Tag Archives: vegetables

Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry dishes are one of the easiest things to make for dinner on a busy night or any night. My version of Chicken Stir Fry was developed over time as I played with different flavors and levels of heat. I had to find a happy medium for the family as my taste buds like low to medium heat and the rest of the family like burn your mouth levels of heat. Since I wanted to enjoy the dish along with the family I went with medium heat with a side of hot chili oil for the everyone else to add to their bowls of stir fry.

If you don’t have a wok, I would suggest investing in one because you can make a variety of dishes in this one tool wonder. Woks are easy to clean and can take a lot of heat. Of course, if you don’t have a wok or don’t want to invest in one, you can stick to using a large skillet for creating your stir fry dishes.

The key to making a flavorful stir fry is in the marinade. The longer you marinade the chicken or any other meat, the more intense the flavor becomes. At a minimum marinade your meat for 30 minutes and if you can plan ahead, marinade it overnight. Overnight marinading also helps to tenderize the meat (just a few useful tips).

From start to finish I can have dinner ready in an hour for the hungry crew on Chicken Stir Fry night. Talk about Healthy, Quick and Easy! I love it.

Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients:

2 – 3 chicken breasts cut into thin strips

1 package snow peas

1 small green pepper large dice

1 small broccoli crown cut into florets

1 small onion diced

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup crispy chow mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

3 tbsp hoisin sauce

3 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp Thai style sweet and spicy sauce

2 tbsp garlic chopped

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp corn sauce

1 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp red chili flakes (optional)

Marinade:

Place chicken in a medium sized bowl. Mix together Thai style sweet and spicy chili sauce, 1 tbsp garlic, ginger, soy sauce and corn starch in a separate bowl. Pour mixture over chicken and massage into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

To cook stir fry:

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir until chicken is no longer pink but not totally cooked through. Remove chicken and place in a bowl. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary then add carrots, snow peas, onions and broccoli. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes stirring constantly until vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken broth, water chestnuts and chicken to the vegetables along with the sauces and red chili flakes. Stir and cook an additional 3 – 5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through. Serve in bowls over rice, ramen or udon noodles. Top with crispy chow mein noodles.

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Orange Cauliflower Soup

I love it when a new idea comes together on the first try and is a hit with the family. I just decided to make a cauliflower soup today because I had a head of cauliflower and I needed to make something with it before it was no longer edible. A nice soup came to mind because although we have been having nice warm weather during the day it is a little chilly at night. Besides, I can eat soup any day of the year because I just love soup!

I am calling this one Orange Cauliflower Soup because I used diced red peppers in the soup which made it turn a pale orange color. I was not sure how everyone else would react to the color but I liked it so….. Orange Cauliflower Soup was born. Just making cauliflower soup was not enough. I wanted to add a slight richness to the soup and decided what better way to make it taste rich without a ton of calories than to add a little cheese. I think I have had cheesy cauliflower soup in the past but it was a little too rich for my blood. Adding just a little cheese keeps the calories down, adds thickness to the soup and definitely adds another level of flavor.

Whenever I put together a post I have to set up the food and take pictures of each step of the process. The last step of course is taking a picture of the finished product. After taking a picture of my new creation I figured I would clean up the kitchen so that I could enjoy a bowl of soup without thinking about the slight mess I had made. Well, my youngest son descended upon the kitchen with his girlfriend and immediately wanted to know if I had taken my last picture of the soup. I didn’t think he wanted to eat it (silly me) but he asked if he could taste it. Of course I said sure since I always need a taste tester for my recipes. The first words out of his mouth were “This is what I am going to miss!” That put a smile on my face because he is headed to college in a few months and I know he is going to miss my home cooking. My smile got even bigger when his girlfriend asked if she could try it and again I said sure. She said it was delicious and being the mom that I am I told her to take some home. Seems the soup fairy was on my side today and gave me a hit recipe on the first try. Thanks soup fairy!

Orange Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into small pieces

1 small onion diced

½ red pepper diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded monterey and/or Colby jack cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp parsley

½ tsp basil

½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add diced onions and red peppers. Saute until slightly browned. Add seasonings and stir. Add cauliflower and stir to mix with onions and peppers. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and water. Stir then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Let simmer until cauliflower is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower until smooth but leave a few florets to create texture. Turn heat down to low.

In a small pan melt butter and add flour. Whisk until flour and butter are blended and form a paste. Add milk and whisk until sauce is thickened. Season with a little season salt and black pepper. Add white sauce to cauliflower and whisk to blend. Stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is well blended into the soup. Taste to see if a little more salt or black pepper is needed.

Enjoy!

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Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Sometimes you just have to cheat. Not cheat other people or cheat in the sense of doing something wrong. I mean cheat by not making everything from scratch. Making my Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup was one of those times I decided to cheat. At least, partially. This soup is a combination of dried lentils and a box of carrot and ginger soup.

I am not usually a fan of boxed soups but Trader Joe’s has a nice brand of soups I have used in other recipes upon occasion. I have passed over their Carrot and Ginger soup many times but decided to take a chance on combining it with the lentil soup I make for me and hubby.

Creating soup is about building flavors. Combining the light flavor of lentils with the sweet taste of carrots along with the sharp taste of ginger spells yummy. Being the carnivore that I am, I added diced pancetta to build even more flavor. My vegetarian brethern can keep it simple and not include meat in this soup. But, if you are not opposed to meat, I think you will enjoy the flavors and texture with the pancetta. Add some crusty bread on the side of your bowl and you will have a wonderful hearty soup for those chilly or even warm days.

Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth

1 ½ – 2 cups dried yellow lentils (rinsed in cold water)

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup cubed pancetta (optional)

½ cup diced onions

1 box Carrot Ginger Soup (Trader Joe’s)

1tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tbsp Adobo seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Place olive oil, pancetta, onions and carrots in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the carrots, onions and pancetta for about 3 – 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add broth, seasonings and lentils to the pot and let simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the soup gets too thick during the 30 minutes. After 30 minutes stir in the box of carrot and ginger soup. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread or croutons.

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Refreshing Tomato Salad

Let me say right off the bat that if you don’t like the taste of mint you can leave it out to this salad. My friend Doll does not like anything with mint so before she makes the “ewww” sound after reading the recipe I want her and all mint haters to know the mint is optional. Doll claims to be a southern girl but how can she really be southern if she doesn’t like the taste of mint. Come on! Mint julpes are a southern staple. At least where my family comes from and they are southern.

Hubby and I both like the flavor of mint in salads. I think it adds a refreshing taste to quite a few dishes. My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip and I love an ice cold peppermint patty. The creation of my Refreshing Tomato Salad was my welcome spring and summer gift to the family. It is packed with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, artichokes and of course Tomatoes!

I was fortunate this year to have a good crop of tomatoes so I was able to add our homegrown tomatoes to this salad. I have not tried growing cucumbers yet but maybe next year I will. I prefer English cucumbers because regular cucumbers have too many hard seeds. But, that is just my preference. Use whatever type of cucumber you like or have handy.

During these last days of summer I have been making this recipe a little more frequently. It is always sad to see the warm weather turn a little cooler because it means the end of short sleeves, sandals and shorts. I for one will miss the warm days but I also look forward to the beauty of fall weather. Good thing for me my Refreshing Tomato Salad is delicious no matter what the weather may be.

Refreshing Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

4 – 6 small tomatoes large dice cut

1 English cucumber diced

1 jar marinated artichokes drained and slightly chopped

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup Italian black olives

¼ cup olive oil

juice from ½ lemon

½ tbsp red onion diced small

½ tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)

½ tsp dried dill

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve as a side dish or add a little bow tie pasta to make it a meal.

 

 

 

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Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Eating with your eyes is just as important as tasting with your tongue. I know I have mentioned this in the past but it is worth mentioning again. If you are going to prepare a dish for family, friends or yourself, you want it to look appealing. Combining different colors is an easy way to create visual beauty with food. This recipe is a nice blend of green, red and orange. Layering the vegetables in a circular pattern also made this a very attractive dish.

Gratins originated in French cuisine and has been adopted in many other culinary cuisines. I wasn’t sure exactly what gratin was until I saw one made on a cooking show. On this particular show the chef made potato au gratin which was gorgeous because of the crispy brown topping. Turns out a gratin is considered the technique of topping a dish with breadcrumbs or grated cheese then browning it.

While most of the gratin recipes I have seen are made with sliced white potatoes I wanted to think outside the box and combine potatoes with other vegetables. Plus, I wanted to make the dish pop with color. Hence, my Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin. A ring of beauty and a delightful dish.

Zucchini, Tomato and Sweet Potato Gratin

Ingredients:

2 plum or vine ripe tomatoes sliced

1 large zucchini sliced

1 large sweet potato peeled and sliced

½ red onion sliced

½ cup shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp dried thyme

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat bottom of a large iron skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Add minced garlic and spread around the skillet. Alternate slices of zucchini, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes in a circular pattern around the iron skillet. Place red onion slices over the other veggies then season with salt, ground black pepper and thyme. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Place on the lower shelf of the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Move to top rack and back for 20 – 25 minutes more. Test potatoes with a knife to make sure they are cooked and soft.

 

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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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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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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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