25 January 2011

Hey Presto, Pesto Salmon

This is something I threw together one night for supper when I wasn't feeling up to making what was on my menu plan, but wasn't quite ready to stoop to takeout. While it came out pretty well, I would toss the vegetables with a little olive oil and minced garlic next time.

Pesto Salmon

Twelve ounce piece of salmon fillet, skinned and boned with the skinny end tucked under, smeared with a little pesto and placed on a bed of frozen asparagus and halved grape tomatoes. Baked for 20 minutes at 450°F.

Simple and delicious.

(I skin salmon by putting it, skin side down, in a very hot skillet and sear the skin for a minute or two. Removed from the skillet, the skin peels right off and you have the added bonus of being halfway to that decadent snack, crispy salmon skin. Just throw the salmon skin back in the hot skillet, less crispy side down, until it is thoroughly crisped).

24 January 2011

Soup Weather

Nothing like four foot tall snowdrift outside my kitchen window and a cold, driving wind to make me crave soup. Happily, I planned ahead and took advantage of a good post-Christmas sale at Frontier Soups so I am well stocked with "Illinois Prairie Corn Chowder" mixes. Unfortunately, we didn't have cream or potatoes in the house when the soup bug bit me so I went with "Pennsylvania Woodland Mushroom Barley Soup" as I had all the extra ingredients I needed on hand and it promised to be ready in 30 minutes.


Mix ingredients: Barley flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, onions, red peppers, carrots, italian parsley, spices, herbs.

Additional Ingredients: lean ground turkey, fresh sliced button mushrooms, unsalted butter, turkey broth, fresh ground black pepper.

Making this soup was pretty mindless -- just melt butter in a big pot and saute mushrooms until tender. Push the mushrooms off to one side and add ground turkey. Saute meat and mushrooms until turkey is cooked through. Stir in soup mix, add broth, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer about twenty minutes. Season with pepper and serve.

This was a good, basic soup and I might buy this mix again. If I did make this mix again (or a homegrown version of it) I would saute garlic and onion with the mushrooms and replace some of the broth with a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes as The Husband and I found the broth a little weak.

23 January 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 24 January

An abridged menu plan this week as we'll be away for much of it. Trying to use up all the fresh produce in the refrigerator as, aside from hardy vegetables like carrots and parsnips, it won't keep.

  • Trader Joe's "Burgundy Pepper Lamb Tips" from freezer with "Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms." Ingredients: frozen seasoned lamb tips, green beans, sliced button mushrooms, thyme, garlic, black pepper, salt, olive oil.
  • Veggie-packed tossed salad topped with tuna, hard cooked egg, shredded Cabot's (surprisingly good) 75% reduced-fat cheddar, and red wine vinaigrette.
Thursday Onwards
  • Buying comic books and eating interesting noms in lovely Tempe, AZ while The Husband does FUDCon. 

21 January 2011

Finicky About Fennel

Monday, I made Eatingwell's "Seared Salmon with White Beans" for supper and learned something important -- neither The Husband nor I particularly enjoy the taste of cooked fennel bulb. I've cooked with fennel seeds before and find the raw green fronds pretty tasty (kinda-sorta like dill), but the bulb? Off-putting. It's a sad thing, because this dish was otherwise delicious. I will certainly make this recipe again, but I will omit the fennel bulb or replace it with very thin slices of leek.

Salmon w/ Fennel & White Beans

Ingredients: salmon fillet, fennel bulb, white beans, diced cherry tomatoes, fennel seed, Dijon mustard, white wine.

The fennel mixture was very simple to prepare -- simply heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the thinly sliced (I ran mine through my food processor to get wafer-thin pieces) fennel until it starts to brown, then stir in white beans, diced tomatoes, and white wine. Cook everything until the tomato starts to go smooshy, then remove from heat, throw in some chopped fennel fronds, a splodge of Dijon mustard, and some fresh cracked pepper. Cover and pop into a warm oven while you cook the salmon.

I usually bake salmon, but this recipe's method bears repeating as yields very crispy salmon -- an interesting texture change. Just heat a little olive oil in another skillet until the oil is all shimmery. Add two 4-oz pieces of salmon salmon, skinned side up, to the skillet and cook until you can see the edges have gone golden brown. Turn the salmon over, cover and remove from the heat -- the residual heat will cook the salmon through (took about 8 min for mine, but they were very thick pieces). Serve the salmon on the fennel mixture.

20 January 2011

Criminy! Cremini Chicken

Last week, I made "Chicken with Cremini Cream Sauce" from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook (Rodale, 2010) and it turned out pretty well ... despite looking like the dog's breakfast!

Chicken with Cremini Cream Sauce

Ingredients: boneless skinless organic chicken breasts pounded flattish, olive oil, cremini mushrooms, scallions, low-sodium chicken broth, light cream cheese, dried rosemary, salt, pepper.

The recipe is simple -- just cook seasoned chicken breasts in olive oil until golden. Then set the chicken aside and cook sliced mushrooms with scallions until the mushrooms are wilted. Add some broth, a little cream cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary and cook until the cream cheese melts. Put the chicken in with the mushrooms and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Plate and eat. The whole thing takes less than thirty minutes.

While we did enjoy this dish, next time I would definitely season the chicken with rosemary as well as salt and pepper as the chicken was a little bland. A little garlic with the mushrooms wouldn't go amiss, either.

19 January 2011

Crunchy Cucumber Goodness

Earlier this week, I made "Israeli Salad" from Joan Zoloth's Jewish Holiday Treats: Recipes & Crafts for the Whole Family (Chronicle Books, 2000). Previously, I'd made two very nice cakes from Jewish Holiday Treats -- "Sephardic Orange Sponge Cake" and "Amazing Honey Cake"-- and kept meaning to try more recipes from this cookbook, but it's such a slender volume that it gets quite lost on my shelves and I simply don't see it even when I'm staring straight at it. It is, really, a lovely cookbook and should see more use!

"Israeli Salad" was very easy and quick to throw together. It's basically a chopped salad -- similarly sized chunks of cucumber, pepper, and tomatoes are thrown in a bowl with thinly sliced scallions, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just toss and nom.

Israeli Salad
The recipe says this salad can be chilled or served at room temperature. I refrigerated it with the rest of my lunch and it was quite delicious, but I'm thinking I might prefer it at room temperature in the summer with tomatoes and parsley straight from the garden.

Speaking of warmer weather, I pretty sure a perfect spring meal from Jewish Holiday Treats would be:
  • "Baked Halibut with Herb Butter"
  • "Baked Lemon Rice with Herbs"
  • "Cucumber Salad"
These recipes' flavors simply smack of spring, really. Lemon, dill, tarragon, and chervil ... what could be better?

18 January 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 17 (18) January

My poor wee Macbook has been at the Apple Store for the past few days, having some repairs made, so I'm a bit late with Menu Plan Monday!

  • Eatingwell's "Seared Salmon with White Beans" and tossed salad. Ingredients: salmon fillet, fennel bulb, white beans, diced cherry tomatoes, fennel seed, Dijon mustard.
  • Dismissed early from work because of the terrible weather -- quick thrown-together supper of whole grain pasta with low sodium tomato sauce doctored with chopped bell peppers, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, basil, Parmesan and fresh mozzarella. Tossed salad, too, of course.
  • Baked pork tenderloin with garlicky mushrooms and tossed salad. Ingredients: pork tenderloin, Penzeys salt free "Arizona Dreaming" seasoning blend, garlic, olive oil, mushrooms, parsley, salt, pepper.
  • "Turkey Parmesan" (half recipe) with "Green Beans with Mushrooms and Balsamic" from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook (Rodale, 2010). Ingredients: turkey cutlets, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt free Italian seasoning, olive oil, part-skim mozzarella.
  • "Cod with Artichokes and Basil" from The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook with tossed salad. Ingredients: cod (from freezer), olive oil, basil, marinated artichoke hearts.

12 January 2011

Salsa Cutlets, Nom Nom Nom

I threw this meal together last Friday when I wanted enchiladas and couldn't have them -- South Beach Diet Phase One blah, blah, blah -- and it turned out pretty darn good. Technique is very basic, but the combination of flavors is worth repeating.

Salsa Cutlets w/ Garlicky Green Beans

I simply seasoned two organic chicken cutlets with Penzeys salt free "Arizona Dreaming" seasoning blend, topped them with a little Green Mountain Gringo "Roasted Chile" salsa, and baked them (covered) in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes. Then I uncovered the chicken, sprinkled them with a little shredded Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar, and broiled them until the cheese was bubbly and golden. Served the cheesy cutlets topped with a little guacamole.

To make the green beans, I put frozen organic green beans in a skillet with a little water, brought the water to boil, and cooked the green beans until the water evaporated. Then I add a little olive oil and a large pressed garlic clove and stir-fried the beans until the garlic was golden.

Pretty sure this meal is going to make regular appearances in my menu plans.

10 January 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 10 January

Pretty excited about this week, really. Phase One of the South Beach Diet hasn't been as awful as I thought it might be -- I haven't been driven mad with bread cravings and burgled a bakery yet or anything. Yes, I did go off course a bit on Saturday, but that was because I had failed to plan ahead and make sure I had enough to eat at work. I came home hungry and tired to any empty fridge and so, of course, made terrible food choices.

Mostly, I'm quite enjoying the foods I can eat and have filled my South Beach Diet cookbooks with post-its marking Phase One recipes I'd love to try. Both delicious chicken recipes I'm making this week are from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook and are exactly the kind of recipes I'd be happy to make even if I weren't following the South Beach Diet. And I can't wait until the weekend when I get to break out Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad. It's just a beautiful cookbook, full of excellent photography and seasonal recipes that have me itching for spring.

  • My version of "Cracked Pepper Steak" with garlicky green beans and tossed salad. Ingredients: antibiotic-free filet mignons, cracked black pepper, rosemary, olive oil. Made this last Monday and it was so very good!
  • "Chicken with Cremini Cream Sauce" (half recipe) from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook (Rodale, 2010) with tossed salad. Ingredients: boneless skinless organic chicken breasts, olive oil, cremini mushrooms, scallions, low-sodium chicken broth, 0% Greek yoghurt, dried rosemary.
  • Mr. Bento packed with salad topped with chopped cooked chicken, snow peas with salsa-yogurt dip, cashews.
  • "Chicken Dijonnaise with Tomato-Scallion Relish" (half recipe) from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook (Rodale, 2010) with tossed salad. Ingredients: 0% Greek yoghurt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, dried tarragon, organic chicken cutlets, cherry tomatoes, scallions, lemon zest.
  • "Lamb Chops with Mushrooms, Zucchini, and Yogurt-Mint Sauce" with "Green Pea Puree with Asparagus and Scallions" from Kitchen of Light: New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad (Artisan Books, 2003). Ingredients: lamb rib chops, garlic, butter, wild mushrooms, brandy, zucchini, mint, 0% Greek yoghurt, asparagus, scallions, low-sodium chicken broth, peas, pistachios, sesame oil. (Won't be making this if I don't get to Whole Foods!)

08 January 2011

Spinach-y Egg White Goodness

I'm not really a breakfast person. While I enjoy many breakfast foods, I prefer to eat them for lunch or supper. However, I understand the nutritional and functional importance of breakfast (if I don't eat, my brain doesn't function) so I try to eat something substantial like a toasted bagel with yoghurt or leftovers for breakfast. Unfortunately, I'm currently in Phase One of the South Beach Diet and cannot eat bagels or the brand of yoghurt I prefer. What am I to do?

Mutilate the recipe for "Vegetable Quiche Cups to Go" from The South Beach Diet (St. Martin's Griffin, 2003), of course.
Spinach Egg Pucks

12 oz whole leaf spinach (thawed, squeezed, and chopped)
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup of shredded Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar
1 cup liquid egg whites
Dash of hot sauce
Grind of black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Divide spinach mixture evenly amongst cups. Top each muffin cup off with an extra splash of liquid egg whites (so the spinach is mostly covered). Bake for about 20 minutes.

I look forward to making these pucks again next week, but with chopped broccoli instead of spinach. Mmm ... shredded zucchini and crookneck squash would be tasty, too.

Making Breakfast Pucks
Raw Breakfast Pucks
Baked Breakfast Pucks
Fast Breakfast

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 min. Remove pucks from tin and let cool on baking rack. When cooled, portion into storage bags and refrigerate.
Besides making a great breakfast when topped with a little salsa and paired with Canadian bacon or turkey sausage, these pucks also make great mid-afternoon snacks all on their own.

07 January 2011

Free Cake is Always Good Cake?

While I'm not currently eating things like cakes and cookies, I have a lot of baking stuff cluttering up my kitchen. What to do with it all? Why, make delicious things for my coworkers! I don't know if librarians as whole have a heightened attraction to sweets or if it's just the that stress of working with the public makes us crave sugary carbs, but free cake always goes down well.

Noel Fruitcake

Over the long holiday weekend, I made "Noel Fruitcake" from Bundt Classics (Nordic Ware, 2003) with a few tweaks. My coworkers say the cake came out really tasty, but they can be like ravening jackals when it comes to these things and it's hard to know whether they enjoyed the bundt because it was good or simply because it was there in the staff room.
Noel Fruitcake, Modified

1 cup King Arthur Flour's Our Favorite Fruitcake Blend
2 Tbsp Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Pineapple Rum
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2 cups King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground allspice
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine dried fruit and brandy, cover and let sit overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bundt pan (I used a 10-cup and was too big, but I think there's too much batter for a 6-cup).

Cream together sugar and butter until butter is light and fluffy. Add eggs and applesauce, mix well. Batter will look curdled and disgusting -- this is normal.

Add all remaining ingredients, except nuts and fruit, and mix well. Mix in nuts in fruit and spoon into prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to store. This cake is best made a few days ahead of time.
Next week, I think I will feed them "Honey Spice Cake" from Bundt Classics as several of them have lamented the lack of spice cake in their lives (seriously).

05 January 2011

Yummy Cow, Or, I Learn to Cook Steak

Monday, I made simply lovely steaks based on the recipe for "Cracked Pepper Steak" from Agatston's The South Beach Diet (St. Martin's Griffin, 2003). I tend to avoid making steak at home as I am a little intimidated by steak and afraid I'll do it wrong. Easier to go out to a nice restaurant ... but more expensive, too, and who knows what I'm actually eating?  (My parents had food poisoning recently and it's made me suspicious of anything I didn't cook).

It's time to master steak.

I bought two small vegetarian feed, antibiotic-free filet mignon and coated them with a mixture of crushed black pepper and dried rosemary. I heated a little olive oil in a saute pan and added the steaks to the hot pan, cooking them for about ten minutes on each side -- sounds like too long, but the steaks were perfectly medium rare and so delicious.

Served with caesar salad, it was a pretty nice meal for a Monday night and I look forward to repeating it.

Yummy Cow

03 January 2011

Cutie Cutlets

Since I made "Lemon Turkey Cutlets" from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook, I have become quite enamored with cutlets of all kinds -- chicken, turkey, veal, pork -- and find I actually crave them for supper. Thin, tender pieces of meat in a crispy bread crumb coating? What's not to like?

So, of course, I had to begin the new year with cutlets!

Turkey Cutlets w/ Mushrooms & Salad

I soaked a pound of turkey cutlets in a combination of buttermilk and Bell's Seasoning then coated half with whole wheat bread crumbs seasoning with salt-free lemon-pepper herb blend and fried them in a little olive oil. A quick rummage in the back of the crisper drawer revealed wrinkly mushrooms in need of using up so I just sliced them and cooked them up quick in the cutlet pan.

(The other half pound of cutlets I also pan-fried, but without the breadcrumb coating so I could chop them up and use them in other recipes during the coming week).

02 January 2011

Menu Plan Monday, 3 January

For whatever it's worth, this week marks the beginning of Phase One of the South Beach Diet. Peapod brought a big delivery of Phase One-friendly foods on Sunday and so we are committed ... at least for this week. It feels as if I've spent too much of the past week thinking about what we will eat during Phase One and I hope I've made the right choices.

The meals themselves are not an issue -- lots of lean protein and vegetables -- but the snacks are a huge hurdle. Celery and nuts are not things I can eat much of without risking terrible consequences. String cheese is not cheese and fruit-free sugar-free gelatin is an abomination unto mine eyes. Therefore, I'd love some Phase One-friendly snack ideas, if you have any to share!

  • "Cracked Pepper Steak" with caesar salad. Ingredients: antibiotic-free filet mignons, cracked black pepper, rosemary, olive oil, brandy, Dole Garlic Caesar Salad Kit (minus croutons).
  • Mr. Bento packed with salad, shrimp and homemade cocktail sauce, and snow peas with salsa-yogurt dip.
  • Organic chicken cutlets baked with a little pesto and mozzarella. Served with "Delicious Cannellini Beans" (half recipe) and tossed salad.
  • Mr. Bento packed with salad topped with chopped cooked chicken, snow peas with salsa-yogurt dip, edamame.
  • Boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts pounded flattish, rubbed with Penzeys Bold taco seasoning, then baked with a little garlicky salsa and a little shredded Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar. Served with guacamole and tossed salad.
  • Salmon fillet roasted with (thawed frozen) green beans and grape tomatoes, seasoned with olive oil, basil, minced garlic, and cracked pepper. Served with tossed salad.

First Cake of '11

Chocolate Bundt Swirl

Thought I'd start 2011 on a sweet note!

"The Darkest Chocolate Cake Ever" from Bundt Classics (Nordic Ware, 2003) with chocolate glazed drizzled down each curve. While I'm not a chocoholic, I am rather partial to this cake as it is neither as dark nor as decadent as its name might suggest.

While the recipe calls for almond extract, I used Penzeys Mexican Vanilla. You could just as easily use orange or mint with a vanilla or peppermint glaze. Chocoholics could even use chocolate extract for a deeper chocolate flavor (although that might be gilding the lily a bit).

Pan is the Heritage Bundt® Cake Pan "exclusive" to Williams-Sonoma. It is my favorite cake pan -- so simply elegant and the edges have great definition.