Sunday, June 3, 2012

EASY Black Bean Lasagna

This weekend was the Six Mile Regional Library District's Friends of the Library annual big book sale at the Wilson Park ice rink in Granite City.  There were close to 600 boxes of books; we set the books out on tables for buyers to peruse.  Only 275 boxes of books were left at the end of the sale, which then went to Greenville for their hospital auxiliary's book sale.  Lots of books, audios and videos were sold!  Yea for the Friend's of the Library!!!  The proceeds from this annual book sale help to fund many of the special events for children during the summer reading program.

Sunday I will be going to the Gateway Regional Medical Center's Healthy Women anniversary event. The special guest speaker is Ali Vincent from NBC's Biggest Loser.  It will be interesting to go to the event and see what all they have there.  Because I'll be at this event all day I won't be cooking Sunday dinner.

But - I did cook dinner tonight.  I made Easy Black Bean Lasagna.  I found the recipe in a book I bought at the book sale: Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks: Meatless Meals from March 1996.  Holy Cow! This recipe was incredibly easy and amazingly delicious!!  A few friends came over this evening and everyone loved the lasagna.  I will definitely make it again.  In fact, I have been asked to make it to take when we have our girls' weekend in July.  Ten of us are going to the Lake of the Ozarks for a long weekend and plan to have a blast.

I also made a drink called Incommunicado.  It is equal parts vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, and grenadine mixed with two times the amount of alcohol of cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and I used papaya juice (it calls for sweet and sour mix, which I honestly am not fond of).  It was pretty tasty.  However, there is a reason it is called incommunicado.  Because after a couple of drinks your words get mixed up and it becomes hard to communicate without laughing.

We had a really nice time this evening.  I hope we have a good time tomorrow too.  Have a great week.  I'll let you know all about it when I next cook dinner.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Well, it's Memorial Day weekend and I'm hosting Bunco at my house tonight.  Because of everything going on this weekend I'm not cooking Sunday dinner.  However, I will have Mom and Dad over for dinner Saturday evening and we'll probably have leftovers from Bunco (assuming there will be a few leftovers; if not, then I'll put together something easy and quick).  So, I figure I'll share what's on the menu for our game tonight.

I made dessert first.  Cake balls!  Easy-peasy but a bit time consuming; I followed the directions in the book Cake Pops by Bakerella.  My dear husband, Michael, baked a red velvet cake for me while I was at work.  The cake is a box mix and you just follow the directions on the box.  Last night I crumbled the cake into a large mixing bowl.  The next step is to mix in 3/4 of a 16 oz container of prepared frosting - I used cream cheese frosting.  When those two are well mixed (hint: use the back of a metal spoon and just keep pushing the two together, eventually it will all mix together and kind of look like a dough).  I then used a Pampered Chef scoop to scoop out the same amount of "dough" to roll into balls.  The recipe states there will be 48 balls; well, I must of used a larger scoop because I only came up with 36 balls.  I put the balls on a cookie sheet with wax paper and when all the balls were formed I put everything in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  I then transferred them to the refrigerator - no frozen balls.  I used Baker's premium white chocolate baking squares to coat the balls - I just followed the directions for melting the chocolate that are on the box.  I needed to use 3 boxes of the white chocolate.  Michael tasted one of the balls this morning and announced them "mmmm, good!"

I also made a black bean, cucumber, jalapeno, red onion, and tomato salad.  I made this very easy salad last weekend also.  Here's how I made it.  Open a can of black beans, rinse and drain them and put them in a bowl.  Peel, seed, and chop a cucumber into bite-size pieces; add them to the bowl with the beans.  Seed and finely chop about 1/2 of a medium-size jalapeno; add it to the bowl (be sure to wash your hands really well after handling the jalapeno - you don't want to get any of the pepper oil in your eyes or elsewhere).  Chop about 1/2 of a red onion and add it to the bowl.  I used Cherub grape tomatoes by slicing about one and one-half containers of tomatoes and adding them to the bowl.  For the tomatoes I actually slice the larger tomatoes into 3 or 4 slices.  Salt and pepper the ingredients to taste.  Mix together 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar (or any flavored vinegar that you like) and pour over the salad.  Gently fold all ingredients together to coat all with the oil and vinegar.  Let sit in the refrigerator overnight or at least one to two hours before serving.

I am getting ready to make Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken to use instead of ground beef in Taco Cupcakes.  I'm switching out the black beans in the taco cupcakes for corn since I used beans in the salad.

I also am going to make Green Rice (Arroz Verde).  For the rice I am mashing up a few recipes: from the May 31, 2010 New York Times, from Rachel Ray, from Oprah, and from Bobby Flay.  The only ingredient I am omitting (because I really, really don't like the taste of it) is cilantro.  I'll use brown rice, spinach, garlic, onion, jalapeno, vegetable broth, and pine nuts.

Michael is making guacamole for us.  He uses a recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  We've used this recipe for years and love it!  We have Tostito scoops for the guac, I made Lipton French onion soup dip, and we have Wavy Lays for that dip.  I picked up a bunch of fresh blackberries that are tantalizingly sweet as well as some green grapes and a fresh pineapple - so we'll have some fruit too.

Oh - and I can't forget the Margarita Shots in a Lime!  Sounds like a fine bunco night with the girls.  I'll be sure to come back and let you know how it all really turns out.

HOLY COW!!! These dishes were all winners.  Everyone raved about how much they liked the food.  Especially the cake balls.

For Saturday dinner (see first paragraph about Sunday dinner) we did have leftovers.  We used the chicken for taco salad.  Because there wasn't much Green Rice left, I made another batch.  And, there were just enough cake balls for everyone to enjoy.  Mom said she thinks the green rice will become a staple at my sister's house - she and they liked it that much (me too).  Looks like Michael and I will be eating this for a few days - we still have leftovers.  It's a good thing everything tastes good.

If you can, take a moment to remember and honor those who have died in service to the United States at 3:00 Monday afternoon.  3:00 your time - wherever you are - one minute of silence in their honor.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's Mother's Day - How About an Encore

When trying to decide what to make for Mother's Day dinner, I looked back to what I made last May.  And, when I read that Mom had said "you have to make that again, soon," I figured that's what we would have today.  Maybe a year later isn't very "soon," but Mom said she was really glad we had this today.  We all liked our dinner very much.  So, I guess you're wondering what I's the menu:

  • Asparagus, Artichoke, and Yellow Pepper Fritatta that I made on May 14, 2011.  The hardest thing about it is chopping up the vegetables (actually that's the hardest thing about everything we had today).  Today I used eight eggs instead of seven.
  • Tomato, Cucumber, Celery, and Black Olive Salad that includes everything except the bread and cheese from the Tomato Bread Salad that I make all the time and first wrote about April 28, 2010.
  • Marsala Glazed Mushrooms that I seem to make every weekend since April 7, 2012.  These mushrooms are truly easy to make and magnificent!
  • Punchbowl Cake from last May; the recipe is included with the after dinner thoughts I posted on May 15, 2012.  There's no cooking involved in this recipe - it's just cutting angel food cake, opening a few cans, thawing frozen strawberries, and slicing a banana.  Oh, but today instead of pecan bits I used health bar bits to top the whole thing.  That was a yummy decision.

Everything was mmm, mmm, good!  And, everyone ate it up.  So, we enjoyed a successful Mother's Day dinner.  Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Southern Stir Fry: a long-time favorite

While working on organizing my home office (I've still got a lot of work to do on it), I discovered some cook books and booklets I hadn't seen for awhile.  One is a March 2000 grocery store recipe booklet from Betty Crocker - Easy Vegetarian Classics Go Meatless.  There is one particular recipe that I've been making from this booklet for at least ten years; but I haven't apparently made it anytime recently.  Well, today's the day.  We're having Southern Stir-Fry.  In the recipe the main adaptation I make is in using a 9 or 10 ounces package of frozen spinach that I thaw and drain before adding it to the recipe.  I'll make some cornbread, slice some fresh Kumato tomatoes, and dinner will be served.

Yesterday I went to  the annual Relay for Life chicken dinner, auction, and dance that some friends of ours host.  We've been going to the event for several years and I always look forward to picking up dessert at it.  A couple of year's ago I was the high bidder on a chocolate meringue pie that was to die for!  Last year I picked up a lemon meringue pie (for $100.00!!! - all for a good cause).  This year the person who always bids against me on the pies wasn't at the auction.  But, I didn't bid on a pie.  Instead I bid on this homemade white chocolate raspberry cheesecake with an oreo cookie crust and I won at only $42.50!  Now, I certainly understand that this will completely blow my carbs and calories out of the water today, but I also know that Michael, Mom, and Dad will all be very happy.  Here's a picture of the cheesecake:

I'm very happy to be able to report that our friends' Relay for Life team has raised more than $100,000.00 over the past ten years!  I'm very proud to have been a supporter of their effort.

I'll come back later to let you know how everything turns out.

After dinner thoughts:
Mmmmmm...that was mighty yummy!  In fact, tonight there are no leftovers; we ate all of the stir fry and tomatoes.  This really is one of our very favorite recipes.  I can hardly believe I haven't made this in so long. It's incredibly easy and quite low in calories.  A long time ago, under an older weight watchers points system 1.5 cups of this dish equaled only 3 points!  I don't know what the point count would be today, but it still can't be that much.

The cheesecake was pretty terrific too - and there is plenty of that left.  I'm sending more than half of what is left home with Mom and Dad plus I made a special little container just for my sister Cindy.  I'm sure there are more weight watchers points in one serving of the cheesecake than anyone is supposed to have in one day.  I had half a serving - still too many calories/points, and still quite delicious!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mushrooms, Asparagus, Cauliflower, and Pineapple - not all in one dish!

I've been semi-following Engine 2 Diet along with Fat Free Vegan Kitchen on Facebook for some time now. Through those two pages I often find intriguing recipes from other sites. That's how I came up with tomorrow's menu. Tomorrow is Easter, but I'm not making any eggs. We're also in the midst of Passover, and I am using some oil. I guess I'm giving a semi-nod to two of the big holidays being celebrated right now.

The only thing that might be considered traditional for dinner this Easter is asparagus, which I plan to roast. We're also going to have either roasted cauliflower or mashed cauliflower. Then, we're going to have Marsala Glazed Mushrooms over wild rice. For dessert we're having Passover Pineapple Crumble.

It makes my mouth water just to think about it. Whatever holiday your family observes, I hope it's all you hope for.

After dinner thoughts...

Dinner was truly yummy!  We had both roasted and mashed cauliflower; I didn't have any half-and-half in the house, so I used fat free plain yogurt instead - I'll do this from now on.  The mushrooms were FABULOUS and I will happily make them again although I may use more than 20 ounces (I cooked 2 ten-ounce packages of baby bella mushrooms).  As you can see in the photos, I served the mushrooms over brown rice; this I would change to wild rice in the future.  The Pineapple Crumble was okay; not something I'll likely make again, but it was alright.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's Not Sunday, But I Made Dinner

I do plan to make dinner tomorrow (Pasta with Asparagus, Cannellini Beans, and Porcini Cream). However, I've been meaning to make Jennifer Aniston's Favorite Quinoa Salad for quite awhile now. So, I made it today. Although, of course, I switched it up just a tiny bit. I omitted the parsley and added the juice from 1/2 of a small lime. I also used Cherubs grape tomatoes and Sunsweet (yellow) tomatoes instead of regular medium tomatoes. It was DELICIOUS!!! And, easy. And, I will definitely make this again. Unfortunately Michael doesn't like cucumbers so he won't be eating this salad; but lucky me I have leftovers (which is why I added the lime juice - in hopes of keeping the avocado from browning). I highly recommend this salad. It's both refreshing and filling without being too much. Yum!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Limiting Carbs

I'm going to have hand surgery soon. I have what is called trigger finger where, basically, the long finger on my left hand becomes locked in a bent position. I've been dealing with this for some time now and I often wake up with my finger locked and have to use my other hand to straighten the finger. As you might imagine, this is pretty painful. And, as time has gone on it has gotten to the point where the finger hurts all the time whether it's bent or straight. Anyway, when I went to the surgeon I admitted that my biggest concern (after wanting the pain gone) is when will I be able to lift weights again. Which led to a conversation about the weight I've lost over the past year, which in turn led to the doctor giving me a copy of her "diet for life."

The diet somewhat follows The Zone by Barry Sears. I picked up his book A Week in the Zone to learn more about it. It boils down to eating lean protein and lots of vegetables and fruits and limiting carbs - especially those refined carbs. And, it includes eating 5 times a day, at evenly spaced intervals. This "diet" is meant to help a person control peaks and dips of blood sugar levels. So, I'm on a quest to find filling low-carb vegetarian recipes.

I spent today doing the laundry and researching a variety of recipes. After all that online searching I'm going to make a recipe that I found in the March 2012 Cooking Light magazine that arrived at my house this week. I did, though, find some recipes to make in the future.

Tomorrow I'll make Vegetable "Meat" Loaf and Surprise South Beach Mashed "Potatoes". The potatoes are actually cauliflower; we've had this before and have enjoyed it. Interestingly, when I told Michael I was thinking of making roasted cauliflower he asked me to make the mashed - this from the man who at one time in his life wouldn't even consider tasting cauliflower.

So, that's what we're having for dinner this Sunday. I'll come back after to upload a picture and comment on how the dinner turned out.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

In a Valentine Mood

I kind of feel like making dinner with Valentine's Day in mind, since it's Tuesday. I also have been thinking about what I already have in the house that I can make. Well, I'm going to end up going to the grocery even though it's really cold outside and I really was hoping to avoid going out. Oh well...

I've decided to make the Tofu Parmigiana that I made just about a year ago. I don't know why, but a parmigiana (or Parmesan) just seems to be a Valentine's-type recipe to me. So, we'll have the tofu, and that's what I have to go to the grocery for. I may also pick up some dried porcini mushrooms to adapt a Porcini Crusted Tofu recipe into the parmigiano. I think the mushrooms might give the dish a little more pizzazz.

Then, I think I'll also make some Mrs. T's Pierogies that I have in the freezer. I'm inspired by the Pesto Pierogies recipe, but I'm going to use a jarred pesto that I already have on hand. I'm not really sure though, again I'm thinking about it. If I don't do the pesto pierogies, I might do Pierogy Primavera. Either way I'm pretty sure we'll have pierogies too.

Hmm, such a dilemma. I guess it'll depend on what I feel like tomorrow. But, I still need to go to the grocery to pick up some tofu. I'll be sure to let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tex-Mex Superbowl Sunday

I planned to just snack today, until I thought about what I had picked up and what Mom and Dad might actually like. On Friday, Schnucks market had a facebook drive-time special that I picked up. Queso Dip Special, $6.50: 1 10-oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes, 1 2-lb Kraft Velveeta, 1 super Pretzel soft pretzels package, 1 13-oz Mission Tortilla chips, AND 1 Coke 2-liter product. Not exactly diet friendly, but hey it's "Superbowl Sunday"! These drive-time specials are good only on the day they are offered and only from 4:00-8:00 p.m. They have really great deals!

Anyway, in thinking about this, I thought well maybe we could have nachos. So, Michael went to the grocery for me this morning to pick up what I needed to make Shredded Tex-Mex Crock-Pot Chicken. I needed chicken, garlic, lettuce, grape tomatoes, and some condiments. This sounds absolutely yummy to me, and it's something I've not made before. I'll also open a can of black beans and have them with the nachos too. I bet, though, that it's a little shocking that I'm making chicken. Well, while that's a real departure for Sunday dinner, I think we'll all like it.

I'll let you know how it turns out. Happy Superbowl Sunday - have a good time!

So - dinner was yummy! Not very diet friendly though with all that cheese. Tasty!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's Been Awhile

My last post was some time ago. I've been cooking, just not blogging. Well, I already know what I'm cooking for dinner tomorrow and I have a few minutes, so I figure I'll share.

Tomorrow I'm making an adaptation of a recipe I picked up at Schnucks back in December. I did make the recipe as written and it was yummy. Tomorrow I'm using scallops instead of shrimp. We're having Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Grits and fresh green beans. I also picked up some already cooked red crab claws and arms that I just need to defrost. It's going to be a mini seafood feast!

Lemon Garlic Shrimp & Grits
Serves 4

1 can (14.5 oz) less-sodium chicken broth (1.75 cups)
1.25 cups milk
.75 cup instant grits
.5 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to taste
.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
.25 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1.25 pounds raw peeled and deveined 36-40 count shrimp, thawed if necessary
(I'm using 1 pound bay scallops)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 lemons (1 cut in half and 1 cup in wedges)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1- In covered 2- to 3-quart saucepan, heat broth and milk to boiling over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in grits, salt, and .25 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Stir in Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon butter. remove saucepan from the heat, cover to keep warm.

2- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Ass shrimp, garlic and remaining .25 teaspoon pepper and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque throughout and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove skillet from heat; squeeze juice of lemon halves over shrimp; sprinkle with parsley and toss to combine. If desired, add additional salt to taste.

3- Divide grits among 4 shallow bowls; top with shrimp and its sauce. Serve with lemon edges to squeeze over shrimp.

Each serving: about 420 calories, 15g fat, 36g carb, 2g fiber, 34g protein

I'll be sure to take a picture and to let you know how it all turns out.

Here's the picture:
Dinner was quite yummy. While the dish might be prettier with the shrimp, I think it tastes better with the scallops (maybe because I like scallops better than shrimp). I highly recommend this dish. It's really easy to make and everyone who has tasted it, even those who don't like grits, have liked it.