Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pesto BLT Salad

I enjoy bacon. On its own it is amazing, but added to almost any savory dish it becomes amazing. A BLT sandwich is one of those ultimate comfort foods. My friend Elissa introduced me to a BLT Salad a few years ago and it was love at first bite. Chop salad - yes please. A club sandwich... yum. Wilted leaf lettuce salad (recipe coming soon) - childhood memories.

A few months ago my husband and I hit up a new bar and grill in town and I had their pesto chicken club sandwich. Until then, I had missed the amazing combination of pesto and bacon. Now I'm on a mission to pair the two wherever I can (within reason so I can keep my waistline in check).

This amazing salad came together today as I cleaned out the odds and ends in my fridge. If this is what I come up with, maybe I should clean it out more often.

6 c. Chopped Greens (I used spinach, but romaine would be good)
2 c. Orzo, cooked
2 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
5 slices of Bacon, fried and chopped
4 T. Pesto
Shredded Parmesan or Romano Cheese

Cook the orzo until al dente and drain. Rinse briefly with cold water to cool it off and keep pesto from soaking into the pasta too quickly. Toss the pasta with the pesto and set aside to cool while completing the salad. Chop your greens and then add the tomato and bacon. I opted to chop the bacon small to get a little bit in every bite.

Fold in the pesto pasta with the salad and stir to coat. Add additional pesto if necessary. Top with freshly shredded cheese. Served slightly warm, this salad was a great combination of crispy, smooth, salty, and a bit sweet. Definitely a summer salad worth repeating.

* Adding a bit of pine nuts or chicken would be a nice addition to the salad as well. I had a bit extra leftover and pit it a tortilla and it made a great filling for a wrap.

Monday, July 8, 2013

4th of July Firework Fruit Kabobs

I was given fruit to bring for the family reunion over the 4th of July weekend. Instead of mixing a bunch of fruit together and hearing the kids complain that they are all "touching" I figured I'd make an assortment of fruit kabobs. That way they could pick the one that looked best for them.

I found some red/white/blue star shaped marshmallows at the store and threaded a few of those on for a sweet touch. The kabobs were pretty quick to assemble and then I pushed them into the top of the watermelon I had cut up earlier. It ended up being a nice centerpiece for the food table and a huge hit with the kids (and grown ups too).

Bamboo Skewers (marshmallows slide on better if you soak the skewers in water first)
Strawberries (hulled)
Watermelon end
Grapes (cut into portion segments)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pico De Gallo Pasta

What's a girl to do when you have all the makings for Pico De Gallo and no chips with which to eat them with? No Mexican main course with what to use it with? No means in which to eat it, except a spoon. Pico is a sauce, and topping, not to be eaten straight... well you can if you'd like, but I can't.

So what's a girl to do? Break out the pasta. Pasta is like the neutral color of food that goes well with just about everything.

This was a quick dinner that I'll be definitely repeating. It would also work well for leftover pasta or pico that might be hanging out in the fridge. You could easily add shredded chicken to the dish for a bit of protein.

1 lb Pasta, cooked al dente (wheat or gluten-free varieties work)
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded & diced
1 Jalapeno, seeded & finely diced
1/4 c Cilantro, chopped
1/4 c Onion, chopped (optional)
2 t Minced Garlic
1 T Lime Juice
1 t Salt
3 T Oil (Olive, Sunflower, Canola, etc)

Seed and chop 3 ripe tomatoes and 1 jalapeno. Add the chopped cilantro, onion, lime, and salt to the tomato and pepper and allow the flavors to marinade. Meanwhile, cook the pasta til al dente and set aside.

In a large skillet, add oil and garlic and slowly roast over medium-low heat. Watch carefully so that it doesn't scorch/burn. Add pasta and toss to coat. Remove from heat and toss with pico de gallo mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Raspberry Cupcakes

I have so much to be thankful for today. Easter for me is about new life, fresh starts, and gratitude. I spent the day celebrating with family and friends the amazing gift that Jesus gave of his life and by his resurrection.  I've been singing this song all day long.

For our family gathering today I wanted something fresh and new too. I instantly thought of raspberries. To me they taste like summer, and at this point I am so ready for warmth and sunshine.

I really LOVE the flavor of raspberries. I can eat a whole carton of fresh berries in a flash and frozen berries make excellent ice/flavoring in water or a punch. I have a bunch of berry canes that I can't wait to plant as soon as the thaw comes (courtesy of kind neighbors).

I topped these raspberry cupcakes with raspberry frosting a fresh raspberry with a white chocolate chip inserted into the opening. I mean I topped the ones that we hadn't already eaten as a "muffin." Face it, the difference between a muffin and cupcake is pretty much the frosting...

1 c butter, softened
1 1/4 c sugar
4 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour, sifted
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk (cow, nut, rice, etc)
1/2 - 2/3 c raspberry puree*

Line muffin tin with baking cups. Beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, mixing well after each addition. Mix in raspberry puree. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 22-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Makes 21-24 cupcakes

1/2 c shortening or softened butter (I used palm shortening)
1/4 c raspberry puree*
2 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
dash of salt
1/4 c white chocolate chips + 1 t shortening

In a microwave, melt chocolate chips with shortening. Mixing after every 30 seconds until just melted. With a mixer, cream together shortening and sugar and salt. Alternate adding in puree and white chocolate while mixing until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate slightly to stiffen frosting before pipping onto cupcakes or frosting with a knife or spatula. Frosting is light and fluffy, but will become very soft if left in the heat.

* Raspberry puree was made with 12-16 oz of fresh raspberries. I ran them through the blender and pushed the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Jedi Birthday - Part I and Part II

My Star Wars fanatic turned 9 and of course had dreams as big as the galaxy about what we could do to celebrate. In the end, we had two simple parties - one for family and one for school friends. I referred to them as Episode I and Episode II. Time and money were at a premium, but the end results were simple, fun, and well enjoyed by my young jedi.

Birthday Party EPISODE I - Family
MENU- Taco Bar with seasoned ground turkey, sauteed peppers, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa, tortilla chips
CAKE- Green light saber cupcakes & vanilla ice cream
DECORATION - black plastic table cloth (dollar store) using a white paint pen to draw a galaxy on, birthday boy's spot with labelled for Jedi Ryan, Lego Star Wars creations & figures

Birthday Party EPISODE II - School Friends
MENU- Pizza, Yoda Soda (label around a green bottle of soda or juice box), baby carrots & celery
CAKE- Blue light saber cupcakes & vanilla ice cream
DECORATION - black plastic table cloth (dollar store) using a white paint pen to draw a galaxy on, each child's spot with labelled for each Jedi (their names), Lego Star Wars creations & figures
PARTY BAGS - found little Lego Star Wars kits on clearance a month ago and stashed them away. Bags were tied together with a glow stick light saber with a character picture threaded on it
ACTIVITIES - outdoor light saber/blaster battles, glow in the dark light saber battle,balloon light sable battles, general chaos
A little bit of electrical tape around the bracelet connector was a quick job and so much fun for the boys Okay, it was fun for too. I saved the two pink ones in the pack for the "Mom Sabers" and broke them out when the boys were getting a bit out of control. That way I was int he middle of it and could keep an eye on things. I may or may not have added to the chaos and my husband may or may not have made me stop before the other parents showed up to pick up their kids.

I took balloons for making animals and wrapped duct tape around the end to make a saber handle. This was chaos, but my living room and all the kids survived. Lots of laughter involved. The kids each took one home with them.

It doesn't get easier than a light saber cupcake spread. Covered a paper towel roll with tin foil and electrical tape and lined up colorful cupcakes. Super easy to slide in a gluten-free cupcake and everyone else gets a regular one.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kindergarten Valentine Recap

I was the lucky mom to get to plan the Valentine's Day party for my son's kindergarten class. Everything went really well despite a last minute round of food poisoning that I came down with the night before the party. Ugh. I'm so glad that I had all the activities planned and to the teacher ahead of time so all I had to do was make some brownies and marshmallow pops. Both simple enough to do while you are not feeling well.

While I was really happy with the results, I was more pleased with how easy it was to pull together.

I adapted my usual Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows when I found heart shaped marshmallows. I melted semi-sweet and white chocolate chips with a bit of palm oil shortening. After I put the heart marshmallow on the end of a coffee stir stick, I dipped one side of the marshmallow in chocolate and then dipped them into sprinkles. Laid out on a cookie sheet, I stuck them in the freezer for a couple of minutes to harden. I put them on display in a mason jar so the kids could easily grab them, but the moms in class ended up plating up the snacks and serving them to the kids.

Brownies taste even better when they are shaped like a heart right? I under-baked the brownies (half with sprinkles and half without) just slightly and when they cooled I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to make these sweet treats. The bonus is all the scraps were left over to be eaten later when I felt better.

I took pictures of the kids before the party peeking through a heart shaped cookie cutter (that thing got a lot of use). The kids used the pictures to make cards that said "I spy with my little eye, someone that I love."

The kids played site word bingo - Valentine style.

I'm not quite sure when the white conversation hearts were replaced by blue... Our candy counting sheets were a little bit off, but still worked.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Chocolate Pancakes

These are a fun breakfast surprise and no more "unhealthy" than any other pancake. The chocolate seems decadent, but doesn't come with the calorie count of chocolate desert. The boys opted for simple powdered sugar to top these with while I put some crushed strawberries on mine with a bit of powdered sugar. I opted for the lesser amount of sugar in the pancakes, but without the sweeter topping, they could use a bit more.

This is one to definitely repeat.

1 1/4 c flour (GF Mix - I used 1/2 c millet, 1/2 c potato starch, and 1/4 c oat flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t Xanthan gum (if using gluten free flours)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 c raw or brown sugar (1/2 c if you want a sweeter cake)
2 T cocoa powder
2 T oil
1 c milk (cow, rice, nut)
1 egg (or replacer)

Stir dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, wisk the wet ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Heat your a griddle and oil it with coconut or sunflower oil. Pour about 1/3 c of batter and cook until bubbles start to burst and the batter stiffens. Flip and cook the other side for another minute or two. Serve with powdered sugar, maple syrup, macerated berries, whipping cream, or your topping of choice.