Bok Choy & Red Pepper Stir Fry

Bok Choy Stir Fry

Bok choy & red peppers star in this simple, quick stir fry

Tomorrow I return to work after a much-needed spring break from teaching, putting me in boo hoo mode, but at least I finally finished grading the essays I brought home. (Oh, the joys of teaching English.)

I did manage to set up the spring veggie plantings, trim a few trees in the backyard, and write a few letters to my nephew who recently headed off to Marine Boot Camp. 

However, I didn’t manage to read any novels, which I’m bummed about, and I didn’t take care of spring purging around the house. Honestly, I don’t know where the days have gone considering I got so little done.

Speaking of where the days have gone, I really don’t know how two months have passed and I’ve only blogged once! Somehow I lost my motivation and energy. The muses left me high and dry. Sinus infection and allergies contributed to the absence as well as a heavy work load of essay correcting (all my own fault for assigning so much work, I know).

Plus, hubby has returned to work after a couple years of schooling for a career change, and now our balance needs readjusting. He used to take responsibility for dinner since I was the one gone all day. Now I get home before him, so I find my evenings filled with kitchen duty, leaving little time and energy for blogging. 

Despite my absence the past couple months, I have experimented with and collected a few recipes to share, one of them this Red Pepper Bok Choy Stir Fry side dish. 

This dish cooks up quickly, uses few ingredients, has crispiness and crunchiness, and contains oodles of nutritional value. Plus, it’s pretty to look at with the bright red and green colors and the sprinkling of sesame seeds. And for us, at least, it adds a new veggie–the bok choy–to our lives, creating a nice break from the heavy doses of broccoli we consume.

It pairs well with brown or white rice for a veggie rice bowl, complements chicken and beef, and tastes especially yummy with Asian meatballs. Or, just eat it all on its own for a filling meal.

Bok Choy & Red Pepper Stir Fry

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. dark sesame oil (don’t skip, for this adds a rich nutty flavor)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (I omit this)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches bok choy, sliced any size you prefer (I got about 8 loosely packed cups from a bag of baby bok choy from the Asian store; I’ve used less, too, as well as used “grown-up” bok choy)
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1-2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add vegetable oil and sesame oil to a wok, heating over medium-high heat (use a large pan if you don’t have a wok). When the oil begins to shimmer, add the peppers, onion, and garlic; toss/stir constantly.
  2. After 3-4 minutes, when the onions turn translucent and golden, add the bok choy, stirring/tossing often. Cook for 1 minute, then add the soy sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, just until the green leaves on the bok choy begin to wilt. 
  3. Garnish with sesame seeds. 

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Cook for Your Life

Mashed Cauliflower (truly imitates Mashed Potatoes!)

In addition to taking longer than I thought to get this Mashed Cauliflower post up, it has also taken me awhile to get around to trying this recipe in the first place…like several years!

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower mimics mashed potatoes in flavor and appearance–really!

So glad I did finally try it, though. It tastes as great as everyone has said. Truly, it tastes like mashed potatoes, its claim to fame.

You can dress it simply, with just a pat of butter and some salt and pepper. Or you can add yummy ingredients such as cream cheese, sour cream, cheddar cheese, assorted herbs and spices… I added a touch of parsley to jazz up the appearance. If I’d had chives, I would have tried that instead.

Upon first bite, I didn’t think it paralleled mashed potatoes. However, after keeping it warm in the oven for about an hour and then tasting it again with the Beef Wellington dinner extravaganza, I forgot that cauliflower served as the star of the dish. And hubby thought it was mashed taters until I told him it was actually cauliflower!

So, if you haven’t tried these yet, please do! If you love smooth and buttery mashed taters, this mashed cauliflower will surprise the heck out of you because it genuinely resembles mashed potatoes, both in appearance and flavor.

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (probably about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 ounces (about 1/4 cup) cream cheese (depends on how much tangy flavor you like)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut cauliflower into florets, rinse under cold water, then steam them, along with garlic cloves, using your favorite steaming method (steam basket in a saucepan over heat, microwave, or steam in about an inch of water or broth). Steam until tender.
  2. After draining cauliflower and while the florets are still hot, place in the bowl of a food processor along with garlic cloves. Puree until smooth.
  3. Add Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, butter, and parsley. Puree until all ingredients are blended.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: If not serving immediately, you can either store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a couple days and heat in the oven when ready to eat. Or, cover with foil and place in the oven at low temperature to keep warm for about an hour.

SOURCE: Maria’s compilation

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (and the book Food Matters)

Despite all the sweet treats I share on the blog, hubby and I actually do eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time. Case in point, these roasted brussels sprouts, seasoned simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If you remember last year around this time, I shared a Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad, which served as my initiation into liking brussels sprouts. Prior to that, hubby had only steamed them, which simply releases their atrocious sulfurous compounds and ruins the taste. Yuck!

But roasted? Totally a different story, folks! They get a bit charred on the outside yet transform into tenderness inside, and no stinky sulfurous release, either. Yay! The generous sprinkling of sea salt along with pepper and olive oil enhance the flavor, too. I LOVE ‘em this way. So simple yet so scrumptious.

Now for Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. I spent the past couple days reading this book by Mark Bittman. Yes, it’s been around since 2002, but I’m a busy gal, okay? The basic premise of the book is to eat like food matters. I love that idea. I need to remember that what I put into my body matters.

Bittman suggests eating lots of plant foods, as close to their natural state as possible, as well as veggies, beans, fruits, and whole grains. He calls this sane eating vs. the insanity of eating excessive animal products, refined carbs, and junk food (and he provides tons of research to support the negative effects of insane eating, both on the individual and on the environment).

Now, the book isn’t about a specific diet but simply about changing our habits to eating like food matters. He writes, “…deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most” (65). Two-thirds of the book then provides recipes and ideas for eating like food matters.

In the past few years, I actually have practiced what Bittman advises, so his book simply reinforces a style I have embraced already. I really enjoyed the basic premise, though, and will reiterate it once more to close: eat like food matters. Let that guide you as you move forth into 2014. And consider starting soon with these roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers to a healthy new year!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces brussels sprouts
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (or more) of sea salt (I used Maldon sea salt)
  • sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the stem ends of the brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow and spotted outer leaves. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan. Toss with olive oil, then spread out on pan. Generously sprinkle with salt and lightly sprinkle with pepper.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn sprouts over; bake another 10-15 minutes until crisp on outside yet tender on inside.
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, and dust with parmesan cheese.

Note: I baked the sprouts an hour before serving, so I covered the pan with foil and placed back into the oven, heat as low as possible, to keep them warm.

SOURCE: slightly adapted from Food Network, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

Potato Balls (Papas Rellenos) … and week #3 of the Pile on the Produce Giveaway

Potato Balls

Stuffed potato balls–delicious as a side, an appetizer, or as a meal all on its own

In my search for recipes to use the big bag of potatoes Klondike Brands sent me for the Pile on the Produce promotion (a promo to encourage you to incorporate produce with taters), I absolutely loved this idea for potato balls. I had never heard of them before, but what a fun concept.

The recipe reminds me a bit of shepherd’s pie but with the meat inside the potatoes. Or maybe it’s like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, again with the meat on the inside.

Anyhow, this is a super fun way to serve potatoes by hiding the goodies inside. And it’s not nearly as tough to make as you might think. Just flatten the mashed potatoes into a disc, fill with meat filling, fold edges over the filling, and voila, you have a stuffed potato ball! Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that but not much, really.

Potato Balls

Meat filling stuffed inside potato balls, coated in bread crumbs and deep fried

Tonight I’m going to be a lazy gal and just direct you to Jonathan Melendez’s blog The Candid Apetite for the recipe. Arising at 4 a.m. each morning to correct essays from the ridiculous roster of 190 students (yes, outrageous, I know!) is beginning to take it’s toll on me, and right now it’s taking my last ounce of energy to get this post out before I head off to sleep. Besides, Jonathan has an awesome post with step-by-step photos of the process.

Finally, Klondike Brands is sponsoring a prize package giveaway for each week this month, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment below.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

The folks at Klondike Brands have generously offered to give away a prize pack to one lucky reader of this blog each week during the month of September, “which will include goodies like a cookbook and potato preparation and cooking items.” I received a copy of the cookbook to test out some recipes, and it is chock full of yummilicious ideas. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the recipes in there, too.

One lucky winner will be randomly chosen for this week’s giveaway, which begins today, Monday, Sept. 16th and will end Sunday, Sept. 22nd at midnight PST.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post and answer the question:

“What’s the best food you ate this past week?”

 

Pile on the Produce: Potatoes with Roasted Hatch Chile Vinaigrette

September is Pile on the Produce month, sponsored by Klondike Brands Potatoes. Not only do I bring you a delicious recipe today, but I also offer you an opportunity for a giveaway of goodies sponsored by the folks at Klondike.

Potato Salad Hatch Chile Vinaigrette

Potato salad with sweet and spicy hatch chile vinaigrette

And not only do I offer you a giveaway opportunity this week, but they have graciously offered to give away a prize pack each week for the month of September to one of my readers! Woo hoo! More on that later in the post.

Pile on the Produce promotes not only using potatoes in your recipes but incorporating at least two other produce items as well to create healthy meal choices. Consider it mix-and-match time in the produce section of the store. Let your creative juices flow!

Boy has my mind reeled with ideas since the folks at Klondike contacted me. So many recipes to concoct! However, since you can still find hatch chiles at the market, I opted to start with a dish that incorporates that little kick from those guys. Using my Hatch Chile Cookbook from Melissa’s Produce, I tried their  Potatoes with Roasted Hatch Chile Vinaigrette.

Oh my. This vinaigrette sure heats up the mouth. Probably the roasted hatch chiles mixed in with the potatoes added to the heat. Next time I’m going to cut back a bit on chile usage, which I’ll reflect in the recipe below.

Anyhow, the recipe involves oven-roasted potatoes (yum), caramelized onions, garlic, and roasted hatch chiles. I also tossed in some green beans since we had some on hand. My mom used to frequently make a side dish with boiled green beans and boiled potatoes, so I knew it would work.

The roasted hatch chile vinaigrette steals the show, though. The sweetness from the rice vinegar and sugar (I used a sugar substitute) help to balance the heat from the chiles. Very unusual vinaigrette with a sweet heat.

Although the recipe calls for baby dutch potatoes, I used the creamy Klondike Rose potatoes and cut them into chunks, which worked out just fine.

If you want a side dish that provides an unique tasty sensation, give this  Potatoes with Hatch Chile Vinaigrette a try. And I bet it would work to flavor lots of other veggie sides as well.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Okay, now on to the Pile on the Produce giveaway details. The folks at Klondike Brands have generously offered to give away a prize pack to one lucky reader of this blog each week during the month of September, “which will include goodies like a cookbook and potato preparation and cooking items.” I received a copy of the cookbook to test out some recipes, and it is chock full of yummilicious ideas. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the recipes in there.

One lucky winner will be randomly chosen for this week’s giveaway, which begins today, Monday, Sept. 2nd and will end Sunday, Sept. 8th at midnight PST.

Also, click on over to the Klondike Brands Facebook Page for some more recipe ideas, or follow them on Twitter, where you can also enter to win a prize package.

Klondike Potatoes

HOW TO ENTER

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post and answer the question:

“What is your favorite potato dish?”

You can receive up to TWO additional entries to win by doing the following:

1. Subscribe to Scrumptious and Sumptuous using the sign up button in the top right sidebar. Come back and let me know you’ve subscribed in an additional comment on this post.

2. Become a fan of Scrumptious and Sumptuous on Facebook (if anyone is techie-challenged like me, that means click the “Like” button when you view  my page, which I just created, by the way!). Come back and let me know you became a fan in an additional comment on this post.

Klondike Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes with Roasted Hatch Chile Vinaigrette

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INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large) Klondike rose potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided (1 1/2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp.)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onions (1/2 of one large onion)
  • 1/4-1/2 pound (1-2 medium-large) roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and chopped Hatch chiles

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sugar (or substitute 3 tbsp. Erythritol)
  • 1 large Hatch Chile (1/8 pound) roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Roasting the potatoes: Place cut potatoes on a baking sheet, piled in center. Add minced garlic to pile, then drizzle with 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil. Use hands to toss and mix, coating all potatoes with oil. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Generously salt and pepper the potatoes, then bake for 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Allow to cool.
  3. To prepare green beans: Rinse green beans. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Either boil or steam until tender-firm. Remove from heat and submerge in an ice bath to halt cooking.
  4. To caramelize the onions: Julienne (see video how to) the onion, then saute over medium heat for about 15 minutes in 1 tbsp. olive oil, stirring occasionally. As onions begin to soften and brown slightly, continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Onions should darken to a deep brown, meaning they have caramelized and intensified in flavor. (Alternatively, just use 1/2 cup of previously crockpot caramelized onions that have been frozen and thawed–perfect for recipes like this one!)
  5. Remove pan from heat; stir in the chopped Hatch Chiles.
  6. To make the vinaigrette: In the bowl of a food processor, add the vinegar, sugar, roughly chopped Hatch Chile, and garlic. Turn processor to pulse while slowly drizzling in the oil to emulsify the dressing (that means to combine the ingredients until they create a creamy texture). Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The ingredients can easily be whisked together by hand; just mince the chiles first.)
  7. To assemble the salad: Gently toss together the potatoes, green beans, and caramelized onions/chile. Pour vinaigrette over salad, gently toss to coat, and serve warm or at room temperature.

SOURCE: adapted from Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

My garden has three stunted squash plants. Since May. They grew about 8 inches high and refused to grow anymore. Nor have they succumbed to perishing. I don’t get it. Last year’s zucchini plant grew for months and months and months. I even tried a second round of plants this year and same situation: stunted growth.

Hence, we’ve had no zucchini dishes this season. However, since I had quite the abundance the past couple of years and tried numerous recipes and since squash season is in full bloom and since I’ve had quite a few people subscribe to the blog (welcome all!), I thought I’d share my collection. Just click the link below the photos to view the posts/recipes.

How do you like to cook zucchini?

Zucchini Recipe Roundup

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

Pesto and Roasted Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Zucchini Frittata

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (unbelievably moist and delicious)

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Muffins

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini & Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini and Carrot Slaw with Asian Dressing

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Zucchini Cheese Bread

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Zucchini in Tomato Sauce

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Melt

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Fries

Fried Rice

FriedRice2

Got leftover rice? Use it for fried rice. You can load up this dish with all kinds of healthy veggie options and even add some protein in the form of chicken or shrimp to bulk it up. It’s super easy to make. Just use cold rice, otherwise you’ll end up with a big, gloppy mess. Ever since I made this and fell in love with both its simplicity and potpouri of flavors, whenever we have rice with dinner, I purposely make an extra large batch just to have leftovers so I can make fried rice. By the way, I love to have fried rice with the Orange-Glazed Chicken.

Fried Rice

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 carrots (about 1 cup), peeled and diced (or shredded)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice (freshly cooked rice tends to create globs; use rice that has cooled or leftover rice from another meal)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 ground black or white pepper
  • other options: 1 red bell pepper, diced; 1 cup fresh or frozen corn; 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, or cashews; 2 tbsp. minced cilantro; roasted shrimp or diced cooked chicken…the possibilities are numerous!

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add the eggs; stir until they scramble lightly but not to the point of drying out, about 30 seconds. Remove eggs.
  2. Add remaining 2 tbsp. of the oil to pan, followed by carrots and onion (I finely diced mine using my food processor). Cook until vegetables tenderize a bit, about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in pea, bean sprouts, and green onions, cooking for about 1-3 minutes.
  4. Add rice to pan, stirring to break up clumps.
  5. Stir in soy sauce, salt, and pepper, cooking until warmed through.
  6. Stir in eggs.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats via Tide and Thyme; Kitchn

Avocado, Cheese, & Tomato Toastettes (and my Camp Blogaway Experience)

AvocadoToastettes

I was a virgin again Memorial Day weekend. A Camp Blogaway virgin, that is. I experienced my first food blogging conference and absolutely loved it. For two and a half years, I have plugged away at sharing recipes, growing as a home cook, and moving into the DIY food world. During that time, my brain has churned with thoughts: Why do I blog? What do I want out of this? Do I want to expand blogging to make this a money-making venture? What are my goals? Do I have any goals? What in the world does all this mean to me? At this point of my brain overload, I always near explosion. So when I learned about Camp Blogaway, I marked it on my calendar and made sure to sign up. I needed to gain some knowledge and figure out some answers.

I have a ton to share about Camp. I don’t even know where to begin without making this a novel, so let me just bullet a few memories and thoughts floating around in my mind:

  • comaraderie–amazing, amazing, amazing! How can it be anything else when you are hanging around other people who share a love and passion for anything food-related?
  • networking opportunities–from other local (and not-so-local) bloggers to publishers to publicity reps to sponsors to just plain ol’ really nice, fun people
  • intimacy & environment–tucked away in the San Bernardino mountains, surrounded by the peacefulness of nature, with only about 100 other bloggers–you really get the chance to connect and form friendships and feel a part of this food community
  • swag bag–overflowing with tons and tons and tons of food-related items: cooking gadgets, baking goodies, food items, recipe books, coupons for more free goodies…I felt like a kid on Christmas morning with an abundance of gifts to unwrap and squeal over with delight…plus, I have mega new goodies to experiment with in my kitchen
  • knowledge–about photographing food, about writing cookbooks, about public relations, about organizing your time, about social networking, about turning a profit…so much knowledge…I will need loads of time to process it all
  • hiking–in the cool, early morning air to clear the brain cells and make room for the day’s bounty of knowledge
  • wine tasting–wine and crackers and cheese and fruit…such a lovely way to pass the time before dinner, especially surrounded by tall pine trees and the serenity of nature and the company of new friends
  • food–yep, lots of it…and fairly tasty, too

Honestly, the best part about the entire experience involved the people I met, the relationships formed, and the friendships that blossomed. As a blogger, I tend to sit in front of my computer screen typing away about my experiences of clanking around in the kitchen–both of which can be solitary–so I loved the real social connections afforded by Camp Blogaway.

Did I get some answers to all those thoughts churning around in my brain? Still working on that, but I realized that for now I’m happy with my blog as a hobby and watching it grow slowly. I’m not in a hurry to push this along into anything bigger for right now. I’d much rather play in the kitchen, cranking out dishes of delight, and try my hand at even more DIY food projects–and of course, continue to share all my experiments with you.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have more to share. I have recipes to test and hopefully share their success stories, a few goodies to give away, cookbooks to tell you about, products to highlight, and tons of fabulous blogs to give some Link Love. Right now, I’m still processing but had to share a bit about my virgin experience.

And of course, since this blog centers around sharing recipes, let me pass along one of the camp food items that I had to recreate right away (and name myself, which is not my creative forte, so forgive the lame title):

Avocado, Cheese, & Tomato Toastettes

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 loaf of french bread
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt (use more or less, depending on your tastes)
  • several slices of swiss cheese
  • 1 small tomato
  • optional: caramelized onions

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle seasoned salt over avocados and mash until small chunks remain.
  2. Slice bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. (I like to cut bread diagonally to make bread slices larger and more aesthetically appealing. By the way, I used a baguette but found the bread too hard; a softer french bread would work better.)
  3. Spread mashed avocados onto slices of bread  Top with a slice of cheese cut to fit the size of the bread, a slice of tomato, and a few strings of caramelized onions.
  4. Broil in oven for a couple minutes, until cheese melts. Keep an eye on the oven so the toastettes don’t burn!
  5. Serve and enjoy. By the way, this is particularly scrumptious with a bowl of tomato basil soup.

SOURCE: inspired by (actually an imitation of) a meal at Camp Blogaway 2013

Cauliflower, Potato, & Cheddar Gratin

CauliflowerPotCheese

Not done with cauliflower recipes yet! One more plant has a giant head still growing, so more recipes to tackle and share in the coming days.

When I stumbled upon this particular recipe, I knew I had to give it a try–mainly because our backyard explosion of cauliflower needed some variety of cooking. However, we also love potatoes and we love cheddar cheese, so it sounded like a perfect dish to explore.

I learned from this combo of ingredients that thyme complements cauliflower. That’s how I knew the Cauliflower Frittata recipe I posted last week would work out well, too, because it also uses thyme.

The original title for this dish uses the word “bake” rather than “gratin,” but somewhere in my mind the word “gratin” popped up. I looked up the meaning: it’s actually a French cooking technique in which food cooked in a shallow dish is topped with browned bread crumbs, grated cheese, or both (along with some egg and/or butter). The dish is then baked to form a golden crust. You learn something new everyday, huh? Hence, I renamed the recipe.

The gratin includes a combo of ingredients I would not have thought of on my own, yet I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. So now I have a new way to cook up cauliflower rather than our previous dull method of simply steaming it.

CauliflowerPotatoCheese

Cauliflower, Potato, & Cheddar Gratin

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 head small cauliflower (about 2 pounds), sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray or butter six 12-ounce gratin dishes or a 2-quart casserole dish or even a 9×13 baking pan.
  2. Peel potatoes. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place in large pot and cover with cold, salted water until water is two inches above potatoes. Bring to a boil.
  3. While pot is coming to a boil, slice cauliflower into 1/2-inch thick slices. When potatoes begin to boil, add cauliflower, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 10 more minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and cauliflower is tender yet still crisp.
  4. Drain water from pot and allow potatoes and cauliflower to cool for several minutes.
  5. Divide the potatoes and cauliflower among the gratin dishes, followed by a sprinkle of pepper and thyme and then cheese. If you use a single dish, create a couple of layers of the potatoes and cauliflower with the pepper, thyme, and cheese.
  6. Pour broth over the potatoes and cauliflower and cheese. Dot with butter.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Garnish with additional thyme, if desired.

(I just had a thought: some bread crumbs sprinkled on top would make a heavenly crunch addition!)

SOURCE: Rachel Cooks via Everyday Food

Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Pardon my absence. I’ve been swamped the past couple weeks with canning the mega pounds of tomatoes from my garden (making salsa, tomato sauce, and tomato basil soup as well as canning whole tomatoes). I’ve also spent time preparing my classroom and lessons for the new school year. So sad to say goodbye to another summer…boo hoo.

But during all these busy days, I have managed to make one of my favorite summer dishes and finally take a picture of it for the blog. I’ve actually made this numerous times this summer but always devour it before I remember to snap a shot.

Please don’t be turned off by the unusual combination of ingredients in this dish. Truthfully, I don’t go for a lot of odd combos, but the day I saw this one, my mind was open to trying something new and different.

First of all, if you haven’t tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), put it on your list. It’s a tiny seed that expands a bit when cooked and has a slightly nutty taste. It’s kind of like a grain but really it’s in the seed category. It’s also highly nutritious from what I’ve read,  high in protein. I’ve enjoyed it all summer long in several recipes, often swapping it out for rice or other types of grains. By the way, I buy my quinoa from the bulk bins at Sprouts or Whole Foods–much more affordable that way.

Now, I wouldn’t think to mix watermelon with quinoa–or any other grain or seed for that matter. It just seems so odd. Nor would I think to mix feta cheese with watermelon. My basic food mind just doesn’t work like that. But it was a hot summer day when I saw the picture and the combo sounded healthy and refreshing. So I tried it. And not only did I like it, but I ended up loving this recipe.

You get a slightly nutty flavor and a soft chew from the quinoa. You get a refreshing crunch and light flavor from the watermelon. And my-oh-my, the slight saltiness of feta complements the crisp watermelon. Who knew?! Oh, and the parsley provides an earthy, lemony flavor. Yes, it’s a party going on with all these flavors, and it’s a party you don’t want to miss. I’m just sorry I haven’t found time to share this sooner, but at least I got it posted before watermelon season ends!

Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Feta

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INGREDIENTS

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion, such as vidalia (I leave this out)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I’ve also used flax oil)
  • salt and pepper

Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (start with 1/2 cup dried quinoa)
  • 1 1/2 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 3-4 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced (I’ve tried cilantro and basil but like parsley best)
  • lemon zest, to taste

DIRECTIONS

To Prepare Quinoa

  1. Measure out 1/2 cup dried quinoa. Place it in a mesh strainer and vigorously rinse it under cool running water for a couple of minutes. This will rid it of the outer coating that can cause a bitter taste otherwise. Drain.
  2. Place quinoa in a saucepan with 1 cup water and bring to a rolling boil. Lower heat to lowest setting, cover saucepan, and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. After 15 minutes, turn off heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes, then gently fluff with a fork.

Note: Basically, quinoa is cooked with a 1:2 ratio of seed:water and will triple in amount when cooked. I always make extra; it keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator.

To Prepare Dressing

  1. Combine vinegar, lemon juice, and onion in a small bowl or food processor. Mix well. Add olive oil and whisk well to emulsify the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Note: Zest the lemon first since you will need it for the salad.)

To Prepare Salad

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, diced watermelon, crumbled feta cheese, and minced parsley. Toss to mix.
  2. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Drizzle with dressing and toss to mix. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats; quinoa directions adapted from The Kitchn