Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cumin-Chili Fried Fish with a Pico de Gallo Topping

Fish. I have tried almost every kind there is and just don't like it. Well, I can eat catfish and trout, and I think it is because they are freshwater fish, and don't have that seafood flavor that all other salt water fish have. But I'm determined to make myself like it.

Whenever Jon orders fish at a restaurant I'll try it. When we were on vacation in the USVI, I did eat some of his Caribbean lobster and sea bass - I liked both but couldn't order it for myself and eat a large portion.

Tonight I decided to try a recipe that would add a lot of flavor and texture. I found this recipe for Cumin-Chili Fried Fish on the Epicurious web site. I made a few changes and added a fresh pico de gallo topping. My adaptation is below.

Ingredients for Fish
  • 2 Orange Roughy filets
  • Black pepper, cumin, chili powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp matzo meal
  • Approximately 1/3 c olive oil - enough to nicely coat the bottom of a pan


  • Generously coat fish with black pepper, cumin, and chili powder
  • Dip in egg, and then dip in matzo meal
  • Heat oil in a large pan
  • Add fish and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcook. Remove fish from pan and place on paper towels.

Pico de Gallo

This recipe is similar to how I make my salsa and made enough to top both pieces of fish. Just mix everything together and chill.

  • 1 tomato, the outer edges only (no seeds or pulp), chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 sm yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped red onion
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • Approximately 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt - approximately 1/2 tsp

Wow, I ate an entire filet of fish!! The spices - cumin and chili powder - gave it really good flavor, and the matzo meal made it nice and crispy. The cold pico was the perfect topping and went perfectly with the spices in the fish. I enjoyed this meal, and am looking forward to experimenting with other fish recipes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken with Jalapenos, Tomatoes, and Lots of Other Stuff

I couldn't figure out what to name this dish. It's not a stew or a stir fry, and is more than chicken in a broth. Jon and I brainstormed over dinner and he thought I should call it "Chicken and Stuff." Hmm, not too appetizing, but it is chicken and lots of stuff!

This recipe is my own creation, inspired by some jalapenos I had to use up, a package of chicken, and my love of spicy, Mexican flavors.


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • For chicken: salt, pepper, adobo, chili powder, and flour
  • 1/2 sm onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (I left the ribs in one of them for some extra heat)
  • 1 orange pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 c tequila
  • 1/2 of a 14oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 10 oz chicken broth
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 sm bunch cilantro, chopped


  • Coat chicken in spices and dredge in flour
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Add chicken and cook until done - about 5-6 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
  • Add another tbsp oil to pan; add onions and garlic, saute 1-2 minutes
  • Add jalapenos and orange pepper, saute another 1-2 minutes
  • Deglaze pan with tequila - lower the heat when you do this so you don't catch it on fire (unless you want to, of course, but I like my kitchen the way it is!). Scrape up brown bits.
  • Once tequila has absorbed, add tomatoes. Saute 1-2 minutes.
  • Add broth, lime juice, and most of the cilantro; bring to a simmer
  • Return chicken to pan and let simmer for 5-10 minutes

Garnish with remaining cilantro and serve over rice (obviously from the picture below I forgot the garnish, but it was a good idea :).

Sometimes when I create something of my own and we are eating it for the first time, Jon and I both agree that it could use one more ingredient, one less ingredient, or we come up with other ways to prepare it.

Not with this dish! It was so flavorful and had just the right amount of kick. I was very happy with how it turned out and wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Grilled Ciabatta Bread Salad

Our friend Jeff came to visit for the weekend. He loves to cook, so we planned on cooking all day Saturday.

First, we made a big bowl of my pico de gallo - what a treat in January!!

corn chowder with jalapeno cream was for lunch - a quick and easy soup.

For dinner we had grilled filet mignon with caramelized onion and spinach risotto.

Jeff made a great salad that we enjoyed with dinner - Grilled Ciabatta Bread Salad. He found the original recipe, a Bobby Flay recipe, on the Food Network web site. It's no longer listed on this site, but this recipe is an adaptation of the original.

  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread
  • 3 c fresh spinach
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 c blue cheese, crumbled (original recipe calls for feta)
  • 1 c good olive oil
  • 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, Pepper, and Oregano to taste

  • Slice onions, chop cilantro, and let bathe in 1/2 c olive oil in the fridge while grilling the bread
  • Slice bread into two long halves; spray with cooking spray and grill until charred. Jeff says to grill it as dark as you can take it!
  • Chop the bread into 1 inch pieces and add to onions and cilantro with another 1/2 c olive oil. Chill at least one-half hour.
  • Add tomatoes, spinach, cheese. Toss with balsamic (start slowly, add to taste) and salt/pepper/oregano to taste.
  • Serve immediately
This salad was so delicious and refreshing. I loved how all of the flavors worked together, and there is nothing like grilled bread in a cold salad. We all loved the flavor that the blue cheese added, and think it was a perfect substitution for feta.
Thanks Jeff!! Hope to see you again soon :)

Beef and Peppers in a Hoisin-Soy Sauce with Noodles

Tonight's dinner came about because I had a few peppers to use up as well as a package of steak strips. I felt like using Asian ingredients, so developed this as I went along.
  • 3 peppers - I used 1 green, 1 yellow, and 1 red - cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 onion, cut into strips

The pile of veggies was so pretty that I had to take a picture -

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb steak strips marinated in soy and Worcestershire with a touch of garlic powder and onion powder (marinated for 20-30 minutes)
  • 1 package powdered brown gravy mixed with 1 c water
  • 1 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/3 c cooking sherry
  • 1/2 package Chinese noodles (not sure what they are called - my parents bought them for us in Chinatown - they are medium, flat noodles that cook up quickly)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Chopped green onions for garnish


  • Heat a large saute pan over high heat
  • Add steak strips and cook until just a bit more than halfway done
  • Deglaze pan with cooking sherry, scraping up brown bits
  • Add garlic, onions, and peppers; saute for a few minutes
  • Mix gravy/water with Hoison and soy; add to pan
  • Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 5 minutes; the sauce will thicken
  • In the meantime, boil water. Add noodles and cook until done - about 5 minutes. Drain.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large pan or wok over high heat
  • Add noodles and toss with approximately 2 tsp soy sauce. When done, garnish with green onions.

So simple with amazing flavor. I made this dish in 20 minutes, 30 minutes total when you add prep/chopping time.

My First Blog Award

Thank you to Chi-Town Cooking Creations for my first blog award, the Lemonade Award, which is for having a refreshing blog, just like lemonade :)

This award is meant to be shared and passed on, so there are a few rules -

- Add the logo to your blog
- Add a link to the person who gave you the award
- Nominate up to 10 other refreshing blogs and list the links. Then, leave a message for each nominee informing them of the award.

Drum roll... my nominees are:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gruyere Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Some things are just meant to go together. Spaghetti and meatballs, buffalo wings and blue cheese, pizza and beer. One of my favorite combinations is Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and spinach. Those ingredients inspired tonight's dinner, which is my own creation.


  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; trimmed and pounded out a bit
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Paprika
  • Approx 3 tbsp flour
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Approx 1/3 c white wine
  • 12 slices Gruyere cheese
  • Fresh spinach


  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium heat
  • Add onions, pinch each of salt, pepper, sugar, and thyme. Let cook, stirring often, for approximately 30 minutes until the onions are brown and caramelized. Remove from pan.
  • Add another tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter to pan
  • Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cut a small pocket in the side to stuff them with cheese later. Dredge in flour, shake off excess.
  • Place chicken in the pan; cook approximately 4 minutes on each side. As my chicken was cooking, my pan was turning very brown, but I also thought that there was a lot of flavor in those brown bits so I deglazed the pan with white wine. Put a slice of cheese in each pocket. Continue to baste chicken with the white wine in the pan.
  • When the chicken is done, top each piece with 3 slices Gruyere cheese.
  • Place under the broiler in your oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  • Top each chicken breast with some of the caramelized onions, and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes.

  • Serve over sauteed spinach (saute spinach in olive oil with salt and pepper for 3-4 minutes, until just wilted).

I love these flavors together! I don't know what it is, but they just go together, like it was meant to be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crispy Tofu with Mushrooms and Garlic

Tofu is not just for vegetarians! Yes, I ate it a lot when I was a vegetarian, but I still enjoy it a few times a month. It's a nice break from meat, can be flavored in an endless number of ways, and makes for a healthy meal.

I made this recipe up as I went along. As I was cooking, Jon kept asking me if I knew what I was making.! I didn't know what it was going to turn out to be until 3/4 of the way through. I love experimenting in this way, and it's even better when you end up with an amazing dinner that goes onto your list of things to definitely make again.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 block of tofu, pressed to get the water out and then cut into 1.5 inch slices
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • Few dashed black pepper; salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp cooking sherry
  • 3/4 c low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp hoisin sauce
  • Pinch of white sugar (I think brown sugar would work as well)
  • If needed for thickening, 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • Chopped green onions


  • Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat
  • Add sliced tofu, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Here is how it looked after being browned:

  • Add mushrooms to the pan and saute 2 min; add garlic and saute another minute
  • Add cooking sherry and stir until absorbed. In the meantime, mix chicken broth, soy sauce, hoisin, and sugar in a bowl.
  • Once sherry has absorbed, add broth mixture. Bring to a simmer. Thicken with cornstarch if needed.
  • Return tofu to the pan and mix until coated.
  • Serve topped with green onions

I loved this creation! I was grabbing things from the pantry and fridge, making it all up as I went along, and it was so much fun! The tofu was nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the sauce had just the right mixture of salty and sweet - just thick enough to stick to the tofu. Delicious!!

I served it with a side of roasted baby bok choy.

Roasted Baby Bok Choy

We have a produce store near us with beautiful fruits and veggies at amazing prices. Yesterday I bought 4 baby bok choy for $1.50. I had planned on cooking the baby bok choy with tofu, but last minute changed my mind. Hmm, could it be roasted?
  • Wash baby bok choy and chop off the bottoms
  • Arrange bok choy in a baking dish, and toss with olive oil, a few cloves of chopped garlic, Kosher salt, and black pepper
  • Bake on 375 for 6-8 minutes; you want the green parts to be slightly wilted and the white parts still crispy

Yes, you can roast bok choy!

Jon's Shrimp with Bok Choy

Tonight I made tofu and roasted baby bok choy, and whenever I cook tofu, Jon makes shrimp for himself. His dish looked amazing - I wish I liked shrimp! I did taste the pasta and it was delicious. Here is what he did:

  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan
  • Add 3 cloves chopped garlic, saute
  • Add 3/4 lb shrimp; season with chili powder, paprika
  • When done, toss with cooked spaghetti and roasted baby bok choy
  • Top with chopped green onions

Monday, January 19, 2009

Attention Bacon Lovers!! Mushroom Risotto with Bacon and Smoked Gouda

Risotto is my favorite thing to cook. I have many risotto recipes in this blog, and love playing with new flavors.

Last week I made a
Mushroom-Potato-Smoked Gouda Chowder that I originally found in Elly's blog. I loved the flavors so much that I decided to use them as my inspiration for tonight's risotto - Mushroom Risotto with Bacon and Smoked Gouda. This recipe is my own creation.

  • 2 slices bacon; I used applewood smoked bacon
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1 sm onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms, chopped; I used baby bellas and shiitakes
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • Approximately 1/2 c shredded smoked Gouda cheese


  • Heat a large sauce/saute pan.
  • Add bacon and cook until crisp.
  • Remove bacon from pan and remove all but 1 tbsp of the grease.
  • Add 1 tbsp evoo to the pan.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute for 1 min.
  • Add mushrooms, saute 1 min.
  • At this point the bottom of my pan was really brown, so I decided to deglaze it before adding the rice. I deglazed it with about 2 tbsp white wine.
  • Add rice and stir to coat.
  • Add the rest of the white wine and stir until absorbed.
  • Add warm broth, 1-2 ladles at a time, stirring until absorbed. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender, but not mushy. This process of adding the broth takes me anywhere from 17-25 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Add cheese and stir. Serve immediately.

Surprisingly, even though there is so much sodium in the bacon, I still needed to add some salt to brighten up the overall flavor of the risotto a bit.

Bacony goodness!!! If you love bacon (and I don't know how you can't) and risotto, you will love this dish.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

White Chicken Chili

Brrr it has been cold here in the Northeast! Cold temps + football = perfect day for a pot of chili. I have been wanting to make White Chicken Chili for a while, so decided to make it today while spending the day with my mom.

I used
this recipe that I found on the blog Proceed with Caution as my inspiration. My version of the recipe is below.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • Spices for the chili: 1 tsp ground coriander; 1.5 teaspoon Mexican oregano; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • Spices to season the chicken before cooking (several shakes of each): chili powder, cumin, cayenne, Mexican oregano, salt, and even some onion and garlic powders if you'd like
  • 4-6 tomatillos, husks removed and diced
  • 2 cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup Monterey jack cheese
  • Optional ingredients for serving: Sour cream, cilantro, cooked white rice, tortilla chips
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute 4 minutes.
  • Add jalapenos and poblanos; saute 2-3 minutes. Add beans and tomatillos; saute another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add spices and then the broth; simmer partly covered for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • About an hour into the simmering, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan. Add the chicken and cook until done, about 12 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan (don't put your pan in the sink just yet!!) and shred; set aside.
  • Here is the good part - turn the empty saute pan on over medium high heat. Take about 1/2 c of the broth from the chili pot and add it to the pan to deglaze it. Stir, scraping up all of the brown bits. Once you have them all up, pour the broth back into the chili. This will add a lot of flavor to the chili.
  • Add chicken and cheese, simmer an additional 30 minutes. Then you can turn the chili to low to keep warm until you are ready to serve. Or put it away until the next day - it is SO good the next day.
  • Serve any way you'd like - I like it over rice with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, and cilantro on top!
This chili was so delicious, made my mom's house smell amazing while it was cooking, and was very easy to make. It was so good that we put a container in the freezer for my dad to enjoy when he returns from his trip to Vietnam and Hong Kong. I'm happy to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stuffed Peppers

When Jon and I first got married, cooking wasn't a love of mine. The day he moved in, I made tacos to celebrate (poor guy...)! I started to cook more often and would try new things; one thing he loved was my stuffed peppers. Well once I heard that I started to make them every other week...he got a little tired of them!! I haven't made these for a few years, and was happy to hear that he wanted to eat them again.

Stuffed peppers aren't only for dinner - I made them once with eggs for breakfast. Click
here for that post.

Note - when we were first married I was a vegetarian, so while I'd make real beef stuffed peppers for him, I would use MorningStar Farms Recipe Crumbles (fake ground meat) to make my own. Here is a post featuring vegetarian stuffed tomatoes, and another with quinoa stuffed tomatoes (peppers work as well).

This recipe is my own recipe.

  • Peppers (I used 5 but could have made 6)
  • 1.25 lbs ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz crushed tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper, dried parsley, oregano
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cooked rice


  • Cut off tops of peppers and clean out seeds.
  • Heat a large pan. Add ground meat, chopping it up as you go, until browned.
  • Add onions, garlic, spices, and almost all of the crushed tomatoes. Let it cook for several minutes, tasting it as you go and adjusting the spices as needed.
  • Add one small handful shredded Parmesan cheese (you should know by now that I don't measure...I make it up as I go along!).
  • Add 2 large spoonfuls cooked rice and mix everything together. Taste again and adjust the spices if needed.
  • Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the rest of the tomatoes. If you used chunky tomatoes, coat the dish with tomato sauce.
  • Fill each pepper with the mixture, pressing it down to maximize the space.
  • Cover with foil and bake on 375 for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil, top each pepper with Parmesan cheese, and bake for another 5 minutes.

This is a full meal all wrapped up in a pepper - you have your veggie, meat, and starch all in one neat little package. Delicious!

Roasted Garlic and White Bean Spread (or Dip)

We decided to stay in tonight and cook, so I wanted to make an appetizer to have before dinner. I love roasted garlic so used that as my inspiration. I browsed recipes for dips or spreads using roasted garlic. I found two that I liked and used ideas from both to come up with a Roasted Garlic and White Bean Spread...or Dip!

The first inspiration recipe was for Tuscan Bean and Roasted Garlic Puree found on the Epicurious web site. The second inspiration recipe was this one for Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip from the blog, Off the Spork. Below is my adaptation.

  • 3 head of garlic, roasted (cut tops off, add some olive oil, wrap in foil and put in a 425 degree oven for 25-40 minutes, until the cloves are soft)
  • 1 can white beans; I used Great Northern beans
  • 1/2 sm onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • Few dashed dried rubbed sage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley (used it for color, about 1 tsp dried)


  • While the garlic is roasting, heat olive oil in a pot.
  • Add onions, saute.
  • Add beans, stir.
  • Add sage, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Let simmer until garlic is done cooking. Remove bay leaf.
  • Cool garlic and remove the cloves from their peels.
  • In food processor, combine bean mixture (use a slotted spoon so you don't add the liquid, but reserve the liquid), garlic, about 1 tsp olive oil, salt to flavor, and parsley. Puree. Adjust salt if needed, and add the reserved cooking liquid if you need to thin the puree at all.
  • Before serving, I drizzled a touch of white truffle oil on top.

This spread would have been perfect on toasted baguette slices, but I only had a bag of bagel chips!! It was still very good - creamy, sweet, and mmm, that taste of roasted garlic is so delicious!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lemon Chicken

I was browsing blogs for a new chicken idea when I came across
this recipe for Lemon Chicken in Kevin's blog, Closet Cooking. I liked what I saw so I put it on this week's menu.

Below is Kevin's recipe with my changes noted in italics.


  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tbsp chicken stock (I used about 4 tbsp, maybe a touch more - I wanted more sauce)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp chili, chopped (I bought a cherry pepper - all they had at the store - and used the entire thing. It didn't have any heat at all so I added 1 tsp garlic-chili paste)
  • 1 lb chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (I used a bit less)
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used 2...of course)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (I didn't use these)


  • Mix the lemon zest, juice, chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, and chili in a bowl (this is where I also added the garlic chili paste). Do a taste test here to balance out the tartness, saltiness, sweetness, and heat.
  • Place the chicken into mixture and marinate for 10-20 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute
  • Add the chicken, reserving the marinade
  • Saute the chicken until cooked, about 3-55 minutes (I figured this was a typo - I cooked it about 12 minutes). I loved how the marinade that stuck to the chicken caramelized - look:

  • Add the reserved marinade and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 7-10 minutes (I helped it along with 2 pinches cornstarch)
  • Add the green onion, cilantro, and sesame seeds and remove from the heat.
  • Serve on rice or noodles.

I liked this! Just the right mixture of sweet and spicy, and the ginger really popped in my mouth.

Thanks for the recipe, Kevin!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creamy and Cheesey with a Crunch on Top

Who doesn't love mac-n-cheese? Over the past 2 years I have experimented with different ideas, ingredients, types of cheese, cooking methods and times, and toppings (Oh how I wish Jon's mom-mom would come to me in a dream and tell me her secrets...). Tonight's mac-n-cheese is probably one of the best I have made, although I'd still love his mom-mom's secrets!

I've started doing a few things differently with my mac. First, I remove the bechamel (white sauce) from the heat before adding the cheese - keeps the cheese from becoming chalky (once you add the cheese it becomes a mornay sauce, not a bechamel..I think Alton Brown taught me that somewhere along the way). Second, I use a mix of both sweet and strong cheeses. A few weeks ago I was reading my friend's blog,
Taste of Home Cooking, and came up the idea for my last change - toasting the bread crumbs in butter before pouring them on top. Butter makes everything better, doesn't it? Although this blogger doesn't toast her bread crumbs in butter, she does make a really nice mixture of homemade bread crumbs and herbs for the top of her mac, which inspired my new topping.

So here it is, my latest mac-n-cheese creation. There have been many before it, and I am sure I'll continue to experiment. But for now, I'm really happy with this one.


  • 1/2 lb elbow noodles, cooked to al dente and then run under cold water
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Butter... 1 tbsp for the sauce and 1 tbsp for the topping (guess it's not all that much?)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, but we like the kick they give the dish)
  • Salt - about 1 tsp
  • Pepper - about 3/4 tsp
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2.5 cups light cream (or whole milk, but I like using cream)
  • Cheese: 2 tbsp cream cheese, approximately 3 tbsp shredded Jarlsberg, handful shredded Parmesan, handful shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley (you could also add other herbs, but since Jon isn't a fan of the herbs I was calling out from the kitchen, I kept it simple)


  • Heat olive oil and melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes; saute 2 minutes
  • Add flour and whisk until you have a thick mixture (making a roux)
  • Add cream, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes, whisking, and then remove it from the heat.
  • Add cheeses - I added the cream cheese first, whisked it for a bit to melt, and then added the other cheeses, whisking until I had a really creamy sauce. Taste your sauce and adjust cheese or salt/pepper as needed.
  • Pour cooked noodles into a baking dish and pour the sauce over them, mixing so the cheese sauce completely covers everything and gets into every little nook and cranny. Here is how it looked once the sauce was in the dish - very creamy, but not soupy:

  • Melt another tbsp butter in a pan. Once melted, add the bread crumbs, dried parsley, and a touch of salt and pepper. Toss for about 30 seconds, until toasted. Pour the bread crumb mixture over the noodles/sauce.
  • Bake on 350 for about 20-25 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last 3-4 minutes.

Here it was right out of the oven -

I'm very happy to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Soup Sunday - Mushroom, Potato, and Smoked Gouda Chowder

I was browsing blogs and food sites for soup ideas the other day when I came across a recipe in Elly's blog for Mushroom, Potato, and Smoked Gouda Chowder. I immediately thought of the wedge of smoked gouda I had in the fridge as well as my new love of mushrooms and immediately bookmarked the recipe for Soup Sunday.

Elly's recipe is her own creation (what a good one!) and is below with my notes in italics.
  • 1/4 lb. bacon, diced (I used applewood smoked bacon)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms (your choice, I like to use a variety), sliced (I used a combination of shiitake mushrooms and baby bellas, all I could get my hands on this weekend)
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme or a good pinch of dried
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 cups yukon gold potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I used 4 cups)
  • 1.5 cups half and half (or milk, or cream) (I used 1 c light cream)
  • 2 oz. smoked gouda, shredded


  • In a stockpot or dutch oven, cook the bacon until it has rendered its fat. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • In the bacon fat, cook the diced onion over low heat for about 2 minutes before adding the mushrooms. Add a little salt and pepper and continue cooking over low or medium-low heat until the mushrooms have released their moisture, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Increase the heat and add the sherry or wine. Cook until almost all of the alcohol has cooked off.
  • Add the potatoes and the garlic, stirring to combine. Add the bay leaf and broth. Bring to a light boil and simmer until potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the bay leaf. Put as much or as little of the mixture as you want into a food processor and pulse it. This isn’t necessary but it creates both texture and thickness to the soup. (I tasted my first batch of pureed soup and couldn't stop eating it, so I decided to puree about 3/4 of the pot for a really thick and creamy soup)
  • Return the pureed soup to the dutch oven. Add the half and half and gouda. Simmer until the soup has heated through and the cheese has melted.
  • Garnish bowls with diced bacons and more cheese, if desired.

What a great way to combine flavors - the smokieness of the bacon and cheese went perfectly with the earthiness of the mushrooms. So complex and rich, but comforting at the same time. I absolutely loved this soup and think it is the kind of soup you could serve to impress company. Thanks, Elly!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When Jon and I were in Cabo, we ate tortilla soup almost every day. I left Mexico saying that I had to make it when we got back. Almost 2 years later, I finally tried it.

I found an Emeril recipe on the Food Network web site. I followed the soup recipe with a few changes; also, I didn't make the seasoned tortilla strips (made regular strips instead) or the Chipotle crema. Below is what I did -
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp crushed tomatoes (my addition)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (I may have used just a bit more)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped, for garnish
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts rubbed with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder (this is a change I made..the original recipe called for raw, cubed chicken being added to the soup for the last 5 minutes)


  • Cook chicken: heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan. Add chicken and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Once cooled, shred and put in the fridge until you are ready to serve the soup. (Option - to really add some flavor to the soup, deglaze this saute pan with a bit of chicken broth and add it to your soup when you add the broth. I do this with my chicken chili and it really adds a ton of flavor. And why waste all that goodness left in the saute pan!! Or alternatively, cook the chicken in the Dutch oven you use for the soup.)
  • In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions, garlic, peppers, salt, cumin, and coriander for 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the cilantro and lime juice, and stir well.
  • Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot or electric fryer to 350 degrees F. Add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until golden and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  • To serve: put a serving of chicken in each bowl (it's cold, but the soup will heat it). Ladle the soup into 4 or 6 serving bowls. Garnish each serving with the diced avocado and the fried tortilla strips.

I love this recipe! The flavors were amazing, the color was beautiful, and it tasted a lot like soups we tried in Mexico. I'm glad I cooked and shredded the chicken separately instead of cooking it in the soup. I was able to add more flavor, the shredded chicken worked better than cubed chicken (in my opinion), and each person can have as much or as little chicken as they want - or even no chicken!

I'll be adding this recipe to my soup rotation!

Mexican Veggie Lasagna

When I planned our meals for the week, I chose Mexican for Sunday. We had tortilla soup first, and instead of enchiladas, I made a Mexican Veggie Lasagna. I made this one up as I went along.

Ingredients for Sauce

  • 2 tbsp evoo
  • 3 tsp flour
  • 5 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
    3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 c light cream
  • 1/2 tsp each of coriander, Mexican oregano, salt, and cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese; I used a Mexican blend

Directions for Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in a pot
  • Add flour and chili powder; stir until you have a paste.
  • Add tomato paste, stir
  • Add chicken broth and the rest of the spices
  • Add cream and bring to a simmer
  • Add cheese and stir until creamy

Ingredients for Lasagna

  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 3 mushrooms
  • 1/2 c frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 c frozen corn
  • salt
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • Cheese; I used a Mexican blend
  • Sauce (see above)

Directions for Lasagna

  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.
  • Add onions and peppers; saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add squash, zucchini, broccoli, and corn. Saute another 2-3 minutes.
  • Season with salt. I also added a pinch of chili powder and cumin.

Look at these beautiful veggies:

  • Assemble the lasagna... spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Add tortillas, veggies, more sauce, and cheese. Continue layering in this order, ending with a final layer of tortillas, sauce, and cheese.
  • Bake covered on 375 for approximately 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

This was a nice change from enchiladas. I think it needed a bit more heat, if you like heat that is. Next time I'd add some cayenne to the sauce, and more jalapenos to the veggies. And actually, I think it would have been good with some of the chicken that I shredded for the soup! But if you are looking for a vegetarian meal, this one delivers.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings

Look at this beauty Jon gave me for Christmas -

Doesn't it just make you want to cook some comfort food? As soon as I opened it on Christmas morning I started to think of all the delicious meals I would cook in it. And eat all you want - lifting this from the stove to the oven and back again is a workout!

For my first meal I decided to make a stew. Jon and I have both cooked beef stew before but were never completely happy with the results. I was ready to take on the challenge yesterday.

I found a recipe on the Epicurious web site that sounded good -
Beef Stew with Herbed Dumplings. I made a few minor revisions and adjusted the amounts; although I cut the amount of beef in half, I only slightly adjusted the other amounts and in the end it was perfect.

For stew

  • 4 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used 2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 4 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
  • 3 cups finely chopped onions (used 2 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 1/2 cups canned beef broth (used 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added purée
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces (used 3)
  • 3 medium rutabagas, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (I used 1 large turnip and 1 large potato instead of the rutabagas)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

For dumplings (the amounts in the original recipe are listed below and were for 12 dumplings; I cut everything in half and still had 8 good-sized dumplings)

  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F.
  • Pat beef dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.
  • Working in batches, cook beef until brown, stirring occasionally and scraping up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Transfer meat to bowl.
  • Add bacon to same pot. Sauté until crisp, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes.
  • Add onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook until onions are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot. Add 5 cups (4 cups) canned beef broth and crushed tomatoes with purée. Cover and bring to simmer.
  • Transfer pot to oven. Bake until beef is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  • Add carrots and rutabagas (potatoes and turnips). Cover; bake until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Uncover; bake until beef is very tender, about 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare dumplings (I started this step when I removed the lid from the stew in the oven):
  • Whisk milk and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Stir in chives and parsley. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt into large bowl. Add milk mixture. Stir just until blended.
  • Remove stew from oven and bring to simmer over medium heat.
  • Whisk remaining 1/2 cup canned beef broth and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into stew. Return stew to simmer, stirring until sauce thickens.
  • Spoon dumpling batter in 12 (8) dollops atop simmering stew. Cover tightly; simmer until dumplings are puffed and tester inserted into center of dumplings comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  • Serve stew with dumplings.

This is, by far, the best beef stew I have ever eaten. All of the flavors were perfect, it was the right consistency, it was stick-to-your-ribs food, and the dumplings were delicious! I can't wait to have leftovers tonight.

Here is another view of it - you can tell it's Jon's plate because he doesn't like carrots..

I'd highly recommend this recipe with the slight changes that I made. It takes a few hours to cook, but most of that isn't active kitchen time, so it's a pretty easy stew as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chicken in a Garlic Broth

Another quick and easy chicken dish using the method I love most for easy and flavorful chicken - dredging in flour, pan cooking, and then deglazing the pan with a liquid and adding flavors.

These meals take 20-30 minutes and have so many options for ingredients. Most recently I used this way of cooking chicken to make
Spicy Chicken in a Garlic Lime Broth, my inspiration for this dish. Other favorites include Chicken in a Black Truffle Cream Sauce, Chicken in a White Wine Sauce with Crispy Sage, and the popular dish, Chicken Piccata.


  • 2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt, pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you don't like it too spicy)
  • 1/4 c dry vermouth (or dry white wine, but I was out)
  • 1 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh or dried parsley for color
  • Cooked pasta; I used linguine.


  • Heat butter and oil in a large pan.
  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour. Shake off excess and add to hot pan. Cook approximately 5 minutes per side until cooked completely through. Transfer to a dish and cover to keep warm (or transfer to warm oven).
  • If your pan is dry, add a touch more oil.
  • Add garlic, onions, and red pepper flakes. Saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add vermouth and scrape up all brown bits.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  • Optional: Add parsley. I do this mostly for color.
  • Toss pasta in broth. You can also return the chicken to the pan. My pan was big enough that I was able to push the linguine to one side and put the chicken in the broth on the other. That's almost a one pot meal!

Easy, quick, and delicious! I served it with a side of sauteed spinach.