Sunday Dinner Series: Ready for soup season

It’s not quite soup season yet.  Yesterday in New York it was a humid 90 degree day.  But right about now is when I start getting sick of eating salads every day for lunch.  My mom makes a pot of soup almost every Sunday in the winter and sends me her recipes, but I stumbled upon this Black Bean-Tomato Soup with Cilantro-Lime Cream recipe from Cooking Light and was eager to test it out.

Let me tell you the reasons I’m a fan:

  1. It’s super easy to make
  2. Has a lot of staple ingredients that wouldn’t require you running around to specialty stores (including some of my favorite spices and herb – yes, pile on the cilantro! Oh, and BACON)
  3. It’s semi-healthy, which may seem counterintuitive after my bacon comment, but I swear it’s reasonable!
  4. I have leftovers for lunch this week

The tomatoes provided a nice balance with the beans, and the chipotle chile powder and cumin gave the soup a nice kick.  Just because I like it hot, next time I would add a jalapeño as well.

Below is the recipe and steps which you can also find here.

Bon appétit!

Ingredients:

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 small)
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added organic diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preparation:

  1. Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion and celery to pan; cook 5 minutes or until celery is tender. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon cumin, chile powder, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in bacon, pepper, beans, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Place half of bean mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining bean mixture; process until smooth. Keep warm.
  2. Combine sour cream, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, cilantro, rind, and juice in a small bowl. Dollop cream over soup.

 

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Sunday Dinner Series: Bobby Flay’s Ancho-and-Honey-Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce and Jalapeño Crema

Bobby Flay never fails to disappoint in the flavor department.  If you love the spice and bold flavors of the Southwest, you are probably a big fan of his restaurants.  After tasting many dishes of his and watching him cook on TV for years, I assumed an attempt to replicate any dish would be a recipe for failure.  B Flay is notorious for dishes involving multiple steps and many ingredients.  I was excited to receive a copy of his Mesa Grill cookbook a few years ago, but became quickly overwhelmed on where to begin.  So I started with dinner.  I was trying to eat more fish and found myself drawn to the level of flavors and balance of sweet and spicy highlighted in his ancho and honey-glazed salmon recipe with black bean sauce and jalapeño crema.

The first time I prepared this dish it seemed like it took several hours to make which was probably because I tried to prep everything at once, feeling exhausted and ravenous by the time I sat down to eat.  This time I prepped the jalapeño crema and black bean sauce that morning so by the time it came to make dinner I didn’t feel like I was slaving in the kitchen for hours.  Even so, the resulting dish was well worth the wait.  I think it’s a perfect fall/winter fish recipe – it’s a little heartier, and the jalapeño and ancho chile will be sure to warm you up on a cool evening.

I made a slight time-saving and calorie-cutting adjustment to my recipe by not making fresh black beans (in my opinion, it tastes just as good to me with the can!), using fat free sour cream and cooking the salmon differently using my no-fail salmon cooking technique.

Bobby’s recipe with my prep/cooking instructions are below but you can also find his full unadapted recipe here.

Bon appétit, my friends!

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/2 cups canned black beans
  2. 1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  4. 1 large chipotle chile in adobo, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 1 large jalapeño
  8. 1/2 cup fat free sour cream
  9. 1/3 cup honey
  10. 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  11. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  12. 8-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  13. 1/4 cup chopped scallions

Directions (Steps 1 and 2 can be done the day before or a few hours earlier)

  1. Drain 1 can of black beans under cool water.  Transfer to food processor with red onion, garlic, chipotle and cumin and chop until desired texture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the jalapeño directly over a gas flame until charred all over. Transfer the jalapeño to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the jalapeño. In a food processor, puree the sour cream with the jalapeño until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the crema to a small bowl and refrigerate.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the honey with the ancho chile powder and mustard and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Rub the salmon fillets with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the cold oven and turn up to 400 degrees to cook for 20 minutes.  Take out and brunch the salmon with the glaze and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
  5. Spoon the black bean sauce and the jalapeño crema onto plates and arrange the salmon fillets on top or next to the sauce. Brush the salmon with a little more of the ancho-honey glaze and serve.

Sunday Dinner Series: Crab Cakes with Spicy Rémoulade

I’m always looking for healthier ways to prepare some of my favorite foods.  Crab cakes are a summer staple, but you need to proceed with caution when ordering from a restaurant since preparations can vary so greatly and seemingly small nuances including full fat mayonnaise and deep frying can quickly pack on calories.  Below is a crab cake dish I came across last April in Cooking Light magazine.  I love making them because although it sounds like a daunting kitchen endeavor, this is not at all the case and I can tell you many reasons why you should go make it right now:  It takes less than 30 minutes including prep and cooking, it looks quite impressive on a plate if you have guests over for dinner, it’s light and fresh yet very filling to eat for a dinner dish, then you always have leftovers for lunch the next day (they are just as delicious served cold!)

Check it out below and let me know what you think.

Bon appetit!

Ingredients

Crab cakes:

  • 2 tbls finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbls chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tbls light mayonnaise (obviously Hellmann’s)
  • 1/2 tspn grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbspn fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tspn black pepper
  • 1/8 tspn ground red pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup panko
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
  • 1 tbls olive oil, divided

Rémoulade:

  • 1/4 cup Hellmann’s Light
  • 1 tblsp chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2 tbls capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 tspn Dijon mustard
  • 1 tspn fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tspn ground red pepper
  • 1/8 tspn kosher salt

Directions

  1. To prepare crab cakes, combine first 8 ingredients. Add panko and crab, tossing gently to combine.
  2. Gently pat crab cake mixture into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Repeat procedure with remaining crab mixture, forming 8 cakes.
  3. Heat Olive Oil Pam spray in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 crab cakes to pan; cook 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Carefully turn cakes; cook 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden and crab cakes are thoroughly heated. Remove cakes from pan; keep warm. Wipe pan dry with paper towels. Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 crab cakes.
  4. To prepare rémoulade, combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Serve with crab cakes.

Sunday dinner series: pesto shrimp with spinach, toasted walnuts, tomato and blue cheese

This is one of my favorite dishes that I used to make all the time with whole wheat penne.  Since I’m not a huge fan of pasta and never make it for myself at home I now skip the ingredient altogether.  I love the flavor combination of the toasted walnuts, blue cheese and pesto.  It’s incredibly filling and very easy to prepare, minus what I believe to be a painfully annoying process of cleaning the shrimp.  Open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and you’re good to go!

Ingredients:
3 tbls. pesto (make your own!)
3 tbls. blue cheese
2 tbls. toasted walnuts
1 bag of baby spinach
1 lb. shrimp
1 tomato chopped, seeds removed
l garlic clove chopped
Directions:
Clean shrimp, salt and pepper, coat in pesto
Toast walnuts over heat and set aside to cool
In pan add a little olive oil , saute garlic, then add baby spinach and cook until wilted
Cook shrimp over medium heat
Add shrimp over spinach and sprinkle chopped tomatoes, blue cheese and toasted walnuts on top
Bon appétit!

Mother’s Day in the kitchen with Mom

I went home to Stamford, CT this weekend to spend some quality time with my mom and brother.  As I mentioned, my mom is a ninja in the kitchen so now that I started my new blog I was really enthusiastic to cook for her on this special weekend.

Before we even figured out a recipe for Saturday dinner, the first stop was Paganos’ Seafood in Norwalk so we could check out the goods and choose our cut of fish.  We were debating between the red snapper and halibut, but ended up going with the fresh halibut from Nova Scotia.

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After perusing through a couple different preparations, we decided we’d try the Roasted Halibut with Walnut Crust.  The only ingredient we didn’t have was chive so I substituted with scallion.  It seemed like a perfect recipe because it would have a little bit of crunch from the panko and toasted walnuts and two of my favorite herbs, which were picked from the new herb garden my mom gave me along with her own little harvest in the backyard.  A a little side story – my mom loves to bring fresh flowers and plants to my apartment.  I enjoy having them there to brighten up the rooms, except plants and I never get along.  I didn’t think watering would be too complicated and I certainly don’t care to read a damn thing about gardening, so it’s always a touch-and-go process for me.  However, I’m determined to make this herb garden work.  It didn’t really help when I went outside to grab the basil and pulled from the stem instead of the leaf.  Mom correction #1.  Gardening for Dummies begins now.

From left to right (thyme, basil, rosemary, mint)

Herb garden de Krystina

It was a big hunk of fish for the three of us so I was little nervous I would undercook it but it cooked through perfectly.  I will definitely make this recipe again!

My brother and I prepared brunch for Mom today.  I was in charge of the watercress-fontina souffléd omelet that she picked out and wanted me to make and Adam concocted a kick-ass Bloody Mary.  Note: before you start any dish, make sure you know all of the cooking terms.  Of course, I didn’t know what soft peaks meant; I assumed it just meant to beat the eggs with a fork until Kath had to intervene (after she was done laughing hysterically in my face) and show me that I needed to use the beater.  Other than that, it was a smashing success!

Check out the recipe prep from start to finish in this fun little Vine video.

Hope everyone enjoyed their Mother’s Day as much as I did.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderful and beautiful maman et famille.

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Simple salmon recipe, and my unapologetic plug for Hellmann’s

This is my first recipe blog post and let me tell you a little bit about my style of cooking before you start to judge (and you will.)  I love food. I’d like to refine my skills in the kitchen and explore new recipes and flavors, but I’m not anywhere near a master chef and I am still learning a lot every day.  I’ve acquired many cookbooks throughout my years in food PR, and the purpose of this blog is to help chronicle my recipes as I test out and try new things.

Like many people, I have a couple major constraints when it comes to weekday cooking:  time and space.  I already told you that I live in my Manhattan shoe box, but I also exercise after work, which gets me in the kitchen to make dinner around 9:00pm.  I’ve already made this mistake a few times when I come home and try to “whip up” meals like a Bobby Flay ancho-and-honey glazed salmon recipe with black bean sauce and jalapeno créma and sit down to eat at 11:30pm.  So, yes, I look for shortcuts during the week.  And I look for lower calorie/healthy substitutes (e.g., I use Pam spray instead of olive oil when I can get away with it.)

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with salmon over the last few years.  I’ve tried to prepare it so many ways from pan-searing to broiling which has resulted in more overcooked fish than I care to admit.  I became so irritated I just stopped buying salmon altogether until my mom sent me a link with directions on how to cook salmon perfectly.  Put it in the cold oven, crank up to 400 degrees and leave it in there for 25 minutes and BANG!  The most tender, flaky delicious fish.  I tried it again.  And again.  This method has yet to fail me.

If you know me, you know I worked on the Hellmann’s brand for over two years, so I have sampled a good amount of mayonnaise-based recipes.  From a marketing perspective, they have been positioning Hellmann’s more as an ingredient that can be used various ways in dishes; not just as a condiment.  It’s brilliant, and makes sense because the eggs and oil in the mayonnaise  helps to keep the protein juicy and tender while it cooks.  Initially, there was slight apprehension from some consumers who couldn’t get over the fact that they are spreading mayonnaise on raw chicken and then heating it.  But once you get over the mental hurdle to actually trying it, you will like it.  Anyway … it just so happens one of my favorite salmon recipes uses Hellmann’s as a cooking ingredient.  Don’t knock it till you try it, folks!  Recipe below.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • Salmon
  • Hellmann’s Real or Light mayonnaise (1/2 tbsp)
  • Maille Whole Grain Mustard (1 tbsp)
  • Fresh dill, or dill weed seasoning
  • Lemon

Directions:

1)  Spray Pam on tin foil baking sheet, place salmon on sheet and sprinkle salt, pepper and dill over the fish.  Squeeze some fresh lemon on top.

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2)  Combine Hellmann’s REAL or Light, Maille Whole Grain Mustard, Dill weed and lemon in mixing bowl.  For the fresh lemon, squeeze in some of the juice and grate some of the zest as well.  Use as much or as little dill as you want based on personal preference.  Then spread a thin layer over your fish.

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3)  Place the salmon in the oven (don’t preheat!) at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Sauté a side of crunchy greens and you have yourself a healthy, delicious, beautiful piece of salmon!

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*I was not provided product samples or compensation.  These views are my own*