Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chicken with Greens

Here comes the heat!  This weather, in my opinion, calls for cool summer meals that satiate without sweat!  So why not a nice chicken salad?

I started with a nice mix of red lettuce and spinach leaves, chopped, rinsed, spinned, and left to air dry.  Then I took 3-4 chicken breasts and put them in a medium sized pot filled about half way with water.  I put this on high heat as I chopped and added 1 stalk celery and one large carrot.  I added dried chives, parsley, red/black/green pepper, some garlic and cumin spices, and a touch of salt.  I let this come to boil, then simmered the mix until the meat measured at least 165 on a meat thermometer.  I was left with tender chicken and an awesome broth to save for soup, rice, pasta, or...whatever! 

I then shredded the chicken breasts into small pieces and added 1/4 chopped green and red pepper, 1/2 chopped celery stalk, 1/2 chopped carrot.  It was about this time that I realized I was missing a main ingredient...mayonnaise!  Uh oh, I've made chicken salad without mayo before and it turned out rather dry.  So I searched my refrigerator and found...plain Greek yogurt!  Along with some light ranch dressing.  So, I took the risk and added about 3/4 cup of yogurt and 1-2 tablespoons of ranch dressing.  I dressed up the whole shabang with pepper, a pinch of basil, and some more garlic and cumin type spices.

Did it work? Success!  I officially (and accidentally) made a healthier version of chicken salad!  Another good example of not knowing how something will turn out until you try it!

Mr. PT and I garnished this mix with a little cheese, oil/vinegar, tomatoes, and blue chips on the side.  It turned out to be a healthy and incredibly delicious mix!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh, Those Summer Mornings

Excuse my absence!  Working in a school definitely has its perks, one being the lovely three month break every summer.  Unfortunately, this means the month of May is jam packed with last minute projects, tests, meetings, and other events to clutter the calendar.

However, the month is wrapping itself up and cold weather has officially fleeted.  There is no looking back now!

I promise, I have been cooking the past two weeks, but my busy schedule has made it difficult to get adventurous in the kitchen so I have been sticking to a lot of favorites you've seen already.  I did manage to document a nice fish dish you might want to try.  Simple and healthy, yet satisfying.

Tilapia with Brown Rice and Vegetables

For this dish, I stir fried the brown rice with the traditional mix of veggies (onion, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach), some white beans, and zesty spices.  For the fish, I rinsed and pat-dried the filets and laid them in a "dish" made out of aluminum foil.  Then I drizzled the fish with olive oil and lemon juice.  I spiced them up with red/green pepper, rosemary, parmesan cheese, and a sprig of dill.  I put the dish in the broiler for about 10-12 minutes checking regularly.  Mr. PT usually is my broiler man because he is good at deciding when the fish is done.  However, all he does is wait about 10 minutes and cut a filet through the middle to make sure it falls apart.  You could also use a meat thermometer.

This was a light, flavorful dish that tasted delicious after an outside jog.

This morning, the weather was beautiful.  The sun was out but the humidity had not yet arrived.  The breeze blowing through the blooming trees made the air feel and smell like summer was coming.  It was not a cereal morning, or an egg morning...certainly too decadent for a smoothie.  So I cooked up some french toast.  I learned how to make this simple breakfast treat from my mother who has it perfected.  I will share it with you!

The secret to good french toast is to toast the bread first.  Sounds silly, but, it makes a big difference!  The bread can then soak up the egg mixture yet fend off sogginess.

Dip the toasted bread in a whisked mixture of...
-3-4 eggs
-2-3 tablespoons of milk
-teaspoon of vanilla
-teaspoon of cinnamon
-teaspoon of cloves

Cook the soaked bread in a non-stick pan until browned on each side.  Serve with yogurt, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Sit on your porch and enjoy every moment.

Monday, May 9, 2011

You Won't Know Until You Try It

When Mr. PT and I started co-habitating, we combined all the foods in our cupboards.  Along with the massive amounts of beans, brown rice, and frozen fruit I inherited, there was a lonely package of couscous.  I tend to be a little intimidated by ethnic ingredients.  They seem unfamiliar and I am unsure of how to serve them.  I am working on overcoming this fear.

Needless to say, this particular grain went unopened for quite some time.  This past weekend I was flipping through my Penzey's magazine (you must subscribe to this!) and stumbled upon a recipe containing the mysterious couscous.  It listed mint as an ingredient, a spice I do not usually work with.  So I thought to myself, I am never going to become a better cook if I do not put it all on the line and try this stuff out.  How hard could it be?

It turned out, not hard at all!  In fact, couscous was incredibly easy to prepare compared to rice or pasta.  And the texture, flavor, and overall presentation of the grain is pretty neat.  In case you are wondering, couscous is basically semolina that has been sprinkled with water and flour and sieved many times until it forms tiny granules.  It is often served in West Africa, but you could also see it in dishes that claim to be French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Greek, or Indian.

So if you like pasta or rice with chicken, take the leap and try out this recipe.  It is very light and flavorful and can be served as an entree or side dish.  If you are a vegetarian, try it with fish or shrimp.

2-3 cups cooked cubed chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tsp vinegar (it calls for white balsamic, but I used 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp red wine vinegar)
2 tsp Mural of Flavor (or a spice mix of onion, garlic, lemon peel, cumin, pepper, etc)
1/4-1 tsp ground pepper
2 cups cooked couscous (I used 3 cups)
1 tbs heaping freshly chopped mint
1/2-1 cup toasted pine nuts (those buggers are expensive! I used walnuts instead)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3 oz goat cheese

In a skillet, roast the nuts over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring/shaking regularly until fragrant and golden brown.  Sprinkle with paprika and cook for 1 more minute.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, spices and mix well.  Pour over the chicken.  Add the couscous and mix well.  Add the mint and nuts and stir again.  Spoon the mixture onto a serving platter and crumble the goat cheese over the top right before serving.

It took me about 1/2 hour to prepare this meal.  Of course, Mr. PT had to add his personal touch.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Siete de Mayo!

Since Cinco de Mayo was on a week day this year, Mr. PT and I decided to have friends over for a Siete de Mayo party this weekend.  It was great celebrating the small amount of Mexican heritage we have (if any) with sangria, Corona, and some classic Mexican appetizers.  It was a blast. 

We served fresh, homemade guacamole and bean/corn salsa (provided by friends), fresh fruit, gummy bears, chicken and pepper quesadillas, and dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.  I did not get a picture of it, but the sangria had oranges, pineapple, strawberries, mango, and blackberries with white zinfandel wine and diet 7up.  It was the perfect spread for munching, drinking, and having a good time without over-stuffing ourselves with heavy food.  You CAN have a party and still serve healthy, fresh food that people WILL enjoy! 

I will fill you in on the recipe for the quesadillas, since I've already blogged about guacamole.  Friend with salsa, feel free to post your recipe in a comment box!

flour tortillas
chicken breasts (1-2, depending on how many you want to make!)
3 bell peppers, of all colors
red onion
marbled cheddar cheese, or Mexican cheese
red/black pepper
olive oil
Mexican spices (cumin, onion, garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, etc)

Cut the chicken into small pieces and cook in a pan with olive oil and spices until thoroughly cooked.  Meanwhile, slice the peppers and onion and saute in a  pan with olive oil and spices until soft. Spread cheese, peppers, and chicken on half of a tortilla and fold the other half on top.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until the tortillas are slightly crispy.  I made half with peppers and chicken and half with just peppers. Turn on some mariachi music, top with a sombrero and enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Double Dinner Ideas

I do not think I would consider myself a "foodie," however, I do find myself at parties and other gatherings talking with people about food.  It is interesting to hear what people are cooking, baking, and trying in their kitchen.  Recently, I got to talking with another woman who was going through a vegetable phase like me, and she suggested making kale chips.  At first, I thought, kale?  The lettuce stuff?  How on earth could you turn that into a chip?  So I checked it out online, and, sure enough, kale chips are quite the rage.  So I bought myself some kale and tried them out.

Basically, you take a leaf of kale, rinse it off, pull the leafy parts away from the stem, tear them into "chips," spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with seasoned salt.  Then bake them for about 10-15 minutes on 450.

I will admit, I'm not crazy about the texture, but the taste will definitely cure any craving you have for salt and green stuff.  They make a good side dish for dinner, and like I read online, they are a great conversation piece for parties.  I added them to a dinner of salad with hot veggies on top and sweet potato fries, which was a great combination.

Dinner #2! Turkey Burgers!

This recipe was donated by my friend Laura who left it in a comment on this blog (something I strongly encourage!).  I bought ground turkey ages ago and finally got it out of my freezer to try these out.  Here's what you need to do:

1 cup cold leftover white or brown rice
1 pound ground turkey
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 tablespoon grill seasoning, (recommended: Montreal Seasoning by McCormick)

Combine rice, meat and beans with spices and grill seasoning. Form 4 big patties from the meat and bean mixture then heat 1 tablespoon oil, a turn of the pan, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook patties 7 to 8 minutes on each side.

As you can see, I topped mine with feta cheese, avocado, and a light spicy ranch, with a serving of mango on the side.  I browned the patties off in a hot skillet, then baked them at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  They were DELICIOUS.  Mr. PT ate 2 1/2, haha.  I guess he was hungry.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Time to Carb Load

Take that, half marathon!

Pasta topped with veggies, shrimp, and feta cheese

One you have to try!

If you find yourself in Downtown Cincinnati, there is a restaurant you MUST try.  It is called "It's Just Crepes," and they make the best crepes you will ever eat.  Mr. PT and I stumbled upon this place when they had just opened up their first store.  If I remember correctly, it was started by a local couple who wanted to serve a traditional Greek dish, and they decided on crepes.  They make them with meat, eggs, fruit, and even chocolate.  They make your crepe as you stand there and watch, so it's kind of fun. 

Mr. PT and I split both an omelet crepe and a fruit crepe.  They were the perfect way to break up a leisurely stroll downtown.

omelet crepe, with ham, cheese, egg, tomato, and green pepper

Fruit crepe, with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and vanilla cream

Love this place!