Posts tagged ‘lunch’

October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
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October 7, 2011

Sautéed Potatoes with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes

I was on my own for dinner the other night, and I was feeling like a pile of hot, tasty French fries.  As I don’t have a fryer and don’t intend to get one, I went with the next best thing, sautéed potatoes with garlic and red pepper.  In the end, they turned out much better than any French fries, and for some reason I felt better about eating them, even if I did finish the whole plate!

I like my potatoes with a nice, crispy coating, but they’re still soft and creamy in the inside.  The only way to achieve this is to go low and slow.  If you brown the potatoes too quickly, they won’t get cooked in the middle, so you need a little patience.  I’ve tried par boiling the potatoes before sautéing, but they always seem to fall apart, so I just cut them up and drop them in the pan raw, that way they have a nice bite but still get cooked through.  The vibrant color of the purple potatoes will turn any sautéed potatoes into a gourmet dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. golden Yukon potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 1 lb. purple baby potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (1-inch pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. pepper, to taste

Method

  • Rinse potatoes under cold water; drain and pat dry
  • Cut potatoes into bite size pieces, leave the skin on
  • Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat
  • Add potatoes once the oil is hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • Watch the potatoes and turn frequently for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes and toss until evenly coated
  • Cover and reduce heat to low. Cool, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • Remove from heat and add parsley, stir until evenly coated
  • Add additional salt and pepper to taste
  • Let cook for a few minutes before digging in, they’ll be very hot!
September 15, 2011

Grilled Shrimp & Romaine Salad

Brisket: 6 hours. Meatloaf: 45 mins.  Lasagna: 1 hour.  For some reason people are terrified of cooking fish, which is strange to me since it’s one of the easiest things to prepare and takes the least amount of time to cook.  Shrimp: 5 mins.  Salmon filet: 10 mins.  Ok, these are all approximates, but you get the idea.  Since it’s so quick, why don’t we face our fear of fish disasters and start conquering the deep-sea!  Very dramatic, I know.

This is one of those dishes that make you rethink your ordinary salad. Forget boring greens with stale croutons and cold radish.  This is not a starter; it’s the main dish.  Rosy pink shrimp slightly charred on the edges, and succulent and tender in the middle.  Bright cherry tomatoes that pop in your mouth, releasing their sweet juices. Golden brown garlic slices get lost in the tunnels of romaine salad and get lightly coated with tangy dressing.  I always mine all the garlic out and get left with just lettuce, so if you want to throw in a little extra I won’t judge you.

I make this salad on the grill and a skillet, that way the smaller ingredients don’t fall through the grill rack.  You can even put the pan directly on the grill to keep everything in one place.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can buy the ones you need to peel yourself but you’ll have to add some kitchen time if you do this).  I go with 1/3 to 1/2 lb. shrimp per person.
  • 1 handful small cherry tomatoes
  • 6 – 8 asparagus stalks, about 1/2 bunch
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 romaine hearts (depending on the size and how hungry you are), slice down the center but keep the ends on so they don’t fall apart on the grill

Vinaigrette (you probably won’t use it all, but you can store the rest in the fridge, feel free to double it, it wont go bad)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 spoonful’s of Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper

Method

  • Heat your grill to medium
  • Prepare the vinaigrette, whisk olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl
  • Heat skillet on medium, add a VERY little olive oil and add garlic, tomatoes and avocado.  I recommend using olive oil spray, or PAM, you don’t want the garlic to fry, rather they should brown in the pan, like a dry heat.  The spray helps the tomatoes and avocado brown, but you won’t need a lot.
  • Brush the shrimp and asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and place on the hot grill
  • Turn shrimp and asparagus with tongs after 3 mins (the shrimp will begin to curl and turn pink)
  • While cooking the shrimp keep your eye on the garlic/tomatoes/avocados, turn them in the pan as needed.
  • Cook shrimp and asparagus for an additional 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.  Leave on the side while you assemble the rest of the salad.
  • Brush the halved romaine hearts with the vinaigrette and place on grill for 2 mins
  • Turn and cook an additional 2 mins until leaves begin to brown
  • Remove from heat and begin building your salad!
  • Place romaine and asparagus on plate, remove garlic, tomatoes and avocado from pan (they should be slightly golden) and lay over lettuce
  • Finally add the grilled shrimp and add a little more vinaigrette if needed
  • Enjoy!!!

You can substitute the shrimp for chicken, tofu or just leave it off all together.  The slightly singed lettuce leaves, sweet shrimp, and warm avocado turn this ordinary salad into a lavish dinner.

September 7, 2011

Hatch Chile and Chicken Enchiladas

I grew up in a very British household, my mom being from South Wales and my Dad is from London. With two British parents, Mexican chiles weren’t a common ingredient in our home.  It wasn’t until I moved to Houston a year ago that I discovered the varieties available and the subtle differences between each one.  One month into my Houston arrival, the Hatch Green Chili festival was being held at the local Central Market grocery store.  Of course, I came home with bags of roasted Hatch chiles with little idea of what to do with them.  So, I made it up as I went along.

We were having people over for dinner a few nights later and figured it would be a good way to use up a bunch of chiles and make my fellow Houstonians feel at home.  I don’t think Shepherd’s Pie would’ve gone over so well in 102-degree heat.   I settled on Chile chicken enchiladas, I’d never made enchiladas before so this was an experiment, and one that turned out quite well!

You should know, I don’t usually make this dish from scratch (unless I want to spend 2 hours making dinner).  We have this dish the night after cooking chicken;  I always cook extra the night before and it saves me at least in hour in the kitchen.

I also take another shortcut; I buy roasted hatch green chiles.  You can get these in August at most grocery stores, and can be stored in the freezer for use year round.  This will save you time and mess. If you need to roast them yourself, I recommend doing it in the oven.  Put the chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs, until the skin is blackened. Skin the peppers; then seed, core, and dice them.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups roasted, chopped hatch green chiles (roasted poblanos also work)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional if you want to add some extra heat)
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup grated Monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated queso fresco Mexican cheese (if you can’t find this you can substitute with a mild Feta cheese)
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded

Method

Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat
  • Add onion and sauté on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes, add garlic for the last-minute so it doesn’t burn
  • Raise heat to medium and slowly stir in spices, stirring for 2 minutes
  • Then sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring, 1 more minute
  • Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  The liquid will slowly thicken.
  • Add the chopped chiles and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so

While sauce is cooking, shred the leftover chicken.  If you’re starting from scratch, dust the chicken with cumin, salt and pepper and place on oiled grill.  After cooking shred and leave it on the side for assembly.  (You can also chop the chicken, personally like the texture of it shredded).

Now it’s time to assemble!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place a tortilla on your cutting board; add a few dollops of the chicken, and then spoon on the sauce.
  • Sprinkle with a little cheese, and roll the tortilla to enclose the filling.
  • Place it seem side down in the baking dish. Continue to fill all the tortillas and put them in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top.
  • Serve hot with a side of sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

If you want to make this dish vegetarian friendly, just omit the chicken and replace the stock with water.  I usually make one of each when we have friends over.  You can assemble it earlier in the day and then just pop it in the over when your guests arrive.

September 6, 2011

The Pappas-Mitchell Grilled Cheese

Cashew butter.  Fig Jam.  Sourdough bread.  Brie.  It’s like one of those mystery baskets on chopped.  Ok don’t walk away yet… I know you’re intrigued.  I had my doubts too, but trust me – this is one adult grilled delicacy you have to try.  Stephanie Pappas and Chris Mitchell, a couple very close to me who decided to leave me for the cooler mountains of Colorado, discovered this sandwich on a trip to Chicago at the Hop Leaf Tavern.  I’ve named it the “Pappas-Mitchell” sandwich in honor of them, and hope that if I name a few more dishes after them they might come back to Houston! J (I know, very unlikely but it’s worth a try right?!?)

Ingredients

  • Sliced Sourdough (or any kind of hearty bread you like, it can’t be too soft or it will fall apart)
  • Brie (any brand you like, I like the ones that aren’t too rich since it’s being paired with cashew butter.  Save the expensive cheese to eat solo with a glass of red wine!)
  • Cashew Butter
  • Fig Jam
  • Thinly sliced apple or pear (optional)
  • Butter for grilling the bread

Method

  • Butter both side of sourdough
  • Toast one side until golden brown in skillet
  • Remove from skillet and spread a healthy layer of cashew butter and fig jam to the toasted sides of each half.
  • Add a layer of sliced brie to one side and sliced apple to the other (apple is optional but adds another layer of texture
  • Assemble the sandwich and return to the skillet to finish toasting the other side
  • Cut in half and enjoy!

The last time I made this sandwich for Steph is was part of her going away dinner.  She said, “This sandwich just keeps getting better and better.  Philippa, you’re definitely mastered this one”.  Maybe she was just being nice, but I’ll take the compliment. J  I hope you enjoy this distinctive sandwich as much as I do.

August 31, 2011

Pasta Ponza

Wait for it…. go!  I dash for the sink where I scoop up a big clump of freshly cooked pasta and try to navigate it into my mouth before I got caught.

I guess my Italian heritage runs strong, as I’ve always had a strong love for pasta.  In fact, you might call it an addiction.  No matter what time of year, pasta always has a place on my menu.  I remember my mum cooking her homemade spaghetti and the smell of fresh garlic and leeks throughout the house, no matter how much I try to replicate it never seems to come out the same.  During the summers, I would load up on pasta carbonara the night before a big swim meet, hoping the pasta gods would help me pop my time and qualify for the county swim meet.   While the ratio of sauce to pasta has changed over the years, the aroma and flavor of a warm bowl of pasta will always be the same.  I’ll eventually share all my favorite pasta dishes, but the one I have today is something you can whip up on the busiest of nights, and I promise you wont go to bed hungry.

If you’ve ever picked up a container of bright cherry and pear-shaped yellow tomatoes and couldn’t resist buying 2 or 3 cartons, then this recipe’s for you. Their sweet, crisp flavor breathes summer, and they’re the main ingredient in pasta ponza. Part of the attraction of this recipe is its adorable name. Wouldn’t it make you smile to say (even to yourself) that you’re going home to make ‘pasta ponza’ for dinner?

The sauce gets most of its flavor from combining several varieties of tomatoes. The recipe suggests half red cherry and half yellow cherry tomatoes, but you could use any combination you’d like.  The sauce is so simple, you start by placing the tomatoes and capers in a baking dish, drizzling them with olive oil, sprinkling them with seasoned bread crumbs and roasting the mixture in the oven for about 30 minutes.  Done, that’s it!  I know, could this be any easier?!?

When it’s ready, the breadcrumbs will be golden-brown and crunchy, and the tomatoes will be slightly broken down, juicy and very intense.  Once added to the pasta, the salty bite of the Pecorino-Romano really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the breadcrumb topping coats each piece of pasta with mild Italian herbs and creamy cheese.

This is a staple in my busy workweek, and it’s just as good the next day for lunch.  Quick tip: when you reheat it the following day, add a splash of water to the bowl to get the sauce back to its creamy consistency.

This recipe is inspired by Giada De Laurentiis, and of course I tweaked it to make it my own, and I encourage you to do the same.

Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes cut into halves
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup capers, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped (if you really like capers throw in a few more, I usually do)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs (plain breadcrumbs are too bland, I really recommend these, and if you can;t find them throw in a handful of Italian seasoning to give it some flavor)
  • 1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups Pecorino Romano or Asiago cheese, grated (Please don’t buy the cheese in a green can, buy the good stuff, you’ll thank me later)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • If you need to make this pasta more appealing to a meat-loving loved one, feel free to add grilled chicken, Italian sausage or crumbled bacon.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish.
  • Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden.
  • Cool for 5 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat (add the salt after it’s boiling so it flavors the pasta… go, on, throw in a small handful, do it!).
  • Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water to add later when creating the sauce.
  • Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture on the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Add a little of the pasta water to help create a sauce, it helps the cheese melt and coat the pasta tubes.
  • Sprinkle with the chopped basil and more cheese and serve immediately.
  • Return for seconds!
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