Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Chicken with Sauteed Balsamic Cremini Mushrooms

Tonight was H-O-T! Too hot to cook really. But, since I haven’t been cooking much due to the back to school craziness I have been experiencing, I was dying to make something yummy! I had taken out some chicken, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I was thinking something with tomatoes and basil until I remembered a recipe I came across while searching for something new to do with grilled chicken. This is an Emeril recipe from, and you can find it here.

I kept the recipe the same for the most part. I omitted the butter from the mushroom sauce, and just sprayed the pan with olive oil instead. I also did my own thing for the couscous…I used whole wheat, and cooked it in chicken broth. I added a little fresh thyme and some salt and pepper, that’s it. I wanted to keep it mild since there were some great flavors going on in the chicken and also the mushroom sauce.

I served this with grilled asparagus tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper and grilled lemon wheels. I must say, this is the most delicious chicken dish I have had in a while. The marinade for the chicken was AMAZING, soooo flavorful and fresh tasting! Loved the rosemary and lemon combo! The mushroom balsamic sauce was such a nice topper, and tasted yummy with the chicken and the couscous. Only thing I was upset about - I forgot to top with a sprig of rosemary for presentation, BOO!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cara's Zucchini & Rice Casserole, with a twist!

I wanted to use up my garden tomatoes that are in plentiful supply right now, in addition to some fresh zucchini my mother in law was kind enough to give Matt and I. I remember reading this recipe in Cara’s blog and thinking it sounded really yummy and summery. I sort of combined her recipe with one I found on epicurious. The epicurious recipe called for chard, and I didn’t have any, so I subbed spinach. That is really the only inspiration I received from this recipe, but I really though the spinach added a nice touch to this dish, so I must give credit where credit it due!

Now, this meal needs TONS of work presentation-wise, but it was delicious! Matt was nervous since there was no meat, but he enjoyed it, and after a second helping, was quite full.

I basically followed the directions for Cara’s recipe, I just added spinach to the mxutre. After I wilted the spinach, I had to squeeze all the water out so the casserole didn’t get too mushy and liquid-y. I also had to use white rice because I didn’t have enough brown rice. I was pretty bummed, even though I love the taste of white rice, because I am trying SO HARD to eat better these days! Also, my husband despises both cottage and feta cheese, so I had to improvise. I added a little parmesan and asiago in with the rice mixture and added a layer of reduced fat cheddar in the casserole. I lined the bottom with tomatoes, then added half of the rice/zucchini/spinach/onions/spices mixture , a layer of the reduced fat cheddar, then the remaining rice mixture. Topped with tomatoes, and added more parm and asiago.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Today I made a variation of my mom's beloved banana bread. Here is the original recipe. I one-and-a-halved the recipe, and made 2 smaller loaves rather than one big one. One I kept plain, as I am not the biggest chocolate fan in breads such as this, and in the other I added chocolate chips and walnuts. I overfilled the loaf pans just a bit, so they aren’t the most beautiful breads, but they were tasty!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mexican Fiesta for 8

So, my mother in law came up with this really neat idea in lieu of Christmas gifts for all the adults in the family. She thought it would be fun if we took turns hosting a themed dinner once a month. So, themed dinners were grouped in 3’s, and wrapped up in small boxes. Each of us (4 couples, including my husband and I, mother and father in law, and 2 sisters and brothers in law) picked a box, and found out what meal s and months we would be hosting. We got April – Italian, August – Mexican, and December – Free Choice. Some of the other themes were fondue, Asian -inspired, American grill favorites, seafood, breakfast for dinner, etc. It is a really cute idea, and has been a lot of fun. When it is your turn to host, you provide everything from soup to nuts, and everyone just brings their appetite. We hosted our Mexican Fiesta on Sunday, and it was a great success.

Here was my menu:
Corn tortilla chips and salsa
Guacamole and flour tortilla chips
Jalapeño spiced almonds

Poblano stuffed corn muffins
Corn muffins
Mexican rice
Taco bar with ground beef and ground turkey

Hot fudge brownie sundaes with traditional Mexican chocolate sauce and sugar and cinnamon tortilla crisps

I prepared a good amount of the food on Saturday, which was very helpful! Here are some of the recipes from my favorite dishes of the day:

Chunky Guacamole – I was PETRIFIED to make this!!! I guess because I have had it and never cared for it…until now! Man, was I missing out!!! Everyone raved about this recipe, and I was so glad it was a hit. I was scared mostly because I never work with avocados. I picked them out and totally felt awesome splitting, pitting and scooping them out.

Poblano Stuffed Corn Muffins – My husband Matt and I saw these on an episode of Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller and decided to make them. We followed the recipe nearly exactly, we just omitted the cilantro (not sure why?) from the batter mixture. We also made plain corn muffins for those not adventurous enough to try the stuffed peppers. I enjoyed the complexity of the muffins, but as I am not a fan of mushy pepper texture, the shell of the pepper muffin was not my favorite. But, the muffin itself was really yummy and the presentation was just too cute!

Mexican Rice – I never really searched for a recipe for the rice, I just sort of made it up as I went along. Here is the gist of it…I started with brown rice which I cooked in chicken broth, and added chili powder, a little cumin, and a small amount of cayenne pepper. I heated some frozen corn, and added that in as well. I also added diced red onion and diced red pepper as well. After sprinkling with salt and pepper, and a small amount of garlic powder, I added freshly chopped scallions to the dish. It was tasty, if I do say so myself, and people enjoyed it.

Dessert – I used this recipe from epicurious for the dessert. I wanted something easy, as there were 8 adults and 3 toddlers to serve. I made the chocolate sauce a day ahead, and reheated just before serving. I omitted the espresso powder because I didn’t have any, and added a touch more cinnamon that the recipe called for, and also added a dash of cayenne pepper, which gave the sauce a wonderful added dimension. The tortilla crisps were a piece of cake. I simplified the already easy directions listed in the recipe by spreading butter over the flour tortillas and sprinkling with a sugar and cinnamon combo before slicing into triangles with a pizza slicer. I added brownies (Ina’s) to my dessert, and used vanilla and chocolate frozen yogurt instead of coffee, just because I knew most of my husband’s family are not coffee ice cream fans (what is wrong with them??!). This dessert was soooo easy and super delicious!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Grilled Swordfish with Tomato-Herb Salsa

My mom was visiting for a few days, and after too many indulgent meals out, I decided to cook one of her favorites, swordfish. I wanted to change it up on my creature-of-habit mother though, and marinade it and top it with something she would not expect. Swordfish to my mom typically means marinating in lemon juice and herbs, topping with herb butter and fresh lemon. Don’t get me wrong, it is delicious; I just wanted to surprise her palate. I also wanted to use up some garden tomatoes as well. I used this recipe from epicurious as my guide, and only made a few changes, which I noted below.

I started with 2 gorgeous, thick, and fresh swordfish steaks, and marinated in a combination of herbs, extra virgin olive oil (very small amount), and some white wine. I used fresh thyme, garlic, basil, marjoram (dried, I couldn’t find fresh at the store), and fresh ground pepper and sea salt. After marinating for about 30 minutes, I placed the fish on the grill, turning after about 6-7 minutes (my fish was rather thick, this will vary depending on thickness).

I served the swordfish with fresh green beans, so after I had rinsed and snapped the ends of the beans, I placed them in a foil packet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little minced garlic and fresh thyme. I placed the foil packet on the grill along with the swordfish.

Meanwhile, I got to work on the tomato-herb salsa. I changed the recipe I found on epicurious slightly, by adding garlic and white whine to the salsa. I omitted the steps of peeling and blanching the tomatoes. To me, the salsa resembled more of a bruschetta, but oh well, it was still very tasty!

I served the fish over a bed of whole wheat couscous, which I made with vegetable stock, garlic, and some fresh basil.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Whole Wheat Quesadillas on the Grill

So I am obsessed with the grill. And I mean OBSESSED!!! I will cook anything on the grill, and tonight was no exception! I made quesadillas from time to time, but never on the grill. I figured, why not? Here’s the gist of the meal…

4 tortillas (I used Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran, & Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas)
1 large chicken breast (I had an enormous one, so I used that, but if yours are small, maybe use 2)
Green Onions, diced
1 large Red Bell Pepper
½ Vidalia onion, sliced
One block of Pepper Jack Cheese (I used the light variety, use whatever you want)
A sprinkling of bagged Mexican style shredded cheese (I used the light variety)
Olive oil
Dashes of the following:
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Red pepper flakes
Emeril’s Essence Seasoning

I preheated the grill, and drizzled olive oil onto a plate. On top of the olive oil, I added dashed of the above mentioned spices. I then placed the chicken on the plate, turning to coat in the oil and spices. On the grill it went, turning over half way through cooking. Once the chicken was done, I sliced into small pieces, almost shredding the chicken.

Meanwhile, while the chicken was cooking, I sliced the red bell pepper and onion, and added to a skillet coated with cooking spray. I also shredded the pepper jack cheese and sliced the green onions. I arranged everything in it’s own prep bowl, in order to assemble the quesadilla easily on the grill.

I placed 2 tortillas on the grill, after a quick spray of olive oil spray. Once on the grill, I added cheese, the peppers and onions, chicken, and green onions, followed by more cheese. After a few minutes, I placed the remaining tortillas on top, and carefully flipped. (I used 2 spatulas for this, and still managed to loose a stray pepper or cheese shaving! ). After a few minutes to really set and get some nice grill marks, I removed from the grill and let cool a few minutes before slicing with a pizza cutter.

I served this with Spanish rice. I cooked 1 cup of brown rice in chicken broth for 45 minutes. Once cooked, I mixed in chili powder, garlic powder, and a tiny dash of cumin. I added 1 diced tomato, a handful of chopped green onions, and diced red bell peppers(about 1/2 of the pepper). I omitted black beans, only because I didn’t have any.

My husband hates sour cream (what?!), so his was plain, but mine was topped with a dollop of sour cream and some green onions for looks and crunch factor!

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Updated BLT

In celebration of our first ripened tomato, and in order to use up some of our overgrown basil, I decided to shake up the classic BLT…

I made 2 different sandwiches, and my husband and I had half of each one. Here are the ingredients for the Pesto BLT:

2 Slices of multigrain bread
Handful of basil, washed
Chicken breast
Provolone cheese
Tomato slices
2 slices of bacon

I had made pesto this past weekend, so I decided to use some of it up on this updated version of a BLT. I coated the chicken breast in the pesto and grilled. When nearly done, I added a slice of provolone cheese to the chicken. I toasted the multigrain bread, and placed the chicken on top. I then added the bacon, followed by basil (in place of lettuce), and topped with the tomato slices. I spread some additional pesto on the top slice of the bread to top off my sandwich. YUM!

For the second sandwich, I did a honey mustard BLT…

2 slices of multigrain bread
Sliced tomatoes
2 slices of bacon
Honey Mustard dressing
Honey Mustard spread
Chicken breast
Slices of red onion

With this sandwich, I coated the chicken breast with honey mustard dressing and grilled. I toasted the bread, and placed the grilled chicken on top. I topped the chicken with 2 slices of bacon, lettuce, and tomato slices. I spread some honey mustard on the other slice of bread and cut in half.

We each had a taste of both sandwiches, and both agreed that the pesto BLT was better. But, nonetheless, we enjoyed both of them!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grilled Pizza for Friends!

We got together with our neighbors, at their request, so they could try our “World Famous Grilled Pizza.” They were in awe of the whole process, and I believe we got them hooked! For instructions on working with the dough, see my first post (Bruschetta pizza). I used Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough (for just Matt and I, we only use half), and as always, it made perfectly delicious crust!

For toppings, I used the following:

1 package of frozen creamed spinach, heated through
4 diced tomatoes (seeds and juices discarded)
Large handful of mushrooms
1 small red onion
Marinated artichoke hearts
Fontina cheese

I started by dicing the tomatoes, and sautéing the mushrooms and onions on the stovetop. I added in a small amount of olive oil and also balsamic vinegar to the mushroom/onion pan for a little depth in flavor. I microwaved the frozen spinach according to directions on the package, and I also shredded the fontina cheese, and then placed all of the prepared ingredients in bowls and placed on a large baking sheet to transport out to the grill.

Once I had flipped the dough, I started by spreading the spinach over the bottom. I added a little bit of cheese next, followed by the artichokes, then tomatoes. I added the mushrooms and onions next, and topped the pizza off with the rest of the cheese. I closed the lid and let the cheese melt.

Sarah and Austin, our neighbors, brought over a garden salad, and we enjoyed our dinner out on the deck with plenty of Harpoon Summer Ale and Blue Moon “Honey Moon Summer Ale” (with slices or oranges, of course!). We then went and got ice cream for dessert, YUM! Purple Cow frozen yogurt is soooo delish!