Monday, June 14, 2010

Chicken Tamales Made Easy

I try to cook health conscious foods, I really do! But every once in a while you've just got to let it all go and indulge! For me, that jump off the tracks typically involves cheese. Lots AND lots of cheese. Yum!
This recipe makes good use of a smaller amount of cheese and it is from Cooking Light, so it can't be that bad, right? Well if it is, I don't want to be right!
The delicious taste of chicken tamales without the hassle of making them from scratch when it is a weeknight and you just want to hurry up and watch your favorite DVRed shows.

Chicken Tamale Casserole (adapted from Cooking Light):
1 cup (4 ounces) 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese, divided
1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (8.5-ounce) box corn muffin mix (such as Martha White)
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can red enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

-Preheat oven to 400°.
-Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 7 ingredients (through chiles) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
-Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces; serve with sour cream.

Pasta Salad... Without the Guilt!

Rotini Pasta Salad with Kalamata Vinaigrette

Pasta salad just embodies Summer to me. But as you will find at most festive BBQs in the steamy months, pasta salad is usually loaded down with heavy dressings and fatty ingredients. Not to mention all those carbs in the star of the dish.
I found this alternative in my trusty Cooking Light subscription and added my own twist to make it a Mr. and Mrs. favorite summer-time staple.

Rotini Pasta Salad- Adapted from Cooking Light
The Ingredients:
-1 box Whole Wheat rotini pasta (I use Barilla)
-1 red bell pepper, sliced and chopped
-1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and chopped
-1 small red onion, thinly sliced (I typically only use about a quarter of the onion.)
-1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
-1 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
-3oz. smoked deli turkey, cut in chunks (I always ask my deli counter to chunk the turkey for me. Just tell them you need it for a salad dish).
-1/4 c. Kalamata olives, sliced (you can use whatever olives you have or just omit these)

-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
-1 large shallot, peeled and minced (you can use red onion if you don't have shallots)
-4 Tbsp. White Balsamic vinegar (regular Balsamic works too)
-2 Tbsp. water
-1 tsp. Dijon mustard
-salt and pepper to taste.

The Process:
-Preheat broiler.
-Cut red bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place red and yellow pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and dice; place in a large bowl.
-Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Add pasta mixture, tomatoes, onion and turkey to peppers; toss well.
-Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and shallot to pan. Cook 15 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
-Place the garlic mixture, vinegar, and remaining ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. -Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss well.
-Sprinkle salad with fresh sliced basil.

Heavenly Halibut

My Dad and step mom came to visit and we visited our favorite local seafood provider to pick up some shrimp cocktail. While there, we spotted these beautiful Halibut fillets and I knew that had to come home with us. I had saved this recipe about a year ago and now was the time to whip it out and put it to use.
These fillets turned out very light, perfectly flaky and full of flavor. An easy weeknight meal that will leave you room for a glass of wine, dessert... or both : )


Halibut with Balsamic Glaze (adapted from Food Network)
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 Tbsp. honey (I used 3 because I like the sweet contrast)
3 Tbsp. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
4 (6 ounce) Halibut fillets

-Whisk vinegar, honey, oil and garlic in a glass bowl. Place halibut in an 8-inch baking dish and pour marinade over, coating fish completely. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
-Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray.
-Remove fish from marinade and place on baking sheet.
-Broil fillets about 12 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top and cooked through.
-Pour reserve marinade into a small saucepan. Bring sauce to a boil and simmer. Continue to whisk mixture until it becomes thick and syrupy.

OMG! Panko Pork Chops

Dear readers- RUN! Run to your kitchen and make.these.chops!!!! Does that give you an idea of how fabulous I think this recipe is? Wow. The Mr. and I are trying to buy more bulk meats at our local Sam's Club to cut down on our weekly bill at the grocery store and to add to our convenience when cooking. We had these beautiful, thick, boneless pork chops just begging to step up to the plate (our plates, that is). So I went to my recipe folder and started digging for inspiration. I had saved this recipe from an old copy of Cooking Light (my own version of a Bible) and decided to try it out since we had most of the ingredients on hand. Let's just say I think some divine intervention came into play ; )
We served them with a spring mix, steamed green beans and sauteed, tri-colored peppers.

Panko-Crusted pork Chops with Creamy Herb dressing (adapted from Cooking Light)
6 tsp. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper (i used flakes)
3 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 large egg whites
1 c. Panko (Japanese bread crumbs. You can find them in the Asian section of your grocery store)
6 (4 ounce) boneless pork chops (we used center cut, about 2 inch thick(
1 tsp. oil

2 Tbsp. chopped green onion
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
4 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt because I had it)
2 Tbsp. skim milk
2 Tbsp. light mayo
2 tsp. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees
-Combine first 6 ingredients in shallow bowl. Combine egg whites and soy sauce in a separate bowl, whisking to combine. Place Panko in a third shallow dish.
Dredge pork in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture. Dredge in Panko, pressing to adhere breadcrumbs to pork.
-Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan, cooking about a minute on each side, till slightly golden.
-Place pork on cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for about 8 minutes. Pull pan out and flip pork over. Continue cooking until done (about 8-10 minutes).
-Combine dressing ingredients in glass bowl and stir. Pour mixture over pork chops and serve!

Turkey Burgers, Take Two

There's nothing better, in my humble cook's opinion, than grilling out during the summer months. I am by no means adept at handling said grill. That is the Mr's area of expertise. BUT! I do get involved with the preparations before the food hits the sizzle.
We eat quite a bit of turkey in the Mr./Mrs. household. I like the fact that it tastes lighter and we tend to buy the leanest cuts available to make our meals somewhat healthier. But I will admit that turkey can be B-O-R-I-N-G! So I started searching for ways to jazz up our old standby. This recipe works with fresh or dried herbs and spices and is sure to add some zest to your summer gathering.

Spicy Turkey Burgers (adapted from allrecipes)
2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 green chile peppers, diced (I used canned green chiles)
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (just grab a good handful and go to town)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. ground dry mustard
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to your tastes

Mr. likes to spread the ground turkey out on a cutting board (strictly used for raw meat!) and evenly distribute the remaining ingredients before mixing by hand. Pack combined mixture into patties, making sure to press tightly so they stay formed on the grill. Add to the fire and cook to desired temperature (about 7 minutes per side).

Cinco De Mayo Spread

Cinco De mayo is one of my favorite times to host a fun get together, simply because I love Mexican food and any chance to make guacamole is good in my book! Well, the 5th of May fell on a Wednesday this year. As you can tell by the title of this blog, not so conducive to our cooking strategy. So we decided to celebrate early, just the Mr. and me, with our own little fiesta.
On the menu:
-Annie's Island Chicken (ok, not so Mexican, but we wanted to use it for various recipes!)
-Black Bean and Corn salad
-Guacamole (yes!!!)
-Warm corn tortillas and all the fixings
-Lots of cerveza!

From this menu we were able to eat well throughout the week and use the chicken for tacos, fajitas and chicken salads.

Annie's island Chicken (from Annie's Eats)
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1½ tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-4 chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a mixing bowl or large airtight plastic bag. Whisk or shake well until the marinade is well mixed. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl or plastic bag so that they are covered by the marinade. Press out all the excess air and seal the bag tightly. Refrigerate and marinate up to 10 hours.

When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and pour the excess marinade over them. Bake in the oven until cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165° F, about 45 minutes (exact baking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. (We shredded several of ours to use for tacos that night).

The Johnson's Famous Guacamole (adapted from Mum Sue's recipe)


1/4 red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2- 4 ripe Hass avocados (depends on how much Guac you want)
1 lime, juiced
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 ripe plum tomato, cored and diced
1/4 to 1/2 jalapeno (with seeds), minced

A dash or 2 of Worcestershire


There's really not much to it. Mass all the ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Taste and adjust seasoning. I like to make my guac a few hours ahead and let it sit in the fridge (well covered with saran wrap) so the flavors blend.

Black Bean and Corn salad
1/2 red onion, diced
1 Hass avocado, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 16 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ear of corn, boiled and kernels cut from cob
1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium glass bowl, tossing well. Combine lime zest and juice, 2 tbsp EVOO and cumin in a small bowl and whisk well. Pour liquid mixture over salad, tossing to combine. Sprinkle cilantro over top. Enjoy!

The Complete Feast!