Monday, May 26, 2014

Kale and Arugula Salad with a Red Wine Vinaigrette

I kind of created this salad by accident.  Jake was working late and the kids and I were going to  my friend Natalie's house for dinner.  I wanted to bring a salad but I knew I wouldn't have time to go to the  grocery store that day, so whatever I had in the fridge was going to have to work.  I had kale and arugula but I wasn't exactly sure what other veggies I had.  When I got home and started to poke around the fridge, I discovered grape tomatoes and cucumbers.  I had the ingredients for salad dressing, but I wanted to add one more ingredient and I thought walnuts would do the trick.  I saw the goat cheese last minute and threw that in as well.  It actually did this really delicious emulsifying thing when the salad was mixed and each bite ended up having a perfectly subtle taste of goat cheese.  I added fennel (one of my favorite veggies - fenouil en français) the next time I made the salad and decided that it complimented it perfectly.  If you need a nut free version try substituting the walnuts with golden raisins or dried sour cherries.  The same goes for dairy free - just omit the goat cheese.  I know kale is really popular right now and you see it in so many recipes but I love it and can't get enough of it.  The kind that I prefer is called Lacinato Kale or Dino Kale.  It can even be called Tuscan Kale and had a long tradition in Italian cuisine.  I find it a bit softer and more delicate than curly kale and it's so tasty.  Arugula is my favorite green and the two pair really well together.  The dressing that I use for this salad is so easy and very basic.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, never buy salad dressing!  Making your own is cheaper, fresher, and better tasting.  It just takes a few minutes and it lasts in the fridge for 7-10 days.  Enjoy this salad.  It makes a perfect lunch or light dinner and its so healthy.  Sometimes accidents were meant to happen ;)    

Ready to serve!

You want to make sure that you wash your kale really well.  You'll also want to remove the tough stem in the middle. I think it's easiest to take a knife and just cut down both sides of the stem.  Make sure your knife is sharp and the cutting surface is stable.  One last thing…once the kale is de-stemed and chopped, take a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and massage it into the kale.  Kind of like you would do if you were making kale chips.  This really softens it up and makes it even tastier!

I love tomatoes…they are gorgeous!

La Recette:

4 cups kale, washed, de-stemed and roughly chopped
2 cups arugula, washed and dried well
1 1/4 cups English cucumber quartered
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup fennel, cut very thinly or shaved on a mandolin

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, (Trader Joe's has a delicious one)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
*This dressing is doubled.  You will only use about half on the salad.  I always make extra because I can use it as a marinade or for other salads during the week.  You can cut the dressing recipe in half if needed.

1 - large salad bowl
1 - medium bowl
1 - chef's knife
1 - cutting board
1 - strainer
Measuring cups and spoons
Mandolin (optional)
Salad tongs

-Wash and dry all of the greens well.  Roughly chop the kale and using a little olive oil, massage it into the kale to tenderize it.
-Prep the cucumber, tomatoes and fennel.  Set aside on the cutting board.
-Toast the walnuts.  I use a toaster oven and I toast them on medium high for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.  Once they have cooled, give them a rough chop.    
-Next, prepare the dressing.  In the medium bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously for about 20 seconds.  
-Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing into the bottom of the salad bowl (you should have an additional 1/2 cup for another use).  Next, place the greens in the bowl, followed by the cucumber, tomatoes, fennel and walnuts.  Add the goat cheese in last.  
-Refrigerate the salad or serve immediately.  Toss well, making sure you turn up all of the dressing on the bottom of the bowl.  

-Serves  4

Monday, May 19, 2014

Cherry Chocolate Granola

Quite simply, this granola is awesome and to answer your first question - no, it's not healthy;)  It's addictively delicious though and it makes a fabulous treat.  And, if you break down the nutrition profile, it's probably much healthier than you think and a better choice than other desserts or snacks.  It's so tasty on ice cream, in yogurt, with milk or just plain.  Another great thing about this granola is that it's vegan and although I use peanut butter, you can easily replace it with sunbutter (a peanut butter alternative made from sunflower seeds) making it nut free as well.  Usually granola contains nuts but instead of using nuts, I replaced them with banana chips to give it that good crunch.  Also, the sour cherries give it the perfect amount of tart sweetness.  Mason and Gabby love this - it makes a great little snack and it can be prepared in less than an hour.  I love easy and delicious!  

Combine the rolled oats, banana chips, dried sour cherries, dark chocolate chunks, cinnamon and salt in a medium sized bowl.

Mix with peanut butter or sunbutter mixture and spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

La Recette:

3 cups gluten free rolled oats (if you don't need GF oats, regular oats work too) - I use Bob's Red Mill
1 cup dark chocolate chunks - I  use the Enjoy Life brand for this recipe
1 cup dried sour cherries
1 cup banana chips - roughly chopped
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter or sunbutter - if you use peanut butter buy unsweetened 
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 small saucepan
1 medium bowl
1 sheet tray 
Parchment paper
1 spatula
1 wooden spoon
Measuring cups
1 teaspoon
Chef's knife

-Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
-In a medium sized bowl, combine the rolled oats, chocolate chunks, sour cherries, banana chips, salt and cinnamon.  Mix well and set aside.
-In a small saucepan combine the peanut butter or sun butter, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, water and vanilla.  Simmer on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring well until everything is combined.
-Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet tray
-Let the peanut butter/sunbutter mixture cool for 10 minutes.  Mix well and pour it into the rolled oats.  
-Mix the rolled oats really well making sure there are no dry spots and the peanut butter / sunbutter mixture is evenly distributed.
-Dump the rolled oats on the sheet tray and spread out evenly.
-Place the sheet tray on the middle rack in the oven, and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Mix the granola twice in the oven to prevent any pieces from getting too dark.
-Remove from the oven and let the granola cool for about 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

*Serves 4-6.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Linguine with Peas, Prosciutto, and Porcini Mushrooms

I  love pasta.  Was it Sophia Loren who said: "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti."  I could eat it everyday of the week.   I try not to…for a few different reasons, but when I create a new pasta recipe I really try to pack a punch.  This dish was a knock out and the best part was that Mason and Gabby ate mushrooms!  I always have a certain level of gratification when my kids eat something new.  This is a great weeknight dinner and I usually serve it on it's own or with a small side salad.  And I prefer to enjoy it with a glass of red wine:)  Our weeknights are getting a little busy.  Mason has baseball and other various activities.  I love a quick and delicious dinner on these hectic spring nights.  Also, I try to push the flavor profiles that Mason and Gabby usually eat.  The combination in this meal works really well.  Another great thing is this pasta is very easy to make vegan.  I use earth balance instead of butter and leave out the prosciutto and parmesan.  Next time you are making pasta, try this recipe…you'll love it!  Enjoy!

La Recette:

12 oz. Linguine or any pasta of preference works.  I love BioNaturae gluten free Linguine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup yellow onion finely chopped
6-8 oz. dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated and water reserved
1/4 lb. prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces (roughly)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup parmesan, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for the pasta water

Medium bowl
Medium sized sauce pan
Large sauce pan
1/2 teaspoon
Chefs knife
Slotted spoon
Wooden spoon

-Place the mushrooms with 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan, simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain the mushroom water into a bowl and reserve the water (you should have about 1 cup).  
-Rinse off the mushrooms and set aside.  If there are mushroom pieces that are really big, you can cut them in half.
-In a medium saucepan, on medium high heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.
-Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Next, add the onions and cook until slightly browned.
-In the meantime, using the large saucepan, bring a pot of water to boil.  
-While you are waiting for the water to boil, add the peas, porcini mushrooms, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
-Next, add the prosciutto and sauté until slightly browed, 2-3 minutes.  When the prosciutto is slightly browned, add in the mushroom water.  Cook until the water is reduced by half.
-The pasta water should be boiling now.  Add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Add in the Linguine.  *I find that with gluten free Linguine and Spaghetti, you really need to baby sit it.  Stirring almost constantly so that the pasta does not stick.  Also, make sure that your pot is large enough.
-Cook the pasta until al-dente and before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
-Dump the porcini mixture into the pasta and mix well.  Add in 1/2 cup of the pasta water and mix well.  Add in extra pasta water 1-2 tablespoon at a time if the pasta looks dry. 
-Mix in the Parmesan and serve warm.
-Garnish with chives and parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

*Serves 4

I buy a quarter pound of prosciutto sliced thinly. 

Mason and Gabby making silly pasta faces ;)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fried Baby Artichokes with a Thyme Yogurt Sauce

I love summer entertaining and if you're going to make one hors d'oeuvre this summer - make this one!  It screams summer to me.  Picture yourself with a drink in hand - maybe a vodka lemonade, it's dusk - just before dinner time, there is a slight breeze and the kids are playing in the back yard.  The Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra is playing in the background, a few friends are over and everyone is munching on these scrumptious morsels.  Perfect summer night.  I happen to love artichokes and their nutty, earthy flavor works so well with the cool, lemony yogurt dipping sauce.  A sprinkle of sea salt adds just the right touch.  For some reason, I remember summer nights so well.  Mason is getting older now and it's so much fun to watch him play sports in the backyard and so cute to watch little Gabby trying to keep up with him.  Having friends over and good food to enjoy an evening is the best.  This recipe is very simple.  It is inspired by The Barefoot Contessa - my all time favorite.  When I have a moment sometimes I sit and imagine we are friends - don't laugh, she is the best cook/ baker/ entertainer of all time;)  The only downside is that sometimes it's hard to find baby artichokes.  But, when you find them, buy a bunch and hoard them.  I am currently planning my summer garden.  I am a novice but I wonder if artichokes are hard to grow?  I'll have to do some research, and I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, try to buy some in the store and make this delicious treat.  Here's to great summer nights with family and friends!

La Recette:

12 baby artichokes washed, trimmed, and cut in half (see pictures below)
1 -1/2 cup (or until artichokes are covered half way) Canola Oil
7 oz plain greek yogurt like 2% FAGE - my favorite
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (zest before cutting and squeezing)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme - removed from stems and finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chives - finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sea salt for garnish 

Cutting board
Chefs knife
Parchment paper
Paper towel
Medium sized sauce pan
Slotted spoon
1/2, 1/3 measuring cups
Medium bowl
1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon
Rasp or microplane zester

-Place 1/2 cup of oil into a medium sized sauce pan and turn the heat to medium high.  Just eyeball it and make sure the artichokes will be covered halfway.
-Make sure the oil is very hot ( I usually heat about 2 minutes before starting) and being very careful, place the artichokes flat side down into the oil and cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.  
-When one side is done, using tongs, flip to the other side and cook until golden brown as well.
-Using a slotted spoon, remove the artichokes and let them drain on paper towels
-In the meantime, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, chives, kosher salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix until everything is well incorporated.  Place in a small serving bowl.
-Place a piece of parchment paper on a serving platter, transfer the artichokes to the platter and while they are still warm, sprinkle with sea salt.
*Helpful hint - have everything mised out before you start.  Referring to mise en place, meaning- to put in place.  See my quick kitchen tips.  What I mean is to have everything chopped, ready, and measured out before you start the artichokes.  It makes everything easier. 

Baby artichokes look just like the big ones…just cuter :)

Cut off the top but still leave a little bit of the stem in place.

Peel back all of the outer leaves.

Remove all of the outer leaves until the artichoke looks something like this.

Cut the artichoke in half.

Cover the artichokes halfway full with Canola oil.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes/side. 

Enjoy.  Yum!

And for a short fashion break, I love this dress.  The cut is amazing…everything about it is gorgeous.  Emma Stone is beautiful and I think I prefer it with the black pumps she is wearing but I would happily wear it with the knee high python boots.  The entire look = perfection.      

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