Friday, September 27, 2013

Fruit and Nut Holiday Mix

I've seen this mix advertised recently as people start thinking about holiday treats.  It's a bit pricey (about $45 for three 16 oz jars) and when I read the comments, the biggest complaint was about the proportion of ingredients....buyers felt the mix was primarily almonds and cranberries, with very, very few macadamias and cashews.  So I just decided to make my own.

A few notes:  the original mix calls for cinnamon-spiced pecans.  So I found several recipes and sort of mixed them together.  However, I prefer my own Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans which are crisper and has a scooch more spice.  I'll list both recipes below.  You won't go wrong with either of them.  Also, the original mix calls for roasted almonds, but I had a container of cocoa-dusted Emerald-brand almonds in the freezer so I used them (yes, Mr. Repairman!!!!  More out of the freezer!)  And with the amount of fruit vs. nuts, I'm pretty much able to get one piece of fruit to one nut...making that wonderful sweet/savory combo.

I also found some really nice dried cherries.  While I like Craisins (dried cranberries), they tend to be a tad dry and extremely chewy.  The cherries I found (Sunsweet brand Dried Morella Cherries) were much softer and had a nice pull to them.  I found them in the same snack area with raisins and Craisins.

This recipe made about 10 cups (about 80 oz) versus the 48 oz of the other stuff for about $ the mix was much more well-proportioned.....more of the good stuff!  Put some in some pretty holiday containers with a pretty bow and this would make a great gift come December.

FRUIT and NUT HOLIDAY MIX (makes about 10 cups)

5 oz dried cranberries (about 1 cup)
5 oz dried cherries (about 1 cup)
8 oz roasted almonds (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 oz spiced pecans (about 2 1/2 cups), recipes below
6 oz macadamia nuts (aoubt 1 cup)
10 oz cashews (about 2 cups)

Mix everything together.  Store in an air-tight container.

CINNAMON-SPICED PECANS (makes about 2 1/2 cups)

1/2 pound pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tsp water
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 225F.  In a 9x13 baking dish, place the butter.  Put dish in oven while it is preheating.

Whisk egg white and water until frothy.  Add pecans and stir until completely coated.

In another bowl, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.  Add pecans and stir until completely coated.

Pour pecans into baking dish.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Place baked pecans onto cookie sheet and let cool until hardened.


6 Tbsp corn syrup
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
3 cups pecan halves

Combine corn syrup with the next 5 ingredients; mix well in a large bowl.  Add pecans and stir gently to coat.  Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.  Spread on baking sheet.

Bake at 350F for 2 1/2 (5 for me) minutes, then, using a fork, stir to coat with mixture and baking again until pecans are golden and coating is bubbly, about 2-3 (5-10 for me)minutes more.  Transfer to a piece of foil and quickly separate pecans with a fork.  Cool and then store in an air-tight container.  (These will keep in the freezer for, well, just about forever....maybe one of my problems!)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spinach Soup

On a directive from my appliance repairman, I am (once again) on a mission to scale down the contents of my refrigerator and (mainly) the freezer.  So I have made a promise to myself for the next couple of weeks to use several things out of the freezer at each meal so I can eventually slip a piece of paper somewhere in there.

OK, so this did not come out of the freezer, but I did have a big bag a spinach which a few questionable leaves.  This was the first recipe I came across and used it because I had everything on hand.

This is a simple, low-fat soup.  I did add an extra potato to add a bit more heft to the soup.  I also used lemon-pepper instead of black pepper to add a bit more flavor.  And lastly, I had cooked one of my favorite rice blends (shown above) and so I added a few spoonfuls of the cooked grains to add some texture.  Your option.

SPINACH SOUP (serves 4)

2 tsp EVOO
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups fat-free or low-fat milk
6-9 oz fresh spinach
Black pepper or lemon pepper
Cooked rice or grains, optional

Heat oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Saute garlic, onion, celery, and potatoes for 5 minutes.

Add chicken broth and milk.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in half the spinach, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Cool slightly, then transfer soup to a blender, working in two batches if necessary.

Add remaining spinach and blend.

NOTE:  Since this is a light soup, you will get a lot of air in it when you blend it.  I suggest you let the soup stand for at least half an hour and then lightly reheat.

Recipe Source:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Salt Nut Bars

Ummm.....well.....yum.  What more can I say?  Salty and sweet.  And crunchy.  And chewy.  Perfection for a treat.  I can say no more.

SALT NUT BARS (makes a 13x9 pan....number of bars depends upon how you cut them)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 bag mini marshmellows
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 bag peanut butter chips
2 cups crisped rice cereal
2 cups salted peanuts

Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Blend butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla and blend.  Add dry ingredients and blend.  Press mixture into prepared dish.  Bake for 12-14 minutes or until mixture is well set.  Do not overbake.

Place baking dish on cooling rack.  Immediately sprinkle with marshmellows.  Tent with aluminum foil to help marshmellows to melt onto base.  Allow base to cool. 

In the meantime in a large mixing bowl, add corn syrup , butter, vanilla, and peanut butter chips.  Have ready the cereal and peanuts.  When crust is cooled, microwave the syrup, butter, vanilla, and chips...first at one minute and then at 30 second intervals, stirring in between times.  When mixture is smooth after microwaving, add cereal and peanuts.  Spread over cooled base/marshmellow mixture.

Let cool/set in refrigerator.  Cut into desired-sized bars.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mediterranean Baked Chicken

OK, I'm not sure what happened this last week, but I do believe I hit the Mustard and Chicken Lottery recipe twice in one week!!!   I was thrilled about Sweet Mustard Baked Chicken posted just a few days ago and then......voila!!!!  Publix adds one more recipe to my repertoire!  Holy Smokes, Batman!  This is some good eatin'!  Why it's called Mediterranean Baked Chicken is beyond me, I think it should be called Some Smokin' Good Mustard Chicken.

I do have to admit, I can count on one hand the times I've used any Campbell's Cream-of-Anything soup (which is called for in this recipe) in the last few years, but being in a hurry to recreate this dish of luciousness, I bit the bullet and used it.  Next time I'll create my own celery version of a bechamel sauce.  Also, I used chicken cutlets instead of breasts, so I turned the oven down to 375F since cutlets are simply breasts cut in half lengthwise.  But, hey, I was under pressure here and wanted to make this dish immediately!


4 boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/4 pound
cooking spray
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs (I used Panko seasoned with dried Italian seasoning)
1 (10.75 oz) can reduced-fat, reduced-sodium condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup reduced-fat milk
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F.  Coat a 13x9" baking dish with spray.

Fry bacon pieces.  Set on paper towel to dry.

Place bread crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Coat both sides of chicken and place in a baking dish (wash hands).  Bake 20 minutes or until chicken is 165F.

Combine soup, milk, and mustard until well blended.  Pour over chicken, sprinkle with cheese and bacon.  Bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbly.

Recipe Source:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Green Bean Saute

This was a fabulous side dish being demo-ed at Publix the other day.  I was lucky enough to be in the store two times when they were serving this and knew it was going to be on my table this weekend.

What an interesting combination of flavors!  Bacon drippings, Italian dressing, olives, lemon zest.....who'd a thunk it?  I suppose you could use regular green beans, but I just love these smaller French green beans (haricot vert).  I have found them loose and also in 8 oz bags at several markets in several's not a hard-to-find ingredient.  Be careful not to overcook....these are at their best when they are crisp-tender.

GREEN BEAN SAUTE (4 servings)

1 Tbsp bacon drippings (about 4 slices of bacon)
1/4 cup zesty Italian salad dressing
8 oz French green beans
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarselty chopped (I prefer oil-cured olives)
zest of one lemon

Heat bacon drippings and Italian dressing on medium-high for 1-2 minutes or until hot.  Add green beans; cook 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender (mine took a few minutes more).  Chop olives and stir into beans with lemon zest.  Serve.

Recipe Source:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Crunchy Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan is one of my favorite dishes.  But it's been years since I've made it due to some really disappointing results not to mention it's not exactly the healthiest dish when traditionally made.  But the last few weeks I keep eyeing the lovely eggplants in the produce section and thought I really should give it one more shot.

After going through a plethora of recipes, I settled on this one primarily because the eggplant is baked, not fried.  And it uses panko breadcrumbs giving it a crunchier bite.  It does take a bit of time, but it is not labor-intensive (you'll need an extra half hour to sweat the eggplant to help reduce bitterness).  And it's really not a summer dish as you're going to have your oven on high temps for a while.  But you can prepare the eggplant and sauce earlier in the day and then assemble it just before baking.  With the risk, of course, that you may end up eating the cooked eggplant slices being left with only sauce and cheese for your entree.

I did half the recipe and used an 8x8" dish and it worked perfectly.


cooking spray
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4-1/2" slices
2 tsp salt, or as needed
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion, diced
2 tsp minced garlic
4 cups prepared pasta sauce
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend or mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray an 11x13" baking dish and 2 baking sheets with cooking spray (I covered my baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up).

Place eggplant slices on racks over the sink or paper towels and sprinkle both sides of slices lightly with salt.  Let eggplant drain for 30 minutes, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.  Place eggplant slices on prepared baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven until eggplant is softened, about 15 minutes.

Pour beaten eggs into a shallow bowl; combine panko bread crumbs with Italian seasoning in a separate shallow bowl.  Dip eggplant into the beaten egg and press into panko crumbs to coat.  Place breaded eggplant bacon the on the baking sheets and spray the slices with cooking spray.

Set oven rack about 6" from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler.

Broil eggplant slices until tops are brown 2-3 minutes; remove slices, turn, and spray other sides with cooking spray.  Broil until golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove eggplant and turn temperature to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook and stir onion and garlic until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in prepared pasta sauce and remove from heat.

Spread 1/3 of the pasta sauce into bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Top with half the eggplant slices, half the Italian cheese blend, and half of the Parmesan cheese.  Spread another 1/3 of the sauce over the layers; layer the remaining eggplant, remaining pasta sauce, Italian cheese blend, and Parmesan cheese.

Bake casserole in the 350F oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source: 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Crunchy Coleslaw

For all of us coleslaw aficionados, one can never have enough different coleslaw recipes.  I love 'em all....simple, fancy, creamy or vinaigrette.  This one has all those things I hold so important in a dish: taste, color, texture.

If you are going to keep this for any amount of time before serving, I would suggest keeping the coleslaw separate from the noodles/almonds/seeds and also from the dressing so you don't lose the crunch.  Wait until just before serving to mix it all together.

And I think this would make a fantastic Asian side dish by simply adding a bit of sesame oil to the dressing.  Yummm.


1 bag prepared coleslaw mix
4 green onions, sliced
one package of chicken-flavored ramen noodles, seasoning package set aside
1/2 cucp toasted slivered almonds
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp distilled vinegar
salt, to taste (remember the seasoning pack is loaded with sodium)
1/2 tsp pepper
chicken-flavored seasoning package from the ramen noodles

Mix the coleslaw and green onion.  Set aside.

Break up the noodles from the ramen package.  Toss with the almonds and sesame seeds.  Set aside.

Mix the oil, sugar, vinegar, salt (if using), pepper, and contents of the seasoning package.

When ready to serve, mix everything together and toss with the dressing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sweet Mustard Baked Chicken

Well, around here we do love our chicken and we really love our mustard.  Combine the two, and there'll be no leftovers in our house.  This recipe is scrumptious with only a few ingredients and quick and easy to prepare.

Since there were just two of us, I used chicken tenders instead of breasts (five 2-ouncers) and because they were much smaller, they cooked in under 15 minutes (about 8 minutes, then turning for another 5 or so minutes).  I also halved the mustard sauce.  I served it with those wonderful crushed potatoes (see September 5th post) and a green vegetable.  Perfect dinner, any time of the year.


3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp packed light brown syrup
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp red wine vinegar
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
fresh rosemary, chopped, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly coat a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, and red wine vinegar.  Set aside.

Arrange the chicken in the prepared baking dish with theh chicken pieces not touching, just a little space between each (if you are using 6 chicken breasts instead of 4, you may want to use a smaller 8x8" or similar-sized pan for 2 of the chicken pieces).  Liberally S&P both sides of each chicken breast.

Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken, lifting the chicken here and there to allow the sauce to spread underneath the chicken.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and carefully spoon some of the sauce from the bottom of the pan onto each chicken breast.  Cook for 8-12 minutes more until the sauce is bubbly and the chicken is cooked through (will register 165 on an instead-read thermometer).  Don't overbake!  Just get that chicken perfectly nice and juicy.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh rosemary.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Creamy Basil Spinach Soup

What a wonderful way to use up some zucchini!  This soup is so tasty and very versatile, also.  We can use cream or add chicken, or make it vegan by omitting these and using vegetable stock instead of chicken.   The soup naturally thickens on its own and the basil is just enough to add an extra dimension to the flavor.

Also, you could use sweet onions in place of the leeks, but I beg you!  Unless you simply can't find leeks or they are exorbitantly expensive, please use them....they, too, add a bit of a different flavor to this simple and simply wonderful soup.


1 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp minced garlic
1 large or 2 medium leeks, green parts trimmed and discarded, white parts washed well and chopped
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, and chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 ccups chicken stock
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2-3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1-2 cups cooked, chopped chicken, optional
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half, optional

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, leeks, and zucchini.  Stir in the S&P.  Cook, stirring often, 3-4 minutes, until the leeks have softened.  Add 1 cup of the broth, cover and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the zucchini is falling apart and is very tender, 8-10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the basil.  Carefully blend (in batches, if necessary).  Pour the soup back into the pot.  Stir in the remaining cup of broth.  Stir in the chopped spinach (and chicken and/or cream, if using) and cook until heated through, 4-5 minutes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Farro Tabbouleh Salad

I have long neglected my favorite grain: Farro.  Being that I had some leftover mint from that fabulous Greek taco/salad, I thought I'd make some tabbouleh, substituting farro for the traditional bulghar wheat.  And may I is even better.  The wonderful chewy texture that is the essence of farro completes this salad.  Farro is becoming more and more available, so if you can find it, this is a great dish to experiment with.


2/3 cup farro (5 oz)
1/2 pound chopped tomato (1 medium)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 finely diced fresh mint
2 Tbsp finely diced red onion
2 pickling cucumbers or 1/2 English cucumber, diced
2 Tbsp EVOO
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

crumbled feta or goat cheese for garnish, optional

In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with 2" of cold water and bring to a boil.  Cook over high heat for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let the farro stand until plump and al dente, 30-45 minutes.  Drain the farro in a colander, shaking off the excess water.  Let stand until cool; shake the colander occasionally to dry the farro.

In a large bowl, whish the lemon juice and EVOO and season to taste with S&P.  Add the farro, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, and cucumbers.

Garnish with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I really think that any cookie made with peanut butter is hard to screw up.  It gives the cookie such a wonderfully soft texture, almost delicate.  These are quick and easy to make and white chocolate chips are substituted for the traditional semi-sweet or milk chocolate.  I forgot to count just how many this cookies this recipe made and the recipe I had printed didn't give an amount.....I'll guestimate that this made 3-4 dozen.


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups AP flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Beat together the butter, peanut butter, and sugars.  Stir in the egg, vanilla, and milk.

Gradually mix in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) into the wet mixture.

Stir in the white chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper (for easy cleanup) and flatten slightly.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Muffin at Red Clay State Park

Red Clay State Park is one of the great hidden secrets of the Chattanooga area.  I stumbled across this gem not long after we moved here and used to take Spot and Muffin at least once a week.  We always went first thing in the morning and would have the park to ourselves.  I've said more than once that a poet could spend a few hours here and have enough material to last a lifetime.

Red Clay is a small park by state park standards, just 263 acres.  Red Clay served as the seat of the Cherokee government until they were forced off the land in 1838, where the Trail of Tears began.  It's hard to put into words, but there is such peace in a place that holds such a tragic history.  First thing in the morning the dew is still on the beautiful land and there is a tranquil, meandering stream that leads to "The Blue Hole," a stunningly clear 13 foot deep well of natural springwater.  The sun wafts through trees in the early is serene, peaceful, inspirational.

We'd not been out for quite some time....long before Spot died last year.  As Muffin is aging (14 1/2 now), I've decided to need to spend a little extra time alone with her (Muffin and Mama days), away from the 3 other charges she's been saddled with.  While she has definitely slowed down, she still has some Gitty-Up-And-Go in her.  Taking her back today she certainly showed it.  She had such a good time.  She loves walking and playing in the stream and since the park is covered with trees, there's lots of good smells for her to investigate.  Oh, and she loves barking at the cows during the car ride to the park!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brabson House Chicken Salad

The Brabson House

The Brabson-Loveman house is a Chattanooga landmark.  Built in the mid-19th century, the house served at one time as a hospital for officers during the Civil War.  Through the years, it has apparently served a multitude of purposes, at one time a restaurant.

Each Wednesday our local paper has a special "Food" section, part of which readers can write in with requests.  Several weeks ago, someone has requested the recipe for the chicken salad served when the House was a restaurant.  I love the versatility of chicken salad (never had one I didn't like) and love seeing what different ingredients people come up with to enhance the salad.  This one is no different.

I trimmed down the recipe that was published and tweaked the amounts of some of the ingredients.  I ate one serving on a croissant and another on top of a bed of lettuce, both excellent.  So here's one more recipe to add to your chicken salad collection!


1 cup diced cooked chicken
1/4 - 1/2 cup water chestnuts, diced
3 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
2 tsp pimientos
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
2 Tbsp mayo
S&P to taste

Mix all ingredients together and chill.  Serve as a sandwich or salad.

Recipe Source:  Chattanooga Times Free Press, 8-28-13

Monday, September 9, 2013

Greek Tacos (and/or Salad)

Why had I never thought of this?  I do loves me tacos....traditional, shrimp or fish, why not a change in the ethnicity?
Not only is this really tasty, but you can make everything a day ahead.  And then make a taco or a salad!  For the taco, use a flatbread like a pocketless pita or naan or make your own soft wrap bread (if, unlike me, you don't have a fear of working with yeast).  This is an absolutely delicious blend either way you go.
GREEK TACOS (and or SALAD) (about 6 servings)
Cucumber Tomato Salsa:
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 firm, large tomatoes, seeded (if desired) and diced
1 English or 2 pickling cucumbers, seeded (if desired) and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
S&P to taste
Feta Mint Tzatziki:
1 English or 2 pickling cucumbers
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1-2 Tbsp minced fresh mint
S&P to taste
Taco Meat:
2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup minced red onion
4 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
For the tacos:
6 flatbreads
For the salad:
chopped or shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
additional crumbled feta cheese
At least one hour or as early as one day before you are serving, prepare the salsa and tzatziki. 
For the cucumber salsa, toss the olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a bowl and season with S&P as needed.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour or up to 24 hours to marry the flavors.
For the tzatziki, peel the cucumber and shred on the large holes of a grater.  Place the shredded cucumber in a clean kitchen towl and wring out the excess water until the cucumber is very dry.  In a medium bowl, stir together the strained cucumber, yogurt, feta, garlic, and mint.  Season with S&P to taste.  The tzatziki can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.  Stir well before serving.
For the meat, heat a large 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the ground lamb with the S&P, onion, and garlic, breaking up the meat into small pieces and cooking until the meat is cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
Drain any excess grease.  Stir in the oregano and tomato paste and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the broth and let the mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Season with additional S&P to taste.
For the tacos:
Warm the bread in a cast-iron skillet or on a griddle until soft and heated through.  Serve the tacos by spooning meat into the center and top with salsa and tzatziki.
For the salad:
Place lettuce on plate.  Sprinkle with warmed taco meat and then with salsa.  Garnish with additional feta cheese, if desired.  Serve with tzatziki on the side.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Chicken Caesar Caprese Salad

I ran across a recipe a week or two ago for a take on the traditional Caprese Salad, one of my summer favorites.   However, I could not find the recipe so I just had to wing it.  This is a really quick and absolutely delicious light summer entree salad requiring just a handful of ingredients.

No ingredient amounts here......use whatever amount you'd like.

Chopped romaine lettuce
fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
summer tomatoes, diced, or grape tomatoes, halved
fresh mozzarella (I used the small "mozzarella pearls")
diced chicken
good quality EVOO (my favorite brand is "Laudemio")
balsamic glaze (or good quality balsamic vinegar)

Mix chopped romaine and basil.  Place on serving plates.  Top with mozzarella and tomatoes.  Drizzle with thin ribbons of olive oil and balsamic glaze.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Eggs in a Nest of Crushed Potatoes

OK....I may not have mentioned it yesterday, but if you made or are going to make yesterday's incredible crushed potatoes, here's a great way to use any leftovers (you're definitely going to want to make extras!)

A fresh egg nestled inside a batch of those creamy, crispy potatoes with a bit of S&P and sliced scallions or chives are all you need for a wonderful breakfast.  Heck, this dish is a great reason to make the potatoes in the first place!

EGGS in a NEST of CRUSHED POTATOES (1 serving)

1 cup coarsely chopped, leftover crushed potatoes (see yesterday's post for directions)
1 large egg
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp chopped scallion or chives

Melt butter in an 8" skillet.  Add potatoes to skillet and brown on medium high heat. Gently arrange potatoes in a circle and make a well in the center.  Sprinkle cheese over potatoes.

Crack egg into the center, reduce heat to medium low.  Cook egg until white is translucent and yolk is set to your liking (you made to use a lid to cover pan to help egg cook).

Gentle slide potatoes out of pan and sprinkle with scallions or chives.  Season with S&P.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crushed Potatoes with Buttermilk Dressing

Given my love of new potatoes and a contrast of textures, I could KICK myself for not having found this earlier or figured it out on my own!  These potatoes are fabulous!  and oh-so-easy.

This is all you need to do:  Boil as many new potatoes as you'd like, until they are cooked through.

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I used a stoneware cookie sheet which doesn't need to be lined).  Smash with a fork.  Drizzle thin streams of olive oil over the potatoes and then sprinkle with S&P.

Place under a broiler until the potatoes are crisp and browned on the outside.  The recipe I read said to broil them for 15 minutes....mine were ready in 7-8 minutes.

Top with buttermilk dressing (dressing below) and chopped scallions or chives and S&P to taste.


3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried minced onion 
1/2 tsp salt
coarsely ground pepper to taste
1 tsp minced garlic

Mix all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to blend. Cover and refrigerate remaining dressing.

For buttermilk parmesan dressing:  Add 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp paprika.

Recipe Source: 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad

Have you ever run across a recipe that you either said a) "There is no way in the world I would ever try this because it just sounds so weird," or b) "I have got to try this because it just sounds so weird?"

OK, so I went with "B" this time.  I found this in the food section of our local paper a few weeks ago.  I've held onto to the recipe almost afraid to try it.  But it only calls for four ingredients, all of which I had on hand.  And it only takes minutes to make so why not try it?

I was completely astonished!  I loved it!!!  As I ate through the batch I made, I tried to figure out what, if anything, should be changed.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Each and every (all four) element is essential.

A couple of notes:  I scaled the amount down to a quarter of this recipe.  The recipe listed below shows the published amounts, with my alterations in parentheses.  Also, I used (because I had on hand) a bottled balsamic glaze instead of making the balsamic syrup.  I would suggest shredding the basil very thin to avoid it overpowering the salad.


8 cups diced watermelon
(2 cups)
1 small log plain goat cheese, crumbled
(2 Tbsp crumbled)
6-7 large basil leaves, finely shredded
(2-3 medium leaves)
2-3 Tbsp balsamic syrup, recipe below
(3/4 Tbsp balsamic glaze)

Combine the watermelon on a wide, shallow dish.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top, followed by the basil, then drizzle with the balsamic syrup.  Serve immediately

To make the balsamic syrup:
Combine 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar with 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan.  Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is dissolved and the mixture reduces by half.  Remove from heat and cool.  Can be made ahead.

Recipe Source:  Chattanooga Times Free Press (Ann Braly), 8-28-13

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thyme-Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Lemon Salt

I am always keeping my eye out for a good, simple side dish that only uses a few ingredients and is a snap to make.  And I really try to eat as many cruciferous vegetables as possible: cabbage (cole slaw!), Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli.  And as we wind down the end of summer and get back into the kitchen, I can start roasting vegetables again.

The twist on this was that instead of using florets, you cut the vegetables lengthwise ending up with little slabs of broccoli and cauliflower.  This time I had just bought one head of a broccoli crown, so I really didn't have the cut that this calls for.  I love broccoli stems (shaved of their tough outer layer) so I'm anxious to try this again using the full length of the broccoli.  And this you toss the finished vegetables with lemon zest and salt for a wonderfully simple side dish to complement your entree.


12 oz broccoli, cut lengthwise into 1/2" slabs
12 oz cauliflower, cut lengthwise into 1/2" slabs
3 Tbsp EVOO
3 tsp minced garlic
8 (4") sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

Heat oven to 425F.  Lightly coat large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  Arrange broccoli and cauliflower in single layer on baking sheet.  Combine oil and garlic in small cup, brush over both sides of vegetables (I tossed everything in a mixing bowl, then put them on the baking sheet).  Tuck thyme sprigs under and around vegetables.

Bake 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are browned and tender.  Place on serving platter; lightly crumble a few of the roasted thyme sprigs over the top.  Combine lemon peel and salt in small cup; sprinkle over vegetables.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Club Magazine, Summer 2013, p. 32

Monday, September 2, 2013

Southern Peach Cobbler

Ahhhh....I'm seeing a light at the end of the summer-tunnel (although we here in beautiful Chattanooga have been blessed with a not-all-the-horribly-hot-and-humid-summer).  And in that vein, we are in peak of Georgia peach season.  We're only about a mile from the Peach State and the peach is at its sweetest and juiciest.

Hence, the cobbler.  I love to cook, but I am not a baker.  More specifically, I have a morbid fear of yeast and pie crusts.  But cobblers, bettys (or is it betties?), and buckles are a different story.  You simply can't mess these up!  And if you are as fortunate as I was to run across the peak-of-perfection peach, you are in a for a real treat.  Okay, so the peaches alone are good enough, but this cobbler is so good you will be tempted to eat it raw!

While best served still warm (while the crust still has a bit of crunch to it) with vanilla ice cream, don't be surprised to find yourself sneaking in the frig at 3 a.m. for a little bite.


8 fresh peaches,peeled, pitted, and sliced into thin wedges
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 cup AP flour
1/4 cup white suguar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

2 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.  In a large bowl, combine peaches, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch.  Toss to coat evenly and pour into a two quart baking dish.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, start on the topping.  Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.  Blend in butter with a fork or pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the water until just combined.

Remove peaches from oven and drop spoonfuls of the topping over them.  Sprinkle entire cobbler with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and return to oven.  Bake until the topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Maple Pecan Crusted Salmon

I hadn't made a new salmon recipe in what seems like forever and needed something a bit different.  I've use maple and teriyaki (which are wonderful complements to salmon), so when I ran across this very simple recipe which included pecans, I knew I had to try it.  I had pecan-crusted fish like tilapia, but never on such a full-flavored seafood like salmon.

It is so quick and easy to put together and now that we're coming upon the end of summer, we can get back in our kitchens and use our ovens....yea!!!


2 to 2 1/2 pounds salmon filets, skin can be left on or removed
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dry ground mustard
1/2 cup pecans
salt for sprinkling
fresh lemon wedges for serving

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, S&P, and dry mustard.  Stir over medium heat until the mixture is warmed through, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

While the marinade is cooling, pour the pecans into a dry skillet and heat over medium heat, tossing frequently, until golden and toasted.  Remove from heat; let the pecans cool to room temp and then chop finely.

Place the salmon filets in a gallon-sized ziploc bag.  Pour the maple marinade over the salmon, coating the salmon pieces evenly.  Seal the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the toasted, chopped pecans on a plate or shallow pie dish.  Remove the salmon from the refrigerator.  Dip the top side of each salmon filet in the pecan crumbs pressing the salmon lightly into the pecans so they adhere to the top of the salmon.  Place the filets pecan-side up on the prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle the salmon with a pinch of salt.

Bake the salmon for 20-22 minutes until cooked through but still tender inside (not overcooked).  The salmon should flake easily with a fork but still be soft and not dry.

Serve immediately with fresh lemon wedges.