April 30, 2008

A small food adventure

After our Supper Club, we were anxious to make some more Asian style dishes. We went through our new cookbook, Wok & Stir-Fry Fabulous Fast Food with Asian Flavors , and selected some more recipes to try. So, off to the Asian market we went to buy ingredients.

While we were there we noticed that they had fresh fish. By fresh fish, I mean they were still swimming! After a bit of discussion between My Husband and myself, we decided to give the fresh tilapia a try. Once we got home, My Husband had to skin and fillet the fish. I have to give him credit as I don't know that he's ever done this before and he really did a nice job.

We decided to do a panko breading on the fish and a simple pan fry so that we could enjoy a nice crispy result. We served it with a simple white rice cooked in chicken broth to add a bit of extra flavor and more of the steamed dumplings. It was a wonderful meal, and something I am sure we'll do again. I think I'll add some additional seasonings to the panko bread crumbs next time just to change the flavor a bit.
Panko Tilapia



April 29, 2008

Asian Themed Supper Club part 2 - Baked Crab Rangoon

Not too long ago, I came across a recipe that Cate at Sweetnicks made - Baked Crab Rangoon. I've been reading her blog for at least 2 years, and have enjoyed reading about her recipes and the tidbits she shares about her family. Do drop on by and see what she's been cooking as I am sure it's something that will make your mouth water.

Now, when I first moved to New Jersey I was never able to find Crab Rangoon on a menu at a Chinese restaurant. Being from the Midwest, it seemed that was actually something that could only be found out there. In the last couple of years, I've seen this delicious appetizer appear more frequently. If you've never tried one you may want to make this recipe. It's quick, simple and definitely brings the flavors together.

This appetizer went over really well at Supper Club, and they disappeared very quickly. I'm always happy when my contribution to the meal is such a hit. I do have to agree with My Husband on this one, that I'd prefer them sealed up a bit more. They were really good and and the filling was delicious, but there's just something about the pretty little bundles when they are sealed. So, next time I make these I'll try sealing them up, probably with less filling. This will end up making more, but I don't see that as a bad thing at all!

crab rangoon

April 28, 2008

Asian Supper Club - Steamed Pork Dumplings

We recently got together for Supper Club and the theme this time was Asian. I adore appetizers, and could truly make a meal out of them. I had a plan to make Crab Rangoon (I'll post about those tomorrow), and Baked Egg Rolls. Well, while we were shopping at Costco, we came across a new cookbook, Wok & Stir-Fry Fabulous Fast Food with Asian Flavors. This cookbook was an easy choice for us because it has pictures of each and every recipe and even step-by-step instructions. Needless to say, after a quick look through the book, the Pork Dumplings immediately replaced the Baked Egg Rolls.

We went straight over to the Asian market that was nearby in order to purchase the ingredients and a few other necessary items... like a bamboo steamer. This has to be one of those coolest kitchen tools that I've gotten recently (and I've picked up several new things recently due to My Husband encouraging my blogging!).

My Husband helped with pinching the dumplings so that they made these cute little purse-like dumplings. The dumplings steamed up beautifully, and were so cool to serve in the steamer. The dipping sauce had a bit of a spicy kick to it, the men loved it. It was a bit too spicy for me, but a little soy sauce evened it out. The dumplings didn't last more than 5-6 minutes, so I'd say they were a hit. I didn't have time to make the whole amount before supper club, so I used the filling I had left to make up the remaining dumplings on Sunday for dinner. My boys devoured them!

Stay tuned for more recipes from this cookbook. We may be eating more Asian food over the next few weeks.

Steamed Dumplings-3


Steamed Pork Dumplings 
Source: Adapted from Wok & Stir-Fry, Fabulous Fast Food with Asian Flavors 
Makes about 80-90 dumplings 

Ingredients 
round wonton wrappers 

For the filling: 
1 pound bok choy leaves or white cabbage (I used bok chou) 
1 pound lean ground pork 
1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped 
2 teaspoons salt (I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons) 
1 teaspoon light brown sugar 
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used low-sodium soy sauce) 
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry 
2 teaspoons sesame oil 

For the dipping sauce: 
2 tablespoons red chili oil 
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (used low-sodium soy sauce) 
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped 
1 tablespoon scallions, finely chopped 

Directions 
Blanch the bok choy until softened. Drain and finely chop, there may still be a small amount of liquid still in the leaves and that's ok. 
Mix the bok choy with remaining ingredients (pork through sesame oil). Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wonton wrapper. 
Dip finger tip in water and run around the edge of the wrapper, then fold in half and seal. Then, pinch into a fan-fold to make little dumpling "purses" which will tightly seal the dumpling. Repeat until all dumplings are made. 
 Line each level of the bamboo steamer with Napa cabbage or some other type of lettuce to keep the dumplings from sticking to it. Bring water to a boil in a wok, then place bamboo steamer filled with first batch of dumplings over the top. Allow to steam for about 10 minutes. Check to see if the dumplings are firm, and if they are you can remove and set aside. Repeat until all dumplings have been steamed. 
Serve with sauce. 
 Dumplings can be frozen prior to cooking. Do not thaw before steaming.

April 27, 2008

Chocolate + Cheesecake = Chocolate Cheesecake Pops!

Well, I finally completed my first Daring Bakers Challenge! This month's challenge was to make Chocolate Cheesecake Pops. Our hosts who chose this challenge were Elle from Feeding My Enthusiams and Deborah from Taste and Tell. I was happy to see this recipe chosen as I adore a creamy cheesecake, and anything topped with chocolate has to be delicious!

Now, I probably should have made them earlier in the month, but since I am hosting my Bunko group on May 1st I thought these might be a fun contribution to the evening. So, I just made them this weekend knowing that today (April 27th) was the day to post about them. I'll warn you now, that mine are more plain than everyone else who participated this month. I need to work on my decorating technique. I had a grand plan of doing a white chocolate drizzle over the milk chocolate, but let's just say the white chocolate chose not to cooperate with me and I ended up with a couple of not so pretty chocolate pops. Oh well, better luck next time, right? I just need another excuse to make something this decadent again (I'm sure the Daring Baker's will give me that opportunity throughout this year), so I can improve on my decorating skills.

I actually managed to remember to take some pictures throughout the process so, I can share those this time. The batter was a cinch to put together and was so nice and creamy.

I have never used a water bath when baking a cheesecake before, mainly because it made me nervous. I must say that it was for good reason, because it's hard to get the baking pan out of the water bath once the cheesecakes are finished baking. I did manage to spill some of the really hot water on the counter, but not me (I'm a bit of a klutz, so that's actually shocking that I didn't burn myself). I also didn't have the proper size cake pan, so I baked mine in two 8x8 square pans and it worked out well.
I forgot to take a picture of the cheesecake balls I made, but I would say that I made quite a mess of myself in the process. That was probably the most time consuming part of this challenge. Once the pops were frozen, I began to melt the chocolate for the dipping step. Doesn't melted chocolate look so decadent?


Here are my finished Cheesecake Pops, not beautiful but they do taste really wonderful!


Be sure to check out the rest of the Daring Baker's posts, you'll be very impressed with the adorable little pops that they all made!

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops

Ingredients
5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Directions
Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

April 25, 2008

Dining Al Fresco

With the weather finally feeling warm and enjoyable, we can enjoy dinner outside each evening. It's really nice to be able to let the boys run and play, while sometimes giving me heart failure with their "brave" stunts off the play set, and just enjoy time outside together. There's just something about us all being outside together even if we are each doing our own thing. We all come back together to eat dinner on the patio and have some fun since dinner outside is a more relaxed meal than when we eat inside. Eating dinner together is really important to me, mainly because I know we all come back together after our busy day. With the boys beginning to get involved in sports I'll be really striving to find ways to keep our nightly meal routine in tact.

The temp was around 80 today, so the idea of cooking was not high on my list of things I really wanted to do. Fortunately, I had roasted a chicken last weekend. I really love roasting a chicken on the weekend because it allows me to make chicken stock, chicken salad and use the cooked chicken in salads and other dishes throughout the week. So, dinner tonight was extremely simple and reasonably healthy.
Passover Chicken Salad
Chicken salad and egg salad topped our Matzah, and an assortment of grapes, watermelon and carrots finished out the meal. It may not seem quite like a real dinner but it was nice and cool and not heavy. Exactly what the evening required.
fresh fruit

April 24, 2008

HUGE Matzo Ball Soup

Monster Matzo Ball Soup


Now, I know I have posted about Matzo Ball Soup before, but this time I quadrupled the recipe in order to make them larger per my Husband's request. I also decided to use my large ice cream scoop to help make them more round without having to literally "get my hands dirty". My previous attempts at making them with my hands have not yield round Matzo Balls... rather odd shaped Matzo blobs. The scooper really makes easy work of them and totally made the purchase worth it!

Now, by making the Matzo Balls larger, it will require a longer cooking time than if you make them "normal" size. If you don't cook them longer, you will have fluffy "outsides", but a solid "inside". The goal with the Matzo Ball is a nice fluffy almost dumpling like texture, although this can be debated depending on preference. There are some people who prefer a firm Matzo Ball, while others like them fluffy. Do what you like, it's all good in the end. This reminds me of a children's book that we have, The Matzah Ball Fairy. It's a cute story of a Jewish mother who wants only to make the lightest fluffiest Matzo Balls so that her family will be pleased when they come for The first night of Passover for Seder. Of course, a bit of fun ensues when she overdoes the special "dust" when she thinks if a little is good, then a lot will be better. If you have children, I highly recommend this book.

April 23, 2008

A Bit of Blogging Fun

Imagine my surprise when I went to check out a couple of my favorite blogs recently only to find that I have been "tagged" for a 6 word memoir and a Blogging Award.

First up, a favorite blogger, Vicarious Foodie tagged me for the 6 word memoir. (I think someone else may have tagged me for this as well, but my memory stinks right now and I can't find the post!) The idea is that you get to know a bit more about the food bloggers who are tagged with the 6 words they choose to describe themselves. This is a tough one to do, but I'll give it my best shot.

Mom
Short
Helpful
Organized (some might disagree, but I honestly think I am)
Foodie
Crazy

The next task after writing your memoir is to tag a few other people to play along. Here’s a list of the blogs I’m tagging:

Paved with Good Intentions
Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy
Picky Palate
Stephanie's Kitchen


They are all fantastic blogs, and I am curious to learn a bit more about the people behind the blog, if they decide to play along!


Next up, is the Blogging with a Purpose award... passed on to my by both Jenny at Picky Palate and Stephanie of Stephanie's Kitchen. I read each of their blogs daily, so I am quite flattered that they wanted to pass this one to me. Sometimes I wonder if my blog has a purpose beyond satisfying my need to experiment in the kitchen and keep track of the recipes... and an excuse to relearn my photography skills.






Now, I get to share this award with 5 other bloggers who have a purpose! Do go and check them out, as I read them daily to get new ideas and sometimes a laugh.

Kate at Paved with Good Intentions - I know, I also tagged her with the memoir, but her blog is such a fun read. She writes with a great sense of humor.

Camilla at Enlightened Cooking - She creates wonderful lightened versions of recipes and always has a wonderful story or additional health information to share.

Cara at Cara's Cravings - I found her blog a month or so ago, and always enjoy reading about her latest recipes.

Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy - Besides dishing on Top Chef every week, she always has fantastic new recipes to share every day.

Karen at Test Drive Kitchen - I always check out her blog to see what new light recipe she's tested and to see how well it turned out.

Ok, now it's your turn to pass this award on to 5 more Bloggers with a Purpose!

Wonderful Passover Dinner (Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Lemon Matzo Chicken)

A simple yet, delicious dinner during the week of Passover may seem daunting to anyone who has not tried to stay Kosher during the holiday. One way to think of this week is to look at it as a challenge to see what you can cook that is not terribly processed and add additional vegetables to your diet. You could even say it's a week of pasta detox, if you want. I know I tend to serve pasta with most of our dinners. It's quick and easy, so it does tend to become a habit to just throw on a pot of water to boil while preparing the rest of the meal. Going a week without pasta is a good idea once in awhile.


One thing we do to replace pasta during Passover is we eat more root vegetables, such as potatoes. I like to try different ways of preparing them so we don't get bored of the same old recipe. I like to do a simple Rosemary Roasted Potato recipe. It's simple to prepare and you don't really have to think too much about it while it bakes. You can move on to the other parts of the meal.

To go with the potatoes, I made a Lemon Matzo Chicken. This is a variation on the usual bread crumb mixture, by substituting Matzo meal. Rather than pound the chicken flat, I like to slice it thin. I find that it is easier to get them as thin as we prefer by doing that, rather than pounding them. But, if you have had a bad day and need to get out some aggression, by all means pound away! I do a simple pan-fry of the chicken and then I make an even simpler lemon-wine sauce using the drippings that remain in the pan.

Add a nice tossed salad with a oil and vinegar dressing and you have a fantastic dinner ready with minimal effort. I won't lie and tell you it's done in 30 minutes, as the potatoes do take time. But, if you get them started right away, you can actually take your time with the rest of the meal and enjoy a glass of wine and relax while you cook and wind down for the day.



Lemon Matzo Chicken and Roasted Potatoes

April 22, 2008

Matzo Buttercrunch

Matzo Buttercrunch-1


Now, what holiday would be complete without some sweets? And, in my book those sweets are always better when chocolate is involved. The Matzo Buttercrunch recipe was recently passed on by my dear friend, A.S. This recipe is so incredibly simple and is what I would call an OMG (Oh My Goodness) recipe... one you won't be able to resist.


As my ability to resist such wonderful sweets is not so great, I decided to share the goodies with our neighbors. I got a call a little while ago telling me that her kid's asked why she never makes this recipe. The reason she doesn't is because they are so hard to resist! Both of my boys told me that these were really yummy and to quote my Youngest: "These are totally yummy, Mommy!" You just have to love that kind of review!


You don't have to be Jewish or celebrating Passover to enjoy this sweet indulgence. So, do give them a try and they do make a nice treat to share with friends and neighbors.


MATZO BUTTERCRUNCH
Source: My friend, A.S. - originally, Marcy Goldman
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
  • 4-6 unsalted matzos (preferably regular, but you can use egg)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or Passover margarine
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
  • Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish (optional)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stack 2 rimmed baking sheets together (this will insulate the buttercrunch so it won't burn in the oven). Line the top sheet with aluminum foil, then with a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Arrange the matzos as evenly as possible in a single layer on the baking sheet, cutting the squares into pieces as needed to fill any gaps. Set aside.
  3. In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the butter or margarine and brown sugar, whisking to combine, and bring to a medium boil for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzos. Pour as evenly as possible, but if you miss any spots, use a spatula to spread the butter-sugar mixture to cover all the matzos.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes, then smear the top with a metal spatula to spread the chocolate evenly.
  5. Sprinkle on the slivered almonds, if using.
  6. Slide the entire baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until firm, 1 hour or less. Break the buttercrunch into pieces, squares or odd shapes, and serve.

Matzo Buttercrunch-2

April 21, 2008

My Favorite Passover Dish (recipe: Matzo Brei a.k.a. Fried Matzah)

The one thing I look most forward to eating during Passover is Matzo Brei. Now, this is not something I make, it's all my Husband! There are many different ways to prepare Matzo Brei (as well as many different ways to spell it!). Some people prefer a sweet version, but the one we love is savory. You can eat it as a simple dinner, but we often have it for a weekend breakfast during Passover. I always keep a box of Matzahs on hand during the year, so I can ask my Husband to make it during the year.


The way he makes our Matzo Brei is by sauteing the onions until they get soft and golden brown - bringing out the sweetness of the onions. While the onions are cooking, and filling the kitchen with their amazing scent he breaks up the Matzahs and then adds some water to them. As the recipe states, DO NOT allow them to soak in the water otherwise you will have soggy Matzahs and that will ruin the dish. Add the eggs to the Matzahs and combine together before adding to the onions. After cooking it all together he adds the salt and pepper to taste.



Matzahbrei


If you have never had Matzo Brei, you must try it! It's such a simple dish, with few ingredients but they work perfectly together. You'll find that when you want a salty-sweet combo for breakfast this recipe will be exactly what you craving.

April 19, 2008

My Contribution to the 1st Seder

One of the first recipes shared with me after my Husband proposed was for Spinach Pie. His Aunt gave us a Passover cookbook and a beautiful Seder Plate as our engagement gift. Inside the cookbook was a photocopy of this recipe. Apparently, my Husband had a tendency towards being picky at holiday meals and this was one thing that he was guaranteed to eat so, it always makes an appearance.
Spinach Pie-1
The first time Aunt S. allowed me to bring something to Passover it was this dish. She used to prepare the entire meal herself, but in the last few years she does allow the rest of us to bring something to the table. I must say I enjoy holiday meals more when everyone brings something. Everyone has a specialty for the holiday and it's nice to see those dishes each year. I am very much a creature of habit and tradition when it comes to holidays, so I love seeing the same dishes appear that are special to each holiday.
Spinach Pie-2

We were lucky enough to enjoy many wonderful dishes last night. While reading the Haggadah (the story of Passover), we began with bites of matzah that had a bit of choroset (symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt), horseradish (symbolizes the bitterness of slavery) and parsely (symbolizes the fruit of the Earth). Once we finished with the reading of the story, the main meal began. We had gelfilte fish, while my Oldest enjoyed it my Youngest was happier waiting for the Matzah Ball Soup. You would think that could be a meal in itself, right? Well, it did not stop there! Next, was a Chicken Piccata (made with matzah meal, not flour), brisket, mashed potatoes, apple kugel, vegetable kugel, spinach pie, Claremont salad, cranberry sauce, carrot souffle... and, I may be missing something else as there was so much on the table that I am sure I forgot something wonderful.

We always finish off a holiday meal with something sweet. We were also celebrating Cousin E's birthday, so we had a special cake for her. Also, we have a budding chef in our midst, Cousin J made brownies for us all to enjoy as well. Overall, it was a really nice holiday spending it with family.


Passover Spinach Pie

Source: adapted from Anita Brenner (not sure of the cookbook title)

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 oz.) packages of frozen chopped spinach
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup matzah meal
  • 3 eggs, well-beaten
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste 

Directions
  1. Cook and drain the spinach. Add all remaining ingredients and blend well. Place in either an ungreased 9-inch pie plate or a 8x10 (approximately) baking pan.
  2. Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
  3. This can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. Just reheat until warmed up.

Getting Ready for Passover (Simple Egg Salad)

Passover begins tonight, and we will be celebrating the first Seder at my Husband's aunt and uncle's place. Luckily, it's beginning on a weekend so I can spend time preparing some of our favorite things to eat for the week.

I just made up a bit of egg salad that we'll spread over matzahs for snacks and for lunch. Matzah is an important part of the holiday and we will be eating it quite alot over the next week. The reason for eating Matzah is tied to when the Israelites were forced to leave Egypt very quickly they did not have time to allow their baking bread to rise. So, in rememberance of this we do not eat any leavened bread. We also will not eat pasta or rice during the upcoming week.

There really is no specific recipe for my egg salad. I "eyeball" everything I put in it. I use a bit of mayo, mustard and dried dill. I like adding the dill as I think it brightens up the flavor of the eggs.

MatzahandEggSalad
I'll be sharing additional Passover recipes over the next week, so stop on by to see what's cookin'.

April 18, 2008

Just Grillin'

It was such a warm day, almost like summer here but without humidity in NJ today. Soon as we got home, we didn't bother with spending time inside. The boys had their snacks outside on the patio and we decided that we should eat dinner outside.


After looking through what I had on hand, I opted to go with KC Masterpiece barbeque sauce. Now, I know there may be other sauces out there that are great and everyone has a thought on what's the ideal seasoning combination. I tend to like a sweeter sauce over the spicy-hot sauces. Also, since I grew up in Kansas City I remember this being the sauce my Dad always had me brush on the burgers or whatever we might be grilling throughout the summers. Luckily this sauce is available nationwide, so I can pick it up easily.

What are your favorite barbeque sauces? Do tell! Leave a comment and tell me what brand you like and why. I'm always interested in finding new sauces to try throughout the warm months, so bring'em on!

Another one I like but, it's not sold nationwide is by Gates Barbeque. They make a sweet and mild sauce that I really enjoy, and next time we go back for a visit, I'll be picking up a couple of bottles to bring back with us. If you can't make it there, you can visit their website and they'll be nice enough to send it right to your home. Don't you just love modern technology?

April 17, 2008

Lighter Fried Chicken Salad

If you've been reading my posts the last week or two, you might be thinking this blog is about every way there is to bread chicken and eat it with a salad! With spring upon us, I tend to start eating a bit lighter but, always need some sort of meat (protein) added to my salad to make it a main dish. As warmer weather continues, I'm sure I'll be expanding into grilled veggies and various marinades, so if these dishes don't do it for you there's bound to be something in the near future that will please your palate.

Tonight, I found a recipe on the Cooking Light website for Fried Chicken Salad. Now, I didn't make it completely as the recipe states. I didn't include the beets, I'm just not a big fan of them so I left them out. I also decided to use some sliced mushrooms and red bell peppers to add more substance to the salad. I didn't have time to let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk, but other than that I did make the chicken as the recipe instructs and I was really pleased with the flavor. I have to say my initial thought was that it really tasted close to traditional fried chicken. For a lightened version, the flavors are all there and it is cooked with minimal oil. There's just a bit of crunch to the chicken, but the coating is not really thick like you'd get if you made it the traditional way. I'll be making this again as it was a breeze to put together and dinner was on the table within 25 minutes.

Fried Chicken Salad

April 16, 2008

Pasta with Walnuts and Parsley

I really love simple dishes, and with the crazy week we've had with running around each evening it's been even more important. Tonight, I revisited the Panko Chicken that I made not too long ago and my boys were thrilled with it again. I wasn't terribly hungry, but wanted something slightly more interesting, so I decided to make a recipe marked in Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life. I know, I must sound like an advertisement for this cookbook, but I must say I've enjoyed nearly everything I've made from it.

The Fettuccine with Walnuts and Parsley is something you can make without an actual recipe. And chances are you may just have the ingredients on hand already. I didn't have whole wheat fettuccine on hand, so I used whole wheat spaghetti and I think it worked well. While the pasta is cooking, toast about 1/2 cup or so of chopped walnuts for a few minutes in a dry skillet until they are fragrant - maybe 3 minutes or so. Once the pasta is done, drain and set aside. In the pasta pot, add just under a 1/4 cup of EVOO and heat over medium-low heat, then add about 2 teaspoons chopped garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Make sure to watch so that it does not burn. Then add back the pasta, all the walnuts except for a couple tablespoons, a 1/2 cup of chopped parsely and about 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Toss all together, then add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. When serving add a sprinkle of the chopped walnuts to the top of each serving.

I enjoyed this pasta dish, my Husband didn't care for it but I kind of figured he wouldn't so I wasn't surprised. I can't expect him to enjoy every whole wheat pasta dish I make, at least I have managed to find a few that he is willing to eat. Baby steps! My Oldest liked it as well, but he's an adventurous eater these days so I knew he'd give it a full taste before deciding if he liked it or not. I thought the Parmesan cheese and the chicken broth combined together to add just the slightest bit of creaminess to the pasta. I love that it doesn't have a heavy sauce, and flavors blended really well together. This really worked nicely for busy evening.

Walnut and Parsley Pasta

Not much to post the last day or so...

This week has been a bit hectic so far and not a lot of good cooking going on at the moment. Since I have no new recipes to share, I wanted to point you in the direction of a website I recently began working with by writing a few articles.

Go on over and visit Well Fed, there is a lot of great information on everything related to food over there. It’s a compilation of several other sites, and written by some fantastic people. I’ll be writing some reviews over the next few weeks of new products and I’ll be sure to let you know when they are up and ready for viewing.

Right now, if you head over there, my article about Julia Child and the Food Network’s Chefography series is on Edible TV (and it looks like it’s made it on to the main page of Well Fed today). I should have another article up on the Growers and Grocers site in the next week or so, and will keep you updated on that as well.

So, while I get my bearings with a multitude of activities, go visit Well Fed and it’s various sites for some great recipes, product and food reviews, and maybe some new tips that will make your life a little bit easier!

I hope to have a new recipe for you by tomorrow… and next week, I’ll be posting some Passover recipes as we’ll be celebrating it beginning Saturday evening.

If anyone has some great tips on superfast meals for those crazy little league nights, please feel free to share them! Right now, we could use all the suggestions we can get in order to avoid the drive-thru!

April 14, 2008

Grilled Lemon Chicken over Salad Greens

The beginning of spring can be seen in many different signs. The trees begin to bud, daffodils and tulips begin to bloom, the weather is nice enough to spend the day outside... and finally, it's grilling season! Which means we'll be throwing various things on the grill nearly every day.


I found a recipe on Cooking Light that was for a Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad. I decided to use the marinade for the chicken, but put it over salad greens and use some toppings we prefer instead of what the recipe said to do. The marinade is so simple. Mix together 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup EVOO and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. Then, pour the marinade over the chicken breasts and allow to sit in the fridge for about 1 hour. The lemon flavor is not as overpowering as I thought it might be and the chicken was nice and juicy. This is one of those super simple meals that could be prepared on a busy weeknight without too much effort, which will be a recurring theme on this blog during the next couple of months of little league baseball season!

lemon chicken salad

April 13, 2008

First sign of spring, and some cupcakes

Forsythia

Ahhhh... the first real sign of spring here in NJ (for me, anyway)... the forsythia is blooming. This means that for the next few weeks I'll be battling allergies! Yuck! I look forward to spring every year, but since moving to NJ 11 years ago these shrubs really make me miserable. Once they turn green all is well in the world and I can begin really enjoying the nice weather. One good thing about these shrubs blooming is that the weather is finally warming up and we can spend time outside - like we did on Saturday. Today, I stayed inside to avoid these lovely blooming shrubs and wanted to bake SOMETHING. Anything. I just wanted to bake!

So, I asked my Oldest what I should bake and his first response was a strawberry cake. After doing a bit of searching, I couldn't find a recipe that was not terribly complicated AND that used ingredients already in my pantry. What I did find was something that just reminds you of being a kid... Jello Poke Cupcakes! Such an easy treat and also fun to make. You can ice them simply with whipped topping, or make a powdered sugar icing - either one suits these cupcakes.

Poke Cupcake

I used a cake mix I had in the pantry from Trader Joe's, the Vanilla cake mix. This mix makes a moist cake or cupcake. If you are going to keep a cake mix handy, this one is worth having in the pantry.

I recently picked up a couple of different sized ice cream scoops and used my larger one to fill the cupcake liners. I highly recommend using the scooper to do this as it helps to put just the right amount of batter in each muffin cup. Using my cool new kitchen gadget allows me to participate in Joelen's Tasty Tools monthly blogging event! Go check out what everyone did last month with their box graters and microplanes here.

scoop

April 12, 2008

Cocoa Nana Bread - Dorie Greenspan

Last weekend I just wanted to bake something so, I flipped through Dorie's wonderful cookbook, Baking From My Home to Yours. I came across her recipe for Cocoa Nana Bread. Dorie mentions in her introduction to the recipe that she's always looking for ways to make chocolate acceptable at breakfast and this was a recipe she came up with to do just that.

I made the bread and being a chocolate lover, the baking bread appealed to me immediately. It even brought my Oldest into the kitchen asking what was that yummy smell? It was hard to let it sit and wait to cool, but we managed. Everyone had one slice and the boys had the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream since we had it for dessert.

This is a really chocolatey bread, and it comes out more like a loaf cake than a bread. I can't say I would serve it at a breakfast or brunch. We felt it was more fitting as a dessert. It's very rich, and perhaps that is due to my substituting the bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate and dark chocolate (had to use what I had on hand).

If you have a chocolate craving, this recipe will definitely satisfy you!

Cocoa-Nana Bread

April 9, 2008

Giada's Farfalle with Turkey Sausage

With spring trying so hard to make it's presence known I want to make lighter meals. I made Giada's Farfalle with Turkey Sausage, Peas and Mushrooms for the first time last year, and it went over well. Only thing is, I forgot that the one part of the dish that no one cared for (except for me) was the addition of the peas. Oh well, they do make it look prettier and I like them. Sometimes, I have to cook a bit fore me... right?

This dish really does go together really quickly, and I like that it really doesn't require making a "sauce" to toss with it. Using the pasta cooking water just moistens it enough so that the farfalle doesn't stick together. I like using a combination of button mushrooms and baby bellas for the variety and the additional meaty taste from the baby bellas. With just a few ingredients, this dish really shines in it's own right.

I'm cutting this one short tonight as I took some allergy medication and I may not be awake for much longer!

Sausage with Farfalle

April 7, 2008

Sliced Lemon-Pistachio Chicken Over Greens

Tonight's dinner, Lemon-Pistachio Chicken Over Greens, is perfect for a weeknight when you need a quick, easy and healthy dinner. I've had this recipe in my pile of recipes to try for quite awhile, it's from the March 1999 Cooking Light!

If you have a food processor or even a mini-chopper this goes together really fast. If you are making more than one chicken breast you'll want to double the pistachio mixture. I don't think it would cover 2 chicken breasts pounded flat. I used one chicken breast sliced thin into 2 fillets and there was just enough breading to cover those two pieces.

The overall consensus was that this should be made again, and often. My husband really enjoyed it and opted to use an Italian dressing over it, I went with the simple lemon juice and EVOO combination that was in the recipe. I think either way it is quite good. My Oldest kept asking for more, which is always a good sign! He asked if he could help me make it next time and was thrilled when he found out that pistachios were in the breading since he LOVES them.

I'm happy I went back through my old recipe file and found this one. This was just so easy to put together and such a nice main course salad. It had a wonderful combination of salty and sweet flavors in the breading. If you check out the recipe you'll notice that the chicken is brushed with honey before coating with the breading mixture. It's really a nice change of pace from the other breaded chicken recipes that we've tried recently. You can even "beef up" this dish by adding additional salad "fixin's" like cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and some crunchy croutons.

Pistachio Chicken over Greens

April 6, 2008

Dover Sole with Lemon-Wine Sauce - nice light dinner

We had a pretty heavy eating day on Saturday since we were at a Bat Mitvah. The food was really wonderful, but we were eating ALL afternoon. Needless to say, we didn't bother with dinner last night. So, when I went grocery shopping today, I did my usual stop by the fish counter to see what looked good. I had a recipe in mind when I was looking and they had really nice Dover Sole that was reasonably priced... so, into my cart it went.

Now, when I told my Husband about the recipe I had in mind for the fish he was less than excited by it. That meant it was time to re-group and come up with something else. So, I did a little searching on the internet (so much easier than looking through my cookbooks). I didn't find exactly what I was looking for but I did manage to get some ideas that allowed me to make a really good dish.

What I decided to do was a quick pan-fry of the fish after a light seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Once the fish was cooked, and it does cook very quickly so it's important to keep a very close eye on it, I made a simple but delicious sauce. I love the combination of lemon and white wine, so those ingredients were obvious to me. Then, I decided to toss in some capers since we do love their added flavor. As it cooked I did a quick taste and decided a small amount of chicken broth was needed to bring the sharpness of the sauce down to what I was hoping to achieve.

The overall dish was loved by everyone, including BOTH of my boys! Success feels great! Fish does not always go over well with them if it doesn't come in the form of a breaded fish stick. This dish is very quick and easy to make and would work well even on a busy weeknight. You can find the recipe HERE.

Sole with Lemon Wine Sauce

April 4, 2008

An evening of CONVENIENCE!


Now, I know we all intend to make nice healthy meals from scratch (or mostly scratch) every day of the week. This week I had a very grand plan of wonderful meals for each and every night. Unfortunately, my plans were foiled between running my oldest to Karate, baseball practice and my one night out for Bunko. So, along comes Friday night and we have no particular plans and I just don't have the ambition to make anything too impressive for dinner. Also, when my Youngest asked if he could choose dinner and help make it, I couldn't say no. Could you say no to that face?

So, my sweet little man planned a menu that anyone who has a bit of kid in them could love: Dinosaur chicken nuggets, Macaroni & Cheese (the stuff in the blue box) and corn. So, I let him help me make the mac & cheese and he selected the Dinosaurs to be baked and poured the can of corn into the pot. You can imagine the happiness at our dinner table tonight.

Now, I just wasn't into the kid's menu tonight... although mac & cheese is a favorite of mine. I couldn't totally blow my workout at the gym earlier today. I found a package of Artichoke Tortellini I had picked up from Trader Joe's awhile back. I just love Trader Joe's and it seems I am not alone. I have to tell you, this tortellini was wonderful! I just tossed it with a bit of EVOO and dug right in and enjoyed my dinner. Now, as I was biting into each one I was thinking that they were nice and creamy and I loved the flavor of the artichokes... that perfect part of the artichoke in each and every one. I was curious what kind of cheese was in them as I couldn't pinpoint the flavor. Well, that was for a good reason, there was NO cheese in the ingredients! The ingredients included potato flakes and bread crumbs. I never would have thought that they would have potato flakes in them and that has to be what created the creamy texture. Next time you are at Trader Joe's pick up a couple packages of these and you won't be sorry.


Artichoke Tortellini
Oh, and a bit of fun arrived today! I received my "winnings" from dishing about Top Chef over at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. Head on over every Thursday and share your thoughts on the most recent episode and you could win some cool Top Chef stuff! I won this cool oven mitt! Thanks, Susan!
Top Chef Mitt


April 3, 2008

An Around the World Bunko

We had our monthly Bunko get together and our host chose Around the World as the theme. I decided to represent China and make Crispy Wontons. I had made a Southwestern version that I found on Picky Palate a month or so ago. It was wonderful and I had some ideas on how to change the ingredients and make it with an Asian flair.

I was running late on time to get them prepared and then off to Bunko, so no pictures this time. But, between the wontons I gave my boys before I left and the few left from Bunko they seem to be a hit! My Youngest declared "these are way yummy, dude!".

I didn't measure everything, but here's a basic recipe of how I made them. I think you could also use the mixture to make egg rolls rather than wontons and they would turn out equally delicious!

Ingredients
1 package Broccoli Slaw
9 oz. chunk chicken (the canned stuff - I used Swanson)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons honey
wonton wrappers

Mix all ingredients together, I let them marinate together overnight.

Place about 1 teaspoon or so of the slaw mixture in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Then moisten the edges with water using your finger tip. Seal the wrapper into a triangle shape or if you are really good at shaping, create a fancy little "purse".

In an oven preheated to 400 degrees, place the wontons on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve with sweet and sour sauce.

April 1, 2008

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I had a plan on Sunday to make Spinach Lasagna Rolls. But, due to some things getting in the way I prepped it but didn't get it into the oven... instead Sunday evening turned into Chinese take-out. So, my lasagna rolls waited patiently in the fridge until tonight.

This is a Cooking Light recipe that I've made in the past and we've enjoyed. I haven't made it in quite awhile due to the amount of time it takes to make the rolls. I made two trays of them so that I could give one to a friend. I did change one thing with the recipe. Rather than sprinkling on grated Parmesan for the last 10 minutes of baking, I subbed in shredded mozzarella. It's all about hiding the sauce so I can get my boys to eat it!

I had some nice crusty Italian bread I bought to serve with the lasagna rolls. I decided to do a couple of different things to suit the kids and the grown-ups. For the kids, I simply did a cheesey bread with shredded mozzarella melted over the top. Of course, they were in love with it, 2 ingredients and they are happy campers. For us, I buttered each slice, then sprinkled a bit of garlic powder over each one with a sprinkling of chopped garlic over each one. Now with all that garlic, it's a good thing we both had a slice! Such a simple thing to throw together, but really yummy!

Spinach Lasagna Pinwheels
I'm sending this over to Once Upon a Feast -Every Kitchen Has a Story for the Presto Pasta Pronto Round-up. Stop by on Friday and see what fanatastic pasta dishes were made this week!

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