Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce

Many people extol the wonderful qualities of winter. They argue that warm winter fires, cozy blanket couch snuggling and glistening snowflakes are romantic and special. Well as someone who lives in a fireplace-less apartment that Matt keeps at a snuggie required temperature year round I argue, what is so romantic about an extra-long work commute on a sandy, dirty snow-covered road?

Yes, I know, January just started and I’m already complaining about winter. January gets me a little down as my favorite holiday of the year is over and there’s nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season. Besides Valentine’s Day, my anniversary, skiing, creamy winter mac and cheeses… but hey, I’m busy complaining here! Sometimes I need a little burst of summer to get me through these long dark days. Aside from actually seeing the sun before and after work, what really gets me thinking about summer are summer vegetables. And french fries, mmm french fries.

Voila! Baked zucchini fries. These fries will have everyone gobbling their vegetables like they’re, well, eating fries. The subtle flavor of the zucchini is amped up by the seasonings in the crunchy coating. Served alongside special sauce these baked zucchini fries may just be habit-forming. My mom used to call it fish stick sauce, but I think special sauce sounds a little more appetizing and versatile. Special sauce is also fitting as it has special powers that include getting kids to gobble up their fish sticks and vegetables. So make these fries and bring some summer to your winter.

Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
for the zucchini fries
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
for the sauce
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Lightly coat a cooling rack with cooking spray then place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Set aside.
  3. Cut the zucchini into 3 inch sticks.
  4. Place the olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. In a separate small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and seasonings.
  6. Working one zucchini stick at a time, dip the stick into the olive, coat in the breadcrumb bowl then carefully place on the prepared cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining zucchini sticks.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. While the zucchini fries are baking, combine the mayonnaise and ketchup. Serve the zucchini fries warm with the special sauce for dipping.
Notes
Zucchini is naturally a soft vegetable when cooked so don't expect a sturdy fry, just one with flavor and an outer crunch.

Recipe adapted from Health Magazine.

Baked Pistachio Crusted Chicken

What is there to say about chicken? It’s healthy, a great source of protein and can be on the table in under thirty minutes. Did I put you to sleep yet? That is how I was feeling after all the chicken-eating going on in my apartment. The chickens were taking over! Well, at least of the boneless skinless variety. If you’ve been feeling like this lately then either you’re still traumatized from that childhood farm incident or you need to add some pizazz to your dinner table. Lets hope it’s the later, I’m a food blogger not a therapist.

I did not want to remove the chicken takeover from my kitchen as it has many mealtime benefits as previously mentioned. I decided I simply needed to add some new flavors and textures to re-excite myself about dinner. This baked pistachio crusted chicken has a crunchy exterior and juicy interior all while still bringing the health factor. It also pairs really well with last week’s roasted beet, blackberry and goat cheese salad; how convenient is that? So put down the grill pan and step away from the stir fry. It’s time to wake up your senses and reinvent your chicken.

I have some other chicken recipes I am trying out so I will be sure to share those here on Lemon & Mocha. However I am always looking for new suggestions. What is your favorite way to cook up this versatile poultry?

Baked Pistachio Crusted Chicken
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups unsalted shelled pistachios
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly coat a cooling rack or roasting rack with cooking spray. Set over a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and set aside.
  3. Roughly chop the shelled pistachios in a food processor.
  4. Combine the chopped pistachios and seasonings in a shallow bowl.
  5. Place 1 chicken breast in the pistachio mixture and press down to coat. Flip and coat the other side of the breast. Carefully place on the prepared cooling rack. Do not pat the chicken dry as you will need the natural moisture of the chicken to help the pistachio coating stick. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts.
  6. Bake the chicken for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. The time varies because every oven is different and chicken can dry out quickly so it's best to use temperature rather than time to judge doneness.
  7. Remove and serve with a big salad or lemon orzo and asparagus.

 

Roasted Beet, Blackberry and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Champagne Vinaigrette

It is January 1st. A new year is upon us! It’s time for reflecting on how we live our lives, making resolutions to do better, watching our diet and going to the gym; at least for the next three weeks. In the spirit of the new year I am going to try very, very hard to not post any desserts for the next three weeks. Joking aside I know I could certainly use a dessert detox after all the stuffing my face sessions I participated in over the last couple months.

Being the food obsessed person I am I have an extraordinarily difficult time dieting so instead I just try to keep my meals fresh, healthy and flavorful. As I have previously mentioned on Lemon & Mocha I am not a fan of salads resembling rabbit food. However, I find when salads have a cooked element instead of all raw ingredients the texture and flavor is greatly enhanced.

This roasted beet, blackberry and goat cheese salad with an orange champagne vinaigrette packs so much punch you will completely forget you are eating healthy. The beets are roasted to mellow and sweeten their flavor as well as sliced thin to keep them from overwhelming the rest of the salad. The creamy goat cheese provides a nice contrast to the tangy citrus infused dressing. Serve alongside roast chicken or as a vegetarian main dish for a fresh, flavorful and seasonal meal this winter.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Champagne Vinaigrette
 
Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup dressing
Ingredients
for the salad
  • 1 large beet, top trimmed
  • 1 large golden beet, top trimmed
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 cups mixed beet greens and mesclun
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • Crumbled goat cheese
for the dressing
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot, about ½ a shallot
  • ¼ cup orange champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • Pinch of sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
for the salad
  1. Rinse the beets, scrubbing off any dirt, then dry. Tear off 2 small squares of tin foil large enough to encase each beet. Place each beet in a square of tin foil, slightly turn up the sides and drizzle each with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper then seal up the tin foil packets. Bake the beets in the foil packets for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the beets from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to touch, remove the skins by hand or with a paring knife. Thinly slice the beets.
  3. Wash the greens and place in a large bowl. Add the sliced beets and blackberries then toss with some of the dressing. Top with the crumbled goat cheese.
for the dressing
  1. Whisk together the minced shallot, orange champagne vinegar, mustard, orange juice and sugar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil then season with salt and pepper.
Notes
*I got orange champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's, but if you can't find any you can use regular champagne vinegar and add 1 tablespoon orange zest.
*Use the leaves from the bunches of beets for the beet greens.

Dressing recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

Crab Dip Puffs

It seems as though New Year’s Eve menus are just classier versions of Christmas meals. Since it’s only a few days later all the same winter and holiday flavors are still relevant. But you want to look festive ringing in the new year so you bust out the champagne flutes, 2014 flashing glasses and the kazoos. See? Classy. I’m here to help you take your regular tasty traditions to the next level. Introducing flaky and creamy crab dip puffs.

The original cheesy and addictive crab dip has been elevated to proper New Year’s Eve fanciness. Serve these for any party or gathering and your guests will be both impressed and satisfied. The best part is that they don’t have to know how simple it all was. Squares of pre-made puff pastry are pressed into a muffin tin before being topped with a quick one-bowl dip.

The little squares of puff pastry serve as a vessels for the dip and provide a perfect flaky and buttery complement. Topped with chopped scallions for some nice color, crunch and enhanced flavor, everyone will be going back for thirds and fourths. The crab dip puffs can also be made ahead, frozen and reheated in the oven giving you less to do and more time to hang with your guests. So at your next gathering get fancy with these simple delicious crab dip puffs and remember, pinkies up!

Crab Dip Puffs
 
Yield: 48 puffs
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 green onion, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream, crab, mayonnaise and seasonings. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface unfold the first puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10" by 15".
  4. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  5. Spoon a small tablespoon of the prepared crab dip into each puff pastry cup then top with half of the reserved cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet, crab dip and cheddar cheese.
  7. Remove from the pan and top with the chopped green onions. Serve hot.
Notes
To reheat frozen crab dip puffs place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Egg Nog Ice Cream

There are some flavors we really only see around the holiday season like gingerbread and pumpkin. Another one of those flavors is egg nog. Now I think I could really enjoy a moist spiced gingerbread loaf or some smooth pumpkin hummus anytime during the cooler months, but it takes a special time of the year to be in the mood for egg nog.

The first time I had egg nog was in the form of a dining hall carton that we spiked with Captain Morgan’s in a college dorm room. I have definitely come a long way since then. This egg nog ice cream is spiced and sophisticated. But one thing hasn’t changed- this ice cream is boozy. An adult-table-only-make-you-go-woah kind of treat. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Especially on days when your whole family is together from sun-up to sun-down and you’re starting to find yourself going a little kooky. One bite of this ice cream will slap your tastebuds back to reality. Best served to adults alongside a warm slice of gingerbread cake or a pumpkin bread pudding to add a little liquored up sophistication to your holiday desserts.

Egg Nog Ice Cream
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and place a mesh strainer on top.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat warm the milk, sugar and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks. Whisking constantly carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks then pour the mixture with the egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure to scrap the bottom, until the mixture is thick enough that it coats the spatula.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for a couple minutes. Then pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the heavy cream. Stir to combine then add the nutmeg, brandy, rum and vanilla.
  6. Stir until cool over an ice bath then chill the mixture completely in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop.