Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flavors of Morocco

Tunisian Hand-Painted Mosaic Tagine
It's no secret I love Williams-Sonoma and attend many of their classes.

Last week we got to explore the flavors of Morocco.  A wonderful way to put spice in your life and to try some flavors unique to North Africa.  The class did not disappoint.  Just take a look at the tagine above.  Isn't it beautiful?  They are selling them in the store, so you can pick one up if you like (picture courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.com)!

We tried some of the classic flavors and spices used in Moroccan cuisine such as:

Harrisa - a spicy puree of tomato, olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper, and spices.
Ras el Hanout - a unique spice blend with a rich aroma.  Similar to a curry blend.
Preserved Lemons - These were salty tart, and we found that the lemons are brined for at least a week.
Couscous - a semolina pasta used to accompany meat.
Mint - this herb is used in a variety of dishes from salads to tea.

One the menu was:



Chicken Tagine with Lemon & OlivesMoroccan-Style Meatballs
(Pictures courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.com)

They were all delicious but I think I liked the meatballs the best. Made with lamb, but could easily be made with ground beef and be just as good.  In fact, I think these would be perfect as snacks for Super Bowl Sunday this weekend!

We also sampled their Apricot Tagine Sauce, which is an excellent way to start trying Moroccan Cuisine.  

Go global and explore this country's bold flavors.  They are tasty, easy to prepare, and healthy.  Enjoy!



Monday, January 28, 2013

Twice-Baked Potato Pizza


We have some big games coming up on TV soon. 
How many of you watch the Super Bowl?

Do you like to watch the game, or do you just like to see the commercials, and the half time show?

Either way, it is always fun to gather friends and family around and munch on yummy food.  Any excuse to cook and eat right?

This recipe is what I call “manly” food.  It just has that bar food feel to it.  Perfect for a party on the big game day. 

 
I was in the store the other day and saw a new item.  It was Progresso’s Recipe Starters.  Have you seen them yet.  They are actually soups, with a thick consistency that you can use as a base for other recipes.  There were several choices to choose from so I grabbed the Three Cheese cooking sauce and another one and off I went.  Now, what to make with this Three Cheese cooking sauce?  I scanned the recipes suggested on www.pillsbury.com and found several.  The one that caught my eye, because it was so different, was the Twice Baked Potato Pizza.  I can’t recall that I’ve ever had a potato on a pizza before.  Again, I’m a traditionalist, but I’m breaking free.

So I decided to try this out.  It’s really a pizza of sorts, but also tastes like potato skins.  Quite easy to make using a refrigerated pizza crust, and pre-sliced potatoes.  You don’t end up using all the three cheese sauce so you will have some left to use in another recipe.  I was thinking cheese biscuits…

 
All in all this was a tasty treat!  One that any guy would love, and perfect to serve a crowd.  I will certainly have this on my list of items to make come Super Bowl Sunday.  Hope you will too!

Twice-Baked Potato Pizza
adapted from: www.pillsbury.com

1  can (13.8 oz) refrigerated pizza crust
1  can (18 oz) Progresso Recipe Starters creamy three cheese cooking sauce
2  cups refrigerated homestyle potato slices (from 20-oz bag such as Simply Potatoes)
6 bacon slices cooked and crumbled 
1 ½  cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Garnishes:  (if desired)
Diced seeded tomatoes
Sliced green onions

Heat oven to 425°F. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray. Unroll pizza dough on cookie sheet; press into 15x12-inch rectangle. Bake 5 minutes or until light golden brown.

Spread 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the cooking sauce evenly over partially baked crust (using more sauce will make crust soggy). Arrange potato slices in single layer over sauce. Sprinkle with bacon and cheese. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with tomatoes and green onions. Serve.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Herb Fried Chicken with Black Pepper Gravy


A quintessential southern dish, fried chicken is mighty hard to beat when it comes to comfort food.  Throw in some gravy and some mashed potatoes and you have Sunday supper!

My “Eat Well 2013” motto allows for a few treats every now and then.  Today’s dish definitely falls into the “treat” category.  While not exactly healthy, this dish calls out to you promising warmth, satisfaction, and comfort. 



Today’s recipe is a variation of this southern classic.  It has herbs in the crust of the chicken, and it has garlic in the gravy.  Now before you say “Eeeewww!” think of it this way.  It’s more like fried chicken and gravy, Italian style.  So if you were in Italy and wanted this comfort dish, this is what you’d make…well maybe not, but the flavors are typically Italian,  So you’ll need not to expect regular old southern fried chicken with milk gravy.  Keep thinking “Italian” and you’ll be just fine.



I found this recipe in my Cuisine Tonight for Two booklet and was intrigued by the ingredients.  I enjoy fried chicken.  Who doesn’t?  But, since they threw some twist on it I decided to check it out.  Really glad I did!  One bite, and it really hit a spot with me.  I even told my mom about it.  She made a little face when I mentioned the ingredients (die hard traditionalist) but was open to the idea.  So, I’m sure your family will too.

Comfort food? Yes, all the way.  This is a definite keeper of a recipe.  It's easy enough to make on a weeknight using boneless skinless breasts.  So I hope you try this wonderful version of fried chicken and gravy.  Buon appetito!




Herb Fried Chicken with Black Pepper Gravy

from Cuisine Tonight For Two Fall 2012

serves 2
Total time: 30 minutes

FOR THE CHICKEN COMBINE:
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c buttermilk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 oz. each)
Canola oil

FOR THE PEPPER GRAVY COOK:
1 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup milk
1 tsp minced fresh thyme

For the chicken, combine 1/2 cup flour, parsley, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp pepper, and salt in a shallow dish.  Place buttermilk in a second shallow dish.  Dredge chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then dredge again in flour mixture.  Chill coated breasts on a rack placed over a baking sheet at least 5 minutes. 

Heat 1/4 inch oil in a saute pan over medium-high until shimmering.  Fry chicken until golden on one side, about 6 minutes.  Flip chicken and fry until brown and cooked through, 5-6 minutes more.  Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil.  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. oil.

For the pepper gravy cook garlic in same saute pan over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Whisk in 3 Tbsp. flour and 1 1/2 tsp pepper; slowly whisk in milk.  Boil gravy, whisking constantly, until thick, 2-3 minutes.  Stir in 1 tsp thyme.

Serve gravy over chicken.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seven-Grain Salad with Roasted Pepper, Feta, and a Mustard Dressing


Do you like grains?

Part of my "Eat Well 2013" motto is to incorporate more whole grains in my diet.  How about you? Are you on the whole grain train? 

I've found that there are a lot of grains that I'm unfamiliar with such as faro, buckwheat, and spelt to name a few.  They are just items not really found in our southern diet growing up.  Over the past year though I've dabbled in the cooking of grains.  I've taken grain courses to learn about the different types and their benefits.  We've cooked them and discovered a world of grains other than "rice"!  These edible seeds of cultivated grasses and other plants are a great source of carbs, fiber, protein, and many other nutrients.  Hence, they are good for you!  Quinoa was one of the first grains I fell in love with.  Here are some great recipes I made that you may like featuring quinoa. 

Quinoa Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pecans



Veggie Gyro Salad




 

Now I've been dabbling with a mix of seven grains.  Grains that are blended into a pilaf style mixture.  Shopping at Whole Foods, I found several wonderful blends of seven-grain pilafs.  One from Kashi, and the other from Seeds of Change.  They include wonderful grains such as long grain brown rice, barley, rye, bulgar, red winter wheat, quinoa, and wild rice. They are easy to make and wonderful as a side dish, or in place of rice in a Asian or Mediterranean meal. 


I've used them in a salad today.  Wonderful flavors of roasted pepper, tomatoes, mint, and feta.  This salad is going to knock your socks off.  The nutty grain flavors are the perfect base for this feast!


So be a little adventurous in 2013 and hop on the whole grain train.  It's a great way to change up the same ole', same old....


Eat Well 2013!

 
Seven-Grain Salad with Roasted Pepper, Feta, and a Mustard Dressing
adapted from BHG

serves 4-6

1 1/2 c seven-grain pilaf mix
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t lemon peel
3 T lemon juice
1 T coarse ground brown mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t cumin
salt & pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, chopped
1/3 c chopped roasted red peppers
2 T chopped mint
2 T chopped parsley
1/3 c feta cheese, crumbled

Cook pilaf according to package directions.  Cool.

For the dressing, take a covered jar and add the olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, brown mustard, garlic, cumin and salt & pepper.  Shake well to incorporate all ingredients.

For a deconstructed salad:  In a large bowl, place cooked pilaf mix, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted red peppers each in their own place .  Top with mint, parsley, and feta cheese.  Serve with dressing.

For a tossed salad:  Place pilaf mix, and all vegetables in the bowl.  Top with mint and parsley.  Toss salad, and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Drizzle the dressing and toss to coat.  Serve.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dinner Menus plus Caribbean Corn and Zucchini Saute


I've been away for a few days caring for my mom in Tennessee prior to some serious surgery she is having at the end of the week.

On top of the medical issues she's caught that nasty flu that most of the states (except mine and Alabama) has an epidemic with these days.  Needless to say the flu takes a toll on you and is hard to get over.  Especially for the elderly.  My mom is 84 and still full of vim and vigor....but this has definitely affected her appetite!  I think a bird eats more than she does. 

Not eating equates to losing weight.  At 100 pounds she doesn't need to do that.  So to get her stronger before the surgery I decided to fatten her up a bit with some good dinners.

These are nice rounded meals that you and your whole family will enjoy.  Some items I've posted before and some are new. 

Hope you enjoy these meal ideas as much as my mom did!  She complained of being so "stuffed"...I'm sure she gained a few pounds back!

Dinner Menu #1

Theme:  The Islands

Main:  Chili Lime Spiced Pork Tenderloin  (make the pork from this salad, Pork Tenderloin, Pear, and Glazed Walnut Salad)
Side:   Caribbean Corn and Zucchini Saute  (*recipe below*)
Side:   Spring Greens salad with homemade Ranch dressing  (made from my Creamy Ranch Slaw)
Starch:  Hot Roll



Dinner Menu #2

Theme:  A little bit of Italy

Main:  Chicken Marsala
Side:   Mini Bowtie pasta
Side   Spring Greens salad with homemade Ranch dressing 
Starch:  Hot Roll

(looks like someone already ate the roll!)

Dinner Menu #3

Theme:  Down home

Main:  Chicken Fried Steak with Gravy
Side:  Green Beans
Starch:  Mashed Potatoes




Cute idea for the hot rolls.  We took Brigford frozen bread rolls and place two rolls into each muffin cavity.  Allowed them to thaw and rise for a couple of hours and then back them at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.  The result is as you see in the picture, you get a big puffy roll, similar to a cloverleaf roll.  The dough pieces will form together as they rise.  Such a pretty and easy roll!



I hope you enjoy these dinner menus, and try a couple this week!

This corn saute is wonderful....!



Caribbean Corn and Zucchini Saute

serves 4

3 T butter
1 whole zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced
1 pkg of frozen sweet corn
1 T Mrs. Dash Caribbean Citrus blend

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat add the butter and allow to melt.  Add the zucchini stirring and tossing until lightly brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the corn and sprinkle the Caribbean Citrus blend over the mixture.  Stir to blend, and allow to cook stirring occasionally until corn is toasted, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ebelskivers and a Product Review


It's weekend breakfast time and I'm so excited!

The other day I purchased a specialty pan.  I don't typically do that since I don't like to have all these pans to store that only do a certain function.  But I couldn't help myself you see.  Cause I love breakfast....

This pan is the cutest pan and it makes...wait for it...Ebelskivers!  What is an Ebelskiver you say?  Originated in Denmark, it a light fluffy pancake that can be filled with fruit, chocolate, jam or cheese and served for breakfast or as an appetizer, dessert or light supper.  They are round little puffs of pancake heaven with a surprise filling inside. OMG!  Right up my alley.  So you can see why I bit the bullet and bought this specialty pan.


Nordic Ware Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan

You can find this pan made by Nordic Ware here.  Now, I cheated a little bit, and here is where the product review comes in.  While I was at a "healthy" cooking class as Williams-Sonoma the other day I picked up some Ebelskiver Pancake Mix. (what happened to the healthy?)  Just so I could get me hands around making them and the technique..experimenting with flavors etc.  It's okay to use some help don't you think?  In fact these little babies are not that bad for you depending upon what you put in side.  So okay, I'm counting this as my little treat on my Eat Well quest for 2013.

(picture courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)

You can purchase the Ebelskiver Pancake Mix here.   The mix has a great base for pancakes that includes  pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.  You just need to add milk, butter and egg yolks, and fold in whipped egg whites to give the batter its signature lightness.  The cost is $11.95 for 1lb of mix.  this should make about 50 Ebelskivers.  I've also included a from scratch recipe so you can make you own if you choose to do so.



So off to the kitchen I went.  I'm on a mission to make some yummy goodness for breakfast.  I decide on a filling of Nutella.  What's better than biting into hot gooey chocolate.  This would be my first choice.  I prep all my ingredients, whip the egg whites.  Prep the pan with a little melted butter and I'm off cooking, filling, turning these cute little balls of pancakes.  Then I can't wait.  I take my first bite.......oh my goodness!  MMMnnn.  That all I could say.  Biting into a wonderful, slightly sweet pancake that was light as air.  And then the melted chocolate.  HEAVEN just as I thought and hoped it would be.  These did not disappoint.  Thanks to Williams-Sonoma for putting out a great mix that tastes great and saves a lot of time.



Now I made a 1/2 batch to start which gave me 11 Ebelskivers.  I ate three of them....okay four of them myself.  So that is a good measurement on serving size when you make them.  No syrup necessary, I just sprinkled some powdered sugar over the top and Voila!   See how cute these came out.  The chocolate really does make my mouth water.  Just saying!

Next up will be to experiment   I love these!  I'm thinking savory, like cheese, or taco meat, or sauteed mushrooms.  How about dessert?  smores, jam, or apples?  Oh boy, I'm in trouble.  I have to space these out!



I hope you try these wonderful pancakes.  They are fun to make, cute to look at, and the variations are endless.
Enjoy!

Ebelskivers

Makes 21 pancakes:  4-7 servings

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 t sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 c milk
3 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
desired filling (chocolate spread, jam, cheese etc)
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks, milk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.  Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.  The batter should be lumpy.

In a clean small bowl using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.  Fold egg whites into the batter lightly, just until you don't see any white streaks.

Add 1/4 t of melted butter to each well of the ebelskiver pan and heat over medium heat until butter bubbles.  Add 1 tablespoon of batter to each well.  Add 1 teaspoon of filling if desired.  Top with another tablespoon of batter.  Cook about 3 minutes until bottoms of pancakes are golden brown.  Use 2 wooden skewers to turn the pancakes and cook about 2-3 minutes on the other side.

Transfer finished pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.  Repeat making the other batches of pancakes. When complete dust the pancakes with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pork Tenderloin, Pear, and Glazed Walnut Salad


How about a light dinner?


Pork matches well to the sweetness of cider, but instead of braising, sear tenderloins for a quick weeknight salad with slices of fresh green pear. If the weather is too chilly to fire up the grill, use and indoor one or the broiler works just as well.

This salad will leave you wanting more.  It is hearty enough to please a manly appetite but light enough to satisfy a woman's palate too.


This uses fresh pears, which are abundant right now.  A perfect mix of salad, pork pears, and some crunchy sweet walnuts.  The dressing?  A simple sherry vinaigrette.  A simple touch to a salad packed with flavors.


Eat Well 2013

Pork Tenderloin, Pear, and Glazed Walnut Salad

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

serves 6

½ c store bought glazed walnuts
2 pork tenderloins, each about 3/4 lb., trimmed
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. chili lime rub (such as Mrs. Dash or Williams-Somoma)
For the vinaigrette:
7 Tbs. olive oil
2 ½ Tbs. sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 firm but ripe pears, preferably Bosc
6 handfuls (about 6 oz.) mixed salad greens

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill, or preheat a broiler.

Brush the pork tenderloins with the olive oil and season with chili lime rub coating all sides.  Grill or broil  (4 inches from the heat source) turning occasionally to brown evenly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 150°F or the pork is pale pink when cut in the thickest portion, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing. Cut the  pork crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick.

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, the vinegar, salt and pepper.

Halve, core and cut the pears lengthwise into very thin slices. In a large bowl, combine the greens, walnuts and vinaigrette and toss to mix well. Arrange the dressed greens on a platter or individual plates, top with the pork and pear slices and serve immediately. Serves 6. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pork Chops in an Apricot Sauce


Need a good quick weeknight meal?

Pork chops are a wonderful cut of meat.  They are lean and healthy.  A great alternative to chicken.  Growing up my mom made pork chops all the time.  I still eat them every once in a while.  If I must confess,  I actually like pork tenderloin better...but a good old "thin cut" pork chop is good for weeknight cooking.

To give the chops a little jazz I made a sauce to go with them.  Pork lends itself to fruit flavors really well, and since I had a jar of reduced sugar apricot jam, that was the perfect choice.  


This meal turns out moist and juicy, low in calories and fat, and carbs.  A winner in my book.  I can be made in under 30 minutes so it's on the table quickly.  Perfect for the winter weather, this dish is comforting and tasty.  It's sure to be a winner with the whole family!

So try a nice pork chop in this week's meal rotation.  Simple, easy, and oh so tasty!  What could be better than that? (sound like Ina Garten don't I? *wink*)



Enjoy!


Pork Chops in an Apricot Sauce

serves 4

8 thin cut pork chops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup low sugar apricot jam
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chops and cook about 2 minutes per side until browned. Transfer chops to dish and set aside. 


Pour off any extra fat from skillet. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet . Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add apricot jam and continue to boil. Cook about 2 more minutes until whisking sauce, until thick. Add mustard and stir to combine.


    Add pork chops back to the skillet and pour any juices back into the skillet for flavor. Turn pork chops several times in sauce to coat. Place chops on a plate spooning additional sauce over the top.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, Tomatoes and Feta Cheese


Did you make any New Year's resolutions?

Typically there is a resolution in there about eating healthier.  My motto this year is "eat well".  To continue on the journey of healthy eating, (with a few treats thrown in) is a way of life.  Not a diet...but a life style change in which I've been working toward for the past several years.  Each year, gets better and better.

I saw this dish in a BHG specialty magazine for low calorie dishes.  The look of it caught my eye.  It's actually a pasta salad with added chicken.  It's light on the carbs and heavier on the protein so the balance is pretty good.  Low in calories, this mix of pasta, veggies, and chicken is just perfect.  And it tastes even better.   I will say that the dressing, with the addition of orange zest and juice is the bomb.  Do not skip this as it adds such a great freshness to the salad.  Plus, with navel oranges being in season right now it is just perfect for this time of year.  


I made this into a deconstructed salad for a great visual effect.  Deconstructed means that each ingredient is separated and laid out next to each individual ingredient.  Makes for a nice presentation.  However, you can just place it all in a bowl, and toss it up.  It's just as beautiful.


This is easy to whip up on a weeknight.  Don't be surprised if there isn't any left, and if there is, it tastes excellent cold for lunch the next day.  Trust me I know.

Here's what it looks like all tossed and plated pretty.


Enjoy and Eat Well!

Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, Tomatoes and Feta Cheeseslightly adapted from BHG

serves 6 


4 ounces dried whole grain or whole wheat penne pasta Nonstick cooking spray 
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon canola oil or olive oil
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved (3 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (chevre) (3 ounces)
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. 

2. Meanwhile, lightly coat the an indoor grill with cooking spray. Preheat grill. Place chicken on grill.  Grill until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F). About 12 to 15 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

3. For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, orange peel, orange juice, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper; set aside.

4. In a large skillet heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

5. In a bowl add spinach and top with warm tomatoes so spinach slightly wilts.  Add pasta and chicken making a deconstructed salad.  Add feta cheese and pine nuts and drizzle with dressing.  Serve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Blackberry Pomegranate Smoothie


Oh how I miss my smoothies. 

I haven't had a decent one since late summer.  It's about time for one don't you think?  So off to the market I went in search of some fresh fruit that I could use.  Craving berries I found some fresh blackberries and proceeded to the check out pronto.  I was going to make a Blackberry Pomegranate Smoothie.


I often keep some Pomegranate juice in the frig and this would be a great substitution for the milk.  The rest is pretty much the same.  I typically follow the same formula in my smoothies.  Since I like them creamy I add yogurt and bananas, and ice to give it that frozen feel.  Yum!

Try this, you'll love the flavors.  Plus it's healthy for you and a great breakfast item, or for a snack.  It's the new year, time to start some new healthy habits, and juices and smoothies fit right in.



Blackberry Pomegranate Smoothie

Serves 2

1 container of lite vanilla yogurt
1 small or 1/2 of a medium banana
1/3 c. pomegranate juice
8-10 blackberries
1 cup of ice cubes

Put all ingredients in order of recipe in the blender.  Turn on and whirl until all fruit is blended and ice is crushed.  Serve!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Meatball Subs


I've told you before how I like my sandwiches on the weekends.  Something I gravitate to.  Simple, easy, hearty, and quick.

This past weekend was a cold one.  I can't remember when we've had such cold weather for such a long period of time before.  Usually we have a cold spell and in a day or two it's gone.  Now mind you anything in the low 60's and 50's is cold around this part.  I know....warm weathered people!

So I was saying...it was cold last weekend and this gave me an excuse to make a nice warm, comforting sandwich for lunch. 


Anyone up for a Meatball Sub?  I don't make them that often, and I always wonder why.  I just love all that saucy, meaty goodness on a bun.  It warms the soul.

So with a Meatball Sub you can take the easy version (using frozen meatballs) or the longer version or making homemade meatballs.  This time I made my own, and froze the left overs to use another time.  Making a large batch of these is perfect for spaghetti, a pasta bake with meatballs, appetizers with a nice sauce, or over squash.  You can use your choice of meat.  Beef or turkey are both great when seasoned nicely.  In this version I used a combo of beef, port, and veal as I wanted a more Italian feel to the meatballs.  They turned out terrific!  (Meatball recipe is below).  Now there is always the question of baking the meatballs or frying them.  I've done both.  Baking is a healthier way to go, but frying them gives them a crustier outside.  It's your choice, they are both turn out great. 



Now, to make things easy I used a jarred pasta sauce that I like, heated it up and added the cooked meatballs so they pick up all that saucy goodness.  A little toasted french roll, and some shredded mozzarella and the rest is history!

Meatballs (Italian version)

2 lb. mixed ground beef, pork and veal
1 egg
1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

3-4 T olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the ground meats, egg, the finely chopped onion, the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano, basil, and the salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently but thoroughly blend the ingredients. Form the mixture into meatballs about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside.

Add oil to the skillet heating over medium high heat.  Add the meatballs (in batches if necessary) and brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes total. They may also be baked at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until browned and cooked through.


For Meatball Subs

per sandwich

3-4 meatballs (cooked or thawed if frozen)
1 jar pasta sauce
French rolls, warmed and toasted
mozzarella cheese, grated


Turn on oven to broil.

In a medium sauce pan add the pasta sauce and cook over medium heat 2 minutes.  Add the meatballs and allow to cook about 5 minutes, turning occasionally until heated through. 

Cut the rolls in half horizontally; leave one long side intact, if desired.  Toast in the oven under the broiler for about 1 min.  On the bottom bun spread a little of the pasta sauce.  Place 3 to 4 meatballs with additional the bottom bun.  Sprinkle with mozzarella. Place on a cookie sheet and stick under the broiler for less than a minute to melt the cheese.  Serve.   

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cleopatra Salad


So the other day I made some Mediterranean Chicken  after going to spend the day looking at the Cleopatra exhibit on display here.  The chicken turned out super yummy.  To go along with this comforting dish you need a fresh side dish.  A salad of some sorts would be a perfect partner.



My Cleopatra Salad is simple, and oh so tasty. With cucumber and tomato as the star ingredients, it's light and healthy, and did I mention it tastes sooo good!  Fresh ingredients with minimal fuss.  Can't get much better than that!  Named after the woman and the exhibit that inspired this dish, beautiful and smart with bright flavors.



This would be an excellent dish served at lunch along with a sandwich, or at dinner as I've done here.  It can be made ahead, but the prep is easy enough to work into your weeknight routine.  This definitely fits the Fast & Fresh definition.



A great dish I'm sure the whole family will enjoy!

Cleopatra Salad

serves 5

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 large roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

In a medium bowl, toss cucumbers and tomatoes.  In a small bowl combine vinegar and olive oil.  Whisk to incorporate.  Drizzle over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Season with salt & pepper.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mediterranean Chicken


I had the great pleasure of being off from work last week in between the holidays.  Boy, was that nice!  I got to do several things I don't normally have time for, such as re-organizing and sorting out no longer used clothes and household items for the donation bins.  It feels really good to get rid of stuff.  You just feel lighter and less cluttered.  

But I did save some time out for some real fun, like visiting the Cleopatra exhibit on display at the California Science Center.   I've been wanting to go forever, and it's about to leave....so now was my chance.  It was a cold and windy day here, but out I went, all bundled up.  the exhibit was terrific.  The statues, the gold, the jewelry!  Awesome to see.



So after the museum it was back out into the cold and home for some comforting food for lunch.    All this Egyptian art got me to thinking grains...and chicken...and Mediterranean flavors.  (Not Egyptian but it was a tangent!) There I was rooting through the refrigerator to see what was on hand to make something with the flavors I was craving yet still provide a hot comforting meal.  One thing led to another and this Mediterranean dish was born.  


This is full of good for you ingredients.  Brown rice, lean chicken, zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  Add some spice for zip and you have a nice skillet meal that is hot and comforting.  Especially on a cold day.  This dish tastes as flavorful as it is beautiful.  A smart little side salad, which is now known as the Cleopatra salad, is a great accompaniment   Look for that recipe soon.  


So I hope this inspires you to get in the kitchen and make your family some Mediterranean Chicken.  It will please you to no end!

Mediterranean Chicken

Serves 4

1 c brown rice, uncooked
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 t coarse ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 c zucchini, cut lengthwise and sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c onion, diced
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 c reduced sodium chicken broth
1 T dried oregano
1/2 t salt

Cook rice according to package directions.  Saute chicken in a large nonstick skillet, over medium high heat for about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from pan.  

Add olive oil to the skillet along with the garlic.  Saute for 30 seconds and add zucchini, mushrooms and onion.  Saute about 5 minutes.  Return chicken back to the skillet along with diced tomatoes.  Add broth, oregano and salt.  Stirring to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 6-7 minutes, reducing the liquid.  Add cooked rice to skillet and mix well.  Serve hot.  

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