures of these bars but I will be happy to make them again to get a photograph.  I know, I know...the sacrifices I make.

Lemon Square Bars
Taken from: Once Upon a Chef
Serves: 16-20 (I halved the recipe using a loaf pan and got approximately 10 bars)
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar (plus more to decorate finished bars)
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (you'll need between 2 and 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon, be sure to zest before juicing)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push foil neatly into corners and up sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from pan). Spray foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Place the 3/4 cup of flour, corn starch, salt and confectioners' sugar in a bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend, until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds (it will feel similar to wet sand). Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire bottom, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps filling from spilling beneath crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Bake the crust until lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. While crust is baking, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.
  6. As soon as the base is baked, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to cut (it will be much easier to cut when cold).
  7. To cut, use the foil overhang to lift baked square out of pan and onto cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust (use a knife to separate crust and foil if necessary). Cut into 2-inch squares. As an optional step (which I omitted), you can use a fine sieve to dust squares with confectioners' sugar. Store finished lemon squares covered in refrigerator and serve chilled.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce...I had never had it before last night but after one bite, I was a convert.  We had it over our grilled flank steak (which set off our smoke alarms as just about everything does...our poor neighbors) and it was just delicious. I've never been a huge red meat fan (I was a downright picky eater growing up) but with this sauce, it was delicious.  And I didn't stop at my steak - I was using the chimichurri sauce over my steamed green beans as well.
As Bryant described, chimichurri sauce has same similarities to pesto.  Olive oil, herbs (in this case, parsley and oregano), garlic, salt...only in this case, you nix the nuts and add in red wine vinegar and black and red pepper flakes instead. Delicious, healthy and a great way to use up the extra parsley that always seems to be lingering in my fridge.

This dish also took minutes to come together - the chimichurri takes probably 10 minutes to prep and make and the flank steak takes about 10 minutes to cook and 10 minutes to rest (you could make the chimichurri while the steak is resting). Served with polenta and steamed green beans, it was an ideal weeknight dinner (you could also serve over a bed of lettuce as the blogger from Cookin' Canuck does for a great steak salad).

Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Taken from: Cookin' Canuck
Serves 4-6
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning steak
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning steak
  • 1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing steak
  • 1 1/2 pound flank steak
  1. Preheat a grill to high heat. Brush both sides of a 1 1/2 pound flank steak with a generous amount of olive oil. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the steak on the grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until the steak is rare to medium-rare (145 degrees).
  2. Remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  3. While steak is resting, in a food processor or blender, combine chopped parsley, red wine vinegar, water, minced cloves of garlic, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, dried hot red pepper flakes, and chopped oregano leaves. Pulse until the parsley and oregano are finely chopped, but not completely smooth, scraping down the sides after every few pulses. With the food processor running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil. Pour the dressing into a bowl and set aside. 
  4. Cut flank steak across the grain.  Drizzle with chimichurri sauce.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Enchiladas Verde

Somehow, time has escaped me.  There was plenty of material to blog about in these past two weeks but for the lack of time (and let's face it, laziness on my part, too), I haven't written a word.

But finally, we're back into the swing of things, enjoying the routine-ness in life. And this enchilada verde recipe is a great one to share.  I had never cooked with tomatillos before but it will definitely not be the last time. This tomatillo sauce really makes the dish but I love how distinct all the flavors are - you can really taste all the ingredients (chicken, tortillas, tomatillo salsa and could you go wrong?) without any one ingredient overpowering the rest.

While the preparation is pretty easy, it does take some time - 20 minutes to boil the chicken and then 20 more to bake the enchiladas.  It wasn't a quick weeknight meal but was definitely worth it.

Enchiladas Verde
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Serves: 4
  • 2 bone-in chicken breast halves (skin removed)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1 serrano pepper (substitute a jalapeno for a milder flavor)
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 12 corn tortillas (or use whole wheat or flour tortillas)
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco (I substituted a combination of shredded cheddar and mozzarella)
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, combine chicken breast with chicken broth, one quarter onion, a clove of garlic, and 2 teaspoons salt. Boil for 20 minutes. Reserve broth, set chicken aside to cool, and discard onion and garlic. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken with your hands.
  3. While chicken is cooking, place tomatillos and serrano chiles in a pot with enough water to cover them. Boil until tomatillos turn a different shade of green (from bright green to a dull, army green). Strain tomatillos and chilis, and place in a blender with another quarter piece of onion, 1 clove garlic, and a pinch of salt. Pour in reserved chicken broth, so that liquid just covers the veggies in the blender by about an inch. Blend all ingredients until they are completely pureed. Pour salsa in a medium saucepan, and bring to a low boil.
  4. Heat tortillas until soft. In a baking dish, fill each tortilla with shredded chicken and green sauce. Roll tortilla tightly and place seam-side down. Top enchiladas with cheese and chopped onion. 
  5. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thai Pork Curry

While searching for a last-minute dinner for tonight, I had a few requirements: fast, on-hand ingredients, and an extra bit of spice to combat the last of my cold.  I found an easy Thai shrimp curry dish that looked like it would hit the spot.  I've loved the different kinds of curry that I've had in Thai restaurants before so I didn't mind trying to recreate it at home.

This morning, I double-checked for shrimp in the freezer...only to find no shrimp.  Since my brain had a slight relapse of what ingredients I actually had on hand, I grabbed plan B: pork tenderloin (I had bought 6 pounds of pork tenderloin when it was on a great sale, removed the fat and froze it in 3/4 lb. portions).  Now it would be Thai pork curry.   I threw a pork tenderloin in the fridge to defrost and headed off to work.

It ended up being an amazing plan B. However, I think any meat (or tofu) would be delicious - shrimp, pork, beef, chicken...whatever you happen to have! This curry dish had that slight kick that I wanted and took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.  Serving this dish with rice is a must to help soak up the juices.

Thai Pork Curry
Taken from:

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 - 3/4 lb pork tenderloin, sliced thin (if you partially freeze the pork, it makes slicing the pork much easier)
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 lime,  zested and juiced
  • 1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3- 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced (you can keep seeds and ribs in for more heat or leave out the jalapeno completely for a milder dish)  
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2  red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Any additional veggies (optional; I added red cabbage)
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped (optional, I omitted) 
  • 1/4  cup cilantro, chopped

  1. Heat wok to medium high.  Add oil and then add curry paste, stirring for about 30 seconds. 
  2. Add pork, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Add vegetables and cook for an additional 2 minutes. 
  3. Stir in coconut milk, lime zest, ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Bring to boil, and cook 2-3 more minutes. 
  4. Serve over cooked rice and top with lime juice, cilantro and basil.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spicy Bean Burritos

I just don't get tired of Mexican.  We make it all the time here.  These spicy bean burritos were delicious, quick and great for our meatless meal of the week.  Beans have tons of protein and fiber which really makes this a satisfying meal. I will be adding this dish to our repetoire of Mexican meals!

Of course, what we love just as much (or possibly more) than the burritos are all the toppings for it -- don't skimp on the guacamole, nonfat yogurt, homemade restaurant-style salsa, lettuce, peppers, jalapeno, cheddar cheese...whatever you love!

Spicy Bean Burritos
Taken from: Annie's Eats
  • 2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. minced chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups of cooked dried black beans)
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups of cooked dried pinto beans)
  • 6 tbsp. fresh salsa

Some suggestions for burrito fillings:
  • 6 (9- or 10-inch) flour, corn or whole wheat tortillas, warmed
  • Shredded cheese
  • guacamole
  • restaurant-style salsa
  • green, yellow and/or red bell peppers
  • diced tomatoes
  • shredded romaine lettuce
  • chopped green onions
  • nonfat yogurt
  • sliced jalapenos (for even more of a kick!)
  1. To make the bean filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin, salt and cayenne; stir, cooking just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.  Add the beans and the water or broth to the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the salsa and mash the mixture with a spoon or fork.
  2. Spoon about a third of a cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Top each bean serving with toppings of your choice.  Roll the tortilla up tightly, burrito style, and serve immediately.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011


    For the Super Bowl tonight, we've decided to split the food into the two halves of the game.  First half will be classic nachos, chips and salsa, guacamole, hummus with carrots and celery.  Second half will be more like our dinner, in the form of Asian Beef Skewers and potstickers.  It'll be our first time trying the beef skewers  but these potstickers are tried-and-true.  They do take a little time to make but are definitely a worthy appetizer!

    Taken from: Everyday Food
     Makes 24 potstickers
    • 24 rectangular (3 1/2-by-3-inch) or square wonton wrappers
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped Napa or Savoy cabbage
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 6 ounces ground pork (I use 93% lean ground turkey instead)
    • 3 scallions, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    1. In a medium bowl, toss cabbage with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Wrap cabbage in a double layer of paper towels; firmly squeeze out excess liquid. Return cabbage to bowl.
    2. Meanwhile, heat skillet over medium heat.  Cook ground meat just until all the pink is gone.  Remove from heat and let cool in a medium bowl.  Add scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and cabbage. Mix well with a fork. Refrigerate leftover filling up to 2 days. 
    3. Work with one wonton wrapper at a time, and keep the rest covered with a damp towel. Spoon one rounded teaspoon of filling in center.
    4. In a small bowl filled with water, dampen fingers and wet the four edges of the wonton wrapper. To make a triangle, fold wrapper in half over filling, making sure the ends meet and filling is centered; press edges down firmly to seal (I use the tines of a fork to help seal the edges).
    5. Transfer to a plate lightly coated with an oiled plate; cover with a damp towel to keep moist. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
    6. Return skillet to medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil until heated and add half the wontons and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Carefully add 1/2 cup water (oil may sputter), cover, and steam until translucent, 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and wontons. Serve with dipping sauce (below), if desired. 
    Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce
    Taken from: Everyday Food
    Makes about 1/2 cup
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
    1. In a bowl, stir together soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, and sesame oil.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Balsamic Glazed Salmon

    What a week.  A crazy week at my work, Bryant's final week of surgery and THEN I came down with a bad cold yesterday.  (Let me tell you, I'm actually slightly annoyed to be sick because I haven't really been sick since Bryant and I were married.  That's right, over 18 months.  My streak is over!)

    So with all the craziness of our week, the original menu plan also drastically changed (including ordering pizza instead of cooking one night and my paper bag with our entire meal breaking and bursting in the hospital parking lot another night).  However, in all that, there was one amazing meal that might have made up for the rest of the week: balsamic glazed wild salmon, quinoa pilaf, and Brussels sprouts two ways (Brussels sprouts hash and roasted Brussels sprouts). 

    This balsamic glazed salmon was absolutely of our favorite meals.  The glaze had sweetness but the vinegar balanced it out nicely and it finished with a nice kick from the red pepper flakes.  It's fast (less than 30 minutes), simple to make with less than 10 ingredients, only uses one skillet, and healthy. The cooking trifecta (fast, healthy and delicious) -- what more could you want?  I will definitely be making this again!

    Balsamic-Glazed Salmon
    Taken from:  America's Test Kitchen 2010 Light & Healthy cookbook
    • 4 6-oz skinless salmon fillets (preferably wild), about 1 1/2 inches thick
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon canola oil
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary (or a large pinch of dried rosemary)
    • salt and pepper
    -Pat salmon fillets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
    -Carefully lay salmon, skinned-side up, in the skilled and cook until well browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the salmon and cook until side are opaque and thickest part register 125 degrees, about 2-5 minutes longer (depending on the thickness of your salmon).
    -Transfer salmon to platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest while making the glaze.
    -Glaze: Whisk orange juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, white vinegar and pepper flakes in a small bowl.
    -Wipe out the skillet used for the salmon with a wad of paper towels and return to medium heat. Add the glaze and rosemary to the skillet, bring to a simmer and cook until glaze is thick, syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
    -Remove rosemary spring and season  glaze with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the glaze oven the salmon and serve.