Provencal Summer Vegetable Bake and a little bit of Family History

Picture courtesy of Family Circle

I have often been asked 2 very popular questions all types of chefs are commonly posed with: How did you learn to cook and why do you like it so much? Well, the answers are truly easy. I love to cook because I love to eat, lol. I love to create flavors and I truly show my love through my tasty meals. I have over-salted, under-flavored, and burned many things throughout the process but that is where the fun of learning lies.

Growing up, I spent the better part of my childhood sitting on my abuelo’s kitchen floor watching him create Cuban masterpieces. You see my grandfather cooked daily meals for our family (12 in total) everyday. We would all leave his house with a cantina or tupperwares filled to capacity with his meals. This is how he showed his love- by feeding us. Papa, everyone’s favorite name for him, not only raised his five grandkids, he taught me his trade.

Upon finding this recipe in Family Circle, I knew I had to try it.  After tasting this deliciousness, I knew you all would enjoy it.

Provencal Summer Vegetable Bake:

What you Need: 

  • 2 medium sweet onions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
  • 3 large summer squash (combination of zucchini and yellow squash), ends trimmed
  • 1/2 pound russet potatoes
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 4 ounces goat cheese (Goat cheese can be a very strong flavor, you may want to replace it with Fresh Mozzarella or Feta Cheese)

Let the Fun Begin:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees . Peel and halve onions; cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a largesaute pan over medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in beans, 1/2 teaspoon of the herbes de Provence and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Pour mixture into bottom of a 9 x 13 oven-safe casserole.

2. Meanwhile, cut eggplant, squash, potatoes and tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. (To speed things up, use a food processor fitted with a slicing blade or a mandoline.) Toss vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Arrange vegetables on top of onion-bean mixture in 1 layer; pack tightly.

3. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove foil and crumble cheese on top. Bake 15 more minutes. Cool slightly and slice into 4 servings.

I am looking forward to hearing how your baking goes.

Much Love,

Nicki G. The Blissful Wife

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Recipes Sure to Cause Fireworks in Your Mouth

Today we honor this beautiful country many of us have the pleasures of living in. For my friends around the world, July 4th is the day we celebrate the United States birthday and if you are an avid follower of BlissfulVida you know how much I love birthdays! So one of this magnitude simply blows my socks off- well really my flip flops because I am getting ready to head to a BBQ!! 😉

I have decided to share some of our menu for today in hopes you may equally enjoy, no matter what nationality you are or where you live.

Sensational BBQ Skewers:

Picture doesn’t do it justice!

What You’ll Need

• 2 onions

• 3 bell peppers

• 2 1/2 pounds steak, 1 inch thick (Can alternate with chicken chunks, shrimp, or even Mahi Mahi)

• Skewers (if using wood skewers, soak in water) – Very important, you don’t want the fireworks starting early lol!

• Adobo seasoning by Goya (any ‘Sazon’ will do, but this is my favorite)

• EVOO- Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• Ground pepper

Optional Ingredients:

• Pineapple

• Grape tomatoes

• Worcestershire Sauce (for chicken or beef)

• Old Bay seasoning (for shrimp or Mahi)

Let the Fun Begin:

1. Cut onions and peppers into 1-inch pieces and put them in a bowl (if using tomatoes, include those in the mix). Generously douse vegetables with EVOO, Adobo and ground pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Cut steak into 1-inch cubes.- I usually buy the beef chunks pre-cut. If using chicken, shrimp or Mahi follow the same steps. Once desired meat is ready for seasoning, once again generously douse with EVOO, Adobo and pepper. Depending on the protein you are using you may want to add Worcestershire Sauce for chicken or meat or Old Bay seasoning for fish or shrimp. Once again allow to marinate (the longer, the better)

3. Place protein, onions and peppers on skewer, alternating varieties. If you would like to include the tomatoes and pineapple, continuing to alternate. Because fish and shrimp cook much quicker and chicken needs to be cooked completely, do not mix proteins.

4. Grill on the BBQ.

Note:

• Fish and shrimp will cook much quicker

• Beef cooking time will vary depending on the personal temperature desired.

• Chicken MUST be completely cooked (no pink on the inside)

Enjoy!

On the Drink Menu:

Because I am not a mixologist, I try and find recipes on the web that are delicious and are the perfect fit for my meal.

So today we are serving:

Frozen Mango Rum Cocktail courtesy of Yummly Recipes

What You’ll Need:

• 2 cups of white rum

• ½ cup of coconut rum

• ½ cup of fresh lime juice

• 3 cups of fresh mango

• 1 tablespoon of sugar, depending on the sweetness of the mango

• 2 cups of ice

Let the Fun Begin:

1. Blend all of the ingredients except the ice in a blender until the mango is pureed.

2. Gradually add the ice and continue to blend the drink until the ice is crushed and all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

3. Pour into glass and Enjoy

*Optional: If desired, pour the blended drink to a container and freeze for one hour.

Also on the Menu:

Cinco de Mayo Margaritas

Slow Cooker Magic- Asian Rib Sensation

*A little bit of magic from all around the world 😉

Friends,

On a serious note:  Have a blast but be safe!

Blissful Celebrations,

Nicki G. The Blissful Wife

Only 150 Calories of Cupcake Goodness

Sometimes inspiration comes from the wildest places- including a Boston College dorm room and a couple of hungry sophomores.  This is where Elizabeth Halle, author of the Little Moments of Happiness blog, learned to cook.  A Miami local, she wasn’t always into cooking until she was forced to learn after leaving the nest and going away to school.  Now Elizabeth is committed to finding healthy alternatives to our favorite recipes- including- drum roll please- A 150 CALORIE CUPCAKE!

Yes, you heard it friends, Elizabeth has discovered a healthy alternative to Mishas Cupcakes and it is more than a morsel of yummy deliciousness.  Did I mention Enticing Icing IS included?  Who knew healthy could taste so perfect?

Friends, with no further delay here is Elizabeth’s 150 Calorie Cupcake:

The 150 Calorie Cupcake

Makes 12 Cupcakes

What You Need: 

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup Splenda Sugar Blend
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup almond milk

Let the Fun Begin: 

  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. After, add the egg whites and extracts. Continue to mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture into the wet mixture. (From Step 3) Stir in 1/3 of the milk. Repeat until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Scoop the batter into the muffin tin (about ¼ cup each). Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enticing Icing

Makes approximately 4 cups

  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/ teaspoon vanilla extract

Continue the Fun:

  1. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about two minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time. After every 2 additions, 1 cup of powdered sugar, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds, then return to medium. Repeat four times.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated into icing.

Feel free to refrigerate the left over icing in an airtight container for up to 10 days to use with other pastries or cakes made throughout the week; simply make sure to thaw at room temperature for about 5 minutes before use.

Here you have it friends- with simple substitutions like almond milk and Splenda you have a splendid healthy alternative to a classic dessert.

Elizabeth is committed to giving us delicious healthy recipes on her blog Little Moments of Happiness and has recently launched Miami’s first health and fitness blog- The Live Well Lady.  Make sure to show her lots of love friends!

Until next time- Blissful Baking,

Nicki G. The Blissful Wife

Summer Fave Black Bean Mango Salsa Sensation

For the culinary world, living in tropical Miami around the summer months equals one thing: Mangoes. This delicious sweet treat is ripe, fresh and ready to eat; thus getting my succulent mango juices flowing with recipe ideas.   As a result, the Black Bean Mango Salsa Sensation was born. 

This perfectly fresh summer appetizer cannot only be another favorite Game-Day Grub, but the ideal tropical medley for a delicious BBQ. 

Black Bean Mango Salsa Sensation:

What You Need:

  • 2 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (I use a personal fave- El Ebro…for the Latin girl in me 😉
  • 1 can of sweet corn
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced in small squares
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup finely diced tri-colored peppers- Green, Red, Yellow
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Let the Fun Begin:

*Best suggestion: The most amazing gift for this blissful chef is the Vidalia Chop Wizard. This is truly the best tool for this recipe.

1.  Drain the 2 cans of beans very well, but if a little juice stays, no worries.

2.  Mix the beans and corn really well.

3.  Use the Vidalia Chop Wizard to finely dice the red onions and the tri colored peppers and add to the salsa.

4.  Throw the tropical magic into the mix by adding the succulent mango pieces

5.  Add lime juice, cumin, kosher salt, and ground pepper

6.  Allow time to marinate in the various delicious flavors; storing it in the frig for about 30 minutes or so.

Serve with your favorite Tostitos Chips and Blissfully Enjoy! 

Game Day Grub

BlissfulVida is blessed to have friends who visit from all over the world… Greece, Dominican Republic, Malaysia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Portugal, Mexico, Indonesia, The Netherlands, and so many more Blissful followers from many amazing countries I wish to one day see for myself.

Because of this, my foreign friends, you may not be aware that in my hometown, Miami FL, something pretty BIG is occurring. A metaphorical phenomenon of sorts, where heat and thunder combine and react in a particular setting- a basketball court.

Let me be perhaps the first to tell you that our beloved Miami Heat have reached the Mecca of the National Basketball Association- The NBA Finals- and they will be fighting for the championship title against the Oklahoma City Thunder beginning this evening.

So what better way to celebrate a hopeful win than with delicious Game Day Grub!

The perfect Pan Fried French Onion Dip is the recipe I will today share with you today.

We can thank the Barefoot Contessa for this glorious goodness that will take your taste buds and each of your senses to the perfect euphoric-state and game-day oblivion.

What You Need:

  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Let the Fun Begin:

  1. Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.)
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized.
  5. Allow the onions to cool.
  6. Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth.
  7. Add the onions and mix well.
  8. Taste for seasonings.

Blissfully Enjoy!!!