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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Leftover Vegetarian Dinner

Found a terrific recipe for a Riso (rice) Primavera. I made riso pasta last night which is similar to orzo but mine was plain, tonight I make Weekday Vegetarian's Riso Primavera. It sounds delicious and I have all the ingredients on hand already. YAY!

Vegetarian Dinner in a SUPER HURRY!

Last night was meatless Monday and not only did I have to ferry both kids to and from dance class a half an hour away I needed to make a nice festive VEGAN meal plus a fun meal for the kids (four girls all together!) Normally I don't make a separate meal for kids and adults, but it was little W's birthday, she turned 4 years old! So of course a FUN dinner is your right on your birthday. For the grown ups I made a very fast meal and here is how I did it.

When you are in a super hurry, boxes of stuff are your friend.

Box of falafel mix + hot water + oil for frying = crispy, crunchy falafel balls
Box of organic mixed greens + sliced cucumbers, + sliced carrots and sliced tomato = fresh, crisp salad
Box of tabbouleh salad mix + hot water + olive oil + chopped cukes and tomatoes = zesty tabbouleh
Box of riso + hot water + ten minutes + olive oil = pasta dish
Jar of roasted asparagus spears packed in oil + jar of sun dried tomatoes + jar of roasted red peppers + package of kalamata olives = relish plate or antipasto
Premade Sabra brand hummus = DONE!
Package of pita breads = delicious "scoops" for salads and dips

If I'd had more time to let the flavors sit and marry I'd have made tzatziki sauce from Greek yogurt mixed with minced garlic, salt, chopped dill and shredded and squeezed dry cucumber, but as it was we had plenty of yummy and delicious food with plenty for leftovers lunch today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fish Tacos (for E.E.)

Okay, here is my fish taco recipe. It is a very fast dinner and a lovely spring/summer meal.


About 1 pound of nice white fish (mahi mahi or halibut or similar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lime or 2 key limes juiced and zested (about 1 tsp of zest)
1/2 tablespoon nice chili powder (possibly smoked)
1 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pinch of sea salt
8 corn tortillas

Shredded red cabbage
Sour cream or plain yogurt
Thinly sliced red onions
Thinly sliced carrots
Fresh tomato salsa or hot sauce

Put fish in a glass dish. Whisk together oil, sea salt, lime juice, chili powder, jalapeno and cilantro and pour over fish. Let it marinate for 15-20 minutes, but not longer or the acid from the lime will "cook" the fish and you'll have ceviche. Lightly pan sear the fish or grill it until just opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Place fish into warmed tortillas and top with garnishes of your choosing. Could also be garnished with fresh slices of avocado in season.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stroganoff with Yogurt Tarragon Sauce

This dinner was AWESOME if I do say so myself. Here's what you need.

1 pound ground meat (beef, chicken or turkey as you like)
1/3 C chopped shallots OR onion
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms (white button, cremini or baby bellas)
1/8 tsp of dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp of nutmeg
1 cup of room temperature plain yogurt
1 box of pasta of your choice (we did some whole wheat penne)

Season your meat with salt and pepper and then brown it in the pan set on medium high. Break the meat up into large chunks. As it cooks pour off any fat or accumulated water so the meat can really sear and get brown. Avoid moving it around with your spoon too much, in fact use a spatula to "flip" the meat and take it out of the pan before it is cooked entirely through. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook the chopped onions in the same pan you cooked the meat in and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Add in the mushrooms when the onions are soft and cook them through. Season the vegetables with the tarragon and nutmeg, then stir in the meat. Take the pan off the heat and stir in one cup of yogurt.

I served this by putting the pasta in a bowl, topping the pasta with a handful of fresh chopped spinach and then topping with the stroganoff sauce. Delicious and healthy and filling.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meatless Monday: Slow Cooker Vegetable and Lentil Soup

This is a pretty basic little soup, but very tasty.

3 yellow potatoes, cubed
1 bunch of fresh spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry lentils
water, or vegetable broth in an amount to cover vegetables

Souper Soup Spice Mix:
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground curry powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Put the vegetables and spice mix in the slow cooker except the fresh spinach; I like to stir that in just before you serve the soup. I also add the salt and pepper right before I serve the soup so that the salt does not inhibit the cooking of the lentils. You could also serve this with a little bit of basil pesto on top or a tiny sliver of parmesan cheese. Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Spare Ribs

This was a SUPER EASY dinner to make. We had a long busy day so I decided first thing this morning to make a slow cooker meal. In the bowl of your slow cooker place 2/3 cup of brown sugar, pour in 1/2 C of soy sauce and 1/2 C of worcestershire sauce and 1/2 C of water plus 2 TB of prepared BBQ sauce (or ketchup). Mix this thoroughly and add in 5 whole sweet mini peppers. Place about 2 pounds of frozen pork ribs into sauce, submerging as best you can. Cook on high for the first hour and then on low for the next 7 hours (can be cooked on low for 8 hours as well) About halfway through cooking time I flipped the ribs over so the other side could baste in the sauce as well.

The ribs will come out fall off the bone tender. We served this with leftover mac and cheese, leftover baked beans and steamed Normandy style mixed vegetables.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nostalgia Foods

If you grew up Catholic in the 80's, chances are there some foods you only eat on Friday nights in Lent. Cheese pizza is one. (My Mom actually argued the pizza guy down to a better rate on those cheese pizzas we were such good customers.) Tuna in cream sauce with peas over egg noodles and of course fish sticks. I seriously love these foods, but unless it is a Friday night in spring I really don't think about them.

We are having fish sticks tonight, coleslaw, vegetarian baked beans and spinach salad.

Have a good dinner y'all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day!

Just made some oatmeal raisin cookies for the teachers at my daughters' school who are except for one, all female. God bless elementary school teachers, they work REALLY, REALLY hard for not much money or respect to educate our children. This seemed like a good day to thank them for all they do.

A note on keeping the kitchen clean and orderly

Today I used up some odds and ends in my fridge, you know the sorts of things that take up room in the fridge but you don't want to throw out?

For instance last night there was a small package of Sweet Chili sauce I received in the mail as a sample. I added it into my stir fry. Today I made Russian dressing, so I took the dozen or so sad little dill pickle chips floating around in the bottom of the pickle jar and chopped them up for the dressing instead of using pickle relish. I had some leftover chicken pieces I needed to use up after I made my Apricot chicken. I placed the pieces in a gallon size Ziploc bag and sprinkled the pieces generously with BBQ rub. I had an allllmost empty bottle of ketchup. I opened it up, placed a little water in it and swooshed it around. I squirted that all over the chicken in the bag, then I added a squirt of mustard and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. I also took a tablespoon of pickle juice from my now empty jar and added that to the chicken, sealed the top and shook the heck out of it all. Now my chicken is defrosting in the bottom of the refrigerator and marinating in an almost effortless and almost free BBQ sauce. I will broil the pieces on Saturday for either lunch or dinner.

I save everything. Leftover pieces of vegetables, like onion tops, carrot ends, the woody stems of asparagus, bell pepper tops, mushroom stems, or anything really get placed into ziploc bags in the freezer to be used for veggie broths, the cooking water for potatoes get saved in the freezer to make potato bread or to add to a potato soup base. Bones from roasted chickens or from bone-in roasts get saved for stock. Shrimp and lobster shells make a great fish stock too! Bacon drippings get saved in a jar in the fridge to sauté vegetables. Even a few tablespoons of leftover spaghetti sauce gets saved to go on a homemade pizza or to use as a dipping sauce. Label everything though or you might find yourself defrosting something just to figure out of it is a fish stock or chicken stock, you know?

Dinner is (very, nearly) Ready!

My husband is working late, so I won't have him to ride herd on the children while I cook; so I decided to make a slow cooker meal tonight. My Mema used to make this great apricot chicken in a crock pot recipe that I loved. I seem to have lost my recipe card for it, and of course today is the day Mema is leaving for Ireland, (bon voyage!) so I tried to find it on the internet.

Lots of APRICOT CHICKEN recipes out there! Some sounded better than others, but I read several and combined them to the best of my memory of how Mema's chicken is made.

Sorta-kinda Mema Chicken


6-8 chicken thighs, drumsticks or both, skinless and bone-in
1 C of Russian Dressing
1/2 C of Apricot Preserves
1-2 TB of red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 package French onion soup mix
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
Pinch of pepper

Place frozen chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker (use thawed chicken and it will cook faster). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and pour over chicken. Cook 6-8 hours on low. I use the Automatic setting which cooks on high for 2 hours and then switches to low. Serve chicken over cooked rice or pasta and with vegetable of your choice.

The only snag I hit was that I did not have any Russian dressing. I did learn one thing in Brownie Scouts though, besides how to look AMAZING in a beanie cap, and that was how to make my own dressing. Over the years I have tweaked it a little, to have a more grown up taste. Here are the recipes.

Brownie Scout Russian Dressing:

1 C of mayo
1/4 C of ketchup
3 TB pickle relish
Squirt of mustard

Mix together and serve.

My Grown Up Version

1 C of mayo <---_ sometimes I use homemade!
1/4 cocktail sauce <--- Horseradish adds a kick.
1 squirt of Dijon mustard <--- Glamorous, no?
2-3 TB of pickle relish
1 TB minced onion

Mix together and use immediately or can be stored for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

K's Famous Ground Beef Stir-Fry

March is National Frozen Foods month and frozen foods are on sale and retailers are offering coupons every day on fantastic items. This is a great recipe to use some frozen green beans, frozen onions, or even frozen ginger. My friend K taught me to make this dish many moons ago and it is a perennial favorite in our house!


1 pound hamburger meat
1 14-16 oz. package of frozen green beans
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
1 TB stir-fry sauce OR hoisin sauce OR apricot jelly
1/2 inch of peeled and minced fresh ginger OR equivalent ginger from a tube
1/2 of a chopped onion (optional)
Brown rice made according to package directions
Olive or sesame oil
Soy sauce

Start your rice on the stove top. We make brown rice which takes about 45 minutes so I wait until the the rice is about half cooked before I start cooking the rest of the meal. You can use the intervening time to chop up your garlic, ginger or onions as needed.

Take a pound of hamburger meat, season it with salt, pepper and a few red pepper flakes (optional.) Cook in a nicely seasoned iron skillet or other non-stick pan. If you are using a low fat kind of ground beef you may need to add a tablespoon of oil or fat to the pan. Once the meat has been fairly well browned but not cooked through yet add several dashes of soy sauce, a half inch of minced fresh ginger and two minced garlic cloves. When the meat is cooked through, set it aside in a bowl. In the same pan add a bit more oil and sauteed your onions if you are using them, then add the frozen green beans, season with a heavy pinch of salt and place a lid over the pan and let it steam/cook on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the vegetables, hit them with a bit of soy sauce, a tablespoon of hoisin or stir-fry sauce or even a dab of apricot jelly (tonight I used a sample I received in the mail of Sweet Chili Sauce). Add meat mixture back to pan, stir again and replace the lid and turn off the heat but leave it on the burner as the rice finishes. When all items are cooked serve rice topped with stir-fry mixture and enjoy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Costco Shopping and Impulse Purchases 3/3/11

My husband got his hearing aid through Costco, they offer free tune ups of the device as long as you own it, so about once a year we go up to the big city 3 hours away and do our Mainland errands, a big shop at Costco, getting kids haircuts at affordable prices, eye appointments, tire rotation, whatever. On this last trip, in addition to the Costco shop and hearing aid fix we also picked up some new tap shoes for the big kid and some all white sneakers for her baton twirling debut.

We usually pick up something quick to make for dinner while we are at Costco because when you factor in the drive time and the time spent actually running the errands we get home sort of late. My husband's impulse buy for our fast dinner was a ready to go, heat and eat chateaubriand. I know, right? I would have gotten a delicious Kirkland's brand frozen pizza, but I let him pick some times. A chateaubriand is a very 60's dinner to me. I can imagine Don Draper splitting one with his pretty wife in a swanky restaurant. In fact a chateaubriand is almost always prepared for two, so that means you both better like it cooked to the same temperature because you can't make it medium on one side and well done on the other. The cut of meat is actually a beef tenderloin, but the fancy French name comes from the method of preparation, where the meat is seasoned very simply, seared on all sides in a pan, then roasted in the oven until desired temperature is reached. You make a nice sauce from the pan drippings and additionally you can have it with a béarnaise sauce on top. DECADENT. This heat and eat version basically was pre-roasted and you did the stove top part to bring it back up to temperature and get a nice sear on it. It was ready in about 10 minutes. We also decided to try some frozen roasted mixed vegetables, potatoes, peppers, carrots and green beans. They were prepared on the stove top in about 6 minutes, those were okay, but we won't be buying it again. The sauce the vegetables were in was sort of bland and off-putting.

I do think next month we may spring for a nice beef tenderloin and try to make the chateaubriand ourselves as the cut itself was buttery and tender beyond belief. I really think it might be a fun project. Maybe I will make jello parfaits or some other mid-century classic for dessert when I do.

We rounded out dinner with a lovely lettuce and carrot salad. There were some incredibly nice butter lettuces for sale. Just eating them made me feel more like Springtime, like Peter Rabbit might just steal some from the refrigerator.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cheese-filled Tortellini and Garlic Bread

Last night was a Friday in Lent (so no meat) and the night before I headed out to the grocery store for some awesome stocking up. I was making the most out of a trip to the big city Costco so I was low on just about everything. I pulled a package of pre-made tortellini from the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. This is a super fast dinner and this is how I made it.


For Tortellini
1 package refrigerated tortellini
Can of tomato sauce (I used a garlic and onion flavored one)
Chopped seasoning veggies, like garlic, onion and celery
1 tsp of dried Italian Seasoning

For Super-Fast Garlic Bread
Sliced crusty bread (Mine was homemade*)
Very soft butter
Garlic powder
Sprinkle of Italian herbs

Step One: put the pasta water on to boil, make sure to salt it.

Step Two: Heat skillet, add teaspoon of olive oil and chopped seasoning veggies, possibly adding chopped sun dried tomatoes if you like. When veggies are soft and fragrant add sauce and herbs and heat through.

Step Three: When water boils, cook tortellini according to package directions.

Step Four; While tortellini is cooking mix butter with garlic powder and herbs and perhaps a sprinkle of salt. Spread sliced bread with butter mixture and place on cookie sheet.

Step Five: Put bread under broiler on high, cook until brown and fragrant.

Step Six: Drain pasta and serve immediately. Top with red sauce and if you like a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan. Pull bread from oven and place a slice on each plate.

I know this is a very basic dinner idea but the reason I am using it is because EVERYONE cooks this way once in awhile and busy parents cook this way a lot. Some of my friends have expressed to me their discomfort with even basic recipes and the fact that too many "FAST EASY" dishes depend on a level of knowledge that they do not yet have. So here it is a fast and fool-proof dinner that hopefully spells out step by step a way to get dinner on the table.

*Homemade bread, I have said it before and I will say it again, the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day changed my life. I can now have fresh bread and pizza dough basically on demand. Buy it now!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tonight's Menu: Sauteed Chicken breasts, Whole Wheat Penne, Tomatoes and Green Peppers

Happy First Day of March!

Here was tonight's quick simple dinner with step by step instructions.

For the pasta you will need:

* 1/2 of a box (13.25 oz) of whole wheat penne pasta (I used Barilla)
* 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
* 1 green pepper sliced into strips, strips cut in half
* 1 clove of garlic, chopped
* 1 TB of olive oil or canola oil
* 2-3 TB of fresh grated parmesan
*2 tsp of dried Italian Seasoning
* Salt

For the chicken you will need:

* 6-8 thinly sliced chicken breast pieces
* 1/4 cup of flour
* TB of butter
* TB of oil
* Salt and Pepper to taste

Start large pot of water to boil, adding salt to the water, when water boils add the half box of pasta and stir. Place oil in a skillet over medium high heat. To this add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, but not burnt. Add chopped green peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Then add chopped tomatoes and a generous pinch of kosher salt. When tomatoes begin to break down you can add the Italian seasoning. Cook the vegetables until the pasta is done about 9 minutes. Drain pasta and toss back into cooking pot with sauteed veggies and the grated parmesan. Taste and season if desired. Cover with lid and place on the back of the stove, off the heat.

While veggies are cooking, quickly salt and pepper some thinly sliced chicken breasts and dredge in a handful of flour. The chicken breasts I used tonight had been sliced in half horizontally so they cook incredibly quickly. One could also use chicken tenderloins or regular chicken breasts that had been pounded very, very flat. Cook the breasts in a mixture of oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. The sliced breasts will cook in less than 5 minutes per side.

To serve place a chicken piece on a plate with a generous amount of pasta and a small green salad or sliced pears.