Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stand Out Sides: Microwaved Red Potatoes

For part of K's graduation gift, I gave her "Dinner on the Go" coupons.  She studies A LOT and I knew she was stressed about not being a part of the dining hall anymore, but having to make her own food (see Monday's post).  This weekend her boyfriend E and her redeemed their first coupon. 

I decided to make them a full meal, complete with dessert.  One of the side dishes I decided to make were my microwaved red potatoes.  After I made them, I smashed them because K loves smashed potatoes, and I included the recipe in my meal drop-off so she can make them on her own!

Microwaved potatoes are something I made up, completely by accident.  I misread a recipe a few years ago and this was born!  The great news is, it's done in 15-20 minutes in the microwave.  EASY!

Microwaved Red Potatoes
Serves: 4
1 pound red potatoes
6 tablespoons butter
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. pepper
2 tablepoons garlic powder
2 tsps. rosemary
2 tsps. thyme

Scrub the red potatoes and cut into quarters (bite-sized pieces).  Place in a shallow microwave-safe dish.  Cut the butter into tablespoons and layer on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, and thyme over the potatoes.  Cover with plastic wrap, tight over the dish, poke a few holes in the plastic wrap.  Microwave for 5 minutes.  (THE DISH WILL GET VERY HOT.  Please be careful.  I frequently burn myself by being stupid, don't follow that example!)  Stir, re-cover with plastic wrap tightly, and microwave for another 5 minutes.  Repeat for 5 minutes.  By this point, the potatoes should be softened.  If not, continue to microwave in 3 minute intervals until potatoes are all soft. 

These are a perfect compliment to steak or chicken.  They come out so soft and creamy, it's easy to think that you've been baking these for over an hour before serving!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, September 27, 2010

Dorm Room Dinner: Thai Chicken Salad

I have two younger sisters, K and M.  They both are currently in school; K is in her last year as a graduate student in Boston which means I get to see her a lot.  M is a sophomore at a school in upstate NY far away from me, our family, and the nearest grocery store! 

M also is a very picky eater, my mom likes to say she's the only kid ever to go to school and lose 10 pounds.  And this is a girl that really doesn't need to lose one pound!  She really hates the dining hall food.  With that, Dorm Room Dinners were born!  Every week, I try to get M one recipe she can make with the "ingredients" that she can find in the dining hall.  This consists of basically, grilled chicken.  There are vegetables and salad at a salad bar, a "breakfast bar" with bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly, etc.  It's a much smaller dining hall than I am used to, but we make it work. 

Limited choices for an already picky eater, really make meals so difficult.  We obviously all want her to stay healthy, and she does, too.  I really wish that we could reform campus dining the way that public schools are currently reforming their programs.  When you're on your own for the first time, it's hard to make good choices.  I know that more than anyone.  I swam in college but still put on a good 20 pounds through excess food and alcohol!  Luckily, neither of my sisters like alcohol so it's mainly getting them to eat.

This week she shot down my Thai Chicken Skewers under the guise that it was "too different" for her, but since I LOVED it, I am sharing it. 

Thai Chicken Skewers
Serves: 4
2/3 lb. cooked chicken (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
1 cup peanut butter (low-fat creamy)
1/4 cup chicken broth
12 skewers

NOTE:  I suggested to M, since she doesn't have skewers to put this over some lettuce and drizzle the peanut butter mixture on top.  It was a moot point since she didn't like the recipe anyway, but that is also something to keep in mind!

Preheat the oven to Broil, low.  Let the skewers soak for about 15 minutes in room-temperature water.  Cut the peppers into bite-sized pieces.  Thread the skewer, piece of chicken, one of each color pepper, piece of chicken, each pepper, piece of chicken.  Repeat through all 12 skewers.  Put the skewers on a lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes (the chicken is already cooked, this is just to heat it through).  Meanwhile, I combined the chicken broth and peanut butter, and heated it in the microwave for 30 seconds. 

Again, for M, she has a microwave in the dining hall, I thought some peanut butter (and water instead of chicken broth), grilled chicken and veggies over salad was a good nutritious meal, and very easy!

Look for more Dorm Room Dinners as I help K and M navigate their dorm room situations! 

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 24, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Three Ingredient Cheese Balls

This is another of my mom's best appetizer recipes.  It was always present at Christmas, the Super Bowl, and any other time, depending on how much we begged!  It's mom's Gouda Ball.  It's become one of my favorite appetizers for football season, but since its just John and I most Sundays, I've revised the recipe to fit two or twenty!  Mom's always feeds about 6-10.

Three Ingredient Cheese Balls
1 can of crescent rolls
2-3 tablespoons spicy mustard
6 mini Babybel cheeses (John calls them "mini cheese rounds")

Mom makes these a bit different.  She uses a big gouda ball.  But the rest is the same.  I like hers best to serve at a fancy party.  People always exclaim over it when you cut into it and it just oozes cheese.  Anyway, onto the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out the can of crescent rolls into one large piece of dough.  Cut the dough into 6 pieces.  I spread the spicy mustard over the dough leaving about 1/2 inch on all sides so the dough sticks together easily.  Then, I place the cheese in the middle of the dough and wrap it up.  Make sure the edges are sealed tight!  I always make one that isn't sealed good enough and leaks all over.  Place them in the oven for about 15 minutes, the rolls become golden brown.  This will serve between 3 and 4 people. 

Mom's should be baked in a casserole dish, about 30 minutes in a 325 degree F oven.  The rolls will become golden, and it should be heated through (if you put a toothpick in, you should find the cheese to be squishy, not still very dense.  Otherwise, it should be cooked some more.  It's bigger so I cook it at a lower temperature for longer, so the cheese has a chance to melt.  This will serve about 6.  In my family, four!

Cheese, dough, and mustard?  Three of my favorite things!  So really, how could this recipe ever be bad??

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Date Night Dinner: Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mango-Pineapple Salsa

When John and I have date night, I like to challenge myself into making a dish that's unusual.  That way, it feels like we're in a fancy restaurant trying something new.  This week, I made fish.  Fish isn't something I cook very often, I'm actually pretty afraid of it.  But, John and I both will order it out often.  Because it's the last few weeks of summer harvest and we got some cheap mangos and pineapples, I recalled this recipe which I have seen many times in many forms.  The original recipe that I based mine off of can be found at the Food Network website

Instead of using the sides that the Food Network suggested, I went with jasmine rice, one of my favorite things.  It also really brought out the flavors of the salsa.
Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Mango-Pineapple Salsa
4 Mahi-Mahi filets(6 ounces each)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 lime
1 mango, diced
1/2 pineapple, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Make the salsa first.  I made it during the day, which is what the recipe suggested.  It did let the flavors marinate together.  I roughly chopped the pineapple, mango, cilantro, red onion, and minced the ginger.  I put it all into a small bowl and drizzled the olive oil over it, saving one tablespoon for the grill later on.  I stirred the salsa about once every 30 minutes, I didn't set a timer, it was just whenever I remembered it. 

Preheat the grill to medium-low heat.  Zest the lime and combine the zest with pepper and salt.  Rub the mixture onto the filets, a little on each side.  I rubbed about a tablespoon of olive oil onto the grate so the filets didnt stick.  They still got a little stuck, if you see above.  But, overall they came out whole.  I grilled them about 5 minutes on each side.  They were done perfectly. 

I laid out the filets and topped them with the salsa.  I had saved the pineapple from earlier in the day.  I rubbed lemon juice on the bottom so it didn't brown.

John said it was great and could be put in the "make again" pile.  That pile is pretty large though!  Anyway, it was a nice night together.  I'll save the dessert for another day.  I promise these desserts are coming.  Hopefully sometime next week; John is hoping it is sooner because it means I'll be making tiramisu again!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, September 20, 2010

Time-Out: Homemade Croutons

One of my best friends growing up, S, lived in a family that was famous for their Friday night meals.  They would always make pizza and croutons.  I remember being so enthralled that you could make your own croutons (something we weren't allowed to have very often in my house)!

Since living on my own, I've turned to making variations of Mrs. W's croutons more than once.  Now, I just have my own recipe, but I still love stealing some fresh out of the oven.  Its easy, when you only feed one person, to have bread that goes stale.  Now, instead of throwing out that stale bread, or leftover bread, you can use it.  These croutons keep in the fridge for well over a week!  And, they freeze for a month (at least, that's the longest I've left them in the freezer for; they move fast in my apartment!). 

We came back from a weekend away with my family, where they gave me every single leftover food that I could possible cart home in the three hour drive.  One of which was white bread, which is not my favorite thing in the world, so I turned it into croutons.  It was John's first time having homemade croutons but since he was eating them out of the bag (and out of the salads that were awaiting dinner), it leads me to believe they're really good.

Danielle's Party Croutons
4 pieces of leftover bread (I particularly like whole-wheat, but that's because it's usually the only thing I have in the house!)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
2 teaspoons of italian seasoning
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt

Note:  My family does not really "do" salt, so I never grew up using a lot of it.  You can adjust this to your own flavors.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine olive oil and garlic powder, italian seasoning, pepper, and salt.  Cut the bread in small bite-sized pieces (I usually cut each slice into about 16 croutons).  Dip crouton into seasoned olive oil and put onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 8 minutes until golden brown.  You can serve them warm on salad.  If you want to store them, let them cool and place in a sealed bag or tupperware.  Freezer or refrigerate them. 

Just one of my very quick variations for you.  I love Mexican food--it hasn't come across yet in this blog but I'm sure it will, and one of my favorite things is Mexican salad.  Taco meat or chicken over a yummy salad with salsa dressing.  I never find anything wrong with that.  However, I make "Tex-Mex Croutons" to often top these.  It uses the same amount of seasonings above.  Substitute the italian seasoning for chili powder, the black pepper for cumin, and add a teaspoon each of paprika and cilantro (cilantro flakes usually-hard to keep cilantro in the apartment!).  Keep the same amounts of garlic powder and salt.  Ole!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fancy Pants App: Sauerkraut Surprise

Now that football season has started up again, Sundays find me glued to the television, which is, conveniently, in perfect viewing range from the kitchen.  And that means that the afternoon game is just calling for some tailgating!  Granted, my tailgating isn't done in the freezing cold, or on a grill outside, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun!

This week, I made one of my mom's favorite recipes. I've never seen it published before and she doesn't even know where she first got this from, but I'm excited to share a secret D family recipe with you!
If you hate sauerkraut, or your kids do, don't be afraid to give this one a try!  It's fast, easy, and in the end, doesn't taste like sauerkraut.  John hates the stuff, but loves this appetizer (or so he says)!
One quick note, before we get to it, if you can't find party rye bread (I frequently cannot), you can use regular rye and serve it in halves or quarters.  It's basically the same!  If you use a whole piece of rye bread, the bread in the middle will be a little too soft.  I do that when I'm lazy, but serving for guests, I'd definitely at least cut them in half. 

Sauerkraut Surprise
1 cup sauerkraut
1 cup grated swiss cheese
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 loaf of party rye bread

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine the first three ingredients, well!  The mayonnaise should really just hold everything together.  Then, spread two tablespoons of the mixture onto each piece of rye bread.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes (tops will turn slight brown).  Serve immediately.

It is by far my favorite appetizer--the one I used to beg my mom to make for us!  Definitely a switch from the pigs in a blanket that were another favorite in our house!
Expect to see more Fancy Pants Apps as we get further into the season, but for now it's back to watching the game!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, September 17, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Cheesy Pasta Salad

I'm a big fan of quick weeknight dinners; working crazy hours, commuting, budgets, and needing dinner to recycle itself for our lunch is no easy feat!  I do cook mostly on the weekends, but during the week, you need to eat, too!  That's where my new favorite recipe comes in.

John has always been a huge fan of sun-dried tomatoes.  Not me!  But, since we met I have actually started to enjoy them, so this recipe is perfect for that. 

I'm going to call it Cheesy Pasta Salad.  I found it in the Shredded Asiago package, but modified it is with my modifications.

Cheesy Pasta Salad
1 box of pasta
1-14 ounce jar of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups of baby spinach
1 cup of asiago cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese (shredded)

First, boil the pasta according to package instructions.  At this time, take the sun-dried tomatoes out of their oil and throw them in a bowl of hot water.  Let them sit while the pasta is cooking.  This may seem weird but they will be softer if you let them sit.  Once they are soft, throw them in a food processor and chop them until they are bite-sized.  When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta BUT reserve a few tablespoons of hot water.  Mix the sundried tomato oil, reserved pasta water, hot pasta, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The spinach will wilt from the heat of the pasta.  You can also substitute the spinach for peas, it comes out just as good.  Once that's well-mixed, add the cheeses and stir.  Then, serve!

This easily made about 6 servings.  John and I each had dinner plus two lunches.  The thing I liked best is you get some veggies in here without making an additional vegetable.  Also, it was done in 30 minutes.

That's my perfect weeknight dinner!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time-Out: Pickling!

Haymarket is one of my favorite places in Boston.  If you've never been and live in the Boston area, I simply implore you to check it out.  Or, if you're in Boston for a spring, summer, fall weekend, also you should stop by.  It's just a sight to see and such a jewel that I feel like no one ever knows about! 

It takes place outside the Haymarket T station, a block from the North End every Friday and Saturday until 7 p.m.  I usually don't go in the winter, way too cold.  But every other season, it's my Friday fun after work. 

A few weeks ago, I saw pickling cucumbers at Haymarket which got me into the pickle mood.  If you know me, you know I LOVE pickles.  If you don't know me, you now know I love pickles!  So, I bought two pounds of pickling cucumbers for $2!! And a pound of fresh jalapenos for $1!!  And got to work.

John and I researched a bunch of recipes and finally just (as usual) made our own.

We made refrigerator pickles, for two reasons.  We were trying to recreate our favorite fresh pickle guys in Boston and I also didn't want to get into boiling the jars, we don't have huge pots here and I really didn't want to boil them one at a time! 

Refrigerator Dill Cucumber Pickles
1 pound of pickling cucumbers (We cut them into slices to fit into the tiny jars (so in quarters, and then in half)
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups white vinegar
2 cups chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 cup white sugar
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup coarse salt (we had a hard time finding this but we ended up with kosher)
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons dill seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh dill weed  (we put at least 2 sprigs in per jar)

Combine the water, vinegar, chopped dill, sugar, garlic, salt, pickling spice, dill seed, and red pepper flakes into a pot and bring to a rolling boil; let simmer for ten more minutes.  Place the cucumbers into jars; we filled them up so the cucumbers were all standing.  We added two to three sprigs of fresh dill weed into each jar.  Then, we poured the boiling liquid over the cucumbers.  Refrigerate at least ten days before eating.  Use within 8 weeks.

Pickled Jalapeno Slices
1 pound fresh jalapeno peppers
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar (white)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1. Cut the jalapenos into slices and place them in a large glass preserving jar (we used many little ones).  In a large saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers (I take the bay leaf out at this point). Place the lid on the jars and let cool. Once cool, refrigerate for at least a week before using.

John made one jar of his "specialty" pickles.  Mainly he threw some jalapenos into the pickle jar.  We tasted them for the first time this week (after 2 weeks of sitting).  They are great!  I would probably add a bit more spice next time to them, the flavors haven't gone through fully but they are crunchy and delectable! 

Until the next time the oven is on...
Monday, September 13, 2010

Weeknight Dinner: Beringer Great Steak Challenge!

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a regional finalist in the Beringer's Great Steak Challenge for my 30 minute steak recipe: Spiced Bourbon Steak with Goat Cheese and Grilled Balsamic Peaches.  You can find out all about the contest here:

The most exciting part was that I got travel money and went to Newport, RI to cook-off against some of the greatest cooks in New England! What fun!  My recipe was, by far, one of the most simple recipes.  The women were incredibly talented (and creative)! 

I didn't win, but that was no surprise.  It was a chilly rainy day and my lack of grilling was evident in those conditions.  I couldn't keep the grill hot enough since I had fruit on the grill too.  We had only 30 minutes and the steak just didn't cook to the perfect medium-well that I would have liked.  Oh, well!  I did my best.

But, since the recipe had to be finished in 30 minutes, its the perfect Weeknight Dinner meal!  Everyone that has tried my recipe has loved it (granted that is my family and friends so they could be biased), but I think you will, too!

My entry!  Yum!
Spiced Bourbon Filet Mignon with Goat Cheese and Grilled Balsamic Peaches
6 filet mignons (1 1/2 inches thick)
1 cup of bourbon
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1 cup of brown sugar
4 large cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
4 peaches
2/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of goat cheese

Preheat gas grill to medium heat; combine bourbon, soy sauce, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, garlic, and dijon mustard.  Reserve 1/2 cup of bourbon mixture.  Place the rest in bag with filets.  Let sit for 10 minutes (this can be lengthened but we had to be done in 30 minutes!  So it was fast!  If you're going to marinate more, you don't have to baste as often in later steps).  Meanwhile, cut peaches in half and remove the pits.  Mix together the remaining brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Place the paches in a bag with the balsamic vinegar mixture.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Remove both peaches and filets from their marinades and place on grill.  After 3-5 minutes, flip peaches and baste with balsamic vinegar.  Remove after seven to ten minutes.  The filets will cook for 15 minutes and should be turned once.  While cooking is taking place, coarsely crumble goat cheese and set aside.  After peaches are removed from the grill, let cool slightly and chop into slices.  To assemble, place steak on plate, top with goat cheese, and then peach slices.  Serve immediately.

Thanks again to Beringer for an awesome event (and here's a picture of me cooking on the grill).  It is obvious, I am loving it!!

Until the next time my oven is on....
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Date Night Dinner: Scallops and Spinach

Now that John and I are on a pretty tight budget, any date nights we have are most often associated with the apartment.  John likes to reminisce about the fancy dinners we used to go to when we first started dating, but, since John needs a new car, and I'd like to go to Alaska with my family this summer, we have a lot of saving to do.  So to spice things up a little, I planned a "real" date night. 

First, I wrote him a poem, and left it on his pillow the night before dinner (this was supposed to remind him that he should at least bring wine or flowers) that of course didn't happen, but I was prepared with enough wine.  I knew he'd forget! It's a funny poem, nothing sappy, inviting him to dinner and what time.

Then, I shopped.  And shopped.  And shopped.  For me, there's something to be said about good ingredients, so I skimp where I can and splurge when I think I should.  That being said, I went to Haymarket and got a bag of spinach for $1.  But, scallops were bought from a specialty fish store in the North End.  They're a new store:  Mercato del Mer.  You should definitely check them out.  Supposedly they are also giving "Oyster Shucking Lessons" at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.  That is on our fall to-do list definitely!  You only pay for what you shuck, too!  YUM!

Anyway, then it came time to prepare the actual meal.  First I laid out a menu and put it on the table.  

Yes, there is a stain on it.  John poured wine on it before I could even serve! 
The caesar salad was easy.  Made it and put it in the fridge.  I made it with some fresh croutons though.  I'll give you my secret to those another time, I promise, mostly because I'd like to make some more this week!

I made the rice and put it in a warm oven, same with the spinach.  Then, I cooked the scallops and assembled the dish. 

Now, it's quite obvious that I have never cooked scallops before, and I didn't let the pan heat enough so there wasn't a sear on most of them.  However, they were cooked to perfection so go me for that!!!

The thing I enjoyed making most, and the one most requested has been the wilted spinach.  If you've never tried it before, I could see it be coming a great dish for your family.  It's quick and easy and so nutritious if you don't let it cook down. 

Wilted Spinach
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 a white onion
1 bag of spinach (12 ounces)

I pour the olive oil in a pan and cook it on high heat.  Then, saute garlic and white onion until the onion is translucent and throw the spinach onto the pan.  Make it a big pan.  One bag of spinach can feed about four or five when it's cooked like this. Within 5 minutes you will see it "wilt".  Stir it around and turn the heat to medium-low.  Let it cook down an additional 5-10 minutes.  Done.  I serve it with the garlic and onion because its so good.  The spinach tends to soak up oil so I try to put in as little as possible!

I made tiramisu for dessert, which was easily made a day ahead of time, and since John never goes in the fridge anyway, that was easy to hide!!!  It was an easy recipe, which I promise I'll share soon.

Until the next time my oven is on...


Hi everyone!

Welcome to my Boston kitchen where I frequently cook this and that.  I know I've taken a break from blogging lately, BUT I've been keeping recipes and can't wait to show them all to you.  Plus, now that John is back in school I can reserve Sundays for blogging.

For those of you who are new to my kitchen, and my blog:  I'm a true American girl which means a weekly dinner menu could include pasta, meatballs and rice, chow mein, and tacos!  Some cheesecake for dessert and I'd be all set.

I'm frequently concocting recipes for one recipe contest or another.  I'm just getting started on the cooking contest "circuit" but I've had a few semi-finalist and finalist places and met some great friends.  There's no way this cooking blog can be possible without showcasing some of those adventures too. 

So, my oven's on and here we go.
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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