Simple Green Crema

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In mental preparation for a dinner of Baked Jerk Chicken Wings, I knew I needed a cooling contrast to those fiery-hot wings. I mentally tossed around a few ideas while perusing Pinterest. When I came across this blog and recipe while Pinteresting, I knew I found the perfect accompaniment! It was, and since we’ve been using the crema for all sorts of different dishes. It is incredibly versatile. Not only have we topped the chicken wings with it, but also a nice spice-rubbed steak. It works well as a sauce spread inside of a wrap with just about any protein and vegetable (our easy, go-to weeknight dinner). Try it as a dip for crudites, spread on a cracker, or as an alternative to your boring ketchup next time you have potatoes wedges. The possibilities are endless 😉

Simple Green Crema

(Adapted from this recipe at Turning Clock Back)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup Mexican table cream*
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt & pepper
*Many standard grocery store chains carry crema or Mexican table cream these days – usually in the cheese section or by the sour cream. If not, it can be found in a Mexican grocery, or substituted with sour cream.
Instructions: 
  1. Wait for it, this is super complex.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend.
  3. Chill before serving.

Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

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You’ve heard of fruit pizzas right? They’re shaped liked pizzas, but that’s really where the similarities end. To the best of my knowledge, fruit pizzas are essentially entirely sweet, with a base more like cookie dough, topped with fruits and sugar. You eat them for dessert, not dinner. That is not what we’re doing here tonight. This blackberry pizza is mostly savory, with the addition of the sweet and tangy blackberries.

How did I come up with this crazy idea? I didn’t. This was a Pinterest find, from a blog called A Whisk and Two Wands. The pictures caught my eye – gorgeous contrast of the dark berries and white cheese! Furthermore, Selim loves pizza, we’re trying to eat more fruit, we had blackberries and basil in the fridge, and I had the time to make some dough today. All good reasons to give this unique idea a whirl tonight!

We really enjoyed this as an alternative to a “normal” pizza for dinner tonight. However, I think it would really be perfect as an appetizer in smaller portions for your next dinner party!

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Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza

(Adapted from A Whisk and Two Wands blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup hot water, divided
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil
  • 12oz blackberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 8 turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • Just a pinch of salt
  • 10 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped, reserving 2-3 leaves
  • 16oz log of mozzarella
Instructions: 
  1. First, prepare the dough. (You also could skip this step entirely and buy prepared pizza dough.) In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over-top. Add the remaining water slowly, stopping and stirring frequently. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. (You may need slightly more or slightly less water to form a nice ball of dough. If it ends up too wet – add additional flour.)
  3. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
  4. Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the blackberry sauce. Pour blackberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes so the berries soften.
  6. Uncover and mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon or the back of a fork.
  7. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. This should take ~10 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  9. Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly flowered surface. Divide in half. Roll out the dough into two large circles.
  10. Bake the pizza dough without topping for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.
  11. Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the dough as you would a normal pizza, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered for a crust.
  12. Slice mozzarella and place chunks all over the pizza. (May not use the whole 16oz log of mozzarella.)
  13. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, watching the edges of the crusts to make sure it’s not over-browning.
  14. Top with the remaining fresh basil before serving.

“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

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Every time the new year rolls around, it seems like everyone makes a resolution involving weight loss, healthy eating, or general fitness. We’ve been eating zoodles for awhile now (see here, here, here, & here), but I think they’re a great way to simultaneously cut calories and add more healthy vegetables to your dinners! This zoodles dish was inspired by a recipe I’ve had saved on Pinterest for awhile now from the blog/website SkinnyTaste. On this site, you can find so many healthy recipe ideas and healthier variations of classics. Given that takeout chicken lo mein can top out anywhere from 1000 to 1500 calories per carton (obviously varying between restaurants and preparations), this homemade version will probably serve your New Year’s resolution AND your waistline well!

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“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

(Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste)
Ingredients: 
  • 12oz chicken breast
  • 2 med-large zucchini
  • Vegetables to stir fry – options:
    • Carrots
    • Bell peppers
    • Onions
    • Mushrooms
    • Green onions
    • Snow peas
    • Broccoli
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the zoodles. (Click if you need more instruction.)
  2. Slice the chicken and your choices of vegetables.
  3. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of garlic powder.
  4. Heat the 1 tbsp of neutral oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until no translucent spots are visible.
  5. Remove the chicken to the side and wipe clean if needed.
  6. Add 2 tsp of sesame oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Once oil is quite hot, add the vegetables. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1 tsp of sesame oil, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and flour.
  8. Remove vegetables to the side and lower heat to medium.
  9. Add sauce to the pan. Allow to warm for 2-3 minutes, stirring as needed.
  10. Add zoodles, other vegetables, and chicken to the pan. Cook over medium heat for ~5 additional minutes so everything is coated in sauce and vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Serving sizes depends on how many vegetables you choose to add!

Slightly Spicy Salmon Cakes

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When Selim asked me to make dinner with some salmon tonight, I wanted to try something a little different than our usual. Our usual involves adding spices to a salmon fillet and broiling it. Selim is the master of this process. I am not.

So I googled “different way to make salmon.” Seriously. This is how sophisticated and worldly I am. After browsing around for a bit, a salmon cake recipe caught my eye. I grew up eating crab cakes like it was my job, but I don’t think I’ve ever had salmon cakes. I wanted to bake them instead of fry them in a nod to being a bit healthier. After Pinterest-ing for awhile, I found a recipe on the Baked by an Introvert blog that approximated what I was envisioning for tonight.

I’m really happy about how my version turned out. The salmon cakes are moist on the inside and just barely crisping up on the outside. Slicing them open with the edge of your fork releases a gratifying poof of steam. I love the flavor. If you’re one of those people who orders their Thai or Indian food at level 10, you probably won’t find this very spicy. But for the rest of us, it’s a nice, slowly-building spiciness.

I also made a cilantro lime aioli to top these guys, but am not super happy with it, so won’t share tonight. I think with just a few tweaks it’ll be perfect. A cool topping like that complements these salmon cakes perfectly though!

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Spicy Salmon Cakes

(Inspired by the Oven Baked Salmon Cakes on Baked by an Introvert blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1lb or less salmon fillet (ours was 0.85lb)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10 turns black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we prefer Frank’s)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, slide the salmon fillet into the water. Decrease heat to low and cover for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine onion, pepper, crumbs, and spices in a large bowl.
  4. Remove salmon from water. Set out and allow to cool.
  5. Pat the salmon dry of any excess moisture. Coarsely break apart and add to the bowl. Stir to combine with other ingredients.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Combine well.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  8. With your hands, scoop up a full handful of the salmon mixture. Form into a ball between your hands. Place on the cookie sheet, and press down lightly with the heel of your hand to create the patty.
  9. Repeat step 8 for each patty.
  10. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. Flip halfway through, so each side cooks for 15 minutes.
Makes 6 medium patties.

Goat Cheese Smothered Spaghetti Squash

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Spaghetti squash is one of those things that if you look on Pinterest, it seems that everyone is making. I had never made spaghetti squash before tonight! I’ve been wanting to, because I wanted to be cool like the other Pinterest-ers basically. When I mentioned this to Selim, he said, “I mean don’t people just pour sauce on top like it’s regular spaghetti?” So, I knew what I wasn’t making with the spaghetti squash.

What I did make was a veggie-heavy dish, that is a bit rich from the goat cheese. The spinach, dill, and goat cheese shine together, and who doesn’t love the combination of garlic, onions, and bacon in anything??

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Goat Cheese Smothered Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients: 
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, coarsely diced
  • 6oz log of goat cheese (divided)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8oz of fresh spinach
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. With a large, sharp knife, slice the spaghetti squash in half. Remove the seeds and other refuse.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash halves face-down on a cookie sheet. Add a couple spoonfuls of water to the pan. Roast for 45 minutes.
  3. With 5-10 minutes left in the squash roasting time, cut your bacon into small lardons. Cook over medium heat in a large pan with tall sides for 5 minutes.
  4. Once bacon has released some of its fat, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Grind 3 turns of black pepper on top. Stir briefly to coat with bacon fat. Cover the pan and sweat for 8 minutes, stirring once.
  5. In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together the water and 1 oz of goat cheese. It does not have to be smooth or fully combined.
  6. Add the water/goat cheese, dill and salt to the pan. Stir a few times so all ingredients are combined.
  7. Lower heat just a bit (I went from 5 to 4 on my stove). Add the spinach and cover. Keep lid on for 3-4 minutes. The spinach will wilt and shrink in size greatly. (If you can’t fit all of your spinach in the pan, you can add it in two batches.)
  8. Using a fork, scrape spaghetti squash into the pan.
  9. Add the rest of the goat cheese to the pan, in divided chunks.
  10. Stir, stir, stir. Stir for several minutes, ensuring the cheese melts and the squash “noodles” separate and become thoroughly coated.
  11. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Serves 4.

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Caliente Chicken & Zoodles

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At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Are they zucchini lobbyists like VEEP’s Dan Egan?”  Well… that would be a cool job, but we’re pretty invested in anesthesia school.  Zoodles aren’t too complex to make and are an easy way to get some extra vegetables in your life (never a bad thing).  In terms of flavor, they add a subtle earthiness, but also take on the flavors you’re trying to highlight in a dish.  The spices (chipotle, paprika, and cumin) shine and if you’re looking for a even more heat, toss in a pinch of cayenne or use hot instead of sweet paprika.

This recipe is adapted from another Pinterest find… The original inspiring recipe can be found on Mrs. Happy Homemaker‘s blog.

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Caliente Chicken & Zoodles

Adapted from Mrs. Happy Homemaker blog
Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 tsp of Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp safflower oil
  • 8oz chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare your zoodles. See this post if you don’t know how.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken to the pan and toss with the spices and 1 tsp of lime juice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, still over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan. Do not clean/wipe out the pan.
  5. Add the zoodles to the pan and cook uncovered for 2 minutes.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the hot sauce, remaining lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Stir to combine.
  7. Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Makes a light dinner for two.

Tiger Noodles

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I have this Pinterest board called, “Ones I’ve Made and Would Make Again.” Because, as I’m sure you all know, just because you’ve saved it on a Pinterest board, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth making even once! [See the entire website PinterestFail.com] But to gain inclusion on this board of mine, I not only had to have made it, but loved it too! One of my absolute favorites on there was this recipe for Thai flavored coconut curry noodles. I say was because the link no longer works! It goes nowhere / I think the original blogger took down his/her blog or that post. I’ve scoured Pinterest, and I can find the original poster’s picture of these noodles, but not the blog itself. (And not to be a tattletale, but I found the original poster’s pictures on a few tumblr accounts without proper credit. Rude.) So, long story short, I tried to recreate the recipe from memory and the Pinterest picture.  I didn’t exactly succeed in mimicking it, at least how I remember it, but I ended up with a spicy noodle dish that we definitely enjoyed.

I decided to call them tiger noodles, because I think tigers are big, bold, and fiery – like these noodles. Plus tigers are an endangered species native to Thailand, and this dish is full of Thai flavors. And I like tigers. That’s the main reason.

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Tiger Noodles

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 10 oz chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 10 baby carrots, sliced
  • Wide rice noodles
  • 1 lime
  • Cilantro
Instructions: 
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the curry paste and stir to combine well with the oil. Cook for another 2-3  minutes.
  4. Add the broth to the pan and stir to combine well. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Now add the chicken to the pan and cook until the chicken has lost its translucence. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  6. Now add the coconut milk, broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.
  7. Bring to a fast simmer and cook like this until the liquid has begun to thicken, ~ 15 minutes.
  8. Lower the heat to low-medium. Add carrots, bell peppers, and the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook another 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and submerge the noodles in the hot water for 5-10 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
  10. Add the noodles, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and a healthy squeeze of lime into the pan and stir briefly. Serve immediately. Top your bowl with more cilantro and/or lime if you’d like.
Makes 4 servings. 

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