heirloom tomato summer salad

I’ve had such great luck with my two patio heirloom tomato plants this summer.  A bounty of green zebras and beefsteaks have resulted in many sliced tomatoes generously sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper, blt’s, homemade salsa, and this wonderful tomato salad.

I was able to get an abundance of cherry tomatoes from a friend, so I halved them and tossed them with sliced green zebras, fresh mint, shallots, olive oil, champagne vinegar and salt/pepper. Yum. The addition of mint is just perfect.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

A pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 green zebra tomatoes, sliced
1 shallot, chopped
4-5 fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips (could also work with basil leaves, and maybe addition of bacon or feta cheese)

Olive oil, to taste (1-2 tbsp)
Champagne vinegar, to taste (1-2 tbsp)
Salt/pepper, to taste

Carefully fold tomatoes, shallot and mint together in medium bowl and toss with olive oil, champagne vinegar and salt/pepper. Chill, serve and enjoy! 

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Enjoy!!

mixed-berry dutch baby

A Dutch Baby pancake, a German pancake, a Bismarck or a Dutch puff – never mind what you call it, it’s a nice change from our regular Sunday morning pancake ritual.

Interesting how the dutch baby puffs up and browns inside the cast iron skillet. Be careful not to peek inside the oven too many times or your dutch baby may collapse prematurely. The result is a puffed pancake, browned and a bit crispy on the bottom and the edges – similar to a fresh popover or Yorkshire pudding.

The berries and a light sprinkle of powdered sugar perfects this dish with just the right amount of tart and sweet. This dish is surprisingly light, but also very filling. Also, don’t be surprised…it does collapse shortly after you remove the skillet from the oven.

Mixed-Berry Dutch Baby
Adapted from Food & Wine / Grace Parisi
Serves 6-8

3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 cups raspberries
2 cups blackberries
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425° and heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the finely grated lemon zest, sugar and salt until combined. Add the flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1 cup each of the raspberries and blackberries.

Melt the butter in the skillet and add the batter, spreading the fruit evenly. Bake in the center of the oven for about 22 minutes, until the edges are browned and puffed and the center is lightly browned in spots. Transfer the skillet to a trivet and dust the Dutch Baby with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into wedges and serve with the remaining fresh berries.

Enjoy!

kaiserschmarrn with peaches & blackberries

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have an intense love of any kind of fresh fruit. In fact, it’s very rare that I serve a meal without some sort of fruit. My favorites are the berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries.

Kaiserschmarrn. Traditionally prepared as an Austrian dessert, but also great for a lazy Sunday breakfast. A light pancake made from sweet batter and browned in a large skillet. Cut into bite-size pieces and finish by caramelizing with butter, sugar and confectioner’s sugar.

OK, I won’t lie on this one… it’s a little bit challenging. And, I’m not sure we mastered it. I say we because I had to borrow my husband to help with the “flipping” of the kaiserschmarrn. In the end, it was a success, and made for a fabulous Sunday brunch. I think for now, the kids still prefer their traditional pancakes and maple syrup. However, I’m sold on this one. It just takes a bit more effort.

Loved the modest tart of the lemon zest paired with the blackberries and ever-so-slight caramelized nectarines (which I subbed for the peaches). All that tossed with the sweet, tender pancake was perfect.

Kaiserschmarrn with Peaches & Blackberries

Adapted from Food & Wine / Alice Waters
Serves 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 firm, ripe medium peaches—peeled, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

1 pint blackberries

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the peaches, 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and the lemon juice and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the peaches to a plate and clean the skillet.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, milk, egg yolks, zest and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar until smooth. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar until the whites are glossy. Fold the whites into the batter until no streaks remain.

In the skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the batter, cover and cook over moderately low heat until it is golden on the bottom and the top is beginning to set, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a large plate. Carefully invert the skillet over the pancake. Using oven mitts, flip the skillet and the plate to return the pancake to the pan. Cook until the underside of the pancake is set and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Using a wooden or heatproof plastic spatula, cut the pancake in the skillet into 2-inch squares. Dot with the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, sprinkle with the 1/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar and top with the peaches. Cook, tossing, until the pancake is caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the blackberries and toss until they are heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer the kaiserschmarrn to a platter, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Enjoy!

pistachio & cream cheese sugar cookies

A not-too-sweet cookie, perfect with a coffee or an afternoon tea and small enough you don’t feel guilty about having more than one.  Mmm.   I’m guessing this recipe could work with almonds as well, substituting the pistachios with almonds and vanilla flavor with almond flavor.  I may just have to try that.   Oooh, the possibilities… maybe even a citrus cookie – lemon or orange flavor rolled in sugared or candied citrus peels.  Or, a kid version… perhaps, rolled in chocolate or butterscotch chips (or maybe that would turn into a melted, sticky mess.)

Pistachio-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens All Time Favorites 2012

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3 ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp finely shredded citrus peel (optional – I didn’t add)
1/2 cup finely chopped lightly salted pistachio nuts

Combine butter and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour and beat or use mixing spoon to combine all of the flour. If desired, add the citrus peel.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 7-8 inch long roll (1 1/2 inches in diameter). Roll each cookie roll into chopped pistachios. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap. Chill about an hour until dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

 

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack; cool. Makes 44 cookies.

 

pesto and rotini

An amazing, simple, healthy dish. Use store-bought pesto, or make your own (like I did.) Serve with a sautéed chicken breast, a veggie and a nice glass of white wine.

Pesto
3-4 cups of packed, fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I toasted mine in a saute pan over low heat, just enough to warm them and see a hint of golden)
1-2 garlic cloves (to your liking)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Blend/puree all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto is blended and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Serve with cooked whole wheat rotini pasta.

Prepare whole wheat rotini per package directions. Toss pasta with pesto and freshly grated parmesan cheese and whole pine nuts (if desired.)

oatmeal caramel bars

These bars may just put you in a sugar-induced trance.  The one that pulls you back for another.  And another.  Mmm.  I remember eating something similar while still living at home with my parents.  I made these for my family recently after reminiscing my way through old cookbooks.  I can’t believe this recipe takes an ENTIRE jar of caramel ice cream topping.  All that, plus chocolate chips and oats and brown sugar and butter.  The bars are indulgent and sweet and sticky  – they’re best kept chilled in the refrigerator (they tend to hold their shape a bit better than at room temp.)

Oatmeal Caramel Bars
Recipe adapted from Potluck for 33,000 New & Improved 2nd Edition – Recipes from the great Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s cookoff, a benefit for the United Way circa 1993

1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups caramel ice cream topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted
6 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour and caramel topping; set aside. In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, soda, salt and butter; mix until crumbly. Press 2/3 crumbly mixture in ungreased 9x13x2 inch pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over caramel. Bake 17 to 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.