Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu for the Week of January 9, 2011

Menu Choices

  • Pizza with mushrooms; arugala salad with carrots and shaved parm and lemon mustard vinaigrette
  • Whole wheat penne with chicken sausage, sundried tomatoes, and broccoli
  • Roasted root vegetable salad (butternut squash, celery root, beets, onions) with cous cous and goat cheese over arugala
  • Veggie burgers, sweet potato fries, sautéed greens
  • Minestrone soup, homemade bread

New Year, New Plan

So, I think it's pretty safe to say that I am no longer able (or interested) in writing a post everyday. With two little boys to run after, we're lucky that I get something on the table every night. I don't need the added pressure of photographing it and writing the recipe. (Not to mention the fact that it's not always worth sharing.)

However, as my life has changed in the past two year, so have my shopping and cooking habits. I used to decide in the morning what I wanted to eat, pick up whatever missing ingredients I need, and cook whenever. Now taking a two-year old to the grocery store is something I want to minimize, so I have started making a menu at the beginning of the week and shopping only once.

That's where the new blog idea comes in. I'm going to keep track of my menus here . . . and at the end of the week I can post comments on what worked, what was a failure, and what changed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grilled Chipotle-Lime Pork Chops

Every once in a while, quite unexpectedly, the ingredients in my house align perfectly. This happened the other day. I didn't feel like stopping at the store, so I pulled out some boneless pork chops from the freezer.
It was hot, so I knew I wanted to throw them on the grill. And, since Kevin and I wanted to get a run in before dinner, I wanted to toss them in a marinade so they would be flavorful without having to throw together a sauce at the last minute. I had an open can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and a lime that I knew I wanted to use, but the real secret punch came from a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt. The yogurt tenderized the meat, mellowing the heat from the peppers, and provided a nice tangy kick.

1 chipotle pepper
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1/4 cup plain, Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime
1 pound boneless pork chops
Salt and pepper

Finely chop the chipotle pepper. In a bowl, mix together the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, yogurt, the juice of one lime, and olive oil. Coat the outside of each pork chop with the chipotle-yogurt mixture and allow to marinade for two hours.

Heat your grill to medium high. Cook pork chops for five minutes on one side. Flip and cook for four more minutes. Remove from grill and allow the chop to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Granola With Cashews, Pineapple, and Coconut

Today there was an article about granola on the New York Time Web site and there was a discussion about granola on the Martha Stewart radio station. I found this particularly odd, since yesterday afternoon I loaded up on granola making supplies, and already planning to make a batch today.

I made a batch for Father's Day, since Kevin's not really a cake or cookie man. However, I think I ate more of the stuff than he did. Mostly for breakfast with blueberries and plain, fat-free Greek-style yogurt from Trader Joe's. (The stuff is delicious! Thick and creamy -- I actually find it hard to believe that it is fat free -- without a lot of tang.) And the best part about this combo is that it kept me satisfied all morning long.

2 cups tick-cut rolled oats
1/2 cup oat bran
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw cashew nuts
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1 cup chopped dried pineapple

Preheat the over to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl toss together oats, oat bran, flour, salt, nuts, and seeds. Add apple cider, oil, and honey and mix until the oat mixture is wet and clumps together a bit. Evenly spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently turn the granola with a specula, leaving some large chunks. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, about ten minutes.

Allow the granola to cool, and then toss with the coconut and pineapple. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mexican Calzones

The other day I listened to a discussion of empanada on "Everyday Food," a program on the Martha Stewart channel on Sirus Radio. The conversation made me hungry. I kept thinking about the awesome empanadas that my friend introduced me to in her neighborhood -- Jackson Heights in Queens.

I briefly considered making empanadas that night for dinner, but decided against it. First off . . . I'm trying to be a little more health conscious these days (read: get back into shape after having a baby) so the I really didn't want to use an entire stick of butter in my dinner. Also, the baby was asleep in the back of the car, so I didn't want to stop at the grocery store to pick up the aforementioned butter.

Instead, thinking about what I had in the house, I decided to make calzones stuffed with a Mexican inspired chicken filling. To up the health quotient, I made a whole-wheat pizza crust. And, since the filling wasn't too saucy on it's own I concocted a guacamole-inspired salad, which further upped the healthy anti by adding plenty of fresh veggies.

Mexican Calzones
(Makes 4 large calzones)

Whole-wheat pizza dough

1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

Cut chicken into one-inch pieces. In a large pan, sauté chicken in one tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When the chicken is opaque and slightly golden, remove chicken from the pan. Add diced onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, jalapeño, and chili powder and cook for another few minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock and scrape all of the brown bits with a wooden spoon. When the most of the liquid has evaporated, pour in crushed tomatoes and crushed pepper flakes. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan along with the goat cheese and Parmesan. Stir until the goat cheese has melted. Remove from the heat. Mix in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Punch down dough and form into four balls. Roll dough into rounds. Place one cup of filling on half of each round. Fold the dough over, crimp the edges to seal, and cut two or three vents into the top. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Serve with guacamole salad.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

This recipe makes two 12 x 18 square pizzas or four large calzones.

1 1/4 cups very hot tap water
2 envelops active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil tablespoons olive oil

Add yeast to tap water. Set aside for a few minutes to let the yeast proof. If a bit of foam appears on the top of the water, the yeast is okay to use. If no foam appears, throw out the yeast and use another package.

Place flour in a large bowl. Whisk in salt and sugar. Add water with yeast and 1/4 of olive oil. Mix until slightly sticky dough has formed. Add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Kneed the dough for two or three minutes in the bowl.

With the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, coat the sides of a large bowl. Put the pizza dough inside and cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and allow dough to rise for about one hour.

Guacamole Salad

Who doesn't love guacamole? Well, here's a way to have your guac and a salad too. By simply adding arugula, radishes, and carrots to a basic guacamole recipe this delicious condiment before a full-fledge side dish.

1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped arugala
3 radishes, cut into thin match sticks
1 carrot, cut into thin match sticks
1 ripe avocado
1 tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons finely cilantro or parsley
1 lime
Salt and pepper

In a bowl, toss together onion, arugula, carrots, and radishes. Prepare the avocado by slicing it in half and removing the pit using the base of a sharp knife. Without removing the flesh from the skin, slice the avocado diagonally, then lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl. Mix avocado with the other veggies, mashing it as need to remove any large lumps of avocado. Add the tomato and cilantro or parsley. Squeeze the lime and mix in the juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baby Food 101

Twice in the last five months I have been home by myself without the baby. So, what did I do with myself last week when I found myself home alone? Take a long bubble bath, cozy up with a novel? Paint my much neglected toes? Nope. I cooked.

Even though the baby seems to enjoy sitting in his bouncy chair in the kitchen while I chop, simmer, and sauté, I still relished being able to take my time and without having to do the silly songs and dances that keep him happy when the meal seems to be taking too long.

And what did I cook? Baby food.

As someone who cooks most of my meals from scratch, it just seemed natural to me that I would make food for my baby. Even though store-bough baby food doesn't contain lots of the added sugars and salts in processed foods for adults, I still wanted to try my hand at making my babies first meals.

The whole process was super easy. Here's my recipe for applesauce:

12 organic apples*
1/4 cup water

Peel and core apples. Cut into half-inch slices. Place in a pot with water. Cover and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until apples are soft, which will take 25 to 30 minutes. Place apples in a blender and puree until perfectly smooth.** Pour the pureed apples into ice cube trays and freeze. When they are frozen, remove from trays and store in a freezer bag. Remove one or two cubes at a time to feed to the baby. Defrost before serving.

*Apples are one of the "dirty dozen," which is a list of the twelve foods that get treated with the most chemicals or are hardest to remove the pesticides. The other foods on this list are peaches, sweet peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, leafy greens, grapes, carrots, and pears.

** When placing hot food in a blender, remove the plastic form that goes in the center of the blender lid. This will allow the steam to escape.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Herbed Fish Cakes With Horseradish Sauce

Salmon cakes are a standard week night dinner in my house, but they don't really say "company dinner" to me. That's why, when my sister and her family was visiting on Good Friday, I wanted to serve a fancier version of a fish cake. This version is still super easy to make, but the chopped herbs and horseradish sauce made it seem a little fancier. I cooked cod and mahi mahi, however you can swap out this fish for what ever you like and what looks good that day. This is a great way to use up leftover fish, but I cooked the fish "en papillote," which means to cook in parchment paper. This method is, fast, easy to clean up, and delivers moist fish.

Herbed Fish Cakes
10 ounces cod
10 ounces mahi mahi
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Create a parchment-paper package by placing the fish on a piece of parchment paper, fold the paper in half, then folding the edges back and securing them. Traditionally the paper is secured by folding it over quarter inch pieces in alternating directions. Recently someone told me they simply use a stapler to keep the paper securely closed. This method is way easier and fast, just watch out for the staples when your taking the fish out of the oven.

Bake the fish for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Remove the fish from the oven, cool and remove skin. Using a fork, break the fish into pieces. Place in a bowl and mix with the eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs, and salt and pepper. Form the fish into cakes. For the best results, place the formed fish cakes in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so. Then coat the cakes with panko breadcrumbs.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Place cakes in the hot oil and cook until golden brown on one side, about two to three minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is also golden brown, another two to three minutes.

Remove from pan and serve hot with horseradish sauce.

Makes 1 dozen fish cakes.

Horseradish Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with herbed fish cakes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shrimp With Mushroom and Peas

These days I'm all about fast dinners, things out of the freezer, and the potential for leftovers. Last night's meal, by these standards, was a trifecta.
My in-laws have a friend, who has a friend, who has a shrimping boat. Once a year they go in on a huge catch. When the shrimp arrive, everyone goes over to the friend's house to de-head the shrimp. They then place the shrimp in freezer bag in filled with salt water. Using this method, the shrimp freeze beautifully. They are sweet and delicious.

Last night I paired these shrimp with some frozen peas and pre-sliced mushrooms. Sautéed with some garlic and onions and served over saffron couscous the meal took less then twenty minuets to prepare and provided ample leftovers for the salad that I am planning for tonight's meal.

Shrimp With Mushrooms and Peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 red onion, finely diced
2 dozen raw shrimp
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are slightly golden brown, about four minutes. Add red onion and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are opaque on both sides, about four minutes. Add peas and chicken stock. Allow the liquid to come to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the peas are hot, about two minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Toss everything together until the butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over saffron couscous.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What a Difference a Baby Makes

Cooking is my hobby. As far as hobbies go, cooking is a great one. You have to eat, so you might as well enjoy it. I love every part of the process: from reading cooking articles, dreaming up menus, and shopping for the best ingredients to chopping, stirring, and simmering to serving and eating. (Cleaning up is the one part of the project that I don't love. I now have a dishwasher and am thankful for it every single day.)

I didn't realize how much time I actually invested in preparing our meals everyday until I had a baby. When I was working a full-time office job, I still cooked something from scratch almost every night. I shunned any convenience or prepackaged items, thinking that it was a cop out. I even would make whipped cream with a whisk instead of using an electric mixer.

Within the last two months, however, my tune has changed. Now, I look at a meal and try to figure out how I can prepare it between nursings, diaper changes, and playtime. I have presliced mushrooms in the fridge. I have a stocked up freezer and cook extras so that there are leftovers for the next night.

I'm hoping that eventually things will settle down a bit and I can return to luxuriating over dinner prep. Yet, I still know that some of the things I have come to accept over the past few months are worthwhile time savers. A stocked freezer is nice, leftovers should be enjoyed, and a few short cuts wont affect the flavor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Phony Minestone

With the baby my cooking style is changing already. Gone are the days when I would linger over cooking dinner. Instead, I am trying to get our meal in the pot as fast as possible during my little guy's impossible short naps.

Last night I hit on success with a quick minestrone soup. As an added plus, it was easy to make a big pot, so Kevin and I both have lunch for a couple of days.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped into rounds
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 quart chicken stock
12 ounce can white beans, such as great northern beans or canallini beans
2 cups kale, finely chopped
1/2 pound bit sized pasta such as elbow macaroni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add pancetta and cook until slightly brown. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally for four or five minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Cook for another three minutes. Add chopped tomatoes. Gently scrap all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add beans and kale. Allow soup to simmer for 15 minutes. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked al dante. Add Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wild Rice Salad

In the "great pantry stock up" before the baby was born I bought a giant bag of wild rice. I was surprised to find it at the Asian market on Duraleigh in Raleigh. Though wild rice is usually thought of as a food native to North America, I recently learned that it also grows in some places in Asia.

It seemed like forever since I had made anything with wild rice (I don't think I saw it in the markets in Germany), so this salad was a real treat.

1 and 1/2 cups wild rice
1 red onion
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large, well-salted pot of water to a boil. Add rice and cook until the rice is al dante, about 25 minutes. Drain rice and place in a large bowl.

Finely dice onion and chop carrot, celery, and apples into small pieces. Add to the bowl with the rice along with the cranberries and walnuts. Grate cheese and add to the bowl as well.

In a small bowl prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil. Pour vinaigrette over the rice and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or cold. To make the salad into a meal, place rice over mixed greens and top with grilled chicken.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Old Bay Burgers Bring Me Back to the Kitchen

Yesterday, for the first time since the baby was born, I put on my apron and made dinner. It was nothing fancy: Old Bay burgers with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and Swiss and toasted baguette; baked sweet potato "fries;" and roasted Brussels sprouts. Kevin joined me and the baby happily bounced in his bouncy seat watching his parents. It felt good to get back into the kitchen as a family.

Kevin made the burgers. As a native of Maryland, he claims to love crabs, but I think he may really love anything that can get spiced with Old Bay seasoning. Made with celery salt, dried mustard, red and black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika, Old Bay makes a yummy addition to standard burgers.

Old Bay Burgers
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 pound sliced Swiss cheese
Four 2-inch pieces of baguette
1 tablespoon spicy honey mustard
1 caramelized onion
1/4 cup sautéed mushrooms

Mix the Old Bay Seasoning into the ground beef and form into four patties. Grill for four minutes on one side. Flip. Grill for another two to three minutes for medium-well burgers. Add Swiss cheese and allow to melt.

Toast baguette on the grill for two minutes. Coat the bottom of the bread with mustard. Place the burger on the bread. Top each burger with onions and mushrooms.