Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Nearly all the guys (and most of the girls) I know love buffalo flavored anything, and I personally have  never met a hot sauce I didn't like.  When you bring this dip out at a party, people can't get enough.  A few months ago my brother in law and I made a serious dent in a bowl of it.  He always eats with me so I won't feel self-conscious eating constantly while pregnant, and he takes the responsibility very seriously.  It's not exactly diet friendly, but all things in moderation, and you can eat it with celery sticks, so that cancels everything out.

Buffalo Chicken Dip 
recipe from my Mother in Law

1 package cream cheese, softened
12 oz. hot sauce
8-12 oz. shredded cheddar, reserve some for top
12-16 oz. blue cheese dressing
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded(I used an entire package ~1# of thin sliced chicken breasts, and poached them)

Mix together all ingredients, spread in a baking dish.  Top with remaining cheddar.  If you're preparing for a party, this part can be done ahead.  Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve with chips (scoops work best) and vegetable sticks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mama Pea's Tortilla Soup

Mama Pea is a bit of a celebrity in the blog world.  A one-time lawyer, she left her job to stay home with her adorable daughters, and transitioned her family from a conventional to a vegan diet.  This is not the land of fake food, however, her recipes are varied, flavorful, filling, and satisfy everyone.  Plus, she shares awkward things like how she spends all day wearing old yoga pants.  I do too.  And she never fails to make me laugh.  She has a cookbook coming out this week, which I desperately want, but in the meantime I will keep cooking from the fantastic recipes she posts on her blog.  One such recipe is this tortilla soup.  I love tortilla soup, but do not always love dealing with chicken, so this was a perfect alternative.  I changed it very slightly just based on the veggies we had on hand, and also to add a mini cheese quesadilla for dipping, because we eat cheese around these parts.

Tortilla Soup
very slightly modified from Peas and Thank You

1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (my addition based on the abundance of beans from our CSA this week)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder (that was my addition, I like the heat)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, in juice
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz. can green chiles
1 qt. vegetable broth (I ended up using just over 2 cups for a slightly thicker soup)
salt and pepper
toppings: lime and chopped avocado


  • In a large pot that has been sprayed with cooking spray or oil, sauté peppers, onions, and beans over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cumin and chili powder and sauté for an additional minute, until aromatic.
  • Add tomatoes, chiles, beans and vegetable broth and bring to boil.
  • Lower heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
I served mini cheese quesadillas on the side for dipping.  

I liked the soup a little thick, because I love chili, and also because I didn't use a large enough pot and it would have boiled over if I had added the full quart.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

There's something in the oven...

It's a bun!  That's right, sometime on or around December 24th I'll be having a baby!  I can't begin to express how excited and happy we are.

It's been tough keeping this secret off the blog for the past 4 months, although a couple of my friends said they had their suspicions during the weeks when I only ate egg sandwiches and smoothies.  Sorry about that exceedingly boring blog time.  I'd also say it explains why I've been eating so much ice cream and cheese, but let's be honest, I'd probably be doing that anyway.

I will likely be getting an email from Jon telling me I'm embarassing him, but he has been wonderful and I am so lucky to have him.  He has patiently sat through many, many doctors appointments, and put up with quite a few crazy pregnancy things from me, including but not limited to:

-Those rough weeks in the beginning when I couldn't walk through the kitchen or smell food, ate only egg sandwiches, smoothies, and peanut butter and jelly, and lay in bed all day watching reruns of the OC on Soapnet.
-The fortress of pillows I have constructed in our bed partnered with my tossing, turning and getting up all night.  Might be time to think about upgrading to a King...
-Random crying.  Usually related to something in a book, movie, tv show or commercial.  Some make sense, I mean it was a bad idea for me to watch Marley and Me while 3 months pregnant.  But who knew the ESPN top 10 most exciting moments in sports (of which I barely recognized one) would set me off?
-My constant worry about all the possible things that can go wrong.  He has only threatened a few times to cut off my internet access if I don't stop googling things and freaking myself out.
-Finally, the most important thing when dealing with a pregnant woman, don't get between her and a snack or a nap.

I joke about the crazy pregnancy stuff, but we are so incredibly lucky and blessed.  I can't wait to bring this tiny person into our family so I can smother them with love...and outfits!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Peach Cucumber Barley Salad

As you have likely noticed, I like main course salads.  They can be made in advance, and usually get better a day later.
This was my first time cooking barley.  I thought it would be with the grains like rice and couscous in the market, and had nearly given up hope and gone to Whole Foods, where you can always find everything, when I found it with dried beans.  So if you want to make this and can't find barley, check with the beans.

Peach Cucumber Barley Salad
slightly modified from Good Housekeeping

1 cup pearl barley
2 cups water, vegetable broth, or a combination (I just used water)
1 cucumber
2 peaches
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoons vinegar (cider or red wine)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Place dry barley in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, until toasted.
Stir in water/broth and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes.  Allow to cool.
Chop cucumber, peaches, tomatoes and basil.
In a large bowl, mix oil, vinegar and salt and pepper.  Add in barley and chickpeas, mix in vegetables.
Serve over lettuce.

Of course I'm thinking of what cheese would be a good addition.  I have a serious problem.  I'm thinking mozzarella or goat.  We'll see tomorrow.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spicy Red Lentil Dal

Indian food is one of those things that I can go weeks without thinking about, but then when I want some curry, I want it now.  Back when we lived in the big city, there was an awesome hole in the wall Indian restaurant on our block, but pickings are a little slim out here in horse country.  Fortunately, vegetarian dal such as this are very quick and easy to make.

Spicy Red Lentil Dal
canola oil
1 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup red lentils
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
greek yogurt, for topping

In a large saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes, add in the spices and cook a couple minutes more.  Add in lentils, tomatoes and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes.  Serve with rice, top with parsley and greek yogurt.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Simple Summer Salads

Continuing on the trend of things to cook when it's 95 degrees outside, here are a couple simple salad ideas.

My all time favorite.  Juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and fragrant basil dressed simply in balsamic vinegar.

Roasted Beet with Goat Cheese
The beets were from our CSA share this week.  After scrubbing, I drizzled them with olive oil, wrapped in foil, and roasted at 375 for about 40 minutes.  They probably could have used a few minutes more, to be honest.  Served over red leaf lettuce (also a CSA pick), topped with crumbled goat cheese, and dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  
I can't eat beets without thinking of The Office.  Actually, that's pretty much the main reason to eat beets at all.  
Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blueberry Ice Cream

I received an ice cream maker as a wedding shower gift, and although I don't use it nearly as often I should (every day), it's a great little appliance.  Aside from a hand crank contraption using rock salt and all that, you can't really make ice cream at home without a special appliance, so in my mind it's totally worth it.

The ice cream shop we stop at every Sunday on our way home from the beach (it softens the blow of having to leave, at least that's what I tell myself) has monthly special seasonal flavors.  I was expecting July to be something in the red, white and blue genre; blueberries, strawberries and the like.  Instead it was cake batter that included a blue frosting swirl.  Blue frosting does not do it for me, so instead I've been eating coffee ice cream for the last three weeks.  The point of this rambling story is that I decided to take matters into my own hands and make blueberry ice cream at home.

Blueberry Ice Cream
Recipe from Southern Food

1 1/2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (recipe calls for whole, I used 1%)
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, heat blueberries over medium low with 1/4 cup of sugar for about 10 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Chill.
In a large saucepan, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, cream and milk and heat over medium low until hot and barely simmering.  Stir frequently.  Don't let the mixture boil because it will curdle.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Reserve the whites and use them to make breakfast for the rest of the week.

Pour about half the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and whisk well to combine.  This is called "tempering" the yolks and warms them up so when you add them to the milk they don't turn into scrambled eggs.
Return egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and continue to heat, stirring until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. This can take a little time. When it's ready, the back of a spoon will look coated with the mixture, and when you run your finger through it, it won't fill back in.  It's thickened into a custard.

Strain the mixture and chill in the refrigerator.  I usually do this the day before to make sure it's completely chilled.
Fold in the blueberry mixture and freeze according to ice cream machine instructions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wheat Berry and White Bean Salad

I did a similar salad to this a few months ago, but it's really just a template, the possibilities are endless.  It's a great balance of protein, carbs and vegetables to keep you feeling good but not over-stuffed.  It's also excellent on a 95 degree day when you can't stand to be in the kitchen.  So is homemade ice cream, but that's tomorrow's post.

Wheat Berry and White Bean Salad
1 cup cooked wheat berries, prepared according to package directions (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup white beans
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
scallions, sliced
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
goat cheese or feta, optional

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, garnish with chopped parsley and goat cheese.  Chill or serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CSA Veggies - July 12th

We have such a great assortment of vegetables from our CSA share this week!  I can't wait to get cooking.

An assortment from the mix: lettuce, broccoli, garlic, onions, zucchini, squash, beets, pickling cucumbers, and greens beans.

On the menu plan:
Grilled zucchini and summer squash for veggie wraps
Roasted beets and goat cheese salad
Home made pickles
Kale chips

Still thinking of ideas for everything else, but it will be a good week!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Escarole and White Beans

The escarole was the last thing (aside from lettuce, there is always lettuce) left from our CSA share last week.  As much as I love having a fridge full of healthy vegetables, it's also nice to get it cleaned out once in a while so things don't mysteriously disappear into the back to be discovered weeks later.

Escarole and white beans is an Italian dish.  My guess is it would likely be a side dish or one of the twelve courses in an Italian dinner, but we had it solo.  Beans, greens and carbs make a good dinner to me.  It was so creamy from the beans that it didn't even need cheese, imagine that!

Escarole and White Beans
Olive oil
1 large head escarole, rinsed and cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups white beans
Hot sauce, optional

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan (something big with a lid) over medium heat.
Saute garlic and white beans for about a minute.
Add in escarole, about half cup of water, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.
Cover and allow to simmer on medium heat until escarole has wilted.  At least 10 minutes.
Remove lid and stir well.  It should be creamy.
Serve garnished with parsley and hot sauce.  Crusty bread on the side makes for good scooping.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bacon and Swiss Chard Pasta

We had another big bunch of swiss chard in our CSA veggies this week, so I wanted to do something new.  A lot of the greens recipes I've found include bacon as an accent, because when you're getting all those healthy vitamins and minerals, you want to balance it out a bit.  Plus, bacon is really just a salty condiment.  

This is another quick meal, maybe 20 minutes of cooking time.  Good thing since I realized at 9:15 at night that I needed to make something for the next day.  I do that a lot.  

Bacon and Swiss Chard Pasta
recipe from Bon Appetit

  • 1 pound linguine - I used whole wheat spaghetti

  • 12 ounces bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

  • 1 very large red onion, halved, sliced (about 6 cups) - I used vidalia

  • 2 large bunches Swiss chard, stemmed, chopped (about 12 cups)

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

    In a large saute pan or pot, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove and drain on paper towels.
    Discard all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease.  
    Saute onion for about 5 minutes until softened. 
    Add in swiss chard and the reserved pasta water.
    Cover and allow chard to wilt for a few minutes.
    Stir in pasta, bacon, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.
    Top with parmesan cheese for serving.

    I halved the recipe and it made four servings.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Radish and Japanese Turnip Slaw with Creamy Dill Dressing and Kale Chips

    As promised, here are the recipes for the two side dishes we ate with the barbecue chicken on Sunday night.  I am absolutely loving our CSA veggies, and it has encouraged me to cook with ingredients I don't normally use.  While we all know I love kale chips, radishes and japanese turnips weren't frequent in my cooking before.

    Kale Chips
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Tear stems off leaves, rip into bite size pieces, and wash well.
    Spin dry in a salad spinner, if the kale is wet, it will steam, not crisp.
    On a lined baking sheet, toss kale with a small amount (a couple teaspoons) of olive oil.
    Sprinkle with kosher salt.
    Optional additions: nutritional yeast, cheese, spices
    Bake for about 15 minutes until crispy and edges are starting to brown.

    Radish and Japanese Turnip Slaw with Creamy Dill Dressing
    adapted from Cooking Light
    2-4 cups shredded radishes and Japanese turnips
    1 carrot, shredded
    3 Tablespoons sour cream
    3 Tablespoons mayo
    1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
    1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    In a bowl, combine dressing ingredients (sour cream through pepper), and stir well.
    Add shredded vegetables, toss well.  Jon used the mandoline slicer on the julienne setting to shred the radishes and turnips.  I think it was a little tricky at times, because at one point he had to leave to get a band aid for his bleeding finger.  At that point I stepped up and finished the last one.  Teamwork.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Grilled Barbecue Chicken

    After a wonderful beach day on Saturday, we came back home Sunday night.  Today I opened my book and dumped sand all over my lap, which is a good gauge of the weekend.

    Grilling barbecue chicken can be tricky.  It's easy to burn the sauce and overcook the meat, so it takes a little finesse with the grill.  Jon was in charge, as always, and used an indirect cooking method.

    We used boneless skinless chicken breasts, although I've read bone-in, skin-on is easier to grill and more traditional.  He started by sprinkling the chicken with a barbecue rub, just a mixture of spices.  He set the grill up with the coals concentrated under one half to create a section of direct heat and indirect heat.  To initially sear the chicken, cook for a couple minutes on each side close to the hot coals.  This will give you nice grill marks and seal in the juices.  Then move the meat to the non-coal side of the grill for indirect cooking, basting with sauce on each flip.  Finally, after about 20 minutes, cook over the coals for a couple minutes just to carmalize the sauce.  It was delicious, but tragedy struck on the way in from the grill.
    That would be a lovely chicken breast dropped onto the ground.  The ground that had been recently treated for grubs.  There was no saving it.  It was sad.  

    On the side we had Kale Chips and Radish and Japanese Turnip Slaw with Creamy Dill Dressing.  Recipes for both coming tomorrow!
    photo 1-1 photo 1-2