Thursday, July 28, 2011

Berry Chicken Salad with Berry Poppyseed Vinaigrette

I love it when summer rolls around because I get to eat lots of salad! I didn't used to be much of a salad eater. I thought salads were rather boring, although I did eat them when they were offered but mostly because I knew they were good for you and that's what I should do.

Last summer I discovered the beauty and diversity of salads; how flavorful and colorful they can be as well. I ate lots of salad and I didn't get bored with it. I fell in love with this Asian Slaw with this Ginger Lime dressing and ate it a ton.

This year I have found a few more gems and this Berry Chicken Salad is one of them. Apparently it's similar to a more commercially made one but I rarely eat out and when I do, it's not fast food. So, I wouldn't have been the wiser. I love that the berries in this salad are so deep and bright in color that it just makes the salad pop! They lend the sweetness, then the soft feta gives it that salty contrast. This would have been the perfect July 4th salad because it's red, white and blue. Come to think of it, I think I may have actually eaten this salad on July 4th. I ate it for the first time at a family reunion that weekend and when I came home I just had to have more!

Berry Chicken Salad
1/2 head Romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
6-8 oz. baby spinach
2 chicken breasts, well-seasoned to your liking, grilled and either thinly sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces
8 oz. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
8 oz. blueberries, rinsed
4 oz. crumbled Feta or shredded fresh Parmesan cheese (or both!)
1 c. sliced almonds
Berry Poppy Seed Dressing to taste

For serving a large crowd, toss all the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl and add dressing to taste. For individual servings, arrange ingredients on plates and serve the dressing on the side. Makes about 8 side dish servings and 4 main dish servings.

Berry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. honey (or sugar)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tsp. kosher or other coarse salt
About 10 cracks of freshly ground black pepper
1 c. raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries
2/3 c. oil
1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

Combine the vinegar, honey, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and berries in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Turn off the blender and whisk in the poppy seeds. If possible, refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

This dressing will last in your fridge about as long as the berries they are made with. So, if you want a good indicator, leave a berry or two in the fridge and about the time it starts wilting, you know your dressing is about done.

SOURCE: Our Best Bites

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

Back when my husband and I were first married, I used to make chicken parmesan often; well, my version of it anyway. It was also my favorite meal to take to my friends who had just had a baby. For some reason, over the years, I stopped making it. Then a while back I saw this version, bookmarked it and it still took me forever to try it! Call me crazy because this stuff is CRAZY good.

I'm not really a fan of fried foods, although chicken parmesan is traditionally fried. However, this version is baked, after sauteing the bread crumbs in olive oil, still giving it a crunchy texture and keeping the chicken moist and tender. For me, the flavors and seasonings are SPOT ON. There's a good balance without being overpowering. You're definitely going to want to make this soon. I will be keeping it in my monthly rotation for a while, if we ever get sick of it.

Chicken Parmesan
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 large eggs
cooking spray
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut into halves (4 pieces total)
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
about 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. minced fresh basil
Hot cooked spaghetti noodles

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Combine the breadcrumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat until golden, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and allow to cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper together. In a third shallow dish whisk together the eggs.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with vegetable oil spray. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Lightly dredge each chicken piece in the flour to coat completely, shaking off the excess. Then dip into the eggs and finally coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere. Place the chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the chicken is no longer pink and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce over the top of each piece of chicken and top with 2 tablespoons of the shredded mozzarella. Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and serve as desired, with extra Parmesan and marinara sauce on a bed of hot cooked spaghetti.

SOURCE: Annie's Eats

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Coconut Curry Noodles w/ veggies

Being a food blogger, it isn't often that I make the same dish twice within a short period of time. The only exception being maybe pancakes, which if you've been reading the blog a while, you'll remember I'm a little obsessed with pancakes and I have quite an arsenal of recipes. But, back to these noodles, I made them twice in 2 weeks! Now that's saying something.

I've tried many different Thai-style noodle dishes, which never amounted to more than mediocre in my book. However, when I saw this recipe, for some reason I just had this feeling it was going to work. The flavors in the coconut curry sauce are really perfect for me. I had never used or purchased curry paste before (small bottle found in the Asian section of the supermarket; about $3-4), but I really liked the flavor it lent and didn't think it was too over powering.

This dish is kind of like a stir-fry in that you can really change the veggies up to your liking. I did love the flavors of broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and carrots together and thought they gave great eye appeal as well. You can also substitute the fettuccine noodles for rice noodles, (probably more authentic) but in my experience with rice noodles, they are a bit rubbery and I don't care for them much.

Coconut Curry Noodles with Veggies
1 lb. fettuccine noodles (or rice noodles, if you prefer)
2 small heads broccoli, chopped into florets
1-2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow), thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
8 oz. mushrooms (no need to rinse with water, just brush off the dirt with a paper towel), sliced
1/2 c. green onions
1 Tbsp. fresh, minced ginger
1 Tbsp. fresh, minced garlic
1 Tbsp. curry paste (red or green works; I used red)
Juice of 1 lime
1 can coconut milk (I always use full-fat)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
sesame seeds, for garnish
lime wedges, for garnish

With the stove on high, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. In the mean time, prep veggies.

Once water comes to a boil, drop pasta and cook according to package directions.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, curry paste, and lime juice. Set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a generous drizzle of olive or coconut oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add broccoli, peppers, carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until crisp-tender; about 4-5 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic and ginger and cook another minute or two. Add coconut milk mixture and allow to heat up then remove from heat.

Once pasta is done cooking, drain and pour into a large serving dish. Pour the veggies and sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to soak up some of the sauce, toss once more then serve warm.

Garnish with sesame seeds and freshly squeezed lime, if desired.

Adapted from Our Best Bites

*This makes about 6-8 generous portions. I halved the recipe both times I made it and it was perfect for our family. In fact, the first time I made it, there wasn't a LICK left and the second, there was only one helping left that my husband took to work the same week. If you're worried about only using half a can of coconut milk and not knowing what to do with the rest, check out my label on the side for coconut and you'll find many ways to use it up. Otherwise, you can throw some in your fruit smoothie for breakfast. Coconut is very healthy for you, fat and all! Coconut milk will keep in fridge, in an airtight container, about a week.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blueberry Lime Muffins with Coconut Streusel

Breakfast is anything but boring at our house; well, most of the time anyway. I don't like to get in a rut, eating the same thing over and over and I try not to feed my kids too much cold cereal either. The morning is when I have the most energy and desire to do things so it's a great time for me to throw together a batch of pancakes, muffins, or whatever.

My mom and brother have been using the original recipe for for these muffins for years and always rave about how it's just the best muffin recipe they've used. The muffins are quite delectable, I've partaken of them many times. In making theses muffins, I only made slight changes, using lime instead of lemon in the batter and throwing in some coconut with the streusel. I don't think it compromised the recipe at all, they are still wonderful! This recipe makes about a dozen muffins, so you can make them one day and enjoy them for several!

Blueberry Lime Muffins with Coconut Streusel
For the batter:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar

For the streusel:
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
3-4 Tbsp. flaked, sweetened coconut

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lime zest and juice in a large bowl; stir to combine. In a separate bowl, combine egg, milk and oil. Stir well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring just until moistened.

Combine blueberries, 1 tablespoon flour and sugar, tossing gently to coat. If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw, just put them in frozen. Fold blueberry mixture into batter. Spoon into greased muffin pans, filling about two-thirds full.

Combine streusel ingredients, except butter. Cut in butter with either a pastry blender or 2 knifes, until mixture is crumble. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes, or until golden. Remove from pans immediately and let cool.

Yield: 1 dozen muffins

Adapted from Southern Living

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Homemade cheese? Who knew, right? I love how I can make just about anything I want from scratch. There's not only the satisfaction in doing it, you often times get a superior, more fresh product and there's not all those preservatives and additives you get from processed food products.

Let me tell you this stuff is heaven! It's rich and creamy, totally indulgent and super easy to boot! Ricotta, meaning "recooked" in Italian, is typically made from the whey from making cheese or yogurt. While that method is not difficult, this is just a few steps easier and just as delicious.

Ricotta is great in lasagna, cannoli, ravioli stuffing, stuffed shells and cheese cakes. I mostly enjoyed it plain, smeared on top of some crusty, toasted bread. I have been known to throw ricotta into pancakes as well; there's another great use!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

After an hour the ricotta will be tender and spreadable. If you like a softer spread, you'll stop straining at this point. Put it in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will also firm up a bit once it's chilled. After about two hours, the ricotta will be more like cream cheese, thick but still spreadable and still very smooth.

Discard the whey, or, save it and google the many ways you can use it. Even better yet, save it and make ricotta using the "recooked" method.

Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Peppers

Stir-fry dinners are great. They are so versatile and fairly quick to throw together. My husband loves any kind of stir fry so he's always pleased when I make it. I really like stir-fry because it is a great dairy-free option for our family and my kids are pretty good about eating it. I usually like to go heavier on the veggies and lighter on the meat, with a little extra sauce that I can pour over my rice.

This orange chicken was quite a hit in our house! Both my girls ate up everything on their plate and my oldest daughter even asked for more. We all loved how tender the chicken turned out and the sauce went with it perfectly.

Using freshly squeezed orange juice was just delicious, and for me is a must in this dish, although you could use store-bought in a pinch. You'll love the little bit of heat from the cayenne, even if you don't like your food spicy. I'm not huge on spice and this was perfect and not overpowering, which balanced out the light sweetness of the rest of dish. For the veggies in this stir-fry, I used broccoli and red pepper because they add great color and complimented the flavors well, but they are also easily substituted to your own tastes.

You're going to want to make this soon, your family will thank you for it!

Orange Chicken
For the marinade and sauce:
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3-4 oranges)
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 lbs. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. cold water

1-2 red peppers, julienned
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
hot cooked rice
Sesame seeds, for garnish (if desired)

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a bowl; whisk to blend well. Measure out 3/4 cup of the mixture and transfer it either to a zip lock plastic bag or a small, shallow baking dish. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat evenly. Leave on the counter to marinate 30-60 minutes, prepping the veggies in the meantime.

Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add the broccoli and peppers and cook until crisp-tender. Remove veggies to a plate and set aside. Increase the heat to medium-high heat and add another drizzle of oil to the pan. Drain the chicken from the marinade and add it to the hot pan. Let it sit for a minute or two, then flip it as it turns a golden brown color. When chicken is just about done cooking, add the reserved sauce (not what you used for marinating) and bring to a boil. Combine water and cornstarch and add to the sauce to thicken. Boil about a minute or so. Turn off heat and add reserved veggies.

Serve over hot cooked rice and garnish with sesame seeds.

SOURCE: Sauce from Annie's Eats

Linked to...
Seasonal Sunday @ Real Sustenance

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sweet and Salty Cake

So, if you remember a while back, in May actually, it was my birthday. My family kept asking me how I wanted to celebrate but I just kept telling them I didn't want to celebrate until all that pregnancy nausea was done and I could enjoy some really good food. (I know where my priorities are!)

So we decided to celebrate in June instead and have the family over for a pool party. I had been deliberating over three different cakes to make and finally decided on the Sweet and Salty cake from the Baked cookbook. I had recently checked the book out from the library and LOVED most everything in it. This cake is their signature cake as well as their most requested. That's what sold it for me! Well, that and the combination of sweet chocolate and salty caramel.

With a pound of both chocolate and butter, you can imagine that this cake is rich. But, it's not too sweet and the salted caramel sauce between the cake layers really balances out the flavors and brings it together.

I do have to say that if you've never made caramel or even candy, for that matter, the salted caramel sauce can be a little tricky. You may want to allow yourself some extra time to mess up the first batch, like I did, so you can make the second batch perfectly. One thing that I will suggest you do is calibrate your thermometer!! Living at different elevations will change the temperature at which your candy is ready.

Calibrating a thermometer is simple, just stick it in some water and watch it to see at what temperature it boils. Boiling point is 212 degrees F. My water boiled at about 200 degrees F; I live at nearly 5,000 ft. elevation. Since the sugar and water have to boil to 350 degrees F, I had to subtract 12 degrees F and stop it at about 335 degrees F. You have to be very vigilant, especially at the end because the heat starts increasing very quickly. It will burn and become too hard to work with.

With all that said, this cake was pretty time consuming, but also the most decadent cake I have ever made. It was really delicious, something you don't make all the time, but perfect for that special occasion.

Sweet and Salty Cake
For the cake layers:
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups hot water
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking Powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

For the salted caramel:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. fleur de sel
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/4 cup sour cream

For the whipped caramel ganache frosting:
1 pound dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

To assemble the cake:
2 tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for garnish

Make the cake layers
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed until ribbon-like, about 5 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment. (I made the cake layers the night before, wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and stored them in the fridge. Chilling the cake layers also helped put the cake together a little easier.)

Make the salted caramel
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de del. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream mixture so it doesn't burn, in a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute. (See my note above about making the caramel sauce.)

Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake. (I also did this the night before as well.)

Make the whipped caramel ganache frosting
Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream so it doesn't burn, in a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the caramel cool for 1 minute.

Add the cream to the caramel and stir to combine. Stir slowly for 2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chocolate. Let the caramel and chocolate sit for 1 minute, then, starting in the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and caramel mixture in a circle until the chocolate is completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is fluffy.

Assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup of the caramel over the top. (I used a toothpick to poke holes in the cake so the caramel would seep in better.) Let the caramel soak into the cake, then spread 3/4 of the ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel over the frosting, then top with the second cake layer. Spread with caramel frosting and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fleur de sel. Then top with the third layer. Spread with caramel. Crumb coat (watch this video to learn how.) the cake and put the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the frosting. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

This cake will keep at room temperature in a cake saver for 3 days. If storing in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

SOURCE: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pina Colada Ice Cream

Happy Tuesday everyone. I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday. After sleeping on an air mattress in a tent for 4 days, it's really good to get back to civilization and my OWN BED! Today I have a delicious ice cream recipe to share with you that you're going to love.

Even though I don't drink alcohol, I still love the flavors of pina colada. Pineapple and coconut just go well together. Creamy coconut and tangy sweet pineapple-YUM! Now that the weather is warm, I've been keeping homemade ice cream in the freezer pretty much all the time. It's just too tempting not too.

This particular ice cream was a big hit in our house first of all because of the wonderful flavor, but also because it's dairy-free. Coconut milk in place of regular dairy milk and/or cream obviously works because of the pina colada flavor profile but it's also nice and creamy so you still get a good texture when you us it.

Pina Colada Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1-15 1/4-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup coconut milk (full-fat)

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.

Once sugar and water have cooled, pour into a mixing bowl and add pineapple and coconut milk. Whisk together until incorporated. I used a stick blender to more finely chop the pineapple and give it a little smoother texture, but it is not necessary.

Pour ice cream base into chilled ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Spoon ice cream in to freezer-safe containers and freeze until set.

SOURCE:Casual Cuisine

Linked to...
These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooks
Recipe Swap Thursday @ Prairie Story
It's A Keeper Thursday @ It's A Keeper
Sweet Tooth Friday @ Alli-n-Son
Seasonal Sunday @ Real Sustenance
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