Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prosciutto and Melon Pasta Salad

We've been lucky enough to travel to Italy on two vacations. Dining was often outdoors at a slow pace that feels quite opposite to us Americans used to only spending about an hour at restaurants. Prosciutto and melon was our go to appetizer in Rome and Venice. Eating this pasta salad took me back to many happy memories of those vacations. I was finally able to find a local deli with good prosciutto which helped to make all the difference. This recipe came from an idea I tagged in a Cooking Light magazine, and I added it to our weekly menu after it was posted on Prevention RD. We enjoyed this for dinner as an entree. It would also make a great side dish.

You will need:
* about 7 oz (2 cups dry) whole wheat pasta
*1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for pasta water
*1/8 teaspoon black pepper
*2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
*3 ounces prosciutto, ripped into pieces
*4-6 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips
*2 ounces Asiago cheese, finely grated

1. Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Once boiling, add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook your pasta according to the box directions. You want it to be al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and briefly rinse under cool water to bring the pasta to room temperature.

2. While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the lemon juice into a medium bowl.Whisk in the olive oil; season with the salt and pepper.

3. Toss the pasta with the dressing mix. Gently stir in the cantaloupe, prosciutto, basil, and Asiago. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

We enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day. This pasta salad is best when served immediately. I'd recommend making it the same day you will enjoy most of it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Tacos

The Smitten Kitchen cookbook was on my holiday wishlist. As with most of my gifts this past year, I was lucky enough to get two! I passed one copy on to a coworker to enjoy. I am terrible with cookbooks. I get them and read through them eagerly tagging things I want to make. Then the book gets placed on a shelf upstairs and ignored. My menu planning tends to come from other blogs, Pinterest, monthly cooking magazines, and recipes from here. I am (yet again) making more of an effort to cook from my recipe book collection. This was a recent Meatless Monday meal from the SK Cookbook. If you've read through the blog you know that we love tacos. This is a great twist for a meatless taco night. This recipe made a lot of tacos. We enjoyed them for dinner and some lunches. The filling reheated better than I expected.

You will need:
*3 pound spaghetti squash
*2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
*1 teaspoon chili powder
*1/2 teaspoon cumin
*1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
*1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
*corn tortillas

Suggested toppings:
*15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
*4 oz feta, crumbled
*1/4 cup red onion, diced
*1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
*hot sauce, if desired

1. Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds. (I usually poke numerous holes with a fork and microwave the squash for a few minutes to make cutting easier) You can then roast the two halves or microwave them until tender. If roasting, cook face down on an olive oil lined baking pan in an oven set to 400 for about 40 minutes. In the micro, place face down on a shallow plate with some water and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Use a fork to scrape the cooked squash in a bowl.

2. While squash is cooking, mix lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt together in a small bowl.  Add to cooked spaghetti squash and toss thoroughly. Taste squash and adjust seasoning as needed.

3. Blister corn tortillas in a dry pan.

4. Use the squash as your base and add desired toppings. We enjoyed the toppings listed above.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Recipe Swap: Grilled Pork Chops with a Balsamic-Maple Glaze

I joined my first recipe swap! Sarah at a Taste of Home Cooking hosts these recipe swaps through our cooking board and many blogs I read participate frequently. When I saw that this month's swap was grilling, I knew I should join in the fun. So I submitted the shrimp packets only to discover that someone else had already shared this great recipe. I then sent in our basic burgers that we still enjoy frequently. I'll admit that I was a bit nervous to be sent any grilling recipe. When I received these pork chops from Sweet Beginnings I was excited. We never think to grill pork chops so this meal was a great change of pace. Our grill has been having a few flame issues lately. I'm not quite sure why the front burner is a constant orange flame. The only change I made was pouring the glaze on top of these instead of grilling with it on at the end. I didn't want to risk dealing with a chop on fire. (This is also why the picture is sauce free. I forgot/was too hungry to take another. oops) This was a delicious dinner and it came together quickly.  I think we'll be making these again soon. Recipe swaps are also a fun way to try a new recipe that I might not have originally selected. I look forward to participating in more.

 You will need:
*2 good quality pork chops (I bought bone-in at our local butcher shop)
*ground coriander
*1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
*1/3 cup chicken stock
*1 tablespoon maple syrup
*1 teaspoon dijon mustard
*1 garlic clove, minced
*3-4 strings of thyme
*1 string of rosemary
*sprinkle of flour
*1/2 tablespoon butter

1. Heat the grill over medium-high heat. Season pork with the salt, pepper and ground coriander.

2. Grill the chops for 6-7 minutes per side. Rotate once during cooking.
For thinner chops, you do not need as long. You don't want to overcook them and dry out the pork. Pork continues to cook a bit when it sits after heating.

3. While your pork is grilling, prepare the sauce. Combine all remaining ingredients, except the flour and butter, in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Then whisk in the flour to slightly thicken. Whisk in the butter until melted.

4. When the chops are almost done cooking, remove from grill. Top with a hefty spoonful of the stove top glaze. Allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. We enjoyed some of the extra glaze on a side dish of green beans.

Here are the dishes made in the grilling swap:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spanakopita Bites

I waste an impressive amount of time on Pinterest looking at food. Dave and I were discussing last night that I probably have pinned more dinners than I'll ever make. In the summer I also pin ideas for my classroom and consider that doing some school work. It's professional development, right?
This appetizer was a Pinterest discovery. It comes from Iowa Girl Eats. I always forget how convenient phyllo cups are. This is a great recipe for a shower, cookout, dinner, or any other get together.

You will need:
*30 frozen phyllo cups (usually this takes 2 packages)
*1 tablespoon EVOO
*1 small onion, minced
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*salt and pepper, to taste
*16oz bag of fresh spinach (you could substitute 10oz thawed frozen spinach)
*6oz crumbled feta cheese
*pinch ground nutmeg
*1 egg, whisked

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the phyllo cups on 2 baking sheets; set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, spinach, salt and pepper. Once spinach is cooked, remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl; allow it to cool slightly. (If using frozen spinach you do not need to cook it. Just add it into the bowl on step 3)

3. Add feta cheese, nutmeg, and egg to the bowl of spinach and stir to combine. Spoon mixture into phyllo cups. Bake for about 13 minutes or until cups are golden brown around the edges. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

*You could assemble these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for a day or less before baking.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Berry Bundt Cake

Baking still happens in the summer around here. I can thank our central air for that blessing.
I love summer's fresh berries. We snack on them and occasionally include them in dinner. I think the best way to use them though is in a treat. I get overly excited when berries are on sale and buy more than two people need. This bundt cake was discovered on Smitten Kitchen when I was looking for a way to use some of our supply last summer. I've made this a couple times and enjoy how versatile it is. You can change the amounts and types of berries to fit what you have on hand. I soon want to try putting some cherries into this recipe. I omitted the glaze because I think this treat is perfect as is or paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You will need:
*2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

*2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
*1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

*1 3/4 cups sugar

*1 lemon, zest only
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*3/4 cup buttermilk

*3 cups mixed berries ( I usually use 1 cup each of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease a 10-cup bundt pan using butter and flour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for about 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Keep the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

4. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the mixing bowl batter. You want to add about 1/3 of the mixture then half the buttermilk. Stir to combine and repeat. Do not over mix the batter. Only stir to combine the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk.

5. Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Gently fold the berries into the cake batter.

6. Spoon the thick cake batter in the prepared bundt pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake half way through cooking time. The cake is finished when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

7. On a wire baking rack, cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brie and Apricot Chicken

The weather is not cooperating with my summer grilling. The afternoons and evenings are filled with downpours and scattered storms. Luckily my hoarding tendencies keep options in the freezer, such as chicken breasts. This is an extremely simple and fast meal. It's perfect for a last minute change in the dinner plan. I'm not usually a huge fan of apricot, but I think the jam pairs perfectly with the brie on this chicken. We enjoyed this dinner with a side of green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic then topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I found this recipe on Peanut Butter Runner and omitted a flouring step to make it even quicker.

You will need:
*2 boneless, skinless thin chicken breasts (or butterflied and pounded thin)
*salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 slices of brie

*4 tablespoons apricot preserves

1. Preheat oven broiler on high with a rack in the top third of the oven.

2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then saute for about 4 minutes per side. The chicken should golden in color and be mostly cooked through. (It will then broil a couple minutes so it may finish cooking then)

3. Remove browned chicken from pan and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Spread about 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves on chicken and cover with slices of brie. Place under broiler and cook for about 2 minutes until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked completely. Keep an eye on this since it can burn quickly.