Zucchini, Grape and Cucumber Quinoa

10 Apr

When I think Spring, I think fresh fruits and veggies.  Without realizing it, I simplify all of my recipes to feature the food, instead of covering it in breading and spices.  This Zucchini, Grape and Cucumber Quinoa is the perfect fresh Spring meal.  It’s a light simple side for dinner, that would pair nicely with grilled chicken or seafood.  I also take it in for lunch; it’s perfect served at room temperature or chilled right from the fridge.

Zucchini, Grape and Cucumber Quinoa (2 servings)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 a small zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 of a large cucumber, chopped
  • 2 tbs feta cheese, crumbled
  • 12 red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper

Bring your chicken stock and quinoa to a boil in a medium pot.  Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover to continue cooking for 12-15 minutes.  You want to make sure your stock is absorbed.  If you’ve never worked with quinoa, it will be cooked when the center is almost translucent and there’s a ring around the grain.  It’s delightfully chewy, and you can use it a million ways.  It’s also filled with protein and very filling.

While your quinoa is cooking, chop up your zucchini, cucumber and grapes.  Once your quinoa is finished, stir in salt and pepper, and add your grapes and veggies.  Then stir in feta cheese and serve.  Simple, huh?  I think the raw veggies give this dish a nice fresh taste.  The grapes add a bit of sweetness, and the feta is salty, and provides a nice balance.  If you need to turn up the flavor, try adding some lemon or fresh herbs.  I think parsley or dill would be delicious in this dish. 

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Oatmeal Cream Pies and Easter Feasts

8 Apr

Happy Easter all!  When I was a kid, we would always get dressed up and go over to my grandparent’s house for an egg hunt, and afterwards eat deli ham, deviled eggs, and drink fizzy green punch (it’s a McG family thing-don’t ask).  Then my Mom took over, and turned Easter into one of my favorite feast days.  Now I can look forward to fresh seafood, tomato and burrata salads, spinakopita, Maryland deviled-eggs (Old Bay of course)!

I’m convinced my Mom can cook anything, and man can she create a table-scape.  She’s just not that into baking, which is where I come in.  This year, I wanted to find a recipe that would appeal to kids and grown up kids alike.  Something sweet, portable, and to appease the non-chocoholics in my life.  I bring you my take on Oatmeal Cream Pies just in time for Easter!

Oatmeal Cream Pies (makes about 40 cookies, 20 sandwiches)

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 12 oz Betty Crocker Whipped Fluffy White Frosting

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix the oats, flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together with a spoon.

In a large bowl, mix the softened butter and brown sugar with a hand-held mixer for about 2 mins.  Add your eggs and vanilla to the wet mixture, and mix on medium speed until all of the ingredients are combined.  Slowly incorporate the flour and oat dry mixture into the wet ingredients, I added a quarter of the mixture at a time.  Combine dry and wet ingredients with your mixer on low until completely blended.  Stir in your raisins with the spoon.

Ok decision time!  Large or small cream pies?  I say go big or don’t eat, so went with the large size.  If so, put heaping tablespoons of the batter onto a silpat (can also use parchment paper) on top of your baking sheet.  If you want the smaller hand-held variety cookies, use a regular cereal spoon to dole out your batter.  Make sure to leave at least an inch to 1 1/2 inch between batter.  It will spread out while cooking.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for 14-16 minutes, rotating your cookie sheet half way through to ensure evenly-browned goodness.

Let your cookies cool on a wire rack for 5-10 mins.  Once they are cooled, use a spoon to spread about a tbs of the frosting between two cookies.  You guys will love these!  They have a melt in your mouth brown-sugary goodness quality and are easy to transport today’s Easter feast.

Spring Shrimp Easy Peasy Pasta

2 Apr

SPRING!!!!  I’m just getting back in town from a spring break of sorts.  I had the most incredible trip to Portugal with the boy (posts forthcoming).  The whole time we had perfect weather and I was dreading our return to gray and cold DC.  Then something wonderful happened!  We landed to temps in the 60s and 70s, and I realized Spring arrived right with me.  I felt my creative juices bloom and I’ve been itching to write ever since. 

Here’s a quick and easy “peasy” pasta just in time for warmer weather.  Enjoy!

Spring Shrimp and Pea Pasta

  • 1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1/4 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 fist fulls of linguine (obvs not an exact science)

First put a small pot of water on high heat to boil.  Add pasta and cook at a boil for 7-8 mins. 

In the meantime, heat 1 tbs of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add 1 tbs of garlic and saute for a minute.  Season shrimp with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and then add to the pan of garlic.  Shrimp cooks up quickly at 1-2 minutes per side.  Wait until the color turns to a pale pink and tails start to curl, then flip onto the other side.  Once the shrimp is finished cooking, transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add frozen peas to the same pan you used for the shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes.  This will give peas the same delish garlic and coating. 

Drain the pasta and transfer shrimp and peas to pot for the time being.  Heat store-bought pasta sauce (or you can make your own) in shrimp pan for 2 minutes over medium.  Pour pasta, shrimp and pea mixture into sauce and toss.  Let sit for an additional minute and then transfer to a bowl to enjoy.

Fridge Fritatta

8 Feb

Tonight I bring you the second recipe in my 5 day quest to create meals and use up all of the ingredients in my fridge.  Plus-I am about to share an easy and unbelievably delicious meal with you.  Minus-you will seriously need to get your cholesterol checked after consuming this meal.  This meaty fritatta is not for those on a diet, or frankly the faint of heart.  You’ll need a serious appetite to put this down.  Dare I say this would also be an ideal hangover fix.

Fridge Fritatta

  • 8 strips of bacon, reserving the grease (I know, I warned you!)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 lb bag of red mini potatoes with their skin on
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 tsp pepper, plus sprinkle
  • 1 tsp salt, plus sprinkle
  • 1 tsp paprika, plus sprinkle

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Fill a large pot with water and set on high to boil.  At the same time put several strips of bacon in a deep pan/shallow pot to cook.  Check your bacon after 2-3 minutes and flip.

While your bacon is cooking, rinse your potatoes and start to cut them into very thin slices.  I’d recommend using a mandolin on a fine setting to cut them quickly and thinly.  If you are like me and didn’t have one handy (read already packed),  carefully cut the potatoes into thin slices using a sharp knife.  After you finish slicing the potatoes, drop into the boiling water and cook at a boil for 2 minutes.  Your potatoes will not be cooked through.  Don’t worry they will see the inside of an oven soon!

Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve your bacon grease (yum) off the heat on a back burner.  Sprinkle a little salt, pepper and paprika in the grease.  Afterwards drain your potatoes and set to the side.

In a large bowl lightly scramble your eggs.  Combine eggs with cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and remaining tsps of paprika, pepper and salt.  Stir until combined, then add potatoes and bacon, tearing it into tiny pieces.  Gently stir all of these ingredients together and pour into your bacon grease in the pan.  Put entire pan in the oven and cook for 20-23 minutes at 350 degrees.

Carefully remove fritatta from the oven using an oven mitt as your pan and handle will be very hot.  Your fritatta should be set and should not move if you give it a little jiggle.  Let it sit for 10 minutes to cool and gently flip it over onto a large plate.  Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Greasy goodness!  This was really good and I lucked out with the stuff in my fridge.  You can substitute chorizo, take out the cheese, and add in caramelized onions if you want to make a traditional style Spanish torta.

Moving Out Bacon Mac & Cheese

6 Feb

Today starts the first day of my moving out meals!  I’m moving apartments this Saturday, and will be writing recipes that help me use up the food in my kitchen (read allow me to procrastinate instead of pack).  

My first recipe of the week also happens to be my favorite meal.  Tonight I made a creamy Mac & Cheese, and topped it with crunchy and salty bacon.  I just ate a plate of it, and already my mouth is watering at the thought of leftovers. 

Moving Out Bacon Mac & Cheese (serves 3-4)

  • 6 tbs butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1 1/3 cup Mexican blend of cheeses (includes cheddar, Monterrey jack and Colby cheese)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground mustard
  • sprinkle of nutmeg
  • 4 cups dry pasta like gemelli or penne
  • 4 strips of bacon

In a large saucepan melt butter over medium low heat.  Add onions and saute for 3 mins.  Whisk in flour and let cook over medium low heat for 2 minutes.  Add a sprinkle of pepper.  Your quick rue should look like the picture below.

Put a pot of water on to boil. 

While the water is coming up to temperature, gradually whisk in the Mexican blend of cheeses to your onion and butter mixture until smooth.  Reduce the heat on your cheese mixture and slowly whisk in a cup of the milk to the mixture.  Add the salt, ground mustard, and the remaining pepper to the cheese mixture and stir.  Now gradually whisk in the mozzarella cheese and remaining milk.  The cheese mixture be will thick and pale in color.  Add a dash of nutmeg to your sauce and turn down the heat to low.  Stir sauce periodically as you prepare the rest of the meal.  

Add pasta to your boiling water and cook for about 6-8 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking, spray some non-stick spray on a pan and throw on your bacon over medium high heat.  The bacon should take about 4-5 minutes to crisp up.  Transfer bacon to a paper towel-covered plate.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it directly into the cheese sauce.  Stir until combined, then crumble crisp bacon over top.

This was the ideal dinner.  The onions and nutmeg gave the mac & cheese a hint of sweetness, the cheese and ground mustard added a nice tang, the pepper gave it a hint of heat, and the bacon some salty crunch.  Tonight my procrastination was rewarded.  Remind me of that tomorrow, when I’m buried in boxes!

Luxurious Chocolate Chip Brownies for Liz

30 Jan

Have you ever had a celebrity crush?  You know, the kind where you will watch (or dvr) every single episode, movie, or interview?  While this will surprise none of you, I find that most of my “crushes” tend to involve food personalities.  And right now I cannot get enough of Nigella Lawson.  She is effortlessly witty, and manages to create sumptuous and stress-free recipes. 

The inspiration for this recipe starts with premium grey sea salt and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I was dying to use both of these in a birthday treat for my co-worker Liz, and knew Nigella would steer me in the right direction.  The following recipe is tasty and muss-free.

Chocolate Chip Brownies with Grey Sea Salt (based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson)

  • 1 1/4 sticks of butter
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups Godiva Dark Hot Chocolate mix
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of grey sea salt, plus 1 tsp
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chips
  • 1 tbs powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium-sized pot, gradually melt butter over low heat.  Once the butter is melted, add in the brown sugar and gently stir until both ingredients are combined.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and hot chocolate mix.  Add a pinch of the grey sea salt, and gradually add the dry ingredients to the pot of butter and sugar. 

Once all of the dry ingredients are combined with the wet mixture remove pot from the heat.  At this point your mixture will look a bit grainy and dry. 

In a another small bowl, whisk together the four eggs and the vanilla extract.  I’ll tell you one more time to take your pot off the heat and switch to a cool burner.  Now, pour your egg mixture into the pot and incorporate all of the ingredients.  If you did not remove the pot from the burner you may end up with an unappealing scramble at this point.  Add in your mini chips and stir until just mixed.

Line a 9 x 13 dish with foil, making sure to either spray or grease the foil with butter.  This will prevent the brownies from sticking to your dish (good one Nigella!).  Pour your chocolatey goodness into the dish and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  It’s ok if these brownies are a bit gooey since we all know they taste best this way.  If you like yours minus the gu, just cook them a few minutes longer until a toothpick comes out clean.  Sprinkle with remaining sea salt and powdered sugar.  You can leave this step off, but why not go for gold and enjoy the extra flavor?  Liz is worth it and so are you!

Happy early birthday Liz!   Also, don’t hate me for keeping a few “reserve” brownies.  I simply couldn’t wait an entire day to sample them!  Picture me sneaking samples from the fridge Nigella-style ;).

Basic Banana Bread

18 Jan

I love bananas don’t you?  Kinda sweet, filling and healthy.  Unfortunately, I rarely get through an entire bunch before they start to look like this.

Basic Banana Bread

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg beaten with a fork
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mash the melted butter and bananas together.  It’s ok to still have a few lumps but keep em small!  Afterwards beat one egg (I just used a fork to scramble) in a small bowl.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla to your banana mixture.  Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the mixture and stir.  Add in your flour and incorporate it into the rest of the batter.  Now butter a 4×8 loaf pan and pour batter into it.  Bake the batter at 350 degrees for one hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of your bread. 

Waste not, want bread!  Plus it just happens to look absolutely adorable in my new cake pedestal.