Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Impromptu Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Almonds

My little pug, Dakota loves fruit. Everytime I make anything that involves peeling fruit, she runs over thinking it is time for a snack because she knows that I have a soft spot for giving her fresh fruits. She loves just about all the fruits that went into this impromptu fruit, yogurt and nut salad, so when I make this, I always have a little pug beggar around. If she wasn't so cute that might be a problem!

At any rate, this salad takes just a few minutes to make and is quite possibly the healthiest thing you could make for lunch. I made this after I received some smoked almonds in a shipment of fabulous nuts, courtesy of ShopRite, and decided to try them out with some of my favorite fruits. The smoked almonds are great - really addictive even on their own, but perfect with a mix of fruit, yogurt and a bit of cinnamon. This is a very simple lunch, so feel free to change the fruits depending on what you prefer, and what is in season. Just combine the ingredients below, top with a bit of cinnamon and enjoy!

Sasha's Fruit, Nut and Yogurt Lunch
One granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
One banana, sliced
handful of blueberries
handful of smoked almonds
one small, individual sized container of 2% greek yogurt, such as Fage
ground cinnamon

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Beef Empanadas

I have been making empanadas over the years since I was a kid. I have used quote a few different recipes for the filling and the pastry, always with delicious results. Below is my recipe for empanadas that I have revised from various earlier recipes. I have combined this with Marcus Samuelsson's recipe for peanut-mango sambal sauce from his book, New American Table (a truly great cookbook). I used my own recipe for the pastry and filling since his contains pork, which I don't eat.  These beef empanadas were delicious and went nicely with the nutty, yet tart and fruity sauce.

Sasha's Beef Empanada Filling
2/3 lb lean ground beef
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup raisons
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, diced

Sasha's Empanada Dough
1 cup skim milk
three small packages (about one ounce) dry active yeast
1 T butter, melted
1/4 cup of cold water (approximate)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Marcus Samuelsson's Peanut Mango Sambal
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp coriander
3 T unsalted, roasted, skinless peanuts
2 birds eye chilis, crumbled
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup coconut milk
2 T sugar
1/2 T fish sauche
1 mango, pitted and chopped into cubes

First, warm the milk in the microwave a bit. Add the sugar and the dry active yeast, and let rest until it becomes foamy and yeast activates, about ten minutes. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Form a well and add the liquid with the yeast. Add the water and butter (melted) as well and combine into a dough.  Knead dough until smooth, to get rid of any lumps. Allow to rise in a well-oiled bowl (covered) for about an hour.

While the dough is risking, prepare the filling. Saute the onion in olive oil and mix in the spices, beef and other ingredients. Cook until the beef is done and the mixture is combined and flavorful.

Using a square shaped cookie cutter, roll out the dough and cut into 3 inch squares. Fill with a teaspoon or so of the empanada filling and pinch to form a triangle. Seal, and brush with an egg white. Bake for 30 minutes or so at 325, until lightly browned.

To make Marcus's sambal to serve these, combine the garlic and coriander with a mortar and pestle. Add the peanuts, after pulverizing them in a food processor. Cook at medium heat in a pan until golden. Add the fresh ginger, ground ginger, coconut milk, and sugar. bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender, and add the fish sauce and the mango. Puree until smooth and serve as a dipping sauce for the empanadas.  Alternatively, if you prefer a lumpier texture, you can just stir in the mango cubes like Marcus suggests.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Salmon En Papillotte Salad

This is a healthy salmon salad that is just delicious, and is the perfect meal for a weekday dinner that is both health and satisfying. Next time I make this, I might try adding some crunch string beans as well. The combination of the tangy fruits and avocado with the salmon, salad and dressing is scrumptious and the perfect after-work meal that doesn't take to long to prepare. The En papillotte method of preparing salmon results in a moist and delicious fish that is preferable to many other methods of preparation which dry out the salmon. It's also quite easy, as well.

Sasha's Salmon En Papillotte Salad
2 6-8 oz filets of salmon, skinned
mesculin field greens or other mixed greens
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 cup of sweet corn
juice of one lemon, plus 2 T lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, diced
1/2 cup canola oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
parchment paper

First, season the salmon filets with salt and pepper. Combine the lemon juice and zest of one lemon in a mixing bowl. Use this to coat the salmon filets and wrap the seasoned salmon with the parchment paper. Fold in 2 sides of the parchment paper, then fold in the other sides so that all the edges meet at the top, then twist the edges together to seal. Take the packages of salmon and place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes at 350.

Combine the lettuce, avocado, mango and corn into salad plates. Add the salmon. Top with a dressing made of canola oil, balsamic vinegar and the remaining lemon juice. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Tea Party Strawberry Sodapop Cupcakes with Poprocks for Ovarian Cancer Research

Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are both causes dear to my heart. In fact, my beloved mother is a breast cancer survivor. So, when Foodbuzz and Kelly Confidential announced that they would be donating money to ovarian cancer research for each entry in Top Nine Tea Party Takeover on Foodbuzz, that gave me even more incentive to create the perfect cupcake recipe for a tea party. Kelly Confidential is a great organization that is sponsoring Electrolux and Kelly Ripa's virtual tea party for a truly important and cause - sponsoring ovarian cancer research. If you enter the tea party promotion on Kelly Confidential's website, they will donate $1 for each entry to this terrific cause.

These cupcakes are, of course, pink, both because they are tea party inspired, and as a tribute to women everywhere who are fighting ovarian and breast cancer. What could be cuter and better for a tea party than strawberry sodapop (or even strawberry champagne) cupcakes with crackling strawberry poprocks on the top, my all time favorite candy? I absolutely love everything about tea parties - they just bring out the feminine little girl cuteness in life. That's probably why Manhattan's Alice's Tea Cup - a tea party restaurants, is one of my favorite tea party spots.

Nothing is better for a tea party than these pretty pink cupcakes. They are fabulously strawberry flavored, and are the perfect match for a cup of tea with milk and honey for your next all-girl gathering. Perhaps you'd also like them alongside my Alice In Wonderland cupcakes for the ultimate tea party?

Oh, and what could be more perfect for a tea party than these cupcakes - mini strawberry sodapop cupcakes with poprocks! I was sure to keep enough batter to make a tray and a half of these too!

So, go PINK for your next tea party, pink for ovarian cancer research to put an end to this deadly disease.

Sasha's Strawberry Sodapop Cupcakes with Poprocks
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup seltzer with strawberry syrup (or Champagne with strawberry syrup)
1 stick of butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree

Sasha's Strawberry Poprocks Frosting
1 stick of butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 T strawberry syrup
3 T seltzer or Champagne

To make the cupcakes, beat the butter and sugar for three minutes on medium speed in your mixer, until smooth. Beat in the eggs and the seltzer, which you can make strawberry flavored with Hershey's Strawberry Syrup. Alternatively, if you prefer to go all out for your tea party, replace the seltzer with Champagne - by all means! Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Alternatively beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, until combined. Then add in the strawberry puree, which you should make from fresh strawberries.  Fill your full size and mini cupcakes trays with the batter- I filled one one and a half mini trays and a dozen regular size cupcakes. The large cupcakes bake for about 35 minutes at 350, the minis take closer to 20 minutes or so. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean, before they start to brown.

For the frosting, in your mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and confectioner's sugar until smooth and frosting like. Combine 3 T of seltzer and 1 T of strawberry syrup and beat that in as well.  Using a fluted tip, pipe the frosting onto each cupcake (or mini cupcake) using a frosting bag. Top with plenty of cracking poprocks and serve with delicious organic teas. Party time!
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