Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wild Rice Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This turned out to be a little fussier than I would typically like for a weeknight dinner, but with a little extra time in the kitchen, I would definitely make this again - and it received rave reviews at my table!

  • ¼ cup wild rice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 10 pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 10 -12 sun dried tomato halves, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 clementine or Satsuma orange, peeled, sectioned, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Bring 2 cups water, salt, and rice to boil in saucepan.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 40 minutes or until rice is cooked and tender.  Drain and cool.  Mix olives, tomato, parsley, orange, and lemon juice together in small bowl.  Add cooled rice and toss to mix.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pound chicken breasts between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, until each breast is about ¼ inch thick.  Place ¼ cup of rice mixture on each breast. Roll chicken around rice, tucking in ends and securing with toothpicks.

Heat oil in heavy skillet.  Cook chicken until browned on each side, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer browned chicken to baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and rice is hot.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Citrus Pulled Beef Appetizer.

I have experimented with a variety of pulled beef recipes, with most of them prepared in the crock pot.  For this recipe, I wanted to make a smaller quantity for an appetizer, so decided to roast a smaller piece of meat in the oven.  Our family's usual favorite is Tangy Pulled Beef, which has a little zing with pepperocini added as the meat finishes cooking.  For this dish, I wanted something a little fruity and after seeing a Whole Foods recipe for a cranberry pulled beef, decided to see what I could create.  I reached for a can of cranberry sauce and used ingredients I had on hand to make this dish - and it's a keeper.

  • 1 – 1.5 pound beef roast
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 or 2 clementine or Satsuma oranges (or one small can mandarin oranges, drained)
  • crusty bread

Generously sprinkle salt and pepper all over roast. Heat oil in dutch oven, and brown roast on all sides. Transfer meat to an oven-proof baking dish that has a lid.  Add cranberry sauce and orange juice to browning pan.  Stir while the mixture comes to a boil.  Remove sauce from heat and pour over roast.  Cover baking dish with foil and then the lid, for a tight seal.  Bake at 350 degrees for 2-2.5 hours, until meat can be easily shredded with a fork.  Peel and separate oranges into segments.  Cut segments in thirds, and gently toss into meat. Serve on bread, either open-faced or as bite-sized sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Simple Shrimp & Crab Cioppino.

This is my simple version of the Italian-American seafood stew, Cioppino.  Cioppino originated in the late 1800s in the San Francisco Bay area, created by Italian and Portuguese immigrants.  Typical recipes call for fish; any combination of fish or shellfish can be added to this recipe, which calls only for our family favorites, shrimp and crab.  Total prep and cooking time is under an hour, which makes it reasonable for a weeknight menu. 

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 cups white wine
  • I small can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, & tails removed (thawed)
  • 2 - 6 ounce cans lump crab meat
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook until onion and pepper are softened.  Add tomatoes (with juice), broth, wine, tomato paste, thyme, and parsley.  Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, add shrimp and crab.  Cook 5 minutes, just until shrimp are cooked.  Stir in basil or parsley and serve.  Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy! Serve with fresh baguette slices.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Raisin Bread Baked French Toast.

This easy baked french toast recipe was adapted from a Whole Foods Market recipe for Baked Panettone French Toast.  I prepared it for Christmas Eve Morning, when I knew I'd be busy with last minute preparations, and still wanted to sit down to a hot, filling breakfast.  This recipe was a snap to prep the night before, and in less than an hour, went from fridge to table in the morning.  It was exactly what I needed for Christmas Eve Morning and will be a great go-to breakfast for feeding a crowd of hungry swimmers after morning practice!

  • 6 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted and divided
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 large apples (Granny Smith or Braeburn work well), peeled, cored, & thinly sliced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 6 thick slices Raisin Bread, cut in half
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Melt 4 Tbsp butter (or margarine) and mix with brown sugar and water.  Spread in the bottom of 9x13 baking pan and set aside.  Saute apple slices in remaining 2 Tbsp butter for 6-8 minutes, or until soft.  Arrange apples on top of brown sugar mixture in pan and sprinkle cranberries evenly on apples.  Lay bread slices on top of fruit.  Set aside to allow apples to cool slightly.  Mix eggs, milk, and cinnamon together. Pour over bread in pan. Cover and chill overnight.  In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes, or until toast is browned and egg mixture has set. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays! And I'm Back!

It has been more than three months since my last post. Of course, I have cooked in the last three months, but I didn't slow down long enough to write about it!  I'm slowing down now, and I'm back.  I look forward to sharing new recipes and strategies for a healthy lifestyle - including slowing down long enough to enjoy the things you love most! - as we turn the corner into 2013.  Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2013 from my family to each of you! 

(The reason I am a busy girl who cooks good food:
two incredible teenage athletes in my family...)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Balsamic Pine Nut Pasta Toss with Meatballs

For years I had a kid who was not fond of sauces or spreads of any kind.  This made things a little challenging when invited to dinner parties, but actually made things pretty simple at home.  While my friends were coaxing their kids to eat vegetables by slathering them in cheese or were looking for ways to “hide” them in other dishes, all I had to do was produce a bowl of cooked fresh broccoli and some lemon juice, green beans with a little sea salt, or spinach with balsamic vinegar, and there was no coaxing required! (Note: balsamic vinegar is a staple in my kitchen and has never been turned down by my no-sauce kid.)  Pair my non-sauce eating diner with a very lactose intolerant husband, and my cooking was transformed into the mostly whole food, produce-rich, simple presentations that I'm known for today.  Fast-forward a few years and I now have a kid who eats sauces & spreads, but my cooking hasn’t changed that much.  This simple preparation of meatballs with pasta & pine nuts is a sauce-free dish that is easy to put together on short notice and everyone leaves the table satisfied.

Oven Baked Meatballs
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 T chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 sm clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T chopped red onion
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 T Worcestershire Sauce

Mix ingredients together using your hands.  Form into 1 inch balls and place on foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes in oven pre-heated to 350 degrees.

Balsamic Pine Nut Pasta Toss
  • Cooked thin spaghetti
  • Pine Nuts
  • Freshly shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Italian parsley
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Meatballs
While meatballs are in the oven, cook pasta according to package instructions.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp (or more) each of pine nuts and cheese on pasta.  Add parsley to taste.  When meatballs are cooked through, add to pasta dish and drizzle with balsamic. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salmon with Plum & Mango Salsa.

These last couple of weeks have been busy! I've been cooking, but not writing. Time get caught up. This was tonight's dinner - an easy preparation that keeps your kitchen cool and is a great combination of warm fish and cool salsa. Enjoy! (Please ignore the funky formatting below. Blogger is not behaving tonight...)

Plum & Mango Salsa
  • 2 plums, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped mango
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

Grilled Salmon
  • salmon filets, skin on
  • olive oil
  • salt

Gently toss salsa ingredients together and chill until ready to serve.

For grilled salmon, heat grill to a medium high to high temperature.  Drizzle olive oil over salmon and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place fish skin side down on grill and close cover.  Cook for 4 to 5  minutes. As soon as you see the fat start to bubble out of the fish, turn the fish over and cook one more minute (to get nice grill marks!).  The skin should peel off easily – and is often easy to do right on the grill.  Peel away skin and remove fish from grill.

Serve with salsa and enjoy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Best Burgers.

This is a simple and flavorful hamburger recipe. Since I use lean ground beef, the recipe adds additional ingredients to make sure the burger is full of flavor.

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 90% lean
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning blend with or without salt, such as Morton's Nature's Seasons (salt) or Mrs. Dash (no salt)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
In a medium bowl, use hands to mix ingredients into beef.  When thoroughly mixed, form 6 to 8 patties. For burgers cooked to "medium", grill over high heat for 3-4 minutes, flip, and cook another 4-5 minutes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls.

These cinnamon rolls are simply amazing.  The Baker Chick gets credit for my inspiration on this one.  Her pictures were enough to convince me to experiment with a few recipes and this is where I ended up.  The recipe takes an hour and a half to two hours from start to finish.  It's a little fussy - but the rolls called to me and after a couple of tries and some adaptations, I’ve decided they’re worth the investment in time.
There are four distinct parts to this recipe: the dough, the filling, the browned butter for the filling, and the frosting.

Part I: The Dough
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg

Heat the milk until it just starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until it melts completely.  Cool to about 120 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt.  When milk/butter mixture is cooled, add yeast to it and stir.  Then, add the milk mixture, egg, and water to the dry ingredients.  Mix with hand mixer until smooth.  Stir in remaining 1 ¼ cups of flour, ¼ cup at a time.  Dough will be stiff so mixing by hand is your best choice at this point.  When dough starts to pull together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Part II: The Filling
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.

Part III: The Browned Butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add butter and allow it to melt, stirring frequently.  Once melted, the butter will start to foam up. Watch and continue to stir. When the foam subsides, brown specks will start to form on the bottom of the pan.  As soon as this happens, remove from heat to stop further cooking.  [Watching the butter closely will avoid burning it.  If it burns, start over. Browned butter gives a rich, nutty flavor; burned butter tastes, well, burned.]
While the butter cools a bit, roll dough on a lightly floured surface into a 9 x 13 rectangle.  Use a pastry brush to spread butter generously over dough.  Sprinkle brown sugar & cinnamon evenly on dough and press it in gently using fingers.  Roll dough into a cylinder, starting on a long edge.  Pinch the seam to close it securely.  Using a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into 12 equal size pieces and place in a 9x13 baking dish. Drizzle any remaining butter over the top.  Cover and let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Once rolls have doubled in size, bake in a 375 degree oven for 18 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and spread with frosting.

Part IV: The Frosting
  • 2 Tbsp softened butter
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Use hand mixer to mix together butter and cream cheese until creamy. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Spread on warm rolls and enjoy!