This is THE Fall Salad

  It’s got glazed pecans. Apple chips. Garlic balsamic vinaigrette. Gorgonzola cheese. Red onion. Oh my, it’s amazing. And you are going to make it all!
I was searching online for Fall salads and this one boasted to be the copycat recipe for the Panera Fuji Apple Salad. OMG yes, am I right?? I was on board. This is the recipe for the salad and dressing. But what about the apple chips? The glazed pecans? Are we home cooks or are we HOME COOKS??   
 I have already posted a lovely recipe for apple chips previously in this blog, and you can view it here. Word of warning: don’t add the sugar and cinnamon like I did! It adds too much sweetness to the salad.  
Finally, what about those glazed pecans? They are easy, and they are fabulous! Here’s the recipe:

Glazed Pecans

2 T. firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp butter
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup pecan halves

Add all ingredients except pecans to skillet and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Add pecans and stir until well coated, 5-7 minutes. Spread pecans in a single layer onto parchment paper and let cool.

As for the sheer volume of tasks for this salad, spread it out! It’s what we do at the bakery I work at. Make the apple chips on Monday, the glazed pecans on Tuesday, and cook the chicken and serve the salad Wednesday. And your loved ones will be AH-MAZED!!

Love,
Feisty

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Easy Recipe of the Week: Fish Tacos!

 
Fish tacos. Are. AWESOME! The flakiness of the fish combined with creamy avocado, crunchy cabbage and the irresistible sourness of fresh lime juice is one of my favorite things. And when my husband and I planned on spending the day at Kings Dominion, I knew I needed a simple dinner that was as delicious as it was easy.

Fish Tacos 
Serves 2

2-3 white fish filets
2 limes
2 avocados
Mayonnaise 
1 small head red cabbage
Various seasonings
Corn tortillas

Here’s how I did it: the day before, chop up half a head of red cabbage (green would work too but it’s not as fun!). Mix mayonnaise (enough to reach a dressing consistency) and juice of one lime in a bowl before adding cabbage. Cover and store in fridge.

When you’re ready for dinner, rinse your fish filets (tilapia, catfish, even frozen & thawed–any white fish will do), and season them with a bunch of seasonings! I added garlic powder, red pepper, cumin, ginger, oregano, salt and pepper, basically whatever I have on my spice rack.
Heat pan on medium high heat, add olive oil and/or butter and sauté fish for 3 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, wrap corn tortillas (I do 3 per person, 6 total) together in tinfoil and place in oven. Preheat oven to 300 degrees to warm them up. Grab 2 avocados, cut them open and scoop them out. Slice each one into thin pieces and place on a plate; squeeze with half a lime.

And that’s your dinner! Cut the last half a lime into 2 wedges and put one on each plate. Perfect for hungry and sore roller coaster riders! 🙂

  Nick and I at Kings Dominion 💏

Summer Sweetness

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Its Summer!!!!  Which I realized the other day means I can wear minimal clothing and still be comfortable in air conditioning (because I certainly wasn’t missing the humidity).  But it also means that fruit is ripe and plentiful!  I have already been enjoying loading up my meals with vegetables but fruit was always more of a snack for me, besides the occasional breakfast banana. Its a slow process to work it into dinners, but I’m getting there.  Sure, two of them were breakfasts but breakfast for dinner is a perfectly acceptable way to combine dessert and dinner. 😀

French Toast with Blueberries and Peaches

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French toast for dinner is fun, and easy. Its a great way to get rid of bread that you don’t want to eat in a sandwich.  Crusty bread is the best bread for french toast, but this particular dinner was just regular ole Nature’s Own Honey Wheat.  The easiest, least stressful way to make french toast is to do it in batches, and as they finish, you throw them onto a foil-wrapped tray in a 200 degree oven.  They stay warm until mealtime while you take your sweet time.  And once they’re finished, why not throw a little butter on the pan and toss peach slices and blueberries over medium heat until they get nice and soft. Sprinkle with cinnamon and then serve on top of french toast. Its so much more dynamic than just eggy bread.

Pork Chops with Rice and Pineapple Mint

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I have a perfect pork chop recipe, but its not quite an exact science as my perfect chicken recipe.  For 1″ – 1 1/4″ thick, cook 5-6 minutes on each side. For thinner pork chops, cook 4 minutes on each side, medium high heat for both. Sometimes they come out browner than other times (I think my gas stove runs hot), but the greater the sear, the juicier the meat!  The mint was from my growing container garden, and as you can see I couldn’t resist buying a whole pineapple to cut up. Saute the pork chops using the loose recipe above, and when its time for them to rest, throw the pineapple and mint in the pan to get them nice and soft.

Blueberry and Strawberry Pancakes

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Patriotic pancake batter!  This one is real easy.  Use your favorite pancake batter (I’m partial to Martha Stewart’s recipe), and when it’s ready, dice up a bunch of strawberries as small as the blueberries and toss them all in.  I ended up saving some of the fruit on my cutting board to throw it onto the pancake batter rounds, since heavy fruit can sometimes sink to the bottom of the thin batter.  Do the same thing with the pan in the oven as the french toast and it gets even simpler.

 

Fruit is fun and delicious, and it provides your body with the good kind of sugar.  Always balance it with other healthy items of course — balance is the key to life!

 

Love,
Feisty

Eat Yo Greens


Disclaimer: I am not a healthy eater. I like fresh, real foods, but I don’t try to skimp on the stuff that tastes good–fat, sugar, salt…however, I am getting married in less than 3 weeks. And what better time to try and curb your habits a bit, right?

I like salads. Salads always taste so good in restaurants, but their complexities always boggled my mind a little to make at home. Salads need balance; a crunchy element, a sweet element; what dressings complimented what ingredients?? And so on.  When I wanted to make a salad, I’d break out my classic Caesar, with romaine hearts, torn bread croutons and homemade dressing complete with anchovies and egg yolk. (Pictured above)

But then my lovely husband to be requested a salad every week. Who wants to eat the same salad week to week? The only thing worth eating every week is pizza! ;).


So I went all out with the next one. It’s Cobb, baby! Hard boiled eggs, bacon, homemade croutons–along with broccoli, tomatoes and green onion. Topped with ranch because it’s always in our house (good for dipping pizza crusts–I told you I wasn’t healthy!).


Next go around was a simpler salad, made up of various pantry items. Mushrooms, some leftover broccoli, feta cheese, tomato, and sunflower seeds. I tossed it with my own made up recipe of oil and (apple cider) vinegar because I’m sort of trying to avoid dairy. Sort of…


Tonight was another fancy salad! I candied some pecans in sugar and added them to this sweet salad of pears, avocado and blue cheese. Topped it off with a mustard vinaigrette.

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Behold, the most summery salad of all salads! I got some of those delicious little creamer potatoes and boiled them for a few minutes, blanched them in cold water, then quartered them. Grilled corn in the husk then slipped them out and cut the corn right off the cob. Add cherry tomatoes, red onion and lettuce grown from your garden and toss with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

 This is my Summer-fading-into-Fall salad. Make it easy on yourself and dice up the meat from a rotisserie chicken. Add it to one diced green apple and half a cup of oven-toasted pecans, and toss together with red leaf romaine and a mustard-orange vinaigrette.

It’s fun finding new and interesting ways to eat lettuce! I hope this post inspired you to try your hand at making a delicious salad.

Love,
Feisty

 

 

 

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

20141111-164734.jpgAs I found while preparing to make macarons for my mom last Christmas, the Internet is filled with FAQs and guides on making macarons. To many it is not an easy task, and I found this out the hard way as I practiced the recipe for her present. Time and time again, they didn’t look right. The ones I ended up giving her still didn’t look right:
20141111-165156.jpgIt was enough to make me reconsider my chosen career! This year, with half a bag of almond flour still in my fridge, I decided to try again using a different recipe. It made all the difference! I’m proud to say I didn’t give up, and now feel like I’ve mastered macarons. It just goes to show you,
never give up, never surrender!!

Love,
Feisty

Edit: I’ve made them since with mixed results, so I finally decided to get Mad About Macarons and made these pictured below! Haha, MASTERED. 👍

 

Spotlight On: the Immersion Blender

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I love making soup. It’s an easy way to buy a bunch of cheap ingredients and cook them down into a delicious meal. With summer gone and cold weather approaching, it’s a nice warm, fuzzy meal that doesn’t take too much out of you.
What makes it a Feisty-approved, easy to make meal is the immersion blender. Also known as the stick blender, it’s an electric, handheld blender. It makes cooking sauces and soups a breeze, and is a must for anyone who likes to cook.
It’s a star in dishes like…

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
2 T. butter
4 red peppers
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
24 oz. chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream
black pepper

First, roast the peppers. It’s not necessary but roasting adds so much flavor! Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on foil-lined pans and roast in oven, turning occasionally, until brown and puffy. Cool completely and remove stems, skin and seeds. Chop.
Melt butter in pot and sauté onions and garlic on Medium heat until tender, 5-10 min. Add roasted red peppers in the last few minutes (if not roasting, add chopped red peppers with onion and garlic).
Pour in chicken broth, stirring well. Reduce heat to Low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Nows the time to blend! Transfer your vegetables to a blender in batches, OR leave it in the pot and use your immersion blender! Go from this:
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To this!:
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In no time at all. 🙂 I love it.
Once smooth, run soup through strainer (optional). Return to pot and add cream and black pepper to taste. Heat on Low heat until heated through.
So yummy! I served it with half a grilled cheese sandwich and butter crackers.

Stay warm out there!
Love,
Feisty

Bake at a Moment’s Notice

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It all started with the egg yolks.
A few days ago, I was commissioned to make a pan of s’mores fudge bars by a lovely co-worker of mine (my first sale!), and the recipe uses egg whites to make the marshmallow topping. I absolutely hate wasting ingredients, and I wondered what I could do with the 2 egg yolks left over. A cake, perhaps?
So I went to work looking for a recipe. Apparently, I’m not alone in not wanting to waste ingredients. Cakes weren’t a prevalent choice of recipe, but here was mini eclairs for two! Was this something I really wanted to take on? I scanned the recipe and, what do you know? I just happened to have the exact amount of heavy cream it called for, another ingredient I was trying to find a use for! From then on, it was pretty much kismet. 😉
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Mini Eclairs
makes 6
For the pastry cream:
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the eclair:
1/3 c. water
3 T. unsalted butter at room temp
1/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten

For the glaze:
1/2 c. chocolate chips or chunks
1 tsp. vegetable shortening

First make the pastry cream. In a small pot, heat the cream until the tiniest bubbles appear at the edge. Do not boil.
Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Add egg yolks and whisk together. The mixture will be crumbly. Very slowly pour the warm cream into the yolk mixture while continuing to whisk. This process is called tempering the eggs, and you pour it slowly so that the yolks don’t cook while their temperature rises to that of the cream’s.
Pour the entire mixture back into the pot over medium heat. Whisk constantly while it starts to simmer. Once it noticeably thickens (bubbles will have a hard time getting to the surface), continue to cook and whisk a few more seconds. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. I whisked it in, which ruined the beautiful texture…but I’ll get to that in a sec. Scrape into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly to the surface of the cream. Chill in fridge for at least 3 hours.
After I added the vanilla, the mixture started to come apart. When I was pressing the plastic wrap to the top, a butter-like liquid was soaking through and I freaked out. I combed the web for tips on what to do; most people said to just wait the three hours to see if it thickens. So I did. And it worked! So don’t freak out if your cream separates.
Now, the eclair dough! In a small pot, stir together butter and water over low heat until butter melts without boiling water. Remove from heat and add flour, sugar and salt all at once. Stir until combined. Put pot back on burner (over low heat for gas stovetop, heat off for glass) and stir until dough pulls away from sides of pot, about 1 minute. Scrape dough into a bowl and mix on low until it’s only warm. Or let it sit out until warm…that’s what I did! Add egg and beat until dough turns pale yellow, about 2-3 min. Lay some parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat!, onto a cookie sheet. Put in piping bag and pipe 6 mounds, about 2 inches lengthwise with a 1-in opening on the bag. Alternately, you could use a spoon, but the piping bag is much easier and makes the mounds prettier!
Bake at 400* for 10 minutes, then open the oven door for 5 seconds and change the temperature to 350*. Bake another 18-20 minutes. When done, turn oven off and remove pan. Use a thin knife to poke a hole in the side of the eclair to release steam. Return to oven and let cool for 30 minutes with the oven door ajar. (I used a strategically placed wooden spoon.)
Next, slice eclairs in half horizontally. Fill with chilled pastry cream. For the chocolate, place chocolate chips and vegetable shortening in a small bowl. Microwave in 10 second intervals until melted, or set up a double boiler using a metal bowl and a small pot of water. Carefully dip tops of eclairs into chocolate. Chill until set for 15 minutes. Voila! A lot of words, an easy recipe and 6 delicious mini eclairs you just made yourself.

Love,
Feisty

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