Monday, April 27, 2009

Biscotti with Chocolate, Cherries, and Walnuts

So I just had this realization. Swimsuit season is quickly approaching. Somewhere between our first 100-degree day last week and receiving the itinerary for my upcoming Vegas trip, I decided I need to be making more of an effort to like how I look in my swimsuit this sumer. I've been stepping up my exercise routine, but I need to bring the diet piece in as well. I don't do deprivation very well though, so don't worry. What I can do well is find delicious, nutritious, and light meals and treats that will keep me feeling full and indulgent without all the fat, calories, and sugar. Thank goodness for Cooking Light and Ellie Krieger!

biscotti chocolate cherry

Biscotti with Chocolate, Cherries, and Walnuts
adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. whole-wheat pastry flour or regular whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c. olive oil
zest of one orange
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. dried tart cherries, finely chopped
1/2 c. toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, the baking powder and salt.
3. In a large bowl beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, orange zest and vanilla extract until well combined.
4. In batches add the dry ingredients until the mixture forms a dough. Beat in the cherries, walnuts, and chocolate.
5. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead several times. Shape into a log about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide.
6. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.
7. With a serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch diagonal slices. Arrange cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
8. Turn the cookies over and bake the biscotti until golden, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
One year ago: grown-up strawberry shortcake and the World's BEST chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lighter Chinese Chicken Salad

When has the Barefoot Contessa ever made anything that doesn't look incredible? Never. Admit it, you want to get invited to one of her fabulous summer lunches just as much as I do. Well, maybe not as much as I do (because my level of want on this one if pretty ridiculous) but I'm sure you wouldn't mind being invited! Since that isn't likely to happen for either of us any time soon, I decided to bring the Barefoot Contessa into my kitchen. I lightened the recipe up quite a bit, but the spirit remained the same. It was easy, delicious, and laid back, just like every one of her fabulous (Oh how I wish I could be there!) summer lunches.

Lighter Chinese Chicken Salad
adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics seen on Proceed with Caution

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 in. thick pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into short strips
3 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally

For the dressing:
1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
3 TBSP light soy sauce
1 1/2 TBSP dark sesame oil
1/2 TBSP honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 TBSP sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of boiling water to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and poach chicken breasts for 12-15 minutes.

2. Allow chicken breasts to cool. Shred and set aside.

3. While chicken is cooling, make dressing by whisking all ingredients together in a large bowl.

4. Add chicken, celery, bell pepper, and scallions to dressing. Stir to combine. Serve room temperature or cold.

One year ago: Another Barefoot Contessa classic--chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Come on, you know you want one...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I'm always on the look out for chocolate chip cookie recipes. Not plain chocolate chip cookies, oh no. I've already got the world's best recipe for those. I'm talking about chocolate chip cookies plus. I've made Giada DeLaurentiis' chocolate chip cookies with hazelnuts and they were fantastic. Now I'm adding these to my repertoire. Martha Stewart makes them as regular cookies (follow link to see her baking times), but I was in a bit of a hurry and decided to make them as bars to save time. They turned out great! I loved being able to see the oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips at the edges of each piece.

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chip Bars
adapted from

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. mashed very ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4-in. chunks (I used chips)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy.

4. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana.

5. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

6. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.

7. Spread dough into greased 9x13 non-glass pan and bake for 22-25 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack until solid enough to be turned out onto rack. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 20 pieces. Bars can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

One year ago: Meyer lemon buttermilk tarts

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spiced Chicken with Mango Salsa

I had a dinner guest this week and wanted everything to be perfect. Just perfect. I scoured all of my best cookbooks, my favorite websites, and past issues of food magazines. I made up my mind, I made a grocery list, then I changed my mind...three times. I finally settled on this chicken with mango salsa and I'm so glad I did. I served it with roasted asparagus, cilantro coconut rice, and mango rum sorbet for dessert. It was easy and wonderful and my guest really liked it. And that makes me happy.

Spiced Chicken with Mango Salsa
spice mixture inspired by

1 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
zest and juice of one lime

2 TBSP olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1. Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium heat.

2. Put all ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine.

3. Put chicken in bowl with spice mixture. Turn to coat.

4. Grill chicken for 8 minutes on first side. Flip and grill 4-6 minutes more.

5. Top with mango salsa and serve.

Mango Salsa
adapted from Mary and Sarah Corpening, The Bride and Groom's First and Forever Cookbook


1-1 1/2 c. fresh mango, cut to a medium chop

3 TBSP red onion, diced

2 TBSP jalapeno, seeds removed and diced

3 TBSP fresh mint, diced

1 tsp. lime zest

1 1/2-2 TBSP fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

black pepper, to taste (if desired)


1. Place all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Stir to combine.

2. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to set at least one hour before serving. If being served in less than three hours of being made, the salsa does not need to be refrigerated.

One year ago:
beef and cheese manicotti

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Roasted Asparagus

I very rarely cook with asparagus. To be perfectly honest, as I always am with my readers, I just don't think it's as amazing as everyone else seems to. I mean, it's okay. I just don't think it's worth the extra cost. I'd much rather just do some fresh green beans.

But spring is asparagus season, so I thought it was the perfect time to give it another shot. After seeing what roasting can do for broccoli, I wondered if I'd just never had asparagus prepared properly. The verdict: it was good--better than I remembered, in fact. I still didn't think it was stellar, though. But if you're an asparagus fan, I think you'll really like this simple recipe.

Roasted Asparagus
an "Apple a Day" original

1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
olive oil for drizzling
salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
zest of half a lemon

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Lay trimmed asparagus on a baking sheet.

3. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then spread asparagus back out across baking sheet.

4. Roast for five minutes, then toss and roast for five more minutes.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle lemon zest over the top. Serve immediately.

Cilantro Coconut Rice

This rice was simple to make and was a perfect accompaniment to my date night meal of spice-rubbed chicken, mango salsa, and roasted asparagus.

Some of the reviewers noted they kicked up the coconut flavor by replacing half the water with light coconut milk. I think that would be very good, but it would definitely make this quite a bit sweeter. I enjoyed the very subtle sweetness from the coconut. I doubled the amount of jalapeno and ginger and thought it gave just the right amount of punch without making any of the flavors overwhelming. I will definitely be hanging on to this recipe as a side dish for any Indian or tropical meals.

*Note--The original recipe serves ten. I halved it with a few adjustments. If you'd like to see the original recipe, follow the link to

Cilantro Coconut Rice
adapted from recipe originally in Gourmet, April 2004
found on

1 1/2 c. basmati rice (10 oz.)
scant 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1 TBSP finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh jalapeño including seeds
2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 c. packed fresh cilantro sprigs
3 scallions, chopped

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Wash rice in several changes of cold water in a bowl until water is almost clear. Soak rice in cold water 30 minutes, then drain well in a sieve.

3. Spread coconut in a shallow baking pan and toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to watch coconut carefully, as it burns easily. Cool completely.

4. Cook ginger and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until chile is softened, about 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Stir in water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

7. While rice cooks, pulse together coconut, cilantro, scallions, and remaining tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add cilantro mixture to cooked rice and stir gently until combined well.

One year ago: Giada's Classic Marinara, my go-to sauce recipe

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

One of my favorite things about summer is ice cream, especially homemade ice cream. Just one bite and I feel like a kid on summer vacation (or is that the ice cream dripping down my chin?). The weather here in Phoenix is warming up and I just couldn't wait any longer to make up a batch of one of my favorite summery ice cream flavors--fresh strawberry. I hope you and your family will enjoy this ice cream as much as I do!

fresh strawberry ice cream

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
printer-friendly recipe

3 c. half and half (I used 2 c. half and half and 1 c. 1% milk.)
6 egg yolks
1 c. sugar
pinch of salt
2 c. sliced strawberries
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half until steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually add the hot half-and-half, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

3. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

4. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the strawberries and vanilla.

5. Nestle the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

6. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

7. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Orange-Cinnamon Roasted Chicken

I love making roasted chicken. It is easy, delicious, and comforting. However, it can get monotonous. What an easy fix, though. Just change up with seasoning, add a sauce or glaze, and voila! A refreshed classic!

Orange-Cinnamon Roasted Chicken
recipe original to "Apple a Day"

zest and juice of 2 oranges

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. olive oil, plus more to drizzle chicken

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 in. cubes

2 large onions, cut into 1 in. pieces

2 carrots, cut into 1 in. pieces

1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs.


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, garlic, vinegar, rosemary, cinnamon, and olive oil.

3. Put cut vegetables in bottom of roasting pan. Pour sauce over and toss to coat. Push to the outer edges of pan.

4. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place in center of roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

5. Roast for 45 minutes. Check bird every 20 minutes. If it is getting to brown on top, tent with foil. Use tongs to pour juice from the cavity into the pan. Once pan juices develop, baste bird at each check.

6. Continue roasting 25 to 30 minutes more, or until the chicken is a deep golden brown and the juices run clear when the tip of a knife is inserted into the thigh joint. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should register between 170 and 175 degrees F.

7. Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

8. Place vegetables around the bird and drizzle with remaining juices for presentation. Alternately, carve the chicken ahead of time and place on one end of a platter with vegetables on the other end.

One year ago: chicken with lemon and oregano

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Over on the cooking board I frequent, we get a lot of requests for Mexican side dishes other than rice, beans, or chips. Calabacitas--literally translated "little squash"--is one of my favorites. I first had it at my high school best friend's house. Her mom made it and it was so yummy. It's also a great way to work multiple vegetables into a Mexican meal, which can get quite heavy on the starch. I hope you like it as much as I do!calabacitas
adapted from recipe originally in Self magazine, June 2003
found on

cooking spray
2 tsp. olive oil

1 small zucchini or Mexican grey squash, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 small yellow squash, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. frozen or fresh corn

1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.

2. Lay zucchini and yellow squash on sheet pan, salt and pepper them, and roast 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

3. Lightly coat a sauté pan with 2 tsp oil. Add zucchini, squash, tomato, onion, and corn. Sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add oregano, salt, and peppers.

One year ago: lemon fennel pork chops and basic risotto