Monthly Archives: May 2012

Blueberry-Basil Scones

As much as I would love to cook for my blog full-time, I have to go to work each day, often work long hours, and many times eat lunch at my desk. I used to be able to skip breakfast but I just can’t do that anymore so I do my best to eat something healthy. I have to muster up every ounce of self-control not to run to the Dunkin’ Donuts for egg and cheese on a fattening bagel. I rarely bring in cereal because I don’t want to have to worry about running out to buy milk and I think it’s a pain to bring in egg whites to cook in the microwave. Despite the fact that my office building provides a two-story cafeteria for employees with stunning views of Philadelphia, I rarely go up there because I don’t trust myself to get something healthy with all of the other buttery, cheesy options available (I could eat the walnut-raisin cream cheese by the spoonful!). Generally, I grab a packet of oatmeal from home but every once in a while, I love to make muffins or scones to store in the freezer which are easy to grab as I’m running out the door.

Blueberries are ridiculously delicious right now so I keep buying packages of them each time I’m at the store or produce market. Wanting something a little more interesting than plain old blueberry scones, I decided to use up the last of some of my basil and make Blueberry-Basil Scones. It may sound like an odd combination but they are both fresh, vibrant flavors that just so happen to complement one another. These scones also have a bit of lemon zest as well, adding to the brightness of these scones. Eat these toasted with a little bit of butter or jam or just eat them plain and enjoy how the blueberries pop so perfectly in every bite.

Blueberry-Basil Scones (makes 8 scones)

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Scones

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar or Splenda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1/3 cup 1% reduced-fat milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and set aside. In a large bowl, combines flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in blueberries, basil and lemon zest. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together milk, vanilla and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture. Carefully combine the mixture with a fork just until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and carefully knead a few times (do not overknead). Shape dough into an 8-inch circle and place on the baking sheet. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into, but not through, the dough. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool. Optional: Brush 2 teaspoons of additional milk over surface of dough and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of additional sugar before baking.

The ingredients:

In a large bowl, combines flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until incorporated.

Stir in blueberries, basil and lemon zest.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together milk, vanilla and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture. Carefully combine the mixture with a fork just until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and carefully knead a few times (do not overknead). Shape dough into an 8-inch circle and place on the baking sheet. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into, but not through, the dough.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer scones to wire racks to cool.

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Tortellini Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette

I could probably revolve my entire blog on different caprese recipes.  I could happily eat tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil at any time in just about any way possible.  Does anyone else feel this way?  Most people seem to like tomatoes and mozzarella together so when I went to my friend’s house for a cookout and pool party this past weekend, I decided to bring Tortellini Caprese Bites with Basil Vinaigrette

Simple cheese tortellini is cooked and cooled, skewered with grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls and bathed in a vinaigrette of basil, olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  Never had white balsamic vinegar?  Neither had I.   In fact, I didn’t even know it existed.  I’m now in love with it.  This little appetizer was a big hit and there was nary a skewer left at the end of the hot, sunny day.  I used refrigerated whole-wheat cheese tortellini (only because the store was out of regular cheese tortellini) but I believe any flavor would be delicious (such as cheese & prosciutto or cheese & spinach).  This simple vinaigrette is a good one to remember for vegetables, salads or pasta as well.  Consider taking these vibrant and visually appealing appetizers to your next get-together.  They are sure to be a hit.

If you like this, also check out Cherry Tomato Bites.

The ingredients:

Prepare tortellini according to package directions and cool under cold water.  Cut grape tomatoes in half and drain mozzarella balls from the water it comes in.  On each skewer, thread 1 tomato half, 1 mozzarella cheese ball, another tomato half, and 1 tortellini.  Place the skewers in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and salt until blended.  Slowly pour the olive oil into the vinegar, whisking constantly until well combined.  

Stir in basil and freshly ground pepper.

Pour Basil Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat.  Cover and chill 2 hours. 

Transfer skewers to a serving platter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Additions:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Source:  Southern Living Magazine

Peach Lemonade

Yes, I know it is soooooooo super-easy to keep a container of Crystal Light or Country Time in your cabinet, put a scoop in a pitcher with some water and pour yourself a glass of lemonade in a few short minutes.  But let’s be honest, lemonade mix doesn’t hold a candle to an ice-cold lemonade made from freshly squeezed lemons, does it?  This homemade lemonade, Peach Lemonade, might take a little longer than lemonade from a mix but it’s so much better.  And on a nice spring day, fresh peaches and freshly squeezed lemonade are a perfect little marriage.

Peaches are simmered in water with sugar, blended, and strained, leaving a perfectly sweet, peachy syrup.  Fresh lemon juice is added and voilà!  Peach Lemonade!  The peach flavor is subtle in this thirst-quenching drink which would be perfect on a warm summer day or spiked with a little vodka or rum.  Afterall, when life gives you peaches and lemons, make peach lemonade.  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

The ingredients:

Bring water, sugar, and chopped peaches to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes.

Place peach mixture in a blender and let stand for 20 minutes, allowing mixture to cool slightly.  Remove center piece of blender lid and place a clean towel over the opening.  Blend until smooth and pour into a large bowl.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

Press peach mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids.    

Stir in lemon juice.

Serve over ice and garnish with a peach wedge.

Additons:  None

Omissions:  None

Substitutions:  None

Overall Rating:  Love It

Source:  Cooking Light Magazine

Vegetarian Tex-Mex Quinoa Bowl

Have you jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet?  Well, I have.  And considering my love for rice, using quinoa in place of rice is something I never thought I would agree to.  But these days, I have quinoa on hand and rice is nowhere to be found in my cabinet.  I still love my rice but quinoa is just so darn good for you that I can’t let myself not eat it.  Mixing quinoa with bold flavors, like in this Vegetarian Tex-Mex Quinoa Bowl, is a great way to eat it.

Quinoa takes on the spicy flavors of the taco seasoning very well so even if you aren’t sure if you like quinoa, this is a good way to try it.  Mixed with soy crumbles, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and jalapeño, this quinoa bowl is fresh, spicy, and filling.  I love the texture and flavor of the soy crumbles in this dish.  I started eating soy crumbles when I was a vegetarian but still eat it now in place of meat all the time.  Sometimes I even prefer it in certain dishes over meat (like taco salad and Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper – seriously!).  It’s full of protein and lower in fat, making it a great pairing with quinoa.  But if you don’t want to venture into soyland, feel free to use ground turkey, chicken, or beef in place of the soy crumbles.  Also, if you keep a fully stocked spice cabinet like I do, consider making your own taco seasoning which allows you to control the salt and spiciness of this dish.

Vegetarian Tex-Mex Quinoa Bowl (makes 4 servings)

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine‘s Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • non-stick spray
  • 1 12-ounce package soy crumbles (such as MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters® Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons packaged taco seasoning (see note) 
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chopped cilantro

Note: To make your own taco seasoning, mix together 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon sea salt (optional), and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

In a medium sauce pan, add 2 cups water or broth and quinoa.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-22 minutes.  Spray non-stick spray into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add soy crumbles and cook 3 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup water and taco seasoning and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in corn and black beans, cook for 1 minute or until heated.  Stir in quinoa, chopped tomato and jalapeño.  Top each serving with 1 teaspoon cilantro.

The ingredients:

In a medium sauce pan, add 2 cups water or broth and quinoa.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-22 minutes. 

Spray non-stick spray into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Add soy crumbles and cook 3 minutes.  

Stir in 1/4 cup water and taco seasoning and stir for 1 minute. 

Stir in corn and black beans, cook for 1 minute or until heated. 

Stir in quinoa, chopped tomato and jalapeño.  

Top each serving with 1 teaspoon cilantro.

Spicy Basil Chicken

I’m starting to notice a pattern in my life…I spend the weekend eating badly and then turn around and try to remedy it by making something low-carb. I’m not sure if this is working for me or not but I guess deep down it must make me feel better about myself. After starting the day off Saturday with coffee for breakfast and a nice salad at lunch time, the day quickly spiraled out of control and I woke up Sunday to remember that I had also consumed cheesy chicken nachos, two (yes, TWO) separate plates of french fries, and a fast food chicken sandwich around midnight. Whaaaaaaaat? I can count on one hand the number of times I eat fast food in a year so I wasn’t really sure why my friend and I decided it was a good idea to head through the drive-thru on our way home from a night (or day-into-night) on the town. I came home and ate this super-salty chicken sandwich while watching Saturday Night Live and didn’t really enjoy one bite of it. If I learned nothing else, I remembered exactly why I don’t eat fast food.

So, true to form, on Sunday I decided to make a nice low-carb chicken dish – Spicy Basil Chicken. Tender chicken is cooked with shallots and sliced garlic before being bathed in a spicy and salty mixture of soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, water, and cornstarch. Sliced basil tops off the whole dish, giving it a fresh, bright finishing touch. This tasted like an authentic chicken dish that I might get at my favorite Chinese food place, slightly reminiscent of Kung Pao. No matter how good the chicken was though, it was made even better by the soft garlic slices that soaked up the sauce. I probably could have eaten that garlic by the spoonful. In fact, I just might have. This dish is soooooo much better than fast food!

The ingredients:

Add canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic to pan and cook for 30 seconds.

Add chicken to the pan and cook until chicken is done.

Combine fish sauce (which I omitted), sugar, soy sauce, water, sambal oelek, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add sauce mixture to the pan and cook for 1 minute or until mixture thickens making sure to coat the chicken. Remove from heat.

Stir in basil.

Serve with rice, couscous, or just your fork.

Additions: None

Omissions:

  • Fish Sauce

Substitutions:

  • Chicken tenders

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

Sangria Bonita

Sangria is one of my favorite cocktails because it’s not limited to any particular season and can be enjoyed year-round. Red wine sangria with stone fruit or apples is great for fall and winter while white wine sangria with citrus or berries is great for spring and summer.

This Sangria Bonita is a light, fresh white wine sangria that, instead of being weighed down by fruit juice, is lightened up with a little bit of orange liqueur and sparkling water. A pretty tossing in of colorful limes, lemons, oranges, and raspberries make this a picture perfect cocktail. I used Pinot Grigio but if you prefer a drier wine, consider Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Also, use any of your favorite spring or summer fruits here. That’s the great thing about Sangria – you can throw in any wine, juice or fruit you want.  Bonita, indeed!

The ingredients:

Pour 1 bottle dry white wine into a pitcher and add in ½ cup orange liqueur, and 3 tablespoons sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add in half a bottle of sparkling water.

Add slices of your favorite fruit. I used a mineola orange, lime, lemon, and a handful of fresh raspberries. Chill up to 1 hour before serving and garnish each serving with fresh mint if you like.

Additions:

  • Lemon slices

Omissions:

  • Mint

Substitutions:

  • Raspberries for strawberries

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Coastal Living Magazine

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Despite the fact that we had perfectly blue skies and warm weather this past weekend in the Philadelphia area, the recent rainy, damp weather had me wanting to run to Au Bon Pain for soup nearly everyday.  And even though the weather is supposed to get better, I just felt like making a nice pot of warm and comforting soup.  Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is spicy, creamy, and hearty – just what you want from a soup.

Don’t be freaked out by the coconut in the name of this soup. It comes from light coconut milk which is mild in flavor and provides a silky creaminess. Chopped mushrooms and red peppers provide some rustic bulk while ginger, garlic, and chile paste provide some hefty flavor. Precooked chicken is thrown in at the end which helps save time, making this soup a perfect use of leftover chicken you might have on hand. Toppings of scallions and cilantro add a fresh brightness at the end so don’t skimp on them. I omitted the lemongrass, substituted ground ginger for fresh ginger and used soy sauce instead of fish sauce. These changes seemed to work because I loved this soup. This recipe wasn’t even the reason why I tore out the page it was on from the magazine it was in but what an amazingly pleasant surprise! This just goes to show – pay attention to every recipe you see. You just might end up making it.

The ingredients:

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add in mushrooms, bell pepper, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass (I omitted this). Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chile paste and cook 1 minute.

Add chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add chicken to pan and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard lemongrass (if using).

Top with onions, cilantro, and lime juice.

Additions: None

Omissions:

  • Lemongrass

Substitutions:

  • Ground ginger for fresh ginger
  • Chili-garlic sauce for chile paste
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce for fish sauce

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

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