July 30, 2008

Neelys Grilled Caesar Salad

This salad caught my eye mainly because it's being whipped up by the Neelys. You know the Neelys - the Memphis couple who focuses just as much on their loveydoveyness as their barbecue. I still can't figure out if I like them or if they annoy the heck out of me. They dance around the kitchen all "honey you're the best" and "help me do this, that and the other" without even an ounce of frustration at the fact that they are practically tripping all over each other. We have a small galley way style kitchen, and let me tell you, hubby-to-be knows he's not allowed anywhere near that area when I'm cooking. Maybe that's what it is - I just can't believe that 2 people can operate so lovingly (and in a major over-the-top way) while being all up in each others hair.

Either way, I've been really wanting to make something of theirs for a while, but have found it rather difficult as I don't have an outdoor grill and our whole apartment fills with smoke the moment I heat up the indoor grill pan. However, this salad has a 2 minute cooking time so I thought I might just be able to get it done without setting off all the fire alarms in the building.

It's a different take on your traditional caesar salad. First off, the romaine lettuce is slightly grilled with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. The dressing combines garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Parmesan cheese in a blender. Totally simple side dish to make - the whole thing took a number of minutes. I liked the idea of grilling the lettuce but it just didn't materialize quite the way I would have hoped. It got a bit soggy and the olive oil on it, even though it was just a bit, seemed to keep some of the dressing from melding well with the lettuce. The dressing was also a little off. It had a unique flavor and was not at all like the traditional caesar dressings I'm used to having. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great either. I definitely might try grilling romaine another time and just leaving off the oil to see if that makes a difference.

Since this is the first dish I've made of theirs, and it wasn't really much of a meal anyways, I'll work to try something else they have soon. So, if you are ever up on the UES and see a pile of smoke coming from a window, pay it no mind, it's just me trying to bring some Memphis lovin' to our kitchen. :)

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

July 26, 2008

Rachel's Perfect Pre-Race Meal

I know, I know. I went on and on about being on a health kick in my last post, and here I am showing you a recipe for a very unhealthy dish. But let me explain - see, tomorrow I will be, on my own free will, running 13.1 miles. Yes, these are the kinds of things crazy people like me, i.e. runners, do for fun. Tomorrow is the NYC Half-Marathon, which is by far my favorite race of the year. It starts with a lap around Central Park, heads right through Times Square, sends you down the blessedly flat West Side Highway, then ends all the way downtown in Battery Park. An amazing race to run for New Yorkers and visitors alike.

I've been running for over 10 years now, and continue to start nearly every morning with it. It got me through the stresses of college (and helped to work off some of those late night eating sessions), provided moments of solace in trying times, and has given me the opportunity to explore an unfamiliar and intimidating city. There's something oddly comforting in knowing that, in a city as big as New York, I can always count on seeing the same faces at 6 am doing a loop in the Park.

A large number of my friends are runners as well. One in particular, J, has been my long run buddy for a few years now. Where I generally like shorter, faster races, J prefers the steady, longer runs. So I always feed off her for inspiration and to ensure my butt is out of bed and on the road early Saturday mornings. Last year I deserted her for the NYC Half since I had a wedding to go to. This year, it's my turn to suffer it out alone as she has an important family function. So, this pasta dish is my way of pouting about having to toe the line alone. No healthiness here - just good ol' carbo loading.

Onto this yummy, yummy plate of pasta goodness. Right when I saw Rachel making this I knew I had to try it myself. She deemed this a "lasagna-bowl," or an easy way of making a fairly complicated dish in minimal time. I mean everyone loves the whole cheese-pasta-sauce combo going on in lasagna, so recreating it in a 30-minute time frame just seemed genius. And let me tell you - it is. The meat sauce has an awesome flavor from the pancetta, beef broth and wine, and the cheese sauce has just enough flavor to combat any kind of dairy craving without being ridiculously heavy. The only variations I made from her recipe were to use all ground beef instead of the beef, pork, veal mix (if only FreshDirect would let me buy in smaller quantities...) and I used Conchiglie pasta instead of Campanelle. Conchiglie was just what I had on hand, but I thought it was awesome in this dish - the sauce really stuck to it and the big bites made it seem just that much more decadent.

Trust me - this dish is worth the 13.1 miles! Good-luck to anyone running tomorrow (in a race or not)!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

Rachel's Two Sauce Weeknight Lasagna Bowl
Adapted from 30 Minute Meals - Rachel Ray

July 21, 2008

Ellie's Maple-Mustard Chicken & Orange Sweet Potatoes

As of yesterday, the soon-to-be-hubby and I are exactly 2 months away from our wedding. That means that not only is it time for me to crackdown on the last little details, but it's also time for us to switch into healthy eating mode - pronto. Neither of us are out of shape and I already run 5 days a week, but there is just something about a wedding that makes you want to look and feel your best. I think the whole few hundred people watching you, coupled with pictures that will be immortalized amongst your family for many years to to come would probably get to anyone. Plus, my first dress fitting is tomorrow and bloated is not the feeling I'm going for.

So last night we decided to start our healthy eating kick with a dish from the Food Network's very own registered dietitian, Ellie Krieger. Ellie always cooks with an eye towards health, but also makes food that looks pretty darn appetizing. I'm a pretty hard critic when it comes to "health food" though. I don't want something that just tastes good, I want something that tastes just as good as the full-fat, high-calorie, oh-so-delicious meal it's trying to replace. Girl has to have her standards. We went to Canyon Ranch once and ate nothing but healthy meals the whole time we were there. People always rave about their food, but let me tell you, by the end of 5 days you will be begging for a piece of white toast.

Due to my overwhelming fear of that big white dress I have to put on tomorrow though, I decided to give it a shot. We made maple-mustard chicken thighs with a side of mashed sweet potatoes with orange essence. The chicken thighs are really simple to make, just coat the thighs with some of the sauce and throw 'em in the oven for close to an hour. The chicken comes out of the oven super moist and almost falling off the bone. The maple-mustard sauce forms a thick coating and definitely gives the meat some flavor. Although I'm a big fan of mustard, I personally found the mustard flavor a bit overpowering. It's very intense, so if I was to make it again I might cut back on the amount of sauce I coated the thighs in. If you do not absolutely love mustard, then this probably is not the recipe for you.

Now for the potatoes -- oh what to say. These suckers were anything but fantastic. They had a really strange flavor with the combination of the buttermilk and orange juice, and I personally didn't care for it in the least. Hubby-to-be didn't eat more than one bite (and that says a lot!). All in, my advice is to steer clear of this recipe and just bake yourself a nice sweet potato with a good pat of butter.

Okay, strike one for the healthy meal ideas. We might need to wait a little while before we try that again...

Ellie's Maple-Mustard Chicken Thighs (all nutritional information can be found at this link)
Adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger - Ellie Krieger

4 large bone-in chicken thighs, with the skins removed
2 tablespoons French mustard (grainy kind)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • After removing the skin from the chicken, rinse each thigh under water then dry with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the 2 mustards, chopped garlic, marjoram and syrup.
  • Place the thighs in a glass baking dish and spread the maple-mustard mixture on top of each piece.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, and make a small cut in one thigh to ensure the chicken is cooked all the way through (no pink).

Ellie's Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange Essence
Adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger - Ellie Krieger

4 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter (for topping if desired)

  • Bring a pot with a steamer attachment to a boil.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut into a large dice.
  • Place the potatoes inside the steamer and steam for about 8 minutes, or until they are fork tender.
  • Transfer the potatoes to a medium sized bowl and stir in the buttermilk and orange juice.
  • Mash the potatoes with a fork so that they are smooth but with a few chunks.
  • Add in the zest, salt and nutmeg and stir to combine.
  • Serve immediately and top each individual serving with a pat of butter, if desired.

July 16, 2008

Jamie's Rhubarb Fool

Most of the time, I feel like me and Jamie Oliver are on total opposite ends of the planet. Not just physically, since he is just over the pond, but mainly because his cooking style is entirely different from anything I've ever seen or imagined before. For instance, he will use some old piece of wood on his lap as a cutting board and a little fire as a portable kitchen to be used anywhere on his property. Never in my life do I think I will actually cook in this manner (I don't know how well setting a small fire in Central Park would go over), but one cannot help but be drawn in by his undeniable passion for food.

He really loves cooking and loves eating and it translates so well to the viewer. Often times, tv chefs seem almost over practiced and slightly insincere, but Jamie has none of this. He is totally raw and leaves you entertained and educated. What a combo!

This little beauty is like having dessert and breakfast all in one. It combines some simmered down rhubarb, yogurt (I used Greek) and yummy yummy yummy little cinnamon pastry bites. It is very tangy, but those perfect little pastry bites help to cut through some of that and add back in some sweetness. This was pretty easy to make and was definitely something unique. If you are in the mood for something creamy and different with a little bit of tang for breakfast, this just might be your ticket. Jamie also uses some of the leftover rhubarb to make a custardy souffle type thing. Souffles have a tendency to send a shiver down my spine, so I stuck with just this yogurt dish, but please let me know how the souffle turns out if you decide to make it!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:
Adapted from Jamie at Home - Jamie Oliver

July 9, 2008

Potato Chips for Dinner!

Robin Roberts, from Good Morning America, was on Emeril the other day whipping up a few of her favorite southern inspired dishes. This one mimics fried chicken with a crunchy crust, but is baked not fried. Don't get too excited though, cause this sucker falls a little short of healthy. First, each piece of chicken is dunked into a pool of melted butter and then liberally coated with smashed up potato chips. The great news is that the whole dish is literally that simple. Just add a little salt, pepper, and garlic, pop in the oven, and a few minutes later you have a great chicken dinner that even the kids will eat. I'm no expert, but I bet serving your kids potato chips for dinner might just win you the "Coolest Mom in the World" title (at least until you switch and become "Bedtime Enforcer" later in the evening).

The chicken actually tasted amazing too, and I am not a chicken person. It was moist and tender and had great flavor. The recipe calls for you to use chicken breasts, but I used chicken cutlets (which Robin recommended on the show) instead. They ended up being a sort of modified chicken tender. At first I had grand ambitions of making the mashed potatoes that she makes on the show as well, but I decided one new dish was enough for a week night and settled for a bagged salad instead. The recipe includes the mashed potatoes though, so please have at it and let me know how they are!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:

Robin's Potato Chip Chicken
Adapted from Emeril Live - Robin Roberts

July 3, 2008

Mario's Past a la Norma

Let me start this post off by stating that I am totally and completely in awe of Mario Batali . The man is just brilliant and his food is truly inspiring. One of his restaurants here in NYC, Babbo, is nearly impossible to get into (I've only been once and the hubby-to-be had to pull some major strings to even make that happen), but oh-so-worth the 11 pm seating time that is the only option you'll have if you call in 2 minutes past the "30-day advanced reservation" time period. He also has a number of other extremely successful restaurants that are constantly packed with hungry patrons. Otto is my personal favorite - great for groups, surprisingly inexpensive and amazing food. Trust me, if you ever try any of his food you will understand why this quick-talking, orange-clog-wearing man has practically become a NYC institution.

I ventured to attempt one of his recipes the other night when we had our talented and fun friends over for dinner (the same night we made the delicious zucchini carpacio ). Although slightly intimidate to try a new recipe when we were having guests over (or even cook myself for that matter!), I took comfort in knowing that rescue delivery food was only a phone call away. No need though - the dish was surprisingly easy to cook and it seemed to be a hit with everyone at the table! Yay!! The only execution problem I had was that my saute pan was in no way big enough to accommodate all the cooked pasta and cheese that you are supposed to add while "on the heat" at the end. Instead I got a handful of the pasta in the pan and the rest just ended up mixed together in the serving bowl. I do wish I would have added more salt though, as it lacked a bit of flavor and needed some salt once it was served.

Overall, it was pretty simple to prepare and makes a great dish if you are tying to cut back on your meat. The eggplant is delicious with the tomato sauce and is a nice change from your typical meat sauce. Not only was it a hit for the guests, but it was also a healthy way for me to carbo-load before a 10-k race the next morning!

Please visit the link below for the recipe:
Mario's Pasta a la Norma
Adapted from Molto Mario - Mario Batali