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Category Archives: Quick dinner

Cooking Light’s Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party

Kat is back in the kitchen. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been MIA is in the blogosphere for a while. I’ll get into the reasons why on another post but suffice it to say, I’m back.

What prompted my return to the kitchen (actually it was my friend Vickie’s kitchen) was her request that I assist with a birthday dinner for our friend Brigitte (of the Kahlua making).

As it happens, last year I picked up an issue of Cooking Light magazine in the check out line after the cover story, Amazing One-Hour Dinner Party, caught my eye. I love dinner parties, especially when there are themes involved. My first ever elegent dinner party took two days of cooking so I wasn’t about to pass up a menu that could be ready in one hour. The timing of this dinner couldn’t really be more appropriate in case any of my readers are trolling the net for last minute ways to impress their Valentine.

The dinner went off perfectly and was fairly amazing, if I do say so myself. Vickie and I had everything for the salad, main course and dessert prepped and ready to go according to the directions in the article. The only one change we made was roasting the potatoes before putting the tenderloin in the oven. Otherwise, unless you have two ovens, I don’t see how both the potatoes and roast were going to cook in one hour. For the record, we roasted fresh red potato wedges on 450° for 15 minutes. We covered them to keep them warm and then popped them back in the oven when the roast was resting.

Another change we would make in the future would be to add a small amount of sugar to the whipped cream. We opted to follow the directions because of the agave nectar that the fruit was marinaded in. In hind sight, one-half to one teaspoon of sugar would be a nice addition.

There were a few things that surprised me:

  1. There was no shopping list in the magazine. I created one here.
  2. Two pounds of beef tenderloin didn’t seem like it would be enough to feed 8 people. Vickie got a 4 pound roast. We fed six ladies and there was plenty left over so maybe I was wrong.
  3. The potatoes call for the addition of truffle oil. At $16.99 a bottle, I now know why I’ve never cooked with it before. I did purchase a bottle from a local olive oil producer for this dinner. Based on the cost, rest assured I will find all kinds of new ways to use truffle oil. In the end, though, I didn’t feel like the flavor profile delivered $16.99 worth of value to the potatoes. Perhaps I’m just a heathen, who knows?

I haven’t blogged about wine tasting here but I am an avid wino…hence the number of bottles I brought for the party. It seems like overkill but at the end of the night, they were all gone. I may have splurged a bit on the number of bottles but cost-wise this dinner came in at about what I would have spent had I taken the birthday girl out for a nice dinner.

My wine budget is typically in the range of $10 to $15 a bottle. Here is what I brought to match up with the courses:

Champagne toast: Titziano Italian Prosecco $10.99 with raspberries dropped in the glass.

Champagne cocktail: We substituted vodka for the gin at the birthday girl’s request. I found a lovely bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling for $12.99 and used this as the base.

Salad course: Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This was one of the specific wines suggested for the menu. I was able to find it at AJs for $12.99. It was crisp for a Riesling but balanced well with the flavors of the salad.

Main course: The Pinot Project Pinot Noir. For $14.99 this is a great medium bodied/soft tannin red that paired well with the red meat.

Dessert: Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Riesling ($8.99). Sweeter wines pair well with sweet desserts. This Riesling is a little softer than the Kung Fu girl and matched well with the berries and cream.

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Oven Roasted Veggies – the Perfect Side Dish for Fall

Photo credit: AnneCN on Flickr

One of the easiest side dished you can prepare for fall (and Thanksgiving, in particular) is a platter of roasted vegetables. Heart healthy and low calorie, roasted veggies make an ideal accompaniment to low fat chicken, pork or fish dishes.  As I mentioned in the post for roasted vegetable soup, roasting brings out the fullest flavor of vegetables; reduces any bitterness and enhances their natural sweetness.

Just about any vegetable will work. For obvious reasons, more water laden veggies like celery or leafy greens are not good candidates.

Preparing veggies is as simple as washing, trimming and cutting them into uniform pieces so they cook evenly. Unless you choose to stagger cooking times, denser root veggies benefit from being cut small because they take longer to cook. The finished product can be served hot or cold. Veggies can be roasted in advance and then reheated too.

I always coat the veggies with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper prior to roasting. Here are some of my favorites to roast with how I like to cut them for optimal browning.

Mix and or all of these:

  • Asparagus – cut woody stems off bottom
  • Bell peppers – remove stems and seeds; cut into 1″ wide strips
  • Eggplant – peel and cut eggplant in half lengthwise and then into 1/2″ strips
  • Mushrooms – roast whole or cut in half
  • Summer Squash – cut in half and then in quarters
  • Onion – cut in half and lay face down
  • Brussels sprouts – cut in half
  • Fennel – remove fronds and stalks; cut into wedges
  • Potatoes/Yams/Turnips – cut into chunks

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400°
  • Chop veggies evenly
  • Coat with olive oil making sure there is an even sheen all the way around
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Lay in a single layer on a roasting pan
  • Check every 10 minutes. Remove veggies from pan as they are done

Kat’s tip: My favorite melange consists of onion, summer squash, asparagus, and mushrooms. I add the onions first and roast for 10 minutes. Then I add the asparagus and summer squash and roast another 10 minutes. Last I add the mushrooms and roast 5 to 10 minutes or until they’re done. I serve this with slices of rotisserie chicken, soft cheeses (Brie and goat) and fresh bread.

 

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Kat’s Easiest White Bean Chili Ever

White bean chicken chili topped with chopped cilantro

I commented before how I had three or four different recipes for butternut squash soup. Turns out I have even more versions of white bean/chicken chili. You may wonder why I’m posting about chicken while the rest of the world is already talking turkey. The answer is that I still have some cooked chicken on hand from my marathon soup weekend. I guess I could freeze the chicken and save it for later. But truthfully, I’m just not ready to talk turkey yet. I already have my T-day menu planned out and its fairly simple. After Thanksgiving, turkey leftovers will be abounding and I’m sure I’ll be up to my eyes in turkey soup. My guess is you’ll be hearing a lot more about turkey then.

In the meantime, the recipe I am posting today reportedly was one of the top ten recipes from the Seattle Times in 1994. Unlike some of the other versions I have, it honestly doesn’t get any easier than this. If you have cooked chicken (or turkey leftovers) on hand, you could be eating dinner in under 30 minutes. I normally don’t go for canned beans. Even if I did, I certainly would always rinse away the extra sodium. However, this recipe calls for dumping in the entire can; beans, juice and all, which gives you a head start on a thicker chili and cuts cooking time.

If you’re in a hurry for dinner some night, this recipe could be the ticket.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion — peel/chop fine
  • 2 medium garlic clove — peeled/chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper — chopped fine
  • 30 ounces white beans, canned — undrained (two 15 oz. cans)
  • 4 ounces green chiles — canned/diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 14 1/2 ounces chicken broth — canned, low sodium
  • 8 to 12 ounces roasted chicken breast meat — cut in 1/2 in. cubes
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
  • 6 tablespoons salsa — optional

Directions:

  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper and sauté 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the white beans, chiles, cumin, chili powder and broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the chicken and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the lime juice and top with chopped cilantro.

Use a tablespoon of salsa to garnish each serving of chili, if desired.

Serves 6

Nutritional information: assumes 12 ounces cooked chicken

Calories 201.4 Total Fat 3.3 g Cholesterol 32.9 mg Sodium 42.6 mg Potassium 630.5 mg Total Carbohydrate 23.0 g Protein 20.0 g

Recipe By : Seattle Times – Best 10 Recipes of 1994

 

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Chicken and Lentil Stew

Ingredients for chicken and lentil stew, check!

Watch out world, Kat is about to add another bean under her belt! Remember the bean mausoleum? Somewhere on the back of that shelf, there is a Tupperware container of dried lentils that is about to see the light of day. This is momentous because I don’t really cook with lentils. Now that I think about it, even though I almost always have them on hand, I don’t recall actually adding them to a recipe. Until now.

On a separate note, while much of the blogosphere is busy posting T-day recipes and tips, I am busy trying to use the last of the cooked chicken from the two batches of soup I made for the germ ridden people I know. Each cooked chicken yields about 24 oz of meat. Harkening back to my Weight Watcher days, and depending on how much protein I want in my dish, that is enough chicken to make two or three recipes with four servings each which I can store in the freezer. Multiply that by two chickens and I’ll have a pretty healthy stockpile to choose from. Which is good because December is a busy month and I operate much better when I can throw a pre-cooked meal in the microwave. Otherwise, historically I end up subsisting on Christmas cookies and wine.

P.S. I’m giving myself bonus points for finding another way to use up some of the kale that I bought.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large celery stalk
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 12 ounces cooked chicken, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dried lentils, picked through
  • 4 cups kale, ribs and stems removed

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft.
  • Add the carrots and celery. Continue cooking about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the mushrooms and cook another two to three minutes.
  • Add the chicken, lentils, thyme, oregano and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  • Drop the chopped kale on top of the stew. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the kale softens.
  • Stir through and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves four
Nutritional info:
Calories 214.0  Total Fat 5.0 g  Cholesterol 32.9 mg  Sodium 93.7 mg  Potassium 835.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 23.4 g  Protein 21.3 g
 

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Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes and Parmesan Grits

Grilled salmon with Parmesan Grits and Roasted Tomatoes

I ♥ grits. Funny thing is, even though I lived in New Orleans for six years, I don’t recall making grits for dinner. Ever. I’m a grits-for-dinner convert now, especially if there is cheese involved. A single serving version of this recipe with chicken was featured in the October 11 issue of Everyday Food. I knew as soon as I saw it, I was going to have to make it. And then in that way that the universe works for me I stumbled on another version of the recipe (with way too many steps for my taste) that used salmon in place of the chicken.

A little maneuvering and I was able to morph both recipes into a nice dinner for me and my BFF. I skipped step two since I already had a container of slow roasted tomatoes in the fridge. This explains why the tomatoes are mixed in with the grits in the photo instead of placed on top of the salmon which would have been prettier. I also used my George Forman Grill to do the salmon. Even if you’re doing the salmon and tomatoes in a skillet, this dish will still come together in no time flat. Bonus points for me for serving said dinner in the beautiful plates my BFF gave me for my birthday!

Ingredients:

  • Two 4 to 6 ounce salmon fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup stone ground grits
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Brush salmon with olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Place salmon in skillet and cook, flipping once, until it flakes through with a fork (about 15 minutes). Remove salmon and keep warm. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.
  2. In same skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium and add tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Cook until tomatoes are softened and onion is tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring broth or water to boil. Stir in grits, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Spoon butter on top of grits to melt.
  4. To serve, top grits with salmon and vegetables.

Serves Two

Kat’s tip: Even though I’ve never cooked grits for dinner, I have eaten them for dinner. Here’s my tip for you. If you’re ever in New Orleans, make sure you get over to Zea’s for their roasted corn grits. You’ll thank me but your waist line won’t. Zea’s recipe is chock full of butter and cream but the grits are oh-so-wonderful! If I ever find a skinny version of this recipe I’ll be sure to post it. If anyone has one, I’d be interested in it 🙂

Nutritional value (assumes 4 oz salmon and butter because you gotta live a little)

Calories 547.3  Total Fat 25.3 g  Cholesterol 103.6 mg  Sodium 292.2 mg  Potassium 840.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 40.9 g  Protein 36.9 g

 
 

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Chili for a Crowd – an Oldie but a Goodie

Rumpled and crumpled but still yummy after all these years

You know that old recipe that you’ve had for a hundred years. Yeah…the one that you cut out of the paper at least a decade prior to the new millennium. That’s right…its the one that’s been folded in half, splattered with food and crumpled under a pile of other recipes. The one you’ve made so often that you feel ownership even though the recipe itself was so perfect, as it is, that you rarely even tweak it. It’s that same recipe that friends and family frequently request.

Welcome to my all-time favorite chili recipe. I posted about it once before. Since then, I actually found the recipe and it was crumpled up on the bottom of my recipe box. I’m still not sure which decade the recipe comes from but I’m now pretty certain I cut it out of the LA Times. The byline references a cookbook author, Dupree. A quick Google search leads me to believe it could be Nathalie Dupree; my compliments to whoever the author is. This recipe had staying power!

Aside from replacing beef with turkey, which cuts about one-third of the calories, my version is pretty true to the original recipe (below). In my version, I also scaled the ingredients down to single girl quantities and it still yields four very filling servings.

Regardless, if you’re making the scaled down version or the original, this recipe is pretty easy (after all, this is Kat’s Easy Kitchen). Pulling it together takes very little prep and the whole thing comes together in under an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 4 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 pounds lean ground chuck
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, chopped, reserving juice
  • 3 pounds home-cooked kidney beans or 3 (16 ounce) cans, drained and juice reserved
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 4 ounces canned green chiles, chopped
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Additional herbs

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven.
  2. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender. Remove onions and garlic with slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add meat and brown, breaking up pieces with a spook, over medium high heat. Drain off excess fat.
  4. Reduce heart. Return onions and garlic to pan. Stir in tomatoes and juice, beans, vinegar, spices and chopped chiles. Bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional herbs if desired.
  7. Refrigerate and remove fat if time allows. Chili freezes well.

Makes 12 to 16 servings

Nutritional information:

590 calories; 342 mg sodium; 52 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 80 grams carbohydrates; 45 grams protein, 10.3 grams fiber; 18% calories from fat 

 

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Six Cream of Vegetable Soups Without the Can

Cream of Broccoli Soup - Photo credit Sebastian Mary

I recently found an old can of cream of celery soup buried in the back of my pantry. The first three ingredients were water, flour and celery. The next ten or so ingredients were unpronounceable. This is one reason I prefer making soup from scratch. Besides the preservatives, canned soups are also high in salt. Fortunately, you can create tasty, fresh soups that are highly nutritious on your stove top. The prep time is minimal (about 10 minutes) and cook time is under an hour but mostly unattended.

Cream-of-whatever soups can be made several ways. One way is to make a basic white sauce with butter, flour, heavy cream and/or broth (read as rich and high in calories). For purposes of this post I’m going to concentrate on thickening soups with pureed vegetables so cream, eggs and other high fat ingredients are unnecessary. Potatoes help give these soups a dense, satisfying texture. A food processor, blender or immersion blender are necessary to achieve the correct consistency.

Serve these soups alongside some fresh bread and a tossed salad.

Base recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium all purpose potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 10 oz)
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables (see variations below)
  • 1 cup non-fat or low fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat butter, margarine or oil until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes until onions are soft and transluscent
  3. Add garlic and saute for about 2 minutes
  4. Add the potatoes and vegetable of choice. Stir to combine with onion mixture.
  5. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat
  6. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and vegetables are tender (about 10 to 20 minutes)
  7. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the solids to a food processor or blender. Add a little of the broth to the mixture if necessary.
  8. Carefully puree the soup in batches until you get the consistency you like. Or, use an immersion blender right in the pot.
  9. Return the puree to a low heat and stir in the milk, salt, pepper and other spices.
  10. Gently heat through, stirring constantly.

Serves four

Variations:

Broccoli – Prepare the soup as directed, but add ½ medium diced red pepper when sautéing the onions. Reserve the other half of the bell pepper for garnish. Add four cups chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) at Step 4. Add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg with salt and pepper. Garnish with broccoli florets, finely diced red pepper and shredded Swiss cheese.

Spinach – Prepare the soup as directed but add four cups of coarsely chopped fresh spinach or 2 cups frozen and thawed (or one 10 oz package) spinach. Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg with salt and pepper. Garnish with Feta cheese.

Asparagus – Slice 1 inch tip off 24 spears of asparagus (roughly one pound) and reserve for garnish. Cut the remaining spears in ½ inch pieces and sauté along with the onions in Step 2. Complete remaining steps as directed. Add ¼ teaspoon dried dill with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream and dill sprigs.

Cauliflower – Prepare the soup as directed but add two diced carrots when sautéing the onions. Complete the steps as directed. Add ¼ teaspoon nutmeg with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry once soup is off the heat. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese fresh parsley.

Celery – Prepare the soup as directed but add 2 to 4 cups of diced celery. Complete the soup as directed. Substitute celery salt for regular salt if you have it. Garnish with celery seed (optional).

Mushroom – Prepare the soup as directed. Add 1 cup of coarsely chopped mushrooms after onions are soft. Sauté the mushrooms until most of the moisture is evaporated. For a different flavor try re-hydrating dried mushrooms in boiling water and added them with the fresh mushrooms. Add ½ teaspoon dried thyme with the salt and pepper.

 

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