Tuesday, August 31, 2010

oreo cheesecake pretzel bites

i found this recipe through one of the new blogs i'm reading - picky palate. she's a stay at home mom who has found a love for cooking simple recipes. this is the perfect dessert for easy entertaining and it tastes great. to me, there is nothing better that salty pretzels with creamy rich chocolate. here's how to do it.

14 whole oreo cookies
2 oz cold cream cheese
48 square pretzels
2 cups chocolate chunks or chocolate chips, melted
white sprinkles

place oreos into a food processor and process until finely ground. mix oreo crumbs and cream cheese until dough forms. pinch 1 tablespoon of dough and form into a little square. place onto pretzel then gently press top pretzel to close. top with melted chocolate and white sprinkles. chill until chocolate has hardened and serve.

thanks to meggy for making these little treats.

Monday, August 30, 2010

pasta with asiago cream sauce and spinach

click on image to zoom in.
i found this recipe online over at good things catered and decided to make it the very next day. i absolutely love asiago cheese, especially on an asiago cheese bagel. i was really looking forward to this dish, but somehow the end result didn't turn out as expected. the sauce was a little too thick. we added chicken stock to thin it out, but that was only a temporary fix because it kept getting thick again. i think next time i would add equal amounts of chicken stock and milk to even things out, instead of using just milk - like the recipe calls for. i'm posting the original recipe from good things catered. feel free to make your own adjustments. don't get me wrong - this was still good and hit the spot - it was just a little too rich for me.

2 pounds pasta of choice
4 tablespoons sweet cream butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 cups milk, plus an additional 1/2 cup if needed
2 cups shredded asiago cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
2 cups fresh baby spinach
red pepper flakes, to taste

in a large stock pot with salted water, bring water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. meanwhile in a large pan, add butter over medium heat. once fully melted, add flour and stir with large wooden spoon to combine well. cook, stirring well, for two minutes and and milk, stirring well, 1/2 cup at a time to turn roux into a smooth bechamel. turn heat to low and add shredded cheese, stirring well to combine thoroughly. add salt, pepper, paprika and stir well to combine. add more salt to taste if needed (depending on the saltiness of the cheese). once pasta is done, quickly strain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. add pasta to cheese sauce pan, along with spinach and stir well to combine. add pasta water if needed to achieve nicely coated pasta. transfer to bowl and serve. top with red pepper flakes.

we served this with crusty garlic bread and mixed greens with meagan's grandma's secret salad dressing. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

my first cooking class.

earlier this week, rae and i went to my first ever cooking class at CulinAerie in dc. the class was part a birthday gift from rae and a part thank-you gift from my friend john for designing his business cards. rae and i had a fabulous time, but i think i may have enjoyed it more. the highlight of my night was when the chef/instructor complimented me on my skills...apparently i really know how to make garlic into a paste and how to cut fennel razor thin. according to the class description, the evening promised to teach us how to "dazzle our guests with a sophisticated summer menu, all of which could be prepared in advance, allowing us and our kitchen to stay cool." the menu was simple and light, kept us cool and definitely dazzled us gals. here's what we made:

appetizer 1: manchego cheese and marcona almonds with garlic, spices and fresh herbs
appetizer 2: gazpacho andaluz with spicy cucumber sorbet
entree: salad of smoked trout, fennel, and new potatoes with creme fraiche, lemon and tarragon
dessert: savarin (brioche soaked in kirschwasser with fresh fruit and creme chantilly)

rae and i plan to make this meal for the rest of our roommates, so stay tuned for the recipes (we will probably tweak them a little bit). for now, just look at the pictures i took and drool. (i took the pictures with my phone, so they might be a little blurry)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

this week in the kitchen

this week, all the girls in the house wanted to take a turn cooking dinner one night to showcase their culinary skills. that means i'm out of a job for the next couple of days. here's what they have planned:
  • fish tacos | black beans and rice
  • pesto pasta with grilled chicken | fresh tomato salad
  • sun-dried tomato and chicken paninis | simple dressed greens

(photo credit - visualize.us)

Monday, August 23, 2010

fan mail: recipe success

being a soon-to-be-housewife, my friend kim, has been channeling her inner-chef and cooking up recipes from because sis said so for her fiance.  last night she did her own rendition of deconstructed chicken with spinach, goat cheese and pinenuts. here she is in her own words:

"thanks so much for your inspiration.  last night david and i loved the dish, and i'm excited to share it and make it again!!  not only have you gotten me over my fear of risotto, you gave me a recipe that even my dad (the simplest/pickiest of eaters) loved but the foodies in david and i loved as well!!!  i only changed it by making what we can call a "deconstructed stuffed chicken with a simple risotto." i followed the recipe exactly, except substituted fresh chopped spinach, and topped it all with toasted pine nuts, because david and i love them!  my picture isn't that pretty because i made the goat cheese patties too thin and the panko was trying to detach, but i saved it and the crunch was still there!!

thanks so much kell!  you're a great chef and i can't wait to try more of your recipes!!! :) oh yeah...i don't know if you watch "hell's kitchen" but david immediately said...."that's nice that risotto" just like chef ramsey!!! haha"

kim kim - hearing about your recipe success makes me want to jog the whole way from arlington to chantilly just to give you a a big sweaty hug. i just love the fact that you were able to take things into your own hands and get creative. keep up the good work.

and of course, we always welcome more feedback/suggestions/comments/gripes (we suppose) at becausesissaidso@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the "i'm not on a diet" enchilada

yello. i'm gorgeous.

today is thursday. the last time i blogged was sunday. please consider taking the following excuses as an explanation. 
  1. i joined a gym on monday. between the 6pm elliptical sessions and 6am spinning classes, food hasn't been on my mind. cellulite has.
  2. i've been preparing for my trip to the hamptons this weekend with sis (aka spending my free time picking out the perfect outfits)
  3. meagan (roommate) has become the new domestic goddess of the house
all in fact, are true. meagan has really stepped up her game this week and prepared most (all) of the meals. let's take a quick recap. 

we started off monday with a grilled steak seasoned with bobby flay's signature rub. i whipped up buttermilk garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with tomatoes and garlic for side dishes. 

tuesday i roasted a whole chicken with a chipotle chili rub and meagan made trader joe's red quinoa and black bean salad with cilantro dressing. all the ingredients for the salad can be bought at trader joe's, including the bottled dressing. roasting a chicken is easy - clean, rinse and dry a 5 lb chicken. place on roasting pan and drizzle evoo all over chicken, including under the skin. using your hands, rub chili rub all over chicken. do this liberally. cook for 1.5 hours at 425 degrees. 

last night was the best night by far. meagan made smokey cheese enchiladas with red rice and beans. with over 3 pounds of cheese in the recipe, this wasn't a night for dieting. it was a night of seizing the moment. when someone puts a casserole dish full of goey, cheesy mexican deliciousness in front of you- you seize the moment and eat them. just look at the picture - you'll go weak in the knees too.

so i leave you this week with some great recipes to try and a promise to be better about blogging next week. i must sign off now to keep an eye on my 70+ bus driver taking me to the city...aka keep checking him for a pulse.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

deconstructed stuffed chicken with spinach, goat cheese and pinenuts

click image to zoom in.
i added a little too much sauce, so you can't see the chicken that good - but i promise it's there!

meagan's mom, denise, sent me a stuffed chicken recipe the other day. i decided to improvise a little and take all the ingredients that were used to stuff the chicken and make it in a sauce to top the chicken. i served it with orzo with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. i kept the portions small; it served as the perfect light dinner for two. everything was delicious.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 tablespoon oil from sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons low sodium chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced

directions for chicken:
take about 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of goat cheese, roll it into a ball and flatten into a patty. repeat and make a second patty. coat in evoo and roll in panko bread crumbs. put in fridge for about 5 to 10 minutes. meanwhile dredge chicken in flour. heat skillet with evoo over medium high heat. fry chicken about 4 minutes per side until golden brown. remove from pan and set aside. add cream to pan, scraping up the browned bits from the chicken. add half of frozen thawed spinach, s&p and pine nuts. let sauce reduce by half. meanwhile, heat a small skillet with evoo. fry goat cheese patties about 2 minutes per side until golden brown. to serve, top chicken with pan sauce and add goat cheese on top of that.

directions for orzo:
cook the orzo according to package directions. set aside in strainer. in a food processor, mix together tomatoes, broth, vinegar, garlic, sun-dried tomato oil and s&p until smooth. add half of spinach to orzo and mix with vinaigrette. add more s&p if needed and serve warmed or chilled.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

spicy eggplant parmesan

click on image to zoom in.

this is a guest blog post from meagan kessler.

being a teacher this time of year, i find myself with a whole lot of nothing to do. i've been doing my very best to distract myself from texting my roommates at work all day, but trying to be productive at the same time. day after day the girls come home to a spic and span, ant-free house because of all my efforts. i find myself secretly expecting a “wow, meag, this place looks great…thanks for folding all my laundry! it’s so nice opening up the cheez-its and not finding them covered in ants. by the way jillian’s 30 day shred has really been paying off! your arms look great!”….HOWEVER, that is simply not the case. most days i listen to them complain about 2-hour commutes, bosses that have no bathroom etiquette, or how hungry they are. i decided it was about time i drown this out, even if for just one night, and make them notice me (who by the way has usually been waiting anxiously for the past 3 hours for them to finally come home so she can have someone to talk to).

i’m not a cook. don’t get me wrong, i like food and i appreciate all sis’s home cooked meals, but i usually don’t have the patience to cook myself.  i decided on my go-to, eggplant parmesan recipe. i was worried because this is usually a good cold weather meal, but the rain we had here in arlington last night really helped make it acceptable.  the meal, as expected, was a success. i could say it's easy but then i wouldn't be doing myself any justice. it definitely takes the skills of a skilled master chef, but i think you could pull it off. 

to duplicate my version exactly, follow tyler florence's recipe and instructions to a t, leaving out the olives and maybe accidently mistaking 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes.  ;) i served it with garlic bread and a simple salad with a red wine vinaigrette dressing.

sis' input (because i couldn't resist):
first off the sauce was to die for. i'm definitely going to use this as my go-to recipe next time i make any pasta dish. it was perfect combination of spicy, garlicy, and sweet. next let's talk about the eggplant. meagan cooked it to a perfect crisp so you could still taste the fried bites after it was baked. the warm, gooey mozzarella cheese was the ultimate topping, making you go back for seconds. seriously try this one. good job, meggy. i think i have some new competition in the house.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

sizzling chicken fajitas

as i said yesterday, this week's meals are simple, but tasty. i used a bottled fajita marinade to flavor the chicken. the brand i used is called world harbors and you can get it at about any grocery store in the salad dressing/sauce aisle. i served the fajitas with homemade reduced fat guacamole that was made with peas. get the recipe here.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup premade fajitas marinade
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow onion, cut into thin slices
favorite fajita toppings - cheese, sour cream, black bean dip, refried beans, lettuce
flour tortillas

cut chicken breasts into thin strips and marinate in fajita sauce for up to an hour. keep in fridge. heat skillet over medium high heat with evoo. add bell pepper and onions, cooking until onions have softened - about 5 to 7 minutes. remove veggies from pan, add more evoo and cook chicken about 5 minutes. season with s&p. meanwhile, wrap tortillas in tinfoil and keep warm in 350 degree oven. the next step is easy - take a warm tortilla, add your favorite condiments, top with chicken, fold it up and dig in. don't know how to fold up a burrito (ahemmmm ton)? here's a quick demonstration.

homemade reduced fat guacamole

(photo credit - latimes.com)
i got inspiration for this lighter version from whole foods. they sell "reduced fat" guacamole that has half the calories of the regular stuff. i was skeptical at first, but after looking over the ingredient list on the label, i decided to give it a try. the trick is subbing out avocados for peas. you still use an avocado in this recipe, just not as many as you normally would. it turned out really good and i could hardly tell there was an avocado missing. if you don't have peas on hand, you can also try it with edamame.

2 ripe avocados, diced
1 cup frozen peas, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
juice of 1 lime

place peas and 1 avocado in food processor, blending until smooth. in a bowl, mix together remaining avocado, pureed pea mixture and the rest of the ingredients. mash a little bit with a fork, leaving some chunks of avocado. season with more s&p if needed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

this week in the kitchen

this is definitely going to be a casual, easy week in the kitchen for me. not too fancy, but nothing too boring. meagan has decided she wants to dazzle the rest of the roommates with her eggplant parm recipe. and she wants to write a guest blog post about it. stay tuned, foodies. we have an exciting week ahead of us.
  • sizzling chicken fajitas | homemade guacamole
  • roasted tilapia with olives and lemon served | orzo with spinach and sundried tomato vinaigrette
  • eggplant parmesan | garlic bread | simple garden salad

(photo credit - visualize.us)

Monday, August 09, 2010

mango bbq chicken with mango salsa couscous

first off, sorry for the delay in this post. i made this for dinner last thursday and haven't had a chance to post until now. i guess i had too much fun over the weekend.

i'm going to go ahead and throw this out there - this wasn't my favorite recipe in the world - but it was still good. i just felt like something was missing from the meal. however, the sauce was a great combination of sweet (from the mangoes) and spicy (from the jalapenos). i think next time i need to serve the chicken with more of the bbq sauce to add more flavor to the dish. i served it with mango salsa couscous from one of those pre-made mixes. (click on link to see what brand to buy.) i'm usually not one for those things because i like to add my own fresh ingredients, but meagan promised me it would be delicious. and it was.

(recipe from ellie krieger @ food network) 

2 tablespoons evoo
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 red pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
1 mango, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 to 3 jalapenos, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

heat the evoo in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high. add the onions and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. add the red peppers, garlic, salt and pepper, and allspice and cook for 2 minutes more. stir in the vinegar, molasses, worcestershire sauce, lime juice and tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute more. transfer the mixture into a bender and add the mango and jalapeno. blend until smooth. put 1 cup of the barbeque sauce into a sealable plastic bag with the chicken and marinate for 1 hour.

preheat a grill pan with evoo over medium high heat. grill about 5 to 7 minutes per side until chicken is cooked all the way through, turning once. let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing. spoon about 1/2 cup of barbeque sauce over the meat slices and serve on top bed of couscous. (i didn't do this step - but make sure you do it).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

grilled buffalo chicken salad

for some reason, i have really been craving buffalo chicken bites. no matter how hard i try, i always seem to give into my food cravings. this time was no different, except i made a much healthier version of the real thing. i served it with a homemade buttermilk ranch dressing that i found on annie's eats. we didn't have buttermilk at home, so i improvised and made my own. just combine 1 cup of skim milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tarter. you'll get the same rich, tangyiness!

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup butter, i used brummel and brown (it's yogurt based and has half the calories of real butter)
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
your favorite lettuce, chopped
celery, diced
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
monterrey jack cheese, cubed
homemade ranch dressing

heat grill pan over medium high heat. season chicken breasts with evoo and s&p. grill on each side about 5 to 7 minutes. remove from pan and cut into strips. in a small sauce pan melt butter with hot sauce, worcestershire, garlic powder and s&p. mix chicken strips with hot sauce mixture, making sure every piece is coated. to serve, place a bunch of lettuce on place. add toppings (celery, tomatoes and cheese) and chicken. drizzle with homemade ranch dressing. it's that easy. i'll never miss fried chicken again...i hope.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

spicy vodka pasta with sausage, spinach and sundried tomatoes

i wish i could take credit for this wonderful delight, but i can't. denise (meagan's mom) makes this on the regular for her family and passed along the recipe. its crazy simple and tastes even better. i used flavored sausage from costco (smoked mozzarella, garlic and artichoke to be exact) but feel free to substitute any kind you like - chicken, turkey, reduced fat, regular.

1 lb whole wheat pasta - any shape you like
1 pound sausage links
1 bag fresh spinach
25 oz jar of arrabiata pasta sauce (it's spicy!)
15 oz jar of sundried tomato alfredo sauce
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried italian seasonings
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced into strips
red pepper flakes, to your liking
freshly grated parmesan
fresh basil for garnish

add evoo to large skillet. brown sausages about 4 minutes per side, until fully heated through. (i bought the kind that were already cooked, so i just needed to re-heat them. if you buy the ones haven't been cooked previously, add more cooking time.) in a large sauce pan, add evoo, garlic and shallots. cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. add both jars of pasta sauce, dried italian seasonings, red pepper flakes (if you want it more spicy) and s&p. keep heated over medium low heat. once sausages are done, chop into 1/4 inch slices and add to pasta sauce. next add sundried tomatoes and spinach and let it wilt into the sauce. season with more s&p if needed. meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. add tablespoon of salt and cook pasta according to directions. to serve, put generous heaping of noodles on plate and top with pasta sauce. garnish with freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil. serve with warm toasty garlic bread and you have yourself a fantastic meal.

side note: meagan added sauteed mushrooms to her pasta sauce - but i don't dig on the shrooms so i left them out.

Monday, August 02, 2010

this week in the kitchen

lots to look forward to this week, my little foodies.

  1. spicy vodka pasta with sausage, spinach and sundried tomatoes
  2. mango bbq chicken with mango salsa couscous
  3. grilled buffalo chicken salad

egg white, sausage and spinach frittata

to be honest, i'm not much of a breakfast fanatic. on the weekends i'd much rather eat a big lunch than a brunch full of scrambled eggs and waffles. however, this gal can only take so much of peanut butter toast or yogurt in the mornings. megg and i decided to switch things up this week and make a frittata that we could reheat and eat with a buttered english muffin. here's how we did it.

11 egg whites
2 eggs
1/4 skin milk
10 oz frozen spinach, de-thawed and drained
2 shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar
1/2 pound reduced fat sausage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

heat evoo in a large ovenproof skillet. saute garlic and shallots for about 4 minutes. add sausage and red pepper flakes, cooking until its completely browned through. remove from pan and set aside. in a bowl mix together egg, egg whites, milk, spinach, cheddar, cooked sausage and s&p. preheat broiler. pour egg mixture into skillet, cover and cook about 10 minutes until top is set. place skillet under broiler for 3 minutes until frittata is golden brown. cut in squares and serve with your favorite toast!