Brussel sprouts are so perfect this time of year. The tiny green heads perch on their tall stalks, tightly closed, just waiting to be plucked and prepped into one delicious dish or another.
What? You don’t like brussel sprouts?
Believe it or not, I was right there with you at one point. My only exposure to brussel sprouts was at the holidays when my grandma would steam them to death and then slather their limp bodies in butter. Disgusting.
And then one day at a family dinner, my sister made roasted brussel sprouts.
Oh. My. Deliciousness.
My world changed. They were at once tender and crisp with a slightly smoky, sweetly caramelized flavor. I was smitten. Ever since then, I look forward to seeing the tall green stalks of brussel sprouts at the market in the fall and the kitchen experiments that will surely ensue.
This Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry is one of those experiments. I love the sweet, chewy cherries offset by the tender brussel sprouts and filling meat. Add in a twist of tart cherry juice and kefir lime leaves, spicy sriracha chili sauce, and a bit of cool mint, and you have a flavor sensation like no other.
For the beef, I like to use a lean bottom round roast. These usually come in large pieces of 2-3 lbs. each, but this is a perfect piece to have your butcher slice up. I then freeze the pieces and take them out for dishes such as this or winter stews.
And the bonus? This entire dish takes only about 20 minutes to prep and cook in total. I love a delicious and easy dinner, especially this time of year when the days are short and packed full of work responsibilities and holiday preparations.
An intense flavor explosion, this Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry takes only 20 minutes to prep and cook, making it a perfectly wondrous weeknight winner.
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb. fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ cup chopped dried cherries
2 kefir lime leaves, ribs removed and leaves finely minced
pinch of coarse sea salt
½ lb. bottom round roast, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup tart cherry juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
Heat the sesame oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the brussel sprouts, cherries, kefir lime leaves and salt and cook for 3 minutes until the brussel sprouts are lightly browned, stirring frequently.
Add the beef and reduce the heat to medium, cooking about 2-3 minutes more until the beef is browned on the outside.
Whisk together the cherry juice, honey, sriracha, and mint. Pour into the skillet and use the back of a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the cooked bits off the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat. Serve the stir fry over the brown basmati rice.
This time of year when I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, I love to break out my slow cooker. What’s better than throwing some ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave the house and have it all ready and waiting for you when you walk in the door? Plus, the house always smells amazing.
The slow cooker is filled and ready to cook.
My first slow cooker recipe this season is this Thai inspired soup that is creamy, sweet, and mildly spicy, yet entirely vegan. I start by throwing everything in the slow cooker, covering the pot, and letting it cook on low for up to 10 hours. When I come home, there’s nothing left to do but to puree it up and serve.
But wait! There is one secret to the success of this dish: Nasoya Silken Tofu.
Add a few peanuts for garnish if desired.
Nasoya Silken Tofu is extra soft and creamy and makes a perfect substitute for cream in a dish like this. I simply puree it up with the cooked soup, let the soup reheat a bit, and serve. It’s thick, creamy, and you would never know that there’s tofu in there. Bonus: using tofu also adds a nice little nutritional pop of protein to the recipe.
Would you like to try Nasoya Silken Tofu or other Nasoya product? The first 3 people to leave a comment below telling me what you’d like to make with Nasoya Silken Tofu will receive a coupon for a free Nasoya product!
As I continue to test new recipes, I’m having fun digging back into my archives and making some of my old favorites. This Farfalle Turkey Bolognese is one of my favorites because it’s just so darn easy. I also love that the sauce is made hearty with lots of veggies so I can cut down on the pasta and still feel full.
I tweaked this recipe just slightly from the original. I cooked the onion, carrot and garlic first before adding the ground turkey whereas in my original recipe I cooked them all together. I also used the cheese as a topping on each serving instead of stirring it into the dish. And the recipe was just as good as I remembered it.
Here I’ve been sitting on this scrumptious and incredibly easy recipe for my Sriracha Soba Noodle Bowl. What is wrong with me? How could I be so selfish to keep this bowl of spicy deliciousness to myself?
A spicy bowl of deliciousness!
Well my friends, I’ve been busy. I’ve been learning, networking, and just having some fun at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC). This was my second year attending IFBC and, just as last year, my mind is literally exploding with ideas and inspiration. I’m still digesting what I learned so that I can thoughtfully set some smart goals for my blog. In the meantime, though, I have to share my top 3 highlights from the conference.
1. The Sur La Table and KitchenAid pre-conference excursion
I have to admit, I did not realize that my go-to kitchen shopping mecca is headquartered in Seattle. When I saw this pre-conference excursion to the Sur La Table corporate test kitchen, co-sponsored by KitchenAid, I signed up without hesitation. And lucky I did because there was a waiting list a mile long.
Sur La Table’s CEO, Jack Schwefel, and KitchenAid’s Senior Marketing Manager, Nikki Lockett, talked to us about their respective companies, business philosophies, and partnership. Sur La Table’s Culinary Director and Culinary Program Content Manager also gave a cooking demonstration using the KitchenAid appliances, after which we got to chow down on the delicious Fettucine with Kale and Walnut Pesto and Warm Cranberry Crumble Tarts they made.
My favorite part, though, was the preview of the new products for Holiday 2014. KitchenAid has a beautiful line of modern retro-looking appliances debuting as well as amazing new attachments for their infamous stand mixer. The crowd favorite was a wireless immersion blender with multiple attachments. The group of bloggers literally exploded with excitement when it was brought out. I think I was actually drooling. I know what I want for Christmas!
One thing that I really admire about Sur la Table, though, is their dedication to innovation in the kitchen. They are so committed to bringing new ideas to Sur La Table that they actually monitor crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter for new products to distribute. They have 2 new products debuting this season that came from Kickstarter, one a fantastically compact sous vide machine. What a wonderful way to innovate and support entrepreneurs at the same time!
And before I finish on Sur La Table and KitchenAid, I have to tell you about the swag bags they sent us home with. AH-MAY-ZING! Each of the 50 attendees got 2 bags full of goodies, including KitchenAid’s new food processor attachment for their stand mixer that retails for $299 each and isn’t even available in stores yet. We also all received a bottle of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 bags of flour from King Arthur Flour, a Spatula, Holiday Tree Ornament, an Aquasana Filtration System, Berard Olivewood Spreaders, Chilewich Table Runner, Kerrygold Cook Book and Coupons for FREE butter, Le Creuset Tea for One Pot, Lekue Disposable Pastry Bags, Lekue Microwave Steamer Basket, and 3 bags and 2 tins of various TCHO Chocolates. Wow!
Then to top that, they randomly selected 10 attendees to take home KitchenAid’s new Electric Kettle, which retails for $175 . And I won!! What an unbelievable day!
2. Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg
In my pre-conference post, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to hearing Karen and Andrew speak. After all, I’ve spent more than a little time digesting The Flavor Bible this summer. Shortly after publishing that post I received a lovely thank-you tweet from the pair. I was smitten!
Their presentation was about the growth in plant-based diets and the culinary innovation that is happening at restaurants all over the country as a result. I am definitely not a vegetarian, but the presentation struck a note for me because since adopting my healthy lifestyle almost 6 years ago now, I have consciously incorporated at least 1-2 meatless days into each week, many times more. I do this because the food is leaner and helped me to first lose and now maintain my weight. (Not familiar with my weight loss story? It’s pretty inspiring! Take a read here!)
I carried my copy of The Flavor Bible around all day hoping to run into Karen and Andrew. Finally, in the Bordeaux Wines session, it paid off. I waited for an opportunity and approached, asking if they would sign my book. Karen looked at my nametag and exclaimed “Are you Colleen?” I grinned like a silly fangirl and said I was. She then gushed about my pre-conference post, thanking me for the nice article, and asked me “Can I give you a hug?” And just like that I got a hug from Karen Page. Weekend made.
3. Bordeaux Wines
If you know anything about me by now, you know that I’m not only a wino, but I’m also a total Francophile. France is hands-down my favorite country to visit and I go as often as I can afford it. I have not yet been to Bordeaux – it’s on my list – but I have long been an admirer of their wines. After all, some of the finest wines in the world come from Bordeaux.
I had the pleasure of meeting representatives Jeffrey and Clara over breakfast Saturday morning. What better breakfast topic than wine and travel, right? I then attended the wine pairing session sponsored by Bordeaux Wines in the afternoon. We walked through a history of the region and its wines before beginning a blind tasting. We had 10 glasses of assorted whites and reds at each table that we had to swirl and sniff then name the aromas we were smelling. I must admit, I didn’t guess correctly on all of them. But I did get most of them right, including the wine with notes of green bell pepper that seemed to stump everyone else at my table!
This session was a highlight for me because it made me realize that I want to further educate myself on wine. I need to do more research before I commit to something, but I’m seriously considering studying to be a certified sommelier. Not only does that interest me personally, but I think it would give me and my little blog more credibility in the industry.
As much as I love grilling in the summer, I also love the bounty of fresh vegetables that come both from my garden and the farmer’s market. It’s the perfect time of year for light meals best enjoyed in the sunshine.
A Greek salad is not exactly unique, you see it on countless restaurant and bistro menus across the country. It typically consists of romaine lettuce, red onion, kalamata olives and feta cheese with the occasional cucumber, chick peas, or whatever else thrown in. But grilling salad? Hmm… That’s a bit different.
Slices of red onion, baby peppers, and artichoke hearts are marinated overnight in an intense lemon based mixture then chargrilled over an open flame.
I start by marinating a red onion, artichoke hearts, and whole baby peppers in an intense lemon mixture overnight. Sometimes I also throw in some slices of zucchini just for fun. The marinade of lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil leaves the vegetables with a fantastic lemon flavor and also helps them grill up well on the barbecue.
Drizzle the leftover marinade over the cut side of the romaine hearts and then grill cut side up for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.
While the vegetables are grilling, I then drizzle the leftover marinade over the cut side of 2 hearts of romaine. A heart of romaine is essentially the inner part of a head of romaine lettuce. The leaves are tightly folded into each other making it a perfect grilling lettuce. I like to buy a package of organic hearts of romaine, which usually comes with 3 hearts.
Then grill the romaine hearts cut side down for another 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.
Once the vegetables are nicely charred, I throw the romaine hearts on the grill, cut side up first. The lettuce is thin and it cooks quickly so I only let it sit on the grill for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes before flipping it onto the cut side for its final grill.
A perfect, light – and vegetarian – summer meal.
And that’s it. This hearty entree Greek salad is that easy. I simply top the grilled romaine hearts with the vegetables, sprinkle a little feta cheese and freshly chopped oregano over it, and then drizzle it with a simple red wine vinaigrette. I only make a very small amount of the vinaigrette because the vegetables and lettuce are already packed with so much flavor. It is a perfect, light – and vegetarian – summer meal.
The classic Greek Salad is grilled to perfection and topped with a tart red wine vinaigrette and salty feta cheese.
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
¼ tsp coarse sea salt (divided)
6 baby peppers
1 medium red onion, sliced into ¼" thick slices
1 cup artichoke hearts
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, sliced lengthwise through the core
1 tbsp freshly chopped oregano
1 oz. crumbled light feta cheese
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
dash of freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tbsp of the olive oil, garlic and ⅛ tsp of the salt.
Pour the marinade over the peppers, onion slices, and artichoke hearts in either a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat your propane grill then reduce the flame to low and lightly oil the grill.
Remove the peppers, onion and artichoke hearts from the marinade - save the marinade - and place the vegetables on the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the vegetables from the grill and set aside.
Pour the leftover marinade over the cut side of the romaine hearts and place the romaine on the grill cut side up. Grill for 1 - 1½ minutes on each side until the outer leaves are lightly charred.
Remove the lettuce from the grill and place 2 halves on each plate. Top with the grilled vegetables.
Sprinkle each plate with the fresh oregano and feta cheese.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, the remaining ⅛ tsp of sea salt, and the black pepper. Drizzle over the top of each salad and serve immediately.
I admit it: when it comes to food I love to play with color, texture, and somewhat unusual flavor combinations. Sometimes my ideas work out, sometimes they don’t. These Chipotle Steak Tacos with Fennel Beet Slaw are a perfect example of a crazy idea gone right.
The steak is easy, I simply slice pieces of lean top sirloin steak into thin strips and then marinate them in a simple mixture of chipotle peppers with adobo sauce and sweet orange juice. I like to marinate them overnight for maximum flavor. Then a quick grill and the steak is ready for primetime.
The sweet beets and crunchy fennel create a crunchy, delicious dish with the spicy chipotle marinated steak.
The finishing touch is the slaw that I slather on the tacos. I thinly sliced some crunchy fennel which adds a delicious, lightly licorice flavor to the dish. I then peeled and julienned fresh, raw beets.
I know you’re asking, “You can eat raw beets?” Yes! They are delicious shredded in a salad or cut into thin sticks and thrown in a slaw like this.
Beets are naturally sweet and high in sugar and they balance the licorice flavor of the fennel perfectly. I then toss the fennel and beets with some sweet shredded carrots, peppery cilantro and a dressing of orange juice, honey and olive oil to create a sweet, crunchy slaw that is perfect with the spicy chipotle marinated steak.
Wrap the two in a corn tortilla and you have a pretty, perfectly delicious meal.
Cooking is a true form of art. It is all about combining the right flavors, textures and colors to create a memorable meal, and that requires a good dose of creativity in the kitchen.
As an artist, you never know when or where inspiration will strike. I’m not even precisely sure how I got the idea to do a riff of the infamous Bellini cocktail for this dish, but for some reason grilled skewers incorporating the flavor of juicy grilled peaches – so good! – suddenly appealed to me. And what better flavor to pair them with than a good Italian Prosecco?
What is a Bellni, you ask? Well it’s a cocktail developed at the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. A mixture of bubbly Prosecco and freshly pureed peaches, it’s a delightful aperitif. So why not create a dish inspired by such a delicious drink?
Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces overnight in Prosecco with fresh peach slices.
I start by marinating boneless, skinless chicken breast in a quality Prosecco with some fresh peach slices thrown in for additional flavor. I like to let the chicken marinate overnight for maximum flavor. This also results in meat that is ultra-tender and moist.
Once marinated, I discard the Prosecco and peach slices that the chicken marinated in and thread the pieces onto skewers with some wedges of fresh peach. Have you ever tried grilled peaches? They are absolutely divine, and simply perfect in this dish.
I love to serve these skewers over delicate cappellini pasta tossed with basil, lemon juice, and olive oil for a light, refreshing meal.
To finish the meal off, I wanted to tie in the flavor of peppery basil. So I like to serve these skewers over a bed of delicate, thin cappellini (aka angel hair) pasta tossed with chopped basil, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The result is a super easy and simple meal that is absolutely perfect fora busy weeknight. Yet the flavors and presentation are so unique, that your family will be in awe of your culinary prowess.
Where do you get your kitchen inspiration?
Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini
Inspired by the Bellini cocktail, Prosecco-marinated chicken and juicy peaches are grilled and served over a scrumptiously light cappellini pasta.
½ lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces
1 fresh peach, pitted and sliced
1 cup Prosecco
1 fresh peach, pitted and cut into 8 wedges
4 oz. dry whole wheat cappellini pasta
½ cup chopped fresh basil
juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
pinch of salt
In a plastic, resealable bag or shallow dish, cover the chicken breast pieces and peach slices with the prosecco. Let marinate in the fridge overnight.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the prosecco and peach slices. Thread each of 4 small bamboo skewers with 3 pieces of chicken and 2 peach wedges, alternating. (You can substitute 2 large skewers if desired.) Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and stir in the cappellini. Gently boil for about 4-5 minutes until cooked.
Preheat grill pan on medium high, lightly coat with olive oil. Place skewers in pan and grill for about 2 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through.
Drain all but about 2 tbsp of water from the cappellini and reduce heat to medium. Stir in the lemon juice, basil, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Let cook for about 2 minutes and remove from heat.
Serve the chicken skewers over the pasta.
The nutritional value of the marinade has been reduced by ¾ since the majority of it is discarded.
I then elected to use quinoa to keep the dish vegetarian while still loading it with protein. Add in some tropical mango, hearty black beans, spicy roasted jalapeno, creamy avocado and tart plain Greek yogurt (in place of sour cream) and it’s an amazingly satisfying substitute.
What healthy swaps do you use to satisfy your cravings?
Tacos get a healthy makeover with juicy mango, black beans, and quinoa all wrapped in lettuce leaves and topped with creamy avocado and tart Greek yogurt.
½ dry white quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions
½ cup cooked black beans
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted whole, destemmed and minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
pinch of sea salt
6 leaves butter or bibb lettuce, rinsed and dried
1 small Haas avocado, pitted and diced
6 tbsp nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
Mix together the quinoa, black beans, mango, jalapeno, cilantro and salt.
Place ⅙ of the quinoa mixture down the rib of each lettuce leaf, making 6 taco lettuce wraps in total.
Top each with a little avocado and 1 tbsp of the Greek yogurt.
Wrap the leaf around the filling and eat!
Roasting jalapeno peppers is easy! Preheat your oven to 400F. Place a number of jalapenos on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes. Turn half way through, baking until the skin of the peppers is lightly charred on all sides. Remove the stem and freeze the peppers in a resealable plastic bag until you're ready to use them!
Sometimes meals need to be simple. I like to have a repertoire of easy, go-to meals that I can throw together quickly on those nights when time is short in between work and whatever other activity I have going on. This recipe is one of those.
I love spicy sriracha sauce, especially on Asian dishes. For this dish, I used sriracha as the foundation for the marinade that I used on lean, boneless, skinless chicken breast. While the chicken needs to sit in the marinade for about 20 minutes to really absorb the flavor, sometimes I start the marinating process in the morning before I leave for work, or even the night before, to save even more time after a busy day at work.
Once the chicken is marinated, all that is left to do is sauté up the asparagus, add in the marinated chicken, and then finish the dish off with some sliced green onions and cilantro. I like to serve this over a quick cooking brown basmati rice which has a great nutty flavor. All in all, excluding the marinating process, the entire dish takes less than 20 minutes to prep and cook, making it a perfect add to my repertoire of weeknight meals. The fact that it’s lean and healthy is an extra bonus.
What’s your favorite go-to dinner recipe for those busy weeknights?
One morning this past week I awoke and I realized that life is pretty darned good right now. As soon as that thought entered my head, I immediately chased it away, sure that in my smugness I would bring some catastrophe down on my head. But then I thought to myself, “No. You deserve this. Enjoy it while you can.” And so I am.
Professionally, my day job is the best it’s been in years. I have a new boss that sincerely appreciates me and in the past 2 weeks I have received a promotion, a glowing performance review, and a really nice bonus. After working my bottom off for almost the past year now to help my organization recover from a very serious situation, it feels really good to be recognized.
And this of course has led to some comfort on the financial side of my life. I’m taking a big trip in September, going from Paris to Rome over 3 weeks, and both the promotion and the bonus will help with that.
But perhaps the most unexpected happiness is in my personal life. An unexpected, completely platonic, encounter with an old friend that I haven’t seen in years has become something more. I’m not yet sure what that more is, this is still very new. But he’s sweet, it’s flattering, and I’m enjoying being romanced. Doesn’t every girl deserve to be wooed?
Of course food makes me happy too.
One of my favorite dishes is the Italian staple, risotto. Risotto is made from arborio rice, which is a very starchy grain resulting in a thick and creamy dish when made correctly. The secret to a good risotto is to add the liquid in slowly, letting the rice absorb each drink before adding another, and never letting the rice get dry.
Many risotto recipes call for large amounts of butter, cream and cheese. I use just a small amount olive oil to start the dish, broth to cook the rice in, and then a moderate amount of cheese to finish it off. For this dish, I also stir in roasted, mashed butternut squash, which enhances the creaminess without the fat. Add in some sage and chopped wild mushrooms – I used a mixture of porcini, shiitake, black, and oyster mushrooms – for a fantastic earthy flavor.
Who wouldn’t be happy after eating a plate of this?
Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto
½ oz. dried wild mushrooms (I used a mix of porcini, shiitake, black and oyster)
2 tsp olive oil
½ cup dry, uncooked arborio rice
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
Pinch of coarse sea salt
1 cup roasted, mashed butternut squash
1 oz. finely shredded parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and add the dried wild mushrooms.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 1 hour.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the arborio rice and stir well to coat with the oil. Add the chopped fresh sage. Let cook for 1-2 minutes so that the rice is lightly toasted.
Reduce heat on the mushrooms to low and use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms from the broth and set aside on a plate. Keep the broth simmering - you'll need it for the risotto!
Add the coarse sea salt to the rice. Add one ladle full (about ½ cup) of the mushroom broth to the rice and stir. Let cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is almost absorbed, and add another ladle of broth. Repeat until the rice is cooked through.
Coarsely chop the mushroom and them with the butternut squash to the rice.
Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
While mashed or pureed butternut squash can be found in the freezer section of many grocery stores now, it's very easy to make your own. Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Brush the cut side - the meat - with a small amount of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the squash pierces easily with a fork. Let cool slightly then scoop the squash out of the shell and mash it up.