Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Baking & Homemade Gifts - YUM!

This year the hubby and I planned a trip to Mexico over the holidays (we leave tomorrow for 10 days, yay!) so I thought it would be easiest to do a huge amount of baking and package them in nice tins as gifts.  This covered my boss, his boss, the kids' teachers and other adults we had to get gifts for.  It was a huge undertaking though, and took up many hours in the evenings.  Everyone loved their goodies and I am already getting recipe requests, so here you go. Thank you Kraft, Canadian Living, Taste of Home, and Robin Hood for the fabulous recipes.  Enjoy!

Nutty Chocolate Mallow Bars
4 squares unsweetened chocolate chopped
3/4 c butter
2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c flour
1 jar marshmallow fluff
2 c semisweet chocolates
1 c peanut butter
3 c Rice Krispies (I used the vanilla ones)

Heat the oven to 350.  Microwave the chocolate squares and butter on high for 2 minutes or until melted, stirring each minute.  Stir in sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Stir in the flour.  Spread into a 13x9 pan sprayed with cooking pray and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Spread the marshmallow fluff over top.  Microwave the chocolate chips & peanut butter for 2 minutes, stirring after each minute until well blended.  Stir in the cereal.  Spread over marshmallow and refrigerate 2 hours before cutting into bars.

Peppermint Swirl Fudge
1 tsp butter
1 pkg white chocolate chips (10-12oz)
1 container vanilla frosting
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
8 drops red food coloring (I left this out)
2 T crushed candy canes or other peppermint candy

Line a 9" square baking pan with foil & grease with butter.  Set aside.  Melt the chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Stir in the frosting & extract.  Spread into prepared pan.  Randomly place drops of food coloring (if using) over fudge; cut through with a knife to swirl.  Sprinkle with candies.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set .  Using the foil, lift fudge out of the pan.  Gently peel off the foil and cut in 1" squares.  Store in an airtight container.

Peanut Dollies
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c melted butter
1 c chocolate chips
3/4 c chopped salted peanuts
3/4 c chopped pretzels
1 can sweetened condensed milk

In a bowl stir the first 2 ingredients together & press into a parchment lined 9" square baking pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate, peanuts & pretzels and pour the milk over top.  Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate 1 hour to cool completely.  If you would like to make this ahead, wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or wrap with plastic & foil and freeze for a month.  Cut into squares.

Double Chocolate Truffle Triangles
2 T whipping cream
1 pkg (6 squares) white chocolate squares
1 1/2 T almond liqueur (this is optional - I used extract)
1 pkg (8 squares) semi sweet chocolate squares
1/4 c topping - candy, crushed chocolate bars, anything (I used chopped toffee chocolate bars)

Microwave whipping cream, white chocolate and liqueur or extract if using for 2 minutes, stirring after each minute, until completely melted.  Set aside.  Microwave 7 squares of the semi sweet for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute until melted.  Line the bottom of an 8" square baking pan with wax paper.  Spread melted semi sweet in a thin layer over the paper.  Freeze for 5 minutes.  Spread the white chocolate mixture evenly over top.  Sprinkle with topping.  Melt remaining chocolate square in microwave and drizzle over top.  Refrigerate for 3 hours.  Let stand at room temp before cutting into bars or triangles.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Golden Caramel Cheesecake Bars
24 golden oreo cookies
2 T butter melted
25 caramels (like the kraft ones)
1 T water
2 pkg cream cheese, softened
1 jar marshmallow fluff
1 egg

Heat oven to 350.  Line a 9" square pan with foil, with the ends sticking out.  Spray with cooking spray.  Process 14 cookies in the blender & mix with butter.  Press on bottom of pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  Microwave caramels and water on high for 1 minute or until completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds.  Coarsely chop remaining cookies.  Beat the cream cheese and marshmallow fluff in a large bowl with a mixer until well blended.  Add the egg and mix well.  Stir in chopped cookies.  Pour over crust.  Drop spoonfuls of the caramel over batter and swirl gently with a knife.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until centre is almost set, but still slightly jiggly.  Cool completely.  Refrigerate 4 hours.  Use foil handles to lift the cheesecake from pan before cutting into bars.

Millionaire's Shortbread Bars
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c icing sugar
3/4 c butter softened
1 can Dulche De Leche Caramel Sauce (Eagle Brand) - when I went to Loblaws for this, they said it was seasonal and that they aren't carrying it anymore (what's more seasonal than Christmas??) so I used a can of condensed milk mixed with a whole vanilla bean
1 c chocolate chips melted

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 8x8 pan with parchment, overlapping sides.  In a medium bowl combine flour and icing sugar.  Blend in butter using pastry blender or your fingers.  Press mixture into prepared pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden.  Bring caramel sauce to a boil over medium heat.  Stir constantly, cook 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Spread thickened mixture on top of shortbread reserving 1 T to drizzle on top of chocolate.  Pour melted chocolate evenly on top of caramel and spread to cover.  Drizzle reserved caramel on top.  Chill in fridge 3 hours.  Cut into squares.

Lime Coconut Squares
3/4 c graham crumbs
3/4 c shredded coconut
1/4 c sugar
1/3 c butter melted
Curd -
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
2 T lime zest grated
2/3 c lime juice

In a bowl stir together the first 4 ingredients and press in a parchment lined 8" square baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Let cool.  For the curd, whisk together all ingredients and pour over crust.  Bake at 350 until edges are set but centre is jiggly, 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.  If making ahead, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.  Cut in squares.

Smores Rice Krispie Squares
6 T butter divided in half
2 (10oz) bags large marshmallows
1 (10oz) bag mini marshmallows
12 c rice krispies divided in half
1 x 6 pack Hershey bars
graham crackers
marshmallow fluff

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment (although the recipe doesn't call for this, I highly recommend spraying your parchment with A LOT of cooking spray to avoid severe sticking later).  In a large mixing bowl add 6 c rice krispies and set aside.  Melt 3 T butter in a large pan over medium low heat.  Add 1 bag big marshmallows and half a bag of mini.  Stir until completely melted (this takes about 10 minutes).  Remove from heat and pour over cereal.  Mix well.  Pour into prepared pan and press firmly.  Make 2nd batch the same way and put in another 9x13 pan.  Melt chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes, stirring each minute.  Spread over first pan of rice krispies & sprinkle with some kosher salt if desired.  Working quickly, cover the still wet chocolate with the graham crackers.  Set aside to let chocolate harden.  When set, take rice krispies out of second pan.  Spread marshmallow fluff over top. Carefully removed graham covered bars from pan, flip them over and place face down on marshmallow fluff.  Lightly press together and let sit for 10 minutes.  Cut into squares.  These are even better the next day.

For the annual Hanukkah party at my brother & sister-in-laws, I presented my sweets on a platter:

And for gifts, I lined pretty tins from the dollar store with wax paper, set the squares inside (2 layers - wax paper in between), tied the tin with a bow and added a tag & chocolate ornament.  I don't have a picture of this - they've all been given away.

Hope you find the time during the busy holiday season to make some of these treats for yourself - they are well worth the time spent in the kitchen!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pasta Carbonara With Bacon

Thank you Life Made Delicious for this fast and easy meal.  Three days later we are still eating the leftovers, and I have packed some lunch-sized portions away in the freezer for the kids school lunches.  There is alot to be said about a meal that you and your family will happily continue to eat for days.  It doesn't happen very often.

I made a few changes to lighten the fat load, but the original recipe isn't too bad on it's own.

Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Pasta Carbonara With Bacon
6 oz spaghetti (I used whole wheat rotini - a box and a half)
4 slices bacon (I used 12 fat savings here, but I did use double the pasta)
1 garlic chopped
1 egg
3/4 c milk (I used a cup of fat free evaporated milk)
3/4 c parmesan (I used a cup)
1/4 tsp pepper
4 c baby spinach leaves
3/4 c chopped tomatoes (I completely forgot to add this - turned out great without them, probably delicious with them - you choose)
8 scallions sliced
3/4 c plain yogurt (I used 0% Astro)

Cook & drain pasta.  In a skillet cook the bacon and garlic until crisp (I cook my bacon in the microwave with paper towels since it soaks up a lot of the oil, so I only threw the garlic in the skillet to saute a little bit.)  Drain and remove from skillet.  In a small bowl beat the egg.  Beat in milk, cheese, and pepper.  Place cooked pasta in the skillet.  Add milk mixture, tomatoes and scallion.  Cover and cook over medium-high, stirring, until the spinach is tender.  Stir in yogurt; cover over low heat just until heated through.

A tip I learned from my new favorite book ("Cooking For Mr. Latte" by Amanda Hesser) that apparently is used by all great chefs is to always reserve some pasta cooking water after you drain your pasta.  Because of it's starchiness, it can be added as needed to pasta sauces to thin them out, and it allows you to lessen the amount of fat you use since the starchy water clings well to the noodles.  It's a great tip and works very well.

Until next time! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Absolute BEST Fried Chicken Wings

OK people - this recipe is courtesy of Serious Eats.  If you haven't checked out this website before, you probably should.  They list the best of the best when it comes to food, and their content is updated almost daily.  Their articles are informative, and leave you feeling hungry every time.  If you're a foodie, this is the website for you.

When I saw this recipe last week, I decided that I MUST make it ASAP.  I have never been able to make a pub-worthy chicken wing.  My BF and his friends regularly go to the pub down the street because they serve the best wings, and I have always been determined to beat their recipe and make a better version that can be enjoyed at home.

Here it is folks.  This is a killer recipe - you will not have better wings.  Ever.  Guaranteed. 

Korean Fried Chicken Wings
Kosher salt
3/4 c cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
2 lbs chicken wings (about 12)
2 qt peanut or veg oil
1/2 c flour
1/2 c cold water
1/2 c vodka
Sweet Soy Sauce:
1/2 c sot sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 c Mirin or other sweet rice cooking wine
3/4 c brown sugar
2 garlic minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tsp sesame oil
1 T cornstarch
1/4 c sliced scallions

Just a note that I doubled the above recipe - made 24 wings...and ate them all!!
Combine 2 tsp salt, 1/4 c cornstarch, 1/2 tsp baking powder and whisk until combined.  Add wings and toss until coated.  Transfer to a wire rack set in a baking sheet, shaking to get rid of excess flour.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or over night.  Preheat oil to 350 in a large pan.  Combine remaining dry ingredients and whisk.  Add in vodka and water, and whisk until batter forms.  Add up to 2 T water if the batter is too thick.  Add half of the wings to the batter.  One at a time lift wing and allow excess batter to drip off (this is important, I skipped this step for the first couple wings just to see what would happen and ended up with a very thick batter around the wing).  Carefully lower the chicken into the hot oil.  Repeat.  Fry, rotating & turning wings as needed, 8 minutes.  Transfer to a towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt.

For the sauce, heat all except cornstarch in a small pot.  Combine cornstarch with 1 T water and whisk into sauce.  Bring to a boil and cook until thick, 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool 5 minutes.

SOOOO good!!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creamy Broccoli White Bean Soup

I am a huge believer in soups.  They keep you warm, they are a healthy comfort food, and they help me on my quest for the perfect body.  I have soup everyday for lunch, sometimes accompanied by a salad.  Every Sunday I make a large batch of soup for the week, and split it into 5 portions for my work days.  I love soup.

The only way to keep this up though, is to continuously try new soups, because I get bored easily.  Last week was Cauliflower Soup.  It was great, and at only 47 calories a bowl, I was loving it (very simple - boil a head of cauliflower, onions & garlic to your tastes, in a pot of chicken broth.  Use a hand blender and blend up once soft.  Season as you wish - I use salt, pepper, and cayenne because I like the 'kick')

This week is Creamy Broccoli White Bean Soup, and it's a keeper.  Thanks Whole Living, you always have fantastic yet practical recipes!

Creamy Broccoli White Bean Soup
1 head broccoli cut in florets
2 T EVOO (I left this out - the purpose of soup for me is to fill me up with as little calories as possible and still taste great, so the extra fat wasn't necessary)
1 onion diced (I used 2 - cut in big chunks)
2 garlic sliced
1 15oz white beans (kidney, cannellini, etc) drained & rinsed
2 1/2 c chicken stock (I used 4 cups)
salt & pepper
1 T pine nuts toasted (I left these out)
1/2 oz shaved Parmesan for serving (I left this out)

Steam the broccoli florets & stems until tender, 3 minutes.  Let cool slightly (I didn't, I just threw everything else in and continued cooking).  Reserve 1/2 c florets for garnish (I didn't).  Heat oil (if using) in a medium pot over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic 6 minutes (as mentioned, I just threw them in with the broccoli and added the stock).  Add beans and stock and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and add broccoli back in.  Puree until smooth.  Season with salt & pepper. Garnish each bowl with florets, pine nuts, and Parmesan. 

The garnish is great if you are serving this to you family and/or company, but seeing as I make this for myself, I'm skipping the added work (and fat).  My recipe works out to be the following for 5 servings (per serving) - 140 calories, 23g carbs, 0g fat (yes - zero!!), and 8g protein.


Spicy Shrimp AND Scallops With Lime & Cilantro

I was craving some really good seared scallops, and we had a container of super fresh large ones in the freezer that we had just bought a couple of days before.  The problem was there was only about 10 in there, and I didn’t feel it was substantial enough to serve the family.  So I decided to try a shrimp recipe that I had been eyeing and I added a package of shrimp in with the scallops.  It was delicious!  The picture is courtesy of Martha Stewart, and the recipe is from her magazine, Everyday Food. 

Spicy Shrimp With Lime & Cilantro
¾ tsp coarse salt
¾ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp curry
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp cinnamon
(I doubled all seasonings because I knew I was using more seafood then the recipe called for)
1 1/4lbs shrimp peeled (I used about ¾’s of a pack from Loblaws as well as a container of about 10 large sea scallops)
1 T unsalted butter (I ended up using about 2 T)
Chopped cilantro, lime wedges, toasted whole wheat naan and plain yogurt for serving (I left this all out and served with a greek salad, although this would have been lovely with the naan and toppings)

Combine seasonings & sprinkle on shrimp (and scallops.  I patted them dry first, sprinkled both with seasonings, and then rubbed in a bit).  Toss to combine.  In a large skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the seafood and cook 3-5 minutes.  Serve with the cilantro, lime wedges, naan and yogurt.  Super easy and so flavorful!  The cinnamon really makes the dish pop.

For those of you interested, this serves 4, and the nutritional info (minus the naan and yogurt) is below:
Calories – 179
Fat – 6 grams
Protein – 29 grams
Carbs – 2 grams
Fiber – 0 grams

Hmmm…now what to make for tomorrow’s dinner…?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Steak (or Veal) With Creamy Shallots (or Onions) and Nectarine & Tomato Salad - Yum!

Let me start off by saying I am reading a new book - "Cooking For Mr. Latte" By Amanda Hesser.  Hesser is the food writer for the New York Times...and my new idol.  She's unbelievable.  The way that she writes about food, or anything for that matter, makes my mouth water.  Literally.  I am so inspired by this book that I am making a solemn promise to myself to cook every recipe in it, one by one, until I have tried everything.  Kind of a Julie and Julia situation.  I am SO excited, so stay tuned for some sophisticated, loving meals that you can try yourself.  Can't wait!!!

On to tonight's meal...

I love veal.  There is something romantic about cooking it - it's a 'grow-up' meal when cooked properly, and just tastes lovely.  The meal below is a great one for two.  You are supposed to do this with steaks, and can even do a hoagie sandwich with it, but I opted for tender veal in it's place.  I have included the original recipe, and as always, added my tweaks.

Oh, and one last thing - I have started (finally) taking my own pictures.  They aren't great yet - I don't have a fancy camera that does my meals justice - I would rather spend money on great food then on technology.  But bare with me and I will eventually invest in something that will provide you with magazine-worthy snapshots of the fabulous food I dine on.

Steak With Creamy Shallots
2 steaks (I used 2 veal chops)
salt & pepper
4 large shallots thinly sliced (I used 2 large Spanish onions)
1/3c heavy cream (I used fat free evaporated milk)
1 T dijon
If you are doing a sandwich -
4 sandwich rolls split and toasted
2 c baby arugula

Pat steaks (or chops) dry with paper towel and season with salt & pepper.  In a large skillet heat oil over high.  Cook steaks (or chops) medium-rare - 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil.  Reduce heat to medium and add shallots (or onions).  Cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the cream (or evap milk) and 2 Tbsp of water and cook until slightly thickened, 1 minute.  Stir in the mustard and season with salt & pepper.  Thinly slice if making sandwiches (only if you are using steak) and put on bread with shallots and arugula.  Or you can serve with mashed potatoes.  I served this with the salad below thanks to my new low-carb diet (that is working by the way...along with Jillian Michaels videos...she is kicking my ass)

Nectarine & Tomato Salad
4 nectarines (I used 3 - they were big)
2 each yellow & red tomatoes (I used only red, it was all I had)
1/3c crumbled feta (I used light feta)
8 fresh basil leaves, trimmed
salt & pepper
1/4 c EVOO
2 tsp lemon zest (from one lemon)
2 T lemon juice (from the same lemon)

Cut nectarines in half and remove pits.  Cut each half into 6 wedges.  Core and halve the tomatoes.  Cut each half into 4 wedges.  Arrange nectarines & tomatoes on a platter.  Mix the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over the salad.  Sprinkle with feta & basil, salt & pepper.  Enjoy.  I mixed everything together in a bowl - it was fabulous, and even better the next day.

I never would have paired nectarines with tomatoes, but the combination was divine.  Salty & sweet, savory and tangy, just wonderful.

This is a nice quick meal that incorporates high quality ingredients and convenience - it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Don't compromise your love of food, ever.  There is always a way to prepare meals quickly and to enjoy them thoroughly.

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicken Kofta Curry & Lemony Braised Broccoli

We eat East Indian meals quite often.  I am a big fan of using spices – bland food doesn’t sit well with me, and I am always in awe of Indian cuisine and the way the spices are used so generously.  My mouth waters for curry, cumin, coriander…mmmm.  I am always excited about trying a new East Indian recipe, and this one was no exception.  Thank you Fresh Juice for such a wonderful meal!  I had never had a fully yogurt-based curry before.  Yes, I have added yogurt to curries, but this recipe used a cup of yogurt which was the base of the entire sauce. 

I cannot say enough about this meal.  It was fabulous.  The flavors went so well together – the ginger, cumin, coriander, chili flakes.  The house smelled lovely while I was cooking, and the stomach was VERY happy once we finished eating.  It was a hit all around, so give it a try and let me know what you think.  I used ground turkey instead of chicken – they can be used interchangeably, just make sure to season well since turkey is so bland.

Chicken Kofta Curry
1 lb lean ground chicken (I used turkey)
2 T minced onions (I used 2 small onions – the more the better)
2 T minced cilantro
1 T bread crumbs (I used 3 T)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garam masala
1 large onion finely chopped (I left them as big chunks)
1 tsp each minced ginger & garlic
1 c 2% yogurt (I used 0% - about 1 ½ c)
2 tsp flour
2 tomatoes chopped
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin

In a large bowl mix together the first 6 ingredients, using only half of the salt & chili powder.  Shape into 24 ½” balls (I did this after, when the sauce was already simmering.)  In a deep saucepan heat oil over medium.  Saute the chopped onion, ginger, and garlic until they start to brown (6-8 mins.)  Meanwhile, whisk yogurt with flour until smooth and creamy.  Add the yogurt mixture, tomatoes, coriander, cumin and remaining chili powder & salt to the saucepan, stirring to blend well.  Bring to a boil.  Add meatballs; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 mins.  Adjust seasonings to taste and serve (I served this over rice, with the broccoli recipe below.)

Lemony Braised Broccoli
1 yellow onion cut in 1” wedges (I used red onion)
2 garlic cloves smashed & peeled (I also chopped)
1 tsp coriander
¼ tsp chili flakes (I used much more, probably 1-2 tsp)
1 bunch broccoli cut in florets, stalks peeled & thinly sliced
4 wide strips lemon zest & more for serving (I used lemon juice, had no fresh lemons)
Salt & pepper

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high.  Add onion & sauté 6 mins.  Add garlic, coriander, and chili flakes & cook 30 secs.  Add broccoli, zest, and 2c of water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat & cover.  Cook 8 mins.  Season with salt & pepper and serve with lemon wedges.

Another satisfyingly delicious meal.  Enjoy

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baking Time! PB Cookies, Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Shortbread!

I used to LOVE baking.  That was before I knew how to cook.  Now I love cooking because of the endless seasonings, proteins, and veggies to play with.  Baking is so precise and tedious, I'd be just fine leaving it to the hubby (who by the way can bake a mean cake...and decorate it like a pro too!)  But there is the odd time that I'm in the mood for making some sweet treats, and Thanksgiving seemed like the right time to do it.

I made these cookies for hubby's family since we went there for Thanksgiving dinner.  We didn't stick around for dessert so I'm hoping they enjoyed them.  I know that we are still enjoying the leftovers at home!

Let's start with the best chocolate chip cookie you will ever have.  This is the Doubletree Hotel's recipe.  If you have ever stayed at this fantastic hotel, then you know about the mouth-watering cookie I'm talking about.  The scent of fresh baked goodness hits your nose as you walk in like a ton of bricks, and all you want to do is hunt down the source of that smell.  Well now you can make them yourself at home...

Doubletree Hotel Cookies
1/2 c oats
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 eggs
3 c chocolate chips
1 1/2 c walnuts (I always leave these out)

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cream together butter, both sugars, vanilla and lemon juice in another bowl with an electric mixer.  Add eggs and mix until smooth.  Stir dry ingredients in to wet ingredients and blend well.  Add chocolate chips & nuts and mix by hand until well blended.  For best results, chill the dough overnight (I popped it in the freezer for a bit because I was in a time crunch.)  Spoon rounded 1/4 c portions onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Place scoops 2" apart.  Bake in a 350 oven 16-18 minutes (You will have to play with the timing.  The difference of 15-30 seconds could result in crunchy rather than soft cookies - atfer a while you will figure out what timing is best for your oven.)  Enjoy!!

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE peanut butter cookies.  They are divine!  Check out the super-simple recipe below - piece of cake!...or cookie?

Peanut Butter Cookies
**This recipe only makes 12 cookies, so increase as needed**
2 c peanut butter
1 c white sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine ingredients and drop by teaspoonful on a cookie sheet.  Flatten with a fork (I spray my fork with cooking spray first so it doesn't stick.)  Bake for 8 minutes.  You can't get any easier than that!!

Lastly, there are the Melt In Your Mouth Shortbread Cookies...they literally melt in your mouth, no chewing required.  This is also a very simple recipe. 

Melt In Your Mouth Shortbread
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 375.  Whip butter with electric mixer until fluffy.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Beat on low for 1 minute, then hight for 3-4 minutes.  Drop cookies in spoonfuls 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, being careful that your edges don't brown.

So there you have it folks - having fresh-baked cookies waiting for your kids to grab up isn't only for the Martha Stewart's of the world.  It's fast and easy and at least you know what's going into their little control the ingredients.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baked Eggs In Whole Roasted Tomatoes & Zucchini Sticks

Another meatless meal...

This one was so simple and used pantry ingredients - it was one of the quickest meals I have ever put together and it was enjoyed by the entire family.  Check out the recipes below - it can't get any easier then this!  Thank you to Whole Living and Kraft for making my life that much easier!!

Baked Eggs In Whole Roasted Tomatoes
6 large tomatoes
salt & pepper
1 T thyme leaves (I left this out)
2 garlic thinly sliced (I used garlic powder)
6 large eggs

Heat oven to 400.  Slice top third off tomatoes and use a small spoon to remove the core and seeds.  Arrange in a baking dish (I used a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up) and drizzle with oil (I used canola spray) - sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Sprinkle with thyme & garlic.  Roast until tender and caramelized, 30 minutes.  Crack an egg into each tomato and season with salt & pepper.  Bake until eggs are just set, 7-9 minutes.

Per tomato - 150 calories, 10g fat, 8g carbs, 8g protein, 3g fibre

Kraft Baked Zucchini Sticks
1 pouch shake n' bake extra crispy (I used No Name)
1 T minced fresh parsley (I let this out)
1 egg
1 T water
4 zucchini cut crosswise in half then quartered lengthwise
1/4 c ranch dressing (I used fat free)

Heat oven to 400.  Mix coating and parsley on plate.  Beat egg & water in shallow dish until well blended (I threw them in a large ziploc bag).  Dip zucchini sticks in egg, then coating mixture (so I threw them in the bag with the wet, then threw them in the bag with the dry).  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray (again, my baking sheet was lined with parchment for easy clean up).  Bake 20 minutes or until crisp tender and golden brown.  Serve with dressing to dip.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vietnamese Veal Chops with Citrus Bok Choy Salad

I really do love my red meat.  You would never know by the amount of vegetarian meals I post here, but if you've been following me from the beginning you can vouch for my love of cow.  Or lamb.  Or the goat...I love meat!  We all do in my family, so lately it has become a rare treat to indulge in such carnivorous temptations.

This recipe actually called for lamb, but I didn't have any on hand, so I used a few of the succulent veal chops I had purchased from a recent Wagjag deal. 

I'm sorry that I don't have the origins of this recipe, since I always give credit where it's due, but it is a fantastic one with bold flavors.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I did!

Vietnamese Lamb (or Veal!) Chops
15 lamb chops (I used 4 x 6ox veal chops)
2 garlic cloves sliced (I left this out by accident)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 pinch chili powder
2 T sugar
1 T lime juice
1 T soy sauce
1/4 c chopped cilantro (also left this out)
2 lime wedges
2 lemon wedges
(I left both wedges out)

Place lamb (or veal) chops in a roasting pan and season evenly with the first 5 ingredients.  Drizzle with lime juice, soy sauce and EVOO.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (I marinated these for about 4 hours.)  Preheat oven to 400.  Allow chops to stand at room temperature while oven is preheating.  Roast uncovered until desired doneness - 20 minutes for medium (for the lamb.  For the veal you are good with 30 minutes.)  Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro and squeeze lemon and lime on before serving (if using.  The kids find lemon & lime to be too strong of a flavor in their food so I try to minimize them where possible.)

A little tip if you would like some gravy - after removing the pan from the oven, put drippings into a saucepan and add 2 cloves of garlic.  Let cook for 1 minute then add 1/4 c balsamic, and 3/4 c chicken broth.  Let simmer 2 minutes.  Stir in 2 T cornstarch to thicken.  Add chops to the sauce and turn once to coat.  Serve chops with the gravy on the side.

Alongside the chops, I served an interesting salad courtesy of Martha Stewart that uses the dried noodles in a Mr. Noodles package.  I'm always amazed with the various ways to incorporate convenience foods into our home-made meals to enhance the experience.  Mr. Noodles are so inexpensive, and can be used in many different dishes.  Stay tuned for more recipes.


Citrus Bok Choy Salad With Crisp Ramen
1 package Mr. Noodles broken in to small pieces (save the broth seasoning for another use)
2 T veg oil
2 oranges
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sriracha
1/4 tsp honey
salt & pepper
1 head bok choy thinly sliced (I used 3 medium sized heads)

Preheat oven to 400.  On a baking sheet toss ramen w/2 tsp veg oil (I used cooking spray for this part.)  Bake 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile peel oranges and working over a bowl, cut out wedges, squeezing juice into bowl.  I discarded the actual wedges once I had squeezed them out, but you might want to keep them in your salad.  Whisk in next 4 ingredients.  Add ramen and bok choy and toss.

That's it for now!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chinese Spare Ribs & Crispy Tofu With 2 Sauces

Tonight I went for a part vegetarian part meat lovers sort of vibe.  I really wanted to try this tofu recipe, but the spare ribs in the freezer were calling my name, so I figured, why not do both?  This is by far the best marinade for spare ribs that I have ever come across.  It's my go-to sauce.  When I see spare ribs, my mouth waters for this combination of flavors.  Try it, you'll love it.

The tofu recipe was good, but make sure you don't keep leftovers because soggy tofu the next day isn't a good look.  Trust me,  it doesn't go down very well.  I could have done without the onion topping (sauce), because the soy-based sauce was great.  But try out the recipe for yourself and see what you think.

Chinese Spare Ribs
3 T hoison sauce
1 T honey
1 T soy sauce
1 T sake (I left this out - not many people have sake sitting least, I don't)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated ginger (as a tip - I keep my ginger in the freezer, it stays fresh and is very easy to grate/chop, etc)
1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder (I left this out and used seasoning salt & chili flakes instead)
1 lb spare ribs

Mix everything together and marinate for 2 hours or overnight (I marinate in a large Ziploc bag - just throw all of the ingredients in, than the meat, seal & mix.)  Reserve some sauce (after removing the meat I pour a little water in the bag, seal, shake, and pour out whatever I get in a bowl.)  Put in the oven in at 300 for 2 hours.  Pour the rest of the sauce over top near the end and broil for 10 minutes.  That's what you're supposed to do, but I pour a little sauce on top about every half hour, and I skip the broiling, it isn't needed.  The sauce already sticks on to the meat and the outside gets nice and crisp while the inside is moist and delicious.  A very flavorful sauce, you'll love it.

Crispy Tofu With 2 Sauces
1 lb medium firm tofu (I always use extra firm)
1/2c oil
1/2c cornstarch
Green Onion Ginger Sauce:
3 green onions chopped (I didn't have any so I used 1/4 of a vidalia)
2 T grated ginger
1 tsp salt
1/4c oil
Spicy Soy Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
1 T water
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp sriracha
1/4 tsp honey

Cut tofu into 4 equal slices about 1" thick.  Place cut side down on thick paper towel to drain; let stand 20 minutes (I also put paper towel on top and pressed down a bit.)  Meanwhile in heatproof glass combine green onions, ginger & salt.  In small saucepan heat oil over medium-high heat just until ripples form on the surface; pour over onion mixture until sizzling, stir to combine.  Let cool 5 minutes.  Drain off 2 T of the oil and reserve for another use (saute sweet peppers in it or other veggies to serve on the side.)  Set sauce aside.  For the soy sauce, combine all ingredients and set aside.  In a 10" skillet heat oil over medium heat.  Coat tofu all over with cornstarch; fry, turning once, until golden and crispy, 8-10 minutes.  Serve with sauces (and veggies if you choose to.)

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Mini Spinach & Feta Frittatas - Under 100 Calories!!

Since I’m always on the lookout for quick, easy, and healthy dinner ideas, I was delighted to come across a recipe in a recent Canadian Living magazine that utilizes muffin cups to create a main dish.  My mind began racing with ideas of how I can use muffin cups for other dinners.  Lasagna, meatloaf, mac & cheese…the possibilities are endless!  This recipe was incredibly easy and only 96 calories per frittata, so enjoy.  The kids loved it too.  You can mix up the veggies to suit your tastes – chopped broccoli would be great, or some roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, anything.  I’m SUPER excited about experimenting with muffin cups going forward, so stay tuned for more easy, healthy and portable meal ideas!

You’ll see below that I totally ‘cheated’ and left out half of the ingredients, as well as switched up fresh for frozen.  I was in a serious time crunch and had to feed some hungry stomachs in minutes – a Mom’s gotta do what a Mom’s gotta do!

Mini Spinach & Feta Frittatas
2 green onions sliced (white & green parts separated) – (I left these out, didn’t have any)
10oz sliced mushrooms (also left these out – the kids don’t like mushrooms)
Salt & pepper
4c chopped fresh spinach (I used a package of thawed & squeezed out frozen spinach)
8 eggs
1/3c milk
1/2c crumbled feta

In a skillet heat oil over medium-high heat and cook the white parts of the green onion for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms, salt & pepper, and cook until no liquid remains, 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the green parts.  Divide among 12 greased muffin cups and set aside.  In a bowl beat the eggs with the milk.  Divide among the muffin cups and sprinkle with feta.  Bake in a 350 oven until edges are set, 10 minutes.  Broil until golden and puffed, 2 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for 4 minutes before removing.  You can wrap these individually and freeze if you would like.

Ok, so easy enough right?  My version was even easier.  I mixed the spinach, salt & pepper in a bowl, and divided it among the muffin cups.  In the same bowl I mixed the eggs and milk, and divided again.  Then in the oven they went.  12 minutes later I had a healthy, delicious meal.  I served them with left over corn on the cob. 

For those of you interested, the nutritional info per each frittata is below:
96 calories
6g protein
7g fat
2g carbs
1g fibre

I wrapped the leftovers individually and have been taking them for lunch to work.  Fantastic!  Great with some hot sauce as well.

Talk soon!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan Bread Pizza

My family and I were in the mood for a quick “fast-food” tasting meal the other day, and I happened to have received Rachael Ray’s weekly email that morning.  I noticed a recipe called “Eggplant Parmesan Pizza”  and it looked great.  The only hitch was that my daughter hates eggplant.  After reading through the recipe, I thought I would give it a try since the eggplant actually turns into a sort of spread that I was hoping she wouldn’t notice.

I was right.  The pizza was a hit, and she still has no idea that she was eating eggplant.  Give it a try, it’s a quick, tasty, healthy vegetarian meal that is sure to please.  Kids love any type of pizza, so don’t tell them what it is, and they’ll love it!

Eggplant Parmesan Bread Pizza
2 small firm eggplants
¼ c EVOO
Salt & pepper
1 onion chopped
2 garlic chopped
1 14oz can diced tomatoes (I used a leftover bruschetta mix that I had, I believe it was President’s Choice)
1/3 c basil leaves torn (I didn’t have any so I left this out)
1 loaf ciabatta bread cut in ½ horizontally (I don’t know what type of bread I used, but it wasn’t ciabatta.  I don’t like the flour on the crust of most Italian breads, and I like a lot of dough, so I bought a loaf that was only slightly crispy on the outside, with a lot of soft dough on the inside – it was at No Frills, nothing fancy, it cost about $1.50)
½ c parmesan
8 slices smoked mozzarella (use whatever you have on hand – I used friulano cheese from the farmer’s market…yum)
I also had leftover goat cheese that needed to be used up, so I spread this on the bread first (more below)

Preheat the oven to 450.  Halve the eggplants lengthwise and using a small sharp knife score the flesh into small cross hatch cubes being careful not to cut through the skin.  Drizzle with 3 T of the EVOO, and salt & pepper.  Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile in a medium pan heat the remaining 1 T EVOO over medium heat.  Add the onion & garlic and cook for 6-7 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper.  Stir in the basil (if using) until wilted.  Keep warm over low heat.  Scoop out the eggplant flesh and spread on your bread (this is where I spread the goat cheese on first.  I didn’t have much, but it added a creamy tanginess that you can only get from goat cheese).  Top the eggplant with your tomato mixture, parmesan, and then mozzarella.  Place on a baking sheet and toast until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.  I broiled it for a little longer, probably about 10 minutes but you really have to watch it.  Cut each loaf into 4 pieces and enjoy!

I served this with a salad, and everyone loved it.  We had leftovers for days because of the size of loaf I used. 

Until next time!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baked Crab Cakes With Spicy Mango Lime Sauce

Recently I was in the mood for crab cakes.  But I wanted to make them at least a little bit healthy so I didn't want them fried.  I found a great recipe that did the trick.  These crab cakes are baked.  And rather then the traditional tartar sauce that is served with them, these cakes are served with a fruity & spicy sauce.  So tasty!

Baked Crab Cakes With Spicy Mango Lime Sauce
1/2 c red onion, diced
1/2 c red pepper, diced
1 large egg
3 T lemon juice
6 T dijon
3 T mayo
2 tsp old bay (left this out and used Caribbean seasoning w/garlic instead)
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 lb lump crab meat
1 c panko
2 large rip mangoes, peeled (didn't have any, so used rip peaches, not peeled, instead)
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 serrano chili peppers, stems and seeds removed, diced

Saute the onions and peppers in oil.  In a large bowl whisk together egg, lemon juice, dijon, mayo, old bay and cayenne.  Fold in the veggies, crab and panko.  Add salt.  Refrigerate for half an hour to let the panko soak up some of the moisture.  Preheat oven to 350.  Divide the mixture into 8 portions.  Roll into balls and flatted onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes per side.  Meanwhile place all sauce ingredients (mangoes - or peaches - lime juice, sugar, salt, and chilies) in a blender and process until smooth.  Add some water if the sauce is too thick.  To serve, place 2 crab cakes on a plate a drizzle with the sauce.

You will never have tartar sauce again with your crab cakes - this sauce is divine!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Artichoke & Sundried Tomato Lasgana With a Chickpea Salad

Yes, you guessed it, more vegetarian cuisine.  I have to admit that since eating more vegetarian meals I have felt more energetic and 'lighter' if that makes any season.  I guess I feel that we are eating 'cleaner' at my house, and that makes me feel better all around.

For tonight's dinner, I made a fabulous lasagna that was fresher and lighter then your standard lasagna, as well as a lemony yogurt chickpea salad.  Thank you Canadian Living Magazine, it was a great meal.

Artichoke & Sundried Tomato Lasagna
1 tub ricotta cheese (I used fat free cottage cheese, it's all I had)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry and chopped (I skipped patting dry)
1/3c drained oil-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped (I probably used about 1/2 c)
3 sheets of fresh lasagna noodles (now I normally wouldn't splurge on fresh noodles since dry are WAY cheaper, but I found whole grain noodles at No Frills for 50% off because the best before date was in 2 days, and I had a coupon, so I scored big time and got these for dirt cheap)
6 slices provolone cheese (I used the PC blue menu light version)

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, artichokes, tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Place 1 sheet of pasta on a greased 8" dish and ct to fit.  Spread with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture  Repeat.  Top with remaining pasta and provolone.  Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake until golden and bubbly, 10 minutes.  Tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

When I make this again, I will add a third later so that it is thicker, but aside from that I wouldn't change a thing.  The flavor was intense and you didn't miss the meat in your dish.

Chickpea Salad with Lemon Yogurt Dressing
1/4 c balkan yogurt (I just used fat free plain yogurt)
2 T lemon juice
pinch of salt & pepper
1 can of chickpeas drained
1/2 c halved grape tomatoes
1/4 c diced celery
3 T diced red onion
3 T chopped mint (left this out, didn't have any)
2 T copped parsley (left this out, didn't have any)

Stir everything together, and enjoy!  This salad tastes even better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to meld.

That's it, that's all.  Hope you are enjoying the vegetarian ideas.  More meat to come, because we all know I can't live without a good steak or veal chop, but at least we can incorporate healthy dishes into our lifestyle and learn to eat the (great) red meat in moderation.

Until next time!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shahi Paneer

Another great vegetarian meal!

I had never tried paneer before, but I love cheese so figured why not give it a try.  Paneer is an East Indian cheese made from coagulated whole milk and lemon juice.  It's fairly easy to make at home, or so I have heard, but I figured for our first try I would buy a pre-packaged version.  It's extremely inexpensive and can be found in most grocery stores.

I opted for the chili flake paneer, since it was on sale, and you can't go wrong with a little extra flavor.  I googled various recipes and picked the one that appealed to me.  Check it out below - the family loved it and I'm sure you will too.

Shahi Paneer
2 T oil
1 large onion sliced
4 garlic minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilies (I used about 1 T since I like the extra spice)
4 tomatoes pureed (I used home made canned crushed tomatoes that I had prepared earlier in the week.  Very simple to do - see below for instructions)
1/2 lb paneer cubed
1/4 c water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 c cream (I used 2% milk)
2 T chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onion & garlic 5 minutes.  Sprinkle in the seasonings and cook 30 seconds.  Pour the tomatoes in and cook until the excess liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Add paneer, water, sugar and salt to the mixture.  Stir gently so that the paneer doesn't break apart.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in the cream (or milk) and simmer 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.  I served this over rice, but it would also be great with warmed pitas, or over any other grain.

For the canned tomatoes, simply purchase as many fresh tomatoes as you would like (preferably from the farmer's market) and start stuffing them in large mason jars.  Use the end of a wooden spoon to push them down.  After every couple of tomatoes, add some crushed garlic, thyme, salt and pepper (or whatever other seasonings you would like - basil, oregano, etc).  Continue with tomatoes, pushing down, and seasonings until the jar is full.  Once all of your jars are full, seal them with clean lids and boil in a large pot for about 45 minutes.  Make sure you bring them to room temperature and ensure that the lids are sealed before storing them.  With this method, my family has fresh tomatoes all year round, and we purchase them when they are the cheapest and freshest.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Clam Chowder & Lox & Bagels...Bread Pudding?

The hubby and I were recently watching a documentary that I urge everyone to check out.  It's called Fork over Knives.  Directed by Lee Fulkerson, this film examines the claim that most cancer and other diseases are caused by eating animal protein, and that vegetable protein actually does the opposite by eradicating disease.

Thanks to my obsession with food, I thoroughly enjoy watching films like this one, since I feel it educates me and allows me to make empowered decisions about what I put into my mouth, and the mouths of my loved ones.  Watching them often inspires me to change our diet completely, if only for a short time, but usually leaves a lasting impression and one or two permanent changes.  Another great one to watch is Food Inc.  I guarantee it will change the way you look at food forever.

With that being said, we have decided try the vegetarian thing more often; not just on Mondays.  Tonight I will be making a vegetarian lasagna that looks fantastic, with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and provolone cheese.  Last night I made clam chowder and a smoked salmon rye bread pudding.  Thanks to Michael Smith, one of my absolute favorite chefs, the meal was great.  Check out the recipes below.

Smoked Salmon Rye Bread Pudding
1 loaf of rye bread sliced thick (I bought the pre-sliced loaf)
12oz smoked salmon sliced thin (don't cheap out on this, quality equals flavor here)
1 red onion finely chopped
1/4c capers
2c milk
2 eggs
1 T dijon
salt & pepper
1 bunch of dill chopped (I didn't have fresh dill so I used about a tbsp of dried)
1c havarti, grated (I used about 1/2c - trying to cut calories and fat)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Toast the bread slices until golden brown and then cut into cubes.  Place in a large bowl with the salmon, onions, and capers.  In another bowl, pour in milk, eggs, dijon, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the dill and cheese.  Pour the wet mixture over the bread cubes and toss well to combine.  Let it rest for 5 minutes so the bread can soak up the liquids.  Pour into a lightly oiled 8x8 baking dish and bake until puffy and golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Now I must say that mine seemed rather dry after it had rested, so I added about another cup of milk, 1 more egg, some more dijon, dill and salt and pepper.  I also baked it for about an hour - it was still too wet after 45 minutes.  If you enjoy lox and bagels as much as I do, than this is a real treat.

Clam Chowder
8 slices of bacon chopped
1 onion chopped
2 celery diced
1/2c white wine
1c cream (I used 2% evaporated milk)
1c milk
2 5oz cans of clams (or you can use fresh but will have to buy clam juice)
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 unpeeled grated potato
1 can evaporated milk
1 lb seafood (mussels, white fish, lobster, etc - I used imitation crab meat, it's what I had on hand)
1 lb parsley chopped
salt & pepper

Brown the bacon with a little bit of water (this is a trick I learned from Michael - it helps it crisp better without burning) in a soup pot until crisp.  Add the onions and celery with about 1/2c water.  Saute for a few minutes until soft.  Add the wine, cream (or evaporated milk), milk and juice from the clams.  Add the bay leaves, thyme, and grated potato and bring to a slow simmer.  Continue simmering for 15 minutes or until the potato softens and the chowder thickens.  Add the clam meat, fish that you are using, evaporated milk and parsley.  Bring back to heat.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Serve

This chowder was fantastic, and it's great that you can add whatever fish you have on hand.  The bread pudding can be shaken up as well.  Instead of smoked salmon you could use bacon, and change the havarti to cheddar.

Play with your recipes, use what you have on hand, tweak them to incorporate what you like, remove what you don't.  Have fun with food, I always do!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Slow Cooker (or not) Sweet and Sour Beef

I had some cubed beef in the freezer that I needed to use up, and I had a great recipe for it that seemed easy enough, but it was for the slow cooker.  So I decided to make it sans the slow cooker.  It turned out to be a wonderful, easy, quick dish.  I'll give you the slow cooker version below, but as always, I will add in brackets what I did differently.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Beef
2 lbs cubed beef
2 T veg oil
2 cans tomato sauce (I used 1 can)
2 c sliced carrots (I didn't have any so I left these out)
2 small onions cut in wedges
1 large green pepper cut in 1" pieces (I used red peppers)
1/2 c molasses
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

In a large skillet, brown the meat in the oil.  Transfer to the slow cooker.  Add in remaining ingredients and stir well.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Serve over rice.

Easy enough - but unfortunately I didn't have the time to use a slow cooker, so I browned the meat, and then added the ingredients and simmered for about half an hour.  It was delicious, and it doesn't get any easier then this!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Red Curry Peanut Noodles

I was supposed to make this for dinner Thursday night, but we got lazy (ok, I got lazy) and ordered pizza instead.  Friday, I didn't feel like cooking, so hubby was on bbq duty (veal chops..yum!).  Saturday we went out all day, came home late, and only had enough energy for eggs, bacon and toast (I love breakfast for dinner).  So here we are, Sunday evening.  Hubby has been sleeping on the couch all day after a grueling soccer game in the heat this morning (they won, 6-2, he got one goal) and my daughter and her friend (who is staying for dinner) are out playing at the park.  It's the perfect time to make a quick, tasty dinner.  So Red Curry Peanut Noodles it is!  Thanks Chatelaine!

Red Curry Peanut Noodles - Chatelaine Magazine
Red Curry Peanut Noodles
1/2 pkg spaghetti (I used a full box)
1/3c peanut butter (I used 2/3's of a cup)
3 T curry paste (I used 6 T of thai red curry paste)
3 T soy sauce (I used 6 T)
2 T honey (I used 4 T)
1 T veg oil (I used EVOO)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts cut in strips
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces

Cook the pasta as per box directions.  Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk the peanut butter with 1/4c of water, curry paste, salt and honey.  Don't worry if the mixture is a little lumpy, it will melt when you cook it.  Heat a large skillet over med-hi and add oil, then onion and chicken.  Stir fry until the chicken is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  Add the peanut butter mixture and reduce the heat to medium.  Stir frequently until the chicken is cooked, about 2 minutes.  Ladle out 1/2 c of pasta water and add to the sauce.  Add the broccoli to the pasta water for the last minute of cooking.  Drain the pasta and broccoli then return pasta to the pot.  Stir in the chicken mixture until combined.

Delicious!  A bit spicy though, so add less curry paste or go for a milder version if you don't like spice.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meatless Monday! Broccoli Frittata with Black Eyed Peas & Feta Salad

Ok ladies and gents, I'm pleased to announce that you can finally subscribe to my blog via email.  Check it out on the right side panel.  Never miss another recipe again, yay!

So as you all know, we do meatless Mondays in my home.  This week I went away from the standard tofu dish and decided to work with protein-rich eggs, and lots of veggies with a broccoli frittata.  As a side dish, I packed in more protein with beans and feta cheese.  Overall it was a very satisfying meal.  I won't lie and say that we didn't miss our steaks, but one night a week won't kill us.

Broccoli Frittata
3c chopped broccoli
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (I used much more than that, we like our spicy foods)
3 garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced
8 eggs
1c parmesan cheese (on hand I had a bout half a cup of parmesan and 1/2 a cup of pecorino romano, so I mixed them)
2 tsp lemon juice (it's best to use a fresh lemon rather then the bottled type)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

In a 10" skillet bring the broccoli to a boil with 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Uncover and cook until no liquid remains, about 4 minutes.  Add 1T EVOO, the pepper flakes, garlic and green onion.  Cook until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes.  In a large bowl beat together the eggs, cheese, lemon juice and zest.  Stir in the broccoli mixture.  Wipe out the skillet (I didn't, why bother??) and heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Pour in the egg/broccoli mixture, spreading evenly, and cook over med-low heat until starting to set but still wet in the middle, 5-6 minutes (mine took about 10 minutes but I used a smaller skillet so it was thicker).  Place skillet in a 400 degree oven and bake until the top is set, 7-10 minutes.  Let stand 2 minutes, slide onto platter, and cut into wedges.

I served this with a very simple bean salad.  Take 2T lemon juice, 2 T EVOO, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 tsp lemon zest, and put them in a container.  Add a can of rinsed black eyed peas, and 3 T of crumbled feta (I used about 6T - you can never have too much cheese).  Shake it up if your container has a lid, or stir if not.  That's it - super simple and bursting with flavor.

Enjoy a vegetarian meal every once in a while (preferably a minimum of once a week) and you are well on your way to a healthier lifestyle.

Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Grilled Veal Chops, Cheesy Spaghetti Pie and Secret Recipe Cheesecake!

I love to cook.  Like I REALLY love to cook.

Today was a particularly hard day at work.  I was reamed out by a customer who I thought liked me.  She kinda lost her mind,  She made me cry.  Work in general has been tough lately.  Thank god for my kitchen.

I knew I was coming home to an empty house (one kid is in Quebec for the summer, one with her dad for the night, and the dear hubby is working extra late) so I decided I would spend a few hours in the kitchen and create a feast.  I knew it would make me feel better.  It did.

I made Grilled (I seared and roasted) Veal Chops with a Rosemary Dijon Cream (thank you Food & Drink magazine), Cheesy Spaghetti Pie (thank you Marc Murphy), roasted asparagus (my normal go-to side, as you know), and Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Spicy Wafer Crust (thank you Anne Burrell).


Grilled Veal Chops With Rosemary Dijon Cream
4 bone-in veal chops (I used 2, and 2 steaks...thought I'd shake things up a bit)
1 T rosemary
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp mustard powder (had none, so used grainy Dijon, about 1 T)
1 tsp black pepper and salt (each)
Rosemary Dijon Cream:
1/3c mascarpone
1/3c sour cream (had none, so I used plain yogurt)
1 T grainy Dijon
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Worcestershire
salt & pepper

Pat the chops dry.  Stir together the first 5 ingredients and rub on the chops.  Marinate in the fridge for 8 hours (I did about 2 hours).  One hour before cooking, remove from fridge.  BBQ the chops (I didn't, I seared both chops and steaks on top of the stove for about 5 minutes per side on med-hi, then stuck them in the oven on 400 for about 15 minutes - with the asparagus alongside to save time).  Let meat rest 10 minutes before eating.  While resting, stir together cream ingredients.  Serve chops with a dollop of cream.  Yum.

Cheesy Spaghetti Pie
1 lb cooked spaghetti (cooled)
1/2c grated Parmesan
1/2c grated pecorino
1/2c grated Swiss (I used old cheddar - feel free to use any 3 cheeses you want, but preferably salty, mild, and sweet varieties)
4 eggs
salt and pepper
4 cheese slices (like Kraft, black diamond)

Mix the cooled spaghetti with the grated cheeses and eggs.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add oil to a large pan over medium heat.  Once hot, add half of the spaghetti and pat down.  Place the 4 cheese slices on top, then the remaining spaghetti.  Pat down again.  Let cook 5 minutes.  Here's where it gets tricky - you have to flip it.  I put mine in the oven for a couple of minutes to solidify it a little more, then I used a pot lid to help me with the flip.  I flipped it onto the lid, then slid it back into the pan.  It isn't easy.  Cook for 5 minutes more.  When you slice into this delicious "pie", the gooey goodness of the processed cheese in the middle comes spilling out.  So fabulous.

 Goat Cheese Cheesecake
6 T melted butter
2c Nilla wafers (I couldn't find these at No Frills, so I used graham crackers)
1/4c sugar
1/2 tsp each cinnamon and ginger (had no dry ginger, so used extra cinnamon)
2 grates of nutmeg (I just used dry nutmeg)
2 packages of cream cheese @ room temperature
1 12oz log of goat cheese (the secret!)
1 1/2c sour cream
4 eggs
1 1/2c sugar
2 tsp vanilla

For the crust, mix ingredients together and pat into the bottom and sides of a buttered 9" spring form pan.  For the filling, preheat the oven to 350.  Beat the cheeses together in a large bowl (easier with an electric mixer) until light and fluffy.  Add sour cream and continue beating until combined.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Pour filling into crust, and bake 30 minutes, turn, then bake 30 more minutes.  Best if left in the fridge over night...but I'm not waiting that long!!

So after 2 and a half hours in the kitchen, I feel great.  Much better than I did on my way home from work.  Now I'm going to sit down on my fabulous sofa and watch my beloved reality TV.  When hubby comes home, he will be pleasantly surprised with the meal awaiting him.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Salmon In Parchment With Polenta - Yum!

I've been trying to eat more salmon lately.  Truth be told, I hate salmon.  It's too fishy for me, I don't like the texture or the flavor.  It's such a healthy fish though, so I find if I season it properly (and heavily) I'm ok with it.  I mask the taste as much as possible, and this is a great recipe to use for that.  Even the kids loved it, and it was a hit with hubby; that makes it a keeper!

The clean-up is quick and easy here, since everything is cooked in parchment paper.  The other saving grace is that fish cooks so quickly, it's always a great weeknight choice.

Salmon & Spinach In Parchment
8c spinach (I only used about 1/2 a bag)
1 T grated orange zest
3 oranges peeled and cut into 1/4" thick rounds (I used 2 oranges, and just sectioned them)
4 salmon fillets (I used 3, was only feeding 3 people)
2" piece of ginger cut in thin strips
1 shallot thinly sliced
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Divide the spinach among 4 (or 3) 16" long pieces of parchment.  Top with orange zest and slices, salmon, ginger and shallots.  Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with EVOO.  Bring the long ends of the paper together and fold down 3 times to make a seam.  Tuck ends underneath to secure.  Place packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until packets are puffed and salmon is cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Transfer packets to plates, pull open and serve immediately.

This recipe came from Everyday Food
Thanks Martha!

Per serving, the nutritional value is below:
Calories - 406
Fat - 18g
Protein - 37g
Carbs - 26g
Fiber - 5g

As a side dish to this I served Buddy's Cheesy Polenta - this was so great, and it made a ton of leftovers, so I froze a large portion in a container in the freezer for another dinner.  Delicious.

Buddy's Cheesy Polenta
4c chicken stock
4c milk
2c cornmeal
1c grated Parmesan
8oz herbed goat cheese
4 T butter
salt & pepper

In a large saucepan brink chicken stock and milk to a simmer.  Gradually whisk in cornmeal.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add parmesan, goat cheese, and butter.  Stir until cheeses and butter have melted.  Season with salt & pepper to taste (make sure you taste it first!  The stock and parmesan already make it very salty!).  Serve as a side dish.

This dish reminds me of a cross between mashed potatoes and cream of wheat.  It's creamy and delicious and goes well with most meals.

Happy cooking!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garlic Cheddar Chicken & Savory Braised Green Beans

I always have a hard time coming up with different recipes for chicken.  I find chicken very boring, but it's low in fat (the white meat) and good for you, so when it goes on sale I feel the need to buy.  In bulk.  Large quantities.  Than I am stuck trying to figure out what to do with it.

So when I find a winning recipe like the one below, I am absolutely delighted.  This was a hit with the family, and of course, very easy (as are most of my recipes, with the exception of the 'special occasion' meals).  Hope you enjoy this as much as my family and I did!

Garlic Cheddar Chicken
1/2c butter (I used about 2 Tbsp - 1/2c is way too much)
4 garlic minced
3/4c bread crumbs (I eyeballed the panko - my new favorite thing.  I will never use breadcrumbs again!)
1 1/2c shredded cheddar (I used about 3/4c)
1/2c Parmesan
1/4tsp parsley (I omitted completely, none on hand)
1/4 tsp oregano (omitted again...oops)
salt & pepper
8 chicken breasts pounded thin (I didn't pound anything...I want my breasts plump and juicy!)
(for my seasoning on the chicken I used Emeril's Essence - the recipe is on my stuffed veal chops post)

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook the garlic 5 minutes.  In a
shallow bowl mix crumbs (try panko, trust me), cheeses and seasonings (in my case, Essence).  Dip each breast in the garlic butter to coat (I just threw them all in the pan and tossed them around a bit), then press into the bread crumb mixture.  Arrange in a 9x13 baking dish and drizzle with any remaining butter and bread crumb mixture.  Bake 30 minutes.

So here are my tips - if you aren't pounding the chicken, cook at least 40 minutes.  Also, spread the bottom of your baking dish with panko so that the bottom of your chicken doesn't get soggy.  Enjoy, because this is a really great crunchy chicken.  Yum.

I served the above dish with braised green beans.  Double yum.

Savory Braised Green Beans
1 T margarine (I used butter)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
1 lb green beans
1/2c chicken or veggie stock (I used chicken)
1 tsp lemon juice

In a skillet melt margarine (or butter) over medium-high heat and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Stir in green beans and cook 1 minute.  Add the broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil over high heat.  Than lower the heat and simmer about 6 minutes, or until the beans are tender crisp.  Add salt and pepper before serving, and enjoy!

Although my family and I rarely eat the same main entree twice, we tend to have veggie side dishes that we refer back to time and again.  This is one of those side dishes.  Find a few great ways to prepare veggies and it will allow you time to experiment with the main course.

What's on the menu for tomorrow?