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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

This recipe is a family favorite and we've made it many times over the years, but it has always been made with a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup.  We've really been making an effort to use less processed foods, especially those with too much salt, so when my kids requested this for dinner, I thought it was time to reinvent the recipe a bit and make the gravy from scratch. 

Homemade gravy is a snap to make and it really doesn't take very much time.  A little butter, flour and some drippings from the chops, plus a handful of sautéed mushrooms was all I needed for a flavorful, creamy sauce.  For this recipe I used Portobello mushrooms, but it would also be great with a combination of oyster or shiitake mushrooms or whatever varieties you can find at your local market.  The mushrooms add a wonderful earthy flavor to this gravy, and that is something you will never find in a can.  Enjoy!!

2 tsp  Olive Oil
1 medium  Shallot, minced
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Dried Thyme
5  Boneless Center Loin Pork Chops (about 3/4-inch thick)
2 TB  Butter
8 oz  Assorted Fresh Mushrooms (Portobello, Shiitake, Oyster or a mix of all 3)
2 TB  Flour
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
3/4 cup  Chicken Stock
1/2 cup  Half and Half

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the shallot and garlic and sauté 3 minutes, until tender.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper, increase the skillet to medium-high heat, and place the chops in the skillet.  Cook 4 - 5 minutes on each side until golden and nearly cooked through.  Transfer to a warm plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Add the butter to the skillet, stirring to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes until softened, then add the flour and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to blend.  Add the chicken stock and half and half, stirring constantly until the gravy is smooth and creamy.

Add the pork chops back to the skillet, including any juices that may have collected on the plate.  Turn the chops over in the gravy to coat them and blend in the juices.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.  Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rosemary's Ham and Split Pea Soup

Cooking a recipe that is a family favorite can be a little intimidating, especially when the recipe is from your husband's family! But I think this soup was pretty close to the original.

Since we moved out of state several years ago, this is an annual tradition that my husband has missed, so I figured it was time to try and recreate this soup.  My mother-in-law (Rosemary), would use the leftover Easter ham to create a thick, creamy ham and pea soup, with just a hint of clove in the background.  The addition of celery, carrots and potato makes this soup a hearty meal.

This soup does take some time to prepare, but the hands-on time is minimal.  Just let the soup cook low and slow and you have a pot of soup ready in about 2 1/2 hours. Serve with crackers, either crushed right into the soup or on the side.  The family is equally divided on the proper method of how the crackers should be served, lol.  Enjoy!!

1 pkg  Hurst's Ham Peas Green Split Peas
1  Large Meaty Ham Bone
2 cups  Cubed Ham
2 quarts  Water
1  Whole Onion
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Cloves
2  Bay Leaves
2 stalks Celery, diced
3 large  Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium  Potatoes, peeled and cubed

Rinse the peas in cool water several times, return peas to the pot and cover with 2 quarts of water.  Add the ham bone and the cubed ham to the pot along with the whole onion (leave the onion whole so it can be removed later),  then add the salt, pepper, cloves and bay leaves.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 90 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the whole onion and discard, then remove the ham bone and place on a plate.  Remove any extra ham from the bone, return the ham to the pot and discard the bone.  Stir the soup and add the celery, carrots and potatoes to the pot.  Continue to simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes or until the veggies are very tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If a thinner soup consistency is desired, add a bit more water during the last 30 minutes of cooking.  Serves about 8 - 10 large servings.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Shrimp and Blue Cheese Noodles

Tonight we revisited a favorite family recipe, Shrimp and Blue Cheese Noodles.  This is probably my favorite seafood and pasta meal because the flavors are just a really unique combination. We used to make this dish years ago when my kids were very young and I wasn't sure if they would even remember having eaten this dish before.  But once they smelled the garlic, shrimp and blue cheese aromas filling the kitchen, they were excited to try this again.

Once again the combination of a few simple ingredients come together in an easy to fix dinner that can be ready in about 30 minutes.  Serve with a side of steamed spinach or asparagus and a few stuffed clams shells and you have a tasty meal on the table in no time. 
1 lb  Raw Shrimp, about 30, peeled and deveined 
2 tsp Minced Garlic
2 tsp Olive Oil
3 oz Cream Cheese, sliced
4 oz Blue Cheese Crumbles at room temp (or Gorgonzola)
1/3 cup Milk
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 lb  Regular or Whole Wheat Linguine
Grated Parmesan and Romano Cheese

In a large pot, heat water for the pasta, adding pasta when water boils. When pasta is to an al dente stage, turn off the heat and keep warm, but do not drain yet.

While the pasta is cooking, using a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering, then add the garlic. Lightly saute the garlic over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the garlic in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat just until shrimp begins to turn pink, then turn the shrimp over.

As soon as you turn the shrimp, add thin slices of the cream cheese on top of the shrimp and reduce heat to medium-low.

Once the cheese starts to melt, drain the pasta and add the pasta to the shrimp mixture.  Add half of the blue cheese to the pan and fold mixture over gently. Add the milk and the remaining blue cheese and stir until the cream cheese is fully melted and all of the noodles are coated. 

Portion noodles and shrimp out onto warm plates, top with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan and Romano cheese and serve.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Smoky Pork and Chorizo Tacos

If you're tired of boring ground beef tacos, this is a great way to upgrade taco night.  These Pork and Chorizo Tacos get their great smoky flavor from canned chipotle peppers with adobo sauce.  If you're not familiar with these little peppers, this is a really simple recipe to experiment with chipotles. 

Chipotles are jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and dried, then packed in a smoky, spicy red sauce.  One word of caution, different brands of chipotles can vary tremendously in flavor and heat.  For some recipes one pepper will add just enough spice, but with other brands you might need two or three peppers for the same dish.  The important thing here is to taste test.  Start with the single pepper and a little adobo sauce, taste the sauce, and if it is too mild you can always add more peppers or sauce.

If you have leftover peppers when you are finished with this recipe, there are many ways to use up the extras.  Store the remaining peppers, with the adobo sauce, in a small glass jar covered with plastic wrap.  These can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks without spoiling.  For a quick sandwich spread, you can puree the peppers and sauce with a few tablespoons of cream cheese.  Or they can be chopped and added to omelets, soups, chili, or polenta.  You can even freeze the leftovers in a small Ziploc bag.  The next time you are making chili, just break off a piece and add it to the chili pot. The added smoky flavor will transform any dish into something amazing.  You can find canned chipoltes in the Mexican foods section of your local grocer for about $1.00 per can.  Such a bargain!

This recipe uses pork sirloin, which is a juicy, full of flavor cut of pork.  When combined with spicy chorizo, onion, garlic and a few spices, you get a smoky taco that just needs a few toppings to be the perfect masterpiece.  We added sliced avocados, crumbled queso fresco cheese and, for the more daring, heat-loving diners, a little hot salsa for even more heat.  Enjoy!!

2 lbs  Pork Sirloin, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/4 tsp  Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 TB  Olive Oil
1/2 lb  Fresh Chorizo, casing removed
1 small  Onion, chopped
1 TB Minced Garlic
3/4 cup  Crushed Tomatoes
2 or 3  Chipotle Peppers in Adobo, plus 2 tsp sauce
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp  Sugar
Soft Tortillas
Garnishes: Avocado slices, sliced onion, chopped tomato, salsa

Place the pork in a large pot, cover with water and add the thyme and bay leaves, then simmer the pork over medium heat for 30 minutes or until tender and cooked through.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pork to a plate to cool.  Reserve 1 cup of the broth and discard the remainder.

When the pork is cool enough to work with, use two forks to shred the meat into small pieces and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and cook 10 minutes, breaking the meat up with a spoon.  Add the pork, onion and garlic, stir and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the reserved broth, tomatoes, peppers, adobo sauce, salt, pepper and sugar, stir and cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.  Adjust the sauce as needed by adding a bit more salt, pepper or adobo sauce.

Spoon the pork mixture into soft taco shells and serve with an assortment of toppings including avocado slices, queso fresco cheese, salsa, chopped onion or tomato.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gingerbread-Guinness Cake

This is a great cake recipe I came across several years ago and with this being St Patrick's Day, this was a great weekend to test a Gingerbread-Guinness Cake.  The cake was moist, rich and full of that distinct Guinness flavor, but it was not an overly sweet cake.  It needed a little surprise on top, and the final touch was a dollop of Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream and a drizzle of chocolate.


You will have to use some patience while cooking this cake.  During the cooking process it may seem like more of a science experiment than a recipe. The beer foams when combined with the baking soda and looks a bit like a small volcano.  But fear not, the foam will subside and leave a mixture that smells incredible.  The cake does a little more volcano action while cooking.  The top foams and rises, then relaxes and becomes something that looks more cake-like.  If you are cooking this for your family, not only will your kids love to watch this cake being made with all of that foaming action, they will love the end result. This cake received three thumbs-up from the under-21 crowd. Enjoy!!

1 cup  Guinness Stout
1 cup  Molasses
1-1/2 tsp  Baking Soda
3  Eggs
1/2 cup  Sugar
1/2 cup  Brown Sugar, packed
3/4 cup  Canola Oil
2 cups  Flour
2 TB  Ground Ginger
1-1/2 tsp  Baking Powder
3/4 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp  Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp  Ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp  Ground Allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper, then butter the parchment and the sides of the pan.

In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the Guinness and molasses and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the baking soda.  Allow the mixture to sit for several minutes until the foam begins to dissipate.  Then stir for a few minutes until the foam is gone and the mixture has cooled slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars, then whisk in the oil.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.  Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, adding a small amount at a time, and stir until blended.

Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake for 60 - 70 minutes, or until the top springs back when gently pressed.  Do not open the oven door until the cake is almost fully cooked, or the center of the cake might fall slightly.  (Patience here, try to wait until at least 50-55 minutes into the cooking time to check for doneness.)  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes, then loosen the sides of the pan with a knife and release the sides of the spring form pan.  Cool completely before slicing.

Serve with a dollop of Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream and a drizzle of your favorite chocolate syrup.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream

1 cup  Heavy Whipping Cream
1/8 cup  Sugar
3/4 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp  Vanilla

Pour heavy cream into a chilled bowl.  (If you have a stand mixer this works great.  Just pop the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes.)  Beat the cream on medium speed and slowly add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.  As the mixture begins to thicken slightly, increase the speed to medium-high and whip until the mixture is thickened.  Serve immediately.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Guinness Chili

Anything you cook with Guinness Beer is going to be blessed with its thick, dark and rich flavor, and this bowl of Guinness Chili is no exception.  The secret ingredient in this chili is a square of unsweetened chocolate, which adds a nice background flavor to the beer, beef and spices.  The spices are actually very minimal, with just a small amount of cumin and chili powder to provide that familiar chili taste.

This recipe was a real experiment and it was amazing how the flavor of the sauce changed the longer it was allowed to simmer.  If possible, hold off adjusting the amount of salt until the last 30 minutes of cooking time.  Just one teaspoon of salt at the end was the only seasoning needed.

This chili does need a little extra time to simmer, but it is well worth the wait.  We served this chili on top of whole wheat linguine noodles, with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and fresh minced red onion.  A simple bowl of deep, dark chili with the unmistakable flavor of Guinness.  Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

2 lbs  Beef Chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 TB  Olive Oil, divided
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Chili Powder
1/2 tsp  Cumin
1 small  Onion, diced
1 TB  Minced Garlic
14 oz can  Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 cup  Water
1 tsp  Sugar
1 bottle  Guinness
1 oz  Unsweetened Chocolate, chopped
1 tsp  Kosher Salt, if needed

In a large Ziploc bag, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin.  Push the mixture around to blend, then add the beef to the bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Brown the beef in the oil for 5 minutes while stirring, then add the onion and garlic to the pot, stir and cook 5 minutes longer.  Add the tomatoes, water, sugar and Guinness to the pot, bring to a simmer and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. 

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-1/2 hours, then adjust the seasonings as needed.  Add an additional 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or a pinch of chili powder for more spice, if desired.  Serve with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and minced red onion and a cold bottle of Guinness.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crispy Butter Chicken

Crispy Butter Chicken is an Italian dish that is simply the best chicken dish I have ever eaten. It's really that good!  Using very basic ingredients, and some more of those salty little capers that I've been enjoying so much, this dish is all things.  It's fast to prepare, it's something your kids will love, and the flavors of capers, lemon, oregano and basil make the chicken incredibly tasty.  Oh yes, and it's cooked in butter.....lots of butter!

OK, I know this is the time of year when everyone is trying to eat healthy, but once in a while you have to splurge and enjoy a special treat for dinner.  And I can't think of a better reward for all your days of calorie counting than this mouth-watering chicken.  Enjoy!!

3  Boneless /Skinless Chicken Breasts, about 1-3/4 lbs, halved horizontally (5 - 6 oz portions)
1 cup  Flour
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 cup  Italian Bread Crumbs
3 TB  Grated Parmesan Cheese
1-1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano
1 tsp  Dried Basil
4  Large Eggs
1-1/2  sticks  Unsalted Butter
3 TB  Capers, drained
2 TB  Lemon Juice

Use a meat mallet to lightly pound the chicken so they are an even thickness, about 1/2-inch thick.

In a shallow dish combine the flour, salt and pepper.  In a second dish combine the bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, and basil.  In a medium bowl scramble the eggs.

Working in batches with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour, then into the egg, then into the bread crumbs.  Press the crumbs into the chicken to help the crumbs adhere.  Place coated chicken onto a baking sheet.

In a very large skillet, melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat.  Add 3 pieces of chicken to the pan and cook until golden and crispy, about 4-5 minutes, then turn and cook 4 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.  Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of chicken.

When all 6 pieces of chicken are cooked, add the remaining butter to the pan and stir.  Add the capers and lemon juice to the pan and stir, loosening any browned bits, and saute for 3 minutes until the sauce is warm.  Place one piece of chicken on each plate, and add a few spoonfuls of sauce over the chicken.  Serve extra sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pork Chops with Capers and Olives

This is not your ordinary boring pork chop!  This pork chop is bursting with the bright flavors of capers and olives and is super easy to prepare.  I also think this a very elegant dish and it would be a great meal to serve guests.

I've really grown quite fond of capers recently and I love finding new ways to use them.  If you are not familiar with capers, here is a little background on these tasty little buds.

I say buds because that's just what capers are, baby flower buds.  They grow on small bushes in the Mediterranean, and are used quite extensively in Italian recipes.  Capers are usually sold packed in brine but they can also be purchased salted.  These little buds add a tangy flavor to many foods and they taste great with salmon, chicken or veal dishes, too.  The are also pretty inexpensive at about $1.49 for a small jar.  Well worth every penny!

The capers, combined with a cup of Italian olives, a little white wine, chicken broth and half and half, made a delicious, creamy sauce.  For this recipe you could use heavy cream, which will create a slightly thicker sauce, but tonight we opted for half and half to keep the sauce light, and we were thrilled with the results.  If you've never tried cooking with capers, this recipe is a great place to start.  Enjoy!!

5 - 5 oz Pork Chops, about 1/2-inch thick
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
1 TB  Olive Oil
1/2 cup  Dry White Wine
1/8 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup  Italian Mixed Olives, pitted and sliced in half
2 TB  Capers, drained
1  Bay Leaf
1/2 cup  Chicken Broth
3/4 cup  Heavy Whipping Cream or Half and Half

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil.  When the oil shimmers, add the chops and sear for 5 minutes, turn the chops over and  sear 5 minutes longer, until the edges are golden.

Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining ingredients, except for the cream or half and half.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue to cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Remove the chops from the skillet to a platter and keep warm.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add the cream or half and half to the pan.  Simmer the sauce for 3- 5 minutes to reduce and thicken.  Add extra salt and pepper if needed, and pour the sauce over the pork chops.  Serve with rice or linguine noodles. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Whitefish and Potato Chowder

I love to cook with almost any type of fish, but one of the most versatile and flavorful choices in the fish counter would have to be whitefish.  The medium-firm meat is higher in fat content which makes it an excellent choice for smoking or grilling, and also makes it difficult to overcook.  The meat holds together very well, so it works great in soups and chowders.

Tonight we used whitefish as the base of a hearty potato-vegetable soup.  Nothing too fancy here, just a handful of ingredients that let the flavor of the fish and potatoes shine through.  We used the lower starch Yellow Gold Potatoes for this chowder since they add such a nice yellow color to the soup, without the heavier texture you get from russet potatoes.

There's even a little bacon in the chowder because, well, everything tastes better with a bit of bacon! Of course, if you like things a bit more spicy, we have a solution for you, too.  My husband added several drops of Tabasco sauce to his bowl of chowder and he really enjoyed the extra heat.

This is a really easy soup to prepare and the mild flavors just might get your kids to eat more fish, which is always a good thing!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

1 lb  Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup  Half and Half
1 cup  Milk
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1/3 lb  Thick Cut Bacon, diced
2 TB  Butter
1 medium  Onion, diced
1 stalk  Celery, diced
1/2 small  Red Pepper, cleaned and diced
1/2 small  Yellow Pepper, cleaned and diced
2 TB  Flour
1 cup  Dry White Wine
1 tsp  Dried Thyme
1-1/2 cups  Chicken Broth
1 bottle  Clam Juice
1 can  Yellow Corn, drained
1-1/2 lbs  Whitefish Fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces
Tabasco Sauce or Fresh Dill or Parsley for garnish

Place the potatoes, half and half and milk in a medium soup pot.  Add salt and pepper and cook the potatoes over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes simmer.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook 7 minutes longer, or until potatoes are cooked through and tender.  Be sure not to let the potatoes come to a full boil, so you do not scorch the milk.

While the potatoes cook, fry the bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, then add the butter to the pan, and reduce the heat to medium.  When the butter melts and becomes foamy, add the onions, celery and peppers, and stir together.  Saute the vegetables for 3 minutes, or until softened, then add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables.  Add the wine and thyme to the pot and cook for 5 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens, then add the broth, clam juice and corn to the pot and stir.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

When the vegetables are soft, use a slotted spoon to remove half of the potatoes from the soup pot  and add the potatoes to the chowder.  Place the rest of the potatoes and milk into a blender and puree until smooth.  (You could also use an immersion blender for this step.)  Pour the potato mixture into the chowder and stir everything together. 

Add the whitefish to the chowder, pushing the fish down into the broth, turn the heat off and cover the pot.  Let the chowder rest for 5 - 6 minutes, then check the fish for doneness.  If the fillets are off-white and flake easily with a fork, they are fully cooked.  If the fish is not quite cooked, push the fish back into the broth and cover for a few minutes longer.

Serve the chowder in large bowls with strips of pepper, a sprinkle of fresh parsley or dill or a few drops of Tabasco Sauce for extra heat.  Serves about 6.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Asiago and Black Pepper Drop Biscuits

If you are looking for a light and flavorful bread to serve with a bowl of soup or a light salad, this is a great recipe to keep handy.  The Asiago cheese adds just the right amount of richness to these biscuits while the generous amount of pepper adds a bit of a bite.

These savory drop biscuits are easy to make because you do not have to roll or cut the dough, you simply drop tablespoons of the dough onto a baking sheet and they are ready to bake.  If you prefer a bit more salt, sprinkle Kosher salt or sea salt on the tops of the biscuits before baking.  Enjoy!!

1-1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1-1/2 TB Butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Fresh Asiago Cheese, grated
3/4 cup Fat-Free Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or use 2 butter knives) until the mixture is a crumbly texture.

Add the cheese and toss well to combine, then add the buttermilk and stir just until moist.

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and drop dough into 8 equal mounds. Bake for 13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Spicy Italian Frittata

Tonight we decided to revisit one of my favorite breakfast recipes, our version of a Spicy Italian Frittata. A frittata is a type of omelet that has the ingredients mixed with the eggs instead of being folded inside the way you would cook an omelet.  This also makes it easy to cook a family sized meal in one pan.  With the spices in the Italian sausage and a little extra heat from Tabasco and taco sauce, this is a flavorful meal that the whole family will enjoy.

The reason this recipe makes my list of favorites is because it also makes a quick and hearty weeknight dinner.  So, with our chilly weather, tonight was the perfect night to make breakfast for dinner.

This is a simple meal to prepare and if you already have the sausage cooked, the rest of the meal comes together in about 25 minutes.  Once you cook the potatoes, the eggs are scrambled in the same skillet and the seasonings are added at the end.  Very quick and easy.  We served our Spicy Italian Frittata with Asiago and Black Pepper Biscuits and a little hot salsa on the side.

6 medium Red Potatoes, diced
1 medium Onion, chopped
1/3 lb. (about 6 oz) Hot Italian Sausage, cooked and chopped
3 - 4 Jumbo Eggs, lightly scrambled
3 TB Sour Cream
3/4 cup grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
3 TB Taco Sauce
1/2 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
Green Onions and Sour Cream for Garnish

Place diced potatoes in a large skillet and add just enough water to cover potatoes. Cover the potatoes and simmer 6 minutes. Add chopped onion, hot sauce, garlic salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 5-6 minutes longer.

When potatoes are lightly browned, fold in cooked sausage. Move potato/sausage mixture to the side of skillet, add the eggs to the other side and cook about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fold eggs into the potatoes and sausage. Add sour cream, grated cheese and taco sauce, stir gently into mixture, cover and remove skillet from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of green onions.  Makes 5 servings.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Garlic-Sweet Chili Chicken Stir-Fry

Tonight we made a yummy chicken stir fry with a bit of a Thai influence from red pepper and lime, and it was a great way to use lots of ingredients I already had on hand.  That's the best thing about a stir fry, it's not an exact recipe, but more of a guideline that you can adjust and remix the flavors that work best for you.


We started with a selection of colorful veggies, shredded cabbage, onions, carrots, red and green peppers, and snow peas and sauteed them in peanut oil with ginger and red pepper flakes.  You could also use broccoli, celery, bean sprouts or mushrooms.  Next, we sliced up some chicken breasts and gave them a quick marinade in soy sauce and garlic.  For a simple sauce we used sweet chili sauce blended with lime juice and just a touch of cornstarch.  This wasn't a heavy sauce dish at all, the sauce was more of a compliment to the veggies and other flavors, and that helped keep the dish light.

The flavors were amazing and I loved how the hint of lime balanced with the spiciness of the red pepper flakes.  It wasn't hot and spicy, just a bit of heat to round out the citrus.  Everyone gave this recipe a thumbs up, and the picky eater in our family even tried the red peppers and snow peas. There is hope for her!  Enjoy!!

1 3/4 lb  Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup  Soy Sauce
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 TB + 1 tsp  Peanut Oil, divided
1/2 tsp  Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp  Grated Fresh Ginger
1 small Onion, thinly sliced
2  Carrots, julienned
1 cup  Snow Peas, trimmed
1  Green, Yellow or Red  Bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups  Shredded Green Cabbage
1/2 cup  Sweet Chili Sauce
3 TB  Lime Juice
1 tsp  Salt
1 TB  Cornstarch

Place the chicken in a glass bowl and add the soy sauce and garlic.  Stir to combine and marinate for 1 hour.

Add the peanut oil to a large skillet or a wok set to medium-high heat.  When oil shimmers, add the red pepper flakes and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute.  Add the chicken to the pan, reserve the marinade from the chicken and set aside, and stir fry the chicken until browned.  (You might need to work in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.)  Remove the cooked chicken from the pan, and cover to keep warm.

Add 1 tsp peanut oil to the pan, heat until warm, then add the onion, carrots, and peppers.  Stir fry 2 minutes over medium-high heat, then add the snow peas and cabbage, stirring to combine.

When the cabbage has softened slightly, add the chicken back to the pan, stirring to blend in the chicken.

Combine the reserved marinade with the sweet chili sauce, lime juice, salt and cornstarch and stir.  Pour the mixture into the pan and stir, cooking 2 - 3 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Serve with or without rice.  Serves 6.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mixed Seafood Paella

Tonight was my first attempt at making Paella, which is a Spanish dish of saffron rice, combined with a variety of meats and shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, clams, chicken, ham or chorizo.  Other ingredients might include garlic, onions, peas, peppers, or tomatoes, and the combination can easily change to use the foods available or to suit your own preference.

The inspiration for this dish came from a bag of mixed seafood I found at Trader Joe's.  I wanted to do something special with this seafood, not just a simple stir fry, and since I've always wanted to try paella, this was my chance. 

The seafood mix included shrimp, calamari rings and baby scallops, and there were enough in the package for about four servings.  To bring this up to serve six people, we added some fresh seafood, a dozen each of clams, mussels and large Atlantic shrimp.  The results were amazing, and although I might have to try this recipe a few more times to get that "authentic" dish, I was pretty impressed with the final outcome.  The broth was very similar to cioppino and the flavor of the chorizo enhanced all of the other ingredients. In the traditional recipe, all of the liquid is fully absorbed into the rice, but I really liked having the broth with the rice. (I don't think I would change a thing there because the broth was heavenly.)

Instead of the traditional paella pan I used my faithful stock pot and it worked out great, no special pan needed.  In place of arborio rice and saffron threads, I used a saffron rice mixture, and it was a perfectly seasoned shortcut. I was very surprised at how easy this dish was to prepare, so I'm sure we will be making it again, and I can't wait to try it on the outdoor grill.

This is a really fun dish to make and enjoy with guests.  There is something for everyone and one thing is for sure, there won't be any leftovers!  Enjoy!!

2 TB  Olive Oil
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1 medium  Onion, chopped
1 small Red Pepper, chopped
1 small Yellow Pepper, chopped
5 oz pkg  Riojano Sliced Chorizo
1 cup  Yellow Rice with Saffron
2 1/4 cups  Chicken Broth
1/2 tsp  Smoked Paprika
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 cup  Frozen Baby Peas
12  Fresh Clams, scrubbed
12  Fresh Mussels, scrubbed
12  Fresh Shrimp, shelled and deveined, leaving tail attached
1 pkg  Trader Joe's Frozen Seafood Mix (shrimp, scallops and calamari), defrosted

Heat oil in a large stock pot or paella pan over medium-high heat.  When oil begins to shimmer add the garlic, onion, peppers and chorizo.  Cook until vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the rice, broth, paprika, salt and pepper and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until about half of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Add the peas to the pot and stir gently.  Add the clams, mussels and shrimp to the pot, pressing the shellfish down into the rice and broth, then add the package of Seafood Mix, again lightly pushing the seafood into the rice and broth.  Cook for 4 - 5 minutes or until the shells are opened and the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  (Discard any mussels or clams that did not open.)

Serve the Paella with lemon wedges on the side and a glass of light red Rioja or Chianti wine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Penne Pasta with Gouda and Prosciutto

Tonight's recipe is something that came together as a bit of a surprise.  We wanted to make salads for dinner with a little something on the side, and I had a few requests for mac n cheese.  But if I was going to make pasta, I wanted it to be special.  Not only did this dish taste great for dinner, the kids grabbed the leftovers the next day for lunch.  My youngest (a.k.a. - the picky eater) has even requested I make this again soon.  That's the ultimate compliment!

After a little fridge investigation, I found a wheel of smoked Gouda cheese and some prosciutto ham that I had picked up at Trader Joe's, and those became the base for this dish.  Although macaroni and cheese is not a difficult dish to make, there are a few ingredients that elevate simple pasta into more of a grown-up dish.  The key to really great macaroni and cheese is, dry mustard.  Regardless of which cheese or meat you choose to include, that little touch of dry mustard is what brings all of the other flavors together.

Another great seasoning to add to a creamy cheese sauce is white pepper.  Using ground black pepper is an option, but white pepper adds a mild, subtle flavor and it eliminates the little black specks in the beautiful white sauce.

The balance of flavors from the Gouda and prosciutto were amazing in this dish. Each bite had the salty, sweet edge of Gouda, but also the bits of slightly salty prosciutto.  This dish would be great served with steaks, a baked ham or is even suitable for Thanksgiving dinner.  It's that good!  Give this recipe a try and Enjoy!!

2 quarts  Water
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 lb  Dry Penne Pasta
4 oz  Prosciutto Ham Slices, chopped into small pieces
2 TB  Butter
2 TB  Flour
1 cup  Half and Half
1 1/2 cups  Milk
1 tsp   Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
5 oz  Smoked Gouda Cheese, grated
1/2 cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a medium casserole dish with butter and set aside.

In a large saucepan bring the water and 2 tsp salt to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente, but not fully cooked.  Drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

Add the prosciutto to the same pot and pour the pasta over the prosciutto.  Stir to combine and set the pasta aside.

While the pasta is cooking you can prepare the cheese sauce. 

In a small saucepan, melt the 2 TB butter over medium heat.  Add the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly add the half and half, followed by the milk, whisking constantly to blend.  Add the salt, dry mustard and white pepper, and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese a little at a time.  Continue to stir until the cheese is melted into the sauce.  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and mix well to coat the pasta, then pour the pasta into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake until the golden on top, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salmon with Mirin-Brown Sugar Glaze

I really love the guy who works the fish counter at our local market.  If you're going to cook fish, this is the guy you want to be friends with.  He even tells me when the seafood deliveries are made so I always get the freshest fish.  (I'm kind of picky about fish being ultra fresh, but you have to be careful.)

When I arrived at the seafood counter he asked what I was cooking today, which he always asks since he sees me in the store almost every day.  I gave him a rundown of the recipe and he searched through the case of salmon that had just been delivered and found fillets that were the perfect thickness for this recipe.

A beautiful piece of salmon like this only needs a few ingredients to become a delicious meal.  So, for this dish we went with an Asian-inspired sauce using mirin, which is a rice wine somewhat similar to sake.  The mirin adds a layer of sweetness to the fish without masking the delicate salmon flavor.

This is a really easy dish to prepare.  A quick 10 minutes in the marinade and about 10 minutes of cooking time and dinner is ready.

We served the salmon with a new Brown Rice Medley we found at Trader Joe's.  This rice blend contains long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon radish seeds and has a really great flavor.  The daikon seeds were very interesting and added a nice crunch to the blend and as a bonus, the mirin sauce tasted great serve over this rice. 

4  6 oz  Salmon Fillets, thick portions if possible, skin removed
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
4 TB  Mirin Sweet Rice Wine
3 TB  Brown Sugar
4 TB  Soy Sauce
2 TB  Rice Vinegar
1 Green Onion, chopped

Lightly season the salmon with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Use a large Ziploc plastic bag to mix the marinade.  Combine the mirin, brown sugar and soy sauce in the bag, mixing until the brown sugar is dissolved.  Place the salmon fillets in the bag and marinate for 10 minutes, turning over once after 5 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a swirl of olive oil to the pan, heat until warm, then add the salmon fillets to the pan, top side down.  Cook for about 4 - 5 minutes or until browned, then turn the salmon over and cook 3 - 4 minutes longer or until browned on the bottom.  (You may need to adjust the cooking time a bit depending on the thickness of the fish.)

Transfer salmon to a serving plate and keep warm.  Add the rice vinegar to the pan and continue to stir until the sauce reduces slightly and thickens.  Pour the glaze over the salmon and serve with steamed rice and edamame.  The sauce is also excellent spooned over the rice.  Enjoy!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Beer Braised Chicken Drumsticks

The process of braising meats is somewhat of a lost art, but one that we really should revisit more often.  For generations people have been using this method of cooking to cook meats low and slow, which helps the flavors develop and also helps tenderize the meat.  Not only does braising deliver a super tender cut of meat, it is also a very simple process.

Braising is simply browning meat, poultry or vegetables in fat, such as olive oil or butter, then tightly covering the pot and cooking the foods at a low temperature for an extended amount of time.  This works extremely well with less expensive cuts of beef.  If you find chuck, round or rump roasts on sale, these are all great cuts of beef that will benefit from the slow roasting effects of braising, and you can save some money, too.


For this dish we used chicken drumsticks, which I love to experiment with.  Chicken drumsticks and thighs have so much more flavor than white meat, and were even better in this dish when they were slowly braised in a rich, dark beer.  We added small pearl onions and a generous amount of mushrooms to give this dish a nice earthy flavor, and the white wine and herb broth brought all of the delicate flavors together.  Enjoy!!

1 TB  Olive Oil
10 - 12  Chicken Drumsticks (or substitute thighs)
1 cup  Flour
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Butter
1 TB  Olive Oil
2 cups  Frozen Pearl Onions, defrosted
16 oz  Button or Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1  12 oz Bottler Dark Beer
1 cup   College Inn White Wine and Herb Chicken Broth
2  Bay Leaves
2 TB  Flour
2 TB  Milk
Additional Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper, as needed

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based pot, over medium-high heat.  (A cast iron dutch oven works great for braising.)  Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, then add chicken to the pan and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 8 minutes total.  Remove the chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm.

Add the butter and 1 TB olive oil to the pan.  When butter is melted add the onions, mushrooms and garlic to the pan and saute until tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the beer and continue to stir, reducing the sauce to about half.  Add the broth and bay leaves to the pan and stir.

Return the chicken to the pot, nestling the chicken into the sauce and vegetables, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 45 minutes over medium-low heat.

When ready to serve, remove and discard the bay leaves, then remove the chicken to a platter and combine the flour and milk in a small bowl, stirring until smooth.  Add a few spoons of the braising liquid to the flour and milk mixture, then add the mixture to the pot.  Cook for 3 - 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Serve the chicken over rice or noodles with a generous spoonful of sauce on top.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chicken with Prosciutto and Spinach-Basil Pesto

A few weeks ago, we watched an episode of Lidia's Italy in America, which is a great PBS cooking show featuring Lidia Bastianich.  She was preparing a beautiful pesto that was made with a mixture of basil and spinach and I could not wait to try it!  I love anything with spinach, but using it as part of pesto just made so much sense.

First, I wanted to come up with a recipe that would highlight the pesto, so all of those bright flavors would come through.  So I decided on a stuffed chicken breast with a little prosciutto added in for balance, and the results were wonderful.  The recipe below is a slight variation of Lidia's.  We went a little lighter on the walnuts and a touch lighter on the oil, but you can easily adjust these to your own taste preference.

This was a super easy dinner to prepare and it's even fancy enough to serve guests.  We served the stuffed chicken with a few slices of fried polenta that were topped with a sprinkle of Italian cheese and a drizzle of the same spinach-basil pesto.

3  Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breasts, pounded out to 1/4-inch thick
Kosher Salt and Pepper
6  Slices Prosciutto Ham
1/2 to 3/4 cup  Chopped Walnuts
4 oz  Baby Spinach Leaves, stems removed
1 cup  Fresh Basil Leaves
2 cloves  Garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
3/4 cup  Olive Oil
1/4 cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil

Lay the chicken breasts on a platter and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Place 2 slices of prosciutto ham on each piece of chicken, overlapping the ham slightly.  Set the chicken aside while you prepare the pesto.

Add the walnuts, spinach, basil, garlic and salt to a food processor and pulse several times to combine.  Add the olive oil in a steady stream and blend until you have a smooth paste consistency, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Spread a few teaspoons of the pesto mixture over the slices of prosciutto, keeping the mixture about 1/4-inch from the edges.  Carefully roll the chicken into a bundle and secure the edges with a toothpick.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil to coat the pan.  When the skillet is very warm, place the chicken bundles into the skillet and brown on all sides, turning 1/4 turn every 3 minutes or so, until the chicken is evenly browned on all sides and the meat is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and let rest for a few minutes, then slice the chicken bundles on an angle, move the slices to a plate and drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil if desired.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crock Pot Spicy Black Bean, Ham and Chorizo Soup

Be warned, spicy is an understatement with this soup!  If you like hot and spicy soups, this could be just the recipe you've been waiting for.

This recipe is a twist on the classic Portuguese Bean Soup, but with a lot of extra flavor.  In place of the usual kidney beans and chicken stock used in the traditional recipe, we decided to try black beans and beef stock, with a can of diced jalapenos for added spice.  Yum!  Another layer of flavor in this soup comes from the sliced chorizo sausage.  This is a new product that I found at our local market, but any type of cooked chorizo would work fine.  If you can't find chorizo slices, even a good quality pepperoni would be a good substitute.

This is a super easy crock pot recipe that takes all of 15 minutes to prepare, then 5 hours of low and slow cooking time for all of the flavors to combine.  Enjoy!!

2 cups  Diced Cooked Ham, leftover ham works great
2 oz  Sliced Chorizo, sliced into quarters
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
1 carton  Beef Broth
1  15 oz can  Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium  Onion, diced
1 medium  Green Pepper, diced
1 4 oz can  Diced Jalapenos
2 small  Carrots, peeled and shredded
1  Bay Leaf
1/4 tsp  Cumin
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
1/2 cup  Ditalini Pasta, or any small pasta

In a small skillet, saute the ham, chorizo slices and garlic for 5 minutes, or just until the ham is slightly browned on the edges.  Pour the mixture into the crock pot.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the pasta, and stir.  Cover the pot and cook on LOW for 4 hours.

After the 4 hours, remove the bay leaf, add the pasta and continue to cook on LOW for 1 hour longer.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Crock Pot Dijon-Beef Stroganoff

I don't use my crock pot nearly as much as I should, and I'm always reminded of that when a meal like this comes together so easily.  The next few months are going to be crazy busy around here, so  I'm going to do a little crock pot experimenting and see if I can come up with a few time-saver recipes that will make weeknight dinners a bit easier.

This is a great meal that we've made many times and it's perfect when you're in need of hearty comfort food. With a Dijon mustard and sour cream sauce, this crock pot version of Beef Stroganoff can be made with any type of beef, such as round steak, chuck, or even sirloin.  By using a crock pot, less expensive cuts of meat will cook low and slow and the results will be tender bites of beef that are loaded with slow cooked flavor.  So buy whatever cut of beef your local market has on sale this week and this great dinner will even be a bargain.

This meal takes about 15 minutes to prepare, then about 5 hours of cooking on LOW.  Adding the noodles and cream sauce during the last hour will bring all of those good flavors together.

1-1/4 lb  Sirloin, Chunk, Round Steak or other cut of Beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tsp  Olive Oil
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
6 oz   Portobello or Button Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thick
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1-1/2 TB  Soy Sauce
1 TB  Red Wine Vinegar
1-1/2 cups  Beef Broth
3/4 cup  Sour Cream
2 tsp  Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
12 oz bag  Wide Egg Noodles or Whole Wheat Noodles

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add the beef and saute for 3 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the garlic, mushrooms and black pepper and saute 4 minutes longer, until the mushrooms are just softened.

While the beef and mushroom mixture is cooking, add the soy sauce, red wine vinegar and beef broth to the crock pot.  Turn heat to LOW and cover the pot while you finish the beef.

Pour the beef and mushroom mixture into the crock pot, replace lid and cook on LOW for 4 hours.

Near the end of the cooking time, boil the noodles in a large pot and cook until just al dente, but not fully cooked.  Drain the noodles.

Add the noodles, sour cream, Dijon mustard, white pepper and salt to the crock pot and stir very gently just to combine.  Replace the lid and cook for 30 minutes longer on LOW or until heated through.  Add salt or black pepper to taste.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Catfish Chowder

There's nothing better on a cold, rainy night than a bowl of soup.  And if that soup has a piece of crispy catfish on top, that's even better!  This soup is one of our family favorites and it gave me one more chance to take advantage of the great sale price here locally.

This soup is served in a little different manner.  Instead of incorporating the fish into the chowder, the fillet is served on top of the chowder.  By placing the piece of fish on top of the chowder, you can spoon right through the fish and into the soup so you get all of the great flavors in every bite.  It also allows the fish to retain it's crunchy-crispy texture.  The chowder is completed with a spoonful of bacon crumbles on top.

The fillets we used tonight were on the generous side, and the 4 pieces of catfish were plenty for about 6 - 8 servings.  We cooked the fillets whole then sliced them in half and the portions were perfect.  This is a really great soup to serve kids, too.  Even our picky eater always gives it a thumbs up!

1/2 lb  Bacon, diced
1 small  Onion, chopped
1 small  Red Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
2 tsp  Minced Garlic
1/3 cup + 3 TB All-Purpose Flour, divided
1/3 cup  Cornmeal
1 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
2 bottles (8 oz each) Clam Juice
6 medium Red Potatoes, peeled and diced
4 Catfish Fillets, about 1-3/4 lbs, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup Milk
1 cup Half and Half
1 can (8 oz) Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Reserve all drippings.

In a large soup pot, over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons of the reserved drippings, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute vegetables until softened, stirring often.  Add 3 tablespoons of flour and stir until the vegetables are coated, and flour begins to brown slightly.

Add the clam juice and potatoes to the pot and stir to fully combine the flour mixture. Bring soup to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn heat to low, cover pot and continue simmering until potatoes are tender and soup has thickened, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Next, combine the 1/3 cup flour, cornmeal and Old Bay on a platter, and dredge the catfish fillets lightly in the mixture.  Shake off excess flour and place the fillets on a platter.

Place the frying pan with remaining drippings over medium heat and add 2 pieces of the coated catfish to the pan, but do not overcrowd.   (Cook the remaining 2 fillets in a second batch).  Cook the fish until golden brown on the first side, then turn the fillets over and continue to cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 10 minutes total. Remove cooked fish from pan and keep warm while you cook the remaining fillets.

While the catfish is cooking, you can finish preparing the chowder.  Add the milk, half-and-half, corn, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the soup and stir gently to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until hot (but do not boil).

Ladle the hot soup equally into 6 - 8 wide soup bowls. Place a catfish fillet on top of the chowder in each bowl and sprinkle with bacon pieces.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lemon-Herb Baked Catfish

There are an endless number of ways to cook catfish, but it's often breaded with a cornmeal or panko-type coating and then deep-fried or fried in a skillet.  (Not a wonderful choice if you're trying to watch your calories.)  So tonight we decided to lighten things up a bit and go with a lemon and herb coating on the fish.

This is a light, healthy way to serve catfish and let the sweet flavor of the fish come through.  We used a mixture of common herbs and spices that you probably already have in your pantry, but if you are missing one or two of the spices, just go with the ingredients you do have available and the fish will still be delicious. If you can't find catfish in your local market, cod, snapper or halibut would work great as a substitute.

This is a simple, foolproof recipe and will only take about 30 minutes to prepare.  We served the fish with Saffron Rice and steamed veggies.  As a bonus, the lemon and herb sauce from the fish tastes great spooned over the rice.   Enjoy!!

1 1/2 to 2 lbs  Catfish Fillets (about 5 - 6 fillets)
2 tsp  Dried Parsley
1 1/2 tsp  Paprika
1 tsp  Oregano
1 tsp  Thyme
1 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp  Dried Basil
1/2 tsp  Lemon Pepper
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Lemon Juice
2 TB  Butter, melted
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Lemon Zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the parsley, paprika, oregano, thyme, Old Bay, basil, lemon pepper and pepper in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the herbs mixture onto both sides of the catfish and place the fish in a buttered baking dish, so that the sides do not touch.

Combine the lemon juice, butter, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl and drizzle the mixture over the catfish.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with a spoonful of sauce over the fish and a few lemon wedges on the side.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lemon Marinade Chicken Stir-Fry

Lemon Chicken is a popular dish that's available on almost any Chinese take-out menu.  The problem with the restaurant version is that it can be a very heavy meal because of the coating on the chicken.  With this recipe, we discovered a way to infuse a bright lemon flavor into the chicken, while keeping it light.

Instead of breading and frying the chicken pieces, we used a citrusy lemon marinade to coat the chicken, followed by a quick skillet saute.  If you are a fan of lemon and citrus flavor, this is one dish you are going to love.  We served this with two varieties of rice, Jasmati and brown, and both tasted great.

The prep time for this dish was only and 10 minutes, followed by a quick 10-20 minutes to marinate,  and cook time is right around 15 minutes.  Super fast, with a light and bright flavor.  Enjoy!!

Zest and Juice of 1 Whole Lemon
1/3 cup  Chicken Stock
1/3 cup  Soy Sauce
2 TB Brown Sugar
2 TB Honey
2 tsp Sriracha Chili Sauce
2 TB  Cornstarch
2 lbs  Chicken Breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tsp  Peanut Oil
2 tsp Fresh Ginger, minced
1 TB  Minced Garlic
2 Green Onions, chopped for garnish
1 TB Toasted Sesame Seeds for garnish

Mix the lemon zest, juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, chili sauce and cornstarch in a glass bowl. Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and marinate for 10-20 minutes.

Heat the sesame and peanut oils in a large skillet. Add ginger and garlic and saute about 1 minute. Add the chicken pieces, reserving the marinade, and saute the chicken until cooked through , about 5 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade to the skillet and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 5 - 6 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add one or two tablespoons of chicken broth and stir to combine.

Serve on Jasmati or brown rice and sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. Serves 6-8.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pizza Night

Have you ever made a homemade pizza?  A seriously delicious pizza with all of your favorite toppings in just the right proportions?  Well, it's less work than you think and you might just create the best pizza you've ever eaten!

Pizzas have come a long way in recent years, especially when it comes to the homemade version.  You no longer have to rely on the Chef-Boy-in-a-box crust mix (thank goodness!) because making your own crust is as simple as throwing a handful of ingredients into a bread machine, and your pizza dough is ready in about 90 minutes.  You can find our recipe for Pizza Crust here.  If you don't have a bread machine, many grocery stores also have prepared crust dough in their bakery section.  Our local store offers several different flavors of crust including multi-grain and Parmesan.  Once you decide on the crust you can move on to the toppings.

Pizza toppings are endless.  Start with choosing a protein such as diced cooked chicken, cooked shrimp or crab, lean ham, cooked Italian or regular sausage, or just some pepperoni.  Next add a few selections of vegetables such as thinly sliced peppers or onions, sliced fresh tomatoes or mushrooms, or green or black olives.  Or you can get a little more adventurous and try asparagus, artichokes, sliced pepperoncini peppers, sun dried tomatoes or even eggplant.

Then there is cheese.  You can't have a pizza without cheese and this is a great way to personalize your pizza, just the way you like it.  Beyond mozzarella and cheddar, try crumbled feta or blue cheese (both of which are yummy with diced chicken), or try adding a thin layer of creamy ricotta cheese.

The final step is choosing a sauce for your pizza.  There are many varieties of flavored tomato sauce available that already have garlic, oregano or basil included, but you could also choose pesto sauce, Alfredo or barbeque sauce or just a simple marinara.

For our pizza tonight, we chose a homemade roasted red pepper sauce. For this sauce I like to buy the red peppers that are packing in olive oil with whole garlic cloves.  Use a small blender to puree 1 whole pepper, plus one of the garlic cloves with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese and you have an instant sauce. 

Next, we started with sliced chorizo, and added several of our favorite toppings, black olives, thinly sliced artichoke hearts, shaved Serrano ham and a light topping of smoked provolone cheese.  The pizza was so full of flavor and it was something you could never find on any take-out menu. 

Another great combination that we enjoy is a Shrimp, Spinach and Red Onion Pizza with an Alfredo-type sauce.  For this pizza we actually used the same sauce as we used in the  Chi-Chi's Seafood Enchiladas, but you could also use a store bought sauce for convenience.
My favorite homemade pizza would have to be Shrimp, Crab and Asparagus Pizza with a cream cheese sauce.  This recipe has actually been a long kept secret and we've made it many times.  This is an ideal way to use up any leftover shrimp and/or crab from a Low Country Boil, because the seafood is perfectly cooked and seasoned and can be added to the pizza with very little prep.
For the Crab Pizza
1 Pre-Baked Pizza Crust (as above we used the bread machine dough)
1 can  Asparagus Cuts
1/3 cup  Minced Red Onion
Cooked Shrimp and/or Crab, remove any shells and chop the seafood into small bite-sized pieces
4 oz  Grated Italian 6-Cheese Blend
2 oz  Grated Cheddar
Pizza Sauce
3 oz  Cream Cheese, softened
2 to 3  TB  Sour Cream
1-1/2 tsp  Real Horseradish (not the creamy kind)
1/2 tsp  Lemon Pepper
Combine the ingredients in a small glass bowl and blend with a fork until creamy.  If the mixture is too thick to spread, add additional sour cream, one teaspoon at a time, until the mixture is spreadable.
Spread the mixture onto the pre-baked crust, add a layer of the cooked shrimp and crab, then a layer of asparagus, followed by the onion and then the cheeses.  Bake at 425 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Roquefort Red Potatoes

These yummy potatoes are made with one of my husband's favorite cheeses.  Roquefort cheese is a slightly salty type of blue cheese made from sheep's milk, and the flavor combines well with many dishes.  A few appetizers like Roquefort Deviled Eggs or Stuffed Olives really highlight the tanginess of the cheese, and it would also works nicely in a ham, mushroom and onion quiche.

Roquefort also goes well with beef, in the form of Roquefort Burgers, or for tonight with a simple grilled steak.  Using red potatoes and adding a drizzle of creamy buttermilk and some crumbled Roquefort cheese on top, these potatoes are super easy to prepare and actually look quite elegant when served with a beautiful New York Strip steak.  Enjoy!!

8  Medium Red Potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in half
1/3 cup  Lowfat Buttermilk
2 oz  Roquefort Cheese, crumbled  (or substitute Blue cheese)
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

In a large pot, add 3 quarts of water, 1 tablespoon salt and the red potatoes.  Bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle the buttermilk over the potatoes.  Add the crumbled Roquefort cheese evenly over the potatoes then bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are slightly browned on the edges.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Salmon on Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

When my husband told me our local market had salmon on sale this week, I wanted to come up with something new and yummy to take advantage of the rare sale price.  The only problem was, this idea came to me in the middle of the night!  (It's really sad when you start dreaming of tomorrow night's dinner!...lol)

So I ended up dreaming about this classic 1970's-style spinach salad that was served at a little Irish Pub we used to frequent.  It was topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms, and a warm bacon dressing, and it was absolutely amazing.  I'm not even sure if the Pub is still open, but that salad was definitely memorable.

Then I started thinking about the Salmon BLT we made recently.  Salmon wrapped in bacon, served on sourdough bread..yum!  Salmon and bacon is my new favorite combo in any way, shape or form!

The results of all of this was simple.  Combine the spinach salad, with a seared salmon fillet and you have one delicious dinner.  And so it was.  We added the cute little sliced eggs, which my daughters loved, and the tangy, slightly sweet, slightly acidic dressing brought all of the flavors together.  This is truly a classic salad brought up to a new level, and made into a complete meal.

If your children are a little leery of eating spinach, this is a great way to get them involved in making dinner.  Show them how to take the stems off of the spinach, then let them make the egg slices and get the plates ready.  If your kids get to help prepare the basics of the meal, they might just learn to like spinach!  Enjoy!!

1/2 lb  Bacon
1 cup  Thinly Sliced Red Onion
8 - 10  Button Mushrooms
1 tsp  Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 lbs  Salmon Fillets, about 1-inch thick, cut into 4 potions, skin removed
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
4 TB  Red Wine Vinegar
2 tsp  Sugar
1 tsp  Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 bag  Baby Spinach, rinsed, dried and stems removed
3 Hard-Boil Eggs

In a large skillet, fry the bacon until slightly crisp, then remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on a paper towel.  Reserve skillet.

Remove 3 tablespoons of bacon grease from the large skillet to a small saucepan and set aside.

Remove 4 tablespoons bacon grease from the large skillet and place in a small skillet.  Add the onions, mushrooms, and Worcestershire sauce to the small skillet and saute vegetables over medium heat until caramelized.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

While the onion and mushrooms and cooking, increase the heat for the large skillet to medium-high.  Season the salmon fillets with salt and a generous coating of pepper, then add fillets to the large skillet.  Cook the salmon for about 4 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown, then turn fillets over and cook for 4 - 5 minutes longer, or until lightly browned on both sides.  Now turn the burner off while you prepare the dressing.

Back to the saucepan, add vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, and salt to the bacon grease and heat over medium-low heat.  Whisk to combine and keep warm while you assemble the plates.

Place a handful of baby spinach on each plate, then top with a spoonful of sauteed onions and mushrooms, then a salmon fillet.  To complete the salad add a sprinkle of chopped bacon, a few slices of hard-boiled eggs and a generous drizzle of warm dressing.    Serves 4.