Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella...

It's been too HOT to cook these days! I haven't turned on the stove, except to make espresso, in the last couple of weeks! That is not like us....

After the umpteenth time of eating hamburgers for supper, I said "enough is enough"...I was desperate to find something to eat for dinner that didn't require much work or red meat and had limited stove time! As luck would have it, my monthly Everyday Food mag came in this week and I found 2 recipes (second one in next post) that I thought had potential!

I didn't change the recipe too much. I used half a precooked rotisserie chicken instead of the cutlets, and saved the rest for the other recipe. I omitted the water and added a few tablespoons of pesto instead.

Shells with Grilled Chicken and Mozzarella
Everyday Food

Coarse salt and ground pepper
Vegetable oil, for grates
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
8 ounces medium pasta shells
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons butter

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. Meanwhile, heat grill to medium; lightly oil grates. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill, and cut into thin strips, halving if long.

2. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot. Add chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, parsley, Parmesan, and butter. Toss to combine. Add reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a sauce that coats the shells (you may not need all the water). Serve with more Parmesan.

Greek Couscous Salad with Feta...

The inspiration for this recipe came from the August issue of Everyday Food. The original recipe is called "Bulgur Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts". I didn't have any bulgur or pine nuts so I thought I'd improvise. It turned out very delicious!

Greek Couscous Salad with Feta
Everyday Food (Modified)

2 cups couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped red onion
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved, and finely diced
1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, removed from carcass and cut into cubes

1. In a large bowl, mix couscous with salt and ground pepper. Pour in 2 1/2 cups boiling water; stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 3 minutes. Uncover; add lemon juice and olive oil and fluff with fork. Set aside.

2. Add feta, red onion, tomatoes, parsley, and cucumber. Toss to combine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've been Maimed...

Joking, of course! Actually Brilynn from Jumbo Empanadas asked me to participate in a Meme - there was no injuries involved, I promise!

A meme is like an interview where the host of a blog is asked a few questions by a fellow blogger...that's my interpretation anyways. I am then supposed to ask other fellow bloggers questions of my own and so it continues...so if anyone is interested I would gladly oblige...

1- What three people, dead or alive, real or fictional, would you like to have over for dinner and what would you eat?
Does it have to be over at MY house for dinner...couldn't it be on the shores of Spain or a villa in Italy....sigh....okay, so my house it is, I guess! A woman can dream!
Firstly, of course I'd want my husband there...he's my best friend and I'd want him to share in my excitement! I wouldn't want him to miss it!
Second, I definitely want Morgan Freeman to be invited. No attraction there, I swear! He's just always been my all-time favourite actor. I think he's so interesting, funny, so genuine, and he has integrity unlike other celebrities from Hollywood. And, he's talented to boot...actor, director, musician, Broadway star, academy-award winner, pilot...in truth, the only celebrity I would actually want to meet....
Third, would have to be God (and not because Freeman played God in "Bruce Almighty" - purely unrelated)! I can almost imagine the deep and philosophical conversations we would all have! I have so many questions, so many things I'd love to discuss and debate...love, fate, poverty, natural disasters, war, religion (I could go on and on...) I think it would be quite an interesting dinner party - I am sure we would all be up quite late, into the wee hours!
Now, what would I serve?!...hmmm....dinner would definitely be tapas or antipasto's....a spread of cheeses, cold cuts, baguette, olives, nuts, shrimp in garlic oil, grilled vegetables, chorizo in a romesco sauce, flank steak with a chimichurri sauce, paella, and, of course, lots and lots of wine! We could nibble and talk to our hearts content, never having to leave the table. For dessert, I'd make a tiramisu, just because it's my favourite. Obviously, it would be summer and it would be out on the patio, a clear warm night and the stars would be twinkling and the yard would be illuminated with lanterns and candles with some jazz playing in the background. Yes, I have a vivid imagination....hehehe...

2- If you were edible, what would you be made of?
Aren't I already edible...ahem...cough...okay so maybe that was a tasteless joke *wink* but, come on, I'm sure I was set up with that question! Seriously though (hahaha!), I'd definitely want to be a dessert - a rich chocolate one!

3- What's your favourite food related childhood memory?
Eating pierogies at my gramma's house - hands-down! She always makes them for the family on special occasions when we go to visit her in Ottawa - Easter, sometimes on Thanksgiving or Christmas (in addition to the turkey), birthdays, introducing someone new to the family, reunion, or sometimes for no reason at all - just because she knows we all love them so much. I remember I always used to watch her make them in awe (I still do when I visit), partly for the work involved, the ease in which she makes them, and her dedication - it takes at least half a day to make them and when we sit down for supper and she sees how happy we are to be eating our favourite meal, you can see how happy she is! Since I've been married I've been dying to learn to make them since I'd like to keep the tradition! It helps that my husband absolutely loves them too!

4- What's something that you've never made yourself but enjoy eating elsewhere?
Steak and rack of lamb! I love cooking but I'm just NOT good with the BBQ or grilling meat in any way, to be honest....I haven't gotten the cooking temperature/time quite figured out just yet - the whole medium or medium-rare thing is lost on me! Perhaps it's the lack of experience in this department. I figure a filet mignon, beef tenderloin, or rack of lamb are already quite expensive cuts of meat and if I screw up, it's money wasted. The few times we did experiment with recipes we ended up totally overcooking - nothing worse than an overcooked steak or rack of lamb! Anyways, for the amounts of times that we get a chance to BBQ (our summers are sooo short) and the special occasions that come up to warrant such fancy meals, it's just better to go out and have someone else cook for you!

5- If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I often say to my husband that I definitely think I missed my calling in life and that I should have been a chef or a pastry chef. I didn't even know I had any talent at all or love of the culinary arts until I started cooking/baking for my husband 2 years ago. Once I discovered I had a knack for it, and loved it, I always said that if ever we won the lottery I'd go back to school to be some sort of chef! I probably will go to cooking school ONE day (when we can afford it - which will be in about 10-15 years!) but not to pursue a career at that point in my life, only for my own personal enjoyment. Perhaps I will change my mind one day and decide to change careers...I would love that possibility...
Of course, if I ever won the lottery I would also give a lot away to close friends and family and charities and travel the world! But I guess that goes without saying...

Thanks Brilynn for the great questions!

Directions for the Interview Meme
1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

Last night Marc and I had this for the second time this year! It was even better than the first time and I know why! The first time we made this we were in too much of a hurry to marinate the chicken for the required 30 minutes and we also didn't use a grill-pan (we used a plain old skillet). What a difference the marinating and the proper pan made! It tasted exactly like souvlaki they serve at Greek restaurants we've been to!

We served with crumbled feta and pita bread. Super Yum!

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce
Cooking Light

Souvlaki:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into (1/2-inch-thick) slices
Cooking spray

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced

To prepare souvlaki, combine the first 5 ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag; seal and shake to combine. Add chicken to bag; seal and shake to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Thread the chicken and zucchini, alternately onto each of 4 (8-inch) skewers.

Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add skewers; cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done, turning once.

To prepare tzatziki sauce, combine cucumber, yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 garlic clove, stirring well. Serve the tzatziki sauce with souvlaki. Yield: 2 servings (serving size: 2 skewers and about 1/4 cup tzatziki sauce)

NUTRITION PER SERVINGCALORIES 219(19% from fat); FAT 4.7g (sat 1.3g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 30.9g; CHOLESTEROL 69mg; CALCIUM 161mg; SODIUM 705mg; FIBER 2.4g; IRON 1.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 12.3g

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Latté Frozen Yogurt

Tomorrow night I promised our friend's Ida and Max that we would have them over for tacos! At first, I thought of making a Mexican dessert to go with the theme but then I changed my mind and decided to go with a chocolate or coffee frozen yogurt. Since we all love coffee, especially lattés, I chose this recipe.

It was a little more labor intensive than the other recipes I have tried so far since the recipe starts off on the stove (with vigourous stirring) but it didn't take longer than the other recipes and, anyways, it would have been all worth it had it taken double the time! I was also worried about having scrambled eggs when I poured the hot liquid into the beaten egg but if you whisk continually as you're pouring, the eggs won't scramble.

Of course, I had to have a sneak a taste. I mean, what IF it wasn't good! In one word - YUMMY! It tastes exactly like a latté - more precisely, a Starbuck's latté (my favourite)! The coffee flavor is pronounced but not too strong; creamy and smooth; sweet but not too sweet! I was skeptical at first about using the marshmallows but I am convinced now that it is the marshmallows that give it that "something" to make it taste like a latté.

Next time I make this I might double or triple the vanilla to turn this into a Vanilla Latté Frozen Yogurt - then it will be absolutely perfect!

Can't wait for tomorrow night!

Latté Frozen Yogurt
The Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt Cookbook by Mable and Gar Hoffman

Makes about 1 quart

2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon instant-coffee crystals
1 egg
1/4 cup miniature or cut-up large marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt, stirred

In a 1 1/2- or 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in milk and instant-coffee. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture simmers. In small bowl, beat egg slightly; stir about 1/2 cup hot mixture into beaten egg. Pour egg mixture into pan with remaining hot liquid. Cook and stir over low heat until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; add marshmallows and stir until dissolved. Cool. Stir in vanilla and yogurt. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

1 serving contains: 175 cal; 32g carb; 3g fat; 43mg chol; 180mg calcium

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Black Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos)...

I knew I would be alone for supper tonight since my hubby was working the evening shift. I opened the fridge this afternoon to see what I had to work with for supper and realized that our fridge was bare (a very rare occurrence in our house!) except for a couple of fruits and vegetables - we were definitely due for our weekly grocery shopping trip! I skimmed through some of my cookbooks looking for recipes that could use some of our pantry staples without me having to go to the grocery store. I came across this recipe - it was perfect! Not only because I had all the ingredients on-hand but it was a recipe I had been wanting to make for a long time!

The recipe was perfect BUT where were all the spices?! It just sounded so... bland! It needed spice, after all ...it was a Cuban recipe, how could it NOT have spice! I decided to search the net for similiar recipes to see what could be added to jazz it up. I finally found one and decided I would add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar.

I was very surprised at how good this recipe turned out! I honestly didn't think a recipe with such simple ingredients would result in such a great dish! And, not only did it taste great, it was super easy and fast to make. It's a definite keeper recipe!

History of the recipe: Black beans and rice is a popular Cuban dish said to bring good luck when eaten on New Year's Day. In Spanish, the dish is called Moros y Cristianos or Christians & Moors, with the black beans representing the dark-skinned Moors and the white rice representing the lighter-skinned Christians.

Black Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos)
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, peeled if desired, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups drained cooked or canned black beans
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; don't bother to drain), optional
1 cup bean cooking liquid, or chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

My additons: 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp crushed red chili peppers, 1 bay leaf, and 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Cooked Rice to serve

1. Place the oil in a large, deep skillet and turn the heat to medium. A minute later, add the onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the pepper is soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, the beans, the optional tomatoes, and the liquid. (I added the extra spices at this point).

2. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the beans are hote and most of the liquid is evaporated, 10 to 20 minutes. Stir in most of the parsley. (I took out the bay leaf here).

3. Arrange the pilaf on a platter, in a ring if you like. Spoon the beans over the rice or into the center of the ring, or pass them separately. Garnish with the remaining parsely and serve.

Per main dish serving: Calories 341; Fat 5g; Percent Calories from Fat 13; Potassium 536mg; Carbohydrate 65g; Folate 133mcg; Sodium 917mg; Calcium 118mg; Protein 10g; Dietary Fiber 10g; Cholesterol 0mg