I am a newlywed on a budget, just trying to make healthy and inexpensive meals for my husband and I to enjoy. He eats a lot, so cost is a big factor. Though I work 3 jobs, I manage to find time 6 nights a week to cook a full dinner for us both. I am constantly looking for new recipes that are moderately healthy, taste great, and won't break the bank.

On the side, I also own a brownie business called Gersheybars. My passion and love for cooking started when I was just a small child, baking with my mom and grandmother. The brownie recipe has been passed down through 5 generations and I am thrilled to finally have an outlet to share them with everybody else. Friends and family have helped spread the word and made my business as successful as it is today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thai Chicken with Ginger Sauce

Not sure why, but we've been on a Thai food kick for a few weeks now. I have become obsessed with cilantro and can't get enough of it! Tonight's dish, from WW "Simply Delicious," is a bit tangy and ever so sweet. Not spicy at all, but a really nice blend of flavors. The cilantro contrasts with the vinegar to make a unique sauce that I really can't describe.

I served it over rice-stick noodles. To cook those, place the noodles in a pot of boiling water. Remove from heat and let stand about 10 minutes. Drain, and add to pan of chicken/veggies.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (1/2 ounce) package dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used beef broth b/c that's all I had)
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 8 scallions cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas (I used red bell pepper b/c the peas at the store this week were brown and mushy!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the dried mushrooms; remove from the heat and let stand 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms; coarsely chop and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch and fish sauce in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Heat the oil over high heat in a large nonstick skillet, then add the chicken. Saute until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Return the skillet to the heat, then add the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Saute until fragrant and the scallions have softened slightly, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, chicken, snap peas and broth mixture; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until heated through and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Serve with rice-stick noodles or over brown rice.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chicken Vindaloo

This is another recipe from WW Takeout Tonight. The original recipe calls for shrimp, but I substituted chicken and it tasted just right! Spicy, saucy, a little bit sweet, and just total comfort food. This dish is incredibly quick and easy to make with just a few spices on hand. We served it over white rice, but it's probably best over jasmine or basmati rice.

  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped (sounds like a lot, but they wilt and it's perfect!)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1.5 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped (about 5 tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in oil, and cook chicken thoroughly. Remove from skillet and transfer to a bowl. Add a bit more oil to the pan, then add the onion, lemon juice, curry powder, cumin seeds, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, 4-5 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, ginger and garlic; cook until tomatoes soften, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the salt and serve over rice.

Beef & Veggie Stir-Fry

This is sort of Thai inspired, though definitely not authentic. I was just in the mood for something vegetabley and light, so this is what we made.

  • oil
  • 2/3 pound top round, cut into thin strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 cup fresh peas, trimmed
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in oil, then add beef. Cook until lightly browned. Add garlic and chili paste, stirring to evenly coat beef. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add coconut milk, brown sugar and fish sauce; cook about 1 minute until sugar dissolves.

2. Add vegetables; cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in fresh cilantro and serve over white rice or rice-stick noodles.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fresh fettuccine with Basil Pesto

Yet another WW Takeout Tonight recipe, surprise surprise! Anyway, I didn't really feel like cooking dinner tonight, so I figured this would be quick, easy and painless. The basil gives the pasta a really fresh taste, which is certainly nice for the Winter months. And topped with a bunch of Parmesan cheese, you end up with a sort of creamy pesto sauce that's really flavorful and punchy.

  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons roasted pine nuts
  • 2 Tablespoons chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (I used about 1.5 Tablespoons to get the consistency I like)
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 oz fettuccine
  • 3 Tablespoons shredded/grated Parmesan cheese
  • ground pepper to taste

1. To prepare the pesto, puree the basil, pine nuts, broth, oil, garlic, and salt in a blender or food processor until a smooth paste is formed.

2. Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine according to package directions, drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Transfer fettuccine and reserved liquid to a serving bowl and keep warm. Add the pesto and Parmesan; toss to coat. Serve with cracked black pepper, if desired.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thai Coconut Chicken

Love, love, love coconut chicken. Especially Justin. Every time we go to the local Thai place, he swears he'll get something different. And in the end, it's always coconut chicken for him. So I decided to give this recipe a shot to see how it compared to the real deal. It's sweet and spicy, and surprisingly rich for a Weight Watcher's recipe (from WW Simply Delicious). The mixture of cumin, red curry paste and basil makes for a really earthy, spicy flavor that's incredible. We kept saying, "Wow, this dish is awesome!"

  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces (I omitted this because I forgot to buy them at the store! So I substituted red pepper.)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet, then add the chicken and sprinkle with the salt. Saute until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet over low heat, then add onion, garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant and the onions are softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the sugar, curry paste, and cumin; cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the asparagus, coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the chicken and basil; heat through. Serve over rice.

Pork Pad Thai, kinda?

This recipe looked so good in the cookbook (WW Take-Out Tonight), I had to try it. I'm not sure I can technically call it "Pad Thai" because I didn't use the peanuts, but whatever, it was darn tasty and I'll definitely be making it again no matter what it's called!

The original recipe calls for shrimp and peanuts, but I am allergic to shellfish (substituted pork) and don't really like peanuts in savory dishes, so I omitted them. The final dish was sweet, slightly spicy and really flavorful. The rice stick noodles are so easy to cook with and not nearly as heavy as traditional Italian pasta.

  • 1/4 pound rick-stick noodles (I used 1 6oz package)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used pork loin and cut it into very thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide)
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon hot chili sauce (I used 1/2 T and it was plenty spicy!)
  • 1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 3 Tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1. Place the noodles in a large pot and add enough hot water to cover; let stand until the noodles are soft, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, transfer the noodles to a large bowl of cold water to cool, and drain again. Set aside. (I boiled water, added the noodles and turned off burner. Drain, pour cold water over noodles, drain again.)

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the shrimp (or whatever protein you use). Cook until shrimp are just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the egg whites, stirring gently, until they begin to set, about 30 seconds. Add the fish sauce, sugar, chili sauce, and soy sauce; cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Add the drained noodles and the bean sprouts; cook, tossing gently, until mixed and heated through, 2-3 minutes longer. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Espresso Petit Fours

For Hanukkah, I received a cool petit four pan from Willams Sonoma. It's got 20 cavities, each one is the shape of a flower. We were having friends over for dinner, so I figured I'd try to make something cool! I found a great espresso cake recipe from an old Cooking Light magazine and used 1/2 the recipe to make 20 petit fours. Then I dipped them halfway in chocolate and voila! Instant impressive dessert.

  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare cake, coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottom of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; set aside.

3. Combine the hot water and 2 tablespoons espresso in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve; set aside. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

4. Combine the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Place 1/4 cup sugar mixture, shortening, and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed 30 seconds or until well combined. Increase speed to medium; add remaining sugar mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 15 seconds between each addition. Scrape sides of bowl; beat an additional 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Add espresso mixture, beating until well combined. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans.

5. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack. Discard wax paper. For the petit four pan, bake at 350 for 10 minutes, until they are no longer sticky. Cool in pan 2-3 minutes, then invert on wire cooling rack. Trim excess "muffin top" from each petit four for a finished edge.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Fiery Beef Salad

On New Years, I had planned a nice prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes, a salad, the works. Since Justin was sick, I decided to take some leftover top round and make a steak salad for myself, while he dined on a not so luxurious bowl of chicken noodle soup. The beef in this salad dish is quite spicy but really good. It would also work well as skewers or on the BBQ with a whole steak.

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dried lemongrass
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4-5 drops hot pepper sauce
  • 1 pound flank steak or top round
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 3 cups chopped lettuce

1. To make the marinade, combine the honey, onion, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and hot sauce in bowl. Pour over steak and let marinade about 1 hour (I only marinated it for 15 min and it was just fine). Leave about 2 T marinade in bowl, uncontaminated by the raw beef.

2. Line broiler pan with foil, and heat oven to broil.

3. Broil steak 5 inches from the heat for about 4 min per side, or until it's cooked to your liking. Let rest about 5 minutes, then slice thinly. Arrange steak slices over lettuce and top with scallions. Drizzle remaining marinade over salad and enjoy!