Category Archives: Uncategorized

Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Recently, I received a wonderful surprise in the mail. New bottles of Gazebo Room Salad Dressing and Marinade. I immediately started thinking about the kinds of recipes I could create that incorporated the dressings. I didn’t want to just use them as a dressing on top of one of my regular salads. I wanted something new and exciting!

Bingo! I finally decided to make an Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. I topped the Asian bowl with Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yes, that is a mouthful to say and a delicious mouthful to taste. If you like tangy salad dressings, I think you will like this Asian dressing. I just would not put a lot of this dressing on a salad. A little goes a long way with this dressing because it is so flavorful.

Now back to my Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. In my mind, this is a very simple dish to make and the Asian bowl is both colorful and nutritious. I kept it simple by combining just a few veggies, thin lo mein noodles and of course the lamb chops. I have to admit I developed this recipe based on the lamb chops. As I usually do on the weekends, I was perusing the meat aisle looking for something other than chicken. Remember, I have nothing against chicken. We just eat it often so I try to break up the week with another meat if possible so that we don’t grow feathers. I spied a lone package of lollipop lamb chops among the packages of bigger lamb chops and grabbed them before anyone else could. It is rare for me to find these little jewels so I was quite happy with this trip to the grocery store.

When I pulled the recipe together I wasn’t totally convinced hubby would be on board since I had never prepared a “bowl”. I wasn’t even sure he had heard of an Asian bowl but he surprised me and said “Sure, go for it”, which meant he was on board. Hubby did come into the kitchen a couple of times to see what I was doing and guided me on how he wanted me to “create” his bowl. Yeah, let’s just call him my assistant on this recipe. Anyway, we both enjoyed the final product. Hubby really enjoyed it because he ate the whole thing. Normally, he leaves a little food on his plate but not this time. All I saw were two chopsticks and lamb chop bones sitting at the bottom of his bowl. That is what I call a successful dish!

Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Ingredients:

2 Roma tomatoes diced

2 scallions sliced

2 bunches romaine lettuce shredded or small Napa cabbage shredded

1 package (6 – 8) lollipop lamb chops

1 package thin lo mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

1 cup snow peas

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup crispy rice noodles

¼ cup Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

paprika

Season lamb chops with Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper and paprika. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium high heat. Brown lamb chops on both sides approximately 3 – 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

Add snow peas, carrots and scallions to frying pan and saute until slightly softened but still has some crispness. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Build Salad:

Place lettuce in the bottom of the bowl. Arrange veggies around the bowl. Add lo mein noodles, water chestnuts and diced tomatoes. Place three lamb chops on one side of the bowl. Drizzle with dressing then sprinkle with rice noodles.

Enjoy!

 

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Coq Au Vin

My first experience of tasting French food was on a business trip to Massachusetts. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but I do remember the escargot one of my co-workers ordered and insisted I try. It was garlicky and a little rubbery but totally delicious. It was my first and last attempt at eating snails and although I enjoyed the taste, I did not like the texture. At this point, I could not tell you if that is the way snails are suppose to be when you cook them or if my experience was an exception. Like I said, the flavors were good but the snail did not make my mouth happy.

Fortunately, that experience did not turn me against French food. My next experience was much, much better. There are not many ways you can mess up a chicken so I ordered Coq Au Win at a nice little bistro hubby and I happened upon on one of our vacations. Now, we all know chicken can get a bit boring when you have it over and over again. Fried, baked, boiled. Ugh! Chicken can be so much more than fried, baked or boiled. Chicken can be dressed up as a stew with amazing flavors combined with mushrooms, onions and carrots. Yes, carrots. Coq Au Vin traditionally has potatoes instead of carrots. However, I chose to add carrots because I wanted to serve my Coq Au Vin with mashed potatoes. The gravy from the stew drizzled over the mashed potatoes was a delectable combination.

One more thing I changed in my recipe was the use of white wine instead of red wine. I like white wine better than red wine so I figured why not substitute the two wines. Some may say it’s not really Coq Au Vin if you don’t use red wine but don’t listen to them. Remember, make every recipe your own.

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs bone-in (remove excess fat)

4 large carrots peeled and sliced thick

3 slices bacon

2 green onions sliced

2 pkgs sliced cremini mushrooms

½ white onion thinly sliced

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup white wine or red wine

2 tsp butter

2 tsp flour

1 tsp thyme

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash chicken and pat dry. Season chicken with salt and pepper then set aside.

In a large oven proof skillet or dutch oven, fry 3 slices of bacon over medium high heat until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and leave drippings in the skillet. Add chicken to the skillet and brown on both sides. Place chicken on a plate and set aside.

Lower heat to medium then add mushrooms and white onions. Saute until slightly browned for approximately 7 – 10 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in flour and butter and cook for 1 minute. Again, stirring frequently. Add wine and stir to mix. Bring to a low boil and scrap brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add thyme and a little more salt and pepper. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in broth then add carrots and chicken back to the pan along with drippings. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Cover skillet and place in oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Baste after 20 minutes. Enjoy with mashed potatoes, rice or wide noodles.

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Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits

Lately I have been fixated with the idea of making desserts using cherry pie filling. One of those desserts is Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits. I have fallen in “like” with the little shortbread biscuits I found at Trader Joe’s. I was looking for lady fingers but found these cute little biscuits. I am not a big bread eater but I can eat any kind of shortbread cookie, cake or biscuit.

Combining the shortbread biscuits and cherry pie filling came to me as I was thinking of the many desserts my mom makes. She is a wonderful baker and inspires me to improve my baking chops. As a kid, my favorite pie was cherry. I preferred cherry pies on my birthday instead of cake even if it was chocolate cake. If my choice for dessert is between pie and cake, I will choose pie every time unless the pie is mincemeat. Ugh! I will save that thought for another post.

Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits is my take on cherry pie. It is probably one of the easiest desserts I have every made because all you need are cherry pie filling, shortbread biscuits and a whipped topping. Consider this a versatile recipe. You can substitute peach filling, apple pie filling or macerated fruit. Be creative and try whatever makes you feel good. But at least try Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits. It definitely made me feel good.

 

 

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Louisiana Style Soup

During the summer months I often have a taste for gumbo or jambalaya but those dishes can be a little heavy. So, to compensate and satisfy my taste buds, I will make a Louisiana Style Soup in warmer weather. This soup is much lighter than gumbo or jambalaya but it has similar flavors.

Creole food is the soul food of the south mid-west. Creole cooking is a blend of French, Spanish, Caribbean, West African, Portuguese and several other country cuisines. While Cajun dishes originate from a style of cooking by French speaking Acadians that were exiled to Louisiana. (a partial history lesson). Many people think there is no difference between Creole and Cajun foods but there really is a difference. The biggest difference is that Creole cuisines use tomatoes in most dishes while Cajun cuisines do not. Another difference is how each prepares a roux or thickening for dishes like jambalaya. A Creole roux is made with butter and flour while a Cajun roux is made with oil and flour. It may not sound like a big difference but it is when you are talking about flavors.

One more interesting tidbit about Creole vs. Cajun dishes is that Creole cooking is considered “city” food while Cajun cooking is considered “country” food. Hmmm… that may explain why hubby really likes Creole cooking while I enjoy Cajun foods. He is more of a city boy who loves tomatoes while I am a country girl at heart who just loves food.

Louisiana Style Soup

Ingredients:

1 pkg spicy ground sausage

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup frozen baby lima beans

1 cup corn cut off the cob or frozen corn

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 scallions diced

1 celery stalk diced

1 small green pepper diced

1 small white onion diced

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

Brown spicy ground sausage in a large pot over medium heat. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Add butter to the pan along with green pepper, celery and onion. Season with salt and black pepper then saute for a few minutes until vegetables soften.

Add remaining ingredients to the pot along with sausage. Stir to blend then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with rice or top with garlic croutons.

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Prawns and Avocado

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, my hubby and I enjoyed a delicious lunch appetizer called Prawns and Avocado. I was hesitant to order the dish at first because I sometimes have a reaction to shrimp but I decided to give it a try. Boy was I glad I did. The appetizer was so refreshing.

The dices of avocado were fresh and the prawns were soft and sweet. I have to admit it was difficult sharing the appetizer with hubby after I took the first bite. Fortunately for hubby, I love him dearly so I did share two pieces. After we both looked at the empty plate we agreed I should try replicating the appetizer once we got back home. I wasn’t able to get the exact recipe from the chef so I recreated Prawns and Avocado from a photo I took with my phone. Yes, it looked so appetizing and tasted so good I took a picture before we gobbled them all up.

My version of Prawns and Avocado is not quite like the wonderful dish we enjoyed in Puerto Rico but it is pretty darn close. There definitely is a difference between the shrimp I get at the local market but the flavor is similar.

Remembering how the appetizer was described on the menu helped me keep the recipe simple. Prawns (shrimp), avocado, red onion, lime juice and cilantro was all I needed to make this tasty treat pop!

Ahhh…. the memories.

Prawns and Avocado

Ingredients:

½ avocado diced

½ lb medium cooked shrimp cut in half

1 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp fresh cilantro chopped

1 tbsp red onion diced small

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

3 dashes hot sauce

1 baguette or ciabatta bread sliced

Place shrimp in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and hot sauce. Stir to mix. Set aside.

Place avocado in a medium sized bowl along with lemon juice and a pinch of season salt. Mash the avocado until smooth but leave a few chunky pieces. Spread avocado over bread slices. Top with shrimp mixture. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

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Lobster Pasta

Sweet, sweet lobster meat! I have yet to meet anyone that has tried lobster and does not fall in love with it. Unless you are allergic to shellfish, I think that once you try lobster you are hooked. Whether you dip it in melted butter and lemon juice or create a Lobster Pasta I know you will enjoy a meal made with lobster.

Okay, I can hear the rumblings already about how expensive lobster can be. That is true. Lobsters can be expensive which is why I am always on the look out for lobster tail sales. Most of the meat is in the tail anyway so who needs the whole lobster. I would only buy a whole lobster if it were on sale and if I wanted to make a flavorful seafood stock with the shell. Lobster tails, of course, can still be pricey depending on the size but much less expensive than a whole lobster. If you find lobster tails on sale, pick up a few and freeze what you don’t need to use for a recipe. They really do freeze well.

Now back to my Lobster Pasta. I started out thinking about making a lobster pasta salad but got side tracked and landed on making Lobster Pasta. Maybe because I have seen so many Olive Garden commercials lately showing creamy pasta dishes with splashes of seafood. Or, it could be the fact that my family loves pasta and it is the easiest way for me to get them to try out new recipes. Since they love seafood and they love pasta I just put the two together.

I probably shouldn’t tell this story but I don’t think hubby will know. When hubby and I first got married I thought I would make a special lobster anniversary dinner. I found a couple of nice sized whole lobsters on sale at the fishmonger and although I had never cooked a live lobster I was game to try. I wasn’t sure if they would make noise like crabs do when you put them in hot water but since they had little rubber bands on the claws I figured they wouldn’t be too wild in the pot. I was able to cook the lobster without any trouble and made a beautiful salad, another side dish and a lemon butter dipping sauce. I placed the whole lobster on a plate with the rest of the meal to create a delightful presentation to hubby. Because it was our anniversary I decided to take dinner to hubby with a big smile on face. As soon as he saw the lobster on the plate he had a little freakout. The beady eyes, the long antenna and big head was too much for him. Hubby said there was no way he could eat the lobster looking at all of that. So, I had to take the lobster into the kitchen and broke it down to a tail and two claws. Needless to say, this is another reason why I only buy lobster tails and not whole lobsters. I don’t want to freak out hubby!

Lobster Pasta

Ingredients:

4 cooked lobster tails sliced

2 plum tomatoes cut into cubes

1 box vermicelli pasta

4 cups water

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup seafood stock or chicken stock

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tbsp sour cream

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp chopped parsley

juice of ½ lemon

Prepare pasta according to package. Toss with a little olive oil and set aside.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 1 tsp of salt. Add broccoli florets to boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove broccoli from boiling water and plunge into ice cold water (okay to add ice to the water) for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large no-stick skillet and add flour. Whisk until smooth then add stock. Continue to whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add sour cream and whisk until blended. Add pasta, lobster, broccoli and remaining ingredients. Gently toss until lobster and broccoli are well incorporated with the pasta. Service with crusty garlic bread.

Salmon Patties

Back in the days when I was living with my parents we ate a lot of fish. Mostly, it was fish we caught during the year because my folks loved to fish on their days off. During the summer, when I was out of school, we would drive down state or over the state line to one of their favorite fishing holes. Perch, trout, catfish and something my mom called butter fish were usually the catch of the day. My parents loved to go deep sea fishing which required taking a chartered boat out for the day. I was too chicken to go on the boat so I would stay home and hope they caught a few flounder that day.

Thinking about those days and eating lots of fish reminded me that one of my favorite meals was salmon croquettes. At least that is what my mom called them. Not quite like chicken croquettes but more like a crab cake made with salmon. The salmon was delicious although I thought it was weird eating soft fish bones. Yeah, my mom used canned salmon like most folks back then. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against canned salmon. I made my first Salmon Patties (as I call them) using canned salmon. I never thought about using fresh cooked salmon for my mom’s version of salmon croquettes.

As I have developed my cooking chops and expanded my creativity, I decided fresh salmon was better than canned salmon. Of course, if I am in the mood for Salmon Patties and fresh salmon fillets are not available, bring on the canned salmon. Yup, I still keep a can in my pantry.

Remember, fresh is always best! However, whether you use fresh or canned salmon I can almost guarantee you will enjoy this very simple but flavorful dish.

Salmon Patties

Ingredients:

3 baked salmon fillets

5 dashes hot sauce

1 egg

1 scallion diced

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp half and half

½ tsp brown mustard

½ tsp dried dill

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp old bay seasoning

Lightly beat egg with half and half then set aside.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Place salmon in a large bowl and flake with a fork. Add bread crumbs, scallions, seasonings and egg mixture. Mix together well then form into patties. Place no more than 4 patties in the skillet to prefer crowding. Brown on both sides until golden then remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve with Seafood Sauce shown below.

Seafood Sauce:

3 tbsp sour cream

2 tbsp fresh hot salsa

¼ tsp dried dill

¼ tsp Adobo

¼ old bay seasoning

pinch seasoned salt

pinch of black pepper

Mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Simple Slaw

With the warm weather rolling in to say for a while, I thought it was time for me to create a few light dishes for the blog. Simple Slaw is just that …. simple. No fuss. No cooking over a hot stove. This recipe is as I said, just simple to prepare.

Summertime is my second favorite time of the year. My favorite time of year is fall because I love wearing sweaters and fall weather allows me to do that. Summertime, is the other favorite because I don’t have to wear a coat and I can wear sandals instead of shoes. I am a southern girl at heart so wearing shoes is the last thing I want to do in the summer. Plus, summertime forces me to paint my toenails to add that cute factor to the sandals. In the winter, what’s the point of painting your toenails if nobody can see how cute they are. Some may say “well why not paint them for hubby”? To that I say, he barely sees my toes in the house since we all wear socks to walk on the hardwood floors. Besides, winter is cold and you need to wear socks. But, I digress. Back to summertime and recipes.

Simple Slaw pairs well with just about any entree. I have prepared it with steak and potatoes as well as with hot dogs and baked beans. I think this would be a great dish to take to a picnic or barbeque because it travels well. There is no concern about mayo in the dressing so the slaw will keep much longer if sitting out. I know I have said this on a few occasions and I will say it again, colorful dishes are important to me. Besides the wonderful smell of food, the appearance of food helps to make a meal taste delicious. We first eat with our eyes then with our tongues. So the beautiful bright orange of the carrots and the deep purple of the cabbage will entice you to want to dig in. Go on. Try it! I am sure you will enjoy this light summertime dish.

Simple Slaw

Ingredients:

1 8oz pkg red cabbage shredded

1 8oz pkg carrots shredded

¼ cup golden raisins

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp parsley chopped or dried

¼ tsp cilantro

Dressing:

¼ cup Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sour cream

½ tbsp spicy brown mustard

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine red cabbage, carrots, raisins and seasonings into a large bowl. Pour dressing over slaw and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow flavors to marinate for 30 minutes. Stir again prior to serving.

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Salads

Today’s post is dedicated to Salads. Salads are on our dinner table almost every night mostly because they are Healthy, Quick and Easy. Basic lettuce and tomato salads are a little too plain to make it on our table. I prefer adding various ingredients that touch on the five food groups which are vegetables, dairy, grains, fruit and protein.

I have to admit in my early days of cooking I made a lot of plain salads. I thought I was spicing it up if I added avocado or seasoned croutons. I didn’t start experimenting with making more robust salads until I expanded my dining choices from food chain restaurants (no offense) to downtown restaurants with new age names (again, no offense) like “Planet One Bistro” which featured out of this world meals. Cute right? Okay, I made the name up because I didn’t want my local restaurants to be mad at me for saying their name was “new age”.

Building a salad is like creating a work of art. Various colors, textures, shapes and sizes blend together into a beautiful edible piece of art both pleasing to the eyes and mouth. One of my signature salads is one made with a 50/50 mix of greens, bright red tomatoes, English cucumbers, deep blue blueberries, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons and crumbed bacon. I top it off with my favorite dressing Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yummy! My Big Salad is also a family favorite.

If you ask me, it is hard to make a bad salad. No matter what you add to a salad it is a reflection of you and your taste in food. So, go crazy and create your own master piece salad. It’s sure to get rave reviews.

Salads

Ingredients:

Fruity Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup blueberries (sliced strawberries and raspberries optional)

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

parmesan flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Avocado Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

1 ripe avocado cut half then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

ranch flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Mushroom and Egg Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

4 large baby bella mushrooms sliced

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

2 boiled eggs diced

2 slices bacon cooked and chopped

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

seasoned croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Layer the ingredients for each salad into two bowls. Top with Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade or your favorite salad dressing.

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Lemony Potatoes

Lemony Potatoes is one of those quick side dishes that compliments any entree. I am the potato lover in the family so although I don’t prepare this dish often I enjoy making it in a pinch when I am lost for dinner ideas.

I like using fingerling potatoes in this recipe for a couple of reasons. One: fingerling potatoes have an interesting shape. They are small with a tubular shape and a thin skin so there is no need to remove the skin prior to cooking. Two: Fingerling potatoes are waxy which means they are lower in starch and calories compared to other types of potatoes. Starch, as we all should know, turns into sugar so eating a potato low in starch is a plus for me. Three: The flavor of fingerling potatoes is delightful. The Russian Banana fingerling potato is the one I usually cook because I can easily find them at the local grocer. These potatoes have a buttery and nutty taste. Who could ask for more? I could. These potatoes are also good in potato salad because they hold their shape when cooked.

Fun Fact: Russian Banana potatoes are nicknamed “salad potato”.

The best thing about my Lemony Potatoes side dish is that you can control the degree of lemony flavor. To make this a very lemony dish add more lemon juice or use a little less lemon juice (juice from ½ a lemon) if you only want a hint of lemon. Either way, pucker up because this is one delicious dish.

Lemony Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 small bag fingerling potatoes sliced in half

1 clove garlic minced

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp capers

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh basil chopped

juice from 1 lemon

Melt butter and olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and stir around the skillet for 1 minute. Watch closely to make sure garlic does not burn. Add potatoes then season with salt and black pepper. Pour lemon juice over potatoes and add water. Sprinkle with lemon zest, basil and capers. Stir to mix. Let simmer until potatoes are fork tender.

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