Warm Weather Appetizers ~ Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

The weather is warming up, and that gets me into the mood for something tropical! I decided to cook a traditional Hawaiian dish called lau lau, which means “leaf leaf” in Hawaiian since it uses two different kinds of leaves. I recently learned how to make the classic dish from a native Hawaiian lady, and this is my spin on the tradition. 🙂

I served some of the shredded lau lau as an appetizer on rectangles of purple sweet potato with taro chips to garnish. I love how the colors of the potato and taro compliment one another, and I also think using both the leaf and the root of the taro plant balances the dish nicely.

We enjoyed the remaining lau lau as a main course for a few days (with the extra bits of baked sweet potato!) It is a bit of a project to make this dish, so I recommend making a lot for leftovers. Or, this is a great dish to serve a big crowd. Perfect for a summer backyard luau!

Chicken Lau Lau on Purple Sweet Potatoes with Taro Chips

9 chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of excess fat

About 18 fresh taro leaves

About 18 ti leaves or 2 large banana leaves

Hawaiian sea salt

2 large purple sweet potatoes (I used Okinawan sweet potatoes)

Olive oil

Taro chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Set aside either a large pot with a lid, or a large casserole dish with two layers of aluminum foil to cover.

Salt the chicken liberally, and rub the salt into the meat with your fingers.

Remove the tough stems from the taro leaves. If using ti leaves, remove the tough stems. If using banana leaves, cut into manageable pieces, approximately 8 or 9 inches in length.

Nestle 2 taro leaves together. Place 1 chicken thigh in the middle of the leaves. Wrap it into a bundle so the chicken is completely covered by the leaves.

Then wrap the taro bundle in the ti or banana leaves so it is completely covered. Either tie the bundles with kitchen twine (or traditionally, the stem of the ti leaf) or make sure the last fold is on the bottom so they stay closed while cooking.

Place the bundles in the prepared pot or dish. Bake for approximately 3 1/2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone and shreds easily.

The ti and banana leaves are not edible, so remove before serving.

Shred two or three bundles of chicken for the appetizers. Reserve the remaining lau lau for an easy weeknight main course.

Turn up your oven to 400 F.

Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut 2 large purple sweet potatoes into approximately 1/3-inch slices. Then cut the slices into rectangles.

Toss the rectangles (and the extra bits) in olive oil so every side is well coated. Sprinkle with sea salt, and toss to evenly coat. Arrange the potatoes on the baking sheets in a single layer.

Bake for about 10 minutes, turn the potatoes over, and continue to bake until fork tender.

To serve, top the potato squares with some shredded lau lau chicken. Top each with a piece of taro chip for garnish.

Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Lemon Verbena Whole-Wheat Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Verbena ShortbreadI made two desserts for our sweet sixteenth wedding anniversary dinner – The blackberry cabernet gelée I blogged about earlier, and these lemon verbena whole-wheat shortbread cookies. I love the bright citrusy flavor of lemon verbena, which is a nice compliment to these buttery cookies. They were the perfect ending to a beautiful summer evening celebration!

Lemon Verbena Whole-Wheat Shortbread Cookies

Approximately 20 leaves of fresh lemon verbena, stems removed, roughly chopped

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

All-purpose flour for dusting work surface

In the bowl of a food processor, add the lemon verbena, whole-wheat pastry flour, and salt. Process until the lemon verbena leaves are cut into tiny pieces.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix at this point.

Form the dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Let chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a little all-purpose flour on a rolling pin and a clean work surface. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through.Lemon Verbena Shortbread

Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Blackberry Cabernet Gelée

Blackberry Cabernet GeléeAfter the main course of duck breast with a farmers’ market plum sauce, the grand finale of our anniversary dinner was a duo of desserts. (Since this anniversary was our sweet sixteen, I thought two desserts were in order! 😉 ) I made blackberry cabernet gelée accompanied by lemon verbena shortbread cookies. (The cookie recipe will follow in my next post.)

I have enjoyed making several gelatin desserts this summer, and I thought this blackberry and cabernet gelée was an elegant way to close the season. I also loved that they could be made a day in advance, so I wasn’t in the kitchen all day on our anniversary.

Blackberry Cabernet Gelée

Based on a recipe from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup cold water

1 packet or 2 1/2 teaspoons of Knox powdered gelatin

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (I used one from 14 Hands Winery)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 pint of blackberries

Set aside pretty serving glasses. Add several blackberries to each glass.

In a medium bowl, add the apple juice and water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top of the liquids. Let stand about 5 minutes, or until the gelatin has bloomed.

In a medium saucepan, add the wine and the sugar. Bring to a boil and let the sugar dissolve.

Once the sugar has dissolved, pour the wine mixture into the apple juice mixture. Whisk to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a vessel with a spout. Fill the serving glasses. Refrigerate until the gelatin has set. I let mine chill overnight.

Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Whole-Wheat Dinner Rolls with Dill

Dill RollsThis weekend, my hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary! This year was our sweet 16. 🙂

Every year I love to make a special meal for the occasion, and this year was no different. This year’s dinner featured the beautiful summer produce that I found at our farmers’ markets. All of the dishes were fresh and summery.

We started with whole-wheat dinner rolls seasoned with fresh dill. I tied them into a knot (since we tied the knot 16 years ago! 😉 ) I served them with corn and coconut soup garnished with a good bit of Dungeness crab. The rolls were a nice accompaniment to dip into the soup.Dill RollsWhole-Wheat Dinner Rolls with Dill

Makes 6 dinner rolls

2 tablespoons warm water (about 80 degrees F.)

1/2 tablespoon dry active yeast

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced (measure after mincing)

1/2 teaspoon dill seed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 3/4 cups white whole-wheat flour

All-purpose flour for dusting work surface

Approximately 1 tablespoon beaten egg

Approximately 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt

Place a piece of parchment paper on a half sheet pan, and spray the parchment with cooking spray. Make sure you have enough room in your refrigerator for the sheet pan where the rolls will rest overnight.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let stand until the yeast and water mixture looks creamy, about 5 minutes. Next, add the ingredients from the sugar through the whole-wheat flour to the bowl. Let the mixer knead the dough for about 10 minutes. The dough will be elastic and sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a clean work surface that is lightly dusted with all-purpose flour. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Sprinkle a little extra all-purpose flour over the dough and on your hands if the dough sticks.

Form the rolls into your desired shape. To make knots like I did, roll one piece of dough between your hands until it is about 12 inches long. Tie the dough into a loose knot. Then take one loose end of dough and bring it up and over to the center of the knot. Take the other end of the dough, and gently pull it down and under to the center of the knot. The ends should be tucked underneath so no loose ends are visible. Gently press the sides of the knot so it is round. Place the roll on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 5 rolls. Take care to leave enough space between the rolls to allow them to rise without touching each other.

Spray the tops of the rolls with nonstick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let the rolls rest in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove the rolls from the refrigerator. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes, or until close to doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Brush the rolls with the beaten egg, and sprinkle a little coarse salt on top. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and cooked through.Dill Rolls

Savoring the end of summer ~ Corn Dog Muffins

Corn Dog MuffinsI hope you have enjoyed your summer so far! For me, it has been a summer filled with time at the beach, several good books, and visits to local festivals. But summer isn’t over yet. 🙂 I am trying to savor the last of the warm weather before it’s time to enjoy autumn’s pleasures!

Before August comes to a close, I wanted to share one more summery recipe. These little corn dog mini muffins were inspired by the fun food I see at festivals and carnivals. Dip these little muffins into ketchup for the full corn dog experience.

The sweet little summer printables on top of my muffins are from a blog called Glued To My Crafts. So adorable! They are free to print for personal use, so maybe you can incorporate them into your end-of-summer celebrations. 🙂

Corn Dog Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground cornmeal

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

3 tablespoons light olive oil

1 large egg

3 vegetarian frankfurters cut into approximately 1/4-inch pieces (I used frankfurters from Field Roast)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. Spray the inside of the liners with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (from the flour to the salt.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (from the buttermilk to the egg.)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk until just combined. Add the chopped frankfurters, and stir until they are coated in batter.

Fill the muffin liners about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for about 13 minutes, or until the muffins spring back to the touch.Corn Dog Muffins

Summertime Sweets ~ Orange and Cream Gelatin Cups

Orange and Cream GelatinNothing says summer to me more than the classic pairing of orange and cream. To get into the season, I made these layered gelatin desserts. The white layer is lusciously creamy, even though there is no actual cream in the recipe. And the orange juice layer gives it the perfect amount of tang and sweetness. It’s delicious and bikini friendly. 😉 That’s my kind of summer treat!

I used my red, white, and blue parfait recipe, but I just swapped the cherry juice for orange.

Orange and Cream Gelatin Cups

For the white layer:

1 1/2 teaspoons plain powdered gelatin

2 teaspoons cold water

2 cups 2% Greek-style yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the orange layer:

3 teaspoons plain powdered gelatin

3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, strained

Set aside 4 serving glasses.

For the white layer:

In a small bowl, add the gelatin to the water and let it bloom. In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and vanilla. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Once the milk is simmering, remove from the heat, add the bloomed gelatin, and whisk to combine. Let the milk cool to room temperature. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the yogurt mixture and whisk until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a container with a spout.

To get the diagonal look, prop your serving glasses at an angle in a muffin tin. Pour the white layer into the angled glasses. Keeping the glasses at an angle, refrigerate until the white layer is set.

For the orange layer:

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of orange juice. Let the gelatin bloom. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of orange juice to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove from the heat. Add the bowl with the gelatin to the hot juice and whisk well. Transfer the mixture to a container with a spout.

Once the white gelatin is completely set, set the glasses upright. Fill the serving glasses to the top with the orange gelatin. Chill until well set, preferably overnight.Orange and Cream Gelatin

Fourth of July Sweets ~ Red, White, and Blue Parfaits

Red, White, and Blue ParfaitFor the grand finale of our Fourth of July dinner, I made red, white, and blue parfaits layered with tart cherry and vanilla yogurt gelatin topped with a layer of blueberries. 🙂 Yum!

The little desserts did take a bit of time to make since I needed to wait for each layer to set before I could pour the next, but most of that time was not spent actively in the kitchen. I could kick back and read a Fourth of July mystery out on the deck while I waited. 🙂 But I think they were well worth the effort. Plus, they can be made a day or two ahead, which is an added bonus.

If you didn’t have time to cook all of the red, white, and blue dishes you wanted to make this weekend, this one would also be perfect for Bastille Day on the 14th!

Red, White, and Blue Parfaits

For the red layer:

3 teaspoons plain powdered gelatin

3 cups tart cherry juice (or really any natural red 100% fruit juice you like!)

For the white layer:

1 1/2 teaspoons plain powdered gelatin

2 teaspoons cold water

2 cups 2% Greek-style yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Set aside 4 serving glasses. I used two tall parfait glasses and two martini glasses. I think wine glasses would also be pretty.

For the red layer:

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of cherry juice. Let the gelatin bloom. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of cherry juice to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove from the heat. Add the bowl with the gelatin to the hot juice and whisk well. Transfer the mixture to a container with a spout.

Fill the serving glasses about 1/4 full with the cherry gelatin. Refrigerate the glasses until the red layer is set. (Mine took a couple of hours.) Set aside the remaining cherry gelatin and hold at room temperature.

For the white layer:

In a small bowl, add the gelatin to the water and let it bloom. In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and vanilla. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Once the milk is simmering, remove from the heat, add the bloomed gelatin, and whisk to combine. Let the milk cool to room temperature. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the yogurt mixture and whisk until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a container with a spout.

Pour the white gelatin onto the set layer of red gelatin so the height of the white layer is approximately the same as the red. (Make sure the gelatin layer below is truly set before pouring the next layer on top.) Refrigerate the glasses until the white layer is set. Set aside the remaining white gelatin and hold at room temperature.

Repeat the layers until you have two layers of red and two of white. Chill until well set, preferably overnight. Top with blueberries and a cherry in the middle right before serving.Red, White, and Blue Parfait

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Northwest Salmon Burgers

Salmon BurgerHappy Fourth of July!

I made Northwest salmon burgers for dinner tonight to celebrate the date. 🙂 They were summery, festive, delicious, and easy to make. I will definitely keep this recipe in my collection for future summer celebrations.

Northwest Salmon Burgers

Based on a recipe from The New York Times

1 ½ pounds wild-caught salmon

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 medium shallots, chopped into approximately ¼ inch pieces

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 ½ tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed, roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

High heat cooking oil, such as safflower

Remove the skin and the pin bones from the salmon, and chop into coarse pieces.

In the bowl of a food processor, process about ¼ of the salmon and the mustard until the combination forms a paste. Then add the remaining chunks of salmon and the shallots. Pulse the ingredients together in the food processor until the mixture comes together, but make sure it still has some texture. For best results, the chunks of salmon shouldn’t be bigger than ¼ inch, but they shouldn’t be a purée.

Transfer the salmon mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, capers, salt, and pepper until everything is well incorporated.

Form the mixture into approximately 6 patties and set aside on a plate.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet. When the skillet is hot, add a couple of tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the salmon patties. Be careful not to crowd the pan. You may need to cook them in two batches. Cook the first side for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until golden. Flip, and cook on the second side until the burgers are cooked through. Take care not to overcook.

I served mine on rosemary rolls with a little butter lettuce and a dollop of lemon mayonnaise on top.

Savoring the End of Summer ~ Summer Vacation Crumble

Vacation CrumbleI’m enjoying every last morsel of summer. 🙂 I hope you are too! This dessert is my last one of the year using summer’s fruits. It’s a perfect dessert to throw together using what you have on hand, because when you want to hang out at the beach or the lake, you don’t want to stop for groceries! 😉 I am calling it a Summer Vacation Crumble since it is also a good dessert to make if you are on vacation where you don’t have your usual kitchen staples for baking, like flour or sugar.

This recipe is more of an inspiration rather than a hard and fast recipe. I think it would even be great with different fruits like blackberries or plums. Use whatever store-bought cookies sound good to you. I have used almond cookies and snickerdoodles, but I think ginger snaps and sugar cookies would also be delicious.Vacation CrumbleSummer Vacation Crumble

Serves 6

4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

½ pint blueberries

Enough maple syrup to sweeten the fruit to your liking

2 handfuls of all-natural store-bought cookies, crumbled (almond, snickerdoodle, or whatever sounds good to you!)

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix the peaches and blueberries together with the maple syrup. Transfer the mixture into one large baking dish or 6 small ones.

Work the cookie crumbs and the butter with your fingers until incorporated.

Evenly top the fruit with the cookie mixture.

Bake until the top is golden, and the fruit is bubbly and softened. Check the crumble after 10 minutes, and bake longer if needed. The individual ones will take less time to bake than one large one, and the time also depends on the ripeness of the fruit.

The cute little flags came from SmartSchoolHouse.com. I thought they added the perfect touch to the summery crumbles!Vacation Crumble

British Wedding Anniversary Dinner ~ Soup ~ Rocket and Courgette Soup (Arugula and Zucchini Soup)

Rocket and Courgette SoupThis week marks our 15th wedding anniversary, and since it’s a big year, we wanted to celebrate in a big way! We had an extravagant British-themed dinner that took me several days to complete, but it was a fun project that was well worth the effort. I wanted to tie this anniversary back to our engagement anniversary/Valentine’s Day celebration when we enjoyed a Downton Abbey themed dinner. Given that the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary is crystal, I thought another classic British meal with all the trimmings would also give us a great excuse to get out the crystal pieces we were given as wedding gifts but don’t use as often as we could. This crystal-studded celebration dinner was my anniversary gift to my hubby. 🙂

We started with a simple summery soup called rocket and courgette soup in the UK, but here in the States, we would call it arugula and zucchini soup. 🙂 I based the dish on a recipe from BBC Good Food, and then added a couple touches of my own.Rocket and Courgette SoupRocket and Courgette Soup

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 teaspoon high heat oil, such as safflower

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium russet potato, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 courgettes (zucchini), roughly chopped

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

About 3 1/5 ounces, or 2 large handfuls, rocket (arugula)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan. Add oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion and potato. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add the courgettes and stock. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits. Bring to a boil. Cook until the courgettes are tender. Next, add the rocket, and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds. In small batches, blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Stay tuned for the main course…A trio of mini British meat pies!Rocket and Courgette Soup

Polynesian Adventure ~ Tuvalu Tuna, Samoan Tropical Salad, and ‘Otai

OtaiTonight I took a culinary trip to three different Polynesian island nations on this beautiful summer evening! I tried recipes from Tuvalu, Samoa, and Tonga.

All of the recipes were from an inspiring food blog I admire called Global Table Adventure. I discovered the blog when I read the author’s memoir in which she shared her journey to make the website. She went on a culinary voyage in her own kitchen, cooking a meal from every country in the world. (That is 195 countries!) Then she wrote about the recipes and her experiences making them, as well as facts about the countries from which they came. She also added beautiful photos of the food as well as the countries she featured. I have already tried a few of the recipes ranging from a chicken dish from Panama (Arroz con Pollo) to a breakfast dish from Israel (Shakshouka). I have learned about dishes I have never heard of before, and even countries that I wasn’t aware existed. The blog has helped to open up my corner of the world to the greater world, filled my wanderlust, and ignited my passion for cooking on days when I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about making dinner. It really is a wonderful website, and I hope you’ll check it out. 🙂 I plan to cook many more adventures from this collection of recipes.Tuvalu TunaOn tonight’s Polynesian adventure, the main course was called Tuvalu Tuna. Before perusing through the collection of recipes on Global Table Adventure, I wasn’t familiar with the island of Tuvalu. I learned that it is the smallest member of the Commonwealth of Nations. (Coincidentally, all of the nations featured in this meal are a part of the Commonwealth.) In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) visited Tuvalu a few years back, and they experienced a little of the local food and dance. (If you need a smile, check out the second half of this video. 🙂 )

I lightened the dish a little from the original recipe by reducing the amount of oil to only 1 tablespoon, and using light coconut milk. I also served it with brown rice instead of white.

Tuvalu Tuna – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure

I served the tuna dish with a simple salad from Samoa, which was the perfect accompaniment. It consisted of an unlikely combination of spinach, papaya, avocado, and cantaloupe, which worked together nicely.

Samoan Tropical Salad – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure Polynesian AdventureI paired our dinner with a classic drink from Tonga called ‘Otai. I can’t think of anything that is more summery than watermelon, coconut, and lime blended together! (This was my second batch of ‘Otai, since it is that good!) I used a light coconut milk beverage like this, rather than a can of coconut milk. Serve in a tiki glass for the full Polynesian effect! I think this would also be lovely with a little rum to kick it up a bit. 😉

‘Otai – Follow this recipe link to Global Table AdventureOtai

Happy Fourth of July ~ Part 3 ~ Strawberry Cheesecake Tart (Updated!)

Cheesecake TartThe grand finale of our Fourth of July dinner was my hubby’s favorite cheesecake tart! It was a special request. 😉

Since I am always trying to improve and learn, I made a couple of small tweaks to the original recipe. Opting for an all natural ingredient, I exchanged the nonfat sour cream with nonfat Greek yogurt. I also omitted the sugar in the crust since I try to cut back on sugar where I can, and the graham crackers are sweet enough on their own.

You can make a few small cheesecakes, or one big one! For the tiny ones, I piped seedless strawberry jam to make the stripes, and placed a few little blueberries in the corner for the stars. So cute! I got the idea from MyRecipes.com. 🙂 For the big one, I topped it with fresh summer strawberries arranged in a pretty pattern. I also added a few blueberries this time around to make it a little more patriotic.

Cheesecake TartStrawberry Cheesecake Tart

Based on a recipe from Martha Stewart

6 full graham cracker sheets

1/3 cup almonds

4 tablespoons unsalted melted butter, or just enough until the crust is moistened

2 8-oz bars of Neufchatel cream cheese

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Pint of fresh strawberries, or blueberries, or whatever you’d like to use for your topping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, grind the graham crackers and almonds until they are finely ground. Add the butter slowly, and process until moistened. (You may not need the full 4 tablespoons.) Transfer to a 9-inch tart pan or three 3-inch tart pans. Press the mixture firmly into the pan(s) and up the sides. Freeze for 15 minutes.

If you have a second food processor bowl, I’d recommend using it now. Otherwise, just clean your bowl and blade very well. Then process the cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt until the mixture is smooth.

Place your tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and fill with the cheesecake mixture.

Bake until filling is set, about 30 to 35 minutes for the large tart. For the smaller tarts, check the progress at about 20 minutes to ensure you don’t overbake.

Cool completely and decorate as you wish!

Cheesecake Tarts

Happy Fourth of July ~ Part 2 ~ Trout Burgers with Tarragon Mayonnaise

Trout BurgerWhat could be more American than a thick, juicy burger on the Fourth of July? 🙂 I made trout burgers with a tarragon mayonnaise for our holiday dinner. The steelhead trout I used came from the Columbia River, which is just south of Seattle. I wanted my celebration of the USA’s birthday to include some of the things I love and appreciate about my corner of this county, like fresh seafood! 🙂

I based my recipe on a salmon burger recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. The two fish are related, so they can be swapped with each other in most cases. I also changed a few things besides the fish. Most notably, I reduced the amount of mayonnaise and increased the amount of nonfat yogurt for the tarragon mayonnaise spread. I also added lemon zest in addition to the juice, and I used freshly grated horseradish rather than the prepared variety. To serve, I used homemade whole-wheat brioche buns rather than buns made with white flour.

Trout Burgers with Tarragon Mayonnaise

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

Serves 4

1 pound skinless trout fillet, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/4 cups)

4 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon drained small capers

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh white horseradish, grated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

4 whole-wheat buns

4 large tomato slices

8 butter lettuce leaves

Tarragon mayonnaise (recipe follows)

To make burgers:

Combine first 10 ingredients in medium bowl, and mix well. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Mix breadcrumbs into salmon mixture. Form into four 1-inch-thick patties. Preheat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil when the pan is hot. Add salmon patties; cook until just firm to touch and brown and crusty, about 3 minutes per side.

Assemble each burger on a bun with a generous amount of tarragon mayonnaise, a trout patty, a slice of tomato, and lettuce leaves. Serve immediately.

Tarragon Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 tablespoon drained small capers

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon freshly grated white horseradish, or more to taste

To make mayonnaise:

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

My festive Fourth of July wine bottle label came from Catch My Party. They have the cutest free downloads to kick up your celebration a notch. 🙂

Fourth of July Wine Bottle Label

Happy Fourth of July ~ Part 1 ~ Homemade Dill Pickles

Dill PicklesI hope you had a lovely Fourth of July weekend!

To celebrate the occasion this year, I made fresh dill pickles from the farmers’ market, trout burgers with a tarragon mayonnaise, and my hubby’s favorite summer strawberry cheesecake tart. I’ll share all three recipes since we really enjoyed them all, starting with the pickles. 🙂

I stumbled upon a farmers’ market last week where I saw some beautiful Kirby cucumbers that I couldn’t resist, along with a big bunch of fresh dill. (I must admit, I’m one of those people who gets much more excited about beautiful cucumbers and herbs than I do about beautiful shoes and purses. 😉 ) For a couple of dollars, I knew I could make something fresh and delicious with my discoveries.

I used a dill pickle recipe from Food and Wine magazine with only a few small changes. I reduced the amount of sugar by half and added some whole peppercorns for added seasoning. I also omitted the dill seeds and used more fresh dill than the recipe called for (since I had a huge bunch). These pickles were so flavorful and delicious! I have a feeling I’ll be making this recipe again and again. Maybe I’ll try radishes or green beans next time? I can see what my local farmers’ market has to play with next week!

Dill Pickles

Based on a recipe from Food and Wine magazine

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 cups hot water

2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise or sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 1/2 cups fresh dill, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

In a large, heatproof measuring cup, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns with the hot water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cucumbers with the dill and garlic. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and turn to coat. Place a small plate over the cucumbers to keep them submerged, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the pickles overnight, stirring once or twice. Serve cold.

The dill pickles can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Stay tuned for the trout burger recipe next! 🙂

Dill Pickles

It’s officially summer! ~ Kalua Pork on Whole-Wheat Taro Rolls with Poi Spread and Pineapple Slaw

Kalua Pork SandwichesWhen summer rolls around, my backyard starts to feel a little tropical. Seattle’s temperatures are about the same as Lahaina’s this week. 🙂 I absolutely love the Hawaiian Islands, and so this warm weather gets me in the mood to cook Hawaiian-style dishes!

Kalua Pork SandwichesI based this dish on a recipe I found on CookingHawaiianStyle.com. It’s a really fun recipe that uses a few of Hawaii’s most famous ingredients in a fresh new way.

I made a few tweaks to make the recipes a little healthier. For the taro rolls, I used whole-wheat pastry flour and skim milk, I replaced the butter with coconut oil, and I reduced the amount of sugar. For the slaw, I used nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream, and I omitted the sugar altogether. I also reduced the amount of dressing by half, and added a little extra pineapple. (After all, the pineapple is one of the stars of the dish!) For the spread, I used fresh horseradish root rather than prepared horseradish.

And since I don’t have an imu in my backyard to cook the pork, I chose a frozen kalua pork imported from Hawaii to keep it authentic. 😉 (I was able to find all of the ingredients I needed, including the pork and the poi, at my local Asian grocery store.)

Kalua Pork SandwichesKalua Pork on Whole-Wheat Taro Rolls with Poi Spread and Pineapple Slaw

Based on a recipe from Cooking Hawaiian Style

Taro Rolls:

1 (1/4 oz.) packet active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup skim milk

1/3 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup cooked taro, mashed

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

All-purpose flour for dusting hands and work surface

In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water. Let sit for a few minutes until the mixture is a little frothy on the top. (If there is no froth forming after 10 minutes or so, start again with a fresh packet of yeast. This means your yeast was not alive.) Scald milk by heating in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles appear around the inside edge of the pan and the milk is just about to boil. Pour milk into a mixing bowl. Combine the milk with the oil, sugar, and salt. Allow to cool, about 2 minutes. Into milk mixture, stir in the eggs, taro, and yeast mixture. In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the center. Add the liquid mixture to the flour. Mix thoroughly until the dough comes together. On a floured work surface, turn the dough out. Knead until smooth. Transfer the dough into a well greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Flour hands, and punch down the dough. Divide into 16-17 even portions. Shape into small balls and place onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately and freeze the extras. Makes approximately 16-17 rolls.

 

Poi Horseradish Mayonnaise Spread:

1/2 cup fresh poi

1/4 cup water

Fresh horseradish, grated (to taste)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

 

Slaw Dressing:

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 green onion, green part only, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

 

Slaw:

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

2 cups green cabbage, shredded

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped

 

Pork:

12 oz. store-bought kalua pork

 

Poi Horseradish Mayonnaise Spread

In small mixing bowl, combine the poi and water and mix well using a wire whisk. Add the horseradish and mayonnaise, and whisk until smooth. Chill before serving.

 

Pineapple Slaw

In small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Blend well. In large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients. Toss lightly. Pour dressing over salad. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate.

 

How to serve:

Take a taro roll and spread with the poi mayonnaise. Add kalua pork and top with pineapple coleslaw.

This pairs well with any drink served in a tiki glass! 🙂

Kalua Pork Sandwiches

August 1st Anniversary ~ Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

I like to celebrate the little anniversaries that mark special events in our lives. On this date 16 years ago, Rob and I moved into our current house. It also marks my 19th anniversary of becoming a Seattleite!

To celebrate, we had a steamed Dungeness crab dinner, which is our favorite Northwest dish. Whenever we have crab, it feels like a special occasion! To cap off dinner, I made this summery dessert. Peaches are ripe in the markets now, so I wanted to highlight their sweet deliciousness with a ricotta honey cream and a little aged balsamic vinegar. You could grill the peaches, but we preferred them natural, just as they come. I did use heavy cream, but I cut it in half with a low fat ricotta. Only a little dollop is needed, so I figured a little cream would be fine. It was a celebration, after all! 😉

Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table cooking classes

2 ripe peaches

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup low fat ricotta

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 teaspoons honey

Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Mint, optional

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream and ricotta. Process until thick, about a minute. Add the zest, vanilla, and honey, and pulse until combined.

To serve, cut the peaches in half, and place a dollop of the ricotta cream mixture in the middle of each half. Serve with balsamic vinegar drizzled on the top or on the side, and a sprig of mint if you desire.

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. 🙂 I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. 🙂

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Bison Hot Dogs on Homemade Buns; Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad; Blueberry and Raspberry Parfait with Vanilla Yogurt and Whipped Cream

Click photos to expand. 🙂

Bison hot dogs on homemade hot dog buns

Red, white and blue potato salad

Sparkling wine with blueberries and raspberries floating in the bubbles…

A red and blue berry parfait (with an equal combination of non-fat Greek vanilla yogurt and whipped cream for a layer of white)…

Fun patriotic decorations

It’s our Fourth of July celebration!

I hope you all have a fun, safe, and happy Independence Day! I’m off to Seattle’s festival on Lake Union! 🙂

Enjoy it all!

 

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

From Cooking Light magazine

2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small blue potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

3 hard-cooked large eggs, finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

Place fingerling and red potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Place blue potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Add blue potatoes, onion, parsley, dill, chives, and eggs to bowl; toss gently.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: Blue potatoes are starchier than the others and tend to bleed, so cook them separately. If you need to, prepare this dish a day ahead, but add the blue potatoes just before serving. If your potatoes are larger than the ones we call for, cut them to a uniform size.

First Day of Summer! ~ Banana Coconut Muffins

Happy summer! It is officially here! The weather in Seattle feels a little tropical in the summertime, so I decided to make my tropical banana coconut bread recipe into muffins to celebrate the season. 🙂

Dividing the batter into individual muffin portions allowed me to use whole-wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. (I tried using whole-wheat pastry flour in the original loaf recipe, however it didn’t turn out very well.) I like to use whole grains when I can, so I was happy that these turned out wonderfully moist and delicious. 🙂

Banana Coconut Muffins

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 cup granulated sugar (a little less if the bananas are very very ripe)

1/4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and oil until they are well blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add the mashed banana and vanilla, and whisk until they are incorporated. Add the flour mixture, and mix until everything is moist. Stir in 1/2 cup of coconut. Spoon the batter into 14 muffin tin cups, (about 3/4 full), either lined with paper or sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I found cute little tropical Hawaiian cupcake flags on a website called Party Planning Center. They are so adorable, and also free! I love to add a little pizzazz to my cupcakes and muffins with printables. Then I don’t need to use frosting or food coloring to make them look festive, and I think they are so pretty!

Lei Day Celebration ~ Island Salsa

It was about 85 degrees in Seattle today, which felt like a Hawaiian breeze to me! It is only supposed to last one day, and then go back to our usual Northwest weather. Today also happens to be Lei Day in Hawaii, so the unseasonably warm weather was perfect for a little Hawaiian inspired celebration at home. 🙂

I put a few tropical touches on our dinner tonight to get us into the spirit. 🙂 We had sautéed halibut with an island salsa, and a little jasmine rice with macadamia nuts on the side. Simple and delicious!

The island salsa was from a classic recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. It is tried and true, so I didn’t fiddle with it much. 😉 I think it would also pair well with chicken, shrimp, or even pork tenderloin.

Island Salsa

From Bon Appétit magazine

1 cup chopped peeled pineapple

1 cup chopped peeled mango

1 cup chopped yellow or red bell pepper

2/3 cup chopped peeled kiwi fruit

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced serrano chili, seeds and ribs removed

Ground white pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with white pepper and salt. (Can be made 3 hours ahead.)

Happy Lei Day! I hope you enjoy something Hawaiian to celebrate. 🙂