March 2010


I’m back! I have been traveling a bit for work which means little time for cooking. I don’t know about you but I never eat as healthy when I’m traveling vs. cooking at home. The meeting I was at had endless amounts of chips, candy, and cookies. Luckily, there was fruit available too but of course I had a few treats. ūüėČ

During the week, I did have a chance to make Chicken Parmesan Burgers.

I love chicken parm¬†but since it’s not the healthiest meal, I decided to recreate it into a burger. It turned out great and I didn’t even miss the fried chicken. For me, it’s all about the marinara sauce and cheese anyway!

This is a great meal for a weeknight because it’s quick to prepare.¬†I served the burger with a garden salad and the meal was filing and flavorful! (I had a burger leftover from the recipe so I froze it for another easy dinner.)

 

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. ground chicken breast

1 egg

1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil

1 tsp. butter

1/2 c. marinara sauce

1/2 c. low fat shredded mozzarella cheese

2 whole grain burger buns

Preparation:

1. Combine ground chicken, egg, parmesan cheese, oregano and basil.

2. Create two burgers and set aside.

3. Melt butter in a grill pan over medium heat.

4. When butter is melted, add burgers to pan. Using a spatula, flip the burgers after about 5 minutes.

5. Continue cooking burgers until they are browned and no longer pink.

6. Preheat the oven at 350*. 

7. Transfer burgers to a piece of foil set on a baking sheet. Top each burger with a 1/4 c. marinara sauce and a 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella.

8. Heat the burgers for 5 minutes. Next, set the oven to the broil function and broil until cheese is lightly browned.

9. Add burgers to bun bottoms and top with bun tops. Serve immediately!

It’s Tuesday and the first day we’ve seen sun in Boston in about four days. The rain over the weekend was unbelievable! The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on Sunday in South Boston. The weather really put a damper on the day but my friends and I still managed to have fun!

As you know, St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. While I am about 75% Irish, I have not cooked a lot of Irish dishes in my time. Growing up, we only ate corned beef and cabbage once or twice a year. But, one dish that I am very familiar with (and enjoyed more often in my childhood) is shepherd’s pie.

Depending on the recipe, shepherd’s pie can contain bacon, lamb and a variety of spices but my family keeps in pretty simple. I didn’t have my mom’s exact recipe on hand but I developed a similar dish fit for my lifestyle…mini shepherd’s pies.

Mini Shepherd’s Pies

Serves: 2                                                                                     

Ingredients:

2 baking potatoes

2 Tbsp. olive oil

¬Ĺ white onion, chopped

1 c. mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen (I used frozen peas, carrots and corn)

¬Ĺ lb. lean ground beef (I used 95% lean)

¬Ĺ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. light sour cream

2 Tbsp. skim milk

1 Tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook for about five minutes.
  2. While the onions are cooking, cook the potatoes in the microwave. (First, stab potatoes several times with a knife. Lightly wrap the potatoes in a paper towel and heat in microwave for 6-10 minutes, until soft.)
  3. Once onions are soft, add mixed vegetables to saute pan to heat through and soften.
  4. At the same time, in another saute pan, heat another Tbsp. of olive oil and add the ground beef. Break beef up in pan and cook until no longer pink. Add Worcestershire sauce and a bit of salt and pepper to beef.
  5. Once the potatoes are done, mash them in a medium bowl. First, cut the potatoes open and scoop out the potatoes. Add sour cream, milk and butter to the potatoes and mix well. I used a hand mixer to make the potatoes creamy.
  6. In two mini casserole dishes, add equal amounts of beef. On top of the beef, add a layer of of the onion/veggie mixture. Top with a layer of mashed potatoes.
  7. Cook mini casseroles at 400* F for 15 minutes then broil for another five minutes until the potato topping is lightly browned.
  8. Enjoy!

How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year?

How’s your week going? We’re more than half way to Friday. Woohoo! I’m excited that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. The parade in South Boston, which is happening on Sunday,¬†is always a lot of fun (think green beer and a lot of people in a festive mood). Next week, I’m planning to post a Irish-themed recipe or two. I have to represent, right? Check back. ūüôā

Back to today’s recipe. As you might remember, I am part of the Craving Ellie in My Belly¬†(CEiMB) cooking group. Sadly,¬†I haven’t posted recipes from Ellie’s group¬†lately. I’m blaming it on my busy schedule and my wimpiness (a few week’s ago, the chocolate mousse recipe contained tofu and I’m just plain scared of it).

Anywho, I’m back with this week’s recipe , which comes from Ellie’s first book titled The Food You Crave. I¬†just couldn’t pass up making this Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo. Doesn’t it sound delicious? It was…and easy too. I always expect soups and stews to be more difficult to make then they actually are.¬†Soups, especially Ellie’s, are¬†great for a healthy dinner – or lunch! This filling meal was on the table in less than 30 minutes…great for a weeknight!

As for the taste of this lemon chicken soup, it was just right. I wasn’t so sure about adding an egg to the soup¬†but it made for the perfect consistency. And, the lemon flavor was fantastic, in my opinion.¬†Not too lemony, a great flavor. Rounding out the soup was delicious veggies, protein from the chicken and fiber and carbohydrates from the whole wheat orzo. Yum!

Have a great rest of your week! What’s up for your weekend?

I started my new job today so it’s been a busy¬†Monday for me. It went really well and I met a lot of great people. The first couple of weeks of a new job are always tiring for me and I’m¬†looking forward to getting into a new routine.

How was your weekend? It was beautiful in Boston both Saturday and Sunday. I did spend some time outside but my weekend was actually¬†full of cake and frosting.¬†In addition to attending¬†the second part of¬†my cake decorating class, I also baked and decorated my first layer cake for my grandmother’s birthday.¬†I definitely have a new appreciation for professional¬†bakers…the cake process was so time-consuming! Luckily, it turned out delicious so it was completely worth it. Phew!

In my class on Saturday, we¬†made royal icing as well as two chocolate ganache¬†frostings.¬†Royal icing hardens¬†once it’s piped so it works¬†great for decorating cookies and writing on cakes. The ganache¬†was pretty much chocolate mousse¬†(yum!) and can be used to¬†as cake fillings or frostings. We practiced a lot of writing¬†with the royal icing and played with the ganache a little too.

Back at home,¬†I made this¬†chocolate layer cake¬†for my grandmother’s birthday. ¬†I made a two layer cake (instead of three) and baked a batch of cupcakes with the extra batter. Both turned out chocolatey and moist! I will definitely make this cake again.

For the frosting, I used a basic buttercream which consisted of a 1/2 c. softened unsalted butter, 3 c. sifted confectioners sugar, 2 Tbsp. skim milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can easily double or triple to recipe for additional frosting. I first frosted the cake and refrigerated it overnight before adding the decorations. To decorate the cake, I made a second batch of buttercream for the colored frosting.

To decorate the cake, I started by piping green leaves around the cake with the leaf tip.

I followed by adding purple flowers with the flower tip. To do so I held the piping bag upright, released frosting and stopped before pulling the piping tip off of the cake. I used the dot tip to add yellow centers to my flowers and also wrote on the cake with the dot tip. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy to write on the cake. 

Happy Birthday, Grammy!

Hope you have a great week with good eats!

Happy Friday! We made it! Today is my last day at my current position and, naturally, I’m having some mixed emotions. While I’m excited for my new opportunity, I have met some great people here. All and all, though, I’m ready for my next adventure. And what I better way to celebrate my last day then with cake?

Well, not really. But, this post is about cake decorating. Last Saturday, I took part one of a two-part cake decorating class in Boston. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been a pretty good class so far. The teacher is knowledgeable and I now feel a little more confident in my decorating skills.

Last week’s class was focused on making buttercream frostings, frosting a cake and using a pastry bag and tips to decorate. We used the star tip and leaf tip, which are two of the most common tips to use in cake decorating.

The instructor suggested we practice our skills this week prior to returning to class on Saturday. One night this week, I did just that. I prepared my frosting (and colored it blue so it photographed okay for the blog), added the frosting to the pastry bag and went to town. My one dilemma: taking photos while covered in frosting and trying not to get frosting on my camera. I need a photographer.

The star tip is the most versatile, with the ability to create a variety of borders, flowers and other designs.

Shell border.

Rope border.

Stars/Flowers.

Frosting Drops.

The leaf tip was fun too, but I need more practice with it. Right now, the tips of my leaves aren’t the prettiest. But practice makes perfect, right?

Ruffled Leaf.

Here are some tips I learned in the first class:

  1. Place the empty pastry bag in a glass and fold the outer edges of the bag down before filling it with frosting. This will provide you with extra stability and less of a mess when filling the bag with frosting.  

     2.  Use an ice cream scoop to add frosting to the prepared pastry bag (see #1). This allows you to measure how much frosting you’re using while making less of a mess. (See a theme here?)

¬†¬†¬†¬† 3. Before starting to decorate, squeeze all of the frosting down in the bag to the tip ‚Äď allowing all the air bubbles to be released.

     4. Twist the pastry bag closed (don’t fold it closed). Hold your hand over the twisted area when decorating.

      5. When frosting a cake (this is a big one!), first spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake and then refrigerate it for 10 minutes. The thin layer seals the cake so when you add the next layer of frosting (that’s visible to everyone), the crumbs from the cake    don’t get into the frosting. Clever, huh? I have definitely ended up with a cookies-and-cream-looking cake due to crumbs in my frosting so I love this last tip! 

If cake decorating interests you, I suggest taking a class or even picking up a book on it. I found a book called “Decorating Cakes”¬†for $10 at Michael’s and it’s really good for beginners. I love the step-by-step instructions and the beautiful photos. For me, I know a book like this will help supplement what I learn in the class and I’m sure I’ll reference it a lot in the future!

In addition to part two of my class this weekend, I‚Äôm also making my grandmother‚Äôs birthday cake.¬† Eek!¬†Let’s see if I’m skilled¬†enough to bake and decorate a pretty cake. I‚Äôm nervous but I‚Äôll be sure to post my results.

Any big plans for the weekend? Enjoy it!

I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already and this is¬†my first post of the week! Things have been a bit chaotic lately as I prepare for my new job and wrap things up at my current company. Lots to do, I tell you!

I haven’t had much time to cook lately but I have a few things up my sleeve for this week that I think you’ll enjoy. First of all, here’s a quick and easy weeknight dinner. I actually make this dish about once a month (it’s that easy, and that good!) but this time there’s a twist.

Last week, I mentioned the Eggland’s Best eggs I given the opportunity to try through Foodbuzz’s Tastemaker Program. Yum, yum! Well, ¬†at the end of¬†last week, I received a box to try more products.

Bertolli sent me two of their new pasta sauces. I am a huge fan of Italian food and, really, anything with red sauce, so I was excited. I have made my own pasta sauce a few times (my Grandmother’s recipe!) but I have nothing against using a jarred pasta sauce to save time.

Having a marketing and PR background, I love creative packaging and advertisements. As I opened the box from Bertolli, I immediately noticed their creative packaging which was designed like a fancy menu. Loved it!

Inside the box were two jars of Bertolli’s new sauces, Spicy Arrabbiata (red sauce) and ¬†Four Cheese Rosa (alfredo sauce). I always choose tomato sauce over cream sauces so I decided to first incorporate the Arrabbiata sauce into my Italian dish. To give the sauce a proper review, however, I first tasted the sauce on it’s own. It had a nice traditional tomato sauce flavor with the perfect amount of spiciness for me. I’m a mild-to-medium salsa girl, if that helps you understand the level of spice! I enjoyed the flavor because it tasted clean and natural with little added sweetness.

I incorporated the sauce into a Pasta & Chicken Sausage Bake. It’s a great healthy recipe that I almost always have the ingredients on hand¬†for. The spicy tomato sauce was a nice addition.¬†I know you’ll enjoy it, too!

   

 Pasta & Chicken Sausage Bake

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients

2 c. whole wheat pasta

2 links cooked chicken sausage, cut into rounds (I used Al Fresco Sweet Italian Style Рa favorite of mine!)

1 c. spinach (I used frozen)

1 c. tomato sauce (I used Bertolli’s Spicy Arrabbiata)

2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400*.

2. Cook pasta according to directions. (If using frozen spinach, add it in the last two minutes of cooking pasta to thaw a bit).

3. Drain pasta (and spinach, if applicable).

4. In a casserole dish, add pasta, spinach, chicken sausage, tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Toss with a spoon until well combined.

5. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.

7. Remove from oven, remove foil, and return to oven for an additional five minutes until cheese is bubbly.

8. Serve immediately and enjoy!

How has your week been going so far? I hope it’s flying by for you! Beside things at work, I was able to run 3.5 miles yesterday without pain! Let’s hope I continue on that route.

And looking ahead to this weekend, it’s supposed to be in the high 40’s in Boston! Spring is coming, spring is coming!