Monday, October 15, 2007


This dinner was so tasty. I put it together without a recipe, but anyone who has ever made tacos at home could have put this together. I didn't have any taco seasoning, so I seasoned the meet on my own and that ended up being a great decision. I don't think I'll ever buy taco seasoning again. I can do it just as well for cheaper! Yay! I also got to make some guacamole for this dinner, which automatically makes it a great dinner. I lightly fried the tortillas, but they could just as easily be baked for a healthier version. I decided to go more authentic tonight, but I've been using so many Cooking Light recipes lately, I figured I could splurge.

I made these with ground beef, but they could just as easily be done with shredded beef, chicken or pork. I just happened to have ground beef on hand.

from Linda

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 T chili powder
1/2 T cumin
1 t salt
1 t pepper (all the seasonings are approximate)
1/4 c water
4 corn tortillas
1/2 c canola oil

refried beans (I used canned, but you could definitely make your own)
guacamole (I made my own)
shredded lettuce
diced onion
shredded cheese
sour cream

Brown ground beef. Add seasonings and water and simmer to reduce slightly. In a small frying pan, heat oil. Lightly fry both sides of each tortilla and drain on paper towels.

To assemble, spread each tortilla with beans, then top with meat and the toppings of your choice. I meant to serve these with olives and salsa, but I forgot to get them to the table.

I served these with salsa rice (rice cooked in chicken broth with cumin and chili powder then mixed with salsa).

Another Cooking Light Dinner

This one was really really good. I loved this dinner. Matt and I both did. I could have put the Gorgonzola salsa on anything and loved it. So tasty. I served the chicken with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. It was a perfect meal and took almost no time at all to put together. After having one of my brownies for dessert, it ended up being a lovely Cooking Light dinner.

Because this recipe was in one of their menu sections, I halved the recipe for the salsa and only used 2 chicken breasts, but this was definitely a dish worthy of company, so I'm posting the recipe as the magazine published it.

Chicken Breasts with Gorgonzola-Tomato Salsa
from Cooking Light, September 2007

2 c chopped tomato
1/3 c minced red onion
1/3 c finely chopped fresh basil
2 t olive oil
1 t kosher salt, divided
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 t pepper
Cooking Spray
3 T crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Combine tomato, onion, basil, oil, and 1/2 t salt in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with remaining 1/2 t salt and pepper.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 3 chicken breast halves to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned and done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 3 chicken breast halves.

Stir cheese into tomato mixture. Place 1 chicken breast half on each of 6 plates; top each serving with about 1/3 c salsa.
For my Gorgonzola mashed potatoes, I cooked potatoes until tender in salted water, then mashed them with about 1 T butter, 1/4 c buttermilk and pepper. Right before serving, I stirred in about 1/4 c Gorgonzola.

A Cooking Light Brownie is a Small Brownie

But still a tasty brownie! The recipe says it makes 2o brownies, but that makes for a brownie that is approximately 1.5 square inches. I made the brownies in an 8x8 pan since I didn't have a 9x9, but that won't make the brownies all that much bigger. I really enjoyed them, but they were slightly over baked. I forgot to reset the timer on the microwave, so I lost track of the time. It is definitely time to get a kitchen timer. Who knew my oven wouldn't have a timer, light or window?

Fudgy Mocha-Toffee Brownies
from Cooking Light, September 2007
Cooking Spray
2 T instant coffee granules
1/4 c hot water
1/4 c butter
1/4 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/3 c sugar
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 large eggs
1/4 c toffee chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine coffee granules and 1/4 c hot water, stirring until coffee granules dissolve. Combine butter and semisweet chocolate chips in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter melts; stir until chocolate is smooth.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine coffee mixture, butter mixture, vanilla extract, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add coffee mixture to flour mixture, stir just until combined (don't stir this one with a whisk- I made that mistake!). Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with toffee chips. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Serves 20 (yeah, right!)

Feels Like Fall!

I think my menu may have been inspired. The first night the temperatures fell enough to finally feel like fall, I had chili cooking in the crockpot. It was perfect. The chili recipe was the same as I always make, but this time I decided to make something other than traditional cornbread as a side. I saw this recipe in September's Cooking Light and just had to try it. They were so good! I will definitely make them again. They were perfect with the chili and took almost no time at all to put together. I highly recommend them!

Cornmeal, Jalapeno, and Fresh Corn Scones
from Cooking Light, September 2007

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c cornmeal
1 T baking powder
4 1/2 T chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c fresh corn kernels (about 1 ear)
2 T finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 c nonfat buttermilk
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in corn and pepper. Add buttermilk, stirring just until moist (dough will be slightly sticky).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 2 or 3 times with lightly floured hands. Pat the dough into a 9-inch circle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting to, but not through, dough. Bake at 400° F for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, October 8, 2007

More South of the Border Inspiration

Mexican food may be my most favorite food in the world. These chimichangas were wonderful, and because they were baked and not fried, it made them much better for us and I definitely had less guilt issues while eating them!

At first, I wasn't sure I liked the relatively strong tomato taste in the filling, but it grew on me. It was a little different, but in the end I decided I liked it and will add it to the make again file in my head.

Skinny Chimichangas
from Weight Watchers via Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats

½ lb ground skinless turkey breast (I used lean ground beef)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 t chili powder
1 t dried oregano
½ t ground cumin
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 T chopped mild green chiles
⅓ c shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
4 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Spray a nonstick baking sheet with nonstick spray; set aside.
Spray a medium nonstick skillet with nonstick spray; set over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, onion, garlic, chili powder, oregano, and cumin. Cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon until browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and the chiles; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the flavors are blended and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar.

Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas in foil and place in the oven to warm for 10 minutes. Spoon about ½ cup of the filling into the center of each tortilla.

Fold in the sides, then roll to enclose the filling. Place the chimichangas, seam-side down, on the baking sheet. Lightly spray the tops of the tortillas with nonstick spray. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Do not turn. You can top these chimichangas with your favorite salsa and 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream.
I served this with rice cooked in chicken broth, cumin and chili powder and mixed with some shredded cheese and salsa.

Mexican Chicken Soup

I pulled a Robin Miller and when I made the breaded chicken breast for the dinner the night before, I pan fried two chicken breasts for tonights dinner. It made it super easy to put this soup together. I got the recipe from Bean's Bistro and thought it was pretty good. I did, however, use a little more than a dash of cinnamon (oops- darn shaker) and it was a very distracting flavor. Not a bad flavor, but it was a much bigger player in the soup than I would have wanted. I also didn't use as much olive oil, but I've included the recipe as it should have been.

Mexican Chicken Soup

1 med onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 T olive oil
1 c water
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 med tomato, chopped
1 cooked corn off the cob (I used 1/2 c frozen corn)
2 cans chicken broth
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 T chipotle powder
1 t dried cilantro
Dash cinnamon
1 c cooked chicken
1 T sour cream
1 avocado

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft.
Add in all the other ingredients except the sour cream and simmer over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes.

About 5 minutes before soup is complete, stir in the sour cream.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Top with chopped avocado, shredded cheese and more sour cream, if desired.

Finally went to the grocery store!

The first of the month is my favorite day in the world. It means I can make a menu with whatever I want because I get to go the grocery store! This meal was very easy and tasty, two of my favorite things. The orzo salad was inspired by the lovely Joelen (who I finally got to meet!), but I didn't really use a recipe. The chicken breasts I used must have been from a relative of Dolly Parton, so they took forever to cook. Next time I will definitely remember to pound them thin!

Orzo Salad
from me (with some help from Joelen)

8 oz cooked orzo
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 c chopped green pepper
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 c reduced fat feta
1/3 c sliced black olives
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 T olive oil
red pepper flakes
dried oregano

Combine all ingredients. Serve. (I told you it was easy!)

For the chicken, all I did was bread the chicken with seasoned breadcrumbs and pan fry.

Still cleaning out the pantry

Cooking at the end of the month requires a little more creativity than usual. I'm trying to avoid grocery shopping before October 1st, but my usual pantry staples are starting to dwindle. I had a package of Trader Joe's chicken sausage in my freezer so I decided a simple pasta dish would work well. However, I had no tomatoes or tomato sauce, so I had to get a little more creative. With a little help from my What's Cooking ladies, I came up with this very tasty white wine sauce. Pretty tasty pantry/freezer dinner.

Spinach and Fontina Chicken Sausage with White Wine Sauce
from Linda

1 package chicken sausage
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 t cornstarch
1 T butter

8 oz cooked pasta
fresh chopped parsley

Remove casings from sausage. Slice into bite size pieces and brown in a large saute pan with 1/2 T olive oil. When browned, remove from pan and keep warm.

Add remaining olive oil and saute garlic until just softened. Add white wine to deglaze the pan. Mix cornstarch with chicken broth and add to pan. Bring to boil, then simmer to reduce by approximately 1/2, about 10 minutes. Melt in butter and add cooked sausage; warm through. Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with parsley.

A little piece of cupcake heaven

My mom is a Rachael Ray fan (she just can't help it) and was one of the first subscribers to her magazine. While Rachael's giggling and super annoying hand gestures make her show a little difficult to watch, I do like her magazine. After she gets her new issue, my mom loans me her old one and I write down the recipes I'm interested in trying. These cupcakes were one of them. I made them for a BBQ we had a few weeks ago and they were a hit. I will definitely add them to my "make again" list.

Chocolate Red-Wine Cupcakes with Mascarpone Icing
from Every Day with Rachael Ray September 2007

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 c boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c medium- to full-bodied red wine, such as cannonau
Two 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 c confectioners' sugar
Red grapes, halved, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line 2 muffin pans with baking liners.

In a medium, heatproof bowl, combine the cocoa powder and chocolate pieces. Whisk in the boiling water until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is combined.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until blended. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined. Alternating, add the chocolate mixture and wine in batches, mixing well between each addition, until the batter is smooth. Divide among the muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan.

Lightly beat the mascarpone, then add the confectioners' sugar and beat until creamy. Remove the cooled cupcakes from the pan, spread each with icing and top with a grape half.

I recommend storing them in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. The cupcake is a super light cake and the frosting runs a little, so letting it harden a little in the refrigerator makes the cake and icing hold up a little better. Definitely store leftovers in the refrigerator!