Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

Well, like it or not, autumn has arrived.

Ten days ago, as we were driving through the mountains on our way home from the beach, I noticed the changing leaves. I tried to ignore it and became slightly car-sick as I instead concentrated on a magazine in my lap. Jack would occasionally, annoyingly, comment on how red one tree was or the pretty gold color of another to which I would plug my ears with my fingers and hum The Flintstones theme (my favorite way of “not listening”).

I refused to wear jeans until a few days ago, opting to expose my legs to the chill of a late-September mornings and evenings. They’re just so confining. :) We went to the lake house for a couple of days over the weekend and out on the water, in the canoe, I noticed that the majority of the trees were still green. Today it is rainy, cool, and damp. I now see that the trees in my very own yard are turning color. Traitors.

Out of the window I see hanging baskets that are browning, marigolds whose lower leaves are yellowing, and the blackened stems and seed-heads of the profusion of Brown-Eyed Susan’s, which only a month ago were so dazzling that I had to take photos. There are so many of these, and I think that I should fashion bouquets suitable for decorating tables in the Addams’ Family abode. Or in my own house, since they are very Halloween-ish.

But the best part about the arrival of Fall is that, suddenly, I want to bake again. I’ve taken a few months off, and have even bought bread recently, but the urge is now there again. On Sunday I made a double recipe of Italian Whole Wheat Bread, but I discovered that I am actually running out of flour. The 100+ pounds which I bought last year is down to a couple of pounds. No, I wasn’t hoarding because I had some eerie premonition of high wheat price, but instead was stocking up because my favorite brand was being discontinued. I will have to buy more this week and I don’t know how to prepare myself for the shock that will surely come when I no longer pay 12½¢ per pound (yes, that is correct, I was buying 20 pounds for about $2.50!).

My cooking methods are changing now. I’ve been grilling a lot in the past few months, but now I am drawn to my kitchen, to the stove.

I found this recipe in the October issue of Real Simple magazine. I made a few adjustments to the original (of course) and it turned out to be excellent. Jack, who is not particularly fond of baked chicken breasts, loved it (as did I). The chicken was moist , the coating crisp, and the flavor of the mustard didn’t overpower the seasonings as I had expected. I served it with "buttered" parsley noodles (I love the nice, thick ones which I buy at Sam's) and steamed green beans. This was a perfect dinner for a rainy, damp fall evening.

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

½ cup parsley leaves

1 clove garlic, halved

2 ounces whole wheat bread, toasted (about 2 “regular” slices) and torn into pieces

½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs, crumbled (or a mix of oregano and basil and maybe rosemary if you want)

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pound a little between waxed paper sheets if they are too thick)

Heat oven* to 400F.

In a food processor, pulse the parsley until chopped, add the garlic and pulse a couple of times, and add the torn toast pieces, dried herbs, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Pulse until crumbs form. Add olive oil and pulse two or three times to combine. Transfer to a plate.

Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the mustard over both sides of each piece of chicken and place on the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help the crumbs to adhere. Place gently into the prepared baking dish, press any remaining crumbs onto the top surfaces of the chicken, spray with cooking spray, and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

* - I used our toaster oven as not to heat the big oven for just 2 pieces of chicken.

And look at those beans! :) My Roma beans finally started producing, albeit late, so I am happily (finally) picking something out of that garden! I adore this type of pole bean, it has such a great flavor.

Oh, I have to apologize to the cantaloupe. Before we went on vacation, earlier this month, I had mentioned that the volunteer cantaloupe were the only things producing in my garden, along with pitifully few tomatoes and some yellow squash. The day that we left for the beach, I picked 13 cantaloupe and they lasted through our vacation.

Most were small, only about 5” across, but very sweet and delicious—a nice surprise from an otherwise disappointing garden this summer!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hearty Breakfast Fritatta; Potsticker Salad

I have returned. :)

There was no way that I could have anticipated how much time would be spent in getting my laptop back up and running, and I’m still having issues with it. Mostly of an anti-virus variety.

I felt a bit like Alice dropping into Wonderland after we returned. It’s a bit of a shock returning to the demands of everyday life, and combined with suddenly fall is here, I’ve been slow in my recovery.

The other day I went for a run on our trails and all of the paths in the wooded areas are covered with leaves. They were very dry since it hadn’t rained in so long, and as they crunched under my feet they let loose a lovely, fall-ish fragrance. But I still wake up in the morning and pull on shorts, a t-shirt, and slide into flip-flops. I am protesting the end of summer with my reluctance to admit that I find myself chilly in the mornings!

While I started to really enjoy being offline for 10 days, I realized that I was no longer photographing my food since I wasn’t posting regularly here. Of course, Jack and our guests enjoyed not having to wait through a photography session while their meals cooled. Many meals were put together without my measuring ingredients and following recipes so I would have nothing to post to go with the photos, anyway.

But I do have two recipes with accompanying photos.

First, our friends Karla and Frankie came to spend three fun (and rum!) filled days with us. For breakfast one morning I made a frittata. It turned out so well that I later wrote down the ingredients as I remembered them, and the approximate measurements, then refined it later for another frittata breakfast when my parents visited.

I call this a “frittata” because it isn’t prepared like a traditional frittata, where the egg mixture is cooked on top of the stove then it is placed under a broiler. The beach house didn’t have a skillet that I thought was “broiler-safe”, so I decided to use a cake pan to cook it in. I guess that this is more closely to a crustless quiche, but I’m sticking with the name anyway!

This will also be going into my Entertaining file because it was so quick to put together. I boiled the potatoes the evening before and refrigerated them, and also prepared the bell peppers and refrigerated them at the same time. Karla is a vegetarian, so I used the Morningstar breakfast patties but any sort of breakfast sausage can be used (cooked and drained first, of course).

And, since I do not yet have Mastercook on my computer (although I did, amazingly, locate the software disk), there are no nutritional data given for this recipe.


Makes 4 servings

¾ pound small red potatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium red bell peppers (can use one green, as well)
1 small onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder, for heat)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Morningstar Farms veggie breakfast patties, thawed and crumbled or chopped
1/3 cup shredded cheddar (I used Cabot 50% less fat cheddar)

Wash and slice the potatoes into ¼” thick slices. Parboil until just tender (this should take around 8 minutes-- don’t overcook or they will fall apart).

Wash the peppers. If desired, cut 3 ¼” thick rings from near the end of one pepper and set aside. Core and chop the remaining peppers into ¼” dice.

Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and chopped onions and cook, stirring frequently, until peppers begin to soften. Add garlic and stir for another minute. Transfer to a plate to cool for about 10 minutes.

(All of the above can be done ahead of time, even the night before.)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs and egg whites well. Add the parsley through ground black pepper and beat a little more.

Spray an 8” diameter baking dish (or cake pan) with cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes in an overlapping pattern on the bottom of the dish. Add the pepper/onion mixture and breakfast patties to the egg mixture, mix well, and pour on top of the eggs. Sprinkle with the cheese and, if used, decorate the top of the egg mixture with the pepper rings.

Place in the oven for about 25 minutes (check after about 20) until they are done as desired. We like “well done” eggs, so I bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for a couple of minutes, cut into wedges, and serve.

The next vacation recipe was prepared on one of our final days. We enjoy going to a local state park, Cape Henlopen, and had not yet visited there yet. I made a picnic lunch and we spent most of the day walking trails and sitting on an almost-deserted beach. I took this photo from behind a small dune beside the walkway leading down to the beach:

The idea for this recipe came from August’s issue of Real Simple, but I altered most of the ingredients to what I had on hand and needed to use in the refrigerator.


14 pieces frozen pot stickers (I used Trader Joe's chicken pot stickers)
2 ounces thinly sliced carrots (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces sliced red bell pepper (about 3
1/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed
4 ounces very thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 1/2 ounces diagonally sliced scallion (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili paste (optional; adjust for desired spiciness)
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket (or fill a large skillet with 1/2 inch of water). Bring the water to a boil.

Place the pot stickers in the basket (or skillet), cover, and steam for 4 minutes. Add the carrots and red bell pepper, cover, and steam for 2 minutes. Add the edamame and cabbage and steam for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile combine the soy sauce through chili paste in a large bowl. Add the potsticker and vegetable mixture and toss. Cool slightly, sprinkle with the peanuts and scallions and serve.
Note: For our picnic, I refrigerated the mixture then packed it on ice in a cooler and packed the scallions and peanuts in separate containers. I allowed the salad to sit out for about 15 minutes before serving, then sprinkled with scallions and peanuts.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lost... on vacation...

Hi everyone!

I really did mean to post my vacation recipes, but unfortunately less than 2 days into our 2-week vacation my laptop crashed (and burnt, obviously). Since we have to travel to the local library to use their computer and internet access (and miss a lot of beach time during these beautifully warm fall days!), I will not be posting any more until I return home-- hopefully by the beginning of next week.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Grilled Chicken Pasta

Today, I am experiencing my very first tropical storm. We get remnants of these at home, but for the next two weeks Jack and I are on vacation on the Delaware Bay and Hanna has joined us.

Late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from the owner of the beach house and she told me that the renters for the previous week had cancelled and that if we wanted to come early to arrive before Hanna hit, we were welcome to do so. When she called, I was wondering whether to water the garden one last time, spray to kill the caterpillars on my tomato plants, or just say the heck with it since I had so much else to do before we planned to leave the following morning. This call made my decision for me.

Still, it took 3 hours to finish everything on my to-do list and we didn’t leave until 8:45pm. I must say, the hours between 11pm and 1am were the worst (in terms of staying awake and alert), but we arrived at 3am. It was windy and, when we had stopped for gas just over the Bay Bridge, I had never felt such humidity (Rosanne Rosannadanna hair!). The windows of the Wawa were totally fogged and, when I refilled my coffee and emerged, the air felt as though it was pressing down on me (while lifting my hair, much to the amusement of my husband). My glasses steamed. I couldn’t wait to get in the car!

Hanna didn’t really arrive until about 11:15 this morning and here is a photo taken about 2 hours later, after the rain had stopped for a bit. The eye of the storm is still south of us, so I’m sure that this is not over.

It was very windy and even the metal Peruvian bird sculpture on top of the television was vibrating, but we felt safe. This is a wonderfully solid beach house. Now, remember, we are on the bay not the ocean. I’m sure that a certain Californian ex-surfer girl whom I know was looking at this photo and thinking how small our storm waves are, here on the east coast! ;)

Back to last night. Or, rather, early this morning. By 4:30 we had unloaded the car, unpacked the coolers, unpacked the food boxes, and were still too awake to consider bed. So I made peach-vanilla pancakes (no recipe, I just threw stuff in the bowl at that hour!) and we retired at about 5:30. That was the time we would have awakened back at the farm to leave, had we not decided on some nighttime traveling.

Even so, we are on vacation and although running this morning was not really an option, we were up by 10:00 and finished unpacking our clothes.

Since we had already had breakfast, we waited for lunchtime.

I had grilled and shredded chicken breasts yesterday, planning to make wraps to take along for a traveling lunch today. Since that was no longer needed, I used the chicken to make a comforting pasta dish as the winds blew and howled around us.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chicken Pasta

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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

5 ounces pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow squash -- diced

1/2 large green bell pepper -- diced

2 medium garlic cloves -- minced

1 small tomato -- diced

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning -- crumbled

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fat-free half and half

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast -- grilled, shredded

1 ounce Asiago Cheese -- shredded

Prepare pasta according to directions, eliminating fat. Keep warm.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil to a shimmer and saute the squash and bell pepper until softened. Add garlic, tomato, Italian herbs, and black pepper (and salt, if desired) and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the half & half (turn down the heat a little-- if lowfat or fat free half & half comes to a boil it will separate) and and the chicken; stir until warmed. Add half of the shredded Asiago, then the pasta, and toss until mixed well. Serve with additional Asiago and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

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

Per serving: 550 Calories (kcal); 16g Total Fat (5g saturated); (26% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 73mg Cholesterol; 452mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

As I placed the bowl in front of my husband, he exclaimed “wow! Regular pasta! We are on vacation!”. Yes. And I plan to attempt to ingest platters-ful of fried shrimp and fried fish and French fries in the next couple of weeks so I probably should have used the bag of whole wheat pasta which I bought. It would more than double this recipe’s fiber content. But, what the heck, I’m on vacation!

The winds have begun to pick up again, and it has started to rain. I have the urge to bake something. Maybe, in honor of Hanna, a something with some tropical flavors. Perhaps a banana bread with lime, and since I brought no packaged coconut, perhaps some coconut rum.

My posts for the next two weeks will be a bit sporadic, but I will be trying a couple of new recipes and will get them on this blog at one time or another! Be patient…

Friday, September 5, 2008

Trader Joe's Simmer Sauces

We are busy this week preparing to go on vacation this Saturday (2 weeks at the beach! yay!) and I have been searching for quick dinners. Ordinarily I don't mind spending an hour making our big meal of the day, but lately there are other things that need to be done. So last night I reached for a jar of Trader Joe's Indian Simmer Sauces. I chose the Korma sauce.

Seriously, this meal took 20 minutes to prepare. First start the basmati rice. While it steams, saute diced chicken breast, then add onion and whatever vegetables (I used zucchini and tomatoes) you desire. Cook until the veggies are slightly softened, then add a jar of sauce and a cup of water. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add chickpeas, if desired. Serve over rice garnished with sliced almonds and minced cilantro.

This tastes great! I am so excited to have found these sauces (we have tried and like the Curry sauce as well, and are looking forward to the Masala and Punjab Spinach varieties). And, paired with TJ's naan bread, I feel as though I'm in my favorite Indian restaurant. These sauces were a great discovery. :)

I used to pooh-pooh convenience foods, but these sauces are so good that I have been converted. To Trader Joe's brands, anyway (you still won't catch me microwaving a Stouffers meal, though, so don't worry...)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shrimp Fresh Spring Rolls

Oh, I would like to say that this is a photo of the spring rolls which I made recently! But it is not. This is a photo of the spring rolls which I ate at Green Mango Noodle Hut in the Regent Square section of Pittsburgh. I love these, and order them whenever we are fortunate enough to stop by for a meal.

Look how tightly they are rolled! Cut into bite-sized pieces perfect for dipping in the flavorful sauce, these shrimp spring rolls inspired me. Alas, inspiration was not quite enough.

My rice-paper rolling technique leaves a lot to be desired. My friend George bought me a bamboo sushi rolling mat which I thought would help and it does, but not to the extent that I would like. My spring rolls turned out to be rather… loose. Delicious, though, absolutely. But in no way could I cut these into bite size pieces!

Fresh Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce

Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon chile paste with garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced

Spring Rolls:
12 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
3 green leaf lettuce leaves, quartered
3 cups fresh broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut carrot strips
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut cucumber strips
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut yellow bell pepper strips
24 medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and halved lengthwise
36 fresh mint leaves

To prepare sauce, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves; set aside.

To prepare spring rolls, add hot water to a large, shallow dish to a depth of 1 inch. Place 1 rice paper sheet in dish; let stand 30 seconds or just until soft. Place rice paper sheet on a flat surface. Arrange 1 lettuce piece in center of sheet. Top with 1/4 cup sprouts, 3 carrot strips, 3 cucumber strips, 3 bell pepper strips, 4 shrimp halves, and 3 mint leaves. Fold sides of sheet over filling; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Gently press seam to seal. Place spring roll, seam side down, on a serving platter (cover to prevent drying).

Repeat procedure with remaining rice paper, lettuce, sprouts, carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, shrimp, and mint. Serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 6 appetizer servings (serving size: 2 rolls and 2 teaspoons sauce)

CALORIES 101 (7% from fat); FAT 0.8g (sat 0.2g,mono 0.1g,poly 0.3g); IRON 1.7mg; CHOLESTEROL 44mg; CALCIUM 40mg; CARBOHYDRATE 16.8g; SODIUM 418mg; PROTEIN 7.8g; FIBER 2.1g

Cooking Light, APRIL 2004

Note, I used Thai basil along with the mint leaves, left out the sprouts, and added cooked rice vermicelli noodles. I also floated some shredded carrot and chopped peanuts in the wonderful dipping sauce.

If anyone has any ideas or perhaps a website which instructs on this tight-wrapping technique, please pass it on.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Whining about my garden...

Since I planted my garden late, I have not had the opportunity to harvest anything other than herbs so far this summer. Over this past weekend, my little plot spewed forth two tomatoes, two yellow squash, and a little cantaloupe. I continue to urge the green beans to do the same, but for this small amount I am very grateful!

The cantaloupe was very sweet and I can’t believe that these plants were the result of some volunteer plants, borne of seed from cantaloupe scraps tossed in the compost pile last fall which never properly “cooked”.

The yellow squash are tender and made a delicious side to the grilled tuna steaks over this past weekend.

And the tomatoes. I have been buying “local” tomatoes at the grocery store; they looked like those which are offered most of the year and tasted only marginally better. These, the tomatoes which I finally picked from my garden plants, are real tomatoes. What an incredibly delicious taste! For the first one, I made a simple salad dressed with white wine vinegar and olive oil. For the second, still not wanting to “mix it up” with too many other flavors, I made a couple of open-faced sandwiches.

No recipe involved here. I sprayed thick slices of rustic Italian bread with cooking spray and grilled until lightly toasted on one side. I removed them from the grill, flipped them over, spread with a thin layer of pesto, then placed a thick slice of tomato and a thin slice of mozzarella on the grilled side. These were then placed back on the grill until the cheese was melted, and torn pieces of fresh basil sprinkled over. These were sooooo good!

Since the grill was fired up, I cooked a couple of chicken and red pepper sausages which I had bought at Trader Joe’s and these were darn good, too.

I am disappointed that my garden is taking so long to produce (I didn’t plant until we returned from a trip just after July 4th ), and because we are going on vacation this coming Saturday for 2 weeks, most of the veggies may go to waste unless I can figure out what else to do with them. I have made a vow for next year, though. I want to plant a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes and I will have them in the ground just after Memorial Day. Summer is way too short to wait until the end of August for fresh tomatoes (and other such goodies)!

Uh, would someone please remind me of this next May???

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blueberry Bourbon Barbeque Sauce

When I find a recipe that I want to try, I will print it out (or copy it, if it’s in a magazine), slip the page into a plastic sleeve, and set it on my desk in a box. After I’ve tried the recipe, I will mark the page as to how we liked it, the changes that were made, what I would do the next time, etc. then I place the sleeve in a binder. I have three 4” thick binders full of recipes.

Needless to say, unless a recipe is very good, we don’t repeat it. And unfortunately, even if we do enjoy the recipe, there’s a good chance it will fall into oblivion while I try others.

Such is what happened with one of my very favorite summer barbeque sauces this year.

A year or two, Eating Well magazine featured a Blueberry Bourbon Barbeque sauce that absolutely rocks. It is lightly tangy, with both the blueberry and bourbon flavors playing nicely off of each other, and is delicious. I remembered it the other day, dug out the recipe (and my written changes) and made it.

Served on top of a plain ol’ piece of grilled chicken or fish, this Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce elevates it to a very special meal entrée.

I served the grilled chicken and Blueberry-Bourbon BBQ Sauce with steamed green beans and orzo seasoned with minced canned chipotles, sliced green onion, and cilantro.

Blueberry Bourbon Barbeque Sauce

It is not every day that you get a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce that also boasts a healthy dose of antioxidants. Try it with beef, chicken, pork or even some grilled shrimp.

Makes 2 cups

ACTIVE TIME: 20 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup bourbon
2 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and just starting to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bourbon, increase heat to high and bring to a boil; cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in blueberries, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses and allspice; return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per tablespoon: 28 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 42 mg sodium; 38 mg potassium.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.