July 30, 2008

Keeping It Simple

Wow! I bet anyone visiting here for the last week was beginning to wonder what happened! Well, we have returned from a road trip to the mid-west to visit family. It was a good trip, and My Boys held up really well during the 20 hour trip. Lots of movies, games and activities - and don't forget a cooler full of sandwiches, drinks and snacks! Now that we have returned, I have an empty fridge and no time to go shopping. Which is why there isn't much to blog about. I've been using pantry staples and items from the freezer to keep us well fed.


Keeping a well-stocked freezer is key for weeks like this. Some people may wonder why I take the time to cook up batches of marinara sauce thorughout the winter months. The main reason is so that when I want to do a quick meal of spaghetti and meatballs I don't have to use a sauce from a jar - I know exactly what's in the sauce I use. I always keep some Trader Joe's Party Size Meatballs on hand becuase the boys love them and they are the perfect size for them to eat easily. I hope to make up my own meatballs this winter so that I can have a stash in the freezer.

My posting may be a bit sporadic over the next few weeks between social commitments and trips to the shore. So, stick with me and I'll post whenever I can. I do appreciate everyone who stops by just to vist, and will do my best to respond to all comments over the next few weeks.

July 21, 2008

Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies

Friday night, My Husband had poker night so once my little men were in bed I decided I wanted to bake cookies. Since it was evening and the temperatures outside were going lower, I didn't feel like that was a completely bad idea. Now, if it had been a few hours earlier I think a smoothie would have been in order instead.

I have no idea where this cookbook came from, but on my bookshelf I found the Nestle Best Loved Cookies cookbook. As I paged through I saw quite a few possibilities but just couldn't settle on one that fit my mood. Once I got to the "lighter delights" chapter I knew I found the right place for me! Those of you who have been visiting regularly may have noticed a trend lately - I've been REALLY, REALLY, REALLY trying to make more healthy and low-calorie recipes. Of course, I can't do that all the time because I don't believe in deprivation - I love food way too much for that. But, when I found this cookie cookbook had a lighter version of several of the recipes I was definitely interested to see if they would satisfy my never ending sweet tooth.

I decided to make the Good-for-You-Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies. I don't know why, but I have been wanting to find a really yummy oatmeal based cookie. I could make the one on the container of oatmeal, which is good, but I didn't want raisins and finding something that is lower in calories means I might be able to indulge in 2 cookies instead of just one. I also left out the nuts in the recipe, which means the calories are even lower than stated in the recipe. Of course with only 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per cookie, you can indulge even if you do add the nuts.

This recipe also gave me the chance to use another Penzey's spice that I had purchased, Chinese Cassia Cinnamin. Just opening the jar puts this incredible sweet and pungent scent in the air. The cinnamin in the recipe is not the star, but I must tell you that if you have a really good cinnamin it is worth using in this recipe. The extra punch of flavor added to the cookie is key to the overall taste. These lightened cookies are so delicious! I baked them so that they would stay soft and chewy rather than crispy. The texture with the oatmeal and chocolate chips is just like a perfect oatmeal cookie.

Good-for-You-Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies
Source: Nestle Best Loved Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Beat together brown sugar, granulated sugar, margarine and applesauce in a large mixer bowl. Beat in egg whites and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate and nuts. Drop by tablespoonful onto greased baking sheets.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes if you want a chewy cookie - 12-13 minutes for crispy cookies. Let stand on the cookie sheet after baking for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to completely cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Here are some more healthy treats to try:
Low-Fat Mini Cheesecake Tarts @ Stephanie's Kitchen
Double Chocolate Cookies @ Enlightened Cooking
Smoothies and Popsicles @ Prudence Pennywise

July 19, 2008

Lemon & Oregano Rubbed Chicken

It's not hard to tell when I find a new cookbook that inspires me because I tend to make a lot of new recipes from it right after I get them. The Lemon and Oregano Rubbed Chicken came from Cooking Light's Five Star Recipes and was one of those main dishes that went together in the blink of an eye. When it comes to weeknight meals that is key!

Rather than pounding the chicken, I opted to slice each chicken breast in half which accomplished the same goal without getting out any aggression. The rub was a thick consistency, but with just enough moisture that it was able to cover all four pieces of chicken. Don't skip the step of squeezing a bit of lemon over each piece before serving because it really makes the flavor bright and light - perfect for a summer dinner. Serve this with a simple salad of Romaine lettuce, tomatoes and lettuce and you have a complete meal.

This grilled chicken is a perfect dish to share with Joelen's Culinary Adventures and her Grilled Recipes round-up that will be posted after all entries are received by July 27th. There are sure to be a ton of fantastic grilling ideas from around the blogging world!

If you have leftover grilled chicken, as we did, you can slice it up and make another simple dinner of grilled wraps. My Husband added sauteed Vidalia onions to the wraps and their sweetness really complimented the chicken.

Now, for more simple summer dinner ideas, go check out these blogs:

Grilled Cajun Chicken Salad from A Corner of My Kitchen
Sicilian Summer Pasta from Good Things Catered

July 17, 2008

Rachael Ray's New Cookbook, Yum-O - Is It Really?

I have a couple of Rachael Ray's cookbooks and have found a few favorite recipes from each of them. I don't go to them often, but every once in awhile there's something that just sounds like it will hit the spot. When her new cookbook, Yum-o! The Family Cookbook, I decided it was worth checking out from the library. As a side note, I discovered a couple of years back that libaries keep a WHOLE section of cookbooks! This discovery has saved me (read: My Husband) quite a lot of money as I have tried a few recipes from a ton of cookbooks only to find I didn't really NEED to own them. Some I enjoyed so much I went out and purchased them. It's a great way to do a "test run" with a new cookbook.

So, this new cookbook of Rachael's is geared to kid-friendly food and getting them into the kitchen with you. It's also supposed to be somewhat healthy, I say that because there are some recipes that I didn't feel were all that healthy - a bit too much sugar or oil here and there. At any rate, there are some cute lunchbox ideas in it and a few main dish meals that I thought might go over well with my family.

For our first try at this cookbook, I decided to make the Paprika Pork Chops with Swiss Chard Egg Noodles. Swiss Chard is something I've never tasted before, so it was definitely a new one for us. It looks quite a lot like fresh spinach, but it's flavor is SIGNIFICANTLY different. I cooked it according to the instructions, but if it's supposed to taste bitter - let's just say we won't be having that again. We tried it, so at least we can say we gave it a shot before knocking a perfectly good vegetable off of our shopping list.

Since this was a new veggie for us, I am sharing this with Toontz at Okara Mountain who hosts the monthly blogging event Triple Dog Dare. This month the dare is to cook with a vegetable you've never cooked with before... I think this fits since it's a first for cooking with it AND with eating it! Even though we didn't care for it, I imagine others do - just like broccoli rabe... not a big fan of that one either. Guess I'm not a fan of bitter vegetables.

The second part of the recipe was the Paprika Pork Chops. For the paprika, I dug into my stash of Penzey's spices and used the Half Sharp Hungarian Paprika. I love the smokiness of this paprika, so much more interesting and flavorful than the McCormick paprika at the grocery store. This was a quick and easy way to prepare pork chops, just enough oil in this recipe to create a nice crisp crust on them. Everyone enjoyed them, and My Oldest said I should make them alot since he had 3 servings (keep in mind that he's 6 and 3 servings equates to one whole 4 ounce pork chop!).

At this point, I don't think I need to own this particular cookbook as there are maybe 2-3 recipes that sound like something we'd enjoy. So, now I have to go back to the library and see what else I can pick and take for a "test drive"!

Paprika Pork Cutlets

Paprika Pork Cutlets with Swiss Chard Egg Noodles
Source: Rachael Ray, Yum-O!

4 (6-ounce) boneless pork loin chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch Swiss chard, deveined and chopped
1/2 pound extra wide egg noodles
freshly grated or ground nutmeg
4 lemon wedges

Place a large pot of water on to boil the egg noodles.

Place the chops between wax paper or plastic wrap and pound out no more tha 1/4-inch thick. season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper (I forgot to do this!). Combine the flour and paprika on a plate. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Place the bread crumbs on a second plate. coat the chops in flour, shake off the excess, then coat them in egg and bread crumbs.

Heat about 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cutlets and cook until golden - about 4 minutes on each side.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts into the oil, add the chard and cook for 6-7 minutes. Drop the egg noodles into the pot of boiling water after a minute or two. When the noodles are al dente, drain and add to the chard, toos and season wit salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

If you this recipe sounds like something your family might enjoy, you might want to check these out:
Homemade Crispy Chicken Strips at Sweetnicks
Orecchiette with Broccoli, Bacon & Lemon @ Enlightened CookingChicken and Spinach Quesadillas @ Annie's Eats

July 15, 2008

Orange-Banana Bread, Another Winner from Cooking Light

I'm a huge fan of Cooking Light, I've been subscribing to the magazine since 1997. I can generally count on the recipes to be tasty and fairly simple to make. I also like that they provide the nutritional information which makes it much easier when you are counting calories to keep your meals reasonable without going overboard. When I saw the Cooking Light Five Star Recipes at Costco, I was immediately drawn to it. It is filled with the best of the best Cooking Light recipes, lots of pictures - and over 500 recipes all in one book.

Over the weekend I realized I had some rather sad looking over-ripe bananas so I went searching for a different banana bread to try out on my family. The Orange Banana-Nut Bread looked really good and since I had all the ingredients on hand, I went to work. The only changes I made to the recipe was to leave out the nuts since I'm not a big fan of them in breads and I used Penzey's Orange Peel instead of fresh since I didn't have any oranges on hand. I only used about a half tablespoon of the orange peel since it was dried and the recommendation was to use 1/3 of what the recipe calls for when substituting.

As I was making the bread, the addition of the orange peel and the orange juice had me intrigued because the scent was rather strong. Not that the scent was a bad thing at all, I just wasn't sure if the orange flavor would overpower the natural goodness of banana bread as we typically enjoy it. It baked up beautifully in about 50 minutes. It was difficult allowing it to cool before cutting into it, but we managed to wait a little while. My oldest came wandering in saying that something smelled so good it was making him hungry. We all sampled the bread and found it to be nice and moist with just the faintest hint of orange to it. It was still moist and delicious for breakfast the next morning, I am sure it would freeze well as other quickbreads do so, you could make a double batch and save one for later. I think I'll be making this version again since it was lighter which means I can enjoy it without feeling like I am over-indulging.

I am anxious to try more recipes from this new cookbook. I know I can trust Cooking Light to provide some fantastic light and healthy recipes that my family will enjoy.

Since this bread has delicious bananas as well as orange juice in it, I'm going to share it with Sweetnick's ARF 5-a-day round-up of recipes using fruits and vegetables. Every Tuesday the round-up includes fantastic recipes from the blogging world. Be sure to go and check them out!

Orange Banana-Nut bread
Source: Cooking Light, Five Star Recipes (2008)

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind (I substituted 1/2 tablespoon of Penzey's Orange Peel)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted the nuts as a personal preference)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, rind, and juice; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in walnuts; spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

If you enjoy quickbreads and muffins, you may want to take a look at these recipes:

Lemony Muffins from Stephanie's Kitchen
Mini Banana Crumb Muffins from Genesis of a Cook
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Joy the Baker

July 14, 2008

The Key Ingredient

Not too long ago, Sophie from The Key Ingredient sent me an email asking if they could feature a recipe that I had mentioned on my blog back in early June. I visited their site and discovered a whole new source of recipes and food bloggers to check out!

I can't even take full credit for the recipe that they selected since it was my friend, Anya, who made it! The Grilled Zucchini Roll-ups with Goat Cheese was a recipe she found on-line at Health Magazine. They truly are wonderful and the creaminess of the cheese with the basil and grilled summer zucchini are a match made in appetizer heaven!

I'll be posting a new banana bread recipe soon, and I have a few other things "cooking" in the kitchen this week.

July 12, 2008

Lemon Cream Pie with Strawberries

Sorry for not posting the last couple of days, but boy have I been busy! Not in the kitchen, but with other fun things. Thursday we had swimming lessons, then I was off to Bunko - which is why I made the recipe I'll talk about in a moment. Normally I'd try to post something on Friday, however after a long day at work, we had a sitter coming so we could go out. Most people would just go somewhere that's a short drive away, usually a favorite dinner spot. Not us! We jumped in the car and drove into NYC! It's really only about 45 minutes to get there, but farther than we normally go for a Friday date night. I mention this for a couple of reasons: 1. We were able to get to TKTS (the discount same day Broadway show ticket sales) and buy tickets to a great show and 2. We went for food afterward at a favorite place. Incredibly, there were quite a few shows still available for 50% off prices when we got there at 7 - so, we chose Young Frankenstein. If you've seen the movie and enjoyed it (which we've seen it 100's of times), this is one you should see if you get the chance. It was as funny as the movie, with new songs thrown in and each of the main stars stole the show on their own. Usually, there's one stand-out performance but not in this show - they were all awesome!

After the show, we walked over to Ruby Foo's. Now, we've been there several times and at that time of night we've always gotten seated quickly. Last night was no different. The service was very good. My main complaint is that we ordered a couple of maki rolls that had either shrimp tempura in it or a crispy element - they were NOT crispy! They tasted fine, but if I'm going to splurge on tempura I REALLY want that crispy texture in there. Oh well, some times you hit it on an off night.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Our theme for Bunko this month was Red, White and Blue. Coming up with something that is not a dessert that fits this theme was next time impossible! A few people did manage, but it was mostly desserts. We are going to have to come up with a theme that has more "real" food next month! Anyway, I opted to fill the red and white part of the theme by making a Lemon Cream Pie with Strawberries. Trying to use ingredients I had on hand, I think I came up with a really tasty summer treat! I didn't have my usual low-fat versions of some things on hand, but this could very easily be lightened. One ingredient I had been wanting to use was Lemon Curd. I picked up the jar at Trader Joe's awhile ago because I had been reading about it on various cooking sites and wanted to taste it. It is a VERY tart and creamy condiment that can be used to spread on toast or bagels - and frequently as part of a dessert. I liked the tartness, which was offset a little bit by the pudding and the cream cheese so it was not completely overpowering.

Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Cream Pie w/Strawberries

8 ounces Cream Cheese
1 box instant lemon pudding (vanilla would work nicely as well)
1/2 cup prepared lemon curd
1 cup milk
4 ounces whipped cream
1 graham cracker crust
freshly halved strawberries for garnish

Combine cream cheese through milk in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a handmixer. Once fully blended, fold in the whipped cream. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and refrigerate over night (or for at least 6-8 hours). Garnish with stawberries or other fresh fruit of your choice.

If you are looking for more summery desserts, you may want to check these out:
Marionberry Galette @ Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Ice Cream Cupcakes @ Joy the Baker
Blueberry Hand Pies @ Genesis of a Cook

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

July 9, 2008

How Did I Use the Rest of the Roasted Chicken?

pasta chicken ingredients
See those cute bowls? Well, I mentioned that I received some other cool kitchen gifts for my birthday, and My Husband gave me the graduated set of these cool glass bowls. If you ever wondered if any one other than Food Network stars used them, you now know that I'm one of those people. I like to prep my veggies ahead of time and these bowls really come in handy when you have a lengthy recipe or a stir-fry that will go quickly.

For tonight, I wanted to use up the rest of the roasted chicken. Into the fridge I went, and I found a package of mushrooms, shallots and scallions. I set to slicing and dicing and using my cool glas bowls to keep things organized. I decided to use a bit of Riesling rather than chicken stock to help add flavor to the dish. I wanted to use a more fun pasta shape, so cavatappi went into the boiling water. I love this pasta shape, it's got a curl to it and little ridges on the outside of it.

To finish the dish, I added just a little bit of freshly grated Parmesan. I also steamed some cauliflower and added a bit of Parmesan to it as well. I have to say, that cauliflower never tasted so good to me before. It doesn't take much, but it really makes it absolutely delicious.

Cavatappi chicken and mushrooms

Cavatappi with Roasted Chicken and Mushrooms
1/2 pound cavatappi pasta, cooked to package instructions
1 1/2 cups roasted chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup Riesling or your favorite white wine
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 large shallots, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons EVOO (divided - you'll need to use the 3rd tablespoon later in the preparation)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a large skillet. Then, add the shallots and saute until softened - about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until the water has cooked out of them. Add the chicken and the remaining tablespoon of EVOO. Stir to combine with all ingredients. Add the Riesling (or the white wine you are using), allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add pasta and toss to combine. Cook for another 1-2 minutes to ensure that it is warmed through. Sprinkle scallions over the top.
Serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled over each serving.

Here are some more recipes using fresh vegetables and pasta from around the blogging world. Go check out these blogs as they are all fantastic and worth reading!
Camilla @ Enlightened Cooking - Orecchiette with Broccoli, Bacon & Lemon
Ruth @ Every Kitchen Tells it's Stories - Orzo with Shitake Mushrooms & Spinach
Jaden @ Steamy Kitchen - Korean Glass Noodles - Jap Chae

July 8, 2008

Simple Ingredients Make a Delicious Dinner

Last night's meal was created from simple ingredients. I had roasted a chicken over the weekend just in case the smoked one didn't turn out so great and we needed something else to eat! Yep, always have a back-up plan is our motto! With some yummy cooked chicken already sliced up and ready to go, we decided to go with a quick and simple dinner to use some of that up and allow me some extra time with my boys after work and summer camp.

Everyone enjoyed it and I even had some leftover to bring in to work today. I must say that the Parmesan cheese really added the extra flavor needed to this dish. If you happen to have some leftover chicken hanging around this is a great way to use it up. Just dig in to your pantry and fridge and see what you have and start tossing things together!

This is a perfect pasta dish to share with Presto Pasta Night Round-up for this Friday which is being hosted by Gay @ A Scientist in the Kitchen.

penne chicken and capers

Penne with Roasted Chicken and Capers

2 cups sliced chicken (you could use the roasted chicken from Costco or your local grocery store)
2 tablespoons EVOO
2-3 teaspoons chopped garlic (depends on how much your family likes, we LOVE garlic at our house)
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (you could also use fresh basil if you have it on hand)
1/2 pound cooked penne pasta (if you use whole wheat pasta, you increase the fiber and health benefits of this dish)
1-2 tablespoons chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Start the pasta cooking according to the package directions.

Heat the EVOO in a large skillet then add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes - just until it starts to become fragrant. Next add the capers and the sliced chicken. Saute all together for about 5 minutes to ensure the chicken has been heated through.

When pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to the skillet and toss to coat with the EVOO, garlic and capers. Add in the chopped parsley and toss. If the pasta seems a bit dry, add in 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken broth to loosen things up a bit.

Serve with a nice big salad of leafy greens and you have a complete meal.

I often come across fantastic ideas for simple dishes while reading some favorite blogs. So, I am going to try to share those great finds whenever I can. Check out these recipes:

Lemon Chicken Spaghetti Toss by Kristen @ Dine and Dish

Spinach Artichoke Fettucini Fini with Sausage by Jenny @ Picky Palate

Linguine with Zucchini, Browned Butter and Garlic by Stepanie @ Stephanie's Kitchen

Each of these recipes can go together rather quickly for a weeknight meal. I think I even have all the ingredients in my kitchen as we speak! I better get cooking so I can sample these fantastic dishes for myself!

July 7, 2008

What Happened to My Chicken?


What do you think turned my chicken purple?


Perhaps it was using hickory chips in the smoker! Or maybe something else we did wrong?


In spite of my chicken looking a bit un-appetizing, it really did taste good. I do think that next time we'll opt for mesquite since I think the hickory flavor was a bit mild.

We got our smoker last summer and used it ONE time. Mainly because the first time we smoked a chicken, it came out absolutely beautiful, nice and golden and just a sight to see. Only problem was after 6 hours it still was not done! That frustrated us, mainly because we couldn't keep the temperature regulated. This time we watched it very closely and had to open and close the damper frequently to maintain a proper temperature.

There really is no recipe for what we did to make our purple smoked chicken... perhaps that's a good thing? I am intriqued by the whole idea of smoking various types of meats and fish, but I'll tell you the amount of time spent watching over it will make me think twice. You have to really want to hang out at home for hours and watch the temperature. I am going to send My Husband to find mesquite logs or something like that as I think they might burn more evenly, and might allow us a little freedom to do some other things around the house for more than a few minutes.


Anyone out there smoked chicken, fish or beef with great success? Please do share your tips as I want to master this cooking technique since we have the oversized thing in our backyard!

July 6, 2008

A Lighter Basil Pesto

I like recipes that I can make that are simple yet pack a great flavor punch without a ton of calories. Pesto is one of those simple things you can make that can add just a little "something" to a dish to finish it. One thing to remember with pesto is that it should not be cooked because the basil can turn bitter.

Pesto is actually a combination of basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil. I wanted to make it from scratch since it is really a very simple combination of ingredients. I went searching for a lower calorie version since I wanted to have another side dish option that wouldn't make me feel guilty at the barbeque we went to on Saturday. I found a lighter version at Cooking Light. The only change I ended up making to their version was to add one more tablespoon of EVOO. It just seemed like it was a bit too dry and that it wouldn't coat the tortellini that I wanted to take.

Walnut Basil Pesto

The flavor was very good, and I used walnuts instead of pine nuts since My Husband doesn't care for the flavor of pine nuts. I only used a couple of tablespoons to coat the tortellini, so the rest will be used to add to a soup (at the end of cooking) that I have planned for this week and possibly as an accompaniment to some grilled chicken as well. I love how versatile pesto is, and if you have too much it can be frozen for use later.

July 5, 2008

Flavors That Take You Back (recipe: Layered Salad)

I imagine each and every one of us has a good number of flavors that immediately take each of us back to a specific time and place. That is really one of the amazing things about food. If there is a dish that you had every holiday growing up, simply catching a whiff of a spice or seasoning will take you right back to the gathering.

One of my most prized possessions is the white binder of recipes My Grandma gave me as a bridal shower gift. She was sweet enough to type of all of my favorites and put them into a notebook for me to keep and be able to make for my family. My Grandma was a fantastic cook and was always willing to try new recipes. There was a brief period of time when we lived in our first house that I couldn't find my binder and I was frantic looking for it since I wanted to make My Grandma's pie crust. After a couple of months (yes, I said months), I found it in a box that we hadn't unpacked. Thank goodness I decided to go through a closet filled with things I had forgotten about!

The recipe I'm sharing today, is adapted from the Layered Salad that she used to make for nearly every family get together that I can remember. Since I do try to watch my calorie intake, I had to make some changes to the original recipe and I think they work quite well. As I mentioned before, there are some flavors that just take you back... well, as I was making the Layered Salad, I took a taste of the ranch dressing. Now, I've had ranch dressing all throughout my adult life, but for some reason when I did my quick taste of it to make sure it was mixed well I was taken back to the Sunday dinners we had at our house and Grandma would come with her pretty salad. One thing about whatever My Grandma made, it was always very pretty in presentation. I'd like to think she'd be happy with how mine turned out today.

I'm taking the salad to our neighbor's for today's barbeque as one of my side dish contributions. Now, if you really want to make it as it was originally served, you would include: 10 ounces frozen peas (My Husband doesn't care for frozen peas so I tend to accomodate him by omitting them), 4 hard boiled eggs (diced), and 6 slices of bacon (crumbled). The bacon would be sprinkled on top of the shredded cheese. Oh, and if you aren't watching your calories, you can use the full-fat sour cream and mayo for the dressing.

I made another dish, but I'll share that one tomorrow. I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend. We have had a bit of rain, but are enjoying the extra time together anyway!

Layered Salad

Recipe by Inspired by My Grandma's Recipe

Note: The ingredients are based on using a trifle dish to serve, if you are using a larger dish you will need to make adjustments to the amount of each ingredient.

  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • green bell pepper, diced
  • 3-4plum tomatoes, diced
  • kirby cucumbers, diced
  • 1-2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 one ounce package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
  • 8 ounces reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. In a trifle dish, layer the lettuce, green bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions.

  2. Combine the mayo through dressing mix. Make sure to mix thoroughly. Then pour over the top of the vegetables, making sure to seal the edges.

  3. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving.

July 4, 2008

Peanut Butter & Banana Delight Smoothie

Happy 4th of July! I hope that however you are celebrating that you are with family and friends. Isn't that what all holidays are about anyway? Spending time with the people that mean the most to you? Strangely, our 4th is going to be just us this year and that's ok because that does free us up to do whatever we please. We've been tossing around different ideas on what we can do and whatever it is, it will be fun!

Since we aren't going to the traditional barbeque until Saturday, I thought I'd share a smoothie that I made this week. The food blogging world can be quite an inspiration and after my last smoothie it seemed like I kept finding more ideas all over the place. Since I had a really ripe banana on hand I knew that it would have to go into our smoothie. Next, I was trying to decide what else to put in the blender to go with it to make it even more delicious and suddenly peanut butter came to mind. After I had blended it, I took a quick taste and decided that just a touch of chocolate syrup would bring it all together... and it really did! My Oldest and I were trying to come up with a better name than Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie... one thought was Peanut Butter and Banana Delight... still too long, but we'll work on it!

Go on out and enjoy the long holiday weekend, but be sure to check back as I'll be sharing the side dish(es) that I'm taking for our neighbor's barbeque this weekend. In the meantime, try a smoothie!
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Peanut Butter & Banana Delight Smoothie

Recipe by patsy Original

  • 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ripe banana
  • about 1-2 teaspoons chocolate syrup
  • 2 cupsice cubes
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you like a thicker consistency, add more ice.
I'm submitting this to Sweetnick's for the ARF 5 a Day weekly round-up. Be sure to check in next Tuesday to see what fantastic fruit and veggie dishes were made this past week. You'll be sure to find something fantastic to try!

July 3, 2008

Mmmmm... Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Growing up, I was a slightly picky eater. Can't imagine that now as I'll give nearly anything a try at least once. I wouldn't eat mushrooms or onions at all as a kid, but now each of those items make it into my grocery cart on a weekly basis. I don't ever recall hearing of Portobello Mushrooms as a kid, but then there are quite a few veggies that have become quite popular in the last 5-10 years that many of us never heard of before. One of the things I love about Portobello Mushrooms is that they have a meaty texture and when you are planning to have a "meat-less" entree they can provide that bit of substance that the carnivore at your table will be craving.

I mentioned earlier this week that I picked up a copy of Cook's Illustrated, Summer Entertaining and Grilling magazine. I've Grilled Portobellos on many occasions, but when I saw the article that accompanied the recipe I was nodding my head "yes" as I read the problems that they had encountered. When you grill them directly on the grate, they can get charred to black before they are fully cooked since they are a thicker mushroom. The solution they came up with is to seal the mushrooms in foil for the primary cooking time, then remove from the foil and allow to cook for about 1 minute on the grill to get the grill marks. This really did make a big difference in the texture from when I had grilled them directly on the grate. I will continue to use this method, but may try other marinade options.

The marinade was tasty, however the lemon flavor was a bit too tangy. My Oldest, who LOVES mushrooms, wasn't able to get past one bite due to the tanginess. I may switch to more of a balsamic marinade next time.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Recipe by Adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Summer Grilling &Entertaining - Summer 2008
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 (5-6 inch diameter) portobello mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps wiped clean
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine oil through salt in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Add mushrooms; seal bag and gently shake to coat mushrooms with marinade. Let stand at room temperature until seasoned, about 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, cut 4 12-inch square pieces of foil (I used one large piece of foil that all mushrooms could fit inside).

  3. Remove mushrooms from marinade. Place foil square on work surface and set mushroom(s) on top, gill side up. Fold foil edges over to enclose the mushroom and seal the edges.

  4. Cook over high heat on gas grill for 7-9 minutes. Then, using tongs unseal the foil and remove mushrooms to grill top. Place gill side up so that the top will get grill marks. Cook for about 1 minute.

July 2, 2008

Grilled Chicken Seasoned with Galena Street

Penzey's has quickly become my new favorite source for spices. I guess it's a good thing there isn't one close by as I'd probably stop in every few weeks just to see what I could add to my collection. In just one trip to their store, I picked up more spice mixtures than I probably really needed but oh did they all smell so wonderful. I just couldn't go home without a varied selection. Another spice mixture that I purchased was the Galena Street Rub. This blend has nutmeg, sage and cayenne in it. It does have a kick to it, but not until the end - it kind of hits you just after you are about to take your next bite. It's not completely overpowering, otherwise I wouldn't be able to eat it.

You can use this blend on ribs or chicken, but I opted to use chicken breasts this time as that is what I had on hand for dinner. I did a light sprinkle of EVOO over each chicken breast and then sprinkled the spice blend over each one and then rubbed it in to help it adhere to the chicken. I let them sit for about 15 minutes while the grill was heating up.

This is a really nice and flavorful way to make a simple grilled chicken dinner. You can also slice the chicken and put together your favorite ingredients into a tortilla and make a wrap. Once the wrap is assembled, allow to heat for a few moments on the grill on each side to create grill marks. The wraps have quickly become a favorite with my family, and if the boys don't really like the chicken as it is prepared we just throw it into a wrap and they'll eat it anyway! Shhhh... don't tell them, but they ended up enjoying it anyway.

July 1, 2008

Such Pretty Zucchini

I mentioned last week that one of my birthday presents was a mandoline. Tonight, I decided it was time to put it to use! I had a couple of zucchini and I was thinking that a simple saute would be a nice way to prepare them. So, I set up my mandoline to do thin julienne cuts and I must say this is a fantastic kitchen tool! I absolutely LOVE how quickly and easily I was able to julienne two large zucchini and each piece was the same size. I used to cut them by hand and it would take me FOREVER! No anymore now that I have the coolest tool to use. Now I will have to experiment with the criss-cross cut and make some baked potato chips soon.

Once I had these beautifully cut pieces of zucchini, I heated about 1 tablespoon EVOO in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Then I tossed in the zucchini and did a quick turn of it all to make sure it got a quick coating of the EVOO. Then, I sprinkled about 2-3 teaspoons of Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning over it and did a quick stir. I sauteed the whole thing about 5-7 minutes until they were cooked, but still just slightly crisp. Oh my, this was good! The addition of the Fox Point Seasoning was so yummy - it has dried shallots, chives and scallions and it added just enough to brighten the flavor of the zucchini. This seasoning can also be used for scrambled eggs (can't wait to try that!), fish, baked chicken or in dips. It's very versatile and I can see I'll need to keep a stash of this on hand for that very reason.

The zucchini was a hit with everyone at my dinner table, which is a bonus for me since it was so simple to put together - thanks to my new mandoline! We did have some left over and I plan to nibble on that for lunch tomorrow. Yummy!

julienned zucchini-2

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