Friday, October 31, 2008

Ladies and Gents, we have a winner...and some biscuits!

Last night, I sat at my computer waiting patiently for the clock to strike midnight so I could pick the Gathering of Friends Cookbook winner. Without further adieu, the lucky winner and also host of one of my favorite blogs is #10, Lisa! Congrats! Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks likes to share a big pot of spaghetti & meatballs or bbq in the summer with friends. After reading the many delicious things you all like to share with friends, I realized I need to get to know some of you better ;)

Enjoy the beautiful cookbook and thanks to Michelle from Gathering of Friends for helping out with the giveaway!!

biscuits and gravyLest I leave you without any food today, here's a shot of a recent "quick" breakfast. Not for those squeamish about calories, biscuits 'n sausage gravy are a favorite of hubby's and a delightful way to start the day. Comfort food makes everything better, don't you think? I wish I could say that I made these biscuits from scratch, but then it'd disqualify this from being a quick meal. And that'd be a shame.

We basically follow this recipe from Bobby Flay, though I add the milk in gradually to reach the desired consistency as I like things thick! I also only use 1 package of sausage and halve the rest of the ingredients. We're not gluttons here. :)

Happy Halloween everyone! Enjoy the day!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unspooky Banana Pecan Biscotti

It's almost Halloween and as much as I'd like to tell you that I have a cute & spooky creation to share with you, I just don't. Sorry. But, if you're looking for some inspiration check out this creation or this one.

Amazing, huh? Ok, back to me.

banana pecan biscottiI love Halloween. I really do. Candy. Witches. Costumes. Pumpkins. ...all the best things in life. However, I have none of these for you today. Just some very unspooky Banana Pecan Biscotti. Though I've made banana biscotti before, I figured I'd try a new recipe just to shake things up. On a random side note, how lucky are Trick or Treaters out on the west coast? Growing up in the Midwest, I still remember being devastated because I had to trick or treat with a coat on and a scarf wrapped around my neck, clearly ruining my Strawberry Shortcake costume. It's still warm and sunny here so you can dress up as anything you want! I suppose kids here don't have sledding so it's an even trade.

For those of you who haven't made biscotti, it's an easy process though time consuming due to the long and slow baking process. It's fairly foolproof because if you overbake, you'll have hard cookies....which is sort of the point. :) All in all, it's wonderful to have biscotti to dunk in your morning tea or coffee and we can't get enough of these!

I added some extra spice (surprise, surprise) and cut the amount of pecans used in half. Sometimes biscotti are too nutty for my tastes. This was a delicious recipe with a mild, sophisticated taste. The Banana Bread Biscotti I baked awhile ago were more of a dessert, while these were a better accompaniment to a steamy cup of tea or coffee. The dough was a little dry, so make sure to measure your flour lightly. We also like our biscotti a little thick so we didn't quite end up with 2 dozen as the recipe calls for.
banana pecan biscottiToday's the last day to enter the cookbook giveaway so get in while you can!

Banana Pecan Biscotti
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 large very ripe banana, mashed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Combine banana, oil, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl; stir in flour mixture and pecans. Dough may be dry so use hands to combine.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; shape dough into 2 (8-inch-long) rolls with floured hands. Place rolls on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; flatten to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake at 350° for 23 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. With a serrated knife, cut each roll diagonally into 12 (1/2-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 250°; bake 15 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 15 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodles)

As I've now already made this dish twice, I figured I should share with all of you. Do you ever find a food item that you just need? ...even if you've already made it the week before? For us that little something, that perfectly delicious discovery is dang myun, Korean glass noodles.

Not to be confused with the more common Chinese vermicelli or cellophane noodles, dang myun noodles are impossibly long and have a entirely different color (greyish) and feel. For those that are into textures, these are glassy, thick, chewy (but only in a good way), translucent and thus, the color that you want them to be. Plus, they soak up sauces and seasoning quite nicely. Google Korean markets in your neighborhood and you should be able to find them. If not, try ordering them online here.

For my vegan friends out there, these noodles are made solely out of sweet potato starch & water so they're both vegan friendly and gluten-free! This dish is versatile and allows you to use your favorite veggies, meats or tofu in the stirfry. The first time around, I used tri-colored bell peppers, cabbage and carrots for a vegetarian meal.

The second time around, I added broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, shrimp and tofu for something a little heartier. Either way, it's a delicious meal.

I used the recipe from the Culinary Institute of America's One Dish Meals as a rough guide. As all good Asian stirfries, measurements aren't exact and sometimes, the noodle dish doesn't turn out exactly the same the second or third time around. They do look different, huh? I blame the different brands of noodles I used. I suppose that's the beauty of cooking!

I'm submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by The Cooking Diva this week!

Jap Chae (Korean Stir Fry Glass Noodles) - vegetarian version
Adapted from One Dish Meals

1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
18 oz package of Dang Myun noodles (Korean clear glass noodles which are different from Chinese glass noodles)
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup bell pepper sliced (red, yellow or green)
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup carrrot, julienned
salt, fresh ground pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water. Allow to soften for about 20 minutes. Remove from liquid and cut off stems.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. If said directions are in Korean, try this: boil a large pot of water and allow noodles to boil for approximately 5 minutes or until soft. You may need to cut them if they're too long. Drain and rinse with cool water.

3. Fry egg in a small omlette pan and cut into thin strips and set aside.

4. Combine scallions, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil,and sugar in a small bowl.

5. Heat canola oil in a large wok and fry the onions and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and carrot and stir fry about 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue to stir fry for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add soy mixture and continue to toss vegetables.

6. Add noodles and stir fry until very hot. If noodles look pale or need more sauce, add soy sauce or fish sauce until taste is good. Add sliced eggs and toss. Serve hot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tired of pumpkin recipes?

...well, too bad. Here's one more.

Pumpkin Chip MuffinsIn California, the sunny days and warm temperatures do nothing to remind me of Autumn. Where are all the gorgeous red and yellow leaves, the cool fall breezes, perfect football weather...even the Halloween decorations?! Pretty much, my only reminder of Fall around these parts are the comforting stews, spicy breads and pumpkin recipes I've been spotting all over the blogosphere. So, to all you cooks out there, thanks for keeping me in touch with reality.

I purchased a huge can of pumpkin in an overzealous attempt to remind myself of my once favorite season in the Midwest. Ever since, we've been enjoying pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin recipe. I'm not sick of it yet.

These pumpkin mini-chocolate chip muffins are a byproduct of a loaf recipe I've been making for quite awhile now. I thought I'd vary things a little by making these into bite sized portions so I could pack them in hubby's lunch.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip MuffinsAdding in a packet of fat free vanilla pudding mix keeps the muffins moist. After reading the original recipe again, I believe you're supposed to add in actual pudding, but after baking several batches of the mistake, we think we'll keep it this way! You can also halve the recipe since this will make either 2 8x4 inch loaves or a lot of muffins.

For those on a healthy kick, raisins make a good substitute for the chocolate chips.

If you haven't already, don't forget to enter here for the cookbook giveaway!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins / Bread

2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1 packet of fat free vanilla pudding mix
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or raisins)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Make sure to measure flour lightly and not pack it in.

Combine flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. If mixture is too dry, add in a tablespoon of yogurt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray or greased standard muffin tins. For loaves, bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; or, for muffins, 15-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Toasted Sesame Chicken Pasta & a Giveaway!!

“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf”
-Epicurus (Greek philospher, BC 341-270)

True, true, Epicurus. There's something to be said about sharing a tasty meal with friends and family over good conversation, laughter, and a bottle of nice wine. I suppose there are many occasions where I end up dining alone, but eating with others is a true joy. ...unless your dining mate has bad manners, of course.

In their new cookbook, The Gathering of Friends, Michelle Huxtable and Alyse Christensen provide menus, recipes and table setting ideas meant to help you Gather Your Friends to the table and enjoy a homecooked meal. Each section focuses on an event or party such as a shower, a "Ladies Luncheon," breakfast brunch, or holiday meal. The photos are stunning, the cookbook well laid-out and there's even a section for you to write your own comments / notes!

After drooling over page after page, I decided to make the Toasted Sesame Chicken Pasta from the "Springtime Breakfast" section. Clearly, I have my seasons wrong, but give me a break. I live in California. Though probably intended to be more of a pasta salad, I decided to serve this warm and as our main entree for dinner. Delicious and hearty, we greatly enjoyed the toasted sesame flavor and ease in preparing the dish. I did make a few modifications as the original calls for candied pecans (delicious sounding!) but we had an allergy in the group. Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

Since I enjoyed this cookbook so much, I wanted to share with a copy with you! Please leave a comment with your favorite dish to share with friends. Whether it be ice cream or a big bowl of chili, I'd love to hear your favorites. I've always wanted to use the Random Number Generator so leave your comment by Thursday, October 30th!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hawaiian Salmon Sliders with Bren's Tamarind Chutney

I won't go so far as to call myself a loser, but to be honest, it's not often that I'm a winner in games of chance. Take for example, a girls outing in Vegas several months ago. About 17 of my girlfriends and I embarked on a much needed girls' weekend in our nation's Sin City. Somehow, each and every one of these 17 gals seemed to have the magic touch at the casinos. And by magic touch, I mean that they managed to win anything from $5-$5,000. Me? Well, not so much. I even went so far as to park myself next to one of these lucky ladies and mimic their every move/bet/wager to no avail.

Thankfully, my luck in the blogging world is a vast improvement on luck in the "real" world. Bren from Bren's Flanboyant Eats is a food & travel writer extraordinaire. She's so talented that she often gets whisked away to exotic places like Trinidad & Tobago just to eat, travel & enjoy herself. She's also so generous that she holds giveaways so average folks like myself can have a taste of the tropics. I was a lucky recipient of Matouk's tamarind chutney straight from the islands. Thanks, Bren!

I wasn't quite sure what I'd make with this chutney, but one day I was inspired to make salmon sliders when I was hungry and all I could find was some canned salmon in the pantry. Speaking of hungry, hubby has decided to call the oh-so-scary moments when my blood sugar drops and I get cranky, my HANGRY episodes (hungry-angry). Do any of you ever get HANGRY?

Bren, thanks for making me feel like a winner! The chutney was absolutely fabulous with these sliders.

Salmon Sliders
made by me in a fit of hunger
2 cans salmon, drained
1 teaspoon dried dill
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c low fat mayo
1 egg & 1 egg white, beaten
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/8 cup Heinz Chili Sauce
handful of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper

olive oil
Mini Hawaiian Rolls
cucumber slices

In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. With wet hands, roll salmon mixture into small balls large enough to fit on the mini rolls. If mixture is too wet, add more panko crumbs to give the patties structure. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Pan fry salmon sliders until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve on Hawaiian rolls and top with cucumbers and chutney of your choice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Tuna Meatballs

Why would I remember anything I could look up?
- Albert Einstein

It's quite often that my friends and I decide to "geek it up" and challenge each other to trivia like "name that state's capital" or "name a college's mascot" or even "name that celebrity's spouse."

...doesn't sound thrilling, I know. However, we somehow manage to argue, debate, and make bets on some of the most mundane of life's facts. Without fail, we nearly always need to settle at least one dispute via Blackberry internet or Google. Ahh, our reliance on technology....

Remember the days when you actually knew your friends' and family's phone numbers by heart? I even used to recall birthdays (all on my own!), and often my dear ones' addresses in the event I needed to send them a card or (gasp) a handwritten letter!

Microsoft Outlook products do all that remembering and organization for me now.

Similarly, I've come to rely on the internet for 98% of my recipes. Don't get me wrong, I have a whole bookshelf of cookbooks, but I somehow always revert to all of your delicious blogs, food websites like Cooking Light and bulletin boards for our next meal ideas.

Realizing I should probably utilize some of my (many) cookbooks, I chose this recipe from Jamie Oliver's cookbook, Jamie's Italy: Le Migliori polpette di tonno or the best tuna meatballs.

As opposed to your typical mom 'n pop veal, beef or lamb meatballs, Jamie's meatballs are a tasty mixture of tuna, pine nuts, Sicilian spices and breadcrumbs. Initially, we weren't sure what to think of this recipe, but being a lover of both tuna and cinnamon, I couldn't pass this up. You heard me right, tuna and cinnamon. Sounds strange, but any combination of my two favorite things in this world couldn't possibly be wrong. And Jamie's accent is just so cute. He couldn't be wrong either. I digress.

Though my tuna meatballs aren't quite as pretty as Jamie's, they're absolutely delicious and amazingly fragrant. I had a little bit of an issue with having the meatballs stick while I was rolling them, so I added a touch of olive oil to the mixture. Other than that, this is a fairly simple, yet delicious meal you all should enjoy! Serve with spaghetti, some toasty bread & a nice bottle of white wine, and enjoy the evening.

Le Migliori Polpette di Tonno, Jamie's best tuna meatballs
adapted from Jamie's Italy

for the tomato sauce
olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 28 oz can of plum tomatoes (I found these at Trader Joe's)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
about 1 teaspoon of honey
small bunch of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

for the meatballs
14 oz. fresh tuna (not canned)
olive oil
1/4 cup pinenuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest and juice from 1/2 lemon.

1/2 box of spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

1. Chop tuna into about a 1 inch dice. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour a few rounds of olive oil. Add tuna, pinenuts and cinnamon. Season lightly with salt & pepper to taste. Saute until tuna is browned on all sides, but not cooked all the way through to prevent overcooking. Remove from heat and place into large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

2. Add oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, Parm, eggs, lemon zest and juice to the bowl. Use your hands and scrunch the mixture together. If the mixture doesn't stick add a few teaspoons of olive oil. Combine well. Roll the mixture into golf-sized balls and place onto an oiled cookie sheet. Allow to sit for one hour.

3. While meatballs are resting, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic and heat slowly until soft, about 8 minutes. Add oregano, tomatoes, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Add honey and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. Pour sauce into a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend/Puree until smooth. Take a taste and add more salt or seasoning if needed.

4. Using the pan you fried the tuna on, add a little more olive oil and place back onto the heat. Add meatballs to the pan and allow to brown on all sides. If the pan isn't big enough, saute in two batches. Add to the sauce when done and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with spaghetti.

Friday, October 10, 2008

TJ's Ginger Senbei Snacks, reviewed

To say the least, today's snack market is overly saturated. Walk down your favorite grocer's junk-food snack aisle and there is surely a treat for every discerning taste: super salty, no salt, a little salt, a little lime, zesty lime, sweet 'n salty, just plain.

With all these options, picking out a snack gets a little exhausting. However, I seem to have found a snack, a holy grail if you will, that makes all all other packaged snacks seem like the spam of the junk food world. Pirate's Booty, Funyuns, and Andy Capp's Hot Fries, move over.

Trader Joe's Ginger Senbei snacks are like little fortune cookies broken up and lightly covered in a sweet ginger coating. Admittedly unauthentic, TJ's packaging explains that "senbei are traditional Japanese crackers" though these ginger senbei benefit from "a little innovation," resulting in "flavors never considered by the Japanese." At least they're honest.

"Think of them as ginger-infused-ice-cream-cones without the ice cream." Need I say anymore?

Though not low in sugar, these snacks are fat free and have only 110 calories per 20 crackers. Not too shabby! I believe I purchased the senbei for about $3/bag. Though I'm grounded from visiting the grocery store this week, I cannot wait to head back out to Trader Joe's for another round of these sweet snacks. I'd love to try them with vanilla frozen yogurt or even as a coating for a dessert treat!What snacks are your holy grail?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Autumn Apple Cake and Last Night's Dinner

It's Tuesday and I've remained grocery store visit free for the week. Seriously, I feel like I'm part of a grocery-store-a-holics anonymous program. My wallet feels fatter, our pantry less cluttered, and our nights free of the "what's for dinner?" debate that so many of you share.
{If only solving our economy's woes were as easy as meal planning.} *sigh*

Here's a recap of this week's meals:
  • Sunday - Creamy Seafood Risotto see post below
  • Monday - Asian Stir Fry (usually made on the go, sans recipes)

  • Tuesday - Italian Goat Cheese Fritatta post to come
  • Wednesday - leftovers may end up cooking. We eat too much & don't have leftovers
  • Thursday - Jamie Oliver's le migliori polpette di tonno, the best tuna meatballs
  • Friday - eat out downtown
  • Saturday - I can't plan that far ahead
The stir fry came together very quickly and it's always one of my favorites to start off a week. Like I mentioned I don't really use a recipe so it comes out a little differently each time. I used shrimp, chicken, zucchini, broccoli, snow peas and cold Jasmine rice seasoned with soy sauce, oyster sauce and kecap manis. Throw it all together in a wok and taste as you go!

So as not to leaving you hanging sans recipe today, I also made an (unplanned) Autumn Apple Cake that required no additional trips to the store. Chock full of raisins (I added extra) and fall's favorite fruit, apples, this cake is tender, sweet and perfect for the fall.

Like Grace, I have a slight obsession with cinnamon and tripled the amount of called for in the original. Do it. Don't be afraid.

It's delicious! As usual, hubby and I scarfed this down way to fast. Good thing we're active people.

For those of you who mentioned you've been meal planning forever, kudos! I admire your organization and discipline.

For those of you who like to live by the seat of your pants, I'm enjoying my brief grocery store respite, but I'm sure I'll be with you in no time. I just feel so organized. That in itself will probably end this streak.

I suppose meal planning is as difficult as solving our economy woes.

Autumn Apple Cake
adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar (use baker's sugar if you have it on hand)
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup finely chopped and peeled sweet apple (about 1 large Gala or Pink Lady)
3/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Coat a 9 inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Dust with flour and shake to coat evenly.
3. Spoon and level flour into measuring cups. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon with a whisk.
4. Place softened butter and granulated sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg.
5. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.
6. Fold in apple and raisins
7. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
8. Cool 10 min on a wire rack. Carefully remove from pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar once cool.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Creamy Seafood Risotto with a little forethought for the week

I did it! After my last post about disorganization in the kitchen, I've decided to take some initiative and plan out meals for the week. I know many of you probably already do this, but for me this is a huge accomplishment. For some reason, I find it challenging to commit to what we'll be eating each day of the week.

What if I "schedule" tacos for Wednesday night, but Wednesday rolls around and that's the last thing I want to eat? Whatever happened to living on the edge? Ahh, cheers to growing up.

Well, for one I usually end up going to the grocery store just about everyday for just one more ingredient. During each of those trips, I typically add three to four unplanned grocery items and obviously, this becomes a costly dilemma. Though some choose not to believe it, we're in a recession, folks and it ain't pretty. {Pardon my folksy talk.}

I started off this week's meal list with a Creamy Seafood Risotto packed with jumbo shrimp, calamari and bay scallops with a touch of color from saffron. Arborio rice simmers in a mixture of broth and clam juice - risotto style, requiring a lot of stirring and a little bit of patience. All in all, this dish is not too time consuming if you don't mind standing by the stove. Before serving, cream adds a rich touch and binds the flavors and ingredients together. I wavered about adding the cream at the last minute, hoping to save some fat and calories, but I highly suggest you go for it. Some things in life are worth it, and this is one of them.

Lastly, I adapted this recipe from October's Cooking Light that had a feature about meals for two. Hubby and I quickly realized we must have oversized portion expectations, because this meal for two could have been bigger. If you're hungry people like us, try doubling the recipe.

Oh, and without further adieu, here is my meal plan for the week:
  • Sunday - Creamy Seafood Risotto
  • Monday - Asian Stir Fry (usually made on the go, sans recipes)
  • Tuesday - Italian Goat Cheese Fritatta
  • Wednesday - leftovers
  • Thursday - Jamie Oliver's le migliori polpette di tonno, the best tuna meatballs
  • Friday - eat out
  • Saturday - I can't plan that far ahead

Creamy Seafood Risotto
Adapted from Cooking Light, October '08

2 cups fish or chicken broth
1 8 oz. bottle clam juice
2 teaspoons butter
1/8 cup chopped shallots
1/8 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces bay scallops & calamari rings
2 tablespoons whipping cream
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1. Bring broth and clam juice to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

2. Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add shallots & onion to pan and cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add rice and saffron to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add lemon juice to pan; cook 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/2 cup hot broth mixture; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next. If the liquid is cooking off too quickly, turn the heat down a little.

3. Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Stir in shrimp, calamari and scallops; cook for 4 minutes or until seafood is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in cream. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with toasted bread.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Asian Cucumber Quinoa Salad, attempt #2

Though I tend to be quite organized in most facets of my life, I am a little bit of a trainwreck when it comes to cooking. Like Leslie from Hungry Housewife, I lose recipes, omit ingredients (not on purpose) and leave the kitchen looking like a disaster zone once I've completed a meal.

I whipped up this salad one day after I decided I needed to eat healthier. One too many late night Papa John calls will do that to you. I blame the booze, not my good judgment.

Once I had thrown together a mish-mosh of veggies, grains and seasonings, gobbled down a spoonful and patted myself on the back for a job well done, I just as soon cursed myself, realizing that I hadn't written down a single thing that went into the bowl. Bad blogger!

After another somewhat unhealthy streak of meals, I recreated my quinoa salad and diligently noted each tablespoon, teaspoon and cup that went into this hearty and tasty salad. I love the taste of sesame oil, but if you're not a fan I'd suggest using a little bit less as sesame oil tends to dominate the flavors. Otherwise, dig in like you've been eating too many sweets, pizza, and bread (ahem, ahem...speaking to myself). Quinoa salad is good for you!

As I'm working on getting more organized, I decided I also need to start petitioning Santa Claus for a Lowel Ego light. I took these photos on an overcast day and I hope they don't look too gloomy!

Have a good side dish? Check out October's Monthly Mingle, Sensational Sides, hosted by Ruth and Meeta.

Asian Cucumber Quinoa Salad

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (if you're not a huge fan of sesame oil, I'd suggest using 2 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon hot chili paste with garlic
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 tsp of olive oil
1.5 cups peeled, chopped cucumbers (seeds removed)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1. Combine all ingredients for dressing in a medium sized bowl. Whisk well and allow to stand
2. Place rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Add a dash of salt and olive oil. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Allow quinoa to cool.
3. Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with approximately 1/2 of the dressing.
4. Add quinoa and gently stir.
5. Drizzle salad with additional dressing to taste.
6. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.