Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze

Salmon is one of those foods that is all around good for you. It is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower cholesterol, and help your heart. I will admit it is not my favorite fish despite it's glowing health reviews but try to eat it when we can for the health benefits. This was one of the first fishes that Jason first tried and really enjoys it. This recipe was "the best yet" according to him last night. I cut the original recipe below in half since there were only the 2 of us but it was sweet from the sugar and tangy from the mustard. By broiling the fillets it carmalized on the top of the fish and if you left it in longer gave a nice crunch.

Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze
Serves 8
Source: Martha Stewart

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and ground pepper
8 fillets of salmon, skin removed

1. Heat broiler with rack in top position. In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until slightly evaporated, 1 minute. Add mustard and brown sugar; stir until warm and combined, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. (To store, refrigerate cooled glaze in an air tight container up to 1 day).

2. Place salmon fillets on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/2 cup glaze to a small dish and brush on top of salmon. Broil salmon until glaze is bubbling and fish is opaque throughout, about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Brush remaining glaze over fillets and enjoy!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mac and Cheese Muffins

Who doesn't love macaroni and cheese?! Usually it makes a ton and you never know how much is a serving of the cheesy goodness. Here is the perfect solution, mac and cheese muffins! It is a simple recipe that is poured into well greased muffin tins for built in portion control and easier transportation. I made these for a cocktail party as a more substantial finger food and they hold up well enough to be eaten with your hands, but can also be a side dish for any meal. If you want, you can add in some brocoli or bell peppers to get in a vegetable but I kept it pure. If you have any left over I actually thought they tasted better the second day when reheated in the oven because it allowed the sides to brown up more and get crispier. Another tip, don't use the low-fat cheese, it won't melt. I tried to make things healthier but it just didn't melt properly.

Mac and Cheese Muffins
Slightly adapted from: All Recipes
Yields: 12 regular muffins

2 cups elbow macaroni
1 Tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs (optional)
2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, olive oil and salt; set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for about 8 minutes, it should still be a little bit firm. Remove from the heat, drain and return to the pan; stir in the butter and egg until pasta is evenly coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese and stir the remaining Cheddar cheese, milk and mozzarella cheese into the pasta. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and the bread crumb mixture over the tops.

3. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is nicely browned. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. This will allow the cheese to set and they will hold their muffin shape.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes

Happy Spring! I can't believe that it is already the first day of spring, when did that happen? These are not only cute but scream spring! I recently tested them out for a small party we had. I wanted something that wasn't your typical chocolate, vanilla or peanut butter combination and this was perfect. The lemon cupcakes are refreshingly light and spongy and the raspberry puree in the icing makes it not as sugary as a regular butter cream. I made them as mini cupcakes so people could sample all of our desserts with just a few bites of each. Beware, if you make them as a mini cupcake that they make a ton! Like I said, I made these for a party and without fail, forgot to take photos ahead of time so while these aren't works of art they portray how bright and cute these cupcakes are.

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes or 55 minis

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
lemon zest from two lemons
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

To Make The Cake:
1. Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray

2.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

4. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Place the batter into the cupcake tins.

4. Bake for 18-22 minutes for regular size or 10-12 minutes for minis, until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Cool on wire rack.

For the Raspberry Buttercream
1/2 cup raspberries (blended into a puree and pushed through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds)
1 stick salted butter – room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
1/2 cup shortening*
1 Tablespoon clear vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of raspberry extract*
1 1/2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
2-4 Tablespoons very cold milk (add until you reach desired consistency)

1. Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add extracts and raspberry puree and combine well.

2. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk… one Tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed) until you reach the desired consistency.

*If you don’t have raspberry extract, simply add a little bit more raspberry puree until you reach your preferred level of raspberry flavor. If you add more puree, cut back on the milk.

*If you do not like to use shortening, simply sub in butter. The frosting will not be as structurally sound, but will taste just as delicious.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

One of our favorite  guilty pleasures is to order sesame chicken from the local chinese restaurant. Some days you are just too tired to cook and want chinese take out. I came across this recipe that has a lot of the same flavors and uses the infamous crock pot to make it almost as easy as ordering take out. I am always looking for recipes for my crock pot that aren't a stew or shredded so this fit those requirements. It is a combination of sweet from the honey and a little spice from the red pepper flakes. Served over brown rice with some steamed vegetables makes a complete faux chinese take out dinner.

Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken
Serves 4
Source: Foodie with Family

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup of water
Hot cooked brown rice
Sesame seeds
Scallions, thinly sliced

Very lightly season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place them in the slow cooker.
Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, canola and sesame oils, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.
Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes.
Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker. Serve the pieces of chicken over the hot cooked rice, spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Sometimes I just crave banana bread. The only problem is that you have to wait for the bananas to get brown and soft so they are sweet and can be mashed. I bought some at the store that were not green but still had a few days to go. Like a little kid I checked them daily to see if they were ready yet and while they could have stayed another day or two I declared them brown enough yesterday and went to work on my banana bread. You may notice a theme in my recipes, I love chocolate. So naturally I would use a recipe that calls for chocolate chips in the bread for added sweetness. I also enjoy walnuts for an extra crunch and texture but unfortunately didn't have any in the house, maybe next time. I like this bread because it isn't too sweet. Be sure not to over cook it or you will get a crunchy outside and dry out the middle. Otherwise this is great for breakfast or a snack. I knew it was a success when Jason came home and immediately took a slice on our way to walk the dog.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Serves: 12-18

Source: Woman's Day

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine (not spread), softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Beat butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until blended. Beat in bananas and extract. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 60 to 65 minutes until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes before removing from pan to rack to cool completely. Slice and enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Basic Lasagna

Who doesn't love Italian food?! I know we do. And one of the things that is so great about it is that it is usually easy to make and makes enough for a family meal. So that is exactly what we did. Jason's parents live nearby and we like to do Sunday dinners together. Although, depending on the week it depends on how adventurous I want to be in the kitchen. The past week had been a bit crazy so we went with something simple and always a crowd pleaser - lasagna! I have never made a meat one so I stuck to basic cheese lasagna and added some frozen chopped spinach from the freezer to get in a vegetable. One of the great things about lasagna is that it is so versatile. With the same concept and foundation you can add any type of meat or vegetable you like for a different and still delicious flavor. And the best part about the one I made was it only required 1 dish and a bowl so minimal clean up required!

Yum, look at all that gooey cheese and spinach! That piece did not last long on the plate and seconds were had by all!

Basic Lasagna
Serves: 8-12

1 box no bake lasagna noodles
2 eggs
15oz part skim ricotta cheese
4 cups (16oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
2 jars marinara sauce or homemade

Preheat oven to 375F

Spray 13x9x2 baking dish with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella and the parmesan cheese.

Spoon half jar of sauce on the bottom of the pan; layer with 4 noodle sheets, half ricotta mixture and spinach and remaining sauce. Add 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Layer 4 more sheets, remaining ricotta mixture, spinach and half of second jar of sauce. Top with 4 sheets, remaining suace and 1 cup mozzarella.

Bake covered  with foil until bubbly for 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let it stand for 15 minutes before cutting so it firms up a bit.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rosemary & Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin

It was one of those days where I literally had no idea what to make for dinner. As we headed into to the grocery store there was a sign for buy one get one free on pork tenderloin. We enjoy pork tenderloin since it is low in fat and high in protein and easy to make. This one was packed with flavor and juicy inside. If you are feeling ambitious you can sear the sides in a pan prior to putting it in the oven. We were not that ambitious because I didn't want to dirty another pan/ feeling a bit lazy. It is great for a healthy, flavorful and quick dinner.

Rosemary & Thyme Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Serves: 8
Source: Weight Watchers

2 tsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp freshly chopped
2 tsp dried rosemary or 2 Tbsp freshly chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshy ground black pepper
2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs lean pork tenderloin

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray.

Combine thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Rub oil all over pork. Sprinkle thyme mixture all over pork and transfer to prepared pan.

Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of pork reads 165F, about 30 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing crosswise into thin (1/2 inch thick) slices. Yields about 3 ounces per serving.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently, I have been busy on the weekends, so it was nice to be able to relax and catch up on some episodes of Kelsey's Essentials on the Cooking Channel. I had enjoyed watching her compete for the Next Food Network star, and despite not winning she still ended up with her own show. However, the downfall to actually having time to watch cooking/food shows is that it inevitably makes me want to try everything I see.

Today was no different. I had a few over-ripe bananas that I was planning to make banana bread with when I saw her episode that had a recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies. And who can resist a delicious cookie?! Since it has banana and even some whole oats it can’t be all that bad for you right? The banana keeps the cookie nice and moist yet not too sweet. If you are a nut lover you can decrease the chocolate chips and add in some crushed walnuts for texture. At least I had a few girlfriends over to help me eat them, not that I really need help but I shouldn't eat them all myself.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields: 24 cookies
Source: Kelsey’s Essentials

1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup shortening (I used unsalted butter)
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Mix in the bananas and egg and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the vanilla.

In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. It will be a wet cookie dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using two spoons or a cookie scoop, portion cookies out using overflowing tablespoonfuls on 2 ungreased cookie sheets, 12 cookies per sheet. Bake just until golden brown, ~20 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn and swap the cookie sheets on each rack for even cooking. Cool on a wire rack.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Arugula Salad with Penne and Chick peas

Some days you just feel like a light salad as your meal. Having one with arugula is a little bit different for us since I don't normally have it in the house. Yet the peppery flavor of the arugula gives the salad a nice flavor, pasta gives it some substance and you get a lot of protein from the chick peas. If you don't have itme to make your own dressing you could easily toss it with lemon juice and olive oil, salt & fresh ground pepper. Home-made salad dressing is not only better for you, but makes the salad feel/taste that much fresher.

Arugula Salad with Penne and chick peas
Slightly adapted from Skinnytaste
Serves 4

3 cups baby arugula
6 oz Ronzoni Smart Taste penne pasta
1/4 cup craisins
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
4 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly shaved 

Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Meanwhile, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. You will have extra dressing left over so do not put it all on the salad.

Toss the pasta with baby arugula, sun dried tomatoes, chick peas, half of the cheese, dressing and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Divide between 4 plates and top with remaining shaved parmesan cheese.

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