Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Glazed Asparagus & Carrots

The light, flavorful glaze is the perfect enhancement for fresh spring asparagus and carrots.
Made with ingredients that are always on hand, you'll have this on the table in no time.  Pair with  grilled chicken or fish and a baked potato for a simple week night dinner.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook about 3 to 4 minutes until tender crisp, stirring occasionally.  Add carrots, asparagus and and cook about 2 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and mix well.  Pour into skillet, reduce heat to medium, and cook until veggies are tender and sauce is reduced to a glaze consistency.

Mexican Shrimp & Sweet Corn Chowder

Chilly nights are back...warm things up with this oh so rich and delicious soup. A perfect blend of smoke, spice, and sweet ~ this creamy chowder is made with skim milk so it's low in fat but high in flavor.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
4 small red potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 cups skim milk
2 cups shrimp stock*
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped (reserve shrimp shells to make stock)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Melt butter in a 4-quart pot and cook onion, celery and salt over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add potatoes and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir flour, cumin, coriander and chipotle chili powder into vegetables and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in milk and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer chowder for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add shrimp and corn, return to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.  Stir in cilantro and serve with diced avocado and lime.

*To make shrimp stock, place shrimp shells and 4 cups water in a saucepan.  Add any veggie scraps from the recipe prep: onion peel, celery leaves, tops or bottoms.  Add 1 or 2 whole unpeeled garlic cloves, about 10 peppercorns, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes.  The longer the stock simmers, the more flavor it will have.  Strain solids and reserve stock.

You can also use vegetable stock, or store bought seafood stock or clam juice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fruity Chocolate Pizza

National Chocolate Week continues.
Chocolate, fruit, pizza...need I say more?

2 Boboli mini pizza crusts (8-inches each)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon strawberry preserves
1/2 cup sliced fruit (strawberry, kiwi, banana or your favorites)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (combination of white, dark and/or milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Brush butter mixture all over top of pizza crusts.   Spread preserves evenly over crusts leaving about a 3/4 inch border at the edge, top with fruit then chocolate chips.  Place in oven, directly on the rack, and bake 8 to 10 minutes or until chocolate chips melt.  Watch carefully, as the chips will hold their shape.

Classic Rueben

This classic knife and fork sandwich is the answer to what to do with leftover St. Patty's Day corned beef.

sliced rye bread
Thousand Island Dressing
corned beef, heated
sauerkraut, heated
Swiss cheese

Arrange bread slice(s) on a baking sheet.  Spread bread with dressing, then top with corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.  Place under preheated broiler (about 6 inches away) and broil about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Grab a cold Guinness and dig in.

*No amounts are give for this recipe as it is completely subjective to your taste.  So go ahead and pile it on.  In this case, bigger is better!

Happy Spring

When most people think of spring, they think daffodils and tulips. For me, nothing says spring like the abundance of gorgeous asparagus!
Happy first day of Spring!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

Just in case you needed an actual excuse to eat chocolate...I've got one.
It's National Chocolate Week.  And that means, you absolutely MUST consume chocolate.

In honor of Chocolate Week, I'll be posting a delicious chocolatey recipe every day.
Today's recipe, just happens to be on the healthy side. 
Peanut butter, pretzels (use whole wheat so you will really feel good about these) and dried cranberries rolled up and dipped in deep, dark chocolate (and we all know that dark chocolate is good for you!).  So indulge...no guilt allowed.

1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate, melted

Combine peanut butter, pretzels and cranberries in a bowl.

Drop by slightly rounded teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Freeze for about 15 minutes or until mixture is firm enough to handle.

Gently, but quickly, roll into balls; then freeze for about 30 minutes or until firm.  Dip in melted chocolate, rolling in chocolate until evenly coated.  Place on parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheet.  If balls start to soften too much, pop them back in the freezer for a few minutes until firm enough for dipping.  Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until chocolate has hardened.

Make about 30 bites.

Crushing pretzels:  Place pretzels in a ziploc bag and seal.  Using a somewhat heavy object (like a meat mallot, measuring cup, wooden spoon) push down on bag gently but firmly, to crush pretzels until they reach the desired consistency.

Twice Baked Potato Gratin

Love eating twice baked potatoes but think they're too much work?   Try this Twice Baked Gratin.  The rich, creamy goodness of a twice baked potato with much less fuss.

3 pounds red skinned potatoes, quartered (unpeeled)
coarse salt
1/2 cup milk or half and half
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 green onions, sliced

Place potatoes in a 4-quart sauce pot and add enough water to cover.  Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain.

With an electric mixer on slow speed, mix potatoes gently until mashed consistency.  Add remaining ingredients  and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix just until combined.  Do not over mix.  Turn potatoes  into a 1 to 1-1/2 quart casserole.  Bake 15 minutes until top begins to brown.

Tidbit:  If you've got lots of leftover potatoes from St. Patrick's Day, this is the perfect recipe to turn those leftover potatoes into something special.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Animal Magnetism

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
This spring it's more like cheetah and leopard and snakeskin.  Oh MY!
Spring colors and styles spiced up with sexy animal prints. The perfect addition to turn the heat up on your spring and summer wardrobe.

Jessica Simpson - Bendie
Zigi - Printy
Chinese Laundry - Move Over
Mia Women's Satuesque
Zigi - Priority
Zahari - Promiscuous
Steve Madden - Shazzam
Jessica Simpson - Beijo

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Irish "Potatoes"

Some versions of this recipe use actual potato, but these cute little confections use cream cheese, butter, sugar and coconut.   Form into mini potato shapes and roll in cinnamon to achieve the potato like appearance.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 16-ounce package confectioners' sugar
1 7-ounce package flaked coconut (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add confectioners' sugar and beat until mixture is smooth.  Add coconut and beat on low speed until coconut is evenly distributed.

Roll mixture into potato shaped balls about 1 to 1-1/2 inches each.  Roll lightly in cinnamon until evenly coated.

Refrigerate for about an hour or until firm.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Cake

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with the flavors of a traditional Irish Cocktail turned into a decadent dessert.  Chocolate Guinness cake is brushed with an Irish whiskey glaze and then topped with fluffy frosting flavored with Bailey's Irish Cream.  Even if an Irish Car Bomb isn't your thing, you'll love this cake!

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups  sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 9-inch cake pans, and line with parchment paper.
Heat Guinness, butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat just until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring frequently; cool slightly.
Beat eggs, sour cream and vanilla together in a large bowl;.  Add Guinness mixture to egg mixture stirring well. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour half the batter into each prepared cake pan.
Bake in the preheated oven until the top of the cake bounces back when touched lightly with a finger, about 40 minutes.  Cool in pans for 15 minutes, then remove and cool on wire rack.

1/2 cup Irish whiskey
1/2 cup sugar

Bring whiskey and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Boil vigorously, uncovered about 10 minutes until mixture is reduced slightly and syrupy.  Keep warm until ready to use.

8 ounces Neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese), softened
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup Baily's Irish Cream liquor
1 cup heavy cream

Beat softened Neufchatel cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add Baily's and beat just until combined.  With mixer running, slowly pour in heavy cream and beat until mixture holds soft peaks.  Chill until ready to use.

Place 1 cake layer on cake dish.  Brush top of cake with half of the warm Irish Whiskey glaze.  Allow to cool slightly.  Spread  a thin layer (about 1-1/2 cups frosting) over cake; top with second cake layer and brush with remaining warm glaze; let cool. Top with remaining frosting.  Pile the frosting fairly high and let it fall irregularly around the side of the cake to give the appearance of the foam at the top of a Guinness.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Asparagus and Potato Frittata

Daylight savings, daffodils in the garden, baseball and gorgeous asparagus are sure signs that spring is in the air.  This meatless Monday is all about a hands-down favorite spring vegetable.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 small red potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
8 ounces thin asparagus, tough ends removed and broken into 2 to 3 inch pieces (leave 5 to 6 asparagus whole for garnish)
1 clove garlic, pressed
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk or half and half
1 cup Swiss cheese

Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof, nonstick skillet and cook potato, onion and salt over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Remove from skillet.  Add  asparagus and garlic and cook over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, until tender-crisp.  Remove from skillet.

Arrange potatoes and onions in an even layer in the skillet. 

Arrange asparagus over potatoes.

Beat eggs with milk and 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and pour over vegetables. Arrange the whole asparagus decoratively over the eggs and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cook, covered over low heat about  8 minutes until almost set.  Edges will look done.

Place under broiler for 2 to 4 minutes or until eggs are cooked and top of frittata is golden.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spicy Mango Mojito

Mojito's are typically a warm weather drink, but we've had such spring-like weather of late, it's put me the mood for light, refreshing, summery cocktails.  The hot trend in cocktails these days to infuse them with savory or spicy flavors.  Personally, I like that unexpected fresh herb or spice note while sipping my drink.  This recipe takes the flavors of a fruity and savory side dish and turns it into a mouthwatering cocktail.  Inspired by the flavors of mango salsa, it's delicious with or without the rum. 

1/2 small lime
3 sprigs cilantro
3 slices jalapeno pepper
1 slice peeled, fresh ginger
2 ounces mango nectar
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce rum
3 ounces club soda

Muddle lime, cilantro, jalapeno and ginger in a glass.  Fill glass with ice and add mango nectar, pineapple juice and rum; stir.  Pour club soda into glass and garnish with fresh lime and cilantro.


Gemelli with Crabmeat and White Wine Sauce

This light but flavorful sauce is the perfect accompaniment to fresh pasta. 

1 pound fresh gemelli pasta (or any pasta of your choice)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large tomato chopped
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable or seafood stock
16 ounces lump crabmeat*
2 cups fresh arugula

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to time recommended on package, drain and keep warm.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet and cook onion and salt over medium heat, about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add tomato and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tomato begins to break down.  Add white wine and bring to a boil over high heat, boil for about 1 minute.  Stir in stock and crabmeat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Stir in arugula and simmer just until arugula is wilted, about 1 minute.

*Shrimp can be substituted for crabmeat.  You will need to increase the cook time slightly; cook shrimp until they turn pink.

Fresh Gemelli pasta.  Fresh pasta shouldn't be bogged down with a heavy sauce. This pasta calls out for a sauce that lets the gorgeous pasta be the star of the plate.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Product Spotlight - Crystal Light Mocktails

Lent is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter which is a time of repentance for Christians.  In an effort to rededicate yourself to your faith, some sort of sacrifice is typically made.  This year, I decided to give up cocktails, all forms.  Now I haven't gone too public with that information until now, since I think there was a certain amount of doubt that I could stick to it, and because I write a Meals, Heels and COCKTAILS blog.  So far I have not fallen off the wagon, although I think I may have been a bit more difficult to live with the last 2 weeks!

Now, for me, cocktails are not just about having a drink.  It's the whole experience... mixing, shaking, rimming the glass, stuffing the olives, pouring into the pretty glass...you get the idea.  I've been amusing myself with mocktails, or alcohol free cocktails, the last two weeks to keep it interesting. But, sometimes you just don't want to go through the effort.

You can just imagine my delight when I walked into the supermarket the other day, and there on display, were 3 new Crystal Light Flavors.  Margarita, Pomtini, and Peach Bellini.  I picked up the Margarita and Pomtini and couldn't wait to get home and shake 'em up.

Both flavors were refreshing and delicious.  Now they didn't taste quite like the real thing, but if you throw some alcohol in there, who knows.  (I'll give it a try and report back after 4 1/2 very long weeks!).  Low sodium, sugar free, caffeine free, and just 5 calories per serving, these drinks are a guilt free pleasure.   They retail for about 3 dollars and each container makes 10 quarts.

For right now, they are serving the purpose of a no calorie, no alcohol, thirst quenching drink.  But I think they'll make a very nice addition to my summer cocktail repertoire.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Strawberry 'n Oreo Cookie Crumble

In honor of Oreo's birthday, a recipe worth celebrating.

8 ounces Neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese), softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
10 Oreo cookies, coarsely crushed
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup flaked coconut, optional

Beat softened Neufchatel cheese, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.   Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture and mix until well combined.  Fold crushed Oreo's, strawberries and coconut into mixture.  Chill until ready to use.  Spoon into serving dishes and garnish with crushed Oreo's, coconut and strawberries if desired.

Makes about 4 cups.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

If I could just give up that late night snacking, I'd be 10 pounds lighter!  Sound familiar?  I've already given up cocktails for Lent, so I really do need something to look forward too at the end of the day.  Spiced roasted chickpeas satisfy that desire for something crunchy, yet don't leave you riddled with guilt.  High in protein and fiber, low in fat and easy to make.  Just toss with a little olive oil and some spices, then roast until crispy. 

1 28 ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon lime zest, optional
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine olive oil and spices in a large bowl.  Add chick peas and toss until evenly coated.  Spread chickpeas on a baking pan and place in middle of oven.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until chickpeas are crisp.  Shake pan or stir chickpeas about every 20 to 30 minutes to allow them to roast evenly.  Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Easy Chicken Francaise

This classic recipe is a family favorite in our house.  It's a quick, easy weeknight meal but often on the menu for birthday dinners.  A restaurant classic, I don't think many people realize just how easy this is to make at home.  The secret here is to use nice thin pieces of chicken and finish the sauce with butter so it's rich and delicious.  You can pound your chicken to get it nice and thin, but today's chicken breasts are so large, I find that cutting them in half horizontally gives you just the result your looking for and eliminates the need to pound.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin
2 large eggs, slightly beaten with tablespoon milk or water
1 stick butter, divided
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth

Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Dip chicken in eggs then flour mixture; set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and brown chicken in batches; remove and set aside.

Stir lemon juice into skillet and boil for 1 minute, then stir in broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low and simmer 3 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted.  Serve with cooked rice, pasta or crusty bread.

When making this for a crowd, you can double, triple  or even quadruple this recipe.  Brown the chicken as above and place chicken in a large baking pan or dish.  Proceed with the sauce, once chicken is browned.  Pour sauce over the chicken in the baking pan.  Dish can be prepared to this point and held until needed.  Bake chicken in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked.