Grilling Without a Grill ~ Memorial Day Plate

Barbecue Grilled Chicken Breasts - Steamed Green Beans - Honey Glazed Biscuits


Not all of us are blessed with an outdoor grill. If you live in the city or in apartment building, chances are you have little to no outdoor space and having an outdoor grill is not really an option. That doesn't mean you can make delicious "grilled" food on your own. And when grill-happy holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July come around, you can still celebrate by doing some clever indoor grilling.

There are two basic methods of grilling without an outdoor grill. The first is using a grill pan and the second is using your oven's broiler. A grill pan is essential and is not as big of a financial investment as a real outdoor grill. You can easily find a good quality grill pan for $20 to $50. The grill pan has grooves that simulate the rack on an outdoor grill and gives any meat or vegetable those grill marks that we all love so much. And if you have an oven, chances are you have a broiler. If you have a gas oven, your broiler will produce flames which is as close as you'll get to cooking directly with fire inside your own home. If you have an electric oven like I do, the broiler is still useful for producing a blast of intense heat but isn't quite as effective as the gas oven broiler's flame.

So if you are celebrating Memorial Day tomorrow by yourself or with family and friends but you don't have an outdoor grill, why not try this plate? It's simple and delicious and easily feeds a couple of people or a small crowd.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!


Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts per person
Your favorite Barbecue sauce
green beans
Pillsbury Grand Biscuits - 3 per person
honey

You'll need a steamer, pastry & basting brushes and a grill pan.

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Honey Biscuits - Preheat your oven to package instructions and arrange your biscuits on a nonstick baking sheet. Add a few tablespoons of honey to a small bowl and add a little bit of water or some lemon juice to slightly dilute the honey. With a pastry brush, brush some of the honey onto the biscuits. Bake to package directions and then add a bit more honey to the top of the biscuits while they are still hot. Set aside.

Chicken - Season your chicken with salt. Add your chicken breast to a bowl and smear each breast with your favorite barbecue sauce. You can either heat up a grill pan and grill the breasts that way (about 4 minutes each side) or you can preheat your broiler and broil your chicken on the middle rack (remove any upper racks) for about 5-6 minutes each side. You can baste with more sauce as you go or just add some more sauce at the end.

Green Beans - Steam with whatever method you steam vegetables with. I use a pot with an inch of water and a steaming rack. I let the water come to a boil then add the green beans as season them with salt. I cook them for about 8-10 minutes or less if I want them bright green and crunchy. Check on them every couple of minutes so they don't over cook.

Enjoy!

Yogurt with Strawberries, Kiwis, Toasted Almonds and Coconut



I was at Wilson Farms on Sunday and picked up some sexy looking strawberries and kiwis. While in the checkout line, I wondered what I could make that paired these lovely fruits. Maybe I could chop them up and put them on some yogurt. Mmmmhmm. Yogurt. Yes that sounds nice. How about some honey or agave nectar drizzled over the top? No no. The fruit will be sweet enough. But its still needs something else. Granola? A nice crunch to add to the softness of the yogurt and the fruit. Should I make my own granola or buy it? Huzzah! I've got it. I have leftover sliced almonds and shredded coconut. I can toss some of that together, toast it and top the yogurt and fruit off. It's a tropical parfait!

The result? Absolutely friggin' delicious. I'm never putting granola on yogurt again. Toasted coconut and almonds always please. I really hope you'll try this. It would be fun with lots of other combinations. Maybe strawberries and mango or mango and kiwi. Maybe some papaya?! Have fun with it.

Ingredients:

Plain yogurt
Fresh Strawberries roughly chopped
Kiwis roughly chopped
sliced almonds
shredded coconut


In a skillet, add equal parts almonds and shredded coconut. Over a medium-low heat, dry toast the almonds and coconut stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Set aside to cool.




Chop your strawberries and kiwis.


Add yogurt to individual bowls. I used plain lowfat yogurt because this dessert is more about the toppings than it is the yogurt, so you don't want the flavor of the yogurt to compete with that. 

Top the yogurt with the fruit and the toasted almonds and coconuts. Enjoy responsibly.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Cooks


I'm like a poor man's MacGyver when it comes to First Aid.

It pains me to write this. No literally, it pains me to write this because I've injured my right hand. 

OnThursday evening I started making a Chicken version of Cookin Canuck's Shrimp, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Asparagus and Bucatini Recipe in a White Wine Garlic Sauce (her recipe titles are always super long!). I decided to sautee some chicken cutlets in light olive oil in a skillet. So I heat up my skillet and start cooking and guess who comes knocking on my door? It's my beau Carlos and he's over an hour early. I try to greet him while simultaneously taking care of the chicken but oops! the chicken breasts are burnt. I flip them over to cook them a little more. But it's too late. We set off the fire alarm with all the smoke. Carlos turns the fan on, I open up a window and soon the smoke clears. In my infinite wisdom, I throw in another chicken breast into the super hot oil before I let it cool down. Emphasis on the word "throw". The hot oil splashed all over my hand and on the wall behind me. Luckily, I threw the chicken breast with a pair of tongs and I wasn't standing directly in front of the skillet. However, I was burned pretty badly. I had second degree burns on my wrist (almost all the way around) and on some of my fingers. It's blistered pretty badly and it hurts to do anything with my right hand (type, shake hands, pick up things, etc.).

My kitchen confidence has been wavering lately. I feel like I've gotten lazier and not better. The time I have to devote to cooking has been reduced and my budget is super tight. So I've been cutting corners a lot lately to save time and money. But it's not making me a better cook.

So what do I get out of this experience besides a burnt hand? Time in the kitchen cooking should be joyful. I should take my time and be methodical. I should regain the pleasure I felt in the process and not necessarily rush to the result. And never let Carlos (and his soft kisses) distract me from cooking ever again.

Thoughtful Eating's First Blogiversary

I can't believe it's been a year since I started this little nook in the foodie blogisphere. I have to say, it's been a swell ride that I hope will continue for years to come. This blog has done a lot for me. It's encouraged me to add variety to my cooking and to be adventurous. It showed me that I still have a lot to learn about cooking and that it's okay to make mistakes in the kitchen as long as I learn from them. I saw just how huge the foodie blogosphere is and have been humbled a bit that my nook is only going to be a quiet corner of that. (I'm no We Are Not Martha). Photographing the food I've been making has been a lot of fun. I realized how big a factor visuals are when cooking and eating. I've tried to consistently add at least one photograph to every recipe. And I've had fun photographing. I try to be clever setting up the food shots but I'm also limited with my camera and with lighting/timing. It'll become more difficult in the future so I'm hoping to create my own light-box to help out.

Here are some highlights over the past year:

Lisa and I celebrate Falafel Fridays

I eat through my Fridge & Pantry

I teach people how to process: Honey Dew Melons, Onions, and Pineapples.


Chocolate Chip Banana Bread my top dessert


I fall in love with my Crockpot

 I sell some goodies at the office

 I enter Foodbuzz's Eggland Best competition with two entries (First and Second) (I doubt they even bothered to look at them)

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with food was a blast: Guinness Cupcakes, Irish Lamb Stew and Irish Soda Bread.

Best Photograph I took all year 



Massachusetts suffers an Aquapocalypse and I celebrate by making a Chicken & Pasta Salad


You can get Thoughtful Eating on your Kindle, if you so desire

For the next year I hope to start using a food processor, advance my knowledge of basic techniques, review more local restaurants, become more active with Foodbuzz and Foodista, and keep enticing my readers with my recipes. Hope you'll stick around to see what the next year will bring!

Vegan Coconut & Lime Cupcakes



There are no substitutes for this recipe. Every ingredient has to be exact to keep it vegan. For example, I used Duncan Hines Cream Home-Style frosting in Classic Vanilla because it's on the PETA list of Accidentally Vegan products. Also, I didn't use eggs, milk or butter in this recipe. Just Cream of Coconut and Oil. You'll notice that I don't include sugar. Cream of Coconut is super sweet and you won't need any additional sugar because of it. All these ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store and this is a simple recipe to make!

Ingredients:

Cupcake:
3 cups of flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp coconut extract (optional)
1 can of cream of coconut
(this is basically coconut water & sugar)
Juice & zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup of light olive oil or canola oil

Frosting:
Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Frosting in Classic Vanilla
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup of shredded coconut (less or more per taste)

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This makes 12 cupcakes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, add your cream of coconut and lime juice. Mix and let rest.

Mix your dry ingredients together and add the lime zest. Then add your cream of coconut/lime juice mixture, oil and coconut extract. Mix thoroughly until incorporated.

Add batter to 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because of the high sugar content, these cupcakes get brown fast so keep an eye on them. Let cool.


In a bowl, add your shredded coconut, frosting, lime juice and zest and mix thoroughly.



Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes. You can top with a little bit of lime zest and shredded coconut if so desired. Enjoy!

Bean & Corn Salsa


Carlos and I were at Del-i-cious, a local deli place, waiting for our orders. I flipped through a Martha Stewart Living magazine they had there when I saw a recipe for brown rice and black beans. I was so impressed with it that I took a picture.


It not that the recipe was terribly complicated, it was more the image of the bowl full of rice, beans, avocado, tomato and cilantro that impressed me. In fact I was salivating a bit. Even the del-i-cious meatball sub I devoured once my order was up, didn't satisfy me. I had to make this! But I had to give it a Latina twist.

So I played with it a bit. I did standard white rice and added some grilled corn to the salad. I served a sliced avocado as a side. It's a new favorite and healthy too. Who needs meat with this? There is so much good protein in those black beans.

Ingredients:

Rice cooked Raquelle-Style 

A large can of black beans
4 ears of corn
2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped
1/4 of a large red onion chopped
cilantro to taste
a squeeze of lime juice
a dash of salt
a sprinkle of pepper

1 avocado

This serves two very hungry people.

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Heat up a grill pan. Smear some light olive oil on those ears of corn. Grill them up. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine your black beans, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro. Season with a little lime juice, salt and pepper. Just a little bit! Cut the corn kernels off the grilled corn cobs. Fold them into the mixture. Be careful not to over mix.

Serve with a half of an avocado, sliced and salted. Squeeze a little lime juice on that too to keep it from going brown. Add some rice to your plate. Voila! Enjoy.

Dark Cherry & Chocolate Chip Muffins



My friend H. (whom I've blogged about before), threw a game night at her place. A group of us had a blast playing charades and Apples to Apples. Everyone brought something and I decided it was a good opportunity to try a new recipe. I recently saw a recipe of Strawberry Hedgehog's blog for Vegan Dark Cherry and Chocolate Cake. While I'm never afraid to try a vegan dessert, my kitchen confidence has been pretty low lately, especially after a series of culinary failures. So I decided to play it safe and make a new recipe off of a tried and true classic, my Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

My confidence rose a bit when these turned out to be quite delicious. It helped that the friends that helped me eat these at the game night were gasping with delight. My friend Lisa even said it was a new favorite. Huzzah! Success. Confidence has been restored. At least until my next failure.

Ingredients:

2 cups of chopped dark cherries (well drained if frozen)
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
10 tablespoons of butter melted and cooled

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of chocolate chips

This recipe makes 12 muffins

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Chop your cherries and drain any excess juice.

Mix your sour cream, eggs, vanilla and butter in a bowl. Set aside.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt then add in the sugar and chocolate chips. Add in wet ingredient mixture until it's fully incorporated. Fold in the cherries. It's important not to over mix when you add the cherries because they'll bleed and make your batter pink.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Evenly distribute the mixture to the 12 liners. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

These are especially good served warm.

Dark Cherry & Chocolate Chip Muffins

Sunday Thoughts ~ May 9th, 2010

Administrator's note: I am changing Sunday Roundup to Sunday Thoughts. More free-form, less linkage.


Last week was pretty nightmarish. I had gone to the hospital two Saturdays ago with an infection. The antibiotics that the hospital gave me, and my exposure to hospital bacteria, gave me a brand new infection that left me in intestinal turmoil for the whole week. Who would have thought that an antibiotic would cause an infection?! I had blood tests (and other unspeakable tests) done to me to see what it was that I had. Turns out it was clostridium difficile colitus and boy it hasn't been a fun infection to have.

The nurse practitioner I saw put me on a bland food/liquid diet. Chicken, potatoes, brown rice, plain carbs, chicken broth, apple juice, watered-down gatorade, etc. No vegetables, no meats, no salads and the such. Also, I read online that a good way to combat the... umm... effects of such an infection is to go with BRATTY foods. That's Bananas, Rice, Applesauce/Apple juice, Tea, Toast and Yogurt. For the most part, I can't eat yogurt, so I've been trying to stick to the other foods on that list.

I am usually very conscious of what I eat. I am hypoglycemic so I have to keep a relatively low-sugar diet and be aware of blood sugar drops. I have a lazy digestive system so I need to eat things that help speed things along and avoid foods that prevent the train from arriving at the station, so to speak. I'm also somewhat lactose intolerant which prevents me from indulging in my love of all things cheese (::gripe::). I'm generally conscious of my weight and overall health and try to eat a relatively low calorie diet with lots of fruits and vegetables without depriving myself of certain culinary joys.

So on Saturday I found myself on the road and hungry. I'm hardly ever really hungry. You know, the kind of hungry that makes you feel empty at your very core and the call of the stomach sirens with their lurches and bellows seems irresistible. You must eat. NOW.

Solution. McDonald's!

McDonald's?

No it's true. I kept to my bland food diet and didn't overindulge by going to McDonald's and buying a Happy Meal. The experience also brought me back to my childhood. Many a time did my mother take me to McD's where I had a Happy Meal with a lovely toy inside waiting for me to play with. At 29, I'm still a kid at heart and I wasn't even the least bit embarrassed to order to go the McDonald's drive-thru and order a girl's Happy Meal.

To stick to my bland food/liquid/bratty diet I got a Happy Meal with chicken nuggets, french fries and apple juice. The total calorie intake was just under 500 calories which is what I try to stick to anyways for a noon-time meal. It was delicious and did just the trick. And I got a mermaid doll out of it too. Score!


Sometimes you have to make lemonade when life throws you lemons. And a Happy Meal makes for a tasty lemonade.

Easy Tiramisu



Tiramisu is a relatively new recipe. It hasn't been in existence for more than 30 years, but it's already a classic dessert. There are so many variations but the basic set up consists of lady fingers soaked in espresso and rum with a layer of mascarpone cheese and topped with a dusting of cocoa powder.

My recipe is super-simple.

Ingredients:

Package of lady fingers (the soft kind)
a small cup of strong coffee
2 containers of mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup of sugar
2 egg whites
cocoa powder

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In a bowl, add your two egg whites and your sugar. With a handheld mixer, whip that mofo until it forms stiff peaks. In a smaller bowl, loosen up your mascarpone cheese by mixing it by hand with a spoon. This is an important step because stiff mascarpone is going too tough to mix into the delicate egg whites. Fold the mascarpone cheese into the egg whites. Set aside.



In a small baking dish, add a layer of lady fingers. Spoon over some of the coffee onto the ladyfingers.



Add half off the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Then create another layer of ladyfingers and soak them in coffee.



Carefully add the rest of the mascarpone mixture. Dust top with cocoa powder. Chill in the fridge for a few hours to let the tiramisu set. If you don't let it chill for a sufficient amount of time, it will be difficult to scoop out and eat. I tell you this out of personal experience.

This makes a 2-layered tiramisu. Depending on your baking dish you may only want to make 1 layer. If you want to use cups or glasses, you can make a multi-layered tiramisu parfait. Or quadruple the recipe and make a ginormous trifle! The sky is the limit.

Aquapocalypse Chicken & Pasta Salad


If you live in Eastern Massachusetts, it is very likely you are being affected by the aquapocalypse. Either directly or you are being bombarded with news coverage about it. You may be asking yourself, what is the aquapocalypse?

Many towns in Eastern Massachusetts get their water from Quabbin Reservoir which is in Western Massachusetts. A series of pipes transport water to various towns in the Boston area. Not all towns elect to take from the Quabbin Reservoir (Cambridge, MA gets theirs from Fresh Pond) and other towns have back-ups (Woburn, MA uses Horn Pond as their backup). The history of the Quabbin reservoir is interesting. In the 1930s, all residents of 4 Massachusetts towns were kicked out of their homes and the area was subsequently flooded with water. It's been the primary source of public water for the state ever since.

A few days ago, one of the pipes that transports Quabbin water to a select group of towns ruptured and our drinking water was contaminated. People in my town and various others have had to depend highly on bottled water or boiled water. I prefer boiled water as this incident is already causing environmental damage, who wants to create more by creating excess plastic waste?

The aquapocalypse is pretty serious. Not only does any drinking water need to be boiled any water you ingest has to be too. So for washing dishes, making ice, brushing my teeth, it's been boil, boil, BOIL!

This recipe is based on the Grilled & Dilled Chicken & Pasta Salad from REC(ession)IPES.


Aquapocalypse Chicken & Pasta Salad

- Various pots of boiled water that's been cooled for washing dishes
- a big pot of boiling water for cooking pasta
- ice cubes from boiled water
- a few cups of boiled water that's been cooled for washing veggies



3 celery stalks with leaves sliced
1 red pepper diced
1 cubanelle pepper diced
2 carrots sliced

2 teaspoon dijon mustard
4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons of mayo

5 chicken cutlets
juice of half a lemon
light olive oil

1 package of elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill

This makes enough for 2 with lots of leftovers. Make sure you invite friends over to share!

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Heat up a grill pan. Add salt and pepper to your chicken cutlets and the juice of half a lemon and light olive oil. Make sure there is plenty of boiled/cooled water around for you to wash your hands thoroughly. You're properly armed against aquapocalypse with all that water so don't forget the battle against salmonella!

Add your chicken to the hot grill pan. Grill on both sides for about 2-3 minutes each side. Set aside to cool.

Get a big pot of water boiling for the pasta. By now, you are an expert boiler so you know to let it bowl for a couple of minutes to make sure all that bacteria is dead and gone. Take that aquapocalypse!

Add your macaroni and cook for 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, chop your veggies and rinse them in boiled/cooled water. Drain. Set aside. Do this instead of washing your veggies before you chop them. This method requires less water and that boiled/cooled water is very precious!

In a smaller container, add your dijon mustard and white wine vinegar. Shake shake shake. Set aside.



Chop your chicken!

Drain your cooked pasta. You need to cool down your pasta before you add your vegetables, chicken and dressing. Hot pasta is no good, so add some ice cubes made from boiled/cooled water.  Stir, cool, drain.





In a big bowl, add your cooled pasta, veggies, chicken, dill, dijon/vinegar dressing and mayo. Stir. Serve cold or at room temperature.



Wash your dishes with boiled/cooled water!

Congratulations, you've made it through the aquapocalypse!
Aquapocalypse Chicken & Pasta Salad
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