Thursday, August 26, 2010

Black Bean and Corn Salad

As we near dangerously closer to September, it is becoming clear to me that summer is almost come to a close. Although there are a lot of great things about Autumn (football, making soup, pumpkin spice lattes...), I also find myself usually getting a little anxious because with each passing day I know we are just a little bit closer to depressing things like Daylight Savings Time's "Falling back" and...Winter. Anyway, to accompany some of those fleeting cook outs (and who am I kidding, really, we do live in Colorado so we'll have plenty of warm and sunny days ahead) I recommend making up a big batch of this salad. Cheesy as it sounds, it really is like "summertime in bowl."

A couple notes, the quantities in the recipe make for a very large batch. That's because it's so versatile and we end up eating a ton of it before I then incorporate it into other dishes (see my comments at the end of the recipe).

Also, in the batch pictured, I threw in some diced jicama as well (a sweet, crunchy tuber that looks a bit like a lighter, thinner skinned large potato). Although it's nice in the fresh salad, I don't recommend using it if you plan on using leftovers to make the other suggested dishes. It just doesn't cook up very well.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
1 each, red, yellow and green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups corn kernels (about 3 ears fresh)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup neutral oil (canola, vegetable)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In a large bowl, stir together peppers, onion, corn, black beans and cilantro. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic and cumin. Slowly whisk in oil and immediately pour over salad, stirring to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Flavor will continue to improve as flavors meld, so it's nice to let it sit for awhile before serving (30 minutes is sufficient).

This salad is great on its own as a side dish or can be used for a large variety of variations.
It can be served on greens as part of a taco salad, stirred into commercially prepared salsa for a quick enhanced dip and also combined with Spanish rice and baked with cheese on top it becomes a great vegetarian casserole. Finally, you can bulk up this salad even more by combining with some cooked couscous or quinoa and serving cold. Delicious!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spinach, White Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Goat Cheese

I know, this sounds like a really strange combination. It turned out really good. Trust me. It's hearty, substantial and my husband went back for thirds. And it all came together because I hadn't been to the grocery store in about two weeks and had a rather odd assortment of odds and ends that needed to be used up. The little bit that was left over made an excellent lunch the next day as well! Walk on the eclectic side and give it a try!

Spinach, White Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Goat Cheese

1 medium sweet potato
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 15 oz. can white beans (cannellini)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 oz goat cheese
2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese, divided (or another Mexican style cheese)
1/4 cup green chiles, chopped (or one small can)
1/2 cup pico de gallo or jarred salsa
about 8 corn tortillas
non stick cooking spray

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup green salsa
1/2 teaspoon cumin
big handful of cilantro, washed (about 1/4-1/2 cup)
fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lime

Wash sweet potato and poke holes in it. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes or until tender. Cut open and allow to cool until easy to handle. Cut into bite-sized chunks. In a medium-sized bowl, combine sweet potato, half of shredded cheese and rest of ingredients up to the corn tortillas. Stir until well-combined. The goat cheese should give it a creamy consistency. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a blender or a food processor, combine topping ingredients. Blend until it becomes a smooth sauce and set aside.

Grease a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds or just until pliable. Take one tortilla at a time, spread a large spoonful (about 1/4 cup) of filling on middle of tortilla, roll the tortilla up and place, seam side down, into baking dish. Repeat with filling and tortillas until used up.

Pour sauce over top of enchiladas and top with remaining half of shredded cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until enchiladas are bubbly and cheese is melted. Remove foil and allow to bake about 3-5 minutes longer, just until cheese starts to brown.

Top servings with additional pico de gallo and sour cream, if desired.

Zucchini at its best

This is the time of year that zucchini have been growing furiously. You go to bed with blossoms and wake up the next morning with football-sized squash. I don't have a garden (I'm really pulling for my dad to come out and help me get started next Spring) and for now will just appreciate any extras that the neighbors may be able to pass my way (hint, hint ; ). That said, this recipe is good enough, I have even bought zucchini to make it! Oh, and for cake, you can rest easy knowing this is actually a very healthy recipe! Enjoy!

Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen site.
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 Tablespoons canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (allow to drain on paper towels while assembling rest of cake)
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve juice)

1 8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
reserved pineapple juice (if necessary)
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.
Combine oil, eggs, and vanilla; stir well. Stir egg mixture, grated zucchini, and pineapple into flour mixture. Batter will be stiff and dry but keep folding it and it will all come together. If it still seems too dry, just add a little splash of the pineapple juice.
Spoon batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for about 33-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs and cake is pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To prepare frosting, combine butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla just until smooth. Add a splash of milk or pineapple juice if necessary. Spread frosting over top of cake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

This has been a week of goat cheese. Tangy, creamy, so delicious. It seems to be appropriate in many uses. I especially love it spread on sandwiches (try it on a BLT!!!). The vegetables in the base of this sandwich are startlingly similar to the Grilled Balsamic Vegetables I featured in the Barbecued Corned Beef post, and you are most welcome to substitute those (I highly recommend using leftover grilled veggies as a sandwich filling--they're especially good in a pita!). In fact, these started on the grill, but the high winds we are prone to experiencing out here on the edge of the Eastern Plains of Colorado kept blowing out the flame on my grill (blast!). Well, cooking definitely invites improvisation and so I finished the vegetables in the oven. Feel free to use whichever cooking method is more convenient.

Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

1 baguette, split lengthwise and cut into 4-6 sandwich-sized lengths
1 eggplant, cut into thin slices
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup prepared balsamic vinaigrette

2 tablespoons prepared pesto
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
about 4 oz. goat cheese
2 cups cut up lettuce (I used Italian blend with Romaine and Radicchio, and it was yummy!)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut the eggplant first and spread it out in a single layer on paper towels. Generously salt the slices of eggplant and allow to rest while you are preparing the rest of the vegetables. This will draw out some of the extra moisture. Once the rest of the vegetables have been prepared, gently blot the eggplant to remove the extra water, give them a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, and pat with paper towel to dry. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet (you may have to use two or stagger roasting the vegetables). Drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a 450 degree oven, flipping once, until vegetables are tender and browned (about 15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and toss with balsamic vinaigrette.

In a small dish, mix together mayonnaise and pesto. Spread about 1 tablespoon of pesto mayonnaise on baguette lengths. Also spread a generous amount of goat cheese on each piece of bread. Arrange vegetables on each sandwich and top with some lettuce. Fold over and squish down so that you can actually fit all that goodness into your mouth. Simple, simple.

It would also be great to add some grilled sliced chicken, if you're getting tired of the vegetarian theme. I am finding we just don't eat that much meat in the summertime...I guess we'll say we are doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint, but really I think it's more that I've been too lazy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Cake Heaven

Monday was my sister in law, Heidi's birthday and we celebrated with chocolate cake (really, is there any other way???). This is the cake she requested after I made the same one for her last year. I am realizing that I might be getting in trouble posting this recipe because the frosting recipe is highly treasured in my mom's family. Still, I think it really is too good not to share and it always makes me think fondly of my Mom and her late mom, my Grandma Kaye. My mom is an amazing baker and I used to call her every time I was making the frosting so she could tell me the recipe (I think also it was a nice excuse just to talk to her too!). Now, I can write it down from memory! Hopefully, she's not too upset with me for sharing!

The cake recipe comes from a really great cookbook, "The Cake Mix Doctor." I highly recommend any of her several books. It calls for using a Bundt pan, but if you don't have one, don't despair. It also makes awesome cupcakes or you can use the baking instructions on the back of the cake box to modify it to your desired pans.

"Darn Good Chocolate Cake"
adapted from Anne Byrn, aka "The Cake Mix Doctor"

1 box Devil's food chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup warm water
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a Bundt pan with non stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for chocolate chips. With an electric mixer on low speed, mix to combine. Raise speed to medium and blend for about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until cake springs back when pressed and toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven. Allow to cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Transfer to a cake plate and frost (or dust with powdered sugar).

note: for a more intense, deep chocolate flavor, substitute miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Grandma Kaye's Fudge Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup mini marshmallows
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or a combination of milk and semi-sweet)

In a medium saucepan over very lowest heat, combine sugar and evaporated milk. Stir thoroughly until sugar starts to dissolve. Add butter and marshmallows. Stir constantly until butter and marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in salt, vanilla and chocolate chips, stirring until chips are melted and frosting is smooth. Use immediately as it will stiffen up quickly.

notes: after a lot of experimenting, I have found that it is very important to make sure to combine the milk and sugar first, otherwise the sugar crystals will never fully dissolve and your frosting will remain grainy. It is also important to keep the heat as low as possible. Finally, you can certainly play around with the chocolate used. We just prefer milk chocolate.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School Breakfast

Today was Silas' first day of preschool. He did do a round of "Preschool Light" last year, so there really wasn't too much apprehension (on either of our parts), but there was definitely the "back to school" feeling in our house this morning. To start him off right, I made an extra hearty breakfast (made enough for me too, it's hard work getting a four year old out the door!) and I think it did the trick!

Funky Monkey Oatmeal

1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup water
pinch of salt
large shake of cinnamon
1/2 banana, mashed (can reserve a couple slices for garnish)
1 tablespoon peanut butter (or almond butter!)
1 tablespoon vanilla flavored protein powder (optional)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
milk for serving

In a very large, microwave-safe bowl, combine oats, water, salt and cinnamon. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until oats are thickened (making sure to watch very closely so that your oatmeal doesn't end up on the floor of your microwave from boiling over). Remove from microwave and stir in banana and peanut butter. Transfer to serving bowl (or eat from what you microwaved it in) and top with brown sugar (Silas likes visible lumps) and milk.

note: I prefer the flavor and texture of Old Fashioned rolled oats or Steel Cut oats and you are welcome to substitute, allowing extra cooking time. When I'm really on the ball and forward-thinking enough, I'll soak steel cut oats overnight (combine 1 cup steel cuts and 4 cups of water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and allow to boil for one minute and then remove from heat, cover and let sit overnight. In the morning, bring the oats and water to a boil and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the oatmeal is desired tenderness).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crunchy Kale Salad

I never thought I could eat so much kale. I think I used to believe that kale wasn't actually even for eating--just for garnish in between the cottage cheese and the dressing at the salad bar. Not anymore!

Whole Foods grocery store (not that I've been there lately, but from what I hear) has recently implemented the ANDI food labeling system. What is ANDI, you ask? It is the Aggregate Nutritional Density Index. On a scale from 0-1000, it rates the nutritional density of individual foods. You know what ranks 1000? Kale. Hmm...we've all been told to "eat our greens," but that's pretty good motivation to know that they're one of the most nutritious foods out there.

Thus, becomes the challenge of making them tasty (enter this salad). The recipe is inspired by a couple of grocery stores in Minnesota that are carrying something similar. I have to admit I don't love the taste of kale on its own, but mixed with some goodies and a basic lemon vinaigrette, something magical happens and it makes me very happy! Maybe with enough, one could even develop super powers ("Look out, world, it's Greens Girl!!!")...

Crunchy Kale Salad

1/2 bunch of kale
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (*see note)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
the juice of one lemon (about 1/8 cup), freshly squeezed, please
2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral flavored oil

Remove stems from kale leaves and wash thoroughly. Tear into bite-sized pieces and throw into a large salad bowl. Season greens with salt and pepper (it's incredible how much flavor any kind of green or lettuce salad has when you salt the leaves directly. Try it on your next salad).

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Pour over kale and toss to combine. Sprinkle in raisins, cranberries and pine nuts. This salad is especially good if you let it sit for a little while to let the flavors combine.

Also, be brave and feel free to substitute other goodies. I have seen halved cherry tomatoes instead of the golden raisins, I am sure that's just the beginning of deviation...

*note: To toast pine nuts, place in a single layer in a small skillet over medium heat. Allow nuts to slowly brown and become golden and fragrant (about five minutes). Shake the pan frequently and watch closely so they don't burn (they're a tiny bit pricey, so you don't want to waste them). Also, remove them from the pan as soon as they are lightly toasted so they don't continue to get darker. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Steak Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions's been a long time. This past week, I got to go back to Minnesota to visit my family and we were super busy, so there didn't end up being much time to post. Hopefully, we're back in the swing of things, now!

The day after I got back from MN, our very dear friends, Jeremy, Julia and their adorable daughter Zoe stayed the night with us on their way to a conference. We were so thrilled to be able to visit with them! Among so many things that we enjoy about these friends, one is that we both get really excited about great bargains. Jeremy said he makes a point to never pay more than $2 a pound for meat, which is a principle I try to adhere to as well! Stock up when it's on sale.

Anyway, after our friends a somewhat underwhelming breakfast (I made a dutch baby pancake and doubled all the ingredients except forgetting to double the didn't puff up very well and was kind of a brick. Oops), I tried to make up with lunch. Here's what we had:

Steak Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions
makes about 8 sandwiches

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter

2 pounds steak, trimmed of any visible fat or icky bits and thinly sliced against the grain into bite-sized pieces (I used very thinly sliced sirloin for $1.98/pound)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
Canadian steak seasoning, to taste
kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth

8 buns, split open (bolillo or torpedo shaped rolls work great)
8 slices cheese (used Munster)

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and spread into a single layer. Reduce heat to low and allow onions to cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. For really great caramelized onions, you need to be patient (allow about 30 minutes). While they are cooking is a great time to be trimming and slicing your steak. Otherwise, you can also do the onions ahead of time and keep them in the fridge to reheat when you need them since the rest of this goes together really fast!

After steak is cut into bite-sized pieces, season with steak seasoning and kosher salt.

In a small bowl, combine ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire and broth, stirring until smooth.

After onions are caramelized, remove from heat and set aside. In the same skillet, raise heat to high and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add half of seasoned steak pieces in a single layer and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping once. You don't want to stir the steak around too much because continuous contact with the pan is what will give you the golden brown sear on the meat. Once steak pieces are browned on both sides, remove from heat and set aside. Melt remaining butter and repeat process with remaining steak. After the second batch of steak is cooked, remove from heat and add to the first batch.

Dump sauce mixture into the skillet and stir constantly over high heat for about a minute or until thickened and bubbly. Pour over steak bites.

*whiles you're cooking the steak, you can also toast the buns slightly by putting them on a baking sheet and covering loosely with a piece of foil and warming them in a 350 degree oven while you're cooking the steak. In fact, you can put your onions and the cooked steak in the oven to keep warm along with your rolls while the sauce is being made too!

To assemble:
Spread a scoop (about 1/4-1/2 cup) of steak mixture making sure to get some of the sauce from the bottom over an open roll. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of caramelized onions and a slice of cheese. If you want to be really decadent, you can also add a slice of crispy bacon, too (what can I say, they had a special on pre-cooked bacon and we figured everything's better with bacon, right?).

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I meant to take a picture of these...honest. They just disappeared too fast.

After making potstickers all the time awhile back I had gone into a drought. All that changed when I was on my Asian kick this week. What can I say? I was inspired. On Monday, after meeting a friend at the park and some "pay by the ounce" frozen yogurt (ohhh...these places are genius! love, love, love it!), we were in the neighborhood of "H Mart," an Asian superstore. You need dried octopus? They have it. Durian fruit? Have that, too! How about a rice cooker, a kimono or a 50 pound bag of rice? Check. Check and check (BTW, we didn't need any of those things, nor did we buy them...things with lots of legs kind of make me a bit squeamish).

What I did pick up, however, was a couple of packages of dumpling wrappers. And while I was in the checkout, an Asian woman eyed me curiously asking what I was planning to do with those. I told her "make potstickers," and she seemed really surprised. What proceeded was a bit of an inquiry on how I make them. After she found out I was legit (I was taught by my dear former neighbor, YaLi, who came from the Szechuan province of China), she was very sweet and told me some of her secrets (she likes to crumble tofu in with ground beef to stretch the filling).
Anyway, for small group on Thursday, I made more spring rolls and potstickers. The beauty of these things is that you really can put just about anything you have on hand into them. Also, I will assure you, (despite what Mystery Asian Woman at H Mart may have had you believe) potstickers are incredibly simple to make! Pick up a couple packages of the wrappers to keep in the freezer and you'll be ready for your very own party, too!


makes about 30
1 lb. ground meat (I usually use chicken, but substitute turkey, pork or beef as desired)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green leafy vegetable (bok choi, romaine lettuce, coleslaw mix, etc.)
1 16 oz. package of circular dumpling wrappers (found in refrigerated produce section)
vegetable oil for pan frying

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except wrappers and oil until thoroughly combined. To fill, take wrapper and place a scant teaspoon full of filling in the center. Then, brush water on the edge around half of the wrapper. Then, fold wrapper in half and press to seal. You can also fold in a decorative pattern by making pleats in top half of wrapper and pressing to seal. Once dumplings are filled, place in a single layer in a wide shallow pan (nonstick is nice!) that is coated with a couple Tablespoons of vegetable oil and is on highest heat. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water over dumplings (be careful of spatters) and cover pan. Let cook covered on high for about 10 minutes or until water is just about evaporated. Then, remove lid and lift dumplings with a spatula to prevent sticking. Continue to cook over high heat until bottom of dumplings are crispy brown. De-glaze pan and wipe out before starting next batch. Continue to cook in batches until all are cooked. Serve immediately, crispy side up, with favorite Asian dipping sauce (traditional is mix of soy sauce, vinegar and chili to taste).

If you are unable to find dumpling wrappers, you can substitute the more commonly found wonton wrappers. I find I like to paste two wonton wrappers together by brushing with water and pressing to seal to equal thickness of dumpling wrappers. Then, just fold in half on the diagonal to form triangles as opposed to half-moons.

An easy way variation on cooking the potstickers (less traditional, more foolproof!), bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook dumplings in simmering water in batches, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom for about 8-10 minutes (the dumplings will float). Then remove, drain well and brown in an oil coated skillet for a couple minutes on one side until crispy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Praise of Lettuce

Silas enjoying a salad (along with another boiled egg) for lunch

We were with gifted four gorgeous heads of romaine lettuce from our kind neighbors, Emily and Jeff (thank you!). If I had one pinch of their gardening ability, I would count myself very blessed indeed. Alas, I probably have the blackest thumb this side of the Mississippi. Thus, not growing a single thing myself this summer, I was very excited to receive such lovely bounty (before this, I think I may have thought that it was impossible to actually grow lettuce in one's backyard--it just comes from a store, right?). Obviously, we've been eating salads with our lovely lettuce.

I was inspired to recreate one of the very first recipes I ever made. We had the cookbook, In the Kitchen with Rosie, by Rosie Daley, one of Oprah's personal chefs. It was a very influential cookbook for me and the recipe for a mock Caesar salad was one I put together for a cast party potluck after wrapping up a production of Ramona Quimby way back when I was in middle school. Recently, I got my hands on a copy of the treasured cookbook. Feeling nostalgic, I put together my version of the original recipe. Mine has (among other additions) healthy olive oil fat unlike Rosie's did--it was the 90's, the height of fat-free...

Mock Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons and Garlic Chips

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 slices bread or in my case today, a leftover hamburger bun, torn into small pieces
olive oil
kosher salt

shredded Parmesan cheese

For dressing: On a flat work surface or a small bowl, cut garlic into small pieces. Sprinkle salt over garlic and using the back of a spoon or the blade of a knife scrape the salt into the garlic until you have a thick paste. Combine garlic, mustard, lemon juice and soy sauce in a small bowl. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly to form a smooth vinaigrette. Season with freshly ground pepper.

For croutons: Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet (enough to cover the bottom). Add garlic pieces and over medium-low heat, slowly saute garlic until it is golden brown and crispy (watch it carefully and stir frequently, you don't want it to get too dark or it will be bitter and irreparable). Remove garlic with a spoon and set aside. Put bread in skillet in a single layer. bread, stirring occasionally until bread cubes are golden brown and toasted. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.

To assemble: Toss lettuce with vinaigrette. Top with croutons, reserved garlic chips and Parmesan cheese.

**Oh, and if you think Silas' creation looks more delicious, just dress your lettuce with:
red pepper slices, diced tomato, cucumber, shredded Italian blend cheese, leftover grilled chicken (and of course) a hard boiled egg (whole, not cut up!) and top with Annie's brand Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette!**

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pad Thai Time!

When we lived in Southern California a few years ago, Jay and I tried just about every Thai restaurant our meager dining out budget allowed. Even though there were plenty of tempting dishes on the menu, I was always hard pressed to try anything else besides Pad Thai, especially on a first visit to a place. Maybe it's silly, but it seemed like a really good measuring stick (we like to do the same thing with pizza places and compare pepperonis--even though I'd always prefer vegetarian, heaven help me if a pizza comes with canned mushrooms...ick! ick! ick!).

Anyway, I have come to realize that making Pad Thai really is easy and after attempting lots of recipes (some even have included ketchup--not so sure how traditional that is!), I think I've landed on a keeper. I have adapted my recipe from Mark Bittman's NY Times column "The Minimalist" along with one from "Everyday Food."

Oh, and this came together in just under 30 minutes! That's even faster than I can get to my nearest Thai restaurant!

Pad Thai:

serves four
8 oz. dried rice noodles (the fettucini width is my favorite)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

sauce: (*see note*)
4 tablespoons tamarind paste (check the Latin foods section)
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla--found in Asian foods section)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce or a pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced (or 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion)
4 scallions sliced into 1" pieces, white and green parts divided
2 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups bean sprouts, divided
lime wedges
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

thinly sliced meat or tofu, seasoned with salt and pepper or as desired (**see note**)

In a small sauce pan, combine tamarind paste, fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar and chili garlic sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over rice noodles. Stir to separate and allow to soak until just softened, about 5-10 minutes (check them frequently, you want them very "al dente," otherwise they'll get mushy during stir frying--a mistake I've made all too often!). Drain off water and toss with one tablespoon of oil to keep them from sticking together.

Heat two teaspoons oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Stir fry shallots, garlic and white parts of scallions until onions are crisp tender and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add beaten egg, season with salt and pepper. Scramble until just set. Remove eggs from pan and set aside.

Add remainder of oil to pan over high heat. Throw in softened noodles and pour sauce over top. Stir fry until noodles are heated through. Add cooked meat, egg mixture, two cups of bean sprouts and half of green scallion pieces. Stir to combine one last time. Divide into bowls and garnish with remaining bean sprouts and scallions, lime wedges, cilantro and crushed peanuts.
Serve immediately.

*A recipe I came across uses a sauce with extremely accessible ingredients. If you can't find tamarind paste and fish sauce, you can give this alternative a try:

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
about 1/8 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (Sriacha) or a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Add to the noodles at the same step as the original sauce.

**Tonight, I used pork chops tonight and grilled them while I was stir frying the pad thai so that I didn't have another step of cooking in my wok. You can also stir fry the meat or shrimp in the same pan as the rest of your pad Thai. Just add a step in between scrambling the egg and stir frying the noodles. Also, most traditional in pad Thai is shrimp and tofu, but use whatever you please or leave meat out all together.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My new favorite eggs

We have been going through a lot of eggs these days. Silas ate three hard boiled eggs in one sitting the other day and it makes me wonder if I need to be worrying about high cholesterol in a four year old...My favorite preparation, however, is poached-fried. Yes, you heard me. Poached-fried. As Jay says, they have more flavor than poached and don't have the icky crispy bits of a fried (I happen to like the crispy bits myself). I am delighting in the fact that these are a hundred times easier than poached eggs to make and (I think) just as tasty! Be prepared to whip these up for your own Egg McMuffins (for both of my pregnancies, there were many nights I would cry at 8pm because McDonald's doesn't serve breakfast all day), Benedicts, just on toast, or as we ended up having tonight, on top of sauteed swiss chard with garlic.

Poached-fried Egg
1 egg
non stick cooking spray
ice cubes
non-stick cooking spray

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Pull away from heat and spray with cooking spray (I have a big fear of cooking spray-open flame explosions). Return to heat and break egg into skillet. Allow to cook just until edges are slightly set (30 seconds to a minute). Add ice cubes to skillet (about 1/4 cup ice cubes or around four cubes. Cover and allow egg to steam in the melting ice cubes. Cook until yolk has reached desired doneness (we like ours cooked all the way through, about five minutes). Remove from skillet and salt and pepper to taste.


No recipe here, just an update. I was not picked as a finalist for the Food Network You Tube Challenge contest. Sigh. The people who were picked are really talented, though, and it just reaffirms to me that I certainly need more camera experience. There is still the Open Call auditions that are coming to Denver in a few weeks and I am going to attend that--if anything, just for the experience. I know that my purpose (we've been going through The Purpose Driven Life in a small group we host so this is definitely on my mind right now) in life has something to do with incorporating food and hospitality with ministry, just not sure what that's supposed to look like yet. Thankfully, God does and I am really loving doing something small and concrete in these pages for now! : ) And, with how much Silas loves to cook, perhaps my purpose is really just to be raising "The Next Food Network Star."