Category Archives: Figure Friendly

Cream of Asparagus Soup

cream of asparagus soupJPGI typically serve Cream of Sorrel Soup at Easter, but Spring was slow to arrive here in Michigan and there wasn’t enough sorrel.  So the logical alternative, for a great spring soup was cream of asparagus. Well, that was a great choice. It was definitely a highlight of the meal, even with the kids.  Cream of Asparagus soup at Easter 2014Not only is it delicious, but it’s super easy to make, and you don’t even need good asparagus. I was a little disappointed at how large the asparagus at my local grocery store was, but because the asparagus gets cooked down and pureed, you don’t need to seek out those tender thin stalks that can often be challenging to find. You can adjust the amount of cream in this soup – I went pretty easy on the cream because I loved the flavor of the asparagus. I used chicken stock as my base because I love the flavor (it’s in no way “chickeny”), but you could easily make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth. I served this as a small starter soup, but this would be great for a spring lunch on the patio, or as a weeknight dinner paired with a simple salad and bread, or with a sandwich.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Lbs. (about 2 bunches) Fresh Asparagus- cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 Large Sweet or White Onion -chopped
  • 3 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 5 Cups Chicken Broth (use Vegetable Broth for Vegetarian version)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Heavy (Whipping) Cream
  • Kosher Salt
  • White Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the butter in a stock pot over medium low heat, add chopped onion and saute until tender. Add chopped asparagus and cook for about 5 more minutes. saute asparagusAdd broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot and stir in 1/4 cup of cream; add more to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Heat and serve. Garnish each bowl with an asparagus tip if desired or fresh snipped chives or parsley.

Sushi and Sushi Rolls

A Variety of Rolls

A Variety of  Sushi Rolls

Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Gian Clam

Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Gian Clam

We love sushi and enjoy if often. Believe it or not, our local grocery store has great fresh sushi available, and we have a few good sushi restaurants in the area. Our favorite sushi restaurant is in the back of a tiny Japanese grocery store called Noble Fish. If you go at lunch, the sushi bar is packed. In the grocery area they carry all of the ingredients needed to prepare sushi at home; it is the only place I would purchase fish (sushi grade) to serve raw. Of course if you just want to make vegetable rolls, California rolls, or even Philadelphia rolls, you can get all of those ingredients at a regular grocery store. Most large chain grocery stores now have a specialty.ethnic food section which has most of the necessary ingredients. I used to make my own sushi rice seasoning (it’s not hard, but it can be hard to find the kombu seaweed), but it’s just one more step in the process and you can buy great quality sushi rice seasoning in a bottle. I’m not going to lie, preparing sushi at home is a labor of love – there’s a ton of cutting (somewhat precision) and the rolling takes some practice, but I promise you, that if you love sushi, you will love sushi you have prepared – it just doesn’t get any fresher! I am often asked to bring a sushi platter to gatherings (the ex-boyfriend’s family loved it), and everyone always raves about how good it is! This past weekend I hosted a small group for a sushi making dinner party – nothing like being invited over to make your own dinner. 🙂  If you love sushi, you’ll know what ingredients you’ll need; there are some pretty consistent cast of characters like cucumber, and avocado, but feel free to mix in other vegetables (especially if you want to make veggie rolls). I prepped the rice and the veggies and fish before people arrived and then just set everything out on platters. I basically do the same thing if we’re making it just for ourselves. For the party I provided Ahi tuna, mahi mahi, giant clam, and smoked salmon and, of course, fake crabmeat. I also made some spicy mayo and put out cream cheese (not traditional, but good for Philly rolls). I cut up cucumbers, avocado, scallions, and carrots. Look on-line if you need suggestions; we’ve done all sorts of crazy combinations – that’s the fun of making it yourself. You will also need a bamboo sushi rolling mat and some plastic wrap, as well as a really sharp knife. If you’ve never rolled sushi before, it’s probably best to watch a video or pay close attention to the sushi chef next time you go to a sushi bar (they make it look effortless). Here’s a good video that shows how to make an inside out California roll: http://allrecipes.com/video/297/making-california-rolls/detail.aspx  You can modify to make other rolls. One thing I do differently from the video is that I only use a half a sheet of Nori because I like smaller rolls.  I also use the entire mat to help roll, not just the saran wrap as shown in the video. Maybe one of these days I’ll just make my own video.  For the non-rolled sushi – you essentially just place a piece of cut fish on pad of rice that has a little bit of wasabi paste on it. You can purchase a little plastic box type utensil that helpssushi rice shaper you form the rice pads – I love this little gadget. When it comes to wasabi, I prefer to prepare my fresh, using dried wasabi powder mixed with water. You can, however, purchase wasabi paste; most grocery stores carry that, but you may have to go to a Japanese or Asian market for the powder. I’ve listed ingredients for California Rolls, Philadelphia Rolls, and Spicy Tuna Rolls (can make regular tuna rolls by omitting the spicy mayo). Again, once you get the basic idea of rolls down, you can experiment with whatever ingredients and combinations appeal to you. The rolls listed below are all inside out rolls which means that the rice is on the outside of the roll. This is NOT traditional – it is traditional to have the nori on the outside. If you want to make the traditional style rolls, skip the step of flipping over the nori sheet on the bamboo mat. If you like fish roe, you can make inside out rolls and then roll the finished rolls in fish roe to get a nice layer on the outside. Again, there are a ton of on-line resources, so explore and experiment.

Sushi Rice:

Prepare sushi rice (small grain sticky rice – purchase specific sushi rice if possible) according to manufacturers directions. Standard is 2 Cups of water combined with 1.5 cups of rice. Combine water and rice in a pot, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes. cook the sushi riceRemove from heat and allow to sit covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. If you have a rice cooker: cook according to suggestions on rice cooker. Add 1/4 Cup sushi rice seasoning while rice is hot; mix gently with a fork until well combined. season sushi riceAllow rice to cool completely before using for sushi. For homemade sushi rice seasoning: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sushi-Rice-351070

INSIDE OUT CALIFORNIA ROLLS: (rice on outside)

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6-10 Imitation Crab Sticks- sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 Avocado – peeled, pit removed and cut into thin slices
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

ingredients 2

INSTRUCTIONS:

Lay a piece of Nori on a bamboo sushi mat covered with plastic wrap. Gently press an even layer of rice over nori until completely covered; you’ll want to keep a bowl of water around to rinse your fingers frequently because they will become to sticky from the rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using) and flip the rice coated piece of nori over on the mat. About 2/3 of the way down the piece of nori, lay two pieces of imitation crab next to each other so that they reach the outer edges of the nori. If they extend over, trim them to fit. Lay 2 cucumber slices just above the crab slices (again, make sure they reach the edge without going over). Lay a 2-3 slices of avocado over the crab and cucumber. Using the mat, roll the edge of the nori (the edge closest to you) over the other ingredients, pulling the mat backward, continue rolling until the entire nori sheet has been rolled. (Watch the video referenced above, or another on-line video if you have never done this – it’s easier to understand visually). Use a very sharp knife to cut the sushi roll into 6-8 pieces; you will probably find it best to wipe the knife clean in between cuts. Serve with prepared wasabi, sliced pickled ginger, and soy sauce.

INSIDE OUT PHILADELPHIA ROLLS:

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6 Slices of Smoked Salmon – cut into pieces about 3/4″ wide.
  • Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 8-10 Scallion (green parts only) strips
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cover nori with rice and sesame seeds and flip on mat as directed for California rolls. Spread about a 1/2 layer of cream cheese across the nori (about 2/3 of the way down the sheet) Lay slices of smoked salmon on top of spread cream cheese and add strips of cucumber and scallions just above the layered salmon. Roll and slice as directed for California rolls.

INSIDE OUT SPICY TUNA ROLLS*:

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6-10 1/4 inch wide strips of raw Sushi Grade Tuna
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 Avocado – peeled, pit removed and cut into thin slices
  • 6 TBS. Spicy Mayonnaise* (to make homemade: combine mayonnaise with desired amount of Siracha hot sauce)
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

* For regular Tuna Rolls – eliminate the spicy mayonnaise.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cover nori with rice and sesame seeds and flip on mat as directed for California rolls. Spread a thin layer about 1/4 inch wide of spicy mayonnaise across the nori (about 2/3 of the way down the sheet. lay two pieces of tuna strips next to each other so that they reach the outer edges of the nori. If they extend over, trim them to fit. Lay 2 cucumber slices just above the tuna slices (again, make sure they reach the edge without going over). Lay a 2-3 slices of avocado over the tuna and cucumber. Roll and slice as directed for California rolls. Drizzle sliced sushi pieces with additional spicy mayonnaise if desired.

Enjoying some Miso Soup while we Roll

Enjoying some Miso Soup while we Roll

 

Let’s Talk Turkey: The Basics

Herb Roasted Turkey

Herb Roasted Turkey

OK, this is kind of cheating, because this is a re-post from an earlier post entitled Turkey 101, but I find that blog viewers don’t always look at previous posts, so I thought now would be a good time for a reminder on the basics of that Thanksgiving favorite…turkey. This year I am hosting two Thanksgivings – the first entitled Friendsgiving, and, you guessed it, it will be a random gathering of friends – most of whom only know me. For this gathering I’m expecting between 14-20 people and I’ve ordered a fresh Heritage breed Bronze Broadbreast from Walnut Hill Farm in Shelby, MI I requested a large one, and the grower asked if I wanted her largest. Duh…. of course! My Tom currently weighs in at about 35 Lbs. and is expected to dress out to about 30 Lbs. Vikki (the grower) refers to it as “an impact turkey” because it is so large that it will make a definite impact when presented (I hope my platter is large enough)  He will be “processed” on Saturday, November 23 and I will pick him up at the farm that evening – only to cook him the following day. Doesn’t get any fresher than that! This is a photo of a turkey that Vikki cooked the first year they raised birds – it weighed over 40 lbs.40 Lb Turkey How awesome is that? I found this farm through Local Harvest and I’m so glad I did. I’ve purchased “fresh” Amish turkeys in the past from my favorite somewhat gourmet grocery store in the past, and they’ve always shown evidence of having been frozen (ice crystals on the inside) – to me, frozen is not fresh. The recipe that I’ve included guarantees a moist and tender bird because you add chicken stock to the roasting pan. Because I am absolutely guaranteed that my turkey is as fresh as you can get, I am not concerned about a dry turkey and will skip the chicken stock. The first year I cooked one of the turkeys we raised on our farm (many years ago when I had a farm in New Hampshire), I literally had to ladle juice out of the roasting pan because it was going to spill over. Fresh turkeys give off a lot of juice – and, yes, that is a good thing!

For those of you who may be intimidated by the task of cooking a turkey, I promise you, it is one of the easiest things to cook. Here are a couple of tips and some observations that newbies might appreciate:

Q: What size turkey should I buy?
A: Typically 1 lb. per person is the guideline. This allows everyone to have their fair share at dinner and allows for some leftovers. Notice the operative word some? I love leftovers, so I always figure at least 1.5 lbs. per person.

Q: Is there a big difference between a “fresh” turkey and a frozen turkey?

A: I will have to say that, in the past, we always special ordered a “fresh” Amish turkey from our specialty grocery store, but every year there was evidence that the turkey had been frozen (and was sometimes still partially frozen). So, if that’s the case, why not save some money and buy a frozen turkey? One reason is the amount of time required to thaw a turkey.

Q: How long does it take to thaw a turkey?
A: There are two ways to safely thaw a turkey; one way is in the refrigerator, and the other is the cold water method. NEVER thaw a turkey at room temperature. To thaw a turkey in the refrigerator, you need to allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs. of turkey. This means it can take up to 5 days to thaw a large bird. Remember, that’s valuable refrigerator space with a holiday approaching. To thaw a turkey in cold water, allow 30 minutes per lb. of turkey. Simply place the bird (in it’s original sealed package)in a bath of cold water (you can fill your sink or buy a rubbermaid container or use a large stock pot). Change the water every 30 minutes.

Q: What’s the difference between “all natural,” “free range,” “Kosher,”
“Heritage Breed,” or “injected?”

A:Well, that’s a complicated question, and one that has already been addressed on another blog which I follow : serious eats. I did purchase two (no that’s not a typo – I am roasting one turkey and smoking the other) Heritage Breed turkeys this year from our favorite pork farmers (no, pork is not a typo – they partnered with a turkey farmer this year) at Melo Farms. The heritage breeds have become quite popular (they just sound sophisticated), but our reasoning is that we know the turkeys were raised in a humane way because that’s what Melo Farms is committed to. I will have to let you know how they turn out.

Q: What is the best way to cook a turkey?

A: I have to admit that I only have experience roasting a turkey in the oven. The reason is that I just love roasted turkey so much that I haven’t wanted to give it up and possibly risk being dissatisfied. What that’s old expression…”if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”? I have, however heard wonderful things about deep fried turkeys, but that whole deep frying thing intimidates and scares me a little. This year we invested in a smoker and bought a rotisserie attachment for the grill, so we are going to try that. We practiced on a whole chicken the other night and the results were outstanding.

Q: Should I brine my turkey?

A: I am a big fan of brining. My mother never brined, nor did my Great Aunts who often hosted us for Thanksgiving, and their turkeys were always pretty good. However, I tried brining a couple of years ago after I saw a brining mix at my local specialty grocery store. I will have to say – I will never go back to unbrined. It’s tempting this year because I am convinced that our free range, humanely raised turkey is going to be superior, but I don’t want to risk it. I read a very interesting blog article (same blog as above) that suggested brining was futile, but I wasn’t convinced. However, if you want to make a more informed choice check this out: The Truth about Brining . Unfortunately, I don’t have a good brining recipe because I just buy the mix.

Q: How long does a turkey need to cook?

A: The general rule is 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds). I never trusted those little pop-up plastic things, so I always check the temperature with a reliable meat thermometer. The stuffing must be at least 165 degrees, the breast should be 170 degrees, and the thigh meat should be 180 degrees. Some will argue that the turkey will continue to cook while it rests (which is true, and you should always let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes – just enough time to make the gravy), so you can go a little lower on the internal temperatures. My response to that is that this is poultry – I don’t mess around with poultry, especially when I’m feeding it to the people I love the most in this world, my family.

Q: At what temperature should I cook my turkey?

A: I preheat my oven to 425 degrees and turn it down to 350 degrees when the turkey goes in. As you can see from the photo, this will result in a nicely browned turkey (I like it that way – good crispy skin). Sometimes I will just lay a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the bird if it’s getting too brown.

Q: Is it better to stuff the bird or cook the stuffing separately?
A: I say do both. I don’t worry about bacteria in the stuffing because I check the temperature of the stuffing. I’m not the biggest stuffing fan, but everyone else in my family is, so I make a ton of stuffing. Everyone always wants the stuffing out of the bird because it is extra moist. However, you can only fit so much stuffing into those cavities, so I stuff the bird and cook the extra on the side (add extra liquid to the stuffing that goes in the oven). An important note: remove the stuffing from the bird before storing the leftover bird in the refrigerator – stuffing left in the bird is a recipe for salmonella.

Q: How often should I baste the turkey?

A: In an ideal world, one in which you had nothing else going on, you would baste every 15-20 minutes to ensure a juicy bird. However, most turkeys won’t even start to give off juices until nearly an hour of cooking. I always keep an inch of chicken stock (or turkey stock if you have it) in the bottom of my roasting pan (I have a wire rack in the roaster that keeps the turkey elevated, so it’s not sitting in broth). Some people say this results in a “steamed” turkey, but just look at the picture above and you can see that there’s nothing “steamed” about that bird. I check the liquid level about every hour (adding more if necessary) and will baste when I do that. When it gets down to the last two hours, I stop adding broth and let what’s in the pan reduce. This method results in a very moist turkey, and it allows me to cook the giblets and the neck bone alongside the turkey, which makes for great gravy.

Q: Some people suggest rinsing or cleaning the bird before cooking, what does that mean?

A: Because I used to raise my own turkeys and they were slaughtered on my farm, I am very familiar with the processing of a turkey. Not every butchering operation has the same standards of quality control that I have. I always check my turkey over for any leftover pin feathers (small little feathers that get overlooked). If you find any, use a pair of clean tweezers to pull them out. Also, I check the cavity of the bird. For most grocery store turkeys, this is where the giblets and neck will be placed. They are typically in a paper-type bag (probably a result of so many people forgetting to remove them from the cavity), and you’ll want to remove those. I usually inspect the organs and decide if I want to use them – they add great flavor to gravy – and I always cook the neck alongside my turkey. After removing the bag of goodies and the neck, I just run my hand on the inside of the cavity and make sure there’s not extra loose “stuff.” If there is, I pull that off and discard it.

Here’s my basic herb roasted  turkey recipe:

Herb Roasted Turkey

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 TBS Fresh Rosemary (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried)- chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Thyme (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 3 TBS Fresh Tarragon (or 1 1/2 TBS. dried) – chopped
  • 1 TBS. ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1  15- to 21-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
  • Fresh herb sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

INSTRUCTIONS:

Calculate total roasting time based on the following: 18-20 minutes per pound for a stuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds), or 15-18 minutes per pound for an unstuffed bird (reduce by 1-2 minutes per pound if the turkey is over 15 pounds).

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and place on rack set in large roasting pan. If not stuffing turkey, place herb sprigs in main cavity. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape of turkey. Brush turkey with oil. Rub herb mix all over turkey. Place turkey neck and giblets in roasting pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead if turkey is not stuffed. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.)

Position rack in lower part of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Drizzle melted butter all over turkey. Pour 2 cups broth into pan. Put turkey in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and lightly cover breast and legs with foil. Baste turkey every 30-45 minutes and add more broth if level goes below 1 inch. Remove foil from turkey for the last 1 hour of roasting; add more broth to the pan if necessary. Continue roasting turkey until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees – breast should register at 170 degrees. If turkey is stuffed, stuffing should register at 165 degrees. Transfer turkey to platter; tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve liquid in pan for gravy.

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizzle

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizze

Roasted Golden Beets with Feta, Basil and Pumpkin Balsamic Drizzle

I’m kind of bummed that this doesn’t look that great in the photo because my “roasted beet loving friend” and I loved this new creation. I’m a huge fan of roasted beets, and an even bigger fan of roasted golden beets – they don’t turn all of the other ingredients pink, and they have an earthy less sweet flavor. If you can’t find golden beets, by all means use red/purple beets. You could also substitute mint for the basil, but I prefer basil. For the drizzle, I used pumpkin oil and cherry balsamic vinegar. Again, there are plenty of options for substitutions here. In fact, when I was first thinking about a drizzle, I thought I would use walnut oil, but I didn’t have any. However, the pumpkin oil adds a great contrast to the beets, so it’s worth trying to find. I love fruit flavored/infused balsamic vinegars because I feel like they have a little more depth than just plain balsamic, but if you prefer, use plain balsamic or any other hearty vinegar. The measurements here are not exact and don’t need to be – adjust all according to your taste. Serves about 6.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 Medium to Large Golden Beets (can substitute red/purple beets)
  • 2-3 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 2-3 TBS. Pumpkin Oil (can substitute walnut oil or other favorite oil)
  • 10-12 Basil Leaves – chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Feta Cheese
  • 2-3 TBS. Cherry Balsamic Vinegar (can substitute regular balsamic or other favorite flavored vinegar)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Place unpeeled beets on a foil lined baking sheet and coat generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover beets with another piece of foil and crimp edges to seal and form a packet. Roast beets for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of beets) until tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Peel off skins, cut off ends, and slice beets into bite-sized pieces. through Sept 24 014When beets are completely cool, add crumbled feta and chopped basil. Through October 9 011Gently mix – adding more feta or basil as desired. Season with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

 

Mixed Green Salad with Beets, Fennel, Orange and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Mixed Green Salad with Fennel, Beets, Orange

Mixed Green Salad with Fennel, Beets, Orange and Greek Yogurt Dressing

I served this salad about a year ago when our visiting author Julie Otsuko came for dinner. I still don’t know why I feel the need to experiment when I entertain guests, but I do. I mean you really can’t go wrong with a salad if you have a good sense of complimentary flavors. I love beets, and while they’re earthy and rustic, they are also sweet. The orange, obviously, adds another level of sweetness, but the citrus balances it. The fennel, which has a mild but distinctive licorice flavor adds a really nice contrast. The creamy, cool Greek yogurt dressing just brings everything together. This was really one of my favorite salads – as I say that, I wonder why I am just now getting around to publishing it. As with all of my salad posts, I only list ingredients, not amounts. Adjust according to your preference, whether your salad is a starter or main dish, and how many you are serving.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Mixed Spring Greens (or your favorite greens)
  • 2-3 Beets (combination of purple and golden)
  • 1-2 Oranges – sectioned, membrane removed
  • 1 Fennel Bulb – sliced thin (use a mandolin if available)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Greek Yogurt Dressing:

  • 3 TBS. Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 TBS. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 TBS. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Light Brown Sugar
  • 1.5 TBS. Finely Chopped Chives
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Cut the ends off of the beets. Brush beets with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Wrap in a foil pouch and roast in oven until tender but not too soft – about 20-25 minutes depending on size of beets. Remove beets from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/4 inch slices. In the meantime, prepare the dressing by adding yogurt, Parmesan, vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar to a blender. Blend on medium until all ingredients are well combined and sugar is incorporated. Season according to taste with salt and pepper, and mix in chopped chives.
Assemble the salad on individual plates, adding the beets just before serving. Drizzle generously with dressing and serve.

Close-up

Steak Salad

Sirloin Steak SaladThis is a classic kitchen sink recipe – it was a combination of ingredients I had available; the result was great. My daughter came home while I was eating my salad and I thought she was going to steal it right out from under me – instead she just said “I know you’re planning on making me one of those.” As always, I encourage you to modify based on the ingredients you have on hand, but remember to include a variety of flavor elements, including, if available, savory, sweet, salty, spicy. One unique ingredient that I used which may be hard to find is a rosemary pistachio cracker which I broke into small pieces and used almost like a crouton. I loved the crunch and the flavor it added – see what happens when you experiment with what you have in the cupboard? I’m including a picture of the crackers – they’re worth looking for – they are delicious smeared with goat cheese. For my local followers: they are available at Westborn Market.Pistachio rosemary crackers 002While the steak would appear to be the star of this salad, I would argue that it is the veggies that make the salad. The steak was a simple NY Strip seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked to medium rare on the grill. You can use a variety of cuts (or even substitute chicken or salmon), but make sure you use a tender but flavorful cut. As for the veggies and other toppings – I used yellow tomatoes from my garden (love the low acid and sweet flavor), English cucumbers, fresh radish slices, goat cheese, and mixed spring greens. I topped the salad with a homemade cherry balsamic vinaigrette, but use your favorite dressing. My daughter suggested using more cheese – I would agree. I think it would have been even better with blue cheese crumbles, but goat cheese is what I had. Again, I loved the addition of the rosemary pistachio crackers, but as an alternative, you could add nuts and croutons. As with most of my salad recipes, I haven’t included measurements – use whatever amounts suit you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Spring Salad Mix (or your favorite greens)
  • Radishes – thinly slices
  • Fresh Tomatoes (yellow, or your favorite variety)
  • English Cucumber – sliced
  • Goat Cheese
  • Rosemary Pistachio Crackers – crumbled
  • NY Strip Steak – grilled to desired temperature (shown medium rare)- trimmed and thinly sliced

Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  •  1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 5 TBS. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 heaping tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a jar or container with a lid. Shake well until all ingredients are well combined.

Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad

Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad

I figured since my next post is going to be another ice cream post, I’d better post something a little healthier. This salad is super easy and very delicious. I served this with a citrus vinaigrette, but I’ve had it with a walnut vinaigrette dressing which is also delicious. (I intended to make a walnut vinaigrette, but I was out of walnut oil). The star of this salad is the roasted beets. Two keys: buy good quality beets – try to find heirloom varieties if you can- and roast the beets rather than boiling them. The roasting process really amplifies the flavor of the beets and when you season them in advance with salt and pepper, you end up with a great combination of savory and sweet flavors. I used goat cheese, but you could use feta or another good semi-soft or crumbly cheese. I also used straight arugula because I love the peppery flavor, but you could use any good combination of mixed greens (even something hardy like kale would be good).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-6 Medium Sized Fresh Beets (Purple, Golden, or other Heirloom variety)
  • Fresh Arugula or other Greens
  • Goat Cheese or other semi-soft or crumbly cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vinaigrette (citrus vinaigrette recipe follows)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Clean beets and cut off both ends (leave skin on). Rub beets with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place a piece of tin foil (large enough to easily cover beets) and add the beets. photo (88)Place another piece of foil on top of the beets to cover and crimp the two pieces of foil together to form a sealed packet. Roast beets for 20-35 minutes (depending on size and freshness of beets) until they are fork tender. Allow cooked beets to cool enough to handle and then peel off the skins and slice to desired thickness (or cut into chunks if you prefer). Assemble the greens on salad plates, add the beets, and cheese; drizzle with vinaigrette.

Citrus Vinaigrette:

  • 3 TBS. Olive Oil (use orange, blood orange, or lemon infused olive oil if available)
  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 TBS. Orange Juice
  • 1 heaping tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a jar or container with a lid. Shake well until all ingredients are well combined.

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers (pictured with Southwestern Pasta Salad)

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers (pictured with Southwestern Pasta Salad)

The other night we enjoyed Southwestern Pasta Salad alongside simple Chili Lime Grilled Shrimp Skewers. Nothing says you have to cook the shrimp on skewers – you could just throw them in a grill pan, but there’s something appealing about the presentation of skewers. This recipe is super easy; I feel like it’s not even really a recipe, but my guests loved the shrimp skewers and told me I had to blog it. Since I wasn’t planning on blogging this dish, I didn’t take photos during the cooking process. One important thing to keep in mind when you are using any type of marinade with seafood is that the acid in the marinade will start to “cook” the seafood. For this reason, it’s important not to marinate the seafood too long. I only marinated the shrimp for about 20 minutes which seemed like the perfect amount. I love the flavor of lime with chili, and since I was pairing the shrimp with the southwestern style pasta salad, I thought the chili lime was the perfect flavor. Having said that, you could easily substitute lemon for lime in this marinade. You could also use your favorite Cajun seasoning rub or even Old Bay seasoning – just keep in mind that both contain a fair amount of salt. Also, if you’re using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using so they don’t catch on fire. One final tip – you can buy cleaned tail-on raw shrimp (frozen work just fine) – this is a huge time saver. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 28-32 Medium Raw Shrimp (cleaned, tail-on) – (use fewer shrimp if using large or jumbo size shrimp)
  • 2 TBS. Canola Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1-2 TBS. Mild Chili Powder (substitute your favorite chili powder or “Rub”
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Soak bamboo skewers in water. Heat a grill to high. In the meantime, combine lime juice and chili powder (or rub) in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Add shrimp to marinade and allow to marinate for 10-20 minutes. Skewer shrimp (6-7 per skewer) and lightly season with salt and pepper. Reserve remaining marinade. Place skewers on grill (over direct heat) and cook for about a minute until just starting to brown on one side. Pour a little of the remaining marinade over the skewers – this will cause the flames to leap up and add good grill marks. Flip the skewers and repeat the cooking process until the other side of the shrimp are nicely grilled and cooked through. Optional: garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

 

Sweet 17 Birthday for Girls

Lizzie's 17We celebrated my daughter’s 17th birthday yesterday. She and her friends typically celebrate each others birthdays with a dinner together – either at a restaurant or at home. Lizzie decided that she wanted a casual outdoor garden party dinner. Her menu choices: Hummous and Pita, Veggies and Dip (Garlic spread and Ranch Dip) Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken, Greek SaladChicken Lemon Rice Soup, Crushed Lentil Soup (for her vegetarian friends) and Fresh Berries and Key Lime Squares for dessert (she doesn’t like cake or ice cream). Her birthday flower is lavender, so I made Lavender Lemonade. Lizzies Bday drink tableI will post all of the recipes not already linked, particularly the key lime squares and the lavender lemonade – everyone loved them.

Chopped Kale Salad with Tuna, Feta, and Lemon Vinaigrette

Kale salad with feta and tunaIt seems that I’ve been making a lot of ice cream, cupcakes, muffins, scones and pies this summer. Yum!!! But to keep balance, salad for dinner is my go-to. My kale salad eating friend was telling me about her favorite chopped kale salad. I’m not really sure what was on it, but it involved a lemon vinaigrette; that was enough for me. I returned from vacation to some beautiful ripe tomatoes in my garden (the yellow variety are featured here), so I had to include those. To make the salad an entree, I had to add some protein – I had feta and tuna available, so that decision was easy. I would add red or green onions, but I didn’t have any available. Kale is like the super super food, but it is coarse and a little bitter, this is why it’s best to chop it into small strips. I’ve read on-line about “massaging” the kale, but I didn’t do that – I figure if I didn’t get a massage, my food isn’t getting a massage. For the vinaigrette, I used pumpkin seed oil – because I had it and thought it would be a nice touch, which it was- but I’ve listed olive oil in the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Bunch of Kale
  • 1-2 Tomatoes (Heirloom, Romas, or Cherry/Grape)
  • Feta Cheese – crumbled
  • White Albacore Tuna
  • Red or Green Onion – chopped

For the Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil (or specialty oil- such as pumpkin seed or avocado)
  • Juice of 2-3 Lemons
  • 1/2 tsp. Garlic- chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, and shake well. Chop kale into fine ribbons and arrange on a plate. Add remaining ingredients and top with vinaigrette.