Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Welcome 2011 with Black Eye Peas

I like black eye peas. Since they are supposed to be good luck for a new year, this gives me a terrific excuse to make a dish of Hoppin' John! I found this recipe for Hoppin' John in a recent Parade magazine. It sounds wonderful to me.

I also want to make something green to accompany the black eye peas. While at the grocery today I looked at collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, but didn't want such heavy greens. So, I picked up some bok choy, otherwise known as Chinese cabbage. I really like bok choy too, I'm just hoping these two ingredients compliment each other. I will probably make the bok choy into a simple stir fry, maybe as bok choy with cashews.

I don't yet know what will be for dessert, but you can bet it'll be something "light." If you have a suggestion, please leave me a comment.

I'll be sure to let you know how everything turns out!

Monday, December 27, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


Mmmm mmmm good! That's what Baked Potato Soup is!!! When I got up I put the potatoes in the oven to bake at 475° for an hour. Boy, those potatoes smelled yummy. Then, I left them to cool down for awhile (while my sister and I went shopping).

When Cindy and I were done shopping, we decided I would make the soup over at her house. So, we stopped by my house to pick up all the ingredients and transported them to her house. This soup really couldn't be any easier to make. And it truly was delicious! I'm adding this to the regular recipes list. This is a good "go to" kind of recipe - as long as you take the time to bake the potatoes in advance.

We also had leftover salad as well as leftover pie. Better get that pie eating in, because it's time to return to more healthy eating with the new year. Mom made her as ever yummy pecan pie. I made those two stuffed crust pies: blueberry and cherry. Both were good, but we like the blueberry better (especially when the two are alongside each other). The blueberry just is bit sweeter.

My brother-in-law, David, used the potato skins to make twice-baked potatoes, we had a bit of that along with the soup. Our family is obviously one that likes the potato!

It'll be 2011 before I cook another Sunday dinner, so here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year to you and yours.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Potato Soup!

In this week's St. Louis Post Dispatch Let's Eat section was an article on How to Make Perfect Baked Potatoes and Potato Soup. We love potatoes at our house, so I'll be making Baked Potato Soup for Sunday dinner this week.

We'll most likely have salad with that soup since I made a huge salad to take to my sister's for Christmas. For the salad I tore red leaf romaine and a curly green lettuce. I chopped celery and carrots (plus I also shredded some carrot too). I also sectioned a few ruby red grapefruits I purchased recently through the annual Rotary citrus sale; these grapefruits are fabulous! I also picked up a wedge of Wenslydale cheese with cranberries at Whole Foods the other day; I think some of this cheese crumbled into the salad might be good. While at Whole foods I also picked up some new (to me at least) crackers: lesley stowe raincost crisps. They had tasting stations in the cheese and wine area and boy were they tasty! I hope everyone likes them. I think we'll try these crackers alongside our salad this week instead of bread.

I also made two pies Friday night: a blueberry cheesecake pie to take to my Aunt Carolyn's and Uncle Bill's house for Christmas Eve, and a cherry cheesecake pie to take to my sister's. Both the pies are based on the Blue Ribbon Stuffed Crust Blueberry Pie I made a few weeks ago. It was so good I just had to make it again! However, we didn't make it to the Christmas Eve get-together because of the weather. So, I figure we'll have leftover pie for Sunday dinner.

While I haven't been writing much lately, I have still been cooking. Here are a couple of photos from some recent recipes...

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Feta Vinaigrette, only with cheese tortellini instead of orzo







Melting Moments Christmas cookies

This cookie recipe is one of my very favorite and also one of the easiest to make. My dear friend Paula Moore gave me this recipe many years ago. Every time I make these cookies I think of Paula and Mickie Beckman, the gracious friend who first invited me to a cookie exchange. Both of these wonderful women have added so much to my life. Here's the recipe:

Melting Moments
1/2 lb. butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup flour

Mix dry ingredients together. Add to the creamed butter. Mix well. Roll into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly (they don't spread). Bake at 300° for 30 minutes.

Frost with powdered sugar frosting tinted pink or green. Frosting:
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk (or more - add a little at a time until right consistency)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Makes 50 little cookies.

As you can see, I didn't color my frosting. I frosted the cookies then dipped them into the Christmas sprinkles. They sure were yummy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


We loved the Pounded Walnut Strozzapreti! It was incredibly easy to make; I made the pesto in my small food processor. I couldn't find any farro pasta so I used campanelle instead. I used a little bit of the pasta water (approximately 1/4 cup) and maybe should have used more in the finished dish just to add a little bit more moisture to the dish.

The creamed spinach, on the other hand, was okay. Mom and Dad both liked it, but I really didn't - it was too sweet for my taste. I'll try creamed spinach again sometime however with a different recipe.

Pounded Walnut Strozzapreti

Friday evening I looked through a pile of recipes I have printed over the years and came across this recipe for Pounded Walnut Strozzapreti that I've been interested in trying for about a year. It sounds wonderful to me!

I'm also going to add a side dish of creamed spinach. The recipe I'm using is from my copy of Joy of Cooking. However, I'm using thawed frozen spinach, squeezed dry, instead of fresh spinach. Additionally, I'm either using plain soy milk or vegetable broth instead of cream or chicken broth. Oh - and I won't be using bacon. Otherwise, I think the recipe should turn out fine. When cooking with soy milk, I know it's important to take care, but it's also important to take care when cooking with cow's milk.

When I was going through my recipe pile, I also came across a Tuna with White Beans and Onions recipe that I had copied from a Weight Watchers book (which book, I'm unsure). The recipe sounded so good that I went ahead and made it on Friday. Mmmm...and it is good! It's a great lunch dish. Here's the recipe:

Tuna with White Beans and Onions

Canned tuna is available in three grades: solid, chunk, and flaked. Solid, sometimes called fancy, is considered the best.

Makes 4 servings

1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 (6 ounce) cans olive-oil-packed light tuna, drained
1 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, until the flavors are blended, at least 2 hours.

Per serving (about 1 1/2 cups): 301 calories, 17 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 0 g trans. fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 552 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 20 g protein, 42 mg calcium
Points value: 7

When I made this, I used burgundy as that was all I had and I unintentionally forgot to put the garlic in. The dish still tasted yummy! Cannellini beans are also sometimes called white kidney beans. I decreased the amount of sage in the recipe. While I do like sage, I only had rubbed sage and I feared two teaspoons would be too much. So, I used only 1 teaspoon; I probably will use 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sage the next time I make this recipe.

Anyway, it's time to get busy. I'll let you know how dinner turns out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

The soup was quite yummy. We had it as out main course, but I also think it would make a good first course for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The hardest part of the soup was cutting up all the vegetables. I didn't have any Madiera, so I added the last of some very dry Sherry I had.


I also served some bread I picked up at the grocery yesterday. It's seasonal pumpkin seed & cranberry bread from Companion Bread. This company makes some of the best bread around.


And, then there was pie. Double stuffed blueberry pie is worth making! The cream cheese mixture with sugar, lime zest & juice, and almond extract is just out of this world. The flavor combination really works. I'll make this again sometime.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Barley Mushroom Soup & Stuffed Crust Blueberry Pie

When Mom and I were at our hair dresser the other day, Karen showed us a recipe in the recent Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It was an advertisement for Lucky Leaf pie filling and the recipe is Blue Ribbon Stuffed Crust Blueberry Pie. The stuffed comes from a cream cheese, lime zest & juice, sugar, and almond extract mixture between 2 pie crusts. The blueberry pie filling is put on top of the second pie crust and dollops of cream cheese mixture is spooned on it. Sounds pretty yummy to us.

Then, when I was looking for my green beans almondine recipe (to make for Thanksgiving) I came across a Classic Barley Mushroom Soup recipe I've been wanting to make for awhile. It came from a book titled Vegetarian Classics. Below is the recipe.

Classic Barley Mushroom Soup
Serves 4 as a main course

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, coarsely chopped into small pieces
10 cups vegetable stock
1 celery rib, very thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup barley, rinsed in a strainer
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous seasoning freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1- Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring often, until they release their juices and begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

2- Stir in all the remaining ingredients except the parsley and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a lively simmer, and cook 45-60 minutes, or until the barley is very tender. Stir in the parsley just before serving.

Tips:
--Got some Madeira on hand? A splash adds depth and richness to this soup.
--You can use all common mushrooms or 8 ounces common mushrooms and 8 ounces mixed exotic mushrooms.
--This soup can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Sounds delicious. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

Well now, that was tasty. I was happy to finally have dinner ready; I felt like I was two hours behind all day. Part of that was because I got up two hours later than usual. I guess all the traveling I did this past week caught up with me. I was at ILEAD U in Springfield Monday through Thursday. Then, Friday I drove up to the Chicago suburbs for a celebration dinner that evening. I got up and drove back to the St Louis area Saturday morning. When I got home, I had just enough time to get ready for the Mayor's Halloween Ball; had a lot of fun at that party but got home later than normal. So, like I said, I think it all caught up with me this morning when I didn't get out of bed until late morning.

Even with that I was able to get dinner made and on the table. Mom was a huge help to me by putting the cake together while I prepared for the trick or treaters. Both the chili and the cake were very good. I decided to make the Black Forest Cake and that was a wise decision.

We had a very happy Halloween. I hope you did too!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Halloween Theme: Sweet Potato & Black Beans Chili

It's been quite a while since I've made Sweet Potato & Black Beans Chili. My friend Amanda first turned me on to this recipe a few years ago. I thought of it because I want a crock pot dish on Halloween, and because it's orange and black (plus it is truly delicious). It's really good with corn chips (I recommend Tostito Scoops).

For dessert I think we need something red and black - vampire colors. So, I might make either a Black Forest Cake or a Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake. I'll be sure to let you know which dessert we have and how it all turns out.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


WOW! That was one delicious dinner! And, even better, each of the recipes was incredibly easy to prepare. I will definitely make all three again. While the garbanzo salad and spinach pie were truly delectable, the cake was absolutely fabulous and I highly recommend it!

I made the salad Saturday afternoon, which allowed the flavors to meld nicely. Sunday morning I made the cake before we went out for breakfast. Then, after breakfast I came home and mixed the ingredients for the spinach pie and put them in the refrigerator. After the regular cleaning out the basement at our parents house, I put the pie ingredients into the pie pan and baked it. That worked great. I also warmed some pasta sauce for the spinach pie.

My week's going to be pretty busy; I don't know when I'll be able to post next Sunday's recipes. Enjoy the photos and have a great week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sicilian Spinach Pie

I'm back! Skipped Sunday dinners in September; instead we spent Sundays cleaning out mom & dad's basement. We're not quite done, but I think I can start cooking on Sundays again.

Michael found the recipe for Sicilian Spinach Pie in the St Louis Post Dispatch and cut it out. It doesn't take much for me to realize when he wants something. So, I'll make the pie this weekend. I'm thinking about putting it all together, refrigerating it, then just popping it in the oven on Sunday (we'll be back in that basement this Sunday). I'll let you know if that's what I decide to do.

For a side I'm going to make a Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) salad. I've been trying to find a fresh sounding recipe, but haven't found exactly what I'm looking for. So, I'm going to go with a mash up - a cross between this Garbanzo Bean Salad recipe and this 5-minute Greek Garbanzo Bean Salad recipe. I want to use the garbanzo beans, apple, walnuts, onion, and celery from the first recipe and the parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper from the second recipe.

Now I have to figure out something for dessert because we certainly can't skip dessert! I think I might try this Lemon Ginger Peach cake I found online.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts



A hit! Tonights dinner was quite refreshing. We'll have it again sometime. Everyone ate everything up tonight!

The hardest thing wasn't really hard, just time consuming; that was pitting the cherries. Well worth the effort though.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chopped Salad with Tuna

I woke up this morning thinking about this salad I used to make occasionally. It's from the South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston, M.D. I'm going to change it up just a bit.

Here's the original recipe:

South Beach Chopped Salad with Tuna

Salad:
1 can (6 oz) water-packed tuna
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped tomato
1/3 cup chopped avocado
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped radishes
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce

Dressing:
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To make the salad: Layer the tuna, cucumber, tomato, avocado, celery, radishes, and lettuce in a decorative bowl.

To make the dressing: Mix the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle over the salad.

Serves 1


Yes- that's the real recipe. Seems somewhat obvious, but I guess it helps to have step-by-step directions.

Anyway, here's how I'm changing it up:
I picked up about 1.5 pounds fresh yellowfin tuna steaks that I had baked at the store (there are 4 of us eating this for dinner). I'm using ruby red grapefruit in place of the lime and will add some of the fruit to the salad too. I also won't be using radishes because I don't like them.

For dessert we're having Cherry Jell-o Surprise. Here's the original recipe:

Strawberry Jell-o Surprise

2 cups pretzels, broken and crushed
1 1/2 sticks margarine, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz cool whip
1 cup sugar
1 large or 2 small packages strawberry Jell-o
2 cups boiling water
2 containers frozen strawberries

1- Mix pretzels, margarine and 3 tablespoons sugar together. Pat into a 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes.
2- Mix the cream cheese, cool whip, and 1 cup sugar together. Spread on top of cooled pretzel crust.
3- Boil 2 cups of water. Add the strawberry Jell-o and mix in the frozen strawberries. Let the Jell-o set up a little. Pour over the cheese mixture. Regrigerate.
Note: some of the cool whip can be reserved to cover the top of the Jell-o mixture.


Since I called this Cherry Jell-o Surprise, it's safe to assume I'm using cherry in place of strawberry. I also picked up some fresh cherries that I'll use in place of the frozen strawberries. Additionally, I'm using 1/3 less fat cream cheese. In place of cool whip I'm using 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. I may try to use either Splenda or Stevia instead of sugar, but won't decide for sure until I'm actually making the dessert.

As always, I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


Everything turned out as expected. The baked sweet potatoes were terrific, as always. The salad was divine - we love salad at our house. The tofu was pretty good. Dad and Michael were not fond of the tofu. Michael said he didn't like the texture while the flavor was okay. Dad just plain didn't like it. Mom, Chris, and I did like it. Chris liked it so much he ate what Dad didn't/wouldn't eat.

It is possible that I will make this again. It was easy to put together and to cook. In the future, however, I need to learn more about tofu textures. I understand that if you freeze tofu before using it the texture changes. I think I'll do some research and then try it out.

Anyway, the dinner was not a complete bust. No-one left the table hungry and everyone at least tried something new. Live and learn!

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lemon Pepper Tofu

My sister and brother-in-law are going to a Cardinals baseball game today at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. So, I'm having Sunday dinner on Saturday this week. Mom, Dad, and my nephew Chris are all coming over for dinner. Here's what is on the menu:

Lemon Pepper Tofu
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Baked regular potatoes (for those who don't like sweet potatoes)
Salad
Cherry Confetti Cake with Cream Cheese frosting

You might remember I picked up the sweet potatoes last weekend because they looked so good. Michael is not fond of sweet potatoes, so I'll make a regular baked potato for him and possibly Chris.

The cake is a box mix and Michael will bake it.

We picked up some yummy looking carrots, red lettuce and butter lettuce at Whole Foods the other day. They'll go into the salad along with celery; spinach; red, yellow, or orange pepper; and maybe a little red onion. I might also hard boil some eggs and I'll have some nuts or sunflower seeds out. Oh - and I picked up some sun-dried tomatoes that I'll chop and have for those who want to add that to their salad. We tend to put some basic ingredients in every salad and then have add-ons on the side.

I'm again going for a mash-up as far as the recipe is concerned. I found a recipe for Pan Seared Lemon Pepper Tofu on Vegan Represent Forum and a recipe for Lemon Pepper Tofu Bake on Savvy Vegetarian.

Lemon Pepper Tofu Mash-Up

1 lb extra firm tofu

Marinade:
5 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
parsley

a few thin slices of fresh lemon for garnish (optional)

1- Put all the marinade ingredients in a jar, screw the lid on tight, and shake until well mixed.

2- Press the block of tofu between an old dishtowel or paper towels to remove any excess water.

3- Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices, and lay side by side in a flat baking pan or other dish.

4- Spread the marinade over and under the tofu slices; marinate 30 minutes, turning over once or twice.

5- Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and put it over medium/high heat.

6- Cook the tofu fillets in the pan until the herbs blacken and the tofu is medium brown. Just before serving, squeeze additional lemon juice over the fillets.

No telling how this is really going to turn out, but I'll be sure to let you know. I have high hopes!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts



All I can say is YUMMY!

The picture of the bread salad is before I added the croutons (bread). Using the fresh heirloom tomatoes gave it an extra special taste. As you can see, I also used fresh kalamata olives.

For the fruit salad I combined blueberries, cherries, a mango, a nectarine, about half of a pineapple, a plum, a pluot, and some strawberries. I didn't add anything to the salad; it was terrific just as it was.

Here's how I made the Eggplant/Portobello Mushroom Parmesan:

2 Italian Eggplants
1 purple Eggplant
4 large Portobello Mushrooms
2 eggs, slightly beaten in a small bowl
3/4 cup Progresso Garlic & Herb Bread Crumbs (more or less)
Olive Oil
Nonstick spray
1 jar pasta sauce (I used Tony's - interesting what you can find on Amazon)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (about 1 cup, more or less)
Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (about 1 cup, more or less)
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese (about 1 cup, more or less)

1- The first thing I did was slice the eggplants and sprinkle them on both sides with coarse salt. I put them in a colander for about an hour. After that I rinsed the salt off the eggplant slices and set the slices in between paper towels to dry a bit.

2- Line up the bowl with the eggs next to a shallow container with bread crumbs next to a pan with olive oil on the stove. Have the oil heated to about medium, you may have to adjust the heat source to keep the bread crumbs from burning, yet allowing them to crisp to a golden brown. Dip the eggplant slices one at a time in the egg, then the bread crumbs; place them in the pan of olive oil. Cook until golden brown and a bit crisp. Don't crowd the eggplant slices - do several batches instead (and wipe the bread crumbs out in between batches, which will require adding oil for each batch too).

3- Spray a lasagna dish with nonstick spray. Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce in the dish. As the eggplant slices are ready layer them in the lasagna dish on top of the pasta sauce. Sprinkle a bit of the cheeses over the eggplant. Lay the mushrooms on top of the cheeses. Put more pasta sauce on top of the mushrooms, more eggplant slices, then pasta sauce and cheeses until all are in the dish, ending with cheese.

4- Put in a 350° oven for 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is well melted.

Serves at least 8.

Everyone loved the Parmesan dish!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fresh, fresh, fresh

Not knowing what to make for Sunday dinner this week, I visited the grocery this morning. Probably a bad idea; I hadn't had breakfast yet and EVERYTHING looked great. Also, I had no plan. That said, I think we can be happy tomorrow.

I picked up some scrumptious looking local grown produce: purple eggplant, Italian eggplant, and heirloom tomatoes. I also picked up some sweet potatoes and portabello mushroom caps. After the grocery I stopped by my sister's house and picked up some cucumbers from her garden. And, then I wondered what am I going to make with these? Well, I'm going to make that yummy tomato bread salad I've been talking about (and making at the drop of a hat) this summer. I'm going to put together some kind of an eggplant Parmesan with portabello mushrooms dish. The sweet potatoes will be reserved for another day.

But that's not all I bought at the grocery. I also picked up a seedless watermelon, a fresh pineapple, a couple of mangoes, some pluots, strawberries, and cherries. I'm going to put together a fresh fruit salad too! We have blueberries, nectarines, and plums at our house already. I'm not sure yet what exactly will make it into the fruit salad. I also picked up an angel food loaf to go along with the fruit salad.

I made a similar fresh fruit salad to take to my friend Liz's house a few weeks ago and it was delicious!!! It had watermelon, pineapple, cherries, nectarine, blueberries, and strawberries. What originally really spurred me to make the fruit salad is a new tool from Pampered Chef: the pineapple wedger. This totally cool tool has truly transformed my willingness to use fresh pineapple. I used to really dislike cleaning, cutting, and slicing fresh pineapple because of how slippery it is. Well, the pineapple wedger takes care of it all in one smooth motion (ok, so not the slicing, but it's much easier once the wedger has been used first). I cannot profess my happiness with this tool enough. If you like fresh pineapple, you too might want one of these for your kitchen.

Oh - and one more tool that makes preparing fresh cherries a breeze is the cherry pitter. Pampered Chef used to have one, I don't see it on their website today. Mine is not from Pampered Chef, but I also don't know where I bought it. If you find one, I highly recommend this tool too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Squash Pie

I didn't make it and I don't have a picture of it, but believe me Summer Squash Pie is yum, yum, yummy! This is a recipe my mom makes almost every summer. It's from the book Mastering Microwave Cookery by Marcia Cone and Thelma Snyder; request it through your local library if you'd like to see more recipes to cook in a microwave.

Summer Squash Pie
Makes 6-8 side dish servings, or 4 main course servings

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds small to medium summer squash, washed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 Cup fresh bread crumbs (whole-wheat preferred)
1 Cup grated Cheddar, Gruyere or Swiss cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried (optional)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)
2 tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices (optional)
1 Cup plain yogurt or sour cream

1- In a 10-inch pie plate combine the butter, garlic, and onion. Cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the squash. Cover with wax paper and cook on HIGH for 8 to 12 minutes, or until tender, stirring twice.

2- Stir in the remaining ingredients except the tomatoes and yogurt. Spread evenly in the dish. Arrange the tomato slices decoratively around the outer rim of the dish, leaving the center open. Cook on MEDIUM for 10 to 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the center comes out clean and the center is almost set. Let stand for 5 minutes; the center will set during standing time.

3- Serve with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream if desired.

Variation: Mexicali Zucchini Pie
Substitute zucchini for squash and Monterey Jack cheese for cheddar cheese; add 2 Tablespoons diced canned green chilies with the cheese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts



Well...the mushrooms with angel hair pasta needed something more. I'm not sure what exactly, but it was fairly bland. As you can see from the photo, I added some yellow squash to the recipe. I also used 1 tablespoon sage and 1 tablespoon parsley. I used dry vermouth too. It was okay, just not spectacular or as good as I would have hoped.

The tomato bread salad, on the other hand, was just as yummy as it always is. I recommend it anytime! It really couldn't be any easier to make and oh so refreshing.


I won't be cooking next Sunday. Mom, Cindy, and I plan to do a little shopping and we'll pick something up for dinner. Have a great week! I can hardly believe this is the last week of July - whew, this summer is flying by!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mushrooms!

I picked up some sliced baby portabella (crimini) mushrooms at the grocery the other day, they looked so nice and were on sale, even though I didn't know what I would do with them. Well, now I know. We're going to have a mushroom, garlic, and olive oil angel hair pasta dish. For a salad I'll make a tomato bread salad we've had in the past. I just LOVE the flavors of fresh summer produce. And, for dessert, Michael is making a peach pie.

I'm going to base the mushrooms on Mark Bittman's Pan Mushrooms recipe, although I'm thinking of using sage instead of parsley and I might add some capers to the mix. I also have fresh Parmesan on hand that we can grate over the pasta when ready to eat.

Here's the tomato bread salad recipe that I've used for several years now...

Tomato Bread Salad
2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
5 oz fat free croutons (I like the whole grain croutons, even if they aren't fat free)
1 small red onion
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 small cans sliced black olives
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
4 oz crumbled feta or goat cheese

1- Place tomatoes, croutons, cucumber, onion, and olives in a large bowl, refrigerate.
2- Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a small bowl.
3- Just before serving, drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad. Add cheese. Toss the salad well and let sit a few minutes.

Serves 6.

It's important to wait until just before serving to add the oil and vinegar, otherwise your "bread" will be too soggy. This is really a snap to prepare and umm umm good. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

After Dinner Thoughts

OMG - that was mighty tasty! The Greek Pasta Salad is one of my very favorite recipes ever. So simple, so refreshing, and soooo delicious! The only change I made was I used a can of (drained) small whole black olives instead of sliced; I think I'll use these in the future - it really added a more robust flavor to any bite with an olive. Below is a picture of the pasta and a nice picture of Mom and Dad.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Greek Pasta Salad

Whew! July is a REALLY busy month for us. It seems like there is something to do every single night - and actually there is! This Sunday we will be celebrating my mom's 70th birthday at my sister Cindy's house. I'm really glad for this. Cindy and Dave have a very nice pool and we'll get to spend the day keeping cool in the pool.

One of my very favorite summer salads is Greek Pasta Salad. It's quite easy to make and so very refreshing! I tend to make this recipe over and over and over again. It's also a great salad to take to a pot luck.

Greek Pasta Salad:
8 oz tri-colored rotini pasta, cooked to package instructions, then rinsed in cold water and drained
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 red onion, sliced into bite size slivers
3 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup or a bit more)
1 small can sliced ripe olives, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons oregano or Italian or Greek seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 oz crumbled feta or goat cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse under cold water and drain. Place in a large salad bowl or container. Gently toss in vegetables and olives. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, and seasonings; drizzle over pasta. Gently toss to coat with dressing. Sprinkle cheese over salad. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Makes at least 12 servings.

Mmmmm...it makes my mouth water just to think of it. I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts

The pasta dish is going to be one of my very favorites, I can tell. It was delicious. If I were to change anything, I would add fresh mushrooms and maybe a splash of fresh lemon juice just to brighten it up a bit. Otherwise, this dish was perfect.

Dessert was okay. I'm not a fan of tapioca, I really don't like the texture. Everyone else, who does like tapioca pudding, liked it just fine. I made sure I got the serving with the least amount of tapioca in it. I must say, though, the strawberries and blueberries couldn't have been any better.

All in all, a very nice and light dinner. Mom, Dad, and I really liked it. Michael, on the other hand, didn't even try it because he thinks he doesn't like asparagus. Although, I don't know if he's ever tried that. But, I'll give him credit, he usually does try a variety of foods, and he did do the dishes.

Happy Independence Day to you all!

Next week is my birthday and I'm not cooking. I haven't decided where I'd like to go out to eat yet, but it will be somewhere new to me that is vegetarian friendly. If anyone in the St Louis area has a favorite restaurant recommendation that fits my needs, please leave a comment.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Day

I started planning our Fourth of July Sunday dinner by thinking about dessert first. I came across a red, white, and blue patriotic dessert that sounds like it will fit the bill: Strawberry-Blueberry Tapioca Parfaits.

I want to use a package of frozen cheese tortellini I have on hand, but I don't want to make a pasta sauce. So, while browsing the Internet for tortellini recipes I found Spring Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Peas, and Asparagus. These are my planned changes: cheese tortellini for farfalle pasta; vegetable broth for chicken broth.

I'll have Michael pick up a loaf of dinner bread and we'll be all set. I'll be sure to let you know how it all comes out.

Oh - and speaking of letting you know how it comes out, I neglected to post after dinner thoughts on the bean burgers. They were quite yummy, just as before. If you make them, though, be sure to drain the beans before making the mixture. Otherwise you'll have to add more "fillers" like bread crumbs or oats or whatever you normally use because they will be too runny to hold their form as a burger. I'm going back into the original post to add the word drained to the ingredients list. Also, the roasted corn and cabbage salad was pretty tasty.

Happy Fourth of July!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Burgers!

I have a hankering for some burgers. We haven't had any for awhile. And, I think the kidney bean burgers will do the trick. Here's the recipe:

2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 cup rolled oats, or oat bran
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground almonds
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Gently combine everything except the almonds in a food processor and pulse unitl it is well combined and comes together easily. Add the almonds.

Form into patties and saute in an oiled pan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes on one side. Then flip and cook for 6-8 minutes on the second side. You can also grill these if you oil them well before placing them on the grill.

Place one patty on a bun and dress as you like with ketchup, mustard, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, cheese, or whatever you like on your burger.

We're also going to have french fries (the frozen kind) and a Roasted Corn and Cabbage Salad. I saw such a salad on some cooking show recently, only I can't remember which show. So, I'm not sure this is the same recipe, but it sounds pretty good anyway.

I think I'll also cut up some cherub, cherry, or grape tomatoes and serve them with salt and pepper. Mmmm.... I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Monday, May 31, 2010

After Memorial Day Sunday dinner thoughts

Well, we had a marvelous time hanging with some of the girlfriends and their families at my sister's & brother-in-law's house and pool. The day was just beautiful! Others brought:
A Mediterranean salad with a Greek-style dressing, feta, and black olives on top of greens.
Another green salad included kidney beans, Fritos, and a green goddess dressing.
A third salad had black beans, roasted corn, and a crunchy topping.
There was also a grape salad with red and green grapes, walnuts, and a dressing.
Mom made a pineapple upside down cake; another friend brought a chocolate chocolate chip cake.
There were a couple of chili cheese dips.
Oh - and a couple brought pork ribs over.

The main attraction wasn't the food, however. It was getting together with a few friends, having a good time, and enjoying the day and the pool. Oh - and Angel, Cindy and Dave's chocolate lab, absolutely loves the pool along with everyone else!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

There something I need to tell you before sharing what I'm making this Sunday. In a few short weeks eleven of my girlfriends and I will be heading to Cancun for 5 days and 4 nights of frivolous fun! We are celebrating 2 40s, 3 50s, and 1 60; that is this year 2 people are turning 40, 3 will be 50, and 1 will become 60 years young! We can hardly wait for the fun to begin.

So, in order to be ready for the sun a little closer to the equator (at least a lot closer than the St Louis area), we feel the need to get a little pre-sunning in. Now, I'm not one to lay in the sun - I personally don't like my life to pass me by in that way. However, Cindy and Dave (my sister and brother-in-law) have opened their pool. Yep - you guessed it, we're heading over to Cindy's & Dave's house this Sunday for a little r&r and fun in the sun.

Cindy is preparing a taco bar: she'll have chicken and beef and all the fixin's for make your own tacos. I don't know what other folks are bringing. Michael and I are bringing a couple of dishes we made last week for bunco - Michael's fresh guacamole and my Mexican Orzo Salad. I feel I can call it mine now because of the adaptations I've made to the original recipe. It's one of the easiest dishes to prepare.

Here's how I made the Mexican Orzo Salad this week:
3/4 cup Orzo, cooked according to package directions, then rinsed with cold water and drained
1 can gold & white corn, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can black beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 can light red kidney beans, opened, rinsed, and drained
1 small jar pimentos
About 8 slices pickled jalapeƱos, chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
About 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lime, zested & juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon Penzeys medium hot chili powder
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) sea salt
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) fresh ground black pepper

Toss all of the ingredients through the spinach in a serving bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients together until emulsified. Top the pasta, beans, and corn mix with the dressing; carefully toss to coat. Allow flavors to meld by keeping the dish in the refrigerator for at least one hour and preferably overnight.

You'll notice I use a LOT less orzo than in the original recipe. And, because I didn't have any fresh red bell pepper or fresh jalapeƱo on hand I used jarred. I added the lime zest, the chili powder, and the minced garlic. Oh - and the original recipe called for cilantro; I really don't like cilantro so I used spinach instead.

The Mexican Orzo Salad is ready to go. Michael will make the guacamole just before we leave to go over there. When we get there we'll slather on the sunscreen and enjoy what is supposed to be a beautiful day at the pool with some friends. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

After Bunco Thoughts



Bunco,as always, was a lot of fun. All the food turned out great. It was all fairly easy to prepare too - such a nice thing! Michael made the guacamole and it tasted fabulous. The Mexican Orzo Salad was yummy but made way more than was needed. The Hearts of Palm, Olive, and Corn Spread was mmm - mmm good! The Nacho Cheese Pinwheels, while quite tasty, were also messy to make; I'm really not very good with roll-up things. I did find, though, that it was important to only put the cheese about halfway on the tortilla, then roll from the cheese half first (and then the cheese spread to the other side as it was rolled up). The absolutely best item, however, was the Easy Brownie Shortcake Dessert. That said, the Strawberry Charlotte Verrines were quite elegant and had a great flavor; I made a few with blackberries instead of strawberries because I knew at least one guest doesn't eat strawberries.


And, let me tell you - Beer Margaritas are terrific! Here's how you make them...
1 6oz can frozen lime aide
Beer
Tequila
Blender
Limes
Salt

Put 6 oz lime aide in blender. Fill empty 6 oz container with beer, add to blender. Fill empty 6 oz container with Tequila, add to blender. Blend. Run a slice of lime around rim of glass; coat rim with salt. Add blended mix to glass with slice of lime. Enjoy!

Sunday Dinner Update
Since I made so much on Friday I really wasn't inclined to make a home-made dinner for Sunday. We had an enjoyable dinner of frozen cheese ravioli, jarred sauce, frozen garlic toast, and bagged spinach. I "doctored" the sauce by chopping some red onion, celery, and carrots; mincing some fresh garlic; sauteing that in a tiny bit of olive oil; adding canned mushrooms, a can of diced tomatoes, and a teaspoon of sugar to it. After boiling the ravioli I added it to the sauce. For the spinach I cut up a few strawberries, and opened a package of sunflower kernels. We all truly enjoyed the dinner. It was pretty fast and very easy!

Next week is Memorial Day Weekend. When I took Mom and Dad home we talked with my sister, Cindy, about maybe having Sunday dinner at their house next weekend and enjoying the first poolside weekend. I'll let you know what we decide. Have a great week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bunco!

May is my month to host Bunco. If you're not familiar with Bunco, you should know it's really a lot of fun and it's harder to explain than it is to actually play. I'm feeling like Mexican food is in order. Here's my menu:

Hearts of Palm, Corn, & Olive Spread
Nacho Cheese Pinwheels
Mexican Orzo Salad
Salsa (I actually like a store-bought brand the best, however I don't remember the name of the brand - I just know where it is at the grocery store!)
Guacamole
Tostitos Dipping Strips
Strawberry Charlotte Verrines from the May/June 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times, page 49
Easy Brownie Shortcake Dessert

So - the Strawberry Charlotte Verrines are not Mexican; they still look good. I might use some blueberries in place of the strawberries because I plan to use strawberries with the brownie shortcake. Or, I'll use the strawberries in the verrines and cherries with the brownie shortcake. A verrine is a small individual morsel served in a glass; verrines are usually appetizers or desserts that are layered in the glass.

My friend Liz Geisler is bringing beer margaritas over. I may also make some margaritas or at least have some Tequila on hand.

Sounds like a fun Bunco night to me. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


What a beautiful day for Mother's Day, even if it's a little bit chilly. All the same, a truly beautiful day!

Today's dinner was one of the easier dinners to make. Everything turned out well. The salad, however, was outstanding! And, incredibly easy - spinach, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds and the hardest part - the dressing (which honestly wasn't hard). I made the dressing according to the recipe except I traded balsamic vinegar for the distilled white vinegar. Yummy! I'm having this for lunch tomorrow too.

The pasta was good too. I left the sage out - I actually had the fresh sage and chopped it up but wasn't keen on the smell and so left it out - it would have just been too much. I used whole wheat penne for the pasta; it was a bit too al dente for my taste. Michael says he has this problem with the whole wheat pasta all the time - that it doesn't seem to cook to the softness we prefer. Other than that, this was tasty. I also added mushrooms to the mix. I don't know if I'll make it again, but maybe. It was pretty easy to make as well.

The Chocolate Wonder was a real hit with the parents. It is a bit too sweet for my tastes, plus with real milk and cool whip in it I'm really flirting with disaster (I 'm lactose intolerant and this can play havoc on my digestive system). It was tasty, just not something I'd want to eat much. It made a huge amount so Mom and Dad are taking some home with them.

All in all, we had a nice dinner. It's mostly about being together and in that respect it was a real hit!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Trying to decide what to make for Mother's Day Sunday Dinner has been, well, trying. I think I've figured it out, though.

We're going to have pasta and salad. For dessert I'm making something called Chocolate Wonder. The recipe was delivered to my email from the Chef's Shoppe Tid Bits, an electronic newsletter I receive. I'm including the recipe below.

So, It's going to be:
Pasta with Crab, Artichokes, Lemon, & Sage
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Chocolate Wonder

1st Layer

1/2 cup pecans (chopped)
1 stick butter
1 cup flour

Blend together and pat into a 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake 18 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool well.

2nd Layer
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Cool Whip
Whip together and spread on cooled crust gently.

3rd layer
2 small packages instant chocolate pudding
3 cups cold milk
Mix together until thick and spread on cream cheese mixture.

4th Layer
1 cup Cool Whip spread over top.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Can add either chopped nuts or shaved chocolate to the top to fancy it up a bit.

I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts


Well, tonight's dinner was definitely an adventure!

Pressing the tofu was a first for me. I found an article on About.com describing what to do. I used a baking sheet, folded two paper towels per tofu brick, put the tofu on top of the folded paper towels on the baking sheet. Then folded another paper towel, put a cutting sheet on top and used the Joy of Cooking and Passionate Vegetarian (books) as weights. Left it for 15 minutes, replaced the paper towels, and left it for another 15 minutes. The rest of the tofu prep was pretty easy.

Then, I prepared the barbecue sauce! It was good, however there were a lot of ingredients. I don't know if it's worth making your own barbecue sauce when there are so many commercially available. Maybe if it's your own secret recipe.

I also made steamed green beans with carrots. They were fine. This was kind of a dressed down version of green bean and mushroom medley - a family favorite. I didn't have any mushrooms and only used a tiny bit of onion. I talked about this recipe on December 18, 2009.

Everything to this point was fairly straight forward and easy. Then I got to the Hotel Cordon Corn Bread. The recipe itself is not too bad. The trouble came when I didn't have a 10 inch diameter pan that was 3 inches deep. This turned out to be a problem. Instead I used an 11 1/2 inch diameter pan that was only 1 1/2 inches deep. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of baking powder along with the flour and corn meal. You may have guessed it - I had an overflow in the oven. YUCK! I became aware of this when the dish had been in the oven for 15 minutes, I opened the oven to add the tofu in sauce into the oven to bake alongside the corn bread for a final 15 minutes. The overflow of course started burning. We turned the hood fan on which helped; I was worried the fire detectors would go off, we lucked out there. So, if I ever make this again I will make sure I make it in a deep dish. It was really tasty though and everyone enjoyed it.


I also made a lemon pudding pie. Used a store-bought pie crust; baked it and let it cool. The filling was made with 2 small boxes of vanilla pudding, 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, 6 oz frozen lemonade (thawed), and 8 oz cool whip (thawed). The pie was scrumptious!

Overall dinner was a success even if it was a little messy. I've started thinking about what to have next week since it's Mother's Day. I asked Mom what she'd like and she said it's too far in the future and she was too full to know right now. I'll come up with some ideas and run them past her this week. I'll let you know what we decide.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Barbecue

Barbecue sounds good to me. I found this recipe for Memphis-Style Barbecue Tofu that sounds terrific!

When reading the "Let's Eat" section of the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week I found a recipe for Hotel Condon Corn Bread. I'm making that too.

I'm not exactly sure about other sides. Here are some ideas I'm kicking around:
Kidney Bean Salad
Mexican Bean Salad that my friend Amanda McKay told me about
Sauteed Greens with White Beans and Garlic
Tomato Bread Salad (I make this with cherry or grape tomatoes, fat-free croutons, cucumber, red onion, sliced black olives, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and goat cheese)
Mixed Vegetables
Fresh Green Salad
or something else

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

Whatever I end up making, I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

After Dinner Thoughts - Quiche


Sunday's menu was:
Mushrooms & Spinach Quiche
Lemon-garlic Shrimp
Samosa
Chocolate Diet Soda Cake

Michael made the cake the other day. It follows the diet soda recipe where you use a box cake mix, a can of diet soda and one egg white lightly beaten. Mix it all up and follow the box directions to bake. It turned out to be a bit crumbly, but mighty tasty.

We had some frozen shrimp on hand and at first I thought I would put them in the quiche. Then I decided to cook them separately in olive oil with garlic and lemon. They were quite good.

The Samosa was also frozen. I had picked it up a while ago at the international market in Edwardsville. Mom, Dad, and I really liked these. Michael - not so much. They definitely had a middle eastern flavoring.

For the quiche, I followed a crustless recipe using the fresh mushrooms; a 10 oz box of frozen spinach thawed, drained, and squeezed dry; some gouda cheese; black olives; and some chopped onions. Mmmm mmm good! Unfortunately I smashed the quiche before taking the photo - to let some heat out, so you don't get to see how nicely it turned out. Oh well, live and learn!

IDK

I don't know what will be for Sunday dinner today. I have a couple of containers of fresh mushrooms, so they will be in whatever I end up cooking. I'll have to look throughout the pantry to see what I have on hand. And, if I need something from the grocery I'll have to decide that pretty soon so that Michael can pick anything up for me.

Today is the first Sunday that Mom and Dad will be coming to my house. Cindy will drop them off around 2:30 and I'll take them back to her house later. Mom's knee replacement has been great. Sure, she still has some pain and swelling, but nothing like before the surgery. Her doctor says she's doing terrific and that it will start to feel much better in a couple more months. Monday is the five week mark since her surgery. She really is much better than before and has started getting out more. YAY!

Yesterday Michael and I went to Penzey's Spices in Maplewood. WOW! Is that a fantastic place?! Nothing but spices, spices, and more spices - fresh, fresh, fresh. My friend Carol Stookey told me about this place. I picked up some cream of tartar, vanilla beans, Vietnamese cinnamon, rosemary, toasted minced onion, and medium hot chili powder. Mmmm...

I don't think any of those spices will end up in today's dinner, but you never know. Anyway - I better go figure it out. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tri-Cities Area Association for Handicapped Bowling Fundraiser

Instead of cooking, we participated in the Tri-Cities Association for Handicapped Bowling Fundraiser. For a good cause and so much Fun! Enjoy the photos.