Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fresh Basil Mayo

What a great use for your fresh basil.  This enhanced mayonnaise is a great compliment to your BLT's, grilled chicken sandwiches or cold cuts.  It adds a great perk to a homemade sandwich.  The possibilities here are truly endless. 

4 T. of real mayonnaise
7-8 medium-sized fresh basil leaves (finely snipped)
1/4 tsp. of fresh lemon juice

-Mix all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to using.  Makes less than a 1/4 cup.  Enjoy!

Dutch Zucchini Pie

Just about everybody in this big old world loves some Apple Pie.  It's one of the staple American Classics.  And I love it too, just like all of you.  And I thought that's what we were eating when my Mom made homemade "Apple" Pie every summer, ironically before apples were in season to bake fresh with.  But being young and not yet acquiring this knowledge from experience, nor noticing the presence of large white soft seeds in the center of the apple slices in my "Apple Pie".  Then, one day I can remember my Mom standing at the counter searching through her wooden log cabin recipe box that she and my father proudly made back in their wood working days together.  She said that she needed her Zucchini Pie recipe from Grandma Hazel.  Grandma Hazel was not technically a relative of ours, but a neighbor to us back in the late 70's and early 80's.  She grew amazing gardens and did amazing things with the harvests from them.  She was like a mentor to my young domestic Mother.  My Mom learned about making jams from fresh raspberries, canning different produce and how to bake with vegetables.  I then noticed the large zucchini's from our garden, that were in the drain board of the sink.  And I thought to myself (most likely, knowing me, it was out loud), "What is she talking about?  I thought she said that I could help her make the "Apple Pie?"  She just mindlessly kept pilfering through the little wooden box and said softly without turning to me, "You didn't know that it was made with zucchini instead of apples?  I don't know if I have ever even made an actual Apple Pie."  I was shocked.  Baffled more like it.  But I was dead crazy set certain that I DID NOT LIKE ZUCCHINI.  Not at all.  Not in any form or way that I had been forced to try.  I spent many hours sitting in front of my vegetables that I refused to eat.  I would describe myself as a "Table Camper" when I was little.  If I did not like the appearance, odor, color or idea of something I was not going to eat it.  What so ever.  They always gave in by bedtime though.  I was never left to sleep there too, but probably would have out of shear defiance. Yet, me and everyone else that had ever eaten my Mom's "Apple" Pie loved it.  And never thought twice as to it not being made out of apples. 

4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 1/2 cups of real unsalted butter (melted)
8 cups of zucchini (peeled, sliced and quartered like apples)
2/3 cups of fresh lemon juice
1 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp. of cinnamon
a dash of nutmeg
cinnamon and sugar
vanilla bean ice cream

-Preheat your oven to 375*.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large fork, combine the flour, 2 cups of sugar, salt and butter until crumbly.  Grease two 9" glass pie dish's and pour about a quarter of the mixture into each of them; press evenly against the bottom and the sides to create the pie shells.  Toss the pie shells into the oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden.  Reserve the remainder of the mixture to the side for the topping.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the zucchini, lemon juice and sugar to a boil and simmer until the zucchini is softened and cooked down.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon and the nutmeg.  Pour into your baked pie shells and top each one off with about half of the remaining topping mixture each.  Give each of them a good sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top and  bake them off for about 25-30 minutes or until the tops are starting to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and let cool on the top of the stove.  Once cooled, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate.  Serve warmed with vanilla bean ice cream.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 29, 2011

BBQ Portabella Burger

What a wonderful alternative for a burger rather than making it out of beef or turkey.  The portabella mushroom is so thick and hearty that it actually eats like a meat.  You can season and sauce it up, to not only add flavor, but to also keep it soft and full of juices.  So naturally, it subs in perfectly to give the  All American Classic (meat-eater food that is) a vegetarian twist.  This is one of both of my step-daughter's, Kalena and Kiley's, most favorite vegetarian meals here at home.  And to tell you the truth, my husband Rich, possibly the world's largest carnivore, loves them equally as much too.  

4 large portabella mushroom heads (rinsed/ dried)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (I used Kraft Original)
4 large kaiser rolls (sliced to open)
red onion (thinly sliced)
pickles (I used my sliced Jalapeno Dill Pickles recipe)
tomato (sliced)
ketchup/ mustard

-Preheat your grill to a medium setting.  Salt and pepper both sides of the mushroom; toss on the top rack of your grill.  Baste both sides immediately with BBQ sauce and continue to constantly repeat basting and turning for about 25-30 minutes.  Serve on split kaiser rolls with onion, pickles, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tangerine-Balsamic Glazed Salmon

What a delicious glaze for a delicious fish.  I love salmon.  And I love salmon just about anyway that it can be made.  But, this glaze here, might just take the cake for me and become my current most favorite way to have salmon.  The sweet citrusy flavor goes perfectly with this fish.  And the balsamic vinaigrette is the perfect punch for a hint of bitter.  I was merely sitting at my kitchen table trying to figure out a new way to prepare and flavor the salmon that was defrosting in the sink of ice water (only safe way to quickly defrost your fish/ seafood), when my eyes just happened to glance over at the large bowl of tangerines on the counter.  And, there you go.  The glaze was concocted from that inspiration, a large bowl of tangerines.

24 oz. of salmon filet's (4 nice sized pieces)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 1/2 T. of balsamic vinegar
1 T. of honey
1 T. of brown sugar
zest from 1 tangerine
juice from 1/2 of a tangerine
1 tsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 T. of real mayonnaise

-Preheat your grill to a medium-high flame.  Create a make-shift pan out of aluminum foil, making sure to fold up your corners well.  Place your salmon skin side down on the foil and sprinkle them each with salt and pepper.  For the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Place foil pan of salmon on the top rack of your grill and let grill for 2-3 minutes before brushing often with the glaze.  Grill for a total of about 10 minutes or until the salmon flakes apart with a fork.  You want it to slightly charr on the corners, but not to burn.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This pasta dish is everything rolled into one.  It is rich, flavorful, hearty, spicy, bold and creamy all at once. Not to mention extremely filling and therefore positively satisfying.  I simply love the combination of the bold spicy Cajun seasonings along with the rich cream base.  They are a match made in heaven when you add in some perfectly sauteed chicken and toss it all up in some cavatappi pasta.  Which, just happens to be my family's most favorite type of pasta.  It is thick and hearty with a fun tubular spiral shape, which is why it works so well in this dish-it picks up a lot of the heavy thick sauce in each bite.

2 lbs boneless/ skinless chicken breasts (3-4)
1-2 T. of extra virgin olive oil
a lot of Cajun seasoning ( I literally used a good dousing on all sides of the chicken)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper to liking
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
 one carton of grape tomatoes (halved)
one carton of chopped baby portabella mushrooms
1 lb of uncooked cavatappi pasta

-Saute your chicken in e.v.o., Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper over med-high heat until thoroughly cooked (don't over-flip or you will lose your crusting-the flavor). Remove the chicken once its done and dice it up into bite sized pieces comparable to the size of the tomatoes and the mushrooms.  Toss a tiny bit more e.v.o. and the veggies into the pan; saute' until softened.  Add the chopped chicken back into the pan with the finished vegetables to reheat.  Once chicken and veggies are done, pour in the cream and cook on about high while constantly stirring to reach a roaring boil; reduce heat and continue stirring for it to tighten up.  Meanwhile, cook your pasta with a little bit of e.v.o. added into the water before adding in the pasta to it once it reaches a roaring boil. Cook for about 8-9 minutes for Au dente' (it will continue to cook in the sauce). Strain out and fold into the sauce and chicken. The key is to OVER-season this dish. The cream tames it down. It should be spicy especially in the chicken.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Monkey Bread

This is the second most magical part of our Christmas morning at home.  First and foremost, without even having to being said, is the presents.  Some of our children are still very small and full of the spirit of Santa.  Wide-eyed believers is still what they are.  And the older ones, of course are beyond that, but still love the idea of Christmas and what we as a family can make it become for each other.  But, beyond the overflowing stockings and elaborately packaged gifts, is our Christmas morning tradition of my Monkey Bread already baking in the oven while they are still rubbing the sleep from their over-joyed eyes.  The sweet sugary aroma fills the air and fuels the sensation of Christmas.  I began making this for Kalena and Kiley on Christmas morning many many years ago.  And from that first Christmas morning, I knew that this was a gift in its self to them.  Kalena, Kiley, Paige, Rich, Lexi, Mister Don, Miss Jen and I enjoy it each and every Christmas together.  And if by chance we cannot, I always make sure to send some back or drop a dish off for them.  It's a tradition.

2 cans of buttermilk biscuits (quartered)
1 stick of real unsalted butter
3/4 cup of light brown sugar (packed)
1 T. of sugar
1/4 chopped nuts (I used almonds this time)

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a deep casserole dish or a bunt pan well.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Then add in both of the sugars and bring to a boil while constantly stirring.  Once it has combined into a kind of syrup, pour 1/2 of it into the bottom of your dish (make sure to spread it all over by tilting the dish around), sprinkle with nuts, evenly add in the biscuit pieces and then pour on the remainder of the sugar syrup (making sure to get it all over as much as possible).  Bake for 30-35 minutes, remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Then turnover onto a large platter (it should come out as a whole).  Let cool for about 5 more minutes, then just break apart into hunks.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Easy Steak Fajitas

My kids will most likely eat almost anything if it's wrapped in a warmed tortilla shell.  So, please understand that me being a lover of diversity, there will continue to multiple variations of fajitas, burritos and tacos included in this cook book.  Each one being similar, yet distinctly different and equally delicious. 

1 1/2 lbs. of sirloin steak (sliced thinly against the grain)
3 limes (divided)
1-2 T. of e.v.o.
1/2 cup of water
1 medium onion (sliced thinly)
1 large red sweet pepper (julienne sliced)
1 large green sweet pepper (julienne sliced)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 packet of McCormick's fajita seasoning mix
sour cream for garnish
tortilla shells (warmed)

-Place the sliced sirloin in a large shallow dish with the juice of 2 limes; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours (the longer the better).  Heat up the e.v.o. in a large skillet and add in the marinated sirloin (discard the lime juice marinade), salt and pepper.  Saute' over medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes.  Add the water, veggies and seasoning packet.  Continue to cook on medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes or until the veggies are softened some.  Assemble fajitas by placing some sirloin and veggies on top of a warmed tortilla shell followed by a dollop of sour cream and a wedge of lime for squeezing.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Surprise Salad

I love to occasionally tweak a plain and simple salad with some unexpected surprises.  Just like this salad here.  I was getting it together for a last minute dinner party that I was whipping out of no where, when I realized that I only had yellow onions in my pantry.  Nope.  Sorry.  That's not gonna work for me.  I always use red onion for cold salads.  I decided to improvise.  So, I started scanning the fridge for a substitute for the MIA red onion that I always have on hand, when my eyes scanned across the other half of my apple from breakfast (my new thing is to add a slice of apple on top of my cream cheese bagel).  Immediately I thought why not, and I probably "thought" this out loud.  I tend to talk to myself on a regular basis, occupational habit for most Moms, or at least that's what I'm gonna go with.  It was a perfectly ripened green Granny Smith apple.  I figured that it would give just about the same effect as the red onion: a splash of color, crunch, crispness and a bite of tartness.  And it did.  Perfectly.  If anything it enhanced the salad with it's bitter sweetness and has now made it into my Staple Add-Ins for my salads.  Just try it out and see.  It's delicious.

1 large head of iceberg lettuce (chopped)
1/4 cup of shredded Colby and Monterrey cheese
1/2 of a Granny Smith apple (diced)
1/2 of a green sweet pepper (chopped)
1/4 cup of baby portabella mushrooms (chopped)
1/4 cup of grape tomatoes (halved)
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
dressing of choice

-Fill a trifle dish or a large bowl with the chopped lettuce.  Layer on the remaining ingredients in order and serve with dressings on the side.  Serves 6.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roasted Ranch Chicken Pockets

We love eating light and fresh for dinner at the end of a hot summer day.  After a busy day at the beach or working in the gardens with my kids, the last thing I feel like doing is standing over a hot stove.  I want something quick, simple and delicious.  And these roasted chicken pockets are great for that.  You can dress them up anyway you like, keeping them simple or go crazy with the fixings.  I never make them the same way twice.  They do say that variety is the spice of life, so get to seasoning it up!

1/2 of a roasted chicken (get from your deli for only $5-$6 ready to eat!)
1/2 cup of shredded monteray cheese
1 medium tomato (chopped)
3 stalks of celery (sliced thinly)
1/3 cup of red cabbage (diced)
Ranch salad dressing (I only use Hidden Valley Ranch)
1 pkg. of honey wheat pita pockets (sliced in 1/2 and opened up)

-Using 2 forks, shred the chicken as you remove it from the bone.  Stuff the pocket 1/2 way full with chicken, a sprinkle of cheese, a drizzle of ranch, a few tomatoes, some celery, a little red cabbage and then another drizzle of ranch ontop.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spinach and Cheese-Filled Ravioli with a Basil-Cream Sauce

This pasta dish is quick, so very easy and it is simply delicious.  The sauce is rich and tangy and the ravioli's are soft and creamy.  One great combination if I do say so myself.  Not only is the sauce alone
a full serving of vegetables, but the ravioli is packed full of vitamins and nutrients.  I can always count on a recipe like this to get my picky daughter, Paige, to eat her vegetables.  She told me that she loves the green leaves in it from our front porch.  She thinks that the spinach is Italian leaf parsley, and I do not feel the need to correct her.  Whatever works to get the veggies in is my thinking ;)

1- 26oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Bertolli)
1 T. of fresh basil (chopped)
1 T. of fresh parsley (chopped)
2 T. of cream cheese
1- 16oz. package of frozen spinach-filled ravioli
1- 16oz. package of frozen cheese-filled ravioli

-Start a large stockpot of water to boil.  In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat up the spaghetti sauce.  Stir in the basil, parsley and cream cheese; cover and simmer.  Once your stock pot has reached a rolling boil, stir in a little bit of sea salt (to flavor the pasta) and the frozen ravioli.  Cook for 6 minutes; strain and plate with the marinara sauce over the top.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lemon Loaves

This just may be my very most favorite quick bread, and technically it's not even a bread.  It's actually a cake.  But, like the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, then don't fix it."  Because this "bread" is absolutely fantastic.  It is tart, sweet, moist, dense and light all at once.  The orange juice really adds to it's bright citrusy flavor, but you never would actually be able to pin point it as one of the main ingredients.  The only problem with this bread, is that it is completely irresistible.  Take my advice and buy double of the ingredients.  Two loaves is not nearly enough. 

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 box of instant lemon pudding mix
4 eggs (at room temperature, beaten)
1 cup of light pulp orange juice

-Preheat oven to 350*.  Spray the sides and bottoms of 2 loaf pans with canola oil spray.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together all of the above ingredients (try to break up all of the lumps).  Pour into loaf pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 2 loaves.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

There are very few meals that I will prepare on the stove top.  Especially a lengthy one.  But, this one in particular is worth it.  I love the deep rich flavor of the Sherry and the soft tender beef. The only thing that this recipe is short of is a nice red wine to accompany it.

2 T. of e.v.o.
1 lb. of beef round tip strips
1 tsp. of McCormick's Grill Mate Montreal Steak Seasoning
8 oz. of sliced baby Bella mushrooms
1/2 of a large onion
1- 14 1/2oz. can of beef broth
1/4 cup of Sherry (or red wine)
2 tsp. of ground dry mustard
2 tsp. of country Dijon mustard
1 cup of sour cream
1 lb. of dumpling egg noodles (prepared as directed on package)

-In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, brown beef in the e.v.o. and the steak seasoning; remove from pan and set aside.  Toss in the mushrooms and onions; cook until softened.  Add back in the meat, beef broth, Sherry, dry mustard and the Dijon mustard.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Stir in the sour cream.  Serve over Au dente' egg noodles.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork Sandwiches

These little sandwiches are fantastic.  What a wonderful twist-up from my ordinary pulled pork sandwiches, which are amazing in themselves.  But, this was a great super bright and fresh take on the old original.  The addition of the super soft egg bun and the spoonful of some of my homemade cole slaw is the best part.

3-4lb. pork shoulder roast
1 T. of bacon grease (or e.v.o.)
1 large green bell pepper (chopped)
1 large yellow onion (chopped)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1- 20oz. can of pineapple chunks (un-drained)
1 cup of additional pineapple juice
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 T. of lite soy sauce
1/4 cup of light brown sugar (packed)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
4 T. of flour
egg dinner rolls
some of my Homemade Cole Slaw recipe to top them off with: 

-Heat the bacon grease in a large stockpot on medium-high heat; brown pork roast on a sides to sear in the juices (you want a thick deep-brown crusting).  Remove from pan and place in your slow-cooker on high heat.  Then, toss your veggies into the still hot pan with a little bit of salt and pepper (the bacon drippings and the meat crumbles will transfer and infuse the veggies).  Saute' them until softened.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the remaining ingredients.  Once the sauce begins to boil and thicken, remove and pour over the meat and vegetables in the slow-cooker.  Leave it set on High for about 4-6 hours (you literally want it to be falling apart).  Then using 2 large forks, shred the roast in the slow-cooker and place on rolls.  Serves 8.  Enjoy!