One Pot Tomato Basil Rice

My favorite things to make are those that have very few ingredients, but each ingredient is so exceptional in its taste that you can pick out each flavor in the dish.  This dish is one of those masterpieces that becomes a staple in your summer cooking.  Incredibly easy and yet richly flavored, this dish is made in just one pot.   It’s also pretty foolproof as evidenced by the fact that I got distracted halfway through with my girls who decided to snag the bottle of cleaner I had just used to wipe up some meat drippings so they could “clean” each other off.  Somehow, the rice still tasted amazing even though I let it cook too long and didn’t stir it.     It is a balance of creaminess from a rich tomato broth and brightness from fresh basil.  A perfect summer side dish.

Simply start with one cup of rice and two cups of water in a medium size pot.  I chose Arborio rice (I know, it’s supposed to be used in risotto, but I think it works with this preparation too).  You could also use long grain white rice or even brown rice.

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Add some thinly sliced onion, chopped garlic, quartered tomatoes and olive oil.

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Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  The vegetables will create a broth that is absorbed into the rice.

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Stir every so often and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

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Serve it in bowls drizzled with olive oil, and topped with shredded basil and parmesan.  Eat and repeat because it’s too hard to resist.

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One Pot Tomato Basil Rice (adapted from Smitten Kitchen–serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain rice, brown rice, arborio rice or farro

2 cups water

1/2 white onion halved and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

9 oz cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes or whatever you have on hand

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup shredded basil

Directions:

Add the rice, water, onion, garlic, tomatoes and 1 tbsp olive oil to a medium size pot.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes (depending on the grain you have chosen), stirring halfway through.  Once the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, divide into 4 bowls and top each bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tbsp parmesan, and 1 tbsp shredded basil.

Grilled Fish Tacos

   This July was a big one.  My brother got married, my mom had a birthday and my husband turned 30!! We spent a fun weekend visiting his parents and celebrating the big day, but I always like to make him a meal to help commemorate big days in his life.  His mom and I often joke that his love language is food, especially any sort of Mexican food.  This year, he requested fish tacos with all the fixings.  I wanted to go for a lighter version since the usual beer battered and fried fish pieces were hardly low calorie. I went for a marinated and grilled tilapia and it did not disappoint!  These tacos are incredibly easy and ridiculously delicious.    They are best when accompanied with pico de gallo, guacamole, cilantro and a few lime wedges.  I also made some black beans to serve on the side.

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The fish is marinated in a simple mixture of onions, lime, olive oil and spices.  While the fish marinates, slice some red cabbage and dress it in a simple mixture of mayo, lime and salt and pepper.

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   Right before serving, simply throw the fish on the grill for about 5 minutes per side or until the fish flakes easily.  

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    Break the fish into bite size chunks and serve on warm corn tortillas with the cabbage, some chopped cilantro and your desired toppings.  And then, don’t be surprised if you want to make these every. single. week.

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Grilled Fish Tacos (adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

2 cups sliced white onion

3/4 cups chopped cilantro, divided

8 tbsp lime juice, divided

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves mince garlic

1 tsp dried oregano

1 lb tilapia

1 cup mayo

1/2 head red cabbage, sliced

corn tortillas

lime wedges, pico de gallo and guacamole 

Directions: 

  Mix the onion, 1/4 c cilantro, 6 tbsp lime juice, garlic and oregano in a shallow dish.  Place the tilapia on top of the onion mixture and spoon some of the onions over the fish.  Cover and marinate for 1 hour, flipping the fish half way through.  

  Meanwhile, thinly slice the cabbage and place in a medium bowl.  Wisk together 2 tbsp lime juice and mayo and pour over the cabbage.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Preheat the grill to a medium high heath and brush the grill grates with oil. Grill fish for 3-5 min per side until totally opaque.   Break fish into bite size pieces and place in warm corn tortillas.  Serve the tacos with cabbage, guacamole, pico de gallo and chopped cilantro.

 

  

Caramelized Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

My children are obsessed with ice cream…I mean OBSESSED.  They would eat it three times a day if I let them.  My husband blames this slight “problem” on me and between you and me, he’s probably right.  I saw this recipe on Roost Blog and jumped at the chance to potentially fool my children with an ice cream made out of bananas, very little sugar and protein-packed peanut butter.

Let’s be honest….calling this ice cream is a bit of a misnomer.  My husband compared it more to a frozen cookie dough consistency.  It is rich and decadent and best enjoyed in small portions.

You want to start with very ripe bananas.  The riper the better.  Mine were not as ripe as they should have been, but I was just working with what I had.  Slice the bananas and then toss them in a mixture of honey (or agave for the vegan) and melted coconut oil.  Spread them out over a piece of parchment paper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes, the bananas will be caramelized and fragrant (reminded me of banana bread).

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While the bananas are still warm, pour the bananas and all of their juices into a glass bowl and add 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter.  Blend the mixture together with an emersion blender until very smooth.

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Pour the mixture into a container and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

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At this point your ice cream is technically done, but I felt it was absolutely crucial to add some dairy free mini chocolate chips.   You can skip this step if you are aren’t a chocolate lover (do those even exist?) and just keep the ice cream in the freezer for another several hours.  If you choose to add the the chips, take the ice cream out of the freezer after about 20 minutes or when the ice cream is just cool enough not to melt all the chips.  Gently fold in about 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  Return to the freezer for several more hours.

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Use an ice cream scoop that has been dipped in warm water to scoop the ice cream and enjoy!

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Caramelized Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream

Ingredients:

8 very ripe bananas

6 tbsp honey

3 tbsp melted coconut oil

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the bananas and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Mix the honey and melted coconut oil and pour over the bananas.  Toss gently to coat.  Roast the bananas for 30 minutes until fragrant and caramelized.  Pour the warm bananas in a bowl and add 1/2 cup peanut butter.  Blend with an emersion blender until very smooth.  Place in the freezer for at least three hours or overnight and stir in the chocolate chips after 20 minutes if desired.

Steak Salad with Potato Croutons

Alrighty folks….here’s another guest post by my sister.  Apparently, this was a big hit with the hubs!

Has anyone noticed the price of steak sky rocketing recently!? I have! BUT I have a man to feed who really enjoys the occasional steak so I was trying to think of how to make a steak go a long way without breaking the bank.  Now, men are notorious for not really enjoying their daily intake of greens so this recipe might be daunting to the eager-to-please house wife, but have no fear, your man will feel spoiled when he digs into this delicious salad. Plus, you will get to enjoy the results of your labors as well without feeling so guilty about price or calories.  Here’s how to make it!

You want to start by chopping all your veggies into small pieces. The lettuce will be the foundation, obviously, so build everything on top of your heap of lettuce in a large bowl.  Have your grill and frying pan ready as you will need both for cooking up the steak and the bacon.

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Tip: Don’t feel limited by the ingredients listed in my recipe; you can add any veggies that sound good to you or try roasting some of the veggies before adding them to the salad. Roasted veggies are a delicious addition to any type of grilled meat.

Once the veggies are chopped, you can get started on frying the bacon until crispy.  Place the bacon aside, but don’t throw out all the bacon fat.  Now comes the fun part!  Cut four red potatoes into very small chunks (pictured below) and throw the potatoes in with the remaining bacon fat.  Sautee the potatoes on medium heat until they are browned and crispy on the outside. Yum! These will serve as your “croutons” for the salad; good news for all you Gluten Free eaters out there.

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Now for the star of the show… the steak.  I find that over-seasoning a steak is highly unnecessary, so resist the temptation to get too fancy.  I purchased a rib-eye steak that was just over a pound, seasoned it on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic, and had my man grill it to perfection.  Once cooked, let the meat rest before slicing it into strips.  Then, simply top the veggies with the steak strips, potato “croutons”, chopped bacon, and whichever dressing is your favorite.  I suggest a healthy homemade ranch, or a balsamic reduction.  Eat and enjoy 1 steak for 4 people; what could be better than that!?

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Steak Salad with Potato Croutons

Ingredients (Serves 4):

¼ head cauliflower

One bunch Green Onion

½ avocado

2 baby cucumbers

1 cup broccoli

1 bunch of thin asparagus

1 large carrot

1 cup cherry tomatoes

3-4 Red potatoes

4-6 cups Baby Spring Greens (or any lettuce of your choosing)

1 large steak

Salt and Pepper to taste

Garlic to taste

3 slices thick cut bacon (make sure it’s nitrite free)

Homemade or store bought ranch dressing  (You may want to try this recipe if you’re feeling extra ambitious)

Directions:
Season the steak with salt, pepper and garlic and allow to come to room temperature.  Meanwhile, finely chop all of the vegetables (except the potatoes) and place in a large bowl.  Fry the bacon in a pan until it has reached your desired doneness).  Place the bacon on a paper towel to soak up excess grease and to cool slightly.  Chop the bacon and add it to the salad. Drain off all but 2 tbsp of the bacon grease, chop the potatoes and add them to the reserved grease.  Saute until tender and crisp on the outside and then set them aside. Place the steak on the grill and cook for 5-8 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of the steak and your desired doneness).  Pull the steak off the grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing it into bite size chunks and adding it to the salad.  Dress the salad and top with potato croutons.

Southwestern Brown Rice Salad

I have a confession.  I am not a fan of brown rice.  I feel like I should be because it is the holy grail of health foods, but something about it just says “meh” to me.  I keep trying to find a way that I will actually eat it and enjoy it, and you know what, I think I may have hit the jackpot today.  This salad is so full of flavor that I hardly even noticed that I was eating brown rice.  It has a southwestern flare that works wonderfully as a side dish but has enough substance that it could stand on its own as a light meal.  Suddenly, brown rice is looking a whole lot more appealing!

Start by cooking the rice according to the package directions.  Once the water is fully absorbed, sprinkle the rice with a few teaspoons of vinegar and allow to cool.  In the meantime, wisk together lime juice, honey, cumin, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small bowl.  This will serve as the dressing for the salad.

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Once the rice has cooled, add some scallions, cilantro and cherry tomatoes to the rice.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly to coat the rice.

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You can store the salad in the fridge for several hours until you are ready to serve it.  Right before serving, slice an avocado and add it to the salad.

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Southwestern Brown Rice Salad (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups brown rice

2 tsp salt

2 tsp vinegar

2 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp honey

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp grated lime zest

2 tbsp lime juice

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 avocado cut into cubes

5 scallions, minced

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Directions:

Cook the rice according to the package directions.  While still warm, sprinkle the rice with the vinegar.  Allow the rice to cool.  Meanwhile, stir the olive oil, honey, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, cumin and salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Once the rice is cool, add the scallions, cilantro and tomatoes.  Pour the dressing mixture over the rice and gently fold together until the rice is coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Right before serving, cut up the avocado and gently fold it into the salad.  Serve the salad cold or at room temperature.

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Today is a very special day because my little sis, Megan, will be joining us for today’s post.  She just got married so she has been experimenting in the kitchen with recipes that her hubs will love and that will accommodate her dietary restrictions.  She made this for us last weekend and I was so impressed that I asked her to remake it for the blog.  Enjoy!  

Who doesn’t love pumpkin bread every once in awhile!?  The problem: it is usually full of ingredients that are less than ideal for a health food enthusiast or those with dietary limitations.  There are not many recipes out there that can make up for all the sins in pumpkin bread, but I came across one from She Let Them Eat Cake that satisfies both a vegan and gluten free palate.  I was skeptical to try this recipe as I did not think it would be possible to replicate the “real thing”, but surprisingly it was incredibly delicious and my husband continues to ask me to make it, which, let’s be honest is the true test of any baked delicacy.  Let’s get started shall we?

Perhaps the most unfamiliar ingredient in the recipe is flaxseed meal. It intimidated me when I saw this ingredient listed as I thought it might be difficult to find, but I was surprised to find it on the shelves of most grocery stores.  In this recipe it is used as a “starter”.  Combined with warm water, it turns into a foamy paste that doubles as an egg substitute.  Vegans rejoice!

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Once the “starter” is well, started, the rest of the recipe comes together just as any other bread or baked good might.  It is important to mix all wet and dry ingredients separately except for the sugar.  The sugar is combined with the flaxseed and water concoction until it forms a foamy paste. The rest of the wet ingredients are then combined with this flaxseed and sugar mixture.  You can use any type of gluten free baking flour, but I find that Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix works very well with this recipe.  It can be found in most grocery stores in the gluten free or baking aisles.

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Once your wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately, you simply combine the dry ingredients with the wet, a small amount at a time.  It is important not to over mix the batter; just mix until combined.  This would be a good time to add a cup of GF, dairy free chocolate for you vegans out there, or of course regular chocolate works just fine for those who are just GF.  Then simply pour, bake, and enjoy!

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Tips: Sprinkle sugar over the raw batter before baking.  It produces a crunchy, shimmery topping that looks beautiful and tastes delicious.  I find that the bread takes longer than suggested in the recipe to bake.  Bake for at least 40 minutes and then test with a knife every 5-10 minutes until the knife comes out clean.

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 Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

2.5 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp warm water

¾ cup coconut sugar (or sugar of your choosing), plus more for sprinkling

1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

½ cup melted coconut oil, plus more for brushing

2 cup my all-purpose mix

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9×4 inch loaf pan.

Combine the flax-water mixture in a large bowl, set aside for a couple of minutes. Add the sugar and combine until the mixture is a little frothy. Add all of the applesauce, pumpkin puree, vanilla and oil and stir until combined.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt in a medium sized bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combined (now would be a good time to add 1 cup of chocolate chips or nuts if you like them in your pumpkin bread).

Put in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with some melted coconut oil. Bake for another 15-18 minutes – or until tested with a knife.

Fallen Chocolate Cake

We don’t eat too many desserts at our house, but every once in awhile, a special occasion calls for a sweet treat.  We were at my parent’s lake house this weekend and I got put on dessert duty for our Father’s Day meal.  Most of my extended family eats gluten free so when I found this recipe on Heather Christo’s website, I knew I had to try it.  Not only is it gluten free, but it also has absolutely no flour!  I was a little skeptical the first time I tried it, but it is truly amazing.   It is not dense like a traditional flourless chocolate cake, but it still has an intense rich chocolate flavor.  It has a wonderful texture and most people that have tried it can hardly believe there is no flour in the recipe.

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This cake batter comes together pretty quickly and has three basic components.  The first is a mixture of chocolate, butter and oil that is melted over a double boiler.  The second is a mixture of egg yolks, cocoa powder, coconut, salt and vanilla that is then stirred into the chocolate mixture.   Lastly, a mixture of egg whites and sugar are beaten until they reach stiff peaks.  They should look something like this.

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The egg whites are then gently folded into the chocolate, egg yolk mixture.Image

The cake bakes at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes and can either be served warm or at room temperature.   Both ways are equally delicious.  We ate it over the weekend with fresh whipped cream and homemade strawberry ice cream and everyone raved about it.  Who needs flour anyways?

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Fallen Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

12 oz dark chocolate pieces (I used 72% dark chocolate)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

6 eggs

2 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (note: if you had a strong aversion to coconut, you could actually leave this out, but the you can hardly taste the coconut and it gives the cake a bit more body)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10″ springform pan and coat with 1/4 cup of the sugar.  Melt the chocolate, butter and vegetable oil over a double boiler until almost melted and then remove from the heat.  Allow everything to finish melting, stirring until smooth.

While the chocolate cools slightly, separate the 6 eggs into two separate bowls.   Mix the cocoa, vanilla, coconut and salt in with the yolks and then stir it into the chocolate mixture.

Whip the 6 egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl until they have formed stiff peaks and then gently fold them in three batches into the chocolate, egg yolk mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool for 30 minutes and then remove it from the pan.  The cake can be served warm or at room temperature with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Simple Kale Salad

So…kale.  Loved by few, hated by many.   It’s one of those health foods that we choke down because it’s “good for us.”  Now, I’m one of those weird people who actually likes kale, but I realize that many people need alittle (or alot) of something extra to make it palatable.  A good friend of mine introduced me to this recipe and it’s my new favorite quick fix for a dinner side salad.

The real star of this salad is the walnut dressing you toss it in.  It’s quick and delicious and adds a nutty balance to the kale.   Give a couple of ingredients a quick whirl in a blender and its done.

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While you could stop with the walnut dressing, the salad is really enhanced my a small drizzle of balsamic glaze.  It adds just the right amount of sweetness to make this salad even more delicious.  Try this salad and you may just change your mind about kale.

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Simple Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

1 c walnuts

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp tamari

1/4- 1/2 c water

store bought or homemade balsamic glaze

Directions:

Combine walnuts, garlic and tamari and add 1/4 c water.  Blend with a hand blender or machine blender until smooth.  If desired, add more water for a thinner texture.  Toss with the kale and serve with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

Greek Summer Salad

There is something about summer that makes me crave salads.  We like to eat outside in the summer so a salad is the perfect cool accompaniment to the warm weather.   So, when I found the recipe for this salad over at Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to try it.  I made a couple of changes and added a few things to make it more of a complete meal and it was awesome!  The hubs even gave me the thumbs up without me fishing for compliments.

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I really love the vibrant colors in this salad and the feta cheese adds just the right amount of tang and creaminess.  The best part of this salad is that it can be made to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions by simply adjusting or omitting ingredients.

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Greek Summer Salad with Grilled Chicken (serves 2)

Ingredients:

Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 lemon juiced

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Salad

1 english cucumber, diced

1/2 red onion thinly sliced

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 c kalamata olives, pitted and halved

5 mini bell peppers, sliced

6-7 asparagus spears

1-2 oz Feta cheese (I used the kind seasoned with Mediterranean herbs)

1/2 cup hummus of your choice

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tblsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

   For the chicken, combine all ingredients in a shallow dish or plastic bag and allow to marinate at least 2 hours before serving.  Preheat grill to high and cook chicken for about 10 minutes per side, depending on the size of the breast.

While chicken is cooking, toss the asparagus spears in 1 Tblsp of olive oil.  Place on the grill and cook for about 10 min, rotating at least once.

Combine remaining vegetables in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, wisk together lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Once finished, slice the asparagus spears and add them to the salad.

To serve, place 1/4 c hummus on each plate and spoon the vegetables over the top.  Sprinkle as much feta cheese as you would like on the vegetables.  Slice the chicken breast and serve on the side.