Monday, July 11, 2016

Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken

This dinner is so simple and so perfect for those hot and humid summer nights.  I really can't think of a dinner that I crave more right now.  It's light, healthy and really versatile.  You can really change it up to suit your needs.  If you need it to be vegan, leave out the feta and chicken.  If you're looking for vegetarian, swap the chicken for shrimp or salmon.  If you don't like onions, just leave them out.  I think the dressing makes this salad really delicious so you can add in or take out anything you like.  It's also very quick.  I can have this dinner on the table in 30-40 minutes start to finish.  My kids really like it, although they will pick around the tomatoes and onions.  If I pair this salad with one of my favorite Albariños, their whining about the tomatoes and onions becomes tolerable!  I recommend eating this salad al fresco and definitely with a glass of white wine.   Enjoy this light summer dinner!  

I like to eat this salad with Pita too and a sprinkle of Za'atar seasoning for an extra tasty Mediterranean kick. 

It's helpful to scrape out the cucumbers.  Sometimes the seeds can make the salad too watery.

I like the cut the Feta into small cubes.  Thinly slice the red onion, leave the pitted olives whole and half the tomatoes.  The cucumbers can be cut into 1/4 inch half rounds.  

I like the chicken to be really tender so I try to marinate it over night.  If you forget, marinating for a few hours will work too.  I also try and pound it really flat so it only takes about 5 minutes per side to grill.  

Here are some of the brands that I really like.

La Recette:

2 lbs organic chicken breasts, pounded thin to about 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large English cucumber, halved the long way and seeds scraped, cut into half rounds
3/4 cup Feta cheese, cubed
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Peperoncini peppers for garnish -add as many as you like

For the dressing-
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon of maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pita* and Za'atar - optional
-Za'atar is a spice blend generally made up of Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Sesame Seeds, salt, and Sumac.

Chef's knife
Cutting board (I like to use two - one for veggies and one for chicken)
Measuring cups and spoons 
Microplane - optional
Meat tenderizer 
Plastic bag
Baking dish
Large serving dish
Medium bowl

-Preferably the night before, place the chicken in a large plastic bag (Ziploc style) and pound the chicken to about a 1/4 inch thick.  The link below with show how I flatten the chicken and what tools I use.
Dump in the 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper, olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar.  Make sure it's sealed and shake the bag for about 30 seconds.  Pour the chicken into the baking dish and let it sit covered in the fridge over night or for a least 2 hours.
-After the chicken has marinaded, take it out of the fridge and prepare the grill.  If grilling isn't convenient, you can bake the chicken as well.  Make sure your grill is hot.  I spray my grill with an organic canola oil and grill about five minutes per side.  Remove the chicken from the grill and set on a cutting board.  Let it cool for 10 minutes and thinly slice.
-In the meantime, layer all the veggies in your serving platter/bowl.  Start with the romaine, then cucumbers, feta, olives, tomatoes, onions, chicken and garnish with the Peperoncini.
-For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients into the medium bowl.  Whisk vigorously for 15-20 seconds.  The dressing lasts in the fridge for about a week.  I love homemade salad dressing.  

-This serves 3-4 adults.

*The gluten free pita that I like to use is called My Bread.  I always find it at Whole Foods.  It is delicious.  Hopefully soon I will start experimenting with making my own GF pita.  

Gorgeous head of Romaine!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Banana Smoothie

I have a confession to make.  I can't stand lunch.  As far as the three meals go...lunch is by far my least favorite.  Unless I'm in the south of France drinking a nice rosé with some oysters on the side - I'm not interested in lunch.  Unfortunately, I don't frequent the Côte d'Azur very often (meaning never) and usually I make a meal out of my daughters grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly crusts.  Which surprisingly isn't as bad as it sounds but there isn't much nutritional value there.  I need something that is quick, tasty and nutritious.  This little smoothie is a great combination.  It has your good fat, protein, and fruit.  It's quick and delicious...I just might become a lunch person.  Next up, I'll invent a rosé smoothie!  Enjoy and I'm sure your kiddos are going to want some sips of your smoothie too!  

All of the ingredients you need for the smoothie minus the cocoa powder and the ice.  Super easy.  

La Recette:

1 frozen banana
1/2 cup organic vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup ice
2 tablespoons organic creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Blender, food processor, or Vitamix
Measuring cups and spoons

-Combine all ingredients in the Vitamix except for the ice, blend until smooth.
-Next, add in the ice and blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

*Makes one serving.  Double or triple recipe to make more.
**One serving is 375 calories

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Linzer Cookies

I LOVE Valentine's Day and these Linzer Cookies are a perfect treat.  They require just a few ingredients and it's a great project to do with your kids.  They are egg free and can easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with Earth Balance Vegan Sticks.  If you are using butter I recommend using a European style of butter which contains more butterfat.  I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe.  I love this women.  She has inspired so many of my recipes.  Because I have watched a countless amount of her shows and made a ton of her recipes, she really gave me the courage to start gluten free cooking and baking.  I hope I can meet her one day.  It would be a dream come true.  Anyways, it's a super simple recipe and I think it makes a fantastic Valentine's dessert.  Both my kids claimed to not like raspberry preserves but gobbled them up after they were made.  If your kids really don't like preserves, you can use Nutella or chocolate.  You can use a heart shaped cookie cutter or a round cookie cutter.  If you don't have either, you can use a drinking glass as a round cookie cutter.  I cut the small heart in the center free hand just using a paring knife.  I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with love and enjoy these cookies! 

As always with gluten free dough, make sure it's really cold and I use a spatula to help pick up the shapes after they are cut.  

You can use any shape you like.  I personally like the heart shape with the fluted edges.

La Recette:

-3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature (substitute Earth Balance for vegan version)
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-3 1/2 cups gluten free baking mix (if you don't need gf sub AP* flour)
-1/4 salt
-3/4 cup raspberry preserves (I really like Bonne Maman)
-Confectioners' sugar for dusting

-Electric mixer or large bowl with mixing spoons
-Medium sized bowl
-Measuring spoons and cups
-Rolling pin
-Parchment paper
-Plastic wrap
-Baking sheets
-Cookie cutter of your choosing
-Paring knife
-Small fine mesh strainer for dusting

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar until just combined.
-Next, add in the vanilla.
-In a medium bowl, mix the gluten free baking mix and salt together.  Then add the mix to the butter and sugar mixture.
-Mix on low until the dough starts to come together.
-Spread two pieces of plastic wrap onto the counter.  Dump the dough onto the plastic wrap and divide equally.   Shape both into a flat disks.  Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  
-When you are ready to roll the dough, place parchment paper on the counter.  Unwrap the dough disks and put onto the parchment.  Roll one disk out at a time.  Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough.  Let the dough sit for 5 minutes at room temp.  Gluten free dough is very delicate.  It will look like it's cracking at the edges but roll it out slowly and you'll get to the desired thickness.  You'll roll out the dough between to two pieces of paper - much easier with gluten free.
-Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Using the cookie cutter, cut out the shapes and place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   Space them about 2 inches apart.  On half of the cookies cut out a smaller heart shape. 
-Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes.  
-Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies brown slightly.
-Cool to room temperature and spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie.
-Dust the top of the cut out cookie with confectioners' sugar.  
-Press the cookies together so the preserves are in the middle and the confectioners' sugar is on top.

*All purpose
**It depends on your cookie cutter size, but my medium (2-2.5 inch diameter) heart cutter makes 20-24 cookies. 
***Once you cut out the cookie shapes, you can gather the dough scraps and re-roll the dough.  Only do this once and it may need to be refrigerated again before rolling.  

-If you need some Valentine song suggestions, try adding these to your playlist.  Some of my favorites and fun to listen to while you're baking ;)

1.  Sugar, Maroon 5
2.  Juntos, Juanes
3.  Chet Baker, Vanessa Paradis
4.  My Funny Valentine, Chaka Khan
5.  I Walk the Line, Johnny Cash

One of my funny Valentines...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Linguine with Avocado Sauce

I've been on a very long hiatus but I think you'll really enjoy this dish.  It's such a great way to get on a healthy eating kick because this pasta is very decadent but full of all the good fats and none of the bad.  It's super quick and convenient when you need to get your kids to eat some greens.  Most kids love avocado, but mine just eat it occasionally.  So, when they were happily eating this dinner without complaining and even commenting on how much they liked it (gasp), I wanted to get up and dance on the table.  Cooking for your kids can feel unrewarding at times.  There is a lot of complaining, especially when you are trying to get them to eat something healthy, and not a lot of appreciation.  This dinner, however, is a real winner.  It can be made vegan by omitting the cheese and I can't think of a dinner that is so delicious and so easy.  You can definitely have this meal done in less than thirty minutes.  The scallions and lemon give it an extra tasty zing.  It takes less than ten ingredients, many of which you might already have in your fridge.  Please put this meal in your line up when you are looking for something new.   My posts will now be coming on a more regular basis so get ready to make some delicious meals, snacks and desserts!

Pictured above are all of the ingredients you'll need for this recipe!

La Recette:

-12 oz. linguini (I love Bionaturae's gluten free pasta)
-2 avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
-1 garlic clove smashed
-3 scallions roughly chopped 
-zest and juice of 1 lemon
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon of kosher salt 
-1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 cup of chopped Italian Parsley
-1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded (optional)

-blender, food processor, or Vitamix
-chef's knife
-cutting board
-zester or microplane
-measuring cups and spoons
-stock pot (for the pasta)

-Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta until al dente. 
-In the meantime, combine the avocado, garlic, scallions, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper into the blender.  Blend until creamy.
-When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Then drain the pasta.  Add the reserved pasta water to the avocado sauce and blend until smooth.
-Add the avocado sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat.
-Plate the pasta and garnish with the parsley and cheese (optional).    

*Serves 4

I can't help but share my absolute favorite dress from the SAG Awards on Saturday night.    Alicia Vikander is wearing such a stunning geometric print and sequined gown from Louis Vuitton.  In my opinion, she is by far the best dressed of the night.  She looks perfect.

Photo credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Monday, June 29, 2015

Shrimp Cakes with Lemon Aioli

These delicious little shrimp cakes are a classic go to for an easy breezy summer dinner.  Served with some rice and sugar snap peas - you have yourself a perfect summer night.  I love this recipe because of it's simplicity and quickness.  My husband and kids love them because of their mouth watering taste - they are really so good!  They're dairy free but do contain egg.  If you aren't a fan of shrimp or for a kosher version, try dicing 16 ounces of salmon and use the same technique and ingredients.  Also, I'm sorry for not getting a post up sooner.  It's been busy over here but I promise to try to post more frequently.  I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful start to summer.  

La Recette:

1.5 lbs. shrimp chopped - buy the shrimp peeled and deveined if you want to save a little time.
1 cup gluten free bread crumbs *
3 eggs
2 scallions - chopped
1/2 cup corn - frozen or fresh
1/4 cup cilantro or Italian parsley - chopped plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup canola oil - plus a lithe extra if needed
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Lemon Aioli-
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 teaspoon garlic - minced
1 tablespoon tabasco sauce (you can reduce this if you don't like a lot of spice)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Cutting board
Chef's knife
Large bowl
2 -medium bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Rasp or zester
Sautè pan
Large plate or platter lined with paper towel.

-Combine the shrimp, bread crumbs, scallions, corn, cilantro (or Italian parsley), lemon juice and zest, paprika, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and cayenne pepper into a large bowl.  Mix well.
-Crack the eggs into one of the medium bowls and whisk well.  Pour over the shrimp combination and mix until everything is combined.
-Pour 1/4 cup of canola oil into the sauté pan and heat until very hot.  You should hear the shrimp cakes sizzle when they are put into the pan.  Using 1/4 to 1/3 cup, scoop out the shrimp mixture and form into patties.  You can really make any size you would like, but this size make about 16 cakes.  Place them onto the sauté pan and cook for about 3 minutes/side.  Pay attention to the heat - you might need to turn it down a little once the cakes go on.  
-Once the cakes are done, place them on a large plate or platter lined with paper towel so it can absorb any excess oil.  Repeat the process until all of the shrimp mixture has been used.  You might need to add a few more tablespoons of canola oil between batches if the pan starts to look a little dry.  
-For the ailoi, combine all of the ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well.  
-Have a your serving dishes ready.  Serve warm and enjoy!

-This dinner pairs well with La Caña 2013 Albariño or one of your favorite beers.
-Makes ~ 16 cakes.  Serves 4 adults.
-Both recipes can be doubled.

*I'm going to post a video about this to show how easy it is, but don't ever buy bread crumbs.  Grind up any leftover bread or ends that you have in a blender or food processor.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

White and Dark Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

These cookies are great and they are SO easy.  The different balance of tastes and textures really makes it a perfect bite.  You can make them so quickly, and they store easily in the fridge or freezer if you need to bake them off at a different time.  They are super tasty with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee.  So grab a bowl and a mixing spoon and get to work!  My kids and my husband really love these and I make them bigger than a traditional cookie, so it's a nice little snack.  Also, it's fairly easy to substitute ingredients.  If you have a nut allergy, just use raisins or dried cherries.  Earth Balance vegan sticks are always a great substitute for butter.  

La Recette:

2 1/4 cups (315 g) gluten free baking mix
1 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter*, room temperature
1 cup (140g) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (70g) granulated sugar
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla
1 cup (140g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (140g) mini white chocolate chips**
3/4 cup (105g) salted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

Measuring cups and spoons
1-medium bowl and a stand mixer or 1 large bowl
Mixing spoons
3 baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpat
Hand mixer (if you don't have a stand mixer)

-Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy, about 1 minute.
-Slowly add in the brown sugar.  Then add in the granulated sugar.  Beat until soft and creamy.  5-7 minutes.
-Next add in your eggs one at a time.  Then the vanilla and mix until everything is well incorporated.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl with a spatula halfway through to make sure everything throughly mixed.  
-In a medium bowl combine the gluten free baking mix, baking soda and sea salt.  Mix well. 
-Next add in the white and dark chocolate chips and the Macadamia nuts.  Mix well.  
-With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixer.  Mix until everything is well incorporated.  3-4 minutes.
-Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.  You can also freeze the dough for up to three months.  I recommend forming the balls of cookie dough and storing in an airtight container.  
-When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  I use a convection oven when I bake these cookies.  If you aren't using convection keep an eye on the cookies - the timing might need to be adjusted slightly.  
-Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out the dough and form it into balls.  Each ball is roughly 75 grams.  Leave about 2 inches in-between each dough ball and it's typically six cookies per baking sheet.
-Bake for 14 -15 minutes or until lightly browned.  
-Let them cool on the baking sheet.  Store in an airtight container for 5-6 days.
-Make about 18 cookies.  

*Try to use European style butter that has a higher butterfat percentage
**If you can't find mini white chocolate chips, regular sized white chocolate chips work fine.   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Brandy Old-Fashioned and Blinis with Smoked Salmon Stars and Caviar

I just made this cocktail and canapé duo last Sunday for my Oscars party.  The party really just consisted of me and I only watched about thirty minutes of the Oscars live because the kids were acting up…but regardless, I did have a drink and some tasty hors d'oeuvres.  Next year, I am going to have a real party!    I really loved this hors d'oeuvre though and I loved it paired with the Brandy Old Fashioned.  It's a great starter for any dinner or cocktail party.  I took a lot of photos, so I'll show you exactly how I did everything.  Definitely add this combination into your line up the next time your are throwing a fabulous fête!   

La Recette:

3/4 cup gluten free baking mix like Cup4Cup or Bob's Red Mill
1 extra large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup greek style plain yogurt - I use FAGE 2%
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
8-16 oz. Nova Lox - A quick lesson…real lox is the salt cured belly portion of the salmon and is never smoked.  Nova Lox is salt cured like lox but also cold smoked.  The name Nova lingers from when most New York salmon came from Nova Scotia.  And finally Gravlax is cured, unsmoked salmon with the addition of a lot of spices that usually include juniper berry, horseradish, pepper and aquavit.  
4 oz. crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons clives, chopped
1- 2oz. ish size jar caviar or roe
Dill for garnish
Brandy Old Fashioned- requires overnight macerating
1/2 cup sugar
3 oranges, 2 for zest and one for garnish
5 Maraschino cherries plus more for garnish
1/2 cup hot water
4 dashes Angostura bitters
8 oz. Brandy - Another quick lesson - this is a long post!  Brandy is a spirit the is produced by distilling wine and is typically taken as an after dinner drink.  Some of the most renowned varieties are Cognac and Armagnac produced in Southwestern France.  For the recipe I have used Courvoisier  which is a Cognac.  Another delicious variety of Cognac is D'ussé.  
Chilled club soda
Non stick pan
Medium mixing bowl, mixing spoon and measuring cups/spoons
Container with an easy pour rim
Star cookie cutter - optional
Chef's knife
Wooden or mother of pearl spoon
Cocktail shaker
Medium bowl
Chef's knife
Measuring cups
4 serving glasses
-In a medium sized bowl, combine the gluten free baking mix with the milk and mix well.  Add the egg, yogurt and salt.  Mix well until combined.  Put the batter into a container with an easy pour rim.  Over medium-high heat.  Pour the batter into one-inch rounds onto your All-Clad non-stick pan.  Cook until slightly browned. 2-3 minutes per side. 
-While the Blinis are cooking, start to cut out your Nova stars.  Place in plastic wrap until needed.  Next, combine the chives, 4 oz. of crème fraîche and 1/4 teaspoon or salt and pepper.  Mix well and refrigerate.  It will firm up a little in the fridge.  
-Prepare the dill sprigs.  Just a small amount.  Too much garnish looks like a tree.  
-This recipe makes 48-52 blinis.  You can cut the recipe in half or make them all and freeze half.  They should be served room temperature.
-Top the blini with 1/2 teaspoon of crème fraîche.  Next add the star.  About 1/8 teaspoon of caviar or roe.  And top with the dill.  Enjoy!
-Zest two oranges and combine them with 1/2 cup sugar in a medium sized bowl.  To zest the orange, cut off the peel and avoid the white pith which can be bitter.  Using your hands, mix the zest and sugar together until it resembles sand.  
-Let it sit for 4 hours at room temp.  Add in the 5 Maraschino cherries and refrigerate overnight.  
-After it has sat overnight, add 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Refrigerate again until cool and then strain. 
-Fill 4 cocktail glasses with ice.  
-In a cocktail shaker filled half way with ice, combine 8 oz. of Brandy, 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup and 4 dashes of bitters. Shake well and pour about each glass half way full.  Top each drink off with club soda and your garnish of choice and enjoy!  

This drink was so tasty.  Sweet but not overly sweet - it was really so delicious.  It reminded me of old Hollywood glamour.  I just bought these glasses from Tiffany & Co. as a Valentine's gift for Jake along with some Johnnie Walker Blue.  I love the look of them!  This recipe comes from Food and Wine:

I thought the stars were perfect for an Oscars party but it's not necessary.  You can just simply cut a small piece of Nova.

For the simple syrup for the drink, take the zest of two oranges and rub in 1/2 cup of sugar until it looks like sand and let if sit for 4 hours.  Then add in 5 Maraschino cherries and refrigerate it overnight.  

Next, add in 1/2 cup of boiling water and refrigerate until cool.  Then strain.  You'll have a lot of the simple syrup left over for other drinks.

To make the Blinis, just pour the batter into 1-inch diameter circles on a non-stick pan.  I have the All-Clad non-stick omelet pan and I love it.  I use it all of the time.  

To make the Nova stars, just get a star cutter cookie that is about 1-inch in diameter.

Vermont Creamery is my favorite brand of crème fraîche.  The chives should be a small chop.

I LOVE caviar and roe and you can use any style that you like.  I particularly like this brand that is infused with truffle.  And surprise - it's under $20.  There are definitely more superior versions that you can buy like sturgeon or golden caviar but I think this tastes great and serves it's purpose for this recipe.  Also, it's important to note that over fishing of the Caspian Sea has greatly depleted the sturgeon population.  Consider buying caviar and roe from more abundant species until the Caspian Sea sturgeon can re-populate.   For example, Beluga caviar comes from the Beluga Sturgeon found primarily in the Caspian Sea.  It's about $250 for 2 ounces.  It's absolutely delicious but probably best to leave that one alone for now.  It's better for your wallet and the environment.  Another option would be the Hackleback Sturgeon Caviar.  It's an American caviar derived from the mid-west.  It's about $70 or 2 ounces.  

When serving caviar you should you a mother of pearl spoon or a small wooden spoon.  Some metals may affect the flavor of the caviar.

This is a little late, but because this is an Oscars themed post, I have to share my two absolute favorite  dresses of the night.  Rosamund Pike on the left in Givenchy and Julianne Moore in Chanel both look incredible.  Julianne Moore always makes the most perfect dress choices.  She is beyond stunning.  Rosamund Pike's Givenchy suits her perfectly.  What a bombshell.  I love watching the Oscars for the red carpet dresses.  They are amazing.  

*This recipe makes 48-52 blinis and the drink serves 4 people.  The recipes can be doubled or halved.  

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