Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Comfort Foods Menu's me...remember me? I know, it's been an incredibly long time since I posted anything new. The hiatus wasn't because I haven't tried new's just this year has been brutal. We had a few happy events and then a few not so happy ones followed by more happy events which were then followed by the not so happy. To sum it up, this year has been an emotional roller coaster full of amazing highs and rock bottom lows. It's because of the insane events that have been going on all year long that I had not even thought about posting anything. 

A few weeks ago, though, I finally accepted that things are just gonna keep on happening and that I can't let those things get me down. Instead, I just have to go with the flow and roll with the punches. And boy have there been a lot of punches so far! At any rate, for the past week and a half (I know it's not that long, but baby steps y'all!) I have been throwing myself into yoga and working out to get my mind and body ready to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Needless to say, I look forward to that hour when my mind is concentrating on how the heck that one lady is able to fold herself into a pretzel without falling over instead of everything else that's been going on. Cooking is another therapeutic act for me and so while I  haven't been blogging, I have still been cooking and even got around to baking a few things.  

The following recipes are just a few of the things that I made over the past few months. They allowed me to cope with the curveballs and continue putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. And it helped that the majority of the following recipes took 30 minutes or less to prepare so they are great for after long work day. 

Greek Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette 
recipe by Salt as Needed

Greek Salad Ingredients:
Large head of Romaine Lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 half of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup of green olives, pitted
1/4 cup of black olives, pitted
1/4 cup of feta cheese
1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. 
2. Toss with desired dressing.

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon. Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground peppert
6 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt as needed

1. Whisk mustard, lemon zest, and juice in a small bowl.
2. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking the other ingredients until all the oil is incorporated and mixture is thickened and uniform in color. 

Southwestern Chopped Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing 
recipe by The Garden Grazer (my changes in italics)

Southwestern Chopped Salad Ingredients:
Large head of romaine
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 large orange bell pepper (I used half a red bell pepper and half an orange bell pepper)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used one roma tomato)
2 cups corn (I used one 15 oz. can of sweet corn, rinsed)
5 green onions
Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing (recipe follows)

1. Finely chop romaine, bell pepper, tomatoes, and green onions.
2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. (I just arranged the ingredients on a platter)
3. Toss with desired dressing.

Creamy Cilantro-Lime Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinager because that's what I had in my pantry)
1/8 tsp. salt as needed

1. Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Meaty Lasaga 
recipe by Salt as Needed

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef (you can use lean ground turkey as a substitute)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 package lasagna noodles (I used Barilla Oven Ready Lasagna noodles)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ground beef once the oil has warmed up and stir until browned. 
3. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and pecorino romano cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
4. In a pre-greased casserole dish, spread a tablespoon of the spaghetti sauce. Layer with lasagna noodles, 1/4 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the meat, and just enough spaghetti sauce to cover the meat. Repeat two more times, topping with another layer of lasagna, enough spaghetti sauce to cover the lasagna noodles and the last 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture.
5. Cover with tin foil and place in the center rack of the oven.
6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
7. Uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes prior to slicing and serving. 

French Macarons with Vanilla Buttercream 
recipe by SprinkleBakes (my changes in italics)

Macaron Ingredients:
3/4 cup almond flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar 
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup extra fine sugar (I used powdered sugar)
Sky blue gel food coloring by Wilton

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.
2. Sift almond flour and confectioners' sugar together 2-3 times. Set aside. (I only sifted it once)
3. Whisk egg whites with a hand mixer until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. 4. Reduce speed and gradually add extra fine sugar powdered sugar.  Increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form.
5. Sift flour mixture over whites with a fine sieve. Discard any lumps or coarse bits that remain. 
6. Fold mixture together with a rubber spatula using short strokes until just combined .  The batter will be very stiff. Place a small amount of Wilton Sky Blue gel food coloring on the end of a rubber spatula. 
7. Use bigger folds once batter loosens.  When batter is ready, it should fall from the spatula in a thick ribbon. 
8. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.  Pipe 1 or 1 1/2" rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Let piped macarons stand uncovered for 15 minutes to form a crust. 
9. Decrease temperature to 325 just before placing the baking sheet in the oven.  Bake pans one at a time for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.

Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pearl dragees (this is optional but they make the macarons look so cute!)

1. Cream butter and confectioners' sugar together in a large bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
2. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  If mixture is stiff, use 1 or 2 tablespoons of cream water to loosen.  
3. Add vanilla extract slowly and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Transfer icing to a piping bag and pipe on half the macaron shells. Sandwich with remaining shells.  
4. Using a new pair of tweezers press a line of pearl dragees into the buttercream. I just sprinkled them onto the edges because I didn't have "baking tweazers".