Monday, October 31, 2011

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

Last night I had the problem where nothing I had meal planned for the week sounded good at all.  I was talking about just grabbing a box of macaroni and cheese when homemade alfredo with pepper steak popped into my mind out of nowhere.

I have never made alfredo sauce before.  It has always seemed so much easier to plop the pre-made stuff from a jar onto some noodles and voila, easy meal.  But, lately I've been finding that I feel a lot better when I don't use grocery items with a lot of preservatives in them.  The list of ingredients on the back of the jarred alfredo sauce in my cupboard is outrageous.  When I went grocery shopping this weekend, I got less things for a whole week of meals then the ingredients listed on the back of that jar.

I had a friend recommend the alfredo sauce from not too long ago, and I have always put it in the back of my mind to try.  I figured pairing it with pepper steak would be the perfect combination.

Homemade Alfredo Sauce
adapted from
1/4 cup butter
1 cup fat free half and half
1 tablespoon white cooking wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon pepper

1) Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add cream and wine and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and pepper and serve.

I thought this recipe had too much butter.  I spent forever trying to incorporate it into the sauce by whisking it and letting it simmer, but the butter just kept coming to the top of the sauce and wouldn't incorporate.  I think that it'd be better with maybe a tablespoon of butter instead of a quarter of a cup.  Just enough to add flavor and coat the saucepan, but not enough to feel as though you are drowning in butter.

I think that it turned out great though.  I loved the mixture of the cheeses in the sauce.  The gruyere gave it a little more complexity then parmesan alone would.  I thought it was great with the pepper steak too.  I reduced the amount of pepper I put into the sauce because I knew there would be enough on the steak, but I think I'd increase the amount if we weren't having such a heavily flavored meat with the dish.

It wasn't as easy as plopping jarred sauce into a pan, and heating it up, but it was pretty close, and much more delicious.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Salmon with Lemon Compound Butter

I used to be afraid of recipes that used words like compound butter because I thought it meant something super complicated that I didn't know how to do.   I didn't even click on recipes that I was searching through if I saw 'compound'.  Now, I realize I scared myself out of some very good recipes.

I realized that most of our recipes have heavier flavors to them (honey mustard, BBQ), so when I found this recipe that used butter, dill, and lemon I thought it would be a good thing for us to try. 

Salmon with Lemon Compound Butter
from Food Network

1 stick butter, room temperature
2 lemons, zested
1 tablespoon dill 
1 tablespoon thyme (or lemon thyme)
1 small clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
Kosher salt
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
Extra-virgin olive oil

1) In a small bowl, combine the butter, zest, herbs and garlic. Mix until everything is well mixed. Season, to taste, with salt. If using right away, keep the butter at room temperature. If making ahead, reserve in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using.

2) Preheat grill to medium. (I used my panini maker since it was snowing like crazy)

3) Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Season with salt and coat with olive oil.
4) Brush and oil the grill. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the clean, preheated grill. After 2 to 3 minutes, rotate the salmon 90 degrees to create cross-hatch grill marks on the salmon skin. Cook the salmon for another 3 to 4 minutes.
5) Turn the salmon over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the grill and top with the room temperature compound butter. 

I thought that this salmon recipe created one of the best salmon meals that I have ever eaten.  I loved the compound butter.  You had the creamy butter flavor with the intense lemon flavor from the lemon zest.  I'm not a huge fan of dill, but in the recipe, it was just the right balance without being overwhelming.  This is a great meal, and leaves you feeling full but not overly full.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Dipping Sauce

The World Series game was on and I had not even thought about dinner yet.  I asked if we could order pizza or Chinese food so that I could focus more on the game than the food, but after looking up both options it seemed like dinner would be at least an hour or more away. 

I said, "I have some stuff for meatballs that I can make instead."  And it was decided that meatballs was a much better option (and quicker) than ordering takeout from anywhere in town.  When we started making the meatballs, I told Jacob that they were Asian, to which he came back that the only reason they were Asian was because of the soy sauce and sesame oil (I pulled our ginger out and it had molded pretty bad). 

But these were on the table in about 20 minutes total, and that was including the time that I broke away from the kitchen to see what caused commotion on the TV.

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Dipping Sauce
slightly adapted from Skinnytaste
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1-1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Dipping Sauce
4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 chopped fresh scallion

1) Preheat oven to 500°F.
2) Mix ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, scallions, cilantro, soy sauce, and oil and mix with your hands until combined well.
3) Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish.  Repeat with remaining mixture.
4) Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes (Cook to 165).
5) For the dipping sauce mix together lime juice, water, soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a bowl. Add scallions.
6) Plate meatballs and stir the sauce.  Drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce.

  • Serve with rice or an asian salad with mandarin oranges, baby corn, and a vinaigrette.  I served with rice just because I didn't want to miss any more of the game. 

I found a few things that I did wrong with this meal.  I recommend that everything is finely chopped for the meatball mixture.  I left several things kind of chunky, and mostly the cilantro came out of the meatballs in big strings.  I didn't taste the lime as much in the meal as I wanted to, so I'd recommend upping the lime juice amount if you enjoy lime flavors.  We ran out of sauce because I made the recommended amount not knowing that it would be used like salad dressing.  So if you have someone in your house that likes sauces, you may want to make some extra sauce as well.

But I liked these meatballs a lot.  I loved how much color there were in them compared to a normal meatball.  Little pops of green decorated each meatball as they sat on the cookie sheet.  The sauce went well with the meatballs even though there wasn't enough sauce.  I think ginger would completely change this recipe, so if you're interested in adding ginger, the meatballs call for one tablespoon.  This recipe was definitely a great change from the normal meatball.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Avocado, Tomato, and Alfalfa Sprouts

When I was in college, there was an amazing sandwich shop on campus that served a sandwich that I loved that was loaded with all this stuff and 'Alfalfa sprouts'.  Every time I'd order this sandwich, I'd order it without the sprouts. 

I graduated and moved to a different town, and there was another sandwich at a new shop that I loved with sprouts on it.  I made the comment to a friend that I never ordered sprouts on a sandwich, but then realized that I was turning my nose up at a food that I had never tried before.  So one day, I was brave and ordered the sandwich the way it normally came, with sprouts.  I have to say that at first I had a texture problem with them since they are a little stringy, but they have this great earthy flavor and provide a great crunch to whatever they're in. 

I found a very simple sandwich on the website.  I thought the few ingredients that were on it, sounded amazing together, and a little lightbulb went off in my head that said it may be even more amazing with sprouts...and it was. 

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Avocado, Tomato, and Alfalfa Sprouts
adapted from Skinnytaste
1 mashed avocado (I mixed in 1 teaspoon of mayo to make it more of a spread)
2 oz chicken breast/sandwich
2 slices ripe tomatoes/sandwich
salt and fresh pepper to taste
Alfalfa Sprouts
1 piece of pepperjack/sandwich (optional)
4 ounces of wine (optional)

1)  Grill chicken on the grill.  One time we ate it just plain grilled chicken, and one time, my husband injected a little bit of white wine into the chicken so that it didn't dry out.  It just took a few ounces injected into each chicken breast.  Both versions tasted great, the wine version just didn't dry out as much.
2) When the chicken is almost done, grill the ciabatta bread for just a few minutes so that it is toasted.
3) Cut the chicken into chunks.
4) Spread the avocado mixture and top with all of the other ingredients.

This sandwich was amazing.  Don't forget the salt and pepper step because if you miss it, the flavor is completely different.  The warm bread was slightly crunchy on the outside but soft and pillowy on the inside.  The chicken was moist and the grill flavor made it perfect with all the other components.  The tomato provided just the right amount of acid, and the sprouts just the right amount of crunch.  The cheese provided just a little bit of spice, which I like on sandwiches, but it could easily be changed for another type of cheese or completely omitted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Turkey Nachos

This season, I have watched more football and baseball than I have in probably the last ten years.  Being married has definitely changed what I watch on television.  But the positive side is that I'm starting to understand and like football now.

Because the world series and football are basically intertwined right now, I figured I would make a meal that was game-day friendly and wouldn't take much time to make.

 I ran across the website not too long ago and have been trying to make more healthy meals.  She has a recipe for Loaded nachos that I decided to try out.  Nachos carry a lot of punch in such a convenient bite that it seemed perfect for our afternoon of sports.

Turkey Nachos
adapted from
8 oz Baked Tostitos Scoops
1 lb 99% lean turkey breast
1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons lime juice
salt and pepper
1 cup fat free Refried Beans 
1 1/3 cup reduced fat Mexican cheese 
2 cups fresh tomato salsa
1/2 cup light sour cream
2/3 cup fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno finely chopped

1) Preheat oven to 425°. Place chips on four oven-proof dishes or one large baking sheet.
2) Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over high heat. Add turkey and season with cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and lime juice and sauté until cooked through.
3) Spoon the turkey mixture over the chips and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until cheese melts, about 6 minutes.
4) Remove the nachos from the oven, top with beans, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and jalapeno. Serve immediately.

I was a little nervous using turkey just because beef seems more nacho appropriate to me, but they turned out fantastically.  The flavors all layered together for the perfect harmony in each bite.  The creaminess from the sour cream balanced the spiciness of the jalapeno.  The spices on the turkey made it bold enough to stand up to all the other flavors.  These nachos are so great and flavorful that you don't miss the pounds of cheese that are normally on nachos.

Definitely a great game day staple for any sport.

Friday, October 21, 2011

French Onion Soup

I've only had French Onion Soup once.  Everyone told me that it was the best French Onion Soup that they had ever had, so at our office Christmas party last year, I put a huge ladle full of French Onion Soup in a bowl.  The first bite was aweful.  I don't remember what it tasted like, I just remember that it was aweful and I had to find a way to conceal that I was throwing it away.  Especially since my officemates loved it so much.  So needless to say, I have been a tad afraid of French Onion Soup since last Christmas.

For this Recipe Swap, the theme was Soup and Stews and I got French Onion Soup from Joelen of What's Cookin' Chicago?.  I hand out links to Joelen's blog a lot because it has a great Freezer Meal section, but I've never actually tried any of her recipes.  Her recipe for French Onion Soup comes from Tyler Florence, who I adore.  So I was willing to give this recipe another shot.

French Onion Soup
adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago?, originally from Tyler Florence
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart beef broth
bread bowls (1 per person)
1/2 pound grated Gruyere

1) Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat.
2) Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft, about 50 minutes.
3) Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 20 minutes.
4) Discard the bay leaves. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
5) Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.  (I added a little of the gruyere to the soup as it was simmering)
6) When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the bread bowls on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
7) Ladle the soup in bowls and float the top of the bread bowl like a crouton on top of the soup.

My times were much different than the ones in the original recipe.  It took about two hours from the time that I threw the onions into the pot to the time the bread bowls came out of the oven.  This recipe makes quite a bit of soup.  We could have easily fed six or more people.

I wearily put the first spoonful into my mouth, and quickly exclaimed that it was nothing like the first bowl of French Onion soup that I had close to a year ago.  Jacob had never had French Onion Soup and he said that it was amazing.  It was hearty and cheesy and good and within fifteen minutes we had devoured our soup and the bowls.  I think that using two quarts of broth would have drowned out the onion flavor.  Using one quart of broth gave this dish a good balance of broth taste and onion taste.  The gruyere is such a strong cheese that it goes perfectly with this soup. 

The only thing that I didn't really enjoy was that my house smelled like onions for a long time.  The soup is worth it, but the odor lingered a lot longer than I thought it would.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Smashed Red Potatoes

I don't actually sit down and watch too many cooking shows where the host actually is making a meal.  I usually lose interest about ten minutes in and just tell myself that I'll look the recipe up online. 

5 Ingredient Fix is on while I am at home for lunch though and I often get sucked into her delicious sounding, few ingredient meals.  One day, she was talking about roasting potatoes and then smashing them with a potato masher.  Around this point, I lost interest and told myself that I'd look up the recipe later.
While meal planning, I ran into Gourmet: Day to Day's Crash Hot Potatoes, and thought that it was the perfect recipe to try the 5 Ingredient Fix technique on.

Smashed Red Potatoes
adapted from Gourmet Day to Day and 5 Ingredient Fix
  • 8 small red potatoes (make sure they are around the same size so they cook at the same time)
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of chives
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • parmesean cheese
1)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
2)  Place the potatoes on a sheet pan, pour 3/4 cup water over the potatoes and cover tightly with foil. Bake on the bottom rack until tender, about 30 minutes (this is about an hour if you live at high altitude). Remove from the oven, drain any remaining water.
3) With a potato masher, gently press down on each potato until it slightly mashes. 
4) Drizzle each potato with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, chives, and parmesean cheese.  Place a little pat of butter atop each potato and place back into the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and butter is melted.

I served these with the Chicken with Creamy Chive Sauce.  I loved the potatoes, but they took a long time in the oven.  Jacob said they weren't worth the effort, but I think that it was just because we were both so hungry and it took an hour just for the potatos to roast.  I think that the potatoes are a great side though and are fantastic if you 1) don't live at altitude 2) have the time to make them. 

Chicken with Creamy Chive Sauce

I have been going through a huge cooking slump this month.  When I get home from work, nothing that I've meal planned sounds good and my lack of enthusiasm usually translates into me not enjoying the meal once it's made.

This is the first meal that I've found in the past two weeks that I was truly excited to make.  I put it on the meal plan for last week, but a busy weekend pushed it to this week.  Jacob and I both love mustard, so I figured that maybe with the dijon taste it wouldn't taste healthy and I could pass it off as just a great tasting dinner.

Chicken with Creamy Chive Sauce
adapted from  from EatingWell, found on Gourmet: Day to Day

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 stalks of green onions
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 14-ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

  • Directions
    1)  Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and mix in italian seasoning with a fork.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, discarding the excess flour.
    2)  Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm.
    3)  Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add green onions and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often.
    4)  Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in greek yogurt and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Top with chives and serve immediately.

    When I was cooking, Jacob thought I was making chicken fried steak and so he was a little sad when he found out that he had guessed wrong.  However, the first thing that came out of his mouth when he ate it was,"This is really good." I knew it was a success (and he wasn't thinking about chicken fried steak anymore). 

    I absolutely love sour cream, but I had a big tub of greek yogurt to use up, and when I was eating it, I thought that it tasted fantastic and didn't miss the sour cream.  I also cannot find shallots in my town, so I substituted onions that I had on hand, although I thought that red onions might just come off too strong and overpower the other flavors.  The chicken itself was moist and the seasoning in the flour came through with just a little extra bit of flavoring.  This was a fantastic dish, and definitely didn't taste like it came from a healty eating website.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Spinach, Mushroom, Turkey Bacon, Feta Quiche

    The more I cook, the more I think that my blog name is completely appropriate for what I'm doing.  Jacob and I tried to make cookies this past weekend that were sabotaged by the altitude in Wyoming (and the fact that we didn't know how to compensate for the altitude).

    It turns out the quiche was another one of those recipes where I went to pull it out of the oven at the original time that the Prevention RD blog said, and my quiche was a giant egg soup.  So then I just played the guessing game as to when everything would be done.  Living at 6,200 feet is very interesting sometimes.

    I love quiches though.  My mom made them a lot growing up, and they just seem like such a fancy meal even though you could basically throw anything in there and it would taste fantastic.  I decided to try some new ingredients, and thought maybe I'd see how it would turn out using egg whites instead of a half a dozen whole eggs like my other recipe demands.

    Spinach, Mushroom, Turkey Bacon, Feta Quiche
    slightly adapted from Prevention RD, originally from Erin’s Food Files
    1 store-bought frozen pastry shell
    5 slices turkey bacon
    2 teaspoon olive oil
    1/2 chopped onion
    2 cups chopped spinach
    1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms
    1/4 cup chicken broth
    2 eggs
    3 egg whites
    2/3 cup fat free half & half
    1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    1 tablespoon Italian Seasonings
    salt & pepper to taste

    1) Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake pastry shell for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Remove shell from oven, and set aside. Leave oven on.
    2) Chop turkey bacon and saute in a skillet over medium high heat until slightly crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
    3) Heat oil over medium to medium high heat. Add onion, saute 2-3 minutes until tender. Add mushrooms, spinach, and chicken broth. Saute 4-5 minutes until spinach is soft and the chicken broth has absorbed into everything.  Add turkey bacon back to the pan and stir to combine well.
    4) In a bowl beat eggs, egg whites, and half & half. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Add in veggie/bacon mixture and stir to combine. Add feta, stir to combine, and pour into pie shell.
    5) Bake 40-50 minutes or until completely set, and slightly golden & crispy on top. Serves 4.

    I thought the feta was an amazing strong flavor in this quiche.  I like spinach, but the strands of spinach bothered me a little texture wise.  The mushrooms were soft and gave the quiche that hearty filling.  We didn't let our bacon cook as long as it should have, so it was just kind of a limp addition to the pie.  We decided it would be even more amazing if the bacon was crispier.  Everything went together well though and with the addition of that buttery golden crust, it was so hard to stop eating it. 

    Oh, and we couldn't even tell that the quiche was made with more egg whites than whole eggs.  Substituting the egg whites didn't affect the flavor at all.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Broiled Parmesean Tilapia

    We have been going through a fish phase at our house.  We've found that cooking fish in packets always delivers a lot of flavor, but at the same time, they start to all taste the same.

    My husband found this recipe for broiled fish that we decided to make.  The original recipe calls for three tablespoons of mayonnaise though and while I understand the fish is supposed to have a creamy sauce, putting that much mayonnaise on fish sounded a little counter intuitive to trying to make a healthier recipe.  So, I decided to make it with a little mayo mixed with greek yogurt. 

    Broiled Parmesean Tilapia
    adapted from

    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
    1/4 cup butter, softened
    1 tablespoon mayonnaise
    2 tablespoons greek yogurt
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon onion powder
    1/8 teaspoon celery salt
    2 tilapia fillets

    1) Preheat your oven's broiler. Grease a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.               
    2) In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise, greek yogurt and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
    3) Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork.

    This may have been the best fish that we've made at the house.  The greek yogurt makes it a little sweeter than I think the recipe is supposed to be, but it still adds the creamy taste that the recipe needs.  The spices in this recipe are subtle.  If you're a fan of any of the spices, you may want to increase the amount used in the recipe so that you pull more of that flavor into the fish.  But both times I made this recipe this week, plates were completely cleaned, so I think it turned out great.  The one thing I do have to say about tilapia is that it is such a thin fish that it goes cold quickly on your plate, so you must enjoy it quickly, or make a trip back to the microwave to warm it up.