Sunday, December 30, 2012

Salmon Sliders

We had leftover grilled salmon, so for lunch the next day, we decided to make salmon sliders, or open-faced salmon sandwiches.

2 grilled salmon filets, about 6-8 oz
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup mayo
1 large slice of sourdough bread, diced (you can use regular breadcrumbs too)
1/3 small red onion, minced
½ small red bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp freshly minced Italian flat leaf parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

Goat Cheese Pesto Spread:
4 oz goat cheese
½ Tbsp mayo
1 tsp pesto sauce

Baguette, sliced into ½” pieces  

Fresh lime juice
Sliced avocado

In a sauté pan, heat ½” of oil over medium high heat. Oil should be about half way up the salmon patty.

While oil heats, use your hands to gently flake apart the salmon into a large bowl. Gently mix in remaining ingredients. Do not over mix or the salmon will turn to mush.  If the mixture is too wet, add more bread. If the mixture is too dry, add more mayo. Using your hands, form 2” patties.

When oil is ready, gently place each patty into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until they are crispy and golden brown. Remove patties from oil and set on paper towel lined plate, to soak up extra grease.

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for spread.

Smear each slice of bread with goat cheese pesto spread and top with a salmon patty. Top each slider with a slice of avocado and squirt of fresh lime juice. Serve with an arugula salad tossed in a light vinaigrette dressing.

Helpful tips:
How do you know if your oil is ready for frying? Test by dropping a little bit of food into oil, if it sizzles, it’s ready!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Light-As-A-Cloud Lemon Mousse

My little Meyer lemon tree is full of fruit, which means it's time to get creative on what to do with all of those lemons! We found a great dessert recipe in my new cookbook, At Blanchard's Table. It was the perfect compliment to the Caribbean Coconut Chicken with Lime dish, which was also inspired by the cookbook.

Serves 4-6
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
toasted coconut shreds or extra lemon zest, as garnish (optional)

In the top of a double broiler over simmering water, combine the sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, eggs, and lemon peel. Cook, whisking constantly, until a thermometer reads 160 degrees. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.
When the lemon mixture is cold, whip the cream until soft to medium peaks form. Gently fold a quarter of the whipped cream into the lemon mixture to blend, and then fold in the remaining cream.Chill in a large serving bowl, or spoon into individual glasses or bowls.
Garnish with toasted coconut and/or fresh lemon zest.

Caribbean Coconut Chicken with Lime

We went to the British Virgin Islands in November and I came across a book in the airport called 'A Trip to the Beach' about a couple from the US that moved to the Caribbean to open a restaurant. I loved the book and the tales of their adventures as they chased their dreams of opening a small restaurant on the beach of Anguilla in the BVI. I loved the book so much that I also bought their cookbook, At Blanchard's Table.
On our last night with all the family together for the holidays we decided to make their Calypso Chicken with Lime. It was a huge hit with everyone! We changed it a little to add a kick of spice, but this certainly didn't distract from the tropical flavors and memories of the Caribbean that it brought us back to.

Caribbean Coconut Chicken with Lime

Serves 6

1 lb chicken tenders, or slice 4 chicken breasts into strips
3 Tbsp plus 1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 1⁄2 Tbsp fresh lime zest
3 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp black pepper
1⁄3 cup chopped cilantro
3 Tbsp shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat the broiler or prepare the grill.

In a large bowl, coat the chicken with 3 tablespoons lime juice, EVOO and jalapenos. Marinate for 30 minutes.

In a medium saute pan, whisk together 1⁄4 cup lime juice, coconut milk, cream, lime zest, ginger, salt, and pepper. Cook on medium heat until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan and set aside. Turn heat to low.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, and broil or grill them until just about cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Add chicken to coconut sauce on stove top over low heat. Mix in cilantro. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken cooks all the way through.

Serve over Cilantro Lime Rice (recipe below), spoon extra sauce over chicken and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

For dessert, we selected another recipe from the cookbook for a fresh Lemon Mousse.

Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 green onion sprig, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime

In a rice cooker, combine rice, broth, salt and EVOO. Once rice is ready, mix in cilantro, green onions and lime juice. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve.

Variations - Think think this dish would also be wonderful with the following revisions:
  • Sub the chicken for sauteed snapper.
  • Sub the chicken for grilled swordfish.
  • Kick up the heat by adding diced jalapenos into the rice when you add the cilantro and green onions.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spicy Rice & Beans

I love this rice because it's so easy to make and delicious.

1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 packet of taco seasoning
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 can black beans, drained
1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced
Juice from 1/2 lime
In a rice cooker, combine rice, broth, seasoning and EVOO. Cook until tender and done. Stir in beans, jalapenos and lime juice, until heated through.
If the jalapenos are too spicy then add to the rice when it's cooking.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Loaded Potato Pancakes

I was watching one of the episodes on the Food Network where the stars share their tips and favorite recipes. I got this technique from that lady with the spiky blonde hair that looks like Guy Fieri, and the overall inspiration from Paula Deen's Smashed Potato Pancakes.

3 medium Russet potatoes, steamed or boiled until tender
2 medium Russet potatoes, raw & freshly grated
1 egg, beaten
2 slices of sourdough bread, diced
1/2 cup diced ham
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 green onion sprigs, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

flour for dusting
Vegetable oil for frying

In a large frying pan, heat about 1/2" of oil over medium high heat. The oil should come half way up the pancakes when placed in the pan.

While the oil is heating, press the steamed potatoes through a ricer and combine with the remaining ingredients in a large boil. If the mixture is too wet, add more diced bread. Using your hands, form patties from potato mixture. Sprinkle each side with flour and gently place into oil.

Fry each side for 3-4 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Place pancakes on a paper towel lined plate to soak up extra grease.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Note: To see if the oil is ready for frying, test it by putting a little bit of food into the pan. It's ready if it starts to bubble and cook. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stuffed Chicken over Creamy Mushroom and Leek Sauce

For our Christmas party last night, I made chicken breasts stuffed with sundried tomato pesto, ricotta cheese, and fresh spinach. I thought the red and green colors would complement our Christmas theme. I served the chicken sliced over a creamy mushroom and leek sauce. Delish. I served this with scalloped potatoes, but it would also be good over rice.

Serves 10

6-7 chicken breasts
3-4 oz sundried tomato pesto
6 oz Ricotta cheese
1 egg
Fresh baby spinach, stems removed (about 5-6 leaves per chicken breast)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese and egg; set aside. Slice the thick part of each chicken breast and flip open. Pound each chicken breast to about ¼” thick. Season outside of chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Flip breast over and spread the inside with pesto, then ricotta cheese and top with 5-6 spinach leaves. Starting with the thin side, roll up as tightly as possible and tuck in the ends to form a neat roll. Secure each breast with 2 toothpicks or tie closed with cooking string.
In a large frying pan with a few drizzles of EVOO, heat over high until oil starts to smoke and oil ripples. Brown all sides of chicken and transfer to a large casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 15-18 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through and juices run clear. Let rest before slicing.

1 Tbsp butter
1 large leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 large baby Bella mushrooms, diced
½ cup white wine
½ Tbsp cornstarch
½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

In the same frying pan used to brown chicken, add butter, leeks and mushrooms; sauté for 3-4 minutes. Scrap up browned bits of chicken from pan. Add wine and cornstarch, bring to a boil and whisk together. Turn heat to low and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Whisk in mustard. Add cream and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, pour sauce into a shallow serving dish and top with sliced chicken.

Pecan and Walnut Pie

We had a little holiday potluck at the house last night and I made this for dessert. I love the combo of the crispy pecans and walnuts withthe gooey center. I would definitely go for the store bought pie crust as a time saver.
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 9” piecrust (store-bought)
Heat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, brown and granulated sugars, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix in the pecans and walnuts.
Place the pie crust on baking sheet. Fill with the nut mixture and bake until the center is set, approx. 50 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crock Pot Roast

This is the perfect cozy comfort food for a chilly day. Throw everything in the crock pot and come home to mouthwatering smells that will fill your whole house!

2-3 lbs chuck roast or bottom round, cut into 1” cubes
3 large carrots, sliced into 2” long pieces
3 celery ribs, sliced
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
½ Tbsp salt
½ Tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 can of diced or crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth (or water)
½ cup red wine
¼ cup chopped parsley (I like to use Italian flat leaf)
2 Bay leaves

In a crock pot, or slow cooker, combine all ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours. The liquid should come half way up the meat, but do not cover completely. If there’s too much liquid, reduce the amount of broth, or water.

Serve in a shallow bowl over mashed potatoes or rice. Serve with carrots and spoon over extra sauce.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cheesy Salsa Fresca Pasta

This may sounds strange, but it’s really tasty. It’s cheesy with a fresh and spicy kick. Top with your favorite grilled meat – chicken or fish.

5 oz premade Alfredo sauce
½ cup pico de gallo (salsa fresca)
Fettuccine pasta
In a sauce pan, combine Alfredo sauce and pico de gallo; heat through. Boil pasta according to directions. Drain and toss with sauce mixture.

Top with grilled chicken or fish. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Tip: For a quick chicken or fish seasoning, sprinkle with taco seasoning.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watercress and Spinach Soup

It’s starting to get cold out. I don’t know about you, but this makes me crave soup! My Godmother makes delicious soups and two of my favorites are her watercress soup and her spinach soup, with just a splash of lemon.
She always talked about how important the splash of lemon at the end was, and it is! If you don’t believe us, taste the soup pre-lemon, then post-lemon and I dare you to disagree! J
 2-3 Servings

2 Tbsp butter

1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
3 green onion sprigs, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups chicken broth
6 oz fresh watercress - leaves and tender stems only
1 lb fresh spinach, chopped

1/4 cup minced flat leaf Italian parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice from ½ lemon
Plain Greek yogurt (or sourcream)

Over med-high heat, melt butter in a large pot. Add potatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add green onions and garlic. Sautee for about 2-3 minutes. Add broth and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 more minutes.

Add watercress, spinach and parsley. Mix together until wilted.  Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice.  

Serve immediately with a dollop or drizzle of yogurt. Enjoy with a sliced baguette or grilled Panini sandwich.

Note: In order to keep the bright green color of the soup, I recommend serving immediately. The longer it sat on my stove top the more brown it turned.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Croatian Swiss Chard and Potatoes (Blitva)

While were in Croatia, we often ate this traditional Dalmatian side dish, Blitva.  You could find it on the menu of any Dalmatian restaurant accompanying grilled fresh fish. Unfortunately, some of the dishes we had were lacking flavor due to over boiling the vegetables. Since I love these two vegetables, I decided to do it my way and kick the flavor up a notch.
To increase the flavor, I steamed the potatoes, instead of boiling, and sautéed the chard in garlic and red pepper flakes with a splash of apple cider vinegar.

2 large red skinned potatoes, diced
A large bunch of chard (I used red chard), rinsed and roughly chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed or crushed
Few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
A few drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
A dash of apple cider vinegar
Salt, season to taste

Over the stovetop, steam diced potatoes for about 15 minutes, until fork tender. Set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat EVOO over med-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir for about 2 minutes. Add chopped chard. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until wilted. Add apple cider vinegar and season with salt, to taste. Add potatoes and stir to combine.

Serve with your favorite grilled fish.

If you like this dish, try the Italian version, Spicy Greens and Bean, of this dish here.

Note: The potatoes are pink because the red chard releases the pink color from its red stems. You can use regual Swish chard with white stems too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chicken with Mediterranean Couscous

This dish took less than 30 minutes to make. It was colorful and full of flavor. I love marinating chicken in Italian salad dressing overnight because it's so easy and provides lots of flavor the next day.
I package of couscous (I used a box of garlic and olive oil flavor)
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
¼ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and diced
¼ cup artichoke hearts in oil, drained and diced
½ cup Mozzarella cheese pearls
2 Tbsp minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Italian Chicken:
2 chicken breasts
Italian salad dressing
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
In a large bag or bowl, add chicken and cover with salad dressing. Marinate overnight.

Cook couscous according to directions on packaging. Stir in remaining ingredients. Set aside and cook chicken.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium frying pan, heat a drizzle of EVOO over high heat. Once it starts to smoke and ripple, add chicken and brown on both sides for 1-2 minutes. Move chicken to oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until cooked all the way through so no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear.

To plate, make a bed of couscous and top with chicken sliced and fanned on top.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chorizo Stuffed Chile Relleno Casserole

Since we weren’t going to be around for Thanksgiving, I wanted to have an early celebration and throw a big brunch for my friends. I made several egg casserole/frittatas, but this one stood out as the crowd favorite. 
If you’re having guests in town for the holidays, I’d recommend this simple and quick dish as a part of your brunch menu.
1 chorizo sausage link (1 lb)
1 large can of whole roasted chile rellenos (about 10-12 peppers)
6 eggs
¼ cup milk
A dash of Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated pepper Jack cheese

Remove sausage from casing and into frying pan. Over med-high heat, cook sausage through. Using a spoon, carefully stuff chile peppers. Place stuffed peppers onto a greased baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with milk, Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over chiles into dish. Cover with shredded cheese.

Bake on 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is set. Let casserole rest for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

Top with sliced avocado and serve with salsa.


Blueberry Bread Pudding

I found that people typically really like bread pudding or won’t touch the stuff. I usually fall into the latter category, but decided to give it another shot. Recently, I made a big brunch for some friends and since I’m not a huge breakfast or sweets person, I wasn’t sure what to make for “dessert”. I thought about pancakes and French toast, but decided it was too much work and couldn’t really prepare beforehand.
I settled on the bread pudding because it was easy. I could make it the night before and finish baking it right before everyone arrived. Even my friend who said she didn’t like bread pudding, ended up going home with the recipe. This dish was devoured by the end of the day! I’m looking forward to making it again around Christmas when family is in town.
Crispy on top and warm in the middle.
10-12 servings

3 eggs
3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest from one lemon
2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 loaf (1 lb) French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest. Stir in frozen blueberries. Stir in bread cubes; let stand for 15 minutes or until bread is softened. I made mine the night before and then baked it the next day.

Transfer to a greased 13” x 9” baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with fresh blueberries and serve with fresh whipped cream or maple syrup.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gnocchi with Ham and Peas in Creamy Pesto

We just got back from our trip to Croatia where we had the opportunity to try all types of regional Dalmatian cuisine. In different parts of Croatia, the cuisine and architecture have Italian influences, since the two countries are located just across the Adriatic Sea.

This meal was inspired by a dish my husband had in a little town near Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. Since it’s all store bought (sorry, I cheated for this one!), it was super fast to put together. I think the longest cooking time was for the frozen peas! Perfect for a midweek meal.

1 package of Knorr Creamy Pesto sauce mix (or use your favorite jarred white sauce)
1-17 oz package of potato gnocchi
5 oz frozen peas
7 oz cubed ham
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Prepare Creamy Pesto sauce mix according to directions on packaging. Whisk constantly and remove from heat; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas for 3 minutes, then add gnocchi for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan over high heat, sauté cubed ham to brown.

When gnocchi start to float to the top of the water, drain water and return to peas and gnocchi to pot. Mix in pesto and ham.

Serve in a shallow bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. I garnished with diced tomato, just because I had some on hand to use up.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Black Risotto with Shrimp and Scallops

On our trip to Croatia, we made various stops along the coast – Dubrovnik, Hvar, Split – and in each town almost every restaurant offered black risotto (crni rižoto). The risotto is blackened using cuttlefish ink and includes sautéed cuttlefish.

When we returned to the States, I visited an Italian market that only sold imported goods and found a package of the black risotto. I was so excited to try this dish at home. Instead of running all over town and trying to hunt down cuttlefish, I decided to just use shrimp and scallops, then serve with a side of baked halibut.

1 package of black risotto (try to find this at your local Italian market)
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound scallops
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped green onions, for garnish

Prepare risotto according to directions on package. My instructions called for cooking the risotto in a pot of salted water with 1 Tbsp of butter for 18 minutes. Once risotto is tender, season with salt and mix in half of parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp of butter over high heat. Sauté shrimp and scallops until shrimp turn pink and scallops are cooked through and are no longer translucent in the middle. This should only take about 3 minutes. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Mix the seafood into the pot of risotto. Serve in a shallow bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with green onions.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Baked Halibut over Mashed Carrots and Potatoes

I decided to switch things up with the mashed potatoes and used a Parmesan Basil Sauce instead of milk. It gave it a great extra flavor and I used up the extra sauce I had in the fridge from yesterday’s dinner.

2 Halibut filets (I bought one 1 lb piece and cut it in half)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 large red skinned potatoes, diced
2 large carrots, chopped
About 10 asparagus spears
2 Tbsp butter, split into two slices
5 oz of Alfredo sauce (I used the Vons brand, Open Nature, Parmesan Basil Sauce), split into two

Marinate fish in EVOO, lemon juice, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil with potatoes and carrots. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until fork tender. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add asparagus.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fish on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until flakes easily with a fork and is not longer translucent in the middle.

Using a slotted spoon, add carrots to a large mixing bowl with 1 Tbsp butter and about 2 ½ oz of Alfredo sauce. Puree or blend until smooth. Salt to taste. Spread a spoonful of carrots to each plate.
In the same mixing bowl, add drained potatoes with Tbsp butter and about 2 ½ oz of Alfredo sauce.

Puree or blend until smooth. Salt to taste. Spread a spoonful of carrots to each plate.

Top with asparagus spears and fish filets. Add extra salt and pepper, to taste.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homemade Granola with Nuts and Dried Fruit

When my parents come to visit, it means we’re going to cook and eat…A LOT. Among the many things we cooked that week, we made a batch of homemade granola with toasted nuts and dried fruit. For breakfast every morning, my husband and I eat yogurt topped with fresh fruit and granola, so it was nice to create a batch of granola with the combination of flavors that we love. 

Mom & Larry making granola.

Whisk syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and oil.
Fold in oats until coated.
Spread mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
Press down until mixture is compact and then it is ready to bake.
Serve over yogurt and fresh fruit.
1/3 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried cherries  

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk syrup or nectar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and nuts until well coated.

Spread a thin layer of the mixture to the baking sheet. Press mixture down until compact. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Rotate rack half way through.

Remove from oven and let cool completely for about 1 hour. Break granola into desired pieces. Stir in dried fruit. Store into an airtight container.

Try these variations to create your perfect flavor combination:
·         Add dried apples
·         Add shredded coconut
·         Add 2 Tbsp orange zest
·         Add dried mango or pineapple for a tropical flare
·         Try a variety of nuts like hazelnuts or macadamias

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brussels Sprout Sauté with Bacon, Pecans and Goat Cheese

My parents are in town, and you know what that means...good eats! Here's the side from our first dinner together. 

About 10 large Brussels Sprouts
5 strips of bacon, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans
Crumbled goat cheese (about 3 oz or to your liking)
Salt, season to taste
Prepare Brussels Sprouts but removing outer leaves and cutting in half. Steam for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook diced bacon until crispy. Add steamed Brussels Sprouts, garlic and pecans; toss, coating Brussels Sprouts in bacon grease. Season with salt, to taste.

Serve and top with crumbled goat cheese. Enjoy with grilled fish and garlic bread.

·         Substitute pecans for walnuts or pine nuts
·         Substitute goat cheese for feta cheese

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fried Polenta with Black Bean Salsa

A little bit of Italy with a Central American flare.
Polenta originates from Italy and is a porridge like substance made from cornmeal. It has a smooth, creamy consistency, similar to cream of wheat or grits. Polenta can be used in place of rice, potatoes, pasta or bread and served as an appetizer or as a part of the main dish.

2 servings

1-18 oz tube of precooked polenta (I used  a brand from Quinoa)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Black Bean Salsa:
1 can of black beans (I used ½ a can)
½ small red bell pepper, diced
½ small yellow bell pepper, diced
½ large avocado, diced
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
Juice from one lime
Salt, season to taste

Cotija cheese

Cut polenta into ½”slices. I cut 4 slices per person. In a frying pan over med-high heat, drizzle just a little EVOO. Cook polenta for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for black bean salsa. Carefully toss to combine without mashing the avocado.

Top fried polenta slices with black bean salsa. Top with crumbled Cotija cheese. Serve with grilled chicken.

Note: To prepare the chicken, I rubbed the chicken pieces with chili powder and salt, then drizzled with lime juice. Let marinate for 30 minutes and then grill until cooked through.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

Where the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean meet and create happiness in your mouth.
1 lb dried Orzo pasta
1 cup mozzarella cheese pearls
½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/3 cup diced sun dried tomatoes
1 large bunch of basil, chopped
2 green onion sprigs, chopped
1/3 cup minced Italian flat leaf parsley
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook Orzo according to directions on packaging; cook until al dente. Set aside and allow to cool.
In a small bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk together; set aside. 
Toss cooled Orzo pasta with remaining ingredients. Add marinade and mix together until well combined.
Helpful hint: For a more flavorful pasta, make this dish a day ahead to allow the flavors to marinate overnight. 
·         Substitute the sun dried tomatoes for halved fresh cherry tomatoes
·         Substitute the  marinade for a pesto sauce

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grilled Pork Chops with Sautéed Veggies over Mashed Potatoes

Nothing fancy, but tasty and filling.
Serves 2
2- 3/4" Pork chops
Lemon Pepper seasoning
Seasoned salt
¾ cup baby carrots, halved
1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1” pieces
½ small yellow onion, sliced
1 Anaheim pepper, sliced (you can use a regular bell pepper too)
1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp of freshly minced cilantro
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Mashed Potatoes:
2 large red skinned potatoes, cubed
2 Tbsp butter
¼ cup milk (add more to get a creamy consistency)
Salt and black pepper, taste
Starting with the potatoes since they have the longest cook time, in a large pot of boiling water, cook cubed potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain water and add back to pot. Add butter and milk and mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Cover and set aside.
Preheat grill to medium heat. Season one side of pork with lemon pepper seasoning and the other side with seasoned salt.  Grill pork for about 4 minutes per side, or depending on thickness until no longer pink in the middle.
Lastly, prepare the veggies. In a frying pan over med-high heat, drizzle EVOO. Start sautéing with carrots first. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add zucchini , onion and peppers. Sauté another 3-4 minutes. Last, add garlic and cilantro. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until carrots are tender. 
Serve pork chops over a plate of mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. Enjoy!
·         Grill chicken, fish or steak instead of pork chops
·         Pan sear the meat instead of grilling
·         Substitute any of the veggies by adding your favorites or removing those you don’t like
·         Add a variety of herbs to the veggies, such as rosemary, parsley and/or chives

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Meatball Stroganoff

A quick and tasty meal with a spin on the traditional beef stroganoff.
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced
1 egg
¼ Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (if mixture is too wet, add more) 
4 large white or Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
McCormik stroganoff seasoning (yes, I'm cheating and using a packet...that's what makes it quick!) 
In a large bowl, mix ingredients for meatballs together until well combined. In a large frying pan over med-high heat and drizzle oil. Using wet hands, form walnut sized balls from meat mixture and drop onto frying pan. Fry all sides until browned. 
Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring around meatballs. Following the directions on the seasoning packet, add water mixed with seasoning to the pan with the meatballs and mushrooms. Before serving , stir in one cup of sour cream.  
Serve over egg noodles or rice. Garnish with minced fresh parsley or sprinkle with paprika and freshly cracked pepper.