Greek-Style Chicken Breasts

Greek-Style Chicken Breasts

Greek-Style Chicken Breasts

Do you like to buy olives from the olive bar in the supermarket?  I love them, and frequently buy an assortment to have on hand.  I like to include olives in a mixed green salad, or add them to the salads I prepare for our lunches.  As luck would have it,  I had just returned from my grocery shopping on the very day that I came across this recipe for Greek-Style Chicken that called for kalamata olives.  With the olives on hand I knew I had everything necessary to prepare this fantastic entree.

Grilled Chicken goes Greek!

Grilled Chicken goes Greek!

Besides being very tasty, this meal can be prepared in just about 30 minutes.  The recipe as it was printed contained a recipe for herbed potatoes, and when I cooked the chicken, I prepared the herbed potatoes as well.  So I’m including them here for you also.  This meal goes together so easily and is really good.  I would not hesitate to serve this to guests, who would think you spent longer on its preparation than you actually did.  Many of you may be grilling now that summer has officially arrived, and the chicken would be lovely cooked out on the grill, then topped with the onion-tomato-olive mixture.

GREEK-STYLE CHICKEN BREASTS

Yield:   Serves 4

Ingredients:IMG_7168

  • 4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1  1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1  3/4 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 12 – 14 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano  (or 3/4 tsp. dried)
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 cup)
Tomatoes and olives ready for the pan.

Tomatoes and olives ready for the pan.

Directions:

1.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.

Grilling the chicken

Grilling the chicken

2.  Heat a large skillet per medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add onion and garlic, sauté 4 minutes.

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Add olives and tomatoes;  cook 3 minutes or until tomato begins to break down, stirring occasionally.

 

This smells fantastic!!

This smells fantastic!!

Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, oregano and lemon juice.  Top chicken with tomato and olive mixture; sprinkle feta evenly over chicken.

Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with feta cheese.

 

HERBED POTATOES

Place  1 1/4 pounds baby gold potatoes – or medium yukon gold potatoes, quartered – in a large saucepan.  Cover with water and cook 14 minutes or until potatoes are tender; drain.

Combine 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl, storing with a whisk.  Add potatoes and toss to coat.  Garnish with parsley or oregano leaves, if desired.

If you have extra time you can roast rather than boil the potatoes.  Toss them in the vinaigrette mixture, and bake at 400*F for 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.  This is what I did to get the version you see below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Oven Roasted Potatoes

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SOURCE:   Cooking Light

Garlicy Baked Potato Slices

Garlicy Baked Potato Slices

Garlicy Baked Potato Slices

Of all the ways that I have fixed potatoes, I think one of my favorites is baked, crispy, well-seasoned slices.  Sliced potatoes are easier to prepare than, say, cutting french fries.  I just slice them up, drizzle with a little olive oil and seasonings, bake, and they turn out great.  The thinner you slice them, the crispier they get.  Sort of like hot potato chips.

I made the batch you see here to go with oven baked fish, but they are the prefect side dish with so many things from burgers to steak, and anything in between.

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You really don’t need a recipe for these, but I wrote down some basic guidelines if you care to make them…..

GARLICY BAKED POTATO SLICES

Yield:   Makes 2 – 4 servings   I plan on 1 potato/person

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 4 whole potatoes, peeled (Russets are preferred)
  • olive oil,  about 1 Tablespoon/potato
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 – 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • mixed herbs such as Italian Blend or Fine Herbs

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400*F.  Lightly spray a shallow baking sheet with sides.

2.  Slice potatoes into desired thickness.  Remember, thinner is crispier.  Cut them with a knife or use a mandoline for uniform slices.

3.  Rinse potatoes with water to remove starch.  Pat dry with paper towels.

4.  In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, and seasonings of choice.   Add potato slices and stir or toss until all are evenly coated.

5.  Spread potato slices on prepared baking sheet.  Place in oven to bake, turning every 15 minutes until golden brown.  The total time will depend on how many potatoes you are cooking.  I made 2 potatoes and it took about 30 minutes for them to be done.

Serve while hot with a dipping sauce of your choice.  We like ranch dressing or Thousand Island dressing.

It’s unlikely that when you serve these, there will be any left over, but IF there are,  we like them rewarmed in a skillet with an egg broken over them.  Serve with bacon for breakfast.

Garlicy Baked Potato Slices

Garlicy Baked Potato Slices

 

SOURCE:   Carolyn’s Originals

 

Grilled Steak and Vegetables with Lemon-Herb Butter

Grilled Steak with Vegetables and Lemon Herb Butter

Grilled Steak with Vegetables and Lemon Herb Butter

 

Spring bulbs are blooming, and flowering trees are showing their vivid display.  This is my favorite month of the year.  We can hope for a beautiful weekend for Mother’s Day.  Maybe some of you have taken the grille out of winter storage and are getting ready to use it or maybe you never but it away–like us.  We just cover it for the winter.  Or maybe you live where the grill is in use year round.  In any situation….this recipe will make you want to get grilling.  If that is not a possibility, you can make it totally indoors on the stove. Either way, it will be delicious.IMG_7199

This is a meal that takes only a short time to make it, but is really big on flavor.  It involves making a spicy sauce that bathes the vegetables and steak, then cooking them quickly on fairly high heat so that a browned exterior forms.  The final touch is the lemon-herb butter on the steak.  The recipe recommends using a beef sirloin steak, but what I used were boneless chuck steaks, that were well marbled with fat, so they were extremely tender.  Cooking it to medium-rare also kept it tender, so that it didn’t dry out.  This is definitely  a meal that men will love, even though I’m suggesting it for Mother’s Day, it would also be great for Father’s Day.    Any guy who loves to grill can easily handle making this dish.

GRILLED STEAK AND VEGETABLES WITH LEMON-HERB BUTTER

Yield:   Serves 4

Ingredients:

Have everything ready in advance.

Have everything ready in advance.

 

  • 1  1/2 pounds sirloin steak, about 1-inch thick (or other tender steak of your choice)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 2 large zucchini or yellow squash, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Slice the zucchini on the diagonal for larger slices.

Slice the zucchini on the diagonal for larger slices.

Slice the onion in thick rounds.

Slice the onion in thick rounds.

Directions:

1.  Preheat a grill (or grill pan) to medium high.  Combine the barbecue sauce, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add steak and vegetables;  toss to coat.  Let stand 5 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, mash the butter with the parsley, lemon zest and a pinch of salt in a small bowl;  set aside.

Get the herb butter ready.

Get the herb butter ready.

3.  Transfer the vegetables to the grill and cook until crisp tender and slightly charred in spots, about 8 minutes.  Set aside to keep warm.   Add the steak to the grill and cook 4 – 5 minutes per side for medium rare; remove to a cutting board and let rest.

Steaks looking wonderful on the grill.

Steaks looking wonderful on the grill.

4.  Cut the steak into 4 pieces.  Top each piece with some of the lemon-herb butter.  Serve with the grilled vegetables.

An outstanding meal; one your family will love.

An outstanding meal; one your family will love.

You will note in my photos that I also served a twice-baked potato with this meal. This was made by first baking the potatoes, then scooping out most of the insides and mashing the potato with some precooked broccoli, a little non-fat Greek yogurt, a drizzle of milk and some cheddar cheese.  Replace all that back into the potato shell and bake again until heated through and the cheese is melted.

Scoop out most of the potato, leaving a shell.

Scoop out most of the potato, leaving a shell.

Mix potato with cooked broccoli, greek yogurt, milk and cheese.

Mix potato with cooked broccoli, greek yogurt, milk and cheese.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Thyme Sauce

I have spent uncountable hours of my life cooking chicken.  Chicken with and chicken without.  Chicken whole and chicken parts.  Chicken roasted, broiled, grilled, sautéed, fried, sauced, souped, and brothed.  (new word here.)  Am I bored with chicken, you ask? No, in spite of umpteen ways of cooking chicken, I am not bored with it, and hope you are not either.  I like to compare chicken to someone who is a “universal blood donor”,  having something for everyone.  (Sorry about the example, but I’m a medical person.) Everyone probably has a favorite dish that uses chicken in one form or another.

So, if all of the numerous chicken recipes already on this blog have left you feeling bleh, maybe, just maybe, this is the one that will compel you to march into your kitchen and start cooking.  I particularly like this one because of the sauce.  I’ve grown very fond of mustard sauces and paired with thyme, this is very good.  It also makes enough to spoon over the chicken and rice, noodles or potatoes that you may serve with it.  In my opinion, chicken with sauce is always better than chicken without.

When I am using my oven to prepare an entree like this, I like to also make a side dish that will be oven cooked as well.  The side dish I made was roasted red skin potatoes with green beans, since they cook at the same oven temperature as the chicken and for a similar length of time.  Turns out they were a good accompaniment to the chicken.  While all that was roasting in the oven I was able to make a salad to complete the meal.

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ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MUSTARD-THYME SAUCE

Yield:   Serves  4

Sauce ingredients.

Sauce ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 cup no-salt added chicken broth, divided
  • 4 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 425*F.  Lightly grease an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

2.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Remove chicken from pan and place in the prepared baking dish.

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Bake at 425*F for 16 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165*.   Remove chicken from dish and reserve the drippings.

3.  Return skillet to medium-high heat.  Add butter; swirl to coat.  Add onion and thyme; sauté  5 minutes or until tender.

Sauté onions with thyme.

Sauté onions with thyme.

Combine 3 tablespoons chicken broth with the flour in a small bowl.  Add flour mixture, remaining broth and reserved drippings to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.   Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat, and add mustard, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk.  Serve sauce with chicken.

To make the Roasted Potatoes with Green Beans:   Wash and quarter 4-5 red skin potatoes, and place in a shallow baking dish.

Red-skin potatoes, quartered.

Red-skin potatoes, quartered.

Add in about 10 oz. fresh green beans and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves.  Drizzle over the top 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat well.   Bake at 425*F for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring once.  Pierce the potatoes with a sharp knife to test for doneness.  Serve with chicken, spooning the sauce over all.

Roast potatoes with green beans.

Roast potatoes with green beans.

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SOURCE:  Cooking Light

How to Make Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna

I wonder who Anna was.  Her name has become associated with this potato dish that, I think, most of us assume is something quite fancy.  Well think again, it may look fancy when served, but it’s not fancy to make.  Do you love thinly sliced potatoes cooked till brown and crispy?  Well that’s what this dish is all about.  You can make it with all one kind of potato or use a variety of potatoes.  In the version that I made recently I used a white baking potato (russet) and a large sweet potato to provide some color contrast, and increase the nutritional value of the dish.  You could also use Yukon Gold potatoes, or red-skin potatoes.

In my experience with making this dish, it is best to peel the potatoes so you get nice crispy, browned edges, but of course you can certainly leave the potatoes unpeeled if that is your preference.

The key to the success of this dish is to cut the potatoes in even slices.  One tool that I like to use is a mandoline slicer.  It makes quick work of cutting vegetables into thin even slices.  I find it easier to clean and use than my large processor for slicing jobs like this.

Using a mandoline slicer gives you even slices.

Using a mandoline slicer gives you even slices.

Since this post is a “how to” tutorial I am going to give tips on making Potatoes Anna first, followed by the recipe itself.

1.  Once the potatoes have been sliced, begin the layering.  Use a heavy, oven-proof skillet.  I like to use my wrought-iron frying pan for this job as it distributes heat evenly and the bottom layer gets nice and brown.  If you don’t have a wrought-iron pan any oven-proof pan will do.

2.  Choose the prettiest slices for your first layer of potatoes, as those will be on top when you invert the potato cake.  Layer in a spiral fashion.

Arrange in a circular pattern in a heavy skillet.

Arrange in a circular pattern in a heavy skillet.

3.  Brush with melted butter.  As you assemble alternating layers of white potatoes and sweet potatoes, brush each with melted butter for added richness.

Brush each layer with butter and season well.

Brush each layer with butter and season well.

4.  Season generously.  Root vegetables can take a lot of salt, so don’t be stingy.  Add salt and pepper to each layer so every forkful is evenly seasoned.

5.  Add the final layers.  You should have 4 to 5 layers when you’re done.  Plenty of butter and a non-stick pan make the result very easy to turn out onto a serving plate.**

Hot and crispy, just out of the oven.

Hot and crispy, just out of the oven.

**Unfortunately I didn’t take my own advice.  When I made this dish I made a smaller amount for 2-3 servings, and instead of using a smaller skillet, I used the 10″ one, so I had fewer layers of potatoes.  When I tried to turn it out onto a serving plate it broke, so my photos do not do justice to how attractive the finished dish really is.  But, it tasted wonderful just the same.

Not enough layers to cut it into wedges, but delicious just the same!!

Not enough layers to cut it into wedges, but delicious just the same!!

YUKON GOLD AND SWEET POTATOES ANNA

Yield:   Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 medium, peeled Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 medium, peeled sweet potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.  Cut potatoes and sweet potatoes into 1/8-inch thick slices with a handheld slicer or sharp knife keeping potato varieties separate.

Melt butter and slice potatoes evenly.

Melt butter and slice potatoes evenly.

2.  Brush an ovenproof 10-inch non-stick skillet with butter.  Starting in center of pan, arrange about 20 slices of white potato slices, slightly overlapping, in a circular pattern, covering the whole bottom surface.  Brush with butter and season generously with salt and pepper.

3.  Make another layer with sweet potato slices; brush with butter and season.  Repeat, alternating white and sweet potato layers.  Drizzle any remaining butter on top of potatoes.

4.  Place skillet over medium-high heat and cook until butter vigorously bubbles in pan, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to oven and bake 30 minutes.  Tent loosely with foil and continue to bake until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes more.  Remove from oven.  Run a small rubber spatula around edges of potatoes to loosen.  Carefully invert onto a plate and cut into wedges to serve.

Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna

SOURCE:   Martha Stewart.com

Flower Power

Roasted Cauliflower with Cranberries and Crispy Onions

Roasted Cauliflower with Cranberries and Crispy Onions

Cauliflower is a beautiful thing!!  With its bunches of tightly clustered florets snuggled into green leaves, cauliflower looks somewhat like a flower.  Cauliflower comes in colors other than white–and with added nutrients.  Orange and green cauliflower provide us with beta carotene.  Green cauliflower also has a little more protein.  Purple cauliflower  gets its color from anthocyanins, said to improve memory.  Since its color fades with cooking, you will get the most benefits by eating it raw.

Cauliflower has been called the “skinny starch”.  It has 16 % less carbs and 79 % fewer calories per 1/2 cup than potatoes.  It also has lots of pectin– the same stuff that thickens jams and jellies–so pureed cooked cauliflower has a velvety texture that adds body to soups, and mimics potatoes when mashed.  Cauliflower may also be shredded or finely chopped, then lightly sautéed to make a low-carb “rice” or “couscous”.

If you prepare cauliflower with a sense of adventure, its mild flavor and unique texture allow it to take the place of other higher calorie, higher-starch foods in  winter dishes.  Forget basic steamed florets.  In this recipe you will see that roasty-browned cauliflower mixes well with dried cranberries and crispy French fried onions to make a side dish that goes well with just about any main entree.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CRANBERRIES AND CRISPY ONIONS

Yield:   Makes 6 – 8 servingsIMG_6629

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup French Fried onions, divided
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios, divided
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.

2.  Cut cauliflower into small bite-size florets.  Place on a large baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.   Roast for 10 minutes.  Remove cauliflower from oven.  Add 1/2 cup of the French fried onions to the cauliflower on the baking sheet and toss to mix.  Place the remaining 1/4 cup onions off to one side of the baking sheet (these will be used as garnish.)   Roast mixture an additional 10 minutes or until cauliflower reaches desired tenderness and onions are brown and crispy.

3.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Set aside 2 tablespoons each of dried cranberries and pistachios ( these will be used as garnish).

5.  In a medium bowl, toss warm cauliflower mixture with dried cranberries and pistachios.  Spoon ricotta mixture on top and fold gently, leaving large bits of ricotta.  Garnish with reserved cranberries, pistachios and crispy onions.  Serve immediately.

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SOURCE:   Eating Well

Spicy Roasted Root Vegetables

Spicy Roasted Root Vegetables

Spicy Roasted Root Vegetables

With yesterday being the first day of Spring, I have high hopes for this cold dreary weather to turn itself into something resembling spring pretty darn quick.  I’m ready for “peep-toe” shoes, cut-offs, short sleeves and blazer jackets.  I’m also longing for some springtime foods, like strawberries, something lemon, rhubarb, grilled chicken and some different vegetables.  I’m dreaming of sunny days, flowers poking up thru debris in the garden, buds on the trees and getting my hands dirty in the dirt–not!!

So I jotted down some things on my foods “to-make” list. Things like lemon meringue pie, baked ham with scalloped potatoes, fresh peas, cupcakes with coconut on them……etc.   Then I made this instead.  I’m sure you understand.  Before you take that dive into forbidden territory, you must fortify yourself, get your system ready for what lies ahead.  So I put all my notes into a “Spring is not here yet, but it’s coming” file, and turned to what is available at hand now.

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What I had on hand was golden beets and sweet potatoes.  Similar colors, different textures and taste, but both are root vegetables.  So I decided to treat them both the same way.   Anyone who knows anything knows that roasting is the way to go when you want to bring out the natural sweetness in vegetables because their natural sugars get caramelized.  Beets and sweet potatoes are  both loaded with natural sugars, and Gwyneth Paltrow suggested that a light drizzle with good olive oil and some spicy seasonings would turn these vegetables into a dinnertime sensation.   You know what?   She was right!

SPICY ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

Yield:    Serves 4IMG_6837

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch golden beets, (about 3 med-large size), peeled and cut into wedges.
  • 1 large, or 2 medium sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into wedges or sliced about 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika, either sweet or smoky
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400*F.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the spices (cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt).

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Isn't this an interesting pattern in the beet?

Isn’t this an interesting pattern in the beet?

Add cut up beets and sweet potatoes.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Toss lightly to coat evenly with the spices and oil.  Spread into an even layer on the baking sheet.

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I kept the two kinds of veggies separate on the baking sheet and also on my serving platter, just for appearance sake.

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3.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until they pierce easily with a knife.   Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper if desired.  Serve warm.

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More thoughts on the subject:   this is a good spice mixture to have in a little jar ready for use whenever you have root vegetables to cook.  Mix up the combination of veggies.  Think of turnip, parsnips, carrots—I think any of them would be good cooked this way.

SOURCE:    my own imagination

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes

Fresh asparagus are now appearing in the produce aisles of the market, and I look forward to its reappearance each year.  This is one vegetable I really love.  When I first start cooking it again I usually just steam it briefly so it’s just crisp tender and serve it with a little butter or spritz it with lemon juice.  But after having it that way a few times I start looking for ways to dress it up and offer more variety.

So pretty when plated.

So pretty when plated.

This recipe is a new and different way that I have found to prepare it.  The asparagus is cooked briefly, and while that’s going on you make a sauce out of olive oil, garlic, grape tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.  When you serve it, sprinkle goat cheese over the top.  This makes a great side dish to go with almost any entree I can think of.  Every bite provides some crispness from the asparagus, some tartness from the balsamic tomato sauce, and then some creaminess from the goat cheese.  What a mouth sensation!!   I was so happy to see that there was some leftover, because I’m having it again tomorrow with a poached egg for my lunch.

Can you also believe that you can get so much pleasure and goodness for only 69 calories and 6.5 g carbohydrates/serving?  Yes,  my kind of dish, indeed.

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ASPARAGUS WITH BALSAMIC TOMATOES

Yield:    4 servings

Ingredients:

Just a few ingredients needed.

Just a few ingredients needed.

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic ( 1 small clove)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
  • dash black pepper

Directions:

1.  Cook asparagus in boiling water 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.   Drain and keep warm.

2.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add tomatoes and garlic; cook 5 minutes.

Sautéing the tomatoes and garlic.

Sautéing the tomatoes and garlic.

Stir in vinegar; cook 3 minutes.  Stir in salt.

Add in balsamic vinegar and salt.

Add in balsamic vinegar and salt.

3.  Arrange asparagus on a platter; top with tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with cheese and pepper.

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SOURCE:   Cooking Light;   April, 2011

Not Your Mother’s Green Bean Casserole

Green Beans and Mushrooms with Fried Onions

Green Beans and Mushrooms with Fried Onions

One side dish that my family loves is Green Bean Casserole.  Over the holidays I made it ” from scratch”, and lightened it up by making a thinner mushroom sauce.   I have been meaning to tell you about it, but there has been so much to cover I    never got around to it.  So while it’s fresh in my mind, let me share with you how I made it.  It definitely does NOT contain canned or frozen green beans, or canned condensed cream of mushroom soup.  What it does contain is fresh green beans, fresh mushrooms, cream sauce made with real cream and crisp fried onions. The fresh mushrooms give this dish a deep meaty flavor that just doesn’t compare with the canned soup version.   We all thought it was wonderful, and maybe you will, too.

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NOT THE CLASSIC (YOUR MOTHER’S) GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Yield:   Serves 6, or more if  a) you have lots of sides on the table or b) use the higher amount (1.5 – 2 pounds) of green beans.

Fried Onions:IMG_5761

  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. panko or plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • canola, safflower, or other high-heat oil, for frying

Mushroom Sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 12 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced or coarsely chopped

    What you need for the mushroom sauce.

    What you need for the mushroom sauce.

  • few gratings fresh nutmeg (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1  1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Assembly:

1.  1 to 2  pounds green beans, washed well, tips and tails removed.  You may leave them whole or cut to desired length.

2.  Make crispy onions:   Toss onions with flour, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.  Heat 1/2-inch or so of oil in a 12-inch skillet until a drop of water flicked into it will hiss and sputter.  Add onions, just a handful at a time in something close to a single layer, and fry until a light golden brown (they’ll get more color in the oven).

Fry onions in a single layer.  Don't crowd the pan.

Fry onions in a single layer. Don’t crowd the pan.

Remove with a large slotted spoon, letting oil drip off, back into the skillet.  Spread onions out on paper towels to drain.  Repeat with remaining onions.  Set aside until needed;  this makes a lot.

Spread on paper towels to drain.

Spread on paper towels to drain.

More onions.....

More onions…..

3.  Prepare the beans:  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil beans for 5 minutes, till crisp tender.  Drain beans, and rinse until cold water to stop the cooking action.  Drain again, and set aside.

Cooking the green beans.

Cooking the green beans.

Preheat the oven to 400*F   Spray or lightly grease a large baking dish.

4.  Make the mushroom sauce:  Over medium-high heat, melt butter in the bottom of a 12-inch skillet.  Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté them until they start releasing their liquid,  about 3 – 5 minutes, depending on how you cut them.  Add the garlic and sauté one minute more.  Add the flour and stir it until it fully coats the mushrooms.  Add the broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring the whole time.

Mushrooms simmering in the broth.

Mushrooms simmering in the broth.

Simmer mixture for 1 minute, then add cream and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the sauce thickens a bit about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

With cream added.

With cream added.

5.  Assemble and bake:  Add cooked green beans to sauce and stir until they are coated.  Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Green beans coated with sauce.

Green beans coated with sauce.

Sprinkle crispy onions over the top.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and onions are a shade darker.

Sprinkle fried onions over the top and bake till bubbly and browned.

Sprinkle fried onions over the top and bake till bubbly and browned.

A few notes:

1.  This makes a LOT of crispy onions.  I didn’t mind, but you could probably make half the amount and stretch it over the whole casserole.  If you make the full amount, you could save some of the excess for snacking or to put on those leftover turkey sandwiches.

2.  The sauce is somewhat thin even though it does coat the beans.   If you want it thicker so it coats and clings well to the beans, you can make it thicker by using 1 extra tablespoon butter and 1 extra tablespoon flour in the sauce–i.e. more roux makes thicker sauce.  Also be sure to drain the beans well, and even perhaps pat them dry with paper towels, so they don’t liquify the sauce.

3.  There is enough sauce in the recipe to adequately coat up to 2-pounds of beans, so if you like a more vegetable-heavy dish use the larger quantity of beans.

SOURCE:    Adapted from Alton Brown,  Food Network

Stuffed is a Good Thing

What does it mean to be “stuffed”?  Is it good or bad?  Actually, it’s both.

Stuff is a word that has ancient origins, originally pertaining to cloth, but its meaning has changed over time with some interesting applications.  Take the following phrases for instance:

stuff it—expresses rejection

and stuff—additional things, i.e. she had lots of furniture and other stuff

be stuffed up—nasal congestion as with a cold

fill out the skin of a dead animal–stuffed parrot

to over eat–to stuff yourself  (as in Thanksgiving)

to fill a receptacle or cavity–a stuffed toy or the turkey

Since the year 2000 the word stuff  has had an increase in usage usually connected to other words like cool stuff, new stuff, great stuff,  etc.

Well, today’s recipe is about filling a cavity with some really cool stuff.  I’m sure you will like it so well that you will stuff yourself after which time if someone were to offer you another serving you would tell them to go “stuff it”.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

Yield:   Serves 4

Ingredients:

I used a package of convience rice, precooked.

I used a package of convience rice, precooked.

  • 2 Acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 box (6-oz.) wild rice blend (seasoning packet discarded)
  • 1/2 cup cried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, chopped ( I used sliced almonds)

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 450*F.  On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange squash halves cut side down.  Cover tightly with foil.  Roast till tender when pierced, about 40 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat.  Add shallot, garlic, and sage.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till tender, 3 – 5 minutes.  Add rice and 1 3/4 cup water;  Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Cook until tender without stirring, about 25 minutes.**

3.  Remove rice from heat and stir in cherries and pecans.  Season with salt and pepper.  Season the inside of each squash half with salt and pepper.

IMG_5712

Mound stuffing into cavities of squash, dividing evenly and serve while hot.

Squash half, filled with rice stuffing.

Squash half, filled with rice stuffing.

**Instead of using wild rice, I used a package of precooked rice, intended for the microwave, but cut it  open and heated it in the skillet with the shallot and garlic, plus a little chicken broth to moisten it.  I’ve recently discovered these packages of rice by Uncle Ben’s.   They are the perfect amount for two people, and saves lengthy cooking time for long-grain rice.

SOURCE:  Martha Stewart.com