Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with my uncle from Texas. It wasn't the best of circumstances that brought him up to Pennsylvania in December, but seeing as it had been years since I'd seen him, it was great to catch up. We bonded immensely over our love of food, every conversation seemed to find its way to how awesome bacon is, our favorite ethnic dishes, and where to get great tamales in Texas.

When he initially traveled up by car, he had brought a ton of his favorite Texan Mexican ingredients, because he was concerned he'd miss some of his favorites while in rural Pennsylvania. He ended up flying home several weeks later, and since he couldn't take it with him, he gifted me what he hadn't used. This included salsa from New Mexico, sliced canned jalapenos, jars of his favorite enchilada sauce, and much more. To use some of this up, I'd need a fiesta.  So that's just what I did earlier this week for the Oscars when I invited a few friends over for Mexican food. One of the dishes I made were chicken enchiladas, from a "easy-to-make" recipe by Tyler Florence. It's not that this recipe was difficult, I just found that some of instructions weren't helpful, such as coating the corn tortillas with enchilada sauce to make them stick when you roll them up. This just made them crumble. So I adjusted the instructions accordingly, and while these didn't look as pretty as restaurant-made enchiladas, they still tasted pretty damn good. And that's what counts, right?

Chicken Enchiladas (serves 8)


  • 3 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Mexican Spice Blend
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 5 canned whole green chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 4 canned chipotle chiles, seeded and minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce, canned
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar and Jack cheeses
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro leaves, chopped scallions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes
Coat large saute pan with oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken over medium heat, allow 7 minutes each side or until no longer pink. Sprinkle chicken with cumin, garlic powder and Mexican spices before turning. Remove chicken to a platter, allow to cool.
Saute onion and garlic in chicken drippings until tender. Add corn and chiles. Stir well to combine. Add canned tomatoes, saute 1 minute.

Pull chicken breasts apart by hand into shredded strips. Add shredded chicken to saute pan, combine with vegetables. Dust the mixture with flour to help set.

Microwave tortillas on high for 30 seconds. This softens them and makes them easier to use. Coat the bottom of 2 (13 by 9-inch) pans with a ladle of enchilada sauce.  Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture in each tortilla. Fold over filling, place 8 enchiladas in each pan with seam side down. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven until cheese melts. Garnish with cilantro, scallion, sour cream and chopped tomatoes before serving. Serve with Spanish rice and beans.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mini Veggie-Frittata Cups

I tend to eat my breakfast at my desk around 9:30/10 a.m. I just can't get it together enough to eat before work and I'm usually not that hungry when I first get up.

Two weeks ago, I was looking for an eas and healthy breakfast that was protein-heavy, low-carb, full of veggies, and portable to take to work. I have made very-mini fritattas before that included bacon and potato, which are awesome, but these contain no meat and are equally awesome. I know that's hard to believe, but it's true. This recipe makes a ton of them, so I froze a bunch and hope to eat the rest once my stomach is back up to eating things other than simple carbs.

Mini Veggie-Frittata Cups (Makes 16 mini-cups)


  • cooking spray
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, not in oil or marinate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 roasted red peppers (packed in water), chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 8-hole muffin pans with cooking spray (or use one 12-hole pan and four holes from another muffin pan).

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, egg whites, water, salt and pepper until blended. Stir in spinach, artichoke hearts, feta, roasted peppers, scallions and cream cheese; mix well.

Spoon about 1/4-cup egg mixture into each prepared muffin hole. Bake until just set, about 18 to 22 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Loosen edges of frittatas with a rubber spatula, sliding spatula underneath frittatas to loosen bottoms and lift frittatas out of pans.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Minor Setback and Slight Schedule Change

I haven't cooked in a week. My culinary pursuits this past week have consisted of how to make plain saltines more interesting (impossible task) and the important question: fruit punch or orange gatorade?

In case it isn't obvious, I've been sick. With the Nuro-virus. And after a visit to an urgent care center and getting a liter of fluid via an IV, I was urged to eat plainly for a few days and to get a lot of rest. So that's what I've been doing. I went a little crazy and made a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today. Living on the edge, I know. But you have to start somewhere. And I'll be heading back to the office tomorrow.
Obviously this isn't my usual food shot.
But I love this photo of my nephew and he's
with something that could be someone's dinner.
Close enough. :)
This means I'm a bit behind on preparing for what was going to be a quiet next few weeks on the blog. Not completely silent, mind you, becase I can't JUST SHUT UP. But, not my usual two posts a week, more like one if I'm lucky.

The reasons for this are two-fold. 1) Work is insanely nutty and will be until the first week of March while I work on a special project. This is not the cool reason. 2) The cool reason is that I will be recipe testing for my friend Nick's first cookbook, which will be released in 2014. I often call out recipes from Nick's blog,, because they're awesome and I often feature them in my own cooking. Nick is truly talented and a great food photographer/writer and so I jumped at the opportunity to help him out. So I'll be testing some of his recipes over the next month, but because the book isn't coming out until next year, I can't share them. So...I'll be cooking in secret a bit.

But I vow to try and stick with at least 1 post a week for the next several weeks, as to not let this quietly die.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mustard Salmon with Oven Tomatoes

This post is proof that I don't always succeed in the kitchen. Last weekend, I tried out a bunch of new, light recipes as part of my post-birthday carb detox and to prepare me for a busy week at work where I'd be unlikely to do much cooking after work. As I posted earlier in the week, I made an amazing PB stew. That was the highlight. This was the lowlight. Perhaps I overcooked the tomatoes, or didn't really get a good piece of salmon, but I threw out the leftovers. I just couldn't see eating this again.

Mustard Salmon with Oven Tomatoes (serves 4)

For Salmon
  • 3 TB rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 3 TB fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 pound salmon fillets without the skin
  • 4 TB dijon mustard, grainy variety
For Tomatoes
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a 9-inch glass pie plate, combine tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon oil, salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat and then spread into a single layer.

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme, garlic, remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper; rub oil into breadcrumbs with your fingers. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake until breadcrumbs are golden and tomato juices are bubbling around edges, about 30 to 35 minutes.

For the salmon, prepare the grill for direct, medium-heat cooking. Mix the rosemary, thyme and pepper in a small bowl.

Spray the bottom of the fish fillets with cooking spray. Spread 1 tablespoon mustard on the top of each fillet. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the herb mixture on top of each.

Place fish herb-side up on the grate directly over the heat. Cover the grill and cook until the fish flakes when gently scraped with a fork, about 12 minutes. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Butter Stew

Sometimes I look at a recipe and I'm skeptical. Skeptical that something without meat could be flavorful. Skeptical that the ingredients would work together. Skeptical that something deemed as healthy would taste good. This was put to the test as part of my post-birthday week excess detox, where I decided to cook some vegetarian and low-carbohydrate dishes to counteract all of the heavy meat and breads I enjoyed for my birthday. This recipe was one my successes. The failure will be posted later this week.

I initially only made a half batch of this because I was so uncertain it would be good. Two days later I made the second half of the batch. Because this soup rocks.

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Butter Stew (serves 6)

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium uncooked carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 TB creamy, all-natural peanut butter
  • 8 cups spinach, chopped
  • cooking spray


Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the sweet potato, carrots and garlic; cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the ginger, cloves, salt and cayenne; cook for 30 seconds.

Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth.

Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer slowly, stirring once in a while, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the spinach; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Serves approximately 6 people.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Food Porn: Central by Michel Richard

This week I celebrated my birthday. And no birthday week would be complete without an awesome meal, good friends, a bit of birthday cake.

My first birthday also included cake. And I really dug in. As my parents explained it to me, they weren't sure what to do for a 1-year-old's birthday so they gave me some chocolate cake and put a hat on me. I'm clearly quite content.

My tastes have become a bit more refined over the years and my table manners have vastly improved. But I still can appreciate a good piece of cake.

During my birthday week, I was treated to a great meal at Central by two fellow foodie co-workers. This place is known for their burgers, so it was only right for me to get one of their signature dishes. This dry-aged beef burger was awesome. It included carmelized onions, and potato crisps on top. So tasty. I paired it with a warm spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette because as we all know, I don't turn down a good bacon dish. But the lunch food didn't end there, despite my full stomach and objections.  Because you can't have a birthday celebration without something sweet.

This something sweet came in the form of a chocolate lava cake with the creamiest ice cream I've had in a long time. I have no idea what they did to make it so tasty, but it just was. And they even put a candle on it and added an edible little birthday sign. For someone who doesn't like desserts...I did like this. It hit the spot and contributed to the sugar high and the subsequent crash mid-afternoon when I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position under my desk and take a nap.

But you're supposed to indulge on your birthday. And indulge I did, even if I didn't smash my hands in it. A 33-year-old really shouldn't do such things. In public. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Turkey Chili

This past weekend, I went to a chili cook-off hosted by a true Texan chili maker. She put 20 pounds of beef (in 5 different cuts) into the chili and with the addition of smoked paprika, it was a smoky, meaty bowl of goodness. Between all the awesome food and party favors, this was a party that Willie Nelson would be impressed with. Whoa Nelly!

I digress. This post is not about the super-secret Texas award-winning chili recipe. This is about a chili I made the week before. Its a fairly basic chili recipe that can use any type of ground beef. I made it with ground turkey. And it included some beer. But I'm told not nearly as much beer as my friend's awesome chili. Or perhaps there was another secret ingredient. But Willie ain't talkin'.

Without further adieu, here is a basic turkey chili recipe.


Turkey Chili (serves 8)


  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground turkey 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • Pinch of all-purpose flour
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 TB chili powder 
  • 1 TB ground cumin 
  • 1 bottle dark beer
  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 (28-ounce) can stewed, crushed tomatoes
  • 4 chipotle peppers, diced
  • 1 TB honey  
  • 2 cups cooked black beans   
  • 1 lime, juice only  
  • 1 TB cumin 

Heat up oil over high heat in a large pan with a lid. Lightly dust meat with flour. Once your oil is hot, brown the meat for a few minutes. The goal here isn’t to cook the meat, it’s just to brown it a bit and get some flavors going in the pan.

After a few minutes, remove all meat and set it aside.

Add 4 Tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add red onions and start to cook them down. After a few minutes add garlic. After another minute or so add all chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin. Then add the beer.

Stirring pretty steadily, let the beer cook down in your onions and chili for about 10 minutes. It should reduce by about half.

Add your meat back to the mix and then add all your other ingredients except the beans. Give it a good stir and bring it to a simmer.

Let this cook down on low heat, covered, for about 45 minutes. Give it a stir every 15 minutes or so.

Once chili has cooked for about 45 minutes, uncover it and add beans and continue to cook it for another 15 minutes or so until it is nice and thick.

Serve with your favorite toppings, I kept it simple with green onions and cheese, but I'm sure sour cream and guacamole would have been equally as tasty.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spicy Tomato and Chicken Pasta

I'll keep the word "spicy" as the title for this post, because perhaps it is in fact spicy for some people. But for me, I found this to be pretty mild. In fact, this might be a kid-friendly dish for families to try because it is pretty simple, doesn't require any exotic ingredients, and healthy. I don't eat a lot of pasta and when I want to go on a carb-binge, I also want it to include binge-worthy ingredients. Like meat. Sausage. And lots of cheese. Yes, this is on the lighter side and probably not something I'll make again. But if you're looking for something mild in flavor and easy to make, this is it!

Spicy Tomato and Chicken Pasta (serves 4)


  • 1 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders, cut into (1-inch) pieces
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups canned diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 oz uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

  • Directions:
    Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl; rub over chicken.

    Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat; set aside.

    Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds or until garlic is soft. Add tomatoes and wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add chicken, and simmer 5 minutes.

    Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Toss pasta with sauce in a large bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and basil.