Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pesto Cavatappi

A few months ago I tried pesto for the first time at a local restaurant. I couldn't believe what I'd been missing out on. I love the combination of pine nuts, garlic, basil, and cheese. Here I have recreated the dish I had that day. We love it.

4 cloves of garlic
½ c pine nuts
2 c fresh basil
½ c olive oil
¼ c grated parmesan cheese
¾ t salt
½ t pepper

Combine all ingredients and puree in a food processor or blender. Add to cooked pasta. Top with grilled chicken. (I added a little extra pesto directly to the chicken as well. I also substituted whole grain pasta again, which was pretty tasty.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Venison Medallions & Wild Mushroom Risotto

Tonight I prepared dinner using some venison that my husband actually got during the last hunting season. I've been going through the freezers trying to rotate older things to the front/top, newer things behind/down. I always enjoy getting a good deal on things and stocking up...but I guess I find too many deals. (Plus, I like to cook without having to defrost...I sometimes have a hard time with that advanced preparation thing.) Both of these recipes came from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking. I changed the venison sauce from cranberry to wild mushroom because, well, I had the mushrooms for the rice and I wanted to use up the demi-glaze in the fridge.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

2/3 c dried porcini mushrooms
4 c chicken broth
2 T olive oil
2 T finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 c Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt & Pepper

Place the mushroom in a bowl with 1 1/2 c lukewarm water and let soak about 20-30 minutes. Remove mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze the mushrooms dry and chop them. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve 1/2 c for the risotto. Save the remaining for the venison sauce.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the broth. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 1 T olive oil. Add the shallot and saute until translucent - about 2 minutes. Add the reaming oil and stir in the rice. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the rice is evenly coated with the oil and the grains turn translucent at the edges, about 1 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed.

Add 1/2 cup of the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just moist. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, always waiting until the rice is just moist before adding more. After 2 cups broth have been used, add the 1/2 cup mushroom soaking liquid and the chopped mushrooms. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, resume adding the broth.

The risotto is ready when it is creamy and slightly soupy and the kernels are tender but still slightly firm at the center, about 35 minutes after the first addition of broth. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste, and season with pepper. Divide evenly among warmed wide, shallow bowls or among warmed plates and serve at once.

Venison Medallions

1 venison tenderloin
1 T beef demi-glaze
1 c soaking liquid from porcini mushrooms
1/4 white wine
salt and pepper

Season tenderloin and brown on all sides. Remove from pan. Add liquid and deglaze pan. Reduce liquid by a third and add demi-glaze. Reduce until slightly thickened. Slice venison and add to sauce. Cook about 3/4 minutes more. Serve with sauce.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Kabobs

After all of the cakes and baked goodies on Sunday we're back to a bit healthier fare. Tonight was Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Kabobs. These are fun and easy and Joseph even gets to say he helped. He did a great job grilling them up tonight!
Today I used some boneless/skinless chicken thighs and a chicken breast. I cut them into strips and dropped them in a bag with the two squeezed lemons, 5 cloves of garlic (much of it is lost in the grilling), one sprig of fresh rosemary - chopped, a healthy drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. I left that to marinate for a couple of hours. Later I skewered them with large slices of zucchini, onion, and red pepper. Joseph grilled them perfectly and we enjoyed. These were really flavorful and tender.
(Last time I used only chicken breasts and I pounded them before cutting - this worked well...even though the marinade tenderizes them enough without the pounding. So use your judgement. I hope you try these...they were yummy!)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Coffee Hour - Streusel Coffee Cake

On one of my last prenatal visits I was flipping through a magazine and I came upon a tasty looking coffee cake recipe. There I sat in the exam room - knowing that the doctor was going to come in at any moment. I hesitated...imagining her walking in at the exact moment I was tearing the pages out...how embarrassing. I'm sure she wouldn't have cared...but I hadn't ever done that before...so it was a big moment for me. I think I set the magazine down twice before I actually went for it. I tore out the pages, folded them, and put them in my purse. Later that day I went home and made the coffee cake. I'm glad I took that recipe...it turned out to be a keeper.
Here it is from the November 2005 copy of FamilyFun.

Streusel Coffee Cake
Cinnamon Crunch Topping
1 1/2 c pecans or walnuts - chopped
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
2 T flour
1 t cinnamon
3 T cold unsalted butter - cut into pieces

Sour Cream Cake
2 3/4 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 t lemon zest
1 t vanilla
3/4 c sour cream
1/2 milk

Sweet Glaze (optional)
1 1/4 c confectioners' sugar
2 T milk

Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For topping, combine nuts, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or fork.

To make the sour cream cake, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set it aside. Next, cream butter on medium-high speed, gradually adding the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract and blend briefly. Whisk together the sour cream and milk. Mix about a third of the mixture into the creamed ingredients until smooth. Then blend in about a third of the flour mixture. Continue alternately beating in the liquid and dry ingredients by thirds.
Spread half of the batter in the pan. Evenly sprinkle half of the topping on it, pressing it lightly into the batter. Repeat. Bake coffee cake for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.

For the glaze, combine ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth and suitable to drizzle. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze on the cooled coffee cake. Makes 12 or more servings.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Japanese Steak House Dinner

Yesterday I moved a tuna steak from the freezer to the fridge...not exactly sure what I was going to do with it. While out today I passed by a Chinese take-out place which made me think of fried rice. I thought that sounded good and I remembered I had a couple of zucchini I needed to use up. All of this came together to form tonight's dinner. It is closely related to the dinner we had at a local Binihana's a few months ago. (This one's for you Dad.)

Fried Rice
2 cups cooked rice - cooled
2 eggs
2 T soy sauce
1/2 c frozen peas

Heat a little vegetable oil in a large pan (or wok) and add the rice. Fry rice for a minute or two while moving it about in the pan. Make a well in the center and add the two eggs. Let cook for a minute or so before stirring. Add soy sauce while stirring constantly. Add peas and remove from heat.

Onions and Zucchini
1 large sweet onion slice (1/2" x 1 1/2 ")
2 zucchini (same size as onion)
Soy sauce

Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan. Add onions and cook until slightly softened. Add zucchini. Move about in pan. Add soy sauce and pepper to taste. Cook until desired texture. (We like this rather firm, so we only cook the entire dish about 5-7 minutes.)

Shrimp and Tuna
1 - 8 oz piece of fresh tuna
1/2 lb fresh shrimp
salt and pepper

Melt 1-2 T butter in a pan. Add tuna, season, and cook for about 1 minute. Turn cook 30 more seconds. Remove from pan, add shrimp. Cook until pink. (I added a little garlic to ours.)

Everything was very yummy. We really like the vegetables. Too bad I forgot to make the onion into an erupting volcano...it would have added some pizzaz. Maybe next time!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mushroom Ravioli

I've never been much of a mushroom fan - until lately. It started with the Mushroom Ravioli that Joseph ordered while eating out last year. I didn't even want to try them but he insisted. I gave in and took a bite and I'm pretty sure I begged to switch plates so I could have a little more. A few months later I dug around and found a recipe for mushroom ravioli...honestly I can't even remember where I found it...but, boy, are they wonderful. They turned out just like the ones we ordered in the restaurant. They have a wonderful mushroom flavor and the sauce is so creamy and delicious. I've made them a few times since...and it always feels like a special occasion when we eat them.

Today my son happened to cooperate and gave me a little extra time so I prepared the pasta from scratch. This doesn't always happen, so I've been known to use the wonton wrappers when in a crunch. I've also frozen fresh ravioli when I've made a large batch and they've turned out nicely. (Just make sure to freeze them on a pan before storing them to make sure they don't stick together.)

This pasta recipe also lends itself well to adaptations. This time I switched out over half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour. This made the ravioli dough taste a bit more substantial...if you like tender dough use all-purpose only. (We happened to like the whole wheat though.) I have also used button and baby portabello mushrooms...both were very good. I also reduced the amount of cream and replaced it with milk...just to lighten things up a little.

All in all, it's a lengthy process...but very well worth it!
Mushroom Ravioli

Pasta Dough
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs
Place ingredients in a food processor and pulse until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. (You can also place the flour on a counter, make a well and add the salt and eggs. USe a fork to pull in as much flour as you can.) Knead the dough for a minute or until all of the flour is incorporated. Roll out using a pasta machine.
(I used a champagne glass to cut out the actual circles. I have a ravioli cutter...but it never cuts all the way through and seems to be more work than is necessary.)

Mushroom Filling
1 smal package mushrooms - chopped
1 onion - diced
1 Tbsp butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic - minced
1/4 c heavy cream
1 1/2 c white wine
1/2 c asiago cheese - grated
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add onions and saute until golden brown. Add thyme and garlic. Saute without browning. Add mushrooms, wine, cream, salt, and pepper. Reduce until almost dry. Remove from heat and add cheese. Puree and let cool.

Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 c onion
4 cloves garlic - crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 c white wine
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and saute until onions are translucent. Turn heat to high and add white wine, salt, and pepper. Reduce wine until it is almost dry. Add heavy cream and simmer until slightly thickened. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Assemble ravioli and drop in boiling water until they float. Remove. Drizzle with sauce, add a little more asiago cheese, and broil until lightly browned.

Leave a comment if you have a second, I'd love to know that people are actually reading this!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Couscous

When Joseph and I started our little health kick I noticed many recipes that called for couscous. I wasn't entirely thrilled with any of them, but I was interested in couscous as a substitute for pastas and rice. Here I've used couscous with roasted vegetables and chicken. I've made this a few times now and I keep changing it a little each time. This rendition was the best yet.

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Couscous
1 large red bell pepper
1 zuchinni
1 large onion
2 tomatoes
3 carrots

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 chicken breasts - cubed
2 sprigs rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop all vegetable into 1 inch pieces. Lay on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 sprig of rosemary. Toss and bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until slightly tender. Cook chicken and remaining rosemary in a skillet or saucepan on medium heat until cooked through. Remove chicken and cook couscous per package directions. Toss everything together in a large bowl. (In my case, I used the same pan for everything to minimize clean-up.)

I really liked the flavor of the rosemary in this dish. Another spin on this dish is to omit the rosemary and add in a couple of minced serrano peppers...this was good but left my mouth burning!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Healthy Buttermilk Pancakes

This makes a pancake that you can feel good about serving and eating regularly.  It is made with a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flours so that it still remains tender and delicious.
These pancakes also freeze well so you can have them for an easy weekday morning breakfast.  I pop them directly in the toaster and heat them and I almost like them better than when they were fresh.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 T wheat bran
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Make a well in the center and add the dry ingredients.
Mix gently, just until everything is wet. Do not overmix. Place batter in a warm pan 1/3 cup at a time. Sprinkle blueberries over pancakes and cook until bubbles appear at the edges.
Flip the pancake and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beef Roast

This beef roast is a great fix-it-and-forget-it meals.  You can simply make the rub ahead of time and apply it before popping it in the oven for a couple of hours.  I always use a meat thermometer when cooking a thick roast and it helps take the guess work out of cooking it to our desired done-ness.

Beef Roast

Dry Rub:
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
(I added minced flat-leaf parsley, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, and some thyme.)
2 pound Sirloin Round Tip Roast

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Assemble the dry rub and apply it to all sides of the roast. Place on baking sheet and bake about 25 minutes per pound. Remove from oven and cover for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My Naked Burrito

My version of the Qdoba naked burrito.  Very tasty and quite easy to prepare.  Make extra corn salsa and serve it with chips.

Naked Burritos

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cubed
2 Tbsp mole sauce
1 cup rice - cooked
1 cup black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 green pepper - finely diced
1/4 red onion - finely diced
Parsley or cilantro
1 lemon
salt and pepper

Combine chicken and mole sauce in a bowl. (You might even want to marinate it for a bit...I didn't have the time today.) Grill until cooked through.
While that is cooking make the corn salsa. Combine green pepper, onion, corn, juice of 1 lemon, and cilantro to taste.
Warm black beans in a small saucepan.
When everything is ready, assemble. Rice on the bottom, followed by black beans, chicken, corn salsa, cheese and sour cream if desired. Enjoy!

Banana-Buttermilk Muffins

I can't think of many things that smell better than muffins and breads baking in the oven. The wonderfully warm aroma fills the entire house. I love how it wafts upstairs and lingers for the entire morning. This morning I crept downstairs bright and early to whip up a batch of banana muffins before my husband woke up. I found the recipe, got everything ready, fed the baby, and preheated the oven. Everything was going smoothly until my 7-month old started babbling at the top of his lungs...waking my slumbering husband. Oh well, maybe he'll get to sleep in some other time.

Banana-Buttermilk Muffins
adapted from Essentials of Healthful Cooking by Williams-Sonoma

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed banana
2 T canola oil
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin pan or use paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flours, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.

In another bowl whisk together the butter-milk, banana, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingedients and stir just until blended. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle top with walnuts.

Bake until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted, 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes - if you can wait that long!

(I also added walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the batter. )

Wow, were these good. They turned out spongy, moist, and delicious. I would highly recommend adding the nutmeg...the aroma alone will draw you in. I have had to stop myself from going back for seconds. I really want another...but I am trying to be good.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pizza Dough

Here is my favorite basic pizza dough recipe.  I have used it for pizza, breadsticks, calzones, and more. It always turns out delicious!

Pizza Dough
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • Flour
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine everything except flour. Let mixture sit for 4-5 minutes. Using a dough hook mix in flour ½ cup at a time until mixture comes together and forms a ball. Continue adding flour until the dough is not sticky. Turn out onto floured counter and knead until dough forms a smooth ball(2-3 minutes) or continue mixing with the dough hook for 2-3 minutes. Rub a small amount of olive oil on dough and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and then cover with a towel. Place in a warm spot for 1-2 hours. Dough should double in size.
When you are ready to make the pizza, roll out dough and add desired toppings. Bake pizza in a 500 degree over until cheese is browned and bubbling.

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