Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Family Dinner Party

We don't do it often enough, but last Saturday we had friends over for dinner.  I used a cookbook Mom gave me for Christmas last year (Perfect Party Food) to plan most of the menu.  I was looking for something that picky kids (shocker) and adults would enjoy.  The result -- success, I think.  As is my practice with this group, I fixed dinner and then drank a lot of wine and enjoyed the company.  Way too much chicken, but better to have too much food I think.  Here's what I served:

Provencal Breaded Chicken Cutlets
Oven Roasted Caponata
White Beans Provencal
Pumpkin Praline Torte (without the nuts this time; food allergies)

For appetizers I made:
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Parmesan Salsa

Breaded Chicken Cutlets
4 large eggs
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
12 boneless chicken breasts (tenders removed)
4 c. plain bread crumbs
1 1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. sage
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 c. olive oil

1. In large bowl, beat together the eggs, mustard, salt and pepper until blended
2. Place chicken betweenpieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap and, using a meat mallet, or rolling pin, pound to a uniform thickness, about 1/4 inch.  Add to the egg mixture, tossing to coat
3. In shallow dish combine the bread crumbs and spices, until blended
4. Dredge each chicken breast in the crumb mixture turning to coat evenly. Lay the dipped checkin on a rimmmed baking sheet lined with paper towels
At this point cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours (helps bread crumbs stick)
5. In large skillet (I used my electric skillet), heat butter and oil until butter is melted.  Add the cutlets a few at a time, taking care not to cowd them.  Cook until golden, about 3 minutes and turn, cook until the other side is golden.

4 qt. water or broth
2 t. salt
One pound orzo
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. unsalted butter melted
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring the water and salt to a boil, (if you use broth, omit the salt) Add the orzo and boil until tender 8-9 minutes.
2. Drain, toss with olive oil to prevent sticking, season with salt and pepper.
3. Combine melted butter, cream and Parmesan in the serving bowl
4. Add hot orzo and toss to combine.

Oven Roasted Caponata
2 medium sized eggplants -- ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1/4 c. olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2T. balsamic vinegar
2T. brown sugar
One 15.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. drained and chopped pitted green olives
1/4 c. drained and chopped capers
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil
2. Drizzle cut sides of eggplant with a little olive oil, and lay, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Place the garlic on the baking sheet and drizzle with some of the oil, reserving the remainder for the next step. Bake the garlic and eggplant until the eggplant is tender, 25 to 30 minutes, a knife should pierce the skin easily, with no resistance.  Remvoe from the oven and allow to cools.  Then peel off the skin of the eggplant and coarsely chop the flesh.
3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and add the eggplant. Squeeze the garlic from its skin into the skillet and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing to coat with the oil.  Add the onion, celery, salt, black pepper and red papper flakes and cook, stirring, until the onion and celery begin to soften a bit, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the olives, capers, and parsley. Allow the caponata to cool to room temperature, then taste and adjust seasonings.

White Beans Provencal
1T. olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 c. canned white beans, rinsed and drained
1 ripe tomato cored and cut into small cubes
1 t. thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
2T. dry white wine

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add the beans, tomato, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and white wine. Simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
2 jars marinated artichoke hearts (chopped)
1 package frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonnaise
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together, place in small, shallow baking dish, Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm Going Vegan -- maybe once a day...

I've been trying to cut back on my caloric intake (at least Monday through Thursday) -- and have a cousin who is a dedicated vegan.  Suffice it to say, I've had a lot of vegan messages getting through the chaos of late.  So, I started snooping around looking for how/what to eat to be one.... I don't think I can give up all dairy, but I do think I can eat vegan dishes for dinner and save LOTS of calories at the end of each day.

Last night I made roasted cauliflower -- and although I didn't eat it for dinner, I DID eat it as a snack today and it was delicious!  It actually came from Bob Harper, the trainer on The Biggest Loser, and you can actually use any veggie.  Yum.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 T. red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss all ingredients in a bowl.  Spread it all out on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recipes to Try -- Spinach and Pasta Soup

I have been collecting recipes I'm going to try in all sorts of places -- and I've decided since I've started using this blog as a resource and cookbook of sorts, I think I'll start loading in recipes I want to try (as well as ones I've made)...

This one was in the Washington Post yesterday (October 13) food section.  It's a soup (which I was, at one point committed to making more of) and it's quick and it looks like a way to sneak some spinach into those tiny mouths I'm in charge of feeding....we'll see.  They are pretty observant.

Spinach and Pasta Soup
1 lb. turkey or chicken sausage, without casings
1 medium onion
1 or 2 large cloves garlic
28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes, drained
4 c. water
4 c. no salt added chicken broth, such as Kitchen Basics brand
8 oz. baby spinach leaves
15 oz. (1 can) no salt added cannellini beans (such as Eden brand)
Kosher salt
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Mini bow tie pasta

Pinch pieces of the sausage and place in a stockpot over medium-high heat.  Cook the sausage, stirring to break up large clumps, until the exterior is no longer pink(it need not be fully cooked through at this point).

Cut the onion into small dice to yield 1 cup.  Mince the garlic (to taste). Coarsely chop the tomatoes, reserving their juices.

Add the onion and garlic to the pot; cook for 4 minutes, stirring a few times, until just softened, then add the tomatoes and their juices.

Stir in 2 c. of the water and the 4 c. broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes; it will still be firm.

Rinse, then coarsely chop the spinach. Drain and rinse the beans.

Add the remaining 2 c. water, the spinach and the beans to the pot.  Stir, then cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes; the spinach should be tender, the pasta should be al dente and the sausage will be cooked through.  Season wtih salt to taste (keepin in mind that cheese might be added)

Divide among individual wide shallow bowls; sprinkle with the freshly grated cheese, if desired.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kelly's Kielbasa

It seems like it’s a lifetime ago, but I was once single and rented a room from a high school pal named Kelly.We ate a lot of toast and drank a lot of Coors Light back in those days, but we were also in the infant stages of trying to actually cook – and Kelly came up with a recipe that I loved (I think she found it on the back of the kielbasa package).When I was trying to figure out something different, easy, and perhaps even tasty for my kids, I remembered the dish fondly…. It had rice, and cheese, and kielbasa and cream of celery soup.I googled the ingredients and came up with a close match – it calls for mushrooms which would be a deal breaker among my kids – so I just omitted them.I cooked it in one pan and watched as the pickiest among us ate around the peas, but my husband (who, as I’ve mentioned it the fourth, and in many ways, the largest picky eater) took seconds and dare I report, thirds?(It was probably the cheese).In the interest of health and my new found commitment to watching what I eat, I used turkey kielbasa with no loss of flavor… and I used Swiss cheese because that’s what Kelly did.

Kelly's Kielbasa
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 1/2 c. water
1 lb. fully cooked Turkey kielbasa cut into 1/2" chunks
3/4 c. long grain rice
10 oz. frozen peas
1 (4oz) can mushroom stems and pieces (did not pass the picky kid test)
4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I use Swiss)

In a deep skillet (one with a lid), combine soup and water, bring to a boil.
Add sausage and rice
Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 18 minutes or until rice is almost tender
Stir in peas and mushrooms
Cover and simmer 15 minutes more, or until rice is tender and peas are heated through
Sprinkle with cheese and cover
Let stand (off heat) until cheese melts.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Heath Bar Brownies

I think I need to break out a new label for this entry -- things to make when the husband is mad.  I picked up the Heath Bar chips one day in the bakery aisle and had a few extra minutes the other night, thinking of the book club crew I threw these together, then spent the next 3 days defending them from family invaders.  Book club came and went, and fortunately, there are still some brownies left for the boss to enjoy.

All American Heath Brownies
1/3 c. butter
3 sections unsweetened chocolate
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/3 c. (8oz pkg) Heath Toffee Bits

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, grease the bottom of an 8-inch baking pan
2. Melt butter and chocolate in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until well blended. Spread batter in prepared pan.
3. Bake 20 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from sides of pan. Remove from oven; sprinkle with toffee bits. Cover tightly with foil. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Remove foil, cut into squares.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finally! Fried Chicken

I love fried chicken.  My kids love fried chicken.  Even my husband eats fried chicken.  Ever since I've been in the mommy business, I've tried to recreate my Aunt Tommy's fried chicken without success.  I could go into details (including a particularly horrifying kids' birthday party where I served raw-ish chicken) but I won't.  Perhaps it was the memory of that fiasco so long ago that made my mother give me this recipe.  She volunteers at the local library and found it in an old Cooks Illustrated.  I made it within 48 hours -- and it was delicious.  I want to shout from the rooftops, I CAN make fried chicken.  It was so good that my husband ate leftovers for lunch.  Leftovers!  He ate leftovers!  Okay, so here's the recipe, this is obviously a make again.

Easier Fried Chicken
Cooks Illustrated Sept/Oct 2010

1 1/4 c. buttermilk
Table salt
Dash hot sauce
3 t. ground black pepper
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 3/4 c. vegetable oil

1. Whisk 1 c. buttermilk, t T. salt, hot sauce, 1 t. black pepper, 1/4 t. garlic powder, 1/4 t. paprika, and a pinch of cayenne together in large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1 t. salt, and remaining 2 t. black pepper, 3/4 t. garlic powder, 3/4 t. paprika, and remaining cayenne together in large bowl.  Add remaining 1/4 c. buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with fingers until combined and small clumps form. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, pressing mix onto pices to form thick coating.  Place dredged chicken on a large plate, skin side up.
3. Heat oil in 11-inch straight sided saute pan over medium heat to 375 degrees. Carefully place chicken pieces in pan, skin side down, and cook until golden brown (3 to 5 minutes). Carefully flip and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet (NOTE: Next time I'm going to line the pan with foil).  Bake chicken for 15 to 20 minutes, until 160 degrees.  Let chicken rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Vow to Use the Crock Pot

UGH! Back to school craziness -- everyone running every which way.  As the kids get older, everyone sitting down together to dinner seems to be getting rare.  And, as tuition approaches, I'm working more and more to make sure we aren't living in a cardboard box in 2015.  All that said, Mondays are the craziest day, so I've taken a solemn oath to use my crock pot on Monday.

First Monday was Pulled Pork Sandwiches -- which yielded enough to freeze and eat the following Monday.  Second crock pot attempt was Shrimp Creole.  You guessed it -- the pork was way more popular (served with cole slaw and pickles, what's not to like?).  The shrimp dish was expensive, healthier, and less adored, but hey, they ate it.  I grilled chicken for the non-shrimp eaters.... I'm getting soft in my old age.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
2-3 lb. boneless pork roast, cubed
2 onions chopped
12 oz. bottle of barbecue sauce
1/4 c. honey

Throw it all in the crock pot, turn it on low for 6-8 hours. Use two forks to shred the meat, serve on rolls.

Shrimp Creole
1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
1 onion sliced
1 green pepper diced
2 stalks celery diced
1 1/2 large carrots diced
2 3/4 lb. can tomatoes
3/4 c. water
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 garlic clove
1 T. sugar
3 bay leaves
1 t. salt
1/8 t. dried oregano
1 lb. shrimp

Melt butter in skillet, add flour and brown.  Add onions, peppers, celery, and carrots.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, add to slow cooker.
Add remaining ingredients (except shrimp), and stir well
Cover and cook 6-8 hours on low

To serve, make rice, cook shrimp (peel and de-vein) -- mix shrimp into finished creole; serve over rice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Summer (ish) Dishes

Bored with the same old same old, and feeling like a bad mom because we really haven't been eating at home, I pulled out the cookbooks and tried three new recipes.  One I liked a lot (read: kids did not like); one was okay (if I had invested in real fresh shrimp I think it would have been better) and tonight's is a definite make again.

First: Pasta Primivera (from Giada)
I liked it, husband asked "Where did you get this recipe?" (read: I don't like this very much) and it was way too many vegetables for the kids.

  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Second: Roasted Shrimp and Orzo salad
One of the kids actually said he liked it.  He may have been trying to suck up though.  Husband has been eating leftovers of it (but it may be time to toss the whole thing)


  • Kosher salt
  • Good olive oil
  • 3/4 pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion
  • 3/4 pound good feta cheese, large diced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don't overcook!
Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Third: Chicken Piccata (from Ina Garten) -- easy fast.  Only daughter, 12 and I ate it, but what is not to like, breaded chicken, lemon and butter (and wine) sauce... perfect. 


  • 2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Sliced lemon, for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.
For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barbecue Ribs

A recent trip to Kansas City involved A LOT of meat. We were at Arthur Bryant's within hours of renting our car. We ate steak, potatoes, hot dogs, beer -- ugh. It's still hard to talk about. But we brought home lots of barbecue sauce. So when ribs were floated as an idea for the 4th of July, I jumped at the chance to make them.

I used Alton Brown's Backyard Rib recipe with a few changes. I made the rub (but didn't measure the ingredients, really). Since I think I'll try to make this in Hilton Head, I thought I'd jot down the basic drill:

2 days before serving:
Put the rub on the ribs and put in a heavy duty foil pack, refrigerate overnight.

1 day before serving:
Pour 1/4c. orange juice and 1/4 c. margarita mix in the bag, place ribs on a sheet pan and cook in 250 degree oven for 2 hours. After cooking, pour out the liquid, reseal the packet, return to the fridge.

Day of:
Heat grill to medium, cut rib racks in half and grill 3 minutes per side (flipping three times, so each side gets 3 minutes twice).

After grilling, cut into 2 bone segments and toss in bowl with favorite sauce.

Tender and delicious!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marinated Chicken Breasts

I made this marinade yesterday, and threw it in a baggie with chicken breasts around 3. I was worried that wasn't enough time for the marinade to work on the chicken -- but it turned out perfectly.

This was one of the first marinades I ever made (besides a college obsession with flank steak and a bottle of soy sauce) -- and I have such fond memories of making it for parties years ago when the kids were small. Anyway, it smells good, it tastes good, and I will return to it again and again...

Dijon Marinade
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/3 c. olive oil
Juice from one lemon
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T. prepared Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kim's Vegetable Medley

We went to dinner at our friends' home the other night and they grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, you know the drill.  It was fabulous, don't get me wrong.  She served berries and salad and all sorts of good stuff, but THE BEST thing on the table was this mix of roasted vegetables.  I couldn't eat enough -- and I've made it twice since.  As a matter of fact, I just polished off the leftovers (and there were leftovers, believe me, because there is NO WAY my kids are going to eat this).  Kim said it came into being because she had all this produce and didn't know what to do with it... here's what I used:

Kim's Vegetable Medley

1 sweet potato cubed
1 onion coarsely chopped
1 zucchini 1/2" slices
1 green pepper cubed
1 red pepper cubed

Toss veggies in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until well coated.  Add 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. oregano, 1/2 t. parsley (or whatever herb you want to use). Pop in an 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Summer Challenge -- Hamburgers

I've been uninspired lately -- finding it hard to try to put something new on the table. Mostly, its my family. They honestly don't seem to appreciate the time and effort it takes to create a meal. Nightly, someone tells me why they don't like what I've made. So I decided that this summer I would try to perfect something they all eat -- HAMBURGERS! (Of course, after my first attempt the other night, when only son 13 and daughter 11 were home, neither finished their hamburger) So what! I'm going to do it!

I read that Ina Garten puts egg yolks into her burgers (ummmm too much fat), but I did steal her idea to put a little pat of butter in the patty, and I brushed on some steak sauce at the end (under the cheese). Grilled the buns too.

Next time it'll be quality meat, and I'll figure out some other tricks too...

One a different note ... and just for the record...
last night I made that Salsa All'amatricina from Giada's book, and again, well received... but then again, it contains bacon... and everyone here LOVES bacon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Black Bean Soup -- Slow Cooker

I cannot for the life of me remember where I found this recipe -- but since no one really reads this blog, I guess I don't need to be all uptight about citing my sources....

I've found that the love of black beans is pretty universal here in our house, and as mentioned previously I'm working on: 1. More soup and 2. (previously un-announced) more slow cooker recipes.  TA DA -- the perfect marriage of both.

Now spicy is an issue -- and this recipe originally called for chipoltes -- which is too much for most of us.  So I substituted roasted pablanos -- I think it still needs a bit of a kick, next time I think I may put a few dashes of hot sauce --

Black Bean Soup

Yields 6 main course servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, chopped
1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 pablano pepper (roasted for about 12 minutes in 350 degree oven) seeded and chopped
7 cups hot water (I just used very hot tap water)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 3 hours. [See note up top.]
Use the wand blender to puree until smooth. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste; we found we needed more salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of toasted cumin seed cream (below) over each bowl and serve.
Do ahead: This soup keeps great in the fridge, and even thickens a bit. In a good way!

Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Hacked from Bobby Flay
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup crema or crème fraîche (or make your own crema, make your own crème fraîche, or swap sour cream or yogurt, for a close-enough taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until coarse. Stir it into the creme and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Could have sworn I got this from The Bitten Word -- but can't find it there now...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fajita Sweet Potatoes

I know, I know, two posts in a row on fajita food -- but this one is really good and really easy. Granted, I think I'm the only member of the family that liked these -- and so, I'll be eating them for the next 5 days (so many leftovers) -- BUT, so very very good, so easy, and so good for me!

From The Bitten Word

Fajita Sweet Potatoes

Peel and chop sweet potatoes, toss with olive oil to coat. Add 2T (or entire packet) of fajita seasoning. Roast in a single layer in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.

Fajita Soup

I don't know if I've said this out loud, but I've been trying to make more soup. As a matter of fact, I have a goal to make it once a week. It seems like something everyone around here likes, it's very nutritious (don't tell the kids, but I can sneak in all kinds of veggies) and it can be sort of easy, sometimes. I'm going to make a soup category.

Anyway, I re-subscribed to Cooking Light when a local middle schooler came around raising money for the band, and this recipe is the first one I tried. I wouldn't say it was a hands down winner, but it can definately go into the rotation -- it may get better reviews in the future.

Chili Spiced Chicken Soup with StopLight Peppers and Avocado Relish
(or, simply put, Fajita Soup)

Spice Mix:
2 1/2 t. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. ground coriander
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. black peper
1/2 t. kosher salt

1 T. canola oil
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
2 c. chopped sweet onion
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
1 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 c. chopped yellow bell pepper
1 T. minced garlic
1/2 t. salt
2 c. fresh corn kernels
1 32 oz. carton chicken broth
1 28 oz. can fire roasted crushed tomatoes (undrained)
2 T. fresh lime juice

1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1 t. grated lime rind
3 oz. queso fresco, crumbled
1 diced peeled avocado

1. Prepare spice blend in a small bowl
2. Heat 2t. oil in the soup pot, add chicken; sprinkle with 1 1/2 T. of spice blend. Saute 8 minutes or until done. Cool. Chop chicken; set aside.
3. Heat remaining 1 t. oil in pan over med-high heat. Add onion, peppers, garlic and 1/2 t. salt. Sprinkle remaining spice blend; saute 8 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in chicken, corn, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 15 minutes, add lime juice.
4. To prepare relish, combine cilantro and next 4 ingredients.
5. Ladle soup into bowls, top with relish.

From Cooking Light, March 2010 (p. 172)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Darn You Alton Brown

So I just happened to catch Alton Brown the other night -- all skinny and bossy and full of information -- and he had these rules to follow. Seemed easy enough. I went out, bought sardines and almonds, and have been trying to follow his advice ever since.

I can't say that my weight has changed, probably because when he says alcohol once a week I take that to mean alcohol, more than 2 glasses of wine, once a week.. but I do FEEL healthier -- and that's what it's all about.

So I posted the list on the fridge, and the family reviews my "stick to it"-ness periodically

The List
- Fruits
- Whole Grains
- Leafy Greens
- Nuts
- Carrots
- Green Tea

3 times a week
- Oily Fish
- Yogurt
- Broccoli
- Sweet Potato
- Avocado

Once a week
- Red meat
- Pasta
- Dessert
- Alcohol

- Fast Food
- Soda
- Processed meals/frozen dinners
- Canned soup
- "Diet" anything

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

Okay, I had to post this one because my husband said it was awesome and dipped back into the dish a stunning THREE times during the meal. I got the recipe from the Food Network web site -- word of warning, it takes about an hour in the oven to cook -- but I made it with leftover chicken and ingredients I had on hand.

12 oz. cooked chicken, cut into cubes
1 c. salsa
8 oz. sour cream
1 1/2 c. mexican cheese
1 t. chili powder
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 can chopped green chilies

combine in a bowl and set aside.

Cut tortillas into wedges and line bottom of 10x10 dish (sprayed with non stick spray)
top with 1/2 of the chicken mixture
add another layer of tortilla pieces
top with second half of chicken
top with 1 c. of mexican cheese

Bake, covered by foil for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After 30 minutes, remove foil and bake another 30 minutes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Here Comes the Comfort Food -- Baked Potato Soup

It's been bitterly cold here -- just plain gross weather. At the end of an extended winter break where we've eaten too much, drank too much, and helped ourselves to just about everything we've wanted to ingest, I decided we needed one last hurrah before we buckle down to salad and fruit and water.

I'm also starting to think that soup on Sunday is a good idea. So, on a bitterly cold, ugly Sunday before we go back to the grind, what a better thing to prepare but Baked Potato Soup! This recipe is so bad -- it called for a cup of sour cream at the end, but I just couldn't do it. It's got potoatoes, cheese, milk, flour, butter -- BACON... but it was universally accepted by the family, and will be a "make again."

My apologies to those health nuts out there -- but here goes:
Baked Potato Soup
(From Fix It and Forget It Cookbook)

4 large baked potatoes
2/3 c. butter
2/3 c. flour
6 c. milk
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
4 green onions
12 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large stock pot. Add the flour and stir, heat for a minute or two. Slowly add the milk and stir constantly until soup thickens. Add salt, pepper, potatoes, onions and bacon. Stir and heat through. Right before serving, slowly add the cheese.