Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wheat Berry Salad

It's not all hors d'oeuvres and pasta around here, folks.  While we did a pretty good job last week keeping vacation indulgences to a reasonable level, I'm still feeling ready for a bit of a detox.  Maybe a break from the rum for a few weeks.  And a few meals including whole grains and plant based protein.  And gallons of water.
I've had my eye on this recipe since January when I saw it on Oh She Glows.  I've never cooked with wheat berries before, but based on my love of couscous, quinoa, and good old brown rice, I knew this would be another favorite.  I used Bob's Red Mill Organic Hard White Wheat Berries and I am happy to report they were very easy to cook.  I sort of want to go to the Red Mill and meet Bob.  He looks kindly.

Wheat Berry and Chickpea Salad
based on Oh She Glows and Bob's Red Mill
1 cup dried wheat berries
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one can
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large English cucumber, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a couple handfuls of grape tomatoes)
4 green onions, sliced
goat cheese, crumbled, for garnish (omit this to keep it vegan)
1 tsp mustard
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped very finely
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice (about half a lemon)
kosher salt

Cook wheat berries according to the package directions.  I soaked them overnight in cold water.  In the morning, I drained and rinsed the berries, covered with a couple inches of fresh water, brought to a boil, and then reduced and simmered for an hour.  They will be very chewy when ready.

Chop all veggies and combine in a big bowl with the wheat berries and chickpeas.

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for the dressing and whisk to combine.

Pour dressing over salad and mix well.  I made this a few hours before eating, letting it sit gives the flavors a chance to blend.

Serve over a bed of greens and garnish with crumbled goat cheese.  

If you omit the goat cheese, this would make a very good pot luck or picnic dish, because it can stand a few hours out of the refrigerator.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

There's No Place Like It

While it's always nice to come home, I'm still adjusting to life in 40 degree temps as opposed to 80s.  As such, dinner last night was nothing creative or exciting, but instead good old pasta with tomato sauce.  Sometimes you just need dinner to be ready in 5 minutes and use one pot.  I know you don't need a recipe to combine pasta and crushed tomatoes, and top it with as much cheese as you can get away with.  But let me tell you, it hit the spot.

Since I don't really have a recipe for you today, I will share some of the things I'm loving (or coveting) lately.

Sonny's Barbecue Sauce - We had Sonny's ribs last week while in Florida, and they are just amazing.  I'm not usually big on tearing fatty meat off bones with my teeth, but for their sauce, I'm on board.  

Bodum Double Walled Tumblers - I think these would be absolutely adorable for sipping tea.  I have grand plans to brew iced mint tea using the mint from my garden this summer.  We'll see how that goes.

Marley Lilly Monogrammed Hat - If only I had plans to go to the Derby or the Carolina Cup.  I desperately want a huge straw hat, but know it will be in direct conflict with my desire to get as tan as possible.

Bella Sante Massage - I've been hoarding a gift certificate to Bella Sante for almost two years.  It was a gift from my lovely bridesmaids before my wedding, and I haven't used it because I've been waiting for the perfect time.  I think this might be it, though, as I want to prolong the vacation glow as long as I can.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ideas For A Cocktail Party

We are home from Florida!  It was a fantastic week of hot sun, golfing, swimming, cocktailing, and nightly golf cart trips out to look for the gator (sadly, we never saw him).  On our second night, we had a small cocktail party out on the lawn to continue the celebration of my Dad's 60th birthday.

The hors d'oeuvres were simple, tasty, and a big hit!  They included:
Bruschetta Two Ways: small toasted bread rounds.  Half topped with a thin layer of goat cheese and a dollop of fig preserves.  The other half topped with a mixture of cream cheese and pesto (store bought in this case).
Cucumber Tea Sandwiches: Thin bread slices topped with either mayo or cream cheese, thinly sliced cucumber, a few chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of fresh dill.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip: One can of artichoke hearts, chopped.  One package of chopped frozen spinach, defrosted.  Something creamy like mayo, cream cheese, sour cream, or greek yogurt.  Mix everything together, top with grated parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of paprika for color and bake in a 400 degree oven until hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips.
Tacky birthday themed paper plates from the dollar store are optional.

Equally as important as the food, of course, is the bar.  Since the weather was very warm that evening, most people stuck with summary drinks.  Mount Gay Rum, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and seltzer (nicknamed Grums) was the most popular libation.  

Back to our normally scheduled posting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vacation Post - Light and Lovely Lunch Salads

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

You know I love my chickpeas.  And my random grain salads.  Expect to see this or something like it soon.

Everything about this salad looks great, it's light, refreshing, filling and healthy.  I picked up my first bag of wheat berries this week, I can't wait to try this when we get home!

Canned salmon is a great source of omega-3s and a wonderful alternative to tuna!

Be home soon!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vacation Post - From Breakfast to Dessert

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

I love making my own granola (first post!), and these look delicious.  They would be perfect to have on hand for a quick snack.

I will be picking up some whole wheat pastry flour and raw cashews very soon!

Chocolate Covered Katie - Cake Batter Milkshake
Rumored to satisfy all your cake batter needs, without a trip to Coldstone!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vacation Post - Lemon Love

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

Lemon and blueberries are two of my most favorite things. I can see this being a dessert staple this summer.

You had me at lemon.  Cheesecake too?  Heaven.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vacation Post - Crab and Shrimp

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

I still have half a head of cabbage to use up, tacos are the perfect reason!  Plus, any kind of taco will make my husband very happy.

Crab dip is one of my favorite summer appetizers.  I'd probably add Old Bay into both these recipes, because I only ever use it for crab dip, but you can never go wrong with PW.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vacation Post - Florida Favorites

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

I think these would be fabulous at a brunch or baby shower (or just for me...).  You could make the mixer in a big pitcher in advance, and add the champagne in for serving.

If I can find a food processor at the house in Florida, I may be making this as you read it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vacation Post - Summer Supper

This post is part of my vacation series highlighting some amazing recipes from my favorite bloggers!

We've spent the better part of a week discussing what kind of grill we'll be purchasing when we get back from vacation.  These would be a perfect kick off to summer grilling.  PS- We're going charcoal, time to be grilling purists.  PPS- We still have a gas grill so I can cook veggies all week and make them into wraps with goat cheese.

I love salads like this.  Greens, a fruit, and a protein are the perfect combination.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gone Fishing and a Cocktail

Not really fishing.  More like pool, tennis and golfing. And sun, glorious sun!  The forecast is for the mid 80s, and I am ready for it! In any case, things will be a little quieter here at at home with ann until next week.  I'll be sharing some recipes from other blogs that look especially delicious, so check back occasionally!

On Saturday night I wanted to kick off vacation with a little cocktail.  I normally reserve rum drinks for summertime, because they remind me of sitting on the deck at the beach watching the waves as the sun goes down.  This night, however, I felt like our upcoming time in the sun warranted an equally sunny drink.

Sunny Rummy
1 part rum (I recommend Mount Gay or random bottle of Blackheart I found in the back of our liquor cabinet)
1 part seltzer
1 part orange juice

Give it a stir and imagine you are someplace warm!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

Things are looking pretty lean in our fridge these days, as we have been eating everything perishable in anticipation of vacation.  Cheese pizza was on the menu for last night.  Tonight we'll probably be left with breakfast for dinner.  That will work out well since we'll be up before 5 tomorrow morning to catch our flight!

Skillet Pizza Dough
adapted from Rachael Ray

3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil

In a measuring cup, combine warm water, sugar and yeast.  Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, or until it's all foamy.  It will go from looking like this:
To looking like this:

In the bowl of your mixer (or a large bowl if you're going to get an arm workout and mix by hand), combine the flours and salt.  

Pour in the yeast mixture and the olive oil and mix for about 8 minutes until it forms a tight ball.  Knead it a few times and put into a large bowl coated with olive oil or cooking spray.  Cover and place in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.  It goes from this:
To this:
Punch down the dough and then press into a cast iron skillet lightly coated with olive oil or cooking spray.  If you don't have a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend you pick one up at some point.  They are relatively inexpensive compared with fancy stainless steel, and when you've finally seasoned it (mine is still in progress), it is wonderfully non-stick and easy to clean.  
Allow the dough to rise in the skillet, about 20 minutes, top with sauce or chopped tomatoes, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.
Remove from oven, top with cheese and whatever else you want to add.  Since we are completely out of vegetables, we went with just mozzarella, red pepper flakes, and the huge about of oregano you can see here.
Bake for an additional 5 minutes to melt the cheese, and then allow to cool in the skillet for about 10 minutes before removing.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Broccoli and White Bean Gratin

I know I said I was all about lighter Spring food, but this isn't it. This is actually not all that unhealthy, the base is broccoli and white beans, and the sauce is mostly lowfat milk.
Also, I blasted music and danced around the kitchen while I was making it.  That doesn't have anything to do with the recipe.  It does make cooking extra fun, though.  You might want to try it when no one is home.

Broccoli and White Bean Gratin
pieced together from a bunch of recipes online

1-2 pounds broccoli florets (I used fresh, but frozen and thawed would work as well)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
3 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (I used half parm and half asiago)
2 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 slice whole wheat bread, or 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large pot, steam the broccoli florets for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
Drain and rinse cannellini.  Make note to get a contrasting color for the next colander so everything doesn't look so...yellow.
Heat 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil in the same pot, and add chopped onions.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.
Add the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, and cook for 1 minute more.
Pour in 2 1/2 cups milk and heat on low for 10 minutes.
Mix flour into the remaining 1/2 cup milk.  

Whisk the flour mixture into the pan and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring frequently.  I consider it thick enough when I can see the bottom of the pan for a second when stirring.
Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese, salt and pepper.
Mix the beans and broccoli into the milk and cheese mixture.
Transfer mixture to a shallow baking dish.  Mine is 2 quarts, I think.  Emile Henry dishes aren't very clear about measurements.  You could go a little bigger, but I wouldn't recommend going smaller, because it was pretty full.
If you are making your own breadcrumbs, toast a slice of bread and put into a food processor.  This is a perfect job for the mini food processor.  A few seconds turns this:
Into this:
Mix remaining cheese in with breadcrumbs.  I just added it to the food processor and ran it for a few pulses.  Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over vegetable mixture.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown.

When you are wrapping up the leftovers, don't drop the foil roll onto the floor, because it doesn't roll back up nicely, and you will have a big mess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spicy Moroccan Bread Salad

I like Rachael Ray.  I've liked her since the early Food Network days when she would pour gallons of EVOO in every pan (I guess that hasn't changed), and I'll occasionally watch her daytime talk show.  The reason I like her, aside from the breakneck speed with which she whips together 30 minute meals, is that her recipes always give me ideas.  I'll often make something of hers once, and then get the idea to change 12 things about it and make a whole new recipe.  
This is another great make-ahead recipe.  It's eaten cold or at room temperature, and I think it would be a great pot-luck or picnic addition.  

Spicy Moroccan Bread Salad
from Rachael Ray

1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated or very finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound loaf of bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup chickpeas
4 ounces swiss or jarlsberg cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, cumin and salt and pepper.  Add the bread cubes and toss to coat.

Scatter bread on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 10 minutes.  Mix occasionally.
In the same bowl, mix celery, chickpeas, swiss, almonds, vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil.  I didn't have any almonds because someone around here eats them all, so I skipped them.  I don't actually love nuts in my food, so it was no big loss.  RR always says to leave the celery leaves on because they have great flavor, so I tried to include some.  It all depends on how long your celery has been in the fridge.

Add the bread and toss.  

Allow to stand for 1 hour.  

Please excuse the weird exposure on half my photos today.  While I was visiting my parents this weekend, I gave my camera to my Dad to use.  He changed all the settings and I don't know what I'm doing, so it took me a while to get them back to what I was using.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Stuffed Cabbage Stew

The Irish aren't exactly known for their fine cuisine.  Corned beef and steamed cabbage have never done much to impress me.  That being said, I still wanted to make something festively appropriate for the holiday this week.  Barring any green-tinged beverages, I wanted to find a way to make that cabbage into something good.

Stuffed Cabbage Stew
adapted from Rachael Ray

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 cup raw brown rice

  • 3 cups chicken stock

  • 1 pound ground turkey

  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler into strips then finely chopped

  • 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced

  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes

  • In a sauce pot, boil 2 cups of water.  Add rice, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

    Heat a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, once hot, add meat and begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain meat and return to the pot.  Season the meat with allspice, coriander, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Add bay leaf, onions, garlic and carrots. Cook veggies 2 to 3 minutes to begin to soften them, then add cabbage and wilt it down a bit. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and cover the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer for at least 10 minutes, but really go as long as you want.  Serve with a scoop of rice on top.  As always, better on the second day.  
    Wash it all down with a shamrock shake, if you get excited about that.  Or, a green smoothie!

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    You, too, can be a Blogger!

    Have you always dreamed of being a blogger?  Fantasized about writing recipes and taking photographs? None of these things, but think it might be fun to see your name in (internet) print?

    I'll be away on vacation next week, and would like to open the blog to you!  If you're interested, send me an email with your post.  It can be a recipe, a dinner out, home improvement project, decorating, or fashion.  Photos are optional, but greatly appreciated!

    Caprese Couscous

    Daylight Savings Time always throws me off.  I love having extra light, but it usually takes me about a month to remember how to change the clock in my car.  It is also a sign that despite the mid-30 degree temperatures and snow today that Spring will soon be here.  And that means a change from stews and casseroles to lighter fare.  This is a ten minute meal that has endless possible variations.

    Caprese Couscous
    1/3 cup uncooked couscous
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped tomatoes
    1 bunch basil, chopped
    4 oz. mozzarella, cut in chunks
    1 cup chickpeas
    3/4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon italian spice blend (basil, oregano, thyme, garlic)
    salt and pepper

    In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and teaspoon olive oil to a boil.  Add the couscous, cover, and remove from heat for 10 minutes.
    In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and chickpeas.  Add in couscous when cooked.
    Mix the dressing with the vinegar and spices, pour over the couscous mixture.
    Serve cold or at room temperature.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Mediterranean Bruschetta

    After the manicotti, I had some leftover ricotta. I never know what to do with leftover ricotta except for adding it on top of pizza or mixing it in with pasta.  There was one scary instance when it went bad in the fridge and I made the sorry mistake of opening it to check.  I was planning to take an hors d'oeuvres with me to my parent's house this weekend, and a few internet searches came up with various bruschetta.

    Mediterranean Bruschetta
    15 oz. ricotta
    1 cup diced tomato
    1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
    1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    salt and pepper
    1 loaf of bread
    balsamic vinegar

    Slice bread into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Toast lightly in the oven.
    Simmer balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced and thickened slightly.  You can do this step in advance, which is what I did.
    Mix together ricotta, tomato, olives, basil, oregano, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.  Since I did this step in advance also to bring with me, I just mixed in the ricotta container.  Then I complimented myself on my brilliant idea to avoid more dishes.

    Spread ricotta mixture onto toasted bread slices.  Bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes.
    Drizzle balsamic reduction over bruschetta and serve.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Birthday Spice Cake

    I have been baking (or assisting with) various spice cakes for my Dad's birthday for many years, all the way back to when I thought it was acceptable to make something out of a box - impossible to imagine, I know.  Many have been good, but it's always fun to try a new recipe.  This one from Gourmet caught my eye because of the cinnamon cream cheese frosting. 

    Spice Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
    original recipe from Gourmet

    For cake

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

    For frosting

    • 5 oz cream cheese, softened
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup confectioners sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan. You will see below that I did not use a square cake pan,  because apparently I don't have one.  This is surprising considering my baking pans are stacked so high in a cabinet that getting one out involves a lot of pans falling on me.  In any case, I used a 9 inch round cake pan, and buttered and floured it.  

    Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Here is another picture of my blue bowl with a whisk in it.  I should really start using different bowls.

    Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  

    Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then beat in the applesauce.  I found it necessary to scrape down the sides of a bowl with a spatula.  There's me reflected in the mixer bowl!

    At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined.  

    Spread batter in pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  While the cake is baking you should really try some of the batter off the beater just to be sure you aren't going to poison the party-goers.  It's an important responsibility of the cook.

    Cool in pan 15 minutes then invert onto a plate.  Flip cake back over onto a rack to fully cool.  Try really hard not to break your cake during these steps, otherwise you'll be doing some creative frosting to glue it back together.  

    For the frosting: Beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.  Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon into cream cheese mixture and beat well.  Spread frosting over cooled cake.  If you get too excited and try to put on the frosting before the cake has cooled, bits of cake can come off in your frosting, or it can melt and make a mess.  Be patient.  

    Garnish with candles, eat off festive paper plates, and be prepared to accept many compliments.

    photo 1-1 photo 1-2