Friday, December 21, 2012

Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I love salads!  I could eat salad every day and probably not get tired of it ever!  I don't think I'd even miss eating meat (since we rarely do anyway).  Although dried cranberries and walnuts or pecans are the norm in salads this time of year, pears are a new addition for me.

I had no idea I was going to like this salad so much. I think what made it for me was the goat cheese and the dressing. Mmmm!

Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
for the salad:
10 oz bag baby spinach
1/2 small head radicchio, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 pears, sliced or chopped
2-4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

for the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tsp. dijon mustard
pinch of salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil

Put spinach and chopped radicchio in a large salad bowl and toss with remaining salad ingredients.  In a half-pint mason jar add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and shake vigorously. Serve over salad.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Caprese Lasagna

Mmm, I was so excited to make this.  I haven't  made lasagna in FOREVER!!  This is just one of those comfort foods that you can't live without and have to make just once in a while.  I don't do a whole lot with dairy because of my hubby and kids and we just try not to eat much dairy in general.  But, I had whole milk (which I rarely buy) in the fridge needing to be used, so I made ricotta, and I had a whole 4 oz. package of fresh basil that had to be used as well and 4 little tomatoes sitting on my counter begging to be thrown in the mix. 

I made this super simple because, ya know, you just have those nights where you  need something quick and easy that doesn't taste like cardboard.  You can make both the ricotta and tomato sauce ahead of time, even a day or two before.  In fact, I just used my bottled Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce, which I made at the end of summer.  Can't get any easier than popping off a lid and pouring it out.  And it's still homemade!

I LOVED the flavors of this lasagna.  It's light and fresh and tastes like it just came out of the garden. No heavy meat sauce needed here, you will be completely satisfied and I guarantee you'll be begging for more.

Easy Caprese Lasagna
8 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Barilla brand)
1 cup Homemade Ricotta Cheese
10 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg
4 tomatoes, sliced (roma or vine-ripened)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
2 cups Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce
2 oz. mozzarella chees

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta,  2 cups of mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and egg. 

In an 8 1/2 x 11-inch baking pan ( just smaller than a cake pan) spread about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom.  Layer with 2 1/2 sheets of lasagna noodles, half of the ricotta mixture and about 9 slices of tomato.  Top with about another half cup of tomato sauce and a few ribbons of basil. Repeat with another layer.  Top with 2 1/2 sheets of noodles, another 1/2 cup of sauce and about 1/2 cup mozzarella.

Bake, covered with foil, until bubbly; about 50 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Soft Gingersnaps with Egg Nog Glaze

Are you in the holiday spirit yet?  For me, getting in the holiday spirit means fun with family and friends and, of course, lots of baking (mostly goodies).  Every year we have to make our favorites, but I also like to try a few new things as well.  These were one of those few new things. 
I love the warm spices of fall, so anything with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves will call my name.  Gingersnaps are one of my favorite holiday cookies, but I don't always love how crunchy they are. That's why these cookies are so perfect.  They have the warm, delicious flavor of gingersnaps but all in a soft, chewy cookie.

Soft Gingersnaps with Egg Nog Glaze
2 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp.ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup molassas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine.  Add molassas and mix.

With a small scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheet.  Bake about 10-12 minutes (a minute or two less for non-stick pans).  Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet abouty 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Drizzle with egg nog glaze.

Egg Nog Glaze
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp. egg nog
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

In a medium mixinb bowl, mix glaze ingredients until texture is smooth.  Adjust consistency as desired.  With a spoon, drizzle over completly cooled cookies.  Allow glaze to set.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Friday, December 14, 2012

Roasted Poblano Chicken Quesadillas

So, aren't quesadillas just about anybody's go-to meal when there's nothing else to eat or nothing sounds good? It's also one of those foods that just about any kid will eat?  I remember back in my college days when I lived with my younger sister for a couple of semesters.  One of our favorite late night snacks was chicken quesadillas (or a piece of bread slathered with peanut butter and honey or jam).  I don't know what it was about them, the ooey-gooey cheese  melting out of the middle or the crispy tortilla, but they were delicious!

This is more than a late night snack and oh so delicious!  I love caramelizing onions until they turn soft and sweet and poblano peppers are just the right kind of pepper for me; not too spicy but still have a bite to them. Make sure you taste test your poblanos before adding them all in your mixture.  Some can be more spicy than others.

Roasted Poblano and Chicken Quesadillas
4 poblano peppers
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 cup corn kernels (frozen, canned or fresh)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional)
salt, to taste
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
16 oz. monterey jack cheese, grated
8 8-inch flour tortillas
for serving:
sour cream
pico de gallo

To roast your poblanos, place them on a cookie sheet and put them under the broiler.  Bake until they start to pop and char (black spots) on most of that side; maybe 7-10 minutes.  Flip peppers and bake under the broiler until they resemble the previous side.  When they are done cooking, immediately place them in a ziploc bag and seal.  Leave them until they are cooled. Once cooled, peel the thin, paper-like skin off, remove stem and seeds and finely dice. Set aside.

Add  a drizzle of oilve oil to a hot skillet along with the onions. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and beginning to brown and caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.

 Add the corn, chicken, cumin and chipotle powder.  Stir to combine.  Allow the corn to cook for a couple of minutes until heated through. Add reserved peppers and stir to combine. Add salt to taste.

Heat a skillet, large enough to fit your tortillas, over medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet and top with a sprinkle of cheese. Add about 1/4 cup of the poblano mixture and spread evenly over the cheese.  Sprinkle another little bit of cheese over the mixture and place a second tortilla on top.

Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese has begun to melt and the bottom tortilla is getting browned. Flip the quesadilla and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes or until all of the cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo

SOURCE:  Adapted from Buns in My Oven

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry-Turkey Enchiladas

I've probably said it before, but I love holiday leftovers!!!  That's one good thing about making a huge meal, you can eat off it for days!! Many times we just eat them as is, but once in a while I get a hankering to make the leftovers into something else, hence this meal. 

I was so excited to come home from my parent's house at Thanksgiving with a big bag of turkey.  Even though it was just 5 adults and my 3 girls, who don't eat much, my dad insisted on getting a 20 pound turkey!  I'm glad he did.  I had been eyeing these enchiladas even before Thanksgiving, so I was glad to whip them up a few days later.

You will love this rendition of  the traditional Chicken Enchiladas.  With the orangey-tangy-ness from cranberry sauce, a little spice from the chipotle tabasco  and, of course the turkey.  Next time you cook up a turkey, save some leftovers for these!

Cranberry-Turkey Enchiladas
2-2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken
2 cups Fresh OrangeCranberry Sauce (or 1 16-oz can)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or pepper jack for more kick)
1/2 cup sour cream
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup lightly-packed chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
10-12 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas
1-2 tsp. bottled chipotle hot sauce (tabasco)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, 1 cup of the cranberry sauce, the beans, sour cream, 3/4 cup cheese, 1/2 cup of the salsa, green onions, cilantro, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Wrap 6 tortillas at a time in a light kitchen towel and microwave abotu 60 seconds. Pulling one tortilla out at a time, keeping the remaining warm tortillas wrapped up, spoon about 1/4 cup filling into each tortilla, and roll tightly. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining cranberry sauce, 1 cup of salsa, and the hot sauce. Stir to combine and Pour over the enchiladas. Cover the dish with foild, and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Continue to bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and scallions, and serve.
SOURCE: Pink Parsley

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple Cider Caramels

Remember the apple cider I talked about here and here?  The stuff I got from Trader Joe's.  Well, I'm still finding uses for it. I really loved the apple cider pancakes, but these caramels are so unique and wonderfully delicious. 

I'm a sucker for holiday treats, mostly caramels and fudge (ok, throw cookies in there too). I grew up eating these caramels my mother made every Christmas.  She would keep a tupperware container on the dining room table of  fudge, caramel and sugar cookies to make neighbor plates with.  Every time I walked by I couldn't help but snitch a piece or two.  So, you see, I have a soft spot for caramels.

Make sure when making these caramels that you get real apple cider, like the kind you can find at a local orchard, farm or produce stand.  Occasionally you can find decent apple cider at the store, but you have to search for it.  Although it's a little more expensive than regular apple juice, it's worth every penny!  Don't skip the sea salt either.  It's an unexpected little crunch in every bite that's a little explosion of salty to go with your sweet.

Apple Cider Caramels
4 cups apple cider
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. flaky sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

Boil the apple cider in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume; somewhere around 30-40 minutes or so. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, prep the rest.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.  Set aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, only about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it.
(Don’t have a candy or deep- fry thermometer? Have a bowl of very cold water ready, and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball. I actually use this method in addition to my candy thermometer, just to make sure it's the right firmness.  Altitude will affect thermometers, so it's good to know your thermometer, have a back up and even calibrate your thermometer to where you live.)

Immediately remove caramel from heat and stir down the bubbles a bit. Add the cinnamon and salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled knife, oiling it after each cut (trust me!), to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares.  Individually wrap, if desired. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.

SOURCE: Smitten Kitchen

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December Menu 2012 (Week 2)

Woohoo, it's the holiday season and I am loving it!  I don't think my waistline is loving it so much though.  So many sweets!!  Last year I had an excuse to eat and eat since I had just had a baby.  This year, sadly, I don't.  But how can you go through the holiday season without indulging even just a little bit?  Some of my favorite holiday treats are my mom's caramels and fudge. But, I also like to stray from the norm as well and make new desserts as well, like this Egg Nog Gingerbreaed Trifle (a huge favorite!!).

I'm trying to balance out all the sweets (from parties, friends and neighbors) with lots of salad and veggies and wholesome main dishes.  My kids are being quite picky eaters as of late, so they have been having hot cereal for dinner quite often.  But, my husband and I still get to enjoy the yumminess.

December Menu 2012 (Week 2)

Pesto Pizza with Butternut Squash
oven-roasted brussels sprouts

Parmesan Ranch Chicken Fingers
steamed broccoli
steak fries

Ham beans (wow, this post needs a makeover!)

Ham and Swiss Sliders
spinach salad

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Saturday (Date night dinner)
Portabella Ravioli with Grogonzola Cream Sauce
green salad

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

What else...
Coconut Brown Rice Pudding
Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones
Baked Eggs in Hashbrown Cups

Friday, December 7, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta

This has become one of my new favorite fall salads.  I don't think I actually even ate a brussel sprout until last  year, but I really enjoy them.  They are a nice hearty green, perfect for winter time and they are loaded with lots of good nutrients, especially vitamins c and k.

This is a super simple salad.  I'd say if it wasn't for all the chopping of the brussels sprouts, you'd have this made in about 2 minutes flat.  I love the combination of ingredients; the sweet and chewy dried cranberries, the soft and salty of the feta and the crunchy, nutty walnuts.  All perfectly compliment the taste and texture of the brussels sprouts.  The dressing is no-fuss as well, using ingredients you already have on hand.

Chopped Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Feta
for the salad:
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

for the dressing:
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cinder vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Rinse brussels sprouts and remove any damaged or dirty outer leaves. Place on a cutting board and slice off the hard root end. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the brussels sprouts and put them in a large salad bowl.   Add walnuts, cranberries and feta and toss to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.  Pour over salad and toss.  Serve immediately.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fresh Tomato Soup

This soup is a staple at our house during the fall and winter months. At the end of summer when tomatoes are at their ripest, I buy boxes and boxes of them (when I don't have a garden) to preserve. A lot of the tomatoes I turn into salsa and spaghetti sauce. The rest I just peel and puree, then freeze in about 2 quart quantities. It makes preparing this soup a cinch, since most of the work is already done!! Even in the middle of winter, we can have this soup and it still tastes like it just came out of the garden. Simple, fresh ingredients are key to making this soup taste "soup"er.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Soup
8 cups (2 quarts) fresh tomato puree (about 10-12 vine-ripened tomatoes)
chicken soup base 
1 cup heavy cream (can substitute full-fat coconut milk for non-dairy)
Coarse salt and black pepper
20 leaves fresh basil, cut into chiffonade, for garnish

To blanch and peel tomatoes, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Fill a sink full of ice water. Working in batches, score the bottom of the tomatoes. Place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Remove immediately and place in ice bath. Repeat with remaining tomatoes.

Once tomatoes are cooled, drain water from sink. Core tomatoes and slip skins off. Puree tomatoes either with a food processor or working in batches in a blender. Don't worry If you have a little more or less than 8 cups.

Add tomato puree to a large stock pot. Add enough chicken soup base for 2 cups and bring to a boil. Once chicken base is completely dissolved, taste for seasoning and add more, to taste.

Gently simmer for about 5 minutes, add cream and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Taste again for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Remove from heat and add most of the basil, leaving some for garnish.

Serve warm.

*If you don't have access to fresh tomatoes, you can use 2 28-oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes (Cento, San Marzano).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Menu 2012 (Week 1)

Ahhhh!  It's already December.  Where did the time go? I love this time of year but it's such a whirlwind for our family.  We have a birthday and Thanksgiving in November, a birthday and Christmas in December and then New Years and a birthday just days after in January!!!  We do a whole lot of celebrating during these months, but it's lots of fun and we get to see family more than we  usually do.

Trader Joe's opened up their first location here in Utah last weekend and my friend and I took a girls day and headed up there to check it out.  I was so excited to go.  I had to go down every aisle, I didn't want to miss a thing!  One of my favorite things I bought was a black bean and quinoa corn chip.  They were delicious and pretty healthy; not a lot of ingredients or additives.  I think I may try making them on my own.  Homemade crackers/chips, why not? I also grabbed some tomato-basil hummus to go with it--YUM! Two other favorite things I picked up were some portabello ravioli and some gorgonzola....mmmm gonna try and recreate a fancy dinner with the hubs from our pre-kid era.  Of course, I picked up some more apple cider for more of these pancakes, as well as some brussels sprouts, still on the stalk!!  How cool is that?  Well, maybe not for you but you don't see that much around here.  I can't wait to share with you all that I'll be making from this weeks spoils!  Stay tuned...

December Menu 2012 (Week 1)
Italian Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
fresh steamed green beans

Caprese Lasagna Rolls
leftover salad
fresh veggies

Veggie Stir-fry

Butternut Squash, Bacon and Gryuere Pasta
Radicchio, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Balsamic Vinaigrette

Orzo with roasted veggies
Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries, walnuts and feta

(birthday dinner for my 4 year old)
Cafe Rio pork salad/burrito
Spanish Rice
green salad w/ tomatillo dressing
Nutella Cheesecake


Other stuff:
Orange-cranberry Granola (getting and updated recipe and picture this week!)
Peanut butter-choco-nana Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
Cake Batter Pancakes
Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Squash Soup with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes

I have finally found THE squash soup! I have been searching high and low for a squash soup that I really enjoy.  I have made several over the years that just were bland and boring and I did not care to ever make them again.  I think I love this soup so much because It's not just the typical squash and broth.  The carrots, sweet potato and apple really add to the flavor and it's just lovely.  Although pepitas are delicious and my favorite garnish, you could also garnish with a little pureed chipotle in adobo, creme fraiche, smoked cheese or even some fresh parsley or cilantro.

Squash Soup with Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds hard winter squash/pumpkin, peeled and chopped (I used 2 sugar pumpkins)*
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 crisp apple, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
4 cups chicken/veggie stock
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon or orange juice
In a large stock pot, drizzle a good amount of olive oil (2-3 Tbsp.) and heat over medium-high heat.  Add onion, squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add apple, garlic and ginger, as well as the cumin, paprika, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Cook for about a minute or so.  Add chicken or veggie stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until very tender. 

Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. You can also puree in batches in a blender or food processor.  Check for seasonings and add salt/pepper and honey to your liking.  Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon or orange juice in the soup right at the very end.

Serve warm and garnish as desired:
1-2 tsp. chipotle in adobo (pureed)
creme fraiche
pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)**
smoked cheddar or other smoked cheese
chopped cilantro or parsley

*Sometimes it is difficult to peel hard winter squash.  Alternately, you can split the squash/pumpkin in half, remove seeds and bake on cookie sheet, cut side down, until tender.  Allow to cool slightly and scrape out flesh from skin.  Add to soup near the end when ready to puree.

**To toast pumpkin seeds, make sure you have the green ones to begin with.  Add a tiny bit of olive oil to a small skillet, a handful of seeds and a pinch of salt.  Toast over medium heat, gently moving them around to prevent burning, until they start popping and turning golden.

SOURCE: Lightly adapted from Rachael Ray
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