Monthly Archives: June 2012

Summer Vegetable Mixed Grill with Chimichurri

Yes folks, it’s another The Food Matters Project Monday!  So many new things have come out of my kitchen due to this project and this is no exception. The Food Matters Project has been (and I am sure will continue to be!) a very fun project for me.  It has involved cooking along with about 50 other food bloggers and seeing what amazing variations they all come up with.  It’s been fun and inspiring and always pushes me to try new things outside of my repertoire. This week’s recipe was chosen by Lexi.  Click on her name and head over to see her inspiring blog, Lexi’s kitchen.  This week, all of the vegetables in her dish were picked from her own garden!  Awesome, Lexi!

This week’s recipe features chimichurri, a quick and easy Argentinian herb sauce.  My first chimichurri sauce came about a couple of months ago after reading ahead in the Food Matters schedule and seeing this choice from Lexi.  I didn’t want to wait!  It definitely amped up my dish then but making it again a couple months later with mixed grilled vegetables on a beautiful summer night really brought out the best in it.

(Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook)
Makes 4 servings    Time  45 minutes
  • 1 or 2 eggplants, cut into thick slices
  • 2 cups fresh parsley (mostly leaves, but thin stems are okay)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves (I used 1 big fresh clove and it did the work of 3 supermarket garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 2 TBSP. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. red chile flakes
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 summer squash, cut lengthwise into thick slices
  • 1 bunch scallions
  1. Prepare a grill or turn on the broiler; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire. If time allows, sprinkle the eggplant liberally with salt, let rest in a colander for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour, rinse, and pat dry.
  2. Combine the parsley with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, the garlic, and about 1/4 cup of the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container once or twice. With the machine running, add the remaining 1/4 cup oil gradually, then add the lemon juice and chile flakes. Add a little bit of water if you want a thinner mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Brush the eggplant, portobellos, and squash with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill or broil the pieces, turning occasionally, until browned and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. When the mushrooms are done, slice them. As all the vegetables finish, transfer them to a large serving platter.
  4. Finally, cook the scallions (no need to brush them with oil), turning once or twice, until they are lightly charred, just a minute or two. Drizzle some of the chimichurri over the vegetables and pass the rest at the table.  I served mine with some whole wheat angel hair pasta topped with…what else?  Chimichurri!

Mini Cheesecakes in a Jar

Hello friends!  If you have ever been to my house and had a beverage, there is about a 50/50 chance you have been handed said beverage in a jar.  Yup–I love drinking out of jars, using them as vases, planters, candle holders…they are pretty much a staple in my home.  So you can imagine that my world view of jars just busted wide open when I realized I could make personal sized desserts in them!  As the fourth of July approaches and foodies everywhere bust into barbecue planning mode, consider these gems…personal cheesecakes in jars.  Make these now…and thank me later!

Mini Cheesecake Jars (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Prep Time 20 minutes; Total Time Overnight; Yield Makes 4-6

For the Cheesecake

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 ounces sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup strawberry sauce

For the Graham Topping

  • 1/2 cup finely ground graham crackers (from 4 crackers)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Make the cheesecakes: Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes more. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Raise speed to medium. Add sour cream, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Divide batter among six 6-ounce jars, filling each two-thirds full. Transfer jars to a deep baking dish; add enough boiling water to dish to reach halfway up the sides of the jars. Cover dish with foil; cut 8 slits into top to vent. Bake until set in the center, about 25 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight to set.
  3. Meanwhile, make the graham topping: Stir together graham-cracker crumbs and butter. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Let cool on wire rack then transfer to refrigerator overnight if desired.
  4. Make the strawberry sauce.  Mash strawberries with a potato masher and stir in sugar.  Let sit and stir again right before spooning onto cheesecakes.
  5. When cheesecake is completely cool, top each cheesecake with 1-2 TBSP strawberry sauce and 10 or so blueberries.  Divide graham topping among jars (about 1 heaping tablespoon each).

Simple. Summer. Salads.

Excuse me for a moment while I wipe the sweat off my brow.  Yes, folks…it is 95 degrees in my house.  Pretty gross.  What does this mean?  It means that I could be doing hot power vinyasa in my house–it would be the right temp for it!  It means my poor little puppy is laying on an ice pack, that I am wearing the most minimal of clothing, and that I have my hair wound in pigtail buns so no hair touches my neck.  It means sleeping on top of the covers splayed across the bed with a box fan doing its very best to pull in any teeny bit of cool air it can.  It means I have a massive jar of peach iced tea next to me all day (I should just go ahead and call it peach lukewarm tea because the ice melts so quickly!)  It means I am strongly considering dropping five grand to install central air.  But it also means that I have an appetite mostly just for cool foods.  Chilled swiss-style oatmeal in the morning.  Chilled soups.  Iced coffee.  Cold fruit salads.  Cold veggie salads, lightly dressed…like me.  Watermelon and cantaloupe.  Strawberries with yogurt.  With these summery needs in mind I headed to the farmer’s market this morning in search of fresh fruits and veggies that need to be cooked minimally or not at all.  I picked up fava beans, zucchini, strawberries, snow peas, lemon basil, shelled peas, purple asparagus and fresh garlic.

This salad started with arugula and built up from there with my farmer’s market finds.  Prepare a large bowl of water with plenty of ice cubes.  Boil a saucepan of salted water and add sugar snap peas.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add zucchini slices, asparagus, and shelled peas.  Cook for 1 minute.  Immerse all veggies in ice water bath to halt cooking and to cool.  Let sit until veggies are cool and drain thoroughly.  Place steamed veggies on arugula.  Add some radish slices or sticks.  Dress with a basic mustard vinaigrette.  Crumble feta cheese (can also use goat cheese, queso fresco, or any other crumbly cheese you prefer).  Add a poached egg if you wish.  And I hope you do!


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Fine sea salt

Cast Iron Pizza With Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts, and Caramelized Onion

By now you must know how much I love cast iron pizzas.  I think this is my third post about them and I’m sure those of you who know me “in person” have heard me talk about my quick and easy cast iron pizza dinners.  And the secret is out.  I don’t always make my own dough, even though I have found and tried some very easy no-knead dough recipes (and they turned out just fine, thank you very much).  Sometimes when you want pizza spur-of-the-moment it is just necessary to start with pre-made dough.  And the Nantucket Baking Company has great dough and is only a few blocks away.  It’s a no-brainer.

Tonight I made another fine variation:  goat cheese, caramelized onion, pine nuts, and fresh basil.  Really hit the spot.  Really easy.  Really worth sharing with a friend because it is just so much better the night-of than as leftovers.  My pal Jessie and I finished off this beauty tonight with some roasted asparagus, finished with a almond-coconut no-bake cookie.  The weather was beautiful and breezy.  We got caught up on all the latest…business trips…fun trip to Atlanta…gossip…clothes…truly a great evening!

Cast-Iron Pizza With Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts, Caramelized Onion, and Basil; makes one 12-inch pizza


  • One 4 oz log goat cheese
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 4 large basil leaves, shredded
  • 1 ball dough (about 3/4 lb)
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Brush a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Press dough flat in the skillet, spreading to edge.  Let it rest for a bit if it doesn’t reach the edges of the skillet–after a while it will relax, allowing you to push it to the edges of the pan.
  3. Caramelize onions:  add sliced onions to pan with 1 tsp oil and cook over low heat until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Sautee in 1 tsp oil:  garlic and 1/4 of the onion for a few minutes until browned.  Add tomatoes and brown sugar and cook until juices are evaporating somewhat, leaving a thicker tomato sauce.  Spread over dough.
  5. Cook pizza over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to oven; bake 3 minutes. Add slices of goat cheese, caramelized onion, and pine nuts; continue baking until edge of crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Garnish shredded basil and serve to your gracious guest!

Chocolate-Coconut-Cherry No-Bake Bites

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe was chocolate and cherry panini, chosen by Margarita from the blog, Let’s Cook and Be Friends.  Very adventurous, Margarita!  Yesterday I made almond joy no-bake cookies and considering I was short on time today, I decided to make a variation on the no-bake cookies because I also wanted to try some additional changes to the recipe from yesterday. Today I swapped agave nectar for honey and replaced all of the cashew meal with almond meal.  Added some dried cherries and voila!  Chocolate-Coconut-Cherry No-Bake Bites.  I much preferred the agave nectar to the much sweeter honey and the almond meal is always a favorite for me as well.  Below is the new version of no-bake cookies.  You may add cherries (I added to half of the mixture so there were options) if you are a fruit/chocolate combo person!

Chocolate-Coconut-Cherry No-Bake Bites

prep time: 10 minutes; refrigeration time: 30 minutes; makes: 20 small cookies

  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ cups almond meal
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds, optional
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, optional

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, agave, coconut oil, and salt. Over low heat, mix continuously, until the chocolate is completely melted and all ingredients are well combined. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine shredded coconut, almond meal, cherries, and chia seeds.  Add hot chocolate mixture and mix wet and dry ingredients together well until all dry ingredients are moist. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spoon mixture into little mounds (note: the cookies can be placed close together, because they will not spread out). Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator, and allow the cookies to set for 30 minutes. Once the cookies have hardened, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve cold.

Almond Joy No-Bake Cookies

Carrie and I whipped up these little gems after dinner tonight.  The recipe is adapted from Laura Friendly (, a blog focused on gluten free and dairy free foods.  Laura (who also happens to be one of the yoga instructers at the Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse–funk yeah!) creates some amazing foods–I guarantee the dairy and gluten won’t be missed!

These cookies are as easy as any no-bake cookie.  I haven’t made no-bakes in about a decade so when I saw this recipe I figured it was about time!  I have adapted Laura’s recipe to include dairy chocolate and more almond meal than originally called for.  Just what I had on hand and personal preference.  Head over to Laura’s blog for the original recipe!  And thanks for the inspiration, Laura!

Almond Joy No-Bake Cookies adapted from Laura Friendly

prep time: 10 minutes refrigeration time: 30 minutes makes: 12-24 cookies, depending on how big you make ’em!

  • 5 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup honey (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ cups almond and/or cashew meal (I used 1/2 almond, 1/2 cashew)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds, optional
  • whole almonds to top cookies, optional

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, honey, coconut oil, and salt. Over low heat, mix continuously, until the chocolate is completely melted and all ingredients are well combined. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine melted chocolate, shredded coconut, almond/cashew meal and chia seeds. Mix together well. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spoon mixture into little mounds (note: the cookies can be placed close together, because they will not spread out). Top with almonds, if desired. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator, and allow the cookies to set for 30 minutes. Once the cookies have hardened, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serve cold.  Share with your grateful neighbors.

Alaskan Salmon with Avocado-Pea Cream and Radishes

Ahhh…hot summer days.  It was another scorcher yesterday–90’s and dry in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Luckily we got some much needed rain later in the day and overnight!  I ate an early dinner when it was hot, hot, hot out and I just wanted something simple, light, and not too hot.  I pulled together this salmon with avocado-pea cream and radishes and ate it at room temperature.  So simple. So delicious!

I just posted something with avocado cream last week but it is worth posting again.  I love this stuff!  This week I added cumin to it for some depth of flavor and some peas for some brightness.  Takes 2 minutes (yes, really!) and worth every second.

Avocado-Pea Cream

Take 1/2 avocado and a big spoonful of sour cream.  Add squeeze of lime and pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper.  Add small handful of peas.  Blend with immersion blender.  Serve with any protein!


Black Bean and Quinoa Cakes with Avocado Cream

Wow–Monday snuck up on me this week.  I spent last week in Los Angeles and Dallas moderating focus groups.  This week I am off to Minneapolis to do some fun design work!  So I had just a couple of days to land and get my bearings.  Hence Monday sneaking up.  Well, I missed last week’s FMP post and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again this week–I am definitely into my routines.  The resulting dish was a little off the mark (this week’s recipe is Chickpea fritters) but had the same foundation:  beans and veggies.  Several weeks ago, FMP had us making salsa and one of the posts made me drool–the adorable newlyweds Kathleen and Tom from Life with the Lushers made black bean cakes with corn salsa and avocado cream and I knew I had to make it.  Considering I had black beans already cooked up this week I decided that now was the time!

If you want to make the chickpea fritters that the food matters project group made this week, head to Lena’s blog, Mrs. Garlic Head.  She has the recipe posted and it looks so delicious!  And if you want more ideas for chickpea fritters and all of their variations, head over the the FMP Pinterest board for some quick visual inspiration!

Black Bean Quinoa Cakes with Avocado Cream; adapted from Life with the Lushers


  • About 4 cups cooked black beans, divided
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped & divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2-2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs, plus more, if necessary
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for cooking

FOR THE AVOCADO CREAM:  makes about 1 cup

  • 1 avocado, pitted & roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place half of the black beans in the bowl of a food processor with 1 of the roasted red peppers, the eggs, oregano, cumin & chipotle.  Pulse until smooth. [NOTE:  You can also use an immersion blender to cut down on the clean-up time.  I did this tonight and it worked great!]

In a large bowl, roughly mash the rest of the beans. Fold in the remaining roasted red peppers, onion & pureed bean mixture. Season with salt & pepper. Mix in the panko and quinoa, a little at a time, until the mixture firms up. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

While the patty mixture is chilling, make the avocado cream. Combine all the ingredients in a tall sided bowl or measuring cup and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  You may also use a blender or a food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.

After 30 minutes, form the bean mixture into patties about 3-3 1/2 inches in diameter.

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the patties, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, & cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are brown & have completely firmed up.

Serve with avocado cream and any other toppings you would like.  I served mine with avocado cream, diced avocado, corn, queso fresco, and radishes.  Some spicy habanero salsa on the side really topped it all off perfectly.  SO GOOD!

NOTE:  These would also make excellent black bean burgers–just serve on a bun with the fixings piled on top.

Farmers Market Pea and Radish Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

My trip to the newly renovated Fulton Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday did not disappoint–I came home with bags full of snow peas, snap peas, white and red radishes, cantaloupe, Michigan strawberries (I am forever grateful that I get to enjoy Michigan strawberries when they are in-season–that bright berry smell!  That burst of flavor!), and some cool new pieces of pottery from Dutch Lakes Pottery.

Before I get to the salad I put together with my market finds, I want to turn my attention to the radish.  I eat radishes all year long in salads and love them for their exceptional color (I can’t think of anywhere else I see that vibrant fuschia in the vegetable world) and their peppery bite.  But when I get them at the farmer’s market I like to enjoy them in the most simple of ways, with some butter and salt.  If you have never tried it, please do–it elevates the radish to something pretty exceptional.

Now, to the salad–this is a slight adaptation from a salad I saw in Bon Appetit last April–I’ve had it in the back of my brain to make ever since because I love every ingredient in it.  Peas, radishes, mustard, and goat cheese are the backbone for this salad and it’s too bad it took me so long to make it–this is one I’m sure to make many more times.  If you can find pea shoots, add them to this salad–they are in the original recipe from Bon Appetit and are a great addition to salads…but hard to find.  I asked a couple of market vendors if they would bring some to sell next week so hopefully they will be in the next salad I post.

Pea and Radish Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette; Adapted from Bon Appetit April 2011


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Fine sea salt


  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound peas in pods) or frozen peas
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 cup sugar snap or snow peas, stringed
  • 2 red radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 2  white radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 5 to 6-ounces soft fresh goat cheese or queso fresco, crumbled


Whisk both oils, vinegar, and mustard in small bowl to blend. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature and re-whisk before using.

Cook peas, edamame, and snap peas in separate batches in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh peas and 2 minutes for frozen peas, 4 minutes for edamame, and 1 minute for snap peas. Using slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer vegetables to large bowl of ice water to cool, then drain well and transfer to medium bowl.  DO AHEAD Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.

Divide pea mixture among plates. Scatter sliced radishes and crumbled goat cheese over. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over and serve.  And don’t forget to thank the farmers who grew your food!  🙂