Monday, August 14, 2017

Homemade Watermelon Soda Float

I love watermelon drinks, and this one is kind of the ultimate in awesome watermelon drinks.  It starts with a super pink watermelon puree, sweetened with simple syrup.  Then add seltzer to make homemade watermelon soda -- a perfectly delicious drink on its own.  But to really take it over the top, vanilla ice cream turns the soda into a float.  It's a great summer dessert -- pretty, sweet, and so delicious.  Although I made this with vanilla ice cream, I bet lime sherbet would be really tasty too.


Homemade Watermelon Soda Float (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes enough for a group, depending on how large you make them

For the watermelon concentrate:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 small seedless watermelon
1 T lime juice

To finish:
Seltzer 
Vanilla ice cream

1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Seal and shake.  Shake periodically as you work on the rest of the recipe until the sugar is completely dissolved.  (Note: You can substitute store-bought simple syrup here if you prefer.)
2. Cut up the watermelon into cubes.  You should have around 8 cups, but you can pretty much eyeball it.  Puree using a hand blender, regular blender, food processor - whatever you have handy.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.  You should have around 4 cups of juice, but again, it doesn't have to be exact.
3. Add the lime juice and about half the simple syrup.  Taste, and add more lime juice or syrup to taste -- you want the concentrate to be pretty sweet and intensely flavored.
4. Chill the watermelon concentrate.  When you're ready to serve, fill glasses a little more than half full.  Top off with seltzer and scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Serve right away!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine

I wouldn't normally think to make a weeknight pasta recipe with two homemade sauces, but this dish is so delicious that it is more than worth it.  Plus, both sauces are super easy to prepare -- they're basically just dump and mix.  The first one is a pumpkin cream sauce flavored with Parmesan and lemon zest.  Everything just gets mixed together and then simmered a few minutes to melt the cheese and cook the egg.  The richness of the cream sauce is cut with a pepper-y, garlic-y pumpkin seed pesto made with arugula in place of basil.  You could easily substitute another green such as spinach, kale, or leafy herbs.  The two sauces are amazing together, and they pack lots of veggies into a pasta dish.  Yum!

Fair warning: the cream sauce loses some of its creaminess and doesn't look as appetizing in leftovers the next day, but it is still really tasty.


Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine (adapted from Feeding the Family)
Serves at least 4, leftovers aren't as pretty but still taste good

1 pound fettuccine

For the pumpkin cream sauce:
3-5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup canned pumpkin (look for 100% pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!)
3 T heavy cream
3 T olive oil
1 large egg
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

For the pumpkin seed pesto:
1-1/2 cups arugula
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but stopping about 1 minute short of the final cooking time since the pasta will cook a minute longer in the sauce.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.  Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk all the cream sauce ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When the pasta is done cooking, whisk in the pasta water.  Return to to the pot used to cook the pasta, and place over medium heat.  Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Return the pasta to the pot, and cook for another minute, stirring, until the pasta is al dente.
3. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is the texture you like.  This is a little stiffer than some other pestos, so you can add more olive oil if you prefer a looser sauce.
4. Top each portion of pasta with a spoonful of pesto.  Yum!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wild Rice-Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Shallot Dressing

I recently picked up a copy of Mighty Salads from the library and was really impressed with the variety of different recipes!  This particular salad really caught my eye and it turned out to be delicious!  The base of the salad is kale (we picked up a bag of baby kale from Trader Joes), and the hearty greens stand up well to a variety of toppings -- roasted sweet potatoes, toothsome wild rice, salty cheese, and tart green apples.  The only part of this salad I didn't love was the roasted tofu -- it's definitely the most work/time investment, and I didn't feel like the flavor and texture was that amazing.  I ate my leftovers the next day with avocado subbing in for the tofu and preferred that version; rotisserie chicken would also be tasty if you're not vegetarian.  

The absolute best part of this salad was the dressing.  It's got all the usual things I put in a quick homemade dressing -- Dijon, vinegar, olive oil, honey -- but with one big extra.  A large shallot is roasted in a foil packet alongside the sweet potatoes, and then blended into the other ingredients.  This makes the dressing wonderfully creamy with no dairy, and just amps up the flavor.  I only wish it had made more! Next time I will definitely double this dressing -- so good.


Wild Rice-Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Shallot Dressing (adapted from Mighty Salads)
Serves 4

For the tofu: 
(Alternately, substitute cubed avocado or rotisserie chicken for the tofu)
14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp honey
Olive oil

For the dressing:
(I recommend doubling these amounts)
1 large shallot, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp honey (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
1 pound sweet potatoes (2 smaller or 1 larger), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
3/4 cup wild rice
4-5 ounces baby kale, or a small bunch of lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into thin ribbons
1 small green apple, cubed
3 ounces aged cheddar, cut into small cubes

1. If making the tofu, wrap in paper towels, place on a plate, and top with something heavy.  Allow to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Discard the paper towels, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and place in a shalow dish.
2. Whisk together the vinegar, Dijon, and honey, and pour over the tofu cubes.  Marinate 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Drain and discard the marinade.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 medium or 1 large baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
4. Arrange the tofu in 1 layer and brush with olive oil. 
5. Place the thinly sliced shallot on a square of aluminum foil, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with a little salt.  Fold up to make a packet.
6. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer either next to the tofu or on a separate sheet.  Tuck the shallot packet in a corner and roast for 35-40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet(s) halfway through.
7. Meanwhile, cook the wild rice according to package directions.
8. When the shallots are cooked, place in a blender with all the other dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.  You can also use an immersion blender.  
9. Assemble the salad -- toss some kale with the dressing, and top with the wild rice, sweet potato, cheddar, apple, and tofu.  Drizzle more dressing on top.  Yum!  
10. If packing leftovers for lunch, keep the cheese and dressing in a separate container until ready to eat.



Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad


This is the perfect summer meal -- fresh, light, and packed with different textures.  I used carrots, cucumber, and avocado in my salad, but you can really use any vegetable that's good raw -- snow peas or thinly sliced cabbage or kale would be great too.  What brings this salad from good to great is a healthy handful of fresh herbs -- again, a mix is ideal, but you can choose your favorites or select what looks freshest at the store.  Don't skip peanuts on top -- they add great crunch.  If you'd like more protein, some shredded rotisserie chicken on top is a great addition.


Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad (adapted from the Kitchn)
Serves 2-3

For the dressing:
3 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T lime juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sambal oelek or Asian chile-garlic paste
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

For the salad:
4 ounces rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions and rinsed under cold water
1 large carrot, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1 avocado
A handful of mixed fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used Thai basil, mint, and a scallion)
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Make the vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Make the salad: Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and rinse under cold water until fully chilled.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Create long ribbons of carrot using a vegetable peeler, or grate.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and thinly slice.  Cube the avocado.  Add the vegetables to the noodles, along with all the fresh herbs, and toss to combine.

Add about half the dressing and toss to combine.  Taste, and add more dressing as desired.  Serve topped with chopped peanuts and more dressing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Watermelon Agua Fresca

This drink is super bright and fresh -- it just screams summer!  Make sure to choose a good, flavorful melon, because it's such a simple drink.  Fresh watermelon juice is dressed up with a little sugar and lime juice, but otherwise it's just watermelon all the way -- so refreshing!  Technically you can skip the strainer if you don't have one, but personally I prefer a smoother drink.  This keeps well in the fridge for a day or two if you'd like to make it ahead.  You can also add a little tequila or vodka if you want to serve it as a cocktail.


Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted from the New York Times)

4 cups cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups water
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T sugar
Mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Combine the watermelon, water, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until very smooth.  Pass through a fine mesh strainer.  Taste and add more water or sugar if you like.  Pour over ice and garnish with mint.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls

This is another recipe that uses the Instant Pot to good effect, although you can certainly prepare it without one (see the instructions linked below).  This salad would also be a great use for any leftover BBQ meat you have on hand.  The BBQ chicken is livened up with fresh, crunchy kale, bell pepper, and sweet corn.   This is a great way to enjoy barbecue that's a bit lighter and fresher.  Although the recipe calls for buttermilk ranch dressing, and I think that's a great combination, it doesn't happen to be my favorite -- if you're like me, a mild blue cheese dressing or another creamy dressing (or even just oil and vinegar) works just as well.


BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 4

For the chicken:
Olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup BBQ sauce, plus more to finish (optional)
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the salad:
2 ears of corn
1/2 T unsalted butter
Salt
1 large bunch of kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 bell pepper, trimmed and thinly sliced
Buttermilk ranch dressing (homemade or strore-bought)

1. To prepare the chicken in the Instant Pot, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil using the "Saute" function.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute for several minutes, until well softened and starting to brown . Add the smoked paprika and salt and stir to combine.  Turn off the Instant Pot, add the BBQ sauce, and stir well to combine.  Add the chicken thighs, stir until the sauce coats them, and arrange in a single layer. Seal the lid, and press the "Poultry" button.  Alternately, follow these directions from the Kitchn to prepare the chicken in the oven.
2. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and shred into bite-sized pieces.  Add more sauce as desired.  
3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.  Shuck the corn and cut it off the cob.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then add the fresh corn and cook for just a few minutes, until tender.  Season with a bit of salt.
4. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of salt, and then massage until tender and reduced in size (a minute or two).  In a separate bowl, toss together the carrots and bell pepper.
5. To assemble the bowls, start with a base layer of kale.  Top with the carrot-pepper mixture, and then drizzle with buttermilk ranch dressing.  Add corn and shredded chicken to finish the bowl.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lentil-Vegetable Soup


This soup is sort of like half vegetable soup (carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale), and half lentil soup (with both red lentils and brown or green lentils).  The brown lentils keep their shape better when cooked, while the red lentils almost dissolve in the soup and give it a creamier texture.  Overall, the soup is warm and comforting - perfect for a chilly evening.  I used a really tasty spice blend from Penzey's that has both lemon and orange peel, and smells amazing.  But, you can use any favorite spice/herb blend -- I think curry would be pretty fantastic too.  The original recipe calls for pureeing part of the soup for a creamier texture -- I skipped this, and still thought the soup was excellent, but you can add this step if you prefer a smoother soup.  Definitely don't skip the lemon juice at the end -- it brightens things up and really brings the flavors together.


Lentil-Vegetable Soup (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsp Mural of Flavor spice mix (or any other favorite spice blend)
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups chopped kale leaves
Juice of 1 lemon

To serve: grated Parmesan and crusty bread

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, celery, and garlic, and stir to combine.  Cook for 6-8 minutes, until softened.  Add the spice mix, Aleppo pepper, and salt, and stir to combine.
2. Stir in the chicken broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about half an hour, or until everything is tender.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the kale and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Serve topped with grated cheese and crusty bread.