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Archive for April, 2010

Wraps…

…are yet another great alternative to ye olde sandwich.  Kroger had some flavored (we love the spinach or sun-dried tomato ones!) tortillas on special last week, so we snatched up a few packages and decided wraps would be on this week’s lunch docket.

We’ve tried a couple of different “fillers” for our wraps, and this one uses tasty flounder:

  • whatever flavor of tortilla your heart desires (we used sun-dried tomato)
  • 2 pieces of flounder, thawed and patted dry (you can really use any white fish you like)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp. cayenne

Simply dice up the flounder into small chunks.  Then, combine the flour with the spices and coat the fish in it.  Cook the meat in a skillet heated with a drizzle of olive oil over medium until no pink is visible–it takes about 7 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, squeeze some lime juice over the fish.

I also made a simple sauce to go in the wraps.  Just combine a couple of tbsp. of sour cream (or Greek yogurt!) with a few dashes of cumin, chili powder, and hot sauce.

Spread a layer of sauce on a tortilla.  Then, to fill the wrap, layer in your choice of lots of fresh veggies–we used spinach, avocado, and tomato.  Top the vegetables with your fish and chow down!

This is a super simple, flavorful, and nutritious lunch, especially if you use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream!  I mean, really.  Who doesn’t love a good wrap?!

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…is an excellent restaurant to check out if you are ever in the Roanoke area.  We have enjoyed a couple of date nights at Blue 5 and have yet to be disappointed by our dinner selections (their peanut butter pie is also to die for).  On our most recent night out, Schatzi chose to try “chicken goodness” and absolutely loved it.  We engraved the tastes and visible ingredients in our minds and vowed to attempt it ourselves one day.  Well, last night I recreated chicken goodness and it really is delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that we have deemed our version of the dish “chicken d’awesome.”

For tasty chicken d’awesome you need:

chicken:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 of a red onion, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. whole wheat/grain spaghetti
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • white wine
  • Parmigiano-reggiano

white sauce:

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp. cream

Boil some salted water for the spaghetti noodles and cook them to al dente, about 8 minutes.  Also, thinly, thinly slice your veggies (aka, julienne them).

Place each chicken breast between some saran wrap and pound it out just a bit to tenderize the meat and thin the cut.  Then, dredge the chicken in a mixture of thyme, the grated garlic, parsley, and flour.

Saute the chicken in a pan with some olive oil, 1 tbsp. butter, and 1-2 tbsp. white wine over medium-high heat until it is golden-brown on each side, about 8 minutes total.  We had asparagus as our side.  During the last few minutes of the browning of the chicken, throw some asparagus into the same pan and saute it until the chicken is done, turning it often.  This way, the veggies will pick up some of the delicious flavors in the chicken!

While the chicken is cooking, make your delicious sauce!  In about 1/2 tbsp. of unsalted butter, saute the shallot and garlic until they are fragrant and slightly tender, about 2 minutes.  Then, add in 2 more tbsp. of butter.  Once it is melted, whisk in 2 tbsp. of flour until everything is pretty smooth to build your roux.  Add in 1 cup of wine and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the it by about half and add 2 tbsp. of cream.  whisk in 1-2 tbsp. more butter to thicken the sauce a tad bit more and it’s ready to go.

Also, heat a tad bit of olive oil in another pan and saute all of the veggies-the pepper, onion, and mushrooms.  Let them cook until they are tender-crisp, about 4 minutes over medium.

Now, just put it all together!  Top some pasta with a piece of chicken, the sauteed veggies, a drizzle of sauce, and some Parmigiano-reggiano.   We also drizzled the asparagus with a pinch of the white sauce and cheese.

Dangsauce, literally.  I was absolutely thrilled with how the white sauce turned out!  Thanks to Schatzi for challenging me to attempt another recipe creation.  Again, this is not the healthiest meal Ive ever made, but hey.  A little indulgence every once in awhile prevents overindulgence on a regular basis, does it not?  And, I daresay I sweated out quite a few calories in the process of making it!  So, try some Lawson chicken d’awesome and let me know what you think.  I daresay (and hope!) your taste buds will be delighted!

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Flounder…

…is a fantastic type of fish to keep in stock.  You can buy frozen fillets for a great price, and they are super easy to cook with and quite healthy as well.  Our most recent expedition with flounder came from Every dDay magazine and we loved it (of course we did–it’s RR!).  Here is our way to make macadamia-and-panko-crusted flounder with orange-butter sauce.

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup roasted macadamia nuts (we mixed in some pecans as well)
  • 3/4 cup Panko
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 flounder fillets, patted dry (She used cod instead, but any white fish will do)
  • vegetable oil

Start by bringing the juice, shallot, and wine to a boil.  Cook the sauce until it is reduced, which takes about 10 minutes.

Knock the heat back to low and whisk in 6 tbsp. of butter, going one tbsp. at a time.  Add a little pepper and your sauce is done and probably smells quite glorious.

While that’s going, toast the nuts and toss them in a food processor with 1/4 cup of the Panko.  Chop the mixture until it is rather fine, mix in the rest of the Panko, and transfer it to a shallow bowl or plate to bread the fish in.  Crack the eggs into another dish.

Dip your fish into the eggs, then the nut mixture.  Then, cook them in a nonstick skillet that’s been heating with some oil and a bit of butter.  Cook 2 fillets at a time, over medium-high, until they are golden-brown on either side.  This takes about 8 minutes, or 4 minutes a side.

Simply top your fish with some of the orange-butter sauce and you are ready to go!  We had ours with some garlic green beans tossed with a pinch of the sauce from the fish.  Delicious.

Unfortunately, while this meal is incredibly tasty (you won’t believe how good that sauce is and how crispy the fish is), it uses a boatload of butter and isn’t quite the healthiest thing we’ve attempted.  However, real butter has calcium and is actually better for you than margarine, the nuts and fish are a great source of protein, and the green beans (as long as they are fresh or frozen) pack a punch of vitamins and minerals.   So, treat yourself to the occasional splurge meal and try this sometime.  It is quite delicious!

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Cupcakes…

…are glorious little confectionery treasures, are they not?  We are so lucky to live close to an outstanding cupcakery called Bubblecake, and we visit it on at least a monthly basis.  Most recently, we tried their french toast cupcakes and they were absolutely to die for.  In fact, these cupcakes were so delicious, I decided to try my hand at making a french toast-flavored batch.  Bubblecake will always reign supreme, but i was quite successful, if I do say so myself!

For my version of french toast in a cupcake you need:

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Start by sifting all of your dry ingredients into the shortening.  Using a fork, blend the ingredients a bit to form a slightly crumbly mixture.

Next, add in the egg and 1/2 cup of milk and mix until the ingredients are just moistened, then beat the mixture for 2 minutes.  Finish up the batter by beating in the rest of the milk, the vanilla, and the maple syrup.

Pour the batter into paper cup-lined muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  This recipe makes about 16 cupcakes.

Let the cupcakes cool completely, out of the pan, on top of some cooling racks.

Now, for the best part–the maple icing!

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk

Combine the sugar and salt, then add the syrup.  Mix in the shortening, vanilla, and milk until you have smooth icing.  You can add more sugar if you need to thicken it, or more milk to thin it.  I used a combo of whole and skim milk.   YUM!

All you have to do now is wait for the cupcakes to cool and ice them with some serious goodness.  Hint, the icing also thickens a bit if you refrigerate it, so I would recommend trying that before icing the cakes.

I have to admit that I am super-proud of these cupcakes.  They really do taste like french toast, even down to the slight hint of an eggy aftertaste.  If you love french toast, make these.  They probably won’t last long!

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Sourdough…

…is not just for bread.  In fact, we had some sourdough and green-apple pancakes for today’s SMB and they were quite delicious!  I found the recipe in Food Network Magazine and we were quite excited to try it–who doesn’t love sourdough?  The recipe actually has two parts–the sourdough starter and the actual pancakes.

For the starter you need:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour

For the pancakes:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 granny smith apple (any green apple will do)
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Make the starter the night before.  Warm the milk over low heat until it reaches about 110 degrees.  Put it in a bowl and sprinkle in the yeast, letting it sit until it begins to foam.  This takes 5-10 minutes.

Once you see a bit of foam, whisk in the cider, brown sugar, butter, and 1 cup of flour.  When the batter is fairly smooth, cover the bowl tightly in plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature until morning.

When you’re ready to go the next day, your batter will be puffy and look slightly like oatmeal.

All you have to do now is whisk in 1/2 cup flour, the egg, soda, and apples.

Melt a bit of butter in the skillet and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter in.  Cook until the top bubbles, then flip and continue cooking for another minute.  Heads up–the apples are pretty heavy, so the batter doesn’t exactly lay evenly.

Serve these yummy pancakes with ye olde maple syrup and some pecans.

This is quite a tasty treat for breakfast!  If you love sourdough bread, put this on your list of must-tries.

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…is a wonderful thing, especially when it is baked into a cookie!  I threw this recipe together earlier this week as a surprise for Schatzi, and the result was quite tasty!

For my huge, chewy peanut butter cookies you need:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with some parchment paper.

To start the dough, cream the butter with both sugars.

Add in the egg, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth.

Then, mix in the flour, soda, and salt.  When that mixture is smooth, add in the oats.

Shape the dough into balls and make a criss-cross pattern with a fork.  The dough is quite sticky, so these cookies don’t press out as nicely as a regular peanut butter cookie.  Trust me–once you taste it, you won’t mind that it’s a rather ugly cookie!

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes, then let them cool for a bit in the pan set on top of a cooling rack.   This recipe makes 12 huge, delicious cookies.  don’t forget to store them with a piece of bread to keep them soft!

My father-in-law makes these amazing giant  cookies that he calls “Big S Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies.”  Hmm…maybe I should call these “Big S Peanut Butter Cookies”…

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Fettuccine…

…bacon…wine…cream…corn…cheese…is your mouth watering yet?  It definitely should be!  RR’s Summer Corn Fettuccine is absolutely divine.  I made it for dinner yesterday and am thrilled that tonight is clearance night and more of this fettuccine is waiting for us in our fridge!

You need:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound wheat or vegetable fettuccine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 6 ears corn on the cob, shucked (we used  1.5 packages of frozen corn)
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup half-and-half 
  • 1/2 cup  dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped (dried works too, just don’t use as much)
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup sweet basil leaves, torn

Start boiling some salted water and drop your pasta.  Cook it for about 9 minutes and drain it off.  Whole wheat fettuccine is a bit difficult to find, so we used enriched vegetable fettuccine instead.  It is quite tasty and looks so pretty!

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a big skillet and cook your chopped bacon until it is nice and crisp.  Then, add in the corn, shallots, and red bell pepper, along with a pinch of salt and a good bit of black pepper.   Cook this gorgeous mixture for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are nice and soft.

Meanwhile, add the rest of the corn and the half-and-half to a food processor.  Blend until the mixture becomes mostly smooth.

Add the wine (or chicken stock) to your veggie and bacon mixture and let it cook out and reduce for about a minute.  Then, mix in the thyme as well as your creamy corn mixture.    Cook everything for about 4 minutes and don’t forget to stir it often.  When the mixture has thickened a bit, add in the hot sauce.

Mix in the drained pasta with a couple handfuls of cheese.  Get everybody thoroughly introduced (a pair of tongs works quite well for this, or just working with pasta in general) and you are ready to plate!

We had some fresh asparagus alongside.  It is super easy and delicious–just boil some water and cook the asparagus stalks until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt a bit of butter and mix in some lemon and lime juice along with a bit of freshly cracked pepper.  Drain the asparagus, pour the butter sauce on top, and voila!

Serve it up!  Simply dig out a serving of delicious pasta and top it with a bit more cheese and the fresh basil.  Grab some asparagus and garnish it with a pinch more of cheese.  Yum.

Super duper tasty and it could not look any prettier!  This may not be the healthiest meal I’ve made, but hey, everything in moderation.  Try it.  I promise you will love it!

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Tacos…

…are quite simple and delicious–when doesn’t a taco hit the spot?  Aside from the great taste, tacos can sadly pack quite a punch in the calorie department.  Well, RR fixed this problem with her Taco pasta toss!  Fresh ingredients, lean meat, and whole grain pasta come together to make a taste explosion that you can feel really good about eating.

To make this twist on classic tacos you need:

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound whole grain penne rigate pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef sirloin (do i even have to say that we used elk?)
  • 1 large onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, halved, seeded if desired and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • One bottle beer or 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or any Mexican semi-soft cheese (we used low-fat cheddar and some Manchego)
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 small heart of romaine lettuce, chopped

As usual, start boiling some salted water and cook your penne to al dente (9ish minutes).

Heat some oil in a good-sized skillet and brown your meat over medium-high.  Then, add in 3/4 of your onion and all of the  jalapeno.  If you don’t like dishes with a lot of heat, you probably think you don’t like jalapenos.  Wrong!  These peppers are actually very mild once the seeds have been removed because all of the heat lives in the seeds.  So, simply cut the pepper in half, scrape out all of the seeds, and dice it up.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised!  Anyway, also add in your garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and a wee bit of salt and pepper.  Cook the mixture until the onions are nice and tender, which takes about 6 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and let it heat through for a minute.  Tomato paste is a great thickening agent.  Then, stir in the beer or chicken stock and let it simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken and reduce.

Toss in your cooked pasta, and you are almost ready to eat!

Serve the pasta toss with some diced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, onion, and the cheese.  Look a bit familiar?

Yum!  Super-easy and quite nutritious–try it to satisfy your next taco hankering!

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Vinaigrette…

…is quite a classy name for a type of salad dressing, don’t you think?  For lunch this week, i made chicken salad with a roasted tomato vinaigrette and it is a pretty classy meal, if I do say so myself!

For a fresh salad full of flavor you need:

  • 1 lb. chicken
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups string/green beans (fresh)
  • 1/2 cup sliced avocado
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups greens of your choice (we used spinach)

and for the vinaigrette:

  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

Start with the chicken.  Bring the stock and chicken breasts to a simmer over medium heat in a covered pot.  Simmer the meat for about 30 minutes.  Let it cool a few minutes, then shred the meat using 2 forks.

Next, preheat the broiler.  Place the halved tomatoes on a broiler pan and roast them for about 4 minutes, allowing them to soften.

After you have broiled the tomatoes, add the corn to the broiler pan and stick it in the oven for a few minutes, stirring it often.

Let the tomatoes cool, then mash them a bit with a fork to get the juice out.  Mix in the garlic, lemon, salt, and vinegar.  Last, slowly stir in the olive oil until everything is well-blended.  It doesn’t look terribly pretty, but this is a SUPER tasty vinaigrette!  I will most likely make some more to go on side salads at future dinners!

Steam/boil your beans for a few minutes to wake them up, then plunge them in some ice water to blanch them.

Mix all of your veggies (greens, beans, avocado, corn, cherry tomatoes) together.

Finish up by plating the beautiful salad and topping it with a bit of the tomato vinaigrette.

I am telling you, this vinaigrette is incredibly tasty.  However, I think the avocado is what really pushes this salad over the edge!   It’s also a salad you can feel really good about–the combo of a boatload of fresh vegetables and lean protein comes in at about 330 calories.  And, your taste buds will never know the difference.  Bam. Bizzle.

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Pizza night…

…is always a good night, no?  We tend to think so, and have one about once a month.  Yes, it is terrible for you (especially when we get our favorite, stuffed crust!), but we fully believe in the concept of “everything in moderation.”   Well, we had a bit of a different kind of pizza night Friday.  Instead of ordering something from Pizza Hut or heating up a Digiorno, we made Pepperoni pizza puffs from Every Day with Rocco’s low-fat marinara sauce.  Holy. Cow.  Get a pen and paper because you will DEFINITELY want to make this meal.  It is seriously tasty and hits the pizza spot like you wouldn’t believe!

We will start with the marinara, which in and of itself is ridiculously delicious:

  • 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • salt
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (he calls for 2, but we only used one. it makes a TON)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 small piece Parmigiano-reggiano cheese rind
  • a few basil leaves

Heat up a large pot over medium.  Add the olive oil, garlic, and onion.  Season the mixture with some salt and crushed red pepper.  Cook for about 4 minutes, until the onions are nice and soft.

Add your tomatoes, water, and cheese rind to the onions and bring it all to a simmer.  Once the sauce is bubbling a bit, throw on a lid and knock the heat back to low.  Let the sauce simmer and thicken for about 25 minutes.  When time is up, throw in your basil and simmer the sauce (uncovered) for about 5 more minutes.  Done!  This marinara sauce is fresh, therefore much healthier than a canned version.  It also has a lot less salt and about half the calories.  Make it.  You will love it.

Now, make the amazing puffs!  You need:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup pepperoni, cut into small cubes
  • pizza sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a mini-muffin pan.  These are super easy to find and a lot of of to cook with, so do something nice for yourself and get one!   Whisk together the flour and baking powder, then mix in the milk and egg.

Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni and let the batter stand for 10 minutes

Divide the batter into 24 muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the puffs are, well, puffed, and are nice and golden.  Sprinkle on some basil and you are ready to stuff your face with some pizza goodness!

Serve it up with the marinara sauce and a nice big salad.  We had what we call a “clearance” salad.  “clearance” is what some would call leftovers; for a clearance salad, this involves pawing through our vegetable drawer and seeing what needs to be eaten.  This time, we had some romaine, leeks, tomatoes, and celery to use.  Quite delicious.

I can’t say it enough.  Pizza puffs are SO good!!!  My mouth is watering just remembering them.  Please, please make them for your next pizza night!  The marinara is not to be outdone, either–Schatzi is practically drinking the stuff.

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