Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spicy Caramelized Nuts


  Anyone else going nuts besides me? Yes? 

Let's just say I can easily say, without a doubt even, that I'm more than ready for my two kiddos to go back to school on August 6th.  My two sweet kiddos have been spoiled by gorgeous weather, lazy days at the pool, lots of neighborhood friends, tons of ice cream and popsicles, and long summer nights.  They've played outside all day from early morning till late at night.  EVERY SINGLE DAY. They simply can't get enough.  They've turned into two crazed monsters who have daily meltdowns and can't contain themselves. It's like they're in panic mode trying to cram as much as they can into the last few weeks before school starts.  

In the meantime I turn the music up and find some peace in the kitchen.  Chopping, mixing, stirring, and baking.  There is something so satisfying about creating things with your hands.


 
These Spicy Caramelized Nuts are a delight to the senses.  Cardamom smells so exotic, like spicy orange blossoms.  I love the citrusy sweetness of it.  Cinnamon is like a warm blanket.  Comforting, familiar, and cozy.  A big dose of sugar adds the sweetness that brings it all together.  These nuts are glossy, shiny, and almost appear lacquered with all sorts of goodness.  The perfect indulgence.  
 

Spicy Caramelized Nuts
Adapted from bbcfood.com 
by Nigel Slater 

1 tablespoon cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup of nuts*
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
pinch of salt

Note: I omitted the ground ginger because I didn't have any.  The recipe is written for pecans but I opted to use almonds.

Break the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Add them to a frying pan with the nuts and ground ginger, cook over a medium heat for one minute. Pour five tablespoons of the sugar over the nuts and let it melt, bubble and caramelize. Tip the caramelized nuts into a bowl and dust with cinnamon and a final sprinkle of sugar. If you like, toss nuts onto parchment paper to cool.  Nuts will form somewhat of a nut brittle that you can break into large chunks.


Theme: Off The Spice Rack

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Orange Roughy with Squash and Butter Beans Over Herbed Quinoa


Five times.  Five times I've tried quinoa and didn't like it at all.  Until now.  I feel like this recipe for Herbed Quinoa is some kind of magic.  Seriously.  I don't know if the addition of lemon juice helps balance out the somewhat strong flavor of the quinoa, but this recipe is golden.  The quinoa cooks up nice and tender in a flavorful mix of chicken broth and lemon juice.  Then you toss the quinoa in a light lemony dressing with lots of fresh basil, parsley, and thyme.  It's everything a summer side dish should be: light, mild, fresh, and delicate. The only way to eat quinoa in my opinion!

This beautiful quinoa, with it's light lemony flavor, pairs perfectly well with fish.  I spotted this recipe for fish baked in foil with zucchini, butter beans, cherry tomatoes, garlic and basil and thought it sounded both unique and interesting.  After all, butter beans and fish? Well, let me tell you it was a wonderful combination.  We loved the creaminess of the beans and the overall color and flavor of the dish.  It was a very pleasant combination! This was definitely a meal worth repeating.

Fish with Squash and Butter Beans
Adapted from Jamie Deen's Feel Good Food
by Jamie Deen
Serves 4

1 medium zucchini, diced
1 can (15 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
4 skinless red snapper filets (6 ounces each)*

*Note: Feel Free to use any fish you'd like.  I used orange roughy.


Preheat the oven to 400F.  In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, butter beans, tomatoes, garlic, oil, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss it all together.  Divide the vegetables evenly among four squares of parchment paper placed on four squares of heavy-duty foil.  Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper and place one filet on each square of foil.  Make foil pouches by sealing all sides of the foil.  Place the sealed packets on a sheet tray and roast for 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.



Herbed Quinoa
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4-6

Quinoa:
2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups quinoa

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons lemon zest 
salt and pepper, to taste

For the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and quinoa. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.

For the dressing:
In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the dressing over the quinoa and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.
Theme: July Potluck!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chicken Cakes with Lettuce and Mayo


Anything containing bacon is a pretty much delicious.  In fact, any recipe containing bacon is almost always a sure bet with my family, which is the reason I took notice of this recipe and I'm so glad I did!  These chicken cakes were a HUGE hit!  Crispy on the exterior and perfectly tender on the inside, these chicken cakes are brimming with the irresistible flavors of bacon and cheese.  The cakes are perfectly tasty all on their own, but are even better wrapped inside a lettuce leaf with a dollop of mayo.   A perfect appetizer or light meal.  We thoroughly enjoyed these!


Chicken Cakes with Lettuce and Mayo
Recipe adapted from BBC Food
Serves 4-6

2-1/2 ounces breadcrumbs
1 pound ground chicken
6 pieces of bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
1 egg
1 lemon, zest and juice
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only 
3 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper, to taste
oil, for frying*

To serve: Lettuce Leaves and Mayo
*Note: I used leftover bacon fat to fry the chicken cakes 

Place the breadcrumbs, chicken, egg and chopped bacon into a mixing bowl. Grate the lemon zest in with the chicken and bacon, then halve and squeeze the lemon. Add the lemon juice to the mixture with the roughly chopped thyme leaves. Tip in the grated parmesan. Season the mixture with a little salt, then more generously with black pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small balls or patties. Warm the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Fry them in the oil, about eight at a time, for 4-5 minutes until they are crisp and golden-brown on all sides. Lower the heat and leave to cook through to the middle, about 6-8 minutes more. I tend to turn them no more than once or twice during cooking so they develop a crisp, slightly sticky exterior.

 Remove the cakes from the pan and place on large, crisp lettuce leaves, add a dollop of mayonnaise and wrap the cakes in the leaves.

Theme: Starters & Nibbles

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peppers Stuffed with Pork

Cheese, beef, veggies, rice and lentils...those are just a few ways I've stuffed peppers over the years. This version, by Nigel Slater, caught my eye because the peppers are stuffed with a simple ground pork filling.  Nigel goes on to say that he's tried lots of fillings for peppers, but that this pork filling is his favorite.  I can see why.  These stuffed peppers were succulent and flavorful.  A go to recipe that I will be making again and again.   

It all begins with by combining onion, garlic, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning until it breaks down in the pan and becomes a saucy mixture. 
Then you simply add the raw ground pork to the pan, along with the breadcrumbs, and mix until everything is combined.  Halve and seed the peppers, boil them for about 5 minutes, then place on a baking sheet and fill with the pork mixture. Bake for 35 minutes and you're all set for one delicious dinner!  Really couldn't be easier.


Peppers Stuffed with Pork
Adapted from Tender
by Nigel Slater
Enough for 4

a large onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little more
2 cloves garlic
rosemary or other Italian herbs
2 large tomatoes
1 pound ground pork
1 cup breadcrumbs
6 smallish bell peppers
grated Parmesan, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Peel and finely chop the onion, then put it into a large, shallow pan with the oil over medium heat.  Let the onion soften without coloring.  Peel and slice the garlic, chop the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary (or other Italian herbs), and add to the onion. When all is soft and fragrant, chop the tomatoes and stir them in.  Continue cooking until the tomatoes have collapsed into the sauce.  Season with salt and black pepper, then stir in the ground pork and the breadcrumbs.  Remove from the heat.  Note: Pork will be raw at this point.  It will cook in the oven.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, then lower them into a pan of boiling water and cook for six to eight minutes, until they are slightly limp.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them, skin side down, in an ovenproof baking dish.

Divide the pork mixture among the peppers, then moisten with a little olive oil.  Scatter grated Parmesan over the top and bake for thirty-five minutes, until sizzling.


Theme: Mediterranean Magic!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Family Friendly Lunch: {Mini Meatball Sammies; Veggies with Mint; and Oatmeal, Cranberry, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies}

Are you familiar with The Incredible Hulk? If so then you are likely picturing images of The Hulk busting out of his clothing and screaming at the top of his lungs. That is what my children turn into when they are hungry and wanting to eat. It's as if they need to convey their intense hunger to everyone within a 500 miles radius.     

Now I love having my kiddos home with me in the summertime, but feeding them is a real issue.  There are two constant battles.  The first issue being that they are always hungry.  The second being that they crave junk constantly.  It is a constant battle to keep enough healthy food in the house that they are willing to eat.

This is definitely a family friendly meal that worked for us.  The kids were tricked into eating the meatballs because they were placed inside a fluffy, soft, sweet little roll.  Plus, ketchup and kids just go together.  Put a little ketchup on that meatball and you're good to go.  Zucchini and summer squash are somewhat mild in flavor and I can almost always get my kiddos to eat them.  It helps that they love the yellow and green color. Of course, if for any reason they refuse the veggies, then I go ahead and bribe them with the cookies.  At least the cookies have oats and dried fruit and don't come from a package or the ice cream truck. It's all about compromise!



Mini Meatball Sammies
Adapted from Weeknights With Giada
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

1/4 cup finely crushed corn flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese
8 ounces ground beef, lean 90%
salt and pepper, to taste
12 (2-1/2 inch) sweet dinner rolls, such as King's Hawaiian, halved

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a medium bowl, stir together the corn flakes, parsley, egg, oil, 2 tablespoons ketchup, the romano cheese, salt and pepper.  Add the ground beef and gently stir to combine.  With damp hands, roll the mixture into 12 mini meatballs.  Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly.  Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through.  Cool for 10 minutes.

Make an indentation in the center of the bottom halves of the rolls.  Slice the meatballs in half and place two halves in each indentation.  Add about 1 teaspoon of ketchup to each one and place the top half of the roll on top.  Arrange sandwiches on a platter and serve. 





Roasted Zucchini and Summer Squash with Mint
Adapted from Weeknights with Giada
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
3 medium zucchini
3 medium yellow summer squash
1 leek, sliced into rings or 1 onion, quartered and sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven.  Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil. 

Trim the zucchini and squash, and then cut each one in half lengthwise.  Cut the halves crosswise into 1-inch half moons.

Arrange the zucchini, squash, leek/onion, and garlic in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the vegetables over and continue to bake for 5 minutes longer.  (Be careful not to roast for too long or the veggies will become very soft).

Transfer the vegetables to a platter.  Add the mint, toss to combine, and serve.



Oatmeal, Cranberry, and Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Weeknights with Giada
by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 12 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 (4-ounce) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate bar*

*Notes: I used regular semisweet chocolate and bought Ghiradelli 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  With the machine running, gradually add the flour mixture.  Add the oats, cranberries, and chocolate chunks.  Mix until just incorporated; it will be stiff.

Using a 4-ounce cookie scoop or 1/4-cup measure, scoop 12 (2-inch) slightly rounded mounds of the dough.  Place 6 balls of dough, spaced evenly apart, on each baking sheet.  Using the back of a spoon, flatten the tops slightly.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly golden on the edges.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.
June Potluck at I Heart Cooking Clubs!










Souper Sundays every Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Asparagus Tarts with Lemon and Cream

When my friend Susan, of The Spice Garden, shared these Asparagus Tarts with Lemon and Cream I knew I had to make them straight away.  The combination of glorious fresh spring asparagus, a creamy parmesan cheese sauce, and crispy flaky puff pastry.  Ooh la la!  This dish is the very definition of spring eating!

We enjoyed these tarts all on their own, but I think they would be wonderful served alongside some scrambled eggs.  A little mimosa, glass of champagne, white wine, or maybe even a peach bellini would be a nice way to top things off.


Asapargus Tarts with Lemon and Cream
Recipe by Nigel Slater, also found at
Makes 5
Ingredients
1 box puff pastry sheets, cut into five rectangular strips about 3" wide and longer than the asparagus
10 perfect asparagus spears, blanced for 2 minutes in boiling water and place in an ice bath 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon yellow mustard, or to taste* Optional
flat leaf parsley, a few sprigs, finely chopped
zest of ½ lemon
Note: I added a teaspoon or so or mustard to the cheese and cream base.
Making the Tarts 
 Preheat the oven to 400F.  Place the puff pastry strips on a rimmed cookie sheet and score a rectangular "frame" in the dough with a sharp knife. Dry the blanched asparagus spears on paper towels while you make the cream sauce.  Place the cream and cheese in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the cheese is almost melted. Drizzle a generous teaspoon of the sauce on the inner rectangle space of each pastry strip.  Lay the spears atop the sauce, and drizzle the rest of the sauce over top the spears.  Sprinkle on the black pepper.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes in the preheated oven or until the pastry is golden and the sauce is bubbly and golden.  Serve right from oven. 
 
 
Theme: Let's Do Brunch!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Nigel Slater's Green Chicken Minestrone

Nothing like starting off your Memorial Day Weekend with a nice case of the flu.  Not just a silly case of the stomach flu either.  The real flu.  As in Strain B.  So yeah, that cough I thought was just allergies.  Not so much.  It was the real deal flu.  My doctor was baffled.  Said he never saw a case of the flu so late in the year.  

Now I work at the schools and so the general consensus was that I picked up the flu from work, but funny enough that wasn't the case.  A quick glance through my facebook feed revealed the real culprit.  The Jazzercise Center.  Can you believe I got the flu from working out?  Turns out I wasn't the only one with the flu.  There were several of us from the center that were down for the count.  The funny part?  My doctor's married to the instructor who owns the Jazzercise center.  Something tells me he saw a few more patients with the flu as the week wore on.   

All week long I fantasized about eating a nice healing bowl of soup. So my first foray back into the kitchen is in fact a huge pot of soup filled with green veggies, beans, pasta, and tender chicken.  In fact, the name Green Chicken Minestrone just sounds like it should nurse you back to health, doesn't it?  I know I certainly feel better after enjoying a bowl. Good thing cause I gotta get my strength back up so I can return to Jazzercise tomorrow. 



Green Chicken Minestrone
 by Nigel Slater
recipe found on The Guardian
Serves 3-4


The recipe: Season four chicken thighs then brown them on both sides in a little oil in a casserole or heavy deep-sided pan. Roughly chop and thoroughly wash two small leeks, an onion, or 2 shallots. Lift out the browned thighs and set aside, then tip the chopped leeks (onions or shallots) into the pan and let them soften over a low heat, stirring regularly so they do not brown. Return the chicken thighs to the pan, pour over a litre of chicken stock, and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove the pods from 450g of broad beans. Break 50g of linguine into short lengths (about 2cm) and add to the pan, turning the heat up so the liquid boils, then cook for eight or nine minutes until the pasta is cooked. A few minutes before the pasta is ready, add the podded beans and 200g (shelled weight) of peas to the soup. I didn't use broad beans. I used about 2 cups of frozen peas. I also added about 2 cups of kale torn into smallish pieces and added a can of cannellini beans that had been drained. Finish with a good handful of freshly chopped parsley, check the seasoning and serve.

The Trick:  Brown the chicken thoroughly, a little more than usual, so the caramelised notes enrich the stock. The chicken pieces will also look better that way. You can use chicken or vegetable stock for this. I like to lift the chicken out of the cooking liquor before I add the pasta, then return it just as the pasta is ready. It won't come to grief if you leave it in, but by removing the chicken you will reduce the risk of overcooking.

The Twist: Instead of broad beans, use green French beans, chopped into short lengths, like the pasta. Add a hit of lemon by adding lemon thyme and a good tablespoon of chopped leaves. At the last moment, fold a handful of young spinach or garlic leaves into the stock.

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Theme: Veg Out!