Monday, April 30, 2012

Mediterranean Couscous

Have you ever decided you didn't like something and later realized it was because you had prepared it incorrectly?

Yup, that was me recently.

I've seen Israeli couscous prepared by TV chefs many times and I always think it looks great. What's not to like about little balls of pasta? But the one time I tried cooking it, it was a mess. I decided I just wasn't a fan and figured that was OK since there are plenty of other pasta shapes out there. Then I saw Melissa's Mediterranean Couscous and decided I had to try again. As luck would have it, we had exactly 1 1/3 cups of the little balls left in the big container in the pantry. The fates were aligning.

As I was getting ready to cook the couscous I read the directions on the back of the container. And that's when I realized my earlier mistake. Unlike rice and regular couscous, Israeli couscous should be stirred every so often as it cooks. Duh. The last time I made it I just left it alone for the full 8 minutes it took to cook and when I went back to the pot it was a gloopy, sticky mess. No wonder I didn't like it. This time I ended up with individual pearls of pasta, just the way it was meant to be.

::smacks forehead::

While I'm thankful I realized my mistake, I'm also annoyed at myself for figuring it out after we exhausted the entire container of couscous. Now I need to go out and get more so I can make this recipe again. Because I will be making it again, and soon. I'm pretty sure I could eat a bowl of this every. single. day for the next month and not grow tired of it. I love, love, love anything Greek-inspired so this was automatically right up my alley. SP, on the other hand, isn't a big fan yet he still proclaimed this couscous good, which for him is a big deal.

I cut up and mixed together everything but the couscous in the morning and let it hang out in the fridge all day so the flavors could marry, and so I didn't have to get everything chopped in the evening when I had Baby Girl underfoot. That way I was able to cook the couscous while the pork was cooking and serve it warm. Delicious. Just so, so good. I think I had about 5 servings last night. Baby Girl tried the couscous the next night and cleaned her plate. A winner all around.

I don't have enough words to say how good this was so just make it and find out for yourself. A big thank you to Melissa for this wonderful recipe!

Mediterranean Couscous
I Was Born to Cook

1 box Israeli couscous (1 1/3 cup), cooked according to package instructions
Feta cheese (plain or Mediterranean flavored), crumbled
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Splash extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine everything but the couscous in a bowl and mix. Taste and adjust the seasonings to taste. Refrigerate until ready to cook couscous.

Cook couscous and toss with the other ingredients in the bowl. Serve immediately warm.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekly Menu - Week of April 29, 2012

Sunday - My recipe swap meal ('s a secret but it's something I've had my eye on for awhile now and can't wait to make). I'm also going to make this Chocolate Chip Cookie Delight as part of a Foodbuzz promotion. I'll bring it to church for fellowship time.

Monday - Corn Chowder with Lime and Avocado, ciabatta for dipping: This is a carryover from last week. Katie posted this soup on her weekly menu recently and then I saw it when I was looking through my recipes trying to make a meal plan. Seeing it twice just made me want it even more, plus I've got an avocado in the fridge that need to be eaten.

Tuesday - Hoagies

Wednesday - Chipotle Honey Lime Pork Tenderloin with White Corn and Mushrooms with Cilantro: When I posted the Greek Pork Tenderloin last week my friend Melissa recommended I make these two dishes. I trust her completely so onto the menu they went.

Thursday - Ravioli with Cheese and Garlic Biscuits: I'm keeping it simple and making frozen ravioli with homemade sauce and these knock-off Red Lobster biscuits.

Friday - Out!
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Greek Pork Tenderloin

I've recently discovered the beauty of pork tenderloins. While my favorite recipe is, hands down, Orange and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin , I'm always on the lookout for new ways to prepare it. My supermarket sells pork tenderloin in a club pack with four tenderloins, which is a great deal and means I've always got a few tenderloins in the freezer.

Melissa posted this Greek Pork Tenderloin awhile back and I knew I had to make it ASAP. I was especially intrigued by the Mediterranean Couscous she served with it. Look for that post on Monday. One word - delicious. Check out this sneak peak in the photo below:

I marinated the pork all day and I think it would be even better overnight. The flavors really got into the meat and made it juicy and flavorful. I slightly overcooked the pork so definitely keep to the 3 minutes per side for the searing and 15 minutes in the oven.

This recipe has a permanent spot in my pork tenderloin rotation. Thanks for a fantastic meal, Melissa!

Greek Pork Tenderloin
I Was Born to Cook

1 (approximately 1 pound) pork tenderloin
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients with pork in a large ziploc bag. Move around gently, then marinate at least 8 hours or as long as overnight, turning a few times.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a little oil, then place pork inside and pan sear for 3 minutes on each side. Put skillet in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the pan to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Recipe Swap Roundup - Celebrity Swap

One of the things I love about food blogging is the community of fellow bloggers I've had the chance to meet. I love getting a glimpse into their daily lives through the food they make and blog about. People have such different tastes and I think it's fascinating to see what everyone chooses to eat.

I know I tend to gravitate towards certain kinds of recipes, which is where the recipe swaps come into play. More often than not they take me out of my comfort zone and force me to try something new. While most of the swaps have a theme, that theme is generally broad enough that you never know what you're going to be assigned. This theme for favorite celebrity recipe, with celebrity being defined as someone who has published a cookbook, been on TV, or is basically a known name, was broader than most because there was no specified ingredient or cuisine to choose from. The recipes below are an eclectic mix and I think they all sound utterly delicious.

Katie made Anthony Bourdain's Roti de Porc au Lait for her parents, who just moved to Texas:

Jey isn't normally a fan of rosemary but in Giada De Laurentiis' Chicken Burgers with Garlic Rosemary Mayo, the flavor was mellow enough for her to love:

Nichole and her husband really enjoyed Tyler Florence's Shrimp Scampi:

Kim, a newcomer to the swap, is more of a baker, but she really enjoyed Rachael Ray's Garlic, Ginger, and Scallion Shrimp, one of my absolute favorite Rachael recipes:

I love a good salad and I've seen this Bobby Flay recipe for Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette on a few blogs so I was happy to finally give it a try:

Melissa had some leftover fried onions from a previous dinner so she modified Alton Brown's mac and cheese to make Fried Onion Mac & Cheese:

Kate's healthier version of Guy Fieri's Baked Chicken Cheesesteak Spring Rolls were a big hit:

Nicole has a food crush on Bobby Flay, the creator of the Breaded Chicken Cutlet with Prosciutto, Brie & Arugula that she absolutely loved:

Dawn enjoyed Giada De Laurentiis'Tuna and Artichoke Panini both hot and cold:

Jenna was a little disappointed with Jamie Oliver's Farfalle with Carbonara and Spring Peas, saying the mint was overpowering:

Christina loved Ina Garten's Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan, even though her husband and kids aren't fans of the "Truffala Trees":

Coleen initially thought Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur was a Monte Cristo, her favorite sandwich, but after realizing they were different she loved the results:

Kristina knew she'd love Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman's Peach Whiskey Barbeque Chicken because she's a huge whiskey fan:

Melissa's Chicken Marengo from Melissa d'Arabian made enough to feed an army:

Chrystal and her son really enjoyed Rachael Ray's Cumin and Lime Roasted Pork Tenderloin:

Nicole had another Rachael Ray recipe, this one for a delicious and flavorful Chipotle Chicken Chili with Flaming Tequila-Pepper Salsa and Avocado Ranch Dressing:

Leanne has already thought of a few variations to Giada De Laurentiis' Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes:

Cathy has had Martha Stewart's Grammy's Chocolate Cookies bookmarked to make for awhile now and they were worth the wait:

Mary Ellen loves arugula so this Giada De Laurentiis recipe for Arugula Pesto was right up her alley:

The Paula Deen Corn Casserole recipe Ashley received was a bit outside her usual side dish rotation, but it ended up being a welcome addition:

Jaida received a recipe from Chef Larry, as seen on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. His Chicken Croquettes were a bit time-consuming to make but very delicious:

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Restaurant Review: Bhan Thai, Mt. Laurel, NJ

I've mentioned before that I'm taking a weekly circuit training class on Tuesday nights. The instructor runs the session on a 6-week cycle with a week off between sessions. This past Tuesday was our off week, which was perfect because we'd just gotten back from a long weekend in Chicago to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday and hadn't been to the grocery store. SP and I decided to meet up near his office for a quick dinner before heading to the store. There are hundreds of restaurants near his office, but it's been awhile since we had Thai food, so we decided to check out Bhan Thai, located in the Cambridge Crossing Plaza in Mt. Laurel, NJ. The Yelp reviews were very positive, so I was excited to try it out.

Since it was a Tuesday the place wasn't crowded, although we weren't alone either. We were seated immediately and given menus. Being me, I'd already looked at the menu online as soon as SP suggested it for dinner and knew what I wanted. We both started with the Tom Kha Soup, mine with chicken ($4.95) and SP's with shrimp ($5.95). As you can see, the portion was huge:

Tom Kha Soup - chicken or shrimps and mushrooms in light coconut broth with a hint of fresh kaffir lime leaf and galangal

The chicken was a little tough, but the broth was incredibly flavorful and chock full of two different kinds of mushrooms in addition to the chicken. We always order Tom Kha Soup when we try a new Thai restaurant (or even when it's an old favorite) and this was, hands down, the best version either of us has ever had. Delicious.

For our entrees, SP decided to get one of the specials, Chu Chee Duck ($18.95), which was in a coconut curry sauce over baby bok choy. He loves duck and usually asks them to make him a masaman curry with duck, but he thought he'd try the special instead:

Chu Chee Duck with curry paste and coconut milk over baby bok choy

It was a gorgeous platter of food and he liked it but wasn't overly excited. I didn't try any of the duck but it looked moist and flavorful. I think he was just jealous of my curry. I got the Chicken Masaman ($12.95) and was thrilled. It was also chock full of chicken and veggies:

Masaman Curry with coconut milk, potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, onions, peanuts and avocado

The portions were huge, although for the amount of curry I wished for more rice. We had to ask for another portion of rice with our leftovers and were charged $1 for each. We both enjoyed our meals. Everything was flavorful, cooked well and beautifully presented. And having enough for lunch the next day was a bonus. That never seems to happen when we get Thai food. Other restaurants we visit have much smaller portions, which means no leftovers. Being able to enjoy the curry again the next day was a big plus in my book.

Service was also good. Even though we stuck with ice water our glasses were refilled frequently. Many times I feel like restaurants don't like when customers drink tap water and "forget" to refill glasses unless asked. I had one small complaint and that was with the timing of the food delivery. I try to eat slowly, both so I don't overeat and so I can enjoy the food. As I was slurping up the last of the soup the waitress was putting my entree down on the table. The soup had taken a little longer than expected to arrive and I wished there had been some lag time between the soup and entree.

I have to admit, I'm jealous that SP can visit Bhan Thai for lunch during the week. He works about an hour away from where we live so it's not convenient for us to eat there together often. Maybe someday he'll bring home takeout. If you're local or find yourself in the area I highly recommend this gem.

Bhan Thai
4330 Dearborn Circle
Cambridge Crossing
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
Phone 856-234-4202
Fax 856-234-4203

Monday-Thursday: 11:00AM – 9:30PM
Friday and Saturday: 11:30AM – 10:30PM
Sunday: 12:00PM – 9:00PM
Closed everyday from 3:00PM - 5:00PM
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Menu - Week of April 22, 2012

The weather has been crazy lately. We started this past week in the high 80s, with Monday topping out close to 90 degrees. Then the temp dropped drastically and by Wednesday we were freezing. I considered turning the heat on but held out and now we're back in the mid-70s. But Sunday is going to be in the high 50s. Sheesh!

This weather makes meal planning difficult. My stomach is squarely in spring/summer food mode, but the weather is telling me to make some cold weather comfort foods while I still have the chance. This week's menu is a smattering of different seasons.

Sunday - Corn Chowder with Lime and Avocado, potstickers: Katie posted this soup on her weekly menu last week and then I saw it when I was looking through my recipes trying to make a meal plan. Seeing it twice just made me want it even more, plus I've got two avocados in the fridge that need to be eaten. I'm keeping it simple with store-bought potstickers.

Monday - Greek Pork Loin with Mediterranean Couscous: Melissa posted this meal awhile ago and I've been lusting after it ever since. I'm trying to clean out the freezer and I've got a bunch of pork loin that needs to be cooked. I've also got Israeli couscous in the pantry, exactly enough to make this recipe. Score!

Tuesday - Hoagies

Wednesday - Greek Chicken Burgers with Tzatziki, frozen fries: A friend posted this Weight Watchers recipe recently and it sounds delicious. I'm going to make some modifications but try to keep it healthy.

Thursday - Pizza Paninis, sautéed zucchini: I have a work meeting in the afternoon so I need something simple that will be easy to get on the table when I get home. I also bought some pepperoni at the store this week that needs to be eaten.

Friday - OUT!
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Recipe Swap - Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Want to see what other Celebrity recipes were made during the swap? Here is the link to the Celebrity Recipe Swap Roundup

Awhile ago I asked the ladies who participate in the recipe swaps for help coming up with themes. One of the suggestions was your favorite celebrity recipe, with celebrity being defined as someone who has published a cookbook, been on TV, or is basically a known name. I was lucky enough to receive Nicole's submission, Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette, which is a Bobby Flay recipe.

I rarely have trouble finding things in my supermarket, but I asked one of the produce managers if they had pomegranates and she said they aren't in season right now. Boo! She said they sometimes carry packages of the arils, but not at the moment. I've never bought a pomegranate before so I was disappointed that I wasn't able to try it for this recipe. When I Googled I discovered that pomegranates are in season from September - February in the Northern hemisphere. This fact, along with the growing season for apples, makes this a perfect fall salad.

I really enjoyed the flavors in this salad, especially the sweetness of the vinaigrette against the salty stinkiness of the blue cheese. The walnuts added crunch, as did the apple chunks. Even though I've never eaten the arils from a pomegranate, I missed them as I imagine they're like dried cranberries in a way. That just means I need to make this salad again in the fall.

Thanks for a great recipe, Nicole!

Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Bobby Flay, via Prevention RD

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup POM Wonderful
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 - 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 apples (Gala, Fuji, or Honeycrisp), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups spinach, arugula or mixed greens
1 large head Romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
6 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 pomegranate, arils removed (in season September-February)
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the vinaigrette, simmer the POM Wonderful over medium heat until it simmers, thickening to about 1/4 cup (about 10-12 minutes). Whisk together the pomegranate juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Set aside.

For the salad, combine the apples, spinach/arugula/mixed greens, Romaine, walnuts, blue cheese and arils in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add the vinaigrette and toss to coat.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Billy's Favorite Pasta

My friend Heather, the one who brought you Shrimp Tacos with Jalapeno-Ranch Sauce, is at it again. Her husband asked her to recreate a pasta dish called Billy's Favorite from Vito's on 42nd, a restaurant he loved growing up. I've never been to Iowa, let alone this restaurant, but if Heather recommends it I make it. I mean really, just read this description - Pine nuts, fresh spinach & garlic, cooked in a light Gorgonzola cheese cream sauce with marinated tomatoes on fussili pasta with grilled chicken. YUM!!!

The smell of the tomatoes marinating all day drove me crazy. I couldn't wait to eat dinner and I may or may not have been sneaking bites of pasta from the skillet as I waited for SP to get home from work. I loved the tang of the balsamic and the tomatoes and spinach cut the richness of the cream sauce.

A word of warning - this dish produces quite a few dishes, but it's definitely worth it. I cooked the chicken in a skillet instead of on the grill to save time (we use charcoal and it takes awhile to get it ready). The Gorgonzola was a tad overpowering for my tastes, so next time I'll use a little less of it. SP loved it so it's definitely a matter of personal preference. Taste the sauce and adjust as needed. I think this would also be delicious with Ranch flavoring, similar to the Ranch Pasta with Bacon, Spinach and Tomatoes.

Thanks for another winner, Heather!

Billy's Favorite Pasta
From Heather, based on Vito's on 42nd

1 lb fussili pasta
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced and divided
salt and pepper
3 tomatoes, diced
1 stick of butter
1 pint heavy cream
4-8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, to taste
2 chicken breasts
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 bag baby spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Combine vinegar, oil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Off heat, add the Gorgonzola cheese and stir to melt.

Marinate the chicken in salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and then grill. Once the chicken is cooked, allow it to rest and then cut into slices on a bias.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add some oil and the rest of the minced garlic. Cook until fragrant then added in the marinated tomatoes, pine nuts and spinach. Allow the spinach to wilt, and then add in the Gorgonzola sauce, pasta and the sliced chicken. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recipe Swap Roundup - Fruit

With spring in full swing I'm starting to see fresh, local fruit in my supermarket. This makes me very happy. I love fruit but in the winter it's tough to get excited about the few things that are available. Unlike Baby Girl, who eats banana and applesauce daily and never seems to tire of either, I need more variety. I picked fruit as a theme for the swap back in the cold, dark winter so when it finally came time to receive the submissions I was excited. And man, are there some awesome recipes in this swap. If you love fruit, or if you want to add more fruit to your diet, take a gander at these beauties!

Jey's son is nicknamed the Fruitaholic, so her recipe for Chicken with Pineapple Strawberry Salsa was a definite winner:

Coleen doesn't usually bake with fruit, but her Strawberry Yogurt Scones were a great treat:

Jenna had to make some substitutions in her recipe for Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Mixed Fruit, but it still turned out to be a delicious breakfast:

Kate had never heard of a buckle before getting her recipe for Blueberry Buckle, but quickly realized it's basically a coffee cake with fresh fruit:

Melissa loved the mild sweetness of her Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins, which had a great creaminess as well:

Nichole thinks of grapes as a forgotten fruit, so she was happy to revisit them with her recipe for Grape Salad:

Heather had to make a few modifications to her Mixed Green and Apple Salad with Warm Honey Dressing, but ended up with a great, easy salad:

I made Jey's Lemon-Basil Blueberry Muffin Top Cookies, which were a fun twist on a traditional muffin/cookie:

Katie had my recipe for Thai Pineapple Rice, which she served in a gorgeous pineapple half for an awesome presentation:

Dawn loved the elegant aspect of her Cinnamon Vanilla Poached Pears, a simple, light dessert:

Cathy loves handheld desserts like these Cheese Danish:

Lishie's oven died while she was making her Glazed Apple Cream Pie, but thankfully she was still able to make and enjoy this delicious dessert:

Allison enjoyed her Strawberry Sour Cream Pie, especially with the addition of whipped cream:

Jaida brought her Mini Fruit Tarts for a coworker's baby shower (although the coworker ended up having the baby before the party):

Paige isn't normally a fan of fennel but she still enjoyed her Citrus Fennel Salad:

Kristina loved her Strawberry Muffins so much she's already got plans for making them with different fruit:

Ashley enjoyed her Rustic Applesauce as a special treat:

Nicole loved the ease of her Fruit Trifle, which she brought to work so she wouldn't be tempted to eat the whole thing herself:

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