Southwest Quinoa Salad

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks trying to get used to being back at work full-time. It’s been an adjustment all around. How do I manage to balance work with not just home life – cooking, cleaning, being a wife – but also being a mom? It has been a challenge for sure, but my husband and I are beginning to find our routine, even if that means me going to sleep right after the baby to compensate for her new wake-3-times-a-night habit.

This new schedule has meant that I’m focusing on simpler meals in the kitchen. We’ve been doing a lot of grilling and pairing whatever we grill with fresh and easy sides. This southwest quinoa salad is one of our new favorites. The slight kick from the jalapeno is balanced with sweetness from the mango and red bell pepper. Feel free to toss in a little more mango and veggie than the quantities listed below, I know I do.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Adapted from The Plant-Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer via Skinny Taste

Yields 6 1-cup servings

Ingredients: 

  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 15 oz. can low-sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. fresh mango, chopped
  • 1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and tumeric in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, stirring to combine.

Serve immediately (at room temperature) or refrigerate until serving.

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Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Last month I attempted macarons. I was so excited, I thought they were going to come out – the temperamental cookies had “feet” and everything! However, I was never able to get the darn things off the baking sheet. I was sooo disappointed.

After my failed macaron attempt, I had a container of marscapone cheese in the fridge (the cookies were supposed to have a marscapone-raspberry filling). I rarely cook with marscapone and was struggling to find a recipeto use it up. Lucky for me, the perfect recipe popped up – tomato marscapone pasta. I love that it’s quick and easy (30-45 minutes end-to-end, mostly inactive time, depending on whether you follow the cooking times below… I’ve definitely cut the simmering time short at least once before), but even more, the sauce was impressive. The marscapone adds a slightly creamy texture to the sweet tomato sauce, making a simple meal something special. Thanks to The Jey of Cooking for a great new recipe!

Tomato Marscapone Pasta

Adapted from JaimeOliver.com via The Jey of Cooking

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, small dice
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. of pasta, cooked

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. When hot, add garlic, shallots/onions, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.
  2. Add tomatoes and basil. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in red wine and simmer for another 20 minutes. Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta.
  4. Just before pasta is ready, stir marscapone into tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and leave on the hot burner until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and stir in tomato-marscapone sauce.

Serve hot with a grated Parmesan cheese, a side salad, and some fresh bread.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

The day of my evening baking marathon with K (lemon limoncello cupcakes and cosmo cupcakes for S’s birthday), I played hookey from work. I have more vacation time than I know what to do with, so I decided to stay home, read, and play in the kitchen. I knew I wanted to do something fun for our girl’s night, but substantial enough to go with the cocktails I knew we’d be drinking (Limoncello Cosmos, as it turned out!). And, not having the guys there meant that I was able to go meatless. Thus, the Tomato Mozzarella Tart!

I had it both hot and at room temperature. While it was best straight out of the oven, it was also great at room temperature. It was pretty much as expected – sweet tomato, burst of flavor from the basil, warm gooey cheese… it was fantastic! Serve with a side salad as a light meal or, in tartlet form, as an appetizer.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

Adapted from from Ezra Pound Cake and The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook as seen on Annie’s Eats

Ingredients for the Crust:

  • 1/3 c. fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. minced)
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, chilled
  • 4-5 Tbs. very cold water

Ingredients for the Tart Filling:

  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 Tbs. minced fresh basil

Make the Crust: Pulse basil and garlic in a food processor until finely minced. Add flour and salt, pulsing until just combined. Add in butter, cut into 1-in. chunks. Pulse until ingredients are incorporated and mixture is in small, pea-sized crumbles. Add water, 1 Tbs. at a time, pulsing in between each addition. Stop when dough forms a ball. Remove from processor, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

After an hour (or whenever you’re ready to bake), preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly flour a wooden cutting board or counter and remove dough from fridge. Roll out dough into a 12-in. circle. Lay dough over a 9-in. round tart pan and press into sides, removing excess dough from top. (I used an 8-in. tart pan, and used the extra dough to create 4 tartlets.). Cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beads. (I didn’t have any baking beads, so baked without weighing down crust. It came out fine, the only difference was that bottom puffed up a bit.) Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove baking beads and foil, and bake for another 5 minutes, until crust is just set and slightly golden.

Finish the Tart: Remove crust from oven for the second time. Lower oven to 375° F. Arrange sliced mozzarella and tomatoes over crust. Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and minced fresh basil.

Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Rotate pan and use a paper towel to sop off any extra moisture that has formed. Cook for another 15 minutes. Crust will become golden brown and mozzarella with be bubbly and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Gazpacho

A month ago, I went to a week-long class for professional development. I was shocked when I arrived on the first day, and was told that they’d be serving us lunch. That’s completely unheard of for most of the professional development courses I am encouraged to attend. What was even more shocking… the food was actually good! No tasteless, unidentifiable entrees that are usually on cafeteria buffet lines (at least where I am), but rather carving stations for ham and turkey, a beautiful salad bar with fresh veggies and berries, pitchers of water flavored by the fresh fruit sitting on top… I couldn’t believe my luck, getting into such a class. I enjoyed great lunches all week, but the star, for me, was the fresh gazpacho I had on the first day.

Ever since, I’ve been craving gazpacho but a little hesitant to make it since I’ve never done so before and didn’t have a tried and true recipe on hand. I tried to satisfy my craving with Greek Panzanella, and then the following week with an improvised Greek salad (diced tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers with a little Italian dressing over them). However, I was still craving the freshness of the Gazpacho – a light treat for the warming weather. An added bonus – a great way to get in extra veggies.

Never having made Gazpacho, I was hesitant to change Ina’s recipe too much, as I’ve loved everything that I’ve tried of hers. However, I wanted to make this a little healthier by the olive oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil) in half. I also cut the amount of white wine vinegar by half. (Both changes are reflected below) Even with these minor adjustments, the soup was wonderful and super easy to make (what’s not easy about throwing everything into a blender and then refrigerating?).

Gazpacho

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (p. 79) and on Food Network

Yields 10 serving (1-1/2 c. each)

Ingredients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 2 English cucumbers, seeded but not peeled
  • 3 red peppers
  • 2 red onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 46 oz. (6 c.) tomato juice
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Roughly cut the tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, and red onions into chunks, about 1-inch large. Add tomatoes to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped but not pureed. (I left mine a little chunkier, but continue to pulse if you prefer a smoother consistency.) Do the same with the cucumbers, red peppers, and red onions, processing each vegetable individually.

Combine chopped veggies with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, to allow the flavors to blend, before serving.

Serve cold.

Optional Garnishes: Dollop of sour cream, homemade croutons, sprinking of Parmesan or feta cheese

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola & Pecans

First impressions about Brussels sprouts…. and go….

Let me guess. First thought is “ew.” Followed by something like, “who eats that?” I used to think the same. When we were little my mom would steam them, stinking up the kitchen. My youngest brother was the only one of us fooled into eating the “baby trees” (no, wait, that was broccoli…. well, it was something like that).

Anyway, then one day, when I was in high school or college, my mom roasted the Brussels sprouts until they were crispy. The veggies were non-stinky, so I gave them a whirl. I was officially a convert. Roast ’em and you’ll get a slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture. Throw on some salt and maybe some bacon, and it quickly became one of my favorite sides, and the only way I’d eat Brussels sprouts.

Then this recipe came long. The Brussels sprouts were cooked pretty much the same – sliced instead of halved but roasted until crispy. Tossed with pasta, pecans, and a very light Gorgonzola-cream sauce, this recipe is sure to win over Brussels sprout-haters. Give it a try. Even a doubtful coworker cleaned his plate.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola & Pecans

Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 102 (p. 107)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground back pepper
  • 4 c. (20 oz.) Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. dried pasta, such as shells or orecchiette
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. Gorgonzola, crumbled

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 500°F. You want the baking sheet hot before you roast the Brussels sprouts.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and a bit of salt, for the pasta. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Prepare the Brussels Sprouts: In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts. When the baking sheet is heated, remove from oven. Place Brussels sprouts on baking sheet, and use a large spoon to toss with olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, until Brussels sprouts are coated. (You can also toss the Brussels sprouts, oil, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl, and then spread on the baking sheet, if you prefer.) Make sure Brussels sprouts are spread out in a single layer before roasting, until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes (stirring halfway through).

Cook the Pasta: As Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook pasta according to the box, draining once cooked.

Make the Sauce: In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1/2 Tbs. butter. Add pecans, cooking until pecans are toasted and butter is browned, about 3 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove pecans and place on a plate. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter. Cook shallots until softened, another 3 minutes, still stirring frequently. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and add 3/4 c. Gorgonzola, stirring until melted.

Put it Together: In a serving bowl, toss pasta, pecans, Brussels sprouts, and Gorgonzola-cream sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 c. Gorgonzola. Serve warm.