Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna

Spring is upon us, and I'm starting to see signs of life in the marsh behind our house. Deer prance through daily, multiple times some days, stopping casually in their tracks to poke their noses through the reeds in search of food. The ducks and geese are back. They use the tip of our roof as their landing point. At times, it sounds like a war zone up there.

The birds are chirping in the morning, and our birdfeeder has been one busy restaurant lately. I love spring. And so does this one:

Nature is her TV. She sits in her "spot" all day, intently gazing out to make sure all her friends in the marsh are alive and well, doing their thing. She'll even sneak in a nap here and there.

Minnesota hasn't decided if it's spring yet. We're supposed to get more snow tomorrow. And we haven't seen temps above 30 in a week. Argh. I choose not to pay attention. It's spring, darn it! And that means it's time to start cooking like it's spring.

This lasagna is a take on the original, but it's a "white" version. Like last night's dish, the ingredients and sauces are a little lighter than the traditional. It's the perfect way to start spring. Not only that, but lasagna is my husband's absolute favorite food.

Our cast of characters here are spinach, marinated artichokes, onions, bechamel sauce, and mozzarella. Tasty, tasty. And such a nice change from the traditional (which I do love, by the way).

I split this recipe into four parts. Don't be afraid by that - it's just easier to execute and plan this way.

This was so enjoyable! Bring on the spring!

Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:

For the Bechamel
3 cups milk (I used skim)
6 Tbsp butter
6 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
salt to taste

For the Spinach Artichoke Mix
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
12 oz marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1 lb raw spinach (I always use organic)
2 cloved garlic, finely chopped

12 lasagna noodles
3 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

First, make the bechamel. In a small sauce pan, heat milk over medium heat just until steam rises. Do not boil. Remove from heat. While warming the milk, melt the butter in a separate sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly, pour in the milk, whisking constantly until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Second, cook the noodles according to directions on box. Set aside.

Third, make spinach mixture. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and artichokes. Cook about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add in spinach. Cook until wilted. Remove from heat.

Fourth, assemble the dish. Start by spreading about 1/4 cup of the bechamel on the bottom of the pan. Cover with lasagna noodles, followed by the spinach mixture, then the bechamel, then the mozzarella. Repeat two more times. Cover dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until golden and bubbly.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken & Green Chile Enchiladas

Holy Buckets. These pretty little enchiladas you're lookin' at above are out of this world amazing. So amazing that I could have probably eaten that whole pan.

I've never made a white enchilada before. I usually make the traditional kind with the red sauce. And those are great. But who knew its cousin was so smashingly delicious? Light and flavorful. Best of all - they are simple, simple, simple.

I can't write enough greatness about these so I'm going to get right to the recipe.

You must go make them as soon as humanly possible.

Chicken & Green Chile Enchiladas
Original Recipe from
Adapted by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
8 whole grain flour tortillas (regular is fine, too)
3 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
2 cups monterey jack cheese
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 cup sour cream
8 oz diced green chiles
chopped cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

To a large bowl add shredded chicken, 1 cup monterey jack cheese, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Divide the mixture among the tortillas. Roll up each tortilla and place seam side down in the baking dish.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together just until it starts to boil. Slowly add the broth, stirring with a whisk until thickened. Mix in the sour cream and chiles and heat thoroughly. Remove from heat and pour over the enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Garnish with cilantro.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Marinated Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Taxes done. Check.
New car for my husband. Check.
House cleaned. Check.
Fabulous dinner to enjoy on a beautiful evening. Check.

Productive, eh? Ya, it feels so good. We haven't had a weekend like this in awhile. Every weekend lately has been packed with activities, leaving little time for house projects, sleep, and sanity.

We broke out the grill last weekend, remember? Well, we're back at it again, despite the chilly temps :( A few years ago I discovered flank steak and fell in love. This steak is typically full of tough connective tissue, so it's best to marinate it for a few hours before cooking. I usually use a combination of red wine, soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and dijon mustard. Top it with a tangy chimichurri and it's pure heaven.

Flank steak is a lovely alternative to the real deal steak. It's simple and much more affordable. Plus, the leftovers are perfect for steak tacos or added to salads. Nothing beats that!

Get grilling!

Marinated Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:

For the Marinade
1 1.5-2 lb flank steak
1 cup red wine (I used a dry Sonoma Zinfandel)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper to taste

For the Chimichurri
3 cloves garlic
1 handful flat leaf parsley (about 1 cup)
1 handful cilantro (about 1 cup)
couple shakes of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together red wine, soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour into gallon size plastic bag. Add flank steak and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, turning every hour to ensure flavor soaks entire steak.

To a food processor add garlic, parsley, cilantro, crushed red pepper, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pulse until well combined. Remove the cover and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Replace cover. With processor on, slowly pour in olive oil until mixture is well combined. Set aside.

Heat grill to medium hot. Cook flank steak 7 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and place on platter. Cover with tinfoil and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Slice against the grain into thin slices. Top with chimichurri and serve.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Summer Preview: Fried Chicken

Now, before you all go and get real excited, I have to preface this post. I'm not usually a fried chicken fan - you can imagine why, I won't bore you with the details. But, something must have gotten into me the past few weeks because I have been craving the stuff like crazy. Maybe it's because I want summer so badly I can't take it anymore, or maybe my arteries are in need of some grease. I don't know. I contemplated for weeks. Should I make it? Should I not?

Well, I did it. I put my thoughts aside and went for it. My husband was even a little concerned - he said, "Let me get this right, you're going to fry the chicken??" Yes, honey, fry. We don't eat many fried things around here so I could tell he got slightly excited.

This was such a treat! I ran across this recipe on Big2Beautiful's blog. The seasoning was perfect - packed with flavor. And surprisingly, this was pretty easy, almost too easy. There's something so nastily satisfying about biting into a hot crispy piece of chicken fresh from the vat. Seriously. Now, I do have to admit that I ended up removing some of the skin from the breasts and thighs. I know that's what makes fried chicken, but it had to be done. We ate this with some lemon parmessan broccoli and brown rice. Don't laugh - I had to make up for all that breading and oil.

Take a mental trip to summer - fry up some chicken today!

Happy Eating!

Here is the recipe.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Easy Baked Pasta

Yesterday was Monday. One of those Mondays. I was tired all day. Lacked motivation. And it was dreary outside. All. Day. Long. So, the last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour in front of the stove putting an elaborate meal together. When I have a day like this I always go to my trusted "one dish meals" - they're simple, done in less than an hour, and always satisfying.

Last night, I made a baked trottole (above) with ground turkey, spinach, and jarred (yes, I did) tomato sauce. I don't always have homemade sauce on hand, but I do always have my favorite jarred variety (below). I find that this brand tastes closest to the homemade kind, and it isn't like the other brands that tend to leave a chemical after-taste, in my opinion.

For additional vitamin value, I added a pound of raw spinach and used lean ground turkey instead of beef. I don't think my husband even noticed! Score. This meal was so incredibly flavorful and tasty. Perfect dinner for a dreary, lazy Monday evening.

Happy Eating!

Easy Baked Pasta
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 lb short-cut pasta (ex: penne, rotini, fusili)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 lb lean ground turkey (or beef)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb raw spinach
1 jar favorite tomato sauce
1 cup light sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add ground turkey. Cook until no longer pink. Do not drain juices. Add garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Pour in jarred tomato sauce and combine with meat mixture. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta and pour into large mixing bowl. Add sour cream, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine well. Pour pasta into baking dish. Top with meat sauce mixture and mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Serve and Enjoy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grilled Potatoes

Well, I think Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota. I've traded my heavy down jacket for my lighter versions of fleece and denim, I no longer have to wear my Uggs when walking the dog, and the tree out back actually has blooms on it. Yes, blooms!! We welcome spring with open arms here on the frozen tundra - and this means time to open a bottle of Chardonnay and get the grill out!

It broke 50 degrees this week. This is a big deal! So, like all good Minnesotans we put our short sleeves on, opened the sun roof in the car, and sang our praises to the Spring Gods. It was glorious. Of course, in order to understand this you have to live in a climate that goes dormant and frozen at least six months a year. So, I apologize to those of you that are lucky enough to live in tropical weather all year, but 50 degrees is like heaven to us in March.

It's been a while since we've grilled anything, but last night it was on! Salmon, potatoes, the whole shabang. We've actually never grilled potatoes before but I thought it sounded like a good idea. I had half a bag of yukon golds left so I used those, seasoned with my favorite Greek Seasoning and topped with Feta Cheese. Delicious my friends, absolutely delicious. I par-cooked the potatoes to cut the grilling time in half.

Now, I'm a charcoal girl. The flavor you get from a charcoal grill is unmatched by a gas grill. Yes, charcoal takes more time and it's a bit messier, but it's sooo with it. I've had food grilled on both, and charcoal wins out every time for me. It's simply the best. Period.

Break out the grill and a glass of Chardonnay and celebrate spring! These potatoes will be the perfect side for you this season.

Grilled Potatoes with Feta
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
4-5 large yukon gold potatoes, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp greek seasoning (I use McCormicks Gourmet Collection)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Wash potatoes and cut into 3/8 inch slices. Add to large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 6-7 minutes. You do not want to fully cook the potato. The center should still be a bit hard. Drain and let them cool until you're ready to use them. Season with olive oil, greek seasoning, salt and pepper.

Light a charcoal grill and heat until medium hot. Place potato slices on the grill grate in one layer, directly over the fire. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Using a tongs, turn them over to the other side and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove to serving tray and top with feta. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patty's Day Ice Cream Drink

I LOVE Ice Cream. LOVE it. I can't even keep it in the house because I will eat it. Every second. Of every day. It's that bad. So I had to have a purpose to bring ice cream into the house, and it was this lovely concoction that I dreamt up the other day - of course, involving Baileys for St. Patty's day.

Ice cream. Baileys. Heath toffee bits. Homemade vanilla whipped topping. What's that? Oh, you want the recipe so you can go make one right NOW?? I'm sorry. Let me just spend some more precious time telling you how great these are [to taunt you a little]. In fact, great isn't quite the right word. Out of this world awesome is more like it. I could have eaten the whole blender full of this stuff. But I have a roommate and he seems to like ice cream, too. Into two glasses it went, as I silently wept a tear, and slurped to my heart's content.

You need one of these. Badly.

And Happy St. Pat's Day!

Baileys Ice Cream Drink with Homemade Vanilla Whip
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

For the Whipped Topping
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the Drink
1 cup ice
4 large scoops vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup Baileys
1/3 cup Heath toffee bits

Pour whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat at medium high speed for 4-5 minutes or until it forms stiff peaks. Set aside.

To a blender add ice, ice cream, Baileys, and Heath. Blend on the Smoothie setting (or high) for 1-2 minutes, until all is well incorporated. Pour into serving glasses and top with whipped topping and additional Heath bits.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corned Beef & Cabbage

A cabbage heart - from me to you this St. Patty's Day! I have to admit, I'm not much of a St. Patrick's Day girl. It's just another day for me usually. But, this year I thought I would try my hand at making the traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage meal.

I think I've probably eaten corned beef twice in my entire life, and one of those times was in Dublin. When in Rome.... Needless to say, I really didn't know what I was doing here. But I did some research on recipes and came up with my own combination - and it involves beer, lots of beer. This beef turned out so tender and juicy. I also made a couple sauces to go with it - a creamy horseradish sauce and a grainy mustard sauce. Both were excellent. Heck, this meal may make me slap on a green shirt and start talking in Gaelic! Really.

The beef is cooked in 3 bottles of Guinness beer, mixed with a little water. I added some organic carrots and potatoes half way through the cooking process along with the cabbage. And what does that get you? A one pot meal fit for an Irish Lad!

This does take some time - so make sure you've got a good 4 hours on your hands before you do it.

Erin go Bragh!

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:

2 3lb corned beef briskets, flat cut, and the spice packets that come with them
1.5-2 cups brown sugar
3 11.2oz bottles Guinness beer
3-4 sprigs thyme
1 head cabbage
2 cups baby carrots
3 cups potatoes, cubed

Place corned beef briskets and contents of the spice packets into large stock pot and cover them in brown sugar. Pour 2 bottles of beer over beef. You want the meat completely covered in liquid so add water as needed. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Trim outer leaves of cabbage and cut into quarters. Add to pot along with carrots and potatoes. Pour in remaining bottle of beer and add about 1-2 cups water to make sure all is covered. Simmer for an additional 2 hours.

Remove the corned beef from the pot and transfer to a cutting board. Remove any fat, and cut into slices against the grain. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Transfer beef and vegetables to a serving platter and serve with sauces. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rigatoni with Roasted Beets, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Growing up my memories of eating beets were centered on one annual occasion - Thanksgiving - when my grandma would open the can of the nasty jellied kind and plop 'em in a serving bowl. I never touched the things. Ever.

Those days are long gone, and within the past year I've eaten more beets than I can count. And they're not the canned kind. I've been roasting and peeling my own. It seems a bit intimidating, I know. But it's so simple. And beets really are good.

Of course, a certain someone I live with doesn't always feel the same way about this vegetable. So, what do I do? I add them to pasta, and suddenly all is great with the world.

I loved the combination of flavors in this meal. Roasted beets and goat cheese are always a favorite of mine, but the spinach and toasted walnuts were the perfect addition. A well-rounded web of textures, colors, and major healthiness. Nothin' better!

I challenge you all to try roasting your own beets. You'll find it's not that difficult. Just don't wear white when you're peeling them :)

Rigatoni with Roasted Beets, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
3 large beets
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb whole wheat rigatoni
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb raw spinach, washed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and toasted
4 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to finish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub beets and cut off the greens about an inch from the stem. Next, drizzle the beets with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast them directly on the oven rack for about an hour. Let them cool. Then, peel the skin and cut into chunks. Your hands will turn pink - wear gloves if you'd like to protect them.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook rigatoni according to directions on box.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in skillet. Add spinach and cook just until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add garlic during last minute. Drain pasta and add to skillet along with the beets. Give a good stir and turn out into serving bowl. Top with toasted walnuts, goat cheese, salt and pepper. If needed, add a drizzle of olive oil for more moisture.

Serve and Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos

Seems like an odd combination, doesn't it? Sweet potatoes and black beans? Trust me, people. It's an amazing marriage of flavors that you HAVE to try. These puppies are full of fiber and are sure to make you a believer.

I first made these burritos (or are they enchiladas??) about a year ago, and was so impressed that I filed it in my imaginary "make this again" mental file. I bought a couple sweet potatoes at the store the other day and was trying to think of something different I could do with them besides the 'ol roasting routine. And I remembered this recipe. How's that for a memory??!

As always, this recipe is adaptable. Add some shredded chicken or pork if you're a meat fanatic. Or use kidney beans instead of black beans. Add some more veggies. It's all up to you and your family's tastes! Have at it!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos
Original Recipe from
Adapted by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tsp prepared mustard
1.5 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 sweet potatoes)
8 10-inch whole grain flour tortillas
1 cup salsa verde
1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Add to large saucepan with enough water to completely cover them and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and mash.

Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in black beans and mash with a fork. Slowly add in chicken stock and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, mustard, and soy sauce. Stir until combined.

Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly onto a flour tortilla. Top with cheese. Fold burrito style and place in greased baking dish. Repeat process for remaining tortillas. Top folded burritos in baking dish with salsa verde and remaining cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I try and eat old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast a couple times a week. Underneath the cover of the canister is Quaker's recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I haven't made these suckers since college and have been meaning to get them back in my diet for the longest time. Cookies without chocolate for once? Yes, please. We've been on chocolate overload here lately. Summer's coming and I'm sure my thighs would appreciate a break.

I went to the grocery store yesterday knowing full well that I needed to get ingredients for Oatmeal Raisin cookies. I was in a rush, filling my cart with the list in hand...something I don't typically do and now I know why. I forget things. Like raisins for the cookies.

So, I grabbed my trusty bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips out of the pantry and improvised! Wow! I'm secretly thrilled I missed the raisins at the store. These cookies are phenomenal. Soft, chewy, chocolately, and full of oats. Sounds kind of healthy, right? I'll just keep telling myself that each time I grab for one.

Oatmeal Raisin cookies are great and all, but these knocked my socks off! I guess my thighs will just have to wait...

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Original Recipe by Quaker Oats
Adapted by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1/2 cup plus 6 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups ap flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups Quaker Oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour mixture and mix well. Add oats and chocolate chips; beat until just combined.

With a tablespoon, drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Eggs

Saturday is egg day in our home. Fried, scrambled, sunnyside up, you name it, we've made it. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of Saturdays we haven't had eggs for breakfast. They're a bfd here.

My husband loves his eggs scrambled with everything but the kitchen sink in them. I usually end up putting whatever I've got leftover in the fridge - this week it was onion, tomato, spinach, chives, sriracha sauce, and goat cheese. I'm a fried egg kind of gal, but this scrambled concoction looked delicious. I was tempted. But, Saturday wouldn't be the same without my two eggs, brown around the edges and flavored with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. I don't do well when it comes to change with my eggs....

I'm seriously considering adding the egg share to our CSA this spring. Eggs from the store are great and all, but I'd rather know where mine are coming from. After all, we eat enough of them that it's something we should be concerned about. What could possibly be better than eggs straight from the farm? Not only that but there's something incredibly nostalgic about cracking open an egg into a hot skillet on a weekend morning. The sounds, the smells, the flavors.

Whaddya say you add a little egg to your life?!

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Goat Cheese
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by a Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 Tbsp butter
3 large eggs
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup tomato, diced
handful of raw spinach
2-3 squirts of sriracha sauce
1 Tbsp chive
goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Crack eggs into a small mixing bowl. Whisk until combined. Set aside.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, tomato, and spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until spinach has started to wilt down. Add eggs. Season with a couple squirts of sriracha sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes or until the edges start to form. Stir and let cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the eggs are fully cooked. Remove from heat, spoon eggs onto serving dish and top with goat cheese and chives.

Let's make a toast to the incredible, edible egg!