Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three-cheese and Veggie Stuffed Shells

Lately I have been doing a lot of cooking. I sure do love the holidays and all the food involved! As much as I enjoy making the traditional meat-and-potatoes holiday meals, I especially love to make Italian food for these cozy nights in. It is so comforting to have a big batch of marinara sauce bubbling away on the stovetop while I go about my day, ready for me to use at dinner. I use my favorite homeade sauce with this fabulous Three-cheese and Veggie Stuffed Shells recipe. It is so easy to make, beautiful, and delicious! It's also deceivingly healthy, as it uses part-skim cheese and lots of veggies, with no meat!

Three-cheese and Veggie Stuffed Shells
A delicious baked pasta for a comforting night in!
Serves 4

16 jumbo shells (from a 12-oz box)
2 cups marinara sauce, plus more for serving
1 10-oz pkg frozen leaf spinach, thawed
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped small
1 15-oz container part-skim ricotta
2 oz Parmesan, grated (about 1/2 cup)
4 oz part-skim mozzarella, grated (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400°F. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
Spread the sauce onto the bottom of a large broiler-proof baking dish.
Squeeze the spinach of excess moisture, roughly chop and place in a large bowl. Chop the broccoli and add it to the bowl. Stir in the ricotta, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and bake until the shells are heated through, 10 to 12 minutes. Increase heat to broil. Broil the shells until the cheese begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Yahoo! Shine

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tortilla Crusted Mexican Chicken with Corn & Avocado Salsa and Mexican Rice Pilaf

When most people think of Mexican food, cheesy, greasy food comes to mind. I recently made a Mexican meal that wasn't cheesy or greasy, and it was both healthy and delicious! I marinated chicken breasts in a flavorful sauce and used tortilla chips to create a crispy coating. I made it healthy by baking the crispy chicken instead of frying it. Alongside I served a satisfying Mexican rice pilaf and a fresh and vibrant corn and avocado salsa. This may not be your typical  Mexican meal, but I guarantee you’ll think it’s delicious!

Tortilla Crusted Mexican Chicken
Flavorful chicken in a crispy tortilla crust.
Serves 2

Two chicken breasts, halved lengthwise (or 4 chicken tenderloins)
½ cup olive oil
1 T cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups tortilla chips

Combine olive oil, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and cilantro in a medium bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate until marinated, at least 30 minutes up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Crush tortilla chips in a large Ziploc bag. Remove chicken from marinade and allow excess to drip off. Place in Ziploc bag with crushed chips and shake until fully coated.

Grease a baking sheet or sheet with rack and place chicken on top. Bake in oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang
Corn & Avocado Salsa
Fresh, vibrant and delicious with crispy chicken.
Serves 6
1 can corn, rinsed
1 avocado, diced
1/2 red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
Juice from 1 lime
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit in fridge for at least one hour before eating so flavors can combine. Feel free to add or swap ingredients!
Recipe by Sarah Lang
Mexican Rice Pilaf
A healthy and delicious rice side dish!
Serves 6 (easily halved)
2 1/2 cups water
1 small onion , chopped fine
2 jalapeño chiles , stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 1/2 cups basmati rice or plain long-grain, rinsed
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 medium tomato , halved, seeded, and diced small (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

Bring the water to a boil, covered, in a small saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and season with pepper to taste; cover to keep hot.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, chiles, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice, and stir to coat the grains with oil. Cook until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the hot seasoned water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, 16 to 18 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the cilantro and tomato—do not mix in. Lay a clean, folded kitchen towel underneath the lid (see the illustration below). Let stand for 10 minutes, then add the lime juice and fluff the rice with a fork and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Honeyed Pear and Gorgonzola Bruschetta

We all do a lot of cooking around the holidays, and those meals often involve big roasts and lots of chopping. It’s nice to start a holiday meal with an easy and delicious appetizer with fantastic flavors, and this honeyed pear and gorgonzola bruschetta is sure to wow your guests! The salty, creamy gorgonzola combines beautifully with the sweet pear and honey. Serve this treat before your next big dinner and reap the praises. Only you will know how easy it is to make!

Honeyed Pear and Gorgonzola Bruschetta
A sweet and savory appetizer that everyone will love!
Serves 6

1 French baguette, sliced into ½ inch slices
1 pear, thinly sliced
Gorgonzola or blue cheese, about 4 oz

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the bread slices for 5 minutes until lightly crisp. Top with a thin layer of blue cheese, two pear slices, and drizzle with honey. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and drizzle with more honey. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homemade Pizza Dough- and two fabulous pizza recipes!

I love to make homemade pizza, but never before had I ventured to make my own crust. This past weekend I took the leap and I will never go back to store bought crust! Not only was the crust super easy to make, it was awesome to smell the yeast work with the flour and create something magical before my eyes. I let the dough rise on the counter for two hours, and it was beautiful, soft and fresh. It was a cinch to shape into crusts, no rolling pin required! This Italian-style pizza is best topped lightly with fresh, seasonal toppings that really let the dough shine. In fact, the dough was so delicious I could eat it simply topped with sea salt and dipped in extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. But being the hungry girl that I am, I decided to make two scrumptious large pizzas and enjoy leftovers for days! I hope you love these recipes!

Margherita Pizza
A delicious Italian classic
Makes 2 large, 4 medium, or 8 small pizzas

1 prepared pizza dough, divided into desired number of pizzas (see recipe below)
½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup pizza sauce
1 cup fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh pepper

Preheat pizza stone in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Carefully remove stone from oven and place fresh dough on top of the stone. (Roll dough onto a rolling pin for easy transport.) Brush dough lightly with olive oil. Smooth an even amount of sauce over dough, then top with sliced garlic, basil and tomatoes. Bake for listed time depending on size of the crust, then remove and add cheese. Bake for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pizza
A spicy and flavorful combination
Makes 2 large, 4 medium, or 8 small pizzas

1 prepared pizza dough, divided into desired number of pizzas (see recipe below)
½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup pizza sauce
1 sausage link, sliced
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh pepper
Preheat pizza stone in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in some olive oil and add onions and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Add sausage and sauté mixture an additional 5 minutes until sausage is almost cooked through.

Carefully remove stone from oven and place the fresh dough on top of the stone. (Roll dough onto a rolling pin for easy transport.) Brush dough lightly with olive oil. Smooth an even amount of sauce over dough, then top with the sausage, peppers and onions mixture. Bake for listed time depending on size of the crust, then remove and add cheese. Bake for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Master Pizza Dough

1 ¾ cups water divided, 1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature
2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast (1 envelope)
2 tablespoons olive oil , plus extra for brushing dough
4 cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
Vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl
Semolina or flour for dusting board

Measure 1/4 cup of warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil. Meanwhile, pulse flour and salt in workbowl of large food processor fitted with steel blade to combine. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) to flour and pulse together. If dough does not readily form into ball, stop machine, add remaining liquid, and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds longer.
Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Put dough into medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on number and size of pizzas desired. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape as shown in illustrations below. Brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping and cooking.
Use the following guide to determine cooking time for pizza crust with topping but without cheese. All pizzas need to be cooked an additional two or three minutes after adding cheese, or until cheese is completely melted.

14-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 2) - 7 to 8 minutes
12-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 4) - 5 minutes
8-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 8) - 3 minutes

12-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 2) - 9 to 10 minutes
8-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 4) - 5 minutes
6-inch pizzas (dough recipe makes 8) - 4 minutes

Master Pizza Dough Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shrimp Toast

Ready for an old-school appetizer that is ready to make it's comback for the holidays? Try Shrimp Toast! This blend of mayo, cheese and shrimp is delectable spread on toast and baked until creamy and warm. The red pepper flakes add a gentle heat, and the green onions a nice fresh flavor. This recipe may be a throwback to the 70's, but it still tastes as good as ever!

Shrimp Toast
A delicious appetizer that everyone loves!
Serves 8-10

1 bag cooked frozen salad shrimp, thawed and dried off (or any cooked shrimp –chopped)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 green onion, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup cheddar cheese
Dash seasoned salt
Dash garlic powder
1 loaf French bread or baguette (sliced about ½ inch thick) or Ciabatta bread split lenghwise

Mix: Mayo, Cheeses, Shrimp Onion, Spices & Red Pepper Flakes together – this can be done 1 day in advance. Place a generous amount on each slice of bread, place on baking sheet, bake at 350 until golden brown top & bottom - 20 to 30 minutes checking often.

Recipe courtesy of Betty Bernier

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smokey Southwest Cheddar Burgers

I don't eat a lot of red meat, but as a true midwestern girl I occasionally love a good burger. When I treat myself to a big juicy burger it needs to be delicious and unique, so I love to make burgers at home where I can control the quality of ingredients. This burger is right up my alley- it's loaded with delicious toppings! The smoked cheddar melts and adds a ton of smokey flavor, the avocado is creamy and fresh, and the Tabasco mayo is slightly spicy with a smooth Southwest flavor.

Smokey Southwest Cheddar Burgers

Layers of flavor and spice take this burger to another level!

Hamburger patties
Grill seasoning (or salt and pepper)
Smoked cheddar cheese
Sliced avocado
Sliced tomato
Sliced onion
Cooked bacon slices, optional
Hamburger buns, I prefer whole wheat

Tabasco Mayo (serves 6):
4 T. mayonnaise
1 T. ketchup
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
Dash Worcestershire sauce

Sprinkle burgers with grill seasoning. Heat a grill or skillet and cook the burgers to your liking, about 4-6 minutes per side depending on thickness. During last minute of cooking add a slice of smoked cheddar cheese to each burger. Toast the buns.

Place the burger patty on the bottom bun. Lay the avocado slices on top of the burger, then top with the onion and tomato. Add a slice of bacon if you wish. Spread a generous amount of Tabasco mayo on the top bun. Close the burger, press gently, and enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

I always enjoy going out for ethnic foods and occassionally I try to make these different cuisines at home. It's fun to learn about the ingredients a culture uses and how to combine them to create unique flavors. This recipe is from North Africa, which is out of my comfort zone, but upon looking at the ingredient list I felt right at home. How could I go wrong with chicken, peanut butter and sweet potatoes? Combined with fragrant ginger and spicy red pepper flakes this is a sweet/spicy/smoky delight. The flavors blend beautifully, and the dish gets better the longer it cooks. It is so easy to make and will have your house smelling delicious! Enjoy this special dinner tonight- and make extras for leftovers!

Chicken in Peanut Sauce
A delicious, sweet and savory North African specialty.
Serves 4

1 T. oil
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut in 1 in. pieces
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ inch fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 T. tomato paste
½ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed in bite size pieces
1 tsp. salt
Chopped scallions and fresh cilantro, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until browned all over. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is transparent. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the tomato paste and salt, and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding water if necessary to keep it moist. Meanwhile, cook the sweet potato in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain.

Add the peanut butter, tomatoes, and sweet potato to the pan and cook for 20 minutes, until combined and tender. Add chopped scallions and cilantro to garnish. Serve atop a bed of warm rice with soy sauce.

Recipe adapted from Far Out Cookbook by Sarah Lang

Monday, October 17, 2011

Penne Ricotta with Shrimp and Sausage

I love to make cream sauces at home. I try to stay away from these sauces in restaurants as they are always loaded with extra fat and salt. (That’s why they taste so good!) At home I can control the ingredients and create a decadent sauce without the guilt. Enter ricotta cheese. Ricotta is delicious and is much lower in fat than heavy cream, which is often used to make cream sauce. This recipe only has one tablespoon of butter and it creates a rich, luscious sauce. I add plenty of garlic for delicious flavor, and Parmesan cheese for a salty bite. I used shrimp and chicken sausage in my version, but feel free to use any meat you like or no meat at all. You can never go wrong with a great sauce over pasta!

Penne Ricotta with Shrimp and Sausage
Creamy and comforting without being too heavy, this is my favorite cream sauce!
Serves 4

¾ pound penne pasta
1 cup whole milk ricotta
½ cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
3 T. olive oil, divided
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 chicken sausages, sliced into bite size pieces
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and reserve.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic with a sprinkle of salt and the Italian seasoning, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove into a medium bowl and set aside. Add more oil and the sausage. Sauté sausage until just cooked through. Remove into the bowl with the onions and garlic. Add the remaining oil and shrimp. Sauté until barely pink and remove into bowl to reserve.

Add butter to the same pan to melt, and then sprinkle in the flour. Stir to make a paste and cook for a minute. Add the chicken broth and bring up to a bubble, then reduce heat. Add the wine and allow the sauce to reduce slightly and thicken, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the ricotta cheese until melted into the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add the meat and onion mixture and stir, and then add the pasta. Stir to combine and add in some of the reserved pasta water if sauce seems dry.

Serve immediately with extra pepper and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula and Fresh Herb Dressing

I recently hosted a dinner party that featured grilled lamb, rosemary chicken and roasted potatoes. On the side I wanted to serve something light, flavorful and fresh to balance the roasted meats and potatoes. This pasta salad was the star. The homemade creamy herb dressing is loaded with fresh herbs. The arugula and tomatoes up the health-factor, and the pasta makes the dish decadent. I ate the leftovers for lunch for days! Next time you can have the meat and potatoes, I’m happy with this pasta salad!
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula and Fresh Herb Dressing
A healthy and delicious side dish that may be the star!
Serves 6
1 pound fusilli pasta
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped oregano leaves
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups baby arugula
1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the fusilli until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water, then drain again; transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the cilantro with the basil, oregano and garlic and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice and process until smooth. Season the herb dressing with salt and pepper.

Toss the fusilli with fresh mozzarella, arugula, tomatoes, red onion and the herb dressing. Season the pasta salad with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Balsamic Marinated Tomato Salad

I recently discovered a delicious, healthy and flavorful way to create a salad dressing that is oh so much better than bottled dressings. I marinate tomatoes in balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar, and let them set on the counter to soak. The tomatoes get sweet and packed with flavor as the balsamic draws out the moisture. The marinated tomatoes are great on salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and are also delicious on grilled bread. Enjoy this healthy meal!

Balsamic Marinated Tomato Salad
An easy marinade that doubles as a salad dressing!
Makes 1 large salad

For the salad:
2 cups salad greens, such as romaine
2 T. red onion, minced
1/4 cup avocado, diced
Crumbled goat cheese
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

For the marinated tomatoes:
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 T. fresh parsley or basil, chopped

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Place the halved tomatoes to a small bowl along with fresh herbs. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar, and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Spread out the salad greens on a large plate and top with the onions, goat cheese and avocado. Drizzle with the olive oil, then use a slotted spoon to scoop the tomatoes out of the bowl on top of the salad- avoid taking all of the water. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Serve with grilled bread.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baked Potato Pizza

Recently Kevin had a Baked Potato Pizza from one of our favorite gourmet pizza joints, and he raved about it. I was doubtful – potatoes on a pizza?—but agreed to give it a try. I loved it so much I just had to recreate it at home! The mashed potatoes are a creamy and comforting base for the gooey cheese, and the toppings are delicious with the potatoes. The broccoli provides crunchy texture and bright green color, while the bacon adds lots of flavor. This is a perfect, heartwarming supper on a chilly fall night. I guarantee it will change your mind about potatoes on pizza!

Baked Potato Pizza
A perfect comfort food on a chilly night!
Makes 1 large pizza

1 large prepared pizza crust, such as Boboli
1 cup mashed potatoes (recipe below)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ red onion, diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped

¾ cup broccoli florets, large chop (about ½ a head)
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
Sour cream, for serving

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread mashed potatoes on pizza crust and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Add onion, tomato and broccoli. Cook for 30 minutes or until crust is crisp and pizza is golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately add bacon and Parmesan cheese. Top with black pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with sour cream on the side.

Mashed Potatoes
Makes 1 cup

1 large russet potato, peeled
2 T butter
¼ cup half and half or cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper

Chop potato into large cubes and place in a pot. Fill with cold water, cover, and heat on stove to boiling. Once boiling remove lid and cook for 15-20 minutes until fork tender. Drain and return to hot pan. Add cream, butter and garlic and use a potato masher or large fork to mash. Add more liquid if needed. Season well with salt and pepper.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Sunday, September 11, 2011


To celebrate the first football Sunday of the year, Kevin and I had friends over to watch the games (his fave) and eat lots of delicious food (my fave!). One of the menu highlights was this big plate of nachos, warm from the oven with melted cheese and all the fixings. The key to good nachos is to make sure that each chip is evenly coated with cheese, which takes a little more time but is well worth the extra effort. Top the nachos with your favorite ingredients- I like onions, tomatoes, black olives and cilantro- and serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole. This recipe is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. After all, who doesn't like nachos?!

Hot and cheesy with all the fixings!
Serves 8

1 12 oz. bag good tortilla chips (I like Frontera)
1 1/2 8 oz. bags shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tomato, chopped
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oven broiler. On a large baking sheet arrange 1/3 of chips and individually sprinkle with cheese. (See picture.) Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted. Use a spatula to place on an oven-safe serving plate. Repeat with remaining chips until all are coated with cheese, using one 8 oz bag.

Turn off broiler and heat oven to 350 degrees. Top chips with remaining 4 oz. cheese, onion, tomato, scallions and olives and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chunky Roasted Tomato Sauce

There is something so inherently comforting about baked pasta. I love the moment I take it out of the oven and it is oozing with melted cheese and bubbling gently. The whole house smells amazing! The best noodle in baked pastas is something wide and short, such as rigatoni. For this version I combined a homemade chunky tomato sauce made of fresh Roma tomatoes and canned fire-roasted tomatoes with cream cheese, and it made a smokey, creamy and heavenly sauce. The pasta can be baked in individual ramekins or in a large casserole dish. Add chicken sausage for even more flavor. Enjoy!

Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Chunky Roasted Tomato Sauce
An ultra comforting and delicious baked pasta!
Serves 4

3/4 pound rigatoni
10 Roma tomatoes, peeled*
1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
4 oz. pancetta, diced
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 T. dried Italian herb blend
1 T. sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pot or Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pancetta drippings. Add onions and carrots, sprinkle with salt, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes, then add dried herbs and stir. Pour in 1/2 cup of red wine and use wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.

Add the Roma tomatoes and use a potato masher to break them up. Cook for 10 minutes, then add can of fire roasted tomatoes and mash again. Add basil leaves, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of wine and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes shy of the cooking time on the package. Pasta will be underdone but will finish cooking when baked. Drain and pour back into pasta pot.

Add cream cheese to noodles and stir to combine. Then add enough tomato sauce to completely saturate noodles. Reserve any remaining sauce. 

Pour pasta into a large casserole dish or individual ramekins, greased. Spread fresh mozzarella slices over the top and sprinkle with dried herbs. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove tin foil and bake an additional 20 minutes. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. Top with fresh herbs, cooked chicken sausage, or meatballs if desired.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

*To peel tomoatoes boil them for 1 minute, then shock in ice water. The peel will slide right off!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

I am a firm believer that food cooked on a grill just tastes better. From asparagus to potatoes, bread to burgers, a grill imparts remarkable flavor and really ups the YUM factor! Chicken quesadillas are no exception. Assemble inside, wrap in foil, and grill for 10 minutes and you have a gooey, cheesy, flavorful feast! Make sure and grill a basket of veggies on the side- I love onions, peppers and broccoli doused in lime juice and hot sauce!

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
A delicious Mexican meal!
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
Juice of 1 lime
2 T canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
4 large flour tortillas
½ onion, diced
Cilantro, chopped
Shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
Hot sauce

Heat a grill to medium-high.

Combine lime juice, oil, cayenne, cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk. Place chicken in a large re-sealable plastic bag and pour marinade over. Massage into chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 4 hours. Drain marinade off chicken and grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. Let cool slightly then cut into small bite size pieces.

Place two tortillas on a flat work surface. Cover with a thin layer of cheddar cheese, and then add an even amount of chicken, onion and cilantro. Dot the tortilla with fresh mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with hot sauce, to taste. Add a dash of salt and pepper, and place other tortilla on top.

Wrap quesadillas in foil and grill for 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from foil and grill an additional 1-2 minutes per side until tortillas are lightly toasted. Remove from grill, cut into wedges, and serve with salsa and guacamole. Ole!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage

Fresh tomatoes are one of the many reasons I love summer. There is nothing better than a home-grown, ruby red stunner picked fresh off the vine. Grocery store “tomatoes” belong in another category entirely, as they can’t hold a candle to summer garden beauties! I had a pound of homegrown tomatoes to use up last weekend, so I made my favorite meal- pasta with a homemade tomato sauce! I made it extra special by adding Italian sausage and serving it over pappardelle, a noodle thicker than fettuccine that soaks up the sauce and melts in your mouth. I also added a few other special ingredients to this sauce that I’m sure you’ll love. Trust me, you could never buy anything in a jar that tastes this amazing!

Summer Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage
Homemade sauce with fresh tomatoes... the best reason to eat pasta!Serves 4-6

1 pound garden tomatoes
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 pound ground Italian sausage (I prefer spicy)
1 cup Italian red wine, such as Chianti
8 oz. (1 container) baby portabella mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced (optional)
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. fresh rosemary, minced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound pappardelle, or your favorite noodle

First prepare the garden tomatoes. Use a paring knife to remove the small core where the stem attaches. Bring a pot of water to a boil, drop the tomatoes in and cook for 3 minutes to loosen skins. Carefully remove tomatoes and plunge into ice water. When cool enough to handle peel skin off tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze and break up the tomatoes.

Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and add ground Italian sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and cook until no longer pink. Scoop out the meat and set aside. Return Dutch oven to burner. If you’re using mushrooms add them to the pot and cook until browned. Spoon mushrooms into the meat mixture to set aside.

Return pot to burner over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper to 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes, then add the garden tomatoes. Cook and stir frequently for 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and sugar. Cook for 5 more minutes, and then add the red wine. Continue to cook until sauce slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the meat/mushroom mixture and fresh rosemary to the tomatoes, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the basil and Parmesan cheese. Taste for seasonings and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook your favorite noodle according to package directions. Drain and add it to the sauce. Stir and allow to cook together for a minute or two. Serve in large bowls with extra basil and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chipotle Chicken Marinade

Kevin and I recently hosted a Mexican-themed dinner party for our friends. We had a fabulous night serving fajitas with all the fixings, along with margaritas and sangria. The star of the night was the chipotle chicken, which we wrapped in tortillas with peppers, onions, cheese and guacamole. The marinade is super easy to make, and the chicken absolutely bursts with flavor from the chipotle chilies. Chipotles can be a bit spicy, so if you like less heat you can use less . I used the whole can and could happily handle the spice. Enjoy this marinade on chicken or steak, and bring some flavor to your dinner!

Chipotle Chicken Marinade

Spicy and flavorful, this chicken is delish in a tortilla or on its own!
Serves 6

1 orange, juiced
2 limes, juiced
4 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 chipotle chilies, in adobo sauce (about 1 small can)
3 T roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 pounds chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts, halved lengthwise

Combine all ingredients besides chicken in a blender. Puree until smooth. Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag and pour marinade on top. Massage to coat and refrigerate 2-4 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade, wipe off excess, and grill until done. Serve with tortillas and other fixings to make amazing fajitas!

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ginger Teriyaki Stir-Fry

I love to make Asian-inspired dishes at home. Unlike the greasy stuff in the take-out boxes, Asian at home is healthy, flavorful and delicious! This stir-fry has a delicious sweet flavor from the teriyaki sauce, and is loaded with good-for-you veggies and fish. Or, feel free to use chicken breast instead. Serve this flavor-packed stir-fry with herbed basmati rice (simply mix dill, parsley and green onions into cooked rice) and roasted asparagus.

Ginger Teriyaki Stir Fry
Sweet and savory, a perfect Asian dinner
Serves 2

2 Tilapia fillets or Chicken breasts
½ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 cup flour
1 egg
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 tsp. Seasoning salt
3 T. canola or vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup sweet corn kernals
1 small red onion, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper (or more if you want spicy)
¾ cup teriyaki sauce
¼ cup chicken stock or water

Cut fish (or chicken) into large bite size pieces. Combine with grated ginger and seasoning salt in a large bowl, mix well, and marinate in fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add egg to the bowl and mix well to combine. Remove the fish and roll in the flour. Fry in oil until golden brown and cooked through.

In a large skillet or wok heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add red pepper, onion, corn, ginger, garlic, chilies and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Saute for 4-5 minutes, and then add teriyaki sauce and stock/water. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes to slightly reduce.

Add cooked fish to the sauce, toss, and serve with herbed basmati rice and asparagus. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Tetu Island Lodge

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Garden Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I absolutely love vegetables. When I have a fridge full of fresh choices, I know I can make a hundred different dinners bursting with healthy flavors. I often hide veggies in the food I cook (don't tell Kevin!) so that they add nutrients without making it feel like I'm just eating vegetables. I hide spinach in spaghetti sauce, fresh chopped tomatoes in pizza sauce, mushrooms and onions in enchiladas and peppers in turkey burgers. Sometimes, though, I want to let my favorite veggies shine in a big, beautiful salad. I toss it in an easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette and serve hot crusty garlic bread on the side. This is also a beautiful bed on which to add shrimp, chicken or steak. Summertime is when veggies shine! Enjoy!

Summer Garden Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
A fresh and flavorful feel-good dinner!
Makes 1 large salad or 2 side salads

3 cups mixed salad greens
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled

1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Sprinkle kosher salt and fresh pepper

Add the salad greens to a large mixing bowl. In a small dish whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon and honey. Add the salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Drizzle half the dressing into the greens and toss repeatedly with tongs to coat. Add more dressing as needed- not too much! Pour the greens onto a large plate and top with the tomatoes, onions, avocado, cheese and basil. Drizzle with more dressing if desired.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cajun Fish Cakes with Easy Remoulade and Louisiana Rice

I've always loved crab cakes, but who can get fresh crab in Minnesota? To satisfy my craving I created fish cakes made with tilapia, served cajun style. To my delight they are just as delicious and satisfying as crab cakes, and SO easy to make! Served with a cool dallop of easy remoulade and a side of spicy Louisiana rice this is a fantastic meal on a summer night. Or for a fun spin make a fish cake sandwich on a soft bun!

Cajun Fish Cakes with Easy Remoulade

Delectable patties bursting with fresh flavor and texture!
Serves 2

Cajun Fish Cakes
2 tilapia fillets
2 T. mayonnaise
1 tsp. stone ground mustard
1 T. fresh lemon juice
½ cup panko bread crumbs
2 T. fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
Canola oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Remove and let cool. Reserve pan.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, panko, parsley, and Cajun seasoning.

When the fish has cooled use two forks to flake the fish into small pieces. Stir flaked fish into the breading mixture to combine. Use your hands to create four patties similar to small hamburgers. Put on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties for 5 minutes on each side until lightly browned and cooked through. Serve while warm with remoulade sauce. Enjoy!

Easy Remoulade
1 T. mayonnaise
1 T. prepared Cocktail Sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh dill (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipes by Sarah Lang

Louisiana Rice
Easy and flavorful, a perfect accompaniment
Serves 2

1 cup cooked white rice
½ onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
½ cup grape tomatoes, quartered
Hot sauce
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 tsp. Canola oil

Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and bell pepper for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add grape tomatoes and cook two minutes more. Add rice, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning, and drizzle with as much hot sauce as you can handle. Cook together for a couple minutes to combine.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Linguini with Broccoli

This is such a delicious pasta! The sauce is light and bursting with flavor from the lemon, garlic and fresh herbs. The pasta water and Parmesan combine into a smooth sauce, and the fresh shrimp and broccoli belong together. Feel free to substitute chicken for shrimp or other veggies for the broccoli. This is a wonderful recipe to have in your repetoire and whip up any weeknight!

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Linguini with Broccoli

A fresh, healthful and delicious summer meal!
Serves 2

1/3 pound of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 pound linguini or other long thin noodle
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 head broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
¼ cup plus 1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
½ sweet onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
2 T white wine (or 1 T. white wine vinegar)
½ cup fresh herbs, such as parsley and basil, chopped
1 T rosemary
Kosher salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook broccoli for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon into ice water. Cool, drain and reserve.

Bring water back to a boil and cook linguini until al dente. Do not overcook! While it’s cooking remove 1 mug full of pasta water. Reserve. Drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet sprinkle shrimp with salt, pepper and rosemary and cook in a tablespoon of oil until just pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and cover to keep warm.

Wipe out the skillet and heat remaining ¼ cup oil over medium-low heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt, and sauté for two minutes until soft. Add garlic and sauté one minute longer. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine, Parmesan cheese, and a splash of pasta water. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes until reduced and blended. Stir in fresh herbs, salt and a good amount of pepper. Add the linguini noodles and toss to combine. Cook a minute or two for sauce to absorb sauce into the noodles. If they seem dry add more pasta water and olive oil. Add broccoli and shrimp, stir to heat through.

Remove from heat and serve in big bowls. Top with more Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Monday, June 27, 2011

Egg Salad

Egg salad doesn’t have the best reputation. However, when made correctly with good-quality ingredients, it is delicious! I love to serve it open-face on toasted white bread with an extra sprinkle of dill on top. The measurements don’t have to be exact- taste the finished product and add more of what is needed. I like capers and red onion in my egg salad for flavor and texture. This just gets better as it sits in the fridge, so make a big batch on Sunday and enjoy it for lunch during the week!

Egg Salad
An easy and delicious lunch!
Serves 6

12 eggs
¼ cup good mayonnaise
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T fresh dill, chopped
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
1T. capers, chopped (optional)
1 T. red onion, diced (optional)

Place eggs in a medium pan and cover with water by 1 inch. Turn heat to high, cover, and bring up to a boil. Immediately remove from burner and set aside, covered, for 15 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside or in refrigerator to cool completely.

Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients together in a glass bowl. When eggs are cool peel them, rinse under cold water to remove any shells, and roughly chop. Add to dressing and mix gently. Taste for seasonings. Refrigerated, covered, it will stay delicious for several days!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicken Tandoori

I recently cooked for an intimate dinner party with my husband and two of our closest friends. I wanted to make something unusual that would be unexpected and delicious, and my thoughts wandered to Asia. I’ve recently started to cook more and more Asian food and it is a joy to be able to create such delicious flavor profiles at home! I absolutely love Indian food, and this is one of the best recipes I’ve made. The chicken becomes ultra tender in the quick yogurt and spices marinade. The cool yogurt sauce provides a nice tang to the smoky chicken. Served on a bed of tender couscous it absolutely melts in your mouth. Give this unique and tasty recipe a try!

Chicken Tandoori
Smoky chicken with tangy yogurt sauce, a taste of the East from your kitchen!
Serves 4

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breast tenderloins (about 2 pounds)
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 3/4 teaspoons hot paprika
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Cooked couscous or rice, for serving (optional)

Preheat the broiler. Make shallow cuts in the chicken thighs with a sharp knife. Toss the chicken with the lemon juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.

Pulse 2 tablespoons yogurt, the vegetable oil, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, 11/2 teaspoons paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor to make a paste. Toss the chicken in the mixture and let marinate 15 minutes.

Place the chicken on a foil-lined broiler pan. Broil, turning once, until slightly charred and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 165 degrees F, 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon paprika, the cilantro and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Top the chicken with the yogurt sauce and serve with couscous or rice, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oven-fried Chicken and Sriracha Deviled Eggs

When I think about my favorite foods to cook it all comes down to comfort food. Comfort food may be an overused term, but I can’t think of a better way to describe my favorite way to eat. To me, comfort food feels like home. It connects you to the people around the table. Often, you eat it with your hands. It’s never pristine and rarely neat. My favorite comfort foods are things like spaghetti & meatballs, smothered burritos, baked macaroni & cheese, garlicky tomato bruschetta, cheesy chicken noodle casserole, and oven fried chicken. To put my spin on it, I like to jazz up these foods with fresh ingredients and healthy(er) preparations. Then I can feel good about making a delicious meal for my loved ones and eating it too!

I recently made a Saturday lunch for friends and oven fried chicken was the star. Marinated overnight in buttermilk, it became incredibly juicy. The panko crust gives you that crunch factor, and it’s baked instead of fried! This is “fried” chicken you can feel great about! I served it with potluck classic, deviled eggs, jazzed up with spicy sriracha. Enjoy!

Oven-fried Chicken
Crunchy and juicy without the grease!
Serves 4

1 whole chicken, cut up (3 ½ pounds)
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 T. spicy brown mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
½ tsp salt
2 tsp Cajun seasoning

2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
3 tsp Cajun seasoning
3 T olive oil

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine yogurt, mustard, Tabasco, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning. Seal bag and massage to mix ingredients thoroughly. Add chicken pieces and gently massage the bat to ensure chicken is well coated. Marinate overnight, refrigerated.

Combine breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning in a large shallow dish. Remove chicken from the marinade and wipe off excess marinade. Roll chicken in breadcrumb mixture.

Drizzle chicken with olive oil. Spray a cooling rack with cooking spray, then place on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. Arrange chicken on rack and bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then flip chicken pieces over and return to oven. Broil for 2 minutes, or until brown and crispy on reverse side.

Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Eggs with a creamy filling and gentle heat are delicious on any occasion!
Serves 4-6

6 eggs
2 T sriracha sauce
¼ cup mayonnaise, I use low fat
salt and pepper, to taste
paprika, for garnish
finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and fill with water to cover the eggs by one inch. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover pan and allow eggs to stand in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse eggs under cold water. Cool completely.

Peel eggs and cut in half. Remove yolks and place in a medium bowl. Mash together with the sriracha, mayo, salt and pepper.

Pipe or gently fill the egg white halves with yolk mixture. (If you don’t have a piping bag, do what I did- fill a small plastic baggie with filling and cut a small hole in a corner to pipe.) Dust with paprika and parsley and chill until ready to serve.

Recipes adapted from Ina Garten and Tonka Times

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Watermelon, Feta and Tomato Salad

Nothing says summer more than WATERMELON! Maybe it’s the bright pink color, or the refreshing flavor, of the fact that you can bring home a 3 pound tropical fruit for a dollar. Whatever the reason, take advantage of this delicious summer fruit! This Watermelon, Feta and Tomato Salad is a fantastic and special way to enjoy the season’s bounty. Made with fresh, juicy tomatoes, fragrant basil, cool and crumbly feta cheese and juicy watermelon, this salad will be the star of your summer table!

Watermelon, Feta and Tomato Salad

The fresh, flavorful and juicy reason I love summer!
Serves 6

4 tomatoes, seeded and cut into bite size pieces, or 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
12 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 cups mixed baby greens
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp lemon zest
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes and watermelon into a large bowl. Sprinkle with the basil, feta cheese and lemon zest. Drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar. Toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greek Turkey Burgers

Summer is finally here! There is nothing better on a warm evening than lighting up the grill and cooking burgers. As much as I love the standard beef version, my favorite is turkey burgers. I season the meat well and add lots of fun flavors. This Greek version includes sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and a creamy yogurt sauce. If my hubby didn’t despise olives I would have chopped up some kalamatas and threw those in, too. Let your imagination run wild! As long as you have a hot grill, outdoor table, and these yummy burgers you’re sure to have a splendid summer night.

Greek Turkey Burgers
Flavorful, lean and colorful- a perfect summer meal!
Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground turkey meat
1 tsp Cajun or Greek seasoning
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 egg yolk
1 small onion, finely diced
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup plain yogurt
½ tsp paprika
Pinch of salt & pepper
Squeeze of lemon

4 whole wheat buns
½ avocado, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
Red onion, sliced
4 romaine lettuce leaves

To make the burgers combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine, but don’t over mix. Shape into four patties and press down the center to make a small indentation. This prevents “bloated burger system” - when the meat puffs during cooking.

Combine the sauce ingredients and keep cool until ready to use.

Grill burgers or cook over medium-high heat on the stove-top until fully cooked. Toast the buns briefly. Slather the yogurt sauce on the bun tops. Place the lettuce on the bottom bun and top with the burger, tomato and avocado. Close the bun, dig in, and enjoy the summer!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mushroom Risotto with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Red Peppers

A couple weeks ago my friend Emily taught me how to make risotto. I had tried to make it once before and failed miserably. After learning from Emily I realized that was because I was impatient and hungry when making it, causing me to rush through the process without allowing the risotto to become fully cooked and creamy. This time around I took my sweet time, and the risotto was one of the best things I've ever tasted from my own kitchen. In fact, my husband said it was the best meal I've EVER made! (It didn't hurt that I served him lamb chops with his, either.) Here is my recipe for this incredible, decadent and melt-in-your-mouth risotto. Don't make it if you're rushed for time or too hungry to be patient. It takes about 35 minutes start-to-finish and a lot of stirring, but I tell you now, it is worth it!

Mushroom Risotto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Red Peppers
A decadent and delicious pasta dish- feel free to substitute your favorite ingredients for the veggies!
Serves 2-3

1 cup arborio rice
2/3 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. package sliced assorted mushrooms
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 T. parsley or basil, chopped
Salt & pepper

Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes, then add the red peppers and garlic. Saute until soft and fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes until browned. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove the veggies into a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Heat the butter until melted then add the rice. Stir for a minute to coat in the butter, then add half of the wine (1/3 cup). Stir until it is absorbed into the risotto, then start adding the  warm chicken broth 1/3 of a cup at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed into the risotto, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to add the chicken broth and stir until the risotto is creamy and tender. This takes about 25-30 minutes. You can always add more chicken broth to achieve the desired tenderness.

Once the risotto is tender add the Parmesan cheese and remaining 1/3 cup of wine and stir to combine, then add in all of the reserved veggies and parsley or basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, May 27, 2011

Open-Face Caprese Sandwiches and Strawberry Walnut Salad

I miss my husband when he is out of town, but there is one thing I look forward to- eating whatever I want for dinner! This week I craved a healthy and delicious light meal made with fresh in-season ingredients. I made an Open-Face Caprese Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and basil on top of warm ciabatta bread. The gooey cheese, light garlic flavor and fresh ingredients are a wonderful combination. Along with it I made one of my favorite salads, fresh lettuce topped with crunchy toasted walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and sliced strawberries. Next time your meat-eating husband is out of the house take advantage with this delicious vegetarian meal!

Open-Face Caprese Sandwiches
Crunchy warm bread topped with gooey cheese, tomatoes and basil!

Ciabatta bread
Garlic clove, sliced in half
Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and sliced
Basil, chiffonade
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh paper

Preheat the broiler. Slice the Ciabatta lengthwise and into 3-4" slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until beginning to brown and get crisp on the edges. Remove bread and reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees. Immediately rub bread with the cut end of a garlic clove to impart garlicky flavor. Lay a slice of mozzarella cheese over the bread and bake in oven until it is melted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and top with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

Strawberry Walnut Salad
Sweet and flavorful, this salad is a keeper!

Green leaf lettuce, or your favorite kind
Strawberries, sliced
Goat cheese, crumbled
Walnuts, toasted in a dry pan until fragrant (about 5-6 minutes)
Kosher salt and pepper

In a large bowl toss the lettuce with just enough of your favorite raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette dressing until lightly coated. Top with strawberries, goat cheese and walnuts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Recipes by Sarah Lang

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chinese Stir Fry with Tilapia and Avocado Spring Rolls

Making Asian food at home is one of my favorite ways to sneak extra veggies into my diet. I love a good stir fry with salty/sweet flavors and the crunch of fresh veggies. Rather than cut up the fish in the stir fry I think it’s more visually appealing to bake the tilapia and lay it on top of the veggies, which are on top of the rice. It really pulls the whole plate together into a pretty presentation. The tilapia is flaky and juicy and its soft texture beautifully complements the crunchy veggies. On the side I made fresh Avocado Spring Rolls. I could eat a dozen of these. Soft noodles, crunchy lettuce, red pepper, and creamy avocado combine for the perfect morsel. Dip it in your favorite store-bought Asian sauce (I like spicy stir fry sauce or sweet ginger sauce) and it’s a fantastic meal!

Chinese Stir Fry with Tilapia
A healthy and delicious Asian meal.Serves 2

Light oil, such as canola or vegetable
2 tilapia filets
2 tsp. curry powder
½ cup broccoli florets, in bite size pieces
8 asparagus spears, cut into bite size pieces
½ red bell pepper, large dice
½ onion, large dice
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lime
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
Rice, for serving
Siracha sauce, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle oil over tilapia filets and sprinkle with salt, pepper and curry powder. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, asparagus and juice of half a lime, stir, and cover to steam for 1 minute. (If your skillet doesn’t have a lid use tin foil)

In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and one tablespoon of water. Whisk to combine.

Take the lid off the pan and add the soy sauce mixture. Stir and let cook for a couple minutes until it coats the vegetables.

To serve put a scoop of prepared rice (I like Jasmine) on your plate, top with half the veggies, and lay the tilapia filet on top. Squeeze extra lime juice and serve with spicy siracha sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang
Avocado Spring Rolls

Flavorful and addictive, spring rolls are the perfect accompaniment to any Asian meal!
Makes 6 rolls

6 spring roll wrappers
6 leaves green leaf lettuce
½ of a red bell pepper, sliced into 12 thin strips
¼ of a cucumber, sliced into 12 thin strips
1 small avocado, sliced
½ cup rice noodles, softened
Asian dipping sauce, for serving

Prepare all of the veggies and soften the noodles so rolls are ready to assemble. In a large bowl soften a spring roll wrapper then place on a paper towel lined plate. Blot up the excess water, then place 1/6th of the noodles, a lettuce leaf, 2 strips of bell pepper, 2 strips of cucumber, and 1/6th of the avocado (about 3 strips) in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the sides in then tightly roll. Repeat with remaining wraps. Store in fridge covered with a damp paper towel until ready to eat. Serve with your favorite Asian dipping sauce.

Recipe by Sarah Lang