Friday, January 28, 2011

Update Food Challenge: Phad Thai

I fulfilled my Phad Thai food challenge a little later than planned but I did it! My parents were visiting on the night I decided to make the dish and since they are vegan I thought I would make the dish vegan too. I found a simple recipe and replaced the chicken with tofu. Sadly, the tofu I used was too soft and fell apart while making the dish, but had I used a firmer tofu then I think this recipe would have held up a lot better.

In addition to the Phad Thai, I made Salad Rolls with Peanut Sauce and they were fantastic! I modified the Salad Rolls recipe and left out the noodles and red peppers since I didn't have them on hand and I was still pleased.

Here are all three of the recipes I made.

Vegetarian Phad Thai
1 pound Asian-style rice noodles
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp hot sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 block tofu, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped or crushed peanuts (optional)
4 green onions (scallions), sliced

Cook noodles according to package instructions.
Whisk together the soy sauce, peanut butter, lime juice, hot sauce and sugar.
In a large wok or skillet, sautee the tofu, onion and garlic in sesame oil for a minute or two, stirring frequently. Allow to cook for another minute or two.
Add the cooked noodles and the peanut butter and soy sauce mixture. Stir well, and allow sauce to thicken as it cooks for about 3 minutes. Top with peanuts, bean sprouts and green onions and serve hot.
Recipe found at

Spring Rolls
Chopped romaine or butter lettuce (swiss chard can also be used)
1 carrot, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 package of bean sprouts
1 8x50 g package of vermicelli noddles
Basil or cilantro
9 inch, circular rice paper

Place 9 inch rice paper and a pan, larger enough to fit a piece of rice paper, filled with water. Make sure there is enough water to fully submerge rice paper.
Submerge a piece of rice paper into the water for 10 seconds. Remove paper from water, place on a flat surface, and fill center with a small amount of each filling.
Fold the right and left sides of the rice paper onto the filling and then roll paper from the bottom to the top, making sure the the filling stays in the middle and that the paper is wrapped tightly around fillings.
Repeat until desired number of salad rolls is achieved.
Recipe adapted from Suite101

Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste
1 teaspoon chile-garlic paste
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until well combined, adding more water to thin the sauce if necessary.
Note: We like to use natural peanut butter for this recipe. If you use the conventional kind, add less sugar to the sauce.
Recipe found at Chow

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This is what I made for dinner last night. It was the first time I made it and overall, it turned out pretty good. It was a little thinner than I expected but very tasty. 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

4 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large onion, very well chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
32 ounces cups chicken broth
4-6 cups whole milk
2 cup chopped ham (optional)
6 baked potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
Toppings: bacon bits, sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions

In a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat and saute the celery and onion until they are quite soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add the remaining butter to the pot. Once melted, whisk in the flour to make a thick roux, then turn the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the chicken broth, taking care to whisk out any chunky, floury pieces. Stir in the milk (four cups of milk, if you'd like a thicker soup, and more if you'd like your soup texture to be thinner).
Stir in the ham & baked potato pieces (Note: if you don't have baked potatoes lying around the house, you can either cook them until tender in the microwave--just clean them thoroughly, pierce them with a fork, and zap 'em for approx. 15 minutes--or peel & boil them in a pot of salted water until soft & tender. Either way works!) Salt & pepper to taste. If you're like us, you'll probably want a good amount of salt & pepper to really flavor that soup!
Serve with your favorite baked potato toppings. Enjoy!

Almost forgot to thank Cheeky Kitchen Blog for this recipe.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Parchment Baked Salmon with Lemon and Basil/Dill

Josh gave me a food challenge a couple months ago and all he said was "find a recipe that uses parchment paper." I thought that was an odd challenge but the first thing that came to mind was fish! I got online and did a searched for a simple fish and parchment paper recipe. I found this one on the Whole Foods website and made it just as the recipe called for...with basil. It was good but I wanted to make it better. The next time I made it I swapped the basil for dill and I gotta say, I prefer it this way. So here it is. I'll let you decide whether to use basil or dill. 

Parchment Baked Salmon with Lemon and Basil/Dill

6 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and pepper to taste
6 (15-square inch) pieces parchment paper
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves or dill
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Kitchen twine

Place a large baking sheet on bottom rack of oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Season salmon with salt and pepper. Cut two half inch slices into flesh of each piece of salmon; roll basil leaves (or dill) and stuff into slits in salmon. 

Place a salmon fillet in the center of each piece of parchment paper. Drizzle each fillet with 1 teaspoon of the oil, then place lemon slices on top. Gather sides of parchment up over salmon to form a pouch, leaving no openings, and tie tightly with kitchen twine. Place packages directly on hot baking sheet in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and carefully open packages to release steam before serving.

Per serving (about 7oz/193g-wt.): 450 calories (220 from fat), 15g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 95mg cholesterol, 270mg sodium, 2g total carbohydrate (0g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), 34g protein

Thank you Whole Foods Market

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grilled Scallops with Chili-Lime Cream Sauce

Until about a year ago, I would have told you that scallops were on my 'dislike' list. That was until Costco published their Black Friday cookbook In The Kitchen: The Costco Way in 2008. I found a scallops recipe  in that book (on page 144) and decided to give it a try as part of my weekly challenge. Here's the recipe that changed my impression of sea scallops.

approx. 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves

Chili-Lime Cream Sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 large shallot, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Combine scallops, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes and garlic. Marinate for 30 minutes.

To prepare the sauce, combine lime juice, wine, ginger, and shallot in a small saucepan. Cook over high heat until reduced by half (3 minutes). Add cream, lower heat and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat. Stir in chili sauce. Whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat barbecue (I use my indoor grill) and grill on medium-high heat. Grill scallops until cooked to taste. (Don't overcook!)

Serve scallops with sauce and rice.

Thanks Costco for your yearly cookbooks. You can find this year and past cooks books here. Enjoy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cinnamon Muffins

Yummy! I found this recipe on a blog site that I read and I loved it. It's simple and tasty. Perfect with a hot cup of coffee while reading food blogs. 

Cinnamon Muffins
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
cinnamon sugar - for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare muffin tins.

Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Mix only until moistened. Fill muffin cups and top with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean.

Cinnamon Muffins adapted from Ravishing Relative Recipes. Recipe found at Taste and Tell.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tin Can Chili

A know a few friends who have decided to start Weight Watchers this year and since I'm familiar with Weight Watchers I decided to post one of my own dishes that was discussed at a Weight Watchers meeting that I attended years back. I'm not currently doing Weight Watcher though I love to cook their recipes.

Tin Can Chili
1 pound ground turkey
2 cans (15 ounces, each) diced or stewed tomatoes, with liquid
1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans with liquid
1 can (15 ounces) kidney or chili beans, drained
1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Brown turkey meat and drain.

Combine tomatoes, corn, beans and seasonings together in a large pot over medium heat. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve hot with cornbread.

a) Consider adding onion to the recipe. If so, cook the onion while browning the turkey meat.
b) Serve with sour cream and/or cheese. This is not WW approved. :)
c) Brown meat then add everything to the crock pot and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wildly Organic

A friend of mine introduced me to a fruit and vegetable delivery service called Wildly Organic. She told me that they were a local company that delivered organic fruit and/or vegetables every other week to her doorstep. She pays $35 for each delivery and has a lot of control over the items that are delivered. I was very intrigued and, at the time, disgusted with the produce I had been buying from Albertsons so I did a little research. My friend sent me the list of everything that had arrived in her pak that week so I set off to find out if this was going to be a good option for us. I went to Safeway (a place that I consider to have good produce) and weighed all the fruits and veggies to the same amount that my friend received. I priced everything out by the appropriate cost per pound and came to a total of $36.64. Safeway was $1.64 more than the cost that she had paid! Plus she got everything ORGANIC, many of the items were LOCAL and everything was DELIVERED to her doorstep! How could I not choose to buy my produce from Wildly Organic, the answer seemed obvious?! I came home explained my research to my hubby and we signed up that afternoon. I'm so happy we did. Everything we've received has been great. And if there's something we're not interested in that week, we get online and make adjustments to our delivery.

One way I maximize my delivery is by making my dinner menu/grocery list for the week before my delivery is expected. Then prior to receiving my delivery, I go online and update what I'm expected to receive to match the items that are on my grocery list. It saves me money and it ensures that I'm going to use everything that I receive.

I highly suggest signing up for this produce delivery service. In my opinion, the benefits can't be beat. And if you'd like to do your own research before signing up, I'd be happy to send you my pak list. But take it from me, it's worth it!

Pizza Dough

I have a couple different pizza dough recipes but this is my favorite. It's easiest to make in a standing mixer with the dough attachment but if you don't have one, no worries. You can also make this with a bowl and your hands!

Pizza Dough
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk flour and salt together. Make a well and add the water, sugar and yeast. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. When foamy, mix the olive oil in; knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Brush the dough with olive oil and put in a bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Divide into two 1-pound balls. Use 1 pound per pizza. Bake dough at 500 degrees.

I've found that you can also freeze this dough. Wrap it in saran wrap then place in a freezer bag. The day prior to using it, move it to the refrigerator to thaw. Then it will be good to rise the next day. 

Recipe courtesy of Taste and Tell blog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

On of my favorite crock-pot recipes is Chicken Tortilla Soup. Remember that Juicy Roast Chicken recipe I shared with you the other day? Well, here's something you can make with all that left over chicken.

Note: this recipe can be spicy so if you want to dial it down a bit, reduce the chili powder and use mild enchilada sauce. Also, adding a dollop of sour cream at the end helps tame the spice too.

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cooked, shredded
1 can (15 ounces) whole tomatoes
1 can (10 ounces) enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
1 teaspoon dried chopped cilantro
6 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Grated cheddar cheese and sour cream for garnish.

In Crock-pot, combine shredded chicken, whole tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chilies and garlic.  Add water, chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper and bay leaf. Stir in corn and dried cilantro. Cover and simmer on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of tortilla with vegetable oil. Cut tortillas into strips. Spread tortilla strips onto a baking sheet and bake turning occasionally until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle tortilla strips and grated cheese over soup. Add a dollop of sour cream if desired.


Recipe found in Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes book.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Juicy Roasted Chicken

This was the first recipe that I used to make roast chicken. It received 4.5 stars out of 870 reviews on That alone tells me it's a winner. What I love about it is how simple the ingredients are. It takes my oven nearly two hours to bake (rather than the 1 hour and 15 minutes it suggests) but when I'm busy doing other things I don't even notice the time pass.

This is a great recipe to make on a Sunday afternoon. Then you have dinner ready for that night and lunch meat for sandwiches the next morning. Last time I made this I saved all the meat for Chicken enchiladas the next day.

1 (3 pound) whole chicken, giblets removed
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon onion powder, or to taste
1/2 cup margarine, divided (I use butter since I don't have margarine)
1 stalk celery, leaves removed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Place chicken in a roasting pan, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Sprinkle inside and out with onion powder. Place 3 tablespoons margarine in the chicken cavity. Arrange dollops of the remaining margarine around the chicken's exterior.
3. Cut the celery into 3 or 4 pieces, and place in the chicken cavity.
4. Bake uncovered 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove from heat, and baste with melted margarine and drippings. Cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest about 30 minutes before serving.

Thank you Allrecipes for this awesome dish. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Giveaway: $100 Visa card

One of the food blogs I read is giving away a $100 Visa gift card! Thanks to Taste and Tell Blog and Jimmy Dean, you can enter to win this generous giveaway. To enter you must go to the Taste and Tell Blog here.

Rules: No duplicate comments.  You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
a) In the comments section of the Taste and Tell blog, tell me one change you are making this year to make a better you.
b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) Read the official rules for alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.  Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.  You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. This giveaway will go until January 30th, 2011. A winner will be announced on February 1st. For complete rules, CLICK HERE.
Good luck!

“Healthy” Lemony Angel Food Cake

Yum! For Christmas I received an angel food cake pan and a lemon juicer. I had to break them both in so this is what I made.

The Cake:
1 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 large egg whites
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lemon Cream:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cake flour (not self-rising)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third of oven. Sift flour and 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl.

Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add lemon zest and juice, cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt; continue whisking until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add remaining cup sugar.

Increase speed to medium-high; continue whisking until firm, not stiff, peaks form, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle whites with 1/3 of the flour-sugar mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine. Sprinkle remaining flour-sugar mixture over whites in 2 additions; gently fold to combine.

Transfer batter to a 10-inch angel food cake pan with legs. Gently run a knife through the center of the batter to remove any air bubbles. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, and invert onto its cooling legs (if your tube pan doesn’t have legs, invert it over the neck of a wine, or similarly shaped, bottle to cool); let cool, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove. Invert onto a serving platter. (Use a knife to separate cake from bottom of pan.) Let cool on a wire rack. Unfrosted cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Make the lemon cream: Prepare an ice-water bath. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, flour, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; whisk constantly for 1 minute, until it thickens. Transfer to a heatproof bowl set in ice-water bath to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk cream and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold whipped cream into juice mixture in thirds. Refrigerate lemon cream, up to overnight.

Recipe found at A Cozy KitchenRecipe by Martha Stewart

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

There is so much that you can do with this recipe. If you don't like an item, swap it out for something else or omit it completely. If you want to add an item like chopped chicken or strips of flank steak, do it! This recipe takes very little time, especially if you buy bagged broccoli florets or preshredded carrots. And it's great for potlucks or summer events. Enjoy!

1 3/4  cups  water
1  cup  uncooked couscous
1 1/2  cups  small broccoli florets
1/2  cup  finely chopped red onion
1/3  cup  shredded carrot
1/4  cup  raisins
1/4  cup  dry-roasted cashews, chopped
2  tablespoons  white wine vinegar
1 1/2  tablespoons  olive oil
1  tablespoon  sugar
1 1/2  teaspoons  curry powder
1  teaspoon  bottled minced fresh ginger
3/4  teaspoon  salt
1  (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Bring 1 3/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While couscous stands, steam broccoli florets, covered, for 3 minutes or until tender.

Combine couscous, broccoli, onion, and next 10 ingredients (onion through chickpeas), tossing gently. Sprinkle with cheese.

Thanks to Cooking Light and for this fantastic recipe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Food Challenge: Phad Thai

Each week when I make my menu plan I ask Josh "What's my food challenge this week?" At times he's given me vague topics such as salmon and other times he's asked for something more specific like General Tso Chicken. I love that we do this because it gives me a challenge in the kitchen that I enjoy and it means we are guaranteed to try a new recipe that week.

This week Josh gave me the challenge of Phad Thai. I love Phad Thai. I never used to but a few years ago while working at the bank, the girls and I would go out for Phad Thai for lunch. It soon became a favorite.

I am currently researching Phad Thai recipes and plan to make it Sunday night. (Assuming I can get to the grocery store despite all this snow!) I challenge you to do the same and report back. If you don't like Phad Thai then challenge yourself to something else.

Here are some of the Phad Thai recipes that I'm considering:

Shimp Phad Thai at
Pad Thai at (4 stars out of 196 reviews sounds pretty good!)
Phad Thai at
Pad Thai at (Sounds authentic, eh?)

By the way, is it Phad or Pad?? I dunno!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Good bye Kraft, Hello Alton Brown. After making this recipe the first time, I vowed never to make Kraft Mac and Cheese again. But Kraft is so easy, you say? I beg to differ. Last night I made this recipe while listening to my toddler talk non-stop about his cars, stopping to give the pacifier back to my screaming baby--repeatedly, pausing to add more wood to the fire and letting the dog out to do her business. On a unrelated note, I was sporting an awesome side ponytail the entire time. :)

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Almond Roca

You have got to try this!! I have to admit, I made four batches total and only ate (or gave away) two of them. Sadly, I had to toss the other two batches. There is a point in this recipe where if you remove it from the heat too soon, it doesn't work, and if you leave it on the heat too long, it doesn't work. Just make sure that when you try it that you have a second set of ingredients on hand in case you too have to toss your first batch. For step by step photos, go here. It helps!

4 sticks Butter
2 cups Sugar (rounded)
4 Tablespoons Water
2 cups Almonds, Chopped
1 cup Chocolate Chips
½ cups Almonds, Finely Chopped, For Sprinkling

Combine the first 3 ingredients and cook on high, stirring constantly through 3 stages:
1. Runny
2. “Cheesy”—it will look like melted white cheese
3. Runny and smooth, caramel brown color
Make sure you have the fan on your stove going, cause you’ll probably set off the smoke alarm towards the end. 
When it is runny, smooth and caramel brown in color, remove it from the heat and add the almonds. Stir until combined and pour the mixture onto greased cookie sheets. Spread it into an even layer. It will harden as it cools.
While it is still warm, sprinkle chocolate chips on top and let them melt enough to get soft. Spread the chocolate in an even layer across the candy. While the chocolate is still “wet,” sprinkle the finely chopped almonds on top.

At this point, while it is still warm and soft, you can score the candy with a butter knife to make it break evenly, or just let it harden and break it into rustic pieces.
Store in airtight containers. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman: Tasty Kitchen Blog

Welcome to Meals By Mel

Josh told me not to do this. He said I wouldn't have time to invest in a new blog, especially one devoted to food. I hope he's wrong because I've been anxious to share with you the meals I place on my family table. I'm by no means a chef. I'm just a mom who likes to cook. 'Meals by Mel' is a bit deceiving since I will rarely post my own creations. I'm a recipe follower. I will be posting recipes found from cookbooks, blogs and food websites. I promise to give credit where credit is due. Think of this site as more 'Meals Collected by Mel'. Regardless, hopefully you'll find fun and delicious recipes that you may have not discovered otherwise. Cheers!