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Polenta Squares with Mushroom Ragu

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As promised here is the second bite we did for the Fairfield County Mom’s Blog event.  Sorry for the delay, this week has been a doozy! It has been super busy week work wise, but also we found out that my poor puppy broke her toe, so she is in a cast and limited to very short and very few walks a day! This is a dog that runs for an hour a day and goes to camp two times a week… She isn’t yet misbehaving, but I am sure like a young child, unless I keep her occupied, she might start to rebel.

I have some exciting updates for the company that I will share soon, but over all things are really coming together with The Gourmet Cocina, and it’s really been a fun ride! This week has been all about learning and exciting new ventures, and I really can’t wait for what the future has in store.

But back to this little snack!  These polenta bites are gluten free, vegetarian, and actually pretty darn healthy! I used butter in them, but for the vegans out there, you could certainly use another substitute instead. I also had some extra mushroom ragu, and cooked that in with some fresh spinach for a really awesome side dish! It could be really good on chicken too!

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What you need:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Set the water, 1 tbsp of butter and 1/2 tsp of salt to a boil, and add in your polenta.

Stir frequently until thickened, about 5 min, and then remove from the heat.

Poor the polenta into a 9 x 9 baking pan so that it is about 1/3 inch thick and let cook for at least 15min.

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In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan, and cook your mushrooms and onions for about 8-10min until soft and the juices have mostly dried up.  Make sure to add in about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper during this process.

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Add the garlic next and cook for about 2 min.

Once the juices are mostly evaporated, decrease the temperature to medium-low and add in your white wine. Cook down for about 5min with a lid on and the liquid reduces by about half.

Stir in the rest of the butter and the corn starch until thickened and an even mixture. If you find you need a bit more corn starch for a thicker consistency, add it in small amounts at a time until you reach your desired thickness.

Season the ragu with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut your polenta into 1″ squares and top with the ragu.

Enjoy with a glass of the same wine you used to cook with 😉

Have a great weekend everyone, can’t wait to share some fun recipes next week!

 

 

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Baked Cajun Crab Cakes

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For those of you that follow my social media accounts, you will have seen that we did an event last night at Lululemon Greenwich with Countdown Fitness and the Fairfield County Mom’s blog. Countdown did a 30min workout with about 10 women and I made them some yummy/healthy snacks for a post workout treat.

It was a really great event, and I think the women really enjoyed breaking a sweat! I also think the workout made them enjoy the snacks even more – guilt free! This recipe is a great one, and perfect for parties. You can also make larger sized crab cakes versus mini ones and make this a delicious family meal at home. These have basically no filler in them, they are all crab and all delicious!

I made a second treat for the ladies last night, but I will leave you in suspense until tomorrow on that one!

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What you need:

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • 1 lb lump crab or crab claw meat, picked over
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive-oil cooking spray

Pre-heat your oven to 375F.

In a small skillet quickly cook up your scallions over medium heat with about a tsp of olive oil for 2 min or so just to remove the raw flavor from them.

Remove them from the heat and let them cool.

In a large bowl mix together 1/2 cup of panko, egg, milk, worcestershire, dijon, lemon juice, old bay, scallions and hot sauce. Use a whisk to beat the egg mixture until well blended.

Drain your crab meat of any excess fluid and add the crab to this mixture.  Using a spoon or your hands mix together these ingredients.

Using your hands form the mixture into crab cakes.  These mini crab cakes were about 1.25 inches, but its up to you how large you do them.

Line them on a sheet pan and place them in the refrigerator to set for at least 30min.

Remove from the refrigerator and using the other 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs, lightly coat the outside of the crab cakes.

Make sure your sheet pan is oiled before placing them back on the pan. Then use the cooking spray to spray the top of the crab cakes.

Cook the crab cakes in the oven for 10-15min until browned.  You can flip them half way through to brown both sides.

These are full of flavor and so easy to make, and baking them instead of frying them is an awesome way to save on unnecessary calories!

Enjoy!

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Chipotle Lime Salmon

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We try to eat fish about twice a week because we love it and because its good for you.  We like salmon, but it isn’t our favorite type of fish.  I usually use white fish like cod, haddock, pollock, hake, or others.  We also like to make seared tuna sometimes to switch things up, but every now and again salmon just sounds good!

Last night James flew to the UK for a stag weekend.  James absolutely refuses to miss out on fun, so even though he has a lot going on with work, he always makes time to see his friends and participate in a good stag weekend! For those that don’t know, a stag weekend is the UK version of a bachelor party.  It’s bigger, longer, and crazier than a traditional American bachelor weekend!

Anyway, his flight was not until 9:30pm, so he made time to come home and eat dinner with me before heading to the airport. For those of you that have taken any red-eye flights, you will know that eating a heavy meal before getting on a plane is really unpleasant! So I thought making fish would be a good, light option.  Plus James is about to have, or given the time difference, is in the process of having a rather unhealthy weekend, so a light meal was doubly beneficial!

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What you need:

  • 1-2 lbs of salmon filets
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo (depending on the amount of heat you want)
  • 2-4 tsp adobo sauce (see above)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

Pat your salmon dry and season with salt and pepper.

In a blender or food processor mix together your lime juice, half of the zest, olive oil, cumin, chipotles and sauce, cumin, and the grated garlic clove. Blend until mostly smooth.

Place your salmon on a baking sheet and cover it with the chipotle sauce.

Cook for 10-12min and remove from the oven.

Use the second half of the zest to garnish your fish for a prettier presentation 🙂

I served ours with half an avocado, charro beans, and some warmed corn tortillas, but you could do this with roasted veggies, rice, or anything else you might like!

This recipe is so easy, and packed with flavor; I highly recommend it for your next Mexican night!

Buen Provecho!

 

 

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Kale/Apple/Beet Salad

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I hope everyone had a fabulous Valentine’s Day yesterday! Whether you were your own Valentine or you spent the evening with a significant other, friends, or a pet, I hope you had a delicious dinner and felt some love! Many of you probably had chocolate, or other decadent treats for the occasion, and might be needing a little detox after the wine and champagne.

As I mentioned I cooked last night and kept it pretty simple.  We had a fabulous dinner out on Monday and James bought me flowers then, but last night I made him a perfectly cooked steak with some mashed potatoes and a salad. Steak is one of his favorite things to eat, so on more special occasions I splurge on meat from our butcher because it really is delicious!

We don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so we passed on dessert, but I know Valentine’s Day is basically the chocolate-iest day of the year! Most people will want to avoid sugar, cheese, and other unhealthy things after last night, so I have made this delicious salad as a yummy detox meal. It is so delicious, and you get a little natural sweetness from the apple and beet without any guilt!

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What you need:

  • 1 bunch of lacinato kale
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 red beet
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Chop up your kale thinly, and put in a large salad bowl.

Cut your apple and beet into matchsticks and put on top of your kale.

Mix together your dressing ingredients and dress your salad.

Season the salad with salt and pepper and dig in!

If you don’t love kale, try mixing the kale with some romaine so you still get the health benefits of kale, but not a full kale salad.

This salad is an awesome base for grilled chicken or quinoa if you want to turn it into a heartier meal. James would definitely need both of those to call this a meal!

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Butternut Squash Risotto

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As we all know Valentine’s Day is tomorrow!!! James and I have never celebrated it because our dating anniversary is February 12th.  So we’ve always had a romantic dinner on the 12th out and usually just stay in and cook on the 14th. We are slightly off of our schedule this year, but we are going out tonight and staying in tomorrow.

Yesterday was one of the worst weather days we’ve had all year. It was so cold, snowed about 3 inches in the morning and then proceeded to sleet/rain the rest of the day.  All of our pretty snow from Thursday is now slushy/icy and wholly unpleasant now! Anyway, leaving the house yesterday wasn’t really an option because our road and driveway weren’t  cleared and we didn’t want to take a chance.

Luckily, because of our big snow storm on Thursday, I had bought quite a few groceries and had all the ingredients necessary to make this delicious butternut squash risotto.  This dish is soooooo tasty and hearty and really perfect for a dreary very cold day! The best part is that the receipt is meant to feed 4-6 people so LEFTOVERS!!!!

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What you need:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (seeds removed)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock to make this truly vegetarian)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

On a sheet pan put your 1″ cubed butternut squash and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Toss together to coat thoroughly and put pan in the oven.

Cook squash for 25-30min until soft.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pan over medium heat, warm your butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil until hot then add in your minced shallots.

When shallots are translucent and softened, about 10min, add in your rice.  Cook rice in the oil for 1-2min to remove any raw flavor on the rice.

Add in your white wine and cook down until almost all of it is absorbed, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.

Then add in your chicken or veggie stock 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed.

Continue adding stock this way until the rice is cooked through, but still slightly al dente, usually takes about 30min.

Remove from the heat and add in your parmesan cheese and squash before serving.

Serve with the white wine you used to cook, and it is that much more delicious!

Bon Appetite!

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Sausage Marinara

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Well we are back from our glorious vacation in Hawaii, and majorly back to reality.  We were away for about 9 days, and it was so nice to get away to somewhere warm and not stress about anything for a few days.  Don’t get me wrong, we are very blessed people, but we do have things come up from time to time.  Since being home, I have not stopped moving: running errands, doing laundry, networking, going to meetings, and James has become insanely busy with work.

He has worked late every night so far this week, and today we have already gotten about 8 inches of snow and are expected to get up to another 5.  So as busy as he is, he is working from home, which is inevitably a bit more inefficient, but lucky for me as I get to distract him every so often.

Given the winter storm Niko, yesterday I made sure to run out and get plenty of food and snacks to get through today and potentially tomorrow.  Lots of fresh fruit, and yummy dinner and lunch options.  When I know I have James home, he is usually my guinea pig! Thankfully he will eat anything, so I do recipe testing usually on weekends and he gives me his honest opinions. This recipe was one of my experiments, and James really enjoyed it! I’ve got a few more tests up my sleeve for our snow day and weekend, and will share those recipes as I perfect them.

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What you need:

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1lb hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup basil plus 1 tbsp, chiffonade
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan, warm about a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add in your minced onion and cook until translucent, about 8 min.

Once your onion is cooked, add in your minced garlic and cook for about a minute.

Then add in your sausage removed from the casing and cook until browned and cooked through, about 10min.

If your sausage is really oily, drain out some of the oil before adding in the red wine so that your sauce isn’t too greasy. Once you add in the wine, cook down for about 5 min.

Add in your crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of chiffonade basil. Save the extra tbsp for garnish at the end. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Chef’s tip: the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomato, and you only need a small amount to round out the flavor of your sauce.

Lower the temperature and partially cover the sauce.  Let simmer for at least 30min, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of salted water and cook your pasta according to the package instructions .

Once its done, you can either add your pasta to the sauce for the final minute of cooking, or you can cook it longer in the water and top with sauce at the end. I prefer to toss the pasta in the sauce for the final minute, but its up to you.

Top with your fresh basil, and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

The beauty of this dish is that you don’t need too many ingredients, and because the sausage already has so much flavor, the sauce has this wonderful smokey, spicy flavor to it.

This is the perfect cold winter night pasta dish, and I highly recommend it!