Side Dish Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Maple and Harissa Roasted Carrots

maple and harissa carrots 4

 

It’s an Autumn Saturday morning in Chicago. As I sit here and type this, I’ve already seen the weather go from dark and cold, to windy and pouring rain. Now, its slightly breezy and a lovely 70 degrees F and sunshine. Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, my fiance is a weather geek and it’s rubbed off on me. For another thing, I’m attempting to draw the correlation between this simple carrot recipe (three distinct flavor profiles), and the three stages of this mornings weather. For the last thing, I realize this is a lame analogy … I’ll do better next time.

Silly food – weather comparisons aside, this IS a delicious and lovely carrot recipe. A great combination of sweet and spicy with a slight smoky flavor from the cumin. So easy, even your significant other couldn’t screw it up.

I love buying carrots with the leafy tops still attached. Remove tops when you arrive home and store in an airtight plastic bag in your refrigerator. They will last much longer this way. You already know this, but it’s worth reiterating that grocery store pre bagged carrots have nothin’ on fresh farmers market carrots.

maple and harissa carrots 7maple and harissa carrots 1

 

Simple side dish is the name of the game here.  Cut carrots, toss with glaze, and roast away. Just make sure to bring an umbrella when you leave the house today.

maple and harissa carrots 2maple and harissa carrots 3maple and harissa carrots 6

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 6-8 large) carrots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp harissa chili paste, more if you like spicy
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Peel and trim off the ends of the carrots.  Cut into quarters, first crosswise, then lengthwise.
  3. Make glaze by combining the remainder of the ingredients.
  4. Toss carrots in glaze.
  5. Arrange carrots onto baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 30-35 minutes. Flip/turn carrots 2 times during the cooking process.
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Salads, Vegetarian Recipes

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

I’m guilty of it. I’ll readily admit. I’m guilty of eating kale multiple days a week. I love it in my Fall Quinoa and Kale Salad, Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon, Almonds, and Pecorino, and Kale and Corn Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette.  All incredibly tasty, satisfying, and hearty. But just because kale can be tough and bitter doesn’t mean you have to “sneak” kale into a salad. Kale actually CAN be deliciously featured in a salad with just a few other ingredients. This is not “kale propaganda.” This is the truth!

By massaging the fibrous leaves, you bring out their sweetness and transform them into something tender and easier to digest.  Just chop up the kale, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and use your fingers to rub the oil into the leaves.  After a minute or two, the leaves will begin to wilt and shrink. Trust me, you’ll notice the difference. This salad benefits from being dressed about 15 minutes before it is served. The acid in the dressing helps to break down the kale even more and yields a more tender green.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Preparation for this salad is minimal.

Homemade croutons and salad dressing are always easy on the budget.

Simple. Inexpensive. Kale. Yum.

Kale Salad with Breadcrumb CroutonsKale Salad with Breadcrumb Croutons

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices of day old french bread (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • A pinch of garlic powder
  • 2 bunches of Lacinato kale (about 8 cups), cleaned and dried
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • The juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: avocado and tomato

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place french bread on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through until bread is crusty. Remove bread from the oven and cool. Tear bread into small (1/2 inch) pieces and toss with the melted butter, salt, pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder. Bake breadcrumb croutons for another 5-10 minutes until golden. Set aside and cool.
  2. Remove stems from kale and slice into thin ribbons.  Don’t forget to massage your kale!
  3. Prepare salad dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  4. Toss together kale and half of the dressing.  Be sure to allow salad to sit for approx 15 minutes. Add additional dressing to your preference. Top with Parmesan cheese and croutons (and avocado and tomato if you desire).

Servings 4 (Serving Size: 2 cups)

Salads

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

I’m writing this at 2pm on Friday of Labor Day weekend. We’ve all mailed it in at this point, right? We’re done doing “actual’ work. So, in the spirit of Labor Day, I give you this fantastic dish. Ideal for a lazy summer weekend afternoon. Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken.  Vibrantly flavored, full of crisp vegetables, and easily adaptable. (Did I throw in enough buzz terms there?)

I made a vinaigrette packed with fresh ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and a hint of heat from the chili paste. A subtle bit of spice. Just enough.  Soba noodles, often times labeled as buckwheat noodles, can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket. They’ve got a distinct flavor and sweetness. I love ’em.

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Easily modified by using any variety of vegetables you have on hand.  Asparagus in your crisper drawer? Shave thin and toss it in (That was an unintentional rhyme). Bright and beautiful green beans at the farmers market? Quickly blanch along with the soba noodles during the last minute of cook time, then add ’em to the party.  Looking for a meatless meal? Simply leave the chicken out. You’re the boss.

Whip this dish together before fall flavors take over the market. Unique, delicious, and (obviously) a cinch to put together. Now, let’s get after this long weekend!

Sesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with ChickenSesame-Ginger Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced or fresh ginger paste
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 1 lb (2 large) boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine 2 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/2 tsp chili paste. Pulse until combined.  Pour sauce into a bowl, add toasted sesame seeds, and set aside.
  2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add chicken, season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until golden brown and just cooked through.  Add 1/3 of the sauce to the chicken, toss to coat, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Toss together noodles, cucumber, carrots, red pepper, cilantro, green onion, chicken, and another 1/3 of the sauce.  Add additional sauce if necessary.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Servings: 4

Pasta Recipes, Salads

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad with Chicken

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad2

 

Some of the best memories are made in flip flops … while eating this dish.

Summer’s back.  Time to make Greek tortellini pasta salad.  Here’s my update on the classic Greek salad. I mixed it up by adding cheese tortellini, shredded chicken, and a couple other tid bits.  I’ve always got cheese tortellini on hand for simple weeknight suppers.  Always a crowd (or, just me) pleaser.

I toss the cheese tortellini with chicken breasts (use a rotisserie chicken as a huge time saver), cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and parsley. On the side, I’ll put together a simple homemade Greek salad dressing.  Give it all a toss, and ,dinner is served.  Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Lunch, a simple after workout snack, or even breakfast.  (Yes, I’ve been known to eat leftover pasta salad for breakfast before work. No shame!)

This also works wonderfully for picnics, potlucks, bbqs, or a weeknight meal.  Perfect for summer.  Bright and easy. Just like my favorite pair of flip flops.

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad1Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad3

 

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz cheese tortellini
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large breasts), or 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups cucumber (about 1/2 of a hothouse cucumber), peeled, seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained and chopped
  • 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 oz block feta cheese, crumbled (I prefer feta packed in brine)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Season chicken breasts with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cook for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  Set aside until cool enough to handle and cut into bite sized pieces.  Alternatively, dice 3 cups of rotisserie chicken.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook tortellini in boiling water for 5-7 minutes, or according to package directions.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.  Set aside and reserve.
  3. Combine cooled tortellini, shredded chicken, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, artichoke hearts, chickpeas and kalamata olives in a large bowl.
  4. Make dressing by combining olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and dried oregano.  Mix well.
  5. Toss salad with the dressing.  Start by adding half of the dressing and add more to suit your taste.
  6. Add feta cheese and fresh parsley.  Toss well and serve.

Note: Salad can be served right away but is best cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Salad will keep well for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad4

Main Course Recipes, Pasta Recipes

Lazy Ravioli Lasagna

Lazy Lasagna

 

So, you’re in a precarious “situation” with the mafia?  (It happens … I guess)  Cooking up a tasty lasagna would really ease some tensions, right?  Problem is, you’ve got neither the time nor the fresh ingredients for a proper dish. Lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese filling, the timely/messy process of layering of everything together?  Here’s the perfect shortcut.  We’re using frozen cheese ravioli!

So, you’re in the above precarious situation? (Figurative … play along) Here’s whatcha do:

No need to pre boil the noodles or make the ricotta cheese filling.  Simply layer together marinara, frozen cheese ravioli, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Then bake until bubbly and golden.  Lasagna on a mafia pressured weeknight just got a whole lot easier. (Phew!)

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

I had to get somewhat fancy with my marinara sauce.  (I couldn’t help it.)  I added some aromatics and Italian sausage.  If you need to save time, then crack open a jar of store-bought marinara.  In this case, make sure you remember to add 1/2 cup of water.  The ravioli’s need a bit more liquid to cook in.

Your family will think you’ve been slaving away all day.  The guys in velvet sweat suits and greased back hair will think “uncle so and so” made it fresh.

Lazy Lasagna.  Saving family dinner … one meal at a time.

Lazy LasagnaLazy Lasagna

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (leave out to make vegetarian)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups marinara, store-bought (25 oz jar) or homemade
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp fresh herbs, divided (parsley/basil/rosemary – whatever you have on hand)
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 24oz frozen ravioli, I used a spinach and ricotta variety
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add Italian sausage and cook, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.  Once sausage is fully cooked, remove from heat and drain off any excess fat.
  2. Put saute pan with sausage mixture back over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes and dried oregano.  Stir well and allow herbs to hit the warm oil to “wake them up.”
  3. Add marinara, water, and 2 tbsp fresh herbs.  Bring to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before assembling lasagna.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with a small amount of vegetable oil or butter.
  6. Time to begin assembling the lasagna.
  7. Add one cup of marinara to prepared casserole dish to coat the bottom.
  8. In the following order, add half of the ravioli, 1.5 cups marinara, 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella, and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  9. Repeat with another layer – the other half of the ravioli, the remainder of the sauce (about a cup and a half), 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese.
  10. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 50 minutes. Note, spray the inside of the aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray (or smear with a small amount of vegetable oil) so it does not stick to the cheese.
  11. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  The cheese will be melted and sauce will be bubbling in the corners.  Add 1 tbsp fresh herbs on top and allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before digging in.

Servings: 8 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

My sous chef couldn’t resist the aroma!

Lazy Lasagna

Crock Pot Recipes, Side Dish Recipes

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes

 

I realize it’s been been some time since my last post.  I apologize for all the grief and anxiety that you’ve no doubt been suffering from due to this absence.  So, accept my apology, dry your tears, and let’s get goin’ again.  Game on!

I’m reminded of a wise passage I once read on a small chalkboard outside a vendor at the farmers market (you know the chalk board signs I’m talking about).  At the top of the board was written in all caps “YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL HUMAN BEING”.  Below was drawn a large oval with about 5-6 small dots in it.  No colors, just a simple oval drawn with white chalk.

Below the oval was this:

“But I am not very good at drawing human beings, so I have drawn a potato instead.  But the potato is very beautiful too – in its own way.”

So, in the spirit of beautiful humans and spuds, I give you this recipe.

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed PotatoesCrock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes

 

The whole ‘mashed potatoes in a crock pot’ thing is obviously much more hands-off than cooking them the traditional way.  No big pot for boiling water needed here.

Why is this such a clever idea? Among others, here are 5 reasons:

  1. Frees up stove-top and oven space
  2. One dish to clean – you can even serve straight from the crock pot
  3. Potatoes are waiting and ready for dinner whenever you are
  4. Skinny … yes, skinny potatoes … no butter or heavy cream here (you won’t miss it)
  5. You will have plenty of time to devote to other dishes

Peel and quarter the potatoes, add to the crock pot with a little chicken broth and garlic, cover, and cook until they’re very tender.  Then mash them right in the pot with cream cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, chives and parsley.  Put the lid back on and turn the crock pot to warm. Voila! Your potatoes are ready whenever you are.  Serve as is or load them up with cheese, bacon, and sour cream.

Crock Pot Skinny Mashed Potatoes

 

I’m loving this super simple, hands-off, healthier approach to mashed potatoes.  Simply beautiful.

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, minces
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup warm milk, if needed

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease the slow cooker insert with cooking spray.  Peel the potatoes and chop into quarters (or eighths if your potatoes are larger).  Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker.
  2. Add smashed garlic and chicken broth.  Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 5-6 hours.
  3. Once potatoes are tender, turn the setting to warm.
  4. Add cream cheese, sour cream, salt and freshly cracked black pepper directly to the slow cooker insert.  Mash ingredients by hand using a potato masher, or with a hand mixer.  You do not want to over mix your potatoes, this will turn them gummy.  Mix until potatoes are just combined. Make them as lumpy or as smooth as you like.
  5. Add fresh chives and taste and season with additional salt or pepper if desired.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  7. To keep the potatoes warm, leave in the covered slow cooker on the warm setting for up to 4 hours.  If potatoes thicken too much, add a small amount of warm milk to thin them just before serving.

Makes: 6 cups of mashed potatoes

 

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

How to Freeze Homemade Basil Pesto

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Are you reluctantly saying goodbye to summer?  Here’s my perception.

Whip up a large batch of homemade pesto.  Then freeze it.  IN ICE CUBE TRAYS!! (yes, that deserved the double exclamation point).  We all love the smell and taste of fresh basil pesto.  We need it during the non summer months.  That said, here’s my quick tutorial for an effortless process to preserve the freshness of basil:

  1. Make a double patch of homemade pesto.
  2. Fill an ice cube tray with pesto, about 2-3 tbsp per cube.
  3. Cover tray with plastic wrap, being sure to press the plastic wrap against the pesto so it is touching the top layer.  This reduces oxidation (dark green color).  Allow pesto cubes to freeze completely, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Pop pesto cubes out of the tray and store in your freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  5. Add the pesto cubes to dishes throughout the winter for a fresh pop of flavor, or simply toss with pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Preserving summer fresh ingredients helps me get through the extensively cold Midwestern winters.  Eating a bowl of pasta with fresh homemade pesto in the middle of January.  It’ll do good for for your soul.

Note:  If you are going to toss with pasta, add a small amount of starchy pasta water to your frozen pesto before adding the pasta.  The salty starchy water not only helps to thaw the frozen pesto, it helps glue the pasta and sauce together.  Don’t forget to top with fresh parmesan cheese!