Monday, December 6, 2010

Gingerbread Pear Cake

We love gingerbread and since I didn't feel up to going through with
 the whole business of cutting and decorating gingerbread people,
I decided to get the holiday baking started with a
*semi-homemade* gingerbread cake.

This couldn't be any easier and the flavor combination of gingerbread,
pears, and pecans is just fabulous!

2 tablespoons real butter, melted
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 (16 ounce) cans pear slices, well drained
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 (14.5 ounce) package gingerbread cake mix

1. Preheat oven to 350*

2. Mix the melted butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a 9-inch round cake pan.

3. Arrange pear slices over sugar mixture.

4. Sprinkle pecans around the pears.

5. .Prepare the cake mix according to package directions,
and pour over the pears and pecans in the cake pan.
6. Bake approximately 50 minutes.

7. Cool slightly before turning out onto a serving dish.
Easy, no-fuss holiday dessert!




Barbeque Pork Sandwiches

My husband frequently says, "We have the best leftovers!"
It's a good thing too because leftovers is exactly what we're having for dinner tonight.

Specifically, we are having pulled pork barbeque sandwiches
and pasta salad.  We have had these sandwiches several times over
the  years and they are always amazing. 

Also, the preparation is ridiculously easy. 

2.5 lb. pork butt roast
salt and pepper
1 1/2c. beef broth
1/4c. brewed coffee, black
1 bottle bbq sauce
kaiser buns

1.  Cut roast in half and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2.  Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on Low for about
6 hours, or until done.

3.  Remove pork to a cutting board and dump the liquid
(you don't need it anymore).

4.  Shred the pork (I just use two regular forks for this)
and return to the slow cooker.

5.  Add a bottle of bbq sauce (we like Stubb's Original) and mix together.
6.  Pile onto toasted kaiser buns and serve immediately.



Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Forgot.....

We're having my fabulous Red Beans and Rice for dinner tonight.
The total cooking time for this meal is 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  It's 4:00pm
right now and, about thirty minutes ago, I realized I had completely
forgotten to soak the kidney beans.  This led to a semi-frantic,
"forgot to soak beans" Google search.  A surprising number of
people have encountered this problem and it turns out it's
no big deal. 

If you ever forget to soak your beans, this is what you do:

1.  Don't panic.

2.  Place beans in a large pot and cover with water.

3.  Bring to a boil for 2-3 min.

4.  Cover and remove from heat.

5.  Allow to sit, covered, for 1 hour.

6.  Drain beans and get on with your recipe as planned.
I may just do it this way from now on.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Roasted Romas

My son came in the kitchen today and asked his usual,
"What's for dinner?"  to which I responded by telling him I would be
serving steaks with a red wine and mushroom sauce,
creamed spinach, and roasted roma tomatoes. 
Then he said something that absolutely stunned me. 
He said, "I love tomatoes!"

This is the same kid for whom I used to hide vegetables in his
food just so he would eat them.  Amazing how things change.  :)

The steak recipe can be found on my other blog, here
About the tomatoes, this is a super easy and pretty side dish
that adds a nice splash of color to the dinner plate.

Here's the recipe:

4 Roma tomatoes, cut in half, lengthwise
olive oil, to taste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/8c. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 400*

2.  Place tomato halves in prepared baking dish.
Drizzle with olive oil.

3.  Sprinkle with garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.

4.  Bake 35-45 minutes, until tomatoes have softened.

5.  Serve immediately.
Every time I make these, my husband comments on
how much he loves them! 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Time for Pumpkin Pie!

My son loves pumpkin pie more than anyone I have ever seen.  So
much so that he has been known to eat an entire pie all my himself. 
His big complaint though is that I don't make it all the time. 

For me, there are certain foods that are best suited for specific
times of year.  For example, pumpkin pie.  I refuse to make it until I
can feel it in the air that fall has arrived.  Also, since I've started
using fresh pumpkins instead of the canned stuff for pies,
the ingredients aren't always available.

But they are now and today I decided to make the first pumpkin pie
of this year.  I opened the windows and let the cool breeze blow
through the house as the scent of the pumpkin baking filled the kitchen.

For a traditional pumpkin pie, I like to use the old recipe from the
 back of the Libby's pumpkin can as a base.  Over the years I have
adapted it to suit our preferences:  I use fresh pumpkin, add a little
allspice, and extra cinnamon and cloves, to taste. 
The cooking method is the same though. 
By the time my son came home, the pie had been a
assembled and was almost finished baking.  He was pleasantly
surprised and the house smelled amazing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Traditional Mexican Tacos

There was a time in my life when Taco Night meant frying some ground beef with the pre-packaged seasoning and spooning it into shells or tortillas with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. 
Nothing wrong with that but there is a better way.

It involves the grill, steak, jalapenos.....who's with me?

These are some seriously good tacos:

2 pounds top sirloin steak
salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBSP vegetable oil
18 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 medium onion, diced
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2c. crumbled cojito cheese

1.  Season steaks with salt, pepper, and lime juice. 
Allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes.

2.  Place steaks on pre-heated grill and cook until desired doneness.

3.  Remove from heat and allow to rest approximately 10 minutes
before slicing into thin strips.

4.  Meanwhile, heal oil in skillet and saute onions and jalapenos. 

5.  Heat tortillas.  (I just wrapped them in a wet paper towel and
popped them in the microwave.)
6.  Place tortillas on a plate, and top with steak strips, onion,
jalapeno, cilantro, and tomato guacamole to taste.

7. Top with cojito cheese for authentic Mexican flavor!
So good!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Favorite Oven Fries

I'm not sure why people buy frozen fries when real, fresh potatoes are so much better than anything that comes in a bag.  I guess the bagged versions are supposed to be some kind of time saver, but really?  How long does it take to chop up some potatoes, season them the way you like it, and pop them in the oven?

I can tell you that the prep takes me approximately 10 minutes.

Here is the recipe I use: 

4 russett potatoes with skins, sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2c. grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp.salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1.  Preheat oven to 425* and line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat.

3.  Spread the potatoes over the baking sheet.

4.  Bake until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork,
about 25 minutes.
We had these last night with grilled burgers topped with bacon,
bleu cheese, and guacamole.
My son took one bite and said, "These fries are awesome!" 

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Cook a Pumpkin

I originally posted this last fall but, since I am planning to bake the first pumpkin of this fall season today, I decided to repost this entry:

In all the years I have been baking with pumpkin (pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.) I have never, ever used a real pumpkin. I know the stuff in the can is labeled Real Pumpkin but I'm talking about the non-canned variety that only shows up in the grocery stores in the fall and winter. Not the big, jack-o-lantern ones, the other ones. The ones that sit with all the other gourds that I don't know what to do with, besides decorate. I actually set out today to buy a can of pumpkin for a cake recipe but, upon discovering that the store did not have canned pumpkin in stock, I decided to try baking a whole one. What I found is that it's ridiculously easy, fills my house with an amazing aroma, and a medium size pumpkin yields about 3 cups.


This is how I did it:

1. Cut the top of the pumpkin off, close to the stem.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half, lengthwise,
and remove the seeds and stringy stuff.


3. Spray a baking pan and place pumpkin halves in pan, face down.

4. Cover with foil and bake at 375* for about 1 hour.


5. When cool enough to handle, scrape pumpkin out of its shell.
At this point you can mash or puree, if you like,
but mine was so soft that it wasn't necessary.


So easy! I may never buy canned pumpkin again!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pesto Pasta

I'm loving fresh pesto lately so, when I came across
this Taste of Home recipe, I just had to try it.

This is one of those recipes that seems too easy
to be so amazingly good.  Fresh herbs are the key here
as there is just no way it would be the same with dried.

Here's the recipe:

 1 lb. bowtie pasta
2/3 c. fresh basil, chopped
1/2c. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2/3c. olive oil
 
1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.
 
2.  Meanwhile, in a blender, add the basil, parsley, Parmesan
cheese, salt, garlic and nutmeg.
 
3.  Cover and process on low for 1 minute or until very finely chopped.
 
4.  While processing, gradually add the oil in a steady stream.

5.  Drain pasta and toss with pesto.
 
I served this warm but it's probably good cold too.
I wouldn't know for sure though because there
were no leftovers here.  ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hint of Coconut Cookies

I want to share this recipe because even my non-coconut eaters raved about these cookies!  It may seem like a lot of coconut but for some reason, the flavor is pleasantly mild and not at all.  And the texture
is just the right amount of chewy goodness!

Here's the recipe:

1 1/4c.  all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1/2c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. flaked coconut
 
1.  Preheat oven to 350*
 
2.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3.  In a stand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar on medium speed until smooth.

4.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

5.  Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut.

6.  Roll into 1" balls and place on a cookie sheet a few inches apart.  

7.  Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for about 30 min.

8.  Remove from the refrigerator straight to the oven.  Bake for approximately 12 min. or until lightly toasted.

9.  Cool on wire racks.


My most adamant coconut hater kept trying to sneak cookies while I was making dinner.  :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Egg Drop Soup

The star of the show at dinner last night was
definitely the egg drop soup. 

The beef and broccoli was good but it was the
soup that everyone raved about!  This was so
much better than anything I've had in a restaurant.

You really must try it:

4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp. fresh ginger, finely minced

2 TBSP fresh chives, chopped

1/4c. green onions, chopped

1/4 tsp. salt

white pepper, to taste

1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk
  
1.  Reserve 3/4c. vegetable broth and pour the rest into
a medium saucepan.

2.  Stir the salt, white pepper, ginger, chives,
and green onions into the saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil.

3.  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining broth
and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.


4.  In small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk together using a fork.

5.  Stir in the cornstarch mixture gradually until the soup is the desired consistency.

6.  Remove pan from heat.

7.  Drizzle egg a little at a time from the fork into the
boiling broth mixture.
Egg should cook immediately, forming the "ribbons".

8.  Garnish with chopped green onions and serve hot.
Hubby requested I make a double batch next time!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Once-A-Week Shopping

Does anyone really do this?

I'm not one of those people who only shops
for groceries once a week.  I understand the convenience
factor but it's just not something that appeals to me.
Probably because I don't see grocery shopping
as a chore.  I actually really enjoy it!

Besides, I don't want to plan Thursday night's dinner on Monday.
I make multiple trips to the store every week.  Along with
whatever we need for the kids, the house, the cat, etc., I also
pick up the ingredients needed to prepare meals for the next
day or two.  I can sometimes stretch it to three if I'm
really planning ahead.

Today I will be shopping for dinner ingredients for tonight
and tomorrow.  This is the planned menu:

Tonight:

Egg Drop Soup
Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry
White Rice or Udon Noodles

and Chewy Coconut Cookies for dessert!

Wednesday:

Spinach Enchiladas
Fried Mexican Corn
Black Bean and Salsa Soup


I'll be back for more shopping on Thursday.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Easy Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches

Tonight's menu consists of barbeque chicken sandwiches,
grilled potato salad, and fried pickles with a side
of spicy ranch dipping sauce.

These sandwiches are so easy it's almost embarrassing.

All you need is a slow cooker and these five ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12oz. bottle barbeque sauce (We like Stubb's Original)
1/2c. Italian dressing
1/4c. brown sugar, packed
2 TBSP Worchestershire sauce

1.  Arrange the chicken in a slow cooker.

2.  In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients
and pour over chicken.

3.  Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

4.  Using two forks, shred chicken breasts.

5.  Pile onto toasted Kaiser rolls and serve.
(I like to add a little butter and garlic salt
to the rolls prior to toasting.)
I've tried other barbeque chicken recipes
but hubby says he likes this one the best!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Family Favorite

So, last night's dinner was so good
that I'm still congratulating myself on it today.

I made Alton Brown's recipe for Shepherd's Pie

and paired it with Emeril's Rosemary Biscuits.

The flavor combination was fabulous!
I was fairly neutral on my overall expectations for this
meal though as I have never been a big fan of shepherd's pie.

The only reason I decided to try it is because hubby
and I had recently been at this little British restaurant
where we were told, "we're known for our shepherd's pie". 

He ordered it and we were not impressed.  It was very
bland and kind of reminded me of cafeteria food.
I was convinced I could do better. 
And I did - with some help from Alton.
The only modification I made to his recipe
was using ground beef instead of lamb. 

I had expected to have leftovers but the meal
was so amazingly good that we all went back for seconds.

I didn't even get a photo because I really just
wanted to get on with the eating. :) 
I'll take a picture next time.  There is no
doubt I will be making this meal again.
This guy is rapidly becoming one of my favorite chefs!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Italian Garlic Butter

Garlic, butter...what else do you need, right?

Add in a little Italian seasoning and you have
a delicious compliment to the bread at the
dinner table.

This is all you need:

1 1/2 sticks real butter, softened
4 cloves garlic, minced
Italian seasoning, to taste

Mix everything together and stick it in fridge
until it's time to eat.
Easy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sensational Stuffed Peppers

My husband and I both have childhood memories of eating
bell peppers stuffed with ground beef and tomato sauce. 
Nothing wrong with that but it's a little bland for our
current tastes and I am convinced there are better ways. 

Last night I made Emeril's version and it was fantastic! 
The peppers are stuffed with pork sausage, celery, onions, rice,
yummy spices....and not a single tomato!

We all agreed these are the best stuffed peppers I've made so far:

1/2 lb. bulk pork breakfast sausage, crumbled

1c. onions, chopped

1/2c. bell peppers, chopped 

1/2c. celery, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1 1/2c. long-grain rice, cooked 

1/4c. green onions, chopped 

3 TBSP parsley, chopped 

4 medium bell peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed

1/4c. dried fine bread crumbs (I seasoned mine with garlic
powder, oregano, and Essence)

1/4c. freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 tsp. Emeril's Original Essence

1.  Preheat the oven to 400* Brown the sausage in a dry skillet
over medium-high heat.

2.  Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, and cayenne.
Cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are wilted.

3.  Add the rice and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes.

4.  Remove from the heat and add the green onions and parsley.
Mix again.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the bell peppers.

6.  Combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and sprinkle evenly
over the tops of the bell peppers.

7.  Place the peppers in a shallow pan and add just enough water
to cover the bottom. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until
the tops are crusty and brown.

8.  Top with extra Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Served with Fuji apple slices and French bread.
The apples are a great contrast to the spiciness
of the peppers.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Best Baked Potato

I realize alot of people like to just nuke their potatoes
and be done with it but I am completely convinced
there is no better baked potato than one made the
old-fashioned way - in the oven.

When people say they can't be bothered to actually bake
their potatoes, I really don't understand that.

It really does make a difference!  My husband used to
never eat the skin off russett potatoes until I
quit throwing them in the microwave and started
baking them in the oven.  The skin has a better texture
than what you get from using the microwave.

Here's the way I do it:

1.  Scrub potatoes and prick holes all around with a fork.

2.  Lightly cover with olive oil.

3.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.

4. Bake at 385* for about an hour, or until done.
Yum!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Garlic Soup

Last night's dinner consisted of balsamic chicken over couscous,
sauteed asparagus, and garlic soup.

Everything was delicious but it was the garlic soup
that really stood out.

My guys all went back for seconds and there were no leftovers!

I've tried a few garlic soup recipes in the past but there were always
comments about how this or that could have made the soup better.

So, this is the way I now make garlic soup:

2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/4c. chopped onions
14 whole cloves garlic (not bulbs!)
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8c. chicken broth
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/2c. heavy cream
1/3c. grated Parmesan

1.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.

2.  Add red pepper flakes, onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves,
and pepper.

3.  Saute until onions are caramelized.

4.  Add chicken broth, minced garlic, basil, and thyme.

5.  Boil then simmer on low for about 45 minutes.

6.  Increase heat to high and whisk in cream and Parmesan.

7.  Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.

8.  Serve hot.
The aromas that fill the kitchen as this soup is simmering are amazing!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Kitchen Gadget!

I've made several soups stews, and chilis that call for blending all
or part of the ingredients after simmering and before serving.

I would just ladle out the amount needed, dump it in the blender,
puree away, and then pour it back in the pot.  This actually works
just fine but today I decided I *needed* an immersion blender
for the new garlic soup I'm serving at dinner tonight.  

I'll post the recipe tomorrow if it's as amazing as I
think it's going to be.

If you're unfamiliar with this gadget, an immersion blender is just
what it sounds like - it's a hand-held blender you immerse in
whatever you're wanting to blend.  This saves the whole step of
transferring back and forth from the blender.

There are fancier and more expensive immersion blenders out
there but I went with this one.
The price was right: $20 at Wal-Mart.
Plus, I've read alot of good reviews online.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fabulous French Toast

I recently had a craving for French toast that just would
not go away.  This was unusual as I had not eaten it in several years. 
Mostly because I frequently found restaurant versions to be way
too sweet for my taste and I had this idea that it was
difficult to make well at home. 
Turns out, the latter is not true at all.  

 I made French toast for breakfast yesterday and it
was so good and ridiculously easy to make. 

Here's the recipe:

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
6 eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 TBSP white sugar
12 thick bread slices (I used Texas Toast)

1.  Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk.
Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla extract
and sugar until smooth.
2.Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium heat.

3.  Dip bread slices in mixture and saturate.
 
4.  Cook bread on each side until golden brown.
Served with bacon and fresh fruit. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

DIY Breadcrumbs

I decided to try making my own breadcrumbs today because...
well, it just seemed silly to run to the store for them
when I have plenty of bread available. 

At my daughter's request, I am preparing spaghetti and meatballs
for dinner tonight.  The meatball recipe is fabulous
and can be found here.

Back to the breadcrumbs... they're super easy to make.
Just add bread to a blender (1-2 pieces at a time)
and chop until they reach a fine consistency.

Then, spread over a baking sheet and bake at 200*,
stirring every 15 min. or so
until the crumbs are completely dry.
(Mine took about 40 min.)

Remove from oven and cool.
Store in an airtight container.

Since we're going Italian tonight, I took the recipe a step further
by stirring in the following ingredients for seasoning into 1 c. breadcrumbs:

1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
So much better than the store bought breadcrumbs!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We Scream for Ice Cream!

We recently purchased an ice cream maker and I'm having fun with
collecting new recipes to try. I'm starting with the basics. 
The first batch was vanilla and and it
was devoured within 24 hours. 

Today, at hubby's request, I'm making chocolate. 
It's churning away in the kitchen right now.

My daughter served as a kitchen helper today. 
I was in charge of measuring and she was in charge of pouring
and mixing.  Everything was going great until we realized
we did not have enough ice to fill the maker.

This is when we made a mad dash out the door and jumped
in the car for a quick trip to the store.  All the way there
we were screaming, "Ice Cream Emergency!!!" and making siren noises. 
We then raced into the store, located the ice,
and got right back out in record time,
laughing the whole way.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Bring On the Bacon!

I am just coming out of a vegetarian phase. 
Not an unusual thing for me though as I have maintained
a similar cycle of eating habits throughout my life
in which I'm loving all kinds of meat and having fun
experimenting with new recipes and preparation
methods and then I'm suddenly repulsed by it
and I go vegetarian. 
This goes on for awhile and then I'm back. 
This is where I am today.

Today I am going to have a sandwich of turkey, bacon, 
avocado and provolone on rye.

Also on the menu for this week:  pork chops, steak kabobs, and crab.
  Mmmm...bacon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil - Caprese Appetizers

I am loving mozzarella lately!  I can eat it plain, jazzed up
with seasonings, breaded, fried, and placed
on top of a salad.  It's all good!

A few nights ago, I served it caprese style - on a stick.

The flavors are simple and wonderful.

This is all you need:

cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh basil leaves
small marinated mozzarella balls
toothpicks
olive oil
salt and pepper

1.Thread a tomato half, a basil leaf, and a mozzarella ball
onto toothpicks until all ingredients are used.

2.  Drizzle the olive oil over the tomato, cheese and basil.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.
This was a nice contrast to the heavier pasta
I served at dinner.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Dinner on the Deck

Sometimes hubby and I go out on Friday or Saturday night but
when we don't, and the weather is nice, we like to have
"Dinner on the Deck." This can involve firing up the grill
but not always. Sometimes I'll cook in the kitchen
and the two of us will carry our plates outside. The kids
usually stay in and play games, watch TV, whatever,
and since we all have dinner together on the other nights,
this is okay with us.

Our back deck is a nice atmosphere for dining in
because we mostly face old, established trees that
are surrounded and inhabited by an abundance of birds
and other critters, like squirrels, rabbits,
and neighborhood cats.
This is what we like to call "The Nature Show".

Tonight we're grilling spicy beef kabobs and serving them
over white rice jazzed up with garlic and onion.
On the side, we're having pita bread with cucumber raita.

Makes me hungry just thinking about it!






















Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gorgeous Green Beans

I served these last night with broiled halibut steaks and new potatoes seasoned with butter and parsley. My husband commented twice about the colorful presentation. It was so pretty I wish I had taken a photo of my entire plate but I was just so hungry it didn't occur to me at the time.

Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1/4 c. real butter
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 c. cherry tomato halves

1. Place beans large saucepan and cover with water.

2. Cover saucepan and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.

(I like to taste a bean every once in awhile to make
sure they don't get overcooked.)

4. Drain in colander and set aside.

5. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.

6. Stir in sugar, garlic salt, pepper and basil.

7. Add tomatoes, and cook stirring gently just until soft.

8. Add green beans to the skillet and toss gently to blend.

These could possible be my favorite green beans - ever!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fabulous Crab Cakes

When shopping for crab meat you will see it categorized
as either back fin, claw, or lump.
For crab cakes, you want lump meat.
Lump crab meat generally costs
$20 - $30 per pound.
Imitation crab meat (usually white pollock)
is an economical alternative but, in my opinion,
it's just not the same.

We don't have it very often though so I like to splurge
and get the good stuff!  It's definitelly worth it!
This is the recipe that I use every time we
have crab cakes and they are always delicious:

1/3 c. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/4c. green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4c. red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
2 egg whites
2 TBSP mayonnaise
1 TBSPfresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. onion powder
18 oz. crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/2 c. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 c. olive oil
 
1.  Wrap peppers in a paper towel and squeeze
out excess liquid.
 
2.  In a medium size bowl, toss together the 1/3 cup bread
crumbs, green bell pepper, red bell pepper,
green onions, and parsley.
 
3.  Mix in the egg whites, mayonnaise, lemon juice,
Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard.
 
4.  Season with Old Bay seasoning, dry mustard,
and onion powder.
 
5.  Fold crabmeat into the mixture.
 
6.  Form into 6 large cakes.
 
7.  Coat in the remaining 1/2 cup bread crumbs.
 
8.  Place crab cakes in freezer for 20-30 minutes.
(This helps to keep them from falling apart
during the frying process.)
 
9. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet.
Fry the cakes 5 minutes on each side,
or until evenly brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
 
I like to sprinkle these with a little more Old Bay
just prior to serving with a red pepper sauce.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Sage Pork Chops


I have been making these pork chops for several
years now and they are always a hit!

In fact, they are one of my youngest son's
absolute favorite meals!

Here is the recipe:

2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. ground black pepper
4-6 center cut pork chops
2 TBSP real butter
1 c. water
2 cubes beef bouillon
 
1.  Combine the salt, sage, and black pepper in a small bowl
and rub on both sides of the chops.
 
2.  Melt the butter or margarine in a large skillet over
medium high heat and saute the chops until well browned.

3.  Meanwhile, in a separate small saucepan over
high heat, combine the water and the bouillon and stir
until bouillon dissolves.
4.  Add this to the chops, reduce heat to low,
cover and simmer chops for 45 minutes.

Enjoy!



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Perfect Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob could not be simpler to make on the stove.
Boil some water, add corn with a touch of sugar. 
That's it.

But how do you know when it's done?

Easy.

After the corn has been boiling for about 10 minutes,
there will be a definite moment when
the scent of corn will fill the air.

All of a sudden, the kitchen smells amazing!

That's how you know it's ready!

Top with butter, salt and pepper, maybe
a little squeeze of lime and some
cayenne pepper and enjoy!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Okra in the Oven

Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best!

This okra is fantastic!  Seriously.

What makes it so great is the fact that 1) it is not fried;
and 2) there is absolutely no sliminess to the vegetables whatsoever. 
Never been a fan of the slime factor with okra. 
That is no longer an issue though as this is my
new and improved way of preparing okra.

This is all you do:

1.  Slice okra about 1/3" thick.

2.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.  Bake (425*) on a foil-covered pan for about 10-15min.

Yum!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pasta e Olio

This is an easy, satisfying, budget-friendy meal
that my family loves! I especially like this dish for those
times when the pantry is getting bare, I don't feel like going to the store.

The ingredients are things I keep in stock pretty much all the time:

1 pound spaghetti
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.In a large pot with boiling salted water cook spaghetti
pasta until al dente. Drain.

2.Meanwhile, in a large skillet over low heat saute garlic,
parsley, and red pepper flakes with olive oil.  Cook until garlic turns
golden in color, about 10 minutes.

3.Toss pasta with garlic mixture and butter.
 
4. Top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
  You could even jazz this up further by adding fresh
tomatoes, spinach, mushooms, etc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eating Weeds

Have you ever eaten dandelion greens?

They are an amazing source of vitamins and can be eaten raw or
cooked, just like spinach.

As part of our ongoing quest to try new foods, I picked up a bunch
of dandelion greens at the market.
I served them as a salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and...

hubby and I are not fans.

Our son seemed to enjoy it though as he went back for seconds.

The taste is very bitter.  I had already read this and so decided
to add slices of mango to the salad to counteract the intensity of the
greens.  This actually was a good idea and it did work but
the flavor of the salad was just too intense overall.

Are we likely to try dandelion greens again?  Yes.
Hubby and I agreed though that these are better suited
to be blended with other, milder greens.







Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mayan Couscous

If you've never had couscous, I highly recommend trying it. 
It's even easier to make than rice. 
Seriously, you can't mess it up.

The blackbeans, corn, cilantro, jalapeno...it's just all very yummy together. You can find the recipe here.

 We had this last night with tofu tacos and it was fabulous!
Even with the jalapeno, this really is not a hot dish. 
I think this is what made it such a nice
compliment to our spicier tacos.

1 cup couscous
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 clove unpeeled garlic

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
 
1.Combine the couscous, cumin, and salt in a large bowl.
Stir in the boiling water and seal with plastic wrap.
Set aside for 10 minutes.


2.While waiting for the couscous, cook the unpeeled
garlic clove in a small skillet over medium-high heat until toasted and
the skin has turned golden-brown. Peel the garlic and mince.
Stir the garlic into the couscous along with the black beans,
corn, onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, olive oil, and lime juice.
 
Serve warm or allow to cool.
 
The recipe makes alot but that's okay
because the leftovers will be my lunch today!  ;)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Asparagus with Pecans and Parmesan

I love a simple sautéed asparagus with nothing more than a little butter, olive oil, and garlic.  But for a fancier presentation, this is the way to go:

1 bunch asparagus spears, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 (8 ounce) package sliced mushrooms
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Steam the asparagus by placing in a skillet with about 1/2" water and covering until desired tenderness.  Drain and remove to a serving dish; keep warm.

2.  Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted (it's ok if it begins to brown), stir in the sliced mushrooms, and cook until they brown, soften, and begin to release their liquid; pour into a serving dish, and set aside. 

3.  Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, and stir in the onions. Cook until the onions soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. 

4.  Season with garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped pecans, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

5.  Sprinkle the onion mixture with half of the Parmesan cheese, and stir in the reserved mushrooms. Pour over the asparagus in a serving dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.


Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Alot of Calories but No Regrets

Hubby and I just returned from a long weekend on Martha's Vineyard.  If you've been, especially during the off-season (as it is now), you know there is not much to do except stroll or bike around, shop in the few stores that are open, and eat.  And eat and eat and eat.  Shopping was more something to do between meals, and every meal was an event.

The day would start with a big breakfast served in the dining room at our bed and breakfast.  We would then head out for sighseeing but it wouldn't be long before one of us would say, "Where do you think we should have lunch today?"  So we would find our way into some fantastic restaurant around noon and have an enormous and delicious meal.  Dinner was the same.  There was also wine and cheese in the afternoons at the inn and we never passed up dessert at dinner.

In other words.....  We did not go hungry.

I didn't mean to take this picture but, as you can see, our plates are pretty empty.
In fact, I think I'm still a little full.  But I'm inspired.

There are several dishes we enjoyed during the trip that I intend to try to recreate at home
and will post recipes and photos here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Broccoli Rabe

Do you know this vegetable? 

It's really very pretty and can be found in the section of the produce department near all the other less commonly used veggies that I don't know how to cook yet.  This is something I'm working to correct though.  I told hubby that I'm just going to start picking up odd fruits and vegetables now and then.  We both enjoy trying new foods so it should be a fun experiment.

Back to the broccoli rabe (I think it's pronounced 'rob'). 
It's also known as rapini and I prefer this name.  It just sounds fancier. 

The taste is bitter but boiling it before sauteeing is supposed to cut the bitterness.  That's what I did for about 5 min. or so and I think it turned out well.  After that, you just saute it like spinach.  I heated about 2TBSP olive oil in a skillet, added 2 cloves of minced garlic, the veggies (about a pound), a little red pepper flakes, and cooked about 15 min., then topped with shredded parmesan. 

It's always a good sign when hubby is standing in the kitchen after dinner and eating what's left in the pan. ;)
I think it looks kind of like a bouquet of flowers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why Didn't I Think of That?

Every once in awhile I see someone do something in the kitchen that
is so simple and practical that I wonder why I never thought of doing
the same thing.  Today it happened while having lunch at the seafood
counter in Whole Foods Market. If you haven't eaten there, I highly recommend it.  It is probably the best quality and most flavorful seafood around in such a casual environment.  The store near me is amazing (Emeril taped an episode there last year so I think that says something), with five interior mini restaurants,
a full wine bar, classes - it's my favorite store. 
And I heard they give away a free baby tree to every customer on Earth Day. 
I am so going to get my tree this year! 

Anyway...

I'm sitting at the counter watching one of the chefs cooking and assembling fantastic looking food and I noticed that rather
than slathering oil over the fish by hand or pouring from its container, he had a spray bottle and just sprayed it over the pan or the fish on what appeared to be an as needed basis.  


Maybe others have seen or heard of this, or already do it yourself,
but this method was new to me and I thought it was brilliant!  

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Almost Made a Cake Today

I like grocery shopping.  I really do.  Sometimes I even love it! 
I will spend time planning meals and writing out my list in anticipation of a shopping trip.  Once there, I will take time to smell the produce, sample whatever is being offered that day, pick up a coffee to stroll around with, and generally have an okay time all by myself.

However, one time when this is not the case is when I find myself needing to run to the store for only one thing!  This is irritating enough all by itself but what makes it worse is that the store closest to my house is one of my least favorite.  I don't go there for regular shopping.  If I am there, it is only out of necessity.

So, today I decided I wanted to make a cake.  I printed the recipe and started checking for ingredients only to find that I was missing one thing.  One!  But it was probably important. 

I debated about whether this was worth a trip to Store I Don't Like. 
Turns out, I really didn't want cake as much as I thought.

Do you have places you avoid even though they are convenient?
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day has never been a really big deal in my family.  We wear green and eat potatoes and all that but we're not those people you see in the parades with their costumes or in the bars drinking green beer. 

A tradition that we do have for St.Patrick's Day is an Irish-themed dinner.  Tonight was supposed to be corned beef, colcannon, soda bread, and maybe an Irish creme cake for dessert.

However, my son, the competitive chorus singer, has a rehearsal concert tonight.  The kid really is musically gifted and I absolutely love seeing him perform on stage!  So we will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day tomorrow. 

That's probably okay though because it's quite possible
that I am the only one in the house aware that
today is St. Patrick's Day as I am the only one wearing green! 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Best Bruschetta

Everyone seems to have their own ideas about what makes a great bruschetta and this one is my husband's absolute favorite!  Anytime we order bruschetta in a restaurant, he always compares it to mine
and points out how I could have made it better. 
He's awesome like that!  ;)

Here's the recipe:

2 cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, drained
1/2c. sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4c. olive oil
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/2c. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
French baguette, sliced
2c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.  Combine all ingredients, except bread and cheese, in a medium size bowl.  Allow to marinate 15-20 min.

2.  Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and broil until lightly toasted.

3.  Spoon bruschetta over each slice and sprinkle with mozzarella.

4.  Continue broiling until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.

I should have taken a picture prior to adding the cheese
because the colors really are gorgeous!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There's No Place Like Home...

I am currently out of town which really sucks because I miss my guys.  Although, I have to say that it's times like these that help us all to appreciate how great we have it at home.  The family is surviving on leftovers and take out and I am rapidly becoming a regular in the hotel restaurant. 
One more day of hotel food followed by a day of airport food and then I'll be be back at home,
my favorite place in the world.

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