Monday, January 31, 2011

Curry Dinner

I ran across this curry mix almost 20 years ago. I love it. It has never failed to disappoint. And I have never made it the same way twice in all these years. Except always served on rice. White or brown. Whatever you have.
I generally add chicken or shrimp, but I went to a "Meatless Monday" dinner tonight. I always think of preparing this when I have cauliflower and broccoli around, and then you can use just about any other vegetable you like or have on hand. And nuts. You could use cashews, walnuts, etc. But the way I first had this dish and have never deviated in all these years is with using RAW peanuts. I love it this way! And a surprise I delight in everytime: they're even better reheated in the microwave! I don't know why, but they have a delightful "POP" when bitten into that they don't in the first go-around.
One other thing, this is probably my favorite leftover dinner to eat for breakfast. Seriously. In fact, this is probably my very favorite breakfast food. Love it Love it Love it!
FYI: this mix comes in varying degrees of heat. I think they have a Mild, Medium, Medium-Hot, and Hot. This is the only prepared food that I can go all the way to the "HOT" end of the scale and still be comfortable. The flavors in each degree are the same, they just climb a bit incrementally as far as the heat is concerned. For my Sweetheart's sake, I'll probably turn it back down a bit to the Medium or even Medium-Hot.
This is the amount of vegetables I used in tonight's dinner. But remember, the beauty of this dish is that you can use as much or as little of whatever vegetables/meat you would like. Adjust the amount of water or even the prepared curry according to how much produce you use.
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 oz mushroom, thick slice
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow crookneck squash
1/4 head cauliflower, broken into small florets
2 broccoli crowns, broken into small florets
1/2 red pepper, large dice
1 cup frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans)
1/2 cup raw peanuts
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Spray with canola oil cooking spray (or add canola oil). Cook potatoes about 3-5 minutes or until potatoes begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and onions, cook another couple of minutes until they begin to soften.
Add about 4 oz of the Golden Curry paste and stir in. Add anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 cups of water, depending on how many vegetables you are using (I ended up using 3 cups tonight because I had a lot of vegetables). Start with 1 1/2 cups and add 1/2 more at a time until it looks right to you. You want a thick sauce, but not gooey, not runny. Cook until curry paste is dissolved.
Add remaining vegetables (zucchini, squash, cauliflower, broccoli, pepper, mixed veges, peanuts). Add cooked chicken at this point if you wish, or uncooked shrimp. Heat throughout (shrimp will cook in just a few minutes while the mixture is heating).
Serve over rice. Somes grapes would be a nice side dish.
There will be plenty of leftovers for breakfast! Or it does freeze nicely.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cranberry Apple Cake

I found a half a bag of cranberries left over from the holidays in the freezer then ran across this recipe I had copied I-don't-know-how-long-ago. I wish I knew where it came from so I could give credit where due. I was a bit leary because any recipe I had ever used always called for chopped cranberries. Not here. I took a chance and just threw in the whole cranberries.
WOW! What a surprise! Definitely a burst of tartness, but this recipe is so well balanced with sweetness. You will definitely have your fingers crossed that you get a berry in every bite!
(A note on the recipe says that the recipe is from Seattle restauranteur Gretchen Mathers. It's good alone or with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sift a little powdered sugar over the top just before slicing.)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 medium-size Granny Smith apples
1 3/4 packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 cup oil)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse
Heat oven to 350. Grease 10/12 cup Bundt pan or 10x4" tube pan well (I use the cooking spray for beautifully.)
Put the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon into a bowl. Stir to mix well.
Put brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla into a large bowl and beat smooth with a wire whisk. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the cranberries, apples (quarter and core apples, no need to peel.....cut into 1/4" chunks.....about 2 cups), and nuts. Batter will be stiff.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 5-15 minutes (my oven took 1 hour, 5 minutes).
Place the pan on a wire rack to cook for about 30 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake and invert on the rack. Let cool completely. It is good fresh; or wrap airtight and store overnight at room temperature before serving or freezing.

Wheatberry Salad

I love wheatberries. I love the chewiness (I'm really into texture). This is a Food Network recipe, but I've made a bunch of different versions. This is a good base recipe, add or subtract other vegetables or seasonings that suite your taste. I keep it around for something to snack on instead of resorting to chips. (A note, I love to add cooked wheatberries to split pea soup.....again, the texture!)
1 cup wheatberries
1 cup finely diced red onion
6 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 scallions, minced, white and green parts
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1 carrot, small diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
(I also add chopped water chestnuts if I have them on hand)
Place the wheatberries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook. (Directions say uncovered, but I tend to cover them, cook on low for about 45 minutes or until the berries are chewy) Drain.
Saute the red onion in 2 Tbsp of olive oil (I used olive oil cooking spray) over medium-low heat until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add remaining 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) of olive oil (I only used 2 Tbsp) and the balsamic vinegar.
In a bowl, combine the warm wheatberries, sauteed onions, scallions, red pepper, carrot, water chestnuts (if you have them), S&P. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheatberries to absorb the sauce. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Chicken Tarragon and Roasted Lemon Potatoes

I ran across this recipe (I think it's a Sara Molton recipe) and just happened to have everything on hand so I picked this for dinner. I love tarragon so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. As for the potatoes, I generally use a southwest seasoning with olive oil and Montreal Seasoning for my potatoes, but this sounded nice for a change. While I still prefer my original roasted potatoes, the lemony-ness in these potatoes were a nice change. This recipe served 2. I also found some wonderful, big, blemish-free artichokes which I steamed and served.
2 bonelss, skinless chicken breast halves, about 6 ounces each (I used Publix chicken cutlets, eliminating the first step of the recipe)
1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp EVOO
1 minced shallot
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 Tbsp dry white wine
2 Tbsp cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
S&P to taste
Sprinkle a small amount of water on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place the breast halves on top of the plastic and sprinkle again with water. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap and pound with a rolling pin or meat pounder until about 1/4" thick.
Mix the flour with the S&P in a shallow pie plate. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Place the chicken in the flour mixture and coat on all sides. Shake off excess flour and add to skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate or platter and cover loosely with foil.
Add the shallots, tarragon, and wine to the skillet. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring to pick up any of the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Boil until the liquid has reduced. Pour in the cream, bring back to a boil, and boil until reduced by half. Pour in the stock, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with S&P, reduce the heat to medium, and return the chicken to the skillet. Simmer, turning the chicken often, until warmed through and the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Spoon some of the sauce over each piece of chicken and serve at once.
4-5 small to medium red potatoes, cubed
1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced (depending on size and juiciness)
olive oil
dried oregano
dried parsley
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop potatoes in for about 4-5 minutes, until just beginning to soften.
Drain. Squeeze lemon juice over potatoes. Let sit at least 15 minutes.
Add olive oil and seasonings. Coat evenly.
Bake in 450 degree oven. My potatoes were pretty well cooked, so I only roasted these about 20 minutes. Just check for doneness every 5 minutes after about 15 minutes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thai Shrimp Curry

I have posted this recipe once before, but this dish is so good and so easy, it deems repeating. Preparation for everything takes less than 10 minutes, actual cooking time, the same. I had some leftover Jasmine rice in the freezer which I took out this morning to thaw, so I just zapped it for about a minute in the ziplock bag and it was ready. I froze the leftover coconut milk for next time. It served it with red, seedless grapes. This recipe serves two.
In saute pan, heat canola oil or spray with canola oil Pam. Add:
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium carrot, trimmed and shredded
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil
Saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add:
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
Saute 30-60 seconds. Add:
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
Stir. Add:
1/2 can coconut milk (lightened works great)
Bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
1/2 pound uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp (any size will do)
Stir until the shrimp are done (2-3 minutes, depending on size). Remove from heat and stir in:
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil.
Serve over Jasmine rice. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro or basil.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chestnut Fennel Soup

I ran across chestnuts at the supermarket around Christmas time and thought I'd give chestnut soup a shot. I had only eaten chestnut soup one time in my life, at a restaurant I worked at in Minnesota for their New Year's Eve dinner. And it was wonderful. But it was also primarily cream. When I saw the chestnuts, I did a search for recipes and found this one which is primarily broth/water-based. It only has a 1/4 cup of half&half. I loved this soup. Jim didn't. I don't know why. He only had one spoonful. I finished his. And all of the leftovers! It has a simple elegance to it, and the fennel is so subtle, but so important. I can't wait until next December when chestnuts become available again. I served this with some grilled Mahi Mahi and a simple salad of romaine, fennel, red onions, and Parmesan, dressed with my favorite olive oil (Laudemio) and balsamic vinegar (Cavalli) and S&P.
2 cups roasted, shelled, and skinned chestnuts (1 lb in shell or 14 oz bottled whole)
1 shallot, chopped
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
6 Tbsp unsalted butter (I only used 2 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp dry white wine
1/2 fennel bulb, stalks and core discarded, bulb coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup half&half
Coarsely chop chestnuts, reserving 1/3 cup for garnish.
Cook shallot and leeks in a 1 Tbsp (recipe from calls for 2 Tbsp) butter in a 5-qt heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in fennel, broth, chestnuts (excluding garnish), and water, then wimmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in half&half and cool mixture slightly.
Puree mixture in batches in a blender until smooth, tranferring to a bowl. Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer, thinning with water if desired. Season with S&P.
While soup is reheating, heat remaining 4 Tbsp butter (I used 1 Tbsp) in a heavy 10" skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute reserved chestnuts with S&P to taste, stirring constantly, until crisp and butter is browned, about 4 minutes.
Serve soup with chestnuts and drizzled butter. I would also garnish with a bit of chopped parsley, to add color.
This recipe makes about 6 cups (6-8 servings).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pan-Seared Shrimp w/Romesco Sauce, Creamy Grits, and Greens

I was watching an episode of "America's Worst Cook" the other day on FoodNetwork. Chef Robert Irvine presented this meal for his team to prepare. While I'd heard of Romesco Sauce, I had no idea what it was. It has Spanish roots and includes roasted red peppers (which I love), tomatoes, almonds, and bread. Interesting, I thought. I love shrimp and I love grits and I'm trying my best to make fresh greens, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Let me say first of all, the shrimp, sauce, and grits were wonderful. I'll get to that in a minute. But let me make a plea to anyone who might help me: Is there anyway to cook any kind of greens that don't come out a pile of bitterness? Lord knows I have tried, but I have yet to find a way to cook any kind of greens that are tolerable without loading them down with tons of bacon grease or other fats. I have bought prepared greens that are seasoned wonderfully, but they are also full of fat and sodium. I know that greens are packed with all kinds of nutrition and I would love any help anyone can give me to make them more palatable, while still being healthy. Mr. Irvine's recipe for the greens calls to heat vegetable oil in a pot, add a bunch of mustard greens (thick stems removed) and a pinch of crushed red pepper, cook down, then add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock, simmering until tender. I tried seasoning it up a bit, but the bitterness was more than either of us could handle.

So, for the rest of the dinner (except for the Romesco Sauce, I've cut the recipe to serve 2):


1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 slice rustic white bread, diced into 1/2" cubes (I used 2 slices of a Panera baguette)
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar (I used regular balsamic)
4 Roma tomatoes, cored and quartered (not seeded)
1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp olive oil

Grind the almonds in a food processor until finely ground but not pureed. Add the bread, vinegar, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and paprika to the processor and grind together briefly until evenly pureed. With the motor running, add the olive oil slowly until the sauce is thickened. Taste and season with salt.

(NOTE: You will only need a few tablespoons of this for this recipe. Freeze the leftovers and use in place of marinara sauce or to season something like chili.)


1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup instant grits
2 Tbsp cream or half&half
1/4 cup havarti, grated
1/2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Place a saucepan over high heat with stock, S&P. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the grits, and stir with a whisk. Once the grits come to a simmer, add the cream, again reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook until the grits just start to thicken, about 8 minutes. Add the cheese to the grits, taste for seasoning, turn the heat off, and allow the cheese to melt into the grits. Stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Cover and keep warm.

(NOTE: My grits thickened very quickly before the grits were softened. I ended adding a bit more stock and half&half a bit at a time until grits were finished without becoming wallpaper paste. I just kept whisking it in until the consistency was right.)


1 Tbsp unsalted butter
(I used) six 13/15 count shrimp (you could certainly use any size and amount you prefer)
2 Tbsp white wine
about 1/4 cup Romesco sauce

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add butter, allow to melt. Season the shrimp with S&P then add to pan. Stir the shrimp while cooking. Cook until bright pink.

Once the shrimp are cooked, add the wine to deglaze the pan, allowing the wine to simmer for 1 minute or until reduced. Turn the heat off and add Romesco sauce, stirring to coat the shrimp.

To plate, spoon the grits onto a plate, top with greens (if you dare!), and top with shrimp and sauce.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lucious Lemon Anise Cookies

These are such nice little cookies! So soft, simple, a perfect bite when you want just the subtle hint of sweetness. The combination of lemon and anise is absolutely delightful, the very slight hint of lemon with the mouth-cleansing aftertaste of anise. This recipe made 80 teaspoon-sized (dough) cookies, I glazed half of them and left the other half plain. I really hope that if these flavors are something you like, you'll give these a try. I wish a could send a sample to every one of you!!!
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp anise extract
zest of one lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease baking sheets (I prefer to use parchment paper).
Make Dough: Beat sugar, cooled butter, eggs, milk, anise extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice together is a large bowl with mixer until blended. On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.
Drop rounded measuring teaspoons of dough 2" apart on baking sheet (I got 20 cookies per sheet, 4 across, 5 down).
Bake 8-10 minutes (mine took 10 minutes) until bottoms are light golden. Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Make glaze.
Dip tops of cookies in glaze. Let set and then dip again (optional, I didn't do this), and let set. Store airtight at room temperature up to 2 weeks or freeze up to one month.
(I only made half/recipe since I only glazed 40 of the cookies)
Whisk together 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 2 tsp milk in a small bowl until smooth.

Grilled Curried Chicken Cutlets over Asian Rice-Noodle Salad

I was craving an Asian-inspired salad and found this recipe I made some time ago. It hit the spot. This would, actually, be a wonderful summer-time salad as you can make everything ahead, grill the chicken outside at the last minute, and keep your kitchen cool. Simple ingredients (you can usually find the noodles in your local supermarket), most of which I usually have on hand. I cut the original recipe in half, so the below amounts made two good servings.


1/2 lb chicken cutlets or chicken breasts
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp well-shaken buttermilk
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic

4 oz Asian medium rice-flour noodles (banh pho), broken in half
4 cups boiling water
2 scallions (green parts only) cut into 2" thin strips
1/3 English cucumber or 1-2 pickling cucumbers, seeded if you like, and cut into cubes or matchsticks
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin strips
2-4 Tbsp Asian sweet chili sauce (depending on how much heat you like)
2 Tbsp fresh lime just, plus a few wedges for garnish
4 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2-4 Tbsp coarsely chopped pistachios or peanuts

Preheat grill and lightly oil or spray rack. Rince chicken and pat dry. Whisk together buttermilk, curry, and garlic in a shallow glass dish; season with S&P. Add chicken, turning to coat, and marinade at room temperature, 15 minutes

Meanwhile, bring water to boil. Turn heat off and add noodles. Let noodles sit in hot water (covered) 10-15 or until noodles are tender. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well. Toss together noodles, scallions, cucumbers, peppers, chili sauce, lime juice, 2 Tbsp mint and 1-2 Tbsp nuts, S&P to taste, for noodle salad (this mixture could sit for several hours...refrigerated...until ready to grill chicken).

Grill chicken over moderate heat until cooked through, turning once, 4-5 minutes for cutlets, more for a full chicken breast. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Divide noodle salad between 2 bowls or plates. Top with chicken and sprinkle with remaining mint and nuts. Serve with lime wedges and garnish w/mint sprigs.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Salmon Croquettes and Mac 'n' Cheese

This could be my #1 go-to comfort food complete dinner. I have been making this complete menu for years, always with the same recipes (well, at least for two of the items). I discovered the Salmon Croquette recipe through Cooks Illustrated years ago and the Mac 'n' Cheese in "Joy of Cooking." And I have always used canned green beans (ONLY Seasonsed Italian-Style Green Beans) when making this meal (I usually do fresh in boiling, salted water, but this meal just wouldn't be the same).
I grew up in the 60's in Oklahoma where fresh fish was unheard of (unless you went out and caught it yourself). And certainly not salmon. The only salmon I was familiar with for years was canned salmon, which, I have to admit, I love for the bones! So periodically my mom would make salmon croquettes using, of course, canned salmon. Not bad, but certainly not a meal anyone ever requested for special occasions, or even when being solicited for menu ideas. So I grew up thinking that was what a salmon croquette was.
Then, some years ago in my infancy of becoming a foodie, I discovered a recipe using FRESH salmon. Holy Smokes! What a difference. And that was the dawning of my real-food cooking. Maybe that's why this meal has become my #1 Comfort Food Meal.
I do hope you'll try this, but a word of warning. It is messy to make. And it will dirty your kitchen. And it's a bit labor-intensive only because you need to rinse your hands and utensils after each and every step. It's just a tad bit time-consuming, but can easily be made early in the day and refrigerated if you'd like. Same with the Mac 'n' Cheese. If fact, I made both of these earlier this afternoon, then just popped the M&C in the oven while heating the skillet for the croquettes. It all times beautifully and comes out all at the same time. And I have never found a Mac 'n' Cheese recipe better than this one. I hope you'll try them someday when you're looking for a nice comfort meal.
I halved the recipe......this recipe made four croquettes, depending on the size of the patties makes 2-4 servings
3/4 lb fresh salmon, finely diced
1 Tbsp mayo
2 Tbsp finely minced onion
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
2 T fresh lemon juice
Mix together. Form four patties. Place on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Freeze for 15-30 minutes (they will have trouble holding together well as the mayo is the only binder at this point).
Prepare three plates: one with flour, one with whipped eggs or egg beaters, one with Panko-Brand bread crumbs (DO NOT USE REGULAR BREAD CRUMBS.....Panko makes ALL the difference)
Run each patty through each plate. I find that I have to kind of re-form each patty after each step, and I usually need to rinse my hands (then dry) and also the utensil I'm using after each step. I'll place each re-formed patty back on the waxed paper until I'm ready to fry.
Have a saute pan heated then coat with canola oil. Fry the patties until brown and crispy on each side. Serve hot with lemon wedges and homemade tartar sauce.
This recipe came from the 75th Anniversary edition of "Joy of Cooking." Sauce on page 550, M&C recipe on page 326. I cut the recipe down to make 2-4 servings.
White Sauce (makes 1 cup)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 thick onion slice stuck with 2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
Scald milk with onion and bay leaf (I microwaved until just boiling). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour until blended smooth. Remove onion and bay leaf from milk, then whisk milk into roux until thickened. Set aside.
1 cup white sauce
1/4 medium onion, minced
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp paprika (I used smoked paprika... if you've got it, use makes ALL the difference)
1 heaping cup (4.5 oz) grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
S&P to taste
4 oz uncooked elbow mac, small shells, corkscrew, your favorite, cooked, drained
Into the white sauce, stir in onion, bay leaf, paprika and simmer gently, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat, discard bay leaf, and stir in 2/3 of the cheese. Reserve the rest. Season w/S&P.
Add cooked pasta into sauce. Pour half of the mixture into a small baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the rest of the macaroni and then remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot throughout (the JOC recipe calls for adding buttered bread crumbs on top).
In the meantime, have your green beans warming up. These three dishes are really easy to have come out all at the same time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chorizo and Eggs

Whenever we go to a Mexican restaurant, 9 times out of 10 Jim always orders chorizo and eggs. And for a person who's not a big egg eater (me), I love the stuff. I was looking for something quick and easy to fix for dinner tonight and found some chorizo in the freezer. The big plus for fixing this at home is that you can drain the sausage after cooking and probably cut the fat content in at least half. Plus, I used egg substitute instead to eggs to lower it even further. And the taste was fine. I just took the sausage out of the casings, smushed it into the skillet and sauteed it until done. Drain the sausage on paper towels and wipe the skillet out, coat with cooking spray and scramble the eggs until almost done. Then just add the drained sausage back in and stir. That's it. Quick, easy, and as good as any we've had in a restaurant.
I served this with tortillas, steamed broccoli, and Garlic Black Beans. You can have this dinner on the table in 15 minutes.
1-2 Tbsp canola oil, or canola oil cooking spray
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 can black beans, drained
1/3 cup tomato juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Heat oil then add cumin and garlic (don't let garlic burn). Add rest of ingredients and serve warm. 2 servings.

Sausage and Peppers

Years ago I worked at a little Italian restaurant in Minnesota. The owner had the most incredible sauage and peppers recipe. Now, I'm generally not a big fan of cooked peppers, especially when they're pretty much the entire recipe. But the sauce she created was just heaven in a dish. Her cook called it "Liquid Gold." It is so velvety and lucious. I never watched him make it and it wasn't a recipe that was ever written down. I'd had the sauce on my mind for years and finally tracked down the owner who is now in Florida. She really didn't have a recipe, just told me what she used, but no amounts.

Whenever I use a pepper and have some left over, I always freeze them for soups and chili. Well, my peppers were piling up so I thought I'd give it a shot. I had a lot of orange peppers, but generally I would just use red peppers and a little bit of green. So this isn't really a recipe, more of a guesstimate of what I used. Next time I have a surplus of peppers, I'll pay attention and provide a more precise recipe!

1 large sweet onion, julienned
2-3 red peppers, depending on size, julienned
1 small green pepper, julienned
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
small can (6 oz) tomato paste
Carlo Rossi Paisano wine (I've only ever seen this in those HUGE glass jugs).......I'm not sure how much I used....could have been about 3/4 of a regular-sized bottle)
Italian sausage (I used turkey Italian sausage)

Saute onion and garlics in olive oil and butter until tender. Add peppers and cook about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine. Bring to a boil then turn down to a low simmer. Cook undercovered for a couple of hours until sauce is reduced by at least half. I ended up adding about a Tablespoon of sugar (Char said she added salt, but I left that out).

Saute the sausage. I cooked two whole links, but I think next time I will cut them in chunks. Add sausage and drippings to sauce. Simmer about another half hour.

I served this on penne pasta along with a Caesar salad and an Italian roll. This amount would make 3-4 servings. And believe me, it's just as good the next day!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creamy Reuben Soup

OK, first let me apologize for this really crummy photo. I forgot to take a shot until after we started eating. And I really should have sprinkled some minced parsley or something green on top. But I had to go ahead and post this recipe because it is just so good.

We used to make this soup at a restaurant I worked at in Minnesota and it so was popular. It is so rich and delicious, especially on a cold night. Now, with most soups, I like to prepare them in advance......soups just "grow" after chilling and then reheating. The flavors just blossom. But this one doesn't reheat well, it loses so much of its richness. So have everything ready and get started on it about 45 minutes before you plan on serving it, and serve it immediately. Also, I made a side salad to go with it, but it really wasn't necessary. This soup is so rich and filling, one bowl will be all you'll need. We only had a few bites out of our salad. This recipe makes 6 substantial servings.


1 cup sauerkraut

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup celery, chopped

3 Tbsp butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups water

4 tsp beef flavored bouillon

1/2 lb corned beef, shredded

3 cups half and half (I used 1 1/2 cups H&H and 1 1/2 cup milk)

12 oz shredded Swiss cheese

6-8 slices New York style rye bread, cut into cubes, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned salt, then toasted in the oven for 15 minutes, stirred, and baked until dried

In a large saucepan, cook onion and celery in butter until tender. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in water and bouillon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 5 minutes.

Add corned beef, kraut, milk, and 1 cup cheese. Cook 30 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.

Ladle into oven proof bowls. Top with rye croutons and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded Swiss cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chili-Flavored Turkey Stew w/Hominy and Tomatoes

OK, we are in the heart of SOUP SEASON. As I was going through my pantry, I ran across a can of hominy. WHAT THE HECK WAS I GOING TO DO WITH THIS? I mean, it's not exactly a usual side dish. And I still had some leftover turkey from the turkey I roasted a few days ago. So, I did a search with turkey and hominy as ingredients and ran across this recipe. And it were good! Tasty, tasty, tasty. Served it with a baguette and could have used a bit more bread. This was a great recipe for a bunch of leftovers. (Serves 6)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, cut into medium dice (I only use sweet onions)
1/2 red bell peper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into small dice
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups canned hominy, drained
4 cups leftover turkey, chopped
S& P to taste
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Heat oil in large, deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder, continue to cook until frangrant, 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth and hominy, bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, about 10 minutes, to blend flavors. Add turkey, S&P. Simmer until heated throughout, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips, if deserved. I served it with whole grain bread rolls.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stuffed Shells w/Caesar Salad

I had some leftover ricotta cheese in the frig that I needed to use up and decided to make some stuffed shells, something I hadn't made in years. I'm so glad I did, they really turned out good and it made enough to freeze half of it. I also made the Caesar Salad with the dressing I made earlier (yum).....and so simple: chopped romaine with homemade croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a bit more coarsley black pepper.

Now, I just kind of winged the recipe, looked up several on-line and kinda combined them. So the recipe below will list what I used. I cooked 6 oz of jumbo shells, which came out to be 24 shells. So I thought I'd end up with 2 dishes of a dozen stuffed shells. WRONG!!! I forgot how the shells tend to fall apart (even when cooking al dente), but they did and I ended up with 14 good shells. It actually worked out perfectly. I had just enough stuffing for 14 shells, and put 7 stuffed shells in two small oven-proof dishes, one went in the freezer. I cooked the one dish for 45 minutes at 350 and it came out perfectly.


6 oz jumbo pasta shells (about 24) cooked, drained, and layed out on waxed paper so they didn't stick

Mix together:

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and very well drained

1/2+ cup Parmesan, divided

1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided

1/4 cup egg beaters, or 1 beaten egg

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried basil

1 jar spaghetti sauce

Line two small baking dishes with spaghetti sauce. Mix all the other ingredients (just half of the Parmesan and mozzarella) and fill the shells. Mix remaining spaghetti sauce with remaining cheeses. Spread over stuffed shells. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. You can save a bit of the cheeses and top the dish with them, then broil for a few minutes to give it a baked, cheesy topping.

Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

We eat a LOT of Caesar Salads around here. For the longest time, I always made my own Caesar vinaigrette, but after working in a few restaurants that used prepared dressings which were really quite good, I started buying bottled. I can't say I prefer creamy more than the vinaigrette, I enjoy both. But the last bottle I bought just wasn't doing it for me anymore. My mom just happened to share this recipe with me recently so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's definitely a keeper.

I've tried making salad dressings and dips with reduced-fat mayo, but if they sit for more than a day, they start getting really runny. Recently, I've been having really good luck using half regular mayo and half reduced-fat mayo (and I only use Hellman's {Best Food west of the Rockies}). As with most dips, this is definitely better at least several hours after preparing.

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used large cloves because I want to taste it!)
coarsely ground black pepper (I just sprinkled it in until it looked right)
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
Whisk together well, then refrigerate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Salmon and Raspberry Glaze on Whole Grain Rice

Another Publix recipe. We hadn't had salmon in a while and I usually incorporate it in our menu at least once a week. This recipe came out in today's sale flyer. I served it with asparagus and a whole grain rice mix. A very nice, simple, delicious dinner. Another fast and easy meal.
1 Tbsp Smucker's Red Raspberry Preserves
1 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
black pepper
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1/2 pound salmon fillet, skin removed
Whisk vinegar and raspberry preserves until blended. Sprinkle salmon with pepper, then coat with cooking spray.
Place salmon on grill until opaque and separates easily (15 minutes on a George Foreman Grill, #4, turning after about 10 minutes). Top with raspberry sauce.
Since I was using a whole-grain rice blend, it took about 45 minutes in my rice cooker. I started that first, then turned the grill on. I microwaved the asparagus for 4-5 minutes before the salmon was finished. It all came together easily for a really nice meal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Cuban Sandwich" Casserole

Another Publix recipe. And really, really good. I LOVE Cuban sandwiches (pork, ham, swiss, pickles, mustard), but have never found a good one anywhere except in South Florida (go figure!) Publix really did good with this recipe. So, so tasy and so, so fast and easy. I hope you'll give this one a try. While this recipe "Serves 4," the two of us ate almost the entire dish. There's one small serving of leftovers. I served this with my Fresh Market Rosemary-Salt Rolls.


4 oz Swiss cheese, cubed or shredded
2 Tbsp cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 links apple chicken sausage (6 oz)
2 Tbsp EVOO
4 oz cooked ham cubes
1 (6.9 oz) box chicken-flavored rice mix
1/2 Tsp Complete seasoning (this is a Publix brand seasoning...a bit of chicken seasoning, salt, garlic powder would work)
1/4 cup dill relish (I used 1/2 cup)
1 tsp mustard (1 used 1 Tbsp)

Preheat large saute pan on medium high 2-3 minutes. Place oil in pan, then add sausage and ham; cook 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned.

Stir in rice seasoning (from mix), Complete seasoning, and 1/2 cup water; cook and stir 1-2 minutes.

Stir in rice, relish, mustard, 1 Tbsp cilantro, and 2 cups water, then cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes (without removing cover) or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

Stir in cheese, then sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbsp cilantro. Serve.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Creamy Chicken Soup

Oh, YUM!!!! What a wonderful, creamy, chicken/turkey soup. And so easy. Especially since you can elimiate step 1 and use leftover turkey like I did. Made some homemade bread and this is the quintessential dinner for a lovely, snowy day like we had.
1 lb chicken (breasts or combination.....or like I did, used leftover turkey meat)
1 onion, diced
1-2 Tbsp butter
2 handfuls baby carrots (about 2 cups sliced)
4 red potatoes, diced small with skins on
Chicken Bouillon cubes, to taste
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
8 oz package cream cheese (I used that how it's spelled??? Anyway, the 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
Put chicken in pot and cover with water; boil until cooked. Take chicken out of water but keep the broth. When chicken is cool, shred.
Saute onion in butter. Put onion in pot and add carrots and potatoes. Add 3-4 cups of broth or enough to cover vegetables. Add bouillon cubes or sou base for flavor. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are ender.
Mix flour with milk and add to soup. Soften cream cheese in microwave then add to soup in little pieces and stir until smooth. Season with S&P.


Navy Bean Soup

Oh is it ever soup season!!!! My favorite time of the year! Due to an incredible snow overnight, I'm going to make TWO soups today! I made this the other day with the leftover ham we had from Christmas (yes, it's still good). This soup was so savory, I had leftovers at midnight and for breakfast the next morning!
1 lb navy beans, soaked overnight
celery, onions, carrots, amount and size-of-dice to your choosing
ham bone with meat still on
1 bouquet garni (traditionally parsley, thyme, bay leaf.....but can also include rosemary, oregano)
Put beans and ham bone in stock pot and cover with water, cook about an hour until bean starts to soften. Add vegetables and herbs. Cook until beans are completely soft. Mash about half of the beans to help thicken the soup. Season with S&P to taste.
This recipe would probably serve about 6, but the two of us polished the soup of within the first day. As with most soups, this one really is better the second day, although we didn't give it a chance! I served it with Fresh Market's Rosemary-Salt Rolls.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spot and Muffin

You know, we love Lindie and are so glad she's with us, not shaking in a windowless, smelly wire kennel at the animal shelter. But our love of all dogs really started with these two little balls of love who showed up in a hot, dirty foundry in San Antonio almost eleven years ago. Our veterinarian at the time (Dr. Sherri Youngblood) believed they were litter mates and they have always behaved like they were next to each other in the womb. These are two peas in a pod and we just love them so much.

Living Room Photos

My friend, Donna (hi Donna!) visited me last year back in the land of upholstered furniture. With 3 dogs and a cat, well, not a good match. We splurged and got some new leather furniture and a new, beautiful wall unit. She asked that I post the photos, so here they are. An idea of where we're going with our decorating. Thank you, Jim, for giving us such a lovely home.

Fajita Salad

We have been living on leftovers for the last week: Jambalaya, Hoppin' Johns, and last night I roasted a turkey. Unfortunately, Jim carved it before I got a photo. And it was lovely. And tasty. Used the World Market brine (see earlier post). So look forward to some leftover turkey recipes!
But last Sunday we went out for our usual Sunday morning date. We go to a 24/7 place that offers its entire extensive menu all day long. I'm not a breakfast-food person so I usually order a sandwich or salad-type of meal. Last Sunday I decided to try the fajitas. This restaurant is known for its ginormous portions. I got about 5 meals out of this one order. Anywho.....with the leftovers, I simply filled a bowl with shredded lettuce, topped with shredded cheddar, grape tomatoes, and ranch dressing. I topped this with heated fajitas leftovers and served with chips and guacamole.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Gingerbread Cake w/Cream Sauce

My photos of the single serving of this dessert came out fuzzy, so I only have this shot of the entire cake to show you. If you like "earthy" desserts (I'm thinking something non-chocolate or overly sweet), this one is for you. This cake is just delicious. And drizzled with the Cream Sauce and a scoop of Vanilla Bean ice cream......oh, my! If this type of dessert is up your street, I really hope you'll try it. Another very easy recipe and in the words of Mr. Food "Oh So Good!"
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
Mix until crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup of the above mixture for the streusel topping. To this, add 1/2 cup chopped pecans, if desired.
To the remainder, mix in:
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
Pour batter into a well-greased 13x9 baking pan. Sprinkle with the reserved streusel topping. Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Watch carefully so you don't overbake. Let cool slightly, and serve warm with Cream Sauce.
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter
dash ground ginger
Combine and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir 4 minutes. Serve warm sauce over gingerbread cake.
Top with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Happy New Year's!

This is my New Year's card for Jim.....didn't photograph as well as I had hoped.....the ball is suppose to the the ball that drops at Times Square.

New Year's Dinner

We're in the South. We have traditions. And for every year of my life, all I can remember eating for dinner for New Year's Day is black-eyed peas (for luck) and cole slaw (green, for money). My black-eyed pea recipe comes from Jim's mom and while I usually make cole slaw, my personal favorite is KFC's cole slaw, so I picked up a couple of sides yesterday. And being the good Southerner's we are, you must have cornbread. I used my recipe for Jim's favorite, from a Cooking Light book. Here are the recipes for the black-eyed peas (serve on rice so you can call them Hoppin' Johns) and the cornbread:
1 lb dried black-eyed peas (do not soak)
Put in roaster pan or I used a 9x13 glass dish
Cover w/water
Add one medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 whole jalapeno pepper
2 ham hocks (this time I used about 1/2 cup+ of leftover honeybaked ham)
Cook at 250 (covered) for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Check at about 2 hours to see if it needs more water.
1 cup flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 (7-oz) can Mexicorn
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten (or 1/4 cup Egg Beaters)
Place a 9" cast-iron skillet in a 450 oven for 5 minutes.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.; make a well in the center of mixture. Combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients; add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened.
Coat skillet w/cooking spray; immediately pour batter into hot skillet. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until golden.
10 servings.