April – Ode To Trader Joe’s Salad

April – Ode To Trader Joe’s Salad

TJ Salad

TJ Salad

Why do I call this TJ’s Salad? Because all the time saving ingredients came from there…

Precooked and vacuum packed lentils – check

Pre cubed butternut squash – check

Brussels sprouts – check

Organic pre-washed arugula – check

Candied and toasted walnuts – check

Fresh goat cheese – check

Boneless chicken thighs – check

You could save even more time if you used their precooked chicken breasts. I would simply cut them into 1/2 inch slivers, toss with olive oil and season with ground cumin and coriander. Let them sit in the fridge for an hour or so (if you have time) to let the seasonings sink in.

I cooked the chicken, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts earlier in the day so they would have a chance to cool before being tossed in the salad.

This is a whole meal salad, everything you need in one bowl.

Ode to Trader Joe’s Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs of boneless and skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 package of precooked lentils (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • I package of pre-cubed butternut squash (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups of Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered if large
  • 1/2 cup of candied walnuts
  • 1/3 log of fresh goat cheese
  • 1/2 package of organic arugula – about 3 handfuls
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
  2. In a bowl toss the butternut squash with a tablespoon of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add them to a sheet pan.
  3. Toss the halved or quartered Brussels sprouts in the same bowl with another tablespoon of oil and salt. Add them to another sheet pan. (I usually line the pans with parchment paper for easier clean up.)

    Quartered Brussels Sprouts

    Quartered Brussels Sprouts

  4. Roast both pans for about 30 minutes until the edges of the vegetables are brown and toasty looking. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
  5. Meanwhile cut the chicken thighs into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long. Toss them in a bowl (you can use the same one) with a teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander and kosher salt (if not using kosher, use less).
  6. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the chicken. Saute until cooked through, then put aside until time to assemble the salad.
  7. Place the lentils in a large salad bowl. Season with the 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, pinch of salt, the minced garlic, and the remaining olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your own liking. Let them sit until you are ready to assemble the salad.
  8. When you are ready to eat, add the roasted vegetables to the lentils and toss. Add the chicken, toss again. Add the arugula and walnuts and toss. Taste and adjust any seasonings.
  9. Garnish with dollops of the fresh goat cheese.

 

This could easily be a vegetarian entree without the chicken. Roasted tofu would be wonderful as well. I would season the tofu with the cumin and coriander before roasting until it has crispy edges. A trick I learned is to coast the butternut squash (or tofu or sweet potatoes) with a generous teaspoon of cornstarch after the oil and before roasting. The edges get super crispy while the center is still creamy.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

I  am going to take this salad to the folks on Fiesta Friday. It’s Fiesta Friday #428 and it’s been ages since I have contributed. It’s all our new puppies fault plus the demands of spring gardening. Who knew retirement would be so busy! Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie and this week’s cohost is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Shanna

Shanna AKA ‘Pig Pen’

October – Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

October – Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Delicata squash is my favorite of the winter squashes. Because the skin is soft and thin, you don’t need to peel it. It’s lovely sliced into half moons and roasted. For this recipe it is first tossed with the warming spices of ground cumin and red pepper flakes, then roasted until brown on the edges and soft, tossed with pasta and finished with a dusting of grated Parmesan and a few handfuls of arugula.

Here’s the beauty of this recipe…

  • Use any kind of winter squash you happen to have on hand. For butternut, peel it and cut into 1 inch chunks.
  • No arugula? Use baby spinach instead.
  • I used gluten free chickpea pasta, but any kind of of dried pasta will work.
  • Turn it into a baked dish by finishing with grated mozzarella and cooking for 15 minutes in the oven.
  • Want to some extra protein? Add some quickly sautéed chicken (or tofu) cut into 1 inch pieces at the end or roast it with the squash.
  • Looking for more options…what about adding a drained can of chickpeas to roast with the squash? A sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds or a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil would be nice as well.
Gluten Free Chickpea Pasta

Gluten Free Chickpea Pasta

I found this pasta at our local market and was intrigued. It was delicious and I recommend it if you are looking for a gluten free option. It would be fun to serve with some chickpeas in the sauce as suggested above.

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula (serves 3 -4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 delicata squash or equivalent in other varieties, about 6 cups. Seeds removed and sliced into 1/2 inch half moons.
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • Dried pasta, I used the entire package of 8.8 oz. It gave a high ratio of ‘filling’ to pasta. You could easily go with a full 16 oz package if you want more servings. The 8.8 oz package gave us 2 very generous servings (with seconds and leftovers for lunch)
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 3 packed cups of arugula
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the olive oil, cumin, red pepper flakes and garlic in a large bowl. Add the squash and toss with your hands to coat. Sprinkle with the cornstarch and mix to coat the squash lightly. Make sure that the squash doesn’t have any white cornstarch. See Note below. Reserve the bowl.
  3. Place on the baking sheet, trying to separate them as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes or until browned and soft. About half way through, turn to brown the other side.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  5. If the pasta is done before the squash, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the colander to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  6. Using the same large bowl from step 2, combine the pasta, squash, arugula and parmesan. Add the additional saved pasta cooking water if things seem dry. Toss and serve.
  7. Optional: Put the mix into a serving bowl, sprinkle the mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes to melt the cheese. I recommend adding some of the pasta water in this case.

Note: The cornstarch will crisp the edges of the squash. I use the same technique with cubes of sweet potato. Try it.

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

I think the folks over at Fiesta Friday will like the seasonal dish. This week is Fiesta Friday #402 hosted by Angie. Come on over to sample delicious recipes, decorating and craft ideas.

October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

Having a package of puff pastry in the freezer is like money in the bank. It’s easy to create wonderfully impressive appetizers or even full dinners in almost the blink of an eye.

You are limited only by your imagination and the contents of your fridge, pantry and/or garden.

My preference is for tarts that highlight vegetables but no one is stopping you from adding a little tuna or sausage or prosciutto. Cheese is nice, but any kind works. I’ve used parmesan, goat cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta and fontina. All of them are delicious. But, if all you have is Monterey jack…go for it.

There are is vegan puff pastry out there, and delicious vegan cheeses. They have come a long way in the past few years. Don’t let that stop you.

You will find the recipes for the Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese and Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Zucchini Flowers, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle here. That post is from May of last year.

 

I still have a glut of zucchini in the garden although I think it will soon come to an end. This year I discovered a way to prolong the harvest. Zucchini grows on vines, so trimming the older, ratty looking (or powdery mildewed) leaves encourages new growth and continued fruiting. I also fertilized the vines when I did the first pruning, something I didn’t do last year. Zucchini are considered heavy feeders.

As a complete aside, does anyone else think it is strange that the plural of leaf is leaves? Why not leafs? Leave has another meeting entirely. Just a random thought there.

Puff Pastry Zucchini Tart

Puff Pastry Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

 

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

 

Following are the ones for the two other tarts, Zucchini and Ricotta and Tomato and Mozzarella.

I modified the zucchini tart from a galette recipe on Smitten Kitchen who adapted the filling from a Cook’s Illustrated tart. It’s rare to find something entirely new in cooking, we all riff on each other.

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

  • I sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large of 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon of pesto (or a tablespoon of finely sliced basil leaves)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Method:

  1. Line a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels, spread out the zucchini slices out and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let them drain for about 30 minutes, then gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with other paper towels.

    Draining zucchini

    Draining zucchini – they will release a lot of liquid

  2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil and garlic together. In another bowl ix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, 1 teaspoon of the olive/garlic mixture, and the pesto together. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Heat the oven to 410 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface, roll into an 11 inch square and place in the center of the prepared parchment lined baking sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  5. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry, leaving the border uncovered. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the filling. Drizzle with the remaining garlic and olive oil mixture.
  6. Bake until the filling is set and the edges are golden brown. This took about 25 minutes in the middle of my oven.
Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Tomato Tart with Mozzarella

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 plum or small tomatoes (or 1 large heirloom tomato), cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of finely sliced basil leaves (I didn’t have any)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into an 11-inch square and place in the center of the prepared backing sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Or form a crust by folding over the edges about 1/2-inch. Brush the edges with the egg.
  3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dough, then poke the dough all over with a fork, make sure to go all the way through the dough. Note: I forgot this step and the entire center puffed up like a balloon when it was baked, sigh. It was ok though as I just poked it down and you couldn’t really tell after the filling was added. Don’t you forget it and poke after the parmesan is added. 
  4. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Removed from the oven and cool.
  6. While the crust is baking and cooling, place the tomato slices on a triple layer of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Place a second double layer of paper towels on top and press firmly to dry the tomatoes.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. Once the crust is cool, sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the bottom and layer the tomato slices over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the olive oil/garlic mixture.
  9. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing. A pizza cutter make short work.

And you might want to know where I was going with these amazing tarts. Do you? We have been having ‘puppy play dates’ with a friend’s retriever and our own Shanna. They are both now 5 months old, Inyo is 2 days older than Shanna. While the puppies play, the adults have wine, wonderful conversation and gourmet snacks. It’s a lot like what we used to do when our children were young. We have been rotating who is responsible for the food and the snacks have become increasingly wonderful as we are challenged cookery wise. It’s a lot of fun after the months of isolation cooking for just our own family.

Here are Inyo and Shanna, exhausted by several hours of active play. They look very pleased with themselves, and happy.

Inyo and Shanna

Inyo and Shanna

Even though he is about twice her weight, she gives as good as she gets.

I am going to take this to Fiesta Friday #401 hosted by Angie. If you would like to join the party or take a look at the recipes, craft or decorating ideas…just click on the link to this virtual event.

 

September – Zucchini Cakes (in the air fryer or oven)

September – Zucchini Cakes (in the air fryer or oven)

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

I’ve made these zucchini cakes or fritters several time, they are a big hit each time. They could be the center of a vegetarian meal if you add another grilled vegetable (maybe more zucchini), avocado, and/or a scoop of ricotta or goat’s cheese.

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

You can cook them in your air fryer or in the oven, both ways turn out wonderfully. I recommend you cook them on a rack if using the oven. Or, preheat your sheet pan before adding the fritters. By cooking them in the oven or air fryer you reduce the amount of fat to a bare minimum.

Zucchini Cakes or Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini
  • optional: 2 zucchini flowers if available, thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, I used gluten free panko
  • 1/2 cup of ricotta
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 4 scallions, light green and white parts, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing

Method:

  1. Oven: Preheat to 425 degrees F. If using a rack, line your sheet pan with parchment paper. If not, place your unlined sheet pan in the oven to preheat with the oven and grease it lightly with olive oil before placing the fritters on the pan.
  2. Air Fryer: Follow the manufacturers directions. If recommended (mine does not need preheating) preheat to 400 degrees F.
  3. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Place the grated zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much excess liquid as possible. You can work in batches if needed. You can save the juice as it makes an excellent stock or soup base.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the grated zucchini, zucchini flowers, bread crumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic, scallions and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Using your hands, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture and flatten into a patty. Place on the air fryer rack or baking rack or directly on the oiled sheet pan, space the patties about 1 inch apart.
  6. Brush the patties lightly with olive oil. Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
  7. Sprinkle with more salt before serving. Chives are also nice if you have some.
Zucchini cakes

Zucchini cakes

 

Zucchini Cakes

Zucchini Cakes

I think zucchini flowers are amazingly beautiful and they can be very strange. This one looks like an alien creature.

zucchini flower

zucchini flower

Adding the zucchini flowers to the fritters was an idea from Irene of the blog My Slice of Mexico, thank you Irene.

I’m taking these to share with Angie over at Fiesta Friday #398. Come on over to see all the amazing ideas for recipes, gardening and crafting. This week the cohost is Diann @ Of Goats and Greens

Have a wonderful weekend.

September – Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

September – Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Potato Salad with Corn and Bacon

Potato Salad with Corn and Bacon

New potatoes, crisp bacon, fresh corn and finely chopped onion…that’s my idea of potato salad. Forget the mayo. This potato salad can hold up to a BBQ or a picnic. It’s the mayonnaise that is the major reason for food poisoning in the summer. As well the mixture of flavors and textures is amazing…salty and crisp bacon, creamy potatoes, sharp red onion, and sweet corn. A couple of handfuls of arugula added at the end adds a tart, peppery and slightly bitter element as well as bright green color. I used a simple dressing consisting of apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and a couple tablespoon of bacon fat. Go vegetarian and substitute one of the many alternatives out there for the bacon, add a bit of smoked paprika to give the salad that wonderful smokiness.

Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Potato Salad with Bacon and Corn

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. of small new potatoes, I used a combination of red and fingerlings
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, reserved from cooking the bacon
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 ears of sweet corn
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 handfuls of baby arugula

Method:

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender. For me it was about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool slightly.
  2. Cook the corn by your favorite method (grilling would be wonderful). I placed the each ear of corn, husks and all, in the microwave for 3 minutes. The leaves and silk slip off easily. Once cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the husk.
  3. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper lined plate, break into pieces once cool. Reserve the fat in the pan.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  5. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. If the potatoes are still a little warm they will absorb the dressing. Add the corn and chopped onion. Taste for salt and if you need a little more vinegar.
  6. Just before serving add the bacon and arugula. Toss again.

I made this salad up to step 6 several hours ahead. Chill in the fridge but bring it to room temperature before serving.

I would enjoy some of that

Shanna would like some potato salad please

Serve this as a side at your Labor Day BBQ.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday will enjoy it. It’s Fiesta Friday #396 hosted by Angie. Come on over and enjoy the virtual blogging party. It seems like everything is going virtual again!

Stay well and safe.