Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits (lower fat version)

>> Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Both of our girls worked at Red Lobster when they were in high school, but Joe and I never got tired of those buttery cheesy biscuits. They've been out of the Darden restaurant chain for years now; Joe and I had to come up with a new biscuit recipe that tasted the same but was lower in fat and calories than the original.

This works pretty well and satisfies my unending craving for breads soaked in garlic butter and cheese. Don't judge me - the first step of addiction is admitting I have a problem.


2 cups light Bisquick biscuit mix
2/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup low-fat sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup butter
1/2 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon parsley


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir the biscuit mix and cheese together in a mixer bowl, then slowly add the milk while mixing on low speed. When a sticky dough forms, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on high speed for 30 seconds.

Spray a baking pan with oil. Drop 12 spoonfuls of dough onto the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking, microwave the butter, garlic, and parsley until the butter is melted. Brush over the biscuits before removing them from the baking sheet. Serve warm.

Makes 12 biscuits.


Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.

The last time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Ni├žoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves


Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.


Potatoes Gratin Savoyard

>> Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Potatoes Gratin Savoyard

Potatoes au gratin, or scalloped potatoes, are one of my favorite ways to make spuds, because what's better than a casserole of cream, butter, cheese, and potatoes? Well, we found something even better. Yes we did.

Flipping through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I found this recipe for a casserole of potatoes cooked with butter, beef broth, and plenty of Swiss cheese. The flavor is astounding. It makes regular potatoes au gratin seem bland and boring.

Like always, we did our best to lighten up this recipe. I can't imagine how the French could eat like this every day without an epidemic of heart disease. Maybe French butter is healthier, or something.

Scalloped potatoes


6 cups red-skinned potatoes, sliced 1/8" thick
4 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated low-fat Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup hot beef broth


Soak the potatoes in cold water for 15 minutes, to remove the sticky starch from the surface. Dry on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 10-inch round or 9x12 square casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread half the potatoes in the dish, then dot with half the butter and cheese. Spread the rest of the potatoes on top, and add the rest of the butter and cheese.

Stir together the garlic, salt and pepper, and broth. Pour over the potatoes. 

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is slightly browned on top.

Serves 6.


Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas

My friend Sheilja recently taught me to make some traditional Northern Indian foods; last week I invited her over to make some traditional Mexican foods I learned from my mother-in-law. I made vegetarian versions of the food because Sheilja doesn't eat meat. But the enchilada roja sauce can be used to stew chicken, and the enchiladas can be stuffed with anything you like - there are no rules about the insides of enchiladas!

There are, however, some strong ideas about what goes into a red enchilada sauce. Purists, and I suspect my teacher Mama Nona, would claim that the sauce should not contain tomatoes, so I didn't include any. But if you'd like to add some chopped tomato or a bit of tomato paste, I think you should cook what makes you happy.


For the Enchilada Roja Sauce

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 medium dried guajillo or pasilla chiles
5 medium dried ancho chiles
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium then lay the garlic on one side to roast. Flip the garlic around in the pan until it is toasted on both sides, but not so brown that it gets bitter.

Tear the chiles into flat pieces and, few at a time, press them against the hot surface until they blister and change color. Flip them over and press again. Remove chiles and garlic from heat and place in a bowl, then cover with the broth. Soak in hot broth for 15 minutes.

Toast the cumin seeds on the hot skillet until fragrant and slightly browned. Place in a blender or food processor. Peel the garlic and remove the stems from the chiles. Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add a little more water if needed; this should be a thick liquid, not a paste. Strain out the seeds.

For the enchiladas 

16-18 corn tortillas
5 poblano peppers
4 cups shredded chihuahua cheese
3 cups enchilada roja sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/4 cup cotija cheese


Heat the broiler or grill. Place the peppers on a broiler pan or cookie sheet. Broil or grill close to the heat until the exposed side is blotchy, black, and peeling. Turn over the peppers and roast until both sides are blistered and the skin is blackened.

Place the peppers in a paper bag and allow to steam for 15 minutes. This will help you peel the blackened parts off. When finished steaming, cut off the stem and scrape the charred skin and seeds off with a knife. Cut the peppers into thin strips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x12 casserole pan, then spread out 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan. On a flat griddle or frying pan, heat the corn tortillas until soft and pliable.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce onto a plate, and lay a tortilla on the plate. Add several strips of pepper and about 1/4 cup cheese.  Roll up the tortilla and place, seam side down, in the casserole pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, then drizzle with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the cotija cheese over the top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the centers are cooked and the casserole is heated through. Top with tomato and lettuce before serving.

Serves 6-8.


Coconut Basmati Rice

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Creamy and savory coconut basmati rice

This coconut rice dish is deceptively simple - only 5 ingredients, and 20 minutes to prepare! It's also subtly flavored by the basmati rice and creamy coconut milk. Adjust the amount of jalapeno pepper to your taste, or leave it out completely if you prefer. We like this side dish with grilled fish, but it's pretty versatile side for other meals.


1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp Thai birds-eye or jalapeno pepper, minced
3 stalks green onions, chopped


Rinse and drain the rice until the water runs clear - washing off the surface starch helps prevent the rice from getting sticky or gummy.

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let it simmer for 17-20 minutes, until the rice is just tender and fluffy. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

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