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!