Monday, April 30, 2012

Sriracha Honey-Garlic Wings

If you haven't tried Sriracha yet, well... why not? If you're a true foodie you've probably been hearing about this for a while, maybe you've tried it, maybe you put it on everything you eat/own, or maybe you've been waiting for an awesome recipe like this to get on board. Sriracha is a hot chili sauce identified by its iconic rooster on the front and green cap; you'll most likely find in your local grocer's international aisle (in the Asian food section). It was created by a Vietnamese man after he moved to California, and it has quite the following. In fact, there is a Sriracha cook book (with a blog that also features funny posts from other Sriracha enthusiasts). I feel like I'm a little late getting on board the Sriracha train, but since I bought our first bottle of Sriracha hot chili sauce about a month ago, I've witnessed my husband put it on his breakfast, lunch, and dinner (in the same day).

The thought that has come to many foodies that have tried Sriracha - what if I made hot wings out of this delicious sauce? I don't know how I would describe the flavor of Sriracha - it's much better than hot sauce as it doesn't have that vinegar-y taste, it's thicker, it's slightly sweet, and it's just really delicious. This recipe cuts down on the heat with some honey and other ingredients for a sweet and spicy and garlicky wing. It's got a good amount of heat so adjust accordingly if hot hot wings aren't your thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I would categorize the creation of this recipe as total kitchen experimentation. I had some Italian bread that was a day or two away from being thrown out if it wasn't used up so I baked it and threw some ingredients together to create this yummy, tangy pesto to top it off with. I used store-bought pesto to create this recipe but you're welcome to make your favorite classic pesto recipe to use. This is super quick and super easy to make. This recipe only makes a small amount so double, triple, or quadruple it if you're serving it at a party.

What you need
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp pesto
3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes (from jar packed in oil)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Mini food processor

What you do
Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor and puree. Serve in small dish or bowl. Spread on Italian bread or use in a pasta dish.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quick & Easy Weeknights: Margherita Pizza

I love to meal plan. It means I only grocery shop once every 3 weeks, I spend less, and I have quick meals planned for those nights you don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. This recipe is adapted from a cooking light recipe, uses refrigerated pizza dough, and fresh ingredients. 

Quick Margherita Pizza (Adapted from Cooking Light)
What you need
1 (10-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, halved
5 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 3/4 pound)
1 cup (4 ounces) mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Baking Sheet
Rolling pin
Pizza cutter

What you do
Preheat oven to 400° F. Unroll crust dough onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; roll out to the edges of baking sheet using floured roller. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes.

Remove crust from oven, and brush with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Rub crust with cut sides of garlic. Arrange tomato slices on crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border; top with mozzarella slices. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is golden.

Sprinkle pizza evenly with sliced basil, salt, and pepper. Cut and serve.

Wine Pairing: Make it an Italian night with Barbera - a red wine with some acidity to cut the fattiness of the mozzarella cheese.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wine Time: Reds under $15

Serious Eats came out with a top 15 budget red wine list earlier this week that has me itching to go to the Wine store. I don't believe I've tried any of the wines on this list and I'm curious if I can find any of them locally. I rarely spend more than $15 on a bottle of wine unless it's a gift or I know I love it, so I'll keep this one bookmarked.


Ah, I really wish that was my job.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with Creamy Lemon Sauce

This meal is perfect for a weeknight when you don't feel like spending a lot of time on dinner after a long day. I'm no Rachael Ray, but I do believe this would take even an amateur chef less than 30 minutes to prepare. Tear open a bag of salad, put out some dressing, and you're golden. I made this with panzanella salad and really enjoyed the lightness and simplicity of this meal. You could also easily make the same meal with cod or halibut; tilapia just happened to be on sale this week and I'm a low-budget chef whenever possible. Sauvignon Blanc is the way to go for wine, as it won't overpower the delicateness of the fish.

What you need
6 Tilapia fillets
1/3 c. light mayonnaise
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 T. dried parsley
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

What you do
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange tilapia on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine mayo, lemon juice, and dijon mustard. In another small bowl, combine parsley, garlic salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and panko.

Spread mayo thinly on the top of each tilapia. Top with panko topping. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until fish flakes. Then broil for no more than 1-2 minutes to lightly brown the topping. Enjoy!

Wine pairing: Opt for a Sauvignon Blanc, which won't overpower the delicate taste of this meal.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus & Prosciutto

Spring is in full swing in the Northeast. Flowers everywhere, the leaves are back on the trees, birds are singing! Ah, I love it, and it means summer isn't far off. Spring also means asparagus is in season. This recipe has a light and tangy flavor. It uses minimal dressing compared to my other pasta salads. Instead of penne or rotini, I've opted for small orzo pasta to soak up the flavors of the sun-dried tomato, lemon, and other great tastes. The prosciutto adds some extra protein, but if you're a vegetarian, you can leave it out.

Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus & Prosciutto
What you need
1 lb orzo pasta
10-12 oz asparagus, ends cut off and sliced into thirds
3 oz prosciutto, sliced
1/2 cucumber, quarted and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. matchstick carrots, roughly chopped
1/4 c. diced red onion
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1/2 of 14 oz can artichoke hearts (drained & rinsed), chopped
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

3 T. Lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. vinegar (white wine, red wine, or balsamic all work well depending on your mood)
1/4 c. olive oil
Italian seasoning, to taste
2 T. fresh chopped basil
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

What you do
Boil pasta according to package directions while you prepare your other ingredients. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water when done.

Steam or boil asparagus for 2 minutes then place in cold water bath. Combine pasta, prosciutto, and all other veggies in a large mixing bowl.

Prepare and combine all ingredients for dressing. Pour over pasta and stir to coat. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Wine pairing: A light Pinot Noir if you're in the mood for red. Or, if you prefer a white go for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Slow-Cooked French Dip Sandwiches

Yes, it was a paper plate kind of night
Sometimes, you just want to eat a sandwich. And not just any sandwich, but something that really makes it worth the sodium, fat, and carbs you're getting. Ah, carbs, I love you. ANYWAY, this easy easy easy slow-cooked French dip sandwich was so flavorful that it was hard to stop myself from going back for fourths. Not only is slow-cooking such a simple way of making things because you literally set it and forget it for the day (and you can leave this roast in longer than 7 hours if you're going to work for the day), but it seems to make everything taste so delicious! As my husband watched me prepare the meat in the slow-cooker with the budget-friendly short ingredient list, he literally looked at me and said "That's it?" and I proudly chimed "Cooking a good meal isn't that hard, sweetie!" (hoping that he might take up the hobby).

What you need
3.5-4 lb bottom round roast
Garlic salt & pepper, to taste
1 can condensed french onion soup (check pantry for size)
1 beef broth (check pantry for size)
8-10 crusty rolls (depending on size)
American or provolone cheese (optional)

What you do
Trim fat. Season roast on all sides with garlic salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Pour french onion soup and beef broth on top. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Remove roast and cut into thin strips. Return meat to liquid to absorb more flavor. Assemble sandwiches and ladle liquid into a small bowl for dipping sandwich. Enjoy!

Wine pairing: Reds like Pinot Noir, Rioja

Sawyer usually leaves us alone when we cook but he was really hoping we'd drop a piece of that amazing smelling roast!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Simple & Delicious Panzanella Salad

After spending the last few months dealing with recovering for two broken wrists, I'm finally starting to cook again. I love my husband, but I can only take so many chicken patty sandwiches and frozen pizza nights. You may think it's nice to have a break from cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the house (not to mention working full time and attending grad school -- oh and the puppy is always a handful too), but I really missed cooking after a while. In fact, after about 3 weeks, I was trying to figure out how to clean this house again too. Being a type A sort is tough with two broken arms.
The colors of this dish are also pleasing for the eye
So, getting back into the swing of things meant making something simple but delicious. How do garlicky chunks of bread, fresh tomatoes & basil, tangy onion, and a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing sound? Yeah, amazing. I thought so too. Panzanella salad is a classic Italian dish, usually enjoyed in the summer. While it's not quite summer yet, a girl can be optimistic.The simple ingredient list and fresh taste make it a light side that pairs well with almost anything. Make it as a dish for you and a date, a cookout, a potluck, a picnic - it's very versatile and not to mention quick and easy to make. I would pair it with a light Pinot Grigio, which perfectly suits the summer-iness of this meal.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Here's a picture of Sawyer when he was a little over 6 months old cuddled up next to his favorite bunny toy (one of the few stuffed toys he hasn't ripped to shreds and decorated my house with the cotton).

I hope you all enjoy this time with your families and make some delicious food together! If you have leftover ham, you might want to try this delicious Ham, Bean, & Spinach Soup recipe to warm you up on those chilly spring evenings.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Organic or not?

I always try to buy local & organic when I can. However, as anyone who subscribes to this same philosophy knows, buying organic can break the grocery budget. I have come across several articles in the past recommending which foods you really should buy organic and which food's you don't necessarily need to buy organic. For anyone trying to eat healthy on a budget, I find this a necessity in deciding on which fruits and veggies to "splurge".

I recently discovered the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" via pinterest (my love). These two lists are compiled from Department of Agriculture data on residual pesticides on fruits and veggies. The dirty dozen represents 12 fruits and veggies you should buy organic (because they have highest rates residual pesticides) and 15 fruits and veggies that tend to be least contaminated with pesticides (and you might not necessarily need to buy organic).

So here is the list to answer the question I have often asked myself "What should I be buying organic in the produce section?"

SOURCE: Environmental Working Group

                              DIRTY DOZEN                              
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries (domestic)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

                                  CLEAN 15                                  
1. Onions
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplants
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Very Berry Sangria and a birthday

We had some friends over this past weekend, and I always take this as an opportunity to make a big pitcher of Sangria to sip & enjoy. Since it is the spring time and the berries are usually on sale at the grocery store this time of year, we made a very berry Sangria using four kinds of berries!  I wasn't head over heels for  this batch that I made, but then I remembered my mother's recipe where she uses blackberry brandy. Remember - drink responsibly!
Apologies for my lower quality IPhone picture
I also celebrated my 24th birthday yesterday! Which seems a bit meaningless in the scheme of birthday milestones, but I had a very nice day --- the husband made me pancakes for breakfast, had some physical therapy on my wrists, and a hike in the woods with our pup Sawyer (pictured below). 
The car gives him some funny hair do's
Mmm, pancakes

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Home-Brewed Iced Tea

I am a northerner. My husband, on the other hand, is also a northerner but with a serious sweet tooth. He loves Southern sweet tea. I order unsweetened tea when we're out and add nothing to it. I tried to find a happy medium between our tastes (but he still complains it's not sweet enough). Nothing is quite refreshing as a cold glass of iced tea on a warm day in the spring or summer.
(Recipe makes 1 gallon)

What you need
10 tea bags
3 quarts water
+ 1 quart ice cold water
1-1/2 cups cane sugar
1 lemon sliced

What you do
1. Boil 3 quarts of water. Once boiling, remove from heat, place on hot pad, and allow tea bags to steep for 10 minutes
2. Once done steeping, remove tea bags and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved and then allow to sit and cool for another 10 minutes.
2. Fill 1 gallon pitcher with 1 quart total of ice cubes & water. Place lemon slices on top. Pour hot tea into pitcher and stir to combine.
3. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
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