Saturday, August 22, 2009

Michigan Cherries - Yum!

My family has vacationed in Michigan for as long as I can remember and each of my Michigan memories involves sweet, juicy summer fruits. Some of the best apples, peaches, blueberries and raspberries I have ever eaten were enjoyed on the walkway along the side of our cottage. It was until I was in college, however, that I discovered plump, tart, succulent dried Michigan cherries. They are my favorite "candy." As an adult no trip up North is complete without a stash of dried cherries to take home. Having just returned from my annual trip I have been savoring these candies, eating them by the handful and in some of my favorite dishes. Here's one of my more successful attempts at incorporating them in a meal.

Chicken Wrap with Blue Cheese, Dried Cherries and Walnuts

1 chicken breast, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp walnut pieces, chopped
2 Tbsp low fat blue cheese crumbles
3 Tbsp roughly chopped dried Michigan cherries
1 Tbsp Maple Grove Farms Strawberry Balsamic dressing
1/4 C baby spinach leaves, tightly packed
1 whole wheat tortilla

Place chicken breast in a grill pan and season with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until juices run clear. Remove chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly.

Chop chicken breast into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl along with the walnuts, blue cheese crumbles, and cherries. Add dressing; toss to coat.

Arrange spinach leaves down center of tortilla and top with chicken mixture. Roll tortilla like a burrito and enjoy!

Tomato-Basil Bisque

I adpated this recipe from the September edition of Vegetarian Times. It was so quick and easy that I was able to eat it right away. You know how I love pesto made fresh from the garden, so of course I topped my soup with it for an extra taste of freshness.

Tomato-Basil Bisque

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped (1/2 C)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp)
2 28-oz. cans Organic fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 tsp sugar (more if needed
1 tsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 tsp fresh basil
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 C low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 C half-and-half or soy creamer
1/4 C chopped fresh basil, for garnish

Heat oil in suacepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, basil, bay leaf and broth. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer into saucepan; return to simmer. Remove from heat, and stir in half-and-half (I used soy creamer). Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with basil (I used a dollop of fresh pesto).

Tip: Freezes well

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mediterranean Inspired Spread

This one of my favorite spreads. It is so versitile that it can each be paired with a variety of meats, pastas, sandwiches, etc.

Tip: If you used oil packed veggies, I recommend cutting the amount of olive oil listed in the recipe.

Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Tapenade

1 7-oz jar roasted red pepper, drained and coarsley chopped
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 C minced fresh parsley
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan (I have omitted this for a lower fat version & it's still delish)
1/3 C olive oil (see tip above)
1/4 C drained & coarsley chopped green olives, or 1/4 C drained capers
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in food processor, using on/off until well blended & finely chopped. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

This tapenade is wonderful on lightly seasoned & grilled chicken or fish, as a dip with pita chips and a spread for sandwiches.

Pork Shoulder with Tomatillos & Pickled Peppers

I got this recipe from my Aunt Michelle while on vacation and have already made it since I back home. It's so fast and tasty! You can adjust the amount of jalapenos if you don't like spicy food. Enjoy!

1 1/2 lb (10-12) medium tomatillos cut into 1/2 in. pieces
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 pickled jalapenos, seeded & chopped (~1/3 of 12 oz jar)
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1 1/2 - 2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
2 15 oz. cans Northern White Beans
1/2 tsp sugar, more if needed

Put cubed tomatillos in slow cooker & smooth out layer. Sprinkle jalapenos and 1/2 cilantro over the top. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt and garlic. In a large bowl toss pork with Worchestershire until well covered. Distribute meat over tomatillos. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Remove pork to a bowl. Ladle sauce into a blender, add rest of cilantro and puree. Put back in cooker. Add drained beans, salt if needed, and water if sauce is too thick. If too tart, add sugar. Return meat to sauce and beans and heat through. Serve over your favorite rice.

I made a smoked pork tenderloin a few days ago and wasn't thrilled with how it turned out, so I needed to transform the tenderloin into something I was willing to eat. So, instead of using a pork shoulder with this recipe I used the leftover tenderloin. I made the salsa verde (tomatillo sauce) in a saucepan instead of the slowcooker. Icoated the meat in the Worchestershire, but didn't add it to the salsa until after I had pureed it and returned it to the saucepan. The meal was ready in about 45 minutes, versus the 6 hours required for the shoulder. It turned out just as tasty as, albeit a little less tender than, the slowercooker version.