Basil Gazpacho with Homemade Crunchy Croutons

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This is  Helen’s Basil Gazpacho and Crunchy Crouton recipe and it is worth the trouble!  I am not saying you will need to grow your veggies in a garden like Helen’s –  see below – but according to Helen “If you want something good then you have to go to a lot of trouble and that’s just the way it is.”  Helen is an extraordinary cook, gardener, knitter and friend.  Thank you for doing this post with me Helen – now I have one of my favorite Helen creations down on the books.

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The reason you want the croutons to get extra crispy is so they stay crispy once they are put in the Gazpacho. This is the best Gazpacho so get ready!  Helen says “god help you if there are any leftover croutons because you will just sit there eating them.” It is SO true.

INGREDIENTS for Crunchy Croutons

1 day old free form loaf or baguette

3 – 6 T each – butter & olive oil,  – adjust amount depending on the size of the loaf.

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garlic powder

onion powder

dried parsley

OR

use Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning as an alternative to the individual seasonings

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to Bake  300°
  2. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes
  3. Bake for 1 hour
  4. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet on Medium, add toasted bread and toss until well coated in oil and butter
  5. Turn heat to low, add spices and toss
  6. Remove from heat and set aside

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INGREDIENTS for Basil Gazpacho

Serves 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped with juice

2 garlic cloves minced

1 4 oz jar of pimento, drained

3 cup of vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 c white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons basil, chopped

  1. Skin tomatoes: submerge tomatoes in hot water for 2 minutes, until skin cracks easily.  Cool and peel.
  2. Chop all the veggies and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add other ingredients and spices.
  4. Blend ingredients with a hand blender (or use a food processor) until you reach the right consistency.
  5. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
  6. Garnish with herbs and Crunchy Croutons and serve chilled.

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Pan Roasted Chicken and Sweet Cherry Salad with Dijon Dressing

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You’d never know I was such a grumpy lady while preparing this dinner. Yesterday was just kind of crazy. I feel like I had a fussy baby clinging to my leg and frizzed out hair and one shoe off around 5:30 yesterday. I guess that isn’t really true…well, except the fussy baby part. We are adjusting to the changes of being in a new place, as we must.

The tired child soon fell fast asleep, and the hubby and I sat down to this very tasty, very peaceful dinner afterwards. I feel much better.

I’m going to call this meal quite budget-friendly. I bought a large pack of chicken thighs and pan-roasted them all, saving some for another meal this week. Lettuce, radishes, and chives are not expensive. The cherries are our week’s very special treat. As long as I control myself with munching from the bowl, I will have some left for another cherry treat, but they totally make this salad. If you’re stuck in a dried fruit rut with your salads, using fresh cherries as this recipe does, is a vibrant change.

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Pan Roasted Chicken and Sweet Cherry Salad with Dijon Dressing

adapted from Bon Appétit

INGREDIENTS

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (I couldn’t find them with either skin or bones, but they were fine)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1/4 C Fresh Lemon Juice

3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill (I used dried b/c it’s what I had, again, loved it anyway)

2 Tablespoons Honey

1 Clove Garlic, minced

1/4 C Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, plus one Tablespoon (divided)

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Thick Slices Sourdough Bread, torn into 3/4″ pieces

1 Pound Fresh Cherries, stemmed, pitted, and lightly crushed

1 Large Head Leaf Lettuce

4 Radishes, thinly sliced

1 Tablespoon Chopped Chives

PREPARATION

Pan Roast Chicken Thighs-

Preheat oven to 475°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy skillet med-high heat, until just before it smokes (It shimmers). Place chicken in with skin side down until skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to oven to cook for 13-15 minutes more. Flip chicken and cook another 5 minutes until skin crisps and meat is cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes.

Using two forks, pull chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside*.

*If using my money and time-saving method, cook 7-8 chicken thighs the same way, pull apart all chicken. Reserve 2 Cups cooked chicken for the salad and store the remainder for a broccoli chicken and rice casserole later in the week.

Prepare the Dressing-

In a small bowl, whisk together the Lemon Juice, Dijon Mustard, Dill, Honey, Garlic. Gradually drizzle in Olive Oil while whisking to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

*I recommend doubling this recipe and keeping this dressing on hand in a jar. It is outstanding!

Croutons + Assembling Salad-

In the same skillet used for the chicken thighs (yes, use the fat!) Melt the Butter and 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil. When bubbling, place torn sourdough bread pieces in and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes or until golden. Remove from skillet and drain onto paper towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper while hot.

Place pulled chicken in a large salad bowl. Add cherries, lettuce, radishes, and chives, and drizzle with the dijon dressing. Toss to coat. Divide among plates and garnish with croutons.

Relax +Enjoy!


Our Kid-Friendly Meal: Louisiana Red Beans and Rice with Cheddar Puff Pastries and Roasted Green Beans

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Our schedules are hectic. Days are full and crazy, but everybody in the family appreciates a hearty, homemade meal, and this “go-to meal” gets all-around approval. We are entering this post into Kitchen Corners’ May Cook-off , which challenged us to “bring it” with our kids’ favorite dish, so we could help moms and dads tackle the hectic job of dinner by sharing a recipe that ensures that the kids are going to smile…and so are they.

Elisa grew up in New Orleans, and if you’re not already excited about this blog, get there, because she has some AMAZING food to share with us all, I kid you not. She recently made the Louisiana favorite, red beans and rice, for a get-together, and not only was it outstanding, it was cool to see all the kids gobble it up and ask for more. This is our kid-friendly, go to meal.
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It’s always a parent’s favorite thing to see some healthy green on their tot’s plate. These roasted green beans have flavor that typical steamed beans can’t match. And just wait until you say the words, “Cheddar Puff Pastries” to your five-year-old and see if their eyes don’t light up like twinkle lights. Elisa showed me how to make these tonight, and I guarantee I will be making them again real soon…because naturally, there are no leftovers.

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They eat it, moms and dads. They really do. Even Harper came in, exhausted from an outing with Nana tonight, having already snacked herself silly, but we fixed her a plate anyway, and I don’t think there was a bean left on it. She’s 14-months-old, people. 14 months.

The trick to pulling this meal off without a hitch is doing enough planning ahead to get your beans soaking. That is pretty simple. After that, your tasks include chopping veggies and simmering. Not. hard. The green beans are absolutely easy, and the cheddar puff pastries, you can make ahead of time. Use canned kidney beans in a pinch. I hope you will have as much fun with this as I did today, and maybe your kids will offer their gratitude with a Justin Bieber dance party after dinner, just like ours did!

LOUISIANA RED BEANS AND RICE

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

INGREDIENTS

1 pound red kidney beans

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 med. onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 cup celery, chopped

8 cups water

3 cubes vegetable bouillion

2 teaspoons creole seasoning

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

PREPARATION

  • Sautée vegetables (pepper, onion, celery, garlic) in butter in large dutch oven or pot until soft
  • Add the creole seasoning and the thyme and oregano while stirring
  • Add soaked beans* to the pot and add the water, bring to a boil, add bouillion
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 1- 2 hours
  • Serve over cooked rice
* Once you have picked over and rinsed dried beans, place in container and cover with water by 2 inches. Soak in fridge overnight.
 

ROASTED GREEN BEANS

INGREDIENTS

1 pound fresh green beans, washed and snapped

drizzle of olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic powder

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 450°
  • Drizzle beans with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Roll the green beans to coat.
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until tender
  • Turn oven to Broil, roast another 3-5 minutes until beans develop a bit of a crisp texture on the edges.
 

CHEDDAR CHEESE PUFF PASTRIES

Adapted from the Beechwood Inn‘s recipe for Gourgeres

INGREDIENTS

7 tablespoons of Butter

1 Cup Skim Milk or Water (or a combo of the two)

1 1/4 Cups Flour

1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

Dash of White Pepper

Dash of Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

4 eggs

1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, grated finely

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 450°
  • In a medium saucepan, combine butter and milk/water, sugar, salt, white pepper, nutmeg and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add flour, and stir constantly with a strong wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, transfer to a mixing bowl (you can use an electric mixer or by hand) and continue stirring for 30 seconds to allow it to cool slightly. Add in one egg at a time – mixing each one thoroughly.
  • Mix in Cheese
  • Spoon onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper (use 2 oiled spoons for scooping the dough – it will make a perfectly sized puff) and bake for 7-8 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake for 18-20 minutes more.