Sunday, September 30, 2012

sweet potato, lentil, and goat cheese salad

As the calender changes from summer to fall, bringing with it cooler temperatures, earlier sunsets, and discussions about the ridiculously early Christmas decorations that already fill the stores, I feel like most people inevitably say goodbye to the light fare of summer and welcome in a season of heavier, richer foods. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Take this salad, for example. Blending the fall-friendly flavor of roasted sweet potatoes with nutritious lentils, guilt-free arugula, and just a smidgen of creamy goat cheese - its the ideal way to hold on to the refreshing meals of summertime while still embracing one of Autumn's most beloved harvests.

This recipe was made in honor of ONE's ongoing sweet potato campaign. Please be sure to check out their tumblr for a delightful collection of yummy recipes.

Sweet Potato, Lentil, and Goat Cheese Salad
Yield: 6 as an appetizer, 3 as a main

3/4 cup green lentils
6 cups cubed sweet potato, 3-5 sweet potatoes depending on size
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large bunches arugula (about 4 cups)
1 cup soft crumbled goat cheese, divided
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus additional to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and salt. Arrange in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Flip the pieces and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until tender. Cool and set aside.

Meanwhile, soak the lentils for 10 minutes in a small bowl, then drain. In a large pot, cook the lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water than drain and cool.

Combine the lentils, sweet potatoes, any accumulated oil from pan, arugula, half of the goat cheese, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper and additional vinegar if desired. Divide among plates and sprinkle with remaining goat cheese.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Thursday, September 27, 2012

paleo carrot cake pancakes

I have several friends who have adopted the Paleo lifestyle as their standard diet...most notably one of my favorite people in the whole world. Erienne, this post is for you, dear friend. :)

Having enjoyed several 'caveman diet'-friendly meals at E's house in the past...and always intrigued by the plethora of recipes that pop up on Pinterest...I decided to venture on the wild side and try whipping up one of them myself. Now, if there are two things I can't resist, they're carrot cake and pancakes. So, a guilt-free breakfast that offers both of those in one? I'm game.

The conclusion? The texture of these is probably never going to be mistaken for ol' fashioned buttermilk pancakes. Slightly more eggy and tender than the norm thanks to the obvious absence of gluten, they still manage to be extremely light with just the right amount of chewiness. As for the taste, the carrot and spice flavors truly shine through and are perfectly accented by a splash of agave nectar or honey (which I'm not sure are technically in line with strict Paleo) and a pat of coconut oil (aren't you proud, Erienne?). In other words, they're worth making. Today.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the National Book Festival took place this past weekend on The Mall in DC. First hosted by the lovely Laura Bush in 2001 and organized yearly by the Library of Congress, this fabulous event stretches much of the distance between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, filling the lawn with big white tents and hundreds of thousands of people. Famous authors from across the country came for speeches/Q&A sessions and book signings...including R.L. Stine (of Goosebumps fame) and former Olympian Dominique Moceanu. I think it's safe to say that I wasn't the only one who was starstruck...

Paleo Carrot Cake Pancakes
Yield: approximately 5 medium pancakes

1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup carrots, shredded (approximately 2 medium)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons coconut flour or arrow root
1/4 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
coconut oil
agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the carrots, eggs, coconut milk, oil, raisins, and walnuts. Mix thoroughly.

Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat, and add enough coconut oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour batter into small mounds on the hot surface. Cook until bubbles form on the surface and bottom is golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the bottom surface is golden brown, about 1 minute.

Serve with coconut butter and agave nectar.

Adapted from paleOMG

Thursday, September 20, 2012

sauteed chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and white wine

Fresh summer produce may be winding down and abruptly getting pushed aside in favor of pumpkin and butternut squash, but that doesn't mean we have to say 'so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu' to tomatoes. (Sound of Music, anyone?) Enter: their sun-dried variety, which have all the rich, caramelized, chewy sweetness to handle the heavier dishes of fall and winter.

Inspired by a desire to use some of these candified treats hanging out in my fridge as well as a grumbling tummy that wasn't willing to wait for a lunch that required a lot of prep, this meal came together in my mind on my way home from church last Sunday and was on my plate less than 30 minutes later. Per-fect.

Sauteed Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and White Wine

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, brined in salted water, rinsed, and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
heaping 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (about 20), coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened and golden brown. Add the chicken, garlic, and tomatoes, stirring frequently until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides. Carefully add the wine, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened.

An Ashleigh Original :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

project wedding cake: mocha, nutella, and raspberry fillings

Shame on me. I told y'all I was making a wedding cake weeks ago...gave you the recipe for the yellow cake layer...and then got so busy actually baking the cake and its components that I failed to share with you one of my favorite parts of the finished product: the fillings! Yes, you read that correctly: the epic wedding cake is now an adventure of the past. I survived...the cake was successfully was enjoyed by all...and, most importantly, both the gorgeous ceremony and reception were the perfect celebration of a sweet couple's love and covenant commitment to each other.

As a quick recap, the cake consisted of three flavor combos: marble cake with mocha filling, devil's food cake with Nutella filling, and yellow cake with raspberry filling. When choosing recipes for the fillings, I already had a go-to one for the raspberry, which I had previously discovered for my friend Rachael's wedding cake.  The other two required a little research, though. And let me just tell you. The research paid off.

Top layer = mocha filling. As someone who doesn't drink coffee, I had no expectations of actually liking this one. But oh, I did. With the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee, this won over my heart and my taste buds.

Middle layer = Nutella filling. Starting with a base of store-bought chocolate-hazelnut goodness and adding just a few ingredients, this may be my new favorite food. Oh my, is it dangerous.

Bottom layer = raspberry filling. Have made this for yellow cake, chocolate cake, and cheesecake, I can assure you....something this simple should not taste this good.

Oh, and if you're looking for a way to use these yummies for something other than cake, have I got a suggestion for you. Stay tuned... ;-)

Mocha Buttercream

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 tablespoon espresso powder
4-6 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla. Alternatively beat in cocoa/sugar mixture and cream until smooth. Beat on medium speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.

Nutella Buttercream

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

In a large bowl, beat the buter and Nutella together until creamy. Add the vanilla, milk, and sugar and beat low speed until just about incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is smooth.

Raspberry Filling

2 10-ounce bags frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons arrow root or cornstarch

Puree the raspberries in a food processor, blender, or immersion blender. Press the puree through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a spoon, removing the seeds. Heat the puree in a small pot with the sugar and cornstarch until the mixture boils, stirring constantly. As it boils, it should quickly thicken. Pull from the heat and let it cool completely.

Mocha from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe; Nutella from Tracey's Culinary Adventures; Raspberry from Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

sweet potato, corn, and black bean chili

If you were to ask my Blacksburg girlfriends what I think about sweet potatoes, I have no doubt that you would get a jolly chuckle and emphatic answer in reply. You see, in our four years at school together, where our intimate knowledge of each other included everything from ice cream preferences to greatest hopes and fears, my obsession perfectly normal love for that most wonderous root veggie was well known. Annnnd the fact that I would eat them often enough each fall and winter to make the palms of my hands turn a nice, sweet shade of orange may or may not have been a frequent source of entertainment within our circle. ;-)

So, when my bff invited me to take part in ONE's latest nutrition campaign, which just so happens to be focused on none other than the great sweet potato, I knew it was a cause I wanted to be a part of. For those of you who share my enthusiasm for this nutritious and versatile ingredient, get excited about the numerous recipes that will be posted in the coming weeks during the course of the campaign! For anyone else, allow me to make an attempt at changing your opinion with a few taste bud temptations.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chilli powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups broth or water (I used chicken broth for an added depth of flavor)
2 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, minced

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add the sweet potato, garlic, and spices and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes with their juice and stir, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Add the beans and corn and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with a heavy sprinkle of cilantro.

Adapted from Fort Mill SC Living

Sunday, September 16, 2012

apple harvest cake with salted caramel cream cheese frosting

Oh Fall, how I've missed you! All winter, spring, and summer, I dream about your arrival and the party that ensues in the form of apples, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and acorn squash. And rest assured: this gal is ready for that party.

Yes, I know that autumn doesn't technically begin until the end of this week, but I just can't wait any longer. So brace yourselves, Friends. A year's worth of harvest recipes are about to come bursting forth.

And what better way to welcome in this most lovely time of the year than with a caramel apple-inspired celebratory cake?? Having reached an exciting milestone at work, I decided that a tasty reward was in order for my coworkers. They didn't object.

Of note: this cake was surprisingly fluffy for an apple cake. While I was expecting a dense and heavy treat, this was actually quite light. More spice flavored than overtly apple, it tasted like autumn on a plate. And, paired with a fabulous cream cheese frosting made extra special by the addition of a homemade salted caramel sauce, it was definitely a flavor combo that showed off the best tastes of the season.

P.S. Please excuse the less than lovely photo. Booo for long work hours and decreasing daylight!

Apple Harvest Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cake:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
6 large eggs
3 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sour cream
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded (approximately 2 cups)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the icing:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
heaping 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce, more or less to taste

For the salted caramel sauce:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt or sea salt

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans for garnish, toasted and chopped (optional)

To make the caramel sauce:

Pour the water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and corn syrup to the middle of the pan, avoiding any contact with the side of the pan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, swirling the pan periodically but never stirring, until a deep amber color forms, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in 1/4 cup cream. After bubbling subsides, add the remaining cream, butter, vanilla, and salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature before using.

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 3 9-inch cake pans, then line each one with a parchment paper round and grease the rounds.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground spices. Add the flour mixture and sour cream alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the shredded apples and vanilla.

Evenly distribute into the three pans (the batter will be very thick). Place in the oven and bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edges and carefully unmold the cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely before icing.

To make the frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add in the confectioners' sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add in the vanilla and salt. Slowly add in the caramel sauce. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

To assemble the cake:

Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread a layer of icing on top. Repeat with the second layer of cake and additional icing. Top with the final layer and cover the entire cake with a thin 'crumb coat' layer of frosting. Refrigerate until icing is firm to the touch. Use the additional frosting to cover the cake in a final coat (you may have leftover frosting). Decorate as desired with toasted nuts and/or additional salted caramel.

Cake barely adapted from Pink Parsley; Frosting barely adapted from Good Thymes and Good Food

Thursday, September 13, 2012

candied pecans

When asked to make a salad for dinner at my bff's house a while back, my mind immediately traveled to all of the corners of possibility, trying to decide on the perfect combination for a hot weather, mid summer, al fresco dinner. My conclusion? Said salad must include peaches. Is there anything better than a fresh, sweet, and juicy summer peach?? Quite possibly, no. Adding romaine lettuce, goat cheese, these candied pecans, and a light balsamic vinegar made it perfect, indeed.

The beauty of these nuts is their versatility. Yes, they were delicious in the salad. But, they are also absolutely perfect for decorating cakes or cupcakes. So, moral of the story? Make these to add a sweet crunch to sensible, nutritious salad...and then use the leftovers as an excuse to make a decadent treat for dessert. Now how can you argue with that logic... ;-)

Candied Pecans

1 egg white
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the sugars, salt, and cinnamon. 

In a large mixing bowl with the wire whip attachment, combine the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add the pecans and stir to coat the nuts. Toss the nuts in the sugar mixture.

Spread the nuts on the baking sheet. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

From Ezra Pound Cake

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

southwest eggs and potatoes

I was blessed to attend school in beautiful Blacksburg, VA (go Hokies!!) for 2+ years. If you've never been to the area, let me paint you the picture. Nestled between the breath-taking Blue Ridge Mountains, this close-knit college community - proudly blanketed in all-things orange and maroon - just may boast the finest combination of endless university energy, homespun family values...and unique hippie flair. Resilient in the face of outstanding tragedies and unstoppable on the football field - there's nowhere else on Earth like it.

What truly gives Blacksburg a part of my heart, though, are the friendships and memories that are forever associated with it in my mind. An epic fondue party...a stellar murder mystery dinner first time shooting discs...a competitive gingerbread house challenge...popcorn-and-a-movie-nights...a hiking trip that ended in a lightening storm...themed dinners...and countless s'mores and Taboo games - those years were filled with the very best of times with the very best of friends.

One of my most beloved memories? Brunch at Gillies. A town favorite and a personal obsession, their food is local, fresh, and just plain amazing. My personal favorite? Their multigrain (Full House, anyone?) That being said, I always looked with envy at my friends' plates whenever they would order their egg and potato specials - topped with cheese and/or salsa depending on the preference. My solution? Make this oh-so-yummy-but-ridiculously-simple dish at home. Delicious breakfast AND a palatable reminder of dear memories?? That's definitely a winner in my book...a Hokie win!

Southwest Eggs and Potatoes
Yield 1 serving. Multiply as needed.

2 small or 1 medium red potato(es), scrubbed free of dirt
1/4 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1/3 cup cheese, divided (I love Trader Joe's Jalapeno Monterey Jack Cheese, but many different types of cheese would work)
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup salsa, slightly warmed in the microwave or on the stove top
1/4 avocado, cut into long strips (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

Pierce the potatoes with a knife a few times and microwave on high until cooked through, 2-4 minutes depending on size. Carefully move to a cutting board and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, scramble the eggs and milk and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into bite-size chunks. Then, in a medium-sized pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and potatoes and simmer until the onions are soft and the potatoes are golden brown, stirring every so often. Salt and pepper to taste. Move the mixture to a plate, and, in the same pan, add the eggs and quickly stir to scramble them as they cook, 30-60 seconds.

Once finished, distribute the eggs over the potato-onion mixture. Quickly top with the remaining cheese and then the salsa. Sprinkle the cilantro over the top and add a side of avocado, if using. Salt and pepper to taste.

Inspired by Gillies

Sunday, September 2, 2012

fish en papillote with tomatoes and olives

I realize this dish is never going to win a beauty pageant. But trust me on this: the quick preparation, fun presentation, and fresh taste definitely make up for that. This fish truly takes just minutes to pull together, which means that if you pair it with a simple salad, you'll have a complete, healthy meal in less than half an hour. Plus, thanks to the ease of the parchment paper, you can count of one hand the number of dishes you'll dirty in the process. Oh, and it's the ideal light dinner to showcase those glorious homegrown/farmers' market tomatoes of late summer. A fabulous "garment" and bathing-suit-fit? Well, maybe it does deserve a pageant crown and sash.

Note: I used cod instead of red snapper, because that is what I had on hand. I think most any white fish would be good.

Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes and Olives
Yield 4 servings

4 (6-ounce) red snapper fillets (1-inch-thick), skinned
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 (1/4-inch-thick) tomato slices (from 3-4 medium tomatoes)
12 Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
zest from 1/2 orange, removed with a microplane grater
4 fresh herb springs, such as sage, thyme, or parsley

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Cut four 12x15 inch sheets of parchment paper. Fold each sheet crosswise in half to crease, then unfold. Set aside.

Drain fish on double layer of paper towels, making sure any excess moisture is absorbed by the paper. Season fish with salt and pepper and put 1 fillet to the right of the crease on each sheet. Top each fillet with 3 tomato slices, 1/4 of olives, 1/8 tsp red pepper lakes, 1/4 each of butter and zest, and 1 herb spring. Starting at one corner of crease, fold edge of parchment over in triangles (each fold should overlap previous one), following a semicircular path around the fillet, smoothing out folds as you go and tucking last fold under to seal papillote completely.

Heat a large baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes.

Put papillotes on hot baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes.

To serve, transfer packets to four plates; with a knife, slit top of each packet and tear it to expose fish. Slide fish and sauce onto plates and discard paper.

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook