Fall Fun

It certainly has been a while. Oops! Summer somehow came and went in a blink of an eye. In that time, I managed to do a good amount of cooking and not write about it. I’ll have to take the time to post a summer recap.

As for this past weekend, fall has come upon us and a few friends and myself decided to take advantage. We drove about 45 minutes outside of DC to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD to go apple picking! The day was absolutely gorgeous.

There were endless rows of Sun Crisp, Fuji, and Cameo apples that we wandered through and filled our baskets with. At one point we found a ladder, which meant access to the untouched apples on top of the trees! And beautiful pictures like this:

We even found the perfect teacher apple!

I ended up with a beautiful bounty of 16 lbs of mixed apples, 2 butternut squash, and a box of the most delicious yellow grape tomatoes I’ve ever tasted (I had to stop my friends from eating them all in the car- they were that good!).

That night I wanted something easy for dinner, so I threw the tomatoes into a frying pan and added in some red grape tomatoes from the grocery (not nearly as flavorful as the farm-fresh ones).

This was a simple saute with olive oil, sprinkled with dried basil and ground black pepper, and finished off with some minced garlic. I topped some spaghetti with the colorful fresh tomato ‘sauce’ and chowed down. It was delicious!

I hope everyone has the chance to go apple picking at some point this season! All the produce was fresh and fantastic. Expect a lot of apple recipes to come!

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Greek Chicken Salad

Easy, but still delicious, dinners are the best. Last night was one of those nights where I was hungry coming home from work, but not in the mood to make a huge meal. Additionally, I had a rotisserie chicken left over from the day before that I wanted to use up. Solution? Clean all the meat off the chicken, and create something tasty with ingredients already in my pantry! If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you Mediterranean is by far my favorite genre of food. This means I always have staple ingredients such as Greek yogurt, feta, or olives in the house (this recipe could’ve used some kalamata olives but I was out!). Therefore, my rotisserie chicken was transformed into my version of Greek chicken salad!

Greek Chicken Salad:

3 tablespoons EVOO

Juice of half a lemon

Kosher salt and pepper

Leftover chicken meat from rotisserie chicken (I had everything left but the breasts and drumsticks), in chunks or shredded

2 mini cucumbers, very thinly sliced into half-moons

1/2 a small Vidalia onion

2 tablespoons of dill

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (you may need more)

Block of feta cut into chunks

Pita pockets

Arugula for garnish

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Fold in the chicken, cucumbers, onion, dill, and yogurt. Taste and adjust seasonings and add yogurt if it is too dry. Cut pita pockets in half, stuff with shards of feta, then chicken salad. Top with arugula and enjoy!

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Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

Pizza…yum! I could go for some pizza right now. Then again, I could go for pizza anytime. You too? OK, good. This recipe is for you! Making pizza is easy, very fun, and yields fantastic results. You can put almost anything on a pizza, and for this pizza I was inspired by Jessica at How Sweet It Is. She crafted a red pepper pizza with a balsamic glaze, which I really wanted to try (she also used fancy cheese, but I am more of a classic mozzarella girl). I made this roasted red pepper pizza at the last wine night I hosted a while back. Admittedly, I attempted to make the balsamic glaze which did not work in my favor. Somewhat sadly I served my pizza sans glaze, but everyone still raved! It was the first time I used my new pizza pan and what a difference it made. The crust was evenly cooked and perfectly crispy throughout the whole pizza, no doughy spots in the middle. In the end I was very pleased with the results, as were my friends (they all wanted more!). This was a fun dish to serve because each person got one slice, which was a fun twist to serve as a side. Also note: I made my own dough which I think is worth the extra bit of work, but if you don’t feel like doing so most grocery stores sell balls of pre-made dough.

Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

makes one pizza

dough:

1/4 oz (1 packet) active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, combine yeast and warm water to activate the yeast. After a few minutes, add in flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix until just combined. Brush large bowl with olive oil, add dough, and cover with a damp towel. Let stand for about 2 hours.

pizza:

2 roasted red peppers, cut into strips (easy to do ahead of time)

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 jar of tomato sauce (put as much or as little as you like)

Block of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Handful of chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Once pizza dough is ready to go, roll/press into desired shape and brush the surface with olive oil and top with minced garlic. Spoon sauced onto dough, thinly layer mozzarella, then top with red peppers and basil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly.

*If you would like to try the balsamic glaze:

While pizza is baking, heat vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to come to a boil, then let simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes until reduced to about 1/3-1/2 cup. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes to thicken. When pizza is finished baking, drizzle glaze on top and serve.

Greek Quinoa Salad

I meant to post this recipe a while ago (2 months ago, in fact), but clearly life got in the way. Between work and friends and everything else, I have been so busy and have sadly neglected the blog a bit. However, I am back and have cooked a lot in the lapsed time! This means many posts to come. This recipe for Greek Quinoa Salad is the one I made when my girlfriends came over a few months ago for wine night. It is fresh and very herbsious, which I love. It has very fresh notes when you bite into a cucumber or tomato, and a nice tang from the calamatta olives. I highly recommend making a large batch of this: it is great to much on as a snack or bring for lunch throughout the week (and nothing is better than having lunch prepared a week in advanced when you work!).

Greek Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

2 Cucumbers, diced

1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

Scallions, diced

1 can chick peas

½ cup chopped calamatta olives or black olives

Handful of chopped fresh parsley

Handful of chopped fresh basil

Crumbled feta cheese

2 cup Quinoa

4 cups chicken broth

½ cup Olive oil

½ cup Red wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp cumin

1/8 tsp coriander

1/8 tsp turmeric

1/8 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Directions:

Mix all vegetables and herbs in a large bowl, set aside.

In a saucepan heat over medium/high a tablespoon of olive oil add the quinoa and a little bit of each of the spices (last 6 ingredients), sautee for about a minute and add the chicken broth and fresh lemon juice. Heat on high, when it comes to a boil, crack the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot (from this point, cook according to your quinoa box’s directions).

While it’s simmering whisk together 1/2 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of vinegar with salt and pepper (to taste). Pour the dressing over all of the vegetables and mix them together.

When the quinoa is done fluff it with a fork and let cool.

Mix the quinoa in with the vegetables.

To serve: top with the feta cheese

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Herb Crusted Sweet Potato Bites

Herb Crusted Sweet Potato Bites

(adapted from How Sweet It Is)

serves about 8

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into uniform rounds

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs*

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil*

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley*

1 teaspoon fresh thyme*

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed*

2 teaspoons finely grated parmesan cheese*

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a nonstick wire rack on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine panko, parsley, basil, thyme, parmesan, salt, pepper and garlic. Mix up with your hands to get everything combined.

If you like, peel the sweet potatoes (or not) and slice into rounds about 1/4 of an inch thick. Place in a larger bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then flip around your hands to make sure each piece is coated. Add in panko and herbs, tossing again with your hands and pressing lightly to adhere. Some will stick – some will not. Place potato rounds on the wire rack, and then sprinkle the remaining panko and herbs over the potatoes.

Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until crust is golden and sweet potatoes are soft. After making and serving the potatoes bites, I found that some thicker slices were a bit harder or still had a crunch to them (meaning they were not cooked all the way through). Though I did no try doing this, I think baking the slices of sweet potato for a few minutes before adding the herb and panko mixture would make them perfect. I recommend baking them before adding the mixture because the breadcrumbs crisp up just right in the normal baking time (and you don’t want them burned!).

*In regards to the amount of herbs and bread crumbs for the mixture: You can really play with the amount you use. I followed the recipe as a guideline, but because I was making for a larger crowed I added more as I went based on how much I wanted the sweet potato slices covered.


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Wednesday Wine Night

Earlier this year, a small group of my girlfriends decided we wanted a regular gathering every month or so. Thanks to Jordy, ‘Wednesday Wine Night’ began in the Fall! The idea is simple: every 4-6 weeks a different person in the group would have everyone over, serve wine, and prepare some offerings to snack on. Though I am allergic to wine, and we do not always meet on a Wednesday, this has been a great way to have a relaxing night with girlfriends. This past Monday the group came over to my apartment, which I took as an opportunity to try and wow everyone with my food. The menu consisted of:

  • Homemade sun-dried tomato hummus with veggies
  • Herb crusted sweet potato bites
  • Greek quinoa salad
  • Roasted red pepper pizza with a splash of balsamic
  • Lots and lots of wine & desserts

Thankfully, my wonderful friends loved the meal! I had been nervous about the pizza because it was the first time I used a real pizza pan, but the crust came out perfectly crisp. Everyone enjoyed the sweet potato bites because they were something tasty and different. One of the best compliments to the chef was when a few people asked for the recipes! Most importantly, everyone had a great time with each other chatting about life and nibbling the food.

For now, feast your eyes on some photos from the evening. Recipes to come individually!

Herb Crusted Sweet Potato Bites

Greek Quinoa Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Pizza

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Recipe Exchange: Chicken Sausage, White Bean, & Cabbage Soup

The other day while at work (before Christmas), I received an email with the subject line “Recipe Exchange”. I opened it and read:

Hi friends!

We are participating in a collective, constructive, and hopefully TASTY experiment. As such, you have been invited to be part of a recipe exchange concept. We hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would make this fun. Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don’t know him/her) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know in your head and can type right now. Don’t agonize over it, it is one you make when you are short of time.

After you’ve sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below and only to that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only my and your name should show when you send your email. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this within 5 days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. You should receive 36 recipes. It’s fun to see where they come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas. The turnaround is fast as there are only 2 names on the list and you only have to do it once.

1. xxx      2. xxx

Happy Holidays!

Naturally, I was very excited about this! I immediately responded with my Chocolate Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Cookies recipe which I felt was appropriate since 1. I had just made them the night before and 2. it was the holiday season. I proceded to forward the email to 20 friends and waited my turn to receive recipes in return. So far, I’ve gotten a few interesting ideas but have only made one: chicken sausage, white bean, and cabbage soup.

Chicken Sausage, White bean, and Cabbage Soup:

  • Olive oil
  • 12 ounces fully cooked andouille chicken sausages cut crosswise into bit sized pieces (about 4 sausages, I used portobello mushroom chicken sausage which added another layer of flavor)
  • 3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (about 1/2 large head or 1 whole small)
  • 3 leeks or 5 shallots thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (1/2 small can)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
Heat  olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage slices and saute until brown around edges, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage; cook 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Add olive oil to same pot and heat over medium heat. Add leeks or shallots and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, parsley, and rosemary and stir 1 minute. Add broth, sausage-cabbage mixture, and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 40 minutes.
This soup is very hearty and delicious. Simple and easy, this is a great dish to make ahead for dinner or lunches throughout the week. I was able to get about 8 servings (give or take on portion size) out of the recipe. I highly recommend trying this soup to warm up during the cold winter months!
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Christmas Dinner

It has become tradition in my house that I cook a Christmas Eve feast. For the past few years I’ve made a variation of the same meal. The main dishes on the menu this year were bruschetta, baked ham with cloves (I used a half butt), roasted garlic smashed potatoes, sauteed string beans with slivered almonds, and a sugar free key lime pie (my father is diabetic). And now, our eyes can feast:

Bruschetta

Roasted Garlic

Sauteed String Beans with Slivered Almonds

Baked Ham with Cloves

Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Slice of Sugar Free Key Lime Pie

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Chocolate Choco Chip Candy Cane Cookies

It has been far too long since I have posted. Life has certainly been busy these past few months. Since my last update on July 22, 2011 so much has happened. I got a job, joined a new sports league, made new friends, gone through a lot with old friends, settled into a new apartment, and started my post-college journey through life. All of this, and more, has swept me away from blogging (and sometimes cooking). Finding ways to balance all parts of my life has been somewhat of a challenge, but I believe I am starting to get the hang of it (more thoughts on this to come in a new years post). And so, here I am, finally taking the time to sit down and write about my beloved passion: cooking.

Seeing as todays date is December 23, it is fair to say we are in the midst of the holiday season. In some places it is getting cold (or if you’re in DC, its oddly warm) and everyone is bundling up. Twinkling lights adorn buildings and trees, and the warm-fuzzy-joyful holiday feeling fills your insides. Naturally, this means it is time for some holiday cookies. I decided to dive right in and make Chocolate Choco Chip Candy Cane cookies (gotta have the candy cane!).

CHOCOLATE CHOCO CHIP CANDY CANE COOKIES

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup softened butter

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Handful of chocolate chips

3 candy canes

Preheat oven to 350 F

Mix together all ingredients except chocolate chips and candy canes. Smash two candy canes, and fold in candy cane pieces and chocolate chips.

Place balls of batter on cookie sheet and sprinkle remaining candy cane pieces over the tops of each ball of batter.

Bake for 15 minutes.

This is by far one of the simplest cookie recipes I have ever made. And did I mention delicious? Actually, I thought they could have used a bit more peppermint flavor. I was discussing with a coworker and debated between adding more crushed candy cane or a few drops of peppermint oil. I believe either would do the trick. Nonetheless, these cookies were a huge success at the multiple holiday parties they made an appearance at.

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Summertime- and the Living Ain’t Always So Easy

Today when I logged on to Facebook, I was greeted by a status reading:

Want a cheap and easy way to do a good deed today? Buy some cold water and share it with people who can’t get indoors — those living or spending the day on the streets, at the parks, or in the alleys behind our houses and offices. Thanks to Sam Lehman for this great idea!

But seriously, how amazing is this idea? It is so simple, but could make such a difference in someone’s life. This summer has been a scorcher, especially here in Washington, DC (heat index of 116 degrees F RIGHT NOW!?). All of us lucky enough to be relaxing in our air-conditioned apartments, browsing the web (reading my blog, of course) need to be careful in this heat, but don’t have too much to worry about. But think about all those people in the world who do not have a cool place to take shelter, or no access to drinking water. Do a good deed and if you see one of those people, buy them a bottle of water.

I challenge all of you reading this to go out and buy a pack of water bottles and hand them out!

Also, please spread the word! The more people who hear this idea, the more people we can help in the streets. I would like to give a special thanks to my friend, Sam Lehman who sparked this all with a Facebook status. Check out his blog, Hungry Sam for more food thoughts.

(Photo credit: Urban Canteen)

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