Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

This is by far my favorite way to enjoy shrimp in the winter.  I love it all summer long on the grill, but when the high for the day is only 24 degrees, I feel bad making my husband stand out on the patio!
These are some wonderful, Mediterranean flavors -- feta cheese, oregano, mint, tomato.  Some of my favorites!  Almost like a taste of summer in the cold of winter.  

Also, I find that this is a great way to enjoy tomatoes in the off-season -- sauteing then baking cherry tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness, even when they aren't the best looking tomatoes in the market.  The juices in this dish are FABULOUS!!  Make sure you have some homemade rolls or bread to sop up those delicious flavors.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 thinly sliced scallions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
2 lbs peeled and deveined large frozen shrimp, thawed, tails removed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 ounces feta cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add scallions, garlic, and oregano, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until no liquid remains in the skillet, 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
Add shrimp and mint to skillet.  Stir to combine.  Transfer to a 9-inch square baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Crumble feta over top.
Bake until liquid is bubbling, cheese is beginning to brown, and shrimp in the center of the dish is opaque, about 20 minutes.
Makes 4 hefty servings
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Leftover Cookies

So this is what happens when I am stuck inside the house all day because they are calling for snow and ice!!  The bad weather never really happened, but I sure am glad I got to stay in and bake a little bit.  I like to call these Leftover Cookies because they are basically made from what little dribs and drabs of cookie additives I have hanging around in my pantry.  You know, what's leftover of a bag of nuts after you've used it for a recipe, or what's leftover of a bag of coconut flakes after you've baked up some other goodies.  Basically, this is a simple cookie recipe and you add whatever you like to it, and the cookies come out different every single time.  This time, I added about half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, half a bag of pecan pieces, a whole bag of shredded coconut, and a whole bag of toffee bits.  It sounded like a lovely combination in my head, and boy did they turn out delicious!!
The toffee and coconuts give the cookies a sort of chewiness that I LOVE, while the nuts and chocolate have more of an in-your-face flavor punch.  You can definitely make this with whatever goodies you have laying around in your pantry.  I wonder if M&M's and broken pretzels would be a good combination??  Or dried pineapple, white chocolate chips, and macadamia nuts?  The possibilities are endless!!  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Leftover Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
cookie additives (example: chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, toffee, dried fruit, etc) -- as much of each as you want!

Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter and sugars in bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and creamy.  Add in vanilla and eggs.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in cookie additives. 
Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Wet hands and slightly flatten each cookie.  Bake 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool cookies on pans for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks. 
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Nestle

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homemade Dinner Rolls

I had a mega-craving for carbohydrates today.....and we had absolutely nothing in the house!!  I opened the door and stared into the pantry about a hundred times, and STILL, nothing jumped out at me.  I would've taken anything...a breadstick, a cracker...anything!  But alas, as many times as I stared into that pantry, nothing appeared, so I did what anyone else would do.  I made my own!!
I really wanted a true roll, not a quick bread.  And I definitely wasn't in the mood for anything sweet, I knew that much.  After a quick internet search, I decided I wanted to make a yeasty dinner roll.  Now the lazy part of me kicked in.  As much as I wanted that dinner roll, I really didn't want to knead the dough, let it rise, blah blah, wait a few hours....I wanted it now!  So I found this recipe and used it as my base off of which I would build. 
The rolls came out delicious!  I substituted in 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the all-purpose (pretending to be healthy here), and I think it gave the rolls a slightly nutty flavor that I appreciated.  I'd say the whole recipe takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, from start to finish.  Definitely give it a shot one day if you are home and craving bread (pretty much every day for me!).  Enjoy the deliciousness!!

Homemade Dinner Rolls
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup milk, warmed to 105-115F
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Dissolve yeast and sugar in milk in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Stir in whole wheat flour, oil, and salt, beating until smooth.  Beat in remaining flour, scraping dough from sides of bowl, until soft dough forms.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 400F.  Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Punch down dough in the center and fold a few times.  Divide dough into 12 equal parts.  Divide each of these parts into 3, rolling each of those into a ball.  Place 3 balls in each muffin cup, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is light golden brown.  Remove from pan and store loosely covered.
Adapted from Simple Daily Recipes

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Greek Pasta with Meatballs

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about this dish.  Actually, I'm still a bit skeptical about it right now!  The thought of making and eating meatballs that don't have Italian flavor was just a bit weird to me.  Somehow, amazingly, this dish kind of came together.  I have to preface this by saying that I am sometimes weary of making recipes that I find in Cooking Light magazine.  I like Cooking Light because the recipes are developed with health and nutrition in mind, and I can appreciate that.  Also, I like to see the nutritional information for the recipes.  You can pretty much tell if something is going to be high or low calorie just by reading the ingredients list, but I always like to see the final breakdown of information, and Cooking Light always includes this for all of there recipes.  With that being said, there are some things I'm not a huge fan about.  The time that they say is required to make a recipe is always wrong.  Inevitably, a recipe that is listed as taking 30 minutes takes me an hour.  Also, the minute amount of oil the recipes call for (keeping health in mind) sometimes just isn't enough!  I tried to follow today's recipe as best as I could.  There were, however, some changes that I made.  First off, the recipe called for ground lamb, and I didn't see that at the grocery store so I went with lean ground beef (it very well might've been there, but, honestly, I was in a hurry and there was an old lady blocking the whole area, taking her sweet time so I just went with the beef).  I also used more oil than the recipe calls for because I was having a tough time with the meatballs sticking to the pan and breaking apart when I was trying to brown them.  The only way to correct that was to add more olive oil.  I'm sure it gave this dish great added flavor, too, although I won't be posting the nutritional info on this one since I made so many adjustments.
All in all, it wasn't a bad dish, but definitely different.  My husband did enjoy it, but I'm not sure if I'll be making this one again.  I'm still posting it because I said I would write about all my adventures in the kitchen, good and bad, and this one is not BAD, just different.  I think I might've liked it more if I did take the time to find and use ground lamb.  I think I just like good old-fashioned Italian meatballs in sauce over pasta.  Either way, this is a tasty, easy dish, and if you are in the mood for Greek flavors, this is definitely one you should try out.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Greek Pasta with Meatballs
makes 4 servings
1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cups hot cooked orzo

Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add egg whites, stirring mixture until just combined.  Shape into 12 (1-inch) meatballs.
Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add meatballs to pan and cook, turning to brown on all sides.  Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 11 minutes or until meatballs are done.  Serve over orzo.
Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2010

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Red Rice with Sausage and Peppers

This is about as simple as it gets, folks.  Don't get me wrong -- this meal is nothing fancy-schmancy you'd want to be serving at your next dinner party.  But a weeknight meal for a busy family...definitely!  What I like the most about this dish is that pretty much all parts of it can be prepped ahead of time.  I cooked the rice up in the rice cooker and had it hanging out in the fridge.  I diced up the meat and had it in it's own little Tupper, as well as all the other vegetables in their own little Tupper.  That's it!  All that's left to do now is cook them all up in one pot.  I was a little weary of this recipe at first, thinking it would be a little bland because the only spices involved were salt and pepper, but sauteing the kielbasa in olive oil really flavors the entire dish.  The vegetables lend a juiciness and the rice just soaks up all those wonderful flavors.  Super simple recipe, and definitely one I will keep in my back pocket for those busy nights where it is just a struggle getting a meal on the table.  I bet this would be good with crumbled Italian sausage in place of the kielbasa, and pretty much any vegetable you have on hand would probably work, too.  This one got a thumbs-up from the hubby, too, which is always a plus.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Red Rice with Sausage and Peppers
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
14 ounces turkey kielbasa
1 onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced medium
1 celery stalk, diced medium
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cups brown rice

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add kielbasa and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned, about 8 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, red pepper and celery, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add rice and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Friday, January 21, 2011

Linzer Cookies

For some reason, lately, I have had a mega-craving for linzer cookies.  I remember when I was younger and we always used to have them in the house, either store-bought or homemade, and I loved eating them then as much as I do now.  These cookies are definitely different than the ones I remember eating as a child, but different doesn't mean bad.  It just means that you will probably see me post a few linzer cookie recipes on here until I find the ones that remind me of my childhood!

A few weeks ago, I had bought a set of nesting heart cookie cutters, so this seemed like the perfect occasion to use them, especially with Valentine's Day right around the corner (one of my favorite days of the year!).  After a few trays of the larger size cookies, I went ahead and made mostly smaller ones, mainly because they are easier to make.  This recipe is definitely a labor of love.  It involves a lot of cutting and shaping, more than just a regular sugar cookie, but the results are pretty delicious.

When I started out looking for a recipe, I wasn't really sure what I was looking for.  As I researched the Linzer Cookie more and more, I was able to kind of narrow down what it SHOULD be, and from there seek out a recipe.  The cookies I remember from childhood don't fit that description quite exactly, but that will have to be a different recipe for another day.  So, from what I could see, Linzer Cookies should be a butter cut-out cookie made with ground nuts in the batter, and usually some sort of spice, layered with raspberry or apricot jam.  After searching around on the internet for a bit, I settled on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website.  I often find decent recipes here, so I thought it would be a good place to start.  With that being said, there are a few changes I would make next time I bake these.  First off, I don't think the cookies need to be rolled to 1/8 inch thick, this is just too thin.  I wanted them to bake up a little bit softer, but having rolled them so thin, they didn't really have a chance and got crisper than I would have liked.  Secondly, I feel that the cinnamon in the dough is a bit too much.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cinnamon and usually love it anything (as evidenced by the title of this blog!), but 1 teaspoon seems just a bit much for this dough.  I didn't bother sprinkling the top cookie with powdered sugar before assembling, but that was just me being lazy.  All in all, I felt this was a good recipe, a nice starting point from which I will continue to build.  Stay tuned for more tweaks on Linzer Cookies in the near future.  Until then, enjoy the deliciousness!

Linzer Cookies
4 ounces pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Raspberry jam, for filling

In a small food processor, pulse the pecans and salt until a fine meal/flour is formed.  Be careful not to over-process or else you will make pecan butter!  This should make about 1 cup of pecan meal.  If not, add more pecans.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and both sugars, beating until creamy.  Add in egg and vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until just combined.
Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I left it overnight).
Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick (as I said above, I feel this might be too thin, but I followed this part of the recipe, so I am posting it as I did it), and cut with desired cookie cutters.  Use small cutters to cut a design out of half of the cookies.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.  After cookies have cooled, spread a small amount, about 1 teaspoonful, of jam over the solid cookies.  Place a cutout cookie on top of each filled cookie.  You can dust the cutout cookies with powdered sugar before doing this, as a decorative effect.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Note: After letting the prepared cookies sit in an airtight container overnight, I am much happier with them.  The jelly soaks in a little bit, so the cookie itself is no longer crisp, and that is actually the texture I was looking for.  Also, the cinnamon flavor mellows out a little bit, which I prefer.  All in all, I would probably still make the changes I suggested above, but I much prefer the recipe as-is the next day rather than the day it was prepared.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir-Fry

I would like to preface this by saying that my husband is a HUGE fan of pork.  And I'm not talking lean, white-meat pork tenderloin.  I mean good, old-fashioned fatty delicious pork shoulder.  Well, that's not exactly healthy or on my list of resolutions for the year, so we weren't going to be eating that tonight.  But just because we are trying to be healthy doesn't mean that we have to eat boring, bland food all the time.  This dish is super flavorful and still light! 
From the looks of it, it might seem like there's a lot of chopping to do as prep work, but this picture is deceiving.  I actually was able to prep the entire dish is about 15 minutes, all while the baby was napping, and the actual cooking only took about another 15 minutes!  I must confess that I had brown rice leftover from the casserole I had made the other night, so all I had to do was warm that up.  The flavors of this dish are pretty classic -- sweet pineapple, crisp-tender chunks of pepper, and a slightly thickened sauce of soy and pineapple juice coating lovely vegetables and caramelized chunks of pork.  Sounds complicated, but it's so simple -- definitely a great weeknight meal!  Leftovers, if you have any, reheat very nicely, too.  I bet this would be good with a little bit of chopped fresh ginger and/or garlic cooked up with the vegetables as well.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir-Fry
8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, juice reserved
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb pork tenderloin, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
10 ounce package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
cooked brown rice for serving

In a small bowl, stir together pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup water.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  cook pork, in two batches, until well browned (pork will cook more later).  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
To skillet, add scallion whites and bell peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until peppers are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.
Add pork, along with any accumulated juices, broccoli, and pineapple chunks.  Whisk sauce and add to skillet.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until broccoli is warmed through, about 4 minutes.  Stir in scallion greens and serve with rice.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
per serving (without rice): 294 calories, 11.1 grams fat, 26.6 grams protein, 21.1 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber