Tortellini for Terry

It’s Terry’s birthday today and I took the day off work for the sole purpose of fixing her a yummy birthday dinner. It was supposed to be a surprise, but I just can’t seem to keep my mouth shut when I’m trying to pull one over on her, so I told her a few days ahead of time that I’d be home all day cooking for her. I didn’t tell her what I was making, so there was still some surprise to it when she got home.

Since we’re well into Spring, I wanted to take advantage of seasonal ingredients so to start, I made asparagus soup for an appetizer. I found this particular recipe to be just ok – I saw some recipes that had red potatoes and I think next time, I will add them. It would add a little more texture and depth, I think. The flavor was good enough, even without the potatoes. I served it chilled because the flavors popped more than when it was hot. No picture of this one because it honestly wasn’t that visually compelling.

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Strawberry basil sorbet

If you’re looking for an easy dessert, look no further. This sorbet is just about the easiest thing you can make and it takes virtually no time. You can put a number of different spins on it as well. For example, next time, I think I’ll add some champagne or vodka to the mix to give it a little kick.

Simple as it gets!

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Recipe

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • fresh basil

Stir sugar and water together in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar has dissolved.

Allow to cool in pan for a 1/2 hour (the syrup is extremely hot) before transferring to a 1 cup container and chilling it in the refrigerator.

While the syrup is cooling, hull strawberries and place them in a food processor or blender. Blend strawberries to a puree, then pour through a sieve into a medium size bowl. Add lemon juice, and stir well.

Refrigerate puree until syrup has chilled – about 1 hour.

Combine chilled syrup and strawberry puree, then transfer to an 8-inch metal baking pan (stainless steel is best).

Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 3-4 hours. Remove sorbet from freezer and puree once more in a food processor or blender. Return strawberry puree mixture to metal pan, cover and freeze for a further 3-4 hours.

Garnish with basil.

Serves 6

Triple threat

It was busy in the carrot kitchen today! I made 3 dishes and spent as many and more hours cooking. I barely noticed the time passing by. I guess that’s because I think cooking is FUN.

I started out with raspberry lemon ricotta bread. The recipe was for muffins, but I was feeling like a badass so I decided to make bread instead. Aside from it totally falling apart when I took it out of the pan (must have taken it out too early), it turned out delicious and made an excellent pre-dinner dessert. I think I just made up a new course! Try it yourself – the recipe is right over here.

I just finished what will be our main dish – quinoa salad with black beans, tomatoes and corn. I’ve been making some pretty heavy and not-so-healthy dishes lately, so it was time to lighten things up a bit. This dish is super easy, tasty and totally healthy (aside from the cheese, I guess). Protein-packed and flavorful, it would easily serve as a great filling for a wrap. I bet some avocado would taste great on top, too.

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For our appetizer, we started with these baked zucchini stacks, which turned out to be what I was most excited about all day. OMG so good. They make me crave summer. I’ll tell you how to make them here.

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Oh yeah – don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

Recipe borrowed from Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted, OR 1 cup of fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled (approximately the amount of kernels from one ear of corn)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 5 ounces Queso fresco, Queso Panela, fresh Mozzarella or other mild farmer’s cheese, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, including tender stems, packed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Put the rinsed quinoa, salt and water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer gently until the quinoa absorbs all the water, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Place into a large bowl and fluff up with a fork to help it cool more quickly.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Soak the red onions in the lime juice and set aside. Soaking the onions in lime juice (or lemon juice or water) helps take the edge off of them. Mix the prepped black beans, corn kernels, tomatoes, cheese, jalapenos, cilantro, and oil into a large bowl.

When the quinoa has cooled, mix it into the bean mixture. Add the red onion and the lime juice and add salt, more oil or lime juice to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Baked zucchini stacks

Hello, new favorite appetizer. This dish makes me crave summer. Also, anything with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze is pretty much guaranteed to please.

I don’t have a lot to say about this dish, other than holy cow, it’s so simple and easy and tastes SO good. If you’re having people over for dinner and want to impress them with a great appetizer, try this one out. It’s so simple and has big flavor.

Just be careful how thick you slice your zucchini and tomatoes – and how high you stack them. They’re prone to falling over if you move too quickly. (How do I know? Because two of them fell over while I was trying to get a damn picture. Cursing ensued.)

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So if you want tall stacks, slice things thin. If you want small stacks, slice things thick and just use one slice of each ingredient. It will still be a perfect bite to get your appetite going!

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So many layers of delicious.

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Recipe courtesy of Eat.Drink.Love.

Ingredients:

For the balsamic glaze:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar

For the baked zucchini:

  • 1 zucchini, sliced into about 12 1-inch slices
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the stacks:

  • Baked zucchini slices
  • fresh mozarella, sliced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • balsamic glaze
  • fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. To prepare the baked zucchini, beat the egg in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, mix together the flour, panko bread crumbs, and the salt.
  3. Dip each slice of the zucchini into the egg and then into the bread crumb mixture. After all of the slices have been coated, arrange them on the baking sheet and spray the tops with non-stick spray. Bake for about 10 minutes, flip them over and then bake for another 5 minutes or until the slices are golden.
  4. To make the glaze, add the balsamic vinegar and stir in the brown sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and heat until the vinegar is reduced by half. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the stove.
  5. To make the stacks, layer with a slice of zucchini, followed by a tomato slice and then the mozzarella. Repeat. Drizzle some of the glaze on top. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve promptly.

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

It’s new recipe day! I found this one earlier in the week and was drawn to it because it involved some flavors I don’t typically work with. I pretty much love anything made with shrimp, so this was a no-brainer. As is always the case, I needed to make a vegetarian version for Terry, so I grabbed some tofu for her share.

Full disclosure: the store I went to didn’t have the right sized shrimp and I didn’t feel like making an extra trip, (lazy today) so I got the largest they had. (Fun fact, did you know that shrimp are not sold by size, as in small, medium, large, but rather how many equal a pound? The recipe called for 21/25 shrimp, but all the store had was 26/30. It seems like a small thing, but these kind of details really do make a difference.)

I have to admit, the amount of butter in this dish is a bit startling. And to be honest, I wanted to quit when I got to the 8th tablespoon of butter, but I always follow a new recipe as instructed the first time I make it. Into the pan went the 9th and 10th tablespoon of butter.

Look at all this butter.

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I have to let you know that as easy as some things are to do, even when you’re really good at something, you can still screw it up. My pan was too hot and my first 2 tablespoons of butter burned and I also burnt the garlic. I had to trash it and start over. So if anyone has any tips on how to cook garlic without burning it, I’m all ears. It trips me up every now and then, but I expect I will master it eventually.

This dish is pretty easy to make, and despite my hesitation with the butter quantity, it was really good. Even the tofu version. The sauce was delicious and was perfect to soak up with bread. If I ever make this again, and I’m not sure I will, I would cut back on the butter and amp up the seasoning. I like spicy food and this could use a little more heat, too.

Happy Saturday night, folks. Here is the original recipe, courtesy of Kitchen Riffs.

Now go cook!

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Cherry tomato jam

I’ve sort of been binge cooking this weekend. Seems that lately I want to cook anything I can get my hands on, whether I have to make a special trip to the store for one ingredient or if I have everything I need at home.

I recently had a dish at Sienna Tavern of tomato jam with burrata cheese. It was surprisingly savory and awesome. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I mean tomato jam sounds kind of weird, right? But it was amazing. It was so good it inspired me to make my own. I looked for a recipe and chose this one here.

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This is a pretty simple dish to make, it only requires an occasional stirring so the sugar in the pan does not burn. I followed the recipe, which says to let it cook for 70 minutes. So I stood there, stirring, tasting, stirring some more. So far it tasted good and I was happy with the way it was going.

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Mushroom truffle pizza with homemade dough

I have the day off today, and can’t think of anything better to do than invest time in learning a new technique. Today, I’m making pizza and I’m going to make the dough from scratch for the first time. I’ve even purchased a back up pizza crust in case this turns out to be an utter failure.

Anything that involves exact ingredient amounts is a little intimidating because there’s pretty much no room for error. I’m used to tossing things together by using half-assed and approximate measurements, so this is going to be interesting.

I did some research and determined that this how-to video was the best way to get started.

I’d like to say I got it right on the first try, but I’d be lying. It took me 5 times to get the yeast to rise. It seems my days of working without a food thermometer are over. The water really needs to be just the right temperature for the yeast to react and it’s really hard to guess what 100 degree water feels like. Finally – I got it to rise!

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While waiting for the dough to rise, it was time to start prepping the ingredients for the sauce. The sauce takes about 20 minutes to make, and probably could be made up to an hour in advance of use.

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