Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Orzo Salad 1

This is a great summer salad that goes well with any backyard barbeque or potluck. It’s perfect to make ahead because the kale and spinach are hearty greens that hold up well with dressing. In fact, I think it tastes even better the next day.  I made it to go with my Mediterranean grilled meatballs…that recipe is on the way soon! It would also make a great weeknight dinner with a little grilled chicken on top.

There are a few things that make this dish stand out. The bold flavors of the sun dried tomatoes, olives, and feta really make this salad. I like to buy olives from my grocery store’s olive bar so I can get a couple of different types. It’s nice to be able to buy exactly as much as you need, too.  A really good feta also makes a difference.

I love Pastures of Eden which is sold at my local Trader Joe’s. It’s an imported sheep’s milk feta and it is mellow and delicious. Even my husband likes it and he is not a big fan of feta cheese.

This recipe really feeds a crowd. We served it to company and had leftovers for lunch…yum! You can cut it in half or just use less pasta if you don’t need as much. It keeps really well for a few days in the fridge. I promise you, if you serve this salad at your next summer gathering…your family and friends will think you are a culinary genius!

Orzo Salad 2

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Serves 8 – 10

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad Printable Recipe Link

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 lb of orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one bunch of dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato or Tuscan kale), ribs removed and chopped
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup of assorted olives of your choice (I used a combo of green and kalamata), sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (I like the kind in olive oil)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil

Directions:

Make the lemon vinaigrette first by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well. Slowly whisking in the olive oil at the end makes for a nicely emulsified dressing that won’t separate. But…you can always throw everything in a small mason jar and shake it really well! Just remember to shake it again before dressing your salad.

Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until it is just al dente. I like to cook it just a minute less than it needs so that it still has a little bite once it has absorbed the dressing. Drain the orzo, add it to a large salad bowl, and toss it with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil so that it does not stick together. Let it cool down to room temp. Add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing and mix well. I like to save a little cheese and some pine nuts to sprinkle over the top before I serve it.

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Mexican Lasagna

Get bold Mexican flavors and good-for-you veggies all in one simple dinner!

IMG_2072I’m a sucker for a good casserole. There is just something about cooking a bunch of good ingredients in one dish that I really like. I like the simplicity of serving a casserole.  I like that I can sit with a glass of wine while it bakes in the oven rather than hustling around the kitchen right up until dinner is served. I like that I almost always have left overs. I really like that they almost always turn out great. A casserole is pretty hard to screw up!  I came across this recipe in one of my old-school binders filled with recipes that I have clipped from magazines.  That was long before Pinterest :).  This one was from  Martha Stewart. I altered it a bit, but kept the same basic idea.

IMG_2068This dish fulfilled all of my casserole dreams. It’s not going to break any culinary records, but I’m sure it will become one of my go-to dinners when I need something simple and tasty to feed the family. We all love Mexican food, and I love a meatless dinner that is still hearty and satisfying. Our Mexican dinners tend to be light on veggies, but this one is filled with them.

IMG_2051Layers of black beans, spinach, zucchini, queso fresco, and salsa are nestled between corn tortillas. The prep is pretty easy on this, just a little chopping here and sauteing there. The salsa is store bought, so no sauce to make.  Just make sure you use a good salsa that you know you like. It is a big part of the flavor in this dish.  I used a combo of red and green salsa because I didn’t have enough of either one. Either would be great, just go with what you prefer. Then…the oven does it’s magic. All of the yummy flavors meld together and the cheese gets bubbly.

IMG_2094Of course you CAN’T forget the garnishes. You know how I love to garnish! Cool sour cream, olives, green onions, and the ever important avocado.  Save some of your green onions to throw on top too.  A little extra salsa on the side doesn’t hurt!

Mexican Lasagna

Click here for a printable version

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of cilantro
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 10 ounces of fresh baby spinach
  • 2 zucchinis –  shredded on a box grater
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 1 can of black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups of prepared salsa
  • 2 cups of queso fresco cheese – crumbled
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar or jack cheese (or a combo of the 2)
  • Avocado, sour cream, and black olives to garnish


Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Use a food processor to make quick work of your chopping – remove the tops of the cilantro (you want mostly leaves and minimal stems) and add them to the food processor (save a little to garnish if you like). Cut the green onions into 1 inch pieces and throw them in with the cilantro. Add the garlic cloves and pulse until chopped small. Add the spinach and pulse a few more times to roughly chop.

In a large frying pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the grated zucchini for a few minutes until the liquid cooks off. Add the spinach, cilantro, green onion and garlic from the food processor and saute a few more minutes. You want most of the veggies’ liquid to cook off.

Spray the bottom of a large casserole dish (I used an oval 11″ x 9″ CorningWare dish) with non-stick spray (or coat with a little oil). Layer 4 of the corn tortillas on the bottom (Cut them in half if you need to in order to cover the dish). The tortillas will overlap. Add half of the black beans to the tortilla layer, then add half of the veggie mixture, next add one cup of salsa, then one cup of the crumbled queso fresco cheese. Add the next layer of 4 tortillas, then the rest of the beans, veggies, another cup of salsa, and the rest of the queso fresco. Finish with the last layer of 4 tortillas, the last cup of salsa then top with the shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Let cool for about 10 minutes to set and serve topped with sour cream, olives, diced avocado, cilantro and green onions.

Serves 4-6


Great Grains Salad

Kamut, Wild Rice, and Quinoa with Pearled Couscous

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Hellooooo Summer! The Lauterbach family has had a very full social calendar lately (we are just so darn popular ;)). We have had lots of fun with family and friends and lots of eating and drinking. It’s a little exhausting to have this much fun!

When you are busy and constantly on the go, it’s kind of nice to have something healthy and hearty in the fridge to grab in a hurry. This grain salad fits the bill perfectly! It travels to work (or the beach!) very well. I originally posted this recipe about a year ago. I have made it a few times since then with a few little tweaks so I thought I would re-post it with my changes and some updated photos.

This is a really delicious combination of grains! This recipe is a bit time consuming because of all the grains that need to be cooked separately, but it is super simple and so good that it is totally worth it. This makes a great dish to bring to a summer pot luck, or a yummy light dinner served over a bed of greens. My husband loved it over baby kale lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil.

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Kamut is related to both durum wheat and spelt, and is pronounced kah-moot.  It has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than modern wheat and is about twice the size. I love the buttery, nutty flavor and the chewy texture of this grain. The best way to cook it is to soak it over night (or all day) first. I know that sounds like too much prep to put into such a simple grain salad, but once again…it’s worth it! You can find Kamut in most health food stores like Whole Food’s, or here on Amazon. If you can’t track it down, a good substitution would be farro, barley, spelt, or wheat berries.IMG_2031

You should be able to find wild rice, quinoa, and pearled couscous (sometimes called Israeli couscous) in any well stocked grocery store. Pearled couscous is just a larger version of regular couscous. It’s closely related to pasta (made with durum wheat) and has a slightly chewy texture. It is simple to prepare – just like cooking rice. I like this whole wheat variety from Bob’s Red Mill. whole-wheat-pearl-couscous

The wild rice adds a great earthy flavor and the quinoa is perfect for a little protein. I like the rainbow variety and it’s pretty easy to find.

grain collage1This salad has a tangy, tart, and slightly sweet dressing that is delicious! Celery and almonds give a nice crunch, and dried blueberries & cranberries add the perfect sweet bite!IMG_2035

Great Grain Salad

Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Kamut, presoaked
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup whole wheat pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous)
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped small
  • 1 shallot, chopped small
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups of toasted slivered almonds
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Dressing:

Whisk together the following ingredients:

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard,  1 minced garlic clove, 1  teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Once they are all well combined, slowly whisk in 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

To Make the Salad:

The first step in this dish is cooking all of the grains. Cook each one separately – according to the package directions. Make sure you add about a quarter to a half teaspoon of salt to each one while it cooks. You can cook your grains up to a day in advance, then refrigerate until you are ready to make the salad.

Once all of your grains have cooled a little, combine them together in a big bowl. Add the chopped celery, shallots, scallions, parsley, dried berries, and 3/4 of the dressing and mix well. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. To serve right away, add all the dressing and the nuts and mix well. The grains really soak up the dressing, so you will want to reserve a little to add later. If you are serving this later, don’t add the nuts yet, cover and refrigerate  until you are ready to eat. Let it get back to room temperature, add the rest of the dressing and the nuts just before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Spinach and Asparagus Salad

Delicious, Flavorful, and Healthy!

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For those of you that follow Juicy Bites, I’m SURE your wondering where the heck I have been! Or…at least I like to think you have all been wondering that :). I haven’t gone anywhere (except for Maui on vacation!). I have been right here, thinking about how I should be blogging, but not finding the motivation to do it.  While we were in Maui, my 6 year old Finn asked me, “Mommy, did you forget that you have a blog?”. Ouch! Guess it had been a while since I had talked about it or posted anything. I have come up with a lot of excuses not to blog some of the things I have been cooking.

First off, it is a bit time consuming. Then there is the fact that you actually have to make something “blog worthy” to post. I know there is a really wide variety of people that seek out food blogs for recipes. I was finding myself thinking that even though I made something delicious, I would worry that some readers would think it wasn’t healthy enough, some readers would think it was too healthy, some readers would think it wasn’t easy enough, or people just plain wouldn’t be interested. I got a little caught up in what it was that I wanted this blog to be all about.

I needed to remind myself why I started Juicy Bites in the first place.  I wanted a “cook book” of the things that my family and I love to eat.  A place to record all of the juicy bites that I make at home. Sometimes those things are super healthy, like my Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl, and sometimes they are super easy, like my Super Quick Fish Tacos. I thought it would be a great way to record my favorite recipes, and share them with my family and friends. Sometimes when I ask my son, Max, what he wants for dinner, he will say he wants to look at my blog and pick something out. I kind of LOVE that! So, I guess I better keep up with this and not worry about weather anyone else wants to make whatever it is that I posted. And, if  they do…fabulous!!IMG_1827So let’s talk about this salad! A while back my good friend, Lori, made a similar salad when I had her family over for dinner. I have loved it ever since and it has been on my blogging to do list for a while. I decided to make it for lunch yesterday and forced myself to take some pictures before gobbling it up! It is a delicious combo of baby spinach, blanched asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and avocado. I topped it with a little shaved manchego cheese and toasted pine nuts. The dressing is a balsamic dijon vinaigrette, really simple and delicious!

There are a ton of adaptations you could make with this. My friend’s original version had arugula instead of spinach (which was really good!) and Marcona almonds instead of pine nuts. You could also use what ever cheese you have on hand. Shaved parmesan would be great.

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Blanching

This salad is simple to make…just a quick blanch for the asparagus before hand. And when I say quick, I mean like a minute or less! When you blanch a veggie, you want your salted water to be at a full boil. Throw your veggies in and be ready to get them out pretty quick and put them straight into an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the texture crisp and the color bright. After a few minutes in the ice bath, drain and let them dry on paper towels. You can do this step in advance and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

IMG_3560Avocados are plentiful right now in California and they are oh so good! We go through at least a couple a day in my house. For a salad I like my avocados “firm ripe”, which means I don’t want them too soft, but just so they give a little when you press on the skin. A “firm ripe” avocado holds together better when you are tossing a salad. Save the soft ripe avos for guacamole or avocado toast (a favorite breakfast around here).

IMG_3561The dressing I made is a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I love the sweetness from the balsamic vinegar.  A little dijon mustard adds just the right kick. This is a good time to bust out your best olive oil. I used a Spanish olive oil with amazing flavor…it really makes the dressing! This recipe made more than enough for my salad, so depending how much you use, you may have a little left over.IMG_1826

Spinach and Asparagus Salad

Makes 2 entree size salads or 4-6 servings as a starter

Ingredients:

  • 1 six-ounce package of baby spinach
  • 1 bundle of asparagus (about 12 – 16 ounces) – cut into 1 inch pieces, and blanched & chilled (see directions on blanching above)
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and blotted with a paper towel
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • a couple ounces of shaved hard aged cheese (like manchego, parmesan, or romano) – a vegetable peeler works great for this!
  • Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Toss the spinach, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and diced avocado together with the dressing (how much you use depends on how “dressed” you like your salad, it’s best to start with a little and add more if it needs it). Season with plenty of salt and pepper (this is important…avocados scream for salt and pepper!). Top with the shaved cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (adjust to suit your taste)
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate any unused portion.
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Sweet and Savory Corn Cakes

Who says pancakes have to be for breakfast?IMG_1216

I’m sure you have all been chomping at the bit waiting for me to post my corn cake recipe, right? Well, here it is! (Ok…I get that most of the world doesn’t care about food quite as much as I do, but I like to think that you all love getting Juicy Bites in your in box! :))

These are the little corn cakes that I made and topped with my Tomatilla and Avocado Relish as an appetizer for a party. I also served them for dinner for my family and topped them with black beans and cheese. Sort of like a tostada but with a corn cake instead of a tortilla.

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They were perfect little party food bites and they were a hit with my family at the dinner table. I think they would also be great served for breakfast or brunch topped with eggs and served with bacon…yum! A little crumbled bacon thrown in the batter wouldn’t hurt at all either.

IMG_1255I used a mix of Masa (a Mexican corn flour found with the other flours), all purpose flour, and corn meal. They had a nice texture with that mix and the scallions and green chilies gave them great flavor. Masa is also a great ingredient to thicken Mexican soups or chilies, or make to your own corn tortillas. But if all you use if for is these pancakes, it’s still worth it!  I added a little honey for a touch of sweetness, but you could increase the honey by another tablespoon or 2 if you were making these for breakfast dish.

IMG_1207Topped with black beans, jack cheese, and the tomatillo and avocado relish, these were a perfect main coarse and my family loved them.

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You could be creative with toppings…if you have any yummy ideas, please send them my way!

Sweet and Savory Corn Cakes

This makes about a dozen dinner sized cakes or about 30 appetizer cakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of all purpose flour
  • ½ cup masa harina
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼  cups buttermilk
  • ¼  cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablspoons honey
  • 8 scallions, trimmed, white and green portions thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sweet corn (frozen is fine, just thaw first)
  • 2 green chilies (like Ortega canned green chilies) seeded and chopped small
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

1. Combine the flour, cornmeal,  masa harina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring well. Set aside.

2. Using a food processor, pulse the corn several times until it is coarsely chopped.

3. Combine the buttermilk, butter, egg, and honey in a second, smaller bowl, whisking together. Add the corn, scallions, and chilies and mix well.

 4. Using as few strokes as possible, stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until the two are barely smoothed out.

5. Heat a non stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, ladle on the batter; using a ¼-cup ladle will yield about 12 good-size pancakes.

Optional Serving Idea:

Top warm corn cake with black beans, shredded cheese, and salsa of your choice. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

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Delicious and Hearty Lentil “Meatballs”

Lentil Meatballs cover photo

Happy (Belated) New Year to my Juicy Bites readers! Once again, sorry for the long lapse between posts. I know I am starting to sound like a broken record here, so I won’t bore you with all of my excuses for neglecting my little juicy blog. I will get right to talking about these delectable little meatless “meatballs”. 

I, like everyone else, started the new year with resolutions to eat better. For me, a healthier diet means eating less meat and eating more veggies, whole grains, and legumes. So when I came across this recipe on Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog, Goop, I was eager to try it! I’m so glad I did…they were delicious and satisfying! I tried my had at a quinoa burger last week in hopes that it would make a great post. They were really tasty, but didn’t hold together well. I will have to work on the recipe some more before it makes it’s debut on Juicy Bites.

lentil meatballs close up

These meatballs were really simple to make, especially if you have precooked lentils like I did. Trader Joes sells them in their refrigerated produce section and they worked perfect. You do need a food processor (a mini one worked for me) to puree the lentils. The pureed lentils are combined with some sauteed onion and garlic, some herbs, and a little bit of rich ricotta cheese and nutty parmesan. They are a bit messy to form but hold together well and at least you don’t have to scrub any “raw meat residue” off your hands when you are done! I love that they can be made ahead of time and baked later.

lentil meatball cut in half

These little guys are such a versatile protein and can be served in many different ways. We had them with pasta and my home made pesto and some roasted broccoli. I think they would be great with a hearty marinara sauce, or in a pita with a yogurt sauce. My family loved them and they are looking forward to the left overs. They would freeze well after they are cooked if you wanted to make a double batch.

lentil meatballs with pasta and broccoliEven if you are not a vegetarian, don’t be afraid to try these. They are delicious and filling and taste MUCH better than the typical soy-based meatless “meatball” you find in stores (which are usually loaded with ingredients that I can’t even pronounce). They are a great way to add more legumes into your diet which give you a powerful combination of B vitamins, calcium, potassium and folate.

lentil meatballs pan

Lentil “Meatballs”

Adapted from Goop

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups cooked lentils (I used cooked lentils from Trader Joes)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Method:

Preheat oven t0 375 degrees

Drizzle a pan with olive oil, place over medium high heat and add the chopped onion. Sauté for a couple of minutes until translucent and softened. Add the garlic, dried thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté for about another minute or two until soft and fragrant. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.

Place lentils in a food processor with tomato paste and a drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon) and pulse until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and ricotta together until mixed well. Add lentils and mix together until smooth. Add the cooked/cooled onion and garlic mixture from the frying pan, the parmesan, the panko breadcrumbs, and the parsley.  Season well with salt and pepper (I used about a teaspoon of kosher salt and several turns on my pepper mill). Mix well until everything is combined. If the mixture is still feeling wet, add a little more breadcrumbs until the mixture is dry enough to stick together and roll into balls.

Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray or olive oil (I lined mine with foil first to save time on clean up). Form the lentil mixture into balls with your hands (mine made around 18 meatballs). A little olive oil on your hands helps the mixture from sticking while you form them. Drizzle more olive oil over the top of the meatballs and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Gently turn half way through so that they brown evenly.


Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Creamy, comforting, delicious and healthy!

The temperature is starting to drop…just a little. Ok, so it was 75 degrees today. At least it wasn’t 85, and with the evenings cooling down, I was ready for some soup! I have made this soup many times and my family really likes it. It is one of my kid’s favorites (they call it Snowman Soup) and I love that it is packed with good stuff. This soup tastes rich and indulgent…but it’s healthy!

I know cauliflower is not on very many people’s list of favorite veggies, but it really is delicious when you cook it the right way. I love it roasted with olive oil or in one of my favorite dishes…Linguini and Cauliflower (I will post that one some day!). One of my favorite blogs, In Pursuit of More, has an has an amazing post on Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Pesto  that you MUST check out. Her pictures make cauliflower (and kale) look like a superstar.

In this soup, the cauliflower works so well with the creamy yukon gold potatoes. They are a match maid in heaven.

Make sure you break down your head of cauliflower into small florets that are bite size. It may seem like you have a ton of cauliflower in this recipe, but it cooks down and you puree half of it so it ends up working out just right. I love having creamy texture, but also having nice big bites of cauliflower and potato. There’s something about a totally pureed soup that just doesn’t seem like a meal to me. I like them as a starter,  but if soup is the main dish, I like to have something to chew on. If you have picky eaters, you may want to try to puree the soup completely smooth for them.  Most kids like potato soup and they will never know that there is anything potentially yucky in it.

Beans? In a cauliflower and potato soup? Yes! I puree these cannellini beans in my blender with a little half and half (whole milk would work too, or even soy if you want to go non-dairy). You end up with a smooth and creamy puree that gives the soup really nice texture and body. You would have to add a cup of heavy cream to get the same creamy, thick soup without this trick. Not that I’m against adding a cup of cream to anything, it’s just not something I normally do when I’m cooking my family a weeknight dinner.

Lots of sauteed leek, onion, and celery give this soup great flavor. Make sure your veggies are nice and tender before adding the rest of the goods. Don’t rush this step because it is an important part of building the good flavor of this soup.

This recipe makes a good size pot of soup. If feeds our family of four (with seconds, of course) and makes great leftovers. My boys love to take it to school in a thermos. I think I saw rain in our forecast for Thursday…this is the perfect lunch on a rainy day!

This soup screams for some good crumbled bacon on top. A little dollop of sour cream is nice too! Oh…and you MUST have some good crusty bread or rolls with it. A salad is totally optional and I find that it usually just gets in the way :).

Even if you don’t like cauliflower…I dare you to try this soup. I bet you will change your mind.

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 1 small to medium brown onion, chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large head (or 2 small) of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  •  6 cups of chicken stock
  • 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced (if all you can find is baby Yukon Golds, you will need about 2 lbs or just under)
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup of whole milk or half and half
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional Garnishes: Cooked bacon, sour cream, chopped Italian parsley or chives

In a large heavy pot (like Le Cruset), heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion, celery, and a pinch or 2 of kosher salt and cook until they have softened (about 10 minutes). Add all of the cauliflower, the chicken stock, and the potatoes and season with more salt then bring to a simmer. Cover and let cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are very tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, blend the drained cannellini beans and the milk or half and half until very smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Once your cauliflower and potatoes are very tender, add about half to the blender (let it cool a little before blending).  Blend until smooth and add back to the pot along with the pureed beans. Cook on low for about 5 minutes so that it heats through. Taste for seasoning…you may need to add more salt, it just depends on the saltiness of your chicken stock.

Serve garnished with crumbled bacon, sour cream, fresh chopped Italian parsley or chives.


Fast…Fresh…And Delicious!

Potato Gnocchi with Farmer’s Market Vegetables

I took a trip to my local San Clemente Farmer’s Market today with my boys. I was hoping to be inspired to make something delicious for dinner. I don’t usually need much help coming up with something to make for a fall Sunday dinner, but it is still a little warm out for a big pot of soup or chili. I am seriously ready for some cool fall weather!

So..after perusing the veggies and fruits and letting my boys have a honey stick, we came home with some fresh gnocchi from a local pasta company and some green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and herbs. Once I got home, my little package of gnocchi actually looked kinda small for our hungry family of four (it was 8 ounces, and we usually eat close to a pound of pasta). Luckily I had a ton of veggies so I ended up with a nice platter of food. I also threw in a can of cannellini beans that I found in the pantry to add a little protein.

This dinner was a hit with the Hubs and the mini food critics. There were a couple of groans about the green beans from my youngest, but overall he liked it.

I blanched the green beans (put them in boiling salted water for just a few minutes, then into an ice bath to stop the cooking). I sauteed some shallots, garlic, and the zucchini in a little butter and olive oil.

One of the benefits of this warm weather that is lingering far too long for my taste is that we still have lovely tomatoes available at the farmer’s market. Our garden tomato plants are done for the season…but I can still enjoy the fruits of somebody else’s  labor!

This really was a simple dinner that was bursting with flavors from the herbs and veggies. Fresh grated pecorino romano on top made the dish. If you can’t find fresh gnocchi, you can get the vacuum packed kind in the pasta section of the grocery store. You could also try to make it from scratch if you happen to have a BUNCH of extra time on your hands 🙂

Gnocchi with Veggies and Cannellini Beans

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 ounces of Fresh or vacuume packed gnocchi
  • 6 ounces of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small zucchini, quartered and cut into quarter inch pieces
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper…duh
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup of half and half
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
  • handful of fresh italian parsley, chopped
  • Fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

This meal comes together really quickly once you have done your prep work. Make sure you have all of your veggies and herbs prepped and ready before you start cooking your gnocchi.

First you will need to blanch your green beans in boiling water for just a few minutes or until crisp tender. Put them in an ice bath the stop the cooking and keep their bright green color, then drain and set aside.

Next…heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and cook your gnocchi for about 2-3 minutes or until it floats to the top (you will need to cook longer if it is not fresh). Once the gnocchi is done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon onto a plate covered with paper towels so they dry a bit.

Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet with the olive oil and butter and add the shallots. Cook them for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes longer. Next add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the blanched green beans, tomatoes, cannellini beans, gnocchi and thyme, season again and cook for a couple minutes more so the tomatoes soften a bit and the gnocchi is heated through. Add the half and half and mix well to coat all of the veggies and gnocchi.

Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh parsley and basil. Add more salt and pepper if it needs it (you will need more salt than you think in this dish). Top with plenty of fresh grated cheese and serve.


Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes, Spinach and Kale

Lasagna in the summer?

I don’t usually think of making lasagna in the summer, but I’m still trying to find ways to use up our delicious home grown heirloom tomatoes. When you add a couple layers of these juicy slices of heaven, suddenly lasagna is transformed into a summer dish! I love making a dinner that I can do early in the day (before it gets too hot to be cooking!) and pop in the oven when I am ready. That means less racing to get dinner done and more wine sipping and magazine reading during the pre-dinner hour. I also love that lasagna almost always means left overs!

I added a ton of greens (kale and spinach) and some mushrooms to this lasagna. I found baby kale at the market that is already washed and ready to eat…less prep work! I also used fresh lasagna noodles…no boiling first! You can use regular noodles and par-boil them first or use no-boil noodles as well. My other time saver is a store bought marinara. Just look for one that doesn’t have a bunch of junk in it (like Prego & Ragu do).

When it comes to the greens, you can sauté them as is (especially if you can find washed and trimmed kale), or you can chop them like I do. I do them in batches in the food processor (just pulse until roughly chopped). My kids are o.k. with greens if they are chopped really small. It’s an extra step that you don’t need to take if everyone in your house loves the greens. You can also go with all spinach if you aren’t a fan of kale (which would just be crazy :)).

I could not live without my food processor!

I love the earthy flavor that you get from mushrooms!

The spinach and kale sauteed with onion and garlic. It seems like a lot when you start out, but they cook down quite a bit.

A layer of sauce goes on top of the olive oil in the bottom of your baking dish.

Then a layer of lasagna noodles and a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture.

Next goes the greens and mushrooms mixture topped with sliced tomatoes.

The finished product topped with a final layer of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

This dinner was a really big hit with all of my boys (the little ones and the Hubs!). They were claiming the left overs before the dinner was even finished!

Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes, Spinach and Kale

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 8 ounce package of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ounce package of baby spinach
  • 5 ounce package of baby kale OR one bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups of store bough or home made marinara sauce
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  •  1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzerella cheese, drained, patted dry and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of grated mozzerella cheese
  • 4-5 (depending on size) assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 ounces of fresh lasagna noodles (if using dried pasta, par-boil first)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional: Pulse spinach and kale in a food processor until chopped small (not as small as you would do for pesto, more of a rough chop).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Add a couple turns of olive oil to a medium pan and saute mushrooms with a pinch of salt and some pepper over medium/high heat to brown. Once they have released their liquid and browned (best way to do this is not to mess with them too much), remove them from the pan and set aside to cool. Add a little more olive oil and saute the onion for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Turn up the heat and add the greens (either as-is or chopped)  and some salt and pepper to the pan and stir to evenly wilt and cook off some of the liquid (about 3-5 minutes). Once the greens are done, add the mushrooms back to the pan and mix to combine. Taste to make sure it is all well seasoned and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, beaten egg, chopped parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground pepper and set aside.

Now you are ready to assemble. In a large baking dish (I use a deep 9×13 lasagna pan), drizzle a little olive oil (about  3 tablespoons) on the bottom. Next add 1/3 of the marinara sauce followed by a layer of noodles. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles followed by 1/2 of the greens/mushroom mix. Next add a layer of sliced tomatoes, then 1/2 of the fresh mozzarella (you will not have enough to fill the pan, just space it out), and 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella. Top off with another 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with a layer of noodles, ricotta mixture, greens/mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, fresh and shredded mozzarella, and another 1/3 of the sauce. Finish with the last of the noodles, the last of the sauce, and top with the rest of the shredded mozzarella and the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake immediately for about 45 minutes (uncover for the last 10 minutes), or refrigerate until ready to bake.


Garden Tomatoes & My Heirloom Tomato Pasta

Serious Tomato Heaven!!

After many trials and tribulations, my husband has successfully grown some heirloom tomatoes. It was way more work (blood, sweat, tears and a few choice words), than he thought it would be…but WELL worth it! If you haven’t had a home-grown tomato, whether it be from your garden, a friend’s, or the farmer’s market, you really don’t know what at tomato is supposed to taste like. These little wonders are the JUICIEST of Bites!

We have a nice variety and they are all so delicious. We ordered our plants from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants in Lomita, CA. She has an amazing selection of organic heirloom tomatoes and they came shipped to us carefully nested in a box in perfect condition at the beginning of Spring. She has also helped my husband with a lot of his questions on what to do about pests and other issues that can be a problem when you grow tomatoes. He found the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen munching on his leaves. We lovingly named him Phatapilla, and found him a home far away from the tomato plants. Here is a run down of what we are growing…

Paul Robeson…Laurel’s favorite (from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomatoes)

Green Zebra…sweet and tangy. My son Max’s favorite.

These little guys are to die for. So sweet!

Our backyard garden. I take NO credit for this…It’s all my hubby. I’m so proud of his first crop!

These tomatoes are so tasty sliced up with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt & pepper. I made a pasta dinner with them last night and they were definitely the star of the dish. Heirlooms aren’t the tomato you would want to make a sauce with. I think their flavor shines the most when they are left uncooked. For this super simple summer dinner all I did was chop up a few of the tomatoes (cut the little cherries in half) and “marinate” them in some really good olive oil with a little minced garlic, chopped basil and Italian parsley, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. The tomatoes give off some of their juices and create the most delicious sauce to toss your warm pasta in. Top that with some shaved aged Parmigiano-Reggiano…absolute heaven. I seriously could eat that pasta every day. Amazing flavor and so simple.

Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti

Serves 4 (with a little left over if you are lucky)

Ingredients:

  • combination of heirloom tomatoes – about 4 medium-large tomatoes mixed with some cherry tomatoes (I ended up with about 4 cups of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2-3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • Parmesan or Romano for serving

Roughly chop the bigger heirlooms and cut small tomatoes in half. Be careful to save any juice that they give off onto the cutting board. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic and salt & pepper in a large bowl. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes (mine sat for about 45 min). In a large pot of well salted boiling water, cook your spaghetti until al-dente. Before you drain, reserve a little of the pasta water. Drain and toss with the tomatoes. If it is a little dry, you can add some of your reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning…you may need more salt and pepper. 

Serve with freshly shaved cheese and extra chopped basil.

Do you have a favorite heirloom tomato? Or how about a recipe that uses them? Would love to hear from you!