Archive for the ‘Main Courses’ Category

Weekday Brunch

August 17, 2006


I was in a rush this morning and pretty much forgot all about breakfast. I’m not much of a breakfast eater during the week but I usually force myself to at least eat some cereal and yogurt by 10 a.m. But when I came home today at lunchtime, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything at all. I wanted something quick and filling but not too heavy and the first thing that came to mind was eggs.

It’s when I’m hungry that I get creative in the kitchen. I don’t want to spend the time searching through recipes and my growling stomach doesn’t give me time to “overthink” what I’m throwing together, it’s more intuitive. So today, this omelette recipe just kind of happened. Luckily, It turned out really, really good and I’ll definitely be making it again!

Cheddar, Chive and Sour Cream Omelette

2 eggs
1 T. sour cream
1 T. water
1/2 T. fresh snipped chives
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 T. butter
1/4 C. grated extra sharp cheddar

  1. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream, and water with a fork until well blended. Stir in chives, a pinch of salt some some fresh ground pepper.
  2. Heat a nonstick skilled (8 or 10 inches) over medium heat. Add butter and swirl around. Pour egg mixture into pan and cook until the top is almost set. Gently loosen omelet and carefully flip it over in the pan. Sprinkle cheddar on one half and gently fold the omelet over the cheese. Serve immediately.

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Beef with Butter: Heart Attack or Heaven?

August 14, 2006


I decided to get out and grill something before I missed the deadline for Carnival of the Grill…a blogging event hosted by Men in Aprons. I usually don’t need an excuse to fire up the grill but lately I’ve chosen to stay in my air conditioned kitchen and have kept my distance from fire-producing objects. Luckily, the mercury seems to be dropping and it’s actually pleasant outside in the evenings again.

So last night, in honor of my return to the grill, I opted for something fancy. And by fancy I don’t mean complicated, I mean expensive! But it’s nice to splurge once in a while and the thick beef tenderloin steaks looked so good that I couldn’t resist. Although I love a good porterhouse and rib eyes are always a good bet, there’s nothing like biting into a perfectly grilled tenderloin steak.

Usually I don’t do much to these steaks…a little olive oil, some salt and pepper and they taste amazing. But occasionally I wrap them in bacon and last night I took it a step further and crowned my effort with a slice of spicy, smoky compound butter. I was inspired to make up this butter a few days ago after visiting 101 Cookbooks. I love my smoked paprika from The Spice House and am always looking for new ways to use it. It tastes amazing in this butter and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! By the way, if you like to make your own barbeque rubs and you have never tried smoked paprika…go buy some now!!

Yes, a steak wrapped in bacon and covered in butter might sound like a heart attack waiting to happen but beef tenderloin is very lean and we’re only talking about one slice of bacon and maybe a teaspoon of butter. It’s not something I do often but adding a dab of compound butter to grilled meat takes it to a whole new level. Try some sage butter on a grilled pork chop if you don’t believe me!

On to the recipe… Read the rest of this entry »

Veggie Chili Beans and Rice with Chili Garlic Chips

August 11, 2006



I came up with this one pot meal yesterday. It was one of those “throw everything you can find in a pot and see what happens”-type meals. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This worked. And it’s not only tasty, it’s really really healthy! The combination of beans and brown rice gives you a perfect protein and tons of fiber. Add a bunch of veggies on top of that and you’ve got yourself one big pot of nutrition!

Of course I couldn’t let myself be that healthy. So, I added a side of homemade corn chips that were perfect for scooping up the beans and rice. There are a few nice things about making your own chips. For one thing, you can make a small batch. That way you can satisfy your craving for something salty and greasy without devouring an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting (not that I’ve ever done anything like that). But another reason to fry them up at home is that you know exactly what you’re getting. You choose the tortillas, you choose the oil and you choose the seasonings. No weird ingredients and no weird preservatives–unless, of course, that’s what you really want. I made my chips in one of my favorite kitchen appliances, the Fry-Daddy. What? You don’t have an electric deep-fryer? Well, get one. I don’t fry stuff much but when I do, the electric deep fryer makes it so easy! The one I have is cheap, small, and easy to clean. Really, just go get one. If you do, I’ll give you my recipe for fried artichoke hearts 😉 Read the rest of this entry »

Curried Chicken Salad

August 6, 2006


I created this recipe when I received my last order of spices from The Spice House. I really can’t say enough about that place! I ordered two types of curry powder from them, both the sweet and the hot (I ordered other spices as well but I’ll save that discussion for another post!). These spices are so good, I can’t imagine going back to my old grocery store brand!

For this latest batch of chicken salad I used a combination of the sweet and hot curry powders because I like a little heat. Whatever curry powder you have on hand will work fine for this recipe although I do suggest trying The Spice House next time you run out. If you like things spicy and your curry powder doesn’t pack much of a punch, try adding a little cayenne to the dressing. The amounts of curry powder and honey can and should be adjusted for your own taste. Experiment! This salad is good on it’s own or as a sandwich filling. I usually eat it with pita but it’s also amazing on a french roll. It tastes even better the next day 🙂

Nicole’s Curried Chicken Salad

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and cubed
2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
2 C. seedless red grapes, halved

1/2 C. plain yogurt
1/2 C. mayonnaise
2 T. curry powder
1/4 C. honey
pinch of salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  2. Taste and adjust the amounts of curry powder and honey to suit your taste.
  3. In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients with dressing; mix well.
  4. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Serve in pita or sandwich roll.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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It Ain’t Fancy…

August 4, 2006


Southwestern Macaroni Casserole

Originally uploaded by elskermeg.

…but it sure tastes good! Whether you like to admit it or not, there’s a good chance that if you’re American, your pantry is stocked with the familiar blue and yellow boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s packed with preservatives and I know it doesn’t compare to the real thing. But there’s something about it that I will never outgrow and I know that there are millions of other people that feel the same way. So, instead of hiding it behind the healthier items in your pantry, bring it out and use it to create a meal that is heartier, healthier and still retains a little of that “mac n’ cheese” familiarity that you know you love!

I’ve made several different types of casseroles using macaroni and cheese but this latest creation was really good!

My rule for mac n’ cheese casseroles: keep it simple! If I’m breaking out a box of this stuff, it’s because I don’t feel like shopping or chopping! Use whatever you have on hand. If you don’t have black beans, throw in a can of kidney beans. If you don’t have ground beef, skip it or use a can of chili to replace both the beans and meat. This is actually the first time I’ve even used ground beef in one of these casseroles; this can just as easily turn into a vegetarian meal. The beans offer plenty of protein and you can use whatever frozen or canned veggies you have on hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheese Enchiladas

July 30, 2006


I didn’t feel like defrosting any meat so I made up a quick enchilada sauce from ingredients I had on hand and filled some corn tortillas with a combination of sharp cheddar and monterey jack cheeses. Ready to go in about 30 minutes and the house smells great!

I’ve been craving enchiladas ever since I saw the recipe and photo for Enchiladas Chipotle over at Gardenpath. I didn’t have all the ingredients for that recipe so I made up my own with the ingredients I did have. I did use some ground chipotle chiles in addition to my regular chili powder. If you use a lot of chili powder, I really suggest trying some from The Spice House. I have the medium strength and it is pretty spicy so I wouldn’t start out with the “hot” unless you really like some heat! I think the prices are very reasonable…probably less expensive than supermarket prices in many cases. Their Web site also has a great forum where you can ask the employees any spice-related questions and they can usually come up with an answer.

Here’s how I made the sauce:

Enchilada Sauce 

2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 T. chili powder (part of this was chipotle chili powder)
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 C. water
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. brown sugar
1/8 t. cinnamon

  1. In a small bowl mix together flour, chili powder, cumin, and cocoa powder.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add flour mixture and cook, stirring, for about a minute.
  4. Whisk in water and tomato sauce, making sure there are no lumps.
  5. Add salt, garlic powder, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  6. Taste and correct seasonings as desired.

I’m typing this from memory so hopefully I included all the ingredients! This recipe is based on the Ten Minute Enchilada Sauce recipe I found on

For the enchiladas I used corn tortillas. My tortillas were a little stale so I steamed them by placing a splatter shield over a pot of boiling water and laying the tortillas on top for a few seconds until they were pliable. I then dipped the tortillas in some sauce, filled with cheese and placed in the baking dish. After the baking dish was filled, I poured on some extra sauce and sprinkled some cheese and black olives over the top. Normally I would also include some beef, shredded chicken or shredded turkey in the enchiladas and maybe some green chiles.

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Homemade Sloppy Joes

July 28, 2006


I loved sloppy joes as a kid but I don’t know if my mom made them from the canned sauce, a sauce packet or from scratch. I tried the canned stuff once and it was awful! I’ve tried making up recipes a couple of times with mild success but they just didn’t taste right to me. So, I gave up and didn’t think much about it for the last year or two. But recently I’ve run across a couple of homemade sloppy joe recipes that made me want to try again! The first was at Something So Clever. The photo is what made me start craving them again! Then I ran across another recipe in Real Simple’s cookbook. I don’t own the book but was able to browse through it online and saw the recipe. This recipe is loosely based on the Real Simple version but I added ketchup and brown sugar to sweeten it up a bit.

Homemade Sloppy Joes

1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. Olive Oil
1 pound ground beef
2 t. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 t. kosher salt
1 small can tomato paste
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 C. ketchup
1/2 C. water

  1. Saute onions, peppers and garlic in olive oil until softened.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain fat.
  3. Add all other ingredients to the ground beef mixture and cook, stirring, over low heat for a few minutes until thickened. Add more water if it gets too thick.
  4. Serve in hamburger buns and try not to make a mess!

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Tofu in Coconut Sauce with Ginger and Lemongrass

June 22, 2006


For dinner last night I made this tofu dish that was amazing. We ate it over jasmine rice and it made the house smell so good! For dessert I made some caramelized pinapple with rum sauce and served it over vanilla ice cream.

Both the dinner and dessert recipes came from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks and I highly recommend it for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.


Here is the recipe:

Tofu in Coconut Sauce with Ginger and Lemongrass

1-pound package Chinese-style firm tofu, drained
3 T. peanut oil
8 shallots, thinly sliced, or 1 small white onion
Salt and freshly milled white pepper
1 bunch cilantro, the leaves plus a little of the stems
1 T. finely diced fresh ginger
2 T. minced lemongrass, from the middle of the stalk, or grated zest of 1 lemon
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
1 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk plus water to make 2 cups
3 pieces galangal, optional
1 t. soy sauce, preferably mushroom soy
cilantro sprigs for garnish

Drain the tofu, then dice it into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat 2 T. oil in a medium skillet, add the shallots, and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with a few pinches salt, then add half the cilantro. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a wok, add the remaining oil, and swirl it around the sides. When hot, add the ginger, lemongrass, and jalapeno. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, add the coconut milk mixture and galangal and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the tofu, and simmer gently until heated through and the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the soy, season with plenty of pepper, then add the shallots and remaining cilantro. Serve garnished with cilantro sprigs.

I used lemon zest instead of lemongrass and didn’t add the galangal (don’t even know what it is). The tofu I used was silken-firm. I think it would be good with tempeh too but I can’t get that here. It was easy to make and tasted great!

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Flank Steak, Potato Pizza, and Baby Octupus Anyone?

June 10, 2006


I was looking at NPR’s Kitchen Window food column and found this recipe for spice-rubbed flank steak with cajun swamp sauce and it sounds really good! Since it’s Saturday, I think a barbeque is in order for tonight! I was planning on making some chili today using tri-tip instead of ground beef (I went a little crazy buying tri-tip one day because they had a good deal on it at the commissary). But I can make the chili today and eat it tomorrow. It will probably be even better if it sits overnight.

Spice-Rubbed Flank Steak with Cajun Swamp Sauce

Hanger steak also is excellent prepared this way.

2 medium garlic cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of excess fat

With a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and ginger into a paste. (You can use a flat meat pounder or mince very well with a large chef’s knife). Add the remaining seasonings. Salt to taste.

Pat the steaks dry with paper towels. Rub the paste all over. Cover in plastic wrap and marinate steak for about 5 hours or, better, overnight.

Oil the grill grates. When the grill is hot, cook the steak for 5 to 8 minutes on each side for medium-rare (depending on thickness). Test with a meat thermometer — 145 rare, 160 medium. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

With a very sharp knife slice the steak thinly with the grain and serve.

Cajun Swamp Sauce

Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s book Barbecue Bible: Sauces, Rubs and Marinades (Workman 2000).

Makes 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Creole mustard (or other moderately hot mustard)

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 to 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 rib celery, minced

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 scallions, chopped (discard tough green parts of stalks)

Coarse sea salt or kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir. Taste for seasonings. Store in a sealed container — this will keep for several weeks.

On to the pizza and octupus…

Last night we went to dinner in Catania at a restaurant called I Vicere’ It was my first time at this restaurant and the food was really good! They are known for having excellent seafood AND excellent pizza (in my experience it’s usually one or the other, not both). I’m not a big seafood eater but I had a good pizza. It had tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced potatoes that had been cooked with olive oil and rosemary, crumbled sausage and parmesan. I might be leaving something out but it was such a good combination! I love potatoes and rosemary on the pizzas here! Our friends ordered tons of seafood and I even tasted the octupus salad which was a first for me. It’s basically just chopped up baby octupus with olive oil, lemon, parsely. I think it was raw, but I’m not sure. It was hard for me to pop one of those little tentacles in my mouth but I did it and even chewed and swallowed 🙂