Wednesday, March 31, 2010

3/31/10 - Roasted Tomatillo & Red Pepper salsa

After spending a week on the couch I was ready to get back in my kitchen and decided that I wanted something light and fresh. On our shopping trip on Sunday to get more medicine, I bought a few ingredients but they ended up sitting in the fridge during my relapse. Over the past few summers I have received tomatillos from my CSA and since it is just about time to send my check in I have been thinking of all the wonderful veggies of the summer (and trying to perhaps pick out some seed suggestions for the farm as well!) It was only this past year that I really learned how to use this green tomato-like veggie (technically a gooseberry) by roasting them to make a delicious salsa.
This is a mild version that is actually somewhat sweet because of the use of the red peppers however a bit of jalapeno and a nice handful of cilantro keeps it in check. While this salsa can be served alone with chips you can also use it as an accent to many dishes including this seared mahi mahi. I added a side of green beans and an Isreali couscous with veggies (finely diced broccoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, scallions, parsley and a squeeze of lemon)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3/29/10 - Chicken Rosa

With the weather getting crazier by the day (last week it was 80 and sunny now its 45 and pouring) and my health only somewhat improved (officially bronchitis), I decided to rely on a shortcut that was sent to me a month or so ago by Foodbuzz Featured Publisher's Tastemaker program, Bertolli's Four Cheese Rosa Sauce. Since Spring is officially sprung, I wanted to include some fresh veggies to give this dish a little of a more healthful spin (if that is possible when using an Alfredo base). I also tried to cut down on the amount of pasta used so that there was a good balance of vegetables, proteins (boneless, skinless chicken breast) and starches.

This dinner was slightly reminiscent of Mac & Cheese because of the cheese based sauce however it was more elegant than even the most adult versions. With a nice light tomato base, the cheesy Alfredo sauce was the perfect companion to the large chicken chunks. The fresh green taste of the vegetables and parsley, especially,  kept it from being too rich and creamy. It was really tasty and fast dinner that got good reviews from my dinner table.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

3/21/10 - Baby Back Ribs ...dry rubbed

After walking over 17 miles this weekend (spring fever really got a hold of me!) and getting my butt kicked at pilates class I was ready for a treat. We headed over to the grocery store to pick up a few veggies to complete our dinner tonight (real grocery shopping usually happens on Tuesday after I have a chance to check the circular and make my meal plan) but I got distracted. Always a sucker for a sale, I noticed that they had some ribs on special so I went to take a look. I ended up buying baby backs (instead of spareribs) which weren't actually on sale but once my head was filled with juicy ribs I really couldn't help myself. 

I made ribs for the first time ever on a snow day earlier this winter but this time I was looking for a little more advice. Don't get me wrong Alton Brown's recipe was delicious but a little messy (my foil didn't seal completely and I ended up with braising liquid all over the place). One of my friends who is a CIA graduate and chef suggested that I keep the dry rub but skip the braising. I was a little worried that the meat would end up dry but I decided to follow his advice.......

Thursday, March 18, 2010

3/12/10 - Flexetarian stuffed portabello mushroom caps.....with or without chicken sausage

Last week when I was in the store I saw some beautiful portobello mushroom caps. They were HUGE! and I just couldn't resist especially since my vegetarian friend's boyfriend hates mushrooms... I figured we could have a secret girls only mushroom feast!  In the end the boyfriends joined us and I made three variations of a meal with similar ingredients but customized for each of us. She got a vegetarian version - her stuffing was just peppers, shallots, breadcrumbs, pine-nuts and butter. Jeremy and I added some chicken sausage crumbles to the mix and Stephen skipped the mushroom all together and went with whole sausages for the base. (this picture is of its sausage stuffing...though it looked the same as a veggie version)

This recipe included some new Bertolli Arrabbiata sauce that I received as part of the Food Buzz Feature Publisher Tastemaker program. While I love to make my own sauce I really like the Bertolli products and try to keep some on hand since I usually make a meat sauce and my vegetarian friends don't like that!  (Though a few have debated it though after smelling it simmering for a whole Sunday afternoon)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

3/9/10 - Cider Brined Chicken

Even on work nights, roasting a chicken is do-able as long as you have prepped in advance. I brined this chicken overnight and then stuffed it with citrus, garlic and herbs, then trussed it and rubbed it down with olive oil and herbs de Provence before sticking it into a 400F oven for an hour (and then at 350F for another hour).

This was my first time making this particular wild rice blend ( from Trader Joe's) which was a interesting black grain that had a great taste and texture. Since our guests are not the biggest vegetable fans I stuck with a simple string bean which was better received than the squash I served last visit.

The gravy was made using the dripping from the roasting pan (which I poured into a small sauce pan so it was easier to handle), the juice from the meat when I cut it, about 1 c of apple cider and seasoned with finely diced shallots, sage, herbs de Provance and salt & pepper with a sprinkle of Wondra flour to thicken it up.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

3/8/10 - Seared Tuna with Side Salad

The healthy eating continues with today's dinner. I saw the most beautiful tuna steaks in Stew Leonard's the other day and even though they ended up costing me $30 I still feel like I made out on the meal since it was worth much more than $15 each. My favorite part of eating at home is that you can usually afford a much higher quality of food when you are willing to spend the time cooking (and cleaning up!) yourself.

Don't get me wrong I love eating out and get some of my best inspirations come from restaurant meals. But when it comes to a simple seared tuna steak I am glad that this is easily made in my own kitchen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

3/6/10 - Pan Seared Scallops with a side salad

Pan-Seared Scallops are so easy yet many home cooks feel they are out of reach. The true secret is to making sure the food is very dry ( I blotted the scallops on paper towels to absorb any moisture). Other than that all you need is a hot pan and some patience (don't flip prematurely)

3/4/10 - Left Over Chicken Soup...recycling in the kitchen

Since I had a party on Saturday night I wasn't up to roasting my usual Sunday afternoon chicken (in fact I wasn't even up for most of the day!) so I didn't have chicken stock on hand for my usual weekly soup. Soup is one of my favorite meals - honestly I could eat it every day (and I usually do have a bowl at lunch most days) so I had to resort to some boxes of stock that I had been saving up when they go on sale (4 /$10 for the organic chicken at stew leonards). While the broth wasn't its usual flavorful self I did have plenty of left over veggies and appetizers that were perfect for making this soup more than just your average chicken soup.

I started with the left overs from my crudites plate - carrots, celery and red peppers and I added in some onion. Then I went to my hot appetizers and used the mini meatballs (both the chipotle and the moroccan) as well as the cheese wontons as my pasta. While each had its own unique taste when it was served on its own, together they blended together and complemented the dish nicely. I threw in a few more veggies (mushrooms and spinach) and a touch of grated cheese to pull it all together.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

3/1/10 - Chicken, Spinach and Mushroom melt

I was really lucky growing up my mom always made all of our dinners every night and we sat down to a big meal at 5pm on the dot. When I was young and over friend's houses for dinner I would always be a little confused by the kids getting chicken fingers or a sandwich for "dinner". I had no idea that not everyone had a big multi-course meal each night!

Somehow in my little head I would be jealous of the friends who ended up with what I consider American food. Why can't we have green beans with the onion ring stuff? This recipe is my sort of twist on the classic Campbell's cream of mushroom soup with chicken casserole.

2/27/10 - Party Planning

I love to throw parties and my apartment is such an enabler! We were so lucky when we found this place as it actually big enough to really have some people over. Since the kitchen is defined by a large granite island, I have the perfect built in buffet. I usually set up hot appetizers on the buffet and all the cheese and dips on my table.
This sometimes means that I spend a bit more time than I would like in the kitchen. I try to avoid this by doing as much of my prep in advance plus I have now learned which dishes serve themselves up easily. Here is the guide that I use when planning a party - notice that the hardest part (in my mind) is all the prep before hand (especially making sure you really have all the groceries you need)! Once things get going it just seems to keep below to see my menu and shopping lists

2/25/10 - Snow Day Chicken Soup

Even though its well past Groundhog's day it seems that winter isn't going away here in New Jersey. We have been luck enough to have most of the storms skip over our area since we are right on the coast... but this one was a different story. It started snowing early on Thursday and went all day and night until Friday late night. We ended up with more than a foot which leads to a messy city (and more than 2 trips to the car to dig it out)! Since I was stuck in the house I was so thankful that I had some fresh broth and got started on this.