Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 174, Red Beans and Rice with Spicy Pork Chop

Once again I was walking by box mixes and wanted to try one. Zatarain's has a Red Beans and Rice mix that I had never had before, so I had to try it.

Red Beans and Rice with Spicy Pork Chop

1 box Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice
3 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp butter (optional)

4 boneless pork chops, cut 1/2 inch thick
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 tbsp oil

In a 2 quart saucepan combine water, butter and red beans and rice mixture. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes. Stir and serve. Red beans and rice will be saucy.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Sprinkle Cajun seasoning evenly over pork chops. Cook for 5 minutes a side, until no longer pink in center.

Serves 4

I really liked the Red Beans and Rice. As someone who is not a fan of beans, I'm finding that I like them. Maybe it's my taste changing as I get older or that I'm going into these challenges with an open mind. The pork chops were spicy, I like spicy, but my husband and kids don't. I used McCormick's Perfect Pinch Cajun seasoning on these chops.

Flavor Rating: Great, it was a good Cajun meal.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, not much prep work to do when you use a mix.

Day 173, Tilapia with Sizzling Corn Relish

I had some fish in my freezer still, so I had to figure out something else to do with it. This is a light main course with plenty of flavor.

4 (6 oz) tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp pepper, divided
2 tbsp cilantro, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 to 3 tsp minced jalapenos
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 tsp no-salt-added all-purpose seasoning

Heat broiler. Line baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray. Place tilapia on baking sheet; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Broil tilapia 5 minutes or until fish just begins to flake. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of the cilantro.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook and stir corn, bell pepper and jalapeno 2 minutes. Add green onions, cook and stir 30 seconds. Stir in all-purpose seasoning and remaining salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Spoon over tilapia.

Serves 4

When making this, it took longer to measure out all the ingredients and I wish I had started the topping before cooking the fish. The fish didn't take long to cook at all, but it took me a while to get all the rest of the ingredients chopped and ready to cook. I omitted all the salt, I feel that salt doesn't do much for my flavors. I know that many professional chefs will say that salt brings out the flavor, but when I add salt, that's all I can taste. This was another recipe from my Cooking Club of America magazine and the link is in the title. This would have been good with a side of brown rice.

Flavor Rating: Excellent, loved the combination of flavors.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, cut up all your vegetables before cooking anything. Wet corn will cause the oil to pop, be cautious when adding anything wet to oil.

Day 172, Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

This is another of the pre-measured spice packages from McCormick. I always have plenty of chicken around the house, so it was easy to make another chicken recipe.

1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced onions
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp oregano leaves
1/2 tsp cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup each lime and orange juices
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 medium bell pepper, color of your choice, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas (8 inch)

Mix juices, oil, all of the spices and salt in a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or glass dish. Add remaining marinade; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 30 minutes or longer for extra flavor.
Cook and stir chicken in a large heated skillet on medium-high heat 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet. Add bell pepper, onion and reserved marinade; cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Return chicken to skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through.
Spoon chicken mixture into warmed tortillas. Serve with assorted toppings, if desired.

Makes 8 servings

I served these on whole wheat tortillas, I find they taste better than the white flour tortillas, but it's probably just because I'm used to that taste in my tortillas and pastas. The pre-measured packets make cooking easier, I just have to open the spices and toss in. I liked the lime flavor in my fajitas, it added a little oomph to the fajitas.

Flavor Rating: Great, loved the lime taste.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, just remember to start early for marinading time, you can allow it to marinade while you're at work so you just have to cook it when you get home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 171, Seasoned Steak

I wanted steak today, so I just tossed some steak seasoning on it and broiled it. Came out the right tenderness for me.

1 pound lean steak
1 tbsp Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning

Heat oven to broil. Sprinkle seasoning on steak and press to stick. Place steak on a broiler pan and broil for 4-5 minutes a side for medium rare. Add 1-2 minutes per side for well and subtract a minute for rare.

Serves 4

I got the less sodium flavoring, I don't feel the need for a lot of salt in my diet. This was a good seasoning, but I wish I had a grill to cook my steaks rather than having to broil them. Grilling adds a lot of flavor to the meat.

Flavor Rating: Great, I liked this seasoning.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, be sure to place your meat near the heating element when broiling. 2-3 inches away is ideal.

Day 170, Roasted Tomato Wraps

I found interesting wraps for sandwiches and decided to try them out. These had a pleasant taste to add to the wrap.

Roasted Tomato Wraps

1 Roasted Tomato Wrap
2 slices turkey lunchmeat
1 tbsp spreadable Swiss cheese

Spread cheese on wrap. Add turkey and roll. Cut in half and enjoy.

Serves 1

This would be good with spinach or a soft lettuce. Thinly sliced tomatoes would be good also. I didn't have any of these today, so I didn't put any vegetables on it this time. The flavored wrap added a nice flavor and can be found near the tortillas in the Mexican section of the store.

Flavor Rating: Good, it could have used some vegetables for more flavor.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, even the kids can help put these together.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 169, Spanish Chicken Skillet

McCormick has come out with a new line of spice blends that have all the spices premeasured for you. I decided to pick up a few of these because they helped make my decisions about dinner easier.

2 tsp paprika
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 6 serving-size pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup chicken broth or dry sherry

Mix flour, salt and first 4 spices in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with 2 tbsp of the seasoned flour. Cook chicken in hot oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat 3 minutes per side, until browned. Remove from skillet, placing in a tin foil tent to keep warm. Add bell pepper and onion; cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender. Stir in tomatoes, broth and remaining seasoned flour. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in red pepper to taste, if desired. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Serves 6

I like having all my spices premeasured and being able to keep the recipe card for future use is helpful so I can make it again if I wanted. Since it is a new product, I just had to try it. This is a good way to make something you may not have all the spices to and don't want to purchase a large amount of certain spices just for one recipe. There are several different recipe inspired spice packets to choose from and I picked up a few of them to try. We'll have to see how the family likes the rest.

Flavor Rating: Great, a nice blend of spices.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, only one large frying pan required.

Day 168, Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

I only had the kids to feed dinner today, so I went with something simple and quick. We have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch all the time, but this put a twist on a traditional peanut butter sandwich.

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

2 slices bread, toasted
1/2 banana sliced
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp Nutella hazelnut spread

After toasting bread, spread peanut butter on one slice and Nutella on other slice. Layer bananas on one half of sandwich; top with other half.

Serves 1

Since I prefer my peanut butter in a layer of chocolate, using Nutella makes it taste more like a peanut butter cup. Adding the bananas helps add to the 5 a day that everyone is supposed to have. It is a pleasant flavor when added all together, even for someone who isn't a big fan of peanut butter like I am.

Flavor Rating: Great, even for someone who only eats peanut butter sandwiches for the protein, this was a good combination.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, even the kids can help.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 167, Italian Wedding Soup

I still had some Orzo pasta and wanted to try something else with it. It's been chilly so far this season, so a good soup is welcome to heat us up.

12 oz lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 cup orzo pasta
4 cups shredded escarole, curly endive, and/or spinach
3 oz Parmesan cheese with rind, cut into 4 wedges (optional)

In a large saucepan, cook beef, onion and garlic, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until meat is browned and vegetables are nearly tender, stirring occasionally. Drain fat, if necessary.
Add broth, water, oregano, bay leaves and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Stir in orzo. Return to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Boil gently, uncovered, 10 minutes or until pasta is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in escarole.
To serve, place wedge of cheese in 4 soup bowls. Ladle hot soup into bowls.

Makes 4 main dish servings

Bay leaves add a wonderful flavor to recipes, but be sure to remove them before serving. I was able to find the wedges of Parmesan cheese in the deli section of Target, but you may also be able to find ti at your local grocery store in the deli department. It isn't cheap, but is very flavorful and has a better flavor than the already shredded Parmesan. If you can't find escarole or endive, spinach is a suitable substitute. Check your organic section for the first two; they're more likely to be found there.

Flavor Rating: Excellent, I really loved this soup.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, it may have a few steps, but it's not hard to make.

Day 166, Falafel

I walk through the international area of my grocery store often and every once in a while a mix catches my eye. This one came from a box mix, but I think I'll have to find the from scratch recipe for this one.


1 (6 oz) box Falafel mix (I used the Near East brand)
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
cucumber yogurt sauce*
pita bread
sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions

Combine contents of falafel mix with water. Let stand 10 minutes. (If mixture stands too long, patties will be difficult to form and may break apart.) Quickly form falafel mixture into 12 patties, each 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. In a large 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes. Cook patties about 4 minutes on each side, until evenly golden brown and crisp. Serve with cucumber yogurt sauce in pita halves with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.

Serves 4

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

8 ounces plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely chopped or shredded and drained
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped dill or fresh mint (I used mint this time)
dash white pepper
dash salt (optional)

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve with falafel.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

I've never had falafel before so that's why I wanted to make the box mix first. I will have to find a good recipe so I can keep out any ingredients that could be possible allergens now that one of my family members has shown signs of allergies. This is a great source of vegetarian protein. It was really tasty with the spices that were in the mix. I found an 8 oz container of plain yogurt in the Greek varieties. There are several brands to choose from and even though it's a little more spendy ounce wise to buy the small container, if you're only going to use it for one recipe like I do, the small container is best to purchase so you don't toss a lot of yogurt.

Flavor Rating: Great, I loved this mix.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate, if you don't catch the mix in time, it does fall apart.

Day 165, Dry Rub Slow Cooked Ribs

Country style boneless ribs were on sale again, so I picked some up. I also picked up a new seasoning and had to try it.

Dry Rub Slow Cooked Ribs

2 pounds country style boneless pork ribs
2 tbsp Weber Sweet and Tangy BBQ seasoning

Season ribs generously with seasoning and rub into pork so it sticks. Place in a large slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours, until meat falls apart.

Serves 4-6

I like slow cooking, especially on days where I won't be home to be able to cook right before dinner time. This rub was really tasty and I think it would do well on a grill or smoker. I also made my potatoes in the slow cooker today.

Flavor Rating: Great, I loved this spice mix. It was a nice sweet with a mild kick.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, slow cooking is the easy way to go.

Slow Cooked Potatoes

1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add washed potatoes to slow cooker. Pour oil over potatoes and toss to coat. Season as desired. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until potatoes are tender.

Serves 4

The potatoes don't take as long to cook as the meat in the slow cooker. You can also use regular sized potatoes int he slow cooker if you cut them up into similar sized pieces. My husband loves them this way and I'll have to make them like that more often.

Flavor Rating: Great, the potatoes closest to the heat caramelized nicely.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, toss in and forget until dinner time.

Day 164, Chicken Spaghetti

We wanted spaghetti, the quickest meal to make, but had to add something to it to make it different from the other spaghettis we've had this year so a simple addition of chicken gave it a little protein and still is something the kids love.

Chicken Spaghetti

1/2 box tri-color rotini noodles
1 pound chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup spaghetti sauce
freshly shredded Parmesan, to taste

Cook noodles according to packaging. Drain. Cook chicken in a large frying pan sprayed with non-stick spray 5-7 minutes until no longer pink in center. Add sauce to chicken and heat an additional minute, until sauce is hot. Serve sauce mixture over noodles; top with Parmesan cheese as desired. Serve with garlic toast.

Serves 4

I use traditional sauce when using sauce out of a jar. Marinara sauce is another good meatless sauce. I prefer my mom's homemade sauce, but haven't made it myself yet. I think that will happen this year because of all the tomato plants I have on my patio. Fresh ingredients are best, but canned tomatoes work in a pinch. I've even made noodles with just tomatoes and garlic instead of a sauce. It seems to taste more flavorful when using diced tomatoes instead of the sauce.

Flavor Rating: Good, jarred sauce doesn't stand up to home made, but it works.

Ease of Preparation: Easy, be sure to wash your hands when preparing chicken. Proper hand washing cuts down on salmonella transfer.