But Sugar is Sweeter

Easy Weeknight Dinners

Fresh Tomato Ricotta Tarte with Garlic Herb Crust

IMG_5738

 

In some parts of the country, it might be a little late for this post; but here in Ohio, we’re still trying to find ways to enjoy fresh garden tomatoes before the first frost hits.  Hopefully that first frost will not present itself as 2 inches of snow in the middle of October (like it decided to last year).  After the infamous 2013-2014 winter, I’d be fine waiting until Christmas Day for snow, and then having winter be over.  For now, I’m still revealing in the fact that it’s  beautiful, a perfect 70 degrees, with the garden is still going strong.

IMG_5729

 

I felt like being a bit adventurous (per usual) and made ricotta cheese from scratch for this recipe.  It was pretty each- basically just heat milk, add lemon juice and vinegar, and then strain over cheese cloth for about 10 minutes.  It was fun to try, but it did take this from being an easy weeknight meal to kind of a production with multiple things to clean up.  I made the dough for the crust a day in advance, so this was pretty simple when it came to putting together.  It really highlights the tomatoes, and lets you hang onto that last bit of summer.  Better get on it before it becomes a winter wonderland around here!

Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Tarte with Garlic Herb Crust

Serves 6

For the crust: 

  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1¼ cups all purpose flour
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 tbsp.  cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling: 

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp. milk, if needed
  • 2 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

1) To make the crust, combine the garlic and basil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add in the flour and salt and pepper to taste, and pulse again to combine. (If you don’t have a food processor, just mince the garlic and basil as well as you can and then stir into the flour mixture. It will work just fine.) Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the largest butter pieces are the size of peas. Add in the water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Remove from the bowl, form into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill 1-2 hours, until firm.  This can also be done in 1-2 days in advance.

2) Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a flat round sheet about 12 inches in diameter, or large enough to fully line a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer to the pie plate, trimming away any excess at the edges and crimping the dough to create a fluted edge. Transfer the pie plate to the freezer and chill 15-20 minutes, until firm.

3) Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line the chilled pie shell with aluminum foil, making sure all edges of the crust are fully covered. Fill the pie shell with baking beads if available to weigh the crust down (dry beans or rice also work). Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and baking beads, return the pie shell to the oven and continue to bake until the crust is golden and fully set, about 10-12 minutes more. Transfer the pie plate to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

4) In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, garlic, and herbs.  Stir together until evenly combined.  To give the ricotta a smoother texture (if needed), stir in 3-4 tablespoons of milk until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the ricotta into the pie shell in an even layer. Layer the tomato slices on top of the ricotta, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with additional minced basil. Slice with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

Source: Annie’s Eats

 

 


Apple, Ham and White Cheddar Panini

IMG_5476
Every once in a while I see a recipe and immediately feel the need to make it that very same day.  This would be one of those recipes.  With an absolutely beautiful September behind us, and what I’m hoping will be an even more beautiful October ahead, I couldn’t pass up a recipe that so perfectly matched this fall weather.  It helps that there’s only about 5 ingredients and  that from start to finish this only took about 20 minutes.  Residency + a long commute + triathlons + general career/life crises have been taking up pretty much all my time, and blogging hasn’t been at the top of my list…but truth be told, I miss it!

You know this sandwich must be pretty great, considering it made me come out of blog hibernation.  In fact, it really makes me want to go apple picking and drink cider. The combination might sound a bit odd, but the apple and apple butter is really a nice balance to the saltiness from the ham and cheese.  Plus, I love adding sweetness to anything I can.  So if you’re looking for a quick an easy dinner to enjoy with fall, look no further. IMG_5484

Apple, Ham and White Cheddar Panini 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 3 T. butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large apples, thinly sliced
  • Sliced white cheddar cheese, about 4 ounces
  • Thinly sliced maple ham, 6-8 ounces
  • 1/2 cup apple butter

Heat a grill pan or case iron skillet to medium heat. Butter the outside of each sandwich liberally.  On one piece of bread, layer apple slices, cheese and ham.  On the other slice apply a thick layer of apple butter.  Sandwich the pairs together so that the buttered sides are facing outwards.

Cook the sandwiches, turning once, until both sides are golden and the cheese is melted. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Source: Annie’s Eats


Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

IMG_2914

Apparently there are some people in this world who don’t like fruit with their fish.  Thankfully, I don’t know any of them.  If you happen to be a fruit with fish hater (tear),  perhaps this recipe will convert you.   Especially with summer “officially” here, this is a refreshing  dinner that is easy to throw together after a day at the pool, and won’t ruin your waistline for the rest of bikini season.  I was somewhat hesitant about the sauce, since it’s fruit combined with garlic, onion and mustard powder – but I figured anything originally from The Neely’s would be hard to ruin.  Somehow the flavors just seem to work, and created an interesting twist on a simple salmon recipe.

I personally like to keep the skin on the salmon it because it keeps it in one piece while grilling and adds moisture to the filet, but you could also grill up a fish filet as long as you throughly oil the grate.  While the sauce is mostly “hands off”, it does need about 30 minutes total of simmer time – which I kind of enjoy because it gives you a chance to shower from the pool, pick up the house, or just relax with a glass of wine on the patio.  Unfortunately my brother won’t be bringing any Copper River salmon back from Alaska this year, but if your pocketbook can afford it, it’s in season now!

IMG_2917

Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

Serves 2-4 depending on amount of salmon used

  • ¾ – 1 ½ pounds salmon filet, with skin on
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add blueberries. Heat for about 10 minutes,  then mash with a fork. Add in ketchup, both vinegars, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder, ground mustard and worcestershire sauce. Whisk well to combine and break up blueberries and turn the heat up to medium. Heat until simmering and bubbles appear, then turn heat back down to low.  Cook for an additional 20 minutes, whisking every few minutes.  Sauce will be thicker than a normal barbecue sauce.

Preheat your grill to it’s highest setting and spray grate with oil.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and once the grill is hot, lay skin side up directly on grate.   Cook for 5 minutes, then gently flip so that skin side is down.  Using a pastry brush, brush BBQ sauce on salmon and let cook until flaky and opaque, about 5-6 more minutes.  Adjust time as needed for thicker/thinner salmon (mine was about 1 1/2 inches with skin.)

Source: How Sweet It Is


Chicken Tikka Masala

IMG_2161
Looking on a the positive side of things, I will have to say that one of the best things in the past month has been able to see a lot of my mom and brother – 2 of the most special people in this world.  I know my mom thinks she’s imposing, but I seriously love it when they are here.  It basically makes it feel like a vacation, because usually when we are all together – it is a vacation.  Of course having “house guests” also makes me like a grown up, which is really just like  “playing house”- with a slightly more sophisticated (and dangerous) fisher price set.     Because I really wanted to impress them with my domestic skills, I carefully planned a few things to make when they came.  One of them was an old favorite, stuffed green pepper soup, and the other was this Chicken Tikka Masala.  I’m pretty sure they will be coming back again soon :-).

IMG_2157

My mom, who claims to not really like curry, couldn’t stop raving about how deep the flavors are in this dish, and my brother stated that it was the best chicken tikka masala he had ever had (even better than some posh Asheville Indian restaurant he loves).  I purposely waited a while to post this, because I wanted to see how the leftovers would be after freezing them for a while – and I can now safely say that they are still delicious.  I froze the chicken, then thawed it and reheated it, adding just a little bit more milk and John and I still loved it! I would recommend making the whole batch, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to finish it all, because the frozen leftovers really are convenient.

Please don’t be intimidated by the seemingly long ingredient list, it is actually a really simple dinner and there is very little prep work.   I chose to brown the meat first because it tends to add a depth of flavor, but if you don’t want to dirty another pan feel free to  simply put all the ingredients in the crockpot without pre-browning.  I was also really excited to finally use the Garam Masala I had bought way back when from Penzey’s.  If you don’t have a Penzey’s nearby, I noticed when I was home at Christmas that even local grocery stores carry this spice. Having never used it before, I was a little worried about using a full 3 tablespoons of it.  But never fear – it’s not nearly as strong as you might think and the dish was seasoned perfectly.     My last pre-recipe suggestion would be to adjust the cream in this recipe for your liking.  The original called for 1 1/2 cups of heavy (whipping) cream.  That seemed like an awful lot, so I dialed it down and added some more greek yogurt at the end.  Feel free to play with it a bit to get it the creaminess you would like.

IMG_2164

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala 

For the Chicken: 

  • 9 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Jalapeno Pepper, Stem Removed, Pepper Pierced Several Times With a fork

For the Sauce: 

  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Peeled And Diced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Peeled And Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 piece Fresh Ginger, About 2-3 Inches, Peeled And Grated
  • 4 cups canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup Heavy Cream (depending on preference)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt

For Serving: 

  • White Rice
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro

1) Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken.  Stir in yogurt to evenly coat the chicken.  Cover and let sit 10 minutes or refrigerate for several hours.

2) Melt 1 tablespoon the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and brown about 1/2 of the chicken.  . Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished.  Then repeat with 1 more tablespoon of butter and remaining chicken.  Throw the pierced jalapeno in on top of the chicken.

3) To make the sauce return pan to medium and 3 T. of butter over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, salt and stir.  Cook until onions begin to brown, stirring frequently.

4) Add the 3 T. of garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (30 seconds), then raise heat to high and add crushed tomatoes and sugar.  Scrap the bottom of the pan as you stir and bring to a boil. Then pour over chicken in slow cooker.

5) Cook chicken on low for 5 hours.

6) Mix heavy cream and greek yogurt into mixture, adding cream until you get your desired color.  Heat for 1o minutes more.

7) Serve over rice and top with a generous amount of cilantro (it really adds a lot)

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen Blog c/o Eat. Live. Run.


Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

IMG_2098

Pretty much every type of salad that I like is some variant of spinach,  fruit, good cheese and nuts.  For as long as I can remember my Mom has been making a spinach salad with pears, blue cheese and salted pecans, and for a Mom who loves decorating the table but isn’t so big on the actual food – this salad was quite a delectable creation.   I have made that salad countless times, and it’s still my go to,  but in the interest of changing it up ever so slightly, I decided to try this recipe, and guess what, I loved it!  In fact it holds the title as the first salad a certain “salad hater” has ever eaten, and liked (no…it’s not John but another picky husband who doesn’t like vegetables :-)).

I think what I really liked about this is that it includes an easy, throw together recipe for a really good dressing.  So much of the time I go to the trouble of toasting nuts, chopping fruit, buying spinach, and then covering it all with some bottled dressing because making homemade just seemed like too much work.  This dressing is super easy, and really complements the flavors of the salad well.  Also, I think I like this salad because I love an excuse to eat my new favorite apples,  ‘Honeycrisp”.  (Which, ironically recently had a sign aat the grocery store that said “Everyone’s New Favorite” – good to know I’m not alone).  But if you can’t find Honeycrisp, I think Fiji or Granny Smith would work equally well.
IMG_2510

Harvest Apple Salad with Buttered Almonds

Ingredients:
For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup finely minced sweet onion
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. white wine  vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Pinch of paprika
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

For the almonds:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

For the salad:
6-8 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
4-6 oz gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients except olive oil in a measuring cup.  Then slowly add the olive oil whisking vigorously to combine.

To make the buttered almonds, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally until toasted and lightly browned.  Stir in the sugar and cook just until melted and well incorporated.  Set aside to cool.

Place spinach in a large salad bowl or on individual salad plates.  Top with apple slices, gorgonzola,  and the buttered almonds.  Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.  Leftovers are good for up to a day, as fresh spinach does not wilt as quickly as other types of lettuce.

IMG_2095

Adapted from The Curvy Carrot  

Beef and Barley Stew

IMG_2524

Ah.  Real Food.  This is what January was meant to be.  Not including the peanut M&Ms (which I mistakenly bought a XXL bag of  because I was hungry at Costco….never a good thing)  the food around here has most definitely taken a turn for the more wholesome.  I can’t really promise that this will last long, but while I’m craving healthy food, I might as well take advantage.  There is nothing quite like a warm, hearty, filling and yet healthy stew to warm up with on chilly January evening.  Or considering the 40-50 degree days we have been having I should probably say, “On a abnormally warm, almost balmy  January evening in Ohio”, but it just doesn’t have the same ring.  Global warming is seriously ruining seasonal eating.

No matter what the weather, I could probably eat this stew.  Well I might be lying slightly.  I wouldn’t eat it in the summer.  That would be like some kind of sin- hot stew in the summer?  But anytime September through April would be fine if you are lucky enough to live in a place like tropical Toledo. (Can you sense my bitterness at winter – and this is even after I got an automatic car starter for Christmas!).  But in all seriousness, the first time I made this stew was back in Louisiana, where the humidity never drops below 100% – and it was still good.  It’s the kind of stew that feels well balanced because you get vegetables, grain, and protein all in one place.  I really love the addition of barley because it makes this stew seem extra hearty and yet also somewhat gourmet.

One caution is that the barley continues to absorb water after cooking.  When you go to get leftovers the next day you may find that all the liquid is gone and the barley has doubled in size – but never fear – just add a bit more water, and reheat.  If you are trying to make this in advance, or if you’d like to freeze it, I would probably make it without the barley, and then just add the barley when reheating it.
IMG_2519

Beef and Barley Stew

Serves 6-8

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 ½ cups chopped leaks (about 3 leeks including green stems)
  • 2 ½ cups sliced carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 – 14 oz cans beef broth
  • 1 cup uncooked medium pearled barley

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.

IMG_2486

2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Return beef to pan. Add all ingredients EXCEPT barley and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, or longer if desired. Add barley; cook 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves.
IMG_2499

Adapted from Cooking Light


French Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

IMG_1873
Welp, it’s happened.  The first recipe on the blog made almost entirely by John. I don’t mean to  belittle his cooking talents, but I think the fact that I trusted him with making this dinner should tell you something about it’s complexity.  I had set the ingredients (all 3 of them ) out on the counter the night before,  and planned on throwing them in the crock pot before I left for school, but as I mentioned last time, normally I barely get 2 of the same shoes while I’m running out the door, let alone make dinner 8 hours early.   Despite my best intentions, if I wake up a few minutes early, then I simply diddle-daddle around  longer until I am once again rushed to leave.  So John was nice enough to make this for me  in the morning.

While this is certainly not a complicated or gourmet cooking dish, it is definitely something worth keeping in your recipe arsenal.  Also, I should mention that there is really nothing “French” at all about this, other than the fact that it uses American’s version of “French Dressing”.  Nevertheless, this dinner is  delicious and I  had trouble saving my second piece of chicken for lunch the next day.   I found myself eating every last piece rice that the scrumptious sauce had touched.    Plus, its so easy you really have no excuse not to make it – it’s 3 ingredients that you put into a pot.   You can adjust the cooking time to fit your schedule so it’s ready when you get home.   For example, Nikki mentioned that you could use 6 frozen chicken breasts and cook it on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours, or use 4 fresh chicken breasts and cook it on high for 3 hours.  Since I think one of the best things about crock pots is coming home to them being ready, I prefer to cook things for a longer period of time on low, which I have indicated below.  I think next time I am going to at least 1.5 the recipe because this really made great lunch leftovers (especially when compared to the hospital cafeteria).

IMG_1875

“French” Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

– Serves 4 (or 2 with great leftovers the next day)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup french dressing (I used Newman’s Own)
  • 1 cup apricot jelly or preserves
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for a minimum of  7 hours, but longer is fine.  Serve over rice.

Source: Pennies on a Platter