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Archive for the ‘Quick and Easy’ Category

caesarwithpancetta

This is a lightened and eggless variation of one of my favorite Caesar salads from Ina Garten. I love Ina’s Caesar salad for entertaining. It’s great with home made croutons. We had Italian night last Sunday and I wanted to make this salad but was looking for something lighter and without the raw egg. I decided to take my favorite elements from her salad (the cherry tomatoes and crispy pancetta) and pair it with a Caesar dressing I found on Cooking Light.

I will admit that the dressing definitely doesn’t live up to Ina’s but it’s very easy and much lighter. I prefer to make my own dressings and I think it adds so much to a salad. And when it’s this easy…you really don’t have an excuse not to!

Lightened Caesar Salad with Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes
(Recipe inspired by Ina Garten, dressing source Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

FOR THE SALAD
1-2 heads romaine lettuce (depending on size)
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced to a similar thickness to bacon
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

FOR THE DRESSING
1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
1  tablespoon  olive oil
2  teaspoons  red wine vinegar
2  teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1  teaspoon  anchovy paste
1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
1  garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Cut pancetta into cubes. Place in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Wash lettuce well and dry in a salad spinner. Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. Place in a large bowl.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad greens and toss to coat. Top with tomatoes and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

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easybananamuffins

You can almost always find banana muffins in my freezer. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches but sometimes I don’t get around to using all the bananas. I hate to waste them so I usually end up making muffins with the overly ripe bananas.

My favorite recipe is adapted from a Cooking Light Banana Bread recipe. I like that the recipe is easily cut in half and is perfect to use one banana and make six muffins (of course you can make the full recipe too).

It takes no time at all to get these in the oven. You don’t even have to break out a mixer! Everything can be done by hand. The muffins are soft with a nice crispy crumb when they’re fresh out of the oven. They freeze well and are perfect for an on the go breakfast.

Easy Banana Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1  cup  all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons of plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together sugars, oil, egg, banana, yogurt or sour cream and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just moist and incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Yield: 6 muffins

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fruitskewers

These fruit skewers are one of my favorite things to serve at showers, parties and lunches. They only take a few minutes to put together, look beautiful on the plate and are easy to pick up. I vary the fruit depending on what is looking good and in season. The dip incorporates cream cheese, vanilla yogurt and powdered sugar and has just the right balance of sweetness and tang.

Try these out next time you need to bring something to a shower or luncheon! They will be a hit!

Fruit Skewers with Vanilla Cream Cheese Dip
(A Bakin’ and Eggs Original)

Ingredients:

1 cantaloupe, diced
1 pint strawberries, cut in half
1 pineapple, diced
Bamboo skewers
1 block reduced fat cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar (adjust amount to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Place six pieces of fruit on each skewer, alternating fruits. Arrange on a platter.

Combine cream cheese, vanilla yogurt, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix on high speed with a hand mixer until combined and fluffy. Sample the dip and adjust ingredients to taste.

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cherrytomatofish

I have really lucked out with access to fresh local fruits and vegetables lately. First, there were the figs. Remember the Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza and the Fig Upside Down Cake? Then we had the mountain blueberry extravaganza that resulted in this Peach and Blueberry Crisp. Last week I found out that my brother in law’s tomato plants were going crazy. This summer he planted his first garden and I was really excited to hear that his tomatoes were doing really well and really excited that he wanted to share some with me!

When I saw the beautiful red and yellow cherry tomatoes I was instantly inspired to serve them over fish. I Googled “fish and cherry tomatoes” and this recipe from epicurious.com was the first to pop up. Usually, I spend forever looking for the perfect recipe but this was just what I had in mind so I went with it.

I found red snapper on sale at the store and it ended up working great with this dish. It was firm and didn’t fall apart when sauteed and good for my husband who doesn’t like strong fish. The cherry tomato/olive mixture is very flavorful and the red pepper flakes add just the right amount of spice to the dish.

This was a great summer dinner and we’ll definitely have this again!

Sauteed Snapper with Cherry Tomatoes
(Recipe source epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 to 1 pound tilapia, red snapper, orange roughy fillets
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (depending on your spice tolerance)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmers. Place fish in skillet and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your fish. Fish should be opaque and flake easily. Transfer to plate.

Add parsley, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, olives and garlic to same skillet and saute until tomatoes are soft and juicy, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and spoon over fish.

Yield: 2 servings

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freshfigbluepizza

I stopped by my in-law’s house today during my lunch break. Brandon was over there helping his mom cut some dead trees down to create extra sunlight for the garden she’s planning. So as he was doing back breaking labor, I was meandering around the yard and saw a fig tree I’d never noticed before – chock full of fresh, ready to pick figs. I left with a bag full of fresh figs and Brandon left sweaty and sore. Hey, fair trade for this super flavorful, delicious pizza we created tonight!

I came home and started looking for recipes to use my fresh figs. I saw tons of suggestions just to wrap them in prosciutto or stuff them with cheese. I decided to take those ideas and turn it into a pizza. One of our favorite grilled pizzas during the summer is this Gorgonzola, Walnut and Caramelized Onion Pizza from Gourmet. Using the preparation method from that recipe, I created this pizza. The flavors went together beautifully and it was a perfect light dish for this very hot summer day. I served it with a side of mixed greens.

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
(Recipe inspired by Gourmet)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought – we used Trader Joe’s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup sliced fresh figs
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. On a well-floured surface, stretch dough into about a 12 x 10 rectangle (we chose to divide our dough and make two smaller pizzas because they’re easier to handle on the grill).  Brush top with olive oil to lightly coat.

Create a platter and bring your dough and pizza toppings to the grill area. Oil grill rack and place dough olive oil side down on the grill (with no toppings on it at this point) and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Carefully remove dough from grill and turn over (grill side up). Layer toppings starting with prosciutto, followed by onions, figs and cheese. Return to grill and grill covered for another 3 minutes, until underside is golden and cheese is melted.

Let cool before slicing into squares.

Yield: 2-3 servings

figpizzaongrill

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corndip

While we were living in Birmingham, this corn dip seemed to pop up at a lot of parties. Who would think that a cold, creamy corn mixture would be delicious and addicting with Fritos Scoops? Yes, you heard me right…I said it – Fritos!  This dip is a cinch to put together and will bring people back to the dip bowl over and over…and over…and over.

This week I volunteered to bring appetizers to a family barbecue and I knew this dip was the perfect thing! My friend Lindsey from Birmingham sent me the recipe. As I expected, no one in the Charlotte crowd had tried the dip before but they all loved it.

Bring this dip to your next party!

Summer Corn Dip
(Recipe source my friend Lindsey)
Printable Recipe: Corn Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
2 cans Mexi-corn, drained
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup red and green peppers, finely diced
Directions:

Mix together and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with corn chips – recommended Fritos Scoops.

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strawberrymuffins

With a fridge full of fresh cherries and strawberries, I found myself wanting to make a batch of muffins. I was looking for a very simple recipe where I could just stir in the chopped cherries and strawberries into the batter. I scoured the Internet for recipes and the only one that truly appealed to me was this recipe I saw on a blog I’m unfamiliar with, Cucina Nicolina.

I made six strawberry and six cherry muffins (I just divided the batter at the end). The muffins were exactly what I was looking for. I really enjoyed the texture and appreciated that they weren’t overly sweetened. The flavor of the fruit was the star.

Muffins are the perfect on the go breakfast. I usually just stash them in the freezer and grab one on my way out to work. These have been a welcome change to the banana muffins that I’m typically stocked with.

Strawberry (or Cherry) Muffins
(Recipe source Cucina Nicolina)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
2 cups cherries (pitted) or strawberries, roughly chopped (or 1 cup of each if you want to mix it up!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with cooking spray or liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, vegetable oil, sugar and milk. Make a hole in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Mix together until just combined. Do not overmix. Batter should still be fairly lumpy. Stir in chopped fruit (if you’re doing a combination, you will want to divide the batter first).

Fill muffin tins about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden in color.

Yield: 12 muffins

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Barbecue Shrimp

bbqshrimp

I love barbecue shrimp but I’m usually scared away from serving it reguarly because of the amount of butter in the sauce. And you know you have to eat all the sauce – the best part is dipping your bread in it! My dad used to always order this dish when we were on vacation at the beach. He worked for several years to perfect his at home version and that’s the recipe I’ve always used when I make this. And sorry to disappoint…but you’re not getting the full fat version today. You’re getting my first (and very successful) attempt at scaling it back some. While Brandon said it’s definitely not the same as the real version, it’s pretty darn good for a substitute.

If you’ve never had barbecue shrimp make sure to serve it with good French bread for mopping the sauce. Also, leave the shells on the shrimp. I know it’s tempting to take them off. But trust me…part of the fun of this dish is getting a little messy!

So I promise to give you my dad’s recipe in the future. But try this version and let me know what you think. It’s different but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised…and walk away from the table with slightly less guilt!

Barbecue Shrimp
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup reduced fat Caesar dressing (recommended Newman’s Own)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more! depending on your spice tolerance – we like this dish spicy!!!)
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 bay leaves
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 pound shrimp (deveined but shell on – you can just butterfly the shrimp to devein)
1/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges

Directions:

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil. Add in shrimp and chicken broth and cook for 3-5 minutes, until shrimp turn pink (depending on size of your shrimp).

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges and French bread.

Yield: 2-3 servings

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tunaherbaioli

Before we get started on the tuna let’s talk about my absence from blogging the last couple weeks. My husband just graduated from law school in Birmingham, Alabama and will be practicing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Moving has been a gigantic pain but we’re so excited to finally be in Charlotte and getting settled in our new place. Unfortunately, with all the business of moving and starting a new job, there just hasn’t been much time for blogging.

I’m happy to report that as of this week I’m back in the kitchen. I made a menu for the week  and took my weekly Sunday grocery trip for the first time in over a month. My new kitchen is considerably smaller than the old kitchen and we don’t have a dishwasher (gasp!) but I’m trying to embrace it and work with what we have. So if you have any tips to share on maximizing small kitchen space, I would love to hear them (seriously…you should see the tiny amount of counter space I have).

Now on the the tuna…last Tuesday was my birthday and we’d been in our new place for all of two days. Needless to say, we weren’t very unpacked. I was really sick of eating out so I tried to brainstorm a simple dinner that I could prepare quickly for my birthday dinner. Tuna is one of our favorites and I was looking to do something different than our usual tuna with wasabi aioli.  I remembered a good herbed tuna recipe that I tried in college from Bon Appetit and decided to make my own variation of it. I used some of my favorite herbs and it turned out to be a great summer dish.

Seared Tuna with Herbed Aioli
(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

2 tuna steaks (recommended sushi/sashimi grade)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (3 for marinade and 1 for pan)
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use reduced fat)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients from olive oil through garlic clove to create the marinade for the tuna. Place mayonnaise in a separate small bowl and stir in about 2 tablespoons of the marinade mixture to create the aioli.  Refrigerate.

Season tuna steaks with salt and pepper. Pour reserved marinade over the tuna and leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Preheat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and add fish. Cook for about 45 seconds per side for rare (you just want to get the sear and warm it a little). The inside should still be red.

Top with aioli and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

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bbqchickenpizzaafter

Homemade pizza is one of our favorite easy dinners and BBQ chicken pizza is one of our favorite ways to use leftover chicken. You use BBQ sauce for the base, shredded cooked chicken, caramelized onions and cheese. It’s a different taste than your traditional pizza but we think it’s delicous!

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(Recipe source Bakin’ and Eggs)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or we recommend Publix or Trader Joe’s)
1/4 cup bbq sauce (we recommend a mix of a sweet BBQ sauce and this hot BBQ sauce)
1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1-2 cups shredded cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it, we recommend a mix of Mozzarella and cheddar)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425-450 degrees (follow directions on dough).

Working on a floured work surface, roll the pizza dough out into about a 12-inch round circle. Spread a layer of the BBQ sauce over the surface, leaving about 1/4-inch border around the edges. Evenly spread the onions and chicken over the sauce and top with cheese.

Place in oven (on a pizza stone or a baking sheet) and bake for about 18-22 minutes. Start checking it at about 15 minutes.

bbqchickenpizza

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