Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Salad Dressing

I'm not a huge fan of store-bought salad dressings.  That is, until I tried Salad Girl.  One of the great things about my buying club is that you can see what other people order.  So, a few weeks ago, a bunch of people were ordering this Salad Girl Curry Fig dressing and I decided to join in.  Oh my gosh, I'm SO glad I did!  I loooooooooooooove it.  I typically put it on wraps but I do use it on basic salads, too.

Today, I made a wrap with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula and the Curry Fig dressing wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  It was so tasty.  This is one of my new found luxuries - making whatever I want for lunch while the kids are at school.  It's kind of amazing, I have to say.

What did you have for lunch?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickin' Mac N Cheese Up a Notch

Wow, it's been a doozy of a week. From a hit and run accident to a sick kid with strep throat. But, the cooking, eating, and cleaning goes on... Do you guys like kale? I do. My kids do, if it's broiled to a crisp with lots of salt on top. I've been ordering it nearly every week from our Food Buying Club and experimenting a little bit.

Last week, I made this Kale Mac N Cheese and I really loved it. The kids ate around the kale and the grownups put a little spice on top (hello, Cholula). The kale was nicely crisp on the top and the combination of the cheeses hit the spot.

If you're making this for the kids, call it Mac N Cheese, and if you're making it for a dinner party call it by it's original name, Pasta Gratin with Kale. Fancy, right?

Kale Mac N Cheese
aka Sheet Pan Pasta Gratin with Kale from Alexandra Cooks

3/4 pound pasta, penne or campanelle or anything you like
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (2% or whole)
2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch or about 8 oz kale or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 cup fontina or fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes (I used fontina)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Boil pasta for 2 minutes less than the box's suggested al dente time. (For example, my campanelle box said 'al dente perfection' in 10 to 11 minutes. I boiled mine for 8.) Drain. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add flour, whisking constantly for about a minute. Add milk and water, whisking to remove any of the flour-butter mixture from bottom of pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Note: the mixture will not get super thick, but it will coat the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger through the coating, the trail should stay. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, chop the kale or chard into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta with bechamel and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fold in chopped kale.

Line a jelly roll pan (I used my 9x12 Le Creuset baker) with a sheet of parchment paper. Spread macaroni mixture over top. Distribute mozzarella or fontina cubes over top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 10 minutes or so. (Note: If it looks too brown after 10-15 minutes, reduce oven to 400ºF for the remainder of the cooking time.) The gratin should be bubbling and golden at the edges. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chocolate Dinner Club

What would the world be without chocolate?  A sad, sad place.  I love chocolate!  You know those people that say they hate chocolate?  Insane.  I'm even eating a Cadbury egg while I type this.  Don't you dare say you hate Cadbury eggs because then we can't be friends. 

Our March Dinner Club's theme was ... chocolate!  A whole meal dedicated to chocolate?  Yes, please!  Laura & Peter, the hosts, are obviously genius.  

Chocolate Covered Grapes and Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream Vodka
Recipe: What's Cooking America

 Chocolate, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Crostini
Recipe: Saucy Pants 


Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate & Rosemary
Recipe: Bon Appetit


Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Pistascio Tuiles 
Recipes: Tart-Gourmet, Ice Cream-Gourmet, Tuiles- Adapted from Martha Stewart

Somehow, in two years, we've never really had a true dud of a meal.  Either we're all exceptional cooks or we serve good alcohol.  

Have any good ideas for a dinner club theme?  We're hosting in April!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lightning Fast Tacos

I love tacos.  I love mexican food.  I love tex-mex.  I could probably eat it everyday.  One of my favorite tacos is this super easy black bean, avocado, and goat cheese taco.  This can be thrown together in 15 minutes and everyone in my family eats it (well, their variation of the ingredients). 

Black Bean, Avocado, Goat Cheese Tacos
Adapted from Naturally Ella
Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 tablespoon cumin
1 pinch dried pepper flakes
1-2 cans black beans, with some liquids (if you use 2 cans, you might want to add more cumin)
2 avocados
8 oz goat cheese
8 corn tortillas
Suggested additional toppings: sour cream, salsa, radish, Cholula
  1. Heat beans over medium-low heat.  Add cumin and red pepper flakes.  Taste and season with salt as needed (if you use canned beans, go easy on the salt or skip it - canned beans are higher in sodium).
  2. Slice avocado and prepare toppings.
  3. If you have a gas stove, turn one burner on medium-low heat, place the corn tortilla on the burner grate and cook for about a minute on each side until warmed (some black spots are good, but watch them carefully!).  If you don't have a gas stove, you could warm them in a skillet over medium heat (cast iron works great).  You can skip this step and warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave but I warn you the tacos won't be as tasty!
  4. To assemble tacos, place a small scoop of black beans in the center of the tortilla, layer avocado and goat cheese on top.  Add additional toppings to taste.
  5. Serve with a side of fruit.  Enjoy!
What's your favorite fast and easy weeknight dinner?