Monday, May 31, 2010

Gone Fishin

I don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen during the summer, I prefer to be out gardening, fishing, swimming, and hiking. As a result we do a lot of quick grilled meals. But, the same old sides get boring really fast. Once in a while I like to mix it up and throw in a pasta or rice side. The problem is store bought sides are loaded with sodium. I want flavor, not salt.

I came up with this homemade version of rice a roni at Jon's request. And you know what? It turned out pretty good! We've had it a few times over the last couple of months so I am finally ready to share it with you.

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

Mock Rice-a-roni
Serves 3
165 calories per

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white rice
1/4 cup angel hair pasta, broken into small pieces
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 TBS Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup chopped pecans

In a medium sized pot, saute onion, garlic, and pasta in olive oil until golden brown.

Add rice, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, water, and broth to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer.
Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pecans. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Holy Cannoli

First of all, the garden is planted!!!! WOOHOO! This year we have: 6 varieties of tomatoes, 4 green bell peppers, carrots, green beans, onions, parsley, basil, kale, kohlrabi, spinach, and cucumbers. I am super excited for another summer of fresh veg.

Ok, in other news, I am 100% in love with the "unseasonably warm weather" we are getting. High humidity, 90 degrees, and sunny. YAY! We got the lawn mowed at my mother-in-laws today, got the garden planted, weeded the flower bed of lily's, and generally just sucked up the beautiful weather we've been blessed with.

Seriously, I live in the wrong part of the country! I would love to see this weather all summer long. It makes me happy to my very core. Even the constant hum of all the whining northerners can't burst my bubble. I just smile and enjoy the dampness on my skin.

When it gets warm out I start looking for sweet treats for some reason. Usually fresh, in season fruit does the trick. But, lately I have been craving bakery treats. Not so healthy. So I turned to my Hungry Girl cookbook. I found a recipe for cannolis. There was no escaping it, I HAD to have them. I worked them into my menu and made them tonight. They are creamy, sweet, and satisfying. Best of all? Only 134 calories per! No baking either, perfect for hot summer days.

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

Holy Moly Cannoli Cones
Serves 6
134 calories per

6 sugar ice cream cones (like the kind by Keebler)
1 cup plus 2 TBS fat-free ricotta cheese
2/3 cup Cool Whip Free, thawed
2 1/2 TBS Splenda granular
2 TBS semisweet mini chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 TBS fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 TBS powdered sugar

Place all ingredients except the cones and chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until mixture is fully combined and fluffy.

Fold in half of the chocolate chips.

Gently scoop 1/6th of the filling into each cone.

Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips evenly on top of the filling in each cone.

Not serving six? Make the filling in a bowl and scored into 6. Spoon 1/6th of the filling into your cone when you are ready to eat. This keeps the cones from getting soggy.

On a personal note, I think chocolate pudding mix would be tasty too. I did up the pudding mix in mine to about 2-2 1/2 TBS because it was a little more creamy consistency.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bacon mmmmm

Jon loves bacon. Seriously. His life would be so dull if he didn't have bacon. He tells me his goal to to be like "Pops" from the movie Grumpy Old Men. At one point Pops is grocery shopping with his son and grabs about a dozen packs of bacon, throws them in the cart, and declares, "I'm done."

This is Jon's idea of grocery shopping as well. We stand at the wall-o-bacon for a good 5-10 minutes every single Monday when we go get groceries. If you are ever looking for us in a grocery store, check the bacon wall first. (Followed by the cheese wall, which is my favorite...)

Jon constantly quotes this scene from Grumpier Old Men between Pops and his son John to me:

Pops: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John: Bacon.
Pops: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should've took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I'm still here. Ha! And they keep dyin'. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: What?
Pops: Huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Pops: Well it just goes... what the hell are you talkin' about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
Pops: Yeah?
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Pops: No, there ain't no moral. I just like that story. That's all. Like that story.

I suppose it's the simple things in life right?

Well, I try to incorporate bacon into things for him once and a while. I found a recipe for an appetizer that has bacon and cheese wrapped in puff pastry. I made it, changed it a bit, and now proudly present it to you :)

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

Bacon & Chicken Pockets
Makes 32
56 calories per pocket

8oz light Chive & Onion flavor Cream Cheese
1/2 c shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
12oz can dice chicken breast in water, drained
1/3 c cooked crumbled bacon- Oscar Meyer real bacon bits work well
2 TBS finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
32 wonton skins, such as Nasoya (usually found in the produce section)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Warm cream cheese in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to soften.

Place in a mixing bowl with mozzarella cheese, chicken, bacon, and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir to combine and set aside.

Get a small bowl of water and set to the side near a clean work surface. Take out 3-4 wonton skins. Place 2 tsp of filling on each wonton. Dip clean fingers in the water and run along the edges of the wonton. Fold corner to corner to make a triangle shaped pocket. Press the three seams to seal. You may want to gently press the seams with a fork to secure.

Place on a prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until finished. Spritz lightly with cooking spray. Bake 10-15 minutes until the wontons are golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spring Soup

It is a beautiful day for fishing opener! The sun is shining, it's 72 degrees, and the wind is minimal. Perfect :)

Earlier this week was not so perfect. The rain came and just kept coming. We needed it though, so I tried to embrace the rain.

I decided we needed to warm things up a bit so I made a quick cabbage soup. I combined several recipes to come up with the one I am sharing today.

I had some leftover soup for lunch today. I paired it with a slice of honey oatmeal bread I picked up at the farmer's market this morning. It was filling and yummy!

I also snagged some tomato plants for my garden while I was wandering the market. I can hardly wait to get them into the ground! So, in the near future be looking for garden 2010 updates!

Off to enjoy the sun and see if I can't entice some fishies to become my dinner.

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

Quick Cabbage Soup
Serves 6
110 calories

8oz lean ground turkey
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
1 ½ cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrot, diced
1 box Swanson reduced sodium chicken stock(3 cups)
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
8oz Franks Kraut
3 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp dry Italian Seasoning
salt and pepper

Spray a soup pot with cooking spray. Lightly caramelize the onions. Add turkey. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add carrot, stock, tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and cabbage to pot. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add sauerkraut and simmer 5 more minutes.

Serve warm.

Soup gets better the longer it sits as the flavors get a chance to mingle.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Home cookin'

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Old saying, but still true.

I love to cook for my family. My husband always says it was one of the reasons he couldn't live without me.

I made lasagna for him tonight. It was delightful.

And, that my friends, is the end of this tale. I cooked, we ate, I spoke using my love language- feeding the body and the soul.

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

Turkey Lasagna
Serves 8
323 calories per serving

8 lasagna noodles, cooked
8 oz extra lean ground turkey(or extra lean ground beef)
1/2 small onion, diced
3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
1 can hunts spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Brown turkey and onion together. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, and Italian seasoning together in a small bowl.

*In an 11x7 baking dish, ladle in 1/4 of the spaghetti sauce. Top with 2 noodles. Ladle in 1/4 of the sauce. Top with 1/2 the meat, 1/2 the cottage cheese, 1/3 of the mozzarella. Top with 3 noodles. Repeat starting with sauce.

End with the final ladle of sauce and remaining 1/3 of mozzarella. Cover and bake 1 hour.

Remove foil and bake 10 minutes. Cool and allow to set for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into 8.

*Diagram of lasagna from top to bottom:

Remaining mozzarella cheese & 1/4 sauce
3 noodles
1/2 meat;1/2 cottage cheese;1/3 mozzarella;1/4 sauce
3 noodles
1/2 meat;1/2 cottage cheese;1/3 mozzarella; 1/4 sauce
2 noodles
1/4 sauce

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peachy Keen

When I was in high school my mom would go to work meetings and potlucks. I always enjoyed baking treats for her to bring. Well, one time she surprised me and brought a recipe home to me. She told me something along the lines of you won't believe how amazing this dessert is! And, it only has 3 ingredients!

I was very skeptical. So, we bought the three ingredients. We made the dessert. It was fantastic.

So, now, every once in a while I make this delightful little treat. Since there are only three ingredients it is perfect for company. Serve warm with ice cream for a little something extra special.

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

Peachy Keen
Serves 16
198 calories per serving

1 (18.25 oz)box Pecan Brickle, or Yellow Cake mix
2 (15oz) cans sliced peaches in 100% juice, undrained
1 stick I can't believe it's not butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Cut peaches into chunks. Add juice and peaches to baking dish. Sprinkle dry cake mix over the peaches and juice.

Either cut up the butter and dot the entire cake OR melt the butter and drizzle over all.

Bake for 1 hour.

Cool, cut, and enjoy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easy Peasy

Sometimes I want a super easy meal. A lot of times that means meatless. I am a big fan of Boca products, particularly Boca Chik'n patties. They are super versatile. You can eat them alone, on a bun as a sandwich, or diced up as a healthy chicken replacement.

Jon is a big pizza fan. We make pita pizzas at home so that we can each make whatever type we want.

Basically it is just pita, sauce, and toppin's. Jon's favorite basic pizza is pepperoni, bacon, and green bell pepper. Mine is mushroom and diced ham.

First I will outline the basic steps for making pita pizzas, then I will offer up some different combinations.

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

Pita Pizzas
Basic directions

Pita bread rounds- whole wheat work really well for this recipe
toppings of choice- these need to be cooked through, you are just warming them up

Preheat the broiler in an oven to 450 degrees. If you have electric oven, leave the door cracked to keep the element on.

Place pitas directly on the rack. Keep and eye on the pitas and lightly brown one side of the pita. Remove from oven with tongs being careful not to tear the pitas.

Flip pita over so the soft side is up. Place toppings on the pita. Broil until toppings are warmed through and cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and cool slightly. To do this step, you can use a pizza peel or slide them onto a baking sheet. Cut into 4 wedges.

You can also do these on a grill: preheat grill to medium high heat. Follow the same procedure- crisp up one side. Flip, top and return to grill. Close the lid in order to melt the cheese and warm through.

Here are some of our "fancy" pitas:

Philly Pita: light Alfredo sauce, thin sliced steak(leftover is great), sauteed onion and bell peppers, fresh mushrooms, and mozzarella.

Chicken Bacon Artichoke Pita: light Alfredo sauce, grilled chicken pieces, crumbled bacon, fresh spinach, canned artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, and a smidgen of mozzarella.

Hot Chik'n Pita: spread a wedge of light laughing cow cheese over pita. Cook and dice a Boca Chik'n patty then coat in Franks Hot wing Sauce, sprinkle over pita. Top with a cheddar and mozzarella mix. Drizzle with ranch and additional hot sauce if desired when done cooking.

Garden Pita: No sauce! chopped canned artichoke hearts, chopped sun dried or fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese. Top with fresh spring greens (toss in a balsamic/olive oil/coarse ground mustard vinegrette). Fresh baby basil is awesome on this.

BBQ Chik'n Pita: BBQ sauce, cooked and diced Boca Chik'n patty, sauteed onion, cheddar and mozzarella cheese. (Leftover pulled pork is good instead of chik'n for a BBQ pork pita)

Seafood Pita: light Alfredo sauce, chopped shrimp, imitation crab meat, Italian seasoning, fresh diced tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.

Chicken Cordon Blue Pita: light Alredo sauce, diced ham, diced chicken, shredded Swiss cheese. Finish with fresh chopped chives.

Mexican Pita: cheddar cheese, taco meat, sauteed onion, bell pepper. Once you cooked the pizza, top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sweet banana peppers, drizzle with sour cream that has been thinned out slightly with skim milk.

Breakfast Pita: Spread a wedge of light laughing cow cheese on the pita. Top with scrambled egg, diced ham, bacon, or sausage, sauteed onion and bell pepper, and a smidgen of mozzarella. Top with fresh, diced tomato when finished cooking.

Adam's Pizza Pita: red sauce, turkey pepperoni, canned corn (drained well), mozzarella. No joke, this pizza is super good!

Mushroom and Ham Pita: Spread a wedge of tomato basil mozzarella Laughing Cow Light cheese over your pita. Top with sauteed ham and onion. Dice an artichoke heart(packed in water, drained well) and sprinkle over ham. Slice some fresh mushrooms and spread evenly over all. Top with a little mozzarella.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Leftovers get a makeover

I cook from scratch nearly every night at my house.

Eating out is a very rare treat. We are talking maybe once every 2 months do we eat at a restaurant, and usually it's Subway. Actual sit down restaurants like Red Lobster, Ground Round, Applebees? Maybe 3/4 times a year.

When you eat at home that often you need to be creative with what you feed your family. I like to add variety to life. The other day we had tacos. I had half a pound of meat left and so I decided to give it new life. So, two birds one stone: I saved money by not purchasing meat for a separate meal AND a tasty new taste creation. Yay!

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

Taco Bites
Makes 24
Approximately 50 calories per bite

24 square wonton skins/wraps
1 TBS butter, melted
8 oz extra lean ground turkey
3 TBS 40% reduced sodium taco seasoning (1/2 packet)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 TBS light sour cream
diced tomatoes
shredded lettuce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F)

With a pastry brush, lightly brush both sides of each wonton square with melted butter and gently press into mini muffin cups.

Bake 8 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven. Leave in muffin tin.

While the cups are baking, brown turkey. Add 1/2 cup water and the 3 TBS taco seasoning. Simmer until thickened. Remove from heat.

Using a small spoon or scoop, fill each baked wonton cup with a rounded scoop of taco meat.

Once all the cups are full, bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until filling is hot and bubbling around edges.

Top evenly with cheese. Add diced tomatoes and lettuce. Finally, top with 1/2 tsp of sour cream.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The lobster dance

My loving husband and I had a wonderful anniversary. We ended up hiking in Gooseberry Falls. It was all I could have hoped for.

I woke up to tulips, our wedding flower, and roses. Since the 2nd anniversary is cotton I was gifted a Twins shirt and matching flip flops. I was touched by the thought that went into the gifts.

We drove to the Falls and hiked for a couple of hours. Enjoying the nature that surrounded us.

After taking in the beauty we drove along the North Shore of Lake Superior to Duluth. We ate at one of my favorite restaurants- Red Lobster. My sweet husband told me I could even pick out a lobster from the tank if I wanted. I declined. This time. ;)

We both smiled from the moment we woke up to the moment we fell asleep in each others arms. It was a day as magical as our first day as a married couple.

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

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Showers

We have been blessed with an early spring here in MN. We didn't have snow the entire month of March, something that hasn't happened for 100 years (no exaggeration.) April followed suit giving us none of the white stuff. Now, as happy as that makes me, we desperately needed some water to fall from the sky.

Well, finally the skies opened up gave the earth a nice drink. The greenery is now changing to a lovely deep, healthy green. I am loving Spring.

What else happens in spring? Grilling of course! I wanted to make grilled ribs last night, but alas, it was raining. So, I went with plan B- oven baked ribs. I made Jon's favorite ribs, you would never know they weren't done on a grill.

I have included specific brands for this recipe- the brands we prefer. Feel free to use your own favorite rubs and sauces.

The cook time on these is about 2 1/2 hours total. The ribs come out very moist and tender. YUM!

Happy May Day to all!

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

Oven Baked Ribs
Serves 8-10, 1rib each

Approximately 4 lbs bone-in country style pork ribs (Beef ribs also work)
Mccormick Grill Mates Pork Rub
19oz bottle of Jack Daniel's Hickory BBQ sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Preheat oven to 250. Yes, 250.

Rub ribs with liquid smoke.

Place ribs in a 9x13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle all sides of the ribs with rub. I use about 2-3 TBS, I don't measure it out. You are looking to just lightly coat the entire rib.

Add enough water to come half way up the ribs. Tent lightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour.

Turn ribs over. Leave uncovered and bake 1 hour.

Drain most of the liquid from the ribs. Pour BBQ sauce over ribs. Using a pastry brush coat each rib.

Turn heat up to 400. Bake for 30-40 minutes until ribs are cooked through.