Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beet, Orange & Quinoa Salad

I love salad.  But not your ordinary, garden variety, lettuce and tomato salad.  The kind with interesting ingredients and lots of flavors and textures going on.  Really, I think I would choose a fabulous salad over a big ol' piece of chocolate cake.  Well...maybe.....

When I do make salad, I like to find ways to add protein to it, just so it's a bit more satisfying.  I'm always adding nuts, cheese (of course), and sometimes grains, which can be a great source of protein, but also makes the salad a little more filling.  The quinoa in this salad adds protein, flavor and a great little crunch.  I like to use the tricolor quinoa as I feel it adds a little more flavor and crunch.

The secret to this salad...fresh roasted beets.  You can use canned, if you must.  A better choice would be the Love Beets that you find ready to go in the produce section of the supermarket.  But really, if you've never roasted a beet, you should.  The flavor is wonderful and earthy and just plain delicious. I'll roast a bunch (which is typically 2 or 3 beets) on the weekend, then I have them on hand to use during the week.  You'll be surprised just how far one bunch of roasted beets will go.

I've also used oranges in this recipe, but if you're short on time, you can used canned or jarred mandarin oranges packed in juice.  You can also top this salad with a little crumbled goat cheese, but if you're watching your calories (after all, summer is just around the corner)  skip the cheese or just use a small amount.

3 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups sliced, roasted beets
2 oranges, sectioned (reserve juice)
2 green onions, chopped
4 tablespoons reserved orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted if desired

Combine quinoa, beets, orange sections and green onion in a large bowl.

Combine reserved orange juice, vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour over quinoa mixture and stir gently until combined.

Serve salad over spinach and top with walnuts.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Smoked Gouda and Asparagus Flatbread

Move over pizza, there's a new flatbread in town!  When making pizza or flatbreads at home, there were limited options available if you didn't want to make your own crust.  And face it, who has time to make their own crust?! Basically, your choices, not that they were bad ones, were Boboli (ready to bake), Pillsbury (unroll and bake) or a store brand version.  But I like a little more variety in life so I'm happy to see some new players in the mix.   I recently discovered Brooklyn Bred Pizza Crusts. Rectangular in shape, rather than the tradition circle, makes them seem a bit more contemporary and less like your typical pizza.  I like the fact that there are 2 in a pack - use them both or freeze one for later.  With my empty nest, one crust is the perfect size for just the two of us.

This flatbread takes advantage of beautiful spring asparagus that's coming into season right now. The classic combo of honey and mustard gives the perfect savory base to this flatbread and enhances the smokiness of the Gouda.  And speaking of smoked Gouda...is there any better cheese on the planet? I don't think so!  Truly, one of my favorite cheeses (if i have to choose),  it makes almost any dish just a little more special.  And, with its intense flavor, a little goes a long way.

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

12 ounces asparagus spears, cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 prepared pizza crust or flatbread
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup grated Beemster Smoked

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange asparagus on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake 5 minutes or until tender crisp.

Combine honey and mustard and brush over crust.  Evenly top crust with asparagus and tomato then sprinkle with Beemster Smoked Gouda.

Place directly on baking rack and bake 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Tip:  To prepare asparagus: rinse the spears under cool water to remove any dirt or grit. Snap off the bottom inch or so using your fingers; the stems will naturally snap at the point of resistance where the tough woody part ends and the tender stem begins.  It's actually kind of fun, great job for kids who want to help out in the kitchen.

Brooklyn Bred Pizza crusts are available at most supermarkets and are a nice alternative to a traditional pizza crust

Thursday, April 13, 2017

White Cheddar, Bacon and Spinach Stuffed Baby Bellas

Your guests will never guess the secret ingredient in these stuffed Baby Bellas... It's White Cheddar Pirate's Booty...shhhhh, don't tell, it's our secret.  Crush up some Pirates Booty to add flavor, texture and crunch to this perfect party appetizer.  Cheddar flavor from the Booty pairs perfectly with bacon, garlic and spinach.  Stuffing the mixture into baby bellas makes this appetizer extra special.
recipe developed for Pirate's Booty

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Yield: 16 mushrooms

2 (8-ounce) packages baby bella mushrooms (about 16 mushrooms)
8 ounces bacon, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3 cups Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar, coarsely crushed

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove and finely chop mushroom stems only; reserve 1/2 cup.

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon. Add onion to drippings and cook 3 minutes or until softened. Add reserved mushroom stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and spinach and cook 2 minutes.

Reserve ¼ cup Pirate’s Booty; stir remaining Pirate’s Booty into spinach mixture.

Arrange mushroom caps on baking sheet; stuff with spinach mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Sprinkle with reserved Pirate's Booty and bake 2 minutes or until golden.

Tip:  For a great first course, stuff the spinach mixture into 4 large portobello mushroom caps and bake as above.

Baked Brie & Fig Spread in Puff Pastry

Want to add a little elegance to this year's' Easter menu?  Whether you're hosting brunch, lunch or dinner, or need to bring a dish with you, this elegant baked brie appetizer in puff pastry is sure to be a hit.   Not only does it taste amazing and look impressive, it's super easy to pull together.  

Delicious, gooey baked brie melts inside a shell of golden brown puff pastry. Fig spread adds just the right amount of sweetness and pecans give a little crunch.   Seriously, this recipe is so good, you may just want to put a slice on top of salad and call it dinner!

Be sure to leave enough prep time to thaw the puff pastry, so it's easy to roll.  If you're feeding a larger crowd  you can use a 10 to 12 ounce wheel of Brie.  Just roll the pastry out a little larger so it fits around the the Brie and increase the amount of fig spread and pecans.  The baking time will be the same.  You can bake this ahead of time and warm up slightly in the oven before serving.  Be sure it's not too hot when you serve it. The Brie should be slightly melty but not too runny.
Recipe developed for Dalmatia
Prep time: 
Cook time: 

1 egg 
1 tablespoon water 
all-purpose flour 
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed 
1/2 cup Dalmatia Fig Spread - Original or Dalmatia Fig Spread with Orange 
1/2 cup chopped pecans 
1 (7 oz.) Eiffel Tower Brie Cheese Round 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Beat egg and water in small bowl. Sprinkle flour on work surface. Unfold pastry sheet on work surface. Roll pastry into a 10-inch square. Spread Fig Spread in a 6-inch circle in center of pastry. Top with pecans.

Place Brie in center of pastry. Fold pastry up over Brie to cover, pressing gently to seal seams. Brush seams with egg mixture. Place seam-side down onto baking sheet. Brush pastry with egg mixture.

Bake 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand at least 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with crackers and fruit if desired.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Red Wine Oven Braised Short Ribs

It may be a little late in the season for slow cooked comfort food, but since winter just doesn't seem to want to disappear, I'm going to do all I can to make it bearable.  Wine and good food usually fit the bill.  Now don't let the long ingredient and cook time deter you from making these ribs.  This type of recipe is truly a labor of love in my eyes.  And really, all good things are worth waiting for, and these short ribs are definitely worth the wait.  They key to great short ribs, is making sure to get them nice and brown before they go into the oven.  All of the caramelization happening in the bottom of the pot adds to the rich, complex flavor of the dish.  Be sure to scrape up all of the brown bits when adding the wine. Once the short ribs go into the oven, you have a good 2 hours to relax by a fire, or shovel some snow, while the flavors do their magic in the oven.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Makes 8 servings

8 ounces bacon, chopped
5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs cut crosswise into 2" pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large sweet onions, chopped
5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine (preferably cabernet sauvignon)
4 cups beef stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
12 cloves garlic
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving bacon drippings. Toss short ribs with flour and season with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs in bacon drippings on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown. Add brown sugar and tomato paste and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in wine, scraping up all brown bits from the bottom of the pot, then add short ribs with any
accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer 25 minutes or until wine is reduced by half. Add stock, tomatoes with their juice, garlic, herbs and reserved bacon and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and transfer to oven.

Bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours until short ribs are very tender. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Remove herbs and bay leaf from sauce; spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard. Serve in shallow bowls over creamy polenta or mashed potatoes.