Summer Watermelon Salad

It’s summer!  The time of fresh fruit and lazy days… the time when you want to be able to go outside and enjoy your friends and family… the time for easy or starter recipes…  This is when I like to have a few recipes on hand that make my life a little easier, especially on those days when the temperature is high and my energy is not.  For those days, I give you the Summer Watermelon Salad!

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This recipe couldn’t be easier… four ingredients and easy to adjust for the number of people you’re feeding!  This is actually one of my favorite lunches… light and simple, it just screams “SUMMER” to me.

Ingredients:

  • Watermelon – cut into bite-size pieces.  Use as much or as little as you like, but this is your *main* ingredient.  I typically use about 3 cups.
  • Feta cheese – I like to use crumbled *light* feta, but you can use whatever type makes you happy.   I dump in some from the container – about 1/2 cup.
  • Basil – if I have fresh, I take a small handful and cut into a chiffonade (little ribbons).  If not, I take a generous pinch of dried.  I’ve done both and fresh is definitely better in this – it’s a wonderful flavor!
  • White wine – I use what I have in my fridge, about 1/8-1/4 cup total.  I’ve used dry (Chardonnay and Pinot Gris/Grigio) and I’ve used semi-sweet/off-dry (Vidal Blanc and Viogner)… use what you like!

Directions:

  • Cut watermelon into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and basil.  Toss lightly and adjust amounts as needed.
  • Thumb 1/8-1/4 cup of white wine over the salad and allow time to marinate before serving.
  • I typically drain a bit of the liquid off before serving.  This ends up being a mixture of wine and watermelon juice that isn’t really necessary.
  • Enjoy!

This is a great example of how I use “The Force” when cooking… so many variations to make this salad and it’s always delicious.  Hope you’ll try it and come up with your own favorite way to make this salad!

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Recipe: Apricot Chicken and Snow Peas

This recipe was such a huge success this week!  I was trying to come up with a simple recipe to use a sweet/spicy sauce with chicken and I ended up with this winner of a meal.  You’ve GOT to try this one… truly!

I started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I salted/peppered each side and seared them in a medium-large skillet pan into which I had melted a small amount of olive oil and sesame oil.  Once they were nicely browned, but definitely NOT cooked through, I added a rather creative sauce.ApricotChickenSnowPeas

My sauce consisted of the following ingredients:  Gewurztraminer (dry) wine, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, apricot jam, commercial orange sauce, and soy sauce.  All these ingredients can be used, to varying degrees, depending on your taste preferences. NOTE: I chose to use a dry Gewurztraminer wine because of the heat that was going to come out from the orange sauce, but you could easily switch out a sweeter Riesling or Vidal Blanc white wine (or even chicken stock if you don’t want to use wine) but if you choose a sweeter wine, I’d decrease the amount of jam used.  It’s totally up to you!

Once I rolled the chicken in the sauce, I chose to roast this dish, covered, in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours.  I had the time and really wanted to have the scent permeate the house before we had dinner.  If I were more pressed for time, I could easily have left this on the stove top and kept the heat on medium for about 45 minutes or until the chicken thighs were cooked through.

Once the chicken was done, I added half of a small package of snow peas (sugar snap peas would be a great substitute) and allowed them time to cook in the sauce. Just before serving, while the sauce was still a bit runny, I mixed a few tablespoons of sauce with a little bit of cornstarch to make a slurry and added that into the sauce to thicken the mixture.  NOTE:  Make sure to add the cornstarch to a small amount of liquid rather than adding the cornstarch directly to the pan to prevent lumps in your sauce.

When I added the snow peas, I started cooking a small batch of egg noodles so they would be ready in time for dinner. This was a great bed for the dish and really allowed the flavors to pop.  If you prefer, brown rice would also make an excellent accompaniment.

I do hope you’ll try this recipe sometime.  I’ll be using the basic idea of this sauce for a shrimp dish tonight for dinner and expect it to present the same stellar results.  It’s all about finding the flavors that mix best for your family and playing with them to make your own arsenal of go-to recipes.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Stephanie’s French Toast Bites with Blueberry Wine Sauce

I have to start this recipe by saying that I love breakfast foods.  Eggs Benedict… pancakes… french toast… hash browns… sausage… waffles… bacon… you get the picture.  I could have breakfast-for-dinner at least once a week (although my husband much prefers to limit breakfast foods to “breakfast/brunch time”).  Because of this love affair I have with breakfast, I enjoy creating different sorts of recipes that showcase some of my favorite options, especially when I can incorporate wine into the mix.  The best of both worlds, right?

This recipe was created for my dear friend, Stephanie, who’s having a difficult time eating full-size servings of food these days.  To tempt her into eating breakfast one day, I came up with the idea of having small crouton-size bites of french toast that she could eat with her fingers or dip into a fruity sauce.  It was a big success, so I thought I would share this special recipe with everyone here.  I’ve named this recipe in her honor because without her, I wouldn’t have thought to make this delicious breakfast dish in such a unique manner.

I started by cutting up a few slices of whole wheat bread into bite-sized cubes.  Using my memory, I blended an egg (you can absolutely use egg substitute if you prefer), some milk (I like using almond milk if that’s on hand), some white wine (I used Vidal Blanc last time but use whatever you may have in your fridge… just decrease the amount of sugar if you’re using a sweeter wine), a sprinkling of sugar (as desired), a touch of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon (to taste).  Using a wire whisk, beat the egg mixture until it’s just becoming frothy.  I wanted something that would taste light, so I opted to whip the mixture until it was light and airy.  I then tossed the bread cubes in the egg mixture until all the cubes were soaked with the egg-y-yumminess.  When you’re ready to cook the toast bites, melt a pat of butter (and a touch of olive oil if you’d like) and transferred the toast bites to a very warm saute pan to cook.  Note: don’t crowd the pan, so feel free to do this in two sections if necessary.  

Stephanie'sFrenchToastBites

In the meantime, using a small saute pan (or sauce pan), melt a pat of butter and add a handful of blueberries,  Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand or prefer.  We had quarts of blueberries in the fridge, so they were the natural choice when I was creating the sauce to go along with these toast bites.  As the berries begin to warm and pop open, add some red wine (I went around the pan twice with a lovely Pinot Noir… again, because that’s what was in the fridge.  If I’d had a different red wine available, I might have changed to that one instead.  Use what you have and what you enjoy!) sprinkle some sugar to sweeten the sauce, and I decided to add a dash of cinnamon, to mirror the taste from the french toast bites themselves.  Allow the sauce to cook until it reduces and thickens.  If it gets too thick, add a little more wine… if it’s not thick enough, feel free to add a little more sugar.  This is a Use The Force sort of recipe… make it your own!

You’ll notice that there are also some bites of sausage on the serving plate in the photo – we had turkey sausage that needed to be used (and it was a good source of protein), so I browned the sausage until it was crispy and delicious.  It’s not a prerequisite… just another flavor to temp my dear friend into eating more than she had planned.

Sometimes, you’ll find that you need to expand your horizons when it comes to feeding your loved ones.  If someone isn’t feeling particularly well, feel free to play with your recipe to tempt them into eating something tasty and good for them.  It’s not about who’s doing the cooking or even about how they’re cooking… it’s about the love that is conveyed by the simple act of feeding people.

As you cook, may you enjoy the challenge and turn it into an expression of love.  That’s what it’s all about…

Recipe: Butternut Squash Crab Bisque

I know it’s not quite the end of the summer, but butternut squash seems to  be showing up more often in my local grocery store.  In its honor, I thought this might be a great way to highlight the need to purchase said vegetable.
Honestly, my favorite way to use butternut squash is to make baked “french fries” out of it, but my second favorite use is in this delicious soup.   While it’s a hearty soup, the flavor becomes more decadent with the addition of crab.  A lovely simple supper when paired with some warm crusty bread… this makes a great meal for a stormy night.
Try it sometime and let me know what you think!

 

Butternut Squash Crab Bisque (with Vidal Blanc wine)

½ onion, diced

1t olive oil

1 ½ c Vidal Blanc ( or your favorite semi-dry white wine)

1 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock (or water with 2 bouillon packets)

1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed, approximately 4 cups)

1t dried marjoram

1 t Old Bay seasonings

Cracked black pepper, to taste

½ recipe Crab Dip **

  1.  In large saucepan, sauté onions in oil until translucent.  Add liquid, squash and seasonings to onions. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until squash is very tender.
  2. Puree squash in pan with stick blender (can also use blender or food processor in batches) until smooth.
  3. Add crab dip and heat through but do not allow to boil.

Note:  This recipe can be a tad sweet.  Feel free to add more Old Bay or some Tabasco for a bit of heat.

**Crab Dip Recipe:

1 block cream cheese

1 stick butter

1 lb crab meat (I prefer lump crabmeat)

1T parsley

1t Old Bay seasoning (to taste)

  1. Melt in butter and cream cheese slowly in double boiler.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and serve warm with crackers.
  3. I like to heat this in the oven for 20 minutes to get it a bit bubbly.