Saturday, April 30, 2011


I know I've mentioned before that the husband is from Louisiana. I think one of the things he misses most is the crawfish boil. You just don't really have them in Arizona because, well, we don't really have crawfish here. Sure you can have them overnighted but it costs a pretty penny (trust me, I've checked). Somehow at some point I stumbled upon the Cajun Cactus Foundation and their annual events. They're basically a group of Louisianans (wow, I wasn't sure if that was a word, but apparently it is) who miss all the awesomeness that is Louisiana, so they have events here to make it feel more like home. In the fall we went to the Great Cajun Cook-Off and Food Fest (which I'm debating entering this year) and had a BLAST. Their spring event is the Great Cajun Crawfish Boil which we went to last night.

I'd had boiled crawfish before (I guess that's what you call the resulting crawfish from a crawfish boil?) but had never actually been to one. It was AWESOME. Along with copious amounts of crawfish there were all sorts of tasty Louisiana/Southern sides...dirty rice, red beans and rice (so tasty), hot links, mac and cheese, potato salad, green olive cole slaw, Krispy Kreme bread pudding, Snoballs (similar to what the rest of the US knows as snow cones), catfish tacos. I worked my ass off at the gym Friday morning so I could really go balls to the wall and indulge...and yet I still ended up over calories. But that was probably more from the beer than the food. Anyway...we had a great time, had great food, and we can't wait for it again next year. The husband always has New Orleans withdrawals this time of year because of Jazzfest, but he said the crawfish boil last night made him hardly miss it at all this year.

I took a few pictures that I thought I'd share.

Crawfish...lots and lots of crawfish. Frankly the potato is just taking up space that could be held by more crawfish.

The husband enjoying his mud bugs

Our friend Steve...he looks angry at the crawfish, but I don't think he really was.

Boy #2 having some of the corn from the boil. I think my kids pretty much had Snoballs and Krispy Kreme donuts for dinner. What can I say, sometimes I'm an awesome mom.

Boy #1 post-Snoball

Crawfish remains

A rare photo of me with a crawfish. The rarity comes from me being in a picture, not that I'm posing with crawfish.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Panini

I heart cheese. That's not news. I heart paninis, too, and that's probably equally newsworthy. There's a panini blog I follow, Panini Happy. She has all sorts of amazing sandwiches on there that I'm dying to try. Ummm...grilled mac and cheese with pulled pork?! Yes, please!! I had seen her post about this Green Goddess Grilled Cheese on St. Patrick's Day and thought it sounded fantastic. I found myself needing to be somewhere near our Saturday's Farmer's Market recently and decided to stop in to get the fresh herbs I'd need to make this.

Panini Happy's Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Panini

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 oil-packed anchovy, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest (about 1 lime)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into smaller cubes
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
8-12 slices sourdough bread
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Add garlic and anchovies to a mini-prep food processor and pulse for a few seconds until it’s really finely chopped, almost like a paste (if you don’t have a food processor, you can always just chop the ingredients really well with a knife on a cutting board).

Add in the lime zest, parsley, tarragon, cilantro, basil, shallot, mustard and cream cheese and pulse again until well blended. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and stir in the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Preheat the panini grill to medium-high heat.

For each sandwich: Spread a generous amount of the cheese mixture onto one slice of bread. Close the sandwich with a second slice of bread. Brush a little olive oil on top. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes until the cheese is melted and oozy and the bread is toasted. Serve immediately and enjoy!


I'm lazy and didn't chop everything on my own...I tossed it all in my food processor to let it work for me. What's the point of having machines in my kitchen and me doing all the work they can do? Oh, but I didn't have any shallots. I don't know why my grocery store is so hit or miss with shallots. they aren't that uncommon an item are they? Oh what I'd give to have a store that carries everything nearby. I shouldn't complain...when we first moved to this area there was only one grocery store. Now I at least have choices. Anyway.

The cheese filling on this was FANTASTIC. Before it cooked it had a really garlicky bite to it, but that mellowed a lot while the cheesy goodness melted while the sandwich was on the panini press. My only complaint was my bread choice. I didn't buy sourdough bread for this because I figured we could just use the regular whole wheat bread we use on a regular basis. I was WRONG. Don't make my same mistake. This sandwich needs a sturdy bread, not lame-o Oroweat Double Fiber Whole Wheat bread. And be generous with the filling on said sturdy bread. It's worth it. Oh, and don't forget to put the leftover spread away and sitting on your kitchen counter all night because you'll be a sad cheese-lover in the morning when you come downstairs and discover your mistake. I'm just saying...learn from my mistake.

I'd totally make this again but only with a better kind of bread.

Sandwich filling:

Falafel Pitas with Cucumber Dipping Sauce

I don't remember how I came across this recipe. Oh, I take that back. I think I had bookmarked a list of easy vegetarian dinners from the Cooking Light website and found it that way. I'm trying to work back in some more vegetarian meals into our dinners each week. I really like falafel, but I'd never tried making my own before. it sounded pretty easy from this recipe and most of the ingredients were things I had on hand (well, except the pita bread). Double bonus!!

Falafel Pitas with Cucumber Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup minced red onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (1-ounce) slice whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (6-inch) whole wheat pitas, split
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing

Combine first 10 ingredients in a food processor; pulse 6 times or until well blended (mixture will be wet).

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spoon about 1/3 cup chickpea mixture per patty into pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Line each pita half with 1/4 cup arugula, add 1 patty to each pita half, and spoon 2 tablespoons Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing into each pita half.

Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing

1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup diced seedless cucumber
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill.

Note: Nutritional analysis includes Cucumber-Yogurt Dressing.
Calories: 280
Calories from fat: 30%
Fat: 9.4g
Saturated fat: 1.2g
Monounsaturated fat: 5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.2g
Protein: 11.4g
Carbohydrate: 40.1g
Fiber: 7.3g
Cholesterol: 53mg
Iron: 3.3mg
Sodium: 592mg
Calcium: 81mg


Since the nutritional info was there on the website, I figured I'd include it for the recipe. I actually used whole wheat naan instead of pita bread because pita bread and I just don't get along. We have issues...always have, always will. I find naan much easier to work with and even a little tastier.

I wasn't really sure what my kids were going to think of this, but they both ate it pretty well. Especially after I gave them ketchup to dip their falafel in. I know, I know...ketchup with falafel?! But they ate it all and there wasn't a fight at the dinner table. Sometimes we moms do what we gotta do.

This was super easy to put together and really tasty. I'd definitely make it again, especially since for the most part it was made up of things I had in my fridge or pantry already!

Falafel mixture:

Falafel patties cooking away:

Mmmm...falafel pitas...

Cuban Sandwiches

Hello, dear blog. I've missed you so. I really have no excuse for why I've stayed away so long. Well, I kind of do but it's not a very good one. I wrote out a list of blog posts I want to do and there are seven on the list and two maybes. Yikes. That's a lot of catching up to do. Conveniently I feel like doing no sort of household chores today, other than what I've already accomplished, so that works out pretty well. Plus someone from church is swinging by at some point, so I don't want to be in the middle of, say, giving the dog a bath when she gets here.

Quite awhile ago the husband and I went on a date night to a local Cuban restaurant. My mom had bought a Groupon for it but wasn't going to be able to use it, so she generously gave it to us. Woo hoo! I love a date night, but a free date night is even better! Actually I think we ended up spending more than the amount of the Groupon because (here's a little known fact about me) I cannot resist a good, fresh mojito...the kind with real mint leaves in the bottom of the glass. Lordy mama, am I ever a sucker for a good mojito. It's actually kind of a sickness because whenever I smell fresh mint all I can think of are mojitos.


We went to this Cuban restaurant for dinner and decided to share two entrees. I seriously could not decide. We knew we wanted a Cuban sandwich and honestly I would have eaten anything else on the menu. We ended up getting some kind of pulled pork that was really good, but the Cuban sandwich was AMAZING. I've always been a fan of Cuban sandwiches...pork, ham, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles. What's not to love?! After having a very tasty sandwich there the husband and I decided we needed to have them again soon. So we had them for a date night dinner one Friday after the kiddos went to bed. I just kind of winged the recipe.

Cuban Sandwiches

4 slices deli ham
4 slices roasted pork
2 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices dill pickles
2 crusty rolls or 4 pieces french bread

Split open rolls and spread both sides with mustard. use as much or little mustard as you like. On bottom half of roll, layer 2 slices ham, 2 slices pork, 1 slice Swiss cheese, and 2 pickle slices. Top with top half of roll.

Using a panini press (or whatever you like to use for a pressed sandwich), grill sandwich until cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.


Pretty easy. For the pork component I used a one pound pork loin roast that I had cooked in the crockpot. I used my friend Jen's method for cooking a pork roast...throw the roast, a can of beer, some salt and pepper in the crockpot and let it cook. It was pretty awesome pork and I think my new go to method for cooking pork when I just need the meat for something.

These weren't quite as good as the ones we had at Havana Cafe, but I think that was due to the bread. I didn't have access to special Cuban bread, and I really think that would make a big difference. The husband and I both liked them, and it was a pretty easy dinner to throw together, so I'm sure we'll have them again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Strawberry Pancake Topping

I guess this doesn't have to be a pancake topping, but the title "strawberry topping" just seemed weird. We're having it on pancakes, but I imagine it would work for waffles, ice cream, name it. I was looking through the breakfast recipes in my cookbook for the week, America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, and thought about making a multigrain pancake recipe I saw, but it would have required me purchasing a lot of ingredients that probably wouldn't get used a whole lot. Okay, really just "no-sugar-added muesli" and I wasn't sure how often I'd use that again or even if any of the stores around me would have it. I mean, I couldn't find leeks the other day...what are my chances of finding "no sugar added muesli?!" I remembered I had a Trader Joe's multigrain pancake mix in my pantry, so I figured there was no point reinventing the wheel when I could just use that. I had already seen the strawberry topping recipe, so I figured I'd make that to go with the pancakes from the mix. we're going to have scrambled eggs and bacon to go along with the pancakes.

Strawberry Topping
Source: The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, Copyright 2010

4 cups strawberries (about 20 ounces), hulled and sliced thin
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Toss 2 cups of the strawberries, the sugar, and salt together in a large bowl and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries have released their juice and the sugar has dissolved, about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture, including all of the liquid, to a small saucepan and stir in the remaining strawberries. Cook over medium heat until the juice has thickened into a sauce, about 6 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice. Let cool 1 hour before serving.


This strawberry sauce was really good. It wasn't super sweet which I really liked. It tasted like strawberries, not syrupy sweet strawberries. I didn't let it cool for an hour because I forgot to factor in that time when I started making it. I figured it didn't need to be cool, though, since we were having it on pancakes. We all really liked it. Actually it made me think of my dad. Growing up when we'd have breakfast for dinner it was a big treat for my dad to make waffles and then we'd have strawberries and whipped cream on them. The strawberry sauce on the pancakes reminded me of that. I'd definitely make this again. There's still some left in my fridge...I kind of wish I had some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Stir-Fried Pork and Napa Cabbage with Ginger Sauce

In case you're not a follower of my weight loss blog, you may not know that I'm going to be running the Disneyland Half Marathon in September. Are you saying, "I had no idea Claire was a runner"? Yeah...I'm not. Or I wasn't at least. I guess I'm becoming a runner. I decided to do the Couch to 5K program at the start of 2011. I have never been a runner. NEVER. My friend Jess reminded me that I used to tell people I only ran if being chased. It's true, I did say that. And now I can run 30 minutes straight without any real problems. Except for the voice in my head reminding me how much I hate running. But I'm learning to tune out that voice. Thinking about how much I hate it isn't going to get me running 13.1 miles.

Anyway, I'm running the race with my friend Jen, and last night was our first training session. I didn't want a super heavy meal knowing I'd be heading out the door to go running approximately an hour after we ate, so I thought this stir fry would be a good meal to have. The husband only chose the cookbook for the week, not the recipes. I had some pork chops in the freezer I needed to be using, so I thought this would work well.

Sadly I couldn't find it online anywhere, so I have to type out the whole thing. Lame.

Stir-Fried Pork and Napa Cabbage with Ginger Sauce
Source: The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, copyright 2010

2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
1 12-ounce pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips

3 scallions, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
4 tsp canola oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
1/2 head napa cabbage, cored and shredded into 1-inch wide pieces
1 recipe Ginger Sauce (recipe below)

For the Pork: combine the sesame oil, cornstarch, flour, soy sauce, and rice wine in a bowl, stir in the pork, and marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour.

For the stir-fry: combine the scallions, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of the canola oil in a bowl.

Heat 1 teaspoon more canola oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the pork, break up any clumps, and cook until lightly browned on all sides but not fully cooked, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons canola oil to the skillet and return to high heat until shimmering. Add the carrots and bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and cook, tossing constantly, until it is slightly wilted and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Clear the center of the skillet, add the garlic mixture, and cook, mashing the mixture into the pan, untril fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Stir it into the vegetables.

Return the pork, with any accumulated juice, to the skillet. Whisk the sauce to recombine, then add to the skillet. Simmer, tossing constantly, until the pork is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Serve.

Per 1-1/4 cup serving: 300 calories, 15g fat, 2g sat fat, 55mg cholesterol, 20g carbohydrates, 22g protein, 2g fiber, 780mg sodium

Ginger Sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and use as directed in stir-fry recipes.


I love how fast stir fries come together for a dinner. I got the pork marinating and then worked on prepping everything else. If you aren't used to making stir fries, having everything ready to go is a pretty crucial step since the ingredients usually cook super fast.

This was something my whole family really enjoyed. Boy #1 thought it looked gross when he saw the picture in the cookbook, but he ate just about every bite on his plate. I served it over some brown rice (I needed some carbs for my run!), and the husband and I each had an egg roll with ours. This is definitely something I'd make again. I think you could easily substitute chicken for the pork as well.

The picture isn't the greatest. I forgot to take a pic after I had plated, but when I thought of it my plate was kind of a mess, so I took a picture of what was left in the pan. I also keep forgetting to put the Speedlite back on my camera, so the lighting is pretty horrible.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Creamy Chicken Dijon

I know I've mentioned before my great aunt who is (well, was as she passed away a few years ago) a James Beard award winner for a cookbook she authored. One of the cookbooks she wrote was a low carb slow cooker one. My mom had a copy and gave it to me the last time I did Phase One of the South Beach Diet. I hadn't used it, then when I was meal planning for this past week I got it out to see what was in it. I had originally slated this for Wednesday night because I knew we'd be getting home late, but then plans ended up changing, so I didn't make it. I had meant to make it for Saturday night then but forgot. So it then became our Sunday night dinner.

Creamy Chicken Dijon
Source: Low-Carb Slow & Easy by Frances Towner Giedt

2 large leeks, white part and 1 inch pale green
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp crushed dried tarragon
1-1/2 ounces prosciutto, cut into 1-inch wide strips
1/2 cup white Burgundy wine or low-sodium canned chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cut the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and wash well. Thinly slice on the diagonal. Place the leeks in the bottom of a 5-quart or larger crockery slow cooker.

Rinse the chicken; discard any fat. Pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. In a small dish, combine the Dijon mustard and tarragon. Spread on the chicken pieces and wrap strips of the prosciutto around each piece. Place the chicken on top of the leeks. Pour the wine over the chicken.

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 2.5-3 hours. Transfer the chicken to a heated serving platter. If cooking on low, increase the temperature setting to high. Whisk the cream into the pan juices and cook, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Info (per serving):
222 calories, 12 grams fat, 24 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates


The store where I did the bulk of my grocery shopping last week didn't have leeks. I tried another store. They only had organic leeks, which I was okay with, except that they all looked horrible. You know how if you leave green onions in your fridge too long they get kind of slimy and stick together? That's about what these leeks looked like. I wasn't paying good money for bad leeks. So I skipped that part of the recipe. And I couldn't find any tarragon in my pantry, so I used Italian seasoning instead. I also used all chicken breasts because I didn't have any chicken thighs on hand. And since wine isn't allowed in Phase One, I used chicken broth instead of a white Burgundy wine. And half and half instead of cream. So really I kept very little of the original recipe intact.

We were all kind of ho-hum about this. My sauce didn't really turn out, and the chicken really needed some sauce. My kids resorted to dipping theirs in ketchup. I have some ketchup issues, but if it got them to eat...fine. And they both did eat all the chicken that was on their plates. Whenever I cook chicken in the crockpot, it's so dried out when we eat it. That's my only real complaint. And the dijon mustard didn't provide a whole lot of flavor like I thought it would. I think this dish done in the oven instead of the crcokpot would turn out a lot better.

Sadly, it's probably not something I'd make again. Also sadly, my memory card wasn't in my camera, so I didn't get a picture of it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back in the saddle!

Be ready for some new blog posts this coming week!! I was staring at my cookbook bookshelf, eyes glazing over as I was overwhelmed with choices, trying to decide which book to choose for this coming week. The husband wandered in and offered to choose for me. He picked America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

I haven't made anything from it yet, so I'm pretty excited he chose it. I might have gone a little carb crazy on my meal planning since we're wrapping up Phase One of the South Beach Diet.

Can I interrupt myself to say that I met my goal weight?!?!?!? Of course I's my blog. I honestly don't know when the last time was that I weighed this little. It was definitely before my wedding and before I was engaged, so some time between college (although at the end of college I know I weighed less than I do now) and a year or two into my relationship with the husband. regardless, it's very exciting.

Anyway, there's lots of new and exciting recipes coming this week, so stay tuned!!

Pimento Cheeseburgers

Not that long ago I bought a special America's Test Kitchen magazine, The Best of America's Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2011 I'm pretty much a sucker for any kind of special edition magazine they put out. I couldn't remember if I'd read through all of it, so I stuck it in when we went to CA a couple weeks ago. There are some fabulous things in it--of course--but one thing immediately jumped out to me:


I heart me some pimento cheese. My grandma used to make it, and I loved it. I found out the husband loves it, so I started making it. This was years ago. Actually I think when my grandma found out that the husband loves it, she'd make it special for him. Anyway, we love pimento cheese. And a burger stuffed with it?! Awesome. I couldn't wait to try it. Plus I figured, sans bun, it would be a great dinner for one night while we were doing Phase One of the South Beach Diet. Technically you aren't supposed to have cream cheese, but there are only two ounces of it in the whole recipe, so I figured that was fine.

Pimento Cheeseburgers
Source: America's Test Kitchen

6 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated fine (about 1.5 cups)
1/3 cup drained jarred pimentos, chopped fine
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup whole milk
1-1/2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix cheddar cheese, pimentos, cream cheese, mustard, and cayenne in bowl until well combined. Drop four 2-tablespoon portions of pimento cheese mixture on plate and cover tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Combine remaining pimento cheese with mayonnaise, cover with plastic, and refrigerate.

Combine beef, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper in large bowl and gently knead until well combined. Divide meat into 4 equal -portions. Mold half of 1 portion of meat around 1 piece of the frozen cheese, then surround this mini-patty with the remaining half portion of meat. Repeat with the remaining frozen cheese and 3 portions meat to form 4 hamburgers.

Heat vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Add patties and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes. Flip burgers, cover skillet, and continue cooking until well done, about 6 minutes.

Distribute cheese-mayonnaise mixture evenly on top of burgers, cover, and cook until mixture is slightly melted, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Serve.


I ended up finding the recipe online to copy instead of typing it all out. The magazine version has you grilling the burgers, but it was hot here yesterday, so I just did them in a skillet. I did the burgers a little differently, I skipped the bread and milk step and just used ground beef (actually I used ground bison) with some salt and pepper...I'm out of Worcestershire.

These. Were. Tasty. Wow. I only used a pound of meat, so I made three burgers, and the husband and I each had 1.5. We both loved them. The melted pimento cheese inside, the melted pimento cheese on the outside. I definitely thought the meat itself could have used a little more seasoning, but as long as there was some pimento-y, cheesy goodness on the bite, it didn't matter a whole lot. This will definitely become a favorite burger in our house!!

(Sorry, my camera was in the car so the best I could do was a picture on my phone.)