Sunday, April 26, 2015

Baja Grilled Flank Steak Salad

Baja Grilled Flank Steak Salad
SkinnyTaste Cookbook


1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder or cayenne pepper

1 lb. flank steak, trimmed of all external fat


2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced scallions
1 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper


2 medium ears fresh corn or 1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels
1 large head romaine lettuce cut lengthwise into 4 wedges
1 medium Hass avocado, thinly sliced
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese

For the Spice Rub: In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, salt, cumin, paprika, oregano, and chipotle powder.

Generously season each side of the steak with the dry rub and, using your hands, rub it into the meat. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

For the Lemon-Lime Dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, olive oil, scallions, cilantro, salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium-high (or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat).

For the Salad: If using fresh corn, grill the corn, turning often, until the corn is charred on all sides, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Increase the heat of the grill or grill pan to high. Grill the steak for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or longer to your taste. Remove the steak from the grill, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and set aside.

Thinly slice the steak 1/4 inch thick, across the grain and at an angle to the cutting board, then cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

Put a romaine wedge on each of the serving plates, top each with one-fourth of the grilled steak. Dividing evenly, top with the avocado, corn, tomatoes, and cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salads.

Serves: 4

My Notes:

Flank steak has a tendency to get tough very quickly, so most recipes call for some sort of a marinade to help break down the connective tissues. This recipe could benefit from some sort of a lime-based marinade (perhaps substituting the Asian seasonings with a little bit of cumin and cayenne pepper), as it was a little tough, in spite of my usual cooking methods for this particular cut of beef. I never cook it for more than 10 minutes total (5 minutes on each side). Also, prior to grilling the steak, I allow it to sit out on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes, and I also let it rest for 10 minutes after grilling. If you decide to use a marinade, I recommend that you dry the steak with paper towels before applying the rub.

With this salad, I chopped the romaine into bite-sized pieces rather than four individual wedges. I used regular tomatoes, cut into wedges.

The cotija cheese and lemon-lime dressing create a wonderful flavor with the other ingredients. I recommend doubling the dressing. You'll want to have more for your leftovers.

We ate less than half of the steak with our two salads, so I saved the rest and used some for steak & cheese quesadillas, later in the week.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Slow-Cooker Mexican Pork Carnitas

Slow-Cooker Mexican Pork Carnitas
from Skinnytaste Cookbook

2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
6 garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (or more if you like it spicy)
1  1/4 tsp. ground cumin, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Season the pork all over with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add the pork, and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the dry adobo rub:

In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the cumin, the garlic powder, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper.

Using a sharp knife, insert the knife into the pork about 1 inch deep and insert the crushed garlic, rubbing any excess over the pork. Rub the pork all over with the dry adobo rub.

Pour the chicken broth into the slow cooker and add the bay leaves, chipotle peppers, and the pork. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. After 8 hours, transfer the pork to a large dish. Discard the bay leaves. Shred the pork using two forks and return it to the slow cooker with the juices. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin and the 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Serves 10

My Notes:

This recipe made enough for 6 tacos and 2 large quesadillas. If I'm going to make this for a group, I'll definitely want to use 4-5 pounds of pork. The roast I bought was 4 pounds, so I cut it in half and put it in the freezer for future use. I was worried that 2 pounds wasn't going to be enough for a couple of meals, but there was plenty. However, I think next time, I'll just double the recipe and freeze the cooked meat for tacos, quesadillas and burritos. 

I didn't use the garlic and the meat still tasted flavorful.

I've never cooked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and I wasn't sure how spicy they would make the meat, so I decided to just use one pepper. I didn't dice it up, either; just set it in the broth and stirred it around. I'm not sure if I'd bother with it next time around. Maybe some cayenne added to the rub would be sufficient for a little kick.

After shredding the pork, I decided to throw it in a hot skillet to make the meat a bit more crispy. I didn't have to add any oil or fat since the pork is already a little fatty. 

Serve with warm tortillas, shredded jack & cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, guacamole and sour cream. Don't forget the Negra Modelo!

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

Crock Pot Carne Asada Tacos/Machaca

A couple of years ago, I discovered a new (to me) food blog to which I quickly became addicted. Jessica Merchant's hilarious blog, How Sweet It Is, is not only full of hilariously snappy posts, but it's also filled with photos that are more than just enticing, they're seductive. It didn't take long for me to add dozens of recipes to Evernote, which of course I've completely ignored and forgotten. Somewhere along the line, I decided to cut back on my blog-hopping and stopped following HSII. Apparently I've missed a lot. Merchant now has a cookbook (Seriously Delish) AND a new baby. If only I had more hours in my day to read all the blogs I so enjoy.

I eventually did try one of the recipes I saved from How Sweet It Is and it's now a family favorite. I try to make it at least once a month, since we really love it for the leftovers. More about that in my notes.

Crockpot Carne Asada Nachos
(or in this case, tacos)

1.5 lb. flank steak
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. of your favorite beer 

1 ripe avocado
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, torn
1 bag of tortilla chips
8 oz. of monterey jack cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup sweet corn (cooked or fresh)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt

In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin. Whisk it together to create a rub, then evenly pat it all over both sides of the flank steak. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add olive oil. Add the flank steak and sear it on both sides until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the steak and place it in the crock pot. Cover it with beer, then cover the pot and cook the steak on low for 6 hours.

After 6 hours, remove the steak from the liquid and place it on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain, cutting it into thin strips--it may be tender from the crock pot and fall apart, and that is fine.

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice, half of the cilantro and a pinch of salt. Set it aside. 

Layer the chips on a baking sheet or dish. Cover them with half of the cheese, then add the corn and the steak. Add the res of the cheese. Turn the broiler in your oven to high, and place the nachos underneath, cooking only until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the nachos and immediately cover them with the tomatoes, guac, sour cream and remaining cilantro. Serve!

Yield: Serves 4 appropriately, 2 obnoxiously [Jessica's note, not mine.]

My Notes:

I've made the meat portion of this recipe a few times, but have only made the nachos once. We prefer ground beef and pinto beans for our nachos and this seemed a little too dry. However, this recipe makes the most flavorful meat for machaca, so I continue to use it, especially since it's super easy in my slow cooker. However, flank steak is very fickle, and even in a slow cooker, it tends to dry out. From now on, I'll use the rub and beer, but I plan to buy a chuck roast instead of a flank steak. I want this meat to be super tender!

My slow cooker has a browning feature, so I skipped the step with the skillet and did it directly in the pot. 

I used a full bottle of Shiner Bock rather than just the 8 oz. the recipe calls for. It seemed silly to throw out the extra 4 ounces and since it was a workday (and quite early in the morning), I couldn't bring myself to drink the leftovers.

Check out Jessica's complete post for this recipe. She's a hoot!

And now for the leftovers:

Cut the cooked beef into bite-size chunks. 

Saute mushrooms, bell peppers and onions (however much you like and all diced) in a large skillet with either butter (approximately 1-2 tablespoons) or olive oil. Add beef and cook until sizzling hot.

Beat 4-6 eggs in a medium-size bowl, add to skillet and scramble until just cooked through.

Enjoy with steamed tortillas, avocado slices, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes and salsa.

Even the leftovers of the leftovers are great! If we have anything left, I usually put some in a flour tortilla and make a breakfast burrito to take to work the following day.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions & Bacon

I'm not a huge fan of pork. Don't get me wrong. I love bacon (thin and extra crispy!) and ribs have become one of my favorite go-to crock pot recipes. But pork chops or pork tenderloin? Not so much. However, my husband loves pork chops and while I try to cook as many recipes that we both enjoy, every now and then I try to fix something that he loves that I'd just as soon skip.

While perusing America's Taste Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution, I stumbled upon this recipe and thought it might just be a winner. Forgetting that I already had plans for the night (margaritas and Mexican food with two co-workers!), I decided to go ahead anyway and make the recipe for my husband. The verdict? He said it was awesome. We had the leftovers a couple of days ago and I thought the pork was a little dry. I'll definitely give it another chance when I can actually eat it on the same day it's prepared.

Smothered Pork Chops with Onions and Bacon

4 oz. bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
3 onions, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 tsp. brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves
6 (7-oz.) bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick, sides slit to prevent curling
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium over medium heat until crisp, 5-7 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat left in skillet.

Add onions, 1 teaspoon sugar, garlic, and thyme to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and well browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining tablespoon sugar, soy sauce, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 6 to 8 hours on low or 3 to 5 hours on high.

Transfer pork chops to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon 1 cup sauce over chops and serve with remaining sauce.

Serves 6

My Notes:

Since I leave for work at 6:45 a.m, I prepped everything for this recipe the night before. All I had to do in the morning was heat the refrigerated bacon/onion sauce in the slow cooker before adding the chops.

I never bother to chop bacon. I simply fry it as I normally would and then break it into pieces or crumble as directed.

3 onions seemed like an awful lot, so I went with 2. 

I always use low-sodium soy sauce.

I didn't have any fresh parsley and I don't think it was missed.

I served this with rice for the first meal and mashed potatoes for the leftovers.

Next time, I'll probably just use 3-4 chops instead of 6.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Slow-Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde

Last weekend I shared a recipe (Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken) from my newly acquired copy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook. This week I bring you another slow-cooker recipe from the same cookbook. It was was even better than last week's soup! I think I'm on a roll here! I love Gina Homolka's gorgeous cookbook, which is full of beautiful photographs of most of her recipes. The ingredients are items I would normally stock in my pantry, and the directions are uncomplicated and, so far, quick & easy. This is my kind of cookbook!

So here's the soup/chili. Doesn't it look delicious?! My house smelled so good when I came home from work. Even better, there wasn't much left to do other than grate a little bit of cheese, slice an avocado and crack open a Shiner. I made a simple cheese quesadilla to serve on the side, but a green salad would be good (and healthier), too.

Slow-Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili Verde
from The Skinnytaste Cookbook

1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped cubanelle pepper
3 medium tomatillos, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 (15.5-oz.) cans Great Northern or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7-oz.) can fire-roasted chopped green chiles
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno pepper, fresh or pickled (remove seeds if you prefer mild heat)
2 1/2 cups Swanson 33% less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions or red onion, for garnish

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, then the onions and cubanelle pepper. Cook, stirring, until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, garlic, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of the cumin and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker and add the beans, green chiles, jalapeno, chicken broth, chicken breasts, cilantro, oregano, chili powder and bay leaves.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Remove chicken from the broth, shred with 2 forks, and return to the slow-cooker.

Season with the salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, or to taste, and discard the bay leaves. To serve, ladle the chili into soup bowls and top with the scallions.

Yield: 6 servings

My Notes:

I cheated. I had a 16 oz. jar of La Victoria Thick 'n Chunky Medium Salsa Verde in my pantry and after reviewing list of ingredients on the label, I knew it would be an easy substitution for the onion, cubanelle pepper, tomatillos, garlic, fire-roasted green chiles and jalapeno. It was definitely a time-saver to skip all that chopping and the soup turned out with just enough heat that I knew I hadn't compromised the recipe for our taste buds.

I skipped the additional cumin and kosher salt in the last step and didn't notice the lack of seasoning. 

As pictured, I topped my soup with sliced avocado, a few sprigs of cilantro, grated Colby-Jack cheese and a few tortilla chips. Light sour cream would also be a good addition.

According to the author, this freezes well. We wouldn't know. We had it for dinner and again for lunch the next day. There's very little left to freeze.

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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Rustic Italian Gnocchi Soup

Rustic Italian Gnocchi Soup
from The Skinnytaste Cookbook

1/2 cup cold water
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup water for soup
14 oz. fresh sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
4 1/2 cups Swanson 33% less sodium chicken broth
1 cup fat-free milk
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
2 large roasted red bell peppers, jarred or homemade
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 (16-oz.) package of gnocchi
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, make a slurry by whisking together 1/2 cup cold water and the flour.

Heat a large nonstick pot over medium heat. Add the sausage (casings removed) and cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces, until cooked through and slightly browned, 4 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup water, broth, and milk and bring to boil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, Parmesan rind (if using), roasted peppers, and black pepper and return to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, slowly stir in the slurry, and continue stirring while the soup returns to a boil.

Add the gnocchi, spinach, and basil. Cook until the gnocchi starts to float to the top and become puffy (or according to the gnocchi package directions) and the soup thickens. Season with black pepper to taste. Discard the Parmesan cheese rind. Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls and sprinkle evenly with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 8

My Notes:

I used Italian pork sausage and 2% milk. So much for skinnytaste. ;)

I cooked the sausage much longer, probably 10 minutes. Once it was cooked, I dumped it in a colander to drain off the fat (into a separate bowl) and then blotted the cooked meat with paper towels, before returning it to the soup pot.

I didn't use the Parmesan rind, although I'd like to try it next time.

I used jarred roasted bell peppers and need to remember to cut them into bite-sized pieces next time I make this soup.

Neither of us cared for the gnocchi. We decided, after removing the remaining gnocchi, to use potatoes (peeled, quartered and parboiled) for our leftovers. Much better!

I didn't bother chopping the spinach leaves.

I didn't have fresh basil, so I threw in a tablespoon of dried.

Next time around, I will use 2 stalks of celery and 2 carrots.

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Slow-Cooker Santa Fe Chicken


1 (14.4-oz.) can Swanson 99% fat-free chicken broth
1 (15-oz.) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (8 oz.) frozen corn kernels
1 (14.5 oz. can) diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the stew:

In a slow-cooker, combine the broth, beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne. Season the chicken with salt and lay it on top. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.

Thirty minutes before serving, remove the chicken, shred it with two forks, and return it to the slow cooker.

Serve in soup bowls and top with scallions and cilantro.

My Notes:

I only used 1 cup of corn, 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper and substituted petite diced tomatoes for the diced tomatoes with mild green chiles.

This is also very good ladled over rice. I want to try it in burritos and as nacho topping, as well.

Additional toppings: 

Sour cream, diced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe courtesy of The Skinnytaste Cookbook

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trisha Yearwood's Strawberry Salad

We eat a lot of salads around here, so when I discovered this recipe as I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, I knew it would be a great addition to our weekly menus. It's super easy to put together and has been a big hit with our friends and family.

Strawberry Salad

1 package ramen noodles, crushed, flavor packet discarded
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and dried
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
1 pint strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix the ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, almonds and melted butter. Transfer to a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Tear the lettuce and combine with the spinach, strawberries and Parmesan cheese in a large salad bowl.

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Combine the garlic, salt, paprika and oil. Add to the sugar-vinegar mixture. Mix well and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle the crunchy topping over the salad greens and toss the salad with enough dressing to coat the greens.

Serves 4 to 6

My Notes: Any lettuce combination will work and 1-2 tablespoons of poppy seeds make a nice addition to the dressing. I've also included sliced cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes and avocados in the salad. Add some chunks of roast chicken and you've got a meal. Oh, and there's plenty of crunchy topping for a couple of large salads (as long as you hide it from your family!).

I'm trying to convince myself that the healthy nuts, spinach and berries outweigh the unhealthy butter, oil and sugar. So far, that's working. ;) 

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

Chicken Paillard (Tyler Florence)

I love to cook, but after a long day at work (9 hours on my feet!), the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And this summer, it's actually been too hot to do much grilling. So instead of sweating over a hot grill, I turn to my quick and simple recipes, such as Tyler Florence's Chicken Paillard. He writes: 

I make this for dinner all the time. It's simple, easy to put together, and on the lighter side—perfect for a night when you want something delicious that's not too heavy. Pound the chicken between sheets of plastic wrap to keep your cutting board clean, and try to use organic, free-range chicken whenever you can.

I couldn't agree more! I discovered this favorite in the Tyler Florence Family Meal cookbook, which as previously noted, is a fantastic cookbook. There are wonderful blurbs and photos for each and every recipe, as well as anecdotes about Tyler's career as a chef in Mill Valley. I've made this particular recipe a few times and wasn't very impressed with the Creamy Parmesan Dressing, so instead, I've modified it to enjoy with a simple Caprese Salad. I usually wind up with an extra chicken breast, which is excellent diced up and served on top of a tossed green salad the following day for lunch.

Chicken Paillard with Salad Greens and Creamy Parmesan Dressing

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 8 ounces each
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying (I use olive oil)

Place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a mallet or rolling pin to a uniform 1/2-inch thickness. (I use a large zip-lock bag rather than the plastic wrap.) 

Prepare a breading station, placing the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, in one shallow bowl; the eggs in another; and the panko (also seasoned liberally with salt and pepper—you should be able to see the seasonings) in a third. 

Coat the chicken first in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the panko, shaking off the excess after each step. 

Place the breaded breasts on a plate and refrigerate for 10 minutes or so to dry the crust; this will ensure there is less moisture in the coating and less chance it will crumble when you cook the chicken.

In a large skillet, heat 2 inches of olive oil (interesting that he says olive oil here, but not in the list of ingredients) to 350 degrees (F). 

Add the chicken breasts and fry for 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Transfer the breasts to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place each warm, crispy chicken paillard on a plate and top with half the salad. Serve with a wedge of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Serves 2


As I mentioned above, I chose not to use the Creamy Parmesan Dressing (which you can find here, if you wish). I served a simple Caprese salad on the side, which is quite similar to Florence's salad of mixed greens, grape tomatoes and bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls).

I don't use a recipe for my Caprese salad. However, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has one that looks pretty much like what I make, although for this meal, I place the tomatoes and cheese on top of a bed of greens. Go here for PW's recipe.


Paillard is an older French culinary term referring to a quick-cooking, thinly sliced or pounded piece of meat. In France, it has been largely replaced by the word escalope. (Wikipedia)

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cowboy Lasagne (Trisha Yearwood)

Rod and I have been fans of Trisha Yearwood's music for many years and when I first saw her cookbook, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical. I assumed a celebrity cookbook would be full of pretty pictures (it is), but an overall a disappointment when it comes to the actual recipes (is isn't). I've sampled a half dozen recipes and am pleased to report that this is a splendid cookbook! And it's my favorite kind: Full page photos for almost every single recipe, accompanied by interesting anecdotes and tips from Trisha and her sister and mother.

Last week I decided to try Trisha's Cowboy Lasagne. It's been ages since I've made lasagne, mainly because I've never been quite satisfied with my own recipe. And, back when I was first learning to cook, lasagne always seemed to be an involved and complicated recipe. Now that I've been cooking for over 30 years, I've learned the importance of multi-tasking in the kitchen. Lasagne is really a very simple recipe, as long as you have time for the preparation. (It's certainly not something you want to try to throw together after work!) And Trisha's recipe is worth the time. Rod and I thought it was the best we'd ever tasted. Yes, we went back for seconds! 

Cowboy Lasagne

Trisha's Note:

In my introduction to Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen, I mentioned that Garth had recently asked me about trying to create a heartier, meatier lasagne, and we started experimenting. Here's what we came up with. Remember those old commercials that said, "How do you handle a hungry man?" Well, here's how! Serves 12

1 pound lean ground beef, chuck or round
1 pound sage-flavored sausage
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sliced pepperoni
1 16-ounce can tomatoes, diced or stewed
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
16 ounces lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large, heavy skillet, lightly brown the ground beef, sausage, onion, and garlic in the oil. Be sure to keep the meat chunky, not finely separated, while cooking. Drain the meat. Add the pepperoni, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, and oregano. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Cook and drain the lasagna noodles according to package directions.

In a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan, spread 1 cup of the prepared sauce. Alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, ending with  sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbling. Allow the dish to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Cut the lasagne into 3-inch squares and serve.

My notes:

I used Sweet Italian sausage and eliminated the pepperoni altogether.

I accidentally bought a 28-ounce can of tomatoes, which I used, so I reduced the amount of water by 1/2 cup.

I allowed the sauce to simmer for a couple of hours rather than 30 minutes.

I only used half a package of lasagna noodles (9 rather than 18).

I brought the water to a boil and began cooking the noodles prior to preparing the sauce.

I saved a little time by using some of the precooked sausage I had stashed in the freezer for our weekly pizzas.

After draining the cooked noodles, I placed them on a large piece of aluminum foil to cool.

I find it very easy to spread the ricotta cheese on the cooled noodles while they are still on the foil. The noodles stick to the foil nicely so they don't slide around while trying to smooth out the ricotta and yet are easily peeled away from the foil when ready to transfer them to the prepared dish as I'm ready to assemble the lasagne.

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Weeknight Bolognese

I love pasta and was looking for something quick and easy to throw together after a long day at work. Tyler Florence has a delicious recipe for bolognese, but it's fairly involved and one that I'd rather make on a cold, rainy weekend. However, Ina Garten's recipe from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? was just what I had in mind.

She writes:
Everyone needs a quick dinner they can throw together during the week. Bolognese is a thick meat sauce that is a staple of northern Italy. It's always made with beef, tomatoes, and cream and I've added oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil to give it lots of flavor. It's the perfect stick-to-your-ribs dinner on a cold night.

I say it's perfect for any night. Even a hot summer night!

2 Tbsp. good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 lb. lean ground sirloin
4 tsp. minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1-28 oz.  can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb. dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.

While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Serves 4 to 5

My Notes:

Since I used ground chuck instead of lean sirloin, it wasn't necessary to use the olive oil to brown the meat. After it finished cooking, I drained the fat before adding the spices.

I used a medium-sized stockpot rather than a skillet.

Rather than open a can of tomato paste for just a couple of tablespoons, I use this:

Even though it's double concentrated, I still use the specified amount.

I reduced the amount of salt and pepper by half and omitted the red pepper flakes.

I forgot to toss the sauce with the Parmesan and pasta before serving, but it didn't matter. My husband and I both loved the flavor of this bolognese, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to try it Ina's way.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Beef Bourguignon (Tyler Florence)

Extra-virgin olive oil
4 bacon slices
4 lbs. beef chuck or round, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Cognac
1 bottle dry red wine, such as Burgundy
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 T. tomato paste
Bouquet garni (1 fresh rosemary sprig, 8 fresh thyme sprigs, and 2 bay leaves, tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups pearl onions, fresh or frozen, blanched and peeled
1 pound white mushrooms, stems trimmed
Pinch of sugar
2 T. unsalted butter
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Serve with buttered egg noodles

Serves 8 to 10

Place a large, heavy pot over medium heat and drizzle in a 1-count of olive oil. Fry the bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes, then remove it to paper towels to drain, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. When cool, crumble the bacon and set aside.

Working in batches, add the beef to the pot and brown well on all sides over high heat, about 10 minutes per batch. Season each batch with a generous amount of salt and pepper and transfer to a plate while you brown the remaining beef cubes.

Return all the beef cubes to the pot and sprinkle with the flour, stirring to make sure the pieces are well coated. Pour in the Cognac and stir to scrape up the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook over high heat until the Cognac has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Pour in the red wine and beef broth; then add the tomato paste and bouquet garni. Stir everything together and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the liquid has thicken a bit, about 15 minutes, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.

Add the garlic, pearl onions (blanched & peeled), and mushrooms to the pot along with the sugar (to balance out the acid from the red wine). Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer 30 to 45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender. Discard the bouquet garni, then stir in the butter to give the sauce a rich flavor and beautiful shine. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and the reserved bacon before serving.

My Notes:

I didn't have any Cognac, so I added an extra 1/4 cup of beef broth.

I used a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I didn't bother tying the bouquet garni with twine--just dropped the herbs in the pot. (Julia Child agrees with me on this one!)

I substituted a regular onion (rough chop) for the pearl onions.

The first time I made this dish, I served it with buttered noodles. Not bad, but I didn't love it. The second time I decided to skip the noodles and add potatoes to the pot. However, I didn't want them to overcook and fall apart, so I par-boiled them separately (peeled and cut-up) and added them to the pot a few minutes before serving.

Now here's my biggest adjustment to Tyler's recipe: The meat needs to cook much longer than the 2-2 1/2 hours he's suggested. I recommend at least 3-4 hours. And, if possible, cook it a day in advance. The flavors are amazing on the second day!

I have another recipe for Beef Bourguignon here. They're almost identical!

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