Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

I’m sure when I grew up in the “olden days” there was a variety of apples available, but really, all I remember was the Red Delicious Apple. Now I certainly don’t want to offend any apple growers out there who grow the Red Delicious, or insult avid fans of the Red Delicious, but it’s because of that particular fruit that I never really took a liking to apples.  Unfortunately the Red Delicious is a mealy apple that’s not crisp or sweet or appealing in any way. Please don’t be mad at me for saying this, but I think it’s the truth.

Okay, fast forward to modern times. So, I walk into my local Whole Foods the other day and was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of apples they had for sale. You name it, Gala, Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp and Ambrosia, just to name a few. I couldn’t decide which variety to go with, so I bought them all.

Now, armed with a plethora of fall apples, came the decision of what to do with them. I had been to a restaurant the day before call Gjelina in Venice, California (which was quite hip and happening, I must say) and had their apple salad. I loved it so much I decided to recreate it at home. This Apple & Cheddar Salad is the perfect beginning to an autumn dinner or a Saturday brunch. The sweet crunch of the apples goes perfectly with the saltiness of the cheese.

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 2 large crisp apples, any variety
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 4 ounces of good quality cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 head of mustard greens
  • Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place first 6 ingredients in a small jar and shake real well. Add in the olive oil and shake vigorously again so that dressing begins to thicken. I make the dressing a day in advance so that the flavors meld together. Refrigerate for up to one week.

Directions

  1. Place pine nuts in a small, frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until nuts begin to brown and release their natural oils. Place in a small dish to cool and set aside.
  2. With a sharp knife, chop your celery stalks crosswise into thin slices, or use a mandolin. Set aside.
  3. Thinly chop your mustard greens (chiffonade) and toss into a bowl or your can individually plate 4 separate salads.
  4. With a sharp knife, thinly slice the cheddar cheese and set aside.
  5. You can use a mandolin to slice the apples in round slices, or use a sharp knife to slice the apples into thin wedges, removing the core and seeds. Place the apple slices into a bowl of acidulated water. When you’re ready to plate your salad, take slices out of water, and pat dry.
  6. Plate all ingredients onto individual plates, or combine into a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette.

Makes 4 appetizer sized salads

Mustard Vinaigrette

Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Apple & Cheddar Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Mama’s Tips

To stop fruit from oxidizing, place fruit in a bowl of 1 cup cold water to 1 tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Increase the amount of water/juice depending on how much fruit you are using. When you’re ready to use the fruit, just pat dry with a paper towel.

Crisp Fall apples make a perfect salad.

Crisp Fall apples make a perfect salad.

Recipe: Easy


Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Yes, Mama does like to bake. I know how I tell you all the time how I love to play gleefully in my kitchen with butter, flour and sugar. And how I take such pride in my cookies, cakes and other crumb-like creations that emanate from my oven. But, Mama’s not a one-trick pony you know. I’m well aware of the virtues of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Now that the holiday season is over and all the out-of-town guests have left, Mama’s getting back to the business of eating healthy. During the winter, when it’s even too cold in Los Angeles to use the outdoor grill, I love to roast my vegetables.

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower are a big hit at my dinner table. Roasting the vegetables at a high temperature causes the veggies to caramelize; this is when the acid in the vegetables breaks down and the sugar is released, bringing out their natural sweetness. Be careful though not to over bake the vegetables, because limp broccoli is a real dinner downer. When I pull the tray out of the oven, I use a metal spatula to scoop up all those tasty brown bits on the sheet pan because that’s where all the flavor is. It’s fresh, it’s simple and it just tastes darn good.

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

  • 1 1/2 lb. broccoli, washed and cut in large chunks (leave about 1 1/2″ of stems)
  • 1 1/2 lb. cauliflower, washed and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon, fresh ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  2. Wash the broccoli and cauliflower under cool water and cut them into large chunks. Leave about 1 1/2″ of the stems on the broccoli. Dry with a paper towel.
  3. Thinly slice the 4 cloves of garlic.
  4. Place the broccoli, cauliflower and garlic onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables and garlic with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. With your hands, toss to evenly coat all the ingredients.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. Be careful not to over-bake the vegetables, you still want a little crunch in them. Halfway through baking, take the pan out and toss the vegetables so all sides will brown.
  6. While the vegetables are baking, toast your pine nuts in a small frying pan (dry, no oil in the pan) over medium heat. Stir them constantly so they do not burn. This will only take a few minutes. When they start to caramelize, remove them from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  7. When the veggies are done, transfer them to a serving bowl. Use a metal spatula to get all those little bits and pieces off the baking sheet because that stuff is full of flavor. Toss in the pine nuts. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top of the veggies and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Mama’s Tips:

To toast the pine nuts; place in a small frying pan (dry, no oil) over medium heat stirring constantly so the nuts do not burn. When they get a little golden brown in color, remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl.

When roasting the vegetables, spread them out in one layer on the baking sheet. Don’t crowd the vegetables or stack. Use two baking sheets if you need to, but you want all the vegetables exposed to the heat.

Recipe: Easy


Roasted Carrots with Honey & Thyme

Roasted Carrots

I guess it’s just human nature, but we humans tend to take everyday things for granted, and you don’t really appreciate something until you don’t have it. We just assume things we need or want will always be there, like they had nothing better to do. That would be the case for me with vegetables. Really, how much time in my life have I devoted to thinking about a vegetable? None! I’ve never cared about their well-being, or thanked them for their years of service. I just always assumed they would always be there, just waiting for ME. Oh, how self-centered.

I broach this topic because I spent the last week visiting a small island in the Caribbean that did not grow its own vegetables. We were told that all the island’s produce had to be flown in from different places. No matter were we went to eat, lettuce was brown, cucumbers were mushy, and tomatoes had no right to call themselves tomatoes. After about day 4, my body was going through a vitamin A withdrawal. Somebody help me, please, I need my soluble fiber!

Well, when I finally returned home I vowed I would never take one of my yellow, orange or green friends for granted anymore. I made myself a batch of these Roasted Carrots with Honey and Thyme, which by the way is a favorite annual side-dish on my Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Carrots

Roasted Carrots with Honey & Thyme

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, minced thyme
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, crystallized ginger (optional, but I love the spicy sweetness it adds)
  • sea salt and fresh, ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel and trim tops off carrots. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Lay carrots on a metal rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over. Toss to coat carrots completely.
  3. Sprinkle carrots with the thyme, crystallized ginger, salt and pepper. Drizzle honey over top.
  4. Toss carrots to completely incorporate the ingredients.
  5. Roast on the center rack in the oven at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until you can pierce the carrots with a sharp knife.
  6. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Roasted Carrots

Mama’s Tips

Make sure that all your carrots are of equal thickness to insure that the vegetables roast evenly. If some carrots are thicker, just cut them in half.

To make your dish more visually appealing, see if your local produce market sells the multi-colored or rainbow carrots. They’re just more fun!

Roasted Carrots

Recipe: Easy


Herb Roasted Potatoes

Herb Roasted Potatoes

I guess you could say I’m a real “meat and potatoes” kind of girl.  Actually I can do without the meat, so possibly it’s more accurate just to say I’m a “potatoes” kind of girl. I like to incorporate potatoes into every meal whenever possible.  Scrabbled eggs in the morning must be accompanied by home fries, and if you know me at all, and you do, then you know french fries have to make an appearance at lunch. But what I’m here to share with you today is more of a dinnertime potato. Now mind you, I serve these whenever I have company over, and there’s nary a potato ever left in the dish.

For these Herb Roasted Potatoes, I like to use the Yukon Gold’s because they have a buttery, creamy texture and you don’t have to peel them. You roast the potatoes at a high temperature and they come out crispy and  crunchy, almost like a potato chip, and I know how you all like potato chips. The addition of the fresh herbs just brings out the potato’s earthiness. But don’t take my word for it, make them for the family and see if there’s any left.

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Herb Roasted Potatoes

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (I used the small ones)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
  • Kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and spray rimmed cookie sheets with cooking spray. Using a mandolin, so that your potato slices will be uniform in size, slice your potatoes to about 1/8” thick. Place them in a large bowl.
  2. Add your fresh herbs to the bowl, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Drizzle enough olive oil over the mixture only to lightly coat the potatoes, and with your hands toss the ingredients until each potato slice is coated.
  3. Lay the potatoes out on the cookie sheets in one layer and place in the oven, on the center rack.
  4. About half-way through baking, using a metal spatula, flip the slices over so that the other side of the potato will brown
  5. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until potatoes are nice and golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional salt (if desired). Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Herb Roasted Potatoes

Recipe: Easy

Fresh Herbs – parsley, thyme & chives


Spicy Grilled Corn

Spicy Grilled Cor

I’ve got a high school reunion coming up, a big one mind you, and I’d really like to lose 10 pounds, stat! Is that shallow of me. Okay, don’t answer.  At this point in my life, shouldn’t I be comfortable in my own skin?  After all, time and gravity has taken it’s toll on all of us. I’m not the only one who’s enjoyed her chocolate chip cookies and Snicker’s bars for the last 40 years, am I? My passion in life has been food and cooking, so what did I think was going to happen. Oh, and did I mention I’m not a big fan of exercise either. Shame on me!

My girlfriend Carol told me she lost 17 pounds doing Weight Watcher’s online. She calls me everyday and cheers me on, telling me, “you can do it”. So I joined, and each day I log on tracking each minute morsel I eat.  I bought all their frozen, packaged meals that only require me popping them into the microwave. Do you know how horrific this is for a person who lives to bake bread. I thought carbs were my friend, but I was so wrong.

I’ve spent a lot of time at my local farmer’s market buying tons of fruit and vegetables because they’re “zero” points on this diet. Geez, I even dislike the word diet. Anyway, today they had bins filled with the most amazing summer corn. It was screaming out to me, “grill me”! Sure, I know I should have gone for the green vegetables, but I broke down and bought the corn. And it was good.

If you don’t have a high school reunion coming up, then please, indulge yourself in sweet, summer corn on the grill. It’s easy, inexpensive, and oh-so-good.

Spicy Grilled Corn

Spicy Grilled Corn

  • 6 ears fresh corn with husk on
  • 1 stick of salted butter, room temperature
  • zest of  1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese or queso fresco
Directions
  1. Preheat your grill on medium-high.
  2. Take your corn with the husk on and place them in a sink of cold water to soak for about 20 minutes. Place something heavy on top of them to keep them submerged.
  3. While your corn is soaking, place your room temperature butter in a medium bowl. Add all the other ingredients, except the cheese, and combine with a spatula.
  4. After 20 minutes remove your corn from the sink and pull back the husks and remove the silk. Remove  some of the outer layers of the husks, but leave some on because you will be covering the corn back up.
  5. With a brush, brush a layer of the compound butter mixture onto the corn, cover back up with the husk, and wrap it in aluminum foil.
  6. Place the wrapped corn on the grill for about 12-15 minutes, turning every 3 minutes to evenly cook the corn.
  7. When you remove the foil and husk from the corn, brush again with the butter mixture, and sprinkle with cotija cheese.

Fresh Summer Corn

Mama’s Tips:

Plan in advance. You can leave your butter out overnight, and by the next day it will be the perfect consistency.

You can make your butter mixture 2 days in advance. Just cover and refrigerate it. When you are ready to use it, just bring it to room temperature.

For a party appetizer, cut corn into 1 1/2″ pieces and just insert a toothpick.

Spicy Grilled Corn

Recipe: Easy


French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

My husband and I have this weird obsession with French onion soup. We order it in every restaurant we go to that has it on the menu. Although it’s a fairly simple soup, you would be surprised how differently, different restaurants prepare it. He and I took a vote, and we decided the best we’ve had so far is at a place called Cafe Cigale in Oak Park (the Agoura/Thousand Oaks area, if you’re a local).

During the winter I like to make this soup at home, it’s really a no-fail recipe. This rich and hearty soup is perfect for dinner parties, or just cold, blustery nights when you need your insides warmed-up. (It was in fact 80 degrees here today, but I made it anyway!)  You might want to use a variety of onions such as yellow, red and sweet for a little more complex flavor. Either way, I just love the melt-y, crust-y, bubbly cheese on top when you first take it out of the oven. It’s so good!

French Onion Soup

Adapted From Williams Sonoma

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 lbs. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 French baguette
  • 3 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Directions
  1. In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until the onions are tender and a deep golden brown.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the onions until combined. Stir in the wine, then the stock and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaf.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. You can use eight, 1 1/2-cup broilerproof soup crocks, (or I used smaller ramekins because I was making more servings and wanted a smaller appetizer portion). Cut the baguette into 1/2″ slices and place on a baking sheet. Place under broiler (12″ from heat) turning once so that they’re toasted on both sides.
  4. Ladle hot soup into the crocks (or ramekins). Place ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place 2 slices of toasted bread on top of soup, overlapping if necessary. Don’t let the bread sink down into soup. Sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cheese on top. Place under broiler until the cheese is bubbling. Serve at once. This will make 8, 1 1/2 cup crocks or even more if you’re using smaller ramekins.
Recipe: Easy

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

It’s a gloomy, rainy Sunday here in sunny Southern California. I actually love it this way. Thanksgiving is only four days away and the damp, chilly air is bringing back memories of former Thanksgivings growing up on the east coast. The word that comes to mind when I think of this holiday is “home”.  When I went away to college and then when I moved to Los Angeles, I always went “home” for Thanksgiving to my parents house. No matter how busy everyone’s lives were, we always came together for Thanksgiving.

It’ funny, because I’m not really big on holidays. Halloween and Valentine’s Day are just another day to me. But Thanksgiving is a holiday that has a special place in my heart.  It just does.

I wanted to share this roasted root vegetable dish. It’s very easy to make, doesn’t require a lot of time, and the results are quite delicious. Roasting these vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. There’s no exact measurements here as you can make this for 2 people or ten.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

  • baby carrots, peeled
  • beets, any color, peeled and sliced into 1″ slices
  • parsnips, peeled, cut into 1″ slices
  • leeks, white part only, cut into 1″ slices
  • onion, cut into 1″ slices
  • yukon gold potatoes or sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1″ slices
  • olive oil
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • rosemary, finely chopped
  • garlic, finely chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all the vegetables in a baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil, enough to coat all the vegetables. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss.
  3. Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Take dish out and toss vegetables with the garlic and rosemary. Place dish back in oven uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, or until you can pierce the vegetables with a fork. Do not over-bake, you don’t want the vegetables too soft.

Recipe: Easy


Autumn Spiced Cranberry Sauce

I was in Target the other day and I had to laugh to myself. We’re just a few days past Halloween and already the store is adorned in Christmas decorations. I walked over to that area and the aisles are stocked with wrapping paper, ornaments and lights. It’s eighty degrees in Los Angeles, the leaves haven’t even started to fall, and I’m not ready to muster up that holiday spirit just yet.

I am however, in the early stages of Thanksgiving preparations. I’m starting to ponder what dishes I will make this year. Every holiday I like to add a new dish to my repertoire. I do have some creative ideas for desserts I’ve never done before, but then there are those family favorite dishes which will always remain a fixture in my Thanksgiving dinner. For the past 30 years I’ve made my Aunt Evelyn’s sweet potato and apple casserole topped with marshmallows. I loved it as a kid and my two sons dig into it as soon as I place it on table.

Growing up in the sixties I remember my mother serving cranberry sauce with our turkey. I can still picture that Ocean Spray can and the gelatinous, cylindrical shaped cranberry concoction that came out of it. (It should be noted that my mother is a very good cook, except for the cranberry sauce). For many years I believed that was the only way you could eat cranberry sauce. About five years ago I decided to give the cranberry a second chance, and I’m glad I did.

This cranberry sauce is so good, I just eat it out of the container for several days after the holiday.  It’s sweet, it’s tart, it’s spicy! Just say no to the can.

Autumn Spiced Cranberry Sauce

From Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1/2 orange
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tart apple, Granny Smith or Pippin
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions
  • Squeeze the juice from the 1/2 orange and set aside. Remove and discard the membrane and pith (the white part) from the inside of the orange and cut the rind into a very small dice.  In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • Peel, core and quarter the appale. Cut into a 1/2 inch dice and place in a medium saucepan. Sort the cranberries and discard any soft ones. Add cranberries to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Transfer the sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for one hour. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe: Easy


Use Your Noodle…kugel, a sweet noodle pudding

Kugel… you’ve gotta love that word. It’s roots are Eastern European, just like my own. My mother’s been making this dish for as long as I can remember. Eating it brings back warm family memories of holiday dinners with relatives no longer with me.

Kugel is generally served as a side dish with dinner, but with apples and golden raisins in it, and it’s custard-like consistency, you could even serve it as a dessert. Yep, you wanna dive right in. You can eat it as is, or if you really  want the maximum kugel experience, you can serve it with a dollop of sour cream or apple sauce. Yes, yes I know it’s a bit high in calories, but we only eat it a couple times a year. It couldn’t hurt.

Sweet Kugel

Recipe by Marion Clofine, (my mother)

  • 2 cups hot, cooked noodles (I used the fine noodles, but wider noodles work equally as well)
  • 2 T softened butter
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1 Granny Smith apple cut into very thin pieces
  • 1/4 c sugar & 2 t cinnamon combined together to sprinkle on top

Recipe

  1.  Mix hot noodles with butter until butter melts.
  2.  In medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream and salt together. Fold in cottage cheese, then milk and vanilla.
  3. Gently fold noodles into this mixture. Add raisins* and apples.
  4. Pour mixture into 8 x 8 pan that has been coated in cooking spray. Sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake in 325 degree oven for 50-60 minutes until lightly browned and when inserted toothpick comes out clean.

* I soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes to plump them up.  A plump raisin is a good raisin.

Check out this recipe in The Basics,  an online lifestyle magazine.


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