So, onto more important things such as the wonderful food we prepared this evening. We began with two separate appetizers, both very tasty. The first is a quickly sauteed mixture of green apple and zucchini served on a goat cheese coated crostini. The second was a melted piece of smoke mozzarella on a round of french bread topped with an avocado.
Our main course tonight was another winning combination. Both these dishes are keepers and would be great served together or apart. The highlight was a rustic vegetable tart with goat cheese. This tart was prepared on a pie crust topped with a goat cheese mixture then piled with a mixture of roasted vegetables. The tart would be a great addition to any meal - especially a winter dinner or a spring brunch. The second highlight was the Two Potato Mash that we served on the side. This was basically a BIV recreation of a few different recipes we had read. We made a sweet potato and a white potato mash, then combined them together to serve. The marriage of the sweet potato and the starchy mashed potatoes proved to be a winning combination.
And for the dessert.... again, this was quite simple but a great little sweet ending to the evening. These chocolate puddle cookies taste like a mixture of soft meringue and a chewy brownie. Yum!!
We recommend all these recipes and hope you try them out for yourself soon! Let us know if you have any questions or comments!
Polenta Rounds With Black-eyed Pea Topping (myrecipes.com)
Preparation Time: 15 minutes minutes
Cooking Time: 11 minutes minutes
1/2 (16-oz.) tube refrigerated sun-dried tomato polenta, cut into 6 even slices
Vegetable cooking spray
1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup light sour cream
1. Cook polenta rounds in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from heat, and keep warm.
2. Wipe pan with paper towel, spray with cooking spray, and cook peas and next 4 ingredients over medium heat 3 minutes or until water evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in tomatoes and 3 Tbsp. cilantro. Spoon warm black-eyed pea mixture over polenta rounds, and top evenly with sour cream. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp. cilantro.Our inspiration was the West-African Potato Peanut Soup. This soup was easy to prepare with basic kitchen staples, yet the result was truly a special treat. The soup was creamy, yet contained no dairy product (well - we did add a dollop of sour cream for flair) and had several layers of flavor - Yum :). We paired the soup with a simple green salad topped with roasted root vegetables and a slice of crusty bread.
To finish out our African theme this evening, we made baked bananas gabon. These simply prepared bananas were dipped in egg, coated with graham crackers and baked to achieve a crispy coating while keeping a moist, warm interior.
Another successful night!
To overcome our winter doldrums and to contrast our "white-out" meal last week, tonight we used the wonderful colors of nature to brighten our evening. Our night started with a wonderful smoky cheese and sun-dried tomato spread made by SB. This was a great appetizer served with crostini that provided both a touch of color and a burst of flavor.
Our main course veered into both the orange and green portions of the color wheel. The butternut squash and leek gratins were light, flavorful and provided a nice warm feeling on another cold night. A side dish for the gratins was the surprising star of the evening. The sugar snap peas were prepared simply and are an awesome go-to side. These peas were boiled briefly then simply stirred with some butter and lemon then adorned with a handful of toasted almonds.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed (about 8 ounces)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add peas; cook 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain peas in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 teaspoon cooking water.
Combine peas, reserved cooking water, butter, and lemon rind, tossing gently to combine. Sprinkle with almonds, salt, and pepper; toss gently to combine.
The dessert of the evening was another simple, yet surprisingly good dish. The eclair cake is simple to prepare, yet provides a luxurious flavor. This no-cook dessert is a great little trick to have in your pocket when you need a quick dish to impress others.
Spicy Polenta-Cheese Crackers
Heidi notes: Don't burn them, cooking time will vary depending on how thin you've actually rolled them - they can burn in no time. I started watching these in the oven at 6 minutes, mine were really on the thing side, so I pulled them out after eight minutes.
Equipment: A food processor or a blender; 2 nonstick baking sheets; a 1 3/4-inch round biscuit cutter or a glass.
1 cup bread flour (hs note: white whole wheat flour works as well)
1 cup instant polenta
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken to blend
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a food processor or a blender, combine the flour, polenta, sea salt, baking soda, cayenne pepper, and cheese. Process to blend. Add the butter and process just until the mixture resemble coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and process until the dough just forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few seconds. Wrap in plastic and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough into quarters. Set one quarter on a lightly floured surface; cover the remaining pieces with plastic. Roll out the dough 1/16 inch thick. Using a 1 3/4-inch biscuit cutter or a glass, cut out rounds of dough and arrange them on a nonstick baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the crackers are golden and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Once cool, transfer to airtight containers. The crackers can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Makes 75 crackers.To go with the crackers we had a white bean dip flavored with mint and lemon, a Danish blue cheese and a feta cheese spread. The crackers were really great with all the spreads, but the saltier fare of the blue and feta really paired well with the crackers.
The main dish tonight was a combination of cauliflower and asparagus. We made a creamed cauliflower, perfect for the whiteout conditions outside and a perfect comfort food for that tired winter feeling. The cauliflower was really great and would be a great side dish or a vegetarian main dish at any seasonal gathering. Our accompaniment to the cauliflower was a wonderful roasted asparagus with a browned butter sauce. This is my favorite way I have ever had asparagus and it was an easy dish to put together.
Now onto dessert....We had a super easy (no-cook) dish. We made a parfait layered with lemon yogurt, blueberries and ginger snaps. Easy to put together, but a wonderful combination of flavors and crunch. We used a thick, creamy lemon yogurt which really added to the success of the dish.
First we made granola- an easy combination of rolled oats, sweetener,nuts and fruit that will facilitate many early mornings and make a great starter to the day. Here is the recipe from Food Network with our modifications:
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add cranberries and mix until evenly distributed.
We also made a large pot of marinara sauce that will be frozen for future use as pasta sauce, pizza sauce and in soups and stews. This Cooking Light recipe had a wonderful smell and will be a great resource as we (hopefully) head into spring.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 3 (28-ounce) cans no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
To store in the freezer: Ladle room-temperature or chilled sauce into plastic containers or zip-top plastic bags. Seal and freeze for up to four months. Consider freezing the sauce in one-cup increments (two servings' worth). That way, you can pull out exactly as much as you want for future meals.
To thaw sauce: Try one of three methods.
1. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Place frozen blocks in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a low simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
3. Place frozen blocks in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave at HIGH one minute at a time, stirring after each increment until thawed.
To boost taste: Long stints in the freezer can dull the taste of tomatoes. To perk up thawed sauce, add one-half teaspoon finely grated lemon rind or one teaspoon balsamic vinegar while reheating.
The recipe that inspired our entire "stock the freezer" night was one from 101 Cookbooks.com, the site that is most frequently a inspiration to BIV and one that you should check out for yourself. This recipe was simple in ingredients and technique, yet completely captivated us. This recipe was for vegetable bouillon, you know that stuff you buy in the cubes in the grocery store that you never really want to use, but you know your recipe needs some sort of lift. Well we read this recipe that incorporates real vegetables, preserves them with salt and is then stored in the freezer. We were captivated and moved it to the front of the must make list. It turned out wonderful and we can't wait to include it in future blogs.
In contrast to our simplistic dinner last week, tonight BIV ventured into a series of complex recipes. We began simply enough with a nice loaf of cibatta bread purchased from the local bakery complemented with a wonderful French goat ch eese.
Yield: 10 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup risotto, about 1/4 cup pears, about 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons nuts, and about 1/2 teaspoon parsley))
- 1 cup pear nectar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup Chianti or other dry red wine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Bring first 3 ingredients to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, thyme, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add rice; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture, 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of br
oth is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes total). Stir in salt and pepper.
Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears; sauté 4 minutes. Serve pears over risotto; sprinkle with cheese, nuts, and parsley.
Our dessert tonight was an almondy treat. SH had recently inherited a container of vanilla almond milk and SB was us to the challenge of finding a yummy use for the milk. She made triple threat almond cupcakes that no only used the almond milk, but also almond paste and sugar coated almonds. These cupcakes were both labor and ingredient intensive but the result was tender, nutty and very tasty. You can find the recipe on the blue diamond website.
You may had noticed that we have taken some time off and have not been regular bloggers in the recent months. But we have now regrouped and are ready to return to the blogosphere :) and to hopefully return to a regular schedule.
Tonight's dinner was predominately from the recently published Gourmet Today. SB stared off the evening with a great ricotta cheese appetizer that was creamy and hard to stop eating!Next we had a butternut squash soup, a wonderful recipe from Gourmet Today . The soup was simple and flavorful and was topped with a luxurious roasted red pepper mousse. This was warm and comforting while also providing refreshing new textures and flavors.The main course tonight was a simple pasta dish. This is probably one of the simplest main dishes BIV has ever put together! The Spaghetti was simple in the amount of time and technique required, but did not deliver a simplistic result. I can not recommend this dish enough - in less than 30 minutes you had a flavorful and hearty main dish. We served the pasta with roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with lemon - a perfect accompaniment.
Cacio e Pepe
For this recipe, you need to grate the cheese with the ragged-edged holes of a box grater for ease of melting. Don't use the small teardrop-shaped holes or a rasp, as your cheese will clump up in the bowl.Yield: Makes 4 first-course servings
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 20 min
1/2 lb spaghetti
2 1/2 oz very finely grated Pecorino Romano (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) or Parmigiano-Reggiano plus additional for serving
Toast peppercorns in a dry small skillet over moderately high heat, swirling skillet, until fragrant and peppercorns begin to jump, 2 to 3 minutes. Coarsely crush peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or wrap in a kitchen towel and press on peppercorns with bottom of a heavy skillet.
Cook spaghetti in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
Fill a large glass or ceramic bowl with some hot water to warm bowl. Just before spaghetti is finished cooking, drain bowl but do not dry.
Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta quickly in a colander (do not shake off excess water) and add to warm pasta bowl. Sprinkle 3/4 cup cheese and 3 tablespoons cooking water evenly over spaghetti and toss quickly. If pasta seems dry, toss with some additional cooking water.
Divide pasta among 4 plates, then sprinkle with pepper and 2 tablespoons cheese (total). Serve immediately with additional cheese on the side.
And what would a BIV dinner be without a great desert? I don't know because we never finish the evening without one! Tonight we had homemade brownies topped with a scoop of peppermint ice cream. Again simple, yet delicious.