May 28, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade

As the seasons change I am stepping away from heavy roasts and soups and craving lighter spring and summer flavors. The weather is warming up and taking a break from the to-do list sounds wonderful. When I think of sitting outside, summertime in general, I immediately start thinking about refreshing drinks. Nothing says summer quite like a tall, cool glass of lemonade. The sweet-tart flavor cools and refreshes like nothing else can. Relaxing with a glass of strawberry lemonade in hand helps me to imagine my troubles away.

      I’ll be bringing this summer drink to the next barbecue I attend and I’m sure it will make several appearances in my home all summer long. You can substitute sparkling water or club soda for some of the water in this recipe for a slightly bubbly celebration drink. Also, if you prefer, swap the strawberries for raspberries, blueberries or mango.

May 24, 2011

Homemade Naan

          Naan is a delicious, puffy, oval shaped bread often served with Indian dishes. I look forward to ordering naan every time I eat at an Indian restaurant. I love how the bread puffs up and bubbles at certain spots. It looks thin and dry, but manages to be soft and chewy and fluffy all at the same time. Soft, chewy nann is the perfect accompaniment to any curry. 
         I recently saw a few recipes for homemade naan and I wanted to try them out. This recipe was good and simple to prepare. It paired nicely with homemade butter chicken (recipe to come). The end result was tasty, though not as soft as the naan I  often eat in restaurants. It is a good recipe, but it doesn't compare to the flaky, buttery, slightly charred naan you get at a restaurant with a tandoori oven. Sadly, most of us do not have a tandoori oven in our home.  
            I also felt like it ended up being a lot of work. But, if you don't have Indian restaurants close or you feel like making your own naan, you may want to try this recipe. I'll keep you updated on my naan journey as I try a few more recipes in my never ending quest for THE BEST recipe.

May 23, 2011

Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie

     Smoothies are a great way to start the day. They are quick to make and great on the go. They have lots of vitamins and nutrients and they taste good. They also make a good mid-morning snack. This smoothie of cucumber and blueberries is brimming with antioxidants. However, it is not a beginners smoothie. You CAN taste the cucumber.
    Cucumber is a naturally cooling and thirst quenching vegetable. Which makes this the perfect smoothie for hot, muggy mornings or afternoons.  Cucumber is a mild tasting vegetable, but every time I   put it into smoothies, I ALWAYS taste it.  I really like it in this smoothie because the blueberries keep it sweet. However, taste your cucumber before you put it in, if it is especially bitter you might want to make a different smoothie. A bitter cucumber is better thrown into a salad or trash can. 
    Also, most of the time, I don't add dairy to my smoothies. Feel free to add tofu in place of the dairy. If you don't have tofu on hand or dislike it...feel free to replace it with a little plain yogurt or keep it simple with cucumber, blueberries and juice.

Pineapple Salsa

    Pineapple salsa makes me happy. I don't know what it is about this salsa, but I love it so much! It must be the sweet, salty and fresh taste that takes most dishes to the next level. It is also nice that most salsas, whether tomato based or fruit based, are virtually allergy free. Many of my salsas are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free and soy free. In a home that is cautious of certain foods...fresh salsas are always welcome.
    This pineapple salsa is fresh, flavorful and addicting.  I know that it will hit the spot on those hot days of summer, and the dreary days of winter. It is a great recipe for summer cooking and is a piece of cake to throw together. Just wash and roughly chop a bunch of produce and the food processor does the rest. 
    This sweet and spicy salsa tastes even better after at least 1 hour in the refrigerator and can be made up to 1 day ahead. However, the yellow pineapple may turn slightly pink because of the red pepper. One last note: if you're not a fan of cilantro don't let that stop you, just omit it.

May 21, 2011

Mashed Peas

        Mashed Peas. You might be thinking I've hit a new low, but Bean and I enjoyed these. Cale had issues with the texture. Mashed things remind him of baby food, so he wasn't the biggest fan. 
        This recipe was originally called Mushy Peas. It is a spin of the classic British fish and chips accompainiment. I'll be honest, the British are not known for their traditional cuisine. However, this altered version of a classic is really different and good. The more classic way to have mushy peas is with fresh mint mixed in, but since I have issues with fresh mint in certain dishes I opted to exclude it and substitute cheese. Yum. I'm glad I did. This is a great side dish for grilled meat or kabobs.

May 20, 2011

Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

     This recipe has been around for awhile. It was one of the first desserts I made when I was newly married and it is still one of Cale's favorite desserts. The recipe comes from Paula Deen and as you can imagine it is not healthy, but very tasty. It is a great recipe for beginners because it is not homemade, but more assembled. There is something about the sweet, creamy, fluffy filling, the fruity bananas and the crunchy, buttery shortbread cookies that make this dessert a real winner. If all of those adjectives haven't convinced you to try it yet, let me tell you now that you should. It makes a lot. Be sure to share it with someone, even though you might be tempted to keep it for yourself. And it is very hard to eat just ONE piece.
     One last tip: do not calculate the calories. Eat a piece of this delicious dessert, share some with your neighbors and remember this is an occasional treat. Enjoy.

May 18, 2011

Chicken Chilaquiles

       30 minutes. When I see a recipe that says Prep Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 30 minutes. I have a desire to try it. Even on busy weeknights I frequently have 30 minutes to put a healthy and homemade meal on the table. I tried this recipe a few years ago and it has become a go-to dinner. 
       This meal has also become comfort food. When it rains (which is often in the northeast) or is dark and chilly I crave something warm, flavorful and filling...this dish satisfies all of my cravings. It  is also an 'oven-free' meal, which means I can actually imagine making it during the muggy months of summer.
       Chicken Chilaquiles is a little spicy, but not too hot for Bean (as long as the seeds are removed from the chipotle chilies.)  By using rotisserie chicken  I save prep and cleanup time. It really needs the cilantro to finish the flavor, so be generous. I also top it with queso fresco, a mild, white cheese. You can add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream, but I usually exclude it and eat it with queso fresco and a sliver of avocado.

May 17, 2011

Chilled Strawberry Soup

        Fruit Soup? Whoever heard of such a thing?

    Once you try this soup you will want it all warm-weather long. This soup is cold and creamy and sweet. This is a very simple recipe to make and most people really enjoy it. It is perfectly refreshing and a light addition to any brunch or first course for a summer lunch. This soup would make a great addition to a tea party. You may even reach new star status with your friends and/or your children.
    Strawberries kick off the warm weather season. The sweet taste and bright color lifts the spirit and thrills the taste buds…reminding us of happy times. If you are a strawberry fan and have never tried strawberry soup, NOW is the time.   I make this soup with plain yogurt, however, Cale finds it too tart. He prefers it with a ratio of 1plain yogurt:2 strawberry yogurts. Feel free to make your own call.

May 16, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

      Often, I crave roasted vegetables. I adore the way the high heat caramelizes and slightly chars the outside edges of whatever vegetable I'm cooking. Add a little kosher salt to the mix and you have a delicious side dish for any entree.
     Brussels sprouts get a bad wrap. They tend to be a little bitter when steamed, but when they are roasted they change into a slightly sweet, delicious vegetable. Roasting helps to turn the outer leaves crisp and crunchy which compliment the tender inside. Adding enough salt also helps to bump up their flavor. I love these as a side dish because they are not too rich, too spicy, too sweet or too overpowering. They are exactly what a side dish should be…a compliment.

May 13, 2011

Strawberry Tostadas

It is 2:30 in the morning. I should be sleeping, but my bed partner keeps coughing. I'm a light sleeper and I can only stand a couple hundred coughs before I'm up...permanently. I laid in bed for at least 30 minutes, when I decided to get up and type up a recipe. Hopefully, the coughing will subsist by the time this post is done. I keep up with Bean better on more than a couple hours of sleep.

These vegetarian tostadas were so good. I love avocados and strawberries together. It becomes a perfect marriage when you combine the creamy avocado with the sweet, tart, firm strawberry. I've made a few salsas with these two ingredients, but these tostadas make a wonderful dinner.

Corn tortillas get baked in an oven until crispy. I love baking corn tortillas, they have the crispness of fried tortilla shells without all the fat. You put queso fresco cheese (the creamy, soft and mild unaged white cheese) on them and stick them back in the oven until the cheese is melted and golden in spots. Top these "giant nachos" with a fresh chopped salad consisting of crunchy jicama, creamy avocado, sweet strawberries, lime juice, jalapeno and cilantro (when those last three ingredients are listed, in my book, it has to be good) and prepare for a delicious meal.

May 11, 2011

Breakfast Polenta with Warm Berry Compote

       Polenta is ground white or yellow cornmeal. The polenta meal comes in different levels of coarseness. Bob's Red Mill also sells polenta with the nutritious germ still intact labeled as coarse stoneground cornmeal. It is the more "whole" option, but different than traditional polenta. I chose the finer grain more traditional meal because it cooks up faster and I love the texture for breakfast food. The dry meal is boiled with water or milk and made into a warm and pleasing porridge. It is a great alternative to oatmeal when you are in the mood for something different. The mixture cooks up smooth and creamy and can be made either sweet or savory according to your tastes.

       The polenta is creamy and satisfying, especially when topped with warm berry compote, which is a fancy way of saying warm berry sauce. The sauce is fruity, sweet/tart and warm. It pairs perfectly with the creamy, smooth polenta. This breakfast comes together really quickly and is a nice alternative to a bowl of cereal. 

May 10, 2011

S'more Bars

      Bean is a marshmallow fan. I am a marshmallow fan. My dad is a marshmallow fan. Are you noticing a trend? I inherited the genetic code for marshmallow lovin' from my father. I enjoy almost anything with marshmallows. When I saw a picture of the marshmallow fluff oozing out of these bars I knew I had to make them. I also knew that I didn't want kryptonite hanging around on my counter for the next few I shared.
     I brought these delicious bars for the youth girls I teach at my church. By the end of my lesson, the bars were gone. These bars are chocolaty, ooey-gooey from the marshmallow and have a slight graham flavor in the cookie base. They are good, but they are not exactly like a campfire s'more. Don't expect them to be or you might be disappointed. Also, don't try and cut them until they are COMPLETELY cool. I made that mistake and ended up wrapped in a web of marshmallow strands.

Strawberry Salsa Bravado

   You might be wondering if my cooking ability has disappeared with the title of this post. Recently, I found a wicked:) good sale on organic strawberries.  I jumped at the opportunity and purchased 20 POUNDS. Can you believe it? I didn't even freeze any. I bought extra thinking I would freeze some, but we've been eating them like crazy. I have so many strawberry recipes for future posts that they may need their own tab. I've made them into appetizers, salads, drinks, entrees, sides and desserts and my family has enjoyed them all. I'll try to space out the strawberry recipes so you don't become sick of them.
    This salsa is tasty spooned over grilled chicken, fish or pork. You can also spoon it over avocado slices  and garnish with tortilla cihps to create a beautiful salad. 

Strawberry Salsa Bravado
adapted from Kansas City Star via CLBB

1 jalapeno chile, minced (remove ribs and seeds for mild heat)
1 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup peeled and diced mango or papaya
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
salt to taste
pinch of sugar

Gently toss the ingredients until combined. Allow salsa to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

May 4, 2011

P. Jayne's Flank Steak

     Flank Steak. It is one of my favorite cuts of beef. Most people have heard of it and even prepared and cooked it. It is relatively inexpensive with BIG beefy flavor. The only hang-up is that flank steak can be tough and hard to chew. If flank steak is cooked medium-rare and sliced thin on the bias it is easy to chew, juicy and flavorful.
     Marinating steak is a great way to mainintain moisture and infuse the meat with great flavor. This recipe comes from mi madre, P. Jayne. My mother is an excellent cook and passes on the best recipes. This marinade follows her recipe trend...really simple and full of flavor. 
    I enjoy marinating dinner the night before and grilling in the summer. When the days are long, hot (I'm not complaining) and humid; it is nice to know you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen. I tend to cook seasonally. I find it healthier, more economical and most of the time, exactly what my body craves. During the heat and humidity that comes with these New England summers I enjoy fresh salsas, salads, grilling and cold drinks. Get excited for lots and lots of fresh recipes to come. I hope you enjoy this quick, tasty marinade as much as we do.
This steak was cooked Medium-Rare, however, my point-and-shoot made it look very rare.

P. Jayne's Flank Steak
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, small diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced (about 2 medium cloves)
1 teaspon ginger, grated

Whisk together all marinade ingredients. Pour all marinade ingredients into a gallon-size ziploc bag and place flank steak in with the marinade. Seal the ziplock bag, making sure to squeeze extra air out. Place steak and marinade into the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 10-24 hours. Turning the bag occasionally.
Cook the beef on medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes (approximate time for medium-rare) on each side. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice steak on an angle and serve.

May 3, 2011

Antipasto Salsa

     This salsa was one of the great things I discovered last year. I have made it numerous times and I enjoy it each time I make it. I've made it as an appetizer, lunch, snack and dinner. I served it on toasted bread, on chopped lettuce and as a topping on an 'Italian' sandwich. As long as you eat the can't go wrong. The sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar really tops it all off. 
     I love the fresh basil. It makes it taste so much fresher. You can also use frozen basil, but the flavor isn't as bright. The kalamata olives really add a lot of salt and briny flavor to this dish. I have made this salsa with bottled roasted peppers and with freshly roasted red peppers. They both taste great, it is more a matter of time vs. money. Lately, that age-old conundrum questions me a lot in my life right now. I'm short on both! 

Antipasto Salsa

adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup diced tomato
1 medium zucchini diced small
1/2 cup chopped drained marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup diced bottled roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and chill. Serve with toasted baguette, chips or on a bed of lettuce.