Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spicy Tofu with Asparagus and Chile

A few months ago I made Spicy Chicken with Asparagus and Chile, and loved it because of the combination of the asparagus and jalapenos in an Asian dish. I thought it would work really well with tofu, and it did. Below is my variation on this recipe using tofu.


  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed and then cut into small cubes
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 12 oz thin to medium Asparagus spears, cut on a diagonal to 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (ribs and seeds included)
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp hoisin
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • In a bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp of the soy sauce, the rice wine, and cornstarch. Add the the tofu and toss to coat.
  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the asparagus, jalapeno, and ginger and saute 2 minutes.
  • Add tofu, saute about 4 minutes.
  • Add the remaining soy sauce, hoisin, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, but for no longer than 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the green onions, or serve them on top.
This worked really well as a tofu dish, and was great leftover for lunch the next day. I'll definitely make it again!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Crispy Tofu Bites

What??? I want you to feed your child tofu? Yes, I do. But you don't eat it? That's ok...just don't complain about it in front of them. But maybe you should try it... you just might like it. I cook it often - here are all of my tofu recipes.

As I have mentioned before, Jon and I really want our daughter to eat everything. Jon doesn't like tofu or tomatoes, but he will never say that in front of her, and so far she likes both. And I don't eat fish, but she has tried it and likes it. I'll just never complain about it in front of her, because as soon as you do, they will want to be like you and will claim not to like things. So introduce things at a young age and they will never know otherwise!

These little tofu bites are the perfect size for little fingers, are crispy yet soft (just a little softer than a chicken nugget), and can be dipped in anything you want - I chose pizza sauce for tonight. You could also use marinara, honey mustard, ranch, or even ketchup.

I spent 5-6 minutes making these, and she ate them up! She had the most fun "dip-dip-dipping" them in the sauce before taking a bite.


  • 1/4 block of extra firm tofu, pressed (you want to get the water out), then cut into cubes
  • Bread crumbs, about 1/2 c
  • Spices - I added a bit of onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (just enough to get them crispy - you don't need to deep fry them; alternatively, you could bake them)
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat
  • Mix bread crumbs with the spices
  • Dip tofu in egg, then coat with bread crumb mixture
  • Cook approximately 1 min per side, until golden brown. Once done, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  • Let cool slightly before serving.
Hope your little ones enjoy these! And take a bite of one, you just may like them too!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Risotto

When it comes right down to it, risotto is simply creamy rice. And no matter how many times you have heard Gordon Ramsey scream "Oh on, the rih-zot-o!!!" to the contestants on his show, it really is not that hard at all (I never understood why it causes so many issues on his show!). Some say it is time consuming - I don't think that's true either as it takes 30 minutes. But it is 30 minutes of constant attention, so it is not something you can walk away from - you have to commit to 30 minutes standing over the stove.

But the payoff is wonderful, and risotto is so versatile with an endless number of flavors and ingredients that can be used. And I promise that your kids will like it! They may even like the risotto balls (arancini) you can make with day-old leftover risotto!

The other day I made Chicken Cacciatore Risotto which is what our daughter is enjoying (devouring) here.

So give yourself 30 minutes and try out a recipe. I have a lot of ideas here - feel free to browse to find one that interests you. Happy stirring!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Turkey Meatloaf

Jon makes a kick ass meatloaf, and I can't wait until he makes it this fall. But last week I had some ground turkey that I bought to make some freezer meals for our daughter, so I decided to make a turkey meatloaf.

I read a few recipes, and then decided to just wing it. The one thing I did see a lot of was the use of quick cooking oats as a binding agent instead of breadcrumbs, so I incorporated that into my recipe. And of course I topped it with ketchup - kids seem to love things covered in ketchup.

I made a loaf, but you could also make this in muffin tins. You could even add mashed potato "frosting" for a fun meal.
You could also add some grated veggies to the loaf if your child needs to get more veggies in their diet.

This is another meal that can be made, sliced, and frozen into individual portions. When I was ready to serve it, I defrosted a slice in the fridge for a few hours, and then put it in the microwave on defrost for 30-60 seconds. Perfect.


  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c quick cooking oats mixed with 1 tbsp milk
  • 1-2 tbsp marinara sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 sm onion, finely diced
  • Ketchup
  • 1/2 egg
  • Mix everything together and form into a loaf (add the marinara slowly, depending on how wet or dry your mixture is).
  • Top with ketchup
  • Put in a baking dish, fill the dish with about 1/2 inch of water.
  • Bake on 400 degrees approximately 45-50 minutes until fully cooked (use a meat thermometer to be sure - poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees.

She had this tonight and devoured almost everything on her plate - success!

Delicious One Pot Chicken and Rice

I know, that isn't a very creative title. I was, however, pretty creative when I was cooking - I made this one up as I went along. But after cooking, feeding the baby, tag-teaming with Jon to keep her occupied (these days that is doing laps with her around the house, over and over and over, as she learns to walk - back-breaking!!!), cleaning up, and getting her to bed, I'm not feeling all that creative. I just want to get my recipe down on "paper" so I don't forget what I did, because this one was really good!

We had planned on grilling, but Jon was still busy with work and I was busy with the baby, so one pot cooking worked tonight. She sits in her high chair eating some snacks after her dinner while I cook. And I'm hoping that she's learning something too because I do tell her everything I'm doing. Ok, sometimes I have to sing it, but still, she has to be learning, right?


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Seasoned with: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder (just eyeball it)
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of mushrooms, whatever you have on hand, chopped
  • Approximately 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 c rice
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp mirin (I think you could probably leave this out if you didn't have it)
  • A few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet or dutch oven
  • Cook chicken 4 min per side; transfer to a plate
  • Add shallots, ginger, and garlic to pan; saute 2 min. Add mushrooms, saute 2 min. Add rice, stir 1-2 min. Add broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, and bring to a boil.
  • Return chicken to the pan, nestling it into the rice. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 15 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed.
That's it for this delicious one pot chicken!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Mac-n-Cheese

Most kids love mac n cheese. And with how easy this recipe is, there is no reason to ever give them the orange stuff out of a box! Even better, it freezes and reheats very well, so make a big batch when you have time, and you'll have something to pull out of the freezer in a pinch when you don't have any time.

Here is the recipe: Easiest, Creamiest Mac n Cheese. (Note, I used whole milk instead of light cream when I made it last night)

I usually double the recipe - making an entire pound of pasta - so I have a lot of leftovers. I freeze the leftovers in single serving packets, and it is easy to take one out to defrost for lunch or dinner. If it is a little dry when you reheat it, add a touch of milk when heating and voila, just like freshly baked mac! And since it is such a simple recipe, you can add anything you'd like - throw in some diced veggies if you want your kids to eat more veggies, or diced ham for some meat.

My daughter loves this dish -

Grilled Jalapeno-Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

I love a grilled pork tenderloin. It is easy, fast (even for a weeknight!), and there are an endless number of marinades and rubs you can do to add flavor. I had ginger and jalapenos to use up, so I decided on this recipe for Jalapeno-Honey Grilled Pork Tenderloin.

I made a few small changes - I added a bit of oil to the marinade, used hoisin sauce instead of honey, and added a bit of coriander. It was delicious! After marinating for just 6 hours, it took on so much flavor. And it wasn't that spicy at all, so our daughter was able to try some. My variation is below.


  • 1 pork tenderloin (Wegman's sells one pork tenderloin instead of the 2 that usually come in one packet. I love this - just enough for the two of us with a little bit left over)
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (I always use low sodium)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients; pour over the pork in a ziploc bag. Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours; the longer the better.

Grilling the pork
Jon has figured out the best way to grill a pork tenderloin without drying it out, and without charring it too much. His trick is to sear it on all sides, and then place foil on the grill and put the pork on top of the foil and wraps it up loosely to finish (6-8 minutes in foil). He uses a digital meat thermometer and takes it off when it hits 160 degrees. We then let it rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore Risotto

This recipe came to me through another recipe swap hosted by the blog Taste of Home Cooking. The theme was Italian recipes, and I was given this one for Chicken Cacciatore Risotto by the author of the blog Taste and See.

I LOVE risotto, have made it with so many different ingredients and flavors, so I was excited to get this one. Now even though I have made risotto many times, I have never made it with meat.. well, except bacon. I usually have risotto as a side, but this one was a nice entree risotto. And I love Chicken Cacciatore so I had a feeling this would be good.

My parents came over for dinner and really enjoyed it. And no surprise, our daughter loved it too! She ate every last bite and was looking for more.

I made one major change to the recipe - it called for red wine, but I have made risotto with red wine before and didn't like it (too rich and heavy). Also, I make my chicken cacciatore with white wine, so I decided to keep it light and use white instead of red. I also used an Italian Seasoning blend that I had instead of the Herbs de Provence - I compared the ingredients in both and the Italian Seasoning was only missing the fennel, something I don't like anyway. I also added a touch more thyme. My variation on the recipe is below.


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning blend and 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 4 c chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with the juices
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips (I chopped the peppers to keep them bite sized and so my daughter could easily eat them)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley, minced (I didn't have any so I used about 2 tbsp dried parsley)
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and thyme.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add the chicken and cook 5-7 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Shred the chicken, and reserve for the risotto.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of the butter and 1 tbsp oil to a clean skillet. When melted, add the shallot, and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and diced tomatoes to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer continuously.
  • Add the rice to the skillet, and cook, stirring continuously, until the edges are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the wine, and stir continuously, until it is mostly absorbed.
  • Working 1-2 ladles at a time, add the chicken broth/tomato mixture to the rice, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. After about 10 minutes, add the peppers and mushrooms to the rice mixture.
  • Continue adding liquid until the rice is cooked to al dente, about 20 minutes total. Taste to check the rice. When cooked to al dente, add 1 more ladle of chicken broth, and remove from heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and parsley.
  • Top risotto with the chicken and serve.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toddler Friendly: Crispy Chicken Nuggets

I have been loving cooking for our daughter and having her try new things, so I have decided to start a new section for my blog - Toddler Friendly. Now by that I don't mean bland and boring foods, but rather transforming those easy to eat first foods into flavorful meals. These are things that I would also eat! Kids are more likely to want to try new things and won't be picky when you introduce them to different foods, spices, herbs, textures, and flavors at a young age.

When we had our daughter, my husband and I talked about how we wanted her to eat everything, try everything, and not be picky. So far she has been pretty adventurous and will try anything we give her (even seaweed salad at the sushi restaurant!). Our main goal is to be able to have her eat whatever we eat for dinner. However, there are some nights when we cook too late, or are making something too spicy, so it's nice to have a backup plan.

I love having homemade chicken nuggets in the freezer - just take one out to send to daycare for lunch, or use it as a quick and easy dinner. But I'm not going to give her just plain old breaded chicken nuggets! Our daughter loves lots of flavor - I gave her garlic soup at 8 months old and she couldn't get enough of it - so I really season the breading on these nuggets. And to add another texture, I mix crushed cereal in with my breadcrumbs.

Ingredients (for 9-12 nuggets)

  • 3 boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced into whatever size/shape nugget you want to make
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 c crushed crunchy cereal, like Cornflakes or Special K
  • 1 c plain bread crumbs
  • Spices: Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, onion powder (maybe 1 tsp each - I don't measure, but added until the breading looked and smelled just right)
  • Cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees; spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray
  • Soak chicken in buttermilk for 15 minutes
  • Mix the breadcrumbs, crushed cereal, and spices
  • Remove chicken from buttermilk and toss with the breadcrumb mixture; transfer to cookie sheet
  • Lightly spray tops of chicken with the cooking spray
  • Bake 15-18 minutes, flipping once, and turning on broiler at the end, until chicken is cooked through and the coating is crispy.
She loved them!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spiced Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime

Last week I made a great stir fry, Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro. I love cilantro, and really love Asian dishes that feature spicy flavors with cilantro and lime. That beef dish inspired last night's dinner - Spiced Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger, Cilantro, and Lime.

I used the basic recipe from the beef, but added fresh garlic, grated ginger, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a bit of chicken broth to make more of a sauce. It was really good - fresh yet spicy. Loved it!


  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced into 2-bite pieces
  • Spices: 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp dried red pepper flakes, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger (I used the microplane)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Toss chicken with the spices and half of the lime juice
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat
  • Add the chicken and stir fry until almost cooked through
  • Lower the heat to medium high and add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute
  • Add soy sauce, mirin, chicken broth, and the rest of the lime juice; bring to a low simmer
  • Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baked Penne with Sausage and Broccoli

Crumbling sausage is a great way to enjoy it with pasta or in casseroles. I made this one up as I went along using 1 pound of hot Italian sausage. Also, I threw it together in the afternoon and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to bake it. It was delicious, and made great leftovers!

I often freeze leftovers from casseroles in single-serving packets. I wrap a single-serving in plastic wrap (no container), then foil, and store the packets in a freezer bag. Perfect for those nights when I'm on my own for dinner.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large head of broccoli, washed and chopped into florets
  • 3/4 lb penne pasta, cooked to al dente
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Optional: a few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 c light cream
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or flour
  • Approximate amounts: 1/2 c shredded mozzarella; 1/4 c shredded Pecorino romano
  • If baking immediately, preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan
  • Crumble the sausage into the pan, using a spoon/spatula to break it up. Saute until browned, about 10 minutes
  • Halfway through cooking the sausage, add shallots and garlic, and red pepper flakes if you are using them.
  • Transfer sausage mixture to a casserole dish, mix with the pasta
  • In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour/cornstarch and whisk to make a roux. Add the cream. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese until fully melted and creamy.
  • Pour the creamy cheese sauce over the pasta/sausage mixture. Mix until fully coated.
  • Either store covered in the fridge until you are ready to bake it, or bake for 30-40 minutes until hot and bubbly.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Squash and White Bean Saute

Summer Vegetables - the theme of last week's recipe swap sponsored by A Taste of Home Cooking. I was given a recipe for Summer Squash and White Bean Saute shared by the author of A journey through trying new things.

What a great recipe to bring out the best in these summer vegetables - I really liked it! I'm not a big fan of beans, but they added nice texture to this dish while giving it some protein.

Ingredients (I cut the below ingredients in half and still had 4 servings)

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (of course I still used 2!)
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed (I used small white beans)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (I completely forgot to add this and didn't miss it)
  • 1/3 c finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add zucchini, summer squash, oregano, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in Parmesan.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro

The other day I bought a few sirloin steaks and planned on slicing them into thin strips for stir fry, but didn't want to do my usual Beef with Broccoli or something similar to that. I had cilantro to use up, and kept thinking about the amazing dinner we recently enjoyed at Buddakan, so I started to look for ideas using spices, cilantro, and the beef.

I found this one for Spiced Beef Stir Fry with Scallions and Cilantro. It fit all my requirements and looked great, and ended up being the quickest dinner I have made in months - maybe 5-6 minutes of cooking time! And since the rice takes 20-25 minutes to cook, you can easily do all of your prep during that time.

We both loved this one so much that I will be making it often. One change - next time I plan on squeezing a bit of lime juice over the top once it finished cooking.


  • 14 oz filet of beef (I used 1lb sirloin steak)
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tsp rice wine or dry sherry (I used mirin)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 oz cilantro, roughly chopped (I just pulled off a large handful)
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • For the spicy coating: 2 tbsp ground cumin, 2 tbsp dried chili pepper flakes, 1 tbsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp sea salt; I added approximately 1 tsp chili powder and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions (In my own words)
  • Slice the beef wafer thin
  • Mix the ingredients for the spicy coating; mix the beef into this mixture.
  • Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat; add the oil.
  • Add the beef and stir-fry for less than a minute until browned and tender. Add the rice wine and soy sauce.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and scallions. Serve immediately.

The meat was so amazingly tender and flavorful - we both had 2 plates of this! Delicious!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pasta with Asparagus, Sopressata, and Aged Asiago

It has been a while since I created a dinner recipe on my own, so I had so much fun putting this one together! My inspiration? A link of sopressata and block of aged asiago cheese in my fridge just waiting to be used for something, and a craving for pasta. Plus, my friend Jenny was coming for dinner and I know she loves my pasta dishes.

I have cooked with prosciutto and pancetta before, so I figured I could do the same with sopressata. I knew I'd have to use small pieces, however, as it is on the firm side and would maintain this firmness when cooked. So I pulled out my little handheld mandolin, peeled back the casing, and made very thin slices. Like this -

I then sliced each piece and diced them into very small pieces to be sauteed with the shallots and garlic.

Here is how it all came together -

Pasta with Asparagus, Sopressate and Aged Asiago
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 1/2 lb penne pasta
  • 1/2 link of hot sopresatta (about 3 inch long piece)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, top half only
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional for extra heat)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch or two of Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Aged Asiago cheese, freshly grated, about 1/2-3/4 cup
  • 1/2 c reserved pasta water
  • Equipment: mandolin; I used a small handheld mandolin.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  • Put asparagus into the water and let cook less than a minute. Remove from the water and put in a bowl of ice water, or run under very cold water. Slice diagonally into 1.5 inch pieces.
  • Add pasta to the water the asparagus cooked in; cook to al dente.
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan
  • Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sopressata. Saute about 3 minutes.
  • Add asparagus and pasta, mix. Slowly add a little of the pasta water - I only used about 1/4 cup.
  • Add cheese, salt, and pepper

WOW - loved this. We all did! The aged asiago cheese added such great flavor (strong, yet not overpowering), and worked very well with the sopressata. I will definitely make this one again!