Monday, June 27, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Tomato, White Bean, and Swiss Chard

I'm feeling as though I have a new lease on life.  We spent last weekend galavanting in Seattle - practically eating Puget Sound out of salmon, and pairing our meals with succulent Washington wines.  It was nothing short of fabulous.  We truly took time to relax, decompress, and just do nothing.  The perfect prelude to the start of a new job for me last week. 

Fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers market

But, here we are.....four days until July 1, and I have barely had any time to cook.  I love summer - but in these parts we cherish our days that fall between Memorial and Labor Day.....which means that every weekend we have plans....plans that usually keep me out of the kitchen.  We just got our first CSA box last week and I've been itching to get back cooking.

Tonight it was on - grilled chicken, swiss chard and green garlic from the farm, and crusty bread.  It felt good to be back in the kitchen. I find chicken to be somewhat boring, even when it's grilled.  So I came up with this creation as a flavor booster - it's fresh, easy, and adaptable to your own tastes.  Let's start with the chicken - take some skinless, boneless organic breasts and marinate them in your favorite flavorings.  I used a homemade olive oil infused with Italian seasonings.  Grill them up and serve with this tomato, white bean, and swiss chard concoction.  I started with some green garlic and grape tomatoes and sauteed for a few minutes.  Then I added some canned diced tomatoes, Great Northern white beans, green olives, crushed red pepper, and a couple large handfuls of swiss chard.  I let it all cook down for about ten minutes and then topped the chicken with it.  This was so full of flavor.  I even topped some of the crusty bread with the tomato mixture and it was fabulous.  There's nothing better than a "sauce" that can do double duty.  Eat as a side dish if you desire as well.

Let your ideas fly - and use up your CSA veggies!  Top your next salmon fillet, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, or portabello mushroom with this fabulous sauce.


Grilled Chicken with Tomato, White Bean, and Swiss Chard
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup favorite marinade
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp green garlic (or regular), finaly chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can Great Northern white beans, drained
1/3 cup green olives
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 large handfuls swiss chard, ribs removed, roughly chopped
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken breasts and marinade in gallon size plastic bag with seal.  Season with salt and pepper.  Marinate for 1 hour.  Heat grill to medium heat.  Cook breasts for about 5 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. 

While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add green garlic and grape tomatoes.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Add canned tomatoes, white beans, green olives, and crushed red pepper.  Stir and cook for a couple minutes.  Add in swiss chard and season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another 8-10 minutes or until swiss chard has wilted.  Remove from heat and top chicken breasts with mixture.  Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mixed Greens Salad with Blackberries, Candied Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Honey Lime Vinaigrette

There's a buzz in the air lately - the buzz of summer, can you hear it?  A few posts ago I wrote about my need for change, and what I was doing to guide it consciously.  It must be working because this season will definitely usher in some needed change for me and my family.  It will be a summer of endings and beginnings  - for starters, my mom has finally retired from almost 40 years of teaching, a much deserved ending for her.  She's headed to warmer climes when the snow starts piling up this winter.  I'm beyond excited for her.

While she has closed the chapter on her work, I will open another.  Next week I start a new job.  This past year has been quite an adventure - a stressful, unfulfilling struggle to be honest.  I came to a crossroads earlier this year, and decided to do something about it, despite only being in my previous position just shy of a year.  I'm not one to just quit when I don't like something or someone - that will be anywhere you go.  But when it starts to affect my personal and mental well being, that's when I have an issue.  So, I made the decision to move on, for a better life, for a better experience.  I was a pretty crappy wife, daughter, and friend the past year - and I can NEVER get that back.  I cannot have regrets, just learn from it and move on, and hope I never have to be in that situation again in the workplace.  Needless to say, I'm over the moon with excitement to start at this new company.  I'm energized and ready to go!

Before I start this new gig, my husband and I are headed to Seattle for a weekend of relaxation, good food and wine.  Any recommendations on fabulous places to eat and things to see?  I'd love to hear them.

On the food front, this summer buzz has me craving all things salad......they're easy, fresh, and full of flavor this time of year.  I still had some limes leftover after making that cheesecake last week so thought I'd make a vinaigrette with them.  The organic blackberries were calling my name as soon as I stepped foot in the store this week so I added a huge handful along with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts to the greens.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.  It hit the spot!  I will definitely be making this one again.

Happy Summer!

Mixed Greens with Blackberries, Candied Walnuts, Blue Cheese, and Honey Lime Vinaigrette
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

For the Dressing
2 Tbsp honey
Juice from 1 lime
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the Salad
4 handfuls mixed greens
1 cup organic blackberries
1/2 cup candied walnuts {heat 1.5 Tbsp brown sugar in skillet over medium heat, add walnuts just as it starts to melt and stir together to make sure all are coated.  Remove from heat, sprinkle with cinnamon if desired, let cool.}
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

Whisk together all ingredients for dressing, except oil.  Continue to whisk while slowly adding the oil in a steady stream.  Whisk until well combined.

To a large bowl add greens, blackberries, candied walnuts, and blue cheese.  Pour over dressing, toss everything together.  Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Key Lime Cheesecake

Last November, my husband and I took a long weekend trip to Key West.  It was one of the best vacations we've ever taken.  I find my mind wandering back to that weekend often.....the warm sun, palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, the buzz of Duval St, and the Key Lime Pie at Blue Heaven.  That key lime pie, whoa.  I just don't even know where to begin.  In fact it is so good that it allegedly inspired Kenny Chesney's song "Key Lime Pie".  All I can say is, you really have to get there to taste it.  It will change your life. 

The limes have been looking so good at the store lately that I loaded up last time I was there.....really I loaded up like it was my 401(k) plan.  oops.  So I had to do something fabulous with them other than sticking a wedge of one into my gin and tonic.  Of course, I thought about making that darn key lime pie and then came back down to earth, and realized that I'd never be able to replicate that Key West masterpiece.  So, I did some research and found a great Key Lime Cheesecake recipe.  Love cheesecake.  Love key lime.  Score.

I feel like I need to include a warning with this cheesecake.  It's down right nasty good.  I mean nasty good.  So good that you might as well just plan on gaining five pounds while the darn thing is in your fridge.  My husband has never liked cheesecake before, and for the first time ever he's devoured multiple slices of this stuff per day. 

I know cheesecake may seem intimidating, but it's really quite simple.   There are some tricks out there to baking it so it doesn't crack on top, but I say to heck with that.  Bake it like normal {no water}, and hide the cracks with some toasted shredded coconut.  No one will know the difference - and the coconut just adds to the flavor. 

Thanks to Let's Dish for this fantastic cake!  It has become my new summer favorite.

Key Lime Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from Let's Dish who thanked Allrecipes
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 Tbsp butter, melted
32 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
4 eggs
1 Tbsp lime zest, grated
2/3 cup lime juice
3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine graham cracker crumbs with butter and press into bottom of springform pan.  Refrigerate.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, and lime zest until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending just until smooth.  Add lime juice with mixer on low.  Finish mixing by hand.  Do not overbeat or cake may crack during baking.  Bake for 55-65 minutes or until set.  Turn oven off and let cake stand in oven for 30-45 minutes with the door open about 4 inches.  Remove from the oven.  Sprinkle toasted coconut over top of cake.  Refrigerate overnight or until chilled. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Peanut Crusted Salmon

I'm pretty sure the weather gods were smiling on us this weekend.  Pure sun, no clouds, light breeze.  My gosh, do we deserve it or what??!!  Finally! 

A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon....on the golf course.  I was giddy as a school girl. 

In fact, we hosted a golf tournament this weekend.  You see, my husband started his own business a couple years ago {on top of his full time corporate job, and going to school to earn his MBA}.  We created this annual tradition as a way to bring about awareness for the brand, but also as a sign of appreciation to his loyal retail partners and customers.  This year's event was a major success. 

If you're wondering how he {my husband} does it all, I don't know.   I'm envious of his energy and never-ending passion for what he does.  It's humbling, really.   And I'm so thankful I can witness it and help him figure it all out.

In a nutshell, there's never a dull moment in our home.

Speaking of nuts, let's get to the recipe.  I had one night last week to make dinner {read: I had about 30 minutes in between making centerpieces and shopping for picnic supplies and cutting up watermelon and slicing the celery and making five stops to Target for that other thing I forgot when I was there the day before}.  I had some wild-caught sockeye salmon I wanted to use up, but I wanted to do something different.  I thought making a peanut crust for the top would be fantastic.  I was right. 

I used a combination of unsalted peanuts and cashews, added dijon mustard, some breadcrumbs, a splash of lemon juice, a handful of fresh parsley, and then drizzled in some olive oil.  So fragrant and fresh!  I could hardly wait for this stuff to come out of the oven.

This peanut crust could definitely be used on other fish varieties as well.  But, just a note on buying salmon - please do buy wild-caught when you can.  You really don't want to know what they do to the farmed kind.  Copper River Salmon is in season right now - my local store was out when I went last week, but you better believe I'll be back this week to nab my selection.

Happy Eating!

Peanut Crusted Salmon
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toaste to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1.5lbs wild-caught salmon
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup cashews
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
1.5 Tbsp dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
small handful fresh parsley
about 2 Tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place baking rack on top with salmon.  Drizzle salmon with olive oil, use your clean fingers to rub it in, and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, add the nuts, breadcrumbs, dijon, lemon juice, and parsley.  Pulse a few times until coarse.  Then with the processor on, drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  You want the mixture to remain somewhat coarse so be careful not to run it too long.  Spoon mixture on top of salmon, pressing it down with your hand. 

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Serve and enjoy with your favorite spring veggie.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sesame Noodles

Ughhh...back to reality.  Why do the weekends go by so quickly?  We spent some time "up north" at the cabin this weekend.  We here in Minnesota have cabins on lakes {we do have over 10,000 of them after all}.  It's a big deal.  If you don't have a cabin, you know someone with a cabin, and more than likely you've spent some time there over one of the three pinnacle summer holidays.  That's just how things work here.  Summer is sacred to us so please don't mess with it.  I have been spending summers at cabins my whole life, and quite honestly I wouldn't have it any other way.

Brazilian Caipirinha drinks to start the weekend

Rainbow after a light sprinkle

The lilacs were in full bloom
There's just something about the clean air, the thrill of a boat cruise on a sunny afternoon, and the lure of a bonfire in the evening.  Is there any better way to spend a weekend??!

I usually try and clean the food out of the refrigerator before we head up - which means we eat leftovers and random combos the two days before we go.  When we get home, there's nothing to eat until I hit up the store again.  I just haven't had time to get there yet since we've been back, so I went to my trusty recipe for Sesame Noodles.  So, so, so good and perfect as a meal itself {add some grilled chicken if you dare} or as a side dish.  Winks and nods to The Pioneer Woman for this recipe.  She knows what's up with the Sesame Noodles. 

For a little something different I added roasted  unsalted peanuts this time.  Loved the crunch it added.  Next time I may add a little creamy peanut butter for a thicker texture.....I'll be sure to share that one.

If you're having a hard time getting back into the groove, these sesame noodles will do the trick.  Enjoy them today!

Sesame Noodles
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
1 box thin noodles - spaghetti, linguine, or asian-style noodles
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot chile oil
4 Tbsp canola oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Cook noodles according to directions on box.

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients (except noodles, green onions, and peanuts).  Pour sauce over warm noodles, toss to coat.  Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts.  Serve and Enjoy!