Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peanut Butter - Rediscovered

I love peanut butter, but have only ever had it in desserts or in a traditional PB & J sandwich. I've seen many Thai or Asian recipes in a PB based sauce. I found two recipes - Spicy Soba Noodles w/Chicken in Peanut Sauce and Aromatic Noodles w/Lime Peanut Sauce took elements from both, and added my own. Jamie LOVED it, it's one of his favorite things I've made recently.
PS - It's healthy too!

Chicken & Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

3/4 lb whole wheat spaghetti
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 lb chicken breast or tenders , cubed
2 cups fat free less sodium chicken broth, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup reduced fat or natural smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup pasta water (or as much as needed)
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tbsp honey
6 tbsp peanuts, chopped
4 tbsp scallions, sliced
salt & pepper to taste

Combine 1/3 cup broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, ginger, salt & pepper, red pepper & garlic; whisk until smooth, set aside.

Place chicken in a large saucepan and bring 1 2/3 cups broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is done. Drain.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, but reserve the pasta water.

While pasta and chicken are cooking, add carrots and broccoli to a skillet(or steam) briefly until almost crisp. Add drained chicken to skillet with vegetables for additional 2 minutes.

Add pasta and sauce to skillet, toss. Add some pasta water to think out sauce, and garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Get Dippin'

Watching sports with family & friends are a regular occurance at our house, so I'm always trying new things to serve. Although my chicken wings are the prefered snack, this quick and easy dip was a hit.
Ole Cheesey Chili Dip

1 cup of chili (I used my recipe in this blog, or use prepared or your own recipe) heated till warm
7-8 oz mexican style Velveeta,cubed
3 oz cream cheese, cubed, more if desired
Tortilla chips (I think the Scoops type works best and it less messy)

I have a Little Dipper Crockpot, so I add the cubed cheese and stir till partially melted, then stir in the chili. My crock cooks fairly quickly, so keep an eye so it doesn't burn.

Serve with tortilla chips...yummy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Turkey Day!!!!

This past Thanksgiving was my third time hosting. I wanted to make as many dishes as possible from scratch - no Stove Top here! It was a lot of work, a bit overwhelming, and created a disaster in the kitchen, but overall it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures, after all that work, I was hungry and just wanted to dig in. But I will share my menu and recipes, you'll get some great side dish ideas, and of course Christmas dinner is less than a month away.

Turkey Day Menu

crudite platter
shrimp with cocktail sauce

Turkey with Herbes De Provence (and gravy) - Food Network

Slow Cooker Stuffing - Allrecipes
Just be sure to reduce the chicken broth, you can always add more if too dry

Green Beans with Shallots - Food Network I also added 2 cloves garlic, minced and some lemon zest to compliment the turkey

Baked Sweet Potatoes - Allrecipes I added fresh tyme in the last 20 minutes of cooking

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes - Food Network I added some fresh chopped parsley and omitted the parmesean cheese

Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce - Back of Oceanspray fresh cranberry package or Ocean Spray I reduced water by 1/2 cup and replaced with pulp free orange juice

Store bought dinner rolls and butter

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
- in blog

And don't forget one of the most important things - A lot of white wine ;)

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, and I wanted to try a bunch of new dishes. One being my arch nemesis - dessert. I didn't want the regular old pumpkin pie - but since pumpkin is traditional for Thanksgiving, I decided on a pumpkin cheesecake. This is taken from Allrecipes, and to my great surprise, it turned out delicious. You could also add a caramel sauce, however I thought it might be too sweet. And it was even easier, than well... pie!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients: 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fall + Football = Chili!!!

Whether you are a poor unfortunate soul stuck in a parking lot tailgating braving rain, wind & snow (Sorry football fans, I'm a hockey girl!), or happily relaxing on the couch in front of the tv, when it feels like fall and football - you probably feel like having some chili. Out of anything I have ever cooked, chili has the most variations I have ever seen. Some have odd ingredients such as chocolate and coffee, my ingredients are pretty traditional. I like to vary the recipe slightly, depending on whether it is prepared in the slow cooker or stove, and how much heat you want. Also, I like a lot of tomatoes, omit the crushed and substitute a small can of tomato sauce.

Melissa's Touchdown Chili

1.5 lbs lean ground beef (or a mixture of beef/pork)
1 medium-large onion diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14.5 oz) Mexican- style diced tomatoes, or stewed, coarsely chopped
1 (15 oz) can chili beans, with juice
1-2 (15 oz) can kidney, pinto or black beans, whatever you prefer, rinsed and drained
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 tsp freshly ground pepper
1.2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup Amber or dark Mexican beer, or beef broth
3-6 oz tomato paste, use to thicken as desired

shredded Mexican-style cheese
low fat sour cream
garlic bread
minced onions or scallions

Brown meat in a large skillet till meat starts to brown, add in onions and garlic and cooked till meat is browned and onions soft. Drain.

In either a slow cooker or large pot, add all tomatoes, meat mixture, beer, and seasonings, and stir. Add in 3 oz of tomato paste, more if necessary to thicken.

If using a slow cooker, cook on low for 6-8 hours, adding beans in the last hour. Also, you can use less beer/liquid if slow cooking, or increase tomato paste.

If using stove method, bring to slow boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, adding beans in last hour.

Top with minced onions, shredded cheese, sour cream and garlic bread - enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bella Lasagna

I've made the traditional lasagna many times, and was looking for something a little different. I had just gone shopping, and picked up some Baby Bellas (mini portabello mushrooms). I saw the perfect recipe to use them, Portabello Lasagna Rollups on the Food Network, which are basically mini vegetarian lasagna. It was great, and I didn't feel as guilty as I mornally do after eating lasagna/Italian food!

Portabello Lasagna Rollups
by Ellie Kriger
Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 3/4 pound)
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces portabello mushrooms, chopped I used Baby Bellas
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups Easy Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store bought marinara sauce
1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 ounces grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 2/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the noodles al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain them well and spread them out onto aluminum foil or waxed paper to prevent them from sticking.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, egg, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few turns of pepper, and nutmeg.

Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto a lasagna noodle. Top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture, roll the noodle and place it into the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles. Spread the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with grated cheeses, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.

Easy Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained, tomatoes chopped I used Muir Glen's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Not So Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Eating healthier has been a goal of mine, and I discovered Cooking Light a few months ago. It's a great site, and most of the recipes that I have experimented with don't look or taste "light". I've had a loadec baked potato soup many times at restaurants, but they are by no means light. So, when I came across a recipe on Cooking Light, I just had to try it. It turned out very good. Of course I made some changes, but only to the amounts of ingredients in the recipe to suit my tastes - I added a bit more salt, some garlic powder (I love garlic!!!) and a little more sour cream & cheese. As usual, I served this with a salad - romaine & baby spinach.

Baked Potato Soup

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese ,divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 8 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups soup, 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon)

One Potato, Two potato...Purple Potato???

As you may have already figured out from the title of my blog & the color of my kitchen, purple is my favorite color. So, when browsing at the store, I was surprised (and excited - lol) to come across purple fingerling potatoes! I'm not sure if they taste different than the white fingerling, but they do look pretty!

I love the flavors of lemon & chicken, so I'm always trying out new ones. I made Classic Lemon Chicken with Sauteed Spinach from The Food Network. I left out the spinach and instead served with veggies I wanted to use up - a side dish of broccoli and added some button mushrooms to the chicken. The chicken (which turned out amazing!) was full of flavor, so I kept the sides simple. I made some changes to the chicken recipe which I indicated in italics.

Classic Lemon Chicken with Sauteed Spinach

2 lemons
4 chicken cutlets, pounded thinly into scallopini
Salt and pepper Flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled
16 caper berries omitted
10 large green olives omitted
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Sauteed Spinach, recipe follows omitted
added 4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Squeeze the juice from one and a half lemons and reserve. Cut the remaining half lemon into very thin slices. Remove seeds and set the lemon slices aside.

Season the chicken scallopini with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, coating both sides, and tap the excess flour off. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add as many scallopini into the pan that will fit without touching, and cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Flip and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove scallopini and drain on paper towel.

When done with the scallopini, wipe off the fat from the skillet with paper towels. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, garlic, and lemon juice and slices to the skillet. Cook, scraping the bottom until garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scoop out the lemon slices and set aside. Add the caper berries and olives and cook, stirring gently for about 4 minutes. Pour in wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and boil until slightly syrupy. I added the mushrooms. Then in a separate pan, I blanched the broccoli florets till tender crisp, and added salt, pepper, 1 tsp of olive oil and lemon zest. Return the scallopini to the skillet and coat each piece in the sauce. Add parsley and swirl into sauce.

Divide scallopini onto separate plates. Spoon the sauce over, and add the caper berries and olives around scallopini. Add some of the spinach on the side. Finish by decorating each plate with reserved lemon slices on top of the scallopini.

Sauteed spinach: 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 pounds spinach
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Crush garlic cloves with the side of the knife and add to the oil. Cook until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes. Add the spinach in handfuls, and season lightly with salt and pepper, and cover pan. Cook until spinach releases its liquid. Uncover pan, and cook stirring until spinach is wilted and water has evaporated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Roasted Purple Fingerling Potatoes

1 lb fingerling potatoes, washed/dried
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375 -400.

Toss potatoes with above ingredients. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until tender.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

With A Little Help From The Herb Garden

I wanted to make a simple dinner with ingredients that I had on hand -I had a whole chicken, some veggies, lemons and some fresh herbs that needed to be used very soon. So I just threw together some of my favorite ingredients and came up with this wonderful roasted dinner. Enjoy!

Rustic Roasted Chicken

1 4 lb chicken
handful of celery and carrots, cut into large chunks
1.5-2 lbs Idaho or Yukom Gold potatoes, quartered
2 medium onions, quartered
1-2 lemons (desired amount)
1/2 cup olive oil (estimated)
salt and papper to taste
1 head of garlic
sprigs of fresh rosemary, parsley, oregano
1 tsp each of the herbs above, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375.

Rinse chicken, and pat dry. Drizzle a bit of olive oil inside of chicken, and add desired amounts salt and papper, sprigs of herbs, half of a lemon, half head of garlic and half of one unpeeled onion.

Mix the juice of one lemon and olive oil and rub all over outside of chicken & season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix the chopped herbs, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Spread mixture underneath the skin of the breasts.

Put the chicken breast side up in roasting pan. Toss potatoes with olive oil and lemon juice, salt & pepper and sprinkle around the chicken. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Add celery and carrots, baste chicken with drippings and bake for an additional 30-60 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before carving.