Salads

Recipe—Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

A couple of weeks ago I got the first beets of the season in a my produce box and I knew right away that I had to put them to use making one of the most rich and elegant green salads I know of. This beet and goat cheese salad is so simple but is full of flavor. Each ingredient really stands out independently but they all are fabulous complements to one another. This salad is earthy, creamy, tart, and sweet, truly a salad from salad heaven, if there is such a place.

Note: This salad calls for roasted beets. You can get them in a can at your local market or you can get some fresh ones in the store and roast them yourself. I like roasting mine at home in the oven. (See here for how to roast your own beets!)

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
3 c arugula
3 roasted beets, sliced (See here for how to roast your own beets!)
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 c candied walnuts

STEPS

  • In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Place the arugula in a salad bowl or on individual salad plates.
  • Top the arugula with the roasted beets.
  • Drizzle the salad with the dressing and top with goat cheese and walnuts.
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Appetizers, Brunch, Side Dishes

Recipe—Crab Stuffed Mushrooms


Are you looking for a classy appetizer to serve at your New Year’s Eve party tomorrow or any other night of the year? Search no further! These crab stuffed baby portobello mushrooms are easy, can be made ahead of time, are really elegant, and of course delicious. These will be a hit with all your guests. The crab filling is creamy with a nice little kick to it thanks to the Tabasco and the breadcrumbs give them the perfect little crunch. If you are serving a steak for a main course these can also be the perfect complementary side dish. Either way enjoy this fabulous recipe as you ring in 2013! Happy New Year everyone!

Note: You can completely make and assemble the stuffed mushrooms a half day in advance and store in the fridge until ready to bake.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp shallot, chopped
10–12 baby portobello mushrooms, washed and destemmed
salt and pepper
3 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped
8 oz lump crabmeat
1 tsp hot sauce (I like Tabasco)
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp old bay seasoning
1/2 c breadcrumbs

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a medium sauté pan heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic and shallot and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the mushroom caps and season with salt and pepper.
  • Sauté the mushroom caps for 2 minutes.
  • Remove the mushroom caps from the skillet and place them upside down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Add the chopped bell pepper to the skillet and sauté for 1 minute.
  • In a medium bowl mix together the crabmeat, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, old bay seasoning, and a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in the sautéed veggies and mix well.
  • Stuff each mushroom cap with the crab mixture and top with breadcrumbs.
  • Bake for 12–14 minutes or until the breadcrumbs start to brown.
  • Allow mushrooms to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
Appetizers

Recipe—Pear and Gorgonzola Crostini

Summer has just come to an end and that means pears are in season. Here is a great appetizer that will help get you in the mood for fall. It’s really elegant and really easy, perfect for a romantic night in or a night of wine tasting! The flavors aren’t ones you might think to typically use together but they really do complement one another nicely. Once you eat these warm delights you will be in the mood to throw on a scarf and go pumpkin picking. Welcome fall!

INGREDIENTS
1/2 c cream cheese, softened
1/2 c Gorgonzola
1/4 c butter, softened
baguette, sliced into 1/2” thick slices
2 pears, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 c pecans, chopped
2 tbsp rosemary. chopped
1/4 c honey

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • In a small bowl combine cream cheese, Gorgonzola, and butter.
  • Spread a thin layer of the cheese spread on each baguette slice.
  • Place one or two pear slices on top of the cheese.
  • Top pears with some crushed pecans and sprinkle rosemary on the top.
  • Place the prepared baguette slices on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 7–8 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and drizzle with honey.
Dinners

Recipe—Mediterranean Chicken Stackers

Mediterranean chicken stackers are one of the more complex recipes that I have shared. It’ not necessarily complicated, it’s just lots of little steps. It’s certainly worth it though if you like Mediterranean inspired food. I love this served over noodles that have been tossed in garlic and olive oil. There are so many flavors in the chicken stacker itself, that you really don’t need a sauce for your noodles. Think of this as a play on chicken and eggplant parmigiana in one. What’s not to love?!?!

Note: If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese then I recommend using mozzarella instead. Mozzarella has a much more mild flavor.

INGREDIENTS
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices (you will need one slice per chicken breast)
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 c croutons, coarsely crushed
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 oz herb goat cheese at room temperature or sliced mozzarella
4–5 thin sliced chicken breasts
1 beefsteak tomato (you will need one 1/4″ thick slice per chicken breast and the rest of the tomato finely diced)

STEPS

  • Lightly sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow them to sit for 15 minutes.
  • In a large skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the crushed croutons and minced garlic to the pan and cook until lightly toasted, about 6­–8 minutes.
  • Transfer the cooked croutons to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Pat your eggplant dry.
  • In that same skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the eggplant and cook until golden and tender only turning once or twice, about 6­–7 minutes.
  • Transfer the eggplant to a large plate and spread an even layer of goat cheese over each slice (1–2 tbsp), or add a slice of mozzarella to each if you opted for that.
  • Lightly cover the eggplant with a sheet of foil to keep warm.
  • Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper.
  • Using the same skillet add 2 tbsp olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Put your chicken in the skillet and cook turning once or twice for 8–10 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Add a chicken breast to each slice of cheese covered eggplant and again cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Place the tomato slices in the skillet and cook turning once to warm through.
  • Add the tomato slices to the top of each chicken breast and again cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water to the pan and scrape up all the bits in the pan using a spatula. Bring to a boil
  • Cook stirring occasionally until thickened, about 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  • Add your previously cooked croutons to the tomatoes and stir together.
  • Plate your chicken stacker and top with the crouton and tomato mixture.
Dinners

Recipe—Shrimp Scampi

I am a girl that loves her seafood. How can you be from California and not love fresh fish? Shrimp scampi is one of my favorite ways to eat these delicious little crustaceans. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also has a very elegant appeal to it. If you are a garlic and butter lover then this is right up your alley. I have been making this for years and I was shocked when I made this last week and even my toddler kept asking for more, and more, and more. The little guy just couldn’t get enough. I think it is safe to say he likes shrimp scampi and thankfully doesn’t have a shellfish allergy. Phew! Shrimp scampi is wonderful served over pasta and is just as good when eaten with a green salad and some crusty bread to soak up all the garlicky buttery goodness. This recipe really is quick and easy. Most of your time will be spent cleaning and peeling your shrimp so to help expedite the process I recommend purchasing shrimp that are already cleaned and out of the shell. You might pay a little more, but in my mind it is so worth it.

Note: Cooking time may vary based on the size of the shrimp you use. If serving with pasta I recommend linguine.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 c white wine
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 c butter
3 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp paprika
salt to taste
1/2 tbsp parsley
grated parmesan cheese

STEPS

  • In a large skillet over medium heat combine wine, olive oil, butter, and garlic. Bring just to a boil.
  • Allow sauce to simmer for 3–4 minutes to reduce.
  • Add in paprika, salt, and shrimp.
  • Cook for 6–7 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Be sure not to overcook.
  • Mix in the chopped parsley and remove from heat.
  • If serving over pasta pour a good amount of the sauce into your pot of cooked, drained pasta and toss to coat.
  • Spoon the shrimp over pasta or onto a serving dish, top with more sauce, and finish off with a liberal amount of parmesan cheese.
Sweet Treats

Recipe—Divine Chocolate Cups

I can give you four reasons why this is the perfect dessert recipe, it is ridiculously easy to make, it looks fabulous, each person gets their own little serving, and you can make it in advance. What more do you need?!? Oh yeah, and it is absolutely delicious! Okay, so there are five reasons why you must try this recipe.

This has got to be one of the best dessert recipes I know and it only takes about five minutes to make. Not only is it incredibly quick and easy, but you probably already have the majority of the ingredients in your kitchen as well. This is perfect if you are looking for something rich and chocolaty. I think of this as a cross between grown up pudding and chocolate mousse. This recipe makes two large servings or four small. If you don’t have any individual dessert serving dishes try putting it in champagne or wine glasses for a fun twist.

Note: Whip crème can be made at the same time as the chocolate cups and stored in the refrigerator covered until you are ready to enjoy or you can make it right before serving.

DIVINE CHOCOLATE INGREDIENTS
2/3 c milk (I prefer whole)
1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp Frangelico (Disaronno, Grand Marnier, and Kahlua are also delicious!)
raspberries and chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

STEPS

  • Bring milk just to a boil. (You can either do this in a small saucepan over the stovetop or in the microwave.)
  • In a blender combine egg, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, and liqueur.
  • Blend using a low setting.
  • Carefully pour in the hot milk in a slow stream. The hot milk melts the chocolate and cooks the egg.
  • Blend mixture until smooth and creamy making sure there are no chocolate chips remaining, about 1 minute.
  • Pour into your serving dishes.
  • Place serving dishes in the fridge and allow to cool for a couple of hours.
  • When ready to serve top with your whip crème and garnish with raspberries and chocolate shavings.

 

WHIP CRÈME INGREDIENTS
1 c heavy whipping crème
4 tbsp powdered sugar

STEPS

  • Using a hand mixer beat the whipping crème and sugar together on high for 2–3 minutes or until whip crème is desired consistency. (I like mine really thick.)
  • Store in refrigerator until ready to use, or serve immediately if chocolate has already set.
Dinners, Sauces

Recipe—Beef Wellington with a Red Wine Mushroom Gravy

Still trying to rack your brain about what you will be cooking up your sweetie for Valentine’s Day? If you’re looking for a meal sure to impress, search no further. Beef wellington is very elegant and full of flavor. This has become my favorite dinner for special occasions. It is certainly a little more time consuming to make, but it is relatively easy and well worth it. I was skeptical of the liver pate at first, but paired with mushrooms and fresh herbs, the flavor is rich and fabulous. If you have never had a “foodgasm,” this will certainly cause you to have your first.  My husband and I were moaning through the entire dinner when I made it for the first time.

Note: This dish can be made with individual beef filets if you are unable to find a small tenderloin roast. You can prepare the pastry wrapped meat a day ahead of time for an effortless meal.

BEEF INGREDIENTS
2–3 lb beef tenderloin roast
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c butter
4 tbsp brandy
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 (4 ounce) can liver pate
2 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY INGREDIENTS
1/4 c yellow onion, minced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 c red wine
1 (10 1/2 oz) can beef broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

PASTRY INGREDIENTS
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets at room temperature
1 egg, beaten

BEEF STEPS

  • Rub roast with garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Melt butter in large skillet.
  • Sear the roast in skillet over medium-high heat for 4–5 minutes on each side.
  • Pour brandy over the roast and be sure to evenly coat it. (Flame brandy if you are comfortable with doing so.)
  • Remove roast from pan and set aside uncovered.
  • In the same skillet, sauté chopped mushrooms for 4­–5 minutes and set aside. Allow mushrooms to cool for a few minutes.
  • Mix pate with cooled mushrooms, green onions, and parsley.

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY STEPS

  • Over medium heat, sauté yellow onion and sliced mushrooms using the same skillet.
  • Stir in flour and gradually add wine, broth, and bay leaf.
  • Stir until sauce bubbles and is thickened.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

PASTRY STEPS

  • Roll out pastry sheet and spread your pate mixture evenly leaving a one-inch border around the edge.
  • Place the cooked roast at one end of the pastry sheet and roll away from you.
  • Fold in the ends of the pastry being sure that the entire roast is covered.
  • Place seam side down on a cookie sheet or in a Pyrex dish.
  • Using the second sheet of puff pastry, finish off your wrapped roast with decorative elements if you’d like. I recommend using a festive cookie cutter. This extra step yields impressive results. Dough can be attached using beaten egg.
  • Brush pastry with the beaten egg.
  • Bake at 425º for 20–25 minutes, or until pastry is browned.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Transfer to cutting board and allow to rest for 3–4 minutes.
  • Slice roast and serve.