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Honey Apple Cake with Vanilla Glaze

9 Sep

Shanah Tovah! I guess I’m a little late with my new year’s greetings, but the sentiment still stands.

The BF and I had been planning a trip with friends to Gordonsville, Virginia, for months. One minute I was thinking about the trip, and the next I was baking a cake and wishing the BF a happy new year. He was confused. Maybe you are too. To illuminate, here was my thought process:

  • I should bake a dessert to take with us
  • I have a ton of leftover apples from the Apple Festival
  • Why are there so many Jewish blogs coming up when I search for apple cake recipes?
  • It’s Rosh Hashanah! My friends celebrate Rosh Hashanah!
  • What’s Rosh Hashanah?
  • Google says apples with honey are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food item
  • Apple honey cake!
  • Happy New Year!

I don’t always vocalize all those steps in between the first and last point, so sometimes people are confused what I’m talking about. At any rate, I was excited that so many pieces came together for this dessert to fit perfectly into our weekend trip.

Apple Honey Cake

Even if you or your friends don’t celebrate Rosh Hashanah, this cake is amazing. And its delicious spice, honey, and apple flavors are really getting me in the mood for fall. I used the most delicious local wildflower honey for this, and the honey flavor was super intense. Apparently wildflower honey is stronger than clover honey, which is what most honey is in the States.

Shanah Tovah!

A small note on the recipe: the original recipe said to bake it for 75-90 minutes because the batter is so wet. I did not find this to be the case. I baked it for closer to 65-75 minutes, and I thought it turned out a little dry. I imagine it might depend on the quantity/type of apples you use, and maybe even on the type of honey you use, I’m not sure. So my warning to you is to just keep checking your cake with the toothpick test, and don’t freak out if it takes way shorter or way longer than the recipe says.

Honey Apple Cake adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen 

3 eggs
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored, and shredded

Apple Honey BatterPeel, core, and shred your apples. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until they are frothy. Whisk in the honey, white sugar, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla.

In a separate medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Incorporate the flour mixture into the liquid, and stir to blend. Fold in the shredded apples.

Grease a bundt pan, and pour the batter into the pan. Bake cake in preheated oven for 60-90 minutes. Check repeatedly with the toothpick test — when a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean, it’s done.

Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

If you want to get super fancy, here’s how to decorate it: Place foil or pan on the counter, and then place the cake – still on wire rack – overtop the foil. Use a fine-mesh sieve or sifter to sprinkle a few tablespoons of powdered sugar overtop the cake. Fill a plastic baggie with the vanilla glaze and cut a tiny corner of the bag off. Drizzle the glaze in a zig-zag pattern over the top of the cake. Let stand at room temperature until glaze sets, about 15 minutes.

Vanilla Glaze from Bon Appetit

2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons (or more) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk to blend.

Add more milk by 1/4 teaspoons to thicken glaze if necessary.

Linking up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Block Party from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Vegetable Quiche

2 Sep

Happy Labor Day, folks! It’s 11am on a Monday and I’m sipping tea, eating leftover quiche, and blogging in my pajamas. A lovely break from work.

Every Labor Day weekend, the BF and I head up to my grandma’s house in Hendersonville, NC, to visit with family and go to the NC Apple Festival. I wrote a little bit about the Apple Festival back in January,  but it’s a fun street festival with apples, apple food products, and even some apple-related crafts. My grandma lives just a few blocks from downtown, so we can walk up to Main Street whenever we want. It’s pretty awesome. And I’ll be making tons of apple dishes in the next couple weeks, considering we came home with all this:

Apples!

So many apples. Almost 4 dozen!

Before driving up to the mountains, I spent an evening in the kitchen baking a vegetable quiche and an almond-squash pie. I thought it would be nice to share with everyone. Of course I forgot to coordinate with my sister, and she brought quiche too! But that’s okay — it was all delicious, and people got to have a variety.

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I love making quiches because the recipe is very loose and adaptable to what you have on hand. Quiche is an excellent way to use up whatever random veggies you have laying around — like the wilted kale in my fridge that needed to be cooked or thrown out.

IMG_2664

This particular recipe doesn’t have hardly any spices and not much cheese, so the flavor is mostly just very vegetable-y. If you’re looking for something a little more intensely flavored, this isn’t it. (You’d probably need more cheese and add some bacon or something.) But for a healthy, nutrient-loaded, and tasty breakfast (or lunch or dinner), this is an excellent recipe to turn to.

IMG_2669

Vegetable Quiche from Kath Eats Real Food

For The CrustIMG_2648
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 tsp salt
2-4 tbsp ice water

(Visit the original post on Kath Eats Real Food for excellent instructions and tips for the crust!)

Mix flour and sugar together (and salt if needed) until fully incorporated. Add butter and squeeze together until mostly incorporated.

Begin by adding 2 tbsp ice water and mixing with your hands, adding more if necessary. The final dough should be somewhat solid but with lots of little pieces falling off.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll out until slightly larger than the diameter of the pie pan. Spray pie pan and place crust inside. Even crust out, and then shape and flute.

For The Filling
3 cups assorted veggies, cooked (I used kale, potatoes, squash, and tomatoes. I sautéed everything in a pan for a little while. Even though potatoes are supposed to be boiled, they will be cooked just fine between the sautéing and baking.)
1 tsp seasoning (I used a french herb blend)
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook fillings, using salt and seasoning as needed. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, milk, and salt. Add shredded parmesan and stir.

Place fillings into finished crust, and then pour egg mixture on top.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until liquid is springy and no longer jiggles when nudged, and crust and surface are nicely browned.

Quiche

Linking up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Squashbanzo Soup

26 Aug

This weekend was absolutely gorgeous. The kind of North Carolina weather that makes visitors decide to put down roots. The beautiful weather came a little early, though I suspect this was just a small taste, and we’ll be back to normal sweltering for a few more weeks. Regardless of what Mother Earth brings next, this cool sunshine was a reminder that… drumroll, please… fall is on its way!!

As a kid, summer used to be my favorite season – duh. But as an adult, fall is where it’s at. Nice weather, awesome fashion, delicious food and warm drinks, great traveling. Plus, fall is when the BF and I celebrate our anniversary, so I’m typically reminiscing about falling in love back when we were in college (awwww). And this fall, we’ll celebrate our first wedding anniversary, so I’m looking forward to that.

This summer seemed to go rather quickly, and we have a few fun trips coming up that I think will keep things speeding along. And since I was in the mood to celebrate fall, even if it isn’t here yet, I spent a little time in the kitchen yesterday making this soup. Between the squash and the warm autumn/winter spices, it certainly tastes like fall come early.

Squashbanzo!

I found a recipe for a curried squash soup I thought about trying, but I already shared a curry vegetable soup with you, and I wasn’t in the mood for curry anyway. So I played around with the spices and opted for a more wintry flavor profile. It reminds me of pumpkin bread or chai latte. I also wanted to make this soup a little more substantial so it could be a meal on its own, so I added in some garbanzo beans. Hence the name: squash + garbanzo = squashbanzo. (It seemed like a better name than garsh soup).

This soup is healthy, light, but filling enough to make a meal. The spices certainly fit well on a cold night, but overall, the flavors are light enough and delicious enough to make it enjoyable year-round. Plus, it’s a great way to use up all that summer squash that’s flooding the farmer’s market and our CSA box. Give it a try!

Squash Soup

Squashbanzo Soup adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 large summer squash, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, garlic, and spices. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garbanzo beans and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until very tender, about 25 minutes.

Puree until smooth using an immersion blender or by transferring to a blender or food processor and pureeing in batches.

Just before serving, swirl in a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt and crumble walnuts over top.

Linking up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Stuffed Acorn Squash

5 Aug

This was so easy and so delish, I’m about to go out and find me some more acorn squash. The acorn made a terrific bowl that both held tasty fillings and also made for good eating. Like a tasty bread bowl for soup expect it doesn’t get soggy and mushy.

As we ate this for dinner last week, we brainstormed all the amazing ways we could prepare it. Italian style with sausage, tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs. Greek style with lamb, tomatoes, olives, and feta. Mexican style with beef, tomatoes, cheese, and taco seasoning. There are loads of all-veggie options too.

Mmm cheesy goodness

This is such a versatile recipe. If you try it, you should definitely experiment and make it your own. Think up what flavors you’re in the mood for, and run with it. And if you don’t have a veggie on the ingredient list, no worries. Just leave it out or substitute it for something else. No big deal. It will still be delicious.

Better yet, prepare this on a night when you have guests over. The presentation is pretty amazing. They will think you’re a secret top chef.

This recipe was enough for the BF and me, but we’re pretty light eaters, so one half of a filled squash was enough for each of us. I’d recommend getting two squashes and doubling the recipe.

For me, the key to this recipe is to chop everything really small — that way, you can cram more into your squash bowl.

Beautiful Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash adapted from TheKitchn

1 medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 bell pepper, chopped small
handful cherry tomatoes, chopped small
1 large sausage link or vegetarian substitute, diced small (I used sweet apple chicken sausage)
1/2 teaspoon French or Italian herb mix
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup baby spinach
Salt and pepper as needed
Bread crumbs (I used crushed-up seasoned croutons — they gave a little extra flavor!)
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated

Wash the squash and halve it. Scrape the insides and seeds out of the squash. Place the squash in a shallow dish with about half an inch of water. Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Leave in microwave until ready to use.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, and sausage. If using uncooked sausage, cook until sausage is almost cooked through. If using pre-cooked sausage, cook until the garlic starts to smell.

Add the spices and stir well. Add the spinach and cook, covered, until wilted. Add salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.

Place squash halves on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spoon the filling into squash halves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add one tablespoon of water to each squash. Coat the filled squash with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with a thick layer of grated cheese. Broil just until cheese is lightly browned.

Dig In!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

22 Jul

I was never a big pancake fan as a kid, or even a big breakfast fan. I grew up eating cereal or granola bars, even on the weekends.

The exception was when my grandparents were in town, and my Poppee would cook up grits, bacon, and “dippy” eggs to order. I had no idea that the majority of America didn’t refer to eggs over easy as dippy eggs, though I think it’s a much more sensible term. (After you finish your egg whites, you break the yolk and dip your toast into it. Get it?)

Aside from those occasional big family breakfasts, I generally avoid breakfast. I don’t really like American-style breakfast foods, so I either eat very simply, like an apple and peanut butter, or I eat leftovers, like pasta or stir fry or soup. My favorite breakfast is probably spaghetti and meatballs. People tell me that’s weird, but personally, I think it’s weird that there’s so much amazing food in the world that we’re not supposed to eat before noon. Why not eat spaghetti and meatballs?

Well, instead of something as “weird” as pasta, I’ll share a more normal breakfast recipe — pancakes.

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

At first, pancakes were just not that interesting to me. Plain bread with plain sugar maple syrup. Meh. But as an adult, I discovered a much wider world of pancakes. Adding in bananas or pumpkin, nuts, chocolate chips — now that’s a delicious breakfast.

For these pancakes, I used whole wheat to make them a bit healthier, and I mashed a couple bananas to stir in. As I cooked them, I added in chopped walnuts to about half of them and a few dark chocolate chips to the other half. Yum! You can enjoy these pancakes the classic way, with butter, whipped cream, and/or maple syrup. Or, I prefer a healthier and more on-the-go preparation: folded in half like a taco, with peanut butter spread inside. Delicious and protein-rich!

Peanut butter-Pancake Taco

The big plus of these pancakes is that they are really excellent to freeze and re-heat. Whenever I make them, I make a really big batch, enjoy a couple, and then freeze the rest. Just slide the pancakes into ziploc bags with a square of wax paper in between each one. When you’re ready to eat them, heat in the microwave for 45-60 seconds, and they’re ready. Amazing!

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes from 100 Days of Real Food

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Walnuts or pecans, optional
Dark chocolate chips, optional

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the honey, eggs, milk, and melted butter. Whisk together thoroughly, but do not overmix. Gently fold the mashed bananas into the batter.

Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add pancake batter in small scoops (I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup). If desired, sprinkle a handful of nuts or chocolate chips on top. When the pancakes have begun brown on the bottom, flip them over to cook the other side.

Note: For vegan pancakes…

  • Substitute 2 tablespoons flaxseed and 6 tablespoons warm water for eggs. Stir together and let sit for a couple minutes until thick.
  • Substitute soy or almond milk for milk.
  • Substitute maple or agave syrup for honey.Breakfast is served!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse

15 Jul

Mmm this is so delicious. Maybe not quite as delicious as the Best Chocolate Mousse Ever, but still pretty incredible. I have a friend who is both gluten-free and dairy-free, so coming up with a dessert that fit those parameters was difficult – I mean, I bake, right? But I was so excited for this amazing find. So simple, so quick, and so tasty.

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As long as you remember to refrigerate the coconut milk in advance, this only takes about 5 minutes to put together. Plus, mousse is like grown-up pudding. It’s as delicious and creamy as a Snack Pack, but super classy. To make it even classier, serve it out of something ridiculous like a martini glass or something a little less ridiculous like a stemless wine glass. And then when everyone’s done, bring out the bowl and mixing spoons and let people lick them clean. Classy.

For my mousse, I used a combo of regular Hershey’s cocoa powder and Special Dark Hershey’s cocoa powder. I haven’t tried it, but I imagine spending money on some high-quality cocoa powder would be worth it. There’s not a ton of sugar in this recipe, so unless you like really dark chocolate, be careful using too dark chocolate.

Also, need a good way to use the leftover coconut water? Try using it as the liquid base in smoothies! Super tasty with banana and pineapple.

Okay, go try this! It’s super easy to get a delicious, smooth, creamy, chocolate-y with a slight hint of coconut dessert that’s not too terribly unhealthy for you. I might just leave a can of coconut milk in the back of the fridge for whenever I need a quick chocolate fix.

Mmmousse

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse from The Urban Poser

1 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk, cream only (takes about 2 cans)
4-5 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons honey or vegan alternative or stevia, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill your cans of full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight.When ready to make the mousse, open up the cans and scoop the thick coconut cream into a large bowl, leaving the liquid behind. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and beat the mixture for 2-5 minutes.Serve. Excellent with strawberries, raspberries, etc.

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Grilled Cheese & Guacamole

1 Jul

My aunt/godmother tells me this story of the first time I met her now-husband, my uncle John. I was 5, and we were out to dinner somewhere. I ordered a grilled cheese, which was always my favorite. He asked me if I liked it, and apparently I responded, with complete sincerity and gravity, “I love grilled cheese so much, if I didn’t have it at least once a week, I would die.”

Let me tell you, ain’t nobody better get between me and some cheese. I don’t play around. As a tween, the first thing I learned how to make on my own was Kraft macaroni and cheese, and the second was a perfect grilled cheese. I don’t think you can expand much on a perfect grilled cheese — Bunny bread, Kraft singles, and Country Crock — but you can have other perfect grilled cheeses.

See, to me, fancy grilled cheese — like the $10 ones you can get at locavore foodie restaurants — are really good, but they’re pretty much a different food altogether. I will very much enjoy a fancy grilled cheese, but if I’m craving a perfect classic grilled cheese, a fancy one just won’t fill that craving. I feel the same way about delivery pizza versus gourmet pizza. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to go out to Pizzeria Toro for gourmet pizza and to order from Papa John’s for delivery pizza all in the span of a couple days — they’re totally different meals.

I didn’t have much in the fridge last week, and I was super hungry for dinner. We had had this delicious Country loaf from Bread & Butter with butter and raspberry jam for breakfast:

Good morning!

Mmm… it was so delicious and still warm! So with the second half of the loaf, I decided to make a grilled cheese for dinner. And then I remembered that I had seen this on Pinterest. Seemed like a no-brainer.

The major difference between my Grilled Cheese & Guacamole and the one on Cooking Stoned is that mine is not as pretty. This is not surprising to me. The other thing I did was dice my tomatoes and mix them into my guacamole instead of having slices of tomato. I just don’t like raw tomatoes all that much. It would be good either way. An important part of the process that I learned from Cooking Stoned, is to broil or toast the bread with cheese first so that the cheese gets all melty.

Cheesy Melt!

(I don’t know why there’s only one piece of bread in that picture. I cooked both slices that way. Whatever.) Ooey gooey deliciousness:

Gooey deliciousness

Talk about a grown-up grilled cheese. OMG YOU SHOULD ADD BACON. I’m going to do that next time.

Here’s a recipe. I didn’t really use amounts because sandwiches are one of those things where you should just put however much you want to on the bread.

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich adapted from Cooking Stoned

2 slices of bread
guacamole
handful of grape tomatoes or a few slices of a regular tomato
cheddar slices
butter
(onion and/or cilantro might be a good idea, but I didn’t use those)

Prepare the guacamole. (I use an avocado, lime juice, and Wildtree guacamole seasoning. You could also purchase prepared guac.) Dice the tomato and stir into the guacamole. Set aside.

Arrange slices of cheddar cheese on the surface of both slices of bread. Broil or toast until the cheese is melted and the bread is slightly crispy.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a pan over medium heat. Transfer a slice of cheesy bread to the pan, spread on a whole bunch of guacamole, and then sandwich the other slice of cheesy bread on top. Flip the sandwich when the bread is golden brown, only a couple minutes on each side.

ENJOY IT.

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog
Link Party Thursday from Somewhat Simple

Summer Pasta Salad

24 Jun

It’s officially summer time! And with the summer solstice, it certainly got dang hot in North Carolina. And muggy. And gross. I’m sweaty all the time. But just for the record, this is NOT a complaint. I most certainly prefer this weather to anything below 60 degrees. Though we’ll see if I’m willing to negotiate that number come July. It’s maxed out at 90 so far, so I may change my mind once it gets into the triple digits.

I went to my nephew’s 6th birthday party on Saturday, which meant hot dogs and pasta salad and cake and ice cream. Yum. That night, I was heading to a potluck for a friend’s housewarming party, and I hadn’t any ideas. But the pasta salad was good inspiration, and I decided to make my own.

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My mom and sister make a very simple, classic pasta salad: noodles, olives, and feta cheese, all held together with Italian salad dressing. I expanded on the idea by adding a bunch of veggies I had in the fridge from our CSA delivery. I left out the olives though: disgusting.

When you make this, there are only two basic things to know:

Girard's

1) Use Girard’s Italian dressing. For reals, it’s the best. And don’t put it on until within an hour or so of serving it. If you put it on too far in advance, the pasta will soak up the dressing, and you’ll have to add more to get more flavor, which is just wasteful, both of the delicious dressing and of calories. If you need to make it in advance, just put everything together except the dressing, and add that when you’re ready. Easy peasy.

2) My family’s basic ratio is a pound of pasta to a bottle of dressing. I cut it to about 3/4 of the bottle, but go with what works for you. As long as you keep that ratio, you can then add whatever fresh, raw veggies you want.

Oh, here’s another tip! Let the pasta air-dry a little bit before you mix everything together. If there’s too much water, the oil-based dressing won’t stick. (But if the pasta is too dry, it will absorb all the oil and flavor.)

The cool thing about this dish is its versatility. You can add whatever veggies you and your family like, so it’s completely and easily customizable. And it can easily serve as a side to hot dogs and burgers OR as a cold main dish, perfect for a hot summer night. Add some beans — edamame would be awesome! — and it would be an even better main course.

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Summer Pasta Salad

1 lb pasta, preferably rotini or bowtie (farfalle)
1 bottle Girard’s Italian dressing
feta cheese, crumbled
1 zucchini, diced and quartered
1 yellow squash, diced and quartered
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 handful grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Boil the pasta to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Chop the vegetables. Place pasta and veggies in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing. Add crumbled feta cheese, to taste.

Toss and serve.

Note: For a vegan dish, omit the feta. For gluten-free, substitute rice-based or other gluten-free pasta for the rotini.

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Link Party Wednesday from Lil’ Luna
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog
Link Party Thursday from Somewhat Simple

Curry Coconut Vegetable Stew

17 Jun

Oh my goodness, y’all, so I finally got around to finishing this last season of Revolution, and let me just say, after those last 10 minutes, my mind = blown. I almost gave up on that show because I thought the middle part of the season was getting kind of lame, but it really picked up there at the end. And that last scene? Whaaat? I don’t even know what to think.

Okay, Revolution is not at all related to this recipe, but I just had to get that out of my system. I don’t know anyone who watches that show, so I never get to talk about it. Onto the stew!

I had a ton of veggies in my fridge, and not much else. And I was looking for something easy, so what better than a soup? The thing I love about soups is that they’re easy to customize based on preference and available resources. Don’t like greens? Leave ’em out. Got zucchini but no squash? Whatever, that’s fine.  If you stick to similar weights/amounts, and then just use whatever suits you, you’ll be fine. And actually, I used chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, just ’cause that’s what I had.

Mmm... Stew

This is a really hearty stew. The rice and beans definitely fill you up. But the coconut curry flavor keeps it light enough to eat year-round. And it’s super healthy too. The coconut and curry flavors are delicious and definitely noticeable, but not so strong that you don’t still taste the vegetables themselves. You definitely want to stick with fresh vegetables, for that reason. Don’t bother with canned or frozen — just use whatever’s fresh in season.

You can’t really see it in the picture, but there’s definitely some liquid down in the bottom there. It’s soup-y the first go-round, and thickens up to more of a stew texture when eaten as leftovers. Both are equally delicious. As you’re cooking, try to keep the lid on the pot as much as possible so you don’t lose too much liquid. That way, at the end, if it’s too runny, you can simmer with the cover off for a little while to reduce it. But it’s hard to go the other direction.

Don’t forget that when it’s ready, you have to shout, “Soup’s on!” :)

So many veggies!

Curry Coconut Vegetable Stew

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup white basmati rice
3/4 lb potatoes, diced
1/4 lb carrots, sliced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
salt and pepper
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lb squash, sliced
1/2 lb zucchini, sliced
1/2 lb green beans, ends removed and cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 lb greens (chard and kale)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can light coconut milk

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the rice. Cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Add the potatoes and carrots. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the curry powder, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato, squash, zucchini, and green beans. Cover and cook for 8 minutes.

Add in the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted.

Stir in the black beans and coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Serve hot.

Soup's On!

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday Link-Up from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog

Chocolate Lasagna

3 Jun

My coworkers and I had a great conversation about what I should call this amazing dessert. “Chocolate lasagna” was the name of the original recipe I found, which suited me just fine. They thought it sounded gross, since they immediately started thinking of noodles, cheese, chocolate, and tomato sauce, which I admit, sounds pretty disgusting altogether. But really, the ‘lasagna’ part of the name more just refers to the fact that it’s layered in a baking dish.

When I saw the picture with the list of ingredients, I thought it was a perfect dessert to make for my brother’s birthday. Like me, he’s a choc-aholic. Or I guess I’m like him, since he’s older than me. At any rate, neither of us can ever get enough chocolate, especially dark chocolate and mint chocolate.

He and his new wife joined me and my slightly-less-new husband for dinner at a German restaurant in Durham, Bavarian Brathaus, which was quite an experience. The live band consisted of a clarinet and tuba played by two very loud gentlemen who occasionally interrupted their playing to sing/shout quite boisterously. My brother’s favorite foods are chocolate (as noted), German (he lived in Germany while he was in the military), and Italian (isn’t that one of everyone’s favorites?). So following up a trip to a German restaurant with chocolate lasagna seemed appropriate.

Chocolate Lasagna

This recipe is really less about cooking than it is about assembling. I prefer to make dishes that require a little more cooking and far more whole and natural foods, but there is nothing wrong with a little boxed, pre-made sugary goodness every now and then. Plus, after a really long week, it was awesome to zone out, munch on some Double Stuf Oreos, and put this together pretty easily. (And no, I didn’t use the Double Stuf I already had for this recipe. The Double Stuf are for eating, the regular Oreos are for making crusts with. I don’t find it weird at all that I had two entire packages of different types of Oreos in my home, Judgy McJudgerson.)

Do you have any suggestions to name this dish? Since none of my coworkers could come up with a better name, Chocolate Lasagna it is… for now. If you have any brilliant ideas, let me know in the comments.

Someone got a little messy plating this giant serving. Still delicious with all the layers mixed together.

Someone got a little messy plating this giant serving. Still delicious with all the layers mixed together.

Chocolate Lasagna from Center Cut Cook

1 package regular Oreo cookies (not Double Stuf)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold milk
1 12-oz tub Cool Whip, divided
2 3.9-oz packages instant chocolate pudding
3 1/4 cups cold milk
chocolate chips and Oreo crumbles for topping

Crush the entire package of Oreos into crumbles. Use a food processor, or place in a large sealed plastic bag and wail on ’em with a can of beans or a rolling pin or something. Reserve a handful of crumbs for the topping.

Transfer the rest of the crumbs to a 9×13″ baking dish, and spread evenly. Drizzle the melted butter over the top, and use a fork to incorporate the butter into the cookie crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to create an even crust layer. Place the pan in the fridge.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add 2 tablespoons milk and sugar. Mix well. Stir in about 1/3 of the Cool Whip. Spread the mixture evenly over the Oreo crust.

In a large bowl, combine the pudding with 3 1/4 cups cold milk. Whisk for several minutes until the pudding starts to thicken. Spread the mixture evenly over the cream cheese layer. Place in fridge and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes.

Spread the remaining Cool Whip over the pudding layer. Sprinkle chocolate chips and reserved Oreo crumbles evenly over the top. Place in the freezer for 1 hour, or the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving.

Chocolate Lasagna

Linking Up With:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Anything and Everything Blog Hop from My Thrifty Chic
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows WildInside BruCrew LifeThe Recipe Critic, and The Gunny Sack
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove and My Fashion Forward Blog