Apple, Spinach, and Blue Cheese Nachos

IMG_4245This is not your average nacho and I know a number of readers are going to turn up their nose before they even read the post.  Nachos are typically a fan favorite, but blue cheese is definitely a love it or hate it food.  I never really hated it, but I definitely did not consume it often and really still do not.  However I do think blue cheese works well with certain foods and apples are one of those.

I have a weakness for a couple types of food.  You know the types of foods that no matter what you are willing to eat.  Sort of my own type of comfort foods since I have never been a meatloaf and mashed potato type of girl.  We have already established in previous post my love for pizza, or anything resembling pizza.  If you did not realize that here are a few of my pizza creations BBQ Chicken Pizza, Swiss Chard Naan Bread Pizza, Grilled Peach and goat cheese pizza.

Another love of mine is mexican food.  I have not posted that many mexican type foods aside from tacos and my mention of taco salad that we eat quite often.  We probably eat more mexican food in the winter, but I eat it year round.  I love nachos.  Typically my nachos are classic in nature containing beans or meat for protein, diced onion or pepper, and topped with cheese.  There used to be a favorite local restaurant of mine that served nachos as an appetizer.  Their appetizer nachos were not your typical nacho.  I remember ordering the spinach dip ones multiple times and I think they may have had a thai chicken one as well.  Recently I have thought about that restaurant and how their uniqueness in nachos is not found at many places.  I am not sure I have ever come across another restaurant they put such a twist on the mexican staple chips and dip.

Well my thoughts of that restaurant might have been the inspiration for this dish or maybe it was my yearning to use up the blue cheese I had in the refrigerator and the thought in the back of mind that I really should eat something healthy… fruit.

Nachos are one of those foods that I love because I can give you a recipe, but really you make what you need.  On the particular day I created this dish, I was home alone and it was one of the first cool days so I wanted a warm lunch.  Since then I tried it on Little Miss Mixture for a quick weeknight dinner.  Individualizing and making a plate full, whether a small plate for one or a large one to share with others, nachos are a go to type of food in a pinch.

Apple, Spinach, and Blue Cheese Nachos

White Corn Tortilla Chips

1/2 Cup Fresh Baby Spinach*

1/2 Granny Smith Apple

3 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

2 oz. Mozzarella cheese

Arrange nachos on a microwave safe plate.  (Note nachos can also be done in the oven, but I chose the microwave to decrease the cooking time for melting the cheese in order to keep the apples crisp.)  Chop the spinach and apples and arrange on top of the tortilla chips.  Sprinkle with blue cheese and top with mozzarella.  Microwave on high 30-45 seconds.  I served Trader Joe’s corn salsa along side for a cool, yet spicy contrast.

* You could substitute arugula or chard for the spinach.

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Treasure Chest Thursday Recipe: Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

IMG_3708How have I not written about this meal yet?  This meal is regularly requested and I try to keep the ingredients on hand as it is a great way to use up a green that has been sitting around a little too long.  I tend to make this recipe most often with spinach, but I have been known to toss in some chard, kale, arugula, or even collard greens.

This recipe is definitely worthy of being a Treasure Chest Thursday post.  This is one of those simple meals that has just the right amount of flavor.  It is quick and easy to prepare making it a great weeknight (aka school night) meal.

As I am writing this post I really hope my search feature is working, as I could have sworn I have already posted this recipe but each time I have searched it comes up empty for gnocchi.  I guess I have written it in my head more than once because as I am typing the thoughts sound too familiar.  I have always been a fan of gnocchi since I first had it in a pesto dish years ago.  It has also been one of those items I swear I will try and make one day, but last winter I tried what I thought would be the easier version of gnocchi to make – gnudi.  Well turns out either I totally bombed the recipe or I really did not like gnudi.

I have never seen gnudi on a menu but I keep telling myself I have to try it again and try it somewhere out to see if it was me, the recipe or if I am just not a fan of gnudi.   Gnudi is really just gnocchi made with ricotta rather than potato. The mere switch to ricotta, an ingredient I love makes me worried it was me rather than the gnudi.  I have never brought myself to make gnocchi as I am not a big fan of complex recipes with a lot of steps.  Really to make gnocchi you then have to also prepare a meal using it.  Not my favorite type of cooking.  Besides after the gnudi incident a part of me thought maybe store bought is just what I prefer when it comes to pasta.  Now don’t get me wrong I have had fresh made gnocchi as well as the vacuum packed that is great for keeping on hand and I like them both.  It is just another excuse I keep giving myself on why I do not want to try to make gnocchi from scratch.

Enough of my gnocchi and gnudi tangent.  Okay one last thing what fun words.  I wonder if anyone has ever named their animals gnocchi and gnudi – filing that idea away for when I finally have to give in to a fish or something that comes in pairs.  I can just picture two cute little dogs with those names, but we have one cute little dog now and that is ample, especially since she is not high on my list this morning.  Really now enough on to the recipe that is a treasure chest recipe in our house.IMG_3701

Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

1 pkg gnocchi (16oz.)*

6 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp Toasted Pine Nuts**

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 1/2 – 2 bags Fresh Baby Spinach

1/4 tsp Black Pepper, optional

Parmesan Cheese, as desired

 Directions

Cook Gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions, about 5 minutes.  Omit any salt or oil.  Drain.

In a skillet over medium heat melt butter  and cook approximately 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.  The butter needs to start to turn golden brown.  Add garlic and pine nuts to pan and continuing stirring for 1 minute.  Add gnocchi and spinach and cook stirring occasionally until spinach wilts.  Season with pepper if desired.  I like to decrease my stirring once spinach is almost wilted and try to get the gnocchi to brown slightly.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top as desired.IMG_3706

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* I prefer whole wheat gnocchi, but any type works

** I use pre toasted pine nuts from Trader Joe’s, but if yours are not toasted add the pine nuts with the butter so they toast while the butter is browning.

Adapted from a recipe that appeared in Cooking Light MagazineIMG_3708

 

 

Corn, Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

IMG_3768It has been a busy week, and I was wrong about having more time to write.  With the start of school and my wanting to catch up on some errands and get ready for a busy weekend of parties, I feel as if the days have gotten away from me.  Of course we have been eating and I have been in the kitchen, but I have not found the time to sit down and write about our meals.  I know as we settle in to our new school schedule this will change.  In the meantime, I thought I would share a recipe off our must try list that I finally got around to making, per the instructions.  Well almost.

Several weeks ago I wrote about a chard naan pizza that I made.  The flatbread came about as I did not have all the necessary ingredients for this recipe for a corn, squash, and green onion flatbread that Little Miss Mixture had placed on our must try list.  This past weekend, I decided to try the recipe that helped to create those chard pizzas.  The reviews online at cookinglight.com were slightly mixed, but I read the recipe and a couple reviews and decided to give it a go.

I love pizza and these individual type flatbread, naan bread pizzas are great for an easy meal during the week.  I find this especially true during the school year when on occasion we eat in shifts.  As I stated I followed the recipe sort of.  I felt the need to make a few changes that would enhance the flavor.  The recipe is very basic in that it calls for yellow squash.  I love most vegetables and prefer many of them raw, but I just could not imagine raw squash with cheese melted on it.  The recipe does not indicate cooking the squash, but I chose to sauté it with some garlic as I knew the green onions would add some crunch.  I also chose to leave out the black pepper, salt, and thyme the original recipe called for.  I rarely add salt to anything as I find it is not necessary with most recipes and having sautéed the squash I wanted that sweetness of that to shine rather than thyme or black pepper.

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Corn, Sautéed Squash, and Green Onion Flatbread

1 Frozen Naan Bread per serving

1-2 pieces yellow squash, cut into chunks

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ear of corn

2 green onions, cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 cup Fontina cheese

3 Tbsp. Butter

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Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with pizza stone in it.

In a medium skillet heat 1-2 Tbsp butter over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and squash and sauté until browned and soft.  Meanwhile cut the corn from the cob.  I chose to use grilled corn as I had some extra for meals such as this, but you can boil it if you prefer.  Remove the squash from the skillet and add another 1 Tbsp butter.  Heat each of the naan breads to lightly coat each side with some butter.

On your heated pizza stone place the naan bread.  Top with corn, squash, and the green onions.  Lightly cover with cheese and heat in the 400 degree oven until the cheese melts.  Cut into small pieces and enjoy.

Okay so as I am writing my version of Corn, Squash, and Green onion Flatbread, I am realizing that once again I really did not follow the recipe.  However the idea was based on this cooking light recipe and the meal turned out well.  I consider that a win and another type of pizza has been added to our list of dinner ideas.

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Gazpacho

DSC_0519Gazpacho is one of those things that I live for in the summer. It is the perfect meal on a hot summer night. For years it has been one of the reasons I needed a blender.  In fact there were probably a few years when I only used that trusty kitchen aid for a batch or two of this delightful summer concoction.  Of course that was before smoothies became more common in our breakfast rotation, and I broke down and got a Vitamix.  Regardless when the kitchen aid gave out last year around mid March, I knew I had to find a replacement before gazpacho season.  Thankfully when July rolled my kitchen was more than equipped to make gazpacho.

Over the years, I have tried several recipes.  For several years, I found no matter what combination of vegetables I used, I could not replicate the flavor of the wonderful bowls I would order at restaurants.  I did not like the recipes that used canned tomato juice, but found the need to try them in my search to find that perfect blend.  Then after having had a wonderful bowl at a Jose Andres restaurant in Washington D.C., I stumbled upon a recipe of his.  Funny thing was it was actually his wife recipe.  Well Thank you Patricia Andres because of you I no longer find myself searching recipes each summer, but rather I make batch after batch of this wonderfully refreshing cold soup.

I have always been a fan of gazpacho, and you will still find me ordering traditional gazpacho or other varieties when we dine out.  But I think this recipe is the one that made Mr. Mixture a believer in the soup as well.  No one complains when this version is served alongside some fresh bread.  I often toss a few cold shrimp in it as well like a gazpacho cocktail.

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GAZPACHO

Ingredients

      • 2 lb ripe red tomatoes(original recipe calls for about 10 plum tomatoes, I prefer 2-3 large red tomatoes and 1 heirloom)
      • 8 oz cucumber (about 1 cucumber or 2 kirby cucumbers)
      • 1/2 bell pepper (I prefer red, orange, or yellow)
      • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
      • 1 garlic clove, peeled
      • 3/4 Cup extra virgin olive oilIMG_3450IMG_3454

Directions
1. Cut out and discard the core at the top of the tomatoes, chop the tomatoes into quarters and place in blender and liquify.
2. Peel the cucumber(s) and cut into chunks. Add to the blender and liquify.
3. Cut the pepper in half, removed the core and the seeds and cut into large chunks and add to the blender mixture.
4. Once all the vegetables are liquified. Add the garlic and sherry vinegar. At this time you can taste for acidity. Based on the sweetness of the tomatoes the flavor may vary. If you think it is not balanced add a small amount more of vinegar. Sometimes I have added as much as another 1/2 Tbsp.
5. Add the olive oil and reblend to ensure it is mixed well. The original recipe calls to run the gazpacho through a strainer at this time. I have always omitted this step as I do not mind a slightly chunky gazpacho, and I find the Vitamix can liquify anything so it is the perfect texture for me.
6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
7. Top with any of the recommended garnishes or just enjoy plain and simple.

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You can garnish with any of the following:

          • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
          • chopped tomatoes
          • green onions or chives
          • Shrimp
          • rustic bread or croutons

* adapted from Gazpacho al Estilo de Patricia that appeared on delish.comIMG_3462

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Yellow Squash & Chard Naan Bread Pizza

 Do you eat naan bread?  Are you familiar with it?

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I had the experience of trying naan bread for the first time at a wedding for some friends.  At the time I had never eaten Indian food and I do not think I ate it again for several years.  I liked it. In fact I really enjoyed it, but I was a little intimidated to go to an Indian restaurant and order.  I was happy going to a buffet style restaurant where I could pick and choose, but even that was slightly overwhelming.  A couple years later I again had naan bread, but this time it was far more memorable.  The naan bread was being prepared fresh outside in a oven type contraption.  This is one of those food memories I will never forget.  The naan bread was hot and delicious and the garlic naan was even better.

Not long after this experience we got a Trader Joe’s in the area.  Other grocery stores may have sold naan bread, but I never noticed.  I began purchasing naan bread as I liked to heat it slightly and dip in in hummus.  One evening I was home alone and wanted something warm and comfort like to accompany a salad.  Being that I love pizza, I decided to melt cheese on naan bread.  Oh my goodness.  Naan bread pizza as it is called in our home was born.  This is now a routinely requested item for an easy dinner or a warm weekend lunch.

Several years went by before I ever saw a recipe posted in a magazine or on the internet for a similar type item.  Obviously I kicked myself as to why I did not think to make my new found food known.  Have people been making something like this for yard now or is it a new discovery that blends different traditional foods?

One evening, I noticed that our recipe must make list included a flatbread that used naan bread as a base.  The recipe also incorporated several seasonal summer ingredients.  I planned to try corn, squash, and green onion flatbread from the April 2014 Cooking Light.  However on the evening I went to make the meal, I realized I had already used all but 1 green onion and all the corn had been grilled.  As I browsed the contents of the refrigerator, I noticed a 1/2 bunch of chard that needed to be used.  Though I still want to try the original recipe one day, the result from what I hand on hand was a perfect summer pizza.

Yellow Squash & Chard Naan Bread Pizza       

1/2 bunch of chard, washed and chopped

1 yellow squash, washed and chopped

1/2 onion, sliced (I had 1 green sliced as in as well)

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 cup Mozzerella cheese, sliced or shredded

1 piece of Naan bread per person

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I used the frozen Trader Joe naan bread, so as my chard, onion, and yellow squash were sautéing in a skillet, I heated some olive oil and lightly heated the naan bread as well.  Doing this helped to make a crispier base for the pizza.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a skillet over medium high heat, sauté chard, onions, and yellow squash until chard is lightly wilted and yellow squash is soft and starting to brown.  Transfer naan bread to a pizza stone or baking sheet and cover with the green mixture.  Top with mozzarella cheese and place in oven until cheese melts to desired doneness.

Though the flavors of this naan bread pizza are not Indian.  I enjoy naan bread and it makes a great quick and easy pizza dough.  Luckily I am no longer intimidated by Indian restaurants and am able to enjoy Indian style food at home and out.

Enjoy.

Printable Recipe here IMG_3085IMG_3086