Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Date Night Dinner: Red Snapper Baked in Parchment Paper

Cooking classes have ended.  It’s a hard thing to wrap my head around; yes, I am glad that I will have my two-day weekends back again (and not a moment too soon since I am hoping to welcome John to New York in just a few short days).  But, I am going to miss learning and challenging myself in new and exciting ways.

Too often since I’ve become a “grown-up” (and by that I solely mean exist independently: feed, clothe, and house myself), I have felt like there’s less and less of those types of “growth” opportunities.  As a kid, your whole existence is learning whether it be in school or every extracurricular activity you get to participate in.  But that tapers off and is replaced with club hopping with friends, days at the beach, picnics in the park, etc.  All fun things, but nothing to help take you out of your comfort zone.

Our last class featured fish and quartering chickens.  I have a thing about whole chickens.  I hate them and they also sort of terrify me.  I appreciate knowing where my food comes from but I just find chicken overall gross.  I can JUST about handle the breasts, and sometimes John even cuts them up for me.  Irrational fears I have…
I also had never filleted a fish before, with the head, scales, tail on and all!   I was so proud of my accomplishments in both that I threw them in the blast chiller and brought them home.  Our chef-instructor, chef Lance, packaged them up for me and on my way I went.  The family couldn’t stop talking about my fish in parchment paper.  It may be a little “retro” as cutting-edge Chef Lance thought, but, it still makes a tremendous presentation!

There are a number of ingredients and side-portions of this dish, which was served over mushroom duxelle and tomato fondue.  I have pared it down to just the fish preparation for your dinner here.

Red Snapper Baked in Parchment Paper
Serves:  4
1/2 ounce butter
2 ounces carrots, julienned
2 ounces leeks, julienned
2 ounces celery, julienned
4 fillets of red snapper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons white wine
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


In a saucepan, melt the butter into 3 cups of water.   When the butter-water comes to a boil, add the carrots, celery, and leeks.  Let them boil for about 45 seconds - 1 minute.  Remove the saucepan from heat and set aside.

Cut 4 large heart shapes out of parchment paper (for ease, fold it over like you would a kindergarten craft, trace a rough half of heart, then cut).  

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Then, season the snapper fillets with salt and pepper.  Place the fish in the center of one-half the heart (so it folds over the fillet.  Top with vegetables, sprig of thyme, and moisten with some white wine.  Brush the edges of the paper heart with a lightly beaten egg white.  Fold the paper heart in half, press the edges together to seal.  Brush the edges with the beaten egg white.  Make a series of short folds along the edges.  Using a pastry brush, very lightly oil the top of the parchment paper.  Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until fish is fully cooked.  Serve the fish in the parchment paper to be opened at the table.

One more thing about expanding our horizons, before I move on for the day; its often difficult and scary to take time (and lots of money, in this case) and a big change to learn something new.  I’m so proud of myself for throwing caution to the wind and taking in every morsel of this class.  It involved riding the subway in new ways, finding my way in a new area of the city, mingling with people I’ve never met, and learning culinary chops that I have never had before (and always wanted to learn).  Sometimes, you have to take that extra step just for you.  To give you some idea of the success I had, E is already asking when I can make the Roasted Beet and Apple salad again!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Cornbread

I will admit that I love breads, any kind of bread really.  But the first time I had cornbread, with a pat of butter (of course), I was in heaven.  I love the crumbly texture warm right out of the oven.  When we decided to hold a barbeque to celebrate the impending summer and Mom actually SUGGESTED we serve cornbread I almost fell off my chair.

One thing cornbread is not known for is being extremely healthy.  But, we substituted the original buttermilk in this recipe for skim milk and called it a day.  You may have missed the buttermilk if you had them side-by-side, but for me this really hit the spot.  What else says summer like a barbeque, corn on the cob, and cornbread?!

I hope you are all having an enjoyable Memorial Day as we honor those who have served and died for our country.  Of course, simultaneously, I always have associated Memorial Day as the kick-off to summer and I'm thrilled with the number of exciting summer recipes we have coming up...I can practically taste them already.  I've been keeping a list on Pinterest of summer recipes I want to make!  I wish summer was longer so I'd have a chance to make as much as my eyes want!
Cornbread (adapted from here)
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used skim; the original used buttermilk)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease an 8x8 baking pan and set aside.  Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave.  Stir in sugar.  Quickly add eggs and beat until well-combined.  Add buttermilk and baking soda an stir into mixture.  Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well-combined and it is mainly smooth (very few lumps).  Pour batter into greased baking pan.  Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.   I prefer to serve it still warm, but you can serve it either warm or at room temperature.  To store, place in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, May 25, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Remember last week when I was talking about my “cooking lesson”?  Well, for our dessert, I was looking for a healthy recipe that we could still count as dessert.  In fact, these cookies were so good that I saved some to bring home to the family this weekend and they devoured them! 

Sister M says that they aren’t very “oaty” so if you don’t love Oatmeal Raisin cookies, I would still encourage you to give these a try.  The other problem (if you want to call it a true problem) is that the dough is pretty stiff so I used my hands to fully incorporate the blueberries without crushing them by batter.  Using a spoon will just never work as well as your appendages.

To be honest, cookies should take you no more than 30 minutes from start to finish.  They are only 8-12 minutes to bake (usually) and really shouldn’t be difficult to whip up.  That’s what I was trying to show my “student” this week.  Anyone can make cookies.  And yes, while you do need to get the ingredients and their measurements right, we don’t need to spend 5 minutes measuring and packing brown sugar.  Again, confidence.  Don’t disregard the recipe entirely but we don’t need to measure that teaspoon of vanilla either.  Cooking is supposed to be fun and if you can let go and have fun, well, you’ll be making more recipes like this one!
Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from here)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat together the canola oil, margarine, and brown sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully incorporated.  Add flour, oats, and baking soda and stir until combined (dough will be thick).  Add blueberries and carefully incorporate.  Drop tablespoons of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the edges are golden brown.  Let the cookies cool and then place in an airtight container and in the refrigerator to store (they will keep for up to 3 days). 

Until the next time my oven is on…
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Kit Kat Cake


I have been waiting, just waiting to post this cake.  When I found it, I knew immediately that I wanted to make it.  That was about 2 months ago and I've held on to the recipe until M's birthday party (which we celebrated almost a month late when she got home from college).

Cooking in our house, especially for celebrations is a group effort.  The week before I was going to make this cake, Awa offered her hunting and gathering services to pick up the candies.  I was thrilled; until, two days later I was sitting at work and my phone started to flicker.

Guess who?!  It was Awa.  Her text "I lost my list, what kind of twix should I buy".  I laughed out loud.  When the girl who sat next to me asked what I was laughing at, I told her that Awa was texting me asking about ingredients for the cake I was making that weekend.  She was so impressed that my grandmother could text!  She kept telling me how her Dad hardly knows how and my grandmother must be amazing.  Well, she is...even when she forgets her list.  And, voila, she came through with lots of kit kat bars and M&Ms.  For my favorite M. 
Kit Kat Cake (adapted from Recipe Girl)
Serves:  12
Cake:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk
3 - 4 cups Chocolate Frosting
Three 4.5-ounce Giant Kit Kat Bars (you'll need 36 Kit Kat sticks total)
One 12.6-ounce bag M&M's


Cake:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar about 2 minutes, until light and foamy.  Gradually pour in the butter and vanilla while mixing constantly.  Slowly add half the dry ingredients stir until just combined.  Add all of the milk mixing until just combined.  Last, add the rest of the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans.  Bake for 18-25 minutes until the centers of the cupcakes are clean when poked with a toothpick.  Let cool.

To prepare, frost the top of one cake and place the second cake on top of it to form a layer cake.  Completely frost the entire cake.  Surround the cake with Kit Kats sticks.  Pour the M&Ms over the top of the cake (the sticks should be close enough to catch all the M&Ms and keep them on top.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, May 21, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Lightened-Up Eggplant Parm

Last week was a new experience for me; I actually taught someone else how to cook!  Don’t believe me?  It’s true.  At work, we’ve been having a “Biggest Loser” competition for the past 12 weeks.  I probably should have entered.  I could lose the extra pounds on my midsection.  And I’ve posted a few times before how we’re trying to eat a lot healthier (as a family and individually). 

Well, I finally got to put my good experience to use!  One of the women who competed in the competition (and won) asked me to show her how to cook a few of her favorite meals.  She is like a lot of other people who act amazed when I say I love cooking contests and cooking; she lacks confidence.

To help this along, she came over for our first “lesson” which was a lightened-up version of eggplant parmesan.  There were a few mishaps; like using the full container of ricotta when it was instructed to just use half.  But those were small in comparison to the things we learned.  I made homemade breadcrumbs and homemade spaghetti sauce which added to the complexity of the meal.  By the time we were done (and starving), we ate and she savored every bite, knowing that she mainly cooked it all by herself.  I enjoyed making dinner for someone else for a change, besides just myself.
Lightened-Up Eggplant Parm (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  4
1 eggplant
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
8 ounces ricotta
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups spaghetti sauce
4 ounces mozzarella, thinly sliced

Slice the eggplant into thin slices.  Salt the eggplant and place in a colander over a bowl.  Let the eggplant drain for about 1 hour (I did this before work so I placed it in the fridge for 8 hours and came out great!). 
When ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Combine egg and milk in a small bowl.  Place the breadcrumbs on a large plate.  Dip the eggplant into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs.  Place on a non-greased cookie sheet and repeat until all the eggplant has been coated thoroughly.  Bake for 12 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine ricotta, egg, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.  
Begin to make the eggplant parmesan.  In a large casserole dish, put down 1/2 cup of sauce.  Top with eggplant forming a single layer.  Spread one half of the ricotta mixture over it.  Top with 1/2 cup of sauce.  Add eggplant in a single layer.  Spread remaining ricotta mixture over it.  Top with 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese.  Add eggplant in final layer.  Top with remaining spaghetti sauce, and remaining mozzarella slices.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until fully heated through.  Let rest for about 3-5 minutes before serving.

Until the next time my oven is on…
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Red Velvet Doughnuts

May is a month chock full of birthdays.  In fact, today is my MOM'S BIRTHDAY!  Happy Birthday Mom!  This isn't her type of dessert though; she would much prefer ice cream.

But it was K's birthday on Sunday and of course, I had to make her the awesome red velvet cupcakes that she loves.  Knowing she was being "health conscious", I used reduced fat cream cheese and less sugar in the frosting.  I substituted buttermilk for skim milk, cut down on the butter and made the cupcakes smaller than normal.

But, I couldn't let her birthday go without something more celebratory than these cupcakes.  So, I thought I would surprise her and what better way than with my new pan making some delicious red velvet doughnuts!!!  I asked for the doughnut pan for my birthday and Awa was happy to oblige.  But, it's just sat in its wrapping until this past weekend.  Friday night, while I was home alone, I turned up the music and set to work.

The doughnuts were easier than I imagined, and also so much fun!  Plus the look on my family's face when I brought them in the door was awesome!  I already have on order from M to make some chocolate doughnuts for her.  I can't wait to fulfill that request!  I've noticed doughnuts becoming very popular lately and it was so nice that everyone loved these.  They are baked, but they tasted so cake-like.  I can imagine that the chocolate doughnuts will taste very similar to the chocolate doughnuts I love at a certain coffeehouse!

Red Velvet Doughnuts (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 doughnuts)
Doughnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons red food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar


Time to make the doughnuts (hehe):  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, beat sugar, egg, butter, and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.  In a third bowl, combine milk, white vinegar, and red food coloring.  Add 1/4 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture.  Beat fully.  Then add 1/3 of the milk mixture.  Beat fully.  Continue alternating, ending in the flour mixture.  Grease the doughnut pans and pour the batter into them (about 2/3 of the way high).  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until fully cooked through (test with a toothpick).
To make the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, and sugar until fully mixed.  Store in the fridge until using.  Frost each doughnut before serving.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, May 14, 2012

Dorm Room Dinner: Broccoli Pasta

It's hard to get up the energy after a long day of work to make a good dinner for just yourself.  But even though its just me in my house, it doesn't mean I want to be eating anything less than good food.  So, I've tried to start making things in "bulk".  It takes care of a good meal, and I can quickly heat it up after a long (or particularly difficult) day of work.  There are sometimes those days where I get home with heavy eyelids counting the minutes until I can talk to John and crawl into my bed.

Of course, when I cook in bulk, I often forget how much food I am actually making.  This broccoli pasta is the perfect case in point.  When I made it, I dumped in a whole box of pasta, which fed me for lunch, dinner, lunch, dinner, lunch, and then dinner.  By the time it was over, I was ready to move onto another meal but I couldn't deny that this one just tasted yummy (even on meal #6).

Two weeks later, there I was, stirring a box of pasta and two heads of broccoli in a large pot.  Apparently, I suffer from some short term memory loss.  Once again, I ate broccoli pasta for lunch and dinner three times that week.
Broccoli Pasta
Serves:  6
2 heads of broccoli (about 2/3 of a pound)
1 box pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Separate the florets from the broccoli.  Chop the stems, as well.  Boil 3 quarts of water in one large pot; in another smaller pot, boil 1 cup water.  Add broccoli florets and pasta to the large pot (once water is boiling).  Once water is boiling in your small pot, add stems.  I cook the stems about 8 minutes, to get tender but still crunchy.  Then, drain.  Once pasta is finished cooking (12 minutes or so), reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain.  Add olive oil to the large pot and place over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute about 2 minutes.  Add back the stems, florets, and pasta.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Add the pasta water you have reserved and stir, it will break up the florets and will become saucy.  Stir in parmesan cheese and serve immediately. 

Until the next time my oven is on...


Friday, May 11, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Roasted Beet and Apple Salad

Last week was my first foray into an extracurricular activity here in New York City.  Actually let me start at the beginning.  My job is based in real estate, and so, I often am on Google Maps mapping out our properties and other properties that we might want to buy, etc.  A couple weeks ago I came across one property which next door had a little tag that said "French Culinary Institute".  WHAT?!

You can't expect me, or any real food person for that matter, NOT to click on the link and see what it was about.  When I found out they had amateur classes, I was thrilled.  I couldn't wait to see what they had to offer.  After perusing their website for about an hour (did I say I was at work?  If anyone from my company is reading this, I was at home...honest!), I decided to sign up for a basic class called Knife Skills.  You got a recipe book and knives and 3 classes of instruction from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. the first 3 Saturdays in May.  Signing up right then was a good way to commit myself to following through.

Because when the day finally came, I was nervous!  I love cooking but my knife skills could definitely use work!  As you all know, I usually have my sous chef (aka John) do the cutting because he is so painstakingly precise.  It actually drives me nuts to cut like that.  Anyway, my first day was last Saturday and I had a WONDERFUL time!  Chef Lance, our teacher (who we must call "Chef") is fascinating and clearly loves to cook.  It rubs off on all of us.   For our first lesson we made vegetable stock and then a delicious vegetable soup and this roasted beet and apple salad.  Rather than plating and eating it there, I took it home to share with Mom, Dad, K&E, and Awa.  By the time my class is done next week, M will be home and she can partake in the goodies as well!


Roasted Beet and Apple Salad (adapted from the French Culinary Institute)
Serves:  4
Roasted Beets
  3 large beets
  1 tablespoon salt
  1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Apple Salad
  1 Granny Smith Apple
  4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Vinaigrette
  2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  2 tablespoons shallot (one small section)
  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1/2 bunch fresh tarragon

First roast the beets.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the beets in aluminum foil, season with salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil.  Wrap up the beets in aluminum foil (one package for all of them, no need to wrap individually).  Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the skin is blackened and they are done (they get pretty fragrant).  Let the beets cool then peel them.  Dice them into small squares (this is called macedoine in cooking school).
Peel the apple and also dice into squares.  Toss with the beets and set aside.  In a small bowl and with a wooden spoon, work the goat cheese to soften.  Add extra virgin olive oil (1/4 teaspoon at a time), until the cheese becomes a paste and is easily spreadable.
Make the vinaigrette.  Finely dice the shallot.  Add the white wine vinegar.  Stir in the olive oil and then drop in the tarragon leaves.  The vinaigrette will be broken unless you are using a high-powered mixing machine!  Toss the vinaigrette with the apples and beets. 

To serve, our chef made a ring mold of the salad and spread the goat cheese on top.  I don't have ring molds so I spread the goat cheese on the bottom of each plate and topped with the salad.  If you place the goat cheese in the fridge again, it will crumble nicely and you can add crumbs of the goat cheese in and around your salad.  The possibilities are endless.




Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part - we get our own uniforms!  Yup, I look all official and cheflike.  For the next three weeks, I will be all cheflike!  And then I hope to incorporate my newfound knowledge into my daily life.  At the very least, that vegetable stock was so full of flavor (without ANY seasonings), that I can't wait to share it with you come the chilly weather!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brilliant Brunch: Blackberry Surprise Muffins


I love how easy it is to find the exact type of recipe you want to bake on the internet.  The problem arises, of course, when you make something really delicious and everyone wants it again.  That might not seem like a problem, but when you can't find that recipe you swore you had bookmarked, or at the very least, emailed yourself in a burst of inspiration, it becomes a major problem.

And that is EXACTLY what happened when we went to make these muffins.  Mom had made these muffins once; they were a huge hit last summer and no one could stop talking about them.  But then, when she wanted to make more, or I wanted to recreate them at home, we ran into some problems.

It didn't help the only thing I could remember was that there were blackberries inside and a crumb topping.  Mom could only remember that she put the blackberries in the middle of the muffin and pressed down lightly, so the blackberry was right in the center.  Well, after much fruitless searching, we found it!  I was thrilled (so was everyone else).  And now, I'm blogging all about it so we never go through that again!

Blackberry Surprise Muffins (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 muffins)

Muffins:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease the muffin tin you will be baking in and set aside.  Prepare the batter:  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, yogurt, and milk.  Stir until evenly moistened, taking care not to overmix.  Reserve 12 blackberies and carefully fold the rest into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups (about 1/2 - 2/3rds of the way full).  Place one berry on the top of each muffin and lightly press down until it is almost submerged.  Then, make the crumb topping by stirring together the sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  Drop small amounts of the crumb over each muffin.  Bake about 25 - 35 minutes until the muffins are golden brown, and a toothpick tester comes out clean. 

If you don't want to serve these right away, let them cool and then store them in an airtight container for up to a week.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, May 7, 2012

Date Night Dinner: Pepper Encrusted Steak with Blue Mustard Slaw

Three major accomplishments occurred last week; I hope you don't mind if I detail them for you.
1.  We finally moved into our new apartment!
2.  John came home (just for a visit, let's not get too excited here).
and
3.  I got obsessed with a cooking contest (and cooking) again!

Now the first two might have had a possible influence on that last one, but anything that got me excited, really excited, and dreaming up new delicious recipes was okay with me!  The fact that I got DELICIOUS and FREE Mustard from Stonewall Kitchen (a company whose headquarters is located less than 10 miles from John's hometown, a place that we have visited and enjoyed countless times) made it all the better.

They had twelve, TWELVE, unique and different mustards to choose from so it was definitely hard for me to choose.  Finally, I went with this Blue Cheese Mustard.  By the time I tasted it, there were tons of recipes going through this noggin.  And once I tried it, I just couldn't stop.  I could have made a dozen things but alas, the contest only allows one entry. Therefore, this is the family favorite (yes we voted) with my delicious Blue Cheese Herb Mustard.  Enjoy them all and don't forget to check out Stonewall Kitchen for more great recipes and additions to your pantry!
Pepper Encrusted Steak with Blue Mustard Slaw
Serves:  4
Marinade:
1/4 cup Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons rosemary, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper
1-1 1/2 pound flank steak
Slaw:
1/4 cup Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 cup craisins
1-8 ounce bag of pre-cut slaw
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

First, make the marinade.  Combine Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper in a small bowl.  Place steak into a large, sealed plastic bag.  Cover with marinade ingredients.  Seal and place in the refrigerator until ready for use (marinade at least one hour, preferably overnight).

Meanwhile, make the slaw.  Combine Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In another bowl, combine craisins, slaw, and poppy seeds, mixing well to incorporate.  Fold in the blue cheese mustard mixture until all of the slaw has been lightly covered.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until ready to use. 

Remove the steak from the refrigerator and from the marinade.  Season the steak with the remaining salt and pepper unused from the marinade.  Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Grill the steak 4-8 minutes on each side, until fully cooked through and just slightly pink in the center.  Let the steak rest about 5 minutes.  Thinly slice the steak on a diagonal.

To serve, place a few slices of steak onto the plate, top with 1/4 cup of slaw.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, May 4, 2012

Slow Cooking Supper: Chicken Enchilada Soup

The best thing about last week was that John came home!  The worst thing about John coming home is that literally 24 hours after he stepped foot into the door, I came down with a major cold.  To make matters worse, John is that person who thinks they are coming down with whatever you've got.  So, by Thursday, we were both feeling sick, tired, and pretty sad that our only time together until he moves down here for good was overshadowed by runny noses, fevers, and hacking coughs.

Pleasant, I know, but wait because I'm just about getting to the good stuff.  I decided that if we were going to have to suffer, and if I was going to have to work feeling miserable, I might as well try and cure us as fast as possible.  Enter this Chicken Enchilada Soup.  It had chipotles in adobo sauce (which are HOT, people, if you don't have taste buds or have never tried them before).  I limit my interaction with them, and as you can imagine John loves them (him and that burning sensation - I don't get it).

To be honest, the soup was so spicy (I might, might, might have overdone it on the chipotles) that my nose was clear faster than I could say all better!  Unfortunately, I couldn't take the soup everywhere I went with me, so it was still a few more days until I felt 100% again.  I know it's May, but, it's still pretty chilly here in New York, and I know John is freezing his tuckus still up in Maine!  So, time for soup!  And, if you're in a warm part of the country, bookmark this one until fall.  It's perfect for that stubborn cold, or first frost.

Just know that I read a lot of different recipes before making mine.  The two I pulled most heavily from are SkinnyTaste (duh) and Dainty Chef.
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Serves:  4
3 cups chicken broth
1-15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 chipotles in adobo sauce + 1 teaspoon of sauce (more if you like it SPICY - taste as you go!)
3 large tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup) or 8 ounces of canned petite diced tomatoes (not drained)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 whole chicken breasts (I used frozen)
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup cheese, shredded

In a crockpot, combine chicken broth, drained black beans, tomato sauce, chipotles and adobo sauce, tomatoes (or canned tomatoes), onion, and chicken breasts.  Stir in cumin, paprika, chili powder, and oregano until well combined.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until chicken breasts shred easily with a fork.  Return them to the crockpot and let cook additional 15 minutes.  Serve with grated cheese on top.

When I served this for dinner, I put 1/4 cup of our leftover Cilantro-Lime Rice in the bottom of the bowl and spooned the soup on top.  It was a great combination!

I hope you enjoyed my Cinco de Mayo menu this week!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Thursday, May 3, 2012

Slow Cooking Supper: Pork Carnitas

For our busy household lately, the best and most used appliance in the kitchen is my crockpot (if you haven't figured that out yet).  In fact, because I work further from home and longer hours than I did back in Boston (no more walking to work...), I have to rely on the crockpot more than ever to get a flavorful meal without a lot of fuss on the table before I faint from hunger.
Let's be serious, I don't ever faint from hunger, but it is certainly true that I like my dinner within 30-40 minutes from the time I get home.  And that depends on how much I eat during the day, and how bad my day was.  Do you ever feel like a stressful day in the office results in a lost appetite and feeling really tired?  I get that way and then when I get home I am starving because I hardly ate all day long.  Not healthy!  And, I don't suggest it as there are many other side effects.  Like my gray hair that is getting all too noticeable now that I'm 26.  What is THAT about!?

Anyway, this is the perfect dinner for that busy day.  Also, the knowledge that dinner will be done when you get home is really a wonderful feeling.  I find my days to be much brighter when I KNOW dinner is ready when I get home.  We made these into burrito bowls like SkinnyTaste does, rather than in tortillas.  I love how filling the bowl is without that many calories.  Of course this picture is John's portion since his caloric intake is about 1.5 times mine (so sad for me).
Pork Carnitas (adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves: 4
1-1 pound pork loin
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 bay leaves

Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the pork and insert thin garlic slices.  Combine the cumin, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder in a small bowl.  Generously rub into the pork loin.  In a medium pan (I greased it with cooking spray) on high heat, brown pork on all sides.  Transfer pork to the crockpot.  Pour chicken broth around the chicken, add bay leaves and chipotles (I also added about 2 teaspoons of the sauce).  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until it easily comes apart.  Remove bay leaves. Shred the pork with two forks and stir into the juices to combine well.  Let cook an additional 10-15 minutes prior to serving.



To serve, place lime rice in the center of the plate, spoon pork over the rice, and top with pico de gallo.
PS - I would love to know what kinds of healthy meal options you all are cooking up!  Feel free to drop me an email or leave me a comment!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Pico de Gallo

John loves salsa.  Have I mentioned this before?  It feels like a long time since I've even had to think about the things that John likes because of how little we've seen each other the past few months.  It's terrible, actually.  But when I do get him here, I try to go out of my way to make his favorite things.  Of course, we can't have everything he would like, all the time.  I've really tried to revamp most of our favorite types of food into somewhat healthy options that can become more part of our daily life.  We'll save our favorite unhealthy foods for moderate indulgences a couple times a month!

I have a lot of salsa recipes.  In fact, this is so embarrassing, but I have been known to go out to a Mexican restaurant with John, and like the salsa so much I ask the waitress what was in it.  There was one time, that I really embarrassed John, getting so excited over a particular salsa that the waitress actually went to the kitchen and wrote down the recipe and ingredients for me.  Don't mess with a blogger!  I will stop at nothing to try to recreate my favorite restaurant items.  Don't you remember our success with Carne Asada?

This pico de gallo is all my own, though.  Fresh plum tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and red onion.  In the summer, it is literally like a burst of sunshine in your mouth (especially when I use my cultivated cilantro and Dad's delicious homegrown tomatoes).  Sometimes I like to add garlic, but if you do, make sure that you eat it the same day.  The garlic tends to overpower EVERYTHING if left too long.  Don't say I didn't warn you!
Pico de Gallo
Serves:  4 (about 1/4 cup salsa)
2 medium plum tomatoes, diced (1 cup tomatoes)
1/2 red onion, diced (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons cilantro, diced
1 lime

Combine diced tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Juice the lime over the bowl and stir in.  Serve immediately, or for deeper flavor, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

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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