Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tilapia Verde

The food around this time of year is enough to make my heart sing, my taste buds dance, and my tummy ache.  It’s so easy to overdo it and I’m guilty of that all too often.  To get through the holidays without gaining too much around my middle, I like to intersperse the food frenzies with some lighter meals here and there.

This simple fish dish used some leftover verde sauce (from black bean enchilada stacks) that was waaaaay to good to throw away.  A little time baking/poaching in the oven and dinner was served.  I served mine over a bed of rice, but it’s just as good by itself if you’re watching the carbs.  If you have leftover sauce, just stick it in the freezer for next time you have a craving.


Tilapia Verde

Tilapia Verde

Verde Sauce:
12 oz. tomatillos (7-8 large)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted green chiles (canned works fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Tilapia filets (or any other mild white fish would work just as well)
Salt & pepper
Rice (optional for serving)

To make sauce, remove husks and stems and wash tomatillos.  Cover with water in a saucepan and boil about 10 minutes, until tender.  Put tomatillos and all other ingredients in a blender and puree.  Set aside until ready to use.

Heat oven to 400˚.  Sprinkle fish with salt & pepper, spoon sauce over fish, enough to cover and have a little extra in the pan, especially if you are serving over rice.  I used about 1/2 cup for 1 filet.  Sprinkle with feta and pop in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or so, until fish flakes easily and feta is starting to brown a bit.  Remove from oven.  Serve over rice if desired.



Tagged , , , , ,

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus

Appetizers are something I love, but hardly ever make.  Unless I make them as dinner, instead of a starter for dinner.  But given the opportunity, like a recent family dinner, it’s fun to make (and eat!) something pretty and delicious.  These definitely fit the bill.

I love these little asparagus wrap ups.  They are quick to make, and I like the combination of the crunch of the phyllo dough and the tender bite of the asparagus.  They are a bit of fancy but not hard to make…one of my favorite combinations.  Doesn’t hurt that they also are pretty healthy compared to most appetizer options.

If you aren’t familiar with phyllo dough, it’s very, very thin sheets of dough, which are layered and baked.  I love the light and crispy texture.  You find it in the frozen section of the grocery store.  In most recipes you brush oil or melted butter between the layers, but the cooking spray works great and is a lot better for you.  For a vegetarian version, just leave out the ham, or substitute thinly sliced cheese.

Phyllo-Wrapped Asparagus
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
1 package of phyllo dough
Cooking spray
Thinly sliced ham or prosciutto

Unroll the phyllo dough.  Working quickly, separate one layer and lay it on a cutting board or towel.  Spray lightly with cooking spray, top with another layer, spray with cooking spray, and top with a third layer.  If you like some extra crunch you can also add a fourth layer.  (Cover remaining phyllo sheets with a slightly damp paper towel so they don’t dry out).

With a sharp knife slice the phyllo rectangle in thirds across the long length, and then down in fourths, making 12 squares.  Put a piece of ham on each square.  Place a stalk of asparagus on one end and roll up.  If your asparagus is really skinny, you can put two in each one.

Keep going until all asparagus and/or phyllo is used up.  Pile these on a plate as you finish.  If you don’t cook them all at once, just cover with a towel while the rest are cooking.

All rolled up and ready to cook!

Heat oven to 375˚. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Fill the tray with asparagus rolls, leaving a little space in between them.  Spray with cooking spray (it will help it brown a little better).  You will probably have enough for two or three trays, depending on how big your asparagus is.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until phyllo turns golden brown.  Remove, arrange on a platter, and serve immediately.

Hot out of the oven.

Tagged , , , , ,

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake

For Thanksgiving this year we went to my mom’s house for dinner.  As far as cooking goes, what this means for me is that instead of concentrating on the main courses, I got to have fun with desserts and appetizers.  I made this pumpkin cheesecake last year and it was so popular I felt bad for all the other desserts.  This year was no different, although there was some stiff competition (as always) from my cousin Angie’s 3-layer chocolate pie.  Regular pumpkin pie didn’t stand a chance.

The chocolate shortbread crust on this cheesecake is an interesting twist that I really like, but if you prefer a more traditional graham cracker crust, feel free to change it up, or just leave out the cocoa powder for a more straightforward shortbread crust.  Let’s face it, the crust is just a conveyance for the good stuff anyway!

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake. Yum.

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
10 tbsp. butter, diced and softened
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
5 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

24 oz. cream cheese (that’s 3 8-oz. bricks), at room temperature
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla (or cognac)
1 15-oz. can 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan and set aside.  To make crust, put powdered sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until well combined. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt.  Beat until incorporated.  Dough will be uniform and about the consistency of play-doh.  Press into the bottom and sides of springform pan.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Try to get it somewhat even, going up to about 1/2 inch from the top.  Prick holes in the crust all over with a fork (prevents air bubbles from forming as it cooks).  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

Chocolate shortbread crust, all ready for some pumpkin love.

Lower oven temperature to 325˚.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until blocks are broken up and it’s all creamy.  Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat well to incorporate.  Add pumpkin.  Add vanilla (or if you want to bump it up a notch, use cognac instead), add flour and pumpkin pie spice and beat gently until combined.  Pour into your cooled crust.  For best results just go up to the edge of the crust.

All ready to go in the oven.

Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, until it looks set, but jiggles just a bit in the center if you move the pan.  Crack open the oven door a few inches and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  Don’t be alarmed if cracks form as it cools, it always happens with mine.  You’re going to cover them up anyway so no worries.  Put it in the fridge to cool completely for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

It may have a crack like the Grand Canyon, but it will be delicious. Trust me.

Beat whipping cream and brown sugar until soft peaks form.  Smooth over top of cheesecake.  Carefully remove the ring from the springform pan to reveal your beautiful cheesecake.  Slice and serve.  Makes one 9-inch cheesecake.

Look at that gorgeous thing. Time to eat!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fantabulous Chocolate Raspberry Cake

This is not a traditional birthday cake, but it’s the cake any chocolate lover would want for their birthday.  Or any other day.  Especially if that chocolate lover is also a raspberry lover, like me! This is the first time I’ve made this recipe but I know it will definitely not be the last!  This cake almost qualifies as a chocolate torte with its dense, fudgy texture and rich, dark flavor.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I hid away the last piece so my kids wouldn’t eat it after school since I wanted it all for myself.  Mine!  A selfish mom moment to be sure.  But I’ll make it up to them.  It will be a good excuse to make it again soon.

Fantabulous Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Chocolate Raspberry Cake
(adapted from Cooking Pleasures magazine)

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
10 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut up
5 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. raspberry flavoring syrup
1-2 cups fresh raspberries for garnish

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spray bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Line with parchment.  Spray paper.  Puree 2 cups raspberries in a blender or food processor.  Strain through a fine strainer and discard seeds, leaving about 1 cup of puree.  Combine puree with 2/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low, simmer 20 minutes or so until thickened and reduced to about 2/3 cup, stirring frequently.

Melt chocolate and butter.  You can do this in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, or do it in a glass bowl in the microwave for a couple of minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in raspberry puree.  Whisk remaining 1 cup sugar into the chocolate mixture.  Whisk in eggs one at a time.  Whisk flour and salt in a small bowl.  Fold into chocolate mixture in two additions until well-blended.  Pour into pan.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack 29 minutes.  Remove sides of pan.  Cool completely.  Cake may sink a bit in the middle during cooling.

Hot out of the oven.

Meanwhile, beat whipped cream, 1 tsp. sugar, and syrup in a bowl at medium high speed until soft peaks form.  Spread whipped cream over the top of the cake and garnish with fresh raspberries.  Or you can serve the cream on the side if you prefer.  This is a good option if you’re serving the cake warm.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake. Best if you let the cake cool completely before putting the whipped cream on it, otherwise it will melt a little bit, like mine. I’m so impatient, but it was still delicious!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks

What to make for the birthday dinner for one of my dearest friends of all time?  Well…Mexican food of course.  And something vegetarian for this particular friend. She was literally doing a happy dance in her chair while she was eating these enchiladas.

I first saw enchilada stacks in New Mexico, when I had huevos rancheros served this way in a little cafe outside of Taos.  I fell in love with these little towers of tastiness.  They are so much easier to make than rolled enchiladas but you still have individual servings which is a nice touch.  For me the highlight of this recipe is the amazing verde sauce.  It’s incredibly easy to make and so much better than anything you will find in a can.  Next time I’m making a double batch so I can use it on about a dozen other things.

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks with Homemade Verde Sauce.  Yum!

Black Bean Enchilada Stacks

Verde Sauce:
12 oz. tomatillos (7-8 large)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted green chiles (canned works fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green chiles (canned is just fine)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt & pepper

Other Ingredients:
16 corn tortillas (for 4 stacks, add more tortillas for more stacks)
2 cups shredded jack/cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup chopped red or orange bell pepper

Make the sauce first. Remove husks and stems from tomatillos and wash.  Add tomatillos to a sauce pan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes until tender.  Drain. Put tomatillos and other sauce ingredients in a blender and puree.  Set aside.

In a bowl mix black beans and other filling ingredients.  In a large casserole dish or jelly roll pan (use 2 pans if needed), spread 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Create 4-6 enchilada stacks (I made five), starting with a tortilla, then 1/3 of bean mixture, cheese, then tortilla, then 1/3 bean mixture, cheese, then tortilla, then 1/3 bean mixture, cheese, ending with a tortilla. Pour remaining sauce over the top of the stacks.  Cover with the remaining shredded cheese.  Garnish each stack with feta and peppers.

All stacked up and ready to go in the oven.

Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortillas are starting to brown on the edges.  Serve entire stack on a plate with extra sauce from the bottom of the pan spooned over the top.  For lighter appetites, you may want to cut these in half, but we didn’t have any problem polishing off a whole stack each!  This recipe will make 4-6 stacks.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

And it’s time for another round of “What Can I Throw In A Ramekin?”  Today my fridge was looking a little bare since I’m way past due for grocery shopping, but I did have eggs and potatoes and really, I could survive on that, no problem!  Add a little scrap of brie and some leftover herbs and I had myself a gourmet breakfast.

Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

Baked Eggs with Potato & Brie

For each ramekin:

1 small yukon gold or red potato
1-2 eggs
2-3 slices of brie cheese
fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Spray your ramekins with cooking spray.  Poke the potato with a fork a few times and microwave on high for 5 minutes, until fork tender (or you can use leftover baked or mashed potatoes for this if you have any).  Slice and place in the bottom of the ramekin.

A lovely bed of potatoes.

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Break eggs over the potatoes.  Top with cheese and thyme.

Ready to pop in the oven.

Place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.  Dig in!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Stuffed Baked Potato Frittata

I have had a theory for quite some time that almost any leftovers can be mixed with scrambled eggs to make a perfect breakfast.  A frittata is one of the best ways to put this to the test.  On this occasion, I had leftover baked potatoes and broccoli from the night before.  Combined with a few other ingredients, it reminded me exactly of a stuffed baked potato.  But for breakfast.  Mmm. I love breakfast.  But I would eat this for any meal of the day.

Stuffed Baked Potato Frittata

Stuffed Baked Potato Frittata

2 baked yukon gold potatoes (or microwave for 5 minutes or so until tender), sliced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup steamed broccoli
4 strips bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
5 eggs
Salt & pepper
Sour cream (optional)

Get all your ingredients ready before you start cooking.  Beat eggs with a little salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.  Shred cheese, chop veggies.

If you don’t have leftover potatoes and veggies, just nuke them in the microwave for a few minutes until tender.

Cook bacon in a medium skillet until crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Drain off bacon grease, just leaving enough to coat the bottom of the pan (1-2 tsp.).  Add potatoes and onion to pan.  Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is tender.  Beat eggs with a little salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.  Crumble bacon and add that and the broccoli to the potatoes.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Pour eggs over the top and swirl around to coat all the ingredients.

Swirl around evenly in the pan. Don’t worry if the veggies are sticking out of the egg mixture.

Cover and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook for 10 minutes or so until eggs on top are cooked (will look a little poofy).

All set up and ready to eat!

Cut into wedges, top with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Classic Steak Dinner

Usually when I have a night on my own I am pretty lazy about dinner.  Leftovers, a sandwich, or take out are the norm.  But every once in a while, I like to make something nice just for me.  I don’t eat a whole lot of red meat these days, so a steak is a special treat.  Ribeyes are my favorite, but choose whatever you like best.  I rounded it out with fresh broccoli and absolutely delicious roasted potato “chips.” A glass (or two) of juicy pinot noir and dark chocolate for dessert and I was a happy girl.  And if you’re not on your own, this is a nice meal to share too.

Steak with Wine & Mushrooms

Ribeye Steak with Wine & Mushrooms

Ribeye Steak (or whatever cut you prefer)
Sea salt & coarsely ground pepper
1/4 tsp. raw sugar
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup red wine

Rub steak with salt, pepper & sugar.  Heat pan to medium high.  Melt the butter in the pan until bubbly.  Add steak to the pan.  I like my steak rare, so I cook mine about 3 minutes on each side.  If you like it done a little more, you may need to do 4-5 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and set on a plate to rest while you cook the mushrooms.  (Even if you don’t like mushrooms and choose to have your steak plain, let it rest a few minutes anyway, it will be more juicy!)  In the same pan you cooked the steak, over medium high heat add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper and add wine to the pan.  Bring to a boil and saute a few minutes until the wine begins to evaporate.  When most of the wine has disappeared, remove from heat and stir in the other 1/2 tbsp. butter.  Pour mushrooms over the steak and serve immediately.

Roasted Potato “Chips”

Roasted Potato “Chips”

Yukon Gold potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Slice potatoes thinly (about 1/8 inch thick).  Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Lay out the potato slices in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt & pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes until starting to brown on top.  Taste one (carefully!) to see if they are as crispy as you like.  I prefer mine crispy on the edges but still chewy.  Cook a little longer if you want them more crunchy.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs and Bacon

My desk is somewhat of an archeological dig.  There are layers and layers of things that I have every intention of addressing at some point.  Last night a pile was dislodged and a page ripped from a magazine floated down to my feet.  As I picked it up, I realized I held the solution for dinner in my hands.  And there was the added bonus that I was sufficiently distracted by my discovery that I completely forgot whatever I was digging for in the first place.  Who says a messy desk is a bad thing?

At first I thought these ingredients sounded like a strange combination, but the flavors work together perfectly and it’s incredibly flavorful.  My daughter is still talking about how good it was!  For a vegetarian option, just eliminate the bacon.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Breadcrumbs & Bacon
(adapted from Cooking Light)

8 ounces rigatoni pasta (or whatever shape you like)
4-5 strips bacon (optional, leave out for a vegetarian meal)
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup panko
12 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 slices each
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 – 1 tsp. grated lemon rind
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 ounces fresh parmesan cheese, coarsely grated or shaved
2 tsp. pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta until tender.  Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.  Keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add panko to pan.  Cook  3 minutes until browned, stirring frequently.  Set aside.  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Discard bacon grease.  (I usually keep about a tablespoon in there to cook with but if you want to be a little healthier, or if you aren’t using the bacon, wipe out grease and use olive oil instead).

Add Brussels sprouts to pan.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yum! I love Brussels Sprouts.

Add onion and garlic and continue to cook 3 more minutes or until onion is tender. and the Brussels sprouts are lightly browned.  Add broth, lemon rind, lemon juice, thyme leaves, salt & pepper.  Cover and cook 2 minutes or until sprouts are crisp-tender.  Add mixture. to pasta and toss well.  Sprinkle with cheese, pine nuts, breadcrumbs and crumbled bacon.  Serve immediately.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Beef Stroganoff

One day when I was a teenager, I had an amazing revelation at my friend Bethany’s house.  My life has never been the same.  Until that day I dreaded the vile substance that was beef stroganoff.  Seeing that nasty Hamburger Helper box at my house made me quake in my shoes.  Yuck.  When I found out that Bub’s mom (tops among friend moms) was making beef stroganoff for dinner, I steeled myself to be polite and choke it down.  But then a miracle happened.  It was delicious!  As it turns out, beef stroganoff does not really come from a box at all!

One of my huge regrets is that I never got her recipe.  But over the years I have done my best to recreate that tasty experience.  I know mine is not exactly the same, but I think I’ve hit the high points.  Lean chunks of beef, creamy sauce, fresh ingredients.  Yum. Thanks, Mrs. S!

Beef Stroganoff!

Beef Stroganoff

1 pound sirloin sliced into bite sized pieces (or you can use beef cut up for stew or stir fry if you’re in a hurry)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup sliced onion
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp. butter
1 1/4 cup beef broth
3/4 cup sour cream
Noodles or rice

In a ziplock bag or bowl combine flour and seasonings.  Toss beef with flour mixture until all pieces are well coated.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add one tbsp of butter and swirl around to coat the pan.  In 2 or 3 batches, add the meat to the pan, leaving space in between each piece. Brown for a minute or two on each side, then remove to a plate while you do the next batch (add a little more butter to the pan for each batch).  After the meat is done, add onion and mushrooms to the pan.  Cook and stir a few minutes until onion is soft, scraping all the little bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add beef back into the pan.  Add beef broth.  Turn heat down and cover.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  During this time you can cook the rice or pasta to serve with it. Stir in sour cream and heat through, but don’t boil.  Serve over rice or pasta.  I actually prefer rice, but the kids love it over curly egg noodles.  I always get outvoted!

Tagged , , ,