Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goat Cheese Quinoa with Spinach and Pine Nuts

It was one of those days when very little went according to plan and I was *this* close to letting the pizza man handle dinner...

but then I remembered the gorgeous okra and corn on the cob just bought two days ago at the farmers market.  I needed a dinner that incorporated both these purchases.

Oh, and there's that partial bag of spinach I need to use or lose... and that goat cheese I bought with no real plan for its use (I love the stuff and can't help myself sometimes) ... this meal was clearly meant to come together.

Paired with oven-roasted okra and corn on the cob with Old Bay seasoned butter, this was an easy, and delicious, dinner:


1c quinoa, cooked according to pkg. directions
1 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP pine nuts, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2c spinach leaves, rough chopped
2 TBSP goat cheese, crumbled

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

2.  Add pine nuts and garlic, cooking 1 - 2 minutes, until lightly toasted.

3.  Add cooked quinoa and spinach, cooking and stirring occasionally until quinoa is heated through and spinach is wilted.

4.  Remove from heat and fold in cheese.

5.  Garnish with additional 1 TBSP pine nuts and serve warm.



Yields 2 generous portions.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Julia Child's Cream of Spinach Soup

The first female celebrity chef would have been 102 today so it's fitting to showcase this simple but decadent soup.

My husband has been fighting a cold bug for the last few days and I thought a nice, hot soup would soothe his sore throat.  Why spinach?  Honestly, I had a bag of spinach I needed to use fairly soon or lose forever.

I opened Mastering the Art of French Cooking to page 43 where I found a recipe for Potage Creme d'Epinards (Cream of Spinach Soup) described in the book as, "...a lovely soup, and perfect for an important dinner."  Sounded good to me so I decided to give it a try and the resulting soup was a definite winner!

Side note: I love the way this recipe is written..."enrichment butter," "off heat" etc. - so charming.

Here's Mrs. Child's exact recipe, in case you don't have the book:


1/3 cup minced green onions, or yellow onions
3 Tbsp butter
3-4 packed cups of fresh spinach cut into chiffonade (thin slices)
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp flour (I used 5 Tbsp total for a thicker soup, your preference)
5 1/2 cups boiling white stock or chicken broth
2 eggs yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream
1-2 Tbsp butter


1. Cook the onions slowly in the butter in a covered saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned.

2. Stir in spinach and salt, cover, and cook slowly for about 5 minutes or until the leaves are tender and wilted.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.

4. Off heat, beat in the boiling stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. *If not to be served immediately, set aside uncovered. Reheat to simmer before proceeding.

5. Blend the yolks and cream in the mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of hot soup into them by driblets. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup in a thin stream. Return soup to saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to peach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to a simmer. Off heat, stir in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time.



I made the usual vegetarian and vegan substitutes for all but the egg yolks:
                

This recipe is not complicated but I still had lots of help.  My littlest chef-in-training takes her job very seriously.  :)

                  


Serve hot with garlic bread.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spicy and Savory Thousand Island Dressing

Trust me, once you make this for yourself, you won't ever want to go back to that sugary sweet stuff in a bottle!  It's super easy to throw together and absolutely perfect for Reuben sandwiches.

1/2c mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise)
1/4c ketchup
1 TBSP dill pickle relish
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. mustard seed
1/2 tsp chili powder


1.  Stir everything together in a small mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.


Good stuff!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meatless Muffuletta

I love muffulettas!  There is just something about the briny olives and cheesy combo that I find dangerously addicting.

The original plan with this recipe was to try adding a little fresh oregano but when I went to the garden, I discovered someone had eaten every bit of what used to be a rather large plant - all the way down to the ground!  Herbs are disappearing like crazy this year and we haven't caught the culprit yet.  So, no oregano, but still delicious.


1c kalamata olives
1c green olives
3 cloves garlic
1/2c fresh basil
1/4c olive oil
4 slices provolone
4 slices mozzarella
medium size Italian bread round

1.  In a food processor, add kalamata olives, green olives, garlic cloves, fresh basil, and olive oil.  Chop to a chunky texture.  Refrigerate for an hour or two, or until ready to use (within 24 hours).

2.  Slice Italian round lengthwise and layer alternating olive salad and cheeses.

3.  Place in a 350° oven for a few minutes; just enough to soften the cheese.  Cut into quarters and serve.

                    



The olive salad is also yummy for snacking with crackers!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Make the Perfect Shirley Temple

I don't think there's a girl out there who doesn't love Shirley Temples.  This classic kids' cocktail has been my older daughter's favorite restaurant treat for years.  Just a few nights ago, we wanted to go out for dinner and gave her the honor of choosing the restaurant.  She immediately chose a place nearby that we all know and love and while waiting for our table, I asked her why she chose this place.  Her response - "They make the best Shirley Temples!"

What?!  Really?!  Okay, they make a darn good margarita, too, but that's beside the point.  Such a thing has never been my basis for choosing where I want to eat my evening meal.  Right then and there I decided it was time to show this girl how simple it is to recreate her favorite restaurant drink at home.

She was amazed how easy it was and I was happy when she declared my Shirley Temple concoction, "way better than the ones at the restaurant!"  Psst... It's all about the cherry juice/Sprite ratio which will vary by glass size.  So easy:

1 bottle Sprite
1 jar maraschino cherries, with juice

1.  Fill glass with ice (we like the slushiness of crushed).

2.  Pour in the Sprite and 1-2 TBSP cherry juice.

3.  Top with cherries and serve.


Sit back and let the little ones praise your talent.  
They'll think you're a master mixologist!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Classic Coleslaw

To me, coleslaw is a perfect addition to any summertime cookout and was delicious paired with our BBQ Baked Beans last week.  What I like about this one is that the cabbage retains just the right amount of crunch and flavor because it's not drenched in dressing.   I can't stand a soggy coleslaw!

I usually opt for coleslaw mix in a bag because I like the blend of colors.  It's important for my food to be pretty.  :)  Sometimes I also stir in chilled apple chunks for a little something extra just before serving - yum!

3/4c mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
14oz. pkg. coleslaw mix

1.  In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except coleslaw mix.  Stir until well blended.

2.  Add coleslaw mix and toss to coat.

3.  Refrigerate until chilled.
                      


Friday, July 25, 2014

BBQ Baked Beans

I have used this recipe for baked beans every summer for the last several years.  Okay, not this *exact* recipe; the previous one included meat.  We've now had this vegetarian version twice and, as always, it's delicious!

2 (15 oz.) cans baked beans
1/2c brown sugar, packed
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1/2c ketchup
1 TBSP yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a medium bowl, stir all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into an 8x8 baking dish.

3.  Bake 1 hr, uncovered, until sauce is thickened.

               

Saturday, July 5, 2014

4th of July Flag Toast and Watermelon Stars

4th of July food has historically been all about lunch around here, with leftovers available for grazing throughout the remainder of the day.  This year, we switched things up a bit by going out for lunch and saving the big All-American feast for dinner.  But first, my daughter and I threw together this super cute and easy breakfast:

sliced bread
cream cheese
strawberries
blueberries

1.  Toast the bread and allow to cool a minute or two.

2.  Spread with cream cheese.

3.  Add blueberries and strawberries to represent stars and stripes.


                             

For the Watermelon Stars, a cookie cutter makes preparation quick and easy.  I use this one twice a year - Christmas and 4th of July!


                                       

                                       




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy Bleu Cheese Dressing

Last night's dinner was served with a salad of mixed greens, pepper jack cheese, red grapes, and Bleu cheese dressing.  The salad may sound like an odd combination but it was delicious and really paired well with our steak seasoned couscous wraps.

1/8c milk
1c mayonnaise
6oz. cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2c Bleu cheese, crumbled

1.  Put everything in a medium size bowl and stir until well blended.  Chill until ready to use.  Easy!
                    
                         
Use the extra dressing as a dip with fresh vegetables!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Garlic and Herb Mushroom Tacos


Serve these with some garlic rice.... YUM!!


1/4c mayonnaise
1 TBSP garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper sauce, or to taste
1 bag arugula or spring salad mix

2c wild mushrooms (I used cremini and shiitake)
1 shallot
1 1/2 TBSP butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2c herbed goat cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. fresh thyme
6 spinach tortillas


  1. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder, and pepper sauce.  Toss lightly with the salad mix and set aside.  
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook until light golden brown.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme.
  4. Top warm tortillas with salad mix, mushrooms, and goat cheese.





Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fabulous French Bread

Though I usually go the easier route and just pick up baguettes in the bakery, occasionally I do enjoy baking the bread from scratch.  If you've never made your own French bread, I recommend giving it a shot.  It's really very simple!

All it takes is a few basic ingredients, a couple hours for rising and baking, and a good stand mixer with a dough hook.  You could skip the mixer and knead the dough by hand but that's more traditional than I care to get these days.  I've done it in the past; it's not fun.  What you will absolutely love though -- the amazing aroma that will fill your house as these loaves are baking!  Mmmm...pass the butter.

Yields 2 large loaves:

5 tsp. active dry yeast
2c warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 1/4c all-purpose flour
cornmeal
1 egg white + 1 TBSP water

1.  Start with the active dry yeast in your mixer bowl; pour in the warm water and allow to stand a few minutes, until slightly bubbly.

2.  Add salt and 2c of flour.  Mix together, using a dough hook or paddle attachment on a Stir/Low setting.  Gradually add the remaining flour.

3.  Let the mixer run another 5 minutes or so, until the dough reaches a smooth, elastic consistency.

4.  Place in lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with a damp cloth and set aside until the dough has risen to double its original size.  (Mine took about 1 1/2hrs.)

5.  Punch dough down and divide into two equal portions.  Remove to a floured surface, cover again, and allow to rest 10 minutes.

6.  On a floured surface, roll each ball out into a rectangle shape.  Then, from a long side, roll into a baguette shape, sealing the edges with a small amount of water on your fingertips and tapering the ends.

7.  Sprinkle a prepared baking sheet with corn meal and place the baguettes seam side down.  

8.  Whisk egg white and water together and brush lightly over the dough.  Again, cover with the damp cloth and set aside for about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375*

9.  Remove cloth and bake 20 minutes.  Brush again with egg wash and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until done.  Cover with foil during the last 10 minutes or so to prevent over-browning.

                          

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mashed Potato Tacos

I am so happy with the way these turned out last night!  This is one of those recipes that I worked on one day, changed the next, and then practically rewrote in the kitchen as I was cooking.  Most of my recipes tend to work out that way, actually.  

Either way, my taste testers (husband and kids) and I all thought these tacos were delicious.  And not as filling as you might think; or maybe we were just really hungry.  :)

Hand-held comfort food, here you go:


1 1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, skin-on and diced
5 TBSP butter
1/8 - 1/4c half & half
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8c green onions, sliced thin
1 TBSP vegetable oil 
8 flour tortillas
shredded iceberg lettuce
sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

  1. Place diced potatoes in a medium pot and fill with water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes; Drain, return to pot, and mash to a chunky consistency. 
  2. Stir in butter, half & half (start with 1/8c and add more to suit your taste), salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.  Fold in green onions.
  3. Fill each tortilla with 2 heaping TBSP of the potato mixture.
  4. Add vegetable oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add tacos 1-2 at a time, turning to cook to golden brown on each side.  Place cooked tacos on a baking sheet and set in oven on the warm setting.
  5. Top with lettuce and cheese; serve warm.
                            

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Caprese Pasta

I don't know what it is lately, but I have been craving the simple and delicious flavor combination like crazy!  Sandwiches, salads, pizza... it was only a matter of time before pasta went into the mix.  Good thing I love caprese-anything because I now have quite a bit of fresh mozzarella in the fridge, thanks to a recent Buy 1 Get 1 sale at Whole Foods.

This was a super easy dinner that I threw together in no time last night.


1/2lb. farfalle pasta, cooked and drained
3TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2c vegetable stock
1c cherry tomatoes, quartered
1c fresh mozzarella, cubed
1c fresh spinach, rough chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
basil for garnish

1.  In a medium pot, cook pasta according to package directions; drain in a colander and set aside.

2.  In in same pot, over medium high, heat olive oil and add diced onions.  Cook approximately 1 minute before adding the garlic and thyme.  Cook and stir another 1-2 minutes, until mixture is softened and fragrant.

3.  Pour in the vegetable stock and continue cooking until liquid is reduced almost half.

4.  Add the pasta to the pot.  Then, gently stir in the spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella; allow to heat through approximately 1-2 minutes.

5.  Season to taste, garnish with basil, and serve hot.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garlicky Cauliflower Gratin


I've been experimenting with cauliflower quite a bit lately with this gratin dish being the latest creation.  As always, I used non-dairy butter.  Served over Basmati rice, with a side of sautéed asparagus, this was a delicious meal!

8 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP butter, melted 
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/3c Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
1 TBSP fresh Italian parsley
1/c Panko breadcrumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 400* and butter an 8x8 baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the butter, olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

3.  Cover and bake 25 min.

4.  Uncover and top with Panko breadcrumbs.

5.  Switch oven setting to Broil and allow another 3-5 min. cook time to allow for a nice golden brown top.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.





                                     

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Toddler-Approved Pasta Dinner

Do you buy canned raviolis and o's for your little one?  If so, stop it right now!  It's way too easy (and cheap) to make your own!  My two-year old loved this today and even the 20-year old gave it a thumbs up.

Notes:

* As usual, I subbed non-dairy products for the milk and butter
* I use white sugar but think this would be just as tasty with Splenda or maybe agave (haven't tried them yet).
* Pasta I used was the dried mini raviolis from Trader Joe's.  Next time, I'll use fresh though.

15oz. can tomato sauce
2 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 TBSP butter
3 TBSP nutritional yeast
2 TBSP sugar
2c small-medium size pasta

1.  Cook the pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt the butter.

3.  Add remaining ingredients and heat through, stirring frequently.

4.  Top pasta with sauce and serve.





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