Sunday, July 28, 2013

Peach, Basil, Ginger, and Brie Puffs

I'm not really sure how it started. I didn't grow up saying this word.  I used words like fruits and vegetables, or more specific words like "apple" or "strawberry."  Or place-centric references like "I'm going to the store" or "I'm going to the farmer's market."

 But I hadn't used the word "produce."  Until now.  

And somewhere along the way, I taught Max to say this.  And now we (and by we, I mean he) loves to say this word.  Not just say it.  But live it. Dance to it.  Replace all the words of Hey Jude to simply "produce." Games of identifying whether or not the object in front of us is produce or not.

Instead of saying "we are going to the farmer's market," we say "we are getting produce today!"

Seth recently asked me why Max is so excited about going to the farmer's market, why he is so excited about produce?

I just laughed.

Who wouldn't love produce?!?  I'm kidding, this is not one of those posts espousing the beauty and deliciousness of produce from farmer's markets...

I laughed because Max doesn't actually like being at the farmer's market (unless he is chowing down on a juicy peach or tossing back berries by the handful).  He just likes saying the word.  Once we are actually out shopping, shoes will be definitely, defiantly kicked off and "bye bye produce" will be shouted pleadingly.

And while he has an appreciation for the actual word, it most definitely does not mean he loves all produce.  We are not one of those impossibly charming families where kids skip around swinging baskets of hand-picked fruits and veggies and turn their heads in disgust at the sight of a processed food item.

This time, Max was super excited to eat his produce in peach form.  He did not however enjoy the peaches turned into puffs.  Puffs filled with lime-scented peaches, ginger, basil, and brie.  They tasted pretty awesome to me though...  To make up for his lack of enthusiasm, he did perform a produce dance.  So that helped.

Love this video from Cooking Light about buying and storing fresh peaches! So informative!

1 1/2 cups chopped peeled peaches
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 ounces brie
1 sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
1 tablespoon half and half
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Heat oven to 400 (or whatever temperature is recommended on your puff pastry dough). Cut the puff pastry into four triangles. In a bowl, toss together the peaches, basil, lime juice, lime zest, honey, ginger, and cornstarch.  Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the peach mixture as well as a slice of brie on each triangle, bring the opposing edges over and seal the puff into a triangle shape. You may want to use just a bit of water to help seal. Whisk the egg and milk and brush the half and half on each triangle and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown and puffy.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mango Stuffed with Lime and Strawberry Cream, Topped with 5-Spiced Granola and Strawberry Hibiscus Tea Drizzle

We all have different sides, different facets of our personalities.  We have the potential to be any of of these at a given moment.

For instance, our cat Rambo.  He can be a wild-eyed pig cat, ripping through every room at the speed of light.  He can be a dignified elder statesmen cat, appearing to be pondering life's big questions.  He can be a sweet cuddly pig, settling into position on my head to be my hat or on my lap to do some tail sucking (yes, he sucks his tail).

JiJi has the potential to be a hen, looking as though an egg will be laid any second.  She can be a needy baby, demanding cuddles, as though her life truly depended on it.  She can be a fun little kitten mouse, batting and pawing at her toys.  She can also get her scary Jiji on - fur bushing out and weird sounds emanating from deep within - at the sight of another cat outside.

I, too, have a multiplicity of selves.  I can be the mean mom, sending Max into time-out for throwing markers. Or the fun one, taking him out for malted chocolate milkshakes.  I can be a paragon of routine and regularity and then toss that all aside on a whim, allowing the day or days to take me where it wants. I can blast the music and dance ridiculously, or I can get in a debate about politics.

This month's Creative Cooking Crew challenge is to "stuff it."  I decided to make a mango stuff-able, scooping strawberry lime cream in the middle as well as some Chinese 5-spiced granola, then drizzling a strawberry hibiscus tea mixture around it.  The round-up of all the CCC "stuff it" entries will be posted on July 29, so check back then for the link to see all of the amazing posts!  Round-up is live - click here to see all the amazing posts! 

These stuffed mangoes too have differing sides.  They could be breakfast.  Or dessert.  Or breakfast's dessert, which totally needs to be a thing because breakfast is most definitely jealous of dinner.  After all, breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day - should it not also get a dessert?  Or it could be a fun snack.  It has the potential to be all these things.

For the 5-spice granola:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice powder
pinch salt
3 tablespoons warm coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar

For the strawberry hibiscus tea drizzle:
2 tablespoons dried hibiscus leaves
1 tablespoon black tea
1 cup just boiled water

For the lime and strawberry cream:
2 pint strawberries, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lime zest

For assembling:
2 mangoes, halved, with about 1-2 tablespoons of the flesh removed (just eat it! or save it for a smoothie.  but I just ate it.)
fresh lime juice

To make the 5-spice granola: Heat oven to 300.  In a bowl, toss the oats, almonds, 5-spice powder, and pinch.  In another bowl, mix together the coconut oil, honey, and agave.  Pour the coconut oil mixture over the oats and toss to coat.  Spread on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, turn oven to 250 and continue baking for about another 15 minutes, until dry.

To make the strawberry hibiscus tea drizzle: Combine hibiscus and black tea.  Pour water over the hibiscus and tea leaves.  Steep for 4 minutes.  Strain.  Cool.  Once cool, use an immersion blender to combine the tea with 6 medium-sized strawberries.

To make the lime and strawberry cream:  Combine the strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lime juice.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream with the sugar, vanilla, and lime zest.  Once the mixture holds stiff peaks, fold in the strawberry mixture.

To assemble the dish:  Drizzle the mango with some fresh lime juice. Spoon the strawberry cream into the mango.  Top with granola.  Drizzle the hibiscus tea around the mango.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chocolate Pudding with Strawberries and Orange Blossom Whipped Cream

One of Max's most favorite things in the entire world is making matches. He turns life into one giant matching game. When he makes a match, the word "same," is yelled with gusto.

In one of his books, a trombone caught his eye. I would just like to point out that this occurred after I had explored other musical instruments with him - looking at and listening to french horns, and violins, and cellos, and harps - but trombone had not made the cut. How could I possibly have forgotten to show him a trombone? I clearly had fallen down on the "introducing him to the wide world of musical instrument" front of parenting.

After seeing the trombone in his book, he asked to find more trombones on the computer. Then he wanted the keyboard to make trombone sounds. And to have the iPad instrument app showing a trombone. So many opportunities for him to yell "same" with incredible enthusiasm.

Matching also occurred when I made Max waffles that he had requested, and subsequently, refused to eat them. So I did the very mature, adult thing and pretended to cry.

Max told me to go upstairs with him, where pulled out some with books in which characters were crying. He pointed at me, and then the books, and also yelled "same." Again. So incredibly excited to make a match. Not at all concerned that I was "crying."

Luckily, Max was able to yell out "same" when helping me to assemble this dessert.  A dessert with strawberries tossed with orange juice and zest, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream flavored with orange blossom water.

He pulled out books with strawberries as we were making the strawberry part.  However, he was a bit stumped when it came to the whipped cream and pudding.  Apparently those are not as common in his library.  But I totally think they should be.  Pudding and whipped cream should be in ALL the books.

1 tablespoon brown sugar
pinch salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
*adapted from Gourmet

1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
pinch salt

2 cups chopped strawberries
drizzle of orange juice and orange zest
shortbread cookie, for serving (optional)

For the pudding:  In a medium-sized pot, whisk the sugar, salt, cornstarch and chocolate chips.  In a bowl, whisk half and half, milk, egg yolk.  Pour over the dry ingredients in the pot.  Set over medium heat, bringing the mixture to a boil.  Stir frequently.  Let the mixture boil for a minute.  Take off heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.  Pour into dish and chill.

For the cream:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream, orange blossom water, and pinch of salt, and use the whisk attachment to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form.

For the berries:  Toss the strawberries with a drizzle of fresh orange juice and orange zest.

To assemble:  In a bowl, layer the strawberries, then the pudding, then orange blossom whipped cream. Top with a shortbread cookie.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Rice Bowl with Spicy Tahini Chicken, Stir-fried Mushroom and Asparagus, and Marinated Carrots

It isn't clear how it began.  But I'm totally calling it genetic, as my sister is seriously awesome at it as well. For as long as I can remember, my sister and I have been quite skilled at eye-rolling.  That ever-so-mature response when something or someone annoys you.  

This response has many triggers, one of which is recipes touting super special "secret" ingredients.  Like the avocado in that brownie.  Or the kale in that smoothie.

And now I'm rolling my eyes at myself.  Because I am here to explain the secret ingredient of rice bowls. And noodle bowls, for that matter.

The secret is the bowl.  It doesn't matter what bowl it is. It just has to be a bowl. 

Lets all be honest.  Rice and noodle bowls are pretty trendy. But I would argue, that they are trendy for good reason. If the content of these bowls were served on plates, and called "here is a plate of noodles with stuff" or "here is a plate of rice with stuff," I'm pretty sure none of us would get excited about it. We would all be like, "Oh, isn't this basically like going to a buffet and placing heaping piles of random stuff all on one plate."

And we would all be basically correct.

I am still working on gathering evidence for my theory, but I'm pretty sure that bowls have invisible tiny fans scattering delicious invisible taste enhancing seasonings over the contents of the bowl. It will take me some time to figure out how to test this. Science is not my strong suit.

But somehow piling seemingly random concoctions in a bowl makes total sense.  Here, zingy carrots, with stir-fried asparagus and mushrooms, and the earthiness from the tahini chicken, sprinkled with some parsley and scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil, all work together.  I may be rolling my eyes at myself, but at least I am enjoying a yummy dinner while doing so.

For the carrots:
1 cup julienned carrots
2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For the stir fry:
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
minced jalapeno, to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey

For the tahini chicken:
1/2 pound chicken breast tenders
canola oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoon Sambal Oelek chile paste
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice

cooked rice (I made 2 rice cups in the rice cooker)
chopped scallions
chopped parsley
lime wedge
sesame oil

To make the carrots:  Place carrots in small bowl.  Whisk the oils and vinegar together, and pour over the carrots.  I like doing this ahead of time.

To make the stir-fry:  In a small bowl, stir soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey.  Heat canola oil in wok or saute pan on high.  Add asparagus and mushrooms.  Cook for 2 minutes, and add the ginger, garlic, and jalapeno.  Turn heat to medium-low.  Once the garlic has cooked, add the soy sauce mixture.  

To make the chicken:  Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally on both sides of the chicken.  Heat canola oil in a skillet on high.  Get each side nice and brown (about 3 minutes each side).  Turn heat to low to finish cooking (if needed).  Stir together tahini, yogurt, chile paste, honey, soy sauce, and lime juice.  Chop the chicken, and toss with the tahini mixture.

To assemble the rice bowl:  Scoop some rice into a bowl.  Place a few scoops of the stir fry on top of one section of the rice.  Place some tahini chicken on another section.  Place the carrots on top.  Scatter chopped scallions and parsley on top.  Drizzle the whole thing with sesame oil.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mixed Green Salad with Strawberry Blue Cheese Dressing

I find myself being possessive these days.  Words like "mine" and "mommy's" are being bandied about so often you would think I was getting paid to catalog the entirety of the contents under this roof.  Even my friend Jess has commented on my possessiveness.

This possessiveness probably is a result of:
a) The commandeering of my unicorn.
b) The recent attempts to kidnap the moose that was given to me to replace the stolen unicorn.  I would just like to point out that the moose actually came with a baby moose.  And the baby moose was given to Max.  So Max actually has his own moose.
c) The encroachment on my headband collection.  Yes I still wear headbands. And I recently purchased a 6-pack of polka-dotted headbands in various colors.  Max loved the green one so I handed it over to him.  But that apparently isn't enough.  He wants them all.  As though he is concerned about properly accessorizing his wardrobe of striped tee-shirts and sweatpants.

So after playing defense against all the toddler invasions, it is nice to have something that is mine.  Jenn's salad.  A salad with strawberry blue cheese dressing.  A category of food that is safe from the hands of the little guy.  It has turned me into one of... them.  But only for a minute.

I'm totally loving this article on Cooking Light - they have categorized some dishes on the basis of "mood!" Though I didn't see a category for "possessive," they've totally got you covered if you are feeling nostalgic, romantic, adventurous, relaxed, or happy!

scant 1 cup chopped strawberries
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 ounces blue cheese
1 tablespoon roasted and salted pepitas
freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
4 cups mixed greens
2 chopped scallions
1/2 cup torn basil
handful sliced strawberries
1-2 tablespoons roasted and salted pepitas
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the dressing: Blend the dressing ingredients together with an immersion or regular blender.

For the salad:  In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, scallions, basil, sliced strawberries, and pepitas.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.  Toss the salad with desired amount of strawberry dressing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Review - ProCook Gourmet Stainless Steel 11" Frying Pan

A new review post!
Today we are taking a look at the ProCook Gourmet Stainless Steel 11" Frying Pan.
Click HERE for the review!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Battle of the Bloggers - Za'atar and Sesame Zucchini Bites with a Sesame Lemon Dipping Sauce

Here we are posting another zucchini recipe this week, acting as though we have a garden and an abundance of zucchini that we are desperately trying to use up.  This is not the case.  No such garden exists.  Between all the bugs, dirt, allergies, and bugs, I can safely say that gardening is not my thing. 

My reason for posting zucchini again - these thick slices of zucchini are coated and baked in a mixture of panko, za’atar, and sesame seeds, and served with a lemon-sesame dipping sauce - comes from a very non-altruistic place.  

I have such a huge favor to ask of you.  If you like this recipe, I would love for you to to vote for it!

Smart Balance is running a Battle of the Bloggers competition.  The blogger whose recipe receives the most votes at the end of the contest will win a yearlong contract with Smart Balance to develop recipes!  

To vote for the entry (it's super quick):
 •  CLICK HERE to head to the Battle of the Bloggers Facebook app!  Then vote!

You will even have a chance to win prizes, including Calphalon products and a year's supply of Smart Balance products!  The contest runs now through August 11th.  

For the bites:
2 medium zucchini, cut into slices (about 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick)
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups panko
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon za'atar
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
ground sumac, for sprinkling
paprika, for sprinkling
Smart Balance Cooking Spray

For the dip:
1/4 cup Smart Balance Omega Plus Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
pinch ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon za'atar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

To make the zucchini bites:
Heat oven to 400.  Place buttermilk in a shallow bowl.  Mix together panko, salt, pepper, za'atar, and sesame seeds.  Place in a second shallow bowl.  Dip each zucchini slice first in buttermilk and then in the panko mixture.  Repeat for each slice.  Place on lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle each bite with just a pinch of sumac and paprika.  Spray the zucchini bites with cooking spray.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

To make the dipping sauce:
Stir all ingredients together.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle sesame seeds on top before serving. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tomato, Brown Butter, Ricotta Pasta with Zucchini and Roasted Garlic

I know that as an adult human being who lives in this thing we call society, I should share.  I should want to share.  And this desire is one I should be attempting to cultivate in my offspring.  Perhaps by modeling such behavior myself.

But this is easier said than done.

We have our favorite brunch spot.  Rustic servingware, with mason jars as far as the eye can see.  Pomegranate mimosas. Delicious food offerings. Friendly servers.  And best of all, a location on a rail line.  Which means Max can eagerly anticipate the passing of a train.  It feels like the most perfect of morning dining spots in the entire world for us.

Despite our love for this establishment, there is a reticence in sharing this location with others.  I don't want to sully its amazingness with a bad memory.  With someone who won't appreciate all it has to offer.  Or what if they now think it is their spot, when we were the ones who found it first?  Is it really such an awful thing to have a secret spot?  Am I a supremely selfish human being?

I suppose I have a guilty conscience about this.  To assuage my guilt just a bit, I am sharing a pasta dish with one of man's most wonderful substances - brown butter.  A tomato sauce with roasted zucchini slices, roasted garlic, browned butter, and ricotta cheese.

I suppose I do have the ability to share.  But only when I want to.

2 medium zucchini, sliced on mandolin
pasta of choice (pictured above: penne)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

1 head garlic
extra virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, halved
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn

To make the zucchini:  Heat oven to 400.  Place zucchini slices in a 9 x 13 pan, drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes until all brown and melty.

To make the roasted garlic:  Heat oven to 400. Take off the papery outer skin of the garlic bulb. Don’t remove all the skin, just the stuff that comes off easily. The head of garlic should still remain intact. Slice off the pointy end of the bulb to expose all the cloves. Place in a small greased ramekin and cover with olive oil. Sprinkle just a pinch of salt and cover with aluminum foil. Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes. The cloves of garlic will be all nice and soft.

To make the sauce:  In a large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Let the butter brown, about 5-7 minutes. You will see brown specks that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Be careful to not burn the butter, otherwise the taste will be altered. Add in the roasted zucchini slices and roasted cloves of garlic. Mix those into the browned butter. Stir in crushed tomatoes. Add onion halves. Let the mixture come together over low heat for about 40 minutes. Once the onion halves are soft, remove from the sauce. Add cheeses. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with basil.

Serve with pasta (I used penne) cooked according to manufacturer's directions.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Watermelon, Lime, Cotija and Basil Salad

My pastimes include making loud, obnoxious noises.  Like beast noises.  Seth just yells "beast" when I get on a roll.  He occasionally makes a remark about me needing to stop being so beasty, but we all know that he secretly loves the absurd soundscapes I create.

Possible reasons these ridiculous sounds include:
-my way of filling up the space with my essence even when I have nothing to say
-my subconscious is creating performance art
-I just love the freedom in making primal, beastial sounds for no apparent reason
-I enjoy the contrast of making loud beast noises while wearing a dress
-I relish in Seth's annoyance
-all of the above
-none of the above

On Netflix, we see this documentary called "Thunderbeast" popping up in recommendations.  At first it was a joke, like, "Haha, look, Netflix even knows that I'm a beast, maybe I'm even in the movie."

Then Thunderbeast became a fixture.  Always sitting there as a recommended title to watch.  So eventually I was like, huh, what is Thunderbeast even about? Oh buffaloes/bison?, I don't actually know anything about this animal.  Maybe I should learn something.

So it was played.  But between Max, and okay, lets face it, Max, the documentary never got my full attention.  But I was interested.  Thunderbeast is an oddly compelling animal.

Thunderbeast was played again. And again.  Like ten more times.  I still haven't finished it.  I'm sure the NSA is wondering why someone would keep playing this documentary over and over and over again.  Especially when the person supposedly watching it still knows nothing about the animal except that the buffaloes were quite mean to a  lost fawn and left her to some wolves.  And that they have a keen sense of smell.

One of these days I will finally finish it.

Until then, I have a salad.  Pink watermelon chunks sprinkled with basil, cotija cheese, lime juice, and lime zest..  So bright and loud and refreshing.  Just like the noises I create.

watermelon chunks
cotija cheese
lime juice
lime zest

Just toss some watermelon chunks with torn basil leaves.  Sprinkle with a bit of cotija cheese and lime zest.  Finish with a drizzle of lime juice.
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