Tuesday, May 25, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Giada De Laurentiis' Basil Pesto

This was probably one of the easiest recipes on my list of 30 Things to Make Before 30. All that I had to do in order to create this delectable, homemade sauce was to throw a few ingredients in the food processor and hit pulse. The result is a beautiful green fragrant sauce in less time than it takes to boil the pasta. Next time I am going to try one Giada's pesto variations, either sun dried or mushroom pesto. 

Basil Pesto Sauce
From Giada De Laurentiis

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don't burn!)
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


In a blender pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender still running, gradually add in enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste.

PS Have you bought this cookbook yet?? If you are Italian food lover and you don't have Giada's Everyday Italian, all I have to say is, "Shame."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cinnamon Flax Muffins

There is not much better, in my opinion, than a piping hot muffin with a huge glass of a cold milk. I wanted to find a muffin recipe that incorporated flax seed meal since I have a bunch sitting in my fridge but unfortunately, there aren't a lot of recipes out there with flax seed. Thankfully I came across this recipe at Your Organic Child. I modified the recipe by using more carrot and adding in sweetened coconut, which I had on hand. These muffins were soooo good. Very moist, sweet, and filling. I ate a couple for breakfast and didn't feel hungry at all until late into the afternoon. They also stay moist for several days which I've found that most muffins don't do. You could add in 1/2 cup of raisins, but my hubby despises raisins and I wanted to him to eat these, so left them out. This recipe makes 18 muffins.
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups Bob's Red Mill flax seed meal
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups shredded carrots
2 peeled and shredded apples
3/4 cup sweetened coconut
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, flax seed meal, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Shred carrots and apples in a food processor. Stir in carrots, apples and coconut. Combine the milk and eggs. Pour into lightly greased muffin tins (I use cooking spray) and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crunchy Almond Honey Dijon Chicken Tenders

About a month ago I joined Tasty Kitchen a website where lots of cooking bloggers (and non bloggers too!) share recipes. It's become one of my most visited sights. There are hundreds of recipes on there and I want to try just about all of them! One that I have already tried are these yummy Crunchy Almond Honey Dijon Chicken Tenders from Ashley. I took one look at the photo and recipe and made these without delay. I love honey mustard so that in itself sold me on this recipe, but the crunch of the almonds and the fact that these little guys are coated in parmesan cheese and Panko bread crumbs made them irresistible. So irresistible in fact, that I doubled the recipe and it's a good thing because my husband could not stop eating them!! 

4 whole skinless chicken breasts
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 cup roasted almonds, chopped (I used slivered almonds)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons of honey
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil, to coat pan and drizzle on chicken
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place a large sheet pan in to heat up. Meanwhile mix the bread crumbs, almonds, cheese, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish mix the mustard and honey. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Dredge the chicken strips in the honey-mustard and then generously coat them in the almond mixture.
Place them on a separate plate until they are all done. 
When they're ready for the oven, grab your now hot pan and drizzle it with olive oil. Put all the chicken on the pan and drizzle the chicken with a little more oil. Cook until done, about 20 minutes, flipping them once half way through. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicken Caesar Pizza

In college I worked at an Italian restaurant that made tremendous chicken caesar pizzas. The restaurant bakes these unique pizzas in a wood fired grill with cheese and chicken, then topped  the pizza with a caesar salad. Essentially, it's a very yummy pizza salad! When I brought this pizza home to my college roommates, we gobbled it up like a rare delicacy. Of course in those days when we lived off of instant potatoes and ramen noodles, a hot fresh homemade pizza did seem like a delicacy. Recently I've been craving the chicken caesar pizza from my college days so I set about to make my own version.

I took the easy road and used pizza dough from a box. I also used store bought reduced fat caesar dressing. The best part of this pizza for me is the pinenuts! I toasted them before hand to bring out the nutty and buttery flavor. I also added mushrooms to the pizza, which I don't believe are on the restaurant's chicken caesar pizza. 
Pizza dough
2 chicken breasts
1 package of mushrooms, sliced
olive oil
Fresh Parmesan cheese
2 bunches romaine lettuce
1/4 cup caesar dressing
fresh grated black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted to golden brown for 5 minutes at 350 degrees - watch these carefully!

Grill chicken and slice into bite sized pieces. Form pizza dough and spread out on pan. Drizzle olive oil on the pizza dough. Arrange chicken and mushrooms on the pizza and cover with cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 - 22 minutes, until crust is golden brown. 
While the pizza is baking cut lettuce into bite sized pieces. Mix in dressing and grate shredded cheese over the top. 
Allow pizza to cool for about 5 minutes and top with the caesar salad. Sprinkle pine nuts on the top and season with black pepper to taste. Cut and serve with a fork and knife.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pineapple Cream Cheese Cheeseball

If you are looking for a delicious appetizer to feed lots of people, you have to try my Aunt Chris' Pineapple Cream Cheese Cheeseball. This cheeseball makes a frequent appearance at our family get togethers because it is so tasty. I made it for the first time for a potluck at work and it was a big hit! Several of my co-workers commented how impressed they were that I made a cheeseball. I had to fess up that this cheeseball is virtually effortless - you just mix all the ingredients together, shape it into a ball, roll it in walnuts and viola! You have yourself a cheeseball. I love how this cheeseball incorporates the sweetness of pineapple, the strength of green onions, the silkiness of the cream cheese, and the crunch of the walnuts. Basically, this is one primo cheeseball!

Aunt Chris' Pineapple Cream Cheese Cheesball
Special thanks to my wonderful Auntie Chris

2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup chopped green onion - I used a little more since I love green onions
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 - 2 garlic cloves, diced (go for 2!)
3/4 large can of crushed pineapple, drain well
1 cup of walnut pieces
With your hands, mix all ingredients, except the walnuts. Form into a ball. Roll into walnut pieces and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Biscuits and Whipped Cream

Strawberry Shortcake just screams summer to me and is one of my best loved desserts. When we received a pint of huge fresh strawberries in our CSA a few weeks ago I knew it was strawberry shortcake time. I decided to make homemade biscuits and found a recipe for shortcake biscuits in a cookbook from my childhood church. I kept the homemade theme going and made a really easy whipped cream to go on top because strawberry shortcake is no good without whipped cream.

Shortcake Biscuit Recipe
From "What's Cookin' at Haven?" Church Cookbook
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons shortening or butter (I used Crisco) 
2/3 to 3/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening or butter. Stir in enough milk to make soft dough.
Roll out to 1 inch thickness on floured counter. 

Cut with 3 inch biscuit cutter (I do not have this so turned a glass upside down to cut out the circles). 
Bake on a cookie sheet for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with strawberries and whipped cream.

Shortcake Strawberries

1 pint fresh strawberries
4 tablespoons sugar

Cut the top off of the strawberries and slice into small pieces. Pour sugar over the strawberries and refrigerate.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1/2 pint heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whip cream until it begins to thicken, but do not allow it to get too thick and butter-like. Stir in sugar and vanilla and refrigerate.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Beer Battered Fish

I don't do a lot of cooking with fish at home, which is a shame since living close to the ocean, we have access lots of great fresh fish and seafood. When my sister in law Margaret told me that she had recently made beer battered fish for dinner and that it was really yummy, I decided to add it to my list of 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30. 

Let's take a look at how I am doing on my list:

1. Cornish Hens [Check!]
2. Homemade Salsa [Check!]
3. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
4.  Noodles from scratch (Recipe from Jody)
5. Cheese Souffle 
6. Blueberry Pie
7. Homemade Marshmallows
8. She Crab Soup (Famous in the area where we live!)
9. Beef Pot Roast [Check!]
11. Monkey Bread 
12. Yeast Bread
13. Sweet Potato Soup [Check!]
16. Scones
17. Beer battered fish [Check!]
18. Homemade Granola [Check!]
19. Rack of lamb (Thanks Cheryl)
20. Pasties (Recipe from A. Chris)  [Check!]
21. Pioneer Woman's Rosemary Rolls
Lasanga [Check!]
23. Eggplant Parmesean
24. Fettucine Alfredo (Recipe from Mary)
25. English Muffins
26. German Potato Salad
27. Giada De Laurentiis's Mushroom Pesto Sauce
28. Rib Eye Steak with Pan Jus
29. Chicken Braised in Red Wine
Bean Burgers (Recipe from Margaret) [Check!]

So I have completed 12 of the 30 recipes. My 30th birthday is in March, so I have 10 months to complete the remainder of the 18 recipes. I need to get crackin'!

I found this recipe for beer battered fish on Tasty Kitchen. Once I saw that the recipe called for Yeungling, one of our favorite beers, I was sold. We used cod because it was fresh at the fish counter and the fish lady recommended it, but the original recipe calls for haddock or pollock. The cod tasted really great, but was super flaky and didn't transition well from the frying pan to the paper towel to our plate. Overall this was a great recipe and very fun to make.

Beer Battered Fish
Recipe from Tasty Kitchen
6 pieces of haddock or your choice of white fish (approximately 24 ounces)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mild
12 ounces of beer
1 1/2 cups oil for frying (canola or vegetable)

Rinse fish well under cold water and pat dry. Begin heating cast iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed frying pan and proceed with batter.

Measure flour and salt into a medium mixing bowl. Add milk and about 1/4 of the beer, stirring until blended. Add more beer in small amounts, incorporating it into the batter until reach a pancake batter consistency.
When the oil has reached 325 degrees (place a dollop of the batter in the oil and if it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry), coat one piece of fish with batter on both sides and lay carefully in the hot oil. 
Fry fish for approximately 3 minutes until the underside has turned a medium golden brown. Turn the fish to cook the other side, approximately 2 minutes or until it reaches that same golden color. Remove cooked fish to a bed of paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining fish pieces. Serve with homemade tartar sauce and more beer!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

These roasted sweet potato fries make a wonderful, healthy side dish. The deep orange color of these fries is beautiful and the flavor is earthy and sweet. I tossed mine with fresh garlic, thyme, rosemary, and kosher salt because those are my favorite fresh herbs, but there are so many different ways you can season these. The aroma of these baking will fill up your house and make it seem that you were very domestic even though this is a very simple recipe.

Sweet potato fries do not crisp up like traditional fries, instead the texture is much softer. These are so filling and yummy I made a batch with just one potato and ate it as my lunch. 
Sweet Potato Fries
3 sweet potatoes (some people peel them, but I like the skin on!)
Fresh rosemary 
Fresh thyme 
Garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Preheat over to 400 degrees and spray a large baking sheet or two small baking pans with cooking spray.  Wash the sweet potatoes and cut them into wedges. Rustic is good here! Place the sweet potatoes wedges in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste with rosemary, thyme, Kosher salt, and pepper.
Spread out on pans and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, turning the fries every 15 minutes to prevent browning. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rice Krispies Cookies

This is another recipe from my Aunt Marlene. I have loved these cookies since I was a little girl. If you like sugar cookies, these are a fun twist because of the crunchy Rice Krispies and sugary coating. They are quick and easy and make a big batch - about 36 cookies if you don't eat a bunch of the dough like I did!

Rice Krispies Cookies
Special thanks to Aunt Marlene
1 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream together margarine and sugar. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients, add rice krispie cereal last. Roll into balls, and roll lightly in sugar. Place on cookie sheets and pat down with your palm.
 Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees until golden on the edges. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Julia Child's Bearnaise Sauce

I'm going to be completely honest and straightforward here: Julia Child would not be impressed with my Bearnaise Sauce. It was waaaaay too thin and instead of trying to fix it with another five steps like Julia recommends in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I just served it. Thankfully I have an extremely supportive, easy to please husband who not only drowned his steak in this sauce and sang it's praises, he DRANK this sauce because he thought it was that delicious. 

So my first endeavor with Julia Child's Bearnaise sauce is nothing to brag about. I will take make another attempt to "master" this incredibly buttery and sinful sauce at a later date.

Julia Childs' Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise sauce differns from hollandaise sauce only in taste and strength; instead of lemon juice, its basic flavoring is a reduction of wine, vinegar, shallots, pepper, and tarragon. 
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth 
1 tablespoon minced shallots or green onions
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon or 1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold water
3 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon or parsley

In a small saucepan boil the vinegar, wine, shallots or onions, herbs, and seasonings over moderate heat until the liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let it cool.
Beat the egg yolks until thick.  Add in the lemon juice and cold water. Strain in the vinegar mixture and beat. Add 1 tablespoon of cold butter and thicken the egg yolks over low heat. Beat in the other tablespoon of cold butter, then the melted butter by droplets. Correct seasoning, and beat in the tarragon or parsley. 

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I found this recipe for turkey stuffed peppers on Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes and since I haven't had stuffed peppers since I was a little girl, I decided I  needed to try this recipe. Growing up, my Grandma (who is a phenomenal home cook) let us all pick out any meal we wanted and she would make it as a present for our birthday. I remember my mom requesting  stuffed peppers for her birthday meal one year. I think that is why I always think of stuffed peppers as being a special meal. They look impressive but are really easy to make. With the combination of the cooked rice and turkey, they are very filling and the peppers make this dish extremely flavorful. This recipe wasn't my husbands favorite dish, but I enjoyed them and kept enjoying them since they make 6 servings! Best off all is the nutritional value: each pepper is only 185 calories, 2.3 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 1.6 grams of fiber.

Turkey Stuffed Peppers
1 lb lean turkey meat
1 garlic, minced
1/4 onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
salt to taste
3 large bell peppers, washed 
1 cup fat free chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
Olive oil spray
1/4 cup reduced fat shredded cheese
Optional: Sliced avocado and sour cream for topping

Heat over to 400 degrees. Spray a little olive oil in a medium sized saute pan and heat on a medium flame. Add onion, garlic, and cilantro to the pan. Saute for about 2 minutes and add ground turkey. Season with salt, garlic powder, and cumin and brown the meat for several minutes until completely cooked through. Add tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. Mix well and simmer on low for about 5 minutes. Add cooked rice and combine with meat.
Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Place in a baking dish. Spoon the meat mixture into each pepper half and fill it with as much as you can. 
Place all the stuffed pepper halves on the baking dish and pour the remainder of the chicken brown on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover tight with aluminum foil and bake for about 35 minutes. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and avocado.


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