Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cucumber Summer Salad

This recipe comes from my sister-in-law. She made this using the vegetables she and my brother grew in their garden. When I tasted how bright and fresh this summer salad was, I knew I had to try it! It comes together in just a few minutes, requires very little cooking, and goes great with summer barbeques.

Cucumber Summer Salad

1 medium to large cucumber, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
2 cups green beans, ends cut off
4 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup Sweet Italian dressing
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the green beans until just tender, but still slightly crisp. When cooked slightly, immediately run under cold water to stop cooking. Cut the green beans into one inch pieces. In a medium bowl, add cucumber slices, cooled green beans, green onion, and basil. Pour 1/2 cup of Italian dressing into the bowl and mix well. Add more dressing if you like it to have more liquid. Add some salt and pepper and mix well. Chill before serving to allow all of the flavors to marry. Toss just before serving.

Lemon Dijon Pork Milanese

This dish is an adaptation of a family recipe for breaded meat. You can use this recipe on virtually any meat, but it's especially delicious on pork and chicken. I added the lemon zest and dijon mustard to give the meat a little kick and slight tang. For a real homey feel, I always eat the breaded meat with applesauce. The cool, sweetness of the applesauce against the warm, crispiness of the meat is Heaven!

The meat can also be baked if you do not want to fry it, but baking it will not give it the crispy, golden crust that is so delicious - so for this one, I recommend frying the meat in just a bit of oil, it's worth it!

Lemon Dijon Pork Milanese

4 pork loin chops or pork cutlets, pounded to 1/3 inch thickness
1 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
5 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 lemon, zested
freshly ground pepper
ground red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Stir the breadcrumbs and cheese together in a large shallow dish. Lightly beat the egg in another shallow dish. Add the mustard and lemon zest to the egg, mix well. Sprinkle the pork with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Dip the pork, one at a time in the egg/mustard mixture. Allow the excess to drip off, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat the meat completely. Place on a small baking sheet or platter.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the pork to the skillet and pan fry until the pork is golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then place them on a clean baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm.

When ready to serve, lightly drizzle with lemon juice.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick Calzones

This really isn't a recipe, but rather an idea for a quick weekday meal. Instead of boring old pizza, I decided to make yummy Calzones. They are just as easy as making a pizza, but I think everything is more fun in a pocket of flaky dough! This is a quick recipe because you can use store bought ingredients to have a hearty and delicious meal on the table in no time! Plus, you can control the amount of each ingredient. So, if you like more sauce (like me!) just add it - more meat (like my husband!) load it up!

I recommed getting your pizza dough from either your favorite pizza parlor, or an italian market. It's always fresh and ready to go. You can freeze the dough for up to 6 months and just defrost it in the fridge overnight before you use it.

Quick Calzones
1 package pre-made pizza dough
1 1/3 cups pizza sauce, plus more for dipping (or more if you like it extra saucy like me!)
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
Pizza toppings: pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions, chicken, whatever you like!
splash of water (for brushing on the edges to seal)
2 Tbs. olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Separate your pizza dough into 4 equal parts. Take each part and roll into a circle. Brush the outer edges with water to act as a glue for the Calzone. On only half of the circle, place about 1/3 cup of sauce. Top with your pizza toppings and 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese.

Carefully fold over the Calzone to make a pocket. Using a fork, seal the edges. Brush the outside with olive oil. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pizza pan.

Continue making all of your Calzones. Once all are placed on the cookie sheet or pizza pan, bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve with extra pizza sauce for dipping!

Chicken in a Love Nest

I got this recipe when my new roofer and I got to talking about our mutual love for cooking. He gave me this recipe and promised that it was delicious - a personal favorite of his. Trust me, he was right! I thought it was amazing. It has a beautiful and stunning presentation and looks like a lot of effort went into it. In reality, it came together quickly and was surpsingly easy to make. The recipe is for two servings, but they are VERY generous servings. I would suggest taking the chickn breasts, cutting them in half, and making 4 servings. It will be more than husband and I only each at half anyway!

This dish has lemony chicken, brie cheese, and mushrooms all wrapped inside a puff pastry "love nest." The flavors really melt together and make an impressive date night dinner. The wine and dijon mustard really make the mushrooms exquisite and the flakiness of the puff pastry just melts in your mouth. I really hope you try this recipe out and enjoy it as much as we did!

Chicken in a Love Nest
(adapted from John's recipe!)
2 chicken breasts (cut in half if you decide to make 4 portions)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (use any kind you like, I used baby portabellas)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A splash of white wine
1 puff pastry sheet
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
6 thin slices of brie cheese
Pre-heat oven to 375°F with the oven rack in the middle.
Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and lemon zest. Add the seasoned chicken breasts to the hot skillet to brown, about 2 minutes each side, until nice and golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and reserve.
To the same skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter and the mushrooms. Cook until slightly brown and tender, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the Dijon mustard and wine, and cook until there is almost no liquid left in the pan. Remove the mushrooms from heat and reserve.
While the mushrooms are cooking, place the pastry on a clean and flat work surface area. Cut the pastry in half (or fourths if making 4 smaller portions). Position them on an angle so they are facing you in the shape of diamonds.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg and water with a fork until well-combined. Brush the outer edge of each sheet of pastry with a bit of the egg wash to help to secure all the yummy-ness inside the love nest!
Place 2-3 slices of brie in the middle of each sheet of puff pastry and top with a chicken breast.
Spoon some mushrooms over the chicken, then fold it up into a neatly formed package: Fold two opposite points of the diamond shape in towards one another over the chicken breast, pinching lightly to secure. Repeat with the other two points of the diamond, pinching gently to make all that all the seams are sealed shut.
Brush the oustide of each packet with egg wash and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Brush each with the remaining egg wash and transfer to the oven on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is a beautiful golden brown.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp, and Cherry Tomatoes

I also found this amazing recipe in my Bride and Groom cookbook. It's perfectly portioned for two generous servings. I recommend being adventurous and making your own pesto, but using the convenient premade jars of pesto will work just as well. This recipe comes together quickly for a tasty, elegant, but fast dinner. Served with a glass of white wine, it would make the perfect date night dinner!

Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp, and Cherry Tomatoes
(adapted from Bride & Groom: First and Forever Cookbook)

8 oz. angel hair pasta
1 Tbs. olive oil
freshly ground pepper
8 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp. garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup Pesto, homemade or purchased (recipe below)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large sauce pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until barely tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Heat the olive oil in the same pan, over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute. Turn the shrimp over and add the garlic. Continue to cook until the shrimp is opaque in the center, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved cooking water and pesto and stir until incorporated. Add the pasta and tomatoes and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve and enjoy!


Makes 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and cook until aromatic and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the nuts frequently to avoid burning. Remove and let cool.

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients are well incorporated, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the processor back on and slowly add the olive oil. Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture comes together and looks like a thick paste.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

I saw these cookies on the Food Network and thought they'd be great to use up the extra ricotta I had in the fridge. They are so easy to make and remain soft and tender for days after making them. The best part of this recipe is the tart, tangy glaze that tops these tender, lemony cookies. If you know someone who loves lemon, these cookies will be a hit!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze
(adapted from Everyday Italian)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

This recipe comes from the first Giada De Laurentiis book I ever received. It is a delicious Italian-American staple that requires some time to assemble, but is always worth the effort. This recipe is also great to make ahead and freeze for those nights when you want a hearty, comforting dinner, but don't feel like cooking!

Beef and Cheese Manicotti
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley , chopped
2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1 (8 oz) box Manicotti pasta
2 cups Marinara sauce

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and onion and saute until the meat is brown and the onions are tender. Drain any grease. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir in the meat and onion mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Brush 1 tsp. of the olive oil over a large baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the Manicotti and cook until softened but still firm, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Manicotti rom the pot to the prepared baking dish and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the remaining 2 tsp. of oil over a 13X9 pan. Spoon 1/2 cup of Marinara on the bottom. Fill the Manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture.

**I use a gallon Ziplock bag, fill with mixture and cut the corner to make a piping bag. This allows me to neatly fill each of the Manicotti with a lot of filling with less mess!

Arrange the pasta in a single layer. Spoon the remaining marinara over the pasta. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Bake, uncovered, until it is heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 35 minutes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze and Savory Maple-Glazed Carrots

Recently I found a cookbook that my husband and I received as a wedding gift. I collect cookbooks and typically read through them many times, but with the hustle and bustle of the wedding, I never found the time. Now, almost a year later, I decided to check it out and test out a few recipes. I found a recipe for salmon that looked delicious and it didn't disappoint! Also, the subtle sweetness in the carrots combined with the spiciness of the glaze really made the carrots shine and seem anything but ordinary.

I also love how both recipes are perfectly portioned for two people to enjoy a relaxing Sunday dinner.

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze
(adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever cookbook)

2 salmon fillets (about 8 oz. each), skin removed
3 Tbs. Spicy Brown mustard
2 Tbs. sour cream
3 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried dill weed
8 crackers, crushed

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Place the salmon on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine mustard, sour cream, honey, and dill weed. Spread over the salmon fillets. Top with crushed crackers just before baking.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked through and flaky.

Savory Maple Glazed Carrots
(adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever cookbook)

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
¼ C. water
3 Tbs. butter
3 tsp. maple syrup
¾ tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (add more or less to desired level of heat)

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook on high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and continue to cook until the carrots are tender and the sauce is reduced to a glaze, about 7 minutes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread

What happens when you attempt to make homemade cinnamon rolls and they completely fall apart on you? You make Monkey Bread! That’s exactly what happened when I came up with this recipe. I set out to make homemade cinnamon rolls but when I started rolling up the dough, it fell apart. Instead of scrapping the whole recipe and pulling out a box of cereal, I made it work for me. Traditionally, Monkey Bread is torn biscuits with a cinnamon sugar coating that pulls apart to eat. This cinnamon roll disaster turned into a really delicious breakfast item that would be great for a brunch or a Sunday morning treat. This recipe is proof that you don't have to give up on a recipe that doesn't turn out exactly how you expected!

Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread with Buttermilk Frosting

6Tbs. butter, melted, divided (this is used to grease the pan, for the filling, dough, and brushing on top. Just less than one stick will be used for the entire recipe)

Cinnamon-Sugar mixture:
¾ C. packed brown sugar
¼ C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. salt

2 ½ C. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ C. buttermilk

2 Tbs. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbs. buttermilk
1 C. powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour 1 Tbs. of the melted butter into a 9-inch cake pan and brush to coat. Set aside.

For the Cinnamon-Sugar mixture: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. Add 1 Tbs. of the melted butter and mix with a fork until it resembles coarse, wet sand. Place in a Ziplock bag and set aside.

For the dough: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and 2 Tbs. of melted butter in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the liquid is absorbed.

Dust your work surface and hands with flour. Put dough on the work surface and knead about 30 seconds until the dough looks smooth.

Working in batches, take about 1 Tbs. of dough, roll into a ball and place into the ziplock with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Shake until the dough balls are coated. Drop the dough into the cake pan. Once all of the dough has been coated and put into the pan, pour any remaining cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough. Brush with 2 Tbs. melted butter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is cooked through. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

For the icing: While the Monkey Bread is cooling, begin making the icing. Whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, whisking as you add it. Whisk until the icing is smooth and there are no lumps. Pour over the bread and smooth evenly. Cut into wedges and serve.

The Monkey Bread goes great with a tall glass of ice-cold milk!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Honey Lime Chicken Burgers

Looking for a lighter summer burger, I thought I would try combining some of my favorite summer flavors. In this recipe, the lime, cilantro, and cumin are bold enough to prevent the burgers from being too bland. Also, the honey adds a subtle summer sweetness that really compliments the chicken. I love these dressed simply with sliced avocado and salsa but you can top with any condiments that you like. Serve these with ice cold Coronas and let summer begin!

Honey Lime Chicken Burgers

1 lime, juiced (save the lime rinds to rub on avocados to prevent browning)
2 tablespoons honey
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 rounded teaspoons cumin
A handful cilantro, finely chopped, about 1/2 tablespoons
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 Lb. ground chicken
1 teaspoon grill seasoning blend or coarse salt and pepper
Possible Toppings: lettuce, tomato, red onion, and sliced avocado (remember to rub the leftover limes on the avocado to prevent browning)
1 cup prepared fresh salsa
4 crusty rolls, split

Combine all burger ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together well. Form into 4 patties. The mixture will be loose, but firms up as it cooks.

Grill burgers chicken 6 to 7 minutes on each side or pan fry over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet uncovered 6 minutes per side. Slighty salt, to taste.

Place burgers on toasted roll bottoms. Top with desired condiments like lettuce, tomato, red onion and sliced avocado. Spread fresh salsa on roll tops.

Mini Kahlua Flan

I found this recipe from Emeril Lagasse and thought it looked amazing! What could be better than creamy flan and coffee liquer?! I was nervous to make my first homemade flan, but it was a lot easier than I thought. Also, I decided that my husband and I don't need an entire flan in the house (because we'd eat it up!), so I made individual flans using a muffin tin. Not only does this help with portion control, but you can share them with friends. Although flan has a bad reputation for not being diet friendly, I believe in enjoying everything in moderation.

And here's the good news: when divided into individual portions, each flan is only about 230 calories ~ I can live with that!

Mini Kahlua Flan
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
4 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur (recommended: Kahlua)
Cocoa powder, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 12 muffin tins with butter and set aside. In a small saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Lower the heat and cook until caramelized to a golden brown. If you need to stir, only use a wooden spoon. Cooking the sugar low and slow will make sure that it doesn't stay hard after baking. It will be a smooth caramel sauce when finished.

Pour into prepared muffin tins. (If you would like one large flan, simply use a metal flan mold or 9-inch cake pan.) Turn the dish and swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Let caramel cool and harden.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the condensed and evaporated milks and Kahlua and whisk well to blend. Pour into the prepared pan. Place the dish in a larger roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until set and just firm in the center but still jiggles slightly 20-25 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure you do not overcook. Let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

To serve, run a thin sharp knife around the rim of each flan. Place a platter or large plate on top of the flan and gently flip over so the plate is on the bottom. Lift away the mold. Garnish with powdered cocoa or chocolate shavings.

Tropical Fruit and Berry Smoothie

I found some really pretty and sweet smelling papaya at the Mexican Food Market near my house. Since I have never tasted, let alone cooked with papaya, I thought a smoothie would be a great way to introduce it into my kitchen! This smoothie is sweet and tangy and very refreshing! The best thing about smoothies is you can add any berries or fruit you have on hand and it will always be refreshing and satisfying.

Tropical Fruit and Berry Smoothie

1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup fat free yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped papaya
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped pineapple
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped mango
1/2 to 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend, pulsing the machine if necessary, until smooth. Make sure the honey is dissolved. Top with fruit and serve immediately.

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

I was looking for a way to use up some of the fat free plain yogurt I had used to make smoothies. I decided that it would make the perfect base for a spicy marinade and sauce on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It's important to note that there is a definite difference between "spicy" and "hot." A lot of people use these terms interchangeably, but they can mean very different things. "Spicy" means that various spiced are used and/or combined to create new and unique flavors. Something that is spicy, may also be hot, but not necessarily. I consider this dish to be spicy, and slightly hot. You can make this dish hotter by adding more chipotle peppers or cayenne pepper to the marinade.

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. plain lowfat or fat free yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tb. All-Purpose spice blend
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp. ground ginger
1tsp. onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional

In extra large mixing bowl combine all ingredients but chicken and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ cup to top cooked chicken. Pound chicken breasts into even thickness across (about 1 or more in thickness) and add to marinate. Toss to combine and coat well, cover bowl tightly and place in fridge 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn heat of grill on high and preheat for 15 minutes. Turn down to medium low and place chicken on grill.

Cook until starting to brown and grill marks appear, about 5-8 minutes and flip. Cook breast side up until starting to brown and grill marks appear, about 10-12 minutes. Flip again to create alternating grill marks on breast side, until done (no more pink inside) about 10 more minutes. Remove from grill, place on platter. Top with reserved yogurt sauce.