May 31, 2011

... Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

After the mass amount of meat I ate this weekend, I figured it was high-time for a veggie salad.  So maybe I missed Meatless Monday by a day, but hey, better late than never, yes?  This recipe was right up my alley : Mediterranean flavors plus light, quick and easy to make.  Done and done.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette
serves 4

1 cup uncooked orzo (about 8 ounces)
2 cups bagged prewashed baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled and divided

Cook the orzo according to package directions, omitting the salt and fat.  Drain; rinse with cold water.  Combine orzo, spinach, and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade.  Coarsely chop artichokes, and add artichokes, reserved marinade, and 1/2 cup feta cheese to orzo mixture, tossing gently to coat.  Sprinkle each serving with remaining feta cheese.

Taylor's Notes:

This was a perfect weeknight meal.  Do I say that a lot?  If so, it's only because I love easy weeknight meals.  And really, who doesn't?  Anyhoo... this would be perfect as a side with chicken or fish, but was really great on it's own too.  

Those of you who know me well will be very surprised that I actually used the sun-dried tomatoes.  But I did and I liked them.  I know, shocker.  I'm becoming such a big girl.  I also added capers... a salty little twist that, quite frankly, I'm surprised wasn't in the original recipe.  But, like I often say, make it your own.  Add what you want, leave out what you don't.  Double the amount of olives, cut the onions in half (hello, thank goodness it's not date night!)  Whatever you do...


May 29, 2011

... Memorial Day 2011

I'm really not sure there's a way to introduce the following so let's just get into it, shall we?

- Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Gorgonzola - 

Clean and dry Baby Bella mushrooms.  Remove the stem and, using a spoon or small melon baller, hollow out the cap to make room for the good stuff.  Fill each cap with a spoonful of sun-dried tomato pesto and top with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.  Drizzle the caps with a little extra virgin olive oil and top each one with a small basil leaf.  We found this great Greek Column Basil at the Farmers Market which has small leaves and, we're told, will survive in a pot year-round.  I'm not sure it'll last that long though... especially if I make Grapefruit Basil martinis this weekend.  Pop the caps on the smoker at 230 degrees for about 40 minutes.

- Fresh Tomato Salad with Balsamic and Gorgonzola -

We also found this gorgeous Beefsteak Tomato at the Farmers Market.  It was huge (a whole pound!) and so delicious.  We sliced it, sprinkled it with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt, drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic, and tossed on the leftover Gorgonzola crumbles.  Now this is what Summer is all about. 

- The 'Fatty' -

Meat Lovers unite!  I'm not even one of them and I can definitely get down with this guy.  Three kinds of meat - Italian sausage, ground pork, and ground turkey - melded together.  (My apologies for the images of raw meat above... I don't think it's all that appetizing either, but I think it helps to understand the process...)  You'll need about a pound and a half.  We used one pound of Italian sausage (take it out of the casings if you buy it in links) and a quarter of a pound each of the pork and turkey.  Mix it all together in a big bowl, then spread it out on a large sheet of plastic wrap.  You'll want to flatten it out to be about 8"x11" and between 1/4" and 1/2" thick.  Now comes the fun part - choose what you want inside.  We used green and red peppers, green onions, garlic, and white cheddar.  We sauteed the veggies for just a few minutes until they were just tender and then layered them in the middle (lengthwise) of the meat.  Top the veggies with a little cheese and then, using the plastic as your helper, roll one side of meat over the veggies and then one more roll to create one large meat 'fatty'.  Sprinkle it generously with seasoning - I think we used something along the lines of Lawry's seasoning salt.  Throw it on the smoker around 230 degrees for one and a half hours.  

- Baby Back Ribs with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes -

Farmers Market to the rescue again!  We found these great purple and Fingerling potatoes at the same stand that we got the tomato and, like the tomato, they didn't disappoint.  Slice them in half - the larger ones in quarters - and place them on a cookie sheet.  Give them a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt & pepper, thyme, and oregano.  Slide them into a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes and they are the perfect pairing for the ribs.  If that sounds easy, try this on for size.  Sprinkle a couple racks of ribs with your choice of seasoning - we used the same one we used on the Fatty for one rack and a hot & spicy version for the other.  Place them on a grill rack in the smoker at 230 degrees for four hours and dinner is served.  

I hope you all have / had a terrific Memorial Day weekend!  I'm sure you'll understand if my next month's worth of posts are of salad.  


May 22, 2011

... Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream

What a find this recipe was!  Fresh and delicious, quick and easy... what more could you ask for?  (unless a reminder to not leave a tortilla browning in a skillet when you go out on your balcony to chat with your neighbors...)  Not that I would know personally, of course.

The cilantro slaw and avocado cream were so tasty and I'll definitely be incorporating them into other recipes in the future.  Fish tacos... no brainer.  Nachos... absolutely.  

Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream
serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
cooking spray
1/8 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, diced
2 cups packaged angel hair slaw
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with chile powder, garlic salt, and cumin.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove chicken from pan.

Combine zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and next 3 ingredients (through avocado) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

Combine remaining 1 tablespoon juice, slaw, onions, cilantro, oil, and salt, tossing to coat.

Heat tortillas according to directions.  Divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas.  Top each tortilla with about 1 tablespoon avocado mixture and 1/4 cup slaw mixture.

Taylor's Notes:
With the weather we had today (aka terrific), I had to grill the chicken instead of cooking it inside.  Either way would be great, of course, but the grill added that extra bit of oompf.  Instead of slicing the chicken and tossing it with the spice mixture, I just rubbed the mix onto a couple of chicken breasts and put them on the grill.  Other than that, I played by the rules.  I warmed the tortillas (and yeah, ok, charred one or two) in a hot skillet for just under a minute on each side right before the chicken came off the grill.  

We had black beans and chips as sides, but it was a brilliant move when we added the beans to the tacos.  Well played.  Now, if only there were leftovers...


May 9, 2011

... Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies

First off, I'm baaaaacckkkk!  Yea!  I don't know if you're as excited as I am, but I'm pretty pumped.  I'm not sure what happened to April, but it was a whirlwind of a month.  The 8 to 5, the 8 to 5 after-hours, a trip to the beach.  I know... it's tough.  ;)  And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

When Mom sent me this recipe I knew I had to make it because, well,  A lot.  So, how could I go wrong with Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies?  You're right, I couldn't.

Smooth chocolate malt whipped frosting sandwiched in between two chewy, chocolate malt cookies.  It's definitely not lacking in richness... or chocolate.  And you'd think with malt powder in both the cookies and the frosting, that'd be enough.  But I think I'll use a little more next time.  What, did you think I was exaggerating my love of malt?

And what's even better is that I could celebrate Taylor Made's 100th post with these tasty little numbers. Yea!

makes 24 cookies

For the cookies:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plain malted milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons hot water

For the filling:
10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plain malted milk powder
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt.  With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in egg, sour cream, and hot water.  Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture.

Space tablespoon-size balls of dough 3 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake until flat and just firm, 10 to 12 minutes.  Let cool on parchment on wire racks.

To make the filling:
While the cookies are baking, melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring.  Let cool.  With an electric mixer, beat malted milk powder and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.  Gradually mix in half-and-half, chocolate mixture, and vanilla.  Refrigerate, covered, until thick, about 30 minutes.  Beat on high until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  (After chilling, the filling will be very thick and dark, but as soon as you start to beat it, the color will begin to lighten and the filling will become very fluffy.)

To assemble the cookies:
Match up cookies of similar sizes into pairs.  Using a tablespoon-size cookie scoop, scoop a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the bottom of one cookie.  Sandwich with another cookie until the filling pushes to the edges of the cookies.  Repeat with remaining pairs of cookies.  Cookies can be kept at room temperature between layers of parchment in airtight containers up to 3 days.

Taylor's Notes:
Although a little time consuming, these are really easy cookies to make.  They're really tasty, too, but so rich that one will do the trick.  Ooh, did I just admit that one usually isn't enough?  Well, come on, who are we kidding?  When is one cookie ever enough??  I digress... great, easy, rich cookies.  Make them, especially if you're a fellow malt lover.