Monday, November 30, 2009

Ginger-Maple Glazed Salmon with Spaghetti Squash and Green Beans

I was trying to get one last healthy meal in before the Thanksgiving Holiday last week, so I had John pick up some wild salmon and fresh green beans from whole foods. We were busy packing for our trip so I was looking for something that would be easy to prepare and relatively light so as to not slow us down. There is a time and a place for a big yummy meal and a glass of wine that leaves you with no choice but to veg on the couch for the evening but this was not it. I didn't have much in the fridge so I had to improvise a little bit. I had a spaghetti squash that I'd been meaning to use up so I got that roasting in the oven first. I cut it in half length-wise, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I placed it on a cookie sheet lined with foil (cut side up) and roasted it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes. In the meantime, I made a glaze for the salmon: 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon of olive oil 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup 1 tsp dijon mustard 1 tsp of grated ginger Pinch of salt and some fresh black pepper I whisked it together and then poured carefully over the salmon filet (approx 2/3 of a lb)- reserving one spoon full. I let it sit for 15 mins or so while I snapped the green beans, spooning the glaze back over the top from time to time as it ran off into the baking dish. When the timer read 12 mins on the squash, I put the salmon in the oven to roast alongside it. I steamed my green beans in the meantime as well. At about 6 minutes, I pulled the salmon out to brush with the last of the glaze. (I would definitely check the salmon around 8 or 10 mins, I don't think I ended up letting it go the full 12 mins.) I shredded the spaghetti squash with a fork and then added some butter and some salt and pepper to taste. It really is a great side dish- one that I don't make very often but really enjoy when I do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sour Cream Chicken

This has been a family favorite recipe as long as I can remember. This chicken served with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes would easily have been titled my favorite meal for at least 6 years of my life. Its still way up there, I’ve since decided there can no longer be a single favorite . The recipe is easy, can be made ahead, is kid friendly, and is amazing left over cold the next day. My Mom got the recipe from a friend back before we moved to Saudi Arabia which was in 1985- although I recently stumbled upon it in the Colorado Cache cookbook which is what teased my taste buds for it last week. (Famous junior league of Denver recipe collection from back in the day) I set the book out on the counter as I was leaving for work in hopes I could sweet talk John into making it while I was at work that day... (it worked.) The marinade is very easy and you can let the chicken go for an hour or two or even overnight if you have the time. I like to cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise before marinating- the portions are more reasonable and you can shave off some of the cooking time. I’ve done this with chicken tenderloins as well which is super fast. Marinade/Coating: ½ pint sour cream ¼ cup lemon juice 1 T Worcestershire sauce 4 tsp celery salt 2 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp paprika ½ tsp pepper When I got home from work, I seasoned some panko bread crumbs (I used almost 2 cups I think, more than I would have thought) with salt and pepper. I dredged each of the chicken pieces (you want to leave as much of the gooey marinade coating on them as possible) in the crumbs and placed them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and sprayed with Pam. I then drizzled the chicken ever so lightly with olive oil to help them brown in the oven. The recipe calls for melted butter but I didn’t feel like melting any... it crisped up nicely and olive oil is technically the healthier choice too. I baked the chicken at 350 for approx 35 minutes, checking ever so often to avoid over cooking. I served the chicken hot from the oven with steamed broccoli doused with fresh lemon juice (a must with this dish in my opinion) and some twice baked potatoes that I had left over in the freezer (thanks Tripp and Luci!). I can honestly say that I’ll be making this again very very soon as my tummy is grumbling as I type. I’d be tempted to double the recipe too- as I said earlier, this makes great left-overs and is delicious served cold should you be looking for picnic ideas. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage-Brown Butter and Herb Grilled Chicken

Again I find myself extremely behind with the posts... the Lacy family travel agency is still buzzing with interview and work travel. I haven’t yet posted a great easy recipe from over a week ago now... We had our good friends Taylor and Alden over for Sunday dinner. I’d picked up some Whole Foods Butternut Squash Ravioli (frozen) and some other accompaniments to put together a great fall meal. I absolutely love squash/pumpkin of all kinds. My favorite way to prepare ravioli with a sweet filling like butternut squash is with a simple sage-brown butter sauce. The combination of sweet and savory is absolutely fantastic- and it really could not be any easier unless you bought your sauce in a jar. I cooked the ravioli per the package instructions (they only took 3 minutes so I had to work fast) and made the sauce at the same time. In a large skillet I melted ¾ of a stick of unsalted butter. I let it go over medium heat just until it barely started to turn a light golden brown. I then add two tablespoons or so of fresh sage leaves -sliced into a chiffonade, a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. I stir it all together, the sage starts to crackle just barely, the butter browning a bit more, and that’s it! The smell is HEAVENLY. Taylor commented that it smelled like sausage when he walked through the kitchen- the sage really packs a punch. I drained the ravioli and then tossed it in the skillet with the butter sauce and served immediately. I then plated it in a pasta bowl topped with freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese. This is a fantastic meal in itself, I served it with a mixed green, goat cheese and cranberry salad and some fresh Italian bread- however I wanted to add some protein given we had guests for dinner. I had a package of three chicken breasts that I halved lengthwise, rubbed with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and some herbs de Provence. I let it sit for a couple of hours in the fridge. John then grilled the chicken just before we were ready to eat. I sliced the chicken and plated it on top of the ravioli. The herbs de Provence added a little something extra, tying in nicely with the flavor of the fresh sage.
Our guests brought a bottle of Estancia Cab which was fantastic and we later opened a Sur Malbec as well. Both were big and rich, perfect on a cool fall Sunday evening alongside pasta dinner.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking
*1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
*1.5 cups all-purpose flour
*1 cup packed light brown sugar
*1/2 teaspoon baking soda
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1 large egg plus one white, lightly beaten
*1/2 cup canola oil
*1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
*half of an 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, barely drained
2 medium sized ripe bananas- mashed
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet oven for about 8 minutes in the oven-until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop finely in food processor. Set aside. 3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.In another large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, pineapple, mashed bananas, and finely chopped pecans. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until combined. Fill the muffin tins with batter, about 3/4 of the way up. I only made 10 so I put a 1/2 inch of watre in two tins left empty so that the heat would distribute evenly. Bake for about 18 or 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 4. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the pan and set on rack to cool completely before frosting.
Maggie's Go-To Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pkg cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
approx 2 cups confectioner sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Start with the cream cheese and butter in the mixer. Cream until blended and smooth- scrape down the sides and around the bottom of the bowl once or twice to avoid lumps. Then add vanilla and sugar- mix until combined and fluffy, just a minute or two. Fool proof and delicious on ANYTHING.
I made these cupcakes on Sunday because I had some ultra-ripe bananas sitting around. I usually make banana bread but we had friends coming to dinner so I needed a dessert idea instead. I halved a layer cake recipe for Hummingbird Cake (I've already halved it for you above) which I think would have come out great IF... I hadn't put baking powder (very likely expired baking powder at that) into the batter in place of baking SODA. Rookie mistake... I'm ashamed. Nonetheless the flavor was great, they were just a little on the dense side. I lovingly referred to them as "PuckCakes." (as in hockey puck) On the bright side I see this as an excellent excuse to make these again really soon.

Slow Roasted Halibut with Salsa Genovese

I wanted to make a special dinner Saturday night to welcome John home from a long, crazy week on the interview trail. I did a loop through Whole Foods Saturday afternoon and they had the most amazing fish selection. They had some beautiful red grouper fillets, fresh halibut and some wild Alaskan salmon... it was very hard to chose. I ended up with the halibut per the recommendation of the Whole Foods Fish Man. They also had some wild caught stone crab claws which I couldn't pass up... we had some recently at Joe's out in Las Vegas and I've been dreaming of them every since! I decided to try a Michael Chiarello recipe from his Easy Entertaining cookbook-"Slow Roasted Halibut with Salsa Genovese"- I really love his California/Italian style of cooking. Its simple food prepared authentically with great fresh ingredients. I followed the recipe exactly for roasting the fish and I made a smaller batch of the salsa genovese since I was only cooking for two- I halved the recipe. I didn't have any asparagus on hand so I actually served the fish with sauteed garlic spinach- one of John's favorites. I realized that the halibut was barely undercooked as I was plating it (the filets were really thick)- but 20 seconds in the microwave and they were perfectly flaky. Other than that- the recipe was marvelous. Simple, fresh and light. (I actually used the left over Salsa Genovese two days later as a spread on some grilled mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, it was very very tasty.) We enjoyed the crab claws as an appetizer. I steamed them lightly and served them with some lemon-butter for dipping. To drink- we sampled a bottle of Elk Cove Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley in Oregon and it was FANTASTIC. I'm starting to study up for our Oregon/California trip we're planning for May!!! I'll be documenting my Willamette Pinot experiments for your reading pleasure over the next few months...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mom's Chicken Divan

Many of you know that the lack of posting activity is largely due to the fact that John is currently on the interview trail. He has 18 interviews in an 8 week period at residency programs up and down the East coast... needless to say that leaves little time for leisurely dinners at home these days. I had my brother-in-law Nate over this week for a casual weeknight dinner and I decided to make one of my favorite comfort food dishes of all time. I'm not really a "casserole" kind of girl, but this one is exceptionally fantastic. Chicken divan is a classic chicken and broccoli casserole. Mom's is kicked up with some curry which makes all the difference. I started with two rotisserie chicken breasts and one large bunch of fresh broccoli. I cut the chicken into cubes and then roughly chopped the lightly steamed broccoli (including a few inches of the stalks.) In a bowl, I whisked together the following: 2/3 can cream of chicken soup 1/4 cup mayo 1/4 cup evaporated milk 1/2 tsp curry powder generous grind of black pepper I gently tossed the chicken and broccoli in with the sauce mixture until evenly coated and then I transferred everything to a medium sized baking dish coated with cooking spray. The best thing about a casserole of course is the crispy crunchy, golden brown topping- so I made a generous amount of it. I mixed 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs with 3 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese. I added some extra cracked black pepper to the mix as well. I spread the crumb mixture over the casserole dish and then lightly sprayed the top with cooking spray to help it toast. I baked the casserole at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden and barely bubbly. I served the chicken divan with some wild and brown rice on the side. I can honestly say that I ate this for lunch AND dinner again the following day. I definitely enjoyed it, a sprinkle of nostalgia made it taste even better than I'd remembered. Love you Mom. xo

Braised Pork Tacos

To carry on with my braising kick- I decided for Halloween that I would braised a pork shoulder, low and slow, "carnitas"style. (Sadly for the trick or treater's, I was not planning to share.) We were planning to be out and about visiting some friends so I decided I could cook the pork in the crock pot, it'd be ready to go when we got home for a late dinner. I purchased a 6 lb bone-in pork shoulder from Harris Teeter which was far more than I needed, but that's what they had. In my large dutch oven, I heated a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat and browned the pork on all sides. I then transferred the pork to my crock pot which is thankfully, quite large. Into the same dutch oven (leaving all of the brown bits in the bottom from the pork) I sauteed some onion and garlic. (I had chopped one large onion and four garlic cloves together in the food processor.) Once the onion started to look translucent, I added: 2 tablespoons Ancho Chile Powder 1 tablespoon regular Chile Powder 1.5 tablespoons Cayenne 2 tablespoons Cumin 5 bay leaves I mixed the spice mixture into the onions and then added approximately 4 cups of water. I cooked the mixture for 10 minutes or so- letting the flavors start to marry together- before pouring it over the pork shoulder in the crock pot. I set the crock pot to high and cooked the pork for one hour. I then turned the crock pot down to low heat and let it go for another 6 or 7 hours. By the time we were ready to eat- the pork was perfectly tender and falling off the bone. I turned the crock pot off and let the meat cool some in the braising liquid before shredding the meat with a fork. I transferred the meat to a large dish and ladled some extra sauce over it- not so much that it was swimming, just to add some extra flavor. We served the pork with some classic store-bought taco fixins. Corn tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, shredded cabbage, and Monterrey jack cheese. They were juicy and absolutely scrumptious. I actually got the idea from Tyler Florence's Pot Roast Taco recipe- he braises beef shoulder in a similar way. Definitely a keeper make-ahead recipe. More exciting than your average ground beef variety taco but still easy to pull together to feed a crowd or a few tipsy candy-giver-outers!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes with White Icing

As if there wasn't enough sugar pulsing through my veins this Halloween week, I decided to make some festive cupcakes to pass out to friends that we were visiting on Halloween. When it comes to cupcakes, I always go straight to the Master... Ms. Martha Stewart.
I love to browse pictures and recipes on Most of the cupcakes actually look too pretty to eat, though I can only presume they are spectacularly delicious as well as adorable. While I wish I had a whole day to devote to the craft of cupcake baking and decoration, most times that is not the I settled on her "Easy Chocolate Cupcakes with White Icing recipe".
I baked the cupcake per the exact instructions, adding 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips to the batter. (I was out of sour cream so I substituted buttermilk instead.) The recipe made exactly 12 cupcakes and they appeared done at 22 minutes.
After the cooled completely, I piped a generous mound of the simple white icing on each of them. (softened butter, powdered sugar, a splash of milk and a drizzle of vanilla extract.) I then decorated the top with some chocolate covered, candy coated sunflower seeds in Halloween colors. You can find these things in speciality and gift stores- I see them all the time these days.
The cupcakes looked simple yet festive. The flavors were delicious - rich and chocolatey- however the cake was much more dense than I was anticipating. Perhaps my buttermilk substitution was off in proportion, or maybe its time to replace my baking powder? I actually went back to read some reviews of the recipe online and it sounds like others had a dense result too. They were still tasty, almost a cross between a cake and brownie in texture. The icing (though it looked great piled high) was quite rich as well, I had to scoop some off the top while I was eating them.

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala is one of those dishes that you can throw together quickly for a satisfying weeknight dinner or dress up a little bit for easy yet impressive entertaining. Provided you have chicken and mushrooms on hand, everything else you need you likely have in the pantry.
Wednesday night I was late getting home and I pulled this together in a matter of minutes. I had two boneless, skinless chicken breast that I pounded out to about 1/3-1/2 inch thickness, I then cut each piece in half. I dredged them in some seasoned flour (salt and pepper) and sauteed in butter until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through. Maybe 4 minutes per side.
I removed the chicken from the skillet (covered loosely with foil) and added another Tablespoon or so of butter to the pan along with one container of sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms and the leaves from 3 or 4 springs of fresh thyme. I sauteed the mushrooms for a few minutes until golden brown at the edges- seasoning with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Next I added 1/3 cup or so of Marsala wine. (If you don't have this on hand, you can actually use any dry white wine and it still tastes delicious.) Cook over medium/slightly higher heat until the wine cooks down to about half the volume. Lastly I added 1/4 cup of chicken stock to the mix, continuing to simmer and reduce for another 5 minutes. The sauce starts to thicken with the help of the flour left over from the chicken. I finished the sauce with a small pad of butter at the very end to give it an extra silkiness and then I put the chicken pieces back into the pan to rewarm while soaking in some of the delicious sauce. I left them in there for only one minute so as to avoid making them soggy.
I cooked half a box of whole wheat rotini pasta while I was working on the sauce. After draining the pasta, I returned the pasta to the pot and hit it with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous handful of parmesan cheese. When we were ready to plate, I started with a cup or so of pasta in the bottom of a pasta bowl and then placed two chicken pieces over the top. Finally I spooned some of the additional sauce and mushrooms over the top. Serve the dish with a side salad and bon appetite!

With dinner we opened a bottle of Queen of Hearts Cabernet Savignon that John picked out at Whole Foods. I think it was $12-$15 and we thought it was quite delicious. I found a picture of the label online- I'm not actually sure if we had a 2003. We will definitely look for this one in the future.