I am just going to Shake, Shake, I Shake It…

IMG_3925Shake it up that is.  I so wanted to name this salad Shake it Off Kale Salad, but really it just did not seem to make sense.  However since Little Miss Mixture is a Taylor Swift fan, I have heard this song almost as much as Let it Go recently and I cannot seem to get it out of my head.  So as I was standing in the kitchen shaking my salad this is exactly the beat the salad was created to.

I have posted a couple of kale salads now and each one is different.  That is what is so great about kale and some of the other greens. They have versatility.  I have been a fan of spinach for this reason  for a decade or so, but when we began eating kale a couple of years ago I was skeptical.  It took being a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group where week after week I got bunches of greens for me to get comfortable with them and really start to enjoy eating them and cooking with them.  The thing I love most about kale is how it stands up to dressings and marinades.  I find the longer it marinates the better it taste.  Do you know what that allows you to do?  You can literally prepare a kale salad one day and enjoy it off and on throughout the next 3-4 days.

That is exactly what I do with a couple of kale salads that we enjoy.  Here is one that I put together the other day.

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Shaken Kale Salad

1 Bunch of Kale

1 Apple, cut into chunks

1/4 cup Dried Cranberries

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Honey

3 Tbsp Lemon Juice

1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well.  Place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and shake a few times.  Enjoy.

* Since the dressing includes lemon juice the apples hold up well.  Though I do like to add some for extra crunch by the third day.IMG_3924

 

Similar related salads

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Spinach, Apple, Mushroom Salad

Kale Salad with Walnuts

Kale Salad with Walnuts

Simple Kale Salad

Cilantro Serrano Pesto Pasta

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This is an herb that I am not sure I realized how much I liked it until about ten or so years ago.  It was around that time that I realized how nice the flavor was and what cilantro could do to a recipe.  Fresh herbs are great, but the problem I find with so many fresh herbs is you purchase them in bunches.  Rarely does a recipe call for that much.  Now if you are able to plan really well you can ensure that several foods you prepare that week will include the same fresh herb and then none is wasted.  But hello reality that does not work every time and some times just because you bought cilantro or another herb you may not want the same meals each time. Thus if you have the space or the energy growing you own herbs helps this dilemma considerably.  However I have tried growing cilantro and it is not easy.  You see I do not have a green thumb in fact I kill most house plants, but when it comes to garden herbs and plants I seem to manage usually, but cilantro is tough in the south.

The one good thing that came of my brief stint of trying to grow cilantro was some more recipes that utilized the herb.  When cilantro flourishes it does really well, but it has a short growing season and does not do well in heat.  Unlike basil and mint which as you snip them they grow more, my cilantro plants did not do that.  Rather they began to brown.  So in an effort to use all my nice cilantro I started cooking.  If you have been following my blog for anytime you know I love pesto.  So when I ran across this recipe that is a pasta dish but can just as easily be served as a pasta salad, I had to try it.

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Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken 

Ingredients
1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro
1/2 Cup fresh mint
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp toasted pecan halves
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast**
Cooking spray
3 Cups hot cooked penne pasta
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes)

Directions
Place cilantro and next 5 ingredients (through chile) in a food processor; process until well blended. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Place pesto in a large bowl; stir in vinegar and black pepper.
** Chicken can be prepared one of two ways.    1)Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. 2) Poach or boil chicken until cooked.IMG_3851IMG_3853

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Add chicken, pasta, and tomatoes to pesto; toss to combine.  Serve and Enjoy.

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* adapted from Cilantro Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne that appeared in Cooking Light Magazine

If you like pesto, be sure to check out these recipes that use different pesto sauces in a variety of ways.

IMG_2637Arugula Pesto

IMG_2644Shrimp Pesto Pizza

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Fancy Grilled Cheese

IMG_2833Snap Pea Tortellini & Pesto

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

 

 

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

DSC_0524

Protein Power Green Smoothie

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We all know the saying that you are what you eat and the best way to start your day is with a healthy breakfast.  Well I have never been a big breakfast person and I know my mom struggled to get me to have breakfast when I was a kid.  I luckily do not have that problem with Little Miss Mixture.  Sometimes that is her  best meal of the day, but breakfast is a meal that seems to be on the go in our house.

Mr. Mixture only sits down for breakfast on the weekends and typically grabs his coffee and a breakfast bar or smoothie and heads out.  During the school year Little Miss Mixture wants to sit and eat, but generally only leaves herself about 5 minutes to get her breakfast in.  In an effort to fuel them up, I try and make healthy smoothies and other on the go items for them at least two -three times a week.  Now with Little Miss Mixture sleeping in and enjoying her summer my motivation to turn on the vitamix is waning.

I have made a couple of smoothies in the last few weeks and though I constantly write down recipes of different ones, typically I just find items and toss them in and blenderize.  I almost always add peanut butter to my smoothies.  I find my taste is drawn to smoothies that include peanut butter and they stick with me longer than all fruit smoothies.  Mr. Mixture enjoys creamy fruit smoothies where yogurt is included as an ingredient.

In our house we like green smoothies.  There are certain flavor combinations that we enjoy more than others as I find spinach is a great green in almost any smoothie. Spinach is also so versatile as I use it in salads, on sandwiches, pizza, etc.  If i notice some needs to be used before it begins to wilt, I simply sauté it or toss it in a smoothie.  Here is a quick smoothie I tossed together the other morning.

1 cup Spinach

1 Banana

1/2 frozen Banana

2 Tbsp. Greek Yogurt

3 Tbsp. Peanut Butter

1/2 cup Milk

Place all ingredients in blender and puree.  If using a vitamin start with liquid and top with greens and frozen fruit and puree until smooth.

Printable Recipe IMG_3191