Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PW's Favorite Burger (for now)

It has been burger mania up in here.  I know everyone has been saying it...but this summer has been the hottest summer I have experienced in a long time.  I don't ever remember having to use such extreme measures to avoid heating up the house.  The extreme measures being using the grill or not "cooking" food. 

And not wanting to use the dishwasher or dryer.  

And I have been taking cold showers so that the hot water doesn't heat up the house.  Or me.  

It is just weird.  Especially for Boulder.  

The good news is I have gotten to try out so many great burger recipes.  This one from Pioneer Woman is one that I have had saved for a long time.  Remember that magical red onion marmalade? is just as amazing on top of a burger.  And with some blue cheese.  Delicious.  Pioneer Woman's recipe doesn't include the addition of balsamic vinegar, but I did add some.  Yum!  Try these for sure.  

PW’s Favorite Burger
by Pioneer Woman with modifications by foodforscot

1 pounds 80/20 Ground Beef
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoons Black Pepper
Tabasco Sauce, To Taste
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Red Onion, Sliced
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1/8 cups Real Mayo
Kaiser Rolls
1/2 cup Crumbled Blue Cheese
Your Favorite Lettuce

Next, for the onions, heat a medium skillet over low heat. Add in 2 tablespoons butter. Dump in the sliced (not too thick, not too thin) red onions. Now add 2 generous tablespoons brown sugar. Give it a toss to combine the ingredients, and then allow the onions to caramelize over low heat for about twenty minutes, tossing occasionally.

While the onions are caramelizing, make the spicy mayo: Place mayonnaise into a small bowl and simply add a few dashes of Tabasco. Stir together and test for taste.

Place the ground beef into a medium mixing bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. With your hands, mix the meat and seasoning well. Set aside.

Next, slice the Kaiser rolls in half and spread each half with about 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Place them face down on a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Lightly grill the rolls so they’ll be tough enough to hold the spicy mayo. Let the rolls cool on a plate until you need them.

Form the meat into four patties and place on a grill pan or skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Allow each to cook about 3 minutes, then using a spatula, rotate 45 degrees, leaving it on the same side. Flip the burger and cook it for a couple of minutes, rotating it 45 degrees again to get the nice grill marks. Now add a large helping of caramelized onions over top of that glorious patty, followed by an equally generous helping of crumbled blue cheese.

As it finishes cooking, spread the spicy mayo on the Kaiser rolls and transfer the burger onto the bottom half of the bun. Top with a handful of greens and top with the bun.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 10 min., Cook time: 25 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream

You may have been wondering...where are all the ice cream recipes???  Well, I have been making different frozen delites this summer.  All major failures.  Let me tell you why.  

Ice cream is fattening.  And for me, ice cream is all or nothing.  After making delicious batches full of heavy cream and eggs, I fell in love in the worst possible way.  With fat.  

Luckily, I am flexible.  I love sorbets and sherbets just as much as I love fatty ice cream.  So, I started experimenting with different recipes that are naturally low in fat.  You know, the ones without dairy or just with a little milk.  And I picked all the wrong recipes.  And did all the wrong things.  And we had numerous different blocks of flavored ice sitting in our freezer.  I started reading more about how to keep these non-fat/low-fat things soft and learned that the recipes I tried were just BAD.  

So what do I do?  I decide to make the richest, creamiest chocolate ice cream recipe I can find.  What?  Yeah, makes no sense. But, I was just so OVER making ice blocks.  Needed a little encouragement.  

Scot (chocoholic) is in love with this ice cream.  This a very chocolately chocolate ice cream.  He has had it topped with fresh raspberries.  He also had it with a banana.  I like it as is.  It is soooo creamy and good.  

Next, I will try out some of the great sorbet, sherbet and frozen yogurt recipes that I have since found.  I will keep you updated.  All I know is I need some alcohol and gelatin in my life.  

Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz via Annie’s Eats

2 cups heavy cream, divided
3 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder. Warm over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve the cocoa. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, mix in the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of cream. Transfer this mixture to a medium-large mixing bowl. Set a fine mesh sieve over the top.

In the same saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and salt and warm the mixture over medium-high heat. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. When the milk mixture is warm, gradually whisk into the egg yolks, beating
constantly. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and continue heating over medium-high heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula, until the mixture is slightly thickened and reads 170-175° F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat, pour through the mesh sieve into the chocolate-cream mixture and stir to blend. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. (Alternatively to speed chilling, stir the mixture frequently over an ice bath.) Once the mixture is well chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 45 min., Chill time: 30 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Balsamified Tomato, Olive and Basil Topping for Bruschetta

I have always loved the traditional topping for the bruschetta.  I have been making it for forevs and I am pretty sure it will always be my fave.  

Now, let's be honest, CO, you are not that good at growing fruits and veggies.  Since living in CO, I haven't had one good tomato.  It is sad because homegrown tomatoes might be my favorite thing to eat ever.  Cut in half, with salt and pepper.  Or my ultimate favorite is a tomato sandwich.  OMGGGGGGGGGG.  I miss my tomato sandwiches.  

The thing is...I would rather have a bad tomato than no tomato at all.  And I know this is not how many tomato lovers are.  Instead of being mature and eating something else, I get crabby and curse under my breath while picking out the few roma tomatoes at the grocery store that aren't hard, pink and totally covered in wax.  

BTW, I don't really curse.  Or say the word curse.  I would normally say cuss, but was trying to sound cool.  

So, pretend these tomatoes are beautiful, home-grown tomatoes (preferably grown in the good ol' Midwest).  Mix in some olives and fresh basil (which, btw, our basil from our indoor herb garden has been doing great).  Then, all you do is add a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper.  Best bruschetta topping, in my opinion.  

We grilled our bread because of the summer heat.  My sister isn't exactly a fan of our non-air conditioned place.  Baby!

Balsamified Tomato, Olive and Basil Topping for Bruschetta

1 baguette
olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 handful of black olives, chopped
~20 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mix tomatoes, olives and basil together. Dress with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Slice baguette on the diagonal. Place on a baking tray. Brush/drizzle with olive oil. Put under broiler until golden brown and toasty. Rub with garlic halves.

Serve bruschetta topped with tomato, olive and basil mixture.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 3-4 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mexican Layer Dip

I am not afraid to admit that I love a layered dip.  And this is mostly your traditional Mexican layer dip...maybe slightly more fancied up.  But as with any good food, you need give each layer the respect it deserves.  

Each layer should taste delicious on its own.  We will pretend that eating sour cream on its own isn't something we would ever do.  

If you want a healthy dip, don't make this.  And probably don't make a dip.  I suppose you could go with a hummus.  But dips aren't supposed to be healthy.  That is why you share them.  And why they are for parties only.  Or "parties".  Ya know what I mean.  ;)

So, what you have here is a layer of spiced up refried beans (I like them best slightly warm), a layer of cheddar, a layer of sour cream (obv., not fat free/low fat), a layer of guacamole (two avocados, diced tomato, red onion, cilantro and lime juice), Monterey jack cheese, black olives and topped with a homemade pico de gallo.  SOOOO yummy.  

Mexican Layer Dip

1 can Refried Beans
Tabasco Sauce, To Taste
1 can Diced Green Chilies
Ground Cumin, to taste
3/4 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Sour Cream
1 cup Guacamole
3/4 cups Monterey Jack Cheese
1 can Black Olives
1 cup Pico De Gallo

Begin by throwing the refried beans into a small pan over medium-low heat. Add several dashes of Tabasco sauce and a small can of (undrained) diced green chilies. Stir well. Next, sprinkle a little bit of ground Cumin.

Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided dish. Over this sprinkle the sharp cheddar. Next, plop your sour cream. And spread it into a single layer, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath.

The next layer is the guacamole. Spread it over the sour cream. Follow this with a layer of Monterey Jack Cheese and a nice sprinkling of chopped black olives.

Lastly, place a generous layer of Pico de Gallo. You can also, if you have the gumption for it, sprinkle some diced jalapenos over top.

(Servings: 8-10, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time: 0 min, Difficulty: Easy)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta

This pasta is so light and delicious.  Sometimes I never order pasta when we go out to eat.  As in never.  Maybe it is because we eat it a lot at home.  Maybe it is because I always want something else more.  Regardless, my point is, I hate restaurant alfredo sauces/cream sauces.  Obviously, that is my point, right?

Seriously though, why?  Who invented alfredo?  I realize I have made cream sauces for pasta before.  And posted them on this website.  But, for some reason, the pasta dishes at restaurants just make me angry.  What makes me even more angry are low fat alfredo sauces.  Wow.  Deep breath.

That is why this pasta dish is such a breath of fresh air for me.  It feels good to eat.  It is garlicy, lemony with a small kick of spice.  A little butter.  Carefully cooked shrimp.  This is what a good pasta dish is for me (or any tomato based sauce).  Seriously, perfection.  I love Melissa D.

Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta
recipe by Melissa d’Arabian via Food Network

6 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 lemons, zested and juiced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound medium shrimp (21 to 25), peeled, deveined and butterflied (reserve
1/4 onion
3/4 pound thin linguini
2 tablespoons butter
1 small bunch parsley, leaves chopped

In a bowl, combine the garlic, zest and juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and the shrimp. Set aside.

Meanwhile make a quick shrimp stock: In a small pot, over medium heat, add the shrimp shells and onion. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl and discard the shells and the onion.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous amount of salt. Add the linguini and cook until just tender, 2 minutes less than instructed on the package. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and start to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan to a plate and add the remaining marinade. Let cook a few minutes then add about 1 cup of shrimp stock and about 1/2 cup pasta water. Continue to cook until sauce reduces by half. Add the zest and juice of the remaining lemon, the butter and the parsley and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in the shrimp and pasta and toss to combine with the sauce. Turn out into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ham and Spinach Crepes with Swiss Cheese Sauce

We had these crepes a year or so ago at a friend's house.  When my sister recently confessed her love for honey ham, I thought she would like these.  Plus, they are fairly easy to make.  Low Fuel.  Kind of.  Relatively.

I think these are pretty self-explanatory.  Crepes filled with ham and spinach and then topped with a cheese sauce made out of Swiss cheese.  We ate ours with some fried potatoes.  I just had some boiled, cut up potatoes that I pan fried in a combo of butter/olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  A really yummy breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

Ham and Spinach Crepes with Swiss Cheese Sauce
crepe recipe by Alton Brown

For crepes:
2 large eggs
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1 c. flour
3 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
butter (to coat pan)

For cheese sauce:
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of flour
1 cup milk, warmish
6 ounces of Swiss cheese, shredded
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

For rest:
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
1 bag of spinach
1/2 lb deli ham

For crepes: In blender, combine all ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds.  Refrigerate for 1 hour, up to 48 hours. Or just whisk by hand in a bowl.

Heat a medium non-stick pan. Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into center and swirl to spread evenly. Cook 30 seconds. Flip and cook 10 seconds. Lay out flat to cool. They can be stacked and last in the refrigerator for a few days and in the freezer for two months.

For cheese sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and form roux. Cook for a minute or two. Add milk and whisk to break up roux. Let heat up until thickened, whisking as needed. Add cheese in small batches until thoroughly melted and smooth. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

For rest: Preheat large skillet. Wilt spinach in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan. Warm up ham on same skillet.

To assemble, take a crepe and fill with ham and spinach. Fold over and cover with cheese sauce.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 2 hr + , Cook time: 0 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Turkey Burgers

We love these turkey burgers.  I can't believe I haven't gotten around to making them yet this summer!  

Ground turkey (or chicken) is one of those things that needs a lot love.  You can't just patty it up and throw it on the grill.  For any ground meat, but especially the lean stuff, I always add some fat, some veg, some spices and then throw in some bread crumbs and an egg, for good measure.  And well, for binding it all up.  

I would marry coriander if I could.  And cilantro.  I think I already told you this.  But, that plant is my food husband.

So...I forget where I was going with that.  I think I was just trying to tell you that these patties are graced by the presence of the plant in both forms.  With some celery and green onion, this makes for a very light and refreshing burger.  We almost always eat it topped with lettuce and pico de gallo, but this time I made a little avocado sauce.  It was one avocado, mashed up and I added the juice of one lemon, about 1-2 tbsp of sour cream, 1 tbsp of mayo, chopped cilantro and salt and pepper.  I thought it went well with the burger.  

Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg
1-2 celery stalks, finely minced
2 green onions, finely minced
1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
2 tsp of coriander
1-2 tbsp of olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients just until combined. Don’t overmix.

Divide into four portions and form four patties. Grill over medium high heat, about 5 minutes on each side, until fully cooked through.

Serve on bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and sauce of choice. They are also great with pico de gallo.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 10 min., Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Potato Pesto Pizza

My sister has been in town for a few days.  Woohooooo.  Life with a beautiful.  I hear the sounds of bi-minutely text message alerts, singing in the shower,  and all sorts of bad-itude.  And to think...I probably had way worse teenager-isms when I was her age.  Like MAJOR bad-itude.  

When I think of teenager, I think of pesto!  Actually, it is true.  Teenagers can be picky (although my sister mostly is not), and I feel like a good basil pesto can satisfy anyone.  Does anyone not like pesto?  Doubt it.  

I got the idea for this pizza on FoodPeopleWant.  It has been in the 90's for what seems like the past 3 weeks.  So, I opted to grill it, but just gave general baking directions.  And it was really good grilled (even though you don't get the golden brown cheese).  And I used the basil that we grew in our window box.  That was fun.  Scot harvested the crops for me.  

The pizza is really simple...pesto, cheese and potato.  I have been really into subbing potato for a protein.  Even though, I am obsessed with chicken pesto pizza, sometimes I have a hard time not overcooking the chicken on pizzas and I would rather eat burnt plastic than eat overcooked chicken.  It is pretty hard to overcook a potato.  It is also way cheaper.  And potato on pizza is so good.  

Potato Pesto Pizza

pizza dough (1/2 this recipe)
1/2 cup pesto (recipe below)
1-2 red potatoes
8 oz. of mozzarella (thinly sliced fresh or shredded)
Preheat oven to 475-500 degrees (with pizza stone if using).

Place potatoes in small pot and cover with water. Bring water to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until potatoes are just fork tender. Stretch out dough to form pizza. Top with pesto, potatoes and cheese. Bake about 12 minutes or until golden brown.

(Servings: 2-4, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

(makes about 1 cup)

2 cups of basil (loosely packed)
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
handful of pine nuts
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup olive oil

Put basil, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic into the food processor. Pulse until evenly minced (you might need to scrape down the bowl a few times to get it all chopped up). Then, run the food processor and drizzle in olive oil until it becomes the right consistency (I like it to be like a loose paste). Use more olive oil, if needed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Hummus

Guess what?  I am pretty much a chickpea hater.  I think it is the texture.  But, I am a late bloomer when it comes to beans, of any kind.  I couldn't stand even the thought of them until about 6-7 years ago when I finally gave in and included them in my Chipotle burrito.  I hate not liking food, so I basically kept trying them until I liked them.  I am still sensitive about the texture, but now generally really enjoy beans.  

Now chickpeas?  I am still not completely over my fear.  But I can definitely pretend to like them for the most part.  So, you may be wondering, how I could like hummus?  I was wondering the same thing.  But I do love a good hummus.  But HATE a bad one. there any food that can be SO good but also be SO so SO bad?  

I have been experimenting with hummus recipes for the past month.  When I was in Omaha back in June, I ate the best hummus I have ever had.  And it made me realize that I DO love a good hummus.  And I was determined to figure out what I could do to make this amazing hummus.  After lots of failures, this is what I learned (and it turned out totally delicious):

1.  I basically hate that tahini crap.  Lots of recipes call for something like 6 tbsp?!?!  The first recipe I used called for that much and I could barely swallow the resulting hummus.  It tasted like nasty peanut butter.  I guess it is not my thing...I am sure some of you probs will love it that way.  For me, I like about 2 tsp of tahini!

2.  The secret ingredient for me is about a tbsp of crumbled feta.  It gives it this nutty, cheesey flavor.  This kind of evens out the tahini and chickpeas for me.  Totally makes it for me.  

3.  I like lots of lemon juice.  And in general, I like a pretty wet, loose final hummus.

We had our hummus with pita bread, carrots and celery.  And on the side some tabouleh.  


4 tbsp of lemon juice, about 1-2 lemons
1/4 cup water
2 tsp of tahini, well mixed
2-3 tbsp of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 14 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp of crumbled feta cheese
1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of cumin
1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper

Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl or measuring cup. Combine tahini and 2-3 tbsp of olive oil in another small bowl or measuring cup. It is much easier to use something with a spout, if available.

In food processor, process garbanzo beans, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne until almost fully ground. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Turn food processor on and with it running, add the lemon-water mixture in a steady stream through
the feed tube. Scrape bowl down and process for an additional minute. With machine continuing the run, add oil-tahini mixture in a steady stream through feed tube. Continue to process until smooth and creamy, scraping down bowl, as needed.

Transfer hummus to serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve.

(Servings: 4-8, Prep time: 25 min., Cook time: 0 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Smoothie Secrets

Let me tell you that smoothies make up about 45% of our caloric intake in the summer.  You know that is a lie because you see a lot of what we eat.  But, we really do make them a lot.

I actually eat so much fruit in the summer that I get stomach aches from it.  But I don't even care.  Because stomach aches get me attention anyways.

Now, everyone makes smoothies their own way.  I would like to consider myself pro, because there are no rules and I can call myself whatevs I want.  Here are my rules:

1.  Always use frozen fruit.  If you want to use fresh fruit, freeze it!  I am telling you, nothing beats the consistency of frozen fruits.  Plus, you can buy the big bags and have smoothies whenever you want.  My favorite fruits to use are:  strawberry, raspberry, mango, pineapple, blueberry, and peach.  I always change it up, different combos.
2.  Always include a banana.  It smoothes it it a nice sweetness.  If you don't have one, I am sure your smoothie will survive...but you will be missin' out.
3.  I always add yogurt.  Cuts into the acid of all the fruit.  Gives it some creaminess.  Plus, girlies, we need our calcium, so add some yogs whenever you can.  Add whatever kind you want is fine, plain is good to control the sugar, vanilla is my favorite.  And I can only eat full fat yogurt, I am allergic to low-fat ingredients.  But use whatever you want.
4.  You need some liquid.  My favorite is orange juice (plus we always have orange is sad how much of the stuff we drink).  But just add whatever juice or milk you got.  Sometimes I squeeze some lime in there.
5.  Lastly, my secret ingredient.  Scot and I came up with this one night when we needed to use up some leftovers....AVOCADO.  Let me tell you, it provides a textural component you would never believe.  We love it.  And an avocado a day keeps the doctor away.  It is so so good.

As for proportions, all the matters to me is that you have enough liquid to get the blender going.  And it helps to have a blender with an awesome/loud motor.  Those frozen fruits are pretty hard.

As you can see, we eat smoothies by the mason jar, which is disgusting and amazing all at the same time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Parmesan Crusted Grilled Turkey Sandwich

A sandwich is one of my number one favorite foods ever.  We have them all the time.  And I hate how sandwich night is so hated on.  If done right, sandwich night is like totally the best thing ever.  Duh.

This is one of my oldest creations.  I didn't make this up but I am going to pretend I did.  But I did originally make this when I was 16.  Because that was when I was a cook at IHOP.  They only hire the best.  

The kicker here is that instead of just buttering the bread, you also sprinkle some parm on top of the butter!  Then, inside you have some grilled turkey, cheddar cheese, thousand island dressing, tomatoes and red onion.  It is a classic combination.  

I always grill my deli meat when I make grilled sandwiches.  I mean you have to.  And, when grilling the sandwich, always start with it open, add the ingredients and closer 'er up after a few minutes.  That's how the pros do it, guys.  And if you have a nice big two burner grill pan, you can just do this all at once.

Parmesan Crusted Grilled Turkey Sandwich

2 slices of sandwich bread
2 tbsp of grated parmesan
2 slices of cheddar cheese
olive oil
2-3 slices of deli turkey
1 tbsp of 1000 Island dressing
2 slices of tomato
a couple of thinly sliced rings of red onion

Butter both slices of bread. Sprinkle the buttered side with the grated parmesan and press into the bread slightly.

Preheat a non-stick skillet to medium high heat. Drizzle in a little olive oil and add the turkey. Grill until warmed through and some browning occurs. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place both slices of bread in the skillet, butter and parm side down. Put cheddar cheese slices on each piece. On one piece of bread, add dressing, grilled turkey, tomato and red onion. After the bread has been grilling for about 2-4 minutes, sandwich the bread that only has the cheese on with the rest. Cook, flipping occasionally, for 3-5 more minutes until warmed through and golden brown.

(Servings; 1, Prep time: 10 min., Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Greek Orzo Salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

I am always looking for new sides to bring to pot lucks or to make for grill outs.  Ya know...the ol' room temperature side.  

This recipe is for an orzo salad that I have made a few times before.  It is Greek-like because of the feta and dill dressing.  I love orzo.  And orzo salads are a nice change from your typical pasta salad (and there isn't anything wrong with a typical pasta might as well call me Mrs. PastaSaladPants).  

I actually prefer pasta salad served cold.  Fully chilled.  However, it tastes just fine room temperature if that is what you need.  

We had this orzo salad with some Boulder Sausage brats and cantaloupe.  Grill out and chill out.  

Greek Orzo Salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette
by Bobby Flay via Food Network

3/4 pound orzo, cooked al dente
1 large cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise, and diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for brushing shrimp
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Combine orzo, cucumber, green onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Place dill, vinegar, and mustard in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and blend until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and stir well to combine. Gently fold in the feta cheese.

(Servings: 6-8, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I tried a chicken lettuce wrap recipe about a month ago and loved a lot of things about it, BUT it called for ground chicken and I was really unhappy with the texture/moistness/dryness of it.  It was still good, but I am not crazy about ground poultry.  I wanted to try a lettuce wrap recipe that used chicken breasts for comparison.  And I MUCH prefer the whole chicken breasts diced up fine.  And this recipe is delicious and has very few ingredients.  

I did alter the original recipe slightly.  Rach has some canned water chestnuts in her recipe.  Sorrytobeabrat, but I believe canned water chestnuts should be illegal.  And I hate them.  My parents did always put them in our stir-fry.  So, sorry Mom and Dad.  Nast!

I also added some sriracha, which is my one true love.  Just needed a little heat for me.  Otherwise, if you leave it out, the chicken filling for the lettuce wraps is quite mild and sweet.  These modifications are included in the recipe below.

I really loved the orange with the shiitake mushrooms and red bell peppers.  Scot liked squeezing the orange wedges onto the lettuce wraps.  I thought it was good, but really like just liked eating the wedges solo.  

Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Rachael Ray via Food Network

2 cups, 4 handfuls, fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 1/3 to 1 1/2 pounds thin cut chicken breast or chicken tenders
2 tablespoons light colored oil, such as vegetable oil or peanut oil
Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger root, finely chopped or grated, optional
1 orange, zested
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
3 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons hoisin
1-3 tsp of sriracha
1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, head quartered
Wedges of navel orange -- platter garnish

Remove tough stems from mushrooms and brush with damp towel to clean, Slice mushrooms. Chop chicken into small pieces.

Preheat a large skillet or wok to high.

Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear meat by stir frying a minute or 2. Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two. Add salt and pepper to season, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more. Grate zest into pan, add bell
pepper bits and scallions. Cook another minute, continuing to stir fry mixture. Add hoisin Chinese barbecue sauce and sriracha and toss to coat the mixture evenly. Transfer the hot chopped barbecued chicken to serving platter and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side. Add wedged oranges to platter to garnish. To eat, pile spoonfuls into lettuce leaves, wrapping lettuce around fillings and squeeze an orange wedge over.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 15 min., Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty: Easy)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ahi Tuna Tostadas

I hardly ever order tostadas when we go out for Mexican.  I am not really sure why.  There is nothing about them that I don't love.  I am tempted to go try some now!

These tostadas have an Asian flare.  The base is a fried wonton.  It is topped with a Sesame Ginger Slaw, a piece of thinly sliced seared ahi tuna steak and a gochujang aioli.  Booyah!

This dish looks kind of fancy-schmancy, but was easy to make.  I loved it.  It was nice and spicy.  Balanced well with some sweet, savory and creamy.  It has all the right textures.  This would be a great little appetizer, but was a perfect dinner for us too.  

Ahi Tuna Tostadas

oil for frying
16 wonton wrappers (or corn tortillas cut into triangles)
1 tablespoon oil
1 5 ounce ahi tuna steak
salt and pepper to taste
1 batch sesame and ginger coleslaw (see below)
1 batch wasabi aioli (or gochujang aioli, see below)
2 green onions (sliced)
4 birds eye chilies (sliced)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a pan.

Fry the wontons in batches until crispy and set aside on paper towels to drain.

Heat up the grill (or your grill pan) and brush it with oil.

Season the tuna on both sides.

Grill the tuna for no more than 2 minutes per side.

Cut the ahi tuna into slices.

Assemble the tostadas and enjoy.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 5 min, Difficulty: Easy)

Simple Wasabi and Lime Aioli
(makes 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi
1/2 lime (juice)

Mix everything.

Simple Gochujang and Lime Aioli
(makes 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/2 lime (juice)

Mix everything.

Sesame and Ginger Coleslaw
(makes 4 servings)

2 cups cabbage (shredded)
1 carrot (shredded)
2 green onions (diced)
1 handful cilantro (chopped)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 lime (juice)
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
1 birds eye chili (minced, optional)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Mix the cabbage, carrot, green onion and cilantro in a large bowl.

Mix the vinegar, lime juice, oil, sesame oil, honey, ginger and chili in a small bowl.

Toss the salad in the dressing and garnish with sesame seeds.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coconut Chicken Salad

I am going to get right to the point.  This is my favorite salad (and possibly, favorite meal) ever.  This salad is on the menu at Jam's in Omaha, NE.  I thought it was my little secret.  My favorite salad ever.  However, apparently, this salad has a cult following.  People who will start riots if Jam's ever takes it off their otherwise seasonal menu.  Dangit!  My secret it is out!

But it is fine because I have now recreated this at home.  And let me tell you, this recipe was everything I wanted and more.  Perfect.  Spot on.  Exactly like the Jam's version.

What I love about this salad, is that it doesn't mess around.  You know how salads always have one kind of luxury item?  You know:  the artichoke hearts, the avacado, the fried chicken, the croutons, the cheese, the creamy dressing...well, this one has it all!  And you might be thinking...ew?  Well, you are wrong!   It is one of those things that doesn't seem like it should work, but oh, it works.  

It is surprisingly not heavy.  All the crazy ingredients work so well together.  And the coconut chicken?  To die for.  The raspberry sauce?  Don't leave it out.  In fact, don't leave anything out.  Usually I am all for substitutions.  But, this salad is perfection.  You don't want to mess with it.  If you do, the Coconut Chicken Salad cult will find out, and probably shun you.  And you don't want that.  

Coconut Chicken Salad
idea stolen from Jam’s restaurant, Omaha, NE

For croutons:
2 cups bread (stale is fine), cut into 1/2-1 inch cubes
olive oil

For dressing:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp of chopped herbs (I used chives, dill, and parsley)
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
splash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

For raspberry sauce:
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
splash of balsamic vinegar

For chicken:
2-4 cups of vegetable oil (or any light frying oil)
1 lb chicken breasts (or tenders)
1 cup flour
2 eggs
splash of milk
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper

For salad:
5 ounces of Spring lettuce mix
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onions
1 tomato, diced
1 can of quartered artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained
1 handful of shaved almonds
1 avocado, diced and tossed in lemon juice

For croutons: Preheat oven to 375° F. On a baking sheet, toss bread cubes with olive oil and salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Shake pan and toss croutons every five minutes while baking for even browning.

For dressing: Whisk all dressing ingredients together.

For raspberry sauce: In small sauce pan, cook down jam and vinegar until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour in zip-top bag.

For chicken: Using a medium sauce pan, pour in vegetable oil. You need about 3 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat oil to 340° F.

Prepare assembly line for coating the chicken. In one bowl, put flour. In another bowl, put eggs and a splash of milk. Whisk until smooth. On a plate or shallow dish, combine coconut flakes and Panko bread crumbs. Season all three stations with salt and pepper.

If you using chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch strips. Dredge in flour, dip in egg mixture and coat with coconut/bread crumb mixture. Set all of the coated chicken strips aside until ready to fry.

Fry in batches of 3 or 4. Continue to check the temperature of the oil and try to keep it at 340° F. They will take about 3-4 minutes. As soon as they are brown, they should be done. Let cool on a plate covered with paper towels.

Assemble salad: Toss lettuce, cheese, red onion, tomato, artichoke hearts, almonds, croutons, and dressing together. Add avocado and lightly toss. Place salad on a large salad plate (it is easiest to toss the salad one serving at a time…this recipe will make approximately four servings). Top with 3 chicken strips. Drizzle with raspberry sauce (either with a spoon or snip the corner off the zip-top bag) and a little more dressing.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 25 min, Difficulty: Intermediate)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Backpacking Snack: Dried Fruit

One of my favorite things to dehydrate is fruit.  A few summers ago, while on a hike, I tried some of my friend's dehydrated fruit.  And I wasn't expecting to like it.  I hardly ever like dried fruit from the grocery store.  Sometimes I can handle a raisin.  When it is paired properly.  Or maybe I can handle other reconstituted dried fruits in dishes.  But, really I think they are weird.  Why are they soft but not soft?  Why moist?  Actually, I love Sunsweet Ones.

Anyways, dehydrating your own fruit results in a totally different texture and flavor.  And it is so amazing.

We dehydrate fruit a few times each summer to take along with us on hikes.  Some of our favorites are golden delicious apples, pears, peaches, canned pineapple and strawberries.

Anytime I make a batch, I always include canned pineapple (with its juice).  I use the juice to soak the fruit (fruit that browns like apples, pears, etc.) before dehydrating.  The acid in the pineapple juice slows the browning of the fruit.  The fruit needs to be sliced about 1/4th of an inch thick.  It if is much thinner, the fruit will be too dry and crispy.  If it is much thicker, it won't dehydrate evenly.  Fruit should be dried at 135 degrees F.  It usually takes about 6-8 hours.  And of course, you want to dry fruit when it is at its peak of ripeness and freshness.  Otherwise, go with canned/frozen.

In these two bags are two apples, two pears, two peaches, 1 can of pineapple and a handful of strawberries:

I always need some strong sugar carbs to boost my energy during strenuous activities.  Eating a handful of dried fruit really helps.  So does a handful of hot tamales.

We took this fruit on our backpacking trip this past weekend to the San Juans.  It is a very beautiful part of Colorado.  So green.  So rolly.  Best place we have ever camped.  Minus the snow the last night of our trip!  And the fact that our dog somehow broke through the top of our tent and broke it...weirdo!  How that was even possible is still not clear to us.