Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was a Dutch oven from my mom, so naturally the first thing I did when I got back to Austin was make pulled pork. I also used the leftover mashed potatoes (we had a ton!) to make a potato salad- delish!
Pulled Pork
Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Pulled Pork
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 pound pork butt, trimmed of fat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
Hamburger buns
For the sauce, combine all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the pork, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium high heat. Rub the pork with salt and pepper and then place in oven. Brown on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add onion and 1 cup barbecue sauce, reduce heat to low and cover. Turn pork about every 30 minutes, cooking for about 4 hours total (longer if desired). Remove pork from heat and pull into bite-sized pieces. Toss with extra 1/2 cup barbecue sauce and. Serve on a hamburger bun with extra sauce as desired and cole slaw, recipe listed below.
Simple Cole Slaw
4 cups coleslaw mix (found in the produce pre-cut veggie section)
1/2 to 3/4 cup light mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. Excellent on sandwich or as a side dish.
Mashed Potato Salad
3 cups mashed potatoes (mine were herbed mashed potatoes)
1/2 cup light mayo
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1/4 cup diced pickles
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and enjoy! Go light on the salt and pepper at first, since the mashed potatoes will have already been seasoned if you're using leftovers.

Spicy Turkey Peanut Stir-fry

In an effort to use up Christmas leftovers, my next few posts will all feature fun leftovers meals. These are all new recipes for me, and they're quite tasty! Enjoy!
Spicy Turkey Peanut Stir-fry

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 poblano pepper, cut into thin strips
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 tablespoon chili paste
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons chicken or turkey broth
1 cup cooked turkey (I used breast meat)
4 cups swiss chard
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet, add onion and garlic and saute about 2 or 3 minutes. Add all peppers and carrots and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chili paste, peanut butter, lime and broth and reduce, about 2 minutes. Stir in turkey to heat through and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Stir in chard until wilted, about 2 minutes. Finally, top with peanuts and enjoy!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays From My Kitchen to Yours

Tis the season to celebrate with your friends and loved ones. No matter what you celebrate or who you celebrate with, I hope you are happy and healthy! Here are a few ways that I celebrated the holidays this year:
Early "Christmas morning" with the roommates which consisted of a traditional Lehfeld family breakfast and a traditional Noteware breakfast, a secret santa gift exchange and of course, mimosas!












Decorating a gingerbread house with my sister. This is a lot tougher than I remember! It looks like a 6 year old made it, but we had so much fun doing it (and didn't even eat the gumdrops!) Too bad there were no soda cans to support the walls while the icing dried, so we resorted to beer :)









Presents! Need I say more?

Games and wine- if you know me or any of my family members, this is quite fitting :)
A delicious dinner. It was so much fun cooking and having help from all the family members- I love a good Christmas feast!

Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

I've recently discovered my affinity for olives and have therefore started to include them more in my meals. I'm in Kingwood this week celebrating Christmas with my family, and since we usually eat out a lot whenever I come in town, I thought it might be a treat to cook dinner for them. We usually have a good bit of wine around, so I thought a Mediterranean pasta with a wine sauce would be the perfect thing.
Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup artichoke hearts
1/2 cup pitted olives
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cherry tomatoes
8 ounces fettuccini
4 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese

Cut chicken breasts into pieces and sprinkle with herbs. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium heat and add oil. Cook chicken breasts until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Add onion and garlic and sautee about 3 minutes. Stir in artichoke hearts and olives and cook addition 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, salt and pepper and tomatoes, cover, reduce heat and let simmer about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water until boiling. Salt well and add fettuccini, cook until al dente. Drain and reserve.

When chicken mixture is done simmering, stir in spinach to wilt, about 2 minutes. Then divide fettuccini evenly among 4 plates, top with chicken mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Enjoy!
My mom and sister loved it :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies

I wanted to make something tasty for my friends and coworkers for Christmas, but I wasn't sure what. I stumbled across this delicious looking brownie recipe on Our Best Bites and decided to try it out-- so good!

Peppermint Candy Cane Brownies

Brownies:

4 squares unsweetened chocolate (4oz)
1 C butter (2 sticks)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1t vanilla
1 1/4 C flour
1/2 t baking powder

Frosting:

2 C powdered sugar
4 T butter, softened
1 1/2 t peppermint extract
1 T milk
Pink food coloring

Chocolate Glaze:
6 oz (about a cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips ,you could also use dark
6T real butter

Additional:

1/2-1 C crushed candy canes (Use Bob's NOT Spanglers!)

First, the Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The chocolate you want is baking chocolate, which is sold in bars by the chocolate chips. Make sure it is unsweetened. Give those squares a rough chop so they'll be easier to melt.Then place them in a microwave-safe bowl along with the 2 sticks of butter (also chopped).

Melt in 30-45 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a stand mixer or with electric beaters, beat eggs for about 3 minutes until thick and frothy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat to combine. Then add in the melted chocolate and butter that you set aside. Combine flour and baking powder and whisk into brownie batter by hand until just combined. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. If you want to make the job much easier, line your pan with foil first.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness and don't over bake! When brownies are done, cool on a cooling rack. When completely cool, pop in the fridge to chill. (makes the frosting spreading easier)

Next layer is the frosting
:
Combine all frosting ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. Add extra milk by teaspoonful if you need a little more. Spread evenly over cooled/chilled brownies and place back in the fridge to chill again while you do the final step.

Chocolate Glaze:
Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and cook in 30 second intervals until smooth.

Set aside for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, so it can cool off just a bit. Quickly spread on top of brownies.

Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and return to the fridge until chocolate is set on top.

Remove from fridge a few minutes before serving. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Shrimp Skewers with Sauteed Veggies and Southwestern Wontons

A few weeks ago for our office Christmas party we did a cooking class at Whole Foods which turned out to be a lot of fun! We did a world cooking class and made dishes from six different countries. I was in charge of Mexco and made these delicious sirloin kebabs, which inspired my shrimp kebabs for this evening.

The previous night, I had prepared a dessert using won ton wrappers and had some left along with corn kernels, so I thought it would be fun to do a southwestern won ton appetizer- there were some fun flavors in there, though I may tweak the recipe a bit, so be on the lookout for a revised version soon!

Finally, I thought some sauteed fruit and veggies with a pineapple soy sauce would be the perfect side dish in a bed of rice for this tropical winter treat.

Chipotle Lime Shrimp Kebabs

2 chipotles in adobo
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from chipotle in adobo can
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp, deveined and tails off

Finely chop the chipotles and then mix in a bowl with all other ingredients. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, soak 6 wooden skewers in water to prevent scorching while cooking.

Preheat a grill pan on medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Thread 3 to 4 shrimps on each skewer and cook about 3 minutes on each side.

Sauteed Fruits and Veggies with Pineapple Soy Sauce

1 (6 ounce) can pineapple juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Zest and juice from 1/2 orange
1 orange bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups 1-inch pineapple chunks

Preheat a saucepan on medium high heat and combine first four ingredients. Once simmering, reduce heat and cook about 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened. While sauce is thickening, heat a large non-stick skillet on medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add remaining ingredients and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

To serve, place vegetables on a bed on white rice and drizzle with pineapple soy sauce.

Southwestern Won Ton Bites

12 medium won ton skins
4 ounces corn kernels
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 (4 ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 roma tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray and place won ton skins in the tin. Heat a skillet on medium and spray with cooking spray. Roast corn, onion and bell pepper for about 5 minutes. Remove and place in a bowl. Mix in cream cheese and salt and pepper and divide equally among won ton skins. Bake about 15 minutes until skins begin to brown. Remove and top with tomato and avocado pieces and then top with cilantro. Enjoy!

Tamales with Mexican Rice

I didn't grow up eating tamales, so I've always been intrigued by them. My friend Ivette raves about them and had been on a quest to find good, homemade tamales for a reasonable price. She found a random lady selling 7 dozen for $7 a dozen, so I ordered a dozen of half chicken and half pork. They were delicious! I plan on buying some more next time she makes an order and making omelette's out of them, much like El Arroyo.

To go with them I wanted to make Mexican rice and a salad to lighten things up. One of my favorite bloggers to read is Ben from What's Cooking, so I took his recipe for Mexican Rice- it turned out great, so thanks Ben!

Mexican Rice

Vegetable oil
1 ½ cups of rice
2-3 Roma tomatoes
½ small onion
2 garlic cloves
chicken broth if necessary
1 small can of mixed vegetables
salt


In a deep saucepan heat about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium fire.
When the oil has thinned add the rice and let it fried until it gets light brown. Stir constantly so it browns evenly. This step is very important to avoid the rice to stick when cooked.

In a blender mix tomatoes, onion and garlic with some chicken broth until well blended. The secret to perfect
rice is to double the liquid of the amount of rice. This means that for 1 ½ cups of rice we will need 3 cups of liquid. Make sure that you have 3 cups of liquefied tomato mix on your blender.

When the rice is light brown mix it with canned vegetables, tomato mix and salt to taste.
Stir and bring it to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and cover. Let it cook for about 15 minutes.

Here’s another tricky part to avoid the rice to break and stick.
You don’t want to stir constantly but not stirring at all will cause the rice to stick and burn at the bottom of the pan so stir lightly every 5 minutes making sure the rice is not sticking to the bottom.

When the water is almost absorbed stir more constantly but always lightly.

Cilantro Poblano Salad

1 poblano pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 bunches cilantro
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 bag romaine hearts
1 package cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted corn kernels
1 avocado

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast pepper for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Let cool, then halve and remove stem and seeds. Add garlic and pine nuts to a food processor and pulse. Add pepper and pulse again. Add cilantro, 1/4 olive oil, salt and pepper and lime juice and pulse until smooth. Whisk together 2 tablespoons with remaining olive oil and set aside. Toss lettuce tomatoes, corn and avocado with dressing and serve.


I like this salad because I had made the pesto a couple days before for some breakfast tacos I had prepared, so this was a great way to finish it off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Best Green Beans Ever


Before you get confused, this is not Apron. She's making me muffins right now, and I've confiscated her computer so I can blog about green beans. By the way, this is Roommate Daba, and this recipe is a concoction that my mom and I adapted from a most delicious entry in the most delicious cookbook called Stop and Smell the Rosemary. And, I tend to go overboard on onion and garlic, so use your own discretion on that!



Best Green Beans Ever


4 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup minced white onion

1/4 cup fresh basil chiffonade

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

3 0r 4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt
1 lb. green beans, snapped and blanched

Melt butter in large skillet and add onion. Saute until soft on medium heat. Add basil, rosemary, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Stir in beans. Cook uncovered until beans are thoroughly heated. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve, and enjoy!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Something that I've really come to enjoy the past few years that I wasn't really exposed to as a child is hummus. Somehow, I've managed to never attempt making it, even though hummus is actually quite simple. I decided to make a roasted red pepper one since that is the first hummus I ever had. Of course there are a hundred

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2 red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 15-ounce can chick peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the bell peppers on a foil-lined baking sheets and roast about 20 minutes, turning every few minutes. During last 3 minutes of cooking, toss garlic cloves on sheet to lightly roast. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove stem and seeds from bell pepper and place in food processor with garlic; pulse. Add in chick peas and pulse until smooth. Add lemon juice and olive oil as needed (about 1/4 cup) and season with salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. I served this with warm sliced pita, carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

My friend Karen was visiting so I made her my test subject. She approved!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Blog: Thanksgiving Lefse

Hello Apron Adventurers! Lindsay was nice enough to ask me to write up a post about the traditional Made lefse for thanksgivingNorwegian flat bread I contributed to our duplex thanksgiving this year, so here it is kids. Enjoy!

Part of my family's tradition for both thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for about as long as I can remember has been the making and eating of Lefse. Lefse originates in Norway, and is about the only thing I can show for my 1/16th Norwegian heritage, but this was the first year I've ever attempted to make it alone. It turned out to be pretty easy, but does take a good amount of time and some special equipment.


Ingredients:
  • 13 cups mashed potatoes (no lumps)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs thick cream
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup flour
Yield: 10-12 lefse.
20lb of
potatoes yields roughly 10 and a half batches (we like to think big).

You will also need:
  • lefse stick. A wooden stick thats flat enough to slide under a lefse and about 3/4" wide, used for moving the dough from the rolling surface to the griddle.
  • lefse rolling pin. I've never seen these used for anything else, its a regular rolling pin with grooves cut laterally down the side. Luckily my mom had a spare.
  • Pastry Cloth. Its hard to find these, but it can be done. I made mine from a thick cotton canvas pulled tight across a flat, heavy piece of wood (just like my grandma used to). You need it to be at least as big as your griddle, and the more room the better.
Boil and mash the potatoes, mixing in the cream, butter, and salt. This can be done all at once if making multiple batches. Place the mixture in the fridge to cool. You can keep it like this overnight, but I'd throw some saran wrap on it in that case. Once the potatoes are cold, heat up your handy lefse griddle to about 475 degrees, and rub flour into your pastry cloth. One batch at a time, add the 1 cup of flour to the potatoes, and make into small fist-sized balls. To keep them as cold as possible, return them to the fridge, taking out one ball at a time. Roll each ball into as thin a lefse as possible before it starts sticking to the pin. This is the tricky part. Cold dough minimizes stickiness, and frequently rubbing the pin and cloth in flour helps as well. In order to transfer the lefse from the pastry board, start from one end and roll it up around the lefse stick, unrolling it on to the griddle.flour everywhere It should cook for about 1 minute a side, enough for golden brown spots to begin to form. When done, place between two moist towels, flipping the pile occasionally.

And there you have it! I made 10 pounds of potatoes, and between snacking while cooking, and our 30 guests at thanksgiving, only 3 lefse were left over, so it looks like I'll have to do it again for Christmas since I had none left to freeze. We typically serve lefse warm or at room temperature (it cools fast...) with butter, with butter and brown sugar, or just plain. I usually roll it up and eat about half a lefse at a time, depending on the size. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Ha Det!

Grilled Sandwiches: 2 Ways

As the weather gets even colder, I keep wanting warm comfort food. I love sandwiches, but when you add the hot element, it instantly elevates a sandwich in my mind. The Monte Cristo sandwich I made because we were having a game night. I wanted something delicious and warm, but also kind of fun. I wanted to add my own spin, so I added bacon, because I had it, and I also didn't want just the traditional jam, so I turned it into a cream sauce.

The grilled cheese came about becau
se, well, I had a lot of bread I needed to use. Also, I had made a delicious chicken, onion and red pepper soup the night before and plenty of leftovers, so a warm grilled cheese sandwich was the perfect companion.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches with Grape Dipping Sauce

Monte Cristo

8 slices bread, I used Earth Grains Whole Wheat
4 slices turkey deli meat

4 slices ham deli meat

4 slices cooked bacon
4 slices Jarlsberg cheese
1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk

Grape Dipping Sauce
1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grape jam
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet on medium heat, sprayed with cooking spray. Assemble sandwiches by putting 1 piece of turkey, ham, bacon (halved) and cheese in between the bread. In a shallow dish, combine egg and milk. Dunk sandwich in egg mixture on each side and add to skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes on one side, flip, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, until bread has a nice brown color and cheese is melting.

Meanwhile, heat a medium saucepan on medium low heat. Melt butter, and then
whisk in flour. Let cook about 1 minute. Whisk in heavy cream and let heat about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in grape jam and salt and pepper. Serve in a small condiment dish next to sandwiches.

I served this with a great light salad. It was simply spinach, halved grapes, bacon and toasted almonds drizzled with my sweet onion poppyseed dressing I love so much.
Delicious!

Grilled Cheese with Spicy Cilantro Pesto


Pesto

3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

2 cloves garlic

1/2 jalapeno, halved and seeded

1 bunch cilantro (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Olive oil as needed, about 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper to taste

Sandwich

8 pieces bread

2 tablespoons butter, softened

8 slices colby jack cheese

4 ounces Manchego cheese, shredded

1 tomato, sliced

1/2 cup cilantro pesto

1 avocado


For the pesto, add pine nuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add in jalapeno and pulse again. Add in cilantro and cheese and pulse until combined. With motor running, stream in olive oil until it reaches a desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the sandwiches, Preheat a large skillet on medium heat, sprayed with cooking spray. Butter one side of each piece of bread. Spread a thin layer of cilantro pesto on the other side of each piece of bread. Layer sandwiches in this order: 1 piece bread (butter side down), 1 slice colby jack cheese, a sprinkle of Manchego cheese, 1 slice tomato, 1 slice colby jack, other slice bread (butter side up). Add to skillet and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, until bread is nicely browned and cheese is melting.


While sandwiches are cooking, halve avocados and cut into slices. When sandwiches are done, slice on the diagonal and place an avocado piece on each half, secured with a toothpick. Enjoy with a nice warm soup!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Pecan Crusted Salmon with Honey Glazed Carrots and Stuffed Squash

Sometimes I go through phases where I cook certain proteins more than others. I realized I hadn't picked up a nice piece of salmon lately, so that was the order of the day. I realize I've been using pecans a lot lately, and I'm not quite ready to shake that, so here's another delicious dish featuring pecans in 2 ways.

Sweet Pecan Crusted Salmon

2 pounds salmon, skin removed
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup crushed pecans
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place salmon on an oven-safe skillet. Combine honey and lemon juice in a microwave-safe glass and heat for 20 seconds on high. Stir and brush onto one side of salmon. Combine crushed pecans, rosemary and salt and pepper in a bowl. Press onto salmon skin. Cook 12-15 minutes, or until done.

Honey Glazed Carrots

1 pound baby carrots
1/2 cup honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large pot of water to boil. Add carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and mix in honey and salt and pepper. Let heat another minute or so, until honey has melted.

Stuffed Squash

3 yellow and/or zucchini squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup sage derby cheese, shredded
1/3 cup crushed pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp and reserve. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat and drizzle in oil. Add garlic and onion and saute about 3 minutes. While that cooks chop reserved squash pulp. Add pulp to garlic and onion mixture and saute another 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place 6 squash halves on a baking sheet. Divide pulp mixture up evenly and place into emptied squash. Sprinkle with cheese, pecans and salt and pepper. Cook 40 to 45 minutes, or until cheese is melted and pecans are toasted.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Power Pasta

I play a lot of tennis on week nights after work, so when I get back at 8 or 9 I'm usually starving! I can't bring myself to pick up something even on those days though, so I like to throw together a quick pasta with lots of veggies to fill me up. Try this vegetarian Power Pasta next time you need to fuel up!

Power Pasta

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red onion, diced
1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped
1 green bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut in strips

1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut in strips

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


Boil a pot of water and cook spaghetti until al dente; drain and set aside. While pasta cooks, heat a large non stick skillet on medium heat. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil then add garlic and onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, bell pepper and cook another 5 minutes.


Place spaghetti and cooked veggies in a large bowl. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parmesan and salt and pepper and toss to coat. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grilled Pork Chops with Grape, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad and Green Beans

Central Market has the BEST grapes right now which are seedless, huge and juicy. I decided to base my meal off this and make a simple, tasty side featuring grapes, pecans and blue cheese. Paired with pork chops and some almond green beans, it was a nice, colorful, complete meal.

Pork Chops with Greek Vinaigrette


4 6-ounce pork sirloin chops

1 cup Greek vinaigrette,
divided
Salt and pepper to taste


Place pork chops in a large baggie with 3/4 cup vinaigrette. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. Heat a large grill pan and spray with cooking spray. Place pork chops on pan and season with salt and pepper. Grill about 6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
Top with remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Grape, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad


3 cups red seedless grapes

1 cup pecans

1 4-ounce container blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and chill. Enjoy!


Almond Green Beans


1 bag microwave-ready green beans

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Microwave green beans for 3 minutes. While green beans are cook
ing, heat a large non stick skillet on medium heat and drizzle in olive oil Add green beans to pan with almonds, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Saute about 5 minutes and serve.


Yummy Chicken Salad

I've always had a weak spot for chicken spot for chicken salad, but I rarely make it at home. The great thing about chicken salad is that there are a million different ways to make it. I like this version because there's tons of flavor and texture, but the ingredient list is short. Enjoy!

Yummy Chicken Salad


1 pound chicken breast, roasted

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup light mayo
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

6 pitas, halved


Shred roasted chicken and combine in bowl with salt and pepper, pecans, cranberries, mayo, vinegar and rosemary. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Warm pitas in oven for a couple minutes, then stuff with chicken salad. Dig in!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Italian Turkey Burgers with Zucchini Chips

I think I've mentioned before that burgers are one of my favorite foods. I of course love the classic cheeseburger, but I also love experimenting with different meats, toppings and buns. By incorporating lower fat meats, whole grain wheat and vegetables into my burgers, I can enjoy them more often than if I always went for the greasy cheeseburger (not that they don't have their place in my diet!)

The zucchini chips were my own play on fried zucchini. I wasn't sure how well the Italian dressing would work as a binding agent, so I tried cooking them 2 ways. I think baking kept the breading more in tact, but the skillet method browned the bread crumbs better.


Italian Turkey Burgers
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 sun dried tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup Italian dressing
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasonings
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices mozzarella cheese
8 whole wheat kaiser rolls
1 tomato, cut into 8 slices
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into strips

Spray a skillet or grill pan with cooking spray and heat on medium heat. Combine first 9 ingredients (through salt and pepper) in a large bowl; shape into 8 patties. Place 4 patties on the grill pan and place remaining ones in the fridge. Grill about 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through. During last minute of cooking, add 1 mozzarella slice on each patty and place a sheet of foil over the pan in order to slightly melt the cheese.

While burgers are cooking, toast the buns about 2 minutes. Place one patty on each bun and top with tomato, fresh basil and additional Italian dressing if desired. Enjoy!

Zucchini Chips
1/2 cup olive oil
4 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick discs
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste


Baking method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place dressing in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, lemon and seasonings in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini discs in dressing and toss to coat. Next drench each zucchini disc in bread crumb mixture to coat well. Place zucchini in the baking dish and bake about 20 minutes.

Skillet method: Heat a large non stick skillet on medium heat and add oil. Follow same breading process as baking method, and then add zucchini discs to skillet. Cook about 3 minutes and then flip and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb oil

Turkey Tenderloin with Autumnal Rice and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

I really can't kick the fall bug, so I keep indulging in tasty seasonal delights. I decided on Sunday that while I was at the vineyard I'd make something yummy in the crockpot since I use it so rarely. Unfortunately, I decided this when I was at the store 2 hours before I was going to leave, so I had to think on my toes. I spotted turkey tenderloin and was intrigued. It turned out to be quite light and tasty, perfect with the hearty sides I served that evening.

Turkey Tenderloin with Autumnal Rice and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes
Turkey
3 cloves garlic
1 cup onion, diced
2 pounds turkey tenderloin
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Autumnal Rice
2 cups prepared rice (I used basmati)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pistachios
1 cup roasted pumpkin, chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste

Rosemary Sweet Potatoes
3 pounds sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

For the turkey: Heat a crock pot on low heat. Combine all ingredients and let cook 4 to 5 hours. Remove chicken and slice. Serve with warmed broth mixture over it.

For the rice, cook the rice per the instructions. Combine cranberries, pistachios, pumpkin, cinnamon and salt and pepper.

*To roast pumpkin, carve pumpkin and peel off pumpkin skin. Chop into small pieces, drizzle with olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven for an hour, depending on the amount and size of pumpkin pieces.

For the sweet potatoes, pierce skins of potatoes with a fork. Roast in a 375 degree oven for an hour. Mash in an electric mixer then add butter and milk. Add salt and pepper and fresh rosemary and mix. Serve and enjoy!





Sunday, November 9, 2008

Apron Adventures at Spicewood Vineyards

This afternoon I went to Spicewood Vineyards about 40 minutes outside of Austin with some Austin foodies and what a lovely afternoon it was! I brought my friend Megan and we really enjoyed the drive out into the hill country, listening to the Twilight soundtrack :)












Organized by the Austin American-Statesman food editor Addie Broyles, about 20 foodies gathered on the porch to chat and get to know one another. Then the owner, Ron Yates, gave us tastings of all their regular wines, along with some of the signature wines. My favorites were the Chardonnay and Claret, both of which I purchased.

I wanted to make a wine-friendly snack to share with the group, so I wanted to include dried fruit and nuts. I thought about incorporating chocolate as well, but I didn't want to get too sweet. Check out my recipe for trail mix snack bars.

Trail Mix Snack Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter in an electric mixer, then add sugar, flour, baking soda and vanilla. Place pecans in a large plasic bag and crush until in small pieces. Add to flour mixture along with pistachios and cranberries. Press into the baking dish and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The First Supper

The other night I recreated the first meal that I ever made for my roommates. We'll call a trial, as they took me in from the "streets" as I squatted in friends' apartments after I accepted my full-time job. Once they had this meal (and the wine I brought over!) my spot was secured! The great thing about this meal is you can easily adjust the amount of pasta and veggies to alter the nutritional value and also the amount of servings it makes. The recipe below could serve 8, but in our house 4 hungry people could polish it off!

Creamy Tomato Pasta with Chicken and Veggies

1 pound corkscrew pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces

Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups broccoli
1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded and diced

1/2 cup Neufchatel cheese (regular cream cheese works as well, and sometimes I use an herbed goat cheese)

2 cups pasta sauce (I used a garlic and basil one)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large pot of water to boil and put in pasta.


While pasta cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet on medium high heat and warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in skillet until done, about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from heat.


When pasta is close to done, add broccoli to same pot and cook about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain both and place aside. Place cherry tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are near bursting.


In the large skillet, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and saute additional 3 minutes. Add in cheese and mix until combined. Add in tomato sauce and stir. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in pasta, broccoli and tomatoes and sprinkle parmesan on top. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Greek Chicken Salad Wraps with Feta Stuffed Tomatoes

I love an excuse to cook with feta cheese, and what better option than a Greek salad? There's several flavors and textures that go into this wrap, but it's quite simple to assemble. Paired with feta stuffed tomatoes, you get quite the Greek feast!

Greek Chicken Salad Wraps

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces spinach
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup Greek vinaigrette salad dressing
1 4-ounce container feta cheese
6 large spinach tortillas

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium heat and warm oil. Add chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. Cook until done, about 6 to 8 minutes.

In the meantime, combine spinach, cucumber, avocado, onion, tomato, vinaigrette and feta in a large bowl. Once chicken is cooked, add to bowl. Divide into 6 tortillas and fold into wraps. Serve with feta stuffed tomatoes and lemon dill rice.

Feta Stuffed Tomatoes

6 large tomatoes, tops, seeds and membrane removed; reserve membrane
3 tablespoons red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish and place tomatoes on it. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat and saute onion and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add in chopped reserved tomato membrane. Remove from heat and mix in a bowl with bread crumbs, feta and dill. Divide mixture evenly and stuff each tomato. Bake in oven about 20 minutes or until cheese is melting and bread crumbs are toasted.

For the rice, combine 2 cups prepared rice with 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Salmon with Maple Balsamic Reduction and Trail Mix Salad

I got back from a trip to D.C. for work this weekend. It was a really great trip and the event went so well. Luckily, we had some time to enjoy the food scene in D.C., which inspired Monday night's dinner. My coworker/friend Ivette that I traveled with found a really great restaurant on Saturday night called Circa in Dupont Circle. I had the best salmon with a maple syrup glaze, which inspired the salad. We also kept munching on some tasty trail mix throughout the weekend, which inspired the ingredients in the salad.

Salmon with Maple Balsamic Redu
ction and Trail Mix Salad

1 1/4 pounds salmon, skinned
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for finishing
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pecans
1 bag spring lettuce mix
1/3 cup dried cranberries (I was out, so I used raisins)

Heat a large non stick skillet on medium heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste on each side and drizzle with olive oil. Cook in skillet about 5 minutes on each side, or until it flakes. While salmon cooks, combine maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes until it reduces to 1/4 cup. Brush some of the reduction on the salmon. Remove both from heat.

To make salad, toast pecans about 5 minutes in a skillet until fragrant. Toss with greens and cranberries. Top with salmon and drizzle with reduction and additional olive oil as needed. Reserve 1 tablespoon reduction for squash.

Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Reserved maple balsamic reduction

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Half the squash and remove seeds and membrane. Place on a baking sheet cut side down and cook 30 minutes. Turn over and sprinkle with brown sugar and cook additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven, slices halves into quarters and peel off skin. Drizzles with remaining maple balsamic reduction and serve aside the salad.

A delicious fall in D.C. inspired meal!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gorgonzola Chicken with Green Beans and Potatoes

My apologies for my lack of blogging, the past two weeks have been very busy, but I promise I have a few entries up my sleeve!

This is a really great month for Gourmet magazine. Not only did they have the delicious Gorgonzola Chicken that I made last night, but there's a Pumpkin Cheese "Fondue" that I'll be trying for the next installment of pumpkin month. I had some green beans and potatoes around, so I decided to jazz up some standard sides, which paired well with the gorgonzola.


Gorgonzola Chicken Breasts

4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
1/4 pound chilled Gorgonzola dolce, sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup water

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Pat chicken dry, then cut a deep 3-inch-long pocket horizontally in long curved side of each chicken breast half. Fill each pocket with one quarter of cheese. Season chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Place chicken, skin side down, in skillet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn breasts over, then place skillet in oven and bake until just cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter.

Return skillet to burner (handle will be very hot) and add water and vinegar. Boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits and melted cheese, until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof measuring cup, then skim off excess fat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce.

Green Beans with Red Onion and Bacon
4 st
rips bacon
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed

Salt and pepper to taste

Start by preheating a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook in skillet for about 5 minutes. Add red onion and cook additional 3-4 minutes. While the mixture simmers, cook green beans. Mine happened to be in a microwavable bag, so I cooked them at full power for 3 minutes. Add green beans to skillet and toss with bacon and onions. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Garlic Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons salted butter

3 tablespoons milk, warmed

Salt and pepper to taste


Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces. Place in boiling water and cook until soft. While potatoes are cooking, heat a small skillet over medium heat and warm olive oil. Smash garlic cloves and mince and simmer in oil for 3 to 5 minutes.

Drain potatoes well and return to warm pot. Mash and add butter and milk and combine. Add garlic and salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Enjoy!



Question: What's your favorite thing to add to mashed potatoes?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pumpkin Month: Part 2

For the second segment of pumpkin month, I bought a HUGE pumpkin. I couldn't decide on my intentions for this pumpkin right away, and since it was so big, I didn't have to. I used this pumpkin 3 ways and still have puree to spare! Check out fresh pumpkin, 3 ways:

Lamb Stew with Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Cranberries


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds lamb shoulder
1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef broth

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups fresh pumpkin- cut i
nto 1 inch pieces
2 cups butternut squash- cut into 1 inch pieces

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves


Heat a large sauce pan on medium heat and drizzle in olive oil. Cut lamb into 1 inch pieces and brown in pan. Add onion and garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add wine, broth and salt and pepper to pan and lower heat. Simmer with the lid on for about 30 minutes.

Add pumpkin, butternut squas
h and seasonings and simmer with th elid on another 30 minutes. Serve warm with crusty bread.

Next up with a pumpkin coffee cake from my favorite new cookbook, A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash that I blogged about last week.

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Coffeecake

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sour cream

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Toast walnuts in a skillet about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, sour cream and pumpkin and beat with a large whisk or an electric beater until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the cranberries and 2/3 cup of the nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup nuts on top.

Bake until a toothpick inse
rted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan to room temperature, then cut into 12 rectangles.

This was a great breakfast dish with my Texas pecan coffee from Central Market :)


Finally, I still had pumpkin left and some squash from dinner, so I decided to make a side dish.

Roasted Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Apples and Raisins


3 cups fresh pumpkin, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups apple, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a greased baking dish and bake for 45 minutes. Serve with roast chicken or other main dish for a delicious autumnal meal.


Do yall have any recommendations for my leftover pumpkin puree?