Friday, May 29, 2009

Mother-in-law-to-be's Best Pasta!

I have to admit gaining a mother-in-law has been an experience, and in my opinion one that's always made better when good food is involved- and WINE! So what I always order on a trip back to MI is the following pasta- its quickly become a favorite of mine, its delicious and goes well with a nice glass of red :)

Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes

1 lb. bow-tie pasta
1/2 C olive oil
2/3 C fresh chopped parsley
3/4 C chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic minced (double this if you're like me and LOVE garlic!)
1/2 tsp dried red-pepper flake (or more if you like the heat)
3 boneless chicken breasts cooked and cut into pieces
1/2 C pesto (fresh is always best if you make it)
grated parmesan/romano mix to taste

Cook chicken breasts (grill, saute or boil- whichever you prefer). Cut into pieces. Cook pasta to box specifications, drain and return to same pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well over low heat until coated. I usually add the parsley at the very end so it doesn't wilt much and I do cheese on top as its being served.

Favorite summer fruit dip

My Mom made this dip alot for us when we were little and I still love it to this day- its simple and delicious. I like it the most with strawberries but goes with any fruit.

Amaretto Dip

1 regular size container Cool Whip
1 regular size box of instant vanilla pudding
1/2 C Amaretto

Add dry pudding mix to the cool whip and fold. Gradually add in Amaretto and serve with desired fruits for dipping.

MI Salad

I had never heard of these salads until I started dating John whose friends make this delicious salad in some variety.

Michigan Salad
Mixed greens
Toasted pecans
Crumbled blue cheese
Dried cherries
Served with a raspberry vinaigrette

I've also eaten this salad with walnuts instead of pecans and gorgonzola substituted for the blue cheese. Also had it with blueberries, raspberries and thinly sliced granny-smith apples. Lastly, you could top with a grilled chicken breast or salmon if you wanted a heartier dish. Bottom line, play around and add/subtract what you like and don't :)

Here's a recipe for the vinaigrette from
1/2 cup EVOO
1/2 cup raspberry wine vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar (I skip the sugar myself)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Shake well.

Potato Salad with Bacon and Gorgonzola

I think this potato salad from Bon Appetit was made for someone very special's baptism:) It is so good, I'm thinking I'm going to make some this weekend. Bear in mind, it has a way of disappearing very quickly.

5 pounds Yukon potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 1/2 cups mayonnaise, divided
3/4 pound bacon slices
2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes; return to same pot. Place over very low heat just until excess moisture evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer hot potatoes to large bowl; Cool 10 minutes (minimum). Mix in 2 cups mayonnaise, low fat variety optional.

Cook bacon in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Cool bacon; crumble coarsely.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup mayonnaise, cheese, green onions, parsley and half of bacon into potatoes. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Can be made 2 hours ahead.

M+M Cookies

I have always loved M+M cookies, but if you have ever tried to swap out M+Ms for chocolate chips in the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, then you know it just doesn't work. Somehow the M+Ms aren't sweet enough to compensate for removing the chips. This recipe makes perfect M+Ms cookies.

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup butter (or shortening if you use it)
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces (I sometimes still add a few chocolate chips if I have some laying around)

In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla thoroughly. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well. Add 3/4 cup of M&M candies.

Drop dough onto cookie sheet. Slightly push a few candies on top of each dough ball with remaining candies.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 9 to 11 minutes, to your liking.

Chicken-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese

Mmmm, I'm going to have to try this recipe for Chicken-Orzo Salad with Goat Cheese from Cooking Light soon.

Lettuce Salads?

This summer we are going to be on lettuce overload because we've planted a garden with lots of lettuce (and other good things, too) and we've also signed up for a crop share which starts next week. I'm really excited about the challenge of incorporating even more veggies into our menu but also know that I'm going to need to get pretty creative to use what we have.

Last night we had the sort of meal that I think will be more common than not this summer. I threw together what we had around the house with some fresh lettuce from the garden. It was tasty.

Chicken, Pear and Green Bean Salad

Two grilled chicken breasts (cut into bit sized pieces)
Sliced ripe pear
1 c. or so of steamed grean beans (so they are still very crunchy though)
Fresh picked lettuce

Toss with this dressing that I posted the other day.

Do you have a favorite lettuce salad that's a little out of the norm that you could share?

Salmon with Lemon, Spinach, and Tomatoes

I concocted this recipe after having something similar at one of my fav Italitan restaurants at home. Because it's home grown, the measurements aren't that precise...

2 pieces salmon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1/4ish cup chicken stock (more if you like less lemon flavor)
1-2 cloves garlic chopped
Fresh spinach - cleaned and de-stemmed
Chopped Tomatoes (I usually use 2 plum tomatoes)
A little flour
Olive Oil

Heat olive oil over medium heat in pan on stove. Salt and pepper salmon and then dust with flour, both sides. You can skip the flour dusting but it makes the sauce a teensy bit thicker. Lay salmon in pan skin-side down and cook for a couple minutes and then flip. I always remove the skin and the fatty stuff at this point. Cook for a couple more minutes and then flip back to the original side and finish cooking. Remove salmon and set aside. Add the white wine and lemon to the pan and let cook down a bit. Then add chicken stock to taste and garlic and simmer for a couple minutes. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cover until it wilts to your liking. I usually add the salmon back in for a minute to warm it up. Serve the sauce over the salmon. Mashed potatoes make a great side or you could serve it with/over pasta. Enjoy!

Orange Pineapple Muffins

FINALLY I'm posting something after way too long of an absence:) I made these muffins 2 weekends in a row, once for brunch with friends and once when my parents were in town and they were quite tasty. The recipe calls for a mini-muffin pan, which I used, and they were the perfect little bite.

I got this recipe from the Joy Of Baking website:

Muffin Batter:
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans, toasted and chopped (I skipped the pecans)
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt ( I used sour cream)
1 teaspoon pure orange extract (I used vanilla extract in one batch and almond extract in another and was glad I did b/c I think they might be a bit too orange-y for me otherwise)
1 tablespoon orange zest (1-2 oranges) (I used 1 orange)
1 - 8 ounce (227 grams) can crushed pineapple, drained

Orange Glaze:
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh orange juice

I made the glaze with confectioners sugar and a couple tablespoons of OJ.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Toast the pecans for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool and then chop into small pieces.

Grease, or spray with a nonstick spray, 36 miniature muffin tins. Set aside while you make the batter.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine, the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in the sour cream, orange extract, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. *Note - I read on the website that it's very important not to overmix the batter because that can make the muffins dry - this may be common knowledge but I wasn't aware:) Fold in the toasted pecans and drained pineapple.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. (Length of baking time will depend on the size and color of the muffin tins used, i.e. dark colored pans will cook the muffins faster than lighter colored pans.) *Note - I did not bake for 15 minutes, more like 12 because I used a dark pan. Also mine didn't really brown on top.

While the muffins are baking combine the glaze ingredients (sugar and orange juice) in a small cup.

Remove the muffins from the oven and place on a wire rack. While the muffins are still very warm, brush them with the orange glaze.

Makes about 3 dozen miniature muffins

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's the Difference: Cream

I thought this was an interesting article about the different types of cream used in baking and cooking. I try to follow directions, but there are times I've had to do a little mix and match depending on what is in the fridge. In essence, the article says:

The real difference between all these kinds of cream have to do with their fat content:

Half-and-Half: 12% fat
Light Cream: 20% fat
Light Whipping Cream: 30% fat
Whipping Cream: 35% fat
Heavy Cream and Heavy Whipping Cream: 38% fat

Creams with more fat will whip up better into a stable whipped cream, and they will also resist curdling when used to enrich soups. Creams with lower fat content are better used in beverages or for pouring over desserts.

If you can't find the specific cream needed for a recipe and are looking to substitute, it's always a safe bet to go for a cream with a higher fat content than the one called for.

If a cream with higher fat is not an option (or you're hoping to cut calories from a recipe!), try the cream with the fat content just below the one called for before experimenting with lighter creams.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Salad Dressings

I've been experimenting with salad dressings lately and it's kind of fun. Sorry, I don't measure but my latest one contains:

Olive Oil
Pear-infused White Balsamic Vinegar (doesn't it just sound good??)
Tiny bit of garlic
Basil (dried)
Black pepper
Plain non-fat Greek style yogurt

I'd never thought of adding the yogurt until I saw it in another recipe and I really like it. It makes it creamy but in a healthy kind of way.

Any other good ideas for dressings???

Gourmet Garden Herbs

Until recently, I'd never been tempted to pick up these tubes of Gourmet Garden herbs being that I'd rather use fresh herbs. But...last week I made Sara's awesome pasta salad and this week I made tzatziki sauce, so it worked out well for me timing wise.

My review, okay for herbs you don't use as frequently or tend to have leftover after a recipe. Anyone use them?

photo from here.

Pioneer Woman's Enchilada

Pioneer Woman Cooks is one for my favorite food sites. She does not mess around, butter and cheese are fair game in her world. I made these enchiladas a few weeks ago and they were seriously tasty. My only regret was not having any cilantro on hand.
PW’s Favorite Enchiladas (from there as well)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large (28-ounce) can enchilada or red sauce
2 cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and flour and whisk together to make a past, cooking for 1 minute. Pour in other red sauce, chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown meat with onions in a skillet. Drain off fat. Stir in 2 cans diced green chilies and seasoned salt. Set aside.

10 to 14 corn tortillas
½ cup canola oil

Heat canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. One by one, using tongs, fry tortillas oil until soft, not crisp—about 30 seconds per side. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried.

Sauce (above)
Meat (above)
Tortillas (above)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped black olives
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour ½ cup red sauce in bottom of baking pan. Spread to even out.Dip each tortilla into red sauce, then remove to work surface. Spoon meat, a little grated cheese, a little black olives, and green onions in the center of tortilla. Roll up and place, seam down, in baking pan. Repeat until pan is filled. Pour extra red sauce over enchiladas. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until bubble. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over enchiladas before serving.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favorite Summer Recipes

Ladies, want to share your favorite summer recipes?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lemon Bundt Cake

Just got this recipe from a friend. After I bake some rhubarb things up, I'm going to give it a try

1 box Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
1 box instant lemon pudding
¾ C oil
¾ C Apricot Nectar juice
4 eggs

Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes. I kept checking with toothpicks, because the online printout had 30 minutes for bake time, which wasn’t near long enough. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before transferring to platter.

1 to 1 ½ C powdered sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
Apricot Nectar juice to finish consistency the way you prefer

Friday, May 8, 2009

Coconut Curry Chicken

I like Thai food but haven't ever tried cooking it at home, except for an easy boxed Pad Thai we used to always buy. I saw this recipe in Rachel Ray's Everday Magazine and gave it a try. It was easy and good and now that I know Joe will eat this, I will probably try more.

I'd love to hear anyone else's Thai recipes too!

Coconut Curry Chicken

1 1/2 c. white rice (I actually bought Trader's Joe's brown jasmine rice)
2 t. curry powder
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into strips
2 t. five spice powder

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 1/4 c. salted water to a boil. Add the rice, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Toss together the chicken, five spice powder and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Increase the heat to high and stiry fry the chicken until just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the coconut curry sauce. Serve over the rice.

Freezing Food

Here's a good article on freezing food. Anyone else have good tips?