Sunday, July 31, 2011

Guilt Free Muffins

I started to look through my cookbooks last night in search of a healthy muffin recipe.  I wanted to bake something for  a couple of friends who are on the p90X diet.  I was looking for a muffin recipe that was low in fat and sugar and made with whole grains, fruits and nuts.  The recipe that caught my eye was a cranberry-oatmeal walnut cake from the "Simple, Sweet and Savory Coffee Cakes" cookbook.  What I ended up making was a blueberry pecan muffin which was my variation of the coffee cake recipe.

Sometimes my recipe experiments don't work out, but in this case it turned out beautifully.  The muffins were delicious.  They were light and crumbly goodness with a subtle hint of cinnamon. 

Blueberry Pecan Muffins
1 1/2 cup oats
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups nonfat buttermilk
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Beat eggs, brown sugar and oil together in a bowl.  Stir in buttermilk, molasses and vanilla.  In a separate bowl combine,  flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Add dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture.  Stir in frozen berries.  Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into jumbo muffin tins lined with paper liners.  Sprinkle pecans over each muffin.  Bake 20 minutes at 375. 

It is always fun to experiment with different fruits and nuts in your muffins.  Even though they really need no improvement, I am on a constant quest to reinvent recipes.  The next time that I make these muffins, I am going to substitute applesauce for half of the oil to try and cut even more of the fat.  I might even stir in a Tablespoon of wheat germ to boost their nutritional value.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beef Skewers

Since I was short on time today, I needed a meal that I could prepare in advance.  Beef skewers are a great make ahead meal because the longer the meat marinates, the more flavorful and tender it becomes.  I put together the marinade and cut up the meat and vegetables early in the afternoon.  I let the meat marinate in the refrigerator until dinner time.  When it was time for dinner, I lit the Big Green Egg, threaded the meat and vegetables onto the skewers and made some brown rice.  A dinner that comes together in under 30 minutes - priceless. 

Beef Skewers
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, minced
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

sirloin steaks, cut into cubes

Vegetables suggestions
bell pepper
red onion
cherry tomatoes
yellow squash

Get creative with your kabobs and send me your ideas and suggestions.   You never know when I might try one of your recipes.

Bob Appetit!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Peachy

 Peach season is finally here!  I love peaches - fresh peaches, grilled peaches, peach pie, peach ice cream, you name it.  I found these white flesh peaches at the supermarket this week and they did not disappoint.  I decided to try a new recipe that I cut out of a Cooking Light magazine in July of 2006 with some of these delicious peaches.  (Yes, I really do save recipes that long - I think that I have a problem with recipe hording.)  I made a few adjustments to the recipe and these peaches were absolutely decadent.  A perfect summer dessert.

Warm Stuffed Peaches
 2 peaches, halved
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt

Scoop peach pulp to form a 2" circle in center of each peach half.  Chop pulp and remaining ingredients.  (except yogurt)  Divide pulp mixture evenly among peach halves and place peaches in a baking dish.

Bake peaches for 40 minutes at 350.  Top each peach with a dollop of vanilla yogurt just before serving.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Fajitas are the perfect family meal.  I put all the fajita fillings on the table and we each add our own combination of ingredients to our warm tortillas.   It's always interesting to me to watch my family create their own custom fajita.  I am amazed at what they will eat when I give them control over their own dinner - even vegetables.  This recipe is a family favorite at our house. 

Chicken Fajitas
5 Tablespoons oil
juice from 2 limes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
8 flour tortillas

Combine oil, lime juice, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeno and salt in a ziploc bag.  Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade.  Add chicken to bag and refrigerate 15 minutes.  Toss peppers and onion with 1 Tablespoon oil.  Grill peppers and onions in grill basket. 

Remove chicken from bag and grill until cooked through.  Remove from heat, wrap in foil and let rest for 10 minutes. 

Wrap tortillas in foil and place on the grill to warm.  Thinly slice chicken and toss with reserved marinade.

Other toppings that I like to serve with fajitas: sliced avocado, cheese, salsa, black beans and baked tortilla chips

You can get really creative with this recipe.  Send me your comments after you give it a try.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clams anyone?

I'm not even sure that I can properly pronounce the name of tonight's dinner.  But I can tell you that it was really easy, super fast and my kids loved it.  Even for those of us that haven't had a lot of experience at cooking clams, it was really easy.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  I came across this recipe in the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. 

Spaghetti Alle Vonogole
6 ounces spaghetti
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine (I used Beringer's Moscoto but any white wine will do.)
12 little neck clams, scrubbed

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Season with salt.  Add pasta and cook 2 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Heat oil in skillet.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add red pepper flakes, wine and clams.  Increase heat to high, cover and cook 3 minutes.  (Or until clams open)  Remove clams with tongs and add reserved pasta water to skillet.  Bring to a boil and add drained pasta.  Cook over high heat, tossing constantly until pasta is al dente.  Transfer pasta to serving dish, add clams and any juices.  Garnish with fresh parsley or basil.

The only change that I would make in the recipe would be to add more clams.  I didn't anticipate that my teenagers would like them as much as they did.  Just in case you are inspired to give this recipe a try - Publix has a special on little neck clams this week. 

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Salsa Day

What do I do when my garden produces more tomatoes than I can eat?  I make salsa.  I picked these beautiful tomatoes and peppers from my garden and from a neighbors garden.  (Thanks Tracy)  I tried a new recipe for Roasted Tomato Salsa from the July issue of Taste of Home magazine yesterday.  I made a few modifications to the recipe but I really liked the flavors of the salsa.

Roasted Tomato Salsa
12 large tomatoes, halved and seeded
4 jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed
1 large sweet yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves
 2 teaspoons grated lime peel
12 green onions, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 - 1 Tablespoon ground chipolte pepper (depending on spiciness desired)
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Tortilla Chips

Arrange half of the tomatoes, cut side down, and peppers on a foil lined baking sheet.  Broil until slightly blackened.  Cool.  Remove skin from tomatoes.

Process peppers and tomatoes in food processor until chunky consistency.  Pour into a colander to drain water from the mixture.  Chop remaining tomatoes into small pieces and drain in same colander.  Combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic and lime peel in food processor.  Process until blended.  Transfer tomatoes to a bowl and add lime mixture.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour to blend flavors.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Salsa is a great snack and a great way to sneak some vegetables into your family's diet.  My family likes to eat their salsa with Baked Scoops.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smoked Turkey

Yesterday, I smoked this turkey breast on the Big Green Egg.  I like to cook a turkey or turkey breast over the weekend because my family can eat it all week.  After I serve it the first night, I take the meat off the bones and divide it into small plastic containers.  I use the turkey for soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches and casseroles.  It is a big time saver to have the turkey already cooked when I am trying to prepare dinner in a hurry.  I used this recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey and it did not disappoint.

Smoked Turkey
3 Tablespoons oil
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
2 onions, quartered
1 orange, cut into wedges
32 ounces of chicken broth
1/2 gallon apple cider or water
1 cup salt
fresh tyhme and fresh sage

Heat oil in saucepan and add garlic, onions and orange.  Cook until fragrant.  Add water or cider and fresh herbs.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in salt and remove from heat.

Stir in 6 cups of ice water and cool to room temperature.  Place in a bucket or plastic tub and add turkey.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove turkey from brine and rinse.  Place turkey in a disposable aluminum pan and pour broth into the bottom of the pan.  Heat the egg to 250 and place the plate setter upside down over the coals.  Place the turkey pan on the plate setter.  Cook turkey at 250 for about 6 hours.  Remove from egg and tent with foil. 

Turkeys are a delicious source of lean protein and really shouldn't be reserved just for Thanksgiving.  They are relatively inexpensive and easy to cook.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blueberry Farm

I started my day with my daughter at the Blueberry Farm this morning.   My family loves fresh blueberries and picking them ourselves makes them taste even better.  It only seemed fitting that we would bring them home and bake them into a batch of blueberry muffins.  I have been making this blueberry muffin recipe for quite a few years and I don't remember where I got the recipe from.  I do know that it always produces muffins that look bakery shop perfect and taste delicious. 

Blueberry Muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond  extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (I always use a little more.)

1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon butter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of food processor.  Cut in butter.  Combine egg, milk and extracts.  Slowly pour into food processor while running.  Transfer batter to another bowl and fold in blueberries.  Clean food processor bowl and add topping ingredients.  Pulse until coarse crumbs like textures.

 Line jumbo muffin cups with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.  Using an ice cream scoop, place about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup and sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake 30 minutes at 375.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pork Tips

The heat wave continues and we are all trying to stay cool in these extreme temperatures.  With my air conditioner already running on overtime - I didn't want to turn my oven on tonight to cook dinner so I turned to the Big Green Egg instead.   I purchased a Big Green Egg last year and I absolutely love it.  I do all of my grilling on my "egg" but you can certainly modify my recipes and use a gas grill or even and indoor grill. 

Tonight I tried a new recipe from the June/July issue of Cooks Country called Grilled Honey-Glazed Pork Chops.  I changed the recipe slightly and this is my modified version of the original recipe. For starters, I used pork rib tips instead of pork chops because they looked better than the pork chops.

Grilled Honey-Glazed Pork Tips
6 rib tips
1/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Pat pork dry with paper towels.  Combine sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub mixture on both sides of chops.  Whisk together vinegar and cornstarch in small saucepan.  Stir in honey, mustard and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until mixture reduces to 1/4 cup.  Brush one side of rib tips with half of the sauce and place on a hot grill.  Close grill lid and cook 10 minutes.  Brush tops of ribs with remaining sauce and then flip.  Close grill lid and cook another 10 minutes.  Remove from grill and tent with foil. 

*The sauce for the pork was good but didn't flavor the meat nearly as much as I had hoped.  If make this recipe again, I will replace the sugar/salt rub with a spice rub to impart more flavor into the pork.  My family added more barbeque sauce to their ribs at the table.  The pork tips were more of a challenge to eat than I had anticipated as well - should have stuck with pork chops.   Overall it was not a bad dinner and this was a pretty simple recipe to make.

Stay cool and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shrimp Salad

This is my very first blog.  I am excited to be able to share my love of cooking with you.  My goal is to blog about the recipes that I make in my kitchen for my busy family.  I promise to share both the successful and the unsuccessful recipes. (Even chefs have their share of recipe failures.)  I am looking forward to taking this journey with you.

Tomatoes are the name of the game this week.  The 3 tomato plants in my garden are loaded with red tomatoes.  (Sweet 100, Roma and Better Boy)  I have been incorporating fresh tomatoes into almost every meal since they are at their peak.  Tonight's dinner was southwestern shrimp salad.  With the temperatures reaching nearly 100 this week, I thought a fresh from the garden salad would be the perfect summer meal.  I paired our salad with some fresh pineapple and baked tortilla chips with salsa.

Southwestern Shrimp Salad
Juice from 2 limes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, diced
1 handful of cherry tomatoes
Spinach and butter lettuces 
fresh cilantro for garnish

Combine lime juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic and red pepper flakes in a skillet.  Heat over medium heat.  Add shrimp and saute until almost pink.   Add corn and cook until shrimp is pink.   Remove from heat and let cool.   Stir in black beans, green onions and tomatoes.  Divide lettuce between 4 serving bowls or plates.  Top with shrimp mixture and pour any remaining liquid over the salad.  Garnish with  avocado and cilantro.  I didn't need any additional dressing but my husband added salsa to his salad. 

Bon Appetit!