Olive Stuffed Arancini

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Arancini is a traditional Sicilian dish made of little balls of rice that have been rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs, then fried in oil. Yum, right?!  The rice (or risotto) can be left as-is or stuffed with a variety of tidbits like cheese, ham, peas, or my personal favorite, olives. The first time I tasted one of these mouthwatering flavor bombs was on a walking food tour through Greenwich Village while I was living in Manhattan. I was handed this crispy round thing that looked a little bit like a hushpuppy, but was so much better. Since then, I’ve seen them on menus at the occasional Italian restaurant, but not nearly as much as I’d like to (seriously, these things need to become more mainstream!) – so I decided to make them myself. And share them with you. Because I’m nice like that. Continue reading

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Last weekend my family was invited to and outdoor gathering where I was asked to bring an appetizer. Easy enough, I thought; I have tons of appetizer recipes that I’ve been wanting to try out. The trick, however, was figuring out what to make that didn’t require last minute cooking, yet could stand up to our sweltering Texas heat. A quick rummage through my pantry turned up a jar of roasted red peppers and a can of chickpeas, and I instantly knew that I had the beginning of an awesome summer dip. Using my homemade hummus recipe as a base, I only had to tweak a couple ingredients to create a whole new flavor. Zestier and smokier than the original, this hummus dip will help brighten any BBQ or potluck – rain or shine! Continue reading

Baked Southwest Egg Rolls with Creamy Salsa

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I have a major weakness for Southwest egg rolls. It’s my kryptonite. Just one whiff of them can bring me to my knees, and every time I see them on a menu (and that’s a lot since our move to Texas), I have to order them. I’m not sure who it was that first came up with this Asian fusion work of art, but they should be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for brilliance in food discovery. Alright, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but that’s how much I love them. Now, with that being said, I realize that these fried little goodies aren’t the most nutritious things you can put into your mouth, and with bikini season still in full swing, I’m not yet willing to abandon my healthy eating habits and devour these by the handful, like I inevitably do once sweater season strikes. But just because the weather is warm and the clothing trends skimpy, doesn’t mean I should completely sacrifice my favorite go-to appetizer, right? At least that’s what I was thinking last weekend when I was having a serious snack-attack. Hungry for something savory and satisfying, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own less fattening version of the Southwest egg roll. Made with brown rice, lean chicken, and baked instead of fried, I feel better (at least a little bit) about attacking these guys with reckless abandon. Which I did. — Don’t judge.

Baked Southwest Egg Rolls

Makes 14

  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups corn kernels, fresh or canned
  • 1 cup precooked rotisserie chicken (white meat, skin removed), roughly chopped (*omit to make this a vegetarian dish)
  • 1 bell pepper (red or orange), chopped
  • ½ cup jarred salsa
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp diced canned jalapeños (substitute mild diced green chills for less heat)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 14 flour tortillas, fajita size
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • parchment paper

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Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is soft and all the water has evaporated from the pot. Once rice has finished cooking, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour half of the black beans into a medium bowl and mash with a fork until most of the beans are crushed.IMG_9237

To the same bowl, add cooked rice and all the other remaining ingredients (except the tortillas and egg wash), and stir until combined.IMG_9254

Fill a ¼-cup measurer with egg roll filling and drop it into the center of a tortilla.IMG_9259

Bring 2 sides of the tortilla upward, then use your other hand to press on the outside of the tortilla, forming the filling into a log running down the center of the tortilla, stopping ½-inch from each end.IMG_9260

Fold the bottom of the tortilla up towards the center, then fold both sides inward, creating an envelope.IMG_9261

Brush the open end of tortilla with the egg wash and fold inward, sealing the egg roll.IMG_9266 IMG_9263

Place egg roll seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then brush the top of the tortilla with egg wash, covering the entire surface.IMG_9265

Repeat with the remaining tortillas.IMG_9268

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until egg rolls are golden brown and crispy to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with Creamy Salsa for dipping (recipe below).IMG_9270

Creamy Salsa

  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • smoked paprika for garnish

Mix salsa, sour cream, and salt together until smooth. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Creamy Salsa can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.IMG_9287

Sidekick: Serve with a light and refreshing beer, preferably of the Mexican variety: Pacifico, Modelo, Sol, Dos Equis, Victoria, or Carta Blanca.

Cold Asian Noodle Salad

IMG_9116 On steamy days like these, I absolutely hate slaving over a hot stove — an outdoor grill is fine, but my kitchen stove? No thank you. Lately I’ve been cooking much of our dinners in the mornings when the temperature is still cool, then refrigerating everything and assembling the meal right before we eat. This “cook & cool” method (I just made up that term, do you like it?) works really well for pastas, rice, and other hearty grains because they store well, and taste great chilled. For this Cold Asian Noodle Salad, the pasta only takes a few minutes to simmer, so it’s easy to do right before you leave for work. Just drain the noodles, then cover and refrigerate (and if you’re feeling extra ambitious, chop the veggies and store separately in the fridge). Then when you get home, all you have to do is whip up the dressing, then toss everything together. Voilà! Done! And this easy summer salad can be served alongside grilled chicken, or dished up as a vegetarian entrée. Either way, you’ll thank me tonight when you’re enjoying a cool meal on the patio rather than sweating in the kitchen. Continue reading

Easy Summer Salads

Alright, friends, have we all agreed to stop buying frozen, grocery store hamburgers and unanimously decided instead to try making our own patties this summer? Have the last couple days of me preaching from my soapbox convinced you that there are better ways to barb-e-que? Yes? Good. Now we can move on to fantastic salads to accompany those delicious burgers! Below are two, super easy salads that pretty much go with any main dish. Continue reading

Spectacular Sides for the 4th of July!

IMG_8711Tomorrow’s the 4th of July and if you’re anything like me, you’ve waited until the very last minute to make plans. Again. But that doesn’t mean you should let a little procrastination stop you from enjoying a fantastic meal. Which is why I decided to throw together these super easy, incredibly tasty (and, I might add, spectacular looking!) side dishes to jazz up your celebration. As my husband says, If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute! So why not whip up these dishes tomorrow before the party gets started — I guarantee you’ll get as many ooh’s and ahh’s as the fireworks do. Continue reading

Pesto Pasta Salad

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Well the Mid-West is finally getting those hot temperatures that we’re known for, which means that my stove will be getting no love for a couple months. I just can’t think of anything worse than sweating over a hot oven after spending the entire day sweating over everything else in the house. Now, it’s only been in the 80’s for a couple weeks, but I’ve already burned my family out on salads and grilled meats, making meal planning a challenge. In the mornings I find myself standing in my kitchen staring at my stove with utter contempt, thinking How can I avoid firing you up tonight? And that’s when a brilliant idea occurred to me: why not cook dinner early before the house heats up, then serve it cold come evening? Why not turn the pasta I was planning to make into a cold noodle salad? Why not? I said, and so I did!

Pesto Pasta Salad

Serves 4-6

  • 1- 1½ lbs. thin spaghetti, broken in half
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (see recipe below) – omit to make this dish vegetarian
  • ½-¾ cup pesto (see recipe below)
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese for serving

Cook pasta per package instructions, and at the end of the cooking time add asparagus to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Pour pasta and asparagus into a colander and run cold water into the colander until pasta and asparagus are cool. Shake the colander to remove excess water from pasta and place pasta and asparagus in a large serving bowl. Add tomatoes, pesto, and chicken and toss to combine (now I like to use my hands because I don’t mind getting dirty and it’s easier to incorporate the ingredients without tearing the pasta, but a pair of cooking tongs will work as well). Season with salt and pepper. Either serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days. Sprinkle with parmesan just before serving.

Lemon Chicken

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • ½ cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Place chicken and all remaining ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

Mist a large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add chicken, cover skillet, and cook until brown on the skillet side and the chicken starts to become opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Flip, cover skillet, and cook until the other side is brown and chicken is no longer pink in the center, about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to cool before cutting. Chicken can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days prior to being added to the salad.

Homemade Pesto

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Homemade Pesto

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • ¼ Tbsp. pine nuts
  • ¼ Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ¼ Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Add garlic, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. oil to a food processor. Process until just beginning to come together, then while the machine is still running, slowly drizzle in remaining oil and continue to blend until smooth and paste-like. Season with pepper and more salt if needed.