Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sweet Potato with Kale, Mushrooms, and Pancetta

Perfect Pairing – Deli Counter
BUT I have yet to do anything with sweet potatoes.  Until now!

This was one of those random dinners you throw together to try to use what you have on hand.  In this case I had kale, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.  I was thrilled with the result.  It was super hearty and healthy (ignore the small amount of pancetta).  Kale and sweet potatoes are powerhouse ingredients, full of nutrients.  It may not be beautiful, but it was darn tasty.
Freshly grated nutmeg is a great complement to dark greens, so I used that in my version but it is optional if you don’t feel like investing in nutmeg.  Personally, I love having a few whole nutmegs on hand and I grate them on my microplane.   

I topped the potato off with a dollop of ricotta mixed with parmesan and salt and pepper.  It kind of acts like sour cream here.  If you are following the paleo diet, which is incredibly popular right now, you could leave the ricotta off. 

One of my biggest annoyances is waiting at the deli counter at my grocery store. There is always a line and I swear they could move much faster.  I hate pulling my number out of that little machine and realizing I am 12 people from the front of the line.  Ugh.  I decided to stick it out when I was making this, because I knew I could save a fair amount of money.  I bought the pancetta and ricotta from the deli.  I was able to get the exact amount I needed and I think I saved about $7.  Totally worth the wait.  You could also use bacon if you are not feeling the pancetta.

If you have leftovers they are great repurposed for breakfast.  I chopped up the leftovers (potato, kale, mushrooms, and pancetta) and sauteed them in a skillet until lightly browned and topped it off with some ricotta and a fried egg.  Whoa.  It didn't suck.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Creamy Edamame and Corn Succotash

Perfect Pairing:  Chipotle Cheddar Cheese
Airport food has come a long way.  During my youth I would fly out of the Moline International Airport.  I am not quite sure how they can call it an international airport, maybe someone went to Canada once from there.  It is a very small airport filled with very friendly employees, free parking (at least it used to be), and one baggage carrousel.  There was one restaurant option right before security that basically served diner food. They have totally remodeled the airport in recent years so I might be wrong on some of this information. 

Nowadays I fly out of O’Hare where there are endless food options.  Unfortunately, that also comes with about 10x the hassle when compared to flying out of a small airport.  San Francisco’s airport (SFO) has a new terminal that is filled with awesome options.  Cat Cora and Tyler Florence both of restaurants there, as well as an amazing candy store, and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.  You don’t mind killing time in that terminal.

I recently flew out of SFO after an amazing trip to California and had some time to kill in the new terminal.  I decided to get lunch at Tyler Florence’s restaurant.  It is a relatively casual place that serves pizza, salads, and rotisserie options.  I had a salad but I was really eyeing the creamy succotash side dish.  I decided to try my hand at it when I got home.  I think I waited a whole two days.
Google tells me that succotash is a dish of corn and lima beans.  Well, mine has one of those things.  I subbed lima beans for edamame, added roasted red peppers, and a spicy cheese sauce.  My original plan was to use shredded pepper jack cheese in the sauce but while grocery shopping I spotted a chipotle cheddar cheese and decided to go with that.  I loved the smoky flavor of the chipotle peppers, but pepper jack would also be great in this dish.  This is a great way to spruce up your standard veggie side dish.  I loved it!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blueberry Bran Muffins

Perfect Pairing: Single servings of unsweetened applesauce
Last June I posted about the “Best Ever Blueberry Muffins”.  Those muffins are really, really good, probably because of the streusel topping.  They are great for a special family breakfast or brunch.
I mentioned in that post that I have a favorite blueberry bran muffin recipe that I make all the time.  While this version is not as over the top delicious as the streuselfied version, they are still really tasty.  The best part is that you can feel good about having these as part of your normal breakfast rotation.  They are made with wheat bran, unsweetened applesauce, whole wheat flour, and just a half cup of regular flour and two thirds cup brown sugar.  They come out to about 100 calories per muffin with less than a gram of fat and over 4 grams of fiber.
I follow this recipe from AllRecipes.com exactly except I use a half pint of blueberries rather than measuring out one cup of berries.  I used to buy the jars of applesauce, use what I need for the recipe, and then inevitably throw it away a couple months later when I have not touched the jar again.  If you buy the single serving packs of unsweetened applesauce they typically come in 4 oz containers, which is perfect for this recipe.  I find I am much more likely to grab the leftover servings for my midday snack at work.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Corn Casserole and a Tale of Two Lizards

Perfect Pairing:  Potluck
Oh the famous corn casserole.  I can’t even count how many times I have made this dish, definitely more than anything else I have ever made.  It makes an appearance at any dinner of importance at my parents'.  It is just so delicious and easy!  It literally takes under five minutes to prepare.  It is the perfect dish to bring to any potluck or family dinner.  There is one recent family dinner that I would like to focus on today.  Before I do that I need to give a little background…

My parents went on a trip to Hilton Head to visit some good friends.  While there my mom got super crafty with her friend and made all sorts of arrangements for their new house.  I guess she was inspired to bring back a little of the south.  On the last morning in South Carolina she picked up some Spanish moss outside of a breakfast restaurant.  Mom packed it up in the trunk and they were on their merry way.

A couple of days (and a thousand miles) later my parents unpacked the car back in the Midwest.  The Spanish moss was in a bag ready to go downstairs and mom noticed a twig that was not part of the moss.  She went to grab it to throw it away and it moved!  It was a LIZARD!!  Apparently I inherited my overwhelming fear of anything reptilian from my mother because I am told she screamed like she was face to face with a python.  Oh what I would give to witness that scene.  From a safe distance, of course.

After my dad stopped laughing he agreed to trap the little guy but said my mom had to help corner him.  Well, that was not happening.  She called the neighbor and the two manly men wrangled the lizard.  Here he is after being captured.  Not exactly tiny!
Fast forward a week to Easter Sunday.  I was home with my boyfriend and busy cooking a big Easter meal for the fam.  I commented to my mom how I could not believe I had never photographed the famous corn casserole, so before dinner I had an impromptu photo session with my boyfriend’s help (he was in charge of the spoon).  I even had an audience outside the window.

Apparently my audience was larger than I thought.  We were all enjoying Easter dinner and my dad said, “oh, Linda, there is another lizard on the window.”  My mom and I are VERY used to my dad making jokes like this so we giggled politely and went back to our dinner.  He laughed and said, “no, I am serious this time.”  Sure enough, there was another lizard on the window!  Cue the irrational screaming. 
 Easter dinner was put on hold while we (by “we” I mean the males in the room) dealt with lizard #2.  Once everything calmed down we had to laugh thinking about how the lizard must have been inches away from me while I was photographing the corn casserole.  Then we remembered my mom took a picture of me taking pictures. 
 Yep, there he is hanging out on the flower!  I can’t even imagine what kind of heart failure I would have endured if he jumped on the corn at that moment.
Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 5 36 17 PM
 We are all really hoping that lizards only travel in twos.  Yikes. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls

Perfect Pairing:  Simple Dipping Sauce
Recently I had a taste for egg rolls.  If you know me you know that means I am going to try to make them myself rather than get them from a restaurant like most normal people.  In this instance I wanted to make a healthier version, and I knew that was not coming from my local Chinese take-out place.  While the baked version is not exactly like the fried variety, they are still really tasty and crispy.  I went with an all vegetarian filling of mushrooms, cabbage, and canned stir fry vegetables.  My original plan was to use water chestnuts but at the store I saw a can of stir fry veggies (water chestnuts, bamboo, mini corn, etc.) and used that instead.  If you can't find that combo water chestnuts would be perfect.  Everything is seasoned with soy and hoisin sauce, which is like an Asian barbeque sauce. 

It is probably not a shocker to hear that I am not the best person to give egg roll wrapping lessons.  Well, I am going to do it anyway.

Wonton wrappers dry out easily, so I cover them with a damp paper towel while I work.

Place the wrapper with the point away from you and add your filling towards the bottom.
 Bring up the bottom corner

Tuck in the sides.   This is especially important if you are frying egg rolls because you don’t want the oil to soak the insides.
 Secure with a dab of water
 Line them up like soldiers

I made this really simple dipping sauce for serving.  I followed the recipe exactly, except I replaced the red pepper flakes with chili garlic sauce.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Honey Beer Chicken

Perfect Pairing: Blue Moon Beer
I am not much of a beer drinker, so I am not sure why I gravitated to this recipe, but I am glad I did.  It is a really simple weeknight meal that can be made in less than 30 minutes.  The sauce is a combination of beer, honey, whole-grain mustard, and soy sauce.  It is a great combination of sweet, salty, and tangy.

I think you could probably use any beer here but I used Blue Moon, since that was within my limited knowledge of beer.  It is light and refreshing, so it does not overpower the sauce.  The original recipe did not include marinating the chicken, but since chicken can be dry I thought that might help.  Blue Moon is usually served with a fresh orange slice so I used the zest and juice of an orange in the marinade along with the beer.

Now I have five Blue Moons in my refrigerator. 


Friday, April 5, 2013

Broiled Marmalade Grapefruit

Perfect Pairing:  A juice glass
Let’s get fancy.

Recently my mom told me about a trip she took to New Orleans about 35 years ago.  She still remembers a broiled grapefruit that was served to her.  She thought it was so elegant.  I had never heard of such a thing, but the more I thought about it, it made complete sense.  Grapefruits are great but need a little bit of sweetness added, why not brulee the heck out of it?  Crunchy sugary topping is good. 

I mixed a bit of sweet orange marmalade and a little brown sugar and spread it across the grapefruit halves.  After a few minutes under the broiler it was bubbly and beautiful.  More importantly, it tasted fantastic. 
I can’t wait to serve this for a brunch.  Wouldn’t it look so pretty on a brunch plate or buffet?  So you know what it is not so fancy?  Squeezing the grapefruit with your hands into a juice glass so you can enjoy every last bit of the sweetened juice.  It needs to be done because that might have been my favorite part.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Trail Mix Wheat Berry Salad with Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Orange Vinaigrette

Perfect Pairing:  Bulk bins
A few years ago my mom introduced me to wheat berries.  This was a bit of a switch since I am usually the one pushing out of the ordinary ingredients like quinoa, fish sauce, kale, and tahini.  When I mention these things I usually get crickets but she always ends up on the bandwagon.  I think she trusts me now, she knows I won’t lead her astray.  Anyway, she had a wheat berry salad at a friend’s house and made it for me and I was hooked.

Wheat berries are super nutritious and delicious.  They are a complete grain which means they have the germ, endosperm, and bran.  I am not totally certain why that is a good thing, but it is.  They are also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  They are especially high in B vitamins.  Convinced?

I love the texture of wheat berries.  After cooked for about an hour they are chewy but still have a good bite to them.  They are great in soups, salads, stews, etc.  This recipe combines the berries with chicken (I used rotisserie from the grocery store), vegetables, herbs, goat cheese, trail mix, and a fresh orange vinaigrette.  It is great as a main course or as a side to something off the grill.  The salad is also fabulous leftover, the berries just soak up the vinaigrette. 
The trail mix may sound a little strange but I wanted to add some dried fruit and nuts and instead of buying prepackaged stuff I decided to get what I needed from the bulk bins at my grocery store.  That way I could get the exact amount I needed and save a lot of money.  I used a trail mix that was a combo of nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit.  I also added a scoop of just dried fruit that included cranberries, raisins, and cherries.  Many stores also have the wheat berries in bulk bins if you want to go that route.  I can’t wait to make this one again!  I think it will be a staple this summer.

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