June 27, 2014

Easy Zucchini Risotto

It seems a lot of people avoid making risotto because it often involves 20 minutes of constant stirring or dry white wine which you might not have on hand.  This recipe is perfect for those who haven't yet tried making risotto or anyone who's just looking for an easy risotto recipe.

Wine in this recipe is completely optional.  I've made it both ways and the difference is subtle.  If you were looking to enjoy a glass of wine with your risotto, then you should definitely make the recipe with wine. Otherwise, I would say skip it since you'll end up with delicious risotto either way.

This recipe is also easy because it doesn't require broth to be kept warm in separate saucepan.  Just make sure you don't use broth straight from the fridge, as it needs to be room temperature or warmer.  The Kitchn had an article on whether or not you need to warm the broth and the comments on it are quite interesting.

Below is a photo of what my risotto looked like just before serving it which I wanted to share because I feared there was too much liquid and that I had stopped cooking it too soon.  My point is, it still tasted great despite the fact that the liquid hadn't been completely absorbed by the rice.

Do you use a salt box?  I recently bought one via Amazon to store coarse salt in and I love it.  It's a classic green salt cellar by Miles Kimball and is large enough to easily get measuring spoons in or your whole hand if you're grabbing a pinch of salt to add while cooking.

I find salt confusing and wish I had a better understanding as to whether or not I'm using the right type.  I've read that I should only purchase unrefined salt but can that be used for baking and is the addition of iodine necessary? Anyone have any advice?

If you're currently getting summer squash from your garden, a CSA box, or a neighbor, I highly recommend this recipe.  The zucchini season here in South Florida runs from December to June, so we're enjoying the last of the harvest now.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc (optional)
  • 1 lb (2 medium) summer squash, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • In a 3-quart saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, stir occasionally for 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice, stirring constantly for 1 minute. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. If wine is not being added, move onto the next step of adding the broth.
  • Add salt and 1 cup of broth, stir occasionally until the broth is absorbed. Add a 1/2 cup of broth as needed until the rice is nearly done but still a bit crunchy (about 15 minutes). Then add summer squash and cook for 5 more minutes, adding more broth if needed.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the butter, spinach and most of the Parmesan cheese. Reserve a little cheese to sprinkle on top during serving. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from: Shutterbean
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June 23, 2014

Breakfast Potatoes with Peppers & Spinach

As many of you know, I am not a morning person so breakfast is typically something very quick.  However, on the weekends, I really like having a leisurely breakfast that takes more time to prepare.  Yesterday, I made a skillet breakfast that kept us full for hours, which ended up being perfect given how our day went.

We ate breakfast at 9am before heading to the Toyota dealership to get the oil changed in both of our Corollas.  6 hours later we came home in one RAV4.  It was a crazy day.  We had been thinking about downsizing to one vehicle for awhile and after being harassed by a sales guy in the waiting room we decided it was a great time to make it happen.

I've been working on this recipe for awhile, trying out different variations and I'm now 100% satisfied with it. During the test runs, Chris and I tried out different toppings for these breakfast potatoes.  His favorites were kielbasa and fried eggs, while I prefer feta cheese on mine.  

Back in the day, when I used to eat meat, we would make foil packets of potatoes, peppers and kielbasa while camping which were very good, so if you're making this recipe for meat eaters, I suggest adding sliced kielbasa. Alternatively, vegetarians could add soy chorizo.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 lb red or gold potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • toppings such as feta cheese or fried eggs
  • In a large deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and cook for about 20 minutes until they're just about tender. 
  • Next, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil along with the onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown and the peppers are tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted. Top each serving as desired.
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June 18, 2014

Asparagus Pizza

After making asparagus risotto this past weekend, I was determined to buy more asparagus because the season is so fleeting.  Not surprisingly, asparagus does not grow well in Florida.  Did you know that 90% of fresh asparagus shipped in the US comes from only four states?  They are California, New Jersey, Washington and Massachusetts.

I found a great looking asparagus pizza recipe on Kitchen Konfidence and knew that it was the next asparagus recipe I needed to try.  I make a lot of pizza but this one rates very high among my favorites.  The taste is incredible but it's also really simple to make.

When buying asparagus, look for stalks with tightly closed tips.  Also check the stem ends to make sure they look freshly cut and not dried out.

Asparagus will stay fresh for up to four days in the refrigerator, as long as its kept damp.  Store spears upright in a container with an inch of water, then loosely cover with a plastic bag.  You can also wrap the ends in moist paper towels and store in a plastic bag.

I rolled my standard haphazard crust, which resulted in an oblong shape this time that ended up working quite well for cutting standard pizza slices...granted the end pieces were quite crusty, but that's just how I like them :)

Asparagus Pizza

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (one 12" pizza)
  • dough for a 12" pizza
  • 1/2 pound asparagus (do not snap the woody ends)
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • black pepper
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone in it for 30 minutes.
  • Holding the woody end of each asparagus, use a vegetable peeler to shave long, thin ribbons. Place shaved asparagus in a medium bowl, add a couple teaspoons of olive, a pinch of coarse salt and a little freshly ground black pepper.
  • Roll out dough into a 12" circle, then dock the dough (prick all over with a fork) and drizzle with a little olive oil, using your hands to evenly spread the oil around. Sprinkle dough with a pinch of coarse salt.
  • Top pizza with mozzarella, then add an even dusting of Parmesan cheese. Finally add the shaved asparagus. Transfer pizza to the hot stone and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Recipe Source: Kitchen Konfidence
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June 17, 2014

Quinoa-Vegetable Bowl

High in protein, quinoa makes an excellent base for any type of vegetable.  This is a versatile dish, one in which you can easily swap out ingredients based on what's in season and top it in a variety of ways.   I like feta and avocado, while Chris likes to add taco sauce which I find strange.

The idea for this recipe came from Turkey Hill Farm in Tallahassee via Field to Feast but I found a similar recipe on Food 52 that was easier to follow so that was the base for this recipe.

While perusing cookbooks this past weekend at Barnes and Noble, Chris asked me "aren't these pointless now that internet is filled with recipes?"  My resounding answer was "no, cookbooks are most definitely still relevant."  While I admit that I prefer the internet when searching for a specific recipe, I love browsing cookbooks for new ideas.

Speaking of which, my summer cookbook challenge is going well.  It's week 3 and I've made multiple recipes from 3 different cookbooks so far.  I've also decided that only 2 out of the first 3 cookbooks are keepers.  Now that I've starting identifying cookbooks to donate, Chris has become a fan of my challenge :)

Quinoa-Vegetable Bowl

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • Combine quinoa and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low for 10 minutes. Add kale, then simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic and summer squash for 5-8 minutes, until crisp-tender. In a large bowl combine the sautéed summer squash, lemon zest, juice from half the lemon, green onions, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • When the quinoa and kale are done, add them to the large bowl, stirring to combine all ingredients. Season with additional lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed. Divide among four bowls and top each with feta and half of an avocado.

Recipe adapted from: Food 52
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June 16, 2014

Key Lime Pie

I didn't realize how popular key lime pie is in South Florida until I moved here.  Nearly every dessert menu includes it and many restaurants boast that they make the best key lime pie.

Prior to visiting Robert Is Here this past weekend, I checked out their seasonal guide online.  When I saw that key limes are available year-round I knew I wanted to pick some up to try making this pie for the first time.

My Florida cookbook, Field to Feast, seemed like the perfect book to find a great key lime pie recipe and it cracked me up when I discovered the recipe was submitted by Robert's wife and paired with a story about Robert Is Here.

I was surprised to find that the key limes at Robert is Here were yellow, so I googled "yellow key limes" which led me to All About Key Limes from Kermit's Key West Lime Shoppe.  Here are a couple things I learned -

Q - Why are some Key Limes green and others yellow?
A - The green stage is the early stage of ripening and when the Key Lime's flavor is the strongest.  The yellow stage is the final stage of ripening and the flavor is somewhat mellowed.

Q - What will happen if I put green coloring in a Key Lime Pie?
A - Everyone will know it isn't an authentic Key Lime Pie and they may talk or laugh about it behind your back.

Neither Chris nor I noticed any mellowing in flavor when we tried our first bites of the pie.  As Chris put it "this is a lime kick to the head."  I think whipped cream is mandatory with this pie because it helps balance the tartness of the pie.  It also dresses up an otherwise boring looking pie.

Did you notice my green key lime slices in the middle?  It turns out I didn't pick up enough key limes at Robert Is Here, so I had to purchase a few more from grocery store and their key limes were green.

I chose to pipe the whipped cream along the border which looks a little odd in whole pie form but I like the look when it's cut into slices.  If you're looking to do something similar, I used a Wilton 1M tip.  Or you can just get a can of Reddi-Whip and call it a day :)

According to a King Arthur Flour recipe, key lime pie first appeared prior the Civil War and was a direct result of the Borden company's invention of sweetened condensed milk.

"Key lime pies were first made in the Keys in the 1850s with the advent of sweetened condensed milk in 1856.  Since there were few cows on the Keys, the new canned milk was welcomed by the residents and introduced into a pie made with lime juice.  The original pies were made with a pastry crust, but a crust made from graham crackers later became popular."

Key Lime Pie

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 23 minutes
Ingredients (one 9" pie)

    • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/3 cup butter

    • 4 egg yolks
    • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons key lime juice (from 1 pound of key limes - about 28 key limes)

    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
    • In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Melt butter, then stir in butter until thoroughly blended. Press onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan, bringing crumbs evenly up to the rim.
    • Bake for 8 minutes, cool completely. I recommend using a pie crust shield during the entire bake time.

    • In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and condensed milk. Add key lime juice and whisk until mixture thickens slightly.
    • Pour filling into cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. I recommend using a pie crust shield during the entire bake time. Cool completely, then refrigerate, covered, at least 8 hours.

    • Just before serving, whip cream in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks are just about to form, then add powdered sugar and vanilla, mixing until peaks form. Serve pie topped with cream.

    Recipe adapted from: Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers - page 247
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    June 11, 2014

    Quinoa & Black Bean Taco Bake

    This recipe has been through a couple iterations, with the latest adaptation being my favorite.  It started as black bean stuffed peppers, a recipe I saw demonstrated at a Taste of Home cooking show back in 2011.  Many changes later, it's now a quinoa and black bean taco bake.

    I've been experimenting with this recipe for awhile, first trying a version with no cheese which Chris promptly rejected.  While I agree that the cheese really completes the dish, it was still mighty tasty without it. It also leads me to believe that it would be easy to make a vegan version of this recipe.

    Chris and I are both happy with the final recipe I came up with and he didn't once mention missing meat, which is a good sign that carnivores will like this dish too!

    Quinoa & Black Bean Taco Bake

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes
    Ingredients (serves 6-8)
    • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 bell peppers, any color, diced
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach (about 3 oz)
    • 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
    • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese, divided
    • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 11-cup baking dish.
    • In a small saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute the bell peppers, onion and garlic for about 5 minutes.
    • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients reserving a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Fill greased baking dish with mixture, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

    Note: This recipe can also be made in 8 ramekins. Bake for 15 minutes.
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    June 06, 2014

    Mango-Pineapple Green Smoothie Popsicles

    I've been on a green smoothie kick this week and I'm loving my new morning routine.  It all started after seeing Jadah of Simple Green Smoothies present at the BlogHer Food conference last month.

    This week I got an email from Simple Green Smoothies suggesting green smoothies in popsicle form and I knew I needed to try it.  For my first attempt at green smoothie popsicles I combined spinach, almond milk, orange juice, frozen mango, frozen pineapple and a banana.

    Epicurious' popsicle guide was a great reminder for me as it had been a few months since I last made popsicles and I couldn't remember how long to freeze them before adding the sticks.  Turns out it's 1 hour, then you wait another 4 hours to unmold them.

    If you attempt to unmold before they're fully frozen, you'll wind up pulling the stick out.  Speaking from personal experience, once you do that, it's difficult to get the stick frozen inside the popsicle to the point where you can pull the whole thing out.

    After five straight days of rain, it's sunny again and it's a welcome change.  I was reminded this week that the growing season has ended here in South Florida.  Slow Food Miami held its end of season harvest dinner and my CSA has stopped deliveries until November.

    The wet season reminds me of winter in Wisconsin.  Weather conditions aren't good for growing and people tend to stay inside.  Did you know that June is the least busy tourist month in Miami?  I could do without the non-stop rain but I am loving how quickly I can get around town nowadays.

    Mango-Pineapple Green Smoothie Popsicles

    Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ 5 hour freeze)

    Ingredients (8 popsicles)
    • 1 1/2 cups spinach
    • 1 cup almond milk
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1 cup frozen mango
    • 1 cup frozen pineapple
    • 1 banana
    • In a blender, combine the spinach, almond milk and orange juice until smooth. Then add fruit and blend again until smooth. Pour smoothie mixture into popsicle molds, leaving about a 1/4" of room at the top, wiping excess mixture from the top of the molds.
    • Freeze for 1 hour, then insert sticks and freeze for 4 more hours. Fill the sink with warm water to the height of the molds and briefly dip the molds until the pops loosen (about 10 seconds).
    • Once they're unmolded, the popsicles are ready to be eaten but it's best to wait a bit. Store popsicles in plastic bags or an airtight container (use wax paper to layer) and freeze for at least 30 minutes. This second freezing helps the popsicles hold their shape, so they won't melt as quickly.

    Note: I use Progressive Frozen Pop Maker popsicle molds.
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    June 01, 2014

    Pitas with Edamame Pesto, Feta & Chickpeas

    Are you in need of a new lunch idea?  I really like this pita combination that was inspired from Love and Lemons' pita lunch ideas.  I combined edamame pesto with feta, red onion and chickpeas inside a toasted pita.

    The edamame pesto recipe comes from the Food To Live By cookbook, which sat unopened on my bookshelf until today.  If you don't own the cookbook, you can find an online version of the original recipe via the Seattle Times.

    My summer challenge is to try more recipes from my ever-growing cookbook collection.  My goal is to make at least one recipe each week from a different cookbook for the next 3 months for a total of 14 cookbooks.

    This is a versatile pesto that can be added to pitas as well as pizza or pasta.  I love traditional basil pesto but this is a really nice, higher protein alternative and I will definitely make it again.

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes
    Ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup)

    • 3/4 cup shelled frozen edamame
    • 1/2 cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/4 cup walnuts
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add edamame and cook for 4 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool.
    • When the edamame has cooled, add it to a food processor bowl along with the parsley, walnuts and garlic. Process until coarsely pureed, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
    • Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Process to combine, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

    Recipe Source: Food To Live By
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