Sunday, 26 June 2011

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans

Salads have become increasingly popular in our house. Even more so, salads with a fruit component are a huge hit.  One of my go to favourites is a spinach salad with strawberries, goat cheese and candied pecans.  Truth be told I could eat a bowl of just the pecans and goat cheese and be completely satisfied.  However, that's because I'm crazy and I have a goat cheese problem.
This salad is perfect as a side dish, or can be served as a main course with the addition of grilled chicken.  
Last night it accompanied some homemade turkey burgers and grilled corn on the cob.  Have I mentioned how much I love summer?  This is a light and refreshing salad that ended up being a big hit among our dinner guests.  I hope you enjoy it just same.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Candied Pecans

4 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 - 2 cups strawberries, sliced thin
1/4 - 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 - 1/2 cup candied pecans (recipe follows)
dressing (recipe follows) 

To assemble: Combine strawberries and spinach in a large bowl.  Add dressing, using as much or as little as desired.  Toss to coat.  Sprinkle with cheese and candied pecans

disclaimer:  because I'm a cheese and nut fanatic, I tend to err on the side that more is better.  feel free to change the amounts to suit your preference.

(dressing and candied pecans recipe courtesy of food network)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp liquid honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
pinch of salt

In small bowl, whisk vinegar with honey, dijon, and salt.  Slowly whisk in oil until well combined.

Candied Pecans:
1/4 cup halved pecans
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp water

Place pecans, sugar and water in small saucepan set on medium heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until golden and pecans are coated, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet to cool.

Note:  I double this part of the recipe.  I don't think there is such a thing as too many nuts, especially since they are so friggin' tasty, and more than a  few never even make it to the salad...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler ala Mason Jar

Welcome to my newest obsession....dessert in a mason jar.  Aside from being adorable, completely portable and the perfect size; these jars remind me of my grandma and homemade jams.  I think that's why I smile every time I look at them.
In the past I've made pies, cookie dough and crumbles in these jars. However, this is my first attempt at a cobbler. 
My husband will tell you that his favourite fruit is a peach, and I'm partial to fruits that end in 'berry.'  So, it seemed fitting that we should combine the two, top it with a flaky biscuit, creamy vanilla ice cream and call it a day. 
This recipe is the perfect ending to a summer BBQ.  Fresh peaches and blueberries baked and bubbly to perfection - Mmmm.  I wish I could say I waited for my dinner guests before diving into one of these, but alas, the sweet aroma coming from my oven overtook my senses and J and I shared one this afternoon.  I like to refer to this as 'quality assurance.'  You're Welcome!
ENJOY - happy summer!

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler ala Mason Jar

Fruit Filling:(courtesy of Emeril)
5-6 peaches, peeled and cubed
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Biscuit topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In small saucepan, combine butter, granulated sugar and blueberries.  Cook over medium heat for 6-7 minutes stirring until syrup forms.  Remove from heat allow to cool.
In separate bowl combine brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add peaches and stir to coat.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes to absorb flavours.
To make biscuit topping, combine all dry ingredients and stir.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add buttermilk and vanilla and stir until just incorporated.
To assemble.  Add peach mixture to the bottom of six mason jars.  Spoon blueberry mixture evenly over peaches.  Cover with biscuit topping and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until fruit mixture is bubbly and biscuit is golden brown in color.
Serve warm or at room temperature (I prefer warm).  
Top with vanilla ice cream. (Mmm...melts on impact)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Pesto-Tzatziki Potato Salad

What better way to celebrate the guys in my life then with a good family BBQ.  After all, they say the way to a mans heart is through his stomach. So, it goes without saying a BBQ is the perfect way to say 'thanks!'  Thanks for being a great dad, a supporter, a listener and a friend. 
My sister is playing the roll of hostess this year, so I have been appointed to sides.  Of course, no BBQ is complete without potato salad.  It is the perfect dish to accompany any burger.  Potato salad screams summer,  and aside from the weather, I still believe it to be true. 
There are two types of potato salad people out there.  You have the mayonnaise based fans, and the vinegar ones.  I'm enjoy both, and typically alternate between the two during the summer months.  However, I have recently come across option #3 to throw into the rotation.  Pesto-Tzatziki Potato Salad.  Yum-o!  Pesto = Awesome. Tzatziki = Fantastic.  Potatoes with zucchini, broccoli and corn - are you kidding me?  This is one killer salad.  In addition to its great taste, this recipe couldn't be easier to make.  Allowing for more family time and less time spent in the kitchen, which is what summer is all about! 
Happy Father's Day to the two guys in my life - love you both.
Now enough with the blogging and onto the BBQ'ing!

Pesto-Tzatziki Potato Salad

courtesy of food not (slightly adapted)

1 1/2 bags of mini red potatoes, left unpeeled, and halved
1 zucchini, cut into slices and quartered.
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn
3 1/2 cups frozen broccoli
2Tbsp pesto (homemade or prepared)
1/2 cup tzatziki (homemade or prepared)

Boil potatoes until you are able to pierce them with a fork.  Do not overcook!  Add broccoli, corn and zucchini and continue heating until water comes back up to a boil.  Remove from heat and drain well.  Rinse with cold water if you need to cool it down quickly.
Mix pesto and tzatziki sauces.  Coat cooled potato mixture, using as much or as little sauce as desired.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Carrot Bread with Hazelnuts, Coconut and Cream Cheese Glaze

A couple months ago, J and I hosted our first "breakfast for dinner" dinner party.  Why I didn't think of doing this sooner, I will never know.  Aside from it being a success, I'm now convinced we need to have breakfast for dinner once a week, and trying to plan another party in the future.  We included all the staples: hashbrowns, bacon, waffles, fresh fruit, eggs (mediterranean frittata style) and this carrot bread.  
There is something just so perfect about breakfast food.  It could be that it's so easy to prepare.  That there is a wonderful balance between the sweet and savoury dishes.  Or, that when eaten with fantastic friends, a couple mimosas and some sangria on a Saturday night, it just equals happiness.
This bread was a last minute decision to add to the menu.  I was contemplating between making cinnamon rolls, sweet potato biscuits or a form of quick bread.  At the end of the day I figured this carrot loaf would be a good choice, after all how can you go wrong with hazelnuts and coconut.  Plus, carrots?  With vegetables in it has to be good for you right?  In this case YES!! It is so light and moist, and fulfills my carrot cake obsession, without all of the guilt.  I love the simplicity of the ingredients and I have to say this will become a recipe I make over and over again. 

Carrot Bread w/ Hazelnuts, Coconut and Cream Cheese Glaze

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped


1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly butter 9-by-5 inch loaf pan.
Mix first seven ingredients in large bowl.  Add in hazelnuts and coconut.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, applesauce, yogurt and vanilla.  Stir carrots into egg mixture, then fold into the dry mixture until just combined.
Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Cool 30 minutes in pan on a rack, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.
To make glaze whisk all ingredients together.  Pour onto the cooled bread.  Top with shredded coconut if desired and let set, 15 to 20 minutes.

adapted from Food Network Magazine

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Sweet Potato Hash

Ahhh, it's the weekend again!  More specifically, Sunday morning.  The kids are finishing up a sleepover at the grandparents, I just finished a 5km run and now it's time for the most important meal of the day.  Breakfast! Usually weekend breakfasts are on the sweeter side for me, opting for pancakes, waffles or french toast (basically anything i can put syrup on).  Today, I decided on a more savoury route, after all I can always have pancakes for lunch or dinner should the urge strike :)  Breakfast of choice....sweet potato hash!  I love sweet potatoes, they are top notch on the potato ranking scale in my books. Any way you cook them I'm hooked.  Sweet potato casserole, biscuits, mashed, stuffed, and of course....pancakes!

In a hash you can pretty much use anything and everything.  Today I decided to go with a recipe from eatingoutloud, and incorporate apples, peppers and onions in mine, keeping it vegetarian (only because we seem to be out of bacon at the moment).  The best part about a hash is the soft cooked egg on top.  Mmmmm, nothing quite like breaking open the yolks and having them envelop the rest of the dish.  Yummm.

So where does James Taylor fit into all of this?  He is my backdrop for the morning.  Him, and the cup of coffee I'm currently sipping on.  Given I'm kid less this morning, I have nothing but time to prepare breakfast.  Something about chopping vegetables, caffeine in hand and the soulful music of one of the greats (I mean come on....sweet baby james, fire and rain) is in no question a perfect morning.

Sweet Potato Hash

1 sweet potato, peeled & cut into small cubes
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 small apple, cored & cut into small cubes
1 green onion, chopped
1 egg

In a large skillet, heat olive oil.  Add sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes.  Add peppers and onions along with S&P and red pepper flakes.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Last, add in the chopped apple and green onion and cook for 2 minutes until everything is heated through.  Remove from pan and serve.
In same skillet, crack egg and fry.  Serve on top of hash.
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