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Archive for April, 2008

Difficulty: Easy

Amazing. Simply amazing! The most time consuming step is caramelizing the onions, about 30 minutes there, but well worth the wait. In that time you can cook up your bacon and get all of the other ingredients ready. The combination of flavors just explodes and the creamy Brie (a mild creamy cheese) melts beautifully melding all the goodness together. Try it, you won’t be sorry. Serves 2, easily adapts for more.

Ingredients

4 slices good sourdough
12 oz jar roasted red pepper, drained and patted dry on paper towel
4 large slices bacon
4 oz Brie cheese (I bought a 1/2 pound wedge and sliced 4 pieces off)
2 TBS pesto
butter

Caramelized Onions

2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
1 TBS fresh thyme or rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
S & P

Directions: In large skillet over medium low heat melt butter and olive oil. Add onions, garlic and herbs, season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook over low heat until onions have softened and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until brown and crisp, drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside. When onions are done, heat large grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of sourdough, add 1/2 TBS pesto to other side of bread and layer red pepper, bacon, onions and slices of Brie cheese, place in skillet. Top with 2nd slice of bread spread with pesto on one side and butter on the other. Repeat for remaining panini. Place heavy bottomed skillet on top of panini’s and press down to flatten bread slightly, leave pan on top of bread until golden brown on one side, about 3-5 minutes. Flip and repeat. If you have a panini press then follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove from heat and cut in half. Serve immediately and settle into delicious bliss.

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Pasta Salad

Difficulty: Easy!

I asked Phil what he wanted for dinner last night. I was planning on not cooking at all since I was still full from lunch or just scrummaging around to satisfy his hunger, nothing spectacular planned. He threw me a curve ball and wanted pasta salad. He always does this when it starts getting hot. He wants something light and cool yet filling. It was Thursday, end of the week and my groceries are dwindling. I did scrummage something up and it was quite delicious if I do say so myself. Perfectly tender pasta, ripe cherry tomatoes bursting with sweetness, crunchy cucumber and red bell pepper, the tang from a vinaigrette and smoky, salty crisp bacon sprinkled on top with creamy feta cheese. How can you go wrong? (And yes, I usally have all these things on hand, consider it part of your staples and you will always be prepared.) Enjoy!

Pasta Salad
1 pound rotini pasta
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small red peppers, chopped
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and chopped
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup feta cheese, don’t like feta? Leave it out or substitute your favorite.

Vinaigrette
4 TBS olive oil
3 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS white vinegar
1/2 tsp granulated garlic or 1 small clove, minced
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Directions: Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, 6-8 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, set in large bowl. While pasta is cooking, cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towel lined plate, set aside. Add tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, parsley to pasta.

In small bowl whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette. Pour over pasta salad and toss to combine. Add feta and lightly toss. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If pasta is too dry add a splash more vinegar and olive oil. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle bacon on top. Serve! Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Salmon Tacos w/Mango Salsa

Difficulty: Easy

This is such a yummy easy dish to whip out when the family is waiting anxiously and probably impatiently for dinner. You can substitute any fish. The mango salsa is a must! Serve with lime wedges. Makes 8 tacos.

1 pound salmon or any fish of your liking
S & P or Lawry’s seasoning (I used Midwestern Meat’s seasoning)
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
8 corn tortillas
Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 large mango, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, diced fine
2 TBS red onion, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
S & P
Lime wedges for serving

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 TBS oil to pan. Season fish to taste and add to pan. Cook until fish flakes easily and is just opaque in center, about 5-8 minutes depending on cut. Remove from pan and let rest.

Meanwhile, toss mango, jalapeno, onion, lime and cilantro in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Warm corn tortillas in small skillet until starting to brown but still soft.

Flake fish with fork and divide evenly among tortillas. Top with cheese, lettuce or cabbage and mango salsa. Serve with lime wedges and enjoy!

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Tuna Casserole

Difficulty: Super Easy!

This isn’t your typical pasta, pea & tuna casserole. Blech. This beauty has all the comforts; crusty, rustic bread, warm, melted cheddar and a nice easy roux. Simple, honest home-cooked goodness. And it hit the spot last night. Makes enough for 4 people as is, or double up to family size in a 9×13 pan.

2 cups crusty bread, French, sourdough, etc. Just not your sandwich bread.
1 small onion, chopped very fine
1 1/2 cups milk
3 TBS flour
3 TBS butter
1 can good quality tuna, (Chicken of the Sea is the best) drained and flaked
1 cup cheddar, grated
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 pan with cooking spray and set aside. Tear or cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place bread in pan.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and let melt. When pan is hot and butter has melted add chopped onion and season with salt and pepper. Saute until onion is soft and starting to caramelize, 5-7 minutes. Add flour and stir to combine and cook out raw flour taste, about 2 minutes. Add milk to pan, stirring constantly to combine flour mixture and thicken roux. Cook until mixture is the consistency of gravy, about 3 minutes, taste to make sure salt level is good, add more to taste if desired. Add more milk if you let it get too thick, no biggie. Remove from heat.

With fingers or fork combine tuna with bread. Drizzle roux over bread and lightly toss to combine. Top with cheddar cheese and bake 20-30 minutes until bread is toasted, cheese is melted and everything is one gooey goodness! Serve and enjoy.

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Difficulty: Moderate (only because they are cinnamon rolls and the instructions are wordy but I think they are Easy, under one hour!)

From Cook’s Illustrated but I have altered the icing

1 TBS melted butter, for pan

Cinnamon-Sugar filling
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1 TBS melted butter

Biscuit Dough
2 1/2 cups flour, plus add’l for work surface
2 TBS sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 TBS melted butter

Icing
4 TBS cream cheese, softened
2-4 TBS buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar
 
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat to 425 degrees. Pour 1 TBS melted butter into 9-inch nonstick cake pan or 8×8 glass pan, brush to coat pan.

To make cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine sugars, spices and salt in small bowl, add butter and stir with fork until mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.

To make biscuit dough: Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl, whisk buttermilk and 2 TBS of the melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir until just combined, dough will look very shaggy. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter top and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

Pat dough with hands into approximate 12×9 inch rectangle. Brush dough with 2 TBS melted butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar filling, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges. Press filling into dough. Loosen dough with fingers or bench scraper from counter and roll dough, starting at the long side, pressing lightly to form a tight log. Pinch seam to seal. Cut evenly into 8-9 pieces, pinch bottom of roll with fingers to seal and keep filling in place. Place in pan. Brush remaining 2 TBS melted butter over tops of rolls.

Bake until edges are golden brown, 23-25 minutes. Loosen buns from pan, place large plate over pan and invert buns onto plate. Then place cooling rack over plate and invert onto rack. Cool 5 minutes before icing.

To make icing & finish buns: While buns are cooling, whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in medium bowl until smooth (will look like cottage cheese at first), add powdered sugar and stir until well combined. Ice buns and serve gooey, delicious buns immediately with tall glass of milk!

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Difficulty: Easy

This tasty EASY dish is from a fellow recipe blogger, Breakfast Lunch & Dinner but I have made some changes. It was really easy and totally satisfying, light but filling. The panko gives the chicken such a great crunch and the tangy honey mustard dressing gives your taste buds a wake-up.  If you don’t have panko just use breadcrumbs but I strongly recommend using panko, it is basically a Japanese breadcrumb and you can find it down the Asian aisle of your friendly neighborhood grocer, I found mine at Sprout’s because I happened to be there but I am sure you will find them anywhere.

When frying your chicken-yes frying- make sure your oil is hot, 375 degrees, use a thermometer or test the oil by throwing in a small piece and it should sizzle immediately. Don’t overcrowd your pan either, as this will lower the temperature.

Serves 4.

Chicken:
8 chicken tenders
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko or seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried parsley

1 quart oil for frying

Place chicken strips into a large, resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, mix the egg, buttermilk and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into bag with chicken. Seal, and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours but if you are in a pinch like I was last night, I put everything in a medium bowl, making sure the chicken was covered and let it sit for 30 minutes while I prepared everything else. In another large, resealable plastic bag, mix together the flour, bread crumbs, salt and baking powder. Remove chicken from refrigerator, and drain, discarding buttermilk mixture. Place chicken in flour mixture bag. Seal, and shake to coat. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) Carefully place coated chicken in hot oil. Fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels.

Honey Mustard Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1+ Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard, or whatever you have
2+ Tbsp honey
Juice of ½ lemon
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
S & P

In a small bowl, whisk together the all ingredients or place in sealed mason jar and shake it baby! Add more mustard and/or honey to your desired taste. Store covered in the refrigerator. Makes enough for 4 large salads.

Serve on bed of salad greens with cucumber, bits of bacon, cheddar and hard boiled egg if you wish. Make it according to your tastes! We did just egg and cucumber. If you are opposed to frying follow the directions for chicken tenders through breading, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place on cooling rack over cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden brown.

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Difficulty: Moderate

Crème brûlée, French for “burned cream,” is a custard whose sugar topping is melted and crystallized under a broiler. This was a fun dish, I first had Creme Brulee in Sedona and it was divine. This adaptation is taken from Cooking Light so it is much friendlier to the figure than the real deal. Only 180 calories for a 4 oz serving! Compare that to an average of 500 calories and this one is a nice tasty indulgence. Not quite as creamy as the real deal but it is still a beautiful custard.

A water bath ensures the custards cook slowly and evenly. Line the baking pan with a kitchen towel before adding the ramekins; the towel will also keep them from sliding and will protect the bottoms from the hot pan.

Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 pint fresh berries (blackberries, raspberries, etc)
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 TBS sugar
2 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300°.Combine 1/3 cup sugar and the egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around the edge (do not boil), stirring occasionally. Stir in the vanilla extract. Gradually add milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Divide the mixture evenly among 6 (4-ounce) ramekins, custard cups, or shallow baking dishes. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake at 300° 45 minutes or until the center barely moves when ramekin is touched. Remove ramekins from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover ramekins and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Carefully sift 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over each custard. Holding a kitchen blow torch about 2 inches from the top of each custard, heat the sugar, moving the torch back and forth, until the sugar is completely melted and caramelized (about 1 minute). Serve the custards immediately or within 1 hour.

Combine fruit ingredients and let macerate in bowl while you make the sugar topping. Serve on the side or on top.

Note: Sugar topping can be prepared on the stovetop. Place 6 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until golden (about 5 to 8 minutes). Immediately pour over cold custards, and quickly spread to form a thin layer.

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