Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baked Marinara and Goat Cheese Appetizer

Ok, if you'e not fully aware by now my unrealistic obsession with goat cheese then you must be hiding under a very large, soundproof rock. I don't know what it is but it is so thick and creamy and has such a powerful tang that I just can't seem to stay away from it!!! At dinner with my two best girlfriends a few weeks ago one of them told me about this appetizer she had with goat cheese and marinara. That's it. Baked until bubbly and my mouth immediately started to water. Unfortunately, Daniel doesn't like goat cheese, my mom is vegan, and El is lactose intolerant so I had nobody to make it for and I just couldn't bring myself to make it for just me. I'm not that pathetic (ok, yes it am). Alas!!! Lindsay and I decided to have a date and watch Girls (amazing, right?) and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try this out. Luckily, my mom and El were out of town so I decided to clean out the fridge. I found a log of goat cheese begging to be used so I quickly assembled the dish and let it sit in the fridge until I was ready to take it to her house. To make myself not feel as bad, we served it with a homemade caesar salad. Cut the goat cheese pats so they are the same level as the marinara sauce, bake until its bubbly and ooey gooey and you are ready for a decadently, sinfully delicious appetizer that will be sure to please your fellow cheese lovers.

What you'll need:
1 ceramic baking dish
1 log goat cheese
1 jar marinara sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 425*.
2. Pour the marinara sauce so it comes up about 3/4-1" up the side of the baking dish. Cut the goat cheese into 1" high pats and scatter over the marinara sauce (it is VERY important that the sauce does NOT NOT NOT cover the goat cheese or else it won't melt properly).
3. Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve with some crostini and a lovely salad.

enjoy :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Caesar Dressing

You know what I've noticed? Salad dressing in a restaurant is, like, 100 times better than the ones you buy at the store. The Bob's Big Boy ranch dressing at the restaurant? Oh, it's heaven! But when you buy the one they sell at the market it tastes totally different. I've felt the same way about Caesar dressing, too. I told you a few weeks ago about the life-changing Caesar salad I had at Nordstrom and they had the recipe in their cookbook. I was quite skeptical to try and make it because of the history  of so-so reproduced dressings that have resulted in a displeased tummy. But I tried it anyways, gave it a tiny tweak and there are no words... ok, yes there are: THIS IS THE BEST CAESAR DRESSING I'VE EVER HAD!!!!! It's thick, creamy, but nothing in it to make you feel guilty! I made a lovely salad with romaine lettuce and croutons out of some leftover French bread. I let it sit in the fridge for two days before I served it and the flavors only got better. I promise, this is the BEST dressing you will EVER make (if not, then you're nuts!!!).

What you'll need:
3 large cloves of garlic
3 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. FRESH lemon juice
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 cup low fat mayo (or garlic aioli if you have)
1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a food processor, chop the garlic, salt, and pepper together until the garlic is as finely minced as possible.
2. Add the remaining ingredients MINUS the parmesan cheese (lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, mayo, and worcestershire sauce). Give it a good blend (for about 20 seconds.
3. Add the parmesan cheese, give it a quick mix in the food processor and store in a covered container.
4. Serve with fresh romaine and homemade croutons.

enjoy :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Roasted Shrimp Fauxfredo

I'm pretty much obsessed with every kind of cheese in the world. Shredded, crumbled, block, I don't care. If its cheese I'll eat it. We all know I love goat cheese, but parmesan is right up there in my top 3 cheeses. It's great in salads, on top of pasta, and even as a sauce. Alfredo is a white sauce with tons of parm in it. It's AMAZING but horribly bad for you (I could be wrong but I believe the unhealthiest meal in the country is a certain Factory's Alfredo...). This recipe is yet another version of an alfredo sauce that I found on Pinterest and tweaked to make it fit my taste buds. It has a fabulous tang because of Greek yogurt instead of milk and cream. Daniel is pretty picky and he absolutely loved this. You can certainly use chicken instead of shrimp or leave it out all together (I wanted the protein), but it's your call. Its creamy and decadent but won't make your pants fit any tighter. If you don't tell the kids what's in it before they way, they'll love it, too!

1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp
1 box bow tie pasta (or your pasta of choice) 
2 tbs. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. cornstarch or flour
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup 5 non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp. Kosher salt & pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 400*. Boil your pasta in a large pot of water seasoned with salt and olive oil (this is so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and to itself). 
2. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 tbs. olive oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. pour on a baking sheet and roast for 6 minutes EXACTLY! Meanwhile, sauté the garlic in the olive oil and set aside. 
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the nutmeg, cornstarch (or flour), and chicken broth. Once smooth, put in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the parmesan cheese and whisk until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sautéed garlic and yogurt until totally smooth. Add the remainder of the salt and pepper. 
4. Toss in the shrimp and top with a little more parmesan if you want and serve immedaitely.
enjoy :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cinnamon Honey Butter

In my last post I told you how to make Irish Soda Bread. I was still feeling pretty useless after I had the first slice of the bread and I realized that regular old butter just wouldn't do as a topper for this yummy carb-fest. It needed to be a little more exciting and have a little more flavor so my big brain went to work! Out came the cookbooks and marathons on Food Network!!! Now, because this is a sweet bread, I didn't want to use garlic or anything so harsh so I knew I wanted to stay on the sweet side. I left the butter at room temperature, threw it in a large mixing bowl, and threw in some cinnamon and honey, some kosher salt, and a tiny bit of nutmeg. WOW. This was incredible. It wasn't TOO sweet because the salt balanced it out. It melted so beautifully into the crunchy bread and I just may be drooling at this very moment. This would be great on just about any breakfast toast, waffles, pancakes, or pretty much anything you want! Keep it wrapped in the fridge and it'll last forever (not really, but for a long time)!

What you'll need:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tbs. honey
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until it's softened and broken down. 
2. Add the honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat until fully combined.

enjoy :)

Irish Soda Bread

I stayed home from work sick on Friday and after countless hours of Housewives on Bravo and 8 episodes of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network I was losing my mind. I figured that since I was home I should make myself useful and bake or cook something. I've made virtually every type of cake and pie there is but I've never tried to make bread before. My grandma makes Irish Soda Bread all the time and it's absolutely delicious. I honestly thought it had soda in it so I was a little afraid to try. But after watching Barefoot Contessa make it and reading a few recipes online while sick in bed, I figured I'd give it a go. This bread is so simple it's not even fair to call it bread. It requires no kneading, resting, or yeast. It takes about 5 minutes to make and 50 minutes to bake so this is a great bread to make for breakfast for those late sleepers or to even give as a gift. Usually Irish soda bread calls for currants but I only had dried cranberries and it turned out just beautifully. Also, it calls for buttermilk but I was not about to use that (the thickness scares me). So I made skim milk by putting 2 tbs. FRESH lemon juice (if you don't have lemons, go swipe one from your neighbor!) in a 2 cup measuring cup and pouring 2 cups of skim milk over it. In 2 minutes, the milk will have curdled and voila! You have faux buttermilk! It makes the bread so flaky and crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside. It looks so professional and gorgeous you almost won't want to eat it (but you will!) I also made a cinnamon honey butter to go on top and I simply can't stop eating it!!!

What you'll need:
4 cups flour
4 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tbs. Kosher salt
1/2 stick COLD unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 cups skim milk
2 tbs. FRESH lemon juice (NO bottled, please!!!)
1 extra large egg, beaten
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup dried cranberries (or any other dried berries you have)

1. Preheat your oven to 375* and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you MUST use parchment or the dough will stick). Add 2 tbs. FRESH lemon juice in a 2 cup measuring cup and pour 2 cups of skim milk over it. Let sit for two minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Give it a quick mix around. Add the butter and mix on medium until the butter is the size of peas in the flour. 
3. Toss the dried cranberries with 1 tsp. flour so they don't sink to the bottom of the bread. Pour into the flour mixture and mix for a few seconds.
4. Beat the egg and zest the orange and pour into the milk. Slowly pour all of the milk contents into the electric mixing bowl.
5. Mix until the dough forms into a large ball. Flour a surface to knead the dough for just a minute, form into a ball and put on the baking sheet. Bake for 50 minutes.
6. Slice and serve with the cinnamon honey butter (or regular butter if you're boringgggggg!).

enjoy :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pita Pizza

By now you know just how impossible it is for me to get myself together in the morning and prepare both a lunch (that isn't last night's leftovers or some quicky salad) AND breakfast. But today, I magically managed to do both! I didn't want to make an entire pizza (and there was NO way I had enough time) so I used whole wheat pita bread, sliced in half, topped with some great cheese (yes, I know I have a huge crush on goat cheese... I can't help it!!!). We also had a gorgeous bag of fresh spinach that was nearing it's end so I threw it on there, too. Some marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, and a few minutes under the broiler, I had concocted a GREAT and healthy lunch! This is also great for dinner and really fun for kids who want to get involved in the kitchen with you and they can make their own personalized ones (or grown ups!).

What you'll need:
1 whole wheat pita, cut open
2 tbs. organic marinara sauce
1/4 cup spinach leaves
2 tbs. grated parmesan cheese
2 tbs. crumbled goat cheese

1. Turn your broiler on (because the crust of the pizza is already cooked, you only need to melt the cheese). Cut your pita open. For this, use a VERY sharp knife (be careful!!!).
2. Pour the marinara sauce in the middle of your pita and spread outward. 
3. Next, top with the spinach leaves and finally the two cheeses. 
4. Place on a baking sheet and let sit under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes (until the top is bubbly and ooey gooey!).
5. Remove and serve immediately!

enjoy :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Strawberry and Blueberry Salad

This is a pretty idiot-proof recipe. It's a simple strawberry and blueberry fruit salad. Of course you can add or subtract any fruits you like but personally I HATE when there are 100 different types of fruit in a salad. The colors start to melt all over each other and some of the flavors just clash. For instance, pineapple is such a strong, tangy flavor and just overpowers cantaloupe and causes a fight with my taste buds. Therefore, I think two or three fruits in a fruit salad is just enough (it also depends on what is in season and what you can find fresh). Today we had strawberries and blueberries and they were simple and delightful. The flavors get along well and it's actually really pretty. Like I said before, fresh and whatever is in season is your best choice so choose accordingly. Also, I like the fruit to be chopped. When you're at a party, do you really want to sit and concentrate on cutting your fruit into bites? I think not. Slice the larger pieces of fruit, toss lightly, and always serve in a large white bowl.

What you'll need:
2 cups fresh strawberries
1 pint fresh blueberries

1. Rinse your fruit right before you're going to cut and serve (any earlier could cause them to get moldy and soggy. Ewww!!!).
2. Slice the tops of the strawberries off then down the middle, lengthwise. 
3. Add both fruits into a large white bowl and toss together. Keep one of the green tops of the strawberries for a little bit of color and place in the middle of the bowl. Time to serve!

enjoy :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Drizzle

Get excited, everyone! Today we are going to learn how to make our very own teriyaki sauce! I've been trying to integrate more fish and chicken into our dinners and salmon is a great place to start. I saw a similar recipe to this on Pinterest and it looked pretty yummy. The only thing I had to fix was the Sriracha sauce. Daniel and I are not the biggest fans of spicy. Ok, let me rephrase that. I think that EVERYTHING is spicy... even ketchup, and he just hates spicy. So  for this particular version I only used a tiny but of Sriracha and evened it out with some... guess... Soy Yaki!!!!! DUH! An Asian inspired meal WITHOUT it? Have you learned NOTHING in the past year and a half?! Anyways, I topped the salmon (which marinated in the teriyaki sauce overnight) with a light drizzle of the sauce, green onions and served it with some brown rice and it made a delicious meal (well, I thought so!). It's just as good (if not BETTER!!!) the next day for lunch. You can even make the Sriracha sauce ahead of time. Now go away and get cooking!

What you'll need:
4 salmon filets
Homemade teriyaki sauce (recipe below)
1 tbs. Soy Yaki
1 tsp. Sriracha
1 tbs. light mayo
1 tsp. sweet chili sauce (optional, but I suggest you use it!)
3 tbs. chopped green onions, for garnish
2 cup brown rice (I used frozen)

For the Teriyaki:
1 tbs. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbs. honey
1 cup water 

1. In a small saucepan, add the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, and 1 cup of honey. Let simmer for a few minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water. After about 5 minutes, add in the cornstarch to the saucepan. Let cool.
2. Place the salmon filets in a large ziplock back and add in the teriyaki sauce. Place in the fridge for at least one hour (overnight is best!).
3. Place the salmon in a large baking dish and bake at 400* for about 20 minutes.
4. While the salmon is cooking, mix together the Sriracha, mayo, and sweet chili sauce. Set aside (keep at room temperature). Cook the brown rice by the directions on the box.
5. Once the salmon is finished, remove from the oven. Ladle 1/4-1/4 cup brown rice into a large white bowl, put the salmon on top, drizzle the Sriracha sauce over the salmon, and finally, garnish with the green onions. 

enjoy :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cashew Stir Fry

The other night I was so darn hungry I didn't know what to do with myself. Unfortunately, I had zero desire to cook something fancy and we didn't have nay good leftovers. As I rummaged through the fridge, I remembered that my grandma used to make me stir fry with some brown rice for an easy and quick meal when we were hungry but feeling lazy Fresh veggies chopped up and a splash of soy sauce was a great weeknight meal when nobody wanted to slave over a hot stove. Luckily we had all of the fixings I needed plus a few extra. Get a wok (or any large pan) pretty hot, throw some onions and get a quick char, then any other veggies of your choice and you're good to go. Of course I had to throw a shot or two of Soy Vey in there to make myself feel better. And, to make it even yummier, I tossed in some cashews to give it a great crunch. Add or remove any ingredients you like, but the key is to have a hot pan and a light oil (NOT OLIVE OIL!!! Grapeseed is best for something like this).

What you'll need:
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 cup whole cashews
1 cup brown rice (frozen from Trader Joe's is the best!)
1 tbs. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs. Soy Vey
1 tbs. grapeseed oil

1. Heat a wok or other large pan so that it is very hot. Add the oil and onions and sauté until brown (because the pan is so hot, this will happen quickly).
2. Turn the heat to medium-high and add in the asparagus and mushrooms. Toss around and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the soy sauce, Soy Vey, and cashews. Give everything a quick mix and serve over brown rice.

enjoy :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Goat Cheese and Fig Jam Pizza

In one of my last posts I told you about the dinner I had with Gil, Daniel's best friend. Did you honestly think I WOULDN'T make an appetizer made of cheesy wonder? These are very similar to the caramelized onion and goat cheese pizzette I made for a party this summer. The differences are that I used gluten free pre-made pizza dough and I added fig jam to balance out the tang from the goat cheese. I'm glad I made two pizzas worth because they were AMAZING!!! And let me tell you, the dough didn't taste any differently than a normal pizza dough. It was crispier but who doesn't like thin crust pizza? The sweetness of the caramelized onions and jam mixed so well with the goat cheese, oh man! You can serve this as a main course or an appetizer at a party. Either way, you'll have extremely happy tummies! 

What you'll need:
1 whole wheat (or gluten free) pizza dough
1/2 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup fig jam
1 cup caramelized onions

1. Follow the directions for the pizza dough and cook it fully (keep the oven on after you finish cooking!).
2. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Spread a light layer of the goat cheese followed by a thin layer of the fig jam.
3. Place the pizza back in the oven for about 5 minutes or just until the cheese is warm. Remove and top with the caramelized onions and cut into 1/8ths. Serve immediately!

enjoy :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Baked Potato Salad

I realize I've posted a recipe before for twice baked potatoes but it's hard to find. So for this version, I made a few changes. First, I added bacon to this one so right there it makes it SO much better! But what I've REALLY changed about this dish is that I got rid of the second step of baking the potatoes again and turning this into a baked potato salad. It's a great side dish for summer BBQs and not everyone likes the potato skins, so why not just leave them out all together? Of course you can add and remove some of the ingredients but this is the most simple, delicious version that there is (I had some picky eaters last night so I did have to make a few without bacon and without cheese). Kids will really love this and people... it's BACON!!!!!

What you'll need (this if for 2 people):
2 potatoes
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 strips center cut bacon, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, green part only
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Poke the potatoes all over with a fork (this will let the steam out and let them cook evenly throughout), place on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour.
2. Before you cut potatoes in half, let them cool for about 10 minutes, they’ll be HOT HOT HOT!!! 
3. While the potatoes are cooling chop the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry in a pan and remove using a slotted spoon. Let them drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. 
4. Rinse your green onions and use sharp kitchen scissors to cut them (much easier and precise than chopping with a knife).
5. Once the potatoes are cooled, remove the insides with a spoon, leaving just a small amount in the potato so that the skins keep their shape. Use a masher to lightly break up the potatoes (leave some texture to them), then add all of the ingredients and mix together.
6. Serve immediately!

enjoy :)