Friday, November 1, 2013

Upside-down Apple Pie



It's been months since my last post so I'm writing what I like to call "A Comeback Post."  And what better way to come back then to post the recipe that all my Instagramers asked for?

This Upside-down Apple Pie has been a staple on our holiday dessert table for YEARS and last week when I was craving it, I called up Mom and asked her how she makes hers.  She told me that there are tons of recipes for this pie on the internet (she first saw it in an old issue of Southern Living) but she prefers to do the "semi-homemade" version where you use store-bought crusts.  This was more than fine with me because I'm more of a cook than a baker anyway.
 
Then my Mom rattled off her recipe (which is pretty much what you see below), but I still perused a few recipes online and what I realized is that people make apple pie different ways. Some like their pie sweeter and some people prefer theirs more tart.  Mine is in the middle because I use all granny smith apples (tart) but I used brown sugar (rich and sweet), so I encourage you to edit my filling ingredients as you please. But what I REALLY wanted to show you all is the process to creating the "upsidedown effect."  The upside-down effect is what makes this pie so special because it magically gives you 2 pies in 1.  You've got a pecan pie over an apple pie which is nothing short of genius!
So please make this, send me pictures, comment and just let me know how it all goes!  And I think this goes without saying but this pie is perfect for the upcoming holiday season.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 refrigerated pie crusts (usually sold 2 to a pack)

Pecan "Topping"
1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Apple Filling
7-8 medium sized granny smith apples, peeled cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup light brown (or white) sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, diced


Directions:


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Then, using about 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, thoroughly grease a 9" pie pan.  To make the pecan topping, mix the remaining butter, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and spread the mixture onto the bottom of the greased pie pan, pressing mixture on the sides if necessary.  Next, gently unroll 1 pie crust and fit it over pecan mixture in the pie pan, allowing excess crust to hang over the sides.

Then (in the same bowl, if you like) mix apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg together and spoon evenly into the crust.  Dice the cold butter into even smaller cubes and dot over the apple filling.  Unroll remaining pie crust, place over apple filling and firmly press both crusts together.  Remove any crust hanging over pan with the back edge of a knife and then you can crimp or design edges as you see fit. 

Cut 4-5 slits into the top of the pie to release steam (see picture) and cover only the edges of the pie with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.  Place pie on large pan to catch overflow and place pie on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 50 minutes, removing the foil from the edges the last 10 mins of cooking.  After 50 mins you're looking for golden brown crust and the apples to be soft when a knife is inserted through a slit.  

Allow pie to cool/rest for 10-15 mins on a wire rack and lastly place a serving plate over the pie and then invert pie onto the plate.  Gently remove the pie pan, which should remove easily but you may have to transfer any lingering pecans onto the pie.  Allow to cool completely then cover with saran until ready to serve.  I know it's tempting but serving the pie before its come to room temperature can make for a soupy filling so be patient!  This pie, as with most pies, is best served with vanilla ice cream.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

[RECIPE] Shrimp Fried (Brown) Rice


One of my favorite go-to, weeknight recipes is on Ebony.com!  I make fried rice all the time, but one night I had leftover brown rice and decided to give it a whirl.  It came out equally as delicious and I felt less guilty eating it because I knew that the brown rice bumped up the fiber, in addition to the peas and carrots that were already in it.  And I chose shrimp for this recipe because it cooks quickly, easily making this a 20-25 minute meal, but if you prefer chicken or beef in your fried rice DO IT!  Or leave out the protein all together and serve this as a side dish.  The possibilities are endless!

And usually I include a picture tutorial on my blog but I'm sad to report that my last cell phone was destroyed; leaving me with hardly any food pictures from the last few months.  But I can confidently say that this recipe is full proof.  Alot of times, I'll post a recipe and be nervous that I screwed up the measurements, or left something out.  But not this one! It's so simple and easy, I know you will love it!  The link is below. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake



It may sound crazy but inspiration for this Ice Cream Sandwich Cake comes from a Weight Watcher's Cookbook.  And not just any WW Cookbook but my favorite one: 5 Ingredient 15 minute Cookbook.  This is one of my go-to cookbooks for simple, healthy dishes because one thing I hate is a laundry list of ingredients in a recipe.  And even though I don't really believe in eating numbers or "points" I endorse this cookbook because all of the recipes include 5 ingredients or less and this cake is no exception.

In the Weight Watcher's Cookbook the recipe is titled "Chocolate Almond Ice Cream Cake" and they instruct you to use light chocolate ice cream sandwiches, fat free whipped topping, and chocolate covered almonds.  Once you put the cake together they say that 1 slice is 5 weight watcher's points so if you're counting, do it their way.

I, however, am not counting and when I made this for our Father's Day gathering, I used full fat ice cream sandwiches and cool whip and this cake was a hit! I am posting the recipe, not to take credit, but because a few people asked me how to make it and also because I loved how I didn't have to bake anything. In the summer having the oven going can be brutal so I loved how this was an oven free process that resulted in a cool refreshing dessert that kids and adults loved.  It would be perfect for your 4th of July celebration!  Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 12-15 slices):

15 Square Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 (12 oz) Container Cool Whip
Chocolate Syrup, for drizzling
Crunchy Ingredient*

This cake needs some type of crunch and there are so many options to incorporate texture.  Your crunchy ingredients can include (but are not limited to): Chopped Heath Bars (pictured), Any Chopped Chocolate Bar, Chopped Peanuts or Almonds, Chopped Chocolate Covered Peanuts or Almonds (try Dove brand), Mini-Chocolate Chips, Sprinkles, or Crushed Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Choose one or use a combination.

Directions:

Arrange 5 ice cream sandwiches side by side on a serving platter.  Using a spatula, spread a layer of cool whip (about a 1/2 inch thick) over the sandwiches, covering them completely on the top.  Then drizzle chocolate syrup over the whipped cream and sprinkle a generous about of your crunchy ingredient over the syrup.  Repeat this process one more time and then top with the final 5 ice cream sandwiches.  Cover with saran and freeze for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, simply spread the remaining cool whip over the top and sides of the cake, covering the ice cream sandwiches completely.  Finish with a final drizzle of chocolate syrup and sprinkle a little more of your crunchy ingredient on top.  Cover with saran again and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Like with any cake, when ready to serve, simply slice it up evenly.  Cover and freeze any leftovers.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My $25 Steak Dinner



Let me paint you guys a picture: I. Wanted. Some. Steak! I still don't know why I was craving red meat so badly but I kept dreaming about a juicy, delicious, perfectly pink steak.  But there was one problem...I was broke! So my first attempt to satisfy my craving was to spend a gift card I had for Carrabbas.  I ordered the Steak Marsala with high hopes, but when I ate the dry, barely seasoned filet I was incredibly disappointed.  I mean, it filled me up that night but it didn't satisfy my craving.  So I had to take matters into my own hands.

With $25 in cash I'd just received from selling popcorn, I went to my local grocery store and managed to pull off a fabulous dinner.  Unlike Carrabbas, MY steak was seasoned to perfection, juicy and delicious and it even reheated nicely!  So I figured I would share this meal to show you all that an amazing steak dinner can be achieved on a budget and in a fairly healthy way.  Some folks believe that red meat isn't part of a healthy diet but flank steak is very lean and this whole meal was filling and low calorie.

So scroll below to see the recipes.  I included prices of the groceries that I purchased that day, to illustrate how affordable everything was.  And any ingredients that do not include a price are the ones that I already had in my pantry.  Oh and that Chimichurri was absolutely perfect (if do I say so myself!).  There are a million recipes for the Argentinean sauce but my recipe came together with what I had on hand and it was SO GOOD! And the leftovers would be amazing on any protein.  Enjoy!

For the Steak
1.5-2 lb Flank Steak - $12.95
2 tbsp Chili Powder
2 tbsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Onion Powder

Chimichurri Sauce
Two Large Handfuls Fresh Parsley Leaves - $1.50
Two Large Handfuls Fresh Cilantro Leaves - $1.50
2 Garlic Cloves
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 tbsp Capers
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sauteed Corn & Red Peppers
2 tbsp Butter, divided
1/2 a Red Bell Pepper, diced -$1.00
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Bag Frozen Corn - $1.50
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 tsp. Smoked (or regular) Paprika

Sauteed Hericot Verts (French Green Beans)
1 tbsp. Butter
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Small Shallot, diced - $0.85
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 Bag Fresh Hericot Verts - $3.69

Grand Total - $22.99 + tax!!  You see, $25 can go really far when you buy affordable cuts of beef and keep your kitchen stocked with the Essentials!

Directions:

To prep the steak, combine the chili powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and onion powder to make a rub.  Then, like the name says, rub the seasonings on both sides of the steak and set aside until ready to grill (at least 15 minutes).

Next make the Chimicurri sauce by simply adding the cilantro, parsley, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, capers, and vinegar to a food processor (this is a good job for a mini-chopper if you have one).  Pulse a few times and then blend while streaming in the 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Stop blending and taste for seasoning and a "sauce like" consistency.  If it's too thick, stream in more evoo.  Pour chimichurri into a bowl and set aside.

Now set up two sauté pans.  In one, melt the butter and once bubbling, add in the diced red pepper and sauté until slightly soft (about 3-4 mins).  Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.  Then add in the bag of frozen corn, stir to combine, and cook on medium low heat until the corn has defrosted and been heated through.  When ready to serve, stir in salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a serving bowl and top with smoked paprika.

Meanwhile, using a fork, poke a few holes in the bag containing the hericot verts and microwave on high for 3 minutes to get them going.  Then, in the other sauté pan, melt the butter, add in the olive oil and, once hot, add in diced shallots and sauté until soft.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the partly cooked hericot verts.  Sauté until the green beans have absorbed the oils and have slightly caramelized.  Then, remove from the heat until ready to serve.

To cook the steak, heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to high.  Once the grill is screaming hot, add the steak and cook for 5 minutes on each side for medium doneness (warm pink center).  Remove steak and allow to rest for 5-7 minutes (see left).

To serve, slice steak at an angle, top with chimichurri sauce and serve with sauteed corn and hericot verts.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Panko Crusted Salmon w/ Roasted Red Potatoes



It’s very rare that I experiment in the kitchen and get it right on the first try.  But this meal...I went in the kitchen with a vision and managed to create one of the best dinners I’ve made in a while.  So I had to share this with you guys!

I was inspired to make this meal when a Chef that I follow on Instagram posted a picture of a Panko Crusted Salmon that was on the menu at his resturant.  It looked oh so beautiful to me!  And even though the panko on his salmon looked golden and delicious, it also looked kind of plain.  So when I decided to recreate his dish, I knew I wanted to season the bread crumbs with plenty of fresh herbs. 

I also wanted to make roasted potatoes for a side and I thought about using a lipton onion soup packet that I had on hand.  This is what my Mom always used but when I looked at the nutritional information and saw the massive amounts of sodium, I decided to season the potatoes myself.  I used pretty much the same ingredients I was using in the salmon and everything came out perfect.

Though I must say that this salmon doesn’t really re-heat well.  L Yes, this kills me, because I cook for leftovers, but I still have to recommend you make this because it’s that good.  And it’s a lovely new way to enjoy Salmon.  I loved how the panko gave everything on my plate a crunch.  In fact, I would serve mashed potatoes with this next time but my roasted baby reds were so yummy I wanted to throw that recipe out there for now.  Plus, I mentioned in my weeknight cooking tips, how much I enjoy throwing everything in the oven, and this meal does exactly that, and is ready in no time.

One last thing! For the experienced cooks: I try to give exact measurements on this blog, but you don’t have to measure the seasonings in this dinner.  When I was making it, I put “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” tasted constantly and I encourage you to do the same.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
For the Fish:
1 ½ lb. Salmon Filet, cut into 4 portions
1 tbs. Butter
1 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
½ tsp. Paprika
½ Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tbsp. Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. Thyme Leaves
1 tbsp. Rosemary, chopped
(Note: I put all the fresh herbs in a pile and run my knife through all of it but technically the thyme leaves could stay whole.)

For the Potatoes:
3 cups baby red potatoes, sliced in ½
3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. Rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. paprika

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spray one lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut the baby red potatoes in half and toss onto the non-greased pan.  Then in a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave add in the salt, pepper, rosemary, onion powder and paprika.  Stream in the tablespoon of evoo while whisking vigorously.  Pour butter/oil mixture over the potatoes and toss until all potatoes are coated.  Place potatoes on the bottom rack in the oven and set timer for 40 minutes.

For the fish, place fillets onto the other, lightly greased baking sheet.  Then, prepare the butter/oil mixture the same way as the potatoes: melt butter in the microwave, add in seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika) and stream in oil while whisking vigorously.  Brush a generous amount of the butter mixture (about half) over the fish.  Then toss the panko bread crumbs in with the remaining oil.  Add in the chopped, fresh herbs and mix together.  Lastly, sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs over the filets to create a thin, even layer on top and place pan on the top rack in the oven. 

Now would be a good time to give the potatoes a quick toss.  The salmon needs to cook for 20 minutes but check it halfway through.  If the bread crumbs seem to be getting a little too golden, just swap them with the potatoes for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Serve potatoes and salmon fresh from the oven with your favorite “house” salad.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Recipes Perfect for Cinco De Mayo!





Cinco De Mayo is Sunday and I just wanted to share a few recipes for anyone who may be entertaining or simply trying to be festive.  I, like most people, happen to love Mexican food so these recipes weren't written with May 5th in mind.  But they're perfect for the holiday and if I was entertaining this Cinco De Mayo, I would definitely make one, if not all of these!

Why am I not hosting a taco and tequila filled fiesta this Sunday?  Well, I've discovered that all of my entertaining has put a slight strain on my budget so I need to chill for a bit.  AND one of my friends invited me out to a party. And I need some fun!  So YES I will be partying but NO I won't be cooking. Which is why I'm posting some recipes in the hopes that YOU will do the cooking. ;-)

However, I only have a handful of Mexican recipes (all amazing though).  First is my Healthy Fish Tacos that I wrote recently for Ebony.com.  The beauty of this one is that inside that recipe is a Pico De Gallo recipe and a Cilantro-Lime Cole Slaw recipe in addition to the tacos. So you get 3 Mexican inspired dishes in one!

Then there's my Seafood Guacamole w/ Baked Tortilla Chips.  The tortilla chips are a fun snack to make, especially with little ones! And the seafood guac is so good, that is becoming my signature dish among my family and friends.  It is TO DIE FOR.  Especially if you love seafood.  But if you don't, I've included a classic "semi-homemade" Guacamole recipe as well.

Make one or make them all!

Healthy Fish Tacos w/ Cilantro-Lime Slaw & Pico De Gallo

Seafood Guacamole w/ Baked Tortilla Chips

Guacamole


Friday, April 26, 2013

Asparagus Wrapped in Chicken, Wrapped in Bacon



It's so very rare that I make a dish I love and get the recipe on here this quickly. But this shows how incredibly amazing this dinner was because here I am posting the recipe for a dish I made on Tuesday!

See Tuesday was my Dad's birthday.  He decided he didn't want to go out for dinner and since I needed to test a dessert recipe anyway, I thought I would go out to my parent's and treat my Mom and Dad.  I went to their local Wegmans after work with every intention of making a pasta primavera (which will get tested at some point this weekend) but once I picked up a beautiful pack of asparagus, I thought about bacon wrapped asparagus.  THEN (I guess my mind was in overdrive) I thought about a wonderful Rachel Ray dish I made YEARS ago where I wrapped the asparagus in chicken.  So then I thought, why not combine the two?  Wrap the asparagus in chicken and then wrap that in bacon!

This sounded way better, and of course more decadent, than my pasta dish, so I got the ingredients, drove to my parent's house, got busy and had this ready in under 45 minutes.  My mom even commented on how fast the meal came together. AND my mom even said it was the best dinner she's had in a long time!

So scroll below to see how I did it. And also check out Rachel's Recipe.  I didn't consult it once while cooking on Tuesday and yet my version came out almost the same, but with a few important additions.  Bacon being the best one!  Also, this is a pretty budget friendly dish, especially since asparagus is in season and cheap, so make this ASAP!

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Kosher Salt
Lemon Pepper Seasoning
8 Thick Slices Havarti Cheese, plain or with dill (Sharp White Cheddar works as well)
4 Strips Thick Cut Bacon
Olive Oil
1 Small Onion or Large Shallot, chopped (about a 1/2 cup )
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Flour
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon chopped Fresh Parsley (dried works too)

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil (make sure the pot's wide enough for your asparagus to fit).  Meanwhile fill a bowl with cold water and add 5-10 ice cubes as well. Once water is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of salt and then add your trimmed asparagus.  Boil for about 2-3 minutes, and then using tongs, transfer asparagus into the ice bath.  Then, drain the asparagus and set aside.


Next prep the chicken by slicing each breast in half horizontally through the middle.  Then, after placing each breast between 2 pieces of saran, use a rolling pin to pound out each breast to about 1 inch thickness.  Arrange each breast flat on your cutting board. Lightly sprinkle each breast with lemon pepper seasoning and then place two thick slices of cheese right in the middle.  (In the picture you may note that my slices are pretty thin, and unfortunately the flavor got lost, so I would double the thickness)


Then place, 4-5 asparagus spears on the end of each breast, and gently, but tightly, roll each breast so that the asparagus and cheese are neatly tucked in the middle.  Then, sprinkle the outside with a bit more lemon pepper and wrap 1 piece of thick cut bacon around each breast.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet until almost smoking.  Then place each chicken bundle, SEAM SIDE DOWN in the pan.  Allow to cook until brown, about 5 minutes and then flip over to cook for 5 minutes on the other side.  You will know the bundle is ready to turn when it releases easily.  If it sticks to the pan when you try to turn, it's not ready yet! Do NOT try to force it, because your bundles may fall apart.

Once bundles have been seared on both sides, transfer to an over safe dish and place in your preheated oven to finish cooking (about 20 minutes).  Meanwhile, prepare your pan sauce in the same pan you cooked your chicken in.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil, then add the onions to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for a minute more.  Sprinkle flour over onion and garlic and cook for a few seconds and then add in your chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the dijon mustard, bring to a simmer and allow to thicken slightly for a few minutes.  Once thick, remove from the heat, stir in butter, lemon juice, and parsley to finish.

To serve, remove chicken bundles from the oven.  Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of sauce on each plate and top with a bundle.  For extra special presentation, slice bundles down the middle to showcase the beautiful center (as pictured above).  Also, roasted fingerling potatoes made a great side dish!  You can see those pictured below with the pork free bundle for my dad.

 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Healthy Fish Tacos w/ Cilantro-Lime Slaw


My fish taco recipe...it's one of my crowning joys. This one has been in fairly heavy rotation in my house for years and when a twitter follower asked me if I had any taco recipes for "Taco Tuesdays" I decided to work on this one.  When it was finally done, I had to send it to Ebony.com because to me, they're THAT GOOD.  AND this recipe recently won a weekly "Taco Tuesday Challenge" where cooks were asked to submit pictures of their best taco dish.  My Fish Taco picture (see above) was selected last week as the best submission and the recipe is being featured on 3 culinary blogs! Yay me!

Now what makes these tacos so good, and what makes any taco good for that matter, are the toppings.  I top mine with a cilantro-lime cole slaw, a bright and tangy version made with Greek yogurt, and a fresh pico de gallo.  These toppings help to balance the spicy rub I use to season the fish.

So this is like 3 recipes in 1 because you get the fish recipe, the pico de gallo recipe, AND the recipe for cilantro-lime slaw; all of which can be used separately or together.  Serve the pico as an appetizer with tortilla chips or serve the slaw on the side of a heavier Mexican dish like enchiladas.

I hope you add one or all of these to your rotation!  Click HERE to view the recipe on Ebony.com. The recipe is also posted on N' Joy Eats website as last week's Taco Tuesday Challenge winner.  OR scroll below for the picture tutorial.

Oh and I almost forgot! For a carb-free meal, wrap these babies in lettuce instead of a tortilla for even more health benefits.  In the picture below, I used bib lettuce but I found that the leaves were too small. I would go with iceberg next time.


Ingredients: (Makes 5-6 tacos)

1 6 oz container Plain Greek Yogurt (about ¾ cup)
1 teaspoon Honey
1 tablespoon Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice (about ½ a lime)
2-3 Cups Pre-Shredded Cole Slaw Mix
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. Tilapia Filets
1 package 6” or 8” Flour Tortillas
Fresh Pico De Gallo, for topping (recipe follows)
Lime Slices and Cilantro for garnish

Directions:

To make slaw, whisk together Greek yogurt, honey, cilantro, lime and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.  Gently toss in 2-3 cups of the coleslaw mix, adding a little at a time until cabbage has completely been coated in the sauce.  Set aside.


Next, set oven broiler to high.  Wrap 6-8 tortillas in aluminum foil and place on lower rack in the oven to get warm.


In a small bowl, add the chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, onion powder, cayenne pepper and black pepper and stir to combine. Place fish filets on a foil lined baking sheet and brush both sides of the fish with the extra virgin olive oil.  Then rub both sides of the fish with spice mixture.  Broil fish on high for 17-20 minutes, until firm.  Remove the fish from the oven, squeeze the juice from half of a lime over the fillets and cut them into 3-4 inch chunks.



Lastly, remove the tortillas from the oven.  To build the tacos, place 3-4 pieces of fish on a tortilla.  Top with cilantro-lime slaw and some fresh pico de gallo.  Serve with a slice of lime and a sprig of cilantro for garnish.

Pico De Gallo

Ingredients: (Makes about 2 Cups)
5 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced
½ cup red or white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ a Lime
Salt & Fresh Black Pepper, to taste

Directions:
After you have removed the seeds and diced your tomatoes, add them to a bowl.  Then add the finely chopped onion and cilantro and stir to combine.  Next squeeze half a lime over tomatoes and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Give mixture a final stir, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, eggs, you name it!


These were even better the next day!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April's Lasagna




This recipe is called "April's Lasagna" but let me start by saying that it isn't exactly MY recipe.  A while back (and I mean a couple of years ago) my Mom called me and told me she made the best lasagna EVER and I had to try it.  Turns out it was The Barefoot Contessa's Lasagna with Turkey Sausage.  I can never get enough of Ina Garten so one Sunday I made the lasgana, and Mom was not lying.  It's an amazing dish!

However, it contained ALOT of cheese.  And don't get me wrong, I love cheese.  AND I'd never seen a lasagna recipe that called for goat cheese and this just seemed genius.  But it also seemed immoral!  I mean I do have a figure to watch and including 4 types of cheese in any dish can be so fattening, not to mention expensive.  So when I went to make it again, I modified it by cutting out most of the cheese and here we are!

I make this lasagna all the time and recently when I made it and posted the pictures on Instagram, alot of my followers asked me for the recipe.  And though Ina is the true author, I decided to go ahead and write my version because 1. I think it's better (sorry Ina) and 2. it is different from hers in a few ways.  There's the cheese thing, also the meat thing (I use HOT Italian sausage instead of sweet-way better!) and then there's the noodle thing. I'm not sure when the "no boil" lasgana noodles were invented but to me, they are the best foodie creation since sliced bread! So I included them in this recipe because no one should ever boil a lasagna noodle again.

So here's MY recipe! A while back I wrote a great Vegetable Lasagna recipe that you should check out, but if you're looking for the traditional, comforting lasagna with meat sauce, this is it!  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage or Hot Italian Turkey Sausage
1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
6-8 Basil Leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parsley Leaves, chopped, divided
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (dried)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 15oz container ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 bag shredded mozzerella cheese
1 box "no boil" lasagna noodles (easily found in the pasta isle)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a pot or large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat, add in diced onion and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes.  Next add in the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.  Then, one at a time, remove the casings from each sausage and add the meat to the pan.  Use the edge of your spatula to break up the sausage, and cook until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes.

Once the meat is done, add in the can of crushed tomatoes, followed by the can of tomato paste. Season with the dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste, then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, and then stir in the chopped basil and half of the chopped parsley.  Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Then add in the ricotta cheese, the rest of the chopped parsley (I reserve just a little parsley to sprinkle on top), 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir everything to combine and set aside.

To build the lasagna, ladle a little bit of the sauce into your glass baking dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Then, cover the sauce with the no-boil lasagna noodles, breaking them as needed to fit.  Cover the noodles with 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce, 1/3 the ricotta and then sprinkle a little mozzarella and Parmesan on top (it's ok if the meat sauce is peeking through in the first 2 layers, you're reserving the largest amount of shredded cheese for the top). 

Repeat the layers, noodles, sauce, ricotta cheese, and shredded cheese two more times, except the final layer of cheese, needs to completely cover the meat sauce (see picture). 

Garnish with the last little bit of parsley. Then, cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 minutes more. 

Allow lasagna to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. This lasagna freezes well and is even better the next day so feel free to make in advance.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Turkey Meatloaf w/ Spicy Balsamic Glaze



This isn't the first turkey meatloaf recipe I've written.  Last year I did a Mini-Meatloaf recipe which was a huge hit!  I wrote it for "the single cook" because I read that the individual meatloaves could be frozen and re-heated later.  But I ended up getting more messages and tweets from parents who loved the idea of making the mini-meatloaves for their kids which was great!  

I mentioned in the post that I used my Mom's turkey meatloaf recipe and it came out well but there was one problem.  A problem that plagues most dishes made with ground turkey meat: it was a bit too dry.   Straight from the oven, the mini-meatloaves were perfect but when I went to reheat them, they were kind of tough.

With all of this in mind, I sat down last week to write a new turkey meatloaf recipe, for the single cook, that was moist and delicious. I came across lots of ideas for keeping the meatloaf moist.  Grate in a zucchini. Use oats instead of bread crumbs. And then there was my favorite: mix in a chipotle pepper and some adobo sauce.

All of these were good ideas, and I guess I could have used them all, but because I am scaling down the meatloaf recipe by half for the single cook, I didn't want too much going on in the filling.  I talked this over with my mom and she told me she recently tried adding the chipotle pepper in her meatloaf and it came out really good.  I took her advice, added the chipotle pepper to the usual ingredients, and the meatloaf I created was moist and delicious.  Exactly what I wanted! AND it reheated really well.

So find the recipe below. I used 1 pound of ground turkey instead of the usual 2 which makes about 4 servings.  Perfect for the single cook.  And we have my mom to thank for the spicy balsamic glaze.  We both had been using Bobby Flay's idea to mix balsamic vinegar with ketchup but my mom said she had the extra chipotle pepper on hand so she figured she would throw it in the sauce.  The results were DELISH!! Enjoy!

Ingredients: 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ bell pepper, any color, finely diced
1 small onion or shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 large egg
1/3 cup breadcrumbs, plain or Italian
Salt, to taste
Spicy Balsamic Glaze, recipe follows

Directions:

Preheat Oven 350 degrees.

In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil and add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until soft, add garlic and cook for a minute more.  Remove pan from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the meatloaf.

In a bowl add ground turkey, cumin, oregano, salt, egg, breadcrumbs, and chipotle peppers, and adobo sauce.  Then add the pepper and onion mixture to the bowl and, using your hands, mix all the ingredients together.  Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and press the turkey mixture into a loaf in the middle of the pan (see picture to the right).  Remember it will not fill the entire pan.  Spread half of the balsamic glaze over the top of the meatloaf, and put pan into the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove meatloaf from the oven and using 2 spatulas transfer the loaf to a plate or serving platter to prevent from drying out.  Serve with the remaining spicy balsamic glaze.


Spicy Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons Ketchup
1 small Chipotle Chili Pepper in Adobo Sauce*

*If you only want a hint of heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of adobo sauce.  For more heat, add a larger pepper.  I think 1 small pepper is just right.  Also, the glaze is great with just vinegar and ketchup so eliminate the chipotle altogether if you don't want any heat.

Directions: Finely mince the chipotle pepper and combine with vinegar and ketchup in a bowl.

Tortellini w/ Spinach & Mushroom Cream Sauce



If you're counting calories, this isn't the recipe for you.  BUT if you're looking for a rich, delicious and comforting dish that can be ready in under 30 minutes and is portioned for the single cook, then HELLO!

This recipe is an adaptation of a Pumpkin Tortellini recipe that I made around the holidays from The Food Network Magazine.  After I'd made it, I realized how versatile it was.  Even though it's a cream based sauce, the recipe intro talked about adding the pumpkin to add flavor and vitamins.  With flavor and vitamins in mind, I decided to try spinach and mushrooms, instead of pumpkin, and here we are.

This dish is incredibly simple and delicious which is why I had to share it.  Not to mention, you all asked for it! ;-) And even though it may be a bit indulgent, stay tuned for a lighter recipe that can be made with the same ingredients!


Ingredients:
1 9oz Package 3 Cheese Tortellini
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced baby portabella mushrooms (1/2 an 8oz package)
2 cups fresh baby spinach (two large handfuls)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish


Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once water is rapidly boiling, add tortellini and cook for 3-5 minutes and drain.  Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.



In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat, add the olive oil and the finely chopped shallot.   Sauté the shallot for about 3-4 minutes add the minced garlic and sauté for a minute more.  Next add in the mushrooms and sauté until softened.






Next, add in the two cups of spinach, the nutmeg, and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Stir until the spinach has just wilted and then add in the heavy cream. 





Once the sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Add in the cheese, stir to combine and check for seasonings.  The cheese will add saltiness, but the sauce may need some additional salt and pepper. Lastly, add drained tortellini to the sauce and stir to combine.  Serve pasta with additional parm for garnish.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tiramisu


This time last year, I was over the moon excited because my very first recipe was published on Ebony.com.  The digital content editor happens to be a Howard Alum and, lucky for me, she enjoyed the work I was doing on this blog.  She told me she would like to me to contribute to Ebony.com's Food section and gave me my first assignment: A Valentine's Day Dessert.  I wrote not one, but two recipes: Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Dipped Bananas & Pineapple.  I may have gotten a little carried away but for my first time I can say they were both really good dessert recipes!

So here we are a year later and even though I've been doing alot of savory recipe testing, I figured that my one year commemorative recipe submission to Ebony.com should be a dessert.  I mean it's only right!  And I knew that my tiramisu would be perfect for Valentine's Day.

I scaled down the tiramisu recipe significantly, to about 4 servings, for all the happy couples.  You can make it in one bowl or divide into two bowls as I did in the picture.  But be warned, this tiramisu is very rich so two people can share one of those bowls.  My roommate and I shared one, and the word that kept going through my head, was sinful.

You can click HERE to view the recipe on Ebony.com or scroll below to see the process in pictures.  Hopefully the pictures will show you all how easy it is to make.  Simple and sinful tiramisu! How can you go wrong with that?

Tiramisu

Ingredients: (Makes 4 servings)
3 Egg Yolks, from large eggs
½ cup Finely Granulated Sugar
1 cup, 8 oz Mascarpone Cheese*
½ teaspoon McCormick Pure Coffee Extract
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Package Ladyfingers
¼ Cup Coffee Liquor
Coco Powder for Dusting, about 3 tablespoons
1 Milk Chocolate Bar for Shaving
2-4 Strawberries for Garnish

*BelGioioso makes a Tiramisu Flavored Mascarpone.  If you can find it, definitely USE IT and omit the coffee extract.  If not, plain mascarpone with the extract works fine.  You should be able to easily find the coffee extract in your baking isle. Or click here to order online: Neilsen Massey® Coffee Extract (Google Affiliate Ad)


Fill the bottom pot of a double boiler with 2-3 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Combine the egg yolks and sugar into the top pot, place pot on top of the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a spatula.  You want all the sugar granules to dissolve and the mixture to be a thick lemon color.


Next, remove the bowl from the heat and add the mascarpone cheese and coffee extract.  Mix with a handheld mixer on medium-low speed until everything is combined.  








In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with a hand held mixer until stiff peaks begin to form.  Then, with a spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture and set aside.









Now pour the coffee liquor into a shallow dish or pan and dip one side of the lady fingers into the liquor, one at a time, and then begin to arrange them along the bottom of your serving dish (liquor side up).  Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers using a spatula.  Then, dip a few more ladyfingers, one side only, into the liquor and place them over the mascarpone to make a middle layer.  





Cover those ladyfingers with the other half of the mascarpone mix and spread with the spatula to create a flat, smooth surface.






Lastly, use a sifter to dust the coco powder on top of the mascarpone, being sure to cover all of it.  I laid down tin foil to help with the mess.






Then, use a carrot peeler to create the chocolate shavings.  Run the peeler down the edge of the chocolate bar and sprinkle the shavings over the top of the tiramisu.  Cover with saran and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.





Right before serving, I suggest slicing and fanning a strawberry over the top of the tiramisu.  They look like little hearts making it a festive garnish for Valentine’s Day or any day you want to show some love. :-)