Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jalapeno Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes

Even though this didn't turn out well for me, I still have high hopes because the blunders were due to user error. I should've used a more mild fish like tilapia. The swai I used was a little on the fishy side. I also undercooked it, which led to me having to put it back in the oven in the middle of our dinner. I was really hoping to absolutely love this dish, but I guess it was just one of those nights in the kitchen. One dish, no stovetop, minimal knife skills required, plus it gives you enough baking time to clean up the food processor and set the table. The tomato sauce was very good, though next time I'll either use fresh jalapenos or more of the pickled jalapenos as I wanted a little more spice. And there will be a next time. This dish is too easy and healthy and quick for me to write it off completely.

Jalapeno Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
source: Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday via The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Dinner and Dessert

4 medium (1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
⅓ cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
About ¼ cup sliced canned pickled jalapenos
1 tablespoon jalapeno pickling juice
Four 4- to 5-ounce (1 to 1¼ pounds total) skinless fish fillets, preferably ¾ to 1 inch thick


Turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the sliced potatoes into a microwaveable 8×8-inch baking dish. Drizzle on the oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Toss to coat, then spread the potatoes in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a couple of holes in the top. Microwave on high until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes with their juice, garlic, cilantro, jalapenos, and pickling juice. Process to a puree, leaving just a little texture.

Lay the fish fillets in a single layer over the potatoes. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the fish and potatoes.

Slide the baking dish into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fish flakes when pressed firmly.

Scoop a portion of the fish-potato-sauce onto each dinner plate, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve right away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta

On Saturday night, I made an amazing dinner. I'm eating pescetarian for Lent, and Joe isn't the biggest fan, but I'm the cook so I make the rules. But when I make dinners like this, I don't hear a peep from him about them being vegetarian. I even made homemade noodles for only the second time ever in between cheering for the Vanderbilt Men's basketball team against Kentucky (they failed to tie it up in the last 2.5 seconds). The problem? The picture I took is incredibly unappetizing, even for my low photography standards. But I still want to post the recipe because it was SO delicious. I particularly loved the addition of balsamic vinegar to the tomato sauce as it gave the sauce a very distinct flavor. If you would like to see a picture, I will send you to Cate's blog and Bridget's blog, both of whose photography skills far outrank mine even on a good day and who I hope will convince you to make this dish. It's the perfect match for homemade noodles, even if you don't have a pasta machine. I just made the dough and rolled it out very thin and then cut the noodles with a pizza cutter.

Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce and Baked Ricotta
source: Jamie Oliver via Cate's World Kitchen

1 15-ounce container ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer for a few hours
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar (if needed)
1 pound wide pasta, such as pappardelle
a handful of fresh basil, torn
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

After you’ve drained the ricotta, preheat the oven to 400F. Put a piece of parchment on a baking sheet and put the ricotta in the center. Flatten it so you have a 1″ thick disk.

Rub all over with 1 tbsp olive oil, then sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium until soft, 3 or 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes, then crush the tomatoes with a spoon. Taste and add sugar (optional), salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve some of the pasta water.

Toss the cooked with the sauce and a tablespoon or two of pasta water and the tomato sauce, and basil. Crumble up the ricotta and add to the pasta with the parmesan cheese.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine's Day Veal Piccata

One of the restaurants that has been important in Joe's and my life together is Damian's Cucina Italiana in Houston. It's an unassuming brick building in Midtown, right across from Brennan's. We first ate there for a meeting of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians when Joe was in medical school. That was when I fell in love with their veal piccata. The sauce was silky and buttery, and the veal was so tender that it nearly melted in my mouth. I don't remember what it was served with because the veal stole the show. We also ate at Damian's the night that Joe proposed, and of course, I had the veal piccata. So when I was planning a Valentine's Day menu and Joe requested Italian, my thoughts immediately went to making veal piccata.

We brainstormed a menu that included Caesar salad, roasted asparagus, veal piccata on a bed of fettuccine, and Molten Chocolate Spiced Cabernet Cakes. While it certainly wasn't a cheap dinner, it was a much more economical option than one of the many prix fixe menus around town. The piccata sauce was a dead ringer for the sauce at Damian's with lots of lemon flavor tamed by the silky sweetness of the butter, but the veal wasn't quite as tender as I would've liked.

Veal Piccata
adapted from Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition

1 lb boneless veal cutlets pounded to slightly less than 1/4 inch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup butter, softened
salt and black pepper

Season the veal cutlets with salt and black pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat 1 tbsp each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the cutlets for about 30 to 60 seconds on each side. Remove and keep warm.

Add white wine and lemon juice to the pan. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits with a spoon. Reduce the heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in butter, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the scaloppine and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

I really like different kinds of sandwiches. The different interplay of ingredients sandwiched between bread is something I particularly enjoy. It's even better if a recipe takes something that isn't particularly healthy and, using the same flavors, transforms it into something healthy, quick, and delicious. A few other people have made these burgers around the food blogosphere, and there have been nothing but rave reviews. I cooked mine in our George Foreman instead of using the broiler, but there are a lot of options in terms of the method you use.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers
source: Elly Says Opa

1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
1 shallot, finely diced
salt and pepper

1/2 cup pasta sauce
4 slices mozzarella or provolone (or 1/2 cup shredded)
sauteed mushrooms (optional)
4 buns


Lightly mix together all the ingredients for the burgers. Form into 4 patties. I like to make them about 30-40 minutes ahead of time, to let the flavors meld a little bit.

Preheat & spray the broiler with a little oil (or use the grill, or a pan). Broil the burgers for about 4 minutes on the first side, then flip and broil for 3 minutes. Top each chicken burger with 2 Tbsp. pasta sauce and a slice (or about 2T) of cheese. Place back under the broiler for 30-60 seconds, until cheese in melted and burger is cooked through. Top with mushrooms, if desired. Place the buns in the broiler for about 10 seconds, just until toasted.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In-a-Flash Chicken-Broccoli-Peanut Pasta

Pasta is one of those foods which I have a difficult time controlling my portion sizes. But when chicken and broccoli bulk it up, 2 oz of pasta goes a long way. The peanut sauce was a little thinner than I normally prefer but was still very flavorful, and we bumped up the spiciness with some Sriracha. This came together very quickly and is a perfect, balanced weeknight meal.

In-a-Flash Chicken-Broccoli-Peanut Pasta
source: Cara's Cravings
Yields 2 servings

1 tsp olive oil
2 small or 1 large chicken breast, 8-10oz total
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1tsp ground ginger
4oz whole grain pasta
10oz package frozen chopped broccoli
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey
fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish


Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. When there are about 5 minutes remaining, add the frozen broccoli. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, blend together chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, and agave until smooth.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cut the chicken breast into bite-size chunks and season with salt & pepper. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides; remove from pan. Add scallions and garlic, cook one minute more. Add ginger and red pepper; cook for about 30 seconds more. Add the sauce and the chicken to the skillet with the onions, garlic, ginger and pepper. Simmer over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until thickened. Toss with drained pasta and broccoli and heat through. Serve with fresh chopped cilantro.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 522.8
Total Fat: 13.4 g
Cholesterol: 74.0 mg
Sodium: 818.2 mg
Total Carbs: 64.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.7 g
Protein: 44.6 g

Monday, February 15, 2010

Super Bowl Party

The Super Bowl was a great excuse to have people over to eat, drink, and watch the game. While neither Joe nor I are big football people, he went to college in New Orleans and has strong emotional ties to the city. We had taken several trips to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and were excited that the Saints were going to play in the Super Bowl. Our guests contributed with delicious appetizers and desserts, but I'll show you all what I made.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
source: Frank's Red Hot

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup any flavor FRANK'S® REDHOT® Sauce
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cans (12.5 oz. each) chunk chicken breast in water, drained

Combine cream cheese, salad dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Mix in chicken. Either bake in an oven-safe dish at 350-degrees for 20 minutes or place in small crockpot for several hours on low. Serve with celery sticks or crackers.

Bourbon Slush
source: Evan Williams Cooking with Bourbon

12 oz frozen lemonade juice concentrate
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate
2 1/2 cups brewed tea, cooled
1 cup sugar
2 cups bourbon
6 cups water

Mix ingredients together until well-blended. Place in freezer until slushy. This will go quickly, so you might want to double the recipe!

Joe actually made these all by himself while I was prepping everything for the chili!

Jalapeno Poppers
source: The Pioneer Woman

Cream cheese

Halve jalapenos and remove seeds and membranes. Fill with cream cheese and wrap with bacon. Bake on a pan with a rack at 375-degrees for 20-25 minutes.

I don't normally make beef chilis, so I didn't have a go-to recipe, though I had bookmarked this one a long time ago. It was delicious and had a lot of spice. I offered cheese, avocados, cilantro, green onions, sour cream, and green onions to top everyone's chili with. I doubled the recipe, which fit perfectly into my Dutch oven and fed everyone.

Paula Deen's Spicy Chili

adapted from Reservations not Required

  • 1 pound lean ground chuck
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans ranch-style beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown ground chuck, until beef is crumbly. Stir in onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Stir in beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and green chiles. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Caramelized Tofu with Pecans and Brussel Sprouts

When Joe asked me what was for dinner, and I responded, "Caramelized tofu with pecans and brussel sprouts," he said, "Yes!" That boy sure loves his brussel sprouts, so much so that they override his suspicion of tofu. My best friend Abby made this recipe and posted it on her (awesome, hilarious Canadian) blog, and it looked right up my alley. The sweetness from the caramelized brown sugar and pecans offset the slight bitterness of the brussel sprouts perfectly. I liked the variety of textures present in the dish. I also ended up doubling the recipe since I bought a pound of brussel sprouts, and my package of tofu was 15 oz.

Caramelized Tofu with Pecans and Brussel Sprouts
source: 101 Cookbooks via Sounds like Canada

7 - 8 ounces extra-firm tofu cut into thin 1-inch segments
a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
a couple splashes of olive or peanut oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
3 tablespoons fine-grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (I omitted.)
1/2 lb. brussel sprouts, washed and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons


Cook the tofu strips in large hot skillet (or pot) with a bit of salt and a splash of oil. Saute until slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and pecans, and cook for another minute. Stir in sugar. Cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Scrape the tofu out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the brussel sprouts.

In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussel sprouts. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

On Wednesday, my friend L grabbed me after theology and asked me if I would be interested in baking for our field ed group the next day. Another friend and member of our group, J and his wife had just had their first baby, and we wanted to acknowledge and celebrate J's entry into fatherhood. I, of course, jumped at the chance.

Sometimes I over-think baking for people, especially in a group. Is anyone vegan or gluten-free or allergic to nuts? I decided to make these peanut butter cookies and prayed that no one was allergic to nuts and would feel left out. The first time I made these cookies was with my best friend Abby when I visited Bloomington last May. She rightly calls them crack cookies. They are seriously addictive, and I ate 5 (at least they're small) while they were cooling on the rack. Sure enough, the cookies that I brought were quickly devoured, and I was encouraged to bring more baked goods to field ed group should I feel the urge to bake again.

These cookies have a great peanut butter flavor, and I appreciate the addition of chocolate chips. I skipped rolling them in more sugar, since I didn't feel like they needed it. They can be easy to overbake, and I thought they weren't done enough, but when they cooled, they were perfect.

Peanut Butter Cookies
source: Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

I'm always on the lookout for recipes that will make Joe happy but won't break my calorie budget, so when I saw this Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf first on The Novice Chef and then on Erin's Food Files (check out her new blog layout!), I knew that it would hit the spot. True to my intuition, Joe and I both loved it. Vegetables add some bulk, and the hot sauce makes it so flavorful that nobody missed the fat. Plus, meatloaf is a lot easier to make than frying chicken wings.

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf
source: Biggest Loser Family Cookbook via The Novice Chef and Erin's Food Files

Cooking spray
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup fat free milk
1/3 cup hot sauce, plus more to sprinkle on top
1 lb extra-lean ground chicken breast
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crumbled reduced fat blue cheese


Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly mist a 9” x 5” x 3” nonstick loaf pan with olive oil spray.

Combine oats and milk in a medium size mixing bowl. Mix well. Let stand for 3 minutes or until oats are softened. Stir in hot sauce until well mixed. Add chicken, celery, carrots, onion, egg whites, and salt. With fork, mix ingredients well. Add blue cheese and gently mix.

Transfer mixture to pan and spread so that top is flat. Sprinkle on a couple shakes of hot sauce and spread evenly. Bake 35 to 40 mins or until chicken is no longer pink. Cut into 8 slices. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts: 263 calories per serving, 35g protein, 14g carbohydrates, 6g fat (2g saturated fat), 74mg sodium (Note: 2 slices = 1 serving.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cocoa-Nana Bread

Joe has been asking me to make me something with chocolate in it for his breakfasts, and until now, I've managed to avoid that. When I saw this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, it looked like a great way of appeasing Joe while using up some of the bananas in my freezer. Some people balked at the chocolate-banana combination, but I thought of bananas dipped in chocolate...yum! This is a definitely doable fairly dense, quick bread recipe, and the chocolate flavor is the predominant flavor for the banana-averse.

Cocoa-Nana Bread
source: Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours via Obsessed with Baking

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from over baking.)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute, until softened. Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. At this point, the batter may look a little curdled -- it's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Still on low speed, add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark, and continue to bake for another 40 to 45 minutes (total baking time is between 70 to 75 minutes) or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temp right side up.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Carrot Cake Pancakes

We woke up on Saturday morning to a winter wonderland in Nashville, and the roads were pretty much impassable. Fortunately, I had everything I needed to make these delicious pancakes. A lot of the bulk comes from the shredded carrots, of which my food processor made quick work, but the spices add a lot of the carrot cake flavor. The batter is thick and needs to be spread thinner on the griddle, otherwise the middle doesn't cook through. Definitely try these for a variation on your normal pancake without any added fat.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
source: Cooking Light January 2010

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • Dash of ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups finely grated carrot (about 3 medium/large carrots)
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons honey

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in 2 cups carrot.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon a 1/4 cup of batter onto pan, spreading with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure twice with remaining batter. Combine butter and honey in a small bowl; serve with pancakes.