Category Archives: Food

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is almost upon us, spooky, fun , awesome Halloween. When you are a kid it is second only to Christmas – your chance to be someone or something else for one night, limited only by your parents ability to say no to you. I remember the year my mom made me an amazing pink poodle skirt. I wore a white turtle neck, little white socks with lace tops, and my hair was in a curly pony tail with a pink bandanna. I was rocking it – absolutely rocking it. Add to that the pillow case filled with free candy, the chance to go out on a school night (at least every couple of years). Halloween was awesome as a kid.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Jack O' Lanterns

As an adult, though, the act of celebrating Halloween is no longer about dressing up and being someone else – not for me at least. I have no desire to be around people who dress like “sexy” pizza slices (seriously, how is that even a thing!?!?) and don’t know how to hold their drink. Now, I love Halloween because it is the night I watch Hocus Pocus and hand out treats to the new generation of super heroes, witches, ghosts, and princesses. I love seeing all of the incredibly creative costumes and excited children.

I also love decorating for Halloween, especially carving jack-o-lanterns. In addition to creating awesome displays for my front porch, a night of pumpkin carving gives me one of the best fall snacks a person can hope for – roasted pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas. Spicy, salty, or sweet – I can eat pumpkin seeds (hull and all) by the handful, so it is a good thing they are easy to make. Tom makes the best pepitas using butter, olive oil, and seasonings, so I make him do all of the work. You can follow his simple steps to make your own this Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 2

How To Roast Perfect Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe based on 1 cup of raw pumpkin seeds

1)     Clean your fresh pumpkin seeds until they are completely clean of all pumpkin guts. Place the seeds in a large bowl and cover with cool tap water and agitate the water to help clean the seeds, picking off large piece of pumpkin meat as you go. Strain using a colander and repeat at least once more.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Clean the seeds 1 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 2 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - clean the seeds 3

2)     Once the seeds are meticulously cleaned boil the seeds in well salted water. Bring a large sauce pan of salted water to a roiling boil, add the cleaned pumpkin seeds, and cook for 2  minutes. We use approximately 1 quart of water and ½ tablespoon of salt per cup of pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - boil the seeds

3)     Drain and dry pumpkin seeds. Drain pumpkin seeds using a large colander, tossing a couple of times to shake of excess water. Spread seeds out on a clean flour sack or tea towel and pat dry.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - dry the seeds 2

4)    Season and oil  the pumpkin seeds. Place dried seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a mixture of 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (per 1 cup of pepitas).  Mix the seeds well with the oil, ensuring all seeds are well coated.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 1

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - butter the seeds 2

Spread the seeds out on a rimmed cookie sheet and season as desired. We used onion and garlic powder, fresh pepper, and seasoned salt.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 2
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - season the seeds 1

5)    Bake at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. Stir seeds about half way through the cooking time. Seeds are done when the outer hull is crunchy and easy to bite through.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - stir the seeds

6)     Eat! Or cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. They are good right out of the tupperware, but we like to pop them in the oven for 2 minutes at 350ºF to warm them up.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 1

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts

“Everything is bigger in Texas.”

Including my new digs here in Austin. For the same price I was paying for a 400 sq. ft. 1-bedroom apartment in D.C., I am now renting a 3-bedroom duplex with a backyard and a garage. We have so much space, I am going to get a craft room – and Tom agreed to it!  It is all pretty fabulous and I am in love with our new place.

Living in Texas - Living Room Living in Texas - Dining Room

Moving from a tiny galley style kitchen with maybe 2 square feet of counter space to my new spacious kitchen (with a dishwasher!) is the best part of the new house. Precious counter space that once belonged to an ever present stack of drying dishes has been given to my KitchenAide mixer. Now it is always close at hand and easy to use in a moments notice. Recipes that involve half a dozen bowls are no longer daunting because those dishes just go into the dishwasher – no more hours of cleaning. I am having a bit of trouble re-learning how to use an electric stove and I may have burned a few batches of bacon, but I’ll figure it out soon enough, I just have to keep practicing.

Living in Texas - Kitchen

After finally unpacking my cooking supplies, I decided to celebrate my new kitchen by getting my hands dirty making my first from scratch meal. No more frozen pizza for me! My first dish in the new kitchen needed to be something fun, not too difficult (I was tired after all that unpacking), and hearty (to fuel a long night of organizing my walk-in closet). By combining Hungarian noodles and cabbage with Italian pasta carbonara, I came up with this fabulous dish of noodles, shaved Brussels sprouts, bacon, and poached eggs. A rustic, satisfying pasta carbonara with veggies thrown in for good measure.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 3

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts
2-4 servings

4 cups shredded brussel sprouts (see Recipe Notes)
½ pound uncooked pasta (see Recipe Notes)
1 large shallot, minced
salt and fresh ground pepper
¼ pound of medium thickness bacon
4 eggs
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼  shredded Parmesan cheese + more for serving

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - prep the veggies

1)      Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta. Once at a roiling boil, cook pasta according to package directions. Also place a large, wide pan or pot with about 3 inches of water on medium-low to bring it to a simmer (I like to use my large soup pot).

2)     In a large heavy bottomed skillet fry bacon to desired crispness and remove to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Make sure you save the extra bacon grease in case you need a bit more.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - fry the bacon

3)     Add minced shallot to pan and cook for 1 minute. Add shredded brussels sprouts and toss to coat in the bacon grease. Sauté brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they do not burn, but not so frequently that they don’t brown in places.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - saute Brussels sprouts

4)     At this point your poaching water should be simmering, add about 4 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to the water and, using your preferred method (like the one described here) poach your four eggs. I use 2 eggs per dish for the 2 servings, if you are making 4 smaller servings, you may want to poach more eggs, or just serve one egg each serving.

5)     Remove brussels sprouts from direct heat and add drained, cooked pasta, tossing to coat. Here is where you may want to dribble on a bit more bacon grease. Sprinkle with about ¼ cup of Parmesan and toss to incorporate.

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 1 Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts - add drained pasta 2

6)     To serve, spoon pasta-brussels sprouts mixture on a plate, top with a few slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled, sprinkle with extra cheese, and top with your poached eggs. Ta-Da!

Rustic Pasta Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts v 1

Recipe Notes
Shredded Brussels Sprouts sound much harder than they really are – for me the real trick is buying the largest sprouts you can find. The website Almost Practical has a great step-by-step tutorial, with pictures on how prep them. If you want a bit of guidance before you get started, check it out.

Traditional carbonara is made with spaghetti or bucattini, but with the addition of the brussels sprouts, I didn’t think these would work as well. I ended up  using campanella pasta, so that the Brussles sprout shreds could easily wrap around the pasta and be better incorporated. Really, any shorter sturdier pasta like farfella or radiatori should work here.

Tomatillo Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad

tomatillo watermelon salad 1As I said to my friends yesterday, “End of summer my patootie!” Seriously.  On the last day of August, after weeks of pretty delightful weather, the temperature soared to 90 by 10 A.M. By the way, I am not taking into account the humidity and how hot it got later on.  Needless to say, my Sunday morning run went pretty miserably.  Happily, earlier that morning I had visited the farmers market and waiting for me at home was a big ol’, thirst quenching watermelon.

Wishing I had a pool to jump into, but settling for a glass of cold water instead, I started thinking about what to do with my watermelon as I tomatillo watermelon salad 6allowed my body to cool down.  Of course I did not want to repeat something my friends or I had already done, but I also wanted something that could serve as a last minute dish for a Labor Day picnic or barbecue (I, myself, am I poor planning procrastinator).  That’s when my eyes landed on the cardboard container of tomatillos. Hmmmmm.

Now I had originally planned enchiladas verde for my tomatillos. However, as I peeled back the papery husk of one fruit I remembered one of the market vendors last year telling me they were like green tomatoes, only not has hard. Pondering the fruit in my hand, I thought of how pretty the green and pink would look together. First things first, though.  Would I like the taste of a raw tomatillo?

Cutting myself a little wedge, my first bite met a firm, pleasantly textured flesh…followed by quite a tartness!  Thought not as pucker inducing as a tomatillo watermelon salad 4lemon it was still pretty acidic. I don’t think I’ll ever eat a raw tomatillo on its own again, but its sour crunch was just the thing to juxtapose my sweet, melt in your mouth watermelon.

Now that I had my stars, I decided to add some beautiful little cherry tomatoes, which had a flavor and texture right in the middle of the tomatillos and watermelon. To round out the flavors, I drizzled on some of the honey mint syrup I use for my mint-juleps (I also used it last year on the watermelon wedges I brought over to Emilie and Tom’s for the 4th of July).  For the final flourish, I cut some fresh mint leaves from my garden and sprinkled it over the vibrantly colored salad.  Then I placed the salad in the fridge and went to clean my post-run self up.

With the afternoon sun shifted to the front of the house, for lunch I tomatillo watermelon salad 5parked myself on the now shaded back deck. Though still warm, a gentle breeze (a hint of the coming storm) helped keep things pleasant enough to enjoy myself outside.  It was time to dig in! I took a tooth pick and speared me some salad.

Ooohh, yeeessss…crisp, cool deliciousness.  I had tamed the tomatillo.  Though still sharp, its contrast livened up the watermelon. In return, the watermelon and mint helped mellow out the tartness of the tomatillo. I love it when a plan comes together, don’t you?

Have a relaxing “last day” of summer.  Happy Labor Day!

tomatillo watermelon salad 2

 

~Ruth

 Tomatillo Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad

 Ingredients

tomatillo watermelon salad ingredients

  • Tomatillo(s), sliced into thin wedges
  • Watermelon, diced medium to small
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Mint leaves, chiffonade
  • Honey mint syrup*
Directions

1. In a bowl, add tomatillos, watermelon, and cherry tomatoes in the following portions: 1:2:1.

2. Add honey mint syrup and mint as desired. The amount used will depend on your tastes as well as the size of the salad you are making. (See Note).tomatillo watermelon salad mixing

3. Toss ingredients and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

4. When ready to serve, toss one more time to re-distribute the watermelon juices.

*Honey mint syrup

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 4-6 large mint leaves, hand torn
Directions

1. Heat water in a microwave safe bowl. Approximately 1 minute on high.

2. Add honey to hot water and stir until dissolved into a simple syrup.Blueberry Honey Mint Julep Dissolving Honey

3. Muddle torn mint leaves in the honey simple syrup. Let mint steep at east 8-10 minutes. When finished steeping, strain mint leaves from the syrup.Blueberry Honey Mint Julep Muddle Mint

 

Note:
I made 1 cup of salad. My ingredients came out as follows:
1/4 cup tomatillos
2/4 cup watermelon
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon mint
1 tablespoon honey mint syrup

 

Garlic Naan and a Duo of Dips

Many of summer’s best moments include sharing food and laughs with good friends. Whether I am attending a backyard BBQ or picnicking in the park with friends, these moments never fail to make me happy. If I had to pick a favorite place to share sunshine and food with friends though, it would be a winery. Wine makes everything better (obviously) and the bucolic scenery and atmosphere are prefect for unwinding. Share a couple bottles of wine;  indulge in plates of breads, cheese, and crudités; and chat with friends. It really is the perfect day.

As someone who loves to cook and try new recipes, these types of events are extra fun because they give me the chance to try new recipes designed for sharing. So, when Ellen invited me along for a trip to Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn in Delaplane, VA, I immediately said yes and began planning my contribution to the picnic. After some debate, I finally decided on a couple of unique dips and homemade garlic naan.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips 2The dips, both based on recipes from Food & Wine, were simple to make – especially the yogurt-mint dip which was a simple as stirring 3 ingredients together – and could easily be served with pita if you aren’t up for making naan.

Really though, you should make the naan! It is more labor intensive than the dips, but it simple and hard to mess up. It is a great recipe for someone who wants to start working with yeast breads but is a bit nervous about the whole process. Tom and I fell in love with the naan, and could have easily eaten every piece if I wasn’t saving it for the picnic.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan with yogurt and lentil dips

Garlic Naan
Adapted from Daydream Kitchen’s Garlic Naan

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup white sugar
3 tbs. milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
2 tbs. garlic, minced
⅓ cup butter, melted

1)    In a large bowl combine warm water (approximately 105ºF to 110ºF) with about a teaspoon of your sugar – just eyeball it here- until sugar is fully dissolved. Sprinkle yeast packet over warm water and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy. This is the time I used to mince the garlic.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 1

2)     Stir in remaining sugar, milk, egg, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Once this is all fully combined, add the remaining 3 cups of flour.

Naan and 2 Dips-making naan step 2

3)    Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Begin adding in minced garlic about half way through this process. I added the garlic in 3 different portions to help ensure it made its way throughout the entire dough ball. Dough is read when it is smooth and garlic is pretty evenly distributed.

4)    Place dough in a well oiled bowl, and loosely cover with saran wrap (I spray the saran wrap to avoid the dough sticking to it) and a dry kitchen towel. Let dough rise until it is about double in size. This took about an hour outside on a 95ºF day.

Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 1 Naan and 2 Dips-let the dough rise 2

5)     Punch down dough and pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into rough balls (no need for perfection here), and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Naan and 2 Dips- naan dough balls 2

6)     Preheat a large cast iron pan or grill over high heat.

7)     Roll one dough ball out into a thin circle, about an eight of an inch thick. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with melted butter and flip. Cook another 2 to 4 minutes, until light brown. Continue the process with all of the dough.

8)     If you somehow manage to still have some left, store in an airtight bag or container. It should last 3 or 4 days.

Mint Garlic Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
½ cup finely chopped mint leaves
3-4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
salt & pepper

1)     In a medium sized container with a lid, stir together the yogurt, chopped mince, and minced garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour (flavors will mingle and intensify the longer the dip rests), serve cold with naan or pita.

Naan and 2 Dips- mix the yogurt mint garlic dip

Spicy Lentil Dip
Adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups brown lentils
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large shallots, cut into large chunks
1 quart vegetable broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of half a lemon

1)     In a large sauce pan, combine vegetable broth, carrot, and shallot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until most of the water has been absorbed and the lentils are tender. It took me about half an hour.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1 Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip step 1.5

2)     Using a food processor or blender, puree lentils and vegetables (and any leftover liquid). I found this easier to do in 2 batches, and I had to add little more liquid (just less than a ¼ cup) to get it to the right consistency. Set the puree aside.

Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip step 2

3)     In the original sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the spices to the melted butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. The spices can go from perfect to burned in the blink of an eye, so watch them carefully. Add the pureed lentils and cook for another few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Naan and 2 Dips-lentil dip spices Naan and 2 Dips- lentil dip 3 and a half

4)     Serve warm or room temperature with naan or pita chips.

 

Meatless Monday: Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

I think we can all admit that Pinterest is a pretty fabulous tool for bookmarking recipes, knitting patterns, outfit inspirations, and pictures of things that just make me smile (I will neither confirm nor deny that I have an entire board dedicated to pictures of turtles). Yet, for all the fun I have pinning a plethora of ideas and inspirations to my boards, I recently realized that I rarely do anything with them. For example, I only attempted a handful of the 150 recipes I’ve taken the time to save (notable favorites being the Brie Baked Artichokes, Roasted Squash Soup, and Matzoh Chocolate Cherry Crunch). Wanting to try something new in the kitchen and knowing I had a wealth of ideas at pinning fingertips, I turned to Pinterest to find my next meal.

I was immediately drawn to a gnocchi dish I had pinned to my recipe board several months ago. The Garlic & Kale Baked Gnocchi dish from A Beautiful Mess looks amazing, but the more I thought about it, the dish felt too heavy for the 98 degree day. By that point, I was set on the idea of gnocchi for dinner, and came up with this gnocchi dish with fresh summer vegetables, light tangy goat cheese, and herbs fresh from my garden.

Gnocci with summer veggies -final plate 2

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables
serves 4

1 16-ounce package fresh gnocchi
1½ tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 medium zucchini
⅔ cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
1½ tablespoons fresh thyme
salt & pepper
juice of half a lemon
2-4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1.     Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While it boils, halve the zucchinis lengthwise, and cut into slices approximately ¼-inch thick. Once the water has come to a boil, cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Gnocci with summer veggies - ingredients2.     Melt the butter in a heavy large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

3.      Increase heat to medium-high and add zucchini in a single layer in the pan (or as close to a single layer as you can get). Let cook for 1 minute before adding corn and fresh thyme. Sauté veggies until they begin to brown slightly.

Gnocci with summer veggies - saute the veggies

4.    Add cooked and drained gnocchi to the pan, stir well to mix. Squeeze the lemon over the mixture, stir, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

5.     Remove the pan from heat and stir in crumbed goat cheese. I used about 2-ounces of cheese, but you should adjust as you see fit.

 

Perfect Chocolatey Rich Brownies

Growing up, my mom always kept a box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker brownie mix in our pantry. If we were craving something sweet on a Friday movie night, or any night really, one of my sisters or I would pull out the box, follow the directions on the back, and an hour later we’d be enjoying gooey chocolate goodness. These mixes came in a pretty amazing array of flavors and varieties and were super simple for a pre-teen to whip up on her own. They are a large part of what inspired me to love baking and cooking.

Chocolatey Brownies - finished 2

In spite of this long and lovely history with the humble brownie, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had not made a batch of brownies from scratch until just a few weeks ago. How can that be?! Especially when you consider the broad, and somewhat random, list of things I have baked from scratch: scones, challah bread, over a dozen cookie types, cupcakes (and more cupcakes), quick breads, and more. Realizing it was finally time to take the plunge, I diligently researched brownie recipes, and found out that there are a lot of “best brownie” recipes out there. I mean A LOT. Which is why I was thrilled to come across the Brown Eyed Baker’s list of top 10 brownie recipes. At the very top of her list was the famous Baked Brownie filled with 11 ounces of dark chocolate and half a cup of butter, it was clear I needed to try the Brown Eyed Baker’s version of the recipe immediately. What a smart decision that was! They are amazing! Be warned, it a large batch of brownies, so you might need to share them (or freeze them), but its worth it.

Already a brownie aficionado and looking to branch out some, be sure to check out the top 10 list! I think these salted caramel brownies are next on my list!

The “Baked” Brownie
adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

1)     Preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

Chocolatey brownies - line the baking pan

2)     In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3)     Melt the butter in a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, and then stir in the espresso powder. Once the espresso powder is almost completely dissolved, add the chopped chocolate to the bowl. Stir frequently until the chocolate is completely melted.

Chocolatey Brownies_melt butter with coffee Chocolatey Brownie - melt the chocolate 1 Chocolatey Brownie - melt the chocolate 2

4)     Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Stir until smooth and completely combined. At this point you can remove the bowl from the pan, although I did not.

Chocolatey Brownies - add sugars

4)     Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir into the mixture. Add the remaining eggs and stir until fully combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Be careful not to over mix the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Chocolatey brownies - add eggs

5)     Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. And fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

chocolatey brownies-mix in flour

6)     Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180º halfway through the baking time. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

Chocolatey Brownies - pour the batter

7)      Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Brownies - cut the brownies Chocolatey Brownies- finished 1

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad

Is it safe? Can it be true? Spring, is that you?

It is gorgeous out this week. Sunny, warm (not unbearably hot), with flowers blooming, and the first whiff of cut grass in the air. Oh spring, you have come with all your glory and I beg you to stay a couple of weeks – a month or 2 even! Don’t let summer overwhelm you with her oppressive heavy humidity.

Every year when spring rolls around I loudly declare that this – THIS – is my favorite season of all. I may also say the same thing come autumn, but that’s just lust for cooler temps and desperation speak, spring is the one I truly love. And this year has been especially wonderful because I have the space to actually celebrate spring with a little gardening of my own.

Fresh spinach and arugula anyone?

Come spring I find myself craving the ease and portability of a simple chicken salad or tuna salad. Delicious over lettuce and veggies for a light lunch after working in the yard, great with crackers as a low-mess shareable dish on a picnic, and a perfect portable pita pocket* sandwich enjoyed outside during your lunch break. This recipe makes a lot of food and would be really wonderful at an outdoor potluck or BBQ (maybe this Memorial Day weekend even!), but even with just Tom and I eating it, it’s stayed good for over a week, and was great to have on hand for last minute lunches for both of us. The dill brings a great light freshness to the salad that is complimented well by the sour bite of the apple, which also adds a satisfying crunch along with the celery.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad 1

*We definitely need more alliteration in our lives.

Dill & Green Apple Chicken Salad
4 chicken breasts
1½ dry white wine
Poaching liquid aromatics (1 large clove, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves)
4  stalks of celery
2 large shallots
1 x-large green apple
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
juice of 2 large lemons
¾ chopped dill
salt & pepper

1)     Combine white wine, bay leaves, 1 shallot cut in half, and 3-4 crushed garlic cloves with enough water to cover all 4 chicken breasts. Bring water to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Remove from poaching liquid and let cool completely.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - cooking the chicken

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - poach chicken

2)    Once cool dice the chicken in cubes about a quarter inch in size and place in a large bowl.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - dice the chicken

3)     Next chop up your celery, shallots, and green apple in a size well matched with the diced chicken. Toss chicken and chopped veggies/apple together.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - prep the veggies

4)     In a large measuring cup or medium sized bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, chopped dill, and salt & pepper to taste. Add to the chicken mixture, stirring well to coat. Cover and let rest overnight to really let the flavors meld.

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - chop the dill
Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - dressing
Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad - mix the ingredients

5)     Eat. Eat as a sandwich. Eat on crackers (Tom’s preferred method). Eat on top of spinach. Or, like me, eat it right out of the bowl… sooooo good!

Dill and Green Apple Chicken Salad 2

Roasted Vegetable “Stir-Fry” with Chicken and Quinoa

Roast Veg Stir 5I can’t believe race day is almost here!  A few weeks out and I have so many butterflies in my stomach it’s not even funny. Eeep! It’s not helping that with the most intense part of my training now complete, the shorter distances and lower intensity cross training have my thoughts wandering a bit too much.  One minute I’m rocking chatarunga push-ups with all sorts of “strong” mantras singing in my brain, but as I rest in down-dog and my mind goes quiet, suddenly it shouts, “Not 13 miles, 13 point one miles! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”  Before full scale panic mode can ensue, however, I have been able to talk myself off the ledge. “Ruth,” I say, “You were thinking you can handle anything life throws at you. ” Or now, “Hellloooo, Ruth, you ran 13 point TWO miles just a few days ago. Obviously you can do it.” Obviously…

Roast Veg Stir 2Thankfully I’m not doing this alone! Sue and I are running this half-marathon together. Originally it was us and my sister…until my sister found out she was pregnant.   By that time she had already set up a private Facebook page for all our runner friends where we’ve been posting our runs and workouts to motivate each other.  After I started posting articles on running, race training, and fitness in general, I became the go-to person for information.  Our forum’s hottest topic?  Food!  

In all honesty, although I have my race day “fuel plan” ready, I have beenRoast Veg Stir 3 horrible with fueling my overall health.  This is my usual conundrum, if you’ve read Emilie’s and my About page.  Of course, as a consequence, for nearly half of my training I have felt fatigued and sluggish in between runs and workouts.   It got really bad, actually, but my resilient nature kicked in just in time with the help of a little inspiration.  I saw this recipe in Self magazine for Kung Pao salmon with sweet potatoes and broccoli and really liked the idea of roasting the vegetables. So I gave the technique a try with my favorite stir-fry combo: broccoli and bell peppers. 

Roast Veg Stir 1This is a winning runner’s combination! Not only is it full of delicious Asian flavor, it is packed with some key nutrients that help keep your body ready to lace up, such as anti-oxidants, beta carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, and protein.  I am so grateful I was able to break out of my nutrition rut, because with dishes like this I am so going to ROCK THIS RACE!

 

Roasted Vegetable “Stir-Fry” with Chicken and Quinoa

INGREDIENTS
serves about 4

Roast Veg Stir Ingredients

• 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
• 1 red bell pepper, diced large
• 1 yellow bell pepper, diced large
• 1 large chicken breast, sliced thin
• 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• Sea salt and ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
• 1/4 cup rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon agave syrup
• 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
• 1 cup uncooked quinoa

PREPARATION
  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  3. On a baking sheet, toss broccoli and bell peppers with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and pepper, toss again, and then arrange in a single layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, but al dente. Set aside.Roast Veg Stir Prep
  4. While the quinoa and vegetables cook, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, agave, garlic, ginger, and Sriracha in a bowl and set aside.Roast Veg Stir Sauce
  5.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat.  Stir fry sliced chicken cook salmon until browned.  Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.Roast Veg Stir Chicken
  6.  Lower heat to medium high heat and add soy sauce mixture to pan.  Simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes.Roast Veg Stir Cook Sauce
  7. Reduce heat to medium.  Add chicken back into the pan along with the roasted vegetables.  Toss gently so that everything is coated in the sauce.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired and cook for another 3 minutes.Roast Veg Stir Final Pot
  8. Serve hot over quinoa.

Roast Veg Stir 4

Lets Get Saucy: Roasted Veggies with Horseradish Buerre Blanc

I am tired of being cold. There I said it. Yesterday was the first day of spring, yet last Sunday saw 4 inches of snow dumped on DC and we are expecting another winter event next week. I think what bothers me the most is the teasing – just days before the last snow storm it was in the 70s here and I was walking to the bus stop in the morning wearing a dress and cardigan. Mother nature, YOU ARE DRUNK, go home!!!!

Despite all the snow and horrible wind-chills, there is one sure sign that spring may really be on its way. Weekly asparagus sales at grocery store. It doesn’t matter if its fat or thin, if its on sale, I’m buying it – and probably devouring it within a couple of days. Although, the way I devour it will differ depending on the girth of the stalks. Thin, spindly stalks are great for stir-fry, quiches, and risotto because it cooks quickly; while the thicker stalks stand up better to roasting and grilling.

The asparagus season coincided with me finally perfecting burre blanc sauce. A deceptively simple mix of white wine, an acid (vinegar or lemon), and butter, it can go from perfect creaminess to a mess in a matter of seconds. After lots of practice though (and maybe a bit of wasted butter), I can whip up a simple buerre blanc without thinking about it. It does have to be used all at once, as reheating it leaves with an oily separated liquid, so I still only pull it out for full meals and dinner parties, and not for many meals for one. I like to whisk in a bit of horseradish at the end, giving the sauce a fresh bite at the end.

Roasted Veggies with Horseradish Buerre Blanc

Roasted Veggies with Buerre Blanc 1

1 bunch “fat” asparagus
1 bag frozen artichoke heart quarters
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
olive oil
salt & pepper

Horseradish Buerre Blanc
¼ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
½ cup butter, cubed and chilled
1 tbsp prepared horseradish

1)     Pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Place frozen artichokes in a bowl of warm (not hot) water) to defrost. Once they have mostly defrosted, drain well, squeezing very gently to remove some extra water.

2)     Wash mushrooms and cut into quarter (for medium mushrooms) or sixths (for larger mushrooms). Place in a large bowl. Trim asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces and add to the bowl with the mushrooms. Give your artichokes one last shake to remove water and toss with the asparagus and mushrooms.

Roasted Veggies with Buerre Blanc - prepped veggies

Veggies before I defrosted the artichokes…

3)     Drizzle vegetables with a tablespoon to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a 9×13-inch casserole pan. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until the leaves of the artichoke start to crisp.

4)     While the vegetables roast: In a small sauce pan, combine white wine, vinegar, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the liquid has reduced by a little more than half (about 2-3 tablespoons of liquid remaining).

Roasted Veggies with Buerre Blanc - simmer wine and garlic

5)     Reduce the heat to low and begin whisking in the chilled cubed butter a piece or two at a time. In order to create a perfect creamy beurre blanc, the butter must melt slowly into the sauce. Generally, the constant addition of cold butter should keep the sauce from heating too quickly; if the butter does appear to be melting too fast, remove the pan from the heat source for a few moments while continuing to whisk vigorously.

Roasted Veggies with Buerre Blanc - finished buerre blanc

6)     Whisk in 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish and serve immediately.

Cheddar-Jack Cheese Crackers

Meet Rosie, the KitchenAid mixer. Yes, I name my cars and my kitchen toys.

Meet Rosie, the KitchenAid mixer. Yes, I name my cars and my kitchen toys.

Everyone, I want to introduce you to my newest toy, I’ve named her Rosie, after the Jetson’s robot. My mom has had an old school KitchenAid mixer for years and years, and I loved using it when I was growing up. So Tom, knowing how much I wanted one of my own, gave me a Professional 600 series this Christmas. Since we drove 20+ hours to Texas for 2 weeks over the holidays, we decided to wait to order the mixer until after we returned. Since getting the mixer, unpacking it, and happily reading the user manual from cover to cover, I have not had a chance to actually plug in Rosie and use her.

I knew I wanted to make something special to christen my new mixer, so I spent the intervening time considering my options. Rosie deserved something special – something I’d never tried before, but that had a high probability of being successful the first time around. I didn’t want Rosie to be tainted by bad mojo after all! I considered fresh English muffins or naan, homemade marshmallows, and several other options. Over the days, as I made my mental list of recipes, I remembered the delicious cheese crackers Tom’s dad made for the holidays and the many homemade cheese crackers I’d seen on Pinterest. Considering my love of cheese, homemade cheddar crackers were clearly the answer.

Cheese Crackers - Amazing finished product

I chose Joy the Baker’s sharp cheddar cheese crackers as my base recipe. Wanting to create added depth, and never one to shy away from cheese, I chose to add a couple of ounces of monterey jack cheese and several spices. I experimented with a few different sizes of cracker (mostly because I wasn’t very steady with the pizza cutter) and settled on 1×1 inch as my favorite size. Although this adorable fish shaped cutter may make an appearance if I find myself making this recipe frequently. The crackers were sharp and tangy and beautifully crisp fresh from the oven. Stored over night, they lost some of the crispness, but were still addicting.

Cheese Crackers - cheddar crackers fresh from the oven

Cheddar-Jack Cheese Crackers
8 ounces sharp cheddar
2 ounces monterey jack cheese
¾ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp paprika
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp cold water

1)      Finely shred the cheddar and monterey jack cheeses.

Cheese Crackers - Sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese

Cheese Crackers - 8oz shredded cheddar and 2oz shredded jack cheeses

2)      Combined spices, butter, and shredded cheese in the bowl of your mixer and blend until a soft ball is formed.

Cheese Crackers - season with salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder

Cheese Crackers - cream butter and cheese

3)      With the mixer on low speed, add the flours. The mixture will form course crumbs. Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until soft, but not sticky dough forms. You may need a teaspoon or so more than 2 tablespoons.

Cheese Crackers - finished dough

4)      Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

5)      When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375ºF and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

6)      Cut the dough in half and replace one half in the fridge. Roll the dough into a thin rectangle, thinner than ⅛ inch. When you think its thin enough, roll it one more time.

Cheese Crackers - roll dough very thin

Cheese Crackers - use a pizza slicer to cut 1in squares

7)      Using a cookie cutter or pizza cutter cut crackers that are about an inch in size. Use a toothpick to pierce the center of the cracker and then place on the cookie sheets. These will not expand out, so the crackers can be placed relatively close together.

Cheese Crackers - let the crackers cool

8)       Bake the crackers for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. Let cool completely before serving or storing.

Homemade cheddar crackers for everyone!

9) Repeat the process with the second half of the dough or freeze the dough for later.