Friday, May 29, 2009


Did you ever just have a craving for something that came on all at once and had to be satisfied ASAP? That's how it was last weekend when I started thinking about a great curried chicken salad sandwich I had at a now defunct cafe. I'm not really a big fan of curry and I eat almost no Indian food, but there it was. I wanted to recreate that lovely chicken salad I'd had down to the contrast of smooth dressing and crunchy chopped nuts.

Though I find it agonizingly slow, I hopped on to Food Network's site and decided that Tyler was my man for the job. Up popped a very simple recipe for curried chicken salad sandwich with almonds and raisins. A quick peek into the larder assured me that I had everything but the raisins. No problem--dried cherries would not only do, they'd be even better.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe to make the salad more healthful and would tweak it again in the future by decreasing the amount of lemon juice. That said, it was a delicious salad, filled with contrasts, and was as satisfying over lettuce as it was as a sandwich.

Serves 4
1 tbs olive oil (really, Tyler, 3 tbs is way more than you need!)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup light mayonnaise (Tyler used 1/2 cup of the regular)
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 lemon juiced (I'm very strong; maybe I squeeze every last drop; it was too much)
1/4 cup chopped, blanched almonds, toasted
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (I was out of raisins)
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium high heat (I use my Circulon, nonstick skillet in the oven; I simply wrap the handle in aluminum foil). Sprinkle the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Put them in the pan in a single layer and brown for 2 minutes on each sie. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until the chicken is just cooked through--12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Chop the cooled cooked chicken and put it into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss (I mixed them in a measuring cup, then added the dressing to the chicken). Season to taste.

I love Tyler's recipes because they are straightforward, but the taste is usually there. With a little tweaking, they can even be healthy.
If you haven't already done so, please visit Tyler Florence Fridays for the weekly round up. This site, hosted by Debbie of Kahakai Kitchen,Megan of My Baking Adventures , and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies is a great site to pick up some great new ideas to answer that age-old question, "What's for dinner?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Summer means salads, but salads generally mean mayonnaise, something I've never been fond of eating (thank goodness there's one high calorie thing I dislike!). I was very pleased to find this alternative in my Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. Like most WW recipes, if you don't tell, no one will know. The dressing is absolutely delicious; the salad is best served at room temperature; and, you can feel virtuous because you're getting in your veggies, legumes, and good fats. It doesn't hurt that the salad is yummy either. Leftovers, if you have any, taste even better because they have a chance to absorb the vinaigrette. Preparation time, including boiling the potatoes and steaming the green beans, is still under 30 minutes. I doubled the recipe and was very glad I did.

Serves 4
3 tbs Balsamic vinegar
1 tbs dry white wine
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (more to taste)
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs canola oil
1 large scallion, finely chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 lb new or small red potatoes, cooked and cooled (skins on), then quartered1 1/4 cups fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces and steamed until crisp-tender
1/2 cup red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, wine, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the olive oil and canola oil a little at a time, whisking constantly. Mix in the scallion and walnuts.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, green beans, and kidney beans. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature about 1 hour. Toss again before serving.

Each serving has just 3 WW points. With the addition of some protein, this could be a main dish lunch or dinner.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I have to admit that I made this recipe for one reason only--to make meatloaf in a crockpot. I happen to have a newfound respect for meatloaf and have included other recipes for it in earlier posts. This meatloaf was special not only because it took 5 minutes to throw together, then cooked in a crockpot for a few hours, but also because it is a turkey meatloaf from Weight Watcher's Everyone Loves Chicken cookbook. At a scant 3 points per serving, this is a great meal when you've had a splurge at lunch or when you want to spend a few more points on your sides. In fact, with the meatloaf I made the most delicious cauliflower-broccoli latkes.

I must give credit to Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once. While surfing the food blogs this morning, I happened upon her site and saw her recipe for cauliflower fritters. I happened to have picked up a bag of broccoli and cauliflower florets this weekend and, knowing I had a very low points entree, I decided to make a variation of her fritters. Haalo's measurements were metric, so I found an online converter and took care of that. I also substituted shredded part skim mozzarella for mozzarella cubes and chicken stuffing mix--I was out of seasoned breadcrumbs. To fry the batch of 20 latkes, I used 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Though delicious, we had a dozen leftover (sadly, I limited myself to 3). These I froze for a future dinner; I'm sure they'll reheat beautifully.

BBQ-glazed Turkey Meatloaf - 6 servings (3 WW points each)
1 1/4 lbs ground extra-lean turkey breast
1/3 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup (1 oz) reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbs ketchup
2 tsp packed brown sugar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp spicy brown mustard

Fold a 24 inch length of aluminum foil in half lengthwise and fit it into the bottom and up the sides of a slow cooker insert. (I just had to rinse it out afterward; what a pleasure!)

Put the turkey, bread crumbs, cheese, onion, egg, oregano, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Shape the mixture into a loaf and place it on the foil in the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook until the juices run clear or an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees--I cooked it for 3 hours on high and it was perfect.

A half hour before the meatloaf is done, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard and spread it over the meatloaf, then finish cooking.

Lift the meatloaf out using the foil. Cut into 6 slices.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Latkes - Makes 20 small latkes
1 lb broccoli-cauliflower florets
3 large scallions, chopped
3 oz self-rising flour
3/4 oz grated cheese
fresh parsley, chopped
2 eggs
2 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
vegetable oil, for frying

Saute the scallion in a teaspoon of oil. Set aside to cool. Steam the vegetables until fork tender. Set aside to cool. When vegetables are cool, use a couple of forks to break them into small pieces.

In a large bowl, mix the scallions and vegetables. Add in the parsley. In a second bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the flour and grated cheese. Add this batter to the vegetable mixture, then stir in the shredded mozzarella. Season to taste.

Use an ice cream scoop to make your latkes the same size. Add 2 tbs vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry the latkes until crisp and brown on one side; turn over and do the same. Remove excess oil by blotting with paper towels. Hold the latkes in a 250 degree oven until all are fried and ready to serve.

We ate ours with a dollop of sour cream. The texture was incredible--creamy inside with chunks of the vegetable and crispy outside. Thank you, Haalo.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I've always thought Tyler was a hunk, but it's just recently that I've begun to appreciate his recipes. Right now I own just one of his cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. I've cooked several recipes from it, my favorite to date his recipe for spaghetti carbonara. Based on that success, I decided to try another of his pasta recipes, this one for baked penne with eggplant and sausage. Let me say upfront that Tyler's recipe used rigatoni, but Ronzoni Smart Taste doesn't produce that shape, so I used penne rigate. Tyler's recipe called for Italian pork sausage; I substituted Italian turkey sausage. Tyler suggested fresh mozzarella; I used part skim shredded. Finally, Tyler's recipe called for large amounts of olive oil. I reduced those amounts greatly.

I love eggplant, which is strange since I loathe zucchini in all its forms. Put eggplant together with mozzarella and you're already halfway home. This recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 (we ate it for 2 nights and still had leftovers), so it's a great dish to serve a crowd as a first course. I would definitely make it again, but with some other changes which I'll discuss at the end.

Kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
5 links turkey sausage
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lbs), skin on, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28 oz) can peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes
leaves from a small bunch of basil
1 lb penne
1 lb mozzarella (I used shredded, part skim, not the fresh Tyler called for)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Set aside a 9 X 13 inch baking dish.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the sausage, about 2 minutes per side, until browned, but not cooked through. Place in the baking dish.

Turn the heat to medium, add another small amount of olive oil and add as many eggplant pieces as fit in a single layer. Sprinkle well with salt and saute until browned on each side, about 7-8 minutes. Add more oil if you need to do a second batch. Place in the baking dish.

Add another small amount of olive oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes.

Place the whole can of tomatoes in a large bowl and use your hands to break them up. Add to the onion garlic mixture along with the basil and simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Chop the sausage into bite-sized chunks. Add the tomato sauce and rigatoni along with the reserved pasta water and half the mozzarella. Combine well. Top with the other half of the mozzarella and all of the grated cheese. If you wish, drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and golden.
Even with my substitutions and the reduction in the amount of olive oil, this was a very satisfying and flavorful dish. Here are the changes I'll make next time:

  • brown the sausage in the oven--no oil required--OR
  • remove the sausage from the casings and saute in a small amount of oil
  • decrease the amount of mozzarella to 8 oz instead of 16 oz
  • roast the eggplant with a small amount of olive oil drizzled over all

There is no reason why this dish required the copious amounts of olive oil Tyler called for. Those 2-counts and 3-counts and 1/3 cups really add up, especially since eggplant is like a sponge and soaks up all the oil.

Please be sure to visit the wonderful blog hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, Megan of My Baking Adventures, and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. The site is Tyler Florence Fridays and you can see a round-up of Tyler recipes there every Saturday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I've been making the same sour cream coffee cake since 1975 when the recipe was given to me by my friend Norma, a wonderful cook. I didn't think it was possible that there was a recipe that was as good or even better. It was. Since I've been having such good experiences with Ina Garten's recipes, I decided to give her recipe for sour cream coffee cake a go. The results were an incredibly moist, delicious cake with a beautiful crumb. I got the recipe online and many of the reviewers noted that they'd doubled the streusel. Knowing my "audience," I did as well. This is not a difficult cake to make nor is it terribly time-consuming. Along with her French apple tart, it made for a lovely ending to Mother's Day brunch.

Serves 8 - 10 (or Larry!)

12 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

FOR THE STREUSEL (I recommend doubling this):
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tbs real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or bundt pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it. Sprinkle with half the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan and spread it out. Top with the other half of the streusel. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate.

For the glaze, whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary to make the glaze runny. Drizzle over the cake with a fork or spoon.

Monday, May 18, 2009


In my newfound zest for lemon (a former English teacher can never resist a pun), I have been actively searching out recipes that include this ingredient. I've also been eating more artichokes these days--though not stuffed artichokes, one of my faves--rather the more calorie-conscious artichoke hearts. To keep my focus on healthy eating, I try to use one or more of my Weight Watcher cookbooks each week when I plan our dinners. This week I turned to Everyone Loves Chicken, an apt choice since we consume so much of this protein. It was the first time I'd made this dish and it proved to be super fast and delicious served over whole grain pasta. I just cannot eat the whole wheat stuff, but Ronzoni's Smart Choice, which is loaded with fiber, does not have that dreadful texture and taste that characterizes whole wheat pasta. When you rush in the door and want dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, this is your go-to recipe. At just 7 points per serving (that's with 1 cup of pasta!!!), it is a smart choice indeed. If you really want to shave time off your cooking time, be sure to do a mise en place--gather all your ingredients together and do the slicing and dicing, then it's a simple matter to sautee and serve.

Serves 4
4 (4-5 oz) thinly sliced chicken cutlets
1 tsp dried oregano (I also used chopped fresh oregano for garnish)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (I've been using a peppercorn mix lately)
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and halved
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs chopped parsley

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt, pepper, and oregano. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Remove to a plate, cover and keep warm.

Add the broth, artichoke hearts, olives, and lemon juice to the skillet, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until slightly reduced. Stir in the parsley and spoon the sauce over the chicken.

**If serving over pasta, slice each breast on the diagonal, then spoon sauce over pasta and chicken

This simple, skillet dinner had the bright flavors of the Mediterranean. The briny flavor of the olives alongside the tartness of the lemon juice and the acidity of the artichoke hearts belied the ease with which the dish came together. While I love the lemon artichoke chicken recipe posted earlier, this dish has a completely different, though equally good, flavor.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


She's done it again! She who? The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. She's created the most incredible--and incredibly easy--French apple tart you can imagine. If you want to bake something that looks like it took you all day--but didn't--and looks like something you'd buy in a fancy French bakery, this is it. Another winning recipe from her Back to Basics cookbook, this recipe gives you the option of making your own crust or using frozen puff pastry, the latter being my choice. I brought this to a Mother's Day brunch and was very pleased with the results.

Serves 6 - 8
1 pkg. Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheets (you use 1 of the 2 sheets)
5 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbs cold, unsalted butter, small-diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly (or warm, sieved apricot jam)
2 tbs Calvados, rum, or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat (I used the latter).

Roll a sheet of the puff pastry slightly larger than 10 X 14 inches. Using a ruler and small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stem and core using a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4 inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I didn't use the ends to make the arrangement look prettier, as Ina recommended.) Sprinkle with the entire 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. The apple juices will burn in the pan, but the tart will be fine. (I used a baster a few times to redistribute the juices.)

When the tart is done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick. Serve warm or room temperature, but serve within 2 hours. It WILL get soggy, so don't leave any leftovers.

Monday, May 11, 2009


With this dish, Tyler has "made his bones" with me. There's nothing like a well-prepared dish of spaghetti carbonara to make you swoon. This is a dish best NOT ordered in most restaurants. What I've been served has too often been spaghetti in a pool of Alfredo sauce with some bacon added. Yuck...and yuck again. Since Larry doesn't like it when I grill the waiters, I've just about stopped ordering this dish out. When I do make it at home, I generally use a lightened version, which will almost satisfy. This recipe is not lightened and it won't leave you with that almost satisfied feeling. This dish, simple though it is, is full flavored and in your face. I could eat it at least once a week, but won't. In fact, it's ironic that it's appearing here today since I am recommitting to lighter eating in honor of bathing suit season creeping up on us. I did, however, enjoy it immensely. A caveat: spaghetti carbonara just doesn't reheat well, so invite some friends or plan on eating very heartily.

Serves 4

Kosher salt

extra virgin olive oil

8 bacon slices, sliced crosswise into thin strips

1 onion, chopped

4 large eggs

6 tbs heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 lb spaghetti

cracked black pepper

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

Heat a 3-count of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion and cook slowly (Tyler says 7-8 minutes; I say go for the carmelization and take 25 minutes)--the onion will be carmelized and the bacon crisp. While that's going on, crack the eggs into a big bowl. Add the cream and cheese and whisk. When done, scrape the bacon and onion with the cooking fat into the bowl (told you it isn't lightened).

Throw the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook until it's al dente. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the bowl with the egg and bacon.

Drain the spaghetti, add it to the bowl, and give everything a good toss. Invert a plate on top of the bowl and wait 5 minutes (it will be hard to do).

Remove the plate, toss in some salt, pepper, and parsley, and prepare for the divine!!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009


It's only recently that I've begun to appreciate Tyler Florence. For a while, I considered him Food Network's "Pretty Boy," but didn't really find his food all that.... During the winter when I could not longer walk outdoors and began to use my treadmill, I started walking during his program. A few of the dishes I watched him prepare made me take a second look and I ordered one of his cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. I have to be honest--I've liked about half the recipes I've tried. The other half have been just okay. Since we eat a lot of main dish salads in the summer, I decided to give this recipe a try. It took very little time to prepare and was enjoyable. I would make it again (all right, I gave it an 8 out of 10), though I doubt it will be included in the permanent rotation. I switched out watercress, replacing it with baby spinach.

Serves 2-4
1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
8 fresh sage leaves (I sliced into a chiffonade)
1 pint yellow grape tomatoes (you can use red cherry or a mix)
1 - 14 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbs red wine vinegar
10 oz washed baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on half of a large baking sheet. Spread the bacon slices on the other half. Drizzle with olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and spread the sage leaves over all.

On another baking sheet, drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place both baking sheets in the oven. Roast the tomatoes about 12 minutes (until they burst) and the shrimp and bacon for 12 - 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, place the spinach and cannellini beans. Scrape the tomatoes and juices on top and toss to mix. Scrape the bacon and shrimp and any juices on top, drizzle with the vinegar and more olive oil. Toss to mix--this will wilt the spinach. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

I will admit that this is a beautiful dish and one that is healthy as well.

Monday, May 4, 2009


When you eat chicken as much as we do, you are always on the lookout for a new way to prepare it. Lemon chicken isn't a new concept nor is chicken on the grill. What takes this dish to a whole new level is Ina Garten's inimicable use of herbs and marinade. Having eaten this wonderful dish in The Palm restaurant in East Hampton, the Barefoot Contessa decided to try to replicate it at home. The results were a succulent, fragrant chicken that tastes as delicious the next day in a salad as it does right off the grill. The recipe comes from her Back to Basics cookbook.
Before the chicken goes into the marinade, the backbone and breastbone is removed so that it can be grilled flat under a weight (I used my old cast iron panini press; a brick wrapped in foil would work as well). I'm including directions for this as well. Don't shy away from this step. My knife skills could be better, yet I had no problem with this deboning. I used a combination of chicken shears and chef's knife.

1 (3 1/2 pound) chicken, flattened (see note below)
Kosher salt
2 tsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup good olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tbs minced fresh rosemary leaves
freshly ground pepper (1 tsp)
1 lemon halved

Stand the chicken upright and cut out the backbone with a large kitchen knife or shears. Spread the chicken open on a board with the skin side down. Cut around and remove the breastbone with a boning knife. Sprinkle the chicken all over with the salt.

Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and pepper in a glass dish (or, as I do, in a gallon-sized freezer bag). Add the flattened chicken and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on a preheated grill set to low. Weight it down and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the underside is golden brown. Turn the chicken skin side down, weight it down again, and cook for another 12-15 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Place the lemon halves on the grill for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, the cut the chicken into quarters, and sprinkle liberally with salt. Squeeze the grilled lemon over the chicken before serving.

Of course a larger chicken will require additional cooking time. I deboned the chicken this morning and prepared the marinade then as well. It took very little time. I love to use the grill since it cuts down on the pots and pans I'll have to wash.

I think we need to devolop something akin to a batting average for the cookbooks we use. I have to say Ina is batting pretty close to a thousand on this one.