Berries and Cream

Happy Labor Day!  If you’re able to be off and enjoy the holiday, yay!  If you have a party to attend, I’ve got some recipes for you – or even if you’re just chilling at home, you still gotta eat.  If you’re going to a USA themed party, check out my Red, White, & Blue Mini Trifles and Red & White Sweet & Salty Popcorn.  If you just want a fun snack to bring – or keep for yourself – try your hand at one of my simplest, go to recipes.

This recipe is truly so easy.  It is often my go to when people are over for dinner because it is a light, sweet addition to nearly any style of food.  I love that it only requires a few ingredients, and less than 10 minutes to whip up – literally!

Berries and Cream

serves 2

2C berries – I like tart berries for this recipe such as the blackberries and raspberries I used

2C heavy whipping cream

1/4C sugar

1/4t vanilla extract

1 lemon

First, chill your metal mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill.  As I learned recently from Kellie, this causes the whipped cream to be lighter since it maintains a chilled temperature throughout the whipping process.  The cream can easily be whipped by hand with a regular whisk, but I chose to use my Kitchenaid for this recipe.  Look how frosty it is!

While the bowl and whisk are freezing, wash all the berries and set them aside to dry. Then, zest the lemon.  I have had this recipe with lemon curd folded into the cream which is just as delightful – and significantly more lemony.  But the zest is a nice light touch that compliments the berries well.

Once the bowl and whisk are sufficiently chilled, pour in the cream and begin to whip on a low setting, if using a hand beater or Kitchenaid, or medium by hand.

Once the cream has begun to be whipped, slowly add in the vanilla,

sugar, and lemon zest.

Whip for several minutes until incorporated, or until the whip cream can stand on it’s own in nice peaks that curl over.

Be careful not to over whip – you do not want to create butter!  Look at this goodness.

Prepare berries in whatever bowls you’ll be serving them in.

 

Oh, blackberries!  Good thing I love you!

Serve cream over berries immediately. I chose to add a little more lemon zest on top for presentation.  So easy!

My food wanted to model.  The camera loves it!

 

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Sweet & Salty Popcorn

Here’s another fun recipe that could be adapted to any holiday based on the food coloring chosen.  Since 4th of July is rapidly approaching, I attempted red, white, and blue popcorn.  The red & white worked, but the blue was a fail.  I’ll have to experiment with blueberries or something in order to get a good, healthy, natural blue food dye into my repertoire.  Though the blue didn’t work out, it was still delicious!!!

If there is a food that is near and dear to my heart, it’s popcorn.  My childhood is full of memories of my popcorn-freak-father having popcorn weekly and in as many different varieties as you could imagine.  One of my favorite “dates” with him was when we would go to the popcorn store to buy specialty popcorn.  He would always get something cheesy or spicy and I, a cool kid of course, would get the multi-colored popcorn.  Cuz that’s basically what kids do.  This is a fun, healthier version to make at home!

Sweet & Salty Popcorn

makes 6 quarts

1C popcorn kernels

1/4C high heat oil, I used Safflower

salt to taste, for salty popcorn

spray oil or butter, for salty popcorn

1T butter per colored, sweet popcorn

1C sugar per colored, sweet popcorn

2-3T water per colored, sweet popcorn

food coloring of choice, I used beet juice for red color (ignore the failed blue food coloring pictured)

Burnt popcorn is one of the most awful culinary tragedies.  It’s shameful, disappointing, and stinks up the house.  So don’t do that.  Make homemade popcorn with the most preparedness possible.

Heat the oil on medium-high heat and toss in 2-3 kernels.  Prepare the rest of the kernels.  (You may want to make this in 2 batches if your pot is small.)

Once the first 2-3 kernels pop, dump in the rest of your kernels.

You’ll want to get a splatter screen quickly, otherwise popcorn and oil will be filling your kitchen rather quickly!

Shake the pot occasionally so the popcorn doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Then divide popcorn into respective number of colors desired. I divided my popcorn 3 ways for 3 colors, but since the blue didn’t work out, I ended up having 2/3 salty white popcorn and 1/3 sweet red popcorn – which actually was a nice ratio.

With the white, salty popcorn spray oil or butter onto it lightly and sprinkle salt to taste.  Toss well (or as I did, attach a lid and shake well.)  Then prepare the colored sweet coating for the remaining popcorn.  On medium-high heat combine butter and sugar

and water and food coloring.  Since my food coloring was natural and very liquidy I used 1.5T beet juice and 2T water.  (You couldn’t even taste beets!)

Bring to a slow boil.

It is ready when it is the consistency of a thick syrup.

Remove from heat for a moment to cool, then dump over reserved plain popcorn.  Mix well to coat and set aside to cool.  (I cooled mine in the fridge so the plastic bowl the popcorn was in wouldn’t melt.  The syrup is super hot!)  Once all colors are mixed, cooled, and dried, combine with salty, plain popcorn and serve!

Old Fashioned Red, White, and Blue Mini Trifles

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays!  I’m proud to be an American and slightly embarrassed to admit that I cry at nearly any patriotic song.  I love the lyrics & music to patriotic songs, I’m grateful for the men & women who put their lives on the line for our freedom, I really enjoy summer grilling, and having game night and fireworks with friends and family each year is priceless to me.  So, in anticipation for this great day, I’ve got a light, healthy dessert for you.  (Because we all know the meal preceding Independence Day dessert is anything but light!)

I’ve been wanting to make a trifle for a long time – mostly because it looks so pretty in the big clear bowl!  But alas, I still don’t have a trifle bowl, so I thought, why not make individual trifles?!  So you could use this recipe as is into individual dishes as I did or double it and make one big trifle.  Either way, don’t forget to thank a veteran and say a prayer for our men and women on the field.

Traditionally, a trifle is layers of sponge cake with jam and custard or cream.  Though Angel food cake is technically not a sponge cake, it serves the same purpose without the fat, so I approve of this substitution!  I went with my over-achiever nature and made everything from scratch – including the food dye!  However, if you want to buy the cake, jam, and food coloring pre-made, these little sweets can but put together in about 10 minutes!  I love light, fast, and healthy – but making everything from scratch was incredibly satisfying.

Old Fashioned Red, White, and Blue Mini Trifles

Makes 4 mini trifles or if using small jars or large shot glasses it will serve about 6

½ a White Angel food cakemine turned out to be9 inches round
, 1 inch high

1/2C + 1T cake flour

1/8t salt

3/4C + 1T white sugar

6 egg whites

3/4t cream of tartar

1/2t vanilla extract

2C Red strawberry jam


3 pounds strawberries

3.5C white sugar

1/4C lemon juice

Blue whipped cream

1.5C whipping cream

1/2C sugar, mine was infused with vanilla bean

Few drops of blue food dye
 or ¼C natural food coloring

1 head red cabbage, if making food coloring from scratch

1T cornstarch, if making food coloring from scratch

I made my Angel Food cake by completely following the recipe and directions from Jessie.  Well except the part about not having the correct pan…and cutting the recipe in half….and since I didn’t have the right pan, when I flipped the cake upside down it dumped on the counter about 2 minutes later.  So I mostly followed the instructions.  I figured since I’m cutting the cake to fit into small jars anyway, those details didn’t matter.  Her Angel food cake recipe (with step by step photos) is here.  It turned out pretty good if I do say so.  If I was making this just as a cake I’d probably cut the sugar a bit since it was so sweet it tasted like marshmallows!  But for this recipe, I used the sweetness to my advantage.

I started by making the blue food coloring.  I found a simple recipe online for boiling red cabbage then adding cornstarch to the water.  Though it did not give clear measurements, so it was a guessing game.  This blue did not turn out as bright as expected, and the jam was a darker red then I thought it would be so with that and the off white color of the white Angel food cake, I thought, this looks like an old school recipe my grandmother would make.  (So I tacked “Old Fashioned” on the beginning of the recipe title & viola!)

I boiled 1/3 of the red cabbage head in about 1.5 quarts of water for about 5 minutes – but my camera had a hard time focusing with all the steam!

While it was boiling, I cut the tops off and hulled 3 pounds of strawberries.  It was hard not to eat all of them because they were so ripe, sweet, and delicious!  When the cabbage was done boiling the water was left a pretty purple color.  So I added about 1T of cornstarch…

and it turned into a pretty blue jean color.

Though this didn’t make my cream as blue as the coloring itself, this recipe would be really great for a liquid recipe.

This is a good time to mention that my summer venture is to teach myself how to make jams and can them.  So I thought I’d try my hand at a homemade jam for this recipe.  I was inspired by my favorite jelly at Wholefoods Market: Tiptree Preserves.

Literally, the only ingredients on the label are: strawberries and sugar.  This is what food should be, people!  Not a laundry list of things developed in a laboratory.  In my search across the internet I found that adding lemon juice as a preserving acid is a wise step, so I made a simple jam of strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Once the berries were washed, trimmed, and hulled, I dumped them into a tall pot on medium heat…

and mashed them with a potato masher.  I was surprised at how easily they juiced right up!  The amount of mashing depends on how large you like fruit chunks in your jelly.  I was going for more of a jam consistency so I mushed them pretty good.

Once all the liquid has come up,

add the sugar

and lemon juice.  I used a sieve so I didn’t need to worry about seeds or lemon pieces.

Bring the mixture to a low boil.

And once it gets to this point, grab that wooden spoon and stir straight for about 20-25 minutes.  I know that sounds laborious, but 1) it is worth it!!! And 2) you don’t want to let the mixture burn on the bottom of the pot.  Also, beware.  I’m not sure if “jumping jelly” is a phrase, but it should be.  The molten hot liquid will occasionally jump out of the pot and onto your poor arm.  The end result is this beautifulness.

Last step is making the cream.  I started with my food coloring in the bowl and slowly added the cream while beating with a hand mixer.  (I was not at home where my kitchen aid sat feeling useless.)

While the cream was whipping, I slowly added in the sugar.  My sugar was infused with real vanilla beans – which not only makes the scent glorious, but you’ll also notice the little black flecks in the cream later.  Here’s how to make vanilla scented sugar.  Yumm!

And whip until all the cream is incorporated and fluffy.  Be careful not to over whip – you don’t want to make butter.  As you can see, it’s not terribly blue, however, it had a slight, slight blue hue (the camera can’t even catch it, it’s so slight!)  If you really want it to pop, you could always use blue food coloring or experiment with blueberry juice or skins to keep it natural.

All that is left is to assemble everything!

I wanted red, white, and blue so I started with the red jam on bottom.

Then the white food cake.  If you want your layers to be perfect, try to make sure the cake touches the glass all the way around so the cream doesn’t run through it.  However, it doesn’t have to look perfect.  The messy cream falling everywhere is part of the appeal!

Add the cream, then repeat give the trifles a total of 6 layers of deliciousness.  They stand alone in deliciousness, but adding fruit garnish on top never hurt anything.  Enjoy!

Peach Pancakes – Protein Style

We love breakfast at our house!  Even breakfast for dinner!  (Though some tired hours this means a bowl of cereal, but anyways…)  We also are working on our fitness so I’ve been trying to figure out how to sneak protein into everything!  I’ve made protein pancakes before – even vegan versions, but I decided to whip these up since eggs and Greek yogurt are notorious for their high protein.  They turned out pretty delicious!!!  And at about 100 calories, 13 carbs, and 12g protein each, you can indulge in several and not feel guilty!

I wanted to research, or as my husband calls it Google, what fruit naturally had high protein it.  Second to only the avocado was the peach!  I love peaches!  The house I grew up in had a peach tree in the backyard.  Many years were spent eating fresh, juicy peaches and canning them for the pantry and for friends.  Other years were spent trying to build squirrel deterrents and peach protectants because the little creatures would take one bite of the barely ripe peaches and hurl them to the ground.  But the squirrels never figured out if one peach wasn’t ripe then the rest weren’t either because there would always be a minimum of 20 peaches on the ground each with a bite missing.  At about 3g of protein per peach, I knew these would be the perfect addition to my protein pancakes.

Peach Protein Pancakes

makes 10 cakes

½C oats

½C milk of your choice, I used almond milk

3 scoops vanilla protein powder

1C Greek yogurt, I like Fage Total 0% fat version

3 egg whites

3 peaches or nectarines

3T maple syrup

½t vanilla

1 pinch sea salt

First I pulsed the oats in a small food processor to make an oat flour. I wanted the nutrition of the oats but not oat texture.  These could also be made low carb if you eliminate the oatmeal and milk, but you make have to play with the portions of egg whites to get the right consistency.

Then I added the oats, protein powder, salt, and yogurt to a mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  It should be a medium consistency, not too soupy.

Cut the peaches into thin slices.

Once your pan or skillet is preheated, you’re ready to prepare the cakes.

Nestle the peach slices into each cake, pushing them slightly into the batter so some covers the side of each slice.  If the slices are just placed on top, they’ll fall off on the flip side.

When the edges are thinned and cooked, the pancake is ready to flip – about 3 minutes on my 375 degree skillet.  They’ll take about 3 more minutes on the other side, or until it is equally golden on the other side.  Though it is tempting to keep checking them, with every lift, the peaches will loosen, so it is best to leave them a few minutes, then they will be finished.

They’re ready to eat alone, or with butter and syrup if you’re feeling brave!  I actually ate some cold on the way to a 5K yesterday.  The moisture from the fruit was enough that they didn’t even need syrup!

Johnny Marzetti

Sometimes you just need some comfort food. It was my birthday a few weeks ago and I was thinking a lot about my family. Growing up, this recipe was a favorite of mine, served up by my Polish grandmother. She is one of my heroes. She survived both the Great Depression & World War II as a slave in Germany, her love story with my Grampa is Oscar worthy, she taught herself English by reading magazines, and raised four great children, the oldest of whom was my dad. Whenever I visited she would always pull me up in her lap, tell me how beautiful I was, and give me a dollar or two (which was a lot to her) so I could have my own spending money. So, yes this meal is pretty basic, but when you’ve got all that history in some food, it makes it that much more special.

This is Johnny Marzetti. It began during World War II at a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, where my grandparents lived after the war. I suppose it was an easy, relatively affordable way to feed people so I easily see how my grandmother picked up on it with six mouths to feed. From what I’ve read online, Johnny Marzetti is traditionally baked and made with red sauce, but I made this one on the stove top like Grandma did. She made both red & white sauce versions, but this time I decided to tackle the white sauce. Though Grandma never used recipes or had anything written down, my uncle told me what he could remember, and I added a few adaptations of my own to make this rendition a bit healthier.  I’ll let you know when I conquer the red sauce.

Johnny Marzetti
Serves 6-8

12oz elbow macaroni
12oz ground soy crumbles or ground beef
1 yellow onion
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2C milk
1C grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
1T olive oil, if using soy crumbles
Parsley for garnish, optional

So my grandmother’s way was to use Kraft macaroni & she included the cheesy powder in her recipe. Not that you can knock anyone’s grandmother’s cooking (was that even English?!) but I really try to cook with whole foods that are as natural as possible, so cheese powder was out for me. But, I glanced over the Kraft box and besides crazy stuff, it was mostly milk based, so I figured, why not actually add milk to the recipe?

So I set the macaroni to boil

while I chopped the onion.

Since I didn’t have to cook any meat, I mostly browned the onion and heated the soy crumbles. Since soy doesn’t have the grease that meat does, I added the olive oil to help keep everything from sticking to the pan. If you use ground beef, cook it with the onions. Once browned, drain the grease off before adding the other ingredients.

Cook the macaroni only for about 5 minutes, drain and rinse the starch off

then add it to the meat mixture.

Add the cream of mushroom soup and stir well.


Stir in the milk, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes.

After simmering, add the Parmesan cheese and stir until it’s melted in.

Serve immediately, garnishing with Parmesan and parsley.

Comfort food at its finest. If you add a sunset, it makes it that much more perfect.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

I love children. And I love ice cream. So, when my sweet niece – well, I’ve adopted her as my niece since my siblings only produce boys – had a Strawberry Shortcake birthday party, who was I to deny myself her some strawberry ice cream?

I’ve made ice cream before, once, and it was vegan and made without an ice cream maker. We were so hungry we didn’t even wait for it to freeze up all the way. After reading a few blogs on the differences in the process of making it with & without a machine, it just saves a lot of labor time with it. So for this special event I actually bought a cheapie ice cream maker and was not disappointed. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, no need to fear, because I’ll guide you through it.


It’s super yummy, creamy, and was a huge hit at the birthday party for children & adults alike. Not gonna lie, this isn’t the healthiest version of ice cream you’ll find, but I at lease reduced the amount of sugar so the faint sweetness doesn’t knock you into sugar-coma. Now that I’ve conquered this and know how easy it is, I’ll experiment with other healthy but still tasty alternatives.

Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from chefinyou.com
makes 5 quarts

2 lbs ripe strawberries

4 C cream

2 C milk

1.5 C sugar, divided

1 T vanilla

1 t salt

Wash and dry the berries, cut off the tops and any funny white or green spots. You want ripe, sweet berries for the best flavor. 1 pound of berries I cut in half and set aside to purée them. The other half was roughly chopped to be bits in the ice cream. If the ice cream won’t be eaten within a day or so, I would purée all the berries. If left in the freezer for an extended time they become rock hard and acquire a funny flavor.

After the berries are cut & in their respective bowls, sprinkle a 1/4 cup of sugar in each bowl and let them sit for at least 10 minutes. When my mom did this when I was little, the sugar drew out the juices of the strawberries making a syrup, but since I used vegan cane sugar this actually didn’t happen the way I thought it would. If you use regular sugar, you’ll get the syrupy results, if not, you’ll at least sweeten the berries a little bit and that will still help.

In a large bowl whisk together the milk,

the remaining cup of sugar,  salt,

and vanilla.

Slowly whisk in the cream last – you don’t want to make whipped cream.

Once everything is fully incorporated, purée the berries.


Add the purée to the rest of the ingredients and slowly add in all the berries – purée & pieces.

Chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge.  After its chilled, make the ice cream according to your makers instructions. With such a great quantity, the ice cream maker should churn for at least 45 minutes. If it were a smaller portion, 20-30 minutes should suffice.

If you do not have an ice cream maker, skip the fridge step and put the cream mixture in a sealed container in the freezer.  Remove every hour for 4-6 hours and mix with an electric mixer to break up the ice cream.  This is the hand version of what the ice cream maker is churning.

This is how mine turned out after 45 minutes of churning.


It turned out pretty soft even after 45 minutes.  If you like soft serve style, though, it’s great just like this!

However, I knew this wouldn’t work with 3-year-olds, so I divided the ice cream into several plastic containers and froze the mixture for 4 hours. It was perfect at the party!!!

Here’s the 3-year-old birthday princess!

Tangy Vinaigrette Chopped Salad

Years ago I cruised to the Bahamas with my husband and some close friends.  While ashore, we dined in the Atlantis Hotel at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill restaurant.  I fell in food-love!  Not only was the restaurant gorgeous itself, but the food presentation and flavor was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tasted.  Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that the small town I live in only has a Chili’s and an Outback….ahem.  Moving on.  I loved the style of food at the Mesa Grill which is perfectly described as “explosive flavor from the southwestern kitchen.”  I could eat quesadillas every day, so when I ordered the Smoked Black Bean & Corn Quesadilla with Avocado and Toasted Garlic Creme Fraiche I was in quesadilla Heaven.  The way Chef Flay combines spicy chilies with sweet notes in his food instantly made me a fan.  I talked about it so much that one Christmas, my sweet mother & father-in-loves (yeah, better than in-laws!) bought me the Mesa Grill cookbook!  I was ecstatic!

Though several recipes are quite fancy – as in, I’d never have the guts to cook, or eat, duck – there are many that I’ve made several times for both casual dinners and special occasions.  This salad is so simple, yet delicious!  The secret is how you make the dressing.  Now, I respect a chef. But, there’s still something in me that urges me to try things a different way.  So, normally I don’t mess with a good thing, but this is my interpretation of Chef Flay’s “Sophie’s Chopped Salad.”

And yes, maybe I am referring to him as Chef Flay just in case he reads this and wants to hire me.

Tangy Vinaigrette Chopped Salad

adapted from Bobby Flay

Serves 4-6

For the vinaigrette you’ll need:

1/4 C balsamic vinegar

1T Dijon mustard

1t salt

1/2 t pepper

1 C canola oil, divided in half

For the salad you’ll need:

3 C chopped romaine lettuce

2 ripe tomatoes of your choice seeded and diced

1/2 C canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 C canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 C chopped stems of scallions

3/4 C 1/2-inch-cubed white Cheddar cheese

3/4 C 1/2-inch-cubed Monterey Jack cheese

4-6 corn tortillas

With a salad like this, you really don’t need to measure the ingredients exactly, you just want an even blend of the beans, cheeses, tomato, and scallions.  No worries if the measurements aren’t perfect.

After washing and drying the veggies, chop the lettuce to bite size pieces.

Next, add the beans and cheeses!  Try not to eat too many on their own.  I know it’s tough.

Chop the scallions.  I only used the green parts because though I love onion, I didn’t want that to be the predominant flavor of the salad.

And the tomatoes.  I waited to put them in the bowl until after the vinaigrette and tortillas were ready so their juices didn’t run around all cray cray.

Now it’s time for the vinaigrette!  This is one of the first home-made salad dressings I tackled, and it showed me there’s no need to be intimidated by salad dressings!  They’re not too hard to pull off.  This one can be made in a blender, in a bowl with a wisk, or as I did, in a small food processor.

Add salt & pepper,

Dijon mustard,

And add the vinegar.

Blend together until smooth.

Once it’s all blended slowly add 1/2 cup of oil to the mix.  If using a whisk, this will be easy, and if your food processor has an opening on top this will be easy.  Since mine does not, I would stop, add a little then blend.  Stop, add a little more then blend, and so on until all the oil had been encorporated.  This is the tricky part!  I’ve made this dressing before and once I dumped the oil in all at once and it did not blend correctly and separated afterwards.  It wasn’t right.  Make sure you add the oil slowly a little bit at a time.

When it’s done right, you get this!

The last component to this delicious salad is the crispy element.  Heat the remaining oil on medium-high heat.  Once the oil is ready, lightly fry both sides of each tortilla.

Once all tortillas are finished, add the tomatoes to the salad and mix well.  Plating is fun since the tortillas acts as a “plate.”  The tortillas tear easily with the fork to add a bit of crunch in the salad.  Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, dried parsley, or anything else you’d like!  It’s soooo delicious.  This might just become your new favorite salad.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Cauliflower

I never had brussel sprouts as a child.  And due to everything you hear about them as a child, I determined to never try them if I was given the opportunity.  The opportunity never really presented itself until about two years ago, where I tried them at a lovely restaurant called J. Alexander’s.  I had never had anything at J’s that I did not like, so I recklessly thought, why not!  Well, I don’t know about all brussel sprout preparations, but these are good!  I was determined to always make brussel sprouts this way and make vegetable converts of those around me!

My husband liked them the first time I made them, and convinced his father – who claimed to not like brussel sprouts either – try them.  Dad liked them. Yes!  My veggie revolution had begun!  The secret is in the panko breadcrumbs.  They’re bigger than usual breadcrumbs and give a crunch to the dish that could otherwise be another pile of limp vegetables.  I carefully studied the simple looking recipe and came up with this copy cat version.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts & Cauliflower

a lovely side dish serving 4-6

1 head cauliflower

1 bag of brussel sprouts, I prefer smaller ones

Panko breadbrumbs

Olive oil

Rosemary

Salt & pepper to taste

Parmesan, shaved, shredded, or powdered, optional

I used two types of breadcrumbs this go around, but usually I only use one, the one that makes J. Alexander’s so wonderful.  The lovely panko breadcrumbs.  You can even get them in whole wheat, so no guilt required!

Preheat the oven to 400 then wash and cut the veggies into bite size chunks.

I sliced the brussel sprouts in half, lengthwise, so they’re bite-size, but don’t fall apart completely.  I also chopped any dark end pieces and peeled off any wilty leaves.

Then I threw the vegetables into a bowl that had a lid like so…

added a tablespoon of olive oil, some salt & pepper, and some Italian breadcrumbs.  I used these breadcrumbs for the spices it had, but if you’re using plain panko, you could also add italian seasonings, garlic powder, or anything else that you’d like.

Then I put on the lid tightly and shook all the stuff around to evenly coat the vegetables.  And dumped them onto a baking sheet with sides.

Shake the rosemary over the whole pan, and add more salt & pepper if you wish.

At this point, liberally shake the panko breadcrumbs onto the veggies, and drizzle with more olive oil to coat the breadcrumbs.

I make this recipe a lot and have to switch it up now and then.  Though J. Alexander’s does not do this, sometimes I’ll add some freshly grated Parmesan before popping them in the oven.

Place on the top rack in the oven and roast for about 15-18 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Then, broil for 3-5 minutes.  You’ll need to watch the broiling process carefully as seconds too long could scorch the entire pan.  You want some outer leaves of the brussel sprouts to be crispy, and some cauliflower pieces to have browned, but what you don’t want is vegetables that taste like coal.  Bleck!

Serve immediately!

You, too, can prove that brussel sprouts are good!  Enjoy!

Crispy Oven Fries & Bistro Sauce

This is the sequel to last week’s post!  The delicious, crispy, herb drenched fries and the sauce that cannot be described, only consumed.  This sauce is inspired by Nordstrom’s Cafe Bistro, who serves it with their own crispy, herb drenched fries.  My husband and I were introduced to Cafe Bistro years ago and have fallen in love with it.  They have great salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and desserts!  We seriously refer to this pink dip as “Heaven Sauce” in our household, and it has caught on with friends who love the Cafe as much as we do.

I loved this sauce so much I once asked for the recipe and though they sell cookbooks with their recipes, they so generously jotted it down for me.  Now, that was quite a while ago, so I’ve long forgotten where that little receipt has ended up.  Thankfully, my somewhat functional memory and my culinary instincts could reproduce it!  It’s amazing!  Also, I’ve learned a lot about baking fries since my last fry post.  From soaking the potatoes in water to cooking them on a rack with air circulation, it’s all good things I’ve learned.  I’m excited to share this recipe with you!

Crispy Oven Fries & Heaven Bistro Sauce

Serves 2-3, Fries inspired by thetalkingkitchen.com

3 small/medium potatoes

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t onion powder

1 small bunch of parsley, I used Italian flat leaf

4-6T mayonnaise, I used Vegenaise

2-3T Greek yogurt (optional)

2-3 cloves fresh garlic

8-12 Kalamata olives

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

4T olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

First, I washed and cut the potatoes to desired fry size.  I wanted skinny fries in the attempt to make them nice and crispy.  I also left the skin on and was not disappointed.

Then soaked them in ice water for about 5 minutes to let some starch out.  At this point, I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees.

I then rinsed and drained the potatoes, and dried them out on a towel.  I rubbed the towel back & forth over them to ensure they were fully dry.

I then mixed the powders, salt, & pepper together.

Side note: I used a chimichurri sea salt that I picked up at a farmer’s market recently.  Bless the Lord, it’s good!  Recipes like this are a fun time to experiment with new seasonings or different flavored salt & peppers.  Also, if you’ve never had chimichurri sauce…get on that.  It will change your world.

Then added the olive oil.

And added the fries.  At first I tried to toss them with a spatula, but they weren’t getting sufficiently coated, so prepare to get your hands a little dirty.

I lined a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, just to make clean up a little easier.  And since I don’t own a cooking rack, I used an all metal cookie cooling rack to put the fries on.  Apparently, air circulation makes the fries crispier, and you don’t need to flip them half way through the cook time.  I’m not sure how I feel about that since I got some crispy fries, and some softer ones.  Good thing I like both kinds.

I made so many I had to cook them in two batches because they didn’t all fit on the pan!

I baked them for 30-35 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Meanwhile, time to roll up your sleeves, bust out the food processor and make the sauce of Heaven!!!

I first tossed in 4T mayo.  I subbed out some mayo for Greek yogurt to cut down the fat and up the protein in this dip.  This is optional of course.  You could go mayo all the way if you’re not as vain as I am.  I use Greek yogurt as a sub for mayo and sour cream often in recipes.  The kind I buy by Fage has 0 fat and 20ish grams of protein per serving.  This is fantastic news to my heart!

Then added the garlic.

Oh, yes, I used my mini food processor since I’m not making but 1.5 cups of this goodness.

Then added the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and some salt & pepper.

Add the olives.

And blend it!  This would be the time to adjust seasonings to taste.  You’ll know when it’s right for your taste buds.  The consistency you’re looking for will be slightly more runny than mayonnaise.  Place in the fridge until the fries are ready.

While the fries are finishing in the oven, chop the parsley finely.

When the fries are ready, pull them out of the oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.

Toss with parsley, and serve with Heaven sauce immediately.  So delicious!!!  Enjoy!

I used the sauce throughout the week as a sandwich spread and dip for pita chips.  It’s just that good.

Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ok.  April is National Grilled Cheese Month?!  This is why I was born in this month.  Thanks, Mom!  To celebrate, I made a killer lunch yesterday for me & my husband.  I love simple grilled cheese, I even like wheat toast, vegan butter, and veggie cheese grilled cheese – it’s salty and delicious.  But I wanted to make a fancy grilled cheese, you know.  Cuz it’s National Grilled Cheese Month.  It was so good I can’t even describe.  The picture is nice, but you can’t see all the gooey goodness that’s inside.  You’ll just have to make it.  Today.  Or at least before May 1st.

Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

For 2

1/2 French loaf

4 oz. fresh Mozzarella

1 tomato

Pesto sauce

Olive oil for brushing

2T freshly grated Parmesan cheese optional

So simple and quick!  Slice and shred the ingredients.

Assemble the sandwiches, using the pesto as the spread.  I put pesto on both sides of the bread because it’s that good.  This is also a good time to turn on your heating element.  You could use a panini press, George Foreman grill, or the stove top with a steak weight.

Close the sandwiches and brush the tops with oil.

Then press the Parmesan onto the oiled bread.  So yummy!

Repeat on the bottom sides, then they’re ready to cook!  I used my monster of a George Foreman.  I did spray it with a little olive oil just to make sure the sandwiches didn’t stick.

Keep an eye on them, though on a George Foreman it’s hard to burn a sandwich.  I like mine nice and smashed with the gooey cheese running out the sides.  Enjoy!

It’s even better with Herb Fries & Bistro Dip!  I’ll post that next week!