Recipe Wednesday: Veggie Queso Dip

Recipe Wednesday is finally back in full swing- yay!
I love queso, if you’re my friend and frequently dine with me, you know this.  Melted cheese is my thang, and my love for queso will never die. 
SO, rather than continually ordering queso take-out from restaurants, why not make my own, right?? 
Here’s my recipe for a fabulous veggie queso dip, perfect for tortilla chips, carrots, & celery sticks! 
+ Bag of Mexican cheese blend
[I use the shredded cheese from Trader Joes] 
+ Block of cheddar 
[I always like my queso on the sharp side, so I add in some extra sharp cheddar] 
+ Tomato 
+ Green & red pepper 
+ Yellow onion
+ Minced garlic 
+ Skim milk 
[I used about a cup]  

+ Flour 
[ I used about 2-3 spoonfuls]  
+ Olive oil
+ Goya’s Adobo seasoning

+ Black pepper 

+ After dicing up the peppers and onions [I used a lot of both] cook them with a bit of olive oil and add in minced garlic.  I cooked mine for about 7 minutes, until everything became fragrant.
+ I then added in the flour and continually stirred for about a minute until everything was covered.  
+ Next, I added in the milk slowly and stirred.  And then, the best part, I slowly added in the cheese and stirred until it all melted.  
This is my little chef friend, I added in some extra cheddar, so I needed his grating services.
+ Add in the tomatoes, black pepper, and taste.  If you like how it tastes, awesome- if you need a little something else, reach for the Adobo, my favorite seasoning of all time.
+ I just slowly added more seasoning and pepper until I liked the taste.  If you think the queso is a little too thick, just add more milk.
And, wallah, beautiful & yummy queso that you can keep around for a few days! 

Recipe Wednesday: Greek Gazpacho

I had some CSA tomatoes piling up in my fridge last week so I figured I’d make gazpacho, which I’ve never made before!  I basically knew how to make it, but I wanted to put a twist on it with some other ingredients in my kitchen.
So, using the trusty Food Network app, I found Ina Garten’s recipe for a Greek Gazpacho and tweaked it just a tad to fit what I wanted to make!
Naturally…it came out amazeballs!  Gazpacho is so easy to make, and adding some flair to it was fun and of course, super yummy. 
+ Tomatoes
[I had 3 large ones]
+ Cucumber
[I used 1]
+ Onions
[I chopped up 2 – Ina used red onion, I only had yellow and it still tasted fine!]
+ Minced garlic
+ Kalmata olives
+ Olive oil
+ Red wine vinegar
+ Pepper & Sea salt 
+ Parsley 
+ Basil
+ Oregano 
+ Feta cheese

+ Slice tomatoes, slice cucumber, chop up onions- place in a food processor and blend until smooth 

+ Add in as much pepper, sea salt, garlic, parsley, oregano, & basil as you want

+ Add in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

+ Slice up Kalmata olives and add

+ Blend all of those ingredients until smooth, taste and see if you need to add in more garlic or herbs

+ I chilled my gazpacho for about 5 hours 

+ Rather than folding in the feta as Ina’s recipe did, I just used it as a garnish- this recipe has such a strong flavor that adding the feta cheese on top [rather than have it marinating in the gazpacho] created a really great contrast with the flavoring!

Recipe Wednesday: Cucumber Bites [A Quick Snack]

This Recipe Wednesday features a snack dish that is both healthy & super quick to whip up for guests…or yourself.
+ Cucumbers
[sliced about an 1in or 1.5in]
+ One block of fat-free cream cheese
+ Lemon juice
+ Pepper & Sea Salt
+ Minced garlic
+ Thyme
+ Rosemary 
+ Parsley 
+ Basil
+ Oregano 
+ Paprika
[put to the side until done making the cucumber bites]
What To Do…
+ Place sliced cucumbers on a tray and set aside
+ Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature – or at least be able to tell that it’s soft enough to use a hand mixer 
+ Add in some lemon juice, and garlic – mix it in well
+ Then add in all of your herbs and the salt & pepper – start off small and increasingly add more of whatever you need.
+ I put about a spoonful amount of the cream cheese onto each slice of cucumber – you’ll notice the cream cheese sliding around on the cucumber – after putting the completed sliced in the fridge for a few hours the cream cheese will stick more to the cucumber 
+ Sprinkle paprika over the completed cucumbers bites & you’re done!

Recipe Wednesday: Dijon Potato Salad

Recipe Wednesday is back!

Sorry for missing it for a couple of weeks, I’ve been super busy and not cooking at home as much as I should be!

This past Saturday afternoon I decided to use up some of my CSA veggies and came up with the idea to make a potato salad with a Dijon base & some yummy additions.
All of these vegetables are from Great Country Farms in Virginia, delivered to me as a part of the CSA I’m in.  If you haven’t seen the post, or if you’re unfamiliar with what a CSA is, read about it here!
 + Red potatoes 
[I had 5] 
+ Green beans 
[Ends trimmed, cut up]
+ Green pepper [Chopped up]
+ Tomatoes [Cubed]
+ Horseradish
+ Minced garlic
+ Red pepper flakes
+ Light mayo
+ Whole grain mustard 
+ Dijon mustard 
[Ex. Golden’s]
+ Capers
+ Sea salt / pepper
What To Do…
1. Boil red potatoes [skin on] for 7-10 minutes…make sure you check for tenderness around the 7min mark, if they’re not ready yet then go ahead for the full 10mins
2. When the potatoes are done remove them from the boiling water & run under cold water.  DON’T GET RID OF THE WATER! Put the green beans in the hot water for about 5 minutes to soften them up a bit
3. Cube the potatoes and place in a large bowl.  Add mayo [start with a reasonable amount, don’t go overboard] and Dijon mustard/ whole grain mustard to taste – mix it up.
4. Add in however much horseradish & minced garlic you’d like – then add in the green beans and green pepper – toss to coat
5. Taste your mixture and add in salt & pepper 
6. Carefully add in the tomatoes – you want to be on the gentle side with them so don’t roughly mix 
7. Carefully add in capers & refrigerate!

This is a super yummy side item.  I made sure I used fat-free mayo, and not too much salt.  The garlic & horseradish, aside from the main flavor of the Dijon, should be enough where you don’t need added salt!

Recipe Wednesday: Summer Squash Soup

Bored on a Sunday afternoon I realized I had way too much squash in my fridge and I needed to think of something to make to use most of it up.  I thought I could do a chilled soup and make enough to have it throughout the week.

Well, it didn’t even make it to dinner tonight as I write this [Monday]…it’s already all gone.

+ Variety of summer squash
[I used 3 zucchini, 2 yellow summer squash, and 2 patty pan squash]
+ Celery
[As much as you want]
+ Red potatoes
[I used 3 small ones] 
[I used 4 small yellow onions]

[finely chopped for topping soup]

+ 7 cups of stock 
[I used chicken, but you can also use veggie] 
+ Heavy Cream
[I used no more than 1/2 cup…if that]
+ Olive oil 
+ Salt & pepper
+ Crushed red pepper flakes
[Minced is best, but garlic powder is fine too] 
+ Flour
[Optional, only if you find you need to thicken it a bit at the end]
+ Chop up onions, celery, and all of the squash
+Begin to cook the onion and celery in olive oil until the celery is tender
+ Add in the squash and potatoes…use some more olive oil if need be…you can also start seasoning with some salt and pepper
+ Add in the chicken stock, let simmer for 30-35minutes

+ Transfer the veggies/stock to a blender [you may need to do this in batches, don’t overload the blender] and puree.  I pureed enough, but I didn’t overdo it, I wanted to create a little chunky texture
+ Add the pureed mixture back into the original pan and add in the heavy cream.  This is totally optional, the consistency when I made it was good enough that if I didn’t want to add any heavy cream it would’ve been just fine, which is why I only added a little
+ Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper to taste.  If you feel the soup needs to be a bit thicker whisk in some flour, but make sure you do it little by little!

+ Garnish with some fresh ground pepper and the scallions

+ Hurry up and chill it because it is honestly the best soup I’ve ever made!

Let me know what you think! xo

Recipe Wednesday: Ground Turkey & Veggie Pasta

Sooo, this recipe doesn’t really have a good name…my apologies.
As I mentioned last week [see post here], I joined a CSA and now have so many veggies to cook with I just don’t know what to do with myself!  So between the CSA and regular trips to Trader Joe’s I’m just a healthy cooking machine.
Last week I just searched through my freezer/ fridge and came up with this little number..try it out, it was delish & super light, perfect for the summer!
PS: If you’re familiar with any of my recipe postings you know I never put measurements for anything, I don’t measure.  Ever.  Unless I’m baking.
+ Ground turkey
[I get all of my meat delivered from US Wellness, grass-fed everything…I promise you, the taste difference is unreal] 
+ Spaghetti 
+ Italian dressing 
[preferably homemade but if not just try to buy it organic, here’s a great recipe from Sunny Side Up
+ Asparagus
[Cut off ends & discard. Cut up asparagus into little pieces]
+ Spring [green] onions
[Chop em up]
+ Tomatoes
[I used 3 small ones from the organic pack Trader Joe’s sells]
+ Broccoli florets 
+ Radishes 
+Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, & white cooking wine 
+ Sea salt, fresh ground pepper, red pepper flakes, & garlic
[Any all purpose would do, but def check this one out!]
Okay here it goes…! 
+ Cook spaghetti as directed on the box…make sure you add in some sea salt for extra flavor.
+ Cook ground turkey in a large skillet until browned. Drain and put back on the burner.  Add in some olive oil, all purpose seasoning, & fresh ground pepper to taste. 
+ After slicing up all the veggies, add in broccoli florets first, wait for them to get a tad soft, & then add in asparagus & radishes.  Add in garlic [if you only have garlic powder, that’s fine too].  If you’re like anybody I know, we love garlic overload.  Bonus: it’s heart healthy. 

+ I love flavor so I kinda OD’ed on the balsamic vinegar and white cooking wine, just add it right into the skillet.  If you’re not sure how you feel about those flavors, do it little by little.  Let it simmer for a bit & add red pepper flakes to taste.
+Drain the pasta and mix in some of the Italian dressing.

+ About a minute or two before you plan on serving add in the tomatoes & spring onions.  You don’t want the tomatoes to get too soft…we aren’t making tomato sauce [yet!]. 
+ Place the turkey & veggies right over the pasta & serve!  yum.

Recipe Wednesday: Join a CSA

 I’m going to try my best to start a new series, Recipe Wednesday, where I feature what I’ve been cooking up recently in my tiny little kitchen.  You’d be surprised the things I can whip up in such a tiny space.

I want to start the series with thisI recently joined the local CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] of Northern Virginia.  Short and sweet, it’s basically every Thursday we get a box of fresh produce from Great Country Farms…they deliver to a group site super close, which makes it even more awesome and convenient than it already was.

In trying to eat more GMO-free it’s important to me that the produce comes from a farm that is preferably 100% GMO free, but since that’s almost near impossible these days [don’t get me started] I can at least deal with minimal GMO-ness.  

Week #1: Asparagus, radishes, basil, spring onions, spinach & strawberries!
For example, according to Great Country Farms…we grow our CSA garden without adding any synthetic, chemical fertilizers or herbicides, and we use extensive composting and worm cultivation for enriching our soils. We are constantly researching and implementing steps to use only sustainable growing practices to care for the land with which we have been blessed.”
Sounds good, right?
Anyway, the purpose of me writing this post is to encourage everyone to eat and cook with local and sustainable foods, and it‘s easiest to start with produce.  Every Recipe Wednesday post I do will have a ton of veggies in it [unless it’s dessert!], and I wanted to share with you all where I get them from!

Yummy cherries from Week #2!
There are so many benefits to joining a CSA group, not only are you making better choices for yourself but you’re helping local farmers…and if you’ve seen any documentaries or read any articles about the path the farming world is taking in this country…you should be scared & want to make these choices.  Sorry, I had to say it.
Also, since joining the CSA and having my fridge stocked with all these wonderful & colorful veggie/ fruit options, I‘ve been cooking more so than usual, and [while it’s only been 2 weeks] I’ve used up all Great Farms has given me.  It‘s also allowed me to be more creative in my cooking, as you will see, I’ve been finding a ton of healthy options for recipes.  You find out what will be in your box a few days before, so it’s just enough time for me to start recipe searching
If you’re interested in joining a CSA, or want to learn more about it, check out the LocalHarvest website for more information!

Healthy Eating 101: Quinoa

Okay so since I’ve been cooking a lot recently I wanted to share with you my new, and everybody else’s, obsession with quinoa!  I typically make this and serve it with a fish [salmon] and side of veggies.  I really love quinoa because it’s so healthy and you can literally cook it 8593275 different ways and not get bored.
Here are some reasons why everyone should be adding quinoa into their diet!
-With the amount of amino acids it’s considered a “complete protein”
-It’s gluten-free
-No cholesterol
-Low in fat, high in manganese 
-Has anti-inflammatory benefits 
-Super easy to prepare
I love Near East’s (you can find it in any grocery store) quinoa-blend options, which also include brown rice…I usually get the rosemary olive-oil.  But, you can buy quinoa and add your own flavors as well!

I also love Seeds of Change’s Quinoa and Brown Rice Blend, I find this at Whole Foods.  When you need something in a rush, this is a perfect option because it’s ready in 90 seconds and is already in microwavable pouch.  Boom.

Anyway, here are some recipes to try!

Quinoa with Garlic, Pine Nuts, and Raisins 
I think I would take out the raisins, but that’s just me!

Quinoa and Parsley Salad
Perfect for a weeknight, only takes 20minutes to make! 

Spice Rubbed Pork with Quinoa 
Yum. I think I’ll make this next week and post pics.

Quinoa and Herb Crusted Lamb

Recipe Wednesday: Homemade Clam Chowder

Two weeks ago it was a tad on the cooler side, and then it went back to being kinda warm…lame…and then this morning I was frozen when I woke up.  ANYWAY, in an effort to welcome in the fall season I decided to make some homemade clam chowder!!  I based it loosely on Ina Garten’s (the Barefoot Contessa) East Hampton Clam Chowder, found here, but I def added some of personalization and changed it up a bit!  
It was seriously delicious, and I can’t wait to make more soups and chowders this season!  Now, as usual I don’t necessarily measure each ingredient when I cook, especially when using spices and such.  I approx’ed the amount I used for each ingredient, but really just use your best judgement and taste test often! 
-12 tablespoons of unsalted butter 
PS: you won’t be using all 12 at once, just an FYI
-Celery, carrots, and a yellow onion 
You as much of these veggies as you want
-Red potatoes 
I used 3 and cubed them first, you don’t want to use too many potatoes and you also don’t want them to be overly large pieces

As much as you want really, I used 6 strips 
-1/2 cup of flour 
You may need to use a tad more towards the end if you find the soup isn’t thick enough
-4 cups of clam juice 
Most supermarkets sell the same size bottles, so 4 bottles
-4 cups of clams 
This equates to 4 of the canned clams
-1 pint of heavy cream 
Or you can use milk
-Chicken broth 
I would say  I used about a cup and a half
-Salt and pepper

-Bay Leaves

-Herb provence 
In the spice aisle
-Mrs. Dash’s ‘Garlic and Herb’ seasoning 
-Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large/ deep pot and sauté the onions first…after about 7mins throw in the celery, carrots, and bacon — season with salt, pepper, and some Mrs. Dash’s seasoning

-After about 10mins add in the potatoes, remaining 8 tablespoons of butter, and whisk in the flour — be careful here, you’ll need to whisk fast and get the veggies coated quickly because you don’t want the flour sticking onto the bottom of the pot

-Once the veggies are flour coated and the butter is melted add in all of the clam juice.  Let it come to a boil and leave it for about 15mins

-Add in the chicken broth, heavy cream (or milk), bay leaves, herb provence (as much or as little as you’d like, start off with a little and build it up) — leave for about another 10mins

-I added the clams last and let them cook in the chowder for about 5mins — taste test, if you need more flavor use the Mrs. Dash seasoning — try not to use too much salt!

-If you feel it’s not as thick as it should be, whisk in flour sparingly — but make sure you’re really whisking it in, rather than just stirring

This recipe took me about an hour to cook up, it was super easy and super yum.  Perfect for a cool rainy day or snow day in the future!

I served this with simple oyster crackers and nothing else, it’s a pretty hearty meal so I didn’t think I needed much else to serve with it!  Oh, and the leftovers were even better the next day!

PS: This recipe makes a huge batch, I ate leftovers of it like all week — just an FYI.

Nom Nom Nom, Cooking Time!

This whole year I’ve been cooking nonstop, I’ve always enjoyed cooking but now I’m obsessed.  I just started a recipe binder, I cut/ print out every recipe I like from magazines, websites, and blogs.  It’s a fun way to try new things and broaden my horizons in the kitchen.  I thought I should start sharing my homemade creations since I find myself always taking pictures of what I’m making anyway! 
Yesterday I went to the beach for a family cookout at my aunt’s house.  I was in charge of appetizers so I made three light bites for before dinner!  The first starter I made was a Basil-Thyme Dip, that I served with baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.  It was so good! But….I forgot to take a picture…oops!
Next I made a shrimp salad that I served on olive-oil and balsamic toasted baguettes.  Lastly, I made a homemade bruschetta that I also served with the toasted baguette pieces.  Both of them were absolutely delicious, and it was the first time I had made either!
Below are the recipes!  I don’t really measure anything when I cook unless it’s baking.  I always add a little and then just build upon it for taste — I prefer this much more than following an actual amount.
Basil-Thyme Dip 
Low-fat Sour Cream
Even better, try fat-free, it tastes just as good!
Fresh chopped basil 
Dried basil
Fresh chopped thyme
Dried thyme
I used an entire container of low-fat sour cream and mixed in the ingredients little by little.  I just kept adding until I thought it tasted good, and of course, I had others try it as well!  It’s a super easy dip you can whip up for veggies.  I know it’s easy to buy dip like this, but it’s just so much healthier when you make it yourself!
Shrimp Salad 
2 bags of bay shrimp, or “salad sized” shrimp  
You can find these in the frozen fish section of any supermarket.  Or, you can purchase them fresh at places like Whole Foods
Salt, pepper
Low-fat mayo
Lemon juice
I always try to use an actual lemon, but purchased lemon juice is fine too
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Dried dill
Thaw the bay shrimp (only if you bought the frozen type, obvz) by emptying them from the bag into a  big bowl and placing them under cold water for about 2mins
Make sure you pat them super dry — you don’t want a watery mix to form with the mayo — and either dry the bowl you originally thawed them in, or just use a new one
Mix in mayo, and keep adding it until it’s a good consistency but not too much.
Add in about one tablespoon of lemon juice — taste it, if you want more, add more — but be careful
Add in onion and garlic powder together, again start with a small amount, and then keep adding until it’s where you want it to be
Sprinkle in some dill, I really didn’t use that much of it to be honest.  Then I just added salt and pepper to taste.  When I put the shrimp salad on the baguette I just grounded some fresh pepper on top for garnish
Tomato-Basil Bruschetta
Diced tomatoes
Either dice them yourself or go to the pasta aisle and get them pre-diced in the can
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil
Dried basil
Minced or chopped fresh garlic
Place all your diced tomatoes in a large bowl and slowly add in olive oil.  Olive oil is something you can definitely go overboard with, so use sparingly!
Add in about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, it gives the mixture a little kick, which is nice
Cut up fresh basil and add it to the mixture, but also leave some on the side, add in some dried basil too
Add in minced garlic, I personally love garlic, and it’s heart-healthy so I use it liberally whenever I cook
Use salt and pepper to taste, you won’t need much though!
When you serve on the baguettes, garnish with the leftover fresh basil!
Let me know if any of you end up trying one of these, I want to know how it turns out!! xo