Thursday, December 31, 2009

Herb-Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Creamy Orzo

What a deliciously creamy one-pan dish! One night, I wanted something warm and comforting... but I didn’t want to do the work. So my generous DB offered to make this dish for the both of us. This was so good! We both loved the addition of broccoli in this- in fact, this dish contains vegetables and chicken sautéed in a creamy tomato sauce. Next time, we both agreed that we will dice the chicken, and double the sauce ingredients. A wonderfully easy and simple dish that tastes like you’ve been slaving away at the stove.

8 oz. orzo pasta, uncooked (Used mini bowtie pasta)
2 chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 pieces total)
Salt and pepper
2 tsp Herbes de Provence
2 Tbsp olive oil

Creamy Tomato sauce
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
2 cups broccoli florets
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil.
2. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes.
3. Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
4. Season both sides of the chicken breast halves with salt and pepper.
5. Sprinkle evenly with the Herbes de Provence.
6. Heat the olive oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
7. Add the chicken breast halves to the pan and cook about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.
8. Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot to the pan and sauté 2-3 minutes.
9. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute, until fragrant.
10. Add the diced tomatoes with juices and the broccoli florets to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits.
11. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer over medium-low.
12. Cover and let cook until the broccoli florets are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
13. Stir in the cooked orzo, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.
14. Mix until well blended, and the cheese has melted. If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water to smooth out the sauce.
15. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Source: Originally found on Smells Like Home, as seen on Annie’s Eats

Spiced Pecan Pear Salad with Maple–Mustard Vinaigrette

This salad was awesome- and I don’t say that freely when it comes to salads. Between the sliced pears, spiced nuts, and the maple mustard vinaigrette topped with Gorgonzola cheese- I enjoyed all facets of this recipe. I especially loved the spiced nuts- you initially taste the sweetness from the brown sugar, and then it the warmth of the red pepper slowly comes through. I made a double batch of this- 1 for the salad, and the other just to snack on. This salad reminds of an entrée you can order at Panera or other cafes/bistros, but now I can make this in the comfort of my own home- at a fraction of the price. I would recommend adding diced chicken to make it a complete, protein-packed meal.

Spiced Pecans
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup pecan halves

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; add oil, and stir.
2. Add pecans and toss until well coated.
3. Bake at 350 on a sheet for 12-15 minutes. (You might want to stir/toss them at the half way point.)
4. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1. Whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

8 cups Mixed Salad Greens (Used fresh baby spinach)
6 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 Bartlett Pears, cut into 1/4" slices
Black pepper, to taste

1. Combine salad greens and dressing in a large bowl and toss.
2. Divide salad evenly among 6 plates.
3. Sprinkle each with cheese, pecans, and black pepper.
4. Top with pear slices and serve.

Source: Originally from Eat Drink Smile, as seen on Erin’s Food Files

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


My co-worker Sharon and I love to eat, and if we're not eating, we both love to talk about food. Sharon was raving about her BLT Dip, and said she'd reserve some especially for me the next time she made it. This dip was just as terrific as Sharon claimed. I loved the taste of the green onions, tomatoes, and bacon in the creamy sauce. Perfect for the holidays, potluck, or snack.

1-lb thick-sliced bacon, chopped (~8 pieces per slice of bacon)
¾ cup mayo
¾ cup sour cream
4 roma tomatoes, chopped and seeded
4 scallions, chopped
Crackers- Tortilla chips, Pita crisps

1. Cook the bacon pieces until cooked through and crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels.
2. Add the bacon with the remaining ingredients.
3. Dip with crackers and enjoy!
3. Allow the flavors to marry by placing it in the fridge for 1 hour.

Source: My co-worker Sharon

Jalapeno Popper dip

Over the holidays, I’ve been working crazy hours and shifts- so when we got home the other night and still had to cook our pork tenderloin, my DB was famished and wanting to eat something- RIGHT NOW. He Googled online for dips, and due to its ease, wonderful reviews, and ingredients we had on hand- we tried this dip. It was delicious! We both like heat, so we added more green chiles and jalapenos, but the original recipe is listed below (with our edits beside). Next time, I will add a topping of a mixture of Panko breadcrumbs and additional Parmesan cheese for a “crunchy” topping, and bake the dip @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or place it in a slow cooker.

(2) 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
4-oz can chopped green chilies, drained (Used 8-oz can)
2-oz canned sliced jalapeno peppers, drained (Used 3-4 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
If baking: Mixture of panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese

1. Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth.
2. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers.
3. Pour mixture into a microwave safe serving dish, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
4. Microwave on High until hot, about 3 minutes.

** If adding the panko/parmesan topping- combine the ingredients and place on top of the jalapeno popper dip and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Onion-Bacon Crescent Bites

Another great appetizer/snack that is easy to make. These are truly "bites"- it's easy to just pop these into your mouths. The buttery crescent bites envelope bacon, green onion, and cheese. Perfect for a party.

3 slices bacon, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped green onions or onion
3-oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
1 can (8 oz) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz)Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
Ranch dressing, for dipping (optional)

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
2. In 6-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat 3 minutes.
3. Add onion; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.
4. Remove from heat. Drain if necessary.
5. In small bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth.
6. Add bacon mixture, Cheddar cheese, parsley, and paprika. Mix well, then set aside.
7. If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate into 4 rectangles. Press perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles.
8. Spoon 1/4 of bacon mixture onto each rectangle; spread to within 1/2 inch from 1 long side.
9. Roll up each rectangle, starting with topped long side and rolling to untopped side.
10. Press edge to seal.
11. With serrated knife, cut each roll into 8 slices.
12. Place cut down side on cookie sheet.
13. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 30 crescent bites

Source: Adapted from Pillsbury

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Girls Night Out Sushi Class

After taking our Wilton cake decorating courses, my DB and I wanted to continue to find cooking-related activities we could both enjoy together. We were looking for a sushi course, but couldn’t find a class anywhere! Fast forward 5 months later, and my good friend Naomi forwards me an email- one of her favorite sushi spots, Bistro Ginza, was offering a Girls Night Out Sushi Class for 4 hours on Sunday evenings. To be completely frank, I was never a fan of this sushi restaurant, but I wanted to spend time with Naomi and the girls, and also learn how to make sushi.

The class was done in their private party room which was great! I felt like it was a private class just for the 3 of us ladies. Naomi and her friend Sarah frequent this establishment often so we definitely got the VIP treatment- instead of learning how to make Sweet tofu and California rolls, we were able to pick out 3 of our favorite rolls- Raccoon, Spicy Tuna, and Sex on the Beach rolls. We had a great time with our instructor Ryan- we were able to catch up, chat, learn how to make sushi, and then the best part- eat the food we made. After this experience, I can now confidently say I have converted into a Bistro Ginza fan. Thank you Naomi for inviting me out for a wonderful evening.

Here is the private room where the sushi class was held:

Naomi, eager to learn!

I am eager too!

We put on our gloves, and got ready to "roll"...

Step 1: Spread the seasoned rice onto the nori (seaweed)- it is important to spread the rice (we learned from Left to Right) with a light touch. Don't pack it down into the seaweed, and ensure you cover the seaweed evenly with the rice.

Step 2: Add the necessary fillings

Step 3: Roll the sushi- This is a 4-step rolling process. You want to move the sushi roll in a forward motion, "firming" up the sushi with every forward motion. Make sure to use a firm, but not strong, touch. (If the roll is "inside out", use a bamboo mat that has saran wrap around it. If the roll has the seaweed on the outside, use a bare bamboo mat.)

Step 4: "Even" out the sushi ends

Step 5: Give the sushi roll a final "firm-up"


Step 6: Cut the sushi- Cut the roll in half, and then cut the halved rolls into thirds


Here's a close-up of our Spicy Tuna roll:

Naomi and her masterpiece

I just finished mine

Spicy Tuna Roll

The Spicy Tuna roll doesn’t just have tuna and cucumbers- this was packed with great flavors. The sushi roll was made inside-out, and the ingredients included were: tuna, finely chopped green onions, daikon shreds, and shredded cucumbers, topped with homemade spicy mayonnaise. I usually tend to stay away from spicy tuna rolls at restaurants since most of them are made the same way, and I like to try their specialty rolls. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I liked this roll so much. I definitely think the green onions added a fresh flavor and helped added extra “heat” to the roll. I also enjoyed the coolness of the daikon (Japanese radish) and cucumbers, which helped to cool down the palate.

Raccoon Roll

This is essentially an inside-out shrimp tempura roll, which is then deep-friend in tempura batter. We all know everything tastes better when it’s deep-fried, right? The sushi roll not only includes shrimp tempura, but also a layer of cream cheese, finely chopped green onions, cucumbers, crabmeat, and spicy mayo. Once the roll is "rolled" up, the entire roll is dipped in tempura batter and then deep fried... again. My favorite roll of the evening.

Sex on the Beach Roll

This one was my favorite sushi rolls to make because of the fresh tuna topping. The Sex on the Beach roll is an inside-out roll which includes eel, cucumbers, crabmeat, and spicy mayo, with a fresh tuna topping. Since it does have the tuna on top, we had to do an extra step with this sushi roll.

Once we rolled out the sushi, we placed filets of tuna on top:

Then we placed a piece of saran wrap on top:

And then used a "bare" (no saran wrap on the mat) bamboo mat to "firm" the sushi roll:

With the sarap wrap still on, we cut the sushi roll into pieces, and then removed the saran wrap:

Completed Sex on the Beach roll!

One last final look- it was so much fun, and tasted delicious!

Source: Bistro Ginza

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Cookie Extravaganza 2009

This year, my close friend Naomi and I decided to get together and do a holiday cookie bake-a-thon. We wanted to choose some traditional cookies that remind us of the holidays, but also wanted to add some unique treats as well. Starting at 10am and ending about 6pm, we worked and baked, and worked and baked some more- having a great time, catching up, and trying new recipes in between. We've decided to do this annually, and once Naomi's daughter grows a little older, she too can join us for this annual fun.

Our 2009 Holiday Cookie Extravaganza included:
White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Walnut Cookies
Easy Chocolate Caramel Brownies
Cappuccino Fudge
Peanut Bottom Blossoms
World Peace Cookies
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Chocolate Pretzels

Here's only a smidgen of the cookies we made:

We set up a separate "holding" table outside of the kitchen where we allowed the cookies to cool down after baking:

Cappuccino Fudge

I love fudge, so the combination of coffee + fudge seemed like a great combination. A deep coffee/chocolate flavor with a hint of cinnamon, I loved how unique-tasting this fudge was. The prep work was very easy, though it did take awhile for it to set- approximately 4-6 hours for just the cooling process- so make sure to plan ahead.
The recipe was easy, and the results were very creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

7-oz jar marshmallow cream
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup butter
1 tsp instant coffee powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
12-oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Line an 8” square baking pan with aluminum foil; set aside.
2. In a 2 qt. saucepan, combine marshmallow cream, sugar, cream, butter, coffee powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in chocolate chips until smooth.

6. Pour into prepared pan.

7. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
8. Place on cutting board and cut into 36 squares.

Yield: 36 squares (rich, so smaller squares were just perfect)

Source: Annie’s Eats

World Peace Cookies

These were my favorite cookies that we made for our Holiday Cookie Extravaganza. The texture reminded me of a shortbread cookie- crumbly and buttery. The fine sea salt made all the difference. Why are these called "World Peace" cookies, you say? In her book, Dorie explains that a daily dose of these cookies is all that would be needed to bring worldly peace and happiness- thus dubbed them "World Peace Cookies". Ahh, if it could only be that simple. Even if world peace isn't in the near future, I assure you that your mouth will be in blissful peace with each bite of this cookie.

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 Tbsp(11 Tbsp total) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5-oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
3. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
4. Turn off the mixer.
5. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time.
6. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough. For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly.

7. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

8. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half.

9. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1-1/2 inches in diameter.

10. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
11. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
12. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
13. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2-inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.)

14. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them. (They hardly spread.)

15. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be.
16. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Serving: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months. They can also be frozen in log form for months, and can be sliced and baked directly from the freezer, adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

Yield: 36 cookies

Source: Originally from Dorie Greenspan, as found on Smitten Kitchen
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