Friday, April 29, 2011

White bean soup with ham & spinach

Oh, ham, so juicy and delicious. What am I to do with you after the holidays are over?
 Over Christmas, my husband and I were given a 9 ½ pound ham. After baking this ham and having bounds of leftovers, I decided I needed to make some more recipes with this delicious piggy. I'm sure many of you are experience a bounty of leftover ham after Easter. This soup is super easy to make with lots of short cuts. A variety of spices gives it depth and flavor, including crushed red pepper - This will give it a little kick, but adds great flavor so only add if you can tolerate spiciness. Leftovers can also be frozen from a rainy (or snowy) day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Bang bang" Shrimp... or maybe "pow pow" or "boom boom"

I celebrated my 23rd birthday a few weeks ago and enjoyed a meal out with my husband at our favorite chain seafood restaurant, Bonefish Grill. If you haven't been to one, go! It does not feel like a chain restaurant and doesn't taste like a chain restaurant. We always order the same appetizer every visit: the bang bang shrimp. I've tried to copy-cat the sauce in this dish, it's spicy, sweet, creamy, and oh-so yummy, but have failed miserably in the past. This time, I finally got close. This recipe is not identical, but very similar and a little healthier because I skip the deep frying, so I might need to call it "pow pow" or "boom boom" shrimp because it's not the true blue "bang bang" shrimp.

This recipe is SPICY but sweet and the wine paired with it should be on the sweet & light side. Gewürztraminer is semi-sweet and fruity with a floral nose, and pairs well with many Asian style dishes. I would also suggest the crisp, light, sweet Muscadet, which pairs well with seafood.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sun-dried tomato stuffed chicken with creamy rosa sauce

One Saturday night, I was in need of a quick dinner. I just so happened to have all these ingredients on hand. The sun-dried tomatoes can be found in your grocery store, in a jar packed in oil. The citrus-y tanginess of sun-dried tomatoes pairs well with the woody, saltiness of smoked bacon. Although rule of thumb says don’t pair your oaky Chardonnays with tomatoes, the complex roasted flavors of sun-dried tomato and this cream sauce really loved my bottle of Red Tail Ridge (Finger Lakes, NY) Chardonnay. Although, almost any dry white will do.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken Piccata & Roasted Balsamic Asparagus

Chicken Piccata, a lemon-garlic Italian chicken specialty, is one of my favorite dishes. However, I don't get an opportunity to cook it often, as my husband particularly dislikes lemon-y chicken and even more so capers, so I waited until I was home alone and indulged. When I was in college, chicken piccata was one of the first things I learned how to cook for myself that wasn't from a box. I partnered this dish with asparagus, because it is in season and complements nicely with lemon flavors. So in this posting, you'll be getting 2 delicious recipes: Chicken Piccata and roasted balsamic asparagus. Enjoy!

Chicken Piccata is very agreeable and will pair well with most dry or semi-dry white wines. I love a buttery Chardonnay with the lemon and garlic flavors of this dish.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Black Bean & Jalapeño Quesadilla Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

This is my own version of a recipe from Cooking Light. My Tex-Mex/Southwest (whatever you want to call this Americanized cuisine) kick continues with another healthy option. We've already discussed how black beans are high in fiber and protein, so here's another recipe showcasing them in two ways: in the quesadillas and as a topping on the salad. As it is, this recipe is vegetarian, but a protein such as chicken or shrimp could easily top off this salad or go inside the quesadilla. Making your own dressing may seem a little intimidating when it doesn't call for a four seasons italian packet, but I promise this recipe is very easy with the use of a mini food processor. Serves about 4 hungry friends or family.

Like the turkey tacos, I really enjoyed Dry Riesling with this meal, such as Pacific Rim. However, if you're in the mood for red, I would elect for Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Now, are you ready? The three recipe breakdown is coming!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Turkey Tacos

Taco night seems like an American institution. Not only is it a cheap and easy way for mom to feed the kids, but lets be honest - who doesn't love tacos? Tacos can be done many ways, and there's plent of crafty gourmet recipes using new and fresh ingredients available that are a far cry from a pound of ground beef and a seasoning packet. Some nights, however, you get a craving for "bad" food, like a good old ground beef taco (which is not anything close to authentic Mexican, but we'll still categorize it so). Unfortunately, the beef is often greasy and fat & cholesterol laden, and the taco seasoning is full of sodium.

This recipe offers a healthy alternative that will be approved by the picky crowds. Ground turkey, because it is so lean, tends to be dry out and have an unfavorable texture. However, paired with these seasonings and plenty of yummy (and reduced fat) ingredients, it will easily go unnoticed. This recipe should serve about 4 hungry diners.

Wine pairing with ground meat tacos is a little ironic. Wine snobs might say, why pair a nice bottle of wine with "poor man's" food, but I say why not enhance your experience. Spicy foods poses one of those unique challenges. I would definitely pair this meal with a dry riesling. Pacific Rim makes a widely available (and very affordable!) dry riesling that I love, or try a dry riesling from the Finger Lakes region in New York, where riesling is the specialty - and they do it very well. Happy pairing!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Black Bean Dip & Taco Night

When I say this recipe is easy, I mean it requires ZERO effort and will taste homemade and gourmet, not to mention delicious. Moreover, it's guilt free - this dip has zero fat, and lots of fiber and protein.  I made this black bean dip as an accompaniment for taco night, and it didn't last more than a day (and that was just two of us eating it... and I only got a few bites in the end). I don't recommend storing for more than 3-4 days in the fridge, if it does last that long.

Red wines are the way to go with this dip. The peppery-ness of the black beans pairs well with a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, or Merlot. Or, why not skip the wine tonight and opt for homemade Mojitos with muddled mint and lime?

Imagine a party spread with guacamole, salsa, and this black bean dip. It would be a treat for the eyes and the mouth!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicken stir fry

This recipe is legendary in my household, or at least I've decided it is. When I recently got married, my husband insisted that he hated stir fry. I made this one night to see if I could change his mind, and he absolutely loved it. Many people insist on shortcutting with frozen stir fry vegetables, but I love the crunch of fresh vegetables. You can also change up the recipe to suit your tastes, adding mushrooms, water chestnuts, baby corn, but this is a good starting place. 

(no take-out boxes necessary)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Home-made sweet and sour sauce

I do not claim this recipe is anything close to healthy, BUT it does open you up to making your own take-out style chinese food at home and avoiding the greese, deep-fried, MSG-laden oh-so bad for you version of this American household weeknight institution. So, get in the kitchen, make some stir-fry, and try out this easy sweet and sour sauce recipe!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Source: Recipe from Betty Crocker)
These cookies are a show stopper.  My favorite icecream flavor translated into a delicious cookie, and made simple with Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. This recipe will make about 36 cookies, but trust me when I say they will not last long in any social circle. I was not able to find creme de menthe chips so I used 1 package of Andes Mints, coarsley chopped, and they worked perfectly. Enjoy!

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