Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jack's Favorite Granola; Coconut Rum-Swirled Brownies

Recipe: Granola and Coconut Rum-Swirled Brownies

As often happens, I arrive at the end of this week and realize that I need another day or two to complete what I had set out to accomplish at the beginning of the week.

Because of the almost 1¼” of rain which we received yesterday, the soil in my garden was nice and soft, and I took the opportunity to weed. It was so easy to pull those little buggers out with their roots that I spent way too much time doing this. The result—my garden looks great! And my back is killing me. I really should leave a bottle of ibuprofen in the kitchen, instead of upstairs in the bathroom, since neither Jack (who also spent the day doing intensive work outside and is feeling its after-effects) nor I have the energy to climb the stairs. I’ve refilled his iced tea twice since dinner—with any luck he will have to go upstairs soon… ;)

I had wanted to post at least three times this week, but it will have to be two. And since I am late with so many things, I will post a recipe which two friends have asked me to since mid-June.

Last winter when I broke my ankle, my Mom brought down a lot of food to sustain us. I love my Mom! Anyway, one of the items she brought was a big bag of granola. Jack, needing something to snack on one evening, spooned some vanilla yogurt in a bowl and then added some of the granola. He enjoyed this so much it became his “usual” evening snack (which beats the heck out of even the baked tortilla chips and baked potato chips which he had been eating until then). After this supply was used, I was beginning to feel more stable in my cast, so I set about reworking Mom’s recipe a little. I came up with a really delicious, lowfat granola that is full of good things.

I made four pounds of this to take on vacation in June. For one breakfast while our friends

George & Tammy were there, I made scones and also had fresh fruit, vanilla yogurt and granola. Tammy, as expected, enjoyed it. George, surprisingly, did also! He’s not a “breakfast person” but he did a good job on the granola, even asking if I could post the recipe on my blog. This past weekend, during our lake house get-together, he also commented on how much he liked it. I felt badly since things were so crazy for the last month that I had barely even posted anything on the blog, so I made a promise to do this in the very near future. Here it is!

* Exported from MasterCook *


Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 30

Preparation Time: 1:15

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method


1/2 cup water

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 cups rolled oats

2 cups almonds -- chopped; or 2 cups total of any mixture of nuts

Bring the water and brown sugar to a boil over low heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and allow to cool until lukewarm. Stir in vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 275F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

Measure the oats into a huge bowl (you need the space to toss the oats and syrup together). If the nuts which you are using are NOT ROASTED, add them to the bowl as well. Pour the syrup over and mix thoroughly (using your hands is the easiest way to do this).

Divide the mixture between the 2 baking sheets and level, patting down firmly.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the sheets and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir (the oats around the outside edges will be browned more than the oats in the center). A flat, heatproof spatula is perfect for this, working around the perimeter scraping the mixture from the outside into the center.

IF you are using ROASTED nuts, add them (divide between the 2 baking sheets) and stir in a bit. Level and return to the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until golden.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the sheets on baking racks until completely cooled (stir occasionally).

Transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. This keeps nicely for about a month. You can freeze it in a freezer bag for longer storage.


"10 cups"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 163 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (39% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 39mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 4 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : Add dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, etc) after granola has cooled, if desired. You can also add dried or fresh fruit prior to serving.

Well, I think that I’ll post another favorite. While I was making the granola this evening, I decided to also prepare some coconut rum brownies to take when we visit my parents this weekend.

These brownies are a chunk o’ heaven. They are easy—two specially-prepared brownie mixes are the base, and a coconut-flavored cream cheese mixture is swirled in. Dark rum is used to prepare the brownie mixes instead of water. You can prepare them as just Coconut Brownies, using water instead of dark rum, but why would you want to? These are dense, fudgy, and
incredibly decadent! Use a fork… ;)

All brownie mixes are not created equal, so I use the best-quality available. Ghirardelli makes great mixes, and I’ve used both the mix containing the chocolate syrup pouch or, since I have been unable to locate that mix lately, I’ve been using the Double Chocolate mix which contains chocolate chips.

Every brownie mix has different ingredients, too, so here are a couple of rules-of-thumb to use:

  • Replace the water with dark rum. If you are serving these to guests and you are not certain if they like a heavy rum flavor, use about 2/3 of the total amount of water as rum, and the remaining amount water.

  • As for the oil, I reduce it a little. For example, with the Ghirardelli mix each package calls for 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 2/3 cup total for the recipe. I use ½ cup.

Now, this makes a 9” x 13” pan. It can be halved and baked in an 8” square pan (adjust the baking time accordingly) but since these brownies are so darn good, and they freeze very well, why just not make the big ol’ pan? Really, you won't be sorry. :)

When I make brownies or bar cookies, I find that it helps a lot to line the baking pan with foil (leaving a 2” overhang on the long sides), then spray with cooking spray. When the brownies are thoroughly cool, lift the brownies up out of the pan in one piece and they will be much easier to cut that way.

I sprinkled shredded, sweetened coconut on top of this batch. Next time, I will use toasted coconut since this didn't "toast" very much while the brownies were cooking.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Coconut Rum-Swirled Brownies

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 24

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 large egg

1/3 cup sugar

8 ounces neufchatel cheese

1/2 tablespoon coconut extract

2 large eggs

40 ounces Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix -- (2 packages)

2/3 cup dark rum

1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with cooking spray.

Prepare swirl by beating egg lightly in medium bowl, then add sugar and beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add the neufchatel cheese and coconut extract and beat at high speed for one minute. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the dark rum and canola oil and mix well. Add the two packages of brownie mix and stir gently until mixed. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Dollop the cream cheese swirl on top of the brownie mixture and, using a wide-tip knife, swirl the cream cheese into the chocolate.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes, turning the pan 2 or 3 times, until the center is set and the edges are very lightly browned and dry-looking. Insert a toothpick into the center- it will emerge relatively clean with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool completely, on a rack, before cutting.

Store in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days; freeze for longer storage. Like they will last for that long...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 290 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat (4g Saturated Fat); (39% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 31mg Cholesterol; 207mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 15 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Picnic in the Glass; Garden Vegetable Pasta

Recipes: Gourmet's "Picnic In The Glass" recipes, Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita and Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas;
Garden Vegetable Pasta

The past few weeks have been very busy. I am here, at the end of July, wondering where our summer went to. But I know. Vacation, entertaining… June and July have swept by and I haven’t even had the chance to lazy an afternoon away, reading in a hammock. I am not complaining (much)-- I really do enjoy hosting parties and weekend get-togethers (well, everything but shopping for the food). Planning, preparation, and lately I’ve been delegating some menu items to my guests and that had really taken a load off. It’s fun. I think that, if I won a lottery, I would budget money to have someone do the grocery shopping, and then someone to clean up afterwards. Then it would be almost too perfect!

There are many recipes that I need to post here. I hope to be able to get a few on this week, then some posted next week.

I am not going to do this in chronological order, though. There are some recipes which have turned out so well that I just have to place them here as soon as I can.

But first.

This past weekend Jack and I had 5 friends to the lake house for a few days. The weather cooperated perfectly. Every evening we were able to eat on the patio, surrounded by flickering torches; during the day the sun was out but not too hot, and we were able to spend the afternoons on the boat. It rained once, at 3am. As I said, the weather was perfect.

I think that my favorite recipe which I made over the weekend was for our Sunday lunch on the boat. I was dithering between several ideas when I flipped through an August issue of Gourmet, which Nancy had left for me to read the previous weekend. The article “Picnic In The Glass” caught my attention. Two-cup glass jars were used to layer different ingredients, producing portable salads. What a great idea to use those pint canning jars I have so many of (since I haven’t done much in the way of canning in the past few years).

First, both Tammy and Caroline helped me to put these together. They are very competent sous chefs and chopped quantities of cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, etc. without complaint. Then the ingredients were placed in the jars, transferred to a cooler, and taken to the boat where they were enjoyed a few hours later.

What an incredibly cool way to picnic! The jars were easy to hold, and no paper plates were remaining to dispose of. Each of the guys consumed 2 jars, the ladies one each (although Caroline and I “shared” a few bites of each salad). Although Indian food is my favorite type of cuisine, and I enjoyed this salad very much, the Greek one was pretty delicious also.

Basically, the Curried Chicken Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Raita consisted on red grapes on the bottom of the jar, then a layer of curried chicken salad, a layer of cool cucumber raita, and then a layer of cumin-and-turmeric-spiced chickpeas which was topped with toasted slivered almonds.

The Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas started with a black-eyed pea salad (they were tossed with tomatoes, parsley and a red wine vinaigrette) on the bottom, then on top of that an orzo salad (orzo, cucumber, Kalamata olives, red onion, fresh oregano in a lemony dressing), then a layer each of shredded romaine and crumbled feta. A peperocini pepper or two was to be placed on top, but we ran out of room and left those out.

Both of these salads were incredible. There were four other salads featured in the article and I want to try the shrimp with salsa, avocado, and chips soon (the other three didn’t do much for me).

One of the Indian salads was left. Although the directions say that these can be made up to 6 hours before serving, it wasn’t until 2 days later that it was used. I microwaved it on a very low power just to take the refrigerator chill off, and served it over some leftover, room-temperature coconut rice for lunch. It still was delicious.

Friends Dary and Caroline arrived not only with their share of food and wine, but also with bags of fresh produce from their garden. I have to admit, as I wiled my afternoons away on the boat I was figuring out what I could do with these wonderful spoils of their garden. For dinner on Sunday night I steamed the fresh (edible-pod) peas and served them with leftover barbequed chicken from Friday night. I haven’t had fresh peas in years, since I stopped growing them, and they were superb.

On Monday we spent the day cleaning and packing, and didn’t arrive back at the farm until almost 7. As I transferred those vegetables from the cooler into the refrigerator I had an idea for dinner. Garden Veggie Penne!

There is no recipe for this. Basically, vegetables are sautéed in olive oil and garlic, a milk-and-cornstarch mixture (about 2 teaspoons cornstarch to 1 cup of milk) is added and stirred until thickened. Then the addition of fresh basil and grated cheese (I used Asiago), and the mixture is tossed with whole wheat penne.

After dividing between plates, sprinkle with a little more cheese. Quick and so, so delicious with all of those vegetables (almost) straight from the garden!

My vegetable garden is very late this year since we were on vacation and I didn’t plant anything until the beginning of July. And something keeps nipping the top off of my bean plants. So to have fresh vegetables was such a wonderful treat. Dary, Carolyn, if you guys are reading this—THANKS!!!

More soon!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coconut Crab and Shrimp Salad

Recipe: Coconut Crab and Shrimp Salad

This will be a quick post. This past weekend, my friends Jenni and Nancy joined me at the lake house for a few days and we (as always) cooked. And enjoyed each other's company tremendously! This coming weekend, 5 friends will be spending the weekend. Needless to say, I have done a lot of menu planning in the last 2 weeks! And I am not finished...

One of the absolute stellar recipes that Jenni and I made was Cooking Light's "Coconut Crab and Shrimp Salad".

Oh my, this was heavenly. Positively drool-worthy! Shrimp (I did not "coarsely chop" mine, but left them whole) and crab mixed with sweet corn, creamy avocado, pungent cilantro and dressed with a lemony mixture spiced a bit with the addition of jalapeno... then sprinkled with crunchy toasted coconut over crisp butter lettuce. It was incredible.

I apologize that the photo is a bit out of focus (looks like quite the hodge-podge of ingredients, doesn't it?). No food-styling time because I just wanted to get that fork in my hand and dig in.
Quick! Take the picture and eat!!!

Coconut Crab and Shrimp Salad

This fresh, colorful seafood salad also makes a terrific appetizer. For a spicier dish, add the jalapeño pepper seeds or use two peppers. Total time: 45 minutes.

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed (about 2 ears)

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup diced peeled avocado

1/2 pound lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 cups torn Boston lettuce (about 3 small heads)

1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 4 minutes or until shrimp are done, turning once. Remove from the pan. Coarsely chop shrimp.

Combine corn and the next 5 ingredients (through jalapeño) in a medium bowl. Gently stir in the shrimp.

Combine juice, oil, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over shrimp mixture; toss gently to coat.

Divide lettuce among each of 4 plates; top with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle evenly with toasted coconut.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups lettuce, about 1 cup salad, and 1 tablespoon coconut)

CALORIES 223 (34% from fat); FAT 8.5g (sat 2.2g,mono 3.6g,poly 1.3g); IRON 3mg; CHOLESTEROL 124mg; CALCIUM 94mg; CARBOHYDRATE 16g; SODIUM 613mg; PROTEIN 24g; FIBER 3g

Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2005

When Jenni suggested making this recipe during our weekend, I wondered why I hadn't seen it before (it does, of course, contain all of my favorite things). I then realized that, for some reason, Cooking Light had featured it in an October issue. I probably didn't even read the recipe since it so loudly screamed SUMMER and October in southwestern Pennsylvania is definitely Fall.

Try this. You will love, love, love it!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Recipe: Southwestern Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

I usually have the radio on when I am at home. We have a local station, WYEP-FM, which plays a great mix of non-commercial tunes and unless the DJ gets into a country, bluegrass, or folk* frame of mind, there is where the dial is set. For some reason, though, when it is this hot and sticky outside and inside, I tend to turn off the radio. I prefer to listen to the birds, I guess. Or the slow slapping of my sandals as I try to glide through the hot rooms, using as little energy as possible.

*- By the way, there is nothing wrong with those musical genres, they are just not what I enjoy.


Lunch on one of these hot days during this past week was salad. Jack’s least favorite meal type, but I couldn’t even bear to turn on the grill.

I had a lot of “ones” in the refrigerator; one heart of romaine, one avocado, one orange bell pepper, one small cucumber, one ear of corn which had been cooked and was leftover. I also found a half can of black beans, a small piece of cotija cheese, and 2 small tomatoes. Result: a southwestern salad that even Jack liked. Probably because of the cheese, and also because I sprinkled his favorite Trader Joe’s nut/seed mix on top (pepitas, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds). For the salad, I only chopped half of the avocado because I used the other half for a salad dressing which complimented the other flavors perfectly (if I do say so myself). I have posted this dressing recipe before and it is here.

Served with baked tortilla chips, Jack never once uttered "salad for lunch???".

No recipe for the salad itself, though-- just be creative and use what's available!

Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Chutney

Recipe: Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Chutney

The past few days have been entirely too hot and humid for my taste. I enjoy many things about summer—the fireflies blinking and the crickets chirping during the evening, birds singing so joyfully in the cherry tree outside of our bedroom window that I'm wakened before dawn (but I go back to sleep, not being an early-morning type of person), flowers blooming everywhere...

(like this beautiful bed of phlox)

but I hate the humidity. With no air conditioning, my stove is turned off at the gas inlet because even the pilot lights keep the kitchen uncomfortably warm. Because it cools off a bit during the night, breakfast is now the only meal which I do not grill outside or microwave.

My friend Jenni sent me a recipe for Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Chutney a few weeks ago and it has been lying on the kitchen table, waiting to be used. Unfortunately, the mango to be used in the recipe should be unripe and the mango which I wanted to use was very ripe. So, not wanting to delay until I bought mangoes again, I altered the recipe the slightest bit and made Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Salsa Aside from not toasting the cumin (I mixed ground seed directly into the salsa), using a very ripe mango, and adding a half of an orange bell pepper, the recipe was not changed.

It was very good. The shrimp were a little to spicy for me, but Jack said that they weren’t hot enough (hmmm). I love the flavor of mango, ginger, and the spices in the salsa—it seemed to temper the spiciness of the shrimp for me (but not for you-know-who who likes all foods that sear the mouth…). Nevertheless, the marinade did wonderful, delicious, spectacular things to the shrimp and I'll have to use this same recipe with scallops and chicken.

Oh, and once more adjusting the recipe for the man who hates to “work” for his food, I took the fan tail off the shrimp. It would have looked nice, but then I’d be faced with answering the “why are there tails on my shrimp” question and, unless we have guests, Jack simply does not buy the “for aesthetic reasons” explanation.

Shrimp Tikka with Fresh Mango Chutney

Serves 6

Active time:45 min

Start to finish:1 hr

GOURMET June 2008

For shrimp

· 1/4 cup vegetable oil

· 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

· 1 (1-inch) piece fresh jalapeño, chopped (about 2 tsp)

· 1 (1-inch) piece peeled ginger, chopped

· 1 large garlic clove, smashed

· 2 teaspoons ground garam masala (Indian spice blend)*

· 3/4 teaspoon turmeric

· 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

· 2 lb large shrimp in shell, peeled, leaving tail fan attached

For chutney

· 1 teaspoon ground cumin

· 1 (3/4-lb) unripe mango, chopped

· 1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)

· 1/2 cup chopped red onion

· 1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño with seeds

· 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

· 3 tablespoons thinly sliced mint

· 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Marinate shrimp:

Purée all ingredients for marinating shrimp, except shrimp, with 1/2 tsp salt in a blender until smooth. Pour into a sealable bag, then add shrimp and marinate at cool room temperature, turning bag occasionally, 30 minutes.

Make chutney while shrimp marinate:

Toast cumin in a dry small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir together remaining chutney ingredients with 1/4 tsp salt, then sprinkle with toasted cumin.

Make kebabs:

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas)

Thread 4 shrimp onto each skewer, leaving small spaces between them. Put on a tray.

Oil grill rack, then grill skewers, cover only if using a gas grill, turning once, until just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes total. Serve with chutney.

Cooks’ notes:

Shrimp can be cooked in a hot well-oiled large (2-burner) ridged grill pan, turning once, about 8 minutes total.

Marinade can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

Chutney can be made 6 hours ahead and chilled.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Recipe: Black Bean Veggie Burgers

For the Fourth of July, Jack and I went to our friends' house for a damp-weather cookout. It was a very rainy day, but that didn't matter a bit because Karla and Frankie always have the kind of party that's fun regardless of what the weather is doing outside. :)

Among a few other items, I brought black bean veggie burgers that I had found on a recipe website. Karla is a vegetarian, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to try this recipe which I had printed out a few weeks before. Unfortunately it drove me nuts. The mixture was so wet that I kept adding bread crumbs, then oatmeal, then oat bran before it would hold even a basic "pattie shape". I also had to bake the burgers to firm them up a bit more, then finish them on the grill at our hosts' house. It was way too much bother (and too much filler).

Today I decided to try my hand at my own version of the burgers. I added oatmeal (pulsed in the blender to chop the flakes up a bit) and also some additional spices. The result was just what I had hoped for-- burgers with a nice texture for grilling or frying, and a great flavor. And they formed a nice patty shape, not needing to be prebaked.

I used 5 ounces of black beans which was perfect for the two of us. If you use canned beans, a 15-ounce can, drained, will yield about 9 ounces of black beans. Just double the recipe for 4 servings, the "missing" ounce of black beans will not matter.

Also, the buns that I find in the stores are so huge. I make my own, and can control the portion size, but in the summer (due to lack of a/c) I have to buy. I purchased some kaiser rolls to take to the cookout which weighed in at over 4 ounces each, and those were way too big. So I bought some wheat dinner rolls at a bakery, weighing about 1-1/2 ounces each. I made the bean patties 3" diameter to fit these "buns", and I had two burgers while Jack had three. These were perfect serving portions for us.

I topped our burgers with 50% less fat jalapeño jack cheese, and a dollop of prepared salsa. These were great! Next time, I'll mix light sour cream with finely chopped avocado for a condiment, and use sliced tomato as well.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 2

5 ounces black beans -- cooked, drained
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 ounces red bell pepper -- cut into 1" pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces sweet onion -- cut into 1" pieces (about 1/2 cup)
2 large garlic cloves -- minced
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

hamburger rolls
toppings/ condiments

In a medium bowl, mash the black beans. Set aside

In the food processor, pulse the oats five or six times. Pour into the bowl with the beans. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic into the processor bowl and pulse until finely chopped. Roll the vegetables into several layers of paper towels and squeeze out excess liquid (I believe that, if you chop the vegetables by hand, this would not be necessary. But don't take my word for it...) . Add to the bean mixture and stir until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the spices and mix well. Pour this into the bean mixture and mix well ("hands as tools"!!!). Form into 2 (or more, depending on the size of the rolls) patties, 1/2" thick, place on a plate, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Spray patties with cooking spray. Grill or pan-fry over moderate heat for about 3 minutes on each side.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 379 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat (1g Saturated fat); (8% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 17g Fiber; 68g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 111mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable;

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Breasts with Rice Noodle Salad

I am slowly getting back in the swing of things…

Today was spent weeding, and my back is very angry that I’m not spending my days sitting on a beach chair. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for two weeks of frivolity and laziness!

Dinner tonight was an easy one. The July issue of Canadian Living featured a recipe for Vietnamese Pork Chops with Rice-Vermicelli Salad which looked very good. Since we do not eat red meat, I substituted chicken breasts and tweaked the marinade a bit; for the salad I prepared it almost as directed except that I added some finely shredded red bell pepper for added texture and color.

This was excellent, very similar to the Vietnamese cold noodle salads that I love to make on hot summer days. The chicken was marinated in a lime juice-fish sauce mixture, which was later reduced and poured on the cooked chicken; this was served over a salad of soft rice noodles and crunchy vegetables dressed with a similar lime juice-fish sauce dressing. Shredded mint and cilantro added that wonderful, unmistakable Vietnamese flavor, and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts gave some extra crunch. Seriously, if you like this type of dish, make it tonight!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chicken Breasts
with Rice Noodle Salad

Recipe Adapted from: Canadian Living

Serving Size : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast

3 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 clove garlic -- finely minced
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/2 large red bell pepper -- sliced very thinly
1 small carrot -- finely shredded
1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce -- romaine or leaf

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

In a small baking dish, combine the marinade ingredients (onion through black pepper). Add chicken breasts and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Stir and remove from the heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Allow to stand in colander and prepare dressing:

In a small cup, mix the boiling water through the hot pepper flakes. Mix in a large bowl with the noodles and set aside.

Prepare the grill. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade (reserve marinade) and coat chicken with cooking spray. Place on hot grill and cook until done. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat a bit and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

To the rice noodles, add the mint, cilantro, pepper, carrot, and lettuce and toss well.

When the chicken is finished cooking, remove to a cutting board and slice.

Divide rice noodle salad between two plates, top with sliced chicken, pour reduced marinade over. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 375 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat (3g Saturated Fat); (31% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 76mg Cholesterol; 1453mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 3 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Returning to the Real World

Recipe: Grilled Striper with Southwestern Rice

Well, I'm back. Although I had planned to post recipes from our vacation home, this did not happen for 2 reasons. First, with the exception of a very nice Viking stove, the kitchen was horribly equipped for cooking of any sort. I also decided that I would do something totally unlike me and not plan meals. We stocked up on basics, I brought a selection of spices with me, we filled the refrigerator with produce, eggs, and cheese, and the freezer with chicken and fish. I "winged it"! And we lived to talk about it, so the experiment in being loose in the kitchen was a success. :)

Our 2 weeks on vacation were a lot of fun and I am having a difficult time returning to earth. This was a celebration of our 25th anniversary, so we held our breath and rented this extraordinary (uh, except for the kitchen) house. I will post photos of it soon.

Tonight, we had grilled striper for dinner. I have to cook some very healthy meals to make up for the platters of fried shrimp that I consumed during our vacation...

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Striper with
Southwestern Rice

Recipe By : Vicci
Servings : 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2/3 cup parboiled rice
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo
10 ounces rockfish fillets*
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup avocado -- chopped
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1/2 whole lime -- cut into 2 wedges

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over a medium-low flame then saute the chopped onion until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to stir for another minute. Add rice and saute for 2 minutes. Pour in the water, add the salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Without removing the lid, turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the lime juice through the adobo sauce in a non-metal baking dish. Add the fillets and turn to coat with the lime mixture. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the lid from the rice (it will be warm or room-temperature when served). Preheat the grill. Coat the fish liberally with cooking spray and cook until opaque (about 4 minutes). While the fish cooks, fold in the tomatoes. After a few minutes, add the avocado and half of the cilantro and stir gently. The heat of the rice will soften the tomatoes a bit, but the avocado shouldn't be added until the rice is a little cooler.

Divide the rice mixture between two plates, top with fish, sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 424 Calories (kcal); 21g Total Fat; (43% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 50mg Cholesterol; 663mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 37 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

*Mastercook calls it "rockfish", we call it "striper"-- all in the same!

The serving in the photo above looks a bit large, doesn't it? I accidentally photographed Jack's serving (which is actually 2 servings...).