Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter





I hope you're all enjoying a leisurely Easter afternoon.  It's perfect here....gray and rainy, just the way I like it!

It's hard to tell because of the lighting, but the three flower pots are painted pastel pink, yellow, and blue.  I found the pots at Lowe's and first spray painted them with a white primer, then used the three pastel spray paint colors.  I cut squares of that hard foam-stuff that florists use and placed in the bottom of the pot.  I used lollipop sticks (found at any craft store) and topped them with Peeps, then placed them into the foam.  I filled with green Easter grass and then filled the top with mini candies.

Enjoy your day and some sweet treats, too!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Favorite Coleslaw

You may know I am a fanatic about coleslaw.  Even the bad grocery store deli coleslaw.  I like it mayo-based or in a vinaigrette.  I like it homemade or in a restaurant.  I can make a meal out of coleslaw and saltines.  

But as much coleslaw as I have made or eaten, I've never been able to say "This one is my very favorite."  When I tried this recipe, that changed.  This coleslaw is the only coleslaw I could EVER say is my favorite.

MY FAVORITE COLESLAW (Serves 6)

1/2 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, chopped (or 3-4 baby carrots)
1/8 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 cup mayo (I used 1/4 cup regular, 1/4 cup light)
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1 Tbsp white distilled vinegar

Using a food processor, gently process the bell pepper, onion, carrot, and parsley, being careful not to over-process.  The mixture should be in small pieces, but not mushy.

Cut 1/2 of the cabbage into chunks and place in the food processor and process lightly, again making sure the mixture doesn't become mushy-it should be in small, fine pieces.  Slice the remaining cabbage into very thin strands.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage and the processed vegetables.  In a separate small bowl, mix the mayo, seasoned salt, black pepper, sugar, lemon-pepper, and vinegar together and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Combine the mayo mixture with the vegetables, folding until the cabbage and vegetables are evenly coated.  Chill for 1 hour.  The coleslaw is best served within 1-3 hours as the leftovers tend to get water and the flavors lessen after a long stay in the frig (this comment came from the original recipe, but I found it to not be true.  It was just as good the next day....just stir it up.)


Friday, March 29, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Nests

These, I thought, were just about the cutest Easter treats I had run across.  A bit messy to make, but easy to put together, these come together quickly and are that lucious cross between sweet and salty.  The traditional egg nests are usually made of toasted coconut mixed into melted chocolate.  This was something totally different for me.....using those potato sticks you used to eat as a kid....the ones in the tubular tin with the pop-top lid.  Simply mix these with melted caramels and milk, let set, then spread with melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Pop in some easter-colored peanut M&Ms, and you'll have a sweet treat to place on a plate, or place in a cello bag with a pretty ribbon for a special treat for a special friend.

SALTED CARAMEL CHOCOLATE NESTS (makes 6-8 nests....I don't know where that comes from....this time {4/17} it made 16 nests)

14 oz vanilla caramels, chopped into 4 squares
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
8 oz (or whatever size the larger can of sticks comes in) potato sticks
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I think I'll use milk chocolate next time)
Seasoned-colored M&Ms (optional)

Line a baking pan with parchment or waxed paper and lightly spray the paper with cooking spring.  Set aside.

Place the chopped vanilla caramels, salt, and milk in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave in 30 second intervals and stir after each internal until the caramels are completely melted and the mixture is smooth (this may take up to 2 1/2 minutes).  Let the mixture cool for 30 seconds.

Carefully stir the potato sticks into the caramel mixture until completely coated.  Rub your hands with oil (or cooking spray) and make uneven circles and place them onto the prepared baking sheet.   Use one or two fingers and press the middles down, creating a nest-like shape.

Refrigerate the nests for 35-40 minutes, or until the caramel has hardened.  While the nests are in the refrigerator, melt the chocolate chips on top of a double boiler.  Dip the bottoms of the nests into the melted chocolate (I "painted" it on with a spatula), and then place the nests (upside down) on the prepared baking sheets.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.  Fill the nests with M&Ms, if desired.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mandarin Chicken

This is a simple and delicious entree for which I almost always have everything on hand.  As long as your chicken is thawed, you can put it together in no time (it does take an hour to bake).  Serve it over rice (I usually have some leftover in the freezer) with a salad or green vegetable.  A great dinner to can put together on a night you're just too tired for lots of prep work.

MANDARIN CHICKEN (Serves 2)

2 small chicken breasts (or 3-4 tenderloins), cut into strips
1/4 cup flour
S&P
garlic salt
1 egg
1/4 cup water with chicken base or 1/2 bouillon cube
2 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup distilled vinegar
Mandarin oranges
slivered almonds
Cooked rice

Mix flour with a little S&P and garlic salt.  Put in paper bag.  Beat egg, dip chicken in egg and then in flour.  In a skillet with a little oil, brown chicken on both sides.  Put on broiler/dripper pan.  Mix chicken bouillon, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil and pour over chicken. 

Bake uncovered at 350F for 45 min-1 hour.  Soon sauce during cooking.  When done put rice on platter, top with the cooked chicken, put Mandarin oranges and almonds over top of chicken, then pour sauce over the entire dish.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cowboy Spaghetti

OK....I may be the first to admit I'd never heard of this.  Apparently, it's a throwback to the 60's or 70's (or maybe longer), but there's a darned good reason it's come back to life.  This stuff is good!!!!  It's a bbq version of spaghetti sauce.  And I have to tell you, I really think I like it better.

Again on a frig/freezer clean-out, I found half a pound of ground beef and half a pound of ground turnkey breast I was looking for a home for when I ran across this recipe.  Generally, I would have split this recipe in half since there are just the two of us, but I decided to use the entire recipe and just freeze the leftovers (cleaning out the freezer?!!!)  No matter, I'm thrilled to have another batch of this wonderful "spaghetti sauce" just sitting and waiting for use to finish it up!

Garnish this with sliced green olives, onions, and cheddar cheese.  Serve with a green salad, if you like, and a whole-grain baguette from Panera to throw in some, well, whole-grain goodness.

COWBOY SPAGHETTI (4-6 servings)

1 pound spaghetti noodles (I use 2 oz per serving)
6 slices regular or turkey bacon, diced
1 pound lean ground turkey or beef
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional, but really, not optional)
1/4 cup BBQ sauce

Toppings:

sliced black olives
shredded cheddar cheese
sliced green onions

In a 12" nonstick skillet (I used a 10" and it was filled to the top....use a 12" if you have it), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Scoop the bacon onto a plate with paper towels and drain the grease, if needed, leaving a tsp or so in the skillet for cooking the ground meat.

Return the skillet to medium heat and cook the ground turkey or beef with the onion, S&P.  Break the meat into small pieces as it cooks and continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute.  Drain any excess grease.

Stir in the cooked bacon (reserving any for sprinkling on top, if desired), crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, Worcestershire, liquide smoke (if using, really?) and BBQ sauce.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes (the mixture can gently summer for up to an hour). 

Boil the spaghetti noodles according to package directions until al dente.  Serve the sauce over hot noodles and garnish wtih the toppings of your choice.

Monday, March 25, 2013

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is in my favorite "Top Five" soups.  I love it and order it when I'm out and make it at home.  But I don't think I've ever used the same recipe twice, from an all day affair including roasting beef bones, to quick and simple, and I've never been disappointed in a single batch I've made.

This one, for the most part, goes in the "quick and easy" category.  Except for caramelizing the onions...this recipe calls to cook the onions for two to three hours.  Actually, it works out very well because you can cook the onions early in the day and then put the soup together in the evening and your house won't smell like a batch of simmering onions (is that a bad thing?)

FRENCH ONION SOUP (4 servings)

1/4 cup butter
4 pounds onions, sliced (about 4 medium/large onions....I only use Sweet Onions)
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1/4 cup flour (rice flour for gluten-free)
1 cup red wine (or beef or vegetable broth + 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar)
3 cups beef or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
S&P to taste
4 1/2" thick slices of day old bread, toasted (I used slices of Panera whole-grain baguette)
1 cup gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat, add the onions and cook slowly at low with the lid on until golden brown and caramelized, about 2-3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.  Drain excess liquid.

Raise the heat to medium, add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about 15 minutes.

Mix in the flour and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan.

Add the broth and bay leaves, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls on a baking sheet and top with the sliced bread and cheese.

Broiler until cheese melts, about 1-3 minutes.

Recipe Source: www.closetcooking.com

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Zucchini Quesadillas

I am so bad about thinking outside the box.  To me a quesadilla is chicken or shrimp with cheese served with guac, sour cream, and/or salsa.  I've had veggie quesadillas before, but this combo came together so well I had to share it with you.  While this recipe calls for flour tortillas, I used a wheat/corn tortilla I found at Wal-Mart and I just loved it.

Sour cream, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado (or guac), and salsa make great accompaniments to quesadillas, so serve them on the side.

ZUCCHINI QUESADILLAS (Serves 4)

4 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion, coarsely chopped
salt
4 tsp minced garlic
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup frozen corn kernels (4 oz)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
4 (8") flour tortillas
2 cups grated pepper jack (or jack or cheddar) cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a large skillet, heat 3 Tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add onion and 1 tsp salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute more.

Add zucchini and frozen corn kernels; cook stirring occasionally, until zucchini is soft and corn is tender, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, if using.

Brush one side of all tortillas with remaining tablespoon of oil; lay 2 tortillas, oiled side down, on a baking sheet.  Place half of the fillingn on each, and sprinkle with half the cheese.  Place remaining 2 tortillas on top, oiled side up, press down gently with a spatula to seal.

Bake until cheese has melted and tortillas are golden brown, turning once, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool slightly.  To serve, slice each quesadilla into wedges.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Quinoa Bites

What an incredible surprise these little babies turned out to be!  These are absolutely delicious!   What can I say...quinoa, ham, broccoli, cheese.....this is a fabulous side dish for just about anything.

And if the flavor weren't enough there are even more pluses to this recipe......you can make it ahead and then bake when you feel like it.  And although we had none left over, these bites would freeze wonderfully.  I only made 1/2 batch and could kick myself.  The half batch I made made 21 bites in the mini-muffin tin.  And I suppose you could use regular muffin tins for Big Bites, just experiment with the cooking time.

I really hope you'll try these.

CHEESY HAM and BROCCOLI QUINOA BITES (makes at least 3 dozen mini bites)

3 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked cooked in 3 cups boiling water or chicken broth for 15-20 minutes, then turn to low....finished when water is absorbed)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz deli ham, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
1-2 cups finely chopped steamed broccoli (but florets in glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 3-4 minutes.  No need to add water)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the cheese until combined.  Stir in the cheese until well-distributed.  Lightly grease a mini muffin cup tin.  

Scoop the quinoa mixture into the tin, filling the cups all the way to the top and lightly pressing to pack the mixture a bit (I used my cookie scoop which is about 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp).  Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden on top.  Remove from the tin and repeat with the remaining mixture (you can scoop it into the warm tin and bake again).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

I'll eat just about anything that has a mustard cream sauce.  And this is double mustard....Dijon and grainy mustards.  With just a few ingredients, this comes together so quickly.  I served it with some fantastic quinoa bites (which I'll post tomorrow) and edamame in their shells.  A truly delicious dinner.

CHICKEN WITH MUSTARD CREAM SAUCE (4 servings)

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp EVOO

1 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup brandy (or white wine if preferred)
1/2 Tbsp heaping Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp heaping grainy mustard
1/8 to 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 to 1/4 cup chicken broth
S&P to taste

* Amount of cream and broth has slightly decreased, add more as needed.

Cut the chicken breasts in half lenghwise so that you have eight smaller, thinner chicken cutlets.  S&P both sides.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook cutlets on both sides until nice and golden brown and cooked through.  Remove chicken from the skillet and keep on a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the garlic to the pan and saute it for a minute, stirring to make sure it won't burn.  Next pour in the brandy (or wine if using) being careful if cooking over an open flame.  Then just let the liquor bubble up and cook until it's reduced by half.  Throw in the mustards and stir to combine, then pour in the cream.

Stir in chicken broth, adding more if the sauce seems too thick.  Taste sauce and adjust whatever you think it needs.  Add chicken breasts back to the pan, nestling them into the sauce.  Allow sauce to cook for another few minutes, shaking the pan if needed to move things around.

Serve chicken with the sauce over the top.

Recipe source:  www.tastykitchen.com

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Roasted Beet Salad

Here's a great salad with you need a fancy side dish to go with a simple entree.  I grew up on pickled beets (my Mom made the best canned beets I'll ever have).  It wasn't until I worked at a restaurant in MN that I had plain roasted beets and fell in love with their flavor.  What a great addition to a salad.

I did a search for a Roasted Beet Salad on-line and came up about a dozen recipes which I kind of took a bit here and a bit there and came up with this very simple recipe.  There really isn't a recipe (except for the dresssing), so make as much or as little as you need.  I used one medium beet per person and half a pear per person.  The rest, just use what you like.

ROASTED BEET SALAD

Salad:
Roasted beets (cut off ends of each beet, wrap in aluminum foil, bake at 450F for about 45 minutes or until you can pierce the beef with a knife), sliced
Walnuts or sliced almonds
Arugula or baby greens
Goat or feta cheese
Pear or Asian pear, sliced

Dressing:
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup EVOO

Whisk dressing together well.  Set aside.

Dress greens with the dressing.  Alternate beet and pear slices on top.  Top with nuts and cheese.  Drizzle a bit more dressing over the top.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Creamy Reuben Soup

I look forward to St. Patrick's Day every year because I just love corned beef and cabbage.  And I love to use the leftover corned beef in this incredibly, wonderful, delicious, creamy Reuben soup.  I learned this recipe from a recipe I worked at in Minnesota and I tell you, it is the best!!!!  Of course, I was exceptionally fortunate this year to find the consummate corned beef (the brand is Groebbel's) and it was the leanest, tenderest corned beef I have tried so far (every year it's kind of hit and miss....too fat, too tough).

So if you have some corned beef left over or want to save this recipe for the next time you serve corned beef, I urge you to try this recipe.

CREAMY REUBEN SOUP (6-8 servings)

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups beef broth
12 oz shredded corned beef
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut
3 cups half-and-half (I used 1 cup regular, 2 cups fat-free, and it turned out great)
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
hot sauce and cajun seasoning, to taste

Rye bread

In a large soup pot, cook onion and celery in butter until tender, stir in flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in corned beef, sauerkraut, half-and-half, Swiss cheese, and caraway seeds.  Cook and stir for 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Season to taste.

Toast rye bread and cut into small triangles.  Serve on top of soup (or make croutons out of rye or pumpernickel bagels).  
 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Honey Lime Tilapia

Here is a wonderfully tasty (and easy) way to use that wonderfully affordable tilapia (or swai).  I guess I'm so used to lemon juice and fish, I never think to use lime.  And what a difference it makes!  The honey/lime marinade is so bright and different.  I can tell this is going to be making a lot of appearances this summer.

HONEY LIME TILAPIA (serves 4)

Fish and Marinade:
54 tilapia fillets (about 4-5 oz each)
2 Tbsp lime juice 
Zest of one lime
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic, finely minced

Coating and Cooking:
1/2 cup AP or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-2 Tbsp EVOO

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lime zest, EVOO, honey, garlic, S&P.  Place the tilapia in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and pour the marinade on top of the fish.  Press the air out of the bag and seal.  Refrigerate the fish for at least an hour and up to 4 hours.  It helps to lay the bag in a flat dish and turn it over once or twice during the marinading time since the marinade won't completely own the fish.

Before cooking, whisk together the flour and S&P in a shallow dish like a pie plate.  Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until rippling and hot.  Dredge each tilapia fillet in the flour, coating both sides lightly.  Cook the fillets for 3-5 minutes per side without moving the fish while it cooks on each side; this will ensure a more even browning.  Adjust the cooking time as needed depending on the thickness of the tilapia and the heat of the skillet and work in batches if necessary so the skillet isn't overcrowded.

Serve immediately with lime wedges.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Colcannon

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!  Did you make corned beef?  We did.....from the pressure cooker and it was probably the best I've ever made.  I don't know if it was the brand or the cooker, but it was lean and so tender.  Now as much as I love corned beef with the traditional cooked cabbage, potatoes, and carrots, I have been wanting to try colcannon for years.  And I don't know why I waited to long.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish.  I imagine there are as many colcannon recipes as their are for many other dishes, but I think I picked a good one.  This is definitely a caloric splurge, but once a year (ok....maybe a few) is it really that much of a no-no?

COLCANNON (makes about 8 side servings)

6 large potatoes, peeled
4-6 Tbsp half-and-half
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 onions, finely chopped
6 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 of a small head of cabbage, thinly sliced

Slice peeled potatoes in half and place in pot.  Fill with enough water to cover and boil for 25 minutes, or until soft.  While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tbsp butter in large saucepan.  Add minced onion and stir to coat with butter.  Add cabbage over onions.  Cover saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cabbage is soft.

Drain potatoes and add half-and-half (or milk) and salt.  Mash with electric mixer.  Stir together onion and cabbage mixture with mashed potatoes.  Spoon into an oven safe dish and place under broiler until top is browned.  Traditionally, colcannon is served with a deep well in the center filled with melted butter, so you can place 2 more Tbsp of butter on top and let it melt into the colcannon.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Soup

Apparently this is the hottest recipe on-line these days and for good reason.  This stuff is fabulous.  Wonderful flavor, incredible texture, and really quite good for you.  About the only fat-calories you'll find is in the Parmesan cheese and the butter.  This uses fat-free half-and-half!

This makes a big batch so I'm going to experiment and see how it freezes (I'll get back to you on that).  It is important (at least to me) that the vegetables are finely diced and that you use the petite diced tomatoes.  I always have homemade croutons on hand for Caesar salads (I use Panera bagels, half everything, half Asiago, diced, coated with EVOO and sprinkled with Italian seasoning and garlic salt.....baked in a single layer at 325F for 15 minutes, stir, and baked another 10 minutes or so) and can't imagine using store-bought croutons to garnish this soup, although I guess if that's the worse thing you do today, you're ok in my book!

SLOW COOKER TOMATO BASIL SOUP (Serves 8-10)

2 (14 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried basil
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups fat-free half-and-half, warm
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
croutons for garnish

In a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, oregano, basil, broth, and bay leaf.  Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours until the vegetables are tender.

About 45 minutes before serving, melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden about 3 minutes.  The mixture might be crumbly, that's ok.

Whisking constantly, slowly ladle in 1 cup (or a ladleful) of the hot soup from the slow cooker.  Whisk until smooth and bubbly.  Add another cup or ladleful and stir again until smooth.  Add another cup or two and stir until smooth.

Stir the creamy, hot mixture back into the slow cooker.  Add the Parmesan cheese, half-and-half, S&P, adding more S&P if needed.

Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes until ready to serve.  Serve with croutons, if desired.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tacos with Tangy Cilantro Chicken

Seems like along with salmon, I'm making some kind of tacos at least once a week.  Generally the tacos are fish or shrimp, but I ran across this recipe last week and thought I'd try chicken again, just for the heck of it.  Now it's the double-shell thing that has me hooked.  I take a soft-shelled corn tortilla (flour, if you prefer) and spread it with refried beans (black or regular) and lay a hard-shelled taco shell so it's glued to the other.  It's a wonderful texture.

I served this with my new favorite Mexican-style quinoa (see post on 2-13-13) and some refried beans (see post on 3-2-13).  I can't wait to see what recipe I find next!

TACOS with TANGY CILANTRO CHICKEN (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, quartered
S&P
2 Tbsp vege oil
1 medium white onion, diced small
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 serrano chili, diced small (optional.....I used about 1/2 of a pepper)
1/2 pound tomatillos, diced large
3/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
12 crisp taco shells
12 soft taco shells, optional
refried beans, optional (if using double shells)

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 oz)
2 cups shredded lettuce

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with S&P.  In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Add chicken and cook stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.   Add onion, cumin, and chile, if using, and cook 3 minutes.

Add tomatillos and 1 cup water, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon; season with S&P.  Bring to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring occassionally, until mixture is thick and meat can be shredded with a fork, 25 minutes (add up to 1/2 cup more water, if necessary).  

Shred chicken, add chicken, and season with S&P.  Serve chicken mixture in taco shells with cheese and lettuce.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ham and Havarti Panini

Here's a great and good, I mean really good sandwich.  Now, I don't have a real panini grill (although I'd love to have one I'm not sure where I could store it!)  But when I ran across this recipe (if you can call it a recipe, so so simple), I figured a way out to improvise.  I used our George Foreman grill (it's a standing grill with a large surface and domed lid) and my smaller cast iron skillet to weigh the sandwich down.  It made the perfect little ridges on the bread and grilled to a crispy finish.

HAM AND HAVARTI PANINI 

presliced sourdough bread (I used Panera)
sliced Havarti cheese (I used dill Havarti which I found in the deli at Publix)
sliced ham
butter

Layer the sandwich with quantities according to your preference.  Butter the outside of the sandwich.  Heat in a Panini press or an electric grill (wait to butter the second side if using a skillet to weigh it down after turning the grill).

NOTE:  To make ahead you can assemble the sandwiches and then place them back into the bread bag and keep in the frig until you wish to serve them, at which point you can put them straight onto the Panini press or grill.  Also, at least on the GF grill, I set it at "4" and cooked for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the second side.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cheesy Quesadilla Pie

Need a quick dinner that just about any side dish will go with?  Here's a great choice.  A basic Mexican quiche.  You can use turkey or chicken, cheddar and/or jack cheese, green chilies or jalapenos (or not if want a very mild dish), and then serve it with a green salad, fruit, or traditional rice and beans.  This dish comes together quickly (prep and bake) and leftovers freeze well.

CHEESY QUESADILLA PIE (6-8 servings)

3 or 4 (10") flour tortillas, white or whole wheat
vegetable cooking spray
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken or turkey
8 oz cheese (sharp cheddar/jack/or a mixture....about 2 cups)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
S&P
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cups egg substitute)
1 cup milk
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 small can diced green chilies (or pickled jalapenos diced, to taste)

Preheat oven to 425F, making sure an oven rack is in the middle position. Grease a 9" deep dish pie plate with cooking spray.  Overlap and layer the tortillas (kind of in a cloverleaf pattern), pressing them into the dish, so that the bottom and sides of the pie plate are evenly covered with tortilla.  In a medium bowl, toss the shredded poultry with 1 cup of the cheese, cilantro, 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper.  Spread the mixture into the pie plate.

In the same bowl that the chicken mixture was in (no need to wash it), whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and chilies until smooth.  Slowly pour this mixture into the pie plate cover the covering the chicken evenly.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 25 minutes, until the surface is golden brown.  Let the casserole rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Roasted Caesar Salad w/Crispy Chicken Croutons

I have to be honest, I didn't go exactly by this recipe because I was in a hurry, but I will definitely try it next time.  I did not roast my romaine. The recipe description says "wilting the romaine lettuce in the oven may seem unusual, but just wait till you try it.  The greens retain some of their energetic crunch and get a bit of a charred flavor.  Protein-packed chicken croutons provide additional texture, make this salad a complete meal in a bowl."

I also did not use their dressing recipe....I used my usual Creamy Caesar Dressing (I will include that recipe below this one).  It was the crunchy chicken croutons that intrigued me.  A nice change from using grilled chicken and regular croutons.

ROASTED CAESAR SALAD with CRISPY CHICKEN CROUTONS (2 servings)

Dressing:

1/3 cup mayo
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
Dash S&P

Croutons:

3/4 cup corn flake crumbs
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1" pieces

Salad:

1 romaine lettuce heart, halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp EVOO
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 450F.  Coat small rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl;  reserve 2 Tbsp.

Place corn flake crumbs in shallow bowl.  Combine chicken with reserved 2 Tbsp dresssing in medium bowl to coat.  Roll chicken in crumbs, pressing lightly to coat.  Arrange in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and no longer pink in center; remove chicken.

Brush cut-sides of romaine with oil.  Place, cut-side down, on same baking sheet.  Bake 3 minutes or until slightly wilted.  Arrange on serving plates.  Top with avocado; drizzle with enough of the remaining dressing to lightly coat.  Sprinkle with chicken and cheese.

CREAMY CAESAR DRESSING (makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups)

1 1/2 cup mayo
2 tsp minced garlic
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Whisk together well, then refrigerates.  Keeps quite a while if refrigerated.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Club, Spring 2013, p. 43

Monday, March 11, 2013

Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce

Here's a great and really easy recipe you can make in your oven.  The sour cream sauce is subtly seasoned with dill and horseradish which doesn't overwhelm the salmon.  And onions!  

I served this with those wonderful green beans and mushrooms (see 3-7-13 post) and a baked red potato.

SALMON WITH CREAMY DILL SAUCE (6 servings)

2 pound salmon fillet
1 to 1 1/2 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tsp onion salt
1 small sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
6 lemon slices
1/4 cup butter, cubed

Dill Sauce:
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayo
1 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp prepared horseradish
3/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp garlic salt
Pepper to taste

Line a 15"x10"x1" baking pan with heavy-duty foil; grease lightly.  Place salmon skin side down on foil.  Sprinkle with lemon-pepper and onion salt.  Top with onion and lemon.  Dot with butter.  Fold foil around salmon; seal tightly.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Open foil carefully, allowing steam to escape.  Broil 4-6" from the heat for 8-12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Combine the sauce ingredients until smooth.   Serve with salmon.

Recipe Source:  Tasteofhome.com

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Shrimp Scampi

I love Shrimp Scampi but rarely make it, and I can't tell you why.  It is so easy to make and so much cheaper than buying it in a restaurant.  I mean really......shrimp, garlic, olive oil. Does it get any better than that?

Since it had been a while since I'd made it, I did a little research for recipes and was shocked to see such a variety of ingredients:  vermouth, butter, olive oil, lemon zest,  brandy....on and on.  I wanted a straight-forward scampi, so I went to what I believe is about the best source:  Cook's Illustrated.  Several basic ingredients that come together in 10 minutes.  A CI note on this recipe:  Cayenne pepper replaces ground black pepper in this recipe, but use it sparingly, only to give the faintest hint of spiciness.

I served this over angel hair pasta with a Caesar salad and a whole-grain baguette from Panera.

SHRIMP SCAMPI (Serves 4)

1/4 cup EVOO
4 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 to 2 pounds shrimp (CI recommends 21/25 per pound), peeled, deveined if desired, and rinsed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (I prefer Italian flat parsley)
2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
Salt
Cayenne pepper

Heat oil and garlic in 10" skillet over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle (be very carefully not to burn garlic.  If it does, start all over).  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until fragrant and pale gold, about 2 minutes.

Add shrimp, increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turn pink, about 7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the shrimp will be tough.  Off heat, stir in parsley, lemon juice, and salt and cayenne to taste.  Serve immediately.

Recipe Source:  The Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Green Beans with Mushrooms

I love fresh green beans.  I generally cook them (whole, ends trimmed) in heavily kosher-salted boiling water (the salt somehow sweetens them).  But I needed a bit more of an up-scale side dish for the entree I was making and decided on this dish.

Quite simple and quick to make, it comes out wonderfully.  But I love mushrooms and onions, so this is a dish made to my likings.  This will definitely be on our table quite often.

GREEN BEANS with MUSHROOMS (2 servings)

1 1/2 cups cut fresh green beans (2" pieces)
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 tsp butter
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
Pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cook beans in water for 6-8 minutes or until tender.  In a skillet, saute onion in butter until tender.  Add mushrooms; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Drain beans, add the mushrooms mixture and pepper.  

Recipe Source: Taste of Home: April 1997, p. 12 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Curry Infused Cauliflower Bisque

Several weeks ago, Jim and I had dinner at the Broad Street Grille in downtown Chattanooga.  I decided to try the Cauliflower Curry Bisque.  And OH MY!!! was it ever good.  Obviously, I had to try to replicate the bisque.

I found several recipes, but this one sounded closest to what I had tried.  And it my not be exact, but it is very close and it is absolutely delicious.  Of course, you have to love curry because this recipe is pretty loaded with it (it does seem to intensify after a day or two so if you decide to try it, you might consider lessening it....especially if you're going to make it ahead of time).

The soup I had downtown was garnished with a coconut shrimp which would be another option.  I didn't want to go to that much trouble, so I went with the pistachios in truffle oil (if it's got truffle oil anywhere near, I'm gonna love it!)

CURRY INFUSED CAULIFLOWER BISQUE (makes 4-6 servings)

1 large cauliflower, head only, stems removed
32 vegetable or chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp tumeric
dash of cream of tartar
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup half & half

Garnish:
1/8 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
1 tsp truffle oil
dash kosher/sea salt

Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot, cook over medium heat, bringing to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until it is creamy smooth.  

Add olive oil and half & half, blend together.  Return to the pot, heat through.

To prepare the garnish, place pistachios in a small, heated dry skillet.  Add one tsp truffle oil and a dash of kosher/sea salt, stirring for 2 minutes over medium heat to release all the flavors.  Do not allow to burn.  If it burns, toss and start over.

Pour soup in a bowl, garnish with a tsp of truffled nuts and serve immediately.   

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Couscous and Feta Cakes

Once again, WHERE IS MY FOOD STYLIST?!!!!   So this photo doesn't do the dish justice, but LET ME TELL YOU......this is one of the best side dishes I have ever made.  Oh my!!!  This is delicious.  I was looking through my database for a couscous side dish and found this from 1997.  I'd never made it.  What a mistake!  Absolutely delicious.  And pretty easy to make.  You can make it ahead and then frying it just takes a few minutes.

I'll give you the whole recipe as listed which would make 16 cakes.  I quartered the recipe (making just four cakes, perfect for just two people).  I'll list in parenthesis the amount I used.  I do hope you'll try this.  These cakes are absolutely delicious!!!

COUSCOUS AND FETA CAKES (makes 16 cakes)

2 1/2 (1/2*) cups water
1 cup (1/4) uncooked couscous (I used whole-wheat)
4 (1) tsp olive oil, divided
1 (1/4) cup minced red onion
1 (1/4)cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 (2 Tbsp) cup minced green bell pepper
2 (1/2) tsp minced garlic
4 (1) oz crumbled feta cheese
1/2 (2 Tbsp) cup AP flour
1/2 (2 Tbsp Egg Eaters) cup Egg Beaters (or 2 eggs)
2 (1/2 Tbsp) Tbps minced fresh parsley
1/4 (to taste) tsp salt
1/4 (to taste) tsp white or black pepper

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan; stir in couscous.  Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork.  Place 1 tsp oil in a skillet.  Add onion, peppers, and garlic, saute 5 minutes.   Combine couscous, onion mixture, cheese, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; stir well.

Place 1/2 tsp oil in skillet; heat to 375F.  Place 1/3 cup couscous mixture for each of four portions into skillet, shaping each portion into a 3" cake i nthe skillet.   Cook 6 minutes or until golden brown, turning cakes carefully after 3 miutes.  Remove cakes and keep warm.  Repeat  procedure with remaining oil and couscous mixture. 

Recipe Source: Cooking Light April 1997, p. 186 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Secret Restaurant Refried Beans

Refried beans are a basic with any Mexican dish I serve in my home.  But there's a secret.  And oh so easy.  Here's all you need:

1 can (15 oz) refried beans
1/2 can (14 oz) enchilada sauce
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup (or more, to taste) diced onions
shredded cheddar cheese

Mix your beans, sauce, onion, and sour cream, whisk well.  Spray a one quart baking dish with cooking spray (I like hickory or mesquite, usually available only via e-mail.  Otherwise, use canola oil spray).  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.