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Posts Tagged ‘food + drink recipes’

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This summer I have been particularly fond of pestos…trying my hand with all things green to whip up delicious sauces to add a bite of summer to our meals and to bring a bit of sunshine to David’s life, who’s schedule traps him inside hospital walls away from the outdoors.

I never thought I would enjoy pea pesto. I spent my whole life thinking that green peas were not fit to eat, thanks to my mom who told me repetitively that green peas were the only vegetable she hated. I never ate them as a child, because she didn’t cook them. So, I, naturally, assumed they were awful. I didn’t pick them out of food, but I never voluntarily added them to foods and when presented with the opportunity, I certainly didn’t eat them on their own.

Over the past two years, I have made a lot of peas for my little man and I, consequently, have discovered a love for those little green vegetables. I’ve seasoned them with fresh mint, eaten them simply kosher salt, and added them to soups and pastas.

Following my fondness for pesto sauce this summer and finding inspiration from Deb at The Smitten Kitchen, I delightfully discovered how wonderful peas can taste in a pesto over warm pasta.

Pea Pesto Pasta:

Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add a 16-ounce package of DEFROSTED frozen peas and cook for just 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain the peas, then add a few cubes of ice to the top of the pea pile while they are still in the colander. This will cool them down quickly and this is helpful since you need them to be lukewarm before making the pesto.

Once cooled, set aside 1 cup of your cooked peas. Blend the remaining peas in a food processor with 1 small clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Next, add 1/3 cup of olive oil very slowly…blending after every addition.

Cook 12 ounces of pasta until al dente (you can use any shape you want, we chose fusili). Reserve about two cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot. Over moderate heat, toss the pasta with the pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute the pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres to the noodles. Adjust salt to taste and add freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh mint and parmesan cheese for passing.

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Panzanella salad

Inspired by the lovely, Heidi Swanson, I made a “not-your-ordinary panzanella salad” for dinner. Yum! I’m still craving the amazingly delicious peanut salad dressing and the charred bits of tofu and bread that added a dimension of smokiness to the fresh dish.

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Start by cutting two thick slices of a good quality bread (I used an herb foccacia bread that I picked up at the farmer’s market) and, then, using a pastry brush, brush both sides with olive oil. Grill on a stove-top grill pan (I have a le creuset grill pan that I adore…aside from cleaning it!) until each side is golden brown, crunchy, and has grill marks. When the bread cools a bit, tear it into bite-size chunks and put them in a bowl to use later.

Next, cut a block of firm tofu into 4 slabs and brush with olive oil. Grill on the same grill pan until each side turns golden with grill marks, about 10 minutes per side. Take care not to let the tofu stick to the grill pan…mine did which by no means hurt the dish, but it did take away some of the fabulous crunchy outside of the tofu…you may want to spray the pan first with olive oil to really coat it well. When it is finished cooking, remove from grill and cut into bite-size pieces and place in a large serving bowl.

Now, make the peanut dressing….excuse me my mouth is watering as I type this because its so good! I let Jack help with this step, which I think was fun for him, yet a bit stressful for me as I had to keep reminding him not to put his hands in the bowl! Combine 1/3 cup mixture of almond butter and peanut butter (about half of each), 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 clove of freshly minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper (use less if you don’t like a lot of spice), and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Thin with about 1/2 cup warm water to the consistency of melted ice cream.

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Just before serving, pour the dressing over the tofu and toss gently. Add the bread chunks and toss again. It will, at first, look like a lot of dressing, the bread really soaks it up. Place then tofu and bread mixture on top of lettuce and then top with chilled roasted tomatoes.

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This was one of those nights were I craved a warm, healthy homemade meal (yes, the day was thunderstormy and chilly not like the day most of you were suffering through) but I didn’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen, especially cleaning-up (my least favorite part). So, I surveyed the ingredients we had on hand and, decided on sautéed mixed greens and chickpeas with grits. It may sound odd, but it’s super tasty and quite filling!

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20110726-020150.jpg Before I left my job in Georgia, my friends at work gave me a very generous going away bag filled with all sorts of travel goodies and new home stuff. One of the items in my package was a bag of the fabulous Georgia grits that I love from Logan Turnpike Mill…a little gift of the south to take to Seattle with me 🙂 Tonight, the grits became our grain side and they were extra scrumptious. Maybe being away from the south made them that much better?! Real stone ground grits, as opposed to the instant bleached white variety that are found in most grocery stores, require a good rinsing to remove big grains and extra slow heat cooking time. I made a cup of grits with 4 cups of water and cooked them uncovered on simmer for about 45 minutes. I cheesed up Jack and David’s grits and kept mine simple with a small pat of smart balance “butter”. “Mmmmm” was the chorus heard around our dinner table as we tried them!

For the greens, I sautéed a good amount of olive oil with 4 cloves of minced garlic. When the garlic was fragrant, I added kale first and when that cooked down a bit, I added a large amount of collard greens, turnips greens, and mustard greens. You can choose any greens combination you like or have on hand, they are so versatile and easily mix and match. Because the greens cook down so much, I like to cook a lot, but this requires adding the greens in batches so that they will all fit in the pan. I sautéed them for about 20 minutes making sure to get the veins tender. Near the end of the cooking time, I added a can (yes, I bought a can!) of drained and rinsed chick peas to the greens in the pot and stirred well to mix.

Serve alongside each other for a tasty southern inspired supper. Hint: Mixing the greens with the grits on a few forkfuls created deliciously tasty bites.

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Am I the only one who hasn’t been cooking with quinoa on a regular basis??! I’ve cooked with it several times previously, but its never been part of a regular rotation. I adore it…it’s nutty flavor and fun texture adds a lot to a dish and it’s incredibly simple to prepare. When I make it, I feel like I’m stepping it up a bit from brown rice or pasta, when really it’s easier to cook than either of those foods!

20110730-021333.jpg About an hour before dinner, you will want to stick your chopped veggies into the oven to roast at 375 degrees. To toast to summer’s lovely vegetable bounty, I roasted a pound of mini heirloom tomatoes, 4-5 small zucchinis, and 1 small onion. Cut all of the vegetables to about the same size so they roast evenly, toss with a coating of olive oil and some kosher salt. The vegetables will roast on their own so that you can enjoy the night outdoors, but I do recommend stirring once or twice during their hour of cooking for even browning.

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Before you head outside, make a round of mojitos. They don’t exactly go with the dinner theme, but we had tons of fresh mint and, wow, they were good! Note: The simple syrup should be made earlier in the day so it has time to cool down. It will last for weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed container making future mojito or other cocktail nights even easier!.

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Fifteen minutes prior to eating, you will have to tear yourself away from the outdoors to start the quinoa. Add 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until water is gone. Seriously. That’s it!

Mix the quinoa into the roasting pan with the vegetables. Serve with some fresh summer fruit…we enjoyed it with figs and mangos. Oh, and you can add sparkling water to the mint and limes left behind in your mojitos glass for a refreshing and hydrating dinner beverage.

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So it appears that watermelon and mint are all the rage this summer…were you aware of this?? It seems like everywhere that I turn someone is talking about this pairing. Rightfully so. Fresh mint leaves really balance the sweetness of the watermelon to create the perfect summer fling!

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I got a little bit creative here and instead of a watermelon salad, I made watermelon skewers, which I found to be an easy and fun way to serve my appetizer dish at a friend’s house.

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First, cut the watermelon into small cube shaped bites. Then, tear off and rinse small to medium sized mint leaves from your bunch. Finally, cube feta cheese into small bite sized pieces. Now, assemble the 3 ingredients onto a toothpick, placing the mint leaf between the watermelon and feta cubes. Place skewers carefully into a bowl or onto a platter.

Now, make your “dressing” for the skewers. Boil 2/3 cup of white balsamic vinegar for about 7 minutes or until it is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Take care to watch it carefully because it will burn…trust me! Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction onto the skewers and tah-dah…you are left with a palate whetting skewer that is a little sweet (watermelon), a little salty (feta), and a lot delicious!

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Truthfully, there is nothing overly exciting about this dish aside from the fact that it is always good. Really good…that is, if you are a bitter greens lover like us! And, the cool thing about this meal is that the taste of it changes a bit with each season, depending on the type of greens that are available.

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Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and add 3/4 pound of pasta (your choice). Cook for about 12 minutes, cooking time will depend on your pasta type. Then drain, reserving a bit of the liquid to thin out the dish.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté 3-4 cloves of garlic in a large pot with a good amount of olive oil. When the garlic is fragrant, add a large amount of mixed greens (I used nearly 2 full bunches). Any type of greens will do…I love to just browse and get what looks the best at the farmer’s market. For tonight’s dinner, I used turnip greens, spinach, and collard greens. Cook until wilted.

Combine the pasta and greens (along with all of the olive oily juices) in a large bowl (or back in the pot if you don’t want a lot of dishes to clean and you just want to dish out your plates from the stove top…nothing wrong with cutting corners midweek!) and salt adequately. Shave in some good quality parmesan because when it’s good, a little can go a long way.

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Yes. I did it again. I told you I wouldn’t, but I did…This week another slow cooked meal post using beans. But I’ve decided, if people think brown goat and think beans, I will not be offended!

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Seriously. For all of you whom I haven’t converted yet, here is your chance to jump to the other side. Say NO to canned beans tonight and try slow cooked pinto beans instead. You will not be sorry.

I cooked about a pound of pinto beans for 7 hours in the slower cooker on the low heat setting. Today, I was feeling lazy and did not sauté the onions and garlic before adding them to the beans. And, guess what…it still turned out delicious! The slow cooker is so forgiving (and, it doesn’t heat up your kitchen, a bonus for all of you suffering from the endless summer heat wave!).

For tonight’s dinner, we created our own burritos at the table with the pinto beans, flour tortillas, cubed avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced mango, salsa, and a squeeze of lime. Sooooo summery fresh, so simple, and so good! I’m glad to have bags of pinto bean leftovers in the freezer so we can recreate this meal again soon!

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I bought a huge bunch of basil from our new favorite shopping market with no definitive plans for it…it’s summer, the price was right, and it just smelled and looked too good to pass up. Instead of using it throughout the week to give everything I touched a hint of basil, I decided it was time to perfect my very own pesto sauce.

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Dutifully doing my research, I read about two dozen pesto recipes gaining ideas from lots of cooks. This is what I decided on:
Browngoat Pesto:
Put about 3 cups of loosely packed basil leaves into a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of pine nuts, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 small cloves of garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Blend until smooth, then slowly add another 1/4 cup of olive oil blending to emulsify.
It’s simple, vegan, and freshly delicious. It will last for a week in the refrigerator in a sealed container or you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop the cubes into a freezer bag so that you have small portions to reheat during the winter season when the basil is not as abundant.

I served it with a recipe loosely adapted from Heidi’s Super Natural Every Day, a cookbook that I adore (thank you again, Lara, for this wonderful gift!). I use the book almost weekly for some recipes but mostly for ideas about how to cook the foods I have on hand.

Summer Orzo Salad:
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously, and add 2 cups of orzo pasta. Cook for about 13 minutes, drain, and let sit.
In the meantime, bring a small amount of water to boil in a large pot, then stir in 2 heads of raw broccoli cut into small florets and a big pinch of salt. Steam for about 4 minutes, depending on how soft you like your broccoli to be. The broccoli can be drained in the same colander with the orzo.
Dump the orzo and broccoli into a large serving bowl and stir in about 1/3 cup of pesto and the juice and grated lemon zest from 1/2 of a large lemon. Gently fold in 1 medium avocado cut into small slices and top with 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. The lemon gives this salad a welcome note of cheeriness while the avocado adds a creamy depth. It’s really good and makes leftovers for yummy lunches! (The avocado will probably brown a bit in the leftover portion, but it’s still okay to eat.)

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Please allow me to step back in time a bit to say, “Congratulations, sweets. I am so, so proud of you!”
This is all so long over due (today marks 3 months since medical school graduation!), but my brain was dealing with so much in May…too much. I could barely make it through the simple tasks of each day. To clear a space for celebration, to slow my brain enough to have fun…it just wasn’t possible. I tried. Really. I did. But, I know that I didn’t fully participate in the graduation festivities…I certainly wasn’t capable of adding to the cheery occasion in the way a wife, best friend, and partner should have. I wasn’t even in a place where I felt comfortable retreating into my own world…the place I usually turn when I have nothing more to give…because my own world was tumultuous and frightening.

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I’m so happy to be in a place now where jumping for joy seems to be a routine part of my day. My head is feeling clearer and I am capable of celebrating. Capable of truly experiencing, embracing, and creating happiness. So, today, I want to say thank you, David, for working so hard and getting through it all…congratulations on being a double doctor!

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I know our marriage is my most important relationship. I’m sorry that I wasn’t truly there for your celebration….but I hope you, too, feel that we have surfaced from the fog and found each other again. I feel renewed and want for you to know that I am forever grateful to you, and that Jack and I will always be here, right by your side.

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(Jack’s bowtie is from urban sunday. It’s called the Seattle tie. I waited until after match day to purchase it, knowing I wanted him to wear the one with our new city’s namesake!)

Today’s recipe:
Grilled feta, before I started my mostly plant based diet (I say “mostly” because I made the change for health reasons and my real goal is to limit saturated fats. Really limit them. Because most saturated fats come from animal products, I now choose to eat mostly plant based foods. I prefer it to eating fat-free versions of real foods…ick. I still have occasional treat meals when we go out or when I discover a new food and cannot imagine my family tasting it without me…I am obsessed with food, as may be clear, so giving up a whole category of foods, permanently, is too upsetting.)….
Okay. Tangent. Back to feta cheese 🙂 …it used to be one of our favorite things to throw on the grill and have for dinner.

Wrapping a block of feta in foil, drizzling it with olive oil, and then grilling it for about 20 minutes makes a wonderfully savory meal paired with grilled pitas and, of course, a tasty summer vegetable! Tonight, our veggie is turnips.

If you pre-slice your turnips into thin wafers, while the feta is grilling, you can brown them in butter in a cast iron skillet taking time to pop in from outside only occasionally to turn them. They are done cooking when they are browned evenly…then, they melt in your mouth with their buttery sweetness.

It’s a simple, savory, and sweet summertime meal.

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It’s true. Almost every week, I cook a big pot of beans in our slow cooker to use in various ways throughout the week and also to freeze for using later. I don’t know why, but a freezer full of homemade beans makes me feel secure. By having that in place, I always know that I can prepare a healthy and flavorful homemade meal even on a very busy day.

I promise to get more creative with my slow cooker recipes, but this week it’s another pot of beans. Instead of just connecting you back to my original black beans recipe post, though, I thought I would take a moment to rewrite a general recipe for slow cooked beans and then share with you one of my true indulgent ways to eat black beans.

Slow cooked beans:

To prepare your dried beans, pick through about a pound of beans looking for small pebbles and then rinse thoroughly in a colander.
Next, place the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover the beans by a few inches. Cover the pot with its lid and leave it on the counter or stove to soak overnight at room temperature. You will be thankful for the time you take to prepare and soak your beans because soaking actually speeds the cooking process (which is super helpful if you are cooking the beans on the stovetop) and creates a plumpness to the beans that you don’t always get when you skip the soaking step.

This next step you can either do the night before or wait until the next morning. Finely chop a yellow or white onion and sauté it in a skillet with 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic and a healthy pour of olive oil. Sauté until the garlic and onions become aromatic and tender. If you do this step the night before, simply cool down the garlic and onions, then cover and place in the refrigerator. If you sauté them right before you cook the beans, simply add the onion and garlic mixture to your bean pot along with any oil left in the skillet.

In the morning, drain the beans and discard the now dirty and discolored soaking water. Put your beans in a slow cooker or back in the same pot and add fresh water in a volume nearly triple the amount of beans. If you are going to be away for the day or just want the beans to cook themselves, put them in a slow cooker along with the garlic and onions, sprinkle with kosher salt, set the slow cooker to low heat, and cook for 6 hours. If you are cooking the beans on the stovetop, bring the water in your pot to a simmer and cook the beans with the onion and garlic mixture, uncovered, for 40 minutes to longer than an hour depending on the type of bean and their freshness. Stovetop bean cooking requires some hands on work because you will need to sample regularly to gauge doneness. Every time you taste, be sure to taste more than a couple of beans because they don’t always cook at the same speed and a bean that’s not quite cooked is icky. Season the stovetop beans with kosher salt in the last 15 minutes of cooking, when the beans are almost finished. If you season them with salt at the beginning, it sometimes makes the beans breakdown and get crumbly.

Regardless of the cooking method you choose, you will be left with a large pot of beans to enjoy in many dishes. The beans you don’t plan to use in a few days should be drained and then placed in quart-size freezer bags to freeze for later.

Now, for my indulgent black bean dish that is just so tasty, bean lover or not, it’s hard not to enjoy it. I’m forced to be more creative now than I was here with this dish since I have decided to eat a mostly vegan diet, but cheesy, sour creamy nachos are the way to do it…so, if you wish, pile it on!

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For these, I kept it simple and topped blue corn tortilla chips with a large spoonful of black beans, steamed and lightly salted broccoli, a spoonful of sour cream, grated sharp cheddar cheese, and a heavy drizzle of hot salsa. A deliciously satisfying dinner!

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