Tag Archives: vegetables

June Cooking Club: Chilled Grape and Almond Soup

24 Jun

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It’s been a few months since I’ve participated in cooking club with my co-workers.  Last time was actually in March when B and I hosted (still owe you a post about that iteration actually!)  I’ve missed the secret ingredients cherry and flowers respectively.  What have I missed since this thing started?  Earning the trophy for best dish!   This time I was determined to take it home.  The secret ingredient was grape and I decided to make 2 dishes to increase  my odds 🙂  Consequently, I received an email with a very promising sounding recipe for Chilled Grape and Almond Soup

To continue with a theme of starters, I researched Welch’s website.  I arrived at making Tangy Grape BBQ Meatballs for my other dish.  While cooking club participants seemed to enjoy the meatballs, I have to say that I was not a big fan of the recipe.  I feel that meatballs should have a consistency of browned/ slightly crisp on the outside and tasting more meaty than overpowered by any sort of filling to hold them together on the inside.  These meatballs, while cooked through, were too moist for my liking.  B agreed with this.  Thus, I don’t intend to promote that dish all that much with my readers!

The Chilled Grape and Almond Soup is worth encouraging you to try though (recipe below). I’ve heard of other chilled soups not turning out so well. My friend, Megan, from cooking club had one such story to share where her boyfriend attempted a similar sounding chilled grape soup for this event and it tasted awful. 😦 He’ll have to make this one sometime! It is silly easy too- you simply do some food chopping/measuring prep, blend it together in a blender or food processor, and chill. The creativity of recipe and taste were there and then I simply added the presentation factor. I did it right this time, because we won! The other awesome dishes included: a shrimp cup, grape salad, and chicken and grape kebabs. The drink category included old school Snoopy grape snowcones (adult style of course) and drunken purple cows featuring plenty of ice cream, grape juice, and vodka. Stiff competition, but Gleason’s purple cows took the win. See photo slideshow at the end of this post.

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The trophy is pretty freaky, huh? It has been through a lot since its original gold plated gnome existence. The only rule is you must add to it once you win. Due to a tragic car accident, the gnome’s head was lost, but a stuffed animal duck head was gained. The flag, flowers, green bow, and stand are among other fabulous additions. July’s cooking club theme is MUUUUURRRICA: A Backyard Potluck which will feature dishes you bring to a cookout/potluck and plenty of red, white, and blue attire- hopefully of the fantastic tacky persuasion.
 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs seedless green grapes, destemmed
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 2 scallions, white & light green parts, chopped
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 dill sprigs, chopped
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine grapes, cucumber, almonds, scallions, vinegar, yogurt, cream cheese, olive oil, buttermilk in food processor or blender, and process until mostly smooth – leave some texture.
  2. Stir in salt, pepper, dill, and cayenne. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. IMG_20130615_164640_374

  4. Serve ice cold, garnish with fresh chives, thinly sliced cucumber rounds or grapes and fresh chives and/or some additional dill.

 
Other Grape Cooking Club Photos:

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Chicken with Vegetable Ragout and Polenta

7 Jan

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I am always a fan of polenta as a side at restaurants and had been eye balling the pre-made polenta tube at Trader Joes for awhile.  I stumbled upon this Sandra Lee Food Network recipe on my hunt for including polenta in a home cooked meal.  It was unique and very satisfying.  The tube of pre-made polenta from Trader Joes yielded more polenta than the recipe called for so I added a little milk and blended the remainder of the tube with salt and pepper, added some reduced fat shredded cheddar, and heated it up for a side to a meal later that week.  Get creative and enjoy polenta on the side as an alternative to boring old rice or potatoes!  Mmm mmm mmm.

Ingredients:

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  • 3 cups frozen primavera vegetable medley (recommended: Birds Eye)
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (recommended: McCormick)
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (I didn’t have so I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1 (24-ounce) tube pre-made polenta, sliced 1/2-inch thick (recommended: Trader Joes brand)
  • Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine frozen vegetable medley in the bottom of an at lease 3-quart pyrex baking dish or a 5-quart slow cooker.  If you have chosen to cook in the oven, preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Place chicken on top of vegetables.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together pasta sauce, tomato paste, garlic and sherry (or red wine vinegar). Pour 2/3 of the sauce over chicken and vegetables. Top the chicken with polenta slices and cover with remaining sauce. Cover and cook on the LOW setting for 4 to 5 hours or bake on 400 for around 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked throughout (this will differ depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts- ours were big boys.)
  4. Serve hot with Parmesan.

I’m Thankful For Green Bean Casserole

26 Nov

Adapted from Food Network’s version, I contributed this Green Bean Casserole to my family’s Thanksgiving spread.  I’ve made this casserole a few times now and it has been equally tasty each time.  While I am pro making my own cream of mushroom soup for the dish, I am okay with cutting corners with the topping.  I use a container of French’s French Fried Onions instead.  I find them to be absolutely delicious although not the healthier of topping options thus my not designating this as a saint meal option.  I’ll give a homemade topping a try someday (there are several great options I’ve seen out there), but I’ve had no complaints with this method so far from the groups I’ve made it for.  My family actually requested it make another appearance in the menu lineup for this year’s Christmas dinner!  Bryan liked it so much that we’ve discussed cutting the recipe in half and having as a side to every day type meals.  You don’t have to wait for a special occasion either 😉  Have a great week- if you’re like me settling back into the work grind will be tough so I wish you the best of luck.  Eat some delicious things to make it easier maybe?!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 medium container of French’s French Fried Onions

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. To prepare the beans, bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.    
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the green beans. Top with the onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

ANOTHER Pumpkin Chili

19 Oct

You might be asking yourself, “Didn’t she already post a pumpkin chili recipe?”  Yes I did but that recipe had a chicken broth base and this one is tomato-based.  Worlds of difference.  Also, I’m going to do as much pumpkin cooking as possible.  You’re not surprised, are you?  This recipe screams comforting fall/winter meal.  This will also give you an abundance of leftovers.  As with the chicken broth-based chili, this one has enough of a hint of the pumpkin to taste it but you won’t feel like you’re eating pumpkin pie in a chili.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (46 fluid ounce) can tomato juice
  • 1 (28 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/2-3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until brown; drain.
  2. Stir in onion and bell pepper and cook 5 minutes.                                   
  3. Stir in beans, tomato juice, diced tomatoes and pumpkin puree. Season with pumpkin pie spice, chili powder, and sugar. Simmer 1 hour.                                                                                                 
  4. Top with a dollop plain greek yogurt and some fresh herbs and eat up!

If I Had to Pick a Favorite Food…

22 Aug

…it’d be Vietnamese!  I’ve had some friends and followers ask what foods I love most.  It is tough tough tough to choose the top favorite, but when it comes down to it my head goes to Vietnamese.  I think this is for two reasons: 1) it’s just amazingly delicious and 2) my family and I used to go out for it a lot when I was growing up so it’s tied to memories as well.  In fact, my mom went into labor with my brother there in January of 1996…a few hours before the blizzard of ’96 snowed in the metro DC area.  They had to spend a number of additional days at the hospital because they were literally snowed in!  Our Vietnamese spot is called Saigon Cafe in Sterling, VA.

The photo above features Grilled Beef with Rice Noodle (grilled beef, carrots, cucumber, crushed peanuts, rice noodles, and fish sauce) and Spicy Saigon Vegetables.  Below is a pic of Vietnamese Spring Rolls (rice paper wrapping, rice noodles, pork, and shrimp) with peanut dipping sauce.  Some other favorites (not pictured) are Fried Spring Rolls and Chicken with Sweet Basil.  I always think of Vietnamese as lighter, fresher asian food as compared to Chinese.  If you haven’t tried before, pleaseeeeee do!

All Good Sins Must Come to an End :(

3 May

Welp, couldn’t eat fat things forever. Back to real life! In order to get back to a healthier walk of life, eating more purely and kicking my as$ at the gym has been the name of the game (I’m really liking spin classes as of late- I’ll post on that soon.)  If you find yourself in a similar position- you know post vacation or post some other extended eating extravaganza- I hope you can turn to posts like this to get back to normal!

So, I can’t say I was really eating enough vegetables in Vegas.  Vegetables are a struggle as it is for me so if I can avoid them, it seems that I tend to.  If I eat the right ones or cook the ones I’m not a huge fan of right, I’m golden.  One such vegetable is broccoli.  I like broccoli roasted and I like the crunchy kind you find in Chinese food stir fry or other dishes.  The mushy kind characteristic of steamed broccoli does not work for me however.  Bryan has to pretty much force me to “EAT MY VEGETABLES!” if steamed broccoli is on the menu.  Is this resonating for anyone?  Let me share a simple and awesome roasted recipe with you then.  Please note this is a good size for two people.

Garlicky Oven Roasted Broccoli Ingredients

You will need just 3 things:

  • A good-sized bunch of broccoli
  • 2 TBSP garlic flavored olive oil or grapeseed oil (I used a Roasted Garlic grapeseed oil this time)
  • Approximately 1/2 tsp salt
 
 
 
 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the broccoli and cut off the stems to florets or with a “tree” depending on preference.

2. Place the broccoli, oil, and salt in a large ziploc bag and have a shake it party with it.

3. On a large cookie sheet, lay down some parchment paper and follow with the coated broccoli evenly across the cookie sheet.

4.  Bake for around 11-15 minutes and voila!