Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Update: Moscow Mule

Whoo, this week has flown by and I am so happy about it!! We are heading into Labor Day weekend, and I have so much fun ahead of me.  Let's get through the rest of the week and get to the party!  Here's a little update about what's been happening, in and outside of the kitchen at K&K Test Kitchen.

1)  Last weekend, I went to the beach on a beautiful lake in Gatineau Park.  It was a perfect day for the beach, gorgeous weather and nice clear water for swimming.

2)  I also started reading my book club choice, Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  It is great so far - beautifully written, so inspiring and so raw with emotion.  I was glad that the girls were still swimming since I was crying during the first few chapters.

3) There is a new-ish restaurant in Ottawa - Union 613 - and I'm officially obsessed with it!! I also have tons of ideas for things that I want to try to make now.  We had fried green tomatoes with pimiento cheese (to DIE for!), fried okra with spicy buttermilk dipping sauce, and boiled peanuts to start.  I had the chipotle-coffee rubbed brisket with salsa verde, and for sides we had:  roasted garlic and cheddar grits, cornbread with bourbon brown butter, cumin roasted carrot salad with pepitas, and citrusy green beans.  Everything was amazing.  The service was incredible.  And I had a delicious bourbon tasting too!  Will be back, especially for the pimiento grilled cheese on their late night menu!!

4) Saturday Sunday we are going to the New York State Fair!!! I'm so excited for fried food, carnival rides, and the livestock shows.

5) If you are a teacher or have kids heading back to school and you'd like to learn more about Vemma let me know.  It will help boost your (or your kids) immune system and energy levels, to protect against all the back-to-school germs!  I personally haven't been sick since I started taking it last October!

5) Here's a quick little recipe for what seems to be quite a popular cocktail these days.  Let's get your Labor Day weekend started right, with a Moscow Mule!  It's refreshing and has a bit of a gingery kick to it from the ginger beer (which isn't actually beer and isn't ginger ale).

Moscow Mule Recipe

Moscow Mule

From Esquire Magazine

1 ounce vodka
Juice from half a lime
4-6 ounces Ginger Beer

Squeeze lime juice into a glass (collins, rocks, or if you have it a copper mug).  Drop the shell of the squeezed lime into the glass.  Add a handful of ice to the glass.  Measure out an ounce of vodka, pour it over the ice, then fill the glass with ginger beer.

Pictures at the top: Book club book at the beach, the beach at Lac la Peche, first signs of fall include pumpkin muffins, and Just Bitten Kissable in Honey from Revlon (we finally got this in Canada and it's my new fave!).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Roasted Beet and Hazelnut Salad with Pickled Onions

Roasted Beet Hazelnut and Goat Cheese Salad Recipe

It's Secret Recipe Club time again!  Each month, SRC members are assigned the blog of another member.  We get to explore our assigned blog and pick a recipe to make for "reveal" day, which happens to be today!

This month, our assigned blog was Gastronomical Sovereignty.  Kristy's blog is full of the most beautiful, local, sustainable, organic food.  I learned so much from reading through her posts and she definitely has me thinking about joining a CSA.  Overall, she seems to have a wonderful relationship with food and wine.  And apparently, we share an affinity for bourbon.  I wish I had seen this recipe for Bourbon Soaked Cherries back when we had cherries in abundance here!

But, then I saw this recipe for a roasted beet salad.  Roasted beets are among my very favorite foods.  The creamy goat cheese, vinegary kick of the onions, crunchy hazelnuts, and the sweet, luscious beets make this salad perfect in every possible way.  It is honestly crazy for me to think that I actually like pickled onions (maybe it is because they turned a pretty pink when added to the salad).  Not even two years ago, I wouldn't even touch an onion, now I'm quick pickling them and enjoying them.  It's a wild world.

Roasted Beet and Hazelnut Salad 

From Gastronomical Sovereignty

4 Small to Medium Sized Purple Beets, washed & well dried
4 Small to Medium Sized Golden Beets, washed & well dried
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled
4 - 6 ounces Soft Goat Cheese
1 cup Hazelnuts
Tablespoon or two of Quick Pickled Onions (with a bit of vinegar)
1 teaspoon local organic honey
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 400°F. Toss the beets in a roasting pan with a good glug of olive oil, a big pinch of salt and pepper and the garlic cloves. Cover and roast in the oven 25 - 40 minutes, depending on the size and age of your beets. Kristy's note: The younger and smaller they are (i.e. farmer's market or CSA share beets) the faster they'll roast; the older or bigger (i.e. grocery store chain beets), the longer. You want younger beets here because the flavor and texture of them is far superior to older ones, but use what is available to you. You will know when they are done when a fork slides easily into the center of the beet. Remove from the oven, allow to cool enough that you can touch them and then peel; cut in half or into fourths. Or if you want to get really fancy, dice! Discard (or eat) garlic.

As they cool you can toast your hazelnuts. Turn the oven down to 325°F. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and then place in oven. Toast for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, dump into a tea towel and rub vigorously to remove some of the bitter casings. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together the chopped beets, goat cheese, pickled onions, toasted hazelnuts, a glug of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the honey. Serve.

Quick Pickled Onions Recipe

Quick Pickled Onions

2 Medium Sized Onions, peeled and very thinly sliced (approx 1/4") - I used Vidalia Onions (look for a sweeter onion)
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoon Organic Cane Sugar
2 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt

Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar and salt dissolve and mixture comes to a boil.

Add the onions, stir well and pour into a clean jar. 

Let sit at room temperature for about an hour and then refrigerate for at least one hour.

Will keep in fridge up to two weeks.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts Recipe

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Salad

I'm definitely a fan of "routines."  They make life easier.  Especially in the morning, when I am basically a zombie until my coffee kicks my butt into gear.  So breakfast routines are a must.  BUT... routines can also easily become ruts.  Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we don't want to fall into a breakfast rut.  I may have been teetering on the edge of a rut with my smoothie obsession.  Granted, with three amazing smoothie recipes (1, 2, 3) to choose from, I probably would have been okay, but luckily I didn't have to wait to see, because I found a new AMAZING breakfast option.  And guess what?! It has quinoa in it.  As if I didn't need another reason to love quinoa!  Now, we already know that quinoa is good for breakfast. But this just takes it to a whole new level of awesome with blueberries, peaches, and hazelnuts and a lovely, creamy, sweet and tangy maple syrup and Greek yogurt dressing.  How can that not be delicious?!

Blueberry Quinoa Breakfast Salad

Adapted from the Kitchn

1 cup quinoa
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt (or soy yogurt, if you want to make this vegan)
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
1 cup blueberries or mixed berries
1-2 peaches, diced

Cook your quinoa according to the directions.  (Usually 1 cup quinoa plus 2 cups water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.)  Allow the quinoa to cool after cooking!

Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, maple syrup, Greek yogurt, and nutmeg.  Set aside until the quinoa has cooled.

Toast the hazelnuts at 375°F for about 3-5 minutes.

Mix together quinoa, flax seeds, blueberries, and hazelnuts.  Pour yogurt dressing over and stir well to combine.  Add the diced peaches just before serving.  The flavors meld together best if you leave this overnight in the fridge before eating, but don't add the peaches if you are storing it in the fridge.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sesame Quinoa and Chicken Salad

Toasted Sesame Quinoa Salad with Chicken Recipe

It's another post with quinoa!  That is what happens when I buy an extra large bag of quinoa at Costco.  Quinoa salads have definitely become a staple at my house.  Quinoa holds up really well as leftovers, and since I'm just cooking for myself, I always have plenty left for lunch.  Plus, I've been increasingly turning to Pinterest for recipe inspiration, and this is a recipe that I pinned a while back and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I knew I'd make this because a) I had all the ingredients in the house and b) it would serve as an easy lunch for Monday.

In the end, I made quite a few tweaks to this recipe, especially to the dressing, which I did not like at all at first (maybe my sesame oil wasn't toasted, though I'm pretty sure it is.)  So I added ginger, honey, and a lot more soy sauce, because I tend to like my dressings more on the tangy / vinegary side than the oily side, and the original recipe had way too much oil for my taste.  I also added sriracha to finish things off, and it definitely helped bring the flavors into harmony.

Sesame Quinoa and Chicken Salad

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the salad:
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I poached mine)
2 cups shredded carrots
6 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Sriracha for serving

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon honey

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame and olive oil. Add in garlic and quinoa and stir to coat, then toast for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock and increase heat to high, bringing the quinoa to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa can be fluffed with a fork. Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.

Mix together quinoa, chicken, carrots, green onions and dressing, tossing well to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss once more. Drizzle individual servings with Sriracha (and maybe more soy sauce), depending on your preference for spice!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

Roasted Sausage, Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Do you have a "go-to" dish?  Something that you know will turn out every time and taste delicious?  I have a few.  Chicken Parmesan is definitely one.  And for the last few months, this sausage and white bean cassoulet has been a go-to dish in my kitchen.  It isn't exactly a summery meal, but it is easy and of course, it is also amazing.  So rich and hearty, with the most divine sauce imaginable. I am pretty sure that I negated every single workout I did last week by standing over the pot, soaking up the sauce with half a baguette.  It is hard to resist.  I was so excited to eat dinner that I burned the roof of my mouth on a steaming hot tomato.    So let it cool before you chow down.  You can always dip a few pieces of bread in the pot while you wait!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  Mine was jam packed with fun and delicious food (I'll tell ya more about that in the Thursday update).

Roasted Sausage and Bean Recipe

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

Adapted slightly from Sweet Sugar Bean (originally from Dinner with Julie)

2 pints of cherry tomatoes
4-6 hot Italian sausages
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1- 19 ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup red wine

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425°F.

Scatter tomatoes over bottom of a Dutch oven, large skillet, or 9x13 inch casserole pan (reserve about 1/2 cup to add later). Add garlic, onion, and sausages over top. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil. Tuck the thyme into the pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, for sausages to be golden and tomatoes start to burst. Remove from oven and stir in beans and reserved 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes. Add the red wine (be generous, the resulting sauce is amazing). Return to oven and bake 20 minutes longer or until beans are cooked through.

Sausage, White Bean and Cherry Tomato Recipe

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Update: The Single Lady Pancake

Hey y'all it's Thursday.  Let's all cry a little because another week of summer has come and gone.  Okay, it's not too bad because I am actually really excited for fall!!  I actually had to get out of bed the other night, because I had the most amazing recipe idea ever for a skinny Thanksgiving side dish / salad and I needed to write it down.  Now I am weirdly excited for Thanksgiving... lucky us Canadians get to celebrate it a month early.

1)  I painted my nails.  They are fun and funky, and probably not even the least bit work appropriate, but I couldn't bear taking the polish off on Monday and they actually haven't even chipped yet.  There are definitely more sophisticated versions of nail art, but this was my first foray... so all I did was dip the end of a bobby pin into the polish to make my polka dots. The colors I used are Essie Mint Candy Apple and Mod Squad.

2)  We had book club on Tuesday night this week.  We read "The Best Laid Plans" by Terry Fallis.  While I didn't technically finish the book, I did really like what I read and I'm planning on finishing it up this weekend.  It is a humorous look at Ottawa politics and won several awards, including the Stephen Leacock medal for humor.  I get to pick the next book, and I've already chosen "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed (I read Eat.Live.Run's review of it and knew I wanted to read it).  Except now I want to change my mind, because I really want to read this book.

3)  We've had so, so much rain lately.  Seriously, we only have a month left of summer, can we at least have some sunshine?!  I kind of dig the rainboots and cut-off jeans look though.  Luckily, this weekend we are expecting sunshine and lovely 75 degree weather! (Also, I'm obsessed with the leopard infinity scarf in the photo below.  It was $15 at Old Navy!)

4)  Yes. I am the last person on the planet to pick-up NARS Orgasm blush.  I am so glad that I did though, because now I know what all the fuss is about.  This blush is the best that I have ever used. It gives you a lovely, healthy glow.  I also got NARS Eros lip lacquer and I am a big fan.  It looks super dark in the pot, but it is just a really pretty natural lip-color enhancing gloss with a bit of shimmer.

5)  Joy the Baker is a genius.  Did you know that?  Oh, you've been living under a rock? Okay, you are forgiven.  Well, I wanted pancakes this past weekend.  But I didn't really want to make a lot of pancakes, so I Googled  for recipes for 1 or 2 people.  Well, this amazing, delicious recipe popped up and it was like Joy wrote the recipe for me.  It is called the "Single Lady Pancake."  Yes, that means that I'm a single lady again.  Is that weird to tell you all?  I don't know.  Maybe.  Maybe it means that one day I will learn to actually make meals that feed one person.  Until then, it's a good thing I like leftovers.  But enough of about my lack of a love life and back to the pancake.  This pancake is bursting with chocolate and bananas and topped with toasted nuts and maple syrup.  Even if you aren't a single lady, you should probably make it for yourself.  You don't even have to share it with anyone.

Single Lady Pancake

From Joy the Baker

1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
1 tablespoon dried oats (quick cooking or regular)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk (I used regular milk, all my buttermilk was gone)
Dash of vanilla extract
Small handful semi-sweet chocolate chips
15 banana slices
1 tablespoon toasted pecans
Maple syrup

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, vanilla extract and buttermilk. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture will be thick. Fold in the chocolate chips and half of the banana slices.

Heat a small frying pan with a teaspoon of oil. Pour in the pancake batter and spread some with the back of a spoon. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form and pop on the surface of the pancake.

Flip your pancake. Then, cook until golden brown. Remove from pan and onto a plate. Top with the remaining banana slices, toasted pecans and maple syrup.

Pictures from my week:  Rain, Pink and Mint Polka Dot Nails, NARS cosmetics, and Book Club.  You can follow along on Instagram all week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Smoothie

Chocolate Zucchini Banana Smoothie recipe

I'm clearly obsessed with smoothies.  This is the third smoothie that I've posted on K&K this summer (Peach Ginger and Green Goodness), and this one is definitely delicious (though let's not pretend that it's as healthy as the other ones).  It is definitely a delicious treat though!  Now you may be thinking, "Zucchini?!  In my smoothie?!  Kelsey, you are cray cray."  But I have to tell you that zucchini in smoothies is genius, though I will admit that this smoothie was the result of me looking in my fridge and finding it practically empty.  I wanted a smoothie so badly, but all I had was a banana and some yogurt... and of course some zucchini.  I tried a version with a little bit of orange juice, but it was only "meh."  Convinced that I could make zucchini smoothies work, I did a little bit of searching and saw a few recipes with chocolate in the title, so I used the second half of the zucchini to make this chocolate-y, delicious version.  In fact, if I didn't tell you there was zucchini in it and you took a sip, you would probably never guess the secret ingredient, because the smoothie mostly tastes like chocolate and banana, with a hint of almond butter.  So, give this one a try for breakfast this week.  I know most of you are struggling with finding new ways to use summer's bounty of zucchini anyways!

Chocolate Zucchini Smoothie

Serves 1

1 banana
1/2 medium zucchini
1/2 cup fat-free chocolate milk*
2 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup blueberries
Dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon almond butter

Blend all ingredients together in a blender (or with an immersion blender like me).

*You could substitute 1/2 cup regular skim milk and 1 scoop chocolate protein powder for the chocolate milk if you want to pump up the protein!

Chocolate Banana Almond Butter Smoothie

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

Quinoa, Zucchini, Almond, and Garbanzo Bean Salad Recipe

We are finally back to a true Meatless Monday!  I had fallen off the Meatless Monday wagon for a while, but hopefully I can get back into the routine.  Eating vegetarian once a week (or more) really is a great idea and I'd like to reincorporate it into my weekly diet.  I made this quinoa salad because I realized that I had eaten a lot of red meat last week (and chocolate chip cookies), and I wanted to give my system a bit of a break. This salad was a perfect little detox, full of protein and veggies, with bright flavors.  I wanted this salad to be filling enough to eat as a main dish, so I changed up the original recipe to add garbanzo beans for extra protein.  (I also doubled parts of the recipe, so that I would have lots of leftovers for lunches).

My favorite part of the salad is the crunchiness and flavor that the almonds provide, and I might even add more almonds the next time I make it.  Just be careful not to burn the almonds.  I burnt two batches of nuts recently, because I got distracted with other parts of the recipes I was working on or maybe it was because I kept running into the living room to watch parts of the Olympics.  Either way, watch your nuts! It may be easier now without the Olympics... but to be honest, I'd rather have the Olympics and burnt nuts than no Olympics. I'm already counting down the days to Sochi 2014.

Quinoa Salad with Toasted Almonds

Adapted from Whole Living
Serves 4

1/3 cup chopped almonds
1 cup quinoa
5 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1-1/2 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 can garbanzo beans
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 lime, halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast almonds until crisp, lightly browned, and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, place quinoa in a fine sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well.

Stir quinoa, thyme, 2 cups water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes.

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add yellow pepper, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and sauté 5 to 8 minutes longer.

Add the cooked quinoa and vegetables to a large bowl.  Stir in garbanzo beans, almonds, white wine vinegar and remaining 3 teaspoons oil, season with salt, and fluff with a fork. Before serving squeeze lime over salad.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary - add more vinegar or lime, salt and pepper until you are happy! Serve with additional lime wedge and thyme, if desired.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday Update: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Well, it is Thursday again. And I totally ditched out on posting yesterday, sorry about that!  But to be honest, I haven't been cooking much lately.  Or at least not much that is new or exciting.  I did make this flank steak with tomatoes and basil for dinner this week already though, and I remembered how amazing it is.  You should probably try it, it is kind of like dumping the bruschette that I made for you all onto delicious steak.  So basically, it has to be delicious.  And there is a chocolate chip cookie recipe down at the bottom of this post.  Otherwise, this is what's up here:

1)  Still obsessed with the Olympics.  Now I'm onto "athletics," and I'm seriously in awe of Usain Bolt.  That man is fast.  And those track girls have the best abs ever, not to mention arms, legs, etc.  They are my new inspiration.

2)  I went to a Pampered Chef party last night and it made me wish that I had an unlimited budget and unlimited cabinet space.  But alas I have neither.  So I bought a new pie plate, because mine exploded all over my kitchen a little while back, and because I have been dying to make a summer fruit pie and it feels like the summer is almost over.

3)  I'm considering doing a cleanse sometime soon.  I've been feeling like I need a bit of a detox (see recipe for chocolate chip cookies below haha).  About a month ago, I got the instructions for a 3-day cleanse from Lauryn of The Skinny Confidential, but I've basically been too chicken to try it.  Has anyone done a cleanse before?  Any advice?

4)  These chocolate chip cookies are good.  I found them on Pinterest and just crossed my fingers that they tasted as good as they looked!  Now, I'm not saying they are the best that you will ever have, but I didn't have any problem scarfing down somewhere near a dozen myself.  They are thick with the right amount of crunchiness and chewy softness.  The chocolate chips stayed melty on the inside too, which I love.  Plus the addition of sea salt enhances all of the flavors!  I'd also say that the batch that I made after letting the dough sit in the fridge for a few days was even better than the first batch.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

From Let's Live La Vida

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
9 1/2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, cut into chunks using a serrated knife
Sea salt

Using an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Continue mixing while adding the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined, ensuring not to over mix. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chunks.

Using a small ice cream scoop, place the cookies one inch apart on a baking sheet. Gently press down the dough balls with the palm of your hand and sprinkle each scoop with a bit of sea salt. Bake at 360 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to bake an additional two minutes on the baking sheet. Place the cookies on a cooling rack to cool.

*You can store the dough in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Salt Recipe

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's Italian Bruschette

Italian bruschetta recipe

We're still celebrating summer here at K&K Test Kitchen.  And in my opinion, bruschette is the perfect way to celebrate summer.  This simple recipe takes advantage of summer's ripe, juicy tomatoes and fragrant basil.  My basil plant has been overflowing lately, so I've been whipping up pesto left and right, but I also used plenty of basil in this bruschette.  The key to perfect bruschette is to make it a few hours in advance of serving it (if you have the will power to wait that long to eat it...), which allows the flavors to meld and intensify.

This recipe comes from my Auntie Franca, one of our "adopted" Italian relatives.  When I was little, we'd go to Auntie Franca's parents' Italian market in Calgary and eat delicious sandwiches from the deli piled with prosciutto, capicolla, salami, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers.  We'd snack on the most wonderful bruschette and wash everything down with a San Pellegrino Limonata.  These memories are the reason that I love Italian food and why I would pick it over any other cuisine any day of the week.

It's Italian Bruschette

Adapted from Auntie Franca

3/4 cup good quality olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced pretty small (make sure to add the juice from the cut tomatoes)
10 fresh basil leaves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional for spicy bruschette)
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and let marinate at least 4 hours or overnight to enhance the flavor.

Serve on fressine (a dried Italian bread) or on thinly sliced baguette.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Update: Cheese Plate

Cheese and Crackers Platter

It's Thursday again! We have a long weekend here in Canada this weekend, with Monday off.  Unfortunately, I didn't really plan anything, so I'm hoping to just get some sun / beach time, do some cooking, and maybe explore Ottawa a bit.

1)  Let's chat about the Olympics again.  I have been watching basically non-stop coverage.  There is even a building near me at work that plays the Olympics all day long on 2 big screens (see the sweet set-up below).  So, I have been strategically planning my afternoon coffee break for approximately 2:40 pm each day in order to watch the swimming finals live.  It was so much fun to watch Nathan Adrian of the US and Brent Hayden of Canada win medals in the men's 100 Free yesterday.  Seriously, if anyone wants to set me up with Nathan Adrian, I would not complain.  Also, I'm so excited for the women's all-around today for gymnastics.  When the Fab 5 won gold the other day, I was so excited!  And I felt super old when the announcers said the Mag 7 won gold 16 years ago.  Also, tonight means more of Aly Raisman's parents, who are hilarious / so awkward to watch cheering for her.

2) Last weekend, I went to the water park!  It was seriously so much fun.  The park was rated one of the Top 10 in the world last year by MSN Travel.  We spent the day going on slides, lounging in the lazy river, and soaking up the gorgeous sunshine.  If you are from the Ottawa area, I highly recommend Calypso.

3)  K&K Test Kitchen is one of Eat Yourself Skinny's sponsors for the month of August.  If you don't know about Kelly's blog, you are totally missing out. She has tons of awesome recipes, and if you are on Weight Watchers, she provides point counts for all of them.  Go check it out!

4)  Yesterday, I gave you this cute, little dessert. Today, let's talk about cheese and crackers.  I could probably live off of cheese and crackers (or maybe bread and olive oil).  For my Bachelorette watching party, I put together a little cheese platter and I thought I'd share a little bit about how I put these together.  The major elements: cheese, spreadable things, fruit, and crackers.
  • Cheese:  It's good to have a variety, so that there is something for everyone. I like to do a cheddar, a hard sheep or goat's milk cheese, and something spreadable, like a brie.  My favorites include:  Dubliner cheddar or aged white cheddar, Manchego (Spanish sheep's milk), Drunken Goat cheese (it is cured in wine!), Brie or Triple Creme, and of course Boursin.  I'm not a huge bleu cheese fan, but you could definitely go with one of those too.
  • Spreadables: Here you can do fig jam (my all-time fave), spicy red pepper jelly, honey, or for something savory, a tepanade (olive spread). 
  • Fruit: Go with what's in season!  Peaches are an amazing choice for summer and pair so well with salty cheeses.  Other good choices include pears, apples, and grapes.  Strawberries also go quite well with brie!
  • Crackers:  I absolutely love Raincoast Crisps, but they are expensive.  You can make your own at home though.  I also love super thin wafer crackers, or you could go traditional with water crackers or something nice and seedy. 
Those are the basics.  You can definitely play around with the different elements to come up with your favorite combinations.  You can also add in some meats: prosciutto, bresaola, spicy salami. Make it your own!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mini Key Lime Pie Cheesecakes

Mini Key Lime Pie No Bake Cheesecake Recipe

You know that I loved the most recent season of the Bachelorette.  For the finale, I had a few girls over to watch the show and see who Emily picked.  In order to make things easy, I decided to make individual servings of dessert that we could eat while sitting on the couch.  While at a market near my house, I came across a bag of key limes and then I just happened to find some canning jars at the hardware store next door.  So I decided to succumb to the "food in jars" trend and make no-bake cheesecakes in jars.  (Though, technically I did bake the crust of these.)

These key lime pie cheesecakes are delicious!  They are the perfect marriage of sweet and tart, with a crunchy, caramel-y graham crust.  And because they are in cute little jars, they'd be easy to transport to a picnic or to work (which I totally did... best afternoon snack ever!).  We'll say that I "savored" my personal cheesecake during the Bachelorette watching, but really I was just too full from eating delicious cheese and bruschette (don't worry those recipes will come soon)!

Mini Key Lime Pie Cheesecakes

Adapted from Dianne's Dishes
Makes 4

3/4 sleeve of graham crackers (about 1 cup crushed crumbs)
1/4 cup butter, melted
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup key lime juice
Zest of 3 key limes

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until they are fine crumbs.  Mix the melted butter into the crumbs, then divide the mixture into four canning jars (my jars were 1-cup size, and I put about 1/4 cup of graham crumbs in each).  Press the mixture firmly into each jar.  Place the jars in the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, condensed milk, yogurt, and sugar.  Blend until well combined.  Add the lime juice and zest, blending again to combine.  Divide the mixture into the four jars.  Screw the lid on each jar and place the jars in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before serving.

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