23 March 2012

Blog Break

Taking a break from blogging while we relax in the sun!

Catch up with you when we get back from our trip! xxoo

21 March 2012

Neapolitan-Style Mussels

Are you ready for this, people? Introducing... my new favorite way to prepare mussels! So easy. So delicious. So fresh. Every little bite is full of flavors that will transport you to little villages along the Italian coasts. This dish actually reminds me of a vacation I took with my cousin, Annie, to Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera. It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in my life!

Neapolitan-Style Mussels
(Adapted from Kathy)
Yield: 4 Servings

For the crostini:
1 Artisan Baguette, cut into 1/2'' slices
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

For the mussels:
4 lbs. Mussels (good quality is important!!)
1 C. White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1/3 C. Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
4 Tbsp. Olive Oil
6 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Yellow Onion, diced
2 Stalks Celery, finely diced
3 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (more or less, to taste)
32 oz. peeled, diced tomatoes
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
4 Tbsp. Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Lemon Wedges, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. First, you will want to make the crostini by placing the slices of bread on a baking sheet (do not overlap). Then, evenly drizzle the crostini with olive oil and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and rub each side of the crostini with the garlic. Set aside.

Next, prepare the mussels. Clean the mussels by running them under cold water, discarding any with broken shells. Trim the beard from the side (basically, you just want to pull off the stringy parts). In a sauté pan large enough to hold all the mussels in one layer, add the mussels, wine and lemon juice (you may need to use two large sauté pans). Cover and steam over medium heat until all the mussels have open up (about 10 minutes). Be sure to discard any mussels that did not open up after steaming. Set mussels aside, reserving the liquid because you may want to use some of it to add to the tomato sauce if it gets too thick.

In another large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and celery; cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes (including the liquid), some of the mussels cooking liquid, oregano and 1/2 of the chopped parsley. Turn the heat to high and bring it to a boil, then turn it down to medium low and cook another 10 minutes to slightly reduce the sauce. Add more of the mussels cooking liquid if the sauce is too dense. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, place some crostini at the bottom of each of the four individual shallow bowls. Spoon the mussels into the four bowls, distributing them evenly. Next, evenly pour the tomato sauce over the mussels. Sprinkle with remaining chopped parsley and garnish with additional crostini and lemon wedges.

17 March 2012

St. Patrick's Day Cookies

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Hopefully I'll be able to post some fun pictures from our first St. Patty's in Chicago. Can't wait to see the green Chicago River! Have a safe and fun day!

These cookies are dedicated to Doug's Grandma C. We think of her always, but we especially think of her on St. Pat's Day! ;)

I packed up these cookies in my cute personalized pan (thanks sis) and Doug shared them with his coworkers at the hospital.

Recipe: I was inspired by these cookies and used this sugar cookie recipe.

12 March 2012

Ginger + Pear Muffins

My husband will be the first one to admit that he only left five mini muffins for me to photograph. WHAT?! Yes, that means that Doug devoured these ginger and pear muffins as soon as they came out of the oven - a perfect combination, if I do say so myself! Personally, I love the whole wheat in the muffins... makes it seem a little bit healthier than a normal muffin. Plus, I always enjoy making muffins in a "mini" version for just a quick bite of something scrumptious!

Ginger and Pear Muffins
(Adapted from Erin)
Yield: 24 mini-muffins or 12 regular muffins

2 Bosc Pears, ripe
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/3 C. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 C. Reduced-Fat Sour Cream
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/3 C. Skim Milk
1 C. All Purpose Flour
1 C. Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder

For the Glaze:
1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 tsp. Water

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Coat a muffin tin (or mini-muffin tin) with cooking spray or use muffin liners. Peel, core and chop pears into tiny cubes and place in a medium bowl. Add cinnamon, granulated sugar and lemon juice to the pears; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, egg, 1 tsp. vanilla and milk; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in sour cream mixture and fruit mixture, alternating in small batches. Mix until barely combined. Batter will be very thick ~ don't over mix it! Drop batter into muffin holes about 2/3 full. Bake until top is golden (about 30 minutes for regular muffins and 15 minutes for mini-muffins).

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Then, remove muffins from tin and place on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, make the glaze by mixing all of those ingredients in a small bowl (adjust with more water or more powdered sugar to your desired consistency). Dip the top of the muffins into the glaze and return to the rack. Extra special touch: Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with a dash of cinnamon before it dries completely.

10 March 2012

Wild Rice Salad

My MIL gave me some yummy Minnesota Wild Rice to take back to Chicago. Thanks! What is a girl to do with a whole bag of wild rice? Well, we've been enjoying a few batches of her Chicken Wild Rice Soup and I knew I wanted to make some type of salad with it too. HOLY YUM! I'm going to remember this salad to make as a side for family gatherings - perhaps at Thanksgiving (sans chicken) or for the next day with leftover turkey?! It makes a lot and can be made in advance. I hope you like it as much as we did!

Wild Rice Salad
(Adapted from NY Times)
Yield: 6 Servings

1 Quart Water
1 C. Wild Rice, rinsed
Salt, to taste
1/3 C. Walnuts, toasted and chopped
3-4 Celery Stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 C. Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tsp. Fresh Sage, finely chopped
1/2 C. Dried Cranberries
2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cooked and cubed (optional)

For the Dressing:
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp. Red or White Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, minced
Salt and pepper, freshly ground, to taste
3 Tbsp. Walnut Oil
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Low-Fat Yogurt or Sour Cream

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil; add salt and wild rice. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender and splayed. Drain and toss into a large bowl with the remaining salad ingredients.

Next, mix together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk in the walnut oil, olive oil, and yogurt or sour cream. Gently toss with the wild rice mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve room temperature or cold.

Chef's Note: You can prepare this salad several hours in advance. If you do so, just add the cranberries and parsley right before serving, otherwise the vibrant green color will fade and the cranberries will get too mushy.

07 March 2012

Quinoa Veggie Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

We are going on our belated honeymoon soon, so healthy meals are in order for us (okay... at least 75% of the time)! I saw this recipe on Pinterest and knew I had to make it right away. Quinoa is a welcome new addition to our kitchen. It is so easy to make and it can take on a variety of different flavors, depending on what else you add to it. This recipe is jam-packed with healthy and wonderful citrusy flavors. I think you'll really enjoy it!

Quinoa Veggie Salad
(Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)
Yield: 4 Servings

3/4 C. Dry Quinoa
1/2 C. Red Onion, chopped
1 Large Orange, segmented and chopped
2 Avocados, chopped
1 Can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1 C. Pomegranate Seeds (optional, I omitted)
1 C. Frozen Corn, thawed
1/3 C. Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lb. Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined, seasoned and grilled (optional)
Mixed Greens (optional)

For the Lemon Vinaigrette:
2 Lemons, juiced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. Sugar
Salt and Pepper, to taste
6 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Cook quinoa according to the directions on the package. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the Lemon Vinaigrette in a jar or whisk ingredients in a bowl. Combine the cooled quinoa, red onion, orange segments, avocado, beans, pomegranate seeds, corn, cilantro, salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and stir to combine. This can either be a healthy side or part of a complete meal. I decided to serve this on a bed of mixed greens and added a few grilled shrimp for a light dinner. You could also serve this with chicken, tofu, or as is.

05 March 2012

Thai Chicken Pizza

Wow! As you can tell, I am one lucky gal! I finally posted all of Doug's sweet Valentine's Day recipes. He always surprises me with a special meal. Now that we all know of his cooking talents, maybe we can expect to see more of his guest chef posts throughout the year??! I, for one, would LOVE that! :)

Pizza is something that we enjoy making together. Doug's sister, Emily, gave us a pizza stone for a wedding shower gift. Emily, GREAT GIFT! We think of you every time we use it - which is quite often!! I never put our pizza recipes on here because it is just something that you can create on your own - put on toppings as you wish. This, however, takes a bit more effort so I decided to share the delicious recipe with you. Enjoy a slice with a cold beer!

Thai Chicken Pizza
(Adapted from Happiness in a Pot)
Yield: 1 awesome za

For the Peanut Sauce:
1/4 C. Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 C. Hoisin Sauce
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 tsp. Sesame Oil
2 tsp. Fresh Ginger, minced
1 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, store-bought or homemade (I love TJ's dough)
1 C. Chicken Breast, cooked, shredded or chopped
1 C. Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
1/3 C. Bean Sprouts (didn't find them at the grocery store that day)
1/4 C. Shredded Carrots
3 Green Onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. Peanuts, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. To make sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30-seconds at a time, stirring each time, until smooth. I like to use a pizza stone to pre-bake the rolled out pizza dough (before sauce goes on, otherwise I find the dough is too mushy). Lightly sprinkle cornmeal or flour on the stone, then place your rolled dough on top. Bake until the pizza dough is slightly firm to the touch, remove and prepare toppings (about 8-10 minutes).

Have all of your toppings minced, chopped and ready to go once that pizza dough comes out of the oven. Mix 1 Tbsp of peanut sauce with the cooked chicken and set aside. To assemble the pizza, spread the remaining peanut sauce evenly over the crust. Top with half of the cheese. Top with chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, green onions and peanuts. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Put the pizza on the pizza stone back into the oven for another 10 minutes. Then, broil it for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is nice and golden. Finally, top with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

04 March 2012

Firecracker Curried Scallops over Linguine

Doug's Valentine's Main Course

"When was the last time you had scallops? For us, it has been a while. I thought scallops with pasta would be an easy meal for me to make for Valentine's Day. Like any food blogger, Becky likes various spices when she cooks - especially curry. I never thought curry and scallops went together, but I decided to give it a shot. She was surprised that I decided on this dish and loved it!"

Sorry for the bad picture! I hate taking photos without natural lighting!

Firecracker Curried Scallops over Linguine
(Adapted from Marc)
Yield: 2 Servings

8 oz. Whole Wheat Linguine
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, minced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 lb. Large Scallops
1 Tbsp. Garam Masala or Curry
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
Lemon Wedges, for garnish

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook the linguine according to the package. When the pasta is almost done, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add the ginger and garlic; stir to coat with oil and be careful not to burn it. Add the scallops in a single layer and cook until the scallops are nicely browned on one side. Add the gram masala (or curry) and cayenne pepper. Quickly stir-fry together and flip the scallops over to brown the other side.

Transfer to a bowl and add the scallions and cilantro. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce (you may want to reserve a little pasta water to use in your sauce as well). Serve immediately with lemon wedges.