because what is life without good food?

Side dishes

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie “Noodles”

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie Noodles

Shhhh … they aren’t really “noodles” … they just look sort of like noodles. They don’t really taste like noodles either, but I love the noodley look of this colorful vegetable medley. The Pesto Rosso (a.k.a, sundried tomato pesto) really complements the sauteed veggies too, especially when you add some crumbles of cheese on top.

It was getting very close to bedtime last night when I realized I was hungry. I didn’t want to have a big, heavy meal right before bed, but I didn’t want my stomach waking me up in the middle of night either. So I decided at the last moment to cook up something light and healthy but filling enough to tide me over till morning. I’ve been toying with the idea of using zucchini and summer squash as noodles with sauce over top, but when I went to make it, I thought “why just zucchini? why not toss some other vegetables too?” … and so I did.

For me, this was a late night snack, but I could envision these lovelies as a beautiful bed for meat, fish or chicken. Can you imagine how appetizing that would look? Or you could eat them as is for a wonderfully healthy vegetarian dinner. If you want a heartier meal, toss them with some whole grain fettucine or linguine. The wonderful thing about eating vegetables for dinner is you can pretty much eat as many as you want without guilt or worry.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie Noodles

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie “Noodles”

This makes about enough for 1 hearty plateful or two side servings. Multiply if you have more mouths to feed!

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 of a small sweet onion
  • 1/3 of a large bell pepper (I used a yellow one)
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized zucchini (yielding a heaping cup or so of zucchini “noodles”)
  • 1 roma tomato
  • About 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used Basil and Terragon)
  • A splash of wine (or water)
  • About 1 Tablespoon Pesto Rosso (Sundried Tomato Pesto … recipe here)
  • About 1/2 Tablespoon white wine (or water)
  • To top: crumbled feta or queso fresco — or thin “shards” of freshly cut Parmesan & a cherry tomato or sprig of fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop the garlic finely and, in a small bowl, mix it with the olive oil. Set aside to allow the garlic to infuse into the oil while you chop up the vegies.
  2. Slice the vegies into thin noodle shapes. For the onion, slice it vertically and very thin. The zucchini: slice it in half, then slice each half into very thin slices. Cut the slices into noodle-sized strips. The tomato: cut it vertically, then slice like you did the zucchini. The bell pepper: just cut it into very thin strips.
  3. Now heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic with olive oil, onion and bell pepper and sautee until the onion is soft. Then add the zucchini and tomato and sautee until the zucchini “noodles” are tender. If the pan gets dry while you are cooking, add a splash of white wine (or water) to keep the vegies moist and tender and make sure they don’t stick to the pan.
  4. Mix the pesto rosso with a bit of white wine (or water) to thin it out, then toss it with the vegies.
  5. Top with crumbled cheese or shards of parmesan, garnish with a cherry tomato and/or fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Harvest Vegie "Noodles"

This recipe was shared at Tasty TuesdayWonderful Food WednesdayCast Party WednesdayFull Plate Thursday, Fit & Fabulous Friday, Weekend Potluck and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Tarragon Sunflower Roasted Vegetables

with breadcrumbs & aged Dubliner (or Asiago) cheese

Tarragon Sunflower Roasted Vegetables

The first time I made these scrumptious vegetables was an attempt to spruce up some of the excess vegies left over from the Blogiversary party. That time I used celery, carrots, cauliflower, onion and grape tomatoes and topped them with whole wheat breadcrumbs and Dubliner cheese. It was so good I gobbled them all up and still wanted more.

I decided I had to try this again with different vegetables. This time I used zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomato, and onion with Asiago cheese in place of the Dubliner. I think you could use any combination of vegetables that you have on hand, although I would recommend including both onion and tomato in the mix.

Tarragon Sunflower Roasted Vegetables

Tarragon Sunflower Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • About 4 cups of mixed, chopped vegetables (make sure you include some onion and tomato!)
  • About 3 Tablespoons of mixed fresh herbs (mostly tarragon! … I used tarragon with a bit of sage, dill, basil, thyme and oregano)
  • Red robin seasoning and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (whole wheat is good!)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Dubliner or Asiago cheese (or other sharp cheese such as Romano or Parmesan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

Directions:

  1. Mix the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and set aside while you are chopping up your vegies and herbs. Let the garlic hang out in the oil for at least 15 minutes so the oil gets a good infusion going on.
  2. Chop up your vegies into chunks, and your herbs into fine bits. In a mixing bowl, toss the vegies with the garlic-infused olive oil and the herbs.
  3. In a separate smaller bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the shredded cheese and Italian seasoning.
  4. Spray a 9×9 inch square pan with cooking spray and spread the oiled vegies out evenly in the pan. Top with the seasoned cheesy breadcrumb mixture and then sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 15 – 20 minutes or until the vegies are tender. Serve immediately as a side dish … your side dish may just steal the show! These vegies also make an awesome sandwich piled on a bun with a good cheese melted all over.

Tarragon Sunflower Roasted Vegetables

This recipe was shared at Scrumptious Sunday and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Rosemary Cucumber Barley Lentil Salad

Rosemary Cucumber Barley Lentil Salad

The idea of a chopped cucumber salad with rosemary popped into my head the other day. I had some cucumber I bought for my daughter, but she hasn’t shown much interest in eating them lately, so I decided to go ahead and use them up. I cooked up some barley and red lentils to go with it and they took over and outnumbered the cucumbers, but all in all, I was very pleased with the results. Barley is something I usually think of putting in soups, but I thought it would be fun to try it in a salad. It’s a very healthy grain, full of fiber.

Dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and seasoned with a little Moroccan seasoning and some cumin, it turned out to be quite a nice salad. Great for lunch or as a nice side dish to serve with fish or meat.

Rosemary Cucumber Barley Lentil Salad

  • 1/2 cup dry barley
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils (you can use any color: I chose red ones)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced and chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion (like a Vidalia)
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Moroccan seasoning (I used some I purchased from Mystic Blue Spice Company, but if you are in a pinch, there is a recipe for making your own here)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • For garnish: About 2 Tablespoons toasted pinons (pine nuts), lemon slice(s) & fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Cook the barley and lentils (in separate pots) according to package directions.
  2. While they are cooking, chop the cucumber and onion and gather the herbs.
  3. Zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl. Add the garlic, rosemary, cumin and Moroccan seasoning, then whisk in the olive oil.
  4. In a larger bowl, mix the cooked barley and lentils, the cucumber, onion, parsley and green onion, then drizzle on the dressing and stir to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh lemon slice(s), toasted pine nuts and some fresh parsley leaves. Serve hot or cold. It’s good both ways.

Rosemary Cucumber Barley Lentil Salad

This recipe was shared at Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Full Plate Thursday, Fit & Fabulous Fridays, and Summer Salad Sundays.


Wilted Kale, Quinoa & Bacon Salad

Wilted Kale, Quinoa & Bacon Salad

So we got back from vacation last night after a long long 14-hour drive. I needed some GOOD food today, something that not only tastes good, but has all those super-nutritional things in it that are hard to find when you’re travelling. So I threw together this wilted kale salad. It has just the right mix of protein, fiber, grains, greens and herbs, with a little salty smoky taste from the bacon and cheese and a bit of crunch from the sunflower seeds. This was just what I was missing while I was on vacation!

The trip to Yellowstone was lovely, the scenery was spectacular, and it was great to spend time together with my kids where we actually TALKED to each other and joked around and just enjoyed each other’s company … we really had a good time … but there were a few aspects of a normal “vacation” we kind of missed. Trips to the coffee shop. Eating exceptional food. We ate our meals in the car or the hotel for the most part. The first night I tried to get the kids to go out with me, but they were exhausted from the drive and just wanted to chill (and play on their computers) in the hotel room. The second and third days we ate sandwiches in the car and breakfast & dinner in the room. The resort we stayed at had a gas grill, so I cooked up grilled salmon one night and chicken and hot dogs the next, but by the third night we were dying for some really good food OUT. So Wednesday after the tour of my favorite brewery, the Grand Teton Brewing Company (which was wonderful!), we decided to try a brew-pub in Jackson, the Snake River Brewing Company. We were disappointed. The food was okay, but the pretzel was cold and hard, the pizzas and fish and chips were mediocre. It wasn’t the really good food we were hoping for at all on our “big night out”. And after visiting Grand Teton, even the beer tasted kind of blah. The whole experience just made us want to go home.

Oh but before we go on, you need to see the awesome beer I had at the Grand Teton Brewing Company … this is the Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter. I really wanted to bring some home with me, but they didn’t have any bottled for sale … I’m hoping like mad that they DO send some our way soon because I really loved this deep dark beer! The other cool part about our brewery tour was my teenagers each got a bottle of the Black Cherry soda straight off the bottling line, which was REALLY cool. It made them feel much more welcome.

Wake up call Imperial Coffee Porter

(No, there’s no beer in this dish … I just wanted to TELL someone about this awesome beer and the great time we had at the brewery … if you want an awesome recipe for dark beer, check out the Black Cauldron Imperial Chocolate Stout Cake)

Okay, anyway, back to the topic at hand … what were we talking about? Oh yes, the quinoa, kale & bacon salad …

So my daughter and I went shopping for shoes and groceries today. (Way fun on both parts!) I had to get some kale. Kale is my new favorite food. It crisps up delightfully to make kale chips, but you can also quick-steam it for omelets and salads. My friend Sonali, the Foodie Physician can tell you how wonderful kale is for your body … and how to make those crispy fun kale chips. But kale also tastes good, and because kale is so good for you, it makes your body feel wonderful all over when you eat it. The bacon and cheese might even win over some of your more skeptical eaters.

Wilted Kale, Quinoa & Bacon Salad

Wilted Kale, Quinoa and Bacon Salad

for each serving, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 slices lean bacon
  • 2 stalks of kale, stems removed, then take the greens and chop or tear them into smaller pieces
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • About 3 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves
  • Red robin seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt) & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • A few very thin slices of Dubliner cheese (you could substitute Parmesan or Romano if you don’t have Dubliner)
  • About 2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, in a frying pan, fry the bacon until it’s crisp, then remove from pan and set on a clean towel to soak up the excess fat. If there’s any excess fat in the pan, drain it out, but don’t wipe out the pan … leave a micro thin coating of bacon fat on the bottom.
  3. Over medium high heat, throw in the kale along with a splash of water. Stir them around a little. The kale will soften and turn a brilliant green almost immediately.
  4. Add in the quinoa, bacon, vinegar, oil, basil and season to taste.
  5. Pour the salad into a bowl and top with the cheese shards and sunflower seeds.

For me this was a full meal, but you could serve it as a side with some meat if you prefer.

Wilted Kale, Quinoa & Bacon Salad

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous Fridays, Manic Mondays, Best Healthy Salad Recipes, Recipe of the Week and Summer Salad Sundays.


Balsamic Roasted Zucchini & Mushrooms

{Guest Post from Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen}

Balsamic Roasted Zucchini & Mushrooms

It’s Day 4 of my vacation and Carrie from Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen is such a sweetie … she is tending the kitchen here today. Carrie is a fantabulous cook and great “virtual” friend that I am so pleased to know. And did you know she’s publishing a cookbook? I’m so excited for her!!! This dish that she is sharing is right up my alley … I can’t wait for zucchini season now.

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s Carrie!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carrie-Farias-of-Carrie's-Experimental-KitchenHi everyone, I’m Carrie behind Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen and I am thrilled and honored to be a guest here today at Sumptuous Spoonfuls! I just LOVE Ann’s blog and the fact that she uses fresh ingredients in her dishes (just like me!), it truly does make the world of difference! I love looking around the kitchen, seeing what I have on hand and creating a meal that is simple yet delicious, whether or not your an experienced chef or a kitchen novice. I have been married for 17 years and am the mother of two girls, ages 15 and 10, who I lovingly refer to as my food testing “guinea pigs”. I reside in a small town in Northwestern NJ and graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management. I am also awaiting the release of my first cookbook called “Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen: A Collection of Mediterranean Inspired Family Meals”; which is scheduled to be released in the late summer, early fall of 2012.

And now for the recipe…

Two of my favorite vegetables combined together with garlic and balsamic vinegar make this a must try side dish the next time you’re looking to try something new and easy! I LOVE roasting just about anything, and this was no exception. Just look at the beautiful color and the taste was incredible!

Balsamic Roasted Zucchini & Mushrooms

  • 2 Zucchini, washed and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 8-10 Large Mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Add the zucchini, mushrooms and garlic to a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables. Mix well then place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway. Serves 4.

*Nutritional Information: Calories 94, Carbs 7g, Fat 8g, Protein 3g

Enjoy!

*Calculations based on ingredients entered into MyFitnessPal and may not be 100% accurate.

Carrie Palladino Farias
Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen

Website: http://www.carriesexperimentalkitchen.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CarriesExperimentalKitchen
Twitter: www.twitter.com/CarriesExpKtchn
Pinterest: CarriesExpKtchn


Roasted Spicy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Gratin

{Guest Post from Ally’s Kitchen}

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Gratin

I’m off on vacation, so I asked a few sweet foodie friends of mine to “blog-sit” while I’m gone. Today my sweet friend Ally from Ally’s Kitchen volunteered to “tend the kitchen” for me and share one of her Bohemian creations. I’ll let Ally introduce herself … she is one of the most amazing cooks I know! I love her Bohemian style … she is so creative and fun. She’s a ray of sunshine in the foodie world. You are going to love this gorgeous recipe she’s sharing today!

So here’s Ally!

~~~~

Ally (a.k.a. Alice Phillips)

My cooking is a reflection of my life—where I came from, my DNA, my experiences, , my travels, my Croatian heritage, my adventurous spirit, and, of course, my humble background growing up in the hollers of West Virginia. ‘Bohemian Bold’ cuisine means taking peasant and everyday ingredients and transforming them into something chic and luxurious.

I was literally born a Cook, and I’ve been cooking since I was a kid.  But, my real passion for cooking, blogging, creating came after I finished raising my 3 sons, all now adults and paying their own taxes, and my 30+ years as a psychologist in private practice.  After appearing on Season 2 of Master Chef, I launched ‘What’s for Dinner? Ally’s Kitchen’ on Facebook and my website ‘Ally’s Kitchen’ at www.allyskitchen.com .

Life for me is like eating an orange—I want to suck out every drop of nectar and when that’s gone, I’ll zest the rind for more flavor.  My Bohemian Life is all about cooking and living adventurously!

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Gratin

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Gratin

What you need:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Canola cooking spray
  • Sea Salt/Pepper
  • 3 tbl butter
  • 2 tbl flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream  (microwave for 10-15 seconds to take off chill)
  • 1 cup milk (microwave for 10-15 seconds to take off chill)
  • 1/2 pound Pepper Jack cheese cut in small cubes
  • 1 1/2 cup (divided) grated asiago (or parmesan)
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup chiffonade sliced green onions and tops (reserve ¼ cup for garnish)

What you do:

Preheat oven to 425. Place cauliflower on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Coat with cooking spray, salt and pepper.  Toss and cover well all pieces.  Place in preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Turn to broil for the last 5 minutes to get the pieces golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.  Over medium heat in a large skillet, melt the butter.  Blend in the flour making a paste and cook, stirring so as not to burn, for about 5 minutes. Slowly add in heavy cream stirring and blending.  Do the same with the milk.  Reduce heat to low and add the cheeses (1 cup of the asiago) stirring and allowing it all to melt.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place roasted cauliflower in a large mixing bowl.  Add green onions and toss.  Add creamy cheese mixture and blend well.  Pour into a cast iron skillet and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven or until the top is golden brown.  Allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.  (Now the longer you let it sit, the thicker the sauce becomes!)  Garnish with grated cheese and fresh green onions.

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower & Goat Cheese Gratin


Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

with smoked Gouda and bacon

Spicy Smoky Cornbread Pudding

So what do you do with leftover cornbread? My kids both love it, but they will only eat it when it’s fresh. Of course it’s best when it’s fresh and hot, but it’s still good later! … especially when it’s grilled cornbread. I opened up the container that I stored it in and I could smell that smoky grilled taste all over again … ah! It made a wonderful breakfast.

But still I am only one person … and I tire of the same thing over and over … what if we just work a little bread pudding magic on it?

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

  • 2 cups cubed cornbread (the pudding will have a smokier flavor if the cornbread was cooked on the grill)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped jalapenos (more or less to taste … you can substitute other peppers for the jalapeno if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup corn (I thawed out some frozen corn, but you could use fresh corn)
  • 1/4 cup smoked gouda cheese, cut into small cubes (or shredded)
  • About 1 Tablespoon bacon, cooked crisp, and crumbled
  • Chopped chives, basil, baby spinach, garlic scapes or other herbs of your choosing (about 1/2 cupful total? I just went out to my garden and started picking random things … my spinach is pathetic … only a few baby leaves to be had, but there are plenty of chives and basil and garlic!)
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Spray a small casserole dish or large oven-safe bowl with cooking spray, and put the cornbread in the bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and let it soak for 15 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure all the bread gets soaked.
  2. Sitr the jalapenos, corn, cheese, bacon, and herbs into the cornbread mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth, then fold them into the cornbread mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes or until the pudding is “set” (springs back when you touch it lightly right in the center). Let set for just a few minutes, then serve while it’s still hot.

Spicy Smoky Corn Pudding

This recipe was shared at Weekend Potluck.


Garlic Ranch Potato Bake with Mushrooms

Garlic Ranch Potato Mushroom Spinach Bake

I was in a potato mood. This was just one of those things that just happened one day. I walked into my kitchen, pulled out things that ought to go with potato, snipped some fresh dill from the rogue dill plants that just volunteered to grow in the pots I brought inside and suddenly I had this crazy potato mushroom spinach bake all hot and ready … it was the perfect potato lunch.

Before you can make this baby, you need to make some of this skinny garlic basil ranch dip … go do it … you won’t be sorry …

Garlic Ranch Potato Mushroom Spinach Bake

Garlic Ranch Potato Bake with Mushrooms

This is for a small bowl of potatoes, just right for one person for lunch, but you could easily scale it up to make a big casserole dish full. I ate it as a meal, but it would make a nice side dish too.

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 potato, sliced thin
  • 3 – 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • Chopped onion
  • Fresh spinach and/or arugula leaves
  • Lowfat garlic basil ranch dip (recipe is here … or I suppose you could substitute another ranch dip if you have some on hand)
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • A bit of bacon, cooked till crisp, drained on a clean towel, and crumbled
  • Fresh dill, snipped
  • Green onion, snipped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the potatoes and mushrooms on the pan.
  2. Mix the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and brush the potatoes and mushrooms lightly with the oil. Sprinkle with Red Robin Seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt) and pepper. (If you want you could roast the onions alongside the potatoes and mushrooms as well. I wanted my onions crunchy.)
  3. Roast the potatoes and mushrooms at 400 F for about 10 minutes or until they are tender.
  4. Now take a bowl (or casserole dish if you are making this on a larger scale) and spray it with cooking spray.
  5. Make a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then top with mushrooms, onion, dabs of ranch dip, a bit of cheese, a few bacon crumbles, and dill. Top with some spinach leaves, then start another layer of potatoes.
  6. Repeat the layers until you run out of potato, ending with potato slices on top. You can sprinkle a bit of cheese on top if you like. I was trying to limit the amount of cheese and bacon to keep this dish light and healthy.
  7. Bake for 15 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of your pan), or until the cheese is nice and melted.
  8. Sprinkle with fresh dill and green onion and serve.

Garlic Ranch Potato Mushroom Spinach Bake

This recipe was shared at Cast Party WednesdayTastetastic Thursday and Full Plate Thursday.


Pineapple Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

and a minted honey lime yogurt dressing

Pineapple Arugula Salad with Walnuts & Goat Cheese

This is a super simple salad, but these flavors together are just divine!

Pineapple Arugula Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Goat Cheese

  • Spinach Arugula Mix
  • Fresh pineapple chunks
  • Goat cheese crumbles
  • Walnuts, toasted

Cover the plate/bowl with spinach & arugula. Arrange the other ingredients on top and drizzle with the honey lime yogurt dressing.

Pineapple Arugula Salad with Walnuts & Goat Cheese

Minted Honey Lime Yogurt Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves (or if you have fresh, even better!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 a lime
Whisk together all ingredients and drizzle over the salad. I was making this dressing just for me so I made a small amount … if you’re making salad for multiple people, you probably want to double (or triple or quadruple) the recipe.

Pineapple Arugula Salad with Walnuts & Goat Cheese

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This recipe was shared at Midnight Maniac Meatless MondaysTotally Tasty Tuesdays, Midweek Fiesta, and Tastetastic/It’s a Keeper Thursdays, Fit & Fabulous FridaysThese Chicks Cooked Whole Foods Recipe Swap and Nutritious & Delicious Potluck Party.


Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts & Pomegranate

and three cheeses: Gouda, Blue, and Cream Cheese

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranates & Three Cheeses

I love the word “crostini” … it sounds so fancy. Like you are at a posh dinner party where everyone is wearing tuxedos or dinner gowns with long white gloves, and sipping champagne. It’s sophisticated.

I have been working on this crostini for days, playing the name over and over in my head, thinking forward to the time when I will have my house in order enough to have a REAL party. Last night I made this crostini for the 2nd time, trying to perfect this recipe, and my daughter asked me what I was making. When I said “crostini”, she asked “what’s that?” … and basically my answer was “it’s a fancy little toast.”

You see, when you add some lovely fruit and funky cheeses and vinegar and toasted walnuts, well, then you have transported toast way beyond your simple breakfast or garlic toast. It is simply sublime. It’s party-worthy. It’s get-all-dressed-up-and-get-the-good-dishes-and-real-napkins-out worthy.

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranates & Three Cheeses

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranate Seeds, & Three Cheeses

I didn’t include amounts on most of the ingredients, because it depends on how many you want to make. I was making them as a snack for myself, so I didn’t need very much, but if you’re making them for a party, well, then, you’re going to need more toast, and pear, and cheese and stuff …

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons loose blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Thinly sliced crusty french bread or baguette, toasted
  • Habanero pepper jelly (or if you don’t like hot peppers, try another jam or jelly)
  • Vinaigrette salad dressing (I used my maple cranberry vinaigrette from this post, but I think just about any vinaigrette would work)
  • If you like: Paper-thin sliced prosciutto (I tried it both with and without prosciutto and honestly, I like it both ways)
  • Fresh pear slices
  • Slices of gouda cheese
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. First, mix the cream cheese, blue cheese crumbles, and rosemary in a small bowl. Set aside while you prepare the other things.
  2. Toast the bread and then spread it with a very thin layer of pepper jelly, then brush the little toasts with a low-fat vinaigrette salad dressing — or if you prefer, just a balsamic (or your favorite flavor of) vinegar.
  3. Spread a layer of the cream cheese mixture over the jelly. It will be a little messy, but it’s ok.
  4. Set the little toasts on a baking sheet.
  5. If you are using proscuitto, add a thin slice of that.
  6. Now arrange pear slices on top to cover the little toasts, then some slices of gouda cheese.
  7. Bake or broil the toasts until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly.
  8. Immediately top with the walnuts and pomegranate seeds, pressing them into the melted cheese to help the little things to stick to the top of the crostini.
  9. Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary and extra pomegranate seeds and a nice glass of wine.

Rosemary Pear Crostini with Walnuts, Pomegranate, and Three Cheeses

By the way, my daughter calls the pomegranate seeds her “beauty seeds” … and they are terrifically good for you, so I am sure they make you beautiful inside and out … and besides they look beautiful, so make sure to eat plenty of them with your crostini.

This recipe was shared with Wonka WednesdaysNewlyweds Recipe LinkyMidweek Fiesta, Fabulous Friday and Foodie Friday.


Kiwi & Chicken Salad with Feta, Basil, & Mixed Greens

with Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

Kiwi Chicken Salad with Feta, Basil, and Mixed Greens

Do you see the kiwi in there? It’s a master at hide-and-seek …

Yesterday I walked into my kitchen looking for some lunch … I am trying to eat up that big tub of herb organic salad mix my mom and dad got for me, so I thought I’d make a salad. And I’m trying to clean out some of the things in the freezer, so I added some chicken nuggets. And then I found some feta cheese and a red onion from Dad’s garden. But it sounded boring … what else could I add to my salad? Aha! a bunch of kiwis my daughter hasn’t eaten yet … and some basil …

That’s how this salad came to be. I just kept finding things to put in it. Some of my best recipes are born that way.

I told my daughter that I put Kiwi in my salad today and she said yes, of course, it goes great in fruit salad. I said no, I used it in a green salad with chicken and cheese and red onions. She said that’s just weird.

Well, yes, maybe it is a little weird. But it is also really good. The taste of the crispy chicken, the sweet juicy kiwi, the salty cheese, the greens, and the herbs — it is just a really good flavor combination. You will just have to try it and find out for yourself.

Kiwi & Chicken Salad with Feta, Mixed Greens and Basil

Kiwi & Chicken Salad with Feta, Basil, and Mixed Greens with Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

  • Mixed Organic Herb Mix or Mixed Greens (including fresh dill … if it’s not in the greens I do recommend adding it!)
  • Chicken nuggets or grilled chicken or other chicken (this is a great use for leftover chicken!)
  • Red onion, cut in small chunks
  • Kiwi fruit, peeled and cut into pieces
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Fresh basil leaves (and flowers if you have them!)

First make the dressing and let it set to mix the flavors while you prepare the salad.

Fill the salad bowl 3/4 full with the organic herb mix, and sprinkle with remaining ingredients as you please. Drizzle with the Tequila Lime Vinaigrette.

Tequila Lime Vinaigrette (from Cooking Light Magazine)

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • Dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Toss all ingredients into a food processor and whir till blended. Or you can just whisk them all together in a bowl, but the food processor will chop up the cilantro really nicely. I used watermelon-infused tequila (made by soaking watermelon cubes in tequila for several  days). Cover and chill until ready to use.

Kiwi & Chicken Salad with Feta, Mixed Greens, & Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

This recipe was shared at Tastetastic Thursdays.


Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranates are so beautiful. I’ve been entranced with them since I studied Greek mythology way back in junior high school.

Then when we lived in California, our neighbors had a pomegranate tree … one long branch of the tree stretched into our yard and that one branch always gave us plenty of pomegranates. Not that it really mattered, because the neighbors let us go into their yard and pick pomegranates whenever we wanted. My kids used to sell pomegranates like some kids sell lemonade. The neighbors loved it.

When you open up a pomegranate, it is full of all these gorgeous little jewels; it looks like a treasure chest to me. And the taste of the little jewels when you bite into one … oh my.

If you want to make this salad, you will first need to make the Cranberry Raspberry Vinegar, and that takes about a week … just giving you fair warning. You could do some clever substitutions, perhaps, but the jewel-toned vinegar with the little pomegranate jewels in the salad is really quite nice.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Mixed Cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

with Dried Cranberries, Apricots and Mixed Cheeses

  • Organic Herb Mix (or mixed greens)
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Shards of Parmesan Cheese (cut very thin slices off the edge of a hunk of parmesan)
  • Toasted Walnuts, chopped roughly
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Chopped dried Apricots
  • Blue cheese crumbles

First make the dressing and let it set to mix the flavors while you prepare the salad.

Fill the salad bowl 3/4 full with the organic herb mix, and sprinkle with remaining ingredients as you please. Drizzle with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette.

Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

  • 3/4 cup cranberry raspberry vinegar (recipe here)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon, Spicy Brown or other fancy mustard (I used garlic peppercorn mustard)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • A couple of basil leaves, a small sprig of rosemary, and several sprigs of fresh dill weed

Mix all ingredients together in a handi chopper and whir until the herbs and garlic are well chopped and everything is mixed well. Refrigerate any of the remaining dressing.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

This recipe was shared at Midnight Maniac Meatless MondaysTotally Tasty Tuesdays, and Full Plate Thursdays.


Michael’s Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

Michael's Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

I remember those awful jellied cans of cranberry sauce would find their way to our Thanksgiving table sometimes in my childhood, and I remember loving the sweet tart taste of the cranberries, but the jellied stuff was just so ugly and weird. I think we all eventually decided we just don’t like cranberry sauce because we don’t usually have cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving anymore.

But this year will be different. I remembered this cranberry sauce that Michael, an old boyfriend of mine, made one year when I lived far from my family. We were having Thanksgiving dinner in his apartment with his roommate. Michael worked at a French restaurant and was a total foodie. I told him I didn’t like cranberry sauce, but he said you will like THIS cranberry sauce. And I loved it.

So this year, I am making Michael’s maple cranberry sauce. He didn’t give me his recipe, but I think this is pretty close. I think my family will like THIS cranberry sauce.

Actually I hope they don’t like it TOO much because I saw a gorgeous and super simple appetizer idea made with cranberry sauce that I want to try: Just take a block of (light) cream cheese, put it on a fancy dish, and pour cranberry sauce over it. Serve with crackers. I have decided I will stir in a few chopped jalapenos into the sauce before I pour it over the cream cheese to give it a little kick. I have big plans for this cranberry sauce.

Michael's Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

Michael’s Maple Cranberry Sauce with Toasted Walnuts

Adapted from About.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 ounces) package fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup red Zinfandel or other dry red wine (I used some of my dad’s California Trinity Red wine.)
  • 2 teaspoons ginger sugar (the reserved sugar from making candied ginger) or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Place cranberries, maple syrup, juice, wine, and ginger sugar in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, until cranberries begin to pop.
  3. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  4. Remove from heat and gently smash a bit to open the cranberries, but do not mash.
  5. Toast the walnuts by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet and baking for about 5 minutes at 300 F. or until they are just lightly browned and you can smell the scent of the walnuts.
  6. Stir in walnuts and vanilla. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Maple Walnut Cranberry Sauce

Look at that gorgeous color! (And yes, in case you were wondering, that IS snow on the table. We had our first snow last night.)

This recipe was shared at Melt in your Mouth Mondays.


Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

I really really love potatoes. In most any form, but especially mashed or twice baked. At Thanksgiving, I put way more mashed potatoes and stuffing on my plate than turkey (or ham or whatever meat we are having). But my dad always makes the potatoes, it seems, so although I love them (and I have been called upon occasionally to mash them when we are rushing to prepare the feast), I really didn’t quite know how to make REALLY good mashed potatoes.

So you can imagine I was totally on top of the world when Tina at Mom’s Crazy Cooking chose mashed potatoes for our Crazy Cooking Challenge for November. I SO needed to find and master the killer recipe for mashed potatoes!

I did a lot of searching around, but I didn’t want one of those made with tons of cream and butter or fattening cream cheese. I wanted something completely delicious, incredible tasting, very creamy, but yet healthy.

I found the answer at Eclectic Recipes: Buttermilk and Garlic! This is it. Seriously.

Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

These potatoes are creamy delicious goodness from Eclectic Recipes. I did scale down the recipe a bit since I was making them for myself, so just add more potatoes, garlic, and buttermilk if you have lots of hungry people to feed!

  • 4 large potatoes (I used 2 large reds, 1 yukon gold, and 1 purple potato)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • About 1/2 cup buttermilk (as much as needed for creamy goodness)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or Red Robin Seasoning
  • Fresh snipped chives (or dried if you have no fresh), for garnish
Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Directions:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water and the kosher salt to a boil. Peel potatoes, if desired. Cut potatoes in similarly sized chunks, and add to boiling water. Make sure the chunks are pretty large. If using small potatoes, just boil whole. Add garlic cloves. Boil the potatoes and garlic over medium heat, until they are very tender and pierce easily with a fork. Potatoes, ready to boil
  2. Drain potatoes, and add back to the saucepan. Place the potatoes back on the warm burner, and allow the extra water to evaporate. Mash them up with a potato masher, process in a food mill, or use a ricer. (I had to use my pastry cutter because I don’t have a potato masher … can you believe it? But it worked really well.)Mashing the potatoes with a pastry cutter!
  3. When potatoes are mashed, add butter, and stir to combine. Add buttermilk until you get the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remember not to over mix, or the potatoes can get a glue like consistency.
  4. Top with a small pat of butter and some snipped chives. Watch the butter melt and ooze over the potatoes. Serve to your drooling guests.
Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

There are a couple other good-looking mashed potato recipes out there I found on my quest for the perfect mashed potato that I would like to try someday as well:

Photobucket

Click here to see the entire list of mashed potato recipes in the November Crazy Cooking Challenge …

This recipe was also shared at Recipe of the Week: Potatoes.


Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

To me, this isn’t really a recipe. I have been fascinated with twice baked potatoes since I started cooking I think, so it’s just second nature to me to take mashed potatoes, mix in some cheese, onion, bell pepper, bacon and bake. You don’t need any special seasonings or spices … just let the onion, bacon, bell pepper and cheese do their magic.

I love to put this mixture back into the potato skins if I have them, but if not, just throw it in a casserole or oven proof bowl and bake till everything is hot and the cheese is god and melted.

It’s so simple and so good. I just had it for lunch and it was oh so warm, comforting, filling, and delicious.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

If you make it with low-fat mashed potatoes and don’t overdo it on the bacon or cheese, it’s even good for you.

Today I used shredded sharp cheddar and a bit of blue cheese crumbles, chopped red bell pepper, chopped onion, crumbled in a bit of crispy cooked bacon. Mixed it all together, topped with a little more cheese, then baked for about 10 – 15 minutes at 350. Then I topped it with a few snips of fresh chives. I like to use fresh onions and bell pepper for the crunch factor, but if you like your veggies soft, you can sautee them first. Sometimes I add mushrooms too, if I have them, and if the mashed potatoes are dry, a little cottage cheese, light sour cream or buttermilk. Sometimes a little dill is a nice addition.  Play with it to find a combination you like. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

You can make this in individual portions like I did today for lunch in my oven-safe bowl, or in a larger casserole for a crowd. It would be a nice touch to bake in ramekins for holiday meals. Larger dishes will take longer to cook.

Mmm. I’m in heaven.

Twice Baked Potato Casserole

This recipe was shared at Recipe of the Week: Potatoes and Weekend Potluck.


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