Sunday, March 27, 2011

Basil Pesto

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Pesto is such an easy and versatile sauce.  I usually make a big bowl of it and use it as a sauce, marinade, and a salad dressing base.

The only down side about pesto is that it can be quite pricey.  As an alternative, I often use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts.  Since I buy my other nuts in bulk, the cost is much more affordable and the flavor and nutritional elements still fantastic!

This week, I made a basil pesto:

Ingredients / Directions:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts / walnuts / almonds
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pulse in a food processor until well blended.

marinated pesto chicken & pasta:

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To make it into a dressing, I whip the pesto with Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and stream in more extra virgin olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Divine!

pesto salad dressing:

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couscous with asparagus, red pepper, & basil pesto:

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Salty Sweet Cookies

OATMEAL CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES (by Ocean Spray)

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These salty sweet cookies are so good!  They are a perfect picnic or gift basket addition.  Also, I highly recommend a good quality white chocolate such as Ghirardelli.

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces package dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna

There are many fantastic recipes for vegetable lasagna, and I’m typically partial to the kinds with an alfredo sauce, but today I decided to make a vegetable lasagna with homemade marinara.  I also decided to go noodle-less.  Noodle-less lasagna you say?  It’s madness!  Madness or not, it’s pretty good!  I saw a chef on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” make noodle-less veggie lasagna and was inspired.

Here’s what I came up with:

Start by cooking up a nice marinara sauce.  Click here for my recipe.

Next, do a quick egg wash and a light breading to thin slices of eggplant and zucchini (I preferred the zucchini over the eggplant and would most likely just skip with that for next time).  Bake @ 425 degrees until cooked and crisp (about 5 min each side).

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Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms and onions in a bit of butter and extra virgin olive oil.

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Make sure you have lots of cheese on hand!  I used mozzarella, parmesan, and goats cheese.  I passed on the ricotta today, but feel free to use (just mix with egg, salt, pepper, and parm and layer in).

Then, start to layer!  Always begin with a healthy dollop of sauce for a base, then layer veggies, cheese, and sauce to your liking.  Make sure you end with a the heaviest layer of cheese.

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Once the layers are done, cover with foil and bake 400 degrees for about 45 mins.  Remove foil and bake another 15 until top is slightly browned and very melty.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fruit Cake / Pie

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I’m definitely a lover of homemade fruit pie, but am not always in the mood to make a homemade crust.  When I saw Barefoot Contessa’s cranberry and apple cake recipe I knew I hit the jackpot.  It tastes just like pie without having to make the crust! 

TIP: Another plus – this recipe is very easy to switch up the fruit ingredients.  When I made it, I used rhubarb, strawberries, and apple.

Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake - 2010, Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Veggie / Chickpea Falafel

If you aren’t familiar with falafel, it’s pretty simple –  ground up, fried chick pea mash… okay, it’s actually much better than it sounds!

Here’s a basic falafel recipe that I’ve found to be quite good:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper

The standard way to cook falafel is to blend the ingredients together, form into small flattened balls, and fry (350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes).

However – I made up the following healthier version of a “falafel-ish” recipe and liked it just as well!

I started with leftover vegetable curry.  I was tired of eating the curry as-is but didn’t was to get rid of the leftovers, and since it was all vegetables, spices, and a ton of chick peas – I figured why not try veggie / chick pea falafels?!?

I strained my vegetable curry to keep just the veggie / chick pea contents, added extra virgin olive oil, salt, cumin and parsley and blended until smooth.

I then formed into flattened balls and BAKED until cooked through (about 5 mins each side @ 350 degrees).

Curry veggie falafel wrapped in a pita, with lettuce and a little roasted red pepper hummus made a perfect lunch for me!

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