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Avocado and Cheddar Quesadilla

avo quesadillaLooking for an easy dish to whip up for dinner?  Quesadillas are a cinch to prepare and take minutes to cook.  Brie and mango quesadilla was one of the first ones I ever made and it stands as a family favorite to this day.  Quesadillas are perfect as a snack or party food.  Dress them up with your favorite condiments such as sour cream, salsa, or guacamole.  Healthwise, avocados are a good source of fiber, vitamin c, folate, anti-inflammatory benefits (arthritis) and more. This simple avocado and cheddar quesadilla will have your family asking for seconds!

You will need –

ancient grain tortillas (or favorite tortilla)

cheddar cheese, grated (or favorite cheese)

cilantro, coarsely chopped

ripe avocado, mashed

quesadillaCut avocado in half, remove pit and skin.  In a small bowl mash avocado.  Place one tortilla on a board and add some of the mashed avocado making sure to spread it to the edges of the tortilla.  Next, add cilantro and top with cheddar.  Place another tortilla on top and lightly apply pressure (to help the ingredients adhere to the tortillas).  In a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, add quesadilla.  Cook like you would a grilled cheese sandwich…a few minutes per side and remember to be careful when flipping.  The tortilla is done when the cheese has melted.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Add chopped tomato for a bit of color and texture.  You can make just about any combination that suits your fancy or whatever is in your refrigerator.  Another quesadilla idea? Try this chicken and sweet pepper quesadilla.  Enjoy!

Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Pizza – hello wordpress!


I’ve been ‘meaning’ to switch from blogger to wordpress for ages and finally I decided to take the leap!  I’m not technically inclined – I think that logical side of me is buried deep within.  I don’t, though, hesitate to take on new projects except when it comes to computers and software.  There’s something far too technical about them that keeps me at bay.  I am what you would call WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and I don’t want to have to think about all the ‘logical steps’ that goes into processing a command on the computer…perhaps that’s why it executes my mistakes perfectly and the end result isn’t at all what I intended it to be!  The thing is, I do enjoy using a computer but it drives me nuts when logic takes over and clouds my artistic thinking.  It usually takes me a few times to get it wrong in order to get it right or it’s the groans from my daughter when I ask her how it’s done – for the third time!  Once I master it, the magical aha! moment erupts and I feel as though I’ve mastered the hardest task in the world.  This recipe, grilled eggplant and tomato pizza, is my first posting as a WordPress blogger.  Yay!

But I digress.  Choosing someone to help migrate your site to another can seem like a daunting task but check around, ask questions and fondly enough, you’ll find someone.  That’s what happened to me.  I was searching sites using the keywords ‘blogger to wordpress migration’ and found Jeni.  Her site, The Blog Maven, is geared perfectly for what I wanted and more.  She was so patient with me and answered my wild/quirky questions.  The transition, thus far, has been seamless.  Now I have to fiddle with the design elements of my site, get out of my blogger comfort zone and get more familiar with all that wordpress has to offer.  The new layout for posting is going to take some bit to get used to but in no time I’ll look back and laugh at what I thought was difficult to do.  🙂

Serves 4

inspired by Grace Parisi

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

4 large plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

olive oil, for brushing

1/3 cup chopped green olives

1 to 2 teaspoons chili flakes

1/4 cup finely shredded basil

6 oz. Fontina cheese (or your favorite cheese), thinly sliced

eggplant slicesBrush eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Grill eggplant in batches over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Place tomato slices on foil and grill until soft but still intact.

eggplant & tomatoIn a bowl, combine the olives, chiles and shredded basil. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In the center, arrange half of the eggplant in a 9-inch square, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, olive mixture and Fontina. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese.

eggplant pizzaBake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes (if you can wait that long!).

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  I made this again it’s that good!  This dish is also very tasty the next day…if you have any leftovers.  Enjoy!


Bulgur Salad with Cannellini Beans, Feta & Mint

Whenever I feel as though we’ve eaten too much red meat, we take a break and consume loads of veggies and ancient grains such as bulgur.  It’s this sort of balance that keeps us healthy…I can’t recall the last time I had a cold or the flu.  Bulgur is made from precooked wheat berries.  It’s a perfect substitute for rice as it has more fiber and is low on the glycemic food index.  We enjoy this ancient grain and especially like its chewy, mild nutty flavor.  I’m sure you’ve eaten it before in dishes such as tabbouleh and pilafs.  Because it’s low in fat and calories, it’s a perfect way to feel satiated without adding pounds.  Bulgur is already partially cooked and therefore needs little time for preparation –  perfect for a quick meal without jeopardizing nutrition.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from BHG

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups shredded purchased roasted chicken
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped yellow and red sweet pepper
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan bring water to boiling. Add bulgur and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Return to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes or until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add garlic and reduce heat to medium high. Cook and stir until garlic starts to turn golden around the edges. Remove from heat. Stir garlic and oil into bulgur mixture.

For the dressing, in a screw-top jar combine red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, lime zest, and lime juice. Cover and shake well. Stir dressing into bulgur mixture. Add chicken, cannellini beans, sweet pepper, feta cheese, cumin, 3/4 cup of the parsley, and 3/4 cup of the mint to bulgur mixture; toss to mix well.  Season and top with remaining parsley and mint.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This is such a hearty salad and loaded with nutritional goodness! You can substitute the bulgur for cooked brown rice or quinoa.  Enjoy!

Bresaola with Shaved Artichoke

Bresaola is one of those Italian specialty meats that’s difficult to find on a regular basis so when I saw it at Eataly I grabbed a package – strike will the iron is hot.  In the past I’ve come across recipes calling for bresaola but never had the chance to make and now that I had the opportunity I wasn’t sure how I was going to use it…funny that!  I spotted an artichoke and decided to prepare the dish as if making carpaccio.  Bresaola is a salt-cured, air-dried beef, is very lean and originated from northern Italy.  This recipe is super easy to make.

bresaola slices
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Parmesan cheese, shaved
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil
1 artichoke – cleaned and thinly sliced (use a mandoline or potato peeler)

Arrange bresaola slices on a platter.  Top with shaved artichoke slices, garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, parsley, Parmesan cheese and seasoned with pepper.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The beef slices can be slightly chilled or at room temperature.  A simple yet elegant antipasto best served with fresh bread.  Enjoy with a glass of red wine!

Grapefruit Rounds with Halloumi Cheese & Mint Dressing

Grapefruit and cheese might seem like an unlikely pairing but trust me, this combination is a taste bud sizzler!  Halloumi is from the island of Cyprus and is a semi-hard, brined cheese made traditionally from sheep’s milk.  It has a high melting point and is perfect for grilling or frying in a pan.  We love halloumi!  I’ve made it in a salad, wrapped in grilled red pepper, and prawn skewers.  Its texture is firmer than fresh mozzarella with a slight salty flavor.  When you chew it, it makes a squeaky sound.  It’s our happy cheese as it makes us smile when we hear that sound!

Serves 4
1 pink grapefruit at room temperature, skin removed and cut into four rounds
1 package halloumi cheese, sliced lengthways into 4 pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

Place grapefruit rounds on 4 serving plates.  In a small bowl combine olive oil, vinegar and fresh mint.  In a non-stick fry pan over medium-high heat add halloumi slices and fry until golden – about 2 or 3 minutes.  Flip over and fry until golden.  Remove from pan and place each slice on top of the grapefruit round.  Top with mint dressing and season with freshly ground black pepper.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  When removing the grapefruit skin, do so over a bowl to catch any of the juices and add this to the dressing.  Fresh and simple.  Enjoy!

Warm Cauliflower and Herbed Barley Salad

I try to make a conscious effort to include fiber-rich foods in our daily diet.  Legumes such as navy beans, dried peas, lentils, barley, black beans, garbanzo (chick) beans, kidney beans, soy beans etc. are rich in fiber.  Fiber has an important role to play if you want a healthy body.  It helps with weight control, maintain normal cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.  For more on fiber, click here.  The US has a higher consumption of meat than those from Southern Europe (they typically eat more vegetables, legumes, fish and wine).  Researchers have found that higher consumption of legumes was associated with a substantial reduction in coronary heart disease.

My husband and I ate out after church last Sunday and couldn’t help but notice a family of three eat only the meat and french fries on their plate.  The salad and vegetables were left behind!  We were astonished horrified at the example being set for this young girl.  And, of course, the meat portion nearly filled half the plate!  A good rule of thumb to use when it comes to portion size – the meat should not be larger than the palm of your hand.

Serves 4
inspired by Bon Appétit 

1/2 cup pearled barley
sea salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
olive oil
black pepper
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 15-ounce can butter beans, rinsed
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided

Place barley in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2 inches. Season with salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain; run under cold water. Set aside. Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and 5 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl until emulsified. Season dressing with salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cauliflower; cook, turning occasionally, until browned in spots, 10-12 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes longer. Season to taste. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl; add beans, 1/4 cup parsley,  reserved barley, and half of reserved dressing. Toss to coat.  Divide salad among bowls and drizzle remaining dressing over. Garnish with lemon zest, 1/4 cup parsley.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  This delightful salad is a hearty one and will leave you satiated.  If you have any leftovers, the flavors will develop more overnight in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeños

Jalapeño how do I love thee?  Well, let’s see…baked, grilled, roasted and stuffed!  I’ve used them a soup, quesadillas, cheddar crackers, in a muddled drink and encrusted with polenta.  Jalapeño (hah-lah-PEEN-yo) is part of the chili pepper family and is picked while still green although they can be picked when fully ripened when they have turned red.  Jalapeños health benefits include migraine relief, anti-inflammatory, helps prevent sinusitis and relieve congestion.

You will need –
jalapeño peppers
Havarti cheese
bacon slices, cut in half

Preheat oven to 425f (220c).  Wash peppers off.  Cut in half and deseed…the heat is in the seeds and membrane.  Use latex gloves to do this procedure otherwise the inside oil of the pepper clings to your skin and can irritate it, the mouth or eyes.

Lay out jalapeño halves and fill with cheese.  I grated some of the cheese and some I cut chunks to fit inside the cavity of the jalapeño – either way will work.

Take the bacon slice and wrap around the pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and cook 15 to 20 minutes.

Ready to eat!

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  You can also use cheddar or goat cheese.  The cheese helps to soften any heat coming from the jalapeño pepper.  This was super easy to make and I loved the taste!  Great hot out of the oven or even cooled a bit.  Enjoy!

Chickpea Soup with Sweet Potato and Feta Crostini

Don’t you love a good soup?  I sure do and more so when there’s less time making it.  This is Yvette Van Boven’s second book – a follow up to her popular cookbook, Homemade.  Homemade Winter is full of hearty, body-warming dishes sure to satisfy the biggest of big appetites.  I adore her illustrations and hand written notes along with mouth-watering photography…it makes me want to eat the page!  Ok, enough gushing about the book my son gave me for Christmas.  This recipe is so simple, easy to prepare and nutritionally hits all the buttons!   Sweet potatoes don’t take long to prepare and are an excellent source of vitamin A, good source of vitamin C and manganese (keeps bones strong and healthy).

Serves 4
adapted from Home Made Winter

2 leeks, white and light green parts, washed and cut in to rings
1 teaspoon butter
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 baguette
1/3 cup crème fraîche  (or use sour cream in a pinch)
3 1/2 oz. (100g) feta cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, cook leeks in the butter until soft.  Add sweet potatoes and thyme and stir well.  Stir in the broth and bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Add chickpeas and heat for another 5 minutes.  Use the back of a spoon to smash the sweet potatoes against the sides of the pot to thicken the soup.

Preheat broiler.  Cut baguette into slices and spread them with a bit of crème fraîche.  Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, crumble with feta on top, and place under the broiler until golden brown.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Soup’s on, let’s eat!  Enjoy!

Camembert and Cranberry Tartletts

These simple and elegant-looking tartletts are the perfect finger food.  They are delicate and small enough to eat without too much fuss or mess.

You’ll Need:
mini fillo shells (already cooked)
cranberry sauce
Camembert, rind removed

Preheat oven to 350° (180c).  

Cut Camembert into small pieces – small enough to fit easily in the shells.

Add a piece of cheese in each fillo shell and top with about 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce.  Bake 5 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt.  Serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  An easy appetizer to make and delicious to eat.  Enjoy!

Caramelized Endive with Gruyère

Cultivated chicory is found in these three categories:

  • Radicchio – variegated red or red and green leaves
  • Sugarloaf  – looks like cos lettuce with packed leaves
  • Belgian endive  – small head of cream-colored, slightly bitter leaves

Belgian endive is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight in order to prevent the leaves from turning green and opening up.  Exposure to light turns endive green and bitter so store it in a brown paper bag in the crisper.  It’s an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of dietary fiber.

Serves 4
adapted from Plenty

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 endives, cut in half lengthways
7 oz. Gruyère, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (you may need more)
black pepper

Preheat oven to 375f.  Place a heavy pan over medium heat.  Add the oil, butter and sugar and a pinch of salt – allow to melt.  Place endive halves, cut-side down, in the pan.  Do not move them for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they turn deep golden.  Remove from heat.  Transfer to a small oven-proof dish, arranging them cut-side up, close together.  Sprinkle with half the thyme.  Place slices of cheese on top and sprinkle with the rest of the thyme.

Place in oven and bake 8 to 12 minutes or until cheese starts to bubble.  Serve hot.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  I made this two days in a row it’s that good!  Yotam first published this recipe in the Guardian in 2007 and he used Taleggio but later decided to change it to Gruyère for its piquant flavor.  He also suggests trying raclette, which he said was “born to melt”.  Enjoy!