Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kate's tip ala Rachael Ray

So, I was hanging out at my fun friend Kate's house the other day and she was being diligent and cooking 4 nights of dinner on a Sunday. One of her entrees was baked ziti which had mozzarella cheese on top. As she was getting ready to cover it and put it in the oven, she mentioned that one of her favorite Rachael Ray tips was spraying the aluminum foil with Pam so the cheese doesn't stick. That Rachael has not only mastered the art of fast cooking but also smart cooking! And, thanks Kate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Easy weeknight Greek Lemon Chicken

I always buy a lemon and a lime at the store each week. They keep well and the lemon usually ends up in food, while the lime ends up in a gin and tonic!
I also keep green and black olive in my pantry. My favorite olives are at Trader Joe's .
4 chicken breast halves
1 lemon
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup chicken broth
Kalamata olives or black olives, pitted and sliced in half
2 ounces feta cheese
Place chicken breasts in a ziploc bag and pound flat - about 1/5 inches. In a shallow dish and squeeze ½ lemon over chicken pieces. Turn to coat chicken with lemon and set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine flour, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in flour. Melt butter in a frying pan and cook chicken over medium heat, turning until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and place in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Squeeze remaining half of the lemon into the frying pan, along with chicken broth and stir, loosening pan scrapings. Pour over chicken. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until chicken is done, about 15 minutes. Uncover and add olives. Top each chicken piece with crumbled feta cheese and parsley. Return to oven and continue baking, uncovered, until cheese is beginning to melt, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The secret to really good asparagus

I found this recipe at Simply Recipes , one of my favorite food blogs.
I must admit this recipe turned out REALLY well. I think the 2 keys are cook time and good ingredients.
1 bunch of medium sized asparagus, about 1 lb
2 Tbsp of good extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest - freshly grated lemon rind
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Prepare the asparagus by rinsing them thoroughly, break off any tough, white bottoms and discard. Cut into 1 to 2 inch sections, slicing the asparagus at a slight diagonal.
2 Fill a medium sized saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the hot water. While the asparagus are still hot, toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turkey Meatballs

This was a quick and easy appetizer for a Friday night gathering. I liked that the meatballs did not create a lot of grease!

(From the National Turkey Federation)

1 Pound ground turkey
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
4 Ounces tortilla chips, finely crushed
3/4 Cup non-fat sour cream
1/2 Cup salsa

In medium bowl, combine turkey, egg, garlic, onion, bread crumbs, chili powder and cumin. Mix well. Shape into about 36, 3/4-inch balls.
Place crushed chips on plate. Roll each meatball in chips, coating thoroughly.
Lightly coat baking pan (10 x 15-inch) with nonstick vegetable cooking spray and arrange meatballs on pan. Bake at a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes or until turkey is no longer pink in center and internal temperature registers 165 degrees F.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine sour cream and salsa. Use as dip for meatballs

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Thighs with Carrots
(An adaptation from Gourmet)
I particularly like this recipe because the ingredients are generally in my fridge/pantry.

6 small chicken thighs - boneless and skinless
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise into1/4-inch-wide strips
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Pat chicken dry. Stir together 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with paprika, cinnamon, and pepper and rub onto chicken.
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken as browned to a plate.
Discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add onion and carrots. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.

Return chicken to skillet, nestling it into vegetables. Stir together water, lemon juice, mustard, and honey until blended and add to skillet, then cook over moderately low heat, covered, until chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. If necessary, skim fat from sauce, then add salt to taste. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sweet Basil! I loved this book~class!

Everyone once in a while I go to a training class at work that I think that was worth every minute of time not spent in the "office". This past week, I had the opportunity to go through 2 days of Fierce training. No, there wasn't anything physical to it. It was about having conversations and about how they are the relationship. Have you ever said, "I just don't know how to talk to him/her about it."? It also goes into the concept that relationships steadily disintegrate, one failed or missing conversation at a time, which really resonated with me. Think about college friends that are no more or even failed marriages of friends..."all of a sudden it was like we weren't married anymore". The book I believe was originally intended for personal relationships but has crossed over into the business world, particulary as it relates to coaching and dealing with conflict.

For the love of bread....and summer

I mentioned the other day that I go to a local market near my home, Clintonville Community Market. One of the reasons I venture over there is that they have fabulous bread from Eleni Christina Bakery...sometimes at half price if it's a day or two old. Anyway, today I found some basil foccacia and was thinking about how much I miss summer! So...I went back to a summer staple...grilled bread with garlic and olive oil topped with some grilled tomatoes and blue cheese. Yes, the tomatoes were a bit winter like, but it still reminded me of SUMMER! Most importantly, I fired up the gas grill...yes, gas grill not charcoal...but that even entailed replacing the starter...which I did sans husband! How about those "apples"? Peace and pray for summer. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Quiche

Quiche is a really easy dish and something that I often have ingredients for on a regular basis. Also, you can "mix and match" cheese, veggies, meats etc. Tonight I used swiss and cheddar along with some ham and green onions. I also don't make my own crust, but I prefer to use Marie Callender's crust which is made with vegetable shortening.

Ham and Green Onion Quiche
(Adaptation from Paula Deen)
5 large eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
Salt and pepper
1/4 cups chopped green onions
1 cup diced ham
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, fitted to a 9-inch glass pie plate ~ prick pie crust a few times with fork

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. Layer the ham and onions, and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture on top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the egg mixture is set.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I think I will leave the Fried Chicken to the Colonel

Supercrispy Pan-Fried Chicken
(Adaptation from Food and Wine Magazine)
~I cut the recipe in half.
16 pieces of chicken --drumsticks and thighs
6 cups buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the buttermilk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the chicken for at least 8 hours or overnight.
In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne. Set 2 large racks over rimmed baking sheets. Working in batches, drain the chicken, scraping off most of the buttermilk against the side of the bowl. Add the chicken to the bag, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat completely. Transfer the chicken to the racks, pressing the flour to help it adhere as you remove the chicken from the bag.
Pour 1 inch of oil into each of 2 large cast-iron skillets and heat to 350°. Add about half of the chicken pieces to the hot oil, being sure not to crowd the skillet. Fry over moderate heat until the chicken is golden, crisp and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes; an instant-read thermometer should register 165° for thighs or drumsticks and 160° for breasts. Line the racks with paper towels and drain the chicken. Continue frying the chicken in batches, being sure the oil temperature stays at 325° during frying. Serve warm or at room temperature.

So, here's where I didn't do so well. 1. I didn't have the proper thermometer. Meat themometers only go to about 200 degrees and I didn't have a candy thermometer -- don't know if there are thermometers for frying??? Hence, we ended up with Blackened Fried Chicken...didn't look so "buttermilk". I guess when they emphasize oil temperature that is for a reason! Would I try it again with the right thermometer...maybe, but KFC is sometimes too easy and a lot less mess!

Poblano Corn Chowder for a Snowy Day

It was a pretty, snowy day in Ohio. I spent a few hours in the office and then beat rush hour. I couldn't wait to get home and make some soup. This is the first time I have made chowder with a poblano. I liked the flavor. I also thought about blending the soup so it was smooth, but decided to go with the hearty version instead. This is an adaptation from Martha Stewart.
(Picture from Ezra Jack Keats - Snowy Day)

Poblano Corn Chowder
4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery, strings removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
2 1/2 cups of corn (fresh or frozen)
5 ounces small potatoes - white or fingerling, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Place bacon in a small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until it is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, then transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat.
Add diced onion, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to stockpot; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15 minutes.
Add corn, potato slices, and poblano chile; cook until potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard thyme. Add half-and-half, and simmer until soup is hot. (Martha did not do this, but I took about 1 1/2 cups of the soup and blended it smooth in the blender and then added it back to the chunky soup. I thought it improved the flavors a bit.)
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into soup bowls, and garnish with bacon and a little hot sauce if desired.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The love of my mornings....Brown Cow Yogurt

My mornings during the week have to run like a well-oiled machine if I am going to make it into the office at a decent time. Not having a lot of time to prepare anything for breakfast, I have definitely become a morning yogurt person. My favorite yogurt is Brown Cow especially Cherry Vanilla or Blueberry. It's not the super low fat stuff, but what's a few calories??? This yogurt is super creamy and reminds me a little bit of eating frozen custard. I have to buy it at a place like Whole Foods or Clintonville Community Market, one of the gems of my neighborhood. This little organic market is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood so I can walk there to pick up fresh ingredients, wine, beer, ice cream and of course, brown cow yogurt. The other cool thing about the market it is member-owned natural foods grocery store, so it's definitely not your typical grocery store experience!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Buzzy's Chicken

Okay, this isn't really Buzzy's Chicken, but she recommended the recipe to me so I am renaming it! (This is an adaptation from Food Network/Amy Finley)

I also served this with some good bread with a little bit of Wegmans Tapenade...and of course, a glass or 2 of white wine.
Goat Cheese & Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts for 2
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 ounces softened goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

Special equipment: A food processor, kitchen twine
Place the chicken breasts, 1 by 1, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/2-inch thick. Set aside.
Stem the mushrooms and place the caps and stems separately in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, and saute until all the liquid has evaporated. (This is called a duxelle.) Season well with the salt and pepper. Set aside.
Smear each chicken breast with some of the goat cheese and top with some of the duxelle. Roll the breast up and tie with the kitchen twine. Season with the salt and pepper. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and sear the chicken on all sides. Once seared, place the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing the kitchen twine and slicing each rolled breast into 4 to 5 slices. Top with some of the remaining duxelle and several spoonfuls of the Mushroom Wine Sauce.

Mushroom Wine Sauce
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Place the shiitakes in a mixing bowl and add the boiling water. Allow to sit undisturbed 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is richly fragrant and has taken on the earthy flavor of the mushrooms. Strain and reserve the liquid. Discard the mushrooms or reserve for another use. In a small saute pan over medium-high heat, bring the mushroom liquid to a strong boil and reduce by half. Add the wine and chicken stock, reduce by 1/2 again. Remove from heat and add the butter, swirling the pan until the butter is incorporated and the sauce is glossy and shiny. Season with the salt and pepper.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I didn't exactly phone it in tonight...

It's mid-week....should be a Wicked Wednesday, but I was late coming home and I had a jar of Vindaloo sauce from Whole Foods that I wanted to give a try. I also had chicken thighs, peas, and rice that I could use. Thus, I quickly browned a pound of chicken thighs (cut into 1 inch pieces), tossed in the vindaloo sauce and peas -- let it simmer for about 15 minutes while I cooked the rice. On a scale of 1-10, it was a 5 and a lot better than fast food!

(I do really like Whole Foods...but I like Wegmans more! I think Wegmans is more of a reality check than Whole Foods. Also in Columbus, Whole Foods is in a REALLY inconvenient location for me, so I don't go very often. If I have time, I venture out to Whole Foods on the weekend...restrain myself and use the trip as "food for thought". A lot of their pre-made choices could be easily replicated and for a lot less!)

My essentials....

My fantastic SIL tipped me off to this stuff and it has saved me many mornings when my last suit etc. was too wrinkled to be worn into the corporate tower. (It is probably more critical in the summer, as it does a great job on my husband's cotton shirts.) This morning the jersey knit shell I was going to wear was looking pretty wrinkled...sprayed the Downey Wrinkle Releaser, jumped in the shower and then I was good to go.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Easy Weeknight Pasta

Dinner tonight needed to be super easy...I worked late and I had defrosted a pound of ground beef that needed to be utilized. I didn't want to do just pasta and sauce, so I got a little creative.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch oregano, thyme or whatever else you think sounds good
1 lb ground beef
1 24oz. jar pasta sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Splash of wine ...maybe
Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft.
Add carrots, beef and spices -- saute until beef is cooked through. Drain fat if necessary.
Add jar of sauce.
Cook, covered over a med heat for about 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite pasta. Top with freshly grated parmesan....a staple in my house and a few chiffonades of basil. (I have been barely keeping a little plant alive over my sink this winter. I just love the smell of chopped fresh basil!)

Note: When I do my weekly grocery shopping, I always buy a pound of ground round and replenish if out of sauce, carrots, onions, garlic, or celery.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Superbowl dinner...

In honor of my late great Aunt Helen -- a sophisticated and well-educated woman of her time, I didn't do the typical superbowl food...wings, chips, burgers etc. Tonights dinner was filet, ore-ida crispers...yes, and a mixed beet and goat cheese salad. The salad was my favorite. I used Gordon's Vinaigrette, along with goat cheese crumbles, and then yellow and red beets.

4 –6 medium-size Red and Yellow Beets, rinsed skin on
3 cups mixed salad greens
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup Gordon's Vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 350°F. Loosely wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil. Roast until tender, about 1 hour. Remove foil and cool completely. Peel and julienne and then chill. (I used a papertowl and the skins came off easily.)
Sprinkle goat cheese and beets over greens. Combine all of the greens in a mixing bowl, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and lightly toss. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Blueberry French Toast

This French Toast ~ bread pudding is super easy to assemble and since I don't always plan ahead..it wasn't an issue that I hadn't done it the night before. You can use any kind of white bread you like — sandwich bread or a baguette. I had a loaf of whole wheat. (This is an adaptation from Gourmet Magazine.)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup, plus additional for serving
4 cups 1-inch cubes of bread with crusts ( about a 3/4 loaf)
1 pint fresh blueberries -- you could also use raspberries, strawberries, probably apples
4 large eggs
3 cups milk - whole is best, but 2% will also work...not so sure about skim
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tbsp. melted butter
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Lightly butter or spray 9- by 13-inch baking dish or something similar.
Pour in maple syrup; scatter bread cubes and berries in dish.
In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, lemon zest, and salt; pour mixture and melted butter over bread cubes.
Bake toast until puffed and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool 5 minutes, then serve warm with maple syrup.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


"To build strengths, you must first discover your greatest talents." The book goes on to encourage you to make an "investment" in those strengths to get the most from them.

This book is a fun and insightful way to find out more about yourself. And, it's an easy application in the workplace. I also encouraged Awesome Jen who is looking for a new career to take the assessment as she proceeds through her "adventure".

It's about $11. You get a code in the book and then go online to do the assessment. In return, you receive a relatively detailed report. I must admit someone guessed what my most primary strength would be and they were correct. My Top 5 were:


Friday, February 1, 2008

Black Bean Chili and Corn Cakes

It's a cold and icy night in Ohio. So, it's perfect for something spicy and warm.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 15 oz can of black beans
1 squirt tomato paste in a tube
2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onions and garlic in oil until onions turn clear, about 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste and black beans and reduce the heat to medium low. Add spices and stir to combine well.
Cover and allow to simmer at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf.

Corn Cakes
1 tube of polenta (usually in the dairy section or near the slice and bake cookies:)
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
Slice polenta into 1/2 slices, dust with flour. Fry polenta in olive oil on medium high heat for about 4 minutes per side until heated through.
Top polenta with black bean chili, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheddar, guacamole and fresh chopped cilantro.

Guacamole - the quick way
2 ripe avocados
a couple slices of red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 tbsp. of fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (may need a little more)
little black pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Cut avocados in half. Remove pit. Scoop out avacado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.
Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, lime, chili powder, salt and pepper and mash some more.