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Friday, September 21, 2012

Baked Chicken with Eggplant, Zucchini, & Tomato Ragout

I  had to come up with something relatively quick for dinner last night because my daughter had ballet/tap class in the afternoon and I didn't have a lot of time for dinner.  This is what I came up with - baked chicken with eggplant, zucchini, & tomato ragout, quinoa, and mixed greens salad with tomatoes, avocado and goat cheese.

For the chicken dish, I first diced the (1) eggplant, (1/2)onion, (2 cloves) garlic, (2 small) zucchini, and (4) roma tomatoes.

Next, I seasoned 4 chicken breasts (cut in half) with salt and pepper.  I heated an oven safe pan over high heat and added enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Once the oil was hot, I added the chicken breasts and browned (5-6 minutes) each side.

I then removed the chicken, added the eggplant, a couple springs of rosemary and thyme, onion and a little more oil.  I lowered the heat a little and let that cook until the onions were translucent.  I then added the zucchini and half a cup of white wine.

Once the wine reduced by half, I added the tomatoes and some salt and pepper.  I then placed the chicken on top of the veggies and put the whole thing in the oven until the chicken was cooked through (about 15 minutes, but check the temp to make sure it's 160). I also poured myself a glass to drink while I finished preparing dinner.  (can't let it go to waste!)

Once the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

I also prepared quinoa and salad to go with dinner while the chicken and ragout was cooking.  Here is the finished plate - not bad for a quick weeknight meal.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cedar Plank Salmon, Mushroom Risotto, & Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

My aunt and uncle have been visiting us for the past fews days and last night was our last meal together before they had to head back to Illinois.  We made cedar plank salmon on the grill, mushroom risotto and green beans with caramelized shallots.  We also had a lovely bottle of Parsonage Chardonnay that my aunt picked up during our wine tasting trip to Carmel Valley.

As grillmaster, my husband was charged with preparing the salmon, which he placed on cedar plank that had been soaked in water.  He simply dressed it with salt, pepper and lemon juice and lemon slices.  We ran out of propane and had to finish the cooking process by broiling it for a second.  They came out perfectly - nicely flaky with a yummy cedar and lemon flavor.  Well done honey, well done!

I made mushroom risotto by first sauteing 2oz of diced onions with 2 cups of mushrooms in a tablespoon each of oil and butter.  After they cooked for a few minutes, I added the arborio rice and stirred well then added 2 oz of white wine.  Once the wine cooked down, I added a ladle of warmed chicken stock.  At this point, I just let the stock cook until almost gone, then add another ladle at a time and repeat until the rice was done (about 25 minutes).  I finished it off with a tablespoon of butter and an ounce of shredded Parmesan.

I also prepared green beans with caramelized shallots.  I did most of the work on this dish about an hour before I started the risotto.  I blanched the green beans in boiling, heavily salted water for about 5-6 minutes, then moved them to a bowl of ice water.  I drained them and them placed them in the fridge until time for dinner.  I then thinly sliced about 5 or 6 shallots and heated a pan with a tablespoon of butter.  Once the pan was nice and hot, I sauteed the shallots for about a minute and then lowered the heat and let the shallots caramelize.  It took about 20 minutes or so.  The trick is not to stir the shallots too frequently or else they don't have time to get that beautiful brown color and yummy taste.  When the risotto was almost done, I heated the caramelized shallots back up with a tablespoon of butter and then added the green beans and heated through.

I also made a quick salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, avocado, herbs from my back yard (rosemary and parsley) and salt and pepper.

It was such a great meal and great end to our wonderful visit!  We were all sad to say goodbye but we will cherish our memories from their visit.  We look forward to their next visit to us, after we move to Rio.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wonderful time in Watsonville

It's been a wonderful weekend!  We have a aunt and uncle visiting us for a few days and have had a wonderful time showing them Monterey and all our favorite places.  We were also fortunate enough to catch up with an old friend this weekend.  He invited the lot of us (5 all together) to his family's home in Watsonville. This home is amazing and I wish I had more photos to share.  This house has been in our friends family for 5 generations!!  It is on a gorgeous piece of land and is home to an amazingly kind and generous family.

When we first arrived, we were given a quick tour of the property - the beautiful rose garden, the gorgeous flowers and plants and the redwoods.  Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!!

Next, we grabbed some bowls and headed down the road to pick blackberries!  My daughter loved it until she discovered the first thorn and then she decided to stick with picking flowers (aka weeds).  After the group of us (our 5 plus another couple and our dear friend) finished with picking berries we headed back to the house for some snacks and drinks.  We had nice, cold Pinot Grigio and some yummy Meunster cheese, fresh raspberries, raw peas and carrots, crackers and hummus. We spent some time catching up with old friends and making new ones, while sitting on the back porch taking in the beautiful surroundings.  There was also a trip down to see the goats and chickens and to collect some eggs.  It was a lovely time!

Next, it was time for dinner.  Oh my, can this lady cook!!!!  We had the most delicious creamy polenta (drizzled with pesto), barbequed tri tip and skirt steak, salad and dessert.

Oh dessert was heavenly!  She took our blackberries and made a wonderful blackberry crisp that was to die for!!! There was also apple pie but I only had eyes for the blackberries.

Unfortunately, after dinner we had to load back into the car and head home - work and school Monday morning.  We have a couple more days with our family and then they will be leaving us too.  It's been a great few days and while I'm so happy to have spend such a wonderful time with both friends and family, it's always sad to say goodbye to them!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hummus- a jack of all trades

I love hummus! I could probably eat it every day of my life and not get bored with it.  It can be used in so many different ways.  It's great as a condiment on sandwiches (SO much better than mayo or mustard), it's good mixed into scrambled eggs, and of course as a dip for crackers, chips, carrots, broccoli, celery, any veggie really.  Oh, and I also LOVE it with grilled meats- chicken, beef, lamb...YUM!

I start with a basic recipe and then just experiment. For the basic recipe, I use two cans of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed), 1/3 cup of tahini, juice of two lemons, 2-4 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper and about a 1/3 cup of olive oil.  I put everything in the food processor except the olive oil.  While the processor is going, I add the oil to it.  That's the basic recipe.  Now, from here I start tasting (big delicious spoonfuls) and add whatever else I have lying around.  Today I added chipotle seasoning and Hungarian paprika because I was feeling a little spicy :)  Sometimes I just add extra lemon or extra garlic.  I've also made a nice batch with roasted red bell pepper.  One day, I'm going to take the time to caramelize some shallots and throw in but haven't gotten around to that yet.

Before serving it, I drizzle a little more olive oil on top and dust with paprika.  Yummy and delicious and so very easy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Apple pecan stuffed Cornish hens with roasted cauliflower and couscous

Last night I made frozen pizza for dinner so out of guilt, I had to make a nice dinner tonight.  I decided on Cornish game hens with roasted cauliflower (purple because it's my daughters favorite color), couscous and salad.  For the stuffing, I diced a leek and two stalks of celery and sauteed it in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Next, I added a diced Granny Smith apple, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  I let that cook a couple more minutes and and then added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of chopped pecans and removed it from the heat.

Next, I got the butter ready - a tablespoon of softened butter mixed with 2 tablespoons of chopped dried cherries, mixed together to form a paste.

My sous chef (taking notes on her 'recipes')

Then came the fun part - letting my daughter stuff the hens!

She stuffed the two hens and we had a bit of leftover stuffing (I used the leftover stuffing in the couscous, yummy). I rubbed the cherry butter under the skin of the breasts and on the outside of the hens and put them in a 400 degree oven and let them cook about an hour (until they were 165 degrees). I let them rest for 5 minutes and then served them up.

While the hens were roasting, I tossed the purple cauliflower with salt, pepper and garlic powder and drizzled them with olive oil.  I threw them in the oven and let them cook the last 20 minutes.  I also made the couscous and added the leftover apple pecan stuffing to it.  Really great meal!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back RIBS!

Isn't this a beautiful sight?
Here is a great meal to make on a weekend when you have a little more time. I prepared everything the same day but you can make the barbecue sauce and marinate the ribs overnight, splitting up the amount of time/work over two days.  For the sauce, I combined:
1 cup ketchup
1 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each of - garlic powder and onion powder
and brought it to a boil then reduced it to a simmer and allowed it to cook for about 45 minutes (stirring occasionally).  Once it gets nice and thick, it's done.

 I then took about 4 1/2 lbs of ribs and cut them up into several 
portions (6 ribs per portion), I coated each portion of ribs with barbecue sauce and wrapped them tightly in foil.  Once they were all wrapped up, I let them sit in the frigde for a few hours (overnight is best but I was not that prepared).  I then placed them on baking sheets in a preheated 300 degree oven and let them cook low and slow for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  These ribs will make your whole house smell AMAZING!!!  Meanwhile, I had my husband (because he's the grill master at our house) heat the grill up and start the corn.  When the ribs were done in the oven, I removed them from the foil, brushed them with more barbecue sauce and put them on the grill for a couple minutes on each side.  Best. Ribs. Ever!

To accompany the corn, I roasted a jalapeno (seeded and ribs removed) on the grill, then diced it up and added it a softened stick of butter, added the juice of lime and rolled it up plastic wrap until hardened. Yummmm!

I also made some southwestern corn muffins (from a mix), a salad (from all the veggies I had in my fridge) and some baked potato fries (from a bag).  This meal was so delicious my daughter asked for it breakfast the next day :)


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