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.


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,
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
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!