Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Few New Sides

Jon loves marinating and grilling pork chops when the weather turns nice. Last night he used a marinade that we had used on London broil a few weeks ago. It consisted of EVOO, Worcestershire, lime juice, fresh garlic, thyme, dry mustard, and turmeric. It is a really good marinade and was excellent on the beef. It was ok on the pork as well, but I think it definitely works better on beef.

I wanted to make some "new to us" sides to go along with the chops. I consulted my favorite recipe website,, and found a few good recipes. I decided on
this recipe for Brussels sprouts with bacon and thyme for our veggie, and this one for orzo pilaf with green onions and Parmesan for a side.

I pretty much followed the recipes exactly except for the fresh thyme - I substituted dry. I loved both recipes. Jon loved the orzo, but wasn't a fan of the Brussels sprouts but only because thyme isn't his favorite flavor.

I love making orzo in broth because it's a lot like a cheater-risotto. Risotto is one of my favorite things to cook, but sometimes you just want something quick and easy!

Definitely take a look at those links - I'd highly recommend both recipes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuscan White Bean and Cabbage Soup

On Sundays I like to plan my lunches for the week. It saves me time and keeps me from grabbing something that is not good for me out of convenience.

This Sunday I made a new soup that I found on - Tuscan White Bean and Cabbage Soup. After reading the recipe I thought the quantity of each ingredient was a big high, especially considering the veggie to broth ratio, so I made a few changes. I also didn't add fresh basil as the recipe instructed (I'm not a big fan of too much basil). Here is what I did:

  • 3/4 lb dried white beans (I could have used even less)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 head of green cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 10 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Salt, pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


  • Soak beans in water in a covered pot/bowl over night. Drain when ready to make the soup.
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot.
  • Add onion, thyme and garlic; saute 5 minutes.
  • Add cabbage, tomatoes, celery, and carrots; saute 5 minutes.
  • Add beans, broth, and potatoes; bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer 60-90 minutes.
  • Add zucchini; cover and simmer until veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with Parmesan cheese.

This is a really nice springtime soup. Next time I'd use less beans and less ingredients overall as it's a little closer to a stew than soup, but it's still good.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chinese Chicken with Peanuts and Veggies

It's Sunday again so here is my "something new" for the week.

My dad gave me a bag of snow peas on Saturday, so I decided to make a dish that would go well with a side of sauteed snow peas. Asian flavors sounded good, so I looked around on and found this recipe. I followed most of it, but made some changes and additions. I doubled the liquids and added chicken broth so I'd have more of a sauce; I added veggies for some color and crunch, and I didn't use the MSG. Below is my version -

  • 3 boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken breasts
  • 2 scallions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Several drops of vinegar
  • 2 tsp cooking sherry
  • 1 slice ginger, minced
  • Several drops of sesame oil
  • 10 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c blanched peanuts
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Finely chopped veggies - I used 1/2 of a red pepper, handful of water chestnuts, and 1/2 of a zucchini


  • Cut chicken into small chunks and mix with salt, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • In a small bowl, mix remaining soy sauce and cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, sherry, scallions, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil
  • Heat oil in a frying pan. Add peanuts and stir until golden.
  • Add veggies and half of the red pepper flakes; saute for 1-2 minutes. Move veggies and peanuts to the side of the pan.
  • Add chicken and the rest of the red pepper flakes to the pan and saute for 4-5 minutes until just about cooked through.
  • Add the small bowl of sauce, stir to coat.
  • Add the chicken broth, stir until all of the sauce is smooth, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring ocassionally.
  • Serve over rice or noodles.

We both loved this - the chicken was tender, the sauce was great, and it had the right amount of kick - but agreed that we didn't like the consistency of the peanuts in the dish. We did like the flavor of the peanuts, so next time I'll use them to season the oil and then remove them before adding the veggies and the chicken.

Another Sunday dinner that will go on the "make again" list!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chicken with Tomatillos and Roasted Poblanos, Jalapenos, and Anaheim Peppers

The next few months are going to be crazy with business travel, so I probably won't be able to cook as many new things as I'd like. So I have decided that I'll try something new at least every Sunday. Last week I made short ribs for the first time, and tonight I tried another new recipe, Chicken with Tomatillos and Roasted Poblanos, Jalapenos, and Anaheim Peppers.

The original recipe can be found
here. I made only minor changes; my version is below -


  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (1 whole for roasting, 1 chopped)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cornstarch
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of freshly chopped cilantro


  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place poblanos, the Anaheim, and 1 jalapeno directly on the rack. Cook for 20 minutes, turning peppers two times. Remove from the oven, let cool, and remove the skin. Chop peppers.
  • Heat olive oil in a pan; I used a medium nonstick pan. Add all of the peppers, onion, green onion, and garlic. Saute 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and oregano, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  • Heat olive oil in a separate, larger pan. Season chicken lightly with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Dredge in cornstarch (or flour), shake off excess, and put in the pan. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Add pepper mixture to the chicken and let simmer for 25 minutes (until chicken is done), adjusting seasonings if necessary.
  • Stir in cilantro and serve over rice.

Jon and I both loved this dish. At first bite the sauce tasted sweet, but then the heat came out and rounded out the flavors - just right! The sauce was great on the rice, too. I'd definitely make this one again.

Sunday Breakfast - Banana Stuffed French Toast

My parents took Daisy overnight for us so we could enjoy a late night out with friends, so I wanted to cook them a nice breakfast when they brought her back this morning. I decided to do a stuffed French toast and browsed some recipes for ideas on what to use for the "stuffed" part. This recipe looked really good, so I changed some things, took some things out, and added some things to make it my own.

  • 1 loaf of French bread
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp sugar (plain old granulated sugar)
  • a few dashes of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Strawberries for garnish


  • Heat a bit of olive oil and butter in large nonstick pan or griddle; I like to use a large griddle that covers 2 burners. Additionally, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Slice bread into slices about 1 1/2 inches thick, not using the ends (I got 6 slices out of a regular loaf of French bread). Then slice 3/4 of the way through each slice, just about in the middle, making a slit for the stuffing.
  • Mix thinly sliced bananas with brown sugar
  • Whisk eggs with milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and regular sugar
  • Take a spoonful of the banana mixture and put it into the slit of each piece of bread. Make sure the bread closes around the stuffing.
  • Dip stuffed bread in the egg mixture being sure to coat both sides and edges completely. Let the bread sit in egg mixture just a touch longer than you would with a thinner bread; you want to make sure the egg soaks more than just the surface of the bread.
  • Put the bread onto the griddle and cook on each side for about 3 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Transfer bread to a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes to cook the bread all the way through.
  • To serve, I sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar onto each piece of toast and also garnished with a strawberry that I cut into a fan.

WOW!!! YUM! Just a touch of maple syrup made it complete. The bread was sweet and crunchy, and the stuffed center was a gooey, tasty surprise.

I can imagine making this toast with all sorts of fillings - apple, strawberries or a mixture of berries, pears, or mango and papaya for a Caribbean flair.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fish in a lemon-wine sauce; Potato-artichoke pancakes

As I've said before, I don't like seafood. I have tried almost everything, and still try whatever Jon orders at restaurants, but really don't like it. However, I don't mind catfish and trout because they are freshwater fish and don't have that typical seafood flavor.

Jon was away all week so I decided to cook him some fish when he got home last night. Because I need to hide the taste of the fish a bit, I decided to cook it similarly to how I cook
chicken piccata.


  • 2 fish filets
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup wine
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (probably a little less, if any at all)
  • Optional: capers
  • Salt and pepper


  • Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over high heat.
  • Season fish with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
  • Once the pan is very hot, add the fish and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan.
  • Lower the heat to medium-high, and to the pan, add garlic and shallots. Saute for 1-2 min.
  • Add the wine and let it cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and capers.
  • Return fish to the pan and simmer about 4-5 minutes. At the end, whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter and top with parsley.

I really liked the flavor of the sauce, and I was able to eat a lot of the fish. Jon also liked the sauce, but thought the fish got a little too soft in the sauce, but still enjoyed it.

I made potato-artichoke pancakes as a way to try to get Jon to enjoy potatoes. It worked - he ate two!

Ingredients (amounts are estimates - I kept working with ingredients until the mixture felt right)

  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled, grated, and with all of the water pressed out (don't peel/grate until you are ready to start cooking as the potatoes will turn brown)
  • 1/2 can artichokes, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp shallots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp parsley for color (I think some spinach would be great, too)
  • Salt, pepper, oregano
  • Olive oil - enough to coat a pan by about 1/4 inch


  • Mix all ingredients in this order - potatoes, artichokes, garlic, shallots, spices, egg, parsley, breadcrumbs, cheese (I added 1 egg, then the breadcrumbs and cheese, then decided to add a second egg).
  • Heat olive oil in a pan over high heat
  • Form mixture into round patties about 2 1/2 - 3 inches in diameter
  • Drop patties into the oil and cook for about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan onto a paper towel before serving

These were really good and if I didn't already have the lemon sauce for the fish, I would have liked some sort of creamy dipping sauce for them. I can't believe Jon ate 2!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Beef Short Ribs in Chipotle and Green Chili Sauce

Lately, due to both of our travel schedules, I haven't been able to cook during the week. So on Sunday I love to cook something that takes a lot of time. The supermarket had beef short ribs on sale, and since I had never cooked them, I decided to try them.

I browsed recipes on and finally decided on this one. The original recipe, with my changes noted, is below.

The recipe called for three Anaheim (California) peppers and chipotle peppers, but I decided to use a mixture of peppers pictured below - a jalapeno (the small, dark green pepper), a poblano (the larger dark green pepper), an Anaheim (the long, lighter green pepper), and chipotle peppers (chopped in the bowl).


  • Rub: 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 8 meaty bone-in beef short ribs (not flanken cut, but regular short ribs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced (I used about 8-9 cloves)
  • 1 14 oz can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped canned chipotle chilies
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (didn't use this)
  • Lime wedges (didn't use these)


  • Mix the ingredients for the rub in a bowl. Coat each rib with the rub, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour to 1 day (I let them sit in the fridge for about 4 hours)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot/pan over medium heat. Add the ribs and brown on all sides, about 9 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and garlic. Cover and let simmer until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits.
  • Add tomatoes, lime juice, and chipotle chilies and then return the ribs to the pan, meaty side down, in a single layer. Here is how they looked at this point:

  • Bring to a boil, then cover and transfer the pan to the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until ribs are just tender (this timing was right on).
  • Remove pot from oven, tilt pot, and spoon off fat (surprisingly there wasn't much fat in the pan at all!). When they came out of the oven, the looked a bit more like short ribs since the meat reduced in size while cooking, allowing the bones to show.

  • Place pot over medium heat and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you can cool the ribs and put them in the fridge for up to a day, or continue with the recipe if you are serving them immediately.
  • Add the peppers to the pan and simmer over medium low heat until the peppers soften, about 10 minutes (they could have gone 15-20 minutes).

  • We didn't do this step and I really don't think it would have added anything because the sauce was already so good - Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

These ribs were melt in your mouth tender! The meat flaked right off the bone and was so tender and full of flavor. Being a former vegetarian I cannot believe I cooked and ate these, but I loved every bite. I would put this dish on the top of my list of favorites.

I served simple sides - crispy oven fries and sauteed vegetables.

Fries - I cut baking potatoes into wedges, coated with olive oil, and then rubbed with a mixture of cornmeal, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. I baked them on 400 for 20 minutes - 10 on each side - and then turned the broiler on at the end. Crispy and delicious!

Veggies - I've made this dish before. It is simple, quick, and goes great with spicy foods. I sauteed 1 cup of corn, 1 chopped zucchini, and 1 chopped red pepper in olive oil with salt for about 7 minutes.

If you have a few hours to cook and are looking for something savory and delicious, I'd highly recommend this dinner. Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tortellini Bake with Spinach, Tomatoes, Garlic, and Proscuitto

Jon wasn't home for dinner tonight and I felt like cooking, so it was a good night to use up what I had in the fridge.

  • 1.5 cups frozen tortellini (or any pasta)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes; optional if you don't want too much heat
  • 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese; I used Parmesan and mozzarella
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch or flour
  • Chopped prosciutto; optional if you want a vegetarian version


  • Cook pasta, drain, set aside
  • In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes; saute 1 minute; Add spinach, let wilt for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a baking dish (I remove the veggies from the pan before making the sauce so the tomatoes and spinach don't get too mushy)
  • Add another tsp olive oil to the hot pan. Add cornstarch and mix until you have a nice roux.
  • Add light cream; bring to a simmer.
  • Add cheeses; stir until creamy.
  • Mix the pasta, veggies, cream sauce, and prosciutto in a baking dish.
  • Bake on 350 for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

This was fabulous - especially for just grabbing whatever I had leftover and whipping something up. I loved the sweetness of the tomatoes mixed with the flavor of the garlic, heat from the red pepper flakes, and smoky flavor from the prosciutto. I'd make it again, and I might even try it with cubed chicken breast as well.