Monday, August 22, 2016

Roasted Beet Soup with Balsamic and Honey

Do you want your house to smell amazing? Try roasting beets. The sweet, caramelized aroma is unbeatable! If you want to make this recipe and you simply don't have the time to roast the beets first, have no fear, you can buy bottled or canned beets and use those (you need about 1 pound). Just don't buy the pickled variety!

This soup is excellent served warm or chilled (it's still in the triple digits in AZ).  When I serve it chilled, I top it with crumbled feta cheese. 

Roasted Beet Soup with Balsamic and Honey

1 1/2 pounds fresh beets, ends trimmed, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups good-quality chicken stock
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
In a large bowl, combine the beets, oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat the beets. Arrange the beets on a large baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through cooking. 
Transfer the beets to a large saucepan and add the stock and garlic. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. 
Puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (when using a regular blender, work in batches to prevent spillover).  
Stir in the vinegar and honey. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Serves 6

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate Covered Almonds

It's hard to believe you can make a tart with just 5 ingredients - but it can be done! I use cream cheese, orange marmalade and vanilla extract for the filling and then top the creamy mixture with chocolate-covered almonds (I buy the candy in bulk because we go through a LOT, and I love using them as garnishes on desserts).

And, consider the possibilities - I use orange marmalade, but you can use any fruit preserve you want (raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, lemon, apricot). I just suggest you use the seedless varieties.

Orange Marmalade Tart with Chocolate Covered Almonds
9-inch refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate covered almonds, coarsely chopped (into 1/2-inch pieces)

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan. Prick the bottom all over with a fork. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the cooked crust to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream cheese, orange marmalade and vanilla until blended. Spread the mixture all over the bottom of the tart and smooth the surface. Top with the chocolate covered almonds. Refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 24 hours).

Serves 8

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Pizza with Pickled Garlic and Fresh Basil

My mom loves pickled garlic. I kid you not, she eats it straight from the jar. In fact, lots of people do, and guess what - no garlic breath! I'm not sure what the science behind it is, but seriously, no garlic breath. So, why not use that zesty garlic on top of a simple pizza to kick up the flavor? I think you'll love this - and I've switched the layers a bit. The cheese goes down first, then sauce, then garlic. It's so easy to prepare and you can add any other toppings you want. Oh, and I chose spicy pickled garlic for this recipe, but feel free to use whatever kind you want.

Pizza with Pickled Garlic and Fresh Basil

1 refrigerated or frozen pizza dough (thaw frozen dough according to package directions)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1-1 1/2 cups pasta or pizza sauce (use as much as you like on YOUR pizza)
1/2 cup thinly sliced pickled garlic (typically sold near the olives and/or roasted red peppers, capers and artichoke hearts)
Fresh basil leaves
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Press the dough out into a large circle (about 1/2-inch thick) on a baking sheet that's been covered with parchment paper. You can also shape the pizza in a rectangle if you want a thinner crust.
Top the dough with the cheese, then sauce, then garlic slices.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crust is puffed up and golden brown.
Top with fresh basil leaves and salt before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spaghetti with Creamy Pesto and Grilled Yellow Squash

Look how fresh and light this dish is! I love the summer flavors - fresh basil, yellow squash (with hints of the grill), and a little burst of lemon. Even though there are a few steps, the dish is super easy to prepare, making it perfect for busy weeknights!

Spaghetti with Creamy Pesto and Grilled Yellow Squash

12 ounces spaghetti
Cooking spray
2 medium yellow squash, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled and choped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil (good quality)
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons grated or shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for the table if desired)

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain and cover with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, coat a stove-top grill pan, outdoor grill or griddle with cooking spray and preheat to medium-high. Season both sides of the yellow squash slices with salt and pepper and add to the hot pan. Cook for 1 to 2  minutes per side, until golden brown.
In a blender, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and lemon zest. Process until chopped. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil and process until mixture is smooth and thick. Gradually add the heavy cream. Add the parmesan and process just until blended (don't over-process or the heat from the blender will melt the cheese and make it clumpy). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange the spaghetti on serving plates and top with the creamy pesto sauce and grilled yellow squash.

Serves 4

Monday, August 15, 2016

Individual Berry Pies

Celebrate the freshest, sweetest fruits of summer with these adorable mini pies. Take note, you can also make one big pie/tart, but I love the look of the individual beauties. You can also use your muffin pan if you don't have small tart pans or ramekins.

This is so simple to prepare, and the ratio of fruit can vary however you want; meaning, you can have mostly strawberries with raspberries and blackberries sprinkled in, OR mostly blackberries with strawberries and raspberries sprinkled in.

Individual Berry Pies

2 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Use 1 1/2 of the pie crusts for the bottom of the pies (reserve 1/2 pie crust for the lattice topping), and divide that "pie crust and a half" into 6 equal pieces. Press each piece into the bottom and up the sides of 6 shallow ramekins or mini tart pans (or 6 cups of a muffin pan), allowing a little of the crust to hang over the edge. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the berries, confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Toss to coat the berries.
Spoon the berry mixture evenly into the prepared pie crusts.
Slice the remaining 1/2 crust into thin strips and arrange over the fruit (either in a lattice pattern or in straight rows).
Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Serves 6

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olive-Studded Buttermilk Biscuits

Nothing says comfort more than warm biscuits from the oven. What I love about these biscuits, is the blend of salty olives and creamy, sweet butter. Oh, and the dunking of rosemary-infused olive oil at the end. I think you'll love them too!

Olive-Studded Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks (keep the butter cold until ready to use)
1/2 cup sliced Greek olives (Kalamata)
1 cup buttermilk, or slightly more if needed
Optional dipping oil:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl or food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine. Add the butter and process or work in with a fork until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in the olives.
Add the buttermilk and process or stir until JUST blended (do not overmix), adding a little more buttermilk if the mixture seems dry.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and pat down with your hands until it's 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough over and pat it down 5 more times, ending with dough that is 1-inch thick.
Using a round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into 8-10 biscuits (re-roll any scraps to make additional biscuits).
Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.
To make the optional dipping oil, combine the oil and rosemary.
Serve warm biscuits with rosemary-infused olive oil on the side!

Makes 8-10 biscuits

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cupcake Party!

When I see cupcakes, I instantly think "party time"! There's something about the swirly icing, colorful decorations, and pretty liners that make any occasion more festive. To celebrate back-to-school season, you can whip these up to the delight of your family and friends (and new teachers?).

This time, I chose to make vanilla cupcakes because I ALWAYS seem to default to chocolate. Of course, my icing is as fudgey as always - and it's a simple ganache made with semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream. Feel free to substitute store-bought icing if you want, but I encourage you to try my ganache at some point. It's so easy and there's nothing artificial about it. Same with the cupcakes, you can certainly use a cake mix, but my batter is simple and made with 100% real ingredients.

Have fun!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the ganache:
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels or finely chopped chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Colorful decorations

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add half of the flour mixture and then the milk and vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just blended (no need to over mix).
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out almost clean (little bits of cupcake clinging to the pick is ideal).
Cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool completely before icing.
To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a medium, heat-proof bowl.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it just starts to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for 10 minutes, without stirring (stirring cools the ganache too quickly and can make it grainy).
Gently stir the ganache until the mixture is smooth and glossy, scraping and incorporating the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Cool until firm, about 45 minutes (you can speed up the process by refrigerating).
Transfer the ganache to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until paler and fluffy, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag and pipe over cooled cupcakes. Top with decorations if desired.

Makes 12 cupcakes