Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taking it easy...

As you may have noticed, my kitchen has slowed down a bit this week. The reason is that I had surgery this past Wednesday and had my tonsils removed (tonsillectomy). So, for the past couple days I have been having a diet consisting mostly of creamy and mushy foods.
And even though it may not sound very delectable I am actually enjoying to have lots of pureed soups, pudding and ice cream, yes, because ice cream is definitely the best thing to swallow, cold stuff rules when you are in pain.
Boy, this thing hurts a lot, way more that I thought it would, so I have been taking it easy and resting as much as I can so I can get over with this soon and be back with full energy to the kitchen!
So, just a note to let you know why I might be a little absent these days, and I promise I will be back to talk about the yummy and colorful dessert pictured above that we made a while ago. Right now I will leave here the picture and see if any of my blog friends will be able to tell me what it is!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Here is a nice, simple and easy meal, perfect for when you want comfort food without much trouble at all: chop a few vegetables, season them, put on a casserole, add chicken breasts on top, season with a delicious infusion of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and lemon juice and bake the whole thing until all the flavors meld and your kitchen smell divine!!
Easy, right?! Yep, and this is how this dish turned out to be! Nothing fancy, or fussy, but as flavorful as could be.
My only change to this was that I used
Leeks instead of the fennel asked for in the recipe, as I just cannot stand fennel in any form (bulb, seeds, anise... yuck, no, fennel is not for me!).
Boy could I be happier to have changed that. The mixture of leeks and soft tomatoes together with the seasonings in the broth was incredibly good! The zucchini was soft and tender and chicken was perfectly cooked.
I really enjoyed this dish since, as I mentioned before, it was comforting and done with minimum effort!
The lemon-garlic-oil mix added to the top of the chicken subtly infused the brothy yumminess that was created in the bottom of the dish, which perfumed the entire kitchen and enticed our taste buds even before the dish was done... humm, good!
Serve this with rice as it helps to soak all the flavorful juices from the seasoned vegetables, making for an incredibly easy and tasty meal that I am sure you and your family will enjoy!

Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
(Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger's book The Food You Crave)

6 tomatoes
3 medium zucchini (½ pound each)
1 bulb fennel (I used 1 12 leeks)
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried

Preheat oven 350F.
Cut the tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and remove the seeds. Trim the zucchini and cut it in half crosswise and then cut each piece in half lengthwise once if the piece is thin and twice if it is thicker, so that the pieces are relatively uniform.
Remove the outermost layer of the fennel bulb and discard. Cut the bulb in half so that each half retains part of the stem end. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges so each wedge is held together by a little piece of stem. (I skipped the fennel and added two leeks which I trimmed, washed and thinly sliced into half moons)
Put the vegetables into a large baking pan. Toss them with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan with the vegetables.
In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Rub the mixture into the chicken in the pan. Season with a few turns of pepper.
Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then give the vegetables a stir and add the rosemary. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes more until the chicken is done and the vegetable are tender and beginning to brown.
Yield: 4 servings

Friday, February 15, 2008

Spiced Red Wine-Poached Pears

Sometimes, during the winter months it is a little harder to find desserts that I like and would satisfy all my "winter sweet-needs". First because all my favorite fruits are all out of season, and second because my favorite type of desserts are the creamy ones (like ice cream, panna cotta), but during the winter I feel really cold, so it is not always I am up for very chilly foods. It is usually something warm and comforting I am looking for.
Well, here is an example of how yummy, warm, and comforting winter fruit can get!
Spiced Red Wine-Poached Pears is another of Ellie's recipe and one that I really enjoyed! Nice and ripe pears are first poached in sweet red wine, as they become soft and infused with flavor you take them out of their wine bath and reduce the liquid to a sticky and flavorful syrup, which is then used to embellish your plate and taste buds!
The wine reduction almost look like chocolate syrup, doesn't it?! But its flavors are far more interesting and complex, offering just the perfect sweetness and pairing nicely with the soft cooked pears.
This is the type of dessert I would serve for company: it can be made in advance, looks pretty, is simple to make and the taste... if you like pears and wine flavored desserts, then this one is for you and your guests too!
So, here goes the recipe, and you know what, the syrup is delicious, but I bet this would be really good with some chocolate sauce too, and if served warm... humm, a scoop of ice cream would also probably be welcome, even with the winter cold!

Spiced Red Wine-Poached Pears
(Recipe by Ellie Krieger, from the book The Food You Crave)

2 cups red wine, Cabernet or Merlot
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 orange (about ½ cup)
One 1 inch strip orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
4 firm, ripe pears

Peel the pears but leave the stem intact. Slice ½ inch of the bottom of the pear, just so it will have a flat bottom and are able to stand up when you plate them.
In a saucepan combine sugar, wine, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Lay the pears in the poaching liquid, cover, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes to ensure that they have an even color.
Transfer the pears to a plate, keeping them upright.
Remove orange zest, cinnamon and cloves from the poaching liquid. Turn heat up to medium-high and reduce the liquid until it is thick and syrupy, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Plate each pear and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the warm syrup.
Note: pears and sauce can be stored in refrigerator for up to 2 days and served cold or at room temperature.
Serves 4.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!!
(This was Matheus' Valentine lunch for today - properly put in a lunchbox after the picture, of course! Heart-shapped Pizza and little hearts cut out from a red bell pepper!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Shrimp is something that both Matheus and my husband really like. I talk about having shrimp for a meal and they are as happy as can be!
And it was certainly not different with this dish. As I mentioned the above sea protein they could not wait for lunch, and were not even worried about what kind of dish I was going to make.
Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta was a hit and lunch was an absolute success!
First you make a simple and easy tomato sauce with canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs: parsley and dill. Then shrimp and feta cheese are added and the dish goes to the oven for a few minutes more. And that's it!
So easy and soooo flavorful! I enjoyed this so much that I could not believe how good it was!
I like shrimp, but I am not a big fan of canned tomatoes. I
love tomatoes, the fresh ones, during summertime, when they are at their peak of goodness. Maybe it is just me, but I find canned tomatoes to be extremely acidic and... well, I think they taste like, hum... the can.
Sorry, I know, canned tomatoes are a staple and a life saver during winter months, I agree, but it might be just me, so just ignore my canned tomato rant and let's move forward, shall we?!
Anyways, my surprise with this dish was exactly the tasty sauce. The dill and parsley paired so well with the shrimp and tomatoes flavors that I could not stop raving about it, really, really good!
The cheese added just the right amount of saltiness, nicely complementing the flavors of everything else. The canned tomatoes turned out into a sauce that was not bad at all!
We all gave thumbs up for this dish here at our home, pretty easy, delicious and good for you, just like all the other recipes that came from Ellie's book! Yumm!!

Ps: I am sorry about the picture, I should have taken a better one... actually, I was supposed to plate and take another picture, but we were all so excited to eat that I ended up forgetting to do it, just to find the camera sitting on the counter ready to click... oh man!

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
(Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger's cookbook The Food You Crave)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ cups diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14,5oz) cans diced tomatoes, with their juices (I added 1 ½ can and it was enough sauce for us, too much more and it would have been tomato soup with shrimp swimming in it, so use your judgment on this one!)
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 ¼ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or more to taste
2/3 cups crumbled feta cheese (3 ounces) (I didn't measure mine, but I guess I used less than this amount)

Preheat oven to 425F.
Sautee onion and garlic in the olive until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes, until tomato juices thicken a little.
Remove from heat, add parsley, dill, and shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the feta cheese and bake until shrimp is cooked and cheese melts, about 12 minutes.
Serves 4.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My new Idol + Recipes + Meet Ellie + More!!

Yes, I have a new idol, and she is GREAT!!! I have been making Ellie Krieger recipes for more than a year now and every single one I have tried turned out delicious, and now I am even more excited because she just released a Cookbook, and it is the best cookbook ever!!!
I simply LOVE her book, it is pretty, full of pictures and recipes that are not only tasty and flavorful but also good for you! The book is filled with tips and ideas which beside being helpful and useful also teach us a lot about nutrition and why some foods are so good for us, plus all the recipes have nutritional information.
I love, love, love the book, so much so that I decided to make as many recipes from it as I can!!
And I have already an advantage, as I have made many of her recipes just from watching her cooking show on TV during the past year.
Ohh, but what is better than watching your idol on TV?? Of course, meeting her in person, and I did it too!!!
Ellie was in a city close to where I live in the beginning of the month for a "Luncheon" at a very nice specialty food store. In December I saw on the store's website she would be coming and immediately signed up and couldn't wait for February to come. (and I also pre-ordered the book - which was released in January)
Well, the day finally came and I got to meet Ellie, and to sit at the same table that she was! (and there were another 10 tables on the same place) Am I lucky or what?? She is the nicest person, delicate, pretty, fun, and most of all she talked just like one of us, not someone superior just because she was famous.
I loved talking to her, asking her question, and even talked a little about me, as she got interested that I was from Brazil!
It was a lovely luncheon where we tried 4 of her recipes (from the book), we talked, had good food and I even got a picture taken with her and had my book signed!
So, for now on be prepared because a lot of Ellie's recipes will show up around here!

And if you missed, take a look at the ones I have already made:
Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart : My very favorite, I love this recipe!!
Greek Style Stuffed Peppers : Declared to be the best stuffed peppers ever at our home!
Green Pea Soup : easy, delicious and with a beautiful green color, another one I like a lot!
Turkey Meatloaf : by far the best turkey loaf, I only use this recipe ever since I made it for the first time!
Dark Chocolate Mousse : creamy and chocolatey, yum!

Since it is the weekend and we have some time to play in the morning I will start by posting a delectable breakfast treat, and what better than pancakes for breakfast right?! Ellie's Pancakes, of course!! :-)
These Whole-Wheat Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce were delicious, light and fluffy and the strawberry sauce added just the right sweetness to it all!
Super simple and easy to make, plus the sauce can easily be made with frozen strawberries (which is what I did!), which make it even more convenient to make these at any time of the year!
Matheus drizzeld his with honey as he loves it, but the sauce was enough to make the pancakes amazingly good!
I will leave here with the recipe and will be back pretty soon with more from this amazing book!
Thanks Ellie!!

Whole Wheat Pancakes With Strawberry Sauce
(Adapted from Ellie Krieger's book "The Food You Crave")

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In another medium bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey and vanilla.
Coat a large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-low heat.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. The batter will be somewhat lumpy.
Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to ladle the batter onto the griddle or skillet. Flip the pancake when the top is bubbling and it is golden brown on the bottom,after about 1 1/2 minutes. Then cook until the other side is golden brown, about another 1 1/2 minutes. Keep the pancakes warm in a 200F oven as you finish cooking the remaining ones.
Ladle about 1/3 cup of the strawberry sauce onto each plate, place pancakes on top and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Strawberry sauce:
16 ounces fresh strawberries, or 4 cups frozen unsweetened strawberries, thawed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey (I used 1 tablespoon)

In a blender process strawberries to a chunky puree. Heat the sauce in a small saucepan over a low flame, until just warm. Stir in lemon juice and .

Yield: 4 servings

Oh look, look, it's Me and Ellie!!