Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Lighter Squash Casserole

One of my absolute favorite side dishes growing up was hands down squash casserole and it is still a requested dish every time I visit my Mom.  Since squash are usually at their peak in the Summer months I have come up with a lighter version that cuts the baking requirement.

Serves 4

2 large zucchini
2 large yellow squash
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsps dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crush red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup shredded pecorino or parmesan
1/4 cup of water
salt & pepper to taste

Start by toasting the bread crumbs in 1 tbsp of butter until golden brown, set aside.

Slice zucchini and squash into 1/4 inch thick disks increasing to 1 inch when getting to the smaller end of the squash.  Bloom thyme and red pepper flakes in olive or grape seed oil, you will know when they have bloomed when you can smell the spices but, be careful as they can easily burn.  Once spices have bloomed; add zucchini and squash mixing until thoroughly coated with spices and oil, add garlic and water, cover and let steam until tender, stirring periodically.

Once tender, sprinkle with bread crumbs, cheeses and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter.  Put under a broiler until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Agave Lime Marinade

We always have an over abundance of limes during the summer months from making mojitos to Put the Lime in the Coconut Cake to Coconut Lime Cheesecake Bars (recipe soon to come) and I am always looking for great ways to utilize this tangy fruit to its fullest!  This is a versatile marinade that can be used with a multitude of different foods such as chicken, shrimp, pork, to a veggie mix or corn on the cobb and can also be reduced down into a sauce.  These flavorings are perfect for fajitas or tacos!

3 limes or 9 key limes
1/2 cup olive or grape seed oil
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
3 tbsp tequila (optional)

I prefer to use dry spices when grilling meats that will stay on the heat for awhile to prevent any herbs or flavorings from burning.

Prepare the marinade by zesting and juicing the limes then mixing with the oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Marinate the proteins for 30 to 45 minutes before grilling.  Vegetables can be marinated over night for best flavor.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spiced Chickpea Lentil Soup

Here is a recipe incorporating the vibrant flavors of Indian spices that is great as a side dish or hearty vegetarian soup.  This one can be cooked on low in a slow cooker or on the stove top.

1 pkg dried chickpeas
1 pkg dried lentils
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
7 cups of vegetable stock or water
2 tbsp grape seed or vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp garam masala
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne 
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
4 celery stalks plus inner stalks and leaves, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed to remove sand and chopped
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Note: This recipe can be cooked in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours.  If using this method, allow slow cooker to heat for 30 minutes before starting.

In a pan on medium heat; bloom cumin, turmeric, garam masala and cayenne in oil until you can just start to smell them.  Next; puree onion, garlic cloves and ginger into a paste, add to pan and cook 2 minutes.  Add leeks, carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper and cook until just starting to get tender.  Add chickpeas, diced tomatoes, cilantro, parsley and stock.  Bring to a boil and cook on low 1 hour or until chick peas are just tender, add lentils and simmer another 30 minutes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Put the Lime in the Coconut Cake

This is an amazing version of a classic flavor combination courtesy of Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown cakes episode winner Doreen Howarth of San Antonio Texas.  This cake easily feeds 12 to 14, and takes a good 3 1/2 to 4 hours in total, including soak time but, is well worth the wait!

I made this cake for a block party and it became an instant hit.  The lime glaze used to soak the cake leaves it moist and tangy.  I altered the recipe slightly by using butter in place of the shortening in the frosting and key limes in the glaze.  Also, I used a 9 x 13 inch pan in place of the two recommended 9 inch rounds. 

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
4 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup sour cream
1 cup confectioners sugar
6 key limes, zested and juiced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup coconut milk

1 cup butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup toasted coconut plus 1/2 cup to top cake

350 degrees 
Bake time: 45 minutes
Total prep time: 3 1/2 to 4 hours

Important note: make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature as this is an important aspect to getting a light fluffy cake, smooth glaze and buttery smooth frosting.  A handheld or standard mixer is the best way to combine ingredients to get the best texture possible.

Start by creaming butter and sugar to a fluffy consistency, then add eggs slowly one by one until fully incorporated and smooth, add coconut milk.  Next add and combine, coconut extract, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Add flour 1 cup at a time and finally the shredded coconut.  Cake batter should have a smooth fluffy consistency.  Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool 15 minutes on a wire rack.

For the glaze; combine ingredients until smooth.  Poke holes in cake all the way through to the bottom of the  pan.  Carefully, remove cake and pour half of the glaze into the pan, return cake.  Pour the remaining glaze and spread evenly over the top of the cake.  Allow cake to soak on the counter for 20 minutes then cover and refrigerate until ready to frost.

Toast coconut by baking in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or by placing on the lower oven rack under a broiler set to high.

To make frosting; starting by creaming together cream cheese and butter, then add the coconut milk and extract mixing until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time until frosting is well mixed and smooth.  Mix in 1/2 cup of toasted coconut. 

Frost cooled caked and top with remaining toasted coconut.  Cake is best stored refrigerated. 

The original recipe can be found at Put the Lime in the Coconut Cake.