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 
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

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

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