Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Artichoke-Sundried Tomato Whipped Feta in Lettuce Cups

I often don't purchase ground lamb because it can be pretty expensive.  Luckily, we found some at a local butcher shop that was very reasonably priced.  If you can't find ground lamb at a good price, I think this dish would also be excellent with ground beef or turkey (or a 50-50 mixture of the two).  

Once the lamb was purchased, I had to decide what to do with it! I had a bunch of ground lamb recipes saved in my bookmarks, and Tim picked out this one.  I'm really glad he did, because it is fantastic! The lamb sliders are super moist and flavorful, and the whipped feta spread is seriously genius.  I ended up with fat-free feta cheese by mistake, and it was still awesome, which is saying something (I normally don't trust fat-free cheese at all).  The recipe makes way more whipped feta than you need, so I would recommend either making a half recipe or saving the extra for topping crackers (yum!).  Finally, everything gets wrapped up in a crunchy lettuce wrap.  Unwrapping Iceberg lettuce leaves was actually way tricker than I thought it would be, and I had a hard time getting the leaves off in one piece without tearing.  On the plus side, it was delicious either way, and added a fresh, crisp component to the dish.  

I think this dish would also be great as an hors d'oeuvres...just make the lamb mixture into little meatballs and stick them on toothpicks with a dollop of the whipped feta and maybe a cube of cucumber to add crunch. So, if you need a New Year's Eve appetizer, I've got you covered. :)

Mediterranean Lamb Sliders with Artichoke-Sundried Tomato Whipped Feta in Lettuce Cups (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are

For the artichoke-sundried tomato whipped feta:
6 ounces feta cheese
2 T cream cheese
6 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
5 or 6 small oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
Pinch of white pepper

For the sliders:
1 pound ground lamb
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 head Iceberg lettuce, to serve

1. First, make the whipped feta.  Combine the feta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is combined and starting to form large clumps.  Add the artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pepper, and pulse until the veggies are finely chopped.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
2. Make the sliders.  Combine all the ingredients (except the lettuce!) in a large bowl and mix to combine with your hands.  Be careful not to overmix/compress the meat.  Form into 8 or 9 small sliders.
3. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When it is hot, add the sliders (no need to add oil unless you are not using a nonstick pan--the lamb will release plenty of fat).  Cook on both sides until nicely browned and as done as you like them.
4. Meanwhile, very carefully separate the leaves of the Iceberg lettuce -- this was much trickier than I thought it would be!  Rinse in cold water, and dry with paper towels. 
5. To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the feta onto a piece of lettuce.  I used about half a lettuce leaf for each slider, but you can vary this depending on the size of your lettuce.  Then add a slider, fold over the edges of the lettuce leaf, and enjoy!  Make sure to have lots of napkins handy, as this dish is a little messy to eat.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Carrot Fritters

I decided to make this recipe as a way to work more veggies into a breakfast-for-dinner meal.  These carrot fritters are reminiscent of hash browns, so they fit in well a breakfast or brunch.  They're quick to put together, super flavorful from Aleppo chili flakes and lemon zest, and they look really pretty on a plate.  These would also be good alongside a savory entree like roasted chicken or steamed fish.

Carrot Fritters (adapted from Donna Hay)
Serves 2 as a side dish

180 grams grated carrot (about 2 large carrots
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp toasted onions (or 1/4 cup minced shallots)
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 egg white
25 grams rice flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, to fry

Combine the carrots, garlic powder, onions, chili flakes, lemon zest, egg white, and flour in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Add more flour if the mixture looks too wet.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Form small patties with your hands, and place in the hot oil. Cook 2-4 minutes on each side, until crispy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sesame Noodles

Oh, how I love noodles!  This recipe for sesame noodles is another great one from one of my favorite blogs and cookbooks, Budget Bytes.  I bulked up the original recipe with pork and veggies to make it more of a complete dinner.  Whether you go for this version or just enjoy the sauce by itself on noodles, it's seriously addictive: bold sesame flavor from sesame oil and tahini, plus Aleppo chili flakes, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic.  Yum!  I thought this was best right out of the pan, so I'd make just as much as  you plan on eating rather than planning on leftovers.

Sesame Noodles (adapted from Budget Bytes)
Serves 4

8 ounces angel hair pasta
Vegetable oil
2 pork chops (optional, or sub in chicken or tofu)
3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, on the diagonal
1/2 large bell pepper, trimmed and thinly sliced
1-1/2 T sesame oil, divided
1 T minced fresh ginger
1-1/2 tsp minced fresh lemongrass
3 T unsalted butter
3 cloves minced garlic
3 T soy sauce
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
3 T brown sugar
Generous pinch Aleppo chile flakes (more if you like things spicy)
2 T tahini
2 green onions, thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt.  When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil. When the oil is hot, add the chops.  Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides. Remove to a cutting board. Cut off any large pieces of fat, and thinly slice the meat into bite-sized chunks. If the pork isn't cooked all the way through, return to the skillet and sauté for a few minutes until it is cooked to your liking.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the veggies. Heat a second skillet over medium heat and add 1 T of the sesame oil.  When it is hot, add the ginger and lemongrass.  Sauté for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Add the carrots and bell pepper, and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until just tender.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.
4. In the same skillet, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic, and statute for a minute or so, until just starting to brown. Scrape into a small bowl.  Add the remaining 1/2 T sesame oil, along with the soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and chile flakes.  Whisk to combine.
5. Return the drained pasta to the pot it was cooked in, and pour the sauce on top. Add the tahini, and toss to combine. When the tahini has melted into the sauce, add the reserved vegetables and pork, and toss to combine. Depending on your timing, you may want to gently regent the dish over medium-low heat.
6. Serve sprinkled with green onions.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Whole-Wheat Cherry Scones

I recently received a couple of packages of Montmorency cherries from Stoneridge Orchards to review on the blog. I immediately knew I wanted to make a batch of scones from Huckleberry -- Tim got me this cookbook for my birthday, and all of the recipes are super tempting.  I adapted Huckleberry's raisin scone recipe to work with dried cherries, and I was so happy with the results.  I definitely think switching raisins for cherries makes this feel more like a "holiday" recipe.  The scones were super flaky and tender, and the dried cherries were moist and slightly tart.  Best of all, the scones can be made ahead and stashed in the freezer.  In our house, that's a good thing because we can bake just a few at a time instead of being tempted with ten scones all at once.  But, it's also great for the holidays so you can have a fancy pants breakfast ready with basically no effort.

Whole-Wheat Cherry Scones (adapted from Huckleberry)
Makes 10 medium scones (One per person is plenty, but...I won't judge you if you want two!)

5 ounces dried Montmorency cherries
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup cold buttermilk or kefir
1 egg, whisked
Pinch of salt

1. If your cherries are old or a little dry, plump them in a hot water for 10 minutes.  Mine were nice and moist, so I skipped this step.  Either way, coarsely chop them.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.  Toss well wit hyour hands.  Add the butter, and work it in with your fingertips until the pieces are pea-sized.  Add the buttermilk and cherries and lightly toss to distribute.
3. Turn out onto a large, clean working surface.  Using the heel of your palm, quickly flatten out the dough.  Gather back together, and repeat a few times until the dough begins to hold together.
4. Pat the dough into a 12-inch long cylinder.  Lightly flatten the top, and cut into 10 triangles.
5. Transfer to an ungreased sheet pan, and pop in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
6. Then, either tightly wrap the scones and stash in the freezer for up to a month, or bake them right away.
7. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment, and arrange the scones with plenty of space between them.
8. Whisk together the egg and salt, and brush over the tops of the scones.  Sprinkle with sugar.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes, until nicely browned.  Let cool a minute or two before devouring!

I received complimentary samples of dried Montmorency cherries from Stoneridge Orchards for review purposes.  All recipe testing and opinions are my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche

Okay, drop whatever you are doing and go make this quiche for dinner!  It is the perfect sweet-savory combination with bacon, sauteed apples, and Cheddar cheese. I love adding Cheddar to my apple pie, and this is sort of like an ultra-creamy version of that...but you can eat it for dinner.  I love the olive oil crust -- it's way easier than a butter crust, and rolls out very quickly with no need to chill it in the fridge.  Overall, I was impressed with how easy this recipe was...no, it's not a 30-minute-meal, but it doesn't feel overly difficult for a weeknight and all the components come together quickly. You could also substitute store-bought pie crust to speed things up even more.  Definitely stash leftovers in the fridge--the quiche is fantastic cold for lunch the next day.

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche
Serves 6-8

Olive oil dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs

For the filling:
4 ounces bacon, cut into small squares
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
1 T flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 pinches ground white pepper

1. Make the crust.  Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add the oil and eggs. Use a fork ot beat the oil and eggs together, and then gradually draw in the dry ingredients a bit at a time until the dough starts to hold together.
2. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surgace, and fold the dough over itself 4 or 5 minutes until smooth.  
3. Roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches across.  Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan and fit into the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge.
4. Set a rack at the lowest level in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees.
5. Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon, and cook, stirring often, until it is nicely browned but not super-crisp.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
6. Drain off some of the bacon fat, and then add the apples to the skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
7. In a small bowl, toss together the cheese and flour.
8. Remove the tart crust from the fridge.  Scatter the bacon over the bottom of the crust, and then top with the apples.  Scatter the cheese over the apples.
9. Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cheese.
10. Place the tart in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 375 degrees.  Bake until the filling is set and nicely browned, 30-40 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes in the pan before serving.

I was sent a complimentary copy of Nick Malgieri's Pastry to review.  All recipe-testing and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thai Steamed Fish

I am always looking for fun new ways to prepare fish, and this recipe fit the bill.  It's quick to make -- just chopping a few veggies, making a quick sauce, and popping everything in the oven -- and extra quick to clean up since the fish is baked in a foil packet.  I also like that the veggies cook right alongside the fish so everything is ready to go.  I found the sauce to be pretty mild -- that's not a bad thing, but next time I would probably add more lime juice and maybe a drizzle of coconut milk.  I served the fish over coconut rice (recipe linked below), but it would also be good on its own or with rice noodles.

Thai Steamed Fish (adapted from Budget Bytes)
Serves 4 as a light meal

1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
1 pound perch fillets (or substitute another mild white fish)
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T honey
Pinch of Aleppo chile flakes or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
Coconut rice, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tear off two large piece of foil and place side-by-side on a large baking sheet.
2. Divide the peppers and zucchini between the two pieces of foil, and arrange the perch on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, honey, chile flakes, and lime juice.  Drizzle half the sauce over each packet.
4. Fold over the foil so the fish is completely covered, and then pinch together the edges to seal. Make sure to leave a little air inside the packets for steam.
5. Bake 20 minutes. 
6. To serve, spoon coconut rice into four bowls.  Divide the packets among the bowls, and pour any juices/sauce remaining in the packets on top.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs

Now, before I give you this recipe I will say that my mom's sugar cookie recipe is my all-time favorite.  But, we found ourselves with a hankering for cookies and didn't have any Crisco, which my mom's recipe requires.  I found this all-butter recipe from Bon Appetit that is almost as good!  I would definitely recommend it if you don't prefer to use Crisco or just don't have any on hand.  The cookies are thin, crispy, sweet, and will definitely put you in a Christmas mood.  The dough is a little sticky when rolling out, but the cookies held their shape well in the oven.  We went with super bright frosting, but you can decorate these any way you like. Cue the Christmas carols, turn on the lights, and enjoy some cookies!

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes 2-3 dozen

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on high sweet, beat the butter and sugar until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat until just combined.  Add the dry ingredients, and stir a few times with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer on low speed and mix until just combined.
3. Divide the dough into two disks, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least 2 hours.
4. When ready to bake, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
5. Let one disk of dough sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, and then roll out on lightly floured parchment until 1/4-inch thick (or even thinner -- I love thin cookies!).  Cut out shapes and transfer to cookie sheets.
6. Bake 10-15 minutes, depending on size -- check them frequently as they can go from underbaked to burnt in just a minute or two.  Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Cool on wire racks and frost with your favorite icing (I combine powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla, to make mine).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding is total comfort food to me.  Last month, Tim was sick and so I made this pudding to help him feel better.  It's very easy to make, and I like it because the eggs are cooked, making it a good choice for kids or anyone feeling under the weather who doesn't want to take the risk on food poisoning.  It's chocolate-y without being over-the-top decadent...basically the perfect bowl of warm pudding to warm you up and heal whatever ails you.  Leftovers are also really delicious chilled.

Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Recipe Girl, original recipe here)
Serves 6

2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
5 ounces chocolate chips
Generous pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and salt.  Whisk over medium heat until the chocolate melts and the mixture is hot but not boiling.  Gradually whisk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly, until all the chocolate mixture is incorporated.  Whisk briskly for a minute or so, and then return to the saucepan.
3. Continue to whisk over medium heat until the pudding is thickened, 12-15 minutes.  (The pudding will be smoother if you whisk constantly, but if you're a multitasker like me, you can get away with whisking vigorously every minute or so...if things get too lumpy, use a rubber spatula to strain the pudding through a mesh strainer.)
4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.  Serve warm, or pour into a storage container, top with plastic wrap (pushing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding), and chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Winter Abundance Bowl

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Leigh of Chit Chat Chomp.  At first, I thought I'd want to make one of Leigh's fabulous-looking tarts.  Take a look at these salted spiced pumpkin tarts, the glorious sticky hazelnut toffee tart, or a deep dark chocolate tart.  Yum!  As it turned out, we ended up a little overloaded on sweets and rich foods and instead found refuge in Leigh's winter abundance bowl.  This is the perfect recipe to have in your back pocket during the holiday season.  It makes a delicious light dinner full of bright vegetables that really hits the spot after a weekend of over-indulgence.  But, at the same time it's warm (instead of cold like a salad) and features a kick-ass creamy dressing, so it matches my need for comfort on cold winter nights.

I made a few substitutions based on what I had on hand (as well as replacing the broccoli with green beans because my fiance is violently opposed to broccoli!), but the main components of the dish remain the same.  A warm, whole grain-lentil mixture forms the base of the dish.  I subbed in quick-cooking farro, red quinoa, and red lentils for Leigh's brown rice and green lentils to speed things up a bit, and the switch means this dish can be ready in about 20 minutes.  Next come bright veggies: tender orange sweet potatoes, bright green beans, and crunchy red cabbage with a hit of lime.  If you're making the dish after lots of holiday craziness, do yourself a favor and buy everything pre-cut.  It makes the dish even quicker and can be fairly cost effective if you shop at a store like Trader Joe's.  Finally, everything gets drizzled with a super-tasty ginger-cashew dressing.  It's a little sweet, a little lemon-y, and a lot delicious, and really brings all the elements of the dish together.  If you have leftovers, this dish is also fantastic room temperature for lunch the next day.

Winter Abundance Bowl (adapted from My New Roots, via Chit Chat Chomp)
Serves 3-4

1/3 cup Trader Joe's 10-minute quick-cooking farro
1/3 cup red quinoa
1/3 cup red lentils
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
12 ounces thin green beans, trimmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lime

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
A large knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 T maple syrup
Salt and pepper

1. Place the farro, quinoa, and lentils in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse well. Place in a small pot and cover with 2 cups water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer 12 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, set up a steamer basket over simmering water.  Add the sweet potatoes, cover, and steam 4 minutes. Add the green beans on top of the sweet potatoes, cover, and steam an additional 8 minutes. Test a bean and steam another minute or two if it is not tender to your liking. Drain. Season with salt.
3. Meanwhile, place the cabbage in a small mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add a generous pinch of salt, and squeeze over the juice of 1 lime. Very briefly mix together with your hands, gently massaging the cabbage to help it get just a touch tender.
4. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the garlic and ginger in a food processor or mini chopper. Process until very finely minced. Add the cashews and process until the mixture resembles sand. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times.
5. To serve, spoon some of the farro-quinoa-lentil mixture into each bowl. Drizzle with a spoonful of the sauce. Top with the cabbage, green beans, and sweet potatoes, and drizzle with more sauce.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I have made a couple of enchilada recipes from Budget Bytes -- I love her homemade enchilada sauce, and the fillings are always hearty and satisfying.  This version might be my favorite one yet.  Shredded chicken is combined with black beans and corn, and then the filling mixed into super creamy tomato-cream cheese sauce.  Despite the longish list of ingredients, the filling comes together fairly quickly and then gets rolled inside tortillas.  The enchialadas are smothered in a homemade enchilada sauce -- it's way better than storebought sauce, and is easy to make with pantry ingredients.  Finally, I couldn't resist sprinkling a little cheese on top.  The result is gooey, cheesy, slightly spicy enchiladas that are total comfort food.  If you have leftovers, they keep well for lunch the next day.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (adapted from Budget Bytes, original recipe here)
Serves 4

For the sauce:
2 T vegetable oil
2 T flour
2 T chili powder
2 cups chicken broth or water
3 ounces tomato paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 garlic powder
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

For the enchiladas:
15 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
4 ounce cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
Eight to ten 8-inch tortillas (I used tortillas that were made with a combination of corn and wheat flours)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Make the sauce.  Combine the oil, flour, and chili powder in a medium pot.  Turn the heat to medium, and whisk the ingredients to combine.  When the mixture begins to bubble, let it bubble, whisking constantly, for one minute -- the mixture will be very thick.
2.  Whisk in the chicken broth a bit at a time, and then add the tomato paste, cumin, garlic powder, Aleppo or cayenne pepper, and salt.  Whisk until smooth, and bring to a simmer.  Once the mixture thickens slightly, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the diced tomatoes, garlic powder, and cumin and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato liquid has thickened slightly.  Add the cream cheese and stir until it is melted and the mixture is combined.
5. Stir in the chicken, black beans, and corn.  Cook for a few minutes, until everything is heated through.
6. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
7. Scoop a heaping 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture into a tortilla and roll it up.  Place in the baking dish.  Continue rolling the enchiladas until you have used up all your filling (you should get 8 to 10 enchiladas).
8. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the rolled enchiladas and spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle with the cheese.
9. Bake for 25-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the enchiladas are as crispy as you like them.  (I don't like mine very crispy, so I pulled them out on the sooner end, but do as you like!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Shrimp and Grits

I'm a huge fan of shrimp and grits, and this dish hits the spot with some added veggies.  The recipe comes together surprisingly quickly.  The trick is to cook the grits in a pot with non-stick coating so that you don't have to stir constantly and can prepare the shrimp and vegetables while the grits bubble on the stove.  I've found that a non-stick pot plus a vigorous whisk every few minutes will result in smooth, delicious grits without having to stand over the pot the entire time.  Just make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk so that you don't destroy the coating on the pot and get non-stick flakes in your food (ew).  These grits are enriched with Monterey Jack cheese and scallions, which makes them even more tasty than usual.  On top are shrimp sauteed with peppers, onions, fennel, and tomatoes, which makes for a great combination.  I went with small shrimp to save money, but of course you can use larger shrimp if you're serving this for company or in the mood for a splurge.

Shrimp and Grits (adapted from Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown)
Serves 4

For the grits
1 cup grits or polenta
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

For the shrimp
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 chili, minced (choose something hotter or milder depending on your taste, or add a pinch of chili flakes)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium non-stick pot, and whisk in the cornmeal while stirring constantly.  Turn the heat down to low, and continue to whisk vigorously every couple of minutes or so while you work on the rest of the dish and let the grits bubble away.  The grits should take about 15-30 minutes total...they're flexible.
2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. 
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  When it's hot, add the shrimp in a single layer.  Cook just a minute or so on each side, trying to get a little color on the shrimp.  Then transfer to a plate and set aside.
4. Add the onion, fennel, and bell pepper to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium.  Add a bit more oil if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking.  Saute until the vegetables are just starting to soften 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes, and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices and the vegetable mixture is looking saucy.  Season generously with salt.  
5. When the grits are looking just about ready, whisk vigorously and then whisk in the cheese and scallions along with a bit of salt.  Let cook another couple of minutes to melt the cheese and soften the scallions.
6. Stir the shrimp into the vegetable sauce, and cook until they are hot and cooked through.
7. Serve the shrimp and vegetables over the grits.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza

This recipe is total genius, and I've made it probably five or six times since discovering it!  It's actually so simple that I hesitated to post it, but I decided I liked it so much that I had to share.

While I love "real" pizza, I am also a big fan of English muffin pizzas, pita pizzas, and naan pizzas -- nothing beats super fast pizza, and these versions are all delicious.  However, this tortilla pizza is now my new favorite of all these cheater pizzas.  The bottom of the tortilla gets super crisp, and the size is perfect for one person.  Because the crust is so thin, this is really all about the toppings, which is what you want when you're not going to be using high-quality pizza dough.  And, it super fast! Win-win-win.

The only caveat here is that a cast iron pan is definitely a necessity.  A non-stick skillet is not safe to use under the broiler, and the thick cast iron is needed to get the crust super crispy.  Luckily cast iron pans are inexpensive and can be used for lots of tasks, so it's a worthwhile investment for more than just pizza.  ;)  Make sure to purchase tortillas that are the same size as your pan so you don't end up with cheese overflow.

Extra-Crispy Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza (adapted from Serious Eats, original recipe here)
Serves 1, easily multiplied

Olive oil
1 flour tortilla, of the same size as your cast iron skillet (mine is 8 inches, so I bought 8-inch tortillas)
Tomato sauce
Shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni (or any other toppings you like)

1. Place your oven rack about 6-8 inches from the broiler element, and preheat the broiler to high.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a bit of oil, and heat until shimmering.  Wipe out the excess oil with a paper towel.
3. Place the tortilla with the rougher-textured side facing down (the side with the larger air bubbles should be facing up).
4. Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce over the tortilla and spread evenly.  Sprinkle on the cheese, and arrange your pepperoni or other toppings over the cheese.
5. Pop the whole thing under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.  Keep a close eye to make sure your pizza doesn't burn.
6. Carefully transfer the pizza to a plate and cut into slices.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Peas and Artichokes

I have recently become fairly obsessed with Nigel Slater's new cookbook Eat.  It's full of mostly fast dishes that are seriously creative.  It also encourages improvisation on the part of the reader -- for example, this recipe starts off telling you to cook the salmon without any further instruction.  So, it's great for an experienced cook (or one who doesn't mind resorting to Google), but would probably frustrate a newbie.

I've marked about half the recipes as ones I want to make, because the combinations are just really striking.  Like this one -- salmon and marinated artichokes.  I would definitely not have put them together, but they are absoultely fantastic, with the acid from the artichokes pairing perfectly with the rich fish.  I accidentally bought a too-small jar of marinated artichokes, so I threw in some bonus peas to bulk up the vegetable component -- you could go either way with adding more artichokes and skipping the peas if you like.  But, definitely do not skip the lemon because the acid is crucial here.  This is a bright dish -- perfect to wake you up on a chilly fall evening.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Peas and Artichokes (adapted from Nigel Slater's Eat)
Serves 2

2 skin-on salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts
Olive oil
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
A few tablespoons fresh herbs -- I used fresh basil and fennel fronds
1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with a little oil.
2. Place the salmon on the baking sheet, skin-side-down.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Bake the salmon for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. The cooking time will depend on how thick your fillets are.
4. In the last few minutes of cooking time, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the artichoke hearts, and cook for 5 minutes or so, until they are nicely browned.
5. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add a splash of olive oil, along with the peas and herbs.  Cook for just a minute or two, and then squeeze half of the lemon over the pan and remove from the heat.
6. When the salmon is done, top with the artichoke-pea mixture and squeeze over more lemon juice, to taste.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chocolate-Cherry-Coconut Baked Oatmeal

First up: a giveaway winner! Congratulations to Monica for winning a copy of Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners.  Look for an email in your inbox with details.

Next up: most awesome dessert-for-breakfast ever!  I have a huge sweet tooth, and I love sweet breakfasts.  This baked oatmeal feels rich and decadent with cherries, chocolate chips, and coconut.  But, it's also got whole grains, fruit, protein, and fiber, so it's way more satisfying than a donut.  I definitely wouldn't call it a health food, but if you're going to go sweet in the morning, I do think it's a better option than pastries!  Right out of the oven, the baked oatmeal is a little custard-y and surprisingly light.  Leftovers are also very tasty -- either heated up in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or just eaten cold as a breakfast "bar." So, this is a great item to make on the weekend and then stash in the fridge for breakfast throughout the week.

Note: I used whipping cream because it's what I had on hand, but you could certainly substitute the cream + water for low fat milk.  This oatmeal is also very sweet, which I liked...but, if you have less of a sweet tooth, you might want to cut the maple syrup down to 1/4 cup.

Chocolate-Cherry-Coconut Baked Oatmeal

Serves 9

Spray oil
2 cups rolled oats
Generous pinch of salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup water
1 egg
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 T melted coconut oil, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cherries, chopped (frozen + thawed works well)
1/3 cup coconut flakes

1. Spray an 8x8 pan with oil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Stir together the oats, salt, and about half the chocolate chips.  Set aside.
3. Whisk together the cream, water, egg, maple syrup, half the coconut oil, and the vanilla.  Set aside the remaining coconut oil.
4. Pour the oat mixture into the prepared pan and pour the cream mixture on top.  Push any floating oats under the cream with a spoon and tap the pan on the counter a few times to make sure everything is nicely distributed.
5. Scatter the reserved chocolate chips on top, followed by the cherries.  Top with a generous sprinkle of coconut flakes.
6. Bake about 35 minutes, until the oats are set and the coconut is toasted. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved coconut oil (remelt if needed).
7. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crispy Chicken with Fennel-Apple Slaw

This is the second recipe I tried from Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners, and like the BBQ pork dish I posted earlier this week, it proved to be quick and tasty.  I'm giving away a free copy of this cookbook to my readers: click here to enter to win!

I was a little skeptical of this chicken recipe, because I usually do a three-stage set-up for coating crispy chicken: flour, egg, and then panko or breadcrumbs.  In this case, the recipe jumps straight for the panko.  Luckily, the coating stayed on nicely and crisped up in the oil.  I had a little trouble with getting the chicken to cook evenly -- damn you electric stove! -- but overall the chicken tenders were crispy and tasty.  Because they don't have a lot of extra seasoning, I definitely recommend serving them with some sort of dipping sauce -- I used blue cheese sauce left `over from these bacon-roasted potatoes, and Tim chose Dijon mustard. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, or any other sauces you have in your fridge would all work nicely.

On the side is a creamy Dijon slaw.  The original recipe featured apple and celery, but as many of my readers know, I'm not a big fan of celery.  I substitute fennel in most recipes that call for celery, and it worked out very well here. The anise flavor of the fennel pairs very well with the sweet apple and creamy, tangy dressing, and the crunch of this slaw is fantastic.  Of course, if you're a fennel-hater, you can use the original celery -- 2 stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal.

Crispy Chicken with Fennel-Apple Slaw (adapted from Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners)
Serves 3-4

3/4 cup panko
Salt and pepper
About 1 pound chicken tenders
Olive oil
1/4 cup lowfat sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced
1 T minced chives

1. Season the panko with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Spread out on a large, shallow plate.
2. Coat the chicken with the panko, pressing gently to help it adhere.
3. Heat 2 T oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Add more oil to the skillet as needed.  You will likely need to do this in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan.
4. Meanwhile, make the slaw.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, and 1 T olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Add the fennel and apple, and toss to combine.  Gently fold in the chives.
5. Serve the chicken with the creamy slaw.

I was sent a free copy of this cookbook to review. All recipe testing and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giveaway + Quick BBQ Pork Chops with Green Rice

I was recently sent a copy of Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners to review.  And, I have a copy to give away to one of my readers -- see below!

Ever since I started working more regular hours since finishing my dissertation, I've been on the lookout for healthy, quick recipes to make during the week.  This book definitely fills that need -- almost all the recipes can be on the table in less than half an hour, and all provide both calorie and cost information.  And, they're honest about the time committment -- I've made a lot of supposedly "thirty-minute meals" that really take up to an hour.  In this case, I found the time estimates to be pretty accurate.  I've made a couple of recipes out of it so far, and have been really happy with both -- they provided lots of flavor for minimal effort, and they didn't break the bank either.

First up is this tasty BBQ pork chop dish.  Actually, it's supposed to be a pork tenderloin.  For some reason, the only pork tenderloin we could find at the grocery was almost $20 (!!!!!), so we went with thin cut pork chops instead.  I don't know what was going on with the pork tenderloin, since usually it's an inexpensive cut...in any case, the pork chops were an easy swap and cooked even more quickly.  The sauce is sweet and sticky, and really makes basic pork chops interesting.  You could also use it on thick-cut chops if you're in the mood for a more indulgent meal -- just cook them a little longer.

The chops are paired with a genius rice recipe.  I love white rice as a side dish, but I'm well aware it's not the most healthy choice.  Here, the rice is paired with veggies in approximately equal parts, so you're getting plenty of good green stuff without losing the comfort-food quality of white rice.  Add a simply-prepared fruit or veggie to complete your plate (I served cubed honeydew melon).

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a solid collection of fast, inexpensive, and healthy recipes.  You won't find anything terribly adventureous or "out there,"  but on the plus side that means all the ingredients should be easy to find at any grocery store.  These recipes are great for weeknights, or any other time when you want to be able to come in the door and get dinner on the table quickly.

Lucky you -- Sterling Publishing was nice enough to offer up a copy of Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners for one of my readers!  If you'd like to win, just comment below with your favorite lighter dinner recipe.  Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you if you win!  I'll pick a winner on November 12.

Quick BBQ Pork Chops with Green Rice (adapted from Woman's Day Easy Everyday Lighter Dinners)
Serves 4

2 T ketchup
2 T soy sauce
2 T packed light brown sugar
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp chili powder
4 thin-cut pork chops
1/2 cup Jasmine rice
1 cup frozen edamame, thawed
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
4 ounces snap peas, thinly sliced crosswise (thaw if frozen)
Olive oil, for the pan
Toasted sesame seeds, to serve

1. Whisk together the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and chili powder in a large bowl.  Add the pork chops and toss until they are completely coated.  Set aside while you prepare the rice.
2. Rinse the rice well, and then combine with 3/4 water and a generous pinch of salt in a small pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes.  Don't peek!  
3. While the rice is cooking, prepare the pork chops.  They'll need about 6-8 minutes, so start them when the rice is about halfway done. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle with olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the chops and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through (will depend on thickness).
4. When the rice is cooked, fluff with a fork, and then stir in the edamame, scallions, and snap peas.  Season with salt and pepper.
5. Serve the pork chops and rice sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

I was sent a free copy of this cookbook to review.  All recipe testing and opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

SRC: Chicken with Pecan-Cider Gravy

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Lesa of Edesia's Notebook.  I had no trouble picking the perfect recipe to cook from her blog -- right on her front page was a chicken dish with pecan-cider gravy, and I was instantly sold! This is the perfect autumn dish -- warm, nutty, and apple-y!  This is such a great use of apple cider. I would never have thought to use cider in a gravy, but it's fantastic.  If you skip the pecans, it would also be awesome on mashed potatoes.  Here, it makes boring chicken cutlets instantly delicious!  Lesa suggested brown rice on the side, and I agree -- the nutty flavor goes really well with the pecans in the gravy.  Add some roasted veggies (here, I used carrots, zucchini, and potatoes) and you've got the perfect meal to warm up a chilly fall evening.

Chicken with Pecan-Cider Gravy (adapted from Edesia's Notebook, original recipe here)
Serves 3-4

3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 T olive oil
About 1 pound chicken breast cutlets
Salt and pepper
1 T butter
2 T flour
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cup chicken stock
1 dried bay leaf

1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the pecans and toast until fragrant.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook until nicely browned and cooked through -- mine needed just a few minutes on each side, but go by how thick your chicken cutlets are (mine were quite thin).  You may need to work in batches depending on the size of your chicken.
3. When the chicken is cooked through, remove to a plate and cover with foil. Set aside.
4. In the same skillet, melt the butter,  Whisk in the flour, and cook for a minute.  Slowly whisk in the cider, followed by the chicken stock.  Add the bay leaf.
5. Bring the gravy to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened (8-10 mintues or so).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Fish out the bay leaf and discard.
6. When the gravy has thickened to your liking, stir in the reserved pecans.  Serve over the chicken cutlets.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bacon-Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Cream

I'm not sure why these potatoes were included in a book of "fast" food, as they're somewhat fussy and definitely not quick, but they certainly are delicious! Potato wedges are coated in bacon "crumbs," smoked paprika, and Aleppo chile flakes, and then roasted until sizzling hot and crispy.  To really gild the lily, they're then drizzled with a blue cheese cream.  Absolutely decadent and delicious! These would be the perfect snack to serve during a big football game, although we enjoyed them during the World Series.  Go Giants!

Edited to add: If you have any left over blue cheese cream, don't toss it! Stash in the fridge; it will firm up and make an absolutely delicious blue cheese dip.  The dip is great with chips, veggies, or chicken tenders.

Bacon-Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese Cream (adapted from Nigel Slater's Eat)
Serves 4

6-8 slices bacon
2 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)
1 heaping tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1 heaping tsp smoked paprika
Olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degreees and line a heavy baking sheet with foil.
2. Lay the bacon out on the baking sheet in a single layer, and bake until crispy, about 20 minutes, flipping once.  Transfer the bacon to a food processor.  Don't clean the baking sheet or discard the foil -- you'll use it agian.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
3. While the bacon is cooking, scrub the potatoes and cut off/peel any suspicious bits.  No need to peel if the skins look good.  Cut into large wedges.
4. Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot with a steamer basket.  Add the potatoes, cover, and steam the potatoes for 15 minutes.  If you don't have a steamer basket, you can boil the potatoes -- just be sure to drain well before continuing with the recipe.
5. To the bacon in the food processor, add the chili flakes, smoked paprika, and a generous glug of olive oil.  Pulse a few times, until the bacon resembles crumbs.  Dump out on the baking sheet, and use a rubber spatula to spread out the bacon crumbs and mix them with the bacon grease.
6. Once the potatoes are cooked, place them on the baking sheet.  Gently stir with a rubber spatula until they are evenly coated with the bacon mixture -- take your time and be careful not to break up the wedges.  Make sure the potatoes are in a single layer, overlapping as little as possible. 
7. Transfer to the 400 degree oven and roast for one hour, until crispy and sizzling.
8. In the last few minutes of baking, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat.  When the cream is hot, add the blue cheese and stir until melted.  
9. Serve the hot potatoes drizzled with the blue cheese cream.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chana Masala

I recently purchased a copy of Leanne Brown's Good + Cheap, and I'm a huge fan of the cookbook.  The idea is to feature recipes that can be made on a serious budget -- about $4/day, depending on which combinations you choose.  Plus, when you purchase a copy, you can add on a donated copy to go to an organization serving low-income individuals for just $5 -- very cool!

This chickpea curry is fantastic -- the chickpeas make it filling, and the sauce is rich and delicious. The combination of spices is warm and savory, and you can adjust the heat level up or down depending on how you like it.  It's a great dish to make ahead on the weekend, since the chickpeas take a while to get tender.  The leftovers keep very well, so you can let it simmer on the stove on a Sunday afternoon and then heat it up for a fast lunch or dinner later in the week.  We ate these chickpeas with homemade naan (another recipe that is 95% make-ahead), but it would also be tasty with rice.

Chana Masala (adapted from Good + Cheap)
Serves 4

2-1/4 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender
1-1/2 T ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
2 T butter
1 onion, diced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 cups canned, pureed tomatoes
1 cup water (more or less as needed)
Accompaniments, see below

1. Soak and cook your chickpeas. This takes a while, so I recommend getting it done over the weekend or the night before so you're all ready to go.  Of course, you can always sub in canned chickpeas (you want about 5 cups).
2. Measure out all the spices and place in a small bowl.
3. Melt the butter in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and ginger and saute until the onion is tender and starting to brown.  Add the spices, and cook, stirring constantly, until they coat the onions and are very fragrant.  Then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer about 10 minutes.  Keep a close eye to make sure the skillet doesn't get too dry.
4. Add the water (you can add more or less depending on how saucy you want the finished dish to be.  Add the cooked chickpeas and stir to combine everything.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
5. This dish is great as leftovers, and is excellent with naan or rice, a bit of yogurt on top, and a sprinkle of cilantro of parsley.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Queens Park Cocktail

This cocktail is really, really delicious despite being a serious bastardization of the original.  First of all, it's meant to be a swizzle: i.e. lots of crushed ice, which I didn't have on hand. It's also supposed to use both a special sort of rum and a special sort of simple syrup, but I was in no mood to go shopping.  What I had was Bacardi Gold and simple syrup from the grocery store.  The cocktail gods are probably rolling over in their graves, but I gotta tell you -- my version was extremely tasty!  Sweet, minty, and super drinkable...pretty much the perfect after-dinner drink in place of dessert.  I am limiting myself to one a day until the mint runs out, because it's a fairly strong drink (at least for little lightweight me).  Please do click through to the original if you'd like to try the real deal...I'm sure it is even more delicious!

Queens Park Cocktail (adapted from Erik Lombardo on Food52, original recipe here)

12 mint leaves, divided
1/4 cup Puetro Rican gold rum
1-1/2 T simple syrup (use less if you like a less sweet cocktail)
1-1/2 T lime juice
Bitters (I used Amaro bitters, but use any that you like)

1. Place 6 mint leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle.  Place the other 6 mint leaves in the bottom of your glass and muddle.  (The handle of a wooden spoon works very well for this if you don't have an official "muddler.")
2. Add the rum, simple syrup, and lime juice to the cocktail shaker along with a couple of cubes of ice.  Cover, and shake well until very cold.
3. Place another couple of ice cubes in your glass on top of the mint.  Strain the cocktail over the ice.  Top with a few shakes of bitters and enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blueberry Jam

I know, I know: this is all kinds of the wrong season for blueberry jam!  But, somehow I never managed to share this recipe over the summer, so you're getting it now -- definitely save it for next summer becaues this one is a keeper.  Tim and I went blueberry picking with our friends in Connecticut, and this delicious blueberry jam was one of the things I made.  It's not too sweet with lots of blueberry flavor -- so delicious!  And, the jam sets up much more quickly than other jams I've made that don't include added pectin, so you won't be standing over the stove for hours.  This jam makes any piece of toast special, and I'm so glad I have some jars stashed away for when the snow starts falling!

Blueberry Jam (adapted from Saving the Season by Kevin West)
Makes 5-6 half pints

2-1/2 pounds blueberries
1/2 cup water
3 cups sugar
1 T lime juice
1 T plus 1 tsp gin

1. Rinse and pick over the berries.  Combine in a large pot with the water, and gently heat, stirring often, until the berries begin to burst their skins.  Mash with a potato masher until most of the berries have been crushed.
2. Add the sugar and lime juice.  Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, and then boil for 5-10 minutes, until the jam has gelled.  (I find the easiest way to test this is by putting spoons in the freezer and then dipping them into the jam to test.  Start at 5 minutes and keep testing until the jam gels on the cold spoon.)
3. Remove the jam from the heat, and stir in the gin.  Ladle into prepared jars (I got 5 half-pint jars, 1 quarter-pint jar, and a little extra in a bowl that we had with biscuits right away).  Leave 1/4-inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes -- if this is your first time canning, read up on it before making this recipe!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunch Box: Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Fresh Corn, Scallions, and Cashews

Here's another great lunch salad, and unlike my last attempt, this one is heartier and has more protein going on so it's super filling without any extras.  This divided lunch box container keeps various components divided, but the only thing that really needs to stay separate is the dressing, which you could store in a separate little container if that's easier.  The base of the salad is red quinoa, mixed with minced scallions, fresh corn, and creamy goat cheese...yum!  Toppings get sprinkled on top -- baked, seasoned tofu for protein, and cashews for crunch.  You can bake your own tofu, of course, but I went the easy route and just used store-bought.  Finally, a delicious smoked paprika dressing brings everything together.  I was very happy come lunchtime, and this meal really filled me up.

Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Fresh Corn, Scallions, and Cashews (loosely adapted from Homemade)
Serves 4

1-1/4 cups uncooked quinoa
2 ears fresh corn
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 package baked, seasoned tofu (or make your own)
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup cashews

For the sauce:
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T sesame seeds
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Combine the quinoa with a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan.  Add water to cover by a few inches, bring to a boil, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Cut the corn off the ears, and microwave for 30 seconds.  Add to the quinoa, along with the scallions.  Season with salt.  Divide among 4 containers.
3. Cube the tofu and crumble the goat cheese.  Divide among the containers, along with the cashews.
4. Make the dressing. Combine everything in a large Mason jar, screw on the lid tightly, and shake vigorously until everything is very well combined.  Season to taste with salt, and pack in a separate container.  At lunch time, toss with the quinoa salad just before eating.

You can also add whatever leftover veggies you have on hand -- roasted cauliflower, raw spinach or salad greens, steamed carrots, etc.

Other Lunch Box Posts:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

SRC: Mustard Seed Potatoes and Chickpeas + Hometown Fried Fish

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Easily Good Eats.  I was looking for an Indian-flavored side dish, and the lightly spiced mustard potatoes and chickpeas from Easily Good Eats seemed like it would be the perfect choice!  The technique for the potatoes is similar to home fries -- the potatoes are boiled until tender first, and then crisped up in a hot skillet with oil.  Here, the potatoes are supplemented with chickpeas, mustard seeds, and warm spices.  This makes for a lovely side dish that would go well with any type of Indian main dish.

I served these potatoes with a fried fish dish from Aarti Sequeira's new cookbook, Aarti Paarti.  I had been waiting and waiting for this cookbook to come out, and I was so excited to read through it, gaze at the gorgeous photos, and try out my first recipe! This fried fish is amazing -- wonderfully spiced, perfectly crispy, and topped with fabulous quick-pickled shallots.  It takes a little longer than some fried fish recipes because the fish fillets need 30 minutes in the fridge to marinate, but the extra time is well worth it...this is probably the best fried fish I have ever had!

This dynamic duo made a really excellent dinner, and I know this is a meal I'll be making again.  Don't forget lots of fresh cilantro sprinkled on top to keep your plate from looking boring!

Mustard Seed Potatoes and Chickpeas (adapted from Easily Good Eats, original recipe here)
Serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 large Russet potato
Olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala or curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Minced cilantro, optional

1. Peel the potato and cut into about 3/4-inch cubes.  Place in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, and simmer about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain.
2. Heat a generous pour of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the mustard seeds, garam masala, and garlic powder.  Stir occasionally until the mustard seeds start to pop and the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the potato and chickpeas to the skillet, and season generously with salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are crispy and browned.  Add more oil as you go if the skillet appears too dry.
4. If you'd like a bit of color, sprinkle with minced fresh cilantro just before serving.

Hometown Fried Fish (adapted from Aarti Paarti)
Serves 2-3 

For the fish:
2 T smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you like it spicy)
2-1/2 malt vinegar
1 pound tilapia fillets (or use another mild white fish)

For the pickled shallots:
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

To finish:
Oil, for frying
Rice flour
Salt and pepper
Small handful of fresh cilantro, minced

1. Marinate the fish.  In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, turmeric, salt, and cayenne.  Add the malt vinegar, and stir until well combined.  Rub the marinade all over the fish, and arrange on a large plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to overnight).
2. Pickle the shallots. Combine the water, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then add the shallots and turn off the heat.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes, while you prepare the fish. 
3. Fry the fish.  Pour oil into a large, non-stick skillet to about 1/4-inch thick. You will probably need to either use two skillets or work in batches.  
4. Meanwhile, pour a generous amount of rice flour onto a large plate and season generously with salt and pepper.  
5. Test to see if the oil is hot -- sprinkle a bit of the rice flour into it, and if it sizzles right away, you're ready to go.  
6. Dredge the fish in the rice flour, and then place into the hot oil.  Cook 3-4 minute son the first side and then flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the second side, until beautifully browned and crispy.  
7. While the fish is frying, finish the pickled shallots.  Scoop them out of the pickling liquid into a small bown (reserving the pickling liquid).  Stir in the minced cilantro.
8. Serve the fried fish hot, topped with the shallot-cilantro mixture and drizzled with a little of the reserved pickling liquid.

Check out the other Secret Recipe Club posts from this month here: