Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pesto Chicken Salad with Red Grapes

All I can say about this salad is, "OMG! It was so good!" That, and it's from The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet by Paulette Mitchell. I've blogged about this book before, once when I found it (thanks to a fellow blogger), and once when I tried, and totally botched, her winter squash soup. The recipes from Paulette's book are full of fresh, real ingredients. Needless to say, I have a very long list of recipes I want to try. And this salad is a keeper.

Pesto Chicken Salad with Red Grapes-Adapted from The 15-Minute Gourmet
Printable Recipe

for the pasta:
6 oz penne rigate

for the dressing:
1/4 cup pesto (she recommends her pesto, I used store-bought)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

for the salad:
1 1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (I used 1 cup)
1 cup coarsely shredded carrots (I used store-bought matchstick)
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
2 green onions, coarsely chopped (I used three, about 1/4-inch sliced)
salt and pepper to taste
8 leaves red leaf lettuce (I used cut red lettuce)
freshly ground pepper
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain it well, rinse it with cold water, and drain it well again.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Add the penne, chicken, carrots, grapes, and green onions to the dressing. Toss gently until everything is evenly combined.

4. Serve the salad with the lettuce, and garnish with the pepper and Parmesan cheese.

I was happy that my salad looked just like the picture in the book, although mine seemed to have more dressing. The dressing was also pretty vinegar-y. My husband thought it was awesome, but I might decrease the amount of vinegar a little the next time I make it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Black-Bottom Coconut Bars

When I saw the "Cookie Carnival" button on a fellow blogger's site I knew I had to join in the fun. September is my first cookie, and I was very excited because it had two of my favorite things: chocolate and coconut. This Black-Bottom Coconut Bar is from Martha Stewart's website, and it didn't disappoint. Well, that's not exactly true. I didn't really like the taste of the chocolate layer, but I was outvoted by everyone else who tried them. I loved the coconut layer, though; it was super moist and the coconut flavor was exactly right.

In order to maintain the peace between my children the afternoon I made these, my 6 year-old was my helper. She was very excited about the chocolate. Then her heart was broken when she saw the coconut. She wouldn't even try one of the finished bars....more for me, I guess! ;)

Black-Bottom Coconut Bars - makes about 24 bars
from Martha Stewart

for the chocolate base
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

for the coconut topping
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling

1. For the chocolate base: Preheat your oven to 375. Line a 9-inch square baking pan (I used an 8-inch.) with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang). (I used non-stick spray--I don't like using butter to prepare pans.)

2. Place the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and melt it in the microwave. Add the sugar and salt, and whisk to combine. Whisk in the egg, then add the cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3. Bake just until the sides begin to pull away from the edges of the pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let the chocolate layer cool slightly while preparing the coconut topping. Keep your oven on to cook the topping.

5. For the coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.

6. Gently mix in the flour and coconut (except for the 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).

7. Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. (I laid a piece of waxed paper over the top and then pressed the topping into an even layer.)

8. Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

9. Cool the bars completely in the pan. Lift them from pan, peel the foil down off the sides, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

UPDATE: Go here to see all of the entries for the September Cookie Carnival. Everyone did a great job...and I'm happy to note there were some who agreed we me about the chocolate layer ;)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Foodie Fights #12 results

The third time was indeed the charm! I may now humbly display the Foodie Fights Winner sticker on my blog for my winning post for Foodie Fights #12, Battle Semolina Flour and Pomegranate: Italian Pomegranate-Lime and Cheese Sweet Bread.
Participating in Foodie Fights is a lot of fun, and if you're a food blogger I really encourage you to sign up and give it a try. If for no other reason, than to make something with ingredients you might not have ever considered before :)

Winning comes with bragging rights and the opportunity to be a judge in the next competition. This will be my first stint as a judge of anything (I managed to get out of judging an art competition at my daughter's elementary school last year...phew!), so wish me luck with that, too!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Balsamic Green Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta

My sister says balsamic vinegar makes everything, "Mmmm", and she's right. I first had these green beans when she made them for a family Thanksgiving dinner and I was instantly in love with them. She made them with a bottled light balsamic vinegar dressing, but I changed it to a simple oil and vinegar dressing when I made them. I don't like lots of sauce or dressing on anything (except for the sauce on Kneader's Raspberry Bread Pudding--O.M.G.), so I made the dressing with 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Feel free to increase the amounts to your liking.

A note about the sun dried tomatoes. I don't use the tomatoes packed in oil, or the hard-as-a-rock dried ones. I buy the tomatoes that are soft and chewy, almost like a dried apricot. And I don't soak them first; they are perfect and ready to use right out of the package.

Balsamic Green Beans with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta
Printable Recipe

1 lb thin green beans
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook them until they are bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes (it might take longer if you use thicker beans).

2. Drain the beans and rinse them with cold water until they're chilled.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper.

4. Add the cold beans, sun dried tomatoes, and feta cheese; toss gently to coat all of the ingredients with the dressing. Serve cold.

This makes 6-8 side dish servings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stewed Zucchini with Couscous

I love this dish. It's actually an adaptation of two recipes I'll have in my book, Italian-style Stewed Zucchini, and Indian-style Stewed Zucchini. I love it because it's tasty, easy, beautiful, low in Weight Watchers points, and filling because of the beans. And it's vegetarian, unless you add some shrimp, which I've also done.

Stewed Zucchini with Couscous
Printable Recipe

4 small zucchini, each about 6 inches long, halved length-wise, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well and juice reserved
1 14.5 oz can cannelloni beans, or other white beans
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup uncooked couscous
fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Spray a large pot with non-stick spray. Heat over medium-high heat for 2 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium.

2. Add the onion, zucchini, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan and cook until the vegetables have started to soften, 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

3. Add the tomatoes, beans, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, basil, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add enough water or chicken broth to the reserved tomato juice to bring the measurement to 3/4 cup. Add the juice and vinegar to the pot and bring it to a strong simmer (it won't really boil). Add the couscous, stirring it in well. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork or chopsticks (my tool of choice) before serving. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

This recipe makes about 6 cups. Each cup = 141.5 cal/0.2 g fat/5.8 g fiber/2 WW points; 1 1/2 cups = 212.3 cal/0.4 g fat/8.7 g fiber/3 WW points

We've had this as a side dish and a main course. It also freezes really well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Italian Pomegranate-Lime and Cheese Sweet Bread

When I was invited back to the Foodie Fights competition for a third time (for battle #12), I thought maybe this time will be the charm! Then I saw the two ingredients: semolina flour and pomegranate. Gracious! I knew semolina flour is used to make pasta, but what else can it be used for? And pomegranate...deep breath...

I did some poking around on the internet and found that, besides pasta, semolina flour can be used to make other baked goods like pizza crust and bread. The flour has a very high gluten content, which is why pasta made with it stretches when it cooks instead of falling apart (so that's what happened when I tried making homemade pasta when I was a teenager). But because of it's awesome gluten-ness, it's not so good for other things, like the butter crust I tried first (deee-saas-ter!). So....pomegranate pizza? Probably not. I kept looking. One of the bread recipes I found claimed to produce a loaf of bread with a tender crumb and crisp crust. That sounded promising. But then I had the whole pomegranate thing: I live in Utah, and pomegranates are not in season until October, which meant there was not a single ruby red kernel to be found anywhere.

OK. What about pomegranate juice? Bottles of the juice of millions of tiny pomegranate kernels is all the rage right now, touting all types of health claims stemming from it's many vitamins and high amounts of flavonoids. And pomegranate juice is in almost every store I shop. I could make a sauce with the juice, but I didn't want to do another "meat with sauce" dish (battle #10, Chicken and Peach Picatta; battle #4, Grilled Pork and Cantaloupe with Spicy Balsamic Glaze). And my first attempt at a lemon bar-type dessert was a total bust. Then: can make jelly with juice...bread with a tender crumb...Bingo!

At least one day ahead, make the pomegranate-lime jelly.

Pomegranate-Lime Jelly
(adapted from Home Canning)

1 3/4 cups pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons pectin (from 1.75 oz box)
2 1/2 cups sugar


Bring pomegranate juice, lime juice, lime zest, and pectin to a full boil over high heat. Add all of the sugar at once, and bring it back to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute more, stirring constantly, and then remove the pan from the heat.

This made about 3 cups. You can put it in jars and process it in a heat canner, or you can just put it in the fridge like I did.

This jelly is more divine than I ever thought it would be. It's not super sweet like a strawberry jam; the tart flavor of the pomegranate juice off-sets the sugar and the result is a wonderful sweet-tart party in your mouth. And the lime juice is a light, surprising after-flavor. Just yummy! (It's also awesome on a PB&J)

Italian Pomegranate-Lime and Cheese Sweet Bread
Printable Recipe

1 recipe Pomegranate-Lime Jelly (see above)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg, separated, yolk and white reserved

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 egg yolk

2-3 tablespoons sugar, for finishing

(This dough is an adaptation of my pizza dough)

1. Combine the flours, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade; pulse several times to mix it all together.

2. In a small sauce pan, combine the butter, milk, and cream, and heat on medium until the butter has started to melt and the temperature reads between 120-125 on an instant read thermometer (or warm enough you can barely put your finger in it).

3. With the processor running, very slowly drizzle the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Then add the egg yolk and let the processor run for about 2 minutes. The dough is going to sound really, really wet at first, but it will come together after about a minute (and make the machine do the typical bread dance on the counter), so resist the temptation to add more flour.

This is what the dough should look like. It's quite sticky.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently gather it together to form a ball. The dough should be very soft; don't add any more flour than you need to keep it from sticking to the counter.

Nice soft ball of dough.

5. Spray a bowl with non-stick spray, put the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until it's doubled in size. This took 1 hour and 20 minutes, much longer than for my normal dough...maybe the fancy semolina flour? I put the bowl on my range top to rise; my granite countertop is very cold, and I didn't want the dough to cool too much.

6. While the dough is rising, make the cream cheese mixture: In a medium bowl, and using a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese on low until it's light and fluffy, about 10 seconds. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, heavy cream, and egg yolk, and mix it on medium until it's smooth and creamy, about 20 seconds. Set it aside if your dough is almost done rising; put it in the fridge if it's still going to be a while.

The dough is done rising.

7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently deflate it with your fingers, and cut it into 8 equal pieces. The easiest way I've found to do this is to press the dough into a circle and cut it into equally-sized wedges.

8. Form each piece into a ball, put them back into the dough-rising bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

9. Heat your oven(s) to 375 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

10. On a lightly floured surface, roll a ball of dough out to a 6-inch circle (it will be quite thin). Put about 1 1/4 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture on the dough and use the back of the measuring spoon to spread it around, leaving a 1-inch boarder.

11. Use kitchen scissors to make cuts, 1-inch apart, all around the dough making tabs.

12. Stir the pomegranate-lime jelly to loosen it. Then, working with 1 teaspoon at a time, drop and gently spread 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the jelly on top of the cream cheese mixture.

13. Starting anywhere, fold a tab up and over the filling. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water, dab it on the corner of the tab, and fold the next tab up and over the filling, pressing the two corners together.

Continue all the way around the dough. Carefully transfer the finished breads to the prepared baking sheets (I had 6 on one pan and 2 on another). Add 1 teaspoon more jelly to the breads.

14. Mix 1/2 teaspoon water with the reserved egg white. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the egg wash over the tabs, and then sprinkle with the sugar.

15. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the breads are golden brown and the jelly is bubbly (my lower oven was done at just over 16 minutes, my upper oven at just over 20 minutes). Remove to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature (I think the cheese part tastes better after it's cooled all the way).

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