Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing

I am an unapologetic lover of Olive Garden's all-you-can-eat salad.  With a few ingredient changes for my preference.  Whenever we go, I always like to go while the lunch menu is still in effect so I can get the soup and salad.

I've tried a couple of copycat recipes for their salad dressing, but I gotta tell you, this come the closest.

My ingredient changes:  I prefer romaine lettuce to their iceberg.  Grape tomatoes. Banana pepper rings to their pepperoncini peppers.  And I make my own croutons (I use Panera Bread's bagels, cubed, drizzled with EVOO and sprinkle with Italian Seasoning and garlic salt, baked at 325F for 20-25 minutes, stirring once).  Add some black olives, red onions,  and shredded Parmesan cheese and then this wonderful dressing.

OLIVE GARDEN ITALIAN SALAD DRESSING (makes about 6 oz/1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

1/2 cup mayo
3-5 Tbsp distilled white vinegar (to taste....I used 3 Tbsp)
1 tsp canola oil
2 Tbsp honey or corn syrup
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp freshly minced garlic
1/2 heaping tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Mix ingredients in a blender, adjusting vinegar to taste.  If it's still too tart, add a bit more corn syrup.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Toasted Coconut Bird's Nests

WOW!  It's hard to believe it is Spring and Easter.  How did that happen?  We didn't even had winter here in SE Tennessee.

But at that time of year, I always think of these bird's nest treats.  Looking for recipes, I ran across one using chow mein noodles and considered that one (actually, apparently I made those a year or two ago says my friend, Donna, who still had a photo on her phone of the one I made for her).  But to me, this Easter treat uses toasted coconut.

I'm not a huge coconut fan, but I certainly won't go pass a recipe just because it's one of the ingredients.  But if it's toasted coconut, well that's a different story.  I love the crunch and toasted flavor.  Of course, you must be vigilant as forgetting for even a minute will leave you with a pile of burnt, smoking coconut.  Yuck.

Just stay close to your oven.  I put my tray in first for 3 minutes, took it out and stirred, then 2 minutes (stirred), and then one minute each time afterwards until it all was browning nicely.  When you take it out the last time, don't stir and let it sit until cooled....it will continue to toast in that time.  You'll end up with wonderfully flavored, crisp coconut.

One last note, you can use either milk chocolate or white chocolate chips.  I made all of my nests with milk chocolate but had some leftover toasted coconut and a half a package of white chocolate chips so I mixed it together and rolled it into balls.  Same great flavor, just not the cute presentation the nests make.


1 (7 oz) package sweetened flaked coconut
1 (11.5 oz) package milk chocolate chips
1 Tbsp butter
jelly beans or small chocolate eggs (I used Cadbury minis)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spread coconut in a thin layer on a cookie sheet.  Place in the oven for 7-9 minutes stirring every minute or so (see note above) especially near the end of the cooking time.  Remove from the oven.

Spread waxed paper on your counter so it will be ready for the next step.

Place the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat and stir every 30 seconds until chocolate is melted.....don't overcook.

Stir the toasted coconut into the melted chocolate and placing a heaping spoonful on the waxed paper.  Use your fingers to help slide off of the spoon.  Quickly shape into a circle and make an indentation in the center.

Once all of the nests are on the waxed paper, go back and shape them a little more if necessary.  Before the nests set, place the candy in the nests and press into the mixture.  Leave them on the waxed paper until firm (you can put the paper on a cookie tray and set it in the refrigerator for quicker set-up).

Recipe Source: http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/todds-friends/chocolate-and-toasted-coconut-bird-nests.html

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reuben Pizza

Before St. Patrick's Day, I had run across an idea for Reuben Pizza using leftover corned beef.  For those of us who love corned beef, this is a great idea!  And talk about quick and easy.  Just five ready-made ingredients, 12-15 minutes in the oven and VOILA! Dinner, lunch, snack, whatever is ready (and leftovers do heat up nicely, by the way).

REUBEN PIZZA (one 12" pizza)

one ready-made 12" pizza crust (I like Boboli thin crust)
1000 Island salad dressing
thinly sliced or shredded corned beef
sauerkraut, drained and wrung dry
shredded Swiss cheese

Spread salad dressing on pizza crust.  Cover with corned beef, sauerkraut, then cheese.  Bake in a 400F oven for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted (I turn the broiler on for the last 2 minutes to get a little char on the top).

Slice and serve.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Panko Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

I rarely use the same salmon recipe twice (except for my very favorite here)......there are so many variations you can prepare in so many ways.  So I just keep track and post these, especially when it requires few ingredients and little time.  A great entree in which many sides dishes are a nice accompaniment.  Perfect for a busy weeknight dinner.


2 (4-6 oz) salmon fillets
3/4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3/4 Tbsp honey
1/2 -1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/4 - 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp EVOO

Preheat oven to 400F.  Spray a baking dish large enough to fit the fillets in with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, and garlic.

In a shallow dish toss together Panko bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest.  Add olive oil to mixture then stir to coat.

Brush each salmon fillet with honey mustard mixture, season with S&P, and transfer to bread crumb mixture, honey mustard side down.  Then brush the other side of the salmon (that's now facing up) with honey mustard mixture, season lightly with S&P, and flip over to coat both sides with bread mixture.  Transfer to baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven 13-15 minutes until salmon has cooked through.  Serve warm with lemon wedges if desired.

Recipe Source:  http://normalcooking.com/2015/05/30/panko-crusted-honey-mustard-salmon/

Friday, March 18, 2016

Key Lime Pie

This is another easy-peasy recipe with fantastic results.  I'm fortunate that I can usually find a bag of Key limes just about any time of the year, but I read on one blog someone has substituted half regular (Persian) limes and half lemons with good results.  I have a mini-juicer which is a blessing because I wouldn't have wanted to manually juice 20 or so small Key limes.  

While I think of this as a summer dessert, this is too good and (again) too easy not to make it whenever you run across a bag of Key limes or just need to satisfy that sweet/tart tooth.

Don't forget:  Zest your limes before juicing!!!  Also, the pie needs to chill so you'll need to refrigerate it for hours before serving.

KEY LIME PIE (makes one 9" pie, 6-8 servings)

1 (9") prepared graham cracker crust
2 (14? oz) cans (about 3 cups) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup regular or reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice (about 20-25 key limes)
1 Tbsp grated lime zest 

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).

In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime zest.  Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 5-8 minutes (mine took longer-maybe 11-14 minutes), until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie.  DO NO BROWN.  Chill pie thoroughly before serving.  Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Recipe Source: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15880/key-lime-pie-vii/?internalSource=search%20result&referringContentType=search%20results

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Stack

This is a fun, easy, and delicious take on rolled enchiladas.  Stack 'em instead!  Cut it into pie-shaped slices, serve it with your favorite Tex-Mex side dish.  A delicious and great weeknight dinner.

It calls for cooked chicken so either use a rotisserie chicken or any leftover chicken you might have.  Also, the original recipe calls to use a springform pan, but you can also use a 9" cake pan.


2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can (about 7 oz) green chile enchilada sauce
1/2 cup sour cream, regular or reduced-fat

For Stack:
5 (9" or 10") tortillas
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
4 oz (about 1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
4 oz (about 1 cup) shredded Mexican blend or Monterey Jack 

For Serving:
chopped tomatoes
diced avocados
chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Preheat oven to 400F.

For the sauce, in a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk.  As you whisk and the mixture cooks, the flour will get less lumpy around the onions and the mixture will become smooth (except for the pieces of onion).  Cook over medium heat until the mixture is bubbling and has thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the enchilada sauce, sour cream, S&P.

To assemble, lightly grease a 9" or 10" springform pan (depending on the size of the tortillas).  Here's how it will be assembled: one tortilla, sauce, chicken, cheese; one tortilla, sauce, chicken, cheese; one tortilla, sauce, chicken, cheese; one tortilla, sauce, chicken, cheese; one tortilla, remaining sauce and cheese (basically, it's five layers of nearly the same thing except the final layer doesn't get any chicken).

Baked uncovered 20-25 minutes.

Let the enchilada stack rest 10 minutes before serving.  Blot any cheese grease up with a paper towel.  Cut into pie-shaped wedges to serve.  Garnish with tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, and/or lime wedges, if desired.

Recipe Source:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/green-chile-chicken-enchilada-stack/

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creamy Beef/Turkey/Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

These enchiladas are a breeze to make and come out wonderfully.  The changes I made to the original recipe were to use ground turkey instead of beef and corn tortillas  instead of flour.  Serve it with rice and beans, steamed broccoli, or a garden salad for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.


1/2 pound ground meat
1 cup chunky salsa, divided
2-3 cups fresh spinach
1 tsp ground cumin, divided
4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cubed
6 corn or small flour tortillas
1/2 can (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2-1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook ground meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.  Add 1/2 cup salsa, spinach, 3/4 tsp cumin, and salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and spinach wilts.

Add cream cheese and stir until blended.  Remove from heat.  Spoon meat mixture evenly onto tortillas.  Roll up and place seam-side down in a 8x8 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Stir together diced tomatoes and remaining 1/2 cup salsa and 1/4 tsp cumin, pour over enchiladas.

Bake 20 minutes.  Top with cheese and bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese melts.

Recipe Source: http://normalcooking.com/2016/03/02/creamy-beef-spinach-enchiladas/

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Garlicky Baked Shrimp

I've sat on this recipe for a while, kinda put it on the bottom of the pile because, quite frankly, it didn't seem very special.  Only a handful of ingredients.

Holy Smokes! was I wrong!  This is about as basic and delicious as you can get.  This will be on our table often.  Buttery, garlicky shrimp with some crunchy Panko crumbs.....oh why did I wait so long?!!!

Just one thing, don't make the mistake I made with the lemon slices.  While it makes a nice presentation, the lemons make the crumbs soggy.  Instead, serve lemon wedges on the side.

A Note:  I used 26/30 shrimps so if you use shrimp that is smaller or larger, you'll need to adjust the cooking time.


10 oz (about 16) 26/30 shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dry white wine
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
lemon wedges, optional

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a bowl, combine the shrimp, garlic, and white wine.  Stir to combine, then pour into a baking dish.  Spread out evenly, and then season with S&P (I only use pepper as shrimp is salty enough for me).

In another bowl, use a fork to mix melted butter, Panko, and parsley until well combined.  With your fingers, sprinkle the mixture evenly in the baking dish over the shrimp.

Transfer dish to oven and bake until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 15-16 minutes (I turned the broiler on in the last minute or two to get a little browning on the bread crumbs).

Recipe Source: http://normalcooking.com/2012/07/26/garlicky-baked-shrimp/

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Margarita Shrimp

In my opinion, the name of this recipe is a misnomer.  I call it "Pina Colada" shrimp because of the wonderful creamy, coconut sauce.

This is another wonderful Publix Aprons recipe.  I changed it a bit to use what I had on hand, so I'm listing my recipe below (you can see the original on the link below).  Basically, I substituted margarita mix for the frozen concentrate, Louisiana Hot Sauce for the green pepper sauce, and sweetened condensed milk/coconut extract for the cream of coconut.


1/2 lb shrimp (26/30s or larger), peeled and deveined
1/2 cup bottled margarita mix
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
hot sauce to taste
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
coconut extract to taste (I used about 5 drops)
cayenne pepper, to taste
cooking spray
kosher salt

Bring margarita mix to a boil in a small saucepan.  Allow to reduce by half.  Remove from heat.  Add cilantro.  Reserve about 1-2 Tbsp of mix.

Put shrimp in a ziplock bag.  Add margarita mix.  Allow to marinade for 15 minutes up to several hours.  In reserved margarita mix, stir in a few dashes of hot side.  Set aside.

Mix yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, coconut extract, and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

Heat grill.  Remove shrimp from marinade.  Cook first side about one minute.  Turn shrimp and brush with remaining marinade.  Cook about another minute or until shrimp are pink.  Remove immediately from grill.

Serve the shrimp on a swish of the coconut sauce or with the sauce on the side.

Recipe Source:  http://www.publix.com/recipes-planning/aprons-simple-meals/margarita-shrimp-with-pecan-dirty-rice

Sunday, March 6, 2016

King Ranch Chicken

No, I did not take this photo.  Mine came out, well let's just say unappetizing.

And that would not have done this dish justice.  It's been around for as long as I can remember and for good reason.  When I think Tex-Mex, this comes front and center in my mind.  It has it all: tortillas, chicken, chilies, cheese.  And it is so simple.

Legend has it that the dish is named after the fabled King Ranch in South Texas, at one time the largest ranch in the US and one of the largest in the world at over 800,000 acres.  So while I have no idea where the recipe originated, it seems fitting to name it after the Ranch sitting just north of the border.

There are lots of recipes but they are all very similar.  Mine came from Central Market in San Antonio.  It's a meal in itself (and make great leftovers for breakfast), but I usually serve it with a green salad.

Also, this is a big recipe so I always cut it in half, make it in an 8x8 dish, and use one can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup (and half everything else).

KING RANCH CHICKEN (12 servings)

1 rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken (in half a recipe, I used the white breast meat off of one cooked whole chicken)
10-12 corn tortillas
1 cup chopped onion
1/2  cup chopped green pepper
1/2 lb grated cheddar
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
small amount of chicken broth

Line bottom of 13x9" baking dish (sprayed with cooking spray) with tortillas wilted in hot chicken broth.  Add in the following order:

chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces or shredded
green pepper
grated cheese
chili powder
Rotel tomatoes

Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Source:  Central Market, San Antonio, TX

Friday, March 4, 2016

Caroline Shrimp Burger with Spicy Remoulade and Baked Beans

Many (and I mean over 15) years ago when we lived in San Antonio, I use to go to cooking classes at Central Market (a foodie's haven).  Once when my mother was visiting, she and Jim accompanied me to a class hosted by Terry Conlan, then the Executive Chef at Lake Austin Spa.  His focus was on healthy, low-fat meals.  In this class he served three different burgers.

My favorite was the Shrimp Burger.  You can find similar recipes but I stuck to this one.  He served with a a slaw topping and some really good, easy baked beans.  

The recipes below may look lengthy, but everything can be mixed ahead.  Mix the dressing for the slaw (and then mix in the cabbage at serving time), make the burger mixture (I had leftovers which kept for several days.....I did add a bit more bread crumbs before frying), and mix everything for the baked beans and then simply put in a baking dish and bake about half an hour before serving.

So make everything the day ahead if you like and you can have dinner on the table lickety-split.

SHRIMP BURGER (4-6 servings)

1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, roughly chopped
3/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs (more if mixture looks too soupy)
1/4 cup flour

Combine all ingredients; chill 2 hours.  Saute in a non-stick skillet with non-stick spray and a touch of olive oil.  Serve, topped with slaw, on a bun of choice.


1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup fat-free mayo
1 Tbsp creole mustard
2 Tbsp 2% milk
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp peeled, seed, diced tomato
1/2 tsp capers, minced
1 Tbsp dill pickle relish
2 tsp minced parsley
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/2 tsp dill week
2 Tbsp minced onion
Pinch of salt, sugar, cayenne, black pepper

Combine dressing ingredients.  Chill.  Toss with cabbage at time of serving. 


2 strips lean bacon
1/4 cup minced onion
non-stick spray
1/4 cup apple cider (or water)
3 cups cooked pinto beans (can also use 2 {15 oz} cans pinto beans)
3 Tbsp yellow mustard
3 Tbsp catsup
3 Tbsp commercial BBQ sauce
2 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar

In a heavy skillet, slowly cook bacon until crisp.  Blot bacon on paper towels.  Discard grease from skillet, but saute onions with spray until browned in the same skillet.  Add cider (or water) and scrape pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze.  Add remaining ingredients, transfer to a baking dish and bake, covered, at 350F for 20 minutes.  Uncover, top with crumbled bacon, bake 10 minutes.

Recipe Source:  From Central Market Cooking School (July 19, 2000), San Antonio, TX.  Hosted by Executive Chef Terry Conlan from Lake Austin Spa, Austin, TX

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Abuelo's Papas con Chile

Have you eaten at the chain Mexican restaurant Abuelo's?  If so, you might have had their "Papas con Chile" potato dish (versus the traditional Spanish rice).  I always order this....it's one of my favorites.

To me, mashed potatoes are always made with russet potatoes.  However, Abuelo's uses red potatoes.  And this is one recipe I have to agree with.  Generally the waxy red potatoes are just too gummy for mashed, but somehow this just works.

So if you're looking for an alternative to the traditional Latino side dish, give these a try.  They won't disappoint.


3 lbs red potatoes
3 oz cream cheese, cut into 2" squares
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 oz Velveeta, cut into 2" squares
1/2 Tbsp salt
3/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup diced red bell peppers
1/2 cup diced green bell peppers
2 cans chopped green chiles
1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
2 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeno (fresh or pickled), seeds removed

Wash and scrub potatoes until clean.

Place potatoes in a pot covered with water and boil until soft.

Drain potatoes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mash (suggest using a hand masher....an electric mixer will turn this to gum).  Be sure all ingredients are incorporated.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Blackberry Cobbler

I found blackberries at Aldi's last week for for $1 a box so I picked up a couple.  This is such an easy recipe, just a handful of ingredients.  Have some ice cream for freshly whipped cream on hand for the perfect end of a meal.


1/2 stick butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup whole milk
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
Ice cream or whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup sugar with the flour and milk.  Whisk in the melted butter.

Rinse the blackberries and pat them dry (if using fresh).  Pour the batter into the baking dish.  Sprinkle the blackberries evenly over the top of the batter.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the blackberries.  Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour.  When 10 minutes of the cooking time remains, sprinkle the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar over the top.  Top with ice cream or whipped cream.

Recipe Source: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/blackberry-cobbler-recipe.html