Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sriracha Quesadillas

My friend Lynn is a genius when it comes to whipping up simple and unique food combinations. In her latest quesadilla recipe she added Sriracha Hot Chili Garlic Sauce, and it took the dish over the top, into the realm of perfection. These little darlings are simple to make, and absolutely heavenly. Lynn made hers with tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, a mexican cheese I can't find around here and the lovely, spicy Sriracha sauce (found in the International aisle of your grocery store). I didn't have mushrooms so did what I could with the ingredients I had on hand.

Sriracha Quesadillas with Chicken and Vegetables
Inspired by Lynn Socko
makes two 6 inch quesadillas

4 corn tortillas
1 tsp canola oil
1 green pepper chopped or sliced
1 tomato chopped or sliced
1 onion chopped or sliced
2% Monterey Jack cheese shredded
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
Sriracha sauce
Cooking spray
Sour cream and/or cilantro for garnish

In large pan on stove top add oil and heat on medium. Add vegetables, salt and pepper and cook until veggies soften.

Remove vegetables to cutting board to cool a bit. I ended up chopping the vegetables and not leaving them in strips, only because I thought it would be easier to eat, but I do think they look much nicer when they're long and lanky. Clean/wipe your saute pan and get ready for a quick assembly and pan fry. The process goes fast. I only made 2 quesadillas tonight, but I see myself developing a rhythm, making oh-so-many stacks, hijacking a food truck and selling these beauties outside Fenway Park during a Sox game. Yes, my dreams are a little bizarro- I think it's the Sriracha that sends me to this world.

Coat 4 tortillas on one side with Sriracha sauce. Don't soak the tortillas too much because this sauce packs quite a punch. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place tortillas in saute pan, Sriracha side up, and add a bit of cheese. Now add the veggies and shredded chicken.

Top with a little more cheese, and cover each with another Sriracha coated tortilla. Make sure the Sriracha coating faces the inside.

Pan fry about 2 mintes and flip. Cook another 1 or 2 minutes on second side. When the cheese is oozing, your Sriracha quesadillas are done.

Serve with sour cream and sprinkle with cilantro. A slice or two of avocado would have been nice but I'm saving mine for a pazanella salad I plan on making tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maple-Soy Chicken Thighs

I have a very warm feeling for Cooking Light magazine. I've been a subscriber for 10 plus years and have even participated in one of their annual cook offs. And just when I think they can't teach me anything more, a recipe for baked Maple-Soy Chicken jumps off the page, the ingredients land in my shopping cart and the finished dish wows me and quickly becomes a new favorite. This recipe is from Julianna Grimes and Hannah Klinger and is featured in the Budget Cooking section of the August 2012 issue. It's not only wallet friendly, but after the marinade combines with the chicken for one hour, it's a quick fix with easy clean up. I followed their recipe precisely and added my own little twist at the end with the brown rice I served as a side.

Maple-Soy Chicken Thighs
from Cooking Light

1/2 cup maple syrup- I used Archer Farms 100% maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh orange juice- I had a huge navel orange and squeezed half of it
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T grated peeled ginger
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 gloves garlic minced or grated- I always grate if I'm cooking the garlic
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T scallions sliced

To make the marinade: Combine the first seven ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Place marinade in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Add chicken to bag and seal. Refrigerate and marinate chicken for 1 hour. Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove chicken from bag, pouring marinade into a small saucepan. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Cook until marinade reduces to about 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes). You'll notice that it thickens a bit. I let mine sit off the heat a few minutes more to allow it to thicken even more. I wish I had a picture of it when it got really thick. It became gooey, rich.

Arrange chicken in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and baste with 2 T cooked marinade and sprinkle with salt. I baked mine in two 8 x8 inch pans as my regular baking dish was in use.

Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over and baste with 2 T more maple-soy mixture. Bake 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Sprinkle with chopped scallions for garnish. But you don't have to stop there. You can quickly make some rice! I took 1 cup of Uncle Ben's Instant Brown Rice, 1-3/4 cups of water, 2 T butter and whatever bits of the maple marinade I had left over (about 1 T) and added that to the mix.

Bring rice mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 10-12 minutes until water is absorbed. Add a handfull of cooked edamame, fluff with fork and serve with your yummy Maple-Soy Chicken Thighs. I had half a navel orange left, so I sliced it and  added it to my dinner plate. Yum, Yum. This is a keeper. Thanks Cooking Light.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Asian Stir Fry Sauce

Last week I was doing a fridge clean out and had the most boring ingredients to work with. The main issue was a half a head of Savoy cabbage. Onions and cabbage go well together, so I thought a little saute with butter, salt and pepper would make a nice side dish reheated later in the week. Then I remembered the carrots, bean sprouts, scallions, slightly wilted Serano chili and that very sad piece of ginger. So I decided to stir fry the whole vegetable drawer and make a sauce that would bring these vegetables alive. I always have a full Asian pantry (everything's available in the International aisle of my grocery store) and made a simple, saucy concoction that actually mirrors the taste of moo shu. And I think it would be great with any vegetable or meat that you decide to stir fry. I'm planning on repeating this again tomorrow with ground chicken, sliced red peppers and sugar snap peas, served over perfectly cooked rice (thanks to Uncle Ben).

Stir Fry Sauce
2 T oyster sauce
1 T lite soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
2 tsp sugar

Vegetable Stir Fry
1-2 T canola oil
1/2 head small Savoy cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts
3 carrots grated
4 scallions finely chopped
1 Serano chili, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
2 tsp ginger grated

Okay, lets cook. To prepare the stir fry sauce whisk together all ingredients and set aside. Prepare the vegetables.

In large skillet or wok heat oil on high to medium high heat. Add the cabbage to the skillet, coat with oil and stir. Now add all the other ingredients.

Stir to coat the other veggies with oil and cook another few minutes until cabbage begins to wilt. Now add the stir fry sauce and combine the vegetables with the liquid.

Remove from pan and serve in moo shoo pancakes if you have them lying around (who does?). I didn't, so I rolled some egg roll wrappers around the cabbage mixture, baked them at 400 degrees for 6 minutes on one side and 6 on the other. I got 6 egg rolls and the filling was super delish. I enjoyed these with store bought duck sauce and orange slices.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oven Barbecued Potatoes

This is a recipe I found on The Noble Pig blog that sounded delicious when I read it, and turned out to be super delicious when I made it. It's a great side for just about any entree or a perfect appetizer with a cocktail or glass of wine. The potatoes retain the barbecue flavor but it's not overwhelming. They're creamy on the inside and crisp on the outside, just the way I like them. Plus they're a quick fix. The most time consuming part of the dish is waiting for the oven to pre-heat.

Oven Baked Barbecued Potatoes
Adapted from the Noble Pig

3 medium size potatoes peeled and cut into wedges- I used Maine but Idaho would be fine
1/4 cup barbecue sauce- I used Bull's-Eye Original
2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
kosher salt
Cooking spray

1/2 cup low fat sour cream or plain yogurt
2 T barbecue sauce
1/2 scallion chopped for garnish

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. Prep baking sheet with aluminum foil and dust with cooking spray. In medium size bowl mix together the barbeque sauce, oil and pepper. Add potatoes and toss with oil mixture.

Place sliced potatoes on prepared baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes and rotate pan. Cook another 10 minutes and remove from oven. Sprinkle with salt and let potatoes cool in the pan about 10 minutes before serving. While the potatoes are cooling, make this very cool dipping sauce. Mix low fat sour cream and barbecue sauce, and garnish with chopped scallion. Okay, now it's time to eat.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Last night I indulged in baked chimichangas, and tonight I used whatever was left over and put together a pretty fabulous soup. It's not too spicy, but it is super flavorful. I used the remaining brown rice, black bean and sirloin mixture. And then I decided that diced carrots and celery, chopped onion and a little more garlic would be nice. Some chicken stock and spices made an appearance in the pot, not to mention chopped tomatoes and leftover enchilada sauce. It's looks like a lot of ingredients, but it's a pretty quick fix considering you're using leftovers and opening cans and spice jars.

Chopped Sirloin, Black Bean and Rice Soup

Left over sirloin, bean and rice mixture (recipe posted last night)
1 T olive or canola oil- I used olive
1 small onion chopped
1 carrot diced
1 small celery stalk diced
1 large garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 T cilantro
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Left over black beans mashed (last night I only used a cup)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use no salt added)
1 14.5 can fat free chicken broth
1/2 cup enchilada sauce (I use medium-heat Carlita)
Lime juice
Grated cheese (I used Sargento's 2% cheddar)
Sour cream  or yogurt for garnish
Diced avocado for garnish
Additional cilantro (I had no more so I omitted)
Sliced scallions for garnish (I had one left and am saving it for tomorrow)

Prep your vegetables.

In large soup pot on medium to low heat, add the oil. Then the onions, carrots and celery. Let these vegetables soften a bit and add the garlic. And then the spices- cumin, cayenne, cilantro, salt, pepper, ground chili and oregano. Turn heat to low, cover and let the flavors get to know one another.

Add the left over rice, bean and sirloin combo and mix with the vegetables. Then add the mashed black beans and combine. Now it's time to give this aromatic mixture a bath. Add the broth, diced tomatoes, and enchilada sauce. Let simmer, covered on low about 15 minutes.

While soup is simmering, make Lynn Socko's crispy tortilla chips. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil and dust with cooking spray. Slice 3 or 4 six inch tortillas into quarters. Place chips on prepared foil, give them a spritz of cooking spray and sprinkle with Mrs Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning Blend. Bake 6-7 minutes.

Soup's done. Chips are done. To each bowl of soup, add some grated cheese, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and any of the garnishes suggested, but certainly don't leave out the homemade chips. They're super yummy and fabulous for scooping out the melted cheese and all the other goodies in the soup.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Things Come in Small Packages

For the last month or so I've been on a quest for the perfect baked chimichanga that's appetizer-sized. And tonight I made a trayful of extremely good ones. They're not perfect yet, but I'm getting there. I did find the right size flour tortillas (6 inch) in a brand that I liked (Stop & Shop brand in the refrigerated case). They were sturdy, but thin enough to fold without cracking. I jazzed up the filling on this go-round and added black beans and brown rice, and used spices out of my pantry. So all in all, I'm making good progress. And this is a simple, delicious recipe you'll want to try.

Skillet Ground Sirloin, Black Beans and Rice
Serve in baked chimichangas like I did, or roll up in flour tortillas and top with your favorite garnishes 

1 T canola oil
1/3 pound ground sirloin
1 medium onion chopped
2 hot peppers- I used Fresno
1 large clove garlic minced
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup instant brown rice- I used Uncle Ben's
1 cup black beans- I used canned, drained and rinsed
1 cup fat free chicken broth
1 cup tomato salsa- I used Paul Newman's
Shredded cheddar cheese- I used Sargento's 2% fat

Prep onions, peppers and garlic.

In large skillet over medium heat, add oil and then prepped vegetables. Cook a few minutes and add the ground sirloin, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Break up the sirloin as it cooks and if there's any fat, drain from the pan. My meat had so little fat that I didn't have to do this. Now add the broth, salsa and rice, increase heat and bring to a soft boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Now add the beans and stir to combine. Cook a few minutes with the lid off to let any liquid evaporate.

If you're baking chimichangas, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a small pot and pre heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up and lightly coat with cooking spray. When butter is melted and oven heated, place a small amount of beef mixture on each tortilla (about 2 tablespoons at the most), and top with cheese.

Now you're ready to wrap up these babies. Tuck in the top and bottom of each tortilla and then fold sides into thirds like a business letter. Put packages seam side down on baking sheet and brush top with canola/butter mixture. Bake 7 minutes. Flip the chimis and brush the other side with butter/oil mixture and bake another 6-7 minutes.

I made 8 chimichangas last night, but you could probably make about 12 to 14 with this mixture. Just don't overfill the tortillas or you'll have a cheesy mess on your hands. Serve with your favorite garnishes. I went simple last night with enchilada sauce, a dab of guacamole, fat free Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of black beans.

If you're not going the chimichanga route, this is the perfect filling for burritos and/or tacos, or a great start to a very flavorful soup. I'll have to work on that. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not Your Average Quesadilla

Thanks to my friend Lynn Socko I have a fridge full of yummy ingredients that became last night's dinner for family and tomorrow's take-to-work lunch for me. I haven't come up with a name for this unconventional combination of deliciousness, so for now I'll call it "Not Your Average Quesadilla". It contains Lynn's creamy, mildly spiced pimento cheese, her pico de gallo, Mrs Dash Southwest Chipotle salt free seasoning, and fat free canned re-fried beans. I must admit it would be more "Lynn like" if I had made her unfried no-fat refried beans, but Lynn honey, you move too fast for me and I haven't had a chance to make those little gems yet. But I will- you know I will.

Unlike my usual recipes I'm not giving specific measurements for the ingredients. Whatever you come up with will be tasty.

Not Your Average Quesadilla
Ingredients Inspired by Lynn Socko

Flour tortillas
Refried beans- I use the fat free in a can
Pimento cheese- I've posted this recipe on the blog within the last few weeks
Lynn's pico de gallo- recipe to follow
Mrs Dash Southwest Chipotle salt free seasoning
Cooking spray

Some Garnishes
Diced avocado dressed with lemon juice
Chopped lettuce
Low fat sour cream or no fat plain yogurt
Shredded cheese
Sliced olives

To make the Pico de Gallo:
1 medium onion finely diced- I also threw in some scallions
2 small jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed
2 firm Roma tomatoes
1 T fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of cumin

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until you're ready to use. By the way, prior to using the pico in the quesadillas earlier in the week, I slathered it on some oven baked tortilla chips. And occasionally dove in spoon first, and enjoyed it that way.

To Assemble the Quesadillas:
On one side of the tortilla spread refried beans and sprinkle with Mrs Dash.

Now add the pico. Doesn't that look good already?

Top the pico with the pimento cheese and cover with another tortilla. Place in pre heated pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Cook 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Flip and cook another 2 minutes until both sides are golden.

Let cool a few minutes since the cheese tends to be very runny and needs time to set up. Slice into 4-8 portions and dig into this Not Your Average Quesadilla.

Last night when I made these, I added some left over chicken that I shredded and layered in between the pico and the pimento cheese. Just that little addition of chicken made this a very hearty meal. I served the quesas with a Bibb Lettuce based salad topped with garlic, lemon-kissed avocados (a marinade I will post soon). It was a very satisfying meal, with a very satisfied cook.