Saturday, March 27, 2010


As a Personal Chef, one of my responsibilities is to come up with new and different dishes for my clients every week. I look to magazines, TV shows, websites, restaurant menus and fellow bloggers for inspiration daily. Sometimes I feel like I spend all my waking hours trying to think up new meal ideas (some of my sleeping hours, too).

Inspiration can strike at the oddest times, as was the case with this recipe, which I stumbled upon in Family Circle magazine while on vacation recently. Vacation. A time of no work. But I couldn't help myself. I ripped it out, carried it home and made it soon after.

In my mind, there's nothing not to like about Jambalaya, the Creole combo of chicken, spicy sausage, shrimp, vegetables and rice. However, if there's something you don't like about it, it's not a deal-breaker - this is the kind of recipe you can fiddle with to your heart's content. You might not end up with the world's most authentic Jambalaya, but you will end up with a hearty, healthy meal. I adjusted the spices for my family and didn't include any seafood. It was a hit all around.

Serves 6

1 T. vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 package fully-cooked smoked chicken sausage (I used Hillshire Farms Smoked Chicken Sausage - use something spicier if you can handle it - we can't!)
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 1/2 t. Cajun seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes (use the kind with green chiles if you like heat)
1 cup long-grain white rice (I use Uncle Ben's Converted white rice)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Heat oil in a large lidded skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and sausage and saute until chicken is no longer pink but not quite cooked through. Remove chicken and sausage from pan and set aside on a plate.

Add onion, green pepper and celery to pan and cook until vegetables are crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in Cajun seasoning, tomatoes and their juices, rice and broth.

Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Stir the chicken and sausage back into the pan, along with any accumulated juices. Cook, uncovered, until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 5 more minutes.

This meal is just fine if you prepare it ahead of time, cool it, and then heat it up again before serving. Serve with hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Frank's) if you'd like to spice it up at the table.

Adapted from Family Circle magazine.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oat and Almond Breakfast Bars

When a friend called to see if I'd like to be part of the local elementary school's first Health and Fitness Fair/5K Run, I couldn't resist. Not only did both my kids attend the school, but I enjoy doing things in my community and spreading the word about healthy eating to anyone who will listen!

The event is next weekend, so I've been working on some handouts about quick, healthy meals, recipes and so forth. After talking to my Board of Health, I got permission to prepare and hand out a homemade snack (with some restrictions regarding potentially hazardous food). I decided fresh fruit and some sort of granola bar would be perfect, both for the runners and their families.

This was my first attempt at a granola bar, and I wasn't sure what to expect. The result wasn't too sticky or cookie-like, had a great texture and good flavor. I'm going to try to modify the recipe and remove the almonds, perhaps substituting another grain or some crisp rice cereal, because I'm quite aware of how many nut allergies there are these days. But I think these will be long gone by the time I whip up the next batch. They're that good!

Oat and Almond Breakfast Bars
Makes 24 bars

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
2 t. vanilla
1 large egg
2 cups old-fashioned oats, uncooked
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup raisins (I used a combination of raisins and Craisins)
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray the foil or parchment with nonstick spray.

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, combine oil, honey, vanilla and egg until well mixed.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (I used my hands for this). With a rubber spatula, stir the honey mixture into the oat mixture until blended. It will look like there's not enough liquid at first, but keep mixing; it will all come together.

Use the spatula to scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Use your wet hands to pat the mixture into the pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until pale golden around the edges. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, at least 1 hour. Use the foil or parchment to remove the entire rectangle from the pan to a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Turkey Meatloaf with Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Relish

Meatloaf: the ultimate comfort food. You either love it or hate it, right?

My family falls into the "love it" category (with the exception of Picky Teenage Son, who refuses to eat mixtures of any sort). I have several meatloaf recipes that the majority of us enjoy, including an Italian Meatloaf (ground beef, crumbled Italian sausage, parmesan cheese and marinara sauce make it really flavorful); a Skinny Meatloaf made of ground beef and ground turkey with a ketchup-mustard glaze; and Ina Garten's Turkey Meatloaf , a regular on the rotation around here. Clients request meatloaf frequently, too, so I'm always on the lookout for something new.

This recipe caught my husband's eye in good old Cook This, Not That, so I gave it a trial run. It was hands down the most flavorful turkey meatloaf we've ever had (sorry, Ina). I prepared the relish a day ahead, using canned tomatoes instead of fresh, which worked very well. We ate leftovers for a couple of days, and then I froze the remaining slices for lunches or dinners in the near future.

Turkey Meatloaf with Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Relish
Serves 8

recipe adapted from Cook This, Not That, by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding

1 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste


1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey (93% lean)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary1/2 - 1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten

To make the relish, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for about 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, ketchup and Worcestershire and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. (relish can be made a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.)

When ready to make the meatloaf, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion for about 6 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the prepared relish along with the freshly sauteed onion and garlic and the rest of the ingredients for the meatloaf. Gently mix with your hands until everything is blended.

Turn the bowl over and let the meat mixture fall out onto a baking dish. Form it into a loaf shape and cover the top with half of the remaining relish.

Bake the meatloaf for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with remaining relish.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quinoa with Asparagus and Chick Peas

We're back from vacation, and I for one am craving good-for-you, homemade food after OD'ing on restaurant fare for several days. I cooked up some quinoa the morning we got home and then hit the grocery store for some fresh produce, meat and poultry.
When I got home, I created this dish, which I've been nibbling on ever since.

Quinoa with Asparagus and Chick Peas
Serves 4-6 as a side dish

1 T. olive oil
1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, ends snapped off and discarded, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups precooked quinoa
lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to dress
optional: 1/2 cup toasted almonds

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the chick peas and saute them, without moving them around, until they begin to brown on one side. Then stir and add garlic and shallot to the pan. Saute for a minute, then add asparagus, chicken stock and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until asparagus is bright green and begining to get tender.

Here's all the vegetables steaming in the pan:

Uncover the pan and stir in the cooked quinoa. Remove from heat and taste. Add some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper if you like. Top with toasted almonds, if using, and serve.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

French Onion Soup

It was a dark and stormy night.

There were 4 starving teenagers at the house.

No, this isn't the start of a horror novel -- it's my life! My son's friends are a great group of guys, and they're always hungry. I love feeding them, but wasn't sure if the evening's dinner plan, French Onion Soup, was going to go over big. They surprised me by slurping it up; one even went back for a second bowl (that would be the bowl that Picky Teenage Son refused).

Once again, Cook This, Not That was the inspiration for this recipe. You don't have to wait for a dark and stormy night (or the arrival of a ravenous pack of teenagers) to prepare it.

French Onion Soup
Serves 6

1 T. butter
5 medium onions (red and sweet yellow), sliced thin (I used my mandolin)
1/2 t. salt
2 bay leaves
6 cups low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 - 5 fresh thyme sprigs
black pepper
6 slices sourdough bread
6 slices swiss cheese

Heat butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over low heat. Add onions and salt. Cover and cook over low heat until onions are meltingly soft, at least 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes, depending on your patience. Stir every 10 minutes or so.

Add the bay leaves, broth, wine and thyme to the caramelized onions. Simmer on low heat for at least 15 minutes. Season with pepper. Discard bay leaves.

Preheat the broiler. Place six oven-proof bowls on a heavy baking sheet (one that won't go "boing" and twist). Divide the soup among the bowls. Top each bowl of soup with a slice of bread and a slice of cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling; about 3 minutes. Serve.