Sunday, March 27, 2011

Asparagus Stuffed Chicken Breasts

My daughter, affectionately known as The Runt, is a freshman in college. When I moved her into the dorm, I was so pleased to see that there was an Earth Fare (a healthy grocery store with several locations throughout the Southeastern US) within walking distance of her dorm. She opted out of the over-priced campus meal plan in favor of cooking her own meals and that has worked out pretty well.

One of her new favorites is called a Chicken Roller. It’s a ready-to-cook chicken breast stuffed with various goodies. They are sold at Earth Fare’s fresh meat counter. The Runt cooks them on her indoor grill and loves to try out the different varieties.

When The Runt comes home, she craves her mommy’s cooking and, on a recent visit, she asked me to make the Chicken Rollers. This recipe is my version of that meal.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Two cups of panko crumbs
Two tablespoons of Grill Mate’s Chicken Seasoning
Twelve asparagus spears
Four slices of havarti cheese

Combine the panko crumbs and the Grill Mate’s seasoning in a flat dish large enough to hold the chicken.

Pound the chicken breasts flat and press one side of them into the panko crumbs. Top each one with a slice of cheese and three asparagus spears. Roll each piece of chicken tightly (with the panko crumbs on the outside) and use one or two toothpicks to hold together.

I cooked mine on the indoor grill for about 15 minutes. You can also cook them in the oven at 350 for 35 minutes or so.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hawaiian Fish Dinner - Grilled Swordfish w/Panko-Crusted Tilapia

Before I tell you about this dish, I have to tell you what inspired this amazing yumminess.

Michael and I vacationed in Hawaii about two months ago. I cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful time we had. We spent plenty of time on the beach at Waikiki – me on the beach with a book and Michael snorkeling. We also spent some time watching surfers at Waimea Bay and reading on the beach/snorkeling on the reef at Hanauma Bay. We finished our days with mai-tais in the hotel’s hot tub. It was a wonderful week.

We didn’t make a big deal out of food while we were there but we both agreed that, on our last night, we would splurge on a really nice meal. We made reservations at The Hula Grill, located inside a hotel right on the beach at Waikiki. We sat on an open air deck, overlooking the ocean, and enjoyed live music from the band playing down below while we watched the sun slowly setting over the Pacific.

Our meal started with crusty Italian bread along with olive oil and the restaurant’s own Hula Grill Chili Pepper Water for dipping. The chili water/olive oil combination was new and different and completely delicious. Michael skipped the oil and dove head first into the chili water. Just dipping didn’t do the trick. He poured it over his bread until it was completely soaked. I think he even considered drinking it straight from the bottle. We bought a bottle from the restaurant so that I could thoroughly evaluate it and recreate it at home.

The bread and chili water were so impressive that we were pretty excited about the rest of the meal. Everything on the menu looked delicious. It was a tough decision, but we both ordered the chef’s special (grilled swordfish and panko-crusted opah).

Opah is a mild, white fish found in the South Pacific and it’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It was pan-fried with a coating of panko crumbs and dark sesame seeds. The swordfish was grilled with a slightly sweet glaze. They were served together with steamed veggies and a honey mustard sauce. I promised Michael that I would recreate the entire meal.  My version of our Hawaiian fish dinner is the photo at the top of this post.

Swordfish is easy to find in most places but Opah is a different story. Opah is a solitary fish, which makes it harder to catch. It’s pretty much impossible to find outside the South Pacific so I ended up using tilapia – another awesome white fish. It turned out really well. In fact, Michael swears that my version is better than the original. He is such a sweetheart!

Here is what you’ll need to make your own scrumptious Hawaiian fish dinner:

Two swordfish steaks
Two tilapia fillets
Panko crumbs
Chili powder
Sesame seeds
Dale’s low sodium marinade
Butter (about 2 tbsp)
Sunflower oil

Melt the butter and add a little bit of the Dale’s. Brush this mixture over the swordfish, covering both sides and set the swordfish aside.

Sprinkle a little bit of chili powder on each side of the tilapia. Combine panko crumbs and some sesame seeds. Coat the tilapia well with the mixture.

I use my Foreman grill for the swordfish, but you can cook them under the broiler if you don’t have an indoor grill.

For the tilapia, put some oil in a medium sized skillet. Don’t use too much, though. You don’t want the fish to be deep fried. When the oil is hot, add the fish and cook for about three minutes on each side or until the panko crumbs are a golden brown. Try to avoid turning the fish more than once to keep the crumbs from falling off. I always have crumbs left after I coat my fish and I like to toss some of them into the pan to cook alongside the fish. That gives me some extra ‘crispies’ to add to the plate when I’m serving the meal.

To serve, pour some honey mustard sauce on your plate (decoratively, of course) then add the swordfish and put the tilapia on top.To make your own honey mustard combine mayonnaise, mustard and honey to taste and mix them well.  For the topping, I used pineapple, green onions and red bell pepper in equal quantities. Just mix them together and you’ve got a sweet, peppery salsa.

For the chili water, combine rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili paste.  Start with lots of vinegar and plenty of sugar.  Add a couple of garlic cloves and the chili paste to taste.  It pairs well with Italian herb bread.

Aloha and mahalo!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

From the time I was a small child, mornings were always calm and orderly for me. My mother never overslept, never ran late and never, ever ate a pop tart in the car on her way to work because she didn’t have time for breakfast. Even with three kids to care for, there was rarely a moment of chaos in her house. It was a lovely way to grow up.

I can’t say that I’ve lived up to her standards in every way, but I know I hit the mark in the breakfast department for sure. I give myself plenty of time in the mornings to sit down with a bite to eat and a cup of coffee without having to rush around. I always made sure that my daughter started her days that way and I do the same now for Michael.

When work takes me away from home for a few days, I try to make some meals in advance so that Michael doesn’t end up eating fast food all week. Breakfast can be a challenge, because eggs don’t always reheat well. The breakfast pizza is my solution to that problem. It also works well if you are one of those eat-on-the-run kind of people. Just nuke it and go. Way better than a pop tart.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 large pizza crust (click here for my pizza crust recipe)
2 cups of mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
4 large eggs
4 slices of crispy bacon, crumbled (the thick-sliced stuff that doesn’t shrink when you cook it)
¼ red bell pepper, diced
Diced green onions (about ¼ cup)

Spread the cheese evenly across the pizza crust. Next crack the eggs on top of the cheese. Try and space them out evenly. With a fork, break the yolk and gently encourage the whites to spread around as much as possible. Be careful not to stick your fork all the way through the crust. Spread the crumbled bacon, bell pepper and diced onions evenly across the top of the pizza.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the egg is no longer runny.