Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Bars

This might be the best sugar fix since chances are everything is in the cupboard and it takes less than 5 minutes to prepare. This might be the worst sugar fix because we ate the whole thing in 24 hours....

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
additional coconut-for sprinkling on the top of the bars

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine the flour and salt; whisk and set to the side.
3. Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy; beat in egg and vanilla extract until well blended.
4. Slowly beat in the flour and salt mixture until just blended. Next, stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the pan. Make sure the batter is spread evenly, smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle extra coconut on top of the bars.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake the bars. Let cool slightly before serving. Cut the bars into squares.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stracciatella Semifreddo

 from Giada


Vegetable oil cooking spray
3 (5 inches long by 3/4-inch wide) plain or almond biscotti (about 4 ounces) halved
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, see Cook's Note
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

8 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)


1. To prepare the crust, put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 5 by 3-inch nonstick loaf pan with vegetable oil cooking spray. Using 2 pieces of parchment paper, line the pan, allowing the excess to hang over the ends and sides.
In a food processor, blend the biscotti and hazelnuts together until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Using a flexible spatula, press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the edges of the crust are golden. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

2. To prepare the filling-in a medium stainless steel or glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk until the egg mixture is pale, thick and creamy, and an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Put the bowl into a larger bowl of iced water to cool completely.

3. In another medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until thick. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Mix 1/4 of the cream into the cooled custard. Using a spatula, gently fold the remaining cream into the custard. Drop spoonfuls of the Nutella spread over the custard mixture and gently fold until just incorporated but still chunky. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared crust. Fold the overhanging parchment paper over the custard and freeze for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight) or up to 3 days.

 When ready to eat, run a thin-bladed spatula around the semifreddo between the parchment paper and the pan. Unfold the parchment paper and invert the semifreddo onto a platter. Peel off the paper and cut into 1-inch thick slices. Serve on chilled plates.

Cook's Note: To toast the hazelnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using.

Stir-Fried Chicken Salad

{left overs with soba noodles & watercress}

   {salad with mixed greens and watercress}

adapted from Cooking Light

1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast tenders
1 Tbsp. peanut oil 
1-2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced

1-2 large carrots, thinly sliced
fresh ginger  4 cups mixed salad greens {we used watercress and a spring mix)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion OR green onion
2 Tbsp. finely chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
Lime wedges (optional)

1. In a medium bowl combine chicken broth, vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic and sugar.
Add chicken to broth mixture, stirring to coat. Let stand 3 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drain chicken, reserving marinade. Add chicken to the pan; cook 4 minutes or until done, stirring frequently. Stir in the reserved marinade. Add bell pepper and carrot, cook 1-2 minutes. Add fresh ginger, to taste. Reduce heat; cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Remove pan from heat.
3. Combine greens and basil in a large bowl. Prepare plates by layering salad mixture, chicken and veggies,  and garnishing with green onion and peanuts. Serve immediately. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

{We had left over chicken & veggies, so the following day we cooked soba noodles and ate the left overs that way)

Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta

from Allison


1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 large sweet onion, sliced & diced
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
about 1/2 jar alfredo sauce (Trader Joe's)
penne, or your favorite pasta
freshly grated parmesan, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 325. Place the squash and onion in a 9x13 baking dish and toss with the rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour--until the squash is tender and the onions are caramelized.

2. Near the end of the veggie's baking time, prepare the pasta. Toss the pasta with the squash and onions, alfredo, and parmesan to taste, and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Carmelized Onions

adapted from All Recipes & Annie's Eats

After seeing a clip on Food Network of risotto, I really wanted to try it out. When I tried this recipe I made the chicken, but I think next time I will opt for a rotisserie which will make it a little quicker- so if you want the directions for preparing the chicken try out the link from Annie's Eats. This went really well with some steamed broccoli.


1½ tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Pinch of sugar
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
¾ tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups Arborio (medium grain) rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp. minced fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper


1. Add 1½ teaspoons of the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion and sugar, stirring to coat.  Allow the onion to cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown and caramelized.  Remove the onions to a plate and set aside.

2. In the same skillet add 2 tablespoons of the butter set over medium heat.  Once melted, add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the rice to the pan, stirring to coat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.
Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, about 2-3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup at at time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20-25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, shred rotisserie chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir in shredded chicken and caramelized onions into the risotto with Parmesan, the remaining butter, lemon juice, parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  If desired, add up to ½ cup of the remaining broth mixture to add moisture and loosen the texture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Croutons

adapted from Bon Appetite 

I've heard how much people love butternut squash soup and I've even tried some before and didn't love it. Maybe my tastebuds are maturing, or maybe I just needed these croutons to entice me to try this soup- but we really, really loved it. The pairing of the croutons is vital to this little concoction- they are so delicious. One afternoon we paired the leftover soup with a Gruyère grilled cheese sandwich and it was equally tasty. This dish goes wonderfully with a side or salad which includes pears... maybe since I love pears dipped in Gruyère fondue...


1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 lbs)
4 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-5 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp. fresh)
1/4 tsp. dried herbs de provence
1/4 tsp. dried sage ( I used 1/2 tsp. fresh)
1/4 cup cream

baguette bread sliced 1/4 in thick
grated Gruyère cheese
thyme & sage to sprinkle (fresh or dried)

    1. Wash squash, cut in half, and remove seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put a garlic clove in each hole. Place cut-side down on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 30-40 min. Meanwhile, melt butter in large pot. Add diced onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. When squash is done, scoop out and add to onions. Add broth and herbs.

    2. Working in 2 batches or so, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.) 
    For croutons:
    Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with croutons and serve.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Chicken Biryani

    from Cooking Light

    "A biryani is a rice dish that's popular in India and Pakistan and usually features a mix of rice, herbs, and spices as well as some type of vegetables or meat."
       This dish was surprisingly tasty. It was sweet and really pretty simple to make- all in one pan, so clean up is great. Since the cooking/sauting times are so short- next time I make this I will have the spices measured and everything chopped and ready to go before hand, instead of attempting to chop as I go.


    2 tsp. canola oil
    1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
    1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
    2  tsp.  minced fresh ginger
    1 1/2  tsp.  garam masala
    3/4  tsp. ground cumin
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2-3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups chopped plum tomato (about 2 tomatoes)
    1 cup uncooked basmati rice
    1/3 cup golden raisins
    14 oz low-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    1/4 cup sliced almonds
    lime wedges


    1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 3 minutes (it will not be cooked through entirely, but only cook 3 minutes). Add onion and jalapeño; sauté 3 minutes. Add ginger, garam masala, cumin, salt, and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add tomato, rice, raisins, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50-60 minutes  or until rice is tender. Stir in cilantro. Sprinkle with almonds; serve with lime wedges.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Pesto Calabrese

    Hatch original recipe

    After being gone for 5 weeks- home a week- gone another week- having a little gal who was teething and sick and waking up a million times a night plus not taking good naps--- it has taken a bit of time to get back into the swing of cooking. I honestly forgot that you can buy marinara sauce in a jar and cook some noodles and that can be dinner- but I'm glad we remembered that and I am going to keep some on the shelf. However, if you find yourself with time or energy or a desire to make something a bit nicer than jarred sauce and pasta- here is a recipe that is one of our very favorites. Nick came up with this recipe on his mission- and he says it is one he is most proud of since it isn't a very common dish and he figured it out with one of his companions. I will happily admit that anytime I make this dish it isn't quite as good, so I try to sucker him into making it whenever possible.


    1 box Barilla pasta ( we opt for penne)
    1 medium yellow onion
    1 red bell pepper
    1 yellow bell pepper
    2 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 Tbsp. dried or fresh basil
    salt, to taste
    chili pepper, to taste
    red pepper flakes, to taste
    1-2 cups of grated cheese ( 1 cup mozzerella, 1/2 cup pecorino romano or parmeggiano, etc)
    *bit of Gorgonzola for depth- 1/2 oz, a few large crumbles...
    grilled chicken (optional)
    diced tomatoes (optional)


    1. Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-11 mintues.

    2. Meanwhile, dice onion and bell peppers. In a small frying pan over medium heat add oil, salt and basil and saute onion and peppers, until soft. Place in food processor or blender, and blend thoroughly.

    3. Transfer blended mixture to small sauce pan, over low-medium heat, add cheese and melt until incorporated-about 5-10 minutes. (I usually just keep it warmed until the pasta is ready) Add chili pepper/red pepper flakes to taste. Mix with pasta cooked al dente, add in diced tomatoes and grilled chicken before serving.

    Serves 6-8.

    *We tried the Gorgonzola this last time and it was perfect! The taste wasn't strong by any means, but it really added a little extra something. I highly recommend it with this addition.