Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Mediterranean Orzo Salad

We like to make this dish a lot because its easy, healthy and no fuss. The chicken is best if you allow it to marinade at least an hour. And its really good if you can grill outside, but if not a cast iron skillet will work perfectly. It also makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.
For the chicken you will need the following:
1 pound of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (I usually take them and cut them in half length wise that way they are thinner and you get more bang for your buck!)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh or dry is fine
1 teaspoon of rosemary, fresh or dry is fine
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag with chicken and shake it all around until everything is mixed and chicken is coated well. Set aside in fridge for at least an hour. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place chicken in hot pan and cook on one side for about 6 minutes or until browned and flip and cook on the other side, until chicken is cooked all the way through.

For the Mediterranean Orzo Salad: (this is a cold salad so it can be made ahead of time) Adapted from here:
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
8 oz. orzo
1/4 cup diced red onion
4 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 medium sized cucumber, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
16 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh mint
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet toss the eggplant with garlic and olive oil. Spread out on baking sheet and cook until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally for even browning. Meanwhile cook orzo, according to directions and drain. Remove eggplant to a large nonmetallic bowl. Add pasta and set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Like I said, this salad makes a great lunch because it is cold and this serves about 6 as a side dish, so you will have leftovers if its only a couple people eating. The chicken also makes great sandwiches for lunch the next day as well. Enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sausage, Tomato, Arugula Pizza

K.C. and I love pizza, but ever since I was diagnosed with being a Lactard, our pizza days became numbered. Or so we thought..K.C. started making his own pizza dough, mostly because you can't really find a plain pizza crust at the grocery store. We have found one at Central Market in the frozen foods section, which is pretty good, but its not cheap. We found that making our own dough saved us money and it really isn't that complicated. Now, these pizzas that we are making are cheese-less, of course. But, we think they are just as good, all you need is fresh ingredients and a little time. I say time only because the dough has to sit and rise, but you can do this ahead of time and leave it until you are ready to use it. And we usually either make our own tomato sauce or in this case pesto (without cheese, which you would never know).
So, for the dough here is what you need:
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
In a small bowl combine the water and yeast. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 minutes, to activate the yeast.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour the water and yeast mixture in. Mix with a fork until you can't mix with a fork anymore. Knead dough until smooth about 10 minutes. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over the dough, set aside in a clean bowl covered with saran wrap until dough doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
When you are ready to make the pizza, on a floured surface, take dough out and cut in half (this is enough for 2 pizzas). Flour a rolling pin and roll out dough until its about 1/4" thick. Place rolled out dough in a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Poke the dough with a fork all over and brush olive oil over the top. Cook in a preheated oven at 400 degrees, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with toppings. Spoon pesto on top of the pizza shell, top with sliced tomatoes, cooked sweet Italian sausage, and arugula. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put back in 500 degree oven until crust is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

For the pesto:
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
Put all the above ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Taste and make sure the taste is to your liking, you might need to add more olive oil or salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken with Cous Cous

This dish is super simple to prepare and doesn't require a lot of attention. Its another one pot dish that you cook slow and low and when its done you have a mouth watering dinner. We love the flavors of the Mediterranean and at least once a week we make something with these flavors. What makes this dish so special is the combination of the salty olives with the tart and sweet orange zest. It brings a fresh take on a pretty classic chicken dish.
Here is what you need for the chicken:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of chicken thighs on bone, skins removed
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
5 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
couple handfuls of kalamata olives, halved
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat. Brown chicken in skillet on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate. Saute garlic and onion in skillet until onion is soft. Add tomato paste and stir in chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Add chicken back to skillet with olives and orange zest. Remove from heat. Put pan in oven covered for 50 minutes or until chicken is falling off the bone. Half way into cooking time turn chicken over.

For Cous Cous:
1 cup of pearl/Israeli cous cous, cook according to package instructions
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Cook cous cous until done, put into a medium bowl with toasted pistachios, raisins, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to combine well. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with chicken.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beef Stir-Fry with Snap Peas

Martha pulled through again! We love Chinese food but don't want to spend the money to go out and eat it. So, we are always trying to find good recipes that aren't too complicated but pack all the right flavors. That is the problem with a lot of Asian food recipes, its never the same when you try to make it at home as it is when you get it at a restaurant. But this recipe we felt was pretty dead on as far as the flavor combinations go. And it was super simple and very budget friendly as well.
Here is the recipe that I got from here:
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup long grain white rice
1 pound sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
12 ounces snap peas, strings removed
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

In a medium saucepan with a lid, bring 2 cups salted water to a boil. Add rice, return to a boil. Stir once, and reduce to a simmer. Cover, and cook until rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand, covered, 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
Ten minutes before rice is done, place steak in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, and season with salt and pepper, toss to coat. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Cook half the steak until browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining beef.
Add snap peas, white part of scallions, ginger, red pepper flakes, and 3/4 cup water to skillet, season with salt and pepper. Cook until snap peas turn bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Return steak to skillet until cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and mix in green part of scallions and lime juice. Serve with rice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Barton Creek Greenbelt

One of my favorite things about living in Austin, is the fact that you can literally get away from everything in only a matter of minutes. We are in a fairly large city but there are these amazing outdoor havens tucked away amongst the bustling city life. We just have to drive 5 minutes and take a short hike and we are in a beautiful greenbelt with greenery and waterfalls. Its so amazing! It is my favorite place to just go and soak up the clean fresh air and recharge a little. And our dog Stacy loves wading in the pristine water, so its her favorite place too. Here are few pictures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wedding food

This weekend was my step sister's wedding. It was a very simple and understated wedding. The ceremony was held at her house and the reception was at the Houston City Club. Of course I snapped a few pictures of the chocolate fountain and ice cream sundae table. I just love the colors of all the accoutrement's.

Spaghetti with Peas

This is a quick and budget friendly recipe that is quite tasty. I made it vegetarian but I think it would be great with bacon or prosciutto tossed in at the end.
All you need is:

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
half a jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup frozen peas
5 mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound spaghetti

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil to the hot pan. Drop the garlic and jalapeno in and saute, until garlic is fragrant. Add the lemon juice and peas, turn heat down to low, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until peas turn bright green. Add the lemon zest and mint leaves, turn heat off.
Drain cooked pasta and toss with the pea mixture until well coated. Add a little more salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and toss well. Serve immediately.

Beautiful Wildflowers

I love Texas in the spring, the wildflowers are gorgeous and in abundance. Here are few pictures I took on our drive to Houston this weekend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brisket is the best!

Growing up in Texas and being a Jew you generally eat a lot of brisket. I love when my dad would take a huge slab of meat and slow smoke it on the BBQ pit for hours. I mean you just can't go wrong with that. And my grandma would cook a mean brisket in the oven for hours on passover. Brisket is one of those comfort foods that is so familiar, even if you are in an unfamiliar place and your eating it, you feel as though you've been there before.
Its a cut of beef that is huge so you are always going to have leftovers unless you have an army of men coming for dinner. Brisket has to be cooked low and slow, or else it will be terrible. If you don't feel like manning the grill all day long then do it in the oven. Here is how I prepared mine:

1- 3 1/2 pound brisket
John Henry's Apple chipotle seasoning
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-16 oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1 cup red wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Take the brisket and rub the seasoning all over the meat. In a large pot, or dutch oven, heat oil over high heat. Put the brisket in the pot and sear on all sides until brown. Take it out and set aside on a plate. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, red wine and beef broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the brisket back to the pot and cover. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for 3 hours or until the meat flakes apart.
Serve with mashed potatoes.

The next day you can make soft tacos with the left over brisket. Just take a bag of chopped cabbage and mix it with chopped carrots, tomatoes, and red onion. Make a quick dressing with
apple cider vinegar, ketchup, honey,mayo, salt , pepper, and peanut oil. And pour over the slaw. Top the tacos with the slaw and enjoy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Streusel Topping

This has got to be the best coffee cake in the world aside from my grandmother's, of course. I found this recipe from another fellow food blogger She was right this was scrumptious! I could sit there all day and eat this stuff. I would highly recommend making this if you ever have to bring something for a pot luck brunch. You will be the hit of the brunch, for sure.
Here is the recipe, adapted somewhat from the original:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large)
3 tablespoons milk (i used lactose free milk)

preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8x8 inch baking dish.
Stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl until well blended. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, and egg until light and fluffy. Mix in mashed bananas and milk. Add flour mixture and blend well.
Spread half of batter in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and serve.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Quick and Easy Shrimp Salad

The other night we felt like having something light for dinner. So we made a roasted shrimp salad with bacon! Everything tastes better with bacon..doesn't it? This recipe is super easy and quick. All you have to do is:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Take about 12 shrimp that have been cleaned and shelled. Sprinkle olive oil over the shrimp just so they are coated well. Season them with "Nantucket Rub" or if you don't have this just use a combination of garlic powder, tarragon, dill, lemon pepper seasoning, paprika, and fennel seeds, and salt. Place on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until they turn pink and opaque.
Meanwhile in a skillet cook 4 pieces of bacon until crispy.
In a large salad bowl, combine red leaf lettuce and arugula and a handful of cherry tomatoes.
To make the dressing please refer to my previous recipe for Cobb salad..I used the horseradish dressing which works fantastic with the shrimp.
Combine the bacon and shrimp with the lettuce and dressing and toss well.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Chickpeas

I love making one pot meals, they are the best, because there is minimal clean up and they don't require a lot of ingredients. This chicken dish is super tasty and very budget friendly.
All you need is the following:

1 package of chicken thighs
coarse salt and fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 vine ripened tomato, roughly chopped
1 16oz. can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Generously salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides and place skin side down in the hot pan. Cook until skin turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for another 4 minutes. Turn the heat off. Then put the tomatoes, chickpeas, basil and red pepper flakes in the pan with the chicken. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir just so the tomatoes and chickpeas are coated well. Then put in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The best Meatloaf EVER!

Last night we made meatloaf, but not just any meatloaf, it was the best one I have ever made! Meatloaves can be very tricky, I think its all about the ratio of meat to fillings. Sometimes, it can be too oniony, and sometimes it can be too dense. But this one was just right, it was moist with just the right amount of onion. I found this recipe from my favorite person, Martha Stewart, although I changed up the ratios of everything a little to make it my own. I promise this will be a crowd pleaser for your family and friends. Oh and we served it with honey glazed carrots and parsnips.
Here is the recipe for the meatloaf:
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, chopped small
1/4 of a yellow onion, chopped small
1 celery stalk, chopped small
1 medium carrot, chopped small
1/4 cup of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped small
1/2 pound of ground chuck(90 percent lean)
1/2 pound of ground pork
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the bread crumbs,garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and parsley. Then add the meat, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix together with a fork until all is combined well.
Transfer mixture to a 5x9 inch loaf pan.
Stir together in a small bowl, remaining 1/4 cup ketchup and the brown sugar, until smooth. Brush onto top of meat. Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until and instant read thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees, about an 1 hour. Let cool slightly.

Honey Glazed Carrots and Parsnips:
4 medium carrots, cut into sticks
2 parsnips, cut into sticks
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and parsnips and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the honey and ground ginger and cook for another minute. Then add water just till it covers the carrots and parsnips, don't add too much water. Cover and simmer until the carrots are bright orange. Then take the lid off and simmer until liquid reduces to almost nothing, then add salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cioppino (Seafood Stew)

This is something that always sounds good but for some reason just seems like a daunting task. I think seafood can be very intimidating, for some reason. So last night I got brave and decided to take this dish on, and surprisingly it was very simple. And it tasted great too, I think this would be a great dish on a cool day with a bunch of friends and family. I found this recipe from my favorite person Martha Stewart, but adapted it slightly to my version. :)
Here is what you need:
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 dried bay leaf
1 28oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup bottled clam juice
12 little neck clams, scrubbed well
1 tilapia fillet (or you can use red snapper), cut into bite size pieces
3/4 pound of halibut, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf.
Add crushed tomatoes and their juice, white wine, water, and clam juice; bring to a simmer.
Add clams, and simmer, covered,until the clam shells open, about 10 minutes. Season fish with salt and pepper. Add fish to the pot. Simmer, covered, until fish is opaque. Discard bay leaf and any unopened clams.
Remove pot from heat. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with crusty garlic bread.

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce

This pasta dish we love to make when it starts to get warm out and the tomatoes are sweet and the basil is fresh. There are minimal ingredients in this dish so make sure you select the very best, otherwise the flavor will not be as good.
What you need:
4 vine ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
10-12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 pound spaghetti or capellini
Take the tomatoes and make a cross through the flesh of the bottom of the tomato, do not cut all the way through the tomato. Then place the tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, or until you see the skin separate from the flesh. Take the tomatoes out and let cool, then peel the skin off and dice and remove the seeds from the tomatoes, place in a large bowl. Then add the sliced garlic and fresh basil to the bowl. Drizzle the olive oil and salt and pepper over the tomato mixture. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes, covered.
Then in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta well and toss with the tomato sauce that has been sitting for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Branch Water Tavern, Houston,TX

Last weekend we were in Houston we tried a new restaurant called Branch Water Tavern. If you are familiar with Houston, this building sits on the old site of the Cue and Cushion pool hall. They completely gutted this place because the inside doesn't smell of stale beer and cigarettes, which is a good thing! Instead you walk into a swanky dining room with green/white damask wallpaper and dark wood paneling accents. It is fresh and modern but with that dark pub feeling. The food was great, with the exception of my fish that came not fully cooked..but as soon as that was was awesome! We ordered the charcuterie plate, which came with house made duck liver pate, which was out of this world and an assortment of pickled vegetables that complimented the meat perfectly. I ordered the red snapper, that came sitting on top of Israeli couscous and a romesco sauce. The flavors were great and for someone who is not much of a fish person this was perfect. My husband ordered the steak which he said was awesome and my mom ordered the salmon which she loved! My nephew Ben is not the most adventurous eater right now, so we ordered him the french fries and he couldn't stop telling us how delicious they were!
So, I would say all in all this place gets a big thumbs up and would definitely go there again and would recommend to all who in the Houston area.