Artichoke & Lemon Centerpiece

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This is such a simple centerpiece to create.  I like to make this for a weekend dinner party then afterwards during the week I cook the artichokes for my family and serve with lemon wedges and melted butter. 

Artichoke & Lemon Centerpiece
 
To make: In a large serving bowl, arrange the artichokes in a pyramid-style. Then fill in with lemons and springs of eucalyptus.

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Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

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Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces Greek blueberry yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons low fat milk
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest, minced
8-10 ounces fresh blueberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder.  In a separate bowl mix together the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, butter, honey and milk.  Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix until well combined.  Add the lemon zest, mix then fold in the blueberries.

Bake for 15-16 minutes.


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Tomatillo Salsa

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Tomatillo Salsa
 
10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced and seeds removed
1 onion, quartered
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 limes, juiced
Salt to taste
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (for a smoky flavor or use 2 jalapenos)

In a saucepan add the tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, vinegar and water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook until the tomatillos are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and put the vegetables in a food processor, add the cumin, cilantro, lime juice, chipotle pepper and salt.  Blend until slightly chunky.


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Tempura Vegetables

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Years ago, my husband I were vacationing in Napa Valley and stayed at this great little B&B, La Residence Inn and in the afternoons in their beautiful courtyard they would serve light appetizers paired with great wines. 
 
On one of the afternoons they served tempura vegetables with a dipping sauce and the chef was kind enough to email the recipe.

 

Tempura Vegetables with Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce

Oil for frying
1 package tempura batter mix
1 bottle good quality beer or sparkling water kept ice cold
½ head cauliflower or brocolli, cut into bite size pieces
1 red or yellow onion, quartered with sections separated
1 large hand full of green beans, stems removed
1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into ¼ inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder (divided)
1 ½ tablespoon ground cumin (divided)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot heat the oil to 350 degrees (never fill pot more than ½ way when deep-frying). Oil is ready when a cube of bread takes about 30 seconds to brown.
 

For the Dipping Sauce:
 
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon of the chili powder, ½ tablespoon cumin, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
 
For the Tempura
 
Have sheet trays ready with paper towels ready for draining.
 
Pour the beer into a large bowl and add the tempura batter mix.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 tablespoon ground cumin.  Whisk together until just combined. The tempura should be nice and thick with some small lumps.
 
Piece by piece, coat the vegetables with the batter and carefully drop into the oil. Fry in batches gently turning the vegetables until they are golden brown.  As you transfer the vegetables from the oil to the paper towels, immediately season with salt.

 

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Homemade Pasta & Pesto

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My family loves this pasta and I hope you do as well.

Fresh Basil Pesto (Nut free)
 
3 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
In a food processor blend all ingredients together until well combined.  To store, add a little olive oil on top to keep green.

Pasta Dough

3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
 
In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, eggs one at a time and water.  Continue to mix until it forms a ball. Lightly sprinkle some flour on a dry surface and divide the ball into thirds. Let rest for 20 minutes. 

Press the dough into a rectangle and roll it through a pasta machine, 2 or 3 times, at widest setting. Fold in half each time before passing through the machine. Reduce the setting and run the dough through again, 2 or 3 times. Continue until your desired thickness. Continue with the remaining dough then lay the sheets of pasta out to dry for 15-20 minutes.

Run the pasta sheets through the pasta machine using the desired pasta cutter.  Let dry another 10 minutes then cook in salted boiling water until done.

If you don’t have an electric mixer, combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Lightly beat the eggs and water and add to the center.  Gradually fold in the flour from the wall of the well. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball.  Divide the ball into thirds. Let rest for 20 minutes. 

Lightly sprinkle some flour on a dry surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the pasta until thin and cut into desired strips.  Let dry another 25 minutes then cook in salted boiling water until done.

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Chinese Five-Spice Pork Wraps

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This slow cooked pork is amazing!  It takes a while to cook but well worth it and only 15 minutes to prep.  Perfect for tailgating or having friends over to watch a football game.

Chinese Five-Spice Pork Wraps
 
Serves 10-12
 
7-8 pound bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed
2 tablespoons Chinese five spice
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons blended oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped    *(see my short cut tool below for garlic)
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
 
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
 
In a small bowl, mix together the Chinese five spice, salt and pepper.  Rub all over the pork, set aside.
 
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and cook the seasoned pork for 1-2 minutes on each side then remove the pork.
 
In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Next, add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sriracha and chicken broth.  Remove from the heat and place the pork on top of the onion mixture.
 
Cover and cook 1 hour, then lower oven temperature to 275 degrees and continue cooking another 4-4 1/2 hours.  Baste every couple of hours.
 
Remove the cooked pork and place on a cutting board to rest until cool enough to shred the pork.
 
 
For the wraps
Butter lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce
3 green onions, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges
 
Place your lettuce leaves on a serving plate, spread with a little hoisin sauce. Add the warm pork and top with the green onions and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge.

*Pampered Chef Garlic Press, this is one of my kitchen favorites.

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Easy Pizza Sauce and Toppings

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You can make the sauce in advance and keep in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

For the pizza crust I either buy pizza dough or Naan bread (garlic or plain). I usually have fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms and cheese on hand so it’s quick and easy to pull out some Naan bread from my freezer, stored pizza sauce and add my toppings of choice and bake!

Pizza Sauce

Recipe

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pot then add the onions and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.  Check for seasoning.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth or blend in a food processor or blender.

Toppings
Be as creative or simple as you like…

Caramelized onions
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil
Cherry or Roma tomatoes, sliced
Italian sausage, pre-cooked and sliced
Pepperoni slices
Mushrooms, sliced
Roasted garlic
Red onions, sliced
Bell peppers, diced
Jalapenos, sliced

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until toppings are golden and cheese is melted.


 

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Goat Cheese & Lemon Ravioli

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Goat Cheese and Lemon Ravioli
Serves 4
 
 
Pasta dough
 
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs
2 ½ cups flour, extra for rolling
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Grated zest of 3 lemons
 
Filling
 
11 ounces soft goat cheese
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of chili flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 egg white, beaten
 
Finish with
 
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, finely crushed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
grated zest of 1 lemon
grapeseed oil
fresh lemon juice (optional)
 
 
To make the pasta dough. Whisk together the oil and eggs. Put the flour, turmeric and lemon zest in a food processor, add the oil and egg mixture and blend to a crumbly dough. It might require extra flour or oil. Once the dough has come together and is smooth (you may need to work it a little by hand), divide it into four thick, rectangular blocks. Wrap them in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.


Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Take one piece of dough and flatten it on the floured surface with a rolling pin. Set your pasta machine to the widest setting and pass the dough through. Repeat, narrowing the setting by a notch each time, until you get to the lowest setting. When each sheet is rolled, keep it under a moist towel so it doesn’t dry out.



To make the filling. Combine the filling ingredients, apart from the egg white, in a bowl and crush together with a fork.



Use a pastry cutter or the rim of a glass to stamp out roughly 3-inch discs from the pasta sheets. To shape each ravioli, brush a disc with a little egg white and place a heaped teaspoon of filling in its center. Place another pasta disc on top. Dip your fingers in flour, then gently press out any air as you seal the edges of the two discs together. You should end up with a pillow-shaped center surrounded by an edge that is just under 3/8 inch wide. Seal the sides of the edges together firmly until you can’t see a seam where the two discs meet. As they are made, place the ravioli on a dish towel or tray sprinkled with semolina. Leave to dry for 10 to 15 minutes. (You can now cover the tray with plastic wrap and keep the ravioli in the fridge for a day.)



When ready to cook, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 2 to 3 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and divide among four plates. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, tarragon and lemon zest. Drizzle grapeseed oil over the ravioli and around them, sprinkle with extra salt and a squirt of lemon juice, if you like, and serve at once.
 

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Easy Cheese & Scallion Quiche

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Cheese QuicheCheese & Scallion Quiche
This is not only great for breakfast but also for lunch or dinner served with a fresh garden salad.

Recipe
 
1 store bought pie crust OR homemade pie crust
 
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded Havarti or Swiss cheese
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
 Quiche
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
 
 
In medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and beat with a wire whisk until smooth and incorporated. Pour into crust.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until quiche is puffed, golden brown, and set.  

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Mexican Chicken Salad

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Mexican Chicken Salad
Serves 4
 
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Mexican spice blend (recipe below)
2 romaine hearts
2 fresh ears of corn, grilled
fresh salsa (recipe below)
fresh quick guacamole (recipe below)
1 lime, quartered for garnish
 
In a shallow dish place sliced chicken and rub with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, coat with the Mexican spice blend to marinate.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
 
Heat grill.
 
Brush corn with 1 teaspoon olive oil and cook on grill for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let cool then slice off the kernels, set aside.
 
Grill marinated chicken breasts until cooked, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove and slice.
 
On serving plates, divide the lettuce then top with sliced chicken, grilled corn, salsa and guacamole.  Garnish with lime wedges.
 
 
Mexican Spice Blend
 
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon black pepper


Blend ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

 
 
 
Quick Guacamole

2 avocados, large diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
juice from 1/2 fresh lime
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
 
In a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until combined. 
 
Hint:  If storing, leave one of the avocado pits in your mixture and place plastic wrap directly on top of mixture to prevent turning brown.
 
 
 
Salsa

1 large tomato, quartered

1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, small diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
 
In a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until combined. 

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