Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fresh Herbs

Let's start with one known fact. Fresh herbs from the supermarket usually suck. Who knows how long they've been sitting on that shelf (or in that plastic package). Half the time I buy basil at the supermarket, when I'm desperate and it's the middle of winter, I get home and open the package and half of it is brown already! In addition to the sub-par quality of supermarket herbs is the often outrageous price. OK - maybe it's not outrageous and maybe I'm just a little bit cheap thrifty. But I hate paying $3.00 for a small bunch of basil that is wilted and half brown OR $2.00 for a GIANT bunch of cilantro, when I only need a little bit for one recipe.

Anyway, this rant brings me to one of my favorite summer time hang outs - Small Farm in Stow, MA. If you are in the area, I strongly encourage you to make a stop here. Small Farm's farm stand is a great place to get fresh veggies, like corn, garlic, scallions, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, among others that I'm forgetting at this moment. They also have pick your own flowers, tomatoes, and HERBS!!!! Yes! For the small price of $1.50 you can fill up a small plastic bag (about the size of a quart ziploc) with whatever herbs you want! They usually have thyme, oregano, mint, pineapple mint, basil, purple basil, dill, chives, and lavender. So if you only need a couple sprigs of mint for your mojito, but you want a TON of basil to make pesto, then that's what you pick! Since living in the area, this place has been my all-time favorite discovery. You know the herbs are fresh because you're picking them yourself, the price is right, and you can get the exact amount of herbs you want! All of the herbs pictured fit in one bag!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tasty AND Healthy!

I often like to hit up our town library for new cookbooks to try. One of my favorites that I've found there is called Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. The book is geared toward busy working moms and is organized by season and then by week. The idea is to get a healthy, easy to prepare dinner on the table for your family every night of the week, all year long. Each chapter includes enough main dishes for a week, along with a shopping list, and suggested side dishes. While I am not exactly in the targeted demographic, I have found some interesting new recipes in this book.

This cashew chicken recipe isn't exactly authentic, but the sauce is really tasty (if not a bit too sweet for some). It's also really versatile - you can really throw in any veggies you like.

Cashew Chicken
Recipe courtesy of Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely


  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • **I also added some chopped bok choy and sugar snap peas
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 cup cashews

In a bowl, combine juice, honey, soy sauce, cornstarch, and seasonings.

In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 T oil until it begins to smoke. Stir-fry vegetables for several minutes until the onions become fragrant. Set aside and keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil until smoking and stir-fry chicken strips until browned and tender.

Add cooked vegetables, cashews, and sauce mixture. Continue cooking until sauce bubbles and thickens.

**I served over brown rice.

I don't like Quiche

Normally, I really don't like quiche - and neither does James - but when my mom decided to throw a brunch birthday party for my grandfather's 85th birthday, it seemed that quiche was almost necessary! I set out to find a recipe that had a good ratio of vegetable to egg (it's the overly egg-y quiches that I really can't stand) and after going through a number of recipes found this one on All Recipes. I doubled the recipe and instead of making them in pie pans, I decided to use muffin tins to make them easier to serve to a lot of people. Overall, I really liked this....when it was warm. I will say that a lot of people mentioned in the recipe reviews that this can also be served at room temperature, but I thought that it was really at its best when still warm from the oven. I did make a couple of changes to the recipe after reading a lot of reviews. You can see those changes in bold below.

Oh. And James still doesn't like quiche.

Crustless Spinach Quiche
Recipe courtesy of
All Recipes

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 5 eggs, beaten **I added an extra egg
  • 3 cups shredded Muenster cheese **I used 2 cups of an Italian blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • **I added 2 cloves of garlic, and a diced red pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan. **I used muffin tins instead

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. **I filled each tin about 3/4 of the way and, after doubling the recipe, got about 26 mini quiches

Bake in preheated oven until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. **In muffin tins they baked for 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese Please!

I've been trying to find so many new recipes lately that I've kind of neglected some of my old favorites. This recipe actually has somewhat of a history with me. I cooked this for my husband on our 1 year dating anniversary back in August of 2002 and it was the first thing I had ever cooked for him. He loved it! I probably made it once or twice again after that, including once for Annabel (my dinner party partner), but soon moved on to newer and more exciting endeavors.

Well, when Annabel and I were planning our menu for this week's dinner she insisted on this dish, claiming that it's her favorite macaroni and cheese and she needed to have it. I resisted at first, thinking I wanted to try something new, but saw the desperation in her eyes and knew she had to have it. Honestly - she was so right. As we were eating it I realized that this is really the best baked macaroni and cheese EVER and I don't know how I could ever forsake it. It's creamy, tangy, delicious, and SUPER easy to make. Luckily I doubled it so I can enjoy it again for lunch today!

Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese
Recipe courtesy All Recipes

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz sour cream **I used light
  • 12 oz small curd cottage cheese **I used light
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs **I used less, just eyeballed it

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.

In 9x13 inch baking dish, stir together macaroni, shredded Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle topping over macaroni mixture.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden.

I'm not old, I'm just organized!

I meal plan every week.

I know, I know. I sound like a soccer mom, or Robin Miller's twin, when I am in fact a 25 year old with no children. It's just that I like to have a plan and I like to attempt to stick to a budget and meal planning helps me do that. So I'm not old, I'm just...sensible...yeah...

Anyway, I usually write my plan down on little scraps of paper, but then it occurred to me: Why not use my cooking blog to record my plans from week to week? In addition, it will provide anyone who's reading this thing a little preview for what recipes and photos to expect next week!

So here is next week's plan:

Sunday - out of town
Monday - Cashew Chicken w/brown rice
Tuesday - leftovers
Wednesday - Shrimp Ceviche Tacos w/vegetables
Thursday - Cooking with Annabel?? (TBD)
Friday - Hawaiian Pizza
Saturday - Black Bean Soup

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Simple and Delicious!

So it seems that my husband, James, has grown increasingly interested in this blog. The following "recipe" is really just something I like to throw together when I can't think of anything else and so I certainly wasn't going to blog it. Blogging should be reserved for something special, right? Well, James was so insistent that this dinner be on my blog that he got the camera out and shot the photos himself! Anyway, the following is going to be more of a description than a recipe and can have about a million variations depending what you have on hand!

Black Bean Quesadillas
Recipe courtesy of me!

Serves 2


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • about 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1-2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • a couple hand fulls of baby spinach
  • chili powder
  • lime juice
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • oil/cooking spray

Heat a skillet w/a little oil on medium heat (anything with a larger diameter than your tortillas - a double griddle so that you can do two at a time would be even better!).

Mix black beans and red onion with chili powder (season to taste) and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Lay one tortilla out on a flat surface. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese on the tortilla, covering most of its surface. Layer 1/2 of the black beans over the cheese. Spread a few spinach leaves on top of the black beans and top with another 1/4 of the cheese. Place another tortilla on top. Repeat this process with the rest of the cheese, black beans, spinach, and the other tortillas. Cook the quesedillas for 3-4 minutes on each side until the tortillas are brown and crispy and the cheese in melted. Flip carefully! (I have had many near-misses when flipping my quesedillas) Move to cutting board and cut into 4 wedges. Enjoy!

I serve this with guacamole, light sour cream, and salsa (homemade is best, but jarred is just fine!).

Here's all you need to make a quick salsa with your food processor:

5-6 roma/plum tomatoes
1/4 of a red onion
handful cilantro leaves
salt to taste
juice of one lime
chopped jalepeno

Throw it all in and pulse until everything is chopped and incorporated. To make the guacamole I just mash up an avacado with a couple tablespoons of the fresh salsa. Voila!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dinner Party #3

For this third edition of "Cooking Adventures with Annabel," we decided to attempt jambalaya - something which I have never eaten before. Annabel also really wanted to try fried plantains (again - never had them) and I decided that corn bread would compliment the jambalaya quite well.

I'll warn you in advance, we took the easy way out on the corn bread by using a mix. After last week's labor intensive Indian meal we weren't feeling so ambitious. However, we did improve the mundane mix by adding a couple tablespoons of chili powder and about a half cup of cheddar cheese before baking.

The jambalaya was quite tasty, but next time I think I'll use less chicken broth than the recipe called for. We actually ended up pouring some out because the rice was getting so saturated. That being said, neither of us were sure of the texture of authentic jambalaya. Our rice ended up bordering on risotto texture. Who knows if this is "correct" but it sure was tasty!

Cajun Jambalaya
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, Food Network

  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 4 ounces chicken, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock **This seemed like way too much. Next time I'd try 2 cups.
  • 5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced **used smoked pork sausage
  • Salt and pepper

In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

The plantains were simple to make and really delicious. They will definitely be seen again on my dinner table.

Fried Ripe Plantains
Recipe courtesy
Tyler Florence, Food Network

  • 4 yellow plantains
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • kosher salt


Cut the ends off the plantains and cut them into 2 pieces. Peel them and slice them in half lengthwise. In a large skillet over medium-high heat add 1/4 cup oil and fry the plantains slowly until they are browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt and serve.

I almost forgot about dessert!! This recipe was so delicious. It was supposed to be light, but all we had was whole milk for the pudding (we weren't really all that dissapointed...). I'm sure it would be delicious with low-fat milk also. The only criticism that I have is that this dessert needs a better title! Any ideas?

Cool, Creamy Chocolate Dessert
Recipe courtesy
Cooking Light



  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 3 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 (3.9-ounce) packages chocolate instant pudding mix
  • Unsweetened cocoa (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare crust, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until combined. Add butter; pulse 10 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans. Firmly press mixture into bottom of a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool completely.

To prepare filling, place 1 cup sugar and cream cheeses in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Fold in half of whipped topping. Spread cream cheese mixture on cooled crust. Cover loosely; refrigerate 1 hour.

Combine milk and pudding mix in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or until pudding is set. Spread the pudding mixture over cream cheese layer. Spread remaining half of thawed whipped topping over pudding layer. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cocoa, if desired. Cut into 15 pieces.

Thai Curry

Thai cuisine is fairly new to me. I discovered Pad Thai just a few months ago and have since made it myself a couple of times. While having lunch with a friend last week (eating my usual Pad Thai), I had a taste of her green curry and decided that I really need to branch out!

Last night I tried out a recipe found on Recipe Zaar, which has become one of my new favorite sources for recipes. I changed it up a little bit, using shrimp instead of chicken, and it came out great! It wasn't quite as sweet as the curry in the restaurant, but that's OK. Also, I really wish I hadn't forgotten the fresh basil at the store - I'm sure it would have made the dish that much better!

Chicken and Broccoli Thai Curry
Recipe courtesy of Recipe Zaar

  • 1 tablespoon green or red curry paste **I used green
  • 1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil **I had to use dried
  • 1 can bamboo shoot, drained
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch strips **I used 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 3-4 cups fresh broccoli florets
In a medium saucepan combine curry paste and coconut milk and heat. Just before boiling, reduce heat and simmer and 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 10-15 minutes. Serve over freshly cooked rice.

**Because shrimp cooks much faster than chicken, I only added it during the last 5 minutes of cooking

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dinner Party #2

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, my friend Annabel and I are throwing little dinner parties so we can try out some new recipes! Last week's theme was Indian (see previous post for explanation of newfound Indian food cravings). Anyway, the curry recipe was a lot of work and there by the time we were finished with the chicken curry, dal, and green beans we were totally exhausted! Overall it was a good, satisfying meal. The green beans were absolutely delicious and the dal was tasty but could use a little more of a kick. The chicken came out well, but was it worth the work? I'm not sure. Feel free to decide for yourself! :)

The chicken and green bean recipes both came from a book titled "The Great Curries of India" by Camellia Panjabi. Annabel was kind enough to present me with her extra copy. While we've only tried a couple recipes so far, this book proves to be a great resource for Indian cooking. It includes thorough explanations of the various ingredients found in Indian cuisine, as well as beautiful photos of finished dishes.

Chicken and Cashew Nuts in Black Spices
(Kaja Chicken in Kaala Masala - Bombay)

Recipe courtesy of "The Great Curries of India" by Camellia Panjabi

Serves 4

  • 2 1/4 lb chicken, skinned (we used leg quarters)
  • 1 cup grated coconut (be sure to use unsweetened!)
  • 12 plump garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2-in piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 dried dark-colored red chiles
  • 6 cloves
  • 3-in cinnamon stick
  • 8oz cashew nuts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • salt

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces.

In a large frying pan, without any fat or oil, roast the coconut, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, red chiles, cloves and cinnamon over low heat. After 5 minutes add 2oz. of the cashew nuts and the onion and roast for a further 10 minutes, stirring all the time. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Grind the mixture in a blender or food processor wtih 3/4 cup water to a fine consistency.

Separate grind 1oz of the remaining cashew nuts with a little water to make a fine paste and set aside.

Heat the oil in a cooking pot, add the ground spiece mixture and fry for 10 minutes over a low heat. Add the ground cashew nuts and salt to taste and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken, turn up the heat to moderate and fry for 5 minutes. Then add 3 cups water and leave to cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, covered.

Add the remaining cashew nuts and continue to cook until the chicken is done. You should have a thick, dark curry with whole cashew nuts in it.

We served this over basmati rice.

Stir-Fried French Beans
(Beans Porial)

Recipe courtesy of "The Great Curries of India" by Camellia Panjabi

Serves 4

  • 8 oz french beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white urad dal
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 10-12 curry leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter
  • 1 green chile, finely chopped and de-seeded if liked
  • 1/3 teaspoon mustard leaves


De-string and top and tail the beans. Chop into 1/2-in peces. Soak the urad dal in 1/2 cup water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put the grated coconut into a bowl. Add the cumin seeds, onion and curry leaves and mix well. Boil the beans in 1 cup water with 1/4 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, uncovered. The salt will help retain the bright green color. Drain.

Heat the oil or butter in a frying pan and fry the chiles until pale green, then add the mustard seeds and after 20 seconds add the urad dal grains. After 1 minute, add the coconut and onion and saute, stirring continuously for 2 minutes. Add the beans, toss and cook for a few minutes over a low heat until the beans are tender.

Red Lentil Dal with Charred Onions
Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light

7 1-cup servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 dried hot red chile
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cook 2 minutes or until charred. Carefully turn over onion, and cook an additional 4 minutes or until blackened and charred. Remove from heat. Coarsely chop; set aside.

Combine mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and clove in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 1/2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Combine mustard mixture, cinnamon, cardamom, and chile in spice or coffee grinder. Pulse until ground.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in spices; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, lentils, and tomato to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; add onion, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and juice.

We served this over basmati rice.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chicken Tandoori and Broccoli Dal

Before I begin, let me first acknowledge the fact that the fonts on my blog are all kinds of messed up. I am having serious problems with formatting...

The first time I had Indian food was in college. I played violin in an ensemble called "Global Rhythms" and we performed a lot of Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired music, so the Indian Student Association would often make us dinner for after our concerts. There were things I loved and things I hated, but it didn't really help me in the future because I never knew what it was that I was eating!

Fast forward four years: Our new friend, Dinesh, who happens to be Indian has us over to his place for Indian food. It was great! But VERY spicy. So spicy that at times I had trouble speaking and had to devour spoonfuls of yogurt to attempt to break the heat.

My third Indian food experience occurred two weeks ago when I was over a friend's place and we ordered Indian take-out. This was delicious! And had the perfect amount of spice (for me). Suddenly I realized all that I had been missing!

In the last two weeks I have visited the local Indian Market twice and purchased most of the spices necessary to make some of my own basic Indian dishes. The two I tried out tonight have been my favorite so far! The chicken was good, but the dal was DELICIOUS! It was so flavorful and will definitely be repeated at our dinner table.

Tandoori Chicken
Recipe courtesy Tizzylish (Kristie)


  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts **I used boneless
  • 1/2 C plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Run garlic through a press, or finely mince. Grate ginger. Mix together yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and spices.

Make diagonal slashes in the chicken meat to allow marinade to penetrate better. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken parts.

Marinate for 4 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally. If the chicken is placed in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature before cooking (approximately 1 hour). I recommend overnight to get full flavor!

Preheat broiler.

Brush grill or shallow baking pan with a little oil to keep chicken from sticking. Arrange chicken on the pan.

Broil chicken 2-3 inches away from the heat until cooked through, approximately 25 minutes, turning halfway through.

Sadly, I didn't have enough time to marinate the chicken for more than an hour, but don't let that deter you. It was still really quite flavorful. Also, so that the chicken would be easier to eat and cook a little bit faster, I cut it into small pieces before marinating.

Broccoli Dal Curry
Recipe courtesy evelyn/athens on Recipe Zaar

  • 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 cup red lentil
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 3 cups chicken broth **this wasn't enough - I ended up using 4 cups of chicken broth plus another 1/2 cup water
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried coconut (optional) **I didn't have any, so I left it out
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cashew, coarsely chopped **I didn't have any, but this would be a great addition next time!
  1. Heat butter in saucepan and saute onions until well browned.
  2. Add chili powder, pepper, cumin, coriander and turmeric.
  3. Stir and cook, 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils, lemon juice, broth and coconut if using.
  5. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45-55 minutes (if mixture is too thick, you may need to add a little hot water).
  6. Steam broccoli for 7 minutes.
  7. Plunge broccoli in cold water and set aside.
  8. Remove 1/3 cup of liquid from the lentil mixture.
  9. Add to flour to form a smooth paste.
  10. Return to pan; add broccoli, salt and nuts if using.
  11. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  12. Serve over Basmati rice.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Dinner Party!

Being a teacher I get to have summers off. Last summer I was swamped with wedding planning and grad classes and didn't have time for much else. This summer I attempted to get a part time job, but didn't come up with anything. Luckily, Annabel is also off for the summer with her new baby! Being that we both have time to fill, we've committed to a few projects, one being a weekly cooking adventure.

For our first menu we planned:

Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Shrimp Ceviche Tacos
Fiesta Rice
Classic Spanish Sangria
Lemon Berry Trifle

Everything went off without a hitch and all who attended our little dinner party seemed to enjoy their meal. Here are the recipes for the Salad, Tacos, and Sangria. Sadly, we didn't get any photos of the salad, but it really was delicious.

Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Recipe courtesy of Giada DiLaurentiis, Everyday Pasta


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped **we left this out
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Spinach Salad
  • 1 bag of spinach **we used baby spinach
  • 2 oranges, cut into segments
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted **we used walnuts
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients for the Citrus Vinaigrette in a jar or a tight-sealing plastic container. Shake to blend. Combine the spinach, orange segments, almonds, red onion, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss with Citrus Vinaigrette.

Seviche-Style Shrimp and Avocado Tacos
Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light

  • 3 limes
  • 1 cup chopped seeded tomato
  • 1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 avocado)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound cooked peeled medium shrimp
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • I also added: 1 finely diced jalapeno pepper and some finely diced red onion
Finely grate rind from limes to measure 1 tablespoon; juice limes to measure 1/4 cup. Place rind and juice in a large bowl. Add tomato and remaining ingredients except tortillas; toss well to combine. Cover and chill for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/2 cup shrimp mixture down center of each tortilla; fold in half. Serve immediately.

Classic Spanish Sangria
Recipe Courtesy of Lisa on All Recipes


  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups rum
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 1 cup orange juice
Have the fruit, rum, wine, and orange juice well chilled. Slice the lemon, lime and orange into thin rounds and place in a large glass pitcher. Pour in the rum and sugar. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours to develop the flavors.
When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir in the wine and orange juice. Adjust sweetness to taste.


I'm not a big baker, but when I noticed the overripe bananas on my counter last weekend and then also remembered that I had a bunch of blueberries waiting in the freezer, I decided that it was time to make muffins! I enjoyed both of these recipes, but my husband thought the lemon flavor in the blueberry muffins was too overpowering (well they ARE called lemon-blueberry muffins...). The banana nut muffins were definitely a home-run and I'm planning to make them again for a brunch birthday party for my grandfather in a couple weeks.

Banana Nut Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence,


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped **I used walnuts


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together like you mean it, for a good 3 minutes. **I didn't have an electric mixer, so I hand whisked and it seemed to work just fine** Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Give them a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Liz's Cooking Blog who snagged the recipe from Food and Wine

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the blueberries. In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, oil and lemon zest, then whisk in the lemon juice. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until blended; do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins stand in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.