Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zucchini "Fries"

As soon as I saw these on Two Peas & Their Pod, I decided to make them that night! I had fresh zucchini in my fridge and these looked too great to wait another minute on.

I was NOT disappointed with these! These were amazing - even my husband ate them and said I could make them any time! During the summer I plant zucchini and always have a TON of them on hand from my garden, so I will definitely remember this recipe for the summer!

These are great for a side on many different main courses. Sandwiches, burgers, meat, etc...these fries will go with a lot! I used marinara sauce to dip them in which was great. I absolutely loved these and will absolutely make them again and again!

Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

1 zucchini, cut into sticks
2 eggs
splash of milk (about 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a large baking dish with foil and spray with non stick spray.

Set up a breading station. On one plate, add flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and milk together with a fork. On another plate add panko and cheese and mix together. Season zucchini sticks with salt and pepper.

One by one, dredge zucchini sticks in flour, then dip in egg mixture, then press into panko until completely coated. Place on baking sheet side by side, until all zucchini sticks are breaded.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown - flip after 10 minutes and serve hot with marinara sauce.

Zucchini on FoodistaZucchini

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creamy White Bean Soup

I absolutely love making soup. Soup recipes tend to make a lot, so not only do I get to enjoy it for dinner, I also get to enjoy it for subsequent lunches at work. This is a healthy soup that is easy to make.

This soup is flavorful, healthy and hearty. The beans create a wonderful creaminess to the soup, especially when blended. The kale adds so much color and flavor, that I seriously load this soup with it! I really love this recipe and will definitely make it again and again.

Adapted from The Daily Green, originally published in Good Housekeeping

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cans (15 1/2 to 19 ounces each) white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2-3 springs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 cups water
1 head fresh kale
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Optional - aprox. 1 cup cooked small pasta (I used little stars)

In 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add beans, broth, pepper, thyme, and water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim tough stems from kale and discard; thinly slice leaves.

With slotted spoon, remove 2 cups bean and vegetable mixture from soup; set aside. Blend the rest of the soup with an immersion blender and puree until smooth.

Stir in reserved beans, vegetables and pasta (if using). Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in kale and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat. Serve with Parmesan, if you like.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shrimp Farfalle

I've been eating a lot of shrimp lately. It's quick, easy and makes for a perfect weeknight protein. I've been eating less meat (especially red meat) so for me, shrimp is a great alternative. I feel like like I'm eating a meat, and shrimp is always such a treat.

This was one of those "clean out your pantry" type of meals. I just mixed up a bunch of things that I had on hand, and it worked out REALLY well! This pasta dinner was so flavorful, light and healthy. I really loved this and will certainly make it again.

1/2 12 oz. box farfalle pasta
1/2 head fresh broccoli, trimmed and chopped into medium pieces
8-10 precooked shrimp, thawed and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
1.5 cups chicken stock
aprox. 2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 fresh tomato, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
fresh Parmesan cheese

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. During the last 3 or 4 minutes of cook time for the pasta, add fresh broccoli to the pasta water (keeping the pasta in the pot). Cook until pasta is done and broccoli is bright green and slightly softened. Be careful not to cook the broccoli too long - 3 minutes is about all you'll need. Drain pasta and broccoli and set aside.

In a large saucepan sprayed with non stick spray over medium-high heat, add shrimp. Cook until seared, about 2-3 minutes then flip shrimp to their other side and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken stock, lemon juice and thyme leaves and whisk in corn starch until well combined. Cook until thickened, and season with salt and pepper. When sauce has thickened sufficiently, add pasta, broccoli and tomato to the saucepan. Toss everything together and serve hot. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

As part of my Irish St. Patrick's Day meal, I knew I had to make Irish Soda Bread! I didn't know if I liked soda bread or not, but in Florida we ate it at one of the great restaurants we went to and we all really loved it.

This bread is so easy to make and is sweet, hearty and airy. The texture is spot on and the sweetness is just perfect. This paired with our Steak and Guinness pie wonderfully and is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I honestly don't know if this is "traditional" or not, but we sure thought it was good! The only downside is that it goes bad pretty quickly, but trust me, it won't be around for very long!

Source: Epicurious - Originally from Bon Appetit, February 2005

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup raisins (I omitted)


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins if using.

Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Using a sharp knife, cut a large X in the loaf. Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Salmon En Papillote

Salmon en Papillote is something that I've been meaning to make for a long time, but just haven't gotten around to. I definitely thought the hardest part about making this was trying to get the parchment paper to stay folded around the salmon! So, it was pretty easy. Perfect for a weeknight.

The result of this recipe was a super flavorful, very moist salmon fillet with a decidedly Mediterranean feel. Also, with the addition of fresh veggies and herbs, you have yourself quite a nice dinner all in one "Papillote."

Adapted from RecipeZaar

1/2 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 lemon
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 tablespoons white wine
1-2 (3 1/2 ounce) salmon fillets
light feta cheese
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the onion, garlic, tomato, carrots and thyme in a bowl with the wine. Lightly squeeze lemon half over the onion mixture and mix together. Slice 2-3 thin pieces of lemon and set aside. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place in a bowl and pour over the marinade. Leave for 5 minutes.

Lay out 1 large sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray and put a piece of salmon in the center. Spoon over the marinade and cover the fish, top with lemon slices and fold the paper to make a packet. Place in a dish and bake for 15 minutes or until fish is opaque in the center and flakes easily. Open the pouch, sprinkle feta cheese over the fish and serve.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Birthday Cake

Sometimes nothing says "Happy Birthday" better then a simply decorated, delicious birthday cake. With nice, smooth butter cream, a simple rope boarder and sweet little sugar flowers, the first thing your eye gravitates to is a message. A simple and meaningful "Happy Birthday."

This cake was made for my wonderful grandfather's 96th birthday. He is so sweet - always a positive spirit and get this: he still drives...well! With a full head of hair and a memory that is sharp as a tack, Grandpa was truly appreciative of this cake. He didn't believe me when I said I made it - he insisted that I bought it at a bakery!

Also - I decided to post this cake because at this time last year I made grandpa's 95th birthday cake. After I made that cake, I decided to take the Wilton classes. So I urge you to look back at this post and take a look at that cake. 1 year, 16 Wilton classes and countless cakes later I am very pleased with my improvement and again can't say enough about how great the Wilton classes are.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Apricot dipping sauce

My husband and I have always loved coconut shrimp. We had it at our wedding and always order it out when we see it on the menu. I mean, is there anyone who doesn't love coconut shrimp? So when we got it in Florida (like, every day for lunch) I totally had the idea of making them at home. But hopefully, with cutting out some of that fat that frying brings!

Since I first made these, my husband and I have eaten them once a week. I have them for dinner, and my husband loves to pair them with a steak for a little "surf and turf." And since they are baked and not fried, you don't have to feel guilty about them. And perhaps our favorite part of this shrimp is the sauce! A super simple 3 ingredient sauce is all it takes to bring the shrimp from good to great!


For the Shrimp:
Frozen Cooked shrimp, thawed (however many you want! We usually make 16 depending on the size)
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 egg
splash of skim milk
1/2-1 tsp. coconut extract
For the sauce:
aprox. 1/3 cup apricot preserves
1-2 tbsp dijon mustard (to taste)
1 tsp. coconut extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with non stick spray. Set aside. Set up a breading station - put flour on one plate, whisk the egg with a splash of milk and 1 tsp. coconut extract, and put panko and coconut flakes on another, separate plate. Season the thawed shrimp with salt and pepper to taste. One by one, dredge the shrimp in flour until completely covered, then dip in egg mixture, then press into coconut/panko mixture. Line shrimp on the prepared baking sheet.

When all the shrimp are on the sheet, put in oven for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Flip each shrimp over and put in oven for an additional 10-15 minutes until that side is light golden brown.

While the shrimp is baking, make the sauce. In a small bowl add the apricot preserves. Melt in microwave on high for about 20 seconds, until preserves are very smooth. Add mustard and coconut extract to taste.

Serve shrimp hot with apricot sauce.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steak & Guinness Pie

I decided to try and make my husband an Irish meal for St. Patrick's Day this year. I'm not Irish at all, but he is. Neither of us like the traditional St. Patrick's day fare of "Corned Beef & Cabbage" so I went on the hunt for a meal with Guinness. He likes Guinness to drink, and I like it to cook with. So when I found Jamie Oliver's recipe I thought it looked like a winner.

Besides the fact that this isn't the prettiest meal I've made, it was certainly delicious. I swapped out the puff pastry for my pie dough because my husband requested it that way (he loves my pie dough) and added a few more carrots and celery then what was called for. But besides that, I followed the recipe as it was. I have to say, when I saw that the recipe called for cheese I was a little hesitant but it added SO much complexity and depth of flavor. I absolutely loved the cheese in it. I got an imported Irish Stout cheese and it was very strong, but lent itself perfectly to this pie. This was a meal my husband and I both loved and I'm pretty sure I'll be making it again next year!
Adapted from: Jamie Oliver

olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
30g butter, plus extra for greasing (This is 2 tablespoons)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (I used 4 small carrots)
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped (I used 2 sticks)
4 field mushrooms, peeled and sliced (I omitted)
1kg brisket of beef or stewing beef, cut into 2cm cubes (I used venison)
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 440ml can of Guinness (no lager, please!)
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
200g freshly grated Cheddar cheese (I used Kerrygold Dubliner with Irish stout cheese)
500g best-quality ready-made all-butter puff pastry (I used 1 recipe Pie Dough)
1 large free-range or organic egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. In a large ovenproof pan, heat a glug of olive oil on a low heat. Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes – try not to colour them too much. Turn the heat up, add the garlic, butter, carrots and celery and scatter in the mushrooms. Mix everything together before stirring in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of pepper.

Fry fast for 3 or 4 minutes, then pour in the Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water (I used about 2.5 cups) to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and place in the preheated oven for about 1½ hours. Remove the pan from the oven and give the stew a stir. Put it back into the oven and continue to cook it for another hour, or until the meat is very tender and the stew is rich, dark and thick. A perfect pie filling needs to be robust, so if it’s still quite liquidy, place the pan on the hob and reduce until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, then season carefully and leave to cool slightly.

Cut about a third of the pastry off the block (or half of the pie dough). Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll both pieces of pastry out evenly with a floured rolling pin to the thickness of a pound coin. Butter a deep pie dish, then line with the larger sheet, leaving the edges dangling over the side. Tip the stew into your lined dish and even it out before sprinkling over the remaining cheese. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg.

Cut the other rolled sheet of pastry to fit the top of the pie dish and criss-cross it lightly with a sharp knife. Place it over the top of the pie and fold the overhanging pastry on to the pastry lid to make it look nice and rustic. Brush the top with beaten egg, then bake the pie directly on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, until the pastry is cooked, puffed and golden. Delicious served simply with peas.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Barley Risotto

One thing I do quite often at the grocery store is buy something that I've never used before. It really helps me try new things and expand what I make each week. So last week I picked up pearled barley. I've had barely in soups before, but never as a side. So when I googled Barley dishes, I found barely risotto! We all know that I am a huge fan of risotto, so I was excited to make this!

I thought this was a great side dish. In fact, I could definitely eat a big plate of just this for dinner! It took a little longer to make then risotto with arborio, but not by much time. I thought this was very flavorful and delicious. In addition, it's a very hearty dish. This is definitely something I'll be making again and again!

Adapted from Epicurious, Originally from Bon Appétit , November 1997

4 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup pearl barley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried
4 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Parmesan cheese

Bring chicken stock to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Melt 2 teaspoons olive oil in large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add barley, thyme, bay leaf, sage and 2 ladles full chicken stock; bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of stock is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add remaining stock one ladle full at a time, allowing stock to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until barley is tender, about 50 minutes.

Mix in parsley to barley mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon risotto into bowls and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Potato Focaccia

One of my favorite things to bake is bread. I love kneading the dough, watching it rise, and the smell as it bakes in the oven. I also love to find new recipes for bread, just to keep things interesting, so I was very excited when I found this recipe for potato focaccia. However, as I read this recipe I realized it was only half finished! There was no instructions for cook time or temperature. So, I figured it out and it turned out great.

Not only is there a potato in the dough which results in a very moist and airy bread, the top has layers of thinly sliced potatoes and caramelized onions. This is a delicious bread that pairs perfectly with soups or salads. It's flavorful on its own, or as an accompaniment to any main course.

Adapted from Epicurious

1 Tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp table salt
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour or as needed
1/2 chopped yellow onion
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 medium sized russet potato
3 small sized red potatoes
5 cloves garlic, roasted
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Peel russet potato and boil until soft. Mash or push through a potato ricer (I pushed the potato through a fine meshed sieve with a spoon which worked great) and set aside. In large bowl, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over 1/2 cup of the water and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining water and sugar, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, table salt and 1 cup of the flour. Beat with the paddle attachment until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the potato and 1/2 cup of flour and beat for about 2 minutes. Stir in the diced onions. Continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, shaggy dough forms. Remove the paddle attachment and replaced with the dough hook. Knead dough for about 5 minutes. The dough should be soft, moist and somewhat sticky. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan over medium low heat, add about 2 tbsp. olive oil until hot. Add sliced onion to pan as well as a hefty pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, on low until caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle onions with about 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, stir and set aside.

Spray a heavy cookie sheet with non stick spray. With oiled fingers, flatten and press the dough into a rectangular or oval shape approximately 1 inch thick. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise for another hour. With oiled fingers, flatten and press the dough a second time until about 1 inch thick. Make deep indentions 1 inch apart and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with towel and let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Thinly slice red potatoes. Lay out potatoes on dough in 3 rows, and sprinkle on caramelized onions and roasted garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until light golden brown. If the onions and garlic are browing up too quickly, cover the pan very loosely with foil. Remove from oven, cut and serve hot.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Coconut Encrusted Salmon with Blueberry Citrus Sauce

I came up with this meal after talking with my mom. She was telling me that the best salmon she ever had was at her favorite restaurant, and the chef had a "coconut salmon thing with this blueberry sauce" as a special. So from that, I decided to make my own version of it because, well, it just sounded good. And while my mom's not much of a foodie or a cook herself, she knows what she likes and has pretty good taste.

I'm very pleased to saw that this came out just wonderfully. It tasted tropical, fresh, healthy and just plain good. Even my husband who "doesn't like fish OR coconut" said that I could make this meal for him any time. This meal totally got me in the mood for summer, so now I'm anxiously waiting for the 8 feet of snow in my front yard to melt. This is just a great meal for this time of will definitely make you feel like you're on an island somewhere, even when there's 8 feet of snow in your yard!

For the salmon:
1-2 skinless salmon filets
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1-2 tbsp skim milk
1/3 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/3 (or more) cup sweetened coconut flakes
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

For the Blueberry Citrus Sauce:
1 hand full of blueberries (about 1/2 cup)
1-2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp. sweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking dish with nonstick olive oil spray. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper and set aside. Set up a breading station: on one plate, add flour; in a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk; and on another plate add panko and coconut. Using your fingers, mix panko and coconut together until coconut is evenly distributed amongst panko.

Press salmon into flour until completely coated, then dip into egg mixture, then dredge in panko coconut mixture. Press panko mixture into salmon until well coated on all sides. Place filet(s) in prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top of the filet with any extra panko/coconut that didn't get used. Spray the top of the filet with non-stick olive oil spray and place in oven for about 20 minutes. Check the filet after about 10-15 minutes to make sure the coconut isn't burning. If it is, cover the baking dish loosely with foil.

While salmon is baking, make blueberry citrus sauce. In a small blender (I use the magic bullet blender), add blueberries, coconut, sugar and lime juice and blend until smooth. Taste the sauce after it's blended and add more lime juice or sugar to taste.

Serve the fish hot with blueberry citrus sauce.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lentil Soup

I've recently become a big fan of lentil soup. It was never anything I ate as a child, but I tried it for something different and was really impressed with it. It's very hearty, filling and good for you. And it tastes just great. So after trying a pre-packaged lentil soup mix which I liked, I made it myself the next time and was thrilled with the results.

This soup was quick to come together and just tasted great. It makes a lot, so be prepared to either freeze some or bring it lunch for a few days after you make it! It's a nice, satisfying soup that will make you feel good about eating it without sacrificing flavor!


Adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cups water
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups dry pasta (I used shells)
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring salted water to a rolling boil. Add shells and cook about 7-8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook carrot, celery, and shallot until tender, about 6 minutes. Add water, chicken stock and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in cooked pasta and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with vinegar to taste. Drizzle with oil and serve.

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