Thursday, April 29, 2010

Double Broccoli Quinoa

Today’s recipe is geared towards those of you feeling a little adventurous. It’s not that the ingredients involved are all that exotic, it’s just that they are combined in a somewhat unusual way. It’s one of those recipes that made me think, “Hmm, that might be interesting – I should give it a try.” And so I did – with delicious results.

It all starts with quinoa. Have you ever tried quinoa? It’s one of my new favorites. Pronounced keen-wah, it is an ancient grain that originated in South America. Incredibly high in protein, quinoa is considered to be a super food. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it a good option for people with Celiac.

In this recipe, quinoa is combined with a pesto made from broccoli and almonds rather that the more traditional basil and pine nuts. Different, but tasty. Broccoli florets, slivered almonds, avocado slices, and crumbled feta cheese top the quinoa, adding loads of flavor and texture. Again, perhaps an unusual combination of ingredients, but with tasty results. This quinoa dish is fresh, healthful, and refreshingly different. Serve it on it’s own as a vegetarian entrée or alongside grilled chicken or fish for a perfect summertime side dish.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paprika Cheddar Drop Biscuits

If I told you that you could have some of the most unbelievable, buttery, flaky, homemade biscuits you’ve ever had, on your table in under 30 minutes, would you believe me? What if I said you could probably make them with ingredients you already have on hand? Or that the biscuits would be so easy to make that even a baking novice could master them? Would you believe me? You should.

Since I cook and bake all the time, I have pretty high standards for things coming out of my oven. As I continue to build my skills and expand my palate, it takes more and more to seriously impress me. (I’m my own harshest critic.) Needless to say, these biscuits impress me. They impress me greatly, so much so that I actually said “wow” out loud after my first bite. And I was the only one home.

Now let’s talk taste. In a word: un-freakin-believable. I don’t often make biscuits at home, but I can honestly say I’ve never made such rich, flavorful biscuits. Probably because, back in the day, I made mine with Bisquick. Not that there’s anything wrong with Bisquick, it’s just not the same thing as made-from-scratch. And when made-from-scratch is this easy, why not give it a try?

These biscuits are light and flaky on the outside with a soft, tender center. They are even richer than your average biscuit thanks to a generous amount of cheddar cheese running through the dough. Smoked paprika gives the biscuits that extra something special, enhancing both their color and flavor. You can serve them as a snack (straight from the oven perhaps?) or alongside eggs for breakfast. The biscuits would also make a great accompaniment to soups, stews, salads, entrées, bread baskets… you get the idea. I don’t care how you serve them – just promise me you’ll make them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Typically I’m not one to be a slave to trends. However, the cupcake trend that has been sweeping the nation over the past several years has pretty much won me over. Cupcakes are delicious, nostalgic, often whimsical, and perhaps best of all, portable. Regular cakes are beautiful, but they are not easy to transport. They also require additional serving utensils and dishes. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are a different story. Individually packaged in their own wrappers, they are the perfect on-the-go treats.

Today’s cupcakes are even more portable because they don’t have frosting. This doesn’t take away from their flavor though; they are rich and decadent all on their own. Chocolate devil’s food cake with a cheesecake-like filling. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate chunks in the filling? Kids will love the chocolaty, creamy flavors, and adults will appreciate the lack of sickly sweet frosting. (Though there is certainly a time and place for frosting!) I took these cupcakes to a flag football game and they were gone before halftime.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there aren’t too many chicken recipes on this site. It’s not a coincidence. Stan and I have been on something of an anti-chicken bender for the last six months or so. It’s not for political or environmental reasons, and we’re clearly not vegetarians. For whatever reason, we just decided we didn’t love the taste of chicken anymore. We still eat it every couple of weeks, but it’s not our favorite.

This recipe, however, might just rekindle our affection for chicken. It is that good. I decided to give it a try based purely on its name: caramelized black pepper chicken. Stan loves black pepper, and I love anything caramelized. Paired with the fact that it’s a quick and easy recipe, it made this week’s dinner menu. And we’re glad it did. It’s a simple dish with complex flavor. Tender chunks of chicken are bathed in a sauce that is sweet, salty, spicy, and savory. Served over rice with a side of green beans, broccoli, or sugar snap peas, it is the perfect weeknight meal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chickpea and Kale Stew

I love kale. Love it. Maybe it’s weird to be so attached to a vegetable, but I’m okay with it. Oddly enough, I’d never tried kale before moving to Nashville a couple of years ago. I’m sure they sell it at grocery stores in Ohio, but I never noticed it. I’ve never seen it on restaurant menus there either. Here in Nashville, however, kale is everywhere. It’s at every grocery store and farmers market and on restaurant menus all over town. It’s also in my kitchen almost every week.

I really just can’t get enough of the stuff. Besides being incredibly good for you, kale has great texture and doesn’t wilt away to nothing when it’s cooked. That makes it great for adding to soups and stews. In this recipe, kale is combined with chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, and garlic to make a hearty vegetarian stew. A few savory herbs and spices are added in to give layers of flavor to the otherwise simple dish.

I served this stew in a bowl with some bread alongside for dipping. It would also be delicious ladled over brown rice, couscous, or bulgur. To jazz it up a little, you can top the stew with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a dollop of garlicky aioli, or some crumbled feta cheese.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares

After having the bulk of my kitchen equipment packed in boxes for the last several weeks, I have been itching to get back in the kitchen. I’ve been trying to focus on unpacking and organizing the new place rather than making unnecessary desserts, but today my love of baking and desire for a sweet treat won out. Never mind that my sister is arriving for a visit in a few hours and her room is not at all set up. That can be done later. First I must bake. I think I have a problem…

These creamy lemon crumb squares live up to their name perfectly. They are sweet, crumbly, tangy, and creamy – sort of like a traditional lemon bar but with a crumb topping. The squares can be made ahead of time and are easy to transport, so they’re an excellent option for spring picnics or barbecues. They also fit the bill for a quick and easy baking venture – perfect for days when you really should be doing something besides baking, you know, like unpacking.

** A quick apology for the dark/yellowish look of several of the pictures in this post.  I am still trying to get used to the lighting (or lack of) in my new kitchen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fusilli with Cauliflower, Olives, and Herbs

Well folks, we did it. We moved into our new place, and we’re slowly settling into it. Thank you for your patience over the past week while we unpacked the kitchen and waited (and waited and waited) for our internet to be turned on. I’m looking forward to many new exciting recipes and posts in the coming weeks… as soon as I find where I stashed my camera.

In the meantime, here is a recipe I made awhile back. I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for quite awhile, but new recipes kept jumping the line. I feel a little weird telling you about it right now, seeing as how it is a pasta recipe, and I’m currently observing Passover. However, I’m pretty sure there’s no prohibition against talking about pasta, and besides, if you’re like me, a big bowl of pasta is a great way to end eight days of matzah.

This pasta recipe was a departure from all of my trusty red sauce pasta dishes and made a perfect weeknight dinner. I came across the recipe while looking for a way to use up a cauliflower that had been hanging out in the back of the fridge for several days. I was a little skeptical about how well the cauliflower would blend with the pasta, but it was great, adding lots of texture and mellow flavor. The salty olives, spicy red pepper flakes, and bright herbs punched up the flavor even more.

Ricotta salata is the finishing touch for the dish. This was my first experience using the cheese, and I must admit, I’ve been looking for excuses to buy it ever since. Ricotta salata is a pressed, drier, more crumbly version of ricotta cheese. It has a very fresh, milky, slightly salty flavor. You can find it at the cheese counter or the imported cheese section of your supermarket. While you can certainly use other cheeses, ricotta salata is worth seeking out.


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