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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The 1cookingchick Signature Salad!

So I threw together this salad the other night for some friends.  The flavor combo turned out rather delicious!  I always feel that a salad should be the perfect blend of savory/garlicky/sweet.  That is what I was going for when I tossed these ingredients together.  The garlic is in the dressing, there is perfect saltiness from the bacon, and fresh grapes add the perfect amount of sweetness.  Buttery, toasted almonds and creamy goat cheese bring a richness to the flavor that blends nicely with the fresh elements.  My friends literally cleaned the bowl!  Right there and then, I decided to make this my signature salad.  

The 1cookingchick
Signature Salad

A large bowlful of Fresh Kale 
about 1 cup halved Red Grapes
4 strips Cooked Bacon (crumbled)
4 oz. crumbled Goat Cheese
1/4 cup Slivered Almonds
1 Tbsp Butter
Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
1.  Go ahead and mix up the dressing.  Thoroughly wash the kale and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Place kale in the salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.  (Do this early because it allows the flavors to blend and the kale, which can be tough, to soften and soak up the vinaigrette).
2.  Melt the butter in a pan over Medium-Low heat.  Toast the almonds just until warmed and starting to brown (maybe about 10-15 minutes).  Watch it and don't let it burn!
3.  Add the grapes, bacon, goat cheese and toasted almonds to the kale in the bowl and toss together.  
4.  Serve and enjoy!

Garlic Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
the juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 clove minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
-Blend all ingredients in a measuring cup.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Bifteki Meatballs with Dill Tzatziki

Greek-themed food is my favorite thing right now!  It is the pregnancy craving of the moment.  If it has feta cheese in it, I'm there!  Tzatziki sauce, kalamatas...even better!!  Bifteki is a Greek food I have made several times before.  It is, by definition, simply a Greek stuffed hamburger.  You really can't go wrong with that type of dish!  It would be hard not to please anyone with cheese-stuffed beef.  

Tonight, I decided to change up the recipe a bit.  Instead of doing the larger Biftekis as usual, I cooked a more fun, bite-sized version of this Greek favorite.  Here is what I came up with:

Bifteki Meatballs

1 lb.Ground Beef
1 container Feta Cheese
1 Egg
1/2 cup Plain Bread Crumbs
1 clove minced Garlic
1 Tbsp chopped Fresh Dill
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Mix all ingredients with your hand in a large mixing bowl.
3.  Line a sided roasting pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4.  Form meatballs (about golf ball size) out of the mixture and place onto the pan.
5.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes and serve hot.

Dill Tzatziki Recipe
1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1/2 Cucumber (peeled)
1 clove Garlic
about 1 Tbsp Fresh Dill
1.  In a food processor, blend the cucumber, garlic and dill until just ground up.  
2.  Blot mixture with a paper towel to soak in excess moisture.
3.  In a decorative bowl, combine the yogurt with the cucumber mixture and serve.

I served mine with toasted naan and very ripe tomato slices.  Not pictured: sautéed whole okra from the farmer's market.  This meal was the essence of summer!  

I know what its like to have just no ideas for what to cook for dinner on a weeknight.  It still happens to me frequently, and I write a food blog! Ha! This whole meal was pretty simple to throw together.  Try it out soon on your family and see if you can't please even the pickiest palates!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ATTENTION: Matcha Giveaway!!!

I always enjoy drinking and/or baking with Matcha Green Tea Powder.  There are so many things you can do with it.  The next project I plan to do is Green Tea Ice Cream!  Yum!
Jade Leaf Matcha and I have decided to give two of my readers a chance to get adventurous too.  Starting June 23 and ending June 29, I will be running a giveaway.  Two lucky readers will get a free 30g bag of the Premium Culinary Grade Matcha from Jade Leaf Matcha!!  Can't complain about that, huh?  

Here are just a few great Matcha recipes I have done on the blog before:

Matcha Muffins

Matcha Breakfast Loaf

 Frozen Matcha Smoothies

So if you've been reading about my adventures with the Green Stuff and have been interested, but haven't taken the plunge....Now is your chance!   How about having your own adventure?  You have seven days to enter, so don't miss out!  Click on the "Giveaway" tab on my Facebook page to enter the contest!

or here:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Greek Beet Salad

If you are familiar with my blog, you know that I'm a big fan of Beets.  I feel confident that I'm doing something good for my body when I eat any deep-colored vegetable.  I don't mind the flavor, but I do admit it can be a bit earthy.  And I know some people may not prefer it.  Therefore, I enjoy thinking of recipe ideas that add flavor and excitement to this super healthy, cancer-fighting food.

My latest pregnancy craving is all things Greek.  I had some beets, cucumbers and feta cheese in the fridge that I wanted to use.  One small note about that...any time you mix beets with a pale-colored food, there will be pink staining.  This might seem odd to some people.  But as it turns out, pink food can be delicious!  Ha!

Greek Beet Salad

2 large Beets (boiled until soft and chopped)
1 large Cucumber (peeled, seeded and chopped)
1 handful fresh Basil (chopped)
1 container Feta Cheese
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 clove minced Garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1.  Peel and then boil the beets until soft and tender.  
2.  Once the beets have been cooled and chopped into bite-size pieces, mix with the cucumber (also chopped), basil and feta cheese.
3.  In a measuring cup, blend the oils, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and pour over the salad.
4.  Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately, or after refrigerating.  

Introducing Cotopaxi!

Cotopaxi is a company founded on making a difference, moving people to do good, and inspiring new adventures.  They help to spread the word of the World Health Organization's awareness and prevention tactics for various health concerns around the world.  They have asked me to contribute my "Health Hacks" to inspire my readers to pursue healthy living.  This beet salad is my latest health hack, because it is a way to make an ultra-nutritious food ultra tasty!  If you're interesting in learning more about Cotopaxi, check out the video below.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Emotional Green Beans

So as you know, I am with child these days. Ha!  For unknown reasons, probably hormones, I do some crazy things while in this condition.  Many of these crazy things involve tears.  I was a bridesmaid in an amazing wedding over the weekend.  More details on that in a coming blog post!  The rehearsal dinner was catered by a great company that serves up country cooking.  All the dishes were delicious, but I got really hung up on the Sweet and Sour Green in, they were so good to me, I cried...seriously.  I cried over green beans.

If you live in the South, you know that the perfect green bean dish has to have savory, sweet and sour elements to the flavor.  This recipe has the perfect balance of all those elements.  I asked the caterers to tell me how they made them so I could try to duplicate the emotional experience at home.  Here is my version of the recipe.

Emotional Green Beans

1 lb. fresh Green Beans (You can use canned...I used fresh to make the recipe a little fancier!)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 small jar diced Pimentos (drained)
1 clove minced Garlic
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and wash the green beans (if fresh).
2.  In a measuring cup, blend the oil, sugar, vinegar and garlic.  I microwaved mine for a few seconds to dissolve the sugar.
3.  Put the green beans in a casserole dish and pour over the oil mixture.  Add the pimentos.
4.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and if fresh, bake for 45 minutes.  If you're using canned, bake for 30 minutes.

So after my little crying episode and getting sufficiently laughed at and made fun of by everyone at my table, I went back for seconds of my soulmate green beans.  I just got another plate and filled it with green beans...really.

Crazy-eyed pregnant lady, with a plate full of green beans!

By this point you may be thinking "this chick is insane and I don't think I'll be reading her blog again".  But at least try this recipe and grab a box of tissues just in case...especially if you're like me at all (extra hormonal and prone to get really excited about food).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Semolina Gnocchi

I follow several international food accounts on instagram.  Recently, a Middle Eastern foodie friend of mine brought Semolina to my attention.  Wikipedia (because I like a straightforward definition), defines Semolina as the course, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat, or pasta wheat.  It can be incorporated in savory or sweet dishes and is used in a lot of different parts of the world.  I found mine at Nabeel's European Market, here in Birmingham.

You can also order it on Amazon:

After purchasing my Semolina, I was excited to give it a try in a savory dish.  But, what to cook?  I turned to Pinterest, of course!  This is the recipe I decided on:

If you read the recipe, you'll see that after you've added the semolina to the simmering milk, they want you to keep stirring for 7 to 10 minutes.  Well, the dough got super thick fast, so I didn't stir for anywhere near that long.  I'm sure there's a good reason they want you to stir that long, but I didn't hang in there to find out what it was. Ha!  And my finished product still turned out delish!

After refrigerating my dough for about an hour, I used the rim of a glass to cut out perfectly round Gnocchis.

When the finished product came out of the oven, it was soooo yummy!  Semolina Gnocchi is comfort food.  To describe the taste, I would say a warm, buttery, fluffy, cheesy delight.  These were excellent served with a chicken curry dish.  They taste great alone, but it took it over the top when we dipped them in the curry sauce!

In fact, these were so good, I made them the next night too!  This time, I added in Bacon and Spinach.  If you try this recipe, you'll see that you can incorporate any flavor you like during the butter/egg/cheese step (see recipe).

I always enjoy branching out with new foods and ingredients.  I hope I can inspire you to try something new too.  Semolina is a good way to go.  If you search it on Pinterest, you'll see the savory and sweet recipe ideas are endless!  It is a very versatile ingredient.  It also can't hurt that it is popular in many international locales.  Make your meals a little more cultural!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Matcha Breakfast Loaf

It's always fun to create new breakfast and brunch ideas.  It's even more fun when I'm incorporating one of the hottest foodie ingredients of the moment...Matcha!  You probably are aware by now that matcha is finely ground green tea powder.  It is excellent just as a hot or cold drink and adds a little gourmet kick to baked products.  For more information on matcha, check out my friends over at Jade Leaf:

Now for today's recipe!  It falls somewhere between the categories of bread and cake.  The dusting of powdered sugar and drizzles of honey set off the green tea flavor nicely.  This recipe turned out super moist, I guess because of the banana I threw into the batter.  Have some friends over in the morning hours on a Saturday and serve this up with coffee or tea.  Who doesn't love a chance to eat "cake" for breakfast??

Matcha Breakfast Loaf

2 1/4 cups Flour (I used Gluten-Free)
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Sugar
2 heaping tablespoons Matcha (Green Tea Powder)
1 stick Butter (softened)
1 Banana (microwaved a bit to soften)
3 Eggs 
3/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar for dusting the top
Honey for drizzling the top
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, Sugar and Matcha.
2. Cut in the softened Butter and Banana until crumbles form and all powder is incorporated.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together Eggs and Milk.  Add to the dough and stir until just combined.
4. Pour into a greased 5 X 9 inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.  Making sure the middle is done by sticking in a toothpick and checking to see that it comes out clean.

5. Transfer loaf to the dish you would like to serve it in and once it is completely cool, dust with Powdered Sugar and drizzle with Honey.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Okra! Two Different Ways

Who doesn't love okra?  Well, I'm sure some people don't.  Ha!  But you can't deny that it is kind of big deal in the South!  All of my family members adore it.  So I've thought of two different ways to get more creative with okra.  Happy summer, folks!

Curry Coriander Roasted Okra

fresh whole Okra (whatever amount you desire)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Ground Curry 
Ground Coriander
salt and pepper
1.  After you preheat the oven to 400 degrees, wash the Okra and pat dry.  Slice in half longways.
2.  Spread on a roasting pan or cookie sheet open side up.
3.  Drizzle with Olive Oil.  Amount depends on personal preference here.  If you like roasted veggies dryer, use less.  I don't love oily, floppy veggies so I drizzled about a tablespoon.
4.  Dust the Curry and Coriander evenly over the much or as little as you like.
5.  Place in the oven and bake 15-25 minutes.  Again this depends on preference.  I like mine to maintain a little crunch, so I baked for 15 minutes.

Okra Tempura
with Soy Dijon Yogurt Sauce

fresh whole Okra (about 15 large ones)
1 cup Flour
1 heaping teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Egg
1/2 cup Milk
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil (more if needed)
Sauce Recipe:
1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Honey
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce
several shakes of freshly ground Pepper
1.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the Okra.
2.  Put the Flour, Ginger and salt and pepper in a large plate.
3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the Egg and Milk.
4.  Dredge the Okra in the flour mixture and then place in the egg mixture.  Make sure each Okra is coated with the egg mixture.
5.  One at a time, dredge the Okra again in the flour mixture and press the sides to evenly coat.  Place on parchment paper to allow flour coating to harden a bit.
6.  Heat the Veggie Oil in a large flat pan over just above medium heat.
7.  Once the oil is hot, carefully fry Okras until browned on all sides.  Do not continuously move the Okra because that will knock the breading off.  I turned mine for the first time after about 5 minutes. Be attentive so that it does not burn!
8.  When Okras are done, transfer to a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
9.  Stir the sauce ingredients together in a decorative bowl and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Strawberry Basil Cake

A classic summer dessert and one of my family's favorites, is Strawberry Cake.  The pureed strawberries in the batter make it moist and it's usually better a couple days after it is baked.  I felt like adding a bit of a kick to this fresh summer delight.  The cake batter recipe would be hard to know the basic white cake mix/strawberry jello one?  So I tweaked the icing recipe to give the finished product a little something extra.

1 box White Cake Mix
1 (3 oz) box Strawberry Gelatin
1 16 oz. package Frozen Strawberries (thawed)
4 Eggs
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Water
 4 oz. Cream Cheese
1 cup Powdered Sugar (plus more if needed)
handful of Fresh Basil Leaves (chopped)
4 oz. Cool Whip
Fresh Strawberries and Basil Leaves for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and whisk the cake mix and gelatin powder together.
2. Puree the Strawberries in a food processor.
3. Add all but 1/2 cup of the pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water to the dry ingredients and beat with a mixer until blended.
4. Pour batter into two round cake pans and put in the oven.  Bake time may vary depending on what size pans you use.  I used smaller thicker ones, so my bake time was 40 minutes.  Use your judgment and a toothpick to check doneness in the middle.  Flatter pans will probably cook in 20 minutes.
5.  In a large bowl, combine remaining strawberry puree, cream cheese, powdered sugar and chopped basil.  Beat with electric mixer until blended.  Add more powdered sugar as needed to thicken icing.  Fold in the Cool Whip.  Place in the freezer to allow the icing to harden a bit.
6.  Once cakes are removed from the oven, allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack before adding icing.
7.  Spread icing evenly and arnish with fresh strawberries and basil leaves.  It is delicious served cold.

Print this Recipe!

As I was making this cake, I was reminded of a beautiful story that I've never been able to get out of my head.  First of all, Aimee Bender is an excellent writer.  Her sentences are just unique, interesting and poetic. "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake"  is the story of Rose Edelstein, a young girl who has the ability to taste people's emotions in the food they prepare.  She first realizes her skill on her ninth birthday, when she bites into her lemon chocolate cake and tastes her mother's sadness.  

"...the goodness of the ingredients--the fine chocolate, the freshest lemons--seemed like a cover over something larger and darker, and the taste of what was underneath was beginning to push up from the bite.  I could absolutely taste the chocolate, but in drifts and traces, in an unfurling, or an opening, it seemed that my mouth was also filling with the taste of smallness, the sensation of shrinking, of upset, tasting a distance I somehow knew was connected to my mother..."

A lot of interesting things happen to Rose as a result of her strange talent.  You will have to read the book to find out.  You can order it from the link below.  I highly recommend this read!  Also, I made sure to think of happy feelings while I baked my cake.  I suppose you could say this is the particular happiness of strawberry basil cake.