Friday, January 27, 2012

Healthified Cookie Pie

Perfect Pairing:  An open mind

Healthy is not a word that comes to mind when you think about cookie pie.  I suppose this recipe for cookie pie is not exactly health food, but it sure is a heck of a lot better for you than the standard cookie pie that you would buy at the store.
When I first made this recipe I was skeptical…… very skeptical.  The ingredients seemed a little crazy and I just didn’t know how a cookie pie would taste with no butter, flour, or eggs.  This treat is also gluten free.  All of these are reasons for this to taste like healthy cardboard rather than cookies. 
Was I surprised when I tasted the finished product warm out of the oven.  It was delicious!  Not just “healthy” delicious, but really, truly decadent, gooey, and chocolaty.  It has the consistency of undercooked cookies, so it would be popular with anyone that likes to eat the cookie dough out of the bowl. 
The Perfect Pairing for this cookie pie is an open mind.  The reason you need an open mind is because the main ingredient is not exactly traditional in desserts.  The main ingredient is….. beans.  Perhaps you remember hearing about the black bean brownie trend.  I am all for healthy substitutes, so I was all over it when famous chef Rocco DiSpirito said that his recipe tasted just like a regular brownie.  Rocco was wrong-o.  They were inedible.  BLEH.  Apparently I am not the only one that thought this because according to this site, only 4% of people liked them.  I decided some things were better left alone.  When I ran across this recipe I decided to give bean desserts one more attempt.  I am so glad I did because this is a winner!!  Trust me on this one.  You won’t be sorry.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Drizzle

Perfect Pairing:  Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar

I have recently found a love for Brussels sprouts.  I have never been a picky eater but the mini cabbages were something I avoided.  When my brother made them for me last year I realized they could be delicious!  It makes me wonder how they got such a bad reputation.  It seems like they are getting to be very popular in restaurants.  I have ordered them a few times and found that I like them best when they are paired with something slightly sweet.   
Roasting Brussels sprouts brings out a nutty flavor.  The outside gets slightly crispy while the inside remains tender.  I simply roast the halved sprouts in a hot oven after they have been tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I cook them until they just start to brown and some of the outer leaves get crispy.  While they are still hot I drizzle them with sweet balsamic vinegar.  It is so simple and so good. 
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is vanilla fig balsamic vinegar.  While this recipe would be delicious with regular balsamic, the vanilla fig version adds great flavor.  My brother and sister-in-law first introduced me to this addictive stuff a couple of years ago.  They ran across it while wine tasting in Napa and gave it out as gifts for Christmas.  I have personally gone through a few bottles.  I will be pairing it with some of my other favorite recipes in the future.  This year my mom ordered bottles to give as Christmas gifts to some of her friends.  It is that good!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Blue Cheese Puffs

Perfect Pairing:  Maytag blue cheese
You may have noticed that Perfecting the Pairing has been pretty quiet throughout January.  My year didn't exactly start out as I had planned.... which kept me away from cooking and blogging for awhile.  Thank you for all the people that kept checking back and asking about the blog!  I am definitely still committed and anxious to get back into the swing of things. 

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the most delicious.  That is the case with this recipe.  I have served these blue cheese puffs at a few parties and they always get more comments than anything else on the buffet.  People will usually take one small piece to start but they always come back for more.  I have had people tell me that they really like them even if they don’t love blue cheese.
These puffs are so delicious and they smell absolutely divine when they are in the oven.   The best part is that they only have four ingredients and take about 5 minutes to prepare.  You can’t beat that!  They are great as an appetizer or served with soup or salad.
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is Maytag blue cheese.  The recipe only calls for 2 ounces of cheese so you want it to be high quality.  Maytag blue cheese comes in a large wheel or smaller wedges.  It really makes the difference using high quality blue cheese rather than the crumbles.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peach-Whiskey Barbeque Chicken

Perfect Pairing – Apple Potato Mash

If you are not familiar with the Pioneer Woman, you should check out her blog.  She writes about cooking, photography, home schooling, life on her ranch, her family, pets, and everything in between.  Her photos are fantastic and she has a fun writing style.  I have been a fan for years.  I am thrilled to see her doing so well. 
I have made a few of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes and they are always delicious.  I usually adapt them a bit to keep them on the healthy side, because she has a love of cream and butter.  This recipe was no different.  I decreased the amount of oil and butter and chose to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs rather than skin-on thighs to save on fat and calories.  This Peach-Whiskey Barbeque Chicken has great flavor and zing.  I used Cookie’s BBQ sauce and it was perfect in the sauce.  It was really simple to pull together and would be great to serve a crowd.
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is the Apple Potato Mash recipe I featured here.  There is so much great sauce on the chicken that you need something to soak it up. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Onion Jam

Perfect Pairing:  Grilled flank steak
Everyone is familiar with strawberry, grape, and raspberry jam.  The more adventurous eater may also be a fan of apple or even pepper jam, but what about onion jam?  Onion jam??  Oh yes my friend…. Embrace it.  This onion jam even has bacon. 
I made this recipe on Christmas for my family.  I don’t think everyone was sold when I told them what I was making, but when it came time for dinner, everyone loved it.  This jam is sweet from the sugar in the onions, apple cider, and brown sugar.  It has a savory depth to it from the bacon and thyme.  It is pretty much all around delicious.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to cook the onions down to a jam-like consistency.  I let them reduce for at least four hours. 
The Perfect Pairing for onion jam is grilled flank steak, which is how I served it on Christmas.  The flank steak was seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled until medium rare, and then thinly sliced.  Top off the slices with a good dollop of this jam and you have a true perfect pairing.  I admit that my serving may have had more jam than meat, and I was totally ok with that.  If you have some jam leftover serve it alongside some cheese and crackers.  We added our leftovers to a cheese tray the next day and it was the first thing gone from the buffet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lasagna Soup

Perfect Pairing:  Flatbreads with Thyme, Honey and Sea Salt

I have been trying to come up with a description that gives this lasagna soup justice.  I don’t know what to say other than it is just plain fabulous.  If you like lasagna, you will love this soup.  Heck, if you like soup you will love this soup.  I made this recipe for my family over the Christmas holiday and it was a big hit.  It is officially my new favorite soup recipe. 
The base is tomato, sausage (I used turkey sausage), seasonings, and pasta.  The original recipe did not include any vegetables but I added mushrooms, bell pepper and spinach.  I really liked this addition because it bulked it up and added nutritional value.  I love vegetables in my lasagna so it makes sense that I would like vegetables in my lasagna soup!  What makes this lasagna soup really special (and makes it taste like lasagna) is the cheesy mixture that you add to each bowl.  It is a combination of ricotta, parmesan, salt, and pepper. In the picture I added it to the top but I think it is best to put it in the bottom of the bowl and pour the hot soup over it so it melts.  
The Perfect Pairing for lasagna soup is Flatbreads with Thyme, Honey and Sea Salt.  I like to serve some sort of bread with soup and these flatbreads were perfect.  The soup is really hearty so you would not want to serve dense bread.  The cracker-like consistency of the flatbreads was a nice compliment to the soup.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tomato Bisque

Perfect Pairing: Grilled cheese
Is there any food more comforting than a really good bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese?  It is a classic combination that will never go out of style.  My mom got this recipe from her dear friend years ago and it has been a family favorite ever since. 
This tomato bisque is very deceiving because it tastes like it would take a lot of time and work to make, but it is done in a matter of minutes.  It could not be easier.  It tastes like it is full of cream but the creaminess comes from low fat buttermilk, which adds just a small amount of fat.
The Perfect Pairing for tomato bisque is, of course, a grilled cheese sandwich.  Make it fancy or keep it simple, it will be delicious alongside this soup.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cucumber Sandwiches

Perfect Pairing:  Beer bread

Moms are just the best thing in the world.  I might be biased but I am pretty sure I have the best mom out there.  She is always there for me no matter what I am going through, or what time of day or night it may be.  Thank you mom.

Some of my favorite mother daughter memories are going to high tea with my lovely mom in downtown Chicago as a girl.  We had a tradition of going to the windy city to do some Christmas shopping and we would finish the trip with traditional tea at The Drake or The Four Seasons.  I loved everything about it.  I loved that I got my very own teapot and a delicate little teacup.  I loved the scones, clotted cream, and jam.  I loved the little sandwiches.  Most of all I loved feeling very grown up and sophisticated.
A couple of years ago we had high tea at The Drake as grownups.  I still loved it, but this time we had a teatini along with our Earl Grey! 
One of my favorite little tea sandwiches that is always served at high tea is cucumber on white bread with a little cream cheese.  It is so delicate, fresh, and ladylike.  It is the epitome of a tea sandwich.  My version of a cucumber sandwich is a bit of a departure from the traditional version.  It is not as delicate, or as pretty, but I think it has more flavor and is more satisfying.  I use a combination of whipped cream cheese and fat free Greek yogurt for the spread.  I like the texture that the yogurt brings to the spread and it keeps the fat and calories down. 
The Perfect Pairing for my cucumber sandwich is freshly baked beer bread.  I used packaged beer bread from Longaberger, which could not have been easier.  You can also make your own version at home using this recipe.  The slightly sweet flavor of the beer bread is perfect with the dill spread and fresh cucumbers. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tuna and Potato Salad

Perfect Pairing: Make-ahead lunches

In the spirit of healthy eating week, my next recipe is a yummy tuna and potato salad with crisp romaine lettuce.  I have been making a variation of this salad for years and it is one of my favorites.  The potatoes make it hearty and add great texture.  Canned tuna (or tuna in the pouch) is such an easy protein to throw on salads. 
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is make-ahead lunches.  I prep everything on the weekend and portion out the lettuce and veggies in plastic containers.  I keep the dressing in a jelly jar so it is easy to shake up and distribute over the salad.  I use a small can (3 oz) of tuna on each portion.  I look forward to this tasty and healthy salad all week long.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Berries n' Cream

Perfect Pairing:  Post holiday diet

If your holidays were anything like mine you enjoyed some really great food and drinks over the season.  No wonder the gyms are so full on January 2!  I think after the holidays people actually look forward to hitting the reset button.  I know I do.  I think it kind of goes along with taking down the decorations and the Christmas tree.  Eating healthy and getting into a normal schedule just feels good.
This week I am going to post some healthy recipes that still taste great.  I will kick it off with one of my favorite go-to desserts, Berries n’ Cream.   The sauce is made from sour cream (fat free or reduced fat), brown sugar, vanilla, and Kahlua (optional) and is served over a combination of fresh berries.  The berries are tart and fresh and they pair so nicely with the sweet sauce.  Sour cream and brown sugar may seem odd but I urge you to give it a try.  One serving of the sauce (about six servings in a recipe) has only 50 calories.  That is why Berries n’ Cream is the Perfect Pairing with a post holiday diet!

Berries n’ Cream
Lindsay at Perfecting the Pairing

·         8 oz sour cream (reduced fat or fat free)
·         2 Tb brown sugar
·         ½ tsp vanilla
·         1 Tb Kahlua (optional)
·         Fresh berries
In a small bowl combine the sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and Kahlua (if using).  Stir until everything is evenly combined.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until the sugar fully dissolves.  Serve over fresh berries.
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