Friday, July 30, 2010

Healthy Carrot Raisin Bran Muffins

As mentioned in my Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins post, I love muffins. They are the perfect breakfast before my Saturday morning jazzercise workout, so I like to make a dozen and put them in the freezer. After my oatmeal applesauce muffins ran out, I decided to try a new healthy muffin- carrot raisin bran muffins. Like all muffins, this "healthy" muffin can quickly become unhealthy with lots of oil and sugar. But I found this recipe on a blog that is very healthy- only 1 egg and 2 tbsp oil in 12 muffins and they are packed with whole grain and fiberlicious goodness from wheat bran and whole wheat flour. The muffins turned out great- a little spicy from the cinnamon/ ginger, not too sweet and definitely very healthy!

Healthy Carrot Raisin Bran Muffins
1 C wheat bran (it's near the oatmeal in the grocery store)
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/4 C shredded carrots
1/4 C raisins
1 1/4 C skim milk
1 egg
2 tbsp canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine bran, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
3. Add carrots and raisins and toss to coat.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk and oil.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients mix until just combined.
6. Prepare muffin pan by spraying with Pam or using muffin liners.
7. Spoon batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.
8. Bake for 15 minutes.
9. Cool on cooling rack. Muffins freeze well.
Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pesto Pasta Salad

This past Saturday, Hirsh and I went to a "Festa Junina" party celebrating the Brazilian summer festival. My lab mate Tatiana organized the party as a potluck in the park. I decided that this light summery pasta salad (my mom's recipe) would be perfect to bring. It doesn't have any mayo in it, so it could withstand the 102 degree heat. Next year when we have basil in our garden (we tried to grow basil from seeds this year, but it was unsuccessful) I definitely be making it a lot.

Pesto Pasta Salad
16 oz. bow-tie pasta
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 C lightly packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
2/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 C olive oil
Freshly Ground Pepper
1 container halved grape tomatoes
Baby corn

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
2. In blender or food processor, combine vinegar, basil, garlic, salt, sugar, cheese and olive oil and process until smooth and well combined.
3. Lightly mix pasta and dressing. Cover and chill 1 hour or longer to blend flavors.
4. Add grape tomatoes and sauted baby corn and toss immediately before serving.

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9
Hirsh's Rating: 9

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pineapple Teriyaki Salmon

I am always looking for new, easy fish recipes, and I thought it would be fun to try making an asian-flavored salmon. I found this recipe on and modified it a bit. This was the first time I pan-seared fish and I was skeptical about the short baking time, but the pan sear cooked it very quickly. Both Hirsh and I liked it, so I will definitely make it again!

Pineapple Teriyaki Salmon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 can diced pineapple in juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
2-4 salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine brown sugar, soy sauce, orange zest, salt and 6 oz pineapple juice in small sauce pan.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and then let simmer for 10-15 minutes to reduce to around 1/4 cup.
4. Heat large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add oil.
5. Dry fish and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
6. Place fish flesh side down in heated skillet for 3 minutes.
7. Flip fish over onto foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes
8. Brush generous amount of sauce over each filet and bake for 1 more minute.
9. Toss desired amount of pineapple in remaining sauce and heat through.
10. Serve fish garnished with pineapple.

Difficulty: Medium
Hirsh's Rating: 9
Debbie's Rating: 8.5

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest Entry: Grilled Chicken and Bakes

When I started my cooking blog, I thought it would be fun to include guest entries. My friend Matt was the first person to volunteer to write a guest entry. Although Matt doesn't cook a lot, this is a meal that he makes often and wanted to share. Let me know if you would be interested in doing a guest entry!

Grilled Chicken with Bakes, By Matt
I don't cook very often (and I'm not very good), but there are a few things I make and I wanted to write up one of them. This is a dinner that I'll make when I have a little time.

This first picture includes all of the ingredients I use.
I start with the bakes since they take the longest. This is a recipe I got from my mom. No idea where she got it. My brother and I like fries, so my mom came up with these. They taste pretty good, but they're not actually fried. Since they're baked we started calling them bakes.

Take a potato and slice it up. Any way is fine. I do a combination of long, thin strips and chunks. Grease a baking pan with Pam and place the potato pieces in the pan. The more potato surface area you can get touching the pan the better as this will get the bakes crunchier. Then cover the potato pieces with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper (my mom also uses garlic).
Bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit until golden brown. This usually takes about 30 minutes but my oven doesn't work too well so you should monitor it closely the first time you try it and adjust as necessary.

Then I prepare some fresh fruits and vegetables to hold me over until dinner is ready.
After about 15 minutes I start preparing the chicken since that doesn't take too long. I used to buy skinless, boneless chicken filets (either Harris Teeter or Purdue). I would slice it in half for two related reasons: 1) I'm impatient and it takes longer when its thicker and 2) Slicing it in half ensures I cook it thoroughly. However, I've recently switched to Purdue's packaged chicken filets. They come in packs of five and are individually packaged so they're easy to freeze. I normally will make two of these at a time since they're already pretty thin.

I throw the filets on a stove-top griddle I got at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $40 (after the 20% off coupon). Then I cover the filets with Emeril's Original Essence. Not too much though.
Cook at Medium-Medium High for 10 minutes or so (until thoroughly cooked). Once its done I'll throw a slice of Swiss cheese on top and let it sit for a minute to melt just a bit.

The timing is the hardest part for me but if you do it right the chicken should finish a minute or two after the bakes. The bakes usually need a few minutes to cool but the chicken doesn't. Sometimes the bakes need more salt after they come out of the oven (or maybe I just like a lot of salt).

Variations - If I don't feel like waiting for bakes, I'll eat some bread to hold me over and have fruits and vegetables as the side. Or vice versa depending on how I feel that day.

Difficulty: If I can do it, it must be easy.
Matt's rating: 7-8 depending now how patient I am with the bakes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fresh Corn Salad

Recently, we were invited to a Mexican-themed party and I volunteered to bring a side dish. Since corn is in season right now, I thought it would be fun to make a fresh corn salad. I adapted a recipe from Ina Garten on the food network. This was the first time that I had cut corn off the cobb to use in a dish, and I have to say, it was worth the effort. The sweet white corn far surpassed any frozen corn I have had and is definitely a must for this dish.

Fresh Corn Salad
10 ears of corn, shucked
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Several grinds black pepper
1/2 C julienned fresh basil leaves.

1. Boil 10 ears of corn in a large stock pot for 5 minutes.
2. Remove ears with tongs and place in a large ice water bath to cool rapidly. Dump out water and add ice, as needed, until corn is cool.
3. Cut the kernels off the cob, and use your fingers to separate.
4. Drain bowl of corn kernels (some water will accumulate and you don't want this to dilute dressing).
5. Add red onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat.
6. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
7. Immediately before serving, add basil (basil tends to brown with time).
8. Serve! Makes enough for a party.

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9
Party's Rating: They loved it, especially the fresh (not frozen) corn!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Every year our street has a 4th of July block party. It is always a lot of fun with lots of kids, water balloons, a softball game and fireworks. This year I offered to bring a dessert. With so many kids there, I thought it would be a great idea to make something fun and festive. I haven't had ice cream cone cupcakes since I was about 6 years old, but they are so cute, I couldn't resist. I have to say, this is probably the most adorable dessert I have ever made! The kids at the party thought they were so cool and gobbled them up! And they tasted pretty good too. The red and blue sprinkles made them perfect for July 4th, but they could be decorated for any event. I can't wait to have an excuse to make them again!

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
1 cake mix + ingredients required for mix (I chose Betty Crocker yellow cake mix)
24 ice cream cones (flat bottom)
Mini chocolate chips
Frosting (I made Hershey's Chocolate Frosting- see Chocolate Layer Cake for recipe)
Decorations- I used red and blue sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Arrange 12 cake cones in a muffin tin.
3. Sprinkle about 1 tsp of mini chocolate chips into each cone. This helps prevent them from being top heavy and is a sweet surprise at the bottom of the cone!
4. Make cake batter according to package directions.
5. Fill each cone with batter just up to where the cone begins to widen. Don't overfill.
6. Bake for 18 minutes. Watch them rise in the oven! Mmm!
7. Cool completely on a wire rack (be careful, they like to topple over). While they are cooling, repeat with the second set of 12 cones.
8. Frost and decorate. I loaded my favorite homemade chocolate frosting into an icing bag and made swirls with a #32 decorators tip and topped them off with red and blue sprinkles.
9. Serve. Don't make too far in advance or the cones will get soggy.
10. If you have leftover cake batter, make some regular cupcakes or a mini cake (I made one in my loaf pan).

Difficulty: Medium-hard
Debbie's Rating: 9.5- taste was good and appearance was great!
Hirsh's Rating: 9
Sutton Court Kids Rating: "Mmm...these are awesome!"