Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Greek Pasta Salad



Is it seriously the 4th of July in one week?

I'm not sure where summer is going, but I'll tell you one thing - I'm pretty bummed that July 4th is on a Wednesday.

This is not my freshman year of college, people.  I do not want to party in the middle of the week.  

Best-case scenario is when you get a three-day weekend with the holiday.  Second best would be at least a Tuesday or a Thursday, so you can take an extra day off and have a four-day weekend if you choose.

But a Wednesday?

Ugh.  What am I supposed to do with that?

Picnic & eat pasta salad?


Maybe... watch some fireworks?  And then it's basically BED TIME.  


Jeez.  It's difficult to properly celebrate America's independence when I have to get up the next day at 6AM.


But if the highlight of my holiday ends up being pasta salad, this is a good one to choose.


The homemade dressing is awesome, and with this recipe's method it doesn't all end up getting sucked into the pasta.  I also happen to love roasted red peppers, feta, and kalamata olives, so for me this is a no-brainer.  I bet diced cucumber would be great in this too.


Greek Pasta Salad

Dressing

  • 6 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 T. red wine vinegar
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large shallot clove, minced
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. ground black pepper

Salad  

  • Salt
  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
  • 1 C. jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 C. pitted kalamata olives (about 6 ounces), chopped coarse
  • 1/2 C. minced fresh parsley leaves


For the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

For the salad, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta, and cook until completely tender. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl.

Stir the reserved pasta water into the dressing. Pour half of the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat. Stir in the roasted red pepper, feta, olives, and parsley.

To store, cover the pasta salad tightly with plastic wrap and poke several vent holes. Transfer the remaining dressing to an airtight container. Refrigerate the pasta salad and reserved dressing separately for up to 2 days.

To serve, shake the reserved dressing to recombine, then pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add the remaining dressing as needed to keep the salad moist.  Add more salt to taste, if necessary.

Recipe Adapted from Cooks' Illustrated

Monday, June 18, 2012

Black-Bottom Coconut Bars



Hope everyone had a wonderful Father's Day!  I know we did.

We had my dad and stepmom over for a cookout last night, and Saturday night we went to my in-laws for a barbecue.

My mother-in-law made a fabulous summer feast.... and all I had to do was bring a dessert!

Since my father-in-law loves chocolate and coconut, I decided to make something that's been on my Pinterest to-make list for a while- black-bottom coconut bars.

Everyone seemed to enjoy them.  As Mr. Vittles put it... it's basically "a brownie with coconut on top," but my mother-in-law pointed out that they were "a little more sophisticated than that."  Which is true - it's more like a brownie with a macaroon on top.

My brother-in-law, on the other hand, just liked saying the name.

Whatever floats your boat!


Black-Bottom Coconut Bars

Chocolate Base

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 C.unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 C. all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/3 C. dark chocolate chips

For Coconut Topping

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 7-oz. package sweetened, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling

For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; grease bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).

Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Mix in chocolate chips, and spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, about 10 to 12 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).

Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers or buttered spatula. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 23 to 28 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 16 bars.

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart, dicovered on Gonna Want Seconds

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies



I can't believe this weekend is Father's Day already!  I am excited to spend it with all my "dads" - my father, step-father, and father-in law.

I am super lucky... they are all the greatest in their own way.

Mr. Vittles and I already bought gifts for my dad & father-in-law, but I still need to figure out what to make for my stepdad, Chris... he is an extremely mellow, quiet, 'surfer-dude' who doesn't care much for traditional gifts.

The gifts he likes best are homemade.

So here's a story for ya.  A little over a year ago, he was driving to one of his favorite surfing destinations when his roof rack came completely off his car, holding two of his favorite surfboards, and smashed onto the side of the highway.

He was naturally devastated - his boards are probably the only possessions he owns that he actually cares about.  Mr. Vittles offered to dispose of the pieces for him, and then secretly kept them in the garage for a project.

So for Chris' birthday this past March, we presented him with this amazing bench that Mr. V designed & made from the broken surfboards.



Chris was... ecstatic.



Now unfortunately for me... I do not have the talents my husband does, and I will not be crafting anything from wood to rival this gift.

But fortunately for me... Chris happens to love baked treats (even though he probably eats healthier than most people I know), and this fits more comfortably into my range of abilities.

Some of his favorite goodies are my mother-in-law's chocolate cake, ricotta cookies, and also good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies.

He also loooves peanut butter - he puts it on everything.

Like... things that are totally inappropriate for slathering in peanut butter, such as tuna fish and meatloaf.

My personal favorite is when he makes giant, thick pancakes that take up the entire width of the frying pan, spreads peanut butter over the top, then adds tuna fish and honey.

Yeah... barf.

However, for all that peanut butter madness, he does not like baked goods with peanut butter in them.  Go figure!

It's ok though.  Because you know what that means?

More peanut butter cookies for me.


These are surprisingly yummy for not having any flour or butter in them... I used Natural Jif for these (the creamy natural kind, not the grainy natural kind that needs to be stirred) and the consistency is awesome.  Mr. V would probably prefer them a bit softer, but they're not crunchy either.

Maybe if I just added some tuna fish to the batter they would be a good candidate for this weekend?

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 C.creamy peanut butter
1/2 C. packed light brown sugar
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Heat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until smooth.

Shape the dough into 1" balls (you can use a cookie scoop - just mush back together if it cracks in half) and place cookies 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten each ball, creating a crisscross pattern.

Bake until puffed and golden, 10 to 12 minutes.  Let cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes about 2 dozen.

Recipe Adapted Slightly from Real Simple

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade


Ok guys, I'm finally back, to make my (somewhat sheepish) return to the world of blogging.

Which is also a return to the world of internet, sadly.

Our internet provider, who shall remain nameless... but begins with a V and ends in an N... has royally screwed this loyal customer of 6 years and seems not to care.

We moved into our new house in early May, and despite numerous promises, breakings of self-imposed deadlines, and half-hearted apologies, we are still awaiting our phone and internet to be in complete working order.

Trust me, that is the very short and very diplomatic version of my sad tale.  However, since this is the most the internet has worked in over 3 weeks, I will take advantage!

It's all probably for the best that I took a little break, anyway, as Mr. Vittles and I have been busy little beavers.  The first weekend of May was spent moving, then the next unpacking & also celebrating mother's day.  The next was spent in upstate New York and Canada congratulating my brother-in-law Nick on his graduation from St. Lawrence University.  And the last was spent in the Virginia/DC area celebrating our friends T.J. and Adrienne's wedding.

Thankfully our two long weekends out of town were spent doing fun things.  But that much time away from the homefront didn't help our unpacking/settling momentum.... and certainly not my cooking/baking motivation, which in turn impacts the blogging.

You get the idea.

But... here we are.  And hopefully I'm back in action.

I have to ask one thing, though- how could it possibly be the first weekend of June already?

Despite what the calendar tells me, here at the Jersey Shore we know that the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the actual season of 'summer.'  So I thought it was time to make a nice summer refreshment - raspberry lemonade!

Mr V. took a sip of the finished product after warily eyeing the leftover raspberry & lemon pulp in the sink,  and looked genuinely surprised.

"Wow," he said.  "That's really good."

He took a second sip.  "Now I know what lemonade tastes like with real raspberries in it."

And it's true - this is soooo much better than the artificial raspberry taste you get with most lemonades on the market.  Nothing beats the fresh stuff!


Anyway - hope y'all are doing well, and I'm looking forward to getting into some more seasonal recipes with you soon!

I MISSED YOU!!

:-)

Raspberry Lemonade

  • 7-8 whole lemons
  • 3 1/2 C. cold water
  • One 6-oz. package fresh raspberries
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • Ice (for serving)

Slice one of the lemons thinly, discarding the ends.  Set slices aside.

Juice the remaining whole lemons until you reach 1 C. of lemon juice. (By the way, hopefully you have a tool like this to help you get all the juice out of each lemon - trust me, simply squeezing a lemon half does not get that much juice out, and your hand will hurt to boot!)

Combine lemon juice with cold water in a pitcher or large bowl with a spout, and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, combine half of the lemon slices with the raspberries and sugar.  Using a potato masher (or a heavy, flat-bottomed item such as a wine bottle) muddle the fruits with the sugar until juices are released and sugar starts to dissolve.  Add muddled mixture to lemon/water mixture, and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour entire mixture through a sieve into a separate bowl or pitcher - discard the seeds, pulp, and lemon rinds.  (Keep in mind that the finer-mesh sieve you use for straining, the less chance there is of small seed and pup bits getting into your lemonade).

Serve lemonade chilled or over ice*, and garnish with remaining lemon slices.  Serves 3-4 people.

*Tip:  If you have additional raspberries, you can freeze them to use as ice so the lemonade doesn't get watered down.  Or you can use the already-frozen kind.

Recipe Adapted from Cook's Country
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