Polenta Fries

I just had one of the best weekends since I’ve been here in Atlanta!  It didn’t have anything to do with where I went or what I ate, but simply because my baby girl came “home” to visit!

It’s been a few months since I saw Gina when she flew up for a weekend in May while Adam and I were staying in Buckhead.  This time it felt more “family” and real as she began to decorate her room and helped me in hanging some pictures around the house.  While we did get out exploring, shopping and dining, the moments spent smiling and laughing together were those I cherish most.  Even the banter between my kids, they are so different in so many ways, had in the past drove me crazy, now felt so comforting.  Either it’s that they are getting older or the relocation and distance has caused a change of attitude as I noticed a certain softening between them.  Just enough to make me very happy 🙂 Continue reading “Polenta Fries”

Cilantro Grilled Lamb Chops with Strawberry Cilantro Salsa

Remember my post a few weeks back on my prepped foods for weekend guests?  Well, cilantro oil was one I had mixed up to have on hand for drizzling over hummus,  adding a touch to my green eggs for an unexpected surprise taste, mixing a dash into my vinaigrette for a unique twist and as a flavored oil for a quick sauté of shrimp.  The final use for the cilantro oil was in this recipe for these cilantro grilled lamb chops and a strawberry cilantro salsa. Continue reading “Cilantro Grilled Lamb Chops with Strawberry Cilantro Salsa”

Greenslove: Kale and Caramelized Onion Tart

This month’s Bloghop is Greenslove!  And I’m excited that I am finally able to display the linky tools pictures from everyone’s post!  Whoohoo!!  I feel like a big girl now!

Italians do eat alot of greens and I’m always buying some leafy green, such as kale, spinach, chard or collard.   What I’ve not tried is dandelion which is common for many Italians though as a child I had always thought to be strangely odd.  Any green will work well in this tart,  Kale has become one of my favorites to use.  It is, however, a chewier green.  The stem is very fibrous and should be removed.  The leaf of the curly kale has a pungent, almost bittery taste that does mellow when cooked.  For raw salads and for a sweeter and delicate taste, I prefer the Lacinato kale.  In this tart, I found a deep red kale, which was new to me.   A quick taste test at the market of both green and this red had the same taste. Continue reading “Greenslove: Kale and Caramelized Onion Tart”

Citrus Red Quinoa Salad

When the Carnival Season comes to a close with Fat Tuesday’s feasting and all that is left from my King Cake is crumbs and jewels, it’s definitely time to slow down the pace, clean up the eating and begin the Lent Season.  I do observe these 40 days of Lent starting on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter.

Abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday, I am looking forward to cooking and sharing many of my fish and seafood recipes and veggie main dishes.  And so my daughter doesn’t feel like her only option is eating tuna fish, I’m posting this salad for her as I heard the slight panic in her voice the other day when we were chatting over the phone about meatless meals.  Her long busy day running from classes to work to all her activities does make it hard for her to take the time to eat well.  And she knows that getting enough protein in her meals helps her stay fuller longer.

Quinoa is a perfect little grain, actually a seed; that is a complete protein and a great source of nutrients.   I’ve purchased both the white quinoa and red quinoa, now preferring the red more for salads.  But either will work well, as I used the white in my Quinoa Tabbouleh .  For this salad I kept it light and citrusy with chopped oranges, green onion, bell peppers and pine nuts for crunch, but the possibilities are endless; from dried fruits to chopped raw or cooked veggies, various fresh herbs and chunks of cheese.

Citrus Red Quinoa Salad

2 cups red quinoa, rinsed well
3 1/2 cups water

Pinch of Kosher salt

Zest from 1 large orange, then peel and roughly chop orange segments

1 red or orange bell pepper, diced

1-2 green onions, finely chopped

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or lemon juice

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Pinch of cumin

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine well rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out evenly on a baking sheet to cool completely.  Prepare the vinaigrette by combining all in glass jar and shaking well.  Combine the cooked quinoa with the remaining ingredients, dressing lightly with some of the vinaigrette tossing to combine well.   Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Serves 6.

Almond, Lemon and Thyme Bread with Fig and Lemon Jam

Quick breads many times are full of oil or butter, sugar and white flour.  I’m attracted to the “idea” of these breads but then get turned off by the ingredients.  Not that I don’t use white sugar and white flour when making my Italian cookies as I like to keep to the traditional recipe.  But  during the rest of the year, I prefer to enjoy all I eat while knowing that I’ve tweaked it to be healthier for me…and that means enjoying what I eat without any guilt!! 

I do see more recipes around switching out the butter or oil for applesauce or yogurt, white sugar to raw sugar or agave and white flour to wheat or a blend of flours.   While I don’t have a gluten intolerance, I do try to lessen the gluten I consume.  This bread could be completely gluten free by replacing the 3 tablespoons of white/wheat flour with gluten free flour.  I personally just don’t like the smell of gluten free flour!

This bread can be served for breakfast, tea, as a side with dinner or a light dessert.  I prepared a jam of sorts as I don’t can I make just enough to last me for a week.  Figs and lemons simmered with orange blossom honey, cardamon and cloves provided just enough sweetness and taste to compliment this bread. 

Almond, Lemon and Thyme Bread

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup raw sugar (turbinado)

Zest of one organic lemon

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons white/wheat flour (replace with gluten free flour for a gluten free bread)

1 teaspoon baking powder (Rumford Baking Powder /Clabber Girl Baking Powder are gluten free)

3/4 teaspoon citrus sea salt or Kosher salt

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan.  Combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the yogurt and sugar until well combined.  Add the lemon zest and eggs, one at a time, mixing well.  Add in the flour mixture, blend to combine and stir in the almonds until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for about 50-55 minutes or until lightly golden and toothpick tested clean.  Let cool completely on wire rack. 

Fig and Lemon Jam

3 small lemons

8 dried figs, chopped small

1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 teaspoon cardamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  tablespoon orange blossom honey

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon citrus sea salt or Kosher salt

Prepare the lemons by slices off both ends to allow the lemon to stand flat.  Using a paring knife, cut the peel and pith off by following the curve of the lemons.  Cut the lemon segments out and chop into small pieces.  Place lemon segments and any juices into a small saucepan.  Add in the remaining ingredients and allow to simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until thickened.  Allow to cool, refrigerate for up to 5 days. 

Limoncello Risotto

Creamy, warm risotto is snuggly, comfort food to me.  In fact the entire process is soothing, almost tranquil and serene.  Yes, really.  I know I’ve heard from many who fear the process of making risotto.  As a matter of fact, and complete surprise to me as I was just about to post this, Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide posted her risotto recipe and first attempt at making it.  A successful attempt, I might add and very well done Katherine!! Continue reading “Limoncello Risotto”

Broccoli and Cauliflower with Orange Zest, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

I have a simply delicious side veggie to share as well as my responses on being tagged for the 10 Question Quiz from Mandy at The Complete Cookbook!  (following the recipe)

Along with citrus being the fruit in season right now, broccoli and cauliflower are the seasonal vegetable during the winter months.  This very simple side dish bursts with unexpected flavor from the pine nuts, orange zest and golden raisins.  The raisins add a gentle sweetness that blends so well with the orange zest and pine nuts.  I’ve used this trio  mixed into orzo as well and as a topping for grilled or roasted fish or chicken.  Not only do these flavors enhance the dish, they also add a colorful presentation!

Broccoli and Cauliflower with Orange Zest, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets, stems trimmed

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 oz pancetta

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 cloves garlic, mined

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine

½ cup golden raisins

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Zest from one large organic orange

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to boil.  Add in the broccoli and cauliflower and bring to boil, reduce to simmer and continue to simmer for about 5-8 minutes.   Drain and set aside on baking sheet.  (Can be made several hours ahead or day before).

Heat a large skillet with olive oil, sauté the pancetta until crisp.  Remove and set aside.  Add in the broccoli and cauliflower, salt and pepper to taste and sauté until lightly browned and heated well.  Remove to serving bowl and add the raisins, garlic, pine nuts, orange zest and rosemary to the skillet.  If necessary, add additional oil.  Sauté lightly to toast the pine nuts and marry the flavors.  Return the broccoli, cauliflower and pancetta to the skillet to mix together or simply pour over the veggies and toss lightly.  Serve at once or room temperature.  Makes about 6-8 servings.

Now, for my responses…

10 Questions – My Answers

1.  Describe yourself in seven words.

Mother, first and foremost, Friend to many, new and old, Passionate in all I do and feel, Caring to others, Perfectionist at heart but Realistic in knowing that striving to be my best is better than achieving perfectionism, Cheery and happy throughout my day and hopelessly Romantic dreaming for that special one to share my life with.

2.  What keeps you up at night?

Not much as I live by the words of Scarlett O’Hara…”I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

3.  Who would you like to be?

I’m very happy being who I am!

4.  What are you wearing now?

A pair of jeans and a tank top.

5.  What scares you?

I can only think to answer of the safety of my children; no matter how old they are I will be concerned for their safety as they journey on in their life.

6.  What is the best and worst things of blogging?

I’d have to agree with Mandy’s answers on both accounts as the best thing about blogging is the wonderful virtual friends I have met and come to know through their comments and support.

The worst thing about blogging would have to be the amount of time it takes to keep consistent and in touch with everybody on a daily basis.

7.  What was the last website you looked at?

Amazon.  I’m constantly filling my wish list and cart with cookbooks I desire!

8.  If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I will refer to my New Year’s resolution to strive for Divine Thoughts throughout my day!  It’s not that I’m naughty but caddy thoughts are just not right!

9.  Slankets, yes or no?

No….really had no idea what it was!!

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.

Not sure how we found one another, thru her stopping by first or my finding her, but regardless of the way we “met”, I’m glad to share our virtual friendship!  Mandy not only posts some wonderful recipes but her blog contains so much other useful information.  If you search around you can find a wealth of information on conversions, cooking times, tips and how tos…even table setting ideas! She’s definitely the “complete cookbook”!

Who are you going to tag to join the quiz?  (hopefully I’ve not tagged someone already tagged!)

  1.  Mary – One Perfect Bite 
  2. Amy – Savory Moments 
  3. Phyllis – Food Flowers Herbs and Life 
  4. Juliana – Simple Recipes
  5. Junia –   Miss Pensamientos 
January is #citruslove month!
Please join in on the #citruslove by linking up any citrus recipe from the month of January 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #citruslove event! The twitter hastag is #citruslove :).
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Broccoli Cranberry Slaw plus the healthy benefits of raw cider vinegar

In between all the rich desserts and indulgences that fill up this holiday month, I make sure healthy soups and salads balance out my meals, plus an extra few miles on my bike ride!   Recently I’ve begun adding raw apple cider vinegar to many of my dishes after reading several articles on its health benefits. 

It is suggested to add the vinegar to a glass of water and drink it before each meal.  Now, I follow one motto in my life…I’m all about pleasure!  In my eating, my exercise routines and whatever else I add to my busy day, I strive to make them as pleasurable as possible!  Drinking a glass of water with vinegar simply is not! 

But the allure of a flat belly along with several other health benefits to look and feel better and more energized had me intrigued….

  • smoothes skin texture and tone
  • promotes a healthy immune system
  • improves digestion and helps eliminate toxins
  • speeds up metabolism

So, while I’m not pouring myself a vinegar cocktail before my meals, I am incorporating it into marinades for meats and vinaigrettes as used in this salad.  A good quality raw apple cider is recommended; such as Bragg’s Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.  

This salad is a great side for Panini’s and by itself with the addition of leftover grilled or roasted chicken makes a nice lunch to take to work.  The flavor improves overnight so it’s a perfect make ahead dish. 

(The “drink” taken prior to each meal consists of 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a 8 oz glass of water with agave or organic honey to sweeten to taste.)

Broccoli Cranberry Slaw

½ cup organic raw apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons agave – or more to your preferred sweetness

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 oz bag of broccoli slaw

2 organic apples, diced – remove skin if not organic

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine all dressing ingredients, from the vinegar to the olive oil in a jar and shake well.  In a large bowl, combine the slaw, apples, cranberries and nuts.  Pour vinaigrette over the slaw and mix well.  Best to make several hours ahead or overnight to marry the flavors well.  Makes about 8 one cup servings.  For a main meal, add in chopped leftover turkey or chicken.

On a side note, I’m looking at self-hosting and totally confused..does anyone have any advice for me??

Cranberry Salsa

I’m always thankful for simple, easy dishes that please everyone!  Several years back I made this salsa on a whim to add another appetizer for Thanksgiving.  I thought I’d throw in one more little something that didn’t require a lot of time or effort to prepare.  And imagine that, the most simple of the appetizers became the hit!  Over and over again I was asked for the recipe and requested to bring it for holiday parties. Continue reading “Cranberry Salsa”

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Parmesan

Ever since roasting or braising of brussels sprouts became popular, this veggie has gained a lot of attention.  Prior to it being boiled (to death) these little balls of mini cabbage were not pleasantly taken to.  They certainly have earned their place on the table now, especially when prepared with pancetta or bacon, seared to a golden crust and topped with toasted nuts and a soft melting cheese.

When selecting your brussels sprouts always look for tightly closed sprouts.  I prefer those on the smaller size as cut in half they cook quickly becoming tender on the inside as well.   I find that the larger ones do have a tendency to be bitter but if only larger sprouts are available, I will cut those in quarters.  I vary my preparation year to year depending on whether or not my oven has room to roast them or use the stove top for quick sauté and braising.  Sometimes I’ll use a stronger cheese to top them like gorgonzola or smoky Gouda but with my menu this year, I’ve opted to use shaves of parmesan that will lightly flavor and soften.

They are best served hot.  To prep ahead for this dish I’ll have my nuts toasted ahead of time and set aside.  The brussels sprouts can be trimmed and lightly drizzled with olive oil and kept in the refrigerator until needed.  On a side note, I’m always excited to learn new things.  If you happen to grow your own brussels sprouts, David at The Gastronomic Gardener braises the large leaves as greens.  Talk about using every part of the plant!

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Parmesan 

¼ cup diced pancetta

2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts, stem cut off and trimmed of outer leaves

2 medium shallots, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup turkey stock or low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Shaved Parmesan Cheese

In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta until crisp over medium heat.  Remove and set aside.  Add in the Brussels sprouts and allow to sauté until golden before turning.  Do not cook over high heat to avoid burning.  If pancetta did not release enough fat, add a bit of olive oil.   Add in the shallots and garlic and continue to cook a few minutes until the shallots are soft.  Pour in the turkey stock and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until a knife inserted in the sprout feels tender.  Finish by adding in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the pancetta.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove to a warmed bowl and top with the toasted pecans.  Serves 8-10.

These brussels sprouts are part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your favorite veggie recipes for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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