Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lemon Walnut Biscotti


Have you ever made biscotti?  If not, try it!  They are so easy.  Now these are not for the die-hard sweet-tooths.  These are much subtler.  There is a sweetness, but these hard, crunchy Italian biscuits are perfect for coffee/tea-dunking.  Not having much of a sweet-tooth, I tend to make biscotti more often (for myself) then say a cookie, and this recipe hit the top of the charts in my opinion.

The reason: there is a tremendous lemony taste and lots of crunchy walnuts.  While I do like the subtleness of an almond-flavored biscotti sprinkled with some slivers of almonds, this recipe just screams nuts and citrus.

A plus:  you can make these days ahead of time as they will keep for days.  And this recipe makes a bunch!  About five dozen!  And don't go light on the raw sugar sprinkles on top.  Due to the slight amount of sugar in the cookie recipe, you'll want that bit of sweetness on the top.


LEMON WALNUT BISCOTTI (makes about 5 dozen cookies)

3 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
10 Tbsp (10 1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 large egg, beaten
Raw sugar

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lemon peel in a large bowl until blended.  Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just to blend after each addition.  Beat in lemon juice, then flour mixture.  Stir in walnuts.

Divide dough into 3 equal pieces.  Place each piece on sheet of plastic wrap.  Using plastic wrap as aid, form dough into 8" long logs.  Press logs slightly, flattening to 2 1/2" wide logs.  Enclose in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 325F.  Line heavy large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap logs, leaving on plastic (this will help clean-up).  Brush top with egg glaze.  Sprinkle generously with raw sugar.  Lift logs from plastic and transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.

Bake until golden brown and just firm to touch, about 50 minutes.  Transfer to rack and cool completely.  Reduce oven temp to 300F.

(NOTE:  The biscotti are very tender, so work carefully and be sure to use a serrated knife when slicing the logs for the second baking.)

Line 2 heavily rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using long serrated knife, carefully cut logs crosswise into 1/2" thick slices.  Arrange biscotti, cut side down, on prepared baking sheets.  Bake cookies until golden brown around edges, about 20 minutes.  Cool completely (biscotti will crisp as they cool). 

Can be made three days ahead.  Stir in airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe Source:  Bon Appetit




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rosemary Baked Chicken





OK, I have to admit that this is more of a product-endorsement than posting of the easy-peasy recipe I used.

First of all let me say that the summers in Chattanooga have turned out to be a lot hotter and more humid than I ever imagined.  On top of this, our home is a newer home which has the open-concept kitchen/living room/dining room and really high ceilings.  A wonderful, comfortable home except in the summer.  Our AC runs continuously and never gets to a comfortable temperature during the day.  Even with having the darker film put on all of the windows and keeping all the blinds shut during the day, I could never get the temps under 80 degrees.  Needless to say, the bulk of my summer menu has been salads and grilled items.

But sometimes, you just want to spend the day in the kitchen using your oven!  I missed out on making a lot of dishes I wanted to make the last few summers simply because I didn't want to heat up the house any more than it was already (bake a potato?  Forgetaboutit!!!).  I had been watching demos on the Nu-Wave oven for quite a while and that I'd give it a try.

I've been experimenting all week on a bunch of different type of baked/warmed items.  I've not been disappointed in any of them and best of all: it doesn't heat up the kitchen!!!  Also, you're cooking in a lot less time, using a lot less energy, and you can even cook frozen chicken/beef/pork/fish from frozen without having to thaw first!  Another plus, if you have a crowd over for the holidays or special occasions and run out of oven space, you can use this to cook additional dishes.  I can see this becoming an essential piece of equipment in my kitchen.

I bought mine from QVC for two reasons:  they always have a payment plan so you can make 3 or 4 payments (the oven costs under $100), and you can try it for a month and if you don't like it or if it doesn't work for you, you can return it, no questions asked.  I love that.  So if you're not sure, give it a try.  The most it will cost you is return postage.

So back to my recipe.  At least once a week, I make either a chicken or roast for the dogs.  After fiddling around with something different everyday this week, I decided to cook the girls' chicken in the Nu-Wave.  But I wanted to "fancy-it-up" a bit to see how a cooked chicken for people might turn out.  It was incredible.  Way better than a whole chicken cooked in a conventional oven.  Even the breast was tender and juicy.  It browned beautifully and had the crispy skin.

You could definitely cook this in your oven, just adjust the time to cook the chicken throughout.

ROSEMARY BAKED CHICKEN

1 (4 to 5 pound) chicken
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
3 tsp minced garlic
2-3 tsp EVOO

Mix together the rosemary, garlic, and olive oil.  Loosen the skin on the chicken by using a chopstick, the handle of a spatula, or your fingers.  Slide the rosemary mixture between the meat and the skin.

If using the Nu-Wave, place breast side down.  Cook for 30 minutes and then turn the chicken and cook for another 30 minutes.  Done.

If using a conventional oven, there are many temps/methods you can use to roast.  You can start at a high heat to brown the chicken and then lower the temp until the chicken temp reads 165F.  Or start at 350F and cook for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.  Google "How Long to Cook a Whole Chicken" for more specifics.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Baked Shrimp and Orzo with Feta (or Goat) Cheese


How I wish I could eat pasta every day.  And add shrimp and cheese to it, and, well....it's hard to stop me!

A few tips (at least for myself) on this one.  Use full-fat cheese in this recipe.  You need the cheese to melt and the reduced-fat version just didn't do the job.  Also, I would add more, putting some in the mixture itself and the rest on the top as the recipe calls for.  Also, I think goat cheese would be a really good substitute for this.

The recipe below is half of the original recipe and it make a good 4-6 servings, so unless you're feeding a big crowd (and using a 9x13 dish), I would stick with the amount below.

BAKED SHRIMP and ORZO with FETA (or GOAT) CHEESE (4-6 servings)

3/4 pound large shrimp (31/40), peeled and deveined
S&P
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp minced garlic
1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5) oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas
2-4 oz feta or goat cheese, crumbled
lemon wedges for serving/garnish

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Pat the shrimp dry with a few paper towels and lightly season with S&P.  Set aside while preparing the rest of the ingredients.  Lightly grease an 8x8" baing dish with cooking spray and also set aside.

In a 3- or 4-quart pot,combine the onion, oil, oregano, and 1/4 tsp salt over medium-low heat.  Coverthe pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have started to turn translucent, 6-7 minutes.  Check often so the mixture doesn't burn.  Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Stir in the orzo, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until the orzo is coated with the mixture and is lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the broth and water and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the orzo is slightly tender but still has some firmness (it will continue to cook in the oven), about 10-12 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, peas, shrimp, and half of the cheese (if using the larger amount).

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with the (remaining) cheese evenly over the top.  Bake the casserole until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese is lighly browned, 18-20 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Crab Cakes with Mustard Dill Sauce


Another one of my loves: crab.  By itself, in a salad, and always as a crab cake.  Several times a year one of our local supermarkets (Bi-Lo) has a fabulous sale on lump crabmeat and when they do, I stock up.  I was down to my last batch and, still on a ride with Marlene Koch, found a recipe for crab cakes in one of her cookbooks.

Crab cakes are one item I generally won't order in a restaurant because you simply don't know how much crab/filling you are getting.  And in order to get a crab cake that is mostly crab it will generally break the bank.

You will need to be gentle while preparing/cooking these cakes as it is mostly crabmeat and little filling and can easily fall apart.  But it is well worth the effort.  Not just in taste, but in reduced fat/carbs/calories.

CRAB CAKES with MUSTARD DILL SAUCE (3-4 servings)

Crab Cakes:
1 pound lump crabmeat (1 pound cans can be found in the seafood department0
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs, divided
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp light mayo
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
Black pepper to taste

Mustard Dill Sauce:
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 Tbsp light mayo
1/4 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp fresh minced dill (or 1/2 tsp dried)
pinch of sugar

Place the crabmeat in a large bowl.  Add the remaining crab cake ingredients, using 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs, and gently mix together with  a large spoon, take care to keep as many large crab pieces as possible.  Mix all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Use your hands to shape the crabmeat mixture into 6 patties (using about 1/2 cup of mixture for each crab cake).  Coat a large nonstick saute pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat.  Lightly dust both sides of the crab cakes with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Add the crab cakes to the pan.  Cook the crab cakes about 5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and warmed through.  Repeat as necessary to cook all the crab cakes, using additional cooking spray if needed.  Serve the crab cakes with mustard-dill sauce.

Recipe Source:  "Eat What You Love" by Marlene Koch, p. 350


Friday, April 25, 2014

Italian Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms


I love mushrooms.  Anyhow, anywhere.  In soups, in pasta, sauteed on their own, sliced raw in salads, it makes me no difference.  This is one of two stuffed mushrooms we made at a Minnesota restaurant (the other is the vegetable-stuffed mushroom, see 1-31-14 post).  You can either make them in large button mushrooms or large portabellas.

You can make the stuffing and it will keep for several days and then just stuff the mushrooms as you need them.  I found an 8 oz package of large button mushrooms the other day for $1, so I just pop a few in the oven when I want a snack.

I like to spray the outside of the mushroom with an olive oil cooking spray to help them cook and keep them moist, although we never did that at the restaurant.  Below is the full recipe, but I simply cut it in half using just one link of Italian sausage (4 oz portion).

ITALIAN SAUSAGE STUFFED MUSHROOMS

16 medium/large button mushrooms or 4 portabella mushrooms
1/2 pound (2 links) Italian sausage (your choice of sweet or hot)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Twist off stems from mushrooms; set caps aside.  Finely chop stems; set aside.  Fry sausage in large skillet, stirring to crumble; drain off excess fat.

Add chopped mushroom stems, onions, green pepper, garlic, herbs, and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook until liquid evaporates.  Remove sausage mixture from heat.  Let come to room temp.  Stir in Monterey Jack cheese.

Spoon filling into each cap; packing slightly.  Sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake at 400F on sprayed baking pan until heated through, about 10-15 mintues.  If using portabellas, cut like pizza slices with knife or pizza slicer.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake No-Bake Treat Bars


A quick and easy treat on the line of Rice Krispie treats.  But instead, you use vanilla-flavored Chex cereal and freeze-dried strawberries (not frozen).  I had never used freeze-dried strawberries, but they lend a wonderful tartness to counter the sweetness of the marshmellow.  I found these at my local natural-food store (Earth Fare here, or someplace like a Whole Foods or maybe Trader Joe's).

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE N0-BAKE TREAT BARS (makes a 9 x 13 dish)

4 Tbsp butter
10 oz bag mini marshmellows
1 (13.5 OZ0 box Vanilla Chex
1 to 1.5 oz bag freeze-dried strawberries

Spray a 9x13" baking dish with nonstick spray then set aside.

Add butter to a very large microwave-safe bowl then microwave for 30 seconds or until melted.  Add marshmellows then stir to coat and microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir until marshmellows are smooth then immediately add Chex and freeze-dried strawberries.  Mix until evenly coated then scoop into prepared baking dish and press into an even layer (use the bottom of a large measuring dish with nonstick spray then use it to press).  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuna and Hummus Sandwich


Last week I caught an episode of "The Barefoot Contessa."  I have to admit, while I usually liked her shows, I quit watching her after the whole "Make-a-Wish Foundation" gaffe (a young boy had asked twice to visit her on set and she turned him down both times).  But as I was flipping through the channels, I caught the end and saw this very different sandwich.  I looked at the recipe on-line and decided to try it.

A couple of things:  You could absolutely use your own tuna salad recipe and if you don't want to make your own hummus, buy some prepared hummus in your favorite flavor at your market.  Also, she calls for sourdough bread (which would be wonderful), but I had some Panera whole-grain bread which I used.  I would also suggest toasting the bread because there is quite a bit of heft to this open-faced sandwich and I just don't think untoasted bread would hold it very well.

Also, I liked a bit more hummus than tuna since the taste of tuna, even albacore, can be pretty strong.  Lastly, do not omit the radishes!!!  Not only do they give a lovely presentation, but a nice crunch and peppery taste.

TUNA and HUMMUS SANDWICHES

Tuna Salad:
14 oz jarred or canned Italian tuna in olive oil
1/4 cup minced celery
2 Tbsp minced yellow onion
2 Tbsp minced cornichons
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.  Let stand in refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Hummus:
1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1/3 cup tahini or sesame paste
4 tsp minced garlic
6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (start with 3 Tbsp and add more to your liking)
8 dashes hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt (start with 1 tsp and add more to your liking)


Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until desired smoothness.  Add additional reserved chickpea liquid and more lemon juice if necessary.  Adjust lemon and salt to your taste.

Sourdough bread, halved and sliced 1/2" thick
fresh radishes, sliced

To assemble sandwich:

Toast (if desired) bread of choice.  Spread with hummus, then tuna salad, and top with sliced radishes.

Recipe Source: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/tuna-and-hummus-sandwiches-recipe.html

Monday, April 21, 2014

Crock Pot Tortilla Soup



I had a hankering for some tortilla soup last week and ran across a recipe in a crock pot cookbook.  As I put everything in and tasted it after it cooked for a bit, I knew it was way too spicy for our tastes.  So I started doctoring it up and ended up with a fantastic tortilla soup.

So easy....just throw everything into a 4-5 quart crockpot, turn it on low, and in about 8 hours, you'll have a wonderful tortilla soup.

CROCK POT TORTILLA SOUP (about 6 servings)

3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast (thawed or frozen)
1 can black bean, undrained
1 can mild Rotel
2 cup chicken stock
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
2/3 cup green pepper, chopped
2/3 cup white onion, chopped
1 can crisp corn
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup cream
4 corn tortillas
sour cream
Mexican blend grated cheese
chopped cilantro, optional

Place first 12 ingredients (chicken breasts through cilantro) in a crock pot.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours.

Meanwhile, slice the tortillas in 1/4" strips and place on a lined baking sheet.  Cook in a 350F oven until crisp (5-10 minutes).

Remove chicken breasts from crock pot and shred or cube.  Return to crock pot.  Stir in cream.

Garnish with baked tortilla strips, sour cream, cheese, and extra cilantro, if desired.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter


Nellie (begrudgingly) sends her Happy Easter greetings to you all (she's the only one I could get to stay still long enough to snap this adorable photo).  I hope you're all having a lovely day.  See you tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering Oklahoma Ctiy 19 years later

Saturday will be the nineteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  I hope you will all take a moment to look at the website and think of the 168 family members and dear friends who were murdered that day.

Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.®

Currently at the Memorial & Museum

19th Annual Day of Remembrance

19th Annual Day of Remembrance

Join us this Saturday, April 19, for the 19th Annual Day of Remembrance. The Remembrance Ceremony will be held at 8:55am, and the Memorial Museum is FREE all day for visitors thanks to Cox Communications. Later in the day, motorcycle riders participating in the annual Memorial Motorcycle Run. Click More for detailed information. More »

New Lesson Plans Available!
 
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easy Baked Eggplant Parmigiana


While eating out last week, I ordered Eggplant Parmigiana.  And it were good.  And I wanted some more.  But I just could not justify frying eggplant to make it.  So looking at a few recipes, I came up with a simple, baked version which takes just a few ingredients and minutes to make.  You could serve this with some spaghetti on the side, but I just ate the dish as it came out of the oven.

I don't have quantities for this recipe, I guess it's more for my own reference.  If you want to try it, make it to satisfy your appetite.  More/less sauce, more/less cheese.  Your preference.

EASY BAKED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA (2-4 servings)

1 (1 pound) medium eggplant, sliced, about 1/4"
eggs, egg whites, or egg substitute
bread crumbs (I suggest using traditional breadcrumbs instead of Panko)
shredded Parmesan cheese
homemade or jarred pasta sauce
mozzarella or Italian-blend shredded cheese

Slice the eggplant.  Dip in the egg.  Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan.  Dip the egged eggplant into the breadcrumbs.

On a baking sheet, line with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.  Place the eggplant slices on it.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350F.  Turn the slices and bake for another 10 minutes.

Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.  Place the cooked eggplant slices in the dish.  Cover with pasta sauce and bake (covered) for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with mozzarella and additional parmesan, if desired, and cook (uncovered) for another 5 minutes or so until cheese is melted.

Recipe Source: adapted from "Weight Watchers: New 365 Day Menu Cookbook," p. 342

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crab Louis


My favorite salad in the whole wide world is a Cobb Salad.  Perfection.  But a distant second is a Crab Louis.  I don't know if it it's the crab or the dressing.  And since a Crab Louis has boundless variations (asparagus, cucumbers, avocados, black or green olives), the dressing is pretty much a staple.  So this post is about the dressing. 

This recipe is a staple.  As with the salad, you could certainly vary it in several ways.  But this is a great place to start.

LOUIS DRESSING (makes about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup mayo
2 Tbsp chili sauce
1 Tbsp grated onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
S&P to taste
1 Tbsp cream or half-and-half
hot sauce to taste

Mix all ingredients.  Chill several hours to allow flavors to combine.

Recipe Source:  South Beach Diet cookbook, p. 227

Monday, April 14, 2014

Olive and Tomato Tapenade


This was one of my favorite appetizers at a restaurant I worked in while living in Minnesota and the first recipe I wrote down while working there.  I'll eat a few bites of one and decide it's my favorite, then I'll eat a few bites of the other and declare that the second one is the best!  I guess that's why I've never made just one or the other.  They both get top billing in my book.

While probably not a kid-friendly appetizer, it would be great while having friends over for a glass of wine or maybe for your book club.  I do need a quality crostini so I always use a Panera Bread baguette.  Simply slice the baguette to the thickness of your chosing, mildly brush it with EVOO and bake in a 325F for 15 minutes and check.  I generally turn them over and bake until they are almost-completely dried out (I like a bit of a chew left in them), about another 10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them.

I have halved the original recipe and this amount is plenty for me.  The olive tapenade will last, well, a long, long time.  Depending on your tomatoes, I'll usually keep mine for up to a couple of weeks.

OLIVE and TOMATO TAPENADES


Olive Tapenade:
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1 cup black olives, chopped
1/4 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1 cup artichoke hearts or bottoms, chopped
1 3/4 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup EVOO

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Keep refrigerated.

Tomato Tapenade:
5 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
2 Tbsp red onion, diced
2 Tbsp EVOO
1/4 to 1/2 lime juiced (depending on juiciness)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Barbecued Chicken Chopped Salad


Well, I guess I can't dodge the inevitable: Summer.  Yesterday we hit 80 degrees and it's not even Easter.  Jim spent all day Friday and Saturday working in the yard so I figured it was time to pull out the salad file.  I mean, who wants a heavy evening meal after spending the day in the sun?

This is a perfect warm-weather entree salad.  Filling, but no need to heat up your kitchen.  I think the jicama is essential, so unless you just can't find it, please don't omit it.  It gives a delightful crunch.  Jim is not a fan of avocados, but I would defnitely add some slices to my salad.  I'm adding my favorite Ranch Dressing recipe which is a staple in my fridge.

BARBECUED CHICKEN CHOPPED SALAD (4 servings)

8 cups chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce
2 cups chopped tomato
1 cup chopped jicama
3/4 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed  and 1/2 cup corn niblets
  or
1 (11 oz) can Green Giant southwestern-style corn, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
avocado, optional
Ranch Dressing

Spray a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium heat.  Pound chicken to 1/4" thickness and add to the skillet.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until underside is brown.  Turn the breasts, and top each with 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce.  Continue to cook 3 minutes longer, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the breasts to a cutting board, slice each into 1/4" slices, turn, and cut again into cubes.  Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, mix lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, black beans, and corn.  Dress with Ranch Dressing.  Place equal portions on four plates.  Sprinkle cheese around the edges and set aside.

Top the salad with the cooled, cubed chicken, green onions, cilantro, and avocado if using.

Recipe Source:  adapted from Marlene Koch's "Eat What You Love Everyday," p. 168

BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING (makes about 1 cup)

3/4 cup mayo (I use half regular Hellman's and half reduced-fat)
1/2 cup regular or fat-free buttermilk
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried minced onion
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic
coarsely ground pepper, to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.  Chill at least several hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.

NOTE:  Once you make this, you will never buy bottled Ranch Dressing again.  This is wonderful on salad, for a vegetable dip, and really good on pizza crusts!

Recipe Source:  adapted from Betty Crocker cookbook


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Summer's Orange Salad


I posted this recipe a few years ago, but it is such a staple in my house during the summer, I had to share this with new viewers.  I make this once or twice a week.  It is a perfect accompaninement to just about any entree, especially simple grilled proteins.

The almonds and the dressing will keep for a long, long time (I keep my sugared almonds in the freezer and they are good for at least a year), as is the dressing (I just made a salad with dressing I made last summer).  Once you have these two items in storage, all you need is some romaine, red onion, and mandarin oranges.  Fast and easy and a great side salad to almost any summer dinner.

SUMMER'S ORANGE SALAD (2 servings)

Almonds:
6 oz slivered almonds
4-5 Tbsp sugar

Dressing:
1 tsp grated orange peel
1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp Good Seasons Dry Italian Dressing mix
3/4 to 1 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Salad:
sugared almonds
salad dressing
1 small head romaine lettuce
thinly sliced red onion, to taste
mandarin oranges, enough to garnish to your preference

For the almonds:
Heat a large non-stick saute pan on medium heat (I used #6 on my smooth-top stove) until hot.  Add almonds and sugar and stir continuously until sugar melts.  I poured mine out on some Reynold's Non-Stick Aluminum Paper (you can use regular aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray).  Let cool.  You will not use all of the almonds in this salad for two.  Put remaining almonds in a humidity-free container and store in freezer.

Combine salad dressing ingredients.  Mix well.

Toss diced lettuce, onions, oranges, and almonds.  Dress with dressing.  If using as an entree salad, slice grilled chicken and fan out. 

Serve as a side salad or entree salad.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Simple Southwestern Tilapia (or Swai) and Fiesta Lime Rice


Another wonderful (and easy) Marlene Koch recipe.  A great way to add a little southwestern flavor to a mild wild fish.  Serve it with this quick and simple rice and garnish with a lime wedge for a light weeknight dinner.

SIMPLE SOUTHWESTERN TILAPIA (or SWAI) and FIESTA LIME RICE (4 servings)

1 lime, juice and zest
2 Tbsp light mayo
4 (4 oz) mild white fish filets
1 1/4 cups reduced-fat cheese crackers
1 Tbsp taco seasoning (40% less sodium)
2 Tbsp cornmeal
pinch cayenne pepper

Prehat oven to 450F.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Zest then juice the lime and place in a shallow flat bowl.  Whisk in the mayo, add the fish filets and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place the crackers in a plastic bag, crush with a rolling pin, and place crumbles on a plate.  Add the taco seasoning and cornmeal and mix well.

Coat the filets with the cracker mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 5 mintues, turn the filets over, and bake for 5-7 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork. 

FIESTA LIME RICE (4 servings)

2 cups cooked rice
1 (11 oz) can southwestern-style corn blend (I used Green Giant brand), drained and rinsed
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 lime, zested and juice
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients.  Warm in a microwave.

Recipe Source:
Southwestern Tilapia: Marlene Koch "Eat More of What You Love," p. 274
Fiesta Lime Rice: adapted from Marlene Koch "Eat More of What You Love," p. 229


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wild Rice and Edamame Salad Recipe


As many edamame salads as I've made, they've always been with black beans and corn.  I do believe this one is the first one I've incorporated that wonderful chewy grain: wild rice.  This is a fantastic dish of crunchiness, chewiness, and Asian influence.  A great dish as a nutritous filler-upper or something that goes well with any Asian-influenced or something to keep on hand this summer with simple grilled proteins.

Again, since there are just two of us, I halved this recipe.

WILD RICE and EDAMAME SALAD RECIPE (6-8 servings)

1/2 cup blanced slivered almonds
2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
4 cups cooked wild rice
3 medium scallions, thinly-sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 cups shelled, cooked edamame, thawed if frozen
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp toasted or regular sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar, plus more as needed
2 tsp honey
kosher salt
coarse ground pepper

Place the almonds in a medium frying pan over medium heat and toast, stirring often, until golden brown (do not let the nuts burn), about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a large heatproof bowl.  Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast, stirring often, until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to the bowl with the almonds.

Add the rice, scallions, edamame, carrots, and cranberries to the bowl with the almonds and sesame seeds and toss to combine.

Whisk the olive oil, rice vinegar, honey, and a pinch each of S&P in a medium bowl until combined.  Drizzle over the rice mixture and toss to combine.  Taste and season as needed with more S&P and vinegar.  Cover and chill at least one hour before serving.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Weeknight Chicken and Dumplings


This is another one of Marlene Koch's recipes and as with all her recipes, it is exceptional.  Talk about comfort food!  These dumplings are different than others I've made and are really tasty with the added rosemary. 

The leftovers are mighty tasty (they make a great breakfast!), but will be thicker than the first time around.

WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN and DUMPLINGS (4-6 servings)

2 tsp EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
3 medium celery stalks, chopped (1 cup)
1 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
2 Tbsp AP flour
2 (14 oz) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup low-fat milk, divided
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup reduced-fat baking mix
2 Tbsp cornmeal
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, celery, and poultry seasoning, and saute for 3 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in broth, 1/3 cup milk, chicken, and salt, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the soup simmers, in a medium bowl, combing baking mix, cornmeal, rosemary, and remaining 1/3 cup milk, until a stiff batter forms.  Drop batter by 1 1/2 Tbsp portions into the soup, spacing evenly for 8 dumplings.

Cover the pot and steam the dumplings for 7-9 minutes, ensuring that the soup stays at a low simmer.

Turn off the heat, uncover pot, and let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir the soup carefully, without disturbing the dumplings, and serve.

Recipe Source: "Eat What You Love Everyday" by Marlene Koch, p. 126

Monday, April 7, 2014

Butter Chews


Here's a super-simple but (in the words of Mr. Food) "Oh So Good" treats.  Just a few ingredients and baked in one dish.  My friend, Sharon, shared this with me and told me I had to make it!  She told me that years ago she had made a pan for her son and his friends for a hunting trip and he let them each have one bar and kept the rest to himself!    I can understand why.

But one thing she should have mentioned:  the baker gets dibs on all of the corner pieces!

BUTTER CHEWS (makes one 9x13 pan)

1 yellow cake mix
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
1 pound powdered sugar
1 package regular or reduced-fat cream cheese, room temp

Mix together the cake mix, melted butter, and one egg to make a crumbly mixture.  Put into a greased 9x13 pan.  Pat the mixture down to make it easier for the creamed cheese topping.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped pecans.

Mix together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and the other egg.  Drop by dollops onto cake mixture and then carefully spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake, trying not to disturb the pecans on top of the cake.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup pecans over cream cheese mixture.

Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until edges are browned.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mustard Shrimp


We are a mustard-lovin' household here so when I ran across a recipe called "Mustard Shrimp," I knew I had to take a second look.

Just five ingredients taking minutes to mix.  Marinade for several hours, then grill for just a few minutes on each side.  I would definitely go as big on the size of shrimp as you can afford (I used 31-40s and I would have preferred a larger size).  Also, watch carefully so you still get a moist shrimp, not one that's overcooked and dry.  You deinitely have to like mustard and horseradish, but neither flavor is overwhelming.  It's a perfect blend.

MUSTARD SHRIMP (4 servings)

1 pound large shrimp, uncooked

Marinade:
1/4 cup dijon
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Shell shrimp.  Leave tails on.

Mix all marinade ingredients together in a quart-sized ziplock bag.  Add shrimp and mix well.  Chill for several hours, turning the bag periodically.

Drain marinade.  You can skewer the shrimp if you like or grill individually.

Grill 6-10 minutes (depending on shrimp size), turning once.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quicker-Than-Takeout Sweet and Sour Chicken (or Shrimp or Pork)


Have you cooked out of any of Marlene Koch's cookbooks (Eat What You Love, Eat More of What you Love, and the newest, Eat What You Love Everyday)?  I don't buy cookbooks like I use to due to the ease of the internet, but her books are a goldmine.  She takes everyday foods and restaurant specialties and trims down the fat, calories, sugar, and sodium.

Here she takes the traditionally breaded and fried chicken whick is used in sweet and sour chicken and trims the calories from over a 1000 of take-out to under 300.  And believe me, this is even better.  No guilt.

QUICKER-than-TAKEOUT SWEET and SOUR CHICKEN (4 servings)

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup no-calorie granulated sweetener (like Splenda)
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp freshly minced ginger
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1 medium carrot
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
3 tsp canola oil, divided
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1" chunks
8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
8 oz can pineapple tidbits, drained
cooked rice, for serving, optional

In a small bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients (vinegar through ginger), 2 tsp cornstarch, and 1/4 cup water.  Set aside.

Peel carrot and cut into 1/2" pieces.  Place the carrots and 2 Tbsp water in a small, microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave for 3 minutes.  Uncover, drain, and set aside.

Toss the chicken pieces with remaining 2 Tbsp cornstarch to coat.  Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, or until well browned on all sides and chicken is cooked through.  Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.  Set chicken aside.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in the skillet, add bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the carrots and water chestnuts, and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the pineapple and vinegar mixture, reduce heat to low, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, unti the sauce thickens and clears.  Add the chicken to the pan, toss to coat, and serve over rice.

Recipe Source: Eat What You Love Everyday cookbook by Marlene Koch, p. 254



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Creamy Roasted Mushroom and Brie Soup


Holy Smokes! I know it seems like everytime I post a soup recipe, I always say that this is one of my favorite soups.  But mushroom is absolutely one of my favorites and this is positively the best recipe I've found to date.

It's basically a cream of mushroom soup that has an incredible depth of flavor thanks to the Brie cheese.  I could make myself sick eating this entire batch!  It's so hard to push away another cup.  Absolutely. Perfectly. Delicious.

CREAMY ROASTED MUSHROOM and BRIE SOUP (4 servings)

1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, quartered (I used part white button and part baby bellas)
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 oz Brie or Camembert, cut into 1" pieces (the recipe calls to cut it with the rind, but I cut the rind off before so I would have to fish out the rind pieces)
1/2 cup milk or heavy cream
S&P to taste

Toss the mushrooms in the oil, place on baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a preheated 400F oven until they start to caramelize, about 20-30 minutes, mixing them up once in the middle.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the onions and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the wine and deglaze the pan.

Add the broth and mushrooms, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the milk and brie, let the brie melt, fish out the rinds and season with S&P to taste before pureeing to the desired consistency and enjoy!

Options:
* Slow Cooker: Implement steps 1-4, place everything except the cream into the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours before adding the cream and pureeing.
* Saute the mushrooms in a pan with the onions instead of roasting them.
* Add 2 Tbsp white miso.

Recipe Source: www.closetcooking.com