June 30, 2012

Vanilla Chia seed pudding

I guess I'm a little behind when it comes to the Chia seed fad, and, in particular, Chia seed pudding. I've been using Chia seeds in my granola and thrown into oatmeal for a while now, but I've been hesitant about the idea of turning them into a creamy dessert. Now this dessert isn't for everyone. I must admit that I wasn't a huge fan of the texture, but my husband liked it a lot (he also said that it reminded him of frog eggs, and, well, I had to agree). Chia seed pudding is reminiscent in texture to tapioca pudding, so to enjoy Chia pudding, you're probably going to need to enjoy that texture. If you do, then this dessert is for you. It's an easy and healthy dessert that is full of fiber, Omega 3, and Omega 6. 

You can flavor the pudding anyway you want. I went with vanilla for the first time because I didn't want to overwhelm the natural flavors of the Chia seeds. You can mix in any spices or fruit you like, or add them to the top when serving. This recipe will serve four people.

June 26, 2012

Farfelle with summer squash and garlic scape pesto

Have you tried garlic scapes yet? Garlic scapes are the stems (or "flowering stalks") of hardneck garlic. I only discovered these cute and tasty items last summer at the farmers' market. We bought some and just sauteed them in a little olive oil. They were delicious -- garlicky and peppery and fresh. So this year when I found them, I scooped up a couple bunches and decided to incorporate them into a pasta dish along with some little summer squash we bought. 

I wanted to turn the garlic scapes into a sauce rather than leave them in pieces in the dish. What I imagined was pasta that was completely coated in the garlic flavor (my husband and I really love garlic). I decided to make the scapes into a pesto. The pesto was packed full of flavor and it was such a great summery pasta dinner, especially with the sauteed summer squash. I used a yellow squash and one that was light green. So grab some garlic scapes from your garden or local farmers' market before it's too late. They are one of those fleeting produce treats that come only once a year. The below recipe will serve four people and you will probably have some leftover pesto. Use it for a dip or spread it on a sandwich. Isn't the color lovely?

June 21, 2012

Spiced lamb and pistachio kofta wraps

Lamb is something I've just recently discovered. I know I have had it a few times at restaurants over the years, especially Indian buffets and in gyros, but it's never been a big part of my diet. In fact, I don't think I ever had it until I was an adult. Now our grocery store (Wegmans) has free range, organic lamb and my in-laws sometimes raise lambs and share with us. So, I'm slowly incorporating it into my meals and am finding that I like it, especially when it's made into burgers, or spiced kofta (basically a meatball). The koftas were quick and easy to make - so these were perfect for a quick summer meal. You can either put the lamb onto a skewer and grill it, or cook it on your stove top grill pan, or skillet.

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home cookbook (still one of my favorites) and it is one of my first lamb dishes I've made. My husband and I both enjoyed these wraps a lot. They were very flavorful and the spiced lamb was complimented well by the tangy, cool yogurt and the fresh vegetables. Below is my slightly modified recipe, which will make four wraps.

June 15, 2012

Roasted strawberry balsamic vinaigrette

I had some farm fresh strawberries left that were quickly getting soft on me. Originally, I was going to use them in this salad for a light dinner one evening. But since they were getting soft, I decided to turn the strawberries into the dressing. And it was a good idea! The strawberries were very sweet and I decided to roast them until they become very soft and juicy. I added some balsamic vinegar, grainy mustard, and a bit of strawberry jam for extra sweetness. I used it to top a salad full of baby spinach and greens, red onion, toasted almonds, crispy bacon, and feta. It was such a fresh and delicious dressing and salad with a perfect combination of flavors. 

We try to eat a salad dinner at least once a week in the summer, especially on the evenings when I have my boot camp class. Have a mentioned this class before? Boot camps seem to be becoming all the rage recently. I've been taking one for about 8 weeks now and I absolutely love it. It's been a great way to get me to do more cardio exercise. Plus, the class is at a school right down the road from me so I can walk to and from class - a definite bonus. But after I get home, I don't want a heavy dinner to eat after working out, plus it's later than we would usually eat dinner. This recipe will make about 2 cups of dressing.

June 11, 2012

Hot beef, broccoli, and coconut red curry

Curry is such a great quick dinner. Thai red curry tends to be quick because I cheat and use pre-made paste. I do this because it can be difficult to find all of the authentic ingredients to make your own curry paste at home. I did make my own green curry paste when I had a lot of Thai basil and while it wasn't 100% authentic, it was really fresh, flavorful, and yummy. I planted some Thai basil this year and hoping that it does well so I can make a big batch of paste. Curry is one of those dishes that just makes me happy. It's so versatile - you can add pretty much any vegetables and/or meat that you want, and even fruit like mango and pineapple.

Coconut milk and unrefined coconut oil are quickly becoming staples in my kitchen and my diet. I absolutely love them both. I went to a class recently called "The Skinny on Fats" and have been reading a lot on this topic. Some similar information can be found on this site. I'm always trying to learn more about a healthy diet and trying to eat more whole and traditional foods. Coconut oil has been a pretty recent addition to our diet, and now I love to use it in cooking and baking.

Hot beef, broccoli, and coconut red curry
1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons red curry paste (start with 2 and add more later, if desired)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1/4 of a small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (~15.5 oz.) coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
about 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
about 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (more or less depending on heat level you like) 
juice of half a lime
about 1 pound thinly sliced sirloin steak, preferably grass-fed
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 cup lightly toasted coconut flakes
roughly chopped cilantro, for serving 
1 cup Jasmine rice, cooked to package directions

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the curry paste, turmeric, onion, and garlic. Fry for about 1 minute, just until fragrant. Then add the coconut milk and stir until well-combined. Stir in the fish sauce, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, and lime juice. Let the mixture heat through, then taste and adjust those four ingredients as needed to get the right combination of salty/sweet/hot/sour.

Add the beef and broccoli and let the mixture come to a boil. Gently boil for about 2-3 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is cooked through and the broccoli is fork-tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Stir in about half the coconut flakes. Serve with the cooked rice, topped with the remaining coconut flakes, cilantro, and extra chili-garlic sauce. If you want to present your rice as I did, just use any small glass or bowl. Lightly wet the inside and the gently pack it full of rice. Invert over your serving dish/bowl and let it gently slide out.

What was I cooking one year ago?: cheese ravioli with roasted vegetables
Two years ago?: rhubarb bellinis

June 6, 2012

Strawberry spoon bread with vanilla cream

The other day we passed one of the best farms in the area and they had the first fresh-picked strawberries of the season for sale (and they are also organic!). We stopped and bought a quart and went on to our destination. We noticed that aside from the whole car smelling like strawberries, we were unable to control ourselves when it came to eating them. They were so, so delicious and also so cute - most of them only needed to be halved, and I even left some whole. There is absolutely no comparison between store-bought (out-of-season) strawberries, and the ones that are freshly picked. So, when we were on the way home, we stopped and bought some more. 

We were having some people over for dinner the next day so I knew I wanted to include these delicious strawberries in the meal. I came across this recipe from Homesick Texan that was adapted from "Lady Bird" Johnson's recipe. I was really excited to make this dessert and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Everyone ate it up, and my husband especially enjoyed it. Honestly, it wasn't the most photogenic of desserts. The photos were rushed because I had guests and it was dark - it just looks like a weird pizza. But, trust me, it's really good! Below is my slightly adapted version of this delicious, summery dessert. I look forward to trying this recipe with blueberries and/or peaches as well.

Strawberry spoon bread with vanilla cream
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered (depending on size)
1/2 cup, plus 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, preferably unbleached/raw
3 cups whole milk, divided
1 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split and pulp scraped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

Place the strawberries in a bowl with 2 tablespoons (add more if they aren't very sweet) of sugar. Stir and set aside for about 45 minutes, or until juicy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a metal bowl in the freezer.

In a cast iron skillet, warm 2 cups of milk with the cornmeal, whisking often until it comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining cup of milk and butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the eggs, baking powder, salt, and the 1/2 cup of sugar. Drain the juice from the berries, but reserve the juice for serving. Stir the drained strawberries into the batter.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the batter is set and golden, about 35 minutes. While it cools slightly, make the vanilla whipped cream. Add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla bean pulp to the chilled metal bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Then fold in the maple syrup or honey.

Serve the spoon bread warm, topped with the cream and juice from the strawberries.

What was I cooking one year ago?: potato and Swiss chard hash with eggs

June 1, 2012

Lemony potato and pea salad with mint

I threw this potato and pea salad together one night to enjoy with some lamb burgers (topped with grilled eggplant, feta, and yogurt). I wanted something that would compliment the Greek flavors of the burgers and I always love potato salad with burgers, too. I had baby red potatoes on hand and fresh mint growing in my herb garden and after a few minutes of thought, this salad was born. It came together very quickly and easily. The dressing is pretty light compared to many potato salads and it is very flavorful and tasted of spring. It paired very well with the lamb burgers and was good for a snack the next day as well. I made a relatively small batch of this salad, probably enough to serve about four people as a side dish. You can easily double the recipe to make more.