Sunday, February 28, 2010

Symon Sundays: Soft Polenta with Mascarpone & Veal (Chicken) Milanese

I was very excited when I read Meredith's choice for this week's Symon Sundays. When my sister took me to Lolita for my birthday, my brother-in-law ordered the Mascarpone Polenta, which was fantastic! This really is a soft, creamy polenta, and as Chef Symon says, it could easily replace mashed potatoes in a dish. It is fantastic right out of the pot, but I did have leftovers, which I chilled and will eventually cut and pan fry. I rarely think to make polenta as the starch in a dish, but this would also be great as a base for any stew type dish.

Meredith's other choice was Veal Chops Milanese with Arugula Salad. I don't eat veal, and Chef Symon states it is equally delicious with chicken or pork, so I used chicken. I also baked mine instead of frying, and it came out great. JJ doesn't like arugula, so I made romaine, but to add a punch of flavor to mine, I added green olives. I love the panko in this dish because it makes the chicken so crunchy without pan frying.

For the recipes, please check Meredith's blog, and come back here later for a round-up of everyone's recipes!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes

There are some baked goods that Iwill try many different recipes for to see what might be better, like Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, Blueberry Muffins, and Fudgy Brownies. Then, there are times when I'll find a recipe that is perfect. The results are prefect, and I take on the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality. This recipe is one of those. I have never had a bad batch of these cupcakes come out. Anytime someone requests chocolate cake, I immediately turn to this recipe. However, that also means I don't have anything new to try and blog about. So I decided to keep my favorite recipe, but manipulate it a tiny bit.
I promised my co-workers cupcakes on Valentine's Day, but then had some things come up and was unable to make them. I promised though, that I'd make them the next Friday.
When I decided to make this recipe, I decided to just add two small changes, rather than add boiling water, I added 1 cup of freshly brewed, rich and dark coffee. I also used 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 tsp. almond, because I love almond paired with chocolate. It was just two small changes, but added a great flavor to these cupcakes.

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hersheys Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup fresh brewed hot coffee

Heat oven to 350°F.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, almond extract and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in coffee (batter will be thin).
Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.
Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.
Bake 22 to 25 minutes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gorgonzola Apple Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing

For the salad portion of our Valentine's Dinner, I decided to mix some of my favorites that go so well together. I went with a Maple Dijon Dressing, I got the idea from a Maple Walnut Dressing I had at a restaurant. Since Whitney can't eat nuts, I had to substitute something else in. I also coated some pecans in cinnamon and brown sugar, but kept them seperately in a bowl so they wouldn't contaminate the salad on Whit's behalf. They were amazing though, and we all snacked on them throughout the dinner.

Gorgonzola Apple Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing

1 sack of organic mixed baby greens
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 cup pecan halves
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. EVOO

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pure Maple Syrup
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. minced tarragon
1/4 cup EVOO

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss pecans in EVOO in a pie plate.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, toss again.
Toast for 10 minutes, or until nuts are crisp and fragrant.
Arrange salad in a bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together dijon, maple syrup, salt, pepper and tarragon.
Whisk in EVOO in a steady stream.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Drizzle over salad, serve the rest in a side dish.
Top salad with pecans, or serve on the side.

(In this photo, the nuts are in the bottom dish, kind of hiding behind my wine glass!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta

Growing up in New York, my mom always used Polly-O cheeses, specifically the ricotta and mozzarella. Having tasted and used many other brands, I completely share her devotion to Polly-O. When we moved to Ohio, it was no longer available. My mom would stock up every time we went back to New York, and have my grandma bring her some when she visited from Florida. It's just that good.
Now that I'm living in Florida, the elusive Polly-O is widely available in my grocery store! Whenever I see it on sale, I stock up. Cheese freezes exceptionally well, so I always have some on hand. When I saw this recipe pop up in my google reader from Cate, one that really showcases ricotta, I knew my Polly-O was destined for greatness! I absolutely loved the way the ricotta tasted when baked. It was still sweet, but had a little bit of crunch.
Since the dish has so few ingredients, I really wanted to use great flavor and high quality, so I picked up a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, and I made fresh whole wheat pasta. This dish was so clean in flavors, and simple, but so delicious! I'm not one to eat whole cooked tomatoes (I prefer to use crushed), but when you spear a pasta noodle with a chunk of ricotta and a piece of tomato, it's heaven.

Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta
via Cate, by Jamie Oliver

1 15-ounce container ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer for a few hours
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar (I didn't use b/c of the San Marzano's tomatoes natural sweetness)
1 pound wide pasta, such as pappardelle
a handful of fresh basil, torn (I used fresh oregano)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (omitted)

After you’ve drained the ricotta, preheat the oven to 400F.
Put a piece of foil on a baking sheet and put the ricotta in the center.
Flatten it so you have a 1″ thick disk.
Rub all over with 1 tbsp olive oil, then sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper.
Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta.
Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium until soft, 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes, then crush the tomatoes with a spoon.
Taste and add sugar (optional), salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
Toss the cooked with the sauce and a tablespoon or two of pasta water and the tomato sauce, and basil. Crumble up the ricotta and add to the pasta with the parmesan cheese.

We nibbled the edges while waiting for the sauce...

Expensive, but so worth it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Toasted Ravioli with Marinara

I've never had a fried ravioli because I don't like fried foods. I love crisp, crunchy things, but not the grease that comes along with it. I often find myself trying to create 'oven-fried' recipes. I think these were a great attempt to get the crispness, however I should have flipped them to also toast the bottoms. I used store bought ravioli for ease, but homemade would make these even better, I'm sure. I did make a large batch of my favorite sauce for dipping though!

Toasted Ravioli with Zesty Marinara

1 bag of fresh or frozen ravioli (about 30)
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. EVOO
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups zesty marinara (recipe below)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a large handful of salt.
Drop in ravioli, cook for half the time the package directs (mine was 6 minutes, so I cooked for 3).
Preheat broiler to high.
Drain ravioli, add butter and EVOO to the pot, swirl around.
Add ravioli, toss in butter/EVOO to coat, add breadcrumbs and parmesan, toss gently to coat.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment, arrange ravioli in a single layer.
Sprinkle with more breadcrumbs or cheese, if necessary.
Broil for 3-5 minutes, keep the oven door cracked and watch carefully so they don't burn.
Arrange on a plate, serve with marinara.

Zesty Marinara:

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. fennel seed
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
½ c. dry red wine
2 28 oz. cans organic crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can organic tomato sauce
1 5 oz. can organic tomato paste

In a saucepot over medium low, add EVOO, onion and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper.
Sweat onions and garlic for 5 minutes.
Turn heat to high, add red wine, reduce by half, turn to low, add spices and tomatoes.
Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Symon Sundays: Salmon Poached in Court Boullion, Braised Endives with Citrus

This week's Chef Symon Sundays was hosted by Joanne of Eats Well With Others.
Please stop by her blog for the recipes!
To view everyone else's recipes, click on the link to each person's blog on the right side.

I chose to serve this salmon for a Valentine's Dinner party. My guests really enjoyed it! They said it had great flavor, but could have used a bit more salt. I didn't serve it with the endive, but with a different sauce. It flaked perfectly and was really easy to cook. When I poached it, I didn't strain the poaching liquid, I just let it simmer for an hour, then added the salmon right in. Not only was it easier, but I had hoped it would add more flavor to the salmon.
Chef Symon offers a few varaitions of the poaching liquid, but I went with his basic recipe.

My Salmon
The poaching liquid

I made the endive separately for lunch today. I thought the sauce had amazing flavor, and was delicious. I am a big fan of cooked greens and warmed salad type dishes, but the endive were a bit bitter. I added a some lemon zest along with the orange zest. I wish I had caramelized my endive more, perhaps that would have helped the biterness.

Here are everyone else's dishes:





Thursday, February 11, 2010

Barley, Lentils and Roasted Root Vegetables

When I saw this recipe pop up in my google reader last week, I was immediately drawn to it. I love roasted vegetables, and I also had half a bag of barley on hand. I love making salads like this, the kind that can be served hot or cold, and can have interchangable ingredients depending on what's on hand. The only addition I really made to this recipe was lentils for protein.
I was on the fence about parsnips in the past, but this recipe changed my mind about them, and I now can say I enjoy parsnips!

Barley, Lentils and Roasted Root Vegetables
adapted from Cate, based on a recipe by David Lebovitz

1 cup pearled barley
1 cup lentils
5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 lbs mixed root vegetables, cut into 1/2″ dice
(I used 1 medium butternut squash, 4 parsnips, 4 carrots, 1 large turnip, 1 medium rhutabega)
1 red onion, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
A few sprigs fresh thyme
Zest and juice from a grapefruit (or orange, lemon, etc.)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Bring water to a boil in a stock pot, add the salt, bay leaf, barley and lentils.
Simmer, until the barley and lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
Toss the vegetables, onion, 1 tbsp. olive oil, thyme, a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper and spread on a sheet pan (I used 2 sheet pans).
Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, rotating pans from top to bottom, if using two.
Drain the barley and lentils, if there is residual water, remove bay leaf.
Whisk together the zest, juice, vinegar and another tbsp. of olive oil.
Add the barley, lentils, cranberries and vegetables.
Toss gently to mix.
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Serve at room temperature, garnished with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

*Cate's recipe also called for walnuts, which would have been a delicious addition, but I did not have any on hand, next time I would add them for a bit of crunch and texture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Butternut Squash Duxelles Casserole

Even though I'm not an exclusive Vegetarian anymore, I still prefer to eat vegetarian meals more often than not. I try to be a creative vegetarian because so many meals are centered around meat. I have many great resources to help me out, including the Moosewood Cookbooks and my subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine. As I was flipping through last month's issue, this recipe jumped out at me. It combined 3 of my favorite ingredients, squash, mushrooms and gruyere cheese. One thing that makes being a vegetarian easier is the lack of calories and fat from meat can be made up by using a lot of cheese!
This recipe was fantastic! I wish I had more squash, I doubled the duxelles (just because I had 16 oz. mushrooms), but not the squash. The contrast of flavors were great, but they married well. Overall, this was a great dish that I plan to make again!

Butternut Squash Duxelles Casserole
From February, 2010 Vegetarian Times Magazine

8 oz. buttom mushrooms
2 shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
1 garlic clove
3/4 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch slices

Pulse mushrooms in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to bowl.
Plus shallots in food processor until finely chopped. Add to bowl with the mushrooms.
Melt butter in skillet and cook mushroom mixture about 10 minutes -- until mushrooms have released their liquid and most has evaporated and the shallots are starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 9" deep-dish pie pan or gratin dish.
Bring milk, flour, and garlic to a simmer in saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly.
Whisk in 1/2 c cheese and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread 1/3 of squash slices on bottom of pan. Top with 1/3 cheese mixture and 1/2 of mushroom mixture.
Repeat layers, ending with cheese sauce.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender and top is browned.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sesame Crusted Tofu Steaks with Kale

I know, I know, some people will find this dish absolutely repulsive (Kris, JJ you reading??) However, this meal was so full of flavor and texture, it was absolutely delicious. And it's just so healthy.
I know there are some people who will never convert to tofu, but for those of us who love it, this was delicious! It had a great, meaty soy flavor, which was highlighted by the smoky tahini and spices. Crunch from the sesame seeds balanced the soft inside of the tofu.
The kale was earthy and sweet and smokey, just how I love it. I wouldn't serve this meal to just anyone, but if you're a kale and tofu lover, it will be a hit.

Sesame Crusted Tofu Steaks with Stir Fried Kale

1 package of extra firm tofu
1 tbsp. tahini
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbps. EVOO
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. corn starch

Remove tofu from package, drain and cut in half.
Wrap each steak in a tea towel, and place under a dutch oven or something heavy to press out excess liquid for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Place tofu steaks on cookie sheet.
Smear with tahini, sprinkle with 5 spice powder, and top with sesame seeds.
Bake for 20 minutes, until seeds are toasted and tofu is firm and browned on the bottom.

While the tofu roasts, prepare the kale.
In a small dish, whisk together soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes and cornstarch.
Heat a large wok over medium heat.
Add EVOO and garlic, cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Add kale, toss to wilt for 1 minute.
Add sauce, continue to toss and wilt kale.
When kale is cooked to desired doneness, plate.
Top with tofu steaks.
Serve with sriracha.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Superbowl Party

This year for the Superbowl, we did a low key night because JJ had to work late. I tried to keep everything as healthy as I could since I've got about 15 pounds to lose by my goal date of May 14 (my 25th birthday!) So I'll get the recipes up soon, but here's a quick recap:

Baked Buffalo Chicken Meatballs with Lowfat Ranch, Carrots and Celery

Mini Baked Corn-Dog Bites with German Mustard

Fresh Tofu and Vegetable Summer Rolls with Ponzu Sauce (courtesy of Kikkoman from Foodbuzz)

Toasted Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce

Friday, February 5, 2010

Carrot Ribbon Salad with Lentils, Yogurt and Whole Wheat Naan

Last weekend, I felt like I needed to eat very clean, whole foods because I ate out more during the week than usual. It's amazing how much better you feel in your body plus mind when you eat a clean, wholesome meal. This was full of bright flavors, both hearty and filling, but not heavy. It was my first time making Naan, and it turned out to be a great learning experience. I think I should have rolled out my Naan before putting them on the grill, but I just patted them out with my hands. I used a recipe here, but substituted 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour for 3 of the 4 cups of All-Purpose flour.

Carrot Ribbon Salad with Lentils, Yogurt and Whole Wheat Naan

Curry Spiced Lentils:
1 cup dried lentils, soaked for 8 hours
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Carrot Ribbon Salad:
4 large carrots, peeled
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium summer squash
1 medium zucchini
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. EVOO
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin

Plain nonfat Greek Yogurt
Naan, homemade or store bought

Drain lentils, place in a small stock pot.
Add onion, garlic, turmeric, curry powder and stock.
Bring to a simmer, turn to low heat and cook for 1 hour, or until lentils are tender.
Season with salt and pepper.
*Add more stock as necessary if lentils dry out*

Slice red bell pepper very thin, place in the bottom of a steamer basket.
Peel thick ribbons of carrot, place on top of pepper.s
Peel thick ribbons of squash and zucchini, place on top of carrots.
Place steamer basket over boiling water, steam for 2-3 minutes, until vegetables are just al dente.
Remove from steam, set aside.
Add lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, EVOO, cilantro and cumin to a large bowl, whisk to combine.
Add vegetables, toss to coat. Refrigerate if desired, this can be served at any temperature.

Plate lentils, top with carrot salad, yogurt, and naan.
Garnish with extra chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tex-Mex Chili Topped Sweet Potatoes

All of the Superbowl buzz and meal ideas has caused me to have chili on my mind, as well as potato skins. Two things that can be very unhealthy, depending on how they're prepared. I decided to kind of pair the two and make chili topped potatoes, but with a healthy twist. This meal is so full of color, nutrients, vegetables, spice, and freshness. It was so hearty, and totally filled my cravings for chili and potatoes.

Tex-Mex Chili Topped Sweet Potatoes

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (with green chilis, lime, cilantro, etc. if preferred)
1 heaping tsp. chili powder
1 heaping tsp. cumin
1/2 heaping tsp. corriander
1/2 heaping tsp. smoked paprika
Sprinkle of cayenne powder
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Pierce potatoes, place directly on oven rack.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size.
Heat a pot over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. EVOO.
Add onion, garlic and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
Saute' for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
Add tomatoes, spices, and kidney beans.
Bring to a simmer, stir and cook for about 20 minutes.
Taste, adjust seasonings.
Plate potatoes, top with chili, avocado slices and cheese.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Eggplant and Red Pepper Parmesan Pizza

Last week, JJ challenged me to create a new pizza for dinner one night since we usually have pizza once a week. It was a success, so he challenged me to try to come up with another. I have made eggplant parmesan pizza in the past, but putting fried eggplant on pizza kind of made it not as healthy. I decided to try to make a thick sauce with sauteed eggplant so it was healthier. The earthiness of the eggplant paired really well with the sweet and smoky peppers and acidic tomatoes. This pizza was very hearty and meaty even though it was vegetarian. I think we both agreed it was another success!

Eggplant and Red Pepper Parmesan Pizza

1 batch of whole wheat pizza crust (recipe in this post)
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large eggplant, diced (peeled or not, your preference)
1/2 cup red wine
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fresh minced oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, lightly drained (with basil or Italian herbs preferred)
1 roasted red pepper, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare pizza dough, roll out onto a pizza pan.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add EVOO, onion, garlic and eggplant.
Season with salt and pepper, saute' for 7-10 minutes, until eggplant has softened and onions begin to brown.
Add red wine, reduce.
Add oregano, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and red peppers.
Cook for another 5 minutes, until sauce is thick and most of the liquid is gone.
Spread on the pizza dough, top with cheese.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.