Monday, April 30, 2007

Sweet Jamaican Rice, and Cajun Shrimp

Tonight was my last class of the semester (YAY!) so I made a tasty tropical dinner for us to celebrate. It's very quick to put together. Here is the story behind it: I've read cooking magazines for as long as I can remember and have watched the Food Network since its inception, but didn't have much actual cooking experience until I was in high school. During my senior year of high school my mom worked with me to try to teach me how to actually cook. So this meal was one of the first meals I ever really helped make. I loved it then, and love it now!

The rice is very quick and easy, especially if you use 10-minute microwave rice. I love the fruitiness. I wish I'd gotten a spicier chutney though for more of a kick.

The shrimp doesn't require a recipe - it's just raw peeled shrimp tossed with a Cajun seasoning (I used McCormick's) and sauteed in olive oil. It goes really nicely with the fruity rice. This is a meal we will inevitably eat again!

Sweet Jamaican Rice
From Southern Living, March 1996 (?)

2 cups rice -- hot, cooked
1 can (11 oz) mandarin oranges -- drained and chopped
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple -- drained
1/2 cup red bell pepper -- chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds -- toasted
1/3 cup green onions -- sliced
1/4 cup flaked coconut -- toasted
2 Tablespoons hot mango chutney
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, April 29, 2007

White Chocolate, Strawberry, and Oatmeal Cookies

Someone I work with is going to be forced into taking over my position when I leave. I feel bad. Therefore, I made him cookies. I don't know what kinds of things he likes (besides alcohol), so I decided to try out this yummy-sounding recipe from the May 2007 issue of Cooking Light.

Though the recipe says it yields 2 dozen, it only made 17 cookies. I am sad because that leaves only 5 for me. Well, 3 actually, since I've already eaten two. These cookies are so delicious! Perfect for spring/summer. The little note from the magazine says the cookies are crispy, but ours were nice and chewy and perfect. I will definitely be making these again. In fact, I have to, since what else am I going to do with a tub of freeze-dried strawberries?

White Chocolate, Strawberry, and Oatmeal Cookies
A mere one-quarter cup of butter yields crispy, light cookies and keeps calories in check. Dried strawberries lend fiber, color, and subtle sweetness. You can find them in larger supermarkets, or substitute raisins or dried cranberries. Because the dough is heavy, we used a sturdy stand mixer. You can use a hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar, then stir in the remaining ingredients by hand.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried strawberries
1/3 cup premium white chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
Cooking spray

Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Add strawberries and chips; beat at low speed just until blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

Yield: 17-24 cookies

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Last night we made Cheesy Baked Tortellini. I had forgotten how quick it is to put together. It does have to cook for 30 minutes, but it gets into the oven in under 10 minutes. Now that I realize this, I will place it in my new "quick weeknight meals" folder (in my head, because I'm too lazy to make one in my computer database). We like this dish, Giada rocks, and I will make it again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Focaccia

Last night we made Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Focaccia for dinner. I made it before about a year ago and really liked it, so I thought we'd give it a try again. This time I did add the raisins because Gibby is super-okay with that flavor combination. We still really liked it and would make it again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Open-Faced Jerk Vegetable Sandwiches

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I am attempting to work with make-ahead or superquick meals in order to prepare for a chaotic new schedule. So last night while making the pinto bean burgers, I went ahead and prepared the vegetables for tonight's meal. Then, tonight when I got home from class, all I had to do was saute the vegetables and make the toasts. I got dinner on the table in under 10 minutes. That was awesome. And an added plus is that the meal was delicious! We loved the combination of the chutney, vegetables, and cheese. We will make this again.

Open-Faced Jerk Vegetable Sandwiches
From CL, March 2007

The vegetables can be assembled in advance and refrigerated overnight in the zip-top plastic bag. Preheat the broiler for the cheese toasts while you sauté the vegetables, and you'll save even more time.

1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 cups (1/8-inch-thick) diagonally cut zucchini
1/2 medium onion, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons mango chutney
1 teaspoon light mayonnaise
4 (2-ounce) slices diagonally cut French bread
3 ounces thinly sliced Muenster cheese, cut into 1/8-inch-wide strips
1 cup gourmet salad greens

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add zucchini, onion, bell pepper, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; seal and shake well to coat. Let stand 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.

Heat remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add vegetable mixture, and sauté for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to brown. Remove from heat, and keep warm.

Preheat broiler.

Combine chutney and mayonnaise. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet. Broil 1 minute or until lightly toasted on each side; remove from heat. Spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon chutney mixture; top evenly with cheese. Broil 1 minute or until cheese melts. Place 1 cheese toast on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup greens and 1/2 cup vegetable mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

Photo posted on April 1, 2008:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stir-Fried Moo Shu Vegetable Wraps

When I order Chinese food, I usually get fried rice or lo mein, or occasionally - if they have it - General Tso's tofu. BUT! When I feel like deviating from the usual, I get moo shu vegetables. It's the same as moo shu pork - vegetables and plum sauce wrapped up in a weird little tortilla thing.

Tonight's dinner was a crazy-quick homemade version of moo shu vegetables, care of Cooking Light. I'm trying to train myself to cook dinner even when I get home late, since my new job (!!) will have me working later hours than I am used to. So I made this dinner because it was quick to assemble and required minimal cooking time. It produced deliciously tasty results and I was very impressed. It's a great homemade version of a delicious Chinese food standby. We will make this again.

Stir-Fried Moo Shu Vegetable Wraps
CL, October 2001

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
8 ounces reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 8 ounces mushrooms)
2 cups packaged broccoli coleslaw (such as River Ranch)
1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup (1/2-inch) diagonally cut green onions
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon bottled ground fresh ginger (such as Spice World)
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 (7-inch) flour tortillas
1/4 cup plum sauce

Combine soy sauce and tofu in a small bowl. Combine mushrooms and next 5 ingredients (mushrooms through ginger) in a medium bowl.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add tofu; stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in hoisin sauce and crushed red pepper; stir-fry for 1 minute or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stack tortillas; wrap in damp paper towels, and microwave at high for 25 seconds. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons plum sauce over each tortilla. Top each tortilla with about 1/3 cup tofu mixture; roll up.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice

Tonight's dinner was one that, from the first bite, we immediately decided was a make-again. It was very, very yummy. It is also very quick to put together. It was delicious with a bottle of sugarcane-sweetened imported soda. Yum yum.

My two criticisms are:
1)As with most Cooking Light recipes, the patties didn't seem to want to stay together. They were very mushy, and "dredging" them in cornmeal basically meant putting the patty in the pan and then sprinkling some cornmeal on top of it. This worked well though. But don't expect a solid patty.
2)Also typical of CL recipes, the serving size was ridiculously small. This recipe supposedly yields 4 servings (a little bit of rice and one patty), but it worked much better serving 2. There's no way you could eat just one patty and feel comfortably full. Two was much more sufficient.

We will definitely eat this again during the summer, as it is a very summery-tasting dish.

Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice
From CL, March 2007

You can prepare the patties in advance up to the point of dredging them in cornmeal; cover and refrigerate. Purchase precut, fresh pineapple in the produce section to save time.

1 (3 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups rinsed, drained canned black beans (1 [15-ounce] can), divided
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
Cooking spray
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

To prepare rice, cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; place rice in a large bowl. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pineapple; sauté 4 minutes or just until pineapple begins to brown. Add pineapple mixture, cilantro, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to rice in bowl; cover and keep warm. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.

To prepare patties, place 1 1/2 cups beans, garlic, cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl; partially mash with a fork. Place 1/2 cup remaining beans and egg white in a food processor; process 30 seconds or until well combined. Add bean puree to mashed beans in bowl, and stir until combined. Add cheese and onion to bean mixture; stir until combined. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Dredge both sides of each patty in cornmeal.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Spoon about 1/2 cup rice onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 patty and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yield: 4 (OR TWO!) servings

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Feta Pizza

Giant had a good selection of Vidalia onions this week, so I thought it would be a nice time to try this pizza recipe. We both enjoy potatoes, pizza, onions, and cheese, and this combines all of those ingredients.

I followed the recipe as written, except that I skipped the sun-dried tomatoes. I don't like sun-dried tomatoes. So I didn't bother rehydrating or anything. That saved a lot of time. I also saved time by putting the pizza dough in the oven at the same time as the potatoes, and then taking it out after 10 minutes. For some reason the recipe says to do them separately, but I think that's just a waste of time. It worked out well following my own timeline.

That being said, it was good, but not great. It's fun to have potatoes on my pizza, but I still just felt meh about it. It may have been the thyme - I tend to shy away from thyme. It doesn't always taste delicious to me. Maybe if I tried this again, I would omit the thyme, or at least reduce it. Anyway. We'll keep the recipe but I doubt we'll make it again.

Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Feta Pizza
From Cooking Light, May 2000

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 (11-ounce) package refrigerated French bread dough
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 cups thinly sliced small red potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/4 cup tomato purée
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine tomatoes and water; let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Drain tomatoes; coarsely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Unroll the bread dough, and flatten into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place the dough on a 12-inch pizza pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim. Pierce dough with a fork. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, and set aside.

Combine potatoes and next 5 ingredients (potatoes through salt) in a bowl. Coat a jelly-roll pan with cooking spray; arrange potatoes in a single layer in prepared pan. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned, stirring once.

Spread the tomato purée over crust. Top with potatoes, caramelized onions, and sun-dried tomatoes; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until crust is browned.

Yield: 8 servings

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing

Tonight I made Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing again. I love to take it in lunches, too. It was Gibby's first time eating it, and he thought it was okay but wished it had a little more flavor. I do agree that there isn't a strong spice or flavor, but it's still yummy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vegetable Fried Rice

Tonight for dinner we tried a Vegetable Fried Rice recipe from the October 2006 issue of Real Simple magazine. We're on quest for an excellent fried rice recipe. This one was good, but there was way too much soy sauce and ginger. I would try this recipe again but with less sauce, or with a different sauce entirely. But I liked the method and I liked the way the egg turned out. The egg is always my favorite part of fried rice!

Vegetable Fried Rice
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon white wine or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon peanut or olive oil
2 carrots, cut into matchstick-size strips
2 cups snow peas, cut into thirds
2 cups bean sprouts
4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and ginger; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the snow peas, bean sprouts, and 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture and stir-fry until the vegetables are almost tender but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Return skillet to medium heat and add the remaining sauce mixture, the rice, and scallions. Cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Make a large space in the center of the rice and pour the eggs into it. Scramble the eggs with a spatula until set. Stir the eggs into the rice. Transfer the rice mixture to individual plates and top with the vegetables.

Tip: You can improvise with whatever vegetables you have on hand, from fresh broccoli to frozen peas. Or, if you?re out of everything green, you can make the dish without the vegetables, just this once.

Yield: 4 servings

Photo added retroactively on January 1, 2008:

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Green Ranch Hand Eggs

When I made my meal plan for the week (as I do every weekend), I somehow didn't notice that I'd put a Rachael Ray recipe on my list. Why do I even have them in my recipe database, you ask? Because occasionally she doesn't suck at life and produces something tasty. Anyway so when I was starting dinner and saw it was a RR recipe, I panicked. Luckily, tonight's turned out to be one of her rare good recipes.

Though she titled it Green Ranch Hand Eggs in a pathetic attempt to be cutesy, it's really just a variation of Huevos Rancheros. It's very simple and easy to make. It's also very good. We had never had an egg-bean combination before, and it is surprisingly delicious. We will probably experiment with other huevos rancheros recipes (I have one from Didi Emmons that I think would be yummier), but we will keep this recipe on hand just in case.

Green Ranch Hand Eggs

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle, chili powder or cumin
2 teaspoons hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)
4 large or extra large eggs
Salt and pepper
1 (16-ounce) jar tomatillo salsa (salsa verde or green salsa), any brand
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, available in 10 ounce sacks on dairy aisles
4 small (6 to 8-inch) flour tortillas
Garnishes – choose from whatever you have on hand: chopped cilantro or parsley and finely chopped scallions, chives or red onions, sour cream or yogurt

Heat a skillet. Add extra-virgin olive oil and the onion. Cook until slightly softened. Add the black beans, chipotle and hot sauce. Cook until well heated through. Turn heat down to low and keep warm.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium low heat. When hot, drizzle pan with extra-virgin olive oil and add eggs. Cook eggs gently, 2 at a time, with 2 couple inches between each egg, to desired doneness, over easy to over hard. Season the eggs with salt and pepper on 1 or both sides.

Take the lid off of the salsa. Place container in the microwave and warm through, 45 seconds on high.

Spoon salsa over the eggs once you turn them. Place a large handful of shredded Cheddar on top of each salsa covered egg. Cover the pan loosely with a tin foil tent to melt cheese.

If you have a gas top stove, heat and blister the tortillas individually, holding them with tongs, over the open flame of a burner, 15 to 20 seconds on each side. Otherwise, warm tortillas according to package directions for the microwave oven.

To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate. Top with a generous serving-spoonful of warm black beans, top the beans with a fried egg, salsa and cheese. Finish off this killer, 24-hour belly-pleaser with a sprinkle of cilantro or parsley and chopped scallions, chives or red onion, sour cream or yogurt.

Yield: 4 servings

Easter Biscotti

My mom mailed us a ton of Easter candy last weekend, including 3 bags of jelly beans. Though we've been snacking on them, I decided it was time to use them all up. I saw this recipe posted on DesertCulinary and thought it would be perfect.

It's easy to make, easy to bake, and was a good way to use up the jelly beans. I'm still not sure if I even like biscotti. It's tasty, but it may be too crunchy for me. Regardless, we have a bunch of them now and they are good. I will probably make this again next year when I inevitably get more jelly beans.

Easter Biscotti
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, divided - at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces Jelly Beans

Preheat the oven to 375°

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.

Add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the Jelly Beans. The dough may be a bit sticky.

Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Take one half and roll lightly back and forth making a log about the length of your baking sheet. Carefully place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the second piece.

Using wet fingers if the dough is sticky, flatten each log a bit.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and brush evenly over each log.

Bake for about 23-28 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10-15 minutes (can go a little more.) Using a serrated knife, carefully slice them on the diagonal into about 1/2" slices. Stand each slice back on the baking sheet - it is ok if they touch.

Bake for another 10-12 minutes until the edges turn a slight golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen depending on how you cut them

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Poblano and Jack Cheese Pizzas

I am intrigued by the idea of a pizza containing poblano peppers and corn, and have attempted to make recipes for that in the past (see: Roasted Corn, Poblano, and Cheddar Pizza). However, both times I've made that recipe, something has gone wrong and it's turned out to be a mess. A delicious mess, but a mess. I vowed that if I made it a third time and failed, I would never make it again. So when I saw a different recipe for a corn and poblano pizza, this time from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons, I decided to try it instead, just in case.

It's not quite as tasty as the other pizza, as it's lacking a little in the amount of corn and cheese. It also doesn't have anything to really bind the toppings to the crust, so little corn kernels kept falling off. But it's definitely good! So, if I fail at that Roasted Corn pizza one more time, this will become our default corn and poblano pizza recipe.

Poblano and Jack Cheese Pizzas
Vegetarian Planet, pg 454

2 poblano peppers
1 ear corn, shucked
1/2 batch pizza dough (enough for 2 small pizzas) (Note: I used a Pillsbury crust cut in half)
1 Tbsp cornmeal
1 tomato, sliced thin
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
3 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast the peppers in a roasting pan for 25 minutes. Add the ear of corn to the roasting pan and roast the vegetables for 10 minutes more. Leave the oven on.

2. Let the peppers and corn cool for 10 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove their skins and seeds. Then slice the peppers into thin strips. Cut the corn kernel from the ear.

3. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a round about 8 inches in diameter. Place both rounds on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal (you may need 2 baking sheets). Sprinkle the corn over the rounds, then lay the tomato slices over the corn. Distribute the poblano strips over all. Salt and pepper the pizzas.

4. Bake the pizzas for 8 minutes, then remove them from the oven. Sprinkle the Monterey Jack cheese over the pizzas, and bake an additional 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Drizzle the olive oil over the two pizzas, and garnish with cilantro. Cut the pizzas into quarters and serve.

Yield: 2 small pizzas

Photo added July 27, 2008:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Not-So-Sloppy Joes

Tonight we made my favorite sloppy joes recipe. We had it with tater tots and it was lovely. It's been a long time since I've made this and I forgot how awesome it is.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Smarter Fettuccine Alfredo

This recipe came from, and it sucked. It is not a good low-fat version of fettuccine alfredo. Maybe to be a tasty alfredo, it must be laden with cream and cheeses. I will not make this recipe again. Ever.

Smarter Fettuccine Alfredo

8 oz. fettuccine, uncooked
1-1/4 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 tsp. flour
1/3 cup PHILADELPHIA Light Cream Cheese Spread
3 Tbsp. KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, combine broth and flour in medium saucepan. Stir in cream cheese spread, 2 Tbsp. of the Parmesan cheese, the nutmeg and pepper; cook 2 min., stirring constantly with wire whisk until mixture boils and thickens.

Drain pasta. Toss with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spring Pea-sto with Whole Wheat Penne

I should have known better.

Rachael Ray sucks. Why do I make her recipes? I've had a few successes with them in the past couple months (like her vodka cream pasta) and I guess I had renewed faith in her abilities. So tonight we made a dish from the April 2007 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, because it had been positively reviewed elsewhere. That was a mistake.

This recipe is weird. It sounded good and interesting: pesto made with the added ingredient of peas! I like pasta, pesto, and peas, so it sounded like a good combination. Wrong! I took a bite and said, "This is weird!" So that seems to be the consensus. We will not make it again.

Spring Pea-sto with Whole Wheat Penne

Whole wheat penne pasta
One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (2 generous handfuls), plus more for serving
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Leaves of 6 to 8 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a couple of ladlefuls of the pasta cooking water.

2. In a food processor, puree half the peas with the basil, cheese, olive oil, pine nuts, tarragon and lemon peel until coarsely chopped. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

3. In a large serving dish, pour 2/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water over the remaining peas, then stir in the pea pesto. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Serve in bowls and pass extra cheese around the table.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Garden Vegetable Crustless Quiche

First off, yay it's my 300th post!

OK. So we don't really celebrate Easter other than dyeing eggs and eating candy, so for our "Easter dinner" I decided to make this pseudo-quiche from the September 2006 issue of Cooking Light. I've always heard great things about it, especially about how versatile the recipe is. You can add pretty much any vegetable to it. That turned out to be extremely helpful for us.

I forgot to buy zucchini at the store. I didn't buy mushrooms, and I planned to substitute some canned corn for them. However, our can-opener just broke a couple days ago, and I forgot to get a new one. So no corn. To compensate, I threw in some extra potatoes and some frozen peas. It still turned out awesome! We loved it. We will definitely make it again, especially since it really has proven to be adaptable.

Garden Vegetable Crustless Quiche
1 1/2 cups egg substitute
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extrasharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (16-ounce) carton fat-free cottage cheese
Cooking spray
4 cups sliced zucchini (about 4)
2 cups diced potato with onion (such as Simply Potatoes)
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1)
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400°.

Beat egg substitute and eggs in a large bowl until fluffy. Add 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 3/4 cup Jack cheese, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, and cottage cheese.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add zucchini and the next 3 ingredients (through mushrooms); sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the zucchini mixture and parsley to egg mixture. Pour mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Top with the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and 3/4 cup Jack cheese. Arrange tomato slices over cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove dish from oven), and bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and set.

Yield: 10 servings

Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread

We had a huge bunch of bananas a month or two ago that started to get overripe too quickly, so I peeled them and froze them. Today we used some of them to make this banana bread. An ingenious idea, if I do say so myself. The recipe is one I've been meaning to try for several years, from the September 2003 issue of Cooking Light.

Usually I sub real eggs for egg substitute, but I had Egg-Beaters on hand for dinner tonight so I went ahead and used those in this recipe. I used milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, but other than that followed the recipe exactly. It turned out awesome!!! It tastes so yummy. It's interesting to have the traditional banana bread and then have a tasty chocolatey addition. The crust is a little chewier than traditional banana breads, and I think that has a lot to do with the egg substitute. But it is great. We would definitely make this again.

Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread
Chocolate and bananas are a natural pair. Toast and top with a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add banana, egg substitute, and yogurt; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.

Place chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly. Add 1 cup batter to chocolate, stirring until well combined. Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Swirl batters together using a knife. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Yield: 1 loaf


Friday, April 06, 2007

Sesame-Soy Cashews with Wasabi Peas and Nori

In November, we were gifted a very large amount of cashews. Those cashews, though eaten here and there, have been in our pantry ever since. Today I decided to do something about that.

I used all of them to make this snack mix from an issue of Martha Stewart Living. Since I already had nori (dried seaweed sheets, the kind that wrap sushi), I picked up some wasabi peas from GrandMart and was all set. This came together very quickly! It only took 20 minutes to cook thoroughly, instead of 40, but that might be because I halved the recipe and only used one pan. If you make it, you might want to check up and decide on your own when it is done. We thought it was very tasty. I would make this again if I were having an Asian-themed dinner party. It's a good snack!

Sesame-Soy Cashews with Wasabi Peas and Nori

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp sake (Note: I did not use this)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
3/4 tsp ground ginger
4 cups roasted, unsalted cashews (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 sheet toasted nori
2 cups wasabi peas

1. Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, sake, sesame oil, and fresh and ground ginger. Add cashews and sesame seeds, and toss until well coated.

2. Spread out nut mixture evenly on two baking sheets lined with Silpat baking mats. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until glaze turns golden brown and is almost dry, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool about 20 minutes.

3. Break nut mixture into clusters, and place in a large bowl. Using kitchen scissors, cut nori into 3/4 inch wide strips; add to bowl along with wasabi peas. Mixture can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

Kinder Happy Hippos

For those of you who have been reading this for awhile (all, like, 2 of you), you may remember in August when I did a snack-swap with an Internet pal in Wales. I sent him a box full of American goodies, and he sent me a box full of Welsh treats. Among those treats, my favorites were the Kinder Happy Hippos.

Picture stolen from Google Image Search

Kinder Happy Hippos are one of the greatest treats in the world, yet elusive in the Maryland area. Maybe World Market sometimes carries them, but I've never seen them there. They're made by Ferrerro, the same geniuses who created Ferrerro Rocher candies. Basically they are little hippo-shaped crispy wafers filled with vanilla cream and either hazelnut or chocolate cream. I have only had the chocolate cream, but I love it a lot.

Anyway. What is the point of discussing these tasty snackies today? Well, yesterday, as a gift, my wonderful boyfriend bought me FIVE (5) boxes of Happy Hippos off of some European grocer on Amazon. I am so happy. He is the best boyfriend in the entire world.

Thank you, Gibby! <3

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thai Tomato Soup

Today I had to get some dental work done and was not sure if the novocaine or soreness would have dissipated by dinner time, so I planned for us to have some soup. But I ended up being a-okay by dinner time so we had some grilled cheese sandwiches in addition.

The soup is a super-spicy take on tomato soup. We loved it, because we love our sriracha sauce. I got lazy with my immersion blender and didn't puree it the whole way, so it was still chunky, but it was very good. We liked the addition of coconut milk. And, an added plus is that it is quick to make. The note also says it can be made ahead of time, which will be helpful in the coming semesters when my schedule gets all hectic. We will make this again sometime.

Thai Tomato Soup
From Cooking Light, March 2005, recipe by Didi Emmons (queen of vegetarian cooking!)

This soup goes well with each of our suggested menus, but it's also great with grilled cheese sandwiches. It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and is made with pantry ingredients so you can enjoy it on the spur of the moment. Cook the soup up to two days before serving, and refrigerate it in an airtight container. Before serving, reheat gently over medium heat.

1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups water
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light coconut milk
6 lime wedges

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, chile paste, and salt. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.

Place one-half of tomato mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed tomato mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining tomato mixture. Return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in coconut milk; cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with lime wedges.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sushi-Roll Rice Salad

We've been eating a lot of sushi lately so I thought it might be fun to try this salad from the July 2002 issue of Gourmet. I've had this recipe forever. It was one of the first recipes I really started collecting. It was fun to finally get around to making it.

It was easy and it was tasty. It's basically just a deconstructed vegetable sushi roll. Pretend you're eating a piece of sushi, and you drop it accidentally and it falls apart on the plate. That's what this salad is. It's definitely good and tastes just like sushi, but it kind of made us wish we'd just actually made sushi.

I omitted the pickled ginger, because I hate it, and the scallions, because the ones at the grocery store looked awful. We had this meal with some edamame and mandarin oranges on the side.

Sushi-Roll Rice Salad
1 1/2 cups short-grain sushi rice
1 3/4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium carrot
1 1/4 teaspoons wasabi paste (Japanese horseradish paste)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 large seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped), peeled, halved lengthwise, cored, and chopped (1 cup)
3 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
3 tablespoons drained sliced Japanese pickled ginger, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 firm-ripe California avocado
8 fresh shiso leaves (optional)
1 (6-inch) square toasted nori (dried laver), cut into very thin strips with scissors

Rinse rice in several changes of cold water in a bowl until water is almost clear, then drain in a colander 30 minutes.

Bring rice and 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, then simmer, covered, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let rice stand, covered, 10 minutes (do not lift lid).

While rice is standing, bring vinegar, sugar, and salt just to a boil in a very small saucepan, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved, then cool 2 minutes.

Spread rice in a large shallow baking pan, then sprinkle with vinegar mixture and toss with a wooden spoon.

Shave thin lengthwise slices from carrot with a vegetable peeler, then cut slices diagonally into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

Whisk together wasabi, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons water, and oil in a bowl, then add rice, carrot, cucumber, scallions, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds and toss gently.

Halve, pit, and peel avocado and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange 2 shiso leaves (if using) on each of 4 plates. Top with avocado and rice mixture and sprinkle with nori strips.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, April 02, 2007

Avocado and Cheddar Sandwiches

We salvaged the hard-drive from my laptop and hooked it up to Gibby's computer, so now I can access all my wonderful files again! Yaaaaay! So my recipe collection has returned. Hoorah!

Tonight we made a sandwich that I saw as a little blurb in an issue of Woman's Day magazine. It's really just a list of ingredients so you can use as much or as little as you want. For example, Gibby had extra mayo and he did not have tomato. We were big fans of this sandwich. It is hard to find a good vegetarian sandwich that doesn't just feel like a bunch of vegetables stuffed between bread (which technically this is, but it doesn't seem like it). We will definitely make this again. I will also make it for lunches sometime.

Avocado and Cheddar Sandwiches
Sandwich sliced tomato, avocado, Cheddar cheese, red onion, and alfalfa sprouts between slices of whole-grain bread spread with chipotle mayonnaise.

Lauren's note: To make the chipotle mayo, take a canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce and mix it into some mayonnaise. You can also buy it at the store.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Chewy

We are both fans of the chewy, delicious chocolate chip cookies at Subway. Though I am a traditionalist and do love the Nestle Tollhouse version, we decided to experiment with a recipe touted as being chewy and delicious - much like our beloved Subway cookie. This recipe, The Chewy, comes from an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown. It uses bread flour instead of all-purpose, and an abundance of brown sugar. The dough is very doughy (terrible description, I know) and does not spread when you bake it, so make sure you shape the cookies nicely! They came out very puffed and round. But they certainly were soft and chewy and tasted just like the ones at Subway. We LOVE these cookies. I will definitely make them again.

The Chewy
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact) (Note: I used a spoon)
Parchment paper (Note: This helped them not to stick, but may not be necessary)
Baking sheets

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Picture of our cookies:

Marinara Magnifica

I had some leftover red wine (thanks, Ashley!) so we decided to try out this pasta sauce from the May 2004 issue of Cooking Light. We didn't make any changes, other than halving the recipe (and still having tons leftover to freeze), and adding extra red pepper. It was very tasty! We agreed that even though it took a long time to cook (3 hours!) it was worth it. We would make this again (after we finish the leftovers), as long as we had some extra red wine laying around. I don't think we would go out and buy wine specifically for this sauce.

Marinara Magnifica
Dry red wine intensifies the well-blended flavors in this lusciously seasoned tomato sauce--magnifico! Serve over your favorite pasta.

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion and sugar. Cook 30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 9 cups

Photo added November 9, 2008: