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Spinach & Pepper Jack Cheese Muffins

16 Apr

IMG_2632We live in a world filled with uncertainty and reoccurring horrific events that are so complicated to fathom. The news coverage of these recent tragic recent events – Boston and Baghdad bombings, fatal earthquake in Iran and the continuing Syrian Civil War send shivers down my spine.  The images depicting carnage of innocent citizens and widespread annihilation of their towns and cities reiterate the fragility of human lives and the world we live in. They are reminders that everyday is a gift and one must constantly cherish and love our family and friends.

The very ethos of this blog is to express your love and nurture by cooking for the special people in your life. Now more than ever, I must reiterate “Cook for someone you love”.  While we think and pray for all the families stricken by these ghastly events let’s also remember to articulate our love for the important people in our lives.  Continue reading

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini

15 Jan

IMG_2398Necessity is the mother of invention, and often how a new recipe is born. In fact excess of a perishable ingredient and a desire to do something special with it often inspire tasty solutions in my kitchen!

In short here is the whole truth behind this recipe:

Pickle # 1:  I have a bunch of arugula that I need to use up soon, and I do not feel like eating a salad tonight. Duh, but I  always eat Arugula in my salad!
Solution #1: Make a Pesto out of it!

Pickle #2: A basic Arugula Pesto is a bit too strong by itself on bread.
Solution #2: It could use some sweetness and tang and possibly the addition of neutral and  creamy component. Hmmm…how about topping it with SUN-DRIED TOMATOES & GOAT CHEESE?

Final Result: Aha! The perfect balance of flavors on a slice of crusty bread. It’s a party in your mouth when the sweet, acidic and chewy sun-dried tomatoes balance out the sharp taste of the pesto and the creamy texture of the goat cheese. Pair this with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and its a lot more elating that a classic Arugula salad!

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini Recipe
Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 3/4 cup of Pesto

Ingredients:
2 cups packed arugula, washed and drained
6 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of pine nuts, lightly roasted (See note)
1/3 cup of good Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
1/3-1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced or diced
1 cup of goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf French or Italian Baguette (See note)

Note:

  • Pine nuts can be toasted in a non-stick skillet on low heat. Keep an eye on these as they get done quickly and can burn easily. They are ready when they have a light color change and you can smell them.
  • French Baguettes are typically a lot harder than Italian Baguettes. Since I used a French Baguette, I did not toast it up for the Crostini. If you use an Italian Baguette or another softer baguette, you should toast it in the oven or under the broiler to ensure crusty bread that stands up to the toppings without getting soggy too soon.

Method:
1) In a food processor or blender combine the arugula, garlic, roasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, peppercorns, olive oil, crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Blend this to a thick paste, or leave some texture if you prefer a chunkier pesto.
2) Slice the baguette into 1 inch slices on a bias.
3) Spread a layer or two of pesto on each slice. Now top each slice with a few sun-dried tomatoes followed by goat cheese crumbles. I was skimpy with the goat cheese, to reduce some of the fat content, but these are even tastier when you are generous with the sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese!

Zucchini, Herb and Cheese Bread

21 Sep

Photo Credit: Sneha

Diets are the worst form of persecution for a foodie. Every time I embark on one, the sights of baked treats taunt me and beseech me to cheat on my diet. I start dreaming of flaky puff pastry, moist chocolate cake, warm fruit pies and hearty loaves of bread!

I had the misfortune of embarking on a diet a few weeks ago. I decided to amplify my exercise routines and cut back on treats and snacks to get into shape for an upcoming wedding. I usually manage to keep up the exercise but end up binging on baked treats after a few days of deprivation.  It took me exactly a week, before I caved in and decided I needed to bake a bunch of treats and devour them. My friend Sneha, who is an amazing cook and an even better photographer agreed to join me for what we dubbed “Bake Fest 2012”! We baked puff pastry stuffed with a potato and cheese mixture, an orange Bundt cake, maple bacon chocolate-chip cookies and zucchini, herb and cheese bread.

Each of these was divine, but the zucchini bread stole my heart. Freshly baked bread is unequivocally the best kind of bread. Unlike a lot of bread recipes that require yeast and time to rise, this bread took less than an hour from start to finish.  It’s also a great way to deceive people who do not usually eat vegetables into eating healthful zucchini, as the cheese and herbs are the prominent flavors in the bread. This bread is ideal for a brunch or as a side to a soup for lunch or dinner.

This recipe was found on the Hobby Farms website and after a few attempts, here is a slightly modified version of the original recipe.

Zucchini, Herb and Cheese Bread
Adapted and Modified from the Hobby Farms website.
Time: Active: 15 minutes, Total: 55 minutes
Yield: 1 8-by-4-inch loaf

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cayenne powder
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and garlic chives)
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs
¼ cup good quality olive oil
½ cup milk (I used 1% milk)
1 cup zucchini, shredded and water squeezed out

Notes:

I used rosemary, garlic chives and thyme, but you can use whatever fresh herbs you have available.

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Grease and flour an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the fresh herbs and green onions to the dry ingredients and mix well till everything is combined.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the oil and milk to the beaten eggs and mix well.
  6. Stir the zucchini into the egg mixture.
  7. Fold the egg and zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients. Do this just until all the ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix.
  8. Pour this into the greased and floured loaf pan. Use a butter knife or spatula to smooth out the top of the batter.
  9. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Place the loaf pan on the countertop and let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then turn it out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  11. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm with butter, cream cheese or goat cheese.
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