Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Farro Salad w/ Roasted Vegetables, Herbs, & Goat Cheese

Meet my new favorite salad! Yes, my new. favorite. salad. For all my followers, you know this is a big deal. I love salads. Love 'em. Make them all the time. Eat them all the time. But this right here... this is my favorite. And here's why...

The vegetables are roasted!
By now, you probably know how much I love roasted vegetables. And I hope everyone has discovered how easy roasted vegetables are to cook, and how magical they taste! If not, you are in for a treat. For more info on roasting techniques generally, my see How To: Roasting.

Say what? Farro! That's right, if you haven't tried farro, then again, you are in for a treat. It's now my new favorite grain (apparently, I'm having favorites all over the place today) because simply put, the delicious:healthy ratio is unbeatable. Delicious: When its cooks up, the texture is fluffy, but still firm and chewy, and then the flavor is somewhat nutty. Just too good. Healthy: it has the benefits of a whole grain, and also a surprising amount of protein. It's wonderful for a meatless meal, and is very budget friendly!

I call this a summer salad because it features summer vegetables (and mushrooms, because well, I love mushrooms). However, you can roast any vegetable, during any season, add it to this salad, and it would be delightful. I really can't think of any vegetable that wouldn't work. Then, if you can't find farro (it should be near the rest of the grains in the grocery aisle) or don't have any on hand, you can substitute any pasta or grain, and it will taste lovely! Although I beg you to try the farro. :)

Lastly, there are countless other additions that would complement the dish. As I was eating this salad for lunch on day two, a light bulb went off, and I realized that it would be stellar with some kind of toasted nut on the top... and then I realized I had pine nuts... and yes, I was very pleased with myself (because it was delicious!). Thus, I decided to add pine nuts as an "optional" ingredient (and it's also why they're not pictured). So my question is, do y'all have any fun variations? Additions? Suggestions?

Okay, so far we've got farro, magical roasted vegetables, and toasted pine nuts. Now, we're gonna add a tangy vinaigrette, some creamy goat cheese, AND fresh herbs?? Yes, that really just happened. After you mix it up, just eat up or refrigerate! I promise you will want to eat it over and over (and over) again. I like it best room temperature, but see what suits your fancy.

Did I really just write all that about this recipe?? Haha. Well, let's get to the good stuff...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Triple Berry Trifle

Red, White, and Blue? 
I know this post is a little passe (sorry, the past couple of weeks have been super busy!), but I wanted to share my 4th of July treat with y'all anyway because it was reallyyy yummy. And even though the 4th has come and gone, this is a great recipe that can easily be adapted for any occasion. Just swap in your favorite fruit and jam, and you're ready to party! I call this a "triple berry" trifle because I layered the cake and custard with fresh 1) blueberries and 2) strawberries, and also spread some 3) raspberry preserves on the pieces of cake. It's a perfect blend of tangy and sweet from the mix of berries, and it's topped with a creamy custard and lemony soaked cake... yeah, it's pretty much heaven.

Note: A Few of My Favorite Things About Trifles 
Trifles are absolutely perfect for entertaining. First of all, they are beautiful! Just set one on a counter, and bask in the oohhs and ahhs of the crowd. Second, the longer it sits, the more the flavors develop and the custard soaks into the cake. That means, it's better if you make it the day before, and then the day of service = no stress. Wonderful! Lastly, despite the fact that my trifle looks fancy, it was really easy to make. While it did take some time to assemble, there are no challenging cooking or baking techniques whatsoever. So if you're a novice in the kitchen, I promise, you will feel very comfortable with this recipe! And then, people will wonder where you picked up such awesome skills. :)

Okay, enough serious talk. Now it's time for a trifle... (har-har)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Avocado Hummus

  It was a rainy weekend in Houston, meaning that I had grand plans to take-on my ever growing "to-do" list, but instead, I gave it the occasional glance as I laid on my couch. Just when I started feeling completely worthless, I realized, hey, there is one thing that will get me movin' (at least momentarily). Snack time. And then, I had another revelation. I had everything I needed to whip up a batch of hummus. Avocado Hummus. Wooooot. I also had a bell pepper, some crackers, AND pretzel chips for accoutrement. Boy, was I happy. The only dip-worthy mate missing was the pita chip, because, well...  I've had to ban myself from buying them after some unfortunate entire-bag-disappears-in-one-night incidents. Why are pita chips SO good?!

Anyhow, after I made the hummus, I was even more pleased. I eat hummus frequently, but rarely do I indulge in the homemade variety, unless I'm eating at a Mediterranean restaurant. I thought the hummus I regularly bought was good, but dang, this hummus was gooood. Even to this day, I sometimes get surprised at how much better homemade food is than store-bought. AND it was surprisingly easy to make!

The only caveat being that this hummus will brown quickly because of the avocado, so it is best for sharing! I'm sure your friends and family won't mind. :)

With that said, let's get our snack on...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quinoa "Mac" & Cheese

By now, y'all know I can't go too long without posting some quinoa. I do love it so. Why? Here are some good reasons listed in my original quinoa post. With this recipe, I am especially smitten, because instead of having some carb-y macaroni, you have a nutty, protein-packed substitute. It makes you feel not so bad about all the cheese you are about to ingest (although it's really not too bad per serving). 

I was in the mood for a little spice, so I added some sauteed red pepper with jalapeno, although you could add whatever veg you please! Other great variations would be broccoli and onion or tomato and leek, to name a couple. Just make sure to cook the veg before you add it to the mix. After you prepare your cheesy-quinoa-veg mixture, top it off with a little more cheese and Panko bread crumbs. What you end up with is a warm, gooey, and slightly spicy center, with a topping that goes crrrrunch as you make your way through. It's really quite a satisfying experience.

Are you ready for some guilt-free comfort food??