Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette

Summer is definitely the season for salads, whether at home or at restaurants. And while I love a good salad, for some reason or another, I rarely order entrée salads when I go out to eat. I tend to veer more towards the hearty fare (hello, pasta) or something more exotic than your average restaurant salad. (Salads with fancy/funky ingredients are another story. They capture my interest big time – as do most things with fancy/funky ingredients.)

I think the main reason I tend to avoid entrée salads at restaurants is because I often feel they are something I could make at home. Problem is, I never actually make them. When planning my weekly menus, it almost never crosses my mind to include a main dish salad. While we do eat salad all the time, it’s never the star of the show.

The other day, however, I came across this recipe for Grilled Chicken Salad with Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette. It got me to thinking. First thought? This looks good! Second thought? I already have almost all of these ingredients. Third thought? It is ridiculously hot outside, and it would be nice to make a dinner that won’t get the house hot. All that thinking ended up with us having salad on the dinner menu this week.

What can I tell you? I may be a dinner salad convert. This salad was a winner. I tweaked the original recipe bit, and the result was refreshing, flavorful, and – important for a salad dinner – filling. Spicy grilled chicken, smoky grilled corn, creamy black beans, fresh cheese, and rich avocado dress up romaine lettuce and make it shine. This is one dinner salad I will be making all summer long.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Raw Kale Salad with Almonds and Cranberries

I’ve told you once or twice about my love of kale. It’s got great color and texture, it’s ridiculously good for you, and it doesn’t break down to nothing when you cook it. But did you know you don’t have to cook it? Until recently, I didn’t. I thought raw kale would be too chewy or fibrous to eat. Toss it with a little acid to soften up the leaves, however, and raw kale makes a deliciously different, nutrition-packed salad green.

For this salad, I combined raw kale with some toasted almonds for crunch and dried cranberries for sweetness. A simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice gets a touch of sweetness from honey and a touch of heat from a little chili powder. With kale currently overflowing the bins at farmers markets and grocery stores, now is the perfect time to take a walk on the raw side.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Peanut butter and banana. Oh how I love thee. You are one of my oldest and most favorite flavor combinations. I have loved you ever since Mom made me peanut butter banana toast for breakfast. And you know that was a sacrifice for her, since for reasons I can’t fathom, she doesn’t like peanut butter.

While I will always adore you on toast, my beloved peanut butter and banana, I am always looking for fun new ways to enjoy you. Take today’s muffins, for instance. Moist, chewy, and redolent with peanut butter banana-y goodness. Filling from the oatmeal and healthy to boot. (No added butter or oil!) These muffins are a delicious and certain to be frequently enjoyed addition to my peanut butter and banana-loving repertoire.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lime-Cilantro Rice with Pineapple

Today’s post is a bit of a short one. Typically, when I try a new recipe, I have my camera at the ready to document all of the steps for you. And wouldn’t you know, on the nights that I’m in too much of a hurry to take pictures, the recipe ends up being deliciously blog-worthy. Such was the case with today’s recipe.

I made this Lime-Cilantro Rice with Pineapple to accompany the Southwest Egg Rolls I told you about the other day. I was distracted by rolling the egg rolls, setting the table, cleaning up the kitchen, etc. and didn’t bother taking pictures of the rice until it was completely ready to serve. I decided to post the recipe today anyway, because it was such an unexpected treat. Tangy lime juice, bright, fresh cilantro, and sweet crushed pineapple are added to warm, buttery rice. It’s a simple preparation, but the flavor is anything but. I couldn’t stop sneaking bites before it went out to the table!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Southwest Egg Rolls with Avocado Creme

I love fun finger food as much as the next girl, but for some reason or another, I don’t make too much of it at home. Maybe it’s because it seems like party food. Maybe it’s because I equate finger food with bar food. Whatever the reason, I’ve come to realize that finger food is fun food, and I should make more of it at home.

These southwest egg rolls are an excellent option for a fun meal you can eat with your hands. Egg roll wrappers are stuffed with of a flavorful and spicy mixture of chicken, black beans, corn, roasted peppers, and spinach. They are baked instead of fried, so they are less heavy and greasy than your typical egg rolls, while still delivering a nice crispy, crunchy exterior. Served along side a cool, creamy avocado crème dip, these egg rolls would be perfect to serve at a party. Throw in a salad and some rice, and they also make for unique, filling dinner.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something about the cupcake craze that’s been sweeping the nation for the last few years. Chances are, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ve even checked out one (or many) of the specialty cupcake shops opening in cities around the country. I’m not sure how you feel about all of this, but I’m definitely a fan. To me, cupcakes are adorable, conveniently wrapped, individual servings of sugary nostalgia.

It used to be that my definition of a cupcake was plain cake topped with plain frosting – and maybe some sprinkles to make it fancy. While that definition still works, the new specialty cupcake shops have upped the ante when it comes to describing the perfect cupcake. Exotic flavors, unusual fillings, and artful decorations are becoming more and more common in the cupcake world.

After having sampled my fair share of gourmet store-bought cupcakes, I have begun to create my own at home. I’ve already told you about my forays into the fancy cupcake world with chocolate peanut butter truffle cupcakes and black bottom cupcakes. I also have a whole file of cupcake recipes just waiting to be baked, but I’m trying to pace myself… you know, so I live long enough to try them all.

Last weekend, in honor of my friend’s birthday, I decided to try one of the more elaborate cupcake recipes in my “to bake” file. I presented my friend with four different options, and let her choose her sugary pleasure. Much to my delight, she chose a recent addition to my list – chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. That’s right. Chocolate Chip. Cookie Dough. Cupcakes. Go ahead and wipe the drool off your keyboard… I’ll wait.

You should not, however, wait to try these cupcakes. Imagine rich, brown sugar-chocolate chip cake. Filled with egg-less (i.e. safe to eat) chocolate chip cookie dough. Topped with cookie dough butter cream frosting and mini chocolate chips. These cupcakes are a cookie dough lover’s dream.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you these cupcakes do take awhile to make. They have several steps, but each of them is pretty simple. If you’re anything like me, you’ll make a huge mess in your kitchen, but it will be worth it when you see the finished cupcakes. They are cute to look at and taste incredible. Hopefully your friends will like them as much as mine did.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Green Bean Salad

Different seasons evoke different feelings for different people. The seasons also tend to dictate the foods we crave. In the fall, I like nothing better than fresh, crisp apples or spicy pumpkin pie. In the winter, hearty soups and stews reign supreme in our kitchen. Spring means sweet strawberries. And summer, summer means salad.

This green bean salad is one of my absolute warm weather favorites. Crisp, crunchy green beans are tossed with juicy, red tomatoes and slivers of fresh red onion. The dressing is simply olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Since there is no mayonnaise or dairy in the salad, it is a perfect choice for picnics and summer barbecues. I can guarantee you we’ll be digging in to this salad all summer long.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Mexican food is a frequent guest at our dinner table. As I’ve told you before, we are big fans of the flavors, textures, and colors of Mexican cuisine. I think Stan likes Mexican food even more than I do, which is ironic because he is Russian and did not grow up eating anything resembling the Mexican food he is so fond of today. Since I like making food that makes Stan happy, I’m always keeping an eye out for new Mexican recipes. Or at least Mexican-style … not everything is that authentic.

Last week I came across this recipe for chicken enchiladas. The recipe was posted on the same blog where I found the fantastic creamy shrimp enchiladas recipe I made several months ago, so I suspected these enchiladas would be similarly delicious. Happily, I was right. The filling for these enchiladas is made up of chicken and black beans mixed together with cream cheese and diced green chiles. I was afraid the chiles would make the filling too spicy, but the heat was nicely tempered by the cream cheese. At the same time, the chiles keep the cream cheese from making the filling too tangy. The creamy green chile sauce that tops the enchiladas is, in a word, awesome. Rich, creamy, and nicely spiced without being spicy. I might have licked the spoon.

These enchiladas have a few steps to them, but they are all easy ones. If you have a little time, they make a special weeknight dinner. They also would be excellent for entertaining. I suspect you could make them ahead of time and just pop them in the oven before your guests arrive. If you try making them in advance, let me know how they turn out. I’m always looking recipes that won’t leave me sweating in the kitchen when my guests arrive!


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