Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Squash Wild Rice with White Beans and Tomatoes

After the holiday weekend, it's time for a healthy dish to counteract all those burgers and hot dogs!

Notes: You can adjust the cooking time here so that the veggies are cooked to your liking. Simmering the squash for 40 minutes makes it very tender. If you prefer yours toothy, add it when you add the tomatoes.

I used a boxed wild rice medley for this. It's very easy and economical. All you do is add the same amount of water that is listed on the back of the box. You just cook it along side the veggies.

1 cup uncooked wild rice medley (I used a boxed mix)
1 3/4 cup water
1 large or 2 small yellow squash
1 large or 2 small zucchini
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 15 oz. can small white beans
1 shallot
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch chives
1/2 bunch thyme
8-10 dashes of hot sauce
Olive oil


Mince the garlic and dice the shallot. Slice the squash and zucchini into half moons.

Heat a small amount of olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet (make sure it has high sides and a lid). Sautee the onions and garlic until just tender and fragrant. Add the squash and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the water and bring everything to a boil.

Stir in the rice and then turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the rice is simmering, mince the thyme and chives. Rinse and drain the beans. After the 20 minutes has passed, add the tomatoes, beans, and herbs. Season with hot sauce and another round of salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes until the rice is tender, but still chewy. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I confess: I am not a big fan of frosting.

I know there are some people who will eat frosting straight from the bowl and never mind the cake, but I'm pretty much the opposite. Give me a delicious cake and who needs all that gloppy, sugary nonsense on the top? Maybe a little powdered sugar, but otherwise why mess with perfection?

Well, I finally found a frosting recipe that even made me want to lick the bowl. White chocolate buttercream. It's just the right level of sweetness for me and it enhanced the flavor rather than detracted from it. And it just might be the easiest frosting I've ever made.

Notes: You have no doubt heard that you shouldn't try to make things like frosting and ganache with chocolate chips because they have shelf stabilizers in them. I've heard that too, but I'm here to tell you that whatever voodoo happens in the melting and cooling process here, the frosting came out great.

You have to plan ahead for this one since the white chocolate/butter mixture has to sit in the fridge overnight. The good news is melting the two together is so easy, you could do it in your PJs right before you go to bed.

I was able to frost about 14 cupcakes with this batch of frosting.

As for the cupcakes, you might want to dust the cherries with a little flour or cocoa powder before you put them in the batter. They'll sink to the bottom because the batter is thin.

Ingredients for Frosting (adapted from this recipe):
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) butter

Directions: Melt the butter and chips together in a small saucepan on medium. Stir frequently until everything is completely melted. Cool for 15 minutes. The butter will separate from the chips, but that's OK.

Put the sauce pan in the fridge overnight. When you're ready to make the frosting, pull the pan out of the fridge 30 minutes ahead of time.

When the frosting is at room temperature, beat in a stand mixer on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Spread on cakes or cupcakes.

Ingredients for Cupcakes (adapted from this recipe):
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup prepared coffee, cooled
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh cherries

Directions: Heat the oven to 350.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla). Add the wet to the dry and stir gently until just combined. Fold in the cherries.

Spoon into a paper-lined or greased cupcake pan. Bake fro 18-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Frost with white chocolate buttercream and enjoy!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Lima Bean, Tomato, and Corn Salad

One can never had too many recipes that are suitable for ferrying to parties. Summer time means lots of cookouts, BBQs, family reunions, and pot lucks.

Dishes that travel well have a couple of good qualities. First, they don't contain ingredients that spoil easily (read: no mayo). Second, they are flexible and can be easily doubled or tripled. Finally, they don't take hours and hours of prep (who wants to spend all day or morning in the kitchen while you're trying to get ready for a party?). This salad meets all the criteria.

Notes: I wouldn't recommend canned lima beans for this. They are too mushy and salty, and they won't have the nice bright green color to make the salad pretty. Frozen lima beans work much better.

You can substitute frozen corn with no problem, but since it's summer and corn is in season, I thought fresh would be great.

This salad doesn't have a heavy dressing. I just used fresh herbs and the toasted garlic.

You can easily double or triple this recipe depending on how many people you need to serve. This will serve 4-6 depending on the serving size.

1 bag frozen lima beans
3 ears fresh corn
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small bunch parsley
1 small bunch chives
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons butter


Start by shucking the corn. Strip the kernels off by standing the ears up in the middle of a large bowl and running your knife down the side.

Heat a large skillet on medium and add the butter. While the butter melts, mince the garlic. Add the garlic to the butter and sautee until it just starts to turn light golden brown. Add the corn and lima beans (don't bother defrosting). Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn and lima beans are tender, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

While the beans and corn are cooling, slice the tomatoes in half and mince the chives and parsley. Add them to the bowl you plan to serve the salad in. When the corn and beans are cool, add them to the tomatoes and toss everything together. Serve immediately or let it chill in the fridge. Enjoy!

Classic Hot Dog Chili + Hot Dog Chili Tacos

Since this week was 4th of July, everyone was making classic American cookout foods. A friend of ours decided to have a hot dog and America-themed movie night in honor of Independence Day. All of the guests were assigned to bring hot dog toppings that are traditional in the region you grew up in.

Of course, the classic NC hot dog is mustard, hot dog chili, and cole slaw. We could have purchased canned chili, but what would be the fun of that?

Everyone knows that the downside of having a 4th of July cookout is that you often end up with leftovers you don't quite know what to do with. That's why I've included a recipe that helps you use up the rest of your hot dog chili.

Notes: Hot dog chili isn't the same as the chili you would eat in a bowl. It's thinner and the meat is less chunky. That consistency is achieved with water and a potato masher.

We were able to find spicy ketchup in the store, but if you don't have any, just use a combination of regular ketchup and hot sauce.

Ingredients for Hot Dog Chili (adapted slightly from this recipe):
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup spicy ketchup (we used Heinz Tabasco ketchup)
1/3 cup water
10 oz. tomato puree
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Ground pepper to taste


Heat a non-stick pot on medium-high. Add the ground beef and break it up into chunks. Switch to a potato masher to get the crumbly texture. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in water, ketchup and tomato puree. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Ingredients for Hot Dog Chili Tacos (makes 6 tacos):
2 cups leftover hotdog chili
6 taco shells
1 15 oz. can pinto or kidney beans
1/2 pint cole slaw (I used store bought)
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I had mahon, but sharp cheddar would be great)


Heat oven to 350. In a small sauce pan, heat the leftover chili and beans together. Stir well.

Bake the taco shells for 5 minutes. When the shells are done and the chili is hot, assemble the tacos. Put the chili at the bottom, add the cheese and put the cole slaw on top. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Caprese Pizza

I thought I was making margherita pizza, but it turns out traditional margherita pizza doesn't have fresh tomatoes on it. No matter! It's caprese pizza, then! No matter what you call it, it's delicious and beautiful.

Notes: Don't skimp on the tomatoes here. Go for the super fresh and flavorful ones. I would have used heirloom tomatoes, but the store was out. I wouldn't try to use small tomatoes like cherry or grape. You'd need a lot of them and you'll have trouble slicing them thin.

You want to make sure to get the excess liquid off the mozzarella and the tomatoes before you bake the pizza. Make sure to pat the mozzarella dry before you slice it and lay the tomato slices on paper towels.

The mozzarella will cook more evenly if you let it come closer to room temperature before you bake the pizza, so take it out of the fridge early.

The fresh basil goes on after the pizza is done. It gives the added freshness. Also, the basil may burn in the oven if you add it before you bake the pizza. If you plan to have leftovers, only sprinkle fresh basil on the pieces you're going to eat that night. Put the rest in the fridge and then sprinkle it on the leftover pieces after you heat them.

1 ball homemade pizza dough
1 large or 2 small tomatoes
1 large or 2 medium balls fresh mozzarella
2 small bunches of basil leaves
Your favorite store bought pizza sauce
Dried basil

Directions: Heat oven to 525. Position one rack at the top and one rack at the bottom. Take the mozzarella out of the fridge.

Thinly slice the tomato and lay each slice on a few paper towels to get rid of excess liquid. Lay a paper towel on top.

Pat the mozzarella dry with paper towels and thinly slice.

Roll the pizza crust out and put it on a foil-covered pan or pizza stone. Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce over the dough. Lay the slices of mozzarella evenly on the dough. Top with the tomato slices. Season with salt, pepper, and dried basil.

Bake for 8 minutes on the bottom rack and 8 minutes on the top rack until the crust starts to turn golden brown and the cheese starts to brown and bubble.

While the pizza is cooking stack up the basil leaves and cut them into a chiffonade.

When the pizza is done, sprinkle the fresh basil on top. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Q.E.D.: Black Bean and Zucchini Tacos

Remember how I told you not to toss out the zucchini innards from the mexican zucchini boats? Well, you'll be glad you didn't because now you can make black bean and zucchini tacos!

You may have noticed that we eat a lot of tacos around here. That is partly because tacos are delicious. Who doesn't like tacos? It's like not liking kittens (I'm a dog person and even I love kittens). The other reason we eat a lot of tacos is because we (a) often have leftover bits of something-or-other that we need to use up and (b) tacos are super fast. Tacos: economical and low maintenance.

Notes: If you don't have leftover zucchini innards, you can just substitute 2 small zucchini. 

I had leftover stuffing from the zucchini boats, so my tacos have rice in them. It will make the tacos more filling, but if you're not a fan of multiple starches, you can leave the rice out. 

Tacos are a wonderful excuse to try different kinds of cheese. We experimented with mahon this time. It was great! 

1 box taco shells
2 small zucchini (or leftover zucchini innards)
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15 oz. can black beans
1/2 bag of frozen corn
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1 small bunch cilantro
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
10 or so dashes hot sauce
5 oz. mahon cheese (or manchego, or your favorite taco cheese)
2 tablespoons butter


Heat the oven to the temperature listed on the instructions for the taco shells (usually 325 or 350). 

Dice the zucchini and the onion and mince the garlic. Roughly chop the cilantro. Rinse and drain the beans.

In a large skillet, heat butter on medium high until it melts. Stir in the chili powder and cumin to form a loose paste. Add the zucchini, garlic, and onion. Sautee until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the rice, beans, corn, tomato paste, and hot sauce. Stir to combine and turn the heat back to medium. 

Heat the taco shells for about 5 minutes (follow the box directions). While the taco shells are heating, grate your cheese. 

When the shells are done, fill them up and top them with cheese. Enjoy!