Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spicy Thai Slaw

I must admit, I was immensely pleased with how well we ate down our fridge and freezer before our cross-country trip.  Partly because I absolutely hate throwing food away and partly because I liked the challenge, I planned our meals weeks in advance so we had very minimal food to throw away and also didn't have to eat out while we were still at home.  That extra pound of steak was turned into beef jerky, the extra pound of ground beef made meatballs, the extra cube of pesto was thrown into sauteed tomatoes and garlic to make a pesto tomato sauce for the meatballs...the list goes on.

One surprising victory was the spicy Thai slaw that I made as a side dish one night.  I had half of a head of Napa cabbage in the fridge so that instantly made me think of slaw.  We don't like mayo so traditional coleslaw was out of the question but when I mentioned to my husband that I had found a spicy Asian coleslaw, he said, "Spicy Thai slaw? I love that stuff from Claim Jumper!"  I'm not sure what the difference between this spicy Asian slaw recipe and Claim Jumper's spicy Thai but all I know was that it was good ("even better than Claim Jumper!") and used up even more food than I thought.  My extra carrots were grated into the slaw and red bell pepper was thinly sliced as were the forgotten-about radishes.  The tons of cilantro I found myself with were thrown into the dish and all of a sudden, I had this wonderful, vibrant dish with everything that would have gone to waste.  The name spicy Thai slaw stuck and we served it with smokey pulled chicken and whole wheat biscuits (Southern meets Asian?)...somehow, it worked.  And it worked the next day for lunch, too.

Spicy Thai Slaw
Taken from: Cookin Canuck
Serves 4-6
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 serrano chile, seeded and membranes removed, finely chopped (I substituted jalapeno instead)
  • 1 small Napa cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 4 scallions, sliced (I did not have any on hand so this was omitted)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Optional: sesame seeds and (if you want extra heat) crushed red pepper
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, canola oil, lime zest, lime juice, and chile. Set aside.
  2. Separate the cabbage leaves into a large bowl. Add carrots, scallions, extra vegetables, and cilantro, and toss well.
  3. Pour the dressing into the cabbage mixture and toss again. Let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4.  Serve with sesame seeds and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade Lara bars

By the time this is posted, my husband and I will be somewhere in the United States (how specific).  Not sure where but I do know that we'll have a long car trip ahead of us.  Last year, we actually had a great time on our drive out to California and the time passed surprisingly quickly with music, talking and podcasts.  Oh, and of course, trip food.  In anticipation for our trip, I've been busy in the kitchen the last few days making my first attempt at homemade beef jerky and homemade Lara bars for our trip, not to mention stocking up on some fresh fruit and crudites from the farmers market one more time.  The homemade jerky certainly tasted good to me but the Lara bars are really what I can't wait to eat.

I do like the Lara bars you can buy in the store because they always keep their ingredient list under ten (and it's always things you can pronounce) but they're just so expensive at $1+ for each bar.  So, of course, I made them myself instead of buying them.   These knock-off version of Lara bars are seriously good (even better than the official bars, we think) and cheaper to make.  Plus, they really don't take much time: throw things into a food processor, mix everything together by hand, refrigerate, and then you've got a delicious snack.  I added dried cranberries to these bars (and was this close to adding dried cherries but I wanted to eat them instead) because I ran out of dates and had cranberries in our pantry. We loved the flavor of these bars although it would be so easy to use different kinds of nuts or dried fruit to suit your tastes or what you have on hand.

Homemade Lara Bars Taken from: Deliciously Organic
Makes 10 bars (I halved this recipe and used a 4x8 loaf pan instead)
  • 4 1/2 cups pitted dates (I used the equivalent of 2 1/2 cups of dates and 2 cups of dried cranberries)
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of sea or kosher salt
  1. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper (horizontally and vertically) and then brush with coconut oil or canola cooking spray.
  2. Pour dates into food processor and process until they become paste-like and form a ball in the bowl (if your dates are very dry you can add a tablespoon or two of hot water to help them break down). Pour dates into a large mixing bowl. Place almonds and pecans in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour the nuts over the dates and also add the vanilla, cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until combined. Press mixture into baking pan, cover (I just used the parchment that was hanging over the sides of the pan) and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and cut into 10 evenly-sized bars.
**You can substitute just about any type of nut for the ones listed. If you used all almonds, then some almond extract would be great (omitting the cinnamon). Other dried fruits would work well with these too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Portobello & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

I dislike disliking foods.  And by that, I mean real foods, of course.  I'm not talking about my goal of never having a Twinkie pass my lips because Twinkies are simply not "real" food in my book.  I'm talking about my dislike for mushrooms and fresh tomatoes (although perhaps that's just a rule for grocery store tomatoes because farm or garden fresh tomatoes are so much better!).  But I'm trying to break out of that rut -- I've been able to sneak mushrooms into dishes and I recently made grilled portobello mushroom paninis (with mozzarella, basil pesto and roasted red peppers.  Highly recommended!). This week, we continued to break my dislike by having portobello and caramelized onion quesadillas.

These quesadillas originally called for brie cheese, and while that would have been delicious, I didn't have any on hand (I have a fridge that needs to be eaten down before our move).  So I opted to make these quesadillas more Mexican-infused by substituting cheddar cheese and serving it with refried black beans, homemade salsa, homemade guacamole and nonfat yogurt.  This was a great, easy meatless meal for us.  I cooked the caramelized onions the night before so I loved being able to throw everything in a skillet and have a quick dinner at the end of a long week.

Portobello & Caramelized Onion Quesadillas
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Serves 3-4
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 oz. portobello mushrooms (about 2 large), stems and gills removed and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (I substituted 1 Tbsp. lime juice to keep with Mexican flavors for this dish)
  • handful or two fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
  • brie, thinly sliced (I substituted shredded cheddar cheese)
  1. Can be done up to 2 days before: To caramelize onions, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and caramelized, 25-35 minutes. (Reduce heat as necessary to prevent onions from browning too quickly.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a second large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the balsamic vinegar or lime juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Wipe out skillet with a wad of paper towels and then heat again over medium heat. Place the tortillas on the skillet and top half of each of the tortillas with thinly sliced brie or shredded cheddar, half of the caramelized onions, and half of the mushroom-spinach mixture. Fold over the second half of the tortillas. Cook, flipping halfway through, until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are golden brown. Slice and serve.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spinach Artichoke White Bean Crostini

Long name...delicious recipe.  I came across this recipe recently and since I had almost all the ingredients on hand (love when that happens!), I served it as the side dish to some pork tenderloin for dinner.  The pork tenderloin was great but I think this crostini was the star of the show.  In fact, since I reluctantly gave my husband the leftovers for lunch, I made it AGAIN as the main dish for my dinner the next night when my husband was out to dinner with some friends.

In the summer, I'm a big fan of all kind of bean salads.  And this is a great dish: cooked white beans combined with fresh spinach, basil, garlic (not surprisingly), marinated artichokes (I actually marinate my own frozen artichokes), lemon, cheese... the combination just screams summer to me. This is a great bean salad on its own but it's even better on top of toasted baguette slices.

So you could serve this spinach artichoke white bean crostini as an appetizer, side dish or main course...whatever suits you!

Spinach Artichoke White Bean Crostini
Taken from: Two Peas and Their Pod
  • 15 (1/4-inch thick) slices French baguette
  • Olive oil, for brushing baguette slices
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or white beans, rinsed and drained (I cook my own beans so this is approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (you can get them from a jar or marinate your own)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I didn't have so I substituted parmesan instead)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine white beans, artichokes, spinach, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and feta cheese. Stir gently. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Spoon spinach and artichoke mixture onto the toasted baguette slices. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roasted Artichokes

Artichoke season is coming to a close here. So it's a little mean that I've been holding out on you and am only now sharing this roasted artichoke recipe with you.  Especially because it's my favorite artichoke recipe.  However, our farmers market still has a few artichokes left (it has been a colder spring than normal around here), so we're going to enjoy them at least one more time.  And even if you have to save this recipe for next year, it's worth it.
I'm almost reluctant to call it a "recipe" because it just seems so easy and I don't really measure anything.  However, when I was talking to my mother-in-law and aunt (aunt-in-law?), they asked for the recipe.  And if you haven't tried it before, you should.  It combines some of my favorite things - lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.  You simply prep the artichoke, drizzle lemon juice and olive oil all over it and then stuff it with minced garlic.  Wrap all of it in aluminum foil, throw it in the oven and at end of the cook time (up to an hour for a large artichoke), you have this wonderful, delicious artichoke.  And serving the artichoke inside the foil is a must because all the olive oil/lemon/garlic goodness pools at the bottom of the foil, creating its own dipping sauce. We served this with salmon tonight but we've also really enjoyed it when we have appetizers for dinner, too.

For any artichoke amateurs out there, you eat an artichoke by peeling off the leaves one by one and scraping each leaf in between your teeth. The middle of the artichoke is the best part: with a spoon, scrape off the choke (the furry-looking stuff) and discard it; enjoy the artichoke heart beneath. 

Roasted Artichokes
Taken from: Pinch My Salt
Serves 4
  • 4 artichokes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oil (plus more if desired)
  • kosher or sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Prep each artichoke by slicing the top third of the artichokes (which is inedible) and then cutting off the stem right at the base of the artichoke (make sure it is even so that the artichokes stand up on their own).
  3. Place each artichoke in the middle of a large square of aluminum foil.
  4. Stuff the chopped garlic into the leaves of the artichokes and around the top.  
  5. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over top of each artichoke. Sprinkle salt.
  6. Completely cover the artichoke by wrapping it in the aluminum foil and sealing it.  Place in oven (make sure it stands upright or the juices will run out) and cook for approximately 45-75 minutes, depending on the size.  It is ready when a paring knife easily pierces the top of the artichoke.
  7. Serve in the aluminum foil which catches all the extra garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.  Serve with extra lemon wedges and olive oil, if desired.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Roasted Potato Salad

Often times, I need a side dish and a vegetable to go with our main course.  However, it's even better when you can kill two birds with one stone and combine those dishes into one! That's where this roasted potato salad was great for dinner tonight.  I had planned on this maple-dijon pork tenderloin (delicious, by the way!) but was still a little vague on what should accompany it.  This roasted potato salad recipe caught my eye and satisfied all the requirements for what I needed.

The potatoes were crunchy and a surprisingly little amount of parmesan made this salad taste very rich. Of course, you could just serve these two things separately but I really enjoyed it as one dish.

Roasted Potato Salad with Parmesan-Herb Dressing
Taken from: Perry's Plate
Serves 4
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes or small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 shallot, minced (I used 2 Tbsp of minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic)
  • 1/3 finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 cups (about 10 ounces) mixed salad greens
  • 2 tsp mixed dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) herbs such as oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley, thyme, and sage
  • sliced tomatoes and cucumber for garnish (optional, I omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, herbs (if using dried), and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking until fully combined and thickened. Season with a pinch or two of salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Place the potatoes and shallot on the rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 T of the vinaigrette and use hands to toss the mixture, ensuring the potatoes are coated. Arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Stir every 10 minutes or so for even cooking. When they're finished, sprinkle with half of the cheese, toss to coat, and set aside.
  5. Just before serving, combine the greens, potatoes, remaining cheese, and remaining vinaigrette in a large bowl. If you're using fresh herbs, now is the time to add them. Toss to mix. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with tomatoes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Excuse me...I just realized on my last post I mentioned that I forced my way into two kitchens on our recent vacation.  Well, that's wrong.  I had the audacity to weasel my way into three.  I realize now that I hadn't counted my sister's kitchen as we visited her on our way up to my husband's family.  Not only did I decide what we would cook that night with her (Mongolian beef with brown rice, in case you were wondering), I even brought many of the ingredients with me. (Luckily, we have a lot of fun in the kitchen together!)

Dessert, however, my sister and I decided on together.  I keep a running list of recipes that look good so we perused the list.  My sister finally selected sticky toffee pudding from the blog Elly Says Opa and after a quick trip to the grocery store to get dates (we found it amusing to say that we were picking up dates at the grocery store), we had a spectacular dessert that night.

When I first saw this sticky toffee pudding recipe, I have to admit that I was initially put off by the name.  I don't really like pudding or its consistency but the post reassured me that this wasn't so much of a traditional American pudding but more like a cake with caramel over it.  Caramel on top of cake? Now that was more like it to me.

My sister and I had a great time working in the kitchen together.  We cut the recipe into one-quarter (since it was only her, myself and my husband).  Also, my sister had these cute 1-cup ceramic dishes which were perfect for having individual dessert...not to mention cutting down the cooking time to about 15 minutes (I can get impatient for dessert)! The sticky toffee pudding was very rich and so, so delicious. And adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream took this dessert to a whole new level.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Taken from: Elly Says Opa
Serves 10-12 (very easy to halve or even quarter this recipe)

For the caramel sauce:
  • 4 cups heavy cream (we omitted but increased the butter to 1 cup)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
For the cake:
  • 2.5 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.25 cups chopped pitted dates
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  1.  To make the sauce:
    -Bring cream, brown sugar and butter to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce until reduced to 3.5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Set aside.
  2. To make the cake:
    -Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 12-cup Bundt pan (or other pan/s). Whisk flour and baking powder in medium bowl to blend.  In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine the water, dates and baking soda; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool completely.
    -Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then mix in vanilla.  Add half of flour mixture, then date mixture. Blend in remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3.  Bake until cake rises and is golden on top, about 45 minutes. Pour 3/4 cup caramel sauce over cake; continue baking until tester inserted near center of cake comes out with no crumbs (only caramel sauce) attached, about 15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. If using a Bundt pan, invert cake onto platter.
  4. Cut cake into slices; drizzle caramel sauce over each slice and (optional) serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream..

    Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cool it completely and then wrap cake airtight and store at room temperature. Cover remaining caramel sauce and refrigerate. Rewarm sauce over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, before using.