Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five-a-day Smoothies

I'll admit I was skeptical when my mother-in-law sent me the basis for this recipe - spinach in a smoothie? All those childhood traumas of being forced to eat steamed kale came rushing back to me. But I stand corrected. Not only do I enjoy the taste of these, I enjoy the fact my two-year-old asks me to make her something that gives her five different fruits and vegetables. With nothing in them but fruit, vegetables, and a little water, they are a guilt-free treat. The combo below is my favorite, but I have also successfully used apples, bananas, and canned peaches in place of the berries based on what I had available. Do not, under any circumstances, try adding broccoli - it isn't pretty.

Five-a-day Smoothies

1 cup red grapes
2 cups fresh or frozen spinach
1 carrot*
A handful of frozen blueberries
A handful of frozen strawberries
1 cup water

Blend until smooth.

* Santa brought us a Blendtec for Christmas, so I can stick it in whole, but if you are using a standard blender, shred the carrot before adding it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I'm not a big pumpkin pie fan, so for my first time hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to twist tradition and do a pumpkin cheesecake instead. Um, wow. I'm never going back. My new stepmother-in-law said it was the best dessert she's ever eaten, and my father-in-law told me she woke up talking about it the next morning (score!). As someone who never says no to dessert, I can't claim it is the best dessert I've ever eaten, but it is very tasty, and a great compromise for families with both pumpkin pie lovers and haters. Since I typed it up to send to her, I thought I'd share it here as well. Be sure to bring the cream cheese to room temperature first, as it greatly improves the texture. I also left the butter quantity in the graham cracker crust variable, as I like mine richer than most. This is a slightly modified version of the Lion House Cookbook's recipe.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs, rolled fine
3-6 Tbsp butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup pumpkin
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
1 pint sour cream
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press firmly onto bottom and sides of 10-inch springform pan. Leave in fridge to chill while you do the rest of the prep.

Whip cream cheese in mixer bowl; gradually add sugar, then eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt. Mix well; add to cream cheese mixture. Pour filling into crust. Bake at 300 degrees for 55 minutes.

Whip sour cream; add sugar and vanilla. Spread on top of cheesecake and return to oven. Bake 10 more minutes. Cool before removing sides from springform pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grilled Chicken Breast with Sun-Dried & Fresh Tomatoes

A double does of tomatoes lets you enjoy not only the sweet summery flavor of fresh tomatoes but the deeper, richer tones supplied by the sun-dried variety.


½ lb small red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

2 TBSP chopped drained sun-dried tomatoes

2 tsp. capers, rained

½ tsp finely chopped garlic

1 TBSP sherry vinegar

2 tsp lightly chopped fresh thyme

3 TBSP plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, tenders removed and reserved for another sue. Breast butterflied.

In a small bowl, combine the cheery tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, vinegar, 1 tsp of chopped thyme, 3 TBSP olive oil, ¼ tsp kosher salt and few grinds of pepper. Set aside, stirring occasionally to let the flavors combine.

Heat a gas grill to high. Put the chicken in a shallow nonreactive pan or plate. Rub it over with kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the remaining 1 tsp thyme. Drizzle ½ tsp olive oil over each side of each piece of chicken and rub all over.

Lay the butterflied breast on the hot grill grates and cook, covered, until they have grill marks, 1 ½ minutes. With tongs, rotate the breast 90 degrees and continue grilling until grill marks form, another 1 ½ minutes. Flip the breast and cook the second side in the same way but for a little less time, grilling for 1 minute in one direction and 1 minute in another, until cooked through.

Transfer the breast immediately to two warm serving plates. Sitr the tomato miture and spoon equal amounts over each piece of chicken. Garnish with a sprig of thyme, if you like.

NOTES: I doubled but could have tripled the sun dried tomatoes. It adds a lot of taste to the dish. I am not a caper fan, so I reduced the capers to half; however, next time I will leave them out of the dish. It is up to you on how you want to make it. It is also great with couscous.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scalloped Tomatoes

This recipe is so good. The better the tomato, the better the dish. I found it in the Barefooted Contessa's newest cookbook, The Way It Is. It is a great dish to add to the summer recipes.

Good olive oil
2 cups (1/2 inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
16 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dices (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 TBSP minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black peppers
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 3 TBSP of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cups) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 TBSP of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

NOTES: I minimized the sugar to half the amount. I think it depends on your tomatoes. Some tomatoes are sweeter than others. I did not use plum tomatoes, but I had some wonderful Beefsteak tomatoes that I used. It was really, really tasty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Squash Roasted

I have several squash plants. It brings lots and lots of summer squash. At times (like two weeks ago), I have more squash than I could possibly eat. But this is one of my favorite recipes. it is so simple yet so good. It is a good one for multiple types of vegetables as well.

Summer Squash, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
Extra Virgin olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425'. Place slices in a single lay on cookie sheet or stoneware. Gently coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and then cook another 5 minutes. Remove and serve.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pesto plus ideas for recipes

Pesto is very forgiving. The measurements below can be altered or changed depending on your taste. I usually don't measure, but just put handfuls in at at time. I judge based on when it is first processed and then again when I add the oil. I add the oil slowly so I can adjust. I also substitute basil and pine nuts for mint and walnuts. Then I place it with cucumber sandwiches for a twist on a traditional tea sandwiches. Also can be made with spinach, cilantro, parsley, etc.

Fresh homemade Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
3-6 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place first 5 ingredients in your food processor. Pulse till mixed, the turn on low speed and slowly pour in olive oil until it makes a thick paste. Serve at room temperature.

I love summer pesto. I make lots of it in the summer when the Basil is fresh and plentiful. I pick on a weekly basis (if not more often), so I need lots of ideas. Pesto can be used in the following ways:

  • Freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Then remove and put in plastic baggie. Omit the garlic and cheese. Add right before serving.
  • On fresh, warm pasta
  • On a sandwich with fresh cut tomatoes and mozzarella (my sister and I's favorite sandwich in the summer. It is even good on a panini sandwich- slightly toasted)
  • Pizza (recipe written below)
  • On top of steak
  • Potatoes
  • Soup (think summer tomato soup)
  • Grilled Vegetables
  • On chicken or white fish-- use as a marinated
  • In lasagna instead of tomato sauce (or as one of the layers)
So there are a few ideas. If you have any other, let me know. I am always trying new ways to add pest into my recipes.

Summer Pesto Pizza

Some my friend Melissa recommended I write up some my my favorite recipes all from the garden plot. I have a rather large garden and love to create new colorful recipes. In addition, I spend the summer months PYO fruit. So I will work this summer to write up new recipes from my garden and summer of picking. One of my main goals is to can, can, can. I have started off pretty good, but cannot wait to can more.

So tonight we ate Pesto Tomato Pizza. I used a pizza dough I use on a regular basis, but changed the topping to Fresh Homemade Pesto, Freshly picked tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. It was yummy, but could be better. I suggest using the tomato pesto previously posted (the last one). I would still add more tomatoes on top, but changing it up a bit.

Summer Pesto Pizza:

Freshly made pizza dough (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup pesto (recipe to follow)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 cups mozzarella cheese (I used a ball mozzarella and not shredded).

Cook dough for 5-8 minutes on 450'. Remove from oven and spread pesto on crust. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Garnish with fresh basil leaves (optional- and should be placed just before serving). Bake in pre-heated open at 450' for 5-8 minutes and cheese is melted.

Pizza Dough Recipe:
(from my friend Erika)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water (100'F)
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
3 1/3 cup all purpose flour (I used 50% white and 50% fresh ground whole wheat)

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the water and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2 1/2 cup of flour. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until doubled, the should take about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, and form a tight bowl. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling it out.
Use your favorite pizza recipe. Preheat oven to 425'. If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough and bake immediately. If you are baking your pizza in a regular pan, lightly oil the pan and let the dough rise in your pan for 15-20 minutes before topping and baking it. Bake pizza in pre-heated oven, until cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Fresh homemade Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves and tender stems
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
3-6 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place first 5 ingredients in your food processor. Pulse till mixed, the turn on low speed and slowly pour in olive oil until it makes a thick paste. Serve at room temperature.