Fried Green Tomato Caprese Salad

Grocery stores do not typically carry green tomatoes.  Purple, yellow, orange heirloom tomatoes, yes; tart green ones, perfect for making faux tomatillo sauce or fried green tomatoes, no.  Last summer I thought I’d try a fried green tomato caprese salad, and it was really, really fun.  Breaded and pan-fried crispy tart green tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and sweet basalmic vinegar–it was a caprese salad 2.0.

This summer we moved.  We don’t have a garden yet.  We don’t have a yard, yet.  We have plans, though–really big, gorgeous garden arbor, raised beds, garden wall, natural blackberry and raspberry fence plans.  I can see it, and it’s going to be really great.

But right now, in the thick of summer, I really wanted to make that fried green tomato caprese salad…so I asked some new friends if they would loan me some green tomatoes.  Ok, more like give me to have and devour green tomatoes.  I luckily had some willing green-tomato givers.

When I pan-fry something, I always use panko breadcrumbs; I think the results are crispier.  But when I reached for my panko container, it was totally empty.  Rats.  So I made do with what I had (and the more traditional southern pan-fry coating): cornmeal.  I decided to mix cornmeal and flour, to help the cornmeal not be a burned-too-crunchy-cornmeal texture, and they turned out great.

fried green tomato beginningsfried green tomato salad 1

I also had a SWAT team helper, taking a break from duty to help me arrange tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on the plate.  That’s the funny thing: my little guys love helping me in the kitchen, love stirring and mixing and scooping, and they always tell me it “smells so great” and “looks so “bee-you-tee-full”, mommy”, and “I am so excited to taste it, mommy”.  And then I prepare a bowl for them, and they take one look and walk away.  Some day…some day they will eat me out of house and home…

fried green tomato caprese salad

fried green tomato caprese salad 2


FRIED GREEN TOMATO CAPRESE SALAD

  • Servings: 2-4, if you are willing to share
  • Difficulty: easy
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You can make this salad as big or as little as you would like.  If your green tomatoes are large, I would estimate one tomato per person; if they are small, two per person.  

SALAD INGREDIENTS

  • 6 small green tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 large red tomatoes sliced, or a mix-match of mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
  • Fresh mozzarella medallions
  • A handful of baby basil leaves, or larger leaves julienned
  • Drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

PAN-FRY ASSEMBLY LINE INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour in one shallow bowl
  • 2 eggs, beaten in another shallow bowl
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 tsp italian seasoning, and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper mixed together in a third shallow bowl

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Dab both sides of the green tomato slices dry with a paper towel.  Working with 3-4 slices at a time, first coat both sides of a slice with flour, then move to the egg bowl and coat both sides, then move to the flour/cornmeal mixture and coat both sides.
  3. Gently place in the frying pan.  You should be able to comfortably fit 3-4 slices at a time.  Watch until they are golden brown and flip.  Once they are browned on both sides, let them rest on a cooling rack.  They will stay crispier on the rack vs. just laying them on a paper towel or a plate.
  4. Continue until all your green tomatoes are fried.
  5. Arrange your salad however you would like!  You can make fun towers alternating fried green tomatoes, red tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella; just layer the fried green tomatoes and mozzarella, and cluster the mini tomatoes on the plate, etc.  Sprinkle the fresh basil over top and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You can also sprinkle more salt and pepper, if desired.

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Girls Night Out with a Roasted Beet Salad

My bff and I have an annual girls night out tradition.  We take a girls-only staycation, eat out at a fancy-shmancy restaurant, sleep in the next morning, hit up the outlets, and last year we spontaneously joined a 5k after we ran into the racers at the hotel breakfast nook.  The 5k is now part of the tradition.

Last year at the restaurant we shared a beet salad and polenta fries.  I am still trying to get my polenta fries to be the same perfectly pillowy creamy inside and crispy crunchy outside.  But the salad–I think I have created a great replica (at a fraction of the cost, I might add)!  You can’t beat (haha) roasted red and golden beet salad with a few other crunchy fixings–very satisfying and totally delicious.  I had radishes on hand for this salad and thought I’d try pan-roasting them–it was amazing!  They were sweet, not the usual peppery bite of a radish, and the texture was like a pan-roasted potato, minus the starch.  The restaurant topped their salad with a perfect little lemon panna cotta; I topped mine with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

As a side note, I remember the first time I ate beets–I was in Brazil and the region I was in had this sort of potato salad with cubed beets in it.  Not the typical American potato salad you’re thinking of, loaded with mayonnaise.  It’s just cubed potatoes and hard-boiled eggs and beets, maybe some peas, all sort of steamed together, no dressing, really.  The beets were from a can, so they had this tinned pickled flavor, and although I didn’t dislike the flavor, it was just a new flavor and…interesting.

But it wasn’t a roasted beet.  Now roasted beets, that’s a whole ‘nuther story, I have since learned.  I love roasting vegetables–they give a more rounded, deeper, and fuller flavor when you add roasted veggies to soups, sauces, dishes, etc.  Roasting brings out the sweetness in a vegetable.  And beets, that maybe smelled or tasted a little like dirt before being roasted, turn into these deep ruby red and golden gems of sweet earthiness.  Although your (my) kids may not eat beets and greens, this salad definitely ensures your husband will!

roasted beet salad 1 roasted beet salad 2


ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Inspired by the lovely Roasted Beet Salad from Riverhorse Restaurant in Park City, UT

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 red beet
  • 1 golden beet
  • 4-5 radishes, quartered
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced (include the celery leaves for more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted pistachios
  • Sprinkling of feta cheese
  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • Vinaigrette: one lemon, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare the beets by washing them clean, then place–whole and unpeeled–in a bowl and drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a shallow roasting pan.  Roast in the oven for about one hour, or until soft/firm (not mushy) when poked with a knife.
  2. While the beets are cooling, heat a saute pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat.  Season the quartered radishes with salt and pepper and pan-roast them, stirring on occasion so they don’t burn, until their whites turn golden brown.
  3. Once the beets are cooled, peel and cut them into cubes or triangles–whatever shape you think will make your salad taste better.  If you are going to cut the beets on the same cutting board, you might want to do the golden beet first, as the red beet will stain whatever comes after it.
  4. Place the remaining ingredients, the sliced celery through mixed greens, in a large bowl, add the pan-roasted radishes and the beets, and gently hand toss.  Place on your serving dish.
  5. Whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and spoon overtop the salad.

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No-Brainer “Not Dry” Dinner

We moved this summer, the first week of June.  We spent the last week of May gradually packing things, including the kitchen, and we ate off paper plates and used paper cups, and meals were mainly of the cupboard-non-perishable variety.  And then we spent the first two weeks of June unpacking and getting settled.  I knew it was taking me too long to get things “settled” when I asked my boys what they wanted for breakfast, and my oldest replied, “Dry stuff and water.”

So.  We went grocery shopping the next day, and I grabbed a few items to make a No-Brainer “Not Dry” Dinner.  We all need one of these every so often, right?  Something that’s fast, easy, nutritious and not a bowl of something microwaved…and not dry stuff.

I’ve heard and read this phrase often in the food world: “If it grows together, it goes together.”  I was feeling a bit Mediterranean, so I beelined it over to the olive bar and filled a cup of marinated artichoke hearts and a cup of Calamata olives, then from the produce section grabbed a fresh bunch of parsley, tomatoes, and a lemon, and knew I had the rest of the non-perishable ingredients at home to throw together a pretty good no-brainer pasta salad.

I found a great tip in an Eating Well Recipe Magazine:  A great pasta salad takes 5 steps:  1. Pick and cook a pasta.  2.  Load up on veggies.  3.  Add a lean protein (this doesn’t have to be meat, by the way–could be beans, nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, etc.).  4.  Boost flavor (dried fruit, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled vegetables, etc.).  5. Dressing.  (You don’t need to have a mayonnaise or cream-based dressing to make a pasta salad satisfying–make an easy vinaigrette with an acid, oil, salt and pepper.)

not dry pasta salad


No Brainer Mediterranean Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: no brainer
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This recipe is for a Mediterranean Pasta Salad, but remember the 5 Pasta Salad steps to turn any ingredients of your choosing into a great pasta salad: 1. Pasta 2. Veggies 3. Lean protein 4. Flavor 5. Dressing.  If it grows together, it goes together!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound pasta, cooked
  • 8 oz mixed Calamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • Vinaigrette: 1 lemon juiced, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and divide among serving bowls.
  2. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle over the salads.

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Cauliflower Corn Cream Sauce

I truly and sincerely believed I had been the first one to stumble upon creamy, alfredo sauce goodness in the form of cauliflower a couple summers ago.  I was ready to call the patent office, or Gordon Ramsay, or the Food Network, or whoever controls food recipes today, because I had just invented the world’s best veggie alfredo sauce.

And then I Googled it.

You know how Google works–confirming all your fears and dashing all your hopes…Not only was creamy cauliflower sauce already in existence, but I also discovered cauliflower “pizza crust”, cauliflower “mac&cheese”, cauliflower “rice”, cauliflower “buffalo chicken bites”…I’d had no idea the cauliflower craze was out there in full swing!  I have found many different variations of the cauliflower alfredo sauce, so I don’t know who to credit, but this is my version: Cauliflower Corn Cream Sauce.  I use this white sauce as alfredo sauce for noodles, lasagna, mac&cheese, the white sauce for a pot pie–the list can go on.  It is delicious and creamy and full of veggies.

cauliflower corn cream sauce


CAULIFLOWER CORN CREAM SAUCE

  • Servings: makes 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of corn, fresh or frozen
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons of half-and-half
  • 2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional: you can also add 1/2-1 whole red bell pepper or a handful of fresh parsley; this will turn your sauce an orange-ish or greenish hue, respectively.  Also, if you wish to make this vegan, omit the half-and-half and use nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan cheese–it will still end up creamy and sweet and delicious.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the cauliflower, onion, and corn (and red pepper, if using), and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Saute until the cauliflower is golden, then add vegetable stock until the vegetables are covered and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is just tender.
  3. Load everything into your blender (a BlendTec is nice because it all fits!), and add the half-and-half, parmesan cheese, and parsley, if using.  Blend until you get a creamy consistency.  Play around with adding water/stock/half-and-half until you get the consistency you want.

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Faux Tomatillo Sauce

I love the lemony-limey tartness of tomatillos.  We grew them in our garden a few years ago–I was so excited to have the little stalks growing the husked green balls I was planning on turning into my favorite green sauce.  At the end of the season, though, I think I harvested enough tomatillos to make only 4-6 cups of sauce!

Our tomato plants, though, they were producing like crazy.  It was getting cooler outside and we still had so many tomato plants with pounds and pounds of green tomatoes.  I thought, “Why not treat the green tomatoes like tomatillos?!  They have the same tart flavor profile!”  Thus was born my Faux Tomatillo Sauce–I never use tomatillos anymore, as long as I have a garden I have an abundance of green tomatoes!  And I always make extra to freeze and enjoy all winter long!

So easy to make–you just roast everything together in the oven, then add a few more ingredients in the blender, and voila, you have a green sauce ready for enchiladas, chips and dip, or quesadillas.  I even jarred this up for festive Christmas presents one year–green faux tomatillo sauce and red cranberry-orange syrup.  You are going to look forward to having a ton of leftover green tomatoes from your garden!

tomatillo ingredients 1

tomatillo ingredients 3

tomatillo sauce


FAUX TOMATILLO SAUCE

  • Servings: makes 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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I love roasting vegetables to add an extra depth of flavor to sauces or soups.  I usually make at least two batches at a time and freeze some to enjoy all winter long–one whiff of this freshly made sauce and your mouth will start watering for those Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas!  This would also make a really delicious fresh salsa if you wanted to blend all the ingredients raw.

INGREDIENTS

  • 20 small green tomatoes, green tops cut off and sliced in half
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in a large dice
  • 6-8 large garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and ribbed, cut in a large dice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (to taste–you can add more or less)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander (to taste–you can add more or less)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (to taste–you can add more or less)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place first group of ingredients (tomatoes through poblano pepper) in a large bowl, cover with olive oil (about 1/2 cup), salt and pepper.  Pour into a shallow pan and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes; keep an eye on things so they don’t burn–if the garlic cooks too quickly and burns, it’ll turn bitter.
  2. Pour roasted ingredients into a blender (BlendTecs are great because everything fits!) and add the second group of ingredients.  Pulse until desired consistency–you can have it as smooth or as chunky as you like.  Add more or less water to help your consistency.

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10-Grain Whole Wheat Bread

You know how you’re always searching for just the right homemade whole wheat bread–nutritious and soft and squishy?  I ran across a Bosch 9-grain recipe, but it was always dense and sort of non-pliable when I made it.  Then I ran across a whole wheat bread recipe that had a surprise ingredient–Vitamin C (?!), and a ton more wheat gluten than I’d ever seen in a recipe, and it turned out amazing.  But I missed the whole grain element…so I decided to fuse the two recipes.

The 9-grain Bosch recipe called for millet separately; I found a 10-grain cereal that included millet, so I use that instead.  I also added wheat germ.  This recipe is a great one to try for first-time bread makers; unlike most yeast breads you don’t have to bloom the yeast or let it double rise, and it still turns out great!  You just mix everything together, form it into loaves, let it rise in the pans, and bake.  I don’t know if it’s the wheat gluten, or the vitamin C, or the combination of both, but it’s always turned out whole-grain-y and chewy and soft–great for sandwiches, french toast, or fresh from the oven and smothered in homemade jam!

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10-GRAIN WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

  • Servings: makes 4 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy, if you're a bread maker, medium if it's your first time trying out a yeast bread
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I have a large “Pullman loaf” pan, so this recipe yields three loaves for me: one in the large pullman pan, and two in regular 5×9 bread pans.  Without the pullman pan, this recipe will yield 4-6 loaves, depending on if you use 4×8 pans or 5×9 pans.  I have made this recipe using 100% whole wheat flour (I grind my own wheat), half wheat and half white flour (if my wheat is running low), and 100% white flour (if I’ve totally run out of wheat), and they’ve all worked great.  Freezes well!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/3 cups 10-grain cereal (uncooked)
  • 2/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups flour (white or wheat)
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 3 cups flour (white or wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1000mg Vitamin C (this could be in the form of crushed pills, or Vitamin C powder.  I have the powder, just because I think it’s easier to scoop the powder than crushing pills.  For me, the powder works out to 3 1/2 teaspoons)
  • While kneading, an additional  1 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour (white or wheat)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add the first group of ingredients (the cereal through hot water, in the order listed) in a large bowl.  Stir with a wooden spoon and let sit for five minutes.
  2. Add the second group of ingredients, in the order listed, stirring to a paste.  Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Add the third group of ingredients, in the order listed, stirring until the mixture starts to pull from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour on a hard surface and dump out the dough for kneading.  While kneading, occasionally sprinkle flour on the dough to prevent stickiness.  Only add enough flour to make the dough soft and supple, don’t add too much or it’ll become dry and tough.  Knead for about 10 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into equal-sized balls to fit the number of pans you have.  Form each ball into a loaf by first rolling out each ball into a rectangle, then roll up the rectangle, pinching the seams as you go so air pockets don’t form.  Place the bread rolls in the loaf pans and cover with a thin, damp towel and let rise.  Depending on how warm your kitchen is, it’ll take 1-2 hours to rise about 2 inches above the pans.  Preheat the oven to 350 while the bread is rising, and bake for 30-45 minutes, until bread is golden brown.  Another trick to know when they are done baking:  The loaves will sound hollow when you tap them outside of the bread pan.

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Zucchini Noodles and the Cauliflower Craze

I truly and sincerely believed I had been the first one to stumble upon creamy, alfredo sauce goodness in the form of cauliflower a couple summers ago.  I was ready to call the patent office, or Gordon Ramsay, or the Food Network, or whoever controls food recipes today, because I had just invented the world’s best veggie alfredo sauce.

And then I Googled it.

You know how Google works–confirming all your fears and dashing all your hopes…Not only was creamy cauliflower sauce already in existence, but I also discovered cauliflower “pizza crust”, cauliflower “mac&cheese”, cauliflower “rice”, cauliflower “buffalo chicken bites”…I’d had no idea the cauliflower craze was out there in full swing!  I have found many different variations of the cauliflower alfredo sauce, so I don’t know who to credit, but this is my version: Cauliflower Corn Cream Sauce.  I use this white sauce as alfredo sauce for noodles, lasagna, mac&cheese, the white sauce for a pot pie–the list can go on.  It is delicious and creamy and full of veggies.

For this recipe, I made sautéed zucchini noodles and red pepper and topped it with my Cauliflower Corn Cream Sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds.  It was all the pasta-y goodness of fettuccine alfredo without that big-stuffed-full-pasta-y belly!

zucchini pasta with cauliflower corn cream sauce


ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH CAULIFLOWER CORN CREAM SAUCE

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of corn, fresh or frozen
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons of half-and-half
  • 2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • Optional: you can also add 1/2-1 whole red bell pepper or a handful of fresh parsley; this will turn your sauce an orange-ish or greenish hue, respectively.  Also, if you wish to make this vegan, omit the half-and-half and use nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan cheese–it will still end up creamy and sweet and delicious.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE ZUCCHINI NOODLES

  • 4 medium zucchini, finely julienned, or “noodled”*
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted/salted sunflower seeds
  • sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Start with the sauce:  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the cauliflower, onion, and corn (and red pepper, if using), and salt and pepper to taste.  Saute until the cauliflower is golden, then add vegetable stock until the vegetables are covered and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is just tender.  Load everything into your blender (a BlendTec is nice because it all fits!), and add the half-and-half, parmesan cheese, and parsley, if using.  Blend until you get a creamy consistency.  Play around with adding water/stock/half-and-half until you get the consistency you want.
  2. While the vegetables are simmering for the sauce, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the zucchini noodles and chopped red pepper, salt and pepper to taste, and saute 5-7 minutes–the zucchini should be just tender, not mushy or cooked until it’s falling apart.
  3. Timing tip:  while the sauce veggies are simmering in the pot, you can prepare your zucchini noodles.  While the zucchini noodles are sautéing, you can blend your sauce.  Everything should be ready right on time for a hot dish!
  4. This will make large servings for 2 or smaller servings for 4; divide evenly among your bowls.  To plate, you can add the sauce on top of the zucchini noodles in the pan and coat everything evenly, or place the noodles in your bowl and top with sauce, however you prefer your noodles.  Sprinkle with roasted/salted sunflower seeds and parmesan cheese.

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zucchini tool
* I found this handheld noodler/julienne thing at TJ Maxx for a couple dollars and it’s been a dream.  I’ve seen vegetable noodlers out there, but this has worked for me.

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Sweet Potato Burritos!

I remember when I first ran across this recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos in the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook–I thought the sweetness from the sweet potatoes would be an odd pairing with cumin, coriander, and cilantro, and the texture would be a little too mushy for my liking.  They were pretty darn great, actually, and the next time I made them, I “beefed” them up with some crunchy veggies and brown rice.  And, of course, I had to turn them into souped up enchilada-style burritos and top them with mango guacamole because I can never get enough fresh lime-tomato-avocado-cilantro goodness.

Another day, another yummy assembly line:

sweet potato enchilada assembly

I know this photo isn’t the best, but it sure tasted great!

sweet potato enchiladas


ENCHILADA-STYLE BLACK BEAN SWEET POTATO BURRITOS

  • Servings: makes 15-20 burritos
  • Difficulty: easy, if you have all the ingredients ready, it's just assembly; medium, if you have to make the rice and bake the sweet potatoes, more time expenditure
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Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes, skins removed and smashed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4-6 green onion stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (omit if it’s too much heat for you)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups of favorite green chile or tomatillo sauce
  • 15-20 tortillas, flour or corn, depending on preference (corn tortillas are typically smaller and you will be able to make many more burritos)
  • 4-5 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Mix the ingredients through salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. If you are using uncooked flour tortillas, heat up a good stack for filling.  Corn tortillas are much more pliable when heated, so you can prepare them in a warm pan with oil, too.  Flour tortillas will heat up great without any oil, but pour a tablespoon or so of oil in the pan between corn tortillas.
  3. Spray a deep 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray and spread 2 cups of green chile or tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. I use my favorite #40 cookie scooper for even filling distribution: scoop 3 scoops in the flour tortilla, side by side, and if you’re feeling cheesy that night, put a sprinkling of cheese before wrapping and placing in the baking dish.  Continue until your dish is full, usually about 12-15 burritos.  If you can squeeze more burritos in for the party, go for it.  If you’d rather give your burritos some toe room, have two pans (and more sauce) ready to go.  It’s your kitchen, no one’s gonna get offended how you want to do things!
  5. Once the pans are full, pour 2 more cups of sauce over the top of the burritos and sprinkle more cheese over the burritos (optional).  Bake, uncovered, until the edges are crispy and golden, about 20 minutes.

Serving Suggestions: Top with a dollop of sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt, scoop of Mango Guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro; serve with a side of fresh mixed green salad and sliced tomatoes with squeezed lime on top.

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The Best Croutons in the World

If I ever have leftover rice or risotto, it *always* gets turned into arancini (ah-ran-cheen-ee): fried Italian rice balls, crispy on the outside, creamy rice on the inside and a melty cheese surprise right in the middle.  And since I usually load up my risotto with veggies, they’re in the rice ball party, too.  Although this may be sacrilege for hardcore risotto foodies out there,  I prefer using leftover risotto because it’s already sort of sticky and gummy and holds its shape really well in ball form.  If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can use any leftover rice, or cook up some of your own.

arancini assembly

 

There’s a small time expenditure getting the rice balls ready along the assembly line (I always keep power tools at the end, just in case any of those arancini get a little rowdy), but it’s worth it, and once everything is ready, the frying only takes a few minutes.  For these particular arancini, I used leftover risotto with roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

arancini

 

Arancini are traditionally served with a side of marinara for dipping, but I have come to like serving them on top of a salad–they’re the best croutons in the world!  This salad was a pre-packaged kale salad with yogurt curry dressing I found in Costco.  I usually make at least a dozen or more at a time (if I’m heating up a whole pot of oil, I better make it worth its weight in gold!)–they freeze really well and reheat crisp-perfectly.


ARANCINI

  • Servings: enough for a party
  • Difficulty: medium, for time expenditure with assembly
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This recipe is adapted from Kelly Senyei’s Arancini recipe.  Part of my adaptation is using leftover risotto, so this recipe reflects “leftovers”.  If you don’t have leftovers, cook up some rice to use–Kelly does a great job explaining which rice works best.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups leftover vegetable risotto
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-15 one-inch squares of cheese.  {I have used fresh mozzarella, “Babybel” circles cut in fourths, a bunch of muenster cheese sandwich slices stacked and cut–whatever I have on hand, and they’ve all worked out just fine}
  • For the assembly line, have a shallow dish ready with 4 beaten eggs, and another shallow dish ready with 2 cups panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon italian seasoning and a couple shakes of salt and pepper, and a cookie sheet prepped with a sheet of parchment paper.  The arancini will rest here after forming into balls and before going to the fryer.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare a large pot with four inches of oil, place over medium heat.  Use a pot thermometer to ensure the oil reaches 375, not too hot or it will smoke and burn your arancini, and not too cool, or the arancini will be heavy and dense and full of oil, not light and crispy.
  2. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Assembly line:  I use a #40 cookie scoop (it measures to about 1.5 tablespoons), scoop one scoop of the rice mixture in your hand, place a square of cheese, then top with another scoop of rice and form into a ball.  Next, roll the rice ball in the beaten eggs until all sides are covered, and then roll around in the seasoned breadcrumbs.  Feel free to squeeze the rice ball in cupped hands to make sure it’s stable, and place on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  Continue forming the arancini until the rice mixture is gone.  Watch the oil while you are making the arancini so it doesn’t get too hot.  If the oil reaches 375 while you are still assembling, go ahead and start frying.  You’ll get the rhythm.
  4. Once the oil is ready, carefully drop 3-4 balls at a time in the oil to fry.  Roll them around in the oil using a slotted spoon or a wire-mesh spider, and pull out of the oil when they are golden brown, usually 3-4 minutes does the trick.  Have a cooling rack ready on the counter with paper towels under it to catch any dripping oil, and keep the arancini on the cooling rack–they’ll stay crispier there than a cookie sheet.
  5. Serve warm, with a salad (preferred!), or with a side of marinara.  Once they are completely cooled, you can put them in a gallon freezer bag, label with the date, and freeze for future devouring.

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Avocado Citrus Salad with Creamy Lime Poppy Seed Dressing and Pistachios

 

citrus avocado salad

Owing to the fact that a) I spent 5 hours this afternoon clearing some boxes and assembling a computer table and therefore had zero dinner prep time, and b) the boys and I ate three quarters of a bog of chocolate chips during said afternoon project (moving has its benefits, right?), I figured a salad was in order for dinner.

The avocado bag had a great salad suggestion: Avocado Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing.  Buttery avocado, bitter grapefruit sections, zesty lime poppy seed dressing–it was refreshing and yummy and I felt really chefy sectioning the grapefruit.  The recipe called for more citrus by also sectioning an orange, but I didn’t have any oranges on hand, so I instead used a nectarine.  I also love throwing something crunchy on a salad and opted for salty pistachios.  We had leftover biscuits and peach jam on the side.

After all that southern talk yesterday I really had a hankering for buttermilk biscuits today, and my oldest was in total agreement.  He can down hot biscuits smothered in butter and honey like the best of them.  Can something be crunchy and fluffy and pillowy and melty and honey sweet all at the same time?  Yes, yes it can.  And yes, we seriously only ate biscuits and honey for lunch.

Oh, and speaking of crunchy, fluffy, pillowy, melty and honey sweet…my hubby walked in from work tonight to the desk being partially finished, just the hutch on top had yet to be assembled.  He took over the building process so I could throw together our dinner.  He came in to the kitchen and said, in all seriousness, “Good thing I got here when I did; one of the pieces didn’t have predrilled holes and I think it would have thrown you for a loop.”  I gave him one of those wife-looking-at-silly-husband looks (you know the kind) and said, “You came home to your wife having built a desk and you think a few missing holes would have thrown me for a loop?”  And then we both started laughing.  Things always go butter-smooth in a marriage when you can laugh at/with yourself and your spouse.


AVOCADO CITRUS SALAD WITH CREAMY LIME POPPY SEED DRESSING AND PISTACHIOS

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Shawn Syphus’ Citrus Salad

SALAD INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 cups mixed greens (I like the Power Green mix from Costco)
  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 nectarines, diced
  • 2 avocados, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onion stalks, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

DRESSING INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (4-6 whole limes, depending on size)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

SALAD ASSEMBLY

For two, this will make a large salad for dinner, for four it will make smaller fresh side salads.  Divide the greens among the number of salad bowls you are using.  Evenly divide the grapefruit sections, nectaries, green onions and avocados between the salads, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the salads.  Because you have the acids (lime and vinegar) and cream (sour cream or yogurt) together, the dressing will separate while sitting in the fridge waiting for its next salad.  Just shake or stir and it’ll reconstitute for secondary use.

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