Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not Your Mama's Nicoise Salad

This isn't really a Nicoise Salad - the French classic that combines potato, tomato, green beans, olives, boiled egg and tuna but its construction reminds me of it and so I can't help but group them together. Nicoise Salad is more meal than starter and it is the perfect lunch for a lazy afternoon. This is also the perfect dish to bring along to a BBQ because it beautifully balances out plate after plate of meaty bar-b-que goodness. You can include a meat like tuna in the original or grilled chicken in my version or just keep this strictly vegetarian.... there are so many ways to make this meal very complete!

This dish can be served warm (against the rules for the classic) just take care to have all the vegetables ready to go at once or prep in advance and store it chilled for an easier to serve option. Feel free to use my suggestions or you can always customize your salad based on what you have on hand. The only requirement is that it tastes delicious. This version is far from the traditional salad but that is what I love about it!

This salad included: (L to R)
Oven Roasted Beets
Sugar Snap Peas
Oven Roasted Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower
Mini Heirloom Tomatoes
Grilled Chicken Breast
Gorgonzola Cheese Crumbles
Mini Baby Potatoes
Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers

and I served it with a Roasted Garlic through for the recipe

Friday, February 25, 2011

Valentine's Day Dinner

It was around noon on Monday that I decided that it just wasn't right to have leftover soup on Valentines Day. Even though we weren't planning on going out and instead had plans to go and work out, I didn't want to make dinner so 'normal'. So when I ran to the store and saw the last package of baby lamb chops sitting right in front of me - Perfect! I had been talking to a friend who was making lamb for the first time that night for her fiance and it was right in the front of my mind.

This time I took the extra step of removing the small piece of fatty meat under the chop to make them "Frenched". This step makes it much easier to eat the lamb chop and turns it into just a few choice bites.... A luxurious dinner if there ever was! For this dinner, I applied a rub of sea salt, fresh crushed pepper and rosemary and seared the chops on my grill pan. Only about 15 min from fridge to dinner plate - good food doesn't have to take a long time to make!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brandy Soaked Cherry, Chocolate and Almond Blondies

I know I have mentioned smittenkitchen before- she is just amazing at inspiring me into crazy baking adventures and keeping me from fitting those skinny jeans! I can't put all the blame on her though as this time it was a birthday party and some friends over for dinner that got me asking "What should I bake?" A quick search pointed me to this super flexible blondie recipe. I absolutely agree with her comments in this recipe, being able to use melted butter instead of a standard room temp is a wonderful time saver and these blondies are easily going to become my go-to when I need a baked good fast!

I made two batches in just one weekend using the double recipe for the 9 x 12 pan and my only criticism is it is impossible to wait for these to completely cool! I was a bit too hasty on both batches and ended up with some broken bars that were "damaged" and I had to take care of them!  I guess the diet is on hold till Monday yet again. The version pictured above used dried cherries soaked in some brandy for about 20- 30 min to plump them up and rehydrate them slightly but if you are looking for a more child-friendly dessert you can also do this with hot water. I also made a simpler version using just chocolate chips and walnuts and there were no complaints (in fact I think there was a bit of a fight over the last few crumbs)!

click through for the recipe! and if you want a million mix in suggestions head to smittenkitten's comment section

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crab Cake Lettuce Wrap

Crab Cakes are so simple to make but they are always a hit. These easy appetizers can be fried in advance and just heated in the oven before being served to guests. Or you can only skip the frying and just bake them however, I love the crunchy crusty layer that forms when you give them a pan frying. I like to use a lot of meat and a handful of breadcrumbs in my crabcakes however it is possible to make one with no breadcrumbs at all. For an even crunchier shell you can always roll your crabcakes in a second layer of breadcrumbs.

The lettuce wrap is a fun way to serve and present a crabcake along with a spicy remoulade sauce to top it and give it a little kick.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


A few days before my final holiday party of the year (Jan 15th) I stumbled upon a recipe for a traditional Swedish Glogg. I have actually had the pleasure of being in Sweden around Christmas time and attending a traditional celebration (what ever you do be careful with the aquavit!) so I knew that this would be a fun drink to serve my guests. I was lucky to have most of the spices on hand from baking so a quick trip to the liquor store was all I needed. While there are a few time consuming steps needed this isn't very complicated and it is definitely a fun drink for the cold weather. You may be tempted to just dump everything into one pot and let it just simmer together but taking the time to make the brandy caramelize is definitely worth it! After spending most of our holiday season digging out from snow storm after snow storm it was wonderful to come inside to a hot cup of this "medicine".

This recipe will make about 5 x 750 ml bottles of glogg but don't worry, if you aren't having a party you can always bottle it and store it as it ages very well. In fact, if everyone is a good girl and boy next year this might replace the annual cookie baking that I do for gifts and turn things up a notch! One warning - this is highly alcoholic - despite its sweet taste and spicy warmness it has a kick..... so make sure you have a glass of water and a few advils before bed if you find your self "taste-testing" it too often throughout the night. If you want to combine baking with Glogg making you can always use the fruit that has been strained out in the end to make a delicious bread - just be careful to remove all of the spices as it isn't fun to bite into a chunk of cinnamon stick!

click through for the recipe! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shrimp Stir Fry

Always my go-to when I don't have anything else left in the house but its still wonderfully delicious! Tonight's dinner is shrimp with portabello mushroom, snap peas, red and green pepper and onion - topped with cilantro

Thursday, February 3, 2011

White Chicken Chili

With the North East in the middle of one of the worst winters in memory, its no surprise that hearty, warm soups are being requested more often. For me, it seems like I can barely go a day without having a soup of some kind! New Jersey is pretty much know for its diners - often open all night and serving up what generally is pretty close to homemade comfort food. Diners are not really know for bending to the newest food trend, classics like tuna melts, greek salads and even meatloaf are the staples of these places served with a cup of their homemade soups and a scoop of pudding for dessert. But that is their charm - no matter what diner you do to you almost don't need a menu because you know what they hasn't changed in probably 50 years!

I recently had a delicious bowl of chili at the Windsor Diner in Clark, NJ and I just couldn't stop thinking about it for days. It was everything that a bowl of chili should be...and came with ample sour cream and salsa on the side so you could dress it up as you wished. This White Chicken Chili on the other hand, is pretty much the complete opposite! While it is delicious, warming and comforting it is more delicate rather than hitting you over the head with a hunk of ground beef. I have tried other recipes before but this was a new one for me and I think that it came out really well. I used my 7.5Q dutch oven to make the chili and let it cook in there for a few hours in the oven to really marry the flavors together. It was a little more soupy than my other attempt but I actually liked it and felt it had more flavor... use a bit less chicken broth if you would prefer a more stew/chili appearance.

click through for the recipe!