Book Club · Gluten Free · Health · New Favorite · Skinny · Vegan · Vegetarian

Watermelon Heirloom Salad

Book Club almost always inspires me to try making something new and the Watermelon Heirloom Salad has been on my list of ‘must try’ since my sister-in-law, Betty, told me about it.

I served this in July with tomatoes and watermelon in season. It is a refreshing salad especially during the hot days of summer. The salad was served with the feta on the side since some of our members are Vegan.  Easy peasy and satisfies all.  What a wonderful fusion of great flavors.  It’s now one of my favorite summer treats.

WATERMELON HEIRLOOM SALAD

3 large heirloom tomatoes (about 1.5 pounds), cored and cute into chunks or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used multi-color cherry tomatoes)
4 cups cubed watermelon
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used Champagne vinegar)
juice of 1 lime
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh feta (don’t skimp on the quality of the feta)
1 lime, cut into wedges

  • Combine the tomatoes, watermelon, mint and basil in a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour olive oil mixture over the fruit and toss to mix.
  • Cover and refrigerate for several hours.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle the feta over the salad (or on the side). Serve with lime wedges and sea salt.

Recipe from FreyFarms

Book Club · New Favorite

Mango Shrikhand

Mango Shrikhand was a recipe made by my friend, Diane, for Book Club now over a year ago.  It was delicious and I wanted to try to make it at home.  I made it with Greek Yogurt and cut the cardamon in half.

For those who don’t love Greek Yogurt, I would recommend using Vanilla yogurt.  If you don’t like cardamom, try using cinnamon.  If you don’t like mango, try another fruit.  It’s a versatile recipe and healthy dessert.

MANGO SHRIKHAND

2 1/2 (8 ounce) container plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
3/4 cup mango puree
5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (I used 1/8 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons crushed almonds

  • Line a colander with a clean piece of cheesecloth. Place colander over a tall vessel to collect the dripping water.
  • Pour yogurt onto the cheesecloth and gently twist the ends. Tie the ends into a knot above the yogurt.  Let drain and thicken in the refrigerator, 5 hours to overnight.
  • Whisk yogurt, mango puree, confectioners’ sugar, and cardamom in a bowl until well blended.
  • Refrigerate Shrikhand for 1 to 2 hours. Garnish with crushed almonds and serve chilled.

Recipe from allrecipes.com

Book Club · New Favorite

Crock Pot Beef Bourguignonne

Beef Bourguignonne is savory, hearty meal of tender beef with rich flavors.  I’ve enjoyed it many times with friends in their homes or in a restaurant but this was my first attempt to make it at home.  It was easy to make and even better to eat.

CROCK POT BEEF BOURGUIGNONNE

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 lb. beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 lb. white button mushrooms, halved
1 bottle Pinot Noir
1 tbps. beef demi-glace

  • Place the flour in a large bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper, add to the flour and stir to coat evenly. Transfer to a plate, shaking off the excess flour.
  • In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a slow cooker.
  • Add the bacon, carrots, onions and garlic to the sauté pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker along with the bay leaves, thyme, parsley and mushrooms.
  • Off the heat, pour the wine into the sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the demi-glace and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Add to the slow cooker, cover and cook until the meat is fork tender, 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Discard the bay leaves.
  • Transfer the beef bourguignonne to a platter and serve with steamed potatoes. Serves 10.
Book Club · Holidays · New Favorite

Cinnamon Apple Pie Cake

Cinnamon Apple Pie Cake is absolutely yummy!  I’ve served it multiple times with great reviews and requests for future events.  This is a definite favorite in my recipe box!

CINNAMON APPLE PIE CAKE

6 to 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon- sugar (1 1/4 T. sugar + 1/4 t. cinnamon)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups superfine white sugar (see *Tips below)
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil (see notes below!)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-Purpose Flour
more cinnamon-sugar to sprinkle on top (same as above)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 1/2 to 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and then spray again.
  • Layer the apple slices in the pan until they come about 2/3 of the way up the side. (I went a little higher than that and it worked out fine). Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the apples.
  • Prepare the batter by beating the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil (see notes below about the amount of oil called for) and the vanilla and beat well, then stir in the flour. Pour the batter on top of the apples, and sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to allow the batter to sink down and around the apples.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool *completely* in the pan. If you try to remove the cake from the pan while it is still warm, it will tend to break apart. I refrigerated my cake before slicing, and that worked out well. Serve slices with ice cream (warm individual slices in the microwave, if desired).

TIPS:

  • You want “caster sugar” for this recipe: It is a finer grind than table sugar, but not as fine as powdered. Look for “Baker’s Sugar” at the store, or simply put regular white sugar in your food processor and give it a few whirls to create superfine sugar.
  • NOTE:  In the original recipe from this cookbook, the author calls for 1 1/2 cups of oil.  Although my pie cake turned out just fine the way the recipe was written, when I make it again… I will definitely try using 3/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup applesauce instead.  Some readers have noted that this has worked well for them.
SOURCE:  RecipeGirl.com (Adapted slightly from Monday Morning Cooking Club) and http://www.recipegirl.com/2013/09/30/cinnamon-apple-pie-cake/print/
Book Club · New Favorite

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken

Our book club met at my home for our March review oDo Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. I must admit I did not care for the book and did not finish it. Others had the same difficulty, finding it complex and hard to follow, especially in the beginning. However, for those that finished the book, they thoroughly enjoyed it finding the Chinese Cultural Revolution to be similar to world experiences today.

Our potluck cuisine was Asian and my Asian recipe file is devoid of recipes.  I found this wonderful Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken recipe online and will definitely make it again and again.  Very flavorful and wonderful with rice and stir fry vegetables.

SLOW COOKER CASHEW CHICKEN

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup cashews

  • Combine cornstarch and pepper in resealable food storage bag. Add chicken and shake to coat with cornstarch.
  • Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side. Place chicken in slow cooker. (Frankly, next time I make it I will skip this step)
  • Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sweet chili sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, and cashews in small bowl; pour over chicken. (Optional: If you like the cashews to be softer, you can add them during the cooking process.  If you like more crunch, add them right before serving.)
  • Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Service over rice. Optional: Garnish with chopped scallions.
  • Makes 4-6 servings.

Recipe slightly adapated from therecipecritic.com

Book Club · New Traditions

Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pine Nuts, Feta

Quinoa with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, pine nuts and feta…what’s not to like! I often try new recipes to share with others so my Book Club buddies were once again Guinea Pigs.  This recipe takes a while to prepare but well worth the effort!

QUINOA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PINE NUTS & FETA

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 large onions, sliced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt
French Vinaigrette salad dressing (add generous amounts of dressing to individual portions)
1/2 cup Feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Peel the squash and slice it into 3/4 inch cubes, about 2 pounds. Toss the squash cubes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt.
  • Put butternut squash on the greased baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, until soft. Flip the squash cubes over midway through baking. Cool slightly before adding to the salad.
Caramelize the Onions:  
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on high heat in a large skillet.  When oil is heated, add onions and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes, constantly string with wooden spoon. The onions will start to brown, but not brown.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 10 additional minutes, continuing to stir as onions brown even more. Add a pinch of salt over the onions.
  • Continue cooking the onions for 10 more minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the onions don’t stick to the pan.  Add a bit of water if the onions begin o stick.  Total cooking time is 30 minutes.
  • Remove the onions from the heat and sprinkle onions with a small amount of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Using the wooden spoon, mix the onions scraping the bottom of the pan and coating onions with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.
Assembling the salad:
  • In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, and mix with the dressing. Add the dressing only before the serving, and add as much as you want to individual portions, as both quinoa and butternut squash tend to be on a dry side, and this dressing (when generously applied) fixes this beautifully!
  • Top each individual serving with Feta cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Note: This salad keeps very well refrigerated for up to a week, but only without dressing. Add the dressing before serving.

Book Club · Gluten Free · New Favorite · Vegan · Vegetarian

Garlic Roasted Green Beans with Shallots & Almonds

I was craving green beans and our book club was meeting to discuss ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn. Our hostess served Tom Yum Koong Soup, favored by one of the characters in the book when fighting off a cold.  Others brought bar food and I brought green beans…never mentioned in the book but satisfied my craving.

This is a simple and absolutely delicious recipe. I’ll be making it again, and again, and again.

GARLIC ROASTED GREEN BEANS WITH SHALLOTS & ALMONDS

2 lb. fresh green beans
5-6 shallots, peeled, and cut into thin slivers
5 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices
3 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped
1/2 cup almonds, sliced or chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest

  • Preheat oven to 450 F.
  • Trim ends from green beans. Peel and cut shallots and garlic, then place with beans in plastic bowl. Add olive oil, salt & pepper, parsley, almonds and lemon zest. Toss until ingredients are well coated with oil.
  • Spray roasting pan with nonstick spray or mist with olive oil, then arrange the vegetables in a single layer. (I used parchment paper for roasting vegetables and the results are great).  Roast 12-15 minutes for thin beans, or slightly longer for regular beans, until beans are slightly shriveled, and shallots and garlic are lightly browned.

Recipe adapted from KalynsKitchen.com

 

Book Club · New Favorite

Southwestern Deviled Eggs

Quarterly book club review of the book, The Chile Queen by Sandra Dallas, was big hit. She has become one of my favorite authors. Our book review is always preceded by our favorite part of the evening, the themed potluck.  This time the theme is Southwest and the main dish included four different versions of Chile with cornbread. What to make to compliment chile? I found this recipe from Paula Deen, which I altered to suit my taste, and loved the results.  It has made me think there are even more creative ideas for for delicious deviled egg.

I love my Mother’s old fashioned deviled eggs but I’ll be branching out to find other versions!

 SOUTHWESTERN DEVILED EGGS

12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons salsa (I used home-made Salsa)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped green onion, plus more for garnish, optional
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

  • Halve eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and add to a small bowl.
  • Mash the yolks with a fork and stir in the mayonnaise, cheese, salsa, sour cream, green onion, and cumin.
  • Add salt and pepper, to taste, and blend well.
  • Fill the egg whites evenly with yolk mixture and garnish with additional green onions, if desired.
  • Arrange in a container and store, covered in the refrigerator, until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Paul Deen/Food Network

Book Club · New Favorite

Poisonwood Bible and African Themed Potluck

Poisonwood Bible (1998) was our recent Book Club read. I remember trying to read this great book in the late ’90s but work, teenagers and life interrupted  my reading experience.  I was delighted when our Book Club added the book to our 2014 list. While the book is long, the time flew by as I read this marvelous book by Barbara Kingsolver.

The book was originally suggested to me by my sister-in-law, Betty, when they were living in Malawi, Africa on a medical and education mission. During their time in Africa, Betty wrote many emails to family and friends capturing the many wonderful and tragic moments there.  Poinsonwood Bible brought back a flood of memories from her stories.

Our book club always begins the evening with a potluck dinner with a theme from the book, so African recipes it is! Betty was kind enough to mail me her cookbook, The Malawi Cookbook:

Malawi Cookbook
Malawi Cookbook

The cookbook was originally published in 1972 by the Malawi Ministry of Health to raise money for children’s vaccinations and the Save the Children fund.  Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of morbidity in young children in developing countries.

The recipes are fascinating and I will keep a few for my future cooking experiences, although I doubt I will ever serve Bee Larvae, Flying Ants, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Locusts.  Instead, I decided to use the eggplant recipe that Betty shared directly with me. I love eggplant, made any which way, so this was a perfect choice. As Betty shared, Mashed Eggplant is served everywhere during harvest season.

Other wonderful dishes shared at our dinner were Ingera (sponge bread), Chicken and Peanut Stew (recipe to appear in Friday’s post), Fried Plantains, and an array of Ethiopian dishes from a local restaurant.

I took several wonderful pictures of the Eggplant and Peanut Spread, to later discover I didn’t have my memory card in my camera. My apologies but let me assure you the dish was a big hit, even for those that confess to not liking Eggplant. Serve this spread with wedges of pita bread or, for those eating gluten-free, a gluten free cracker.

The only change I would make the next time I make it, would be to roast the eggplant in the oven to decrease the amount of fat in the dish.

Eggplant

MASHED EGGPLANT & PEANUT SPREAD

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (in Malawi, they would use local made groundnut butter)
salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Prepare the eggplant in the usual way of slicing, salting, weighing down the eggplant during the two hours you are extracting the liquid and bitterness.  
  • Pat dry, then fry eggplant slices for about five minutes in the olive oil, turning once.  
  • Mix and pour remaining ingredients over the fried slices, mash with fork, then serve with pita wedges.  (I admit to having used a food processor which made the finished product a bit smoother).