Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chicken Tikka Masala

I have heard a lot of people rave about Indian food and chicken tikka masala. This recipe for chicken tikka masala got a lot of great reviews. Since I have never eaten Indian food and I love trying new things, I decided to give it a try tonight.

Now I'll say this first - the purpose of my blog isn't to post only the success stories. It is to share my cooking experiences, both good and bad. Tonight, unfortunately, fell into the bad category for both Jon and I. This was very disappointing after last night's amazing dinner!! (see post below for a great recipe!)

If you like Indian food and the flavors listed below, definitely try this recipe. I wish we would have liked it. I wanted to like it. It just didn't go that way!

I think it had to do with the cinnamon so I may try this recipe again without the cinnamon. The sauce was good, but the cinnamon from the marinade just didn't seem to go. We both couldn't eat more than a few bites.

Here is the original recipe if you are interested:


  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 long skewers
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Preheat a grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.
  • Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  • Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ma Po Shrimp

OK, so Ma Po Shrimp isn't an authentic Chinese dish, but it was my spin on one. Ma Po is a Szechuan dish consisting of tofu, minced meat (usually beef), in a spicy sauce. I made Ma Po Tofu a few weeks ago and liked it so much that I wanted to make it for Jon. He doesn't like tofu, so I decided to try it with shrimp.

Jon thought this was one of the best dishes I have made for him in a while. It had a lot of heat - just how he likes it!


  • 1/2 pound shrimp, deveined and cleaned
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 1-2 tbsp chili paste; this stuff is hot so it's up to you how much you use
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 oz chicken broth


  • Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat; add garlic and onions, saute til tender
  • Add chili paste, soy sauce, and chicken broth; let simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add shrimp, cooking 1-2 minutes on each side until pink (since Jon likes heat I added another 1/2 tsp of chili paste with the shrimp)
  • Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken sauce
  • Serve over rice

I'm so happy that Jon loved this dish. I'll be adding it to the rotation.

I served it with garlic snow peas. I heated 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, added 2 cloves of chopped garlic, and then added the snow peas. I sauteed them for 5 minutes until tender but still slightly crispy. They were the perfect side for this dish.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Quick, Easy, and Healthy Breakfast...or Lunch!

I had some extra time this morning so I made myself a really yummy and healthy breakfast. I was planning on making 2 quick eggs but then I saw the leftover veggies from last night in my fridge and I remembered that I had a whole wheat pita to use up in the next day or two, so I started throwing all of the ingredients together.
This breakfast was so delicious and healthy and should hold me over for a while!

  • 2 eggs; I used 1 egg white and one whole egg
  • A tiny pinch each of salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and chili powder
  • 1 wedge of Laughing Cow spreadable cheese
  • 1 whole wheat pita cut into 2 pockets
  • 1 tsp shredded cheddar
  • Chopped cooked veggies - I heated up and used tomatoes, zucchini, orange pepper, and red onion. I also added raw spinach and sprouts.


  • Spray nonstick pan with fat-free cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
  • Beat egg, adding spices as you beat. Add to pan and leave it alone over medium-low heat.
  • Flip the egg once the under-side is cooked. Top with the cheddar cheese and cook for 30 more seconds (I like fluffy eggs but cooking the egg this way makes a nice, flat egg perfect for putting into the pita).
  • Spread the Laughing Cow cheese on the inside of each pita pocket. Stuff with the egg and veggies.

I think this took me 7 minutes total to cook. What a great way to use up some leftover veggies!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Dinner - Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Sage

Another Sunday with lots of time to cook - I love it! My parents came over for dinner tonight so of course I wanted to try something different.

Tonight's Menu:

- Pasta e Fagioli; see the post below for the recipe and pictures.
- Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Sage
- Parmesan Cous Cous
- Roasted Vegetables - yellow squash, zucchini, orange pepper, grape tomatoes, and red onions

Everything was so good that I have to post a picture of the final product now!

Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Sage

I found
this recipe on a while back and saved it for an occasion like this. It was a little time consuming, but not difficult at all. I took so many pictures during every stage of the preparation because it was just so pretty! And the final result was a sweet, savory, and juicy chicken dish that would impress anyone!

Below is the recipe with my changes (original recipe included olives and called for bone-in chicken breasts).


  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 white onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 - 1 1/2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • ¾ tbsp tablespoons honey
  • ½ bottle dry white wine
  • 4-5 large fresh sage leaves
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Rinse chicken; pat dry. Arrange on foil.
  • Mix cumin, salt, paprika, and turmeric in bowl. Sprinkle over both sides of chicken. Let stand while preparing onions.
  • Prepare onions: Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add all onions. Saute until pale golden, about 30 minutes. Mix in honey. Saute until onions are deep brown, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
  • Tilt skillet, pushing onions toward top and allowing oil to pool at bottom. Using slotted spoon, remove onions from pan and spread evenly in large roasting pan. Reserve skillet with oil.
  • Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
  • Heat oil reserved in skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown chicken, about 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Arrange chicken in single layer atop onions in roasting pan/baking dish.
  • Remove skillet from heat. Add 1/2 cup wine to hot skillet. Let stand until bubbling stops. Add remaining wine.
  • Place skillet over medium-high heat; boil to reduce, scraping up bits, about 9 minutes.
  • Tuck sage, shallots, garlic, and bay leaves among chicken breasts

  • Spoon wine mixture over chicken

  • Cover pan tightly with foil and bake chicken 30 minutes. Uncover; Baste with juices if needed (I didn't need to do this). Return to oven, uncovered, and continue baking until chicken is tender and fully cooked, about 10-15 minutes.
  • To serve, plate chicken, top with onions, shallots, and garlic, and top with wine sauce.

Here it is after cooking in the oven - doesn't it look great?


Roasted Vegetables

I love roasting veggies - broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, pretty much anything. Tonight I used a colorful mix of fresh veggies: yellow squash, zucchini, orange bell pepper, grape tomatoes, and a few pieces of chopped red onion.

I put them in a baking dish and drizzled them with olive oil, then topped them with some salt, black pepper, and freshly chopped parsley. They baked in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes. Delicious!

I hate to admit it but I used Near East Parmesan Couscous as our side... I would normally use a plan grain and add my own flavor, but I had enough going on in the kitchen tonight!

I'd highly recommend this meal. I will definitely make the chicken again, and next time I'll experiment with some other flavors.

Inspired by my Grandmom - Pasta e Fagioli

Both of my grandmothers were great cooks, and they both specialized in things from their home countries. One of these days I have to try some of the Polish cooking my dad's mom was famous for. Today I decided to try something my mom's mom always made - pasta e fagioli.

My grandmom passed away over 20 years ago, but when I think back to her food, I can still remember exactly how it smelled and tasted. Unfortunately I didn't have a recipe for her pasta e fagioli, but I read through a bunch of recipes online and tried to picture their texture, taste, and smell. I finally decided that
this recipe by Giada seemed the closest to how I remember my grandmom's. Changes I made are noted below in italics.


  • Fresh herbs: 4 sprigs fresh thyme; 1 large sprig fresh rosemary; 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped (I used 3 slices of bacon, chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I only had regular chicken broth and at first I thought it would be too salty, but it was fine)
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup elbow macaroni (I used ditalini)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional (I didn't use this)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I didn't use this)


  • Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, pancetta (bacon), and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs.
  • Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Discard the sachet.
  • Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth (I used my handheld immersion blender and pureed most of the soup).
  • Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well (I cooked the pasta separately and then added it after I pureed the soup. I don't like cooking pastas IN soups as it soaks up too much of the broth).
  • Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Top with some Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil (it didn't need the olive oil).

As this soup was cooking, my house started to smell like my grandmom's house. And then I tasted it - wow! It tasted so close to the soup she made.

My parents both enjoyed the soup and said it was very similar to how my grandmom made it. I learned that when my grandmom made it she would use a ham butt or ham bone, water instead of broth, and she didn't use all of the fresh herbs. I think this recipe was a great "quick and easy" version of some good, old-world cooking.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Girls' Night

Jenny, Stacey, and Stasia all came over for another girls' night. Stasia and I talked about the menu and wanted something fresh and on the healthy side. So tonight's menu was fresh veggies with homemade yogurt dill dip, corn chowder, and paninis.

I love the yogurt dill dip because it has such fresh flavor. It was pretty low in fat as well.

Yogurt Dill Dip
- 1 cup of lowfat plain yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- juice from 1/2 of a lemon
- grated rind from 1/2 of a lemon
- finely chopped fresh dill weed; I used the dill from 2 stalks.
- 1/2 tsp salt

Mix all of the ingredients together and adjust the salt if necessary. I love serving this dip fresh out of the fridge so it is good and cold. Add some crunchy veggies and you have a healthy and flavorful appetizer.


A panini is simply a grilled sandwich, but ingredients that are used on paninis are usually a little different than what you would put on a cold sandwich. Also, the bread used is usually a thicker, heartier bread like an Italian loaf, French bread, foccaccia, or ciabatta.

Mayonnaise or mustard aren't usually put on paninis - you'll usually see something like olive oil and balsamic, brie, pesto, or a spread to take the place of the traditional condiments. I made an artichoke spread for our paninis.

Artichoke Spread
- 1 can artichokes, drained well and chopped
- 2 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
- 2 tbsp lowfat sour cream
- 1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise; I love the Hellman's Reduced Fat Mayonnaise
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a small pan; add garlic, saute til slightly golden, and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir. Adjust the salt if necessary.

My spread was just a touch too chunky so I gave it a few pulses with my handheld immersion blender - voila! It was perfect and got nice and melty when we grilled the paninis.

Fixins Bar..
Besides the artichoke spread, I put out the following ingredients:

- Loaf of Italian bread and a loaf of ciabatta bread; Stasia gave me the tip of slicing the bread into wide slices so the grill would hit the top and bottom of the bread, not the sides. This worked perfectly.
- Laughing cow spreadable cheese
- Olive oil
- Turkey breast
- Cooper sharp cheese
- Fresh spinach
- Sliced tomato
- Bean sprouts

Other ingredients I'd use next time include balsamic vinegar, pesto, roasted red peppers, brie, bacon, and different cheeses.

Here is my sandwich before and after the grill did its magic:

Finally, what goes better with a panini on a cold night than a bowl of chowder? I made my corn chowder - the recipe can be found

Thanks for such a fun night Stacey, Jenny, and Stasia! Let's do it again soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baked Chicken with Artichokes, Lemon, and Thyme; Mashed Cauliflower, Roasted Asparagus

Stacey and Jenny came over for dinner again tonight. I am so lucky to have friends who are willing to be my guinea pigs for new recipes, even when they are eating things they have never had before.

Tonight I made a chicken dish baked with artichokes and thyme in white wine-lemon sauce. I also made mashed cauliflower (great substitute for mashed potatoes) and roasted asparagus.

Here is the recipe for the chicken. I read a few recipes for inspiration and ideas and then made up my own.


  • 3-4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 10 oz chicken broth
  • 1 14 oz can artichokes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice from 1/3 lemon
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch for thickening
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch for coating the chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter


  • Heat olive oil and butter in a large saute pan
  • Dredge chicken in cornstarch, shake off the excess, and add to hot pan
  • Brown chicken; approximately 3 minutes on each side; transfer to a baking dish
  • De-glaze pan with white wine; scrape up all the brown bits
  • Add 8 oz of the chicken broth, lemon juice, and thyme; bring to a simmer
  • Mix the remaining chicken broth with 1 tbsp cornstarch; whisk into the pan to thicken the sauce
  • Add parsley to the sauce
  • Top the chicken with artichokes and then pour the sauce over the chicken
  • Bake the chicken on 400 for 20-30 minutes, or until completely cooked

This chicken was great - very fresh and light tasting. I'll definitely make it again.

I served it with mashed cauliflower and roasted asparagus. Looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ma Po Tofu

When I was a vegetarian I lived on tofu, but back then I wasn't into cooking a whole lot so I always just had different tofu and veggie stir fry dishes. I tried Ma Po Tofu at PF Changs several years ago but never thought about recreating it myself. Well now that I absolutely love to cook and experiment I decided to try it.

I looked at a few recipes online, including
this one, and also got a recipe from Joelen on (she has recipes for everything - she's amazing so check out her blog). Below is what I did:


  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes (pressing tofu between towels for 30 minutes releases all of the extra water and allows it to soak up more flavors when cooking)
  • 10 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chili sauce/chili paste (I used Hunan Chili Sauce)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • Rice


  • Heat olive oil in a pan; add onions and garlic, saute for a few minutes
  • Add tofu and half of the chili sauce; cook for 4-5 minutes
  • Add 2/3 of the chicken broth, the rest of the chili sauce, and the soy sauce; let simmer for 5 minutes
  • Mix the remaining chicken broth with the cornstarch; add slowly to the pan to thicken your sauce
  • Serve over rice

WOW - this was good! So simple, too. It had a good amount of heat and a ton of flavor. I will definitely make this one again. I also think I'll be able to make it with shrimp for Jon.

I'd recommend this to anyone who has never had tofu but would love to try it, or to anyone looking for something new and easy to do with tofu! Enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Vegetable Soup

Another Sunday, another soup.

Today I made a vegetable soup which I'll have for lunch most of the week. It was so easy, didn't take long to make, and tasted great.


  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables - peas, corn, carrots, lima beans, green beans
  • 1/8 tsp thyme
  • 60 oz of broth; I used 32 oz of chicken broth and 28 oz of vegetable broth (use all vegetable broth for a vegetarian version; use some beef broth for a richer soup)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • Heat olive oil in over medium heat a large soup pot; add carrots, onion, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Add potatoes, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and frozen veggies; cook for 5-10 minutes
  • Adjust seasonings if needed.

I'm used to vegetable soups being cooked with beef and I was a little concerned that this soup wouldn't have enough flavor due to the lack of meat. I was not disappointed at all - it still had great flavor.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Broccoli Rabe and Garlic Soup

I love soup, and I love being able to make a big pot of it to get me through the week. A recipe on the Epicurious web site for broccoli rabe soup in a garlic broth most recently caught my attention so I decided to give it a try.

I started out by following the original recipes, but the one for garlic broth just wasn't working so I made it my own. Here are the links to the original recipes:
Garlic Broth, Broccoli Rabe Soup.
Below are directions for what I did.

Note - you'll need 3 heads of garlic. Yes, heads, not just cloves. Peeling and slicing the garlic is time consuming, but so worth it. Look at all this garlic!

My Ingredients

  • 3 heads of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of vegetable broth (I used one garden vegetable and one regular)
  • Juice from 1 32 oz can of whole tomatoes (you could also add the tomatoes to the soup, but I didn't; I think it would need more broth if you did)
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed, stems removed, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup small pasta (I used ditalini but will probably omit it next time or cook it separately; it soaked up too much of the broth)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

My Directions

  • Peel all of the garlic, remove the green germ in the middle, and chop into quarters
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over low heat; add garlic
  • Simmer the garlic for 20 minutes stirring often, and being careful not to let it brown
  • Add the water; simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes
  • Add the red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, broth and tomato juice, bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and allow it to reduce a bit
  • At this point you can either put the broth away to make the soup later, or you can continue (I made this recipe over 2 nights). This is what it looked like:

To finish the soup:

  • Bring the broth to a boil; add pasta; cook for 6 minutes
  • Add broccoli rabe, return to a boil and cook for 4 minutes
  • Serve hot; you can sprinkle some Parmesan cheese into each bowl if you wish

The Final Product...

I LOVED this soup. It was extremely flavorful and soothing - great if you have a cold or are just trying to keep warm in the cold weather. I was surprised that the garlic wasn't too strong. Instead it was soft and sweet and just delicious.

I cannot imagine how bland this soup would have been if I followed the original recipe. The changes I made were perfect. I will definitely make this again! Next time I either won't use pasta or I'll cook it separately. When I got the soup out for lunch today, the pasta had soaked up a lot of the broth. I'd rather add the pasta to each bowl to avoid this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

So I'm on this little health kick and am really trying to focus on changing the way I eat. When I wrote out my menus for the week, I chose to make stuffed tomatoes tonight. But I wanted an alternative to the white rice, and I don't really like brown rice.

I had heard of quinoa before so did a little research on it since I thought the quinoa would be the perfect substitute for white rice. Then I asked around in a cooking chat room I frequent, and got a lot of positive responses, including a response from
this cook who used quinoa in her stuffed peppers. So I gave it a shot tonight and am glad I did - quinoa is really good!

When making stuffed tomatoes or peppers I just throw ingredients together instead of following a recipe.
Here are some tomatoes I made a few months ago. Of course these could be made with real ground meat which is why I also gave this post a beef tag.

This is what I did tonight -

  • Hollow out tomatoes and set in a baking dish
  • Cook quinoa: rinse quinoa a few times then put 1/2 cup of it into a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  • In the meantime, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Add some chopped onion, chopped green pepper, and chopped garlic; saute. Add ground meat (I used MorningStar Farms Recipe Crumbles, fake ground meat). Add spices; I used red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, a pinch of oregano and some parsley flakes. Add about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce.
  • Once the meat mixture is cooked, combine it with the quinoa.
  • Fill each tomato with the mixture. Cook on 350 for 15-20 minutes.
  • Top each tomato with some Parmesan cheese and put them under the broiler for a few minutes.

Here is a closeup of the meat-quinoa mixture.

They were very, very good and I think I might even be able to get Jon to try the quinoa! I imagine it would be good cooked in broth and with some spices or even some tiny chopped up veggies. I'm going to have fun trying new things with quinoa.

Meat Sauce - Two Ways

When Jon and I were first married, I was still a vegetarian. Cooking something we both could eat was a major challenge. I wasn't happy just eating sides, he wasn't happy eating vegetarian meals all the time, and we both hated eating completely different meals, so I started to experiment with ways to make vegetarian versions of meat-meals. One of my favorite products for imitating non-vegetarian meals is MorningStar Farms Recipe Crumbles. In other words, fake ground meat. I used it as a ground meat substitute in everything - tacos, stuffed peppers and tomatoes, stroganoff, chili, and this dish, meat sauce over pasta. Even though I now eat meat, every now and then I like making the vegetarian versions of our meals.

My "meat" sauce:

Jon's meat sauce:

To make the vegetarian version:

  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saute pan or pot
  • Add chopped onion, pepper, and garlic; saute
  • Add the fake ground meat and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes; I also add some spices like oregano and red pepper flakes. Sometimes I add a touch of fresh Parmesan cheese.
  • Once the meat is cooked (defrosted and warm), add sauce. You can use homemade tomato sauce or jarred. Since I haven't perfected homemade sauce yet, we used jarred.
  • Adjust the seasonings and let simmer for 15-20 minutes
  • Serve over pasta with Parmesan cheese.

Jon's version is pretty much the same, but he cooks the meat almost all the way through before adding the onions, peppers, and garlic. He also lets his pot simmer just a bit longer.

I love using the fake ground meat because has much less fat, takes in the flavors around it, and cooks so quickly. Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes, and Thyme

I love asparagus and tomatoes together, and lately I've been liking the flavor of thyme. I put all of those things together tonight in this pasta dish.


  • 1/4 of a small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch slices on an angle
  • 1 tomato cut into chunks, seeds removed
  • 3/4 cup cream; half and half works fine
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A pinch of thyme (probably about 1/4 tsp)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 pound linguine or another pasta


  • Bring a pot of water to a boil; add asparagus, remove from water after 90 seconds or so. Cook pasta in this water.
  • While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute
  • Add asparagus, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and thyme. Saute for a few minutes until tomatoes are slightly tender.
  • Add cream, bring to a simmer.
  • Add cheese, stir.
  • Once the pasta has finished cooking, add it to the sauce and toss.

This pasta was very flavorful and extremely easy. The total cooking time, including prep, was about 25 minutes.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Baked Chicken with Peppers, Onions, and Tomatoes

It is the beginning of a new year so in kitchens everywhere people like me are trying to cook just a bit healthier! I love cream sauces and cheese, but would like to try to cut back on those things a little. Last night I made a baked chicken dish that used up a lot of leftover veggies from our NYEve dinner.

  • Trim chicken and arrange in a baking dish. Season with a little bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Top with chopped veggies - I used red pepper, green pepper, tomatoes, white onions, green onions, and sliced jalapenos so my chicken was completely covered.
  • Bake on 400 for approximately 15 minutes
  • In the meantime I whipped together a low fat sauce - the chicken needed something so it wouldn't be dry. I heated 1 tsp of olive oil, added some jalapenos; added 1 tsp flour to make a roux, then added about 1/4 cup skim milk and 2 pinches of shredded cheese.
  • Pour the sauce into the dish and continue to cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is done.
  • As you can see from the picture, the sauce wasn't all over the chicken. It just gave it some moisture for cooking and added a bit of flavor. Jon put the sauce on his rice.

I served this chicken over rice and with steamed broccoli. It was tasty which is what I was going for. If I'm not going to be making a lot of rich sauces and using a ton of cheese, I need to make sure my dishes are full of veggies and seasonings that bring good flavor so I won't miss the fat!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A New Year's Eve Mexican Feast

Every NYEve we usually end up staying home, eating junk food, and playing games. This year we made plans with friends - dinner at our house followed by a show at the local comedy club. I decided on a Mexican feast.

The Menu...
Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Beef Tacos
Mexican Rice (thank you, Goya)
Corn with Red Peppers and Zucchini
Margaritas and Sol Beer
Jenny's Cake: Cream Cheese Lime Pound Cake

Chicken Enchiladas...
Here is the recipe for my enchiladas as well as for the homemade enchilada sauce that I like to use.

I don't like to use those packages of seasoning for the meat. Instead, I use a mix of spices to give the meat some flavor.

When the meat is browning, and after I have drained any excess fat, I add chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, a touch of cayenne, and just a bit of salt. If you know me, you know that I don't measure any of them! I use the most chili powder and cumin, and the least cayenne and salt. I keep adding and adjusting until I have the right flavor. Once I do, I add about a 1/4 cup of water and let it simmer for 15 minutes or so to thicken up.

Taco toppings...
I put out a variety of toppings for the tacos, including white onion, red pepper, green pepper, tomatoes, green onion, jalapenos, sour cream, a mix of shredded cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses, and queso blanco fresh from the nearby Mexican market.

The veggies...
I wanted something light and colorful for a veggie. I chopped 1 red pepper and 1 zucchini into chunks. In a large pan I heated olive oil then added the pepper, zucchini, and 1/2 of a bag of yellow corn. I seasoned it with some dried cilantro (fresh would have been great) and a touch of salt. The veggies only needed to cook for 6-8 minutes. I really liked this combination and will definitely make it again.

The margaritas...

I had my first margarita EVER at the Hilton Los Cabos when we were there last February. It was sooo good! I wish I knew exactly how they made it so I could duplicate it. Ours were simply a margarita mix, Patron Tequila, and a lime on the glass, salt optional.

Jenny loves to bake so she brought a cake -
Cream Cheese Lime Pound Cake. YUM! The flavor was perfect with all of the Mexican food and I loved the lime crunch on the outside of the cake. Thanks, Jenny!

Happy 2008!!!

Jon's Night to Cook - Roast Beef with Homemade Gravy

Finally, after all of these months of being in a cast and being in pain, Jon was finally able to cook last weekend! He was so excited to make one of his specialties, roast beef (eye round) with homemade gravy and rice.

The last time Jon made this meal I tried to work out downstairs while he was cooking - big mistake! The aroma that comes out of that pot while he is cooking is incredible. All I can do is sit and take in the heavenly smells as I wait for dinner!

Jon uses a pressure cooker to cook the roast.

Jon's Roast Beef

  • Trim excess fat from the roast
  • Rub these spices into the roast - salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Sometimes he adds a touch of cayenne.

This is what it looked like when he first put it into the pot:

  • Get your pressure cooker good and hot then sear the beef. Once seared, add a cup of water and close it up.
  • It takes about 45-55 minutes to cook 1-1.5 lb roast.
  • Once done, remove the roast from the pot and let it rest, keeping the drippings in the pot.


  • Mix one cup of water with about 1 tbsp of flour. Whisk the water-flour mixture into the drippings.

I contributed Brussels sprouts to the meal. Here is a recipe I like to use.

This meal is the definition of traditional home cooking and I can't wait until he makes it again!