Tag Archives: recipes

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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Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Since my #1 food tester is in college now (yes, hubby is my #2 taste tester) I sometimes have to rely on myself to eat leftovers. Even though I don’t mind eating leftovers for lunch or sometimes breakfast, there are times I have to make them more exciting in order to eat them. That is why I came up with Chicken and Gnocchi Stew. I had a leftover roasted chicken that needed a little tender love and care so it was perfect for a new recipe.

Using an already roasted chicken meant my prep time was cut in half which made pulling the rest of the recipe together easy. Chicken and Gnocchi Stew is mostly a different take on chicken and dumplings. Instead of nice big fat dumplings, there a little plump pillows of potato gnocchi. Gnocchi are right up my alley because I love potatoes. Adding gnocchi also eliminated the need to include potatoes in the stew. It was like a two for one deal!

I put Chicken and Gnocchi Stew in the comfort food category. It is packed with vegetables and protein along a little of the other stuff we shouldn’t eat too often. Fortunately, the best ingredient in comfort foods like this one is love.  Corny but true.

Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Ingredients:

1 roasted chicken skin and bones removed then shred meat or

2 chicken breasts

2 chicken thighs

3 carrots peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery sliced

1 pkg gnocchi

1 pkg frozen peas

½ onion diced

½ onion sliced

1 can cream of chicken soup

3 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried parsley

Prepare gnocchi per package instructions. Drain and set aside.

If using chicken breasts and chicken thighs, cook in 4 cups water with 1 tbsp salt for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and let cool then remove skin and bones. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot. Add carrots, celery, peas and onions along with remaining salt, pepper and parsley. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Whisk in cream of chicken soup. Add chicken and gnocchi cook for 15 minutes more. Serve with or over biscuits. Tastes even better the second day.

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Dee’s Egg Salad

When I was a kid, my mom made egg salad like everyone else did with eggs, mayo and mustard. Of course she added her southern twist by including sweet relish to the mix. Instead of eating the egg salad on sandwiches, we ate it with crackers. My version, Dee’s Egg Salad, is not like your typical egg salad. I like a little color and crunch to my egg salad to make it more interesting.

Basic egg salads are pale yellow and white with sprinkles of dull green sweet relish. Me? I left out the relish and added a vibrant green by putting diced English cucumbers in the egg salad for the crunch and color I enjoy. I love to eat with my eyes so adding more colors to compliment the white and yellow was right up my alley.

Besides being a salad unto itself Dee’s Egg Salad is a great addition to a regular salad or spinach salad. Rather than having eggs and tomatoes as a single ingredient in a spinach salad use it as a topping for the salad. Sprinkle with chopped bacon and you have created a masterpiece. So shake up your plain egg salad and try Dee’s Egg Salad.

Dee’s Egg Salad

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

1 roma tomato diced

2 cups water

¼ English cucumber diced

2 tbsp salt

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp parsley

¼ tsp cilantro

In a medium sized pot bring 2 cups of water, eggs and 1 tbsp salt to a boil. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and let cool. Peel and chop eggs. Add eggs to a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Gently mix together.

Serve on a bed of mixed greens, with crackers or on a sandwich.

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Kicked Up Mussels

The other day I was watching an old episode of the Barefoot Contessa about a seafood salad she was making for a friend and it included mussels. That got me to thinking about an old mussel recipe I had but never really tweaked. Since I needed a new post idea I decided I would work on creating a Kicked Up Mussels recipe.

Both my hubby and I love seafood and besides eating a lot of chicken we eat a lot of fish. Once in a while I will throw together a shrimp or scallop meal if I have the ingredients. That is one of the issues I have in creating new meals during the week. It is too easy to keep using over and over again the same ol’ staples I keep in the pantry. Preparing a special meal takes planning and sometimes calls for an extra trip to the grocery store. Because I work full-time I don’t always have a lot of time to be creative with dinner. However, I have been known to have a burst of creativity now and again if I have not had a tough day at work. The weekends are really the best time for me to test out recipes and take my time to fashion a new recipe or try an old recipe with a new twist.

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Okay, back to the Kicked Up Mussels. I had to search a couple of my old recipe journals to find my mussel recipe and was happy to discover it was a pretty simple one. My original recipe called for beer instead of white wine like most other recipes. I could not remember if this was a good idea or bad idea. But hey, I use beer in a few of my recipes and I have not heard any complaints yet so I guessed it was a good idea. Since I was using beer instead of wine I had to find a nice light beer with a hint of citrus flavors rather than a dark beer which I thought would be heavy. I am not a beer drinker so my apologies to true beer drinkers if I don’t know what I am talking about. I did a little research by perusing the beer isle at a local liquor store with a large variety of beers. I landed on Namaste White which is by Dogfish Head Brewery located in Delaware.

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As a non-beer drinker I must say I enjoyed taking a swig of Namaste White after adding most of it to the mussels. The combination of orange, lemongrass and coriander in the beer along with the brininess of the mussels and aromatic herbs was genius. All right. I may not be a genius but the combination of flavors was genius. I will even go as far as to say my recipe would be welcomed in any 4 star restaurant. The proof is in the pudding. You be the judge and try it out.

Kicked Up Mussels

Ingredients:

2 dozen mussels cleaned

3 plum or tomatoes diced

3 cloves garlic chopped

2 shallots diced

1 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced

1 Namaste White beer

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp parsley

½ tsp thyme

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

pinch of salt

pinch of black pepper

Clean mussels by running them under cold water and gently scrub them if necessary to remove dirt from the shells.  Use a knife to remove the fuzzy beard if present. Arrange mussels in a large skillet. Set aside while sauteing tomatoes.

Place olive oil in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic shallots, jalapeno pepper and tomatoes. Season with salt, black pepper and thyme. Stir then saute for 2 minutes. Move mussels to heat and pour tomato mixture and beer over mussels. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and shake to mix tomatoes and mussels. Cover and cook for 3 minutes until mussels pop open. Discard any mussels that do not open. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the delicious sauce.

Tip: Cultivated mussels vs. wild mussels. 

If you purchase wild mussels, they may be a little gritty which means your mussels will be crunchy.  To make sure you remove any sand from the mussels dissolve about 1/4 cups of salt and 2 cups of warm in a large pot along with 2 tbsp of flour or cornmeal.  Add the mussels then cover with water.    Soak for 1 – 2 hours.  Drain then rinse the mussels with cold water.  Most mussels you find in the grocery store are cultivated and do not contain a lot of sand or grit so there may not be a need to soak the mussels.  Just clean the shells. To be on the safe side I would soak the mussels as I described.

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Stuffed Flounder

Fish Sale! I was at the grocery store looking for something to prepare for dinner and passed by the seafood counter when something caught my eye. Low and behold, they were having a fish sale. One of my favorite types of fish (Cod) was $3.00 less than usual. They also had another one of my favorites on sale – flounder. The flounder looked nice and fresh so I bought four fillets to make Stuffed Flounder for dinner.

The reason I decided to make Stuffed Flounder was so I could use the rest of the cornbread stuffing we had the night before. Now, that our youngest son is in college I actually have leftovers. I don’t like wasting food so I try to find different ways to “re-purpose” the leftovers. Making a spinach and cornbread stuffing for the flounder seemed like a great idea.

Guess what? It was a great idea and hubby was happy with a full belly after he cleaned his plate. This was definitely one of my Health, Quick and Easy meals. The flounder was light and healthy. The stuffing was quick to make and putting the two together was easy. What could be better than that!?!

Stuffed Flounder

Ingredients:

4 flounder fillets

1 pkg baby leaf spinach leaves

1egg

1 ½ cups cornbread stuffing

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp water

1 tsp dried dill

black pepper

paprika

salt

juice from ½ lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and water. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Cook until spinach is wilted stirring occasionally.

Place cornbread in a bowl and add spinach with juice. Beat egg and add to cornbread and spinach mixture. Mix well then set aside.

Season fish with salt and black pepper. Place two fish fillets on a rimmed cookie sheet or in a long casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon stuffing onto each fillet. Top with remaining fish fillets then sprinkle with paprika. Place 1 tbsp of butter on each fish fillet. Bake fish for 10 to 15 minutes until fish is cooked through but not dry.

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Panzanella Salad

I had never heard of a Panzanella Salad until I saw a cooking challenge on television. The amateur chef was Italian and decided to make a Panzanella Salad because ingredients were limited and time was short. After all, it was a challenge.

Salads in general don’t take long to pull together and Panzanella Salad fits that bill. The most time consuming part of making this salad is crisping up the bread cubes. Of course, if you are really short on time you could use prepared toasted bread cubes or even croutons. In a pinch use whatever is quick. I like crisping up my own bread cubes because I like to use different types of bread when making this salad. Ciabatta, sour dough bread or even a french baguette are a few of my favorites. One day I want to try and use cornbread but I am afraid it may come out mushy. I will let you know once I figure it out.

I took a few liberties with my version of Panzanella Salad by adding vegetables not included in the traditional versions (there are many versions of the traditional salad in the universe). The straight forward version does not use peppers or meat. I wanted the salad to be colorful since we often eat with our eyes. My family and I are meat eaters. Plain and simple. We love veggies and can go a few days without eating meat but we always go back to eating fish, fowl, pork and sometimes beef. I offer no apologies to my vegetarian friends. Adding meat is optional.

Like I always say …. make this recipe your own. I did!

Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

2 – 3 cups cubed ciabatta, sour dough bread or french baguette

3 pearl tomatoes cut into wedges

3 slices prosciutto torn into pieces (optional)

1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 English cucumber

3 oz fresh mozzarella torn into pieces

3 oz fresh feta cubed

½ red pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ yellow pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ orange pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ cup kalamata olives pitted

¼ cup red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese (garnish)

4 tbsp olive oil

Dressing:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic minced

1tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp ground black pepper

pinch red pepper flakes

Place ingredients into a small jar and shake to blend. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and allow to crisp up but not toast. Shake and toss the bread cubes to make sure they do not burn. Let cool and set aside.

Cut cucumber in half and scoop out the center then cut the cucumber into chunks. Place vegetables in a large bowl. Add prosciutto, feta, mozzarella cheese pieces and bread cubes. Shake dressing then pour over salad and gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Set salad aside for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours so that the flavors blend together. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese for garnish.

 

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Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Spring is in the air and more berries are making their appearance at the local grocer. Whenever there is a sale on fruit (especially berries) like “buy one get one free” I try to take advantage of the sale and stock up. Recently, there was a BOGO sale on blackberries so I grabbed 4 pints. I also grabbed two pints of raspberries because they were on sale too.

There are so many different fruit recipes I rarely have any fruit that goes to waste. After putting some of the fruit away for smoothies, I decided to try out a Blackberry Shortbread Cake. I have been using one of my iron skillets a lot lately to make a variety of skillet pies so I thought I would try my hand at making a shortbread cake in the skillet then top it off with mashed blackberries.

Delicious! At least my taste buds thought the Blackberry Shortbread Cake was delicious. I love crust and shortbread cookies so what’s not to love about a shortbread cake! To give this cake an extra reason to love it I added chopped pecans to the cake batter for a little crunch. Once I topped it with the blackberries it was all over. Delicious!

Yes, I am repeating myself because the cake was that good. I had to stop myself from eating most of the cake and offered to share it with the family. Now I have another cake I like besides chocolate cake.

Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Ingredients:

2 pints blackberries

2 large eggs

1 ½ sticks melted butter

1 ½ cup flour

1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

½ cup pecans chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 10 inch iron skillet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add blackberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar. Gently mash blackberries and stir to mix in sugar.

Mix 1 cup of sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Shift flour and salt together then gradually add to sugar mixture stirring constantly until combined. Stir in vanilla and pecans until blended into batter.

Pour batter into iron skillet and spread evenly. Drain juice from blackberries and set aside. Spoon blackberries over batter. Bake 40 – 45 minutes until cake is lightly browned and cooked through. Test by sticking toothpick in the middle of the cake and if batter is no longer wet cake is done. Let cool before slicing. Lift out of pan using parchment paper.

Drizzle reserved blackberry juice over sliced cake if desired.

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Crostini Delights

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Not too long ago I was watching an episode of the Sandwich King on the Food Network channel and he gave me an idea for a recipe. Granted, his version of a steak crostini was much more high end than mine but I would put my Crostini Delights up against his any day. No Jeff Mauro, that is not a challenge.

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My family is not big on eating beef so making a light dish with a little beef was right up my alley. Crostini Delights can easily be adapted to whatever you like on slices of french bread. Before I made my Crostini Delights for my hubby he only raved about having bruschetta which I layered on thin slices of french bread. Now, he raves about the “Delights”.

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On the Sandwich King, the host flashed fried thin slices of filet mignon and built layers of meat, pesto, rosemary, gorgonzola cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes. Like I said, his version is high end. My version uses deli slices of London broil instead of filet mignon which still has great flavor and is very tender. To make the crostinis my own I paired different ingredients to create a melt in your mouth treat. Put this recipe on the list for your next dinner party as an appetizer and I am sure your guests will be raving about the great taste of the Crostini Delights.

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Crostini Delights

 Ingredients:

1 thin crusty french bread loaf

½ lb deli sliced London broil

¼ lb sliced provolone cheese

2 Roma tomatoes sliced then cut in half

½ cup gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup BBQ sauce

basil leaves

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice entire french bread loaf at an angle to create bite sized pieces of sliced. Drizzle olive oil over each slice of bread. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes until bread is lightly browned. Remove from oven.

While bread is baking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Pour BBQ sauce around the bottom of the pan then add the slices of London broil. Quickly toss the meat in the warm pan until well coated with sauce. Turn off heat.

Once the bread is lightly browned layer each slice with gorgonzola cheese, London broil, a basil leaf, two pieces of tomato then top with a little provolone cheese. Place back in the oven for a few minutes until the provolone cheese melts. Serve immediately.

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Skillet Pecan Pie

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It’s time to try out a new dessert on my hubby since my youngest is in college. Hubby has let it be known that he enjoys Pecan Pie. That was news to me because he usually raves about my mom’s apple pie and sometimes carrot cake. I learned through some prodding that hubby was first introduced to pecan pie at a restaurant he worked at as a teenager. It was a buffet style restaurant and pies that were not sold were often given to the employees to take home. Sweet Deal! Pun intended.

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Personally, I was never a big fan of pecan pie until now. I usually go for fruity pies like cherry, blueberry or my mom’s sweet potato pie. The one time I tried pecan pie as a kid I thought it was way too sweet. I blamed it on the pie but maybe it was just what the baker liked. Skillet Pecan Pie is not too sweet. Granted it is sweet but your lips will not pucker and your eyes won’t twitch from taking a bite of the pie.

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My Skillet Pecan Pie is similar to how I made my Skillet Apple Pie. The filling is of course different along with part of the process. After baking the pie, I leave it in the oven for an hour to help it set. I would never have known that part of the process if I had not read several pecan pie recipes to figure out exactly how to pull it all together.

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I was pretty pleased with the end result after a few tweaks here and there. Like any other recipe I share it is up to the chef to prepare the dish based on his or her likes and dislikes. I was just glad hubby gave me a thumbs up. Once he settled down with a slice of pie, his cup of Starbucks coffee and a big smile on his face I knew my Skillet Pecan Pie was blog worthy.

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Skillet Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 Pillsbury Pie Crust

4 eggs

1 ½ cups chopped pecan halves

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup melted butter

¼ cup pecan halves

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk eggs until foamy then whisk in brown sugar, butter, flour, milk and vanilla until well blended. Stir in chopped pecans and set aside.

Spray a medium sized cast iron skillet with cooking spray.  Mold pie crust into skillet leaving a little over hang. Sprinkle crust with powdered sugar. Pour filling into pie crust. Top with pecan halves then gently fold the extra crust towards the center of the pie. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake 30 minutes more. Crust will be golden brown. Turn oven off and leave the pie in the oven for 1 hour. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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