Thursday, September 30, 2010

Food 'n Flix: Mexican Chocolate Meringue Truffles

In a small and tranquil town nestled in the French countryside, Vianne stirs a pot of melting chocolate. Calmly and peacefully, she contemplates the smooth brown liquid. As she takes in the magical scent, she dreams that her chocolates will awaken the hopes, dreams and desires of all who taste it. Behind her back, the townspeople whisper. They've never met anyone so mysterious and bold. They question her morality, her character, and her motives. They try their best to dissuade her. Will they win?

In my loud and chaotic kitchen I'm whipping egg whites for spicy chocolate meringues. The noise of the mixer isn't loud enough to drown out the sound of the children bickering back and forth. I do my best to tune out the noise, watching as the egg whites go from frothy to cloud-like. With reluctance I look to the children and notice that the bickering has not stopped. I scold them nicely and continue on. As I wish for a calm and peaceful kitchen, the back door slams. It shatters against the kitchen counter, bits and pieces of broken glass raining down all over the kitchen. In shock and disbelief I stand with my fists clenched as I turn red in the face. I'm too angry to speak. The children know what they've done. They cry in unison and run to their rooms. Behind my back, they whisper. They wonder how they will be punished. They wonder if they can dissuade me, but you and I both know that they didn't win.

I should have known right then and there that my Mexican Chocolate Meringues weren't meant to be. For some reason I felt compelled to make them. I attempted them two more times and each time the meringues fell flat and stuck to the parchment. At the peak of anger and frustration, I scraped them off the sheet pan and watched them crumble to pieces. Hastily, I grabbed a chunk from the sheet tray and shoved it in my mouth. It was magical! Rich from the chocolate, warm from the cinnamon, and fragrant with the smell of almonds. I stood there eating the crumbs from the tray. The spicy chocolate eased my deflated ego. They were addictive. I had to save them somehow.

I formed the crumbles into little balls and dipped them in melted chocolate. Once the chocolate set I sprinkled them with chile powder. That's how Mexican Chocolate Meringue Truffles were born. Sometimes our failures can be our biggest rewards.

If you would like to attempt the Mexican Chocolate Meringues, the recipe can be found here on the Food Network. I'm sure that someone with more baking experience than myself would produce beautiful chocolate meringues. They are quite warm and spicy, seductive and magical, just like Vianne in Chocolat!

This is my submission for the fun new foodie event Food 'n Flix. Head on over to check out next month's chosen flick!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everyday Food's Lighter General Tso's Chicken

For about a week now I've been going through my pile of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine. I grab a stack of them, sit on the couch and get lost. I've always loved this small, little, colorful magazine that is filled with quick, easy and fairly healthy recipes. Somehow this little magazine seems to get lost in my huge stack of large cookbooks and hardly ever finds it way into my kitchen. This week, I made it a point to add several Everyday Food recipes to my grocery list.

This lighter version of General Tso's Chicken comes from the October 2008 edition. Skinless, boneless chicken breast are coated in a light batter of cornstarch and egg whites.

The chicken is cooked in a hot skillet (two batches if necessary) with a minimum amount of oil for 6-8 minutes, or until golden.

Once the chicken is finished cooking, set it aside. The snow peas, aromatics, spices, and a mixture of cornstarch, water, and soy sauce are added to the hot skillet until the snow peas are tender and the sauce thickens. Once the snow peas are tender and the sauce thickens, toss the chicken back in to coat with the sauce and serve over cooked brown rice.

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, October 2008 Issue
Serves 4 (I say serves 8)
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

1-1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (**I got away with using 1 tablespoon)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Nutritional Info (based on 4 servings, reduce in half if serving 8)
: 532 calories; 10.4g fat; 36.5g protein; 72.2g carb; 5g fiber

This was a great recipe and the entire family enjoyed it. The recipe indicates that it serves 4, but it really does make a huge amount of food. I think it easily serves 8, which makes this a great dish if you have a large family and/or if you enjoy leftovers. We enjoyed this meal with some fresh pineapple on the side and found it very filling and satisfying. This is one of those meals that you actually feel good about serving your family because it is full of lean protein, whole grains, and veggies. I would definitely make it again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Michael Symon Meets Mark Bittman Over One Delicious Breakfast

Michael Symon, the tattooed Iron Chef from Cleveland, Ohio. Mark Bittman, the respected author and minimalist.

On the surface, they really don't look to have much in common. However, we know that both of them can cook AND when you put them both together....YOU GET THE MOST AMAZING BREAKFAST!

Introducing Mark Bittman's Frittata with Michael Symon's Homemade Pork Sausage, topped with Creamy Mascarpone cheese and Symon's Red Pepper Relish. On the side, Bittman's addictive Boiled and Buttered New Potatoes. This breakfast was the bee's knees, an A+, a home run....knocked clear out of the park. Best thing I've ate in sometime.

The frittata couldn't be simpler yet it was absolutely dreamy and amazing. Loaded with garlicky homemade pork sausage, red pepper relish, and the creamiest Mascarpone cheese. It was so indulgent, rich, and creamy. I savored it down to the last bite.
Bittman's Basic Frittata with Symon's Homemade Pork Sausage, Mascarpone & Red Pepper Relish
Adapted from How To Cook Everything

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
5 or 6 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Add in's :
1/2 pound of Michael Symon's Loose Pork Sausage*
About 4 ozs. Mascarpone Cheese
5-6 tablespoons Michael Symon's Red Pepper Relish*
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the butter or oil in a medium-to-large ovenproof skillet, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to medium. While it's heating, beat together the eggs, salt and pepper. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, pour the eggs into the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Crumble in 1/2 pound of Symon's loose sausage (reserving a few tablespoons for decorating top). Sprinkle about 2-3 tablespoons of Symon's Red Pepper Relish all across the top of the frittata. Spoon on 4-5 tablespoons of the Mascarpone Cheese all across the top of the frittata so that each serving has a dollop on top. Cook, undisturbed on the stovetop for about 10 minutes, or until the bottom of the frittata is firm.

Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake, checking every 5 minutes or so, just until the top of the frittata is no longer runny, 10-20 minutes more. Garnish with reserved sausage, dollop with extra Mascarpone, and sprinkle on some more of the Red Pepper Relish. Enjoy!!

Michael Symon's Pork Sausage can be made in three ways: stuffed into casings, crumbled or made into patties. I chose to crumble mine and was astounded at the wonderful garlicky flavor. It is absolutely delicious and really easy too!
Symon's Pork Sausage
Adapted from Live To Cook
Makes about 2 pounds, or about 8 6-inch links; serves 6-8
1-1/2 pounds pork shoulder, diced
1/2 pound pork fatback, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted
4 feet of hog casings (optional) soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and then flushed with water
Combine the meat, fatback, sugar, salt, garlic, and fennel seeds in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (NOTE: I used one pound fresh ground pork and reduced the recipe in half. I mixed all this together, chose to serve it crumbled and skipped the steps below because I don't have a meat grinder.)

About 30 minutes before grinding, place all the equipment in the freezer to get cold.
Grind the sausage mixture through a small die and return it to the refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes.

Using the paddle attachment on your mixer, mix the sausage on low speed for 30 seconds. Raise the speed to medium and add 6 tablespoons cold water. Mix for another minute or two and bring everything together.

At this point you have three options. You can stuff it into casings, form it into patties, or crumble it. The sausage will keep for up to 1 week covered in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to a month. Cook to an internal temperature of 150F before serving.

Symon's Red Pepper Relish is a wonderful condiment to have on hand for eggs, sandwiches, soup, fish and even chicken.
Symon's Red Pepper Relish
Adapted from Live To Cook
Makes 2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and finely diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (I used lemon juice)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil to glaze the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapenos and sweat for 2 more minutes. Add the coriander seeds and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the sugar and vinegar and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange juice (lemon juice) and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid completely reduces, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the relish to cool to room temperature. Season with salt to taste and fold in the cilantro. Refrigerate for up to 1 month (it will never last that long)!

I am submitting Bittman's Frittata and his Boiled New Potatoes to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Potluck Theme.

I am submitting Symon's Pork Sausage and Red Pepper Relish for the Symon Sundays even hosted by Ashlee of Veggie by Season. Head on over there later today to see how everyone enjoyed their sausage and relish.

Each Sunday, my friend Brenda at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen, hosts an event celebrating all cookbooks. I am also submitting this to her Cookbook Sundays.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deep Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Have you ever heard of a Deep Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich? Check out this quick 30 second video if you're not familiar with the concept.

I first saw it done this summer and have been meaning to post about it for awhile now. A self-confessed peanut butter lover, I'm somewhat puzzled by this creation. I didn't try it at the time, but I think curiosity would get the best of me the second time around.

What do you think?

Could it be worth the calories OR are you totally disgusted?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Raisin-Oat Cereal Bars

One of my new projects is cleaning up my cookbook and magazine collection so that I can fit everything on my bookshelves. As if my three bookshelves weren't enough, they are also scattered under the bed, on the couch, piled by the couch, in the kitchen drawers, and on the stairs. It's definitely time to streamline them and get organized.

Just yesterday, I started with my cooking magazines. Years upon years of subscriptions to Martha Stewart's Living Magazine.

My husband conveniently said "Just throw them away."

"Yeah right", I thought to myself. As if.

At any rate, I got them all out and littered them all over my living room floor. Martha's shining face was everywhere. I don't think my husband was very pleased to spend a Sunday afternoon in this fashion, but I know that I sure enjoyed myself! Sitting on the living room floor, I leisurely perused magazine after magazine, page after page, reveling in the idea of recipes and how they've changed over the past two decades. Some of the magazines predated the start up of the Food Network, back before food and cooking were as popular as they are today. It was fascinating and nostalgic, kind of like flashing back at food and how it's changed over the years.

Along the way, I found several more recipes to try, one of them was this recipe for Raisin-Oat Cereal Bars. I'm not sure why hours of looking at magazines resulted in me fixating on this one simple recipe, but it did. I dogeared this page four years ago, back before my son was born and also back before I even knew what a blog was. Back then I was just as passionate about food, but had no one to share it with. As I made these bars, I was thinking about how grateful I am to be part of the food blogging community, where others share the same passion as I do.

In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and a 10 ounce bag of marshmallows over medium heat; stirring occasionally, until marshmallows have melted,about 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Once marshmallow mixture has melted, remove from heat and add in 6 cups of Cheerios and 1 cup of dried cranberries or raisins.

Quickly incorporate the Cheerios and dried cranberries/raisins.

Pour the mixture into a 10x15 rimmed baking sheet (I used a 9x13), that has been lined with waxed paper and has either been sprayed with cooking spray, or coated in butter. Let sit for up to 1 hour before serving.

Notes/Results: Move over Rice Krispy Treats! These are just as tasty and a little healthier. The whole family enjoyed these and I can see myself making these often. So glad I took the time to go through those old cooking magazines and remove the recipes I want to try.

Nutritional Info (Makes 24 bars), Per Bar:
97 calories, 2.4 grams fat, 1.1 grams protein, 19.3 grams carbs, 1.2 grams fiber
WW points = 2

I wanted to take this time to say Thank you!
It really means a lot that somewhere out there, there are people who feel just like I do. People who would be just as floored at the suggestion of throwing away cookbooks or cooking magazines. Those of you who would be just as excited to sit on the floor and go through decades of old cookbooks and cooking magazines. I wish we could sit together and point out recipes, the ones we wanted to try and the ones where we would laugh and say "what were they thinking with that one?" I thought of all of you yesterday. Yesterday, when my husband and my Mom laughed at me for hoarding cookbooks. When they called me ridiculous and laughed in unison. I thought of all of you and I was so happy. So happy that somewhere you were all out there and understood exactly.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bean & Rice Burritos with Cheesy Salsa

Do you have serious food cravings? Cravings that just won't go away until you do something about it? For some people it's chocolate. For others it might be salty, crunchy chips. For me, it's beans. Is that weird? It's not that I don't crave other things, but usually it centers around beans. Right now is one of those times. I'm on a roll. In fact, I've had them for almost every meal this week. They've found their way into my eggs, into my pasta and now into my burrito. And, I'm not done yet. I have another bean dish in the works for tomorrow.

Today I had to have a bean and rice burrito. I followed Mark Bittman's recipe for cooking beans, the quick soak way. The recipe takes 3-4 hours in total and yields one pound of cooked beans. I used 3 cups of my cooked pinto beans to make Bittman's Refried Beans. I've never made homemade refried beans from scratch before and they were delicious!
Twice-Cooked (Refried) Beans
Adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
Serves 4 (easily serves 6)
1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn (*I used 1/2 tablespoon oil*)
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped jalapeno (optional)
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cumin, plus more if desired
3 cups cooked pinto or red beans
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more if desired
**See note below** Also used 1-2 cups of liquid (stock, water, bean cooking liquid)
Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion (jalapeno & garlic if using) and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the beans and mash with a large fork or potato masher. Continue to cook and mash, stirring, until the beans are more or less broken up (some remaining chunks are fine).
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the cayenne and more cumin if you like. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.
NOTE: To achieve a creamy consistency I used about 1-2 cups of chicken stock. You could also use veggie stock, beef stock, or even the leftover bean cooking liquid. The liquid allows the mixture to loosen up. It makes mashing the beans easier and also allows the beans to become very creamy.

To jazz up my burritos, I made a batch of long grain white rice and tossed in some chopped green onions. I had quite a few fresh tomatoes from my Mom's garden so I decided on Bittman's Fresh Tomato Salsa. Tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. It was vibrant, fresh and healthy....right up until I added an entire block of cream cheese to it and created a cheesy salsa topping for my bean burritos!

What is a bean burrito without cheese? I say POUR IT ON!! Give your burrito a bath:)

Fresh Tomato Salsa
Modified from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large white onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste
1 habanero or jalapeno chile (I used 2 jalapenos)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
salt and pepper
Combine all in a bowl, taste and adjust the seasoning. If possible, allow the flavors to meld for at least 15 minutes prior to serving

Cheesy Salsa

1 - 1-1/2 cups salsa (depending on taste)
1 block (8ozs.) cream cheese
Place both salsa and cream cheese in pan and cook over low heat until cheese melt and mixture becomes hot. Use as a topping, dip or filling.

I am submitting these cheesy burritos to I Heart Cooking Clubs for our Say Cheese theme.

I am also submitting this to Cookbook Sundays over at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pasta with Chickpeas and Garlic Sauce

Houston, we have a problem. Crazy people have taken me hostage. That's right. I think my family has gone crazy, especially the little ones. They've lost it. Anyone up for a rescue mission?

If so, please come prepared. I don't want you to be caught off guard when you encounter a certain sweet-faced, red-headed, three year old boy who accosts you by calling you a dumb ass. Apparently it's his favorite new word. I found out the hard way yesterday. All while shopping at a very crowded Target. He didn't just whisper it. He didn't just say it in a normal voice. No, he screamed it. Not just once. Not just twice. Three times. Three times he called me a dumb ass. His pronunciation and delivery were so clear. There was no mistaking it. I couldn't leave the store fast enough.

Warning: Plastic swords have been known to cast evil spells on children. Stay away from them if you value your humility.

You wanna know the funny part? I really don't like to take both kids shopping with me. I try to avoid it at all costs. But every once in awhile I get stubborn. I feel the need to persevere. I guess it's the allure of conquering an impossible task. A challenge yet to be won. I talk myself up. I tell myself that I can do it. Then I load them in the car and quietly wonder to myself "is this a dumb idea"? I already know the answer. Of course it's a dumb idea, but I don't listen. I take them against my better judgment. Even though I know it's a dumb idea. Only a dumb ass would do that, right?

After being called out by a three-year old, I returned home with something to prove. I felt a need to do something smart. And this pasta is very smart. So smart that I decided that I was no longer a dumb ass. I had graduated to a smart ass!

Pasta with Chickpeas and Garlic Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006
Serves 4
2 teaspoons olive oil (I reduced this to 1 tsp. with great results)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I say use more)
1 (15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce can chicken broth
1-1/2 cups uncooked medium seashell pasta (about 6 ounces or 4 cups cooked pasta)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved (I subbed two cups of fresh spinach)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed garlic; saute 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, chickpeas, and broth; bring to a boil. cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

While garlic mixture simmers, cook pasta in boiling water 9 minutes; drain well.

Place chickpea mixture in a food processor, and process until smooth. Combine chickpea mixture, pasta, tomatoes (in my case spinach), minced garlic, parsley, and lemon juice, toss well. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Loved this recipe! It's creamy, garlicky goodness that can be made from mostly pantry ingredients(great for when you have to leave the market w/out your groceries). Plus, it's healthy, tasty and inexpensive. Best of all, you will feel very smart when you eat it:)

Nutritional Facts:
Serves 4 (serving size 1 cup pasta and 2-1/4 teaspoons cheese)
Calories: 333
Fat: 9g
Protein: 13
Fiber: 7
Chol: 3mg
Iron: 3.3mg
Calc: 92mg
**Weight Watchers Points = 7

P.S. I'll leave you with a little something to think about. Something that most people would never think of. People don't always remember the children who display bad behavior in public. However, they always remember the redheaded ones. They remember their hair. They remember their faces and they remember that redheaded temper. No amount of time will cause them to forget that your little redhead was the one who pulled the fire alarm at the elementary school, broke the cabinet at the doctor's office, or hollered dumb ass in Target. Nope, there's no living it down. Inevitably, someone always says "I remember you......."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Symon's Linguine with Heirloom Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chile

On a day like today, I thought we could all benefit from a picture of the one and only super smiley Iron Chef Michael Symon. This is a guy who really knows how to enjoy himself. His smile. His laugh. It's infectious. Doesn't he look like he would be fun to have around in the kitchen?

Imagine this. Michael Symon is standing in your kitchen. He's making his recipe for egg yolk pasta dough which contains nine egg yolks. (You know that's some delicious pasta). You smell breadcrumbs toasting on the stove and you see colorful summery heirloom tomatoes, lots of sliced garlic, deliciously salty and briny capers, and anchovies. Could it get any better? After all, isn't pasta the way to anyone's heart?

Yes. I'm convinced that pasta is the way to anyone's heart. Man, woman, child, and maybe even the family dog. If you aren't lucky enough to find Chef Michael Symon in your kitchen, then this recipe for Linguine with Heirloom Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chile is the next best thing. You're really not settling for less, right? One doesn't settle for pasta. Pasta is so much more than a consolation prize.

Linguine with Heirloom Tomato, Capers, Anchovies, and Chile
Adapted from Live To Cook by Michael Symon
Serves 4-6
Kosher Salt
1 cup dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used one teaspoon)
3 garlic cloves, sliced (I say goodfellas thin)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I say live a little and add some more)
Egg Yolk Pasta Dough or one pound storebought linguine
1 large brandywine heirloom tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced (1 cup)
6 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, and minced
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers, rinsed and patted dry (I used 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 1/8 cup)
1/4 cup sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta and add salt until it tastes seasoned. Toast the bread crumbs in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing as needed, until lightly browned, about 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and sweat it for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.

Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes for homemade.

Meanwhile, add the tomato, anchovies, and capers to the saute pan, bring to a simmer, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the tomato has released its juices and the anchovies have melted into the sauce. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the extra-virgin olive oil and parsley.

Strain the pasta and add it directly to the sauce. Toss well before dividing among four bowls. Top with the bread crumbs.

Absolutely delicious! How could it not be? Fresh, summery, salty, spicy, light and totally addictive. I used regular store-bought pasta and reduced the olive oil for sauteing from 1 tablespoon down to 1 teaspoon. Instead of adding in 1/2 cup olive oil at the end, I reduced it down to 1/8 cup. This reduced amount of olive oil was more than enough. I would have loved to have made Symon's egg yolk pasta, but it's not really in the cards for me since I've been watching what I'm eating. Using the store-bought pasta helped to make this recipe healthier. If you're scared of anchovies, don't be. I like to use anchovy paste in place of real anchovies. All you need is 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste in place of 2 whole anchovies. For this recipe I used 1-1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste. I didn't even tell my daughter or husband. They didn't notice - at all!

This is my submission to this round of Symon Sundays hosted by the lovely Ashlee of Veggie by Season.

I'm also submitting this pasta to the wonderful Brenda of Brenda's Canadian Kitchen for her Cookbook Sundays roundup.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chickpea and Zucchini Tagine

Sexy food. Food so tantalizing that you find yourself licking your lips in anticipation. You can't wait to have it. When you finally take your first bite you are filled with sheer delight. You roll your eyes back in your head and moan in total satisfaction. It so satiating. It fills a need. It's everything you want it to be. You can't help it. You find yourself thinking of it throughout the day. It beckons you. That very thought of that sexy food is driving you crazy!

Sexy and sensual in just about every way it seduces all of your senses. The beauty of it, the sound of it, the smell, taste and touch. It awakens the senses. The soft, supple feel of bread dough in your hands. The cool creaminess of a treat that feels so good in your mouth. A ripe piece of juicy fruit that drips down your mouth and hands. A rack of ribs coated in barbecue sauce causing you to lick your fingers. The intoxicating smell of onions and garlic sauteing in a pan. Warm spices mixing to announce new and exciting flavors......promising something exotic and different. Food is the epitome of sexy.

The problem? Indulging in sexy food and buttoning one's pants do not usually go hand in hand. Let's face it. Comforting as they are, stretch pants are most definitely not sexy. Sometimes you have to scale it back a bit and when that happens, this Chickpea and Zucchini Tagine is both sexy and healthy.

Chickpeas, zucchini, tomatoes and onions are scented with warm spicy cumin and cooked down to a thick stew that is served over couscous. It makes for a very fragrant, satisfying, colorful meal that will call you back for more and make you feel good about it!!

Chickpea and Zucchini Tagine
Adapted from Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman
Cook chopped onion, a sliced zucchini, some ground cumin, a pinch of saffron, and some salt and pepper in olive oil (I used a teaspoon). When the onion is soft, add a can of drained chickpeas, along with a large can of chopped-up tomatoes, with their juice. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer and heat through; serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt and freshly chopped cilantro.

Notes/Results: Recipes like this making eating healthy fun. This is truly a wonderful meal served over couscous. I really enjoyed this dish. I had a cup of light coconut milk hanging out in the fridge, so I threw that in and it added a wonderful creaminess to the dish. A very tasty way to get in your veggies, fiber, and whole grains this is a meal that I would look forward to making again.

Weight Watchers Notes:
Makes 4 servings
(points include 1 cup of light coconut milk and 1 tsp. of olive oil)
5 points per serving, 6.5 with 1/2 cup couscous
*Most women range from 18-25 points per day, which makes this a wonderful choice.

I am submitting this to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's theme Damn, That's Sexy!

NOTE: Don't miss your chance to vote on our new chef/cook at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Will it be Giada De Laurentiis, Lidia Bastianich, Cat Cora, or Sara Moulton? It's your vote! Click HERE to be directed to our site and vote for your favorite.

I'm also submitting this to Roz's new blog hop @ La Bella Vita called Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why It's So Hard To Say Goodbye.......

Whew! Things have been wild and crazy here lately! I was so happy to have my Dad and his wife visit over the Labor Day weekend. Spending time with my Dad is always at the top of my list. He and I have always been big pals who understand each other perfectly. A look....a glance and we know what the other is thinking. Growing up he was the best father a girl could have and the biggest part of my heart will always belong to him. We all had a fabulous weekend filled with good eats, shopping, and lots of laughter. The weather was beautiful and the nights were cool enough for bonfires that lasted up to the midnight hour. As always, the weekend went by much too fast and I was really upset when I said goodbye to my Dad. That empty feeling crept up on me when I watched the car pull away.

In other news, last week my clock stopped know the one. The one that stops ticking when a woman turns 35? I'm thrilled with my two children and am thankful for them everyday, but it's weird to think that I better hurry up if I want more. I'm not sure if I'm ready to say goodbye to having more babies. To compound matters, my baby, my youngest, aka the sweetest boy on the planet, had his first day of preschool yesterday. I don't cry easily, but I cried about that. A lot.

I didn't get the chance to be a stay at home mom with my daughter. However, I have spent nearly every waking moment with my son from the time he was born. I think most parents, or mothers, feel anxiety when sending their children to school, but with Jackson it is much worse than that. He has severe food allergies. I'm talking major. Real life and death stuff. We've never left him with anyone other than his grandparents based solely on the fact that he has so many food allergies. Because he is allergic to so many things there is no question that he will be exposed to something, at one point or another. Although he is aware of his allergies, he is only 3 years old. Scared out of my mind, I packed his list of allergies, his symptoms, and his epipen and took him to school. Before I left he said "I totally love you mom." It was almost impossible to say goodbye. Let's just say it was a good thing I had cried it all out in the days before. I was able to keep it together as I left. I didn't know what to do with my time alone so I shampooed the carpet. I was way early picking him up from school and as I peeked through the classroom window I felt a huge sense of relief when I saw that he was okay. And then I realized that I would have to do it all over again. That's when I realized that I'm no good at saying goodbye.

Last week Tina from Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor was sweet enough to give me the Life Is Good Award. I adore Tina and her blog and definitely agree with her that Life is Good.......otherwise it wouldn't be so hard to say goodbye! I was supposed to answer ten questions about myself and pass it on, but I'm feeling rebellious so I decided to break the rules and share this post instead. I know Tina won't mind at all:)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicken Curry In A Hurry

I know you're all familiar with the freshman 15. What about the food blogger 15? When you're barely 5'3", fifteen pounds makes a big difference! For the past couple months I've been making feeble attempts to lose the weight. Until now. I can honestly say that I've been successfully dieting for the past month and have lost 8 of those nasty 15 pounds!

I haven't cut out all my favorite foods, but I have revamped my diet to include more whole grains, fiber and yes....way less fat. If I want to indulge (example: Symon's Sopressata Sandwich) then I make a little mini version of that recipe, which has been working out well. I've also joined Weight Watchers online to keep track of my food intake and also because they have a pretty nifty tool called a Recipe Builder. You can input your recipe and see the point value for each serving. This Recipe Building tool helps me to know whether the recipe I want to make is something that I should make.

Mark Bittman's Chicken Curry in a Hurry
definitely qualifies as a healthy recipe and better yet, it's quick and easy. I served the chicken curry on top of some pretty red tomato couscous, which made for a very colorful meal.

Chicken Curry In A Hurry
Adapted from Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman
In about a tablespoon of oil, cook a sliced onion, teaspoon of curry powder and some salt and pepper for about three minutes. Season chicken tenders (I used two sliced chicken breasts) with salt, pepper, and more curry powder. Nestle the chicken between the onions, and cook for about two minutes on each side; remove the chicken and set aside. Add a cup of plain yogurt, or sour cream (I used 0% Fage Greek Yogurt) to the pan and stir, cooking for another minute or so (do not boil). Return the chicken to the pan and cook for another few minutes turning once, until everything is cooked and warmed through. Adjust the seasonings and serve over couscous or jasmine rice.

A guilt-free creamy dish, this is a healthy and colorful meal that you can have on the table in around 10-15 minutes. The yogurt and curry powder combine to make a very tangy and warmly spiced meal. I did make some changes to the recipe. I reduced the oil to 2 teaspoons and used two chicken breasts and half of an onion. I do recommend chopping or dicing the onion instead of slicing. Not only would it look better, it would be easier to eat. I also think this recipe would be great with some extra veggies thrown in.

**Weight Watchers Info**
The chicken curry made four servings at 3 points each
1/2 cup couscous is 2 points
Total point value for chicken curry and couscous 5 points
-The average woman gets about 20-25 points per day, depending on size and activity levels. Most of the meals that I've been making have been between 6-8 points, so this recipe is really excellent because of it's low point value.

This is my entry for I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are celebrating Crunchy vs. Creamy! I knew right away that I would chose creamy...creamy food is so comforting!

Also, this month is the last month that we will be cooking with Mark Bittman at IHCC. Next month we will usher in a new lady chef. Who will it be? Giada DeLaurentiis, Lidia Bastianich, Cat Cora or Sara Moulton? Don't miss your chance to vote for your favorite!

I'm also excited to say that my Dad and his wife are coming for a visit this weekend. They usually only make it down once a year, so it is a special time for us. I probably won't be around very much and wanted to wish you all a wonderful Labor Day weekend! I hope you get to eat lots of yummy food:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Talk and Barbecue Sauce

"While cooking demands your entire attention, it also rewards you with endlessly sensual pleasures. The sound of water skittering across leaves of lettuce. The thump of the knife against watermelon, and the cool summer scent the fruit releases as it falls open to reveal its deep red heart. The seductive softness of chocolate beginning to melt from solid to liquid. The tug of sauce against the spoon when it thickens in the pan, and the lovely lightness of Parmesan drifting from the grater in gossamer flakes. Time slows down in the kitchen, offering up an entire universe of small satisfactions."

I love the way Ruth Reichl describes her love affair with cooking in this excerpt from her book Garlic and Sapphires. It's exactly how I feel but was unable to put into words. Maybe this helps explain why I love to cook in a quiet kitchen and most often by myself. I don't want an audience. I don't want distractions. I only want to concentrate on what I'm doing. It's like entering a peaceful place where you can lose yourself in the beauty of a recipe. Touching, smelling, tasting, stirring and all the while creating a wonderful dish from simple ingredients. I think cooking is the ultimate art form. Not only sensual, but satisfying. Do you like to savor your time in the kitchen too?

The rest of Ruth's book talks about her life as a well-known food critic living in NYC. In order to remain anonymous she disguises herself in various ways, modeling herself after her mother, an older woman, a gorgeous redhead, a divorced middle-aged woman and various other disguises. With each new disguise Ruth creates a new identity, seeing the world through that character's eyes. Disguised as her deceased mother she begins to understand and appreciate her, as an older woman she feels the despair and loneliness of going unnoticed, and as a gorgeous redhead she enjoys the attention. Each of Ruth's "characters" teaches her something new, making this book not only about restaurants and food, but also about self-discovery. I found this book very easy to relate to enjoyed it very much.

Switching gears completely, I also read Anthony Bourdain's very candid tale, Kitchen Confidential. Having only seen Bourdain for mere minutes on TV, I had no idea what to expect. Sure....I had heard about him and knew enough to know that he was a "say it like it is" kind of person. Turns out to say that he is a "say it like it is" person is to put it way too mildly. Bourdain holds nothing back. His book is so candid that at times it blew my mind ....yet I kept reading. I was drawn in with his tales of debauchery, drugs, sex, thievery, and secrets. The book is definitely interesting and gives insight to the inner workings of a kitchen. I don't know if I can say that I love Anthony Bourdain after reading this, but I definitely respect him for speaking his mind. I get tired of everything always needing to be "politically correct" and found this book to be a refreshing break from all that.

What about you? Have you read the book? What did you think?

Lastly, I also wanted to share Giada's Chicken with Balsamic Barbecue Sauce, recipe found HERE on Food Network. My pictures didn't turn out well, but I loved this BBQ sauce and couldn't pass up sharing it with you all. One full cup of balsamic vinegar gives this sauce such a pleasant tanginess. The recipe made quite a bit of sauce and we used it with several dinners without tiring of it. I will definitely be making it again.

If you happen to have read either book I would love to know what you thought!