Sunday, January 23, 2011

Welcome home brunch: Grilled cheese & tomato soup eggs benedict with rosemary hash browns

My husband just returned from a week-long trip, which felt more like a month-long trip. Before I had kids, I didn't mind his work-related travels. Of course I missed him, but I made the most of his absence by catching up on girly movies he'd never watch in a million years, reading books, going shopping with girlfriends, and letting out my inner slob. Now that I have kids, those work trips are brutal. Aside from the fact that I miss having my husband around, I miss having some relief from all the girls' fights, potty trips, endless requests for food/drink/stories/etc. And the girls are tired of me, I'm sure.

Needless to say, we were all really happy to have daddy back home today. To welcome him home, I decided to make a dish I've been pondering for months. I first came up with this idea over the summer, but I never got around to trying it out. Today seemed like the perfect occasion.

The idea was this: to put a twist on eggs benedict by making a version that incorporates everyone's favorite lunch: grilled cheese and tomato soup.

I had a gut feeling it would turn out really yummy, and luckily I was right. The nice thing about this version is that it eliminates the need for hollandaise sauce, which saves some calories and labor as well. And it only involves five main ingredients. Here's what you need:

Grilled cheese & tomato soup eggs benedict

English muffins (go for the plain old white or sourdough kind)
sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
canadian bacon
creamy tomato soup (I used my favorite standby: Pacific Foods Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup)
chopped italian parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat 3 inches of water in a pot or deep skillet to prepare for poaching the eggs (If you haven't poached eggs before I recommend doing some googling to find out how).

Pour the soup into a saucepan and heat until warm.

Saute the canadian bacon in a skillet until heated through and slightly browned. Turn to low to keep warm.

Turn the broiler to high. Toast the english muffins in the toaster, then place on a cookie sheet and put the sliced cheddar on top. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to bubble.

Once the egg water is at the right temp (hot, but not quite boiling), poach the eggs for 3 minutes.

Place the cheesy english muffins on a plate. Top each one with a slice of canadian bacon, then a poached egg. Ladle some of the tomato soup over the top of the eggs, and sprinkle with parsley to garnish.

Rosemary hash browns

No breakfast or brunch feels complete to me without some sort of potato dish on the side. So I whipped up these quick rosemary potato hash browns. Just saute some chopped onion in a pan for about five minutes, then add diced potato and finely diced rosemary. Saute until the potatoes are tender, stirring frequently and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken and rice with spicy tomatillo and Mexican squash sauce (and homemade guacamole)

I always get excited when something I cook turns out well, but I get particularly giddy when it's something I invented myself. It's been a while since I got experimental in the kitchen, so the other night I decided to get a little crazy with my newest batch of veggies from Bountiful Baskets.

My basket contained a mystery ingredient I'd never cooked with before. It was gray squash (also known as Mexican squash). Through a Google search, I learned that it's kind of like zucchini, but tastes better and doesn't get quite as mushy when cooked. That sounded promising.

Since it was nicknamed Mexican squash, I figured I'd use it in a Mexican-inspired meal. I had a bunch of tomatillos, some jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions, so I decided to do some chopping, roasting and pureeing to create a tangy, spicy sauce to serve over chicken and rice. It also gave me a chance to work on my new chopping techniques courtesy of the Knife Skills class I took at Sur la Table (highly recommended, by the way).

Feeling extra creative, I decided to make my own Mexican rice instead of using the boxed pre-seasoned stuff. And I also made some fresh guacamole with the avocados in my basket.

Chicken and sauce:

canola or olive oil
8 tomatillos
1-3 jalapenos (taste them to see how spicy they are before deciding how many to use)
1 small onion, chopped
2 gray/Mexican squash, chopped into smallish cubes
1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large tomatoes, diced (or substitute canned tomato)
about 1 cup of chicken broth
tomato paste
a handful of chopped cilantro
Chicken breasts, pounded thin

Peel the papery skin off of the tomatillos, and rinse them. Roast the tomatillos and jalapenos under the broiler until the skin starts to blister and turn black; flip over so both sides are roasted. Puree the roasted tomatillos and jalapenos in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth. Set aside.

Saute the diced onions, garlic and squash in some oil for several minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large sauce pan/soup pot. Add the tomatillo and jalapeno mixture to the pot. Pour in the chicken broth and add the tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, and add salt to taste. If it's too tangy, add some tomato paste to sweeten it a little bit. You can also add some more chicken broth if it's too thick. If it's too runny, let it simmer for a while until it reduces down.

While the sauce is simmering, heat some oil in a saute pan. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Saute, turning once, until no longer pink. Serve the chicken over the rice, and ladle the sauce on top. Guacamole can be served on the side, or mixed in with the dish.


I followed this recipe, substituting cilantro for the parsley. I also used canned diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce.


If I have really pretty, perfectly ripe avocados, I keep the guacamole simple: mashed avocados, freshly squeezed lime juice, salt, chopped cilantro, and possibly some chopped tomatoes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Herb-marinated pork tenderloin

December was a month filled with many fun things, but exciting, nutritious new recipes were not among those things. Due to the chaos of the holidays, a lot of convenient, no-frills meals were consumed at my house. Now that it's a new year, I'm eager to restock my fridge with fresh foods and get back into the kitchen.

My Christmas day meal was quite delish, but last night I made a pork tenderloin that I believe trumped my Christmas version, and was a lot less difficult. It was a completely last-minute meal--I had learned less than 24 hours earlier that my good friend Jessica would be coming into town for one night on a business trip, and I wanted to make us a great dinner. Without time to get to the store, I had to make due with what I had on hand.

Luckily, I had purchased a nice piece of pork tenderloin at Whole Foods on Sunday for no real reason other than that it looked pretty in the display case. But what to do with it? A quick search of pork tenderloin recipes on the Food Network website turned up a winner by Ina Garten (click here for the recipe). Not only was it rated 5 stars, but it used ingredients that I happened to have on hand. It helps that I have a lemon tree and a rosemary bush in my backyard!

I plucked six juicy, ripe lemons from the tree, pulled off a couple stems of rosemary, and got to work creating the marinade. I only had the chance to marinate the pork for a little over two hours instead of the recommended three, but it was so flavorful I can't imagine that an extra hour would have made a difference.

I served the pork alongside some corn (from the freezer), a spinach salad with pears and gorgonzola (the same one I made at Christmas, minus the pomegranate seeds), and some crusty whole wheat rolls (Alexia's frozen rolls, which are great to have on hand). The meat was super-moist, and SUPER-flavorful. I always find it so hard to make meats that are truly infused with flavor from the inside out, but this recipe was a home run.

I do think there were several contributing factors to why it was so good: 1) high quality meat, and 2) freshly picked and perfectly ripe lemons & rosemary). But I bet that even regular old pork chops and dried rosemary would taste great in this marinade. I'm sure I will be trying it out in several different incarnations over the years--especially since my girls even gobbled up this meat, and getting them to eat meat is one of my biggest challenges in life.

Now, to further inspire me in 2011, I am headed to a knife skills course at Sur La Table. Hopefully I won't maim anyone or chop off one of my fingers.