Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals - October

This is my second month in Foodie Pen Pals and it was just as good as my first! 

This month, my pen pal was Kate from New Orleans, Louisiana!  She blogs over at Kate Is Eating, which is an awesome new blog for me!  New Orleans is one of my all time favorite cities to visit - we used to go to Jazz Fest every year when I was in college.  It's definitely a fun time so I was excited to see what Kate would send me!

And boy did she do a good job!

I'm definitely excited to use the "Slap Ya Mama" spice blend.  My husband and I love spicy and creole-type food, so it will be put to use soon!

And of course, the Cajun Jambalaya mix will definitely be involved in our dinner rotation too!

I have a secret sweet tooth and Kate hit it right on the head!  I've already eaten both of the chocolate bars she game me and I've been trying to hold out on that Praline, but my will power might not be strong enough to last me through the rest of the day!

She also included some Justin's Nut Butter - Chocolate Hazelnut and Maple Almond - both of which are already gone too.  They made THE best sandwich butters!

And lastly, a jar of some fig preserves that will likely be incorporated into my next baked good - I'm thinking thumbprint cookies are in order!

Thanks so much Kate for sending me and awesome October box!

The Lean Green Bean

Friday, October 26, 2012

Roasted Chicken Breasts w/ Broccoli and Pan Reduction

We've finally reached Friday!

How was everyone's?  Ours has been pretty boring.  Work and school.  Work and school.  I had yesterday and today off of work so we've been keeping pretty busy.  We ended up carving our pumpkins last night - I did a Grim Reaper and it was AWESOME!  Don't know what we'll end up doing tonight, but I wouldn't complain if we just snuggled up on the couch and watched a Netflix movie! 

Anyway, this is another simple meal!  And it's healthy, to boot!  Sauces can be as complex or as simple as you make them.  This dish utilizes the simplest of all sauces.  A pan reduction.  That's basically taking the little bits left over in a pan (fond) from sauteing a piece of meat and deglazing the pan with liquid.  In our case, wine and chicken stock.  Then reducing that liquid until it's thick, and then we mount it with butter to get a sheen and added flavor.  Easy enough, right?! Right.


2 chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste


2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup white wine
2 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
pinch of dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup broccoli crowns, blanched
toasted sliced almonds, for garnish
salt and pepper, to taste

First, we'll fortify our chicken stock.  You don't necessarily have to do this, but I feel it adds more flavor to those store-bought chicken stocks that always seem so bland.

In a large saucepan, combine the chicken stock, onion, carrot, celery, white wine, parsley stems, bay leaf, and thyme.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, then strain, discarding the solids.  Don't worry about seasoning it with salt and pepper, because we'll do that after it's reduced.  If you do it now, you'll end up intensifying the salt flavor when you reduce it and it'll end up being overkill in the end.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan under medium high heat.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Add to pan and cook until golden brown on both sides and white throughout.  Transfer to a plate, cover, and let rest while you make your sauce.

Deglaze the saute pan with your fortified stock, scraping up the little pieces stuck to the bottom.  Reduce by at least half, then mount with the butter.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To plate, place about 1/2 cup of broccoli crowns in center of plate. Top with chicken breast (you can cut it in half like I did if your chicken breast is too big).  Drizzle sauce on top of chicken and around plate.  Voila!  Dinner time!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Roasted Chicken w/ Creamy Spinach-Celery Root Puree, Sauteed Apples, & Bacon

Hello guys!  How was everyone's weekend?  Mine was ABSOLUTELY phenomenal!  Saturday was my birthday and my friends and family made it such a special treat!  We went and ate at 610 Magnolia (Ed Lee's restaurant of Top Chef fame) and it was such a killer meal.  SO. SO. SO. SO Good!  My chef is pretty good friends with Ed Lee and we ended up getting a complimentary bottle of champagne on Ed, himself!  It pays to have connections, doesn't it?!  After dinner, a few friends showed up at a cheap bar for drinks.  Such a fun time and I'm so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing and caring people!

I competed in the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition on Friday, as well.  I didn't win, but I'm thankful to have the experience to be apart of something like that.  The girl that did win, deserved it on so many levels.  Her plate of food was just stunning, elegant, and perfect.  I hope she represents Kentucky well in Chicago!

Anyway, I made this dinner for my friends on Friday night and thought I'd share with you guys.  Looks fancy, but it's something so easy and so tasty - sure to impress anybody =)


2 chicken breasts, skin on
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Spinach-Celery Root Puree:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 cup celery root, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 lb. fresh spinach
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and each cut into 8 wedges
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2-4 strips of bacon, cooked and broken into 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400F.

Start by making the spinach-celery root puree.  Heat a large saucepan under medium high heat.  Melt butter then add onions and celery root cubes.  Saute until onions become translucent and celery root is starting to soften.

Add in spinach and lemon juice and stir until spinach is wilted.

Add in flour and cook until somewhat of a paste is formed, about 2-3 minutes.

Add in stock and bring to a simmer.  Stir in heavy cream and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Blend mixture with an immersion blender and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Keep warm until ready to use.

Heat an oven-proof skillet under medium high heat.  Add olive oil and heat until shimmering.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and place skin-side down into pan.  Cook until skin is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Flip chicken breast over and place pan in the oven to cook until white throughout, about 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breast.

While the chicken is in the oven, you can cook your apples.  Heat a medium saucepan under medium high heat and add butter.  Sprinkle the apple slices with cinnamon and add to pan.  Cook until softened and starting to brown, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove chicken from oven and let rest for about 3-5 minutes.

To plate, place a good dollop of the spinach-celery root puree in the center of the plate.  Place about 5 apples slices in a line over top of the puree.  Top the apples with the chicken breast.  Sprinkle crumbled bacon around plate.


The puree may not be the most pleasant color in the world, but it sure is tasty!  The whole plate comes together in no time and is basically a no fuss type of meal.  And not to mention the presentation - definitely will wow your dinner guests!

Hope you all have a great start to your week!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Salmon Croquette Burger

How's everyone's weekend going?  It's been pretty busy around these parts, so I'm sorry for my lack of posts.  I've got some big things coming up this week - yesterday I was at the Muhammad Ali Center for the Mayor's International Gala.  I competed against 7 other teams in an international culinary competition.  My group drew Ecuador and we placed 2nd - only by a 1 point loss!  It was an awesome experience, and the fact that many people came up to me and had multiple tastings of our dish, as well as saying it was the best they'd had all night.  That was prize enough!  And I couldn't have lost to anybody better - the 1st place team included my usual lab partner in class, so I was so happy for her!

And I've also been chosen as a participant to enter into the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition.  I'm most excited about this because the ultimate winner (I'd have to get through 3 rounds: Locally against the Sullivan Lexington campus, Regionally in Chicago against all the Northwest Region champs, and Nationally in Napa Valley against all the regional winners) gets a $10,000 cash prize, a 1 year externship at a celebrity chef's restaurant, and a media tour with San Pellegrino.  A chance. of. a. lifetime.  So I'm crossing my fingers that I at least place out of the local competition and get a trip to Chicago, but it would be hella neat if I got to go to Napa Valley too, right?!


A little while back, I went to lunch at the Marketplace Restaurant with a couple of old co-workers.  I had the most amazing salmon croquette sandwich and have been craving it ever since.  So I decided to whip up my own version at home!


1/4 cup onion, small diced
1 cup potatoes, cooked and mashed
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 lb. salmon, poached and flaked
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
juice from 1 lemon
flour, for breading
egg wash, for breading
breadcrumbs, for breading
vegetable oil, for frying

Lettuce, Bread, Mayo, etc. for sandwich compilation

Heat a large saute pan under medium high heat and melt butter.  Add onions and cook until translucent.

Add the flour to make a roux. 

Add milk and whisk constantly until no lumps remain.  Cook until a slightly thick bechamel is formed, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a medium mixing bowl.  Add the salmon, dill, salt, pepper, lemon juice, scallions, mashed potatoes, Old Bay seasoning, and lemon pepper seasoning.

Place mixture in the fridge to firm up and chill, about 10-15 minutes.

Set up a 3 compartment breading station (one pan flour, one pan egg wash, one pan breadcrumbs).

Portion the mixture into 8 oz. patties (or desired size).  Dredge each patty in flour, then egg wash, then finally breadcrumbs.

Heat a deep fryer or oil in a heavy-bottomed pan to about 375F.  Fry each patty for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.  Drain each patty on a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt, if needed.

Assemble the salmon burger to suit your tastes.  We put ours between two pieces of white bread, and topped with some green leaf lettuce and mayonnaise.  Pretty darn easy, tasty, quick!

What's your favorite way to put together a salmon burger?

Monday, October 8, 2012

SRC October: Zesty Sicilian Rice Fritters

It's Reveal Day for the Secret Recipe Club Group A!  My favorite day of the month!

This month I had the pleasure to be assigned the blog Recipe Taster.  I was unfamiliar with Al's blog, but quickly fell in love with it.  Al presents food in a sophisticated and artistic way - every plate, I am mesmerized by the artistry and creativity that unfolds.  And not to mention my mouth just completely waters at every sight!

I was really craving something new and sweet, so when I saw these rice fritters, I knew I had found my match!  It's basically little balls of sweet and delicious rice pudding, deep fried, and drizzled with a delicious orange honey sauce.  Yeah, I had to work out extra hard after having quite a few of these babies! 

Recipe adapted from Recipe Taster's blog


150g short grain rice, as for rice pudding
400g milk
150g cream
zest from 1 orange
zest from 1 lemon
3 & 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder 
Vegetable oil, for frying

Honey sauce:

6 tablespoons honey
juice of 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer.  Stir in the orange zest, lemon zest, rice, and sugar.  Bring back to a simmer, stirring every now and then.  Cover with a lid and turn the flame to low.

Stir the rice pudding occasionally to be sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.  This will become particularly important toward the end of the cooking process when the pudding will become thicker. If the pudding becomes too dry before the rice is cooked, add extra milk.

The rice is cooked when the pudding looks quite dry and thick. Turn off the heat and let it come to room temperature, stirring it every now and then.

In a separate bowl beat the egg with a fork and mix in the cold rice pudding a little at a time, breaking all the clumps.

In a deep enough pot, bring 1inch of vegetable oil up to frying temperature (180C should suffice). When the oil is almost ready, stir the baking powder into the rice mix. Using two spoons scoop some of the rice batter and shape it into quenelles or little balls.

Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. 

To make the sauce, combine the honey, orange juice, and cinnamon in a small saucepan under medium heat.  Stir until flavors meld together, about 3-5 minutes.

Drizzle sauce on top of fritters and dust with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Thanks Al for this sweet and tasty treat!

Want to join SRC?  Find out how, here!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cha Ca w/ Nuoc Cham

Since I've been in my International Cuisines lab this quarter, I've been all about ethnic cuisines!  We started off with China last week and it was full of exciting new dishes - Chinese cuisine definitely goes beyond what you find at your local buffet =)

Anyway, one of my favorite Asian countries is Vietnam.  Most of the food is very humble in origin, but there is a lot of beauty and flavor in each dish.  Cha Ca is a traditional Hanoi-Style Fish w/ Dill.  The name means "braised fish" in Vietnamese.  The dish is so popular in Vietnam that there is a street in Hanoi that is named in it's honor!  Neat huh?

I think this is a great fall dish that is unique and full of flavor.  And the Nuoc Cham (one of the most popular condiments in Vietnam) is so good, you can practically put it on anything - from dipping egg rolls or dressing your salads - it's THAT good!


For Marinade:
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 jalapenos
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons ground tumeric
4 tablespoons water
juice from 1 lemon

1 lb. catfish fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh dill
4 green onions, chopped
rice noodles, cooked, as needed
4 tablespoons peanuts, chopped

Nuoc Cham:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice (can substitute lime juice for slightly different flavor profile)
1 garlic clove, minced

For the marinade, combine the ginger, jalapenos, and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Grind until a paste remains.  Add the fish sauce, tumeric, water, and lemon juice.  Stir until combined.

Cut the catfish into 1-inch pieces and place in a shallow dish.  Pour marinade over top and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan under medium high heat.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the catfish and cook until fish is almost done, about 2-4 minutes.

Cut the dill into 1-inch pieces.  Add half of the dill and half of the green onions to the fish and cook until they are wilted.

To make the Nuoc Cham, combine the sugar, water, fish sauce, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl.  Mix until sugar is dissolved.

Place the rice noodles on the center of a serving platter.  Arrange remaining dill and green onions over top.  Top with catfish and chopped peanuts.  Serve along side Nuoc Cham.

This is definitely an interesting dish full of new flavors.  The Nuoc Cham is definitely not to be skipped, as I think it brings the whole dish together!

What's your favorite Vietnamese dish?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: September!

You know it's good when it's topped with a cookbook - and a Julia Child one, no less =)

Howdy, everybody!

I know I was pretty much M.I.A. last week, but I've spent the week trying to desperately fight off a cold.  Congestion, cough, runny nose = not fun. 

Anyway, hopefully I'll be up with a post sometime this week.  But first, I wanted to share something awesome with you guys - Foodie Pen Pals!  I know a lot of you have already heard of this, but this was my first month joining up, and it definitely won't be the last! 

Foodie Pen Pals is the brain child of Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean.  You get assigned another person (not necessarily another blogger, so it's open to non-bloggers, as well!) and you have a spending limit of $15 to spoil them rotten!  It was really fun to put together a box for Natalie P. (she's a non-blogger, so I don't have a link to link back to her!), giving her a little bit of what Louisville has to offer! 

And it was just as fun to receive a box from April of Good Cakes and Bakes! She included tons of local Michigan treats, as well as some awesome others!

 First up, these great Garden Fresh Tortilla Chips!  I love snacking on these - they're so fresh and perfect party food!

 I was most excited about this awesome Biscoff Spread!  I know it's all over the blogosphere, but I haven't been able to find it here in Louisville, so it was awesome to get it in this package!  I can't stop putting it on everything!

Both of these items, from Better Made Chips are awesome.  I tore through the barbecue chips in less than 30 seconds - they're so good!  And the salsa pairs perfectly with the tortilla chips!

And some Trader Joe's goodies!  We just recently got a Trader Joe's in Louisville a couple months ago so I haven't been able to try everything they have to offer - and lucky for me, I haven't tried any of these four things.  The hot sauce is a WINNER!  I put it on everything from my eggs in the morning to chicken at night.  It's DE-licious and I will definitely be buying it frequently.  I haven't tried the vanilla extract yet, but it gives me a good excuse to start baking up a storm.  My husband dug into the chocolate right away and he gives them both two thumbs up!

And finally, this coffee.  I've had a couple cups in the morning for the past few days and it is a great start to our day!  Definitely a great blend =)

Thanks so much April for a wonderful first experience with Foodie Pen Pals!  If you haven't been a part of this awesome group, I highly encourage you to join for October! 
The Lean Green Bean