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.


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?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hawaiian Chicken Fajitas

My sister and her husband Brian came into town this weekend and stayed with me while they visited his parents who were also in town from Virginia. We had a great weekend, going out to Matt's El Rancho, my sister came to my tennis match, we watched the game at the renovated Plucker's on Rio Grande (go Longhorns!), went out for beers at Lil Woodrows and brunch at Taverna. I couldn't let them stay with me for a whole weekend without cooking, so we made Hawaiian Chicken Fajitas, similar to the Hawaiian Hamburgers I've posted about in the past.

Hawaiian Chicken Fajitas

2 red peppers

1 red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 pounds fajita meat
1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into disks

For serving
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese
Sliced avocado
Pineapple teryaki glaze

Start by slicing vegetables into strips. Toss in olive oil and seasonings and place in a large sheet of heavy duty foil. Grill about 20 minutes until soft. Remove and keep covered.

Next grill chicken about 20 minutes, or until juices run clear. While chicken cooks, grill pineapple on other half of the grill, charring each side.

To prepare glaze, Simmer 6 ounces pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and orange zest about 20 minutes until reduced.

It was fun cooking with my sis and of course having the help of the boys on the grill. A great family feast!

Smoked Cheddar 2 Ways

My roommates and I love fondue and try to have little fondue parties a few times each year. This year was no different as we celebrated our friend Bart's birthday. Our absolute favorite fondue recipe features smoked cheddar and hard apple cider. I sent Christine to the store to get the ingredients, and in her excitement she bought them out of smoked cheddar. I had a block leftover after fondue night, so I figured it was only proper to make a recipe featuring the smoked cheddar since it's so popular in our house. So this post, you'll get smoked cheddar, 2 ways!

Smoky Cheddar and Apple Cider Fondue
From Fondue; Great Food to Dip, Dunk, Savor and Swirl by Rick Rodgers

1 cup hard apple cider
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 pound smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (about 6 cups)
3 tablespoons high-quality apple butter
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cider and lemon juice over medium heat until barely simmering.

In a medium bowl, toss the cheese with the cornstarch. A handful at a time, stir the cheese into the saucepan, stirring the first batch until melted before adding another. Stir in the apple butter and season with the nutmeg and pepper.

Transfer to a cheese fondue pot and keep warm over a fondue burner. I served this with sausage, crusty bread and apple slices.

Take 2:

Smoked Cheddar and Bacon Pizza

12 slices bacon (I used hickory-smoked)
1 cup grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pizza crusts
1 cup tomato sauce
3 cups smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (I wanted to use smoked mozzarella, but my store didn't have it)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Cook in skillet until almost crisp, about 10 minutes. While crisping bacon, place tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven about 10-15 minutes, until almost bursting.

While bacon and tomatoes cook, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on each pizza crust. Sprinkle each crust with 1 1/4 cup smoked cheddar and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Once bacon and tomatoes on done, distribute evenly over each pizza and top each with remaining cheese. Bake in the 450 degree oven about 8 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is warm.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pumpkin Month: Part 1

Well it's October, and as you've seen from my previous post, I LOVE fall. Besides the fabulous weather and getting to wear some long sleeved clothes and new colors (though let's be honest, it won't be cool in Texas for a few more months!), the best part is the fall food. I absolutely love pumpkins so I've decided to make this the month of the pumpkin in my house. That being said, I've challenged myself to purchase a pumpkin a week to enjoy as decoration and then carve up and use in a recipe.

For week one, I purchased a cute little sugar pie pumpkin, which I'd heard are great for cooking. Surprisingly enough, this guy produced about 2 cups of pumpkin puree. I was a little nervous about my first pumpkin carving (that didn't involve making faces!) so while it took a little time and muscle, the result was homemade pumpkin bliss.

I actually found a great pumpkin cookbook (A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Seibert Pappas) at Williams Sonoma last weekend, which is where I got my recipe for week 1 of pumpkin month: Orange-Frosted Pumpkin Muffins.

Orange-Frosted Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup pumpkin puree, homemade**
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup golden raisins

Orange Frosting:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon thawed orange juice concentrate (I used fresh orange juice)

**To make homemade pumpkin puree, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut open pumpkin lengthwise and scoop out seeds and membrane. Then cut into slices and peel off skin. Cut into 1 inch pieces and bake in a greased baking dish about 45 minutes to an hour. Cool briefly then pulse in a food processor until desired consistency is reached.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat until creamy. Add the pumpkin and eggs and beat until smooth. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture along with the raisins and mix just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim, and smooth the tops. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, then turn the muffins out and let cool completely in their liners on the rack.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a small bowl, beat together the confectioners' sugar, butter and orange juice. Spread over the cooled muffins. Decorate with the dried fruit, chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles as you like. Serve at room temperature.

These turned out moist and refreshing, a great dessert or even breakfast (great way to start out a Monday with a pumpkin spice latte!)

Be on the lookout for the next pumpkin creation. What's your favorite use of pumpkin?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumnal Feast

I'm a sucker for fall, so ever since the calendar turned to October, I've been dying to make a seasonal feast. The roommates and I were talking about pork chops, and then the Cooking Light October 2008 cover recipe caught my eye, so I decided to recreate Walnut-Crusted Pork Chops with Autumn Vegetable Wild Rice.


4 (8-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops, trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup walnuts, finely ground
1 bacon slice
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Cooking spray
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 teaspoons diced seeded jalapeƱo pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups finely trimmed chopped Swiss chard
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. To prepare pork, place chops in a shallow dish; drizzle evenly with Worcestershire. Combine salt, sage, and black pepper in a small bowl. Reserve 3/4 teaspoon salt mixture. Add walnuts to remaining salt mixture; toss well. Press walnut mixture onto both sides of pork chops. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Cook bacon slice in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add pork chops to drippings in pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 6 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan.

3. To prepare rice, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through garlic) to pan; cover and cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in reserved 3/4 teaspoon salt mixture, chard, mushrooms, and apple. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until carrot is tender. Stir in rice and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a simmer; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in bacon. Place 1 cup rice mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 pork chop. Drizzle each serving with pan drippings, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon parsley.

I actually followed the recipe to the T, and it was delicious! I served it with some mashed sweet potatoes. Just a year ago I didn't really care for sweet potatoes, but I've changed my tune. This was a simple recipe that's mostly sweet with just a bit of salt to balance it out.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes for an hour. While still warm, peel and mash potatoes. Add butter and warmed milk and beat until smooth. Add in brown sugar and salt and serve!