Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza

So, um, prepare to have your socks knocked off, mm-kay! What an unlikely combination, this pizza is; strawberries, cilantro, bacon, balsamic vinegar and a few other things. I was completely intrigued by this pizza and I happened to have every single ingredient the day I stumbled upon this recipe. So, as any good food blogger would do, I made it-like immediately, that very day!

Unfortunately, the power went out the first time I made this pizza (right as I was putting it in the oven), and although it tasted wonderful, the crust didn’t turn out quite right because it was only being cooked with the residual heat left in the oven. Well, I had no problem making it again, in fact I could hardly wait.

Now is still a great time to get strawberries in season, so I suggest you make this pizza rapido!! Your family and your belly will thank you.

So, without further ado, here are the cast of characters.....

Doesn't it look pretty all put together? I love all the colors! Colorful food is yummy food in my book.

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza
For the sauce:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup good quality strawberry jam or preserves
1 Tbsp. sriracha sweet chili sauce

To assemble:
1 ball pizza dough
olive oil, for brushing
1 cup shredded or diced cooked chicken
4 slices bacon, diced and cooked until crisp
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
Scant 1/2 cup hulled strawberries, small-diced

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook 4-5 minutes or until reduced by about half with a thick, syrupy texture. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic reduction with the strawberry jam and sriracha chili sauce. Set aside.

To make the pizza, heat the oven to 500˚ F and preheat a pizza stone. Roll out the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round. Lightly brush the perimeter of the dough with olive oil. Spread the balsamic-strawberry mixture in a thin layer over the crust. Layer with the chicken, bacon, onion, cheeses, cilantro, and strawberries.

Transfer the pizza to the preheated pizza stone and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from The Cafe Sucre Farine

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spicy Basil Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Snow Peas

I cook a lot of Asian and Thai-style dishes, partly because they don't use dairy, but mostly because they are so delicious! I have really grown to love this style of food.

As you know from my last post, I was looking for anything and everything that I could make using fresh basil. The stuff just speaks to me. I walk by it in the grocery store and I JUST CANNOT RESIST! So, when I came upon this recipe recently, I knew I would have to make it soon.

Let me tell you, this is not your mamma's chicken and rice dinner!

If you have never used fish sauce, don't be intimidated! I was for a while. And then even after I bought a bottle and opened it up I wondered if it really would taste good, because, honestly it doesn't smell that good by itself. There's something about it though when you add it in Asian dishes. It magically transforms them, deepening the flavor and giving it that salty bite. Be warned though, don't be heavy handed...a little goes a long way.

The dish is balanced out with a little sweet and spicy from the sweet chili sauce and, of course that pop from the fresh basil added in at the very end.

Spicy Basil Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Snow peas
olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 red bell peppers
1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed and cut in half, if desired
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 tsp. water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sliced basil leaves

Thai Coconut Rice (omit cilantro for this recipe)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle olive oil and swirl to coat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes, then add peppers and peas and saute another 3-4 minutes, until they are crisp-tender. Add garlic to pan during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Remove veggies to a plate and set aside.

Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan and let it heat up. Add the chicken pieces and cook until chicken is no longer pink. While chicken is cooking, combine fish sauce and the next 4 ingredients in a small bowl Stir with a whisk to combine.

Return veggies to the pan with the chicken and add fish sauce mixture. Cook for 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring to coat chicken and veggies. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Serve warm with Thai Coconut Rice.

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooking Light on myrecipes.com

Monday, May 21, 2012

Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

So, I recently had a birthday. For once, it took me a while to decide what kind of cake I wanted to make, but I had no problem deciding what I wanted to make for dinner. It was easy, anything and everything with fresh basil! I swear that stuff is completely intoxicating to me. I love the smell, I love the bright taste and how it perfectly accents so many dishes.

Salads are one of my most favorite things to eat for lunch or dinner and I especially love making my own dressings to go with them. So as part of my meal, I decided to make this Italian salad with a basil vinaigrette. The salad itself, although wonderful, is pretty traditional, but the vinaigrette is brilliant! What better way to get that basil-y goodness jam-packed into every bite than to whiz it up in the dressing? I loved it, slurped it and doused my salad in it. De-lish!

Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
2 tomatoes on the vine, (sliced, diced or chopped)
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
olives (black or kalamata)
croutons (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese

For the vinaigrette:
Handful of basil leaves (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp sugar, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Prepare the salad ingredients and place in a large salad bowl, topping with croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.

To prepare the vinaigrette, you can do it one of two ways. Most of the time, I like to just put all my ingredients in a small mason jar, put the lid on and shake it up. However, I wanted the basil to be chopped up more than a rough chop so it would be more evenly distributed throughout the dressing, so I put it in my little Cuisinart and blended it up real well.

Serve over salad. Enjoy!

SOURCE: For the Love of COoking

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Spicy Broccoli

This right here is my kind of meal. It's healthy, quick and easy, and with just a few ingredients. It's also something my kids would eat and that I would enjoy as well. Broccoli is one of my girls' most favorite veggies and what kid doesn't like noodles? It was a thumbs up all around!

Because of it's simplicity, this dish is pretty adaptable. You can add some cooked meat (grilled chicken, bacon, Italian sausage or ham). You can also pump up the veggie factor by adding in sauteed mushrooms and onions, grape tomatoes or really whatever you'd like. I can't wait to try this again.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Spicy Broccoli
2 large crown of broccoli
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 pound (8 ounces) whole wheat, whole grain or regular spaghetti
1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded, or to taste

Bring a large stock pot full of water to a boil.

Cut the he stalks off the broccoli and cut the florets into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté about 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt.

When the water comes to a boil, drop the pasta and cook until the almost al dente, about 5 minutes, then add the broccoli.
Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti and broccoli to the skillet and toss over high heat. Add the reserved cooking liquid to moisten the dish. Divide into bowls, top with cheese, and serve immediately.

SOURCE: Ezra Pound Cake

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baked Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Taquitos

I guess I still have Cinco de Mayo on the brain from last week because I keep thinking of Mexican-style meals to make. It's a good thing though, because we love Mexican food here and I don't make it enough!

I am always looking for quick and healthy meals that a) don't involve a lot of dairy and b) don't involve a lot of meat. I saw a version a of these taquitos a while ago and knew with some tweaking they would be a new family favorite. I love the combination of beans, corn and chicken with Mexican flavors. The roasted red pepper was a great addition that lends a unique flavor and the spinach and cilantro not only pump up the health factor, they add great color and eye appeal! If you don't have roasted red pepper, you can roast your own (tip below) or just use fresh and saute it with the onion.

You'll want to add these to your dinner rotation soon! Tasty and quick to prepare, they make a perfect weeknight meal.

Baked Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Taquitos
olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
pinch cayenne pepper (optional, especially if you have little mouths to feed)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup chicken, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, un-thawed
*1 roasted red pepper, small-diced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese (Monterrey or Pepper Jack, Mexican blend, etc.)
12 8-inch whole wheat tortillas

In a large skillet, heat a good drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon). Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and saute about 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cheese, and stir to coat evenly with the spices. Cook until the chicken broth has just about evaporated completely. Turn off the heat, but keep pan on burner and stir in the spinach and cheese. The residual head from the burner with wilt the spinach and melt the cheese. Add cilantro just before filling taquitos.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Wrap tortillas in a clean kitchen towel and warm them in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds. Spray a large baking sheet, such as a cookie sheet, with cooking spray. Lay one tortilla at a time on a large plate. Scoop about 1/4-1/3 cup filling across the bottom third of the tortilla. Roll it up, leaving the ends open. Place on cookie sheet, seam side down. Repeat with remaining filling and tortillas.

Once all the taquitos have been assembled, brush the tops with olive oil and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. (This would also work as a great freezer meal. You could stop before brushing the tops with olive oil, cover the cooking sheet with plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, remove taquitos from cookie sheet and place in a zip-top freezer bag. When you're ready to bake, remove desired amount of taquitos, brush with olive oil and bake about 5 minutes longer.)

Serve warm with desired garnished: fresh lime, sour cream, guacamole, salsa

*To make your own roasted red peppers, cut fresh red peppers in half removing stem and seeds, and place them on a cookie sheet. Place under the broiler until they are mostly black and charred. Remove from oven and immediately place in a bowl with a lid or a paper bag. Once they are cooled, remove as much of the skin as you can (sometimes it's tricky and it doesn't all come off, but it's not a big deal). Use immediately, refrigerate for 3-5 days or freeze. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest you portion them into 1-2 peppers pr baggie. I usually place each pepper in a little sandwich bag, then place all the sandwich bags into a larger zip-top freezer bag so they are all together.

SOURCE: Adapted from Savour the Senses

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baked Chimichangas

Chimichangas are one of my most absolute favorite Mexican foods. My mom has been making these as long as I can remember and they have been the star of many a family gathering. So a little while back I got the hankering for some chimichangas and actually thought I could find a better recipe. So I looked and looked and found a recipe I thought would be good. Well, it got rave reviews and it was good, but it wasn't THIS good. It didn't really compare to my mom's recipe. So, I will never search for another chimichanga recipe again! This is my go-to; perfectly seasoned, wonderful taste!

If you're looking for a main dish to celebrate Cinco de Mayo look no further! These will be the star of your feast. They are easy to throw together, can be made a day in advance and they still get that flaky, crispy outer layer, resembling it's fried form, but healthier since it's baked.

Baked Chimichangas
for the Mexican Meat Mix:
2 lb. beef roast
1-2 cups beef broth
olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
1 7-oz. can tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. flour
juices from roast
salt & pepper

for the chimichangas
12 8-inch flour tortillas
sour cream
roma tomatoes, diced
lettuce, shredded

Set out a crock pot large enough to fit your roast. Turn on low.

Heat a small drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Generously season both sides of roast with salt and pepper and place in skillet. Brown on all sides. Place browned roast into warm crock pot and add beef broth until it reaches about half way up the roast; between 1-2 cups. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours. Alternately you could put the roast in a roasting pan in the oven at about 275 degrees F for about 2-3 hours.

Once roast is cooked, remove meat to a large platter, reserving juices. Shred meat and set aside. In a large skillet, over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds, then sprinkle with flour and saute another minute or so. Add green chiles, tomatillo salsa and cumin, then reserved meat and juices (should be around 1 1/2 cups-feel free to add more broth if you don't have many drippings). Cook about 5 minutes, until it has thickened. Cool slightly.

*Preparing the Mexican Meat Mix can be done a day in advance to minimize time spent in the kitchen during dinner prep.

To assemble the chimichangas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Warm tortillas in the microwave about 20-30 seconds so they are pliable when rolling. Spread about 1/4 - 1/3 cup Mexican Meat Mix on lower third of tortilla. Fold bottom edge up over filling, then fold sides toward center and roll up the rest of the way. Place on greased baking sheet and continue with remaining meat mix and tortillas. Brush the tops of each chimichanga with olive oil and bake about 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden.

Serve on top of a bed of shredded lettuce. Top with your choice of garnishes: sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, cheese, olives, etc.

*These freeze very well. Once you are done rolling them all up, stop there and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. When you're ready to bake, continue with the rest of the instructions, baking slightly longer to account for them being frozen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Arroz con Leche

Have you ever heard that children's song that goes, "Arroz con leche, me quiero casar, con una senorita de san Nicolas. Que sepa coser, que sepa bordar, que sepa abrir la puerta para ir a jugar." Well, probably not if you don't speak Spanish. That song goes through my head every once in a while and it makes me want to make rice pudding, or as it directly translates, rice with milk. This is a treat that I often enjoyed while living in South America many years ago. We ate it plain and simple, no special ingredients, just rice, milk, sugar and a little cinnamon. Sometimes we'd put a little dollop of dulce de leche on top and boy, was that ever delicious!

Even though I am not Mexican, have never been to Mexico and have no distant relatives there I still love the food; simple yet delicious. And I love celebrating Cinco de Mayo. To get you in the mood for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, I've given in to the little song in my head and made this treat so I could share it with you. Hope you enjoy!

Arroz con Leche
8 cups whole milk (2% is ok)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup rice (medium or short grain is nice if you have it)
1/2 cup sugar

Dulce de Leche (optional)

In a sauce pan, slowly heat the milk, salt and cinnamon stick. Bring to a low simmer. Add the rice and sugar and stir. Continue cooking the rice for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom.

Remove from heat and ladle into individual custard cups. Top with dulce de leche and sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

SOURCE: Cannelle et Vanille
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