Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken

Do the days seem to get longer during the holidays? I mean, technically, I know they're shorter (at least in daylight hours) but they seem to drag on. I suppose that's due to the extras on the to do lists: shop for toys for the little ones, order the gloves online for dad, clean the house post-holiday party, send out Christmas cards, send out the Christmas cards I accidently forgot to send out a week ago, bake the fruitcake for Grandpa, search the internet for that perfect Secret Santa gift, etc. etc. etc. Not to mention all the normal, everyday things that don't stop just because it's December! My point? No, it's not to Scrooge-ify your December's to explain why coming home to a fabulous meal ready and waiting is the best possible end to our crazy days this time of year. A friend had sent me a recipe for Moroccan chicken that is supposed to cook for about 30 minutes or so--and I thought, "Why not try this slow-cooker style?" So, I changed/added some ingredients, threw it all in a crock pot and crossed my fingers...Well, I'm happy to say it turned out great! And it's a nice change from the 5 chicken dishes that are already in rotation at your house. (It's OK...admit it...) Enjoy!

NOTE: The preserved lemon will have to be made at least a day ahead.

1 whole chicken, cut up OR buy 2 wings, 2 breasts, 2 legs, and 2 thighs with skin
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks (or about 15 baby zucchini)*
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon preserved lemon***
3/4 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Whole Wheat Cous-Cous/Brown Rice

***Preserved Lemon Recipe

*Amendment: These vegetables will be super soft...if you like yours more crisp-tender, just add them the last hour of cooking.

1. Combine spices, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle over chicken pieces.

2. In a large sautee pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken pieces. Brown on both sides. (Just brown the skin--we are not looking to cook them here but just to give them a nice brown skin for flavor)

3. Place browned chicken in a crockpot. Add the vegetables and olives. Sprinkle garlic and preserved lemon over the chicken and vegetables. Add chicken broth. Gently with a wooden spoon.

4. Put the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours (or high for 3-4).

5. When fully cooked, with a slotted spoon, remove all the chicken and vegetables from the container and place in a large bowl. Carefully pour accumulated juices into a gravy separator and pour out all the fat. Return reserved juices to the chicken and vegetables.

6. Prepare couscous or brown rice according to package directions. Serve chicken and vegetables over grains, and sprinkle with cilantro and parsley.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best-Of Holiday Party Eats

Every year, we have a Holiday party with all of our friends. As with all things, there is always a learning curve...and at the beginning, I made the typical mistake as a novice hostess of making too many high-maintenance dishes that kept me 1) stressed and 2) in the kitchen. I have blocked out of my mind most of the mistakes I made...but for some reason, one particularly bad idea sticks in my mind. I decided that I would do mini crab cakes and pass them around. So, each batch, I'd roll the crab in the crumbs, fry them in the pan stovetop, plate, and serve. And of course, there were probably 5 rounds. I definitely played the martyr, sacrificing my experience of the party in order for everyone to call me the 'hostess with the mostess.' Well, as the years pass, I am more and more interested in having a good time and less and less interested in everyone's praise. Once you've been called Martha 10 times, the effect begins to weaken...

Don't get me wrong--I still put a ton of work into each and every party because it is important to me....but I do it on my time according to my schedule. I freeze cookies for a couple weeks before the party...and I serve lots of dishes that I can do during the day that need little attention last-minute.

So because I have not had the chance to blog lately due to putting in my cookie baking hours, I thought I'd share with you some of my go-to's every year. These dishes are delicious, easy, and sure to please--both you and your guests!

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Station

I make the soup a day or two ahead of the party, and prep the sandwiches in the morning. I set up a panini press next to the stove and put a plate out of prepped grilled cheese sandwiches separated by sheets of waxed paper. I leave a cute note saying "Please help yourself to a grilled cheese" and provide tongs so they don't have to get their hands all buttery. They put the sandwich in the panini press themselves, and meanwhile, ladle themselves a cup of tomato soup. Small bowls, latte cups, or even mugs would work for that. Some years, I've also left out toppers like croutons, goldfish, basil, or cheese. By the time they're done ladling and topping their soup, their grilled cheese is ready for the eating. I have thought about not repeating this certain years, but people have objected--they say it's one of the things they look forward to the most! NO work for the hostess, casual so people feel comfortable, and super delicious. Win-win all around.

Tomato Recipe by Michael Chiarello, with notes by Suzanne
Food Network Recipe

1 (14-oz) can chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I use less)
Salt and pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional (I don't put this in because the butter makes it plenty creamy)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juiced, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes. (1/8 cup is plenty I think)

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juiced, chicken broth, bay leaf, and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add basil and cream if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.

I made four times this recipe last year and ran out--this year I made six times and had about two cups left. It's something you'll want as leftovers, anyway, so my advice is to make more than you think you'll need.

Truffled Filet of Beef Sandwiches by Ina Garten, notes by Suzanne

1 1/2 to 2 pounds fillet of beef, trimmed and tied
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
2 French baguettes, 18-20 inches long
3 oz black truffle butter at room temperature
1 (2-oz) chunk good Parmesan cheese
Fresh baby arugula

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place the beef on a sheet pan and pat the outside dry with a paper towel. Spread the butter all over the beef with your hands. Sprinkle the beef evenly with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Roast for exactly 22 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare.

Remove the beef from the oven and cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Remove the strings and slice the filet about 1/4 inch thick.

Open the baguettes lengthwise but not all the way through. Spread the bottom halves generously with truffle butter. Top with a layer of sliced beef and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan into thin shards and scatter the shards over the sliced beef on each sandwich. Finish with a sprinkling of arugula leaves. Fold the tops of the sandwiches over, cut each baguette diagonally in 3 or 4 sandwiches, and serve right away.

OK--I totally misread this recipe!!! I tripled the recipe and bought all the appropriate amounts except truffle butter--I only bought 2 (3-oz) packages and ignored the other unsalted butter part. So, I smeared about 6 lbs of filet with 3 oz truffle butter, added the salt and pepper and roasted as directed. Then I used the other truffle butter to smear on the baguettes (I did run out but luckily I had unsalted butter and truffle salt to make up for it). All in all, though, a happy accident because it was outstanding. I can't say that it would not have been had I used regular unsalted butter to roast the beef, but I'm not arguing with that yummy goodness that came out of the oven. So, next time, I will just buy one more package of truffle butter but I'll continue roasting with the truffle butter because it was so delicious.

Roasted Almonds with Rosemary Fleur de Sel, provided by, notes by Suzanne

If whole blanched almonds aren't available, substitute whole raw almonds with skin on.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Whisk egg white in medium bowl until foamy. Add sugar and whisk until frothy. Whisk in rosemary, fleur de sel, and cayenne. Add nuts; stir. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading nuts in single layer. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes.**
Cool completely on sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover, store at room temperature). Make two cups.

**For the past two years, I could not find blanched almonds so used regular raw almonds and for two years, I burnt my first batch! The cooking time is CUT IN HALF if you use the almonds with the rule of thumb: When I start to smell them, they're done.

Every year, I'll also do some no-prep or almost-no-prep stuff like shrimp cocktail, crudite, baked brie with crackers. People always like that stuff, it adds volume, and it's easy.

Some sweets that are always a hit:

Monster Cookies, recipe by Paula Deen, notes by Suzanne
Food Network Recipe

Serves 3 dozen.

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-oz jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate chips (aka M&M's)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins, optional (I don't use)
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by Tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

These cookies spread so really stick to the Tablespoon measurement. Also, note that it says 12-oz jar of peanut butter (that's the stumpy little one).

Tipsy Turtle Bark, recipe provided by, developed by Tracey Seaman, notes by Suzanne

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

2 cups pecan halves
1 cup (about 24) caramel candies, such as Kraft, unwrapped
1 Tablespoon run, bourbon, or whisky (I use gold rum)
1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb high-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on large shallow baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool. Line baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

In small bowl, combine caramels, liquor, cream, and salt. Microwave uncovered at medium power for 2 minutes. Stir with fork. Microwave at medium power for 1 additional minute. Stir until smooth and set aside.

In a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt half chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add remaining chocolate, and stir until smooth. Pour half melted chocolate into small bowl and reserve.

Stir 1 cup nuts into remaining chocolate. Transfer mixture to baking sheet, spreading to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Spoon caramel over and pat on remaining pecans. Drizzle with reserved chocolate. Let cool at room temperature until set, about 2 hours. Do not chill.

Chop finished bark into irregular 1 1/2-inch chunks.

Store airtight at room temperature up to one month.

Tip: If omitting the alcohol, add an extra tablespoon of heavy cream.

Suzy and the Oven Saga: Tipsy Turtle Bark was the last of the 15 cookies/candies I made this year for the holiday party. I washed my Silpat mats in the sink, dried them, and them put them on the stovetop while I finished some other things. Well, actually, I kinda chucked them over there (gently--there was no fury in the toss), and I guess I did it at just the right angle because when I looked back, they weren't there. They had slipped back in the crack behind the oven next to the wall. The cabinet is on one side and the fridge is on the other--they were gone. Lost to the abyss where the missing socks and earring backs go to play. Well, that was no good, but life goes I go to open the drawer underneath the oven where I keep my baking sheets, and it won't open. Evidently, I've stuffed it too full and one of the pans has somehow caught. No amount of me or my husband's prodding with various kitchen instruments could re-open it. So now I'm out my silpats and all my baking sheets! Luckily it was my last project--so I just used a pyrex but forgot to line it with parchment paper in my distraction. BIG mistake. Several of the pieces stuck to the glass, which made for some messy bark. Still tasted great, but this is such a pretty candy when done right. The moral of the story: 1) Don't throw your silpats; 2) Don't overstuff your oven drawer; 3) since you haven't thrown your silpats, USE them...or use parchment paper. One other thing--chocolate chips will NOT work for this. They have some weird stabilizing agent which does not allow them to melt correctly. The best chocolate I've found for this is Scharffen Berger Semi-Sweet bar.

Soft Molasses Cookies, from Kay Galbraith, published in the Cookie Book by Wisconsin Electricc, 1998, notes by Suzanne

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/ cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar plus sugar for garnishing
1/2 cup dark molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening until well mixed, 1-2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light-colored and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in molasses and eggs until smooth; set aside.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Gradually mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture until dough is blended and smooth.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place 2 1/2-inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes. Remove from sheets to wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly-covered container. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

I try to ignore the fact that these have shortening in them. Also, I dip them in Turbinado sugar instead of regular granulated sugar.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Peppermint Filling, from 2009 Christmas Cookies magazine by Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1-oz bottle red food coloring
Peppermint Cream Cheese Filling
Striped round peppermint candies, crushed (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, beat the 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each additional just until combined. Stir in red food coloring.

2. Spoon dough from a rounded measuring teaspoon 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 7-9 minutes or until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

3. Spread Peppermint and Cream Cheese Filling on flat sides of half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down, pressing lightly together.

4. If desired, before serving, sprinkle each cookie with the finely chopped peppermint candies. Serve cookies immediately. Makes about 40 sandwich cookies.

Peppermint and Cream Cheese Filling

2 (3-oz) cream cheese, softened
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract.
3 cups powdered sugar.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-low to medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Add milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a filling of spreading consistency.

To store: Layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let cookies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with peppermint candies, if desired.

This recipe makes a lot of frosting--chances are you will have extra. Maybe buy some chocolate wafers and make peppermint oreos? Mmmmm.

Printable version here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Garlic and Herb Marinated Chicken Breast with Sauteed Red Pepper and Asparagus

Chicken breast recipes are the most searched for recipes on the internet--and for good reason. They're filling, healthy, and easy--and everyone likes them. Well, I know this one girl who doesn't like chicken but, frankly, that's weird. :)

Besides the marinading, this whole meal takes about 15 minutes to make. So, it's perfect for a weekday night or when you just want something healthy and easy for dinner. I guarantee you will be surprised by how much flavor you can impart to a chicken breasts using garlic, herbs, and lemon instead of fats or sugars. This meal will become a staple in your household--it is in mine!

2 large chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon each of parsley, thyme, and oregano, chopped
2 lemons, juiced
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. Put the chicken breasts between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Pound to half inch thickness, and cut each breast in half.

2. In a large freezer bag, combine garlic, chopped herbs, lemon juice, and 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add chicken and move around so that the breasts are immersed in the marinade. Put in fridge for 1 hour. (You can push this to 2 but the juice of the lemon will start to 'cook' the chicken, which will alter the texture, so don't leave it too long).

3. Preheat the grill to Medium-High. When hot, remove chicken from marinade and salt and pepper both sides. Put on the grill and don't move it around.

4. Meanwhile, add remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil to a large sautee pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the vegetables and cook, stirring often, until tender-crisp--about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, flip the chicken and finish cooking on the grill.

5. When chicken breast are done (juices run clear), take off the grill and let sit for a couple minutes. Serve with asparagus and red peppers.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spiced Pork Tenderloin, Butternut Squash, and Wild Rice Stew

Fall is here! In Los Angeles, somewhere mid-September I always feel the need to create fall in my apartment since it is not happening outside. So, I pull out my fake leaves, cider-spiced candles, pumpkin salt and pepper shakers, etc. Well, though there are no brightly colored leaves outside to rake into piles and waft their musty sweet scents, the temperatures have dropped enough to make it feel like autumn. This stew is perfect for a chilly fall night. With spices like cloves and cinnamon and fall flavors like butternut squash and apple, this stew says "Welcome, Autumn."

Though this is a little carb-heavy, they're super healthy carbs with lots of nutrition.

1 box wild rice
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 shallot, minced
1 package frozen butternut squash
1/4 cup apple juice
1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth

1. Prepare wild rice according to package directions. (With spices if included)

2. Over medium-high heat, put one Tablespoon oil into large saucepan. When hot, add shallot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent.

3. Add apple juice, stir, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, for 4 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine cloves through garlic and sprinkle over pork pieces. Toss till all the pork is coated.

5. When squash is done, empty contents of the pan to a bowl and return pan to the stove. Add the other Tablespoon of oil. Turn heat back up to medium-high and add pork. Brown on all sides.

6. Add squash back into pan with the pork and add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil, turn heat to medium-low, and simmer. When rice is ready, add to pan. Simmer 20 minutes.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pear, Thyme, and Blue Cheese Tart

Fall is here and pears are out in abundance. So, when I was invited to a dinner party and asked to bring an appetizer, I came up with this. I avoid working with phyllo at all costs. It's messy, it's cumbersome, and it's just annoying. Puff pastry, however, is incredibly easy and looks so impressive when it comes out of the oven. All of the credit with none of the work. Try it!

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed (usually a pack comes with two or three sheets)
4 pears, cored and sliced
1/2 cup blue cheese, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to 15 by 10 inches. Use a ruler to cut straight lines with a paring knife. Carefully, using the paring knife, score the puff pastry an inch away from the edges making sure not to cut all the way through.

3. Smear the blue cheese within the border and arrange pears in overlapping design. Sprinkle thyme leaves over the pears.

4. Bake until pears are tender and edges are golden brown, 20 minutes or so.

Printable version here.

Meatball, Mushroom, and Tortellini Soup

At the end of long day or week, life calls for comfort food. This meaty, savory soup is totally comforting without ruining your waistline like more typical comfort foods (macaroni and cheese, fries, etc).

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 onion, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1/3 lb ground beef (5-7% fat)
3 Tablespoons bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 package sliced mushroom (cremini or button)
4 cups beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 package mushroom (or any of your choice) fresh tortellini/ravioli
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
grated parmesan (optional), to taste

1. In a medium bowl, combine onion, garlic, beef, bread crumbs, thyme, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Roll gently into 3/4-inch meatballs.

2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add meatballs. Brown meatballs on all sides.

3. When meatballs are browned, add mushrooms. Stir gently so that the meatballs do not break. Cook the mushrooms till they are soft and brown, 3-4 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil and turn heat to medium. Add pasta and cook according to directions. A minute before pasta is done, add spinach and stir.

4. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan, (optional).

Printable version here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baramundi with Stewed Peppers and Onions

My husband had a business dinner tonight, so I went straight for the onions, peppers, and garlic--three ingredients he prefers stay at the grocery store rather than on his plate. I noticed at the store that they had huge displays for Cold Prevention and teas to soothe sore throats. Well, as we head into cold and flu season, you might be surprised to know that red peppers are your best friend. One red pepper has 300% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, more than an orange. It's also loaded in Vitamin A which is also good for immune function as well as vision, bone, and skin health. Onions and garlic offer manganese which helps regulate the natural hormonal balances in the body. Poblano, chard, and orange peppers also pack a Vitamin C punch. And, of course, leafy greens are loaded with anti-oxidants, aka cancer preventers.

The garlic, onions, and peppers develop a rich sweetness as they cook down. I used baramundi for this, a medium-firm white, flaky fish. Basically any white fish would work for this--try monkfish (also known as Poor Man's Lobster), Mahi Mahi, Swordfish, Snapper, Cod, or Sea Bass.

2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 red pepper,quartered and sliced
1 poblano pepper, quartered and sliced
1 orange (or yellow or green) pepper, quartered and sliced
1 bunch Red Chard (or any other dark leafy green), tough stems removed, and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil (more if needed) plus more for fish
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 10-12 oz Baramundi (or other white fish) filet

1. Heat teaspoon olive oil in large sautee pan over Medium-High heat.

2. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add peppers, chard, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper. Stir, cover, and turn heat to low. :Leave 15 minutes.

4. Lightly oil, salt, and pepper fish filet. Make a little space in the middle of the pan and place fish in it. Cover, turn heat to Medium, and leave 7-10 minutes (rule of thumb for fish doneness is 5 minutes per inch of thickness, so adjust time accordingly. It is cooked through when opaque throughout and gives back slightly when touched.)

5. Serve fish over pepper mixture.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Good Fall Snack

I don't know about you, but when the munchies strike, if I eat pretzels or chips, forget it--I'll end up eating half the bag and blow all my hard work. So, low-carb high-protein snacks work best for me. Plus, they fill me up much better than high-carb, low-protein snacks. My new favorite snack:

1/2 cup whipped lowfat cottage cheese (could sub regular cottage cheese or ricotta (part-skim or fat-free))
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 packet Splenda with Fiber
2 Tablespoons walnut halves or pieces

Mix thoroughly. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bellini Turkey Burgers with Grilled Peaches

Summer is coming to an end but you can still get some great peaches at the grocery store. Grilling fruit is an excellent way to add a lot of flavor without adding a lot of calories. When the peach slices hit the grill, their natural sweetness comes out and they become soft and tender, giving a lot of moisture to the burger--essential for turkey because it is so low in fat. I served this with some steamed spinach and some baked sweet potato fries.

When I saw this bellini jam in the store, I knew I had to have it. Bellinis remind me of Venice, Italy, where they were invented. I have great memories of sitting in San Marco Square among the tourists, the pigeons, and the beautiful Cathedral and Palace...sipping on bellinis with my husband and our friends. It remains one of my favorite drinks--and always takes me back to that wonderful night!

1/2 lb dark ground turkey meat
3/4 lb light ground turkey meat
1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 peaches, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/3 cup Bellini jam (could substitute peach, apricot, apple)
1 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 Tablespoon orange juice (or water)
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese (optional)
2 whole wheat pitas cut in half or 4 whole grain hamburger buns

1. Combine dark and light turkey meat, yogurt, salt, red pepper flakes, and thyme, mixing until just combined. Score into four equal portions with your hand (indent an X in the meat) and form four patties. Salt and pepper the outside of the burgers.

2. Heat a grill pan on Medium-High heat. Spray with olive oil spray. When hot, add turkey burgers. (Don't move them around). Add peach slices.

3. While burgers cook, combine jam, mustard, and orange juice (or water) in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk to combine.

4. Flip peaches after 1 minute. Flip burgers after 5 minutes. Take peaches off the heat as soon as they have grill marks on the second side.

5. Using a pastry brush, brush some of the jam glaze on the turkey burgers. Add feta to the rest of the sauce. Combine with whisk and then spread on the bread.

6. When turkey burgers are done, take off the heat and let rest for a couple minutes. (To test, cut into a burger--there should be no more pink inside.)

7. Assemble the burgers--put a turkey patty on top of the jam-feta spread that you have already put on the bread. Top with a couple peach slices.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Host a Come Together Party

Macy's is hosting an amazing campaign called Come Together. It raises money for Feeding America. Basically, you host a party and encourage your guests to bring a check or some cash instead of a hostess gift. Macy's then matches whatever money you raise. To find out more, click here.

I will be hosting one in October and posting some pictures. I encourage you to do the same! Spread the word. Let's feed some folks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pan-Seared Beef with Blackberry Cabernet Reduction over Arugula and Pureed Cauliflower

My friend, Lee, is a fabulous cook. He served my husband and me this meal at a dinner party and I have been thinking about it ever since. I made a few subtle changes but the credit goes to Lee on this one!

1 pint blackberries
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup Cabernet
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup beef broth
salt and pepper
2 filet mignons
olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tablespoons Light Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon butter
4 cups arugula
good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic (optional)

1. Put blackberries, cabernet, 1/2 cup beef broth, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce, stirring occasionally.

2. Steam cauliflower florets in microwave for 5 minutes.

3. Put a pan on the stove over high heat. Pat filets dry and then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a couple tablespoons (or enough to evenly coat bottom). Once hot (you can smell the olive oil), add filets. Don't move them--this is how they brown.

4. As they cook, arrange arugula on plate. Lightly drizzle with high-quality olive oil to taste. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

5. The meat is ready to turn when juices start to gather at the top. It should release naturally. Flip the beef and refrain from moving it around once again. Cook to desired temperature (medium is only a couple more minutes from here )and place beef aside to rest. Turn the heat to low and pour 1/4 cup cabernet into pan, scraping up brown bits in the bottom of the pan (flavor concentrate--don't skip this step!!!) Pour that into the reducing blackberry sauce.

6. Transfer cauliflower to food processor. Add sour cream, butter, and 1/4 cup beef broth. Puree. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. After the beef has been sitting for 5 minutes, slice. Place cauliflower puree in the center of the plate and top with beef. Pour the blackberry reduction over. Sparingly drizzle the plate with aged balsamic.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coffee-Ancho Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Salsa Verde over Carrot Puree

It's always fun to use some ingredients, like coffee, in new ways. Everyone thinks of coffee for dessert, but rarely is it used in savory dishes. This is a great use for leftover coffee from your daily A.M. pot. (If you don't make coffee every day--good for you--you can just buy a cup and save it for later).

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin and big pieces of fat
1/4 cup CHILLED (room temperature or cooler for safety reasons) coffee
1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder
1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 serrano chili, 1/2 sliced with seeds in, other half de-seeded and minced
5 or 6 Tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 white onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
8 small or 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
1 Tablespoon light sour cream
Beef broth

1. In a large zip lock bag or a glass pan, whisk coffee, chili powder, cumin, 1 T honey, vinegar, oil, half the serrano pepper (with the seeds), and a small pinch of salt.

2. Add pork tenderloin and let marinade for at least 2 hours. (Preferably longer).

3. When ready to cook pork, take out of fridge to get the chill off the meat. Preheat grill to Medium-High. Put the carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with a Tablespoon of water and microwave, covered, for 8 minutes.

4. In a sautee pan, drizzle a teaspoon or so of canola oil (more if needed) and turn heat to Medium. After 30 seconds or so, add chopped onion, garlic, and serrano. Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they start to become soft and transparent. Transfer to food processor to cool. Flip pork after 6 minutes or so.

5. When grill is hot, add pork and tomatillos. Keep an eye on the tomatillos as they cook quickly--we're just looking for a nice char on these. They will only take a couple minutes per side. When they are charred, take them off the grill and let them sit for a few minutes to cool. When cooled, peel off charred skin, remove any hard stalks, and transfer to food processor with the onion mixture. Add a teaspoon of honey and run the processor until well combined. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Rinse out processor for the carrot puree.

6. When the pork has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees, take off grill and let sit to redistribute juices.

7. Put carrots in food processor. Add sour cream and a pinch of salt. Run the food processor. Through the feed tube, add beef broth until it reaches desired consistency (like a thin mashed potato).

8. Slice pork and serve over carrot puree. Drizzle any accumulated pork juices over the pork and top with salsa verde.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sauteed Greens with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

I was SO PROUD of myself today!!! I have often made greens (kale, chard, etc.) to much groaning and frowning from my dear husband. Honestly, I can't blame him--they had always been kind of bitter and difficult to eat before. (Notice I have not until today posted a recipe for bitter greens!) Well, I am giving myself a nice pat on the back today because I made a pan of really truly delicious swiss chard today and am excited to share the recipe with you! I made this recipe alongside my Coffee-Ancho Pork Tenderloin Over Carrot Puree and it worked wonderfully. This vinaigrette recipe will make much more than you will use for the greens, so save it and put it over chicken, pork, salmon, or even a cold whole-wheat pasta. Enjoy!

2 bunches swiss chard (can use any bitter green), thick stems removed and then sliced thinly into strips
1 teaspoon canola oil
beef broth (1/4 cup or less)

Sauteed Greens

1. Put pan over high heat with oil.

2. When oil is hot, add greens, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Toss the greens every 30 seconds or so, for about 3 minutes to get some nice color on them.

3. Turn heat to low, add broth, and cover. Leave for 10 minutes.

4. Take cover off. If broth is not fully evaporated, turn heat up to medium and cook till they are dry.

5. Serve with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette.

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

1 head garlic
oil (any sort)
2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 Tablespoons canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Slice top off head of garlic (discard top bit), drizzle with oil (any), sprinkle with salt, and wrap in aluminum foil. Put in oven and let roast 45 minutes or until all the cloves are soft. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

3. Squeeze all of the garlic out of the cloves into a small tupperware. Mash with a fork. Add 1 Tablespoon red wine vinaigrette (gives a pink color--if you don't want that, use white wine/champagne/apple cider vinegar) and a pinch of salt. Continue mashing with fork until the garlic is no longer in chunks but is incorporated into the liquid. Add 1 Tablespoon canola oil. Cover and shake until emulsified.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tomato, Melon, and Mozzerella Salad

Summer is my favorite season. The sun is blazing, parties are abundant, and the produce is spectacular. At my local farmer's market, they had an array of various tiny melons (they always remind me of that shrunken head in Beetlejuice). They are ripe and juicy and sweet-as-candy. Plus they are great for our bodies--loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Potassium. And then, of course, the heirloom tomatoes. These funny, quirky guys come in all shapes and sizes, and once you taste one, you realize that those red things they're selling at the grocery store are not really tomatoes. So, I created this summer salad with all my favorite summer flavors. Enjoy!

Half a red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vinegar (white, red, champagne, or sherry)
Cold water
1 butterscotch melon (or any orange-fleshed melon--if large, use half), diced
2 heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 tub of mini fresh mozzerella balls (or just cut a big one up)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonaded (stack the leaves up, roll like a cigar, and slice thinly)
1 lemon, halved
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper
pinch of red chili flakes (optional)
4 cups (or more) fresh arugula

1. Place the onions in a small bowl. Add vinegar and then fill with cold water until all onions are covered. Place in fridge.

2. Place melon, tomato, mozzerella, and basil in a medium bowl. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon and drizzle with olive oil to taste (you don't need much). Add salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Take onions out of fridge, drain, and toss into salad. (This process takes the pungency out so that they are crispy still but more subtle in flavor). Toss.

3. In a separate bowl, combine arugula, juice of the other lemon half, and a drizzle of olive oil. Salt and pepper lightly. Toss.

4. Serve melon mixture over arugula salad.

Serves 4.

Variations on a theme: Tonight, I made the same salad but replaced the mozzarella with cubed feta and added mint and kalamata olives. Also delicious! Try them both!

Printable version here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seared Duck Breast with Fig and Orange Compote

I love duck. Love it. It's rich, it's flavorful, it pairs well with fruit (my favorite combo). But I do not make it at home often because it is fairly fatty. But when I want something that is simple to cook but is decadent and delicious, duck breast is the perfect answer. I personally cannot stand eating any kind of gristle or fat, so I just cook it with the layer of fat on the breast to ensure moist meat, but do not eat the fat. I use fresh figs in this recipe, but you can re-constitute dried figs in near-boiling water for 20 minutes as another great option.

1 pint fresh figs, roughly chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
salt and pepper
1 lemon
2 duck breasts
extra virgin olive oil
wild rice
chicken broth

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook wild rice according to directions.

2. Combine figs, orange juice, honey, balsamic vinegar, and Cointreau in a small saucepan. Put over medium-low heat until figs break down and the sauce is reduced to a compote consistency, stirring ocassionally. Season generously with pepper, add salt to taste. Turn to low heat to wait for service.

3. Heat a large sautee pan over high heat. When hot, add olive oil and allow to heat for a 30 seconds. Salt and pepper both sides of duck breasts. Lay duck breasts, fat side down, in the hot oil and do not move. Let crisp for 5 minutes and then put the whole pan in the oven.

4. Let the duck breasts roast until medium, about 8-10 minutes. It should still be slightly pink in the middle.

5. Remove from oven (being careful to use potholders....I then put the potholder over the handle of the pot on the stovetop so that I do not forget that it's hot....lesson learned the hard way, I'm afraid) and place duck breasts on a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes.

6. Taste compote. If it's too sweet, add the juice of half a lemon and re-assess. Slice and serve with compote and prepared wild rice.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Suzy's Summer Succotash

We just arrived home from a lovely Jamaican vacation. And although the food was delicious (don't worry--I'm working on my promised recipes!), it was very rich and bountiful! So, we needed a nice, light meal to get back into our So-Cal healthy eating lifestyle! Enjoy!

2 large chicken breasts, cut into large sections (or leave whole)
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 yams or sweet potatoes
2 ears corn, shucked
2 portobello mushrooms, gills removed and wiped with a wet towel to clean
12 grape tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 cup frozen edamame (shelled)
1/4 cup basil, chiffonaded
1 Tablespoon of olive oil (or to taste)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or to taste)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1. Combine lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, oil, and oregano in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken breast pieces and close bag. Roll the chicken around so that all pieces are coated and put in the fridge. Marinade for 1-4 hrs (but no more as the citrus will "cook" the chicken).

2. When chicken is marinaded, preheat the grill to high heat.

3. Prick the yams with a fork and microwave for 4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices and coat lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Lightly coat corn and portobellos with olive oil, salt and pepper.

5. Place frozen edamame in a microwave-safe dish and add a teaspoon of water. Cover loosely and microwave for 3 minutes. Drain and shock in cold water.

6. Place chicken, corn, mushrooms, and potatoes on grill. (Once you put the chicken on, don't touch it. This will ensure that it won't stick and that you get good grill marks. It will release when it's ready to flip.) Cook until vegetables get a nice char and the chicken is cooked through.

7. While those things are cooling, combine the tomatoes, basil, and edamame. When cool enough to handle, chop the mushrooms and sweet potatoes into half-inch pieces and add to the tomato mixture. Cut the corn off the cob and add as well.

8. Finish with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chicken.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Make Your Party Special

I recently co-hosted a party for my friend, Amy, who launched the official website for her jewelry line, Jouel. Her jewelry is awesome and you should check it out while the prices are still a steal!!! We threw an all-girls cocktail party with a subtle beach theme. We kept things very modern and simple and it was a hit!

Some tips for making your party fabulous:

1. Choose dishes that can be done mostly ahead-of-time

2. Keep it easy. Parties are not the time to experiment with new, complicated dishes. I personally try new dishes if I feel confident with the techniques involved, but I try to keep flavors simple and clean.

3. Check out your local restaurant warehouse. You can find modern, sleek serving pieces that are much more interesting than paper plates.

4. Know your audience! For instance, if you are having a girls' night, keep the dishes light, which we did for this party. Then throw in one rich dish. We did a cake for dessert..but it could also be a great cheese plate, a store-bought decadent chocolaty thing, or something fried--but just keep it to one thing and the rest light. If, however, you are throwing a super-bowl party, it's okay to keep things a little heavier--but remember to add some light dishes as well. Balance is key.

5. Clean lines. Try to clear off whatever you can from the surfaces of your house. The less clutter, the better it will look.

6. Have a signature drink. This is an especially important rule for parties with women. We served blueberry martinis and I couldn't believe how quickly they went. Plus they're pretty.

7. Stick to a color scheme if you can. We decided on "beach" colors, so we stuck to white, tan, blues, and greens. It just makes a more pleasing aesthetic. If you can pull off monochromatic (all white flowers, white tablecloths, etc), even better. It's so classy and chic.

8. Accept help. No matter how much I plan ahead, there are always some things that simply must be done last-minute. Let people help you when they offer! It may go against your Martha Stewart nature, but you will be so much more happy and relaxed.

9. Encourage roaming. I set up stations around my place so that people have to move around for different kinds of food or drink. First of all, it gets people out of the kitchen (except those who are helping you, of course!!!) but secondly, it encourages conversation and a better energy to the party.

10. Whatever happens, it is EXACTLY as you planned it. Never let on that something did not turn out as you wanted it. (I admit I do not always stick to this rule, but I should!) Half the time, people would have no idea if you didn't tell them!

Clean lines, modern presentation, lots of color.

Easy cold soup a great party dish. Garnish nicely and it's a sure hit.

Shrimp are good hot or cold. Marinade simply and grill, roast, or broil. Tropical salsa is interesting and another do-ahead.


Tomato-Watermelon Salad with Feta and Almonds

White Gazpacho

Tropical Salsa
(This whole recipe looks fantastic but we used only the recipe for the salsa)


Printable version here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Did It For You!!!!

This week, I got my certificate from the New School of Cooking for completing their Professional 1 Series. Yea!

Spring Chicken Vegetable Soup

My mother-in-law is a fabulous cook and she gave me the recipe a few years ago for a Spring Vegetable Soup that she got from a friend. I have made that soup dozens of times and I can't seem to do it as well as she does. This is my adapted version of that soup that has a fewer carbs and more green vegetables. I tried to find the link to that original soup recipe online, but to no avail. I will point out, though, that this recipe is an adaptation, not an original.

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4-5 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 leek, trimmed, washed, and sliced into half moons
1 1/2 boxes low-sodium chicken broth (32 oz or so)
1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken bouillon (use one with no MSG)
1 celery stick sliced into three large chunks
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends of stems removed then chopped
1/2 lb green beans, stemmed and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped plus inner leaves, chopped
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped kale
1/2 rotisserie chicken, skinned then torn into bite-size pieces
Tobasco to taste
1 lemon, halved
Basil leaves, chiffonade, to taste
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, combine carrots, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf, leek, broth, bouillon, and large celery pieces. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Add asparagus, green beans, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh peper.

3. Add chicken, kale and let simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

4. Add tobasco to taste. When ready to serve, squeeze lemon over and sprinkle with basil leaves.

Serves 8.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pork Tenderloin, Broccoli, and Asparagus Stir-Fry

I purchased a pork tenderloin from the meat man at our local Farmer's Market and I was amazed at the difference in color, tenderness, and quality versus my standard grocery store pork. If you have access to a local organic meat farmer, give him or her a try! I'm really glad that I did.

1-1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/4 lite cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon safflower (or other clear, high heat) oil
1 bunch asparagus, sliced diagonally
1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1. Combine garlic, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil in a large freezer bag or bowl. Add pork, cover, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

2. When ready to cook, put heavy large pan or wok over high heat until very hot. Add oil and using tongs, pull pork out of marinade (reserving marinade) and add to pan. Sautee quickly until no longer pink. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch into marinade. Remove from pan and put on a plate.

3. Add vegetables to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add marinade and cook another minute. Add pork back into pan and cook for 1 more minute. Serve over Sesame-Cashew Brown Rice.

Serves 2-4.

Printable version here.

Sesame-Cashew Brown Rice

2 cups prepared brown rice (buy prepared or prepare according to package directions)
1/2 cup roasted salted cashews, chopped
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1. Combine rice, cashews, and oil.


Serves 2-4.

Printable version here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pan-Seared Halibut with Pea Puree

A recent trip to the Farmer's Market revealed the spring harvest. Beautiful summer squashes, colorful asparagus, globe-sized artichokes, and fresh peas were there for the tasting. There is a small window where one can find fresh peas at the market, but this dish could just as easily (and deliciously) be made with frozen peas.

2 6-oz filets of halibut (or other firm-fleshed white fish)
extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (or so) fresh peas or 1 bag frozen peas
1/3 cup part-skim ricotta
1/8-1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, to taste (start with less then add)
1 lemon, half juiced
1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt and add peas. Cook until tender but not mushy. (This will take 10-12 minutes for fresh peas, less time for frozen peas.) Drain.

2. Place a pan on the stove. Turn heat to high. Add 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Let oil get very hot. Salt and pepper fish filets on both sides. Add to pan and do not touch. After a couple minutes, turn the heat to medium-high.

3. In a food processor, add peas, ricotta, mint, lemon juice, a couple pinches of salt and some pepper. Blend. Thin out with chicken stock until it whizzes easily in the processor but still holds some shape. You may not need a half cup. Taste and adjust seasons accordingly. (Maybe more lemon...for strong lemon flavor, add a little grated rind...perhaps more mint...or salt)

3. When fish is halfway cooked, flip and don't touch again. This side will take less time to finish. Cook until done. (You know this by touching the side of the fish--it should resist your touch a little. If your fingers are able to just push in, cook a few more minutes).

4. Serve halibut over pea puree. Pairs nicely with a green salad.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia

Sick of the same old fish? Crusting fish with nuts, seeds, or herbs adds great flavor and is very simple. Toasting pecans really makes them 'come alive', so make sure not to skip that important step. I served this fish with quick broiled zucchini slices, but any green vegetable will do. An added bonus to this meal: It will take less than 15 minutes to make, including prep!

2 large pieces of tilapia (or 4 small)
1/4 cup of pecans, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
lemon wedges for serving

1. Preheat broiler

2. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Put a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter and about a teaspoon of oil.

3. When butter/oil mixture is melted and hot, add tilapia. Let sear (don't push it around.)

4. While tilapia is searing, prepare the pecans by combining them in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, a little salt, pepper, and cayenne (to taste).

5. Flip the tilapia and evenly distribute the pecan mixture over the fish. Transfer to the broiler. (Pay attention while broiling as nuts burn quickly. ) Fish should go under the broiler for less than a minute. (If you have particularly thick pieces of fish, leave the second side on the stove for a minute or two longer to make sure they're cooked through.)

6. Take out of the oven and serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Quick-Broiled Zucchini Slices

The one thing every cook should know about zucchini is that they like HIGH HEAT. Therefore, grilling, roasting, and broiling work best when cooking these tender summer squash. When in a time pinch, try this method.

4 small zucchini
salt and pepper (or seasoning salt and pepper)
olive oil

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cut ends off zucchini. Then slice a very thin piece off one side to give the zucchini "feet" to stand on so that it won't roll around while slicing. Slice thinly. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

3. Place on a baking sheet. (If they are piled on top of each other, they will steam so make sure they are placed alongside each other.) Spray or brush with olive oil (use only a little bit).

4. Salt and pepper sparingly.

5. Place under the broiler, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn. When they have a little golden color and look tender, they are done.

Serves 2.

Printable version here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon

Growing up, whenever I brought a good report card home, my mother let me choose the meal for the night. I absolutely always chose steak. A perfectly cooked steak on the grill, with some easy sides, is my idea of a perfect meal. I always use filet (which does mean that I cook it less often....and that's OK with me) because it is so lean yet tender. More affordable choices would be flank, skirt, or sirloin steaks. Think that red meat isn't part of a healthy diet? Think again. Red meat is loaded with protein, iron, and B12 vitamins. Always choose lean cuts of meat, and experts suggest that we try not to eat more than 1 serving a week...but there is no need to cut it out completely. I serve these steaks with a side salad, steamed broccoli, and quick-cooked sweet potatoes with thyme.

2 6-oz. filets
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the grill to high heat.

2. With a paper towel, blot the steaks to make sure they are dry. On both sides, generously salt and pepper. (This helps create the crust on the steak, so don't be shy unless you have blood pressure/heart conditions that limit salt).

3. Put the steaks on the grill and don't touch. They will naturally release when ready to be turned. (Note: NEVER press on meat (steaks, burgers, chicken, etc) on the will just cause the meat to release its juices, leaving you with dry meat.)

4. After meat is ready to be relased (5 minutes or so), flip. Cook to desired tenderness.

Guide to determining doneness of meat: With your hand relaxed, feel the fleshy part between your thumb and pointer finger. This is how a raw steak will feel. Now tighten that area by stretching your thumb and forefingers--this is a super well-done steak. From there, if you release it a little, this is a medium-well. A little more is a medium. A little more is medium-rare, and mostly relaxed is rare. If you like your steaks pink in the middle but cooked through, go for medium. This is the midway point between relaxed and tensed.

Printable version here.

Quick-Cooked Sweet Potatoes with Thyme

If you don't have time to bake a sweet potato, try this method--it takes less than 15 minutes and is totally satisfying.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt/seasoning salt

1. Put a large pan over high heat. Add olive oil. When oil is hot, add sweet potatoes and let cook for a few minutes.

2. Add thyme, salt, pepper, and chicken broth and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Let cook for 10 minutes or until almost cooked through.

3. Take cover off and let broth evaporate until potatoes are completely cooked.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Rhubarb Salsa

Rhubarb is a vegetable that grows in the spring. It is available in most grocery stores right now, or can be bought frozen year-round. It has large triangular leaves that are toxic, but the stalks are perfectly edible and have a delicious, tart flavor. The color of the stalks vary from green to speckled pink to red, all of which can be used. Rhubarb is loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Calcium. Most often it is seen in pies or other desserts, but I made a double batch of this salsa, from bigoven, with lamb chops for Easter and had some left over, so I created this super easy and tasty dinner. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Salsa:

1 c. chopped onions
2/3 c dark or golden raisins
2 T Red wine vinegar
4 t chopped jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t ground cardamon
6 c fresh or frozen sliced rhubarb
salt and pepper


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, slightly pounded
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 c olive oil
1 T herbes de provence
salt and pepper

1. Combine lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and herbes de provence in a freezer bag. Add chicken breasts, making sure all are coated, and place in the fridge to marinade. (Because this uses citrus juice, do not marinade for more than an hour.)

2. Make salsa. In a large saucepan, combine the onions, raisins, honey, vinegar, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and cardamon. Stir in rhubarb. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring as little as possible. Uncover and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Stir only if necessary to prevent scorching. Set aside. (This can be made ahead and refrigerated).

3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Put chicken on grill for 5 minutes. Flip. Cook until cooked through, another 3-5 minutes or so. Serve with salsa.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Deviled Eggs

Got a bunch of leftover hard-boiled eggs? I am always amazed by how quickly deviled eggs go at a party. They are sort of 50's and retro, but everyone loves them. So I made them for my Easter brunch with a little twist and they were devoured.

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Carefully put all the egg yolks in a bowl. Combine with mayonnaise, mustard, and mascarpone. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Using a small ice cream scoop, a teaspoon, or a piping bag, refill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

Makes 24 deviled eggs.

Printable version here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eyes darted around the dining room table. What would have been a pleasant evening had taken on the hue of a pointed mystery thriller. The shiny new knives in each guest's hand were suddenly being held with fervent grips. Who was responsible? Something...or someone....had caused these blue rings around the hard boiled egg yolks....

Then, all of a sudden, the front door creaked open, and in walked an unbelievably attractive blonde chick who whispered something into the cook's ear...then, she was gone. The cook stood up at the head of the table, cleared his throat, and shed a tear. "My beloved guests," he blustered, "My sincerest aplogies. I cooked the eggs... too long." All the guests turned to each other with a satisfied smile. It was then that they heard the shriek in the den and noticed a candlestick was missing...

Raw eggs

1. Place eggs gently into the bottom of a wide pot. Cover with cold water.

2. Bring to a boil. As soon as the water reaches a boil, turn the flame off, cover tightly, and let sit exactly 8 minutes.

3. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry and store in the fridge.

Printable version here.