Dinner Menu - May 30th thru June 5th

>> Sunday, May 29, 2011

In an effort to keep to our budget better, I've started to make a weekly meal plan and only one trip to the grocery store. I thought if I posted our menu on the blog it might hold me accountable for making dinner even when I'd rather go out to eat and it might give someone else an idea for their dinner table. Another part of my grand master plan is to make at least one (hopefully more) meal per week that can be frozen. I love having homemade meals in the freezer to fall back on in times I just don't feel like cooking. I'll post any of these recipes that turn out well!

Here's my first meal plan:

1. Neely's BBQ Spaghetti; Roasted Broccoli - freeze half the sauce

2. Pacific Pork and Red Bell Pepper Kebabs; Pineapple and Edamame Rice

3. Chicken Club Salad; Toasted Baguette

4. Whole Wheat Flatbread with Lamb & Yogurt; Spinach Pie

5. BBQ Chicken Pizza; Garden Salad - make 2 pizzas and freeze one

6. Sloppy Joes; Sweet Potato Fries; Fresh Fruit

7. Mexican Rice Bowls

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!Erin


Chinese Chicken Salad

There are a million versions of this simple salad floating around the web, but I felt it necessary to share it just in case someone hasn't seen it. Or just to emphasize how tasty it is if you haven't gotten around to making it yet. You really do need to give this salad a try! I can't even begin to guess how many times I have made it over the years. Whenever I'm in a quandry as to what to plan for dinner that week, I'll turn to this tasty little jewel. I usually have several of the ingredients in the pantry already, which is always a nice thing.

Chinese Chicken Salad

for the salad
1/2 head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (you can substitute almost any cabbage)
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (sometimes I buy matchstick carrots to save time)
1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
3 green onions, sliced
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or sliced (I usually use a rotisserie chicken to save time)
Noodles from 1 pkg Ramen Noodles, broken into small pieces
1/2 c slivered almonds
1/4 c cilantro leaves, minced
1/4 c mint leaves, minced

for the dressing
1/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 c white vinegar
3 T white sugar
2 T soy sauce
2 t sesame oil
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Black pepper

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix dressing ingredients together in a jar and shake well to thoroughly combine. Pour over salad and toss well. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!Erin


Stoofvlees (Belgian Beef Stew)

>> Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm probably a little late to jump on the bandwagon, but I just stumbled upon this awesome blog, Global Table Adventures. I absolutely love her concept of making a meal from every country in the world - I had such fun exploring her blog. She is conquering the countries alphabetically and is currently working on Guatemala. While I was perusing her menus, I found her recipe for a traditional Belgium beef stew called Stoofvlees. It was served over pomme frites (otherwise known as french fries, but that doesn't sound nearly as sophisticated!) so I knew it had to be a winner. Despite it not really being stew weather, I decided to go for it.

This recipe takes a little preplanning since it needs to marinate 24 hours and then it needs to cook for several hours. But the upside is that come dinnertime, you don't have much left to do! The beef was really tender and delicious and I loved eating it over the fries. Even Finley, who loves to chew meat and then spit it out, actually ate all of her beef. How could you not, it practically melted in your mouth! The only real down side was that the stew wasn't very healthy - it didn't have any veggies besides onion, and hello, it's served over fries. But every now and then, we all need a little dietary splurge!

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!Erin


Red Potato and Tomato Salad

>> Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Every year my husband and I plant a garden in the spring. And every year the garden is dead by the summer. But this year has been very different! Since we have a kiddo, we spend a lot more time at home and our garden is doing much better because of all the attention it gets now. You know, like watering and stuff :-)

By far our biggest producers are the tomato plants. About every other day I haul in a colander full of tomatoes so I'm always on the look-out for recipes featuring, you guessed it, tomatoes! I saw this recipe last week on Food Network and gave it a try. And it did not disappoint! I'm a big fan of traditional mayo-based potato salad, but this salad was so flavorful that I did not miss the mayo one bit. What I really loved about this recipe was that the potatoes weren't really the stars of the show. They had a supporting role so that the tomatoes and olives really shined. Since it doesn't have mayonnaise, it would be great to take to a picnic or BBQ too. It was just a fun, new spin on potato salad!

Red Potato and Tomato Salad
recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
makes 4 servings

1 lb baby red potatoes, halved
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 T capers, rinsed and drained
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 large lemon, zested
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Add potatoes to a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Set the saucepan over medium heat. Bring water to a boil and continue boiling until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and allow them to dry for 5 minutes.

In a serving bowl, add potatoes and remaining ingredients. Toss gently until all ingredients are coated and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and gently toss again before serving.

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!


Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing and Grilled Lemon

When the heat index hits over 90 degrees, I do not want to heat up the kitchen by using the oven or the stove, so that means one thing - - it's grilling time! Since Andrew is king of the grill, it means less work for me too. I get to relax in the air conditioning sipping an icy cold beverage while Andrew mans the grill. A win-win situation, if you ask me! (Granted you do have to use the oven to roast the garlic, but I did that first thing in the morning when the temperature was still in the 70s.)

As a true lover of anything citrus, I was really intrigued with the idea of grilling the lemons in addition to the chicken. The grilling process caramelizes the sugars in the lemon and produces a wonderfully sweet yet still tart flavor. Gorgeousness in my mouth! I really love the dressing and I'm already planning what else I will be smothering it with...pork chops, fish, salad...the list could go on and on...

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing and Grilled Lemons
recipe adapted from Tyler Florence's Tyler's Ultimate cookbook

1 head of garlic, cut in half at the equator
kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole fresh thyme sprigs, plus leaves from 6 sprigs
juice of 2 lemons, plus 2 more lemons, halved
1/2 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 to 6 skin-on chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 12 inches long. Put the garlic on one half of the foil, sprinkle with salt, drizzle in some olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of water and add 2 sprigs of thyme. Fold the foil over the garlic to enclose and fold in the edges 2 or 3 times to seal. Put the package in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Open the package and let the garlic cool a bit, then squeeze out the cloves into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and thyme leaves and puree to make a thick vinaigrette. Divide dressing into two bowls, one for basting the chicken and one for serving.

Preheat outdoor grill to medium heat.

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat with seasonings.

When you're ready to cook, take a few paper towels and fold them several times to make a thick square. Blot a small amount of oil on the paper towel and carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill to make a nonstick surface. Put chicken on grill, skin side down. Grill the chicken for 15-25 minutes, turning once and basting often with half of the dressing. Cook chicken until no longer pink. During the last few minutes of cooking, throw the lemon halves on the grill, cut sides down, and cook until just marked and smoky.

To serve, toss the chicken with the remaining dressing and squeeze the grilled lemons over the chicken.


Spring Frittata

>> Sunday, May 22, 2011

{all the pretty veggies before the egg mixture went in}

Since we're trying to save for a new house, I've been working to cut down our grocery bill. One of the best ways is to cut down on the meat that we eat each week, so I've been trying to work in a vegetarian meal here and there. The frittata worked out really well because it still has plenty of protein from the eggs and cheese and many of the ingredients came right out of our garden. How fun is that! I love being able to walk outside and grab fresh herbs and vegetables. Now I just have to cross my fingers that our garden will survive the brutal Texas summer! In addition to being inexpensive, this frittata is delicious. I loved the tang from the goat cheese, the olive oil soaked potatoes and the burst of sweetness from the whole cherry tomatoes. Fantastic! I also better better eating it since It didn't have a pie crust base like quiches do and it had a green veggie in it. I will definitely be making this again and again.

Spring Frittata

2 T olive oil
2 large red potatoes (or 1 medium baking potato), diced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1-2 T fresh herbs, chopped (I used chives, parsley, thyme, basil and dill)
6 eggs
1/3 milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Place potatoes and onion in skillet and cook until fork tender, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Mix in garlic, spinach and salt and pepper. Continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Sprinkle cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh herbs over potatoes.

In a bowl, beat eggs and milk together. Pour into skillet over the vegetables. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, gently lifting edges with spatula and tilting pan so that uncooked portion flows underneath. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until set in the middle and lightly browned. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Walnut & Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Salad

>> Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This recipe is based on one of my favorite salads at a great restaurant here in Austin called Z Tejas. I love Z Tejas and could eat there everyday, but Andrew isn't a huge fan so we rarely ever go there. Sigh. So I decided to bring Z Tejas to my table and came up with a pretty good copycat recipe for their Parmesan-Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Walnut & Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Salad - serves 2 to 3 for a main course
inspired by Z Tejas

for the chicken
2 T olive oil
2 chicken breasts, pounded to an even 1/2-inch thickness
flour, for dredging
1 egg, beaten
3/4 c walnuts
3 T Parmesan
salt and pepper

for the salad and dressing
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped, fat reserved for dressing
spinach and/or mixed spring greens
2 handfuls of cherry or grape tomatoes
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 small shallot, chopped
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t dijon mustard
salt and pepper

For the chicken: Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. In a food processor, finely chop walnuts and parmesan together. Pour onto a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour flour onto another plate and pour the beaten egg into a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, dip into the eggs and then press both sides of chicken into walnut-parmesan mixture to completely coat. Repeat with second chicken breast. Slide chicken into saute pan and cook for 5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Take chicken off heat and let cool for a few minutes and then slice.

For the dressing: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 2 T bacon fat over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook 3-5 minutes, or until softened. Using a whisk, stir in vinegar, sugar, dijon, salt and pepper until well incorporated.

For the salad: Arrange spinach and/or mixed greens on a dinner plate. Top with crumbled bacon, tomatoes, goat cheese, avocado, cucumber, and sliced chicken. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and serve.


Coconut-Lime Cake Truffles

>> Monday, May 9, 2011

During Finley's nap time I was perusing different cooking blogs (i.e. putting off doing the housework for as long as possible) and I stumbled across a recipe for Coconut Cake Truffles on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen's blog, which if you haven't peeped it out yet, you totally should. Anyway, back to the truffles. They looked cute. Who doesn't like a little bite-sized dessert? They looked yummy. My mouth started watering. I was sold.

As soon as Finley woke up, we ran to the little grocery store in my neighborhood to pick up the ingredients. Praise God, they actually had all the ingredients, even the coconut milk! While making them, Fin and I were taste-testing along the way - as all good cooks do, right? - and I just couldn't help but change things up a bit. I always try to follow a recipe exactly but something just comes over me and I have to throw in a bit of this or a bunch of that. I can't stifle my creativity! I decided to tweak the recipe a little by adding some lime flavor to the truffles. In my opinion, the lime perfectly suited the sweet chewiness of the coconut and really made the flavors pop. I'm sure they would have been delicious as the recipe was originally written, but to me, everything is better with a something citrus! Plus, doesn't citrus flavor just scream summer to you? It surely does to me!

As I was typing this up, I received a text message from my husband: "Craving your truffles so don't eat all them of today". (Okay, his text really said "cravin' yo' truffles so don't be eatin' all dem today" but I opted to edit because I have no idea why his text was sent with either a ghetto or maybe a Cajun accent. He's a weirdo...err, character!) Apparently, Fin and I are not the only fans of these truffles!

Coconut-Lime Cake Truffles
adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen's Coconut Cake Truffles recipe

1 box white cake mix (plus ingredients to prepare cake)
1 1/2 t coconut extract
2/3 c coconut milk
1/4 c sweetened condensed milk
1 (7-oz) bag shredded sweetened coconut
3 limes
white chocolate bark, candy melts or dipping chocolate

Preheat oven to bake cake. Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Add coconut extract to batter. Bake in a 9-x-13-inch pan. Let cool.

Crumble cake into a large bowl. Add coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, shredded coconut, and the zest and juice of two limes. Using hands, mix well. Roll into walnut sized balls and place on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate at least an hour.

Melt white chocolate bark in microwave or over stove according to package directions. While that's working, zest the remaining lime and set aside. Using a toothpick carefully dip each truffle into the white chocolate and place on wax paper to harden. After dipping two or three, sprinkle a pinch of lime zest on each truffle. (If you wait to sprinkle them until you've dipped them all, the outer coating will have hardened enough that the zest won't adhere well.)

An additional garnish idea: toasted coconut!


Chile con Queso

Living in Austin, we have A LOT of Mexican restaurants to choose from, but without a doubt, hands down, Matt's El Rancho has the best queso around. And I take queso very seriously as it is probably one of my most favorite foods. It is dee-lish! While I'm talking about El Rancho, I must share that my favorite form of their queso is called the Bob Armstrong Dip. It's basically a bowl with a generous scoop of their guacamole, another scoop but this time of taco meat and then filled with queso. In each bite you get a little avocado, a little meat and a lot of melted, glorious cheese. Heaven! Just wanted to throw that out there in case anyone wanted to amp up their queso.

Andrew and I had his parents over for dinner Saturday night and in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I served a Mexican feast. While I was putting the finishing touches on our main course, everyone munched on queso and tortilla chips. There wasn't much talking so that must have meant that the queso was pretty good. Sweet little Finley kept asking for more "dip chip" - precious! She's definitely my daughter since she already loves her some queso!

Matt's El Rancho's Chile con Queso
adapted only slightly from Matt Martinez's Mex Tex cookbook

2 (7-oz) cans diced green chiles
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 c diced white onion
1/2 c diced celery
2 t Tex-Mex spice*
1 c chicken broth
1 1/2 - 2 lbs Velveeta cheese, cubed (use more or less depending on thick you like your queso)

In a sauce pan, combine all ingredients except cheese. Bring to a light simmer and gently cook for about 15 minutes. Turn heat down and add the cheese. Simmer until cheese is melted, stirring often to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan.

For extra spicy queso, add chopped jalapenos.

* Tex-Mex spice is made by Sendero Seasonings. If it isn't available in your supermarket, here is the recipe for it:

Tex-Mex Spice
3 T plus 2 t ground cumin
3 T granulated garlic
2 T salt
1 T coarsely ground black pepper

Mix together. Store in airtight container.


Cilantro-Basil Dressing with Taco Salad

For the main course, I served a taco salad (fried tortillas, spring salad mix, black beans, grilled corn, chopped tomatoes, avocado chunks, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sauteed onions and taco meat) that was topped with this delicious salad dressing. It has such a delightfully bright, tangy flavor that complimented the taco salad fixings really well. It's flavor is really versatile though so I think it would be great on just about any salad.

If you don't make taco salad very often (or at all), I would suggest it the next time you're in the mood for Mexican food. It has all the great flavors of Mexican food but it's much healthier and not as heavy as most Tex-Mex dishes. But it's still hearty enough that the man in your life will still feel full. You can easily tailor the salad to fit your tastes - use chicken, pork or beef fajita meat instead of taco meat; increase the amount of beans and cheese to make it a vegetarian meal; use different lettuces; substitute store-bought pico de gallo or guacamole for the chopped tomato and avocado to speed up the prep work; add some jicama for extra crunch; omit the fried tortilla shells to make it a lot healthier or substitute tortilla chips...the list could go on forever!

(I apologize for my crappy taco salad picture but it was the only one I had to post. I figure that a blurry picture is better than no picture at all!)

Cilantro-Basil Dressing
Fonda San Miguel Thirty Years of Food and Art cookbook

1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 c firmly packed cilantro leaves
1/2 c firmly packed basil leaves
1 1/2 t sugar
1/2 t ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large blender and blend together for about 3 minutes, or until mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. The mixture can be blended again if it separates. Makes 2 cups.

(I halved the recipe and still had lots left over.)


Flan Almendrado (Almond Flan)

>> Sunday, May 8, 2011

Whenever we go out for Mexican food, which is quite often, the meal is always ended with a piece of flan. So it was a no-brainer for me to make flan for an outstanding end to our Cinco de Mayo dinner. If you've never had flan, I strongly, strongly encourage you to try it. Like, now. It's a silky smooth egg custard with a burnt sugar syrup. The best part about flan - it is so easy to make!

I always use the same recipe - why change it up if you've already got a winner?!? Of course the recipe is from one of Austin's best gourmet Mexican restaurants, so that helps a lot. Try it and I know you'll love it too!

Flan Almendrado
adapted only slightly from Fonda San Miguel Thirty Years of Food and Art cookbook

3/4 c sugar
2/3 c blanched, silvered almonds
1 1/2 (14-oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 c whole milk
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle position. Put sugar in a round 9-by-3-inch nonstick cake pan. Using heavy oven mitts or tongs, place pan directly over medium heat to caramelize the sugar. Heat until sugar liquefies, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Do not touch the melted sugar - it will cause serious burns. When the hot liquid in the pan is a golden brown, remove from heat and set aside on a rack to cool and harden.

In a blender or food processor, process almonds until they are fairly finely ground. Add condensed milk, whole milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla to almonds. Process until well blended. Pour custard mixture over prepared caramel. Place the cake pan in a larger, deeper pan (I use a roasting pan) and pour about an inch of hot water around the cake pan to make a water bath. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the flan is set in the center and no longer jiggles. Remove from oven and cool on a rack at room temperature. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour.

To serve, run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the flan to release it from the sides of the pan. Place a 10-inch (or larger) serving platter on top of the pan. Turn the platter over and gently remove the cake pan, leaving flan on the serving platter. (If the flan doesn't easily come out, place the cake pan on the stove over medium-low heat for 30 seconds to 1 minutes to just barely melt the sugar. Try inverting the cake pan again, and the flan should come right out.) Using a flexible spatula, scrape up as much of the caramel as possible from the bottom of the pan and pour over the flan. Cut into triangular wedges and serve. Makes 8 to 12 slices.


Spinach and Boursin Mac & Cheese

>> Thursday, May 5, 2011

I love macaroni and cheese, and I've almost convinced myself that this recipe is healthy as it contains spinach and uses whole wheat pasta! Even better, Finley ate it all - including spinach. Praise the Lord! Finley has developed a nasty habit of separating anything green from the rest of her food and then refusing to eat the greens. So getting her to eat spinach is a major feat!

Spinach and Boursin Mac & Cheese
8 oz whole wheat rotini (or other short pasta)
1 T butter
1/2 white onion, diced
2 heaping T flour
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 (5.2-oz) pkg Shallot & Chive Boursin cheese
1/4 c grated parmesan
1 (10-oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry of excess moisture
salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 t ground nutmeg

3 T walnuts, finely chopped
3 T panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 T grated parmesan
2 t olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Preheat broiler.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, saute onion in butter until onion is soft. Add flour and stir to coat onion. Let cook one minute. Add milk and whisk constantly to prevent lumps. Let sauce simmer 1-2 minutes, or until thickened.

Lower heat to medium-low and stir in Boursin a little at a time until melted. Take pan off of heat and stir in parmesan, spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Carefully stir in cooked pasta. Pour into a greased casserole pan.

In a small bowl, stir together walnuts, panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and mix well. Sprinkle topping evenly over casserole. Broil about 5 minutes to toast topping. Watch carefully since each broiler is a little different and the topping can go from toasted to burned quickly.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish or 4 as a main dish


Goat Cheese in Basil Oil

>> Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats, which is a great cooking blog in my humble opinion, and I knew I had to make it for one of my mom's weekly board meetings. You see, my sweet husband doesn't like goat cheese so I knew I couldn't make it for him. Too bad because it would be a spectacular starter for a romantic meal at home. But alas, I digress. Luckily I had another option where I could make it and take it and have it be appreciated - by someone other than myself! I love the simplicity of the recipe yet it looks, and tastes, very gourmet. And the vividness of the basil oil just screams springtime to me!

Here is a link to the original recipe, which I meant to follow exactly but accidentally combined the parmesan into the goat cheese. Hence why my version of the recipe can't be called Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil. Anyway, other than putting the parm in with the goat cheese, I followed the rest of the directions.

One word of warning: garlic. Raw garlic is pretty potent stuff and for me the two cloves of garlic were too powerful. (I woke up in the middle of the night burping garlic. Not cool.) So the next time I make it, I think I'll omit the garlic or substitute roasted garlic for the raw stuff. But if you like raw garlic, then the original recipe probably will be right up your alley!


Celery and Parmesan Salad

>> Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Whenever I make Italian food, I will serve a Caesar salad or a salad with a red wine vinaigrette. But I needed some thing new tonight because I was growing bored with the old stand-bys. I remembered a recipe from Ina Garten's newest cookbook How Easy Is That? that I thought could be exactly what I was craving.

I really enjoyed the crispness of the celery with the tart lemon dressing and the large slices of shaved parmesan made it all absolutely divine. It seems like a very gourmet salad but all the ingredients were easy to find, "normal" ingredients. Between the two of us, Andrew and I polished off the entire salad! I think this salad would make an elegant starter when serving any kind of heavy meal because, even though it's packed with flavor, it's a really light salad. I will definitely be making this one again!

Celery and Parmesan Salad
recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?

1/2 c good olive oil
2 t grated lemon zest
1/4 c plus 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
2 T minced shallots
1 t celery seed
1/2 t celery salt
1/2 t anchovy paste
Kosher salt and pepper
5 c thinly sliced celery hearts, tender leaves included, sliced as thinly as possible and on an
angle (about 12 stalks)*
4 oz chunk aged Parmesan cheese
2/3 c toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Whole flat-leaf parsley (I accidentally omitted this)

At least one hour before you plan to serve the salad, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, 1/4 c lemon juice, shallots, celery seed, celery salt, anchovy paste, 2 t salt and 1 t pepper. Place the celery in a mixing bowl and toss it with the remaining 1 T lemon juice and 1/2 t salt. (Even though these ingredients are in the dressing, believe me - this step makes a difference.) Add enough dressing to moisten well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop.

When ready to serve, arrange the celery on a platter, shave the parmesan onto the celery with a vegetable peeler, then sprinkle with walnuts, parsley leaves, salt and pepper and serve immediately.

*it really helps to use a mandolin to slice the celery - it provides evenly sliced celery in a fraction of the time.


Nutella Crepes with Berries

There are several of my friends that all had children around the same time and we started a play group when our kids were just a few months old. Every now and then we get together without the kids for a moms night out and we always have a great time! At our last dinner, we went to a new restaurant/wine bar and we ordered a bunch of appetizers and split them. When it came time for dessert, we were all drawn to their Nutella Crepe with Berries, so we ordered one...and then another one. It was a fabulous end to a great meal! Since that night, I've often thought of that wonderful dessert, so I decided to re-create it tonight. And it was just as good as I remembered!

I used my mother-in-law's crepe recipe but you could easily substitute store-bought crepes if you're in a pinch. Also the components of this recipe can be made ahead of time and then assembled just prior to eating.

Nutella Crepes with Berries
for the crepes
3 eggs
1 3/4 c milk
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
1 T vegetable oil
non-stick spray or melted butter, for greasing the pan

for the filling
10 T nutella

for the berries
2 1/2 c fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or an assortment of the three)
2 T sugar
2 T water

For the crepes: In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and blend well. Stir it with a spoon to make sure there aren't any lumps. The batter will be thin and smooth.

Put an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with nonstick spray (or brush with melted butter). Pour about 1/4 c of batter into the pan and quickly swirl it to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. (You want the crepes paper thin.) Cook for about 30-45 seconds, or until the edges just start to turn golden. Flip the crepe and cook an additional 30 seconds. Slip the crepe onto a plate and repeat with remaining batter. You should get 10-12 crepes. (I always use pieces of wax paper between the crepes so they don't stick together.)

For the berries: In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, add 1 1/2 c berries, water (or port wine would be a great substitute for the water!) and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Lower heat and cook an additional 8 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.

For assembly: Place a crepe on your work surface. Spread about 1 T nutella on half of the crepe. (I only put Nutella on half of the crepe because it's pretty rich, but if you're feeling decadent, by all means, spread it over the whole thing!) Roll the crepe up and slice in half width-wise. Spoon on some berry compote and enjoy!


Golden Lemon-Olive Chicken with Couscous

>> Monday, May 2, 2011

I saw this recipe on an episode of Rachael Ray's new show Week in a Day and it looked so good that I immediately went to the computer and printed it off. I finally got around to making it for dinner tonight and it received mix reviews. I thought it was good and a nice change of pace from more traditional American dinners. To me, it was fun to throw a more exotic dish into our normal dinner rotation.

My husband was not a fan of it though. He thought it was too citrus-y and that the other flavors were muddled because of the strength of the lemons, which I don't disagree with but I guess I just like lemons more than he does! Since it was a split decision, I probably won't make it again, but I still wanted to pass it along in case others want to try it for themselves.


Quick Quesadillas

Usually I prepare Finley's lunch during her nap so that it's ready to go when she wakes up. Her first word after waking up is almost always "eat!" Well today she woke up early and I hadn't had any time to plan, much less prepare, her lunch. So I was in need of a quick lunch for Finley and me. I looked at the odds and ends that we already had in the fridge and decided on quesadillas - and they turned out great! I can't wait to make them again tomorrow for lunch! What makes this quesadilla so scrumptious is the flavor of the onion and chive cream cheese, so don't skip it. All in all, a great easy lunch - almost no prep time, quick cooking, got some veggies in and I already had every ingredient.

Quick Quesadilla
flour tortillas
onion and chive cream cheese
sliced or shredded cheese (I used muenster)
deli meat (I used smoked turkey)
spinach (or another green - arugula, romaine, kale, etc.)

In a pan over medium heat, melt butter. Let it get good and hot before you start cooking the quesadilla or else the tortilla won't get very crispy. Spread a tortilla with a thin layer of cream cheese. Over half of the tortilla, top with cheese, meat and spinach. Fold over to create a "sandwich" and carefully slip into the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese has started to melt and flip over. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes and remove from pan. Cut into wedges and let cool slightly before eating.


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