Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lightened Up Green Goddess Dip

The last few weeks in our house have been wonderfully hectic... Mother's Day, my sweet mama visiting, my birthday, dear friends in town, Memorial Day... and insane work. But my dear boys love me and treated me SO well for all the celebration days, and we got a wonderful bit of time at the Oregon coast with our friends who came in from out of town. It's been a glorious few weeks!

Anyway, my sweet husband got me a Cooking Light anthology for my birthday - Antoinette and I both love CL and a lot of our recipes, and inspirations start there. One of the very first recipes in the new book is for a Green Goddess Dip - I read it through and HAD to have it. Like had to eat it right away. I took most of this batch down to the beach and our group gobbled it up!

Green Goddess Dip - from Cooking Light
Makes plenty for 6 people; even better day 2.

2 cups watercress
6 oz Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
5 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

This is barely a recipe. All you do is put all of this good stuff in a food processor and blend until smooth-ish. It's not really cooking, but it is creating, especially if you tweak the flavors to suit your preferences (or what's left in your fridge, or what's growing in your herb garden.)

The original recipe calls for a lot more basil and no tarragon. I love the lemony spice of tarragon, and definitely wanted some of that zip in this. 

The original also called for anchovy paste. I didn't have any, don't really like it, and wasn't going to buy it for one recipe. I think it overpowers with fishy flavor. It's just not for me. So out it goes.

This also called for some red pepper flakes, but we had two toddlers in our group and I wanted to make sure this would be nice for them, so I left it out and didn't miss it.

The last change I made was to swap the quantities of yogurt and mayo. Why not have more of the healthier yogurt? Done.

So that's it. Just blend it up and enjoy! It definitely improves with a little resting time. And the next day it was even better than the first. We ate this with veggies and crackers and it was a great, light snack. 

A few things about this recipe...
I think this would be just as good without the mayo, and I'd feel a lot safer having this out at a BBQ having just used yogurt. 

Also, watercress is a peppery, sturdy little green. If you want something else, baby spinach would also work, but the dip would be milder.

Things made this time last year...
Strawberry Mint Lemonade

Mango Guacamole and Homemade Salsa

Monday, May 26, 2014

Creamy Pasta Primavera

Sooooo, this is an exercise in finding/creating balance... fresh from the farmers market veggies, herbs, lemon juice, light chicken breast... and pasta, cream and Parmesan. I imagine Lady Justice looking skeptically at my theory of balance. Regardless, it was a gorgeous dinner, and totally comfort food. We needed it after a lovely weekend with my mom for company, a thunder storm and lots of getting business done sorts of thing. 

I based a lot of this recipe on how I make the cream sauce for this Chicken Tequila Fettuccine. It's creamy enough to make for all that satisfying comfort, but not so thick that the meal is overwhelming or too heavy. I wanted a different flavor though, so I added sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh peas, and loads of asparagus. In place of the cilantro used in the original, I used Italian parsley. No booze in this one at all, but a splash of lemon juice at the end was a nice burst and a good tang. The chicken browns up and then poaches all the way through so it stays super tender. YUM!

Creamy Parsley Primavera
Serves 6 in a hearty way

1 pound dry pasta - I used Fettuccini
1/2 an onion, sliced - about 1/2 a cup
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced fresh peas
1 pound asparagus, tips and tender tops, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped parsley, more for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound chopped chicken breasts cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh lemon

In a large pot, start water to boil for noodles. As water boils, heat oil in a large pan (the pan needs to be large enough to fit all the sauce and all the pasta - I used a 10" high sided skillet) and add onions, parsley and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes or until onions start to loosen up and edges become translucent. Take care not to burn the garlic.

Add chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, and brown a bit. Add all of the chicken broth, and cook uncovered until chicken cooks through. Add in all of the asparagus and let it cook for about 2 minutes, or until tender-crisp. 

Add in all of the cream, tomatoes and peas and heat through. Add in drained pasta. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and dish up into bowls, spooning more sauce over pasta. Top with more Parmesan, more chopped parsley, and fresh ground pepper. Squeeze lemon over pasta and enjoy!!

This pasta is totally enjoyed by the whole fam-bam, toddler included. It's not part of the regular rotation, but saved for a night we need something special and comforting. It's awesome as leftovers and reheats really well in a skillet over medium heat.

Things made this time last year...

Strawberry Mint Lemonade

Mango Guacamole and Homemade Salsa

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spiced Apple Pancakes

Growing up, my mom always made sautéed apples for breakfast.  They reminded me of the apples from Cracker Barrel, but WAY better.  I absolutely loved them and since they were cooked in butter and sugar, I didn’t get them as often as I would have liked (thanks mom).  Although not everything about growing up is awesome, the ability to cook my own breakfast apples is definitely a treat…that I intend to devour.

Yes, I’ve been talking about breakfast apples, but this recipe is really for my Spiced Apple Pancakes.  So here’s a little two-in-one.  I roughly chop my breakfast apples and add them to the batter.  Then I top the pancakes with more apples.  These pancakes are almost sinful.  Seriously!  Try just the apples or try the pancakes but either way, you won’t be disappointed.  Actually, hubby recommended the apples for apple pie…hmmm………

Spiced Apple Pancakes

2 apples, thinly sliced (I prefer Gala)
3 tbsp butter or margarine
1/8 c brown sugar
pinch of salt
¼ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice

1 egg
1c all-purpose flour
¾ c milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
cooking spray

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add apples and cook until they begin to caramelize.  Mix in brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Cook until apples are completely softened.  Remove from heat.  Set aside.

Beat egg with a whisk until fluffy.  Beat in remaining batter ingredients until smooth.  Add a little milk if necessary.

Take half of cooked apples, chop them, and then stir into the pancake batter.  Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Spray generously with cooking spray.  Add dollops of batter to pan.  Cook on one side until bubbles start to form on top.  Flip and finish cooking on the other side.  Top pancakes with leftover apples.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Steak Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago, Antoinette and I cooked dinner for our families together - SO fun and SO delicious! Antoinette made a similar salad to her Mediterranean Orzo Salad which uses this awesome feta vinaigrette. Tasting as we went, we both joked the feta vinaigrette should be made by the gallon! It's so good, and I've been putting it all over everything. Now that BBQ season hit the Pacific Northwest early, we've made a couple of tri-tip roasts on the grill and a couple more in the smoker. Left over tip is great in a bunch of things - eggs, burritos, salads. I've been making this chopped salad with most of our left overs since our garden lettuce is going nuts, and the feta dressing is perfect!

Steak Salad with Feta Vinaigrette
Serves 2

1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice - about 1/2 a lemon
1/8 teaspoon bouquet garni or herbs de Provence
Fresh ground pepper

1 head of lettuce
2 carrots, julienned (since all of Pintrest went Paleo, I bought a julienne peeler - AWESOME. I love it!)  
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
5 basil leafs, chopped
4 ounces chopped left over tri tip or other steak
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

I've taken to making the salad dressing in the bottom of the serving bowl. It makes for one less thing to wash, and I'm guaranteed to get all of the dressing on the salad!

Next, I add the other ingredients to the salad bowl, topping everything with the lettuce last.

Toss everything together, top with the sunflower seeds and enjoy!

This salad can go so many ways depending on what's in season, but I really love adding the fresh basil. It's such a great flavor!

Things made this time last year...

Soy Glazed Salmon

Crab and Kale Manicotti

Ginger Soy Chicken Breasts

Mango Guacamole and Homemade Salsa

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Basil Butter

Why is it that every time you buy basil you have to buy an entire plant’s worth???  I always have at least half of my basil go to waste…but not anymore!  I have the perfect recipe for any of that leftover basil you have.  It’s my Basil Butter.  You can put it on anything that you would use regular butter for and it adds nice brightness and color. 

Remember that the best way to store basil is in a vase on the counter with water (like fresh cut flowers).  I think it lasts longer this way than wrapping it up with paper towel and a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Plus, it adds a little décor to the kitchen.  How can you go wrong? 

Basil Butter

½ c unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
6 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced

In the bowl of a mini food processor, combine the butter, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Pulse until combined.

Use immediately as a spread or use plastic wrap to shape basil butter into a log. Refrigerate until very firm. 

I use this basil butter on a lot of different things but my favorite is on rolls.  It just takes bread and butter to another level!  This time, I added some of the basil butter to cooked orzo with Parmesan.  It was a great accompaniment to stuffed chicken breasts I got from Trader Joes.  (The chicken breasts are stuffed with ricotta and baked with marinara on top…yum-O!)  The next thing I plan to do is to bake salmon with the basil butter on top.  I can’t wait and my mouth is watering just thinking about it! 

Make sure and comment to tell us what you plan to use your basil butter for!  We encourage creativity :)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bruschetta Pinwheels

The very first time I got in a fight with a mandolin was making a pinwheel appetizer. I lost. Luckily, that was a while ago and my relationship with the mandolin has improved. Double lucky, this recipe doesn't need a mandolin! These cute pinwheels are really tasty and super easy to make. The hardest part about these is letting the puff pastry come to room temp - that takes at least an hour. Waiting is the worst. Bruschetta Pinwheels are worth it.

I default to a cheese platter with some good crackers for appetizers, or grilled artichokes if we are outside, but sometimes, a warm from the oven, bite-sized treat is so nice to have! Puff Pastry makes this kind of thing so very easy.

Preheat oven to 400
Makes ~20 bite-sized appetizers

1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 sheet puff (1/2 a package)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
olive oil
Salt and pepper

The trick to these is seeding the tomatoes. Too much pulp would risk the puff pastry being soggy and gross. I was using these cute multicolored cherry tomatoes, so I just cut them in half and squeezed the pulp into a little discard dish. Then I chopped through the remaining tomato meat until they were diced pretty small, about 1/4. 

After the tomatoes are seeded and chopped, mix with garlic, basil and a bit of salt and pepper. Place a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and stretch it out to make a rectangle. 

Spread the tomato bruschetta all over the puff pastry leaving about an inch on the closure side. Roll up and press the seam to seal - I ran a wet finger across the seam before sealing the edge to really lock in all the tomato goodness.

Once everything is rolled up, slice into about 1/2 inch slices and place on a silpat or parchment lined baking dish. Brush or drizzle (I drizzled) on a bit of olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Slices may need to be rearranged to bake evenly - the middle should puff and it should not look like damp dough.

A few things about this recipe...

I made these to take to a friends house. I baked them up at our house, left them on the pan and re-toasted them at their house. Double baked, double delicious!
These would be great with a spread of pesto, or some proscuitto.

Puff Pastry also works great with sweet things - I made a super quick cookie with the extra sheet of pastry.

Makes about 20 cookies
Preheat oven to 400 

1 sheet of Puff Pastry
1 tablespoon melted butter
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar (or cinnamon and sugar mixture)

Flatten out a sheet of Puff Pastry, and brush with melted butter. Dust on vanilla sugar, or cinnamon and sugar. Roll up each side to meet in the middle and press down the middle to make a more distinct heart shape. Slice and bake at 400 on a lined baking pan for 15 minutes or until nicely toasted. YUM!

Things made this time last year...
Miso Ginger Quinoa Salad
Apple Almond Muffins

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chopped Kale Salad with Pecorino, Raisins, and Walnuts

Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite food blogs (other than NPC of course).  Deb is amazing.  She takes amazing pictures and has great recipes that I can relate to and really enjoy.  Not to mention, she does all of this amazing work in a tiny little NYC kitchen.  I can only hope that NPC will be where Smitten Kitchen is one day! 

While scrolling through recipes for Easter, I came across a kale salad that just looked delightful!  I needed at least one dish that was “atypical” for Easter and was sure to please since I was hosting for about 12 other people that day.  After all, my NPC reputation is always on the line!  This chopped kale salad turned out to be a hit…and I even earned a “fancy” label J  Go figure!  I’ll take that any day!

Chopped Kale Salad with Pecorino, Raisins, and Walnuts

½ c walnut pieces
¼ c golden raisins
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp water
¼ c panko
1 tiny clove garlic, minced or pressed
kosher salt
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Tuscan kale
2 oz pecorino (ground in food processor)
½ lemon, juiced
black pepper

Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over low-medium heat, tossing occasionally.  Let cool.  In a small saucepan over low heat, simmer white wine vinegar, water, and raisins for 5 mins, until plump and soft.  Set aside in liquid.

Toast breadcrumbs and garlic in a skillet together over low-medium heat with a pinch of salt until golden.  Set aside. 

Note: Garlic will be fragrant once it is properly toasted.  However, garlic burns quickly and turns rancid.  Be sure to stir constantly to prevent burning.

Trim heavy stems off kale and remove ribs.  Add kale to bowl of food processor and pulse a few times until chopped.

Modification: Chopping the kale is one of the changes I made to the original recipe.  I decided to chop in a food processor because it literally takes a few seconds to do.  Also, since kale is so bitter, it helps to get small bites of kale with the other salad ingredients for an amazing combo that isn’t overpowering.

Put kale in a large bowl.  Add pecorino, walnuts and raisins.  Add olive oil and lemon juice and toss until all the kale is coated.  Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and leftover vinegar mixture from raisins.  (I used all of the vinegar mixture.)  Let sit for at least 10 mins before serving.  Top with breadcrumbs just before serving.