Thursday, July 26, 2012

of Roasted Potatoes and Basil Chive Sauce

One of the biggest challenges of my life is improving upon the recipes that my sister Jenny gives me. She is a serious student of French cuisine and can literally make the fancy dishes you generally only see in French Restaurants.What is so hilarious about this to me is that Jenny has only really learned about cooking in the past few years. Her Roasted Potatoes are at once crispy on the outside, soft and mushy on the inside, and packed full of fresh flavor. They also reheat in a skillet the next day and taste just as delicious. Naturally, I try to follow the recipes she gives me to a T but I usually get distracted in ways that only I can and things don't turn out quite the same way. These potatoes are simple enough that even I can't screw them up with my additions, subtractions, and other culinary experiments.

The Basil Chive Sauce is actually a dressing recipe that I adapted while I was making a crab salad (which was epic by the way) with my old and much missed roommate Amy. Neither of us are super into Mayo and the recipe called for 1/3 cup of that in addition to the plain yogurt they called for. I decided we would use more garlic, less (no) vinegar, Greek yogurt, and a tablespoon or so of sour cream. I figured that would magically equal up to Mayonnaise despite the fact that I knew it wouldn't. The taste of the dressing that we made was so bright and refreshing and delicious that I knew it would have other uses besides the dressing for that fabulous crab salad. Now I use it for everything from a sweet potato fry dipping sauce to a regular salad dressing. I had actually made the potatoes as a side dish that night and when Amy suggested we dip the potatoes in the left over dressing I needed no further coaxing. The result was phenomenal and so I share them here with you.

Today's Cast of Characters:

For Jenny's potatoes the ingredients could not be any easier. Little red potatoes, some extra virgin olive oil which I totally forgot to put in this haphazard shot, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and rosemary are in the original recipe, but feel free to experiment. She recommends chipotle or cayenne pepper for a little bit of extra zing. I usually make them with red pepper flakes but today I was cooking with my friend Emily, a guest chef who is afraid of flavor (but working through it) so we kept it simple with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. In truth that's all you really need for these potatoes if you plan on using the basil chive sauce. If you want to experiment with spices though, feel free!

As for the basil chive sauce, these ingredients get a little bit more exotic. Plain Greek yogurt, sour cream (not pictured), lemon juice, fresh chives, fresh basil, garlic, salt, and pepper are the more usual ingredients. Then you add in just a splash of fish sauce or 3 anchovies chopped. I don't make it a habit to keep anchovies lying around so I make do with fish sauce. It adds a wonderful salty earthiness to the dressing that would otherwise not be there to balance out the fresh herbs. 

What to Do:

First, preheat your oven to 350. The potatoes take a bit to roast so you want the oven good and ready by the time you are finished with the rest so that you can get a head start on the dish.

The first actual recipe thing to do is wash the potatoes up and chop them into quarters. Some of the potatoes that are extra teeny do not require quarters and should be halved instead. You generally want roughly the same size throughout all your potatoes so that they cook evenly. I struggle with this sometimes and find that when I chop the smallest ones last I have less of an issue.

Next put the potatoes into a bowl and sprinkle in some extra virgin olive oil. Really give those suckers a toss so that they get all evenly coated. Make sure that your potatoes have a nice coating before transferring them to a pan. No need to grease it since the olive oil is included in the recipe.

Sprinkle on your chosen spices and stir on the pan until the potatoes look evenly seasoned. You can go heavy or light depending on your desired flavor preference. I usually start out with about 1/8 tsp of each and eyeball it from there. Pop them in the oven for 50 minutes. You will need to stir them after about a half an hour and then ten minutes after that. This helps with the roasty flavor.

While the potatoes are cooking, get out your food processor and throw in all of the basil chive sauce ingredients. That's the yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, chives, basil, garlic, fish sauce, salt and pepper.

Pulse a few times to combine. When the sauce is a green color and there are no clumps of garlic floating about, your sauce is ready to share. It also keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.

After about 50 minutes and two stirs, your potatoes should be roasted perfectly. You can tell they are going to be good when they are fork tender and golden brown. Serve up your potatoes in a bowl with the Basil Chive sauce on the side.

Combine the two after serving on your plate. The result is so delicious you will not be able to resist them. Enjoy!


Roasted Potatoes and Basil Chive Sauce

Jenny's Roasted Potatoes:
1 package Baby Red Potatoes
Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Rosemary (optional)

Basil Chive Sauce:
1 6 oz container of Plain Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp Sour Cream
1/2 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh Chives
1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped fresh Basil
1 clove of Garlic
a splash of Fish Sauce or 3 Anchovies chopped
1/8 tsp Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper



Jenny's Roasted Potatoes:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Wash the potatoes and chop them into quarters or halves if small.
3. Put them in a bowl and drizzle in some olive oil. Mix to combine until all potatoes are evenly coated.
4. Pour onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Season to taste with spices. If you go too light the potatoes wont taste like much so try to at least see some seasonings on the potatoes.
5. Pop them in the oven and bake for 50 minutes stirring twice. Potatoes are done when they are fork tender and golden brown.

Basil Chive Sauce:
1. Place all ingredients into a food processor.
2. Pulse to combine. The sauce is ready when it is a greenish color and there are no large bits of garlic floating around.
3. Serve as a sauce or dressing. Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

of Better for You Brownie Batter Shakes

Like most people, I enjoy occasional sweets and my biggest sweets weakness is brownies. As a child, sneaking brownie batter before it was baked was both an ultimate indulgence and an ultimate no-no according to my rightfully germaphobic due to her employment as a nurse mother. Before baking the brownie batter has a consistency and a taste that I always believed was completely non-recreatable. That is until I found this recipe on pinterest for cake batter shakes. I was definitely intrigued by the properties in this recipe but I hate cake and almost wrote it off until I read further and the author conveniently suggested using brownie batter. I think even my mother would approve of this method of batter indulgence. And hey, try it with cake batter if that is more your speed. I could get down to a strawberry shortcake version. Or add in some whipped cream vodka for an adults only treat. Whatever works; the possibilities are endless.

I am not a health freak by any stretch of the imagination but seeing as how its swimsuit season and I generally enjoy how my clothing fits when I am more in shape, I try to eat a bit healthier. I am sure that the original recipe is absolutely decadent and transcendent for a treat but I am not about to consume a more calories if I can consume less and still get all the taste. Luckily, my roommates agreed and as always let me experiment on them. I took the basic recipe and originally subbed in some vanilla soy milk and some fat free vanilla frozen yogurt. The result was amazing and rather guilt free(ish).

This time though I made a few adjustments to the recipe simply to see if I could still get the brownie batter taste without all the excess brownie batter. Seemed like ½ cup contained some extra calories I didn't particularly need. I also used vanilla almond milk because I like it better and I wanted to make up a batch of cookie dough dip with some garbanzos I had lying around. This mix tasted exactly like the fabled brownie batter of yore. And so without further healthy hack of brownie batter shakes.

Today's Cast of Characters:

Don't you just love when you have all the ingredients for a special treat right at your fingertips. Living so near a Safeway and a Whole Foods makes my entire life. All you need for this recipe is brownie batter, which can be whatever kind you want (I used Giradelli and it was divine); the aforementioned vanilla almond milk; fat free vanilla frozen yogurt; and vanilla extract. I also used a bit of light whipped cream but you can skip this or add the light cool whip option. I would also want to try this with marshmallows (perhaps blow torched) and graham cracker.

What to do:

Measure out your milk and add to the blender. I also added my vanilla extract during this step. You know, because I was impatient. If you like thicker shakes use less milk at this step. results are equally impressive.

Add in your brownie batter and make sure none is caught on the sides. If it happens to get caught on the sides push it down with a spoon or spatula so that it will be evenly mixed.

Finally add in your frozen yogurt and whir the blender a few times to combine. The mix is the perfect consistency when no more large lumps of yogurt can be seen. You can use more or less yogurt depending on desired thickness. I would recommend using more brownie batter if you choose to use more yogurt.

Pour into a glass and top with a squirt of whipped cream, a dollop of cool whip, or the blow torched marshmallows and graham cracker combination I came up with too late to try out. I will be very jealous if you do. If you use the whipped cream or cool whip, you can sprinkle a little extra brownie batter on top of the concoction for presentation and an added kick of deliciousness.

And now the most important thing.Enjoy!


1 cup Vanilla Almond Milk
1 cup Fat-free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
⅓ cup Brownie Mix
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Whipped Cream for topping


1. Add milk and vanilla extract into blender.
2. Next add in the brownie batter and make sure it is not caught on sides.
3. Measure your frozen yogurt into the blender and give it a few whirs to combine. The perfect consistency happens when there are no more lumps of yogurt.
4. Pour mix into a glass and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of brownie batter. Enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

of Southwestern Grilled Corn Salad

Growing up where I did, one of the harbingers of summer time to me has always been fresh corn. From an early age, I have been in charge of the shucking as well as getting the little silky hairs off the delicious kernels. Even though I've grown up, the simple act of preparing corn to cook has always evoked memories of hot July or August cookouts where my sisters and cousins and I would race to shuck enough corn to feed a small army (or a few very hungry families) and wait rather impatiently for our ears of corn as they were served. I've had corn on the cob all kinds of ways and truly enjoy them all. Recently though, grilled corn has been my go to strictly because I love the savory smoky flavor that the corn is imbued with through this method.

In all my history of corn on the cob eating I only had a brief period where I ever ate it off the cob, my braces phase was one of the worst roadblocks to my love of food ever. I think, had I even known this salad existed somewhere in the world (or my mind) I would have felt much better as everyone congregated around the spoils of our BBQ and dug in. Pinterest is a constant source of inspiration for me and this salad is my kind of cobbled together testament to summer deliciousness. I love that I now have access to all sorts of recipes and blogs I would never have known existed. And so it was with this that Southwestern Grilled Corn Salad came into existence. This little number packs a punch of spice that can hold up against any kind of grilled accompaniments. In fact I often eat this as a main dish and forgo any thought of pairing it up. Let's get to it then...

Today's Cast of Characters:

We are going pretty healthy foods wise today with: corn, preferably grilled but because I don't have a grill I dry sauté  in a pan for that roasty toasty flavor; black beans; avocados; red onion, chopped super fine; a bell pepper, any color; olive oil (which i totally forgot to put in the picture); smoked paprika; cayenne pepper; white wine vinegar; garlic; and salt. If you want it extra spicy you could use smoked hot paprika and its great this way but I prefer it to be spicy with hints of smoky flavor so I just use regular smoked. The cayenne pepper gives it just enough kick and the vinegar also adds a bit of a sharp flavor. I'm actually thinking of trying the dressing out on other things too just to see if the flavors combine as nicely with other things.

What to do:

Usually I start by chopping up my onion super fine. My sister taught me a trick that makes this just absolutely a snap. Chop the onion in half, then take one half of the onion and cut super slim slits not quite all the way to the back. Then turn the onion half and repeat the process. You end up with super fine dice and way less of a headache.

After the onion is chopped do a rough dice of the bell pepper. Nice bite size chunks are what you are going for with this one. Try to keep them smaller so that they blend with the kernels of corn.

Open the can to strain your black beans and you are basically done with prep.

Next I usually tackle the corn. I prefer corn grilled, especially with this recipe and if you have a grill please use it to get the best possible result. If you don't you can use this cheating method I found online. First scrape all the kernels into a bowl from the ear. I place the corn tip side down and just run a knife along the core. Try not to get too much core in your corn, it leads to unpleasant me. Today Sharon got in on the fun!

After the corn is all de-eared heat a large pan on high or medium high heat until it is very hot. then put the corn in and spread to a single layer. You may have to do these next steps more than once and that's ok. It is more important that the corn is spread out in a single even layer.

Cook the corn for a total of 5 minutes stirring/flipping the corn once or twice. I let the corn sit for about 2 or 3 minutes before the first stirring to make sure it gets caramelized. I like it to be very dark brown to black in the salad to more thoroughly replicate the grilled corn.

As the corn is finishing up get a large bowl and put in all the spices and the garlic. Mix with a fork and make sure the garlic is more separated before adding the oil, and the vinegar. Whisk with a fork until well combined. You've just completed the dressing!

Dump in your black beans, onion and bell pepper. Pour the warm corn over the mix and give it a good stir. Once it is looking well mixed take a small taste to see if you need to add more of any spice. Resist the urge to chow down on the warm mix. You have things to finish.

Once you have determined the seasoning for your salad, the very last thing to do is add the avocado. Dice the avocado up, and plop it in to the salad. Give the salad a very gentle stir so as not to crush the avocado. After it is all mixed in its ready to go. I like to eat it warm but it is just as delicious cold or at room temperature. Another great thing about this salad is that the acidity of the vinegar will prevent the avocado from browning. You can easily make this ahead and serve it cold the next day.

Serve up the salad as a salsa, a side dish, a topping, or a main dish. It is extremely versatile and can even tolerate additions like cheese, sliced steak, or chicken. The most important thing for you to do is enjoy!

Southwestern Grilled Corn Salad


6 Ears of Corn, grilled
1 Can of Black Beans, no salt added
2 Avocados
1/2 Bell Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
4 Tbsp Olive Oil


1. Finely dice your onion. First cut the onion in half, then cut little slivers that do not quite reach the back of your half of the onion. Next turn the onion and repeat the slivering process until you reach where you have not cut. Run your knife through this section a few times to try to match the dice of the rest of the onion, reserve.
2. Chop up your bell pepper into bite sized pieces. Open can and strain and rinse black beans. Reserve these two things for a bit.
3. Remove corn from ears by slicing into a bowl with the tip side down. If it is already grilled you are finished. If not, spread into a single layer in a hot pan with no oil and cook for 5 minutes stirring once. Repeat as needed until all corn is roasted.
4. In a large bowl mix garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Once everything is incorporated pour in vinegar and olive oil. Whisk with a fork until thoroughly mixed.
5. Add in onion, bell pepper, black beans and corn. Give it a good stir until mixture is evenly coated.
6. Dice up the avocado and add to mix. Fold in gently until it is evenly spread throughout the salad.
7. Serve and Enjoy!