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

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

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)
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

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

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.