Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Savory Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Couscous and Artichoke Puree

Don't know what to make for dinner? Just roll those dice! Leafcutter Designs supplied us with these amazing 12 Recipe Dice for this challenge. They also have a vegetarian version, along with cocktail dice, dessert and chai ones.

You roll all 12, and can eliminate up to 5. You can then re-roll the remaining ones to add to your original recipe, create something new or switch things up. What a creative way to make dinner fun! Here's a little more about the company: Leafcutter Designs - Our Story

Savory Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Couscous and Artichoke Puree
by Holly K of Holly's Table
Adapted from: Roasted leg of lamb recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Roasted Leg of Lamb

For the lamb:
1 bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of fell and excess fat (7-8 pounds)
2 Tablespoons course salt
2 teaspoons course black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish
2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup red currant jelly, for serving

For the couscous:
1 box of Mediterranean-style couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup peas, cooked and chilled
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

For the artichoke and garbanzo bean puree:
1 medium sized jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained, reserve liquid
1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed and skinned
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juice and zest
Sea salt and pepper
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
Finely sliced red pepper for garnish
Pita chips for dipping

For the lamb: After removing the excess fell and fat from the lamb, it's time to make the rub. In a small bowl blend together the salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, oregano, mustard and oil. Slash the meat all over with 1 inch long and about 1/2 inch deep cuts. Slather the meat on all sides with the rub. Be sure to get into the grooves. Let the lamb rest for 1 hour before roasting. Heat oven to 425°F. Place the lamb into a medium roasting pan outfitted with a rack. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of pan. Roast the lamb 20 minutes to get an initial crust and seal in the flavors. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to cook until internal temperature at the bone reaches 130-135°F (medium-rare). About 50-65 minutes, depending on your oven. Increase oven temperature to broil, and cook another 5 minutes to crisp the meat. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before carving.

For the couscous: Cook one box of Mediterranean-style couscous according to box directions. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the parsley, peas and bell pepper. Mix in the couscous.

For the artichoke puree: In a food processor, blend the artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and zest until well blended. If needed, add some of the marinade from the artichoke hearts. Note for the garbanzo beans: For a smoother texture, make sure the skins are removed from the beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a small serving dish and garnish with the feta and bell pepper.

Serve lamb with a couple of spoonfuls of red currant jelly, a side of the couscous, artichoke puree and chips for dipping.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mint Chocolate Chai

It was fun to receive the Chai Dice from Leafcutter Designs this month. While staying with my sister, we spent time in the kitchen rolling the dice and making various combinations, and this one was our favourite.

Mint Chocolate Chai
Recipe created by Nancy Follwell

1/2 cup black loose leaf tea
2 cups water, cold
2 Tablespoons honey
4 fresh mint leaves
1 stick cinnamon
Milk, to taste
Vanilla bean
2 teaspoon cocoa powder

Simmer the black tea with the water, honey, mint, and cinnamon. Pour into tea cups and add a small amount of milk. Garnish with a vanilla bean and sprinkle with cocoa powder. Serves 2.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Smoky Lentils with Mushrooms and Spinach

Leafcutter Designs, a unique creative design studio in Berkeley, CA, has a ton of nifty gifts and art products. When they offered to sponsor 37 Cooks for a challenge, I was really excited. Who doesn’t need a little added inspiration in their cooking regimen? Their Recipe Dice come as a set of twelve dice made of solid wood, and feature more than 60 seasonal vegetables, hearty grains, juicy meats, flavorful spices, and succulent herbs. With a simple roll of the dice, these cool cubes will provide endless suggested menu combinations, and will be a terrific addition to your creative kitchen. Perfect for gift-giving, make your favorite foodie’s day with this jar of fun. In addition to a vegetarian version, they offer Cocktail and Chai Dice, too!

My roll for this recipe included: Lentils, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, smoked paprika, cumin, and chili flakes. I’d never cooked lentils before, so this was a new, inspired dish for me. And it turned out to be a delicious one, too! A hearty side dish, these lentils are great drained and mixed with your favorite fresh greens and protein for a cool salad entrée.

Smoky Lentils with Mushrooms and Spinach
by Gary Gee
Serves 8

2 cups green lentils
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
Pinch brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound smoked chicken (such as this from Teet’s Food Store)
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
Fresh parsley, for garnish

Rinse lentils with cool water; drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and pinch of sugar and cook until aromatic and slightly brown, about one minute. Add garlic, smoked chicken, mushrooms, paprika, cumin, Aleppo, pinches of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until all ingredients are coated and fragrant. Add stock and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is well-infused, about 20 minutes.

Add lentils, return to a simmer, and cook with lid ajar for 20-30 minutes, or until slightly tender. Add spinach, and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes more. Correct seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pork Cutlet with Wilted Kale and Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables

What a great idea! I wish I had invented “Recipe Dice." Leafcutter Designs has come out with several types of inspirational dice to help get your creative juices flowing when it comes to cooking, cocktail making or Chai (though I’m not familiar with “Chai” so if you know what Chai is…you’re at least one up on me!) The three sets you can choose from are Cocktail Dice, Chai Dice, and Recipe Dice. The idea is that you roll the dice and make something out of the ingredients that you roll. It’s harder than you think. Once you get over the fear of rolling the dice and getting some really odd combination of ingredients, it’s a lot of fun and super inspiring. I chose the Recipe Dice, and the meal ideas are seemingly limitless.

When I opened my little box containing the newest 37 Cooks challenge, I was very excited. I played with the dice a bit, trying to coax them into a meal I thought I could create with little to no anxiety. But, with every toss of the dice, with every attempt to manipulate the ingredients list, I felt guilty for not playing the game the way it was intended. So I left the dice in their cute little spice jar on my kitchen counter for a couple of weeks, knowing full well I had to face them eventually. Every time I walked into the kitchen I would see them there, staring back at me. Goading me into trying to create something new and different. I decided enough was enough. I re-read the instructions, rolled the dice, then, according to the directions, I picked five ingredients that I wanted to change, and re-rolled those five. I decided to stick with what fate handed me (no fudging with the ingredients to make them fit). The dice I rolled included pork, rutabaga, Parmesan cheese, summer squash, asparagus, black pepper, kale, oregano, pasta, artichoke, lemon, and bell pepper…E-I-E-I-O! It was as if the dinner gods spoke to me. I couldn’t believe it, but I managed to whittle out a dinner with all of the ingredients that tasted really good. And it forced me to use ingredients together that I would ordinarily have never considered combining. Spoiler alert! Everyone I know is getting a set of these dice for Christmas! That’s just how I roll!

Roll of the Dice Pork Cutlet with Wilted Kale and Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables
by Maryjo

Pork Cutlet:
1 pork tenderloin, silver skin removed, cut into 6 equal pieces (each package comes with 2 tenderloins, so I put one in the freezer and used the other for this recipe)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons water
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 200ºF. Remove the silver skin from the pork tenderloin and cut the tenderloin into 6 equal 2 1/2 to 3-inch disks. Working with one piece of pork at a time, place each pork disk between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound them flat until it’s about 1/4-inch in thickness.

Combine the flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow dish. In another dish, beat the eggs and water lightly together until combined. In a third dish, combine the Panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the garlic powder. 

Heat two Tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge one of the pork cutlets in the flour, shaking off excess flour. Dip into the egg and water mixture. Then coat the cutlet in the Panko and cheese mixture, pressing the cutlet into the bread crumbs to make sure they stick, and place in the hot skillet. If your skillet is large enough, you can cook two cutlets in the skillet at one time. While the first two are cooking, start working on the next two cutlets. Cook for two to three minutes per side. When golden and crispy, place on baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until all 6 cutlets are cooked. Add 2 more Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and cook the next two cutlets. Once again, place the cooked cutlets in the oven with the others. Finally, add the remaining two Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and cook the last two cutlets. Serve hot with sliced lemon.

Wilted Kale:
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced into long thin strips
1 bunch kale, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium high. When the oil is hot (it should be shimmering), add the onions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir until the kale is wilted, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and salt. Toss to coat and serve hot.

Farfalle with Roasted Vegetables:
2 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into 1 1/2-inch chunks
3 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound farfalle pasta (bowtie pasta), cooked according to directions on box
4 ounces asparagus, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow squash, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini squash, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces artichoke hearts
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
Zest and juice from two large lemons
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat the rutabaga in 1 Tablespoon of the vegetable oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place on baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes (turning half way through). 

Cook the farfalle pasta according to the directions on the box, drain, and set aside in a large bowl. 

Combine asparagus, bell pepper, yellow squash, and zucchini squash in large bowl with remaining 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. After the rutabaga has roasted for 20 minutes, add these vegetables to the sheet pan with the rutabaga and continue to roast for another 20 minutes. When done, add the roasted vegetables to the pasta. Add artichoke hearts (I used the canned artichoke hearts in a brine) and the chopped oregano. Stir to combine. 

In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and olive oil. Mix well and then pour the dressing over the pasta and roasted vegetables. Stir to combine and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The “Tom Collins”

I came home from work Friday and decided to roll the dice. The Leafcutter Designs Cocktail Dice that is! I couldn’t believe my luck. TWO “Wild” dice!! That means I get to go “Wild” with my cocktail idea. When one of the dice revealed a Collins glass, I decided to go old school. Really? Old school? Well…How about the New Old School! When I was a server in college, so many restaurants made their “signature” Tom Collins using a generic pre-made sour mix and average gin. Maybe the straw elevated the cocktail? I am not too sure about that, but I know I served plenty. I figured I could remain loyal to the basics, but add my spin to this iconic cocktail. Are you ready for the Tom Collins of the next generation? I know my guests were all smiles Saturday night! I guess it could have been the gin…

The “Tom Collins”
By Susan R-H

Simple Syrup ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
The peel of one lemon, I used a potato peeler. Be careful not to include the pith.
One handful of fresh basil leaves and that can be subjective, so if you adore basil (like me) use a big handful.

For each cocktail you will need:
1 1/2 ounces good quality gin, I chose Bombay Sapphire
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce basil lemon simple syrup, more or less depending on your sweetness desire
2 ounces carbonated water, I used Perrier

First, make the basil lemon simple syrup. Combine the sugar, water, lemon peel and basil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the simple syrup cool completely. Strain and set aside. You will need to adjust the simple syrup recipe measurements based on the number of cocktails you plan to serve. It is always equal parts of sugar and water.

When it is party time, fill Collins glasses with crushed ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, basil lemon simple syrup and carbonated water. Stir and garnish with a thin slice of lemon wrapped around a basil leaf. Add a straw if you are feeling nostalgic. 

This was a terrific challenge for the 37 Cooks and I believe the Leafcutter Designs Cocktail Dice make a wonderful holiday gift for any of your adventurous family members or friends!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Quick Pasta Dinner

My sweetie would eat pasta everyday of the week if I let him. Sometimes it just makes sense to do it. I work, just like y'all do and there are some days that I just don't want to cook. I will always have a simple pasta dish at the ready for those days. This is one of them. I rolled the dice and gotta say I love the recipe ideas!!!
If you do anything, get these Recipe Dice and have some fun. They are a fantastic way to break the ice with children, guests, and family. We had and will continue to have fun with them. Be sure to visit Leafcutter Designs on Facebook. 

Quick Pasta Dinner
by Traci Bump
Pasta Sauce adapted from Allrecipes Quick Pasta Sauce

1 package Buitoni ravioli, boiled per instructions on package and set aside
1 16-ounce can of Marzano Italian tomato sauce
1 8-ounce can can of petite diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup of fresh spinach, chopped
3 links of Italian sausage cooked and set aside
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large sauce pan combine tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add onion and simmer to allow the onions to soften. Add the basil and rosemary. When this has simmered down a bit and become denser add spinach. It will wilt quickly. Add in your cooked sausage and warm through. You can either add in your ravioli or re-warm it in the microwave. Serve it with some garlic bread and you have a simple yet filling dinner on your plate.