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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Like Rice, Only Better!

Sometimes we sit and wonder, is it weird to have a favorite shape of pasta?  We decided that probably it's weird, but we're accepting of that fact.

For instance, orzo pasta is one of the best shaped pasta there is.  Craving rice, but really want pasta?? Heck, have some orzo, it's the best of both worlds.

A couple other advantages of orzo: it makes for a nice variation in items like pasta salad, it holds dressing well, and it makes it easy for other flavors to show up without overwhelming (if that makes sense).

One of our favorite recipes is this amazing Mediterranean Orzo Salad.Make sure you let the flavors blend.  This makes a lot so it's a perfect treat for sharing!!

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
8 oz uncooked orzo pasta
¼ c toasted walnuts (see notes for toasting hints)
6-8 oz crumbled feta cheese (we used Mediterranean herbed feta)
½ c pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
6 oz baby spinach
1/2 c chopped onion (we used Vidalia)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp stone ground mustard
Pinch dried basil (can substitute with fresh basil)
Pinch dried tarragon (can substitute with fresh tarragon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo in lightly salted water. When pasta is al dente, remove from heat. Rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further.

Take half of the spinach and purée it in a food processor or blender, adding one tablespoon of the olive oil. Roughly chop the other half of the spinach. In a large serving bowl mix the spinach purée olive oil mixture in with orzo until the pasta is well coated with the purée.

Mix in the remaining spinach, red onion, feta, walnuts, and olives.

Combine 1 Tbsp olive oil, vinegars, lemon juice, mustard, basil, and tarragon (you can do this in a jar, or whisk them together in a small bowl). Pour over orzo spinach mixture and mix in until salad is covered.

Chill for at least an hour before serving (we found chilling overnight is even better).


Toasting nuts is easy… place nuts in a dry, heated sauté pan and stir until the nuts have browned a bit (if you go too far the nuts will start getting a burnt taste … so don’t over toast). Alternatively, if you feel like heating up the oven, you can place nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until browned (it’s the middle of a heat wave in NC, we didn’t feel like heating up an entire oven, so we chose to stovetop toast).

The original recipe calls for toasted pine nuts, you can also use pecans, almonds or pistachios for different flavors and textures.

If you’re substituting fresh herbs for dried, the standard conversion is for every tsp. of dried herb you use, you would use 1 Tbsp. of fresh herb.

If you’re not an olive fan, you’re welcome to leave them out… if you are an olive fan mix it up some, grab a variety of olives from the olive bar!!

Feel free to sub out any of the acids (the vinegars and/or lemon juice) with alternate flavors (use red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, etc.). Make it taste the way you want to.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Taste of Asia

In a moment of “oh wow” we actually found that we had all the ingredients on hand in the kitchen to make the dressing for this recipe, but for those of you who don’t keep a condiment cabinet in your cooking area, we’ve added substitute ingredients in italics. Any substitutions may alter the tanginess but just to a different degree, it’s still going to be a tasty concoction. Always remember that once you’ve blended all the ingredients, you can add in a bit of this or that to adjust the taste to suit your taste.  For example, we like our dressing to have a stronger vinegar taste so added extra after all was said and done.  Go crazy with it.

Taste of Asia Salad

Baby bok choy
Green cabbage, shredded
Carrots, shredded
Sunflower seeds
Mandarin orange segments
Baked wonton strips

Asian Dressing
makes 1 ½ cups

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp water
1 whole green onion, minced
3/4 tsp minced ginger (jarred minced ginger)
½ tsp sesame oil (light-flavored oil + 1/8 tsp sesame seeds)
¼ tsp hot pepper chili oil (¼ tsp Dijon mustard)
1 finely chopped garlic clove (½ tsp minced garlic)
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ cup peanut oil (other light-flavored oil)
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (red or white wine vinegar)

Put soy sauce, water, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, hot pepper oil, garlic and black pepper in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Cover and shake until all ingredients are blended.

Add peanut oil to the container, cover tightly and shake again. Let the mixture stand for two minutes.

Add vinegar to the jar, cover tightly and shake well once more. Adjust flavor to taste then drizzle over salad (make sure to shake well before putting dressing on salad).

Baked Wonton Strips

Cut the wonton sheets into small strips.  Brush lightly with oil and sprinkle with salt, bake at 350° for 5-7 minutes until browned and crispy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's Soup Doc?

Mmmm, cold soup.  With the crazy weather we've been having here in NC, cold soup is a welcome addition at dinner and this one is particularly refreshing -- a cold carrot bisque.  It's got a slightly grainy texture so you don't lose that token nod to carrot crunch.

Cold Carrot Bisque

1 tbsp minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 3/4 lbs carrots, sliced thinly
1 1/4 qt vegetable stock or broth
1 oz white wine
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 pt orange juice
3.5 oz yogurt
1 cup carrot juice
salt to taste

Saute shallots, garlic, ginger and onions in butter.

Add carrots, stock/broth, wine, cardamom and orange juice; simmer for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Remove from heat and puree to a smooth texture and then chill.

Add in yogurt, and thin with carrot juice, adjust seasoning before serving.

For garnish, we used some purple cabbage, but you can also use carrot chips, ginger chips, chives or a dollop of whipped cream.

We used pre-minced shallots, garlic and ginger that we keep on hand for recipes.  You can always use fresh, but because the amount we used was so small, it's just as easy to use the pre-prepped stuff.

Unless you have a food juicer, plain carrot juice can be tricky to come by, but we found a carrot-apple blend to use.  The best place to find them is in the organic or specialty food areas of your grocery store.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pesto Pasta

Here's another easy to prepare dish that's great for warmer weather.  You can serve it hot, cold, or anywhere in between.

Pesto Pasta Salad

Box of your favorite pasta
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp pesto
handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil, add in pasta, diced carrots and olive oil.  Boil together for 4-5 minutes, then add in frozen peas.  Continue boiling until pasta is cooked to desired consistancy (3-4 more minutes for al dente; 4-5 more minutes for tender).

Drain and rinse pasta and veggies.  Run under water to rinse (cold or hot depends on the temperature you want to serve the dish at).

Add in pesto and fresh basil.  Mix well, salt and pepper to taste.

Top with parmesan and serve.  Makes a whole buncha servings, so if you aren't cooking for a large group and want to make an amount that you won't be feeding off of for days, halve the recipe.

We used pre-made pesto for this dish as a time-saving option, but here's a quick pesto recipe if you'd like to make it from scratch.


2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts, walnuts or cashews
3 garlic cloves minced

Chop basil in a food processor (best to add basil in a bit of a time to get an even texture).  Add in the rest of the ingredients a bit at a time to the basil in the processor, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides, until the mixture is even in consistency.  Will make a nice smooth thick paste.  Pesto will keep in the fridge for about a week, or you can freeze it for a couple of months.

To turn this into a carnivore friendly dish, add some pre-cooked chicken. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Southwest Salad

This is a lovely salad for a hot summer’s day. We’ve taken all of our favorite flavors from Southwestern cuisine and put them into a salad bowl. We opted not to use meat, but feel free to do so… grill up some chicken or beef and top the salad with that little extra bit of protein!

The only measuring we’re giving you is for the avocado dressing, we’re going to leave it up to you to figure out how much of the rest of the ingredients you want (are we tricky like that, or just lazy… you decide!!)

Avocado Dressing (this is enough for 4-6 salads)-

1 very ripe avocado
½ cup citrus juice (we used a combination of lemon and lime)
¼ cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (more or less depending on how you feel about cilantro)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp sugar
garlic powder to taste
onion powder to taste
cumin powder to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients except for avocado. Blend until creamy. Add avocado and pulse quickly (you want some avocado chunks in there). The dressing may be a little thick, you can thin it out with some more juice, or some vinegar. Put in the fridge until you’re ready to combine the salad.

Corn Tortilla crisps

3 small corn tortillas sliced into ½ inch strips

Heat a small pan with enough oil to cover tortilla strips. Fry strips until brown.

Place strips on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Let cool


Mixed salad greens (we used iceberg mix, the iceberg gives enough weight to the salad, but then lets all the other flavors carry the salad).
Avocado Dressing
Roasted corn (throw an ear of corn on the grill, and use that. Or you can do like us and throw some canned
corn into the oven until it’s roasted).
Roasted red pepper
Black Beans (we seasoned ours with cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and pepper)
Pepper Jack cheese
Avocado chunks
Tortilla Strips

Toss salad greens with avocado dressing (we like doing this to get the lettuce completely coated).

Top salad with the rest of the ingredients. Again, use your taste buds, let them tell you how much of each item you want.

If you want some extra salad dressing, add it to the top.

Enjoy!! (p.s. sorry about the lack of pictures ... our camera battery was nearing it's end).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Berry Nice!

It's summer which means berries!!!  The nice thing about this recipe is that it's quick and easy to make and can be served right away.  It's great as either a light appetizer or a refreshing dessert. Or if you’re a berry soup lover like K2’s mom, just go ahead and eat it as your main course.  It’s summertime!  Eating rules are made to be broken.

Fresh Berry Soup

1 pint fresh orange juice*
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh sliced strawberries, puréed
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (= juice from 1/2 large lemon)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 pint fresh berries

*Instead of squeezing tons of fresh oranges, we used store-bought Not From Concentrate OJ.

Whisk together everything but the fresh berries. Put berries in the bottom of a bowl and pour the soup over. You can garnish with a dollop of whip cream or fresh mint leaves.

For your bowl bottom berries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries should be left whole, but you'll want to halve or quarter your strawberries (depending on their size) to make them more bite-sizable.

Mmmm, berries.
The recipe makes four 8 oz. servings (or eight 4 oz. if you're making it as an appeteaser).  It can easily be doubled for more.
And the soup is not really as pinky-orange as it appears in the photo (there were some technical difficulties in taking the photo, i.e., loaner camera because k2 dropped hers).  It's actually a nice pale orange, so please don't be turned off by the picture.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

From Jack's Magical Bean Stalk

Growing up we’ll admit, there was a little fear of bean salad. I mean, what child eats bean salad (really, find us one so we can experiment on them…?. As we’ve aged (gracefully), we’ve developed a bit of a taste for this lovely salad. We cooked (not literally) up a recipe and wanted to share it with you.

The recipe makes a LOT of salad, so it’s good for sharing. You can cut it in half, and use your leftover beans for other purposes. Or you can simply cook up some dried beans to make the perfect amount.

Four Bean Salad

1 can black beans
1 can northern beans
1 can light kidney beans
1 can chick peas

Drain and rinse black beans, northern beans and kidney beans. Place into a large bowl

Pour chick peas into a small sauce pan, and cover with water. Heat water until just boiling. Simmer peas for about 3 minutes (this just takes a little crunch out… if you’re good with the crunch, skip this step). Drain and rinse chick peas and add to the bean bowl.


1 c. vinegar (we mixed the following: ½ cup cider vinegar, ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar, ¼ cup white vinegar, and splashed in a few Tbsps of white balsamic vinegar)
½ c. lemon juice
1 c. oil (we did half olive and half vegetable)
1 Tbsp. stone ground mustard
½ c. chopped scallions
1 red onion- finally diced
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
(we also added about a tsp of smoked paprika… you can also add some cumin)

Mix all marinade ingredients and pour over beans.

We found that letting the salad sit in the fridge for at least 10 hours allowed the flavors to blend together really well.  We served a helping of beans over some thinly sliced cabbage, which added another level of flavor and crunch


Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's Greek to Us

Continuing with our summer-friendly recommendations, you can never go wrong with a nice tasty salad.  Filling yet light, it's the perfect dish for hot days.  You can serve this as a side dish or a main dish, either way very yummy.

Greek Salad with Lemon Roasted Potatoes and Creamy Feta Dressing

Creamy feta dressing
Mixed field greens
Purple onion, sliced thin
Calamati olives
Lemon roasted potatoes

Creamy Feta Dressing

3.5 oz crumbled feta (one container)
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
3 oz. buttermilk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp cracked black pepper
1 ½ tsp parsley
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix all the ingredients together. Pour half the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, then mix back in.

Cover with Saran and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. If necessary, add additional salt, pepper or lemon to taste.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

4 small yellow skinned potatoes, diced
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice

Yeah, we're letting you free fall on the measurements, because there really isn't a right or wrong amount, just use your better judgement.

Wash and rinse potatoes. Cut into medium-sized dices and cube with peel on (‘cuz that’s where the nutrients are). In a bowl, add just enough oil to cover the potatoes. Squeeze juice from half a lemon on and mix well. Add in rosemary, salt, and pepper to taste.

Lightly grease a baking dish and pour potatoes in. Bake at 450° for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Potatoes are done when they are browned and fork tender.

We recommend using a glass baking dish to roast the potatoes because (1) it’s easier to loosen the potatoes to mix around and (2) it’s easy to clean afterwards.

If you want to make this a heartier salad to serve as a main course, you can add cooked chicken, beef or lamb. 

We wanted to keep it simple, but you can also add radish slices, cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices too.

The creamy feta dressing is actually based on a roquefort dressing recipe but since one of us (k2) doesn't like bleu cheese, we decided to use feta and then ran with the Greek salad idea from there.  To make it a roquefort dressing, substitute bleu cheese or gorgonzola for the the feta in the recipe above.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Salad Soup

Oh it's true, we did it... we took all sorts of early summer greens and made them into soup.  As we were browsing through our vast collection of cookbooks, we stumbled across the Moosewood Cookbook.  Knowing that this was an excellent source of salad and soup recipes, we ripped it open and found the recipe for "Cream of Summer Greens".

This was a lovely title, but we like ours better.  We took Mollie Katzen's basic recipe and tweaked it up, just a little bit.  If you're intrigued by the thought of this cookbook, find it here... our copy is the original 1977 edition (that's right, we have the original).

If you are scared of green food... this is probably not the soup for you ... it is truly an intense color!

Salad Soup

1 lb. fresh spinach (you can use the prepackaged baby spinach)
2 cups roughly chopped zucchini
3(ish) cups of chopped sweet leaf lettuce (they now have packaged sweet lettuce mix, you can use that)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. scallions
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 quart buttermilk (we used fat free)
1 tsp. golden mountain sauce (alternatively, you can use light soy sauce)
1 Tbsp. dry sherry
dash of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dill
2 tsp. kosher salt
LOTS of freshly ground black pepper

Boil 1 1/2 cups of water in a large pot.  Add zucchini and spinach.  Let these cook in the water for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree the spinach and zucchini with the cooking water (we used a stick mixer, but you can use a food processor or a blender), set to the side.

Puree the lettuce, basil, scallions and parsley with 2 cups of buttermilk.  Combine lettuce puree with the spinach and zucchini puree.

Mix in remainder of buttermilk, and all remaining ingredients.  Taste as you go to see which seasonings need to be adjusted.

Chill for at least three hours.

We served ours with a swirl of ranch dressing, scallions and even more black pepper.

We found that a little of this soup goes a long way, it's rich in flavor.  We also found that we liked it warm just as well as chilled.  Whatever your preference, try it!!  We didn't strain ours, but if you prefer a smoother texture, we recommend putting it through a fine mesh strainer to remove some of the non pureed bits!