Monday, October 31, 2011

Mediterranean Torta

Brady and I spent a weekend at my parents house in Kansas City last month. While we were there my mom made us a Mediterranean Torta appetizer. I couldn't stop eating it, it was so good!  Not only did the torta taste great but it looked really pretty. I will definitely be making this the next time I need to bring an appetizer somewhere. It's a the perfect appetizer recipe because it can be made ahead of time and is fine sitting out while people snack. I can't say anything about how it was to make but it sounds simple enough!

Mediterranean Torta
** My moms recipe, I'm not sure where she found it.

Serves 6-8

1 5 1/2 oz. package goat cheese, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 c. oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese and cream cheese until well blended. Fold in the chopped hazelnuts. Set aside.

Blot the sun-dried tomatoes dry and then mince. Set aside.

For the mold, line a 2 cup round dish with plastic wrap, extending it out over the edges by about 2 inches. Cover the bottom of dish with 1/4 of the sun dried tomatoes. Top with 1/4 of the cheese mixture, packing down and smoothing it with the back of a spoon. Cover cheese with a layer of basil.

Continue layering the ingredients, making sure to pack down the cheese mixture. Pull the edges of the plastic wrap up to seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To serve, open plastic wrap and turn mold out onto a serving dish. Serve with crackers or toasted bread slices.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Pasta

Brady made the below pasta recipe for me last week and it was definitely blog worthy. Not only did it taste good, but it looks pretty and is perfect for fall.  I loved that this was a vegetarian pasta yet it still felt hearty.We both thought that it was great as is but you could add a bit of chopped pancetta for a some texture and to add a little saltiness if you feel the need to have meat. I would imagine a little pancetta added to this dish would be pretty amazing!

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Pasta
** from Budget Bytes

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes total

1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
4 T. oil, divided
1 tsp dried sage
1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. shredded parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the ends off of the squash to provide a flat surface. Stand the squash on one end and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Slice a few rounds off of the small end to shorten the squash, and then cut down through the center of the thick end to expose the center. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp. Cut the remaining squash into small cubes.

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed squash, sage, salt & pepper (a generous sprinkle). Saute until the squash tender (about 10-15 min). Taste a cube or two to make sure they're cooked through. Turn the heat off.

While the squash is cooking, cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes or until al dente). Drain the pasta. Once the squash is tender and the pasta is drained, add the pasta, cranberries, and chopped parsley to the pot. Stir to combine. Drizzle the last 2 Tbsp of olive oil over everything and add salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, stir in the shredded parmesan.

** You could also roast the butternut squash for about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven. The squash got a little mushy and I think roasting it might preserve the shape and texture of the butternut squash.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken and White Bean Soup

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I am a huge soup fan. I love making homemade soup and even better, I love having soup made for me! Brady made the below soup recipe last night and it was so good. The soup had such great flavor and is perfect for this time of year. I loved the addition of the crumbled bacon, there isn't a lot of bacon so it's still a healthy recipe, but it really goes well with the white beans and added a little extra flavor.

And in case you are wondering, my boyfriend doesn't normally read blogs with names like A Dainty Chef :)

Chicken and White Bean Soup
** from A Dainty Chef 

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes

3 bacon slices, cooked and chopped
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup chopped plum tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water
3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup uncooked orzo
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Chop the onion, garlic, tomato, and oregano and set aside.. In a large saucepan over medium heat cook bacon for about 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Heat a clean saute plan over medium high heat. Add a little olive oil and the cut up chicken; sauté for about 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.

Add onion and garlic to a soup pot; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add tomato, oregano, and pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return bacon and chicken to pan. Stir in 2 cups water and chicken broth. Bring the water and the broth to a boil. Add orzo, and cook for 9 minutes or until al dente. Add the beans to the mixture, cook 2 minutes or until heated. Remove from heat. Finally stir in parsley, vinegar, and salt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut Curry Broth

I have been wanting to make the below Thai-Style Halibut recipe for awhile. My mom recommended it a couple years ago and I now see why. It was excellent! This was a quick recipe to make on a weeknight and the flavors and presentation are restaurant quality. The only downside is that halibut is a little pricy but it was well worth the splurge in my opinion. Brady and I couldn't stop saying how good it was, I think that's a sign of a winner :)

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut Curry Broth
** from Food Network

Serves 2
Prep/Time: 25 minutes

1 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 1/2 tsp red curry paste
2 c. low sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. light coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 (6 ounce) pieces of halibut, skin removed
4 big handfuls spinach
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1 lime
2 c. cooked brown rice, for serving

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add the curry paste and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the broth and coconut milk; simmer until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes

Season the halibut with a little salt and pepper. Arrange the fish in the pan with the sauce. Cover and cook the fish until it flakes easily, about 7 minutes.

While fish is cooking, steam spinach in the microwave or on the stove using a steamer basket. Steam the spinach for about 4 minutes or until starting to wilt.

Arrange a spoonful of brown rice in the bottom of 2 soup plates. Top with a pile of steamed spinach and top with a fish fillet. Stir the cilantro, scallions, and juice of one lime into the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the sauce over the fish.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Pears, Spinach, and Chickpeas in a Maple Vinaigrette

Hopefully the quinoa salad recipes aren't getting old because I keep finding new recipes that I love. I made the below recipe for my lunch this week and it's so good! I love that it can be served cold which makes for a super easy lunch on the go. This recipe couldn't be easier and it's perfect for fall. If this doesn't sound hearty enough for a main dish to you, I think this would be a great side dish paired with salmon or chicken marinated in a little Dijon mustard and maple syrup.

Also, happy belated Columbus Day! I just had to share the cupcakes that I made for my class. I think they turned out pretty cute. Super easy- boxed cupcake mix and store bought frosting. I used Kellogg's Fudge Stripe cookies for the boats and used an edible candy marker to write on the candy corn. The kids loved them!
Quinoa Salad with Pears, Spinach, and Chickpeas in a Maple Vinaigrette
** adapted from Gluten Free Goddess

Serves 4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 large ripe pear, washed, cored and cut into pieces
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
a handful of walnuts

Maple Vinaigrette Dressing:
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. pure maple syrup

In a small saucepan, cook the quinoa in the 2 cups of water. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all of the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 20 minutes. Fluff with a work and put into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

In the large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, spinach, pear, chickpeas, chopped parsley, and walnuts. Stir in the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears

The below is a great fall pork chop recipe that I came across in this month's Cooking Light magazine. I loved how the blue cheese and pears added to the flavor of the pork. Unfortunately I didn't cook the pork as well as I could have. As I have mentioned in the past, cooking pork can be difficult (at least in my opinion). I like cooking the pork chops on the stove first and then finishing them in the oven but I could have kept mine in the oven a few extra minutes. Our pork was a little on the pink side and had to be reheated. Reheating aside, I really liked the dish and it was incredibly quick to make.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Pears
** adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

2 (4 ounce) boneless butterflied pork chops
1/4 c. crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 pear, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stuff 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese into each pork chop pocket. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper evenly over both sides of pork. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan and sauté for 4 minutes on each side. Put the skillet in the oven and bake for about 5-6 minutes. Remove pork from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add pear; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Serve with pork.