jicama-lime slaw

Summer seems to be upon us here in Arizona, even though I think spring only officially got started a couple of weeks ago.  So, with temps in the 90s, and our grill performing its usual work-horse duties, I wanted a side that could herald summer.  Spring is fleeting.  Summer, well that just seems to go on forever.

I have my faithful stand-by recipes, but I like to experiment early in the season to find out if there’s anything worth making for upcoming picnics, get-togethers with friends, etc.  And I’m always enticed by oft-overlooked veggies.  Like the jicama, for instance.  You can find them in pretty much any grocery store, but it’s rare you see recipes calling for this uber-nutritious, fibrous root veggie.  And I’m surprised it took me this long to think of it as perfect for cole slaw.  The flavor and texture are spot on – crisp and sweet, somewhere between a water chestnut and a pear.  The jicama’s flavor is enhanced by the lime and doesn’t give way to sogginess when the dressing is applied.

If you’ve looking for a change of pace from a traditional mayo-based slaw, this one is perfect.  It’s tangy, zesty, and perfectly fresh for summer.  Enjoy!

 

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Jicama-Lime Slaw (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well.  Set aside. t
  2. Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I was in time-saving mode, so I grabbed a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the produce aisle.  Turns out it was the angel hair variety, so a bit too flimsy for my taste, but worked fine.  Next time I’ll either shred my own or make sure I buy a thicker shred.

 

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cucumber peanut salad

Labor Day weekend is fast approaching and we’re having guests for dinner, so I’m experimenting with some new salads.  This one hit the spot.  It’s picnic or barbecue  perfect, has great flavor, texture, appearance, and goes together super fast.  The original recipe called for an English Cucumber, but the ones in the store were so enormous I opted for a package of mini cucumbers, instead.  I actually think they were more colorful, too; the green being brighter and more cheerful.  Because a cheerful salad is a delicious salad, right?

Adapt as you please.  With the exception of the delicious dressing (lime juice and a little brown sugar) this isn’t one of those stuffy recipes where a minor change will make any difference in the finished product.  Enjoy…and have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.

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Cucumber Peanut Salad (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Directions:

  1. Combine cucumber, onion, lime juice, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle evenly with peanuts.
  2. Step 2?  There is no Step 2.  So easy.  Serve and enjoy!

Serves four.

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***Cook’s Notes:  The peanuts make this a salad you either have to finish the day you make it, or eat any leftovers within a day.  They don’t hold up well refrigerated and stored in the dressing.  So eat it all up, or make sure you eat the remaining salad within 24 hours.

penne with herbs, tomatoes, and peas

I’m not one who feels compelled to serve a starch at every meal.  I’d rather double my serving of veggies or add a hearty side salad.   I might even throw some cooked rice or lentils into a salad to beef it up a bit.  But my eaters enjoy their side dishes and I’m easily bored by potatoes.  The poor Irish.  I don’t know what I would have done.  Really?  Potatoes?  Again?

Since I had a flank steak on the grill and my green beans were cleaned and stemmed, I only needed a few minutes to throw this together right before the meat came off to rest.  You can cook your pasta ahead since it’s combined later with the hot ingredients to re-warm it.  I especially enjoyed this as a side because it was anything but “potato boring.”  There are a lot of flavors swirling around in this pasta – from heady garlic and parsley to the sweetness of basil and cherry tomatoes.  I think it would be great adapted to a cold pasta salad, as well, to make it perfect for any end-of-summer picnics you might have on calendar.  Enjoy!

2013-07-28

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Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Peas (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, June 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add peas during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, salt, and pepper to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Don’t cook your garlic for 4 minutes.  It’ll be scorched beyond belief and your pasta will be ruined.  Keep a close eye on it and throw in the tomatoes when it becomes fragrant, not brown.  Also, it’s super easy to over cook a tomato, too.  The recipe says cook for one minute, but I’d say less.  You still have to return the pasta to the dish and re-warm, which will be plenty of time for the tomatoes to heat through.  The original recipe called for regular pasta.  I substituted whole wheat to boost fiber and protein.

winter vegetable and barley soup

It’s the perfect day for a soup post.  There’s a cold front lingering, skies full of low clouds, and rain.  I love me some rain.  And I love me some soup on a rainy day!  Love.  Love.  Love.  The only caveat is this recipe was only rated two out of five stars, so whether it qualifies as good eats is debatable.  Having now cooked and served it, I think two stars is probably about right if you prepare the soup as suggested.  Personally, I found it a bit too sweet; the result of using both carrots and parsnips, both of which have a very sweet taste.

The first thing I’d do differently to bump up the savoriness would be to swap out the carrots or parsnips for another veggie.  I might replace the parsnips with potatoes, for instance.  Or, leave the parsnips and replace the carrots with tomatoes so you still have some nice color in the finished product.  Unless you like sweet soup, that is.  My husband said he thought it was good, but probably because I had warned him ahead of time it was fairly sweet.  Another option would be to hit it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little extra salt once you’ve ladled it into bowls.

Either way, this soup was really hearty and filling, and scored high in the healthy eating category.  The kid-rating was notably low, though, but I think she picked up on my “too sweet” vibe.  Make a few alterations to bring out a more savory quality and I think it would actually please everyone.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice (1 cup)
  • 1 large rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
  • 1 pound assorted root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, rutabaga and/or turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pearled barley
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
 Directions:

Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook for 3 minutes, stirring, then add the diced root vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.

Stir in the broth and barley. Once the liquid begins bubbling at the edges, cover the pot and adjust the heat so the liquid maintains a little movement. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes or until the barley is done and the vegetables are tender.

Uncover; add the peas and ham. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the peas are tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chives.

Divide among individual bowls; top each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining chives, or some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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easy homemade marinara

I made this recipe for a friend at school who recently gave birth to her fourth child.  She seems relatively non-plussed by the whole situation.  Apparently I’m the one who’s totally freaked out.  I feel frazzled for her!  So, putting myself in her shoes, I thought, “If I had four kids, what’s the one thing I’d want someone to do for me?”  I mean, before they locked me up in the loony bin.

Cook!

There, that was easy.  So I scoured a bunch of recipes suitable for cooking in large quantities: enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles of all varieties, etc., etc., and I found this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis at The Food Network.  Now, I’ve always been a meat sauce kind of gal.  It’s what my mom cooked.  It’s what I’ve always cooked myself.  To boot, nobody has ever complained when I make spaghetti sauce with meat.  Bam!  So that’s what I’ve always done.  But I always cook with health in mind and I’ve regularly pondered the marinara!

Not knowing whether any of my friend’s kids were averse to meat sauce, I thought marinara would be a safe bet.  The problem was, I made it and gave it away, keeping only what wouldn’t fit in the Tupperware container.

Last night I made a batch I intended to keep all to ourselves and I’m almost afraid to admit I might never make a meat sauce again.  This sauce is so good, so flavorful, so aromatic, so….easy.  The prep is more time consuming than the original recipe indicates (I think they say 10 minutes, but that’s if you’re Giada DeLaurentiis), but if you get all your fine chopping done ahead of time, it all goes together relatively quickly.  Simmer and serve.  Like all good sauces, stews, soups, etc., this one is delicious the day of, but mellows beautifully after a day or two in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marinara

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Directions:

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

***Cook’s Notes: I threw in a small handful of fresh basil leaves close to the end of simmering. Remove with bay leaves before serving. Also, because I was working against the clock on this batch, my “finely chopped” was a little less than fine. After simmering, I ran my emulsion blender through the sauce to smooth out the consistency.

easy tomato salad

Most parts of the country are starting to see the end of the summer tomato bounty (not that you can’t find tomatoes year-round in your local markets, flown or trucked from locations many miles away).  But here in the desert tomatoes are just getting started, and patio dining is trying to make a comeback with the cooler (sometimes)  temps.  This recipe, while maybe not fitting for the fall season in colder climates, is really nice for a late summer dinner in the desert.  The tangy flavor of the orange zest is a beautiful compliment to the scallions.  The original recipe used red grape tomatoes, but I found the baby heirlooms at Sprouts and thought they were so pretty, I swapped them out.  I think the heirlooms even make it look a little more like fall.  This post is also linked at Blessed with Grace.  If you stop over there, you’ll probably find a lot more recipes celebrating fall.  You know…the real fall.  Enjoy!

Easy Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Procedure:

In a bowl, toss the tomatoes, scallions, orange zest, and olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

roasted cherry tomatoes

I’d say I’m pretty lucky.  I have a 4-year-old who will eat green vegetables; broccoli, peas, edamame.  We’re still working on asparagus and brussels sprouts, but I’m alright with that.  Sometimes, though, I do like to change up my veggie side.  This recipe is a nice alternative when I’ve seen steamed broccoli one too many times in a given week.  It’s quick to put together, especially since I gave up on store-bought fresh herbs and planted some of my own, and delicious.  Just be careful not to over-roast.  The recipe says 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them lest they become overcooked and mushy and unappealing to everyone, not just the 4 year old.

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients except the basil in a roasting pan. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are just bursting. Carefully transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat (or transfer the liquid to a small saucepan) and reduce the liquid until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Toss the tomatoes with the basil. Drizzle some of the thickened balsamic sauce on each serving.