Friday, April 29, 2011


Grilled Green Shrimp
These herbaceous shrimp can be cooked indoors on a nonstick, ridged grill pan, as I did, or on an outdoor grill for an easy, delicious dinner that is friendly on your waistline.

4 servings
3/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

To prepare the marinade, combine the parsley, basil, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper in a zip closed plastic bag. Add the shrimp. Squeeze the air out of the bag, turn to coat the shrimp, and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Spray a ridged, nonstick grill pan with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, grill the shrimp until they are just opaque in the center and lightly browned on the outside, 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve alongside grilled vegetables or over angel hair tossed with olive oil.

N.I. (for a serving of the shrimp only): 125 cal, 3 g fat, 202 mg chol, 451 mg sod, 1 g carb, 0 g fiber, 22 g
Served with a cup of angel hair pasta and some roasted cauliflower, this was a quick and easy dinner. The combination of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and basil is a no brainer and I think I would try this again with grilled veggies that I'd marinated (separately, of course) in the same flavorful combination.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Chicken Basquaise

This is a lightened version of a classic dish from the Basque region (southern France and northern Spain). It is perfect for a weeknight meal, particularly if you chop the vegetables ahead of time, and uses a base of onions and bell peppers sauteed in olive oil until very tender. The recipe is from Best of Weight Watchers Magazine, but you'd never suspect it is healthy.

Serves 4
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the paprika, basil, salt, cayenne, and pepper. Sprinkle 1 tsp of the seasoning mix evenly over the chicken pieces and toss to coat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and swirl in the oil. Add the chicken and brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl.

Add the onion and peppers to the skillet and cook until the peppers are tender. Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and the remaining seasoning mix and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more.

Return the chicken to the skillet, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is heated through, about 10 minutes.

N.I.:  200 cal, 4 g fat, 66 mg chol, 227 mg sodium, 13 g carb, 3 g fiber, 28 g protein
Served over brown rice, this was a delicious and filling dinner. I had prepped the vegetables earlier in the day so it took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. After our vacation last week, it felt good to in control of our eating again, both in terms of choices and quantity. That said, I would make this dish again even if I weren't trying to shed a few pounds. It was that good.

Friday, April 22, 2011


General Tso's Chicken

The May issue of Food and Wine contained a recipe for DSO's favorite Chinese food, so what could I do? While very little frying goes on in The Food of Love kitchen, I put aside my prejudices for this one meal and was quite pleased with the results. I cut back on the sugar and the oil, in part for health reasons and also because I don't like sweet, greasy food and used chicken breasts instead of thighs since I had them on hand. As with most Chinese cooking, the key is in the preparation. Having everything chopped, diced, and measured out means dinner is on the table in under 30 minutes--it would be sooner, but that's how long the rice needs to cook. Here is the version I prepared:

1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 large egg white
1/4 cup plus 1 tbs soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 3 tbs cornstarch
3 - 4 tbs water
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tbs Thai chili garlic sauce or Chinese chili garlic sauce (this was nicely spicy; adjust to taste)
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs vegetable oil plus more for frying (about 3 tbs)
2 tbs very finely chopped fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
steamed broccoli and white rice as accompaniments

In a medium bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil, the egg white, 1 tbs of the soy sauce, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs of the cornstarch; add just enough water to make a thick paste; add the chicken, stirring to coat and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the chili garlic sauce, sugar, and remaining 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 1 tbs cornstarch.

In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tbs of oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture and add it to the pan, cooking until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining oil until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, one piece at a time, turning once or twice until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain each batch on paper towels, then add to the sauce along with the scallions. Cook until coated and serve immediately with rice and steamed broccoli.

It's only recently that I've begun to enjoy spicy foods and that's a good thing because this was spicy--not overly so, but it had a nice kick. I confess that I enjoyed the dish immensely. The coating was beautifully browned and retained a bit of crunch even after it was added to the thick, sweetly tangy sauce. The ginger and garlic, along with the scallions, added several layers of flavor. There were plenty of leftovers for lunch, but only because we are careful to eat moderate portions. I will probably never order this dish out--the heavy batter and orange sauce are real turn offs--but I will make this again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


(Disclaimer:  this dessert is WAY better than this photo looks!)

Most Mexican restaurants have a limited dessert menu:  flan, fried ice cream, and the occasional leftover piece of tres leches cake. When I decided to serve a Mexican-themed dinner for family, I decided there had to be something different, preferably not a heavy dessert, to end our meal. Browsing through, I found just the thing:  sopapilla cheesecake pie. A sopapilla is a kind of fried pastry. They're often sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. The recipe sounded incredibly easy and had over 400 reviews, most of them positive. I decided to cut the recipe in half since there were just 4 of us and the recipe made 12 servings. The original recipe for 12 servings is here. Mine follows (NOTE:  I made a few changes as well as cut down the butter and sugar as was recommended in many of the reviews and added an egg):

6 servings
1 - 8 oz pkg Neufchatel cheese
1 egg
1 can crescent rolls
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs honey

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Beat the cream cheese with 1/3 cup of white sugar, the egg, and the vanilla until smooth.

In a 9X9 glass baking dish, pat one half of the tube of crescent rolls, pinching together the perforations. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture over this. Top with the other half of the tube of crescent rolls which you've already patted into a square 9X9 inches. Place the 1/2 cup sugar, the 1/4 cup butter, and the cinnamon in a bowl and use your fingers to work it into a "crumble." Spread evenly over the top layer of pastry. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the honey over the top. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
This is not rocket science, but I have to agree with the majority of the 400+ reviewers and say that this is a delicious and incredibly easy dessert. It IS sweet, even with the reductions I've made. If there is a bit of butter pooled on top when you take it out of the oven, spread it around. After refrigeration, it will just add to the yummy flavors. I'm not too proud to admit that this could easily become a favorite. Just don't tell anyone what the ingredients are!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I decided I was not going to miss posting with our new "mentor," Jamie Oliver, even if it means posting on a day I normally don't post. I confess that I do not own any cookbooks by Jamie nor have I ever watched one of his cooking shows in its entirety. I tuned in once or twice and we just didn't "click." More recently, I've seen and heard of his work to help reduce childhood obesity. Since I have great respect for my fellow bloggers in this club, I decided it was time to give Jamie another go. I went online and found a recipe for a pork pot roast and, after a few conversions from metric and a search to determine what a "knob" of butter is, I was ready to go. The recipe that follows has just a few small changes to reduce the fat and to contend with the lack of fresh figs in the market. It was indeed a "Happy Day" thanks to Jamie's fabulous recipe. I can't explain what happened to the photo of the sliced pork with the amazing onion and prune sauce, but you'll have to trust me that it was awesome.

Serves 6 - 8
olive oil
2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3- 3 1/2 lb loin of pork, boned, skinned, rolled, and tied
salt and freshly ground pepper
small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
3 T butter
9 prunes, pits removed (I used the ones in a jar)
6 oz Marsala wine
1 1/4 cups chicken stock

This method of cooking pork stops it drying out and keeps it juicy and soft. You also end up with a wonderful rich sticky sauce!

Preheat your oven to400ºF. Heat an appropriately sized casserole-type pan (I used my wonderful Dutch oven), add about a tbs of olive oil and sweat the onions and garlic gently until soft. Roll the pork in the seasoning and thyme leaves. Push the onions to one side of the pan, add a tbs of butter and brown the pork lightly all over.  

Stir the quartered figs into the onions, pour one glass of Marsala over the meat and drop in the rest of the butter. Tear a piece of greaseproof paper big enough to cover the pork comfortably, scrunch it up with your hands and run it under the cold tap. Unravel it and tuck it in the pot over the pork, figs and onions. This will help the pork steam as well as roast and keep it really moist and juicy.

Place in the hot oven. After 20 minutes, lift off the paper, turn the pork in the juices and add the other glass of Marsala. Replace the paper and cook for 25-30 minutes more (Jamie's recommendation of 30-40 minutes would have produced a dry roast in my oven). Check the pork is cooked, remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

While the meat is resting, finish the sauce by skimming any fat off the top, adding the chicken stock and simmering for 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and add the crème fraîche if using. Slice the pork as thinly as you want and serve with the delicious sauce.

Dear Jamie,
If this recipe is any indication, you and I will be spending some quality time together. Although I used my Dutch oven and could have simply covered the pork roast, I chose to follow your procedure and wet and crumple a piece of parchment paper to cover the roast during cooking. The roast was succulent and the sauce, which I reduced, was so flavorful. I especially loved the combination of red onions and prunes. There were far too many leftovers for the two of us, so I sliced half the roast thinly and froze that for sandwiches some night when I don't feel like cooking. The rest is standing by for an encore. This was a wonderful meal with some roasted brussels sprouts and some potato pancakes I had waiting in the freezer. I can promise we'll have another date very soon.
A Jamie convert, for sure,


Be sure to head over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other Jamie Oliver dishes are making the rounds this week.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Savoury pies that are eaten out of hand are a part of many cultures--Cornish pasties, Jamaican beef patties, Italian calzones, and, of course empanadas, a South American favorite.  A cousin of the sandwich, perhaps my favorite kind of meal, the meat pie is ubiquitous. While it generally has a pastry shell, it can be baked or fried giving you some room to make it a more healthful repast.

DSO's DD and her fiance were coming for dinner and I knew we all shared a love for empanadas. I decided to improvise based on a number of recipes that I've come across in the past. I also took a shortcut and used ready-made discos. Baking the empanadas cuts out even more work with no loss of flavor.

Servings: 20 empanadas
tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce or salsa
12 pimento stuffed olives, finely chopped
1 pkg. Sazon with Annatto
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground pepper
2 pkgs Goya discos, thawed

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add ground beef and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon (about 10 minutes). Add the chopped onion and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the tomato sauce, chopped olives, Sazon, garlic, oregano, and pepper and combine thoroughly. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool.

Place a heaping tablespoon in the middle of each disco. Use your finger to "paint" water all around the edges. Fold over and seal using the tines of a fork. You may freeze the empanadas at this point.

Place the number of empanadas you wish to cook on a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Use a pastry brush to brush olive oil over the tops of the empanadas. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 16-20 minutes. Serve with guacamole and crema.
Wow! These were really delicious! The addition of the olives was genius as they really amped up the flavor. I served these alongside my chicken taquitos and some homemade guacamole. A side dish of black beans and saffron rice, a couple of Corona lights, and we were golden.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I love the challenge of looking through the pantry and fridge and coming up with a memorable meal. Although we prefer dark meat poultry, I had a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer. A can of artichoke bottoms had escaped being stuffed, so I added those to the mix. Next were some baby bellas and and a couple of button mushrooms. My go-to meal at our current favorite Italian eatery is chicken Francese, so I thought I'd use some of that preparation. What follows is a Food of Love original.

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz each)
1 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup skim milk
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
3 tbs olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms (mix them up)
1 can drained artichoke bottoms, cut into bite-sized pieces
10-12 capers
3 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 scallions, chopped

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper for dredging the breasts. Mix the eggs, milk, and Parmigiano for egg wash. Dredge breasts in flour mixture, then coat in egg wash, and place in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, turn, then brown the other side (the chicken will NOT be cooked through at this point). Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Add the butter to the skillet and saute the mushrooms until nicely browned. Add the artichoke bottoms, capers, chicken broth, white wine and reduce heat to low. Place the chicken breasts on top, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the breasts over, replace cover, and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes longer, depending on thickness of breasts. Serve over rice or pasta and sprinkle with chopped scallions.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish. As I've mentioned, I prefer dark meat, but these breasts, which were thick-cut, were absolutely moist and juicy. I loved the combination of mushrooms and artichokes and confess to preferring the meatiness of the bottoms to the sometimes chewier hearts. The capers lent just the right amount of tartness and contrasted nicely with the buttery finish. I wish I had reduced the sauce further, but since we had brown rice for our starch it didn't matter as much as it would have had we eaten pasta. I will definitely make this again.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Perusing the March issue of Food and Wine, this recipe jumped out at me. I immediately clipped it and placed it in the "to do" file. Although I'd never think to serve sausage and peppers on a biscuit, the different take on this classic encouraged me to give it a try. The filling went together very quickly as did the biscuits. Using a jar of roasted red peppers further cut down the work.  Dinner was on the table in under 30 minutes.

Serves 4
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage, pricked all over with a fork
1 large roasted red pepper cut into 1/2 inch dice (jarred is fine)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and minced
6 scallions cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 tbs freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs cold buttermilk (make it by adding 1 tbs vinegar to milk)
1 tbs heavy cream (I used fat free half and half)
1 tbs freshly grated Asiago

Make the sausage filling:
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil, then add the sausages. Cover and cook over moderate heat until nicely browned and cooked through (about 10 minutes). Drain the sausages and cut into 1/2 inch chunks.

Transfer the sausage to a microwave safe bowl and add the roasted red pepper, sun dried tomatoes, scallions, olives, Parmigiano, and 1/4 cup of the Fontina. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Make the biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet (or use Silpat as I did). In a bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gently stir in the buttermilk until almost incorporated. Use your hands to gently mix the dough until blended.

On a lightly floured surface, pat out the dough to a rectangle about a 1/2 inch thick. Cut the rectangle in half, then in half again to make 4 biscuits. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Brush the tops with the cream, then sprinkle on the Asiago.

Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees, then turn up the oven to 400 degrees and bake 10 minutes more.

To assemble:
As the biscuits cool, heat the sausage mixture in the microwave. To serve, split each biscuit, top with 1/4 of the sausage, and sprinkle with the remaining Fontina.
It was incredibly difficult to eat just one of these sausage-and-Fontina biscuit sandwiches, though the pain was eased a bit by knowing I'd have one for lunch the next day. I can almost guarantee that you've never tasted anything like this before. Rendering the fat in the sausages is a favorite method of mine and one that I picked up from an issue of Food and Wine that dates back to the mid-70's. I still have the recipe, which happened to be for sausage and roasted peppers. The piquant flavor of the kalamatas alongside the spiciness of the scallions is smoothed out by the delicate Fontina. The biscuit crisped up nicely owing to the large pieces of butter scattered throughout the dough. One word of caution:  I served these open-faced since I prefer to eat my food, not wear it. DSO gave it two thumbs up, a vote he repeated several times as we ate. This ain't your mama's sausage and peppers, but it is a wonderful dish that will leave you wanting seconds and thirds.