Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce

Wow, it has been so long since I've posted anything that I can't even remember how to write.  And honestly, I almost didn't blog this recipe because so many other bloggers have posted about it and did a far better job than I did with it.  Since I really didn't have any of the fresh herbs this recipe called for, I should probably have called this "Chicken & Cooked Tomatoes" but I was in need of a quick weeknight recipe and had chicken and tomatoes, so I went with it.  I really enjoyed this, but my husband found it a little bland.  I probably liked it because I added a drizzle of delicious balsamic vinegar to mine, and my husband seems to think he doesn't like balsamic (silly boy).  I would definitely say to go the distance and add the fresh herbs the recipe calls for to keep the flavor going!
 Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce (from Annie's Eats, originally from Bon Appetit)
For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and halved (4 halves total)
Salt and pepper
¾ cup flour

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tsp. fresh oregano, minced
½ tsp. sweet paprika
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.)
1/3 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, oregano, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the oregano butter with the olive oil. Place the chicken breast halves in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to char and burst, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter mixture to the pan. Crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices and continue stirring until the butter is melted. Add the wine or broth to the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits. Cook for a minute more until well blended.

Transfer chicken to serving plates, and top with the pan sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with balsamic vinegar (if desired) and serve

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mole Pork Chops

I've posted more pork chop recipes in the last 10 posts or so than I probably have the entire blog history!  I have a couple reasons for that.  One is that pork is just so frequently on sale, and I'm really trying to knock down our food budget, which gets out of control when food is a hobby (shared by both me and the husband).  The other is that I have actually recently had luck with finding some recipes that I know the husband will like, even though they are pork (which he still sometimes thinks he doesn't like, even though he does).  This is one of those recipes.  I think he even said that we could make this a regular recipe.  I made it pretty spicy, but you can always adjust the seasonings to come up with a blend that works for you.  Look at the grill marks this gets!  That's from a stovetop grill on a very old coil style electric stove, so I'm pretty proud!  I served these with mashed potatoes made with sour cream, and roasted cauliflower with a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper.  Great spicy meal!

Mole Style Pork Chops (from My Recipes via Cooking with LT)
*1 tablespoon brown sugar
*1 teaspoon smoked paprika
*1 teaspoon ground cumin
*1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
*1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
*4 pork chops, 1/2 inch thick (I used boneless)
*Cooking spray

1. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients and rub evenly over both sides of pork. Lightly coat pork with cooking spray.

3. Place pork on the heated pan. Cover and grill 3 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oreo Birthday Cake for August Birthdays

I don't always make the hour and a half drive from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo to see my family as often as I should.  Our busy racing schedule and my mentoring work with Hospice keep me booked up on most weekends (not to mention the busy schedules of my family up there, too!).  There are always at least two guaranteed visits per year on Thanksgiving and my dad and stepsister's birthday.  Something about their shared August birthday (as well as a generally convenient break in the racing season) means that this birthday celebration must be in person each year.  This year's visit was particularly lovely, with perfect weather, lots of delicious food, and of course, a delicious cake!  I found this recipe on Annie's Eats, and since it was one of her earlier cake concoctions, it seemed easy enough for me to try out for my first big cake (most of Annie's more recent cakes are to die for and look like they belong in a gourmet restaurant, but are a little too advanced for me!).  Instead of using the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake that she recommends, I used the same recipe that we used for my mother-in-law's chocolate cake when we went to Michigan in July this year (that was a whole other adventure, baking with my very particular 5 year old niece and my very worried father-in-law).  The caked baked up beautifully, but I probably should have flattened it out a bit before stacking the cakes together.  I figured I would hide the gaps with the filling and frosting, but to my disappointment, it was way too warm in my apartment for the butter cream frosting to serve as a proper "shellac."  I jokingly refer to my "meltdown over the meltdown" now, but I was really freaking out at the time.  I didn't want my family to bring up a certain infamous disaster cake that a babysitter once helped me make (known as the "sandy earthquake cake" because we used granulated sugar in the frosting and the entire thing had split in baking).  Thankfully, I simply threw the entire cake and the bowl of frosting into the fridge for an hour before I even wanted to look at it again.  When I took it out, the frosting was much easier to work with and I was able to salvage a very pretty cake.  I think the guests of honor enjoyed it!  My niece was disappointed with my dad's calm demeanor and decided to show him how to properly pose with a cake.

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Cake
For "Feathery Fudge Cake" (from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, circa 1963 or so):
2/3 Cup softened butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups ice water
Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Blend in chocolate. Sift flour, soda and salt together.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with water, beating after each addition.  Bake in two parchment lined 9" cake pans in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes until done.

For Perfectly Chocolate Frosting (from Hershey's):
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Melt butter.  Stir in cocoa.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add more milk if needed.  Stir in vanilla.  Chill if needed

For Oreo filling (from Annie's Eats):
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
10 sandwich cookies, chopped
In bowl of electric mixer with whisk attachment, combine heavy cream, sugar and vanilla.  Beat on low until sugar is incorporated.  Increase to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.  Fold in chopped cookies.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle.  Pipe a ring of chocolate frosting around the top outside of the layer, creating an edge.  Fill the area inside the ring of frosting with about half the whipped Oreo topping.  Place the second layer on top.  Frost the sides of the cake with chocolate frosting.  Pipe a decorative border around the top layer with the remaining chocolate frosting.  Fill the area inside this boarder with the remaining whipped Oreo topping.  Garnish with additional Oreos or Oreo crumbs, if desired.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Maturing a Childhood Favorite: Fishsticks

Like many of my fellow Americans, I grew up with my Macaroni and Cheese coming out of a blue box with flourescent orange cheese product that I could count on. Macaroni and cheese went together with fish sticks in my family about nine times out of ten, and to this day, I get nostalgic for the combination. Of course, my palate has matured a bit and I no longer feel all that great after preparing a meal of all that processed "wholesome goodness" that is advertised. I had heard good things about Alton Brown's stovetop macaroni and cheese, and knew I needed to try that, but it was really when I saw Elly make these Panko Crusted Fishsticks that I knew it was time to recreate the childhood meal. The macaroni and cheese was a bit of a bust, but I think I know what I did wrong, so I'll make it again and blog it when it is worthy. The fish sticks were fantastic. This is the first new recipe I've made in a while that we both knew, while eating, that it would become a part of our meal rotation for sure. They came together relatively quickly, were crunchy, yet still tasted very much like real fish. I loved the addition of the spices to the panko for added flavor. Kudos to Elly for coming up with such a great idea!

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks (from Elly Says Opa)

2 tilapia, cod, or other white fish fillets (about 3/4 lb.)

1 egg, beaten

1.25 cups panko

heaping 1/4 tsp. onion powder

heaping 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

heaping 1/4 tsp. paprika

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp. canola oil

Preheat the oven to 450. Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking oil/spray. Cut the fish into strips. Beat the egg in one shallow bowl and use another shallow bowl or plate to mix together the panko, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and canola oil. Dip the fish strips into the egg and the into the panko mixture, coating on all sides. Place each strip on the prepared baking rack and bake for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through, or until fish is flaky.

Pork Chops with Cherry Port Wine Sauce

I seem to be kicking the food rut I've been in the last few months, and have been making more new recipes lately, so here I am, back in the food blog world! This recipe was one that I've been eyeing for a while in my Cooking Light cookbook. I knew that I wanted to use pork chops instead of the pork medallions because my husband doesn't particularly care for the texture of pork tenderloin medallions (although he likes pork tenderloin when he can cut it up himself after it is cooked, go figure!). We usually have at least one small bottle of port wine hanging around because of our wine club membership (Kalyra has a membership where you get one white, one red and one dessert wine with each shipment), so I knew this would be a great option for us. I served this over mashed potatoes with a green salad. We were both fans, but I have an even better pork recipe in my archives just waiting to be posted, so stay tuned!

Pork "Medallions" with Port Wine Cherry Pan Sauce (from Cooking Light)

Please follow the link to the recipe. I followed the recipe exactly other than using pork chops instead of medallions and therefore cooking just a little longer to ensure doneness.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bouchon

I really ate well for my birthday this year. It has been really amazing, since food has become our hobby, how much my tastes in birthday restaurants have changed. The first time I took the husband out to dinner for his birthday, we went to the Outback (that was his 30th birthday, so while we were at the restaurant, our roommate was getting the house ready for his surprise party, since I was too young to buy the beer!). I recently went through all our gift cards and found that we have 3 different Outback gift cards that we haven't used because we just aren't interested in that kind of food anymore. So this year, for my birthday, I enjoyed a small birthday lunch (stupid sales conference means that 2/3 of my office is always out on my birthday) at Olio Pizzeria, a fairly new and very authentic Italian pizzeria. All 4 girls at our table finished our entire meals, which is very unusual for our group, it was just so tasty! But the highlight of the day was definitely Bouchon. After much deliberation, I chose Bouchon for my dinner date with my husband the night of my birthday. We were pleased to find out that Bouchon was owned by the same team that runs Wine Cask, another of our favorite uber-fancy restaurants. Bouchon has many of the same aspects that we love about Wine Cask - fantastic wine list, unique menu items, knowledgable servers, and especially, their locally sourced ingredients. We started with the local crab cakes (no picture, but the menu describes them as being served with: "charred corn and microgreens salad, red bell pepper coulis, basil aioli and local avocado." These were delicious and fresh, with lovely completary tastes with the fresh items on the plate.

Now to the fun stuff with pictures:

My husband enjoyed a sea bass with carrot risotto and a fresh pea sauce. This dish was so intriguing. If you were to take a bite of the fish by itself, it would have been too salty to enjoy. But enjoying a bite with the risotto or the pea sauce, it was perfectly balanced. The texture of the fish was great, too - nice and crispy crust, but a soft velvety texture inside.

I had the grilled rack of lamb, which is lately all I have eyes for when I'm out at a nice restaurant. I believe that this was served over braised kale and a lentil pilaf with house made bacon, but the menu has changed, so I'm not sure of the exact details. This was just delicious. I love the rich earthy flavor of lamb - it is like beef has been kicked up with twice as much flavor. The only trouble with ordering lamb at fancy restaurants is that I have to avoid picking up the bones and picking every last little bit of meat off them like I do ribs at a barbeque - finger foods tend to be frowned upon a bit at these sorts of restaurants. Thankfully, I'm pretty skilled at using a knife & fork to get every last scrap! I also enjoyed the lentil pilaf and I'm going to start using lentils at home a bit.

Since we had cupcakes waiting for us at home, we didn't order dessert here. The restaurant instead comped both of my glasses of wine in honor of my birthday. We were really impressed with the service here and both of us agree that we like the ambiance even better than Wine Cask. We will be back for more special occassions, I'm sure!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Broiled Barbeque Tofu

This was definitely the winner of my vegetarian week (although the sushi takeout was pretty yummy, too!). I'm always amazed when I enjoy tofu dishes, because it is definitely one of those things that this picky eater would have sworn was gross before I became more daring with food. Honestly, tofu is nothing to be afraid of, since it has no real flavor of its own. It is more a texture thing, and this dish did a great job at adding delicious flavor and crispy texture all at once. I picked up a chipotle barbeque sauce because I knew I wanted more spicy flavor than sweet for this. I then checked out a couple recipes/techniques and found this one on allrecipes. I liked the idea of crisping the tofu in a pan first before coating in barbeque sauce and carmelizing in the broiler. I decided to coat in panko bread crumbs that had been run through the food processor briefly because I love the crispiness that panko gives. And instead of frying the tofu, I just crisped it up in a pan lightly coated with cooking spray. I also used a whole egg instead of egg whites because I just didn't want to deal with the egg whites. These changes resulted in a deliciously crispy and carmelized product. I absolutely could have eaten the entire block of tofu by myself, but I held off (and the leftovers, while not as crispy, were still pretty tasty). I will definitely make this one again for the husband to enjoy with me.

Broiled Barbeque Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu, drained

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, run through the food processor

1 egg

1 cup barbeque sauce

cooking spray

Slice tofu into 8 slices. Press between two cutting boards lined with paper towels, weighing down the top board with a couple canned items or other heavy things. Preheat oven to 375. Place tofu slices into a pan and cook, unseasoned for 10-15 minutes to dry further. Allow to cool while you get the egg and bread crumbs into shallow dishes for coating. Turn broiler on to preheat. When tofu is cool enough to handle, dip into egg and then bread crumbs, shaking to remove excess. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add coated tofu pieces and cook, stirring once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Dip each tofu piece into barbeque sauce and place on a broiler pan. Broil until sauce starts to carmelize - this will depend on your barbeque sauce, it took mine about 4 minutes. Keep an eye on this, don't let it burn! Remove and enjoy. Makes 2 servings of 4 slices each.

Black Bean Burrito Bowls

I have just finished a week of vegetarian eating. This week, my husband was away at Specialized bike camp (a week long dealer event where Specialized Bicycles debuts new products, fun times for my husband). While he was away, I decided that this was going to be the week to try out new vegetarian entrees. I have wanted to do a week of vegetarian for a while now, and since I'm going to the midwest for vacation next week, I thought the detox before I left for what is sure to be some unhealthier eating would be in order. I also thought this would be a good way to stay motivated to cook at home without eating anything too unhealthy (I've been known to indulge in rib-eye steaks and hamburger helper while the husband is away, and that just isn't good for my tummy!). This meal was actually one of the ones I cooked while the husband was still in town, so I knew it would have to be substantial and over the top good for him to be satisfied. This was really yummy, we both enjoyed the peppery flavor, but both agreed it needed a little more spice. Next time, I'll probably add some spices to the rice as it cooks as well as switching out some of the milder peppers for jalapenos. This makes a LOT of pepper mix, so you can probably double the rice and make 8 entrees with the same number of peppers.

Black Bean Burrito Bowls (my own recipe)

1 Cup brown rice

2.5 cups vegetable broth

2 Fresno chiles

2 Anaheim chiles

1 Poblano pepper

1 Red bell pepper

1 small onion

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 can black beans - drained and rinsed

Cook brown rice in rice cooker with broth (Or cook on the stovetop, but I'm awful at cooking brown rice on the stovetop!). Meanwhile, chop anaheims, poblano, bell pepper and onion into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Dice fresno chiles finely. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and peppers until very soft and starting to char - about 10 minutes. Heat black beans in a small saucepan until heated through. To prepare bowls, serve about a 1/2 cup cooked rice, top with a large spoonful of pepper mixture, top with black beans, then top with cheese. Serve with tortillas or chips. Makes about 4 servings with leftover chiles, or double rice & cheese for 8 servings.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Carmelized Chipotle Pork Chops

Chipotles are so delicious, and easy to cook with because they come in easy small cans. Unfortunately, they are also fairly high on the heat scale and most recipes only require about one chipotle and a little of the Adobo sauce that they are canned in. I had used one chipotle a couple months back and promptly put the rest in a small Tupperware to use later. I recently was cleaning out the fridge and noticed a sweet/smokey/spicy scent before realizing that the
Tupperware container was leaking all over the shelves of my fridge! Aside from being a mess, it also made me realize I was craving chipotle flavor! Very soon after that, some of the women on my cooking board were talking about good recipes for bone-in chicken thighs. I took a peek at the post because I love chicken thighs even though the husband does not (nothing with bones for him!). Elly posted this lovely recipe for Carmelized Chipotle Chicken Thighs and I almost rushed out and bought the bone in thighs anyway because they looked too darn good, but one of her reader comments stated that the same process works great on pork chops, which were on sale this week. Even though this recipe only used 2 chipotles, I also threw one more into the mashed potatoes (along with some cream cheese and some of the adobo sauce, yum!), and then I froze the rest. This was such a great dish, and might be my new favorite pork chop recipe. A great combination of sweet, spicy and smokey, and the flavors develop perfectly with this cooking method.

Carmelized Chipotle Pork Chops (Inspired by Elly Says Opa)

1.5 Tbsp. olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar

2 Tbsp. chopped chipotles in adobo

1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 boneless pork chops (medium thickness)

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, until shimmery (I used my french oven). Add the onions to the oil, and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except pork, to skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 25 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 and place a rack in the center. Add pork to skillet, flipping to coat in sauce. Roast in heated oven for 20 minutes, covered. Remove from oven, turn up heat to 450, flip chops and baste in remaining sauce in pan. Roast in oven at 450 until chops begin to brown, about 15 more minutes. Makes 4 servings (but we each ate 2 servings, it was so good!).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cookie Dough Truffles - Best treat ever!

I have always loved truffles. Ever since I learned there was a chocolate kind of truffle instead of a mushroom dug up by pigs/dogs, I have been hooked. I have also always been a fan of cookie dough, and this runs in my family (my dad used to eat about as much dough as was baked for his famous chocolate chip cookies). When I saw a recipe for eggless cookie dough truffles on Annie's Eats, I knew that I was going to have to make them. I have actually made these twice in the last month. Once was for the co-workers at my office and the bike shops, and the second time was for my dad & my grad (nephew - high school). This was the first time ever that my office ate the same amount of treats as the bike shop. Granted we have three times as many employees working, but we are a little more health conscious and a lot more sedentary than those guys. One of the guys at the shop told the husband "Your wife made heaven!" after trying these, and my nephew declared these "The very best thing (I've) ever made, ever." So I would recommend these to just about anyone. I highly recommend a double boiler set up for dipping the balls, as it melts the chocolate so much smoother than microwaving, without any guesswork. They taste best when just out of the fridge, even though they are counter safe if you need to have them out at a party for a while. These will probably become a staple treat that I will bring to potlucks, etc.

Cookie Dough Truffles (from Annie's Eats)
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
I added 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1½ lb. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Almond Bark)
Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, salt, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up enough to form balls (about an hour or so, overnight is too long!).

Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1-1½ inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover loosely, transfer the pan to the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours. (this step might not be 100% necessary if you are time or freezer space crunched)

When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and shaking gently to remove the excess. I found that shaking the candy gently off the fork rather than rolling helped to avoid the tell tale fork marks. Once all the truffles have been dipped, store them in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 40-60 truffles depending on the size of the balls.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fava Bean Risotto

I received Fava Beans in my Plow to Porch box and thought that it might be nice to try and incorporate them into a risotto of some sort. I have never eaten fava beans before, so I thought combining them with a starch like risotto would be a good way to ease in. I wish that I had just tried them on their own, or had tried them in a different recipe. They were so much fun to cook, but this recipe that I found on allrecipes just didn't bring enough fava bean color or flavor to the party. I think the author might have errored when they called for 1/2 lb of unshelled favas and maybe meant 1/2 lb of favas removed from the first shell, but not the second skin? Either way, this was my first time making risotto, and I think I have the technique down. It is a ridiculously starchy dish, so I need to perhaps make it next time when we have company instead of just the two of us. It is easy to overload on risotto, even when you aren't very fond of the recipe as was the case here (look at the portion size I served up, sheesh!). I have to say, I really loved the process of the double shelling of the favas, and they are so beautiful after they have been shelled the second time! I look forward to cooking them as a standard side dish next spring, since they have such a short season that they are available.

Green Risotto with Fava Beans (from Allrecipes)
1/2 pound fresh, unshelled fava beans (probably means shelled but not "second skinned")
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, shell the favas and discard the pods. Boil the favas for 4 minutes, strain and then immediately plunge into ice water. Let cool for 2 minutes then pierce the favas and squeeze them out of their skins. Separate 3/4 of the favas and puree in a food processor.
In a separate large saucepan bring the broth to a simmer, and keep it hot. Meanwhile, in another large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1.5 tablespoons of the butter and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes; do not brown the onions. Add the rice and cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium, and stir constantly. When the wine has been absorbed, add a little of the hot stock. Once the stock is absorbed, add a little more; repeat this process, stirring constantly, until the rice is cooked through.
To the cooked rice add the pureed favas, the remaining 1.5 tablespoons of butter, the rest of the favas and the cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter and cheese melt and the puree is incorporated evenly. Season with salt.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lemon Bars/Cookies

I had two rather large lemons in my Plow to Porch box and had no idea what to do with them. Thankfully, lots of the blogs that I follow posted lemon bar recipes right around that time, and I found an easy recipe in my trusty checkerboard cookbook (Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook). While I loved how easy these were to whip up, and the flavor was pretty good, I wasn't very pleased with the texture of this bar. The shortbread crust had a nice flakey & crumbley texture, but the lemony filling baked up much quicker than the original recipe stated and I was left with almost a hard candy topping instead of the sweet soft curd like texture that I was expecting. The lemon bar tasted like a lemon flavored shortbread cookie. This is almost certainly not the recipe's fault, but my ridiculously tempermental oven's fault. I'm pretty sure the oven runs at least 25 degrees too hot, but if I try and lower the heat to compensate, that doesn't help much either. I've mentioned it to the owner of the apartment building in the hopes that she will replace the entire oven/stove unit (like she did with our awesome kitchen faucet!), but she's stated that the oven is a compact size that she can't find anywhere, and barring a complete kitchen remodel, we are out of luck until we move out of this joint. So, next time I get lemons, maybe I'll just make lemonade!

Lemon Bars (from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)
For Shortbread crust:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup All Purpose Flour

For Lemon topping
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs All Purpose Flour
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
3 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp baking powder

In Medium mixing bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until combined. Beat in the flour until crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 8x8x2" baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes until just golden. Meanwhile, for filling, in small mixing bowl, combine eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbs flour, lemon peel, lemon juice and baking powder. Beat 2 minutes or until combined. Pour filling over baked crust. Bake 20 minutes or till lightly browned around edges and center is set (this took about 10 minutes for me, stupid oven). Cool on wire rack. If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top before cutting into squares. Makes about 20 bars

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Roasted Beet & Tomato Salad

Although I love, love, love my weekly fruit & vegetable deliveries from Plow to Porch, I have to admit, sometimes I am frightened. The husband and I grew up in pretty traditional households where vegetables were usually corn, green beans, peas and maybe an iceberg lettuce "salad." I was lucky enough to live in central California, so I also got some yummy asparagus and artichokes from time to time. Not very adventurous. So when I first saw beets on the delivery list, I was scared. The first appearance of beets happened to coincide with a visit to my dad & stepmom up in SLO. They hadn't seen me in a while and I had lost a ton of weight in that time, so they were curious to hear about this fruit & vegetable delivery service that was encouraging me to try new things and focus more on fruits & veggies (since that was pretty much how I lost all the weight!). As I was telling them all about it, I mentioned that I was really nervous about the beets in the next week. I kid you not, both dad and stepmom, like 6 year olds, preceded to "eeewww" and "you are kidding, throw them out" in ridiculous ways. No freakin' wonder I have fears of certain vegetables! I'm pretty sure I ended up throwing away that first batch of beets out of not having a clue what to do with them, but soon enough, I was roasting them up in foil packets with a little bit of olive oil, adding them to salads. I actually really like them, and after the first time I made them, the husband admitted that they had them all the time when he was growing up (so weird to me, he is such a traditional midwesterner, I had no idea they ate beets!). Eventually, my husband admitted that he wouldn't mind having a salad that was entirely beet focused. I researched on the internet and found that the most common ingredient in a beet salad is (well, other than beets) goat cheese. Well... we're not fans (I know, take away my foodie license or whatever). I also saw that many like the flavor of balsamic vinegar and beets. That gave me the idea for this salad. Very simple roasted beets, chilled, with chopped ripe heirloom tomatoes and a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This was so delicious, and it might sound strange, but we get soooo many tomatoes with Plow to Porch in the summer that I'm really excited for another way to use them up. The husband doesn't love balsamic vinegar like I do (what, doesn't everyone want to drink it?), but he really liked this as well, even though I "poured a bunch of that weird brown stuff on there." By all means, go ahead and add goat cheese if you want. I might add some feta next time for some creamy texture. But don't fear the beets!

Balsamic Roasted Beets and Tomato Salad (my own creation)

4-5 small beets, tops and bottoms trimmed off (I used golden here, but all sorts of beets would work, I think)

1 large heirloom tomato

olive oil (about 3 Tbs)

Balsamic Vinegar (about 1-2 Tbs)

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place trimmed, unskinned beets in foil packet. Drizzle with olive oil before folding the packet closed (I leave a little bit of air inside the packet to circulate). Place in heated oven for about 45 minutes or until beets are soft and skins come off easily. Allow to cool completely before removing skins. Chop into wedges or bitesize pieces. Refridgerate about 1 hour until chilled. Chop tomato into bitesize pieces. Mix tomato & beets in small bowl. Toss with approx even amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or to your own tastes. Tomatoes and beets should absorb most of the dressing and there shouldn't be much pooling inside the bowl. Top with salt & pepper to taste and serve. Makes two servings.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fiesta Brown Rice Chicken Bake

I'm a big fan of casseroles, as I'm sure I've said before. I'm an even bigger fan of one dish casseroles like this one. I saw this dish on The Mess Pot right around Cinco de Mayo and thought I'd give it a shot. I'm so happy I did, these flavors are right up our alley and the process was relatively simple. It reminded me a little of a jambalaya or paella. I even got to use yummy boneless chicken thighs without my dark meat fearing husband even knowing! I did cut back slightly on the garlic, and I probably used a little more chili powder than the recipe called for. I have to say, that spritz of fresh lime juice at the end really makes a huge difference here. I sometimes leave stuff like that out, but the dish wouldn't be the same without it. We will definitely be having this again!

Tex-Mex Chicken & Brown Rice (from The Mess Pot)
8 Garlic Cloves (I used about 6)
2 tsp chili powder (I used about 2.5 tsp)
1/2 tsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
Salt & Pepper
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 tsp canola oil
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 ears corn (I used 1 cup frozen, since I have an endless supply right now!)
1 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed
1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth (I always use stock)
4 scallions, sliced diagonally
1 Tbs fresh lime juice

Adjust oven rack to lower position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine half the garlic, 1 tsp chili powder, hot sauce and salt & pepper in a large bowl. Stir in the chicken and rub until covered. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat until simmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and corn. Cook until soft and light brown, 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, remaining garlic, and remaining chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, scraping up brown bits at bottom of the pan.

Lay the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until rice is tender and liquid is almost absorbed, 50-65 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Cover the pot and allow rice to steam up the rest of the liquid for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop/shred the chicken into small pieces.

Stir the shredded chicken into the rice. Top with scallions and lime juice. Season with salt & pepper to taste before serving.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Soft Garlic Knots

My successful return to baking with yeast commenced with these delicious soft garlic knots. After my initial success with pizza dough, I thought yeast was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, my pita disaster then frightened me off for about a year. I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats (love her), and thought that if Annie thought this was a good yeast dough for beginners, that maybe I could give yeast dough a shot again. Plus, I'm a sucker for soft garlicky bread! I really felt like not only was this a delicious final product, but the dough itself was very forgiving, allowing me to really experiment with it to figure out what worked for me when shaping. When I tried to roll the dough like play-dough, the dough deflated a little too much and those rolls didn't puff as much in the second rise as the others. What worked was stretching and kind of tossing the dough a little, like pizza dough, until it strung out to the length I needed and then I could shape it easily. Such a fun project because it really is a lot like playing with Play-dough and it makes the house smell like beer and then like fresh bread! These are also reheating from the freezer quite nicely. I just pop them in the toaster oven on 350 for about 10 minutes and then toast them on level 2 to give them a little toasty edge. I'm glad they refreeze nicely because I ate 3 immediately out of the oven, so it's probably best if I hide them in the freezer in 2 packs for future use so that I'm not tempted to eat the whole batch!

Soft Garlic Knots (As seen on Annie's Eats & Amber's Delectable Delights, from King Arthur's Flour)
For the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. lukewarm water
For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. Italian seasoning (I used oregano)
To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix until ingredients have formed a dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces (I think I got 11). Roll (or stretch) each piece until about 10 inches long, then tie into a knot. Tuck the ends around so that one goes into the middle of the knot and the other is tucked underneath (Annie has a great pictorial of how this works!). Transfer rolls onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with silicone sheet. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for another 45-60 minutes. To make the glaze, mince the garlic into a small bowl with the melted butter. Add the Italian seasoning/oregano and mix well to combine. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Very gently brush the glaze onto the shaped, risen rolls. Bake until just golden, about 15-18 minutes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising French Babies and Grating Soft Cheeses

I have wanted to make a white lasagna for a while now, but needed both inspiration and a break from the cycling season to make such a fattening dish. Inspiration arrived in the way of a Plow to Porch basket that included both early season zucchini and spring spinach. Both sounded like delicious additions to a white chicken lasagna. I was excited to use my new food processor to grate the mozzarella cheese, but forgot the helpful hint of freezing this cheese before grating. It is a little too soft to grate straight out of the fridge and when I turned on the processor, it managed to get sucked through the shute as though it was a science fiction "blob" character. Of course, the sound that this made alerted the husband. When he asked "what the heck was that?" I was able to respond with a quote from one of my favorite cycling season Radioshack commercials: "I'm raising French babies and grating soft cheeses, as is the custom here!"

**This commercial is based on Lance Armstrong's fictional assistant Alphonse, who sneaks onto Lance's bike while he is out of town and pretends he is an overweight Lance, riding to victory. My favorite Radioshack commercial. The actual line from the commercial is: "They're raising French babies and throwing soft cheeses as is the custom here" in a faked British accent.

This ended up being a tasty meal and a good chance to experience the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme product. I used their Italian Herb flavor as an addition to the bechamel sauce to add a little thickness and flavor, and I appreciated the more complex flavor it added. I think I will be using this product again, since we like cream cheese, but not too much, and this cuts some of the cream cheese heaviness for us (I am not affiliated with this product in any way, by the way).

White Chicken Lasagna (my own creation)
7 No Boil Lasagna sheets
2 cooked skinless chicken breasts, diced (I used rotisserie chicken)
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Philadelphia Cooking Creme
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 pound zucchini, shredded (about 3 small or 2 medium)
8 oz low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg
1 Tbs fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add onion & garlic and cook until golden. Add spinach and zucchini and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix in cooked chicken and remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook the bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and cook about 1 minute. Add milk and stir constantly until no lumps are noticeable and sauce begins to bubble & thicken. Add cooking creme and stir to combine. Sauce will be thick.

In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, egg, parmesan, basil & pepper. In a 13" x 9" baking pan sprayed with cooking spray, add about a 1/2 cup of bechamel sauce. Layer about half of the lasagna noodles (I did 3 facing vertically), then spread with about half of the ricotta mixture. Add a layer of about half of the chicken/veggie mixture, then top with about half the remaining bechamel. Repeat these layers, then top the entire dish with an even layer of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes more until cheese starts to turn golden.

Asparagus Season

My Plow to Porch life is complete. I was excited about the artichokes we got this Spring, but I knew I wouldn't be satisfied until I got locally grown asparagus delivered to my door. Look at these beauties! The husband said this meal was restaurant quality (flat iron steaks, "baked" potatoes in the microwave, and asian grilled asparagus). The only problem was that they consider one bunch to be a 1/2 pound of asparagus. I'm quite certain I could have (and would have, had the husband not stopped me) eaten the entire bunch! I supplemented with some sliced grilled zucchini with the same sauce/marinade. This is not a new recipe, but it is pretty high on my list of vegetable dishes, and it looked so pretty I had to share!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kale, Sausage & Beans Pasta

I commented last night to my husband that I sometimes feel like the vegetable delivery basket I get every week leaves me as a "Chopped" contestant. For those that don't watch Food Network, we love this show, which asks chefs to use a very strange ingredient combination to create a full meal (appetizer, main, dessert). After each round, one contestant is "chopped" for their poor performance and another weird list of ingredients is chosen for the next course. Sometimes the ingredients I get in our "Plow to Porch" delivery are really weird to me. I definitely never even tried kale prior to our subscription, and now it is one of the leafy greens we enjoy often. I had heard that kale & sausage goes well together, and I know that greens and white beans are a great combination. This was a dish that I came up with using the "secret ingredients" of kale, white beans, turkey sausage and green garlic. I really enjoyed this dish and the leftovers have been a really great lunch dish.

Kale, Sausage & White Beans (my own creation)
1 green garlic (it's kinda like a big green onion), white & light green only, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb Turkey Sausage, removed from casings
1/2 lb kale (mine was purple), chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
8 oz small pasta (I used whole wheat medium shells)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 3 tsp milk
1 tsp cornstarch
1 can white (canelloni) beans, rinsed & drained
salt & pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saute pan over med-med high heat. Add diced garlic & pepper. Cook until garlic starts to carmelize, about 5 minutes. Remove veggies to a bowl, leaving as much of the oil behind as possible. Add turkey sausage, mashing into small pieces, and cook until no longer pink. Remove turkey to vegetable bowl. Add chopped kale and stir until coated with the sausage/veggie oil, then add chicken stock and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes until kale is soft but still keeps some of its bite. Add all contents in the veggie/sausage bowl and drained beans and heat through. Create a well in the middle of the saute pan and add heavy cream. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with 3 tsp of milk. Stir to disolve, then add this mixture along with the rest of the milk to the saute pan. Stir very well until bubbly and thickened. Mix in with all the veggies and cook for 3-5 minutes more until desired consistency is reached. Add salt & pepper to taste, then add pasta and toss to combine. Makes 4 very filling servings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I have a coworker who is also into cooking and always comes to me for ideas when she's cooking dinner for friends. If I can't come up with something on my own blog, I almost always head over to Annie's Eats. Annie is an amazing blogger and just a fantastic all around inspiration. When my co-worker tried Annie's Cajun Chicken Pasta, she raved about it and brought in some leftovers for me to taste. Nothing but yum! This is a recipe that I wouldn't make on a regular basis, and not in the midst of a heavy race week due to the heavy fat content, but this made a really great special occasion dinner (celebrating the first part of the season being done, yay!). This is a restaurant quality meal. I made mine a little too spicy, so I will cut back on the Cajun /Creole Seasoning next time, and the Tony's Creole Seasoning that I used was really salty, so I cut way back on the salt called for in the recipe. I also had some Spinach that I was looking to use up from my Plow to Porch delivery, so I tossed that in and I don't think I would have liked this as much without it. This is probably going to be my favorite new recipe of the year!

Cajun Chicken Pasta (from Annie's Eats)

For the chicken:
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper
Cajun seasoning

For the pasta:
8 oz. bowtie pasta (I used whole wheat corkscrews)
Kosher salt

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. kosher salt (I used 1/4 tsp)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. water
3 scallions, chopped
To cook the chicken, heat a small amount of butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and a generous sprinkle of Cajun seasoning. Add to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside.
Meanwhile, return the skillet to medium heat and heat the butter and olive oil until the butter has melted. Add the bell peppers and onion to the pan. Mix in the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the half-and-half and heavy cream to the pan and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water, and add to the skillet once the cream mixture has started to bubble. Allow to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir into sauce until wilted.
Add the cooked pasta and chicken pieces to the pan. Stir well to combine and cook at medium-low heat just until the chicken is warmed through. Adjust the amount of Cajun seasoning if necessary to suit your tastes. Stir in the scallions. Serve immediately and top with additional Cajun seasoning, if desired. Makes 4 servings

Steak Taco Salad

I have never been the sort to order "just a salad" at a restaurant. A salad has to be pretty darn special (and let's face it, deep fried!) in order to grab my attention enough to be eaten as a meal. On the day I made this meal, I was planning on making a turkey cutlet dinner with mashed potatoes and braised swiss chard. It was also in the 80s, and so as the day went on, I was less and less motivated to cook the hearty dinner I had planned. I stopped at the store for something I could throw on the grill and eat with a salad, saw a fantastic flank steak, and the idea for this Steak Taco Salad was born! I picked up some mixed Mexican vegetables in the freezer section (black beans, bell pepper, corn, onion and poblano). I rubbed the steak with the equivilant of one packet of taco seasoning (I used my homemade stuff) and grilled it to medium rare along with a sliced bell pepper. I served a large amount of mixed greens topped with the cooked frozen veggies, cheese and slices of steak. I topped this with a dressing made of about a 1/4 cup of ranch dressing to 1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder. The dressing really made the salad. We enjoyed this with chips & salsa on the side (and I crumbled mine up into the salad, too).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Guinness Beef Stew

Growing up, my memories of beef stew are pretty much - Stew Meat + Golden Mushroom Soup + Dry Onion Soup Mix + Carrots + Potatoes. Not very exciting, and I really disliked Golden Mushroom Soup back then. I think the beginnings of my dislike of mushrooms came from that dish - the mushrooms didn't taste like anything, but had a nasty texture! Thankfully, I still held out hope for beef stew and have tried making it at home a couple times as an adult. Unfortunately, my husband is very particular about how he expects beef stew to taste because he had a mom who made it from scratch with no soup mixes (and I didn't know this was why he was so particular until just recently. I really need his mom's recipe!). Thankfully, the food blogging world loves to make Irish inspired meals for St. Patrick's Day, so I was able to find this recipe for Guinness Beef Stew on Mary Ellen's blog (originally from RazzleDazzleRecipes). Mary Ellen is great with comfort foods and all the stews I've seen on her site look fantastic, so I knew this recipe had great potential. I used a combination of Mary Ellen's version and the RazzleDazzleVersion (plus a couple of tasty mistakes of my own, haha) and I was floored by how good this was. So rich and velvety - and I don't even like beer! I will definitely be making this stew again!

Guinness Beef Stew
2 lbs stewing beef (I used one pound, intending to half the recipe, but messed that up a bit)
1 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne (I probably used a 1/4 tsp to my 1 Tbs flour)
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 4 tablespoons water (I used this entire amount for my half recipe, so the result was a more tomatoey flavor and a thicker consistency)
1 ¼ cups Guinness Stout (I used about 3/4 cup for my "half recipe" because it was pretty thick from the overage of the tomato paste!)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Sprig of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme (I used about a 1/2 tsp of fresh rosemary)
1 ½ cups beef broth, canned or homemade (I used this full amount)
Chopped parsley for garnish (I omitted)

Toss beef with salt, pepper, flour, and cayenne. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and onions, saute 2 minutes. Add tomato paste mixture, cover and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove beef to a resting bowl. Pour half of the Guinness into the saute pan where the beef cooked. Scrape up any brown bits and bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes. Return beef to the pan and add remainder of the Guinness. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, thyme or rosemary, sugar, and broth. Stir and adjust seasonings. Cover and cook over medium-low heat (just at a nice simmer) for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Adjust salt and pepper, and simmer partly uncovered for another hour (hmm, just now realized that I never did this! Oh well, always next time!). Adjust salt and pepper and serve.

Linguine with Vegetable Sauce

I made this dish shortly after having oral surgery. I won't go into details since this is a food blog, but I was not eating up to my normal standards during my recovery. However, at this same time, I happened to notice a Macy's ad for a ridiculously low priced food processor. This is the one kitchen tool I had always done without, because while I think it is super cool, I can't justify the cost, since I can technically do all the things it can do (it just takes forever by hand!). At the sale price from Macy's, plus a gift card, plus my Macy's card discount, I really couldn't pass this deal up! The day I purchased it, I was watching the Cooking Channel and Mark Bittman happened to be using a food processor to cook this Lavender Pasta. Well, I didn't have any lavender leaves lying around, but I loved the idea of bulking up the pasta with a sauce made from veggies - all of which I could prep using my new toy! I definitely altered this a bunch, but I really loved this pasta. So much flavor and super easy, and that was just what this "Mac & Cheese and Mashed Potatoes" surgery recovering girl needed!

Linguine with Vegetable Sauce (my own creation, inspired by Mark Bittman)
8 oz linguine pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium carrots
1 medium zucchini
1 medium red bell pepper, core & seeds removed
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cook pasta according to directions. Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Chop onion, shallots and garlic in food processor. Add to oil and cook until lightly golden. Meanwhile, shred zucchini, carrots and bell pepper in food processor. Add to pan with onion mixture and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Deglaze with white wine. Allow wine to cook off, about 1 minute. Add cream and stir until smooth. Toss sauce with pasta. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

Berry Crumb Bars

Ever since we started getting our weekly local fruit & vegetable delivery from Plow to Porch, I have become a huge fruit lover. The first thing I eat every day is fruit of some sort. When we first started getting the deliveries, I was a little bit daunted at how much fruit we got and what to do with it. I had never even eaten a blackberry the first time I got them in the delivery box, and while I liked them, I thought it might be easier to bake these into a treat for the bike shop instead of just snacking on fruit. I probably won't have this problem again in Summer of 2011, since lately I've had to supplement the fruit in the delivery by purchasing even more fruit (and even then, my husband still complains that I eat all the strawberries before he even knows we have them!). I look forward to baking more of these yummy bars this Spring and Summer, but I know it won't be because I'm trying to use up excess fruit!

Berry Crumb Bars (from Martha Stewart)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, and 1/2 cup (1 stick), room temperature, plus more for pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 containers (5 ounces each) blackberries (I used a mix of Blackberries and Raspberries)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter and flour paper, tapping out excess.
Make topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; add 1 cup flour, and mix with a fork until large moist crumbs form. Refrigerate topping until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat room-temperature butter, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly in pan; sprinkle with blackberries, then chilled topping.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares.

Chicken Lo Mein

Let's see if I can become a food blogger again! I have admittedly not been blogging for a very long time, but I do miss it! I really give a lot of credit to the blogging world for my love of food, and that love of food and experimentation has led to my loss of 20 pounds in the last year, even if I haven't been blogging about any of the fantastic food that I've been eating. This recipe for Chicken Lo Mein comes from Elly Says Opa by way of Annie's Eats and I've been using the sauce (with some adaptation) as my standard homemade stir fry sauce. I never used Oyster Sauce before, but now it is a staple in my pantry. It really brings the Asian flavor to stir fries and does not add any fishy flavor. The picture below is shown with whole wheat spaghetti noodles, which I do not recommend. The sauce doesn't get absorbed well enough over Italian noodles, so you either need Asian noodles or rice. I have substituted in all sorts of veggies with this recipe, it really goes great with everything.

Chicken Lo Mein
6 oz. lo mein noodles
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth (I sometimes omit and use 2 Tbs Oyster Sauce and 2 Tbs Soy)
I add 1 Tbs Brown Sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes (I sometimes omit and add 1-2 tsp chili garlic paste)
1/2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 cup snow peas
4 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used 2 julienned carrots instead)
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use less if I'm using chili garlic paste)
1 tsp. sesame oil (I usually only use if I'm serving with the noodles, not with rice)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the lo mein noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. In the meantime, make the sauce by combining the oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned and cooked through. Add in the vegetables, each a few minutes apart, starting with the onion and ending with the bell pepper (or whatever veggie takes the least amount of time to cook). Cook just until tender-crisp. Add in the garlic and saute just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sauce to the pan, and then the cooked lo mein noodles. Toss the mixture well to coat everything. Drizzle with the sesame oil and toss once more. Serve immediately.