Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brayden's 1st Birthday

This month was my soon-to-be nephew's 1st birthday and I had the honor of making his birthday cake. He LOVES Mickey Mouse so of course I took that theme and ran with it. I think he liked it!

Here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure... I used a Mickey Mouse cake pan from Wilton and funfetti cake mix (as requested by his mommy). I ended up using two boxes of cake mix so I could make a "smash cake" for him.

This little cake was strictly for Brayden - he could put his hands in it all he wanted. He actually spent a lot of the time trying to first touch the lit candle and then picking off all of the red spots he saw! SO CUTE!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Orange Pork with Scallions

I adore salty foods - probably more than sweets - so from time to time I get cravings for stir-fry. This recipe, adapted from Cooking Light, is really easy to make and can easily be modified with what is in your fridge and pantry at the moment. Of course I changed a few things, but when don't I? It is important to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go when you begin this recipe. Stir-fry recipes come together very quickly and you can't be stuck scrambling in the fridge or chopping ingredients. That is exactly why this recipe is a good one to make on a weeknight after work!

1 pound pork tenderloin  
(I used chicken)
2 tbsp cornstarch, divided
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice  
(I doubled this)
2 tbsp soy sauce  
(I doubled this)
1 tsp chili garlic sauce  
(I omitted this)

1/4 tsp salt
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
2 cups matchstick-cut carrots
1/4 cup water
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup sliced green onions

Cut pork into 2 x 1/4-inch-wide strips. Combine pork and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a bowl; toss well. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, broth, and next 4 ingredients (through salt).

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. I used a little olive oil because my wok is not non-stick. Add pork to pan; saute 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness (if you use chicken, this needs to be cooked until white on the inside); stir frequently. Remove pork from pan.

Heat oil in pan. Add carrots, 1/4 cup water, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return pork to pan. Stir in broth mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds. At this point I put a lid on the pan to trap the heat in so that my carrots would steam. I don't like them too crunchy. Stir in 1/3 cup onions. Serve immediately. Garnish with sliced onions, if desired. Serves 4.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, another healthy recipe - only 214 calories and 6.9g of fat if you follow the recipe exactly. It may be fewer calories than ordering take-out but it does not lack in flavor. The orange juice becomes concentrated after being cooked so you taste a nice hint of orange. I have a feeling adding orange zest next time will make it even better. The soy sauce of course contributes to this dish's saltiness which I adore. The cornstarch really helps to thicken up the sauce and coats the chicken nicely. I served this dish over white rice (that I made in my awesome rice cooker from my awesome brother Michael). Two thumbs up!

Let me know your favorite stir-fry recipe or your favorite take-out place - post your comment on this blog!

Tutti Mangia! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Turkey Mini-Meatloaf Muffins

I had a craving for meatloaf - big time. Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food - I'm sure many of you ate it growing up. I did, but certainly not with ingredients found below. Traditionally it is made with ground beef but I lightened it up by using ground turkey instead. This recipe was adapted from the Cooking Light website. I had to make quite a few variations to the ingredients in this recipe because I had a 20 ounce package of ground turkey, not 8 ounces.

Cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 cup)
1 carrot, shredded
3 tbsp dry breadcrumbs (1/2 cup)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (4 tbsp)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (2 tbsp)
1/4 tsp salt (use more to taste)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper (use more to taste)
8 ounces ground turkey breast (20 ounces)
1 large egg white (1 whole egg)
3 tbsp ketchup, divided (8 tbsp)
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. I used a little bit of olive oil in the pan. Add onion and carrot to pan; saute 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Combine onion/carrot, breadcrumbs, and next 7 ingredients (through egg white) in a large bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons ketchup. Spoon about 1/2 cup meat mixture into each of 3 muffin cups coated with cooking spray; place muffin tin on a baking sheet. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon ketchup and hot pepper sauce in a small bowl. Brush ketchup mixture over meat loaf tops. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Serves 3. Because I more-than-doubled the original recipe, I made 12 muffins total and they took about 45 minutes to cook.

The Worcestershire sauce used in this recipe really enhances the flavor of the turkey. I have to admit, I like using ground turkey because it adapts itself to any flavor you add into it. It is almost like a blank pallet, unlike beef, which has a very distinct taste. One problem with turkey is that it has a tendency to dry out easily, but adding Worcestershire sauce and shredded carrot solves this problem. One step not to skip is sauteing the onions and carrots before-hand; it brings out the flavor in them.

Can you say YUM?

If you follow this recipe exactly, each serving is only 142 calories and 1.5 grams of fat - nice and healthy! Even with the adjustments I made, it is still a very healthy meal. I served these cute little meatloaf muffins with tater tots and a salad made with Boston Bibb lettuce. During the week, I like to pair easy sides with a yummy meal that might take me a little longer to whip up. It doesn't get easier than putting frozen tater tots on a baking sheet and browning them up, that's for sure! Tutti Mangia!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chicken Piccata with Orzo

Happy Valentine's Day! Yesterday we celebrated St. Valentine - the saint of lovers and yesterday I made chicken piccata for dinner. It was my gift to Shaun and honestly it was all I could do after the amazing steak dinner he bought me at Mooo in Boston Sunday night. I gave him the option to have any meal he wanted me to cook for him - and he chose chicken piccata.

This specific recipe was adapted from Cooking Light but I usually just wing it when I'm in the kitchen making it... which is why you will see a few additions below. If you run a general Google search you will find TONS of different recipes for this dish. Chicken piccata is a traditional Italian dish and sometimes made with veal (also delicious). The word piccata translates to mean spicy or piquant which is a result of the salty capers and tart lemon juice.

1 cup uncooked orzo
2 tsp grated lemon rind
4 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup flour 
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp capers

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain. Stir in rind. (I added the rind into the sauce, which in turn was spooned over the orzo.)
2. While orzo cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. I also pounded out the chicken nice and thin and dredged it in flour before putting it in the pan. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.
3. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Add broth and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat; add butter; stirring until butter melts. Stir in parsley and capers. Serve over orzo. I doubled the sauce ingredients because we both LOVE to soak the orzo with the sauce.

I served this chicken dish with arugula (dressed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper) alongside roasted asparagus. I think this is a restaurant-quality meal that anyone can make at home and it is just as delightful! It is a simple dish to add into your repertoire - along with some other classics - Scaloppine, Rollatini and Saltimbocca. Believe me, it is easier to make the dishes than say them in Italian. Look out for those in later posts - Tutti Mangia!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

I stumbled across this recipe (courtesy of allrecipes.com) when Shaun told me he wanted a dessert that involved raspberries. That fruit is not really in season at the moment and I don't particularly like using frozen fruit in desserts... so raspberry preserves would end up working out in my favor! I always read user reviews for different recipes that I try out online - I find them very informative. Based on some that I read for this recipe, I decided to add a few extra ingredients for more depth of flavor - as you can see below. These bars are extremely easy to put together and bake up in no time!

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 8 inch square pan, and line with greased foil. You definitely want to use greased foil or you will have a big mess not worth cleaning up!
2. Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and rolled oats. Include the additional ingredients with the ones above. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam. This is an important step to ensure that the bars won't fall apart.
3. Bake for 35-40 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars. Once they come out of the oven, they are softer and pliable but after sitting out for 10-15 minutes they harden up.

If you want a dessert bar that is not too sweet, these are for you - OR if you want something different for breakfast - why not right?

Tutti Mangia!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mushroom Lovers' French Bread Pizzas

I love mushrooms which is why this recipe was a must on my list. My best friend Alexis (a vegetarian) will agree with me when I say that mushrooms are one of the most delicious things that grow out of the ground. This recipe was adapted from one of Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals and she has delivered once again! There is no sacrificing flavor in this vegetarian meal.

8 large portobello mushroom caps*
1 lb button mushrooms*
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms*
* I used 24 ounces of cremini mushrooms, sliced ONLY but kept all other ingredient amounts the same... this does not allow for 4 sandwiches though.
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 bay leaf
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine (eyeball it) - I may have put 1 cup in!
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used 1 tsp which ended up being salty enough for me)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, chopped (I used dry)
1 loaf crusty French bread, 24 inches (I used rolls and toasted them just the same)
3 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese


<--- AFTER

Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp towel. Slice the mushrooms. Heat a deep skillet with extra-virgin olive oil and butter over medium heat. When butter melts into oil, add bay, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are dark and tender, 12-15 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and add wine. Deglaze the pan with wine, eyeball the amount. Shake the pan and add the Worcestershire and thyme. Turn off heat. I ended up still wanting to brown the mushrooms even more after this step so I cooked them on high heat for another 5 minutes and then added another 1/2 cup of wine or so.

Preheat broiler and split the load lengthwise and across. Hollow out a bit of the soft insides. Toast the bread lightly under broiler. Fill bread with mushrooms evenly then top with cheese liberally. Melt cheese until it browns and bubbles then remove the pizzas from the oven and turn off the broiler. 

                                    Tutti Mangia!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuna Bocadillos

Spanish cuisine is not something I make frequently in my house - for no particular reason at all.  I really love the flavors that their food is know for which is why when I came across this recipe in my Food & Wine (January 2009 edition) magazine, I had to try it! A bocadillo is just the Spanish word for sandwich (pronounced bo-kah-dee-oh). The main difference between bocadillos and U.S. sandwiches is the lack of mayo or lettuce which is replaced with rubbing a tomato on the bread to moisten it, as you will see below. This is no traditional tuna sandwich either - it is much more than that! The sweet caramelized onions along with the bite of the tuna pairs great with the tangy roasted peppers. Let's not forget to mention the crunch of the toasty bread as you bite into this sandwich!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, white and tender green parts only, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram (didn't have this so I used oregano)
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp sugar (be careful not to put too much - the onions will start to sweeten and caramelize on their own)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 carrot, finely diced (I shredded this instead)
Two 8-ounce jars imported Spanish tuna in olive oil (I used Bumble Bee, in water)
Four 8-inch baguettes, split lengthwise (I used rolls that I had on-hand)
1 ripe tomato, halved crosswise
4 piquillo peppers, cut into thin strips (I used roasted red peppers)
Slice of swiss cheese - I added this to the recipe and melted it on the toasted bread

* As you can see, I made quite a few substitutions for ingredients so that I didn't go broke at the grocery store. There is nothing wrong with this! Part of being a great chef is having the ability to make substitutions on the fly and understanding what food pairs with what.

1. In a skillet, heat the 2 tbsp of oil. Add the onion, leeks, thyme and marjoram. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 10 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar and carrot and cook until the liquid has evaporated, 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.

2. Add the tuna and its oil to the vegetables, breaking the tuna into large flakes.

3. Preheat the broiler. Brush the cut side of the baguettes with oil and toast slightly. Rub the cut sides of the tomato over the baguettes, leaving lots of pulp. Spoon the tuna onto the baguettes, top with the piquillos; serve. Makes 4 sandwiches.

You can make this sandwich for lunch or dinner - it is hearty enough for either meal. BUT - if you would rather have someone else make it for you, head over to Piquillo at Terminal 5 in JFK Airport in NYC. It was the 1st Tapas Bar to open in a U.S. airport. It also made the list of Best Airport Restaurants from Food & Wine magazine. Clearly this sandwich requires more work than throwing some turkey and cheese on white bread, but overall it is fairly simple to prepare and delicious!

Tutti Mangia! Or should I say A Comer! Both of those phrases translate to "Everybody Eat" for those of you who do not speak Italian or Spanish!

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