29.6.14

Watermelon Arugula Salad with Balsamic, Feta & Mint


Adam and I just returned from a lovely week of vacation in Savannah, Georgia, and I'm sharing a recipe for the best thing we ate on our trip.

Perhaps you're a little surprised that the best thing we ate on a a week in the deep south is a salad with watermelon? Not something deep-fried or sandwiched in a biscuit?


Well, the second best thing we ate was fried green tomatoes, and I'll be making those for you later this summer as soon as the tomatoes in my garden are ready.  We also ate other gloriously unhealthy vacationy things, and you can find all our restaurant recommendations at the end of this post.

BUT, still, hands down the best thing we ate the whole week was this kooky salad with watermelon, balsamic, mint, arugula and feta. So. dang. good.


This is a recipe of limited seasonal ingredients, so your best chance of success is to buy the freshest local watermelon and arugula, the best balsamic vinegar, and the best feta you can find. (no low fat stuff, please.)

I know this combination of ingredients sounds strange, but trust me that it is DEE-licious. The sweet, juicy watermelon pairs beautifully with the salty bite of the balsamic, and the peppery arugula draws them all together in harmony. The feta brings the whole thing home and the mint makes you feel like you're eating something special. (You are.)


This salad would be a lovely first course at a summer dinner party. It's the kind of thing that seems elegant because of the unique combination of ingredients but is actually quite simple. My favorite kind of recipe.


Watermelon Arugula Salad with Balsamic, Feta & Mint


Ingredients:
4 large slices watermelon, seeds removed
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
2 cups arugula
8 fresh mint leaves
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Directions: 

Lay watermelon slices on plate. Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar. Top with arugula and mint. Sprinkle feta on top.

Add salt and pepper if desired.

*Serves 2, but can be easily doubled or tripled.

Recipe inspired by The Old Pink House in Savannah, Georgia.

Notes: 

  • The taste of the whole mint leaves can be quite strong. To lessen the intenseness, you can finely chop the mint, or turn it into a sort of mint vinaigrette by pulsing the mint leaves and some olive oil in a food processor. 

Where We Ate in Savannah


The Coffee Fox - This is a super cute hipster coffee place. We adored the horchata lattes.


The Old Pink House - Probably our favorite place in Savannah. In addition to the watermelon salad (which was a special) we recommend the fried green tomatoes and the cheerwine barbecue chicken sliders. This place is popular, so make a reservation as much in advance as you can.



Pacci's Italian - This is a new restaurant in Savannah that just opened about a month before we came. I read a positive review of it in a local magazine and decided to try it out. The interior is chic and modern and the Italian cuisine is delicious. We recommend the arranci (fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese) and any of their pasta dishes, as all their pasta is made in house.



Vinnie Van Go Go's - We decided to try this place after being told about it by several locals. It's a hole-in-the-wall sort of pizza place, but the New York style pizza was good and cheap.


 Leopold's Ice Cream - This is another Savannah classic. The scoops are big, so one scoop is probably enough! Adam had two and nearly felt sick afterward. I recommend the raspberry chocolate.


A few more Savannah pics, just for fun.




I'd love to hear your thoughts on Savannah, or ice cream, or weird watermelon salads!

22.6.14

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Banana Bites


Happy Summer!

I made you a summer snack.

It's cold and chocolatey yet still sliiiightly healthy and I'm going to be eating it all summer long.


It's hot outside and only getting hotter, but I'm embracing it in every way. These little chocolate peanut butter frozen banana bites help too. 

They're perfect for an all-out dessert. Or for a little sweet bite to hold you over during afternoon tummy-rumbles or late-night sugar cravings. 

They're also good for almost anybody, including people (like Adam) who say they don't like bananas. He definitely liked these. 


The base recipe is only 4 ingredients, but I highly encourage going crazy with the toppings. 

I went with sprinkles, roasted peanuts, and shredded coconut. 

You could also use crushed up oreos, crushed up candy bars, or even chia seeds, if you want to be healthy. But we're eating frozen bananas! So cover 'em with whatever your heart desires. 

The peanut butter is also totally optional, but I'm sort of crazy about the chocolate/peanut butter/banana combination


The key to chocolate dipping recipe success is to have all your ingredients set-up and ready to go.

The other key is to embrace the huge mess you are about to make and celebrate by licking the chocolate off your fingers.


These would be fun to make with kids!

Or with your girlfriends. 

Or by yourself at 9:00pm so you can eat seven three of them for breakfast the next morning. 

Enjoy, friends!



Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Banana Bites


Ingredients:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons coconut oil or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon peanut butter
3 bananas, peeled and sliced
shredded coconut
sprinkles
dry roasted peanuts, chopped


Directions: 
Melt peanut butter, coconut oil, and chocolate chips in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Remove from stove as soon as chocolate melts.

Slice banana and prepare other toppings by arranging in separate bowls or plates.

Working quickly, use two forks to dip each banana slice into the chocolate mixture, then sprinkle with toppings. (I tried dipping the chocolate bananas into the toppings, but found it to be too messy!)

Place completed banana bites on a rack or cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Freeze immediately for at least one hour. After banana bites are frozen, you may remove them from the rack/cookie sheet and keep them in ziplock bags in the freezer.

Adapted from The Kitchn. (See for more how-to pictures)

Notes:

  • To make vegan, use vegan chocolate chips
  • To make paleo, use dark chocolate chips and almond butter instead of peanut butter, or omit entirely.

15.6.14

Gluten-Free Plum Chia Muffins


I'm feeling the itch to travel.

Panama was amazing, but the trip just intensified the itch. As soon as I'd passed the fear and uncomfortableness threshold and started embracing a new culture, it was time to come home.

Summer-time also always reminds me of the summer I spent studying in Italy. It's been six years now, which makes me feel old and slightly sad. I'm not sure if there will ever be another time in my life when I'll have the opportunity to live in another country for that long, but I hope so.

Thinking of Italy also makes me think of plums.

One of the best things I've ever eaten was a warm plum that I devoured while walking through a market in Florence, Italy.


On a summer day in Florence, everything stinks.  Or at least, to begin with.  The air is thick and hot and, owing to the fact that many Italians don’t use deodorant, redolent of sour, musty sweat. 
          
Strange smells aside, I loved Florence intensely, the way you love a pair of jeans that makes you feel so comfortable and good about yourself you don’t even care about the holes in the butt.  I could complain about the smells, the summer crowds, the tiny sidewalks, because, after living there for two months, I felt like I had become a citizen of Firenze myself.  Its flaws only made it more real to me, more worthy of my adoration, but I also liked the person I had become there---free and independent, funny and daring.


One especially hot and sunny afternoon after class, I decided to walk home through way of the Mercado Centrale.  Walking home through the market was by no means a short cut.  One could easily get lost in the maze of stalls or held hostage by the sellers themselves, always overly eager to push their merchandise---pashmina scarves in every color, jewelry, glass ornaments, wooden boxes, flowy patterned dresses, and lots and lots of leather.

As I walked, my stomach gave a gentle rumble, and I decided to stop by the covered indoor structure that was the heart of Mercado Centrale, the food area.

The first floor of the food market is piled high with pungent cheeses, freshly baked bread, and olives of every color.   If you wander further you'd find fresh seafood and raw meat, splayed out behind glass shelves and hanging from ropes above.  On this particular day, however, I was craving something sweet, so I headed upstairs to the produce.


The second floor was actually my favorite part of the market.  I loved the rows of perfect peaches, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.  On that day in the market, I looked over all the fruit, finally deciding on some plums that were small and succulent looking and a deep shade of purply black.  The little old Italian man selling them smiled as I attempted to ask for half a kilogram of the plums in my broken Italian.  He began piling them into a little brown paper bag.  After he’d put in at least 9 plums I held out my hand to stop him.

Va Bene,” I said.  I handed him one euro and some change and went on my way, grasping my bag of precious fruit.

When I stepped out of food area, the sun beat down bright and hot.   I reached into the paper bag and pulled out a plum.  It was soft to the touch, round and perfect.  I took a bite.  The dark skin resisted a little, giving way to the soft, fleshy, wet fruit inside.  It tasted the way one would always want a plum to taste—sweet, tropical, picked at the peak of ripeness, the Italian sun having imparted a beauty and depth to its flavor.  

It was an intense sensory moment, and I walked home so thankful to be exactly where I was,  walking through a crowded market in Florence, Italy, by myself, far away from home, eating a plum.

I ate two more on my walk, not minding one bit as the sweet juice dribbled over my bottom lip and down my chin.


I still like American plums, even though they're not quite as good as their Italian counterparts. 

They're abundant and in season now, and perfect in this stellar muffin recipe from Smitten Kitchen. 

I tweaked a couple things to make these gluten free, and used chia seeds instead of poppy seeds because I'm still obsessed with them

The plums shine brightly in this recipe, followed by a nice depth of flavor from the browned butter. As I note below, you can make a couple substitutions to make these super heart healthy, but I find that a little indulgence goes a long way. Plus they're mostly fruit! You might even have your own plum moment with one of these. . . . 


And I'm feeling especially thankful for my daddy today, who inspired my love of Italy and made my study-abroad trip possible. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! 

Gluten-Free Plum Chia Muffins


Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup 2% or whole milk Greek yogurt
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 cups chopped plums (I left skins on, but you could peel them if you've got picky eaters on your hands)

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, or fill with cupcake liners.

Add butter to a small sauce pan to melt. Let it bubble for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until light brown with little brown flecks in the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and sugars. Gradually add Greek yogurt, then browned butter.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chia seeds.

Gradually stir flour mixture into wet mixture.  Fold in plums. Pour into muffin pan. (Mine made 12 good-sized muffins. You could probably make 14-15 smaller muffins)

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Notes

  • The original recipe calls for 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour. You could also use all all-purpose flour, or 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup almond meal, or some other variation all together, always keeping in mind however, that the texture and baking times may change. 
  • Deb notes that you could replace the butter with olive oil and make these a little heart healthier. 
  • If you wanted to make these refined sugar-free as well, you could try substituting honey for the sugars, but the texture might be different. 

8.6.14

Easy Balsamic Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Sun-Dried Tomatoes


Let's talk about the proverbial question. What's for dinner? 

You know the feeling well, I presume. It's a week night, maybe a Wednesday. You don't have any leftovers nor do you have a meal planned for the odd array of food left in your pantry and fridge. You're hungry and the person you're cooking for is hungry too. What's for dinner? 

This recipe was born from one of those nights, but it was so good that it has become a standby recipe that we make every couple weeks. 

I've only shared two other chicken dishes on this site, and the reason is that I'm never particularly excited about how I cook chicken.  I like it in small amounts, but honestly, I probably wouldn't cook it without a  hungry husband who likes meat. 

However, this chicken recipe is a keeper. It's relatively quick, easy, and made with items you probably have laying around in your freezer and pantry.  Oh, and it's DELICIOUS. 


Step 1: Throw two chicken breasts in a bag with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Let them hang out and marinade while you do the rest of the food prep.  (Depending on how carefully you've planned, you can do this in the morning or several hours before.)

Step 2: Chop up a large sweet vidalia onion and cook it in some butter and olive oil over low heat for 15-20 minutes.  (You can make some simple sides to go with the chicken while the onions cook, but stir them every couple minutes or so.)


Step 3: When the onions are almost completely brown, turn the heat up to high and, push the onions to the outer rim of the pan, and add the chicken breasts. Cook them only for 1-2 minutes, or until one side is golden brown.


Step 4: Add chicken broth and sun dried tomatoes, then turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.


That's it! We've found that this method keeps the chicken moist and tender. (Maybe my chicken-cooking-phobia stems from too many dry chicken failures???)  Anyway, I love how each bite of chicken is accompanied by sweet caramelized onions and flavorful sun-dried tomatoes. Major yum.

For quick side-dishes, we do a lot of simple spinach salads, grilled veggies, or frozen broccoli.  On this particular day we also paired it with a farro dish with feta, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and fresh basil.

Sometimes life can be full of disappointments and worries, and lots of things we can't control, but I find a great sense of comfort in putting together a healthy dinner to share with people I love. I hope you do too.


Easy Balsamic Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Sun-Dried Tomatoes 


Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (I like this Trader Joe's kind that is not packed in oil.)
1/2 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or white wine

Directions:
Thirty minutes, or up unto 8 hours before, marinate the chicken. In a large ziplock bag, combine chicken breasts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

In a large sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over low heat. Add sliced onions. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When onions are translucent and brown in color, turn heat to high, move onions to the outer rim of the pan, and add the chicken. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until one side is golden brown. Add broth or wine and sun-dried tomatoes. Flip over chicken and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, or until chicken no longer pink.
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