Friday, June 28, 2013

Green Beans with Tangy Vinaigrette

The butcher at my grocery store had Chicken Cordon Bleu for sale. I love me some Chicken Cordon Bleu. I also love relaxing. So when the butcher makes the Chicken Cordon Bleu for me, and I can watch the Real Housewives instead of rolling up poultry, I love it even more.

I had one little issue with it, though: Chicken Cordon Bleu didn't feel very summery on a warm and sunny June evening. So I thought I'd summer-ize my side dish instead. A basil-infused, tangy vinaigrette drizzled over cool green beans was just the taste of summer I was looking for.

Green Beans with Tangy Vinaigrette
Serves: 4

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish if desired
Salt and pepper

Steam green beans for 4-5 minutes, until crisp tender and bright green. Run them under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them off. Meanwhile in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake together lemon juice, oil, mustard, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over cooled green beans and garnish with extra basil.

*I like my dressing really tangy, so I use equal parts vinegar and oil. If you don't want your vinaigrette to be quite as zippy, try using 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Coleslaw

Steamy summer weather begs for a light dinner. Preferably one you can make on the grill. These fish tacos are perfect after a day spent lounging by the pool, sipping pina coladas at the beach, or traversing the town on your bicycle.

But they're also perfect after a day crunching numbers at your desk, when your ledger was illuminated by the ghastly glow of fluorescent tube lights. Where your office dress code dictated that closed-toed pumps and (gasp!) pantyhose hid your pedicure.

So roll your windows down on your commute home tonight. Crank up the summer jams and wear your shades.

Fish tacos will remind you that summer is really here.

Fish Tacos with Chipotle Coleslaw
Serves: 4
Coleslaw adapted from Centsational Girl

8 corn tortillas
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 limes, divided (You need the juice from the first lime and slice the second lime into wedges for serving.)
1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo)*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra cilantro for serving
1 teaspoon agave (or substitute honey)
14 ounces coleslaw mix (The bag of shredded cabbage, carrots, etc. Feel free to shred your own if you're so inclined.)
1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
Chili powder
Olive oil
Guacamole, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap tortillas in foil and pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until tortillas are soft and pliable. (You can also heat the tortillas in the microwave or on the grill if you prefer.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, the juice from 1 lime, adobo sauce, chopped cilantro, agave, and salt to taste. Stir in the coleslaw mix. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Heat your grill (or a grill pan if your gas grill is out of gas...sigh) to medium high. Meanwhile shake a bit of salt and chili powder on both sides of the tilapia. No need to measure. Just sprinkle the seasoning on until it looks good to you. Drizzle the tilapia with olive oil so it doesn't stick and then grill for about 3 minutes on each side, until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Flake the fish into big chunks and set onto a platter for serving.

Let everyone build their own tacos. I like to load my tortilla with fish, coleslaw, a generous squeeze of lime, and a few leaves of cilantro.

*If you like things spicy, feel free to chop up a bit of the actual chipotle chile and stir it into the coleslaw. I'm a bit of a spice wimp, so I skipped it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Strawberry and Feta Salad

Let's say that, hypothetically, you bought a giant block of your husband's second-least-favorite cheese of all time (That would be feta. Blue cheese is his very least favorite, of course.) in order to make Greek Quinoa Salad. Since you only used half the giant block of feta for the salad, you still have the rest of it lurking in your cheese drawer. Well, you'd best use that feta up stat before your husband sniffs it out in the cheese drawer and insists that it's contaminating his cheddar. Hypothetically, of course.

Why don't you make yourself this delightful Strawberry and Feta Salad for lunch? Use up a chunk of that feta before your husband finds it. And you deserve something delicious and beautiful in your lunch box. It'll make your day that much better. Trust me.

Strawberry and Feta Salad
Makes 1 giant salad

2 cups chopped Romaine (or your favorite lettuce)
3-4 strawberries, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Place a big mound of Romaine on your plate. Top with basil, mint, pecans, and feta. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Greek Quinoa Salad

There are a few foods that the husband simply cannot stand: red peppers, tomatoes (unless they are in salsa), feta cheese, and blue cheese. Of these items, feta cheese and blue cheese are particularly offensive to him.

They are particularly delicious, if you ask me.

Recently a friend of mine was convalescing, and I dropped off a little dinner to help speed along her recovery. Since the husband didn't need to eat it, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to cook something with all the ingredients that he can't stand.

I stirred together this colorful medley to mimic the flavors of a Greek salad, with a vegetarian protein punch from quinoa. Then I packed it up to deliver to my friend's sick bed. But not before I snuck a couple forkfuls. I couldn't make something with the husband's least favorite foods and not try it myself.

The husband doesn't know what he's missing.

Greek Quinoa Salad
Serves: 4

2 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cucumber, quartered and sliced 1/8" thin
1/2 red pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2" chunks
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Add broth and quinoa to a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork and set aside until you're ready to use it. (You can also make your life really easy and cook the quinoa in a rice cooker if you have one.)

In a large bowl, stir together cooked quinoa, cucumber, red pepper, tomatoes, and olives. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir dressing into quinoa and veggies. Gently stir in mint and feta cheese. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Skinny Rhubarb Muffins

As promised on Monday, rhubarb week continues with Skinny Rhubarb Muffins. I hope your ready.

These tender muffins are studded with crimson bursts of rhubarb and crowned with a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping. You'll feel wonderfully indulgent when you take a bite, but get this: these muffins don't have any oil in them! Plain, fat-free Greek yogurt replaces the oil in this recipe. That means you can have two.

If you want to go rhubarb crazy, spread a little rhubarb compote on your muffin. It's a good choice, believe me.

Skinny Rhubarb Muffins
Makes 18 muffins
Adapted from

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/4" pieces
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease with baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, yogurt, egg, vanilla extract, and buttermilk. (The mixture will be pretty liquid-y.) Use a spatula to gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir in rhubarb.

In a separate small bowl, stir together melted butter, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Use your fingers to sprinkle the topping on top of the muffin batter.

Bake muffins in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rhubarb Compote

As I've lamented plenty of times, it takes a good while for Spring to show it's face here in Milwaukee. And since we're battling frost deep into May, we wait patiently for bountiful displays of produce at our local farmer's markets. (Although I probably shouldn't admit that my first stop at the farmer's market is usually for a triple berry muffin or a seven layer bar, and those vendors are gratefully peddling their bliss-inducing delicacies all season long.)

So as I maneuvered Danny's buggy through the throngs at the market, I greedily peered into each stall to see what the farmers managed to coax from the chilly ground. Frilly mounds of lettuce. Spindly seedlings of tomatoes and cucumbers. And then I spotted it, in all of its magenta-hued glory: rhubarb.  

My mind reeled with the possibilities. I love rhubarb! I grabbed a fistful and headed home to make something delicious. Well, after I paid for it, of course. I didn't need to star in the headline, "Rhubarb Robbery at Tosa Farmer's Market!"

Today I'm sharing a recipe for Rhubarb Compote. It's the perfect springtime topping for your ice cream. Add pizzazz to your morning with a dollop in your oatmeal. Spoon it over a slice of pound cake or biscuits for rhubarb shortcake.

Oh, and come back on Friday for Skinny Rhubarb Muffins. I'm keeping the rhubarb party going.

Rhubarb Compote
Serves: 4
Adapted from epicurious

1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 heaping cup rhubarb cut into 1/4" pieces

Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium high until sugar dissolves. Stir in rhubarb. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the compote thickens to a jam-like consistency, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Six genius ways to use they don't seem leftover!


When I hear that word, I have a flashback to childhood. I would holler when the poor, sainted soul would walk in the door after a long day at the office. "Moooooo-ooooooom! What's for diiiiiiiinner?!" I was hoping for an answer like pizza or spaghetti or Poppy Seed Chicken. But her tired reply? "Leftovers." Ick.

Now that I'm in charge of meals, I love leftovers. It means you have a hot, homemade dinner without any work at all. Best. Dinner. Ever. But that begs the question, why did I hate leftovers so much as a kid?

I suppose leftovers can get a little boring if you just heat the exact same meal up again night after night. Now, don't get me wrong, I definitely do my fair share of re-heating. Some things are just better the next night. Pot Roast with Bacon, for example, gets more magically delicious after a night in the fridge. (Can I get an "amen!"??) But if you put a little twist on the original meal, it's more exciting for its encore performance. In fact, sometimes the husband doesn't even know we're having leftovers. I love getting sneaky in the kitchen.

Here are some of my favorite tricks for using up those pesky leftovers. And if you don't tell your family it's not a brand new meal, your secret's safe with me.

Make Mexican food.
I disguise leftover meat as a topping for nachos or a filling for burritos. Rotisserie chicken, pot roast, pork, whatever. I shred it up and stir in some chili powder. Pile it on chips or a tortilla, top with cheese, and bake until melty. Who doesn't like nachos for dinner?

Use your freezer.
I don't have a big chest freezer (someday....oh, someday!), just the standard unit that came with our fridge. But I pack that sucker full with leftovers. Making Lazy Beef Enchiladas? Double the filling. Put the second half in a baggie, squeeze out the air, and freeze it until later. Then you can just take 5 minutes to thaw it out and layer with tortillas when you're ready for a fast meal.

Toss a salad.
Shoot. I throw anything in a salad. It's a perfect meal for the summertime when you don't feel like cranking up the oven. Just the other day, for example, I sliced up the remnants of Ginger-Soy Marinated Steak and tossed it with lettuce, mandarin oranges, red pepper, and edamame. I drizzled on some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and I had the perfect (healthy!) dinner. (Then I ate a giant ice cream cone. The end.) Now that corn on the cob is starting to show up in the produce section, there's all kinds of salad ideas. Make a few extra ears when you're serving corn on the cob. The next night, slice the kernels off and make Corn and Black Bean Salad or Therese's Corn and Tomato Salad.

Always buy a rotisserie chicken. 
I know you're raising your eyebrow as you read this. "Uh, Erin? This is about leftovers, not buying new stuff." Well just hear me out. Every time I go to Costco, I buy a rotisserie chicken. Sometimes we eat it for dinner with mashed potatoes from a box. (Yes...from a box. I never said I was fancy.) Or I slice it up for sandwiches for lunch. Whatever we don't eat in a couple days, I chop up. Then I put one or two cup portions in baggies and put them in the freezer. Do you know how many recipes call for cut-up cooked chicken? Oh, about a googolplex. Curried Chicken Salad, Baked Chicken Chimichangas, Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Bake, Cheesy Chicken Packets (made with crescent rolls...good gravy), Couscous with Chicken, Chevre, and Cranberries, Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce... I could go on, but you get my point.

Make Asian food.
No need to call for Chinese take-out when you have leftovers to use up. Pull the Tupperware of rice from the bowels of your fridge. Chop up that half-a-chicken-breast or the nub of pork tenderloin from yesterday's dinner. Now make Healthier Fried Rice. You can thank me later. And let's talk for a second about Lettuce Wraps. Thai Peanut Pork in the slow cooker is delicious on its own, but the leftover potential takes it to stratospheric heights of awesomeness. Thai Peanut Pork Lettuce Wraps. Just do it.

Bake fresh cookies...Yes, I said fresh.
What tastes better than cookies straight from the oven? Uh, nothing. Some next time you're making Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies, roll the extra dough into balls, place them on a baking sheet, and pop it in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid. Then toss the frozen dough balls in a baggie and bake as many as you want when the cookie craving strikes. Just add a minute or two to the baking time.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ginger-Soy Marinated Steak

You know what really frosts my cookies? When you put a bunch of time into something and get zero payoff. Like the other day, for example, I decided it seemed like a good idea to clean the windows. I'd watched a couple episodes of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding (I know...quality programming), and all the Gypsy wives were cleaning their windows. I figured if they were doing it, maybe I should, too. You know, to be a good (non-Gypsy) wife and all. So I busted out the Windex and scrubbed away.

Those darn windows looked exactly the same as when I started.

This could have to do with the fact that I only washed the insides of the windows. Being a bit technically challenged, I couldn't figure out how to do the fancy maneuver to get the windows to fold down so I could wash the outsides. And I sure-as-shoot wasn't about to drag my sorry rear end outside with a stepladder to do it. So, the windows still look streaky and dirty and completely not up to Gypsy wife standards. This particular endeavor was not worth the time.

You know what was worth it, though? Marinating this steak. It took 4 minutes to throw together the marinade, then it sat in my fridge all day while I did nothin'. The husband did the grilling, and I just stuffed my face because this steak tasted awesome. That's the kind of work that I can get behind.

Ginger-Soy Marinated Steak
Adapted from Fresh Frugal Fabulous
Serves: 3-4

5 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1.5 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak

In a blender (or the Magic Bullet you bought from an infomercial) blend together soy sauce, onion, garlic, vinegar, ginger, and sesame oil. Place steak in a baking dish or ziploc bag and pour marinade over. Turn the steak so it's evenly coated with marinade. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a day. Flip the steak every once in a while so the marinade has a chance to soak into both sides.

Allow the steak to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before you toss it on the grill. Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium-high. Grill steak for about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil, allowing the steak to rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice steak thinly across the grain and serve.

Note: If you feel like it, reserve the marinade and boil it for a few minutes to kill the germs. Then you can serve it as a sauce on the finished product. The husband and I decided we didn't need any sauce, so we skipped this step.