I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni

I keep telling myself I'm going to start eating better. I don't believe in most diets--I am more of the "eat well rounded meals" state of mind. I really think you can eat what you want but have to understand moderation. With all the running I'm doing, though, I want to make sure that I really am getting all of the nutrients I need to keep going. So, although I will not be counting calories, I'm trying to pack in more fresh veggies and less fried food (and--maybe--less sugar).

I do have a weakness, though, for all things involving butter and cream sauce. So when I came across a recipe for Cannelloni on Erin's blog, I knew I had to make it. In Kansas City, Zio's Restaurant had an amazing Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni that I've been craving so I decided to make this with a creamy alfredo sauce. I looked at a few recipes I found on the web and then came up with my own recipe below. It may not be weight watchers friendly, but I didn't regret a single bite.

(Oh, and can I apologize for the quality of my pictures lately? I've been trying to figure out the lighting situation in my new apartment and have honestly just been too lazy to try too hard at the pictures. I promise to work on that soon).

Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni
3 chicken breast cutlets, cooked and chopped
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/3 c. shredded mozzarella
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
7-8 oz. ricotta cheese
1 t. dried rosemary
2 t. dried oregano
7 cannelloni or manicotti shells, cooked

1 stick butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pt. heavy cream
1/2 c. grated parmesan
salt and pepper
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl mix together the chicken breast, spinach, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, rosemary and oregano. Use the mixture as a filling for the cannelloni shells. Place the shells into a small baking dish in a single layer and set aside.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute about 1-2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cream sauce over top of the filled cannelloni and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 15 minutes more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps, Tuna and Shrimp Ceviche

I've been rocking the NYC road racing scene lately. In the last week I ran a PR in both a 10K in Central Park and a 3 mile race through Wall Street. Don't get the wrong idea--I'm not in the front of the pack by a long stretch--but I am getting better and racing faster each time! It's all about beating myself. :) And next weekend I'll be racing in the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I'm always excited when I get to race in the borough I call home--especially when the race ends at Coney Island (do I hear Nathan's Famous calling my name as a post-race snack??).

Usually after a race we'll get a bagel and an apple. I am always starving after a race, regardless of how long it is and I'll devour that bagel right away, then get home, eat some more, take a nap and then eat again. I feel like I deserve eating about 5 or 6 meals a day after running early in the morning. The Wall Street 3 mile race last week, however, was an evening race. We got a roll instead of a bagel (one of those really sweet rolls that I remember eating at the cafeteria in grade school) and a choice of a banana or an apple. As we were passing through the food line I saw that they were handing us something else as well--a package of whole grain tortillas. Yeah, they handed us a package of tortillas after the race. I don't know why, but at least I had an idea for dinner later on in the week!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps
3 chicken breast supremes, cooked and shredded
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 c. chopped lettuce
1 tomato, diced
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
1/2 c. ranch dressing
salt and pepper
4 whole grain tortillas

In a large bowl mix together the chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, ranch dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving spread 1/4 of the mixture into each tortilla, wrap up, and serve.

Tuna and Shrimp Ceviche
20 small cooked shrimp
.5 lb sashimi grade tuna
1/2 cucumber
1 avocado
1 mango
1/2 c. papaya
4 green onions, minced
2 TB chopped cilantro
1 t. soy sauce
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. lime juice

Remove the tails from the shrimp and cut each shrimp in half. Place in a large bowl. Chop the tuna, cucumber, avocado, mango and papaya into 1/2" cubes. Place into the bowl with the shrimp. Toss together with the green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, lemon juice and lime juice. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sides: Sesame Cucumber Salad, Potato Pancakes, Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Side dishes have a bad rap. They are often overlooked and only given a cursory second--or fourth--thought (entree, dessert, beverages...oh, yeah. We should have something green, too...). We will plop down some canned green beans or a side of rice with very little actual planning going into these dishes. However, with a little bit of forethought and planning, a great side dish will take your meal to the next level. When you are considering what to make for dinner think about the side dish right along with the entree: what flavors would pair well? How can you use one to compliment the other? When you match them together well you will feel as if you are eating in a restaurant instead of at your dining room table.

I think one of the reasons people give sides less thought is because they spend so much time on the entree and they don't have the time to fuss with extravagant extras. A perfect side dish, though, does not have to be complicated. For instance, you could just use the cooking juices from the meat to make up a sauce to drizzle over some steamed veggies. Also, there are many dishes where you can cook the vegetables/grains in with the proteins, saving time and dirty dishes.

Here I have a few side dishes to get you started on your side dish revolution. The Sesame Cucumber salad is simple, refreshing, and a perfect compliment to many summer favorites. The potato pancakes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and a fun way to play around in the kitchen--the flavor combinations are endless. And finally a Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette that is not only good on salad greens, but is excellent tossed with tuna, hard boiled egg, capers and greens for a tasty snack or lunch.

Sesame Cucumber Salad
2 TB white wine vinegar
2 t. sesame oil
2 TB olive oil
1 cucumber, sliced
3 heads Belgian Endive, chopped
2 TB chopped wild onions (chives will work as well), minced

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, and olive oil. In a separate bowl toss the cucumber, endive, and wild onions. Toss the vegetables with the dressing and serve.

Roasted Garlic Potato Pancakes
1 1/2 c. mashed potatoes, cooled
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 TB butter
1 TB olive oil

In a large bowl mix together the mashed potatoes, roasted garlic, parmesan cheese. Taste to see if you need to add any salt and pepper. Form the potato mixture into patties, about 2" in diameter and about 1/2" thick.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oils are hot add the potato pancakes and cook to a crispy brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 TB white wine vinegar
2 TB lemon juice
1/4 t. ground mustard
1/4 t. season salt
1/3 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl mix together the roasted garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, ground mustard and season salt. Add the olive oil in a slow drizzle while briskly whisking the roasted garlic mixture. You may need a little more olive oil to make a creamy, thick vinaigrette, and that is ok. Once the mixture is whisked together well taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Doughnut Plant

It's funny the things that you crave sometimes. Here in the city we have amazing Mexican restaurants and delis and yet I find myself at times having a hard core craving for Taco Bell or Arbys. No, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but there it is.
When it comes to breakfast here almost everywhere you turn is another place with great bagels (schmeared with way too much cream cheese and, in my favorite version, with lox and capers), cheesy breakfast sandwiches, and pastries galore. But one thing that I crave and have found lacking is a good donut. Until now.
Last weekend, on a very rainy Sunday before seeing Christopher Durang's new play, Joe and I finally made our way to The Doughnut Plant. I have heard little things about it here and there, but really decided I must go there after an article in Edible Manhattan. And I can't believe it has taken me so long to get there.
The donuts were fresh and moist (which is never the case with most of the donuts I've seen in the city). And the flavors. Oh, the flavors. I had a yeast doughnut with a Valrhona Chocolate glaze and a Coconut glaze filled with coconut cream. Joe had a Strawberry filled Vanilla bean and a Tres Leches Cake doughnut. Even the cake doughnut was moist and tender--I guarantee you've never had a cake doughnut like this! My favorite part about these doughnuts is the cream-filled ones: it's not just one blob of cream in the middle, oh, no. They are square doughnuts that have little dollops of the filling all the way around the whole doughnut. With every bite you get a little of the cream but it isn't so much that it overpowers the flavor of the doughnut itself (because with these guys you don't need to cover anything up!). To top it off, the fillings are all made in-house.
The Doughnut Plant started in 1994 with owner Mark using his grandfather's recipe. He would make the doughnuts all night and then deliver them himself on his bicycle in the mornings. He eventually found his grove using fresh seasonal ingredients. Over the years more and more people found the awesomeness that is Mark's doughnuts and as it grew he added more flavors, more options (including churros! who doesn't want a churro for breakfast?) and eventually opened the shop on Grand Street where you can get these beauties today.

Penne with Creamy Milk Sauce

I know I promised to stop talking about Easter dinner but I lied a little. I've been trying hard to be better about using up leftovers and not letting things go to waste lately. And I had a lot of delicious milk sauce leftover from the meal. And as much as I just wanted to pour myself a big bowl and just eat it like that, I decided I should make it into a new meal. I also got to use up the rest of the spinach and pecorino cheese I had from the meal. This, again, is a pretty big portion of pasta, but I wanted to be able to eat it for lunches the rest of the week (it reheats well).

Penne with Creamy Milk Sauce
12 oz. whole wheat penne pasta, cooked
4 TB butter
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 cups spinach
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
3 c. milk sauce from Milk Braised Pork
1/2-3/4 c. grated pecorino cheese
6 slices cooked and chopped bacon
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the spinach, garlic, and mushrooms and saute. After the vegetables are cooked add the milk sauce and bring up to a simmer, stirring often. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes. Stir in the pecorino cheese.
Toss the milk sauce with the pasta, chicken and bacon. Top with a little more pecorino cheese to serve.