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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't skip breakfast!

We're all busy.  Too busy for breakfast?  Unfortunately, yes, sometimes.

So what happens?

You skip it entirely.  WRONG.
You head to the nearest deli and order a buttered roll or bagel.  WRONG AGAIN.
You have 5 cups of coffee and hope you can jitter your way to lunchtime.  NOPE.

Well then, what?

These little frittate are the perfect trifecta - easy to make, freezer friendly and delicious.  Use any ingredients you like or have on hand.  They can be taken out of the freezer ahead of time to defrost, or popped in the microwave for just seconds.  No more excuses!

Healthy Mini Frittate
4 egg whites
4 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
one small yellow onion, chopped
8 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked, well drained
3/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
grated pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two large muffin tins to accommodate 18 mini frittate.

In a bowl, beat eggs, milk and seasonings together.  Add onion and spinach and mix, followed by ricotta.  Pour mixture into muffin tins, filling each 3/4 of the way.  Top with pecorino romano and bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Let cool before freezing.

Approximately ONE WW Point+ per frittata!

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Friday, April 29, 2011

My Thai dinner

Jill from JBeanCuisine (great blog!) submitted this recipe in our latest swap, and I was the lucky recipient. The theme was Asian - it could have been any type of Asian dish from any course and country.

I was happy to see this recipe since Thai food is not something I get to enjoy often.  Frank's not a fan, so we never go out to have it, and I never make Thai dishes at home.  So, I planned this for a night (last night!) when I'd be home for dinner alone.  I scaled back the recipe a lot since I was the only one eating, and omitted a few ingredients as well.  I added one ingredient though - coconut milk.  I used just a tiny bit to give the soup an added flavor that I knew I'd enjoy.

Thanks for the inspiration, Jill...I never would have made this dish otherwise!  I had it with some dumplings.  It was delicious...so delicious that I forgot to take a picture before I started eating, so this is a midway-through-dinner shot :)

Tom Yum Soup
adapted from JBeanCuisine

2 cups chicken stock
1 inch piece of ginger
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 lemon grass stalk, bottom 3 inches only
1 red chili, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
3 button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh spinach

Bring chicken stock to a boil.  Add in ginger, kaffir, lemon grass and red chilies.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. 
Once broth is ready, remove ginger pieces, kaffir leaves, lemon grass stalks and large pieces of red chilies.
Continuing over medium heat, add in the lemon juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and coconut milk.  Stir and allow flavors to combine for a few minutes.   Adjust fish sauce/soy sauce to taste.
Add in shrimp, mushrooms and spinach.  Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until shrimp are cooked and mushrooms/tomatoes are soft.  Serve immediately.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Greek on the grill

It's grilling season, which means it's also burger season.  I LOVE burgers.  I lived on them while I was pregnant (bun-less, of course, which is still how I usually eat them) and still crave them often.

The truth is, I rarely make them at home.  Why, I have no idea!  So, one of the challenges I've given myself this year is to make a wide variety of burgers, using lots of different ingredients.  I hope you enjoy the first in my series :)

This was seriously mouthwatering.  And in the spirit of full disclosure, I had two of them (again, sans bread).  I couldn't help myself.  The combination of spices was perfect, and I really love the taste of lamb, so everything together was great.  Before I tried it, I thought I'd need a slice of raw onion (a MUST when I eat a standard cheeseburger!) or some feta cheese on top of it...when really, a dollop of tzatziki was good enough.

Tzatziki, by the way, is something I've been making for years...I love its versatility.  It's great with meats and vegetables, or even as a dip with toasted pita chips.  Keep in mind that I am a garlic fiend, so cut back on it if feel the need.  I highly recommend that you don't, but hey, your choice.

Minted Lamb Burgers
adapted from Epicurious

1 1/4 pounds ground lamb
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of salt and pepper
pita bread

Gently combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Do not overmix.  Form into 4 one-inch thick patties.  Grill for approximately 3 minutes on each side for medium well burgers.  Serve on pita with tzatziki.

1 cup plain greek nonfat yogurt
1 cup chopped cucumber (peel and seeds removed)
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, chopped

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Taste as you go along and adjust ingredients accordingly.  Chill before serving.

Linked to: Dressings & Sauces Link Up
                 Cucumber Blog Hop

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bloggers Bake For Hope

I hope that you'll participate in this wonderful benefit I'll be a part of next week.  Bloggers Bake For Hope is a virtual bake sale that will run from May 4-6th.  All proceeds will go to affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure...a cause near and dear to my heart.

Basically, you bid on whatever baked goods you like that are being offered, and the winning bidder will have that item shipped directly to their door!  Delicious, mouthwatering cookies without leaving the house or turning the oven on?  Score!

My contribution will be my famous Hidden Kisses (2 DOZEN of them!!!)...I expect a huge bidding war among my readers! ;)

Here is a link for other details and information regarding this great cause.  And don't worry, I'll post a reminder next week.

PLEASE spread the word...thank you!

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Truffles - the sweet kind

Take a piece of straight up chocolate and pop it in your mouth.  Really, does it get any better than that?

That's the chocolate truffle.

I made two different types on Easter - the traditional kind, and the kind you make when you somehow have a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies that you haven't eaten yet (?????).  

You can have a lot of fun with these...use whatever toppings you like and add different flavors too, if you want.  They're easy to make and perfect for parties.  

Thin Mint Truffles

1 sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies 
4 ounces cream cheese, softened

Put the cookies in a blender and process until finely ground.  Reserve a small amount (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine the bulk of the cookie crumbs with the cream cheese and mix.  Scoop out by the tablespoon and form into a ball.  Roll the balls in the reserved cookie crumbs.  

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Makes 20 truffles.

Luscious Chocolate Truffles

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
toppings of your choice (I used coconut and Easter/Spring themed sprinkles)

Put chocolate and milk in a saucepan and heat until combined, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Scoop and form chocolate into balls about an inch wide.  Roll in desired toppings.  Refrigerate before serving.

Makes about 6 dozen truffles.

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday
                Sweet Tooth Friday

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Cuban family

Normally I talk about my Italian and Greek heritage here, well, because that's what I am.  But then, there's my Cuban family.  

My brother's wife and her family immigrated here from Cuba when she was 6 years old.  I met Isabel through a mutual friend and we immediately hit it off.  Not long after we met, she and my brother got together, and the rest is history.  I gained an awesome sister :)

Isabel's family is great - they're warm and welcoming, and they can cook their asses off.  I love getting together with them not just for the company, but because I know I'll be very well fed :)  A few years ago, Isabel's dad, Domingo, gave me his chimichurri recipe, and I've made it a handful of times since then.  

Yes, I know it's Argentinian, but whatever.  It ROCKS!  It's the perfect recipe to add to your arsenal now that grilling season is here.  It freezes well too, so make this in big batches to make life easier.  The measurements are approximate so it's important to taste as you go.

Now I just have to work on getting some of those Cuban recipes...

from Domingo

1 bunch parsley, chopped (about 2 cups) 
8-10 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
2 mint leaves, chopped 
1 tablespoon paprika 
1/2 cup olive oil 
2 tablespoons cider vinegar 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

Place parsley, garlic, cilantro and mint in a glass jar (make sure it has a tight lid - and do not use plastic). Add oil, lemon juice and vinegars until the herbs are covered...then add salt, pepper and paprika. 

Test and correct to taste, adding more vinegar, salt and pepper, if deemed necessary. Cover and refrigerate. For best flavor results, refrigerate for a day or two before using. 

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Nina! (What's Baking)

My spunky, adorable niece had her cake picked out 2 months ago.  She knew right away that she wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and raspberry filling.  Great!  I already have a great recipe for the cake that I used for my Mother-in-law's, and the frosting that I used for my Mom's, so I just needed to add the filling.  Piece of cake, right?


I'm guessing the cake should have baked just a few minutes more, because both layers broke.  Yeah, I wasn't a happy camper.  No time to bake another one, either.  So, I used the frosting as "glue" and just dealt with it.

Plus, my local market was out of fresh raspberries, which I planned on using as a garnish for the top of the cake.  FAIL.  

Good thing it tasted pretty awesome.

At least it looked a little better after it was cut...

There were no complaints :)  

Leanne from The Martin Family is the host for our What's Baking? group this month, and the theme she chose was Spring baking.  I figured this was a good submission for it, given the raspberries.  Thanks for hosting, Leanne!

And happy 9th birthday to my gorgeous (and no longer little) niece Nina!  

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
*see above for links to cake and frosting recipes* (use two round 9 inch baking pans)

For the raspberry filling:
3/4 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Put all ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat.  Stir and cook until mixture boils.  Set aside and let cool.

To assemble the cake:
Place first cake layer on plate and top with raspberry filling (use it all!).  Add second cake layer, then frost the top and sides of the cake.  Top with fresh raspberries for a nice garnish...which was my original plan...

Linked to: Sweets For A Saturday
                  Valentine's Day Blog Hop

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

POP! goes the tomato

If you're in need of a side dish for your Easter dinner tomorrow, you may want to consider this.  It's VERY easy (just about foolproof!) and so flavorful...the roasting really captured the true taste of the tomatoes and garlic.

I've served this as a side, and also mixed in with pasta.  If you choose to do that, you don't even need a sauce...the natural juice from the tomatoes pulls it all together and makes it just right.

You could also combine this with couscous or rice.  Or, add asparagus and roast them together.  Or, swap out the thyme with some fresh basil or oregano.  Or, add fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, feta or another type of cheese to them once they're cooked.  The possibilities are endless!

Roasted Grape Tomatoes with Garlic
2 pints grape tomatoes, cut in half
10 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 stems of fresh thyme, sprigs removed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.  Line a baking sheet pan with foil and spread tomatoes out evenly across pan (use 2 pans if you need to).

Roast for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to pop.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Make it a Good Friday

For those observing, this is it - the last meatless Friday of Lent.  If you're looking for a quick, easy and delicious way to send it off, this dish is for you.

I'm a big fan of blackened anything.  Blackened chicken, blackened shrimp, blackened fish...I'm all over it.  The combination of spices is always a nice blend, not too overpowering but packed with flavor.  A nice glass of wine or an ice cold beer always washes it down well.  

I served this with baked kale chips and roasted tomatoes with garlic (recipe coming soon!).  Make this tonight - you'll be glad you did!

And here's a little peek at the fun Bella and I had dying Easter eggs.  It was her first time doing it - she had a blast!  She can't wait for the Easter Bunny to come steal them out of the fridge and hide them :)


Attention: to all Moms of 2 year olds who haven't attempted this project yet - 6 is just the right amount of eggs.  Anymore and I would have lost Bella, FAST. 

Blackened Salmon
slightly adapted from Food Network

1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
10 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from stems
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 pieces salmon (approximately 6 oz. each), skin on
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Mix the first 4 spices together in a small bowl.  Put the mixture on a plate and coat the flesh side of each piece  of salmon.

Heat a cast-iron pan over medium heat, then add oil.  Let the oil smoke heavily, shut heat off, and add salmon flesh side down.  Turn the heat back on and cook for about 3 minutes.  Flip salmon over and cook until skin is crispy, about 7 minutes.

Plate, sprinkle with lemon zest and juice and serve immediately.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Panini, please!

The theme for our weekly recipe swap this week was sandwiches.  I was happy to see that I got a panini recipe from my friend Lauren, from Lauren's Kitchen...they always go over well in our house.  How can you go wrong with a fresh, hot sandwich oozing with cheese and stuffed with all other kinds of goodies?

Frank had the sandwich that she submitted - turkey pesto panini - and he really enjoyed it.  I used fresh turkey and fresh mozzarella, and a nice short loaf of Italian bread.  Delicious.

I was in the mood for something a little different.  I had a small roll and some brie, so I used the rest of the turkey and made a quick honey mustard sauce (mayo, yellow mustard, honey and some paprika) to use as a spread.  And I had some kale chips with it.  Yum.

You can't deny the greatness of panini.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter sweets

I can't even begin to tell you how many emails I've received in the past few weeks about Easter food.  Easter appetizers, Easter main dishes, Easter side dishes, Easter brunch items, and of course - Easter desserts.  It's enough to make your head spin...so much to choose from!

Incase you're still having a hard time deciding, here are two ideas.  One is suitable for brunch or dessert, and the other is a cute Easter treat.  They're easy to make and travel well.  And both are big crowd pleasers!

Fresh Mango & Pecan Cake
from Market Manila

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted pecans, roasted and chopped
4-5 mangoes, slightly ripe, peeled and cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease or spray a 9x9 baking dish.

Cream butter and 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, waiting to add the second egg until the first is fully incorporated.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined - DO NOT overmix.

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Spread half the batter in the baking dish.  Top with half of the mangoes, then half of the pecans, followed by half of the sugar mixture.  Add the remaining half of the batter and spread evenly.  Top with the rest of the mangoes, pecans and sugar mixture.

Bake for about 50 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

These Easter Cupcakes are VERY easy to make and are so adorable!  This recipe is great if you're looking for something to make with the kids.  Use whatever topping you like (I used Mini Robin eggs).  They're delicious!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another crockpot hit!

I wanted to do something different with the roast that Frank bought - as much as I love my pot roast I wasn't feeling it.

What WAS I feeling?  Mexican.

The meat was tender and delicious - it really satisfied my craving.  I made my mexican rice, then opened up a can of  Trader Joe's Cuban Style Black Beans (YUM).  Add some cilantro lime sour cream (see recipe below) and you've got a  great Mexican meal right at home.

Our dinner guest, AKA my father-in-law, gave this a big thumbs up, too!

Crockpot Shredded Beef Tacos
4 lb. bottom round roast
1 cup water
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder

Put roast in crockpot and add water (make sure meat is a little less than halfway covered).  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Cook for about 4 hours on low. (Again, crockpot settings/cooking times vary!)

Remove roast and plate.  Shred meat and serve on tortillas with whatever toppings you like.  This time around, we used queso fresco and chopped scallions and radishes (and jalapenos for me, of course!).

Cilantro Lime Sour Cream
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
juice from 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients and stir until well mixed.

Linked to: What's on Your Plate?
                 Mexican Blog Hop

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Monday, April 18, 2011

On the side

People are always asking for easy ideas for side dishes.  I have a lot of them in my arsenal, since I usually put most of my effort into the main dish (at least on a daily basis).  Simplicity is best with certain vegetables.  Asparagus is one of them - it doesn't need to be "dressed up" in order to be delicious and ready to serve.

Roast some asparagus today - you'll be glad you did :)

What's your favorite side dish?

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic
1 pound asparagus, ends snapped off, cut into thirds
10 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a ziploc bag, combine asparagus, garlic and oil and let sit for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 450.  Place asparagus on baking pan and add salt and pepper.  Roast for about 15 minutes, or until asparagus is slightly brown.  Cooking time may vary depending on how large your asparagus is.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Healthy chips

Another successful recipe swap week!  Brianna from Oishii submitted a recipe for baked kale chips that I was assigned.  I was thrilled because I've been meaning to try it, and actually was in Whole Foods a few weeks ago looking to buy kale, but they were out.

I was pretty surprised by that, but what shocked me even more was that Frank was not only looking forward to trying them...he actually enjoyed them!  I thought for sure he wouldn't be a fan.  Bella, on the other hand...not so much :)

I know, the picture doesn't look like much of anything.  It actually just looks like a raw piece of kale.  The ends didn't brown much, like Brianna said they might, but it still crisped up nicely and had a good texture.

This is a delicious and healthy item that can easily help curb a crunchy or salty craving.  I served it with dinner but it definitely works as a snack, too.  Thanks, Brianna!

Baked Kale Chips
slightly adapted from Oishii

1 bunch kale, washed and broken apart with stems removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix together, then place on a baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Midway through, gently toss kale.  Toward the end, keep a close eye on it to be sure it doesn't overcook.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Spicy but sweet (and how to cut a mango)

I'm a huge fan of spicy (as you may have already guessed!), but there's something even better about sweet and spicy.  The combination is so refreshing and challenging at the same time.  I love discovering different meals that incorporate both tastes, although I usually have to tone the spicy part down just a bit for Mr. Wimpy the other adult in the house ;)

This dish was delicious, and very easy to make.  I served it with brown rice and sauteed spinach which I thought went really well with it.  The spinach kind of "cools off" the shrimp (although I added lots of garlic to it, naturally).  My mother-in-law joined us for this meal and gave it a big thumbs up!

For all you mango virgins who are deathly afraid of cutting one open, I've included this link for you showing 3 different ways to go about it.  My preference is #2.  Enjoy!

Spicy Mango Shrimp
adapted from My Recipes

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 cups shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
2 cups mango, cubed (preferably unripe)
1/4 cup toasted shredded unsweetened coconut (I omitted...and not on purpose.  I forgot!)

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. 
Add garlic, chile flakes, basil, soy sauce, lime juice, and shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink.  Add mango and cook until warm. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.
Serves 4
WW Points+ = 8 (including coconut, not including rice)

Linked to: Mangia Monday
                  Mango Blog Hop

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who's the lucky winner?

So who wins the prize?  It's #48...Tyler!

Tyler said...

My Aunt makes this coconut cake- absolutely delicious!

tjbarber @ uga. edu


Daring Cooks: Edible Containers

I had a pretty unique idea for this Daring Cooks challenge right from the get-go, and of course, never found the time to execute it.  Had I remembered that a contest was involved this month (see details at the end of this post), maybe I would have been sure to make the time!

Instead, in true Melissa fashion, I waited until the last minute and made this quick (and delicious!) breakfast for us...yesterday!  Hey, nobody's perfect.

The first time I saw these was over a year ago - my sister made them for us while hosting brunch.  I've made them a few times since then...they never fail to satisfy and impress.  You could change it up a bit by using scrambled eggs, or a different kind of cheese or bread.  I used what I had on hand.  I've also made a low carb version by skipping the bread and using canadian bacon as the cup.

Bacon, Egg & Bread Cups
12 eggs
12 strips of bacon
12 slices of whole wheat bread
shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare a muffin pan by spraying with non-stick butter spray.  Cook bacon in a skillet until partially cooked.  Place on paper towel lined plate and blot off all excess oil.

Use a standard size glass to cut a circle out of each slice of bread.  Press each piece into muffin pan.  "Line" each tin with bacon around the sides, forming a circle on top of the bread.  Fill each tin with a spoonful of cheese.

Crack each egg and after discarding about half of the egg white, drop into tin.  Repeat with the rest of the eggs.  Add salt and pepper and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes (or as long as it takes to cook eggs to your liking).

Remove each cup gently with a spoon.  Serve immediately.

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

Linked to: Melt in Your Mouth Monday
                     Egg Recipes Link Up

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Honorable Cheese

Did you know that April is Grilled Cheese month?  Yep, it is.  You're welcome.

Some major damage could be done with that theme...I could easily eat cheese all.day.long.  And bread.  And any other goodies that can be thrown in between.

But we all know I'm behaving.  Boo.  Time to get creative.

Everyone has their own preferences when grilling chicken.  Do what you like, but I'll tell you what I did anyway :)  For this dish, I sliced the breast thin and seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

I busted out my Griddler to cook the chicken and the quesadilla.  Grill plates for the chicken, griddle plates for the quesadilla (now, why hasn't anyone bought the waffle plates for me yet?  hmmm...).  You could even grill the asparagus in advance if you wanted to, but I didn't...I quickly steamed it.  In hindsight, I may have even left it uncooked.  Hmmm.  Maybe next time.

Quick, easy, delicious and low in points!  We both enjoyed this for lunch while watching the Yankees kick some Red Sox ass.

Chicken, Asparagus & Goat Cheese Quesadilla
2 tortillas (Trader Joe's Reduced Carb Whole Wheat)
2 tablespoons soft goat cheese
1/2 cup grilled chicken, diced
baby asparagus spears
extra virgin olive oil

While griddle is heating up, spread 1 tablespoon goat cheese on each tortilla.  Add chicken on top of one tortilla, then asparagus, then top with other tortilla.

Spread a tiny bit of oil on outside of tortilla and place on griddle, then oil the other side.  If using a press, close the top and cook the quesadilla until cheese has melted and tortilla is slightly brown.  If using a pan, flip after a few minutes, then cook on other side.  Remove and cut once slightly cooled.

WW Points+ = 6

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fun Spring Giveaway!

Bakers, bakers in training, or even those who think they can't bake...this giveaway is for you!  I put together some Wilton Easter/spring inspired baking goodies...2 cookie cutter sets (one standard, one mini) and cute cupcake liners!  They're all adorable and perfect for this time of year.

Enter fast, because this giveaway is going to end on Thursday, April 14th at noon EST!  I will announce the winner shortly thereafter, and he/she will have only 24 hours to respond to my email (DON'T forget to leave your email address!!) before another winner will be selected.  Gotta get the goods out in time for the winner to do some holiday baking :)

This giveaway is for US Residents only.  The rules are:

Mandatory entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite SWEET Easter/Passover dish is.

For additional entries (one each):
- become a fan of I Was Born To Cook on Facebook (please leave your name in the comment field, or at least first name and last initial)
- post a link to this giveaway on your Facebook wall (and leave the link to your post in the comment field)...you can earn TWO extra entries if you do this!
- follow me on Twitter (@IWasBornToCook) and leave your twitter name in the comment field
- subscribe to my blog via email updates
- become a public follower via Google Friend Connect

Good luck! :)


Risotto - stirring = HEAVEN.

Simply put, we LOVED this.  The taste was amazing.  Cooking it was a cinch.  Win-win for everyone.

Don't get me wrong, I love making risotto the old fashioned way, but this was just too easy to pass up.  Risotto should be something you can enjoy on a weeknight, as a last minute plan, or be able to attempt without fear or anxiety.  Try this version if any of those apply to you.

I made some changes from the original recipe which worked out really well.  Instead of using canned salmon, I used filets.  I had both on hand but thought the taste and textures from filets would be better.  I freaked out a bit because I was afraid the dish would really "miss" the dill (didn't have any), but it didn't.  Still, it would be a nice substitute for the parsley if you prefer.

I'm drooling just thinking about this dish!

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Exchange sponsored by Le Creuset.

Salmon Risotto with Lemon
adapted from MediterrAsian Cooking

3 salmon filets (about 4 oz each)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet.  Season salmon with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove and once it's cooled, skin and break salmon up into bite size pieces.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, parsley and lemon zest and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for about a minute, stirring well so that all the rice is coated with oil.  Pour in the wine and stock, then add parsley, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for approximately 15 minutes.  Add the peas and salmon on top and cook, covered, for another few minutes.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil, lemon juice and cheese.  Serve immediately.

Serves 3.

Linked to: What's On Your Plate?

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A great version of a classic dish

Another recipe swap = another recipe of Gianna's!  Last time I got her recipe for garlic roasted potatoes...this time, she shared a family recipe that I was lucky enough to receive.  And although I served it with pasta, I bet the two would go really well together.

There are so many recipes for lemon chicken out there, but Gianna's is one of the best I've tried.  I lightened it up a bit (cut back on the oil and butter) and it was still delicious.  This will be a keeper in our house!

Lemon Chicken
adapted from my friend Gianna

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
flour (just enough to coat all of the chicken)
1 egg, beaten
Italian seasoned bread crumbs (again, just enough to coat)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 lemons
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Dip each piece of chicken in flour, followed by egg, then bread crumbs.  Heat oil in a skillet, then add chicken and remove when fully cooked (leave oil in pan).  Slice into small strips and set aside.

In the same pan, add garlic, lemon juice, wine, butter and parsley.  Cook until mixture is hot.  

In a baking pan,  put 1-2 TBSP of juice just to coat the bottom.  Add one layer of chicken strips.  Pour some juice over it, then add remaining chicken (if any), followed by the rest of the juice.  

Place in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, until all ingredients are heated through...do not overcook.

Serves 4
WW Points+ = approximately 10

Linked to: Hunk of Meat Monday

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

No guilt? Sweet.

Sweet tooth, anyone?  Yeah, I've got one too.  Some nights are MUCH worse than others...

I love fruit, and I try to find new ways to enjoy it so I don't get bored.  It beats stuffing your mouth with chocolate or ice cream.  At least that's what I try to convince myself :)

If you've got a lot of ripe pears to use up (or apples, or both!) try this out.  It's easy, delicious, and guilt-free!

Baked Pear Slices
4 medium pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet (or two, if you need more room) with cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar together.  Add the pears to the bowl and toss gently to coat. Lay them on baking sheet(s) and cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until browned.

Serves 2
WW Points+ = 2

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Changing it up

The warmer weather affects my "food mood".  I want to eat lighter.  I want to try new things.  I want to get out of the winter food rut.  (what I REALLY want right now is for the true spring weather to get here already!)

Cauliflower is great.  I love the versatility of it...so many choices!  And as many of you know, I love variety.  What's your favorite way to make it?

I had planned on roasting it, but decided instead to make this salad and steer away from our basic lettuce version that we usually have.  A nice change of pace.  New food mood! :)

Caulifower & Green Bean Salad
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 head cauliflower, broken into pieces
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1 scallion, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shelling out some good food

More recipe swapping!  This week's theme with one of my online groups was pasta.  I received a recipe from Kate, author of Kate's Recipe Box, for stuffed shells (which look delicious!).

Although I love stuffed shells, it's been a while since I've made them.  I was pregnant, and I brought them to a friend who just had a baby (they freeze very well and can be easily portioned out - perfect for exhausted new parents!). When I do make them I like to jazz them up a bit, depending on what I have in the fridge.  Sometimes I add meat, sometimes different vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, etc), and usually I use a blend of cheeses.

Below you'll find the version I made this time around.  Thanks for the inspiration, Kate!

4 Cheese Stuffed Shells
20 large shells
marinara sauce
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fontina cheese, diced
1 egg
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
grated pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare 9x9 baking pan by spreading a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom.  Cook shells until al dente, then drain carefully.

Combine all cheeses in a bowl with egg, parsley, salt and pepper.  Mix until smooth.

Fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in pan.  Top shells with pecorino romano, followed by marinara. Cover and bake for about 25 minutes.

Serves 5
WW Points+ = approximately 10

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Failing the bar

Bella has been loving granola bars lately!  I thought it would be a good change to make some.  I came across this recipe for peanut butter granola and figured I'd give it a whirl...and even better, I had all of the ingredients on hand.  
I made a few changes - added slivered almonds and coconut, replaced the corn syrup with honey, and used creamy peanut butter instead of crunchy.  It came together very nicely and looked great...until...  

I went to cut it into bars (and yes, they were completely cooled off).  Big fat fail.  I'm not sure why.  It just kept crumbling, and crumbling...but, the good news is that it tastes perfectly fine.  Especially on top of greek yogurt.

Next time I think I'll add some mini chocolate chips :)

Linked to: What's Cooking Wednesday, hosted by The King's Court

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My latest "senior moment"

One of my "musts" is to always have sauce in my freezer - it's perfect for nights when I end up not having enough time to cook.  You'll always find marinara, bolognese and vodka sauce ready to go...sometimes pesto, too.

Last week, I had what my Dad calls a "senior moment" (been having way too many of them lately...ugh).  I had a meal planned and was about to start making it when I realized I didn't have a key ingredient.  No lentils for warm lentil salad.  Uh, yeah, that's a major one.

Enter the frozen vodka sauce.  Fortunately, it also works well for this type of situation.

I grabbed tortellini (another thing I always have in the freezer for "emergency" situations) and some peas, and already had some hot Italian sausage defrosted.  Talk about an easy meal you can throw together in less time it takes for the delivery guy to get to your door...not to mention much tastier (and cheaper!).

Do yourself a favor - simplify your life and keep these types of "reserves" in your freezer.  You'll be glad you did - especially if you're like me - 42 going on 92.  Must start doing crossword puzzles regularly again...

Tortellini with Sausage & Peas in Vodka Sauce
2 cups tortellini
1 cup vodka sauce (see recipe below)
1/3 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup peas
grated pecorino romano cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet, then add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Saute until garlic is soft and add sausage.  Once sausage is brown, add peas.  Mix together, then add vodka sauce.

Drain tortellini and add it to the skillet.  Mix through so the sauce is evenly distributed among all the ingredients, take off the heat, add cheese and serve.

Vodka Sauce
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 small onion, minced (about 1/4 cup) 
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
2 medium cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 

1/2 cup pancetta, diced (can also use bacon)
salt and pepper 
1/3 cup vodka 
1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half also works well)

Puree half of tomatoes until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add pancetta and saute until cooked through.

Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir frequently and lower heat to 
medium. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute. 

WW Points+ = approximately 2-3 points for 1/3 cup (not including pancetta and using half and half)

Linked to: Mangia Mondays, hosted by Delightfully Dowling

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Yay or nay?

Goat cheese - people either love it or hate it.  Do you agree?  I know so many who feel very strongly about it, one way or the other.  I love it and don't see how anyone can hate it...or any cheese, for that matter!

If you say yay, keep this one in mind the next time you need a quick appetizer recipe.  These are delicious and very easy to make.  I think they're great for spring...nice and light!

Goat Cheese, Grape & Pecan Truffles
Red seedless grapes, stems removed, cleaned
1 log goat cheese
Crushed pecans (or whatever nut you choose)

Cover grapes entirely with goat cheese, then roll in crushed nuts.  Let chill for at least 45 minutes before serving.

Linked to: What's on your Plate? hosted by Good Cheap Eats
                  Cheese Blog Hop

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't throw it away!

You can salvage your stale bread!  Aside from making croutons, this is another great way to use it up...and it can be done very, very easily if you don't have much time.

Here's what you need for Garlic Bread

butter OR olive oil - your preference (if using butter, it's better if it's a little soft)
fresh garlic (chopped) OR jarred crushed garlic (which you can get at, believe it or not, Trader Joe's!)
salt and pepper

Go nuts and throw some mozzarella on top, if you like...after all, cheese makes everything better :)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the bread lengthwise and spread the butter on both sides, followed by the garlic and seasonings.

Close the bread, wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf).

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Friday, April 1, 2011

A sweet surprise

Spring cupcakes...aren't they pretty?  

And, they're sealed with a kiss :)

I made them for the kids at the last minute, the day we celebrated my Dad's birthday.  After assembling the cassata cake and realizing how much rum was in it, I actually got nervous!  Not like me at all, but honestly, the smell almost knocked me out at 7am.

After filling the cupcake liners, I dropped the kisses in.  As you can see, they sunk to the bottom.  Still delicious, but not quite what I wanted.  Next time I'll stick them in through the top as soon as they come out of the oven.  Does anyone know if that'll work, or have any other tips?  I'm all ears.

I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the cake, and the white buttercream frosting I used for my nephew's rainbow cupcakes.  I topped them with some colored sugar to make them look festive.

Now if only the weather would cooperate with the calendar!  Come on, spring!

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday, hosted by Sweet As Sugar Cookies

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