Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Pasta Salad

Summer Pasta Salad
What better way to round out a Memorial Day barbecue than with a crisp, healthy pasta salad? I made a massive batch of this stuff for two different parties this weekend and it was a hit both times. I was inspired by Food Network Magazine's "Create Your Own Pasta Salad" segment. I opted to omit the protein in honor of Meatless Monday, an international movement encouraging people everywhere to cut out meat one day a week for their personal and a more sustainable planet. A perfect reason to double up on veggies. The version of creamy herb dressing in the magazine had a little too much mayo for my taste so I doctored it up a bit, but it compliments the crunchy veggies and sweet sun-dried tomatoes perfectly. This pasta salad is a refreshing take on a normally drab and boring side dish.

1 pound pasta (I used rotini)
2 cups diced red bell pepper
2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen)
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

Creamy Herb Dressing
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped rosemary
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the creamy herb dressing, mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill. Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add a small handful of salt and cook the pasta to al dente (slightly firm) as directed on the package. While the pasta is cooking, chop the bell peppers, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes and set aside. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, place back into the pot with a little bit of olive oil. Add the corn, bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes to the pasta and stir. In a smaller pot bring two inches of water two a boil and cook the asparagus pieces for two minutes. Once cooked, quickly shock the asparagus in a bowl of ice water to keep the vibrant green color. Drain the asparagus and place in the pot with the rest of the pasta mixture. Finally, add the creamy herb dressing that has been chilling in the fridge and mix thoroughly. Taste to see if the salad needs any more salt, season to taste, and enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake
After my mom picked up a pint of this season's strawberries and I devoured the whole thing I simply couldn't resist buying another pint to make something even MORE delicious than fresh strawberries! And that's a pretty tough job considering that I believe strawberries to be one of the most perfect foods in their completely natural form. Now when you combine something like gorgeous fresh strawberries with cream cheese and fluffy egg whites you get this delicious light creamy dessert! Perfect for Father's Day, birthday, any day, it's just perfect :)

1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer cookie crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
5 large strawberries, pureed
1/2 cup egg whites
1 cup sour cream
Strawberries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Place about two cups of the vanilla wafer cookies into a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Once the wafers are processed into a crumb, mix with the melted butter and press into the bottom of an eight inch spring-form pan. Next, use a handheld electric mixer or a lot of elbow grease to combine the cream cheese, egg whites, sugar and strawberry puree.  Pour the mixture into the spring-form pan and place the entire pan onto a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for thirty five to forty minutes. Once the cheesecake is set remove it from the oven. In the meantime, mix the sour cream and quarter cup of sugar in a small bowl and spread on the top of the cheesecake once it has cooled. Garnish with fresh cut strawberries and enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thai Green Curry Chicken

Thai Green Curry Chicken
Typically I will never be the one to suggest ordering Thai or any other Asian food option, let alone try and cook it. That being said, I found a lovely recipe from Cooking Light that struck me as easy, nutritious and not overly spicy. When put over a bed of basmati rice this chicken was a great deviation from the normal weeknight meal. I may have just been converted...

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups diced bell peppers (I used half of a green, red and orange pepper)
3 tablespoons green curry paste
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup basmati rice
Salt and pepper to taste

This meal is literally ready in minutes. Cook the basmati rice according to the directions on the package. Season each side of the chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper. Cut your chicken into inch cubes and place into a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium high heat. Allow the chicken to cook for several minutes stirring occasionally so that all sides are cooked. During this time dice your peppers and set them aside. Add the green curry paste to the skillet and let cook for another minute. Next add the coconut milk, stir and cover the pan so that the chicken steams and the coconut milk reduces. Add the chopped peppers and cover again. Allow the mixture to simmer for several minutes until the peppers are softened and the chicken is cooked through. Place the rice on a platter and top with the green curry chicken. Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lemon Basil Frozen Yogurt with Blueberry Compote

Lemon Basil Frozen Yogurt
with Blueberry Compote
So i broke out my ice cream machine again and it really was a great feeling. It's interesting how something like ice cream can have such different flavors when made with different ingredients. The first thing I ever made with my ice cream maker was my Cinnamon Walnut Ice Cream which had a distinctly wintery feel about it.  This time around I wanted to make something that felt more refreshing and perfect for ringing in the summer months. Lemon and basil is a classic combo in sweet as well as savory dishes while lemon and blueberry also go great together so I thought, why not combine all three? I used greek yogurt to make this especially thick and tangy and the blueberry compote was the perfect warm accoutrement. 

3 cups plain greek yogurt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 lemon
1 bag frozen blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

Now I know not everyone has an ice cream machine, so if you're not lucky enough to have been given one for your last birthday, then just mix the ingredients together and enjoy the yogurt as you normally would but with much better flavor :) Also, I wanted to keep the integrity of the greek yogurt and not add too much sugar but if you prefer your yogurt to be sweeter then add more sugar to fit your preference.

Mix the first three ingredients together in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mixture as well and combine thoroughly. Place in the bowl of your ice cream machine and turn on for fifteen to twenty minutes. Mixture should be partially frozen and in need of some extra time in the freezer. Transfer to a plastic container and place in the freezer for another hour or so.

Meanwhile, place the frozen blueberries in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and water and allow to cook together for at least twenty minutes or until the mixture boils and becomes syrupy.  Use a potato masher or the back of a large spoon to mash some of the blueberries while keeping the shape of others. Serve warm over the frozen yogurt for a refreshing treat. Enjoy!