Seared Scallops over Cauliflower Puree with Wilted Spinach and Roasted Asparagus

I’m a pretty competitive person, I freely admit it. This causes me to make bets with people quite often. I had some pictures that I wanted the guy I’ve been dating to help me hang up in my living room. He told me we’d need picture wire. I live pretty close to a CVS and he suggested we just run to CVS and pick up some. Not so fast my friend, CVS isn’t going to have picture wire I told him. He persisted that he thought they would. To which I replied, “wanna make a bet?” Hands were shook and off to CVS we went. Along the way we determined that the payoff would be whoever lost had to cook dinner for the other person. I was fully prepared to bask in winner’s glory. When we got to CVS he walked straight to the home section and plucked a box containing picture wire off the rack. I was flummoxed. Who knew drugstores carried picture wire? He later told me smugly that he would have bet me $5 million dollars he was so sure. Punk. Alas, my pictures were hung and I made him a very tasty dinner to settle our bet.

 

Seared Scallops over Cauliflower Puree with Wilted Spinach and Roasted Asparagus

Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower (about 3 lbs.), cut into florets

2 Yukon gold potatoes (about 8 ounces), peeled and diced

kosher salt and fresh pepper

1/2 cup of butter

1/2-1 cup of half and half or fresh cream

Directions

Set up a collapsible steamer over a pot of water. Toss the cauliflower and potato and put in the steamer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and steam the potatoes and cauliflower until completely tender, about 15 minutes stove top. Cool slightly. Puree the vegetables using a blender or food processor, in batches if needed,  with butter and a couple tablespoons of cream, until smooth and creamy. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Meanwhile, cook 4 strips of bacon in the mircrowave, for about 4 minutes until the bacon is crispy. Chop up into small pieces and reserve.  Save your bacon drippings for your spinach.

Roasted Asparagus

1 lb. of asparagus

salt and pepper

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the bottom ends of the asparagus and give them a good wash.

2. Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the spears, roll the asparagus back and forth until they are all covered with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Roll the asparagus around so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

3. Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice before serving.

Seared Scallops

1. Since I live in the midwest, fresh scallops are hard to come by. Most of the ones found in the grocery stores have been frozen before and are soaked in a liquid that keeps them looking white.  They need to be rinsed thoroughly  and patted dry.   Season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter to the pan.

3. Add your scallops, making sure not to crowd the pan, which lowers the pan’s temperature.

4. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side until they have a golden caramelized color. Be careful not to overcook them because once you take them off the heat they will continue to cook.

Wilted Spinach

Add your leftover bacon grease,from cooking the bacon earlier, to a pan over medium heat. Add in a bunch of spinach and season with salt and pepper. Once the spinach wilts, take off the heat.

 

To assemble: 

Add a generous portion of cauliflower puree on the plate. Top with wilted spinach and asparagus. Then add your seared scallops. Garnish by sprinkling your chopped bacon over the top. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Tomato Sauce

My No Processed Foods challenge led me to try to make things that I usually just reach for a jar or can of in my pantry. My Dad has always made his own pasta sauce, so I figured I should try making some too! It was actually really easy and it made enough that I had leftovers for the week. The beauty of a good red sauce is that you should make it your own. Do you like it a little spicy? Add a little more red pepper flakes. Really like garlic? Throw another clove in.

Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flake, or to taste
  • 1 28 oz. cans crushed tomato
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once you see the oil shimmering, add the chopped onion and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and pinch of red pepper flake then continue to sauté until onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add crushed tomato, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, a few pinches of kosher salt and several turns of freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine. I also like to fill the empty can of tomato paste with water then add that to the sauce (6 oz.). Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low then simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (1.5 to 2 hours is best if you have the time).
  3. To finish the sauce, stir in a handful of chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta.

I chose to serve the sauce of pappardelle pasta and added some chicken sausage and a nice handful of Parmesan cheese.

And of course a fat slice of my Homemade Italian bread. 🙂

Homemade Italian Bread

I was intrigued by how many people were shocked that I made my own bread during No Processed Foods month. People just couldn’t get over that you can actually make bread. I think people are just scared to try making bread and I don’t know why. Sure, I’ve had to learn how to get yeast to work for you by trial and error,but it’s really not that hard. The key is using really warm water and giving it time to rise. If you’ve never tried to make bread before, this Italian bread recipe is a good starter recipe.

I love my food processor. It makes doing so many things in the kitchen easier: chopping veggies, shredding cheese, etc. The dough attachment it comes with is also great for kneading bread. Why do all that hard work when your food processor can do it for you? This is a recipe my Mom made growing up and my family loves it. No Italian dinner is complete without my Mom’s Italian bread. In our family we also love to eat it as a “dessert” with her homemade jam or applesauce on it too.

 

Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 package yeast

1 cup very warm water

vegetable oil and corn meal

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cold water

Directions:

1. Place 2 cups of flour, salt, sugar, butter and yeast in food processor bowl. Using the dough attachment, turn the machine on and off until the butter is thoroughly cut in.

2. Add half of the water and turn the processor on and off 4 times.

3. Add your remaining cup of flour and water. Repeat on/off 4 times, then let the processor run until a ball of dough forms. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

4. When you get the right consistency, let the processor run for 40 to 60 seconds to knead the dough.

5. Place the dough on the counter, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

6. Flour your surface and using a rolling pin, roll dough out in a rectangle 10×15 inches. Then roll the dough into a long loaf, pinching the seams to close them.

7. Place on a greased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Brush your loaf with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Be sure to cover well or your bread will dry out.

8. When read to bake, uncover the dough and let it sit on counter for 10 minutes. Cut diagonal slashes in the top.

9. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

10. Remove from over and brush with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. This will given it a beautiful golden crust.

11. Return to over for 5 to 10 minutes.

Prior to serving let it sit for at least 10 minutes and it will slice better.

 

Zucchini Cakes with Tomatillo Salsa

I’ve been a blog slacker, I freely admit it. Life at work got really busy and so instead of cooking tasty things I was stuck working on PowerPoint presentations. Not fun. I’m glad to say work has leveled off again, so I can now catch you up on the last of my creations for No Processed Foods month. I will admit that when June 1st came I was pretty excited to go back to cereal and frozen Trader Joe’s food. Cooking every meal for 31 days was tough work! While I’m not going to abide by such strict rules moving forward, I have vowed to myself that I’ll cook more often and try not to take the “easy” way out by just popping dinner in the microwave.The month of May definitely made me much more aware of what goes on my plate and in my mouth and I think we could all benefit from a heightened awareness about our food.

I’ve always liked zucchini. And when you add cheese and call it a “cake” I like it even more. This dinner was a nice alternative to making a meat main dish. I had leftover tomatillo salsa from the shrimp tacos I made here, so I decided to top the cakes off with some. Delish!

Zucchini Cakes with Tomatillo Salsa

Makes about 10 cakes

Ingredients:

2 small zucchini (about 1 cup), shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup orange bell pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
3 to 5 tablespoons olive oil


Directions:
1. Shred you zucchini using a food processor, drain on several layers of paper towels, patting dry with more paper towels. You want to get as much water out as possible.
2. In a large bowl, stir together eggs, cheese, flour, red onions, peppers, cumin, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in zucchini and corn.
3.In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil to medium heat/hight heat.  Form cakes, roughly 1/4 cup and drop them in the oil. Use a spatula to flatten. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain onto paper towels.


Avocado Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 3/4  avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth (unless you like it chunky).

Coconut Chicken Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Can a salad ever really be craveable? I have my doubts. Cupcakes are craveable. Salads are something you eat so that you can eat a cupcake and not feel as guilty. I whipped up a salad this week that really is craveable.  First, start with coconut chicken which immediately makes me feel like I should be on a tropical island. Then I added some mandarin oranges and blueberries because I’m a fan of fruit in my salad.  Then I whipped up a tangy, sweet honey Dijon vinaigrette. Craveable I’m telling ya.

Coconut Chicken Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Yield: 2 portions

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

1 egg

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 bag of mixed greens

1 can of Madarin Oranges

1/4 cup of blueberries

2 Tbsp of slivered almonds

handful of baby carrots, chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey dijon mustard

STEP 1: Cut off any extra fat  from your chicken breasts. Cut each breast into strips to allow for faster cooking.

STEP 2: Prepare your breading station by gathering three bowls. In the first bowl combine the flour and salt. In the second bowl, add the egg and whisk.  In the third bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs and shredded coconut.

STEP 3: Place the vegetable oil in a large heavy duty skillet and heat over medium/high heat until it is just below smoking. You can test the heat by throwing in a little bit of flour. When it is hot enough, the flour will sizzle and create a lot of bubbles.

STEP 4: While the oil is heating, dredge the chicken strips. First, coat each strip in the flour and salt mixture. Then dip each into the egg and finally coat each in panko and shredded coconut. It’s easiest to do all pieces in one bowl before moving onto the next or else your fingers will get pretty messy.

STEP 5: After breading the strips, the oil should be hot enough. Place about 4 strips in the pan at once. There should only be one layer in the pan and there should be about an inch between each strip. If you over crowd the pan it will get too cold and the strips will soak up a lot of oil instead of frying. Fry the strips for 2-3 minutes on each side (longer if needed) or until they are golden brown and crispy. Place them on a plate with paper towel to drain and move on to the next batch.  You may need to add a little extra oil to the pan.

STEP 6: Whisk together your honey, balsamic vinegar, honey dijon mustard and olive oil to make the vinaigrette.

STEP 7: Wash your greens and then add the carrots, blueberries, oranges and almonds. Plate up two portions and then top with your coconut chicken strips and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Italian Flank Steak with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

My month of no processed foods has really made me realize just what a hard job it is to be a homemaker. Growing up, my mom stayed at home with me and my two older sisters. Every night she put a nutritious, often delicious (yep that’s right I said often) meal on the table that she mostly made from scratch. Sure, there were nights were we got a treat and had pizza or something fast, but more often than not she served us vegetables from her garden, homemade bread, etc.  It may sound silly, but this month has really made me realize just how much she did for us.  I remember being quite a brat many a nights complaining, “ugh, leftovers.” Meal planning is a lot of work, especially if you don’t want to waste a lot of food. I’ve found it tough to not buy a ton of stuff that I can’t use up in my next week’s worth of recipes. And leftovers, yea I’ve been eating a lot of those 🙂

Flank steak is good if you want red meat, but you don’t want a huge heavy steak. By slicing it up you can have just a little bit and still be satisfied.

Italian Flank Steak with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Recipe adapted from Family Spice

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBS basil, fresh, chopped
  • 3 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning, dried
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS Italian parsley,  chopped
  • 1  lb beef flank steak
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved & seeded

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together:
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 3 garlic cloves , crushed
    • 2 TBS Italian parsley , chopped
    • 1 TBS basil, fresh , chopped
  2. Pour this mixture into a large ziploc bag and add the flank steak:
  3. Place  in the refrigerator and let meat marinate 4-6 hours
  4. Remove meat 30 minutes prior to grilling.
  5. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  6. Preheat grill pan outside grill on high heat.
  7. In a small bowl whisk together:
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
    • 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning , dried
  8. Half and seed your cheery tomatoes
  9. Pour your mixture over the tomatoes making sure it coats them evenly.
  10. Pour onto a baking sheet and roast in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove meat from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
  12. Spray the grill with cooking spray before placing meat on it.
  13. Place steaks on hot grill and cook until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes for medium rare on each side.  Flank steak is best served medium-rare, as it can toughen if over-cooked.
  14. Cover steak with foil, and let steaks rest 5 minutes before serving.
  15. Prior to serving, slice the meat on a bias. Top with roasted tomatoes and serve hot.

Curried Chickpea Burgers with Home Fries

Both of my older sisters are vegetarians, which has lead me to not be a big meat eater myself. When I was in elementary school I remember loving hamburgers, but one day I bit down on a piece of gristle and was completely disgusted. Ever since then I won’t eat ground meat. There is just something about the consistency that freaks me out. The ironic part is I still like a good steak, but grind it up and NO THANKS. Irrational, yes. And now that pink slime and meat glue have been all over the food news I’m quite glad I do not eat ground meat, just saying.

At our work cafeteria they were offering curried chickpea burgers for awhile and I became obsessed. They were so good and filling and then don’t you know they stopped offering them. Those jerks! My no processed food challenge led me to try to make them for myself and the result was pretty good.  I’m going to experiment some more with this recipe.

Curried Chickpea Burgers

Total Time needed: 50 minutes  Yield 4 patties

  • 2 cans of canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup regular oats
  • 2 carrots (about 3/4 of a cup of baby carrots if you are lazy like me)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grind your oats in a food processor until fine. Then add chickpeas and carrots and stream in your olive oil while pulsing your food processor. You want the mixture to stick together so add a little more olive oil if it’s not doing that. Add in your spices and then pulse the food processor again to make sure they are incorporated.

Line a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Form 4 patties out of your mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, flip the “burgers” and bake for another 20 minutes.

Now what did I decide to eat my chickpea burgers with? French fries of course. Except I made the healthy home fries that my Mom always made growing up. They are pretty easy and almost as tasty as their fried cousin.

Home Fries

4 Large Russet Potatoes

1/4 cup Olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Onion powder

1 teaspoon of Paprika

Preheat oven to 350. Wash your potatoes and cut them into small wedges. In a bowl combine your olive oil and spices. Toss the potatoes so that they are covered with the mixture. Add more spices if it doesn’t look like enough to you. Arrange the wedges on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes.