Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pesto Caprese Toasts

Happy Saturday! Coming at you with a really quick breakfast recipe this morning.




I know avocado toast is all the rage these days, and don't get me wrong, I eat my fair share of it. I love avocado on just about anything, and eating it in all its un-mucked-up glory with just some sea salt, olive oil and crushed red pepper on good bread is probably one of my favorite things to eat ever. But...sometimes you just need a change. And it's spring, and basil is making its way back into my kitchen. And basil means pesto.


Basil also means caprese salad. But in this version, I've swapped spinach for the tomatoes and then piled everything up on top of toasted Ezekiel bread. It is so.good. It's garlicky, cheesy, bright, fresh, crunchy, creamy, nutty - literally all the good food adjectives. Matt and I have eaten it both for breakfast and lunch, and I'm sure it'd be good for a mid-afternoon pick me up. What's not to love?

Pesto Caprese Toasts
2 slices of sprouted or whole wheat bread, toasted
1/4 cup basil pesto
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
8 oz. buffalo mozzarella, sliced thick
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

On each slice of toast, spread half the pesto; top with spinach leaves and mozzarella slices, drizzle with olive oil, and top with salt, pepper and fresh basil. Devour.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Host an Easy Brunch

And the winner of the Tuttorosso and Inspiralized giveaway is...greenmtngirl!


Congrats! Please email your address to SomeSugarAdded@Gmail.com so we can get the prize pack out to you.

***

So today we're going to talk about brunch. And how to deal with hosting it at the very last minute with virtually no time to prep.




Have you ever ended up having people over for a spur of the moment meal, and had a minor panic attack that you didn't have time to plan and have no idea what you're going to do? This weekend the only plans I thought I had were doing some shopping for my sister's upcoming bachelorette party in Florida and a long-awaited get together with my girlfriends on Saturday night. Buttt my husband apparently had other plans.

On Friday evening, while sitting in the driveway leisurely drinking an IPA and watching Riker ride bikes with his new neighborhood friends, he informed me that we had plans with his family to go to the boardwalk all Saturday afternoon (after Riker's first soccer game at 8:00 in the morning), and also that he had invited a bunch of friends and their children over for Sunday brunch. Um...ok. For me, the "plan every last detail and everything must be perfect Type A dinner host", this was way stressful. I had no time to really plan anything and not much time to cook since we'd be out all day/night on Saturday. I had a little freakout, and then decided to just go with it. And I ended up having a really great weekend. I loved seeing all our friends and family, enjoying the beautiful weather and seeing our kids having fun running around together. I'm really going to try working on not getting so worked up about impromptu plans and be more spur of the moment, because a lot of times those days end up being the best days.

But that said, if you find yourself in a situation where your significant other informs you that you're having people over for brunch (or any meal) at the last minute, here are 4 tips to get you through it.

1. Don't Stress Out
I plan everything to the nth degree. But sometimes all that planning makes it way more tiring that it needs to be. A few months ago I read this blog post called "Friday Night Meatballs: How to Change Your Life with Pasta", and it really made me think about how every meal and gathering of friends does not have to be "special." What's special is that we're getting together. We all just want to see each other (okay and have some food and drinks most likely), but no one is going to judge if the table isn't perfectly set or the house is a little (a lot) messy. If you haven't read that article, I highly suggest it. Let's all be more impromptu about getting together with our friends and not worry about all the details. Who cares about place settings and crumbs on the floor when you're sipping a mimosa with your best friends watching these joyful little babes run around with glee?









2. Make it a Potluck
With #1 in mind, making a gathering a potluck makes things way easier on the host. When people offer to bring something to my house, my first instinct is to say, "Nope, just come, we've got it." I like people to just come and relax. I enjoy being a host. But it doesn't have to be that way every single time. This was a casual spring brunch and all our friends offered to bring a dish, so we let them. It made me way less stressed, and I think everyone actually liked bringing something. People brought their A game to this potluck.




For brunch it's nice to have a mix of breakfast and lunch / sweet & savory items, so we coordinated accordingly. And by "coordinated" I mean there was a text chain where everyone threw out ideas. One friend brought a gorgeous fruit & yogurt parfait bar and some roasted breakfast potatoes, and another friend brought flatbreads with fig jam, prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese and balsamic glaze (vegetarian ones for me and Heather).







3. Make Only One "Wow Factor"Dish
Another issue I have is over-thinking the menu. I go down the Pinterest rabbit hole and make a mile-long list of things to cook. But lately I've been trying to just make one or two complicated items and keep everything else simple.

For brunch I feel you have to have something egg-based and some kind of bread, as well as a salad. It's a classic combo. I had my heart set on making a homemade bread bar, so that was my one "wow factor" item. Everything else looked nice but was super simple to make.

The Bread 
I used this recipe for whole wheat bread because you don't have to knead it or let the yeast bloom. It takes time, but not much effort. And it came out great - less dense and crumbly than other whole wheat recipes I've tried. I made the dough first thing when I woke up so it was ready to go by brunch time.


For toppings, I made a few compound butters, a cream cheese spread and then some straight-from-the-jar organic strawberry jam.

Topping 1: Herb Butter using unsalted butter with fresh parsley and basil, dried thyme, lemon zest, sea salt and cracked pepper.




Topping 2: Sweet Orange Butter using unsalted butter, a few teaspoons of organic cane sugar, orange zest and a squeeze of orange juice. (Look at that color! It's all from the orange zest since the butter was white.)




Topping 3: Sundried Tomato Pesto Cream Cheese (unpictured) using homemade pesto I had in the freezer and the stash of sundried tomatoes I always have in the fridge.

Topping 4: Strawberry Jam. An old standby.



I put the "bread bar" on the kitchen island so people could snack on it right when they came in, while other things were cooking. It was something a bit unexpected and fun, and everyone seemed to like it. I also think homemade bread makes people feel like you made something special, but it's made from just a few simple ingredients that are always in the pantry, so it's a win win. Bonus: It makes your whole house smell amazingly yeasty, comforting and warm.

The Frittata
I like to make quiche for any special breakfast or brunch. But quiche meant I also had to make crust, and since I was already making the bread, I forced myself to quit the crust and opt for a frittata instead. Frittata reminds me of my grandmother; when I was in college she used to make it quite often and serve it with a simple green salad. This one included kale, caramelized onions and Vermont sharp cheddar; it had a great fluffy texture and nice salty bite from the cheese.




To make it, I  caramelized onions in some ghee (you can use oil or butter), then removed them from the pan. In the same pan I cooked a bunch of chopped kale with some sea salt and pepper. Once it was done, I added the onions back in. Then I whisked together 10 eggs with a splash of milk, salt, pepper and about 5 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese. I poured the egg mixture over the veggies and cooked it on the stove over medium heat for a few minutes until it start to set. Then I popped it in the oven at 450 for about 10 minutes until it was golden brown on top. Once it came out of the oven, I turned it over onto a wooden board and topped it with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.




Frittata is great for brunch because you can toss in literally whatever veggies, meats or cheeses you have on hand, you cook everything in one pan, and although it only takes about 30 minutes and very little effort to make, it has a really nice presentation.

The Sides
Lox is also a breakfast favorite of mine, and these little cucumber rounds with cream cheese, lox and dill took all of 10 minutes to make. These are also nice because lox is pricey - especially when you buy wild caught - but I only needed one 6 oz. package to fill a whole platter of cucumbers. A little goes a long way when you use it as an appetizer.




I also threw together a spinach & arugula salad with dried cranberries, orange segments, toasted walnuts and goat cheese, tossed with a homemade balsamic & raw honey dressing. Spinach and goat cheese salads are a no brainer in our group of friends - they're always gone in a flash.



{It looks so much prettier before it gets doused with cheese and dressing, doesn't it?}

Other Stuff
Matt still has some steaks in the freezer from our annual Vermont Natural Beef cow purchase, so he marinated a big steak in the morning and then threw it on the grill when everyone arrived. One steak cut into strips was plenty given all the other food around (we actually had a bunch leftover), but it's nice to have some kind of meat for the carnivorous crew.

I really debated making something sweet, like muffins or a lemon bread, but forced myself to cross it off the list. Not needed! There was plenty of food, and the sweet stuff probably would've barely been touched and then it'd be sitting at our house all week.

All in all, this menu was pretty simple to make and took about 3 hours total - even with a toddler and 10-month old running around between our feet all morning, even with trying to do a quick vacuum and toy pick-up, even with Matt very ambitiously doing some yard work before everyone arrived, and even with everyone getting showers (though I'll admit, I didn't make it to blowdrying my hair). If it weren't for all the distractions, I probably could've cooked everything in less than two hours.

4. Use What You Have
I based the menu almost entirely around what I already had in the house. I didn't want to have to make a big grocery list and spend an hour at the store. Instead, I just thought about what I had on hand that I could easily turn into a few dishes. I did have to run to the store early Sunday morning to grab lox (simply because I really wanted it) and some strawberry jam (I was low on jam and figured the kids might want it for the bread, but honestly, I could've made do with what I had). That made things much easier.

5. Ask Someone to Bring the Bubbly
My last tip is to have someone bring some bubbly. My friend Heather kept asking what she could bring, and really there was plenty of food already coming, so she offered to bring mimosas. They were the perfect addition. Mimosas make it a party. They feel a little special and fun, and sipping them sitting around the farm table while watching the kids play in the playroom made for a very relaxing Sunday morning. ;)




Note: Champagne actually gives me a bad headache and makes me extremely tired so I rarely drink it, but Heather used Prosecco, which has a lighter carbonation and doesn't seem as sweet to me, and it didn't make me tired or headachy at all. So if champagne goes straight to your head, try Prosecco.

Happy spring brunching!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Spring" Escarole, White Bean & Tomato Soup (Plus a Giveaway!)

I know it's spring. But this "spring" we're having is more like 34 degrees/snow/rain/sweater/boots days that require soup/bread/stew/pasta nights. So I think it's perfectly acceptable to still be making soup. Especially when it is filled with greens and comforting white beans but still has a light enough tomato broth that you can get warmed up without really feeling like it's the dead of winter. It's a good "spring" soup, if there is such a thing.


The tomato/escarole/white bean combination is nothing new - I've been eating it since I was a kid, when my mom and grandmother started teaching my sister and I to have a great love for those curly greens, but I like this version since it's a bit lighter than your typical pasta fagiole. It's also quite quick and you can throw it together last minute if you use canned beans rather than dried beans.


It's also good for when you have a head of escarole sitting in your fridge that you ordered in your produce box with no plan for it and then forgot about it until it was near wilting to death, but you couldn't bear to throw it away so figured SOUP(!) was the way to go. It's good for those times too.


I served these particular bowls with crispy little baguette toasts since I happened to have some leftover bread in the freezer. But it would also go really well with fresh homemade whole wheat bread fresh out of the oven, or homemade biscuits, or these pesto scones (whiiiiich I am totally making this weekend).


The Giveaway!

But for this giveaway. So as I've mentioned before, I often use Tuttorosso tomatoes when I'm cooking Italian food because that's how my mama (and her mama) taught me. I buy almost 100% organic ingredients for our regular eating (if I can find it organic, I buy it organic), but canned tomatoes is one place where I will make an exception. If I'm not canning my own, I'm usually using Tuttorosso. And one lucky reader will win a gift pack of tomatoes and other goodies to make this recipe in your own kitchen!

All you need to do is leave a comment below, and you'll automatically be entered to win. I will randomly select a winner on April 16. You can get extra entries by liking Some Sugar Added on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - links are at the top of the blog (just leave an extra comment telling me you did so). The gift pack will include:

- Springtime tomato recipes
- 28 oz. Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
- 28 oz. Tuttorosso NSA Peeled Plum Tomatos
- 28 oz. Tuttorosso Diced Tomatoes
- Inspiralized cookbook
- Tuttorosso coupons

Tuttorosso is actually also teaming up with Inspiralized (hello super easy zucchini noodles!) for another spring giveaway, which you can enter on Facebook here. That giveaway will include weekly prizes and a grand prize of Spiralizers, Inspiralized cookbooks, aprons, a picnic basket and kitchen gadgets. The contest will run through April 15. A free Spiralizer sounds awesome. Try your luck!

And now let's all pray to actually get some spring weather to go with our spring soups and veggie noodles.

Escarole, White Bean & Tomato Soup

Ingredients
1 head escarole, washed and torn
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cracked black pepper
28 oz. can of plum tomatoes, broken up with your fingers (I use Tuttorosso, Muir Glen Organic or homemade)
2 cups white beans (if using dried beans, soak first; if using canned, rinse first)
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. coconut sugar (can sub cane sugar if you don't have coconut sugar)
1 cup vegetable broth

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, then add escarole, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute about 5 minutes, until escarole is wilted and garlic is fragrant but not browned.

Add tomatoes, white beans, crushed red pepper, sugar and vegetable broth. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.