Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing

This dish is basically summer in a bowl.  Watermelon is one of my favorite summer fruits, and while it is delicious on its own, this salad makes it feel extra fancy.  The combo of sweet watermelon and salty feta is a a classic, and here they're combined with floral mint and a sweet honey-lime dressing that's not too heavy.  Whole wheat couscous bulks out the salad to make it a bit more filling -- we enjoyed this as a light dinner, although it would also be great as a side.  The mint does tend to wilt a bit if it sits, so I'd mix everything together just before you plan to serve.


Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing (adapted from Maria Speck, via The Kitchn)
Serves 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as a light main

1-1/4 cups water
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta

For the dressing:
Zest and juice of 2 large limes
2 T olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the couscous and salt.  Cover, and set aside for 10 minutes (off the heat).  Fluff with a fork, and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.  Fluff again, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Layer the watermelon, mint, and feta on the couscous.
3. Make the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid, and shake well until combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
5. To make ahead, leave out the feta and mint.  Stash in the fridge for up to 4 hours, and then toss in the feta and mint when ready to serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa

This Caribbean bowl is full of flavor. I've recently fallen in love with Raw Spice Bar's subscription service, and this bowl is all about their Jamaican spice blends -- but, of course, you can always make your own spice blends or purchase blends from another source.  Jerk-spiced white fish is spicy but also super fresh-tasting with lots of green onions, lime juice, and fresh ginger in the marinade.  It's piled on top of black beans, and then topped with a sweet mango-corn salsa.  Fried plantains add fantastic crunch to the dish.  When everything is combined, you'll definitely be transported...just don't forget a tropical drink on the side!

 

Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa (inspired by Bowl + Spoon and Raw Spice Bar)
Serves 4

For the fish:
1 pound white fish fillets
2 T canola oil
2 tsp Jamaican Jerk spices (make your own!)
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
Zest and juice of two limes
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 T dark rum

For the black beans:
1/2 pound dried black peans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable broth
Salt

For the mango salsa:
2 ears corn on the cob
1 ripe mango, diced
2 T minced cilantro
1 tsp Paprika-Ginger spices (or 1/2 tsp each smoked paprika and dried ginger)
Zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the plantains:
2 T coconut oil
1 ripe plantain
Salt and pepper

Garnish: Minced cilantro and/or chopped green onions

1. Marinate the fish: Lay the fish in a shallow dish and make a few slashes in it with a sharp knife.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the spice mix, and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small food processor or mini chopper.  Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, thyme, lime juice and zest, vinegar, salt, and rum.  Process to a puree, and then pour over the fish and rub into the flesh.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

2. Cook the beans: Drain the soaked beans, and place in a pot with the bay leaves.  Cover with water by about 2 inches.  Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until tender.  When teh water has mostly cooked off, add the broth.  When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaves, add a generous pinch of salt, cover, and set aside. Add more broth if you need to -- the beans should be a bit brothy.

3. Make the mango salsa: Husk the corn and steam for just a minute or two, until just tender.  Cut the corn off the cob.  Combine in a bowl with the mango, cilantro, spices, lime zest and juice, olive oil, and salt.  Stir to combine.

4. Cook the fish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer the fish and marinade to a baking dish, and bake 15-20 minutes, until slightly charred.

5. Fry the plantains: Heat the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Peel and slice the plantain into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.  Give the slices a gentle smash with the side of a knife, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fry for 3 minutes per side until golden.

6. To serve, scoop beans into a shallow bowl.  Top with fish, salsa, and plantains.  Sprinkle with cilantro and/or green onions.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wraps

The ingredients for this dish sound a little random -- BBQ chicken plus pineapple plus yogurt sauce?  But something magical happens when they all come together!  The BBQ chicken-pineapple mixture is sweet and rich, while the tangy lime-yogurt sauce on top cuts through the sweetness.  Sliced avocados make the whole dish feel a little luxurious, and fragrant mint leaves add a perfect finishing touch.  The best part is that this meal is quick -- very easy to pull together on a week night. I'll definitely be making this one again!


BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wrap (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 T olive oil
1-1/2 cups cubed pineapple (cut about the size of the chicken pieces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T coarsely chopped cashews
3 T BBQ sauce
Lettuce leaves
Several leaves of fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced

For the yogurt sauce:
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mint leaves
3 T milk
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  When it gets hot, add the chicken.  Cook until browned and cooked through, 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the chicken and place it in a bowl.
2. Add more oil if the skillet looks dry.  Add the pineapple and garlic, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring often.  Add the cashews and stir to combine.  Add the chicken back to the skillet, and pour in the BBQ sauce.  Stir together, and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Make the yogurt sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor or food chopper, and blend until pureed.
4. Assemble the lettuce wraps.  Lay out a lettuce leaf, and add a scoop of the chicken-pineapple mixture.  Top with sliced avocados, fresh mint leaves, and a generous drizzle of the yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am guilty of many breakfast sins...I eat way too many Pop Tarts and sugary breakfast cereals in the morning because my brain isn't quite awake enough to come up with anything more complicated.  That's why when I get my act together, I like to make a reasonably healthy breakfast food on the weekend for quick breakfasts before work.  These muffins are a great example of that -- they've got oats for fiber, and chocolate chips to make them feel special.  Bonus: they are super quick and easy.  If you're more together than me in the mornings, you could probably even make them on a weekday!  These muffins also keep well, so they're a good make-ahead...just reheat in the microwave for about 15 seconds to perk them up.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Muffins
(makes 1 dozen)

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with papers.
2. Whisk together the flour, oats, and sugar in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, oil, egg, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and gently fold together until just combined. Add the chocolate, and fold into the batter, being careful not to overmix.
3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.  Bake about 20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: One-Pot Peanut Butter Brownies

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Cindy of Hun...What's for Dinner?  For whatever reason, I was really feeling the peanut butter this month. I almost made Cindy's peanut butter granola (and it's definitely on my list for a future recipe!), but ultimately I decided on her peanut butter brownies.  These brownies are super easy and so delicious.  They're super rich and cocoa-y, and the peanut butter frosting totally takes them over the top.  I'm not going to lie -- these brownies are really addictive! Thanks, Cindy!



One-Pot Peanut Butter Brownies (adapted from Hun...What's for Dinner, original recipe here)
Makes one 8x8 pan of brownies

For the brownies:
1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Chocolate chips or chunks

For the frosting:
3 T butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1-2 T milk

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking pan with oil.
2. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Remove from the heat, and add the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add the eggs and stir to combine.  Stir in the flour.  Scrape into the prepared pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips or chunks
3. Bake 30 minutes, until set.
4. Let the brownies cool completely, and then make the frosting.  Beat together the butter, peanut butter, and sugar.  Add milk as needed to thin the mixture.  Beat until fluffy and frost the brownies.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread

I love banana bread, and it's even better with chocolate chips! Although this recipe is supposed to have fancy muscovado sugar -- which I'm sure is amazing! -- it is also really delicious with regular dark brown sugar. This bread is sweet, moist, and has great banana flavor. As with many recipes I love, it's sweet enough for dessert but doesn't feel too decadent for breakfast.



Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread (adapted from Genius Recipes)
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup plus 1 T dark brown sugar (or muscovado sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
14 ounces mashed ripe banana (3-4 bananas)
1 cup chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one at a time.
4. Beat in the mashed bananas.  The gently fold in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate.
5. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out moist but clean. Let cool for 15-30 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Grandma Hanna's Menus: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie

I'm cooking through my great-grandmother's menus -- get all the details here.  Today's menu: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie.  My interpretation of this menu was spicy onion burgers, seasoned oven fries, coleslaw, and a rhubarb custard pie.  The burgers are super simple, but made extra special with spicy pickled onions (see below for a link to the recipe).  I'm sort of obsessed with these pickled onions...they are good on everything and last a long time in the fridge.

On the side, my favorite oven fries.  My husband taught me the best way to make any sort of potatoes at home, and that's to partially cook the potatoes first, either in boiling water or by steaming.  This ensures that the potatoes won't be crunchy on the inside, which is my number one pet peeve of many potato dishes.  Here, Yukon Golds are steamed and then roasted at high heat until they're nice and crispy.  You can use whatever spice blend you like to season your fries; I used an aji amarillo blend from Raw Spice Bar.  To brighten up the plate, there's a scoop of a quick and easy vinegar-based slaw.

This meal was yummy, but the real star was dessert.  Ashley of Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen posted an amazing recipe for rhubarb custard pie.  We chatted a bit on Instagram, and it was really cool to find out that her family has been making this recipe since before she was born.  So, lots of history coming together with Ashley's recipe and my great-grandma's menu!  And this pie is seriously delicious.  The custard is sweet and the perfect contrast to tart cubes of rhubarb.  And, while it's fantastic warm out of the oven, it might be even better cold out of the fridge for breakfast the next morning!


Spicy Onion Burgers: Season a pound of ground beef with salt and pepper.  Shape into patties, and cook in a large skillet until the outside is nicely browned and the inside is cooked to your liking.  Serve the burgers on sesame buns with arugula, spicy pickled red onions, and ketchup.

Seasoned Oven Fries: For each person, use one large Yukon Gold potato.  Cut into large wedges, and then steam in a steamer basket until just tender (about 10 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes, and then toss with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and your favorite spice blend.  Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Simple Slaw: For each person, use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coleslaw mix (yep, from the grocery -- or you can thinly slice cabbage yourself, if you prefer).  Drizzle with olive oil and rice vinegar, and sprinkle with kosher salt, all to taste.  Mix well and let sit at least 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle before serving.

Rhubarb Custard Pie (adapted from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen, original recipe here)
Makes 1 pie

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar, divided
2 T flour
Generous pinch of salt
1 T unsalted butter, softened
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pie crust (store bought or homemade - either is fine!), pressed into a pie plate

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together the rhubarb with 6 T sugar and set aside until the rhubarb has released its juices
3. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar, the flour, and the salt.  Work in the butter with a spoon until the mixture is uniform and sandy.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the rhubarb.
4. Pour everything into the prepared pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook another 30 minutes, until the filling is set.