Sunday, September 25, 2011

Southwest Bell Pepper Salad

Several years ago I joined a weight loss program.  I was relatively successful during the time I followed the program, but what I truly got out of the program was a different way to eat and look at food.  During the program, I scoured cookbooks looking for recipes I could make on Sunday and portion up for the week ahead. I have about 4 recipes I still regularly make, well variations on them. The recipe below is one “salad” I make often.  I eat it by itself and also use it as a dressing on top of a bed of lettuce. 

One of the best dinners I made during my time on the diet program, was to take a large tortilla, lightly wet in and drape it over a large inverted Pyrex (oven safe) bowl, and bake in a 350°F preheated oven, for about 6-8 minutes (until tortilla is crisp) creating a tortilla “bowl”.  I then heated a cast iron and “squished” the beans and added a little pico de gallo to the hot beans to create nice re-fried beans.  I place a little “re-fried beans” in the bottom of the bowl.  Place some chopped lettuce on top of the beans, then top with the Southwest pepper salad.  This really was a quick and easy dinner, which impressed my friends.

Southwest Bell Pepper Salad

1/3 C olive oil
½ C white balsamic vinegar
2 T. dried oregano
½ t salt
½ t pepper
½ t ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 orange or yellow pepper, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
½ large onion, diced (I used sweet, but red, yellow or white work fine)
1 can no salt added corn
1 can no salt added diced tomatoes (or 1 large fresh tomato, diced)
1 can black beans
6 oz shredded cheese ( I used Mexican blend)

Mix together dressing, set aside

Wash and dice all peppers, celery and onion.  Drain corn, tomatoes and black beans, rinse.

Mix together ingredients and coat with dressing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I work in a grocery store.  Ok, so not just a grocery store, a multi-department store.  Ok, so not just a multi-department store, the busiest store in the Kroger chain of 1500+ stores…anyhow, I digress.   

Working in a grocery can be a very bad thing for a foodie.  You see, part of my job is to walk every aisle of the store and look for items that are out of stock.  In doing this, I mainly look at “gourmet” items that our warehouse cannot stock, due to the small quantities we sell (well, most stores).   

One of the sections that has been particularly of interest to me has been the Indian section.  One of the items is Tikka Masala, from Patacks (you know the one Aarti-Parti does commercials for), well, if you know me, and my stand on salt/sodium, you know that the first thing I do is rotate the bottle to see the sodium content.  Well, I quickly put that Tikka Masala back on the shelf, and walked away, although still intrigued.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a TV show where they makeover a bar, and one of the entrees was Tikka Masala Skewers. Again, intrigued, as I have never had Tikka Masala, but I do love a good curry.

Then last Saturday, I woke up early and was checking my email, when I received one from Foodista talking about tasty sauces for chicken, so when I opened it, one of the items was Tikka Marsala…fate?  I think so…. So I headed to the gym to think about food and recipes while running on the elliptical trainer.  When I was finished my workout, I decided that we were having Tikka Masala, or at least a version of the classic recipe. Instead of cooking the chicken pieces in the sauce, I grilled them on skewers and make the sauce separately.  Then combined them when the chicken was cooked.

Chicken Tikka Masala

3 chicken breasts cut into bite size cubes, (skewer with zucchini and onion)
2 zucchini thickly sliced
1 onion, thickly cubed

      Spice Mix:
2 teaspoon garam masala (spice mixture)
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼  teaspoon cardamon
½  teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoon paprika

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil or grape seed oil
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tomato chopped
1/2 cup water
1 small container plain yogurt (about ½ cup)
Fresh coriander for garnish
Salt to taste


In a small bowl mix all the spices including the ginger. Set aside.

Using ½ of the spice mixture, coat the chicken, allow to marinade for 1 couple of hours.  Skewer the chicken with the zucchini and onion. Grill on low until the chicken is completely cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute. Stir in the spices and allow the flavors to infuse.  Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chopped tomato and pour in the water. Simmer and season with salt to taste. Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and continue to simmer 5 minutes. (if you heat too high, the yogurt will separate, so keep the heat VERY low!)

Place Chicken and vegetables over basmati rice and top with tikka masala sauce

Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro

Adapted from Foodista

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ghost Brownies

Last night we were invited to a game party.  I decided we needed a treat to help us keep up our energy to make it through 13 rounds of dominoes.  BROWNIES! Something sweet and chocolaty, but not just plain brownies! Taking a cue from chocolate muffins they used to make at work a few (like 20) years ago, mmmmuahahahaha.....

Ghost Brownies


    ½ cup butter or margarine
    1/3 cup top quality Dutch processes cocoa
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¾ cup white chocolate chunks


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease one 8-inch square baking pan.  In a medium saucepan melt butter over low heat (or melt in microwave in a one-quart container).  Remove melted butter from heat, add cocoa, and stir until well-blended.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla, flour and salt.  DO NOT OVERBEAT.  Fold in white chocolate chunks.  Spread in prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until wooden toothpick tests done.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pasta

We all have dreams of our career, and life.  My dreams always have something to do with cooking.  When I moved out of my parents’ house, I really started cooking with some intensity.  But it was a few years before I came into my own with cooking.  I realized cooking was so easy for me.  To get home from work, and pull out a few ingredients to create a great dish, quickly, was really my niche.  As I have mentioned before, my cousin really helped to bolster my love of quick dishes, and increased my interest is publishing what I cook.  We would always talk about recipes and other foodie type thing.  She mentioned to me, “Have you watched Rachel Ray?” I said, no, but I think I’ve seen her cookbooks at the store.  So the next time I was at work, I stopped by the cookbook section, and checked out her cookbook(s).  All I could think was “That B*&^H stole my idea”, it took me a couple of years to get over that though, and once I embraced  her style of cooking, watched her show and heard her story, I changed my thought to, “WOW, we’re so alike!”.  And I became an avid watcher of her show(s), reader of her magazine, and follower of all things RR, with the exception of her cute-isms (still can’t do EVOO, sorry).

While making the weekly menu, I wanted something different, something I hadn’t made before, or haven’t made in a while.  Then I remembered an episode of the Rachel Ray show, where she was cooking for the US Ski team.  Everyone loves CHICKEN WANGS, especially a certain member of my household, so this recipe is a “sure thing” to be a hit. The most important thing to remember when deciding to make this recipe is to prep EVERYTHING before you start cooking.  It goes VERY quick, so there’s no time to stop and prep it up.  One note of caution, I used a little too much hot sauce for me, so be careful with the hot sauce, if you don’t like heat.  You can always add it to each individual dish if more heat is needed.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta
                Inspired by a Rachel Ray recipe
    2 tbsp olive oil
    2 lbs (about 4 to 6, depending on size) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bits
    1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
    1 large onion, chopped
    3 ribs celery, finely chopped
    5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
    1 tablespoon smoked paprika
    1 bay leaf
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 cups chicken stock
    ¼ to ½ cup hot sauce(such as Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce, depending on how hot you like it (be careful, this can get REALLY HOT)
    1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
    1 lb small pasta ( I used Barilla Mini Penne)
    ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
    2 scallions, root ends removed and thinly sliced

Yields: 6 servings


To make cutting the chicken easier, place it into the freezer for about 15 minutes until it firms up slightly but isn’t frozen through. This will let you cut it up quickly into small pieces.

Preheat broiler and place a large pot of salted water over high heat to bring up to a boil for the pasta.

Place a large pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chicken bits and brown them, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, bay leaf and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the veggies, stirring frequently, until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the hot sauce and crushed tomatoes, and bring up to a boil. Simmer the mixture for 8-10 minutes to let the flavors come together and thicken it slightly.

While the mixture is simmering, toss the pasta into the boiling salted water and cook until al dente according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss it into the meat mixture, then transfer everything to a casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top and place it under the broiler until the cheeses have melted and the top is golden brown, 2-3 minutes.