Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Who doesn't love fresh bread with dinner? Isn't it secretly one of the perks to eating out? I know it is for me! One thing my dad whips up that I always love is foccacia bread. This is a super simple way to make rosemary focaccia bread that doesn't even involve making the actual dough! You can simply buy fresh pizza dough from your local grocery store or even pizza place, add a few ingredients and voila! I made ours a rosemary focaccia since we have a huge rosemary bush in our backyard that we haven't made a dent it. If you don't like rosemary you can use the same concept and just use olive oil and kosher salt.

Rosemary Focaccia
Serves 4

1-pound package refrigerated pizza dough
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary needles

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Let the pizza dough warm up a bit on the counter to make it easier to roll out. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each potion to a 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle each portion of dough with 1/2 teaspoon of the oil and sprinkle with some of the salt and pepper.
Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with the remaining oil, and sprinkle with the rosemary. Return to oven until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. If desired, serve with a side of olive oil.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

I love to have big salads for lunch or even dinner when we go out. For some reason they always taste so much better when they are mixed together with the dressing and all of the fun additional items than when I make them at home. Not anymore! This recipe is a copycat version of Panera's Asian Chicken Salad and is just as good if not better at home. I made the salad dressing earlier in the day since I was taking a class at the gym and wanted as little work to prepare this when I got home. Then pulled together the marinade and chicken before hitting the showers. This was the perfect amount of time to soak up the flavors before Jason got home to take over the grill. Be sure to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes so the juices don't run out the moment you go to cut it up. The dressing is sweet from the sugar but still a bit tangy from the vinegar, which I really liked. I didn't have any wontons so I used tortilla strips which lose the asian flavor but provide a crunch. Next time I might opt for the crunchy noodles you can find in the ethnic aisle. Overall this was an extremely flavorful and filling salad that is great for lunch or dinner.
Asian Sesame Chicken Salad
Serves 4

1 bag pre-washed romaine lettuce
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
4 medium chicken breasts
For the chicken marinade:
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or agave nectar, or honey)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon garlic powder
For the dressing:
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Salad toppings:
Chopped cilantro (optional)
11oz can mandarin oranges packed in water or 100% juice (rinse in water if packed in syrup)
¼ cup sliced almonds
Baked or fried wonton strips (I only had tortillay strips)
Sesame seeds

1. For the chicken: Whisk together chicken marinade ingredients and put in a gallon ziploc bag. Prick the chicken with a fork to allow the marinade to be absorbed. Add chicken to the bag and marinate for 15 minutes. Grill, or cook in a non-stick sprayed skillet until done, then let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. Cut into slices.

2. For the dressing: Bring vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat, then add in the sugar and stir until dissolved. Let cool. Combine with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a jar, and shake to combine.

3. Divide lettuce and spinach between four plates. Top with sliced chicken, salad dressing, and toppings.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frittata with Spinach, Potatoes and Leeks

This weekend my nana came to visit for the first time in our new house. Despite lots of transportation headaches she finally made it. While she was here we had over her sister, brother-in-law, and some cousins for brunch so she could get together with family that she no longer is able to see that often. I always love seeing family and that has been one of the perks since moving to Florida, there are a lot in the area either permanently or just for the winter.

We were doing your typical bagels, lox, etc. as the main brunch but I wanted to provide some protein with eggs. I will admit that I was intimidated by a crust for quiche and landed on a frittata. I specifically liked this recipe because it went into a dish and was baked so I didn't have to fuss over it once everything was combined. It was a huge success and a great way not only to add in protein, but vegetables! You can essentially use the egg and milk base and add in whatever vegetables you have in the house like bell peppers and mix up the cheese depending on what you like or omit it all together. Definitely a recipe I will keep and try with different variations.

Frittata with Spinach, Potatoes and Leeks
Serves 6-8
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

1 teaspoon butter
2 leeks thinly sliced
10oz frozen chopped spinach, drained
1/3 cup fat-free milk
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large  (I used 2 eggs and an egg beater for the other 2)
4 large egg whites
2 cups cooked, peeled, cubed red potatoes (about ¾ lb)
3 slices provolone cheese, diced

1.    Preheat Oven to 350°
2.    Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leek and sauté 4 minutes. Add spinach to break up and warm through.
3.    Combine milk and next 5 ingredients in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add leek mixture,  potatoes and cheese. Pour into a 10-inch ceramic baking dish or a pie plate coated well with cooking spray. If desired, sprinkle top with bread crumbs.
4.    Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until center is set. Preheat broiler.
5.    Broil frittata for 3 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Mini Corn Bread Muffins

I love mini muffins, cupcakes, anything really, if not for them being adorable then for the fact that you can eat more of them! I received mini muffin tins over the holidays and finally used them. This is a basic corn bread muffin recipe that I turned into minis but can also be made as a bread or regular muffins by simply adjusting the cooking time. These are great for breakfast, snacks or in our case they were a side dish with ribs or bbq (recipe coming soon). Especially great for a weekend breakfast since they can be prepared so quickly!

Mini Corn Bread Muffins
Source: Betty Crocker
Yields: 3 dozen mini muffins

1 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups yellow or white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400F. Grease muffin tin, or use liners.

In a large bowl, beat milk, butter and egg with hand beater or wire whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients all at once until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Do not over mix. I used 1 Tablespoon of batter per mini muffin.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out of the center clean. If you want to make regular muffins cook for 20 minutes.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Easy and Festive cake cookies

Happy Valentine's Day! I had a few girlfriends over for desserts, wine and the Bachelor. Those are three of my guilty pleasures and it is always fun to have people over. As always, the show did not dissapoint and was full of drama. This also gave me an excuse to try out these cookies. Normally, I don't buy anything that comes in a box, but made an exception for these and was glad I did. You can use sprinkles in the colors of whichever holiday is coming up to use this recipe all year round. Since Valentine's Day is today I used pink, red and white. They taste like chocolate cake but with a chewy cookie consistency. My cousin has made these and she suggested adding chocolate chips, I never say no to more chocolate and will have to try that tip next time.

Easy and Festive cake cookies
Source: Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle
Yields: 2.5 dozen

1 boxed cake mix {I used Duncan Hines devil’s food}
1/2 cup {1 stick} unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. flour
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
Sprinkles (optional)

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon for evenly sized potions of dough. If you are using sprinkles, roll the ball in sprinkles and drop onto ungreased cookie sheets {or Silpat if possible}.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for at least five minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crunchy Cinnamon French Toast Sticks

While I am the one writing about this recipe, I can't take credit for making it. As usual Jason was awake long before me. However, on this day he decided to get creative in the kitchen and this was what he came up with. This is a good way to use up some of the left over bread we use for sandwiches and the whole wheat makes it a bit healthier. The cornflakes on the outside give the french toast a nice crunch. If you have kids, they will definitely enjoy eating the sticks with their hands. The dusting of powder sugar gives it a little sweetness or you can top with warm maple syrup.

Crunchy Cinnamon French Toast Sticks
Serves: 2-3

4 slices of wheat bread
3 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup milk
1 cup corn flakes cereal - crushed to make about 3/4 cup
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat a griddle or large fry pan to medium-high heat (about 325 degrees if using an electric griddle).

Cut each slice of bread into 3-4 strips lengthwise. Place the crushed corn flakes in a large shallow bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Grease the griddle or fry pan with butter.
One at a time, dredge each strip of bread in the egg mixture, coating completely. Then dredge the strips in the crushed corn flakes, so that a scattered amount of corn flakes sticks to both flat sides of the bread. Carefully transfer the sticks to the fry pan or griddle. Cook both sides until nicely browned (2 to 3 minutes per side). The second side always browns a little faster than the first.
Transfer french toasts sticks to a plate to cool until safe to the touch. Dust top side with powdered sugar and enjoy!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Turkey & Brown Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

One of Jason's favorite vegetables is bell peppers and we both enjoy ground turkey as a healthy substitute. I have been seeing a lot of recipes for stuffed peppers and finally made them the other night. Naturally I wanted to cut the top off the peppers and stuff them that way, but most recipes have you cutting them in half lengthwise. My only comment is that unless it is a really large pepper this makes it difficult to stuff and transfer from the pan once cooked as the pepper becomes soft. Either way, the still tasted delicious. It is a pretty presentation and had our vegetable, grain and protein all inside. You can add some diced vegetables to the stuffing or substitute a quinoa instead of brown rice if you prefer that. 

Turkey & Brown Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers
Slightly adapted from: Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian
Servings: 4 (2 stuffed halves)

4 Large Bell Peppers
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup low fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 (8.8oz) packages pre-cooked brown rice
1lb ground turkey

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise, discard the seeds adn membranes, leaving stems intact. Place pepper halves cut sides down on a large microwave safe plate so moisture can drain. Cover with wax paper and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Place pepper halves cutsides up on a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil.

3. While pepper halves cook, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro to pan; saute 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add in ground turkey and cook until browned.

4. Combine mixture with 1 cup pasta sauce, 1/4 cup cheese, rice and black pepper. Spoon mixture into pepper halves. Top with remaining pasta sauce.

5.  Cover and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake an additional 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

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