Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Candied Walnuts

This salad was inspired by a salad I got at a restaurant in Highland called Blue Lemon. It could almost be classified as a dessert, but since there is lettuce in it - we'll just call it a salad and feel healthy about it. :)

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Candied Walnuts


Ingredients:
baby spinach, arugula and/or baby greens
firm pear, sliced thin - any variety is fine, I like D'anjou
grape halves and/or rasperries
gorgonzola cheese
grilled chicken breast, sliced and/or turkey bacon, diced and cooked
Raspberry Vinaigrette - I love Ken's Steak House Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette Dressing

Candied Walnuts:
1/2 cup walnut halves (or try it with pecans)
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:
1. Heat walnuts and sugar in small sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar melts and coats the walnuts - it will turn light brown and smooth. Immediately after all of the lumps of sugar have melted, remove from heat and spread the walnuts out onto foil to cool.
2. Toss together the rest of the ingredients, and top with candied walnuts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Balsamic Pasta Toss

We probably make balsamic pasta at least once a week. It's an easy way to throw together leftovers for a complete, healthy meal. It's more of an idea than a recipe - basically I just take whatever vegetables I have in the fridge, saute them in a little butter - then simmer in balsamic vinegar. Toss with some pasta, and top with Parmesan. Easy enough!

Balsamic Pasta Toss



Ingredients:
Vegetables (If I plan ahead - my favorite combo of veggies to use is asparagus and mushrooms. We also love using zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, spinach and fresh basil. I am going to try it with some butternut squash, green beans and arugula later this week.)
Pasta - any kind: (I usually use bowties or penne, mostly because they are easier for the girls to eat)
Butter or Olive Oil (I usually use butter)
Balsamic Vinegar
Parmesan cheese - a must!

Directions:
1. Heat just enough butter or olive oil in to coat saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute vegetables until desired tenderness, adding in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar 1-2 minutes before the vegetables are done.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Toss the vegetables and pasta together. Plate, and top with Parmesan.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Burnt Almond Fudge Cheesecake

This is, hands down, our favorite cheesecake. Honestly, I have intended to put the recipe up for so long, but it always disappears faster than I can snap a picture of it! It is so rich that even just a few bites will completely satisfy your sweet tooth. The original recipe I used was torn out from a magazine years ago - I wish I could remember where I got it from! Since then, I have changed it up here and there to make it my own. This is the perfect cheesecake for any chocoholic!


Burnt Almond Fudge Cheesecake


Ingredients:
Crust:
2 sleeves of a 15-ounce package of Oreos - or about 2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted

Cheesecake:
1-1/2 (4-oz) packages Baker's German Sweet Chocolate (you'll use the other 1/2 in the ganache)
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

Ganache:
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 package (or 2 ounces) Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300-degrees.
2. In a blender or food processor, pulse Oreos to fine crumbs. Add melted butter. Press crust on the bottom of a 9-inch springfoam pan (lightly grease sides of pan). 
3. Completely melt 1-1/2 (4-oz) packages of Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate in the microwave, stirring at least every 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
4. Blend together corn syrup, whipping cream, eggs, vanilla and almond extract in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add in cream cheese, 1/2-package at a time. Then, add in melted chocolate. Blend to uniform consistency.
5. Pour batter over crust and spread to level.
6. Bake for 50-60 minutes. When all but about 1/3 of the cheesecake's center is set, turn the oven off - and prop open the door just a bit. Let the cheesecake slowly cool for about one more hour before removing it from the oven. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely at room temperature before adding ganache.
7. Make the ganache by heating the milk chocolate chips, remaining 1/2 package of German's sweet chocolate, and whipping cream over very low heat in a saucepan - stirring constantly. When the ganache has a uniform consistency - remove from heat and add in vanilla and almond extract. Let cool for a few minutes - then pour over top of cheesecake.
8. Cover, and let the cheesecake chill in the fridge at least 12-hours before serving.

*This cheesecake, like most, will freeze and keep very well. But, let's be honest...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Apple Galette


One of my favorite things about the holidays is an excuse to bake and bake, and bake. For Thanksgiving dessert our line-up included the traditional pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate cream pie, burnt almond fudge cheesecake, pumpkin cheese cake, chocolate fudge (made by Michelle!) and this apple galette.

This apple galette was supposed to be a coconut cream pie. But, I got tired - and this just seemed so much easier to throw together with my leftover pie crust - and I'm so glad I did. It was light and just sweet enough to hit the spot. And I love that it is so simple, rustic and yummy. The long directions may make it look complicated - but it is very very easy to make! We ate it at a day-old, and it was sooo good - I can't wait to try it again warm out of the oven!



Apple Galette



Ingredients:
My Favorite Pie Crust (* *This will make twice as much pie crust as you need for one apple galette. You can freeze half for later, use it for another pie, or double the ingredients for everything else to make 2!)
4 cups flour
1 cup cold butter-flavored shortening (I put mine in the freezer about an hour before)
3/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, beaten
about 1/2 cup ice-cold water

Filling
4-5 apples, peeled and sliced (save the peels and cores for the glaze!)
            I used 2 Fuji, 2 Golden Delicious
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon sugar

Glaze
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
peels and cores from apples

Directions:
1. Prepare pie crust by blending together flour, shortening, butter, sugar and salt with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Mix together ice water and egg, and stir into mixture until the dough comes together, adding more ice water as needed. Handle as little as possible, but mix together to a uniform consistency. Divide dough in two, wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for at least one hour.
2. While dough is chilling, prepare apples by peeling and slicing. Then, toss with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/3 cup brown sugar.
3. Roll out one half of dough into a 20-inch circle. Don't worry about it being perfect - this dessert is so beautiful because it is imperfect! Transfer dough onto a lightly greased pizza pan or cookie sheet (or line with parchment).
4. Fill center of dough with apples, then fold the dough into the center, making pleats as necessary.
5. Brush the top of the dough with milk, then sprinkle with sugar.
6. Bake at 350 for 40 - 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
7. While crust is baking, prepare the icing. Place all of the apple peels and cores in a small saucepan and add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat, and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the glaze, discarding the peels and cores.
8. Allow the galette and sauce to both cool for about 10-20 minutes, then brush the glaze over the entire galette.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taco Wedge Salad (Mexican Pulled Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Cilantro-Lime Dressing)

This has recently become one of our favorite ways to make taco salad. The chicken in this recipe is soooo good. You could use in in fajitas, enchiladas, tacos... basically any Mexican dish. And, to sweeten the deal; it's wonderful made either quick on the stove-top, or all-day long in the crock pot. Pair it up with a little corn salsa and top it with lime-cilantro dressing over a wedge of crunchy iceburg. Perfect!! Vahe told me that this is his #2 favorite meal I make. It's so simple and easy, and a great make-ahead dinner.

Taco Wedge Salad


Ingredients:
Mexican Pulled Chicken
Black Bean and Corn Salsa
Cilantro Lime Dressing
Iceburg lettuce, cut in wedges
Optional: top with shredded cheese, tortilla chips or cheese-flavored Doritos, and a fresh squirt of lime

Mexican Pulled Chicken

Ingredients:
3-4 chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt & pepper to taste
2/3 cup salsa (any variety)
1 cup chicken or veggie broth or stock

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onion, cumin, garlic, chili powder and salt and pepper - and saute until the onions are tender.
2. Add in salsa, broth and chicken and let simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, or until done. OR - pour everything into a crock pot and cook on low 3-6 hour (I sometimes just throw in frozen chicken breasts - and it takes about 6-8 hours on low to cook completely.)
3. Shred chicken and return to sauce.

*Crock pot tip: I used to think that when my meat turned out tough in the crock pot, that I was overcooking it. But, the very opposite is true! The meat will cook completely, then as it continues to heat - the connective tissue in the meat will begin to break down, making your meat tender and very easy to shred. It should not take more than the weight of the fork to pull it apart. Be careful, you can overcook in a crock pot - but chances are, if your meat is still tough - it just needs a little more time. (This is true with pork and beef too!)

 
Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Ingredients:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 12 oz bag frozen sweet corn, unthawed (you could also substitute with canned or fresh cooked corn)
3-4 tomatoes, diced (about 1 heaping cup worth)
1 avocado, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 small can sliced olives
1/2 packet of Italian salad dressing mix
1 lime, juiced (about 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice)
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Mix all of the ingredients together.
2. Cover, and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.


Cilantro-Lime Dressing

Ingredients:
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 Tablespoons or 1/2 packet Ranch dressing mix
2/3 cup of sour cream, plain yogurt and/or mayo (I usually use 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup yogurt)
1/3 cup milk
1 lime, juiced (about 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice)

Directions:
1. Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor.
2. Chill in fridge at least one hour to thicken. (This dressing will freeze perfect in ice cube trays for later, too.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coconut Curry Chicken

This is one of my new favorite curry dishes. I love curry, but I don't handle spicy very well. This is the perfect combination of flavor, with a hint of sweet. I got the original recipe from allrecipes.com and tweaked it just a bit. If you like curry dishes - I guarantee you'll love this!

Coconut Curry Chicken

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts, cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (I always use the light variety)
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce can) tomato sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
salt & pepper to taste
optional: top with cilantro and shredded coconut


Directions:
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in curry, onion, and garlic and saute for two minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium, and stir in chicken. Cook until chicken is done and juices run clear.
3. Add in the coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, salt & pepper and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes.
4. Top with fresh cilantro and shredded coconut.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kulfi

I've been holding off on posting, because I have been really wanting to update my blog design. But since that will probably never actually happen, I guess I should start posting some of these recipes I've been saving up and stick to birdie shadows on beige! :)

Last summer on the hubby's 30th birthday we went to this little hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in California, just outside of Napa Valley. It was the best Indian restaurant I have ever been to. The food was excellent, and the service incredible. After dinner, they brought us this ice cream - called Kulfi. It is so different, and so delicious!

I'm pretty sure that Cool Whip is not an authentic ingredient in traditional Indian dishes. And while I am usually anti-Cool Whip - this ice cream is SO good, and tastes authentic enough to me! It's a very simple set of ingredients, and no ice cream maker needed! There's just something about cardamom and pistachios together in a sweet scoop of ice cream...


Kulfi (Indian Cardamom Ice Cream)


Ingredients:
16 ounces Cool Whip (I usually use the light kind)
12-ounce can evaporated milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
optional: small pinch of saffron
pistachios for garnish

Directions:
1. Combine Cool Whip, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and spices together.
2. Freeze at least 8 hours.
3. Garnish with pistachios. (Will keep in the fridge for months!)


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