Saturday, July 28, 2012

Arugula Pesto

I’m sure you have seen the zillions of types of pesto out there in recipe-land. I am pretty loyal to basil and pine nuts, but since pine nuts are so darn expensive and my basil is not ready to be harvested, I decided to be brave and try an arugula pesto with walnuts…. It’s a combination of all kinds of recipes; I think I even threw in some almonds from the back of the fridge…..Surprisingly, it was awesome! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I really like this! Yes, it’s ‘spicy’ and ‘bitter’ like arugula, but that gave it a very pleasant taste. Plus, once you add nuts, garlic, butter, oil, cheese and pasta, who cares what the green part is??? !

Be brave like me. Try a new type of pesto.

Here’s what you do:

Harvest a bunch of arugula from your garden, making sure the resident bunny is not busy eating your green beans.

Place the tender leaves in a Cuisinart along with some garlic, nuts, oil, salt and blend away! At this point, I freeze my pesto in ice-cube trays or baggies and tuck them away in the freezer.

 When I’m ready to use it, I add lots of pasta water, fresh Parmesan cheese and a tiny bit of butter. The classic way to use pesto is on pasta, of course. But don’t forget about using it on a pizza or sandwich. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Christmas in July

I’ve only experienced Black Friday one time – and one time is enough to last me for the rest of all eternity. What’s Black Friday, some of you might be asking? It’s that awful day when the stores open up at the crack of dawn and the blessed season of Christmas is officially in full swing. Maybe it’s just me and maybe I have offended some of you who love the shopping frenzy. All I know is that the shopping thing does nothing for me…. makes me kinda sick in my tummy, in fact. 

I don’t like the whole “Christmas in July” thing either….. what’s that all about?

"Why July?" asks my son.
"It makes Christmas come sooner," responds my husband, "it's like going out to dinner on Wednesday."

I much prefer this AWESOME Mocha Chocolate Layer Cake. I served it to my family for Christmas dinner last December. You must admit it’s a beauty….. next to Tres Leches Cake, this is my favorite. Skip the commercialism, make a cake, enjoy your family and brace yourself – Black Friday is only a few months away.

Mocha Chocolate Layer Cake
Here’s what you need:
1 C butter
3 C packed brown sugar
4 eggs
3 t vanilla extract
3 C flour
¾ C cocoa
3 t baking soda
½ t salt
1 ½ C brewed coffee, cooled
1 1/3 C sour cream

For the frosting:
2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each) – softened
½ C butter – softened
8 squared unsweetened chocolate, melted (1 ounce each)
½ C brewed coffee, cooled
3 t vanilla extract
6 C powdered sugar

Here’s what you do:
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Also, whisk together the coffee and sour cream. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar alternating with the sour cream mixture. Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

To make the frosting: Cream the cheese and butter together. Add the chocolate , coffee and vanilla. Gradually beat in the sugar. Spread between the layers and over the top and sides of the cake.

Some notes: This cake will serve lots and lots of people…..maybe 20! It’s really rich and gloriously decadent. There is plenty of frosting to be generous – don’t skimp between the layers. Store it in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Don’t wait till Christmas to make this one!

Christmas 2011 - Beef Burgundy, Buttered Noodles, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cold Mediterranean Barley Salad

Last winter I went through a kind of barley craze. I made a fantastic Barley Mushroom Soup and also a Barley Mushroom Bake. (Sounds like a mushroom craze as well.) As a result, I have two boxes of unused barley sitting in my pantry.

I take much pride in the fact that I often create great meals using only pantry ingredients. In fact, a game I play with myself is to see how long I can go without grocery shopping – you know, clean out the freezer and the pantry and use every last veggie in the fridge. So when I was faced with using some of the barley, I stood up to the challenge.

Of course, living in the age of the internet and with the plethora of excellent food blogs, it’s not much of a challenge to find a decent recipe these days. This one comes from someone on and I tweaked it to my taste by adding pine nuts and almonds – both from my pantry and screaming to be used up!

This salad is excellent! Surprisingly good! The dressing would be killer on pasta or even a garden salad for that matter. I wish I had had feta cheese - it would have been the perfect addition!

Here’s what you need:
1 C barley (I used the quick cooking type)
7 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
½ C chopped cilantro
1 x 4 oz can chopped black olives
Pine nuts
Feta, if you have it!

Here’s what you do:
Prepare the barley according to the package. Allow to cool.
Make the dressing by blending the tomatoes, garlic, oil, and vinegar until smooth. Spoon over barley. Add the olives, cilantro, nuts and feta, if you have it! Mix well. Drizzle with more olive oil before serving. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Double Mushroom Quiche with Oatmeal Crust

Hello dear readers, 
In full disclosure, I want to mention that I am re-posting this recipe (Yes, I know that is blogging rule #1....NEVER re-post anything). But there is a good reason.... at the time of my original plans for this post, I was itching to change up the look of my blog, you know, experiment with all the cool stuff hidden in the 'layout' buttons on the margin of blogger.....well, I really went crazy with my updates, changing my blog so much that I actually got emails (more than a few) asking what was going on!  In the process, this lovely recipe was, if it seems like you may have read this before, you're not crazy! You have!  Since then, I have decided that the regular old layout is just fine for me. Please enjoy this one. 

As I’ve written here before, I am not a vegetarian, but I could easily be one because I am crazy for vegetarian meals. I have also confessed my obsession with mushrooms (click here for a shocking MUSHROOM  pizza.) So when a recipe calls for 8 ounces of mushrooms, I confidently round that up to 16 ounces.

You might find this crust to be a bit tricky, but it’s worth it. Use a Cuisinart and scrape all the moisture from the butter and the buttermilk from the corners of the bowl. Don’t over-process and roll it out only to 10 inches (use a measuring tape.) Another trick, be certain to use a 9 inch pan… not 9.5 and certainly not 10!

Enjoy this beautiful quiche and let me know if you can handle all those glorious mushrooms!

Here’s what you need for the crust:
¾ C rolled oats
½ C all-purpose flour
¼ t salt
3 T cold butter, cut in small squares
3 T cold low-fat buttermilk

Here’s what you need for the fililng:
3 t olive oil
1 large onion, sliced into thin rounds
16 ounces mushrooms – I used baby portabellas from the grocery store and regular button mushrooms from the back of my fridge.
½ t salt
Ground black pepper to taste
¼ t dry mustard
½ t dried thyme (or less if you’re not a thyme lover)
3 large eggs
3 egg whites
1 C fat-free evaporated milk (evaporated, not condensed)
2/3 C Gruyere cheese (or Swiss or Jarlsberg or Cheddar or Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack or Mozzeralla or even smoked Gouda)

 Here’s what you do: There are a lot of steps…..

Process the oats and flour for a few seconds, add the cubed butter and pulse until it looks like wet sand. Add the buttermilk and pulse for about a dozen times, until it looks like dough. Using a knife, scrape any moisture stuck in the corners of the bowl and re-pulse.

Remove dough to wax paper and form it into a ball. Place more wax paper over it and roll to 10 inch circle. 

Remove the top sheet of wax paper, and using the bottom sheet of wax paper, carefully, carefully place the dough into a prepared pie plate. (prepared means sprayed…. ) Bake at 400 degrees for about 9 minutes.

1. Sauté the onions slowly until nice and brown. 
2. Remove them and sauté the mushrooms. 
3. Mix together all the onions, mushrooms, spices.
4. Whip the eggs, egg whites and milk together 
5. Grate the cheese.

To assemble: Cheese first, then veggies, then slowly pour the egg mixture over – it’s OK if it escapes the confines of the crust.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until the middle is set and almost firm. Serve with something green. Potatoes would have been a nice go-with also. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Salmon: Michigan's Finest!

What a great surprise last week when my friend called and asked me if I wanted some fresh salmon! Look at that piece of fish! Caught that very morning! Take about's one of the best things about living near Lake Michigan. It came on the perfect day.... I had been super busy all week long, cooking at our church's Vacation Bible School - hot, sticky, exhausting and lots and lots of leftovers..... mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, sloppy joes, jello..... not an adult meal in sight! 

I used this huge guy in two fantastic meals. I mean we could have stretched him into more meals, but why not feast when you have the chance?!

Meal One: marinate in soy, brown sugar and lots of garlic; grill, eat.... I think we had a salad too. With a gorgeous piece of fish like this, you really don't need much other food. Save the leftovers for the next night.

Meal Two: garlic sauteed in olive oil with a shake or two of hot pepper flakes. Add some angel hair pasta and the salmon. Pour in about 1/2 C of heavy cream. Heat, serve, eat. No time for salad or veggies that night because it was way past 8:00 pm when we finally sat down to eat after being out on the boat all afternoon. Famished! 

Very cool spot in the Grand River that my hubby and I love - private, shallow, warm and clean water. Yes, that's really me, thinking about my salmon dinner. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cooking for 75- Double Cheese Baked Macaroni

Well, it’s that time of year again – Vacation Bible School – and some of you know what that means….. dinner for 75! Yes, I am the crazy person that volunteers to make dinner for the kiddos and the volunteers for 4 nights of VBS. Well, not crazy really… I call it blessed – I love it. Yes, it’s a lot of work; yes, it’s ridiculously hot; yes, my family gets ignored for a week, but it’s all for a higher cause, right? I have the best crew and that’s a huge secret to success. (Thanks crew!!)

Today I share my great recipe for Mac-n-Cheese. I have been making it this way forever.

I was grilling these babies at 9:00 in the morning - coffee in one hand, tongs in the other! 

Monday’s Menu:
Double Cheese Baked Macaroni
Grilled Polish Kielbasa
Fresh Green Beans
Sliced Melons
Dinner Rolls

Tuesday's Menu:
Sloppy Joes (the recipe is here)
Oven Fries (the recipe is here)
Veggie Tray
Sliced Oranges
Fruity Yogurt Pops (recipe coming soon!)

Here’s what you need (for 12 servings)
1 lb elbow macaroni
24 oz cottage cheese
½ C real butter
½ C flour
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
3 C half-and-half cream
1 C whole milk
4 C shredded cheddar cheese

Here’s what you do:
Prepare the macaroni according to the package. Blend the cottage cheese in your mixer to make it totally creamy and smooth. Create a white sauce: melt the butter, add the flour stirring continually, add the half-and-half and milk and continue to stir until thickened. In a big bowl, combine the pasta, the white sauce, the cottage cheese and the shredded cheddar. Stir well. Pour into a greased casserole and bake until brown and bubbly.

(printable recipe)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

lime ice cream

Hello blogger friends,
I am going way back in the vaults of my 'draft' folder to bring this to you today..... This was actually something I wrote 2 years ago.... yes, TWO years ago....I just never got around to posting it! I remember eating this as if it were yesterday - if you like lime, like I do, then you will love this. And I guess this one is still valid, I mean, it has been hotter than blazes around here lately. Plus, who doesn't love ice cream? 

This was unbelievable delicious! Fresh, creamy, quick, inexpensive and best of all low-cal! I used all low fat products and the result was really, really good. I have an older model Waring Brand Frozen Dessert Maker. While the ice cream was whirling around in the machine, I browsed through the little recipe book that came with the machine and I was surprised to see their lime ice cream has sugar, egg yolks, marshmallows, heavy cream and food dye..... I'm here to tell you, none of that is necessary. See below for proof!

Here's what you need:
1 1/2 C skim milk
3/4 C lime juice (recipe called for 2/3 C Key lime juice, which would be great)
1/2 C low-fat half and half
1/8 t salt
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk

(Since taking this photo, my poor old ice cream maker has hit the dust..... I would love another!! Who can recommend a good one? )

Here's what you do:
Mix it all together with a whisk, and while your machine is running, slowly pour in cold liquid. The electric part of my machine did not really work well today, so I ended up using the hand crank. The ice cream was ready in about 1/2 hour. I supposed you would have to follow the directions for your own machine, or get creative and freeze it the old fashioned way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spicy Thai Noodle Salad

A few weeks ago I was tagged to write the copy for a brand new spice set being sold on Spices.Inc. Did you have a chance to read what I said? I was very honored to have been chosen and super excited to see my words up on this excellent site. I called my spice set “College Kids Need Spices Too.” One of the spices I chose was dried cilantro. Please check it out right here, and if so inclined, make a purchase - no money comes back to me, it's just for fun. 

Now, I usually use fresh cilantro in my cooking; in fact, it’s one of my favorite flavors, but I decided to include the dried variety of cilantro in the set, because college kids (I have two at the moment) don’t really use fresh herbs. It’s not practical for their lifestyle. Can you picture a refrigerator in a college apartment filled with fresh herbs? No. I didn’t think so.

When I saw this recipe on The Weekend Gourmet, I knew I wanted to make it – and a big plus for me – it calls for dried cilantro! It packs a punch, so if you like lots of flavor, this salad is for you. Below you will find my version of this winner.

Here’s what you need:
2 packages of Ramen noodles without the spice pack, of course
¾ C smooth peanut butter
1/3 C soy sauce
3 T rice vinegar
1 T freshly grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer so it’s always on hand. You can actually grate it while it’s frozen – simple)
1 T Sriracha hot sauce (I love this stuff….other hot sauce would work too. This one is hot, so add it to taste.)
1 t honey
1/3 C starchy pasta water – or more
1 t dried cilantro (or more!)
2 t sesame oil – to drizzle over the pasta before adding the dressing
Sliced cucumber
Sliced carrot
Green onions
Sesame seeds for garnish

Here’s what you do:
Prepare the pasta, saving some of the water. Drain, cool, and flavor with the 2 t sesame oil.
Prepare the dressing, whisking everything to a beautiful consistency. I find this type of dressing to become very thick, so be sure to keep lots of pasta water in case you want to thin it out even more.
Slice the veggies and mix everything together. Garnish the salad with sesame seeds. It’s best to dress this salad immediately before serving.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chicken Satay

The first time I had this combination of flavors I was in the Netherlands of all places. I had never heard of the word ‘satay’ and I had never dreamed of creating a sauce with lime, peanut butter and coconut milk. I can tell you that this meal was the furthest thing from my mind when trying to imagine what would be on the Dutch menu. How wrong I was!

A major Social Studies lesson for my students is to understand the effects of cultural diffusion – you know, the sharing of ideas and customs between various peoples throughout the ages. Chicken Satay is a perfect example of cultural diffusion. I’ve come to learn that satay originated in Indonesia. You world history buffs probably remember that Indonesia was a Dutch colony back-in-the-day. The rest, as they say, is history…… meaning, the Dutch people took the awesome flavor combos they loved from the Indonesian diet and brought them back to Europe, where they are still being enjoyed today. (The Dutch people also got a hold of cocoa beans way, way back when they were being used by the ancient Aztec people. The ingenious Dutch people added sugar and milk to cocoa powder to create chocolate as we know it today…. another fine example of cultural diffusion. But enough with the history lessons! School’s out!)

What is satay you may be asking? A beautiful selection of meats skewered and grilled and served with a spicy peanut sauce. This one is easy enough to whip up after a day at work. It’s nice enough to serve to company. Just add some lime/cilantro rice and a bright vegetable and you have a complete meal.

Here’s what you need for the marinade:
¼ C soy sauce
¼ C lemon juice
2 T vegetable oil
1 T sugar
Lime zest
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

Here’s what you need for the peanut sauce:
2 heads garlic, minced very fine
1 shallot, minced very fine
2 T lime juice – use fresh!
1 T brown sugar
½ t coriander (or more….it’s citrusy, so we love it)
¼ t hot red pepper flakes (or more)
¾ C peanut butter
1 C coconut milk (lite is fine…. I sometimes use the entire can)

Here’s what you do:
Marinate the chicken in the soy, lemon juice, vegetable oil, sugar and lime zest for no more than 30 minutes. Arrange chicken on skewers, grill, baste with marinade.

Create the sauce by mincing the garlic and shallot. (You know what I’m going to suggest….. with the blade running on your processor, drop both the garlic and shallot down in there and you will get it perfectly minced every time!)

Add the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into a small sauce pan and heat slowly. Sometimes I strain out the bits of garlic and shallot, but that’s a personal preference.

Tonight I made regular rice and squeezed lots of lime juice over it. I also mixed in lots of fresh cilantro. This is a perfect side dish because you can drizzle (or pour) all that excellent sauce over the rice!

(printable recipe)