Saturday, July 31, 2010

Super Sides to the rescue

First piece of business. Mom, I must continue your Birthday Mania! and say to you-Happy Birthday.


Ok, moving on....

So, most of my posts are for a main dish or dessert. Once in a while I like to throw a snack or side dish in the mix to liven things up a bit.

Well, today is one of those days. We had grilled pork loin chops today for dinner. They were wonderful. After a quick seasoning of Adobo seasoning and a bit of black pepper those chops were ready to cook.

The question remained what to serve with the meat besides steamed green beans picked from the garden. Hmmm.

I was looking for something really simple, but not the same old same old. I went through the list:

Rice, no.

Pasta, no.

Potatoes, no.

Then it came to me. Couscous.

Here's the lesson in couscous from Wikipedia:Couscous granules are made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour. The finished granules are roughly spherical shape and about one millimetre in diameter before cooking.

I have shared other recipes for things such as Israeli Couscous soup that use a much larger diameter granule. What is being used for tonight's recipe is the 5 minute variety.

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

Couscous and Veggies
Serves 3

1 cup chicken stock
1 TBS margarine or butter
3/4 cup quick cooking, plain couscous
1 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2-3 artichoke hearts, canned in water, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, simmer stock and margarine. Once liquid comes to a simmer add couscous. Remove from heat and cover immediately.

Let sit for 5-6 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Gently add in all remaining ingredients.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shout out!

So you all know that I eat healthy. I praise every chance I get. My doctor is now well acquainted with the site and has recommended it to several other patients. Some folks from my work place have tried it and been very successful by all reports as well.

I closely monitor certain nutrients in my diet which has prompted me to go in search of additional resources for recipes.

My friend Kate always comes through when it comes to food blogs. She turned me onto a blog based on the Weight Watcher's program. Although I don't follow WW, I do enjoy many of their recipes.

So here's my shout out: you absolutely must check out

She has some fantastic recipes. I warned Jon that we've got a lot of new things to try. I showed him the pictures and he was grinning ear to ear. Ya, they look that good.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fresh Basil

I went to visit the garden the other day. It's gorgeous! The beans will be ready to pick this weekend. I can hardly contain myself I am so excited. :)

To tide myself over in the mean time, I am using up some fresh baby basil bunches I picked.

By now you all know I love the pairing of tomato and basil. My tomatoes aren't ready yet, but the farmers market has an abundance of ripe cherry and grape varieties.

I pulled out an old favorite from my summer recipes box the other day. It was the perfect fit for my fresh ingredients.

This recipe originally came from a Cooking Light 15 Minutes or Less cookbook. It is a great fusion of summer flavors, fast.

I am not a fan of olives as a general rule, but I do enjoy kalamata olives once in a while. They have a wonderfully meaty flavor to them. You can substitute black olives in a pinch, but I highly recommend holding out for kalamatas.

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

Chicken with Tomato, Basil, and Feta
Serves 4
273 cal per serving

4 (6oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
16 pitted kalamata olives, halved
3 TBS light balsamic vinaigrette
3 TBS crumbled feta cheese
3 TBS baby basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

*Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Cook chicken about 6-7 minutes on each side until no longer pink. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Combine tomatoes, olives and vinaigrette in a bowl. Add the mixture to the hot pan. Cook until tomatoes soften, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Spoon tomatoes over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese and basil.

Best served with orzo pasta that has been cooked in chicken stock. Sprinkle the pasta with toasted pine nuts or toasted chopped pecans.

* You can grill the chicken on an outdoor grill for a smoky flavor. Make sure you oil the grate first so the chicken doesn't stick.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Time Crock-pot-ery

So no one thinks of Crock Pot dishes in the summer. It's a winter appliance right? Wrong.

Yes, these little wonders do make delectable soups and stews. And sometimes, for special occasions, fantastic chocolate lava cakes... But, they also make a great indoor BBQ chicken!

The best thing about this recipe is it is toss and go. Turn it on low in the morning, then you don't have to heat up the kitchen or fumble around with a grill when you get home in the evening.

Jon and I both gave this a huge thumbs up. Its really good on a hoagie roll with a thin slice of Swiss or monterey jack cheese. The leftovers are phenomenal!

In garden news, the kale harvest went spectacularly! I have kale coming out my ears!

All the plants are doing great. Little baby beans are hanging tenderly under their leaf umbrellas. The tomatoes are all budding little green globes. I have flowers on my bell peppers! I have hopes to get a few little ones this summer. Kohlrabi is getting huge. It's sort of enveloping the onions... The cucumbers are starting to wind their way up the chicken wire fence. The carrots are still itty bitty, but they are definitely carrots :) And last but not least, the herbs are smelling fragrant, especially after the rains.

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

Crock Pot BBQ Chicken

3 FROZEN skinless, boneless chicken breasts
6-8 oz Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 clove minced garlic
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS liquid smoke
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
Kosher Salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Set chicken aside for a moment.

Mix all other ingredients together in the crock pot.

Gently push the chicken into the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Crack lid on crock pot for 1 additional hour.

Remove chicken and allow to cool for a few minutes. Shred with two forks. Return to sauce. Warm back through.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Triple F throwdown

Triple F= Fun Food Find.

It's cherry season. More specifically it's Mt. Rainier Cherry season.

I like fresh cherries. Give them a good rinse and eat. Nothing better. My favorite part is spitting the pits into a glass bowl and hearing the TING! :) It's the simple things in life...

When you say cherries people most often think of Bing cherries: two bright red cherries most often still connected by the stems. They can be very sweet, almost overly sweet for my taste.

Mt. Rainier cherries, however, are golden cherries with a pink blush. They are just sweet enough to not be tart. They are only available for a short time in July and they often fly off the shelves at supermarkets. Well, the first shipment arrived at the store where Jon works late last week. He carefully plucked three containers and brought them home to share with me.

The flavor of Rainier Cherries is different than Bing cherries. They are almost nectarine like in flavor. It's very subtle and extremely light, but a noticeable departure from what is thought to be a typical cherry flavor profile. Definitely a fruit worth trying.

Hope you are all enjoying your summer! With that, it's time to go harvest some Blue Dwarf Kale from my garden. Yum!

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

She's Alive!

So, I haven't been posting as often as I'd like. But, I haven't been cooking a lot either. As most of you know, I live in MN. It's cold 97% of the year. Ok, so maybe that is an exaggeration, but it's cold a lot. Well, it's summer here, which means I have about 4 weeks total of lovely, warm days. I spend those few fleeting weeks on lakes and in my garden. No time for bloggin!

My garden is doing quite nicely this year. We've already had some delightful spinach and mixed salad green salads. The kale is just about ready to be harvested as well. The peppers and tomatoes are growing stronger each and every day. I have high hopes that I will get some good yields again this year.

Fishing has been tops this summer. I have a new "honey hole" as some call it. Whenever I need a quick fix I boogie out to the lake and do some pan and bass fishing. I have yet to be skunked this year :) And of course, whenever I get the chance I go boating with my friend, Kate. She, like me, lives for the water and the tranquility of freshwater lakes. We truly are a great team.

As for cooking, when I am home I don't want to heat up the house so I make a lot of quick fixes, sandwiches (rustic french bread, thin sliced meat, cheese, piled high with fresh veggies, and usually a smear of homemade pesto to top things off), home made spring rolls, grilled meat (usually pork chops at Jon's request), and other easy, cold meals.

Jon has a pasta salad he likes to eat, particularly in the summer. I just don't have the patience to make it a lot. It is super easy and only has like 4 ingredients, but that seems like a lot of work most days... :) I am usually asked to make a double batch when I do take the time because Jon will eat this salad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I will post both the original salad and the quick salad recipes. Super great for summer picnics since there is no mayo in either version. Enjoy!

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

Jon's Favorite Pasta Salad
Serves a bunch ;)

1 box rainbow macaroni noodles
1 small bottle zesty Italian dressing
cooked, crumbled bacon to taste
1/2 cup diced carrots

In a small bowl mix carrots and a small amount of the dressing. Set aside.

Boil pasta until tender, but do not over cook. Rinse well with cold water until cool. Drain well.

Mix in marinaded carrots, bacon, and dressing. Stir well. Refrigerate, covered. Stir every half hour for the first 2 hours. Serve well chilled.

* You may want to add diced tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers etc.

Becca's Quick Pasta Salad

1 Suddenly Salad Classic mix
2 medium diced tomatoes
diced, fresh mozzarella
chopped turkey pepperoni

Prepare the salad according to the package (Boil pasta for 8-10 minutes until tender. Blend seasoning packet with 3 TBS water and 2 TBS oil. Rinse pasta with cold water. Drain well. Add seasoning.)

Add tomatoes, cheese, and pepperoni.

Easy Peasy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I like my glass half full, thank you

I make an effort to be positive and upbeat every day. Some times that is really, REALLY hard to do. So, today I decided to try something one of my gal pals did a while back. It was time to draw up my list of 100 things that make me happy.

When you have a moment, think of your moments of bliss and what about them made you happy. You'd be surprised how many simple things make your life enjoyable.

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

Scribbled onto scratch paper in no particular order- here is my 100 Things That Make Me Happy list.

1. The smell of fresh cut grass.
2. Receiving hand written notes and cards in the mail.
3. The first bite of a truly ripe, juicy, luscious strawberry.
4. Soft, cool grass under my bare feet.
5. Fishing until the sun dips below the horizon.
6. Picking out the most amazingly sweet nectarine in the bunch.
7. Warm summer nights on a porch swing.
8. Salty sea breezes.
9. Skies so blue you'd swear they were painted just for you.
10. Teal waters of the Caribbean.
11. Simple, basic, classic food.
12. Reading a good novel with such intense imagery that you'd swear you were actually in the book.
13. The pull of the rod when a fish first hits the line.
14. Long, deep, meaningful hugs.
15. Church choirs.
16. Digging into a freshly tilled garden plot.
17. Sitting in the sun.
18. Music.
19. Friendly kitties who just want to sleep in your lap.
20. Traveling all over the world.
21. Architecture.
22. Photography- images of a single moment in time.
23. Pedicures.
24. Cooking in my own kitchen for my family.
25. Hand writing- anything. Notes, lists, letters, short stories, as long as I can feel the pen in my hand.
26. Laying in bed next to my husband.
27. A truly clean house.
28. My husband.
29. Fountain style pens.
30. Traditions passed down through generations with love.
31. That "ah ha!" moment.
32. Sitting by the lake and just taking in life.
33. Finding the perfect pair of jeans.
34. Finding the perfect pair of jeans, on sale.
35. Leaving town with no particular plan, just a general direction.
36. Breakfast in bed.
37. Baseball games, outside.
38. Laughing so hard you cry.
39. Warm, just off the vine, ripe tomatoes.
40. Slow, sweet summer days.
41. Naps in hammocks.
42. Sleeping newborn babies.
43. Reminders of God's love and grace.
44. Nature documentaries.
45. Trips to the zoo and nature preserves.
46. Waterfalls.
47. True Love.
48. Laying in my bed at the end of a hard day. Memory foam is awesome!
49. Camping with good company.
50. Sitting in the front of a boat speeding across the lake, letting go of life's stress.
51. The breath before a passion filled kiss.
52. Just "being" for a moment.
53. Standing in a hot shower until the water turns ice cold.
54. The romantic notion of getting caught in the rain.
55. The heel of the bread fresh from the oven, smeared with homemade jelly.
56. Exploring historical sites.
57. Cumberland Island.
58. Poland.
59. Trying various ethnic cuisine.
60. Mowing the lawn.
61. Swimming.
62. Rain boots, particularly brightly colored varieties.
63. 3pm on a Friday.
64. Cheese. yes, cheese makes me happy.
65. Mini vacations.
66. Witty, intelligent humor.
67. Inside jokes.
68. Laughing at myself when I make a pun.
69. The smell of Autumn. (The season for all you smarty pants)
70. People watching.
71. The smell of books, old and new.
72. New chapters in my Book of Life.
73. Creativity and imagination.
74. Quilting.
75. Being unreachable in a world that is always connected.
76. Dancing with my husband, even when there is no music.
77. Romantic love.
78. The feeling under my feet when waves pull the sand out from under me.
79. The music of the ocean at night.
80. Sunset over a glass still lake.
81. Laying topless in the sun on a warm day. (In private or a foreign country of course)
82. Live oak trees reaching over old streets in the south.
83. Loons calling out to each other at dusk.
84. Visits with my mom.
85. Cooking with my dad.
86. Laughing at my sweet farmer's tan when I'm in the shower.
87. Good surprises.
88. Knowing I am saved because God sent his son for me.
89.Watching movies late into the night.
90. Knowing who I am.
91. A picture perfect smile.
92. The first drink from a new carton of ice cold milk.
93. The rush of jumping into cold water on a hot day.
94. Learning family traditions from my grandparents.
95. Vinyl records.
96. Wearing flirty dresses.
97. Getting voice mail from my brother just asking how my day is going.
98. My Norwegian sister.
99. Long, deep drinks of ice cold water from the garden hose.
100.Daydreaming about my future.