Monday, June 2, 2008

New Blog...

I just wanted to update everyone with our new family blog. With so many things going on in our lives that aren't related to Cooking, I decided to start a generic family blog for Ben and I. I kept a link to this blog there, but check out Staffordville for all the latest happenings with us!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A date night out at the theater!

Ben gave me tickets to see CATS for our first anniversary and Christmas this year. We thought about going somewhere really nice for dinner, but I'd hate to be rushed or late to one of my favorite. So we decided to make a fancy extra special dinner at home. I made NY Strips with Cabernet Sauce, Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Marscapone, Balsamic Browned-Butter Asparagus and Chocolate dipped Strawberries for dessert. The steak recipe calls for Filet Mignon, but Ben found NY Strips that looked really good, so I used them in stead. This was the first time I've ever made Risotto or used dried mushrooms. This recipe was actually in Cooking Light's Best of 20 Years Issued (Sept 2007) as the best rice dish...I can believe it!

We had a wonderful night...the show was fantastic, even Ben liked it. I dressed the part with my leapord print pencil skirt and fur trimmed's so fun! I included a picture of us before the show. This was definitely a fancy date night and the food was just as good as anything we could have paid for in a restaurant, but tons cheaper too!

Filet Mignon with Cabernet Sauce (Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
4 (4-ounce) filet mignon steaks
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup cabernet sauvignon
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons butter

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle both sides of steaks evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add steaks to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan. Add shallots to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in vinegar and soy sauce, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates, stirring constantly. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, wine, and broth; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 11 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter. Serve with steaks.

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Marscapone (Cooking Light)

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
Cooking spray
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine 1 1/2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve 1 1/4 cups soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.

Bring reserved soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until cheeses melt. Serve warm.

Balsamic Browned-Butter Asparagus (Cooking Light)

4 pounds fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 cup butter
4 teaspoons lite soy sauce
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus.

Arrange asparagus evenly on a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Bake asparagus at 400° for 15 minutes or just until tender.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until butter is lightly browned. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over asparagus, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dinner Tonight!

I love this section of Cooking Light. They are always really quick and easy without a ton of ingredients. This month featured Tilapia. All three menu's looked amazing, but this one looked exceptionally good. The fish is pan-seared and a warm citrus vinaigrette is made to drizzle on top of the fish. For quick sides I made coucous and Lemony Asparagus.

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Citrus Vinaigrette (Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle fish evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 2 fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining fillets.

Add white wine to pan; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Combine shallots and remaining ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add shallot mixture to pan; sauté 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 3 tablespoons sauce.

4 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 215(31% from fat); FAT 7.4g (sat 1.6g,mono 4.1g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 34.5g; CHOLESTEROL 85mg; CALCIUM 24mg; SODIUM 357mg; FIBER 0.2g; IRON 1.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 2.9g

A Little Old....A Little New

This wasn't really a New Year's Resolution, but with the New Year I wanted to start trying some new ingredients in my recipes and cooking. There are so many recipes I probably skip over just because I'm not familiar with the ingredient. So already I've already added Cardamom, Unprocessed Bran, Butternut Squash and Leeks to my list. Sunday evening (my big cooking day) I used turnips and Gruyère cheese as my something new ingredients. I saw a recipe for Turnip-Gruyère Gratin in the new Cooking Light and it caught my eye, which is unusual since it didn't have a picture. I'm a very visual person and typically only make recipes with pictures...hence my love of photographing food! I also decided to try a new Meatloaf recipe made with oatmeal rather than breadcrumbs.

The turnips were quite tasty. They sort of taste like a cross between and potato and onion. The gratin also has potatoes and the dish turned out a little like scalloped potatoes. The meatloaf was very good and worthy of the 5 stars the reviewers gave it on Cooking Light. After reading the reviews I decided to use 2 whole eggs rather than 2 egg whites to keep the loaf together. Also, I didn't have enough ketchup, so I used bbq sauce too. I have a loaf pan and used it, but the recipe uses a roasting pan instead. Next time, I'll shape into a loaf and use the pan, which will help reduce the fat that collects on top. I also steamed fresh broccolini then pan roasted it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper.

Home-Style Meat Loaf (Cooking Light)

3/4 cup ketchup, divided
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/2 pounds ground round
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/2 cup ketchup, oats, and next 6 ingredients (oats through egg whites) in a large bowl. Add meat; stir just until blended. Shape meat mixture into an 8 x 4-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush 1/4 cup ketchup over meat loaf. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

6 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 242(28% from fat); FAT 7.5g (sat 2.6g,mono 3.1g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 27.2g; CHOLESTEROL 70mg; CALCIUM 21mg; SODIUM 527mg; FIBER 1.4g; IRON 3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 15.5g

Turnip-Gruyère Gratin (Cooking Light)

1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
Cooking spray
1 cup fat-free milk, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place turnips in a large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add potatoes to pan, and simmer for 8 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender. Drain. Sprinkle turnips and potatoes evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and arrange slices in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine 1/4 cup milk, flour, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme in a medium saucepan, and stir with a whisk until well blended. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook over medium heat for 7 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and add Gruyère cheese, stirring until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over turnip and potato slices, and toss gently.
Combine seasoned breadcrumbs and butter; sprinkle over turnip mixture. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.

6 servings

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 166(24% from fat); FAT 4.5g (sat 2.6g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 6.1g; CHOLESTEROL 13mg; CALCIUM 189mg; SODIUM 372mg; FIBER 2.9g; IRON 0.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 25.8g

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside...

There is nothing like a hot thick soup to warm you up on a Snow Day. Today for lunch, I made Golden Winter Soup...the feature of this month's Cooking Light. Besides cutting up the butternut squash, which was quite a challenge, it couldn't be easier. This soup is very very filling and makes 8 servings...perfect for our lunches next week. The recipe includes french-guyere toasts. I also saw a salad in Cooking Light, but was pretty labor intensive as a side salad. So I bought mixed spinach salad, dried cranberries, walnuts, shallots and a raspberry-walnut vinegarette. My only change to the soup was using fat-free half and half. Next time I'll probably use a low-fat to give it more flavor, but I really don't think you need the full-fat half and half.

Golden Winter Soup (Cooking Light)

2 tablespoons butter
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Preheat broiler.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Place half of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture. Stir in half-and-half. Cover and keep warm.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil bread slices 2 minutes or until golden. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Serve 2 bread slices with each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Snow Day...Baking Day!

There is nothing I love more on a Snow Day than being trapped inside with no where to go and baking and cooking all day. While this wasn't exactly the winter storm the weather channel was predicting, I still used it a good day to clear my schedule and cook all day. For breakfast I made another recipe from my new Weight Watchers Complete Cookbook...Jumbo Bran Muffins. A muffin with a cup of hot chocolate was the perfect thing to start our lazy day off with. I didn't have a jumbo muffin pan, so I made 12 regular size muffins instead. These muffins were pretty good...very filling with all the bran and whole wheat flour...3 points each. They are quite dense. I used cranberries instead of golden raisins, but either will work. The unprocessed bran can be found on the baking aisle beside the flour.

Jumbo Bran Muffins

2 tablespoons + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups unprocessed bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup fat-free buttermilk
2/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spray non-stick muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with foil or paper liners.

To make the crumb topping, in a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour and the brown sugar. With a pastry blender, cut into the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the walnuts.

In a large bowl, combine the bran, whole wheat flour, the remaining 1/4 cup all purpose flour, the baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixture on medium speed, beat the egg, egg whites, sugar and molasses until blended. Gradually beat in the buttermilk. Gradually add the bran mixture, mixing on low speed until just blended. Stir in the raisins.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups, fill each about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with the crumb topping. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cook in the pan for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Real Christmas Gift!

For 4 years now I have made homemade truffles and given them out at Christmas gifts to family and friends. I think the first year I made one batch...this past Christmas I made approximately 175 truffles. Many people have asked me for the recipe because they simply can not get enough of here it is! This is my basic recipe..make sure good quality chocolate such as Ghiradelli. After I roll the truffles, I dip them in chocolate and drizzle them with colored chocolate. I use Wilton's Candy Melts to dip them, which you can get at Michaels. Don't worry this isn't a replacement for your Christmas gifts from us...I still plan on making them each Christmas and I might experiment with an assortment of truffle flavors! ENJOY!

Chocolate Espresso Truffles

2 pound semisweet chocolate
1/2 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened cocoa

Coarsely chop both chocolates and set aside. Heat the cream and instant coffee in a large saucepan, stirring to blend. When bubbles start to form along the edge of the pan, remove from heat. Scatter the chocolate over the cream, stirring gently until melted. Set aside for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the liqueur and vanilla. Stir gently, just until evenly blended. Scrape the chocolate into a shallow bowl. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week. Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, scoop up enough chocolate to make balls 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll the balls in the cocoa, shaking off the excess, then transfer to wax paper until ready to serve. Best when served at room temperature.

Yield: Makes about 4 dozen truffles

CALORIES 70(71% from fat); FAT 6g (sat 3g); PROTEIN 1mg; CHOLESTEROL 7mg; CALCIUM 7mg; SODIUM 3mg; FIBER 1g; CARBOHYDRATE 7g; IRON 1mg

Monday, January 14, 2008

Healthy Lasagna

This is another one from my new Weight Watchers Complete Cookbook. I make a mean veggie lasagna, but it's definitely not this healthy. This tastes super fresh and leaves you satisfied, not with a heavy feeling. Usually sweet italian sausage is used in lasagna, which has tons of flavor. This recipe uses fennel seeds, which is a main spice in sausage, to give it a rich flavor. The only thing I added was italian seasoning and ground pepper. I also substituted A Cabernet Marinara sauce from the pasta aisle instead of the refrigerated kind and a part skim mozzarella and 6 italian cheese blend for all the cheese topping. The best part is a serving size is huge...1/8th of a regular lasagna pan and it's only 6 points! Ben did say this doesn't beat my famous lasagna, but it comes in a close second that is satisfying.

Lasagna with Meat Sauce (WW)

9 lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 lb lean ground beef (10% or less fat)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 (15 ounce) containers refrigerated marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, then set aside.

In a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, cook the fennel seeds, shaking the pan and stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Or pound the seeds between two clean kitchen towels with a mallet until finely crushed.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil; add the beef, onion, bell pepper and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the pan juices evaporate and the beef browns, about 10 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce and fennel; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened and the flavors blend, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, spread one-fourth of the meat sauce. Top with 3 of the noodles; spread 1/2 cup of the ricotta. Repeat the layering twice, ending with meat sauce.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with the mozzarella and Romano cheese. Bake until heated through and the cheeses are lightly browned, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Trying Something New...

I'm learning to try new recipes that otherwise I'd glance over. These Cardamom Lime Sweet Rolls caught my attention. I decided to make them Sunday evening, so they'd be ready to heat up for breakfasts this week. Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices there is. Target sells a big jar of it for $6.99. I thought I could do better, but at Harris Teeter the same size jar was $12.00...holy cow! I didn't want them that bad. I googled a substitute for it, but there really isn't one and I was intrigued enough to taste it now that there wasn't a substitute. I finally found some at World Market for $3.29, plus a cute glass spice bottle for $0.99. Secretly I want all my spices jars to match and I'm currently making a plan to buy more.

I've work with yeast before and I thought I had a good a handle on it, but our house must not have had the right conditions for it to work, or maybe I didn't add enough flour. Either way, the dough was very flimsy. I made it work. They weren't as pretty as the picture, but the cardamom and lime was an excellent combination. Even if the dough wasn't worth the effort, finding the cardamom was! I'll definitely make them again...a little taste of the tropics in the middle of winter.

Cardamom-Lime Sweet Rolls (Cooking Light)

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces), divided
Cooking spray
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To prepare dough, dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

Combine sour cream and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Gradually stir yeast mixture into sour cream mixture. Lightly spoon 2 1/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour to sour cream mixture, stirring to form a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

To prepare filling, combine brown sugar, rind, and cardamom. Divide dough into two equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, roll dough into a 12 x 10–inch rectangle; brush with 1 tablespoon butter. Sprinkle half of filling over dough. Beginning with a long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Repeat procedure with remaining dough, 1 tablespoon butter, and filling. Cut each roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides up, in a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack.

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls.

Sunday Chinese

Having chinese on Sunday is a pretty common affair at my house. But since we're being healthy, I decided to make my own. My recipe is adapted from my new Weight Watchers Complete Cookbook. I forgot to marinate the chicken. So I improvised by using the marinade as a guide for a sauce. I also had a small amount of Lawry's 10 minute Seasame Ginger marinade I used to get the chicken started. Serve this over brown rice.

Sunday Chinese Chicken and Veggies

1 1b chicken cut into bite size peices
3 tablespoons Seasame Ginger quick marinade
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablepsoons brown sugar packed
1 tablespoons Asian dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 scallions
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bag frozen stirfry vegetables

Cut chicken into bite size pieces and pour sesame ginger marinade over chicken. Place sesame seeds in a small dry pan and toast over medium-high heat until golden, 2-3 minutes. Set sesame seeds aside.

To prepare marinade mix chicken broth and next four ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk to blend in the cornstarch. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil and add chicken and garlic to. Cook until done over medium-high heat.

Stir in frozen vegetables and pour sauce over. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and crushed red pepper according to your taste. Cook until vegetables are tender. Serve over rice.

Veggie Delight!

To start our healthy new year off right we had a night of fresh veggies. Baked potatoes, roasted veggies and giant portobello mushrooms topped with garlic and red bell pepper. The mushrooms were delish and full of flavor...we didn't even miss the meat! Of course we made up for the meat later in the week when Ben grilled awesome NY Strips...our nice reward for getting off to a good start.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (Allrecipes)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 portobello mushroom caps

Preheat grill for medium heat.

In a large bowl, mix the red bell pepper, garlic, oil, onion powder, salt, and ground black pepper. Spread mixture over gill side of the mushroom caps.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Place mushrooms over indirect heat, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Traditional New Year's Dinner...

I have never made New Years Dinner until this year. Being home was so nice and relaxing and we started it off right with all the luck, money and health! I marniated a pork lion overnight in a homemade jamaican jerk. Don't let the haberno peppers scare you...they give it a wonderful flavor. We used 2 peppers and it was barely hot. While I was cutting up the pepper, Ben got a little experimentative and tasted a tiny peice. It literally burnt his lip...just wear glovers while cutting them up and make sure to wash your hands after handling them. Additionally, I made homemade fresh collard greens, Hoppin' John and mini corn muffins. But, who could forget the best part...dessert...Black and White Pound Cake. It was super simple and beautiful cut with the chocolate and vanilla swirl.

Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderlion (Cooking Light)

2 cups coarsely chopped green onions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 4 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
Cooking spray

Place first 15 ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Slice pork lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side. Open halves, laying each side flat. Slice each half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side; open flat. Combine pork and green onion mixture in a dish or large zip-top plastic bag. Cover or seal; marinate in refrigerator 3 to 24 hours. Remove pork from dish or bag; discard remaining marinade.

Prepare grill.

Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 8 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink).

Hoppin John!

Apparently this is a very traditional southern dish. It's very simple and easy to make...with rice, black eyed peas, onions and green peppers, it offers a little bit of everything.

Hoppin John (Paula Deen)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
Garlic powder
2 cups black-eye peas, cooked
2 cups cooked rice
House Seasoning, recipe follows
8 sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic powder, to taste, and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and rice and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; this dish is best if the bell pepper and onion still have a crunch to them.
Add House Seasoning, to taste. Garnish each serving with sprig of parsley.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Southern Collards = MONEY!

I definitely wanted to make fresh homemade collards for New Years, but all the recipes I could find had a ham hock. I wasn't too interested in investing that much time to make them. I found this recipe in my Southern Living magazine and they were amazing. Ben didn't like them that much, but then again he doesn't really like any greens. They were the perfect balance between sweet and vinagery.

Collard Greens with Red Onions (Southern Living)

3 (16-oz.) packages fresh collard greens
2 medium-size red onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Trim and discard thick stems from bottom of collard green leaves. Thoroughly wash collard greens.
Sauté onions in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add broth and next 4 ingredients.
Gradually add collards to Dutch oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or just until wilted. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until tender.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Poundcake...the best of both worlds

This pound cake recipe came from a new cookbook I got for Christmas...Cooking Light's All Time Favorites. It's really simple to make...the chocolate batter has added chocolate syrup and baking soda to give the marbled effect. Dust it with powdered sugar and drizzle with chocolate syrup for a light, but decadent dessert.

Black & White Pound Cake (Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray; dust with breadcrumbs.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium speed of a mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and vanilla, beating until well-blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Spoon two-thirds of batter (about 4 cups) into prepared pan. Add syrup and baking soda to remaining batter in bowl, stirring just until blended; spoon on top of batter.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Sift cocoa over top of cake.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Eve Party!!

This year we waiting until the last minute to plan something for New Year's Eve since I had to work. Normally we spend the week after Christmas at the beach and celebrate there. So this was our first year home. Since it was last minute we planned quick and easy appetizers. I also got two new cookbooks for Christmas so I made a few things from them. Paula Deen's Polynesian Chicken Wings were a big hit. I also made her spinach artichoke dip, but thought it needed more cheese and sour cream and/or mayo. Last year I made a Sugar Nut Brie for the cookie swap and decided it was an easy, yet classy dish and made it again. We had a ton of other food including mexican cheese dip, mozzarella sticks, buffalo chicken wings, shrimp cocktail, a cookie cake and chocolate fondue with fruit and marshmallows. And last but not least everyone loved the Flight Fuel...a quite original drink, made up by a family friend. We couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year with good food, good drinks and of course good friends!