Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Butternut Squash Crostini

I've had a couple people ask me for some Thanksgiving appetizer ideas and these crostinis are delicious, easy to make, and you can piggy back it onto my last post for the butternut squash salad!  I'm all about finding ways to use my ingredients in more ways than one so you can save money and reuse for multiple recipes.  This is definitely a crowd pleaser so you might want to double up the recipe just in case!!

Servings: 12 crostinis
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes (roasting squash)

1 Butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 French baguette
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Ricotta cheese (I bought the light ricotta at TJ's)
2 Cups arugula
Balsamic Glaze (near Balsamic vinegar at Trader's, only $2.99!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  While oven is preheating, peel the skin off of the squash.  Make sure you get down to the "orange" part.  The white skin can be very bitter. Cut up squash into 1 inch cubes.  Place on a sheet pan and toss with about 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Throw it in the oven for 45 minutes until roasted and soft. (at about 20 minutes it doesn't hurt to re-toss it)  Let cool for at least 15 minutes. QUICK TIP: Trader Joe's sells pre-peeled/pre-cubed butternut squash so you can use that too!

Once the butternut squash is out of oven, increase the heat to 475 degrees.  Cut the french baguette into little 1" slices and arrange on a baking sheet.  Brush olive oil on each piece of bread.  Then season with salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon of each).  Put bread in the oven and toast until golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.  Watch it carefully though, it can burn quickly!

When bread is done, it's time to assemble.  Start with the bread, and spread about 1 tsp of ricotta on the slice.  Top with about 1 Tablespoon of butternut squash and a pinch of arugula leaves.  Drizzle a little balsamic glaze on top and you're finished!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall Roasted Squash Salad

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year!  Butternut squash, apples, cider, donuts...mmmm.  Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), since I live in a climate that doesn't really have seasons I don't get to go apple picking with hay rides.  But at least we still get the fresh produce out here in order to make amazing dishes!

Butternut squash is one of my favorite things to make.  It's packed with nutrients and tastes good no matter what way you make it. Earlier in my blog is the recipe for butternut squash soup if you want something heartier.  This salad is easy, fun, fresh and flavorful.  I roasted the squash and used this recipe for a whole week of salads!  Super cost effective and you won't break the bank getting those $10 salads every day!  The trick is to keep all of the ingredients separate and then store in your fridge and assemble at work.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

1 Butternut squash (about 2-3 pounds)
Arugula (1 bag for the week)
Goat Cheese (I buy the little log at Trader Joe's)
1/2 Cup sliced toasted almonds (put in dry pan on high heat for 3 min, tossing until toasted)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Glaze (near Balsamic vinegar at Trader's, only $2.99!)
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  While oven is preheating, peel the skin off of the squash.  Make sure you get down to the "orange" part.  The white skin can be very bitter. Cut up squash into 1 inch cubes.  Place on a sheet pan and toss with about 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Throw it in the oven for 45 minutes until roasted and soft. (at about 20 minutes it doesn't hurt to re-toss it)  Let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Get a plate and throw a handful of arugula on there (literally).  Put about 10-15 cubes of the squash on top.  Then take a fork and crumble off the goat cheese on top of the arugula, I only use about 1/8 of the goat cheese log for each plate.  Drizzle about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and about 1 Tablespoon of balsamic glaze on top.  Then add the toasted almonds!

Drink with a nice cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc, wait you're at work...but if you're at home go for it!

**Tip - Don't have butternut squash?  Replace with tomatoes, watermelon, pears, or anything you like!**

Monday, July 8, 2013

SPICY Tomatillo Salsa

I've made plenty of salsas before but wanted to do a green salsa instead of your typical red.  This salsa is not for the faint of heart though; it definitely has a little bit of a kick!  This was served on top of fish tacos and it really helped bring out the flavor of everything.  This recipe is super easy and you'll be done in no time.

Also, this recipe makes A LOT of salsa so it can feed a party of 12 people and you will still have leftovers.  Throw it on top of an omelet the next morning for a little Huevos Rancheros style!

Servings: About 24
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

2 lbs of tomatillos (husked)
2 Jalapenos (stemmed, you can skip this if you want it milder)
1 Yellow onion, quartered
5 Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper
1/2 Cup reserved cooking liquid
Prep your ingredients.  Tomatillos come with a little husk around them, so just peel them off.  Pop off the stems to the jalapenos, and quarter 1 yellow onion.  Bring a pot of water to the boiling point and throw in the tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, and garlic.  Boil for about 10 minutes to the point where the tomatillos are tender but make sure they don't burst.  Drain the liquid and reserve 1/2 cup for later.

With a food processor or immersion blender, combine all of the ingredients together.  Add salt and black pepper to taste and cayenne pepper. (I put about a teaspoon each of salt & pepper).  Then blend in the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid to thin it out a little.  (Do this slowly as you may find you don't need as much water)

Voila!  Fresh tomatillo salsa that will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Simple Marinara

My sister recently moved to the Netherlands and she expressed frustration of cooking over in Europe.  We are very lucky to have a wide variety of ingredients available to us in the United States so I wanted to make something very simple she would be able to duplicate easily.

There are many people that do the typical "spaghetti sauce in a jar" on week nights because it is easy and fast.  I admit it, I used to be one of those people.  I grew up in household that ate Ragu and Prego.  Unfortunately, these jarred sauces have a lot of preservatives and sugar in them and are not very healthy.  This recipe is so simple you can make the sauce while your noodles are cooking in the boiling water.  I promise it won't take any longer than your normal routine with the jarred sauce and the taste will knock your socks off!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 2 minutes, seriously!
Cook Time: 12 minutes

1/2 Box angel hair pasta, or whatever you have in pantry
2 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
2 Cloves garlic, sliced
1 14oz. Can of petite diced tomatoes, I used Hunts
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Red pepper flakes, if you want a little kick
1 Tablespoon Butter
4 Leaves fresh basil

Put your pot of water on stove and bring to boil.  Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add olive oil.  Cut thin slices of garlic.  Don't cut long ways but short ways so you have little slices about the size of a dime.  Add to the olive oil and let garlic infuse the oil for about 2 minutes.  Once garlic gets a "little" brown that should be good.

Add the whole can of tomatoes, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes into the garlic olive oil.  Toss together and reduce heat to medium.

The water should be boiling at this point (add a little salt to boiling water) and add angel hair pasta.  It should be about 4 minutes until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside.

Chop your fresh basil and set aside.  **A little trick. Stack your leaves of basil on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette.  Then take your knife and slice the roll and you have perfect chopped basil!**

Then stir the butter into the tomato sauce and let the flavors come together for 2 minutes.  Add in the pasta to the tomato sauce and lightly toss.

Plate and top with fresh basil and parmesan (if you prefer) and voila!  Cheap, easy and the flavor will wow everyone around the table!

**Second Uses** (if you have leftover sauce, you can use for the following)
1.  Pizza Sauce - get a dough ball at Trader Joe's and use this sauce and add favorite toppings!
2.  Bruschetta - Slice french baguette and add sauce on top with parmesan and put under broiler until cheese is bubbly.  Add fresh basil on top and it's a quick appetizer!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cozy Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken

With all of the chilly weather on the east coast, I thought it would be good to post a warm and cozy recipe.  I love this because all you have to do is throw everything in one pot and leave it in the oven.

My boyfriend is a huge fan of rosemary so I'm always trying to find new ways to throw it in.  Rosemary and lemon are a natural fit with a lot of cooking styles.  It's very important that you buy fresh rosemary.  If you use dried rosemary you won't get the same flavors and the chicken will taste a little muted.

This is the perfect answer to Sunday dinner with the snow falling outside.  Start that fire up and stay warm out there!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 pound small baby red potatoes
4 Chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (you can use any cut of chicken)
2 Lemons, divided
3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary, divided
2 Garlic cloves
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pint baby bella mushrooms, or white button is fine

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Boil potatoes in a pot separately for about 5 minutes so they are just a little tender.

On a cutting board, put the following ingredients in a pile: 1 sprig of rosemary leaves taken off of stem, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 2 garlic cloves.  Once in the pile take your knife and chop up until they are all combined.  Just keep throwing them in a pile together and chop away!

In a bowl combine your "ingredient pile" with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Then squeeze in the juice of one lemon (save the halves!)  Whisk together.  Throw in all of the chicken and make sure each are coated with the marinade.

Take a dutch oven or large pot (that can go in oven) and heat up 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Brown the chicken skin side down for about 5 minutes until crispy brown.  Turn the chicken over and throw in the mushrooms, and boiled potatoes.

Squeeze in the juice from the other lemon and then throw in the 4 lemon halves straight into the pot.  Then put in the 2 sprigs of rosemary.  Put in the oven for 25 minutes uncovered and you're done!  When finished, just cut into the chicken to make sure it is cooked through.  Ovens all cook  different ways, so just double check.

Enjoy this hearty Sunday style dinner!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EASY Avocado Hummus

Are you looking for an appetizer that is easy to make and will please everyone?  This recipe is great because it is a healthier version of guacamole and has a lot of depth of flavor in it.

It is helpful for you to have a food processor to complete this recipe.  If you don't have a food processor you could try a blender as long as it has a strong blade.  Your hummus might just be a little chunkier.

Another positive of this hummus is that it will stay for about a week in your refrigerator.  Since there is a decent amount of lemon in the recipe it will keep the color green.  If you don't use lemon the avocado will turn brown and won't be edible.  I know we have all experienced that!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook: Time: None!

2 Avocados
Handful of Arugula
1 15oz. can of northern white beans (cannellini beans)
1/3 Cup of italian flat leaf parsley (curly parsley has NO flavor)
2 Garlic cloves, smashed
Half of lemon
Olive oil, about 1/2 cup
Salt & Pepper
Red pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Peel, pit and dice your avocados and add to the food processor.  Throw in the arugula and italian parsley.  Drain and rinse the white beans and add in.

For the smashed garlic take your knife and slam it down on the clove.  If you're hesitant about this put the cloves in between a kitchen towel and hit it with a hammer!  Sounds funny, but it works!

Squeeze in the lemon, and add salt and pepper to taste.  I put in about 1/2 teaspoon of each.  Add a few shakes of red pepper flakes or hot sauce if you like a little kick to it.

Turn your food processor on and while it is running stream in the olive oil.  It depends how thick you want your hummus but I used about 1/2 a cup.

Serve with low fat pita chips and you have a great appetizer or snack!

Monday, January 21, 2013

French Toast Bread Pudding

I absolutely love bread pudding!  I have a lot of friends that think they don't like it but I promise this recipe will change their opinion.  The great thing about this dish is that you can make it ahead of time and bake it when you're going to serve brunch, etc.  It also reheats very well and for the most part you should already have the ingredients in your pantry.

For the topping I did a banana glaze to replace the syrup and to add a fruit factor.  You can definitely just use syrup though to make it easier.  So let's get started and we will trick your guests into thinking you put together a gourmet treat!

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes, 12 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Bread Pudding:
Unsalted butter, to grease your 8x8 glass pan
3/4 Loaf french bread, cut into 1" cubes
4 Eggs
1 Cup whole milk
1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 Cup white sugar
1/4 Cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

Banana Glaze:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 Cup Brown sugar
2 Bananas, sliced

Grease your 8x8 glass pan on the bottom and all sides.  Cut the french bread into 1" cubes and distribute evenly in the pan.

Whisk together the eggs in a separate bowl.  Then add milk, heavy whipping cream, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon.  Whisk all ingredients together and pour over the bread in your dish.  Cover with foil, and let sit overnight or 12 hours.

The next day preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending how hot your oven bakes.  Check it at 45 minutes and you want to top brown and crusty.

In the last 5 minutes of baking, heat butter and brown sugar on medium high heat for 2 minutes until melted.  Then add bananas and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove the break pudding from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Cut into squares and spoon glazed bananas on top.  Prepare your tastebuds for a french toast explosion!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Yugo" Salad

After a 6 month hiatus of traveling for work, I finally am able to dedicate more time to this blog! Even though my time has been consumed by work, I have some great recipes from the past months that I know you will love!  I also moved into a new studio apartment in the heart of San Francisco so my kitchen has downsized even more truly making it a "Lil' Midget Kitchen!"

To start out the New Year, I thought it would be good to post a nice and light recipe that can be used for dinner and lunches for the week.  This recipe comes from a friend and her family was Yugoslavian.  So they dubbed it "Yugo" salad.  Let's start out 2013 with a bang and stay tuned for  more delicious recipes that are guaranteed to make your mouth water!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: None!

2 Cucumbers, chopped
1 Small carton grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 Red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped (color of your choice)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Italian dressing
Crumbled feta cheese

For the cucumbers, cut in half length wise.  Make sure you take a spoon and scoop out all the seeds.  The seeds have no flavor and will make your salad soggy.  Cut each half in half and then dice horizontally.  

Cut each grape tomato in half.  You can use any type of tomato, but I like these since they are sweet and easy to cut with no mess.  Dice the red onion, and chop small pieces of any color bell pepper.  I typically like to use orange or yellow for more color.  The above picture doesn't have peppers because produce was scarce that day.

Throw all the chopped ingredients in a bowl and add salt & pepper to taste.  Toss everything with your favorite Italian dressing.  I use Good Seasonings packets and make my own.  Top the salad with crumbled feta and you're done!  This salad goes great with grilled chicken or is a good substitution for fries with burgers.  Enjoy!

Side note:  If you want leftovers for lunches that week, put aside the vegetables before dressing them with Italian.  The dressing will make it soggy so just add it in on the day of.