Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Potato Chips

I am definitely one of those people that puts butter and brown sugar on my sweet potato and then vow I am eating my vegetables. Who says vegetables can't be sweet and delicious. This recipe is so easy and makes delicious, bite sized sweet potato 'chips.'

Recipe yields 3 servings

2 large sweet potatoes (try for ones that are similar in diameter so they will cook evenly)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your potatoes clean. (If you want to peel them, you can skip this step, but I like to keep the skin on.) Then slice your potatoes into round discs. Try to make each slice the same thickness. This will help to make sure all your potatoes are cooking at an even pace.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and then add the brown sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved and you know have a thin paste.

Coat a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray. Using a pastry brush, coat each side of the potato round with the brown sugar paste and then place on the tray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and then flip. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The potatoes should be crispy on the outside but soft in the middle (depending on how thick you cut them). Serve as a side dish or just on their own as a snack. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicken Roll-ups with Broccoli and Swiss

Today I am doing another chicken roll-up recipe after my Buffalo Chicken Roll-ups were such a success. Today's version includes broccoli and Swiss cheese. It is an easy, healthy meal that incorporates your protein and veggies all in one little package. I don't know about you, but we love chicken roll-ups at my house, and it is fun and easy to come up with your own creations. If you have a favorite combination that you always make, leave it in the comments below and I will give it a try!

Recipe yields 6 servings

12 chicken breasts, thinly sliced or pounded flat
2 heads of broccoli
1/2 lb Swiss cheese
1 large egg
1 cup breadcrumbs

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Insert a steamer (whether it is a rack in the pot or a separate piece that sits at the bottom). Separate florets from stems of broccoli. Chop into small, bite-sized pieces.Place florets in the steaming rack and cover. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until broccoli is soft.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Top each chicken cutlet with 1-2 pieces of Swiss cheese and a handful of cooked broccoli. Place ingredients down the middle of the chicken to make it easy when it is time to roll them up.

Starting on the wider side, begin to roll up the chicken while trying to keep all ingredients inside. Place a toothpick through the ends to keep the roll together during the rest of the process.

Coat the rolled chicken in the egg and then cover with breadcrumbs. Spray a baking tray with non-stick cooking spray and line up the chicken onto the tray. After the chicken is coated with the breadcrumbs, you can either remove the toothpick or leave it in throughout the cooking process. As long as you are using wood toothpicks, you will be fine. If you are using plastic toothpicks, you must remove them before putting the chicken in the oven.

Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops of the breadcrumbs should be light brown and when you cut into the chicken it should be nice and white. Serve with vegetables, rice or potatoes on the side. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Inside View: A Taberna

Here it is, my very first restaurant review. In the interest of making my blog more of a 'food experience' rather than recipes only, I decided to add restaurant reviews. This way, the random days that I am not cooking, I can still share my food experiences with you. Up first is a small Portuguese restaurant down the block from my house called A Taberna. It is traditional and authentic and definitely worth a try. It tends to be very crowded on the weekends, so go early if you don't feel like waiting too long. If you don't mind the wait, they have a long, rustic bar that you can sit at and have a drink while you are waiting for the next available table.

Promptly after being seated, the waiter brought over bread and butter, homemade potato chips and black olives. The olives were absolutely delicious. Upon inquiry, our waiter informed me that they are from Portugal and marinated in olive oil, garlic and oregano. The flavor was so smooth and light. I couldn't help but going back for seconds, thirds and more!

For our appetizer, we ordered the Ameijoas a Portuguesa per a recommendation from our waiter. It is a traditional Portuguese dish of clams and sausage in a red sauce. The dish was served right out of the pot, so you did not lose any of the flavor. The spice from the sausage was a nice addition to the plump clams. And the sauce was so good I could have eaten it with a spoon. Instead I chose to dip three pieces of bread in to soak it all up!

For our main dish, we ordered the Parrilhada, which is a grilled meat platter. The platter included everything you could imagine from beef and pork to quail, lamb chops and bacon. It was served with grilled peppers and onions. The meat was tender and extremely flavorful. And as you can see below, there was no short of it! This dish is recommended for two people and it was the perfect amount. At only $27, how could you beat that?

Finally, for dessert we ordered the creme brulee. This dessert is made fresh, on premises, every day. And let me tell you, you can really tell. The custard was smooth and creamy and the sugar coated top added the perfect crunch. I couldn't put my spoon down until the last drop was gone!

Overall, I highly recommend A Taberna. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming; it is rustic and has an authentic vibe. The service was great; our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu and the food. His recommendations surely paid off as I left there with a full stomach. For the amount of food they bring out, the prices are very reasonable. All in all, I look forward to my next visit at A Taberna.

If you decide to give A Taberna a try, leave a comment about your visit. Did you enjoy it as mush as I did? What did you decide to order? I would love to hear about your experience.

A Taberna - 4135 Austin Boulevard, Island Park, NY - (516) 432-0455

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mozzarella Coated Clam Dip

This clam dip has been a family favorite for years. It is a mainstay at every family party we have. Once you give it a try, you will quickly understand why. The flavor of the clams mixed with the herbs creates a great balance, and the melted cheese on top, do I even need to explain how wonderful that part is. Try this once, and you will surely be making it time and time again.

Recipe yields 12-15 servings

4 cans chopped clams
1 stick of butter
1 small white onion
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Ritz crackers, tortilla chips, or any other cracker of your choice

In a small saucepan, empty the contents of all 4 cans. Bring to boil and let boil for 5-8 minutes.

Add all herbs to a small bowl and stir to combine.

Chop white onion to a medium chop. In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the chopped onion. Saute until onion becomes translucent. Add herbs and let simmer for 3 minutes.

Empty the contents of both pans into a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add breadcrumbs and stir. The mixture will become thicker.

Pour the mixture into a small casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove dish from refrigerator and cover the top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake covered for 10 minutes. Remove covering, and bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve immediately. Contents will be hot so be careful. Serve with crackers or chips and enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Corn and Red Pepper Salsa

As I have said before, my house is a big fan of all different types of salsas. This one is simple, combining corn and red pepper. The crunch of the red pepper adds a nice texture and is a surprisingly welcomed difference to the usual tomato.

Recipe yields about 5 cups

2 cans sweet corn
2 large red bell peppers
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lime
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste

Small chop the red pepper and mince the cilantro. In a medium bowl, combine corn, red pepper, cilantro, fresh lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with grilled chicken or meat, tortilla chips or a spoon! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rosemary Focaccia

I just finished reading Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky. First of all, I highly recommend this book, it is a great story and has a number of great recipes that I am looking forward to trying. After reading this book, I learned a very important lesson - do not be afraid to take chances in the kitchen! You will never learn or improve if you do not take risks and just go for it. That being said, I was very busy this weekend teaching myself how to bake BREAD! I was intimidated by the task, but after reading of Alyssa's kitchen adventures, I knew I had to give it a try. And let me tell you, having a huge loaf of fresh, homemade focaccia in the house all weekend, made this all worth it.

Recipe yields 19" x 11" rectangle (you can also free form the dough into smaller pieces)

1 package dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
2 1/4 cups tepid water (Tepid water is 2 parts cold water and 1 part boiling water mixed)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups bread flour
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp coarse salt
3-4 tbsp fresh rosemary (Do not use dried rosemary, use fresh! You will thank me!)

In a small bowl combine yeast and warm water. Let rest for about 10 minutes until the yeast becomes frothy.

In a medium bowl combine tepid water and olive oil.

After yeast has rested, pour into the bowl with water/oil mixture. Add 2 cups all-purpose flour and salt and whisk together. Finely mince the rosemary and add to the mixture.

One cup at a time, add the rest of the all-purpose flour and then all of the bread flour. Continue to whisk as you add the flour. After adding 2-3 cups, the dough will start to thicken, at which point, you can switch to mixing with a spoon or an electric mixer with the dough hook attachments.

After all flour has been added, remove dough from bowl and begin to knead on a flat surface for 8-10 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour 1 tbsp at a time. If you prefer, you can use the dough hooks on your electric mixer on high speed to knead the dough instead of doing it by hand.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a clean bowl. Place the dough in the oil and turn until the outside is completely covered with oil. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. At which point, the dough should about double in size.

Lightly drizzle your baking dish with olive oil. Place your dough onto your baking dish and spread out to flatten. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

After dough rises, remove the plastic wrap and using your finger, make dimples in the dough. Dimples should be about 3/4 of the way deep at this point. Re-cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours to allow the dough to make its final rise. A little before dough is finished resting, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of the bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and any remaining rosemary that you would like to coat the top. (As you can see in the picture below, I only used about 1 tbsp of rosemary on the top. The next time I make this bread, I am definitely going to use more! But of course, this is just a preference.)

Place your bread into the oven. Make sure your oven rack is in the middle of the oven (move your rack so that its in the right spot so you don't have a burnt bottom). Bake for 20-23 minutes. The top of the bread should be golden brown.

Remove from oven and let rest in the pan for about 3 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let rest on a cooling rack. Allow bread to cool for at least 10-15 minutes.

Slice bread and serve with spreads, oils or butter. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Crescent Creations

Have you ever had a Pillsbury crescent roll? They are buttery and delicious; all it takes is 12 minutes in the oven and they are hot and melting in your mouth. People always say, 'Why fix something that is not broken?' Well I don't consider these creations a fix, but rather improvising something great. Below are four flavor combinations that I enjoy, but use your imagination and let me know what creations you come up with!

Recipe yields 8 crescent rolls

1 package Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls

Creamy peanut butter
Chocolate chips
Sliced ham
Sliced cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, roll out the crescent rolls and gently break them apart along the pre-cut seams.

Add your fillings on top of each roll. I did two with peanut butter and chocolate chips (top left); one with ham and cheese (3rd on the top row); two with honey and cinnamon (along the right side); and three coated in Nutella (bottom row).

Starting on the long side, roll each piece of dough to form a crescent shape.

Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until tops of rolls turn golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Peanut butter with chocolate chips:
Ham and cheese:
Honey and cinnamon: