Category Archives: Recipes

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

Baked Cod with Tomatoes & Thyme

I was looking over my calendar the other day, and realized that I have an uncharacteristically busy summer ahead of me. Tom and I will be hosting his parents for about a week at the end of May, we have vacation with my mom  and sisters’ families in Tennessee later in the summer, a weekend trip to NYC to meet up with my grad school friend Audra, a potential trip out west to help my friend Gill pack for her upcoming move, and a trip up to Minnesota in August to celebrate my dad’s retirement. All that plus the fun weekend things I want to do around here, like going to cheer on Ruth while she run’s her marathon on Sunday (Go Ruth! Go!!) and a planned  lavender picking and wine tasting Saturday in June. Somewhere in there, I should probably do the laundry too…

Baked Cod and Tomatoes 3

With so much going on, my nights at home alone while Tom is working are perfect for checking things off my to do list. Whether I am sitting on the couch completing work projects, using the time to finally  hang the curtains in the guest room, or taking Abby for a long quiet walk through Capitol Hill neighbors, these nights are a critical part of maintaining what little sanity I have left. Sadly, with so much going on, I haven’t had much time to spend leisurely cooking and experimenting after work. Instead, I find myself making a lot of  foil packet fish with a steamed veggie side. The recipes tend to be simple, boring even: fish+oil+garlic+lemon+herbs=dinner. This recipe, though, reminded me that a little creativity in the kitchen doesn’t need to take all day. It was delicious, easy, and perfect with the roasted asparagus I threw in the oven a few minutes before the fish was done.

Baked Cod and Tomatoes 2

As the fish and tomatoes cook, they release juices and begin to poach the fish in the broth. For this reason, I do not recommend parchment paper and remind you to make sure that your foil packet is sealed nice and tight! The recipe is designed for one, but could very easily be multiplied for a larger group and cooked together in a small pan or casserole dish.

Baked Cod with Tomatoes and Thyme
1 fillet Atlantic cod
9 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp olive oil
1.5 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1)      Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, and red wine vinegar. Whisk in thyme, garlic, and pepper. Toss the halved tomatoes in the marinade and set aside.

Baked Cod and Tomatoes-marinate the tomatoes

2)      Lay out a piece of aluminum foil large enough to form a pouch around your fish fillet and tomatoes, carefully fold up the edged of the foil to form a bowl, you don’t need to fold up much, but this will prevent the marinade from running straight off the foil. Lightly brush the center of the foil with olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.

3)     If using frozen fish, make sure it is fully thawed and use a clean floursack towel or paper towels to pat the extra moisture from the fillet. Lay in the center of the tin foil.

Baked Cod and Tomatoes- Cod

4)     Moving quickly, pour the marinated tomatoes and sauce over the fish. Pull up the sides of the foil and form a pouch, place on a cookie sheet and let rest for 10 minutes.

Baked Cod and Tomatoes-pour the marinated tomatoes over the cod

5)     Bake on a rimmed cookie sheet (to catch in leaking liquid) in an oven preheated to 375ºF for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

Baked Cod and Tomatoes- put the foil packet in the oven

6)     When the fish is cooked through, carefully open the foil package, as steam is likely to escape. Lift fish from pouch and place on your plate, smother with the cooked tomatoes (I remove them from the pouch with a slotted spoon, letting some of the extra liquid drip back into the pouch).

Baked Cod and Tomatoes 1

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

Easy Cherry Smoothie – Post Run Recovery

Cherry Smoothie 1A few of you know I am currently training for my first half-marathon.  Those of you that have known me for a long time also know that I HATE running.   It hurts. Who likes pain?  Ok, some people do or else Cross Fit and Insanity wouldn’t be so popular, but  I  don’t like pain.   I can do dance, martial arts, yoga, circuits, etc.   Just as it becomes too painful, you’ve moved onto something else.   Running, on the other hand…well, there are only two ways to escape the pain: stop or push through it.   Now, I know I said I didn’t like pain.  I never said I couldn’t handle it.   I am not a quitter, either, which is why I registered for this race.  I needed something to get out of this rut I’ve been stuck in for far too long.  It’s been funny finding how everything I am going through in my race training has direct parallels to what’s going on in my heart and mind.  That is how I know that when I conquer this race, I’ll have pulled myself out of this horrible pit, too!

Now as I write this, I am wrapping up week five of my 10 week training, which culminated in a very hilly eight mile run.  I never imagined in my Cherry Smoothie 6entire life that I would ever run so far of my own volition.  Of course I also discovered that running beyond my previously usual 5Ks started making my body do some not so nice things.  Two weeks ago, I ran six miles, at the time my longest distance.  After braving the shower room, I began preparing my breakfast of oatmeal and flax at my desk when my stomach began clenching. Despite my hunger I couldn’t bear to eat.  Now, I had researched that you shouldn’t eat anything but simple, easily digestible food before (and during) a run, because your body will focus its energy on your digestive system instead of powering your run.  I guess it works the other way, too.  If you’ve taxed your body for your run, it doesn’t have energy to help your tummy do its job.  After about another half hour, I was able to down some Greek yogurt.  It happened to be cherry yogurt, which triggered the idea for this smoothie.

Cherry Smoothie 4You see, I remembered that cherries, particularly the juice of tart cherries, have been a growing craze in the fitness world for a few years now.  Studies have shown that they reduce inflammation and speed muscle recovery due to compounds called anthocyanins.  Another key to helping your body recover from a tough workout is protein, which the yogurt and milk in this smoothie provides.  Protein, as many of us know, is also responsible for building our muscles and making us stronger.  Not to mention our bones take quite a beating during a run, so the yogurt and milk’s calcium keeps our inner framework strong, too!  Talk about a super smoothie.

However, the test was whether my stomach could handle it after a tough workout.  The following week, I had this smoothie ready to go in the fridge for after my seven mile run.  It took a little coaxing.  My body wanted water more than anything, but after I satiated my thirst I found that I could indeed sip on this cherry smoothie to satisfy my grumbly tummy without upsetting it. Score!

Cherry Smoothie 7

Easy Cherry Smoothie

serves appx 2
Ingredients
  • 1 12 ounce bag frozen dark cherries
  • 6-7 ounces cherry or plain Greek yogurt, appx. 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup  tart cherry juice or cold water
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • mint for garnish (optional)
Directions
  • Cherry Smoothie Blender 1Combine all ingredients except garnish in a blender. 
  • Pulse to puree until smooth.
  • Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days in air-tight containers.
  • If refrigerating,  shake before serving.

 

 

Cherry Smoothie 2

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.

Strawberry Tarragon & Chèvre Ice Cream – Turning Old Recipes into New Recipes

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 3There is still snow and ice on the ground here in Virginia, yet here I am sharing an ice cream recipe with you all while I bask in the warmth of my fireplace.  I can’t believe that just a few days ago I returned from a week’s vacation exploring Hilton Head Island and Savannah.  Though not exactly bikini, sun bathing weather, the days ranged from the high 60′s and even soared into the low 80s. The nights rarely strayed below 50.  With the lovely early spring-like weather in abundance,  I spent a lot of time riding my bike and playing in the sand. I even dared a little wading into the still very cold Atlantic waters.  Between the sunshine filled dayssmall_8262 and all my activity, I definitely worked up a sweat.  Though in Savannah my favorite cool down treat was Georgia peach sangria to go, which I’d sip delightedly under the beautiful oaks of the city’s famous squares, in Hilton Head I’d ride my bike up the beach to Coligny Plaza to place myself in the giddy conundrum of choosing one ice cream  from nearly 100 different flavors.  It is no surprise that I returned home with ice cream, pretty beverages, and summer time on my brain.  Let’s get back to that ice cream now, shall we?

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 5Most of you know I purchased myself an ice cream machine last summer when I shared my Lighten Up the Churn Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream. I absolutely loved how the lightened up custard base (aka French style ice cream) turned out and so I kept experimenting with it.  You know me, I love to play with flavor.  However, I’m not much of a garlic ice-cream type girl myself, but I wanted to try something savory.  The idea made me think of my strawberry bruschetta, where I took sweet strawberries and gave them a savory twist with tarragon, black pepper, and goat cheese.  Why wouldn’t the same idea work with ice cream? So I decided to give it a go and created  a goat cheese base in which I added the remaining elements of my bruschetta dish. It worked beautifully!

The smooth base had a slight tang from the goat cheese, off-set by both strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 2the sweet strawberry flavor as well as the fruit’s added chunky texture.  Although I couldn’t discern the black pepper as I could in the bruschetta, the tarragon gave all this creamy goodness a cleansing burst of freshness.  And what a pretty ice cream it made, too!

Now what are some of your own favorite recipes that you think would make an awesome ice cream flavor?

Strawberry Tarragon & Chèvre Ice Cream

Ingredients

strawberry tarragon chevre ingredients

  • 1 cup small diced strawberries
  • ¼ cup Chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled for easier melting
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided in half, plus 1 tablespoon separated
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated low fat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeded
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3-4 egg yolks

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine diced strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, chopped tarragon, and ground pepper.  Toss to mix, then set aside while preparing the Chèvre ice cream base.strawberry tarragon mixture
  2. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Whisk to combine
  3. Next add the vanilla seeds and pod to the milk mixture.adding vanilla bean to base
  4. Heat the milk mixture gently over medium heat to 180° Fahrenheit. You’re looking for tiny bubbles around the edge, NOT a boil. Remove from heat.
  5. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow milk mixture to cool.
  6. While milk mixture is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.strawberry tarragon yolks and cream base 1
  7. After milk mixture has cooled at least 10 minutes, begin to gradually add milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs.strawberry tarragon yolks and cream base 2
  8. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.strawberry tarragon ice cream base reheat
  9. Stir Chèvre into warm milk, allowing cheese to melt into mixture. It will be lumpy at first, but will smooth out once the cheese melts.strawberry tarragon add chevre to base
  10. Stirring constantly, continue cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.
  11. Place a mesh sieve over a large mixing bowl and strain ice cream base. Discard the vanilla bean pod and any other solids.strawberry tarragon straining base
  12. Fill another large bowl with ice cubes. Place the bowl containing the ice cream base over the ice.strawberry tarragon base on ice
  13. Allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes.

Replace the following steps with the instructions that came with your particular ice cream maker.

  1. Turn on the ice cream maker and carefully pour the ice cream base mixture into the frozen freezer bowl.strawberry tarragon ice cream base into maker
  2. Pour strawberry mixture into the freezer bowl with the base.  NOTE: Typically, ice cream mix-ins are added in the last five minutes of the process, but I wanted the strawberry and tarragon flavors to infuse into the base.  You can wait to do this until later if you wish.strawberry tarragon fruit into maker
  3. Allow the the mixture to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.
    strawberry tarragon ice cream churning 1 strawberry tarragon ice cream churning 2
  4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.
    strawberry tarragon ice cream ready strawberry tarragon ice cream freezer containers

Be sure to check out my Lighten Up the Churn recipe for other notes.

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 1