Sunday, June 26, 2011

Buffalo Southwest Salad with Homemade (light-er) Blue Cheese Dressing

If you know me, you know I love buffalo wings and am kind of a sucker for anything "buffalo."  But, ya can't have buffalo wings every day so buffalo salad makes a perfectly fine substitute.  Pretending it's healthy with that lettuce, its really just buffalo on crack, with crispy buffalo chicken, blue cheese dressing on top of crumbled blue cheese, with buttery avocado, bright and tangy tomatoes and sweet corn.  Nope, it is not the healthiest, but it is a touch better for you than being totally fried and swapping greek yogurt for sour cream in the dressing is a nice touch that lightens it up and adds a great tang.  I made this back at home for my fam and everyone ate a HUGE bowl's worth of this salad.  EVEN my meat-loving carnivorous brother ate it all AND enjoyed it.  Now, that is a successful dinner. 

Homemade (lighter) Blue Cheese Dressing
What You'll Need (makes about 3 cups)
3/4 cup 0% or 2% Greek Yogurt
1 cup mayo
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Simply mix and let sit while you prepare the salad to let the flavors meld.  The dressing will stay good in an airtight container in your fridge for over a week and is great on sandwiches, salads and as a veggie dip.  
Buffalo Southwest Salad
What You'll Need (serves 5)
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese (or enough to sprinkle on 5 salads)
3 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped and cleaned
3 cobs of corn, boiled in salted water for 5 minutes and de-cobbed
1 pint cherry tomatoes. sliced lengthwise
2 avocados, cubed
1 pound chicken breast, cubed (or tofu, cubed for the vegetarians)
Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
Buffalo Sauce (you can use any brand you like, "Frank's" brand is generally good)

Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.  Set up a "dredging station" by beating the two eggs, and placing next to a plate of panko bread crumbs.  Season the eggs with salt, pepper and a dash of the hot sauce.  Coat the chicken in egg, then cover in panko, and then place in a roasting pan.  Roast for about 10-15 minutes, tossing once.  The chicken should be cooked through (not pink on the inside) and somewhat golden.  
While the chicken is cooking, assembled the salad by placing lettuce on bottom, and the corn, tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado on top in amounts and variations requested by picky eaters.
When the chicken is done, toss with buffalo sauce while warm and place on top of the salads.
Got a vegetarian in the house?  Drain and pat dry tofu.  Spray a pan with pam and pan fry over medium heat until the tofu is golden.  Toss with buffalo sauce and place on top of the salad.
Serve with the blue cheese dressing and enjoy.  Seriously, sit outside with this salad and a cold beer.  While not as messy as wings, this is almost as satisfying and a great and easy weekday meal. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I saw these on a blog way back when and they have just been waiting on my little to-do recipe list for the right moment to make them.  These babies are like little pizza pockets, but without the preservatives (which is justification in itself to eat an entire pan).  They are SO good--probably because I am obsessed with pizza--but if you like your food mini, and you enjoy cheese, bread, pepperoni and sauce, I don't see why you wouldn't love these as well.  They are the best kind of appetizer to serve at a party because they are homemade, SO easy to make, and who doesn't like pizza?  Besides, you probably have most of these ingredients in your pantry anyway except, maybe the mini muffin pan.  In which case, you can get them for about 10 dollars on amazon, and I say go for it.
adapted from Noble Pig
What you'll need:
1 mini muffin tin with 24 cups
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup chopped pepperoni (I used turkey pepperoni and I couldn't tell the difference!)
1/2 cup pizza sauce or any type of marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375o and grease your 24-cup mini muffin pan with Pam--make sure everything is Pam-ed or they'll stick! 
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  Then whisk in the milk and egg.  
 Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni and let stand for 10 minutes.
***As a side note, these are easily made vegetarian by leaving out the pepperoni altogether or until after you've poured half the batter into the muffin pan, making a batch of 12 for both the meat and leaf-eaters.

Stir the batter and fill the muffin pan.  The batter should come almost to the top.  Bake about 20 to 25 minutes until the little puffs are golden.  Heat up a little sauce and serve on the side.  If you have basil on hand, sprinkle on top.  Serve while hot and enjoy!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Garlic Roasted Mushrooms

This is a take on Smitten Kitchen's Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms.  I LOVE mushrooms so this is perfect for me, but really--how can you go wrong with garlic and butter on anything?  It's a quickie, and perfect for a party, or even just for snacking while you're cooking dinner!

What you'll need:
White Button Mushrooms
Garlic Cloves
Butter (enough to put small pats on each mushroom)
Lemon Juice (a few tablespoons)
Parsley (a few tablespoons)
Clean and de-stem white button mushrooms.  Finely chop garlic and put a bit inside each mushroom.  Place small pats of butter on each mushroom/throughout the pan and then roast at 450 for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
When they're done, drizzle lemon juice over the mushrooms and sprinkle with parsley.  Put a toothpick in each mushroom to serve at a party, or serve with crusty bread to mop up the buttery, garlicky sauce.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mushroom'ed Polenta with Farmer's Cheese, Roasted Tomatoes and a Poached Egg

I first saw this recipe years ago on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine and have been wanting to make it ever since.  I had no idea what "farmer's cheese" was but it sure looked good, so when I saw it in my local grocery store for the first time, I knew it was time to make this.  This recipe take FOR-EV-ER so do it when you have some time and can study or read a book by the stove.  Because ya know what?  The "fast" recipes I found to make polenta didn't work so well, and I had to do it the old fashioned way--stirring very, very often (or you can outsource the dirty work to willing family members).

What you'll need:
1 cup course ground cornmeal (polenta)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 pound any type of mushrooms
tomatoes (optional)
1 egg/person
1/4 pound farmers cheese
(serves about 4 for an entree)

Start by heating up the stock and then pouring the polenta in slowly and then STIR STIR STIR--do not let it get lumpy!  (dad helped out with that stirring!)  You can let it be for a few minutes at a time, but check on it frequently so it doesn't stick to the bottom or sides of your pan.

While the polenta is cooking, roast some tomatoes by cutting whatever type of tomatoes you like, drizzling olive oil on them and letting them hang out in the oven at 350 until everything else is ready.
Then, put the mushrooms in a pan on low heat, covered, until they are cooked through and have released their juices.

The polenta is done when it doesn't stick to the edges of the pan anymore.  This took me about an hour and fifteen minutes.  When done, add in the mushrooms and mix and then pour the polenta into bowls.
Top with crumbled farmer's cheese (turns out farmer's cheese tastes like mild goat cheese and is FABULOUS)

Add roasted tomatoes

Top with a poached egg!  If you are intimidated by poaching eggs, check out this helpful how-to video.

The yolk will ooze out and mix with the tangy cheese and sweet tomatoes.  You've got all the elements here--tangy, sweet, salty, creamy and it just works.  It is perfect comfort food, and one of the few vegetarian meals that I find hearty enough to be satisfying as an entree.

What do I do with extra polenta? 
Keep any leftover polenta in the fridge and the next day it will be hard enough to pan fry, and delicious enough to eat for breakfast.  Cut it into slices, fry an egg and top with avocado and cheese.  Enjoy!