Monthly Archives: September 2013

Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant

I really like chicken, but man it can get boring, especially if you fall into a rut where you are making the same thing over and over again.  Never fear!  This recipe will pull you out of your chicken rut.  Close your eyes, take a bite, and take a little trip across the world while your taste buds do a little happy dance.

Don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients.  Most are spices that you probably already have in your cabinet (and if you don’t, you need them!).  I am not a big eggplant fan, but I really liked it in this dish, since it soaked up the flavor of that lovely sauce.  And the chicken was so tender it completely fell apart and melted in our mouths.  If you REALLY hate eggplant, I think this dish would be just as good with mushrooms (and give you a similar chewy texture).  Next time I make it (which will be soon!) I know I’m planning to throw a few in there.

I served this over couscous, which I kicked up a notch by mixing it with some dried fruit (a mixture of golden raisins, dried blueberries and cranberries) and some slivered almonds.  You could also just use rice or another grain.  You don’t have to serve it with a starch, but that sauce is definitely worth soaking up with something!

Moroccan Chicken with Kicked Up Couscous

Moroccan Chicken with Kicked Up Couscous

Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant
(adapted from eatgood4life.com)

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cups water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (go ahead and use the stuff in a plastic lemon in a pinch)
12  chicken thighs, fat removed
1 small to medium eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp marjoram
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds or slivered almonds

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add paprika, salt, turmeric, coriander, fennel, pepper, cumin, and ginger, stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, water, and lemon juice and bring to a boil.

Arrange all chicken in a single layer in the pot and spoon some sauce over. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir eggplant and marjoram into chicken. Carefully stir and cook uncovered 10 more minutes over medium to high heat until chicken is tender and the eggplant is fully cooked. Season stew to taste with more lemon juice, salt and pepper if you like. Transfer chicken to a large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with almonds and cilantro.

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Shark Tale

Most people who have eaten at my table know that while I love to cook, I don’t really get into fancy presentation.  If it looks good and tastes good, that is enough for me.  You can keep your radish roses and curlicues and edible flowers.

But every once in a while, a special occasion calls for a little extra effort.  This is where I usually find a fun project that I’ve been dying to try and give it a go.  Recently for my aunt’s birthday, my mom threw her a luau-themed party.  Now, I’m not Hawaiian (note pasty pale skin and no dance moves), so I’m guessing this is not part of any authentic luau menu, but I thought the occasion called for a shark.

I like carving things.  At Halloween I’m the first to dive into the pumpkins (even before I had kids).  In art school I did all sorts of damage to myself carving linoleum blocks for printing.  Getting creative with carving is just plain fun.  And so…when I saw a photo of a watermelon shark, I knew it was going to happen at some point.

I know this looks fancy, but in reality, it was pretty easy to pull off!  You don’t have to be a master carver by any means. Give it a try and impress all your friends.

Shark!

Shark!

Watermelon Shark with Fruit Salad

Watermelon – go for longer oval shape rather than round
Pineapple
Grapes
Blueberry or chocolate chip

Slice off a small wedge at one end at an angle, so when you sit it on the flat part it leans a bit to one side.  Save the wedge – you’ll use it to cut a piece for the fin later.

Cut a big V shape out for the mouth.  One edge of the V is almost straight up, the other at a low angle – chomp!

Dig out all the watermelon flesh.  I did this by cutting around the inside edge and then slicing and scooping with a big spoon.  Then use the spoon or knife to scrape close to the sides (not all that different from cleaning a pumpkin but quite a bit easier).  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s nice to get all the edible stuff out so it can be eaten.  If you have loads of time, you can use a melon baller to do this, but I went more down and dirty and just hacked it all into bite sized chunks.  Set those aside.

Now you should have a watermelon shell with a big mouth cut in it and a hole in the bottom.  Good job!  Now take a small, sharp knife and score around the mouth about a half-inch or so from the edge all the way around.  Using the knife, cut away ONLY the green skin, leaving the white rind exposed.

Go slowly and slice off only the green outer layer.  If you score your outer line first it's easy to get a nice clean edge.

Go slowly and slice off only the green outer layer. If you score your outer line first it’s easy to get a nice clean edge.

Cut teeth out of the rind.  Very scary!

Close up of teeth carving.

Close up of teeth carving.

Carve a little diamond shape for the eye, inserting a blueberry or chocolate chip for the eyeball.  Cut a fin shape out of a piece of the rind you cut off.  I cut a little hole in the back of the shark and inserted it there so it would stay put.  Or you could use toothpicks to hold it in place if you prefer.

And here's your empty shark vessel.  Fill with fruit salad and wow all your friends!

And here’s your empty shark vessel. Fill with fruit salad and wow all your friends!

Chop up pineapple and de-stem grapes. Toss with the watermelon chunks and fill your shark.  Surround shark with fruit salad on the plate for a pretty presentation and you’re good to go!  You did it!

 

 

 

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Spicy Homemade Taco Pizza

My baby brother (one of them) was born when I was 14.  Now while that was all very exciting, the part leading up to that was pretty cool too.  That was the part where my mom was craving Godfather’s taco pizza and raspberry ripple ice cream.  We ate a lot of taco pizza that summer.  Ever since that time, I have loved it.  These days, I hardly ever see it offered at pizza places, and when I do, it’s just not the same.  So, as I am wont to do, when I was having a craving recently I just made up my own.  I saw a recipe somewhere where the dressing was drizzled on top and I thought that was a pretty great idea so I copied that idea on mine.  Added a nice spicy zip!

If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s in the vicinity, check out their fresh pizza dough, which you can find in the produce section.  Otherwise, use the brand you like best (or make your own).

Now…where can I find some raspberry ripple ice cream?

Spicy Homemade Taco Pizza

Spicy Homemade Taco Pizza

Spicy Homemade Taco Pizza

Pizza Crust (I use the fresh pizza dough from Trader Joe’s, but use your favorite)
1/2 pound ground beef
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
4 oz. can green chiles
1 cup crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 jalapeno, minced (leave out if you don’t like it spicy)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 large tomato, diced
Salt
Sliced black olives
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Cholula)

Preheat oven to 425˚.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.  Press out pizza dough with your fingers until it’s the thickness you like.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add ground beef and onion and cook until beef is no longer pink.  Add beans, garlic, cumin, chili powder and green chiles. Stir and sort of mash the beans into the mixture. Cook until heated through.  Set aside.

Mix crushed tomato and minced jalapeno.  Spread over pizza crust.

tacopizza

Spread meat mixture over tomato sauce.

tacopizza2

Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top of the meat mixture.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until crust is browned on the bottom, and crispy around the edges.

tacopizza3

Remove from oven and spread lettuce, tomatoes and olives over the top.  Whisk together sour cream, lime juice and hot sauce.  Drizzle over the top of pizza (you can do this with a spoon or put in a ziplock bag and snip off a corner).  Cut into squares and eat up!

tacopizza5

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Baked Huevos Verde

On the rare occasion I have leftover enchilada ingredients, my favorite thing to use them for is breakfast.  If you don’t have leftovers, this sauce takes mere moments to make and will keep in the fridge for a week.  Use beans, meat or veggies you might have left over or just use eggs and cheese.  Either way you stack it, it’s going to be delicious!  I had a bit of black beans and chicken, mixed with a dab of sour cream (my enchilada filling) so I used that in mine.

Baked Huevos Verde

Baked Huevos Verde

Baked Huevos Verde

For each ramekin:

Corn tortilla
Leftover chicken and/or black beans and/or veggies (optional)
2 tbsp. salsa verde (see below for recipe)
1-2 eggs
Queso fresco
Salt & pepper

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

Preheat oven to 375˚.

To make verde sauce:  Remove husks and stems from tomatillos and put in a small saucepan.  Cover with water; boil for 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain and transfer to a blender with the rest of the sauce ingredients.  Blend until smooth.

Homemade verde sauce.  So quick and easy!

Homemade verde sauce. So quick and easy!

Use a knife to cut your tortilla, making 4 slices, but leaving the center uncut.

4 small slices, going from the edge toward the center, leaving about an inch in the center uncut.

4 small slices, going from the edge toward the center, leaving about an inch in the center uncut.

Spray your ramekin with cooking spray.  Fold tortilla into the ramekin in a little bowl shape (if you cut all the way through it’s no big deal, just stick it in there anyway, overlapping the pieces to fit).

Overlap the cut edges to make a little bowl shape in the ramekin.

Overlap the cut edges to make a little bowl shape in the ramekin.

Add a bit of veggies, meat or beans if you are using them.

Beans, meat or veggies on the bottom (if using).

Beans, meat or veggies on the bottom (if using).

Add 2-3 tablespoons of verde sauce.

I love love love this sauce.

I love love love this sauce.

Break 1-2 eggs into the ramekin on top of the sauce.

Add eggs.  Depending on the size of your ramekin and how much veggies you added, you may be able to fit two eggs in here.

Add eggs. Depending on the size of your ramekin and how much veggies you added, you may be able to fit two eggs in here.

Sprinkle with queso fresco and a dash of salt & pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until eggs are set and whites are cooked.  Serve hot!

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Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

In an age where it seems that everyone I know is going gluten-free or full-on Paleo, I’ve embraced my whole grains, and have been exploring some new ones.  I think in moderation, just about anything can be part of a healthy diet and whole grains offer many benefits.  They are full of nutrients and fiber, and are very filling, especially when they are the base of a salad.

I’ve never tried farro before but this one dish made me a fan.  It has a great chewy texture, with a mild, nutty flavor.  While not gluten-free, it is considerably lower in gluten than most other grains, and at least according to the sources I checked, can often be eaten by people who don’t tolerate gluten well.

This salad uses the best of the late summer veggies that are still available, but you could easily modify it to include whatever happens to be in season.  I found some very cool tomatoes – blueberry tomatoes – at the market that I had never tried before.  They were delicious, but feel free to use the cherry tomato or diced fresh tomato of your choice.

Blueberry Tomatoes!  Very yummy.

Blueberry Tomatoes! Very yummy.

This is definitely filling enough for a meat-free meal, but feel free to add some grilled chicken or fish along with it if you’re up for something a bit more hearty.

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

Farro Salad with Summer Veggies

1 pkg. farro
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
1/4-1/2 c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Grilled chicken (optional)
Balsamic glaze (optional)

Cook farro according to package directions and set aside.  While that is cooking, heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet and add onion, jalapeno and garlic to pan.  Sauté a few minutes until onion is tender.  Add corn and cook and stir another minute or two.

In a large bowl, add farro, onion mixture, tomatoes, cucumber, 1/4 cup rice vinegar and olive oil.  Add a big pinch of salt and some fresh ground pepper.  Stir well and taste.  Add a bit more vinegar if it needs some extra oomph.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve.  Top with grilled chicken and/or balsamic glaze if desired.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Mmmm.

We served ours with a little sliced grilled chicken and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Mmmm.

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Baby Lasagnas

Pinterest is a tiny addiction of mine.  Equal parts inspiration and time suck. I like to go and browse and discover and pin things that I’m sure I will create at some point.  And sometimes I do.  But sometimes the pins sit there on my board, unloved and unmade.  The other day I made a list of about 70 (!) recipes that I had pinned that I REALLY wanted to make (and no, that’s not all of them, and yes, I’ve pinned more since).  I’m systematically making my way through the list over the next 2-3 months.

This is a recipe I pinned quite a while ago from one of my favorite blogs, Can You Stay For Dinner?, and I’m thrilled to report they turned out every bit as good as I had hoped, and have come to expect from her recipes.  My version is slightly different from the original (is this any surprise?). Quick to make and seriously, who doesn’t love lasagna that bakes in 10 minutes?  No doubt I’ll be making these again.

Baby Lasagna!  Adorable.  And delicious!

Baby Lasagna! Adorable. And delicious!

Baby Lasagnas
(adapted from canyoustayfordinner.com)

6 oz. lean ground beef
1-2 Italian sausage links
1 cup chopped onion
Salt & pepper
3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (I used about 2/3 of a 28 oz. can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp. dry oregano, divided
1/4 cup red wine (optional
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (or sub 1/2 tsp. dry basil)
1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
24 square wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375˚.  In a large skillet crumble beef.  Remove casings from sausage links and crumble that in there too.  Add mushrooms and onions.  Sauté until meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic and cook and stir a minute more.  Add tomatoes and 2 tsp. of oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and red wine.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so.  Set aside.

Yummy red sauce.  My version uses lean versions of beef & Italian sausage.

Yummy red sauce. My version uses lean beef & Italian sausage.

In a small bowl mix ricotta cheese with 1 tsp. oregano, a few grinds of pepper and fresh basil. Mix well and set aside.

Creamy, delicious ricotta mixture.  Yum.

Creamy, delicious ricotta mixture. Yum.

Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Place one wonton skin in the bottom of each cup, pressing firmly to the bottom and sides.  Divide half the meat sauce among the lasagnas, placing a spoonful or so in the bottom of each cup.

babylasagna3

Top with half the ricotta mixture.  I dropped a spoonful on each one and then gave it a little smear to smash it down a bit.

babylasagna4

Sprinkle with half the mozzarella.

babylasagna5

Gently press another wonton skin on top of the cheese.

One more time...with feeling!

One more time…with feeling!

Repeat the above sequence, with sauce, ricotta and mozzarella.

Ready to go in the oven.

Ready to go in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes or so.

After they are cool, insert a butter knife down the side and gently lift it out.

After they are cool, insert a butter knife down the side to gently lift it out.

Remove from muffin tin and serve.  Makes 12 baby lasagnas.

Mmmm.

Mmmm.

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Lemon Zucchini Bread

We received a garden gift.  Four GIANT zucchini.  After four loaves of zucchini bread I still have two of these monsters left.  I’m debating about what to do with it.  Zucchini tacos?  Zucchini soup?  Nah…probably just more of this bread, because it was fantastic.  This one in particular was even better because it was made with love by my daughter, Claire.  Have I mentioned that teaching that kid to cook was a great idea?

The original recipe for this had a glaze over the top.  If you want to add that, it’s simply a mixture of powdered sugar and a little milk, spooned over the cooled bread.  We left it off…now we can call this healthy, right?  In any case, this was a delicious twist on an old favorite.  (Get it?  Twist?  Lemon?  Yikes.)

Scrumptious Lemon Zucchini Bread

Scrumptious Lemon Zucchini Bread

Lemon Zucchini Bread
(adapted from NancyCreative.com)

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice of one lemon
Zest of one lemon
1 cup grated zucchini (unpeeled)

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In medium bowl, beat 2 eggs well, then add canola oil and sugar, and blend well. Then add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest and blend everything well. Fold in zucchini and stir until evenly distributed in mixture.

Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl and blend everything together, but don’t overmix.

Pour batter into prepared 9×5″ loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (if your oven tends to run hot, check the loaf after 40 minutes; also, if you make this in an 8×4″ loaf pan, your baking time may be a little longer…about 5 to 10 minutes more). Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Yum.  Is it cool enough to eat?  I think so.

Yum. Is it cool enough to eat? I think so.

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