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Beets are in season and very present at the Farmer’s Market right now, and you would be silly not to take advantage of their availability. I love this root vegetable and I adore the common pairing of beets with a creamy, fresh goat cheese. These two ingredients together are complimentary in every possible way and this simple salad is something everyone should prepare in the spring.

When I was a kid my dad used to tell me that any food that had a concentrated color was more healthful than those without a saturated hue. This notion is especially appealing to me, given my background in art and my love of color theory. What artist who loves to cook wouldn’t love to hear that colorful fruits and vegetables are good for you? Especially this girl, who thrives on preparing healthful, beautiful meals.

When buying beets, choose a variety of colors. The different colors represent different flavor profiles and you should use that to your advantage. These flavorful root vegetables also offer a whole host of ingredients that are good for you, such as potassium, vitamin C, niacin, and folates.

I’m sure most of you reading this post have made this salad at home. I know I’m not offering a brilliant, original recipe. What I do know is that it’s nice to be reminded of something wonderful that maybe you had forgotten. So here’s a little reminder.

Here are some rough guidelines to get you going.

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  • Gather your beets, trim them, wash them.
  • Wrap them in foil and place them on a baking sheet.
  • Roast them for about an hour.
  • Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  • Peel them by gently rubbing the skin off meat.

Now, here’s the fun part for me. Once the beets are nice and cool, I slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Then I let them marinate in a super simple dressing for about an hour in the ice box. The yellow beets and red beets have different dressings, and each dressing compliments the flavor profile of the beet.

For the yellow beets, whisk together:

  • one part lemon juice
  • two parts olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the red beets, whisk together:

  • one part balsamic vinegar
  • two parts olive oil
  • salt and pepper

After about an hour, assemble your salad: beets, goat cheese, fresh chives and basil. Now, enjoy.

 

Corn and Carrot Relish

Eggs. Tacos. Avocado. Greens. Cheese. These are all things I love and almost always have handy. I also blog about them all the time. Sorry for it. This girl just happens to know what she loves.

This particular taco was incredibly healthy, but it was so delicious that I could have sworn I was eating junk food. The relish was definitely the star and made the dish very appealing to the eye. It was sweet and slightly spicy, crunchy and fresh, bursting with flavor. Super yummy, in fact.

Here’s what you do:

  • Get your grill hot.
  • Prep one corn cob, three carrots and pineapple slices.
  • Cook the corn on the grill for about 10 minutes so it stays crisp.
  • Sear the pineapple and carrots, don’t overcook them. They should have grill marks and be warm.
  • Gather cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeno, red onion, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
  • Roughly chop all of your ingredients.
  • Once the corn has cooled, cut it off the cob.
  • Add all of the ingredients and stir it up.
  • Squeeze half of a lime in the relish, season it with salt and pepper, and chill it.

I would suggest not adding too many flavors- five to seven makes a pretty good number of ingredients for a relish to work. Remember that the corn and carrot are the stars of this show, since they have really distinct textures and flavor.  They are both sweet, which is complimented by the pineapple, cilantro and lime.

To make the previously mentioned taco, warm up some provolone on a whole wheat tortilla under the broiler. Meanwhile cook an egg. Add the egg to the tortilla, then top it with some Mexican rice (if you have it), mixed greens, sliced avocado and corn and carrot relish. Then eat it. Or if you are me, take a picture first.

I really can’t stress how incredibly good this was. It’s sort of ridiculous. And I promise, I will eventually stop blogging about eggs and tacos. Maybe.

Parmesan Pinwheels

There is nothing better than warm, cheesy, flaky bites of puff pastry with notes of fresh herbs and Parmesan. My love affair with puff pastry is almost out of hand at this point because every time I experiment with it, the result is delicious and  satisfying. Every time. It’s kind of amazing, really.

If you also always have a box of puff pastry in the fridge like I do, you know that there are two sheets to a package. I am now armed with at least two recipes, because if I have the oven on for one thing, why wouldn’t I just go ahead and make something else and make use of my time and resources? (It took me a while to figure this out, either because I am frugal or absent-minded. Probably both.) On this occasion, I used one sheet to make a ridiculously phenomenal Pear Tart Tatin and used the other to make Parmesan Puff Pastry Bites. My inspiration came from a pinwheel recipe on the back of the package, which looked scrumptious enough to serve as a starting point for my little experiment.

The first thing I do when I am trying to prepare something without a solid recipe is take inventory of the contents of my icebox. Once I have a group of ingredients that need to be consumed before expiring, I get creative. In this particular situation, nothing was about to go bad, but the ingredients I chose needed to be utilized.

To make these delicate cheesy puffy bites, gather the following:

  • one sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, thawed and rolled out slightly
  • about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • one heaping spoonful of sour cream
  • one egg
  • fresh herbs, roughly chopped
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup caramelized onions
  • a tiny bit of grated cheddar for topping

Once you have everything, proceed:

Preheat your oven to 400º.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk egg and sour cream until combined. Add grated cheese, chopped herbs (I used oregano and tarragon), and cracked pepper to taste and mix until combined.

Spread mixture evenly over the puff pastry and then add the caramelized onions on top.

Then, very gently, roll that sucker up into a log. The mixture I made was a bit wet, so it was sort of oozing out of the sides when I had it all rolled up. I transferred it onto a plate and into the freezer for about ten minutes, which helped it firm up. (If yours is not oozing, feel free to skip the step.)

Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/2′ slices and lay them on their sides on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Top each one with a tiny bit of shredded cheddar, just enough to add a little color.

Put them in the oven for about fifteen minutes, and when they are golden brown on the top, remove them and let them cool for ten minutes. If you can wait that long. I couldn’t. I almost always burn my mouth waiting for something to cool, I am just not patient when it comes to food! Especially super-yum bready cheesy things straight out of the oven…

 

First of all, it is almost impossible to take an appetizing picture of chocolate chip cookies. I tried every stinking angle on every kind of plate in all sorts of light until it dawned on me to use my imagination a little bit. I guess I can’t take credit for the funky features on the vintage photo app on my iPhone, but I can give it a nod for making this photo more interesting. So thank you, makers of Pixelmatic, for making my food blog a little bit more scrumptious.

Let’s talk about cookies. I only bake a handful of sweet things; cookies, banana bread, and tarts. These three things I have mostly perfected and can execute  without a recipe. However, I think it’s important to write these things down so future generations of my family can make my “Famous Spiced Dark Chocolate Cookies.” Or at least so I can pretend that future generations will be interested in family traditions.

So here it is, a recipe that makes enough cookies to last about two or three days for a family of four, or about sixteen cookies, if you insist upon having a number.

  • one stick of organic butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • zest of one smallish orange
  • one healthy squeeze of previous mentioned orange
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375°. In a large bowl with the utensil of your choice (I use a rubber spatula and wooden spoon) combine the room temperature butter, sugar, vanilla, squeeze of orange juice, orange zest and eggs until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. When it’s thoroughly blended, slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips, but take care not to overdo it. Drop heaping spoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 1o minutes, or until light brown, rotating the sheet pans halfway through.

Does your house smell like a combination of the Holidays and freshly baked cookies? It does? You’re welcome!

Broiled Romaine Salad

My newest food obsession is grilled salads. I’m not sure what this is all about, but I think it all started when I ordered a grilled Caesar salad at one of my favorite restaurants, The Palace Cafe. If you are ever in Tulsa, you have to make it a point to dine at this fantastic restaurant and if you live here and have never been, I insist you try it. The chef, James Shrader, lightly grills the romaine and dresses it with an anchovy aioli, preserved lemon and shaved Parmesan. Oh my goodness it is divine, and lightly grilling the lettuce does something magical to the combination of flavors.

At home in my little kitchen, I had a head of romaine that needed to be eaten and a creative urge that needed to be exercised. I wanted to grill the romaine but did not want to mess with the grill, so I decided the broiler would work. I turned it on high and cut the romaine into one inch slices, which I sat upright on a baking sheet. I nestled capers and grape tomatoes into the romaine and then drizzled a homemade Meyer lemon vinaigrette over the top. After about two minutes, I removed it from the oven and added a bit of blue cheese, which got slightly melty from the heat of the salad.

I have to admit, it would have been better if I had grilled it to get that smoky, fiery flavor, but I am lazy and this worked just as well. I would suggest experimenting with this idea and then serving a variation of this salad at a dinner party. Your guests will think you are oh so very smart. You can thank me later.

Crustless Quiche

I don’t think it’s a secret that I am not a baker. In fact, I am not ashamed to admit that I love frozen pie crusts and puff pastry, and it’s because they save me time and keep me from pulling my hair out. If I had all of the time in the world, I would probably be more patient. But I absolutely do not. It’s sort of amazing I find time to blog.

My method for making a “crustless” quiche is to re-purpose something we almost all have handy in our pantry: bread crumbs. It seems like I actually have an endless supply of leftover breads in the freezer that I make into all sorts of things. Breadcrumbs are at the top of the list.

In this case, I actually used panko because it was the first thing I saw when I opened my pantry. I think that it’s probably the best type of breadcrumb for this particular purpose, since panko is so light and fluffy, but you could use anything you have handy.

Once you have committed to making a crustless quiche, you must first ensure you have a few key ingredients: eggs, cream, milk, cheese, and something to add some interest. My choice this morning was leftovers from the fajita dinner we had Thursday night. Grilled onions and green pepper, tomatoes and cilantro, and flank steak made a very interesting addition to quiche.

Here’s the basic recipe:

  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • a handful of panko (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup shredded or crumbled cheese
  • 1 cup of something delicious

First, I preheated my oven to 350°.

I generously sprayed my 9 1/2 inch glass pie pan with cooking spray and then added the bread crumbs, moving the pie pan around until the panko covered the bottom and the sides. I grated 3/4 cup from a block of colby jack and then I added the shredded cheese on top of the bread crumbs. (Actually, Eliza did that part. She’s such a good helper.)

I then took my leftover fajitas and gave them a rough chop, and that went right on top of the cheese.

In a large mixing bowl, I whisked five large eggs with 3/4 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Once it was combined, I seasoned the mixture with a little salt and a good amount of freshly cracked pepper. Then I poured it all into the pie pan.

I cooked the quiche for about 45 minutes, and it was pretty much perfect and completely delicious. The bread crumb crust was a really comparable substitution for a traditional pie crust, but without the dry part on top. It was nice and soft and flavorful. And the whole thing was so darned easy, I think it took me ten minutes to prep it. Now that is a fantastic Sunday morning breakfast.

 

Super Simple Salad

We should all eat more vegetables, and I don’t think any honest American can dispute that fact. My personal evidence is found in my midsection. The place known commonly as the love handle or muffin top mysteriously expands as I consume fewer vegetables in my daily diet.  I have less energy. I start making poor food choices. And then the expansion begins.

This post is designed to remind you (and me) to have a salad in place of a sandwich, burrito, or entree just once daily for at least a week. I promise you will see a difference, especially if you are consistent. After all, proper weight management is based totally in habitually making healthy food choices and exercising. (Note to self: get out your yoga mat and jogging shoes.) And also, if your kiddos see you eating your vegetables regularly, they are less likely to argue with you about eating theirs.

Since I am almost always in the car at lunchtime, I have come to realize it’s almost impossible to eat a salad in the car. If I had an office job, I’m certain I could commit my lunch to greens, but for me, dinner works better. We almost always have some sort of salad alongside our main course, so instead of getting a large portion of roasted chicken, potatoes, with a side salad, I serve myself a large portion of salad with a little roasted chicken on top. It seems to be working.

I’ve also found that my kids are more willing to enjoy their salads if they are colorful and have contrasting textures. For a bright, crunchy salad, try this:

  • baby spinach
  • yellow grape tomatoes
  • watermelon radish and daikon radish, julienned
  • olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

It’s simple, it’s fresh, and it tastes good. You can also julienne carrots and jicama alongside your radishes and store them in the fridge for snacking. My kiddos love the crunchy texture and think the matchstick format is silly, which makes them fun to eat.

Yerba Mate

I love coffee. But I have come to adore a kind of tea introduced by a dear friend called yerba mate. It’s fantastic in taste and just happens to be really good for you. The package boasts that it has the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one beverage. I don’t disagree.

I understand that all tea is good for you, but this particular variety happens to be the national drink of Argentina and Southern Brazil. I only have one editorial comment about this fact; the women from those countries are beautiful, and I am going to attribute a fraction of that radiance to the consumption of yerba mate.

This stuff is great, especially with a shaving of fresh ginger and a touch of agave nectar. I make it in my french press, but they make these neat little straws for preparing single servings. I purchase it in a loose leaf format as opposed to bags, so the straw is used as a filter to keep the little bits of tea leaves out of the tea and in the cup. Pretty clever, right?

In the words of the monsters from my favorite kids show, Yo Gabba Gabba, “Try it, you might like it!” Because you probably will.

 

Black Bean Burrito

Want to get your day started right? Try changing your routine. Most people resort to some combination of bacon, biscuits, eggs and cheese first thing in the morning when we really should be consuming more whole grains, low fat protein, and raw vegetables. So instead of the traditional breakfast burrito from a local fast food restaurant, I suggest that you make a much healthier version at home. Sometimes you have to think about food in a different way and try something new, so here is a fresh perspective on breakfast.

My focus today is the legume. It’s the obvious low-fat high-fiber choice for any meal,  so I always have a good variety on hand. Beans offer a healthy amount of iron and B vitamins, they are a fantastic source of protein and they contain carbohydrates, which provide long lasting energy. So I suggest you always keep prepared beans in the ice box. Canned beans are ok, but often contain a lot of sodium, so it’s better to soak and cook your own.

You’ll need:

  • leftover beans
  • whole grain tortilla
  • grated cheese
  • spinach
  • grape tomatoes, quartered

Warm the tortilla under the broiler or for a few seconds in the microwave. Warm up the beans in a small frying pan, maybe with a little olive oil, and smash them a bit. This should only take a few minutes. Remove the tortilla and add the beans, grated cheese, spinach, and quartered tomatoes. Sprinkle it with some salt and pepper, and wrap it up. The whole process will take about ten minutes, but let me tell you, you will feel so much better than if you indulge in the alternative.

This breakfast will fill you up and keep you feeling good until its time for lunch. Pair it with a hot cup of green tea with local honey and you have yourself a really smart breakfast.

Cheesy Puff Pastry

A few months ago I pretty much fell in love with puff pastry. I blame it on a dear friend, Michelle Donaldson, who works at this really neat restaurant called Smoke here in Tulsa. Her food is always amazing, inspired and relatively simple to execute, but she ends up with very complex flavor profiles. The dish that made me fall in love with puff pastry was one she featured at a Bacon and Bourbon dinner at The Polo Grill, and it was freaking delicious. Imagine a creamy béchamel, crispy bacon, and caramelized onions on puff pastry. Is your mouth watering? Mine is just thinking about it.

So now I always have a box of frozen, premade puff pastry in the freezer. It’s so versatile and fun to work with that I will probably never get bored with the stuff. Here’s a recipe for something simple and quick that will help you clear out the fridge too!

To start, preheat your oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove your puff pastry from the freezer and let it thaw for about thirty minutes. When it’s room temperature, unfold it and sprinkle it with four. I cut mine into nine squares to make nine cute little tarts. You can leave them square so you don’t waste any dough, or you can use the rim of a glass to cut them into circles.

Once you have them cut out, you need to score each one with a glass or a cookie cutter that is a bit smaller than what you used to make the circle. Or just use a knife. You can’t really mess this deal up, and if it comes out looking whoppy jawed, just call it “rustic.”

SIDE NOTE: I think that when you are creating any dish you should combine textures and flavors to make a well rounded sensory experience. There should be something sweet and salty, buttery and acidic, fatty and fresh, and gooey and crispy. Then it is perfect.

So to top my tarts I used:

  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup random leftover cheeses from the fridge, grated
  • 1 tbs sour cream
  • olive oil, to taste
  • fresh thyme. to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 slice of “All Pork Bologna” from Pork & Greens, diced

I combined all of the ingredients but the last in the food processor and blended until smooth and creamy and delicious. Then I spread about a spoonful on each of my cute little puff pastry cut-outs and topped them with the diced bologna. I had a little bit of the blended cheeses together left over, so I added extra on top of each one. And for dramatic effect, I melted some butter with grated garlic and brushed all of my cheesy puff pastries with this buttery garlicky goodness. Sometimes eating well means eating butter. I don’t care what the people say. Butter is good for you.

So, I guess this is where you get creative. I mean, that’s what I did. Take what you have in your fridge and make the most of it, and most importantly, DO NOT WASTE YOUR FOOD! You worked hard to buy it, so don’t throw it out. Experiment, have fun, eat well, and love life.

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