Sunday, May 27, 2012

Menu #4 (Revised)

I've revised my whole menu from yesterday because I forgot about a few things happening this week...Take 2!

Happy Memorial Day!  We had such a great time at The Shinn Family’s Memorial Day Shinn-Dig yesterday!  There was swimming, tasty food, yummy cocktails, and fabulous company…what more do you need for a great party!  The banana split cake was my new recipe for last week and it had its ups and downs.  Although it was tasty, it was a bit messy and hard to remove from the dish.  I’ll post more about that later along with pics.  My friend Cecilia made a killer pot of beans that I would love to post about if I get the recipe from her…hint, hint Ceci!  ;-)

Now, let’s get to the weekly menu.  For my new recipe this week, I’m going to try one of Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals.  Let me just say, Jamie Oliver is my very favorite.  I love the way he cooks, I love the way he talks…I just love him!  I’ve used many of his recipes before, but this is going to be a first from his show, Jamie’s Meals in Minutes.  I’m really excited to try it!  I’ll post pics and let you know if 30 minutes is really all it takes to whip up this delish meal. 

Monday:  Grilled Chicken Sandwiches on whole-grain bread w/ hot dill pickles & watermelon slices
On Sunday night we grilled 2 extra chicken breasts just to have handy, and they came in handy for these sandwiches.  These hot dill pickles are so delish.  My mother-in-law makes them every year and gives us several jars...yummy!

Tuesday:  Grilled Chicken Salad for me and chicken nuggets & grapes for lil' man.  Pops is out of town so my lil' guy and I will have a dinner & movie date for just the two of us (the movie will most likely be Chicken Little or Chipwrecked).  :-)

Wednesday:  Chicken & Veg Stir Fry w/ mung bean noodles

Thursday:  Grilled Herb Salmon w/ lemon pasta & green salad
For the salmon, I'm just going to puree a bunch of herbs from my garden with some extra-virgin olive oil and brush both sides before grilling.

Friday:  Leftover Night:  Salmon Cakes w/ lemon pasta & green salad
We’ll use leftover grilled salmon from Tues night to make into salmon cakes.  I often use leftover fish for fish cakes.  I just add whole-wheat bread crumbs, light mayonnaise, minced bell peppers & onions along with Old Bay seasoning; roll them in bread crumbs again if you want them extra crispy and shape into patties; bake them or pan fry them in oil. 

Saturday:  Grilled Orange-Basil Chicken Breasts w/ potato-corn salad & veg kabobs
I found this cool new way to grill boneless, skinless chicken breasts that works perfectly every time.  I'll take pics and post about it next week.  :-)

Sunday:  Jamie Oliver’s Wonky Summer Pasta, Salad w/ grapes & bacon, and pear-raspberry meringue tartlets
This is obviously our cheat day from out diet, and I can’t wait!  I’m not really sure why this is called “Wonky,” but Jamie Oliver is British, and they just say stuff like that.  It’s a fresh pasta dish with a no-cook sauce of just olive oil, parmesan cheese, lemon, and egg yolk…yes, egg yolk.  The egg cooks from the residual heat of the cooked pasta.  I can’t wait to post all about it!  We also have a 1st birthday brunch to attend so there will be birthday cake involved once again (hubby will be so happy!)  For the brunch, I’m preparing a sausage-potato breakfast casserole that has spinach, leeks, and a hashbrown crust.   Brunch is my very favorite meal (I think it’s because it usually involves mimosas, and I do love anything that involves champagne!)  I’ll post all about this meal and the breakfast casserole later in the week.  J

Now tell me what's cooking in your kitchen this week or send me a favorite recipe of yours to try!  If you ever have any questions regarding anything on my menu, please ask me!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Santa Maria-Style Tri Tip

Let’s talk tri-tip!  Grilling tri-tip is one of my hubby’s specialties.  He’s made it a million different ways.  He’s always trying new marinade recipes and barbecue sauces.  I found this marinade in a food magazine interview with Zac Efron about the food he grew up eating (I know it’s strange to get recipes from the High School Musical kid, but the recipe is really yummy).  J  He said this Santa Maria-Style Tri-Tip was his dad’s specialty.  We tried it last week, and it was delicious.  This marinade gave the meat a sweet spiciness and it was very tender.  We seasoned the tri-tip with my very own barbecue seasoning recipe.  I’m going to share these recipes with you now!    

We buy our tri-tips when they go on sale and freeze them.  We’ve never had an issue with it and have always had tender meat.  Sometimes, we even prep it and marinade it before we freeze it so it’s all ready for us when we’re ready to grill. 

We always buy the cheaper untrimmed roast and trim ourselves.  It’s comes with a heavy layer of fat on one side, and I have found it’s easiest to trim while still a bit frozen.   

Santa Maria-Style Marinade:
¾ cup salsa
¼ cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup pickling liquid from jarred jalapenos
2 tsp dry mustard (I didn’t have dry mustard so I used mustard seed which added a great crust to the meat)
½ tsp salt
(I added 4 cloves crushed garlic & rosemary)
2-1/2 lb tri-tip

Barbecue Seasoning:
(I use this for just about anything and everything we grill…beef, chicken, corn on the cob butter, shrimp…  I make a huge batch and just store it in mason jars.)
¼ C chili powder (This can be mild, medium, hot, smoked…whatever you prefer)
2 T paprika
2 T brown sugar
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
1 t cumin
1/2 T salt

Combine the marinade in a large plastic bag and place in a dish just in case there’s any leakage.

Add the trimmed roast to the bag and seal.  It should marinade for at least 6 hours and up to overnight to allow the flavors to really penetrate.  After it’s marinated, take it out of the bag and wipe off excess marinade.  Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before grilling.

When it’s ready for grilling, season both sides with barbecue seasoning.  Grill tri-tip for about 30 minutes for medium-rare, longer if you prefer more well done meat.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.  Slice thinly and enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Menu #3

Pardon my tardiness in posting this week’s menu.  Things have just been a bit busy around the homestead.  Nevertheless, I pulled it together long enough to think up a menu and here it is. 

And yes, we are still sticking to our “diet” plan.  The hardest part for me so far has been the absence of snacking.  I am just now realizing how much snacking I was actually doing, and it was a lot!  For my husband, not having dessert every night is killing him.  We’re staying on track though…wish us luck!

Monday:  Leftovers
My husband is out of town so I’m going to just have a salad topped with leftover tri-tip, tomatoes, avocado, and green onions with a dressing of Greek yogurt and salsa.  By the way, the tri-tip from last week turned out great!  It was my new recipe last week and we will definitely be using it again.  I’ll post more about that later. 

Tuesday:  Mexican Burrito Bowls w/ grilled veg kabobs
This will consist of brown rice, pinto beans, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, & Greek yogurt. The kabobs will be bell pepper, zucchini, and onion.

Wednesday:  Chicken & Broccoli Pasta w/ salad
This past Sunday was supposed to be leftovers, but we grilled a whole chicken instead.  So, I'll be using leftover grilled chicken in this pasta dish.

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Grilled Pork Loin Chops w/ mixed herb chimichurri, sweet potato foil packets & grilled yellow squash.
I’m using basil, cilantro, oregano, and thyme from my garden for the chimichurri, which will also double as a marinade for the pork.  I’ll post pics and talk more about chimichurri later this week.

Saturday:  This is our Cheat Day!  Woo hoo!  It’s the perfect day for a cheat day too because we have a birthday party to attend in the morning (my husband will not be able to resist birthday cake) and a Memorial Day Shinn-dig at our friends, The Shinn Family (I will not be able to resist chips & dip).  Did I mention I am making a Banana Split Pie to contribute to the party???  This is my new recipe for the week, and I will gladly post pics and let you know how it turned out. 

Sunday:  Grilled Garlic-Ginger Chicken w/ BBQ corn on the cob & confetti potato salad
The marinade for this chicken is garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and OJ.  The confetti part of the potato salad is just small chopped bits of veg throughout including carrot, scallion, and red bell pepper.

Now tell me what's cooking in your kitchen this week or send me a favorite recipe of yours to try!  If you ever have any questions regarding anything on my menu, please ask me!

Foil Packet Potatoes & Vegetable Kabobs

Let's talk super easy side dishes.  These are my go-to side dishes when my husband is grilling outside.  They are so easy and always tasty.  For the potatoes, I just add whatever I happen to have on hand—bell peppers, onions, garlic, herbs; and the same goes for the kabobs.  Thursday’s menu of halibut and couscous was out because the seafood shipment was late at my store so I went with grilled chicken sausages, foil packet potatoes, and vegetable kabobs.

For these particular potatoes, I used red potatoes, garlic, and rosemary.  I sliced the potatoes and left the garlic and rosemary whole.  Cut a large piece of aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Pile on potatoes and other ingredients along with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, ½ tsp paprika, salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil or you could add a couple pats of butter. 

Toss all the ingredients to together and wrap into a packet.  Depending on the width of your potato slice, it should take about 30-40 minutes.

For the kabobs, I used bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms.  After skewering them I just hand them over with a small bowl of Italian dressing and a basting brush.  They get brushed with the dressing while they’re grilling. 

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

One of my very favorite combinations is chocolate & banana.  My mom used to make us a scrumptious chocolate adaptation of old-fashioned banana pudding.  Instead of using banana pudding and vanilla wafers, she would use chocolate pudding and chocolate wafers with sliced bananas and that combination was oh so yummy!  That was the inspiration for this dessert...thanks mom!  When I was trying to think up recipes to teach at my Desserts Cooking Class last week, I chose this pie because of its versatility and because it just happens to have every quality I desire in a dessert---chocolate, rich, and creamy!

1-9 oz sleeve chocolate wafer cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, small pcs
¼ C cornstarch
¼ t salt
½ C + 2 T sugar
3 C whole milk
4 egg yolks
3 bananas
1 C heavy cream
Cocoa for dusting

Heat oven to 375. 

In food processor, pulse chocolate cookies to fine crumbs.  Add butter & pulse to combine.  Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of 9-in pie plate.  Bake until crust is set and fragrant, 10-12 min.  (When I made this pie for my desserts class, my store was out of chocolate wafers so I just used 1/2 box of chocolate grahm crackers and this worked out wonderfully.)

Meanwhile, melt chocolate over double boiler or you can use the microwave.  There should be melting directions on the package.  (In our desserts class, we actually added 2 T peanut butter to make a chocolate-peanut butter-banna pie...oh yeah I know it sounds evil and it tastes like a sin too!)  ;-)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, salt, and ½ C sugar.  Add milk, and whisk until fully incorporated.  Now whisk in egg yolks over medium-low, whisking often, bringing mixture to a simmer; this will take about 15 min.  Once it comes to a simmer whisk continuously until it thickens; about 2 min more.  Remove from heat & whisk in chocolate until fully incorporated.  (This is the point where the versatility of this pie comes into play.  You can make this pie any flavor.  You could add a fruit puree to make it a fruit pudding or just vanilla extract to make it vanilla pudding or butterscotch or peanut butter chips instead of chocolate.  The possibilities are endless! One of my friends in the desserts class made vanilla pudding and used it for strawberry shortcakes for her daughter's graduation party...sounds scrumptious!  Check out the pic below.)

Pour half of the chocolate pudding into the crust.  Cut bananas in half lengthwise and arrange them cut side down across the pie.  Top with remaining pudding.  Place plastic wrap directly onto surface.  My set up very quickly and was ready after a couple of hours, but this could take 4 hours up to 1 day to set. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Menu #2

Happy Mother’s Day!  I’m not going to get a chance to post my weekly menu tomorrow because I’m working at the winery.  It’s going to be 90 degrees with 900 reservations!  Mother’s Day has to be the absolute busiest day for restaurants and wineries.  I honestly think it’s because dads and children are in charge of taking care of it all; and come on let’s face it, it’s easier for them to just make a reservation at mom’s favorite place. 

Last week’s menu was pretty much on queue except for there was no homemade pizza on Friday because I was exhausted from working at the winery, so we got Mexican take-out instead.  The grilled turkey got moved to Sunday so when I get home from work there will be a yummy turkey dinner waiting for me…hopefully!  J

This week’s menu and the menus for the next month are part of our new “diet.”  I’m not a really good dieter, especially when I’m working in a restaurant, but I found this new plan that sounds very reasonable.  The basics of it are more lean protein and healthier carbs.  I chose this plan because it’s a lot of what we eat anyway but just less portions.  Also, did I forget to add you get 1 “cheat” day a week!  The plan also includes 2 snacks a day and the snack choices include a glass of wine or a beer…best diet ever!!!   Our goal is to lean up before we head on our family vacation to Maui at the end of August…so here we go!
Monday:  Summer Chili over steamed brown rice
(The chili will have leftover turkey with onion, bell pepper, corn, tomatoes, & white beans)

Tuesday:  Whole-Wheat Pasta w/ turkey & spinach

Wednesday:  Leftovers

Thursday:  Italian-Style Halibut Packets over whole-wheat couscous
(The halibut is cooked on the grill in foil packets with tomatoes, olives, olive oil, basil & oregano.)

Friday:  This is my cheat day because I’m teaching a Desserts Cooking Class, and how the heck am I supposed to diet at a dessert class?!?!   So it’s chocolate-banana cream pie, strawberry-mascarpone granita, and individual berry crumbles for dinner…yay!!!  Hubby & son will probably have mac n cheese or chicken nuggets with fries.  J

Saturday:  Santa Maria Tri Tip, baked potato w/ Greek yogurt and sautéed mushrooms
(The tri-tip marinade is my brand new recipe this week.  I got it from a magazine interview with Zac Efron.  I guess his dad used to make it all the time and it's one of his favorite childhood food memories, so I'll let you know what we think.  The marinade consists of salsa, homemade BBQ sauce, pickled jalapeno juice, & dry mustard.)

Sunday:  Leftovers

Now tell me what's cooking in your kitchen this week or send me a favorite recipe of yours to try!  If you ever have any questions regarding anything on my menu, please ask me!

Peas & Carrots Risotto

Let’s talk risotto!  People seem to be a little intimated by risotto, but it really is quite simple.  The key to risotto is stirring frequently during the cooking process which gives the dish its delightfully creamy texture.  It certainly does not need to be constantly stirred but it does need frequent stirring.  Arborio is typically used in risotto because it goes through less milling, which allows it to hold onto more of its natural starches.  The frequent stirring causes friction between the grains and this releases those starches.  Also since liquid is being added a little bit at a time at fairly high heat, a nonstick skillet is helpful to prevent any sticking.  I am sharing with you one of our family-favorite risottos:  Peas & Carrots Risotto.

Peas & Carrots Risotto

4 cups chicken stock
2 T olive oil
½ onion, small diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, small diced
1 ½ C Arborio rice
Salt & Pepper, to taste
½ C white wine
2 T butter
½ C Parmesan Cheese
1 C frozen peas

Warm the chicken stock in a pan over medium heat.  You just want to keep the stock warm but you don’t want it boiling so that it doesn’t all vaporize away. 

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high.  Add the onion and carrots and cook until onion starts to turn translucent.  At this point, add the garlic and rice.  Stir it around to get well-coated by the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add the white wine and stir letting the wine just bubble away. 

At this point you can start adding the warm stock, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently.  When the stock is just about evaporated, add another ladle.  Keep on with this rotation and start tasting about 20 minutes into cooking, but it could take up to 30 minutes. 

Keep in mind you want a bite to the rice so it will taste a little firmer than regular steamed rice.  It should have a creamy texture to it…not soupy but not dry either.  When it’s all ready, turn off the heat and add the butter, cheese, and peas.  Mix until well incorporated. 

Voila…Peas & Carrots Risotto! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mango Salsa

Let’s talk mangoes, in particular mango salsa.  I love fruit salsas with seafood; they just compliment each other so well.  My favorite of the fruit salsas is definitely mango.  Last night’s fish tacos would have been so boring without it!  

When shopping for mangoes, you want one that is firm yet slightly soft to touch.  Mangoes have a way of letting you know when they’re ripe with their fruity aroma.  The color should be yellow, red, or orange; green indicates unripe fruit.  You can refrigerate a ripe mango for up to 4 days.  If you run into a bunch of unripe, green mangoes but the sale is too good to pass up, then just place them in a brown paper bag for a few days and they’ll ripen right up.   

Mango Salsa:

1 mango, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 green onions, sliced
1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno, minced
juice from 1 lime
dash of salt

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let's get started!

Menu #1 

Monday:  Breakfast for Dinner:  Pasta Frittata w/ fruit salad & garlic wheat toast
(I'm using leftover pasta from last week, which was just whole wheat penne with a basic marinara sauce & I'm also using up any fruit leftover from last week for the fruit salad.)

Tuesday:  Fish Tacos w/ mango salsa, calabacitas, & pinto beans
(Calabacitas is a Mexican-style veg side dish that includes zucchini, peppers, corn, onions, & cheese.  For the pinto beans, I make a large batch in my crock pot and then freeze in small bags so I can just take it out and thaw whenever I want.)

Wednesday:  Panko chicken cutlets w/ peas & carrots risotto

Thursday:  Leftovers
(We'll probably have a little fish & chicken leftover along with calabacitas & beans, so we'll make tostadas with everything)

Friday:  Chicken Sausage, Bell Pepper, & Mushroom Pizza w/ chicken nuggets

Saturday:  Grilled BBQ Turkey w/ mushroom gravy & smashed red potatoes
(This is my new recipe this week...grilled BBQ turkey!  We have a big turkey in our freezer taking up room from this Fall, so we're taking it out and grilling it.  I'm using a Bobby Flay recipe, and I'll take pics & let you know how it turns out.)

Sunday:  Rachel sandwiches w/ broccoli slaw & sweet potato fries
(A Rachel sandwich is related to the Reuben sandwich.  The Reuben is corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and 1000 Island dressing whereas the Rachel is turkey, slaw, Swiss cheese, and 1000 Island.)

Now tell me what's cooking in your kitchen this week or send me a favorite recipe of yours to try!  If you ever have any questions regarding anything on my menu, please ask me!