25 July 2009

I finally got around to posting the recipes that Hilary and I made at our Sister's Day party earlier this month. We love to cook together whenever we have the chance and we always try new recipes. (The margarita recipe wasn't new to either of us, but it was the first time we enjoyed them together!)

Here are the links to my posts for each recipe. Our menu had a secret theme to it.

I had a great time cooking with you, Hil! Can't wait to do it again! Happy Sister's Day and I love you!

This is the main dish of the meal Hilary and I made at our Sister's Day party. It came from Recipezaar.

Lemon Soy Swordfish With Avocado Butter

⅓ cup soy sauce
1 tsp lemon peel, grated
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
4 swordfish steaks

Avocado Butter:
½ cup butter, softened (no substitutions)
½ cup avocado, mashed
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp garlic salt

Combine first six ingredients in a large ziptop bag or plastic container. Add swordfish steaks. Seal or cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours, turning a few times.
To cook, place fish on a preheated broiler pan. Broil 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Serve hot with avocado butter, lemon wedges and fresh parsley sprigs.

Avocado Butter:.
In a small mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer until soft and creamy. Beat in remaining ingredients. Place in a decorative dish and refrigerate until firm and ready to use. A melon baller works great to scoop out balls to place on the hot fish.

Makes 4 servings.

Delicious! You will notice that there seems to be a lot of marinade. The original recipe called for "8 small swordfish steaks or 4 large swordfish steaks, cut in half." We didn't know whether our steaks were large or small, so we made the full amount of the marinade. It made more than we needed for our four steaks, but in the case of a marinade, it never hurts to have too much. We poured a little bit of it over the steaks as we put them in the oven.

The recipe says that it is good on the grill also.

About the avocado butter: you don't see it in the pic because we forgot about it until we had already eaten our swordfish. Whoops! That's the bad thing about having to refrigerate it until serving time. I did have a bit of swordfish left when we remembered it (I'm a slow eater), so I had a few bites of it. Make sure you don't substitute a tub spread (Country Crock, etc) for the butter. We did, and I don't think it turned out quite right. It was way too salty and didn't have the right consistency. I may have to try it again the next time I make salmon at home.

The "marination".

Looks great on this pretty platter of Hilary's.

(The pic at the top is from when I made it again, this time on the grill. It was awesome! Served with Roasted Broccoli Cheddar Patties.)

Reminder: Don't serve leftover marinade with your cooked steaks. Any leftover marinade should be thrown out when the fish goes into the oven. As Alton Brown would say: "Raw fish juice is not good eats!"

This is a recipe Hilary and I made for our Sister's Day party this year. We got it from Cooking Light magazine.

Ginger Garlic Broccolini

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. broccolini, trimmed
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
¼ cup water

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, pepper flakes, and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add broccolini and salt; sauté 2 minutes. Add mirin and water; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 109
Fat: 3.5g
Saturated: 0.3g
MonoUn: 2.1g
PolyUn: 1.1g
Sodium: 472mg
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrates: 12.4g
Fiber 1.3g
Protein: 3.7g
Iron: 0.9mg
Calcium: 75mg

In case you are not familiar with it, mirin is a sweet rice wine used in Asian cooking. You can find it in the Asian section of the grocery store; it comes in a little bottle.

This was good, but I think I would make a few changes to it if I make it again. First of all, the mirin made it too sweet for me. And I couldn't really taste either ginger or garlic. All I really tasted was the sweetness of the mirin and the spiciness of the red pepper flakes. I think next time I would substitute vegetable stock for the mirin and I would add more of the ginger and garlic. I think that would highlight those flavors better.

Also, I wasn't crazy about the cooking method. It took a lot longer for the broccolini to get tender than what the recipe said, and if you didn't turn them constantly, the side on the bottom of the pan would get really dark and yucky-looking compared to the bright green side. For some reason, they didn't steam that well. Since they weren't getting tender, we turned the heat up and then we got the one side looking overdone while the top side looked raw. I'm not sure what is the best way to remedy this. I'll have to think about this.

This is a really easy and tasty way to have Brie and crackers. Hilary made this at our Sister's Day party this year.

Brie Dip and Crackers

1 wheel of Brie
crackers of your choice

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap Brie and set on a baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cut around edge of wheel to remove the top. If not fully melted, replace top and bake an additional 5 minutes or until completely melted. Transfer to serving dish and surround with crackers. Dip crackers directly into Brie wheel.

I had never had Brie this way before. Yummy! Great idea, Hil!

Here Hilary is cutting the top off to see if the cheese is all melted.
It wasn't; we had to put it back in for a while.

This is the dessert that we made for our Sister's Day party. It's from Cooking Light magazine.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 ½ tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 cups 2% milk
¼ cup Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Heat milk over medium-high heat in a small, heavy saucepan to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Place the milk mixture in pan, and cook over medium heat until very thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Spoon mixture into a medium bowl, and add liqueur, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts. Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture is cool, stirring occasionally.

Remove bowl from ice. Gently fold in one-third of whipped topping. Fold in remaining topping. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Makes 6 servings (serving size: about ⅔ cup mousse and 1 tsp hazelnuts)

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 278
Fat 9.2g
Saturated 4.4g
MonoUn 3.5g
PolyUn 0.5g
Sodium 177mg
Cholesterol 77mg
Carbohydrates 39g
Fiber 2.2g
Protein 6.9g
Iron 1mg
Calcium 115mg

So, ours didn't turn out so good. It was grainy and kind of bland. We did make one mistake; we added too much Cool Whip, but I really don't think that made much of a difference. It wasn't smooth at all. Other thant the Cool Whip thing, we followed the recipe exactly. So I don't know why it didn't turn out right.

This is what it was supposed to look like:

These are the margaritas Hilary and I made for our Sister's Day party this year. I didn't know what to call them, and they are so good that they definitely deserve their own name, so I made one up. It's an acronym.

I got the recipe from my friend, Brenda, who is a Pampered Chef consultant and makes them at her shows. Hilary had had them before too, but I forgot where.

Doya Margaritas

2 (12 oz.) cans Sprite
2 (12 oz.) cans frozen limeade, thawed
2 (12 oz.) bottles Corona
24 oz. tequila (use the empty limeade cans to measure)

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Stir thoroughly. Serve over ice. Take away everyone's car keys and enjoy!

Makes 3 quarts, or 8 (12 oz.) drinks.

These are the best margaritas ever! I don't like frozen blended margaritas (they give me that "head freeze" thingy), so these are perfect for me. The beer and the Sprite give them a nice carbonation effect, but it's not like drinking soda at all. You can salt the rims too, if you like that. We didn't bother. If you do decide to salt the rims, try dipping the glasses in tequila instead of water. That's what Brenda did at her PC show and it was nice! This is some pretty potent stuff, so consider yourself warned. Definitely suited for a "girls' night in" kind of party or any other situation where no one will need to drive anywhere.

This was part of the meal I made with my sister at our Sister's Day party a couple of weeks ago. This isn't really a recipe; obviously you can make a salad any way you like. But here's how we made ours.

Spinach and Sprout Salad with Gorgonzola

baby spinach leaves, torn
sprouts (alfalfa or bean)
gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
tomatoes, diced
anything else you like
dressing of your choice

Lay baby spinach in bottom of salad bowl. Add sprouts and top with cheese and tomatoes. Serve with dressing.

We had never had gorgonzola before and I (at least) had never had sprouts before. We really liked the gorgonzola. It is crumbly like feta but has a very sharp taste to it. It's kind of like an extra-sharp bleu cheese. Super good.

The sprouts were okay. I can't say that the were good or bad; they were just there. They didn't really add flavor; a bit of texture, maybe. They are supposed to be very healthy.

Before the addition of the tomatoes. I thought it needed a bit of color.

22 July 2009

This is a recipe I tried from Allrecipes. I renamed it. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately!)

8 oz. uncooked penne pasta
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ lb. portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup flour
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried basil
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 small chicken breast halves, cooked and diced

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9x13” baking dish.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, cook 1 minute, and set aside. Melt margarine in the saucepan. Mix in flour, garlic, and basil. Gradually mix in milk until thickened. Stir in 1 cup cheese until melted. Remove saucepan from heat, and mix in cooked pasta, mushrooms, chicken, and spinach. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, and top with remaining cheese.

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly brown.

Makes 8 servings.

It was originally called Portobello Penne Pasta Casserole. That's kind of wordy and it doesn't reflect all the ingredients. So I am calling it by the acronym SCAMP.

I really didn't change much. I added cooked, diced chicken. I forgot the soy sauce and it tasted just fine, so I left that out of the rewrite. The only other thing I did was to use a fancy flavored cheese. Meijer had Sargento on sale today so I got one that is in their "Bistro Blends" line. It's called Italian Pasta Cheese. It is a combination of mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan. And it has Italian herbs in it as well. It added really great flavor to the dish. I think it might have been a bit bland otherwise. I also seasoned the chicken with Penzey's Tuscan Sunset when I cooked it. That probably helped too.

The only thing I might do differently next time is to not put the cheese on top for the full 20 minutes. It got kind of crunchy on top. I think I might cover it with foil, bake for 15 minutes, uncover, add cheese, and bake an additional 5 minutes. That way the cheese will melt but not get hard.

Before the addition of the cheese.

21 July 2009

This is a Rachael Ray recipe that I saved years ago and recently discovered. I had never tried it before and I don't know why! I love Mexican food and look forward to taco night once a month. This is a nice twist on taco night. It would really be great to use up taco night leftovers.

Mexican Deep Dish Pan Pizza

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg
2 tbsp melted butter or margarine
¾ cup milk
1 cup corn kernels
Cooking spray
1 lb. ground beef
2 ½ cups shredded cheese
black beans
Veggies of your choice

Preheat oven to 400º. Mix together muffin mix, egg, butter, milk, and corn kernels. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and pour in the muffin mix. Use a large skillet, 10” to 12”. Choose a pan with oven safe handle or, double-wrap handle with foil to protect it in the oven. Place pan in oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes in center of the oven until light golden in color.

Brown the meat over medium high heat in a second skillet. Add onions and seasoning and cook meat 5 minutes more.

Remove cornbread from oven and top with meat, cheese, and veggies. Add pan back to oven and cook 5 minutes more to melt cheese. Cut into 8 wedges and serve the deep dish pan pizza from the skillet.

Makes 4 servings, 2 slices each.

The above recipe has a few changes from the way I made it. I didn't read the reviews before I made it, so I made it the way it was written. It originally called for 2 boxes of corn bread mix, 2 eggs, 4 tbsp butter, and 1½ cups milk. This makes the bread part of it very thick. I was surprised at how much it fluffed up during baking. I barely had room for my toppings. Then I read the reviews and most of them said they use only one box of corn bread mix. That makes a lot of sense. I will definitely make it that way from now on. It was good, but it was a lot of bread.

The beauty of this dish is that it is so easy to customize it to your liking. You can season the ground beef any way you like, and you can top it with any veggies you like. I made this with diced fresh tomatoes, diced onion, chipotle salsa, and black olives. Jim suggested adding some refried beans. I thought the consistency of the beans would clash with the consistency of the bread. So then he suggested using black beans. I think that's a great idea; I will use them next time. He didn't like the black olives, but I did. That's the other nice thing: since it is a "pizza", you can top the halves differently for different tastes.

Make sure you are using a pan with an oven-safe handle. No plastic handles. I made that mistake only once! When it was time for me to buy a new pan, I specifically looked for one with an oven-safe handle. Also, if your pan is non-stick, be careful cutting the pizza into slices. A knife can easily scratch a non-stick surface. I am very careful with my pan, wanting to keep it nice as long as possible. I never use metal utensils on it. So when it came time to cut it, I tried using a plastic knife. It worked just fine. The pizza is not difficult to cut. The plastic worked just fine.

Also remember that the handle is hot while you are topping your pizza. It's easy to forget that since you are used to the pan being on the stovetop. I actually burnt the underside of my arm while topping my pizza because of this. It isn't a bad burn, but annoying nonetheless. Just something to keep in mind.

If you want the slices to look pretty, wait a few minutes after the pizza comes out of the oven before slicing and serving. I tried to serve mine right away and it was a crumbly mess. It just completely fell apart. But after a few minutes it firms up and you can lift pieces out pretty easily.

I served it with sour cream on top. Guacamole would be good too.

Update 08.26.09:

I made this again using the changes listed above. Only one box of corn bread mix works really well. It's much less bready that way. And the black beans that Jim suggested were a nice touch. And this time instead of using sour cream, I topped it with my Cilantro Cream Sauce. Delicious!

20 July 2009

This is a recipe I got from BHG.com. They call it "Greek-Style Chicken Skillet" but there really isn't much Greek about it so I renamed it for my personal recipe collection.

Zucchini Chicken Skillet

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Greek seasoning or salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups zucchini, sliced (1 medium)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup water
10.75 oz. can condensed tomato soup
2 cups hot cooked couscous or orzo
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2 oz.)

Preheat oven to 250°. Sprinkle chicken with seasoning. In a 12” skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken registers 170° on an instant-read thermometer, turning once. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm in oven.

Add zucchini, onion, garlic, and more seasoning to skillet. Add the water; reduce heat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in soup. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes more, stirring once.

To serve, divide couscous or orzo among dinner plates. Place chicken on couscous. Spoon vegetable mixture over chicken and couscous. Sprinkle with feta cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

I liked this. It's nothing fancy, but a nice simple meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight. I made a few changes from the original recipe. First, it called for salting the chicken before browning. I have some Greek seasoning in my pantry (Penzey's) and I thought that would "Greek" it up a bit more. It added a lot more flavor than regular salt would have. I'm sure Greek seasoning is available in the grocery store as well. The only other thing I changed was to use the oven to keep the chicken warm. I didn't think it would stay very warm just sitting in foil, so I turned the oven on low, covered them with foil, and put them in there while I finished the zucchini. That worked very nicely.

You'll notice in the picture that I used couscous. I had every intention of using orzo (it's Greekier), but discovered that I didn't have any. Oops. So I used couscous. It was good with the couscous, but I will try it with orzo next time.

A reviewer on the website where I got it said to make it more Greek you could use canned diced tomatoes with oregano and basil in place of the tomato soup. That sounds like a good idea. I think I will try that next time. I think that if you make that change, use Greek seasoning, and use orzo instead of couscous, maybe you really could call it Greek-style!

Lena liked it too. I cut up the chicken and zucchini for her and she gobbled it all up.

06 July 2009

This is a recipe I got from bhg.com and amended.

Herbed Cheese-Stuffed Salmon

4 skinless salmon fillets
1 lemon
3 wedges Garlic and Herb Laughing Cow Cheese
1 cup soft bread crumbs (about 1½ slices)
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ tsp dried basil

Preheat oven to 425°. Rinse fish; pat dry. Grate lemon zest and cut lemon into wedges and set aside. In small bowl combine cheese and lemon zest. Cut a pocket in each fillet taking care not to cut all the way through the fish. Spoon cheese mixture into pockets. Set aside.

In a shallow dish combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. Roll each fillet in the bread crumbs, coating all sides. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly spray each fillet with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, about 14 minutes or until salmon flakes when tested with a fork. Squeeze lemon juice on each fillet and serve with remaining wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

This was so good! We love salmon and I am always looking for new ways to prepare it. This was awesome. I served it with rice pilaf.

I made a few changes to the original recipe to get this amended one. They mostly had to do with the breading. The original called for melted butter and pine nuts, and didn't have basil. I omitted the butter because I felt it was unnecessary. And it was. I sprayed the breaded fillets with cooking spray and they browned up just beautifully. I omitted the pine nuts because I just didn't feel like adding them. The recipe called for whole pine nuts and I didn't think that would work very well. I added the basil mostly because I thought it would look pretty with some green flecks running through it. But the basil complemented the herbed cheese very well. Thyme would work too.

The original recipe called for salting the fillets after stuffing and before breading. I totally forgot this step, but I didn't think it was necessary. I didn't miss the salt at all. Also, the original said to just sprinkle the fillet with the bread crumb and parmesan topping. I actually rolled mine in the bread crumbs to completely coat it. And squeezing the lemon juice on top was my twist too. I always think lemon goes really well with seafood and it gives it a nice bright flavor. And Jim really commented on the lemon flavor. He really liked that.

So Jim liked it so much that he is insisting I make it for houseguests later this month. I like how simple it is, yet it kind of has a fancy air to it.

Here are some pics of the process.

After stuffing with cheese. Where you make the incision will depend on the specific shape of your fillet. Just try to cut into the fattest part of it.

Right out of the oven. See, they got very nicely browned on top without the butter. And the cheese didn't ooze out of the pockets at all. That really surprised me.