Arugula, Goat Cheese and Beet Salad

I recently discovered I love beets and have been putting them in everything I can!  They are a bit difficult to deal with, so if you’ve never made them before be prepared for your kitchen to get a little messy.  And by a little messy, it will practically look like a crime scene.

What I’ve discovered on this little health kick I’ve been on is that I can eat a salad for lunch and feel full if I put the right things in it.  The few times I’ve attempted to eat a salad for lunch in the past have left me feeling faint and disoriented hours later because there was nothing useful in it.  I honestly thought that a salad was a combo of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and shredded carrots.  Maybe a little ranch dressing to make it edible.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  This salad is packed with flavor and nutritional value, so it keeps me full for almost the rest of the day.

Ingredients:

  • arugula
  • roasted beets
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

I didn’t include the amount needed for the ingredients because I think it would be good no matter how much or how little you add of each of the salad parts.  For me, I roasted four beets, but since I was going to the trouble I wish I’d done more.  To roast beets, preheat your oven to 375.  Just wrap them in tin foil and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven and roast for 45-50 minutes.  Allow beets to cool slightly, but peal them while they are still warm to make it easier.  While beets are cooling, mix dressing ingredients. Chop pealed beets into bite-sized pieces and pour half of the dressing over the beets.

Allow the beets to marinate for at least an hour.  Once you are ready to serve the salad, combine arugula, goat cheese, walnuts and beets in a bowl.  I made small servings everyday and stretched this salad into three lunches.  Pour remaining dressing over salad.

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Skinny Sweet Potato Bites

I definitely stole this recipe directly from my boss, but imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

The past week I’ve been trying to eat healthier overall.  I’ve always been fairly healthy, but recently I realized that I could eat macaroni and cheese again after a few years of not being able to tolerate dairy, and let’s just say it got a little out of hand.  I won’t say I was eating it every day, but ….

Anyways, sweet potatoes are incredibly good for you because they are high in fiber and full of the antioxidant beta-carotene.  I wish that I loved sweet potatoes without all the goody, but I need to sweeten them up to make them edible.

The best thing about sweet potatoes is that they are inexpensive.  During the holidays I was able to get them for .39/lb, which is huge considering I usually buy sweet potato fries at over $3 a package and call it a day.  This alternative is not only cheaper, but lower calorie too!  Who can argue with that, especially when everyone is still trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.

My boss at Gregory Paul’s adds poblano peppers to this dish to add a little extra spice!  I didn’t do this today, but it makes them even better!

Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks.  Spread on a cookie sheet.  Pour butter and olive oil over pieces.

Top with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Try to spread ingredients out as evenly as possible.

Bake 1 hour, flipping the pieces half-way through.

Serves: 2

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Apricot, Goat Cheese and Pecan Bites

I have been so incredibly busy lately, but I am still trying to maintain this blog as best I can!  Between school, work and play, I’ve had little time to try new recipes.  On top of that, I am having somewhat of a slump in the kitchen— burning lasagna and baking a turkey upside down (?!?!?) being just two examples of my misadventures this week.  I blame it on the hectic schedule of the holidays!

These little appetizers are almost impossible to mess up, and taste delicious.  Each bite includes all three flavors making the combination perfection.  I can’t take full credit for this recipe.  I work for a caterer who created it, so when I needed something for book club this week, this came to mind.

The trick is to use candied pecans.  Of course, my boss made those himself, but most grocery stores sell them already made.  The other key point is using honey to sweeten the goat cheese.  I saw that they sell goat cheese with honey already in it, so you could technically save yourself a step there too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package dried apricots
  • 1 package candied pecans
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1-2 Tbs. honey

Directions:

Combine the honey and goat cheese.  Place a dollop on top of the apricot.  Put the candied pecan on top.  Could it be any easier?

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Lasagna Roll-ups

I kept seeing this dish on Pinterest and was dying to try it, but I convinced myself it looked too complicated and time-consuming.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I honestly think in some ways it’s easier than the regular lasagna casserole.

The main benefit of this recipe is that you can freeze the leftovers, or you can freeze the rolls before putting them into the oven.  Either way, they turn out great and you get the coveted two meals out of one cooking session.

The other benefit may be just me being picky, but when I’ve made lasagna in the past, the edges get so crispy that they’re hard to chew.  That might be a personal problem with my cooking method, but with these I did not have that issue.

The main thing to pay attention to is letting the noodles dry after boiling.  This takes a little patience, but luckily I had the time to spare this past weekend!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box of lasagna noodles, boiled
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Boil noodles according to package directions.  Allow noodles to dry completely by spreading them out on cookie sheets or wax paper.

Meanwhile, mix ricotta cheese and thawed spinach.

Pour one cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish.  Reserve the rest for topping.

Once noodles have dried, spread ricotta/spinach mixture across.  Roll up like a fruit roll-up!  Place in bottom of casserole dish, making sure the noodle rolls aren’t touching.  Top with remaining tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 covered with foil for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Shepherd’s Pie

This is one of my favorite meals when the weather is getting cool!  It’s so hearty and delicious.  It almost didn’t happen this week.  My friend decided that we were going to do a modified version of the Food Network show Chopped.  He asked my boyfriend to pick out a random ingredient and let us come up with a recipe around it.

Some friends gave my boyfriend some ground venison, so we brought it over to his house as the “mystery ingredient.”  I wanted to make spaghetti bolognese, but I was outnumbered.  In the end I was glad because it couldn’t have been better.

It was a fun game to play too.  The premise of the show is that the contestants are given a basket of food and have to create a dish out of whatever is in it.  Half the time they don’t even know what all the ingredients are (the Rocky Mountain oysters episode comes to mind…)  They end up making appetizer, main dish and dessert, eliminating a contestant with each round.  The one ingredient game tonight was just to see if it worked, but I think it would be fun to have someone else make an entire basket.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. ground lamb or venison
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 2 lb. red potatoes
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.

Saute meat of your choice in a skillet until cooked through (about ten minutes.)  Add carrots, celery and shallot.  Saute until softened.  Add garlic, saute one minute.  Add tomato sauce and red wine.  Stir and allow to simmer while potatoes finish.

Meanwhile, boil red potatoes in a large pot until softened, about twenty minutes.  Drain and mash.  You can add butter if desired, but it’s not necessary.

Place meat mixture in the bottom of a round casserole dish.  Add mashed potatoes to the top.  Top with shredded Parmesan.  Bake at 400 for one hour.  Cheese will be melted, and casserole will be bubbly.

Not a pretty picture… but so tasty!

 

Creamy Lemon Pasta

After a chaotic weekend in downtown Jacksonville for the GA/FL football game, there was nothing I wanted more than comfort food!  My aunt told me about this recipe in an email, and I thought it would be the perfect thing for dinner.

It’s an interesting take on the traditional fettuccine alfredo and originally comes from one of Ruth Reichl’s books.  I wrote about her memoir, Tender at the Bone a few weeks ago and have since read Garlic and Sapphires about her time as the New York Times food critic.  Both were enjoyable reads, and as I mentioned here come with recipes in each chapter.  I changed the recipe slightly and added spinach into the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box fettuccine
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup) melted
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/2 package fresh spinach (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese, as desired

Directions:

Melt butter in a skillet.  Add lemon juice and heavy cream.  Remove from heat, but keep warm.

Prepare pasta al dente.  Stir in cream mixture.  Add reserved pasta water, a little at a time, until sauce is thinned.

Stir in spinach until leaves wilt.  Top with Parmesan.

Dr. Seuss Themed Baby Shower

My best friend is having a baby in December, so we planned a Dr. Seuss themed party for her!  The menu included everything Seuss- from Green Eggs and Ham to Cat and the Hat cupcakes.

My favorite touch was adding a rhyme next to all the food items so that the food was identified.  I had fun making up the rhymes, and included some quotes from the books and finished it out to fit whatever food item I needed.  Everything was made in a Word document, and I copied and pasted some pictures from the Internet.  I’ve included the rhymes at the bottom of the post, so feel free to use them if you want!

The food included meatballs, pigs in a blanket, veggies, cupcakes, cookies, fruit snack/marshmallow kabobs.

I didn’t get any pictures of the meatballs, but they were so good, I want to include the recipe here!

Ingredients:

  • 2 (16 oz.) packages meatballs
  • 1 jar (8 oz.) grape jelly
  • 1 jar 16 oz.) spaghetti sauce

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in crock pot.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Switch to keep warm setting on crock pot and serve using tooth picks straight out of it.

All the food laid out on the table!

We had a separate table for all the drinks and gifts!

We used my recipe for Deviled Eggs and added food coloring to make them green.  I liked them a lot, but I think others were pretty skeptical about the coloring.

Cat in the Hat Cupcakes made from chewy Lifesavers, white frosting and half an Oreo!

Cute drink pitchers my friend’s sister-in-law made!

We got our invitations from this Etsy distributor and they turned out perfectly.  She will customize your order, and I got lots of comments on how colorful they were!

Here are most of the rhymes I used for the party.  Some of them are direct quotes from the books, while others take  lines from the book and then I made up the rest to fit the food item.

Green Eggs and Ham: I like them, I do!  Green eggs and ham for you, and you, and you!

Cat in the Hat cupcakes: If you haven’t had a cupcake today, you should, because cupcakes are fun, and fun is good!

Fruit bite hats (similar to the toppings on the cupcakes, but on skewers): Snack, snack, eat a snack, eat a snack of fruit bite hats!  (Adapted from Hop on Pop)

Meatballs: Big J, little j, what begins with J?  Jelly Jordan’s jelly jar and jam MEATBALLS begin that way! (Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s)

Pigs in a Blanket: For Liz’s shower, we’ll have some fun, and eat hot dogs rolled up in buns!

Bowl of Goldfish: One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish, GOLD FISH!

Me with the beautiful mom-to-be!

No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites

I know I’m not alone when I say I love to eat cookie dough before it goes into the oven!  I like it more than cookies.  The problem is that I always have to listen to people tell me I’m going to get sick from the eggs, so I made it my mission today to find a recipe for cookie dough that requires no eggs.

There are some out there, but I ended up creating my own because when I read the comments under other people’s there were always complaints about the dough not being perfect.  I read their complaints, changed some things, and now I’m going to share the creation with you!

It’s the perfect dessert for a night with friends and a chick flick!

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • heavy whipping cream- added 1 splash at a time (up to 1/4 cup)
  • chocolate chips- as many as you like! (about 1/2 cup-1 cup recommended)

Directions:

Combine melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla extract.  Add flour, 1/3 a cup at a time.  Mix to make sure no flour is visible. Add heavy whipping cream, a little at a time until dough is smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.

I rolled my dough into cookie-sized balls to keep myself from overdoing it, but you could go at the bowl with a spoon if the occasion called for it!

Fresh Spinach Dip

I invited some friends over at the last minute, and I wanted to have something as an appetizer.  I had a bag of chips for dipping, so I figured I could mix ingredients I already had in my fridge and create some kind of a dip.  This turned out better than I could have imagined!

The best part of this recipe is that it used fresh spinach instead of frozen spinach.  While they are pretty equal when it comes to nutritional quality, I still prefer fresh to frozen anytime.  You can use frozen spinach in this if you want, just squeeze all the juice out before stirring it in.

On another note, I know I haven’t been posting as often as usual!  A lot has been going on in my personal life, but I’ll have lots of new recipes and books to read coming your way soon!

Ingredients:

  • 1 block (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 pkg. onion mix

Directions:

Mix cream cheese, sour cream and onion mix.  Stir in red peppers.  Add spinach, a handful at a time and stir until mixed.

Deviled Eggs

This recipe comes from the Ruth Reichl’s food memoir, Tender at the Bone.  As I mentioned in my review, one of the best features of the book was how she included a recipe in each chapter, and told the story behind the recipe.  I’m not much for recounting plot on my blog, so I’ll let you read the book to discover the story, but these deviled eggs turned out great!

The best deviled eggs taste like candy to me.  It’s almost like you could eat them for dessert.  I remember reading once that deviled eggs were “so 80′s” and not in style to make anymore, but I risked it and took them to book club anyway.  They were all gone by the time book club was over, so I think they were a hit.  Ok, maybe I ate two of them, but still.

I actually finished the book several weeks ago, but waited to post the review until I’d created one of the recipes from the book. Many of them were out of my comfort zone in cooking, but these felt safe.  The recipe did not call for paprika, but I added some anyways just to give them that traditional look people are used to.

I made these at the last minute because I forgot about book club until the day of, but if I were to make them again, I’d try this trick from my mom.  She said that if I turn the eggs over in the carton the night before, the yolk settles in the middle.  That way when you boil the egg, the yolk is dead center and best for deviled eggs.  While I haven’t tried this myself, my mom says it works great!

Ingredients:

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • pepper to taste
  • paprika (optional- and not part of the original recipe)

Directions:

Boil eggs, take the shell off and carefully cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the yolk and place in a separate bowl.  Mash the yolk with a fork until smooth.  Stir in mayo and vinegar.  Carefully scoop back into eggs.  Top with a sprinkle of pepper.  Add paprika if you desire!

This is a pic of the original recipe, pre-paprika!