30 August 2009

Cappuccino-Caramel Oat Bars

Do you ever have that craving for something sweet, something gooey, something so delicious it seems out-of-this world??  Then these bars are for you!  I've posted too many healthy recipes in my last few posts, so it is time to indulge!!  The cappuccino-caramel oat bars are filled with caramel goodness and topped off with an espresso glaze.  The recipe below calls for pecans, but if you have an allergy or simply do not like pecans, they can certainly be eliminated from the recipe (I've done that before and they still turn out delicious).  

Cappuccino-Caramel Oat Bars
(Another one of Carol R.'s recipes)

3 C. Rolled Oats (not quick oats)
2 1/3 C. Flour
1 1/2 C. Pecans, chopped
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 C. Butter, softened (I used Margarine)
2 C. Brown Sugar, packed
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp. Instant Espresso Powder
2 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Caramel Ice Cream Topping (I used Fat-Free Caramel Topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 15'' x 10''x 1'' pan.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour 1 C. pecans, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  In another bowl, beat butter with electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar; beat in eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined.  Beat in oat mixture.  Reserve 2 cups of mixture for topping.  Using floured hands, press remaining oat mix evenly into bottom of pan.  Spread caramel topping evenly over crust.  Drop spoonfuls of reserved topping mix over caramel; sprinkle with remaining 1/2-cup pecans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Drizzle with coffee glaze (below).  Let stand 15 minutes until glaze sets.  Cut into small, triangular or square bars.  Makes 24 bars or 48 triangles.  Cover pan tightly and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Freezes well.

Cappuccino Glaze for the Bars

2 Tbsp. Milk
1 tsp. Instant Espresso Powder
1 C. Powdered Sugar, sifted

In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. very hot milk and 1 tsp. espresso powder; stir until mixed.  Stir in powdered sugar until smooth.

I wrapped up the bars in these cute little bags I found at Michaels.  Some of them are going over to Doug's grandparents' house and the ones pictured above are going to the hospital (pray for Mrs. K)!  

28 August 2009

Lime 'n Wine

My mom and I hit up Haskell's wine sale at the beginning of the summer.  This one lady that helped us pick out wines was really fun and knowledgeable about everything wine-related.  She told us that one of her favorite summer drinks was a "Tincho."  Apparently this is one of the most popular beverages in Argentina because it is an ice cold, citrus-filled, and refreshing way to cool down after a hot summer day.  She suggested an inexpensive bottle of Argentinean white wine, New Age, so we decided to give it a chance.  It was a pleasant change of pace on a hot summer night!  I hope you'll give it a try before summer ends too!  Cheers!

Lime 'n Wine (Tincho)
Yield: 6 servings

1 bottle of New Age White Wine (or any other white Argentinean wine), chilled
6 Wine Glasses filled with Ice
6 Lime Wedges

Ready for these super easy directions?!  Fill glasses with ice.  Pour wine over the ice.  Gently squeeze a lime wedge in each glass and enjoy this refreshing drink outside!

Fancy Party Pirouettes

My sister and her husband hosted a wedding shower for our friends, Mike and Laura, last weekend.  I was in charge of bringing "something sweet" to set next to the flowers.  Laura's colors for her actual wedding are grey, yellow, and white.  My sister, Sarah, is so coordinated (hah!) that I knew she would have yellow flowers for the shower in order to match Laura's colors.  Because I was in the middle of packing my things up for Omaha, I didn't really have a whole lot of time to make a dessert.  If you are ever in a crunch for time, I would highly suggest making these candy-dipped pirouettes and dust them with whatever color sprinkles you desire.  I've also made these pirouettes using light pink crystal sprinkles for a baby shower.  

Fancy Party Pirouettes
(Idea from Carol R.)

1 tin Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes - Chocolate Hazelnut
1 - 14 oz. bag of White Candy Wafers (for dipping)
1 small jar Crystal Sprinkles (color of your choice)

In a medium bowl, melt the white candy wafers in a microwave or a double-boiler (I usually only need half the bag).  If you choose the microwave method, you'll want to stir the wafers every 20 seconds and make sure it doesn't overheat.  Once the wafers are melted, simply take one pirouette at a time, gently dip it in the melted wafers about 1 to 2 inches.  Holding the pirouette in one hand over a plate, slightly dust the candy-dipped pirouette with the color of crystal sprinkles you desire.  Set upright in a small container until white candy hardens on the top of the pirouette.  Repeat.  These look especially fancy if you put them in a small silver or crystal bowl.  

27 August 2009

New Kitchen!!

Hello readers :)  Want to know why there hasn't been a post recently?  It is because I MOVED to Omaha!  This is all I will write for now.  I have my first class in 10 minutes... so I should get my fix for learning about lean six sigma and all that other wonderful MBA stuff.  

I snapped this picture right before Doug arrived from Minneapolis!  We had some pinot grigio, tilapia, a summer salad, mediterranean pasta, and Wohlner's homemade bread.  Mmm... More to come as soon as the apartment internet gets figured out! 

21 August 2009

Greek Chicken Salad

It's thyme for another Guest Chef! Today's recipe comes from my friend, Pam, who has an adorable blog about all things fashion: PammyCakes. In addition to her passion for shopping and finding great deals at high-end boutiques, I found out that she absolutely loves cooking. I'm so happy that I'll be moving to Omaha because that's where Pam lives and I'm hoping that I can enjoy her Greek Chicken Salad in person! The picture just looks to-die-for. Thanks for sending me the recipe and snapping a picture of it.

Other followers: just leave a comment if you want to be a guest chef too. I love it when my friends share their fabulous recipes!

Greek Chicken Salad
(Recipe from my friend, Pamela Z.)
Makes 2 Entree-Size Servings

3 Chicken Breasts
1 head Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 Cucumber, chopped into small pieces
1 Green Pepper, chopped
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Tomato, chopped
6 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled (buy pre-packaged)
10-15 Kalamata Olives
Pepperoncini Peppers, to liking
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Grill or broil the chicken breasts. Slice the chicken into pieces and set aside. Combine salad ingredients in a serving bowl and toss with the dressing (below).

Greek Salad Dressing

2 cloves Garlic, minced and then crushed
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/2 C. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (fresh is better)
5 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 tsp. Oregano
Pinch of Sugar

Mix all ingredients together, pour into a cruet or small Tupperware, put the lid on, and shake well to mix.

20 August 2009

The Wheat + Gluten Free Life

Just wanted to share a fabulous website with you: The Wheat and Gluten Free Life. My wonderful friends, Meg and Karen, just launched this site, hoping they will inspire others to try recipes that are not only healthy, wheat, gluten, and dairy free... but also simple, quick, and easy to prepare. They posted a lot of great recipes to their site already and I cannot wait to try a few of them!

Check out their website for refreshing and healthy recipe ideas, including this week's feature, a Rice Cake Avocado Turkey Sandwich.

Congrats on the new website!

Summer Chopped Salad

My mom saw Giada De Laurentiis cooking on the Today Show and was intrigued by her Summer Chopped Salad.  The true beauty of this recipe is that you can pick and choose all the wonderful veggies that look fresh at your local farmers market or grocery store.  Mom added some orange, red, and yellow peppers to her salad because they looked fresh and crisp, plus the colors were so vibrant.  All of the vegetables get a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Good news for you - today is Thursday: go get your fresh veggies at the Excelsior Farmers Market!

Countdown:  3 days until the big move!  I'm going to miss meals like this...

Summer Chopped Salad
Yield: 4 servings

Olive Oil, for drizzling
1 head Romaine Lettuce, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 ear of Corn, husk and silk removed
2 Zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 head Butter Lettuce, torn
2 medium Tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Avocado, peeled and diced

3 Tbsp. fresh Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. Agave Nectar or Honey
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 C. store-bought tortilla strips, to top salad (optional)

For the salad: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Drizzle the vegetables (including the romaine) and shrimp with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill the romaine lettuce, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender and browned in spots, about 2 minutes.  Coarsely chop the grilled lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.  Grill corn and zucchini for 2 minutes on all sides until crisp and tender.  Remove the kernels from the corn and add to the salad bowl.  Chop the zucchini into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl.  Grill the shrimp for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until the meat is opaque and cooked through.  Cool slightly.  Add the shrimp, chopped butter lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado to the bowl.  

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and agave nectar (or honey) until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until all the ingredients are coated.  Garnish the salad with tortilla strips and serve.  

Thanks for making this scrumptious summer salad, Mom!  We all really enjoyed it. 

17 August 2009

Gourmet Dill Chicken Sandwiches

I have to admit... Doug and I spent a few hours this past weekend vegging-out and watching the Food Network. Some of you may have already tried the Watermelon Mojitos that I just posted yesterday. Well, this next recipe comes from the same exact show! We must have been hungry or something because nothing sounded or looked better than Sunny Anderson's watermelon mojitos and her "real dill chicken sandwiches!" Anyway, I went to the store and bought all the ingredients to make those things... Hope you'll try them too!

Gourmet Dill Chicken Sandwiches
(Adapted from Sunny Anderson: Food Network)
Yield: 4 sandwiches

4 medium-sized Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, pre-split
1 small bunch Fresh Dill Leaves
1 bunch Parsley Leaves
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 C. Olive Oil, plus 2 Tbsp.
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1/2 C. Light Sour Cream
1/3 C. Miracle Whip Light
4 Pepperoncini Peppers, finely chopped
1 large Ciabatta Loaf, cut into 4 equal pieces
8 oz. Baby Greens or Red Leaf Lettuce

In a food processor, combine the dill and parsley; pulse until finely chopped. Reserve 1/4 C. of the herb mixture for spread, set aside. In a plastic bag set in a medium bowl, combine remaining herb mixture, half the lemon juice, 1/4 C. olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken in the plastic bag, seal, and massage to distribute marinade evenly on the chicken. Refrigerate 1 hour, flipping once halfway through. Meanwhile make the herb spread: in a small bowl mix together remaining herb mixture, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, sour cream, miracle whip, pepperoncini, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from bag being careful not to remove herbs. Season with salt and pepper and cook on grill, turning once, until juices run clear, approximately 6 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and cut each breast in half.

To assemble sandwich: cut ciabatta pieces in half horizontally, slather one side of bread with dill-pepperoncini spread. Place chicken on other slice, top with baby greens, and finish with the piece of bread covered with dill-pepperoncini sauce.

16 August 2009

Watermelon Mojitos

I have another fun, summer cocktail for you all!  These watermelon mojitos are kind of time-consuming... but totally worth the effort.  I made them for a little cocktail cruise on the lake.  My mom thought that they were very refreshing and she couldn't even tell that there was rum in it already!  Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!!  Warning: these could be dangerous... they are really that delicious.

Watermelon Mojitos
(Recipe courtesy of Sunny Anderson: Food Network)

2 1/2 to 3 pounds Watermelon Flesh, pits removed
1/2 C. Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 C. Packed Mint Leaves, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 C. White Rum
1/4 C. Agave Syrup (optional)

In a blender, puree watermelon, fresh lime juice and mint in batches until smooth.  I filled the blender with watermelon, and it was about the perfect amount.  Strain into a pitcher using a sieve.  Mix in rum and syrup*.  Serve in glasses filled with ice and garnish with mint leaves.

*I didn't use any agave syrup in my mojitos, because I thought it was sweet enough without it.  Another idea might be to add simple syrup if you want it sweeter.  In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup sugar.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Cool completely and store it refrigerated in a jar; use as needed.

Watermelons are pretty much the epitome of summer.  Enjoy!!!

12 August 2009

Dill + Feta Bruschetta

Now here is a twist on the normal basil and tomato bruschetta... try it with fresh dill and feta cheese! You are just going to fall in love with this appetizer. It is quick and easy to throw together, and it tastes as if you gathered all of these ingredients from the farmers market. Try it at your next little get-together and let me know how your guests respond to this summery-fresh appetizer.

Dill & Feta Bruschetta (Recipe from my friend, Christine K.)

1-pint Baby Tomatoes (if you live in MN, try Bushel Boy tomatoes)
1 small bunch of fresh Dill, roughly chopped
1 (4-oz.) package Feta Cheese, crumbled (I used reduced-fat feta)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice baby tomatoes in half, lengthwise. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, dill, and feta. Gently incorporate olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper into the mixture. Add more of those ingredients as needed. Serve with an assortment of crackers or crostini.

10 August 2009

Mixed Berries + Lemon Dessert

This is a delightful dessert to serve at any summertime dinner party. I absolutely adore the simplicity of mixed berries with lemon sorbet and a drizzle of limoncello. The best part about this dessert is that it is so quick and easy to assemble, yet it looks so gourmet and refreshing. Try it at your next gathering and I promise that you and your guests will not be disappointed.

Mixed Berries & Lemon Dessert
(A variation of Carol R.'s mixed berry dessert)

Fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)
Fat-Free Lemon Sorbet
Your favorite Limoncello
Mint Sprigs for garnish (optional)

Depending on the number of people you are serving, the amounts of the ingredients will vary. I like to serve this in champagne flutes to give it an elegant touch. First, put a small spoonful of lemon sorbet in the bottom of each glass. Next, add a few varieties of berries. Top it off with lemon sorbet. Drizzle a small amount of limoncello over everything (be careful not to pour too much limoncello on this dessert, or else the taste will overpower the other flavors). Garnish the top of the dessert with a sprig of mint.

09 August 2009

Grilled Lime Shrimp

While one of my favorite cousins is half-way across the world, I am still thinking of her! Meg and I used to watch Top Chef on Wednesday nights and cook gourmet meals (or at least tried). She is a really great cook; I would compare her cooking skills and looks to Giada De Laurentiis, only blonde. One of Meg's marvelous creations was her grilled lime shrimp. So yummy!

Anyway, Meg, just know that I wish you were in MN to cook with me. I realize you are having fun living in Europe and all... but please come home soon!

Grilled Lime Shrimp
(From my cousin, Meg)

1/2 tsp. Fresh Lime Zest
1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Lime Juice
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 pound uncooked Shrimp, peeled & deveined

Mix the lime zest, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil, lime juice, and garlic in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and toss. Let that marinate for 10 minutes. Thread shrimp on skewers or put in a grill basket; reserve marinade. Grill over medium heat for 3 to 7 minutes. If you don't have access to a grill, simply sauté the shrimp in a skillet. Return shrimp to a platter and pour marinade over shrimp. Serve warm or cold.

Thanks for grilling, Doug!

06 August 2009

Mediterranean Couscous

Okay, so you might be asking yourself, "Why did Becky post so many Greek recipes?"

Answer: "Clean out the freezer." -Mom

Yes, I was in fact asked to clean out my parents' freezer. Oh the joy! John and Kath had some pretty funny things in their freezer... i.e. gummy worms, homemade pancakes, and a gorgeous piece of lamb. So instead of making gummy worm-encrusted lamb kabobs, I decided to play off of the Mediterranean theme. This couscous is so easy to make ahead of time and it also keeps well in the fridge for days.

Mediterranean Couscous
(Yield: 6 Servings)

2 C. Couscous, prepared
1 Small Cucumber, peeled, seeded & cubed
1 Pint Baby Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 C. Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
1/2 C. Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
1 (4 oz.) Package Feta Cheese
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground

Prepare 2 cups of the couscous as instructed on packaging. After couscous is cooked, place in a large bowl, fluff with a fork, and let stand until it has cooled down to room temperature. Gently toss cucumber, tomatoes, basil, mint and feta with the couscous. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper; pour over couscous mixture. Lightly toss and add more ingredients to taste, if needed. Cover and refrigerate.

Perfectly Delicious Lamb Kabobs

The flavor of these lamb kabobs is insane! The original recipe from the Junior League cookbook says to marinate for 8 to 12 hours... However, I found that it really only takes 2 to 3 hours for the flavor to fully develop. Actually, anything longer might actually cook the lamb because of all the citrus acidity in the recipe. At any rate, I'm guessing that you will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these kabobs! What a wonderful way to change up the normal chicken or steak that you would throw on the grill. Lamb is very rich and robust, so enjoy this meal with an earthy and complex Syrah. In my opinion, it makes a perfect pair!

Lamb Kabobs
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 Pounds Lamb, cut into large cubes
2 tsp. Cumin (ground or whole... or a mixture of both!)
2 tsp. Coriander
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Lime Juice
Zest of 1 Lime (I added this touch)
1 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

Start by soaking 6 regular-sized skewers in water for at least 20 minutes (this helps them from burning on the grill). Arrange the lamb in a single layer in a shallow glass dish. Whisk the cumin, coriander, lemon juice, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt, and garlic powder together in a bowl. Pour over the lamb. Marinate, covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours. Drain the lamb, discarding the marinade. Thread the lamb onto skewers. Place on a grill rack over hot coals for 7 1/2 minutes; turn. Grill for 11 minutes longer. (Grill time may be longer or shorter, depending on the size of the lamb cubes). Place on serving platter. I'd suggest you serve this with the Greek Tzatziki Sauce and warmed whole wheat pita bread.

Greek Tzatziki Sauce

Addicted to the tzatziki sauce at Santorini's?  I'm pretty sure this recipe will satisfy that craving.  I bet my sister is reading this and thinking, "What is she talking about?"  Well, Sarah, tzatziki is a Greek appetizer that can be served with crudités or pita bread.  Many people also use it as a sauce to serve with gyros or lamb kabobs.  The base of the sauce is made from a Greek yogurt that is generally not as runny as regular yogurt, so there is no need to strain it (like some of the other tzatziki recipes call for).  Another bonus of Greek yogurt: it is fat-free!  Therefore, you do not need to feel guilty while enjoying this wonderfully easy Greek creation.  Opa!

Greek Tzatziki Sauce
(Yield: 1 1/2 Cups)

1 1/2 C. Plain Greek Yogurt
1 small Cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely chopped
Pinch Kosher Salt
2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp. Red Wine Vinegar
10 Mint Leaves, finely minced

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint.  Serve as a sauce for gyros, lamb kabobs, or use it as a snack for whole wheat pita bread.