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Zucchini Noodles and Avocado Dressing

zucchini noodle salad with avocado dressingI love pasta and could eat tons of it and not gain an ounce when I was younger – attributed to a high metabolism and being very active.  However, this menopausal woman isn’t able to boast that statement any longer without increasing my waistline.  Sooo, I cook it when I am craving it leaving me to think of ways for a pasta substitute.  Continue Reading →

Zucchini Tomato Pizzas

zucchini & tomato pizzaI had pizza on the brain the other day but wasn’t in the mood to make the dough and prep the toppings.  While I was at the grocery store trying to figure out how I could satisfy my pizza craving without doing too much work, I spotted a lovely display of zucchinis.  And there was the answer!   It occurred to me that I could use the zucchini as a base.   Inspiration for cooking comes from the most interesting or the least expected places.  What inspires you?  These zucchini tomato pizzas are a cinch to make.  I ended up making these as an appetizer followed by grilled veggies and a quinoa salad.  Zucchini is part of the summer squash family and is full of nutrients and vitamins.   It helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and is anti-inflammatory.

zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
oven roasted cherry or plum tomatoes
grated Parmesan
dried basil or oregano

Preheat oven to 375f (190c).
zucchini collageArrange zucchini slices on a greased baking tray. Lightly sprinkle dried basil over the slices.

zucchini & tomato pizza roundsAdd a pinch of Parmesan to each zucchini round and top with roasted tomato.

zucchini tomato pizza roundsBake in the oven 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese has melted.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
Allow the zucchini pizzas to cool slightly before serving.  Use sliced fresh cherry tomatoes if you don’t have roasted and for added flavor, try a small sprinkling of truffle sea salt on top of the tomato. Enjoy!

Glass Noodle Salad

glass noodle salad by The Culinary ChaseGlass noodle, you ask? Well, it’s a noodle made from mung bean flour and when water is added to reconstitute it, the noodle looks transparent, glass-like. And, because they’re made from mung bean flour, it’s gluten-free (make sure to read the ingredient list as cheaper varieties can be made from wheat). The dressing is the crowning glory to this recipe and it’s one I use as a dipping sauce for spring rolls – just add minced cucumber.

Serves 4
80g (2.5oz) bean thread noodle (cellophane noodle), soaked in hot water until soft (5 minutes), drain
3/4 cup chicken breast, steamed and shredded
10 shrimp, peeled, steamed and sliced in half
4 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup coriander, roughly chopped
3/4 cup bean sprouts (or red pepper thinly sliced)
firm tofu, cubed and fried (optional)

Dressing –

2 green chillies, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup water

glass noodle salad_by The Culinary ChasePlace all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. For the sauce, combine all ingredients and simmer in a saucepan for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes. Pour over salad and mix well. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
You can make this salad early in the day allowing all the flavors to develop. I couldn’t find bean thread noodles and used rice vermicelli noodle. If you plan to leave in the fridge longer than 30 minutes before serving, remember to give it a toss. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Breadsticks

cauliflower breadsticks by The Culinary ChaseI’m a big cauliflower fan but I wasn’t always…I didn’t dislike it I just wasn’t enamored with it.  As a kid and young adult cauliflower in my world was served with a cheese sauce.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the combination but I always felt that the cauliflower on its own was oh so bland.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I started experimenting with herbs and spices and realized that cooking techniques could really enhance its natural flavor.  One of my favorite and quick ways to serve cauliflower is to cut into smaller pieces (florets), toss with a splash of olive oil, sprinkle with ground cumin, salt and pepper and pop into the oven for 20 minutes.  Anyone I’ve served this to (sometimes right from the baking tray) say they loved it and never thought to use cumin (one of my all-time favorite spices).

A friend of ours is gluten intolerant and before meeting Russ I have to admit I was gluten-insensitive…it had never crossed my mind just what the term meant or the ramifications.  We eat bread, pasta, crackers, cookies without a worry.  I’m so new to this burgeoning gluten-free world that I am amazed as to what’s on the shelves for gluten-free products.  Baking gluten-free is one area I have yet to figure out…a few failed attempts and containers of rice flour, gluten free flour, almond flour sit awaiting the next attempt.   Cauliflower breadsticks was an easier task and I was hoping the mixture would hold together.  The result surprised me.  I will definitely make these again!

Makes 20 pieces
1 large cauliflower head (at least 6-inches wide), washed and cut into chunks
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
puttanesca or marinara sauce for dipping (optional but highly recommended!)

cauliflower breadstick ingredients by The Culinary Chase

      1. Preheat oven to 450f.
      2. Microwave cauliflower 5 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool. Place cauliflower in the middle of a clean tea towel and fold up sides. Over a sink, squeeze and twist tea towel to release cauliflower juices. Do this until little or no juice comes out. Wringing the cauliflower in the tea towel will break up the pieces. Place in a bowl and top with cheese, Italian herb seasoning, garlic – mix until combined. Do a taste test here and adjust seasonings. Add eggs and combine.
        cauliflower breadstick Collage
      3. On a parchment-lined baking tray place cauliflower mixture.  Form a rectangle and press the mixture to about 1/2-inch thick and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
      4. Sprinkle more cheese on top and bake until melted.  Remove, cut into serving pieces and serve.

cauliflower breadstick by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: Experiment with other seasoning such as dried tarragon, thyme, cumin etc.  Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad with Radish, Dill & Avocado‏

quinoa salad with radish, dill & avocado by The Culinary ChaseI love a colorful salad…I always have.  I discovered a few years ago that one of the secrets to staying healthy is to always incorporate color onto your plate of food. Doing so means you are getting a good variety of nutrients to help your body be strong and healthy.  Eating more plant-based meals has been proven to lower your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.  Pick fruit and vegetables that are the colors of the rainbow and you can’t go wrong plus your dish will look darn pretty! Quinoa (keen-wa) is a staple in my pantry.  If I’m not sure what to make for dinner, I often cook it and toss it in with other vegetables and herbs.  It’s so versatile and because it’s a seed, not a grain, it’s a good choice for those who are gluten intolerant.  Use quinoa where you would rice.  This quinoa salad is loaded with flavor and texture.  For more ideas on how to use quinoa, chick here for 8 recipes from my site.

Serves 4
adapted by The Kitchn

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
8 small red radishes, chopped
1/3 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 avocado, roughly chopped
chopped fresh dill – about 1/2 cup
zest of 1 lemon and 1 1/2 tablespoons of juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

radish by The Culinary Chase1. Rinse the quinoa for a couple of minutes in a fine mesh strainer. Drain. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in broth, bring to a boil, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cooked quinoa over it in an even layer. Let cool.
3. Toss radish, cucumber, shallot and dill with the quinoa in a large bowl. Add lemon zest. In a small bowl whisk the juice together with the olive oil, and balsamic vinegar until emulsified. Toss this with the quinoa.
4. Fold in chopped dates, avocado, and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
I served this while the quinoa was still warm. As always, the flavor gets more pronounced the following day.  This makes a perfect dish for a pot luck dinner or as a side to a main meal.  Enjoy!

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

broccoli & bacon salad by The Culinary ChaseBroccoli is a veggie I cannot get enough of and when I see a recipe that includes bacon, it has to be a winning combo. Broccoli is so nutrient-rich I can’t imagine not having it in my diet.  This is a light dish as it doesn’t have a heavy sauce nor does it call for cheese.  Broccoli and bacon salad is perfect for the buffet table or at a potluck dinner.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 lb. broccoli florets
8 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup of fresh peas, (or if frozen, thawed)
1 cup mayonnaise
red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey

Bring a pot of water, salted with a teaspoon of salt, to a boil. Add the broccoli florets. Cook 1-2 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want the broccoli. Do not cook for more than 2 minutes, or the broccoli will get mushy. Drain broccoli and immediately put into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Let cool and drain. Combine broccoli florets, bacon, and peas in a large serving bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cider vinegar and honey. Add dressing to the salad and toss to mix well. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Chill thoroughly before serving.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  A scrumptious dish that will have your kids asking for more. Enjoy!

Tzatziki

tzatziki by The Culinary ChaseTzatziki is a thick Greek sauce where it is served with gyros, souvlaki or in a mezze.  But you can use it with just about anything! Try it as an accompaniment to fish, grilled chicken, lamb, pita bread, falafel, grilled vegetables, as a dip – you get the idea. Tzatziki is easy to make and is always served cold.

2 cups Greek yogurt
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated (use the large holes of a box grater)
sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of fresh dill and mint, chopped

tzatziki with roasted spare ribsMix grated cucumber with a teaspoon of sea salt and place in a fine mesh sieve. Set the sieve over a bowl and let drain for about half an hour. Squeeze cucumber in a tea towel to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mix with garlic, yogurt, herbs, and olive oil. Season to taste.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:
The easiest way to deseed a cucumber is to cut it in half lengthways then scoop out the seeds using a spoon. The flavors develop more if you make a day ahead.  Enjoy!

Apple Pie in a Jar

apple pie in a jar by The Culinary ChaseApple pie conjures up good, wholesome food made by grandmothers and moms.  There’s something so pleasing to the senses when a pie is baking in the oven.  The aromas immediately say ‘welcome’.  I wonder, though, why the pie is made in a round plate and not a square.  Is it because it’s easier to lift the pie out of a round dish?  Or was it due to the fact that was all that was on hand many years ago?  I am reminded of a story about a young mother who was roasting a chicken in a small pan.  When asked why she used a small pan, too small for the chicken, she had no answer.  She decided to ask her mother who also didn’t know why and decided to ask her mother.  When asked she replied, “that’s the only pan I had”.   Let’s start a new tradition and make apple pie in a jar!   Why not?  It’s easy to make, you don’t have to worry about making the perfect pie crust, it’s gluten-free friendly, kid friendly and I like the aesthetics of a jar.  If you do like this idea, then click on the link where I made a chocolate cake in a jar.

Serves 4 to 6
adapted by Roost

2 cups pecans
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
homemade chunky applesauce
whipped cream

pecans

Pecans bathed in melted butter before going into the oven.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. In a bowl add pecans and toss with melted butter. Pour buttered pecans onto the foil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Once you get past the 10 minute mark, keep an eye on them as the pecans can quickly turn too dark which will result in a bitter, burnt taste. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, place into a food processor and process until a course, crumbly meal forms.

apples

Mix the apple varieties for an enhanced flavor.

Make the applesauce and then let it cool slightly before assembling. To assemble, add enough pecan crumbs to cover the bottom of the jar followed by applesauce. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle more pecan crumbs, if you like.

apple peelThe Culinary Chase’s Note: For an exotic flavor, add a teaspoon of ground cardamom to the applesauce. This was so good I made it again the next day.  I did thin layers (parfait style) and liked this look just as much. You decide. Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad

quinoa salad by The Culinary ChaseAncient grains…two words that conjure up something you might find in an archeological dig!  They’ve been around for a millennium and include quinoa, amaranth, spelt, and kamut.  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that comes from the Andes mountains of South America and its origins dates back to that of the Inca’s.  There are more than 2,000 varieties of quinoa which range in color from ivory to pink, brown to red or almost black.  Quinoa has a pleasant, slightly crunchy, nutty taste. It can be used in salads, stuffing, risotto, breakfast cereal, or desserts.

Serves 4 to 6

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cooked corn on the cob, kernels sliced off with a knife
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved (assorted colors, if possible)
large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
large handful fresh mint, chopped

rainbow quinoaBring quinoa and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool to room temperature. In a shaker, combine lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.  Shake until well combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add quinoa to a large bowl and add cucumber, tomatoes, corn and herbs. Gently combine. Add dressing and toss to combine.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: If you’re having a party, chop tomatoes into bite-size pieces and spoon the quinoa mixture into endive spears – finger food at its best. Enjoy!

Homemade Pesto

homemade pesto by The Culinary ChaseAlmost every cuisine on our planet has found an important role for garlic and is among the oldest known horticultural crop. Egyptian and Indian cultures referred to garlic 5000 years ago and by the Chinese 2000 years ago. Pesto hails from the northern region of Liguria and is a Ligurian superstar! Pasta isn’t the only place you can find pesto on. Try it on bruschetta, in a vinaigrette, tossed with vegetables, in soups, polenta, quiche filling, mayonnaise.

Garlic’s good for you. It acts as a warming herb for the digestion and respiratory tract and is an important antibiotic and antiviral remedy for colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other infections. When selecting a head of garlic, look for large, clean, firm bulbs with unbroken, dry skins. Remove any green shoots from cloves because they give a bitter taste that persists when garlic is cooked. Store garlic in a cool, dry place where air can circulate. Refrigerating garlic inhibits flavor and dehydrates the cloves.

pesto recipeThe Culinary Chase’s Note: I prefer to use a pestle and mortar as I like to see the bits of crushed ingredients whereas the food processor tends to make everything smooth. The pestle bruises the basil releasing its perfume into the garlic and pine nuts. Put the basil leaves and garlic in mortar and crush. Add a pinch of sea salt and crush until almost creamy. Add the pine nuts and continue to crush; stir in olive oil.  At this point, you may need to add more salt or any of the other ingredients to your satisfaction.   This makes about 2 cups.  If you have any left over and don’t plan to use right away, place in an ice cube container and freeze for future use.  Enjoy!