Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Basil Tuna Pasta Salad

Hi everyone!  We survived Hurricane Irene this past weekend.  Thankfully things weren't as bad as they were initially made out to be in the Baltimore area.  We never even lost power (phew!), and other than being stuck inside all day on Saturday, nothing noteworthy occurred.  I know many people were actually affected by the hurricane, and my thoughts go out to them!

We did stock up on some (okay, way too many) non-perishable food items before the storm hit, just in case we were without power for a few days.  So we've been trying to eat through most of those, and we haven't had a chance to hit up a grocery store this week, so ingredients for blog-worthy recipes are at a premium.  However, I'm working from home today, and can't bear to eat another can of soup.  I found this recipe (posted by guest blogger Sawsan from Chef in Disguise) on the blog Eat Yourself Skinny a few days ago and bookmarked it.  When I realized that I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand, I knew I just had to make it.  Btw, if you haven't been to Eat Yourself Skinny, please check it out!  Even if you aren't trying to lose weight, her recipes are pretty darn tasty looking.  The recipes on the blog Chef in Disguise aren't too shabby, either ;).

You can find the original recipe here, and the recipe with my modifications can be found below:

1 box pasta (I had some radiatore lying around)
1 can tuna
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup corn
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
10 or so basil leaves, chopped

1 tbs mustard (I used Dijon)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box, drain and allow to cool a bit.  In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, oregano, and salt.  Drizzle the olive oil in while whisking, until incorporated.  Add the tuna, olives, corn, beans, and basil to the pasta.  Add the dressing and toss.

Not the world's greatest photography, but you get the idea.

It's really quite good!  All of the flavors meld together well, and the basil flavor is wonderful.  Please enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's shaping up to be a wacky week for weather and natural disasters here in Baltimore.  We had an earthquake on Tuesday, and are now preparing for Hurricane Irene which is poised to hit us Saturday night into Sunday.  According to my friend Emily, that makes this the week of the dreaded HURRIQUAKE!!!  Everybody freak out!!  *Composes self and moves on...*

Since Sean and I have decided (for the time being, anyway) to stay here and ride it out, we needed to stock up on the essentials in case the power goes out, which I pessimistically have a feeling that it will.

That means we need to bake cookies, right?!  I think it means we need to bake cookies.

They may not be the most inventive cookies in the world, but they are still pretty darn tasty.  

You'll need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg**
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 package chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
a few extra tbs of granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.  Beat the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract on medium until creamy.  Beat in the egg until light and fluffy.  Next, a little at a time, mix in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low speed until well-blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Oh Kitchen Aid stand mixer, how I adore thee.

Place that extra sugar on a small plate/in a bowl.  Scoop out some dough and roll it between your palms until a nice round ball forms.  Drop the dough balls into the plate/bowl with sugar and roll them around until coated.

Please excuse my strangely thumbless-looking hand.

Place the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the edges are set but the centers remain soft.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then move to wire racks to finish cooling.  Once they're cool (or not, if you can't wait!), dig on in!

**FYI - It turns out I didn't have any eggs.  I was able to substitute 1/4 cup applesauce for the missing egg, and they turned out just fine!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pasta Salad

My husband's side of the family will certainly recognize this one.  I made this pasta salad last summer for my father-in-law's birthday party, and have since been informed that I will be making this for all future family get-togethers.  It doesn't really have a name, and there's no official recipe written down anywhere, but it came into being when I combined two different pasta salad recipes: one made by an old college roommate and one that my mom throws together every now and then.  Feel free to jazz it up any way you see fit.  This is how I usually go about making it.

You'll need:

1 box short cut pasta (I generally use rotini)
1-2 bell peppers, depending on size
1 small red onion
A few ribs of celery
1 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese
1 16 oz. bottle Italian Dressing (usually the Kraft Zesty Italian, either low- or full fat will do just fine; and don't worry, you probably won't use the whole thing!)
McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme seasoning, to taste

It's pretty simple.  Just boil some water, add the pasta, and cook according to directions on the package.  While the water boils and the pasta cooks, you can get started chopping the add-ins.  

I like to give my bell peppers, onions, and celery a large dice before tossing them into the bottom of a large bowl/serving dish.  You'll be thankful you used a big bowl when it comes time to toss everything together.  Cube the cheddar and toss it into the bowl as well.

Once the pasta is cooked, I like to put it in a colander and cool it off a bit by running some cold water over it.  That way the cheese doesn't start melting immediately upon contact with the noodles.

Once the noodles are cooled (or at least not steaming anymore, if you're like me and can't wait any longer), add them to the bowl on top of the veggies and cheese.  Toss everything up from the bottom to make sure that everything is well-distributed throughout.

Next add about half of the bottle of Italian dressing to the salad.  Toss it up a bit, and then add the the Salad Supreme seasoning and toss again.  The bottle of seasoning says to add like 1/4 cup, but I never measure.  Usually I just add a bit, mix it up, and taste as I go until it's where I'd like it to be.  

Make sure to hang onto that leftover salad dressing.  If you leave the pasta salad sit for any length of time (in the fridge or otherwise), the noodles tend to soak it all up, and you'll need to add more to make sure it isn't so dry just prior to serving.  Feel free to throw some more of the Salad Salad seasoning in there before serving, too.

And there you have it!  Though this pasta salad is especially good during the summer months with picnic-y food, it's great year round.  It's also really easy to adjust the recipe, depending upon how many people you'll be serving. 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pecan-Crusted Chicken

My first food-related post!  Hooray!  As I'm sure you can tell, I'm pretty darn excited about this.  Anyway, I won't keep you.  To the food!!

I initially came across this recipe while flipping through a copy of my mom's Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine during college.  And I've been making it ever since.  You can see the recipe online at her magazine's website here.  It's a nice, simple little recipe with few ingredients, one that could potentially be made with supplies you already have on hand.  The only one I don't always have hanging around is the pecans.  Okay and the honey mustard, too.  But more on that later.

Sean really likes this one, too, and I'm glad.  It's simple enough that you won't mind whipping it up on a weeknight for your significant other/family, and yet tasty and pretty enough to serve to company.    

To make this you'll need:

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp dried basil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup honey mustard
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.  

Next, toast the pecans on the stove top, just until they become fragrant.  (Be careful, they burn pretty easily if you're not watching!) 

Once they're toasted, transfer the pecans to the bowl of a food processor and grind the nuts into fine crumbs.  If you don't have a food processor, you can always put the nuts in a zip top bag and pulverize them with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or even the bottom of a pan.  We received this little beauty as a wedding gift.  

It's one of my favorite new toys.  One word of advice, though, if you do find yourself to be sans food processor: once you've beaten the pecans and think that they might be fine enough... keep going.  The pecans don't adhere to the chicken very well unless they are pretty fine.  

Next, you'll want to transfer the pecans to a shallow bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, dried basil, and season with salt and pepper.  You should then rub the chicken breasts with honey mustard, and coat them in the pecan mixture.  If you're like me, and don't have actual honey mustard in the fridge (because let's face it, this is practically the only recipe I use it for, and it would end up being a waste of space in the fridge), just mix up some Dijon mustard and honey until it tastes about right.  

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil (I usually skip this step... mostly because I forget about it).  Then bake!  The recipe says to bake them for 15-20 minutes, but I find that it usually takes mine a bit longer.  Then again, I'm slightly paranoid about under cooking poultry.  Either way, cook the chicken until the juices run clear.  

While prepping the chicken, and during the time that it's baking, I'll usually throw a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven to bake and prepare some other kind of vegetable.  Tonight it's broccoli.  I've been on a broccoli kick lately.  

The chicken is savory, and yet slightly sweet too.  It's a staple in my kitchen, and is in our regular recipe rotation.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Ahh yes -- Ye Olde Inaugural Post...

I'd just like to preface this whole endeavor by stating that I am in no way, shape, or form, a professional cook, baker, or pastry chef.  I do, however, love food.  I love making it, eating it, and sharing it with family and friends.  

This blog will be dedicated to sharing tried and true recipes, experimenting with some new ones, and sharing culinary adventures experienced with friends.  Thank you for stopping by!