Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lamb & Eggplant with Chiles over Orzo

The one thing that I haven't ever been able to get Jacob to try is eggplant.  I find this extremely saddening because eggplant is one of my favorite things to eat.  Apparently one time when he was overseas, the chow hall fed him some eggplant that turned him off of it for awhile.  I've always been suggesting dishes that use eggplant, and he always turns them down and makes a face.

For this recipe, I figured the lamb and tomato sauce might be just enough to hide the eggplant taste so that I could sneak it in.  When I mentioned it was a lamb stew dish over orzo, he quickly agreed to trying it...not even caring about the eggplant.  So, I threw it on the menu excited that I finally whittled down his campaign against eggplant.

Lamb and Eggplant with Chiles over Orzo
slightly adapted from EveryDay with Rachel Ray January/February 2013
3/4 pound of orzo or small penne rigate
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb or lamb stew meat
1 small, firm eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatos
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 cup feta crumbles
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, and add the orzo, cooking until al dente.  Drain and return to the pot.
2) While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil, over medium-high heat.  Add the lamb and cook until well browned, about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.
3)  Stir the eggplant, chiles, onion, garlic and rosemary into the lamb.  Partially cover and cook until the vegetables are softened, about five minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, chicken or beef stock and lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
4) Toss the pasta with the feta and butter, and top with the lamb.

This dish was so different and tasty.  It developed a lot more flavors than I expected it to in the short amount of time that it was on the stove.  The lamb didn't have a gamy taste, because it absorbed all the tomato mixture.   The only thing that I regret doing was that I only used one jalapeno instead of the two that it called for.  I didn't get much heat, and was kind of looking for that element in this dish.  You could also use a red fresno, which is on the same heat scale as a jalapeno.  For people that like lamb...or even don't like lamb, this is a fantastic different lamb dish.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chicken Suiza Pockets

When I first saw these pockets, I didn't think they would work well.  Mexican flavors inside of a crescent roll?  It just didn't seem to work.  But, as the weeks went by, every time I meal planned, this recipe would pop into my head.  I decided that I should just make them so I knew what they tasted like.   It turns out that maybe I shouldn't doubt recipes that come from people on my cooking board.

Chicken Suiza Pockets
barely modified from Stephanie Cooks
2 small chicken breasts
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chiles)
5 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded Mexican Blend cheese
2 packs reduced fat crescent rolls

1)  Preheat the oven to 375.
2)  Put chicken breasts and Rotel in a 9 by 9 pan and bake until the chicken is done, about 35 minutes.
3)  Place the whole chicken breasts, 3 tablespoons of the Rotel and all the other ingredients except the crescent rolls and the cilantro into a standing mixer. Turn on low and mix until all the ingredients are combined (this will shred your chicken and combine all the ingredients).
4)  Divide each pack of crescent rolls into 4 rectangles by sealing together two triangles of dough. Divide the filling evenly among the 8 rectangles. Seal by pinching the dough up and into the middle. Bake 20 minutes.
5) Top with cilantro, if desired.


These smelled delicious as they were baking.  These were amazing.  The flaky crust of the crescent worked so well with the flavors on the inside.  The mixture inside was great, moist creamy chicken with flavors that all worked together.

They would take less time if you were using up leftover chicken, but weren't terribly labor intensive.  They made for a great lunch the next day, and we served them with Mexican Rice casserole.  Sometimes in order to find great dishes, we just have to open our minds a little bit.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Banana Oatmeal Cups with Chocolate Chips

It's time for another What's Baking Challenge, and the theme this month is Baking Healthier from Catherine at Pursuing Domestic Godess-ness.

I am a yo-yo exerciser.  I'm really good for a few months, and then working out doesn't seem like fun anymore, so I stop.  In turn, my weight also yo-yos.  I am back in the working out really good phase right now.  I am finally getting into jogging, thanks to the Couch to 5K program, and when the bitter cold sinks in, I've been doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. 

I recently heard on the Biggest Loser that one of the problems with overweight people is that the majority of them skip breakfast.  This is something that I used to do a lot, so I understand it.  So, when approaching this challenge, my first thought was to find a healthy breakfast that I could make on Sunday, pop in a plastic bag, and eat all week when I got to work: enter Banana Oatmeal Cups with Chocolate Chips.

Banana Oatmeal Cups with Chocolate Chips
from Green Lite Bites
3 mashed bananas
1 cup vanilla Almond milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Baking powder
3 cups Old Fashion or Rolled Oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2) Mix all ingredients except the chocolate chips together, and let sit while you prepare the muffin pans.
3) Spray a muffin pan and/or liners with with non-stick spray.
4) Stir the chocolate chips into the oatmeal batter.
5) Divide batter into 15 muffin cups. They should be just about filled, these don't rise much, so it is okay to fill them all the way.
6) Bake 25 minutes, you’ll see the edges just starting to brown and they will be firm to the touch.

I thought these were great.  I am not a huge banana fan, but I think they worked well in these.  I think the banana and the chocolate provide just enough sugar to make these good, although if you like sweeter things, you may want to add just a little sugar into the mix.  These were a great breakfast and kept me full all the way up until lunch.

I do have to confess that Jacob isn't a fan of these.  He thinks that the oatmeal stayed too crunchy, and he is a huge breakfast oatmeal fan, so he likes a mushier oatmeal texture.  I thought the inside oatmeal was softer while the outside was crunchier, providing a nice contrast.  But, I can't force him to see the cups my more for me!

Please check out Catherine's blog (Pursuing Domestic Godess-ness) at the beginning of February to see a list of what all the other participants made.

Chile Tortilla Egg Bake

Throughout the week, it is hard enough to get a cold breakfast before sprinting out the door (hopefully with all of my stuff...sometimes not).  So, during the week, it is mostly just cereal bars or fruit on the bottom yogurt.

Jacob and I only have one day a week off together, so I try to make something good for breakfast on the days that we have.  We both love green chiles, so I thought this was a no-brainer.  This was an easy breakfast to put together, perfect for accomplishing small chores around the house while putting something great on the table.

Chile Tortilla Egg Bake
from Spoonful
6 flour tortillas, soft-taco size (fewer if the tortillas are larger)
3-4 small cans of chopped green chiles, drained and rinsed
1 pound grated cheese
5 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Optional toppings:
Pico de Gallo
Sour Cream

1) Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Preheat oven to 35 degrees.
2) Cover the bottom of the baking dish with tortillas, overlapping as little as possible, using about 2 tortillas per layer.  By the time you get to sides, press the tortilla up against the edge o fthe dish. 
3) Sprinkle the tortillas with half of the chiles, and about a third of the cheese.  Then add another layer of tortillyas, and top it with the rest of the chiles and another third of the cheese.  Add the final layer of tortillas, sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
4) Whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl.  Pour this over the entire casserole.
5) Bake for 35 minutes.  The edge will be brown, and it will not jiggle at all.  Let sit five minutes before cutting. 
6) Top with optional toppings that are desired and enjoy.

This breakfast was a hit.  Jacob added a lot of cheese to the top, so it had that strand of cheese that dangles from your mouth to the fork.  The original recipe didn't call for extra toppings, and in all honesty, was fine without them, but I had some leftover pico de gallo from tacos that week and we threw it on and it elevated the dish even more.  Jacob put sour cream and pico on his and exclaimed that it was delicious. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Orange Zest and Pecan Chicken

It's time for another recipe swap, hosted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking.  It's hard to believe that I've been doing these swaps for almost two years now, and have found so many good recipes because of it. 

The theme this time was Celebrity Swap.  I swapped my recipe from Bobby Flay for Lamb and Red Onion Tacos with Tomato Relish, and in return received Orange Zest and Pecan Chicken from A Seasoned Greeting that she adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe.

I've started jogging in the evenings after work and this is a simple, not a lot of fuss meal that turns out fantastic.  It is such a great weeknight meal.  Usually Rachel Ray's dishes are ingredient intensive too, so I was glad to see that this recipe had no where near her usual ingredient count. 

Orange Zest and Pecan Chicken
barely adapted from A Seasoned Greeting
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 chicken breasts cut into tenders (I just left my chicken breasts whole)
1 cup orange juice (either fresh or from concentrate)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sweet BBQ sauce
1/3 cup finely crushed pecans
1 navel orange (you'll use the zest and the juice)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2)  Place the chicken in pan and season with salt & pepper, surround chicken breasts with orange juice. Cook 45 minutes (or until no longer pink).
3) In a bowl, mix the maple syrup and BBQ sauce. Zest the orange and stir in the zest. Juice the orange and stir into the mixture.

I have to say that I think the star of this dish is the sauce.  I really could have left the pecans off the dish and been perfectly happy, but this dish had really moist chicken and a sauce that was to die for.  The juice from the orange transforms the barbeque sauce into something unique yet completely delicious.  I have to say that I tried to serve this over some lettuce like Rachel Ray suggested but the sauce is a little too much for the lettuce, and it became a soggy mess with the lettuce.  However, the rice was a great compliment to the dish and absorbed the leftover sauce, which was a bonus too. 

Please check out all the other great Celebrity Swap recipes below!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lamb and Red Onion Tacos with Tomato Relish

When Jacob got the Boy meets Grill cookbook for Christmas, I was ecstatic.  I have a whole shelf of cookbooks in my guest room closet that only get used occasionally, but I still love getting them.  I usually hit them when I am in a food rut and nothing looks good online.

Christmas morning, I spent like an hour looking through the Boy meets Grill cookbook, asking Jacob what recipes sounded good and what didn't.  When looking for something for the week of New Years, I found this recipe for lamb tacos and thought it would be a good recipe to try first.

Lamb and Red Onion Tacos with Tomato Relish
slightly adapted from Boy Meets Grill
Tomato Relish:
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Lamb Marinade:
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
10 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup olive oil

1.5 lamb stew meat or lamb tenderloin
Lamb Marinade
Salt and Pepper

To Assemble Tacos:
Flour tortillas
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 red onion, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
Tomato Relish

1) Tomato Relish: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
2) Lamb Marinade: Combine all the ingredients, let rise to room temperature, put lamb in and mariate in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours.
3) Lamb: If you have lamb tenderloins, you can drain the marinade and season with salt and pepper.  Grill 4-5 minutes per side until medium rare.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then slice.  If you are using lamb stew meat, drain the marinade and saute for about 4 minutes, turning as it cooks. 
4) Assemble tacos using desired ingredients.

These tacos turned out great.  I thought three different types of cheese would overwhelm everything in the taco, but it all worked well together.  The tomato relish provides just the right amount of acid to cut through all the cheese and the meat is delicious.  The marinade cut through the kind of game-y taste that I think lamb can sometimes have.  This was a great recipe and I can't wait to try more of the recipes in this cookbook.