Tag Archives: dinner ideas

Chicken Piccata

My sister sent me this recipe for chicken piccata almost two years ago and  Greg and I been loving it ever since. It ‘s certainly a basic version, but it’s  a nice easy to follow recipe and tastes great. I’ve served it with different sides in the past, including pasta, rice and veggies. Rice is probably the best as it soaks up the delicious lemony sauce. For this go round however I served the chicken with some steamed broccoli (another good sauce absorber),  squash and zucchini.

The ingredients include olive oil, chicken (of course), chicken stock, lemon juice, butter, capers and flour ( not pictured). I actually experimented a bit and substituted almond flour for traditional all-purpose flour. Almond flour/meal has more fiber and less carbohydrates than regular flour and worked pretty well in this dish.

I purchased chicken breasts that were already sliced thin. If you are using regular chicken breasts you can slice them in half and pound them out. This is a bit easier if the chicken is still semi-frozen or if you buy it fresh, you can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to slice.

The next step is to coat each chicken piece with flour.

Then get your butter and olive oil going in a pan and begin to cook the chicken. Since the pieces are pretty thin they do not need much time, maybe 2-3 minutes per side.

As each piece of chicken finishes cooking just set them aside. Once all of the chicken is cooked and removed from the pan, add the chicken broth and lemon juice to make your sauce. Let the sauce get up to a boil, then turn it down to simmer and reduce. Once the sauce is nearly finished you can add capers (this was not part of the original recipe) if you’d like. Then dip each piece of chicken into the sauce, coating it completely. Plate the chicken and pour sauce over top or serve in a gravy boat.

Some pre-sauce shots:

and after the saucing… (I covered the veggies in the sauce too!)

I hope your enjoy this one!

Recipe for Chicken Piccata (courtesy of my sister)

Moules Fromage Bleu

You know that show on the food network called The Best Thing I Ever Ate where famous chefs tell you where they had the best whatever the theme happens to be that day? Well, if I were ever asked what the best mussels dish I ever ate was it would hands down be the moules fromage bleu from Granville Moore’s in DC. In fact, these mussels beat Bobby Flay’s in his mussels throw down episode! Yeah, I love the food network 🙂

I have recreated them several times at home, and it’s actually quite simple. The ingredients are the same, but just not of the same quality as GM’s. (Sorry Giant, but you lack gourmet ingredients). But that’s how it goes sometimes and that’s OK! This dish still tastes amazing, particularly if you are a fan of bacon and blue cheese (an unbeatable combo in my book).

The ingredients:

From top left to bottom left: Blue cheese, mussels, lemon juice, shallots, spinach, and bacon. MIA- the white wine and oil.

Once you get cooking here, the process is very quick. However, first, it’s a good idea to put the mussels in a bowl and fill it with water. This allows any sand in the mussels to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Just remember to not drain them by pouring them out as this will just dump all the sand back onto them. I used a plastic strainer/spatula to remove the mussels from the bowl.

Next, it’s bacon cooking time! The recipe calls for cooking the bacon IN oil. I was very hesitant to do this, but I went with it. It forms the basis of the broth, but I find it very understandable if you wish to omit cooking your BACON in OIL.

Once the fat was rendered, I added the sliced shallots.

Doesn’t that look divine? And you can imagine how great it smelled. How can a dish go wrong from here?

[The next sequence of events is done rather quickly. My sous chef/photographer was feeling a little under the weather, so I was on my own. I tried my best to capture each step!]

At this point you want to add the mussels, wine and lemon juice and stir ’em up.

bacon shallots mussels

Once they are about half way open you want to add half of the blue cheese. You want the blue cheese to melt into the broth. I tried to move the mussels to one side of the pan to achieve this.

Just keep stirring and incorporating everything together.

Once they are fully open, you want to add the spinach.

That’s pretty much it. Once you spoon them into the bowls, top with the remaining blue cheese.

SO GOOD!

Recipe for Teddy Folkman’s Moules Fromage Bleu

Mango jalapeno chutney

Greg made this a couple weeks ago and it was packed with flavor and very easy to put together. We used it as a topping on broiled tilapia, which is a great use for it. It could also easily be served atop any other white fish, chicken or even pork. It would also be great with tortilla chips as a dip. All in all, this is a fun little salsa to make.

fresh mango!

jalapenos for some heat and crunch

red onions add some great color to the chutney

and some citrus for acidity

serve it atop whatever you please!

Recipe for Mango Jalapeno Chutney

Greek Feast!

If you are a fan of Greek food I am pretty sure you will really like this meal. It is relatively easy to prepare and the flavors are intense and extremely satisfying. We made gyro burgers, which were composed of ground beef and lamb as well as some traditional Greek spices. We also prepared homemade tzatziki sauce and  a Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, red onion and fete cheese. It all went well together and you could also serve the burgers in a pita or flatbread if you so desired.

I will begin with the tzatziki sauce, which is a traditional sauce served with gyros that is made with yogurt and cucumber and is awesome.

The key ingredient here is mint. Luckily mint grows like weeds and we have plenty growing outside!

I just combined all the ingredients and let it chill in the refrigerator while we prepared the rest of the meal. Below is a pic of the final product. Not only is this a great sauce to put on whatever you please, really, but can also be served as a dip with pita or veggies. It is so good.

Along with the burgers we also prepared a Greek salad. I love this salad, especially in the summer when the vegetables are nice and fresh. It is a great accompaniment to any meat, really, and goes particularly well with the strongly flavored lamb.

Now, on to the burgers! I’ll let the pictures do the talking here….

The meat had a gyro like consistency as you can see below (sorry, it’s a bit blurry) and of course the flavor was right on.

Give this one a try!

Recipe for Gyro Burgers

Tzatziki

Greek Salad

Eggplant “lasagna”

This one’s for you Jeremy! I decided to make a pasta-less lasagna to please one of our biggest supporters, who had requested a lasagna recipe. Just for the record, this recipe could easily be duplicated with actual lasagna noodles in place of the eggplant. Though, I have to say this is a nice alternative if you like eggplant like me. In the past I have sometimes struggled to make tasty eggplant dishes at home, as sometimes the eggplant can be bitter, the skin off-putting, and the seeds crunchy and irritating. Since I like eggplant so much though, I have continued to try to make it and feel that this dish was a success.

I began by slicing the eggplant as thin as I could. I worked with a sharp knife and took my time. A mandolin probably would have worked a lot better in terms of getting consistency in thickness, but I don’t have one of those so I did the best I could.

I placed the eggplant slices on racks (two from my toaster oven) and the remaining pieces on a paper towel. I generously covered them in kosher salt and let them sit for about an hour.

The salt pulls out the bitter juices (remember what salt does to cells? wahoo, high school chemistry!), which I rinsed off along with the salt.

Next, I wanted to cook the eggplant a little bit so it wouldn’t make the dish too soupy. I used a grill pan, which I coated generously with olive oil so the slices wouldn’t stick. I seasoned about 1/2 of the slices with salt and pepper as they cooked. They only needed about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. This left some beautiful grill marks!

I also grilled up some baby bellas for some extra filler and added veggie-ness.

As the grilling went on, I also made my ricotta filling. I LOVE ricotta and always use it when making lasagna. Some people have told me about using cottage cheese, but I’ve never tried it. I usually buy part-skim ricotta and it’s delicious. To the ricotta, I added an egg, some fresh garlic and parsley, salt and pepper and some chili flakes for a little kick.

Alright. Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna. If you want to go the traditional route using lasagna noodles, cook the noodles according to the directions on the box. In this recipe when you see eggplant slices, substitute that for the lasagna noodles. Easy as pie.

Step 1: Layer the bottom of the pan with tomato sauce. I used the leftover marinara that I made several weeks ago, but store bought is fine too.

Step 2: On top of the sauce, create a layer of eggplant slices.

Step 3: Ricotta layer. Spread ricotta mixture all over eggplant slices, creating a thick layer.

Step 4: I threw the mushrooms on at this point. If you wanted to add meat or other veggies, you could add them here.

Step 5: Add another layer of eggplant slices.

Step 6: Add another layer of sauce.

Step 7: And then a layer of cheese.

That’s about it for the assembly of it

After it bakes it’s all cheesy/melty/gooey so let it sit before cutting it.

I couldn’t wait that long, so it was a little goopey, but still delicious!

Recipe for eggplant “lasagna”

Recipe for our basic marinara

Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak

As I flipped through the May issue of Cooking Light I came across recipes for grilled balsamic skirt steak with accompanying sides of tomato, onion and blue cheese salad and garlic sauteed spinach. In! Love at first sight. I felt pretty confident this meal would be a winner and it really was! It’s a great summer time meal and has that complexity and flavor to it that would make any guest think you spent hours in the kitchen, though you secretly know just how easy it was.

For our version of this recipe, we used flank steak instead of skirt steak, since that was what we had in the freezer. For those keeping tabs, it was a beautiful grass-fed flank steak from Trader Joes, Yum.

The marinade for the steak was a little on the sweet side. The ingredients include balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, brown sugar and garlic. The flavors of the marinade were probably my least favorite part of this meal, ironically though it was what drew me to the recipe in the first place. Next time I think I will go with a standard teriyaki or soy marinade. I like the salt, what can I say. Still though, steak is steak, and so it was still awesomely delicious. The great flavor was intensified by Greg’s masterful slicing- diagonal, across the grain, and very thin- which created extremely tender, melt in your mouth bites of steak. (A true testament to this was that the steak was even good and tender the next day, cold, on a salad!)

In addition to the mouth watering steak, were the fabulous sides that accompanied it. Simple, yet delicious.

The spinach, which I dubbed ‘garlicky spinach’ (so creative, I know), could not be easier to make but tasted so good. We have spinach pretty frequently and often saute it. But for some reason, this spinach was above and beyond what we typically have. It included thinly sliced garlic that first cooked in butter. mmm.

The other side was incredible and so easy to make! Some halved grape tomatoes….

…some minced vidalia onion…

…some vinaigrette…

…blue cheese…

…all stirred together. I make similar side with feta but the blue cheese was an ingenious addition. I really loved this! Next time I make it, I may add some lemon juice for a little more acidity. I used red wine vinegar, though the recipe called for white wine vinegar, which may be why it was quite as acidic as it should be. The vidalia onion was also a pleasant surprise, as I typically would use red onion in this type of side. It’s a much more mellow onion than the onions I typically use and worked nicely not to overpower the tomato and blue cheese.

Here are some more glamor shots of the meal 🙂

Needless to say I really liked this dinner. All the flavors, textures and temperatures of everything worked so well together. The sweetness of the steak was countered nicely by the sharpness of the blue cheese, the flavorful onions, and garlicky spinach. The soft texture of the steak balanced by the crunch of the salad and warmth of the spinach. I could really go on and on… try it and you’ll see!

Recipe for Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak

Recipe for Garlicky Spinach

Recipe for Tomato, Onion, and Blue Cheese Salad

Lamb Shanks Braised in Wine Sauce

You know how when you cook something all day and then when it’s finally ready you don’t take the time to get a good picture? Yeah. That’s what happened here. This also happens to be the smallest of the four lamb shanks we had. Bad picture taking, bad.

In any event, I still wanted to share the recipe, despite the less than desirable way that this photo depicts this meal, because the taste was great and that’s what really counts.

I bought the lamb shanks from the farmer’s market and promptly contacted my dad for a proper recipe. He sent me one from Emeril and it did not disappoint. Greg also made carrots braised in beer and carrot juice, a recipe he tweaked from this one. He added some of his own touches and threw in some broccoli at the end for added veggie power.

To the shanks!

Here they are. There are actually four of them pictured here and they have been sprinkled with cajun seasoning. Emeril calls for “creole seasoning” but I don’t have that in my spice drawer. What I did have though was “cajun” and so we went with that.

I got the dutch oven nice and hot and added some olive oil. When the olive oil was sufficiently hot, I added the shanks to get a nice brown sear on all sides.

Next, I added chopped carrots, onions, and celery to the mix.

Hmmm… what’s missing from this picture? Yeah, the shanks! Guess I didn’t read the recipe well (I looked at a few recipes that day and must have gotten them mixed up) as it says to leave the shanks in when you add the carrots, onions, and celery. Woops.

Next, I added a diced tomato, garlic, wine, stock, thyme and some bay leaves.

Gave it a good stir and look who’s back…. the shanks!

After a frenzied few minutes, it was then time to put the lid on and turn the burner down to low for a long slow simmer.

The shanks braised for nearly two hours.

This is pretty much what they looked like after that time.

The broth or braising liquid was so flavorful. it never did reach a “syrup” like consistency, but it was so good that I considered saving it for something, though I don’t know what. It was amazing though….

To continue with the braising theme, Greg prepped the veggies.

It just would not be a Greg-made dish if onions, garlic and jalapenos were not part of the mix!

The carrots braised in beer and carrot juice and he added a little butter near the end of cooking to make the sauce thicker. The broccoli was a last minute addition.

Despite the fact that the shank looks like a lamb lollipop it was super good! I served it with a small side cup of the braising liquid to dip so each bite had the full effect. The meat was fall off the bone tender and it tasted so fresh and not gamey at all. I am dying to make that mint orzo that Emeril suggests to accompany this with one day. Not only would the flavor and texture be a great match, but it could soak up some of that broth, mmm.

Overall, this recipe was pretty easy to make and once you get it going you can walk away and do other things… so not too labor intensive.

Stuffed Peppers

The other night we made stuffed peppers for dinner and again, this is really one of those meals that you can make unique to your tastes. We used green peppers, but if you prefer sweeter red peppers or even yellow, orange or purple peppers, by all means. We also used ground veal in our peppers, but most people would probably opt for beef (bison, chicken or turkey meat would be even lower in fat) for example. I’m not sure what inspired the use of veal, but sometimes you just want something different.

I have to give Greg all the credit here on this dish- he created it and made it while I was still at work. I love coming home to a dinner cooking in the oven 🙂

Like I said, he used ground veal. He browned it and set it aside. Later, adding some freshly grated parmesan.

To add some sustenance he also added some freshly sauteed onions and spinach and a little tomato sauce. Many recipes call for other fillers, such as rice or breadcrumbs, but he omitted that and honestly, it was not missed!

Then it was time to stuff the peppers, which he cored out nicely.

He baked them for about 40 minutes.

Though the skins were nice and wrinkly, the peppers were still quite firm. I would recommend a little longer in the oven, maybe 50-60 minutes if you prefer them more tender.

All in all, it was a good wholesome dinner!

Recipe for Stuffed Peppers

Spicy cilantro and green onion crab cakes & Asian-style slaw

Though we live in Maryland, we rarely eat crab cakes. I don’t particularly care to order them from restaurants because the crab to filler ratio is poor and they can be quite expensive. Well, luckily, crab cakes are relatively easy to make and when you can get crab meat on sale it can actually be quite inexpensive.

Such was the case when Greg found crab meat on sale at the Teeter.

On the back of the can was a crab cake recipe from Phillips. We decided to use that as our base, but also spice things up and use some ingredients we had in the house. We added jalapeno and green onion for some extra kick and used cilantro instead of parsley.

Greg originally wanted to call these ‘green crab cakes’ because of all the green ingredients we added. I was unsure about calling a seafood dish green though, but the name works once in the right context.

All of these ingredients were mixed together and formed into patties. We pan friend them in canola oil. Once they were finished we placed them on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

I just read a great article in Cooking Light that discusses how frying can be a relatively healthy way to cook foods and may not be as bad for you as once thought if done properly. Though these crab cakes were fried, they were still very light and not greasy at all.

To accompany the crab cakes I made an Asian inspired slaw. I used purple and green (white?) cabbage, carrots, green onions, and cilantro. I dressed the slaw with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds. It was light and crisp and perfectly paired with the tender cakes.

When we were grocery shopping I was searching for the pre-cut cabbage but Greg encouraged me to buy the whole cabbages and use our food processor to make the slaw instead. I am so glad he did, because the outcome was so much fresher and tastier than the pre-packed cabbage.

All in all, this was one of the best meals we’ve made at home in a while. I really recommend making crab cakes at home if you are a fan of them!

Recipe for spicy cilantro and green onion crab cakes

Recipe for Asian-style slaw

Grilled Red Snapper & Swordfish with Fresh Guacamole and Cilantro

Well it’s official. Grilling season is upon us. Yay! We took full advantage of that and the seasonable weather and made a fabulous grilled fish dinner.

Harris Teater’s seafood selection is awesome. Greg got some really nice looking seafood while there and the prices were also very reasonable. This meal was entirely his inspiration and I am so glad it was!

On the left is the red snapper, on the right the swordfish.

He made some fresh guacamole for the topping. His recipe for guac is the same as mine (avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper) though he also added a chopped jalapeno.

He (expertly) grilled the fish and topped each fillet with a hefty spoonful of guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro, and some chopped tomato. He placed the fish on a bed of wilted spinach.

Though this dish may seem a but underwhelming, I assure you that the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients makes this dish so amazing.  It was a light, but very filling meal at the same time. If you like guacamole, the possibilites seem endless in terms of what to serve it on or with. This is just another great way to use it. I preferred the swordfish over the snapper because it was stronger in fishy flavor. If you are open to eating fish, but don’t want a fish intense in flavor snapper is a great option. Both held up well on the grill so it’s really up to you.I can’t wait for more!