Sunday, July 21, 2013

Italian Potato Pasta Salad

Italian Potato Pasta Salad

I saw this recipe at Epicurious for Minestrone Salad and knew that I wanted to play with this. I made a number of twists in the recipe and loved the way that it came out. The pesto sauce probably adds a good deal of calories, but this is not really all that bad for you since it needs to cover a whole lot of salad. What it will be amazing for are pot-luck dinners or luncheons. We absolutely loved this and I think it will be something that we make over and over again. It definitely keeps well. So by all accounts, this is a great potato and pasta salad.

Ingredients (Serves 8):

2 Chicken breast, skinless, cut in two think halves
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1 tsp Basil (dried)
1 tsp Oregano (dried)
Olive oil spray
24 oz Fingerling (or baby red) potatoes
1 lbs Green beans, cut in half
13.25 to 1 pound Pasta (penne or rotini or gemelli)
1 cup Pesto (prepared)
1 15 1/2 oz. Cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
Two large Roasted red peppers (around 4-6 oz), sliced into strips
2 tbsp Capers, drained
12-15 Kalamata olives, cut in half
Additional kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix kosher salt, black pepper, dried basil and dried oregano in a small bowl. Lightly spray the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle the spice mix on top of the chicken. Cook on Grill or grill pan over medium heat for 6 minutes each side until done. Remove from heat and cover with foil.
2. Place fingerling potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Let the potatoes cool and then cut into quarters.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add green beans (they should be cut to the same size as the pasta that you are using). Cook the beans for around 2 minutes (until they are bright green). Scoop the vegetables out of the hot water with a strainer and rinse them with cold water. Then set aside.
4. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and put it in a large mixing bowl.
5. Slice the chicken into thin strips.
6. Into the large mixing bowl, toss in the cooked potatoes, green beans, pesto sauce, Chicken, Cannellini beans, roasted red peppers, capers, kalamata olives. Stir until the pesto sauce is spread over the full salad.

You can serve it cold or at room temperature.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

There are seemingly thousands of recipes for Black Bean there is really room for one more, right? I looked at a number of recipes for inspiration and decided to start from a blank sheet of paper. My son loves black bean soup - and this one really came out great. This definitely had a nice spicy taste - you can tone it down by reducing (or even eliminating the Chili powder). And it has a bit of a kick - This makes for a great soup.

It could not be easier to make and it is very healthy and economical. Seems to be better suited for winter, but as a nice low-fat source of protein, it really is something that could be on the menu year round. A winner all the way around.

Ingredients (Serves 6-8):
1 lbs Dried black beans, soaked overnight in water and drained
2 tsp Garlic, chopped (or two cloves)
1 Red pepper, diced small
2 Small onions or 1 medium onion, diced small
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Chili powder (adjust lower for less of a kick)
3 cups Water
3 cups Vegetable Broth (or chicken broth - low sodium if you have it)
14.5 oz Diced tomatoes (with chilies if you desire)
1 tbsp Lemon juice
1 cup Ham, chopped (optional)

NOTE: Make sure that the beans are soaked overnight.

1. In a slow cooker, place all the ingredients in the order in which they appear in the ingredient list.
2. Turn on low and cook for 10-12 hours.
3. Before you serve, use a immersion hand blender to break up the vegetables and the beans. This is not required - but it will make a thicker soup. (NOTE: you can also reduce the liquids (either water or broth) by around 1/2 cup for a thicker soup)

Enjoy! Yep, it is that simple.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Asparagus Chicken with Soba Noodles


For a long time, I have wanted to try cooking with Japanese soba noodles. I believe I have had these noodles made from buckwheat once or twice - but I have not tried anything at home, despite the good healthy qualities of soba noodles.. So once again, I have Cooking Light come to the rescue and offer up an easy recipe that I can play with.

So I pulled the recipe for Hoisin-Grilled Chicken with Soba Noodles and played with it a bit. I added asparagus, using the lovely thin Asparagus you can get here in Michigan when it is right in season and took out some of the chili paste to make it more mild. The resulting dish was a two-time winner. The light dish made for a completely lovely dinner. And not only that, but the following day, I ate it cold for lunch. I have often felt that if a dish tastes good cold the next day, then you have done it really well! What is nice, my like my previous recipe, is that this becomes another brown-bag lunch winner for work. It had a really nice taste cold and would be a welcome change of pace from salads and sandwiches.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 Chicken breast halves (skinless and boneless), pounded or sliced to no more than 3/4" thick
Cooking spray
6 ounces Soba noodles (uncooked)
1 bunch thin Asparagus tips (top 3" of the stalk)
2 tbsp Rice vinegar
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 tbsp & 1 tsp Soy sauce (lower-sodium if you have it)
2 tsp Sesame seeds

1. Combine hoisin sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and Chinese five-spice powder and mix thoroughly. Add chicken breasts and marinate for around 10 minutes.
2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for around 12 minutes (6 minutes per side). Let chicken stand 5 minutes and thinly slice across the grain.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook around 1 1/2 minutes. Add asparagus to the noodles and cook for and additional 2 1/2 more minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Add to serving bowl.
4. Combine rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl. Add to noodle mixture, tossing to coat. Add sliced chicken atop noodles and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

NOTE: If you have thicker asparagus, then slice in half or cut into smaller pieces. Additionally, you can add it earlier in the cooking time for the soba noodles.


Summer Quinoa Salad

Summer Quinoa Salad

I am really enjoying quinoa these days and am looking for recipes that will make a nice side dish - or for that matter - a great lunch at work. The best part about quinoa is that it has high protein - so it will keep you going for the rest of the day. I adapted this Vegetarian Times recipes for Refreshing Quinoa Salad and loved the way it came out. I will put this on a short rotation to keep in stock for my brown-bag lunches at work. Add some fruit and some yogurt and I have a lunch that even Dr. Oz would approve. OK...maybe he would find something wrong with it...but that is why he is the greatest killjoy in America these days. Though to his credit - he is trying to make us eat healthy...which is not so easy. ANYWAY...this is very tasty, very easy to make and delicious.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6):
1 cup Quinoa
1/2 cup Pine nuts
1/3 cup Olive oil
3 tbsp Lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Kosher salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp Black pepper (adjust to taste)
1 Cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1/2 pint Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small or 1/2 medium Red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup Cilantro (fresh), chopped

1. Rinse quinoa under running water to make sure it is clean.
2. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for around 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove pot from heat and let cool in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a small saute pan over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts (shaking the pan often so they do not burn) for around 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Add pine nuts to the mixing bowl with the quinoa.
4. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, kosher salt and black pepper.
5. To the quinoa mix, add cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. Add olive oil mix and thoroughly blend the salad.