Thursday, March 26, 2009


While Matt and I were living with his parents, we occasionally when to a Middle Eastern restaurant called Shadi’s (spelling?). I fell in love with their fattoush. I knew I wanted to recreate this meal sometime, and this week seemed like a good time to try it out.

I looked up ingredients typically found in fattoush, but didn’t really use an established recipe. Here’s the gist of what I did:

2 chicken breasts
Lemon pepper seasoning
1 large or 2 small heads of romaine, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced and seeds removed
1 cucumber, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
3 or 4 pitas, sliced into triangles
¼ cup (?) extra virgin olive oil (plus some for pitas, a few tablespoons)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
small handful of mint, finely chopped
a few handfuls of parsley, finely chopped

I started by arranging the triangles of pita on a baking sheet. I then combined the olive oil, a little of the garlic, and salt and pepper, and brushed the pitas with this mixture. I then baked them at 350 until golden brown.

Then I grilled two chicken breasts with lemon pepper seasoning, and sliced into strips.

I combined all the veggies and lettuce into a large bowl, and added the parsley and mint (reserving some for garnish). I broke up the toasted pitas and added to salad.

Next, I went to work on the dressing. I combined ¼ cup of olive oil and the juice of one and a half lemons. I added the remaining garlic, and more salt and pepper. I created this dressing using trial and error. I know I added the juice from the half of the second lemon, and I am pretty sure I ended up adding more EVOO. Just work in it until it tastes “right.”

I poured the dressing over the salad, tossed to coat, and plated. I topped with the chicken, some additional mint and parsley, and a lemon wheel.

This salad was…So. Freakin’. Good. And healthy, too! I could have done without the mint, but didn’t really mind it. It is a traditional ingredient, so I am glad I added it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Healthy," Veggie-Loaded Shepherd's Pie

Matt has been BEGGING me to make shepherd’s pie.

I have been putting this off for years, actually…but I decided to finally give in. The bland combo of beef, potatoes, and corn just never did it for me, so I went on a cyber mission to find a “jazzier” version of this comfort dish. I came across this recipe by Ellie Krieger and immediately fell in love. It had a wonderful combination of veggies that brought more layers of flavor to the dish, and it was a healthier alternative to the traditional recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly, so I will not post it here (it is linked above). The only changes I made were adding 50% reduced fat cheese to the top, and a few small handfuls in with the potato/cauliflower mixture, and also adding scallions as a garnish.

This recipe was a winner. Partly because it was truly tasteful. Partly because it was somewhat healthy. But mostly because my husband had no idea that he was eating cauliflower! I told him a few days later, once the leftovers were gone. I’m sure now he would say that it didn’t quite taste right…but his clean plates and many helpings proved otherwise!

I apologize for the picture below, but this is a dish that really does not photograph well!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Healthful Morning Glory Muffins

Matt and I have been in our new home for about a month now, and our kitchen is finally finished…which means I can start cooking. Again. Finally.

I’ve made a lot of my good ‘ol favorites that I’ve already posted here, but one of the first new things I made, in order to try out my gorgeous, new range, were these morning glory muffins.

I was looking for a different way to use up two over-ripe bananas, and I stumbled across this recipe from cooking light. The recipe looked pretty good; I was excited to try to make something that was super healthy. I try, as often as I can, to cut calories and omit fat, sugar, etc. while I am cooking and baking, but never have I done anything this drastic!

What most appealed to me about this recipe was the addition of ground flaxseed. I had picked some up at a natural health food store the week before, thinking that I could add it to breads and other things I was baking. I was excited to test it out with this recipe!

The only thing that was concerning me with the ingredients was that it seemed like the batter was going to be a little too dry. I thought about this for a bit, took a look in my fridge, and decided that a little ricotta and some crushed pineapple would be a lovely addition. I scoured the comments and reviews to see if anyone had done this successfully, and while I did find that one person had added ricotta, no one had thought to add the crushed pineapple. I decided to go for it anyway.

I linked to the original recipe above, but I wanted to note the many changes I made, so it is listed here with my substitutions/additions.

Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used vanilla)
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pitted dates (I used dried cranberries)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple (I used dried apricots)
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/3 cup skim ricotta cheese*
I small can of crushed pineapple, with juice lightly strained*
1 teaspoon nutmeg*
I teaspoon cinnamon*
(* = addition to recipe)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Add ricotta and crushed pineapple; give a few more stirs to incorporate. Fold in dates (cranberries), walnuts, and pineapple (apricot). Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed (I did not do this; I added all the flaxseed in when the recipe called to add the wheat bran). Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

These muffins were really tasty, and something you can feel almost good about eating! Matt even liked them, so you know they really are good! They also freeze really well. I take one to work a few times a week (still have some in the freezer), and they fill me up pretty well. I let it thaw on the way to work and eat right after homeroom at 7:30, and it fills me up until I can have a snack or lunch around noontime.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guinness Onion Soup

I am 100% Irish. Matt, despite his Italian look, does have a little Irish in him, too. But we did not have corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day. We are having it at the end of this month for family (our first gathering at our new house!), but I couldn’t just ignore my heritage altogether on this wonderful day.
I had remembered seeing a French onion soup recipe using Guinness last year, and decided to try my own version of it. I used my regular onion soup recipe (an Ina Garten adaptation), and just made a few changes.

5ish pounds yellow onions, halved, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (I wanted leftovers to freeze)
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 bay leaf
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
2.5 bottles of Guinness
6 cups beef stock
4 cups beef broth
kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
French bread, sliced
garlic powder
parmesan cheese
swiss cheese
cheddar cheese

After slicing the onions, cook with butter and bay leaves in large stockpot for about 20 minutes, until golden. Add sherry, and deglaze the pan, letting simmer about 5 minutes. Add the beer, and let simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Add the thyme, garlic, salt, pepper, and all of the stock and broth. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Slice a French baguette and brush with a mixture of EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese. Broil until golden brown.

Ladle soup into oven-safe bowls, then top with the toasts. Cover toasts with swiss, cheddar, and parmesan cheese, and put under broiler until cheese melts and slightly browns.

I served this with a Caesar salad. This soup was delicious, as it always was, and the Guinness really did come through in the soup. A nice treat as we await our boiled dinner!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Treats - Bark and Biscotti

Last year, I made bark to give as gifts to people at work, in addition to some other goodies. This year, I decided to broaden my bark repertoire and also try my hands at some biscotti.

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

2 pounds of white chocolate
2 tabs of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
lots of crushed candy canes (sorry, I didn’t measure)

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Be really careful with white chocolate, it tends to seize really easily and quickly. Thankfully this year, I had great success – not a single batch seized! Once nearly melted, add the butter to give the chocolate extra sheen. Also add the extract and crushed candy canes. Stir to combine and then spread on a wax paper covered baking sheet. Spread evenly and stuck in fridge to harden. Break into odd shaped pieces, package, serve, or eat!

Dark Chocolate Bark with Candied Pecans and Cranberries

2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate
2 tabs unsalted butter
fresh ground cloves
fresh ground cinnamon
fresh ground nutmeg
2 cups pecans, chopped
2 cups dried cranberries

First, candy the nuts by combining a half stick of butter with ¾ cup brown sugar. You can always adjust the butter/brown sugar amounts to suit your needs. Once combined, add the chopped pecans, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Sauté for about 5-8 minutes, then transfer to a wax paper lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350. Let cool. Once cooled, break apart into small pieces.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once nearly melted, add the butter, and a few dashes of cinnamon and cloves. You can then proceed one of two ways…

1. Stir in the pecans and cranberries, then spread chocolate mixture evenly onto a lined baking sheet.
2. Spread cranberries and pecans on a lined baking sheet, then add chocolate mixture on top, spreading evenly.

Cranberry-Pistachio and Almond-Cherry Biscotti

I used this Martha Stewart recipe, but made some changes or additions. I made one batch with the cranberry and pistachio, as Martha suggests, and in a second batch, I used dried cherries and almonds, and instead of 2 tablespoons vanilla extract, I did one vanilla and one almond extract.

1 cup dried cranberries (recipe called for ½ cup, I increased this)
1 cup boiling water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons room temp. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 large eggs
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (in one batch, I did one vanilla, and one teaspoon almond)
¾ cup coarsely chopped pistachios, unsalted (in one batch, I replaced for almonds)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cranberries in a small bowl, and add boiling water to plump. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

In an electric mixer (using paddle attachment), mix together butter and sugar. Then add eggs, one at a time. Next add extract, and then add flour mixture in 2 or 3 steps. Mix on low speed until combined, then add cranberries and nuts.

Move dough to lightly floured surface and dust completely with flour. Cut dough in half and transfer to baking sheets. Then form into two evenly shaped logs and square off ends.

Cover logs in an egg wash, and then sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Transfer logs on parchment paper to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes.

Then slice on a diagonal into ½ slices. Place on baking sheet and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.

I then drizzled some with white and dark chocolate, and dipped others. The dough was a little sticky, but I liked the consistency of it, as it was easy to form and held its shape. Once dusted with flour, the stickiness was a non-issue.

This was my first time making biscotti, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was delcisou and fairly simple to make!

My treats, ready to go...

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’m back! With a spicy recipe for chicken tortilla soup. My absence wasn’t really due to my lack of cooking, although I don’t do nearly as much of it as I used to…it was mostly due to all the repeats I have made over the past few months. Since I’m not in my own kitchen, I just don’t have the urge to try something new. But, I finally caught the creativity bug, and was dying to make something different. I knew I wanted to make a soup, a healthy one, and I had been wanting to make a version of tortilla soup.

I looked at a few recipes, and sort of combined my favorite things from a few of them to create the recipe below. I will say that most of my inspiration came from, gasp, Rachael Ray. I’m not a big fan of her. I try not to watch her on TV, I try not to look at her products in stores, and I try not to make her dishes. But, she knew what she was talking about with this one. Although, big surprise, it took me longer than 30 minutes to make!

nonstick cooking spray
1 lb. chicken breast, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 can corn, drained
a few large carrots, chopped
2 peppers in adobo sauce (canned), finely diced (I used 3 and it was too hot!)
28 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, juice and all
8 oz. can of tomoto sauce
4 cups chicken stock
1 tspn. cumin
½ tspn. chili powder
1 tbspn. poultry seasoning
fresh thyme
fresh chopped cilantro (some to add to soup, some to garnish)
blue corn tortilla chips
3 cloves garlic, minced
diced red onion, for garnish
low fat sour cream, for garnish
low fat shredded cheese, for garnish

I started by getting the onion, pepper, and carrots going with some nonstick spray in a pan. Then, I sprayed the bottom of the soup pot with nonstick spray and added the diced chicken. Add seasoning (except garlic) and continue to cook. Next, add in the vegetables and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes or so. Then add the stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stock. Stir, bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 15 minutes. Add corn and a handful of chopped cilantro to soup, simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes, and serve.

I sprinkled the tortilla chips in each individual bowl so I could use the soup for leftovers and not have mushy corn tortilla pieces floating everywhere. I ladled the soup into a bowl, folded in crushed tortilla chips, then sprinkled with shredded low fat cheese, cilantro, and diced red onion, then added a spoonful of sour cream.

This soup was soooo tasty! It was on the spicy side, so if you aren’t a fan of heat, I would cut back on the peppers in adobo, or if you want it really mild, eliminate all together. I served with corn muffins and a few extra chips on the side.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Kitchen - Oh How I Miss Thee!

Matt and I are temporarily living with his parents right now...which is totally throwing me off in more ways than one. We sold our house and are looking for a new one, and I miss my kitchen like you wouldn't believe. And it wasn't even a great kitchen, really. Nice, but nothing fabulous. But it was MINE.

While I am still cooking a few nights a week, I have to say, it is not the same. I miss my stove. I miss my pots. I miss my pans. I miss my mixer. I miss my mini-prep. God, I miss my mini-prep. Why hadn't I thought of bringing it to the in-law's?

Hopefully I will get out of this funk and bring you some delicious dishes soon, live via satelite from in-lawville. Or, better yet, hopefully soon enough I will be bringing you some new treats from my very own kitchen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's been too long!

Holy cow! It has been a LOOONG time since my last post! These past few months have flown by with the blink of an eye, and unfortunately, without any additions to the blog. To be truthful, there hasn’t been a whole lot of cooking going on around these parts. But, now that I am out of school (I think I am more excited than my students for summer vaca!), I can focus on producing some yummy creations in the kitchen. Things will most likely be put on hold again in a few weeks when we move, but soon after, I am sure I will be back in action.

I can’t really remember all of the details about some of the meals I have photographed over the past few months, so I will do my best to recap in the posts below…bear with me!

Grilled Veggie Salad with Chicken and Goat Cheese

I really wish I could remember this dish in more detail, because it was FANTASTIC! I took a bed of romaine (dressed in a simple vinaigrette), and on it I placed avocado and roasted red peppers and the following grilled veggies, which I had marinated in balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil: asparagus, eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. I topped with grilled chicken and some crumbled goat cheese. It was DELICIOUS!!!!

Pesto Turkey Burgers

In the spring and summer, I am obsessed with the grill. I will cook anything on the grill. Burgers, a easy favorite for the grill, are no exception. This time, though, I wanted to change it up. I was using ground turkey, for one…but also wanted a different taste. I had some basil, and had gotten some fresh mozzarella, so I decided to work with that.

I mixed the ground turkey with balsamic vinegar, a touch of extra virgin olive oil, pesto I had previously frozen (one ice-cubed size portion), garlic, and salt and pepper. I formed into patties and grilled them up. I served the burgers in whole wheat pitas with a combination of asiago and parm. regianno cheeses and some fresh basil leaves.

As a side, I served a tomato and mozzarella salad. I sliced grape tomatoes in half and combined them with fresh mozzarella balls (also sliced in half), fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and dried thyme