Off-the-Cuff

Sunday was a bit like spring…I awoke to a warm rain followed by a burst of green leaves and grass.  I enjoyed my morning coffee over bossa nova and rain drops and dabbled with the ever-addicting Pinterest until yoga class.
The rain subsided, and I joined a group of friends for a 36 mile cycle ride filled with quad-busting hills!  Let’s just say it worked up quite the appetite!  A chocolate milk, banana and ice bath later, I decided to tackle dinner.  Lacking energy to head to the store I pulled one of those “let’s see what I can create from the fridge” meals.

Surprisingly, I came up with a healthy recovery meal with springtime flair:

Asparagus Tip, Roasted Sweet Potato and Portobello Salad with a Charred Tomatillo Dressing
Photo by Michelle
Steamed Artichoke with Garlic, White Wine, Butter
Photo by Michelle

Asparagus Tip, Roasted Sweet Potato and Portobello Salad with a Charred Tomatillo Dressing

small bunch of Asparagus Tips
1 roasted, Sweet Potato, cooled and cubed
1 large Portobello, sliced
3 Tomatillos
1 Serrano Pepper
Wedge of Lemon
Salt

Begin by snapping the ends from the asparagus, leaving you with the tender tips.  Place the asparagus tips on a plate and squeeze fresh lemon juice atop then season with salt, let set.  Next peel the skin away from the roasted sweet potato and dice into bite-sized cubes.  Slice the portobello mushroom.
Meanwhile heat your broiler or grill and roast the tomatillos and Serrano pepper until the skins are charred and blackened.  Once charred remove and place the tomatillos and pepper in a food processor or blender to puree, season with salt.  In a serving dish mix in the sweet potato, portobello and asparagus tips.  Drizzle the roasted tomatillo dressing on top and serve.

Steamed Artichokes with White Wine, Garlic Butter

Artichoke (1 per person)
4 Tbs. Butter
1 cup, Dry White Wine
8 clove of Garlic
Lemon
Salt

Prepare the artichoke for steaming by peeling away the tough outer leaves, cut away the top as well as any points on remaining leaves.  Rub the cut artichoke with fresh lemon to prevent browning.  Steam for at least 30 minutes (if you would like save the liquid for a vegetable soup stock.)
The butter will serve (4)
Set a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the white wine and garlic and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.  Add lemon juice and salt.  Finally add the butter and stir until thickened.  Serve alongside artichokes.

* The Asparagus Tip, Roasted Sweet Potato and Portobello Salad with a Charred Tomatillo Dressing would compliment a grilled fish such as Snapper too!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

No matter how you say it this dessert has absolutely no class!  What it does have is the perfect blend of sweet and salty and a flair of 1950’s Jello!  Strawberry Pretzel Salad is common place on the potluck or buffet table, and  makes its rounds about once a year for family holiday gatherings.

Today was one of those days when I had to turn to some sugary goodness for an uplift.  I should make note of the major food groups involved in this “salad”…Carbs, Dairy and Fruit!  Perhaps, not the most helpful or healthy option but you know what they say, desperate times cause for desperate measures!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Photo by Michelle

To recreate this dessert-type salad requires a few ingredients (not found in the perimeter of the grocery store) and a knack for layering!  I think this would be great served up in individual ball jam jars like My Baking Addiction does here:

http://www.mybakingaddiction.com

To make this yourself peruse your cookbook shelf for a community or church cookbook for a recipe or use the one below from About.com

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 24 to 36 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crushed thin pretzel sticks (see Notes)
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks or 12 Tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 package (6 ounce) strawberry flavor gelatin.
  • 8 ounces (1 large block) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipped topping (see Notes)
  • 2 heaping cups sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • Additional whipped cream for garnish, optional

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 F.Finely crush pretzels with a rolling-pin or food processor. Combine crushed pretzels with 3 tablespoons sugar and butter. With a spatula, press pretzel mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan to form a crust. Bake 6 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely.Pour 2 cups boiling water over strawberry gelatin. Stir until melted and let cool to room temperature.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and whipped topping until combined. Spread evenly over cooled crust.

Add strawberries to cooled gelatin and let thicken slightly. Spread strawberries and gelatin over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until firm.

Cut into squares to serve.

Yield: 24 to 36 servings, depending on cut size

Notes: As for the pretzels, select thin pretzel sticks. A 9-ounce package is plenty for the pie shell. Real whipped cream may be used, of course, but Cool Whip and prepared Dream Whip work equally as well and are not quite as rich and heavy. You may also use sugar-free gelatin and sugar-free and/or low-fat whipped topping. I have not tried it with sugar substitutes in place of the sugar, though. Please comment if you try it.

Rosewater and Pistachios

“We snaked our way among the merchants and the beggars, wandered through narrow alleys cramped with rows of tiny, tightly packed stalls. Baba gave us each a weekly allowance of ten Afghanis and we spent it on warm Coca-Cola and rosewater ice cream topped with crushed pistachios.”
The Kite Runner

This week I had my first attempt at making ice cream!  I had been brainstorming some delicate, springtime flavors when I recalled that rosewater ice cream is mentioned in a great read by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.  I discovered, that rosewater pistachio ice cream has Persian roots, one of the world’s most ancient and varied cuisines.  In Farsi it is called  Bastani-e Za’farāni and is typically, flavored with saffron and rosewater.   I recommend serving it alongside baklava with black tea steeped with sage and sugar.

If you want to try this recipe and are thinking to yourself…when will I ever use rosewater again?  You are in luck!  Rosewater’s versatility ranges from flavoring baklava to cleansing the face.  It is derived from fresh rose petals and possesses a high potency, so a little goes a long way.  Splash it on fresh strawberries or oranges, try it in rice pudding or other desserts.  Rosewater is also a natural moisturizer so you may apply it to your skin or use it as a conditioner for your hair.

Rosewater and Pistachio Ice Cream with Baklava
photo by Michelle

I used the following recipe by David Lebovitz featured in the LA Times.

Pistachio-Rosewater Ice Cream
Makes: about 1 1/2 pints

1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
2 cups evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation)
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
2 ½ teaspoons rosewater

1. Crush the pistachios in a mortar and pestle or chop in a food processor.

2. Mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the pistachios and bring to a light boil. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the heat.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly mix in about a cup of the hot milk-pistachio liquid to temper the eggs. Add the egg yolk-milk mixture to the saucepan, whisking as you pour it in. Cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard clings to the back of a spoon and your finger can run a path through it without it running. Meanwhile, set a bowl large enough for the custard over an ice bath.

4. Remove the custard from the heat and immediately strain into the bowl set over the ice bath. Thoroughly chill the custard, placing a piece of plastic over the custard when it’s cooled slightly so that a skin doesn’t form.

5. When the custard has chilled, mix in the heavy cream and rosewater and prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Side note: Don’t discard the milk-cooked pistachios – they are soft and chewy, sweet and rich. Use them to top your ice cream, cupcakes, cereal, or eat them straight with a spoon. You could probably even use them to make baklava.

 

 

Coconut Milk + Oatmeal = ♥

A delightfully relaxing Sunday morning involves coffee while seated at my tulip table listening to NPR….this was my morning!

I had some extra time and wanted to make a no-mess, quick breakfast before joining the Striders Triathlon Club on a ride today!  Turning to oatmeal because it sticks with you and is generally healthy but mostly because it has a proven, no-fail formula for preparing: 1 cup liquid to 1/2 cup oats SIMPLE!

Personally, I like to jazz things up a bit whether it be a sparkly necklace, funky shoes or in this case substituting coconut milk for the basic water or milk.  Not too wild but just enough to create some flavorful bliss.
Go ahead and play around with the accoutrements and spices…I don’t think you can go wrong!

Coconut Milk, Oats, Cinnamon, Raisins and Jaggery
Photo by Michelle

Coconut Milk + Oatmeal
1 serving

1/2 cup Quaker Oats
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
Tablespoon of Jaggery or Brown Sugar
Palmful of Raisins (I bet cherries and slivered almonds would be good too!)
Dusting a Cinnamon

Boil the liquids (or Microwave), whichever you prefer.  Add the oatmeal and stir it up.  Garnish with any fruits, nuts or spices you desire!