Friday, August 31, 2007

Quinoa with Raisins and Pine Nuts

I've been reading back over my latest posts, and sorry guys, I've been really lame as of late. I offer a few reasons for this. I've been on a diet, and now I'm a crazy, carb craving bitch. I'm on a diet becasue CB and I will be going away for our anniversary soon. We will be going to a place where for the better part of a week I will be wearing nothing more than a bikini, or some other scantly clad outfit because it will be hot as balls, and we will be on the beach. I have a fear that someone will mistake me for a beached whale and report me to the oceanographic insititute, so I've been trying to loose a few pounds. Innevitably my blog has suffered, mainly because I have no self control, if I make it I will eat it. See the limes on the counter in the back of the picture, yeah, well, I made key lime squares again last night, and because I have no self control, I ate them for breakfast. I REST MY CASE!

And honestly, I just haven't been baking or cooking much lately, and what I have been making has already been blogged about in the past, and I'm sure you don't want leftovers and re-runs on the blog.

I did make this the other night to go with CB's pork chops, and it was really good. I had this at a French Bistro on Newbury Street a few weeks ago, except they used dates instead of raisins. I didn't have dates, and I wasn't making a special trip, so raisins it was. It was excellent, quinoa is really my favorite side dish right now, it's beating out potatoes, and for an Irish girl, that's a hard thing to say.

Quinoa with Raisins and Pine Nuts
1C water
1 scant C quinoa
1/3 C raisins
1/4 C pine nuts
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan combine water and quinoa, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes, add raisins and pine nuts, cover and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, or until all water has been absorbed by the quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Rating = So Damn Good

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sauteed Pork Loin Chops with Port Wine and Cherry Sauce

Yet another winning recipe from America's Test Kitchen (or so CB says) I didn't eat this, I just made it for him. And let me tell you, it looks all involved and what not, but it really came together in about 40 minutes start to finish, so its a good weeknight dinner to pull together. This recipe is from the Best Light Recipes Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen.

4 boneless loin chops, 3/4 inch thick (6-7 oz each) brined if desired
salt and pepper
1 tbs vegetable oil

1 medium shallot minced, about 3 tablespoons
1/2 C dry port
1 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
1/2 C dried cherries
2 tbs whole milk
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
ground black pepper

1. FOR THE PORK: Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-in skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Lay the pork chops in the skillet and cook until light brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the pork chops over, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the centers of the pork chops register 135 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes (mine took 10).

2.Transfer the chops to a plate, cover with foil, and let them rest until the centers reach an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. FOR THE SAUCE: While the chops rest, add the shallot and 1/4 tsp salt to the oil left in the skillet, return to medium low heat., cook until the shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the port, scraping up the brown bits. Stir in the broth and cherries, bring to a simmer, and cook until the mixture measures 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

4. Pour any accumulated pork juices into the simmering sauce. Whisk the milk and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then whisk into the simmering sauce. Continue to simmer the sauce until it has thickened, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the pork before serving.

PER SERVING: Cal 450; Fat 16; Sat Fat 4.5g; Chol 110mg; Carb 20g; Protien 46g; Fiber 2g; Sodium 600mg
PER SERVING WITHOUT SAUCE: Cal 330; Fat 15g; Sat Fat 4.5g; Chol 110mg; Carb 0mg; Protien 44g; Fiber 0g; Sodium 230mg

Rating = So Damn Good

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On the Fly Marinated Salmon

I had fish, I had a grill, I had a bunch of left over stuff in the fridge...Abracadabra...marinaded salmon. I have got to learn to write stuff down when I make things off the fly because I don't really remember everything that went into this marinade, but this is what I can remember.

White wine vinegar
olive oil
finely chopped crystallized ginger
chopped mint
chopped parsley
sea salt

There may have been some garlic in there too. Anyway it was great. I let the fish marinade for probably 30-40 minutes then just grilled it up and served it with a side of mesculin greens. Healthy and delicious.

Rating = Damn Good

PS. I'm working on a low fat banana scone recipe. I made a batch last week, and although flavorful and tasty, each scone weighed about as much as Hulk Hogan's fist, so I'm adapting the recipe, hopefully I'll get it right soon and can share it with you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

Remember back a few months when I was experimenting with dairy and egg free quick breads? I made this one, and this one. Well, I'm back at it again, and this recipe was completely concocted out of my head. I opened the pantry and saw a can of pumpkin and thought - it's time to experiment with the low fat breads again; and I started pulling out the tubs of flour, sugar, oatmeal - what have you. I must say I rocked the house with this bread. I made it Monday night - it's almost gone people.

Just a minor side note here folks. Especially those of you who may take public transportation to work, or ever. Never pick up a newspaper that has been left on the seat by a previous rider. Monday morning CB and I were taking the train to work together, at the crack of friggin dawn I may add (what the hell is wrong with us). I was reading a book, so my head was down; I kept hearing someone sneeze, not once or twice, like 15 times. I pick my head up and a man on the other side of the train is reading the financial times, (or whatever that pink paper newspaper is) and is sneezing uncontrollably into the paper, he's not covering his face with it, just sneezing into it as he reads. It's at this point that I figure it is my duty to let everyone on the train know that not once in the 15 times he sneezed did he cover his mouth. At the next stop he gets up neatly folds the paper that he has blown snots all over and leaves it on the seat for the next unsuspecting rider. It was at this point that I looked at him and called him a disgusting pig. So, word to the wise people. Bring your own paper on the train, and if there is a paper on your seat when you get on the train, use a stick to swipe it to the floor. The bigger note here would be that this could all be avoided if people simply recycled their newspapers when they were done reading them.

Ok. Back to the recipe now.
As I mentioned - this is straight from my head - you can try and make it if you want. I really enjoyed it, but if you make it and you don't like it, don't say I didn't warn you, it's not like I'm a baker or anything.

Low Fat Pumpkin Bread (This would be vegan if you left out the chocolate chips)
3/4C all purpose flour
1/2 C oatmeal
1/2C brown sugar
1/2C white sugar
1/8 C ground flax see (optional)
1/3 C chocolate chips
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C canned pumpkin
1/3 C applesauce (I used chunky, but smooth would be preferable)

Combine all dry ingredients together. In a mixer combine canned pumpkin, applesauce and vanilla. On medium speed combine dry ingredients into wet a little bit at a time. When all ingredients are mixed together, add chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

Place in a greased and floured (I used nonfat spray with flour for baking) bread pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Enjoy.

Rating = So God Damn Good (and low fat)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Grilled Tuna over Sage Caramelized Onions

On Saturday CB had his LEED exam. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (sorry for the misprint, earlier I put Leadership Excellence in Environmental Design which Mona pointed out to me - I new I should have double checked it before I posted) and is regulated by the USGBC which is the United States Green Building Council. In the world of architecture and sustainability it's a very big deal, it means that not only can CB design and stamp his own construction documents, but he can also design environmentally conscious homes, with smaller carbon footprints, and less impact on the environment, and it's an extremely hard test. CB has been studying for months and months and on Saturday he passed; we were so extremely excited and happy. After the test we went to a few wine shops that were having tastings, bought some wine, and then went home to make a big congratulations dinner.

My sage plant seems to taking on a life of its own, so I needed an excuse to cut it back a little. I decided that I would serve the grilled tuna over a bed of caramelized onions, and that I would add ribbons of sage leaves to the onions as they were cooking to impart their earthy flavor to the sweet onions. It was awesome, I admit, I stood over the stove and ate about three spoonfuls of the onions before they ever made it onto our plates, they were that good.

I marinated the tuna steaks in a premade balsamic onion marinade that I had, so I can't take any credit for how the tuna came out, but the onions, were pure heaven. I also topped the tuna with cucumber ribbons that I had sprinkled with salt and pepper and then left in a mesh strainer to release some of their water, which was very good, but next time I may serve them on the side because the tuna seemed to heat the cucumbers very quickly, and I don't like warm cucumbers.

Sage Caramelized Onion
2 large sweet yellow onions
about 12 medium sage leaves sliced into thin ribbons
Olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat enough olive oil to generously cover the pan. Cut the onions in half, and then slice into thin half moons, add to the hot olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add the sage ribbons. Cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes until the onions release their sugar and begin to caramelize. Watch to make sure that the onions do not burn or brown too much.

These can be served under anything, chicken, fish, pork chops. I served them under fish, I would think that they would be great under just about anything.

Rating = So God Damn Good

PS. If anyone has any recipes that call for good amounts of sage can you please forward them to me. My plant has seriously turned into a sage bush and it's taking over my basil.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Two Pieces of Bread with Stuff In Between

CB and I don't have to drive much, living in the City affords us that luxury, but last night we had to go to my office to pick up a large package that I had delivered to me and needed to bring home. I take the train to work, in the whole time I have been at my job I have driven once, I've never really NEEDED to know how to drive to or from work. Last night, it was dark by the time we got to my office, we got there just fine, getting home turned into a bit of a comedy of errors, wrong turns and hurled swear words, all culminating with CB being aggravated that I had put us on the "road to nowhere" at at time when he would have liked nothing more than to sit in front of the tv, drinkabeer, and watch the Red Sox. So, hoping to calm the situation I said "would you like me to make you a toasted cheese sandwich when we get home?" His reply, yes, that would be good.

So that's what I did, I got home; took out the Italian bread, grabbed whatever cheese we had in the cheese bin, opened a jar of sundried tomatoes, and then went to the garden and grabbed some basil. This sandwich is so damn good, I mean, I know it's grilled cheese, but there is just something about a good grilled cheese sandwich.

Ahh, the power of cheese to smooth over rough situations. By the time he had eaten the last bite, all was forgotten.

Grilled Cheese, Sundried Tomato and Basil Sandwich
Two slices of crusty Italian bread
Sliced cheese (whatever you like, and however much of it you like)
10 sundried tomatoes in oil chopped)
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves

Lightly coat one side of each piece of bread with olive oil, (you can also take a garlic clove and run it over the sides of the bread to give it a little more flavor.) Place bread on hot non stick skillet, place half of the cheese on the bread, then layer the sundried tomatoes and basil on top of the cheese, then, place the other half of the cheese on top and then the second piece of bread.

At this point I like to weigh down the sandwich to press it, you can do that with a brick wrapped in aluminum foil.

When the bread has browned on one side, carefully flip and press on the other side until bread is browned on the other side and the cheese has melted through.

Rating = So God Damn Good

Friday, August 10, 2007

Basil Risotto | Bon Apetit

I love risotto. Love it loveit looooveit. It is a bitch to make though, all the stirring, and standing over the hot stove. I swear I had heel spurs by the time I finished this dish. Ah, but it's all worth it when you put the creamy goodness into your mouth, (Some poor bastards going to Google "creamy, mouth", and be sorely disappointed when his search comes up with this site. Sorry Dude.) I adapted this recipe from one that I tore out of the hotel gym's copy of Bon Appetit when I was in New Orleans last month. I didn't have spinach, so I just used all basil instead of spinach, YUM.

Original Recipe from Bon Appetit, July 2007

Green Herb Risotto
1 1/2 cups loosely packed spinach
1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
(I used 2 cups of loosely packed basil leaves, omitting spinach all together)
1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 garlic clove sliced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts) thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I'm a cheese whore, so I used a whole cup)

Blend first 5 ingredients in food processor until thick paste forms. Bring broth and water to a simmer in sauce pan over medium heat. Reduce heat to very low; cover to keep warm.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Add leek; saute until soft, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add rice, stir until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add wine, simmer until absorbed, stirring often. Add warm broth mixture 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender but still firm to bite, about 20 minutes. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 3 minutes. Uncover; stir in herb paste, cheese, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Rating = So Damn Good

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Zucchini Bread...chock full of stuff

I came across this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and I thought that the recipe was so interesting that I had to try it (with minor changes). It's an involved recipe, so I asked CB if he would help me make it, his tasks were simple; chop the pecans, measure the sugar and crack the eggs. Three things. He bitched and moaned at first that he wanted to go watch sports center, wah wah wah, but I wore him down with a little guilt trip about having already spent half an hour in the kitchen over the hot stove (in 85 degree weather no less) stirring his risotto that he had for dinner and the least he could do was chop a handful of nuts for me. So we assembled the ingredients together, and he was indeed a big help.

Fast forward to the next morning when CB and I are eating breakfast. I try a little bit of the bread, and damn, it's really good. I look at CB and say "this bread is really good." Do you know what his reply was? His reply was "MY BREAD". My bread, like he made the whole thing by himself, found the recipe and did all the work, not his three tasks; chop pecans, measure sugar, crack eggs. My Bread, Ha!

I start laughing and he looks at me and says, "Yep, my bread, I couldn't have made it without you though, you were a big help, thanks."


And this morning I saw him with a piece of this bread as his breakfast #2, and I shit you not the piece was four inches think, it was more like a slab of bread, not a slice. So I guess it's pretty good.

Recipe: Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top (I used pecans)
1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystalized ginger, finely chopped (optional) (I used 1/4 C)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large (preferably organic) eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or apf flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder (optional) (I did not use)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (this was not in the original recipe, I added)

Special equipment: two 1 pound loaf pans (5 x 9 inches)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. If you leave a couple inches hanging over the pan, it makes for easy removal after baking. Just grab the parchment "handles" and lift the zucchini bread right out.

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling - if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

Rating = So God Damn Good
(Although you must know this bread is better the day after it has been baked and the bread has had a chance to get moist.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Have you tried Iberico...

Mmm. It's been far too long since I tried a new cheese, so I headed on over to Trader Joe's and perused the cheese case to see if there was anything new. Aha! Queso Iberico. This was new to me, so I grabbed a hunk of it and brought it home to try. Upon looking at the cheese it immediately reminded me of another Spanish cheese, Manchego, it had a very similar rind and a similar density. Manchego is made from sheep's milk, and this is made from a mixture of cow, sheep and goat, giving it a very distinct flavor. This particular cheese is good as a table cheese, served with a Spanish red wine, or used for cooking because it is easily gratable and grilled. The next time you see it, pick it up and enjoy with a nice Rioja.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Jack Daniel's and Mint Tea...mmmm

Well thank God July is over. Wow, what a crazy month. I jetted from Chicago to Maine, and then to New Orleans, where I'm not quite sure, but I think, it was HOTTER THAN HELL. Jesus H Christ you didn't even have to do anything and the sweat just leaped out of your pores.

I was in New Orleans for a conference. At this conference I met a man I whom I will describe as the kind of man that goes for a massage with the hope of getting a "happy ending".

I work in a male dominated industry, and every once and a while I meet people who will completely over step their bounds, have no clue what the term personal space is, and will just generally make my skin crawl. This is the drawback of my job. It happens, you move on, you grab yourself a nice iced tea and fill it half way with Jack Daniel's.

I'm very into iced tea right now, and the fact that I have an overgrowth of mint in my garden is wonderful, because I just snip a sprig off (wash it, yes honey I washed it) and place it in my tea for a nice minty flavor. I've actually started to put a sprig in my water bottle before I leave for work, and then by the time a get to work the water has a nice minty flavor. This was a lovely little treat the other day.

Freshly brewed tea (any flavor you like, I used green tea)
2 oz Jack Daniel's Whiskey
1 fresh mint sprig (washed)
Crushed Ice

Place crushed ice in glass, with mint sprig. Add whiskey, top with iced tea. Enjoy.