Friday, April 17, 2015

$15 Dinners for Four

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted a challenge: "Dinner for 4 to 6 people for $15. What do you make?" I thought: $15 for a homemade dinner of 4 is pretty generous. $10 gets a little skimpy, but $15 is reasonable.

I suggested...
  • Pasta. Onions $1.00; ground beef $8.00 if you go organic + grassfed or as low as $5 if you don't; pasta $2.50, fresh tomatoes $4.00, olive oil (pantry); salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge); parmesan cheese (fridge). $14.50 is you don't go organic, grassfed beef. Over budget if you do!
  • Roasted chicken thighs are always easy. Chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) 2 pounds $8.00; soy sauce, olive oil, spices (pantry/fridge); rice $2.00; $5 for veggies - zucchini, broccoli, etc.
  • Roasted pork tenderloin: pork $10.00; olive oil, spices (pantry); potatoes $3.00; salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge).

Then I decided to put the theory to a test. For dinner that night, I made...

Leftover pork, $5.00 (1/3 of roast that cost me $15); quinoa, $1.00 (1/3 of $2.99 box); caramelized onion, $.50; charred shisito peppers, $1.00 (1/2 of $1.99 bag); roasted butternut squash, $3.00; roasted kohlrabi, $2.50; roasted carrots, $.50; black tahini (1 T of an $8.00 jar), estimating $.50; olive oil, spices, salt, pepper, and tomatillo salsa (pantry); parsley, $.50; lemon, $.50. 


TOTAL = $15!! Well, just the food. I cautioned that the budget was completely blown when I uncorked a $30 bottle of wine. Jake and I still had half the bottle, after dinner, so I'm calling that $15. Then I roasted $6 worth of rhubarb and served it over plain yogurt. So, really, I was closer to $40. But the main dinner was only $15. I don't know if that counts for my friend's challenge, or not.

The following evening I completely blew the budget goal by serving 2 whole sea bream that cost $20 on their own. The lemons were from our tree, the other produce was from our CSA, but the dinner definitely cost more than $15. Still, it was delicious. And watching my kids fight over the fish eyeballs...that's priceless!


The third evening, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I made homemade ricotta gnocchi...


Again, the food came in at $12.75. But Jake and I polished off the rest of that $30 bottle of wine. And we had more yogurt and fruit for dessert. So, just under $35 for everything.

The fourth night, we were on our way to an evening at school. Dinner had to be quick! My go-to is almost always pasta, usually with some veggies from our High Ground Organics CSA. Dinner can be on the table in roughly the amount of time it takes for the pasta to boil.


The pasta bowl itself was $13 for all of us. Then I added a green salad with tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. I'll call that dinner $15.

I began to think that a $15 complete dinner for four might not be as easy as I had initially thought. I can certainly get the main dish plate down to $15 for all of us. But when I add in dessert - even just yogurt and fruit - I'm over-budget. If I add in beer or wine for me and Jake, we're definitely over budget.

But, what I didn't calculate: we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Thankfully the boys don't object to eating cold pasta et al for lunch at school. So, really that dinner figure should be cut in half, right? Maybe it's not as difficult as I thought.

I'm curious. 

What do you think about a $15 dinner for four? 
Do-able? Difficult?? Comment below.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus Pesto


Here we are at April's Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Lesa of Edesia's Notebook. The idea: we are assigned two ingredients and are challenged to create a recipe with those two things. April's assigned ingredients: Asparagus and Eggs.

I thought about different way to incorporate these two and mainly came up with breakfast foods. I, first, planned to make an asparagus eggs benedict. Then I started to get creative; I considered a savory cheesecake with roasted asparagus. Finally, I ended up having my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf help me make Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus Pesto.

Che squisito!

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided into 1 C + 1/2 C portions
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1-1/4  to 1-1/2 C flour
  • 4 C asparagus, cut into 1-1/2" lengths
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • juice from 1 organic lemon 
  • olive oil
  • canola oil for pan-frying
  • fresh dill for garnish
  • freshly ground salt for garnish
  • freshly ground pepper for garnish

Procedure

Asparagus Pesto
Blanch the asparagus until it turns a vibrant green, approximately 1 minute. Set 1 C aside for serving. You will likely have to do this in two batches; I did. Drain and place 1-1/2 C of the asparagus and 1/4 C cheese in the blender. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil - just enough to achieve the texture you want. If you want it more thick, use less oil. Blend. Set aside. Repeat with the second half.


Ricotta Gnocchi
Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 C cheese, 1/2 C asparagus pesto, and nutmeg. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.


On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough into a cylinder. You may have to do this in batches.  Shape the dough into 1" thick ropes.


Cut rope into 1" lengths with a lightly floured butter-knife.


Move gnocchi to a lightly-floured, parchment-lined baking sheet.


To cook...bring water to a boil in a large pot with 1 t of salt and a splash of olive oil. Add a few gnocchi to the pot at a time. They are cooked when they float to the surface. They should take approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Lift gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon. Let drain in a colander.

Heat canola oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Quickly brown the gnocchi in the oil. When lightly browned, remove them to a paper towl.

To serve...plate some of the blanched asparagus. Lay some browned gnocchi on top of the asparagus. Place a dollop of asparagus pesto on top of the gnocchi. Garnish with fresh dill, salt, and pepper.


Dakos for #OneYrGreek #sponsor #giveaway

When BenBella Books invited me to join the first anniversary book tour for It's All Greek to Me -- Transform Your Health the Mediterranean Way with my Family's Century-Old Recipes from Debbie Matenopoulos, I was excited.

First, I love Greek food. Second, I loved the cookbook when I reviewed it back in November (click to read my post Souvlaki from Debbie Matenopoulos' "It's All Greek toMe" {#sponsor Book Review & Giveaway}).

Five months have gone by and that cookbook is still near the top of my cookbook stack. Now that's saying something. I have a lot of cookbooks. And, after I review a cookbook for a publisher, it often gets shelved and not pulled out until I remember something I wanted to try. But this one excels in inspiring me with its vibrant photography and easy-to-follow recipes. So, it has stayed in my to-read, or to-cook, stack right next to the couch where I read and plan my recipes. Today, I'm sharing Debbie's recipe for Dakos.

Dakos
photo courtesy BenBella Books
Dakos (Greek Bruschetta) from It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos

Dakos is a traditional Cretan mezze salad that takes what I would normally serve as a just salad and makes it hearty enough for a meal. In Crete, this salad is served on top of a barley rusk, called a paximadi. A rusk is just a twice-baked bread toasted to crisp. I had originally dug up a recipe to make my own paximadi, but I ran out of time. So, I opted for a nice crusty round from a local bakery. Also, I went for smaller, appetizer sized rolls instead of the larger traditional ones. Someday I'll make my own paximadi!

Matenopoulos notes: "choose very ripe, almost overly so, tomatoes so that their juice will really soak into the rusk beneath them. To make this vegan, just add another tomato and omit the feta." I opted for organic cherry tomatoes in red, orange, and yellow instead of larger tomatoes because the larger ones weren't quite ripe enough; also, I used only fresh herbs.


Ingredients serves 4

  • 2 crusty rolls, sliced in half with the top sliced enough to allow it to sit flat
  • olive oil
  • 3 to 4 C diced organic tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
  • freshly ground salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste + more for garnish
  • 2 C brine-packed whole milk feta, crumbled
  • 2 T fresh dill, chopped + more for garnish
  • 2 t  fresh oregano, chopped + more for garnish
Procedure
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the cut side of the bread with olive oil and place on a baking stone. Toast until crisped and golden, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Watch it carefully to make certain it doesn't burn.

In a mixing bowl, toss together the tomatoes and herbs with a splash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.



To serve: Place a heap of the tomato mixture on top of the toasted bread. Add a layer of feta on top of the tomatoes. Garnish with more fresh herbs and grind fresh pepper around the plate.

καλή όρεξη
(Bon Appetit, in Greek)

I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from It's All Greek to Me and am looking forward to trying my hand are more Greek recipes in the future. Now on to the part you've all be waiting for - the giveaway.

Giveaway
photo courtesy BenBella Books

One of my lucky US readers - sorry, everyone else! - can enter to win a copy of It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos, courtesy of BenBella Books, Inc. Giveaway runs from today - April 16th - till April 27th at midnight, Pacific time. Please see terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget below.


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Debbie Matenopoulos’s It’s All Greek To Me Cookbook to review plus the opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for my post or review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Black Tahini Baath (Goan Coconut Cake)


Last week I came across a jar of black tahini* at a local store and scooped it up immediately. Then I set about trying to decide what to make. After doing some reading I came across a coconut cake from Goa (India) that uses black tahini. I knew that I wanted to give it a go. This is mildly adapted because I wanted to skip the rosewater and add some citrus flavor instead. Also, I cut down on the amount of sugar used.

I sent a slice to school with my husband to give to a friend and got a phone call within an hour: "What am I eating? It's delicious."

This is a dense, moist cake that was the perfect grab-and-go breakfast along with some fresh fruit, yogurt, and tea. I'll definitely be making it again soon.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 C butter, softened + more for greasing the pan
  • 1 C organic raw turbinado sugar
  • 1 T black tahini*
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 T  yuzu liqueur
  • 1 T orange blossom water
  • 3 C semolina
  • 1 C shredded coconut 
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 C coconut milk
  • 1/4 C black sesame seeds (or use a mixture of white and black sesame seeds)

Procedure
Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper. Grease the sides with butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes on a medium speed. Add in the tahini and beat until combined, approximately 1-2 minutes.

Add one egg at a time and beat until completely combined. Add in the vanilla, yuzu, and orange blossom water till combined.

Gently whisk in the semolina, coconut, baking powder and 2 T of the black sesame seeds. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the surface with spatula, then sprinkle the rest of the sesame seeds over the top.

Bake until the center is firm to the touch, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 30 minutes in the cake pan. Run a knife around the edges of the baked cake, unmold and allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Slice into generous wedges as it's not too sweet.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. I will only recommend products that I have used and loved...not for any compensation unless otherwise noted in the blog post. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item on your own.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Casatiello for #BreadBakers


BreadBakers#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BreadBakers home page

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. This month I'm hosting and have chosen breads from around the world that are traditional for Easter, Passover, or Springtime.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to Stacy at foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Here's our International Easter/Passover/Spring Bread Basket, in alphabetical order...


Casatiello is a traditional Easter bread from Naples and it holds all of the symbolism of faith. The leavened dough, because of the rise, represents the promise of new life; the shape of the bread represents Jesus' crown; and the eggs mean birth, or rebirth.


There are probably as many variations of this as there are Nonne who bake them. My version includes something that I consider culinary fairy dust: fennel pollen. I sprinkled it over the top and selected a salami that has fennel pollen as well. Che squisito!

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 T dry active yeast
  • 1 T organic granulated sugar
  • 2 C warm water
  • 5 C flour
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 1 C grated parmesan cheese

Filling Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fellen pollen salami, cubed
  • 4 ounces cheese, cubed
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 raw eggs, whole
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • fennel pollen* for sprinkling

Procedure
Place the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Float the yeast and sugar on the top and let bloom until foamy, approximately 10 minutes.  Pour in the olive oil and add the cheese. Mix in the flour until a shaggy dough forms. Cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm palce for 90 minutes, or until it doubles in size.

Punch down the dough and tear off a large orange-sized piece. Set aside. Butter a bundt dish and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Knead the remaining dough and - on a floured piece of parchment paper - roll dough out into a large rectangle. Scatter the cheese and salami over the surface, leaving about an inch border around the filling. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Starting at the longest side, gently roll the dough into a cylinder and transfer into the prepared bundt pan. Place eggs randomly on the top of the dough, pressing them in to anchor them.  Split the saved piece of dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 3" strip.  Use two pieces to form a cross over each egg. Allow to rise for an 1 hour. Beat the remaining egg with a fork and brush it over the surface of the dough.

Bake until golden brown, approximately 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes then unmold onto a wire rack. Serve warm, sliced into wedges.


*After a few people have commented that they are unfamiliar with fennel pollen, I decided to add a link to the product that I use and love! This is an affiliate link.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Matcha Loaf + #Sponsor Product Review



Back when I was looking for a cookie to send for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013, I ended up making Matcha-Black Sesame Shortbreads...after a little inspirational gift - the matcha - from a friend whose family owns a sushi deli. I made my way through the canister, loving the delicate color and subtle flavor. I made a note to myself: Get more matcha soon.

I've been through about multiple different canisters now.

Earlier this year I received an email regarding an opportunity to review some organic matcha from Kiss Me Organics. I jumped at the opportunity. I especially liked that the matcha came with recipe ideas.

I followed several of the recipes and enjoyed each one. I'm sharing a recipe of my own...

This loaf makes for a quick and portable breakfast. I served these with some yogurt and fruit before we headed off for one of our adventures during Spring Break. Fast and tasty!

Ingredients

  • 4  eggs
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 C organic heavy cream
  • 1 C organic 2% milk
  • 1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 T Kiss Me Organics matcha powder
  • 1 box of rice flour (mochiko is a sweet rice flour)

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Mix the eggs and oil. Then mix in everything else until just moistened. Spoon the batter into greased loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes at 375˚F till the top of the loaf is slightly browned and slightly cracked. Let cool for 5 minutes before turning the loaf onto a cooling rack and cutting into thick slices.


Thoughts on Kiss Me Organics Matcha...
Note that this product is listed as 'Culinary Grade' Matcha, differing from 'Ceremonial Matcha.' This there is a difference in grade, which - from what I can tell - is mostly aesthetic. Ceremonial Matcha has a brighter green hue. But both should be silky smooth when you rub the powder between your fingers. Kiss Me Organics is.

The aroma is a fresh, mild scent that is reminiscent of freshly cut grass. And the taste is subtle and wonderful. Some matcha I've had is bitter. Kiss Me Organics is lovely. I will definitely be ordering more of this product when I run which should be soon!

*DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary products from Kiss Me Organics for the purposes of review.  I have received no additional compensation for this post and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

SRC Reveal: Cardamom Chicken with a Salt and Pepper Crust


It's time for Group B's April 2015 Secret Recipe Club reveal. This month I was assigned to The Vanderbilt Wife, a blog written by Jessie. We used to be in Group A together, so I've been reading her blog for quite awhile. It was a treat for her to show up in my roster!

Jessie, a mom to three cute kiddos, started Vanderbilt Wife in 2006 as a way to make herself write more regularly. She shares: "Professionally, I was a copy editor for three and a half years. I am a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and social media manager. ...I write twice a week for ParentLife Online and am a recipe editor for HomeLife and ParentLife magazines." She actually helped get one of my recipes published in their Christmas cookie issue: Kruidnoten (in HomeLife Magazine).

There were quite a few recipes of Jessie's that intrigued me, including her Cucumber and Radish Salad, Lemony Vegetable Quinoa Salad, French Lemon Yogurt Cake, and Her Honey Parmesan Pork Roast in the Crockpot and Stuffed Peppers in the Crockpot almost made me break down and get a slow cooker. Almost.


Instead, I opted to make this...I chose to marinate them overnight instead of just for a few hours and did double the ground cardamom because it's one of our favorite spices. We liked this recipe so much, we've made it twice since this!

Cardamom Chicken with a Salt and Pepper Crust
 inspired by Jessie's Cardamom Chicken

Ingredients
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 t raw honey
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom
  • 3/4 t freshly ground sea salt
  • 3/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Procedure
Place chicken thighs in a lidded container where they can lay flat in a single layer. Add the remaining ingredients - except the salt and pepper - over the top of them. Massage the marinade onto the chicken to coat thoroughly. Cover the container and let marinate overnight. Once or twice, flip the chicken over to coat on both sides.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place chicken in a baking dish. Pour the marinade over the top, then season with salt and pepper. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes, or until chicken is browned and crisp and cooked through. Serve hot.

Thanks, Jessie, for the fabulous recipe.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Grilled Gruyère on Rye with Crisped Sage and Pink Lady Slices + Pink Moscato for #SundaySupper


This week bloggers with the Sunday Supper Movement have partnered with Gallo Family Vineyards celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month. Yes, that is a thing. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But I now have it set as a recurrence on my calendar.

Our mission:  to get adventurous with our grilled cheese sandwiches to discover the ideal combination of taste and texture. And – whether it’s a sweet, savory or spicy creation – to find the perfect wine with which to pair it. Click to read Gallo’s post about Grilled Cheese

Though I was excited to participate in this celebration of the crisp, buttery, and gooey American classic, I was also extremely nervous. My dilemma: I haven’t made a grilled cheese sandwich since, probably, college and my palate then was not very discerning. Back then, food was merely sustenance whereas now, it’s sustenance mixed with creativity and panache – I hope!

Asking friends for advice didn’t help either. Most people have very definitive ideas about what makes the best grilled cheese sandwich. One friend proudly told me that the secret to his grilled cheese is "real butter, fake cheese." I think he was kidding; I hope he was kidding. Another friend asserted the best grilled cheese requires three different cheeses, including mozzarella, pepper jack, and one other. Maybe, it's true, as they both claim that grilled cheese should only be bread and cheese.

Still baffled, I decided to host a grilled cheese garden party to jump-start my recipe development.  I learned a lot that day. I provided a variety of ingredients for my recipe testers, with everything from nasturium blossoms to prosciutto and radish flowers to dandelion pesto. I pickled onions, made berry jam, and crisped sage leaves. I offered six different kinds of cheese and four different kinds of bread.


What I discovered: it's all about the extras. Well, it’s not all about the extras. There are some basics…

What I learned about the bread: choose a hardier bread. Breads with dense crumb stand up better on the grill. Brioche was tasty, but its pillowy density didn’t work well as a sandwich.

What I learned about the cheese: use thin slices in multiple layers. While thick slices of cheese are great to grab off the cutting board, thinner slices melt more easily. Makes sense, right?

What I learned about the extras: pile ‘em on! Well, it’s a balance, I suppose. Lots of extras added personality and intrigue to the sandwiches. But you have to make sure that there is a balance of extras plus cheese so that it all melts together into gooey deliciousness.

What I learned about temperature: keep your heat low and melt slowly. Turning up the heat too high resulted in burnt bread and unmelted cheese.

As for the wine…initially I had hoped to pair a grilled cheese sandwich with Gallo's Pinot Noir. Because, in my mind, you can never go wrong with Pinot Noir. But, in the end, I opted for Gallo's Pink Moscato because it’s softer and lighter-bodied.


The grilled cheese recipe I’m sharing is more delicate; I wanted the wine to match the flavors and not overpower them. 


Grilled Gruyère on Rye with Crisped Sage
 and Pink Lady Slices + Pink Moscato
by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

This recipe, in my mind, is the ideal combination of taste and texture. The rye loaf had a nice heft that allowed the gruyère to melt completely without charring the bread. The Pink Lady apple slices contrasted with the crisp sage leaves for a complex mouthfeel and burst of flavor.

Ingredients makes 1 sandwich
  • 2 slices of German rye bread
  • butter
  • canola oil
  • gruyère, thinly sliced
  • Pink Lady apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • sage leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper (I used green peppercorns, but use what you have)

Procedure

Crisped Sage Leaves
Melt butter in a small skillet with a splash of olive oil. Heat until the butter-oil mixture begins to bubble and get foamy. Lay your sage leaves in the pan in a single layer with space between them. Watch them carefully as they will go from crisped to burnt quickly. Once the edges begin to curl, flip the leaves over and crisp the other side. Remove crisped leaves to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside.


Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Melt butter in a skillet or grill pan on low heat. Butter your bread on one side and place it butter side down on the hot pan. Layer cheese, apples, cheese, and sage leaves on top of that bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add more cheese, more apples, and a final layer of cheese on top of that. Then top it all with another slice of buttered bread – this time with the butter side up.


Once the cheese begins to melt on the bottom half of the sandwich, check the bread. It should be crisped and turning brown. Flip the sandwich over and grill till, again, the bottom cheese is melted and bread crispy.

Remove sandwich to a cutting board and slice in half. Serve immediately.

More Grilled Cheese Creations...

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

More Gallo Fun...
Find Gallo Family Vineyards – on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on YouTube. Click to find Gallo wines near you: store locator.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Gallo Family Vineyards via Sunday Supper, LLC. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Gallo Family Vineyards.

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