Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Grilled Rosemary-Fig Pork Tenderloin

October 3, 2011

Pork tenderloin is a favorite in our house, so I make it frequently.  I change-up the flavorings depending on my mood, and sometimes it’s perfect grilled with nothing but a little salt and pepper.

On a recent night I was looking at my overgrown rosemary plant and decided to make use of it.  Rosemary pairs very nicely with pork, and gives it a great Mediterranean flair.  I created a simple marinade from the rosemary leaves, olive oil, garlic, and some fig-infused balsamic vinegar for a decidedly Italian flavor.  By using a ziplock plastic bag in which to marinate the pork, you can easily turn the meat inside the sealed bag, plus you save yourself the trouble of cleaning one extra dish.  And a tip–to easily mix your marinade, put the plastic bag in a large measuring cup and fold it open around the top of the cup.  This makes it easy to pour in ingredients without your bag tipping over and spilling!

The result was delicious, although you have to be careful to keep the grill temperature low, so the sugars in the fig vinegar don’t burn too much ( a little charring is preferable, in my opinion…just don’t go overboard!).  Depending on the size of your tenderloin, the cooking time could vary from as little as 20 minutes, to as much as 45, so just be sure to check it fairly frequently.  I paired the meat with some grill-roasted green beans that I drizzled with some garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  Delicious—-and no inside mess to clean up!

Grilled Rosemary-Fig Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4

1.5 – 1.75  lbs pork tenderloin (one large or two small tenderloins)

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped off and stem discarded

1 glove garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

In a large ziplock bag, mix the rosemary leaves, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Add the pork and seal bag securely.  Shake the bag around so all the meat is coated in marinade.  Allow to marinate in fridge for 1-2 hours (or on the countertop for up to 30 minutes).

Preheat grill to medium heat.  Place pork on hot grates and cook until meat begins to release from grates (this could be anywhere from 7-15 minutes depending on size of tenderloin).

Turn meat once or twice until it has nice grill marks on each side and internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Optional:  boil reserved marinade in a saucepan on the stove top until reduced to a syrupy sauce.  Serve over meat.  Note–never use marinade that has been in contact with raw pork unless it is thoroughly boiled first.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Blueberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothies

September 26, 2011

One positive thing about losing power for a few days was that I was forced to do a freezer-inventory.  There were quite a few things past their prime which were relegated to the trash.  I also made a few nice discoveries, like a container of homemade pesto that accidentally got pushed to the back of its shelf.  I was also reminded that I had a few bags of frozen blueberries we’d picked earlier in the summer.  They are perfect for pancakes and muffins, but also for smoothies!  By adding them to your blender frozen, they provide the ‘icy’ part of the smoothie without having to water down the flavor with actual ice cubes.

What I love most about these smoothies is that they are both healthy and delicious, and when made with Greek yogurt and calcium-enriched orange juice, they pack the 1-2 punch (protein & calcium).  I use fat-free plain yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, low in sugar, and adds creaminess.  Don’t worry if you’re kids don’t care for yogurt—-it is undetectable when blended with all the flavorful fruit.

Blueberry Banana Smoothies

Makes 2 cups

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 small banana

1/2 cup plain, fat-free Greek yogurt (or substitute plain regular yogurt)

1/2 cup orange juice (I prefer calcium-enriched)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for approximately 1 minute, or until thoroughly combined and thickened.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

“Greek” Guac

September 19, 2011

I looooooooove guacamole.  It leaves salsa in the dust any day of the week in my book.  avocados have a fair amount of fat, but it’s healthy, plant-based fat, rather than the artery-clogging animal-based fat.  Traditional guacamole is simple–mashed avocado, salt, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and perhaps some jalapeno and minced onion.  Some call for freshly diced tomatoes, others call for sour cream.  I’ve made it in a wide variety of combinations and I love them all.

On a recent night I was making fish tacos and had half of an avocado in my fridge.  Knowing that small amount wouldn’t be enough, I considered how I could ‘stretch’ it a little.  Non-fat Greek yogurt to the rescue!  By adding just a touch of the yogurt, it added creaminess, tang, and smoothed out the consistency of my guacamole.  Best of all, it adds some protein and calcium, which is an added bonus.  Even my all-things-green-skeptical children proclaimed it “mmmmm–delicious!”.

Serve with tacos, on top of a burger, or simply with tortilla chips (check out my easy homemade tortilla chip recipe here).

“Greek” Guacamole

Makes 1.5-2 cups

1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

2-4 tablespoons non-fat plain Greek yogurt (adjust to taste/desired consistency)

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

By hand, mash the avocado with a fork until creamy.  Add additional ingredients and continue to mash/stir until smooth.

In a food processor, add all ingredients to work bowl fitted with the metal blade and pulse until smooth.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Smokefest ’11

July 25, 2011

Three summers ago our friends started what has become a July tradition.  “Big Mike” as my kids call him, has been brewing beer and  smoking meat for years, and his girlfriend is a fabulous cook, gardener, and all-around party planner.  When these New York City mice decided to buy a New York country house, they put their talents together and Smokefest was born.

Of course the highlight of the party is the meat.  Mike gets up at 7am  to start the smokers and prepare the 16 racks of  pork ribs and 15 lbs of brisket.  The brisket and half the ribs are prepped simply with salt and pepper, and the other half of the ribs get a dry rub the night before.  He may be a barbeque weekend warrior, but he’s no hack.  In fact, while smoking ribs for a charity event in Connecticut, Jacques Pepin stopped by for a taste and proclaimed “THOSE are some great ribs!”

Daniela makes a wide variety of side dishes—fresh from the garden.  This year she had a 6 foot grill loaded up with summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and 4 dozen ears of corn.  If that wasn’t delicious enough, she and Mike make a Cilantro-Lime Butter sauce (see recipe below) to brush on the corn which is De. Licious.  There are also salads galore—from potato, to tomato-peach, to cucumber, and more.  This year one neighbor brought some killer mac-and-cheese which you just couldn’t stop eating.

My favorite thing is the “Tavern”, a quaint little outbuilding (which Mike says is a character itself for this party), where little lights are strung along the ceiling, and coolers are filled with homebrewed beer (I loved the “6” a blonde beer), chilled whites and roses, water and soda.  Out back is a fire pit—where my kids spent most of the day filling s’more orders (you could choose from ‘burned’, ‘golden brown’ or ‘plain’ marshmallows, and could have your chocolate ‘very melty’ or just ‘kind of melty’).

It is so much fun to go to a party that’s all about the food.  It’s not anyone’s birthday and no one is being feted.  It’s just a gathering of people who love food, hosted by people who REALLY love food.  I can’t think of a better reason for a celebration!  Go Meat!

Smokefest Cilantro-Lime Butter

Courtesy of Mike and Daniela

3 limes, juiced

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped


In a small saucepan, reduce the lime juice until it is syrupy. Add butter, and melt.  Season to taste with salt and add cilantro at the end.  Brush on grilled corn or any veggies (also makes a great topping for clams!)

Hint:  Mike says you can spice it up by adding 1/2 tsp of chipotle!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Lemony Cocktail for Summer

July 11, 2011

I absolutely love all things citrus–particularly in drink form, particularly in the summertime.  Two of my favorite beverages are the Aranciata and Limonata sodas from Italy.  San Pellegrino makes and distributes them here in the US, and they are widely available in grocery stores (usually sold in cans).  The Aranciata is sweet and orange-flavored while the Limonata is lemony and more on the tart side. Both are lightly carbonated.  They are crisp and refreshing all on their own, but also make fantastic mixers!

Lemon and mint are a great summery combination, so I added some vodka to the mix to create a delicious cocktail.  The result is a slightly fizzy lemonade for grown-ups which was recently featured as the Recipe of the Week on   Sip away!

Vodka Limonata with Mint
Makes 2 drinks

2 ounces vodka
1 tablespoon minted simple syrup (see below)
1 can San Pellegrino Limonata Italian soda
1 bunch fresh mint
lemon slices for garnish

Place vodka and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake to combine and divide evenly between two glasses.

Top with about 4 ounces of limonata soda and garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of fresh mint.  Add ice if desired.

To make minted simple syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh mint leaves.  Allow leaves to steep in the hot syrup.  Cool completely, remove mint leaves, and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Not Your College Student’s Ramen

July 5, 2011

“We were wondering if you could create a recipe using dorm ingredients like Ramen noodles?”

It was an unsual request, especially coming from the alumni office at my college alma mater.  As they explained, the alumni magazine was doing a spread on alumni who went into food careers, and thought it would be fun if we each submitted an original recipe.  They thought it would be even more fun if the recipe was created using ingredients which are widely considered “dorm food”.  Ramen noodles, boxed mac & cheese, peanut butter, or canned tuna.  Never one to back down from a food challenge, I accepted.  Oh, and this all had to be done for under $10!

The following weekend I was having a reunion with four of my best college girlfriends in New York City and we went to a new food ‘market’ of sorts called “Smorgasburg” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Think flea-market-meets-food-market.  Stall after stall of people selling delicious foods using interesting ingredients in interesting ways.  One of the stalls was mixing up delicious batches of sesame noodles and BAM I had my idea.  Sesame noodles made with ramen.

After a little trial and error, I came up with this recipe.  You can adjust the spiciness by using more or less of the chili paste (or leave it out entirely), but for me, the spicier the  better.  You can also swap out various vegetables for the carrots and snow peas, like red bell peppers.  Don’t like chicken?  Shrimp is a great substitute.

The long, thin Ramen noodles look suspiciously like the ones in the more “authentic” sesame noodle dish I had in Brooklyn…so hey, who has to know?  It will be our little secret.

Sesame Noodles with Chicken

Serves 3-4

3 – 3 oz packaged Ramen noodles (any variety)

¾ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks (about 2)

1 cup snow peas, cut diagonally (about 4 oz)

2 teaspoons sesame oil


3 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup smooth peanut butter

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1-2 teaspoons red chili paste with garlic (or hot chili sauce with garlic if you can’t find the paste)–optional


¼ cup chopped scallions or chives

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1.  Preheat the broiler of your oven or toaster oven.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place under broiler for 7-8 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Next make the sauce by placing all the sauce ingredients in the work bowl of a small food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add 1-3 tablespoons of hot water if sauce isn’t pourable and blend again.  Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add Ramen noodles (discard seasoning packet) and cook for a total of 3 minutes.  During the last minute of cooking, add the carrots and snow peas.

5. Drain in a colander and place in a large bowl.  Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and toss.  Set aside.

6. Shred the chicken with your hands or two forks and add to the noodles/veggies.  Add the sesame sauce and toss to combine.

7. Garnish with chives, cilantro, and sesame seeds.  Serve immediately.


Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Vote for My Recipe @ Saveur Magazine!

June 21, 2011

Some of you may recognize this recipe as one I taught in my “Sensational Summer Salads Class”…it’s a delicious and colorful salad of roasted red peppers, pine nuts, feta, and olives, perfect as an accompaniment to your next barbecue.    Well, I’ve entered it into a recipe contest at Saveur Magazine, but editors only test the recipes receiving the most votes…so I need your help!  Please take a minute to go to the link below and vote for my “Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Feta” recipe…and more importantly, try it for yourself!  It’s a favorite in my house and hope it will be in yours as well!  Thank you!!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

White Wine Sangria with Mint

June 13, 2011

Inspiration.  It comes in many forms, in varying degrees of intensity, at unsuspected times, and in unusual locations.  While I was in the waiting room of the doctor’s office I was flipping through a food magazine which I had tucked into my purse, anticipating I’d be there for awhile.  As I looked through the pictures, read the accompanying stories, and browsed through the recipes, I was almost giddy with excitement.  All I wanted to do was run out of that office, plan a menu, whip up some pitcher drinks, and invite friends over for dinner.  The funny thing is that I didn’t actually want to make any of the recipes I was reading about—but yet they inspired me to want to go home and cook and create some of my own.  Yes, these are the things that make a food geek tick.

I love entertaining with pitcher drinks (supplemented with bottled beer and some wine) because they are just fun and easy.  It’s too much work to make drinks on a per person basis, so I just pick a drink that goes with the theme of the menu and whip up a big batch.  This particular warm day I decided to make a white wine sangria with grapes, cherries, some orange slices, and my delicious minted simple syrup.  I’m a very visual person and just imagining the colorful fruits swimming around in a pitcher of white wine made me happy.  Who doesn’t love to pour themselves a glass of cheer?

White Wine Sangria with Mint

Makes 1 pitcher –about 6 -8 glasses (double and redouble as needed)

1 – 750 ml bottle white wine (dry is better, but don’t spend a fortune on it)

2 cups of fruit, a combo of grapes and pitted cherries (or other small fruits)

1/2 navel orange, thinly sliced and quartered

2-3 tablespoons minted simple syrup (see below)

1 liter seltzer

fresh mint leaves

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, simple syrup, and fruit.  Allow to macerate for a couple hours in the refrigerator (okay to skip this step, but I recommend doing it!)

Before serving, add seltzer, fresh mint leaves, and some ice.  Serve cold.

(For minted simple syrup, I combined a bottle of purchased simple syrup in a saucepan with a handful of fresh mint sprigs.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep while it’s cooling.  Cool completely and strain out the mint before adding to the sangria.  To make this from scratch, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved, add mint, and allow to steep as directed above.)

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

A Scone Too Good Not to Pass Along

June 6, 2011

I love creating recipes based on something I ate in a restaurant, something I heard about, or whatever is in my refrigerator.  However, sometimes I come across a recipe in a magazine, cooking show, or in this case, from a friend via another food blog, that is just too good not to share.  When my foodie friend Sarah updated her Facebook status with “Feta and roasted tomato scones. Ah mah gah” how could I not be curious?  Well, turns out the recipe is from “Sweet and Savory Life” , a photo-centric food blog written by Alice, a wonderful photographer, home-cook, and mom of three.  Her recipe for Roasted Tomato Feta Scones is wonderful. 

We usually think of scones as sweet, but this savory scone is delicious and would be perfect with brunch, lunch or dinner.  The roasted tomatoes are slightly sweet ( I roasted my own, but you can purchase them already roasted at the grocery store, as Alice suggests), the feta is tangy, and the scallions give a oniony bite.  They are also really pretty–the colors are fantastic.  Okay, so mine weren’t as perfectly triangular as hers, but I’m sure they tasted just as good.  I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for another day.  If you have a food processor (my very favorite small kitchen appliance), they mix up in a flash and are really very simple.  Give them a try–you will be saying “ah mah gah” too.

Roasted Tomato Feta Scones from Sweet and Savory Life

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Papparadelle with Zucchini Ribbons and Shrimp

May 23, 2011

You’ve probably figured out by now that I love food.  I love thinking about food, I love creating recipes, I love cooking, and I especially love eating.  When one of those recipes I’ve created turns out to also be incredibly easy but doesn’t compromise on taste, well, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

Pasta is one of my favorite things to cook because it is like a blank slate.  There are thousands of different things you could do to make thousands of entirely different dishes.  Different shaped pasta, different sauces, different veggies or protein, different cheeses.    Typically, it’s best to ‘match’ your pasta shape to the type of sauce/condiment you’re using…shorter pastas like penne pair better with chunkier sauces, long, delicate pastas like angel hair work better with a cream sauce, or carbonara (egg) sauce. 

Papparadelle is a long, flat  pasta shaped like a wide ribbon.  I decided to use a vegetable peeler to create the same shape with my zucchini as well.  Then all I had to do was zest and juice a lemon, peel my shrimp (I take the tails off too  for easy-eating), and boil some water.  Everything cooks in the same pot, which makes clean-up extra easy.   Simple, really pretty, and delicious.  That’s the perfect dish trifecta!

Papparadelle with Zucchini Ribbons and Shrimp

Serves 4

12 oz papparadelle pasta

1 large zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler (lengthwise)

1/2 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails off

1 lemon

olive oil/salt+pepper

grated parmesan cheese (if desired)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until about 3 minutes short of al dente. 

Add shrimp and zucchini to the pot along with the pasta and cook until shrimp is opaque and cooked through and pasta is al dente.

Drain the entire thing in a collander and place in a large serving bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil to coat, add lemon juice and lemon zest, and grind some fresh black pepper over the top.  Toss to combine and serve immediately, with grated parmesan if desired.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.