Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

**Update: Deacon's costume didn't stay on long but here are some pics! He was a lobster for his first Halloween and was lucky enough to score some treats from the neighbors!




Deacon is no where near as excited about his costume for tonight as I am...hopefully I can snap a few pics before he completely tears it apart. But in the meantime, here are some scary eye cupcakes I made last night for our office Halloween party (my first real order! yay!).

I've seen so many creative Halloween cupcakes all over the internet recently. I first saw this idea on Epicurious. The eyes are made of Lifesavers with little Jelly Belly pupils! How deliciously clever. (Yeah, I really just wrote that).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Old Man Winter and Hot Sauce

It is 43 degrees right now in Orlando but it feels like 4o according to the National Weather Service. 43 DEGREES! And that's just the outside...my office is always kept at arctic type temperatures.

Deacon thinks the cold weather is the greatest thing in the world...which means I was bundled up like the kid in A Christmas Story yesterday after work when I took him outside to burn off some puppy energy.


The colder weather had me craving a dinner that would help us thaw out (I know that any of you reading this that live north of Orlando think I'm being overly dramatic about our "cold" weather...but come on! My time in Florida has given me zero tolerance for any temperatures under 60). And ever since making Buffalo Salmon, I've been thinking about modifying the recipe to make Buffalo Chicken. There is this sports bar we used to go to all the time to watch Steelers games and they have amazingly delicious boneless wings. I heart wings but always opt for boneless when it's an option. I'm thrilled to be able to say I can now make AleHouse Zingers at home! :) So any of you looking to warm up, try this recipe...if you don't like too much heat you can increase the butter and reduce the hot sauce.

Boneless Buffalo Chicken

1lb chicken tenders

1.5cups breadcrumbs

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup olive oil

2 T butter

1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce (has to be Frank's, it's the BEST)

3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

1. Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken tenders in breadcrumbs. Dip in egg and then dredge back through breadcrumbs.

2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add chicken and cook 4 minutes per side or until golden.

3. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet and bake at 425 until cooked through (about 10 minutes).

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter and mix in the hot sauce.

5. Drizzle sauce over baked chicken and top with blue cheese crumbles.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Homemade Potato Chips

A while back I mentioned the Village Tavern, a favorite restaurant of ours. I did forget to mention in that post, however, that they have the BEST homemade chips in the world. There, I said it. We always order them a little on the softer side and with plenty of "full fat" ranch for dipping (loathe fat free ranch). So when I pulled out our favorite turkey burger recipe, I thought I would try my hand at making our own chips...



For these little guys, I just thinly sliced a baking potato and coated them with a little olive oil before baking at 375 for about 25 minutes. Then I just tossed them with some salt and rosemary to complement the herbs in the turkey burgers. So simple!

Friday, October 24, 2008

YUM-O?

I'm not the biggest Rachael Ray fan. Her recipes are generally not my favorite and the few that I've tried just haven't really done much for me. I can't even really watch her show because it irks me that she abbreviates things but then always says the full name afterwards..."EVOO, extra virgin olive oil"....what's the point?!? She does have an excellent black bean chili recipe, however, that I'll have to get around to making and posting soon now that we're dipping below 80 here in the sunshine state!

When I saw this recipe for pork tenderloin with cheesy polenta, it was the polenta/blue cheese combo that piqued my interest. And that was definitely the star of this meal. The pan sauce really didn't add anything and the pork was really nothing special either.

Not exactly rave reviews, I know. But I do think the polenta is worth trying out...it would make a great side dish for steak instead of potatoes. It was so creamy and flavorful (I cut back on the amount of blue cheese slightly but definitely splurged and used the heavy cream).

Cheesy Polenta

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup polenta
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

In a saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups water and the cream to a boil and whisk in the polenta. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese; season with salt and pepper.

**Side note for those of you with furry family members: I may not be a big Rachael fan, but Deacon sure is! He loves this pet-friendly recipe...sans the figs (I don't like them so I figure he doesn't either). Though, when you eat the same thing every day...and that thing is kibble...you're probably not too picky!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sorry, Andy Rooney...

Sunday evenings can be a real downer when you realize another work week is just around the corner. My husband still doesn't like to hear the ticking of the 60 Minutes clock because that sound ticked away the last few moments of his weekend before it was time for bed and then off to school. I think I still see him wince a bit when we pass that channel just in time to hear the ticking!

I like to try to plan ahead to make Sunday evening dinners special to soften the blow of back to work. Either I'll try a new recipe for a fancier type meal or go to a tried and true, favorite comfort food. This weekend I pulled out a recipe for New York Steaks with Boursin and Merlot Sauce that I found on epicurious.com a while back.

The boursin topped steak with the creamy red wine sauce made for a really nice presentation. It is one of those meals that looks like it should have taken a while in the kitchen to prepare but really just took minutes. I used a Shiraz that I had opened the night before and the sauce was excellent. Spreading the warm boursin over the top of the steak was a real treat (I used light boursin so it wasn't quite as indulgent as the original recipe). Overall, a very tasty way to prepare a strip steak...I think I'm going to try this sauce over filet some time too.

The recipe that follows makes 6 servings...I did some estimating and reduced the recipe to make enough sauce for two steaks...it never hurts to have a little extra sauce!

Strip Steaks with Boursin and Merlot Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 9- to 10-ounce New York steaks, trimmed (about 1 inch thick)
1/2 of 5.2-ounce package Boursin or other French garlic-and-herb cheese, cut into 6 wedges
1 1/2 cups Merlot or other fruity red wine
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives plus whole chives for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 heavy large skillets over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Add 3 steaks to each skillet; cook about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to platter; top each with 1 cheese wedge. Tent with foil to keep warm.

2. Pour off drippings from 1 skillet; add wine to skillet and boil over high heat until reduced to generous 1/2 cup, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter and stir until melted. Mix in parsley and chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over steaks. Garnish with whole chives.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Fall!

Steak with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Feta

Sounds like a weird combination, doesn't it? I found this recipe in this month's Real Simple and pulled it out because oddly enough we always have chickpeas in the pantry. I love them on salads and in salads (if there's a difference!).

This was a quick meal which was exactly what I was looking for after the eggplant parmesan marathon from the night before! We grilled the steak while preparing the side of chickpea, tomato and feta salad so it really came together fast. Feel free to spice up the steak however you like but definitely give the side salad a try! I'm still enjoying it for lunch and love the combination of fresh flavors provided by the tomato, feta and cilantro. I used fat free feta to cut down on some of the fat grams shown in the nutritional info below....but I don't really recommend that...fat free cheese always disappoints me! I should have known better!


Steak with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Feta

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1-inch-thick strip steaks (about 1 1⁄2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 plum tomatoes, sliced into half-moons
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup crumbled Feta (4 ounces)

1. Season the steaks with 1/2 t each salt and pepper. Grill the steak....or heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook to the desired doneness, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove from the skillet and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.


2. Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels and add them to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly crispy, 3 to 5 minutes.


3. Stir in the tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with the Feta. Serve with the steak.


Yield: Makes 4 servings

NUTRITION PER SERVING

CALORIES 672; FAT 24g (sat 8g); CHOLESTEROL 99mg; CARBOHYDRATE 64g; SODIUM 1082mg; PROTEIN 50g; FIBER 22g; SUGAR 4g

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan...Cooking Light style

I've mentioned before that in our house I have to get creative with working vegetables into our meals since my husband isn't a big fan. He is however, a huge fan of chicken parmesan so when I came across this recipe for eggplant parmesan from Cooking Light, I thought it was definitely worth a try.

This lighter version of a fried classic was rather ambitious for a weeknight meal. The process of simmering the sauce, soaking the eggplant, then broiling the eggplant before the whole meal goes into the oven to bake requires some planning ahead! But the end result was very tasty! We had our eggplant parmesan over whole wheat pasta and it was definitely hearty and filling! This recipe makes a ton (even when I halved it) but it holds up well in the refrigerator for leftovers the next day. I also recommend letting it cool for longer than the suggested 5 minutes in the recipe below...unless you like your food boiling lava hot.


Eggplant Parmesan
(Source: Cooking Light, October 1995)

1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable cooking spray
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.

2. Place eggplant in a large bowl; add water to cover, and let stand 30 minutes. Drain well; blot dry with paper towels. Combine 1/4 cup water and egg whites in a shallow bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese; stir well. Dip eggplant in egg white mixture, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

3. Place half of eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and broil 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining eggplant. Set eggplant aside.
Spread half of tomato mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange half of eggplant over sauce; top with half of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers with remaining sauce, eggplant, and cheese.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Nutritional Information
Calories: 298 (26% from fat)
Fat: 8.5g (sat 5g,mono 2.2g,poly 0.4g)
Protein: 19.2g
Carbohydrate: 38.8g
Fiber: 2.6g
Cholesterol: 27mg
Iron: 2.8mg
Sodium: 818mg
Calcium: 422mg

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Pittsburgh Tradition

I learned very quickly as a new wife that when it came to game day food (and particularly for Steelers game day) there was really only one option...Italian Sausage. After a couple football seasons as husband and wife, I can make a mean sausage and peppers hoagie...but it is usually around this time in the season that I'm over the hoagie and looking for something different. I found this recipe last year and it is definitely one of our favorites. It combines his hometown tradition with my good ol' southern staple...grits! And not just any grits...perfectly cheesy parmesan grits. I made some healthier substitutions to the original November 2006 Southern Living Recipe which I included below.



Italian Sausage with Tomato-Pepper Relish
(Serves 5...or 2 really hungry guys and a girl)

1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 (16-20-oz.) package uncooked hot Italian chicken sausage links
1 cup water
1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Parmesan Cheese Grits (Recipe below)

1. Drain tomatoes, reserving juice; set tomatoes aside.

2. Brown sausage links in a nonstick skillet over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Add reserved tomato juice and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

3. Sauté peppers and onion in hot oil in another large nonstick skillet 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes; cook until thoroughly heated. Remove sausage links from skillet, discarding liquid; cut links into bite-size pieces. Serve sausage over Parmesan Cheese Grits; top evenly with pepper mixture.


Parmesan Cheese Grits
1 (14-oz.) can low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups skim milk
3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Bring chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups milk just to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly stir in grits and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, 6 to 7 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Add Parmesan cheese and pepper, stirring until cheese is melted.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rib Eye Rub

Things are still pretty hectic around our house after returning from vacation, digging our way out from under a mountain of laundry, and now preparing to head out of town for a wedding! So I was thrilled to find this simple looking recipe for a rib eye steak I had waiting in the freezer.

It literally took seconds to mix this rub together. And I'm lucky it did, because the Sears window replacement estimator arrived early. It even worked out that the steak had to sit for an hour after applying the rub because, let me tell you, the windows guy gave a presentation for 1.5 hours. There were props, a slideshow (complete with sound effects) and basically everything short of a song and dance!

So by the time we pulled the steak out to throw it on the grill our eyes had completely glazed over in boredom and we were completely ravenous! Which explains why there is no picture...just couldn't wait! :)

I do have a picture of Deacon, however, after about 5 mins of the window presentation...


Try this rub out the next time rib eye steaks are on sale! I didn't even have to use A1...the steak was so flavorful on its own!

Rib Eye Grill
(Source: Southern Living, December 2002)

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (8-ounce) rib-eye steaks

1. Combine first 5 ingredients, and rub over steaks. Let stand 1 hour.


2. Grill, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) 7 minutes. Turn steaks, and grill 5 more minutes or to desired degree of doneness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


We're back from a wonderfully relaxing week at the Excellence Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic! I just love beach vacations when the only real decision you have to make each day is what to eat and drink!



Here are some pics from our trip! I'm hoping to get back in the kitchen soon...unfortunately, a bout of food poisoning from the trip has left the idea of cooking/eating right now rather unattractive! Yuck.