Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lemon-Parsley Pork Chops

On Sunday, M and I had an absolutely perfect day.  We got up, went to breakfast with my sister and her boyfriend, went on a fantastic hour-long bike ride in the 75 degree weather, then met up with his family for a delicious Mexican lunch.  We had to split for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but then we got back together and made some delicious pasta for dinner.  It was wonderful.  And very, very carby.  Tasty, but carby.

So for dinner Monday, we wanted to do something more protein based.  M suggested pork chops, so I went off in search of light pork chop recipes.  This one jumped right out at me.  Thank goodness it did because these were so delicious, especially when served alongside my easy, healthy, and colorful couscous with dried cranberries and pine nuts.
 

Lemon-Parsley Pork Chops

Ingredients:
zest of one lemon, minced
2 TBSP chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
4 bone-in loin pork chops (8 oz. each)

Directions: 
1.  Combine minced lemon in a small bowl with parsley, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Set aside. 

2.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook in skillet until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. 

3.  Add 1/2 cup water to skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover, and simmer gently until pork is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pork chops to a platter or serving plates; drizzle with pan juices as desired, and sprinkle with lemon-parsley mixture. 

one year ago: mango-rum sorbet
two years ago: chili-rubbed steak tacos with avocado-lime salsa

Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pine Nuts

This healthy side dish wasn't all that planned.  I knew I wanted to make some type of couscous to go with our lemon-parsley pork chops.  I knew I would add lemon zest and some parsley to mirror the pork chops, but I didn't want a boring dish with the exact same flavor profile.  On a whim, I decided to add some pine nuts, dried cranberries, and a little feta.  It turned out great!  The acidity and creaminess from the feta balanced so well with the sweet, tart cranberries.  As an added bonus, it looked beautiful on the plate and tastes great at room temperature.  You can't go wrong with that!


Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pine Nuts
an "Apple a Day" original

Ingredients:
1 14/ c. water
2 tsp. canola or olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 c. instant whole-wheat couscous
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted
zest of half a lemon
1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  In a medium pot over medium heat, bring water, oil, and lemon juice to a boil.  Stir in couscous, cover, and let sit, covered, for five minutes.

2.  Remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Add cranberries, parsley, pine nuts, and lemon zest.  Using a rubber spatula, gently incorporate the ingredients.

3.  Either put in a serving bowl or on individual plates or bowls.  Top with feta and serve.

one year ago: dirty risotto
two years ago: Meyer lemon ice cream

Monday, March 15, 2010

31 While 31--Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

Wow, did this one test me. And sadly, it tested me for no apparent reason other than my own stupidity. You see, the first loaf didn't rise at all. It didn't rise because I left the packet of yeast in my car in warm weather. What a doof. Then the second loaf didn't rise because my thermometer battery went out right when I needed to measure the temperature of the milk. Silly me, I thought I'd be able to tell on my own.

At this point, I thought about giving up. Then I remembered why I made my 30 Things to Make While I'm 30 list--to challenge myself and find some go-to recipes. I was not going to be defeated. I went to the store to get a new battery for the thermometer. Appropriately armed, I rolled up my sleeves and went in for loaf three.

Fortunately for me, the third time (and appropriate equipment) really is a charm. This bread (finally!) turned out beautifully. I got to enjoy the delicious smell of fresh bread baking. Even better, I got to successfully check another item off my list of things to make this year.



Honey Whole-Wheat Bread
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking

**Note: This recipe makes two loaves. You should be able to successfully halve it for one loaf.

Ingredients:
2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast
2 c. whole milk, heated to warm (105-115 degrees F)
1/4 c. mild honey
2 large eggs
6 c. whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading and topping the loaves
2 tsp. sea salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:
1. BY HAND--In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk, stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt, and butter, and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until a rough mass forms. Using a pastry scraper, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it is smooth and elastic, dusting the work surface with only enough flour the keep the dough from sticking, 5-7 minutes.

BY STAND MIXER--In the 5-quart bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk, stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt, and butter. Place the bowl on the mixer, attach the dough hook, and knead on low speed. Add a little more flour as needed for the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl after a few minutes of kneading. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl.

2. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise un a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours.

3. Butter two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

4. Punch down the dough and, using the pastry scraper, scrape it out onto a clean work surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper or sharp knife.

5. For each half, evenly flatten the dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the bottom third up onto itself and seal it by pushing it gently with the heel of your hand. Continue rolling and sealing the dough until you have an oval log.

6. Place each log, seam side down, into a prepared loaf pan. Press them to flatten then into the pans. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the double in size, 45-60 minutes.

7. Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

8. Dust the tops of the loaves with whole-wheat flour. Bake until the are honey brown and sound hollow when tapped, 35-40 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or bread will be dry. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.

one year ago: St. Patrick's Day chocolate chip cookies
two years ago: Traditional Irish Stew the Bailey, Irish soda bread, and chocolate pecan pie with chocolate-Jack Daniels ice cream

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

As a teacher, I take my lunch to school pretty much every day. When you only have 35 minutes for lunch, you barely have time to drop the kids off eat, and go to the bathroom before it's time to pick the kids up again. I can't imagine trying to go out and pick up lunch and make it back to school on time. Furthermore, the options for that time frame are pretty much limited to super unhealthy fast food. I'm always looking for flavorful, healthy, and original recipes that will work well for a packed lunch. Chicken salad certainly fits that bill!

I love a good, tasty chicken salad. The problem is so many of them are nothing more than mayonnaise and flavorless chicken. Blech! Who likes that?!? But there are healthier and more appealing options. I loved this lighter Chinese chicken salad. But, like I said, when you bring your lunch every day, pretty much anything can get boring. This curried chicken salad, which works well on greens or in a sandwich, is sure to break the monotony. It's light, slightly spicy, and full of protein to keep my energy up for an afternoon with the kiddos!


Curried Chicken Salad
from Ellie Krieger, found on www.foodnetwork.com
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. water
1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, no more than 3/4-inch thick
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. nonfat plain yogurt
2 TBSP low-fat mayonnaise
1 tsp. yellow Madras curry powder
1 c. halved red grapes
1/4 c. chopped cilantro leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. mixed greens (about 5 c. lightly packed)
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice

Directions:
1. Bring the broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add chicken to broth and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Turn the heat off and let chicken stand in the cooking liquid, covered, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth and cool completely in the refrigerator. Cut into 1/4-inch dice.

2. While the chicken is cooling, toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, and curry powder.
4. Fold in the chicken, grapes and cilantro and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. If making for sandwiches, fold in almonds. If serving as a salad, reserve for a garnish.
5. If serving over greens, toss the greens in a large bowl with the oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange on 4 individual plates, top with a scoop of the chicken salad and sprinkle with the almonds.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

We are down to our last couple weeks of chilly soup nights here in Phoenix. I'm not trying to make you jealous, readers. Really, I'm not. You see, both M and I love soup. I feel like I could make soup two or three times a week and we'd be perfectly fine with it. But when it's 115 degrees outside, nobody wants soup. Not even M and I.

So, you may be seeing quite a lot of soup around here for the next few weeks. Lucky for most of you, soup weather is still going strong.


Chicken Tortilla Soup
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
printer-friendly recipe


Ingredients:
2 TBSP olive or corn oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced

1-2 finely chopped chipotle chilies in adobo

6 c. low-sodium chicken broth

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 1/2 c. shredded chicken

1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

1/2 c. crumbled queso fresco or feta
1 small avocado, chopped

1 c. broken tortilla chips

1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions:1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the chili, broth, and tomatoes. Stir in the chicken and beans. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Add salt and pepper as necessary.

3. Stir cilantro into the soup. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle the additional cilantro on top, if desired. Garnish with the cheese, avocado and tortilla chips. Accompany with the lime wedges. Serves 4.

one year ago:
Peruvian chicken soup (aguadito di pollo)
two years ago:
blackberry-banana muffins

Monday, March 8, 2010

Breakfast Quinoa

What a fabulous breakfast recipe! I can't decide what I like best about it. It's super easy and wonderfully tasty. The ingredients are healthful and clean. It can easily be adapted to fit your tastes and what's in season. Plus, quinoa is packed with protein.  I ate this before going on a ten-mile bike ride (in the drizzling rain!) and it kept me going strong the whole time!


Breakfast Quinoa
inspired by Martha Stewart
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
2 c. whole or low-fat milk, plus more for serving
1 c. quinoa, rinsed
pinch salt

2-3 TBSP maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 c. fresh or dried fruit (blueberries, apples, dried cranberries work well)

1/2 c. chopped nuts, plus more for serving


Directions:

1. Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. You'll want to stay by the pan because the milk will boil and bubble over very quickly. Add quinoa and salt, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.


2. Stir in maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook, covered, until almost all the milk has been absorbed, about eight minutes.


3. Stir in fruit and nuts, and cook until warmed through, about one minute more. Serve with additional milk, sugar, cinnamon, fruit, and nuts, if desired.


one year ago: slow cooker pulled pork and classic coleslaw

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

For several months now, I've been trying to find the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie recipe for M. Oatmeal raisin cookies are his absolute favorite and I wasn't going to stop trying recipes until I'd found THE one. I tried this one, from Williams-Sonoma, first. It was just okay. My second attempt was this recipe. The flavor was good, not great, and the texture was just a bit off.

While asking for recipe opinions for try number three, Katie suggested adapting the recipe from the back of the Craisins bag. Since I always trust Katie's recommendations, I tried the recipe. M and I are so glad I did. Because readers, I'm here to officially announce that I've found the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie recipe! Hooray! Thanks, Katie. The smile on M's face when he took his first bite was fantastic!



Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
suggested by Katie of Good Things Catered
adapted from Craisins recipe
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
3/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
generous 1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. (give or take, to taste) raisins

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with Silpat, parchment, or foil, dull side up.

2. In bowl of stand mixer, combine butter and brown sugar and beat on medium high until light and fluffy in texture and color, about three minutes, while you gather other ingredients.

3. In large bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, stirring to combine.

4. To butter and sugar, add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine well after each addition. When combined, add vanilla.

5. Stop mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn back on lowest setting. Add oatmeal mixture, then raisins, beating just until barely combined.

6. To form cookies, either use a standard-sized cookie scoop or use your fingers (it's messy!) to pick up loose balls of dough about 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter. Place onto baking sheets at least two inches apart (Katie places 11 cookies on each sheet, dividing dough into 22 cookies total). If you have leftover raisins, top each cookie with a couple.

7. Place in preheated oven and bake for 10-11 minutes.

8. Remove from oven, cookies will be slightly golden around edges and middles look a bit underdone. Let cool five minutes on cookies sheets and then place on wire racks to cool completely before serving.

one year ago: cranberry ginger scones
two years ago: shrimp fra diavolo

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Velvety Potato and Cilantro Soup

M and I have had a rough month. Not in terms of our relationship; we're doing fantastically. We've just had several tragic circumstances with our families that have put a lot of strain on each of us.

I knew when we got together tonight for our nine month anniversary, M would be looking for some comfort food. This soup, which he has told me is one of his favorites (his other favorite being his mom's clam chowder, which is fabulous), was a natural choice. It was a small gesture, but I'll do anything right now to help him feel better. He loved it.
He told me he'd even thought of just asking me to make it. I guess I read his mind.

The texture of this soup is just like a traditional potato soup. The flavor, however, is so different. The potato and cilantro hit you right away, then the poblano sneaks in with a little kick. It's a small kick, but it's just the right amount. If you're looking for a new way to bring comfort to someone you love, give this soup a try. It worked for M and I.


Velvety Potato and Cilantro Soup
from Phoenix Home & Garden, November 2005
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 poblano chiles, seeded, ribs removed, and chopped (about 1 1/2 c.)

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 tsp. kosher salt
(I used 2 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper, plus more to taste

6 c. chicken or vegetable stock (I used low sodium)
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled chopped (about 4 c.)
2 small bunches cilantro, stems and leaves, washed and dried
1 c. heavy cream or Mexican crema

Directions:

1. Place a heavy-bottomed four-quart soup pot on medium heat. Add oil, onions, chiles, and garlic. Sweat for ten minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.


2. Season with salt and pepper and cook one minute more.


3. Turn heat to high. Add stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. If using a stand-up blender for the next step, cool soup in an ice bath for 15 minutes.


4. Working in small batches, place soup and some of the cilantro in a blender to puree until smooth. Do not overblend or the soup will become gluey. If using an immersion blender, skip the ice bath, add cilantro to the pot, and blend.


5. Pour blended soup through a strainer into a large bowl. Return to pot and reheat over medium heat.

6. Stir in 3/4 c. cream and mix well and bring soup to a soft boil. Check seasoning.


7. Serve family style or in individual warmed bowls. Drizzle with remaining cream and garnish with a few cilantro leaves, chopped tomatoes, or any other desired garnish.

two years ago: whole-wheat pasta with walnuts and feta

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coffee Ice Cream

A little while ago, I won a Starbucks giveaway over on Pennies on a Platter. And what a giveaway it was! I quickly received one of Starbucks' new jumbo-sized bags of Colombian coffee, two sample-sized bags, and a really cute logo coffee mug.

As my longtime readers know, I love my coffee...but I also love my ice cream! For those of you living in the colder parts of the country, I'm sorry if this seems like a summer thing to you. I've always considered ice cream a year-round treat!

This ice cream was very simple to make; it followed pretty standard ice cream protocol. I did have one little snafu, however--I thought espresso powder and ground espresso beans were the same thing. Oops! Though I strained it a couple of times, I still had a considerable amount of espresso grounds in my final product. Fortunately, I've found the texture doesn't bother me all that much, probably because the flavor of this ice cream is so fantastic. Before you make it, just heed my warning--if you want smooth, non-speckled ice cream, use espresso powder, the extract, or a good, strong shot of the real stuff!


Coffee Ice Cream
from Williams-Sonoma
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
3 c. half-and-half (I subbed in 1 c. 2% milk to lighten it up)
1/2 c. light corn syrup
6 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
pinch of salt
4 tsp. coffee extract or 3 TBSP espresso powder

Directions:
1. In a 2 to 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half, milk (if using), and corn syrup until steam begins to rise from the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving.

3. Gradually add the hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.

4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

5. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the coffee extract, espresso powder, or espresso.

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

7. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled container, cover and freeze until firm, 3 to 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.

one year ago: cinnamon-buttermilk muffins and one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes, almond-scented cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and raspberry filling
two years ago: Cooking Light's ever-popular raspberry-balsamic chicken and Ellie Krieger's pumpkin pie muffins