Friday, January 30, 2009

Meatless Menu Item

Some foods just aren't attractive. And therefore, not as fun to blog about. But I feel like I have an obligation after I have made a recipe and documented its every step through photograph to share it on this blog. So I present to you - Thai Eggplant Dip. I had a dinner party where some of my guest were not meat eaters and this is what I served as an appetizer. It was well received. But I can't attest to it personally since I would never eat anything that contained raisins - eck!

Thai Eggplant Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light 1998


24 servings (serving size: 1 pita wedge and 1 tablespoon dip)

  • 1-pound Japanese eggplant, about 2
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 package of whole wheat (6-inch) pitas
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.

Pierce eggplant several times with a fork,

and wrap in foil. Place eggplant on a baking sheet, and bake at 425° for 1 hour. Cool slightly. Peel, seed, and mash eggplant with a potato masher. Transfer mashed eggplant to a food processor and puree.

Combine raisins and water in a small bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap; vent. Microwave at high 30 seconds. Let stand, covered, 10 minutes; drain. Add raisins, basil, and next 5 ingredients (basil through garlic) to eggplant.

Combine ingredients with a fork.

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle pitas with cheese, and broil for 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut each pita into 6 wedges, and serve with eggplant dip.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How I don't prefer my chicken...

My sister and I have this thing we do when an event was a big mess and we later reference it, we call it "The Great Blank Debacle of 200x", where blank is the particular incident and x is the year in which it occured. It is much more fun than it ever should be and it always warrants a giggle. That is how things are with sisters. If you are a female and you have a sister I am sure you understand. Tons of inside jokes, routines and rituals that make no sense at all but that you both will never grow tired of.

So why do I bring up this strange little ritual you ask? Because when the whole "Cooking Light Copyright Debacle of 2009" (as my sister and I refer to it) happened I wanted more than anything to abandon Cooking Light as my main recipe source and to find a publication that would appreciate the free publicity I provided them. But I knew that I could never even entertain the thought of not using Cooking Light recipes. Their recipes are so flavorful, guilt free, and perfect for a family with dietary restrictions. I haven't yet been able to let go of my frustrations with the way their editorial assistant handled the situation, but remain equally devoted to their magazine. So when I tasted this recipe I couldn't have been more smug. It was not good at all. Ha, Finally! One point for team blog! Cooking Light has a recipe that isn't amazingly delicious and I found it. It was flavorless, time consuming, and runny. So if you are still interested in trying this dish after my glaring review............

Dijon Mustard Chicken Fricassee
Adapted from Cooking Light


4 servings (serving size: about 5 ounces chicken and 1/2 cup sauce)

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 whole cut up chicken, skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1. Combine mustard, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme in a small bowl.

Add the mixture and chicken to a large zip-top plastic bag; toss well to coat. Chill 8 hours or overnight.

2. Remove chicken from bag, and discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until browned.

Remove from pan.

3. Add chopped onion to pan, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic to pan, and sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in wine and chicken broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 1 tablespoon parsley and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme.

Return chicken to pan.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon. Keep warm.

4. Cook sauce, uncovered, over medium heat 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Pour sauce over chicken, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Heart"y Soup

My husband has a very special relationship with his paternal grandmother. Ever since he was a very young boy he has always been extremely close with Maw Maw. Forrest has a distinct place in his heart for his Maw Maw and rightfully so. She is an amazing woman who has led a very interesting life. Amidst her many talents she has a penchant for writing. Even well into her 80's she continues to enroll in college writing courses to exercise her skill. Over Forrest's lifetime, Maw Maw has penned several hand written letters to him. These letters are among Forrest's most prized possessions. When we were home for Christmas he cleaned out his childhood closet at his parent's home and discarded a ton of unnecessary notes and letters from buddies, high school crushes and grade school girlfriends. But he made sure to hold on to every last note from his Maw Maw. All of them 100% grammatically correct and written in perfect penmanship on unlined stationary without the slightest tilt in the lines. Handwritten letters are so rare these days in the times of email, text messages and social networking. Forrest does not take for granted how lucky he is to have so many personalized archives from someone he loves so dearly.

One of the most recent letters that Forrest received from Maw Maw was last Valentines Day. Maw Maw sent Forrest a goodie bag last February that contained a handwritten letter that offered some marital advice and some items for him to use in the kitchen. One of these items was a bag of heart shaped pasta. I came across the left overs of this pasta last week and was reminded of the special letter that accompanied the pasta. It was the perfect amount to use in this recipe and it was the perfect excuse for Forrest to remember that special letter from his Maw Maw.

Sausage and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

4 servings

  • 1/2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces 50% less fat pork sausage (such as Jimmy Dean)
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup uncooked small shell pasta
  • 2 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil to the pan. Add onion to the pan and cook until translucent. Add sausage, garlic, pepper, salt and red pepper to pan, and cook about 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

Add broth, tomatoes, and pasta to pan,

and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Remove from heat; stir in spinach

until wilted.

Sprinkle each serving with cheese and basil.

This soup was very tasty. It was hearty without being heavy and full of flavor. This soup was extremely easy to make and could be whipped up quickly on any cold winter night. I think the entire recipe from start to finish only took about 30 minutes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sensational Salad

We had a dinner party this weekend and we served Pad Thai. I knew I had to have a few other menu items, but I wanted to stick to the Thai theme. This salad was a perfect start to the meal. It was also the most convenient additional menu item because it was easy to prepare and could be prepared ahead of time. I made it early in the day and didn't think about it again until it was time to serve. This fresh, light salad was a big hit. Everyone enjoyed the four S's of this salad's dressing - it was sour, spicy, salty and sweet - AMAZING!

Thai Bell Pepper, Cucumber and Peanut Salad
Modified from Southern Living


8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

  • Dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • Salad:
  • 2 cups sliced peeled seedless cucumber
  • 2 cups red bell pepper strips
  • 3/4 cup julienne-cut carrot
  • 1/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts

To prepare the dressing, combine the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk.

To prepare the salad, combine the cucumber, bell pepper, carrot, onion, and mint.

Drizzle the dressing over cucumber mixture, tossing gently to coat.

Sprinkle salad with peanuts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fry Not?

I never deep fry food at home. It is so bad for you, extremely messy and it stinks the house up. I always subscribe to the school of thought that I eat enough fried food outside of the home to allow myself to eat deep fried food from my own kitchen. So I never, ever deep fry anything. But when I came across this recipe for deep fried andouille stuffed peppers I knew I would be making an exception. And man was it good! I am glad I allowed myself to create this dish despite its evil method of cooking. But now - the guilt is too strong, off to the gym...............

Andouille Stuffed Jalapenos
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces bulk andouille, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup fat free cream cheese(feeble attempt)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 large fresh jalapenos
  • Essence, recipe in link above
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 to 1 cup beer
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil for frying


Preheat the fryer. In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and render the andouille for 2 minutes. Add the onions and saute for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and cool. In a mixing bowl, mix the garlic, parsley, and cream cheese together. Mix well. Stir in the cooled andouille mixture.

Mix thoroughly and season with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, split the jalapenos, starting at the tip, in half, leaving the stem intact. Remove the seeds from the pepper. Stuff 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each pepper.

Press the pepper together, sealing the cheese mixture completely inside. Season 1 cup of flour with Essence. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks and 3/4 cup of the beer.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Whisk in enough flour to form a batter. If the batter is too thick add the remaining beer to thin the batter. Dredge the stuffed peppers in the seasoned flour (oops, I skipped this step). Dip the jalapenos in the batter,

letting the excess drip off and coating the peppers completely. Gently lay the jalapenos in the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the jalapenos from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season the peppers with Essence.

Next time (if I allow myself to have a next time) I would cut the peppers completely in half and stuff each half and then batter them. I think that would give a better stuffing to pepper ratio and aid in the heat absorption on my taste buds. The stuffing was very delicious and very flavorful and I would have enjoyed more in each pepper.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

And the Winner Is............

BloggerThe corn zipper contest was a lot of fun! There were 78 entries, two of which missed the deadline (sorry Ricky and Amy). So I had choose a number between 1 and 76. The winner is number 22! Comment number 22 was Jewel - Congratulations Jewel! Email me your address and I will ship your handy dandy corn zipper to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When I posted my Shrimp with Corn Relish recipe, several of my readers expressed interest in my newly acquired corn zipper. I decided to have a give away on my blog so that one of my lucky readers could be the proud owner of their very own corn zipper. I purchased one at Sur la Table tonight after date night with my husband. (I always try to make date night at a restaurant in or near the mall so I can squeeze a shopping trip out of him - it doesn't always, but tonight it worked!)

So here are the rules:

1. Leave a comment to this post stating your name (if it doesn't already show in your comments) and your favorite dish made with corn.
2. The deadline is Friday January 23, 2009 at Midnight EST.
3. I will use a random number generator to pick a number out of the comments posted.
4. Then I will have the winner email me the address where they would like to have the shiny corn zipper shipped.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Diametric Dessert

I have always observed that the best couples I know are made up of two completely opposite types of people. I think that is the true secret to success. I know married couples who have been together for what seems like hundreds of years and they couldn't be more different in regards to their personalities. As I observe these couples I notice that normally one is determined and the other is adaptable, one is an introvert and the other is outgoing, one is right-brained and the other is left-brained, one is cautious and the other is a risk-taker. My conclusion has always been that opposites attract (to a certain degree) and this makes for a happy union.

I was thinking about this theory this weekend and I decided to apply it to my cooking. Forrest and I were going to a party to watch the NFL playoffs and the food on the menu was manly and football focused - grilled meats, barbecue beans, chips and salsa, and beer. I thought these very different, extremely sweet, miniature and delicate cookies would round out the meal perfectly ;-)

Baby Button Cookies
Recipe by Lisa Ritter


2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar

until combined. Add the cornstarch, vanilla and flour and process until a soft dough forms.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch rope.

Cut each rope into 12 pieces

and roll each piece into a ball. Transfer the balls to the baking sheet; they won’t spread much. Bake the cookies on the center rack of the oven for about 22 minutes, until the bottoms are golden but the tops are still pale.Sift the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Add 5 warm cookies to the bowl at a time and toss to coat.

Transfer the cookies to a clean baking sheet. While the cookies are still warm, poke 4 shallow holes into each one with a toothpick or skewer to make a buttonhole pattern.

Let the cookies cool completely before serving or storing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

She "woks" hard for her Money

This was the perfect dish to throw together after a long day at work. I normally do most of my cooking on the weekends since that is when I have the most time in the kitchen to hone my craft. But occasionally when I do choose to cook on the weekdays, I need my dear husband to help me out since I get home so late. Today was no exception, he helped by peeling the shrimp and readying the ingredients - he makes a great sous chef. Luckily for me, that was about half of the steps to throw this meal together. I took the corn off of the cob last night and came home to already peeled shrimp and ingredients on the counter, so this dish was ready in no time at all. And boy was it GOOD!

Sizzling Shrimp with Corn Relish
Adapted from Cooking Light September 2008


4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Take corn off the cob using your new corn zipper you received for your birthday from your mom.

2. Combine first 3 ingredients; set aside.

3. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add shallots, garlic, and jalapeño to wok; stir-fry 30 seconds or just until shallots begin to brown.

Add shrimp to wok;

stir-fry 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Add corn; stir-fry 1 minute or just until corn is heated.

Stir in juice mixture;

sprinkle with cilantro (which I forgot to sprinkle on before the pictures were taken - oops.)

The sweetness of the fresh corn and the saltiness of the fish sauce worked wonderfully together. I served it over a bed of fresh spinach, but it could have been served over brown rice for a more hearty alternative. This dish had a Thai flavor that was very satisfying and different. I will be adding this easy and fast meal to my rotation for sure (Who am I kidding? What rotation? I can't tell you the last time I cooked the same thing twice - but if I had one, I would definitely add this recipe!)