Saturday, May 26, 2012

Power Granola

Ah, the satisfying crunch of granola. Not much like it. Especially when you know it's healthy- packed with wonderful ingredients like oats, flax seed, honey, nuts and more! One of the best things about homemade granola is it's pretty cheap- unlike its ready-made counterparts. And very versatile. You can swap the peanuts and almonds out for virtually any kind of nuts you want, add in coconut or some other dried fruit, skip the honey for a bit of maple syrup or agave nectar, replace the orange juice with something more to your liking or even swap the cinnamon for a different spice! See what I mean? This recipe is meant only to be a springboard for your taste buds and wild imagination!

I must say, I think the combination I chose is remarkably delicious, but feel free to make alterations! I can't stop grabbing little handfuls as I go by the pantry, and it is a perfect compliment to my morning Greek yogurt.

Power Granola
adapted from
yields about 4 3/4 cups

2 cups regular oats
1/3 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cups chopped slivered almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300.
In a large bowl, mix first 5 ingredients.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine orange juice, honey, and brown sugar. Heat and stir just until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in oil and vanilla.
Grease large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Pour juice mixture over oat mixture and stir to coat evenly. Spread in a thin layer on greased baking pan and bake for 10 min. Stir well. Bake another 10-15 min or until golden brown (granola will become more crunchy as it cools).
Spoon granola into bowl. Stir in raisins. Cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chicken Satay {with Peanut Dipping Sauce}

Every once in a great while, I tiptoe into the rather frightening region of Asian cooking. Something about the new and different flavors and ingredients makes my normally fairly bold cooking personae grow shy. However, when I saw this delicious looking recipe for a Thai-inspired chicken satay (which I recently learned is the name for meat grilled on a skewer and served with dipping sauce), I couldn't resist the pull of a challenge. And of course, as you know, I am a sucker for anything with peanut butter in it.

This recipe proved to be like most Asian recipes I try- full of things I don't have on hand! In particular, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sesame oil. Coconut milk was out- I'm allergic (I think) to coconut. I decided to just substitute with regular milk. Now fish sauce, that's just plain scary. The words "fish" and "sauce" should not be together. I expected some slimy, gray oily paste when I arrived in the Asian section of my supermarket. However, once I finally located said fish sauce, it was a rather innocent looking brown liquid- no more off-putting than, say, soy sauce. So it's made out of anchovies- who's to know? Other than me. Oh, well. Moving on. The last special ingredient I needed was sesame oil, but, even though I did locate it, when I spied the price tag I ended up deciding to use regular oil. I knew I wouldn't use it often enough to warrant the cost. Maybe those of you who use sesame oil on a regular basis can tell me if it's worth the extra dough!

All the fun ingredients in hand (okay, so I guess we just narrowed it down to the fish sauce), I prepared the marinade and let the chicken soak for a few hours. Then I threaded them on skewers and hubby grilled them. While he was manning the grill, I prepared the dipping sauce. The dip was a promising concoction of peanut butter, soy sauce, fresh ginger and other yummy additions. Due to my bland-food-loving-anglo-saxon roots, I decided to halve the amount of cayenne pepper. I couldn't resist snagging a sample- it was delicious! Sweet and smooth, with just the right amount of zing on the tail end.

Paired with rice and grilled asparagus, this made a fantastic meal. We thoroughly enjoyed dipping the curry and cilantro flavored chicken in the flavor-packed peanut sauce. If you feel the need to take an exotic journey to the east, look no farther than your backyard grill and a fabulous chicken satay!

Chicken Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce
adapted from AllYou Magazine
serves 6-8 (I halved it for us!)

1/2 cup coconut milk (or regular milk)
1 TB fish sauce
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sugar
1 TB chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips

Peanut Sauce:
3 TB soy sauce
2 TB rice vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more to taste)
2 TB sugar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 TB sesame oil (or regular oil)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

Whisk marinade ingredients together. Put chicken in a large ziplock bag; pour in marinade. Seal bag; rub marinade into chicken. Chill for 3 hrs, turning occasionally.
If using bamboo skewers, don't forget to soak them in water for 30 min. prior to using!
Make sauce: combine all sauce ingredients in a pan and bring to boil over med. heat, whisking until smooth, about 2-3 min. Thin with more broth if desired. Remove from heat, let cool.
Preheat grill to medium. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Thread each piece of chicken onto a skewer. Grill for 5 to 7 min., turning once, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Serve with sauce.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Taco Pizza

As many of you know, Hubby and I have a little routine of pizza & a movie every Friday night. We go to the gym, work out like crazy people (I do Zumba!), then come home, have pizza and snuggle up to a great film. It is a fantastic tradition, and unless I get some crazy aversion to pizza later in life, I hope we never stop.

One thing I am challenged with, though, is how to keep the pizza regimen fresh. You know, not pepperoni every week. Last week I was inspired by a recipe I spied in my AllYou magazine, and made a few tweaks to suit me. I have had taco pizza before- at a delicious pizzeria in Cannon Beach- and I have made something close to it before, but this looked fantastic. And it was! Using refried beans and salsa for the "sauce" was pure genius and the fresh veggies and cilantro on top gave it that slam-bang finish.

If you don't have a favorite homemade crust, check out the link to my easy whole wheat thin crust- it's my staple! It only takes about 15 min. to make and has a great wheat flavor (and since it's a thin crust, it's quite a bit lower on calories than most!).

makes 1 pizza (mine is a 15")
adapted from AllYou magazine
(no measurements- fix it to your liking!)

1 recipe pizza crust
refried beans
shredded cheese
corn (frozen or canned)
olives, sliced
1 lb. hamburger meat
1 recipe taco seasoning
iceberg lettuce, chopped
tomatoes, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped

Make crust. Preheat oven to 500 (or whatever your crust recommends). Spread refried beans over crust. Top with salsa, spreading evenly. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Brown hamburger, add taco seasoning and a little water. Simmer about 15 min. (You will only need about a 1/4 lb of the meat, so  you can freeze the rest for tacos!). Top cheese with meat, olives, and corn.
Bake 12-14 min or until crust is browned.
After baking, sprinkle pizza with lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro. Slice and serve!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

On a gorgeous spring day, when the hummingbirds are buzzing at the feeder, the swallows are nesting, flowers are opening and dappled sunshine is lighting your kitchen, what sounds more refreshing than a delicate shortbread cookie infused with the sparkling brightness of lemon?

These buttery rounds lightly straddle the fence between crisp and soft and with the zing of lemon zest, they would perfectly compliment a nice tall glass of iced tea.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Daily Meal
makes 4 dozen

2/3 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 TB grated lemon zest
2 cups flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 TB heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Using a mortar and pestle or a clean spice grinder (or, like me, the thick handle end of the pizza wheel!), grind together the sugar and zest.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the paddle attachment, combine flour, butter, salt and baking soda and beat on low speed until it resembles cornmeal. Add the lemon sugar, cream and vanilla and beat until just clumped together (do not overmix!).
Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log about 8 in. long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 min. or several hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Unwrap log and slice into 1/4 in. thick rounds. Place on cookie sheet about 2 in. apart. Sprinkle with sugar. In between batches, keep remaining dough refrigerated.
Bake 10 min. or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool several minutes on sheet, then cool completely on wire rack.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spiced-Rubbed Pork Chops

The past week or so, our weather here has been absolutely fantastic. I mean, between 70 and 80 degrees almost every day! That is not super common for this part of the country in May! So we have been enjoying it! Hubby's been out working in his garden (we have a couple of raised beds), I went all crazy and planted some clematis to climb up the beams on our front porch (a dream of mine for awhile now), and we've been grilling. I am so excited about the advent of the grilling season! It is such a nice "shake up" to my usual recipe routine- it opens wide doors of new possibilities! I am amazed that we lived our first 2 married summers without a grill (well, we sort of had one the first summer, but it doesn't really count because it wasn't really ours and the side of it was broken off, plus we only lived there for two months- and we didn't grill much...did you really need that explanation? Oh, wellll...). I am also reminded how delicious food tastes fresh off the grill. Any food. Fruit, bread, meat (of course), pizza (so I've heard), vegetables, you name it.

See? Massive chops.

So for a fun change, I took this simple and scrumptious pork recipe that is intended for the frying pan (and is fantastic that way as well) and grilled it instead! It worked great. The pork chops I bought were huge, so they took a bit of extra time (almost 20 min. on the grill), but they were delicious. Juicy, with a yummy coating of spices and sweetness.
You'll be wanting that recipe now?

We served our pork with grilled garlic bread and artichokes. Yum!

Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops
adapted from
serves 2

2 boneless pork loin chops
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp olive oil (if pan frying)

Conventional Method: Combine all rub ingredients. Heat skillet over med-high heat. Sprinkle 1 side of each pork chop with spices, using half the mixture. Allow to sit a few minutes; turn and sprinkle other sides with the other half of spice mixture. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add pork to pan and cook 2 min. or until browned (longer if your chops are thicker than 3/4 in.). Turn over and cook another 4 min. or until done.
Grilling Method: Spray grill rack with non-stick grill spray. Heat grill to medium heat. Follow preparation method as above. Grill pork 15-18 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees, turning halfway through.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meals for a Month {May-June}

Welcome to my menu! Hope this leaves you feeling inspired. It does me- I am so excited about the grilling season! So many fun new recipes to try! And now that we have entered the good weather season, I've retired Soup Wednesdays in favor of Salad Saturdays! Happy cooking!

Week 1 (May 15-19)

Entree: Grilled Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops
Side: Artichokes with Herb-Butter Dipping Sauce
Entree: Ground Beef Meat Sauce Spaghetti
Side: Green Salad and French Bread
Side: Avocado Salsa and fresh Mango

Entree: Taco Pizza
Side: Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Side: Grilled Italian Bread

Week 2 (May 22-26)

Entree: Grilled Chicken Satay with Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
Side: Grilled Asparagus
Entree: Turkey Hot Dogs
Side: Chips and Baked Beans
Entree: Sloppy Joes
Side: Fresh Fruit
Entree: Pepperoni Pizza
Side: Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Entree: BLT Salad
Side: Garlic Bread

Week 3 (May 29-June 2)

Entree: Grilled Salmon
Side: Grilled Asparagus
Entree: Turkey Burgers
Side: Chips and Fresh Fruit
Entree: Crock Pot Butter Chicken
Side: Pasta and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Entree: Pepperoni and Olive Pizza
Side: Fresh and Veggies
Side: Grilled Italian Bread

Week 4 (June 5-9)

Entree: BBQ Pork Chops
Side: Rice and Asparagus
Entree: Turkey Burgers
Side: Green Salad
Entree: Spicy Garlic-Lime Chicken
Side: Roasted Mexican Potatoes
Entree: Pepperoni Pizza
Side: Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Entree: Mom C.'s Doritos Taco Salad
Side: Bread

Sunday, May 13, 2012

{Soft} Ginger Cookies

These are not gingersnaps.

For the record, gingersnaps, packed full of molasses and ginger though they may be, "snap". These do not. These delicious cookies are spongy and plump.

In fact, the only "snappy" thing about them is their spicy, rich flavor. Now that's snappy.

These remind me of a delectable slice of soft, spongy gingerbread in cookie form.

They would be awesome with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Or hot coffee.

Or cold milk.

Or just about anything else.

Soft Ginger Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter flavor shortening
3/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 400.
Whisk together flour, salt, ginger and cinnamon in large bowl.
In separate bowl, cream sugar and shortening. Add molasses and egg and mix thoroughly. Incorporate wet ingredients into flour mixture.
Stir baking soda into hot coffee until dissolved. Stir into mixture until combined.
If dough is too sticky, chill 30 min. or until slightly firm.
Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 min. or until edges are firm and middles are still slightly wet.  Allow to cool slightly before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ground Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas

So, I've been tweaking recipes again...

I tend to do that when:

a) What's on the menu doesn't sound good

b) Some particular ingredient is begging to be used

c) A recipe sounds absolutely amazing but I don't have everything it calls for

d) c) happens and I decide to risk turning up something semi-amazing instead by substituting something else

e) all of the above

So the scenario last week was that I had ground turkey tacos on the menu (enter reason A). For some reason, tacos just didn't float my boat that day, so I was trying to think if there was something else yummy I could make with the ground turkey and tortillas. Enchiladas immediately came to mind, enhanced by the fact the a can of black beans was calling my name (enter reason B). So, I began a diligent internet search for enchiladas with black beans. I stumbled upon a delicious looking recipe including homemade enchilada sauce on a blog called "Scrambled"- but alas! it included not ground turkey but shredded beef using a chuck roast and some crazy long preparation that I am sure creates a magnificent enchilada but which I had neither time, ingredients nor desire to invest in (enter reason C).


If you think that reason D enters here, you would be absolutely correct.

So, in essence, E just happened, didn't it?

Anyway, back to the enchiladas. Thanks to the ground turkey, some amazing whole wheat tortillas from Trader Joe's, Scrambled's fantastic, flavor-packed sauce, and my hubby picking up a few things at the store, we knocked these enchiladas out of the park!

I did not want to stop eating them- seriously! I have not normally been a huge fan of red-sauce enchiladas (see my recipe for "white enchiladas"), but this delicious flavor combination made me a believer!

Ground Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas
adapted from Scrambled
serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 TB oil, if needed
1 lg onion, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TB chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 whole wheat flour tortillas
cilantro and sour cream for garnish, if desired

Brown ground turkey. Drain and reserve fat (if there is any). Set turkey aside. 
Return 1 TB fat to pan (if there isn't any, add a TB of oil) and add onions. Sprinkle with salt and cook till soft, about 10 min. Add spices and cook one minute. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
Add tomato sauce and red wine and bring to a boil. Add turkey to the sauce, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. 
Using a slotted spoon, remove as much of the meat from the sauce as you can, placing it in a large bowl. Add beans and one cup of the cheese to turkey and mix well.
Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. Preheat oven to 375. Warm tortillas (place in microwave between paper towels for 10-15 sec. or until slightly warm).
Working one at a time, roll 1/4 cup of the meat/bean mixture into each tortilla. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat for each one until the pan is full. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. 
Cover loosely with foil and bake 20-25 min. or until cheese has melted.
Garnish with cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Note: I found that these enchiladas do not freeze very well when prepared beforehand. I would recommend if you want to freeze half the batch that you freeze the filling, then when ready to use, thaw filling and roll enchiladas. Bake as directed.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Garlic-Rubbed Grilled Cheese with Bacon & Tomatoes {a Crazy Cooking Challenge}


 I don't think I've met anyone yet who doesn't like grilled cheese.

Even regular white bread and a slice of cheddar (sorry, I will NOT concede that it is ok to make grilled cheese with Kraft singles American "cheese"...really, there ARE limits) is delicious when "grilled" to ooey gooey crispy perfection.

And who can deny that a hot cheesy sandwich is the perfect compliment to a steaming bowl of tomato soup? In our house growing up the two were inseparable.

That said, what if you upped the ante to include a few simple yet outstanding ingredients?

Such as...a special cheese (Gruyere)?

Such as...juicy ripe tomatoes?

Such as...BACON?

And...wait for it...garlic???!!

What would you have then??

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway for the fun of it), you would hold in your hands the most amazing, grown-up, flavor-packed, blow-the-socks-off-your-white-and-cheddar grilled cheese sandwich to ever walk the planet (okay, so that's a little weird, but really, if any sandwich were to ever get up and walk, trust me, it would be this one...a little cayenne pepper goes a long way).

Tracey over at Tracey's Culinary Adventures is a genius.

So, for the method.

Start with some great crusty bread (you know, the kind that comes in the brown paper)- Italian, French, whatever smells heavenly and looks thick enough to support a load of amazingness.

Generously (and when I say generously, I do mean generously) sprinkle one side of each sandwich with cheeses (which you have mixed with the aforesaid cayenne pepper). The original recipe called for Gruyere, fontina and Parmesan. However, I couldn't locate fontina in my grocery store, so I doubled the Gruyere. It was great, but next time I might try mixing in another cheese just for the heck of it.

White cheddar would be awesome.

Top the cheeses of choice with BACON.

Yes, BACON is one of those words that is always deserving of capitals.

With the cheese duly shielded by the BACON, layer a couple of thick and juicy tomato slices.

Top this with MORE cheese!

The grilling part, obviously follows the construction, then THIS important detail. So simple, so easy, and yet it makes a fantastic flavor difference. Immediately after grilling, rub each side of each sandwich with a fresh halved garlic clove.

Oh wow.

What this does to the sandwich is not within my powers to describe.

You must simply make it for yourself.

Now all that's left is to find a side that is worthy of this incredible creation. If you're not in the tomato soup mood, try what I chose, a perfect BACONY compliment, the Best Ever Potato Salad.

Garlic-Rubbed Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Tomatoes
makes 4 sandwiches

8 slices bacon, cooked crisp
3 oz. (about 1 1/4 cups) grated Gruyere cheese
3 oz. (about 1 cup) grated fontina (or other cheese- I used more Gruyere)
2 TB finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tsp (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes (cayenne)
8 1/2-in.-thick slices Italian bread
2 med. ripe tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-thick slices
2 TB butter, room temperature
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved

Combine cheeses and red pepper flakes. Lay 4 slices of the bread on your work surface and distribute half the cheese mixture evenly among the bread. Top with 2 slices of bacon per sandwich, followed by 2 or 3 slices of tomato (enough to cover the cheese and bacon). Evenly distribute the remaining cheese among the four sandwiches. Lightly butter one side of each of the remaining 4 slices of bread and put them on top of the sandwiches, butter side up.
Heat skillet over med. heat. Place sandwiches butter side down in the pan and cook on the first side until the bread is golden brown and toasted. Meanwhile, butter the top slice of bread on each sandwich. Flip sandwiches using a spatula and continue to cook on second side until bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. You can use the spatula to compress the sandwich as it cooks on the second side.
Remove the sandwiches from the pan and immediately rub both sides with the cut side of a garlic clove. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce

There are so many flavor elements to this tasty chicken entree´, it's hard to know where to start!

The tender, juicy chicken breast? Seared quickly in a hot pan, then baked at a high temperature to seal in the moisture.

The buttery brussels sprouts? Sautéed quickly in butter then simmered in chicken broth, they are a perfect compliment to the chicken.

The tangy mustard sauce? The tie that binds- a marvelous marriage of flavors to enhance the rest of the dish.

When blended together, these components make for such a fabulous meal that it will have you sopping up every last drop of the delectable sauce!

Note: The original recipe calls for using an oven safe skillet for easy transfer of the chicken from stove to oven- I adapted this recipe for those of us without oven safe skillets, but please see the original recipe if you do!

Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4

2 TB olive oil, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper
3/4 cup fat free, low sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup apple cider
2 TB dijon mustard
2 TB butter, divided
1 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with a little cold water until smooth
12 oz. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (frozen or fresh- if frozen, thaw slightly to halve)

Preheat oven to 450.
Heat a large skillet over hight heat. Add 1 TB of the oil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Cook 3 min. or until browned. Turn and transfer to greased glass baking pan. Bake 9 min. or until done (my chicken breasts were a little on the thick side so they took about 15 min.). Keep warm.
Meanwhile, using same pan used to cook chicken, heat over med-high. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and cider. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer 4 min or until slightly thickened. Whisk in mustard, 1 TB butter, parsley and cornstarch mixture. Pour sauce into container to keep warm and prepare sprouts in same pan.
Heat remaining TBs of oil and butter in pan over med-high heat. Add sprouts; saute 2 min. or until lightly browned. Add a pinch of salt and remaining chicken broth. Cover and cook 4 min. or until crisp-tender. Serve sprouts with chicken and sauce.

I highly recommend serving this dish alongside easy and delicious Rosemary Potatoes, aslo found on Cooking Light.
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