Redneck Caviar

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Today, I’m honing in on my redneck Southern roots and sharing a recipe for Redneck Caviar. Funny thing is, I just realized as I was making this dip that this was what it was called. In college, I learned it from a friend’s sister who called it “graduation salsa” because she made it for my friend’s graduation. Odd, I know. Anywho, the great thing about this dip is that you really can do whatever you want with it because rednecks don’t care 😉 But seriously, it’s easy to add and subtract based on your taste preferences and not “mess it up” because it is so yummy!

My recipe yields a pretty big batch…I needed to make sure I had enough for both me and my husband to bring to our respective get togethers, but many of the recipes you’ll find may just call for 1 can of each item and 1/2 a bottle of dressing. Also, I decided to go with Marie’s All Natural Italian Vinaigrette but many recipes call for Kraft’s Zesty Italian dressing. I went with the pre-cut Tri Pepper Mix because it ended up being a little cheaper at Publix that day than buying whole peppers (I usually like to buy my peppers from the farmer’s market, but alas no time). Also, I included some minced garlic and green onion that are not pictured below.

ingredients

To reduce the sodium content as much as possible, I went with reduced sodium black beans and rinsed both the black beans and black-eyed peas for additional sodium removal before adding everything together.

beans

Add everything to your bowl including rinsed and drained beans, drained corn, drained tomatoes, chopped peppers, and entire bottle of salad dressing (my bottle had about 11.5 oz)

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And ta-da!

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What I really love about this dip is the fact that you can get some great soluble fiber from the beans, and some vegetable servings from everything that’s added. I would recommend getting an Italian dressing that is low in sodium if possible. Many variations include adding cilantro, chopped sweet onion, and chopped fresh jalapeno peppers (I wish I had put some in mind but forgot to pick them up at the grocery store).  If you have your favorite version, please comment and share! 🙂

Redneck Caviar (again, this will yield a pretty large quantity)

Ingredients
2 cans black beans
2 cans black-eyed peas
2 cans shoe peg corn
2 cans rotel tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1-2 cups diced bell pepper of your choice
2 Tb minced garlic
~12 oz Italian dressing
Alternative ingredients:
1/2 diced sweet onion
chopped cilantro
1-2 diced fresh jalapeno peppers

Directions: Drain beans, corn, and tomatoes and add to bowl (may opt to rinse beans also), add diced bell pepper, green onion, garlic, dressing, and any other ingredients you’d like. Let chill for a few hours or overnight before serving. Super easy!

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Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

balsamic basil summer pasta salad

Today I’m going to share a recipe of one of my most favorite pasta salads. I originally got this recipe from a close family friend after she brought it to my parents’ house for a family get together.  If I’m ever tasked with bringing something to a potluck, especially on short notice, this is my go-to item. Any of my friends, family, or co-workers that have been to a potluck function with me have likely tasted this at some point in time. Some of the things I love most about this salad is how well the basil enhances the taste of the pasta along with the sweet and salty tones of grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Overall however, I really like how this dish is so quick and easy to make!  P.S. this would be totally great dish to bring to an upcoming 4th of July get together 😉 😉 😉

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When I headed to Publix to pick up the ingredients, I spent a good bit of time trying to decide which pasta to pick up. I noticed that Dreamfields pasta that boasts 5 grams digestible carbs/serving (still very questionable on this) had a penne rigate, but since I had tried their pasta before with some sundried tomato chicken sausage, I figured I’d go with something else.

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I noticed the Barilla Plus pasta had a decent bit of protein per serving but not necessarily as much fiber. Though the Dreamfields contained less sodium as well, I found myself going with the Barilla, since I was accounting for cost as well 🙂

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$1.19 vs. $3.79 per box sounded like a great deal to me!  The Barilla also had about an ounce more in the box compared to Dreamfields.

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Getting all my ingredients together: fresh spinach (on sale!), Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (sale!), Barilla pasta, fresh basil, 1 container grape tomatoes, slided olives, and crumbled feta cheese (yuuummmm)

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You want to start by cooking your pasta per package directions— I always like my pasta al dente.

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While your pasta is on the stove, start prepping your other ingredients. Wash your grape tomatoes thoroughly, slice length-wise and set aside.

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Next you’ll want to grab your basil- wash it down and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. I like to get the basil leaves, put them in a little stack and roll them up for quick cut as you see below. Fancy folks like to call this technique, chiffonade.

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You can place your chopped up basil in the same bowl as your tomatoes.

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You’ll do the same chiffonade technique with the spinach. I personally like to remove the stems from the spinach leaves. I bought a 9oz bag and ended up using about 1/3-1/2 of the bag. It’s more so personal preference as to how much spinach you want in there. You are also more than welcome to add more than one package of basil, or enhance the flavor by adding dried basil in addition to the fresh that has been chopped up. I used a good bit of spinach simply because I wanted me and my husband to get a good serving of veggies from this dish 🙂

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Once your pasta is done cooking, drain and let cool.

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I only waited about five minutes before I decided to proceed with the pasta. You’ll put your pasta in a large bowl (you want something big enough so that you get mix up the ingredients pretty well) and add your balsamic vinaigrette…I only use about 1/2 of the bottle so that the other 1/2 can be saved to add to the pasta the next day if needed. Don’t worry about seeing some of the dressing towards the bottom of the bowl or the pasta not appearing to absorb it; once you add your other ingredients, everything tends to mix pretty well.

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Next you’ll add your feta cheese— you can use plain crumbled feta cheese but sometimes i like going with the flavored ones like basil and tomato. I bought two 4 oz cartons and ended up using about 1 1/2 cartons. Again, it depends on your preference for how much cheese you want in there. Letting your pasta cool down can also be helpful in preventing the feta from getting “mushy” in your pasta. *I should have waited for my pasta to cool a little bit longer. Oh well, c’est la vie.

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Next you’ll add your bowl of chopped of veggie/herb goodies and mix well.

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Drain your olives and add those in too.

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I decided to do a little bit of fresh ground black pepper and mixed again

So there you have it! I used Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette simply because that’s what the original recipe that was given to me called for. I’ve used the Publix brand tangy balsamic before and was really just not a fan. If you have a personal favorite balsamic or like to get fancy and make your own (I wasn’t feeling too motivated when I made this dish to get fancy with it) then I’m sure that would be super delicious too! I primarily made this dish this past week per my husband’s request… he told me he noticed that I don’t make a lot of the things I used to whenever I was “pursuing him”/dating him, which included this pasta salad…hahaha. I”ve included the recipe below for your use. If you make it, please let me know how you like it or anything you did to enhance it. I’m always looking for tips 😀

Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

Ingredients
1- 14 oz box penne pasta (or whichever you prefer)
1 package fresh basil 2/3-1 oz)
4 oz fresh spinach (I bought a 9 oz bag from the grocery store and used about 1/3-1/2 the bag)
4-6 oz crumbled feta
1 small can black olives
16 oz bottle Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (or any other brand you like)
1 container grape tomatoes
ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cook pasta per package directions, drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, prepare other ingredients: slice grape tomatoes length-wise and set aside, chiffonade entire package of basil and about 4 oz of spinach (or as much as you’d like), set aside with tomatoes. In a large mixing bowl, add pasta and about 6-8 oz vinaigrette. Next add feta cheese, mix, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

The pasta usually tastes best after chilling in the fridge overnight so the flavors can meld. The leftover dressing can be mixed in just prior to serving  as needed.


Delicious, Nutritious, {Roasted} BROCCOLI!!

roasted broccoli

Shout out to my broccoli lovers in the house! I consider broccoli to be on my personal list of super foods. Why? Need some fiber? Bam, here’s your broccoli! Need water soluble vitamin C or fat soluble vitamin A? Get some broccoli. Or maybe you need some calcium and folic acid…yep, broccoli is there to the rescue. Maybe you’d just like some nice phytochemicals to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases—bring out the broccoli.

For some people however, broccoli can be a daunting task to eat. I used to relish the opportunity to put raw broccoli florets in my salads at work until I realized how sensitive my tummy was to raw broccoli. If you didn’t know, broccoli is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables (which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and bok choy) which has been known to provide stomach discomforts to some people in its raw form due to the fiber content, providing subsequent bloating from the gases that are formed in the stomach during digestion. Doesn’t sound too fun huh? Though broccoli and other cruciferous veggies have their best health benefits in the raw form, cooking broccoli appropriately (avoiding overcooking) can help diminish these negative tummy effects while also keeping the nutritional integrity of the veggie.

Most people steam their broccoli but yesterday I found a fantastic recipe for oven roasted broccoli at The Gingered Whisk. She has some incredibly delicious recipes! Last night I thought I’d put her recipe to the test right after pinning this bad boy on Pinterest.  This recipe was originally from The Amateur Gourmet who adapted it from the wonderful Ina Garten.

20130604_182133Get out the delicious broccoli…

20130604_182504Chop into florets to arrange on a foil lined baking sheet

20130604_182855Aren’t they so cute and delicious looking?!

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Pull out your seasonings…I didn’t have any kosher salt so ended up using some sea salt; I also pulled out the garlic powder to supplement with the minced garlic I ended up using

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Bake for 20-25 minutes at 425

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Add your lemon juice and Parmesan cheese…I had some leftover Sargento in the fridge

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YUUUUMMMMMM!!!!

Roasted Broccoli Recipe

Ingredients
4-5 pounds of broccoli
5 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1.5 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
zest and juice from 1 lemon

Directions
Preheat your oven to 425
Take 2 large bunches of broccoli and cut it into florets.
Wash them and dry them super thoroughly.
Put some tin foil on a lined cookie sheet.
Place your broccoli on the cookie sheet and drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, sprinkle with kosher salt and some black pepper to taste.
Slice 4 heads of garlic and place these on the cookie sheet, too.
Now toss it all together.
Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the broccoli is crisp tender and getting a bit brown on the tips.
Remove the pan from the oven and zest a lemon over the broccoli, followed by a squeeze of lemon juice.
Drizzle a little more olive oil on top, sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and toss.
Enjoy!

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to eat broccoli any other way. The lemon juice and zest really enhance the flavor of this dish. My husband and I paired the broccoli with some roasted chicken. If you try this recipe, please tell what you think! 🙂

P.S. Next up this week will be my tasting of some bacon and cheese flavored crickets I picked up at the market in Charleston. Video will be included so you don’t want to miss 🙂


Quick and Yummy Jasmine Rice Pilaf

Today I’m going to share a simple recipe for a deliciously fragrant jasmine rice pilaf you can easily make in your rice cooker. Earlier this week the hubs and I wanted a starchy side to go along with some leftover smoked chicken and veggies we had in the fridge. We always have jasmine rice on hand and luckily I had some other things in the pantry and fridge from some previous recipes this month that helped pull things together. My recipe for this rice pilaf is similar to others I’ve seen before, but for the sake of what was in my fridge at the time, I put my own little spin to some traditional recipes I’ve seen before.

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Jasmine Rice Pilaf

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice

2 cups chicken stock (chicken broth will also work)

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 bay leaf

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 small shallot chopped (can also use regular onion)

2 teaspoons olive oil or margarine

3 teaspoons minced garlic cloves

Directions
In a small to medium frying pan, saute chopped garlic and shallot in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. In your rice cooker, combine the rice, chicken stock, almonds, bay leaf, mushrooms, and garlic/shallot mixture. Cover and hit the “cook” button 🙂 Your rice should be done in about 20-30 minutes 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about simple, especially when I can utilize things I’ve already got in the pantry. One modification you can also do is making this recipe with a portion of brown rice to add fiber. I absolutely love jasmine rice vs the traditional long-grain white rice because of it’s fragrant qualities — very nostalgic for me as a child. White rice usually gets a bad rap as a starchy carbohydrate but this is typically due to eating it in large amounts or adding copious amounts of sugar, salt, and fat before and after cooking. Using the natural flavor profile of garlic and onions and adding heart healthy fats from the olive oil and almonds can bring your typical side of rice to an all new level 🙂

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Don’t be alarmed to see some of your mixture’s components collect to the top of the rice.

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Give that rice a nice mixing so that each serving gets a good mix of the mushrooms and other ingredients.

20130424_193615Bon Appetit!


Mocha Chiffon Cake

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IMG_1097Wedding cake. One of the things I look forward to the most when attending a wedding. It also appears that wedding season is upon us in full swing. The cake you see above is actually my wedding cake from almost just a year ago that my aunt and her best friend made for my wedding as a wonderfully beautiful and tasty wedding gift. In terms of the flavor of the cake, they created a mocha chiffon cake with  buttercream frosting that I absolutely love. The cake itself and especially the icing is not very sweet which makes it a cake that some people love and some may not. To accommodate everyone’s palate, we provided an additional sheet cake of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (another favorite that my aunt makes) and a chocolate cake appearing to look like an NFL football field and my husband in his recliner after the day in the office (my husband is a fantasy football fiend).

IMG_7803-2If you’re interested in trying this mocha chiffon cake for yourself (I love it personally), see my aunt’s recipe below to make your very own, One thing that she has always cautioned me is that it’s a fairly delicate mixture and may take a few tries to get just right. You’ll want to work fast with the batter to make sure it’s blended well and with the icing you’ll want to add the milk mixture slowly so that it doesn’t get watery and blends well with the butter.

Mocha Chiffon Cake

8 Eggs @ Room Temperature (Separate Yolk & White)

1 ¾ Cups Sifted Cake Flour

1 ¾ Cups Sugar (Use ¾ cup sugar with egg white & 1 cup for the yolk)

1 ½ tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp salt

½ cup oil

2 tsp vanilla

½ tsp cream of tartar

¾ cup boiling water

2 tsp instant coffee

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa

Combine coffee and cocoa in a cup and add boiling water, mix and let cool. In a large bowl sift cake flour, 1 cup of the sugar, baking soda & salt together. Make a well in the center. Pour the oil, egg yolks, vanilla and cold coffee mixture. Mix until smooth. In a large bowl sprinkle cream of tartar over egg whites. Beat at high speed until very stiff peaks forms. Add ¾ cup sugar and continue beating until well blended. Pour batter over egg whites, with a rubber spatula; fold under and over motion until blended. Pour into ungreased pan or line the bottom with parchment paper and bake at 325˚ for 50 minutes.

Frosting:

1 lb. unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 lb. “I Can’t believe it’s not butter” (room temperature)

Confectionery sugar to taste

1 cup warm whole milk, mixed with 1 tsp. cocoa and 1 tsp. instant coffee

Whip butter and margarine on high speed until well blended.  Continue beating and gradually add milk mixture and sugar to taste.

*** If you end up making this recipe yourself, please let me know about your baking experience and what you think of the taste of the cake 🙂 Below I’ve also got a few pictures of some of the wedding cakes my husband and I have been able to taste recently at friends and family’s weddings 🙂

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Baby Bella and Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage Pasta

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20130403_181027Ahhh! Have I ever mentioned to you how much I love food and how much I enjoy cooking? Well I do and I do. The funny thing is that I didn’t really start learning to cook until grad school, mostly because my grandparents did a lot of the cooking when I was younger and I lived and worked in the residence hall/dorm most of college. However, last evening I got the hankering to try Dreamfields Healthy Carb Living Pasta that I scored as a freebie at the Alabama Dietetic Association Meeting in March. I wanted to make sure I made a sauce that was light and didn’t mask the taste and quality of the pasta, especially since I hadn’t tried any of Dreamfields pasta before. I figured a simple sauce with olive oil and garlic would fit the bill, but I also wanted to add some additional components for taste and texture. And with that said, let me proceed below with my recipe! — P.S. I tend to not do very stringent measuring while cooking and usually add ingredients in “to taste” so if you decide to make this yourself, you’ll probably want to play around with things a bit 🙂

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I love Publix!

20130403_180941Running a little low on the dry basil but that’s okay!

Baby Bella and Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausage Pasta (It’s a mouthful!)

Ingredients:

~16 oz dried pasta

1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (may want to stick closer to 1/2 cup if you don’t add a lot of additional ingredients to your version of the dish)

3 garlic cloves minced

1 shallot chopped/sliced

2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your taste preference)

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 Tb dried basil (you can use fresh if you’ve got it; I forgot to pick some up at Publix and ended up using dried)

8 oz baby bella sliced mushrooms

12 oz  sliced Al Fresco sundried tomato chicken sausage (or any other meat/protein you’d like to use)

2 oz grated parmesan cheese (again, up to your discretion)

sea salt (to taste)

pepper (to taste)

Directions

Follow pasta directions cooking pasta al dente or to desired tenderness – once the pasta has cooked, drain the pasta and set aside but reserve about 2 or 3 Tb of the pasta water. While your pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sautee pan or wok. Add in your garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes, then add your chopped shallot. Cook garlic and shallots for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently so your garlic doesn’t burn. Next add your baby bellas and sliced sausage to your olive oil mixture cooking for about 5 minutes or until your baby bellas are slightly tender.

Next, add your pasta to your pan and toss to coat while also adding about 2 Tb of the leftover pasta water. Toss in your parsley, cheese, salt and pepper to taste and you’re good to chow down! 🙂

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Chop up that garlic and shallot!

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After that shallot and garlic has sauteed for a bit, don’t forget your red pepper flakes

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Add in those baby bellas

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the great thing about the Al Fresco sausages are that they come fully cooked so you just want to make sure they’re heated to warm temperature for the dish

20130403_190321Don’t forget your Italian parsley

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And ta da!

Thankfully my husband really enjoyed the dish and since it’s just the two of us and our dog scoring a sliver of chicken sausage here and there, we have plenty of leftovers that’ll make for some nice lunches over the next few days. I like having the Italian parsley in the dish to add some earthiness to the flavors and provide a bit of texture as well. But, if Italian parsley isn’t your thing, you may want to do some chopped fresh basil as an alternative or forgo the greens all together. Overall, the base of olive oil, garlic, and red pepper is a fairly common combination that you can use with any pasta and additional ingredients of your liking —- awesome!

Before I end this post though, I do want to make mention of the Dreamfields Pasta. As you can see below from the label, Dreamfields indicates that it only has 5 grams digestible carbs despite 41 grams being listed on the label per serving. With Dreamfields pasta, 5 grams is fiber while 31 grams are “protected carbs”, which is apparently the  carbohydrate that is protected by a special protein/fiber blend by Dreamfields to prevent the digestion of this starch. Sounds pretty nifty huh? Perhaps even a little confusing. Check out the Dreamfields Expert Q&A for further explanation. However, I would be careful about counting it as 5 grams of carbohydrate for your meal of choice. While you do that, I’ll be enjoying my leftover pasta 🙂

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P.S. Have any of you had Dreamsfield pasta before?