Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Ever since I started using quinoa, it's been hard to stop. I love the nutritional benefits it provides and it's also gluten-free. We threw this side dish together to pair it with the Baked Chicken recipe, and it was an easy weeknight meal. Keep in mind that this recipe calls for roasted garlic- while I was getting ready morning of, I cut off the tops of the 1/2 clove of garlic (bulbs are exposed), smeared some olive on top, sprinkled with a little salt, wrapped it tightly in foil, and then placed it in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (it is important to rinse quinoa to wash off any residue which can be bitter in taste)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp shallots, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 bulb roasted garlic (about 6 cloves), chopped
1 small tomato, seeds removed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

1. Rinse the quinoa well.
2. Heat olive oil in a pot. Add shallots and red pepper flakes, and saute for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add quinoa and stir for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add wine and stir until absorbed (wait until you see how the quinoa jumps around in the pot when liquid is added!!).
5. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover. Let simmer until broth is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.
6. Once the broth has absorbed, stir in the roasted garlic, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese.
7. Serve immediately.

Source: Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations

Friday, March 26, 2010

Great Grandma’s Baked Chicken

This chicken dish was mouth-watering. The creaminess from the goat cheese paired with fresh rosemary and lemon zest were an outstanding flavor combination. Definitely use fresh rosemary, and we loved the panko breadcrumbs for the huge "crunch" it provided! The prep work was easy but keep in mind the 45-minute cooking time. We just made a side dish as the chicken baked away.

Great Grandma’s Baked Chicken
8 ounces (about 3/4 cup) soft goat cheese
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tsp grated lemon peel
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups Japanese panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
6 Tbsp butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, rosemary and lemon peel; set aside.
3. Using a small sharp knife, cut into the side of each chicken breast half to create a pocket. Stuff each chicken breast with about 1-1/2 Tbsp goat cheese mixture and secure with a toothpick.
4. In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and set aside.
5. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add half the melted butter to the bread crumbs and combine. Keep the remaining butter warm for basting.
6. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Dip each stuffed chicken breast in the egg and then in the bread crumbs to coat; set on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes, drizzling with the remaining butter every 15 minutes.

Source: Rachael Ray

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chipotle BBQ Burgers with Slaw

My DB was itching to use chipotle peppers in burgers, so I went online and saw this recipe- the ingredients are what we normally have on hand, and the prepwork is simple. We had a few days of beautiful weekend weather, and the guys grilled these up quickly. I felt the slaw was a little bland alone, but when topped with the burger and BBQ sauce, I thought this burger was fantastic (and I am normally not a burger fan). On the flipside, I thought the burger tasted too plain without the slaw- so in my opinion, the slaw is a must! It was the perfect combination. The cool creamy slaw offset the spiciness of the burger- a great blend of spicy and sweet. (I normally take my own pictures, but I forgot to capture this burger; thus, I am using the photo from the Cooking Light website.)

Chipotle BBQ Burgers with Slaw
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp barbecue sauce + more for the bun
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large egg
Cooking spray
Sliced cheese- Pepper-jack, Cheddar, Swiss (anything you want)
2 cups cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw
2 Tbsp reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns

1. Combine first 7 ingredients (breadcrumbs through egg).
2. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook for 4 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 160°. Top with sliced cheese.
4. Combine coleslaw and next 6 ingredients (through pepper) in a large bowl; toss well.
5. Spread some BBQ sauce on the top half of the bun. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with 1/2 cup coleslaw mixture and top half of bun.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brownie Pudding

I wanted to end St. Patty's Day dinner with a delicious, warm chocolate dessert. I started flipping through my cookbooks, when I flipped to this page. This is one of the first recipes that I tagged in Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook. I am slapping myself that it has taken me this long to make this dessert- it is worth a thousand words! It is chocolate heaven on a spoon- very rich and chocolatey. The edges and crust resemble a brownie- kind of chewy with a slight crust. The inside is a light and airy chocolate goodness, resembling texture like a souffle. Very reminiscent if molten lava cakes- but so much better. Make sure to NOT overcook the brownies if you want to retain a gooey middle. I definitely recommend serving this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Irresistibly rich!

Brownie Pudding
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (optional) (I used Amaretto liquer)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish.
2. Melt the 1/2 pound (2 sticks) of butter and set aside to cool.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5-10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow.
4. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
5. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla, framboise (if using), and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined.
6. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.
7. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan.
8. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for 45-50 minutes. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.
9. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chelle’s Soft & Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

While I have my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I still try other CCC recipes out there. I mean- how can you mess up a combination of chocolate chips, brown sugar, and butter with a sweet hint of vanilla? This cookie will definitely not disappoint!

Chelle’s Soft and Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Microwave butter for 30 seconds, stir and set aside. Do not worry if it is not completely melted.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk and beat until combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture, beating just until combined (do NOT overmix!). Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Refrigerate dough for 15-30 minutes.
6. Drop by rounded spoonful (cookies scoops are great for this) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are just brown and middle is not quite set yet. Cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
7. Store in an airtight container.

Yields: 3-1/2 dozen cookies

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ma-Po Tofu (Spicy Turkey & Tofu Bowls)

Ma-Po Tofu (otherwise known as "Mabu Dofu" or "Mabu Tofu") is a popular Chinese dish from the Sichuan region. The original recipe takes diced tofu and ground pork and mixes it in a spicy chili-based sauce filled with garlic and ginger tones. For a quick meal, I usually buy this instant version at the Asian supermarket, but when I Googled and found this homemade recipe- I realized how easy it was. I liked that the only oil needed was the minimal amount to cook the ground meat. The original recipe uses ground pork, but I replaced this with 93% lean ground turkey to make it healthier- and let me tell you- the sauce is so flavorful, you won't be able to tell it's lower in fat. Make sure to use FRESH garlic and ginger- the bottled kinds won't taste right in this recipe. Also, instead of the hot bean paste, I opted to use a chili garlic sauce (Tuong Ot Toi Vietnam)- whew! Was this spicy! Next time, I will halve the amount of this. My DB and I loved the taste but were chugging water in between bites of food. This was delicious, fast, and easy, and tasted wonderful with garlic and ginger. Serve this over rice, and you've got a low-fat delicious meal! (My DB doesn't like tofu, so I didn't add it to the dish pictured above, but in my opinion, it tastes fabulous with the tofu.)

Ma-Po Tofu
For the sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp garlic chili paste (I used this)- Darin likes mild so we only use 1/2 tsp
4 Tbsp soy sauce

1 lb extra-firm (not silken) low-fat tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1-2 Tbsp corn, peanut, or canola oil
1-1.25 lb ground turkey (preferably 93% lean)
4 Tbsp plus 2 tsp finely minced garlic
4 Tbsp plus 2 tsp finely minced peeled fresh ginger (6" ginger root) (or can use grated ginger in a tube)
1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp cold water
1-1/2 tsp Japanese sesame oil (I used this)
3-4 Tbsp thinly sliced scallion

Accompaniment: steamed rice

Make sauce
Stir together broth, chili-garlic paste, and soy sauce. Set aside.

Poach tofu (Don't skip this step)
Slide tofu into a saucepan of simmering water and keep at a bare simmer while stir-frying rest of dish.

Stir-fry meat
Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot and add the oil, swirling to coat. Add ground turkey and stir-fry, breaking up lumps and adding remaining 1/2 Tbsp corn oil if meat sticks, until no longer pink. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry over moderate heat until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Finish stir-fry
Stir reserved sauce, then add to pork and bring to a simmer.
Drain tofu in a large sieve and slide into sauce, stirring gently.
Stir cornstarch mixture and add to stir-fry. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook until thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds.
Turn off heat and sprinkle with sesame oil and 2 Tbsp scallion.
Stir once or twice, then serve sprinkled with remaining scallion.

Source: Adapted from Gourmet

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

I am not a huge fan of Mexican cuisine, but this definitely was terrific. I was quite impressed that the chicken stayed so moist. This makes a large amount (fully filling my 13x9 baking dish), so you'll have enough for company or leftovers for lunches. I never knew homemade enchilada sauce was so easy!

Chicken Enchiladas
1 medium onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine
½ tsp salt
1 tsp canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp sugar
15-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped
1-lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups shredded cheese of choice, divided
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
Cooking spray
Salt and ground black pepper
Sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro- for garnish

1. Combine the onion, jalapeno, salt and oil in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes.
2. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds.
3. Stir in the tomato sauce, water and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
4. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through (thickest part reaches 160 degrees), about 12-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside to cool slightly.
5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 13x9 baking dish.
6. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible, set aside. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t need to add any extra salt).
7. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture, ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup cheese and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
8. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 30-45 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
9. Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7 minutes, or until the tortillas start to brown slightly (skip this step if you don’t like the crunch).
10. Reduce heat to 400. Remove enchiladas and pour sauce evenly on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until heated through.
11. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Originally from America’s Test Kitchen, as seen on Bella’s Bistro who adapted it from Pink Parsley and Tide and Thyme

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Based on the popular American bar drink, I have many fond memories chugging (er, I mean drinking) Irish Car Bombs back in my college days. While I admit I am not a beer fan, the creamy taste of Bailey's, the shot of Jameson whiskey, and the deep flavor of Guinness beer put many a smiles on my and my friend's faces. It tasted like cold, creamy Irish coffee. When I started seeing the cupcake rendition of this drink, I was ecstatic! What could top a Guinness-chocolate cupcake filled with a Jameson-spiked ganache and topped with Bailey's buttercream frosting?

I have had these cupcakes bookmarked since last year, and I specifically requested we have a Snack Day at work for St. Patty's Day so I can make these this year. While the list of ingredients and directions seem lengthy, it is not difficult to make. In fact, I prepared the ganache and buttercream the day before, and baked and decorated the cupcakes day of. HOLY COW- these were awesome. The recipe was dead on- they came out perfectly moist and tender, and tasted just like the drink. A delicious combination with chocolate.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Whiskey Ganache Filling
8-oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli chips)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1-2 tsp Irish whiskey (optional)

Bailey's Frosting
3-4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 tablespoons Bailey's (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
2. Bring the Guinness Stout and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sour cream.
5. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
6. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed, just until combined.
7. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
8. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way.
9. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 16-17 minutes.
10. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the ganache filling
1. Chop the chocolate chips and transfer it to a heatproof bowl.
2. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.)
3. Add the butter and whiskey, and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes
1. Let the ganache cool until thick, but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out.
3. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting
1. Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy.
2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
3. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Bailey's (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
4. Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Source: Originally found on Smitten Kitchen, As seen on Cook Like a Champion

Happy St. Patty's Day: Guinness Beef Stew

For St. Patty's Day, I wanted to get in the spirit and make some traditional fare. After last year's major failure at making Guinness Beef Stew, I was skeptical about recreating this dish again. However, my good friend Rachel (who's now in New Zealand) made a similar Guinness stew last year and raved about the taste and flavors. I gained the confidence and starting looking for a new recipe. The weather is just starting to warm up, but the evenings are still brisk and crisp, so I thought beef stew would be a great meal to celebrate this holiday. This stew had a deep flavor with a hint of heat from the cayenne. The meat was fork-tender- literally, it melted in my mouth. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, and the broth was amazing. My DB was raving about this dish. Make this today, you’ll have a dish that will turn your guests green with envy.

Guinness Beef Stew
2 lbs beef stew meat
2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few pinches of cayenne pepper

2 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste dissolved in 4 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1-1/4 cup Guinness Stout
1/2 tsp sugar
4 carrots, cut into 2" pieces
1 potato, cut into bite-sized chunks
Few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups beef stock
Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

1. Toss beef with 1 Tbsp olive oil, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne (the amount is up to you and how much heat you like).
2. Heat the other Tbsp olive oil in a 5-qt dutch oven. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 6-7 minutes. (Make sure to not over-crowd your pan or else the beef will not obtain a good sear. I cooked my beef in 4 batches.) Set aside beef on a separate plate.
3. Add garlic and onions into the dutch oven, and saute 2 minutes.
4. Add tomato paste mixture, worcestershire sauce, and red wine. Cover and let simmer 5 minutes.
5. Pour the Guinness into the dutch oven, and scrape up any brown bits and bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer beef to the dutch oven..
6. Add carrots, potatoes, thyme, sugar, and broth. Stir and adjust seasonings.
7. Cover and cook over medium-low heat (just at a nice simmer) for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
8. Adjust salt and pepper, and simmer partly uncovered for an additional hour. (This is when the stew will become thicker in consistency.)
9. Adjust salt and pepper and serve.

Source: Adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Bloomin' Herb Bread

I wanted an earthy, rustic bread that could sop up the delicious Guinness Beef Stew from St. Patty's Day, and this was THE bread. It was relatively easy and I loved how it integrated fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme)- they gave it such a wonderful earthy flavor and aroma, and paired nicely with the beef stew. Make sure to use FRESH herbs in this recipe- they are what makes this bread.

Bloomin' Herb Bread
1 tsp active yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted
20 oz bread flour (approximately 4 cups)
Olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt

1. Sprinkle yeast over the water, and allow it to sit for a few minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Chop the fresh herbs, and add the chopped herbs & minced garlic to the melted butter. Stir well.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough attachment, combine the
bread flour, yeast mixture, and butter mixture. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until you can successfully achieve a windowpane with the dough. (This is where you can pull off a small chunk of the dough you’re kneading and stretch it gently to see if it is somewhat translucent. If you can do this without it tearing, it’s ready.) (The dough is dense, tough, and not pliable- I thought I had completely failed this dough, but this is how it is supposed to be.)
4. In a separate large bowl, add a Tbsp of olive oil. Form the bread dough (from the stand mixer) into a ball, and add it to the oiled bowl, spinning the dough around to coat it in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for several hours until double in size. (I let it rise for 2-3 hours.)
5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a large dutch oven with olive oil.
6. Remove the dough from the oiled bowl, and punch down the dough. Knead it for a minute or two so that the yeast can redistribute.
7. Form it into a dome and place in the dutch oven. Rub the rounded dough, and add a sprinkling of kosher salt.
8. Cut a large and deep ‘X’ into the surface of the bread dough so it can bloom!
9. Bake on the center rack of your over for 30 minutes with the lid on, them remove the lid to finish it off for another 10-20 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Monday, March 8, 2010

Barley & Bean Salad

The first thing that struck out to me is how colorful this salad was- Red from the bell peppers, Black from the black beans, Golden brown from the barley, Purple from the red onions, and yellow form the golden corn kernels. I loved the crunchy, crispy texture of the vegetables and the softness from the barley. This tasted wonderful, and it is so healthy! I purchased the barley from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and it was super easy to whip up. While my barley cooked on the stove top, I prepared the dressing. Dump everything together, let it marry and voila- a delicious and wholesome "salad" that can be eaten as a side dish or use as a main entree. Barley is a high protein and high fiber grain, which is a great substitute for rice. This made a lot, which was great day of and for leftovers.

Here is what uncooked pearl barley looks like

Bean and Barley Salad
1 cup pearl barley
2 cups water
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned corn kernels, cooked according to package
1/2 cup red onions, cut into half-inch slices (about half a bunch)
1 red bell pepper, diced

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups water to boil. Stir in barley and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes or until tender. If using a rice cooker, increase water to 2 1/2 cups. Allow barley to cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled barley, black beans, kidney beans, corn, green onions and bell pepper. Mix well.
3. Combine remaining ingredients, whisking in olive oil. Pour over salad and toss well.*
4. Serve at room temperature or chill in fridge for several hours.**

* I only used about 2/3 of the dressing.
** If serving chilled, reserve some of the dressing to pour over salad just before serving.

Source: Originally found on All Recipes, As seen on What's Cooking in Mama Jan's Kitchen

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cheddar-Mustard Sauce

We've been having a lot of chicken in our recent dinners, and this one was another winner. I was nervous that the breading might be too bland (crushed pretzel + dried thyme), but it was so flavorful, and the color was a warm, brown hue from the pretzels. While I could have eaten it without the sauce, the sauce took it over the edge. I did halve the sauce recipe, and I am glad I did as we had a lot leftover. We used pre-shredded cheese, but I would definitely recommend getting an 8-oz block of cheese and shredding it on your own. A little elbow grease will go a long way for sauce! I would also recommend pounding your chicken breasts as thin as possible- we loved how crispy and flavorful (and quick) this recipe was.

You can see the crushed pretzel crust up close:

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cheddar-Mustard Sauce
4 small, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5-ounce bag of salted pretzels, any shape (roughly 3 cups)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped (Used 1-1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves)
Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/8 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, a handful, chopped
1/8 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large sour dill pickle, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Cheddar-Mustard Sauce (This is the halved recipe)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
1-1/4 cup sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
1 heaping Tbsp spicy brown mustard

1. Preheat a large non-stick skillet with a 1/4-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
2. Using a gallon storage bag, place 1 chicken breast in each bag and seal it up, pushing out excess air. Use the bottom of a heavy pot or pan and pound each breast until flat, just shy of busting out of the bag. Repeat with the other 3 chicken breasts. (The thinner the breasts, the better.)
3. Place the pretzels in a food processor or blender and grind until fine. Transfer the ground pretzels to a shallow dish, add the dried thyme.
4. Crack and beat 2 eggs in a second shallow dish with a splash of water.
5. Season both sides of the pounded chicken with garlic salt and black pepper. One at a time, coat each chicken breast in the egg and then the ground pretzels.
6. Add the pretzel-coated chicken breast to the hot oil. Cook in a single layer, in 2 batches if necessary, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until the juices run clear and breading is evenly browned.
7. While the chicken is frying, in a medium saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook flour and butter for 1 minute and then whisk in the milk.
8. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese and mustard with a wooden spoon. Season with a little salt and pepper, and remove cheese sauce from the heat.
9. Transfer the fried pretzel-crusted chicken breast to a serving plate, drizzle with the mustard cheddar sauce, then sprinkle with a little parsley, finely chopped onion and sour dill pickle. Serve lemon wedges alongside.

UPDATED (eff. 11/2/10): I wasn't thrilled about the cheese sauce Rachael Ray used above, so in a recent edition from her own magazine, I found a different cheese sauce which I like better! The sauce was easy to prepare, and you can tell a hint of tanginess from the cream cheese (though the cream cheese, in my opinion, can be eliminated if desired.) I would definitely recommend getting a block cheese (vs. pre-packaged shredded cheese) and grating it yourself- The cheese will melt much better and won't have a grainy taste. (Pre-packaged shredded cheeses are coated with flour, which prevents them from clumping.)

Rachael Ray's Cheese Sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp + 1-1/2 tsp flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1-1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz cream cheese, cubed
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste
Ground cayenne (red) pepper, pinch

1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
2. Gradually whisk in the heavy cream until smooth.
3. Whisk in the milk. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5-7 minutes,
4. Remove from heat, and whisk in the grated Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese until melted and smooth.
5. Season with salt and cayenne pepper.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes

Cooking has always been something I've been intrigued by, I've enjoyed doing, and I loved having delicious end results. Starting this food blog was a way for me to organize my recipes, and write notes about the food, the taste, and how it was prepared. I've come to realize that I've really started to not only try new methods but try new foods. I recently just tried quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") in this recipe, and I was thrilled to expand my cooking repertoire even more by trying lentils for the first time. Lentils are small, lens-shaped legumes that have high levels of protein and fiber, with a texture similar to lima beans. (I purchased this in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for $1.39/lb.) I loved how delicious and healthy this dish was. I was skeptical on the curry spice, but it paired beautifully in this soup.

Here is a picture of the green lentils

Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes
2 tsp good olive oil
2 cups large-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups large-diced carrots (3-4 carrots)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
28 ounce can whole plum tomatoes, undrained
1 cup French green lentils (7 ounces)
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (Used 1 tsp dried thyme)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp good red wine vinegar

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, until the onions and carrots are softened. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
3. Meanwhile, place the canned plum tomatoes, including the juice, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped.
4. Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones in the package.
5. Add the tomatoes, lentils, chicken stock, curry powder, thyme, salt, and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering. Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes.
6. Add the vinegar, season to taste and serve hot.

Source: Originally from Ina Garten, As seen on The Sisters’ Cafe

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Louisiana Chicken Pasta

We've been going on a Cheesecake Factory kick lately. Last night we made this, and tonight we decided to try this pasta dish. I was a little worried because the sauce wasn't thickening up, but alas- a little patience and it finally did. It did take the entire time cooking the recipe for it to thicken up to the right consistency. Since it was just my DB and I, we halved the recipe and still had enough leftovers for the next day. I did adapt the original recipe to include more vegetables, and I wouldn't add the fried chicken until the very end- I loved the crispy texture with the warm rich cream sauce.

Loved the crispy goodness!

Cajun Sauce
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 small onion, chopped
3 whole garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
4 Tbsp fresh basil (thinly sliced)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-oz package bow tie pasta

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Creole seasoning
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Cajun Sauce
1. Melt butter and olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add yellow and red bell peppers, and onion to same skillet, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
3. Add garlic and crushed red pepper to skillet and sauté 3 minutes.
4. Add whipping cream and chicken stock.
5. Simmer until sauce re-heats and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
6. Add basil and Parmesan cheese to sauce, stirring to incorporate.
7. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, simmer; sauce will reduce and thicken. (It took a long for it to thicken- almost the length of time until the remaining steps were complete.)

8. Wash and drain chicken breasts. Season chicken with creole seasoning.
9. Pound until very thin (the thinner the chicken breasts the better).
10. Mix breadcrumbs, flour, and Parmesan cheese together.
11. Place milk in dish for dipping.
12. Dip chicken in breadcrumb mixture and then in milk and then back in breadcrumbs.
13. Place in fry pan that the oil has been heated and fry at medium high temperature until golden crisp and cooked through. Add more oil as needed.
14. Remove and drain chicken; keep warm.
15. Meanwhile, cook bow-tie pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.
16. Drain and return to pot.
17. Add sauce and toss to coat.
18. Place pasta with sauce on plate, and top with chicken breast.
19. Serve, passing additional Parmesan separately.

Source: RecipeZaar, Inspired by The Cheesecake Factory

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crispy Chicken Costoletta with Cheddar-Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

While my DH and I aren’t huge supporters of chain restaurants, we do occasionally dine at The Cheesecake Factory. It’s located inside the mall we frequent, and we like their vast menu and endless options. While we love getting their Shrimp and Bacon Club (our favorite), I’ve been consistently told how wonderful this particular dish is. So, I can’t attest how true to the original this recipe is, but I can attest how wonderful it was. Here is what TCF claims about this dish (on their menu): “Chicken Breast Lightly Breaded and Sautéed to a Crisp Golden Brown. Served with Lemon Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Asparagus.” We loved the addition of lemon zest to the breadcrumbs, and the crunchy coating developed into a beautiful brown color. The lemon sauce was quick and delicious, and wonderful served over mashed potatoes.

Crispy Chicken Costoletta
For the Chicken
4 chicken breasts, cut horizontally and pounded to about 1/4 inch thick or chicken cutlets
2 lemons
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, whisked with 2 Tbsp water
1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (Can be found in Asian aisle in grocer)
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese

For the Lemon Sauce
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

For the Chicken
1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
2. Zest two lemons. Bake zest for about 5 minutes until dry.
3. On one paper plate, combine flour, pepper and salt.
4. On a 2nd paper plate, combine eggs and water, whisk until combined.
5. On a 3rd paper plate, combine dried lemon zest, bread crumbs and cheese.
6. Place pounded chicken in the flour, coating well, followed by the egg mixture and the bread crumbs.
7. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
8. Place chicken in pan and cook on each side about 5 minutes until middle is no longer pink. You will need to work in batches, adding more oil and butter as needed.
9. Keep chicken warm in oven at 250°F.

For the Lemon Sauce
10. Over medium heat in a fairly large saucepan, heat canola oil. Add minced garlic and sauté about 3 minutes.
11. Add whipping cream and boil until reduced by one-third.
12. Add Dijon, lemon juice, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about 5 minutes.
13. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.
14. Serve chicken with lemon sauce and mashed garlic potatoes.

Source: Adapted from RecipeZaar, inspired by The Cheesecake Factory

Cheddar-Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened and cut into Tbsp
1 tsp salt, and to taste
2 heaping Tbsp horseradish
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Boil potatoes until very soft and drain off water.
2. Add butter and salt, and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency.
3. Add the horseradish and cheddar cheese.
4. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serves: 4 people

Monday, March 1, 2010

Corniest Corn Muffins

These muffins are chock full of corn tidbits. The crumb is moist and tender with sweet flavors from the sugar and whole kernel corn. They are sweet enough for breakfast (add some jam or honey), yet savory enough to pair with chili (add a pat of butter). We toasted leftovers and they tasted amazing. I love how you can whip these up as easy as a box of Jiffy mix, yet they taste much better. We dunked these in our favorite chili, and we couldn't get enough of these muffins. A tip when making this recipe: You really should mix until *just* combined. And I mean just. Still see a few lumps of flour in the batter instead of a homogeneous mixture? Totally ok- you'll be rewarded by muffins with tender delicacy.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 Tbsp corn oil (I used olive oil since it was handy)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-1/3 cup corn kernels– fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)(Used 15-oz can of corn)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it.
3. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk together until well blended.
4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just the way it should be.
5. Stir in the corn kernels.
6. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
8. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Dorie’s Storing Tips: Like all muffins, these are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, it’s best to wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they’ll keep for about a month; re-warm in a 300°F oven, if you’d like, or split them and toast them—do that and they’ll be that much more delicious with butter.

Yield: 12 regular-sized muffins or 48 miniature ones

Source: Originally from Dorie Greenspan, As seen on Smitten Kitchen

Jamie Deen's Chili

This is everything I want a chili to be- chock full of beans, ground beef, ground Italian sausage, and tomatoes. The ground sausage adds a very nice flavor, and I love how it is so hearty! I like some warmth in my chili so cayenne pepper was a must, but if you like it less spicy, I would recommend halving the amount of cayenne pepper. When cooking, the pepper was quite pronounced- as it continued to cook, the heat definitely mellowed out.
The prep work is easy- you cook the beef and sausage, add the beans, tomatoes, and seasonings, and let it simmer for 4 hours. Kelsey's version even has an option to cook it in a slow cooker. If you do cook it over the stove top, make sure to turn your heat to LOW when simmering, and to occasionally mix the chili- the bottom of my dutch oven got burnt. Overall, it was simple, easy to prepare, and perfect for a cold winter's day. It completely filled my 5-qt dutch oven... so have a large pot ready, and be prepared to freeze leftovers or share with friends. We paired this with these corn muffins from Dorie Greenspan. Enjoy.

Jamie Deen's Chili
1.5 pound mixed ground beef and Italian sausage (I use 1# ground beef or turkey and 1/2# ground turkey sausage)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper diced
2 cups chopped celery (optional) (I use them)
5 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
2 Tbsp ground cumin*
1/4 cup chili powder*
1 Tbsp oregano*
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (if you don't like spicy chili; I halve this amount to 1/4 tsp)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped green onions, crushed tortilla chips, for garnish

1. In a large dutch oven (I use my 7-qt) or a large pot, brown ground beef and sausage, drain and set aside.
2. Add olive oil to the dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery and saute until slightly tender- 8-10 minutes. (May take longer- as long as the vegetables are slightly tender, then proceed to next step.)
3. Stir in the diced and whole tomatoes. (I usually "chop" them down in the dutch oven to make chunky pieces.)
4. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper (if desired), and cook for about 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
5. Add the beans and browned meat. Partially cover, lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 4-4.5 hours- making sure to occasionally stir the chili well. (If you want to use the slow cooker, set it on LOW for 6-8 hours.) I cook mine for 4.5 hours and it's the perfect amount of meatiness/liquids.
6. Serve with Cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, and/or crushed tortilla chips.

*Note: You can use 2 packets of chili seasoning mix instead of adding the abovementioned chili powder/cumin/oregano.

Source: Originally from Jamie Deen, adapted from Apple A Day
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