Sunday, May 2, 2010

I still see you!!

There you are, still visiting me here on this old blog... I see you :) Yes I do!! Change is good, I promise. Check me out on the new blog!! I'm doing lots of cooking (including some sausage making adventures!!) - so I hope you'll join me!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pack your bags!!!

I hope that you all will follow me because IM MOVING!!! I got a wild hair this week that I wanted a more featured website. I really like Wordpress (sorry blogger fans!) and Blogger has really been urking me lately, so I took the plunge. I bought my domain name, did a little programming and we are off!

I have a few tweaks left to make and if there are features you'd like to see, please let me know! But for the most part, all the links should work and the posts should be transferred. I hope you'll follow me!!

New website address: (that's easy, right?!)

And if you don't want to go there now, you can just add me to your blog reader using this link! If you have any issues at all, please either comment on this post or email me using the contact form on the new site!!

Thanks for following me!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And my poor radishes

Good thing we weren't planning on eating the green tops!! This is their fate.... (click here)

Slowly but surely...

I'm getting there. Slowly but surely, I'm getting there. I need these braces that are on my teeth, I really do. But it is KILLING ME - a girl who loves food, loves cooking, loves tasting, loves experimenting... its KILLING ME not to be able to chew!!! But it's getting better, slowly but surely. SIGH. Patience is a virtue that I do not possess right now!

Anywhoooo... We got farm box #2 today! I was so excited to check it out! There were some repeats:
- Green cabbage
- Micro greens (which I suspect are actually arugula, but I cant chew lettuce, soooooooo)
- The most gorgeous carrots
- Beet greens
- Tatsoi (which I have yet to figure out what to do with this!?)
- Eggs (can I tell you how amazing fresh eggs are?!?)

The new additions are below. I'm forcing my husband to eat a big salad ASAP with that gorgeous red lettuce and the arugula. I'm definitely open for suggestions for this week's veggies - especially the turnips! They're a new food for me, believe it or not!



Red Leaf Lettuce

Red Onions


Saturday, April 10, 2010

(57) Risotto with Chicken and Beet Greens

I have to admit right here and now - my husband and I do not really love beets. So when I saw beet greens in the CSA box this week, I thought 'eh, ok'. But today I got up the nerve to find a good recipe for them and I'm sure glad I did!

This risotto was an excellent way to use the beet greens! I only had about 3/4 lb of greens and they were slim and sometimes short. The final product didn't taste overly 'beet-ish' at all, which was my biggest fear. Not sure if it's because I didn't have a pound, they were small, or that's just the way this recipe works! In any case, it was DELICIOUS and the perfect lunch for us!

As with any risotto, there's an awful lot of stirring and waiting. The recipe says it should take 20 minutes and mine took at least 2x that long. It's quite possible that I was overly cautious, but if yours takes that long too, don't worry! Slow and steady is better than speedy in this case!

For my vegetarian friends out there, you could easily omit the chicken and sub in veggie broth. And if you're vegan (hi Natalie!) if you can find a good vegan substitute for parmesan, you're golden! (I used asiago and parmesan, but any mix of sharp tasting cheeses, vegan or not, would work!)

Risotto with Chicken and Beet Greens

Yield: 6 servings
Source: Gourmet Magazine, March 1996

5 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pound beet stems and greens (from about 6 beets), stems trimmed and leaves washed well
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 1 pound total), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a saucepan bring broth and water to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer.

Cut beet stems into 1/4-inch pieces and slice leaves thin. In a 4-quart heavy kettle cook beet stems and onion in 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat until stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon oil and beet leaves and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring, until leaves are wilted and any liquid is evaporated.

Add rice to chicken mixture and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Stir in about 1 cup broth and cook at a bare simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar, grated Parmesan, black pepper, and salt to taste.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Learning: Sapodilla

Time to review the funky fruits we bought last week in S. Florida!! First will be the sapodilla.

Sapodilla comes from an evergreen tree and is most commonly grown in India, Mexico/Latin America, and the Phillipines/SE Asia. It looks like a russet potato, but when it ripens, it gets really soft and squishy kind of like an avocado. The sapodilla has a couple of black, flat seeds that are about the size of a penny. When it's ripe the brown flesh is soft and squishy - kind of like a ripe pear.

Interesting fact - the seeds have a little hook on them that if swallowed, could get caught in your throat. OUCH. I also discovered that if you eat more than 6 seeds, you might experience abdominal pain and vomiting. So the lesson here is skip the seeds!!

Sapodilla is generally eaten cut in half and scooped out with a spoon. The fruit can also be cut and added to a salad, smoothie, or as a part of a tropical fruit sauce for use in desserts, drinks, pancakes, etc.

The sign at the fruit stand said "Tastes like a pear covered in brown sugar". You could definitely taste hints of brown sugar and it tasted like a pear, apple, and some flavor I couldn't quite place. I can see why people like these fruits. I have a feeling it's a taste you grow up with and love. I wasn't enamored with the flavor, but my husband liked it. I think I expected it to be much sweeter than it was, but it had a mild flavor and was mushy and slightly grainy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

(56) Gratin Au Chou

One of my favorite memories from elementary school was taking French classes. We went to a private school and we did French every week. It was mostly puppets and flash cards and LOTS of singing. One of the songs we sang was "Savez-vous planter les chous?" (that means "Do you know how to plant the cabbages?") and was meant to help you learn body parts. The French also refer to chou as sweetheart (Ma petite chou literally means "my little cabbage", but figuratively means "my sweetie"). All that to say, I love chou - it has a special place in my heart!! I love cabbage, but chou is even better :)

I was trying to come up with what to do with my cabbages from the CSA box and since I can't really chew much right now, this was the perfect fit! The original recipe kind of stunk and I ended up having to really improvise as I went along, but I wrote it all down and will hopefully not lead you astray!! The flavor of the sauce is what really wins this dish. Mixing it all up after it goes on your plate = HEAVEN! Oh and the original recipe said serves 6, but I can only assume that's as a main dish. I say 8-10 as a side. Great with roasted chicken!

Gratin Au Chou

Yield: 8-10 servings (as a side)
Source: Adapted from an online recipe

1 medium Savoy cabbage (or a small Savoy and a small green cabbage is what I did...)
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 pound very ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cups water
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used skim, but use whatever pleases you!)
1/2 pound grated cheese (Gruyère or Swiss)
salt and pepper

Cut the cabbage in quarters, wash well, and cut out the hard inner core. Chop the leaves and cook the cabbage for 10 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. You want it to be soft but not dead. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook for five minutes. Add the rice and cook for two minutes, stirring. Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Cook for 10 minutes or until the rice is just tender, adding up to 1 cup more water as needed. You want your rice to be soft but not soupy...

Meanwhile make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and stirring in the flour. Cook the roux for two minutes and than slowly whisk in milk. Heat on medium heat until nearly boiling and thickened, then gradually add half of the cheese while stirring. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper (I used 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper). Oh and if you're like me and can't read directions properly and you just added ALL of the cheese, no worries. It will still be yummy!

To construct casserole, butter a large baking dish. Beginning with the cabbage, layer the cabbage and the rice mixture. Aim to get three even layers of each. Pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. Serve the cabbage casserole hot.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My stab at the 1st CSA Box...

This is like a food lovers mystery heaven!!! I am fairly certain that I know what these things are, but there's a chance I'm wrong and I'm ok with that! So if you think I am, say so! Here are all the goodies in my box this week!

If you want to see anything up close, just click on it!

First - I paid extra for a dozen farm fresh eggs. Never had them before and WOW can I tell you that they taste great! I'm sold!

Now for the veggies!! I'm planning on a pot roast on Sunday and will use the carrots, onions, and potatoes! I've been instructed to roast the parsnips, and have already used the cabbages! Otherwise, I'm open to suggestions!

1) Beet Greens

2) Collard Greens

(3) Carrots - they are HUGE!!

(4) Green Cabbage (looks like a giant Brussels Sprout, huh?!)

(5) Kale (can't wait to try Stephanie's kale chips!)

(6) Mixed Greens

(7) Onions

(8) Parsnips

(9) Potatoes

(10) Savoy Cabbage
(11) Tatsoi

(55) Hearty Beef and Tomato Stew

Brace face strikes again! I thought this would be soft enough, but I underestimated the joy of new braces! Soooooooooo, I didnt really eat this, which makes me sad! But my husband and daughter both sucked it down, so I'd say it was a hit. Not hard to make, just a little time consuming to get everything chopped. I'd make this again! (And sorry, no picture on this one...)

Hearty Beef and Tomato Stew

Source: Cooking Light, October 2006
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups stew and 1 tablespoon parsley)

The ingredient list may look lengthy, but this recipe involves mostly measuring and adding ingredients to the pot to simmer. To trim prep time, look for prechopped onions in the produce aisle. Serve with crusty slices of a baguette. A double-dose of lycopene comes with tomato paste and canned tomatoes.

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pounds sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
4 cups cubed red potato (1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups sliced carrot
3/4 cup pinot noir or other spicy dry red wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (16-ounce) package frozen pearl onions
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove beef from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon of drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add broth; bring to a boil. Return meat to pan. Add potato and next 7 ingredients (through bay leaf); bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 1 hour and 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Discard rosemary and bay leaf. Stir in salt and pepper. Top with parsley.

CALORIES 329 (21% from fat); FAT 7.5g (sat 2.6g,mono 3.3g,poly 0.4g); IRON 4.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 51mg; CALCIUM 93mg; CARBOHYDRATE 33.3g; SODIUM 630mg; PROTEIN 31.1g; FIBER 4.1g

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mystery veggies

My first CSA box is here and I.AM.IN.LOVE!!!!!! It was like Christmas for me! I got all sorts of cool vegetables and a dozen farm fresh eggs! I know what most of the vegetables are, but there are a few mysteries. Can you help me?

I think this is baby cauliflower?? Yes? What do I do with it?

This is a green of some sort. It has a core/stem like a head of lettuce, but I'm not sure what it is, exactly!

Sooooo, whatcha got? SOMEONE has to know what these are!?!? You'll be my hero for the day (maybe even the week!). I will post the rest of the stuff I got tomorrow. Some good looking veggies (curly cabbage is so pretty!!), and some gnarly ones (hello huge warty carrots!). I can't wait to get cooking!

PS: Click on the pictures to see them in a larger format!!
PPS: Favorite way to use parsnips? I need some suggestions! I'm stumped on those...

Monday, April 5, 2010

(54) Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Crisps

I purchased the bags of broccoli florets to use in this, so I only had to chop the onion and celery. That made this relatively speedy to make. I used an extra 1/2 cup of water - use your judgment, it might need a little bit more than the recipe calls for. For not having any cream or even any broth in it, this soup was amazingly creamy!! We all enjoyed it. I couldn't really enjoy the cheese crisps because of my teeth, but my husband and daughter devoured them with the soup!! I will make this again, for sure!

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Crisps

Yield: 4 servings
Source: Food and Wine Magazine, February 2008

For an ingenious twist on the classic combination of broccoli and melted cheddar, Barbara Lynch serves a warming broccoli soup with cheddar crisps. Try making the crisps with Mimolette, an orange-hued semihard cheese from France, which has a milder, nuttier flavor than cheddar. The soup is equally good with cauliflower or celery root in place of the broccoli.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
3 small celery ribs, thinly sliced (1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets
3 1/2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cheddar Crisps, for serving

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.

2. Add the broccoli and water to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender and puree until smooth. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve with the Cheddar Crisps.

Make Ahead
The broccoli soup can be refrigerated overnight.

Nutritional Information (per this includes 2 crisps
Calories 149, Total Fat 9.8 g, Cholesterol 7.4 mg, Sodium 120.9 mg, Potassium 678.0 mg, Total Carbohydrate 12.0 g, Dietary Fiber 6.0 g, Protein 7.3 g

Without the crisps
Calories 120, Fat 7.4g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 76.8mg, Potassium 671mg, Carbohydrates 11.9g, Fiber 6g, Protein 5.6g

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(53) Cheddar Crisps & a note...

Today I got braces. I am 32 years old, and I got braces. *insert sad face here* My jaw has been giving me problems and it got so bad and my bite got so off that it was what needed to happen, sooooooooooo. Anyway, my mouth HURTS today and from what I hear, that will last a few days then I'll be back to normal. So it was like 90 today here in FL and that weather doesn't exactly scream for soup, but whatever, that's all I can handle right now, so that's what we're having! Just didn't want you to think I had lost my mind :)

Now for the recipe - this goes with the soup to follow. I had never made these before. They look so fancy-schmancy, but there's really nothing to it! Don't know why I waited so long to make them! I think you could use any kind of cheese and put these on salad plates, soups, as a garnish, etc. The baby LOVED this, too (although really, what's not to love?!). Delish and pretty!

Cheddar Crisps

Yield: Makes 8 crisps
Source: Food and Wine Magazine, February 2008

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded (1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cheese on the sheet in eight 2-inch rounds. Bake for 18 minutes, until darkened slightly. Blot the crisps with paper towels and let cool (the will harden as they cool).

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Back from vacation!

My husband and I have been off celebrating our 5th anniversary! We went down to the Keys and spent 5 days just soaking up the sun and drinking fruity drinks :) But Im baaaaaaaaaaack!! (and back to reality!) Menu plan to follow shortly, but until then, my fruity adventures!

We ended up going to the fruit stand I talked about - it's called Robert is Here and it's located in Florida City/Homestead (which is south west-ish of Miami). I am thankful a friend put me on to it, because it was AMAZING! I could have stayed all day long! They make fresh fruit shakes and have a store with all sorts of local honey, dips, salsas, etc. I bought a few kinds of honey and then some cool fruit! I am most excited about a few things that I got. These are pictures I found online, but I'll document as we taste and figure out what to do with the items! If you have any suggestions on how to eat/use these items, I'd love to hear them!

1) Key Limes

2) Tamarind

3) Passion Fruit

4) Sapodilla

5) Mamey Sapote

Sunday, March 28, 2010

And now, some fruit adventures!!

We're headed out for a little vacation here shortly. I'm planning the places we'll go and of course there's a lot of food involved in this planning (and beer for my husband!). One of the places we're going sells exotic fruits. I've eaten papaya, mango, key lime, etc. but the majority of things on this list, I've never heard of! Any suggestions on what I should bring back with me? They're not all available this time of year, but I can't wait to go exploring!

  • Apple Banana
  • Asian Guavas
  • Avocados
  • Caimito (Star Apple)
  • Canistel (Egg Fruit)
  • Carambola
  • Ciruela
  • Dragon Fruit
  • Guanabana (Sour Sop)
  • Jackfruit
  • Key Lime
  • Kumquat
  • Longans
  • Lychee
  • Mangos
  • Mamey Sapote
  • Monstera Deliciosa
  • Papaya
  • Passion Fruit
  • Sapodilla
  • Sapote (Black)(also known as chocolate fruit)
  • Sugar Apples (Anon, Atemoya, Cherimoya)
  • Sugar Cane
  • Tamarind
  • Water Coconut/Coconut

Saturday, March 27, 2010

CSA Adventures

I am SO SO excited about this development in my cooking adventure - I finally found a CSA! We had an employee health fair at work this week and a local farm was there advertising their CSA. If you've never heard of a CSA before, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy 'shares' of the farm and receive a box of fresh produce every week! So you're supporting the local farmers and getting lots of yummy (often organic) fresh produce!

So the local CSA that I'm about to join only runs from January-May. It's often unpredictable in Florida in the summer between the heat and the hurricanes, so I guess they've just decided to play it safe and do half a year. Since the season is almost over, they're allowing me to buy in for the last 2 months, which I'm excited about. I figure I can see if a whole box of produce is too much for us to eat every week (you can buy "half shares" and get a box every other week!). This farm we're joining also has grass fed, hormone/antibiotic free beef that you can buy in addition to your veggies. I can't wait to try it!

Anyway, I'm so excited to start getting fresh organic produce and to be supporting the local agriculture!! Stay tuned for some new veggies to join my rotation and for an update on how the CSA adventure is panning out!

PS: If you'd like to find a CSA in your area, you can look on this website. I hope you can find something near you! (look at this map - they're everywhere!)

PPS: My friend Stephanie writes a blog for her local CSA, The Greenling (they are in TX). You can check them out for some ideas of what CSAs send out every week. She has some great recipes there too!

Friday, March 26, 2010

(52) Kimchi-Style Slaw

This recipe was suggested by Cooking Light to go with the Barbecued Pork Chops. This made the meal extra spicy but may I just say... YUM! I only used 1 tsp garlic (I didn't want dragon breath!) which worked fine. The flavors here were spicy and tangy and even my non-slaw loving husband liked it. (actually, the baby did too, go figure!). Using bagged shredded cabbage made this a super quick side!

Kimchi-Style Slaw

Yield: 4 servings
Source: Cooking Light, June 2009

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons Sriracha
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Combine first 7 ingredients (vinegar through sugar) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add cabbage and green onions; toss to coat.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

(51) Barbecued Pork Chops

I am officially in love with pork chops on the bone! They end up much more tender than boneless ones, and for me, the tradeoff of a few more calories is worth it!! This recipe was so simple to put together. I wasn't quite sure how the flavors would work - especially that much sesame oil. But it was amazing how much flavor the chops had after just 30 minutes of marinating. They were spicy and sweet and a little smokey all at the same time. Very intriguing!

I will say that I failed to properly do the glaze. OOPS. I was washing dishes while the chops cooked and the sauce simmered. It was so little in the pan and 2 seconds too long = sauce glued to the pan. I was able to save a little bit, though! These are pork chops that I will definitely make again!!

Barbecued Pork Chops

A simple 8-ingredient marinade, made with mostly pantry staples, brings out the vibrant flavor of these chops. Pair with kimchi-style slaw for a flavorful duo and a quick cooking dinner solution, ready in about 40 minutes (including a 25-minute marinade).

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop)
Source: Cooking Light, JUNE 2009

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons sake (rice wine)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) bone-in pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; add pork to bag. Seal; marinate at room temperature 25 minutes.

2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Remove pork from bag; reserve marinade. Sprinkle pork with salt. Cook pork 3 minutes on each side or until done. Pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until thickened. Brush pork with reduced marinade; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

CALORIES 195 ; FAT 9.4g (sat 2.5g,mono 3.9g,poly 2.4g); CHOLESTEROL 49mg; CALCIUM 31mg; CARBOHYDRATE 8.9g; SODIUM 433mg; PROTEIN 17.7g; FIBER 0.3g; IRON 1mg

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another favorite - Chicken Tetrazzini

This recipe is another one that I make all the time. I love it with all my heart and I recommend it to anyone who will listen!! Just like the stuffed shells, it makes 2 dishes. I love that because I can make one for a friend who's been sick or just had a baby and I can keep the other for us to eat! This also freezes beautifully, so you can freeze one and eat the other right away!

PS: I have made just half a recipe before and that worked out fine (but really, you might as well make 2!)
PPS: Amy's opera note - it's named after opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Yield: 2 casseroles, 6 servings each (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)
Source: Cooking Light Magazine, March 2003

1 tablespoon butter
cooking spray
1 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 (8-ounce) packages pre-sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry sherry
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 (14.5 oz) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 1/4 cups (9 oz) grated fresh parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup (4 oz) 1/3-less fat cream cheese
7 cups hot cooked vermicelli (about 1 lb uncooked pasta)
4 cups chopped cooked chicken (about 1.5 lbs)
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread (Amy's note: I used canned breadcrumbs, just estimated the amt.)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt butter in large stockpot coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, pepper, salt, and mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add sherry; cook 1 minute.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Gradually add flour to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly (mixture will be thick) with a whisk. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

4. Add 1 3/4 cups Parmesan cheese and cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until cream cheese melts. Add the pasta and chicken, and stir until blended. Divide the pasta mixture between 2 (8-inch square) baking dishes coated with cooking spray.

5. Place bread in food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form. Combine breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; sprinkle evenly over pasta mixture.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove casserole from oven; let stand 15 minutes.

* To freeze unbaked casserole: Prepare through step 5. Cool completely in refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.

* To Prepare Frozen Unbaked Casserole: Thaw casserole completely in refrigerator (about 24 hrs). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover casserole with reserved foil; bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 1 hour or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes.

Calories - 380 (29% from fat); fat 12.2 g (sat 6.6, mono 3.4, poly .7); protein 33 g; carb 32.7g; fiber 2g; cholesterol 66 mg; iron 2.8 mg; sodium 964 mg; calcium 319 mg.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Learning: Cream of Tartar

I was watching one of my favorite food shows today - Barefoot Contessa. I know she might seem a little uppity to some, but I love her simple approach to food and yum does it look good! Of course, she doesn't exactly use low fat ingredients, but sometimes that's ok!

Today she was making this Lime Meringue Tart. I love lime flavored desserts and I love meringue, so this caught my eye. As she was adding the cream of tartar I thought to myself "what the heck is cream of tartar, anyway". So off to Google I went!

What is Cream of Tartar??

I found a few articles about cream of tartar - this one being the best. Cream of Tartar is the byproduct of the wine making process! Who knew!? Apparently, grapes contain tartaric acid and as the wine is fermenting, the grapes leave a residue inside of the wine casks. Here's a great article about the use of tartaric acid in the wine making process, in case you're curious about that part!

Where do you use it?
Cream of tartar is an acid and is used most commonly in baking/dessert applications. It's used with egg whites (and sugar) to create stable and puffy meringue like in the tart recipe mentioned above. It's also used a lot in frostings. The acidity prevents crystals from forming and makes the frosting creamier! There's your Jeopardy trivia for the day :)

The other place you may not know about is baking powder. Baking powder is (in a simplified explanation) baking soda + cream of tartar + corn starch.

Where do I find it?
Cream of tartar is fairly common to find. It should be at your supermarket in the spice aisle. It will last forever! It's not like regular spices that can lose potency, so you can feel comfortable keeping it around for a while.

  • If you don't have baking powder on hand but need some in a pinch, you can use 2 parts cream of tartar and 1 part baking soda (so for example - 2 tsp cream of tartar + 1 tsp of baking soda). 
  • If you're beating egg whites, use white vinegar in a pinch. Make a 1 for 1 substitution. (ex: if your recipe calls for 1 tsp of cream of tartar, use 1 tsp of vinegar)
  • Substitutions in other baking recipes is a bit dicier. You can use the vinegar or lemon juice option. You can also play around with baking powder, especially if your recipe calls for baking soda (reduce the amt of baking soda and use powder instead).
I hope this is helpful for you! Now go make that lime tart and report back to me :) Happy cooking!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells

Well, I have been MIA this week for 2 reasons. First, I didn't cook AT ALL this week. I made food on Sunday and we've been eating off of it all week! Secondly (and more importantly), we didn't have internet all week! SOB! I was lost! Our wireless router/modem took a dive on Monday and we finally got a new one from our friends at Bell South, so we're back in business! YES!

I want to share this recipe with you. It doesn't get a number because it's not new. It's one of the few recipes I've made quite a few times. I'm going to post my abridged version of it (mainly that I don't make my own sauce), but if you'd like to see the original, click here. These shells are easy to put together and only mildly time consuming to stuff. The recipe makes 2 pans, so you can do like I did and give one away (hi Molly!) or put one in the freezer! I love recipes like this!

Four Cheese Stuffed Shells

Source: Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe
Yield: 2 casseroles, 5 servings per dish (about 4 shells, and 1/2 C marinara)

This dish goes straight from the freezer to oven - no thawing required. You can also easily vary the filling by adding basil or oregano and a different cheese. (We tried fontina instead of mozzarella and threw in some arugula for a peppery bite.) Make some garlic bread and a green salad and dinner's on.

1 pound jumbo shell pasta (40 shells)
Cooking spray
1 (12-ounce) carton 1% low-fat cottage cheese
1 (15-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
6 cups prepared marinara sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Coat 2 (13 x 9-inch) baking dishes with cooking spray; set aside.

Place cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a food processor; process until smooth. Combine cottage cheese mixture, Asiago, and next 6 ingredients (Asiago through spinach).

Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each shell. Arrange half of stuffed shells, seam sides up, in one prepared dish. Pour 3 cups Smoky Marinara over stuffed shells. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat procedure with remaining stuffed shells, marinara, and mozzarella in remaining prepared dish.

Cover with foil. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

To freeze unbaked casserole: Prepare through Step 5. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.

To prepare frozen unbaked casserole: Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover frozen casserole with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the shells are thoroughly heated.

CALORIES 470 (30% from fat); FAT 15.7g (sat 8.8g,mono 4.7g,poly 0.9g); IRON 3.8mg; CHOLESTEROL 47mg; CALCIUM 508mg; CARBOHYDRATE 52.7g; SODIUM 916mg; PROTEIN 28.3g; FIBER 5.3g

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

(50) Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

I have never in my life cooked corned beef, but my husband requested it specifically, so how could I say no?! (Just so you know, my husband NEVER requests food. When I ask what he wants for dinner this week, he says 'whatever!'... SO not helpful! LOL I always tell him they don't sell packages of "whatever" at Publix!)

But I digress... This recipe was kind of a pain in the fact that there were too many pots and pans for my liking, but I really enjoyed the meal. The topping on the corned beef = awesome! The cabbage was really mild and the potatoes were nice and tangy - the perfect offset to the salty flavors! Once a year, I'll suffer the dishes! Happy St. Patty's Day a little early!

PS: I know I said I was making soda bread, but that just didn't happen. Boo!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

Source: Cooking Light, MARCH 2003
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 ounces beef, about 1 1/2 cups cabbage, and about 1 1/3 cups potatoes)

1 (4-pound) cured corned beef brisket, trimmed
16 cups water
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 1/2 teaspoons pickling spice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 (2 1/2-pound) head green cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
4 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 (5-ounce) jar prepared horseradish, drained and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Place brisket in a large stockpot; add water and next 5 ingredients (water through garlic). Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours. Remove brisket from pot.

Place brisket on the rack of a broiler pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Strain cooking liquid through a colander into 2 large bowls; discard solids. Return liquid to pot. Add caraway seeds and cabbage; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Drain.

While cabbage is cooking, place potatoes in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Return potatoes to pan. Stir in parsley, butter, rind, juice, and pepper; toss to coat.

Preheat broiler.

Combine breadcrumbs and horseradish. Spread mustard over one side of brisket. Press breadcrumb mixture onto mustard. Broil 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve brisket with cabbage and potatoes.

CALORIES 321 (41% from fat); FAT 14.5g (sat 4.6g,mono 6.5g,poly 0.8g); IRON 4.3mg; CHOLESTEROL 86mg; CALCIUM 11mg; CARBOHYDRATE 27.6g; SODIUM 927mg; PROTEIN 22.8g; FIBER 10g

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3/14/10 - This week's menu

Another week - Monday is just around the corner again! What's up with that?! Anyway, my sister's best friend (Molly) just had her 2nd baby this past week. I am planning on doing some cooking so I can take food over to her tomorrow. So several of our meals will do double duty, which I love!

Sunday, getting in the mood for St. Patty!!
- Corned Beef & Cabbage Dinner
- Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread

- Chicken Tetrazzini (I love this recipe! It's a staple!)
- Breadsticks

- Four Cheese Stuffed Shells (another staple!)
- Salad
- Garlic Bread

- Quick Taco Salad
- Fruit

- Barbecued Pork Chops
- Kimchi Style Slaw
- something else I haven't quite decided on (maybe rice?)

What's cooking in your kitchen this week?!

Mini-Banana Muffins

This one is a repeater for me - that's why it doesn't get a number! I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found online. I have cute mini-muffin tins that I never use and this is a great excuse to break them out! Plus, mini muffins are GREAT for little fingers. My daughter goes nuts for these "more peese!" You can make them in a bigger tin (making just 12 muffins), you will just have to cook them longer.

Mini Banana Muffins

Yield: 36 mini muffins (or 12 large)
Source: Amy's original - adapted from a recipe I found online

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine bananas, sugar, egg, melted butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until smooth (I just use a whisk and that leaves banana chunks. If you want them smoothe, use a mixer). Scoop into muffin pans.

3. Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 13 to 15 minutes (or if you want - large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes.) Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped and be slightly browned on top.

For large muffin: 184 cals, 5.8g fat, 1.2g fiber
For each mini: 61 cals, 1.9g fat, .4g fiber

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

This little light of mine...

My food photography has been a work in progress. I started with a point & shoot and some really grim food pictures. I saved my lunch money for almost a year and bought myself a 'fancy camera'. It's a Canon Rebel Ti1 and I LOVE IT.

Anyway, I am slowly but surely 'getting it'. I know I love my new camera, but there's SO MUCH to learn about how to use it. One of the biggest thing I've discovered so far is that more than anything, LIGHT is the key to success. The pictures that I take in good, pure, daylight are SO much better than ones I take when it's dark outside. I've been reading and researching about light. I thought I might like a light box (here's an example in case you're not sure what I'm talking about), but the more I read, the more I drooled over the Lowel Ego Light.

Today, I bit the bullet! YES! I can't wait for my light to arrive. So stay tuned to see if my pictures improve themselves LOL I sure as heck hope it helps, but in any case, thank you for being patient with me while I learn the ins and outs of food photography!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

(49) Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus

As I mentioned before, I have zero sense of taste/smell right now. I wish I could give an accurate review of this recipe, but I can't! So I'm recording this for posterity sake and going to have to revisit this one at a later date! If anybody makes this, please let me know what you think! (sorry for such a worthless opener!)

Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus

Source: Cooking Light, MAY 1997
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

2 1/2 cups (1-inch) diagonally sliced trimmed asparagus
6 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
2 bacon slices
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped chives (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add asparagus. Cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; set aside.

Combine 2 tablespoons cheese, milk, egg substitute, 2 tablespoons chives, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well; set aside.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in asparagus and bacon.

Combine pasta, milk mixture, and asparagus in a large bowl; toss well. Divide evenly among 4 shallow bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese. Sprinkle with pepper; top with chives, if desired.

CALORIES 321 (17% from fat); FAT 6.2g (sat 2.8g,mono 2g,poly 0.8g); IRON 3.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 10mg; CALCIUM 188mg; CARBOHYDRATE 50.8g; SODIUM 437mg; PROTEIN 15.8g; FIBER 3.8g

(48) Beef in Red Wine Gravy

I have a confession to make.

My nose is SO STOPPED UP that I can't taste a darn thing. Which is very disappointing to a foodie like me :( Blah. So I ate this meal (and the next one I'm going to post), but I can't give you an accurate grade on how good it was! I will say that what I could taste was a little 'boozy'. My friend Sam made the same recipe and she submitted a similar comment, so I'm going to roll with that. If you are not into wine flavors, go for 1c beef broth and 1/2 cup red wine (I used merlot).

But you can't beat the ease of this dish! It ended up only serving 4 servings (and a little one for the baby), which was fine. I will definitely make it again when my sense of smell/taste has recovered!

Beef in Red Wine Gravy

Yield: 6 servings (but in my opinion it's more like 4!)
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Slow Cooker Meals

1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, cut up
2 beef bouillon cubes or 1 envelope (1/2 of 2-ounce package) onion soup mix
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
Hot cooked noodles (optional)

1. In a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, combine beef stew meat and onions. Add bouillon cubes or dry onion soup mix. Sprinkle cornstarch, salt, and pepper over beef and onions. Pour red wine over beef mixture in cooker.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.

3. If desired, serve over hot cooked noodles. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 211, Total Fat (g) 4, Saturated Fat (g) 1, Cholesterol (mg) 67, Sodium (mg) 430, Carbohydrate (g) 8, Fiber (g) 0, Protein (g) 24

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Monday, March 8, 2010

(47) Black Bean Salad

I was looking for something light to compliment the Stuffed Pork Sandwiches and came across this recipe online. I highly recommend the Simply Recipes website - she always has great recipes and beautiful photography!

Anyway, this recipe was delicious!! It was labor intensive on the chopping front, but it was worth the knife time. I used pickled jalapenos and probably not enough (it was spicy, but not overly). I thought for sure that the basil or cilantro would be overwhelming, but they weren't! The flavors were perfectly balanced. I can't wait for the leftovers!

Black Bean Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings (I measured 8 servings that were a hefty 1/2 cup each)

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, thoroughly rinsed, and drained (or 1 1/2 cup of freshly cooked black beans)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted (or fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled)
1/2 cup chopped green onions or shallots
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced, or 1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, minced (not seeded)
3 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
2 Tbsp lime juice (about the amount of juice from one lime)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Make sure to rinse and drain the beans, if you are using canned beans.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, onions, jalapeno chile peppers, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, basil, lime juice and olive oil. Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste. (The sugar will help balance the acidity from the tomatoes and lime juice.) Chill before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.

I ran the nutritional information on Spark Recipes and came up with 8 servings for 130 calories, 5.6g fat, 19.4g carbs, 4.5g protein, 5.5g fiber.

Original Recipe (You can print from here)

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