Rockin’ Red Peppers

I watch a lot of cooking shows, but between you and me, the Food Network has basically become the MTV of cooking channels.  I can only watch so many Iron Chef America and Cupcake War episodes.  Where did all the actual cooking shows go?   To the Cooking Channel of course!  For those who have not yet discovered this channel, please turn on your tv and search for it until you find it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.   They have new chefs and cooks who bring a whole new freshness to the world of food.  Case in point, Nadia G of Bitchin’ Kitchen, which so happens to be on tv right now (two episodes starting at 10pm).  Nadia has got to be the most entertaining chefs on tv.  What makes her so great?  Well, first of all she is Italian-Canadian, her show is called Bitchin’ Kitchen, she has tons of tattoos, an awesome set and probably the best shoes I’ve seen outside my own kitchen.  Oh, and on her website you can see where she buys her clothes so you can dress just like her.

I have to say I jumped on the Nadia G bandwagon early on.  I bought her first cookbook before her first season concluded and pre-ordered her most recent cookbook as soon as I heard it was scheduled to be released.  We’ve tried many of her recipes, all have been wonderful and I kick myself after every success because I don’t use her recipes as often as I should.   Most of the recipes are pretty healthy, like tonight’s recipe:

Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey-  “Cookin’ For Trouble”-Nadia G

Ingredients:

5 red or orange bell peppers
2 cups San Marzano plum tomatoes, pureed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
11/2 pound ground turkey
2 carrots, grated
2 zucchini, grated

Directions for Tomato Pepper Sauce:
Roughly chop one red bell pepper, and cook in a small pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, until tender.

Drain and puree. Sieve the pureed pepper with the pureed tomatoes into a bowl. Season with the sea salt, raw sugar, and freshly cracked pepper. Set aside.

Peppers:
Slice the top off of 4 bell peppers; reserve the tops, and remember which top goes with which pepper. Remove the seeds and pith from the inside of the peppers.

Turkey Stuffing:
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 12 minutes, until slightly browned. Add the ground turkey and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Stir in the grated carrots, zucchini, and 1/2 cup of tomato pepper sauce, and take it off the heat.

Putting It Together:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the peppers in a deep baking dish, and spoon in the stuffing. Pour 1 tablespoon of tomato pepper sauce over the exposed stuffing and crown each pepper with its matching top. Pour the rest of the tomato pepper sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, and bake for 1 hour covered, and another 30 minutes uncovered.

Verdict:  Very good, quite a change from my mom’s stuffed peppers that are made with rice, mozzarella cheese, ground beef and tomato sauce, Eric likes these better (sorry mom).  I wish there was cheese, but honestly that’s just me because it really didn’t need it.  I made two peppers so I have a lot of filling left over.  No worries though, tomorrow we’re having a round 2 dinner where I’ll use the leftovers.   Scratch that, Eric just told me he ate most of the filling before cleaning up the kitchen.  Oops.  Anyway, I should mention that Nadia suggests that this can be made vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding rice and beans, that doesn’t sound so bad, maybe I’ll try that for a Meatless Monday. 

Well, now I have to plan tomorrows dinner since we aren’t having a round 2 recipe…I told you this was a good one!   So, in the words of Miss Nadia G “A la Prossima!”

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Pinning it on Jacques

The worst thing to happen to the internet since Facebook is Pinterest.  I find myself pinning recipes left and right during the work day, which means, I’m very productive.   Today I think I may have been caught red-handed.  My department head passes my cube periodically throughout the day and I’m pretty sure he checks out my computer screen with each pass.  Paranoia?  I think so.  He came by my cube today and asked me what I was making for dinner tonight.  You may not think this is weird or out of the ordinary.  But oh man, was it.  The first thing I thought was, “Oh rats, I’ve been caught”, my face turned all red and I started talking non-stop about cookbooks and I don’t even remember what….awkward to say the least.  A few more of my co-workers joined in the conversation after a bit and then I realized, maybe he really was just wondering what I was making for dinner.  I’m going to go with that and hope that this spirals into more food conversations in the future.  I’m going to try to limit my pinning though to only a few times a day, just in case. 

I told you I was going to make a few recipes from Jacques Pepin this week. Tonight happens to be recipe number 2, Chicken Breasts with Garlic and Parsley.  This was a wonderful 30 minute meal.  I paired it with a salad and Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (if you haven’t tried this, it’s so amazing.  Run to your nearest Trader Joe’s right now and buy at least three bags, you’ll thank me later). 

Chicken Breasts with Garlic and Parsley by Jacques Pepin “Fast Food My Way”

Ingredients:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 pound, 6 ounces), cut into 1- to 1-1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons Wondra flour or AP Flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoons chopped garlic

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 lemon, quartered

Directions:

Dry the chicken cubes with paper towels and toss them with the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add the chicken cubes and cook in one layer turning occasionally, for about 3 1/2 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the butter and the parsley mixture to the skillet and sauté for 1 minute longer, shaking the skillet occasionally to coat the chicken. Divide among 4 plates, add a wedge of lemon to each plate and serve within 15 minutes.

Verdict:  This dish was super easy and tasted french, I think it was the butter which created a delicious pan sauce.  I only made this with two breasts since there is just two of us.  Apparently my husband has a bottomless stomach because he was still hungry despite eating a decent sized salad and a couple of heaps of the grains.  I also think this would make a great hors d’oeuvre for a party, just stick a fancy  toothpick in it and voila, you’re good to go.  

Maybe I should pin this recipe???  Nah, just go buy the cookbook, it contains tons of great recipes and exceeds my 5 recipe rule for cookbook purchasing.   I heard Mr. Pepin will be at the Metropolitan Cooking Show in DC this coming November.  If you’ve never been, its awesome.  I’ve been the last two years and had such a great time.  This year I’m thinking about going to Jacques cooking demo.  I freaked when I saw Paula Deen two years ago, I don’t know how I will contain myself when I see Jacques!  I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

Almost Meatless Monday

It seems like I start every week with a bad case of the Mondays. I’m not sure if its because I’m still not used to working Mondays (I worked 10 hour days to get one day off a week at my old job) or if its because the work week officially begins once again. I’m going to say both.

Today was a pretty slow day at work, which didn’t help, though I did get all 3 stars on the Back To School level in Angry Birds. Its the little victories that get me through day. I also took time to take a nice leisurely walk down King Street to grab a sandwich at Bittersweet Cafe. Unfortunately I decided to do meatless Monday after I ate my Big George chicken sandwich, a must if you ever go there, also the BLT is pretty amazing. They have the best bacon!

I’ve seen more and more articles about Meatless Mondays. I think the concept is great. We as a society eat so much meat that if we could just take one day out the week to go meatless we would not only gain the health benefits, but also help the environment. Look into it, its pretty interesting and just think of all the yummy new recipes you will discover. We’ve decided to do Meatless Mondays for all the above reasons. I have a feeling there will be a lot of pasta recipes in my near future.

Here’s our first meatless meal (we did have sausage, I bought it before we decided to do this and I’m not one to waste. Also, it was chicken sausage and really, is that even meat?)

 Pasta Caprese (Williams-Sonoma’s Pasta Cookbook)

Ingredients:

5 large tomatoes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin

salt and pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flake

1 lb. penne pasta

1/2 lb mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

15 fresh basil leaves shredded

Directions:

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then cut them into small dice. Drain the diced tomatoes in a colander for about 15 minutes to remove excess liquid.

In a bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Toss and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to develop the flavor.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water (I’d say this is optional, I skip this step) add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes ( I used Barilla, it takes like 9 minutes).

Drain the pasta and put it in a warmed large, shallow bowl. Add the tomato mixture and toss. Add the mozzarella and basil shreds and toss gently. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at once.

Verdict: This tasted like summer. So fresh and just delicious. I’m a parm cheese addict so I had to put some on top, but its not really necessary. This isn’t really a 30 minute recipe, it does take some time to prep, just a heads up in case you’re in a rush. Also, make sure you slice the garlic thin, its pretty garlicky. I’m sure you could pull out the pieces of garlic after it has infused the tomato mixture, but thats not fun. If you’re worried about garlic breath, just be sure to eat it with someone else, that way you’ll both stink. This makes enough for 6, so since there’s only two of us that means leftovers for lunch!!

Tuesday is already looking like it will be an awesome day, despite my prediction of me having really bad garlic breath.

Sunday Food Funday

I love Sunday, it seems to be the only day of the week where we take it slow and relax before the crazy work week begins. It’s also the only day of the week that we make breakfast in my house. Eric makes the best pancakes I’ve ever had south of the Mason-Dixon, I say that because there are some pretty rockin’ diners up north. currently we are obsessed with Stonewall Kitchen’s pancake mix. Now usually I’m into mixes, they tend to taste fake and processed, but this mix is different. The pancakes are so light and fluffy and come out perfect every time.

Last weekend while we were shopping at our favorite cooking store I found the coolest baking pan, a waffle dipper pan! I love how there are all these specialty out on the market, my collection is growing by the minute, from donut pans, to individual brownie square pans, and now waffle dipper pans, what will they come up with next? Today we made pancake dippers (pancake recipe baked in the waffle pan), so good! I suggest if you have kids or are a kid at heart this is a great item to add to your baking collection.

 

Our lunch today was pretty uneventful.  We weren’t super hungry for lunch until 4pm, so of course eating so late kind of put a hold on the dinner we had planned.  But just because we skipped dinner, doesn’t mean we had to skip dessert.    As I have mentioned before, I have tons of cookbooks.  My goal is to try a few new recipes from different cookbooks each week.   The list keeps growing of the recipes I want to try, so this may just work out.   One of my favorite chefs is Jacques Pepin.  I used to watch him on the Create Channel until Comcast decided to stop showing it, or moved it, in any event I can’t find it anymore and I’m totally bummed about it.  So what did I do, I bought his show’s cookbooks  “Fast Food My Way” and “More Fast Food My Way”.   All the recipes in these books are fast, fresh, and perfect for dinner during the week.    Tonight we tried his Crisp Pear Tart recipe since it called for tortillas which we had left over from the enchilada’s a few nights ago.    Here’s how you make it:

Crisp Pear Tart  from More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin

Ingredients: 
1 7-inch or 8-inch flour tortilla

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

2 medium Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and each cut into 12 wedges (about 3/4 pound total)

3 tablespoons apricot preserves

1 tablespoon unsalted pistachio nuts

 
Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper.Place the tortilla in the center of the baking sheet, then spread 1 tablespoon of the butter on the top of the tortilla and sprinkle it with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Turn the tortilla over so the buttered side is facing down.Beginning at the edge of the tortilla, arrange the pear wedges in a concentric circle, with the thin edge of each wedge facing the tortilla’s center. Create another slightly overlapping circle, working in toward the center. Add more rows with the remaining wedges, ending with a few pear pieces in the center to complete what will look like a large rose. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into pieces and use them to dot the top of the apples. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the pear slices are tender and the tortilla is crisp and browned. Remove from the oven, set aside for a minute or so, then lift the tart with a spatula and transfer it to a wire rack to cool, discarding any burned bits around it.

If the apricot preserves are too thick to use as a glaze, heat them in a microwave oven for about 10 seconds to liquefy them, then spread or brush them on top of the tart.

Cut the tart into 4 wedges, sprinkle with the pistachios and serve at room temperature.

I served it with homemade Salted Caramel Ice Cream (ok, so this time it wasn’t completely homemade, I cheated and used Sur La Table’s mix, I know, I know, another mix, but it was from Sur La Table so it’s ok.) 

Verdict:  Eric probably could have eaten three more of these.   I’d totally serve this to company, you wouldn’t even know it was a tortilla it was so crispy and the sugar caramelized making it crunchy.  Only suggestion I would make is, be sure you buy regular Pistachio nuts, the salt and pepper ones give it a certain flare, but the plain ones would be much better.  

This is just one of three recipes from Monsieur Pepin we are trying this week,  this set the bar pretty high and I’m sure we will not be disappointed.  Merci et bonne nuit.

Fiesta Flavors

My husband, Eric, went to New Mexico a few weeks ago for work. I was so jealous that he was enjoying both green and red chile sauce on basically everything he ate. Though he was nice enough to bring back jars of both, it’s just not the same.  Not to mention the red sauce jar seal popped during the flight, well, that’s what Eric says.  I’m just hoping that it wasn’t tampered with….we’ll soon find out.

Tonight we finally tried the red chile sauce on enchiladas. Now, I have done enchiladas many ways, but after some trial and error, I’ve come up with the most delicious chicken filling.  I think I adapted it from a Cooks Illustrated I found a few years ago. This works well with tacos too. Here’s what I do:

Chicken Enchilada/Taco Filling (makes 5-6 enchiladas depending on how much filling you want)

2 chicken breasts

water (enough to cover chicken in pot)

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 Tbsp. cumin

Directions:

Place chicken in a 4 quart pot, cover with water and add all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 mins. Once done, take the chicken out and let cool on a cutting board, do not discard the seasoned water. As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and put it in a bowl. Strain out the onion and garlic and add to the shredded chicken. At this point you can leave as is or add enchilada sauce, green chiles, cheese or jalapeno. Now the filling is ready and you can begin assembling your enchiladas.

Tonight I added two jalapeno. We’ve had great success growing them ourselves this year, though I should have checked their potency before I added both, they were very spicy. Unfortunately, they burned my face off and I could only eat half an enchilada. No worries though, Eric ate the rest of mine and finished the other 4 in the pan.

Even though my portion of dinner was a bust, we made up for it by taking a walk to Rita’s Italian Ice.  I love italian ice on a hot summer day, but I like a twist custard sugar cone even better. I’m probably going to pay for it later as I need to watch my dairy intake (TMI?) but so far it was totally worth it, ask me in a few hours and we’ll see how I feel about it then. 

Custard always brings me back to summers growing up.  We had many ice cream places in upstate NY, but the favorites were definitely Orbaker’s (yummy sundaes), Abbott’s (the best custard ever!!) and Chill and Grill (the biggest kiddie sized ice cream cone I’ve ever seen!!).  Tonight was just lovely and even though I’m not 5 years old anymore, an ice cream cone seems to make everything better in the world. 

 

Did you say tomato?

Every year one of my family members grows a garden.  I’m not really sure what they put in the soil but every year the veggies seem to get bigger and more plentiful.  This last weekend they brought me a huge bag full of tomatoes.  Can I tell you, there is nothing better than a tomato picked right off the vine. I probably could eat the whole lot of them in one sitting as if they were apples.  Anyway, the first thought that popped into my head was, what the heck am I going to do with all these tomatoes?  Sure I could put them into my salad, but that’s super boring. Then I remembered that I have a couple of cookbooks that deal with veggies.

Tonight’s recipe comes from The Market Fresh Cookbook by Taste of Home, a wonderful cookbook full of recipes for both side dishes and main courses that incorporate farm fresh veggies.

Bruschetta Chicken

Ingredients:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup egg substitute (I used 2 large eggs)

4 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 1 pound)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used seasoned because it’s what I had on hand)

1 Tbsp. melted butter

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped

3 Tbsp. minced fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Place flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in flour, then in eggs; place in greased 13×9 baking dish.  Combine the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over chicken.** Loosely cover baking dish with foil.  Bake 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until browned.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.  Spoon over the chicken. Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until tomato mixture is heated through.

**Variation: Dip chicken in flour, then in eggs, then in breadcrumb/parmesan mixture (omit the butter), just like if you were making chicken parm.  Pan fry the cutlets in olive oil until browned on each side and finish in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Verdict: If you like garlic, and I do, you’ll like this.  It was very garlicky, maybe because I used 3 cloves instead of 2.  My husband gave it two thumbs up and wants it in our menu rotation. Next time I’ll make double since he apparently has two stomachs and is still hungry.  He just polished off a box of Basic 4.

Hello foodies and food lovers!

My love of food started at a young age, well, maybe after the strained peas phase.  Food has always been the centerpiece of every family gathering, whether it is a holiday or just a quiet afternoon chat, there is bound to be plates and platters filled with delicious treats.  I probably have over 200 cookbooks and cooking magazines.  I haven’t counted in a while,but I do know I’m running out of space.

I decided to create this blog in hopes that I would be able to document recipes from my collection of cookbooks and share with you the delicious creations I stumble across.