Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lazy Sunday - Shrimp and Mushroom Fettucine with Corn and Pancetta

For those of you who know me well, you are aware that I am very protective of my lazy Sundays.  I usually pray for rain so I don't feel guilty about not leaving the house and sometimes not even showering getting dressed and doing my hair and makeup.  People know that if they invite me to do something on a Sunday, the chances are slim that their event will be blessed with my presence unless its something REALLY fun, or if I had a lazy Saturday the day before.  I cherish my down time and love the feeling of having a whole day to do whatever I feel like doing, without having to answer to anyone.

Well, then I got married.  My husband doesn't have quite the same idea of a perfect Sunday.  I love him more than life, but man, does he sometimes cramp my lazy Sunday style.  Like today.  I had just settled into my cozy chair with my fuzzy gray blanket, a clementine, the remote, and my laptop.  I was all ready to chill out until it was time to grocery shop (I may or may not have worn PJ pants and a T-shirt to the grocery store today...I'll never tell) and cook dinner.  But then Andrew comes in, all dressed, and announces he's going to "do stuff around the house" in a tone that clearly says, "Maybe you should get off your lazy butt and clean something too Maybe you could help me so we could spend some quality time together".  The nerve!  Its hard to enjoy a lazy Sunday when you're riddled with guilt for not scrubbing a toilet or something.  I got over it, though, and had a lovely day of reading cookbooks, watching Say Yes to the Dress, and planning the week's menu.  Oh, and napping.  Its not a perfect Sunday unless a nap is involved.

I also think lazy Sunday-ism is contagious.  Because my husband?  I'm not sure he ever did anything around the house after all, and he spent most of the day next to me on the couch.  I think he's coming around.

I did manage to make it to the grocery store to buy ingredients for tonight's dinner.  I was really excited about this one, since its a pasta dish and pasta is my favorite food in the entire world (much to the dismay of my skinny jeans).  It was pretty good, but probably nothing that'll make it on the regular rotation list.  That might be because I think I added too much wine to the sauce and it ended up a little runny.  Not really my fault though...I was born with a heavy wine-pouring hand.  Such is life.  Maybe I'll try again with less wine in the sauce and more wine in my belly.

Shrimp and Mushroom Fettucine with Corn and Pancetta
Source: Closet Cooking

1 tablespoon butter
1 ounce pancetta (chopped)
1 cup wild mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots (chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound shrimp (shelled and deveined)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dill (chopped)
2 servings fettuccine (cooked)

Melt the butter in a pan.  Add the pancetta, mushrooms and thyme and fry until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Set the pancetta and mushrooms aside.
Melt the butter in the pan.  Add the shallots and saute until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the corn and saute until warm, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and pancetta back to the pan.  Add the white wine and deglaze the pan.  Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes on each side.  Add the cream, salt and pepper and mix.
Add the dill and remove from the heat.

Oh, and I also made this Walnut and Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken.  I have no story about that.  I made it, and then we ate it!  It was good!

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken

1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4  (6-ounce) chicken cutlets
1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
Rosemary leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine buttermilk and mustard in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to buttermilk mixture, turning to coat.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko to pan; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Combine panko, nuts, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture; discard buttermilk mixture. Dredge chicken in panko mixture.
Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet; coat rack with cooking spray. Arrange chicken on rack; coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 13 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ugly Chicken Pockets

Sometimes I plan meals in my head and picture how they are going to look when they're done and I get really, really excited about the prospect of making certain things because of how pretty I imagine they are going to be.  Usually I do this while trying to fall asleep at night, or during meetings.  My job requires a fair amount of meetings, and most of them don't even involve me so I have trouble focusing on the task at hand.  I also have the attention span of a fire ant, so that could be a factor, too.

Anywho, I was really excited about making this chicken dish because I was under the impression that the chicken pockets I made would be perfectly symmetrical, and the epitome of beautiful, golden, buttery, flaky deliciousness.  It didn't really turn out like that, mostly due to the fact that I bought the wrong kind of croissant rolls and wrapping anything in those buggers was like trying to diaper a mouse with saran wrap.

I did manage to pull it together enough to get them in the oven, and they were awfully yummy, even if they had faces only a mother would love.  I paired them with brown rice with pistachios and goat cheese and some roasted broccoli. 

Croissant Chicken
3 ounces cream cheese (I used low fat)
3 Tbsp melted butter, divided
2 cups cooked chicken breasts or thighs, cubed
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 (8 ounce) can croissant dinner rolls
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
garlic powder
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Blend cream cheese and 1 Tbsp. butter until smooth. Mix in chicken, salt, pepper, milk, thyme, garlic powder and onions.
Separate dough into 4 rectangles- press perforations to eliminate seams. Spoon ½ cup of the chicken mixture onto the center of each rectangle. Pull 4 corners of dough to the top. Twist and seal to form a round ball.
Brush butter over each ball and roll in crumbs. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Almond-Crusted Pork and a Chinese Rub-Down

I got a massage on Sunday.  My in-laws got me a gift certificate to Red Door for my birthday and I was PSYCHED!  Red Door is the best massage in the history of the world and honestly is the only place that doesn't inflict serious pain on me.  Aside from my few experiences with Red Door blissfulness, I've had some pretty scarring massage experiences as well, the most recent of which occurred in Hong Kong.

Last year, I had the privilege of spending 10 days in Hong Kong on a business trip.  There are a lot of things about my old profession that I don't miss at all (the long hours, the stress, the occasional weekly nervous breakdown), but the one thing that I do miss is the travel.  Working in corporate retail gave me the chance to see parts of the world that I would never get to experience otherwise, specifically Germany, Japan, and China.  I'll tell ya - its pretty special to travel halfway across the world on the company dime!  Anywho, when I was in Hong Kong, we stayed in a fairly westernized hotel that had a fancy schmancy spa that boasted amazing massage services.  And let me tell you - after 7 long days traveling to factories and negotiating over pennies off the cost of a audio cable, I was ready for a nice relaxing spa experience.  One of the local Hong Kong business partners we were working with heard me talking about wanting a massage and she insisted that the hotel spa was overpriced and that I could get a great massage at the place she goes for half the price.  I was skeptical, but both my curiosity and my love of a good deal go the best of me.  So off we went! 

Now, if you've ever gotten a massage, you know three things for sure.  One is that you get your massage in a private room, free of other customers and random spa workers.  The second is that, because you are not really wearing any clothes, there is a sheet/blanket on the massage table so you can cover up your....bits.  The third is that the massage therapist will perform said massage while standing on the floor, not standing on your back.  This place?  Not so much on any count.  Getting a massage in the same room as another customer with only a curtain separating you is a bit awkward.  Know what else is awkward?  The fact that instead of an actual sheet or blanket to maintain some modesty, this place gives you a tiny square of fabric approximately the size of a washcloth.  I do understand that I'm bigger than the average woman in Hong Kong, but really?  That's not even going to cover...anything!  Eek!  Even more awkward?  The fact that this little tiny woman is actually walking across my back instead of, like, massaging it.  And it kind of hurt.  What also hurt was when she dug her fingers in between my muscles.  That hurt too.  Oh, and my pride.  My pride hurt when I realized that the tiny little washcloth wasn't going to cover much and this poor little lady got quite the view.

Anyway, I'll be sticking with Red Door from now on, thanks.

And honestly, that story has absolutely nothing to do with food or cooking besides the fact that my Red Door massage happened on the same day that I cooked something.  And that something was almond crusted pork and roasted brussels sprouts.  It was yummy.

The brussels sprouts recipe is courtesy of my friend Whitney.  She cooks some pretty delicious stuff, too, and if she's nice maybe I'll let her be a guest blogger one day.  But in the meantime, you just cut the sprouts in half, sprinkle some salt on them, and put them in a pan with pecans (I  used pine nuts because I didn't have pecans).  Roast at 400 degrees until they get brown and then toss it all together with melted butter.  Can't beat that!

Almond-Crusted Pork with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce
Source: Adapted from Eating Well

For the pork
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 large egg white, beaten
1 pound trimmed pork tenderloin, sliced diagonally into 1/2" thick slices (I just kept it whole)

For the dipping sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a food processor, add panko, almonds, garlic powder, salt and pepper - pulse until almonds are coarsely chopped. Place mixture into a shallow dish.

In another shallow dish, add beaten egg white.

Dip pork into the egg white, then evenly coat with the almond mixture. Place the pork onto a wire rack coated with olive oil spray and set on a baking sheet. Set filled baking sheet into the refrigerator and let rest for 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and coat both sides of pork with olive oil spray. Place into the oven and bake until the pork is golden and has a slight pink hue to the center, about 12 to 16 minutes (this was more like 30 minutes since I kept my tenderloin whole)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, and mustard. Serve pork with the dipping sauce.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Buffalo Blue Cheese Meatloaf and the Case of the Missing Tastebuds

I love spicy food and will devour anything of a buffalo variety.  I've been known to lick buffalo sauce off an empty wing plate from time to time if I think no one is looking.  My husband finds this behavior charming.

Speaking of my husband, he SAYS he likes spicy food, too, but he tends to be a little picky about how hot something actually is.  He doesn't share my "if 2 tablespoons of cayenne is good, 4 tablespoons are better" philosophy and will sometimes complain that what I've made is too spicy.  What a total pansy!  Anyway, a couple of years ago, I made my famous (well, famous according to me) chili, which he usually loves.  I never measure anything when I make chili, I just kind of wing it and add stuff according to taste or whatever I feel like on that particular day.  And since you can't SUBTRACT spiciness from a pot of chili, there have admittedly been a time or two where I went a little overboard and many, many dollops of sour cream are necessary to make it edible.  This was one of those times.  The man SWEARS UP AND DOWN that after eating this particular batch of chili, all of his tastebuds actually BURNED OFF and he couldn't taste food for a month.  Like that's even possible!  And he says that I exaggerate!  Like I said, what a total pansy.

For this buffalo blue cheese meatloaf recipe, I doubled the amount of wing sauce I put in there, and it was borderline too spicy.  Oh well.  He now knows not to complain about anything being too hot ever again, because he knows if he does, I'll mock him publicly and call him a pansy.  Oops....too late for that, I guess!

I served these meatballs in mini meatloaf form and paired them with blue cheese mashed potatoes.  Easy: half a bag of new potatoes, boil until tender, and then smash with skim milk, low fat blue cheese dressing, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Delish!

Buffalo Blue Cheese MeatballsSource: Adapted from Lemons and Love

1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons wing sauce (I used 4)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon steak grill seasoning mix
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I subbed garlic powder in place of cayenne)
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all the above ingredients and form into meatballs (I made them into mini meatloaves).  Bake for 25 minutes or until done (since I did meatloaves, I baked for 35-40 minutes)

with a dipping sauce of 1 part wing sauce to 3 parts ranch dressing (you must do this)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carne Asada Tacos and a Guacamole Smackdown

Before I learned that I have mad cooking skills don't suck as badly at cooking as I orginally thought, the only thing I could make was guacamole.  Literally....under no circumstance could I cook anything else that even resembled something edible.  It was also pretty much the only thing I could contribute to any social situation involving food.  Cinco de Mayo party?  I'm your woman!  Thanksgiving?  A little awkward, but its either guacamole or cranberry sauce in the can with those weird stripes.  Because of this, I've perfected my guacamole recipe and I'm convinced there's no one who can make it better.

To illustrate this point:

Last Fall, Andrew and I went to Oregon to drive down the coast, visit wine country, and stay with our friends in Portland.  One night they invited a bunch of their neighbors over to play Bunko (So fun!  I loved it until the game was over and 2 8-year olds ended up winning all the money) and everyone was required to make something to share.  I decided on, surprise, guacamole and mentioned loudly to our host and my good friend, Kara, that I kicked butt at making guacamole.  She's all, "Really?  It might be good, but there's no way its as good as mine.  Mine is the best ever".  So the guacamole showdown begins.  We decide to have a blind taste test when all the guests arrive...they simply taste each guacamole and write which one they like best on a piece of paper (they don't know which guacamole belongs to which fine lady), fold it up, and put it in a hat.  Then the winner will be announced at the end of the night.  Easy enough!  We prepare the guac, talking smack to each other regarding how the other is going to lose a public and embarassing battle. 

The results?  My friend Kara is going to be really mad at me for publishing this on the internet.  Actually, I'm not really even sure she reads this blog or has ever even visited it....SO, this is a good way to find out, don't we think?  I think I'll put the results in bold in case she is reading.  I WON IN AN EPIC SHUTOUT.  Yep, that's right...every single vote was for MY guacamole, and I swept my dear friend in the first (and probably last) guacamole showdown.  Her own husband didn't even vote for her, and of course he KNEW which one was hers because they looked very different and therefore he could easily recognize the work of his lovely wife.  Its sad but true.  I.  Am.  Awesome.

I'm not, however, awesome at Bunko.  As it turns out, as referenced above, 2 third graders took all of our money and the adults were left with full bellies and a heck of a buzz.

I usually post sources for the recipes that I post, but who really invented guacamole anyway?  They pretty much all use the same ingredients, and I think the quality of the finished product depends on the mix of the ingredients, not the actual ingredients themselves.  I will give credit to Rachael Ray, though, since she introduced me to the garlic paste concept, which is what I think makes my guacamole extra delicious.  I also never measure anything, so I'll just guess.

Ann's Guacamole Smackdown Guacamole

4 ripe Haas Avocados (these are clearly the key...they have to be good, and they have to be perfectly ripe)
4 cloves garlic, pasted (just mince really fine, sprinkle kosher salt on it, and then "smash" it into a paste with the back of a chef's knife)
1/2 a white onion, finely chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of Jack's Special chunky salsa (medium heat)....can be found at Kroger with the cheeses near the deli
big handful cilantro, chopped
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper
bit of garlic powder

Mix everything together, but LEAVE IT CHUNKY.  Why waste a perfectly perfect avocado by mashing it to pieces?

Eat until you feel sick.

Last night, I served the guacamole on carne asada tacos.  I totally cheated and used Trader Joe's carne asada meat and put in on flour tortillas.  That's pretty much it.  Except that I also used taco rice from a box on the side.  I know the Cooking Gods are ashamed of me.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cheesy Chicken Mushroom Lasagna and a Bachelor Funny

I shamefully admit that I skipped spin class on Monday evening so I could make this ridiculously fattening dinner.  It took like an hour and a half and something told me that we'd want to eat dinner before 10 PM, so spinning had to go.  I'm SURE the 30 minute walk around the neighborhood is almost the same thing as an hour long spin class, though.

This lasagna was awfully tasty and worth the wait.  I always know when my husband really likes something because he'll take a bite, nod enthusiastically, and continually point to the food with his fork over and over, during the course of the entire meal.  I don't know why he wouldn't just say, "this is delicious, honey!", but I guess I'll have to settle for fork-pointing to decipher if a recipe is good or not. 

I followed the recipe almost exactly, which is unusual for me, but I'm leery of lasagna because I've always considered it to be pretty hard to make.  Its actually not.  I don't know why I thought stacking a bunch of things together and then putting it in the oven while it cooks itself would be complicated.  Thankfully, its not!  I just subbed a mixture of swiss and monteray jack for the Gruyere.  That stuff is expensive, and I hate grating cheese because I'm always convinced I'm going to shave the skin off my knuckles and dinner will be bloody.

Anywho, we ate dinner while watching The Bachelor.  Its a guilty pleasure and I am embarassed to admit how excited I get for Monday nights when it comes on.  I get entirely too into the show and yell at the television at least a few times every week.  I find it hilarious that these women are like, "OMG, I went on a date with the Bachelor this week and made out with him shamelessly on camera and then the next day he went on a date with someone else and he made out with HER on camera too!  He's my boyfriend and I don't like sharing him with other women!  He's mine - I can't believe he's spending all this time with other people!"  Um, hello?  Honey?  Have you ever seen this show before?  The WHOLE PREMISE is that you have to share your "boyfriend" with other women and watch him woo them in front of you.  That's why we WATCH it because that's why its funny!  They are like, "I feel insecure when I don't get enough attention from the Bachelor".  Don't these people know that their insecurity and their needy tendencies are what made the producers pick them for the show in the first place?  Having a bunch of mature, level-headed, well-adjusted women on this show would just be silly!  Who would watch THAT?  Not me, that's for sure.

Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna
Source: Epicurious

1 (10-ounce) package cremini or white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 no-boil egg lasagne noodles
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère (3 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425° with rack in middle.

Cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer briskly 2 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl and stir in chicken.

Bring milk to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Add thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve 1 cup sauce. Stir parmesan into sauce remaining in pan, then stir into mushroom filling.

Pour half of reserved plain sauce into baking pan, spreading evenly to coat bottom. Add 3 lasagne sheets, overlapping slightly, and one third of mushroom filling, spreading evenly, then sprinkle one fourth of Gruyère over top. Repeat 2 times. Top with remaining 3 lasagne sheets and remaining plain sauce, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyère.

Cover with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top of lasagne but sealing all around edge, and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is golden, about 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Golfing Fail and Some Highly Anticipated Honey Truffled Frites

As outlined in the rules from my last post, we went out to dinner both nights this weekend and I didn't go anywhere near the kitchen.  Last night we went out to celebrate my 31st birthday with some friends.  True to form, we terrorized the tiny restaurant with our stories that seemed to get louder and more colorful as the night went on, and I don't think anyone was sad to see us go.  We had delicious food and wine and a night out with these folks always guarantees a good time and usually provides a pretty good chance of a morning headache.

Anywho, today is Sunday and we're FINALLY getting a glimpse of Spring (even though I know its a total tease and it'll probably snow next week).  The plan for the day was to go hit golf balls, get some lunch at a local cafe, and then make mushroom chicken lasagna for dinner.  Didn't really go as planned!

First, I am no golfer.  My husband plays at least a couple of times a month in the Spring and Summer with his brother and his girlfriend.  While they are golfing, I usually do really productive things like shop, take naps, or watch embarassingly bad reality television.  This year, I've decided that I need to do something more productive with my Saturdays and try to burn more calories than you would, say, driving to the mall, so I decided that I was going to learn to play golf.  Let it be known that I have the natural athletic abilities about on par with a giraffe who is also blind, deaf, and dumb.  I played basketball in high school and was actually pretty good, but that's only because I worked really, really hard at it.  A born sportswoman I am not.  But I was seriously convinced that I was going to be super awesome at golf.  I can't fathom what on earth is so hard about hitting a ball that's sitting still on the ground.  You're not even blindfolded or anything!  What can be so hard about that?  Both my husband and my dad were wary of my abunance of confidence about this, and they were like, "golf is actually pretty hard,'re probably not going to be very good at first".  Um, excuse me?  How can I not be good?  I am going to RULE the driving range!

Guess what!?!  Golfing is ridiculously hard and I really, really, really, really suck at it.  I think I got 50 balls and probably completely whiffed 30% of the time, hit the ground before the ball 40% of the time, hit the ball so that it only skitted across the grass 25% of time, and managed it actually get it airborne only about 5% of the time. 

I envisioned my first golfing experience like this:

And it ended up being more like this:

I'm going to keep trying, though, because I still believe in my heart of hearts that I am destined to be awesome at golf.

Afterwards, we went to a downtown cafe for lunch.  It was probably in my top 5 of worst restaurant experiences ever.  Our waiter had a bit of a personal hygine issue and we waited over an hour for our food while the tables around us came, sat, ate, paid, and left.  Not even a peep of an awknowledgement from him about our ridiculously long wait for grilled shrimp and honey truffle frites.  Not an "I'm sorry", no free food, nada.  I was a very unhappy camper but did manage to scarf down my honey truffle frites so fast that I completely ruined my appetite for dinner.

So, no chicken mushroom lasagna tonight...that'll get bumped to tomorrow.  I thought about taking a picture of what we DID have for dinner, which was Trader Joe's chicken burgers that I've had in the freezer for AT LEAST a year, but I thought that would just be weird.  So, no food pictures'll have to wait until tomorrow.  Until then, I'm off to dream of golfing championships and truffle frites!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Rules According to Ann. Oh, and Some Chicken Thighs.

Thursday night I made some chicken thighs with sauteed polenta and roasted asparagus.  It was reeaaally tasty, so I'll post the recipe below.  There's not much to say about it, besides that I made it and it was good, so...moving on!

Today is Friday and that means that I don't have to cook.  The rule (that I decided upon and promptly put into practice) is that if I cook all week, we get to go out to dinner or (if I'm feeling really lazy or tired) order takeout on the weekends.  It doesn't have to be fancy or anything, just as long as we're out.  Actually...that's not kind of DOES have to be fancy.  I guess you can say I'm a bit of a restaurant snob.  Routinely, Andrew and I will email each other on a Friday and be like, "where should we go to dinner tonight?"  It usually depends on who asks first, but if I ask him, he will say Lee's Chicken Shack.  If he asks me, I will say something like Mezzanine (a nicer restaurant in our town with an extensive wine list).  Its not like I have a problem eating chicken from Lee's, its just that I have a problem actually GOING there on a Friday, instead of, say, somewhere nice.

It's the same for workday lunches and bars as well.  A couple of years ago, I worked for Circuit City's corporate headquarters (in case you've been living under a rock, the company has, sadly, since went out of business).  I'd pretty much go to lunch with the same group of friends every day, and we'd ALWAYS have a debate about where to go.  I never had any suggestions except that it had to be somewhere that had waiters/waitresses.  They'd be like, "geez Ann, you are such a brat", but secretly I know they liked it.  If you're going to take the time to go out to lunch and enjoy time with your friends/co-workers, shouldn't it be somewhere better than Subway, where you can focus on gossiping about your boss instead of standing in line and watching someone with rubber gloves make your lunch on an assembly line?  Answer: yes, it is always better to be served than have an assembly line lunch. 

Its the same for bars.  I used to LOVE going to bars.  And now I look back and am like, what was I thinking?  I actually used to pay (a lot of) money to go somewhere and have strangers push me and invade my personal space while I fought 30 other strangers for a glimpse of a bartender's attention to get an $8 drink.  There is nothing about that scenario that feels fun to me anymore.  My idea of a good time is sitting at a table with people I actually know (and presumably like) and having someone BRING me dinner and as many $8 drinks as strikes my fancy and then be at my beck and call for anything else I might want. 

And just to be clear?  I waited tables for several years earlier in my life and I know its very hard work and that sometimes you want to punch your customers in the face, even if they are very nice and very good tippers.  I am a good tipper, if I do say so myself, and in case you're ever my waitress, I always tip at least 20%, but if you are Johnny-on-the-Spot about bringing me my dinner and $8 drinks, I've been known to up the ante significantly.

Anywho, if you are in Richmond...we went to Pescado's in Oregon Hill tonight.  It was awesome and worth every penny.  Arepas to share, a bottle of Cab to share, enchiladas for Andrew, crab cakes for me, and banana cheesecake for dessert.  Pure bliss.  And totally better than Lee's chicken.

And now for Thursday's dinner.  Chicken recipe is below, but I must comment on the sauteed polenta that doesn't really have a recipe.  I bought one of those pre-made polenta rolls and just cut it up and sauteed it in a pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The kicker is that right before serving, you drizzle it with some white truffle oil.  BAM!  Nothing better (or more fattening) than that.  I am pretty sure that truffle oil costs like $15 a bottle, but its worth it.  It automatically makes anything taste fancy.  And since I am into fancy....

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs
Source: Adapted from Pink Parsley, originally from Southern Living

2 garlic cloves, minced
Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

Combine the garlic, oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, salt, and rosemary in a large ziploc bag. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Allow to marinate chilled for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.

Prepare a charcoal grill. Grill chicken thighs 3-4 minutes per side, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165.  (Its too cold to grill, so I broiled these, about 6 minutes per side.)Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest 10 minutes, to reabsorb the juices.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rubbing Some Pork and Peanut Butter Pasta

Today my husband emailed me and said, "What are we cooking for the blog tonight?". 

Funny how I don't remember cooking ever being a "we" activity, unless, of course, you ask my husband.  He maintains that chopping something, asking questions about a recipe, or stirring a simmering pot counts as cooking, so when he does "help", he'll routinely refer to my meals as things that "we made".  Interesting.

Anyway, back to our email exchange:

Him: "What are we cooking for the blog tonight?"
Me: (Ignoring the fact that he implies that "we" are cooking anything) "Dinner tonight is honey sesame pork with peanut noodles and roasted broccoli.  Its going to be awesome."
Him: "Great, because that sounds like something I can cook pretty easily"
Me: "Really?  Tell me more."
Him: " Yep. Easy.  You just rub some honey on some pork, boil some pasta in water with a bunch of peanuts in there, and put the broccoli in the oven."

Sounds delicious, eh?

Luckily, his only contribution was drinking Amstel Light and slicing the pork when it was done.  Although I do think raw pork with honey rubbed on it paired with plain pasta with boiled peanuts would have been mighty tasty as well. 

Honey Sesame Pork Tenderloin

1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin
½ cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 Tbs vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
3 Tbs brown sugar
¼ cup sesame seeds
Rinse tenderloin and pat dry. Trim any fat. Place in large ziploc freezer bag.
Mix soy sauce, garlic, ginger and oil in a bowl. Pour over the tenderloin and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix honey and brown sugar in shallow dish. Set aside.
Drain the tenderloin, discarding the marinade. Roll tenderloin in the honey mixture until well-coated. Roll in sesame seeds.
Place the tenderloin on a V-rack with a drip pan. Bake 40 minutes, or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160 degrees.
Slice into medallions and serve immediately.

Cold Sesame Noodles
Source: Adapted from Epicurious

Kosher salt
1 pound Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chili sauce (recommended: Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 tablespoons water
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling salted water.  Drain immediately and rinse with cold water until cool.

Whisk together the ginger, garlic, sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil, and water.

Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and toss until well coated.  Serve garnished with the scallions, sesame seeds, and cilantro

Penne Puttanesca and "Ladies of the Night"

Did you know that, according to Rachael Ray, Puttanesca was used in the olden days in Italy as a way to lure men into brothels?  The "ladies of the night" would whip up a batch of this delicious concoction and then put the plates in the open windows of the brothel so the scent of the food would waft through the streets below and men would come flocking. 

I find this concept quite curious.  I'm pretty sure that the smell of garlic, capers, and olives is not the main motivator for these guys to be visiting a brothel.  Because its....a brothel.  And if you WEREN'T planning on making a visit on that particular day, say for example....if you were just not the type to partake in such things, would the smell of food really change your mind about that?  I don't know if I buy it.  Luckily, we are going to Italy in September so I'm going to be SURE to be on the lookout for plates of this bad boy strategically placed in the windows of suspicious looking buildings.  I'll let you know what I find.  And I should probably keep a close eye on my husband.

Speaking of my husband, Penne Puttanesca happens to be one of his favorite foods ever.  He used to order it from the Italian place around the corner from our old house at least once a week (see note about Ariana's Italian Grill in post #1), and I hesitated to even try because I was pretty sure that even Rachael Ray's version wouldn't stack up.  He says its pretty close, but he knows better than to say otherwise (see note in "about me" section).  I think its delicious, and I like that I can control what goes in there (ie less oil but more garlic).  Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca with Sauteed Shrimp
Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

8 ounces whole-wheat penne or rigatoni
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (I used basil)
1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives (Kalamata olives are a must in my book)
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (I used 3 filets of real anchovies and just made sure to let them melt in the oil)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 can crushed Italian tomatoes (splurge on the best you can find)
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 strips bacon, cooked and diced (I used 4 strips)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (I used shaved)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bacon, parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.
When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine.
Top with grated cheese and sautéed shrimp

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Asian Meatball Subs and Speed Eating

I've always been a pretty fast eater.  I think it stems from when I was a little kid and we'd go to McDonalds as a special treat on the long car ride down to the beach in Nag's Head.  My Dad is also a fast eater, so we'd all sit down with our delicious McDonald's food and 3 nanoseconds later, he's done with his meal and starts eyeing my fries.  Now come on, you've had McDonald's fries wouldn't want to share, would you?  No you would not.  So the only way to stop this man from eating ALL of my delicious McDonald's fries is to scarf them down as fast as humanly possible for a 7 year-old.  This way, I have a chance at being finished at the same time he is and he has to pick on my slower-eating 4 year-old sister and eat her fries.

So I never really got over my "eat fast or someone will steal all your food" mentality, and to this day, my husband doesn't like to go to sushi with me because he says I eat all the rolls before he's even had one.  He's charming.  Anywho, a lot of times when I cook dinner, I make my plate first, take the pictures, and then actually start eating while he's making his.  Plus, my portion is usually only half what his is (small portions is another way to avoid getting fat from this blog).  So this usually results in my being finished with my meal when he is only halfway done with his.  And it never fails....he'll look up, see that my plate is empty and look at me like this:

What?  Its delicious and I got a head start and you had WAY more, so wipe that look off your face, DEAR!  This happened last night with the Asian Turkey Meatball Subs.  They were pretty tasty...I served them with sweet potato waffle fries and the zippy lime sauce was perfection.

Asian Turkey Meatball Subs with Zippy Ginger Lime Cilantro Mayo
Source: Gina's Skinny Recipes

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/4 lb ground turkey (not turkey breast)
1 egg
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Hoagie or Sub rolls
2 cups cabbage, shredded
Zippy Mayo

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and lightly spray oil.

Mix all ingredients until well combined and form into 12 evenly sized meatballs. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through. While meatballs are baking, stir fry the cabbage in 1 tbs of canola oil until tender crisp.

*Zippy Ginger Lime Cilantro Mayo
1/3 cup light mayo
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp chili oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp grated lime zest
juice from 1/2 small lime
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
pinch of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until subs are ready to assemble.

Place 3 meatballs onto toasted sub rolls. Top with mayo and stir fried cabbage. Serve immediately.

Overnight Ham and Cheese Bake

Er, I can't really think of anything clever to say about this breakfast casserole.  Its one of those things that you put together at night, let it sit in the fridge, and then bake the next morning.  Since Andrew leaves for work at 7:30, this meant that someone had to get up at 6:15 and preheat the oven and then put it in there 10 minutes later.  I'm sure that's not very early for a lot of people, but it is for me and I did manage to drag my butt out of bed, all in the name of a casserole.  It was pretty good, though, and easy to take a piece to work and just zap it in the microwave when you get there.  Double points if you actually remember to take the tupperware home at the end of the day so it doesn't just sit on your desk for weeks on end and then has to be discarded.  Not that I've ever done that or anything....

Overnight Ham and Cheese Bake
Source: Adapted from Recipe Girl

6 slices of bread
2 Tbs butter
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese (I only used a cup and a half of reduced fat cheddar)
¾ lb ham, thinly sliced
½ lb mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in butter
7 ounce can diced green chiles (I omitted this and used diced Vidalia onions instead)
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (I only used a cup and a half of reduced fat mozzarella)
6 large eggs
2 cups 2% milk (I used skim)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp basil
½ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp onion salt

Butter 6 slices of bread; place butter-side-down in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Place ham on top of cheese; then layer with mushrooms and onions. Top with mozzarella cheese.

In a bowl, beat eggs and add milk, salt, paprika, basil, onion salt, pepper and dry mustard. Pour over ingredients in dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To bake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Uncover casserole and bake for 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes to set before serving.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chicken Parmesan and Youker

Saturday night, we had my brother-in-law and his girlfriend over for dinner and wine. Usually these types of things end up being more "wine" than "dinner", and this time was no different. I actually forgot to take a picture of the actual food itself, but I did take pictures of the wine and our dinner guests.
I don't know if anyone has heard of the card game called Youker (and I'm not even sure that's how you spell it). Its like Spades except...different. We played girls against boys and we kicked some major butt. No surprise there.
I got the chicken parmesan recipe from Josie at Pink Parsley, and everyone loved it. I'm not sure whether that was the wine talking or if it was actually really good, but I'm going to go with the latter. I didn't end up putting pepperoni on ours, though, since the dish was already pretty rich and I was trying to be "healthy". Chicken parm and 4 bottles of wine is healthy, right? Right!

Chicken Parmesan with Pepperoni
Source: Pink Parsley, originally from Food and Wine

2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 cups panko
4 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded 3/4-inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 ounces sliced pepperoni

Tomato Sauce
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
pinch red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a small saucepan, combine the ingredients for the tomato sauce.  Simmer over medium-low heat as you prepare the chicken.

In a pie plate, beat the eggs with the milk.  In 2 more pie plates (or shallow dishes), spread the flour and panko.  Season the panko with salt and pepper.  Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge each chicken breast in the flour, followed by the egg, and finishing with the panko.  Press to help the crumbs adhere.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until cooked through, about 7 minutes.  Drain the chicken on a paper towel-lined plate, then transfer to a lightly greased baking dish.

Top the chicken with the tomato sauce, cheeses, and pepperoni.  Bake the chicken for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.  Transfer the chicken to plates and serve.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Let's Get This Started - A Week of Recipes

So here we are...this first post is going to be a monster.  I feel like starting this whole thing with just one measly recipe is boring, so you're getting several!  I've been saving them up for this very occassion, constantly annoying my husband with my insistence that before we get to eat dinner, we have to take 50 pictures of the meal from various positions in a million different lighting "schemes".  Poor guy.  But I think its a small price to pay for what he USED to get for dinner, which was usually prepared by either himself (so, a sandwich), or the line cooks at Ariana's Italian Grill around the corner.

Anywho, speaking of takeout, its also a bit ironic that my new interest in cooking has coincided with my renewed interest in losing some weight.  But, never fear, this is not a "healthy cooking" blog, nor am I going to bore you with my complaints about how crowded the gym is or how I'm only allowed to eat salad for lunch in order to be able to eat this stuff for dinner.  So, I'll say this.  Thankfully, around the same time I discovered I loved to cook, I also discovered that I love spinning.  You know, that exercise class where you ride a stationary bike for an hour while a perky instructor screams "FASTER!!" at you at the top of her lungs and you try to keep from throwing up?  Yep, that class.  The first time I went I thought about quitting in the middle and DEFINITELY tasteed blood at some point during the class, but I made it through and now I'm hooked.  This is a good thing, because if I am going to lose weight, I either need to burn a lot of calories or take in very little.  And since we all know most healthy food tastes like crap less delicious than what is optimal, I chose the exercise route. 
So, here is my disclaimer.  You don't have to go to spin class several times a week like I do, but you should probably exercise at least a little if you are going to cook and eat this stuff.  Or you are going to get fat.  Just sayin'.

Let's post some recipes, shall we?!

Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I'm a huge fan of anything that cooks itself while I'm doing other things, so this was perfect.  I made it on a lazy Sunday where we did nothing but watch football and eat delicious pork sandwiches.  The meat literally fell apart, and if you put some Bone Sucking Sauce (can be found at Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market), there is no sandwich more perfect than this one.

Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
5 lbs pork shoulder
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
2 red onions, quartered
2 yellow onions, quartered
Combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper, and rub the mixture over the roast. wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate a few hours, overnight is best.
In a bowl, combine the vinegar, worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. mix well.
Place the quartered onions in the bottom of the crock pot. unwrap the roast, and place on top of onions. drizzle most of the vinegar mix over the roast, reserving some to add to the shredded meat at the end.
Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or high for 4 to 5 hours.
Remove the meat and onions to a cutting board. remove skin and set aside. using two forks (or your fingers, if you have asbestos hands), pull and shred the pork. chop the onions, and mix into the shredded meat. using a fork, remove some of the fat from under the skin, mince, and add to the shredded meat and onions as needed for moisture and flavor.
Serve on warm buns or crusty hard rolls, with the remaining vinegar mixture

Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

I've never had a Rachael Ray pasta recipe I haven't loved, and this one was no different.  Please also ignore the piece of Texas Toast there on the side...I know its easier and cheaper to just make your own garlic bread (with less butter), but Texas Toast is a guilty pleasure and I could eat 4-5 pieces for a meal.  Not that I HAVE, or anything, but...I could and I've thought about it from time to time. 

Back to pasta talk.  This was amazing, and even after giving me the side-eye because I was putting carrots and celery in red pasta sauce, Andrew (my husband) gobbled up like I hadn't fed him in days.  And maybe I HADN'T fed him in days when I made this, but that is neither here nor there.

Pappardelle With Bolognese Sauce
Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound diced pancetta (Italian bacon)
1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground pork (I used all sirloin)
1 onion, cut into small dice
1 carrot, cut into small dice
2 celery stalks, cut into small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated (I used 3 cloves)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, removed from stem and chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups red wine
3 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon (a pinch or two) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1 pound pappardelle pasta (wide noodles),  or fettucine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided

In a large pot, heat EVOO over medium-high heat, then add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add the sirloin and pork to the pot the pancetta was cooked in and brown well, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, 4-5 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaves and thyme, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the reserved pancetta back into the pan and stir in the tomato paste. Cook 3-4 minutes to caramelize. Add in the wine and scrape up all the tasty nibbles that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

While the sauce is simmering away, bring a large pot of seasoned water up to a boil. Drop the pappardelle pasta into the boiling water and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

Add the cream to the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Once the pasta is done, reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and toss it back into the pot it was cooked in along with some of the reserved water, a cup of cheese and a handful or so of the parsley. Add the pasta sauce, reserving enough to top, and toss well to coat.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls, topped with additional sauce and some additional parsley for garnish. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.

Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas

There's not a lot that needs to be said about Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas, is there?  They are creamy and delicious and easy to make and easy to freeze the leftovers.  Why WOULDN'T you make these right this second?

Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas
Source: Adapted from Epicurious

1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
3 green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced jalapeno, seeds removed if desired
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp good quality chile powder
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces cream cheese, room temp (I used reduced fat)
3/4 cup grated Monterey jack or white cheddar (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup diced red pepper
10 medium flour tortillas
1 cup good quality enchilada sauce
2 tbs sour cream (I used reduced fat)

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, when warm, add the onion and green onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno and chile powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Stir in shrimp with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, just until shrimp are opaque, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool.

To the cooled shrimp mixture, add the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the monterey jack, corn and red pepper. Stir very gently to combine, taste and season as needed with additional salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and divide filling into the centers of each. Roll up and place, seam side down, into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Combine the enchilada sauce with the sour cream and spread the mixture over the enchiladas. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of monterey jack and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cool 1-2 minutes more, just until tops are lightly browned.

Grilled Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

 Pork Tenderloin is one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  Its also one of my Mom's few "specialties" where you were guaranteed that you would like the dinner she cooked (sorry, know its true and that "recipe of the week" was a total flop).  I like it way better than pork chops because its leaner and stays juicy even when cooked all the way through (I am REALLY squemish about under-cooked pork because I hear trichinosis sucks really bad).

This pork tenderloin didn't was perfectly juicy and tender and it went perfectly well with the rice dish I made up.  I just microwaved a package of chicken flavored 90-second brown rice and then added some feta, a little bit of butter, and toasted pine nuts.  Delish!

Grilled Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
Source: Adapted from
Recipe Girl

4 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp crushed garlic
3 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbs chopped green onions
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs cracked black pepper
1 Tbs sea salt
2 lbs pork tenderloin

Combine marinade ingredients in a large ziploc baggie. Add tenderloin and massage to work marinade into meat. Refrigerate in marinade for at least 6 hours.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155.

Remove tenderloin from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Chicken with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese

One of my biggest challenges with cooking is getting the timing right.  Like, recipes don't tell you WHEN to start things if you want everything to be done at the same time.  This recipe did not say, "don't start the balsamic syrup too soon or it will get so thick that it sticks to your front teeth for 3 hours after you try to taste it".  Needless to say, the syrup took me a couple of tries as those potatoes were roasting.  It was worth it, though, because the potatoes were perfect (just some fingerlings and broccoli tossed in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and roasted in a 400 degree oven for....until they are done).

The chicken was good, too, but it was frustrating because they took FOREVER to cook in a skillet, so I ended up putting it in the oven to finish and probably left it in there 5 minutes too long.  It was a little dry, but it had goat cheese on it, so that evens out in my book.

Chicken with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese
Source: Gourmet Day to Day

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
4-6 thin boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. (A great way to test for the proper consistency of the syrup is to dip the spoon in the syrup, draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger, if the sauce is done, the line should stay pretty clean without the sauce running back into the line)

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Saute chicken until cooked through and golden brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the chicken and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the chicken to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve.

Easy Cajun Pasta

This was delicious and I probably won't make it again, because even if I went to TWO spin classes every day, this would probably still make me really fat.  The recipe itself isn't THAT bad for you, but I found myself literally unable to stop eating it, as pasta and sausage are probably my 2 favorite things to eat in the entire world.  Well, I technically have about 100 favorites, but these are right up there.  

If you are one of those people who are able to exercise self control when it comes to portion control, make this really soon.  If you're not, make it anyway!

Easy Cajun Pasta

1 pkg chicken andouille, sliced
1 pkg Buitoni linguine (fresh)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 small jar prepared light alfredo sauce
1 medium onion
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Fresh ground black pepper

Chop vegetables and cook with oil and 1 tbs cayenne until tender, add sliced sausage and cook until thoroughly heated. Heat sauce and add remainder of cayenne, crushed red and black pepper to taste. Serve over prepared pasta.

Cornflake Chicken Tenders

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Joelen's at What's Cooking Chicago? She makes amazing food and takes equally amazing pictures.  I kind of want to be her when I grow up. She got this recipe from one of my other favorite blogs to follow, Pennies on a Platter.  They are both in the Chicago area, and while I don't live there any more, the one thing I miss the most is the food.  So I automatically assume anyone who in the Chi-town knows their food and should therefore have their blogs followed.  When I saw this, I knew I had to make it, AND I had leftover Bone Sucking Sauce for dipping.  Score! 

Cornflake Chicken Tenders

Chicken Gyros

Chicken gyros have a special place in my heart.  When I was in college (at James Madison University....Go Dukes!), there was this takeout restaurant/dive called Dave's Taverna and they specialized in Greek-inspired bar food.  They also had $2 pitchers and gave you cards to play Asshole (a mindless drinking game played with cards) with while you were there.  So, needless to say...everyone loved Dave's.  I specifically rememeber leaving class early convincing some friends to leave class early on happy hour days to reserve a table here so we could make sure we had optimal space for cards, Natty Light pitchers, and chicken gyros.  One night I even ate a chicken gyro at Dave's, went out to a few parties, and then ordered Dave's delivery of chicken gyros later that night when I got home.  Shameful but true.

These days, I prefer enjoying my chicken gyros in the comfort of my own home, with my husband (who is FAR classier than the clientele at Dave's), and a nice glass of red.

I found this recipe on ANOTHER blog I love, Elly Says Opa!  She is awesome and her gyros didn't disappoint.  I adapted a little bit, but only because I was too lazy to make my own tzatziki.

Chicken Gyros
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa!

3 chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons
red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and peppertzatziki sliced tomatoes

Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in a reseal-able bag. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side, depending what size/type chicken you are using.

Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.

Heat your pitas to make them pliable. Stuff the pita with the chicken, tzatziki and tomatoes.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, melted
2 cups finely crushed corn flakes cereal

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400˚F. Place an oven-safe cooling rack on a baking sheet and set aside.

Combine the flour and spices in a small bowl; set aside. Place melted butter in another small bowl; set aside. Place the crushed cereal in a medium-sized bowl or pie plate.

Dip the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then the butter, then the cereal. Place the coated chicken strips on the rack in the baking sheet.

Bake the coated chicken pieces in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with your favorite sauce.