Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Remember that oh-so-long list I mentioned in my last post of things Adam won't eat? Well, this is how I discovered the whole bell pepper issue. He had brought it to my attention when I made the Refried Bean Poblanos with Cheese that he wasn't a huge fan of bell peppers. The poblanos turned out to be okay, since those were chile peppers. However, I always thought it was a flavor/texture type thing, and didn't realize that it was pretty much just taste. So I made this dish.

And I enjoyed it. It came together nice and easy, I even cheated and bought jarred roasted red peppers because I just really didn't feel like sitting around for an hour to let those guys roast in the oven. Summer totally puts me in the "I want to eat NOW" mood, not sit around cooking for hours.

Adam, on the other hand, didn't care for it really all that much. Well, at first he thought the chopped up snow peas were green peppers until I told him it was the sauce. And of course he was a trooper and ate almost a plateful, but I could tell he just wasn't feeling it. Moral of the story -- make sure you know what your hubby does and doesn't like before making up some dinner. That way he doesn't attack the pizza rolls hidden in the freezer half and hour later.

Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
From: Smitten Kitchen

1 pound of small pasta
1/4 pound snow pea pods, ends trimmed
1/2 pound fresh summer peas, which yielded about 1 cup once shelled
3/4 to 1 cup Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a small ice water bath. Boil the snow pea pods for about two minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp. Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and drop them in the ice water bath. Cook the peas for about 10 minutes, scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water bath as well. Drain both peas. Cut the snow peas into thin slivers.

Add the pasta into the boiling water and cook it according to package instructions. Drain and let cool, then toss in a large bowl with peas and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette, seasoning to taste.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and seeded or the equivalent from a jar, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (and up to 2 tablespoons more if you, like us, like that extra bite in your dressing)
1 tablespoon chopped shallot (about 1 small)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of black pepper

Puree the red bell pepper in a food processor or blender as much as possible, then add the remaining ingredients and running the machine until the dressing is silky smooth. Adjust the vinegar level and seasonings to taste.

Serves: 8

Like I said, I liked it. Although I did cheat in various ways. I definitely used jarred roasted red peppers, and I used frozen peas I just cooked in the microwave. Oops.

If I were to make this a second time (which sadly, I doubt there will be) I would double the vinaigrette or at least increase it by 50%... the pasta seemed a tad on the dry side.

If only hubby liked bell peppers...

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 248Calories from fat 74
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.2g13%
Saturated Fat 1.1g6%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 41mg14%
Sodium 186mg8%
Total Carbs 35.5g12%
Dietary Fiber 1.5g6%
Sugars 2.0g
Protein 8.0g
Vitamin A 12%Vitamin C 50%
Calcium 2%Iron 14%

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dinner Spanakopitas

I don't know, I think it's just me, but food with a weird name always lures me in, tempting me to try it. I mean, Almond-Stuffed Chicken, no surprise there. Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Onion and Chive Sauce? I think I can figure out what's in that. But Gougeres? I can't even pronounce it, let's put it on the menu for Thanksgiving! Pollo la Uva Blanco con Cilantro? The title isn't even in English, sure, why not? Beef Wellington? Sounds fancy, let's try it out on company.

So no surprise when the word Spanakopita caught my eye. Over the course of the past year and a half, I had ran across the word a few times, so I was familiar with what the dish actually was. I had tried a similar dish a while back, and though Adam and I were not wowed by it, it enabled me to be familiar with phyllo and the wrapping technique to pull off this dish.

Dinner Spanakopitas
From: Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics
Via: Annie's Eats

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup small-crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, chopped
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the green onions and cook for another 2 minutes until they are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, add the thawed and drained spinach to a large mixing bowl. When the onions are done, add them to the bowl. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 tablespoons bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Gently fold in the feta and the pine nuts.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface. Brush the dough lightly with butter. Working quickly, place another sheet of phyllo on top of the first, and brush it lightly with butter. Continue this process until you have a stack of 4 sheets of phyllo. Cut the stack of phyllo in half lengthwise (I found a pizza cutter useful for this step). Place 1/3 cup of the spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding the first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling is used. Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down. Brush the tops with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt (such as kosher) and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp. Serve hot.

Serves: 6

Look at all that flakiness

All in all, these guys came together relatively quick and painless. Or as much as anything can be quick and painless when working with phyllo. I'm pretty sure it only took me about 30-40 minutes (or however long it takes Adam to get home from softball) to make these. So not to bad for a somewhat labor intensive meal.

I really liked these. Adam thought they were just alright. Apparently, his list of things he doesn't like has now grown to include: bell peppers and feta cheese. (Such a long list, I don't know how I'm going to handle it.) He about freaked out when I told him there was feta in these. But he was a trooper and tried them anyway. And thought they were good "probably because the feta isn't very strong tasting". So, I'd recommend them -- although go on the light side with sprinkling on the salt at the end, or you'll get super salty spanakopitas with the feta and all.

Now on to tzatziki, and baba ghanoush, and...

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 336Calories from fat 240
% Daily Value
Total Fat 26.7g41%
Saturated Fat 12.9g64%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 116mg39%
Sodium 937mg39%
Total Carbs 15.9g5%
Dietary Fiber 1.9g8%
Sugars 2.2g
Protein 9.7g
Vitamin A 100%Vitamin C 25%
Calcium 21%Iron 15%

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

I discovered this gem of a recipe on the same search that found me the Chicken in Basil Cream recipe (albeit on a different site). I figured I'd switch it up (as much as you can with chicken anyways) and go for the marinade vs. cream sauce. And the switch in flavors was a nice change, too.

Sorry for the horrible pictures, by the way. We were so busy enjoying these that I almost forgot to snap a picture. I forgot what a difference a flash makes vs. my lightbox!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
From: Online Source

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 habanero pepper
1/4 cup minced green onions with tops
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

In a large dish, mix the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the scotch bonnet pepper, green onions, and garlic. Pierce chicken on all sides with a fork, and place in the dish (or ziploc bag). Cover, and marinate up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.

Preheat the grill for high heat.

Lightly oil grill grate. Discard marinade, and grill chicken 8 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear.

Serves: 4

The only regret I have about this recipe is having our grill tucked away in our apartment's storage. (Stupid rules say we can't have a charcoal-type grill on our balcony, even if it's never been used.) While these were still delicious cooked stovetop, they would have been awesome on the grill.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 298Calories from fat 186
% Daily Value
Total Fat 20.7g32%
Saturated Fat 3.0g15%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 66mg22%
Sodium 477mg20%
Total Carbs 6.4g2%
Dietary Fiber 0.7g3%
Sugars 4.1g
Protein 23.8g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 33%
Calcium 2%Iron 4%

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chicken in Basil Cream

Every once in a while I get tired of flipping through my cookbooks and tried and true recipes... nothing sounds good. That's when I go to one of my handy-dandy websites, such as: myrecipes, allrecipes, or epicurious. (Epicurious being a mixture of Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipes, and myrecipes being a mixture of Cooking Light, Southern Living, and a few other magazines.)

On this particular occasion, I decided to scout out what was new and delicious over at It's actually a pretty easy site to navigate to what exactly you're looking for. I just had to click "quick and easy" and "chicken" and then bam! I'm looking at a recipe for chicken in a basil cream sauce that's rated 4.5 stars. And 279 people can't be that off the mark, right? So I decided to give it a try.

Chicken in Basil Cream

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (4 ounce) jar sliced pimento peppers, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place milk and bread crumbs in separate, shallow bowls. In skillet, heat butter or margarine to medium heat. Dip chicken in milk, then coat with crumbs. Cook in butter or margarine, on both sides, until juices run clear (about 10 minutes). Remove and keep warm.

Add broth to skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stir to loosen browned bits from pan. Stir in cream and pimentos; boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat.

Add Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir sauce and cook until heated through. Pour mixture over chicken and serve!

This was actually the first time I used pimentos in my cooking (not the first time I've had them though) and I was surprised at what I pulled out of the jar. I was expecting it to already be chopped/diced and ready to go... but instead I found myself with pretty much a whole red bell pepper. Interesting.

Anyways. It definitely fit the bill as quick and easy, and I was right -- 279 people weren't off the mark. It was pretty delicious.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 394Calories from fat 241
% Daily Value
Total Fat 26.8g41%
Saturated Fat 15.4g77%
Cholesterol 142mg0%
Sodium 598mg25%
Total Carbs 8.8g3%
Dietary Fiber 0.9g4%
Sugars 2.6g
Protein 31.2g
Vitamin A 35%Vitamin C 61%
Calcium 20%Iron 4%

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Refried Bean Poblanos with Cheese

I've never really been a huge fan of green or red bell peppers, but stuffed peppers have always intrigued me. (And come to find out, Adam isn't really a fan of them either. Who knew?) So the concept of stuffed peppers kind of went by the wayside until I ran across a different version in Cooking Light's fresh food fast. This version uses poblano peppers (chile peppers) instead of the traditional bell peppers.

This is one of those ridiculously fast and easy meals to make. I'm pretty sure I made these in under 10 minutes. Yes, it does involve cooking by microwave, but I don't think these guys suffer too awful much from it. They definitely make a great meal on those nights when you don't get home until super late and won't feel at all like cooking.

Refried Bean Poblanos with Cheese
From: Cooking Light's fresh food fast

4 medium poblano chiles, halved and seeded (WEAR GLOVES!!!)
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
1 (8.8-ounce) pouch microwaveable cooked long-grain rice (such as Uncle Ben's Original Ready Rice)
1/2 cup picante sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Place chile halves, cut sides up, on a round microwave-safe plate. Cover with wax paper; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes.

While chiles cook, combine beans, rice, and picante sauce in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spoon bean mixture evenly into chile halves. Cover with wax paper; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Uncover chiles, sprinkle each half with 2 tablespoons cheese, and microwave at HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle evenly with cilantro, if desired.

Serves: 4

Okay, so let's get some things straight. You MUST wear gloves when cutting up and seeding the polbanos. Not that anyone here didn't do that. And then proceed to touch their eyes. Multiple times. I mean, who forgets about a thing like that? Seriously.

Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way. It's definitely worth a pair of gloves to make these guys. Especially on nights after you've been on your feet all day, or you get home super late from a soccer game. It's a nice change from hitting up Taco Bell on the drive home.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 632Calories from fat 124
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13.7g21%
Saturated Fat 6.5g33%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 39mg13%
Sodium 864mg36%
Total Carbs 109.9g37%
Dietary Fiber 23.2g93%
Sugars 25.8g
Protein 23.1g
Vitamin A 304%Vitamin C 45%
Calcium 28%Iron 45%

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oven-Fried Honey Chicken Nuggets

Every once in a while I crave kiddie food. You know, the mini-corn dogs, kool-aid, gushers, Lucky Charms, and chicken nuggets. I have long since passed on the mash of random chicken bits found in McDonald's nuggets (I can't even remember the last time I ate at that palce, yuck), but Chick-Fil-A and Wendy's still get my vote. Our last go at making chicken nuggets turned out pretty good, but I hated cleaning up the oil mess left behind. So when I saw this recipe for "oven-fried" nuggets, it caught my attention. And made with honey... bonus!

Oven-Friend Honey Chicken Nuggets
Adapted From: Sweet Tea in Texas
Via: Macaroni and Cheesecake

1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs, preferrably panko
Olive Oil cooking spray
1 pkg/1 pound fresh boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil-lined baking pan large enough to hold all chicken pieces in one layer.

In shallow bowl, whisk together honey and vinegar. Set aside.

Place bread crumbs in a small saute pan and toast lightly over low heat for about 3-4 minutes until lightly golden brown. Pour bread crumbs a little at a time into separated bowl. Roll chicken pieces in honey mixture, then in bread crumbs; place in pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.

Serves: 4

Overall, I would say they were okay. I think the outside flavoring was good, you could definitely taste the honey, but 30 minutes in the oven was just way too long. (And Adam was making these, so everything was done exactly as the recipe stated.) They turned out pretty dry and chewy.

I think that if you made the chick-fil-a nuggets, and then rolled them in the honey breadcrumb mixture and baked them for a little less time, you'd really be on to something good...

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 478Calories from fat 56
% Daily Value
Total Fat 6.2g10%
Saturated Fat 1.6g8%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 96mg32%
Sodium 382mg16%
Total Carbs 64.1g21%
Dietary Fiber 1.9g8%
Sugars 37.3g
Protein 40.7g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 9%Iron 19%

Monday, August 10, 2009

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

A couple months ago, the Pens made their amazing run for the Stanley Cup, going in completely as the underdog. As game 7 came around, I figured we needed to do something special because the Pens WERE going to win. Adam and I were going to a tailgait downtown prior to heading off to watch the game, so I figured cupcakes were an easy-to-hold dessert solution.

As I was flipping through my recipes and scrolling through my Google reader, I rediscovered a couple recipes for Guinness Cake and Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes. Bingo. And I thought I was going to have to wait for St. Patty's to roll around again to have an excuse to make these.

I pretty much followed Annie's Eats Guinness Chocolate Cake for the batter to make the cupcakes (since she said the cake had a pretty prominent beer flavor), the ganache filling from Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes, and then just added Bailey's in lieu of vanilla to my usual buttercream frosting.

Maybe not quite your Irish Car Bomb drink, but at least you don't have to chug these before they curdle. :)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
From: Annie's Eats, Smitten Kitchen, &

Make the Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness beer
10 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. In a small saucepan, combine the Guinness and butter. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the Guinness mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, remove.

Make the Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional... but not really)

Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Using an apple corer, or other apparatus, hollow out the middle of each cupcake. What you do with those centers is up to you. Place ganache in a pastry bag or a ziploc bag with the tip snipped off; fill up the hollows in each cupcake.

Bailey's Buttercream
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 tsp. Bailey's

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and the tsp of Bailey's. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the remaining Bailey's, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered until ready to decorate.

Makes: about 24

Overall I'd say these turned out pretty good. I have to admit... I've never tried an Irish Car Bomb (seeing as I don't like beer), but the people who tried them said they saw the likeness. Each individual component definitely had the flavors I was going for, although the Guinness kind of got overshadowed by the Jameson and Bailey's.

Honestly, these weren't my favorite cupcakes, although I'm not the biggest fan of those three liquors. Now, for people who do like them... I got rave reviews on the cupcakes.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 396Calories from fat 179
% Daily Value
Total Fat 19.9g31%
Saturated Fat 12.6g63%
Cholesterol 66mg22%
Sodium 247mg10%
Total Carbs 52.3g17%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g5%
Sugars 41.6g
Protein 3.1g
Vitamin A 11%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 4%Iron 6%


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