labne tartine

Labne Tartine

I love when I pick up a cookbook and learn about new ingredients.  One such ingredient that has recently been added to my diet is labne (sometimes written labneh) cheese, which is a spreadable cheese that is made from kefir.  The consistency is similar to softened cream cheese, with a bit more tartness like that of plain Greek yogurt.  I enjoy it both for breakfast and on sandwiches, so make sure you experiment to find your favorite use.

labne tartine

Today I am serving an open face breakfast sandwich (or tartine) for a pretty display of both the labne and the colorful raisin topping.  Adding a bit of fresh oregano cuts the sweetness of the raisins and adds a unique depth to the dish. The tartine is quick to pull together, yet looks amazing when plated, so don’t be afraid to serve this for your next brunch.

labne tartine

Labne Tartine

½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup pecan bits
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
4 English muffins
8 tablespoons labne cheese

 

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the raisins, cranberries, pecans, oregano, lime juice, and honey.  Split and toast the English muffins, then spread 1 tablespoon of labne on the cut side of each muffin.  Top with even amounts of the raisin mixture and serve.  Makes four servings.

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tater tot bruschetta

Tater Tot Bruschetta

When I read about tater tot waffles in a recent edition of Food and Wine magazine I knew I had to give them a try.  To keep the treat to a manageable portion I decided to put a spin on it and make Tater Tot Bruschetta.

tater tot bruschetta

I followed the directions for the tater tot waffle recipe, using a rectangular waffle iron.  I cut each waffle in half to serve as my bruschetta base, and then topped them with a heaping portion of diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic coated in a balsamic vinaigrette.  While you do need a fork to eat it, I’m sure your guests won’t mind.

My whole family loved the tater tot bruschetta, but I’m not surprised. Is there anyone who doesn’t like tater tots?

tater tot bruschetta

Tater Tot Bruschetta

1 pint baby tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
8 basil leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds tater tots, thawed

 

Heat waffle iron to high; preheat oven to 200°F.

While waffle iron is heating, mix together the tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper; set aside.

Cover the waffle iron surface with tater tots (mine measures 5.5 inches by 7 inches). Close and cook on high until nearly crisp, about 3 minutes. Open the waffle iron and fill in any holes in the waffle with more tots, then close and cook until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining tots (makes four waffles).

Cut the four waffles in half, top evenly with the tomato mixture and serve. Makes 8 servings.

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Strawberry Guava Compote

Strawberry and Guava Compote

As I walked through the produce section this week, the guavas literally drew me over to them.  They smelled so fragrant I just knew I had to make some sort of guava dish.  Guavas come in all shapes and sizes, but these Mexican cream guavas are about the size of a golf ball and yellow in color, such that my daughter asked if they were “banana balls”.  To highlight the guava flavor I decided to make a strawberry and guava compote.

fresh guava

Once the flower (the end) is removed, you half and deseed the guava.  The seeds are actually edible, but more of an acquired taste so I removed them from this recipe.

prepped guava

The guava and strawberries are cooked for a few minutes in a spiced syrup, which is all they need to make a delicious compote. The sweet guava compote is the perfect complement to a touch of mascarpone and mint.  The resulting dish is stunning, yet an easy and elegant dessert for Mother’s day, baby shower, or other festive gathering.

Strawberry Guava Compote

Strawberry  & Guava Compote

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound (about 10) Mexican cream guavas
½ pound strawberries
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
Mint leaves for garnish
Add the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and cloves to a large sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until syrup begins to thicken.

While the syrup simmers, wash the guava and then remove the flower end from the guava. Next cut them in half and scoop out the seeds (reserve for another use, if desired). Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut in half.  Add the guava and strawberries to the syrup and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer the fruit and syrup to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To serve, place one ounce of mascarpone cheese in the bottom of a serving bowl or glass.  Evenly divide the fruit over the eight bowls, then drizzle with some of the syrup (there will be some syrup left in reserve). Garnish with mint and serve.

 

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Tuna & Oat Bowl

Tuna & Oat Bowl

I have a rather large bag of steel cut oats sitting in my pantry and I decided it was time to find other ways to incorporate them into my diet. Steel cut oats are a great source of fiber and protein, so I really have nothing to complain about. 

Tuna & Oat Bowl

I was in the mood for something that would qualify as a side dish or an entrée, rather than a breakfast item.  The resulting Tuna & Oat Bowl is more of an updated version of tuna noodle casserole.  Instead of noodles, the dish has a large serving of steel cut oats. The addition of tomatoes, dill, and goat cheese round out the dish and add a fresh taste. As an extra bonus there is no baking involved so it is quick to get on the table.

While the Tuna & Oat Bowl might not be the most photogenic, I found that it was a great dish for lunch since it kept me satisfied for a long time.  It looks like I may have found a way to finish all of my steel cut oats!

Tuna & Oat Bowl

Tuna & Oat Bowl

4 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups steel cut oats
4 ounces goat cheese
2, 7 ounce cans tuna, drained
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon dry dill
¼ teaspoon salt

Bring water and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Add the oats, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered, or until liquid is absorbed and the oats are tender but chewy.  Remove from the heat and let sit a few minutes. Next, stir in the goat cheese until the oats are coated.  Next add the tuna, tomatoes, dill and salt, stirring to combine.  Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

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Madras Curry Lentils

Madras Curry Lentils

I have had a taste for lentils, but wanted to create a sauce with a different flavor profile than my Caponota Red Lentils or Lentil Salad.  What came to mind was a dish reminiscent of saag paneer.  I toyed with the idea of adding spinach to my Madras Curry Lentils but ultimately decided to keep the dish about the lentils and streamline the sauce.

The sauce for saag paneer often has a blend of garlic, fenugreek, garam masala, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper among other spices.  I noticed that hot madras curry powder uses many of these ingredients, so as a time saving measure I opted to just use the curry blend. The heat of the spice is muted a bit by the cream sauce, but still added a good kick to the lentils.

Madras Curry Lentils

The addition of tomato and feta brightens and lightens the dish.  I also liked the creaminess that the feta added to the Madras Curry Lentils. While seeking out and adding paneer would be more in keeping with the theme of the dish, I regularly have feta on hand and thought it made a great substitute.  I’d love to hear about your variations on this recipe, whether cheese or curry substitution.

Madras Curry Lentils

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced shallots
2 teaspoons hot madras curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup half and half
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup diced tomato
½ cup feta cheese

Place the lentils and water in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

In a separate, non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the shallots.  Saute the shallots, stirring frequently, until the shallots begin to brown (about 8 minutes). Add the curry, salt, and half and half and bring to a boil, then add the flour and stir until thickened; remove from the heat.

Drain the lentils and pour the curry sauce over the lentils, stirring to combine. Add the tomatoes and feta, stir to combine, and serve.

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gluten free brownies

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

Hitting a milestone birthday is a big deal for many.  Some splurge on cars, and others have a right-of-passage party. Not my husband. He requested a guitar cake.  That’s right he picked a themed cake over a Lamborghini. Well, not really, but he knew I wasn’t going to get him a car so he settled for the next best thing.

A few years ago I made my son a guitar cake which actually was a lot of work and looked, well, mediocre.  I opted for a compromise: make a batch of homemade, fudgy, gluten-free brownies, cut them out in shapes of guitars, and decorate them in a pattern that replicates a famous 80’s rock band guitar.

gluten free brownies

First, let’s discuss the brownies.  As I have mentioned in other posts, high altitude baking has been a huge frustration.  There are a variety of things to tweak and it takes a while to find the best modification.  Add to that the concept of gluten-free baking and you have yourself a challenge.  I did a bit of research and decided to blend this recipe from King Arthur’s flour with this high altitude recipe from Allrecipes. The two modifications important for high altitude baking were:

  • Extra flour: I added two extra tablespoons of flour (for a total of 7/8 cup rather than ¾ cup of flour)
  • Less leavening agent: I decreased the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon (instead of 1 teaspoon)

With these two simple changes I solved my problem of soggy brownies, AND I had gluten-free brownies that tasted amazing.

With my brownies done it was time to attempt the guitar shape.  I used a 5-inch long electric guitar cookie cutter and carefully cut out shapes. I placed the shapes on wax paper and then melted candy melts to coat my brownies.  I started with red and poured it over the brownie to coat it entirely.  Next I melted a bit of black and white candy melts to sprinkle over the top.  Finally I trimmed away the excess candy melt and admired my handiwork.  The brownie did in fact mirror the pattern of the famous guitar, as shown by the guitar pics that are decorated in the same pattern.

gluten free brownies

While decorated brownies are only for special occasions in my house, this high altitude gluten-free brownies recipe is my new standard.

High Altitude Gluten-Free Brownies

1 1/2 cups white sugar
¾  cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
7/8 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Place the sugar, butter, and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof spatula until the butter melts and the mixture lightens in color.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the vanilla and cocoa, and then add the eggs and mix until incorporated.

Carefully stir in the flour and the baking powder until well mixed, and then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges. Bake the brownies for 40-45 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or nearly so.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting. Once the brownies are cool, cover tightly with plastic.

 

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Spinach & Blackberry Salad

Spinach & Blackberry Salad

A few of my posts to date have discussed recipes I received as a gift at my wedding shower, such as Pistachio Cake and Chopped Veggie Salad.  Today is another one of those recipes.  The recipe my Aunt Kelly added was a Spinach and Strawberry Salad.

A few years ago I made this salad for an Easter gather of friends and it has been requested every year since then.  This year is no exception, so I will be making the original recipe as well as my new version, a Spinach and Blackberry Salad.

Spinach and Blackberry Salad

I have kept the dressing the same, as I find the sweet poppy seed dressing is a huge draw. What I did swap out is the strawberries, which I replaced with blackberries, avocados, and pecans.

I knew it was a winner when my kids (who have been on a streak lately to proclaim they are hungry just after finishing a meal) each ate a full plate as if I was serving them ice cream.

I am looking forward to the verdict at Easter: strawberry version or blackberry version?

Spinach & Blackberry Salad

Spinach and Blackberry Salad

Two, 9 ounce bags of baby spinach
18 ounces fresh blackberries
2 avocados, peeled and diced
1 cup pecans
0.75 ounces fresh mint, finely chopped
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons grated onion
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons poppy seeds

 

Place spinach, blackberries, avocado, and pecans in a large bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, sugar, onion, mustard, salt, and poppy seeds to a blender.  Cover and process until combined.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Note: This salad does not keep well once the dressing has been added.  Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving.

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tzatziki tacos

Tzatziki Tacos

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend at Next Door Eatery in Denver. One of the things I respect about this restaurant is their commitment to the farm-to-table concept.  This reminded me that it had been awhile since I had purchased meat from local farmers, especially lamb. This got me thinking of lamb dishes, resulting in this Tzatziki Tacos recipe.

tzatziki tacos

I decided to modify the traditional tzatziki sauce of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, dill, and lemon by making it a cross between a salad and salsa. I accomplished this by adding tomatoes, feta, and Kalamata olives and keeping the cucumbers as chunks (rather than blending them into the sauce). I then used this fresh salad as a topping to balance the hearty taste of the shredded lamb, served in a toasted corn tortilla.

My husband thought these were fantastic, making me wish I had made a double batch. If you are looking for a fun, new take on tacos (or gyros), try these Tzatziki Tacos!

tzatziki tacos

Tzatziki Tacos
 1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder chops
½ cup beef stock
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup peeled, diced cucumber
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
½ cup plain, Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon  lemon juice
10 yellow soft corn tortillas (~6 inch diameter)
 

Place the lamb and beef stock in a 4 quart slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours. 

While the lamb is cooking, prepare the tzatziki salad.  Place the tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, and olives in a large bowl.  Add the yogurt, dill, garlic, and lemon juice and stir to coat and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve the tacos.

After the required cooking time, remove the lamb from the slow cooker. Then, remove the bones and fat from the lamb and shred the remaining meat; set the meat aside and keep warm.

Lightly toast the corn tortillas on both sides in a non-stick skillet.   To serve, evenly divide the lamb between the tortillas, and top with the tzatziki salad. Serve immediately.

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gluten free french bread

Gluten-Free French Bread: Part One

Gluten free living.  It sounds easy, right?  Well let me tell you, gluten free food has come a LONG way in the last four years.  While my blog is obviously not exclusively gluten free, my family eats a largely gluten free diet due to the restrictions of some. The advent of more tasty bread and pasta has made this more bearable, but there are still times when we must hang our heads in defeat. Lately, the pining has been for French bread or anything that resembles a burger or hotdog bun. Either gluten free bread does not hold the crusty exterior + soft interior of the former or cannot last long enough to not crumble.Sigh.

Thus I am on the search for good recipes.  This along should come as a proclamation, as I have often announce I am not a baker.  I live at over 6,000 ft of elevation, which means that on a good day (i.e. not gluten challenged) I have the odds of baking against me. When I take on a baking challenge it means that I-AM-SERIOUS.

gluten free french bread

Consequently, I am counting this post as my first in a litany of “searching-for-good-gluten-free-bread-recipes” posts. What I tried first was French bread. I selected a recipe that had a lot of great reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised. I followed the recipe as written, except for omitting the optional egg substitute.  It smelled great AND had a crusty exterior, plus it was easy to make.  It will definitely serve as my starting point for any modification (my only complaint is that the interior isn’t fluffy enough). It also gave me confidence to come up with a workable bun recipe.  Hopefully that doesn’t take me too long!

gluten free french bread

 You can find the recipe from GlutenFree Girl HERE.

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Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

We are big fans of peanut butter in my house, so when I saw a jar of peanut butter powder I knew I wanted to try it.  All the taste of peanut butter with very little fat? Sign me up! I thought it would be a great way to sneak in another high protein meal. I decided to make a Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl to start my day off right.

Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

The blend of vanilla almond milk, oats, chia seed, and peanut butter powder makes a thick smoothie with a great peanut butter flavor.  I also loved that it covered a bunch of other nutrients for my day: 45% of my calcium intake, 60% of my daily fiber, and a whopping 21 grams of protein and only 4.5 grams of fat.

Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

It turns out my kids wouldn’t let me eat it all by my myself.  They scavenged some of my meal, but I’m not complaining.  I’m always looking for ways to make their meals just a bit healthier.

Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

Lowfat Peanut Butter Smoothie Bowl

1 cup vanilla almond milk
¼ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
4 tablespoons peanut butter powder
Assorted, chopped fruit (strawberries, blueberries, grapes, etc.)

 Add the almond milk, oats, chia seeds, and peanut butter powder to a mixer or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bow and let sit for 5 minutes.  Garnish the top with the desired amount of fruit and serve.

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matcha fried rice

Matcha Fried Rice

Have you heard of matcha? I’m sure you have.  It is one of those “in” ingredients these days.  I have put of trying it because green tea ranks below most other flavors of tea in my book. I tend to prefer spicy/cinnamon or earl grey rather than the earthy flavor of green tea.

matcha fried rice

None the less, I was still intrigued. One of the hypes of matcha is the concentrated antioxidants it offers. Instead of steeping tea leaves in a bag, you are essentially consuming finely ground tea leaves. In addition to beverages, it has found its way into food items, even dessert.  I was determined to try it in an entrée and decided to make a version of my fried rice.  I started with my Ham Fried Rice recipe, and eliminated peas, ham, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and ginger. I added matcha as my replacement spice and a bit of baby tomatoes for added sweetness. The result was a light and refreshing Matcha Fried Rice that was well balanced.

matcha fried rice

This festive dish has been a fun lunch this week and I look forward to experimenting with matcha in other recipes.

Matcha Fried Rice

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced red onion
4 cups cooked long grain rice
1 1/2 teaspoons matcha
2 large eggs
½ cup baby tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped

 

Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and heat until melted over medium-high heat. Add carrots, and onion, and saute for 3 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Immediately add the rice, and matcha, and stir until combined. Continue stirring for an additional 3-4 minutes to fry the rice. Keep warm.

Coat a non-stick pan with cooking spray then heat over medium heat. Add eggs, and cook until scrambled, stirring occasionally. Remove egg, and stir into rice mixture, along with the tomatoes and green onions.  Serve immediately.

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Coconut Crusted Sea Scallops

Coconut Crusted Sea Scallops

One of my favorite cooking tips is to bake scallops.  This results in tender scallops that turn out perfect every time. I enjoy sharing this tip so much, I decided to build my entry for the create TV cooking challenge around it (below).

Buried in my entry are two other tips: (1) toast flour and (2) use quick pre-prepared items to really build up flavor in an easy way.

I chose to coat my scallops with a coconut flour to create a nice tropical flavor, that isn’t too over powering yet that stays well. The first step though is to toast the flour to eliminate the raw flour taste, and enhance the coconut flavor.

Coconut Crusted Sea Scallops

I also paired the scallops with jasmine rice, which is a floral scented, long grain rice. To the rice I added some lemongrass puree to give it that extra oomph (You can find the puree in a tube in the produce section of your local grocery store).

 Plating was simply layering the rice, coconut crusted sea scallops, and salsa for an impressive, yet easy dinner.

Coconut Crusted Sea ScallopsCoconut Crusted Sea Scallops

Coconut Crusted Sea Scallops with Jasmine Rice and Mango Salsa

½ cup coconut flour
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup butter, melted
1 pound sea scallops
1 cup jasmine rice
2 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon lemongrass puree
1 mango, diced
1 avocado, diced
¼ cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons cilantro
Zest and juice of one lime
 

Preheat the oven to  350 °F.

While the oven heats, toast the flour. Add the flour to a nonstick pan over high heat, and stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes until the flour has an even, light brown color. Remove from the heat and add to a large bowl. Add the ginger, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the toasted flour and stir to mix.

Dunk the scallops in the butter, coat in the toasted coconut flour, and then place in an 8×8 glass pan treated with non-stick spray. Bake the scallops for 30 minutes.

While the scallops bake, make the rice and salsa. To make the rice, bring the water, jasmine rice, and lemongrass puree to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed.

To make the mango salsa, combine the  mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice.

To plate, place ¾ cup rice on a plate, top with some of the sea scallops, and garnish with the mango salsa. Serve immediately.

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