Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raspberry Red Velvet Birthday

I had the best birthday ever.

My dad made me raspberry red velvet cake, from scratch.

How delicious does that look?! It was fabulous. Don't worry, I'll share the recipe. Amazing dad to bake the cake not included, you've got to find your own!

For supper we had one of my favorite meals from when I was a kid- grilled burgers, (we jazzed them up last night with mushrooms and provolone cheese) egg noodles, and baked beans. The beans get served over the pasta, they make a great gravy :)

Loved it! But, before we ate all this delicious food, we had to work up an appetite. And so, we went to the Okefenokee Swamp.

My goodness kids! It was wonderful! We saw lots of gators, various birds, turtles, and even a raccoon. I have way too many photos to post here, but I have selected a few to share with you.

The Okefenokee Swamp is entirely dependant on rain water. No water sources flow into the swamp. Because it's been so dry here, the swamp is about a foot lower than usual. So, as much as we desperately need the rain, I was happy God gave us a break for the day so I could see more of His glorious creations :)

The swamp is a wild life refuge, so all the animals are protected, but are free to live their lives without man interfering.

With all that said, let's look at some pictures!

Here's a big boy who was just hanging out on the banks by the visitor center. Swim anyone? The landscapes are so varied- And look at the water lily- it seems to radiate light from within. How beautiful!

So, there you have it kiddos, a very very small insider view of my birthday. It was fantastic.

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

Raspberry Red Velvet Cake
Serves 18
308 calories per

Cooking spray
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 large egg whites
2 cups fat-free buttermilk
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Remaining ingredient:
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray, and line bottoms of pans with wax paper.

Lightly spoon 3 cups cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and next 3 ingredients (through salt). Set aside.

Beat granulated sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed 4 minutes or until well blended. Add egg whites to sugar mixture; beat at medium speed 5 minutes or until fluffy. Combine buttermilk, food coloring, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until moistened.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool cake layers completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting, combine cheese and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).

To assemble cake, place 1 cake layer on a plate. Spread with jam; top with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A MN visitor

My aunt Eva, who hails from MN, was able to fit us in during her very busy travel schedule. It was a delightful visit for all. We went to Jekyll Island and did a tour of the island.

As with all my photos, you can click on them to see the full sized image. Enjoy-

Here's the Northern beach:

My Mom, me, and my Aunt Eva:

The wind coming off the ocean pushes the trees the entire time they are growing so they have this angle to them:

The beach on the northern side of the island is much rockier than the south side. I love that the rocks are covered in tiny shells. When the tide is in these big rocks are covered up with the water. Look at the size of these rocks! My dad looks so tiny compared to them.

This is what sand dollars look like when they are alive, fuzzy. This little guy is working on burying himself in the sand to stay alive until the tide comes back in and rescues him once again: This sand dollar is no longer fuzzy so it is no longer alive. But, based on the pretty purple color it has only recently died. I love all the birds on the southern side of the island. There are so many different varieties. After a lovely afternoon, we went shopping for ingredients for supper. We had spaghetti, garlic toast, and salad. My dad brought some fantastic home made banana pudding. It was all so delicious. Jon got home just in time to eat :) Here we are with my aunt, full and happy! It was a fantastic visit. It was so nice to have company and spend the day together.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slow Cooker Banana Bread

Yea, you read right. Slow Cooker Banana Bread.

It was 92 degrees at my house yesterday and I wanted to make banana bread. But who wants to turn the oven on when it's 92 degrees out?! Not this girl.

So I got to thinking. Then it came to me, if you can make cakes in a crock pot (no really, you can, google it or even food network search it) why couldn't you make banana bread the same way.

So I searched for slow cooker banana bread. I found this wonderful little blog called A Year of Slow Cooking. Oh my goodness. Please, click it and come back. I'll wait, really, I will.

Did you click it yet???

Ok, welcome back. :)

Who knew how versatile a slow cooker could be?!

So, back to my banana bread. Dilemma number 1, the hotness, fixed. Now, onto dilemma number two. No butter in the house. Gasp! I know. But I have olive oil, a perfect substitute for butter. Problem number two- totally corrected.

I don't have a huge crock pot. I mean honestly, there are two of us in this house, why do I need a giant crock pot? Well.... if you want to put your banana bread in a loaf pan(which most recipes suggested) you want a roomy cooker.

That was so not happening in my little crock. So, I improvised. I lined the inside of the ceramic insert with foil and sprayed it with cooking spray.

Mixed up my batter. Poured it in. Put the lid on, turned the heat to high and walked away. Four hours later, fresh banana bread without turning on the oven for even one minute. :)

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

Slow Cooker Banana Bread
Serves 16
150 calories per

1/3 cup olive oil*
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup egg beaters
3 bananas, mashed with a fork
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups flour

Mix all but flour together until well combined. Gently fold flour in until just combined.

Option A: Pour batter into a prepared loaf pan and set inside the slow cooker. Put the lid on, vent with a toothpick. Cook on high for 4- 4 1/2 hours until a toothpick comes out clean. Carefully remove the hot pan and allow to cool. Slice and serve.

Option B: Line your ceramic liner with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour batter in. Put the lid on. Vent with a toothpick. Cook on high for 4- 4 1/4 hours until a toothpick comes out clean. Carefully lift the bread out by lifting the foil. Allow to cool. Slice and serve.

* You can use 1 stick butter or margarine (1/2 cup) in place of the oil. Just remember it will alter the calorie count

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick Baked Apples- Microwave Magic

I have been on a fruit kick for about two straight weeks now. I shared pain perdu with you last night. Well, for snack I had made quick baked apples- in the microwave!

Tasty! I had them warm right from the microwave over a little scoop of lactose free vanilla ice cream. Yea, they make lactose free ice cream now, and it's SO good.

These apples are so incredibly easy- just chop, stir, and microwave. The cooked mix can be easily frozen. Stir into oatmeal, serve over waffles, sprinkle with granola, add a scoop of ice cream- the possibilities are endless.

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

Baked Apples
Makes 3 cups
126 calories per 1/4 cup

1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Gala Apples, cored and chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Combine all ingredients in a large microwave-safe dish. Microwave at high 20 minutes or until apples are soft, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pain Perdu

Have I got a fun blog entry for you today!

First things first- lets take a look at some of the fun flowers blooming in my front yard:

I have a few pretty pansies as well, but they were a bit camera shy...

And, the pot with garlic and basil isn't much to look at right now, it's just three green stalks surrounded by a sea of tiny baby basil plants. When there is more to see I will try to get a picture of them for you too.

Moving on! Look at this fabulous apron my Grandma Spranger made:

I love love love it! It wraps all the way around my body and then the string has a little opening that it gets threaded through so I can tie it in the front. And it's cut a bit higher than most aprons, perfect for this messy cook (I have a tendency to drip on myself when taste testing things).

Here's the best part of this- my Gram made one for my mom and this one as a test run of a new pattern. She sent along a note that told my mom to give it to a friend. My mom chose to give it to me. (Insert sweet squishy comment here) So thank you Gram for my new favorite apron, and thank you Mom for choosing me as your friend :)

Finally, tonight's supper- pain perdu. YUM.

Basically we've got glorified french toast with fresh berry syrup. Oh my goodness. It was phenomenal. We had some sausage to balance the sweet with a bit of savory. Since the windows were open, a few of our neighbors who were outside asked what I was making. When I told them, they informed me it always smells so good when I am cooking. It's always nice to hear your cooking smells enticing :)

I suspect that the syrup would be amazing over vanilla ice cream. (And I mean real vanilla ice cream, the kind with little black flecks of vanilla bean in it.) Hmmm...

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

Pain Perdu
Serves 8
270 calories per serving

1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
16 (1-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette
1/4 cup butter, divided*
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 TBS cornstarch
2 cups fresh raspberries**
1 cup fresh blackberries**
1 cup fresh blueberries**
1/2 cup fresh strawberry halves**
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in a large shallow dish. Pour milk mixture over bread, and let stand until milk is absorbed (about 2 minutes).

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Arrange 8 bread slices in pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until bread is golden brown. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 8 bread slices.

Combine 2 cups water, wine, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and cornstarch in a large saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 cup (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat. Add fruit to pan, stirring well to coat. Serve sauce with bread slices. Sprinkle each serving with powdered sugar.

* I omitted the butter because I made my french toast my non-stick griddle.
** 4 1/2 cups mixed frozen berries would work equally well here in place of fresh.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Fresh, quick, easy, and oh so good!

This little number was a team effort. Jon did the meat and I did the side dish. Grilled bbq chicken, fresh tomatoes, and gnocchi with yellow squash & spinach. Fab-u-lous.

We spent the day at the beach poking giant jelly fish remains (one of them was about 16-17 inches in diameter!), picking up sea shells, playing in the sand, and simply being together. By the time we got home we were ravenous.

I pre-plan all my meals and this one is easy and quick. It came together in about 15 minutes. It was perfect for our hungry little tummies.

I was very surprised how much we liked this one- I don't usually like yellow squash. But kids, this is why we are doing this project. I would have never tried this recipe before. And now, we have a brand new side dish. YAY!

For those of you unfamiliar with gnocchi- it's a small potato dumpling of sorts. They can be found with the dried pasta in most supermarkets. This was our first time experimenting with gnocchi, and it was well worth it :)

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

Gnocchi with Yellow Squash & Spinach
Serves 4
234 calories per

1 (1-pound) package vacuum-packed potato gnocchi
1 TBS olive oil
1 yellow squash(aka summer squash), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced *
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, torn
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese or grated sharp provolone cheese

Cook gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions.

While gnocchi cooks, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add squash; sauté 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add spinach; cover and cook 2 minutes or just until spinach wilts. Reduce heat to low; stir in milk, pepper, and salt. Add gnocchi and cheese; stir gently.

Serve immediately.

* I would increase the amount of yellow squash in this to two if they are on the small side.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicken Hoisin Buns of deliciousness!

I don't have a lot to say about these. Mostly because my mouth is full. It's a little mini party in my mouth!

These mini bundles are a twist on traditional Chinese steamed buns aka dim sum (Which I also think is some kind of wonderful...)

These are sweet and savory. They are warm and soft with a hint of crunch from the sesame seeds. Bottom line, they are really tasty.

And, unbelievably simple to make!

Serve these guys up with soup or a salad for a complete meal.

Go, go to your kitchen and whip up a batch. Trust me, your family will love you. ;)

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

Chicken Hoisin Buns
Makes 9
143 calories per

12 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
1 1/2 TBS hoisin sauce
1 TBS oyster sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
9 frozen white roll dough pieces, thawed over night in the fridge
1 large egg, lightly beaten*
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Cool slightly; shred meat with 2 forks. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add green onions, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and vinegar; toss well to combine.

Roll each dough piece into a 4-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Spoon about 2 tablespoons chicken mixture into center of each dough circle. Gather edges of dough over filling; pinch to seal. Place the filled dough, seam sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat filled dough with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.**

Preheat oven to 375°.

Uncover filled dough. Gently brush with egg; discard remaining egg. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

* I used Egg Beaters original
** I was impatient and omitted the 20 minute rise. They still puffed up beautifully.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fruit Pizza & Broccoli Casserole

First things first, did you remember to change your clocks ahead? It's 7:10 pm, it's still sunny outside. Yea, I dig it.

Jon and I went to Mom & Dad's house last night for dinner. We had ham, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, super easy biscuits, and for dessert- fruit pizza. So delicious.

I told my coworkers I was bringing fruit pizza and got several puzzled looks. Apparently it's a Midwest food?

Well, here's my little work of art:

It's not the best for you, but it hits the spot :)

For tonight's dinner we had chicken & broccoli casserole with side salads. We really liked it. The casserole was creamy and cheesy, and filling. A definite keeper.

A side note to a sneaky individual - thanks for the tangerines! You're right, you can't ever have enough fruit around.

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

Fruit Pizza
Serves 12

1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8 oz strawberry cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
assorted fruit (we used bananas, strawberries, grapes, kiwi, and canned Mandarin oranges- drained very well)

Roll out the sugar cookie dough into one large cookie. Bake until lightly browned. (I ended up flipping my cookie halfway through because the center didn't want to set up for me) Cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together. Spread over the cooled cookie crust. Top with fruit.

Cut into 12 slices.

Optional- drizzle melted chocolate over the entire pizza.

Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
Serves 8
275 calories per

3 quarts water
1 (12 oz) package broccoli florets
24 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 (12oz) can evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup flour (about 1 ounce)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 cup fat-free mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 (10.75-ounce) can healthy request cream of chicken soup
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Transfer broccoli to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Add chicken to boiling water; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken to a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, and add chicken to bowl with broccoli.

Combine evaporated milk, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mayonnaise, next 4 ingredients (through soup), and 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until well combined. Add mayonnaise mixture to broccoli mixture; stir gently until combined.

Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until mixture bubbles at the edges and cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven; let cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's a 10.

"Holy crap, it's a 10. Those were AMAZING."

Jon boy gave his first ever 10 out of 10 on a recipe.

We had hoisin-honey pork chops and sweet potato mash for supper tonight. The pork chops were the recipient of the highest honor in Jon's universe. I thought the sweet potatoes were pretty fantastic myself.

So, tonight you get both recipes. Enjoy!

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

Hoisin-Honey Pork Chops
Serves 4
195 calories per

2 TBS sliced green onions
2 TBS hoisin sauce
2 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBS honey
1 TBS hot water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-pound) package pork chops
1/4 tsp salt
Cooking spray
1/2 tsp sesame seeds

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Pour 1/4 cup honey mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag; reserve remaining honey mixture. Add pork to bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Remove pork from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle pork with salt.Brush 1 tablespoon reserved honey mixture over pork; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Preheat a grill to medium heat. Grill chops for about 10-12 minutes per side or until a thermometer reaches 160. Remove from grill and rest 5 minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato Mash
Serves 2
299 calories per

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
3 TBS 1% low-fat milk
2 TBS brown sugar, divided
1/8 tsp salt
1 TBS butter, softened
1 TBS chopped pecans, toasted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Pierce potatoes with a fork; arrange on paper towels in microwave oven. Microwave potatoes at HIGH for 10 minutes, rearranging the potatoes after 5 minutes. Wrap potatoes in a towel; let stand for 5 minutes. Scoop out pulp; discard skins. Combine pulp, milk, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl; mash.

Combine 1 tablespoon brown sugar, softened butter, pecans, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Top each serving with pecan mixture.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A little kick

Before I moved from MN, my friend Kate gave me a tasty treat. She has a family spice mix that her dad makes that is pure gold. I haven't ever had anything quite like it.

Like any good secret family recipe, she's not giving it up.

She made an amazing seasoned mayo with the spice mix and we had it with beef fondue. It made quite the impression on my little taste buds.

After I moved she posted this blog about Emeril Lagasse's original essence recipe. It's not her family mix, but it's a fair substitute.

I used the essence recipe as a base for my own spice mix. I really only use the mix to make my own spicy mayo. And I use that as one of my go to condiments.

My favorite use is as the spread on a turkey sandwich. Nice hearty 5 grain bread, thinly sliced turkey, thick cut ripe tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss cheese, sweet banana peppers, and spiced mayo. Perfection.

I took the original recipe and altered it to fit my own tastes. To make my creole mayo I simply mix store bought mayo with small amounts of the seasoning until I get the flavor I like. There really is no special ratio or science behind it. Just keep adding the spice a little at a time until you like what you've got. The flavors do intensify as it sits, if it gets to strong, simply add a bit more mayo.

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

Emeril's Essence
Makes 2/3 cup

2 1/2 TBS paprika
2 TBS salt
2 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS black pepper
1 TBS onion powder
1 TBS cayenne pepper
1 TBS dried leaf oregano
1 TBS dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hashbrown Casserole

Things have been absolutely crazy around here lately.

Spring has arrived, and with it, pine pollen. Every day for about a week I'd go out to leave for work and my graphite colored car was yellow. People here say it hasn't been this bad in years. Lucky us.

My peach trees have tender green buds and tiny pink flowers. The bushes in the front yard have new shoots sticking out in every direction possible. And happy little pansies smile at me every time I walk to the mail box.

Some days, I sit on my back patio to soak in the sunshine and read my book. A lot of the time though, I get distracted by the smells and sounds around me. There are so many new things to absorb. Folks in the area say there isn't a spring season here, only summer and winter. I beg to differ. I think most signs simply go unnoticed. The subtle changes in the pine tree colors, the way the grass wakes up, the songs the birds sing are a little lighter and happier. When you've lived in a place where these things signal that there really is end to winter, you learn to appreciate them (and seek them out) a bit more.

Jon was sick for several weeks with a sinus cold that turned into bronchitis and was well on its way to becoming full on pneumonia. Thank goodness with prayers and strong antibiotics he's back to himself again.

Then it was my turn. I however went the route of a kidney stone. They say do what you know, and well, I know kidney stones. My employer was very understanding of the situation, a blessing for sure. After a few days of crankiness and uncomfortable/restless nights, I finally passed my stone without any fanfare.

In my fuzzy mental state I decided to prepare a few meals ahead of time as I didn't know how long I would be feeling less than stellar.

Tonight we had the hash brown casserole I made in advance. Jon popped it in the oven when he got home from work tonight. Then, when I got home we made a quick side salad and dinner was served.

We really liked this dish, but I think next time we will add a butter/crushed cornflake topping to add some crunch. Other than that, it was pretty tasty.

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

Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 6
293 calories per

6 bacon slices
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (32-ounce) package frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded Classic Melts Four Cheese blend, divided
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium, 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
Lawry's Season Salt to taste
Cooking spray

Cook bacon in an extra large nonstick skillet (I used my wok) over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, and crumble. Discard drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the potatoes; cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup cheese, green onions, sour cream, salt, pepper, and soup in a large bowl. Add potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove casserole from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake casserole, covered, at 350º for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cheese begins to brown.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Summer Lovin'

I have posted variations on gyros in previous posts. Such as my gyro burgers and my gyro inspired meatballs.

Last night we had gyros from the CLP. They were pretty close kids! Some day we will actually do the meat on a spit like it's traditionally prepared. One thing we learned- lamb is key to the right flavor. Seriously. We've tried other variations that omit the lamb, it's just not the same.

Now, this recipe wasn't quite perfection, we are getting closer though!

I've done some additional searching on gyro meat. Most recipes call for baking it a water bath. I haven't tried this technique yet, so that's the next thing to try on our at home gyro quest.

We decided to have home made baked beans last night too. They were definitely delicious. Jon said they were in his top recipes we've had so far. Not to shabby :)

So, we've had a taste of summer fare in March. Yep, I think it's gonna be a great season of food.

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

Serves 4
375 calories per

1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces ground lamb
6 ounces ground sirloin
Cooking spray
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 cup peeled shredded cucumber
1/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
1 TBS chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 (8-ounce) carton plain fat-free yogurt or sour cream

4 pitas

Preheat broiler.

To prepare loaves, combine first 8 ingredients, stirring well. Divide mixture in half, forming each half into a 6 x 3-inch loaf. Place each loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; broil 7 minutes on each side or until done.

Sprinkle loaves with red pepper. Cut each loaf crosswise into 1/8-inch slices.

To prepare sauce, place cucumber and onion onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels; let stand 5 minutes.

Combine cucumber mixture, mint, and next 5 ingredients (mint through yogurt), stirring well. Divide meat slices evenly among pitas; top each serving with about 1/4 cup sauce

Boston Baked Beans (slow cooker)
Serves 10
140 calories per

1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 TBS light brown sugar
2 TBS molasses
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp all spice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
3 (15oz) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
4 bacon slices, uncooked and chopped

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook low 5 hours.

Note- these really need to be done on low to get the best flavor and color. Don't try to do them on high for a reduced cooking time, it's just not the same.