Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuna with a twist

One night a few months ago, the cupboards were practically bare and I was at a loss. I had to put something together for dinner ... but what? That's when I threw together my first Easy Tuna Casserole. Since then, Matt has asked me to continue making new tuna dishes.

Here's my latest tuna trial. Matt liked it quite a bit and said he would definitely want it again.

Tuna Cornbread Cakes
1 (6-oz.) package buttermilk cornbread mix
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 (5-oz.) aluminum foil pouches herb-and-garlic-flavored light tuna chunks
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lemon Aïoli (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Stir together cornbread mix and 2/3 cup milk. Pour batter into a lightly greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes or just until warm.

Stir together mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

Crumble cornbread to equal 2 cups. Reserve remaining cornbread for another use. Fold cornbread crumbs and tuna chunks into mayonnaise mixture until well blended. Shape tuna mixture into 8 patties (3- to 3 1/2-inches in diameter).

Melt 3 tablespoons butter with vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tuna patties, and cook, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown; drain on paper towels. Serve cakes with Lemon Aïoli.

Lemon Aïoli
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cover and chill mixture up to 3 days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Not your average chicken

Matt does not like chicken. This is unusual for him since he likes just about everything! I wanted to find a chicken dish that would be a bit different from what he's used to so he might not mind eating it. This one was just that.

Honey-Pecan Chicken Thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4 cup honey, divided
3/4 cup Dijon mustard, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Combine first 4 ingredients; sprinkle evenly over chicken in a shallow dish. Stir together 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup mustard, and garlic; pour over chicken. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Dredge chicken in pecans; place on a lightly greased rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan.

Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until chicken is done.

Stir together remaining 1/4 cup honey, remaining 1/4 cup mustard, and curry powder; serve sauce with chicken.

(Sorry I didn't get any photos of this one!)

Another side dish

I have a love-hate relationship with asparagus.

Back when I was a teenager and my mother and her husband went away on their honeymoon, I stayed with his dad and step-mother for a week. That was quite a treat as my new step-grandmother is a fantastic cook. She served asparagus that week and it was the first time I had ever liked it.

Since then, I've tried making it in different ways, but can never get it to taste as good as it did that week. I want to like it, especially since it's so good for me, but I try and I try to no avail.

I was glad to see this number posted on Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen and hoped it would get me one step closer to liking asparagus. I hesitantly took my first bite, and then gobbled up the whole plateful in 90 seconds flat! It was delicious!

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter
Source:; as seen on Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen
40 asparagus spears, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange asparagus in a single layer on baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until tender.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Drizzle over the asparagus, tossing well to coat. Serve immediately.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Side dishes make my brain hurt

Growing up, there was a lack of side dishes in my house. We'd have a chicken breast with some seasoning on it ... and that's it. Once in a while, I'd luck out and get some instant mashed potatoes or a side salad too. So now that I'm cooking for myself and Matt, I often struggle with what to make for a side dish. They just don't occur to me when I'm planning my menus.

Matt is a fan of green peas. I've added them to casseroles and gotten high marks. When I saw a Cajun pea dish, I had to try it.

Hot Pecan Peas

4 bacon slices, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen baby sweet peas (do not thaw)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.

Stir onion into hot drippings in skillet. Reduce heat to medium low; cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Add peas, 1/2 cup water, and Creole seasoning; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until peas are tender. Stir in bacon and pecans.

Note: To toast pecans, bake in a shallow pan at 350°, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.

Real men should eat quiche

Matt used to enjoy quiche for dinner once in a while. And seeing as how I could buy a pre-made one at the grocery store and just pop it in the oven, I was a fan too.

Why do I say "used to" you ask?

I had been buying nothing but spinach quiches for quite a while when I decided to try a Quiche Lorraine. Matt did not like this bacon monstrosity. I'm sure they can be very good, but for whatever reason, the one I served was not. Needless to say, this put him off of all quiches for quite a while.

When I came across this recipe, I hesitated trying it due to the current quiche ban. But I crossed the picket line and served up a winner.

Cajun Quiche in a Rice Crust

For the crust:

2 cups cooked long-grain white rice, cooled
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Cooking spray
1/4 cup (1 ounce) reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

For the filling:
1/2 cup prechopped onion
1/2 cup prechopped celery
1/2 cup prechopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
3 ounces andouille sausage or kielbasa, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup (1 ounce) reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare crust, combine rice, garlic powder, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 egg. Spread mixture into the bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle bottom of crust evenly with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

To prepare filling, heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and the next 4 ingredients (through sausage); sauté 5 minutes. Spoon mixture evenly into prepared rice crust. Combine the egg substitute, fat-free yogurt, salt, hot pepper sauce, and egg whites; stir with a whisk until well blended. Pour egg substitute mixture over sausage mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until the center is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July Fare - Part 2

Since Matt and I had no plans on the Fourth of July, I decided to make burgers. I mean, what's the Fourth of July without grilling? Right?

Did I mention that I don't have a grill?

I chose to broil the burgers. After all, a broiler is pretty much an upside-down grill. I found these to be a bit tricky. My two halves didn't seal together well enough and came apart a bit when I flipped the burger. Also, the bacon didn't want to stay wrapped around the burger. (I forgive you bacon.) Oh well, Matt enjoyed the burger anyway.

Again, I'm a slacker and didn't get photos of this one either ... although they weren't very pretty anyway so maybe we're all better off!

Bacon-Wrapped Barbecue Burgers
8 bacon slices
1 (4.5-oz.) jar sliced mushrooms, drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia or sweet onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup bottled honey barbecue sauce, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
Wooden picks
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sesame seed hamburger buns, toasted

Arrange bacon on a paper towel-lined microwave-safe plate; cover with a paper towel. Microwave bacon at HIGH 2 minutes or until edges begin to crinkle and bacon is partially cooked.

Sauté mushrooms and onion in hot oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat 4 to 5 minutes or until tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and stir in 2 Tbsp. barbecue sauce.

Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Shape ground beef into 8 (5-inch) thin patties. Place 2 Tbsp. mushroom mixture in center of each of 4 patties. Top with remaining patties, pressing edges to seal. Shape into 4-inch patties. Wrap sides of each patty with 2 bacon slices, overlapping ends of each slice. Secure bacon using wooden picks. Sprinkle patties with salt. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Grill patties, covered with grill lid, over 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat 5 to 6 minutes on 1 side. Turn and baste with half of remaining barbecue sauce. Grill 5 to 6 minutes or until beef is no longer pink in center. Turn and baste with remaining barbecue sauce. Remove from grill, and let stand 5 minutes. Remove wooden picks. Serve burgers on buns, and top with remaining mushroom mixture.

Fourth of July Fare - Part 1

Seeing as how I had never made potato salad before, I decided it was about time to give it a go. I chose this recipe because of the traditional flavors and because of the addition of bacon. Bacon makes just about everything better!

Speaking of which, it seems that Rachael Ray would agree with me. Check out the recipe for Bacon-Crumble Apple Pie that was featured in the April 2008 issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray!

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of this one. Sorry I'm such a slacker!

Southern-Style Potato Salad
4 pounds potatoes (about 4 large)
3 hard-cooked eggs, grated
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook potatoes in boiling water to cover 40 minutes or until tender; drain and cool. Peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Stir together potatoes and eggs.
Stir together mayonnaise and next 7 ingredients; gently stir into potato mixture. Cover and chill.

Sprinkle with bacon just before serving.

Monkeys rule!

When I heard about this recipe from a co-worker, I was excited to try it out. Make sure you start early or you'll have hungry folks on your hands come noontime (like I did)!

Since I don't own a real bundt pan, I had to use a springform pan with a bundt insert. I would not recommend this pan for this recipe as it leaked the syrup from the bottom of the collar. Luckily I realized this during the rising period and was able to bake the bread with a sheet pan underneath to catch the syrup. When I inverted the bread there was virtually no syrup left in the pan. I had to pour what collected on the sheet pan over the cake!

This is a large recipe and would probably be enough for 6 to 8 people to share. The next time I make this, I'll try making a half batch. Also, I've seen variations on this recipe using refrigerated biscuit dough instead of frozen bread dough. You can also add nuts or raisins between the layers if you like.

Monkey Bread
Adapted from: Cooking Light

2 (1-pound) loaves frozen white bread dough
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
Cooking spray

Thaw bread dough in refrigerator for 12 hours.

Combine 1 cup sugar, brown sugar, milk, butter, and 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove sugar syrup from heat; let cool 10 minutes.

Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a shallow dish; stir well. Cut each loaf of dough into 24 equal portions. Roll each portion in sugar mixture; layer balls of dough in a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Pour sugar syrup over dough; cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover, and bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately loosen edges of bread with a knife. Place a plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Remove pan; drizzle any remaining syrup over bread.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Birth ... er ... Thursday!

A friend of mine is a huge Funfetti fan. She requests, no, demands that her birthday cakes be Funfetti. So when I saw this recipe on Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen, I had to make it for her! And no, it wasn't her birthday.

Funfetti Cookies
Source: Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen (originally from Pillsbury)
1 box Funfetti cake mix

1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 can of frosting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine cake mix, oil, and eggs. Stir until moistened. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten cookies with the bottom of a floured glass (I used my hand and made them a bit on the thin side. Feedback on the thickness was great!). Bake for 6-8 minutes or until edges are slightly brown. Let cool for one minute and then remove from cookie sheets to cool completely. Frost cookies and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I love Mexican food

I've had Mexican food three times this week and I really think I'd be okay with eating it every day!

Chilaquiles is a Mexican dish based on layers of corn tortillas that is traditionally eaten for breakfast. Matt thought it could use a bit more cheese but enjoyed trying a new dish.

Black Bean and Beef Chilaquiles
Adapted from:
Cooking spray

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef, browned and grease drained

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup fat-free chicken broth

6 ounces tomato sauce

2 ounces salsa verde

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add beef; cook 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in beans. Add broth, tomato sauce and salsa to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Place half of tortilla strips in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of beef mixture over tortillas; top with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Pour broth mixture evenly over chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

You say potato, I say gnocchi

If you've never had gnocchi, I'd recommend that you give them a try. They're little potato dumplings that you cook and serve like pasta.

This recipe comes from the magazine, Real Simple which has tons of great recipes. I've yet to try one that isn't top notch. Matt enjoyed the dish even though he's not a big fan of Italian food. The sauce had a nice consistency and the leftovers were great for lunch. If I were to make any changes, I would add a bit more garlic. Be sure not to skimp on the cheese!

Gnocchi with Sausage and Spinach
Source: Real Simple
2 9-ounce packages refrigerated gnocchi or one 17.5-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan, plus more for garnishing

Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Add the drained gnocchi, the reserved cooking liquid, and the Parmesan and toss. Divide among individual bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.