It’s 2017! ~ Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesHappy New Year!! I hope this year is filled with many good things for you. 🙂

I made these little appetizers to help ring in 2017. They are fresh and flavorful with the unique addition of finger limes. The little vesicles of the finger limes pop in your mouth with a burst of freshness. It is almost like citrus caviar! Or nature’s Pop Rocks. 😉 If you ever see finger limes, I would highly recommend trying them. I think you’ll find them delightful!

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Makes 30 appetizers

1/2 block (4 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 large ripe avocado

Handful of fresh cilantro, big stems removed

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Approximately 3 English cucumbers

30 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Approximately 1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

Approximately 6 finger limes

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream cheese, avocado, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Process until fully combined and smooth.

With a large peeler, peel strips of cucumber lengthwise. Stop when you reach the seedy centers. Neaten the ends of the strips with a knife. Gently pat the strips dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the oil. Wait until the oil is hot and shimming, and then add the shrimp. Sauté on both sides until the shrimp are just cooked through. Transfer to a plate, and let cool.

Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture onto one side of each strip of cucumber. The spread should cover the whole length of cucumber. Place one shrimp on the end of each strip of cucumber. Make sure the tail is sticking up over the side. Roll the cucumber strip. Repeat until you have 30 appetizers.

To finish, squeeze a little finger lime over the top of each appetizer.

Serve immediately. They are best when they are freshly made.Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesPS. Finger limes are also fun to add to your midnight sparkling wine! The little juice vesicles float up and down in the bubbles and give the drink a nice little pop of acidity.Sparkling wine with finger limes

Happy New Year ~ Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipHappy New Year! I hope you had a fun and festive celebration to ring in the New Year, whether it was big or small. 🙂

In addition to the beef Wellington canapés, I also made these cute little cucumber cups yesterday. This is a way to dress up plain vegetables so they are ready for a party! 🙂Cucumber Cups with Crudités and DipCucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

2 large English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds

Bottled ranch dressing (or any dip of your choice)

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks

2 medium celery stalks, cut into thin sticks

With a small melon baller, scoop out most of the seeds from the cucumbers. Make sure not to scoop all the way to the bottom so the dressing can be contained in the cup.

Add about a ½ teaspoon of dressing to the bottom of each cup. It won’t look like a lot, but when the carrots and celery are added, the dressing will rise up the sides a little.

Add as many of the carrots and celery sticks as you like to each cup.

PS. The appetizer in the background was another fun way to dress up carrots for the party. 🙂 I simply peeled a large carrot lengthwise so I ended up with long strips. Then I piped a small bit of store-bought hummus along each strip and rolled them up. The hummus acted as the glue. The finishing touch was a little more hummus piped inside the middle, and a thin round slice of carrot on the bottom as the base.Cucumber Cups with Crudités and Dip

New Year’s Eve Party! ~ Beef Wellington Canapés

Beef Wellington CanapésAs 2015 is coming to a close, I made these mini beef Wellington canapés as my last hurrah of the year. 🙂 These little Wellingtons had all of the flavors of their full-sized counterpart – puff pastry, mushrooms, beef tenderloin, and prosciutto. They were fun and festive, and oh so cute!Beef Wellington CanapésBeef Wellington Canapés

6 ounces crimini mushrooms

1 sprig thyme

1 splash dry white wine

1 sheet puff pastry, refrigerated

1 egg, beaten

4 ounces beef tenderloin

Approximately 5 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until they are approximately the size of coarse breadcrumbs. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the mushrooms (without oil) with the sprig of thyme until the mushrooms are dry. Add a splash of white wine, and cook until the pan is dry once again. Remove the thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured work surface until it is about double in height and width. With a pizza wheel or pasta roller, cut the pastry into small squares. Place the squares on the prepared sheet pan. Cover the pastry with another piece of parchment, and cover the sheet pan with another sheet pan so they are nesting. This will ensure that your puff pastry won’t puff too much. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the top pan and top parchment paper. Let the pastry cool enough so you can handle it, and then lightly brush the beaten egg on each piece. Bake for 3 minutes more, or until shiny and golden.

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Sear until the meat is done to your liking. After it has rested for 5 minutes, slice as thinly as possible.

To assemble, scoop a small spoonful of the mushroom mixture on the top of each piece of puff pastry. Top with a thin slice of steak. Roll a small piece of prosciutto into a tiny tube, and place it on top of the steak. Serve immediately.Beef Wellington Canapés

A dessert that fits into your New Year’s resolutions ~ Mint Chip “Ice Cream”

Mint Chip Frozen DessertI am fascinated with recipes that find creative ways of using and combining raw, plant-based ingredients. It’s a different way of thinking about food, and I think it’s really interesting and exciting! (Not to mention, exceptionally healthy, which is kind of the whole point of eating that way. 🙂 ) For example, this recipe uses raw ingredients to make something similar to mint chip ice cream. It is a rich dish with the coconut and the nuts, but it is quite a bit healthier than a classic mint chip ice cream. If you are going to have a frozen dessert in January, the month filled with resolutions of healthier eating, this is a good one! I hope you’ll give it a try. 🙂

The recipe is from Laura Miller, who hosts an online food show called Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. Her style is as fun and quirky as the title implies. 😉 You can find the episodes on a cooking channel called Tastemade.

Mint Chip Frozen DessertMint Chip “Ice Cream”

Based on a recipe from Laura Miller

2 cups soaked raw cashews

2 cups coconut meat

3/4 cup coconut water

3/4 cup agave

2 teaspoons mint extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, liquefied

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cacao nibs, finely chopped

1 teaspoon matcha powder or spirulina

Open your coconuts, scrape out the flesh/meat, and add it into a high speed blender, along with agave, mint extract, matcha powder, salt, cashews, and coconut water.

Next, add in oil, and blend again. The more you blend, the creamier your finished product will be.

Pour the mixture in a medium-sized bowl, and just stir in the cocoa nibs.

If you have an ice cream maker, use it according to the machine’s instructions. If not, place your bowl in the freezer and come back to stir every 30 minutes or so for 3-4 hours.

Mint Chip Frozen Dessert

Lucky Dinner for the New Year ~ Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale SoupOne of our first meals this year had not only one, but two lucky ingredients to eat in the New Year! Lentils and kale. If I had used pork sausage, it would have been three, but the healthier option won out, and I chose chicken sausage. This is a hearty and delicious soup for a cold winter night. 🙂 Perfect for the New Year!

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

2 celery stalks (with leafy tops), thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

1/2 cup dried lentils

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, preferably Tuscan, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Happy New Year’s Eve ~ Cute Wine Bottle Labels

New Year's Eve WineThe Blissful Bee updated her New Year’s Eve wine bottle printables, so I started and ended my year with the festive labels. Cute! I recommend checking them out and adding them to your New Year celebration. 🙂

Happy New Year from Noon Cafe! May you have a happy and healthy 2015.

Warm Muffins for a Chilly Day ~ Pear and Granola Muffins

Here’s a sweet treat for the New Year. Perfect for a light breakfast, or a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. We enjoyed them for our first breakfast of 2014. 🙂

I replaced the low fat yogurt with non-fat, and the butter with Earth Balance. Since Earth Balance already has salt in the mix, no extra salt was needed. I couldn’t find store bought plain granola, so I used an apple cinnamon flavor instead of making some from scratch. It was a really nice combination with the pears. I tried replacing the all purpose flour with 100% whole wheat pastry flour, as well. It is a heartier (and healthier) muffin if you choose to do it that way. They are lighter and fluffier with a mixture of the two types of flours. Your choice. 🙂 I think I preferred the blend, however, so that is how the recipe is as follows:

Pear and Granola Muffins

Based on a Recipe from MarthaStewart.com

For the muffins:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons Earth Balance, melted

2 D’Anjou pears (2 cups), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

3/4 cup plain or apple cinnamon granola

For the topping:

1/2 cup granola

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

3 tablespoons chilled Earth Balance

STEP 1 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and cinnamon.

STEP 2 
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, yogurt, and Earth Balance. Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Add egg mixture to well, and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the granola and pears.

STEP 3
 Make Granola Crisp Topping: In a bowl, toss together 1/2 cup granola, and 1/4 cup each all-purpose flour and packed light-brown sugar. Cut 3 tablespoons chilled Earth Balance into pieces; add to granola mixture, and rub in with fingertips until clumps form.

STEP 4 
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Sprinkle with granola topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy 2014! ~ Festive Wine Labels

Happy New Year!

Check out these really cute little wine bottle labels from the Blissful Bee. They are free, and printable. They make any bottle a little more festive on the first day of 2014!

May you have a happy and healthy new year. 🙂 Cheers!

New Year’s Eve ~ Paella Mixta

Almost every New Year’s Eve, we get together with some dear friends of ours and ring in the new year together. We usually pick a theme for our evening. This year we chose to try some Spanish dishes. They made a delicious mushroom tapas-style dish and flan for dessert (and also made sure we had some Spanish wine to pair with our meal!) We brought paella with chicken, clams and shrimp to the party. It’s a recipe I’d like to keep in my arsenal, since it was fairly easy and delicious! It has a little something for everyone.

I substituted the chicken thighs with boneless and skinless chicken breasts. I also used only half of the sausage that the recipe called for, but double the seafood. I used the gas stovetop at our friends’ house instead of the grill, as well, since it was chilly and rainy outside! 😉 Other than that, I followed the recipe fairly closely.

It’s the perfect party dish!

Paella Mixta (Paella with Seafood and Meat)

Based on a recipe from Chow

2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)

32 large shrimp (about 24 ounces), peeled and deveined

1 ¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large pinch saffron threads

2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken

4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth

32 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 medium lemon, cut into 8 wedges, for serving

Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.

Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 3/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat stovetop on high heat. Place a 15-inch paella pan on the stovetop, and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to brown and the fat is rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a large bowl; set aside.

There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer, and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides of the chicken pieces are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.

Add the onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so that the onions don’t burn. Add the garlic, remaining paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.

Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)

Bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Continue to simmer, checking occasionally, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 12 minutes.

Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Cook until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Welcome 2013 ~ Five Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince

Happy New Year 2013!

On New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the last day of the year with a few Spanish tapas. My favorite was made with quince paste, Manchego cheese, and Marcona almonds. I had never cooked with quince before, and it really intrigued me! If you’ve never had it, I would describe it as a cross between a pear and an apple, but it needs to be cooked to bring out its sweetness. I love to explore ingredients I have never tried before. It keeps the kitchen fun and interesting.

I stayed with the quince theme for our New Year’s Day dinner. A new fruit for a new year seemed fitting! We had Five Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince to kick off 2013.  I followed the recipe from Cooking Light magazine pretty closely except that I cut the sugar in the poached quinces quite a bit. Other than that, we thought it was a really exceptional recipe!

Poached Quinces

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine

2 cups water

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 (1-inch) julienne-cut lemon rind

2 cored peeled quinces, quartered

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a sauce pan, and cook 2 minutes. Add quinces; reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Remove quinces from liquid with a slotted spoon. Strain liquid through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Pour liquid over quinces.

Five Spice Duck Breasts with Caramelized Quince

From Cooking Light magazine

Poached Quinces from recipe above

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 (12-ounce) packages boneless whole duck breasts, thawed and cut in half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions

Reserve 3/4 cup poaching liquid from Poached Quinces. Reserve remaining liquid for another use. Cut the quince quarters into cubes; set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup reserved poaching liquid, five-spice powder, ginger, and garlic in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add duck to bag; seal and toss to coat. Marinate in refrigerator at least 24 hours or up to 2 days, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Remove duck from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle duck evenly with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Place duck, skin side down, in pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn meat over; cook 1 minute. Place pan in oven. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (medium) or until desired degree of doneness. Remove duck from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Place duck, skin side down, on a cutting board or work surface. Brush meaty side of duck with remaining 1/4 cup poaching liquid.

Heat reserved drippings in pan over medium-high heat. Add cubed quince quarters; sauté 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in sliced green onions.

Remove skin from duck; discard. Cut duck diagonally across grain into thin slices. Divide duck slices evenly among each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup quince mixture. Serve immediately.

PS. The leftover quince syrup was a nice addition to a glass of sparkling wine to ring in the new year :).

PPS. The festive little paper hats were free to download and print from http://www.ellinee.com. Super cute!

Happy 2011! ~ Julia Child’s Clafouti aux Poires

Happy 2011!

I have been on a little Julia Child kick this winter…I watched the movie Julie & Julia again, I am reading My Life in France and I tried a couple of recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1. One of those recipes was for a pear clafouti, which we had as our first dessert of the new year. It’s one of the recipes in the book that isn’t heavy with butter or cream, so I actually followed it pretty closely. The woman knew what she was doing, so who am I to fiddle with her recipes too much? 🙂 The only minor substitution I made was skim milk instead of whole.

Clafouti aux Poires

3 cups peeled, cored and sliced ripe pears (about 1 1/2 lbs)

1/4 cup cognac (I used VSOP Hennesy Privilege)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup skim milk

Another 1/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

Prepare the pears, and let them soak in the cognac and 1/3 cup sugar for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking dish (I used a casserole dish) into the oven to preheat.

Place the ingredients from the milk to the flour in a blender  along with the remaining cognac and sugar poured out from the pears, and blend at top speed for a minute.

Take your baking dish out of the oven when it is hot, and lightly butter the bottom and sides. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of batter into the bottom. Spread the pears over the layer. Then pour the remaining batter on top so the pears are covered.

Bake on the middle rack for about an hour, or until it is puffed and browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm.

I hope you enjoy this sweet start to the new year! Bon appétit!

Happy New Year! Rice Pudding with Pomegranate Syrup

Welcome 2010! To celebrate this day, I decided to make dinner with an array of lucky New Year dishes from all over the world. I got my inspiration from an article from Epicurious.com. We had thyme coated pork tenderloin, braised lentils with onions and spinach and rice pudding with pomegranate syrup (with an almond hidden in each serving for luck.) Of the three, the dessert was our favorite! Definitely a keeper to make again throughout the rest of the year. The original recipe was from Cooking Light magazine, and it can be found at MyRecipes.com. I followed the recipe pretty closely since it was already a lightened version of traditional rice pudding, but I changed a few little things to lighten it up even more. (For example, I used skim milk instead of 2% and I omitted the butter.)

Rice Pudding with Pomegranate Syrup

3 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice, sushi rice or other short-grain rice

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 whole almonds

2 pomegranates

1/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

(Or you can cheat a tiny bit and replace one pomegranate fruit with a small bottle of pomegranate juice.)

Combine 3 cups of milk, rice and 1/3 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Whisk 1/2 cup of milk and the egg. Gradually stir about one quarter of the warm rice mixture into the egg mixture. Add it all back to the pan, stirring constantly. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.

To prepare the syrup, squeeze the juice from the pomegranate halves to measure 1 cup. (Or use a bottle of juice.) Combine the juice and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently.

Spoon the pudding into 6 individual dishes. (Martini glasses are an elegant presentation.) Drizzle the syrup evenly over the pudding, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Also, don’t forget to hide an almond in them for luck in the New Year! 🙂

We also had the classic pairing for this day…sparkling wine. This year I chose cute little individual cans of Sofia Blanc de Blancs by Francis Ford Coppola Winery. They were a unique, economical and fun way to go.

Here’s to lots of luck in the New Year!