Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spinach Tortellini Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago I made a salad with tons of fresh veggies in it.  I've been making these fresh salads a couple times a week since then and I have to say, in the middle of these dreary winter months it has been a nice shift.  These have become my new "comfort food" lately. 

Tonight is panini night at the Bowden House.  I wanted to do something light and fresh to go along with our sandwiches.  I started picking things out of the cupboard and putting them together and this delightful concoction was born.  I wanted to do a pasta salad, but just pasta is a little heavy for what I was going for.  I started adding spinach to lighten it up, topped it off with some shredded parmesan and BAM!  Between me and my 12-year-old we're lucky any is going to make it to the dinner table.  When she took a bite she said, "I like how it smells, I like how it tastes, and I like that when you put it in your mouth your tastebuds just POP!"

Spinach Tortellini Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Recipe by me

1 package (9-10 oz) cheese tortellini
3 tbsp finely chopped onion (you want it to be small enough that you don't get a huge chunk but large enough that it's recognizable as onion)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup terragon vinegar (if you can't find terragon vinegar, use red wine vinegar...but if you can, the terragon vinegar is so worth the effort)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
3 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup shredded parmesan (the good kind)

Cook pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing.  Add onions, garlic, vinegar, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and honey to a large bowl.  Whisk until well combined.  Add some fresh ground black pepper if you're feeling a little spicy.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the bowl while still hot and toss to coat in the dressing (this way all that goodness gets soaked up in the pasta as it cools down).  At this point, put the pasta in the fridge either for 10-15 minutes, or until a few minutes before serving (if you're making it in advance) to cool down.  A few minutes before serving (if serving immediately, wait long enough that the heat of the pasta won't wilt the spinach), add the spinach and toss it to coat in the dressing.  Top with parmesan cheese and toss again.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Every week I listen to the Joy the Baker podcast (remember, I've mentioned her recipes a few times). She actually does the podcast with her friend Tracy.  I've visited her site a few times, but haven't ever made any of Tracy's recipes before seeing this post.  I immediately went through my fridge/cupboards and put this together. 

Things I love:
  1. When I find an easy to throw together baked good
  2. When that baked good is chocolate and moist and delicious
  3. When that recipe calls for simple ingredients that I *always* have at my house
Admittedly, when I made this I may have garnished it in bittersweet chocolate, knowing full well that my kids loathe bittersweet chocolate and wouldn't touch it.  On the down side, Casey and I ate an entire bundt cake in a 48-hour period.  Also admittedly, I've made this cake 3 times in as many weeks.  The last two times I made it, I did so in mini-bundt form (thanks, mom!).  The full-sized version of this cake is so easy to put together, but the mini ones are fun because everyone can decorate their own and you can keep them in the freezer for easy midnight snacking...not that Casey and I ever do that.  In whatever form you make them, just be sure it happens, because you won't be disappointed.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
Adapted from Tracy from Shutterbean.com


1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 3/4 sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (I used mayonnaise the last time I made this recipe and it worked like a dream)
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour your bundt pan (if using a mini bundt pan, this process is time consuming and a little annoying, but I assure you it is all too necessary if you want the cakes to come out of the pan).  In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water.  Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the cocoa powder is incorporated.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking soda. Pour half of the butter/cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined (it will be thick and lumpy).  Pour the other half of the liquid in and mix again.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.  Add vanilla and sour cream, and mix again.

Pour into your prepared bundt pan.  Tap it on the counter a few times to get out any bubbles.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (for mini bundts, fill the bundt molds 1/2 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, then repeat the process after the first set of cakes have been removed from the pan).  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack (place the cooling rack on top of the cake pan then flip it over).  Cool completely (one hour or more).

Make the glaze by heating the cream and condensed milk until just below boiling, then pour the milk mixture over the chocolate.  Whisk until well combined.  Drizzle over the cooled cake and top with any other desired toppings (for the minis we did jimmies, mini chocolate chips, and bits of broken chocolate toffee bar).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sweet-n-Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

"Why don't we eat like this every night?" my husband asked me tonight.  I asked what he meant.  He said that tonight was the perfect homemade meal.  It was satisfying, fresh, flavorful, and healthy.  I admittedly took mild offense, because I'm a really good cook and we eat homemade foods most nights.  Also, admittedly, I've been in a cooking rut lately and have been cooking lots of the same things over and over, so I got over mild offense pretty quickly.  He wasn't kidding though.  This meal was really outstanding.  It came from a Food Network show I've never seen before, and just happened to stop on as I was folding laundry.  When I was finished folding, I immediately packed up my toddler and went to the store to purchase ingredients to make this.

This would be an incredible dish on a warm summer night, but it was so refreshing in the middle of winter, on the Monday just after a snow storm.  It was like a little vacation on a plate.

Recipe adapted from Melissa D'Arabian of "Ten Dollar Dinners"


For the Filling
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, chopped (I did about 1/4-1/2 inch pieces)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 oz white mushrooms, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced, pressed or grated with a microplane
One 6-ounce can of water chestnuts, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

Sweet-n-Spicy Sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons sriracha (depending on how hot you like it - this amount is still edible but has a nice kick)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For serving
1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed, core removed, and peeled into layers
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup bean sprouts

To make the filling: Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, green onions, and chestnuts, and cook until the mushrooms are tender.  (When they were almost done I noticed lots of liquid, so I used a spoon to remove some of the liquid).  In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp vinegar, and brown sugar and whisk to combine.  Pour into the hot pan and cook, stirring constantly, about one minute.  Turn off heat and make the sauce.

To make the sauce:  In a medium bowl, combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk until well-combined. 

Serve the lettuce wraps by placing a lettuce leaf on a plate.  Spoon about 1/2 cup of the chicken filling onto the lettuce.  Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, and carrots.  Drizzle some of the sauce (to taste) into the wrap.  Roll and enjoy.  These are so messy, but SO worth it.  We served them with Asian Rice Salad, and my husband and kids even added the rice into their wraps.

Asian Rice Salad

I turned on the Food Network while I was folding laundry today.  I don't know if it was good or bad, because I was starving, but it proved fortuitous when I made a dinner tonight that my family devoured.  It was reasonably priced, totally good for them, and they couldn't get enough.  I had literally no problem copying an entire dinner from a tv show (I was feeling that inspired by this show!). 

This would make such a perfect summertime salad, but in the middle of winter when we've been eating so much food that sticks to our ribs, this was so refreshing.  That said, it will definitely be making an appearance all year 'round.

Recipe adapted from Melissa D'Arabian of "Ten Dollar Dinners"


Salad -
1 1/2 cups Calrose rice (short grain Asian rice), rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped

Dressing -
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine rice and water.  Cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed.  Remove from the pan and spread on a flat surface (such as a rimmed cookie sheet) to cool.  When the rice is completely cool, toss together with the vegetables.

In a medium bowl. whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in the oil until well combined.  Toss the salad with the dressing and refrigerate until ready to eat.

We served this with lettuce wraps, but any sort of Asian-inspired protein-rich dish would be awesome with it.