Monday, August 30, 2010

Lime-Pepita Sugar Cookies

I love this unusual cookie.  First, it's a sugar cookie that doesn't involve rolling and cutting which I think is huge.  Easy peasy.  Second, its got these cool add-ins, zesty lime and earthy pepitas scattered throughout.  Third and most important, the results are delish!  A crispy, chewy sugar cookie with a sophisticated edge.

Lime-Pepita Sugar Cookies
Origin, Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook

Notes:  I found the baking time of 8 minutes too short.  I needed at least 10 minutes in my oven.  You don't want to brown the cookies, but the insides need to be cooked properly.  You might want to double the recipe as it only makes 12 cookies...I figure if you are going to go through the trouble and wash all those dishes, you might as well.

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
zest of 1 lime
1 large egg
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1/4 cup pepitas (raw green pumpkin seeds), toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream the sugar, oil, butter and lime zest until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and lime juice, and beat together to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, pepitas, baking soda and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate.  Add the pepitas and mix through the dough.
Drop golf ball sized spoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet leaving space in between to allow the cookies to spread during baking.  Press each ball of dough with the back of your spoon to flatten slightly, and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.  Bake for 8 minutes (I would suggest 10 minutes at least just don't let them brown).  Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Makes 12 large cookies.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mom's Famous Salad Dressing

Everyone loves having dinner at my Parents' house.  On the menu, it's usually homey, classic dishes made with serious love.  There is always wine, and flowers and pretty tables...and if things go really usually ends with a small living room dance party and fireplace hearth airband Mom's food is just that good!
My Mom has several "famous" recipes.  if I reveal them to you slowly, share them here and there...maybe she won't notice.

Mom's Famous Salad Dressing
Origin, My Mom

Notes:  This "house" dressing goes great on any type of salad.  I usually keep a jar in the fridge for a week or more, it lasts quite a while.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup of olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
lots of fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, or a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake to emulsify.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Great Girl, Great Grill


Oh man, we had fun last night.  I love birthdays. Getting to celebrate someone special and smothering them with love and attention.  Having all your best friends and family around.  And of course great food...besides the birthday honoree, food is always the next most important thing.  Last night we outdid ourselves...the birthday girl deserved it.  The BBQ was amazing.

 Peruvian Grilled Chicken
Grilled Rib Eye Steaks with Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapenos
Hot Dogs for the Kiddies
Roasted Potatoes
Corn on the Cob
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Cream Dressing
Green Salad with Mom's Famous Dressing
White Sangria (recipe coming soon)

 Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil Cream Dressing

Grilled Rib Eye Steaks with Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapenos


Peruvian Grilled Chicken

Notes:  I made this for a large group.  I used 24 chicken thighs and I made 5 times the quantity of marinade - 25 cloves of garlic people!  I let the chicken marinate for about 24 hours in the fridge and took it out about 2 hours before grilling.  I have only included the marinade instructions below.  Visit this link for tips on grilling or roasting the chicken.  Everyone raved about this chicken.  Moist and intensely flavoured.


1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), quartered (I used bone-in thighs with skin)

Blend soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and oil in a blender.

Put chicken in a large resealable bag and add marinade. Seal bag and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapeños

Growing up my parents had this huge Sub Zero fridge, and when my young, weak arms managed to pry the beast open, it was always full...of condiments...nothing but jars and more jars of condiments and pickles.  There was never anything to put the condiments on...just condiments.  I suppose we could have snacked on pickles, pickled herring or pickled beets.  Or how about a pickled egg smeared with any kind of mustard you could imagine.  No, not so much.  My Mom would always manage to whip up great meals for us, I don't know how or with what, but for us kids we could never see beyond the condiments.
As my tastes mature and my cooking skills improve, I can see beyond the condiments.  I too can whip up a meal with seemingly nothing.  But I am also realizing the importance and merit of condiments, I'm learning to appreciate them and devoting serious fridge real estate to them.  I've even started making my own jars of meal enhancers.  BBQ sauces, mustards, pickles and this new one...kind of a cross breed between a pickle, a relish, a chutney and a salsa.  The ultimate condiment.  Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapeños.

Pickled Farm-Stand Tomatoes with Jalapeños
Origin, Brian McBride, Food and Wine

Notes:  I've made this twice now, and the second time I used less oil than the recipe calls for.  I liked this change, the tomatoes are less oily and have a slightly stronger vinegar flavour.  I used a variety of cherry/grape tomatoes for this batch and found that they held up better than the slices of tomatoes that I used the first time.  Either way it's a fabulous addition to the fridge.


1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used less than 3/4 cup of oil)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds), each cut into 6 wedges (I used 6 cups cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced in half)
4 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced into rings and seeded (I did not seed the jalapeño slices)

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, brown sugar and salt to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, grated ginger, mustard seeds, black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin and cayenne pepper and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Carefully pour the hot oil into the vinegar mixture.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions and jalapeños. Stir in the hot pickling liquid and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours or refrigerate for 8 hours, then serve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Feta Tart (Alevropita)

I missed our local Greek Festival this year.  Too bad for me.  I still think about the Loukoumades, or fried dough balls drizzled with honey, that my friends introduced me to this time last year.  Boo hoo.  But then, this month's Saveur magazine helped relieve my pity with an insanely beautiful article on Greece with dozens of new Greek recipes for me to try. 
I'm no stranger to Greek food, my Hubby and I spent the last few days of our honeymoon in a small seaside town outside of Athens, where we enjoyed amazing food including one meal that we would classify as "top 5 meals ever".  And yet, Greek food continues to reveal itself to me in new ways.  I still find new and exciting recipes to try.  The minute I saw this recipe for Feta Tart I knew this would be next on my list.  And when I realized that this is a tart that doesn't involve making pastry or pie crust of any kind...well, my love and appreciation for Greek food runneth over.

Feta Tart (Alevropita)
Origin, Saveur, Issue #131

Notes:  Be careful when adding the oil to the super hot pan.  My pan warped a bit but then settled back to shape.  Just keep a safe distance.  Working quickly, make sure you distribute the batter evenly to all corners of the pan and try to get the most uniform layer possible, even if it seems thin.  This will ensure even cooking and crispiness.


6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vodka
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 
(1 cup water)
Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18" x 13" x 1" rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan (or just swirl the oil around pan around carefully) and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Serves 8-10

Friday, August 20, 2010

Szechuan Green Beans

Remember those fresh, local green beans I was telling you about?  Here is another great way to prepare them.  These taste just like Chinese takeout, sweet, spicy, savoury and tangy.  Szechuan style green beans are full of flavour and so easy to prepare.

Szechuan Green Beans

Notes:  Have all your ingredients ready before you start all happens so fast and it is easy to burn something if you are not paying attention.


1 pound fresh green beans, washed, dried and trimmed
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced or grated
1 tablespoon green onion, white part only, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, or Sriracha sauce, or hot sauce (something spicy)
1 tablspoon dark soy sauce (regular is fine - I used it this time - but dark is way better)
1 teaspoon sugar (I used cane sugar)
1-2 tablespoons peanut oil (or coconut oil, or any neutral oil)

In a non-stick pan or wok, heat a little oil over medium-high heat.  Add beans and fry for about 5 minutes until they start to shrivel and brown.  Remove beans and drain on paper towels. 

Here is where it goes quickly.  Add a little more oil to the hot pan.  Add garlic, ginger and scallions and fry, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Add chili sauce and fry stirring constantly for 30 seconds.  Add the beans, soy sauce and sugar to the pan and cook all together, stirring constantly for another minute or two, until everything is incorporated and heated through.

Serves 4

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Green Bean Casserole Bites

Has everyone tried Green Bean Casserole?  Yeah, thought so.  It seems to be a Thanksgiving or Christmas thing...but green beans are in season now!  That homey, 50s casserole is not the most elegant of dishes, but its tasty...especially when its made with a real Bechamel sauce instead of canned mushroom soup.  I was inspired by that casserole, but sought to showcase these local beans in a fresher way.  

Green Bean Casserole Bites
Origin: Impeccable Taste by Jaime

Notes: Use the freshest, longest, sturdiest beans you can find.  The little, weak ones won't hold the weight of the crumbs.


2 1/2 cups green beans, washed, dried and trimmed
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used 1/2 fat)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 can french fried onions, crushed into coarse crumbs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk mayonnaise,soy sauce, lemon juice and Dijon in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix crushed onions, panko and Parmesan in a separate medium bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix with a fork to distribute.  Add another tablespoon of oil if necessary to coat all the crumbs evenly.

Dip individual beans about halfway into the mayonnaise mixture, tap off excess on the inside wall of the bowl.  Then dip mayonnaise coated end of bean into the onion/panko mixture pressing the crumbs into the bean to adhere.

Place coated beans on a lightly oiled sheet pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The beans should have a little bite to them still and the crumbs should be browned.  Use a small metal spatula or a knife to help loosen the beans from the pan if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Warm Puy Lentil, Cherry Tomato and Haloumi Salad


I think that my favorite food discovery of the decade could be Haloumi Cheese.  The warm, salty chew satisfies on many levels.  Haloumi has a high melting point so it can be grilled or pan fried without falling apart or turning to goo.  It helps to turn a few vegetables into a complete, hot meal.  This recipe was a cinch to make, perfect for a busy evening.  The delicate Puy lentils take some time to cook, but you just put them on, and forget about them until they are ready.  This is a great use for those gorgeous rainbow cherry tomatoes that are at every farm stand these days.  The finished product is fresh and delish.   

Warm Puy Lentil, Cherry Tomato and Haloumi Salad
From BBCGoodFood

Notes:  The BBC GoodFood Magazine and Website are great resources.  I buy the magazines whenever I see them close to home and they have always been a highlight of train rides through Europe over the years.  I always find recipes I love so for me they are worth the extra cost and worth the real estate in my travel bag.  The recipes are given by weights and there are minor terminology differences.  I just used the recipe as a guideline, I've given my notes in brackets.


250g cherry tomatoes, halved (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1/2 garlic clove, crushed (minced)
1/2 lemon, juiced (or more to taste)
1 tbs olive oil
150g Puy lentils (1 cup dried)
250g pack Haloumi Cheese, cut into chunks (1/2 pack - slice at least 1/2 inch thick and then into rectangles)
a small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped (cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped)
(salt and ground pepper)

Toss the tomatoes, red onion, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. Cook the Puy lentils until just tender (I boiled the lentils in 3 cups of liquid - half water/half vegetable stock), drain and add to the bowl. Season well and toss.

Grill the haloumi until golden (I put my Haloumi into a dry non-stick pan, preheated on medium-high and fried for about 2 minutes on each side). Stir the coriander through the lentils and serve with the haloumi.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies

This is like one of those crazy new know where they take an excessive amount of wicked, unhealthy ingredients, stack them on top of each other and they do away with the bun all together?!  These cookies are kinda like that.  Oreo cookies stuffed into buttery chocolate chip cookies.  I don't think I could bring myself to ingest the sandwich but the cookies I can handle.  I dig them.
I included my recipe for classic chocolate chip cookies.  I made a batch of minis for a party and I used the same recipe as the base for these awesome cookies.

Chocolate Chip Oreo Cookies
Inspired by this recipe


1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbs firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
12-15 Oreo cookies roughly chopped into quarters

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the sugars until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Whisk the egg, egg yolk and vanilla into the sugar/butter mixture.

Fold in dry ingredients. Fold in Oreos and chocolate chips.

Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart (I actually slice my dough into square chunks with a large knife). Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they no longer look wet and they are golden brown. After five minutes transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Origin: Unknown

Notes: This is a deeply flavored, chewy chocolate chip cookie. For the minis I dropped rounded teaspoons of dough on a baking sheet and baked them for about 10-12 minutes.


1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbs firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in the sugars until combined.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  

Whisk the egg, egg yolk and vanilla into the sugar/butter mixture once cooled.  

Fold in dry ingredients.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart (I actually slice my dough into square chunks with a large knife).  Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they no longer look wet and they are golden brown.  After five minutes transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Warm Spaghetti Squash Salad

When Spaghetti Squash is done right it is a special thing.  The cooked squash flesh comes out of the skin in strands just like spaghetti.  My trainer says spaghetti squash is a "free food"...I like the sounds of that...I get so happy when I find healthy foods that are truly satisfying.  It averages only 42 calories per cup,  it's loaded with vitamins and minerals and it's just so cool.  This recipe is a great use of the vegetable, the squash itself has a very mild taste so it relies on strong accent flavours to make it interesting.  This mix hits the spot.

Warm Spaghetti Squash Salad
From Grace Parisi, Food and Wine

Notes:  Boiling the squash was a new technique for me (I usually roast).  My squash was not cooked through in the recommended 12 minutes time.  I think I boiled it for twenty minutes and when it still wasn't done I roasted it in the oven for about 15 additional minutes.  Maybe my squash was HUGE!?  I didn't weigh it, but I thought I could use more dressing too.  My advice on testing to see if the squash is cooked would be to insert a fork into the skin side of the squash, if the fork goes through the skin and the flesh with little effort you should be good.


One 4-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 cup sliced almonds (3 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion whites (next time I will add an additional 1/4 cup of olives and scallions)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil (I did not use this much oil)
2 ounces Greek feta, crumbled ( 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper (I used black pepper)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti squash and cook until it is al dente, about 12 minutes; drain. Place the spaghetti squash halves cut side down on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the sliced almonds on a pie plate and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly golden. In a mini food processor, combine the chopped olives with the sliced scallions, lemon zest, lemon juice and canola oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Working over a medium bowl and using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash into the bowl, separating the strands. Add the dressing along with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds and season with salt and white pepper. Toss the spaghetti squash salad and serve warm.

Serves 8.  Original recipe - one serving 238 cal, 19 gm fat, 2.5 gm sat fat, 16 gm carb, 4.4 gm fiber.
(you can cut down the oil with good results, add more lemon juice to thin the dressing if necessary)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

Bruce-ketta, a classic appetizer on virtually every Italian restaurant menu.  It crosses borders too...pubs, family restaurants and bistros, everybody's doing it. With simple flavours, a delicious combo, it's a standard for a reason...but it's safe...maybe even's been around since the 15th century for goodness sake. This modern twist on Bruschetta brings the well loved tomato and basil appetizer to a new level.

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta
From Food and Wine, Susan Spungen 

Notes: The only deviation I made from the original recipe is that I used two kinds of basil. It is really delicious as is. The tomatoes can be made a day ahead, make sure they are room temperature for serving.

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon buckwheat or chestnut honey
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Scrape the tomatoes onto the prepared baking sheet and turn them cut side up. Bake the tomatoes for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, until they begin to shrivel and brown. Let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil for about 30 seconds on each side, until the edges are golden brown.

Spread the ricotta over the baguette slices and top with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the tomatoes with the buckwheat honey, sprinkle with the sliced basil and serve with additional buckwheat honey on the side.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spiced Broccoli and Cheddar Cake

I sit here, writing this post and I am sure my Hubby is downstairs devouring what's left of this broccoli cake.  I haven't seen him in a while and it's just too quiet down there.  I don't blame him though.  It is the perfect snack.  Hauntingly spicy, savory cake, studded with cheddar and perfectly cooked broccoli.  It would great as a part of a brunch or lunch menu too.

Spiced Broccoli and Cheddar Cake
Inspired by the NY Times article about French Cakes Sales

Notes:  Make sure to leave a couple of inches on your broccoli stalks.  You want to tuck the broccoli into the batter and have it go throughout.  The cake is best the day it is baked but try it toasted if it has dried out a bit by day two or three.


1 3/4 cups cake and pastry flour (can use all-purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cup of broccoli florets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper.

Whisk eggs, milk and olive oil in a separate bowl.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese.  Transfer the batter to prepared pan.  Insert broccoli stems (florets on top)  into the batter,  pushing them towards the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted (into the cakey parts) comes out clean.  Cool for 5 to 10 minutes then run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it and turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack.  Once cooled for at lest 30 minutes, cut into slices with a serrated knife.  Slices can be cut in half for appetizers.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Frozen Hot Chocolate

How can frozen hot chocolate better than the original?  I've always been a sucker for frozen, blended, icy drinks...even the right texture of plain ol' crushed ice does it for me.  But this goes beyond.  It's so rich and creamy and chocolaty.  Chocolate, blended drink nirvana.

Frozen Hot Chocolate
From Fine Cooking August 2010

Notes:  The author suggests adding a 1/4 cup of chocolate or coffee liqueur to the mix.  I say CHEERS to that!  Without the booze its a great treat for kids too.

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
kosher salt
2 cups ice cubes
3 tbsp bittersweet or semisweet chocolate shavings
(made with a vegetable peeler)

Blend the milk, cream, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt in the blender until well combined and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the ice and bend until slushy.  Transfer to glasses, top with the chocolate shavings, and serve immediately with spoons.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer Fruit Muffins with Pistachio Crunch

My dearly loved in-laws are coming home today from a very long, very far away summer vacation.  Lucky them right?!  But I'm sure the journey home was both long and disheartening.  They deserve a great snack to nibble on when they arrive home.  These muffins are a divine way to use the season's best fruit.

Summer Fruit Muffins with Pistachio Crunch
From: Two Dishes: Mother and Daughter: Two Cooks,Two Lifestyles, Two Takes

Notes: These muffins freeze really well if you happen to have the will power to put some away for later.  Spend at least the recommended time creaming the butter and sugar - you will see a difference in the appearance and texture of the mixture.  I find this makes a big difference in the final product.  Also, use paper liners as instructed, I didn't have any this time around, and they definitely hold their shape better with them.


1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4 cubes

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup diced strawberries, 1/4 inch dice
1 cup diced nectarines, 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

For the topping combine the flour, sugar, pistachios and butter in a small bowl.  Pinch the ingredients between your fingers until large, moist clumps form.  Refrigerate the topping while you make the muffin batter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 large (1/2 cup) muffin cups with paper liners.

For the muffins, combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  I like to use a hand-held mixer on low for about 10 seconds (turning it any higher will cause a flour explosion).

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with the mixer on high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on high for 2 minutes.

Add the flour mixture to the large bowl and beat on low until just combined, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.  Add the milk and beat on low until just combined.  With a spatula, fold in the strawberries, nectarines and pistachios.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan.  Top the muffins with the reserved topping mixture, pressing it gently into the batter.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the muffins are slightly golden and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 large muffins.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Salmon and a Seedy Summer Salad

No, no, no...don't go!  I know, salmon...cutting edge right?  But see?!  I'm trying to tempt you with this salad photo.  I hope you stick around for the salmon too's seriously good.  Only primo recipes here people. 
This salmon recipe is super healthy and blissfully tasty. With a beautiful summer salad along side, I could and should eat like this everyday.

Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Sour Cream
From Bon Appetit, April 2003

Notes: This dish is so good for you. The healthy fats in the salmon speak for themselves, and the sauce...oh the's chock full of greens. The sour cream is the only added fat in this dish...I use a lower fat sour cream when I am serving this just to my Hubby and I.


1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
6 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin

Mix wine, orange juice, and soy sauce in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place salmon, flesh side down, in dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Shake excess marinade off salmon. Transfer salmon to baking sheet, skin side down. Roast until fish is opaque in center, about 14 minutes. Sprinkle salmon with salt. 

Transfer to plates. Top with dollops of Cucumber Sour Cream.

Cucumber Sour Cream
1 cup (packed) baby spinach leaves
1 cup (packed) arugula leaves
1/2 shallot
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber

Finely chop spinach, arugula, and shallot in processor. Add sour cream and mustard; process just until blended. Transfer to medium bowl. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) 

Stir cucumber into sour cream mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6

Seedy Summer Salad

Notes: One of my favorite salads, nutty seeds, creamy avocado, tangy feta, sweet tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Use whatever mix of seeds you have available and the ripest juiciest tomatoes you can find.


1/2 cup mixed seeds, sunflower, pepitas and sesame
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
a couple of handfuls of baby arugula
6 small, sweet tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup of feta cheese, cubed
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

Place the seed mixture in a pan over medium heat and watch them closely for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, making sure they don't burn. The seeds should be lightly browned and fragrant.

In a bowl, mix the lettuces, tomatoes, feta and most of the seeds. Toss with enough Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette to lightly coat the lettuces. Top the salad with the avocado and remaining seeds and drizzle with a little more vinaigrette.

Simple Balsamic Dressing
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk together balsamic vinegar, dijon, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the vinegar mixture, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Serves 4

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Go-to Dinner: Mexican Lasagna

Second post and I'm giving you a picture I took with my iphone. I am in the process of upgrading my camera so I can offer you pictures that back up the wonderful food I want to tell you about...It is my duty, I must do it justice.
So yesterday was busy. Hectic really. When life is demanding, and I don't have time to be inspired or creative, I go to my "go-to" dinners. I know they are going to taste great, they are full of nutritious ingredients, they are quick and I can make them with my eyes closed.
This recipe is just so easy. It is really tasty and looking down at the rich green sauce makes me feel virtuous.

Mexican Lasagna
Adapted from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food

Notes: I have made this recipe so many times and I know that I have improved it with my modifications (sorry Martha). So below is my adapted version. You can use whatever salsa you like. I've used fresh salsa, bottled, restaurant salsa, green sauce, it all works. Just pick one you love.


1 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and some tender stalks are fine)

1 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
coarse salt and ground pepper
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
a little olive oil for greasing your baking dish
8 (6-inch) flour tortillas (I use whole grain)
1 can (15.5 ounces) refried beans
1 can (19 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups prepared salsa (mild or medium)
3 cups pepper Jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a food processor, combine cilantro, scallions, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper with as much spinach as will fit; pulse, adding remaining spinach in batches, until chopped and combined.

Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with olive oil. Lay 4 tortillas in bottom of dish (they will overlap slightly). Spread half of refried beans over tortillas. Layer with half of black beans, salsa, spinach mixture, and cheese; repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with cheese.

Bake until it is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown. 30-40 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with sour cream and additional salsa.

Serves 6