Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gluten Free Angel Hair Pasta with Roasted Garlic & Mushroom Pumpkin Sauce

I could only think of pumpkin on Halloween night which turned out to work in my favor. I had seen a recipe for a pumpkin lasagna that sounded fantastic so I went to the drawing board with what I had in my pantry. The end result was a creamy, well-balanced pumpkin sauce accented with roasted garlic and flecked with roasted mushrooms. I’ll be making this one over and over this fall.

1 pint crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 head of garlic, still in paper
8 leaves of fresh sage, diced
3 strips of thick cut bacon, diced into bit sized pieces
1 can pumpkin puree or 1 cup fresh puree
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and more for topping
1 package brown rice angel hair pasta
4 stems chives, diced for topping

Set oven to 350°. Arrange sliced mushrooms on a baking sheet and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil with 2/3′s of the chopped sage, salt and pepper. Chop the top off of the garlic head, place on roasting pan and then top with about 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes or until garlic is soft to the touch. Stir mushrooms occasionally.
Meanwhile, pan fry the bacon in a large skillet. Once crisp, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Leave the drippings and add the pumpkin to the skillet over low heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir and pick up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Next add in the roasted mushrooms, bacon, remaining sage, milk and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Dice up 1-2 cloves of the roasted garlic and add to sauce.
Cook the brown rice pasta to just under al dente. Drain and add directly to skillet with sauce. Add the parmesan cheese and use tongs to combine the pasta and sauce over low heat. Plate in serving bowls, sprinkle with a little extra cheese and the diced chives. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cinnamon Honey Sweet Potato Pie

Cinnamon Honey Sweet Potato Pie 

A classic recipe emerged from a trip to the local Farmer's market. Walnut Hill Farm had a plethora of earthy, massive sweet potatoes spilling out of buckets on the table so I picked up a few to work with. I also made a stop by one of my favorite vendors, Alfredo’s Honey, and picked up a tub of whipped cinnamon honey (I think I am working on my 7th tub from him).  The two market picks just seem to be a marriage made in heaven, right? Having not made a sweet potato pie before, I did a little research online and found a recipe that seemed to be in-line with what I had in the pantry and what I had picked up from the market.  I modified it slightly by using a homemade gluten-free crust which will be featured on, my new website created with a fellow Richmonder and lover of all things tasty and gluten-free. I also changed up the cinnamon portions since I was working with a cinnamon flavored honey. Here’s my take:

Cinnamon Honey Sweet Potato Pie
Filling Ingredients:

2 large, roasted sweet potatoes removed from skin (about 3 cups)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup Alfredo’s local cinnamon honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup melted butter

Start by dry roasting the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet in an oven set to 375° for about 50-60 minutes or until soft to the touch. Once cooled, scrape flesh from skin and place into a food processor, pulse until broken down. Add remaining ingredients, except butter and pulse until smooth. With the food processor on, drizzle in melted butter until combined.

Fill a par-baked, gluten-free pie crust (will fill a 10″ pie) and bake at 350° for 35 minutes. A knife inserted into the center should come out clean or the center of the pie should spring back when touched.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Italian Style Brisket and Zucchini Stackers

A modified take on Tyler Florence’s brisket recipe and a side dish to complement any entree…
Italian Style Brisket
4 Roma tomatoes, halved
8 springs fresh thyme
1 garlic cloves, smashed and finely minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles striped from the stem and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb brisket
Fresh cracked black pepper
6 basil leaves, shredded
2 cups carrots, rough cut
2 celery stalks, rough cut
2 small white onion, quartered
1 cups dry red wine
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes with basil
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 300­°. Half Roma tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and place thyme stems directly over each half. Drizzle with olive oil and oven roast for about 25-30 minutes or until edges brown lightly.
Kick the heat up on oven to 325°. Combine the chopped rosemary leaves with 1/8 cup olive oil, finely minced garlic, 1/4 tsp kosher salt and about 1/8 tsp fresh cracked black pepper to make a thick paste. In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed large pot, add olive oil to coat bottom. Season all sides of the brisket with salt and pepper and add to hot oil to brown.

Once a good color has formed on all sides, cut the heat and evenly coat the top of the brisket with the rosemary paste mixture. Next add roasted tomatoes (with thyme stems), basil, carrots, celery, onion, canned tomatoes, wine, bay and top with parsley and more rosemary if you have it.

Top dutch oven with a lid or wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Transfer to oven for 3-4 hours cooking time, baste with sauce every 30 minutes. If liquid drops too low, add beef stock or water in small increments to keep the brisket mostly covered.
Once cooked, transfer the brisket to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Return pot to stove top, set the heat to low and use a hand blender to blend all ingredients thoroughly (remove bay leaves and herb stems first).  Add 1/4 tsp fresh red pepper flakes for a spicy kick (optional).

Serve sauce along side sliced brisket and use it in the side dish…
Zucchini Stacks
1 ‘One Ball’  zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1 red pepper, sliced in rings
1 green pepper, sliced in rings
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 cup homemade tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Season the sliced vegetables with olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Grill them on medium-hi until grill marks form, flipping once.

Next, transfer to an oiled baking dish by stacking the vegetables – zucchini on the bottom, topped with the pepper rings. Cover each stack with tomato sauce, top evenly with cheeses and bake until the brown and bubbly.

Given the current power outage due to Irene, I cooked mine covered with foil on the grill and it took about 20 minutes.
The braised brisket becomes very tender after hours of cooking and absorbs a punch of flavor from the wine and roasted tomatoes. They really work together, the sauce and the brisket, each lending their flavors to the other.  Even when topped with the rich tomato sauce, the veggies hold their own earthy flavors.  The zucchini resembles a pumpkin in looks, taste and seeds which can be removed if you are not a fan.  I think I’ll pick up a few more next week at the Farmer’s Market, stuff them with a bacon and grain combination and roast them…

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pesto and Goat Cheese Spread

I started salivating earlier this week, dreaming up all of the wonderful treats I could make with a nice crusty baguette and a fresh bunch of basil that I brought home from our local Farmer's Market. I came back to a go-to dip that hits the spot all summer long.  Rarely do I go without homemade pesto in my kitchen, especially when I can buy basil in bulk and make tons to freeze.  So, with the two huge bunches I picked up and a tasty roll of black peppered goat cheese, I put together a fresh, bright dish that would be a perfect summer evening snack or compliment to any Sunday brunch. 

Makes about 2 cups

4 handfuls fresh basil leaves
1/2-2/3′s cup toasted, unsalted walnuts
1 wedge parmigiano reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
pinch salt
Pulse all ingredients in a processor except oil until chunky. Next, slowly drizzle in the olive oil – add as much oil as needed to get to the right consistency.  I tend to keep it a bit tight because you can always add a little more oil to each dish when using the pesto and for the purposes of a dip, the less oil the better.

Pesto and Goat Cheese Dip
Servings: 4-6

Remove all but 2 tbsps of pesto in processor and store separately.  To the processor, add zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and 4 oz of black peppered goat cheese.  Blend until creamy.  The black peppered goat cheese adds a sharp tang to the dip which is balanced out by the freshness of the lemon. Transfer to a serving dish and serve with toasted, oiled baguette rounds.

Anna B’s gluten-free baguette had the perfect texture for this dip.  Toasted on a low heat with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, the crusty outside and slightly chewy inside made for a great base to the creamy, sharp flavors of the pesto and goat cheese.

Not only did the basil provide a summer fresh taste, but the pale, vertical blooms made a modern and fragrant bouquet for the kitchen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tender Mock Steak with Fried Green Tomatoes and Garlic Leek Cream Sauce

We picked up green tomatoes from Walnut Hill Farm at our local farmer's market just before they ran out and I am so glad we did because I was ready for a southern fried treat.  We also headed over to Victory Farms and grabbed a bunch of leeks and a garlic bulb from Fertile Crescent.  The last stop was back to Deer Run Farm of Amelia where we picked up an interesting cut of meat – Mock Tender Steak which, unlike it’s name suggests, is not inherently tender. We were given some great info on the cut and told to marinate, so marinate we did!  Here’s how we pulled it all together:

Gluten-Free Fried Green Tomatoes
2 sturdy green tomatoes, sliced thick
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs (suggested to me by a fantastic Forest Hill neighbor!)
3 tbsp gluten free all purpose flour
3 stems of thyme
kosher salt
After slicing the tomatoes, set up the dredging stations by grabbing two shallow bowls.  In one bowl, combine buttermilk, egg and pinch of salt and pepper and whisk until combined.  In the second bowl, combine breadcrumbs, flour, thyme leaves that have been removed from stems and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Breading Station

Dredge each tomato slice first in the buttermilk mixture and then in the breadcrumb mixture until well coated (pressing with fingers will help the crumbs to stick).  Next, add a few tbsps canola oil to a fry pan and once ripples form on the oil, add the tomatoes two at a time. Cook on each side for about 1-2 minutes until a golden crust forms.  Transfer fried tomatoes to a casserole dish and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Garlic Leek Cream Sauce
2 leeks, diced and rinsed
1 clove fresh garlic, diced
1/2-2/3′s cup milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tbsp gluten free all purpose flour
salt and pepper
Start by putting the milk in a sauce pan over low heat to warm slightly.  Next, lightly sauté the leeks and garlic in a sauté pan over medium-low heat for just 1-2 minutes.  Begin to add the flour 1 tbsp at a time and whisk vigorously until a paste forms.  Once a good consistency is reached, raise the heat slightly and slowly add the milk to the sauté pan, whisking as you go.  Continue to stir to keep the milk from burning and until the sauce thickens to desired consistency.
Testing, testing
When the sauce is ready, you should be able to coat a wooden spoon with the sauce and draw you finger down the back to form a line.  At this point remove from heat and strain leeks and garlic from the sauce.  Use the spoon to force all the liquid from the vegetables. Discard the leeks and garlic and set sauce aside until ready to serve.

Tender Mock Steak Marinade
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry red wine
3 stems rosemary,
1 clove garlic, rough chop
2 stems of thyme
salt & pepper
Combine all ingredients above and add to a plastic ziploc bag.  Add the steak and marinate on the counter in a sealed bag for about 20-30 minutes prior to grilling over medium heat for just a few minutes for medium-rare.  Be sure to let the steaks rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.  The longer you are able to marinate the steaks the more tender they will be but ours had a great texture and the rosemary really permeated the meat.
Dinner is served!
Drizzle the cream sauce over the warm, fried tomatoes and top with the steak…just try not to go back for seconds on this one!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jalapeno Ranch Slaw Burgers

This is a delicious and non-traditional topper for a burger, great crunch and loads of flavor!

Jalapeno Ranch Slaw Burgers

(makes 4-6 servings)
1/2 small red cabbage, shredded
1/2 pint sun gold tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
3 spring onions, greens and whites diced
(makes 1 cup – save remainder to top salads, sandwiches, eggs, chips, chicken, what have you…)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp fresh chopped chives
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 jalapeno, diced
1 Serrano chili, fresh grated
pinch of salt
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, tomatoes, chives and parsley. Set aside. Combine all ingredients for ranch dressing in a separate bowl, use a hand grater to grate the entire Serrano chili into the dressing. Mix well. For the slaw, add about 1/4 cup of dressing and combine. Add more dressing if desired and finish with a little extra salt and pepper to taste. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving to let the flavors come together.  Store remainder of ranch in a separate, air tight container in the fridge.

For the burgers, we keep it simple – scant 1/4 tsp garlic salt and 1/4 tsp pepper per 1 lb of meat.  Form into patties and add a sprinkle of kosher salt to the outside of the burgers just before grilling. Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side over 400° grill for medium to medium rare burgers. The Faith Farm ground beef we picked up at the farmer's market came out perfectly - so much flavor for so little work and the burgers were perfectly juicy.
Jalapeno Ranch Slaw Burgers

Plate it up on a whole wheat bun with a heaping mound of the Jalapeno Ranch Slaw, nothing else needed!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Farmer's Market Omelette

It’s so satisfying to bike over to the neighborhood Farmer’s Market to pick up a few fresh ingredients for breakfast.  At South of the James you can find every ingredient needed for a hearty, healthy start-to-the-day.  My quest started with fresh eggs so I ended up at Deer Run Farm of Amelia where my husband got a lesson in ground meat for burgers from a friend of the farm (she raved so much about the farm we thought she was an employee) and I learned about their grass-fed, grass-finished beef and the health benefits of eating eggs from their free-range hens.   It was a perfect stop, start to finish, so we walked away with a dozen eggs for omelettes and a brochure for ordering ahead for next week.

Deciding on an omelette was the easy part of the morning, choosing what to fill it with took a little more time.  Spinach & mushrooms?  Tomatoes and peppers?  Luckily, across the way from Deer Run Farm was a group I hadn’t seen before, Manakintowne Specialty Growers.  They had a great set up, tables and baskets full of fresh herbs.  They also had little bits of information typed out on paper for some of the less recognizable greens, one of which was a few bunches of garlic scapes.  The woman manning the table told me they added delicious but mild garlic flavor and were a great accompaniment to spinach or squash.  So I grabbed a bunch and went off in search of the final additions – a shiitake mushroom from Casselmonte Farm (purchased by the ounce), a container of baby squash and zucchini and a bunch of basil from Victory FarmsVictory Farms and finally, some goat cheese from Bonnyclabber Cheese Company.

Here’s how it all came together:

Farmer’s Market Omelette

Prep Time: 5 minutes       Cook Time:  10 minutes
Serves: 2

4 farm fresh eggs
1 tbsp water
1 baby squash, diced
1 baby zucchini, diced
1 shiitake mushroom, diced
2 garlic scapes, bulb discarded and green stem diced
6 basil leaves, sliced in ribbons
salt and pepper
2 ounces goat cheese (or however much or little you like)
Start by heating a non-stick omelette pan that has been sprayed with canola cooking oil over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini, squash and mushrooms to sauté, season with salt and pepper.  While the veggies cook, whisk the eggs with water until fully incorporated. Once a good color has developed on the squash, add the chopped garlic and basil and stir to distribute evenly.  Cook for an additional minute and then transfer the cooked veggies to a dish and set to the side.
In the same pan, add half the eggs for one omelette and turn the pan to evenly distribute.  Using a spatula, skim the outer edge of the pan and force the uncooked egg to the side until all liquid is cooked through.  Next, scatter half the sauteed vegetables and herbs in the center of the omelette and top with goat cheese.  Using the spatula, gently fold both sides over the center to close and then transfer the omelette to the serving plate.  Enjoy while hot!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Prep time:  10 minutes  Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

1 tbsp canola oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp lite rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 jalapeno or bird chili sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
6 white button mushroom caps, sliced
4 spring onions (whites and greens) diced on the diagonal
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 tin water chestnuts, diced
1 cup shredded cabbage
2 tbsp cilantro, rough chop (and more for garnish)
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 head butter leaf or bibb lettuce, core removed and leaves separated and washed
toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Start by warming canola oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Season sliced chicken with salt & pepper and brown in skillet.  Once browned, transfer to plate and discard any remaining oil in pan.  Combine hoisin sauce, tamari, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil and transfer to skillet, reduce heat to medium low.  Add jalapeno, red bell pepper, mushrooms, half of the green onions and carrots to soften for about 4-5 minutes.  Once softened but still colorful, add cabbage, water chestnuts, cabbage, cilantro, garlic and chicken.  Turn to coat in sauce and continue to cook over medium low heat for an additional 2-3 minutes or until heated through.

Line a serving dish with the lettuce leaves and transfer the spicy chicken mix to the middle of the plate.  Top with remaining spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and a garnish of cilantro…serve with Sriracha for an added kick!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Project Garden Grow - Year 2

We've really begun to see some of the benefits of moving our herb garden last summer.  Even though it was a lot of work, I think it's totally paid off.  What do you think?!

Year II-Phase II involves 4 raised garden beds for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, greens, etc. So far we have 1 box in, 3 to go.  Pics to follow...

Garlic Cannellini Beans with Fresh Spinach

Our local Saturday Farmer's Market is back!  My first purchase of the season was a big bag of spinach from Broadfork Farm (based in Chesterfield, VA).  The leaves were large and tender with a mild but distinctly earthy flavor.  The taste made me feel like I was standing in the rows of greens, plucking the foliage straight from the ground to devour on the spot.  Loving spinach like I do, it didn’t take me long to decide how to enjoy it and enjoy it quickly!
Garlic Cannellini Beans and Fresh Spinach
Prep time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves 4


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 handfuls fresh spinach, washed and dried
salt & pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade

In a sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the beans to warm, stirring occasionally.  Once warmed through, add minced garlic, tomatoes and spinach.  Use kitchen tongs to ‘toss’ the mixture together and flavor with salt and pepper.  Lower heat and cover with lid for 3-5 minutes (just long enough to let the spinach reduce).   Pile on the basil, give a final toss and serve warm…drizzle with another swirl of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan for a little extra kick.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweet Honey Ham Pizza with Fig Jam and Carmelized Shallots

Like many in the South, we had a delicious spiral-cut honey ham glazed in a honey mustard mixture for our Easter dinner.  I look forward to it every year, mainly because there are lots of leftovers and since Easter was at my house this year, those leftovers were mine all mine!  I did (begrudgingly) share with my husband this time around and with his love of all things pizza and my love of new recipes, we came up with a good use for the mounds of ham left in the fridge.  Honey ham pizza, who knew?!  I added a few other items that have become staples in my house because they are tasty and can help to create some pretty fantastic dishes:  fig spread and shallots.  I first had fig spread smeared over a hard, sharp Parmesan and served with wheat crackers.  It is perfectly sweet with a melt in your mouth texture which compliments lots of cheeses.  Shallots are a no-brainer.  They are a little milder than a regular onion and truthfully, I think I like them most for their compact size.  Usually one or two are the perfect amount for any dish which means no leftover, diced up, ready-to-dry out onion pieces to store.  But I digress...onto the pizza compilation!

Homemade pizza dough:

1 1/2 cups water (80°-90°)
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tbsp active yeast

Mix, knead and rise in a bread maker or add the above ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook.  Mix until combined, cover with a damp towel in warm spot to rise.  Deflate dough and form into rounded disk.  Cut in 1/2 for two 12" pizzas.  To make a pizza round, form back into rounded disk on a floured surface.  Using fingertips. press edges out all the way around the outer edge, rotating the dough as you press out.  Push the center out and repeat pressing edges out until large enough to cover pizza stone or pan without going over.

extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fig spread
1 medium to large shallot, caramelized in olive oil and butter and deglazed with dry white wine (sauté until cooked out)
1/2-1 cup cubed honey ham
3/4 cup pizza cheese blend
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Transfer formed pizza round to stone or pizza pan.  Add 2 turns of extra virgin olive oil and smooth over entire dough surface, including crust.  Spread fig jam over pizza, add caramelized shallots, honey ham and cheese.  Bake at 400° for about 10 minutes until bubbly in the center.  I like to flip the broiler on at the end and get it nice an browned on top...but that's really up to you and your desire for under or over!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bloody Mary Flat Iron Steak with Scallion Potato Cakes

I am in love with Flat Iron Steak. Really. I might marry it. Okay, instead I will marinate it in a bloody mary cocktail blend and grill it to perfection. I actually let this one marinate overnight which is hard for me because I am impatient when it comes to food. It worked in my favor though so maybe I'll take a lesson learned. The meat turned out tender and less tough than it has in the past. The flavor showed the perfect hint of tomato, horseradish and all-around-goodness. I also reserved some of the marinade to reduce with honey and pour over the cakes and steak at the end. Here's the blend I used:

Spicy Bloody Mary Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup Spicy Hot V8
1 tbsp pickle juice
1/2 lemon, fresh squeezed
2 tsp creamy horseradish
1 tsp celery seed
1 garlic clove, diced
dash of Frank's hot sauce
salt & pepper  

Whisk together all ingredients and set about 1/4 cup aside.  Place the flat iron steak in a gallon sized ziploc and pour marinade over, moving around to coat all sides.  Place in a shallow dish to prevent spillage and refrigerate overnight, turning once to marinate both sides equally.  

When ready to cook, remove steak from the marinade and pat dry.  Grill over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side depending on how well done you prefer your steak.  Let rest for 10 minutes and slice on a bias to serve.

Bloody Mary Steak Sauce

Using the reserved marinade, place in saucepan over medium-high heat and add about 2 tbsp of honey to thicken and sweeten.  Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, whisking often while the steak rests.  Serve in a gravy boat for each person to pour over servings.

Scallion Potato Cakes

6-8 red potatoes
2 scallions, chopped in thin slices
2 tsp creamy horseradish
salt & pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Boil potatoes with skin-on and in salted water until soft.  In a large mixing bowl, mash potatoes, add chopped scallions, horseradish and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend until smooth.  Using hands, form into patties as you would hamburgers (will make 4-5 cakes).

In a frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil to warm.  Transfer potato cakes to oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 4-5 minutes per side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spicy and Crunchy Peanut Noodles

For years I've been searching for an Asian inspired noodle recipe with a salty/sweet peanut sauce and, finally, one from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) appeared on Food Network .  I tried her version first and then adjusted the ingredients according to my own tastes and preferences.  I've made this dish several times now and each time someone has asked me for the recipe, which is my own personal gauge of a successful conversion, so I figured it was time to share.

Below is a list of the ingredients I use to make the recipe gluten-free, the first of which is brown rice spaghetti pasta.  While I am a fan of rice pasta, this is the first recipe I've tried where I would say the brown rice spaghetti is a natural fit.  If you aren't gluten free and would like to save some cash, stick with the traditional angel hair pasta and swap the tamari for straight soy.

Spicy and Crunchy Peanut Noodles

Serves: 6
Time: 25-30 minutes

1 lb brown rice spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lite rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup gluten free tamari
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup organic smooth peanut butter (I like Trader Joe's because it pours from the jar which makes it great for sauce)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded and sliced in thin strips
1/2 pound fresh snow peas, cut on an angle in half
4 scallions, cut on an angle
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Start by dropping the pasta into salted boiling water and follow the instructions to cook to al denté. While the pasta cooks, whisk together the oil, vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, zest, peanut butter and seeds.  In a large mixing bowl, toss red pepper, peas, 2/3's scallions and shrimp.  Add cooked pasta and cover with sauce (use half or all of sauce depending on personal taste).  Top with remaining scallions, cilantro and peanuts to serve. 

A few things to note: 

This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  If using the full pound of spaghetti, you can definitely use all of the sauce and there will be some left at the bottom of the bowl.  If you like less sauce, jar the remainder and use it as a dip for spring rolls, chicken satay or grilled shrimp.   Also, this dish is great served warm, cold or at room temperature.  Leftovers will work for a day or so but the longer the noodles sit, the more they will break down because of the acid in the sauce.  And finally, for an even bigger punch of flavor - serve lime wedges on the side to squeeze over the noodle bowls.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Balsamic Reduction Two Ways

It's one of the easiest and most versatile tricks in the kitchen - balsamic reduction.  All it takes is the vinegar, a sauce pan, a whisk and heat and you have a syrupy topping that can be used on anything from chicken to ice cream.  I recently discovered white balsamic vinegar which is essentially the same as it's darker counterpart  but a little less thick, a little less sweet and, as you would imagine by the name, clear.  It's processed in a similar manner with white grapes and white wine vinegar and simmered over low heat to develop the syrup and then aged to enrich the flavor.  In my opinion, the real advantage to swapping for the clear version is purely aesthetic; you get the flavor without changing the coloring of your food. 

To make a reduction, simply pour the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, whisking often so as not to burn. Reduce the heat to let it simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Word to the wise - stand back when the heat hits the vinegar unless you are looking to clear your sinuses.

Balsamic Glazed Asparagus Spears

14-16 thin, fresh Asparagus spears
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tbsp balsamic reduction
2 slices honey ham
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Snap asparagus spears at the bottom at natural breaking point to remove tough stems. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and place over indirect heat on a preheated grill.  Baste with balsamic reduction while the spears cook for approximated 6-8 minutes.  Halfway thru grilling, divide spears equally and place one slice of ham over each group to warm. Pull from grill and roll spears into a 'log', folding ham over the group and placing seam side down.  Top with diced tomato and grated cheese to serve. The sweetness of the ham is the perfect compliment to the balsamic reduction. 

Balsamic Glazed Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tbsp balsamic reduction

Clean and trim the chicken breasts, salt and pepper liberally and place in a shallow container. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pour over chicken.  Let the meat rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. 

Preheat the grill to about 400° and oil grates prior to placing the marinated chicken on the grill.  While the chicken cooks (about 5 minutes on each side), baste liberally with the balsamic reduction.  Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving.

You'll find yourself using this reduction on everything...promise!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Prosciutto and Spinach Gnocchi

Fluffy, store-bought pillows of potato, slathered in a Parmesan cream sauce and topped with prosciutto and fresh spinach.  It's a delicious Italian dinner in less than 15 minutes, a perfect weeknight meal. Here's how it came together:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 oz, thick sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
1 clove garlic, diced
2-3 tbsp chicken broth or dry white wine
1/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 package store bought gnocchi (go gluten free!)
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade

Bring salted water to a boil on the stovetop.  While the water is coming up, start the sauce by crisping the prosciutto strips in a little olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-hi heat. Once crisp, add in garlic to saute lightly and reduce heat to medium so as not to burn.  When the mixture becomes fragrant, add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan.  Reduce for 2 minutes and add milk. Mix until it starts to bubble and then add the shredded cheese and stir to melt. Season with pepper (the cheese and pasta will be plenty salty so no need to add additional). Reduce heat to low and then drop the gnocchi to cook for 2 minutes in the salted water.  Once they start to float, strain and transfer into the sauté pan with the sauce.  Add the spinach on top, stir to coat until the spinach is wilted.  Top with the parmigiano reggiano and give a final toss. Plate and top with the basil chiffonade.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sinful Cinnamon Toffee Pinwheels

Working on a few sweet treat recipes for a new contest, I came up with these little pinwheels.  These would be a great addition to a Sunday brunch or coffee meeting- a decadent bite with a crisp outer edge and chewy center.  Plus, using a store bought dough really cuts down on the prep time and (in my kitchen) the mess. Here's how they came together:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls
1/8 cup toffee bits
1/8 cup slivered raw almonds

Preheat the oven to 375°. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 tsp salt and sprinkle liberally over a 13 x 13 space on a clean counter or work area.  Roll out the dough over the sugar/salt mixture, pinching the seams together to keep together as one sheet and using the rolling pin to spread the dough and push into the sugar.  Next, using a basting brush, liberally brush the dough with the melted butter.  Mix together the remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle generously over the entire surface (you'll have some leftover which will be used to top the pinwheels when they are fresh out of the oven). Next, cover the surface area with the toffee bits and almonds.  Once the dough is evenly covered, roll the dough onto itself to form a log.  Using a sawing motion, cut the dough into 1/2 inch discs and place on a silpat on a cookie sheet, pressing each one down slightly to form more of a cookie than a roll.  Bake for 9-11 minutes until golden brown and the sugar has caramelized. Pull out the pinwheels, brush with the remaining butter and sprinkle some additional sugar/cinnamon mixture on top for a little sparkle and crunch!

Serve with a little cinnamon whipped cream - heavy cream whisked together with confectioner's sugar and cinnamon to taste. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Garlic Cheese Grits with Drunken Peppers and Sausage

Super quick weeknight meal with only a little prep - my kinda deal!   Two things that make this one cook up in a flash:  quick cooking grits and hot Italian sausage links.  Get out one large fry pan with a lid for the peppers and sausage and a sauce pot for the grits.  You'll be eating in 10 minutes flat!

Garlic Cheese Grits with Drunken Peppers and Sausage
Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large green pepper, thinly sliced
1 lb hot Italian sausage
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 tsp fresh oregano

3 cups water
3/4 cup quick cooking grits
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp garlic paste
fresh cracked black pepper

Green onion for garnish

Start by coating the bottom of a non-stick fry pan with the olive oil and let it warm up over medium-hi heat.  In the meantime, get the water boiling in the sauce pan for the grits.  Add the sausage links to the center of the pan with oil and spread the sliced peppers and onions around the outside of the pan with a little bit of salt and pepper over the veggies.  Brown the sausages on both sides, taking about 3 minutes per to really develop good color and flavor. Once browned, hit the pan with the red wine and toss the vegetables around until equally coated.  Cover the pan and reduce the heat to let the veggies and sausage finish cooking in the liquid and steam. Stir in the chopped oregano at the end of the cooking process for a burst of flavor.

Onto the grits - once the water comes up to a boil, whisk in the grits, butter and salt.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 5-7 minutes (stirring occasionally).  Unlid, stir in the cheese, garlic paste, salt and pepper. 

Plate the grits first in a low bowl, slice 2 sausages in half, at an angle and place on top of the grits.  Spoon the veggies and sauce over everything and garnish with some fresh green onion.  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Double Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

On Saturday mornings, I like to sneak downstairs and turn on the Food Network to get some inspiration for the weekend. I see chefs and shows that aren't on weeknights so it's like a special little treat for me to kick off my weekend. This Saturday was even brighter because the theme was 'comfort foods'- isn't that what the weekend is all about?!  For those of you that missed it, Giada De Laurentiis did a little dessert that will now be archived into my index of cooking fame - Double Chocolate and Espresso Cookies.  Keeping on my gluten-free train, I modified the ingredients and baked them up before my husband was even out of bed.  Here's the original recipe and my swaps:

Double Chocolate and Espresso Cookies

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time:
12 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
19 min
10 to 12 cookies


  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (recommended: Ghirardelli)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate-covered espresso beans (I used a little less than 1/3 cup instant ground coffee)
  • 1 cup flour (I used Red Mill's Gluten-free All Purpose Flour)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used Kosher Salt)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (recommended: Nestle Toll House - I used Milk Chocolate)


Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats - my silicone mat worked like a charm for this recipe.  They slid right off with no trace of chocolate behind. 

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate bar and butter. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
In the bowl of a food processor, finely chop the chocolate covered espresso beans (or instant coffee). In a medium bowl, whisk together the chopped espresso beans (coffee), flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, water, and vanilla extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until thick and smooth. Fold in the melted chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chips. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop level 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets (I used my small cookie dough scoop which yielded slightly smaller cookies, about 22-24 in total). Bake until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets and serve.

Thank you, Giada, for this amazing and simple recipe! 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lean Chicken Meatloaf

Winter is rounding out her days but we try not to complain and just enjoy the quiet comforts of cold, dark days. The upside to the dreary days of February definitely is the hearty foods that beckon from the kitchen and it doesn't get much heartier than meatloaf.  Always looking for a healthier version, I used my old staple - ground chicken - and added lots of fresh veggies to 'beef' it up. Remember the Eddie Murphy skit about his mom's homemade burgers?  Yep, it looked just like bell peppers and red onion chunks popping out all over the place. 

The vegetables gave it great flavor and texture and I threw in a little chipotle pepper to add some smoky heat to the loaf.  Served alongside canellini beans sauted in sundried tomato oil and finished with arugula, this meal was fit for the darkest of winter nights.

Lean Chicken Meatloaf

Preparation time:  10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1/2 medium green bell pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
4 baby bella mushrooms, small dice
2 sundried tomatoes (in oil), small dice
1/2 small chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, small dice
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 lb ground chicken
1 cup marinara
3 slices thick cut bacon, halved

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the above ingredients, reserving the marinara and the bacon for the top.  Combine by gently 'folding' the vegetables, spices and egg into the ground chicken so as not to overwork the meat.  Once combined, form into a loaf in a baking dish with raised sides.  Cover the loaf with the marinara and arrange the 6 slices of bacon over the top.  Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven to bake.  At 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes for the bacon to crisp.  Finish on a low broil for approximately 2 minutes if the bacon doesn't cook through.

Transfer to a serving dish, slice at each strip of bacon for the perfect serving size and enjoy!