Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eat: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Missouri is not known for having the best weather. We seem to jump entirely too quickly from icy cold winters to sweltering humid summers. Lately, though, we have been blessed with strangely mild temperatures. This interim may be short, but it is quite lovely and very welcome. Matt and I try to take full advantage of nice weather with lots of picnics. I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for recipes that are "picnic-ready", meaning I can grab it from the fridge and off we go to a nearby park. You may think this criteria is limiting but not so when you're armed with the handy dandy internet.

I just recently tried this recipe for Mediterranean Chickpea Salad and loved it! I'm up for any dish with feta and this particular concoction displays an appealing variety of colors and textures. Chickpea (or garbanzo bean) salads are a healthier and heartier alternative to pasta salads. An excellent source of protein and fiber, chickpeas are proven to curb hunger and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. They can also give you an energy boost with their high iron levels -- something I definitely need!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
Makes 4 (1-cup) servings

1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas*
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup bell peppers, diced
1/8 cup cup Kalamata olives, sliced
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/8 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, diced

For the Dressing...
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon plain low fat yogurt
Salt and pepper (or to taste)

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Place in a large bowl. After you have washed and chopped all of the vegetables, add them to the bowl of chickpeas. Sprinkle with the feta and olives.

In a separate container or bowl, thoroughly mix the dressing ingredients for the dressing. Pour this over the salad and toss to coat. Chill in your fridge for about an hour prior to eating.

*Note: I actually prefer to cook large batches of chickpeas and freeze them in 2 cup bags. It is highly cost effective and takes no time at all -- especially if you have a slow cooker. Here is a helpful overview.


I encourage you to find easy recipes that let you get outside and enjoy the nice weather in your neck of the woods!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eat: Berry Galette

The birthday of a grown-up can often be...underwhelming. The odds are that you're working that day, which most likely means that the majority of it will be hum drum. You go about your business, maybe treat yourself to a candy bar from the vending machine, and hope have a nice dinner that night. In an effort to combat this regular-day-syndrome, Matt and I have a lovely tradition of Birthday Breakfast. It is a relatively low key affair: the birthday boy or girl gets a special breakfast complete with candles and a solo serenade of "Happy Birthday". It makes for a surprisingly awesome morning and puts both of us in a great mood for the day.

This year, to mark Matthew's birthday I made a beautiful galette with strawberries and blueberries along with a side of greek yogurt. Galette is a generic French term for flat, round, and flaky pastries. As with many of my breakfast dishes, you can switch this up with whatever mix of fruit you prefer. On the 4th of July I made it with blueberries and raspberries. This dish is a quick snap to make, especially if you use a pre-made pie crust. It presents and tastes like a pie but is much healthier  because it doesn't have a syrup loaded with refined sugar. The fruit naturally creates a syrup when mixed with cornstarch. We were both crazy about this dish and I immediately added it to my regular-rotation-recipe stash.

Berry Galette

1 pie crust dough, homemade or store-bought (thaw ahead of time)
2-3 cups of mixed berries
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cornstarch
Egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 °F.

Roll out the pie crust flat onto a greased (or parchment paper-lined) baking sheet. In a large bowl, mix together the fruit, cinnamon, and cornstarch.

Spoon the mixture onto the center of the pie crust leaving about a 2-inch border of dough. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the filling.

Brush the top edges of the dough with a beaten egg. If desired, sprinkle with a bit cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let it cool on the pan for a couple minutes before cutting.

If serving for breakfast, include a few scoops of yogurt on the side. For dessert, this pairs nicely with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Eat: Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake

A few weeks ago, I shared the delicious Peach Upside Down Cake I made for Father's Day. Knowing my family to be serious dessert-lovers, right beforehand I decided to add another cake to the day's menu. This Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake lives up to its name and was the perfect choice for a last minute dessert. It has a short list of ingredients all likely to be in pantry--thereby avoiding a trip to your grocery store. It is also quick snap to prepare; within 10 minutes of starting this cake, I had it baking in the oven.

Depending on the topping you use, this cake can go in several different directions. I've made it twice and both times I paired it with a batch of homemade chocolate sauce. A plated piece of chocolate cake drizzled with a simple sauce presents beautifully, saves you time, and cuts calories.

Easy Eggless Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the "dry" ingredients: all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture and add the "wet" ingredients: vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water.

Whisk until well combined and pour the batter into a greased 8-inch round baking pan. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack prior to flipping onto a serving platter.

recipe source: martha stewart

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Eat: Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

This week, Matt and I have been gearing up for the 4th of July with a variety of barbecue dishes. Among them, we've enjoyed turkey burgers, pork ribs, and a surprisingly big hit: Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad. It has a decidedly southwestern theme and was inspired by one of my favorite restaurants, Crushed Red. They serve chopped salads which are delightful but often leave me wondering if I could whip up something just as tasty. The answer? Yes. Yes I can.

This was easy to throw together yet has a lovely presentation when plated. One could easily substitute ingredients or vary the proportions. It's a delicious summer-time meal that is filling but doesn't leave you feeling heavy or weighed down. I imagine it would be appealing to those who don't care for traditional barbecue fare and those who don't care for salads! Clearly, Matt and I both loved it; Matt mentioned the dinner a few times throughout the night--well after we had finished eating. A sure sign of success!

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
Serves 2

In a large bowl, mix together:
  • a few bunches of greens (spinach, lettuce, sprouts, etc.), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
Toss everything together with your choice of barbecue sauce*. Start with a little bit, then add more to your liking. Remember, you can always add more but it's tough to get rid of too much. Divide the salad mix among two plates.

Using that same mixing bowl, toss 1-2 chicken breasts (cooked and cut into strips or bite-sized pieces) with some more barbecue sauce. Season with chili powder to taste. Divide the chicken evenly, sprinkling it over the plated salads.

Call your dining partner into the room and impress him/her. At least that's what I did.

*It's worth noting that the barbecue sauce you select goes a long way to shape the taste. You can also mix equal parts barbecue sauce with ranch dressing.

This homemade Balsamic Honey BBQ Sauce is an absolute favorite in our house!
In a medium saucepan, combine:
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Hope you have wonderful 4th!