Sunday, October 25, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Last weekend I was cursed with the most awful allergies. My eyes were red, watery, and inflamed, my throat was raw and scratchy, and my nose...well, it just wasn't working. I was doing a lot of mouth breathing and it wasn't pretty. Hot tea with lots of honey was the only thing that provided me any relief whatsoever and after lots and lots of tea that honey pot was getting empty. 

First thing on my list at the farmer's market was local honey, and lots of it! No way was I going to run out of the only thing that was providing me relief. Next up, something orange to celebrate the colors of fall. The petite veggie farmer had the cutest little baby sweet potatoes. Anything mini always catches my eye and I was inspired to buy them. When I glanced at the bin of baby arugula an idea for a fall-inspired salad came to mind. One bag of baby arugula and I was good to go.

Once home I laid my eyes on a recipe for Ellie Krieger's Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and it was a perfect way to use my bounty from the farmer's market. I peeled and diced the baby sweet potatoes and mixed them with an oil and honey mixture. After roasting them for about an hour I added in a handful of dried cranberries and placed it back in the oven, just to warm through and allow the flavors to meld.

The roasted sweet potatoes were so pretty with the jewel-toned cranberries and the bed of arugula served as the perfect background for the sweet potatoes. I sprinkled some honey-roasted pecan halves on top of the salad, drizzled on a tasty maple-balsamic vinaigrette I made, and finished it all off with some Parmesan shavings.  It was incredibly delicious and satisfying! My husband doesn't even care for sweet potatoes, but the salad was so gorgeous he had to taste it. Once he tasted it he fell in love and ended up sharing it with me. I can't wait to make this salad again and I'm seriously hoping the farmers has more mini sweet potatoes. This salad is a wonderful combination of textures and flavors and a perfect celebration of autumn. It would make a good addition to any fall-inspired menu.
Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Recipe via Food Network
by Ellie Krieger

1 pound sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
spritz of lemon
salt and pepper, to taste 

Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 1 inch pieces.  Whisk olive oil, honey, lemon, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place sweet potatoes in an ovenproof baking dish and pour olive oil and honey mixture over the potatoes, tossing well. Bake for about 1 hour until potatoes are caramelized and tender, stirring occasionally.  Optional: Add in a couple tablespoons dried cranberries during the last few minutes of roasting so the cranberries can warm through and the two flavors have a chance to meld.

Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe found on Diethood
Makes about 1/3 cup

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons golden balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisking together until incorporated.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over salad. Dressing will keep for up to 2 weeks.

To Make The Salad
4 cups arugula leaves
1/2 cup honey roasted pecan halves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 recipe honey-roasted sweet potatoes with cranberries added
1 recipe maple-balsamic vinaigrette

Place arugula on a salad platter. Top arugula with sweet potatoes and cranberry mixture. Place honey roasted pecan halves and Parmesan cheese on top of salad and drizzle with maple-balsamic vinaigrette. Salad will serve 4 people as a side or 2 people as a main dish.

Theme: Think Orange!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nigella's Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes

Nigella Lawson is a breath of fresh air. If you watch her cooking show, then you know what I mean. Her passion for food and cooking is so refreshing and energizing. It's almost as if that passion is contagious and you catch a little bit of it every time you watch her. I especially love the poetic way that she talks about food, in the most passionate and flirty prose, and yet...while Nigella's words are fancy, her approach to cooking is anything but. Nigella's recipes are always simple, fun, family-friendly, and pleasing. If there could be only one Domestic Goddess, then it is Nigella.

Nigella's Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes has been on my "to-make" list ever since her book Nigella Kitchen came out. I decided this was going to be THE DISH when I found some gorgeous pastured Berkshire pork chorizo links at the farmer's market and voilà was meant to be!  Who doesn't absolutely love chorizo and all the orange goodness that chorizo shares with everything it touches? A truly inspired one-pan meal that can be put together in no time and then placed in the oven for an hour while you attend to other things? A beautifully hued and family-pleasing meal with loads of flavor and barely any cleanup? If your answer is me, me, and me then this is the dish for you! A quick and easy simple salad on the side and we happily gobbled this one up!

Nigella's Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen
by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4

Nigella says, "Much as I love to have a pan bubbling away on the stove, I often feel that the most carefree way to feed people is by taking the oven route. When I'm frazzled, I firmly believe that a "tray-bake" is the safest way to go. Enjoy the easefulness of the oven: you just throw everything in, and you're done. I think I'd go to the supreme effort of laying on a green salad as well but, other than that, you may kick up your flamenco heels and enjoy the fiesta."

1- 2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken legs or thighs, with skin and bone still on
1 pound of chorizo links, cut into 1-1/2" chunks
1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
1 red or yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
grated zest of half an orange
salt and pepper, to taste 

Note: I chose to halve Nigella's recipe so I could fit everything into my cast iron skillet. Originally this recipe was doubled and placed onto two sheet trays. Either method would work fine, depending on how many you needed to serve, and/or which cooking vessel you preferred.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Put the oil in the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or baking sheet. Rub the skin of the chicken with oil, then turn skin-side up. Place the chopped chorizo and halved potatoes in the skillet with the chicken. Sprinkle the onion in and the oregano over. Grate the orange zest on top.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. You can bake it this way or you can toss the mixture to combine. I tossed the mixture to combine. Cook at 425F for 1 hour, basting the contents with the orange-hued juices. Serve in the skillet and enjoy!
*If you happen to be local to central Kentucky, I highly recommend looking up Goldfinch Farm and/or visiting them at the Franklin County Farmer's Market. They are doing a great job with their sustainable farm and have the highest quality and most delectable pasture raised Berkshire pork you will ever put in your mouth!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ellie Krieger's Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Every Saturday morning my mom, my daughter, and I wake up early and head to a little neighboring town so we can shop at the most precious little farmer's market. This cute little market is a food lover's paradise. There are about 15 little stands arranged underneath a pavilion that sits right next to the Kentucky River. Each farmer's stand is total perfection and offers something fresh and delicious that no other does. Together, these 15 stands manage to cover almost each and every food group in a truly unparalleled way.

There is a squash stand, specializing in pumpkins and every other fall gourd you can imagine; a very happy orchard farmer selling the most beautiful apples, pies, and jams; two bakers, one selling sweets and one selling all kinds of specialty breads. Then there is a sweet and very hard-working lady who sells all cuts of grass-fed beef from her cattle farm; a lady who sells the most beautiful (and rather petite) versions of vegetables and herbs I've ever seen; a chicken farmer who raises organic chickens and eggs; a flower farmer selling all sorts of colorful flower bouquets; a soap maker who makes all-natural soaps using essential oils; someone selling homemade jewelry; and my new favorite, a pig farmer specializing in the best Berkshire pork of the highest quality. It's the most wonderful farmer's market with truly amazing treasures. It's quite simply my favorite place to be these days.
This time around I wanted to buy lots of veggies to dip into Ellie's Spinach and Artichoke Dip.  My daughter fell in love with these teeny tiny baby tomatoes and I thought they would look really cute served atop the dip and placed in the middle of the veggie platter. The veggie farmer also gave me some precious little carrots with the stems and leaves still attached, some tiny baby celery, little colorful sweet peppers, and the freshest snap peas I've ever bit into. I bought a loaf of some really soft Asiago & Basil bread from the bread maker, cut it into strips, brushed it with a little butter, and broiled it until lightly browned. It was definitely an ode to the farmer's market!

Ellie's Spinach and Artichoke Dip is creamy and cheesy without being too heavy, as most dips tend to be. As I do with most of Ellie's recipes, I found it to be perfectly balanced and very pleasing. This is a blended dip that is rather smooth and therefore, easy to eat. We found this lighter version perfectly satisfying. I imagine leftover dip would be great spread onto toast, or served in an omelet or sandwich. We found this lighter version perfectly satisfying and really enjoyed it. I thought it was a tasty and colorful way to welcome Ellie! I'm excited for a healthy and delicious six months.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Recipe found on Food Network
Written by Ellie Krieger
Makes 12 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 (10-ounce) pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, excess liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup (4 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

To serve: Pita wedges, veggies, crackers, chips, etc. 
 Preheat oven to 375F. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are light golden but not browned. Remove from heat and cool.

In the bowl of a food processor combine artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, mozzarella, salt and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Add cooled onion-garlic mixture to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.

Transfer mixture to a baking dish (recipe calls for an 8-inch glass baking dish or a 9-inch pie plate) that has been lightly buttered. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until heated through (mine dip was finished baking but not piping hot like I want my dips to be when served, so I actually microwaved my portion a little bit before serving). Serve with pita wedges, crackers, chips, or veggies.

Theme: Hello Ellie! (Welcome to IHCC)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

All of My Jacques Pépin Favorites!

In April I started on one of my favorite culinary adventures so far, cooking with the infamous Jacques Pépin! Prior to April, I was in a major cooking rut. I wanted to eat good food, but I hardly ever felt like cooking and nothing appealed to me. Taking pictures of food became my nemesis and worse yet, when I would sit down to write about food, no words would come.  

Then I ordered two Jacques Pépin cookbooks and when they arrived I found myself very intrigued with who Jacques really was and why he was so well-known and well-loved. I looked over the cookbooks several times and then started watching his Youtube videos. I became taken with his gentle ways and kind face. I also found myself rather addicted to those Youtube videos, watching one right after another. His passion and love for cooking was evident and I loved that about him. His passion relit the spark in me. I realized I had never really cooked French food and a whole new cuisine opened up before me. While Jacques' recipes cover a multitude of cuisines, I vowed then and there to cook as much French food as possible. 

I compiled a list of French recipes and set a goal to make as many of them as possible. Along the way there were times I wanted to take the easy route and make an easier, usually American, sort of dish. Sometimes I did, but more often than not, I would remember the delicious payoff in challenging myself with another one of Jacques classical French recipes. This reminder was usually all the encouragement I needed to stay on track.  

It was a wonderful six months cooking the recipes of Jacques Pépin. I've cooked with lots of chefs and made almost 1,000 recipes since I started food blogging six years ago, but these past few months cooking  Jacques Pépin's recipes have been some of my favorites. Jacques Pépin is a class act, the real deal, and a legend in his own time. His recipes are to be treasured. Much thanks to him for reigniting my passion and love of cooking.

My top favorite, number one, Jacques Pépin dish is this very delicious Egg and Onion Gratin. In fact, this is one of my favorite dishes I've ever made. It's a unique and fun option for breakfast lovers. Hard-boiled eggs baked in a cheesy, creamy, oniony sauce that gets all bubbly and browned under the broiler. Serve this over toast for an incredible breakfast!
Next in line, and only beating out Jacques Coquilles St. Jacques for it's family-pleasing qualities, is Pepin's Gratin Parmentier. As far as my family is concerned, this Gratin Parmentier is the most glorious way to put meat and potatoes on a plate. Beautifully seasoned roast beef and gravy topped fluffy and cheesy mashed potatoes. The ultimate comfort food!
Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques is every bit as pleasing and delicious as his Gratin Parmentier. This is a beautiful dish of perfectly poached sea scallops served atop a rich and flavorful mushroom duxelle then topped with a heavenly and velvety Gruyere sauce. It is swoon-worthy and begs to be made often in my kitchen. A beautiful and romantic dish to entertain with or make for that special someone.
My mom and I are HUGE fans of crab cakes and these Crab Cakes In Red Sauce rate right up there at the very top of our list! Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, perfectly seasoned with full on crab flavor and incredible with the tangy sauce. If you're going to splurge on top shelf crab meat this is the recipe for you!
For years I have tried to recreate the crepes I had as a child. None of the recipes held a candle to the ones I had as a girl with my friends, until I tried Jacques Pepin's Crepes. The batter is perfectly easy, doesn't require a blender or any chilling time, and produces the most beautifully light and perfectly golden crepes I've ever made (and I've tried a lot)! These crepes always make everyone feel special. Fill them with whatever you chose. Enjoy them for breakfast or dessert. Having them on hand always equals happiness.
I'm convinced Jacques Pepin's Chocolate Mousse is THE ULTIMATE DESSERT. Seriously, if you are a chocolate really doesn't get any better than this! While not easy, this is a dessert worth mastering. A luxurious dessert with a velvety mouth feel and rich chocolate flavor. It is divine in every sense of the word. We actually fought over it in my house. It was known as the Battle For Chocolate Mousse. I won.
These pretty little Shrimp Casseroles are dainty and feminine and perfect for a girls lunch. Buttery and garlicky with a crispy breadcrumb topping they really hit the spot. If you're like me, you will have a hard time remaining dainty and feminine while eating them. They almost beg to be inhaled!
Loved equally for their comforting and family-pleasing qualities are Pepin's Pasta and Ham Gratin, shown above and also Pepin's Penne Au Gratin, shown below. Pepin's Pasta and Ham Gratin is an easy one pot weeknight meal. Pasta, ham, peas, and a cheesy Gruyere cheese sauce come together in one very satisfying dish. If you find yourself without leftover ham go ahead and use bacon with similar results.
Pepin's Penne Au Gratin is a delicious and summery version of classic mac and cheese. I fed this to my inconsolable teenage daughter and it was like magic. By the time she was done eating a bowl her ranting and raving and fussing were over. Top secret...penne noodles in a smooth cheesy sauce with pretty chunks of summer ripe tomatoes topped with a crunchy topping of Parmesan cheese and paprika calm teenage frustrations. Score!
Jacques Pepin's Wonton Cannelloni is a purely fun fusion dish. Chinese wonton skins are filled with tradition Italian cheeses and baked in a seasoned tomato sauce with a bubbly cheese topping! An easy and unique weeknight dinner that is fun to make! 
I absolutely adored Pepin's Butter-Glazed Carrots. No one else in my household likes cooked carrots but I love them with a passion. Pepin's Butter-Glazed Carrots were easy, perfectly glazed, and perfectly seasoned. I made a big batch and snacked on them for days.
While I love carrots, the rest of my family loves peas and Pepin's Braised Peas with Egg Yolks was a major hit! Tender peas in a thick egg yolk and cream sauce is a hearty and satisfying side dish to nearly any meal.
Pepin's Eggs Jeanette had been on my to-make list for years and is just a fun and unique way to serve eggs. Eggs are hard boiled; yolks removed, seasoned, and returned; then put face down in an oiled pan to and cooked to create a crispy coating on the yolk. The eggs are then served on a bed of spinach and drizzled with a creamy egg yolk vinaigrette that is zesty and tangy and perfect in every way.
These Croutons with Creamy Red Pepper Dip are a true testament to Jacques Pepin's recipes. I chose this recipe out of necessity to participate in the Mystery Box Madness challenge. I needed a recipe with at least 3 of our 10 mystery ingredients and this was the only one I could find. Red pepper, cottage cheese, cream cheese, dill, and lemon juice sounded a little strange together at first. But, I'd learn to put my trust in Jacques' recipes and decided to go with it. In the process I discovered a gem of a recipe. A pretty and creamy dip that highlights the wonderful flavor of red pepper without being very cheesy at all. This is a light dip that would be great to serve at a party and I can guarantee it would please even the pickiest eater. Serve it with croutons, veggies, or crackers.  Watch your guests eat it with gusto.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't share an ode to Gruyere cheese. Thank you to Jacques Pepin for introducing me to the most wonderful cheese on the planet. Gruyere cheese is simply the stuff of dreams. I love it's robust flavor and melting ability. It's my favorite cheese by far! I've used it in nearly every recipe in this roundup and buy it weekly. It's worth the splurge, even at $24.99/lb!
Au Revoir Chef Pepin {Until We Meet Again - Much Love}