Sunday, May 30, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast this morning started off with over easy eggs (1 egg and 1 egg white), a pinch of Herbes de Napa (lavender, thyme, fennel seed, savory, rosemary and cracked bay leaves) salt and freshly ground pepper; toast with strawberry jam, 1/4 cup fresh strawberries and two pieces of Morningstar bacon strips.


I’m planning on working today so I can play tomorrow.  I’m feeling like one of the seven little dwarfs…it’s off to work I go! Hope you’re having a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Kudos to all veterans and a special shout out to my brother, who helped serve our country.  Thanks for being so awesome and serving our country!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Channa Masala to the rescue

I know I’m backtracking here a bit, so bear with me.

I got the idea for the Channa Masala recipe on Monday from Eat Live Run, a blog I often frequent.

Fresh ingredients and spices ready to roll in melted butter!




This dish is by far one of my favorite Indian dishes.  By the looks of things, I’m cooking Indian food once if not twice a week; the great thing about this is that MigL doesn’t complain about it and he doesn’t get sick!  Hooray!  He actually likes it – hip, hip hooray!  Although I did find out later after I’d made the dish that he’s not a huge fan of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)…he can take some, but not a lot.  What the?!  I love garbanzo beans.  It’s up there with lentils and black beans.


Channa Masala

Serves 4


2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 inch knob ginger, peeled and chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp tumeric
2 tbsp butter


In a large cast iron skillet, heat the butter. Once melted, add the onions and cook for about 15 minutes on medium low heat, or until golden brown.

Once the onions have caramelized, add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno and stir well. Cook for about two minutes or until it starts to smell like heaven on earth.

Add the tomato paste and pince, using above photos as an example. This is very important and if you don’t do it right your dish is pretty much doomed. No pressure.

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne and tumeric and stir well. Then add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and garam masala.

Cook for about five minutes or until the chickpeas have heated through. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and top with plain yogurt and cilantro if desired!

Latin Cook’s notes

This dish paired wonderfully well with Trader Joe’s Garlic Naan (from the frozen section).  It was very filling, delish and the flavors weren’t too overpowering!  I’d definitely make this dish again.

Roasted Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Asparagus

What a great morning today!  I hadn’t had cereal since last weekend, as breakfast during the week is normally yogurt with banana and granola.


Today I spent the day relaxing, reading and doing a little cooking.  MigL really loved the flavors of the following chicken dish and I’m incredibly happy this dish turned out perfect and it was so easy.  I told MigL, “this would be my comfort food if I were a kid coming back home.  Except that my parents didn’t cook like this.  But when my kids come home, hopefully this recipe will be one of their favorites.”

Here’s how you make the Roasted Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Asparagus:

Combine the mustard, tarragon, garlic, oil, honey, and salt in a medium bowl.  Then add the chicken and coat well.  The reason why you should add the oil first then the honey is because the honey will slide off much easier if the measuring spoon has already been coated with a liquid (it probably won’t work as well with water).  If you switch the order of adding honey then oil, you’ll have a stickier time getting the honey off of your measuring spoon.


Then, add the coated chicken and potatoes into a baking dish.  I initially made the mistake of putting it onto a baking sheet.  I realized what I’d done after I’d put the ingredients on the pan, luckily I realized this before I put it in the oven!  Ugh, one more dish to wash.  Once you place the chicken and potatoes on the baking dish, bake them for 25 minutes.


Then add the asparagus and cook for another 12 minutes.

Buen provecho! (For you non-Spanish speaking folks, it translates to, “enjoy your meal!”


 Recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers.

Servings: 2
WW Points: 12
Cook time: 37 min
Prep time: 16 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy


2 tbsp Dijon mustard, whole-grain
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tsp olive oil, or extra-virgin
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/4 pound Chicken breast, skinless, boneless, raw, or with bone
4 small potatoes (about 1/2 pound) white, purple, or red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 pound asparagus, fresh
1/8 medium lemon, or 2 wedges


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Combine the mustard, tarragon, garlic, oil, honey, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the chicken; toss well to coat.

Place the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the baking dish. Add the potatoes and carrots to the mustard mixture in bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes and carrots around the chicken. Roast 25 minutes.

Meanwhile trim and discard the tough ends of the asparagus; cut into 2-inch lengths. Add to potatoes and carrots in baking pan, stirring to coat asparagus. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken breast registers 170°F and the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes longer.

Cut the chicken breast in two. Wrap and refrigerate half for up to 3 days for later use. Thinly slice the remaining half chicken breast from the bone (discard the bones) and serve with the vegetables and lemon wedges. Yields about 5 thin slices chicken and 11/2 cups vegetables per serving.

Latin Cook’s notes

One of my favorite parts of this dish were the potatoes!  I was thoroughly excited when the chicken turned out moist, juicy and it had awesome flavor.  While making this dish I thought, “how does this work with tofu?”  I used extra firm tofu, mixed it in the same ingredients as the chicken but it didn’t deliver.  It was a bit soggy, even though I drained as much water as I could.  I only had regular Dijon mustard on hand, but the Dijon, needless to say, definitely delivered on the chicken.  I didn’t have fresh tarragon, but I did have Herbes de Provence; however, HDP has tarragon, along with some other spices, so it worked wonderfully.  I only had small white potatoes and I didn’t think it took anything away from the dish.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, Julie and Julia!

For the past couple of days I’ve been reading a book my sister-in-law sent me and it’s been a ritual since she sent it to read a few pages every night.  I’ve even set my alarm (it’s actually a timer that’s set to the sounds of the ocean with the seagulls chirping squawking in the background, which by the way is also the way I fall asleep).  In any case, I’ve set it every night for 30 minutes because I know otherwise I’d be reading it for at least an hour every night.  It’s also only 30 minutes because  by the time I’m in bed, it’s already 11 p.m.  So what is this book I’ve been reading?  Julie & Julia.  You’d think that I would have already read it, considering I’d previously blogged about how great of a movie Julie and Julia is.  After previously watching it in theatres when it came out, I’d watched it twice in a row on DVD…once in normal format and the second with the director’s commentary, which by the way wasn’t especially intriguing, because she didn’t really give very many details.   A bit disappointed.

julia-child_meryl-streep Anyway, I’ve love reading this book.  It’s my very own page turner and it’s just as addicting as reading the medical thrillers I love (authors like Michael Cook and Clive Cussler).  It’s like an orgasmic foodie thriller.  Can that be considered a disease? Oh, it’s OK, you have OFT.   Also, can Drama for Foodies be a new section in the library?  HEAVEN!  I like it. 


I can’t imagine what it’d be like to come home at 9 p.m. and begin making dinner…oh wait, I can, because it’s happened before.  However, making 6+ new dishes a week? That I can’t imagine.  By the time I get home it’s already 8:30 p.m. and I’m normally too pooped to make a complicated dinner.

That said, I’m so glad I didn’t have to make dinner tonight.  Leftovers from a free meal at work (holla!).  It basically consisted of black beans, rice, spiced chicken, a mixture of chopped onion and cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.  Yep, Mexican fast food.  It’s an awesome day when you can take a break from cooking and actually enjoy an evening! :)  Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, but it’s nice every now and again to get a break.

As I was driving home after work all I was thinking about was doing some catch-up blogging and reading my book.  You’d think that I’d be distracted on the drive home by the sun that was coming out through the rainy clouds, the beautifully lush vineyards and a rainless drive.  Nope.  Home. Blog. J&J.  Check, check and soon-to-be check.  Today’s day at work consisted of going out into the vineyards and doing a site visit to meet all the workers and actually get to know where the company vineyards are located.  It was a pretty great half day out of the office.

017clusters of soon-to-be grapes.

Breakfasts on the weekend are probably one of my favorite times to have a great meal.  For some reason they taste so much better, I’m so much more relaxed and I actually enjoy and savor my meal.

Pancakes always have a special place in my heart, even though I didn’t grow up eating them.  Breakfast at my parents was usually some oatmeal concoction that my dad made that included milk, cinnamon sticks and oatmeal.  But here was MY breakfast this past Sunday morning:

I’m happy to report that I bought and used the Bisquick mixture – I couldn’t bare to use the Fiber One pancake mix again, because I knew I’d be sorely devastated and disgusted.  I’m a Bisquick devotee for life!

002 I’ve replaced pancake syrup with honey which fills in the sweetness factor.


This concoction, however appetizing it might look, didn’t actually deliver in taste.  It’s a mixture of a cup of fresh strawberries, some milk and vanilla extract.  It normally delivers, but this time I had to put some sugar in it – it didn’t help much.

Monday:  Chicken Saagwala and Garlic Naan!  I love how easy this dish is to make.  I got the Garlic Naan from the frozen section at Trader Joe’s.  Call me crazy but I feel the frozen ones taste better than the Naan in the usual bread section.

Chicken Saagwala and Garlic Naan

Tuesday: Microwave enchiladas – tortillas (heated up for 30 seconds in the microwave), adding tomato sauce, cheese, shredded rotisserie chicken, rolling them up as a burrito and adding more tomato sauce and cheese.  They were so yummy and cheesy!

Tonight:  Had a really late lunch so I wasn’t hungry.  Nibbled on leftovers from lunch.

Chicken Saagwala


2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 tsp curry powder, mild variety
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, finely chopped
2 large garlic clove(s), finely chopped
1 pound(s) uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 large tomatoes, ripe, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
10 oz spinach, baby leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup(s) water
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped


Place 1 tablespoon of oil, curry powder, coriander, cumin, ginger and garlic in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil and chicken to skillet; stir to coat with spiced oil.

Add tomatoes to skillet; cover skillet and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover skillet and stir to combine.

Add spinach to skillet; cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Uncover skillet and stir to combine.

Add salt, water and cilantro to skillet; simmer for 1 minute. Yields about 1 1/2 heaping cups per serving.

Latin Cook’s notes

Another dish I’m curious to try to replace chicken with tofu….

I’m off to read J&J!

Whole-Wheat Shells with some yummy and not-so-yummy veggies

Written May 6, 2010

How difficult is it really, to find an Iron Man 2 inspired menu?  VERY difficult.  You’d think it’d be easier to find it, considering it’s debut is this coming weekend!!  I want to make a fantastic meal and share it with some friends using the Iron Man theme but it’s not as easy as I thought it was.  So far, I haven’t been able to find anything.  I suppose I’ll have to make my own.  MigL definitely wants mashed potatoes (he prefers them from the box but I’d rather make them from scratch).  I’m so over the quick mashed potatoes.  I don’t dislike them, but I’d rather make them myself, even if it takes me a little bit longer, because I know what’s really in my mashed potatoes.

Update 5/19:  We decided instead to make English muffin pizzas with cheese, pineapple (our favorite), mushrooms and olives,  (all broiled in the oven for 2 minutes), paired with a mixed greens salad, candied walnuts, raspberry vinaigrette and feta cheese (which I forgot to include until afterward).

Tonight’s dinner was inspired by my e-mail inbox – courtesy of Vegetarian Times.

Whole-Wheat Shells with Asparagus, Peas, Feta and Mint


  • 12 oz. whole-wheat pasta shells
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen baby peas
  • 2 Tbs. garlic oil, such as Garlic Gold
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
  • 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)


    Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus, and cook 4 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove asparagus with slotted spoon; transfer to serving bowl.

    2. Add pasta to boiling water; cook 5 minutes. Add peas, return water to a boil, and cook 2 minutes. Drain pasta and peas, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and return pasta and peas to pot. Stir in reserved cooking water, asparagus, garlic oil, green onions, basil, mint, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, if desired; transfer back to serving bowl; and sprinkle with feta cheese, if using.

    Cook’s notes

    I didn’t have any pasta shells, so I used Fusili pasta instead…I think it still turned out really well.  The definite kicker in this recipe is the lemon zest – A MUST HAVE & USE!  I also didn’t have any mint, thus defying the mint portion of this recipe.

    p.s.  I really dislike peas, so if I can’t taste them, the merrier.  However, I’ve been using them to get more veggies in and bring a smile to MigL’s face, because let’s face it, he adores them.  Perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad.

  • Saturday, May 15, 2010

    Crunchy tuna sandwich

    Just got my Cooking Light magazine in the mail!!  Yippee!  I had one of the most awesome impromptu lunches I’ve ever made today, and without a recipe!  


    My apologies - I was so hungry, took a bite, and then I remembered to take a picture.

    Crunchy Tuna Sandwich

    Serves: 2


    1/8 cup Fat Free Greek-style yogurt
    4 pieces of canned marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
    1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
    6 oz water-packed tuna fish, drained
    1 tsp mustard
    1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    4 slices of Sourdough bread
    garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste


    Preheat broiler.

    Drizzle olive oil onto the Sourdough bread and broil for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

    Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.  Divide the mixture evenly.

    Latin cook’s notes

    You can certainly substitute regular extra virgin olive oil or other olive oils if you don’t have the garlic infused olive oil.  Instead of drizzling olive oil on both sides, I actually only drizzled and toasted it on one, so when I put my sandwich together, I placed the crispy side with the mixture on top, so that I would have the soft part on the outside.  I really loved the crunchiness from the bread on the inside, the softness on the outside, and also the crunchiness from the red bell pepper.


    Honey Berry Smoothie


    1  tbsp honey
    1 large banana
    1 1/2 cups Silk Vanilla Light
    1 cup frozen mixed fruit
    1/2 cup mixed berries 
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup ice cubes


    Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Muy caliente!

    That’s how my mouth feels after having tonight’s Thai-style dinner.  I got the recipe from this week’s Weight Watchers weekly and it was dee-licious, with a capital D.


    I realized tonight that I need to get back to the basics of my healthy eating.  Life has gotten a bit crazy since MigL has been out of work for a few months and I’ve gotten stressed out thinking about it (or not thinking about it at times) and have somehow turned to food for comfort.  I’ve never done this in my entire life before, so why should I start or rather, continue, now??  I’ve gained a few pounds back, but I’ve decided that I need to get back to the basics – continue eating healthier, monitoring portion sizes, avoid mindless eating and getting some exercise.

    Food does not control me, I control it.  I will not let circumstances beyond my control affect my eating habits that will derail me from leading a healthy lifestyle. Mind over matter! 

    I was talking with one of the gals at the meeting with which I've become close to, and she mentioned something that stuck with me.  She was telling me about the first time she stepped on the scale at WW.  The receptionist could tell she was nervous about weighing in and told her “Don’t worry, you’re never going to see this number again”.  And since her first weigh-in over 2 years ago, she’s lost over 100 pounds.  How amazing is that?!  When you make something you want happen, and work hard at it, and amazing things can happen.

    Thai Chicken Stir-Fry


    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    1lb uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
    1 medium scallion, sliced
    1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
    2 cups green snap beans, each sliced into 3 pieces
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    1 tsp soy sauce
    1 tsp sugar
    1/4 tsp Asian hot sauce, such as chili paste
    1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, Thai or Italian


    Place a large  nonstick  skillet over medium-high heat; add oil and swirl to coat pan.  When hot, add chicken; sauté for 3 minutes.

    Add scallion and garlic, sauté until quite fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add green beans, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and chili paste; sauté until green beans are crisp-tender, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add basil and cook for 1 minute more.  Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

    Latin Cook’s notes

    I used canola oil instead of vegetable, because that’s what I had on hand.  I didn’t have any fish sauce or Asian hot sauce, so I substituted it for red pepper flakes – to my liking of spiciness.  I’m actually curious to see how this recipe turns out using tofu.  I’m sure it’ll actually turn out equally delish.  If anyone tries it out with tofu, can ya let me know?  Instead of the 1 garlic clove, I added three – yes three.  I suppose I’ve become used to dishes having a bit more (umph) flavor and at times prefer it that way.  What the heck, spices don’t have any calories.  Why not?! I didn’t have snap beans, but I did have frozen green beans, so I just popped those right in.  I had fresh Italian basil on hand, so that worked pretty well.  Hmm, seems like lots of substitutions tonight.  Oh well.  That’s sometimes what’s so great about cooking.  Sometimes you can turn what you have into something incredibly amazing and that’s totally OK!

    You can definitely serve this dish with Jasmine rice and complete this amazing Bangkok experience!

    I’m so glad it’s Friday tomorrow!  AND only  2 weeks until Royal Pains premiers its new season!

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