Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June Jewels

Some favorite recipes for my favorite month!

I should put a bit of a disclaimer on these. Although they are absolutely delicious, they do take about an hour and a half to make from start to finish. But, the finished empanadas freeze and reheat very well (400 degrees for about 30 minutes). And you can chunk the recipe into four separate parts - making the dough, making the filling, assembling the empanadas, and baking them -and you can refrigerate in between each step. Well worth the effort, in my opinion. Serve them with Chimichurri Sauce (recipe below).

Serves 8
4 cups + 1 T. flour, divided
2 t. baking powder
2 t. dried thyme, divided
2 t. dried rubbed sage, divided
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup ice water
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 T. sherry
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 large egg
1. Making the dough: In a food processor, pulse 4 cups flour, baking powder, 2 t. salt, 1 1/2 t. thyme, and 1 1/2 t. sage until combined. Add butter and pulse until only a few pea size pieces of butter remain. Slowly add ice water while pulsing until dough begins to form. Pour into a gallon size resealable plastic bag and form into a disk. Seal bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Making the filling: Set a steamer basket in a pot with 2 inches of boiling water. Add potato, cover and cook about 10 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Raise heat to high and add pork, remaining 1/2 teaspoons of thyme and sage. Cook while stirring to break up meat, about 4 minutes or until no longer pink. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of flour and stir to coat. Add raisins and 1/4 cup water and cook about 1 minute until thickened. Stir in potato, pine nuts, sherry, red wine vinegar, 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper.
3. Assembling the empanadas: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with racks in the upper and lower thirds. On a floured surface, cut disk of dough into 8 equal wedges. With your hands, roll each dough wedge into a ball and then flatten with a rolling pin into a 6 inch circle. Place a scant 1/2 cup of filling in the center. Use a finger to moisten the edge of the dough with water. Fold dough in half over filling. Press edges to seal and crimp with a fork.
4. Baking the empanadas: Place empanadas on 2 parchment lined baking sheets. In a bowl, beat egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush over tops of empanadas. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. 

I could literally drink this stuff! It's great as a dipping sauce for empanadas or on flank steak . I used it this week to brush over shrimp kabobs and they were fantastic (1/4 cup per pound of shrimp). 

Chimichurri Sauce (adapted from America's Test Kitchen) - GF, DF, V
Serves 6-8
1/4 c. hot water
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. salt
1 1/3 c. loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2/3 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Combine hot water, oregano, and salt in a liquid measuring cup and let sit 5 minutes. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic and red pepper in food processor for ten 1-second pulses. Add water mixture and vinegar and pulse briefly to combine. With food processor running, pour in olive oil . Transfer to airtight container and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerate up to 3 days and bring to room temperature before serving.

This great summer drink reminds of my honeymoon in Aruba. Leave out the rum and your kiddos can enjoy it as well!

Rum Punch - GF, DF, V
1 part light rum
2 parts cranberry juice
2 parts pineapple juice
3 parts ginger ale
Splash of lime juice
Lime slices for garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients and serve over ice.

Nothing says summer like fresh ears of sweet corn. This chowder captures their flavor beautifully! The potatoes don't freeze especially well, but this makes such a big batch that I usually end up freezing half anyways to save for a gloomy winter day.

Serves 8
3 slices bacon, chopped fine
6 ears corn
1 onion, chopped
24 oz. baby red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 (15 oz) cans whole kernel corn, drained
5 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup heavy cream
4 scallions, sliced thin
1. In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut kernels from ears of corn and reserve kernels and cobs separately. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate and reserve. 
2. Add corn kernels, onion, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper to the bacon fat and cook until vegetables are softened and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, puree canned corn and 2 cups of broth in a blender until smooth.
3. Add potatoes, corn puree, remaining 3 cups of broth, and reserved corn cobs to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard cobs and stir in cream, scallions, reserved bacon and 1 t. salt.

Light, moist, sweet, healthy. Everything I'm looking for in a muffin. And don't skip the lemon zest! It definitely makes the muffin!

Makes 18
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1 t. vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, canola oil and eggs until light and frothy. Then whisk in the applesauce, yogurt, milk, vanilla and lemon zest. With a rubber spatula, stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Rinse the blueberries in cold water several times until the water is noticeably lighter when you drain them. Dry the berries well with several layers of paper towels. Gently stir them into the batter. Use a large cookie scoop to portion batter into the muffin liners. Bake about 20 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mother's Day

As I've mentioned before, this spring was SUPER busy around here! But, I still had time to cook up some yummy things and snap some pictures. Here are a few recipes we enjoyed from this year's Mother's Day week.

The boys and I recently went strawberry picking and found ourselves with more strawberries than we knew what to do with! Luckily, Mother's Day was right around the corner and I found this delicious recipe to gift to some of the mothers in my family. It's so easy, the boys were able to do most of it themselves. Since it's just a quick jam, it has to be refrigerated and used up fairly quickly - which was not a problem for us at all! It's also a bit runnier than a typical jam. We ate it on PB&J, poured it on pancakes, stirred it into sparkling wine, and even used it to fill vanilla cupcakes topped with whipped cream. This is definitely something I will look forward to making again next spring if not sooner!

1 quart hulled strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Process strawberries in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Pour into a large skillet and add sugar and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until jam is thickened and bubbles completely cover the surface, about 10 minutes. Pour into jars and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Use within 2 weeks.

Here's a simple, yummy recipe I love - perfect for sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather!

Serves 6
3 ripe avocados, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup any kind of onion
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1 t. salt
Tortilla chips for serving
Lightly mash avocados in a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.

The friends my husband and I made as newlyweds have become a second family! We all learned how to be grown-ups together and a lot of that included cooking for each other. I treasure the recipes my friends share with me - it's a way for me to feel closer to them even when we're states apart!

Iry's Taco Casserole
Serves 8-10
1 lb. medium pasta shells
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 oz. neufchatel (1/3 fat cream cheese)
Cooking spray
16 oz. mild taco sauce
2 cups reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese
Crushed tortilla chips for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook ground beef and onion over medium high heat until cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese.
3. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour cooked pasta into dish and cover with meat mixture. Pour taco sauce over meat. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips just before serving.

I had so much fun making these! It was like making three desserts in one! The shortbread crust is the perfect texture and the crumb topping tastes just like a crushed up oatmeal cookie. And I loved the richness of the date jam filling, but it was a little much for the boys. I'm curious to try the recipe again with a different fruit. My mouth is watering just thinking about these!

Date Bars (adapted from "Martha Bakes") - V
Makes 16
Cooking spray
2 c. flour, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 t. salt, divided
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
1 large egg
2 c. dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 c. apple cider
1 t. lemon zest
2/3 c. oats
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 inch square baking with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper leaving a 2 inch overhang. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.
2. In a food processor, pulse to combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 t. salt and 1 stick of butter. Let the remaining half stick of butter sit at room temperature. Add egg to the food processor and pulse until evenly distributed. Pour into prepared pan and press into the bottom with the palm of your hand. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Then bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine dates, cider, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the consistency of jam. Remove from heat and use a hand mixer to puree the mixture until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and spread evenly over baked crust.
4. In a medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Use your hands to work in the butter forming crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the date filling. Bake until filling is set and crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Use parchment overhang to remove from pan. Cut into 16 squares using a serrated knife.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Seventh Heaven

It was a week of babies around here! I had already planned to bring meals to two different friends who recently had their third babies. And then my sweet nephew decided it was time to make an appearance! I'm baby crazy anyways, so this week has me in seventh heave!. In celebration, here are seven of my favorite recipes to share with you. :)

I cut this recipe out of a magazine back when we were CSA members and always looking for something to do with an abundance of zucchini. It's a great appetizer, but more often than not I make it as a sandwich. And I like to only brush one side of the bread with oil so it's not a greasy mess when you pick it up. It's quick and easy and the flavors play so nicely together! 

Zucchini Crostini - V
Serves 8
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ciabatta loaf, sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 t. salt
4 oz. neufchatel (1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1/8 t. pepper
2 T. basil, chopped
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat broiler to high. Combine garlic and olive oil in a medium bowl. Arrange half of the bread on a baking sheet and brush with garlic oil mixture. Broil 2 minutes or until toasted. Repeat with remaining bread. Add zucchini, onion, and salt to garlic oil mixture and stir to coat. Spread on baking sheet and broil 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, pepper, basil, and zest. Spread on toasted bread. Top with zucchini and onions.

After my 2013 cleanse, I started following some of the recipe contributors and ended up buying Dr. Susan Blum's book, BlumKitchen Nutrition Guide and Cookbook. It's a great book and this soup couldn't be easier, healthier, or tastier.

North African Red Lentil Soup (adapted from BlumKitchen) - GF, DF, V
Serves 4
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
10 baby carrots, chopped
1 t. cumin
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 t. salt, divided
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup red lentils
1/2 t. pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
1 T. parsley
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, cumin, garlic, and 1/2 t. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until golden. Add chicken broth, lentils and remaining 1/2 t. salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Stir in pepper and juice and sprinkle with parsley.

A few years ago, my older son and I found an ice cream maker on sale and we were so excited to start making our own ice cream on a regular basis. But... it's so expensive! You pick up the cream and the half and half and whatever else you're adding in and then you see the $1.99 ice cream quart in the freezer case on your way to the checkout line and end up throwing in the towel. Sorbet, however, is a whole different ball game. There are far fewer sorbet flavors available at the grocery store and it's fun to experiment with whatever fruit you have on hand. (I have a tri-melon sorbet freezing up right now!) The methodology is also interesting to me. The lime sorbet I made last week calls for simple syrup, while this sorbet just calls for the sugar to be stirred straight in. And the melon sorbet I'm currently making adds 2 tablespoons of vodka to the mixture. I see a lot of sorbet taste-testing in my future...

Watermelon Lime Sorbet (adapted from Ellie Krieger) - GF, DF, V
Serves 8
9 cups cubed, seedless watermelon
1 cup of mint leaves
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup sugar
Working in 2 batches, puree watermelon and mint in a blender. Add lime juice and sugar and refrigerate overnight. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze in airtight container at least 3 hours before serving.

This recipe takes about an hour from start to finish, but it's worth the effort. It also freezes well, so it's a good one to make ahead or double and freeze half. It's especially delicious served over mashed potatoes.

Chicken Cacciatore (adapted from Ellie Krieger) - GF, DF
Serves 4
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
8 chicken cutlets
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. dry white wine
14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 t. oregano
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in two batches, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and add onion and peppers.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook uncovered until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 t. salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes and simmer covered over low heat for 10 minutes. Return chicken to pan and simmer covered 20 minutes longer.

This entire recipe can be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta. So easy. So yummy. 

Green Bean Ravioli Salad (adapted from Whole Living) - V
Serves 4
12 oz. frozen haricot verts or green beans
20 oz. fresh cheese ravioli
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 T. sliced almonds
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Microwave haricots verts or green beans according to package instructions. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook about 2 minutes until golden and crispy. Add beans, ravioli, almonds, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

What a fun surprise these were! I love to make a tarragon-dressed Bibb lettuce salad with fennel, radishes and hard boiled eggs for Easter, but there are always leftover radishes. So this year I thought I'd fry them up and see what happened. Yum-o! This week I used them in place of croutons on a very veggie salad and they were delish! Although, it's hard to keep them from being eaten long enough to top a salad...

Radish Chips - GF, DF, V
Serves 4
1 lb. radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline
Canola oil
Heat 1/2 inch of canola oil over medium high heat in a large, heavy bottomed skillet. Add a handful of radish slices and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining radish slices.

This is another great summer appetizer. We've even turned it into a main course by making it into a pizza. Delish!

Serves 4
2 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. balsamic vinegar
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 sliced whole wheat baguette
Cooking spray
Alouette Reduced Fat Garlic and Herbs Soft Spreadable Cheese
Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Preheat broiler. Spread baguette slices on a baking sheet and spray both sides with cooking spray. Broil 1 minute on each side or until crisp. Spread with cheese and top with tomato mixture.