Sunday, May 31, 2015

Clean-Out-the-Freezer Lasagna

You guys would be so proud of me!  I am getting so proficient at whittling down the contents of my freezer that I now have plenty of room to fill 'er right up (just kidding, Sweetheart!)

So, I had some ground turkey, ricotta cheese, and jarred pasta sauce in the freezer (and some no-bake lasagna noodles in the pantry) that needed a home.  So I took this "Traditional Lasagna" recipe and tweaked it a bit to enable me to use what I had.  I've listed the recipe as originally published, but I substituted  half ground turkey and half sweet Italian turkey sausage for the ground beef.  Also, this recipe calls for cottage cheese and ricotta, but I only had ricotta so I doubled the amount of ricotta and it worked out just fine.


1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (4.5 oz) can mushrooms, drained
1 (28 oz) jar spaghetti/pasta sauce
1 (16 oz) package cottage cheese
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs 
1 (16 oz) package lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
chopped parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef until brown.  Add mushrooms and onions; saute until onions are transparent.  Stir in pasta sauce, and heat through.

In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan, and eggs.

Spread a thin layer of them meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9" pan.  Layer with uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and meat sauce.  Continue layering until all ingredients are used, reserving half of the mozzarella.  Bake (covered) for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, and let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with parsley if using.

Recipe Source:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pear and (Spicy) Candied Pecan Salad w/Raspberry Dijon Vinaigrette

Years ago, I worked at a restaurant in Red Wing, MN where this salad was its #1 salad-seller.  People loved it and I still make it, especially in the summer.  It has just a few ingredients and once you've made the vinaigrette and pecans, comes together in a snap.  And it's a nice, showy entree salad also.

The original recipe calls for Candied Pecans, but I preferred the restaurant's Spicy Candied Pecans instead so I list both recipes.  Personally, I had a hard time making the Candied Pecans, plus they were just too sweet and hard on my teeth.  I prefer the mild spice-bite that comes with the spicy version.  Choice whichever you prefer.  

Also, the original salad on the menu didn't come with the grilled chicken, but I always add it to make it an entree salad.  And use any kind of pear you prefer: Anjou or Bartlett, red or green, or Asian pears are also wonderful.  Additionally, make a full serving or either pecans you choose (or more).....they freeze wonderfully.


1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup raspberry or raspberry balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:
6-8 cups lettuce, mixed spring mix and romaine
crumbled Gorgonzola or Bleu Cheese
2 pears or Asian pears, cut in half, seeded, and cut into fans
2 grilled chicken breasts (marinated in vinaigrette, in desired), cut into slices, optional

Candied Pecans:
1/2 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup sugar

Spicy Candied Pecans:
6 Tbsp corn syrup
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne, or less, to taste
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
3 cups pecan halves

To make the vinaigrette:
Whisk all ingredients together.

To make the Candied Pecans:
Heat 2/3 cup sugar in a small skillet over medium heat until sugar melts.  Stir in pecans until all are well coated.  Spread quickly on buttered foil and spread apart with two forks (coated with cooking spray).  When cool, chop or break into pieces.

To make Spicy Candied Pecans:
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 non-stick spray.  Spread on baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 2 1/2 minutes.  Then, using a fork, stir to coat with mixture and bake again until pecans are golden and coating is bubbly, about 5-10 minutes more.

Transfer to a piece of foil and quickly separate pecans with a fork.  Cool them and store in an air-tight container at room temperature or in the freezer.

To make the salad:
Toss fresh greens with dressing and divide on 4 plates.  Top with gorgonzola and sprinkle with pecans.  Cut each pear in half and cut fan-like and fan out in the center of each salad.  Place slices of grilled chicken around the plate if using.  Drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette over the finished salad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Birthday My Sweet-16 Sweetest Girl in the World

We really don't know my sweet Muffin's birthdate, but Jim rescued her and her sister, Spot, on July 2nd, 1999.  I had told him (I had 5 cats when we met and got married) that I really wanted a dog, but it was one that had to be either abused, abandoned, or stray.  I'll never forget that Friday afternoon when he called me at home in San Antonio and asked if I stay really wanted a dog.  Did I just hit the jackpot?!!!!  REALLY?  But of course!  "How about 2?" he asked! When he came home from work that afternoon he had two itty-bitty girls who were cowered underneath the seats of his Explorer.  Their bellies were bloated with worms and they spent the night on the porch sleeping in a cat-litter box.  That Saturday, we took them to their first veterinarian, Dr. Sherri Youngblood in San Antonio.  She guessed them to be 5-6 weeks old, so we decided their birthdates were May 26, 1999.

These two girls have been just about the greatest joys in my life (I would have been one of the mothers with human children that everyone would have abhored!)  Talk about spoiled-rotten!  These girls could do what and when they wanted.  But it doesn't matter.  While Spot was my Miss America beautiful, sweet puppy-dog girl, Muffin is the absolute most sweetest, cutest, could-there-be-any-better-dog-in-the-world dog?  Muffin is the poster-dog for the reason that breeders should be outlawed and the only dogs invited into a home should be rescued dogs.

ADOPT......DON'T SHOP.  I beg you......if you want to add a four-legged member of your family to your home......PLEASE....go to your local animal shelter and rescue a dog or cat who (believe me!) will know that you rescued them and will be eternally grateful.  The rewards are immeasurable.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Roasted Poblano, Sweet Corn, and Potato Soup

Corn! Corn! Corn!  It seems really early for us to be getting such wonderful corn, but I'm certainly not complaining.  We seem to have a bumper crop....great big crispy, sweet kernels and rock-bottom prices.  And I am taking advantage of it in soups, salads, or right on the cob.

I love roasted poblanos because they have that wonderful pepper flavor, but not the heat (see for the Scoville Scale which shows different levels of heat in different peppers.)  And bacon, well....what's not better with bacon?

There are different ways to roast pepper, but I'm writing the recipe as I found it (I usually put mine under a broiler until the skin is black and blistered.  Or if you have a gas stovetop, use you roast then over an open flame using tongs.)  To see a step-by-step tutorial, check out the original post at


2 poblano peppers
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half, rinsed, then thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic
1 medium-sized potato, peeled, and then chopped into 1/2" dice (about 1 cup)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk, divided (I used 2%, but you could use unsweetened almond milk, according to original recipe)
1 cup sweet corn, fresh (about 2 ears) or frozen
2 Tbsp AP flour
fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly rub poblano peppers with EVOO then place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through then transfer peppers to a large ziplock bag to steam.  Once cool enough to handle, peel off skin, remove stem and seeds, and then chop (this be done ahead of time).

Meanwhile, crisp bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain, reserving 2 Tbsp bacon grease in the pan.  Add leeks, season with S&P, and then saute until tender and caramelized, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic then saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add potatoes and peppers into the pot then stir to coat.

Whisk flour and 1/2 cup milk together in a small dish then set aside.  Ad remaining milk and chicken broth to the pot, season with S&P, then turn heat to medium-high to bring soup to a bubble, stirring frequently.  Turn heat back down to medium then simmer until the potatoes are softened, 5 minutes.  Stream in milk and flour mixture while stirring then continue to simmer until soup is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add cooked bacon and sweet corn to the pot then simmer until corn is warmed through.  Taste then add more S&P if necessary, ladle into bowls, and then serve with sprinkled with fresh chopped cilantro, if desired.

Recipe Source:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Salmon Salad

Looking for an alternative to tuna salad?  Try this: Salmon Salad using fresh (not canned) salmon.  A lovely summer lunch or light dinner choice.  You could certainly serve this as a sandwich, but I loved it on a bed of shredded lettuce.  While it is delicious at the time you make it, it's even better hours or a day later.

SALMON SALAD (4 servings)

2 cups cooked, flaked salmon
2 hard-boiled eggs, crushed
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (I prefer small pickling cucumbers {2}, not seeded and only partially peeled.....much sweeter)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onions
4-5 Tbsp mayo, or enough to moisten
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional (I used it, but just a sprinkle)
1/2 lemon, juice

In a large bowl, gently toss together the salmon and crushed hard-boiled eggs.  In another bowl, combine bell pepper, cucumber, onion, and mayo.  Add seasonings and stir to combine.  Pour mixture over salmon, add lemon juice, and toss light to combine.  Serve over lettuce or as a sandwich.

Recipe Source:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fish Chowder

On an ever-going quest to thin out my freezer, I had some fish that needed a home.  I had picked up some red potatoes and found some clam juice on the clearance rack, so I cruised the internet for a fish chowder recipe.

My first stop is almost always This was the first fish chowder recipe that popped up.  The submitter said it came from the fishermen at Bodega Bay, California (as in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds.")  It's such a simple recipe and I wasn't sure it would have any depth of flavor but, BOY! was I wrong!

This is absolutely delicious.  I could have eaten the entire batch in one sitting.  Since there are just two of us, I halved the recipe, but you can double it or change the number of servings by going to the website to get proper ingredient amounts.

It (this 4 serving size) calls for 2 cups of potatoes.  I prefer red potatoes in chowders, but you could certainly use russets.  Also, they call to use cod (which would be wonderful), but others used other white fish like catfish.  I used Barramundi Sea Bass, but something like Swai or tilapia would be perfectly good.

FISH CHOWDER (4 servings)

1 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
2-3 fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups diced potatoes
1 pound cod or other white fish, diced into 1/2" cubes
1/8 tsp Old Bay seasoning
S&P to taste
1/2 cup clam juice
1/4 cup AP flour
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat.  Saute onions, mushrooms, and celery in butter until tender.

Add chicken stock and potatoes; simmer for 10 minutes.

Add fish, and simmer another 10 minutes.

Season to taste with Old Bay seasoning, S&P.  Mix together clam juice and flour until smooth; stir into soup.  Remove from heat, and stir in evaporated milk.  Serve.

Recipe Source:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hudson's Baked Tilapia with Dill Sauce

A quick and easy baked fish recipe with fresh dill for summer.  Or you could grill it to keep your kitchen cool.  A big suggestion, however, is to definitely bake some potatoes with this, preferably big reds.  The sauce is an awesome topping for the potato!

4 (4 oz) tilapia fillets (or other mild white fish, like Swai)
S&P to taste
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (I only used 1 tsp) or to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Season the fish fillet with S&P and Cajun seasoning on both sides.  Arrange the seasoned fillets in a single layer in the baking dish.  Place a layer of lemon slices over the fish fillets.  Try to cover most of the surface of the dish.

Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is baking, mix together the mayo, sour cream, garlic powder, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl.  Serve with tilapia.

Recipe Source:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Garden Pasta Salad

Honestly, I have been in the kitchen and I have been cooking.  Just nothing post-worthy.  And, I made the cardinal sin of cooking:  if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

On my ever-going quest to clean out my freezer, I did a search on to find a home for some turkey kielbasa, chicken, and shrimp.  Up popped a gumbo recipe.  Now, thanks to Jim's friends Cabbage and Diane Simpson, I was able to procure the absolute world's best gumbo recipe known to man (see 9-30-12 post: Diane's Seafood Gumbo).  Better than anything we'd ever had in any restaurant on the Gulf Coast.

Now if my head had been put on straight, I would have compared the two recipes and simply have used Diane's recipe, just substituting the sausage and chicken for some of the seafood she uses (still wouldn't have come close, though).  Needless to say, The Girls got lots of leftover sausage and chicken, sans roux.  And needless to say, no way was I going to post that disaster.

But back to today.  We're not even to Memorial Day and we're already in the upper 80s so I pulled out some old (old meaning type on a typewriter many years ago) salad recipes to have around as either a light lunch or a mid-day snack.  This came from an old friend of mine who used to make this for potlucks at the law firm she worked at in Chicago.

This is perfect for summer, especially if you get farmer's market fresh vegetables.  It's also great for picnics because it doesn't need to be kept refrigerated (although I prefer it cold).

Since I usually make just a portion of the recipe below and will get multiple servings that I'll keep around for a couple of days, I kept the dressing on the side and just pour a bit on each portion at serving time so the pasta doesn't absorb all the dressing before you get to it.  The amounts are a guideline......shift them up or down depending on your taste.  I do prefer halved grape tomatoes unless you can get your hands on some garden-fresh tomatoes.  Use any kind of Italian salad dressing: Classic, Zesty, fat-free, or even that wonderful Garden Expressions Simple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing.


1 lb angel hair or vermicelli
2 medium chopped tomatoes
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 medium chopped green pepper
1 chopped cucumber
1/3 bottle of McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning
Prepared Italian Dressing

Cook pasta.  Drain and cool.  Add chopped vegetables and sprinkle with seasoning.  Dress at time of serving.

Recipe Source:  Cherie Bishop, Schereville, IN

Monday, May 4, 2015

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Well, with temps climbing into the 80's this week, we are definitely creeping into summertime.  Later sundowns and yard work to do means later dinner times. 

I don't like eating a big meal late at night, so this time of year means much lighter meals like lots of fish, grilling, and salads.  And this one is just about as basic and simple, not to mention a delicious light meal. 

Serve with with some rice or quinoa and a simple garden salad or a green vegetable like asparagus or green beans.  Make the salsa ahead of time and you can get everything on the table lickity-split.


1/4 cup EVOO
1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp dried basil
S&P, to taste
2 (4-6 oz) tilapia (or Swai) fillets

1 large ripe mano, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp minced red onion
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (depends on your heat-tolerance and size of the pepper)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
S&P to taste

For the fish and marinade:
Put together the olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, parsley, garlic, basil, S&P in a resealable plastic bag.  Squish around until combined.  Add the fish fillets, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag  Marinate in the refrigerate at least 1 hour.

For the salsa:
Prepare the mango salsa by combining the mango, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper in a bowl.  Add the lime juice and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, and toss well.  Season to taste with S&P, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the entire dish:
Preheat a grill for medium-high heat.  Lightly oil or use "Grill" cooking spray to grill grate.

Remove the fillets from the marinade and shake off excess.  Discard the remaining marinade.  Grill the fillets until the fish is no longer translucent in the center and flakes easily with a fork, 3-4 minutes per side (use 10 minutes total for each 1" of thickness as a guide).

Serve fillet topped with mango salsa.

Recipe Source:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Savory Scallop Stir-Fry

This is (another) easy and tasty Publix recipe. It calls for Patagonian scallops which are very small (100-150 per pound).  I hadn't heard of them and tried to find the difference between Patagonians and bay scallops (sea scallops being much larger, about 1 1/2" in diameter), but couldn't find what I was looking for.  So I would absolutely use the bay scallops which are just a bit larger (than the Patagonians).

The recipe calls for cilantro herb paste.  I've seen this is many markets in different states.  It comes in a tube and is found in the produce section.  You could certainly chop up fresh cilantro (to taste) and throw that in.  It also calls for roasted garlic.  I usually roast mine in the microwave (do an internet search for easy instructions) unless I'm going to be using the oven at a high temp for about 45 minutes.  You should be able to find the marinade in the grocery store, but I just did a search and made my own (1/4 cup low-sodium soy, 1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, 2 thinly-sliced scallions, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper).

Serve it over rice.  Corn-on-the-cob or steamed broccoli would be a nice side dish.


2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp roasted garlic 
1 lb steak-topper vegetables (fresh sliced mushrooms, chopped onions and green bell peppers)
1 1/2 lb Patagonian or bay scallops (thawed/drained if frozen)
1/2 cup sesame/ginger marinade
1 Tbsp cilantro herb paste
Cooked rice

Preheat wok or large saute pan 2-3 on medium-high.

Place oil and garlic in pan (pan should sizzle).  Add vegetables, stir-fry 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Move vegetables to outer edge of pan.  Add scallops to center of pan and stir-fry 2-3 minutes.  Stir vegetables, marinade, and herb paste into scallops, cook 1-2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, or until hot.  Serve over rice.

Recipe Source:

It's a Princess!!!

I have to admit....I am a complete Anglophile and have been watching the Royals for a long, long time, mainly since the early days of Charles and Diana (but have devoured books of the whole Edward/Wallis scandal and watched every program ever produced about Henry VIII and his six wives.)  The Granthams of Downton Abbey have nothing on the real royals!  Nothing better than a real-life soap opera.

But I think this new generation is truly turning the monarchy back into a proper and respectable family thanks to bringing in non-royal blood with the class that Kate possesses and Diana's hands-on parenting which molded the man William appears to be.

OK...enough already.  I'm in the majority here being thrilled that the new little one is a girl!  I'll be watching all day to find out her name (and of course what Kate will be wearing when she steps out of the hospital!)  With my help, Jim has been able to keep on top of all the odds (birth date, gender, weight) and I will continue to keep him posted on all the latest developments (or he'll keep bugging me all day if I don't!)