Quicky Recipe – Balsamic Dijon Pot Roast

Balsamic Dijon Pot Roast

Perfect for Sunday dinner when you would rather be spending time elsewhere than in the kitchen!

3-4 pound beef chuck roast

1 large onion

4 Tb. balsamic vinegar

3 Tb. dijon mustard

1 Tb. dried thyme

2-3 cups beef broth

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Heat about 1-2 Tb. vegetable oil in bottom of dutch oven over medium heat.
  3. Salt and pepper each side of roast and brown in heated oil.
  4. Remove from dutch oven and set aside.  Coarsely chop onion and add to dutch oven; sauté 5 minutes; add vinegar and mustard; stir for 1 minute.
  5. Place browned meat on top of onion mixture; sprinkle with thyme and add beef broth by pouring around edges. I use 2 cups and reserve the additional cup if meat dries out during cooking.
  6. Place lid and place in oven.  Cook 2 1/2-3 hours or until meat is tender.
  7. Fabulous with rice, pasta, potatoes, couscous, or chunk of rustic bread.  Veggie and a green salad and walla—Enjoy!!

Root Of The Problem

Here is the “Problem”:

Time slipped away with work and I have NO idea what to make for dinner!

So, at 5:30 pm last night, I dig around in the pantry and find some potatoes and onions. Have a package of Italian sausage in the fridge that I have to use before it goes bad and found a bag of spinach with the same issue. By 6:30 I had the wine poured and dinner on the table. Not bad not having a plan! Carrots, whole garlic cloves, parsnips or even whole shallots can be added. I hope you enjoy this dish and let me know what variations you have used.

Winter is a great time to use fabulous root veggies and flavorful sausage. I love placing the hot roast directly over a bed of fresh chilled spinach. The heat from the roast softens the top layer of spinach leaves but also leaves some crunchiness with others giving you some fabulous textures to experience. Use a peppery extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on the salad.

Root Veggie Roast With Sausage

1-2 large sweet potato, cut into large chunks

1-2 large russet potato, cut into large chunks

1-2 large onion, quartered

1 pound Italian sausage, approximate weight, cut in 3” chunks or cut links in half

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1 bay leaf, gently broken up

Olive oil for drizzling – about 3 Tbs.

Kosher salt and plenty of black pepper

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Preheat oven to 375F; if your oven has a “roast” option – use it!

Place veggies, sausage and seasonings in large casserole pan; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper – toss.

Roast in middle of oven for 20 minutes; toss. Roast for 15-20 longer or until sausage and potatoes are brown and crispy.

Remove from oven and serve. Makes 3-4 servings

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Winter Root Veggie Garden Salad

Root Veggie Roast (see above recipe)

Baby spinach

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

 

Place large handful of spinach on dinner plate; top with a large spoon-full or two of warm Root Veggie Roast. Drizzle with Olive oil and just a shake or two of vinegar.

Note: Very forgiving recipe. The above recipe can make 3-4 nice salads for dinner. Perfect with a glass of red or white wine. The quantities are estimates and actually recipe is more fun when fewer measurements are used.

Citrus = Liquid Sunshine

I don’t think I could survive a cold Midwestern winter without citrus. This fruit is one of God’s gifts to us to help get through the miserably cloudy, cold and windy days.  Grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange = warm liquid sunshine! The fruit is used in a variety of dishes from savory to sweet.  A small squeeze of lemon in a salad dressing or a generous squeeze over roasted fish and chicken brightens any dish.  A cute little lemon twist in your espresso is another perfect way to enjoy the fruit.

Grapefruit has been touted over the years to have dozens of health benefits from aiding in fighting arthritis, vision, respiratory problems, cholesterol etc.  I like to keep it simple and think of my grapefruit as an enjoyable fruit in the morning with my yogurt and granola or mid afternoon as a snack. The sections peel easily and can be tossed with arugula, a handful of dried cherries, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper easily served as a side salad at the dinner table.

Navel oranges are my absolute favorite citrus fruit. Sweet, juicy and the colors make me so happy!  My seasonal love affair with oranges typically starts in December when the days are short and the temperature drops drastically and diminishes slowly in April when the tulips bloom and the grass begins to turn green again.  My father would search for the largest naval oranges during the Christmas holiday. On Christmas Eve he would lay thin horizontal slices of the orange (peel and all) flat on a platter and place an anchovy on top of each slice.  A slight drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of black pepper made our Christmas Eve “Feast Of The Seven Fishes” appetizer.  The saltiness from the anchovy, sour of the rind and sweet of the orange combines to make one fabulous explosion of flavor that wakes up the taste buds in your entire mouth!

One of my favorite uses of citrus is in the Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad.  It is a light refreshing salad that brings summer directly to the table; perfect compliment to roasted pork, beef or chicken. I make this many times throughout the winter and it keeps in the refrigerator for a great salad to pack for lunch the next day.  The measurements in this recipe are approximate so don’t worry about the “size” of the fennel bulb and the size of the oranges.  The flavor is great; the colors are beautiful and have some fun bringing sunshine to the table!

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A lot of recipes ask for you to cut between orange membranes to release segments. This, to me, is not fun and brings the task of making the salad from easy to time consuming. Take a look at my pictures, which show an easier quicker process with essentially the same result. The most important thing to remember when making this salad is to work with a sharp knife and slice the fennel and red onion as thin as possible. Keep in mind a little red onion goes a long way so if ¼ cup seems too much then feel free to back off on the measurement. Enjoy!

 

Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad

2 navel oranges

1 head of fennel

¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

8-12 fresh mint leaves

Extra virgin olive oil – about ¼ cup

Sea salt and black pepper

Optional – oil cured black olives

 

Cut the peel and pith from the oranges. Cut in half horizontally and run sharp knife through the top of the membrane (no need to release the orange segment from the membrane). Place orange segments in serving bowl.

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Slice the stalks off the top of the fennel bulb. Halve lengthwise, core and thinly slice crosswise.

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Add to serving bowl; add thinly sliced red onion. Tear mint leaves in half by hand and add to bowl. Add olives at this time if using. Drizzle and toss with just enough olive oil to coat fennel; season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve!

 

 

 

Christmas Morning Easy Eats

Some people put out a huge spread on Christmas morning. Others keep it simple and save their energy for the Christmas feast later in the afternoon. Still, there are others who need to make many visits throughout the day seeing aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, grandpas, nieces, nephews and let’s not forget to stop home and let the dog out in the middle of this “running around”. We have done all of the above and I know you have too. Here is a fun little idea to make an easy breakfast special. Enjoy your Christmas and savor the family time as much as the food you eat on this very special day!

Pancakes Christmas Morning Style
1 cup Bisquick mix (low-fat works great)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon molasses

  1. Simply whisk the dry ingredients into the Bisquick mix in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate small bowl whisk milk, egg and molasses.
  3. Combine wet into the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.
  4. Cook on griddle with melted butter. Yes, butter – it’s Christmas and everything tastes better with butter! Enjoy!

Oops! Now What?

Thanksgiving is always a time for experimentation for me and I never fail to make a few mistakes along the way. Normally I keep the pizza parlor number on quick dial if mistakes are too big to fix when trying to get a normal weekday dinner on the table, but this is Thanksgiving. I could never ever serve the family pizza for the holiday dinner…Pasta maybe, but not pizza! So I have compiled notes over the years on how to fix my “Oops’s”. Here are some of them. I will save myself the embarrassment of telling you how I got into some of these predicaments. I am sure your imagination or your own experimentation will answer your own curiosity.
1. Need Leg Room – Give the turkey a first class seat. Use a generous size roasting pan with plenty of room to spare on all sides of the turkey. Preferably a heavy-duty pan, not the disposable foil kind that may (and will) collapse.
2. Probes Work – Use a probe thermometer that stays in the turkey (preferably deep in the thigh not touching bone) and remove bird from oven no sooner than 160 degrees F.  DO NOT trust those sill little pop-up do-hickies that typically come with the grocery store bird.
2a. Revive dried-out meat with plenty of hot stock or gravy.
3. No Hack Job – Remove the legs and slice the meat and place on serving plate. Do the same with the breast meat; remove the breast meat from the bird and place on cutting board and slice against the grain. Do me one favor – please do not try to recreate the Saturday Evening Post Cover photo with “Pops” carving the turkey and “Mother” standing next to him with apron on and a glazed look of love and wonder (ie. way to much wine while prepping the whole day) as she watches him carve the giant beast (turkey) at the dinner table while the rest of the family wait with bated breathe… It doesn’t work that way!
4. Forgot To Stir – Burned the soup? Do not dislodge the mess at the bottom. Just transfer to a new part and leave the scorched stuff behind..soaking…in the sink…for hours…
5. Wallpaper Paste? – Invest in a ricer if you prefer super smooth mashed potatoes. A hand masher works well too. Electric mixers will beat the day lights out of the potatoes and make a very gluey glutenous mess. Use a russet baking style potato or a yukon gold.
6. Ultimate Meltdown – This happens to the young and inexperienced cook who takes on more than they can handle. Ask for help and enjoy the livelihood in the kitchen. Turn up the music, dance, sip some wine and have some fun cooking while everyone is enjoying as well.
7. Lumpy and Limp – Whether using flour or cornstarch to thicken your gravy, always loosen it with quarter cup or so of cool liquid (broth or water) before adding to hot gravy/pan drippings. If you still get lumps, strain through a sieve. Also, dress your greens and/or vegetables right before serving so they stay crisp and colorful.

So there you have it. Good luck and most importantly have fun. Thanksgiving is not just the meal, but all the events of the day you share with those you love! Be Thankful we have a holiday like this to give Thanks!!

Tailgate specialties

College football tailgates have been happening these past few months, but now the real serious tailgates (and games) are underway.  This Apple Bean Bake recipe is from my Good To Go cookbook and has been a standard dish for all our tailgates.  No pictures for this one since it’s 1) very easy and 2) we consume it all before I can take any pics!!  Great hot, warm or cold.  Especially the next day after the game. It is a very forgiving recipe so if you have little time to peel the apples, don’t bother. And, yellow onion or sweet onion works in place of red.

Apple Bean Bake

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 375 degrees for 1 hour

Quantity: serves at least 8-10 people

 

1 jar (48 oz.) great northern beans, drained

4 tablespoons butter

3 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Coat casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; add apples and onions.  Cook for 10 minutes; stir occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and add brown sugar, ketchup, cinnamon, cloves and salt; stir well.
  5. Place beans in prepared casserole dish. Pour apple mixture over the beans; mix well.  Bake for 1 hour. (Cover beans during baking process if drying out too much.)

Mother Nature Is In Charge

Woke up this morning and realized three things:

1) Mother Nature made it very clear she is “in-charge”.

2) I found leftover corn-on-the-cob in the fridge.

3) When it is September 13th and 45 degrees outside, I have a need to make a pot of soup and enjoy the sunshine because the temperature could be worse!

So here is my Corn Chowder recipe I put together with the leftover corn.  The perfect lunch or dinner starter.

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Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 large onion, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme (I use the entire sprig)

2 tablespoons unbleached white flour

3 cups chicken broth (low sodium preferred)

1 cup half & half

2 medium Idaho potatoes, scrubbed and diced

3 ears of corn (about 3 cups), fresh/raw, cooked on the cob or frozen in a bag

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

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  1. Heat butter and 1 tablespoons olive oil in medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and thyme sprigs; sauté until vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Dust with flour and stir to coat well; sauté another 30 seconds.
  2. Add broth, increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender.
  3. Add corn to soup and season with salt in pepper. Simmer about 10 minutes or until corn is tender.
  4. Stir in parsley and add a splash of remainder of olive oil. Add more chicken broth if you prefer a thinner broth.IMG_6693
  5. Serve hot. Keeps in refrigerator up to 5 days.

It’s Always Something

I have been meaning to write for the past 2 weeks and every time I sat down to do so, something else seemed to be more urgent.  Moving son home from summer internship, daughter applying to grad schools and many many essays to edit, picking up husband from car dealership when car broke down, girl friend needing help packing and loading her moving van (within 2 days…), and most recently daughter fainting in the bathroom and rushing her to ER (she is fine by the way).

What is good about this time of year is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available to whip up quick dishes. Ones you can leave in the fridge and everyone can take a bite, a dip, or a handful of something to keep them full and satisfied.

Here is a quick fool-proof method for cooking corn-on-the-cob.  You may already know the technique, but some may not.

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Corn-On-The-Cob Foolproof/Easy/Quick

4 ears of fresh corn – leaving husks on until ready to submerge in water

Large pot

  1. Husk corn and break in half
  2. Place corn in pot and fill with cool water until corn is submerged
  3. At this time, you can leave on counter for up to 4-6 hours
  4. Place over a high heat and bring to a boil
  5. Turn off heat and place snug fitting lid on pan
  6. Corn is ready to eat anytime you are ready.  It will keep for up to 2 hours
  7. Refrigerate corn at this point for up to 3-4 days.  Re-warm whole or cut off cob to use in salsa’s, soups, stuffings, soufflés, salads or side dishes

Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

 

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The weather here in Michigan cannot be more perfect and the yield from the earth cannot be more abundant! Tomatoes, basil and garlic are currently overflowing in gardens, markets, roadside stands and grocery stores. My husband and I took a spin over to the local farmers market to check it all out. After viewing the numerous stands of fresh produce, meats, poultry, fish, cheeses, eggs and pastries we decided to purchase ingredients for a fresh tomato sauce for dinner; quick, easy and refreshing!

I picked out 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, a bunch of fresh basil and a fresh head of garlic (if you haven’t tried fresh organic garlic…the flavor is fabulous and it is worth every penny; for those of you who have, you know what I am talking about). I knew we had a chunk of fontinella cheese in the fridge and of course we always have enough olive oil and pasta in the pantry.

After a pleasant glass of wine on the deck while enjoying the beautiful early evening and a chat with the neighbors; I was able to whip up a fabulous fresh tomato basil sauce within 30 minutes. The meal was perfect!

Below is the recipe for this sauce. Feel free to peel the skin off the tomatoes before a course dice. I have found that fresh tomatoes early to mid-season (late July thru August) have a thin soft skin and not necessary to peel.  I also use a general garden variety tomato for this dish (not Roma/plum style).  One more thing; DO NOT refrigerate your tomatoes; they will get mealy and lose a fair amount of flavor.

If you happen to pass a produce stand on the way home from work or this week…stop and bring a bag of goodies home or better yet, make a special trip to the farmers market on saturday morning.  You will not be disappointed!

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Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce – makes enough for 1 pound of pasta

3-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 large cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 large fresh tomatoes, course diced 1/2″ cubes with any juices (peeling optional)*

1 handful fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup crumbled fontinella cheese, (I have used grated fontina cheese with great results)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch of sugar, only if necessary

  1. Warm olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Saute garlic for about 30-45 seconds.
  3. Add diced tomatoes with any juices and basil.
  4. Bring to a simmer; continue to adjust heat until you see gentle simmering bubbles coming from sauce.
  5. Taste the sauce after about 5 minutes of simmering.  Season with a large pinch of salt and some generous grinds of pepper; taste.
  6. Add more salt sparingly until you get the right balance.  Only add a small pinch of sugar if necessary.  You will know if sauce needs sugar if there is a sharp acidic/tart taste.
  7. Saute for about 20-25 minutes more or until you see the tomatoes begin to soften.  Continue to adjust heat so the sauce stays juicy and does not dry out.  The moisture content in tomatoes varies from one variety to another as well as the time of season.  If you find the sauce starting to dry out, just put a lid on the pan and reduce the heat.

 

Blueberries baby!!

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When July and August roll around I get beyond excited about all the fresh garden goodies that are available to me…tomatoes, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, sweet corn, zucchini, beats, swiss chard, green beans, raspberries and blueberries to name a few. Just the other day we went to the beach and on the way was a “U-Pick” sign. Of course I stop and inquire what is available to pick. We are in the middle of Blueberry season people! Yes, blueberries, that beautiful little round orb packed with sweetness and tartness all in one bite. We picked blueberries until our buckets were full. Once home, I made enough jam to keep us through the winter (I know it sounds like Little House On The Prairie, but it’s true – I made a lot!). Still with more berries in the fridge, I made blueberry buttermilk pancakes, blueberry muffins and topped cereal and yogurt for the past 3 days. Before freezing the remainder, I dug up an old recipe my mother-in-law gave me while dating my husband. I love this cake. This is one of her many infamous go-to recipes when we come to visit. It’s simple to make and needs no frosting. Always a hit and never much left in the pan by the end of the weekend!

 

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Blueberry Banana Applesauce Cake
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter softened
2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 cup mashed banana (2 medium)
2 cups applesauce (16 ounces)*
1 pound (16 ounces) blueberries (fresh or frozen)**

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Coat 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add egg beat until fluffy; 1 minute.
4. Combine banana and applesauce in small bowl; set aside.
5. Add 1/3 flour mixture to creamed butter mixture just until incorporated, then half the banana/applesauce, then another third of flour, then rest of banana and finish off adding rest of flour mixture just until incorporated.
6. Add blueberries and mix by hand gently until berries are simple covered with batter; no more than 6-8 turns of the mixing spoon.
7. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

* Note: I have made this recipe with as little as 1 cup of applesauce and added another egg. This cake is fairly forgiving.
**Note: If using frozen blueberries, toss them with 2 tablespoons flour before mixing in the batter.

Hello world…the food diva is here

Yes, I call myself a food snob and proud of it.

No, I haven’t tasted every kind of food on the planet and don’t plan too.  I’ll leave that up to those crazy people like Anthony and such on the Food Network to do that for me while I watch them at the gym while I’m on the treadmill running off the last few calories from the night before…

Yes, I can irritate some people with my comments and suggestions.  Especially when I’m in an Italian restaurant and I correct the waiter when he/she pronounces marinara “merry-nera”, or when they say biscotti “bizz-goaty” or “biz-cot-ie”  You see, I’m Italian, and it really bothers me when a so called “Italian” restaurant serves so called “Italian” food and pours so called “Italian” wine and they don’t have a clue what they are doing, saying or serving!

I am excited to get started on this blogging journey and hope you will travel with me through food, preparations, tidbits of info, history and general “Food” for thought discussions.

I’ll be “dishing-up” soon!

k

Husband cooking dinner?

Lying on my back right now wondering when I will feel better…more importantly though,what will I eat for dinner?  I was just diagnosed with some kind of virus that worked its way into my inner ear causing dizziness to the point where I can’t move my head from a horizontal position.  I was assured the perpetual roller-coaster feeling will subside 3-14 days from now.  Not much consolation considering I have a very hard time sitting still.  I was given some medication…one of the warnings on the labelstates – “May cause dizziness”…What?  Isn’t that what the medication is for?  Needless to say I must be patient and let the virus run it’s course. 

Now for the more important details – dinner!  My husband is on his way home from work and must be wondering the same thing.  “What can I make Kathleen and myself; something that will satisfy her bordem and my starvation.”  I know he is concerned about this dilemna since he would easily just make buttered noodles for himself, but I don’t approve (food snob I must be).

So I will suggest the following – I roasted a cajun turkey breast in the Crockpot yesterday and chilling in the fridge right now.  It turned out fabulous.  I think if he takes a whole wheat type flat bread (lavash, tortilla etc.), spreads a bit of mayo on it, lay some spinach leaves on top, then slices of cajun turkey topping with slices of blue cheese .. he will have one great roll-up.  Side of oven roasted potatoes and a small green salad and I think I just came up with a “yummy dinner”! 

I don’t have much choice on where I will be eating and relaxing tonight – it will be infront of the TV watching the NCAA Basketball finals!  I hope my team wins and good luck to your favorite team.  Will let you know how dinner turns out!

Oops…forgot to make dinner

Has that ever happened to you?  I work from home and I was sitting at the kitchen table yesterday and before I knew it – it was after 6:40and my husband was walking in the door from work.  Nothing on the stove, nothing in the oven, and nothing delivered to the door (referring to the pizza guy ringing the doorbell).  I was so wrapped up in my work that I completely forgot the time.  So here is what I did and it worked great!  First I have a nice large container of Whole Grain Master Mix in my pantry.  With this I made basic pancakes; no optional add-ins since there was very little in the fridge to begin with and I wanted to keep the pancakes more savory than sweet.  Then found 4 eggs, some left-over corn salsa, the endings of ricotta cheese, a container of left-over roasted onions and green peppers, and a tablespoon of pesto.  So, I got my husband on pancake duty (can’t really ruin that part) and I made the rest.  I warmed up the vegetables and salsa in a large non-stick skillet with a bit of olive oil, added the eggs and pesto and scrambled it around (I stink at making omeletes so scrambled eggs work).  Then, when the eggs were almost cooked I placed a few globs of ricotta cheese over the then top and sprinkled lightly with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  By the time I was done – so was my husband and the pancakes.  It was a great meal and the left-over pancakes were a perfect snack for my husband today.

Here is my Whole Grain Master Mix recipe to make pancakes – enjoy!

Whole Grain Master Mix

2 cups all-purpose un-bleached flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

¾ cups nonfat dry milk powder

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup cornmeal (white or yellow)

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup canola or vegetable oil

 

1.      Combine flours, dry milk, oats, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the oil until a coarse meal forms.

 

Store the mix in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator of up to 2 months.  Measure as you would flour; do not pack into measuring cup.

 

Morning Glory Pancakes

3 cups Whole Grain Master Mix (pack lightly)

1½ cups water, or slightly more for a thinner batter

1 egg

½ granny smith apple, diced

½ carrot grated and chopped, 2-3 tablespoons

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup chopped pecans

 

1.      Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, whisking just until blended and lumps barely disappear, 10-15 seconds.  Proceed to make pancakes on griddle.

 

Christmas at the Hanna’s

You have to believe me that when the month of July roles around – our son begins his countdown for decorating our house with Christmas lights.  On the hottest of days he scurries down the basement and digs out multiple boxes of lights and tests them all.  He then makes diagram after diagram – plans, elevations, and 3-D sketches of the house and front/side yards scheming up new ideas that will WOW the passerby.  ‘Self-control’ I try to stress when he goes off the deep end with some farfetched idea that requires the use of a cherry picker from the neighborhood rental store or an additional electric meter to help sustain the power usage.  It takes all my energy to reel him in sometimes.

Our daughter, of course, is less interested in the outdoor wiring diagrams and more interested in re-decorating our house.  To her, Christmas decorating is an invitation to glitz the indoors to the max.  She takes out every thread of decoration that finds a home in the nine holiday storage bins for 11 months.  On Thanksgiving weekend she quickly takes inventory of the holiday storage boxes and prances around the house for 3 days draping every lamp, table, chair, doorway, and doorknob with ornaments, wreaths, garland, figurines, angels, village displays, and ribbon.  ‘Self-control’ I stress when she asks to decorate the furnace room in the basement.

I must confess being preached to by my own husband, many times, to practice more ‘self-control’ when it comes to planning the holiday meals.  My past menus listed enough dishes to feed an army; heavy on the starch and fat, light on the veggies and nutrition.  Over the years I have been ‘trained’ (through the watchful eyes of my husband) to cut back on the quantity of food and balance my menu with healthier nutritious choices without taking away the fun of creating a wonderful Christmas or New Years feast.

It is actually easier than I thought and everyone still leaves the table full and satisfied…even having leftovers for a few days…not months.  Over the years I have recorded and saved many holiday menus.  Listing all the facts about the recipe/cookbook/page number helps in organizing the meal and is a great reference in the future.  Below are a few menu ideas and recipes from my files that will help you create balanced, healthy, filling meals in celebration.  Enjoy your holiday with your family – Kathleen

Previously written for and printed in Healthy Fit Magazine – December 2007 issue

Christmas Eve Dinner:

Goat Cheese spread (see recipe below)

Lettuce leaves stuffed with shrimp salad

Marinated Mediterranean olives

Caesar salad

Linguine with clam sauce

Crusty bread

Christmas cookies

 

Christmas Morning Breakfast:

Organic granola – Trader Joe’s makes a fabulous praline-pecan flavor

Vanilla yogurt – store bought

Sliced grapefruit halves

Fresh bakery muffins with honey butter

 

New Years Day Brunch:

Baked French toast soufflé (see recipe below)

Turkey sausage or bacon

Fresh fruit salad with yogurt dipping sauce

 

  

Baked French Toast Soufflé

1 (16 oz.) loaf whole-grain baguette

8 eggs

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Topping:

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg

1.      Preheat oven 350 degrees.

2.      Coat 10×15” baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

3.      Cut bread into 20 equal slices; arrange in one layer, overlapping if necessary.

4.      Combine eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, whisk.  Pour over bread; cover and chill 1 hour or overnight.

5.      Combine topping ingredients with fork.  Crumble/spread over bread.

6.      Bake 35-40 minutes or until browned.  Slice and serve.

 

Goat Cheese Spread

8 oz. fresh goat cheese

4 oz. low-fat cream cheese

6 tablespoons minced fresh chives or parsley

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 French bread baguette, sliced

1.      Bring ingredients to room temperature.  Combine (except bread); mix well with fork.  Shape into square and refrigerate overnight.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance, keep refrigerated.  Serve with bread slices.

 

 

 

BUSY BUSY BUSY

Wow, what a month it has been, college football home game every weekend, bad case of bronchitis, kitchen casualty (knife cutting finger), and 4 large book presentations.  Just to make this perfectly clear…I am no busier than any one of you!  The point is – we are ALL busy – everyone’s “busy” has its own definition, but always the same “busy”.  With that being said, Thanksgiving is literally 2 days away and guess what?  Yep, you guessed it; we are having a houseful of guests including my mom and dad from Cleveland and my son’s college roommate from Shanghai China!  We have a football game planned in the morning at a friend’s house, with over 20 in attendance, whose family will also attend our Thanksgiving feast.

Our feast tends to be loose, casual and not “stuffy”.  We serve an array of dishes that compliment the turkey.  I consider these side dishes “friends” of the turkey…you see this turkey has many kinds of friends.  He (yes, our turkey is a “he”), has Italian, Greek, American, Irish, Asian, and even German friends.  The dishes that surround our turkey are as unique as the list of backgrounds listed above.  I can go on and on about the types of dishes we serve…but remember…I’m busy today so let’s just say…Italian sausage and even pizza will be on the menu as appetizers. 

Here is a great recipe we have made in the past that really takes brussels sprouts to a fabulous level of flavor.  I highly suggest that you do not double this recipe…peeling and slicing shallots can take a fair amount of time!  I wish you all a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday weekend – whatever you may have planned – and enjoy the simplicity of each other around your dinner table tonight, tomorrow night and always. kathleen

 

Warm Brussels Sprouts Shallot Salad

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Cup low-sodium chicken broth

4 Tablespoons butter, divided

1Tablespoon olive oil

1/3 – ½ pound shallots, minced

1 Tablespoon sugar

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

 

1.   Slices Brussels sprouts into thinly – as close to 1/8” as possible.  Set aside. (Can be done 1 day in advance and stored in a Ziploc bag with all air removed and refrigerated).

2.   In medium skillet warm oil over medium heat; add sprouts and sauté until brown; about 8 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.  Add chicken broth and sauté until liquid evaporates and sprouts are bright green and fork tender.  Remove from heat and place in serving bowl.  Can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated.  Re-warm in microwave before continuing.

3.   In same medium skillet (wiped out with paper towel)** warm 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat; add shallots and sauté until soft and slightly brown – about 8-10 minutes depending on how thin you were able to slice the shallots.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4.   Add sugar and vinegar stirring until glazed; about 2-3 minutes.  Can be made 2 days in advance stored in refrigerator in air tight container. Re-warm in microwave before continuing.

5.   Add shallot mixture to sauted sprouts and toss gently – serve hot or warm.

 

 

Note: * Extra Virgin Olive Oil

** Trying to keep the clean up to a “low roar”

 

Cold on a Saturday

I have a cold..and it’s cold out side.  There are leaves everywhere in our yard and I have no energy to rake them.  Thank goodness it’s an away football game and our two kids decided to come home for the weekend.  I think my husband will recruit them to help rake the leaves…that is if they don’t have too much homework.  Today “SCREAMS” a hot bowl of soup!  I am planning to make my BLT Soup today.  It is fun, easy and everybody loves it!  I think after relaxing and sipping on this soup, I will feel better – kids home, yard raked and a hot bowl of soup!  The only thing that can make it better is a “W” in the win column for the home team!  I hope your day Saturday is filled with football game wins and warm thoughts!

BLT SOUP

 

This is something my kids just love when served with a big chunk of crusty bread.  It tastes just like a BLT sandwich.

 

Prep time: 10 min.                   Cook time: 15 min.     Quantity: 4-6 servings

 

8 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cups less-sodium beef broth

1 can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ – ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon black pepper                                                                                                                    

Dash of hot sauce (optional)

2 cups shredded lettuce

 

1.      Cook bacon until crisp in a large pot over medium heat.

2.      Remove bacon and set aside; discard drippings except for 2 tablespoons.

3.      Sauté onion and celery in drippings until soft, stirring frequently; about 8 minutes.

4.      Add broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, pepper, and hot sauce (if using); bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

5.      Serve hot in bowls, topping soup with shredded lettuce, and reserved bacon.

 

Quick Tip:  Adding a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese and a slice of avocado with the lettuce adds a new twist.  I have also added shredded beef, chicken, or pork on occasion.

 

For Keeps:  Make this soup up to 2 days in advance.  When ready to serve, just re-warm and top with shredded lettuce and reserved bacon.  Soup can also be frozen for up to 2 months – freeze the reserved bacon in a separate freezer storage bag and tape to the top of the soup container.  Thaw in refrigerator or microwave before re-warming and serving.

 

Has Bean Saturday

We all just arrived home from a very long and busy day.  Both our kids are members of a Big Ten Marching Band, so after the game (we won!), they decided to come home for the night (of course with roommates and friends).  Not because they miss me terribly…but because they miss a clean bed, free use of the washer and dryer, and knowing they will get somepretty good home-cooked meals.

After spending extravagant dollars on tickets, tailgating, parking and $4.00/bottle of water in the stadium, I was a bit frugal and decided to cook dinner instead of spending any more cash on food and the like.  Being exhausted, it had to be quick, easy and accessible.  So I found some chicken fillets in the freezer which thaw quickly, whipped up a pot of Jasmine rice in the rice cooker and found a bag of fresh green beans in the fridge.  It was a success and within 45 minutes of walking in the door, we had food on the table…complete meal…and pretty tasty too!

CHICKEN TENDERS IN BACON BLANKETS

¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 chicken breast halves, cut in half lengthwise (or 8 chicken breast fillets)

8 bacon strips

 

1.      Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.      Combine mustard, maple syrup, chili powder and cayenne in medium bowl.

3.      Place chicken in mustard mixture; mix gently until all chicken is coated.

4.      Remove one piece of chicken at a time; wrap 1 bacon strip around each piece of chicken. If any remaining mixture, drizzle on top of wrapped chicken pieces.

5.      Place on prepared baking tray with bacon ends down.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bacon is crisp and chicken is not longer pink in center.

 

SOY SAUTE GREEN BEANS

1-2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 pound green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed, drained well

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

 

1.      In a medium skillet warm peanut oil over medium-high heat.

2.      Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.  Immediately add green beans and stir to coat with oil and garlic; reduce heat to medium-low and cover stirring every few minutes.  After 10 minutes sprinkle with dark soy sauce and drizzle with sesame oil; toss to coat.   Replace lid and check beans every few minutes until crisp tender.

3.      Remove lid and increase heat to medium-high to remove any excess moisture that may have gathered.  This step is optional.

Vietnamese cooking

I had aunique and interesting opportunity offered to me.  A few months ago the Grand Rapids public library asked me to do a cooking presentation/demonstration on Vietnamese cooking in August!  I was a bit concerned since I am the least bit Vietnamese…actually I am 100% Italian!  But the program director knows me and I have done a number of presentations and cooking demonstrations for the library in the past – she likes my energy and knowledge of food and loves the fun way I present to the audience.

Well, I decided to take on the challenge and did alot of research on the subject (for 3 months) learning alot about Vietnamese culture, history as well as learning about their cuisine.  My biggest concern when presenting was having the right knowledge and representing the Vietnamese culture correctly.

I made friends with a fella at our local Asian Market who ended up being Vietnamese and his uncle owns the best Vietnamese restaurant in the city!  His knowledge and the resources of the market was invaluable.

The presentation happened this past Wednesday evening and I was quite nervous going into the presentation…especially when I saw some patrons of the library from the Asian culture in the audience…(seated in the second row).  Well, the presentation ended up going very well and I had such a fun time presenting the material.  The audience (over 35 of them) was very responsive and asked a lot of questions…the best part was when I couldn’t answer some of the questions…two of my Asian “friends” in the audience helped me.  After the presentation was over and guests came to the front to taste the food, I was complimented on how much fun they had and when my two Asian friends specifically complimented me on the dishes prepared and told me I was “spot-on” with the taste, texture and selection of historic significance related to their cultural food – I was so happy!

I ran out of copies of the recipes to hand out so I have included them below for those who attended the presentation and were unable to taste all the food or not able to recieve a copy.

My advise to everyone reading this blog is if you are lucky enough to have an Asian market in your town; take some time and visit!  Try some of the different rices and noodles, explore the sauces and vegetables.  Ask questions and I am sure the people who work there will be willing to help.  They like sharing knowledge about their culture and types of foods they eat – it truly will be an experience and have fun doing it!

Enjoy culture at your dinner table tonight!  Have fun eating – Kathleen

 

Vietnamese dipping sauce

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon ground chili paste

1 fresh thai bird chili, chopped (optional)

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

2/3 cup hot water

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, no need to strain

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons shredded carrots for garnish

 

1.      Make paste with garlic, chili paste in mortar.  Pound with pestle into a paste.

2.      Combine with remaining ingredients; mixing until sugar is dissolved.

3.      Garnish with shredded carrots.

 

Hoisin Peanut Sauce

1 cup hoisin sauce

½ cup water

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup finely minced onion

½ tablespoon ground chili paste

2 tablespoons chopped roasted/salted peanuts for garnish

 

1.      Place hoisin sauce, water vinegar and onion in sauce pan and bring to boil; reduce and let simmer for 5 minutes adding a bit of water if too thick.

2.      When cool stir in chili paste and garnish with peanuts.

 

Rice paper-wrapped salad rolls

12 medium raw shrimp peeled

½ pound pork shoulder trimmed

8 (12-inch) round rice papers (extras may be needed in case some tear)

8 small leafs of lettuce, romaine, red leaf, or iceberg folded into 5”x 1” rectangles

¼ pound rice vermicelli, cooked in boiling water 4-5 minutes, rinsed and drained and tossed     lightly with vegetable oil.

1 cup bean sprouts

18 fresh mint leaves

 

1.      Cook pork in a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water until tender; about 30 minutes.  Cool and then slice into ¼” x 1” pieces.

2.      Cook shrimp in boiling salted water until just done, about 2 minutes.  Drain and refresh in cool water; cut in half lengthwise; set aside.

3.      Set up a prep station before making rolls by arranging all ingredients in separate bowls and in order of filling.  Work on a large clean counter.

a.       Fill a large bowl with hot water

b.      Line up ingredient as given: rice paper, sliced shrimp, pork slices, lettuce, vermicelli (1 tablespoon/roll), sprouts (1 tablespoon/roll), and mint leaves (3 per roll)

c.       Dip one rice paper disc into bowl; count to 5 and remove; place on counter

d.      Place filling in order given above neatly on top of each other at top third of rice paper working as quickly as you can

e.       Roll top edge of rice paper over ingredients and roll over once.  Then pull sides in together to create a package and then continue rolling making sure you press down on the ingredients and while you roll to ensure a tight package

4.      To serve, slice the rolls in 2 to 4 equal pieces passing Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Hoisin Peanut Sauce.

 

 

 

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

2-2 ½ pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed of any visible fat, cut into 4 pieces

3 quarts water

1 ½ tablespoons salt

1 (5-inch) piece fresh ginger, unpeeled

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

5 whole star anise

4 whole cloves

1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

2 ½ tablespoons sugar

 

Noodles: ½ pound dried small rice sticks, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes; drain

 

Accompaniments:

Finest quality top sirloin (raw) (optional)

Yellow onion, sliced paper-thin

Green onion, chopped

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Bean sprouts

Fresh Thai basil sprigs

Limes cut into wedges

Fresh red or green chilies, sliced

Fish sauce

 

1.      Fill large stockpot with water and bring to a boil; add beef pieces and boil for 5 minutes; remove meat from water and discard water.

2.      Return beef to pot and fill with the 3 quarts of fresh cool water; add salt and bring to a boil.

3.      While stock simmers, dry-roast ginger and onion in fry pan over high heat.  Turning occasionally so skins are evenly charred but not cooked, about 5-8 minutes; remove from heat and add to stock.

4.      Add star anise, cloves, fish sauce, and sugar and continue to simmer until meat is tender, about 1½ hours.

5.      Remove 1 piece of beef from pot and set aside to cool; simmer stock with the remaining meat to create a rich broth, about 30 minutes more.  Remove spices, ginger and onions at this time.  Broth may seem salty but will balance with remaining condiments and noodles.

6.      Arrange condiments on a platter and set aside.  Cut reserved beef into thin slices and serve with condiments.  If using sirloin beef (refrigerate the raw meat until ready to serve), slice into very thin strips and arrange on platter; pour boiling hot broth over top of beef and other select accompaniments and serve immediately.

7.      Serve soup in large soup bowls to hold generous amounts of steaming broth along with noodles (1 part noodles to 4 parts broth) and any accompaniments.

 

 

 

Curried Rice with Lime

3 tablespoons butter

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups jasmine rice

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ tablespoon salt

2 ½ cups water

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Zest of 1 lime (optional)

2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed

 

1.      Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat; add onion and sauté until tender; about 5 minutes.  Add rice, curry powder, turmeric, and salt.  Toss for 2-3 minutes to evenly coat the rice. 

2.      Place water and coconut milk in the rice cooker with the rice mixture.  Stir to combine; cook.

3.      When rice is done stir in peas and lime; replace lid of rice cooker and let sit for 3 minutes; serve.

 

 

 

 

Siagon salad

 

5 cloves garlic

1 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro

1 red chili

3 tablespoons white sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles

2 carrots, julienned

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and

chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1-2 cups shredded lettuce

1/4 cup unsalted peanuts

4 sprigs fresh mint

 

1.

Mince the garlic with the cilantro and the chili. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce or salt and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.

2.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.

3.

Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, mint and lettuce in a large serving bowl. Toss well and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts and mint sprigs.

 

July 4th! 2010

Hope all of you are planning to have a great day today!  My yard looks like the movie “Caddie Shack” with all the trenches and piles of dirt.  The sprinkler system project is in full swing and I am trying to stay as far away from it as I can.  Yes, I did have some success yesterday with my previous posted plans, today I plan to explore making Gnocchi with some fresh ricotta I made the other day (technically it is called Manaci – for any who might care).  If the recipe turns out, I will try to remember to post it..and take some pictures too! 

We were invited to an inpromptu picnic later on today and I am making my old standby 4th of July Jello salad – I know it is old-fashioned and probably not good for you…but it is totally American and what we secretly yearn for on holidays like today.  I thought I would share with you and hope you enjoy!

Happy 4th – Kathleen

Sparkler Jello Salad

6 ounce package strawberry jello

1 1/2 cups boiling water

8 ounce package cream cheese

24 ounce package frozen strawberries

1 small container Cool-Whip

  1. Combine Jello and boiling water in blender; blend 10 seconds.
  2. Add cream cheese, blend until combined.
  3. Add strawberries and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into large serving bowl and fold in Cool-Whip.  Refrigerate until firm.  Serve with fresh blueberries and an additional dollop of Cool-Whip for a festive presentation if you choose!

Independence Day Weekend

So our daughter was invited “Up-North” for the holiday weekend by her boyfriend. 

Side Note: Those of you not from Michigan; “Up-North” means any where north of Lansing/Detroit/Grand Rapids that is breezy, warm and sunny during the day, cool at night, close to water, sand, trees, grass, lake, stream, puddle, golf course, forest, or campsite.  Anywhere quiet and restful.

…The family owns a lovely cottage on Lake Huron, with long stretches of beach and beautiful sunsets.  She will have a great time!  On the other hand, my husband and son are getting all geared up to install a sprinkler system in our backyard this weekend.  They are so excited about the project.  Great father/son time! That leaves me contemplating exactly what to do with myself for two days.  I want to come up with something fun and exciting too!

I could wash the cars, sweep out the garage, shampoo the rugs, or clean out the spare room, but I have decided not to – not much fun.  I can start sorting through the hundreds of thousands (literally) of recipes that I have collect and have been given over the past 30 years – this is a great idea…the only problem is I get so wrapped up in the recipes…I drop everything and start cooking and then never finish the sorting (maybe I should lock my pantry first).

I can finish all the sewing projects I have piled up on top of my sewing machine…but who wants to be inside sewing when the weather is so beautiful?  I can finish one of the 3 blankets that I am crocheting…hmmm same problem…who wants to be covered with an afghan when the weather is 80 degrees and sunny?  Maybe I will dig out my water color set and try to paint the pictures I have been wanting to paint for at least 3 years now…the frames have been sitting in my closet that long- this is a viable option.

But wait! I just received a text from my girlfriend…she wants to go shopping, have lunch and/or meet for happy hour on Saturday- what a great idea!!!  Her husband is working all weekend and her kids are at camp.  Now this sounds like fun.

I got it…I will sort through my recipes early in the morning, make a trip to the farmers market and then make a few recipes to share over lunch with my girlfriend, do a bit of shopping and then have her over for a cold beverage afterward…then if I am lucky, my husband and son will order out pizza and rent a movie…and we will call it a day.  On Sunday, I just might take the “paint-by-number” set out and paint some masterpiece!

Thanks for listening and helping me sort out my Independence Day Schedule.  I will leave you with one of my silly ideas.  While shopping for S’more ingredients today I thought of a great alternative to the standard “recipe”.  I love peanut butter and chocolate, so instead of using Hershey chocolate bars in our S’mores, we will use Reese’s peanut butter cups instead – YUMMMM!!!!!  Try it – you will love it!!

Hope there is sparkle in your beverage this weekend! Happy 4th! Kathleen