April 30, 2011

Garlic and Lemon Steamed Whole Artichokes

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I have grown very fond of artichokes. They can be a very meaty addition to salads or dips but are actually a very light food. I have never had steamed artichokes before so Paul's sister and I decided to whip up a batch with a recipe I found as a late night snack slash experiment. 

They came out wonderful. Very much like eating edammame, eating artichokes is somewhat like an activity. For every bit you need to tear away the leaf, dip in butter, scrape the meaty part in your mouth and already start hunting the plate for your next leaf. It was actually quite fun and very tasty. This might have just become my new favorite appetizer or snack to have when company is over.

Garlic and Lemon Steamed Whole Artichokes

Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Recipe by Tyler Florence

4 sprigs parsley
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, cut in half
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 quart chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole artichokes

Put the parsley, garlic, bay leaves, lemons, wine, oil and broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. In the meantime prepare the artichokes.

Wash artichokes under cold water. Using a heavy stainless steel knife, cut off the stems close to the base. Pull off the lower petals that are small and tough. Cut off the top inch of the artichoke andrub with half a lemon to preserve the green color. Alternatively, you may put the artichokes in acidulated water. If you wish, trim the thorny tips of the petals with kitchen shears.

Place the artichokes in the steaming liquid, bottom up. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. The artichokes are done when a knife is inserted into the base and there is no resistance.

To eat, pull off a leaf and scrape the meat off the tender end with your front teeth. Dip the ends of the leaves in lemon juice and melted butter if desired. When you reach the center cone of purple prickly leaves, remove it. This is the choke that protects the heart. Now, scrape away the thistle fuzz covering the artichoke heart and if you want dip the heart into melted butter for a little bit of a sweeter taste. The heart is the meatiest part of the artichoke. Steamed artichokes may be served hot or cold.


April 29, 2011

Disappearing Taco Salad

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Taco Salad is a Mexican inspired dish that my family and I have been enjoying for decades, however my version isn’t exactly like those that you see out in the stores or in recipe books. When you read about different type of taco salads you can find there are millions of variations and just because you say you are making a taco salad… it could really be up for interpretation as to what will be added into the dish.

One thing I pry myself on is taking these delicious, yet unhealthy foods that we devour in our favorite restaurants and grocery stores and I make the same dishes from scratch with all fresh, natural ingredients. There is always something better about eating fresh homemade food rather than mass produced and processed high fatty foods.

I don’t even know how long ago it was or how I came to create this recipe but I have been making this dish for get-together’s, parties and Sundays with the family for a very long time. I only make my dish to serve as an appetizer unless you’re having a varied, pot-luck type dinner of different appetizers and side dishes, which sometime is so much more fun than a traditional sit-down formal dinner. Every time I make this dish, and I do mean every time… the dish is wiped clean. There is something about the fresh layers and the tang-salted taste that make this dish disappear.

Over time I have played with some of the different ways that people put together their taco salads and I always come back to mine as the best. Try and play with this salad by adding some of your favorite toppings to make this dish more your own, with of course whatever type of chip or tostitos to scoop up the goodness as well. As I further along my own cooking style and create new and tasty dishes… this is still an original dish that I am asked to make time and time again. 

Disappearing Taco Salad
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 jar Taco Sauce
One 15-ounce can refried beans
1 cup guacamole
1/2 med. head lettuce, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped and patted dry
1 (6 oz.) can pitted ripe olives, sliced
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips

In a medium bowl, mis together the cream cheese and the taco sauce until smooth with a pink coloring to it. 

Spread the mixture along the whole bottom of a decorative deep-dish non-metal serving pan. Spread the beans in an even layer on top of the cream cheese mixture. 

Now, going in layers, spread the guacamole on top of the beans, add the chopped lettuce, the tomatoes, olives and then top with the shredded cheese.

If serving as an appetizer, place chips in a basket and serve alongside.


April 28, 2011

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

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I have probably expressed time and time again my love for fish. It’s one of those foods that are so healthy for you, also infamously know as “brain food”. Fish is an extremely low in carbs and cholesterol while also providing your body tons of vitamins and nutrients to be a better, stronger you so what’s not to love.

Another reason I have grown such a love for fish is that it is so versatile, kind of like chicken… you can do anything with it. You can bread it, sauté it, grill it, marinade it, put it in tacos, wraps, burgers, practically anything. There are so many ways to have fish that you could eat it every night and probably never have to repeat a recipe for well over a year. This is even better news because being that there are so many different ways to make and flavor fish, there is a good change you won’t get bored of it.

I found this recipe and just to follow my last thought, I wanted to test this out knowing that it had to be a winner with the ginger glaze. My mouth was watering. This Mahi Mahi is bursting with both sweet and sour tastes flavors and being that it’s such a quick recipe, dinner was on the table and being devoured in the matter of only a couple of minutes. Mahi Mahi, also known as Dolphin Fish, has a natural sweet and mild taste already with a firm texture and large flakes so this marinade was going to be perfect to compliment and hold together for this type of fish.

Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, crushed or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6 ounce) mahi mahi fillets
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a shallow glass dish, stir together the honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic and olive oil.

Season fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place them into the dish.

If the fillets have skin on them, place them skin side down. Cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the dish, and reserve marinade.

Fry fish for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets to a serving platter and keep warm.
Pour reserved marinade into the skillet, and heat over medium heat until the mixture reduces to a glaze consistently. Spoon glaze over fish, and serve immediately.

Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Original Recipe by AllRecipes
Tips on how to handle ginger root:
When peeling ginger, it is easiest to scrap the peel with the back of a spoon and the skin will peel right off. Once the ginger is fully peeded,  you can chop or shread any way you would like.


April 26, 2011

My Go-To Pastry Dough

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There is never an occasion that some type of pastry dish wouldn't be appropriate. For Easter, I was in charge of making dessert for the whole family... a wonderful turnout of 29 people at my Grandma's house. I went crazy in the kitchen making two galettes, a tart, cupcakes, a crisp and a chocolate ganache... it was a huge hit. I was very pleased how everything came out and half of them are thankful to this foolproof pastry dough. You can transform any dessert you make but it always needs to start with a strong and tasty base, and this is it.

This dough is, as I said, fool proof... and you can make this dough up to 4 days in advance so it's even more convenient to your schedule. I made my dough two nights before as we had a wedding on Saturday night so Friday I made my dough and left it in the fridge. Once Sunday morning came around I rolled out my dough, mixed my filling, dumped it in and threw it in the oven. All Done. That is my kinda stress-free baking. 

Most people say that you are either a cook or a baker... I was given the huge compliment by Paul after this weekend that I am both, and not just average but excellent at both. I was so pleased how wonderful everything tasted and how beautiful it all looked together, so many colors, fruits and flavors. There is so much you can do with pastry dough that I know I will be expanding my creativity for my next treats. Mentioned previously, this is what I like to call stress-free baking which makes my life so much easier. Try it out and you let me know what you think, I'm sure you will not be disappointed.
My Go-To Pastry Dough 

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
11 tbs cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
3 tbs whole milk

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl with a hand mixers (or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment if you have one). Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and add them to the flour. On low speed, mix the butter and flour until the flour is no longer white and holds together when you clump it with your fingers, 1 to 2 minutes. If there are still lumps of butter larger than the size of peas, break them up with your fingers. Run a spatula along the bottom of the bowl to loosen anything stuck to the bowl. 

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and milk and add them to the flour mixture. On low speed, mix until the dough just comes together, about 15 seconds; the dough will be somewhat soft. Unless you have a stand mixer, dump the dough onto a clean counter and work it with the heel of your hand, repeating until the dough comes together and is pliable. I also like to throw the dough in my hand similar to pizza dough throwing and it pushed the dough around to form a nice round dough.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a flat disk, wrap it in the plastic, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes (or up to four days) before rolling it out.
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeño

April 23, 2011

Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail

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Mimosas are the usual for Saturday morning brunches but sometimes all that acid from the orange juice can really be too much on my stomach. There is also my constant desire to change things up and test out new flavors and cocktails. 

This Pomegranate cocktail is one that I have been gushing over for about a week now since I discovered it and I haven't been holding this drink to only it's normal appearance at brunch time either. I have never been a huge pomegranate fan, not that I don't like the flavor but it never really jumped out at me as a fruit I had to have until this cocktail. The blend of the juices and the champagne make for such a light drink, not syrupy and not too acidic that you could only have one. 

As with any Champagne cocktail, for this recipe you want a moderately priced sparkling wine that tastes good enough to sip on its own, but that you'll feel all right about mixing. There are plenty of good choices, including Italian proseccos and some American sparklers. Steer clear of anything over $15 because remember, you are mixing the drink so save the true Champagne and good sparkling wines for sipping on their own.

So light and refreshing, it's a perfect brunch-time, summertime or anytime cocktail when you want a crisp and tasty way to kick-off your weekend.
Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail
Recipe and photos by A Heathy Jalapeno


3 tbs simple syrup
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened pure pomegranate juice (like Pom brand), chilled
1 750ml bottle Prosecco or dry Champagne, chilled

OR for the quick and easy...

1 750ml bottle Prosecco or dry Champagne, chilled
1 1/2 cup sparkling pomegranate soda (from Stew Leonard's)

In a small pitcher, stir together the pomegranate juice and 3 Tbs. of the simple syrup. Fill six champagne flutes about one-third full with the pomegranate mixture. Top with the sparkling wine, dividing it evenly among the flutes. 
Serve immediately.

April 22, 2011

Baked Bay Scallops

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You really can't go wring with scallops and they are so hearty you can serve them as appetizers or as your main course. My girlfriend Alison gave me this recipe that she got from All Recipes and then we both adopted the recipe to our liking. 

If you are ever came home late from work and are in a rush for a really tasty quick dinner, this will now become your go-to. Simple, simple simple, something I read today from another friends blog that really just hit home because it is so true. Our lives are so filled with our work, appointments, mind clutter that sometimes when you get home you need simple and easy that just works. Here it is, simple, simple, simple. It is literally a toss toss bake and serve dish in 20 minutes... and how can you go wrong with that.

The scallops really do take on a flavor of their own with the saltiness of the butter and the spicy breaded crunch from the topping, very delightful. On your next busy-crazed night give this one a shot... you wont be disappointed.

Baked Scallops
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Recipe Adopted by All Recipes

4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 pounds bay scallops, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I used Stew Leonard's chipotle bread crumbs)

1 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
4cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour melted butter into a 2 quart oval casserole dish. Distribute butter and scallops evenly inside the dish.

Combine the bread crumbs, garlic pepper, paprika, parsley, minced garlic and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle this mixture over the scallops.

Bake in pre-heated oven until scallops are firm, about 20 minutes.

...and you're ready to serve.


April 21, 2011

Apple Galette with Ginger Glaze

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I love getting together with friends. Longs nights, yummy food and sweet wine... you can't beat that. My best friend Alyssa came over tonight with her two wonderful daughters, Avery (4) and Charlotte (8 mos) and we were all just sitting around the kitchen as the sun went down and it was so nice and relaxing...there was nothing more to add than lots of laughs and the best apple galette. It's like a taste of the fall harvest but in the springtime. 

Dessert is something that most people tend to shy away from because it's too fattening and unhealthy, however, not all desserts have to be that way. As we head into the heart of fruit season and have so many fresh fruits and vegetables available, why not take advantage and dip into this healthy treat. I just love spending time with my girlfriend and her two girls are so wonderful so we decided to cook up some tasty dinner and then laid back on the couch and enjoyed this amazing dessert with a little dollop of ice cream. It was a perfect night with a great treat.

This galette is very light with the crisp apples so I think this will be a crowd favorite all around.
Apple Galette with Ginger Glaze
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno


1 sheet (about 9 oz.) frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced (no more than 1/8 inch thick)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. apple spread jam
1 Tbs. water
1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
Pinch salt

Heat the oven to 425°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 13-inch square. Trim off the corners to make a rough circle -- it doesn't need to be perfect.

Slide the dough circle onto a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Prick the dough all over. Arrange the apples in neat concentric circles, just barely overlapping the slices, leaving about a 1-inch border of pastry. Dot the apples with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar.

Fold the pastry edges up over the apples to make a 1-inch border. Bake until the dough is medium brown at the edges and underneath and the edges of the apples just begin to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Slide onto a cooling rack.
As the galette cools, put the jam, water, ginger, and salt in a small saucepan over low heat (or in a glass bowl in the microwave) and heat gently until it just starts to bubble. Stir to blend and remove from the heat. Strain the jam glaze to remove the ginger pieces, or just push the ginger aside. With a pastry brush or a small spoon, lightly glaze the apples and the pastry edge. 
Serve the galette hot or warm.
Come see how Easy Everyday Eats made out on this same galette. 

April 18, 2011

Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Zucchini over Egg Noodles

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I guess by now you can start to see that I love shrimp. The best memories I have of shrimp are on Christmas morning when the whole family would get together at my grandmothers house and we would wait for the shrimp cocktail to come out. As that platter would come down the steps to the coffee table you could see everyone start to migrate. We would take the closest seat you could to reach the platter and if you were 'beat for a seat', people would start to take their places on the floor around the coffee table just to make sure you were in full reach of the shrimp cocktail so you could hoard as many of them as you could into your mouth... because you knew they were going to be gone before you could blink an eye.  
Needless to say shrimp has always been a favorite of mine. Shrimp also goes amazingly with so many dishes. You can have shrimp in tacos, over pasta, on grilled skewers or even, as I mentioned above, on its own with a little cocktail sauce. Tonight I wanted a very light pasta with meaty shrimp and to make this a full-blown one-dish-dinner, I added zucchini for my veggie...plus it added a nice coloring to my dish.

The garlic and white wine "dressing" to my egg noodles and shrimp was fabulous. It was so light and refreshing, with our added passion for spice. Zucchini is also a great vegetable that I like to use because in instances such as this dish, it creates another meaty-textured ingredient that blends so beautifully with spiced shrimp, white wine and garlic.

Loved it! It was a very filling and delicious dinner without any of the guilt... my favorite type of meals. Paired with a crisp Sauvignon Bordeaux, this dinner was top notch.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Zucchini over Egg Noodles
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

2 ounces whole wheat egg noodles
4 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lg zucchini, halved and sliced
½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp butter
1 huge garlic clove or 2 small ones, minced
1 tsp minced shallot
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
½ lemon
1 ounce dry white wine
1 tbsp parmesan cheese

Cook the egg noodles in boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.

In a cast iron or regular non-stick skillet, heat the oil and butter together. When hot, add the shallot and sauté for 2 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds then add in the zucchini and saute. 

Add the shrimp, wine, and lemon juice and cook for 1 minute until the shrimp are pink and curled.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste, and then add the hot egg noodles. Serve with Parmesan cheese on top.


For defrosting frozen shrimp:
Open the bag and dump the frozen shrimp into room temperature water in a bowl and let sit, dumping and re-filling the water until de-thawed.


April 16, 2011

My 1st Attempt at Traditional Eggs Benedict

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Paul and I are house sitting this week and taking care of their two beautiful 215+lb Bull Mastif puppies, Tank and Toby. They are quite commical being that they play like they are little puppies but with being so large they can knock you over if your not looking.

(how handsome)

(so sleepy)

So while I am playing around with the pups this morning enoying the luxury of staying in such a nice house, drolling over their beautifully spacious kitchen I looked at the cooking calendar to find that it's National Eggs Benedict Day. Well seeing as though this was my first morning in the house, I would have to eventually learn my way around the kitchen and what better way to do so then to attempt to make my very first Eggs Benedict to celebrate the holiday.

As I mentioned, I have never made Eggs Benedict before but I had all of the ingredients and I was up for the challange. Turns out, as long you just follow the steps and arrange the sandwhich together in displaying layers, it's really very simple. Toast, fry, poach and blend, what could be simpler. I have had hollandaise sauce before on steak but never on eggs so I could only imagine how good this was going to taste before I actually got to take a bite.

I did it! It was cooked exactly, looked wonderful and had such a great taste. The crunch from the bacon and toasted english muffin was perfect for all the extra dripping hollandaise sauce and runny yolks from the poached egg to sop up. I love broadening my horizons in cooking and trying new dishes and it seems as though some of these easier but intimidating names are the ones I was held back from trying in the past but this really was that easy and even more tasty. 

Traditional Eggs Benedict
Photos by A Healthy Jalapeno
Adopted recipe by Food Network

1 teaspoon vinegar
4 eggs
4 thin slices bacon
2  English muffins

Hollandaise sauce:
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon hot water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and hot

Salt and pepper

Chopped parsley 

In a large skillet, bring 2 inches of water and the vinegar to a boil. Crack one egg into a glass. Reduce water to a simmer and pour egg into water in one quick motion. Quickly add remaining eggs. Let eggs cook for 4-5 minutes. The white should be firm but the yellow should be runny. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
*For an easier way to make this, refer to my Easiest Poached Egg as it was the literly the 'easiest egg' I ever made.

In a non-stick skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and warm. Toast the English muffins until golden. 

For the sauce: Place yolks, water and lemon juice into blender. Blend for 1 minute. With blender 
running, pour butter through open hole of blender lid. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm. 

To assemble eggs benedict t
op each muffin with bacon and a poached egg. Pour warm sauce over and garnish chopped parsley. 

For Vegetarians
: Substitute wilted spinach and a grilled tomato for the ham.


April 14, 2011

Asparagus and Tomato Salad with Feta

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In keeping with the healthy menu and having such beautifully bold colors appearing in the produce isle I had to jump into one of my favorite veggie dishes for a spring dinner this week. Now, the weather has been playing games on us here in Connecticut lately, pulling between the rainy cold days of April and then sprinkling in patches and random days of warm weather and sunshine. Well today the sun was shining and it put me right in the mood for the seasons fresh vegetables.

For some reason the asparagus has been tasting wonderful this year and I dont know if it was all the rain but they just have such a soft and crunchy consistancy to them that I have been cooking as many meals as I can with asparagus so here goes another. I normally make this dish on the grill to give the veggies that nice smoked taste with beautiful grill marks but being that we ran out of propane it was on the plan two for dinner. I decided to blanch the asparagus which is actually my prefered meathod when it comes to eating healthy because all the vitamins and minerals stay right there in the veggie while keeping the bost green coloring of the stalk.

I also took my mini heirloom tomatoes and tossed them just as I had done in my Roasted Broccoli and Feta Salad but I wanted to add crusted bread to create somewhat of a panchetta over my asparagus which gives it a heartier taste with some crunch. The way this salad presents itself just looks so fresh and inviting I am not sure who wouldn't want to delv in. It's like seeing those chocolate fruit-covered edible arrangements. You're sure of what it tastes like but the display and visual apeal of the bright fruity colors just begs you to pick one out of the pot... at least that's how I feel when this dish is complete. It's a great springtime dish that invited attention to the dinner table and to your mouth. This was a large serving I made and it only made it till lunch the following day between the two of us.

Quick to throw together, festive for the table and fabulous to taste.  A new fresh way to get your kids to scarf up their veggies... little and big kids alike!

Asparagus and Tomato Salad with Feta
Recipe and photos by A Healthy Jalapeno

1 tbs. dijon mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
1-1/2 c asparagus
1 pint mini heirloom tomatoes
1 lg slice country-style bread, cubed
1 shallot, minced 
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 c feta cheese
2 tbs fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring a lg pot of water on the stove to boil. 
Wash the asparagus and trim the dried or hard ends off the bottom of the spears.
When the water comes to a boil, dump the spears in the pot and let them sit for 4-6 minutes. Pull out a spear and test it after a couple minutes. When they are crisp-tender pour out the water arrange on a platter and salt lightly. 

In a small bowl whisk the mustard, vinegar salt and pepper. slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk until it is emulsified.

Toss the tomatoes and bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. place the cherry tomatoes and bread cubes onto a rimmed sheet tray and Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the bread cubes are lightly golden brown. 

Arrange asparagus on a platter and top with the tomatoes, croutons, feta and chives. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette.

Crunchy, bright, and flavorful, this is great as a side dish or a nice light lunch.