Asparagus and Goat Cheese Salad

Hi everyone! Long time, no post. Sorry to those of you who read my blog often – it’s been one heck of a month over here. I’ve been relatively busy during the week with concerts and school wrap-up…and then we’ve been go-go-going almost every weekend (minus the one where I stayed home on a Friday with a stomach flu). There hasn’t been a lot of time for culinary inspiration; my Saved folder on Feedly has grown immensely and the Cooking Light magazines have piled up a bit. However, I’m happy to say that I have 12 actual days left until the end of the school year, and 15 until I jump back in at the bakery for the summer šŸ™‚ Things are starting to slow down…and fewer things are better than slowing down for summer šŸ™‚

Last weekend I had the pleasure of flying down to North Carolina to see my brother-in-law (and now my new sister-in-law) get married in Durham. It was a gorgeous wedding and it was great to see so much family and friends (we stopped in Clayton Sunday night to visit some good friends of ours); better yet, we managed to bringĀ Ā spring weather back to Northern Michigan! I had a lot of time in airports and vehicles to catch up on reading blog posts, magazines, and even a book on my Kindle…glorious. On our flight back north, I am came across this recipe, and knew that it would be the perfect dish to make that evening to help us ‘detox’ from our weekend. It was a snap to make, and Mike & I both really enjoyed it.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Salad

adapted from Cooking Light (May 2014)

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 2 cups mixed baby lettuce/spinach greens
  • 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup water
  • rind of 1 lemon, julienned
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon (use the one that you skinned)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • another sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 5 tspĀ olive oil
  1. CombineĀ the teaspoon of olive oil, the asparagus, and a dash of salt and pepper inĀ large bowlĀ and toss to coat. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagusĀ and cook until the asparagus is lightly charred.Ā Remove from heat andĀ set aside.
  2. In a measuring cup, pour in the water. Microwave forĀ 2 minutes or until water just boils. Add the lemonĀ rind; let it stand 20 seconds. DrainĀ the water and reserve theĀ rind.Ā 
  3. In a small saucepan, add theĀ rind, orange juice, and sugar. Whisk together, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the mixture reduces toĀ about 3 tablespoons.
  4. Combine the wine, lemon juice, mustard,Ā salt & pepperĀ in a smallĀ bowl; stir with a whisk. Gradually add the five teaspoonsĀ of oliveĀ s oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in orange juice mixture.
  5. In a large bowl, layer the lettuces with the asparagus. Top with the cheese, pecans and herbs. Drizzle the dressing over the top; toss if desired.

 

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I’m actually relatively new to the use of cast-iron skillets. I’ve had them in my cupboards for a long time, but wasn’t exactly sure how to use them other than over an open flame when camping. So, shoring up the asparagus in the skillet was a very easy tech week that I can use again and again, especially on nights where I don’t want to fire up the grill. I must note that I also used the cast iron toast the pecans; another technique that I’ve never tried. They were amazing on the salad and if you are not allergic, make sure that you include them when you make this.

If you love asparagus as much as we do, then I highly recommend this salad. The combination of asparagus and goat cheese is not one that I would’ve thought of before, but I really enjoyed the combination of flavors. And of course, homemade dressing beats anything out of the bottle, any day.

I’m really excited to add this to my repertoire of salads!

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

Chicken parmesan has been one of my most favorite foods for as long as I can remember. Serve it with a salad, some spaghetti, and maybe some garlic bread or breadsticks…yum.Ā Then again, I’m also Italian. How could I not like this dish? šŸ˜‰ It’s another one of those comfort foods that I hold near and dear to my heart. And, with the weather as cold as it’s been (I sawĀ -26 on my thermometer on the way to work. WTF), you all know that I just can’t get enough of comfort food.

But, I’m away from my home anywhere from 8 to 15 hours a day – depending on what band event is going on – and sadly, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to really put some love into weeknight cooking.

That’s where this recipe comes in. It’s one where you can make it ahead of time on a lazy Sunday, or mix up in 10 minutes. Ā You can fix it, and forget about it for a little while – but still tastes good (unlike some of the meals that my crockpot has been overcooking lately). I believe it put it all together, threw it in the oven, and worked on laundry and grading for a while.

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

adapted from What’s Cookin’ Chicago?

  • 1 lb ground chicken (ground turkey is okay, too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced onion (the dried kind)
  • salt & pepper (just a dash of each)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pasta sauce
  • shredded Italian cheese blend (mozzarella is okay as well)
  • minced/dried parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Lightly grease loaf pan with cooking spray & set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the meat, egg, breadcrumbs, spices (except the parsley), and Parmesan cheese. Mix until combined.
  3. Place the mixture into the greased loaf pan & press down to make a loaf. Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and top with the Italian blend cheese and parsley; put back into the oven and bake until the cheese is nice and bubbly.

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I paired this with a green salad and some spaghetti, mixed up with some garlic scape pesto we had in the freezer – which, may I add, froze really well and was so wonderful to thaw and use in the dead of winter. Our house smelledĀ amazing as this was cooking.bNext time I’m going to make a few batches of this and freeze it, so we have some quick meals for busy nights. Since I have that lovely deep freezer, I have plenty of room! šŸ™‚ The instructions for baking from frozen should be on the original post.

Enjoy! Stay warm!

Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta

Greetings! I have to say, thank you to all of you who have come visited the blog while I’ve been a little, um,Ā preoccupied with work. Granted, we had two snow days last week (one of which was on my birthday so it was the best day ever), but I definitely hit the ground running when I came back from Christmas break with pep band and exam preparations. Mike was in charge of cooking a few times as my ETA from school was after 8:00pm. It’sĀ so nice to not have to worry about cooking dinner some nights – as much as I love to do it!

You know it’s an awesome recipe when your husband texts you that the dinner he made (and the recipe that I picked) was “really good”. šŸ˜‰ It was a nice change from all the visits to restaurant dining, epic grilled cheese, fantastic family dinners, and alcohol consumed during our visit to Cleveland. Even better, it’s a meatless meal.

Shallot, Spinach & Goat Cheese Pasta

adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 8 oz pasta (we used fusilli)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • salt & crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 12 oz (1 package) fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 log (~4 oz) goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over low heat and add the oil. Add the shallots & salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try not to let the shallots get too dark.
  3. Add the brown sugar and cook for about 5 more minutes. By this time, the water should be boiling and the pasta should go in.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and stir constantly until the spinach wilts down.
  5. In a small saucepan (we’re using 3 burners, what?), over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk constantly until the butter starts to brown. As soon as you see brown bits start to appear, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Whisk for another 15-20 seconds. Whisk in the minced garlic and keep mixing for another 30 seconds.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the large skillet – where the spinach & shallots are. Toss to combine, then add the garlic brown butter and toss to coat. Add the goat cheese and stir; sprinkle pasta with crushed red pepper and serve immediately.
Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

I absolutely loved this dish. Granted, I didn’t get to eat it right away since I was at school, but the leftovers were fantastic. The original recipe says that it should take about 30 minutes to make, but I can’t vouch for it since I didn’t make it, and I doubt that my husband kept track šŸ˜‰ One of the ingredients that surprised me the most was the brown sugar; it addedĀ just enough sweetness without it being too sweet. It really complimented the shallots and the brown butter nicely. Again, this is a meatless dish – but truthfully, it didn’t need any whatsoever. There are so many flavors going on that the dish kept my attention from first to last bite.

This is an absolutely wonderful dish with which to kick off 2014.

Shared at Frugal by Choice, Cheap By Necessity’s “Homemade Mondays”

Bacon Bombs

‘Tis the season, everyone. We’ve had a continuous snowfall over the past few days, holiday concerts are abound, and I have yet to really make a dent in our Christmas gift list. The other night we had a few friends over after our town open house (where they close the streets, stores stay open late, the steel drum band plays, and everyone walks around eating, drinking, and being merry). Ā Afterward we had a few friends over and snacked while we played a board game or two. Our appetizers included Bacon Bombs – one of my husband’s most favorite finger foods to make and to eat. And I’ll admit that it’s not very good for your waistline…but they do taste awesome!

Bacon Bombs

adapted from Paula Deen (surprised?)

  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1 wedge Parmesan or blue cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1 lb thin-sliced bacon, cut in half
  1. Preheat your oven to 250*.
  2. Place a piece of cheese on a Ritz cracker and wrap snugly with a piece of bacon. Place on a broiler pan (so the grease drains). Repeat as necessary.
  3. Bake in the oven for two hours, or until the bacon is done. Remove from oven and drain any excess grease on paper towels.
Bacon. Cheese. Ritz crackers. Yeah, buddy.

Bacon. Cheese. Ritz crackers. Yeah, buddy.

I did forget to take a picture of the final product (oops!) so I apologize for the ugly photo of my lower oven.Ā We used Parmesan for these ‘bombs’, as we were having a small gathering and didn’t want to make too many. As you can see by the picture, my husband didn’t use a broiler pan, so our bombs ended up a bit greasier than I would have liked. I am glad, however, that he did use foil so that cleanup wasn’t as obnoxious as it could be (I hate washing pots and pans). Leftovers were stored in a plastic container, in the fridge, and only lasted 2-3 days.Ā 

One of the things that I like about this recipe, other than bacon & cheese as ingredients, as that we could put it in the oven and go walk around downtown for a little while. If you’re getting ready for company, you can just set these in the oven, set a timer, and go about preparing other thing and/or cleaning. They’reĀ easy.

Not good for you by any means, but easy andĀ delicious!

Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

With fall and cooler temperatures comes one big request in our dinner rotation: comfort food. I was raised on Kraft macaroni & cheese, so I don’t mind eating it at all. My husband, though, prefers the real thing 2:1, so I need to make it from scratch every once in a while (in his defense, he will oblige to eat it my way; Kraft macaroni & cheese with hot dogs).

Gina over at Skinnytaste does a fantastic job (as I’m sure many of you know) with lightening up recipes & still making them taste good. She truly doesn’t disappoint with this one, either. I used broccoli from my CSA, which really added something fresh to this dish. Being that we want to eat more vegetables, but have our mac ‘n cheese and eat it too…this was a great remedy and compromise.

Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 12 oz ‘healthy’ elbow pasta (Ronzoli Smart Taste, whole wheat, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (low sodium, or veggie broth works too!)
  • 1 8-oz bag reduced-fat sharp cheddar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets
  • grated parmesan, bread crumbs, & paprika, for topping
  1. In a large pot, cook the pasta & broccoli together until the pasta is al dente (I love this. It saves you a pot!). Meanwhile, spray a casserole dish with some cooking spray & preheat the oven to 375.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion & cook on low for about 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the flour & combine with the butter until a nice roux forms and the mixture is a nice gold color. Add the milk and broth, and whisk; turn the heat up to medium-high until it starts to boil.
  4. Stir consistently until the sauce becomes nice and thick – but do not let it boil over! Add salt & pepper, then stir & remove from heat.
  5. Add the cheese & mix well until the cheese is melted & the mixture is even thicker. Add more salt & pepper if needed. Add the macaroni & broccoli, and mix well.
  6. Pour the mac & cheese into the baking dish, and sprinkle parmesan and breadcrumps on top. Then, add a dash of paprika, too.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, til the top gets a little golden brown.
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Baked healthy deliciousness.

I really liked out this turned out. I know that I didn’t miss the full-fat version very much; this dish had great flavor and I didn’t feel very guilty about eating it. It’s always nice to feel a little indulgent when you’re trying to watch what you eat – especially when all you want is some comfort food.

Cheddar JalapeƱo Bread

This is one of those recipes that I had read about on another blog, and just couldn’t get out of my head for weeks. I knew I had to make it! I love cheese, and I love jalapeƱos…what more could I ask for? I even got to break in the dough hook that I received with my Kitchenaid mixer.

Now granted, this isn’t a good bread for making sandwiches. It’s a good bread to eat for a snack, or alongĀ with a hot bowl of soup or chili – which we did this evening since it feels like October outside (back to perfect weather tomorrow, though!). I also recommend this bread with just a smear of butter/margarine. But, no matter what the weather or way you eat it, it’s pretty darn good.

Cheddar JalapeƱo Bread

adapted from Wit & Vinegar

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 oz sharp cheddar, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium jalapeƱo, deseeded & chopped fine – make sure to wear gloves if you can!
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Grease two 5×9 bread pans (or just the one, like I have)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together your flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. Add the butter and mix well (either with your hands or with your dough hook in your mixer) until the butter is broken up and well-distributed in the flour – kind of like ‘grains of sand’. Add the cheese and jalapeƱo.
  4. Add the buttermilk and mix until it combines – try not to overmix it.
  5. Divide the dough half and place each half in a loaf pan – or just leave the other half of the dough in the bowl. Smooth out the top and etch a few slits into the top.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minute until a nice golden brown.
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Don’t judge a bread by it’s shape. I’ll admit, my loaf is ugly.

Since I only had one loaf pan, I simply let it cool, removed the loaf of bread, sprayed the pan again, and prepared the 2nd loaf; half of which went to our neighbor.

The jalapeƱos in the bread give it some heat every other bite, while the cheddar cheese is also quite pronounced. My bread didn’t turn out very ‘pretty’, as I veered from the recipe a bit. I also used whole wheat flour, as that’s what I had on hand.

I’ll be making this again once soup season is in full swing. Until then, though, I’ll simply enjoy the rest of summer weather and some of this bread to snack on šŸ™‚

CSA 2013 – Week 6

What wacky, wacky weather. Last weekend it felt like fall – thankfully we are back up to perfect summer temperatures; not too hot, not too cold.

This past week was Week 1 of Band Camp – so it was my husband’s job to pick up the CSA (meaning he got to choose our top-off veggies!). I’m glad that the farm is on his route home, so he can take care of things while I am working late – thank you, Hubs šŸ™‚

This week included a nice variety of produce:

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Week 6, with my kitchen ‘helper’, Bandit

  • zucchini
  • beets (top-off)
  • eggplant
  • thyme
  • an onion! (Coveyou grows the best onions)
  • tomatoes (one was a top-off)
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower – it has hues of purple in it
  • green beans
  • a ginormous basil plant, roots and all

Today will be spent playing ‘catch-up’ with making sure our CSA vegetables are processed for canning or the freezer, or ready to go for this week’s meals. This past week we ended up dining out twice – once because our potluck fell through, and the other because it was our 5-year anniversary.

My gift from Hubs

My gift from Hubs

Our tradition for our anniversaries is to stick to the “traditional gift” theme. The traditional gift for the 5-year anniversary (as much of a milestone as it is), isĀ wood. I purchased an oak barrel for my husband – who doesn’t hit at gifts very often, but hinted again and again for a barrel so that he can brew a bourbon beer of some sort.

For me, my husband purchased a beautiful bread & oil board, made out of maple. It’s so pretty! He also purchased some wine, cheese, & crackers so that we could break it in before we went out for the evening. We weren’t sure, though, if it was okay to put cheese on it, so we put it on a plate – I’ll have to do some research between now and the next time we plan to use it (which will probably be soon, as we have some leftover cheese in the fridge! Mmm….:-))

Well, it’s off to the store for some grocery shopping before our productive day commences…if this blog seems a little quiet this week, it’s because I ran out of time to schedule posts – it’s Week 2 of Band Camp! Have a lovely Sunday šŸ˜€