Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Harvest Quinoa Salad

1 small acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy center
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling) 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped uncooked kale (or greens of your choice)
splash of balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked quinoa
drizzle of honey
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (plus extra, for garnish on top)
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion, a bit of salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add garlic, cumin & cinnamon and cook, stirring, until it’s fragrant but not burning. Mix in kale and cook for a few minutes until it wilts down. Turn off the heat, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, the cooked quinoa, and a good drizzle of honey and toss. Next, mix in scallions, cilantro, currants, feta and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Scoop filling into the cooked acorn squashes, and top with toasted pumpkin seeds, more feta (if you wish), and a drizzle of olive oil and another good drizzle of honey.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

One of the best things about this time of year is the tomato harvest and all of the delicious things you can do with fresh tomatoes. Two of my favorites are homemade tomato sauce and homemade tomato basil soup. I've tried lots of recipes and I think I've finally fine-tuned the one I like the best. It's got the perfect balance of tomato and basil, with a hint of other veggies and spices that give it a great depth of flavor along with a bit of creaminess without the dairy. 

Here's what you'll need:

16 tomatoes
olive oil
1 tsp. thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced 
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup fresh basil
a little brown sugar
1 cup almond milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place cut-side-up on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and thyme. Roast in oven for 45 minutes. 

While tomatoes are roasting, saute onion in olive oil until translucent, add garlic and saute (do not let the garlic blacken). Add celery and carrots and saute saute until softened. Blend sauteed veggies with vegetable broth until smooth. Set aside.
When tomatoes are finished, let them cool slightly blend them with basil in the blender until smooth. Combined blended ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a slight boil. Add a little brown sugar to balance the tartness of the tomatoes and stir in the almond milk (or other milk of your choice). 

Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gram's Broccoli Casserole

There are three women in my life who have greatly influenced my cooking: my mother, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law. Today, I dedicate this post to my dear grandmother Leann, who is turning 77 years old. From a very young age, my memories of her are in the kitchen, teaching me how to whip up a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookies or watching her decorate a wedding cake. She is a baker, but we also used to gather as extended family at her house for Sunday dinners and holidays. I think the menu was pretty constant - roast, potatoes, corn on the cob, fruit salad (with whipping cream of course) and the one casserole that we always had was her broccoli cheese casserole. 

A little over a year ago, we found ourselves from one day to the next without a caregiver for our youngest and my grandmother came to the rescue and spent a couple of months with us taking care of her during the day. I have always wanted to put together a cookbook of her recipes and so we decided it would be the perfect time to photograph all of the dishes that her family loves best. During the day she would take care of Ceci and cook or bake and when I'd get home I'd photograph her work. We were just about finished and my camera card crashed and we lost everything. She was such a trooper and cooked it all a second time and I took photographs again. So, I wish I had the book finished to give to her on her birthday, but this is a start . . . the first recipe that we all love: Broccoli Casserole. 

1 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup celery
1 cube butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 small jar, cheese whiz
1 can, cream of chicken soup
1 bag, frozen broccoli
bread crumbs

Gram's original recipe reads: Saute onions and celery in butter. Pour over cup of rice in 9 x 13 pan. Mix together cheese, cream of chicken soup, and broccoli. Pour over rice. Top with breadcrumbs and Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly. 

The pictures here are a little different from the process that comes from her original recipe, but it all turns out the same. For a heartier, main dish you can add pieces of cubed chicken breast (pre-cooked) above the layer of rice.

Grandma, thank you for all you do for us - - most recently for the times you've come to our rescue tending our kids or whipping up a ton of your recipes for photographs and for teaching me how to show my love for others through food. If there is one big influence that I'd say you've had on me, it is that! I love you! And Happy, Happy Birthday!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Banana Walnut Chip Ice Cream

I've always loved making homemade ice cream and remember family reunions when I was a little girl - Great-Grandma Thomas's homemade vanilla ice cream was always being hand-churned by someone. The ice cream never made it to the freezer because everyone ate it as soon as it was thickened. I've always been partial to homemade vanilla ice cream because of that childhood tradition. And I've always had an ice-cream maker for days when I craved Great-Grandma's homemade ice cream, and had that time to make it. Those days didn't come very frequently because of the time it took to freeze it . . . the patience of adding more ice and waiting and waiting until it was ready. That problem is now solved thanks to my generous sister, Lilly. Last spring, I visited her in Texas and she had a modern mini ice cream maker that you kept the bowl in the freezer at all times so that whenever you had an inkling for ice cream, all you had to do is whip it up and it would be frozen in15-20 minutes. While we were there, we made a root beer float ice cream . . . I fell in love with her machine and for my birthday in April she sent me one too. Since then I've strayed from the homemade vanilla a bit and have been trying some delicious frozen yogurts and rich gourmet ice creams. This recipe came with the instruction manual and has become a family favorite this summer so I thought I'd share.

*Don't be intimidated by the multiple steps in this recipe. They are not difficult and once you try this delicious ice cream, you'll be willing to make those steps over and over again.  


1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large bananas, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons rum flavoring
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Ghiradelli 60% cacao dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Step 1
In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, bring the milk, cream, vanilla bean (including the pod), vanilla extract, and the salt just to a boil. Remove from heat, let mixture steep for 30 minutes.

Step 2
While the milk/cream mixture steeps, heat the sugar with water in a large skillet until it begins to sizzle.
Stir in the butter and heat until melted.
Add the bananas; cook for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant and softened.

Carefully stir in the rum and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
Using a slotted spoon, strain the bananas/sugar mixture, reserving the syrup and banas in separate bowls.

Step 3
Remove the vanilla pod from the steeped milk/cream mixture; discard pod.

Stir the lemon juice into the bananas and then mix the bananas into the steeped milk/cream. Cover and refrigerate mixture 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.
Step 4
Turn on the Cuisinart ice cream maker; pour the banana mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 5
While the ice cream is churning, melt the chocolate chips in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water; reserve.
Step 6
When the ice cream is almost fully churned, gradually add the sugar syrup; let mix until fully combined.

Once the sugar syrup has been mixed, add the walnuts through the top of the ice cream maker; let mix until combined.
Right before the ice cream is done, drizzle the melted chocolate into the churning ice cream. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.

If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer for about 2 hours.

Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quinoa & Veggie Stuffed Zucchini

In mid-July when we were at the height of having house guests and traveling to visit family in Wyoming, my garden started producing zucchini like crazy. I know, this is not a strange phenomenon. I didn't really have time to shred it all and freeze it and granted I could have just left them in the fridge and they would have been just fine for another week, but I had my mind set on trying out this delicious vegetarian recipe so I threw it all in a bag and hauled it to Wyoming with me and decided I could help my mom out and make a simple summer meal for the whole family. The 6 zucchinis that this recipe is for was not enough to feed my whole family so I doubled it and it turned out just perfect. And of course, I got so caught up on meeting my newest nephew that I never took a final product photo, so the process will have to do for now:
2 T olive oil (or coconut oil if you prefer)
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 Tbsp thyme or 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
6 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa
3-4 large basil leaves
1 T. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 c. Mozzarella, grated
Preheat oven to 375. In a skillet, saute onion and pepper in oil over medium high heat. While onions and peppers are sauteing, scoop the inside flesh of the 6 zucchinis out and dice into small pieces. When onions are translucent, add tomatoes and diced zucchini cook until soft. Add thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add spinach leaves - cook until wilted. Remove from heat and add the cooked quinoa, fresh basil, and mozzarella to sauteed ingredients and mix.

 Distribute filling evenly into halved zucchinis.
 Top with parmesan and give another generous shake of salt and pepper on top and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes until cheese on top is golden
Remove from oven and serve.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Honduran-Style Stewed Tilapia - Tilapia Guisada Estilo Hondureño

When I have time to cook and bake and I'm doing it for pleasure, I usually like to cook alone. However, when I'm cooking for my family's survival (aka: dinnertime), I love to have someone to chat with. This usually means propping the iPad up and skyping or facetiming with my sister, Lilly, or my friend, Lisa, who are usually in the kitchen too. We chop and chat and it makes dinnertime preparation much less painful. I keep telling them that as soon as we can share our dinners via skype, the world will be perfect!  A couple of days ago, I was making this go-to dinner while Lisa was making her famous banana cheesecake. Lisa and I are best friends and taught together and shared leftover lunches together quite often, so she was surprised when I told her about this go-to Tilapia recipe I'd been hiding and promised her I'd post some instructions for her. 

It's hard to believe I've never posted a recipe for this simple, delicious and healthy dish. I can remember ten years ago, standing in the tiny kitchen in our first apartment as Armando showed me this family favorite of his and I took down copious notes in my trusty cookbook. I swear the only reason we were both able to fit in that tiny kitchen was because we were newly weds. It was so narrow that the opposite-facing refrigerator and oven doors couldn't be open at the same time. 

So enough with the reminiscing, here are your ingredients:

3 roma tomatoes
1 small onion
1/2-1 green pepper 
2-3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp butter
6 Tilapia Filets
soy sauce

Line a large pan with **aluminum foil (enough to be able to fold and over the dish while cooking). Heat butter in the pan and saute onion and green pepper until translucent. (**In all of the ten years of making this dish, don't ask me why you have to wrap it all in foil. Just trust me that I've tried it without and it's so much better when you use the foil. My theory is that the foil helps keep the moisture in and the juices in this dish are key.

 Add garlic and saute for one minute. Then add tomatoes and saute until they are softened. I like to salt and pepper my sauteed ingredients as I go as well.
 When finished sauteing, keep the heat up and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan- we're not making soup - we just want there to be enough juice/sauce to cook the fish and have a little juice to poor over each serving. Place thawed tilapia filets on top of sauteed ingredients.
 Salt and pepper them again and sprinkle with cumin powder. Douse each filet with a little soy sauce. As you can see, I haven't perfected my one-handed photography focusing skills. ;) Oh well, you get the idea.
 Squeeze a little lemon juice on each filet as well.
 Bring the liquid to a simmer.
 Now fold the foil over the dish:

Cover your pan with a lid.
 Turn the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Sometimes I like to turn the fish over before I cover it with foil - but this can be a tricky process if you're pan is full cause fish breaks easily). If not, you can turn your fish over with all of the veggies coming out on top as you serve it.
My favorite thing to serve with this is brown rice and black beans. I throw the beans in the crock pot in the morning (or over night) and when I get home from work, they're just right. I also leave the rice in the rice cooker and set it to cook so that it's finishing up just as I get home and am making dinner. This meal is the perfect weeknight meal because it cooks so quickly and is simple to put together. And if you're looking for more great recipes, remember my friend, Lisa, that I mentioned earlier in this post? . . . Well she's started her own little blog and is sharing some of her most delicious recipes. I'm sure that banana cheesecake I mentioned will be shared there one day along with many of her amazing dishes, so check out what she has and tell her hello!