Thursday, January 28, 2010

Veggie and Pasta Salad

I call this Veggie and Pasta Salad because I usually end up with more veggies than pasta. This is super easy and delish! I really like a very colorful pasta salad, so I use a tri-color rotini pasta and lots of fresh veggies. I usually use cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, carrots, broccoli, cucumber and red onion. I also like to add a can of garbanzo beans for added flavor, texture, protein and fiber.

Prep the pasta according to the directions on the package. While that's cooking cut up the veggies and toss them in a large Tupperware. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and rinse it in cold water. Add pasta to the container. Top with your favorite Italian dressing. I always use Wishbone Robusto Italian. I've tried others, but I think this is the best for this dish. Some of the others didn't seem flavorful enough to me, but hey, use whatever you like! Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. I also like to serve it with freshly grated Parmesan or cheddar on the side for a garnish.

This can be a great vegetarian meal or side dish. It's a must have for any large spring or summer gathering beacuse it is a nice, light dish, it's healthy, and it makes so much that it's great for sharing. It also pairs really well with simple, grilled chicken breast.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pork Chops with Apples and Shallots

This is so flavorful, I could eat it every week!

4 pork chops, I use boneless, about 1 inch thick
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2-4 shallots, cut into quarters and separated
Olive oil
salt and pepper
White wine, cider or apple juice

Rinse pork chops and dry well. Sprinkle both sides with salt and fresh ground pepper. Put about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and bring up to medium heat. Add pork chops. Sear each side until just browned, then remove from pan. Add apples and shallots to the pan. Cook until apples and shallots are just beginning to soften and return pork chops to the pan. Add about 1/4 cup of white wine or juice. Turn chops every few minutes until cooked through. Serve chops with apples and shallots on top.

*Updated* 01/16/11
I changed this recipe just a little bit today. The next time I make it, I will take more pics of it cooking and how I serve it.

Honey Glazed, Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

This one is easy, plus you could do just carrots, or just parsnips.

1lb carrots
1lb parsnips
olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel carrots and parsnips and cut them into 2 inch pieces. Put them into a Pyrex dish. Drizzle with honey and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix it all up and cook for about 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. There is a pic on a previous post.

Garlic and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

This is one of my faves and everyone I've ever made it for likes it!

1lb potatoes, I use organic baby reds, but Yukon's or fingerlings are good too. Really, just use whatever kind you like best.
Olive oil
crushed dried rosemary, or chopped fresh rosemary
fresh minced garlic
salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes into one inch cubes and toss them into a Pyrex dish. Mince the garlic and toss that in too. Sprinkle generously with crushed rosemary, fresh ground pepper and coarse salt. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing and mix well. Cook for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.

Chicken Stuffed with Mushroom and Spinach Stuffing

So now I had all this extra stuffing from the mushrooms, so the next Night for dinner I decided to use it in the chicken. I used four boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied and pounded flat. When that was done I placed a generous amount of stuffing in each chicken breast and rolled them up. I sprayed a Pyrex dish with cooking spray, put the stuffed chicken in the pan, and baked them for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I served it with simple egg noodles with butter and Parmesan cheese and roasted, honey glazed carrots and parsnips. It was yummy! Plus, everyone liked it, so  I will make it again.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

These are a little time consuming, but delicious. There is usually a little extra stuffing left over, so I've also come up with a recipe for that! I'll post the original recipe that I found on, then I'll tell you what I did differently.

Kraft's recipe:
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1-1/2 cups  hot water
40 fresh mushrooms (2 lb.)
2 Tbsp.  butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg.  (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup  KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese

HEAT oven to 400ºF.
MIX stuffing mix and water in large bowl; set aside. Remove stems from mushrooms; chop stems. Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Add chopped stems and garlic; cook and stir until tender. Add to prepared stuffing with spinach and cheeses; mix well.
SPOON into mushroom caps. Place, filled-sides up, in shallow pan.
BAKE 20 min. or until mushrooms are tender and filling is heated through.

What I did differently...
First of all, two cloves of garlic are never enough. I love garlic! I used about six cloves. All the better to keep the sparkly vampires away! I wanted to be sure there was a lot of extra stuffing for my dinner the next night, so I added some extra bread crumbs and extra cheeses too. I also used about 4 tbsp of butter instead of two. Next time I may add bacon!

Also, for removing the stems and hollowing out the mushrooms I have a really great tool. It's a melon baller on one side and this other thing on the other side...

I use this for mushrooms, scooping out jalapenos and coring tomatoes. It is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

Grocery Shopping

I am so OCD when it comes to my shopping list! I actually make a first draft, then I revise it and make the final list that I take to the store with me.

First, I take a look at what basics I need. Things like coffee, sugar, bread, juice, creamer, etc. Then, I look at what I have. Once I have a mental inventory of what items I have, I check the sale paper and my coupons. Once I've done all of this, I come up with recipes for 5-7 meals. Sometimes it comes from me, sometimes from a recipe book or magazine. As I decide on each meal, I add what I need to the list. When I am done with that, I have two lists. One is meals and the  other is my grocery list. Then I re-write the grocery list in groups based on the layout of the store. This way I rarely forget something that I really need, and I zip through the store quickly.
Plus I save lots of money by using the coupons and sale items.

Yeah, totally OCD, but it works for me!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Oh, fat kids! I've been neglecting you for a bit now. I haven't forgotten you, I've just had a lot going on. I know you don't want my excuses, just more attention. I promise we'll hang out this weekend. I'll make time for you and all the posts I need to get to.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Skewers

This is so easy, and yummy too! It's a great appetizer to take to a party, or don't use the toothpicks and make a salad instead.

grape tomatoes
sm fresh mozzarella balls
fresh basil leaves
Fresh ground black pepper

Grab some fancy toothpicks and the ingredients listed above. Simply  put a tomato, a basil leaf and a ball of fresh mozzarella on each toothpick and arrange on a serving platter. Dust with fresh ground black pepper. Sometimes I drizzle a little olive oil or balsamic vinegar over them too. Just be careful not to use too much. Balsamic vinegar has a very strong flavor.

Braised Chicken and Mushrooms

This is such a yummy dish! It has become a regular item on my personal menu. I hope you enjoy it too!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I usually just buy the pre-sliced kind)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dry (I've also used the kind in the tube and that works too!)

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over med heat. Add chicken. Cook until lightly browned on each side(about 3 minutes per side). Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add remaining oil to hot skillet. Add mushrooms, garlic and more salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the mushrooms release their juices, 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and cook over high heat, tossing occasionally, until mushrooms are golden, 4-5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the skillet: cook, stirring occasionally until evaporated(1 minute). Add stock and parsley, cook over medium heat until mushrooms are tender and liquid has reduced. About 10-12 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through. (10-12 minutes) Serve chicken with mushrooms and the cooking liquid. Garnish with additional parsley.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and oven roasted asparagus. I'll add these recipes soon, I promise!

Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

I've never made Cornish game hens before, but they were on sale so I figured I would give it a try. I googled recipes for them, found one that sounded good, and changed it up a bit.

4 Cornish game hens
8 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 lemon, quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper
30ish cloves of garlic (2 heads of garlic should do the trick)
2/3 cup of dry white wine
2/3 cup of chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Rub hens with a little olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper, being sure to get some in the cavity. Place one lemon wedge, one clove of garlic and one sprig of rosemary in each cavity. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan (or two Pyrex dishes), and arrange the remaining garlic cloves around the hens. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temp to 350. In a mixing bowl, whisk wine, chicken broth and 2 tbsp of olive oil:pour over the hens. Continue to roast for about 25 minutes, or until the hens are golden brown and the juices run clear (165 degrees by instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh). Baste with pan juices every ten minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, leaving any cavity juices in the roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer all pan juices and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until garlic is well incorporated. Transfer garlic sauce to a sauce pan and boil until liquid reduces to a saucy consistency, about 7 minutes.

Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on the plates. Spoon garlic sauce around the hens and garnish with additional rosemary sprigs. Serve with a nice crusty bread to soak up the sauce and a veggie.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Make your own quesadillas!

Sometimes I just want to make something super simple for dinner, so last night I decided it was "make your own quesadilla night". I put out the tortillas, cheeses, chicken and some veggies and had everyone do the filling for their own quesadilla. I put them on cookie sheets and left them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. When they were done I cut them and plated them, but then I had everyone add their own condiments as well. I set out hot sauce, sour cream and salsa and walked away from any responsibility! Everyone liked their dinner and I loved that it was very little effort on my part.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Every year, right after Christmas, I feel the need to make a meatloaf. I think it's because after watching 24 hours of "A Christmas Story", and hearing Randy say repeatedly "I hate meatloaf", I realize that I love meatloaf, and I want some now! I am also a huge believer in the saying "Bacon makes everything better", so I figure that must go for meatloaf too!

1/2 lb. bacon, maybe a little more
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. of some other ground meat (turkey, pork, veal or , as I used, venison)
bread crumbs
1 egg
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 sm yellow onion, minced
Montreal steak seasoning
1 tbsp horseradish
Worcestershire sauce (I love spell check!)
salt and pepper

Basically, throw everything except the bacon into a large bowl (again, no measurements, just do it by look, smell, personal taste). Mix it all together by hand until all ingredients are well integrated. Form into a loaf shape. Spray a large dish with oven spray. Place loaf into pan. Starting at one end of the meatloaf, gently place bacon strips, slightly overlapping, on top of meatloaf. Tuck the ends under each side. Cook for about an hour at 350 degrees, or until bacon starts to crisp.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and some kind of veggie, then the next day you can make meatloaf sandwiches. Yum!

Chicken Parmesan

It was so cold outside yesterday that I didn't want to leave the house. Lucky for me, I had everything I needed to make this dish.

4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
bread crumbs
granulated garlic
1-2 eggs
fresh Parmesan-Romano cheese, grated
fresh basil
1 jar of sauce
1 pkg pasta
1 loaf fresh bread
1 bulb garlic
1 tbsp olive oil

Start with the garlic bread. Cut the top third off a whole bulb of garlic. Wrap loosely in foil and place on an oven safe pan. Top garlic with olive oil. Cook at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Set aside to let it cool for a while.

Pound chicken until flat. On a plate, mix bread crumbs with oregano, granulated garlic and freshly grated cheese. Beat eggs with a little bit of water. Dip each chicken breast into egg mixture, then press each side into bread crumbs. Lay on a large cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray. Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked throughout.

While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta and sauce according to the directions on the package. Time according to when the chicken will be done.

Grate additional cheese for topping. Prep basil leaves by removing from stems. Wrap the smaller leaves inside the larger leaves, roll up and slice about 1/4 in thick slices. Gently loosen sliced basil and set aside for topping.

When the garlic has cooled enough to handle, gently pop the garlic cloves out of the skins, then mash with a fork. Slice the bread and top with a little butter and plenty of the mashed garlic. Spray another cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place bread, garlic side up, onto cookie sheet and put in the oven with the chicken for the last 5-10 minutes to toast.

Plate the chicken and pasta and top with sauce. Add cheese and basil and a couple slices of the bread. Grab a glass of wine, and dinner is ready!

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't, and it's so yummy!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

I got this recipe from my darling sister-in-law (Thanks Chandra!) and it couldn't be easier! I still like the canned stuff, but this is way better!

1 cup sugar
1 cup port wine (Cheap stuff will do just fine)
1 bag fresh cranberries

Put the sugar and wine into a sauce pan and stir while slowly bringing to a boil. Make sure sugar melts all the way. Reduce heat to a simmer and add cranberries. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. When the berries have popped it's done! Remove from heat. When they cool put them in the fridge. That's it!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I can't say enough good things about hummus! It's quick, easy, delicious, healthy. The list goes on and on!

1 15 oz can chick peas, drained, reserving the liquid
fresh garlic cloves
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 2 lemons
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste, If you can't find it in your grocery store, try an Indian market)
hot sauce, cholula is my favorite, but use whatever you like
salt and pepper
olive oil

Place all ingredients, except olive oil in food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until coarsely mixed. Taste for seasoning. Add a bit more hot sauce, salt and pepper if it needs it. Add about 2 tbsp of reserved liquid from chick peas and blend until smooth. Add a little olive oil and process for just a few seconds more.

There are so many variations that you can add. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination! Try roasted red peppers, olives, feta, scallions, chives, dill, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, whatever! Also, let me know if you have any ideas for added ingredients!

Serve hummus with toasted pita wedges, crackers, carrots, celery, cucumber slices and more.

Apple Crumb Pie

I pretty much can't come to a holiday gathering without making this pie for the family. Luckily, it's really not very difficult!

1 9 inch store bought pie crust,chilled
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 cups of apples, cored, skinned, diced or sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine flour, brown sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Blend with a hand mixer until crumbly, then set aside. (Sometimes I add a little cinnamon to this mixture as well)

In another large bowl combine apples, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Mix gently to coat apples with sugar and cinnamon. Check your liquor cabinet. Is there something there that might be good in this mix too? I usually add about a tablespoon of Tuaca or Grand Marnier.

Pack apple mixture into chilled pie crust. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple mixture. Sprinkle the top with a little more cinnamon or sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Fruit stuffing

This is the stuffing I make for the people in my family that don't eat meat, or at least pork.

1 loaf wheat bread, cut into small cubes
1/2 loaf white bread cut into small cubes
1 pkg craisins
1 granny smith apple, cut into small pieces ( I leave the skins on because it's healthier and more colorful)
1 honey crisp apple, cut into small cubes
1 pear, cut into small cubes
3 eggs
vegetable broth
poultry seasoning
salt and pepper

Day one: cut up breads and leave out overnight on a large cookie sheet. Periodically mix it up to expose under layers to the air and get stale.

Day two: Cut up apples and pear. Put half of the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Melt a stick of butter and add it to the bread crumbs. Add eggs and fruit. add generous amount of parsley, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper. Mix well. Slowly add veggie broth and bread crumbs, mixing well until well moistened, but not too wet. Transfer everything to a large Pyrex dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Italian Sausage Stuffing

For Christmas and Thanksgiving I always make two kinds of stuffing to accommodate the differing palates in the family. This one is savory with lots of veggies, Italian sausage and garlic. The other is somewhat sweet with apples, pears and craisins.Again, I don't really use measurements. I usually just go by smell, look and taste. The recipe fits into a 13x9 Pyrex dish and feeds 10 people or so.

1 loaf wheat bread, cut into small cubes
1/2 loaf white bread, cut into small cubes
1 pkg sweet Italian sausage
carrots, diced
celery, diced
yellow onion, diced
garlic, minced
3 eggs
poultry seasoning
chicken broth
salt and pepper

Day one: Cube breads and let them sit out over night on a large cookie sheet. Periodically mix it up to expose it to the air and get stale. Dice veggies and garlic and store overnight in an air-tight container in the fridge. Cook sausage, I pan fry it with at least one bottle of beer for extra flavor.  Cut into small chunks and store in fridge overnight.

Day two: Melt a stick of butter in a large sautee pan. Add veggies to pan and cook over medium heat until softened. Put half of the bread crumbs into a large bowl. Add the veggies and sausage and mix well. Add some more bread crumbs. Add eggs, mix well again. Sprinkle a generous amount of parsley and poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Start mixing in chicken broth, a little at a time. add the rest of the bread crumbs, then more broth. Continue adding chicken broth and mixing. You don't want the stuffing to be too dry, but you also don't want it to be too wet. Once everything is well mixed and properly moistened transfer it to the pyrex dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.