Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

Edamame, Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Thursday, April 15th, 2010
Edamame, black beans, roasted red peppers, corn, cilantro salad

Edamame, Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Salad

I look at eating my Super Salad as my little nutritional insurance policy. It makes me feel like even if I ate nothing but pop tarts the rest of the day, at least I got a few servings of vegetables and nuts.  Because of this, we have some sort of salad with every dinner.  And a salad with every dinner equals salad burn out

If you too get salad burn out, try this one…my Edamame, Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Salad.  It is easy to make, and very tasty. You could even eat it like a salsa on tortilla chips.  Very healthy, very tasty, and very flexible.  You can tweak the recipe to fit your likes and dislikes.  Add more edamame, omit the green onion…any way, it will be yummy.

Edamame, Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups edamame, shelled and cooked to the package directions
  • Small can of black beans, drained
  • Small can of corn, you could also use frozen corn about 1 cup
  • Small jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped.
  • 3 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon heart healty oil – canola works well (you can substitute this with Italian dressing for a little extra flavor – I like Good Seasons Mild Italian)
  • Small bunch of cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Simply combine all of the ingredients and then season to taste.  Let the flavors come together by letting it sit for about an hour.  You can add more or less of the cayenne depending on how spicy you like it.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Saturday, August 8th, 2009
Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Boy oh boy, we need to make a post.  I have been swamped at work, and we are currently doing some work on the site (a slight redesign is in the works).  It is funny how guilty you start to feel as the days add up between posts.

So, I have decided to quickly put something together to ease my guilt…a Watermelon and Feta Salad recipe. 

This salad is like this post…quick and fresh.  Some of you may be able to throw it together without even hitting the market; these six ingredients may be sitting in your fridge now.  

The combination of salty, tangy feta and the sweet, cold watermelon work extremely well together.  It is really an amazing combination of flavors.  And to make it even better, the cucumber adds texture; the tomato adds nice flavor; the red onion brings a bit of zing to the party.  Top it with fresh parsley and fresh ground black pepper – and you have a perfect summer side dish for any picnic or cookout. 

My tips for this Watermelon and Feta Salad:  Cube the watermelon, cucumber and tomato so that they are all about the same size.  It makes the overall look of the salad more appealing.  Serve it immedietely.  This is not the best salad to have sitting around before you plate it.  Toss and serve; this is key.

Cubed Watermelon

Cubed Watermelon

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, seeded and and cubed
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flake (optional)

Directions:

1.)   In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, feta and red onion. 

2.)   Top with fresh ground black pepper and fresh parsley and toss gently.

3.)   For some heat – add a few red pepper flakes.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans

I am currently in South America – Buenos Aires to be more precise.  So far, I am pleasantly surprised.  The people are warm and inviting; the food has been amazing; our hotel is surrounded by small shops, markets and trendy restaurants.  More details on my trip, the food and everything else that goes along with the travel experience to follow in a later post. The point of this post is to discuss cooking with the ancient “grain” quinoa, from South America, and it just so happens I am in South America.  There…I have made the connection.  On we go.

I discovered quinoa (pronounced Keen – wah) a few years back while looking for a vegetarian filling for stuffed peppers that was more nutritious than rice. For most, quinoa is known as a type of grain, not entirely true though.  If you want to get techinical, quinoa is actually a seed; it is referred to as a grain because of its cooking characteristics. 

Quinoa has a very delicate flavor and a lovely texture.  People have said it is similar to couscous – I disagree.  The texture is soft, yet there is slight bite from the spiral tail of the quinoa.  Spiral tail?  Yes, as quinoa cooks the outer germ around each grain twists to form a white spiral tail.  This tail is what gives it a pleasant bite or crunch.  The texture combination is why I love quinoa – it is heartier, more nourishing than other grains.  And thanks to its recent exposure in cooking magazines and shows, you can easily find quinoa at most supermarkets and at natural foods stores. 

Quinoa - Close Up

Quinoa - Close Up

Quinoa is high in fiber, calcium and iron, low in fat and is very easy to digest.  Compared to other grains, quinoa is the highest in complete protein which makes it an ideal ingredient for vegetarians.  Quinoa is so nutritious in fact, that it was used to sustain Incan armies who would march for several days on a simple mixture of quinoa and fat, or “war balls” as they called them.  As I stated previously, quinoa is an ancient grain; records show that quinoa has been cultivated in the South American Andes since around 3000 BC.  Quinoa has only been grown outside of South America for a relatively short period of time.  In the US, most quinoa comes out of Colorado.

So, how do you cook this stuff?  I cook my quinoa in a saucepan, a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.   For the liquid, I usually substitute stock for water as the grains absorb so much of the flavor.   Rinse your quinoa before cooking to remove any leftover residue.  I bring my stock up to a boil, add the quinoa and reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover.  I usually let it sit for about 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.   Then I fluff with a fork and set aside.  Don’t worry too much if there is a bit of excess water on the grains – it tends to evaporate as it sits.  If you feel compelled, you can always drain in a wire strainer.  I suggest reading the instructions on your box as each variety of quinoa cooks differently.  Trial and error works best when cooking quinoa. 

Uncooked Quinoa and Vegetable Stock

Uncooked Quinoa and Vegetable Stock

Quinoa can be used in hot and cold salads and casseroles, or you can add quinoa to soups and stews for more substance.  This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on EpicuriousQuinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro.  I used roasted red peppers and ancho chili powder for an even richer, smokier “southwest” flavor.  The fresh cilantro adds a bright flavor to the recipe, you notice it immediately – it screams “fresh”.   

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans
Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, drained
  • 3 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • Feta cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions:

1.) Prepare your quinoa to the package directions. Rinse before cooking.  Once cooked, drain and set aside to cool.

2.) Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

3.) Stir in the roasted red peppers, ancho chili powder and cumin and salt.

4.) Remove the mixture from heat, place in a large bowl and let stand to cool.

5.) Once your onion mixture is cool, add the black beans, ¼ cup of the cilantro and quinoa.

6.) Just prior to serving sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup of cilantro and feta cheese. This dish is served at room temperature.  Taste again, season with salt and pepper as needed.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Topping

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Pecan Topping

Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Pecan Topping

Looking for a tasty, healtier alternative to mashed potatoes?  My mashed sweet potatoes are sweet, crunchy, creamy – just delicious.  They work well with most of your summer time staples…hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken – the list goes on and on. 

A tip to make this recipe even easier is to buy the pre-wrapped sweet potatoes that you microwave. There is no need to remove the wrapping, pierce or wash – just throw them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes.  For this recipe I microwaved 4 at a time.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove them from the microwave and let them cool; you want them cool to the touch so you can remove the inside goodness from the skin.  Once they are cooled, slice them in half and spoon out the inside into a baking dish and mash them with a potato masher.

Mash the Sweet Potatoes With a Potato Masher

Mash the Sweet Potatoes With a Potato Masher

This recipe is not only simple, it is nutritious.  Sweet potatoes packed with vitamin A, they are also a great source of vitamin C, iron, calcium and fiber.  The recipe does, however, contain a good amount of sugar and fat in it.  But don’t worry – if you are cooking for someone on a special diet it is easy to adjust this recipe. I was cooking for my mother, so I adjusted a portion of the recipe to suit her diet; I used less of the topping (contains brown sugar and butter) on her portion.  Sweet potatoes are a good option for diabetics as they have the lowest glycemic index rating amongst all root vegetables.

If you wanted to adjust the sugar content even further to make a diabetic friendly version, I would suggest eliminating the brown sugar completely from the topping and replacing the maple syrup with sugar-free syrup.  Sweet Potatoes are naturally sweet so they don’t need much help.

I tried both the full fat, full sugar version and the trimmed version and I must say – they were both excellent.

Ingredients:

Topping:

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, I use the Pecan Pie glazed Pecans by Emerald Nuts
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

The Rest:

  • 6 prewrapped microwavable sweet potatoes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

1.) Mix the brown sugar, pecans and butter in small bowl. Set aside – preferably in the fridge to chill.

2.) Prepare a glass baking dish with butter. I simply put a bit of butter on a paper towel and wipe. You could even substitute canola oil as well.

3.) Cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave. Remember, you have to pierce sweet potatoes before putting them in the microwave unless you buy the pre-wrapped microwaveable sweet potatoes. Cook on high for about 8-10 minutes until tender to the touch. Let cool.

4.) Once your sweet potatoes are cool, place them in a dish and mash with a potato masher.

5.) Beat eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and salt in large bowl. Mix in the mashed sweet potatoes.

6.) Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle pecan topping evenly over mixture.

7.) Bake until sweet potato mixture is set and the pecan topping bubbles, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes and serve.

Cooking with Orzo

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
Orzo Salad With Radicchio

Orzo Salad With Radicchio

I love pasta – all shapes and sizes of pasta, especially orzo.  Orzo in Italian literally translates to barley, which is what it was originally made from.  In the US, orzo is known as rice shaped pasta – which is exactly what it is.  It is a pasta that is made from hard wheat semolina that looks like a piece of rice.  Its unique size and shape make it so versatile.  It makes excellent warm and cold salads; add a protein and it would make a satisfying main; add it to soups to make them a bit heartier.   It is a great partner with several different flavors and ingredients.

When it is cooked properly I like to describe it as having a “creamy bite” –  a creamy texture with a nice bite.  Like all pasta, cook it al dente.  Use a large pot;  just like you would cook any other pasta,  you want to give the orzo space to move around in the liquid. 

Orzo, Up Close

Orzo, Up Close

I usually cook my orzo in a mixture of equal parts water and chicken stock.  It adds extra flavor to the orzo.  You could certainly try other stocks to achieve different results…orzo is a blank canvas.

Once the orzo is cooked, it is time to give it a quick rinse and then drain thoroughly.  There is nothing worse than a “wet” orzo salad.  If it is warm and wet, it is sure to end up a gummy mess. 

Draining can be tricky.  The best method I have found is to drain it in a wire strainer or sieve, shaking it around well.  I’ve gone as far as to pour the cooked, pre-drained orzo out onto a large tea towel to remove extra moisture. It’s a pretty good method actually – make sure your tea towel is large, spread the orzo out onto the towel and gently pat the grains down with a paper towel.  Fold up the edges of the tea towel to make for easy transport.

Having tried many prepared orzo salads from specialty markets and grocery stores, I am convinced the best tasting are the ones you make at home.  Usually the store bought orzo salads tend to be gummy or contain way too much oil.

This orzo salad recipe was adapted from a friend’s recipe.  Thanks Cindi – love this orzo salad!

Orzo Salad with Radicchio
6 servings

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 1/3 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (or less, depending on how much oil the sun dried tomatoes added)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped 
  • 1 1/2 cups radicchio, finely chopped (about 1 small head)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

Directions:

1.) Cook orzo until firm to bite, but tender. 

2.) Rinse and drain orzo well. 
 
3.) Transfer the orzo to a large bowl.  Add sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives.  Mix and let stand until cool. 

4.) Add the radicchio, pine nuts, Romano cheese and fresh basil.  Taste, and then season with salt and pepper.    

The Best Guacamole…seriously

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
 
 
 
 
 

 

Our Favorite Guacamole

Our Favorite Guacamole

I’m nervous – confused – my palms are sweaty.  Ok, maybe my palms aren’t sweaty, but I am still asking myself  ”are you sure you want to do this?”

(time lapse 10 minutes ahead)

Alright fine – I will share (give up) one of my best recipes.  It’s not like I am the only person in the world that makes good guacamole.  It just so happens that I think mine is the best. 

What’s my secret?  Perhaps it’s the red onion, or the mayonnaise or maybe the salt?  People always say that red onion has a mild, sweet flavor – I think it has a strong flavor – which adds something special to this guacamole.   The salt you use is also very important.  I love experimenting with different salts in my guacamole – salt compliments avocados so well.  To add a bit of creaminess to the guacamole I use the mayonnaise.  Sounds odd, but works so well.

This recipe will serve two or three people who really love guacamole.  Adjust accordingly to how much you will need. 

guacamole-ingredients

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • ½ of a lime, juiced
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced
  • 1/8 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cilantro, chopped
  • good pinch of your favorite salt – I like fleur de sel in this recipe.
  • dash of Tabasco

Directions:

1.) Prep your ingredients before cutting into your avocado. The avocado can go brown very quickly without the help of the lime.

2.) Once you are prepped – place the avocado, lime juice, tomato, red onion, mayonnaise, salt and Tabasco in a large bowl.

3.) Using the back of a fork, mash all of the ingredients together until you get the consistency that you prefer. Some people like smooth, others a bit chunky. Myself, I prefer a bit chunky.

4.) Finally, fold in the cilantro – trying not to bruise the leaves too much.|

5.) Place plastic wrap over the guacamole – so that is actually touching the surface of the guacamole and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. After the guacamole has sat for an hour – go ahead and eat!

Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad

Monday, June 1st, 2009
Corn, Avacado & Tomato Salad

Corn, Avocado & Tomato Salad

No food tastes more like summer than fresh sweet corn, straight off the cob.  Small roadside stands selling their fresh harvest – really, there is nothing better especially in Ohio.  You may have heard…but you have never had corn until you’ve tried Ohio sweet corn.   I honestly believe that. 

Although we haven’t entered prime corn season, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for canned corn.  The grocery stores are already selling the season’s first corn on the cob – and it’s pretty good.   Get your corn fix early with this Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad – it’s got such bright flavor!  Dressed with a cilantro lime dressing – it too, screams “SUMMER”.   

After writing the recipe out, I have decided that a healthy addition to this summer salad would be shelled edamame – wouldn’t you agree?

Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Makes about 4-6 servings. 

Recipe (slightly) adapted from Paula Deen’s Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3-4 ears of fresh corn
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 1-2 tablespoon fresh lime juice (depending on taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (reserve a bit for presentation)
  • Good pinch of salt (I use Fleur de sel)
  • Pinch pepper
  • Few dashes of Tabasco

Directions:

1.) Remove the corn from the cob. Place in a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 5 minutes on high. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain on a tea towel thoroughly.

2.) Combine the prepared corn, sliced avocado, halved tomatoes and diced red onion in a large glass bowl.

3.) Mix the dressing ingredients together in another bowl and then pour over the salad. Gently toss to mix. Add some additional cilantro on top prior to serving.   Taste.  If you feel it needs salt, add some.  The corn can take a good amount of salt – it brings out all of the flavors.


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