Asian Salmon with Sauteed Carrots and Leeks

Since we’ve been trying to eat healthier, we’ve found that making healthy foods doesn’t mean skimping on flavor. The recipe for Asian style salmon from The New American Plate is a perfect example. It’s got all the great flavors that you would find in many Asian dishes without frying or using other unhealthy cooking methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 cup soy sauce (the recipe calls for reduced sodium, but if you have “regular” on hand, that will work too)
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1 tbsp Chinese hot mustard
– 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
– 1 lb salmon (4 fillets)
– canola oil
– 2 small carrots, julienned
– 1 leek (white part only), julienned
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

This recipe is really easy, but be prepared to wait about an hour while the salmon marinades before you do any cooking. Combine 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, the lemon juice, mustard and five-spice powder in a resealable plastic bag. Mix together, then add the salmon fillets. Coat well and let marinade in the refrigerator for an hour, turning once.

Preheat the broiler (if your broiler is built in to your oven, make sure to put a baking sheet inside to warm it as well).

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on the oil over medium-high heat and saute the carrots and leeks until tender, about five minutes. Add the broth, the remaining soy sauce and the sesame oil and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 or 15 minutes. The salmon will take about 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so you can probably start it right after adding the liquid to the pan. Place the fillets on the heated baking sheet (or broiler pan) four inches from the heat and cook until it begins to flake apart, 10 to 15 minutes based on the thickness.

This was seriously one of the easiest meals to make. It only took 15 minutes (minus the marinading time) and you wouldn’t even know it…it tasted like we slaved over the stove for hours. All the flavors of the soy sauce, five-spice and mustard really penetrated the meat of the salmon. The veggies stayed nice a crunchy, but also had great Asian flavors. We also cooked up some plain white rice, which made it feel like we were really in a Chinese restaurant. This dish is for sure a do-over…especially for us since we love Chinese food.

You can find the recipe in The New American Plate Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Every recipe we have made from this book has been really tasty, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all really good for you!

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing

Do you ever grill chicken and think that it’s just missing some flavor? When it comes to grilling meats, sometimes it seems like there’s only a few flavor options. The first person that comes to mind when trying to solve a grilling dilemma is Bobby Flay. But that’s not where we turned for this delicious grilled chicken recipe. From now on, I think it’s going to be difficult to have grilled chicken without Tyler Florence’s garlic-herb dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 or 2 heads garlic, cut in half horizontally
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
– 2 whole thyme springs, plus the leaves from 6 sprigs
– the juice of 2 lemons
– 1 small bunch fresh parsley
– 1 whole chicken (or any combination of chicken pieces you prefer), cut into 10 pieces

Before you can do anything with this recipe, you have to roast the garlic. This is going to take at least 30 minutes, so make sure you account for the extra time it takes to get everything prepared. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To roast the garlic, place the halved head(s) face-up on a large piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add two whole thyme sprigs to the top. Fold up the aluminum foil to make a little packet and throw in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the cloves are golden brown and soft.

Once the garlic is done, squeeze all the cloves out of the skin into a food processor. Also add the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, and parsley and puree until you get a smooth, thick vinaigrette-type dressing. Now you’re ready to grill! About halfway through the cooking (after about 20 minutes) start basting the chicken with the dressing. The outside of the chicken will caramelize a little and get a result in a great crusty, crispy skin.

This was seriously the best grilled chicken I have ever had in my life. Once we took it off the grill, we added a little more of the dressing for an added flavor boost. I’m not sure that it needed it, but it sure made it tasty! The flavors of the garlic, lemon and herbs really came through in every bite of chicken…not just the skin (although the skin was the best part). The skin was nice a crispy, but not burnt, and the meat was nice and tender and juicy. I said it last time we made a Tyler Florence recipe and I’ll say it again — it’s called Tyler’s Ultimate for a reason! The deliciousness of this chicken is unexplainable. Period.

You can find the recipe in Tyler’s latest book, Tyler’s Ultimate, or on the Food Network Web site. And I highly recommend you find the recipe and try it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Carrot Cinnamon Dog Treats

I’ve been in the baking mood lately and I’m not sure why…I’m typically not a baker. Never the less, I thought it was only right to let Kramer share in the goodness that is baking. I know you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts, but this isn’t the first time we’ve made our dog treats (I know, that makes me look even more nuts). He loves homemade treats — and they’re better for him than most anything we could get at the store. We get all our dog treat recipes from a nutritional guide and cookbook specifically for dogs called Better Food for Dogs. It’s a great book and has really helped us learn about the specific nutritional needs for dogs. On the plus side, Kramer loves the finished products of everything in this book (we haven’t tried the meals, just the treats).

One of Kramer’s favorite treats from the book are the carrot cinnamon“cookies.” (Sometimes they smell so good in the oven that I’ve thought about trying them myself — I’ve refrained though.)
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup cornmeal
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 cup chopped carrots
– 1/2 cup water
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 2 tbsp honey
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Baking dog treats isn’t any different than baking human cookies…believe it or not. First you’ll combine the dry ingredients — the flour, cornmeal and cinnamon — in a small bowl. Next, combine the carrots, water, oil, honey, egg and vanilla in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour the carrot puree over the dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Leaving the mixture in the bowl, kneed with your hands until the dough starts to hold together on its own (you may need to add more water). Once a dry dough is formed, transfer to a lightly floured surface and roll out until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Use a fork to poke holes all over the dough, then cut into bite-sized pieces based on the size of your dog (you can either use cookie cutters or a pizza cutter). Place the pieces about 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet. Depending on the size of your dog, you’ll end up with a ton of treats.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until firm. Let cool completely (still on the baking sheet), lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until the treats are hard (you want them to be crunchy, just like you would find in the store). Transfer the treats to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving or storing.

Kramer would do anything for one of these “cookies.” He loves them and we love giving them to him because we know they’re healthy and we know exactly what goes into them. Baking for a dog sounds like a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it — and it’s also kind of fun! If you love your four-legged friends as much as we love ours, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Better Food for Dogs and try out one of the cookie recipes yourself. If you’re a dog-treat baker, drop a line and let me know about some of your favorite recipes!

P.S. For a lower-fat version of this recipe, substitute the 2 tbsp. oil for 2 extra tablespoons water. Also, if you have a small dog you might want to consider cutting the recipe in half. The finished treats only last about a month and the recipe makes a lot of cookies. Another option is to freeze half the dough and bake it off another time.

Chicken with Saffron Cream Sauce

Saffron is an expensive spice, but it’s worth the price because it lasts forever (and it’s flavor, of course). Giada De Laurentiis’ chicken scallopine with saffron cream sauce is, in my opinion, a perfect way to showcase the great flavor of saffron without overpowering the whole dish. We’ve made this dish many times, and I think it gets better every single time.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 lb chicken cutlets (we usually use two boneless, skinless breasts and pound them out so they’re nice and thin)
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
– 2 shallots, chopped
– 1 clove garlic, minced (we almost always use more than a clove, but that’s just personal preference)
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
– 1/4 tsp (a generous pinch) saffron threads
– 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

This is jokingly called “10 minute chicken” in our house because each step takes about 10 minutes, but apparently Billy doesn’t know how to read ahead and realize that there’s more than one step that takes 10 minutes and decides to tell me to start the side dishes 20 minutes too early. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

The first thing you’re going to do is cook the chicken. Heat the olive oil (enough to keep the chicken from sticking) in a skillet over high heat. While the pan is heating, season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot drop the chicken as quickly as you can, using a spatter guard to keep the oil from getting everywhere (including all over you). Cook the chicken until golden brown on each side and cooked completely through — 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic to the pan (you might need to add a bit more oil) and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits of the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a simmer and cook until it’s almost evaporated completely, about (you guessed it) 10 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth and saffron threads. Bring to a simmer again and let reduce for (another) 10 minutes — it will reduce by at least half. Add the cream, season with salt a pepper and let simmer for a minute or two in order for the flavors to combine. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley and you’re done!

We usually serve the chicken over rice because the rice soaks up the extra sauce and makes it extra delicious. Cooking the chicken over high heat gives it a little bit of a crust but helps lock all the moisture in. The sauce soaks into the chicken (and the rice) and all the wonderful flavors of the shallots, garlic and saffron permeate throughout the dish. Yum.

This recipe can be found in Giada’s latest book, Giada’s Kitchen, or on the Food Network Web site.

Blue Corn Pancakes

I’m pretty sure blue corn pancakes are a Navajo tradition (at least certainly a New Mexico/southwestern thing). I’ve never tried them, but I’ve always been intrigued. There’s supposedly a restaurant in Santa Fe that has really great blue corn pancakes — they’ve even been featured on Food Network. Well, over the weekend I decided to try my luck at this Navajo tradition.

My go to guy for all things Southwestern (at least the one’s I’ve never tried) is Bobby Flay. I used his recipe for blue corn pancakes from his Mesa Grill cookbook, making a few minor changes. Bobby’s recipe includes an orange honey butter and cinnamon maple syrup, but I decided to make the pancakes only.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup blue corn (meal)
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp salt
– 1/4 sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 2 tbsp butter, melted

Bobby’s recipe calls for blueberries, but I left them out (I did add some pine nuts to a few of the pancakes, though). If you’re going to use blueberries, or another kind of berry, fold one cup into the batter just before cooking.

Like almost all baking, combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, adding the milk and melted butter and whisk until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Make sure not to over mix the batter, otherwise you’ll end up with flat pancakes (there should be some lumps in the batter).

Heat a non-stick griddle or large pan over medium-high heat and melt a small amount of butter before ladling the first pancake. Each pancake should be about 1/4 of a cup (or one ladle full) and will cook about one or two minutes on the first side and 30 seconds to one minute on the second side. You’ll know when they’re done based on the color (I’m sure you’ve all made pancakes before…). Keep the finished pancakes warm while continuing to cook by placing them in a 200 degree oven.

Blue corn pancakes…seriously? Amazing. While the taste wasn’t really very different from regular pancakes, you notice it in the texture. They’re still fluffy, but they’re a bit more dense and they have larger grains of corn meal (sort of like a corn muffin). I am a huge fan of pine nuts, but this is one dish I really didn’t like them in. Next time I would either add berries (I knew Bobby called for them for a reason!) or leave them plain. Other than that, no complaints here! I will most definitely be making these again and again, and I would suggest you try them too! As a plus, you can freeze the extra pancakes and they heat up pretty well.

I was able to find a recipe for Bobby’s blue corn pancakes on the Food Network Web site, but it’s a little different from the one in his Mesa Grill cookbook. Whatever recipe you use, I’m sure they’ll turn out delicious!