But Sugar is Sweeter

Main Dish

Lobster Corn Chowder

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Being on away rotations, I haven’t been up to my usual menu planning and weeknight meal routine.  Between applications, scheduling interviews,  and overall crazy hours, I haven’t missed it too much, but I’m not sure I can say the same for John (who has been eating chez chef Boyardee).  But to make up for it,  I was able to rationalize this fancy weekend meal. (It also didn’t hurt that Mom was buying :-)).    After apple picking, running and hiking in the park, this chowder was the perfect end to a fall themed day.   It is really one for the record books. It will make you feel like you on dining on the set of barefoot contessa and it would be the perfect fall meal for company, or if you just feel like indulging yourself.
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This was my first time ever cooking with lobster, and I don’t pretend to know much about it. I did learn that it is very easy to overcook it, and for such an expensive meat, that is really something you don’t want to do.  So err on the side of undercooked, because it will inevitably cook a bit more once you add it to the stew.  Also, while this soup still tasted wonderful the next day, I did notice that there was a bit of color separation, which didn’t make for the most gorgeous photograph.  If you want to see what it looked like the first night, check out this blog. Despite the work, and the amount of cream (once in a while..)  this is definitely something I will be making again.  In fact, it almost makes me wish I actually lived in New England,  which is saying a lot for a girl who hates the cold :-).

Lobster Corn Chowder

Serves 6 

Ingredients:

  • 3 (1 1/2lb) cooked lobsters
  • 3 ears of corn

For the stock:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon  paprika
  • 4 cups milk (skim works fine)
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 pound bacon, large-diced
  • 2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups diced celery (3 to 4 stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup sherry

Instructions:

  1. Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs separately.
  2. For the stock, melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes. When the stock is ready, remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard. Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot with a garnish of crisp bacon

Source: Smells Like Home , originally adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

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Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

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Apparently there are some people in this world who don’t like fruit with their fish.  Thankfully, I don’t know any of them.  If you happen to be a fruit with fish hater (tear),  perhaps this recipe will convert you.   Especially with summer “officially” here, this is a refreshing  dinner that is easy to throw together after a day at the pool, and won’t ruin your waistline for the rest of bikini season.  I was somewhat hesitant about the sauce, since it’s fruit combined with garlic, onion and mustard powder – but I figured anything originally from The Neely’s would be hard to ruin.  Somehow the flavors just seem to work, and created an interesting twist on a simple salmon recipe.

I personally like to keep the skin on the salmon it because it keeps it in one piece while grilling and adds moisture to the filet, but you could also grill up a fish filet as long as you throughly oil the grate.  While the sauce is mostly “hands off”, it does need about 30 minutes total of simmer time – which I kind of enjoy because it gives you a chance to shower from the pool, pick up the house, or just relax with a glass of wine on the patio.  Unfortunately my brother won’t be bringing any Copper River salmon back from Alaska this year, but if your pocketbook can afford it, it’s in season now!

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Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

Serves 2-4 depending on amount of salmon used

  • ¾ – 1 ½ pounds salmon filet, with skin on
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add blueberries. Heat for about 10 minutes,  then mash with a fork. Add in ketchup, both vinegars, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder, ground mustard and worcestershire sauce. Whisk well to combine and break up blueberries and turn the heat up to medium. Heat until simmering and bubbles appear, then turn heat back down to low.  Cook for an additional 20 minutes, whisking every few minutes.  Sauce will be thicker than a normal barbecue sauce.

Preheat your grill to it’s highest setting and spray grate with oil.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and once the grill is hot, lay skin side up directly on grate.   Cook for 5 minutes, then gently flip so that skin side is down.  Using a pastry brush, brush BBQ sauce on salmon and let cook until flaky and opaque, about 5-6 more minutes.  Adjust time as needed for thicker/thinner salmon (mine was about 1 1/2 inches with skin.)

Source: How Sweet It Is


Strawberry Balsamic Chicken and Bacon Pizza

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The fact that this particular recipe caused me to emerge  from my blog hibernation should tell you that it must be something special.   I made it one night for dinner and literally could not wait to make it again so that I could share it with you.  In fact I was so excited about it  that when I went home this past weekend, I insisted on making this for my mom and brother  so that we could have the mutual experience of this pizza to rave about for the rest of the summer.  Kind of like when something really funny happens but there is no one around to laugh with you, this pizza is best as a shared life experience.

I could tell that my mom was extremely skeptical of this unusual combination, and I can’t really blame her.  If I hadn’t already made the pizza myself, I may have caved under the funny looks I received when I told her that sirachi was combine with balsamic vinegar and strawberry preserves to make the sauce.   Luckily, I was confident in the fact that everyone would love this pizza, and went ahead with my plans.  It did not disappoint.   The balsamic vinegar and siracha make this just savory enough to call it dinner, and the strawberries and cilantro keep it fresh enough to make it feel like summer.  My brother said that he had never had such a refreshing pizza.  And since the dog got the last two pieces of this off the counter – apparently animals like it too.     As strawberries are coming into season, make this, pair it with a strawberry Abita, and hope for some more 80 degree sunny days in May – it doesn’t get much better.

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Stawberry Balsamic Chicken and Bacon Pizza

  • 1/2 cup strawberry preserves or jam
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 ball prepared pizza dough
  • 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
  • ~1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shaved
  • 4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked until crispy and then crumbled
  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 oz finely shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cut strawberries, diced

Place the pizza stone in the lower middle of the oven and preheat to 500°F.

Bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to half and mixture thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the strawberry preserves and chili sauce. Mix well; set aside to cool.

Roll out the pizza dough to a 12 or 14-inch circle. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread the cooled strawberry sauce over the pizza top with chicken, bacon, sweet onion, mozarella and parmesean cheese, and 1/2 of the cilantro and 1/2 of the strawberries.

Transfer the pizza with the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with the remaining fresh strawberries and cilantro. Serve hot.

Adapted from Pennies on a Platter, originally from The Café Sucre Farine 


Chicken Tikka Masala

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Looking on a the positive side of things, I will have to say that one of the best things in the past month has been able to see a lot of my mom and brother – 2 of the most special people in this world.  I know my mom thinks she’s imposing, but I seriously love it when they are here.  It basically makes it feel like a vacation, because usually when we are all together – it is a vacation.  Of course having “house guests” also makes me like a grown up, which is really just like  “playing house”- with a slightly more sophisticated (and dangerous) fisher price set.     Because I really wanted to impress them with my domestic skills, I carefully planned a few things to make when they came.  One of them was an old favorite, stuffed green pepper soup, and the other was this Chicken Tikka Masala.  I’m pretty sure they will be coming back again soon :-).

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My mom, who claims to not really like curry, couldn’t stop raving about how deep the flavors are in this dish, and my brother stated that it was the best chicken tikka masala he had ever had (even better than some posh Asheville Indian restaurant he loves).  I purposely waited a while to post this, because I wanted to see how the leftovers would be after freezing them for a while – and I can now safely say that they are still delicious.  I froze the chicken, then thawed it and reheated it, adding just a little bit more milk and John and I still loved it! I would recommend making the whole batch, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to finish it all, because the frozen leftovers really are convenient.

Please don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long ingredient list, it is actually a really simple dinner and there is very little prep work.   I chose to brown the meat first because it tends to add a depth of flavor, but if you don’t want to dirty another pan feel free to  simply put all the ingredients in the crockpot without pre-browning.  I was also really excited to finally use the Garam Masala I had bought way back when from Penzey’s.  If you don’t have a Penzey’s nearby, I noticed when I was home at Christmas that even local grocery stores carry this spice. Having never used it before, I was a little worried about using a full 3 tablespoons of it.  But never fear – it’s not nearly as strong as you might think and the dish was seasoned perfectly.     My last pre-recipe suggestion would be to adjust the cream in this recipe for your liking.  The original called for 1 1/2 cups of heavy (whipping) cream.  That seemed like an awful lot, so I dialed it down and added some more greek yogurt at the end.  Feel free to play with it a bit to get it the creaminess you would like.

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Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala 

For the Chicken: 

  • 9 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Jalapeno Pepper, Stem Removed, Pepper Pierced Several Times With a fork

For the Sauce: 

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Peeled And Diced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Peeled And Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 piece Fresh Ginger, About 2-3 Inches, Peeled And Grated
  • 4 cups canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup Heavy Cream (depending on preference)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt

For Serving: 

  • White Rice
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro

1) Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken.  Stir in yogurt to evenly coat the chicken.  Cover and let sit 10 minutes or refrigerate for several hours.

2) Melt 1 tablespoon the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and brown about 1/2 of the chicken.  . Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished.  Then repeat with 1 more tablespoon of butter and remaining chicken.  Throw the pierced jalapeno in on top of the chicken.

3) To make the sauce return pan to medium and 3 T. of butter over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, salt and stir.  Cook until onions begin to brown, stirring frequently.

4) Add the 3 T. of garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (30 seconds), then raise heat to high and add crushed tomatoes and sugar.  Scrap the bottom of the pan as you stir and bring to a boil. Then pour over chicken in slow cooker.

5) Cook chicken on low for 5 hours.

6) Mix heavy cream and greek yogurt into mixture, adding cream until you get your desired color.  Heat for 1o minutes more.

7) Serve over rice and top with a generous amount of cilantro (it really adds a lot)

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen Blog c/o Eat. Live. Run.


Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

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Pretty much every type of salad that I like is some variant of spinach,  fruit, good cheese and nuts.  For as long as I can remember my Mom has been making a spinach salad with pears, blue cheese and salted pecans, and for a Mom who loves decorating the table but isn’t so big on the actual food – this salad was quite a delectable creation.   I have made that salad countless times, and it’s still my go to,  but in the interest of changing it up ever so slightly, I decided to try this recipe, and guess what, I loved it!  In fact it holds the title as the first salad a certain “salad hater” has ever eaten, and liked (no…it’s not John but another picky husband who doesn’t like vegetables :-)).

I think what I really liked about this is that it includes an easy, throw together recipe for a really good dressing.  So much of the time I go to the trouble of toasting nuts, chopping fruit, buying spinach, and then covering it all with some bottled dressing because making homemade just seemed like too much work.  This dressing is super easy, and really complements the flavors of the salad well.  Also, I think I like this salad because I love an excuse to eat my new favorite apples,  ‘Honeycrisp”.  (Which, ironically recently had a sign aat the grocery store that said “Everyone’s New Favorite” – good to know I’m not alone).  But if you can’t find Honeycrisp, I think Fiji or Granny Smith would work equally well.
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Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

Ingredients:
For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup finely minced sweet onion
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. white wine  vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Pinch of paprika
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the almonds:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

For the salad:
6-8 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
4-6 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients except olive oil in a measuring cup.  Then slowly add the olive oil whisking vigorously to combine.

To make the buttered almonds, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally until toasted and lightly browned.  Stir in the sugar and cook just until melted and well incorporated.  Set aside to cool.

Place spinach in a large salad bowl or on individual salad plates.  Top with apple slices, gorgonzola,  and the buttered almonds.  Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.  Leftovers are good for up to a day, as fresh spinach does not wilt as quickly as other types of lettuce.

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Adapted from The Curvy Carrot  

Beef and Barley Stew

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Ah.  Real Food.  This is what January was meant to be.  Not including the peanut M&Ms (which I mistakenly bought a XXL bag of  because I was hungry at Costco….never a good thing)  the food around here has most definitely taken a turn for the more wholesome.  I can’t really promise that this will last long, but while I’m craving healthy food, I might as well take advantage.  There is nothing quite like a warm, hearty, filling and yet healthy stew to warm up with on chilly January evening.  Or considering the 40-50 degree days we have been having I should probably say, “On a abnormally warm, almost balmy  January evening in Ohio”, but it just doesn’t have the same ring.  Global warming is seriously ruining seasonal eating.

No matter what the weather, I could probably eat this stew.  Well I might be lying slightly.  I wouldn’t eat it in the summer.  That would be like some kind of sin- hot stew in the summer?  But anytime September through April would be fine if you are lucky enough to live in a place like tropical Toledo. (Can you sense my bitterness at winter – and this is even after I got an automatic car starter for Christmas!).  But in all seriousness, the first time I made this stew was back in Louisiana, where the humidity never drops below 100% – and it was still good.  It’s the kind of stew that feels well balanced because you get vegetables, grain, and protein all in one place.  I really love the addition of barley because it makes this stew seem extra hearty and yet also somewhat gourmet.

One caution is that the barley continues to absorb water after cooking.  When you go to get leftovers the next day you may find that all the liquid is gone and the barley has doubled in size – but never fear – just add a bit more water, and reheat.  If you are trying to make this in advance, or if you’d like to freeze it, I would probably make it without the barley, and then just add the barley when reheating it.
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Beef and Barley Stew

Serves 6-8

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 ½ cups chopped leaks (about 3 leeks including green stems)
  • 2 ½ cups sliced carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 – 14 oz cans beef broth
  • 1 cup uncooked medium pearled barley

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.

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2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Return beef to pan. Add all ingredients EXCEPT barley and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, or longer if desired. Add barley; cook 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves.
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Adapted from Cooking Light


Slow Cooker Pork Char Siu

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Well it’s time for new years resolutions.  I wish I could say that I’m going to post all healthy recipes this coming year, and that it’s going to make you super skinny.  I have learned from too many new years resolutions that I like eating twizzlers, baking cookies, and scooping ice cream far too much to swear it off for the year.  I will however try to just generally post a larger variety of foods on this blog. If you have any requests, please let me know and I will do my best to post what you’d like to make!

This particular recipe comes to you from our New Years Eve celebration.  It got some rave reviews from the whole family.  It also makes great leftovers (in fact this picture was taken 3 days later).  While it’s not quite as easy as the French Apricot Chicken, it is another one of the crock-pot meals that you just add the ingredients and walk away.  As indicated below it serves 6-8 people, but for New Years I doubled the recipe and added an hour to the cooking time (total of 9 hours) and it turned out great.  What I really liked about this recipe is that it’s not at all dry like some shredded pork can be.  It is saucy, and I’m pretty sure just the marinade over rice would taste good on it’s own.  It also goes great served with a big salad with mandarin oranges and sesame ginger dressing.  So if your sick of eating cookies (which I EVEN AM!), this is a hearty, delicious and protein filled alternative for ringing in the New Year.

Slow Cooker Pork Char Siu

Serves 6-8

  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed*
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

*Ask your butcher to cut off as much fat as possible to save you some time.

Combine first 8 ingredients (soy sauce through five spice powder) in a bowl and whisk.  Place pork roast in a plastic bag and cover with marinade.  Refrigerate for 2 hours flipping occasionally.  *I left it at room temperature for 45 minutes to save time, and because my pork roast was large and very cold.

Place contents of bag in a crock pot and add 1/2 cup fat free chicken broth.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred pork and serve with remaining sauce in crockpot.  Serve shredded pork and sauce over rice.

Adapted from Cooking Light