Friday, September 15, 2017

Asiago Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cherry Tomatoes

I love polenta -- it's one of my favorite comfort foods.  Here, it's paired with Asiago cheese, sauteed Swiss chard, and sweet leeks, making a fresh and tasty light meal.  Cherry tomatoes sprinkled on top add a great hit of acidity to the dish.  For more protein, add a fried or poached egg on top.  (I'm currently pregnant and can't stand the sight of eggs, but someday I'm sure I'll like them again!)


Asiago Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cherry Tomatoes (adapted from Honest Cooking)
Serves 4

4 cups water (more as needed)
1 cup polenta
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese, plus more to serve
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large leek, white and green parts only, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed, stems removed, and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile
Halved cherry tomatoes

1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Season with a generous pinch of salt.  Gradually stir in the polenta, whisking quickly to avoid lumps.  Turn down the heat, continuing to stir.  When the water is completely absorbed, add more water, a half a cup at a time -- at least 4 cups, but you may need more to get the consistency you want.
2. Cook the polenta for about 30 minutes, while you prepare and cook the rest of the recipe.  Whisk briskly occasionally, and add water as needed to keep the mixture loose.
3. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil together and add the leeks.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 10-15 minutes.
4. Add the garlic to the keeps and cook a minute or two.  Add the chard and Aleppo chile, and cook, stirring, just until the chard is wilted.  Taste and season with more salt as needed.
5. Turn the heat off the polenta, add the grated cheese to the polenta, and whisk to melt.  Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired.
6. To serve, add a generous scoop of polenta to a bowl.  Top with greens, cherry tomatoes, and more grated Asiago cheese.  You can also add an egg for protein.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef-Stuffed Potatoes

I have a hard time with slow cooker recipes, because I never want to be dealing with meal prep in the morning, before work.  But, this one is actually easy enough that I was successful!  I prepared the spice rub, sliced the onion, and washed the potatoes the night before, so in the morning I just had to rub the spices onto the beef, wrap the potatoes in foil, and stick everything in the slow cooker.  The results were really yummy, combing flavorful beef with hearty potatoes.  I couldn't find the mini russet potatoes called for in the original recipe (4 ounces is tiny!) so had to use a more normal size -- they cooked most of the way through, but weren't 100% tender after the cooking time, so I had to add a couple of minutes in the microwave before serving.  But, the beef was perfectly cooked, so I wouldn't necessarily add more time to the slow cooking, and I didn't find this step too annoying.  Overall, definitely a winner!


Slow Cooker BBQ Beef-Stuffed Potatoes (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 T tomato paste
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 pounds boneless beef chuck or short ribs
Spray oil
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
Olive oil
6 small russet potatoes (4 ounces each) or 3 or 4 larger russet potatoes
To serve: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, favorite barbecue sauce, scallions, etc.

1. Combine the brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub all over the beef.
2. Spray the slow cooker insert with oil, and add the sliced red onion.  Top with the beef.
3. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in parchment or foil, and place on top of the beef.
4. Cook on low for 8 hours, until tender.  If you used larger potatoes, they might need a couple more minutes in the microwave to cook through (obviously remove the foil first in this case!)
5. To serve, split the potatoes.  Shred the beef using two forks.  Top each potato with the beef-onion mixture and any other toppings you like.

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.