Teriyaki Seared Scallops

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I wanted to make a protein to accompany our soba noodle salad.  We had some frozen scallops in the freezer (<GASP>—frozen scallops?!)  Yes, Trader Joe’s sells bags of frozen scallops and I keep them on hand for quick weeknight suppers.  Though they don’t compare to fresh scallops, I think they are quite good!

So I cooked them on our grill pan in this teriyaki glaze.   They were the perfect addition to our noodles!

Teriyaki Seared Scallops:

  • 1/4  cup  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3  tablespoons  dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  rice wine vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon  minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 12  sea scallops
  • scallions, sliced, for garnish

Heat grill pan.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Rinse scallops then pat them dry. 

Place scallops on grill pan.  Carefully brush tops of scallops with half of glaze.  After a few minutes flip scallops and carefully brush exposed sides with remaining glaze.   Cook 1 minute or until scallops are done.  Top with sliced scallions.

Adapted from Cooking Light.

Soba Noodle Salad

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Have you seen the “Going Going Gone” episode of Barefoot Contessa?  In it she makes Crunchy Noodle Salad, Asian Grilled Salmon, and Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberry Sauce.   This episode really makes me want to jump into her kitchen.  (She is my favorite—isn’t her kitchen such a peaceful place?)  I have had this episode saved on my DVR for weeks now because I have been dying to make the Crunchy Noodle Salad.  It is just so appealing! Well I finally made it!

I made some adjustments:

  • Instead of spaghetti, as Ina suggests, I used soba noodles.  Soba noodles are Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour.  The texture of these noodles is fantastic!
  • I had some black sesame seeds on hand so I used those instead of white sesame seeds.
  • I only used one red bell pepper instead of two.
  • I contemplated replacing the vegetable oil with olive oil.  I don’t like cooking with vegetable oil but I feared the olive oil flavor would be too powerful and offset the wonderful flavors of salad so I stuck with the vegetable oil.
  • One adjustment I didn’t make this time but that I will make next time is to use crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth.  I think the crunch of the peanut butter will add to the great textures of this dish.
  • I think julienned carrots would be an excellent addition to boost the crunch factor.

The verdict: FANTASTIC!  

I am not kidding. This is one of the best dishes! It is ABSOLUTELY delicious.   The fresh flavors and combination of textures really make this dish wonderful.  I served it with teriyaki-seared scallops; however, it would be a perfect accompaniment to steaks, salmon, or any other grilled protein.  Furthermore, this is a perfect dish to bring to a picnic, cookout, or potluck.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Barefoot Contessa’s Crunchy Soba Noodle Salad:

  • 1/2 pound soba noodles
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, divided
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions (with and green parts), sliced diagonally
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

    Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.

    For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.

    Combine the noodles, sugar snap peas, peppers and scallions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and toss together.

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    Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Crunchy Noodle Salad.

    Portobello “Philly Cheese Steak” Sandwich

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    I previously mentioned that I researched some Portobello mushroom recipes.  This one appealed to me (A) because I LOVE sandwiches (B) because it reminded me very much of these delicious steak sandwiches  (minus the steak) and (C) because my husband loves peppers and I knew he would really enjoy this meatless version of the classic Philly Cheese Steak. 

    While this is certainly not a replacement for the traditional shaved steak and cheez whiz combo, it is certainly a delicious, satiating, and fun spinoff.  It is an easy weeknight supper.  And nutritionally, the rainbow of peppers score off  the charts for the amounts of nutrients they contain while the meaty Portobellos are an excellent source of the B vitamins (niacin, potassium and selenium).

    I served these with balsamic roasted asparagus and green beans. Delicious!

    Portobello “Philly Cheese Steak” Sandwich:

    • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 large Portobello mushrooms
    • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
    • 1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
    • 1 large orange bell pepper, sliced
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
    • freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste
    • 1/4 cup vegetable, chicken or beef broth
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 thin slices reduced-fat provolone cheese
    • whole-wheat buns, split and toasted

    Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, oregano and pepper and salt and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are wilted and soft, about 7 minutes.   Stir in broth, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, lay cheese slices on top of the vegetables, cover and let stand until melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
    Divide the mixture into portions with a spatula, leaving the melted cheese layer on top. Scoop a portion onto each toasted bun and serve immediately.

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    Adapted from EatingWell.com.

    Taco Salad

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    Spicy salsa! Chunks of avocado! Shreds of iceberg lettuce!  Freshly grated cheese!

    Last week my sister-in-law mentioned that she made a fabulous taco salad for dinner.  She described it with such enthusiasm and detail that I have not been able to get it out of my mind! 

    Done right, a taco salad is a healthy week night dinner, so I decided to give it a go.  Some notes on keeping it healthy:

    • Skip the chips
    • Replace full fat sour cream with Greek yogurt (for a great source of protein) or use non-fat or low-fat sour cream
    • Replace full fat cheese with non-fat or low-fat cheese and use just a sprinkle
    • Use extra lean ground turkey or chicken in place of beef
    • Use nutrient dense lettuce, such as romaine, instead of watery iceberg (something I didn’t do this time!)

    It’s funny—we never eat ice burg lettuce.  It contains mostly water and very little nutrients when compared to its darker leafy friends like romaine, arugula, spinach, Bibb, and Boston.  So having iceberg felt like a treat!  And shredded—I never shred lettuce so it made the salad especially special.  This was a really enjoyable and filling weeknight supper!

    Taco Salad:  

    • 1/2 cup salsa
    • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 pound lean ground turkey (or chicken)
    • 2 large plum tomatoes, diced
    • 1 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 8 cups shredded iceberg (or romaine) lettuce (rinse, spin then shred using a grater)
    • 2 avocados, sliced then cut into cubes
    • 1/2 cup shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

    Combine salsa and sour cream in a large bowl.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook, stirring often and crumbling with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, cumin and chili powder; cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in cilantro and 1/4 cup of the salsa mixture.

    Add lettuce to the remaining salsa mixture in the bowl and toss to coat. To serve, divide the lettuce among plates, top with the turkey mixture and avocado then sprinkle with cheese.

    Recipe adapted from Eating Well.com.

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    Oatmeal Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans

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    I baked this cake for my father-in-law’s birthday and it was a hit!  Everyone loved it!  It was so incredibly moist.  It tasted similar to carrot cake except without the carrots.  And topped with cream cheese frosting, this cake was just delicious.  (Well, you know how I feel about cream cheese frosting!)

    Based on the feedback I received, I have a feeling I will be making this cake quite often!

    Oatmeal Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans:

    • 1 tablespoon  all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/3  cups  boiling water
    • 1  cup  quick-cooking oats
    • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
    • 3/4  cup  packed dark brown sugar
    • 1/3  cup  vegetable shortening
    • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
    • 3  large eggs
    • 1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
    • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
    • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 1/2  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
    • 1/2  cup  buttermilk
    • Cream Cheese Frosting
    • pecans for garnish

    Preheat oven to 350 F.

    Coat bottoms and sides of 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with shortening and dust well with flour.

    Combine boiling water and oats in a medium bowl; let stand 20 minutes. Beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, shortening, and vanilla at medium speed of a mixer for 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add oatmeal, beating until blended.

    Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

    Pour batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack.

    Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread layer with frosting (recipe below), and top with the remaining layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake.   Decorate with pecan halves. Store the cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

    Cream Cheese Frosting:

    • Two 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer, until smooth.  Slowly sift the confectioners’ sugar into the butter/cream cheese, about one cup at a time.  Continue to beat until all lumps are gone.  Add the vanilla and mix until fully combined. 

    Oatmeal Cake recipe adapted from Cooking Light.  Frosting recipe adapted from Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella.

    Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes

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    HAPPY EASTER! 

    I hope the Easter Bunny left you a basket overflowing with Cadburys and peanut butter filled chocolate eggs!

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    For Christmas my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave me this book called Hello, Cupcake!  If you haven’t seen it yet, you must check it out.  The cupcakes in this book are legitimate pieces of art work, and I must say, a little intimidating!  I knew, though, back in December that I wouldn’t be able to resist attempting these Easter Egg Cupcakes!  I’ve had the page marked for four months! 

    The gist of the recipe is this: 

    1. Bake chocolate cupcakes (I used Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery Chocolate Cupcake Recipe)
    2. Trim a graham cracker to the shape of an egg
    3. “Glue” the graham cracker to the top of the cupcake using a dollop of frosting
    4. Decorate the cracker with frosting and sprinkles

    The problem was this:  Each attempt at “trimming” a graham cracker resulted in a broken graham cracker.  My mom and I brainstormed and settled on the perfect solution—to bake sugar cookies cut out in the shape of eggs and use those in place of the “trimmed” graham crackers!  And that is exactly what I did.  It worked out perfectly.  And these cupcakes were so fun to decorate!  I love the bright colors!  And as always, this chocolate cupcake recipe yielded 12 rich, moist, chocolaty, delicious cupcakes.  

    chocolate cupcake + sugar cookie + frosting + sprinkles = easter bunny heaven   

    Chocolate Easter Egg Cupcakes (Flour Bakery Recipe):

    • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop chocolate and place it in a bowl with the cocoa powder. Mix butter, water and sugar in a pan over medium high heat. Whisk until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Pour hot butter mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until chocolate melted and ingredients are combined.  Whisk the egg, milk, and vanilla extract together then whisk into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Sift the dry ingredients together.  Pour the dry ingredients onto the wet ingredients. Whisk  until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the chocolate mixture.  Let stand about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, line muffin tin with liners and then pour the batter (or use an ice cream scoop) into the muffin cups, dividing batter evenly among the 12 cups.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 26-29 minutes. Cool in tin on rack for 15 minutes. 

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    Recipe adapted from Hello, Cupcake! and Flour Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes.

    Mini Pina Colada Easter Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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    Spring is in the air here in Boston (and Easter is less than a weak away!) so I wanted to make some festive cupcakes.  I  still love my mini cupcake pan so I decided to make a mini version of these Pina Colada cupcakes.  I was a little disappointed because I over-baked them just a tad (that is something that can happen easily with these little guys so keep your eye on them!) so they were a bit dry for my liking.  That aside, the flavor was really great.  One thing to note, though, is I did not taste the rum at all.  The pineapple and coconut flavors were most prominent.  I may double the rum next time because what is a pina colada without rum?! 

    I topped these little fellas with  piped  yellow-colored cream cheese frosting and jelly beans.  The lack of rum flavor was most certainly compensated for by the cream cheese frosting, because, well, cream cheese frosting = heaven.  I would consider skipping the rum in all of my cocktails if that meant piles of cream cheese frosting instead!

    One note—Keep the frosting in the fridge while you aren’t using it.  That way it won’t melt. 

    Mini Pina Colada Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:

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    • 1.5 cups flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
    • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
    • 1 tablespoon rum
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1/3 cup crushed pineapple
    • 1/3 cup shredded coconut

    Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line mini cupcake tin with mini papers.

    In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

    In another medium bowl, beat together melted butter, pineapple juice, rum, and vanilla with an electric mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

    With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time until combined.  Fold in the pineapple and coconut. 

    Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full–unless you love the big muffin top then fill them to the top of the liner.

    Bake for about 8-12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack before frosting. (Makes ~48 mini-cupcakes.)

    Cream Cheese Frosting

    • One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer, until smooth.  Slowly sift the confectioners’ sugar into the butter/cream cheese, about one cup at a time.  Continue to beat until all lumps are gone.  Add the vanilla and mix until fully combined.  Add a few drops of the food coloring of your choice and continue to mix until color is evenly distributed.

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    Adapted from Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella available for purchase here.