Monday, March 28, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Cheese Tortellini with Roasted Asparagus

The last few weeks have been extremely busy ones for me; I've been shuttling back and forth between NY, Boston, and Maine, and to be honest, they have drained me.  On my birthday I started to feel like I was getting sick and did all the normal things--took extra vitamins, drank a lot of orange juice and water, and slept as much as possible.  But last week when the snow started, I knew I was sunk.  One thing my body does NOT like is the change of weather like that. 

So, this weekend found me laid up on the couch with John taking care of me.  Ironically, my family and I had just had a conversation about being sick.  Isn't it the worst when there's no one to take care of you and you feel awful?  I used to get sick in college at least once a semester and it was always awful.  Friends are nice, but there really is no substitute for mom!  John is a good substitute though--he is making tea, giving me aspirin, etc. 

Anyway, since John himself had a lot of homework this weekend, I told him I'd make dinner.  I made the easiest possible sauce for my cheese tortellini (that came premade in the refrigerated section), and roasted some asparagus.  It was delicious (or maybe that was my lack of tastebuds talking), however, John did eat it and declare it "yummy", so I think I'm onto something!
Cheese Tortellini with Roasted Asparagus
Serves:  2
1 package refrigerated Cheese and Roasted Garlic Tortellini
1 bunch asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons butter

Cook the tortellini according to package instructions and drain.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the asparagus in half lengthwise.  Toss the asparagus with olive oil and then sprinkle garlic salt over them.  Cook in the oven for about 18 minutes.  Meanwhile, zest 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and juice the lemon for 2 tablespoons lemon juice.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes to a saucepan.  Heat for about 4 minutes, until boiling.  Then, turn heat to low and add butter, whisking until butter is melted.  Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to combine.  Serve pasta topped with asparagus and then any remaining sauce. 
Friday, March 25, 2011

Giveaway Winner Revealed!

I loved reading everyone's comments this week!  So before we get to the winner, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my blog, and comment with such nice things.  As I said last week, I would be blogging regardless of the number of readers; but it was so wonderful to hear from everyone!

CONGRATULATIONS KAREN!!! I was so excited to see selected her.  It is so fitting that the first giveaway I EVER had the pleasure of winning was spices from Karen's blog, and that allowed me to return the favor.  Karen's blog:  Eat Drink Wash Up is one of my favorites :) it usually makes me laugh or cry!  But, it always makes me want to head into the kitchen right then to try out her recipes! 

I'm not feeling too good this weekend; the nice weather combined with the snow in Boston earlier this week has put me in bed for the time being, but, I will be back Monday to share some fun new recipes that John and I have been working on lately!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slow Cooking Supper: Pulled Pork Tacos with Cilantro Sour Cream

These tacos are NOT fooling around!  Since the winter is freezing here, and spring is still cool in Boston, I've been making Sundays regular crockpot days.  I love it; the one hassle is getting up early enough for the meats to cook for 8-9 hours.  Oh, and having to prep dinner at 9 or 10 a.m. sometimes isn't that appetizing.  But, overall, it makes for really flavorful and easy dinners.  John and I just sit and do our respective work until dinner is ready.  This was a boyfriend fave of both mine and K's so it makes a perfect dinner to impress them!

This meat needs some TLC but once it gets into the crockpot, it's so easy.  Danielle Williams is a great home cook; when I competed against her in Beringer I had so much fun!  I know John did, too, cause her husband and John got to drink while we competed, in the pouring rain!  Anyway, I was so excited to see she had won this competition and when John saw the recipe he practically insisted we make it.  Stop and Shop had pork butt on sale which made the decision easy. 

Again, you can't pull this out of the fridge and make it on a Wednesday night; but, you can easily use all these leftovers for lunches.  John devoured them over the next two days.  The pickled red onions really made the dish bright and fresh.  I made some changes but here is Danielle's original recipe.  Don't be scared about all the ingredients, most of them are the rub on the pork, and probably have them in your cabinets (that's why I substituted some things of the original recipe--I needed to use what I already had!).
Pulled Pork Tacos
Serves:  6
2 pound boneless pork butt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces dark beer
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
Pickled red onions
12 tortillas

Cut slits into the fat of the pork butt.  Mix together the brown sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, and paprika.  Rub generously all over the pork butt and refrigerate the pork butt for 30 minutes.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown the pork butt on all sides.  Place the pork butt in your crockpot and add the bottle of beer and enough chicken stock to cover at least 1/2 of the pork butt.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours, the pork will be falling apart.  When the pork is falling apart, remove it from the crockpot and use two forks to shred the meat.  Add 1/2 cup of the liquid to the meat.  Then, make cilantro sour cream by combining sour cream, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice.  Serve the tortillas, top with meat, cilantro sour cream, and pickled red onions. 

Two things--I didn't let the rub sit on the meat for more than about 15-20 minutes.  It was mainly because I forgot to do this the night before but the meat was so delicious I didn't think it needed the extra time.  Also, the cilantro pesto was way too garlicky for me.  So, I substituted and made Cilantro Sour Cream.  It was delicious and was a very nice mellowing of the heat from the meat.  You all know me and my spices!

If you haven't already, don't forget to take a look at my giveaway that I posted last Friday.  It's only on until Friday get you comments in now :) Also, big welcome to all my new followers.  I'm so excited to have you and I hope you're just as excited to get cooking!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time-Out: Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions are so easy to make, and extremely delicious!  You can put them on so many things, I like them on burgers especially!  I use a small mason jar (one pint) and one red onion, thinly sliced.  Make the mixture at least 3 hours in advance of serving, and keep them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks!  That's my kind of condiment!

A few weeks ago, a fellow cooking contester who I was privileged to cook-off against at Beringer's Great Steak Challenge last year, won a pretty large contest with her taco recipe that featured pickled onions.  That seemed a good enough excuse to make these again, and, in the process, try out her recipe (which I knew would be delicious).

These onions are so easy to pickle.  If you've been scared of pickling, you should absolutely first start with this recipe.  No cooking, no nonsense, just some vinegar in a jar.  Delicious!  Make these today and follow along with me while I help you use them up on Wednesday and Friday!
Pickled Red Onions
Serves:  8
1 red onion
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Slice the red onion.  Place the red onion slices in a mason jar (I used a half-pint), add the apple cider vinegar, cilantro, pepper, and salt.  Close the jar with lid and seal.  Shake it up.  Place jar in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to 2 weeks for maximum taste. 

I shake it up from time to time.  Not sure why but since it isn't heated, I do believe that the pepper and salt sank to the bottom for the first day or two.  Now it's well-incorporated.

Stay tuned to see what Wednesday brings...and don't forget, if you haven't already, to enter the giveaway!  It ends on Friday!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Savory Sweet Potato Curry Pie

I love sweet potatoes; I know most people think they are just for Thanksgiving but they aren't.  My love affair with sweet potatoes started when I was young.  My grandmother and I have always been close and sweet potatoes were the one vegetable my grandmother would eat.  I remember many meals where she would cut one open and exclaim "Look at that GORGEOUS color", and we would all laugh. 

She would always let me taste a bite of her potato, and from all of those bites, my love affair flourished.  Still today, they are a frequent component to John and I's dinners because not only are they tasty, but they are oh, so healthy for you!  So, when I saw that North Carolina Sweet Potatoes was having a contest, I couldn't wait to get on my chef's hat, and start my creating! 

Finally, I came to this delicious vegetarian sweet potato curry pie.  It's spicy and sweet, and an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  It's also extremely healthy with mushrooms, onions, and sweet potatoes; honey helps bring out the sweetness in the sweet potatoes.  To make this dish even simpler, you can buy pre-made pie crusts, but I like to make my own!
Savory Sweet Potato Curry Pie
Serves:  6-8 (1 9-inch pie)
Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
9 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Sweet Potato Curry Filling:
2 sweet potatoes
1 cup mushrooms
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 tablespoon fresh cilantro, to garnish

Make the dough first:  Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut 6 of the tablespoons of butter into the dough until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water and vinegar and mix well. Then, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, until the butter is well-incorporated and a dough starts to form. Add additional flour if necessary to keep the dough from getting too sticky.  Roll out the dough to fit a 9 inch pie pan. Set in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Make the filling:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cube the sweet potatoes and mushrooms.  Mince the garlic, and chop the onion into small pieces. Toss all with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, turning sweet potato cubes once. Mash the sweet potatoes and combine with the rest of the vegetables from the oven.  In a large skillet, add coconut milk, vegetable stock, lime juice, chili powder, and garam masala. Let simmer on medium heat for 12 minutes. Then, add sweet potato mixture. Make sure the mashed sweet potatoes are evenly seasoned.

To Serve:  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F. Fill the pie with the sweet potato mixture. Add cilantro and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

I like to make the pie with just a bottom crust; I think it's fun to see inside.  But, you could also make a top crust which would really surprise everyone!  Pies for dinner are just fun ways to jazz up any weeknight dinner!  Also, if you're not a vegetarian, you can feel free to substitute chicken stock for the vegetable stock!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, March 18, 2011

Brilliant Brunch: Cranberry Cinnamon Scones AND A GIVEAWAY!

Truthfully, for my 100th blog post I wanted something special.  I really so wanted to use the cod recipe from Wednesday because to me, that was really an achievement, but this recipe is a delicious one so I'm excited it's getting a prominent feature!  There's been a lot of fun in the past 6 months, since The Growing Foodie got started.  I've enjoyed every post, and kitchen mess. 

This recipe is so easy and a perfect breakfast when you need to grab and run!  These have dried cranberries in it which makes them very healthy.  I even cut back on sugar a little and add some extra cinnamon, to make them even more healthy!  Since we're going away this weekend, I needed breakfast for us for next week.  These are perfect because they easily stay for a week.  I adapted them from this simple scone recipe.  Substitute whatever your family likes best!

Onto the giveaway!  The giveaway is basically a basket of "my favorite things".  It includes (but is not limited to) Penzey Spices, favorite products (many of which have been reviewed here),  and this wonderful cookbook!  This is a go-to cookbook of mine, and I hope that it will become that for someone else as well.  I wasn't compensated for this, so it's all my hard-earned money and love, which I think makes it pretty substantial.  It's the perfect culmination of 100th post, 6 months blogging, my 25th birthday, and the start of spring!  Lots to celebrate...
Cranberry Cinnamon Scones
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup of cold salted butter, chopped into tablespoons
2/3 cup of milk (I use skim)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Then, drop the butter into the mixture.  Use your hands to combine, forming crumbs.  Then, add the milk and cranberries and stir JUST until the dough forms.  Then, in the bowl, knead the dough 4-5 times.  Split the dough in half and put each one in a greased 9-inch circle pan.  Score the top and bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Split into 8 wedges and serve warm or cold.  These stay good for up to 10 days in an airtight container!

Now for the important to enter!  You must be a blog follower of mine and you must leave a comment on this post.  One week from today (3/25), I will close the giveaway and use to pick the winner!  Since the beginning, I've been lucky to have other bloggers inspire and encourage me, and other people actually enjoy listening to what I have to say!  Currently, that amounts to 12 followers.  Each of you, if you choose to participate, will receive one extra comment.  Just comment here twice and add in the second comment that you were an "original" follower. 
Again, thank you everyone for making 6 months of blogging, and almost 8 months of cooking contesting so much fun and extremely rewarding.  I know I'd still be blogging if no one was reading, but it's nice that so many of you do!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Cod Smothered in Herbed Wine Compound Butter

Being on a tight budget, John and I don't eat fish that much, even though we love it.  When cod was on special this week for $3.99 a pound (versus the usual, staggering $8.99 a pound), I couldn't wait.  I spent Monday and Tuesday perusing cod recipes, excited for the adventure.  Wednesday came and I made it to the food store before noon, naively thinking cod would be waiting for my eager basket.  No such luck.  But, the nice woman informed me that  they MAY have more cod by 4.30.  I asked if I could have a raincheck.  Nope.  One day sale = no raincheck. 

Defeated, I walked home.  Most of you know how I feel about exercise, so after this mile of fruitless walking I did what any good girlfriend would do!  I called John and sent him 20 minutes out of his way to find cod in Maine.  He called me at 4.30 to say they didn't have cod, but why didn't I get a raincheck?  I patiently (maybe not so patiently) explained one day sales are not raincheck applicable; well, he tells me, they offered me one.  SUCCESS (I think), so I immediately say, did you get it?  Of course he didn't.  I tell him, have I taught you nothing in the last 18 months?  When someone offers you a discount, you take it! 

Still I pressed on and called my local supermarket back.  The man who picked up the phone said "we just brought in 6 cases, but if I were you I would hurry, this is going fast".  So me, the girl who ABHORS running, ran to the supermarket.  Ran into the store and to the back of the fish counter, where, I encountered a gaggle of elderly Russian women.  Now normally, I love these women, they are sweet and shop daily for their little groceries.  But today, they were standing between me and my cod.  And, they were taking pounds of it at a is on a cell phone calling out to others and they're just picking filet after filet!  Finally the man says the last 8 pounds are in the display case and for a moment I really think I'm not going to get cod after this whole day.  But then, the Russian ladies part like the red sea and the cod is mine!  1.2 pounds later, and I rush out of the store literally feeling like I won the lottery.
Cod Smothered in Herbed Wine Compound Butter
Adapted from here.
Serves:  4
1 stick of salted butter (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons white wine
4- 8 ounce cod filets

First make the compound butter.  Let the salted butter come to room temperature so it is easily pliable.  Do NOT microwave it!  Then, beat in garlic powder, thyme, basil, parsley, lemon zest, and pepper.  Slowly, beat in the lemon juice and white wine and beat for about 2 minutes, until all the white wine is absorbed into the butter.  Then, use a spatula to spoon the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Roll up the plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least an hour (I kept mine for about a week and it was still good).  Then, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a glass baking dish, lay the filets and crumble a quarter of the butter over it.  Cook for 20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. 

I served it with Jasmine Rice and the vegetables that were suggested (carrots, broccoli, and yellow squash), but I roasted them in the 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, rather than put additional butter on them.  Just toss them with a little olive oil, spread the veggies out on a sheet pan, and bake.  I put them in with the fish and pulled them out about 5 minutes before, which worked out perfectly. 

Also, I had been wanting to try compound butter for some time since I saw Chef Robert Irving make it on that show Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network.  It was so easy, and flavorful, that I could see this becoming a fun new thing!  I put the leftovers on chicken and baked it the other day.  It was equally delicious!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, March 14, 2011

Slow Cooking Supper: Dijon Pork Roast with Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots

This is not a recipe you can decide to make at the last minute, or when you get home from work.  This recipe is, however, the perfect Sunday meal, which is exactly when I made it.  Yesterday, we jumped ahead one hour for daylight savings time.  Argh, for whatever reason this one hour always screws me up immensely.  John and I went to bed very late, and so, woke up very late.  I looked at the clock and was content, but when I got up and took one look at my computer screen, I realized I was in big trouble.

I had this roast defrosting overnight in the fridge to make today.  But, when I started moving (almost at noon), the roast wouldn't be done until 8 or 9 p.m.!  Eek.  Luckily, I had cut up all the potatoes and onions beforehand and stuck them in a tupperware (I suggest this for easy fixing).  Threw everything into the crockpot and turned it to "high" for two hours, before reducing the temperature.  Probably not adviseable, but it worked!  The roast was perfectly done at 7 p.m. 

The length of time this dish cooks means that the flavors meld so well together.  The vegetables aren't over done or soggy; it was just a perfect Sunday meal!  Since I don't have a Sunday meal category (although I
should start thinking about a "crockpot" category for meals 4+ hours cooking time), I put this as a date-night dinner.  It's one that is filling and satisfying, much like love!  I had looked at a lot of pork roast recipes before deciding to emulate this one.  But, this one definitely hit the spot!  As usual, my own adjustments are below.
Dijon Pork Roast with Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots
Serves: 6-8 people
6 potatoes, scrubbed
1 yellow onion
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
2 pound pork roast
1 tablespoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 cup dijon mustard
14.5 ounce can of beef broth

Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.  Cut the onion into bite-sized pieces.  Place the potaotes, onion, and carrots into the bottom of the crockpot.  Rub the pepper, salt, thyme, and fennel seed into the pork roast, and then slather with dijon mustard.  Place over the vegetables.  Pour the beef broth over the meat and vegetables and cook on high for 2 hours.  Then, cook on low for remaining 5 hours.  OR, cook on low for 8-9 hours.  I served mine stew-like because the roast was falling apart on our forks, before I could even cut it!  (That's how all meat should be served, YUM!)

One more thing, on Friday will be my very first giveaway!  I'm so excited to share it with you, so become my blog follower today!  Oh, also, my recipe on Wednesday is one of the most exciting I have ever made for John and I, can't wait to share it with you!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, March 11, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Cookie Dough Ice Cream

I am in love with ice cream; whether it is in the winter, or in the summer, those who know me well frequently hear me say, "everyday is better with ice cream".  I honestly couldn't believe it more.  Whether I am having a great day, a terrible day, or any day in between, delicious ice cream is a comfort. 

It all starts with my mom (what doesn't, right?).  We frequently used to end our nights with bowls of ice cream that dad would happily scoop for us.  It was a little ritual, and for me, that comfort of home always comes through the ice cream when I'm having a bad day.

This week, I had leftover whipping cream from another cooking contest I've been working on.  In order to use it up fast, I added some sugar and half-and-half and started a vanilla ice cream base.  But why just do plain vanilla?  I could spice it up a little!  I have a great recipe for eggless cookie dough, and threw that together fast.  When the base was slightly frozen, I mixed in the cookie dough.  Rather than form it into balls, I made it a ribbon.  This cookie dough is warm because of the melted butter so it mixed in very smoothly that way.  Best part of all...there is cookie dough in every bite!
Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Serves: 4
Ice Cream Base:
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons skim milk
1/4 cup chocolate chips

For the base, combine the half-and-half, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract.  Transfer to the ice cream machine, or a 9x9 baking pan.  Freeze for 2 hours.  Remove the ice cream from the freezer and make the cookie dough.  Combine flour, both sugars, and baking soda.  Then add butter, vanilla extract, and skim milk.  Mix until all ingredients are well-combined.  It should be slightly runny.  Mix in 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips.  With the remaining chocolate chips, lightly fold into the ice cream base.  Add drops of cookie dough at a time and fold into the base so soft cookie dough ribbons form.  Transfer the mixture to an airtight container (or you can keep it in the ice cream machine) until serving.  Take it out 5 minutes before serving for easy removal!

I skimped out on the sugar in the base because of the sugary cookie dough, but feel free to add more if you want!

Also, next week is going to be my 100th post (Friday) and since it ALSO coincides with my birthday, I'm excited to be doing my FIRST giveaway!  Can't wait to reveal it all to you...but its for followers only, so get following!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dorm Room Dinner: Lemon Chicken

I was making lemon chicken this week for John and I when it occurred to me that this recipe has never made it to the blog!  It's probably because the dish doesn't appear to be that pretty, but it is a delicious staple dish in my house.  My mom would make it probably once a month, and it was always my favorite dish growing up. 

That childhood memory is the reason, I think, that this dish has become something of a comfort food for me.  Much more than a "comfort food", it is also a great late winter/early spring dish.  It's cozy but not as filling as a chili or casserole.  It's the perfect blend between this awkward few weeks before spring begins to peak out around Boston's skyline and I can almost imagine being back in flip-flops and summer dresses.

With only 5 ingredients and water, this is the perfect "dorm room" meal.  Plus, the smaller you cut the chicken, the faster it will cook!  I use little cubes; mom used to use slices, which tastes just as good but takes about 20 minutes longer to cook. 
Lemon Chicken
Serves:  2
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 chicken bouillon cube

In a plastic bag, place cubed chicken along with flour.  Shake until chicken is breaded.  In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Then, add the chicken, letting them brown on every side.  Once the chicken has browned, turn the heat to medium-low and add lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups of water, and the chicken bouillon cube.  Stir until the chicken bouillon cube is incorporated and then cover.  Let simmer for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, stirring every 3-5 minutes.  Serve with rice and peas.

Mom always served this with rice and peas, so it's no surprise I do, too!  But, the color combination is beautiful and the rice picks up all the leftover delicious lemony sauce!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, March 7, 2011

Sassy Sweets: Fudgy Brownies

Brownies are one of those go-to desserts when I'm really craving chocolate.  These scratch brownies are extremely fudgy.  The batter makes for a slightly thinner brownie than others I have tried because it uses no baking powder or baking soda, but, they are so much more intensely fudgy and chocolate-y. 

In fact, sometimes I double the recipe and put them in a 9x9 pan so you get really thick fudgy brownies.  The only problem there is I still eat about 3 brownies, but it's actually 6.  For "watching weight" purposes, the thinner brownies are just as well.

The brownie mixes that you can buy in the store are awesome; I mean, they always come out super fudgy and sweet.  But if you're stuck at home on a freezing cold day, or company is coming over right now, or, you don't want to use overly processed mixes, these are a perfect brownie alternative for you.  They come together quickly and only bake for 20 minutes.  Serve them warm with some ice cream!  Oooh baby that sounds good!
Fudgy Brownies, adapted from Food Network Magazine
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon amaretto (or vanilla extract)
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly whisk together flour and cocoa.  Place butter and chocolate in a medium-sized bowl.  Microwave for about 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds with a wooden spoon.  Stir until smooth and let cool slightly.  Add sugar, milk, amaretto, and eggs.  Whisk together to fully combine.  Then, add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined (about 25 strokes).  Coat an 8x8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the center should come out almost clean (a few crumbs will cling). 

Mine are different from the original in many ways, but they are absolutely delicious!  Stay tuned for the rest of this week's exciting meals!  Did you know that next week will mark my 100th post?!  It's in perfect time for my birthday and I can't wait to give something away!!! 

Become a loyal follower now because only followers will be able to enter.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, March 4, 2011

Time-Out: Baked Onion Rings

John loves onion rings.  Actually, since we started dating, I've tried them a few times.  They were never my favorite, but when made right, well, what's not to love about them?!  Because they are baked, not fried, there is a different texture component to them.  That being said, I almost like these better.  I hate going to restaurants, biting into an onion ring and the whole onion coming out of the breading.  EW!  Obviously I'm not going to eat the rest of the breading on its own, so it's like they just served you a bunch of onions.  Not cool.  These bake for long enough that the onions are extremely soft.  That means when you take a bite, you get an actual bite! 

I used homemade breadcrumbs and Ritz reduced fat crackers for the coating, which I thought was good.  It was what I had in the house, but you could also use commercial breadcrumbs or panko.  Panko would have been a good alternative.  The process is a little labor intensive; I had 4 stations--milk, flour, egg, and breadcrumbs/Ritz.  The flour and Ritz mixtures were both in bags.  This really helped on the clean-up end!  It also kept from getting my hands gross. 

This is a great one to make with the kids.  They can help pop out the onion "rings" and put each one on a station.  I wish I had all that help!  Anyway, the milk I had all of the onions sitting in and then one at a time they got the rest of the station treatments. 
Baked Onion Rings
Serves: 4
1 white onion, peeled and cut into slices
1 cup fat-free milk
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set at the end.  Then, set up the four stations.  Put milk in one bowl; flour in a resealable bag; lightly mix the eggs and place in a second bowl.  Combine the breadcrumbs, Ritz crumbs, garlic powder, italian seasoning, and pepper.  Place this in a second bowl.  Separate the onions, carefully, into rings.  Then, dip each ring into the milk, flour, eggs, and Ritz mixture in that order.  Place onto the cookie sheet.  Continue until all rings have been done.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove the rings from the onion and flip them so they get crunchy on both sides.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Let cool until they can be easily handled (about 2 minutes) before serving.

I hope these set you up for an amazing weekend!  This weekend is the New England Soup Challenge that I have been waiting for weeks for!  I can't wait to see new and old friends, and cook some delicious soup!  The trip to Martha's Vineyard would of course, always be wonderful, but sometimes the best part of the experiences are the journeys...regardless of the winner!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Balsamic Herb Chicken

This chicken is incredibly flavorful and easy.  If it wasn't for so many ingredients, it would be the best dorm room dinner ever.  I don't marinate the chicken at all; rather, I cook the chicken in the "marinade".  This leaves the chicken moist and with a really concentrated balsamic flavor.  Plus, what could be easier than sticking chicken into the oven and taking it out ready to be eaten 45 minutes later?

I love balsamic vinegar and I always have it in the house.  So for me, this is a dinner that literally takes no thought or effort.  Also, I think John was surprised how much he enjoyed it!  Later in the week when we were going to have yet another chicken dish, he requested this again!  That's when I know he really likes something.

If you don't want to use white wine, or don't have any in the house, the same amount of water with chicken bouillon cube, or chicken stock will work just as well.  We usually have white wine in the house, so it's nice to incorporate it into a great dish.  I also serve this (usually) with wild rice and corn or peas. 
Balsamic Herb Chicken
Serves:  4 (4 chicken breasts)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white wine (or substitute)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
4 chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend together balsamic vinegar, vegetable oil, white wine, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch.   Place the chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  Pour the balsamic mixture over the chicken and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  

One more thing I usually do is make sure the chicken breasts are well-coated in the balsamic marinade, and I usually spoon a little over the tops twice more throughout the cooking process.  For me, it's not a big deal and the chicken gets more flavoring. 

Until the next time my oven is on...
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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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