Thursday, February 28, 2013

Greek Couscous Salad

I have made an administrative change to my blog to allow people to be able to leave comments much easier now.  So please leave me a comment if you find a recipe you like.

Now on to the food - this was the side dish I served with the Lamb Chops last night and it was the perfect side.  This couscous was so good it could certainly stand alone and so I felt it deserved its own blog post.  The simply cooked couscous was combined with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, drizzled with fresh lemon juice, a little olive oil and finally combined with feta cheese and fresh dill.  I served it at room temp and had some leftovers today served cold.  I think the flavors are a little more pronounced by letting it come to room temperature.

Greek Couscous Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 cup water
1/2 cup couscous (preferably 100% whole wheat)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, finely chopped

Bring the cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir the couscous into the boiling water. Cover saucepan, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes (or follow package directions), fluff with a fork.  Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool briefly.  Add tomatoes, cucumber, feta, lemon juice, olive oil and dill.  Stir to combine.  Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Slightly adapted form Jillian Michaels

My rating:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Herbed Lamb Chops

I love lamb, but it took years for Gerry to be able to appreciate them.  Since he has discovered the wonderful flavor or lamb, he has been making up for lost time.  I am always sure of a great meal when lamb is the protein of choice.  These lamb loin chops were very simply rubbed with a paste of garlic, parsley and salt and then sauteed in a skillet until done to perfection.  This is the perfect lamb recipe since it does so little to change the flavor of the meat.  Our side dishes were a Greek Couscous Salad and grilled asparagus spears.  I'll share the couscous recipe soon.

Herbed Lamb Chops
Makes 2 servings

1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 lamb loin chops, trimmed of ft
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine garlic, parsley and salt in a small bowl.  Press the mixture into both sides of lamb chops.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the lamb chops and cook to desired doneness, 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium.  Allow to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Slightly adapted from Jillian Michaels

Our rating:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Autumn Glazed Pork Chops

These simple boneless pork chops came to life with the addition of the apple cider they were simmered in and in the sauce they finished cooking in.  The combination of cranberry sauce, honey, orange juice concentrate and a little spice was the perfect blend to perk up the pork.  Our sides were oven roasted cauliflower and a baked sweet potato.

Autumn Glazed Pork Chops
Makes 2 servings

2 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4-inch thick
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider (or juice)
1/4 cup whole cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate, frozen
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
dash of ground nutmeg

Spray a nonstick skillet with nonstick coating.  Heat over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle both sides of chops with pepper.  Brown chops on each side in hot skillet.  Add apple cider.  Cover tightly; cook over low heat for 5-6 minutes or until chops are just done.  Drain off juices.

In a small bowl, combine cranberry sauce, honey, orange juice concentrate, ginger and nutmeg.  Pour over chops.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, until heated through.

Slightly adapted from Jillian Michaels

Our rating:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Baja Fish Taco Salad

This recipe had all of the ingredients in a fish taco that I love, but just turned into a salad.  I felt quite righteous in eating this wonderful dinner.  This salad came in at under 400 calories, but it surely didn't taste like it.  If you love fish tacos, you need to try this salad.

Baja Fish Taco Salad
Makes 3 servings

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
2 egg whites, beaten
1 tablespoon water
1/2 pound tilapia fillets
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Creamy Jalapeno Dressing (recipe follows)

For the fish, whisk cornmeal, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a bowl.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high.

Combine egg whites and water in a small bowl.

Cut fillets into strips 2-inches long and 1/2-inch wide.  Dredge strips in cornmeal mixture; dip into egg white mixture.  Roll strips in cornmeal mixture a second time.  Fry fish in batchesin hot oil until golden; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.

For the salad, toss cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Divide salad among two plates, and top each with fish.  Serve salads with Creamy Jalapeno Dressing.

Creamy Jalapeno Dressing
Makes about 1/2 cup

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Blend mayonnaise, buttermilk, scallions, jalapeno, lime juice, salt, and cumin in a blender or food processor until scallions and jalapeno are minced and dressing is combined.

Slightly adapted from Cuisine at Home, February 2012 issue

Our rating:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Tonight's dinner was just a healthier twist on shrimp scampi with a lot of veggies as the base.  It was definitely a healthy version of a very flavorful was flavorful enough that we really didn't miss the starch component of dinner (rice, bread or pasta).  We both really enjoyed this dish.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Vegetables
Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
1/2 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bell pepper, asparagus, lemon zest an 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add shrimp and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Whisk broth and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth and add to the pan along with the remaining 1/8 salt.  Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes more.  Remove  from the heat.  Stir in lemon juice and parsley.  Serve the shrimp and sauce over the vegetables.

Slightly Adapted from Jillian

Our rating:


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mustard Crusted Salmon

We both love our salmon and I am always looking for new ways to get our fill of this wonderful fish full of its omega 3 oils.  This particular recipe couldn't have been simpler with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper.  It was then covered with a mixture of sour cream, mustard and lemon juice.  We then grilled the salmon over medium heat for 10 minutes until just barely done.  It was simply served with lemon wedges.  Our side dish was broccoli with caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts.

It was really nice to have another way to serve our favorite fish.

Mustard-Crusted Salmon
Makes 2 servings

3/4 pound salmon fillet, center cut, cut into two pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
Black ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. 

Place salmon fillets skin-side down on a double folded sheet of aluminum foil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sour cream, mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Spread evenly over the salmon.

Grill the salmon for 10 minutes until it is opaque in the center, 10 to 12 minutes.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from Jillian Michaels

Our rating:


Friday, February 22, 2013

Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup

I have had either a sinus condition or just the common cold for the past two days and so I really wanted some homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight.  My favorite recipe includes a whole chicken that was roasted in a hot oven before being added to the soup.  My favorite recipe is a combination of several different techniques from several recipes.  Roasting the chicken came from Cuisine at Home.  I added the step of sweating the celery, carrots, and leeks in butter on my own to intensify the flavor and to add much needed salt and pepper to the finished soup.  I think soups are all about building layers of flavors.  Stock in a box was then added to the seasoned vegetables and allowed to simmer briefly.  The roasted chicken was pulled apart and pieces were added to the simmering stock.  I cooked some fine egg noodles separately and added some to each hot bowl of soup (a Rachel Ray tip).  I have found this to be the best way to avoid having the noodles absorb too much of the chicken stock.  I added some fresh parsley off heat and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving.  Chicken noodle soup is the all-cure for the common cold as we have all been told and this recipe which includes roasted chicken instead of stringy boiled chicken is the winner for me.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes 13 servings (1 1/2 cups each)

1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 1/2 cups celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups carrot, sliced
1 1/2 cups leeks, sliced into half-moons, rinsed thoroughly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chicken stock
Shredded chicken pieces from above plus juices from pan
8 ounces kluski noodles (fine egg noodles)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Roast chicken on a rack in a roasting pan for 1 hour, or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the thigh.  Remove from the oven and let rest 15-20 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones in large pieces.

 In a large stock pot, melt butter.  Add celery, carrots and leeks and cook over medium low heat for a couple of minutes just to begin to soften the vegetables.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Stir in chicken pieces and any juices from the roasting pan; simmer 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile cook noodles in a separate pot following package directions.  Drain, drizzle with a teaspoon or so of olive oil so that cooked noodles don't stick together.

Stir parsley into soup and squeeze the juice of half a lemon in.  Add desired amount of cooked egg noodles to each bowl upon serving and serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home

Our rating:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mexican Mole Pork Chops

I turned to a nice lean pork chop tonight which had a spicy rub including spices and cocoa powder.  The bone in the pork chop added a ton of flavor and is always my first choice for grilling.  After being grilled, they were topped with a mango salsa which added a wonderful tropical twist.  The chops and salsa were served over simply cooked brown rice.

Mexican Mole Pork Chops
Makes 2 servings

2 pork chops, bone-in 1 1/2-inch thick
dash of paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
dash ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon bown sugar

In small bowl, combine brown sugar, onion powder, cocoa, garlic powder, ground Chipotle pepper, paprika, and cinnamon.  Rub onto both sides of pork chops.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to high heat.

When ready to cook, spray light coat of cooking spray on pork chops to keep them from sticking to the grill.  Place on hot grill.  Cover; cook for 5-7 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees using an instant-read thermometer.

Let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with Mango Salsa (recipe follows).

Mango Salsa
1/2 large mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped
1/2 small jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Jillian Michaels

Our rating:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cannellini Bean "Meatballs" and Spaghetti

I was intrigued with the idea of making meatballs from cannellini beans and since spaghetti and meatballs is almost a comfort food, I knew I had to try it.  Canned beans are run through the food processor with a roasted red pepper and then combined with the usual meatballs ingredients.  They were then baked in the oven and finally simmered in marinara sauce.  It's always a treat when you can take a comfort food and spin a healthier version of it.

Cannellini Bean "Meatballs" with Spaghetti
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cans (15 ounces each) Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 roasted red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought - I used Newman's Own today)
Parmesan cheese for serving
cooked spaghetti

Roast red pepper directly over flame on a gas burner or gas grill, or under the broiler, turning frequently until all sides are charred.  Place pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Rub charred skin off and remove stem and seeds.  Chop roughly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Thoroughly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans and roasted red pepper.  Pulse until chopped, but not smoothly pureed.

Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl and stir in the grated onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper until well combined.

Using a rounded 2 tablespoon portion of the bean mixture, form "meatballs" by rolling between the palms of your hands.  Place the "meatballs" on the prepared baking baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Bake until the meatballs are firm to the touch and have developed a light golden brown coating, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat your favorite marinara sauce over medium heat until simmering.  Add meatballs and stir to coat.  Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve over spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Barely adapted from Cookin Canuck

Our rating:

Cacciatore Butter Stuffed Chicken

Since getting off the cruise ship, I have done lots and lots of resting...I just seem to fall asleep every few hours and still sleep through the night.  I feel so completely normal this morning that I'm hoping that will not be the case today.  I enjoyed making this dinner last night but then was simply too tired to write the post.  So here it is a little late.

I started by making the cacciatore butter by sauteing finely minced mushrooms, onions, red pepper, garlic and rosemary and finishing the mixture with some tomato paste and red wine.  Once this mixture cooled, it was mashed into unsalted butter with basil and lemon zest.  This butter mixture was placed on thinly pounded chicken breasts, rolled up and breaded.  At this point, each chicken piece was wrapped in plastic wrap and popped in the freezer for a little over an hour.

The frozen breasts went into a pan of hot oil for a quick fry and then were finished off in the oven for 15 minutes.  There was nothing extremely difficult about this recipe, but it should be started early in the day to allow for a couple of different chilling times.

Our side dish was Lemon and Parsley Pasta which was a nice pairing, especially with the lemon in it.

Cacciatore Butter Stuffed Chicken
Makes 4 servings

1 cup diced cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and softened (8 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon minced lemon zest
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6-7 ounces each)
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
Canola oil

Mince mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, garlic and rosemary in a food processor.

Saute vegetable mixture in 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper, and cook until moisture evaporates, 15 minutes.  Add tomato paste; cook until dry, 2 minutes.  Deglaze pan with wine and cook until dry, 2 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a bowl; cool to room temperature, 15 minutes.

Mash 1 stick butter, vegetable mixture, basil, and zest in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Spread filling onto plastic wrap into a 4-inch square; wrap, chill until firm, 30 minutes and quarter.

Pound chicken breasts to 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick, one at a time, inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon water, using the smooth side of a mallet.  Place the bag on a kitchen towel to cushion the chicken during pounding.  Avoid pounding breasts too thin to prevent holes or torn edges.

Stuff chicken breasts by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast.  Fold the end of the breast over the filling, tuck in the sides, then continue rolling until the filling is covered.  Tightly wrap the stuffed chicken breast in plastic wrap, then repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts.  Chill breasts at least one hour, as long as overnight or freeze just until firm.

Bread the chicken by first dredging in flour, then dipping in beaten egg and finally rolling in the panko bread crumbs, pressing to coat.  At this point, the crumbs need to adhere to the chicken.  Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating at least one hour or up to 3 hours.

Fry all the stuffed breasts until browned on both sides in 1/2-inch of canola oil heated to 375 degrees, 5-7 minutes.  After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven preheated to 450 degrees.  Roast stuffed breasts until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 165 degrees, 15-20 minutes.

From Cuisine at Home, February, 2012 issue

Our rating:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Carnival Triumph Cruise

You know that stranded cruise ship that everyone has apparently been bombarded with?  Well my daughter and I were on that ship.  We joined a group of 110 Jazzercise workout buddies to take this cruise, have fun, and work out on the ship.  We actually attended a workout class on Friday morning which was a blast to be working out on a moving ship.  We enjoyed many of the activities the rest of the day and our formal dinner on Friday evening.  We finished the night dancing in the Hollywood night club to help burn off dinner calories.  It was a long and very fun day.

Saturday was our excursion into Cozumel, Mexico.  We visited a Mayan Archaeological Dig site, followed by lunch at a restaurant at Playa Azure (a beautiful local beach).

We got back on board, enjoyed dinner, joined the dancing at the deck party later and ended our day with gratitude for another fun-filled, long day.

We were quite abruptly woken up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday by the fire in Engine Room 6 and that was the beginning of what we call "our adventure".  It took 8 hours for the engine room to cool enough for them to be able to open the doors to assess the damage.  By 4:00 that afternoon, we knew there would be no way to restore power or start the engine.  The entire ship ran on emergency lighting and rather primitive conditions, as in no flushing toilets or running water.  By the next day they had restored enough power to have running water and the wonderful news that room toilets were flushing.  Our room toilet did flush one time and one time only.  The rest of the time was spent searching the ship for the one public restroom that worked (which was usually for a couple of hours before having to find another one).  Through all of these chaotic and primitive conditions, I cannot stress enough how wonderful all of the crew members on this ship were.  They endured the same conditions we did and yet managed to work to fill all of our needs with a smile on their face and an attitude of "how can I help you?".  They were the real heroes in this entire ordeal.  Here is a picture of the smoke billowing from the engine room taken from our cabin balcony.

Val and I went up to the Lido deck (deck 9) for fresh air to get away from the smell of smoke and oil burning and dragged a couple of deck chairs under an overhang from deck 10.  This turned out to be prime real estate on the ship for the next 3 days and nights.  We were protected by the sun from the overhang and had a great breeze from being on the open deck.  We made great friends with a group of about 15 other people and that is where we lived day and night (other than going to our cabin to get changed).  The great thing is that everyone looked out for and took care of everyone else.  It is truly phenomenal when a crisis brings out the best in everyone and that is what happened with about 90% of the people on the ship.  There is no way for me to explain the other 10% and unfortunately they are often in the forefront of feeding the news media who put their own twist on things.  Yes it is true conditions were difficult, but I can tell you there was always water, soda, coffee (except for Sunday) and plenty of food available.

Here is a picture of our home for 3 days.

Val and I rotated taking turns waiting in lines for food.  We really learned the art of patience, because we had to wait in lines for everything (a flushing toilet, coffee and food).  They only thing we didn't really have to wait for is soda or water which were available at every bar.  The food choices were a little different since for the first 2 days there was no source of heat for cooking.  We had a lot of choices of fruits, salads, sandwiches and desserts.  I spent 1 hour and 50 minutes on Monday waiting for a lunch of salads, sandwiches and some desserts, which I thought was quite a long time, but well worth it.  My daughter, Val waited 2 hours and 45 minutes the next day for cheeseburgers (we had received a generator or something that made it possible for the kitchen to grill things).  The grill was about 4 feet long by about 2 feet wide and was the only way for them to cook anything for 3,100 passengers which is why it took so long.  The poor kitchen staff had to take turns grilling until they became too overheated (remember, no power=no air conditioning) and had to be relieved.  They kept rotating the chefs to be able to keep the passengers fed.  Val had no regrets waiting that long since it was the best damn burger we had ever had.  That's what 2 days of cold food does to you.

We ate just fine for the first few days since we continued to feel food had been kept cold and we had received fresh supplies from other cruise ships.  We had 3 instances of other Carnival cruise ships coming by to share supplies with us.  The only way to try to connect with the outside world was when another cruise ship was close enough to get a signal from them.  Here's a picture of everyone trying to catch a signal.

We were amazed at the ways people came up with solutions for tolerable living conditions; some built coverings on the open deck out of sheets to protect them from the sun, others moved mattresses from their cabins into hallways that had a breeze whether it was an open deck or the hallways by the elevators.  Here's a few pictures of tent city, as we nicknamed it.

For those families who decided they did not want to be outside, here were some of the solutions.  This is on the deck with the lifeboats which had a great breeze from outside.  This was on deck 4, I think so they had to walk up to deck 9 for any of their meals.

Many people opted for the space by the elevators which was always relatively comfortable in temperature for whatever reason.

Val and I both opted to look for the best in any given situation which worked most of the time.  We each had our own little moments of breaking down but only with each other and they were always short-lived.  We tended to bring out the best in each other and those around us.  After 3 days on deck, the weather turned on us after a little rain shower, the temperatures dropped and people had to clear the decks.  We had already removed tent city, since helicopters had come close enough to drop supplies on our upper deck.

One thing I haven't mentioned is the ship was listing (tilting to one side or the other) since the fire.  When it was listing so that your side of the ship was up you could use your shower since the water would drain down the shower drain.  When your side of the ship was down, not only could you not use your shower or any water in the sink in your cabin, but some of the previous contents would flow back into your bathroom through the drain.  The biggest problem I had by day 4 and 5 was the odors on the ship.  The smell of urine and sewage was prevalent in many of the public restrooms and in all of the cabins depending which way the ship was listing.  The other big problem for me was the odors coming from the kitchen where all the food was stored was simply nauseating.  They did always supply us with food, but Val and I decided that fruit, veggies and bread were the safe choices for us.  I tended to add one small piece of protein in one form or another every day.  Many people loaded their plates with all kinds of sandwiches (including tunafish, crab salad, and many others slathered with mayonnaise).  These sandwiches may have been perfectly safe, but we chose not to test that theory.  The last day on the ship, lunch was steak and lobster tails and again we chose not to try them.

Here is a picture of my last meal on the ship which was Thursday evening (5 days after the fire) which consisted of fresh tomato wedges, asparagus pieces in a balsamic vinaigrette, fresh carrot slivers, fresh pineapple wedges and a small piece of grilled steak.  I ate everything except for the steak (I probably ate about half of the steak).  This is typical of what our meals were like the last couple of days (purely by choice). 

One thing that both of us missed was drinking as much water as we are accustomed to.  We both love our water and drink a ridiculous amount every day.  We chose to limit our water consumption so that we would spend less time searching for working plumbing.  We were both quite dehydrated once on land and have been seriously working at fixing that problem.  Fortunately, that has an easy solution.  The food is a little tricky however.  I have been gradually increasing the amount of food I have been consuming and especially the proteins, in trying to get back to normal.  I am hoping that tomorrow I can consume a normal amount and balance of food.

Carnival has done everything they can to recover from this and honestly the crew have been unbelievable in earning my respect.  As I am sure has been announced, we have been given a full refund including all charges on our room cards, we will receive a voucher for a future cruise, and we will receive a $500 check for incidental travel expenses in trying to get home.  I have been asked repeatedly if I would ever consider another cruise (especially since this happened to be my first) and the answer is positively yes, I will use the voucher for another cruise.

The only frustrating part of this entire process was the lack of tugboats to tow us to Alabama.  We were told we would have 3 and the entire time we only had 2.  One tugboat pulled us in front and the other guided our direction attached to the back.  In addition to that, the tugboat that was pulling us worked hard enough to blow its engine just before we got to the sea channel.  We have no idea what happened to the third tugboat.  We might have made it to the channel a lot earlier than 10:00 p.m. with another tugboat earlier in the process (really an assumption on my part).

Carnival gave us several options to get home and we chose to spend the night in a hotel so we could have a hot meal, a hot shower, and a good night's sleep before being flown to Houston.  With all the delays, we didn't get through the channel until 10:00 p.m.  It was 11:45 before we got off the ship and on to a bus that left Mobile, Alabama at 12:30.  We got to our room in the hotel in New Orleans about 3:00 a.m. and had to be up at 5:00 so we could shower (the best hot shower ever) and have breakfast before boarding the bus to shuttle us to the airport.  We flew to the George Bush Airport in Houston where we were met by my husband, Gerry.  Gerry had caught a 6:00 a.m. flight to Houston, was driven to Galveston by one of Jason's (Val's husband, my son-in-law) business associates in Houston.  Val and I had left Jason's car at the hotel in Galveston where we stayed the night before we sailed.  Gerry picked up the car and met us at the airport so that he could drive us both safely home.  What a blessing that was since both Val and I had very little sleep the night before.  It was great to have someone to share all of our stories with on the 5 hour drive back to the Dallas area.

Val and I are both just discovering how exhausted we were and how our food consumption has taken a toll.  I personally find myself just wanting to curl up under a blanket and sleep with very little appetite and Val is having a little more trouble with not feeling well.  She has a few more digestive problems and a slight sore throat, she's had a strep test and a flu test and both are negative, so we are hoping that rest and the right diet will help.

My food choices for today have been pretty normal, a fried egg for breakfast with a whole wheat toast with just a dab of butter and coffee.  I had a tunafish sandwich on wheat bread for lunch and Stir Fried Sichuan Green Beans (which has a small amount of ground pork) over Rice.  I chose this for dinner since it had just a slight amount of meat for protein, a considerable amount of vegetables (green beans), a nice hint of spice and it was served over simple white rice (the food staple for much of the world).  I was so tired Gerry ended up cooking dinner for which I was extremely grateful.

Hopefully I will be up for cooking dinner tomorrow night and this blog will get back to its normal feel.  Forgive me for ranting about this whole experience.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Steak Salad

Gerry loves to concoct a big salad for lunch sometimes so I knew he would enjoy this salad for dinner.  It had a lot of the components of a steak dinner with a salad except for the potato.  There was the grilled and sliced flank steak, roasted asparagus, grilled mushroom, sauteed onions and shallots, baby spinach and radicchio tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and sliced tomatoes.  The salad was finally topped with a slice of baguette spread with a mixture of blue cheese and butter.  The contrast in color, flavor, texture and temperature made this dish.  Gerry put this meal in one of his top three so far this year, so I was right in my guess that he would enjoy it.  I personally thought it was a little to busy for me.  Since I am leaving today on a cruise I wanted dinner to be something out of the ordinary, but still healthy and this worked perfectly.  I won't post anything on my blog now until Monday, the 11th.

Steak Salad
Makes 2 salads

12 asparagus spears
1 pound flank steak
1 portobello mushroom, stem removed
3 cups spinach
1 cup radicchio, torn into bite-size pieces
4 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 each pearl onions and shallots
4 cloves garlic
12 rounds Roma tomatoes
4 slices toasted baguette
4 tablespoons blue cheese
2 tablespoons butter
4 scallion fans

Rub the asparagus spears, steak, and portobello mushroom with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill until done and set aside to rest.  While the steak, asparagus spears and mushroom are grilling, prepare the scallion fans by cutting off the top part of 4 scallions so that a 3 inch piece is left.  Cut 3 to 4 vertical slices from the middle to the cut end and soak in ice water. 

Caramelize the onions, shallots and garlic by cooking in the olive oil over low heat for 20 minutes.  Toss the salad greens in your favorite vinaigrette (I always use a balsamic vinaigrette). 

Slice the steak across the grain into thin slices and cut the grilled mushroom into 1/2-inch pieces. 

Assemble the salad by fanning the steak slices out on the edge of the plate and tuck some asparagus spears under the steak.  Mound the dressed salad greens in the center of the plate.  Arrange the sliced tomatoes and caramelized onion mixture on the plate.  Next fill in the gaps with the grilled portobello. 

Cut the baguette diagonally.  Toast both sides.  Cream together the crumbled blue cheese and butter and spread it on the toasted bread slices.  Grill until the blue cheese mixture is softened.  Arrange two slices on each salad.  Garnish the salad with the scallion fans.

From Cuisine at Home, Mar/Apr, 1997

Gerry's rating:

My rating:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart

This is an Ellie Krieger recipe that I have been making for a few years now.  It starts with a tart crust that has a wonderful crunch from the cornmeal added to the flour which was pre-baked.  It was then topped with layers of sauteed shallots, oven roasted eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.  The veggies were layered with shredded mozzarella and basil and finally topped with grated Parmesan.  The whole tart went into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes until all the ingredients melded together.  This is a wonderful tart to serve when eggs could be a problem for people.  It was the perfect tart to serve alongside several quiches containing lots of eggs and cream.  It was certainly a healthier alternative and just as delicious.

Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart
Makes 8 servings

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
Cooking spray
1/2 pound thinly sliced eggplant rounds (about 1/3 of a medium eggplant)
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 8 ounces)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to incorporate.  Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles.  Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough.  Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim.  Press aluminum foil into the bottom and sides of the pan on top of the dough and weigh down with uncooked dried beans or pie weights.  Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and remove beans and foil.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet.  Remove from oven and let cool.

For the filling:  Increase the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat; saute shallots until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Spray 2 baking trays with cooking spray.  Arrange the eggplant, zucchini, and tomato slices on the trays in a single layer and brush with the remaining olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.  Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Lay the eggplant slices in 2 layers on the bottom of tart; cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and some of the shredded basil.  Add the zucchini and shallots, top with another 1/3 of the mozzarella and basil, then the tomatoes.  Top with rest of the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted.  Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into 8 slices.  Serve warm.

Recipe from Healthy appetite with Ellie Krieger

My rating:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grilled Swordfish with Grilled Caponata

Fish is one of our favorite things to eat and this grilled swordfish with grilled caponata turned out to be more tasty than I ever thought it would be.  Caponata is typically made with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, pine nuts, capers and raisins and when these ingredients are tinged with the slightly smoky flavor from the grill it is just delightful.  Gerry actually made this dinner and he deserves all the credit for it since it was so delicious.  He served this over simple white rice.

Grilled Swordfish with Grilled Caponata
Makes 4 servings

4 swordfish steaks (8 ounces each)
olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Caponata
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices lengthwise
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
4 plum tomatoes, halved
Olive oil for brushing vegetables, plus 1/2 cup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup green olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat grill to high.  Brush eggplant, onion slices, and tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Grill the eggplant for 6 to 8 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through.  Grill the onions for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden brown and just cooked through.  Grill the tomatoes for 2 minutes per side until charred and slightly soft.  Remove the vegetables from the grill and cut into 1/2-inch dice.

Place the vegetables in a medium bowl and add the olives, capers, raisins and pine nuts.  Mix together the garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup olive oil until dressing is emulsified.  Pour the dressing over the vegetables, add the parsley and toss.  Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

For the Swordfish Steaks:
Heat grill to high.  Brush swordfish on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-well doneness.  Remove from the grill and top with some of the Grilled Caponata.  Serve.

Recipe from Food Network

Our rating:

A Lovely Bridal Shower

I hosted a shower for a beautiful young lady on Saturday.  It's wonderful when you watch your children and their friends grow up and mature into young adults that you're proud of.  I had the chance to celebrate one of my daughter's best friends which was a lot of fun.

This is a picture of the Bride to Be, Heather on the left and my daughter, Elizabeth on the right.

It was a brunch type of affair with mimosas, sweet tea, and coffee as the beverage choices.

Here is the menu which includes a lot of items that I have previously posted on my blog:

Quiche Lorraine
Mushroom and Shallot Quiche (recipe below)
Cornmeal Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart
Mixed Salad with Strawberries, Mango and Edamame
BLT Pasta Salad
Barbecued Meatballs
Finger Sandwiches which included:
Ham Salad on small Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
Pimento Cheese on White Bread
Chicken Salad on Wheat Bread
Homemade Boursin Cheese with Veggies and Crackers
Mini Blueberry Muffins
Strawberry Scones
Fresh Fruit Platter
Chocolate Caramel Truffle Torte
Cake Pops (from a bakery)

I could not have accomplished all this without the help and support of my daughters who were fabulous to work with.  We spent many hours side by side in the kitchen which was really enjoyable.  I love having the occasion to roll up my sleeves, come up with a master plan and schedule and carry it through.  Thank you, Heather for giving me the opportunity!

I have linked those recipes that are already posted on my blog and will add the rest over the next couple of days.  For some reason, I don't have a picture of the Chocolate Caramel Truffle Torte, so I won't post that recipe until I have a chance to make it again.

Mushroom and Shallot Quiche
Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (I used cremini)
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
1 9 to 9 1/2-inch tart shell, partially baked and cooled
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely grated Gruyere

Melt the butter in a large skillet, preferably one that's nonstick.  Toss in the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, season again with salt and pepper, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring, until they are softened and browned, 5 to 8 minutes.  The mushrooms will first sop up all the liquid in the pan, then they'll exude it, then it will disappear.  Sprinkle the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of the thyme and cook for 30 seconds more, then turn the mushrooms into a bowl to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the crust on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of thyme over the bottom of the crust.  Spoon over the mushrooms, avoiding any liquid that has accumulated in the bowl.  Lightly beat the cream and eggs together just until well blended, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the mushrooms.  Top the custard evenly with the sliced scallions and grated cheese.

Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard is uniformly puffed (wait for the center to puff), lightly golden and set.  Transfer the quiche to a rack and cool the quiche until it's only just warm or until it reaches room temperature before serving.

From Around my French Table

My rating:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

I find it amazing the way you can change up the taste of chicken by the method of preparation.  This particular recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs that are tossed in an herbed balsamic vinaigrette before being roasted in the oven.  The remainder of the vinaigrette was tossed over some large pieces of assorted vegetables and these also went in the oven to roast at the same temperature and time.  I love dinners like this sometimes where all the work (which is minimal in this case) goes into the prep of the ingredients and then while everything's roasting, I get the kitchen all cleaned up.  The balsamic vinaigrette packs a punch of flavor in this dish since I find that roasting anything intensifies the flavor.

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
Makes 3 servings (2 thighs plus roasted vegetables)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut in half
1 1/2 red bell peppers, cut in large wedges
2 medium carrots, sliced in half lengthwise
1 red onion, chopped in large chunks
5 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/4 plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, smashed and sliced
1 tablespoon oregano or thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash and dry the chicken well with a paper towel.  Combine all the vegetables in a bowl.  Place chicken on a baking sheet.  Whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and divide over chicken and vegetables.  Toss the vegetables well with the vinaigrette and spread on a baking sheet making sure vegetables are in a single layer.  Be sure both sides of the chicken are well coated with vinaigrette and place both baking sheets in oven.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through if using two different shelves.

Slightly adapted from Skinnytaste

My rating: