June 26, 2013

Chickpea & Butternut Squash Salad

I am sooo excited to be headed to Maine tomorrow for a few days (this means you won't be hearing from me again until I get back - don't be sad, haha)!  I will be staying at my aunt and uncle's place, which besides my own home, happens to be one of my most favorite places.  They live on a lake, and similar to where I live, it is so quiet and peaceful.  Every year there is a family of loons on the lake, and I just love to listen to them.  My aunt and I always take the kayaks out and have a leisurely paddle around the lake.  I'm hoping to get a nice close up picture of the loons this year.  In the past I've always been too scared to take my good camera out with me, but this time I think I'll chance it. 

My beautiful sweet cousin, Abby, is getting married this September to the most amazing guy.  This weekend they will be having her bridal shower, and I am so glad I will be there to experience this with her.  I can not even express how happy I am for her that she found the man of her dreams to spend the rest of her life with.  I couldn't be any more excited - I just love her to pieces!

So on to food.  I threw this salad together the other day, thinking it would be a great lunch item for me to take to work.  My husband doesn't like hummus, so I figured he wouldn't want to go near this salad because of the chickpeas.  After I finished putting it together he asked if he could try it, so of course I gave him a bite.  Once again, he shocked me by saying how good it was and told me he'd love me to make it again sometime so he could have some too!  Just when I think I have him pegged, he throws me a curve ball.  If my meat and potatoes man liked this salad, maybe yours will too!

Chickpea & Butternut Squash Salad (serves 2)

Garlic infused olive oil
1 small butternut squash - peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Salt & Pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Dash of red pepper flakes - how much you add depends on how spicy you like it
Dash of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Place cubed squash on cookie sheet and toss with a good drizzle of the garlic infused olive oil (1-2 tbsp).  Season generously with salt & pepper.  Roast in oven for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally so the squash browns evenly.  Remove from oven and let pan set while you put together the vinaigrette.

In a small bowl, add the whisk together the maple syrup, orange juice, vinegar and red pepper flakes.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Add the olive oil slowly while whisking constantly until well combined.  Place the squash in a medium bowl.  Add the chickpeas and thyme and stir to combine.  Add some dressing, as much or as little as you want, and toss to combine.  Top salad with the goat cheese.

June 24, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

A local farm stand was selling freshly picked strawberries and huge stalks of rhubarb last Friday.  I spotted the sign and knew right away what I'd be making for dessert for the weekend!  Both my son and husband love strawberry rhubarb pie, so I knew that they would also love the galette version of it as well.  Next stop was the store for some vanilla ice cream.  Oh yeah, my boys were going to love me this weekend!

This galette was the perfect way to kick off summer.  All the favors of summer in one simple dessert.  Ahhh.....happy summer everyone!

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

2 cups strawberries, cut in half or quartered
2  cups rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp minute tapioca
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp lemon juice
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1 tbsp butter
1, 9" pie crust (click here for recipe) - I put the other half in the freezer for a later date
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cream or 1/2 & 1/2
Turbinado sugar
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl toss the strawberries and rhubarb together with the sugar, tapioca and flour.  Add the lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon & nutmeg and stir to combine.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Roll out the dough and gently place it on the cookie sheet.  Pour the filling into the middle of the pie dough, then gently fold each side up and over the filling - it doesn't need to be completely enclosed, just about halfway to the center. Break up the butter and place evenly on top of the filling. 

In a small bowl add the egg yolk and cream and stir to combine.  With a pastry brush spread the egg mixture evenly over the crust.  Sprinkle the Turbinado sugar all over the top.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.  Make sure to let it cool completely before cutting in to it.   Best served with vanilla ice cream! ☺

June 21, 2013

Almond Cake

I love to comb through old recipe books and magazines.  It seriously is a favorite pass time of mine, one which I seem to never have any time for lately.  It's been a while since I posted a new recipe that I've tried - mostly because some of the things I've tried lately haven't been a huge hit in my house.  It doesn't always have to "be a hit" but I have to at least like it, and for some reason I just haven't loved the recipes I've been picking to try lately.  Oh well...they can't all be winners!

I have no idea when or where I came across this recipe, but it was in my stack of recipes to try.  Since my son is on summer vacation, I need to have lots of snacks around for him.  Ah, to be young again with that bottomless pit of a stomach!  I think I chose this one simply because I have lots of almonds in my house at the moment.  This is a light cake, perfect for snacking.  I think it would be nice to serve at a brunch or tea party (do people have those anymore?).  My son liked it, but my husband didn't love it.  However, that's because he doesn't care for almonds.  If you like almonds, you will definitely enjoy this cake.  I am giving my slightly adapted version of the original recipe, but I'm thinking you could double the topping and it would be even better.  I'll try that next time I make it.

Almond Cake (adapted from a 1963 Pillsbury Recipe)

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup almonds, sliced
2 tbps milk
Few drops almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 8" cake pan with cooking spray.  In a small bowl add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer add 1/4 cup softened butter and 1/4 cup sugar - beat on high for 1 minute.  Add the egg & vanilla and beat on high for 1 minute.  Add half of the dry ingredients and beat on low until incorporated, then add the milk and beat until incorporated.  Add the last of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Fold in the lemon zest, then add mixture to the cake pan.  

Topping:  Add the 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, sliced almonds, 2 tbsp milk and almond extract to a small saucepan and heat on medium, stirring constantly.  Once mixture comes to a boil, let it boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and pour over cake batter.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

June 19, 2013

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

The first time I had a chimichurri sauce I fell in love.  So good.....on any and everything!  I could have eaten it by the spoonfuls that first time I tried it.  My husband on the other hand - it's so not his thing.  Because of that, I have never bothered to make it before.  However, my restricted diet is becoming very boring so I have been looking for ways to boost flavor where ever I can.

Since I eat chicken almost everyday, I pondered what I could add to it that would still remain in the realm of my diet guidelines.  Since garlic, herbs and olive oil are all OK for me to consume right now I figured chimichurri sauce would be a nice change for my boring old chicken.  I am a huge fan of cilantro, so I decided to try my hand at a cilantro based chimichurri sauce.  Man, this stuff is so good!  Get creative and try it on different things - it's great on any meat, bread, on salad, etc.  YUM!   

PS - most people just drizzle a little sauce on their meat, but as you can see from my picture above, I kinda smothered my chicken with it!  If you've never had it before, start with a little drizzle and add more if you don't think it's too overwhelming.  

Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce (serves 6-8)

1 1/2 cups cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of red pepper flakes or to taste
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor to combine.  You can also just chop everything by hand for a more rustic looking chimichurri sauce.

June 17, 2013

Maple Pecan Pie

The other day my husband was driving on a road that is being worked on a few towns over.  After driving over the stones they had laid down, he soon discovered he had 3 popped tires.  Unfortunately, he had no cell service, so he had to walk 3 miles to the nearest garage.  The guy who ran the place said he's repaired 150 tires from cars driving on those stones.  Wonder whose bright idea it was to lay those sharp stones down!  My husband missed a bunch of appointments for work and spent half the day trying to find new tires for his truck.  

Since he had such a rough week, and in honor of Father's Day, I made him this maple pecan pie.  Pie, any pie, is my husband's favorite dessert.  A few months ago he emailed me this recipe and in the subject line wrote "PLEASE!"  Haha ☺  I printed the recipe out and put it in my pile of recipes to try.  When I was trying to figure out what pie to make him, this one came to mind immediately.  Since I've never made this pie before I was a little worried about how it would turn out.  Thankfully, it turned out beautifully and my husband loves it.  In fact, he just asked me to make another one next week so he can bring it to his parents.  This recipe is a keeper!

Maple Pecan Pie (adapted from Sally Wilkins Sweet)

1, 8" pie crust (click here for recipe - you just need to cut it in half, or freeze the other half)
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup Dark Amber maple syrup (Vermont syrup is best of course!)
1 cup pecan halfs
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg

Line a 8" pie plate with your dough and crimp the edges.  Preheat oven to 375.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs.  Add the sugar, salt and nutmeg and beat until well incorporated.  Slowly drizzle in the butter as you are beating.  While the mixer is still going, add the syrup and beat for another minute.  Turn off mixer and stir in the pecans.  Pour mixture into pie plate and cook for about 40 minutes, or until middle doesn't jiggle anymore.  Cool completely before cutting and serving.

June 15, 2013

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Lemons and fresh herbs make me think of summer.  Since we are about to finally enter the summer season (at least officially, otherwise not so much here in VT), I figured it was a good time to throw this recipe out there.  It's about time I take a break from my usual homemade balsamic vinaigrette I think, and this vinaigrette is just perfect for this time of year.

It's so light, so refreshing, so full of flavor.....it's like a breath of fresh air.  Love it!  In fact, I think this may be my new favorite dressing.  Now, if only the sun would shine here for more than 2 hrs a week!  Hope this weather pattern changes soon for the better or else my garden is going to be a total loss. 

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
2-3 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt & pepper 

Add all ingredients, except the olive oil, to a small container with a lid (like a mason jar, but a bowl and a whisk will work also).  Whisk everything together to get the honey incorporated.  Add the olive oil, put the lid on and shake vigorously until it is emulsified.  Store in refrigerator, and it'll keep for about 2 weeks.

June 12, 2013

Pumpkin Chia Pudding

This recipe falls under the "healthy" category.  I have been on a very restricted diet lately, but I won't bore you with the details.  Basically I've had to completely change the way I eat and what I eat.  It has been a huge learning experience for me, and has gotten me in tune with what foods my body likes and processes well.  However, the meals aren't very exciting - mostly vegetables, salads, fruit and limited animal protein (like chicken).  The lists for each category are not very long either, so lets just say while it's slowly growing, there really aren't many meal options and I am starting to get bored!

I did find and try this pumpkin chia pudding though.  Compared to what I've been eating for over a month, this pudding made my taste buds sing!  This is a really basic recipe (in terms of ingredients & how you put it together), and it doesn't really require much time or effort.  I've been enjoying this pudding in my weekly breakfast rotation, but you can also have it as a dessert.  I like it, and will continue to keep it in my breakfast line-up in the future.  It's healthy and tastes good.....I suppose I can't ask for much more than that at this point!  Welcome to my world.......

Pumpkin Chia Pudding (serves 2)

1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup vanilla flavored coconut milk
4 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp pure maple syrup 
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg

In a medium bowl, add everything except the chia seeds, and stir well to combine.  Add the chia seeds and again stir well to combine.  Chill for at least 2 hrs or overnight.

June 10, 2013

S'more Bars

My husband is pretty good at building and fixing things.  It happens to be one of the things that I love about him.  I briefly dated a guy who couldn't hang a towel rack or assemble a child's bike....that's when I knew it wasn't going to work out.  I wanted marry a "manly man."   However, there are certain things that my husband needs to stay away from - like fixing anything electrical.  He has electrocuted himself on more than one occasion, so it's just in everyone's best interest that he stay away from all things electrical.  

Sometimes though, I guess there's no way getting around it.  Like today - the fan in our bathroom broke so we bought a new one and he set out to install it.  After a few hours he called me in there to check out the final product.  We flipped the switch.....no fan, but the light turned on.  Flipped the light switch and the fan turned on.  Haha, all you can do is laugh right?!?!  Who cares, we'll get used to the change in switches - no point in fixing it now!  Too funny.....the other thing I love about him is that he is an endless source of humor ☺

Anyway, we had all of his kids and their significant others and all of the grand-kids over for dinner this past weekend.  It was supposed to be a cookout, but it had been raining for days so we couldn't really be outside unless we wanted a bunch of wet muddy children running around.  So since we couldn't be outside enjoying a fire after dinner, I decided this dessert is the next best thing.  If you can't be outside making regular s'mores, why not enjoy some s'mores bars?  I personally prefer to use Reese's peanut butter cups as the chocolate when I make regular s'mores, so I decided to incorporate that into this bar version.  I've had this recipe forever, but never made it.  Everyone thought this was super yummy, so I know I will be making this many more times in the future! 

S'more Bars (adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 pouch of sugar cookie mix  - dry mix, not already made cookie dough
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup butter, melted
3 cups milk chocolate chips
about 4 cups mini marshmallows
1 bag of mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat oven to 375 and lightly spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large bowl pour in the cookie dough mixture and stir in the graham cracker crumbs.  Add the melted butter and stir until a soft dough forms.  Press the cookie dough into the baking dish evenly.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until dough is set.  

Remove from oven and evenly distribute the chocolate chips over the cookie mixture.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes or until the chocolate begins to melt, then spread it around evenly over the crust.  Evenly place the mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups onto the chocolate.  Sprinkle the mini marshmallows over top - as many or as little as you want (I just made sure it covered the chocolate completely).

Set the oven to broil and place dish in oven about 5 inches from the heat.  You do not want to walk away during this step - watch it closely.  You want the marshmallows to get nice and toasted but not burned!  Remove from oven and cool for about 20 minutes before cutting. 

June 7, 2013

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

It's hard to believe that my son's first year of high school will be over in just a few short days.  Isn't it funny how when you are that age it feels like time goes by so slow, and then when you are an adult time just goes so fast?  Sometimes I feel like I blink and the year is over!  It scares me sometimes because I really do want to enjoy everyday, but it seems like so much time is taken up with work and the usual running of the household stuff.  I often feel life is just passing me by and one day I'll wake up and wish I had more time!  Big sigh....

My son wanted to work this summer, but was unable to find a job (although I don't think he really looked too hard).  He has absolutely nothing lined up to keep him busy this summer.....which could mean trouble!  In any case, summers off for him usually means LOTS of baking for me to make sure he has plenty to snack on.  So the search begins for stuff to make for him.  I wish I could eat as much as he does and all the yummy things he does!  Big sigh (again)....

This super easy casserole is so quick to throw together, which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal when you just don't have much time for cooking dinner.  Especially if you cook the chicken and rice ahead of time, like a day or two before.  You could even save more time by buying an already cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  We all love this dish.  Give it a try....you might too!

Chicken & Rice Casserole (serves 6-8)

3 cups brown rice, cooked
2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded (or cut into bite size pieces)
1, 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
1, 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 cup corn (frozen or canned works)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped + more for garnish
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar + more to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350.  Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir well to combine.  Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray and pour in the chicken mixture.  Top with about a 1/2 cup of extra shredded cheddar cheese.  Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until nice and hot.  Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

June 5, 2013

Creamy Swiss Chard

As I left my house this morning and drove past my neighbors it reminded me how thankful I am to have a house, food on the table, a car and a job!  A couple of weeks ago my neighbor had a fire.  I was in the kitchen (cooking of course) and all of a sudden I heard a car horn go off - not beep beep, but a constant beep.  I thought it was odd, but ignored it for a minute.  When it didn't stop I decided to investigate and started walking towards my front door.  This is when my husband burst through the door yelling "CALL 911" to which I replied "why??"  He didn't answer me...just turned and ran outside again in a panic.  I grabbed the phone and followed him....you can't exactly call 911 unless you know why!  Plus, he was in such a panic I was now scared something horrible was happening to our house or.......or something! 

As soon as I ran out the door I could see the flames at my neighbors.  From our viewpoint it looked like their house was on fire, with flames as high as the tops of the trees in his yard.  As I got closer I could see it was their van (which he uses for work - he has his own business installing wood floors) that was fully engulfed in flames.  It was just feet from their house, AND their propane tank!  There was a few minutes of panic for us because we couldn't get past the burning van to get to the house to see if they were inside, and we also didn't know if anyone was inside the burning van!  There were a few explosions as well, which was making us even more nervous.  The fire trucks came quickly and put out the fire, and saved the house (one corner got a little burned but just the siding).  Thankfully no one was home, however our neighbor was devastated at loosing not only his vehicle but all the tools and equipment inside that he needed for work.  As I drove by today and saw the burned trees it reminded me how much I have to be thankful for!

Anyway, since this is a food blog I will move on to this recipe for creamy swiss chard.  A few years ago I had dinner out and had ordered steak, which I almost never do.  They served it over top of some delicious creamy swiss chard and I was in love!  I never forgot how much I enjoyed it, so this week when I had an overabundance of swiss chard in my fridge I decided to try to replicate that dish.  I can only eat goat cheese right now, so feel free to substitute it with your favorite cheese - regular cheddar or Gruyere cheese would be great for this recipe.

Creamy Swiss Chard

1 tbsp Olive Oil
15 cups swiss chard, stalk removed & chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup goat cheddar
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp onion powder
dash garlic powder
Salt & Pepper

Heat a small saucepan on medium heat and add your cream.  Let it start to bowl then add both cheeses, the garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of pepper.  Stir to combine once in a while as the cheese starts to melt and it becomes a sauce.  Reduce heat to low and keep it warm while you cook the swiss chard.

Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet.  When the oil is nice and hot add the swiss chard.  Toss frequently with tongs, being sure to coat it in the oil and stirring it so all of it begins to wilt.  This will cook down to what seems like almost nothing (like spinach)!  Remove from heat and add the cream mixture a little at a time while stirring to combine.  Add all of it, or as little as you want.  Season with salt & pepper to taste. 

June 3, 2013

No Bake Cookies

Do you ever just day dream about what you would do with your life if you could do anything you want?  Today as we drove around the Burlington area doing errands, that's exactly what I was doing.  I would really love to open up a bagel shop in our little town.  We are located at the base of a ski resort, so I think a bagel shop would do really well here.  Sigh.....a girl can dream right?

No bake cookies are my step-daughter's favorite!  There's a local deli that makes awesome no bake cookies and when she was younger we would bring her some as a little surprise.  She's getting married this October.....makes me feel old!  Anyway, these cookies are not exactly like the ones at our local deli, but these little guys are pretty darn tasty.  I really love the fact that they are "no bake"....I can't think of a dessert that's easier to make. 

No Bake Cookies

1/2 cup milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 stick of butter
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup peanut butter
3 cups quick cooking oats

Add the milk, cocoa, butter and sugar to a medium large saucepan.  Turn on high and bring to a boil and let it boil for about a minute.  Add the vanilla, peanut butter and oats to the pan and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper and allow it to cool and set.