Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vacation Recovery Diet with Creole Blackened Catfish

Back from a week in New Orleans and man do I need a diet! What a week of eating, eating and a little drinking thrown in there supported by more eating. It was a completely delicious and decadent adventure! Now that I am back home it’s time for some more healthy meals to balance out my over indulgent week away. One key problem…I HATE dieting. I am very good at talking myself into just about anything but healthy foods are not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh veggies, but the whole idea of dieting automatically makes my brain and taste buds go on the defensive. So I’ve decided to just trick myself into eating better foods (this week at least). I’m going with lots of color and bright flavors to get myself on track and give my body a healthy rest.

Tonight’s meal took inspiration right out of New Orleans with a blackened catfish using Creole flavorings. I’ve taken some liberties with this one in that a) I’m blackening my fish in the broiler (thus avoiding the pan frying and fatty oil) and b) making my own Creole seasoning without the excessive salt found in most store bought versions. Not that salt and pan frying aren’t the bee’s knees, but let’s face it, salty fried fish is a moot diet point. The addition of a bit of cornmeal to the fish coating gives it a great crunch that you might otherwise get from pan frying.

I’m serving my catfish with a warm roasted asparagus, corn and tomato salad to provide even more bright color and texture not to mention veggies! Roasting the tomatoes makes them sweet and juicy and helps balance out the spice from the fish seasoning. All in all a very successful dish.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Totally Satisfying California Chopped Salad

It’s really easy to get caught up in food. There are days when poking around my frige is like going to some high end, fancy pants deli counter. Hearty stews, creamy pastas, meatloaf and other goodies all leftover from food blog heaven. It is on these days that the husband looks at me and shakes his head. I will admit my natural cooking inclination is not in the realm of tofu and bean sprouts. I have been very upfront about my addition to cheese and pasta and my new found obsession with baking bread has certainly not helped the waistlines. However, we do try to eat well in general so I present to you my California Chopped Salad. This recipe is one from the good for me but tastes fabulous column (and I am making a mental note to start sharing more of these kinds of dishes). It’s a spin off of a Giada recipe (le sigh, how I do love Giada). I’ve added some veggies to make it my own and you should absolutely do the same. But this is a delicious salad and it actually saves really well! So check out what is in season, break out that grill pan or griddler or fire up the big guy outside and set yourself up for a totally satisfying but healthy meal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Almost Whole Wheat' Baked Bread Recipe

After my thrilling first try at baking my own bread I got the bakers itch and have been eager to experiment some more. However, I decided for round two that I would stick close to home putting one toe into the whole wheat bread section. Baby steps into bread baking land. Now I know whole wheat flour behaves quite differently from white flour. I can’t get down and dirty on the actual science of it (though I am sure with some digging I could find the bread baker’s Mensa equivalent). I do know that whole wheat flour tends not to rise as much as white flour…something to do with sharper corners to the molecules or gluten deficiencies…eh whatever the reason it just doesn’t act the same. So round two of A Girl and Her Kitchen’s bread baking bonanza was an Almost Whole Wheat Loaf. I followed the same recipe as I did the first time around (this dutch oven thing is honestly amazing) but substituted in 1 c of whole wheat flour for 1 c of the white flour, thus making the loaf 1/3 whole wheat.

The result…pretty damn good! It kept that crusty outside with a slightly denser yet tender inside and a more earthy flavor. Totally delicious. The dough did need a little more time to proof (ie. hang out in warmth so it could rise) but that was fine...I gave it an extra hour or so. Plus I have a 1950s era Wedgewood oven with a pilot light so my oven is always a nice 100-125º. I just popped the covered bowl with the dough in the oven and left the door cracked open for the last few hours of proofing. It definitely didn’t rise AS much as the white load but it rose and it baked up just fine. In fact, I would venture to say any more wheat flour and it might go too far…I think I got it just right!

So while I will be doing some more whole wheat bread investigations, this one is a definite keeper. Makes one hell of a sandwich too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mashed Potato Heaven

I freely admit I am a bona fide food television junkie. From the moment the remote control enters my hand my fingers have a natural, almost supernatural, inclination to venture into food porn territory. While I am not regular Tyler Florence fan the man can at times hit it out of the park. I hosted Christmas this year for the first time and served his Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes with my beef tenderloin and man, I can NOT stop thinking about those tatters! They were soooooo good and uber easy. Not so good for you so I don’t make them often, but when you’re in the mood for creamy, homey, sensationally delicious mashed potatoes, well look no further. I served these the other day with my Kitchen Sink Brisket. These mashed potatoes are creamy right out of the frige. The secret, don’t boil your potatoes in water!!! Boil them in cream! With garlic and thyme no less! I mean, HELLO flavor. Decadent, pure and simple.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kitchen Sink Brisket

The first time husband and I took a stab at making brisket we called everyone we knew who had ever made one we liked. Mothers, aunts, grandma’s; we compiled recipe after recipe, scoured the internet in search of the ultimate method. We hummed, we hawed and then we just said SCREW IT and merged all the recipes together to create one ginormous, ultimate Kitchen Sink Brisket. I’m not going to lie, this brisket is amazeballs! Yup, I totally made that word up. It’s a mash-up of “amazing” (which is how this thing tastes, smells, looks...did I say tastes?) and “balls” (because it was down right ballsy to make a brisket with 25 ingredients from 10 different recipes). Ok, so maybe I didn’t make 'amazeballs' up, but someone who had to have been thinking about this brisket made it up because that is exactly how to describe it.

Our Kitchen Sink Brisket debut was at my husband’s family’s Passover dinner 4 years ago. Now I am a Goy (aka not Jewish) or more specifically a Shiksa (a non-Jewish woman) so I have to say, I don’t think anyone expected much of this Shiksa's brisket from the get go (to be fair, this was likely before I got a chance to prove my cooking chops to my in-laws). Then someone asked what was in it and we started rattling off all 25 items. Well, let me just say, the jaws around the table dropped. I’m pretty sure the only reason anyone tried the damn thing in the first place was to be polite. But AHH HAA! (and do please read that with as much Fiddler on the Roof intonation possible) slowly but surely, they all went back for seconds. Alas, the Kitchen Sink Brisket passed the Passover litmus test, one of, if not THE MOST arduous challenge a brisket can go through. My Catholic, Italian nana would be proud :-).

This is a ‘by the nose and mouth’ recipe where, much like my meatballs and sauce, it is a lot about taste and not so much about measuring. So I present to you the last brisket recipe you will ever need…..this one literally has it all! Fear not my friends; brisket is a very forgiving meat as long as you cook it low and slow. It will perfume your house to no end and bring your neighbors to your door asking for spots at the table. So break out your tasting spoons, get a good book and dig in! This is how a Goy and a Jew make a brisket.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Crusty, Tender Homemade Baked Bread

I am presently hoping around my kitchen grinning like a Cheshire cat in carb-induced sheer bliss because I…have just…baked…the…most…AWESOME….BREAD…EVER!! I just munched down two warm and buttered slices of the yummiest artisan-esque bakery bread that came piping hot out of my very own oven! It’s nothing short of a miracle folks. Let’s be clear….I am not a baker. I have and do bake (albeit cookies and cupcakes), but I have never made something like a loaf of bread before. This was a serious leap of faith – and it completely and utterly paid off.

While trolling my favorite food sites I came across this picture of a gorgeous loaf of bread. Crusty on the outside, soft and tender on the inside; it made my mouth water. But what surprised me was the picture was linked to a very unassuming site of a 40-something mom who by no account was a famous bread maker. I thought to myself, well DAMN, I could do that! So I did. And it really just wasn’t that hard folks. If you do one thing this month culinary wise, do this. Make this bread. It is easy. Really really easy. And terribly delicious!

So do read on while I will continue to hop around my kitchen doing my bread dance, scaring the daylights out of my cat, until I have eaten every last morsel of this phenomenal A Girl and Her Kitchen baked bread (or until husband comes home to claim his share)!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pork Tenderloin Two Ways

Pork tenderloins are a dinner table staple in my house. They freeze well, Costco sells them cheap and once in a while when they go on sale at my market, they’re an even better steal. You can plop them in a bag with a marinade overnight for an easy weeknight dinner. Or spread on a flavor packed rub just before cooking for a different but still easy as sin approach. Either way, after 30+ minutes in the oven, you’ve got a killer piece of meat…and lean too!

Since it’s just the husband and I (Smokey the cat doesn’t like anything other than her kibble…seriously folks, not even an open can of tuna will entice her) we always get tons of leftovers. But it is safe to say one packet of pork tenderloin, which is typically two loins smushed together into one plastic wrapped mass, will feed four comfortably. The fact that I get two separate loins in one packet is perfect because I can actually never decide which of many ways to cook them because they all taste so darn good!!
Last night we did a pork tenderloin duo of marinades. One with an Asian kick from salty soy sauce and garlic. The other took a sweeter route with beer, honey and mustard. Both were divine. On top of that, I got to make my spectacular apple and onion marmalade to go with the sweeter version. Ok, so we ended up slathering the marmalade over both types because it’s uber tastey and, well so maybe it’s not technically a marmalade, but who cares. This is one seriously scrumptious sauce.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meatloaf Mania

Meatloaf really is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to make, pretty darn cheap, and tastes good. It makes great sandwiches and leftovers and pleases just about any palate. This particular recipe I absolutely adore. It came from an old colleague who pulled it out of a magazine, the name of which I have long forgotten. But this is one hell of a meatloaf. Don’t let some of the ingredients scare you off because the result of this recipe is a sweet yet well spiced loaf that always elicits an “Mmmmm I LOVE meatloaf!” from the husband. I also secretly love this recipe because it lets me practice my knife skills on some standard pantry items like onion, carrot and celery. Whatever the reason, this is definitely a killer recipe.


1 c fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
1/3 c whole milk
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 lb bacon (about 4 slices), chopped (plus 3 slices for topping, optional)
1/2 c pitted prunes, chopped
1 1/2 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 lb ground pork
2 large eggs
1/3 c flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º with rack in middle of the oven.

Using your cuisinart food processor, turn two slices of white bread into bread crumbs. In a large bowl soak bread crumbs in milk.

Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, cooking until carrot is tender, about 5 more minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, salt, and pepper. Add to bread crumb mixture.
Using your cuisinart, finely chop 4 slices of bacon and prunes and then add to onion / bread crumb mixture along with eggs and parsley. Mix well.
Using your hands, mix in ground pork and beef until the meat and vegetables are evenly distributed. Pack the mixture into an oval loaf in the bottom of a glass pie pan or other shallow baking dish.
Top with 3 slices of bacon (optional). Bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours until the center of the meatloaf reaches 155º. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with side green salad or other veg.