Snow Day Salad?

Snow days don’t automatically bring to mind memories of great salads, right?  Right.  But I plan our meals a week at a time, so it just happened that we had one recipe left when we found ourselves snowed in for the weekend–Spinach and Barley Salad with Grilled Pork (a la Country Living).

 

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photo by Stephen Devries (via the Country Living website)

 

I know, I know.  It sounds healthy.  Who gets excited about spinach and barley?  Much less the beets and radishes and carrots that get thrown into the mix.  But trust me on this one.  It is delicious.  We decided it deserves a spot in our regular meal rotation, and that’s kind of a big deal.

I’ve been in a bit of an anti-cooking, anti-veggies kick lately.  Sadly, I’m an adult who feels the need to eat the occasional vegetable, even when I don’t actually want to eat a vegetable.  And my husband has this strange love for all things healthy.  I grudgingly picked this recipe to try to tick those boxes.

This salad was so flavorful and fresh and hearty at the same time.  The dressing was perfect with all of the strong vegetables, and the pork made it feel much less virtuous (in a good way).  Other bonuses include reasonable clean-up and very little actual cooking.  This was so good that I chose the leftovers for lunch today instead of the off-brand Easy Mac that’s hanging out in our pantry.  That’s quite a coup.

In case you didn’t see the link before, you can find the recipe right here.

(I know I’m not the only person who struggles with a love for fake cheese and all things carbohydrate, so put that stink eye away.  They’re just so good.  Please don’t let that cloud your opinion of this recipe.  This is no Easy Mac.  But if you happen to like Easy Mac, you still have a chance of liking this recipe.  It’s like a Venn Diagram.  Not all fake cheese eaters will like this, but some will.  Not all radish eaters will like fake cheese, but some will.)

And hey, enjoy the snow if you’re lucky enough to have some in your neck of the woods!

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Blueberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing

Okay, so mid-November ’tis not the season for blueberries and lemon buttercream, but Scott’s mom recently found this recipe and passed it on to me.  I couldn’t resist trying it out as soon as possible.

The occasion?  Birthdays, of course.  There were a few birthdays among our friends, and our favorite almost one-year-old is on that list.  I’m saving him an actual piece of cake for his actual birthday.  In the meantime, I discovered that while he’s okay with lemon buttercream icing, he’s absolutely in love with blueberries.  Love our kid.  I can’t get enough icing and just like blueberries.  He has his life in order.

Oh, and there’s zucchini in the cake.  I didn’t actually taste it, but you can feel good about having at least 1/10 of a zucchini in your cake, right?  This stuff was delicious.  It was essentially one of the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had topped with light but flavorful buttercream icing.  As a huge fan of lemon, it was pretty dreamy.

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Blueberry (Zucchini) Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups finely shredded and drained zucchini
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (save a few for the top, and this is about 2 cups if your blueberries don’t come in pint-sized containers)

Icing

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large lemon, juice and zest (about 2 tablespoons of juice, also save some of the zest for the top)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (or 9-inch or use cooking spray–do what you normally do here… I used butter and a paper towel to get a thin layer of coverage on each pan).

Grate zucchini (one large or two small should get you to 2 cups–used the small part of a box grater) and place in a clean dish towel.  Squeeze until most of the liquid is out of the zucchini.  Set aside the 2 cups of zucchini after they have been drained.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar.  Hand-mixer works well here, but go with what you’ve got–spoon or stand mixer would be okay, too.  Fold in the zucchini.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another bowl and stir to combine.  Then slowly add those dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Divide cake batter evenly between cake pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes in preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean (blueberry stains permitted).  Cool 20 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.  If you need to hurry that process along, a few minutes on the wire rack in the freezer will do the trick (said the person who never allows for cooling time before the cake needs to be done).

For the buttercream, combine butter, sugar and salt and beat until combined.  Add lemon juice and vanilla and beat for 3-5 additional minutes or until creamy (maybe even a tiny bit fluffy).  Fold in the lemon zest except for the zest reserved for the top.  Frost the cake as you please (d0llop on the bottom to hold it in place, then between the layers, then top and sides).  I thought there wasn’t quite enough icing when I was putting this together.  You definitely have to ration the icing.  BUT when I was eating it, I realized that the buttercream is fairly sweet, so if there was more icing, it would be too much.  So trust the recipe even if you have a tiny bit of cake showing through your icing.  It tastes just right.

Top with blueberries and lemon zest, and then eat some cake!

 

 

 

 

Niçoise Salad

At our house, we try to buy birthday gifts without going hog wild (read: we don’t to spend our life savings on birthday presents, not even for ourselves).  But there are still good things to be had for your birthday.  During birthday week, you get to pick the menu for dinner every night, you get to pick what we watch on tv, etc.  Any small life decisions for the week are yours.  It makes for a week that feels a little bit special and personal.

We started Scott’s birthday week last night with my first attempt at Niçoise Salad.  I didn’t quite use a recipe, which is the beauty of this salad.  There’s a traditional list of ingredients, but it’s pretty darn simple: hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes, small potatoes, and tuna with capers and olives sprinkled on top and a nice, strong viniagrette dressing (my favorite kind of dressing–heavy on the vinegar).

So you could read about what I did, but I like this post from Food52 a whole lot.  It’s what I used as a guide.  It gives you a bit of history about the dish, tells you what traditionally goes into it, and lets you figure out the details.

Asparagus looked better than green beans at our store, so that was the only real substitution I made.  And I guess I roasted the taters instead of boiling them.  I just really like roasted potatoes.

Here’s the official version from Food52:

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photo taken by Linda Xiao for Food52

Here’s what mine looked like the next day in Tupperware (because this is real life):

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The scary dark spots are either nice roasty parts of the potato or salad dressing.  I promise.

This salad is legit, guys.  It tastes awesome, it’s as good cold as warm (we ate it with potatoes right out of the oven last night, but everything else was room temperature), and it’s healthy.  I mean, you aren’t going to get all worried about those five tiny potatoes, are you?  Everything else is really super duper healthy.  There are so many good flavors.  Yum!  Oh, and don’t be intimidated by the suggestion that you could throw some anchovies on top.  I had some anchovy paste that I mixed into the dressing, but I could have left that out.

The super awesome thing about this?  The “composing” of the stripes makes it feel fancy.  And while the ingredients aren’t all kid-friendly, you could easily turn it into something kids would love.  Who doesn’t want striped dinner?  You could also do lots of these things ahead of time and then just put it together at the last minute.  Last but not least, I’m honestly kind of excited that I’ve found a way to use canned tuna that feels fresh and fancy.

Birthday week is off to a good start.

In unrelated news, at the ripe old age of 10 months, our kiddo likes kalamata olives, feta cheese, and roasted butternut squash.  I’m A) proud of him for his fancy preferences and B) concerned that I’m raising a child who will one day say something like, “I don’t think I can eat those mustard greens unless they’re locally sourced and organic.”  I hope I’m wrong.  I’m hoping I’ll raise a kid who loves good old peanut butter and jelly AND roasted butternut squash.  And maybe once in a while enjoys some locally sourced organic mustard green.

Zucchini Corn Fritters (A.K.A. Summer and Childhood and Nice Things)

In addition to chasing around a now-crawling baby, we’ve done some cooking this summer.  My (very local) farmer did some corn-growing, and we combined our efforts to cook some corn from the yard.  Lots of it.

One of my favorite recipes for this summer’s corn bounty was for zucchini corn fritters.  When I was a kid, we went to my grandma’s house for a few weeks  in the summer.  There were always a ton of fresh veggies at her house–corn and peas and tomatoes and cucumbers, oh my!

My very favorite of all the food was her drop cornbread, thus named because you drop it into the pan and cook it in blobs of tastiness.  It’s crispy and delicious in a way that other cornbread will never be.  It’s really the only cornbread that I love.

For some reason, I don’t ever make that cornbread.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a recipe for it.  It was just this grandma thing that existed in my childhood.

Until now.  [Cue happy music.]

These zucchini corn fritters are A) delicious, B) simple, and C) healthier than your typical pan-fried bread due to the addition of fresh corn and zucchini.  The zucchini wasn’t super obvious when mixed with all of the other ingredients, but I felt slightly virtuous as I ate the tasty bread.  I knew it had an extra dose of veggies inside, even if it tasted almost just like my grandma’s cornbread.  Winning all around, right?

img_4138Go get yourself some zucchini corn fritter recipe goodness here: recipe!

Don’t forget to get some spicy ketchup to go with it.  Spicy ketchup is perfect with these.  And with sweet potato fries.  And lots of other things.  You’ll like it.

Giada’s Green (and GOOD) Carbonara and Some Olive Oil Adventures

First, I’m going to torture you with stories of my day.  Then I’ll point you towards super delicious food.  It looks like this: But before I get to the food… It was a nice day today.  I had a short … Continue reading

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Baby Food? Heck Yes!!

Okay, this is going to be quick between finishing a batch of delicious baby food and doing the next step of homemade yogurt (and doing all of the katrillion dishes that I created last night and this morning… sigh).

I had a problem.  Babies eat baby food, right?  Baby food in the store is all fruits and veggies, unless you buy the super ridiculously expensive stuff that includes oats or quinoa or rice and some protein (mung beans and chicken???).  My baby doesn’t need food that fancy.

But he does need protein and grains.  Our kid will eat everything, which is awesome.  The only thing he has turned down is baby rice cereal, and I can’t really blame him.  It’s pretty darn bland.  That means he just eats fruit and veggies by the pound these days.  I wanted to help him meet the awesome world of other food so maybe he won’t get so hungry between meals.

I tried pureed chicken and pureed salmon with peas.  Both sound gross to me, but he’s game.  But I hadn’t really found a way to sneak in grains.  Enter a baby food cookbook and today’s super successful experiment.

Generally, I feel awesome about this.  I like the way it tastes, and little man has a healthy grain option that won’t eat into his college savings (sale quinoa).

(I promise this blog won’t henceforth be a baby food cookbook.  Just this once.  Or maybe a few times.  I also made Korean barbecue burritos and a super delicious corn and poblano taco filling recently.  Don’t worry.)

Toasted Quinoa and Peach Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 peach, peeled and cut into large chunks

How To

  1.  Rinse the quinoa under cold water, then drain well.  Transfer to a medium pan and toast over high heat 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until any excess water evaporates and the quinoa is slightly brown and begins to pop.  Slowly add 2 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender.  If using a blender with a plastic container, let the quinoa cool before blending.*
  2. When the quinoa is cool (or hot, if your blender has a non-plastic container), put about half of it in the blender container.  Add peach and blend until smooth.  Add water until the mixture is your desired consistency (thicker if I was planning to feed it to little guy with a spoon, slightly thinner to go into a resealable food pouch).
  3. Put the delicious food into a serving/storage container and let your little person enjoy.
  4. Store the extra cooked quinoa for at-home dining (maybe with another veggie or a pureed meat option for baby).  I basically didn’t want to make a small serving, since this is a bit of a time commitment.  It’s like making awesome leftovers.  Why wouldn’t you?

*This step of the recipe is word for word (until the very last sentence) from page 47 of Healthy Eating for your Baby & Toddler by Renee Elliott.  Thank you, public library.  Thank you, Renee Elliott.  It seems like a good baby cookbook, although the ingredients are a bit exotic.  It’s a good starting point for figuring out how to create a balanced diet for a new person.  I’m planning to make the recipes a bit more low-key.  This recipe was originally mung beans with toasted quinoa.  I don’t have mung beans in my pantry.

 

Really Good Burritos + Too Many Options

Most days, I have a very clear plan between baby naps and errands and stuff that has to be done by the end of that day no matter what.  Today is not like that.

Today, I have a million projects that I could do, but there isn’t a single project that I really have to get done.  And thus, Peanut and I are feeling kind of the same.  Like this:

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Like maybe the best thing to do is lie down in the middle of the floor and hope no one steps too close while you’re napping.  I get that this is an awesome problem, by the way.  I’m trying to fully enjoy the dilemma and the fact that it gives me time to blog today.

Before I join Peanut, I’m going to share a great recipe that I tried out last week.  It’s from The Kitchn, and it is officially called Baked Black Bean and Avocado Burritos.  Why is this recipe awesome?  Well, it tastes really good.  That’s the most important thing.  The second most important thing is that the prep is easy, and it can be mostly made ahead of time.

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Photo by Kimberley Hasselbrink

That means I made dinner during noon baby nap, then it was magically ready at 7 the second Tuck’s head hit his crib mattress for bedtime.  Seriously, it was like magic.  Not everything is delicious when you put it together 7 hours early.

One more note.  I added meat.  I do that a lot–pick good vegetarian recipes and throw in some meat.  It means there’s a focus on non-meat elements of the meal, but my meat-hungry family is happy.  It’s a winning strategy lots of times.  With no further ado, enjoy!

Baked Black Bean and Avocado Burritos

Makes 8-10 burritos

  • 1 lb. ground chicken, turkey, or beef (I used beef, but I think I’ll branch out next time)
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely minced (more if you want heat, not just flavor… I used 4 and it had some decent bite)
  • 1 cup light or regular sour cream
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 medium avocados, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 8-10 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack
  • Optional: cumin, salt, and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Brown the meat in a pan until cooked through, crumbling with a wooden spoon along the way.  I threw in some cumin, salt, and pepper at this point.  I would guess it was about 1 teaspoon of cumin.  Do what feels right.  I like cumin a lot, so I might have used more than that.

Combine chipotle and sour cream in a bowl. Add the beans and corn to the sour cream mixture and stir until well combined.  Stir in the browned meat, then gently stir in the avocado.

Working one at a time, spoon the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla.  Roll the tortillas closed and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish. You might find that your baking dish is too small (I did).  If that’s true, grab an 8×8″ pan, spray it with cooking spray, and finish the folding in that dish.  Spoon the salsa over the tortillas and top with the shredded cheese. Cover and bake 20 minutes until cheese is melted and burritos are warmed through.

If you’re making these ahead of time, just stop before you get to the salsa and add salsa and cheese later.  Presto.  We loved the leftovers from these, too.

And now, I will consider reorganizing our desperately messy cabinets or maybe the also desperately messy pantry.  Or I could actually join Peanut.