Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken Tacos / Fish Tacos

spice rubbed fish and vegetable taco with tequila lime aioli
Our version of "Spice-Rubbed Chicken and Vegetable Tacos" from Bon Appetit June 2006. For a long time we ate these ALL THE TIME and recently we made a new adaptation by adding a fish option.

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 Tablespoon smoked hot Spanish paprika (Pimenton de la Vera) or really any hot paprika
2 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

2-4 small zucchini (ok, the recipe says 2 but we like zucchini), quartered lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cut lengthwise into 3/4 inch-thick strips (or just 4 to 5 pieces)
pam cooking spray
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 pound flounder fillets (or any light flaky fish that you like)

12 5- to 6- inch diameter flour tortillas, warmed
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges (optional)
tequila lime aioli (recipe follows)
salsa

Directions
Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Whisk brown sugar and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl to blend for spice rub.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place zucchini and bell pepper on sheet. Spray with Pam, sprinkle spice rub over the vegetables, turn them all over and spray and sprinkle the other side. Sprinkle spice rub on both sides of the chicken as well (I recommend you keep the veggies and chicken separate, then you can bring the cooked veggies in on the same tray you took them out on without having to worry about salmonella). Prepare a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil to grill the fish on - that way you won't have to worry about it sticking to the grill and falling apart. Fold the foil to make a space large enough to hold the fish, then spray it with non-stick spray. Place the fish on the foil and sprinkle it with the spice rub.

Place chicken and veggies on barbecue. Grill until vegetables are tender (or tender-crisp) and browned in spots and chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally. Veggies cook more quickly than the chicken. When you take the chicken off the grill, slide the foil with the fish onto the grill. It will only take a few minutes. 

Slice the chicken into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Separate the flounder fillets in half. Cut vegetables crosswise into 3/4 inch pieces. Serve with warmed tortillas, tequila lime aioli, salsa and lime. We also like to grill corn on the cob to go with this.

Tequila Lime Aioli:
3 tablespoons premium tequila
1 lime, juiced
8 ounces sour cream (we use fat-free)
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper

In small bowl, combine all ingredients and chill for 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Vanilla Creme Brulee


For our un-official series "fun things to make in ramekins," we adapted this from a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp after doing our best to find one that was a little lighter than average.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
8 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 8 teaspoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Bring the cream, half-and-half and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer to infuse the cream with the vanilla, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and cool slightly. Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and the salt in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is pale yellow and thick; it should leave a trail when you lift the whisk. Pour in the cream mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Skim off any foam or bubbles from the surface.

Arrange eight 6-ounce ramekins in a roasting pan and divide the custard evenly among them.

Pull out the oven rack slightly, place the roasting pan on it and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until the custards are just set in the center, 40 to 45 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill, uncovered, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

About 30 minutes before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over each custard. Tilt the ramekins to evenly distribute the sugar and tap out any excess.

Holding a kitchen torch about three inches away, burn the sugar until it turns a deep amber. Refrigerate the creme brulees just until the crust hardens, 30 minutes to 1 hour, but not longer (the topping may start to soften). Serve cold.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bridal Shower Fun!

Saturday we celebrated Britain's bridal shower with a brunch at Jenn's house, hosted by the bridesmaids. Here are a few photos of the fun!

The gorgeous and amazing praline cake was from Au Peche Mignon, our local French Bakery. Thins layers of very light yellow cake brushed with rum then sandwiched with praline mousse - divine! The edges were coated in crushed pecans and the top in slivered toasted almonds and powdered sugar. Each bite melted in your mouth!

The flowers are in the wedding colors and similar to the arrangements Britain and Chris will have at the wedding. See close up photos of the cake and the flowers below. 

Our brunch offerings included mini-quiches (ham, red bell pepper and shallot as well as mushroom and leek, both in fillo dough cups), a yogurt parfait bar, mini-muffins, caprese on a stick and a wonderful citrus salad with feta cheese. 
the buffet
On the left, caprese salad on a stick - grape tomatoes, basil and mozzarella (some with pepperoni, some without) with a wonderful vinaigrette dressing for dipping; on the right, citrus salad with feta and mint. 
At top left: peanut butter chocolate chip muffins; top right: carrot cake muffins;
bottom: berry muffins with blueberries
The yogurt parfait bar included three kinds of yogurt (plain, light blueberry, and Cabot Creamery vanilla bean Greek yogurt, which is amazing by the way) as well as homemade granola and a variety of nuts and dried fruits. 
Our shower game - guess the age of the bride in each of the photos. It was really fun - Jenn won, she got 6 of 10 correct! (For the record, I only guessed 3 correctly!)
This photo of the bride and me was taken by the Matron of Honor, Joy - as were the next three.
Another view of the yogurt parfait bar - sharing it because you can see the cake table in the dining room, through the arched doorway on the right. On the table are the favors, pink lemonade cupcakes, baked by Jenn, in cute little pink and navy boxes. Also, hanging from the pot rack are the great crepe paper rose balls Joy made for decorating. They were really neat.
From left to right: bridesmaid Michelle, Britain, Chris's cousin, Alexa, Chris's Aunt Fabiana and Chris's Mom, Donna.

Flower girl Lottie, daughter of the Matron of Honor, with her Aunt Stephanie. 
A gift from the bride - strawberries from Plant City! We ate them all in less than 24 hours!!
Close up of the cake
Close up of the flowers

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quote of the Week

"Believe in yourself
and all that you are.
Know that there is 
something inside you
that is great
than any obstacle."
- Christian D. Larson

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fish en Papillote

Translated: fish in paper. Sounds complicated but the hardest part is folding the paper. The prep itself is simple. Adapted from this recipe from Melissa D'Arabian

Ingredients
1/2 red onion, shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 large carrot, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) sole fillets, hake, flounder or other white fish (we used flouder)
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 pats butter (1 teaspoon each)
1/4 cup water (original called for white wine)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, mix together the onion, zucchini, carrot and garlic. Add the oil, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Put each fish fillet in a large square of parchment paper and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables on top, dividing evenly. Top the vegetables with 2 lemon slices, 2 sprigs thyme, a teaspoon of butter and 1 tablespoon water, layering in order. Fold the parchment paper around the edges tightly in 1/4-inch folds to create a half moon shape. Make sure you press as you crimp and fold to seal the packets well, otherwise the steam will escape. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet. Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. To serve, cut open the packets and serve directly in the parchment on a plate or remove the fish to the plate using a spatula, being sure you don't leave the juices behind. Makes 4 small servings - we were each tempted to have a second one!

We served this with basmati rice. Delicious and easy. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bean and Barley Soup

The finished product.
We really enjoyed this super healthy soup which I found on daily meal via pinterest. I doubled it and didn't regret it - yummm!

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped2 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/3 cup lentils
2 red or white creamer potatoes, cut into chunks
One 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Soup in process
Directions
Heat the olive oil in a medium to large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften and become fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with the dried marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring so the flavors meld and the spices are evenly distributed.

Add the barley, lentils, potatoes, and kidney beans and stir to combine. Pour in enough water to cover the soup contents by about 2 inches. Stir to combine, cover partially, and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the soup from the heat and let sit a few minutes before serving.

4 servings (Calories: 121; Total fat: 3.7 g; Saturated fat: 0.5 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 1,265 mg; Total carbohydrate: 18 g; Dietary fiber: 6.9g; Sugars: 4.2 g; Protein: 5.2 g.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Moroccan Vegetable Salad

For dinner tonight, I adapted a recipe from an old WeightWatchers cookbook from the Turn Around Program. We added butter lettuce and grilled chicken to the original. Delicious, crunchy and filling.

Ingredients
1 pint grape tomatoes, larger ones halved
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream (or yogurt)
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 head butter lettuce, cleaned and cored

Directions
Combine the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in a medium bowl with 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and the salt and pepper. Stir well, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to marry.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and toast, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.
Puree the chickpeas, sour cream, remaining 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice in a food processor. Add the garlic mixture; pulse until combined.
Put several leaves (about 1/4 of the head) of butter lettuce on each plate, then top with one-fourth of tomato mixture. Top with about 1/3 cup of the chickpea puree and about half of a chicken breast.

Serves 4.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quote of the Week

"Keep your face always toward the sunshine
and the shadows will fall behind you." - Walt Whitman

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mulligatawny Soup

Another family favorite!

Ingredients
1 broiler-fryer chicken - cut up
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tomatoes - chopped (medium)
1 apple - coarsely chopped (large)
1 carrot - thinly sliced (medium)
1 green bell pepper - cut into 1/2-inch pieces (medium)

Instructions
1. Heat chicken, giblets (except liver), neck, water, salt, curry powder, lemon juice, cloves and mace to boiling in Dutch oven.

2. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes or until juices of chicken run clear.

3. Remove chicken from broth. Cool chicken about 10 minutes or just until cool enough to handle. Remove skin and bones from chicken. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

4. Skim fat from broth. Add enough water to broth, if necessary, to measure 4 cups.

5. Heat margarine in Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onion in margarine about 2 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in flour.

6. Gradually stir in broth. Add chicken, tomatoes and remaining ingredients.

7. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until carrot is tender. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Originally from the Betty Crocker Cookbook (ours is missing this page - did we wear it out?)... after much searching, I found online here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Taco Casserole

taco casserole, via pinterest
We made this yummy casserole for dinner Sunday after seeing it on pinterest. It promised to appeal to the whole family and it did - T loved it! We used green pepper from our garden (miraculously our pepper plants survived the heat of the summer, and so far the cold of the winter as well). 

peppers from the garden
Ingredients
1 lb ground skinless chicken breast
1/2 c onions, chopped
1/2 c bell peppers, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
8 ozs taco sauce
1 c fat-free sour cream
1 c fat-free cottage cheese
1 c low-fat tortilla chips, whole or broken up (we used Tostitos baked scoops)
1 c low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 c salsa

Directions
Preheat oven to 400. Spray cooking spray on bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. In a skillet, cook chicken, onion, peppers, and garlic clove until tender. Add seasoning mix and taco sauce; mix thoroughly and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese; set aside. Place half the broken chips in the bottom of casserole dish. Add meat mixture to cover the chips, then cover the meat with sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining crushed chips. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted. Top with 3/4 cup salsa if desired.

Makes 8 (1 Cup) Servings

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
287 Calories; 4g Fat; 25g Protein; 34g Carbs; 43mg Cholesterol; 2g Fiber; Points Plus+ 7

Note: I accidentally used fat-free cheese in this recipe, which I would not recommend. It dried out a bit and had to be cut with a sharp knife. Luckily it still tasted good. We'll try 2% cheese next time!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fresh Vegetable Soup

Slightly adapted from the original recipe, we enjoyed this tasty and very healthy soup for lunch on Sunday. The only changes we made were to up the amount of broth (6 cups was not enough for the 8+ cups of veggies involved) and to increase the Swiss chard (T enjoyed chopping it a lot!). 

2 clove(s) garlic clove(s), minced
2 medium uncooked carrot(s), diced
2 small uncooked zucchini, diced
2 cup(s) uncooked savoy cabbage, or other variety, shredded
2 cup(s) uncooked Swiss chard, chopped
2 cup(s) uncooked cauliflower, small florets
2 cup(s) uncooked broccoli, small florets
1 medium uncooked onion(s), diced
1 medium sweet red pepper(s), diced
1 rib(s) uncooked celery, diced
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
10 cup(s) vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, or chives, fresh, chopped
1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional

Directions
Put garlic, vegetables, thyme and broth into a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, about 10 minutes.

Stir in parsley or chives; season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

PointsPlus value 1
Servings 12

Monday, January 7, 2013

Seafood Stew

Over the holiday break I wanted to attempt to make one of Chris's favorite things at home - a seafood stew. T had a lot of opinions about what kinds of seafood should go into it! After reading a lot of recipe options, we settled on one from Ina Garten, with a few alterations. Here is the adapted recipe  which was delicious and definitely a keeper:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 small)
2 cups large-diced small white potatoes
2 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups good white wine (we used Toasted Head chardonnay)
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, chopped
1 quart (=32 ounces) Seafood Stock
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
1 teaspoon saffron threads
4 large Atlantic sea scallops
1 pound tilapia, cut in large chunks
2 pounds mussels, cleaned and de-bearded 
a dozen Alligator Point clams
3 tablespoons Pernod
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Toasted baguette slices
Directions
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot, add the onions, potatoes, fennel, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until the onions begin to brown. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, stock, garlic, and saffron to the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the scallops, fish, clams and mussels, bring to a boil (this is important as adding everything will really bring the temperature down), then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered for another 5 minutes. The fish and scallops should be cooked and the mussels and clams opened. Discard any mussels or clams that didn't open. Stir in the Pernod, orange zest, and salt, to taste. Serve ladled over 1 or 2 slices of toasted baguette.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Saga of the Tarte Tatin

Santa brought Thomas 8 shiny new ramekins for Christmas which has led to much discussion of what we should bake in them. Our first project was pumpkin creme brulee. Our second, Deep Dish Apple Tarte Tatin. The recipe, which we had seen on Tyler's Ultimate, looked deceptively simple - make caramel, layer it with apples, then pastry; bake and enjoy.

The finished product!
Honestly, there must be a typo in the original recipe because a cup of water plus a cup of sugar will make simple syrup, not caramel! At least not within 10 minutes... but my first rule of any new recipe is to follow the directions. So we did. Once the sugar dissolved in the water in the saucepan on the stove, it became clear that caramel was a long way off so we dumped it out and started over, this time with sugar and just a couple tablespoons of water. The mixture completely crystallized. I read a couple other recipes for tarte tatin and saw that they started with butter and sugar, so we reduced the recipe a bit, maintaining the proportions, and this time made hard candy instead of soft caramel. We have made caramel before so I decided the way to success was to use that recipe. Fortunately this process worked (fourth time is the charm?). My hypothesis is that the key to perfect caramel is no stirring. Once the sugar dissolves, don't touch it until it's that dark amber color. Whew!

Our next problem was that I had bought fillo dough instead of puff pastry. They are right next to each other in the freezer case... but not interchangeable. I didn't realize until I had it out of the package that it was the wrong thing! Luckily Chris came to our rescue and made the trip to Publix that saved the day. In the end, the tartes were delicious and hopefully if we decide to make them again they won't be as much of a struggle!

Ingredients
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved and cored
1 sheet puff pastry, store bought, thawed
sugar for sprinkling
vanilla ice cream to serve with tartes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 6 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Remove from heat and pour into the ramekins, dividing evenly among all 6. 

Arrange 1 apple half, cut side down on top of the caramel in the bottom of each ramekin. Take the remaining halves and cut them into wedges so you can fill the gaps in the top of each ramekin to create a level surface on which the pastry will lie across. Sprinkle apples with some sugar. 

Roll the pastry out use a cookie-cutter to cut out circles the size of the ramekins and place over the apples folding it in at the edges. Make 3 or 4 holes with a knife to let steam out when baking. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it rest for 15 minutes.

It's important to let the tartes rest because if you turn them out too soon, they won't hold their shape.

Put a plate on top of the cooled ramekin and flip both over. Lift the ramekin up slowly. Add a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ham & Bean Soup

Yesterday we made a big pot of ham and bean soup, using the bone from our Christmas ham. The recipe came to us from my Dad. It's hearty, warming, delicious and easy.

Ingredients
1 ham bone (leave some meat on it)
1 pound navy beans
4-5 quarts of water
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced
6 whole allspice
1 cup ketchup

Directions
Soak the navy beans overnight the day before you want to make the soup (or use the quick soak method on the bean package).

Put all the ingredients (except ketchup) in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for two hours. Add 1 cup ketchup and simmer another hour. Remove bone (shake off any meat that hasn't fallen off on its own into the soup) and allspice. Season to taste.

Enjoy!
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