Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins

This was a wonderful recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book! I made this to accompany a chicken & sausage gumbo and it really complimented it well. Due to the nasty winter weather we’re experiencing here in Chicago, I had to make do with the ingredients I had on hand and made a few (okay, a lot of) substitutions…

  • Rather than using a stick of butter, I used 1/4 cup each of canola oil and extra virgin olive oil. It resulted in a very moist and tender crumb.
  • In place of cilantro, I used two stalks of green onions, sliced thin (green part only.) The onion seemed to work well with the peppers and gave more to the overall southwestern flavor.
  • Speaking of peppers, I added additional color and used a trio of finely diced yellow, green and red bell peppers. (Honestly, I just can’t do only red peppers. Red peppers just isn’t my thing. So small doses of it are tolerable, even moreso when combined with yellow and green peppers.)
  • Just when I thought I couldn’t substitute anything else, I realized that I ran out of chili powder. I did have some Pilsen Latino Seasoning on hand and used that instead. The seasoning is on the spicy side so I used 1 teaspoon of this. I really loved that kick and heat it gives these muffins! This seasoning is ‘hand mixed from: coarse Kosher flake salt, garlic & onion powders, Mexican oregano, Tellicherry black pepper, hot red pepper flakes.
  • Finally, the cheese lover in me thought it best to top these muffins with a Mexican blend of cheese. It added a nice golden color and slight crispness to the muffin top. Yum!

Be sure to check out the other fabulous foodies who made this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins. Interested in the recipe? Check out Rebecca from Ezra Poundcake who has the recipe on her blog or page 6 of Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking from My Home to Yours.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

This is a great way to serve up zucchini and a nice change of pace from the usual roasting that I tend to do. I prepared this for my Chef Spotlight Dinner where we featured recipes of health concious chefs, including Ellie Krieger.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
recipe from Ellie Krieger

Cooking spray
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (3/4-ounce)
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and a few turns of pepper. Dip each round into the Parmesan mixture, coating it evenly on both sides, pressing the coating on to stick, and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the zucchini rounds until browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove with spatula. Serve immediately.

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

I don’t cook with quinoa as often as I should. It’s an excellent grain to cook with packed with protein and definitely one that’s healthier than even brown rice. My friend Robert prepared this salad and it was very refreshing and light.

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad
recipe from Gourmet Magazine

1 1/2 cups quinoa (small disk-shaped seeds)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed, if canned
1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked corn (cut from about 2 large ears)
3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 pickled jalpeno chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander

For dressing:
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle Before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve. In a saucepan of salted boiling water cook quinoa 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. Set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary). While quinoa is cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeno, and coriander and toss well. Make dressing: In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes

This is a super easy side dish I got from Pam Anderson’s cookbook, The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight & Eating Great. I prepared this for my Chef Spotlight dinner where we highlighted healthy chefs. It was a side dish that was colorful and complimented our menu well!

Roasted Green Beans & Cherry Tomatoes
recipe from Pam Anderson

1 lb green beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat your oven to 375.
In a bowl, place your green beans, tomatoes and oregano.
Drizzle oil over vegetables and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.
Place vegetables on a baking sheet and baking in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Crispy Onion Topped Orzo

Rather than doing the usual potato or rice side dish, I wanted to do something a little different. I came across this Baked Orzo dish from several food blogs I read and thought it would compliment my herbed turkey well.

I made quite a few adaptations to Giada’s original recipe to use ingredients I had on hand and it came out wonderfully. The flavors were rich, hearty and perfect with roast turkey. I used turkey stock which provided more flavor, imported Spanish mushrooms (thanks to fellow blogger, Nuria), spinach, roasted garlic, brie cheese and topped with french fried onions.

Crispy Onion Topped Orzo

with Mushrooms, Spinach, Onion & Brie

recipe inspired by
Giada DeLaurentiis

4 cups turkey stock
1 pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used imported Spanish mushrooms)
1 cup diced brie
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup french fried onions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

Bring the turkey (or chicken) stock to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Dot the top of the baking dish with brie and top the entire dish with french fried onions. Bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus w/Lemon Zest Butter

This is an easy side dish to prepare for any dinner or even brunch. I served this as a side to our Christmas Brunch. It was pretty easy to put together and the star of the dish is the Lemon Zest Butter. I recently purchased dried lemon zest from my favorite spice shop to experiment with. One way I used it was to mix it with butter and herbs to add some flavor to vegetables. It came out wonderful and definitely is a great way to use fresh or dried citrus zest, whether it’s lemon, lime or even orange.

Lemon Zest Butter
original Joelen recipe

1 teaspoon lemon zest (fresh or rehydrated dried zest)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients and store in fridge.
Use to flavor roasted or steamed vegetables.

Yuca with Mojo

I made the following recipe for our annual Holiday Party where our menu highlighted Floribbean cuisine. Yuca is a root vegetable that is similar to a potato. It has a waxy skin that must be cut or peeled off, then boiled until tender. It’s important to season the water the yuca is boiled in so it can add some flavor, otherwise it’s pretty bland. I added salt and some of my dry mojo seasoning. To accompany yuca, it’s traditionally served with a mojo sauce. Mojo is a sauce usually made with olive oil, citrus juice, lots of garlic and spices.

Yuca with Mojo
recipe adapted from

2 pounds Yuca Root peeled and cut into bite size pieces.
1/8 teaspoon Salt
Mojo sauce (below)

In a large saucepan, cover yuca with water plus 2 inches, add salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover, let simmer until yuca is fork tender but still intact. Drain yuca.

Add the mojo. (recipe below)

Mojo Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
6 to 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
2/3 cup fresh sour orange juice or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly toasted but not brown, about 30 seconds. Add sour orange juice, cumin, and salt and pepper. Stand back: The sauce may sputter. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil. Correct the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Cool before serving. Mojo tastes best when served within a few hours of making, but it will keep for several days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Note: Sour orange juice can be found in Latino markets.

Maduros (sweet plantains)

I made the following recipe for our annual Holiday Party where our menu highlighted Floribbean cuisine. Maduros is a sweet side dish in Floribbean cuisine. It’s made with sweet, fully or overripened plantains. The plantains are best if they are practically black… which is a tell tale sign that it’s perfectly ripened and super sweet. Don’t throw blackened plantains out – make this dish instead! Similar to the preparation of Tostones, these plantains are sliced and fried.

(sweet plantains)

3 very ripe plantains (heavy black spotting to a fully black skin)
lard or vegetable shortening to cover half the thickness of plantains

Peel and bias cut (diagonal) into one-inch thick slices. Heat the oil until medium hot — a drop of water will sizzle.

Fry the pieces briefly, about a minute or two per side. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, turning occasionally until they are brown and caramelized.

VARIATION: Some people like to lightly roll the plantains in white or brown sugar before frying (which is what I did)

Tostones (green plantains)

I made the following recipe for our annual Holiday Party where our menu highlighted Floribbean cuisine. Tostones is a popular side dish to Floribbean meals. This is made with green, unripened plantains that have been sliced and fried twice then served with a garlicy sauce.

(flatted fried green plantains)
recipe from Dominican

2 unripe plantains
1/2 cup of oil
4 teaspoons of cold water
1/2 teaspoons of mashed garlic

Peel the plantains and cut into 1 inch thick slices. In a deep frying pan heat the oil and fry the plantains till golden brown. Flatten the plantains using the bottom of a flat-bottomed glass bottle. Fry the plantains again for 30 seconds on each side.

(This part is optional) Mix the water, a pinch of salt and the mashed garlic. Stir and pour over the plantains.

Serve immediately.

Sauteed Spinach with Bacon

Sauteed Spinach w/Bacon
original Joelen recipe

1-2 packages fresh baby spinach leaves

5 slices canadian bacon, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

In a saute pan, melt butter and saute garlic and bacon.
When bacon is crisp, add chicken broth and spinach; toss until it wilts.
Serve immediately.