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Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

February 8, 2012
Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

This is one of those meals that is perfect for taking leftovers to work for lunch the next day. I’ve even used leftovers as a dip eaten with pita chips. It’s a very adaptable recipe, too. Don’t like cilantro? Substitute parsley in its place. Don’t like radishes? Leave them out or even substitute something crunchy like jicama. Craving meat? Saute some chicken or shrimp, chop it up and add it to your sandwich.

I love the Mediterranean flavor of these sandwiches. They are so fresh and tasty that you might forget how healthy you are eating! Speaking of eating healthy, are you trying to eat healthier in 2012?

Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches
Adapted from Kristen Williams for Bon Appetit, November 2007
Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups chopped and seeded cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced, seeded and peeled cucumber
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped radishes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 minced garlic clove
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 1/2 ounces)
4 8-inch-diameter whole wheat pita breads, halved

Whisk olive oil and red wine vinegar in large bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Mix tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, radishes, cilantro and garlic into dressing. Stir in feta cheese. DO AHEAD: Salad can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Using slotted spoon, transfer salad mixture to pita bread halves. Serve sandwiches immediately.

Printable Version of Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

Kale and Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad

October 12, 2011

I’ve discovered that trying to find healthy side dish recipes (that taste good) is usually a challenge. Which I why I was so excited when my trainer, Cari Shoemate, posted this recipe on her blog last year. I had never tried kale before but I love potatoes, red onions, mustard, and lemon so I decided to give it a try. The fact that my trainer approved of this recipe was a plus too! I am so glad I tried this recipe because it has become one of my favorite sides to make when I cook fish.

Cari has always pushed me to try new things. She once told me to explore the produce section and buy something you’ve never eaten before. I’m usually guilty of only sticking to my list during most of my trips to the grocery store. However, it’s nice to venture out and try something new every once in a while. It also makes me feel like Iron Chef because when I get home I try to come up with a use for what I bought. Except I’m pretty sure Iron Chef doesn’t use google to research how to prepare the secret ingredient. Do you like to experiment with foods you’ve never eaten before?

Kale and Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad
Adapted from Cari Shoemate
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 red onion halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound kale, cut and trimmed into large pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt on a baking sheet. Season with pepper and toss. Spread mixture in a single layer (use second sheet if necessary). Roast for 15 minutes, then flip potatoes and add red onion. Roast for about 15 more minutes or until potatoes and onions begin to brown.

Combine mustard, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally until wilted (about 6 min). Add mustard-lemon mixture; toss to coat. Cook until heated through. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Toss with potatoes and serve.

Kale and Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad

Pesto Orecchiette with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes

September 27, 2011

We all know when you are trying to eat healthier and spend less money on food it just makes sense to cook your own meals. Most evenings during the week you can find me in my kitchen making supper. I love that I am able to control what goes on my plate and it really has helped budget wise.

This pasta dish uses ingredients that I usually have in my pantry and refrigerator. It’s a great meal to make when you are short on time but don’t want to order take-out. The spinach pesto is from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe I found a few years ago. I love it so much that I make a triple batch of it about every two months to store in the freezer. In addition to mixing it with cooked pasta, it’s perfect as a topping on grilled chicken or fish. You can even toss it with cooked vegetables or use it as a sandwich spread. Just don’t go overboard with the serving size or you will be getting too much fat due to the olive oil and parmesan.

I hope having this pesto in your freezer will help those of you struggling with the idea of cooking after a long day of work. I know how tempting it is to just give in and order take out on a weeknight (trust me, it happens to me too). Recipes like this are what keeps me from getting burned out on cooking all the time. What is your favorite meal to make when you don’t have a lot of time?

Pesto Orecchiette with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings

16 ounces orecchiette or whole wheat penne pasta
6 tablespoons spinach pesto
4 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
6 to 8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
20 kalamata olives, quartered

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add spinach pesto and reserved pasta water. Stir well to combine. Divide pasta among four bowls and top with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Tip: For those that aren’t into meatless meals, this is the perfect dish to add a bit of leftover chicken to. You can plan to make a meal one or two nights before this one that uses chicken. Cook an extra chicken breast to chop up and keep in the fridge so you can toss it in with the cooked pasta and pesto.

Spinach Pesto
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis for Food Network
Makes about 2 1/4 cups

6 ounces baby spinach
3/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
5 teaspoons grated lemon peel
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan

Add pine nuts to a sauté pan and stir over medium low heat until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pulse the spinach in a food processor until lightly chopped. Add the pine nuts, garlic, lemon peel, and lemon juice and lightly pulse a few times. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil. Mix until the olive oil is thoroughly combined. Add salt and pulse. Pour the pesto into ice-cube trays and store in the freezer for future use.

When ready to use the pesto thaw and stir in about 1 tablespoon Parmesan for every 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto you are using. Season the pesto with pepper, to taste.

Printable Version of Pesto Orecchiette with Goat Cheese & Sundried Tomatoes

Printable Version of Spinach Pesto

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

September 14, 2011

When I was a young country girl I was a very picky eater. One of the things I would turn my nose up at was tomatoes. I don’t even know why I didn’t like tomatoes because I probably never even gave them a chance. I remember seeing my cousin pick a tomato off my Nanny’s (that’s country for grandmother) tomato plant and proceed to eat it like an apple. I was so repulsed by that. Thank goodness I got over my aversion to tomatoes because I eat them all the time now. I am convinced that someday when I have children, they will be super picky like I was as payback for the torture I put my parents through.

My husband and I love gazpacho so when trying to decide what to cook for his birthday this past weekend, I knew I had to make this. I’ve made a few different gazpacho recipes before but this one is the one I’ve kept and have made several times. It calls for heirloom tomatoes, which are expensive. So if you are making this on a budget I recommend using regular tomatoes for the soup and buy one or two heirlooms for the garnish. Of course, you don’t have to use heirlooms for the garnish but I think the colors are so pretty. Also, if you decide to use crème fraîche you can usually find it in the gourmet cheese section of the grocery store or near the dairy section. I know the end of tomato season is near so I hope you get to make this before it’s over.

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Serves 6

1/2 red onion, diced
3 lb. heirloom tomatoes, cored and diced
1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cups cubed baguette bread
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Crème fraîche for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the onion, 1 cup of the tomatoes, 3/4 cup of the cucumbers, the 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. of the lemon juice, 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the parsley and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a food processor, combine the remaining onion with the remaining 4 tsp. lemon juice, the 1 Tbs. salt, garlic, thyme, vinegar and bread. Puree until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping the processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Add the remaining tomatoes and cucumbers along with the bell pepper. Puree until the mixture is completely smooth, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with pepper. With the motor running, slowly stream in the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil and puree for 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer the soup to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Before serving, stir soup to mix any olive oil that has settled to the top back into the soup. Ladle the gazpacho into tumblers or bowls. Garnish each portion with crème fraîche and a large spoonful of the diced vegetables.

Printable Version of Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Black Bean Tostadas

September 6, 2011

Today’s recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens publication called Quick & Easy Recipes. Every now and then I’ll pick up one of those magazine style “cookbooks” at the grocery store. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the magazines they set out next to the check out lane!

Better Homes and Gardens titled this recipe “Salsa, Bean, and Cheese Pizza”. Since I grew up surrounded by delicious Tex-Mex food, I never could bring myself to call these by the original title. Pizza just doesn’t sound right.

This tostada recipe has become a staple in my kitchen. It’s an easy meal to make on a busy weeknight and my carnivore husband loves them. The corn tortillas are baked, not fried and the protein source is heart-healthy beans. Even though it’s just a garnish, the cilantro is the star ingredient in this recipe. It really adds so much flavor to the tostadas. If you don’t like cilantro I would recommend topping your tostadas off with a dollop of guacamole.

Black Bean Tostadas
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 2009 Quick & Easy Recipes
Serves 2-3

6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
4 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup chopped white onion
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added or low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained**
1 large tomato, chopped
6 ounces Monterey Jack, cheddar, or mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place tortillas on an ungreased baking sheet. Lightly brush all six tortillas on both sides with one teaspoon of the olive oil. (Do not use too much olive oil or the tortillas won’t get crispy enough.) Bake about 4-5 minutes on each side or until light brown and crisp. (It’s important to make sure they get crispy and are not still soft.)

In a large skillet, cook onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic in the remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is tender. Stir in chile powder, paprika, and cumin. Add black beans and tomato, heat through.

Sprinkle tortillas with half of the cheese. Spoon bean mixture over cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake about 4 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with cilantro.

*Please don’t make the mistake I made a few years ago when I thought my hands were immune to the burning innards of the jalapeño pepper. Wear plastic or rubber gloves while you seed and chop it. Or do what I do and make your husband seed and chop it for you. Trust me, I tried just about everything that day to relieve my burning hands. The only thing I found that worked was to drink enough wine to put me to sleep.

**My favorite canned black beans are by Eden Organic. They only have 15 mg of sodium per each 1/2 cup serving. Take a look at the label next time you buy a can of beans. It’s insane how much sodium you consume if you don’t pay attention to the label. I’ve been able to find them at Whole Foods, Central Market, and H-E-B.

Printable Version of Black Bean Tostadas

Beverly Keller’s Macaroni Salad

August 24, 2011


My favorite side dish to make when grilling in the summertime is macaroni salad. I especially love serving this with Alsatian sausage from Dziuk’s Meat Market. I make this recipe quite often because it is just so good and really easy to put together. It amazes me that something so simple can really impress people. People have told me on several occasions this is the best macaroni salad they have ever had even though they don’t like macaroni salad. Mention this macaroni salad around my husband and his eyes will light up.

I got this recipe from my mom who helped put together a cookbook as a fundraiser for the St. Louis Catholic School in my hometown. There were several macaroni salad recipes submitted and printed for the cookbook, but the one submitted by Beverly Keller is hands-down the best. It has to be the celery salt that makes it so good.

If you are having a backyard bash to celebrate the upcoming Labor Day weekend, I would absolutely add this dish to your spread. I recommend experimenting with less mayonnaise and salt to reduce calories, cholesterol, and sodium. You might find that you won’t need as much as the recipe calls for and it will still taste good. Oh, and a note about the mayonnaise: please only use Duke’s, Hellman’s, or even homemade. Trust me on this, there is a difference. The other mayonnaise brands will give you a dry macaroni salad.

What is your favorite dish to make when you grill in the summertime?

Beverly Keller’s Macaroni Salad
Adapted from Beverly Keller’s Macaroni Salad published in St. Louis Catholic School’s More Heavenly Delights
Serves 4-6

1 (7 oz) box Skinner elbow macaroni
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 (med to large) ripe tomato, finely chopped
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (add more to taste, if needed)
3/4 cup Duke’s or Hellman’s Mayonnaise

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse with cool water and drain completely. Immediately stir in the onion and bell pepper while the pasta is still warm. Add the tomato, salt, celery salt, black pepper and mayonnaise. Stir until well blended. Chill and serve. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. Best when used within three days. Makes 5 to 6 cups.

Printable Version of Beverly Keller’s Macaroni Salad

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