Monday, May 27, 2013

Curry Chicken Salad and Indian Chutney Dip

Day 35

Recently, on Ina Garten’s show, I watched as she prepared a chicken salad with curry that included raisins and mango chutney. Because I’m not a big fan of mixing sweets and savories, I began wondering how it might work if I made my own version of the chicken salad without the sweet component.  

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
I’m happy to report that it worked quite nicely, and it’s a chicken salad that I’ll make again and again, to be sure.Since curry is a classically Indian spice, I opted to take my recipe for green chutney that I always serve with Indian food and turn it into a yogurt dip to serve with cucumbers and tomatoes. A cold plate of curry chicken salad sandwiches with romaine lettuce paired with a cucumber salad with green chutney dip was the perfect dinner for a warm evening. Since everything is made ahead, it’s a great meal to serve for casual dinners on the patio. 

Logistically speaking, I decided on store-bought roasted chicken breasts to make things easier. Roasting a chicken at home is an even better option, but if it’s on sale, pre-roasted, I think that might save some time and unnecessary effort. 
It has always been my dream as an adult to have a place in the country where I could raise my own chickens, enjoy farm fresh eggs, and enjoy a curious medley of animals living in harmony. Growing up, that’s essentially what I had since we lived on a farm, but I didn’t appreciate the wholesomeness of it until now.

Whenever I go to the market, I see so much meat and poultry that it makes me afraid of our nation’s inability to sustain its production. We have become such a country of mass consumers that we have to search and shop very carefully to avoid hormone-injected, antibiotic-free meat. To avoid these unwanted additives, the price is often high, but we can make a difference by raising as much as we can on our own, then supporting our local farmers for the rest. 

Maybe you’ll choose to make this chicken salad with an organic chicken since it’s better for us, all around. And, don’t be afraid to experiment with the amounts of curry and cumin you add, as you might find that more is better to suit your taste. 

Curry Chicken Salad

5 cups roasted chicken breasts, chopped
4 large scallions, chopped with green 
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (plus ½ cup more if needed for desired creaminess)
2 tbs. dry white wine
1 cup toasted cashews or black walnuts
4 tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the mayonnaise (1 cup to start), white wine, garlic, curry powder, 1½ tsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, and cumin. Mix well. Add chicken, scallions, and celery, and gently blend. Taste to determine personal preference for salt/pepper and creaminess. Add more mayo, salt, or pepper if desired. Finally, add cashews and combine gently. Chill for a few hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature on sandwiches, in wraps, or on crackers. 

Indian Chutney Dip

2-3 large bunches cilantro, washed with bottom of stalks removed
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and chopped
½ tsp. grated ginger root
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (Fage brand recommended for best texture)

Into a food processor, place cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lemon juice, ginger, and olive oil. Blend until completely smooth. Remove from food processor and pour into a mixing bowl. Add yogurt and fold until completely combined. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

*This dip is excellent with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. It can be tossed together just prior to presentation or served as a dip beside the vegetables. Serving with other Indian flavors—such as curry—results in the best flavor combination. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake with Coffee Glaze

Day 34

The idea of adding Greek yogurt to anything these days makes us feel healthier, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve been experimenting with using plain and flavored yogurts in various dishes to replace less healthy ingredients. 

Most recently, the addition was to a very simple pound cake recipe, and the result was absolutely delicious. For this cake, I used vanilla Chobani Greek yogurt. This is a very quick and easy recipe that requires very little prep or clean up time, so it’s ideal if you’re looking to make a quick cake for a last minute visitor or invitation. 

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake with Coffee Glaze 

1 box Pillsbury white cake mix (mix “with pudding in the mix”)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 – 8oz container vanilla Chobani Greek yogurt
½ cup sugar
2 sticks butter, softened at room temperature
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease bundt pan with shortening, then sprinkle with sugar to coat entire surface. Discard any extra sugar on pan. 

With mixer on medium, beat butter, yogurt, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Finally, add cake mix and vanilla. Beat until entire mixture is incorporated. Cake will be thick. Pour into bundt pan and tap on counter to release air bubbles. 

Bake 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Coffee Glaze

1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons strong coffee (more if needed)

Mix until glaze is thick but will still pour. Pour on cooled cake. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Crockpot Lasagna

Day 33

After a long day at work, isn’t it nice to come home to a dinner that has been simmering all day, filling the house with amazing aromas? Crockpot cooking is often the best route for families on the go. With just a little planning ahead, you can put together an outstanding crockpot dinner in minutes, and the slow cooker will do the rest while you are away.

Our family enjoys many meals from the crockpot, for sure, but one of our favorites is a pasta dish I call Crockpot Lasagna.
Copyright,  Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
It’s not exactly a lasagna, to be truthful, because the pasta used isn’t the lasagna variety. Instead, I use a small pasta—either campanelle or quadrefiore— that is easier to scoop from the slow cooker. The other ingredients are those traditionally in oven-baked lasagna, however. I do recommend a really good store-bought marinara sauce, or if you prefer making your own, that’s even better. Personally, I stand behind the Rao’s sauces; they taste very fresh and are not skimpy on the good ingredients. 

It’s fair to say that nothing beats a perfectly baked lasagna straight from the oven, but sometimes we want similar flavors and textures without all of the time and fuss. If that’s what you’re seeking, this is the dish for your next crockpot meal. 

Crockpot Lasagna

½  lb. bulk Italian sausage
½ lb. ground veal or ground beef
1 large onion, chopped 
1 small green pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tbs. black pepper
2- 24 oz. jars marinara sauce (Rao’s Tomato Basil Marinara is my favorite)
2 tbs. dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb. box pasta


Brown ground sausage, beef, onion, and green pepper. Drain fat. To meat mixture, add garlic, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, basil, and marinara sauce. Mix thoroughly. 

Combine ricotta, parmesan, and 2 cups of mozzarella.

In Crock pot, layer meat sauce, uncooked noodles, ricotta mixture, repeating until all ingredients are distributed, and ending with meat sauce. 

Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until noodles are tender. Uncover and add remaining 2 cups of mozzarella. Cover and allow to stand until all cheese is melted (about 10 minutes). 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mediterranean Pasta Primavera

Day 32

There’s something truly
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
comforting about pasta. Adding generous portions of chicken, nuts, cheese, and vegetables only makes the plate more enticing. This recipe is as simple as can be. The sauce feels light and barely flavors the pasta, allowing each of the ingredients to speak clearly. This is perfect for an intimate dinner for two or for a simple dinner for a movie night with friends.

Mediterranean Pasta Primavera
1 – 8oz. box rigatoni, cooked al dente
1 cup frozen peas
12 asparagus spears, roasted for 10 minutes
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
4 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
½ cup fresh basil
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a pan, sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes. Add white wine, olive oil, butter, oregano, basil, sundried tomatoes, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to incorporate. Add all other ingredients EXCEPT pine nuts and Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss and cook until flavors are incorporated and ingredients are hot—about 5 minutes. Place portions on plates and sprinkle with pine nuts and Parmesan. Serve immediately. 

Serves 4. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Greek Picnic Pasta Salad

Day 31

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!

Finally, we’re having some sunny weather, and we’re all thinking about the warmer temperatures ahead. For this special weekend to honor mothers, maybe you’ll want to invite the family for a Mother’s Day picnic instead of going to a crowded restaurant.This pasta salad is easy to make, filled with healthful ingredients, and is absolutely delicious. It would be an excellent addition to a family picnic, for sure. 

I hope you will give it a try the next time you are in the mood for cooking out with those you love. 
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Greek Picnic Pasta Salad
1 – 8oz. box whole wheat rotini, cooked al dente
20 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
½ large red onion, chopped
30 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 Peperoncini Peppers, whole
1 cup chopped chicken breast, optional
1 cup Ken’s Light Caesar Dressing
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine Ken’s dressing, olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and black pepper to make a vinaigrette. 

After cooking and draining, add warm pasta to vinaigrette and stir to incorporate. 

Add all other ingredients EXCEPT parmesan and peperoncini peppers. Taste to determine how much salt to add, if any, according to your taste preference. 

Sprinkle top of pasta salad with parmesan cheese and place peperoncini peppers on top to garnish. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tropical Margaritas (& Cilantro Pesto Gnocchi with Chorizo)

Day 30

Happy Cinco de Mayo! 

In honor of May 5th, I thought I’d prepare Tropical Margaritas and pesto sauced gnocchi with a Mexican twist. 

I love margaritas, so I wanted to make an interesting margarita with the very best ingredients.  My
Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013

afternoon began at our favorite local spirits shop, North Ridge Wine & Spirits, where co-owner Brad Boarman gave my husband a crash course on the best alcohol choices for margaritas. Moments later, we left the store with the two most important parts of a good margarita: Grand Marnier Triple Sec and Patron White Tequila. If you happen to live in or near Howard County, Maryland, please visit North Ridge Wine & Spirits for all of your party and personal purchases. They always take the time to address each customer’s needs and to explain the best options for each customer’s situation. Visit their website at

After leaving Northridge, I stopped by the market for fresh lemons, limes, and pineapple juice. Less than an hour later, my husband was breaking ice and salting the rims of our glasses as I mixed the margarita ingredients. It was the best way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, for sure! And, believe it or not, the afternoon kept getting better with the gnocchi dish that followed our cocktails on the deck.
Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013

Here’s our recipe for 

Tropical Margaritas:
Juice of 5 large lemons
Juice of 6 limes
Juice of 2 large oranges
1 pint pineapple juice
1 cup Triple Sec
1 cup White Tequila
4 cups chopped ice
1 lime, wedged
Kosher salt

Rub rims of glasses with lime and dip glass rims in salt to coat. Ice glasses. In large pitcher, mix all liquid ingredients and stir. Ice margarita mix in pitcher. Serve immediately. 

Gnocchi with Cilantro Pesto & Grilled Chorizo Sausage

Because I love gnocchi and had planned it for our weekend dinner, I decided to make it with a Cinco de Mayo twist to accompany the margaritas. Remaining faithful to my love of cilantro, I wondered how it might work to make a cilantro-basil pesto rather than a simple basil base. The result of my experiment was very pleasing, and I might choose to make this a permanent change in my future pesto dishes. 

If you’re like me, you love the creamy texture of gnocchi. The fact that it is made from potatoes rather than a simple flour base makes it much richer and more comforting than pasta. The combination of pesto sauce and gnocchi really is outstanding. To add even more flavor, we grilled Mexican Chorizo sausage to accompany the gnocchi as well. I hope you’ll try this dish, no matter the holiday or dinner occasion; it’s classic comfort food, to be sure. 

Buen provecho!

Gnocchi with Cilantro Pesto & Grilled Chorizo Sausage

8 chorizo sausages, grilled
3 lbs. gnocchi, cooked 2-3 minutes or until al dente
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
½ cup pine nuts
15 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3 cups fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
½ small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese 

In a food processor, blend garlic and pine nuts until finely chopped. Add basil, cilantro, salt, jalapeno, and pepper. Chop. Slowly add olive oil and lemon juice through the feed tube while food processor is running. Add 1 ½ cups Parmesan and blend again. Taste to check seasoning. Add more salt if needed. 

Gently toss pesto with hot gnocchi. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Serve each plate with 1-2 chorizo links. 

Serves 4-6 people. 

Ice Cream Party Cake

Day 29

Ice cream is wonderful. I just love it. A hot summer day is always improved with an ice cream dessert, and the creamier and stickier the better. If you are ever in Fredericksburg, Virginia, there’s an old-fashioned custard shop—an institution, really—called Carl’s.
Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013
I read about it in a Southern Living magazine years ago, then I made the trip from southern Virginia to Fredericksburg just to try it. Believe it or not, the drive was worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten homemade frozen custard so delicious. Consequently, I am always searching for homemade frozen custard and ice cream recipes to try, as our family enjoys making our own ice cream as often as we can. 

 Recently, I happened upon a recipe in Family Circle’s Best Ever Dessert Recipes magazine. It was listed under “frozen desserts” and is called a “Layered Ice Cream Cake”. It looked so spectacularly yummy that I decided to change the ice cream flavors and give it a try. 
I guess I should preface by saying that a food artist I am not. So, my cake isn’t nearly as lovely and perfectly symmetrical as Family Circle’s, but it was a first try and it still tasted incredibly good. I’m including it here so that you might also give it a try for your next warm spring or summer get-together. Once I made it, it disappeared in less than 24 hours. 
It must have been the irresistible combination of three well-balanced ice cream flavors, Oreo cookies, and ice cream sandwiches. How can we go wrong with those ingredients? The nicest part of this recipe is that it requires NO cooking. Personally, I’d rather cook than assemble since I have more confidence in my cooking than in my artistic ability, but I had a lot of fun trying this one for the first time. 
The basic premise is to begin with an Oreo bottom crust in a large springform pan. Then, the ice cream sandwiches are quartered to serve as the outside “crust” around the pan. Finally, the three ice cream layers are neatly covered with Cool Whip and Oreo crumbles serve as the end touches. Even though the magazine recipe did not specify ice cream brands, I chose really good quality creams that I would enjoy independent of an ice cream cake. After all, food is only as good as the ingredients we are willing to use. Personally, I prefer Talenti gelatos over traditional ice cream brands, although I’m also partial to Häagen Dazs. And, if I’m in the market for a store brand, I have to admit that Harris Teeter brand ice cream is really good. I don’t recommend making your own ice cream for this recipe since homemade ice cream tends to break down a bit faster than store-bought. 

I think you’ll have a lot of fun trying this one. Enjoy!

Ice Cream Party Cake

Nonstick cooking spray
10 ice cream sandwiches
20 Oreo cookies
1 tbs. milk
1 pint Talenti Tahitian Vanilla Bean ice cream (gelato)
1 pint Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream (gelato)
1 pint Talenti Belgian Milk Chocolate ice cream (gelato)
2- 8oz. containers frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed


Spray bottom of 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line sides with waxed paper, cutting to height of pan. 

Place 14 Oreos in a food processor and blend until fine crumbs form. Add milk and process again until fully incorporated. Set aside. 

Unwrap 5 ice cream sandwiches at a time, quickly cutting each into quarters. Stack strips of ice cream sandwiches on end, packing very tightly around waxed paper-lined pan. Repeat with sandwiches until a complete crust is formed around entire pan. Spoon cookie crumbs into center of pan and press firmly over bottom. Freeze for 1 hour. 

Let ice cream stand for 15 minutes to soften slightly. Spread the vanilla ice cream over cookie crust, making as smooth as possible. Repeat with chocolate, then raspberry ice creams. Spread Cool Whip on top of last ice cream layer, swirling attractively. Break remaining Oreos and use to garnish top of cake. 

Cover and re-freeze overnight. 

To serve, remove sides of springform pan, peel off waxed paper, and cut into generous wedges. Enjoy immediately. 

In case you’re interested in seeing the original recipe and picture I used to make my version of the ice cream cake, here’s a link that might be helpful: