Sunday, June 20, 2010

South of the Border Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is the perfect addition to any barbecue or picnic menu. It is bright, zesty, and colorful, and just a little different than your traditional pasta salad. I threw this together based on my love of Mexican flavors and ingredients, and everyone loved it.

The Salad
Mix all ingredients, toss with just a touch of olive oil, and chill in the fridge until ready to dress (1 hour before serving).

  • 1 lb rotini, cooked and rinsed under cold water
  • Chopped bell peppers - I used 1 each of a green, red, and orange pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 c frozen corn
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • For serving: bowl of shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • Optional: cilantro for topping (I completely forgot to put this out!)

The Dressing

Mix all ingredients* and chill until ready to dress. Shake well before pouring onto pasta salad.

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed

* Note, my amounts are approximate. The oil, lime juice, and garlic are exact amounts; others were added and adjusted as I mixed. I recommend you start adding ingredients slowly and taste as you go.

For another unique pasta salad, check out my antipasto pasta salad.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saucy Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry

I love to read recipes.. that's right, I read the ingredients, directions, and can usually tell what I think will work, how it will taste, and what changes I could make either to make it better or suit my tastes. That is until I stumbled across this recipe for
Saucy Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry (original recipe from Martin Yan's China). And that's because one of the ingredients was ketchup. But the blog author assured me that ketchup in Chinese food worked so I gave it a shot.

I'm glad I did - this was a thick and flavorful sauce that coated the tofu and broccoli nicely, ensuring I got a nice taste of sauce with every bite.


  • 2-3 tbsp oil for cooking
  • 1 block firm tofu, pressed and cut into blocks
  • 2-3 cups broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c ketchup
  • 1/4 c Chinese rice wine
  • 1/4 c chicken broth (I used vegetable broth, and about 1/2 c)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1-2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (depends on how much heat you want)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Squirt of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce, more to taste


  • Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat
  • Add tofu and cook until browned to your liking; I cooked it for about 10 minutes.
  • While the tofu is cooking, mix the ingredients for the sauce - Mix the broth and soy sauce; add the cornstarch and mix until dissolved. Add the ketchup, rice wine, chili garlic sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Whisk, and adjust any ingredients.
  • Add the broccoli to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes; it will cook more once you add the sauce. Remove everything from the pan.
  • Turn up the heat to high and add 1 tbsp oil. Add the garlic and saute just a few seconds, making sure it doesn't burn.
  • Add the sauce mixture, and allow it to reduce/come to a simmer to thicken which will only take a few minutes.
  • Return the tofu and broccoli to the pan and toss everything to coat and heat through.

I served this over rice, and it made enough to have dinner, lunch the next day, and then a mid-afternoon snack.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crispy Chicken Fingers

Last week I defrosted 1 chicken breast for myself, but had no idea what to do with it. I was tired, so something quick and easy was a must. I decided to slice the breast and bread the pieces for chicken fingers. A salad and oven baked fries and my meal was complete!

Crispiness is a must when making chicken fingers. I achieve it by doing a few things. First, repeat the process of dipping the chicken in flour then egg twice. Second, I use a mixture of panko bread crumbs and regular bread crumbs. Finally, I spray the chicken with just a touch of cooking spray and turn on the broiler at the end of the cooking time.

These chicken fingers were the crispiest, most delicious I have made. I dipped them in a bit of ranch dressing when eating htem; honey mustard, a creamy garlic dip, or a homemade barbecue sauce would work well, too.


  • 1 chicken breast, sliced into strips and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • First bowl: Flour - about 3 tbsp
  • Second bowl: 2 eggs mixed with some light cream
  • Third bowl: Bread crumbs mixed with panko. I seasoned the bread crumb mixture with a pinch of thyme, a few shakes each of onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, and dried parsley. I also added about a handful of shredded Parmesan cheese.


  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees; put foil on a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray.
  • Dredge each strip of chicken in flour, dip in egg, repeat. Transfer to bowl of breading and toss around until fully coated. Place on the cookie sheet.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until fully cooked, flipping once. Turn on the broiler for 2 minutes at the end.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Jon and I love Brussels sprouts so when I saw this recipe for grilled Brussels sprouts on Cara's blog, I had to try them.

Like Cara, I just eyeballed the amounts -

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • About 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Good squirt of Dijon mustard
  • 2 shakes paprika
  • Touch of salt and pepper
  • You will also need 3-4 skewers; metal ones work best


  • Wash Brussels sprouts, trim off the ends and remove any outer leaves that are falling off.
  • Put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove them from the water and toss with the oil, garlic, paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper
  • Once they are cool enough to handle, put them on the skewers with all sprouts facing the same way.
  • Grill for 10 minutes, 5 minutes per side.

Jon took this picture once they were skewered before taking them out to the grill.


We loved the flavor on these from the garlic and dijon, and the smokieness from the grill was nice too. They were a touch underdone, so next time I'd boil them an extra minute or two. The biggest surprise about them was that our dog ate one that I dropped, and was stalking me for more after that! Who knew.

Garlic-Lemon-Dill Grilled Chicken

There is nothing easier than cooking on the grill. I guess I can say that because Jon does all of the grilling... But he's so good at it, so why would I interfere?

Over the weekend we decided to grill chicken and wanted light and fresh flavors for the marinade. I took my inspiration from
this recipe for Garlic-Lemon Chicken Kabobs on the blog Loves to Eat. Instead of just garlic and lemon, we decided to add dill, fresh from my container garden of herbs. What a perfect addition! Some sort of yogurt dipping sauce would have been perfect with them... next time!

  • 3 trimmed chicken breasts
  • 3 cloves of garlic, put through the microplane
  • 1/4 c light olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 sprigs of dill, roughly chopped
  • A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of kosher salt


  • Cut chicken into kabob sized pieces and put in a bowl
  • Mix all other ingredients and pour over the chicken. Marinate for 2 hours.
  • Put chicken onto skewers and grill; Jon starts with high heat and then cooks them at medium for about 15 minutes.

Here they are right off the grill -

We both really loved this chicken - the dill and lemon work so well together, and are the perfect combination for a light and fresh summer dish.

I served the chicken with grilled Brussels sprouts and
potato salad.