Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A moment of clarity

I wanted to take a moment to remember the fragility of life.

We often go into the world assuming we will return safely to our home and loved ones. But over the last 48 hours I am reminded God has a bigger plan for it all.

Please, when you leave your house today- remember it may be the last time you do so. Give your loved one a hug and kiss and tell them how much you love them. It may be the last time you get to do so. And if God's will is that you return to your humble home, say a quick prayer of thanks that He has given you another moment with those who you love the most here on earth.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

It doesn't always seem like a time to hope, but God can see far beyond what we can imagine.

Here's to you Nathan- may you rejoice in Heaven with God the Father for the rest of eternity as he smiles at you and says "Well done, my good and faithful son." We will see you someday when God calls us home as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stuffed Chicky

I had some leftover baby spring greens and fresh basil (from my grilled pizza) so I decided to make a variation of a stuffed chicken breast from one of my favorite cooking collections:The All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook. It's one of 3 new cookbooks I got back in April or May. I also have a subscription to Cooking Light Magazine. They are wonderful recipes and really get my creative juices flowing.

This recipe was a huge hit at my house. I wasn't sure about the sauce when I first mixed it together, but the flavors marry quite nicely as it reduces. A definate keeper in my book.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Serves 3

3 (5-6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 slices center cut bacon, fried and well drained
1/2 ounce shredded Swiss cheese
3/4 cup baby spring greens
3 large basil leaves, chiffonade
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2-1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cups dry white wine
1 1/8 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet. Discard plastic wrap.

Top each chicken breast half with 1/3 basil strips, 1/3 of the cheese, 1 strip bacon that has been cut in half (this makes it fit better) and 1/4 cup baby spring greens, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Secure seams with toothpicks.

Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan; bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes or until done. Keep warm.

To prepare sauce, add shallots to skillet; sauté 4 minutes over medium-high heat or until browned. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in wine and broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half. You are looking for a sauce that is thick and bubbly.

To serve: Make a bed of sauce and top with a chicken breast.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Out Door Fare

It has been hot here, in the mid to upper 80's and 80-95% humidity. I am not a fan of turning on any heat sources during the summer. (Excuse the pun, I know)

So, when I came across a recipe for grilled pizza I was all over it. This is a veggie pizza served warm, not hot. Jon and I are going to add some grilled chicken next time to add some protein. But a great pizza as is.

GARDEN UPDATE: Things are going great in the square foot garden. Plants and seedlings are growing quickly. They like the recent warm, humid weather. I have high hopes for fresh produce. Photos soon!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Grilled Salad Pizza
Serves 4

1 refrigerated pizza crust
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped trimmed arugula (about 4 ounces)*
1 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard
2 tsp olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
OPT: grilled chicken strips

Heat a grill grate coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Place dough directly on grill; cook until golden brown. DO NOT WALK AWAY, it will burn quickly if left unattended.

Turn dough over; sprinkle with mozzarella, herbs, and Parmesan. Cook until cheese melts, again, don't walk away or it will burn. Remove from grill.

Combine oil, arugula, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon salad onto pizza crust using a slotted spoon. Cut pizza into 8 wedges. Serve immediately.

* I used baby spring greens which was a blend of arugula, baby lettuces, endive, and radicchio.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fruity Fun

I have had a sweet craving lately. Not usual for me, I usually enjoy snacks from the salty family. But today I decided to make fruit salad after a stop at the fruit stand down the street.

People ask me for my fruit salad recipe all the time. Truth is, I don't have a recipe. I get fruit that is in season and add about 2 TBS of sugar, a little more or less depending on the fruit. If I have maple syrup on hand I like to use that as a replacement for most of the sugar.

For a chocolaty twist: over plain fruit salad, drizzle a tiny bit of dark chocolate syrup.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Here are the two salads I do regularly based on my tastes:

Fruit Salad for a few

1 apple, cored and peeled, chopped
2 bananas, sliced
1 large nectarine, chopped
strawberries, halved
large raspberries
seedless grapes, halved
1/2 TBS sugar
1 TBS pure maple sugar

Gently mix together in a large glass bowl. Let set at least 30 minutes before serving.

Creamy Fruit Salad

Bananas, sliced
grapes, halved
strawberries, halved
plums, peeled and chopped
canned Mandarin oranges, drained
1 box sugar free vanilla pudding
4-8 oz light cool whip

Gently fold together pudding mix and 4 oz cool whip. Add in fruit. GENTLY fold to combine. Add cool whip as needed to get a creamy consistency. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Going nuts for nuts!

Back around graduation time, a gal I have met through my work adventures had me sample some granola she had made. I haven't been able to get the wonderful flavors out of my head. So I finally emailed her the other day and asked if she would mind sharing her recipe with me. She was so kind as to send it home with a coworker for me yesterday! I was so excited to try the recipe today, but I got home and realized I didn't have any raisins or peanuts. :(

But I came up with my own substitutions that worked just as well. Go ahead, Go NUTS!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Granola Bars
Serves 9

1/4 cup chopped pecans*
1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
4 archer farms organic strawberry fruit leather, chopped*
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup puffed rice cereal
1/8 cup wheat germ

For syrup:
1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter, smooth style
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 cup light corn syrup
1/8 cup honey
1 TBS pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla

Coat a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine nuts, fruit leather, cereals, and wheat germ. Set aside.

To make the syrup-
Combine all the "for syrup" ingredients except the vanilla in a small bowl. Microwave 1-2 minutes until bubbly. Add vanilla. Stir well.

Mix together syrup and granola. Once slightly cooled, you may want to spray your hands with cooking spray and kneed the mix a bit more until well incorporated.

Pour into the prepared pan. Press down firmly. Let set one hour to harden. Cut into 9 bars.

Points of interest to the cook:

*The original recipe calls for 1/4 dry roasted peanuts and 1 cup raisins.

The original recipe gives the choice between 1/4 cup corn syrup or honey instead of 1/8 cup of each.

I love maple syrup. I always have some on hand so I decided to add a tablespoon to my mix. It was a great compliment to the flavors.

This is a very adaptable recipe. Go ahead and play with the flavors to find what you like best. Can be doubled easily.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A house warming aroma

It was cold today. 68-70 and rain, yep, that is cold. I needed to warm up the house a bit so I decided to make braised chicken quarters.

I have made this recipe a few times and found that you can easily change up the veggies in the broth to fit your tastes. This time was my first time using parsnips, I enjoyed the sweet flavor it added to the broth. You can use turnips in place of parsnips, but I couldn't find any the day I went shopping.

Serve with some boiled fingerling potatoes lightly tossed with a smidgen of butter, salt, and pepper. I like to eat my garnish so I use tomato slices to add color to my plates.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Braised Chicken with Veggies
Serves 2

2 chicken quarters, skin removed
14 oz chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 TBS butter or margarine
salt and pepper
3 parsnips, peeled and chunked
2 large carrots, peeled and chunked
1 medium sweet vidalia onion, peeled and chunked
1 handful frozen, shelled peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 TBS fresh chives, snipped small
1 TBS fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Lightly salt and pepper chicken.

In a small stock pot, melt the butter, allow to brown slightly. Add skinned, seasoned chicken quarters. Brown on both sides. Remove from pot.

Add wine to deglaze pot, be sure to scrape up all the yummy brown bits.

Add remaining ingredients through chives, setting aside parsley. Return chicken to pot, nestling the meat into the stock and veggies. Cover and simmer 20-25 minutes until chicken is no longer pink.

Here's where you can go one of two directions with this dish:

Remove bay leaves and veggies. Set chicken aside. Reduce stock slightly and drizzle over meat. Sprinkle with parsley.


If you use bigger chunks of veggies you can keep them as part of the meal. In this case, leave the peas out until you are finishing off the veggies so they don't overcook:

Remove and discard bay leaves. Remove chicken, set aside, keep warm. Add peas to pot. Simmer, covered until veggies are finished cooking. Serve in a bowl along side chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We have dirt

As promised, here are some more photos of my square foot garden:

First things first, line the bottomless box with landscape fabric. Staple in place as you go. Make sure there is plenty of slack in the fabric so you can put the dirt in without tearing the fabric. Fill with a combination of organic compost and organic gardeners soil. Mix blood meal in with the top 3 inches of dirt.

Mark your grid off in 1'x1' sections. I used twine so I could maneuver it if needed, but you can certainly make a permanent grid if you prefer.

Plant your crops. And yes, kiddies, these are green beans. In their own little holes, not scattered all over the yard or thrown carelessly down a trough.

Water all your newly planted veggies. Mark each grid square with plastic markers so you know what you planted where.

Add deer netting or chicken wire to the outer posts in order to keep bunnies and deer out of your newly planted garden.

So there it is folks. Planted and ready to go. My crops are: 4 varieties of tomato, 2 varieties of bush cucumbers, sugar snap peas, basil, dill, parsley, carrots, green beans, 2 varieties of lettuce, and arugula. We shall see what happens. I am optimistic. Jon and I are already deciding what to plant next year! Kohlrabi, kale, and garlic are on the list to try.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spring Pasta

My brother sent me a recipe for a pasta dish using local ingredients from around his home in Germany. Unfortunately, it isn't quite as easy to get the same things around my town as his. So I made some substitutions based on what we had at our local farmers market. The result was fantastic. Use what is in season and what has been processed the least amount as possible for the freshest flavors.

Thank you to my brother for the great recipe! I look forward to trying yours as you've written.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Spring Pasta
Serves 2

3 1/2 oz penne (tube shaped pasta) or radiatori (nugget shaped pasta)
1 cup rough chopped baby spinach, stems and all*
1/2 cup diced vine ripe tomatoes
2 1/2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
sea salt
fresh cracked black or lemon pepper
juices squeezed from 1/2 lemon
1/2-1 tsp olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Return to hot pan tossing with remaining ingredients. Allow spinach to wilt slightly. Serve immediately.

*My brother's recipe calls for arugula. It is not in season yet where I live so I used baby spinach. Arugula is a peppery green with lemon undertones which is why I added lemon pepper and lemon juice.

You can easily add navy, pinto, or black beans to this dish to have a more substantial dish. Another protein option: 2 oz leftover, grilled sirloin steak. Simply dice small and toss with pasta.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They all disappear from view

Tonight was wonderful. It was a very productive night for me. I have had a messy (OK messy by my standards, immaculate by my husband's) house for weeks. I decided it was time to tackle those projects no one really likes- you know dusting, cleaning the cobwebs off the ceilings, picking up dust bunnies from under the beds and on the vents. Oh yea, who could forget: dishes, laundry, litter box clean-up, and the bathroom among other things.

How did I happily complete these mind numbing tasks? With a great meal to fill my belly, a nice glass of moscato wine, and GREAT tunes. When I say great, I mean great. Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Glen Miller Band, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Best of the Big Bands...OK Mom, if you are reading this, I have NO IDEA how the CDs ended up at my house and not yours....honestly.... (Someone else look, is she buying it?)

Moving right along. I have truly come to appreciate the things I have in this life. Good food, good friends, an amazing husband, and an incredible God to worship with a great church family. I must say, God is Good.

Tonight has been about letting all the other things in my daily life that distract me from God disappear from view and just be in His mighty presence. I needed to be alone with my Father and enjoy the intimate relationship we share. In doing that I find complete joy in all I do, even, cleaning up dust bunnies.

So tonight I say to you:

Here's to you and your culinary adventures. But also, here's to letting all the stuff that distracts us in life disappear from view once in a while- Cheers.

Tonights belly filling meal was marinated, grilled flank steak, mock risotto, and steamed brussle sprouts.

Quick Mixing Marinade

3 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS low sodium soy sauce
1 TBS lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 1/2 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients well. Let meat marinate for at least 1 hour. Great for grilled steak.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dry Rub BBQ Chicky

A two part seasoning process makes this chicken juicy and burst with flavor. Great for summer, you can choose to prepare the chicken on the grill instead of in the oven.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Dry Rub BBQ Chicken
Serves 2

2 chicken quarters
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp season salt

BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 TBS cider vinegar
1 TBS honey
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Remove any excess fat from the legs. Leave the skin on. Loosen skin by inserting fingers and gently pushing between the skin and meat to create a pocket.

Mix together remaining chicken spices. Rub spice mix under loosened skin, press skin down gently to secure.

Bake in a 375 degree, preheated oven for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare BBQ sauce. Mix all BBQ sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer over medium heat about 15 minutes. Stir frequently.

After chicken has baked 45 minutes, remove skin and discard. Brush chicken with a tablespoon or so of the BBQ sauce. Return to oven, broil 5-10 minutes to slightly caramelize sugars.

Serve with remaining sauce.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My un-potato salad

I don't like potato salad. It's too mayo-y and heavy for me. And it usually swims in that mayo and mustard combo, drowning. And then you add eggs to the party. It just screams indigestion to me. No thank you.

That is why I've been searching for my own personal un-potato salad. One that is light in flavor and calories. I finally found it! I tweaked a few recipes and finally came up with a combination I love. I use half miracle whip and half light sour cream for the base of the dressing. Add some fresh veggies and herbs and you've a got a dish even the pickiest potato salad eaters can enjoy.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Creamy Potato Salad
Serves 2-3


1/8 cup light miracle
1/8 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse ground mustard (just eyeball it please)
1/8 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked black pepper


2 cups fingerling gold potatoes (about ¾ pounds)
1/8 cup finely diced celery
1/8 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 TBS chopped fresh chives

To prepare the dressing, combine dressing ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add peas, celery and chives.

Cut potatoes into bite size pieces. Cover with water. Lightly salt water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, Do Not Overcook. Drain and cool slightly.

Add potatoes to dressing bowl and toss well to coat. Cover and chill well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Space Cabbage

I grew up with Ren and Stimpy. Yea, I know, it explains a lot about me.

Anyway, I want to revisit a cartoon about an abusive chihuahua and his ever loyal best friend, an incredibly stupid cat. There is one episode that still sticks out in my head. It comes up every time I make a cabbage dish. It's call "Marooned." Ren and Stimpy have become marooned on a distant planet and are looking for food. Stimpy has found some space cabbage and has prepared it for his buddy. Ren asks what is for dinner. Stimpy proudly removes the lid to the platter and announces- It's space cabbage, and it's stinky! Just how you like it!

If you would like to watch it, I have included a link:


I made unstuffed sarmas for dinner the other night. Jon isn't a fan. He likes cabbage, he likes meat. Just not all together. It's a texture thing mostly. I made a great light version with turkey instead of pork and hamburger. Jon asked what was for dinner, I couldn't help myself, I replied- "I have a surprise for you! Space cabbage, and it's stinky! Just how you like it!" He got the reference and giggled.

They were fantastic. I had some for leftovers for lunch. Try them, at least once in your life. You might find you like them. It was a great treat for me.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Sarma Casserole
Serves 4

1/2 lb lean ground turkey
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup uncooked Instant Rice
½ small onion, chopped
1 can diced Tomatoes- fire roasted
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 small head Cabbage – sliced*
8 oz can FRANKS sauerkraut

Preheat oven to 375

Brown ground meat with onion and garlic in skillet stirring and crumbling the meat as it cooks.

While meat browns, cut cabbage into wedges and then slice each wedge to make small, but not tiny, shreds.

To cooked meat, add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, uncooked rice, and salt/pepper to taste. Allow to simmer briefly. Add water if the mixture seems to need it. The rice will absorb approximately 1/2 cup of liquid.

Place a layer of cabbage in a large prepared casserole. Cover the cabbage with a layer of the meat/rice/tomato mixture. Top with some sauerkraut. Repeat layers till all ingredients are used up. Try to end with a meat mixture layer.

Bake covered about an hour. Allow to set 5-10 minutes before serving.

* You can use preshredded cole slaw mix if you are in a pinch, I prefer just a small head of green cabbage.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thinking outside of the box

I wanted lasagna. I mean, I REALLY wanted lasagna. It's super heavy in calories. My solution? Find a light lasagna in my cooking light cookbook. Bingo!

This is a white sauce lasagna with ham and chicken in it. Delicious and easy.

Give it a whirl-

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ham and Chicken Lasagna
Serves 4

· 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
· ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 8-10 oz canned chicken, drained and slightly shredded
· 1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
· 1 heaping TBS flour
· 3 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
· 2 TBS chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried
· Cooking spray
· 6 no-cook lasagna noodles
· 4 ounces 96% fat-free deli ham, chopped, divided
· Mozzarella to sprinkle over the top (about 1/2 cup fine shredded)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine milk, flour, and pepper in a bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to broth in a saucepan.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cheese and parsley, stirring until cheese melts.

Combine ham and chicken.

Spread 1 ladle of sauce over bottom of a small baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Arrange 2 lasagna noodles over sauce. Spoon 1 to 2 ladles of sauce evenly over noodles. Top evenly with one-third ham and chicken. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil very lightly coated with cooking spray; bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove and discard foil; bake 10 minutes or until the cheese lightly browns. Let set 5-10 minutes before cutting into 4 even pieces.