Monday, March 28, 2011

"Breakfast in a Bite ... A Wee Bit of Scotch Eggs"

Scotch Eggs

Brunches are a big part of my social life ... and so are breakfasts "on the go".  Today was one of those days.  Got me thinking to my Grandmother's recipe for Scotch Eggs, which is perhaps the most ingenius and inventive way to serve, and eat, breakfast.  What's better than a delicious hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded and baked to a crispy brown?  I made these for our annual pot luck party last year and received accolades from people of all ages ... yes, even kids.  The best thing about this recipe is that it can be tweaked to add other ethnic influences and flavors.  But, my family's are the best

Scotch Eggs are ridiculously simple to make, satisfying to eat at anytime of day, and will be the talk of your next brunch.  I make up a batch on a Sunday morning, and we nosh on the leftovers all week long.  The best part of this meal (yes, it's a meal) is that it saves you the hassle of having to make 2, 3 and sometimes 4 different types of eggs to order for the family at breakfast time.  That's more time for mama to relax, sip her latte and think about how she can spend her newly-found free time not in the kitchen! 

Ingredients:  (The quantity of eggs used depends on the amount of people you are serving)
Hard boiled small eggs (don't overboil your eggs, otherwise the yolks turn green)
2 lbs. ground pork breakfast sausage (I buy the tube)
1 bottle Catalina or Red French/Russian Dressing
Seasoned regular or panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Keep hands moist with water as you work sausage meat around each hard boiled egg.
- Form into egg-shaped ovals.  Try not to make your finished "eggs" too big. 
- Roll each sausage/egg oval thoroughly in bread crumbs to coat.
- Drizzle dressing on top once you place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until brown and crisp and sausage meat is cooked.
- The sausage may crack open revealing some egg.  Always a good thing! 
- Serve either warm or cool with remaining dressing as a dipping sauce on the side.
- Sometimes, I slice the eggs open to add a little interest to the plate. 
- A dash of paprika on the exposed yolk is always a nice touch.  I also add a twist of ground kosher or sea salt on top of the eggs.
- In my household, we always make sure a good bottle of hot sauce is in sight.  Enjoy!

**  My mother cuts her hard boiled eggs into quarters when making this dish.  I've made it with quartered eggs or whole eggs.  I prefer using small whole eggs because of the way I plate this dish.  It's really up to you!  Have fun bringing this quick and easy family tradition into your home! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"En-DIVE Right Into These Salads"

Endive "Salads"  (Serves 8 Guests)

I've learned that the best way to get my husband to eat more salad is to make them interesting.  I try, every single day, to make my salads memorable.  Texture, flavor and protein are key!  And, what's better than a salad you can grab with your hand?  For years, I made these endive "salads" with crab, but, more recently, I've modified my existing recipe to include chicken for those allergic to shellfish.  The recipe for the salad filling is exactly the same either way you prepare it with the exception of the main protein.  These are perfect before your main dinner and make awesome hors d'oeurves at cocktail parties.  They make great leftovers and are a wonderful conversation piece when entertaining.  I hope you en-DIVE right in and impress your family and friends with these unforgettable Two Bite Wonders.   

6 large Belgium endives (washed)
2 cans of jumbo lump crab meat (or one package of Perdue Fit & Easy boneless chicken breasts)
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
White wine vinegar
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh dill (optional)

- Chop peppers into very small square cubes. 
- Finely chop 1 of the Belgium endives.
- Drain 2 cans of jumbo lump crab meat.  Then finely chop all of the crab meat.  (Can be subsituted with chicken).
- In a large bowl, blend crab meat, peppers, and endive.
- Add to this bowl the juice of 1 half lemon (fresh juice), a small splash of olive oil and a heaping teaspoon of white wine vinegar.   Toss this salad filling.
- Salt and pepper to taste. 
- Cut bottoms off of the remaining 5 endives, and separate only the largest, most attractive leaves onto a serving plate.
- With a small spoon, scoop the salad filling into each of the endive leaves.  The leaves sometimes tip, so be creative with plating or place each one tightly against another.
- If serving these at a party, I always garnish with fresh dill or rosemary.  Enjoy!!

(If using chicken instead of crab, simply cook the chicken in a skillet on medium high heat until cooked all the way through.  Usually about 4 minutes on each side.  Do not boil the chicken because it becomes fibrous and will not chop well.  Once cooked, refrigerate it until cold and then chop it into small square cubes.  Remember to allow the chicken to get to room temperature before chilling.  If you are feeling bold and decide to make a mix of crab and chicken "salads" to accommodate anyone with a food allergy, always remember to use different mixing bowls, utensils and serving plates!)

It is always ideal to prepare the salad filling the night before to allow the acids to work their magic.  Also, place the endive in the freezer up to 30 minutes before slicing to make a crispier crunch and to prevent wilting upon serving.   Taste the salad filling before you scoop it into the leaves.  It should pack a nice punch and be quite savory.  If necessary, add the remaining juice from the half lemon and a splash of white wine vinegar with a little salt and pepper to taste.  If in a time crunch, you can use Perdue Short Cuts (original style) for the chicken salad, but I find it can be stubborn in absorbing the acids.  Finally, any leftover salad filling (crab or chicken) is absolutely delicious on bread for sandwiches or scooped up onto pita chips.  I've even toted the filling in a tupperware and eaten it plain when on the go during my busy day.  It lasts up to 7 days in the refrigerator.  What a time saver!  That's a win for the working woman ... or the busy mom!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Don't Let Your Man Go Without a Little Mango - Grilled Shrimp with Tropical Salsa"

If it's not what they call fresh salsa, then it has sugar.  Translation:  It's just not that good for you!  I put my own spin on this time-honored chip-dipping garnish by making a unique low sugar, low carb, crunchy, sweet-n-spicy version of it.  My tropical "salsa" goes over big at our parties.  It keeps well in the refrigerator too, which means time saving leftovers!!  Another working girl's dream.  Below is my recipe for grilled shrimp (coconut optional) with tropical salsa.  The salsa recipe stays the same whether you're complementing some fresh seafood or chicken or if you're dunking chips into it.  I use half a batch with crunchy chips for a Sunday afternoon snack with my hubby and use the rest the next night on top of any grilled or braised protein of my choice.  I would be honored if you try it at your next fiesta.

Tropical Salsa:
4 (4-ounce) tropical fruit cups, drained and diced.  I prefer Del Monte.
2 mangos, peeled & diced.
2 tbsps fresh cilantro leaves, rolled and coarsely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 small jalapeno, ribs removed, seeded and minced (WEAR GLOVES)
Kosher or sea salt

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and pepper
Chile powder (a tiny pinch)(optional)
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded coconut (optional)

- Wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- For the mango salsa:  Chop drained fruit into small pieces. Combine the fruit and remaining salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
- For the shrimp:  Place coconut on baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until coconut turns light brown. Set aside.  Toasted coconut adds something to this recipe.  Sometimes I make some shrimp plain and some with coconut. 
- Spear 3 shrimp on each bamboo skewer.  I prefer spearing 3 shrimp on 2 skewers each to prevent spinning while grilling.
- Grill the shrimp on the barbie, mate!  They take about 2-3 minutes total.  Do not overcook shrimp or they get chewy.  Or, if no grill in sight, heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with olive oil cooking spray.  Place shrimp skewers on grill pan. Cook shrimp for 2 minutes per side or until shrimp turns pink.  I lightly salt and pepper them on each side and sprinkle a super tiny dash of chile powder on them. 
- Place shredded coconut on serving plate. Remove shrimp from skewers and do a quick roll in the toasted coconut.
- Place salsa in a decorative bowl and serve with shrimp skewers immediately.

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Which Came First?"

It's almost been a year since I got married ... and bought my first house ... and started at a new firm (all within THE SAME MONTH).  Needless to say, over this past year, I've had some huge life changes to grapple with.  I've always prided myself on my love of cooking, love of eating and my immeasurable love of entertaining.  Nothing brings me more satisfaction than to show others how I feel about them by feeding them.  With a busy career, I let 8 pounds pack on since my wedding to the point that my gown no longer fit.  So, I joined Weight Watchers and am happy to say that I'm down 27 lbs. in just shy of three months and my gown is about 4 sizes too big!!  I've modified my food shopping lists and menus to reflect more healthful options and, for the most part, aim to put whole proteins and veggies on my daily dinner plates.  What's pictured above is my husband's version of a dish that I created that I call "Which Came First?"  He's a voracious eater and very athletic, so I always prepare two breasts with two eggs for him.  A calorie and "point"wise mindful eater like myself only eats one breast and one egg with the asparagus.  I hope you enjoy this dish.  The best part about it is that it's a One Pan Wonder and can be made in about 12 minutes.  A working girl's dream! 

Boneless chicken breasts
Asparagus (bottoms trimmed)
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

- In a large grill pan, preheat the evenly spread olive oil on medium high for one minute.
- Place as many chicken breasts as you need in one side of the grill pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.  The grill pan guarantees perfect grill marks every time.  No pressing down with a spatula, which dries out the meat!
- Once you flip the breasts the first time, add the asparagus spears to the other side of the pan, rolling them in the olive oil and lightly salting and peppering them and the chicken to taste.  These cook quickly and will be done in just a couple of minutes.  You'll know they are done when they feel slightly softened and are a vibrant green.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, remove and plate the breasts. 
- While the chicken is "resting" and the asparagus is finishing up, fry up as many eggs as you would like in the same pan.  The eggs take on the flavor of the juicy chicken, the olive oil and the asparagus.  A runnier egg makes this dish more flavorful and interesting. 
- Once the eggs are done, ever-so-carefully transfer them with a spatula onto each breast.
- Serve the asparagus on the side.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Real Meals for the Working Woman