January 6, 2012

Rustic Vegetable Soup

Rustic Vegetable Soup

I love soup. I'm a big fan year round, but especially in the winter. This soup came about from my wanting to incorporate the vegetables I got from our local CSA like vegetable/fruit delivery service this week. I had an eggplant, some bok choy, some chard, along with some left over black eyed peas from New Year's Day. Before long this soup was "born".

This soup is BIG. It makes a lot of soup. It has big chunks of vegetables and is very hearty, all while being healthy too. Pair it with some sour dough or corn bread and a side salad you've got a meal. In reality though the soup itself is hearty enough to be a meal, so you can enjoy it as is too!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, cut into round pieces
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cups of sliced mushrooms
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large potato, cut into bite sized cubes
1 large bunch of Swiss or rainbow chard, chopped
1 bunch of bok choy, chopped
1 large eggplant, cut into bite sized cubes
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of chicken broth
2 quarts of tomato sauce
1 - 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of frozen corn
1 - 10 package of frozen lima beans
2 cups of cooked black eyed peas, undrained

First up let me be clear...You're going to need a very BIG pot for this soup!

In a very large stockpot saute carrots, onion, garlic, mushrooms and potato in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until tender, stirring often. Add chard and bok choy and stir until just wilted.

Add oregano, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and stir to mix.

Next add chicken broth, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Also add corn, lima beans and black eyed peas and stir to incorporate.

Bring to a quick boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring often for at least an hour.

Serve immediately. Left overs are great too and freeze fabulously!

Notes: If you wanted to make this vegetarian/vegan use water or vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. You could also use other vegetables like leeks, celery, white beans, etc. Shake it up!

Posted by Dianne at 1:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2011

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My! (And a Simple, Yet Fabulous Recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles!)

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My!

It's that time of year again...The time to save some of your harvest for use during the winter. My three favorite methods include canning, preserving and freezing. I also dry things like fruit or tomatoes from time to time too.

Living on the side of a mountain has its perks. It's cooler up here than down in the valley, even though we've had some miserably hot days this summer all together, we tend to get a bit more rain and you can't beat the view! Well the view isn't really a perk I suppose, but it's enjoyable none the less. I'm an ocean/water girl by nature, but I have to say this view has really, really grown on me.

The bad thing about living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Central Maryland is the wildlife! Daily residents in our yard include ground hogs, who are voracious little rats, rabbits, who are pretty voracious themselves, deer, who well are pretty voracious too, along with a sundry other creatures (including a few SNAKES eek!) that all mill about. The thing these beasties have in common? They love to eat anything that I plant in my "garden"!

Meet one of our resident groundhogs:

One of our resident groundhogs: AKA Satan

Or Satan as I have dubbed him. Sure he looks all sweet and cute sitting there munching on rotten apples that have fallen from the tree, which I'm more than happy to share with him and his little fuzzy family, but he's really an evil little thief of massive proportions! Don't let his charming little demeanor fool you...This guy is trouble!

Despite having numerous tomato plants this year all of the ripe ones have been eaten by the deer, ground hogs and rabbits before I have gotten to enjoy them. Luckily we have a few nice Farmer's Markets around the area each week as well as a nearby orchard that has a multitude of various fruits and vegetables so I've been buying my tomatoes from them.

I have beautiful tomatoes:

Green Tomato

But once this sucker starts turning the least bit red one of my yard critters will end up eating it before I get the chance. Excuse me while I grumble a moment about evil animals.....

Where was I?

Tomatoes!

The only type of tomatoes I've grown this year they haven't munched is my cherry tomatoes:

Cherry Tomatoes

And let me tell you these little guys are good, but sometimes you want something a little bigger than these little gems.

Tomato Sauce

For the past few years toward the end of summer I've purchased bushels upon bushels of what they call "second tomatoes". What are second tomatoes? They're the tomatoes that grow into a weird shape, or have a blemish here, or a spot there. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, but some people can't see past their "ugly" (And I use this term sarcastically...Who cares what it looks like as long as it tastes ok??!!?!) exterior. You may have to cut a spot out here or there, but they are still perfectly good tomatoes to eat, can or even freeze. Don't let the look of something fool you. You know like the groundhog we mentioned above! ;oP

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a bevy of information if you're interested in preserving your own food. They have detailed information on the methods you need to use and their instructions on canning is invaluable. The recipes, the techniques and everything are right there. My mom got their "cookbook" a few years ago and I've used the soup out of that thing! I use their water bath method to can my tomatoes and tomato sauce.

I also like to take fresh fruit and make fruit fillings for desserts during the winter by freezing them for use later. So far this summer I've froze several jars of peach, cherry and blueberry fillings. It's extremely easy to do these, you just cook them with a little sugar until the berries are soft. You remove the fruit from the heat, let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and then place the mixture in a wide mouthed quart sized glass jar with an inch of head room at the top, put the lid on and then freeze them.

How easy is that?

To use the fillings you just take them out of the freezer, let them thaw and then you can make pie, cake, pastries, sauce, ice cream, etc. The blueberries just go in whole, with the juice and zest of a lemon, the cherries just have to be pitted and the peaches peeled, pitted and mashed. As I mentioned above you add a little sugar and cook until the fruit is soft. These little fillings are pretty easy to do and taste better than anything you'd ever buy at the grocery store.

Another favorite thing this time of year for me is pickling cucumbers! These cucumbers have such a lovely, crisp, fresh taste and as their name implies they make fabulous pickles! I'm going to share with you a really simple, quick refrigerator pickle that are simply fabulous! Let's get to it shall we?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What You'll Need For The Refrigerator Dill Pickles:
1/4 cup of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons of dried dill
~OR~
1 bunch of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers (Note: These are the smaller, crisp cucumbers that are abundant during the summer.)
1 1/2 cups of vinegar (Note: I like apple cider vinegar for this, but you can use plain white vinegar instead.)
Water

Place peppercorns, sea salt, sugar, garlic and dill in a quart sized canning jar. Slice cucumbers and add to the jar until you reach 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Pour in vinegar and then fill up the rest of the jar with water. Give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.

Pickles last about 2 months in the fridge.

Notes: You could also add in some red or Vidalia onion strips to the mix as well.

Posted by Dianne at 3:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 12, 2011

Salted Chocolate Meringues

Salted Chocolate Meringues

I love meringues. They are so light and airy and relatively speaking a fabulous little dessert or treat you can't go wrong with.

A few weeks ago I needed egg yolks for something (right now I can't remember what) so I decided to take the egg whites left over and make some Salted Chocolate Meringues instead of freezing them for later. I really loved the result!

The fun thing about things like this is you can switch them up a bit. You could add a bit more, or a bit less cocoa, as well as salt, and end up with something different each time.

Meringues get a bad wrap as being hard to make, but they aren't. You simple beat your egg whites and ingredients until you have relatively hard peaks, pipe or spoon the mixture out on to a lined baking sheet and bake for several hours until the meringues are "dried" out. It's simple, you just prepare and walk away, checking them here and there. I love easy treats!

What You'll Need:
4 egg whites
2/3 cup of organic cane sugar
1/4 cup of cocoa, sifted (Note: One of the few time I actually sift anything.)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of fluer de sel or other sea salt (Note: More if you like things really salty, less if you don't.)
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar (Optional)

Preheat oven to 225 F.

In a large mixing bowl mix together all ingredients until incorporated. Beat mixture on medium to high until slightly stiff peaks form:

Salted Chocolate Meringues: Beaten

You don't want to have this too soft or too hard. You want it where when you pull your beater(s) up you end up with a nice firm peak, but it's ok if the tips droop a bit as well.

Now it's time to get the "meringues" on a baking sheet!

I like to put the meringue in to a large pastry bag with a flower tip and squeeze them out into a flower like design:

Salted Chocolate Meringues: Ready to Bake

You can also place teaspoon or tablespoon sized dollops on to the baking sheet if you don't want to mess with a pastry bag. Or how about using a round tip and piping out little meringue "bowls" and bake them to fill with fruit for an easy little dessert.

Bake in a preheated oven for 2-3 hours or until meringues have "dried" out and are not sticky to the touch:

Salted Chocolate Meringues: Baked

Let cool and then serve or store in an airtight container.

Notes: No notes for this one.

Posted by Dianne at 1:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 2, 2011

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Last year I lost 40 pounds. I didn't talk about that here much, but slowly but surely I've been trying to be more healthy. I sort of bottomed out at the end of the year with the holidays and such and then the drudgery that January always seems to be, but it's time to get back on track.

In the past I've gone to Weight Watchers time and time again. To be honest while they have some good ideas I get fed up with the "cheating" to eat things route by eating things that aren't real and aren't good for you. Their products, which granted you don't have to buy, have artificial sweeteners in them, which aren't good for you, not to mention high fructose corn syrup and if you've read this blog for a while you know how I feel about that. The "Oh you can take a diet soda and put it in a cake mix and bake it and you can have cake!" stuff annoys me. You can still have cake. Just eat one slice, not two or three. It's all about moderation. Or how about "You can spray this 'butter' on a potato and it's just like real butter!" No it's not. Again moderation. Who wants to eat some weird chemical in place of real, whole foods? Not me!

Anyway.......

I've also tried various other "diets" over the years including many of the fad "diets" that came along and the thing about "diets" is they don't work. Do you know when I started losing weight? I stopped trying! Weight has been an issue for me since childhood. I was tired of being defined by it, but instead of deciding to lose weight, which I had done time and time again, only to lose weight and then gain it back, I simply decided to be healthy. As they say perception is reality and I decided to change my perception.

I started out slow. I started exercising here and there, and I'll be honest with you, I'm not an exercise fan in the least. I've never understood this buzz everyone talks about that you get after you exercise. It just doesn't do it for me. I've even used a trainer back in the day and still nothing! I love to swim, but given our rural location the nearest pools to us are 16 and 18 miles respectively and given the price of gas, despite the fact I drive a hybrid, that's not possible to do on a regular basis.

I started playing more with Alexis. We'd kick around the soccer ball in the yard, or go down to the park and walk, or play Wii sports, or play catch, but never every day. I do Wii Fit some days. Nothing fancy, nothing scheduled, just here and there.

The next thing I did was start to focus on serving sizes. Instead of eating all of something I wanted, I'd eat just the listed serving size. If I was still hungry I'd grab some fruit or a vegetable, which to me are "free foods". I also started eating less processed stuff, which is really gross when you think about it! Just read the label. What the heck is half of that stuff? I'd rather eat real food than some chemical laden something that might have been something once, but has lost it's nutritional value by being too processed! And I started focusing on adding more fruits and vegetables, which I've always eaten a lot of, but perhaps not quite enough of. I've also started listening to my body and I stop eating when I'm full. It's amazing how much all of this helps!

So what now?

To jump back in to this little project I decided to go vegetarian for the month of February. If you follow me on Twitter or the Dianne's Dishes page on FaceBook you saw this little tidbit yesterday. You'll most likely see various vegetarian recipes as the month goes along and afterwards too depending on how in to this I get. I've gone veg for a month's time in the past too, but I've never stayed with it. In all honesty I most likely won't this time either, but the goal is to jump start myself back in to eating right and then eat less meat in general after the month ends.

Last night I wanted Red Beans & Rice and decided to bring this dish to the slow cooker. I put it on in plenty of time for dinner, but of course that only works IF you actually turn on the slow cooker! I realized around 3 that I had plugged the slow cooker up, but I hadn't turned it on. Oh well. It ended up being done around 7:30, but we eat dinner much earlier than that so guess what I'm having for lunch today?

This is really simple to put together and then you just walk away and forget about it until it's time to eat. It's delicious, filling, chock full of nutritious ingredients and just perfect for these cold winter nights!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of long grain brown rice (Note: You could use white rice if you wanted to, but brown is much healthier.)
2 cups of dried red kidney beans that have been soaked overnight
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of chives, chopped (Note: I used dried chives this go around, but you can use fresh as well.)
1-2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sea salt (Note: Omit this if your seasoning contains salt.)
4 cups of water

In the bottom of your slow cooker spread the rice out in an even layer.

Next add the kidney beans on top of the rice.

After the kidney beans add the red onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and chives.

Sprinkle the seasoning, smoked paprika and salt evenly over the vegetables and rice and then cover with the water. (Remember to omit the salt if your seasoning already has salt in it.)

Cook on high for 4-5 hours until rice is done and beans are tender.

Serve with hot sauce if desired. A nice side dish for this is Spicy Baked Chard. A slice of sour dough bread might be nice as well.

Notes: This recipe is Vegan as written. The possibilities with this recipe are endless. You can substitute black or pinto beans in place of the red. Sometimes I like to add in other vegetables to up the nutritional punch. Zucchini, squash and/or carrots are really great in this mix. If you really want to spice things up add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper on top of the Cajun or Creole seasoning, which I do often. Also you could add a vegetarian sausage if you prefer, but I like to use the smoked paprika for that sausage taste as I've never been a fan of the sausages used in Red Beans and Rice.

Posted by Dianne at 11:13 AM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

July 17, 2010

Another Summer Salad

Another Summer Salad

It's been hot. Really, really, really hot. And when it gets like this I have zero interest in cooking. It's too hot to grill and I most certainly don't want to heat up the house, so I've been eating a lot of salads. It's the perfect solution to dinner in the summer when you can get all sorts of produce from literally under the sun!

So we've established that it is easy to come up with all sorts of salads, but it's hard to name them all! Therefore this is simply "Another Summer Salad" but don't let the bland name fool you. This one is packed full of flavor and is just perfect for that hot summer day!

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup of cabbage, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels removed (Note: I used some I had grilled earlier in the week when we actually had a day that wasn't blazing hot.)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: I actually used 1/2 of a green pepper and 1/2 of a yellow.)
1 large cucumber, cut in half and sliced
1-2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan, shredded

Another Summer Salad

In a large glass bowl toss together cabbage, corn, red onion, bell pepper and tomatoes until well mixed. Set aside.

In a small glass bowl whisk together extra virgin olive oil, brown rice vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some finely ground black pepper until incorporated. Pour oil and vinegar over vegetables and toss to coat.

Sprinkle the salad with Parmesan and toss once more to mix in the cheese. Serve immediately.

Another Summer Salad

Notes: This time of year there are so many things you could add to this mix! Banana peppers would be great, or how about some shredded carrots? Peas are also a favorite. Don't be afraid to mix it up! You could also top it off with some fresh herbs like chives or parsley.

Posted by Dianne at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 8, 2010

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Man has it every been hot out there! Because of this heat there is no way I was heating up the oven or stove to make dinner. I've been doing a lot of slow cooker meals and also a lot of salads. There is just nothing like a salad with fresh vegetables in the summer!

We are starting to get fresh tomatoes here in the area now, especially the cherry and grape varieties and I've been loving eating them plain, as well as in salads and even cooking with them when the heat wasn't as bad.

This is a salad that I've really been loving as of late. It's quick, easy, healthy and delicious! It's the perfect summer time treat!

What You'll Need:
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (Note: I used an orange variety.)
1 spring of fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
The juice of 1 lime

Slice tomatoes and place in a glass bowl. Add rosemary, a pinch of sea salt (I used fleur de sel) and some freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat.

In a small bowl whisk together lime juice and olive oil and pour over the tomatoes. Toss again to mix.

Serve immediately.

Note: Due to the lime juice you'll want to eat the salad when you make it. If you store it the lime juice will begin to break down the tomatoes. You can also add thyme and/or parsley to the mix. A variety of tomatoes mixed would be good as well.

Posted by Dianne at 2:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2010

Spicy Baked Chard

Spicy Baked Chard

We're melting! We're melting! Oh wait...I got sucked in to Wizard of Oz for a moment...Where was I?

After a couple of days just above freezing temperatures, despite the fact that Mother Nature scoffed at me and let it snow yesterday, we're actually seeing some melting! If I could dance, and rest assured I can not without looking like a chicken with seizures, I'd be dancing my happy little self around in a circle!

Today we're supposed to hit around 40, 40 I tell you! I mean let's break out the flip flops! And are supposed to continue to do so for the next two days. We're finally going to be able to reschedule our dinner with friends that was supposed to happen the night the first storm hit.

Keep in mind there is a slight chance of snow Saturday night that I am hoping will just go away and the extended forecast says we might have some snow on Monday, though details of that are too far out to know for sure. So fingers crossed that goes away, but still. We are making some progress in the melting department and that makes me a very, very happy spring yearning person!

Melting, Slowly

Now on to chard.

I love chard. The past few months I had been actually craving it, but some reason I couldn't find it at my local store. I finally made it over to MOM and they had rainbow chard and I was a very happy girl. I promptly bought it and then put in the fridge and forgot it for a week or so. Luckily it didn't go bad and the other night I decided to see what would happen if it was baked, and you know what it worked!

The chard ended up a bit crispy (which I like), yet tender at the same time. This is the perfect, quick, easy and healthy side dish to spice up your dinner. This is the perfect side dish for a busy night when you need to get dinner on the table fast!

What You'll Need:
Chard, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spicy Baked Chard: Ready to Bake

Chop chard in place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes. (Note: More if you like it spicy, less if you don't.) Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until chard is slightly crispy around the edges and soft in the middle.

Serve immediately.

Notes: This works on any leafy green.

Posted by Dianne at 12:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2010

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

I eat a lot of mushrooms. I've always liked them, even as a child. One of my favorite things to do with mushrooms is to make soup. A lot of people think of a creamy soup when they think of mushrooms, but my favorite is not only creamless, it's actually vegan as well.

Mushrooms are really quite versatile and I've made variations of this soup over time, but I have to say this is my favorite version. When steeped in water mushrooms give you a very "beefy" broth without the cholesterol. What's not to like about that?

This soup is easy, quick and delicious. In no time you have a steaming pot of soup that is not only healthy, but is also hearty and satisfying. Who says the two have to be mutually exclusive?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into strips (Note: Sometimes I use red onions, sometimes I use white or yellow. This time around I used yellow.)
1 leek, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped fine (Note: If you don't have fresh, you can use 1 teaspoon of dried, but the fresh really is best with this soup.)
A generous pinch of sea sat
Finely ground black pepper
2 cups of button mushroom slices
2 cups of crimini or baby bella mushroom slices
4 cups of water
2 cups of spinach leaves, chopped roughly

In a large to medium pot saute onions and leeks with sea salt, black pepper and rosemary in a little extra virgin olive oil, stirring often until slightly caramelized:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Leeks and Onions Slightly Caramelized

This is the only place that you are adding seasonings so be generous. You want roughly a teaspoon of sea salt and up to a teaspoon of black pepper depending on how "spicy" you like things.

Add mushrooms and stir to mix:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Mushrooms

Don't worry about cooking the mushrooms before the next step. They are going to cook in the water and form the broth of the soup, just like you are making mushroom broth.

Add water and again stir to mix:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Ready to Cook

Cook mushrooms at a simmer until broth darkens and mushrooms are tender. This usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes.

Next add spinach leaves:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup: Spinach Added

Cook and additional 2 to 3 minutes until spinach wilts:

My Favorite Mushroom Soup

Serve immediately.

Notes: Sometimes I add in fresh thyme too, but for the most part I prefer this with the rosemary alone.

Posted by Dianne at 10:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 3, 2010

Snowy Day Chili

Snowy Day Chili: With Toppings

It started snowing last night again and we ended up getting four more inches of snow on top of what we already had on the ground. We may get more snow this weekend too, I've heard everything form a dusting, to perhaps up to ten inches!

Snow makes me think of soups and stews and yesterday I really had a taste for chili! I had soaked beans on Monday and planned to make pinto beans for dinner last night so that's what Alexis and I had, but no one says you can't take the left overs and make a little chili! ;oP

This morning I put together a pot and Alexis and I had chili for lunch. There is just nothing like a hearty bowl of chili on a cold winter day!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes (Note: I used some I had frozen this summer. Just throw them in whole.)
1 pound of ground beef
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1/2 tablespoon of ground chipolte chili powder
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Note: Again more if you like it spicy, less if you don't.)
2-3 cups of pinto beans (Note: More if you like beans, less if you don't.)
1 quart of diced tomatoes (Note: I used some I canned this summer. You can use a large can from the store instead.)
1-2 cups of water (Note: Just to thin things out a bit, but you don't want it too thin.)

Add some olive oil to a large stock pot and saute onions, peppers and garlic until just tender. Add cherry tomatoes, ground beef and seasonings:

Snowy Day Chili: Ready to Cook Meat

Cook for 3-5 minutes until meat is mostly browned and the add beans:

Snowy Day Chili: Ready for Diced Tomatoes

Next add diced tomatoes and water:

Snowy Day Chili: Ready to Simmer

Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Make sure the cherry tomatoes have cooked through:

Snowy Day Chili: Done!

Serve plain, or with cheese and sour cream. Chives or scallions are good too!

Snowy Day Chili

Notes: This is one of the rare time I actually used ground beef in my chili. Most of the time I make a vegetarian version, or my recent foray into ground chicken. I really just had a taste for a more "traditional" chili today.

Posted by Dianne at 12:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2010

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

As I've mentioned before I'm a recent convert to Brussels sprouts. When you think of this vegetable most often you think of dull, tasteless and boring, but they really don't have to be! This version is a spicy twist that makes a fabulous side dish, or even a really good meatless main course paired with a salad. They are easy, tender, spicy, healthy and delicious. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
4-6 cloves of garlic minced
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

Cut the stem end off of the Brussels sprouts and cut them into slices. Place in a large glass bowl:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Sprouts

Mince garlic and add to the Brussels sprouts:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Sprouts and Garlic

Next add coarse sea salt (I like the Celtic variety), freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Salt and Peppers

How much you add is according to taste. I like things spicy so I add a lot of both varieties of pepper. If you're not a spicy person use less.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and toss to coat:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts: Tossed and Ready to Cook

Preheat pan over medium to high heat. You want your pan screeching hot! Add a thin layer of olive oil and cook, stirring often until Brussels sprouts are tender and slightly browned in places:

Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Serve immediately.

Notes: No notes for this one.

Posted by Dianne at 11:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 7, 2010

Baked Green Beans

Baked Green Beans

Green beans can be tricky, but they are one of my favorite side dishes, though I rarely eat them. This is an easy side dish that can be thrown together in a no time and tastes fabulous. By using green beans and adding a little onion and seasoning you have a very healthy, very delicious side dish that really hits the spot.

What You'll Need:
Raw green beans (Note: You could use frozen if you wanted, but should cut the cooking time down to 25-30 minutes.)
1 small red onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Baked Green Beans: Ready to Bake

Brush the bottom and sides of an 8 X 8 inch dish with olive oil. Add green beans. (Note: I used a 12 ounce package I picked up in the salad isle, but there isn't an exact amount you need to do this.) Top beans with chopped onion, a drizzle of olive oil, some coarse sea salt and some freshly cracker black pepper.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until beans are tender and onions are slightly caramelized.

Baked Green Beans: Baked

Notes: You could add in a few cloves of minces garlic too if you wanted. Any kind of onion will work as well.

Posted by Dianne at 2:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 6, 2009

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Some people turn up their nose at sun dried tomatoes, but I'm a huge fan. I love their sweet, concentrated burst of flavor! You can get the same type of results by oven drying any basic tomato, and its especially fun to do with those late season tomatoes, that you might have a lot of right about now. It's a simple way to dry your tomatoes to be used later in any recipe that calls for sun dried tomatoes, or even just as a fabulous, healthy snack!

What You'll Need:
Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Plum Tomatoes

Rinse and dry your tomatoes. You can use any type of tomatoes you like. This go around I used plum tomatoes, but I like to do this method with cherry or grape tomatoes too. If you use cherry/grape tomatoes you can skip the next step and go straight to the "drying" process.

Slice tomatoes and lay out on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet:

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Ready to Dry

Some people add herbs, salt or even sugar at this point, but I like to do them plain.

Bake for 4-6 hours checking every 30 minutes or so until completely "dried":

Oven Dried Tomatoes: Done!

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. (Note: If you store them in the fridge they'll last a very long time.)

Notes: No notes for this one!

Posted by Dianne at 12:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 24, 2009

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille

For a while now I've been meaning to make a Ratatouille type dish, but just never got around to doing just that. This time of year is just perfect for this because you have so many fresh, local, healthy ingredients right at your finger tips! By pairing a few vegetables and some herbs you've got a fabulous meal that tastes amazing. I love simple, yet delicious!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Red potatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tomatoes
Thyme
Rosemary
Zucchini
Yellow squash
1 small eggplant
Red onion
Garlic scapes

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Brush a pie plate with olive oil and place a layer of potatoes of the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Potatoes

You want to add just a little salt. You're going to be seasoning each layer, so you want just enough salt for the layer in question. Don't let yourself get to heavy with the salt, or you'll end up with a dish that is too salty to eat. You want somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 a teaspoon per layer spread evenly.

Next add a layer of sliced tomatoes on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and rosemary:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Tomatoes and Herbs

Be generous with everything but the salt. This picture was taken mid sprinkling. Make sure to get lots of herbs on this layer!

For the top layer you want to place zucchini, squash and eggplant to cover the top. Top this with red onion and garlic scapes. (Note: If you don't have garlic scapes you can use 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic instead.) Next drizzle the top with a bit more olive oil and then sprinkle with sea salt, more freshly ground black pepper, thyme and rosemary:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ready to Bake

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover at the 30 minute mark and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until slightly browned and vegetables are tender:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Baked

Serve immediately.

Now let's have some fun with leftovers!

When the leftovers sit in the fridge overnight the mixture breaks down a bit, especially the tomatoes and it forms something that resembles more like a chunky Ratatouille Soup:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ratatouille Becomes Soup (The Next Day!)

You can reheat and eat this as is, or you can throw in some chicken to make it an more hearty soup:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ratatouille Becomes Soup (The Next Day!)

I love taking left overs and making them slightly different!

Notes: You could add shrimp or beef to the "soup" the next day too. Or as I said before you could just enjoy it as is for a vegan treat. Also oregano could be added in place of, or in addition to the herbs used.

Posted by Dianne at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 20, 2009

Potato And Corn Chowder

Potato and Corn Chowder

Often time you will find in my fridge left over corn on the cob (one of Lex's favorites!) and left over roasted potatoes (one of Jamison's staples) and while left overs are good, why not take them an make something else? So that's just what I did!

This chowder is completely dairy free, making it a bit lighter, but you'll never miss that addition. You'll use corn to help thicken the chowder instead of flour as well. This is a fresh, hearty, yet healthy meal that is easy to make. What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
3 garlic scapes, chopped (Note: I found some garlic scapes that had been pushed to the back of my vegetable drawer from earlier this year and they were still good! If you don't have scapes you can use 2-3 cloves of minced garlic instead.)
2 cups of roasted potato chunks (Note: If you don't have any left over roast some yourself at 425 F with a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper until golden brown and tender.)
4-6 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob and divided
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of broth (Note: I used chicken, but whatever you have on hand is fine.)
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried dill

In a large pot sauté red onion and garlic scapes in a little extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until tender:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Onions and Garlic Scapes

Next add potatoes and stir to mix:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Onions, Garlic Scapes and Potatoes

Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to "warm" the potatoes.

While the potatoes are "warming" move on to your corn.

Remove the kernels from the cobs. Take half of the kernels (if you're using 4 ears then two of the ears, if you're using 6 then 3) and place them in them in your food processor:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Corn

Next process until mostly smooth:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Creamed

Add the creamed corn to your pot:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Creamed Corn

Stir to mix.

Next add remaining ingredients and stir well:

Potato and Corn Chowder: Almost Ready

Bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. The soup will thicken a bit as it cooks.

Serve immediately.

Potato and Corn Chowder: Up Close

Notes: You could add in other ingredients if you liked. I had intended to add shredded carrots, but forgot when I was making the soup. You could also switch up the seasonings. Why not Old Bay instead of thyme and dill? Or you could go with only thyme, or only dill. It's up to you.

Posted by Dianne at 11:29 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 17, 2009

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

I love veggie burgers! My favorite kind to buy from the store is just your standard Boca Burger, but you can easily make them at home with various ingredients for a healthy alternative when you want to cut out a little meat.

This version pairs summer vegetables, that some of you probably have coming out of your ears, with beans and rice to make a hearty, yet healthy alternative to the standard burger. Dress it up however you like it, pair it with some oven fries and/or a side salad and you've got the perfect meal!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1 portabella mushroom cap, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
Extra virgin oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ear of corn, stripped from the cob
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup of cooked black eyed peas
2 cups of cooked chick peas
2 cups of cooked brown rice
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 F. (Note: I like to do this part in my toaster oven. It doesn't heat up the house as much!)

Better Bites: Veggie Burgers: Veggies Ready To Roast

Chop zucchini, yellow squash, mushroom and onions and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground sea salt. Place veggies in a preheated oven and roast until veggies are tender. About 20-30 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a food processor (or if you don't have one with a potato masher or food mill) process chick peas and black eyed peas until smooth. (Note: If you want you can use a little of the liquid from cooking the beans if it doesn't smooth out well. If you are using canned beans you can use a little liquid from the can.)

In a large glass bowl mix together corn kernels, shredded carrots, roasted vegetables, processed beans, rice and eggs until completely incorporated.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Next spray a 2/3 cup measuring cup with non-stick spray and place the filling into it packing it tightly. Turn the "burger" out of the cup into a baking dish that has also been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers Ready To Bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers Baked

I like to serve these on toasted flat bread with a little mayo:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

But you can top them however you like!

Makes 11-12 veggie burgers.

Notes: You can add in other vegetables if you like, or season the mixture to your liking. Cajun seasoning it good, or even Old Bay.

Posted by Dianne at 8:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 13, 2009

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Some people think that warm soups are only a cold weather food, but I've never fallen into that line of thinking. I love soup, Alexis loves soup, and it seems a shame to just corral it into the cooler months of the year, though I do make more soup during those times. So even during summer you'll see soup pop up on our menu from time to time.

The other day I was in the mood for soup and surprisingly while I was thinking about soup Alexis actually asked me if we could have soup for dinner. Alexis' go to soup is chicken noodle, but I decided I wanted to take some of my fresh vegetables and whip up a soup with those. You could really eat this soup year round, utilizing frozen vegetables, but with the fresh variety it really gives the soup that much more!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
1-2 yellow squash, chopped
1-2 carrots, cut in half and sliced
2-3 ears of corn, kernels stripped from the cob
1-2 cups of green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
1 quart of canned tomatoes (Note: If you don't have canned tomatoes you can use 2 -14.5 ounce cans of tomatoes instead.)
2 quarts of chicken broth
A generous pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme

(Note: The proportions of this soup do NOT have to be perfect! If you have a little more of something and little less of something else that's completely OK. You can mix and match what you add.)

In a large stock pot sauté the onions, celery, zucchini, squash, carrots, corn and green beans until onions are tender. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, sea salt, black pepper, oregano and thyme and stir to mix. Taste the soup and if it needs more salt or pepper add it now.

Bring soup to a quick boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Serve immediately.

This soup also freezes well.

Notes: This soup has endless possibilities. You can add in peas, or fresh chick peas, or leeks, or mushrooms, or potatoes, etc. Go with what you have on hand and what you like. You could also add in bit of chicken, steak or shrimp. If you liked rice or noodles either could be added as well.

Posted by Dianne at 9:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2009

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Asian Lettuce Wraps

For a while now I've been hearing a lot about lettuce wraps or cups. I haven't tried either, but after taking a look at them I figured they wouldn't be that hard to make! And you know what? They aren't! This recipe is a fabulous, healthy meal in one that you can whip up quickly (after you marinate) and enjoy in no time. Pop the marinate in the fridge in the morning and in 20 minutes or so you've got dinner that night! How easy is that?

What You'll Need:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
2 scallions chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of flank steak, cut into strips
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce
2/3 cup of cold water
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
1 large portabella mushrooms cap, cut in half and then into strips
Romaine or bib lettuce leaves
Cooked brown rice
Toothpicks

First you want to get the meat marinating. I like to do this in a canning jar:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Ready to Marinate

First add garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger, scallions and black pepper to the bottom of the jar.

Next add steak strips and cover with water, soy sauce and add the sesame oil. (Note: You really want to make sure you use a low sodium soy sauce or this will be so salty you won't want to eat it!)

Give the jar a shake and place in the fridge for at least four hours. Give it a shake now and then to mix things up, or ignore it entirely. It can be done either way.

When you're ready to make the wraps make sure you make your rice and have it ready to go first. Depending on the variety of brown rice that you choose it might take 20 minutes, or even up to 50 minutes to cook.

Add the mushrooms and bell peppers to the bottom of a large skillet:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Ready for Marinated Meat

Next pour in the marinade mixture from the glass jar:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Cooking

Cook until the marinade is absorbed, the vegetables are tender and the meat is done:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Filling

Once your filling is done it's time to make your wrap!

First you need a piece of lettuce:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Lettuce

I used romaine. You might have to break the spine a bit to get it to roll as well depending on the leaf.

Next add 1/4-1/3 cup of brown rice to the middle of each leaf:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Rice

And then add a bit of filling and begin the rolling process:

Asian Lettuce Wraps: Wrapping

I like to secure one side first and then bring the other side over. It makes it easier than trying to roll it all at once. So roll one side and secure it with a toothpick. This helps hold it in place while you roll the other side.

Bring the other side over and hold. Remove toothpick and stick it through the entire roll:

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Then serve!

This makes 4-5 rolls.

Notes: You could use chicken, shrimp, etc. Or you could even just load it up with vegetables for a vegetarian option.

Posted by Dianne at 11:03 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 13, 2009

Better Bites: Two For One: Gazpacho Salad or Gazpacho Soup

Gazpacho Soup

As I mentioned before I'll be contributing over at Allie's Answers once a month or so. Today is the day! So stop over and say hello. It's a great place to get a lot of green tips and ideas!

In the summer it is so easy to eat healthy, local, fresh produce! Some of us don't have the luxury of being able to have fresh, local produce year round, so we really enjoy it when we do! But if you're like me after the initial thrill of having a vine ripe tomato all by itself, or fresh cucumbers sliced for a snack, or any other variety of summer garden goody right from the garden/farmer's market all by themselves has worn off you want to do something else with the natural bounty.

For years I've wanted to make some gazpacho, but I always get side tracked. (And in all honesty try...How is it possible that I had never had gazpacho before now?) Gazpacho is the perfect summer time treat! By taking a few simple ingredients and about 10 minutes you've got dinner in no time! It's cool (which is fabulous on a hot summer day), it's no cook so you don't have to heat up your house to eat (also great on a hot summer day), there are no animal products or by products (making the dish vegan, for those of us trying to eat less meat and thus reduce our overall impact) and it's a delicious, not to mention healthy, way to have a filling meal, without eating anything that is too heavy. Overall it's a very earth friendly recipe and that is always a plus.

Another great thing about gazpacho is that it's quite versatile. You can add in other vegetables that you like, throw in some herbs, or even add in some bread crumbs if you like. If you aren't in the mood for soup you can eat the vegetable combination before it's processed smooth as a salad. Also the proportions don't have to be exactly the same each time. It's a forgiving recipe that allows you to experiment each time. It's quick, easy and delicious and sometimes in the summer that is just what you need!

Gazpacho: Ingredients

What You'll Need:
6-8 tomatoes
4-6 small cucumbers, cut in half and sliced (Note: You want the pickling size. If you can't find these you can use one large cucumber.)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar

Chop tomatoes and place in a large glass bowl:

Gazpacho: Tomatoes

Next chop cucumbers and add them in with the tomatoes:

Gazpacho: Tomatoes and Cucumbers

And then the green peppers:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Green Peppers

Red onion:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Red Onion

Garlic:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Garlic

And last your black pepper, salt, oil and vinegar:

Gazpacho: Vegetables, Pepper, Salt, Oil and Vinegar

The really great thing about this is that everything can be roughly chopped. It doesn't have to be uniform or perfect, just chop and go!

After everything is in the bowl you want to stir to mix everything together and let the oil and vinegar coat the vegetables:

Gazpacho Salad: You Can Stop Here or Proceed to Make Soup!

At this point you can do one of two things...You can stop right here and have Gazpacho Salad or you can proceed to the directions below to make soup.

Place vegetable mixture in your food processor or blender:

Gazpacho: Vegetables Ready to Process

Process until smooth and place in a serving dish:

Gazpacho Soup: Ready to Serve

Repeat this process until you have processed all of your vegetables into soup.

You can chill this soup or eat it immediately. It's great topped with parsley or fresh herbs.

Makes 4-6 main course servings.

And look at this:

Gazpacho Soup

The color and texture is fabulous! Not to mention the taste! You get a zing from the onion, garlic and black pepper, coupled with a coolness from the other vegetables. It's just the perfect combination!

Notes: If you want a chunkier soup then don't process for as long. You could also add herbs in with the vegetables. Rosemary, thyme and/or oregano would be great or how about dill? These subtle changes can make it so you have something different, yet similar every time!

Cross posted at Allie's Answers.

Posted by Dianne at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2009

Better Bites: Stir Fry

bbdd2

I like stir fry. It's a fun dish to whip up, takes very little time, yet gives a delicious, healthy result that you could easily share with others. You can include anything you like. You can make an all vegetable version or you can use chicken, shrimp, beef, etc. If you like it, you can add it to your stir fry! It's all a matter of making it to your tastes.

Today we're going to take a look at two versions...One made with shrimp and one made with chicken. The only difference between the two are the components, the "sauce" is the same. This is a very basic, very simple way to have a great stir fry in minutes! And you get two dishes that are practically the same, yet totally different too!

Stir fry is such a versatile dish. You can make it many ways, switch up the ingredients and always have something slightly different, yet similar. This dish is satisfying, healthy and delicious! Paired with some brown rice you've got the perfect healthy, yet hearty meal!

Better Bites: Stir Fry Two Ways: Shrimp

What You'll Need for the Shrimp Stir Fry:
Sesame oil (Note: You can also use extra virgin olive oil)
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 cup of snow peas (Note: I measure these by standing them up on their ends in the measuring cup.)
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
1-2 cup of broccoli (Note: More if you're a big fan of broccoli, less if you aren't.)
1/3 cup of soy sauce (Note: You can use any type you like. I used a gluten free version.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (Note: Use more if you like it hot, use less if you don't.)
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined (Note: You can buy them this way if you don't want to do it yourself.)

In a large skillet sauté onion, snow peas, mushrooms and broccoli until just tender. Add soy sauce and peppers, along with shrimp and stir to coat. (Note: Soy sauce is salty by itself. No need to add more salt.)

Cook until soy sauce starts to evaporate/thicken and shrimp turns pink.

Serve immediately over brown rice.

Makes roughly 2 dinner sized servings.

Better Bites: Stir Fry Two Ways: Chicken

What You'll Need for the Chicken Stir Fry:
Sesame oil (Note: You can also use extra virgin olive oil)
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into chunks
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 cup of snow peas (Note: See note above on measuring.)
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of asparagus, chopped
1/3 cup of soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (Note: Use more if you like it hot, use less if you don't.)

Sauté chicken in a little sesame oil until slightly browned and done through. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Sauté onion, snow peas, mushrooms and asparagus until tender. Add a little more sesame oil before sautéing if needed.

Once vegetables are tender place chicken back to the pan, along with soy sauce and peppers and stir to coat. Cook until soy sauce is absorbed and serve immediately over brown rice.

Makes 2 dinner sized servings.

Notes: You could easily leave the meat out of either of these and add in other vegetables and/or tofu. Shredded carrot would be great or how about some bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. You could even do all three!

Posted by Dianne at 9:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Scapes and the Importance of Eating Local

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Scapes

As I mentioned yesterday I'm going to be contributing over at Allie's Answers about green food and cooking once a month or so. Today is the day! So stop over and say hello and see what else is going on over there!

No matter where you look these days you can find someone talking about eating locally. Some eat local all year round, and I think that's easier to do when you live in areas of California and Florida that have local produce year round, and others just focus on eating local as much as possible. I fall in the latter category and focus on eating local whenever the opportunity is available.

There are several ways to eat local and it's especially easy during the summer months! You can eat as local as you can possibly get and grow your own, you can visit a local farmer's market or you can join a CSA. You can also do a little research and find out what is actually produced in your area and try to buy exclusively from them whenever possible. You can find a local dairy farm or a local mill, etc. You'd be amazed what might be around that you don't know about before! But what are the real benefits?

First and most obvious what you are getting is fresher and comes to you from a much shorter distance. This makes it possible to have tomatoes right off the vine, strawberries ripe from the field, etc. Those items are normally picked green and then shipped to ripen as they travel. And anyone knows who has had a fresh ripe tomato or strawberry, versus ones that were shipped over great distances while still green, that there is just no comparison! Fresher also means more nutrients because they haven't been around longer and started degrading and they also haven't had to be waxed or otherwise preserved to last longer. Fresh, unmodified and healthier is always a plus!

Second, and as I mentioned above, your food isn't being shipped over great distances, making the carbon footprint much smaller! If you grow it yourself you're just walking out your own back door! That's about as local as you can possibly get. If you are part of a local CSA or attend a local Farmer's Market the items are coming from your local area, instead of being driven, flown or shipped by boat over great distances, hundreds, maybe thousands of miles, and sometimes from other countries! This makes your eating much greener over all and saves a whole lot of pollution from being added to environment. It also helps put money back in your local economy and we all know how important that is these days.

Third (and I have to admit this might be my favorite) you know where your food has come from. You get to meet even the farmer in many cases! A lot of farm have festivals and things that invite you come see what they do and where. For instance I get my milk from South Mountain Creamery. I've been over the farm to their festivals and I've even met some of the family! Also with our CSA Farmer Rick has an e-mail address and has always answered promptly whenever I've had a question. The farm even puts out a weekly newsletter keeping you up to date with what is going on with the crops and how they are faring. I've even met Farmer Rick briefly as well too! It's nice to see where your food is coming from and have a connection to the people who bring that to you.

So what am I doing this year?

As I just mentioned we joined our CSA this summer (my sister is a member of a CSA too) and on top of what I'm planting myself since I knew we weren't having a big garden this year, I wanted to be able to have locally grown, organic produce to enjoy all summer long. I've been keeping track of our CSA packages and have been very pleased so far! Jamison picks up our share on his way home from work and it makes Monday a lot of fun because I can't wait to see what surprise I am going to get once he arrives! Farmer Rick normally gives an idea of what is going to be in the "box" each week, but that newsletter usually comes out after we've gotten our share. I like the surprise!

It's also a good way to try new things. I have wanted to try garlic scapes for years, but never could find them anywhere. We got some a couple of weeks ago and I loved them! It's fun to try new things and it's a good experience for Alexis to see new things as well!

So now what? Want to find a CSA in your area (though in reality you've probably missed the boat for this year on that avenue) you can go to Local Harvest and use their CSA finder. Local Harvest also has a tool to help you find Farmer's Markets in your area. It's not hard to find these local avenues and you'll be so happy you did!

Now I'm going to share with you a recipe with ingredients from my CSA! This is for those asparagus lovers (like me!) out there. By pairing the asparagus with the garlic scapes you take a "normal" dish and make it that much better! It's also healthy, so what's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
1 bunch of asparagus
3-4 garlic scapes, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash and trim the end of the asparagus. Place in a glass dish and sprinkle with garlic scapes, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Scapes: Ready for the Oven

Ok now here's the fun part...you can cook this several different ways! You can cook this in a preheated 400 F oven for 25-30 minutes until tender (or in the toaster oven which I like to do when it's hot outside so as not to heat up the house!) or you can pan "fry" it over medium heat until tender or you can place in a foil packet or grill pan and grill for 10-15 minutes until tender. How's that for versatile?

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic Scapes: Roasted

Notes: If you can't find garlic scapes then you could use chopped garlic or onions instead.

Cross posted at Allie's Answers.

Posted by Dianne at 8:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2009

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

What better way to use my gorgeous, fresh, organic, local strawberries and asparagus then get creative with a salad? The flavors meld very well and you've got a lovely combination of savory and sweet all mixed into one! This dish is super easy, very delicious and comes together very quickly to make a healthy dish you can use as a main course or as a side dish. Don't you just love versatile recipes?

Now what to do with the rest of the strawberries... ;oP

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 springs of thyme, leaves stripped from stems
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pint of strawberries, chopped

Strawberry Asparagus Salad: Asparagus and Garlic

Sauté asparagus and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil with thyme leaves, sea salt and some freshly ground pepper until asparagus is slightly tender and slightly browned. Remove from heat.

Place cut strawberries in a glass bowl. Add asparagus/garlic mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm, or even chilled. It's good either way!

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

How simple is that?

Notes: After the fact I thought about adding crushed chile pepper. I think I will next time!

Posted by Dianne at 2:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2009

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp

I love shrimp. I've always been fond of the tender little morsels. I also love spicy, and as I get older the more spicy I like things! A few weeks ago I made some steamed shrimp for dinner for Alexis and me and I had some left overs so I decided it would be fun to take the left overs, pair them with some rice and beans and make a healthy spicy shrimp/bean/rice dish and I did just that.

This dish definitely was spicy, but it was a nice heat. This makes for a hearty, yet healthy dinner that really hits the spot if spicy is your thing too. Paired with a tossed salad it makes the perfect meal.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 cup of wild rice
2 1/2 cups of broth or water
1 - 15.5 ounce can of black beans, undrained
2 tablespoons of Creole seasoning (Note: I used Tony Chachere's)
2-3 cups of steamed shrimp

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp: Veggies and Rice

In a medium sized pot sauté onion, bell pepper and celery in extra virgin olive oil until tender. Add rice and Creole seasoning stirring to mix then cook for two or three minutes to toast the rice.

Add beans and broth or water then bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes covered stirring occasionally. Remove lid and cook 10 more minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender.

Once rice is tender and liquid is absorbed add shrimp and stir to mix. Cook for 3 minutes to heat shrimp through and serve.

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp: Shrimp

Notes: You could use chicken if you aren't a fan of shrimp, or leave out the meat all together for a vegetarian/vegan option. Also let me stress again this is very spicy so if spicy isn't your thing you could leave out the Creole seasoning and add chili powder or just salt and pepper instead. It changes the dish fundamentally though.

Posted by Dianne at 8:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 24, 2009

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

Roasted Balsamic Vegetables

So we all know we need to eat our vegetables, but why not kick them up a bit? You can make a fabulous, yet healthy side dish, or even main course with a little balsamic vinegar to give your vegetables that extra pizazz! Who says vegetables have to be boring?

What You'll Need:
1 small zucchini, cut in half and then sliced into chunks
1 small yellow squash, cut in half and then sliced into chunks
4 large button mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 baby portabella mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/2 a red onion, cut into strips
6-8 baby red potatoes, quartered
A drizzle of olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
Celtic or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Drizzle the bottom of an 8 X 8 inch baking dish with olive oil. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Pour balsamic vinegar over the top and then sprinkle with sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Bake for 25-25 minutes until potatoes are tender and serve immediately.

How easy was that?

Notes: You can use this as a side dish or you can serve it over some brown rice to make it a main dish. You can add other vegetables if you like as well. Sweet potatoes would be good, as would rutabaga or any root vegetable that you like.

Posted by Dianne at 11:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2008

Sweet Potato Wedges

Sweet Potato Wedges

I love sweet potatoes! They are such a wonderful, flavorful, and healthy alternative to your basic potato. You can take them and make a fabulous side dish that will definitely please a crowd, with little effort! Want something a little different to go along with dinner tonight? Then look no further...You're there!

What You'll Need:
1 large sweet potato
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary (Note: I usually add this, but for some reason this go around I forgot!)
A generous pinch of coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sweet Potato Wedges: Ready to Bake

Cut a sweet potato into wedges. (Note: No need to remove the skin unless you just want to. It adds flavor and nutrients.) Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil and place into a baking dish. Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and bake for 35-45 minutes until sweet potatoes stick done. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could do this method with any potato, but keep in mind sweet potatoes tend to bake a little faster than other potatoes.

Posted by Dianne at 8:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2008

Chicken and Mushroom Kabobs

Chicken and Mushroom Kabobs

Kabobs are a fun way to present normal ingredients and give them a little flare! They don't take much work, not to mention they are healthy to boot, yet they still have a bit of a wow factor to them. You can easily take them and make them any way you like, but who says you can't have a little fun with your healthy food?

What You'll Need per Person:
1 small boneless, skinless chicken breast
6-8 button mushrooms
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Seasoning of your choice
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Chicken and Mushroom Kabobs: Ready to Cook

Cut chicken into approximately even sized chunks. Place on a bamboo skewer and brush with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and seasoning of your choice. (Note: If your seasoning has salt in it omit the sea salt.) Repeat process with mushrooms as well.

Chicken and Mushroom Kabobs: Baked

Bake for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are tender and chicken is slightly browned and done through.

Serve with rice.

Notes: Any meat or veggie will work. It's completely up to you and your tastes.

Posted by Dianne at 12:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 6, 2008

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

I'm in an appley mood this week, so let's do another apple recipe shall we?

Traditionally when you think of baked apples, you think of a whole apple, that has been cored and filled with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and/or nutmeg and possibly some raisins. But I wanted to try something a little different and it worked! These apples turned out to be amazing, all with no butter or sugar...What's not to like about that?

This could easily be a side dish, or how about using it to top waffles or pancakes? You could even use the apples to make a muffin! The possibilities are endless!

Note: It has come to my attention that my recipes/photos are being scraped from this site and posted on other sites without my permission. If you are not reading this through www.diannesdishes.com or the associated RSS feed then the content is stolen. I have not authorized my content to be posted anywhere else. Please e-mail me at diannesdishes at gmail dot com and let me know if you see things from my site that have been posted somewhere else. Thanks!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon of honey
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss together apple, honey and olive oil until apples are coated. Place in a baking dish. Top with cinnamon and nutmeg and bake for 25-30 minutes until apples are soft. Serve immediately.

Baked Apples

Notes: How easy is that? This version is much healthier than your standard baked apple, but trust me...You'll never miss the butter or the sugar!

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 31, 2008

Maryland Crab Soup A La Dianne

Maryland Crab Soup

I had intended to do a Halloween themed recipe for today, but it just didn't come together. So you'll have to settle for Maryland Crab Soup instead. Happy Halloween to all you out there that celebrate the spooky day and especially to my best friend Darlene, since it's her favorite holiday!

Now let's talk some soup!

I love crab. I'll readily admit though when I think of eating crab I think of crab cakes or crab legs or a crab boil or even deviled crabs, well before I think of Maryland Crab Soup. In fact since I moved to Maryland in 1999 I've had Maryland Crab Soup exactly once at a restaurant out on Tilghman Island called Harrison's Chesapeake House and I instantly fell in love. Despite that fact I still hadn't had it since then, even though I've been back to the Chesapeake House itself several times since then. That however was about to change.

A while back I picked up some fresh Maryland crab meat and I knew I wanted to make some soup this go around and the result was fabulous! This soup is tomomatoey, spicy and oh so lovely! If you like Maryland Crab Soup, then give my version a try. I think you'll be glad you did!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning (Note: More if you prefer spicy, less if you don't.)
2 - 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1- 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1/2 of a 16 ounce package of frozen peas (Note: Normally lima beans are used for MCS, but I didn't have any on hand since Miss G tends to adore them and go through them quickly, so I went with peas instead.)
1/2 of a 16 ounce package of frozen corn kernels
2 cups of water
1 pound of crab meat, rinsed and picked over for shells (Note: No matter how well you do this, inevitably some shells might make it into the soup.)

In a large stock pot sauté onions and potatoes with a little sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onions are tender and both onions and potatoes are slightly browned.

Next add Old Bay Seasoning and stir to coat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, frozen peas and frozen corn, along with water and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.

Once potatoes are tender add crab and cook for 5 minutes to heat through. Serve immediately.

Notes: This soup is extremely easy to make and has a bit of a wow factor to it too. It is also very healthy, so that is always an added plus. You could use lima beans in place of the peas as I mentioned above.

Posted by Dianne at 8:52 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 30, 2008

Veggie Rice

Veggie Rice

On most of the nights Jamison is in class Alexis and I have veggie meals. This dish is actually one that Alexis has loved since she was about a year old. It's just perfect because it's hearty, yet healthy and it really hits the spot! You can use this a side dish or as a main course...Sometimes it's nice to have options.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive
1 small onion, chopped
6-8 button mushrooms, sliced or chopped
2 large carrots, cut in half and sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
A pinch of sea salt
1 cup of wild rice
1 quart of broth (Note: If you want this to be completely vegetarian then use vegetable broth, but any kind of broth will work fine.)
1 - 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed (Note: You can use red or white beans instead.)

In a stock pot or large pan sauté onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery and garlic until onion is tender. Stir in paprika, onion powder, black pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Add rice and stir to coat.

Next stir in broth and bring to a quick boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally and then remove lid. Cook mixture until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (usually another 20-30 minutes) stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Once liquid is absorbed and rice is tender stir in beans and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes to heat beans. Serve immediately.

Notes: This makes fabulous leftovers! You can also add in other veggies if you like, such as leeks and/or peas.

Posted by Dianne at 7:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

Roasted Balsamic Onions

Roasted Balsamic Onions

I like quick, flavorful side dishes and when it's healthy to boot, you just can't go wrong! I had something similar to this a while back in a restaurant and kept meaning to try making some, but you know how that goes. I finally got around to trying it and I have to say I was sold! This is a great side dish for when you just want something a little different, but fabulous!

What You'll Need:
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 white or yellow onion, cut into wedges
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Balsamic Onions: Onions

Cut onions and put them in a glass bowl. Set aside.

In a glass measuring cup or canning jar mix together olive oil and balsamic vinegar and stir or shake to mix. Set aside.

Generously pepper the onion and add a pinch of coarse sea salt. Toss to coat. Pour oil/vinegar mixture over the onions and stir until all onions are completely coated.

Roasted Balsamic Onions: Ready to Marinate

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours stirring or tossing occasionally to redistribute the marinade.

Roasted Balsamic Onions: Marinated

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Remove onions from marinade and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet. Spread out evenly. (Note: You can also do this in a glass baking dish, but be sure to spray it with a little non-stick spray or brush it with olive oil to prevent sticking.) Spoon a little of the marinade over the onions and bake for 25-25 minutes until onions are soft and slightly caramelized.

Roasted Balsamic Onions

Serve immediately or chill and serve chilled.

Notes: Since you are marinating vegetables instead of meat you can use this marinade again. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for about a month. It's also good on chicken, beef, seafood, mushrooms or other veggies.

Posted by Dianne at 7:42 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 1, 2008

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup

October! How on earth is it already October? It doesn't seem like a year has passed since last October and now here we are! Time truly does fly! Before I know it Alexis will be in college!

This month is going to be fun here at Dianne's Dishes! The week of October 13-17 is going to bring an entire week of guest bloggers! I'm going to celebrate my birthday by letting some of my friends (and even my sister and one of my blog daughters!) share a little recipe love with you! The week of October 20-24 is going to be Homemade Bread week! I may even do some sort of giveaway to share the love for my 35th birthday! You won't want to miss any of that so stay tuned! More details to follow!

But what does any of that have to do with Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup? Nothing! So let's get to that shall we?

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup: Baby Portabella Mushroom

I love Baby Portabella Mushrooms! They are so versatile and they have such a nutty/meaty flavor! They are just perfect to sub into any dish in place of meat and even make an entire dish around! If you've never had a soup with mushroom broth then do try it, especially if you are a mushroom fan! The flavor just can not be beat!

What You'll Need:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced into slivers
4 cups of baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
4 cups of water
A pinch of sea salt
A generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of baby spinach leaves, chopped (Note: I've said this before, and I'll say it again...I don't care if the package says it has been washed a bazillion times, wash the spinach leaves anyway! They put some sort of weird something on the spinach, even the organic brands, that makes my tongue numb if it isn't washed away. I'm not sure what it is, but it can't be good! Wash, wash, wash those leaves! ;oP)
1 tablespoon of brown rice miso

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup: Onions Cooking

Sauté onions over medium heat in a small stockpot with olive oil, stirring often, until caramelized. Remove from pot and return pot to heat.

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup: Ready To Cook

Add mushrooms, water, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until mushrooms are tender and broth has formed. (Note: The process of cooking the mushrooms in the water makes the nutty mushroom broth.) This process will take roughly 15-20 minutes.

Baby Portabella Mushroom Soup: Caramelized Onions

Add spinach leaves and caramelized onions and cook until spinach is slightly wilted (about 2-3 minutes) and then add miso and stir to mix. (Note: Do not let the soup boil after the miso is added. I have no idea why this is, but every container and/or recipe I've ever seen for Miso Soup says to not let it boil.)

Once miso is dissolved serve immediately.

Note: This soup as made above is not only vegetarian, it's also vegan given there are no animal products in the soup, but trust me you'll never miss them!

Posted by Dianne at 8:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Another slow cooker recipe...I know, I know, you're all shocked! In fact in honor of the fact I seem to love my slow cooker lately I've added an entirely new category dedicated to just that! Now all of those fabulous slow cooker ideas will be in one place. I don't know about you, but I likes me some organization! ;o)

This dish was inspired by an advertisement I saw in Taste of Home for a slow cooker Mexican lasagna type deal. The picture looked so yummy that my mind went into overdrive and the very next night I set out to create my own version of Mexican stacked heaven! So sit back and relax and let's talk a little spicy slow cooker goodness!

What You'll Need:
Corn tortillas
1 - 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 small red onion, chopped
1 - 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed (Note: You can use red beans if you prefer or a mix of the two.)
1 - 16 ounce jar of taco sauce (Note: Whatever heat level you want will be fine. I used hot.)
Chili powder
Onion powder
Paprika
Sea salt
Textured Vegetable Protein
Frozen corn
Cheddar, shredded (Note: You can use Monterrey Jack instead of or mixed with the cheddar.)
Sour cream for topping (optional)

Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick spray and layer in corn tortillas to cover to bottom. (Note: In my slow cooker the first few layers take 2 tortillas and then as it expands as the cooker goes up you need 3 or 4.)

Once the bottom is covered with tortillas cover them with a layer of diced tomatoes:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Diced Tomatoes

Then add some chopped onion:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Red Onion

Next add a layer of beans:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Beans

After the beans add some taco sauce:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Taco Sauce

Now you want to add a generous sprinkling of seasonings and a tiny bit of salt:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Seasoning

Now sprinkle on some textured vegetable protein:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Textured Vegetable Protein

Next add some corn kernels:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Corn

Sprinkle on some shredded cheese:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Cheese

Then top with more tortillas:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Stack It Again

And repeat to process until you run out of tomatoes.

For the top of the stack up you want to top the corn tortillas with taco sauce:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Taco Sauce

And then cover generously with cheese:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Ready to Cook

Set your slow cooker to high and cook for 2-3 hours or on low for 3-4 and you'll have this:

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up: Cooked

Turn off the slow cooker and let sit for 15-20 minutes and then serve!

Slow Cooker Mexican Stack Up

Notes: If you wanted you could add shredded chicken, ground beef or even shrimp instead of the textured vegetable protein. You could also top this with avocado and/or additional taco sauce.

Posted by Dianne at 8:52 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 19, 2008

Chickenless Dill and Wild Rice Soup

Chickenless Dill and Wild Rice Soup: A Bite

Man...What a week! I keep thinking I'll get a second or two to slow down, but so far, not so much! This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one too. Tomorrow morning we're going to a fall festival at one of the local libraries. There will be plenty of games and activities for Alexis and she is beside herself with glee because there will be face painting! Can you imagine? Face painting! And she says it just like that...Face painting!! with exclamation points and gusto! ;o)

Tomorrow afternoon my sister, her husband and the boys are coming over to celebrate my sister's birthday a few days early, because I'm a big believer in celebrating birthdays! Birthdays should be happy times and not mourned. It irritates the life out of me when people mourn the day instead of celebrating their life! Life is a fabulous adventure and should be celebrated as such! So I will make my sister a magnificent meal and dessert of her choosing and we will celebrate the day! (If you take the link above you'll see last year's meal!) Plus we haven't had a chance to get together for the past few weeks so it's past time for baby cuddles too! ;oP

On Sunday Jamison has some homework to do and a midterm to work on and I have to do some lesson planning and things of that nature. It's going to be another whirlwind, but that's ok I guess. I can sleep later I suppose! ;oP

So we're going to round out the week with yet another slow cooker recipe. I've been utilizing it a lot this week and since I've made it through my back log of recipes, you're getting a pretty good indication of what I'm cooking in somewhat real time. I'm hoping to get a back log back up and running soon, but we'll see how things go.

This soup utilizes vegetable broth instead of using chicken, and takes the elements of a chicken and wild rice soup, without adding meat. It's hearty, healthy and meat free! Oh and did I mention easy? What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
1 quart of vegetable broth (Note: I used No Chicken Broth.)
2 carrots, cut into thin rounds
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 cup of frozen green beans (Note: You can use the ones that come out of the bag, but these were some I had frozen earlier in the summer.)
1 cup of frozen lima beans (Note: Again a big favorite for Lex.)
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1/2 cup of wild rice
1 tablespoon of dried dill
A generous pinch of sea salt (Note: If the broth you use is really salty omit this.)
Freshly ground black pepper

This truly is the ultimate dump and go soup. Dump everything into your slow cooker, give it a stir, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Chickenless Dill and Wild Rice Soup

Notes: Again you can add in any vegetable that you like. The wild rice helps thicken the soup slightly. It's very hearty, but also healthy and that's always a plus! If you aren't a fan of dill you could add in other herbs that were more to your liking.

Posted by Dianne at 7:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 17, 2008

Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup

Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup: A Bite

Alexis and I love soup. In fact I'm thrilled that she loves it as much as she does. Jamison's not a fan (shocker...I know!) so for years I had soup here or there, but for the most part it was something I had when we had guests who could share, but now I have someone who is up for sharing soup whenever I want to make it or whenever she wants it as well! Plus soup is the ultimate freeze for later food too and left overs are better the longer they sit!

If you've been a visitor of Dianne's Dishes for a while, you know that I also LOVE my slow cooker! It's a fabulous cooking tool for basic food year round and it's especially wonderful when it comes to soup! You throw your ingredients in, turn the knob and you've got hearty, healthy soup ready to go just in time for dinner! How great is that?

What You'll Need:
1 onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 quart of broth (Note: You can use chicken, vegetable or beef broth...Whatever you have on hand works!)
1 - 28 ounce can of tomato puree or sauce
1 - 16 ounce package of frozen vegetables (Note: The mix I use has corn, carrots, green beans and peas.)
1/2 of a 1 pound package of lima beans (Note: Alexis adores lima beans and has since she started eating finger foods. In all honesty I'm not a big fan, but I can tolerate them in soup. If you don't like limas then add in some extra peas or even some edamame.)
1 cup of barley
A pinch of sea salt (Note: If your broth is heavily salted then skip this.)
Freshly ground black pepper

Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup: Ready to Cook

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, give it a stir, and cook for 5-6 hours on low. Or if you want it faster you can cook it on high for 3-4 hours.

How easy is that? Just dump and walk away and when you're ready for dinner you've got a fabulous bowl of soup!

Easy Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup

Notes: You can use any vegetables that you like. Leeks would be a good addition, as would mushrooms.

Posted by Dianne at 12:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad

I love watermelon. Alexis does too. In fact when I was pregnant with Alexis I craved these things: Watermelon, cucumbers, chicken salad, beans and baked Cheetos. Alexis currently eats all of the things on that list except for chicken salad, and in all honesty I don't think that it is that she doesn't like chicken salad, she just has never shown any interest in trying it, but let's get back to watermelon.

Watermelon is one of those things that nine times out of ten you will find in our fridge. Now don't get me wrong, I love watermelon too, but there also is only so many times you can eat something without getting bored with what you are eating. Watermelon has of late fallen into that category with me.

For years I've seen watermelon salads and nine times out of ten they are paired with Feta. It's been on my list of things I've wanted to try for a long time, but I get side tracked easily, who doesn't? One night last week when Jamison was in class, Alexis wanted watermelon as part of dinner so I decided it was high time to try my hand at some watermelon salad and I must say I was highly pleased with how it turned out!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 1/2 cups of watermelon, chopped
1/2 an avocado, cut into chunks
1 small cucumber, sliced (Note: I'm talking pickle cucumber size here. You want about 1 cup of cucumbers.)
1 ounce of feta, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a bowl toss together watermelon, avocado and cucumber. Sprinkle with feta, some freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and then top with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

How easy is that? But trust me no one will know! ;oP

Watermelon Salad: A Bite

Notes: You could use chopped mint in place of parsley if you wanted, but I was out.

Posted by Dianne at 7:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 9, 2008

Veggie Joes

Veggie Joes

So you want a Sloppy Joe, but you're not really in the mood for meat...Now what? Why not make some Veggie Joes instead!

A few years ago when I was experimenting with being a pescatarian, I found out that mushrooms are the perfect substitute for meat! You can use button mushrooms or a combo of different kinds of mushrooms and make some really fabulous dishes that are meat free, but trust me...You'll never miss the meat!

How about a Mushroom and Onion Soup that tastes a lot like French Onion! Or how about making some mushroom broth that can be used in place of beef broth? You can even make Mushroom Stroganoff instead of beef! Mushrooms are very versatile in case you didn't know! ;oP

But for today let's focus on Veggie Joes...Let's get started shall we?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced (Note: You can use button mushrooms, which I used here, or baby portobellos, or a mix of both. The baby portobello mushrooms have a beefy taste when cooked and are just perfect for this dish. I usually use a combo of the two, but I was out of baby portobellos this go round.)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of organic ketchup (Note: Why organic? Because organic ketchups do not have high fructose corn syrup in them. I use Heinz Organic Ketchup because that is the brand Alexis prefers.)
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of natural brown sugar

Veggie Joes

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and sauté onion and bell pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until slightly caramelized. Add mushrooms, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook until just tender. Stir in ketchup, vinegar and brown sugar and stir to mix. Cook for 5 minutes on low to let flavors meld.

To serve place mixture on a whole grain bun and eat just like you would a regular Sloppy Joe!

Veggie Joes

How easy is that?

Notes: If mushrooms aren't your thing then you can use textured vegetable or soy protein instead. You can also use this method using ground beef or turkey for a more traditional Sloppy Joe.

Posted by Dianne at 7:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 7, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Oven Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil with Rosemary

ovt1

For years now I've wanted to try oven drying tomatoes, but I just never got around to actually trying to dry them. When you've got grape tomatoes coming out of your ears though drying is just perfect! Of course you could can them too, but why not try something a little different.

So let's round out Tomato Week 2008 with a recipe for drying that is extremely simple, yet gives you an amazing flavor and can be kept for months! This one takes a little time, but the majority of the time you can walk away and ignore the process entirely. What's not to like about that?

ddtomatoweek2008

P.S. Thanks for all the comments and e-mails about Tomato Week! For those of you who e-mailed please feel free to comment too...We have a fabulous little community here so jump right in!...And Welcome to Dianne's Dishes!

What You'll Need:
Grape or cherry tomatoes (Note: Use as many or as few as you like. I covered my baking sheet with tomatoes, but was careful to make sure they were not touching.)
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 150 F.

Place tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. For the most part ensure that they are not touching.

Place tomatoes in to the preheated oven and bake until they dry out and start to shrivel. This can take anywhere from 4-8 hours depending on the moisture content of your tomatoes, relative humidity and your oven. Check them every hour or so. When they start to shrivel slightly keep a close eye on them by checking them every 20-30 minutes. They are done when they are slightly rubbery and basically look like large red raisins. When they have dried remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool.

ovt3

Once tomatoes are cool, place them in a canning jar. Cover the tomatoes entirely with olive oil. Add 2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped rosemary, place the lid on the jar and shake to mix. Store in a cool, dark place and use as you would sun dried tomatoes.

ovt4

Notes: You can use this process with fresh tomatoes, or even tomatoes that you have frozen. I've tried it both ways and if they are frozen you just put them right on the pan and dry them the exact same way as fresh tomatoes. You also can use the dried tomatoes without storing them in oil, though they will not last as long. Other herbs could be used such as thyme or basil. Some roasted garlic bits would be a nice addition as well. You could also store these in the fridge, but be forewarned that olive oil solidifies when it gets cooler, so don't be surprised if your olive oil hardens a bit. You can "melt" it by bringing the jar out to room temperature before using.

Posted by Dianne at 10:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 4, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Fresh Tomato Pasta Topper

Fresh Tomato Pasta Topper

Making a Fresh Tomato Pasta Topper is a breeze and so much better than most sauces out of the bottle! (And trust me I'm beyond bored with sauce as I've mentioned before! ;oP) You can mix and match ingredients/herbs and it can be different every time, or you can follow a basic recipe and have a fabulous, delicious, dependable meal in no time! Pair the topper with some whole grain pasta (in this case I used gluten free corn pasta) and you've got a healthy, satisfying meal in no time!

ddtomatoweek2008

What You'll Need For Two People:
1 cup of cooked whole grain pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 asparagus spears, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2-3 button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of chopped tomato (Note: I used tomatoes that were roughly the size of golf balls and quartered them.)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
Shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Fresh Tomato Pasta Topper: Cooking

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

While pasta is cooking in a large skillet sauté asparagus, shallot, mushroom and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until asparagus and mushrooms are tender and the shallots are slightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and herbs and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until tomatoes are just soft. Remove from heat and serve over whole grain pasta. Top with a little shredded cheese and serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetable you like is great in this. Squash and zucchini make great additions, as do leeks. A mix of mushrooms is also good. You can also add in rosemary or basil or a mix of any herbs that suit your taste.

Posted by Dianne at 7:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 3, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Salsa!

Salsa: A Bowl Full of Stuff to Make Salsa

A few weeks ago my sister braved my overgrown garden (Long story...But needless to say some unforeseen things popped up, the garden went wild and we haven't been able to get ahead of its wildness! Plus my sister saw a little slithery being wrapped around one of the plants and let's just say I'm not a snake person so that has kind of made me not want to tame it all the more, but rather clean it up after the cold weather comes back and the snakes go away to their little snakey lairs! I did venture down to pick some green tomatoes though a few days later...But back to the rest of the story! ;oP) and picked a huge bowl full of peppers and tomatoes. Of course we ate some as is, but after a while you've still got tomatoes coming out of your ears and you want something a little different. So that's when it's time to pull out the stops and make some salsa!

Salsa can be made many ways. I actually made this version and canned it using a water bath. My mom got me a pressure canner as an early birthday so I plan on using that next time, but for this batch the water bath worked just fine. I'm not going to go really in depth into the canning process. There are informative websites out there such as this one or if you want something in print in your hand I highly recommend Canning & Preserving for Dummies! But for now let's get started shall we?

ddtomatoweek2008

What You'll Need:
Red and green tomatoes, chopped (Note: I like to put both red and green tomatoes in my salsa. You can just use red tomatoes if you like or you can use some tomatillos too.)
Peppers, deseeded and chopped (Note: You can use any type of peppers you like here as well. I used sweet banana peppers, pimentos and some sweet chile peppers, but you can use jalapeños and other hot peppers if you like.)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 cup of apple cider vinegar

Salsa: Chopped Tomatoes

In a very large pot (I like at least a 13 quart pot) fill the pot with tomatoes until it is about half full. (Note: I do not peel or seed my tomatoes when I'm making salsa or canning. Why waste all that fiber? Plus peeling a tomato is a pain in the you know what so why make it hard on yourself? Chop and go my friends, chop and go!)

Next add in your chopped onion and peppers an stir to mix:

Salsa: Ready for Spices

Don't worry about exact measurements for this. You don't need them! You want roughly 3/4ths of a pot of vegetables, but if it's not exactly that much or a bit more, no big deal! This is very forgiving...You can't go wrong!

Next add your spices and vinegar and stir well to coat:

Salsa: With Spices

Next bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until veggies are soft:

Salsa: Cooked

Remove from heat and can immediately.

Salsa

This gave me two quarts and a small jar, plus a little to put in the fridge.

If you do not want to go through the canning process you can keep this in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Notes: This really is a make it as you like kind of recipe. If you like it hot, go for the hot peppers or add more hot spices. If you like it mild, then go with sweet peppers and leave out the cayenne. It's all a matter of personal taste.

Posted by Dianne at 7:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 1, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Farmer's Market Salad

ddtomatoweek2008

Allie from Allie's Answers has asked me to do a guest blog spot on her blog while she is on vacation, so let's start out Tomato Week with a little Salad and share it with Allie's readers as well shall we?

Farmer's Market Salad

Summer is such a wonderful time to create in the kitchen with all the fresh fruits and vegetables at your disposal. It is so easy to eat fresh and locally when there is such an abundance of choices at your finger tips! If you haven't already take a stroll through your local farmer's market...It's amazing what you will find and the many things that you can do with what you find. Even if you find an ingredient that you've never heard of the person selling the item will often have ideas of what to do with it, even if you may not! Sometimes though it's best to just let the freshness of the ingredients be your guide, because there is just nothing like a fresh fruit or vegetable. The tastes are just incomparable to anything you'll find the rest of the year! Plus in the summer who wants to heat up your house? Sometimes simple is best and if it's delicious and can be made quickly to boot you just can't go wrong!

What You'll Need:
1 large tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 large cucumber, cut in half and sliced
1-2 ounces of fresh pearl mozzarella (Note: I found a great locally made version...See what you can find in your area!)
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 springs of fresh rosemary, stripped from the stem
A pinch of coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice tomatoes and place on a plate. Top with cucumbers and some fresh pearl mozzarella. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle with rosemary, coarse sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 dinner sized portion or two generous sized side salads.

Farmer's Market Salad

Notes: How easy is that? Not to mention quick and you didn't have to heat up your house either. It's a win, win situation all around and though simple this recipe will definitely impress!

Cross posted at Allie's Answers.

Posted by Dianne at 7:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 5, 2008

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons

I love Caesar salad, but I had never made it at home. A while back I picked up a jar of sardines in olive oil with the intention of actually making a Caesar salad and then as I am prone to do I got side tracked. I put the bottle in the pantry and promptly forgot it was even there as it got pushed toward the back of the abyss.

The other day when I was pulling out ingredients to make Jamison another loaf of the gluten-free bread that we use for his sandwiches in his lunch at work I came across that jar and decided it was high time to get around to trying my hand at a Caesar salad.

There is some debate about what should or should not be in Caesar Salad dressing. Some use Worcestershire Sauce, others go for anchovies, some use vinegar, others lemon juice. The traditional Caesar consists of Romaine lettuce, croûtons, Parmesan and the dressing, but many variations have popped up over the years including grilled chicken or shrimp.

With this version I wanted to make it a bit more substantial that just lettuce, but I also wanted to make it vegetarian as well, but realized with the anchovies that wasn't possible. There are vegan versions out there. I haven't tried any of them, though I do find them intriguing.) The result was perfect! This was most definitely a keeper!

What You'll Need:
2 portabella mushrooms, sliced, grilled and cooled
2 cloves of garlic, roasted (Note: The roasted garlic gives the dressing an overall mellow garlic flavor. If you don't want to roast the garlic then you can just add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, but the garlic flavor will be more powerful overall. To roast the garlic, put a couple of cloves of garlic in a dish covered and bake at 425 F until soft...The toaster oven is perfect for this!)
2 egg yolks
4-6 anchovies, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard or 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (Note: The mustard gives it a kick of heat. Use less if you're not a fan of a little bite.)
The juice of 1 lemon
1/4-1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil (Note: Use less if you like a thicker dressing, use more if you like slightly thinner.)
Parmesan cheese, grated
3-5 cups of Romaine lettuce, chopped
Sea Salt Croûtons

Grilled Portabello Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons: Sliced Portabella Mushrooms Ready to Grill

Slice portabella mushrooms into strips. Brush a grill pan with olive oil and cook, flipping once, until mushrooms are tender. Set aside to cool.

In the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor, process egg yolks until slightly thick. (Note: If you have an issue with raw eggs you can use the pasteurized version.) Once eggs are slightly thick add garlic, sardines, ground mustard or Dijon, lemon juice and olive oil and process until smooth. Set aside.

Place place lettuce leaves into a large bowl and pour dressing over the top of the lettuce. Toss to coat. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and then toss again.

Grilled Portabella Caesar Salad with Sea Salt Croûtons: Sea Salt Croûtons

Add lettuce to a plate and top with grilled mushrooms and croûtons. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 large salads or 4 side salads.

Notes: As I mentioned above you could use grilled chicken or shrimp in place of the mushrooms. This is not really a left over type of dish...You'll want to eat it immediately.

Posted by Dianne at 7:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 4, 2008

The First Day of Kindergarten and Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Well today is the day...Alexis starts Kindergarten! It's hard for be to believe that it's actually time for her to start school. It seems like just yesterday she was my little glow worm wrapped up tightly in her little blanket looking at me for the first time as if to say "Hey, I know you!" Oh how time flies! Where have the last five years gone? Some days it seems as if it was just yesterday that she was born....Others? Well if you're a mom or dad you know exactly what I'm talking about here! ;oP

As I mentioned to you before we have decided to home school Alexis. I've known since the day she was born, and in all honesty actually well before that, that this is what we were going to do. So as you are reading this little missive we are in her school room working on her lessons. We've done lessons on and off since she was three, but this is her first official day of school. Thirty years ago I started Kindergarten and today it is time for my precious little girl to do the same! Sniff! ;oP

One thing I always thought was odd about the schools in Maryland since we moved here is how late they start their fall term. In fact the first official day of school for those in the Maryland school system is not for several weeks and then is immediately followed by the Labor Day holiday a few days later. Having taught preschool for several years I can readily tell you that that is a recipe for disaster. You get the kids there, get them somewhat into a schedule an then boom...Holiday! And holidays lead to having to go to all that trouble to get them back on schedule when they return and trust me it takes several days to do that because as you parents well know kids are easily distracted. You need a little more time to firmly the establish the schedule before you go giving them a holiday to rile them up! So I decided to start a few weeks early. One of the joys of home schooling! Plus that means we get to end earlier too so that's a good thing as well! ;oP

Anyway....Where should we be?? Oh yes...Now let's get to the real reason that you all are here...The food! ;oP

As I've mentioned in the past Alexis and Jamison love spaghetti. I don't think I can stress this love enough to you...Seriously they would eat it every night if I let them and truth be told I'm spaghettied out! It was never one of my favorites to begin with, but given the number of times I've eaten it, first with Jamison, and now with both of them, I'm really not a fan anymore. Don't get me wrong...I love pasta. In fact many times when they want spaghetti I'll play around with some vegetables and things of that nature to see what kind of topper I can come up with, but I'm definitely over just your run of the mill spaghetti.

So what do you do when you're over regular spaghetti? The other night when Jamison and Alexis wanted just that I decided it was high time to put some of the fresh veggies I have on hand from the garden to good use and whip up a delicious pasta salad! It's the perfect way to put to use all those fresh, yummy veggies!

Sometimes pasta salad can be heavy and a lot of times it is made with a mayonnaise base, but I have to say when it comes to pasta salad I'm more of an oil and vinegar sort of girl. I also like to use whole wheat pastas instead of the run of the mill white pasta. These substitutions give you a dish that is much healthier and actually all of the ingredients in this salad except for the goat cheese are Weight Watchers Core ingredients. What's not to like about that?

Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta Salad

What You'll Need:
1 - 11 ounce box of whole wheat bow tie pasta
1 small red onion, chopped
1 banana pepper, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (Note: I used an orange tomato, but any tomato will work.)
1 cup of peas (Note: Fresh or frozen will work.)
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
Celtic sea salt

Cook bow tie pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool. (Note: If you want to do a fast cool you can rinse the pasta under cold running water until it is cool.) Set aside.

In a very large bowl toss together vegetables until well mixed. Add bow ties and toss again to completely incorporate. Set aside.

In a canning jar or a bowl mix together olive oil, vinegar, oregano, thyme and ground pepper until well mixed. (Note: If you do this in a canning jar it is easier. You just dump everything into the jar, give it a shake and voilà...You're done!) Pour mixture over the veggie/pasta mixture and toss to coat.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with crumbled goat cheese and Celtic sea salt. Serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetable you like will work fine. You can also play around with the herbs. I use dried basil sometimes too. You want to eat this salad within a day or so since the vinegar content can make things turn to mush if you don't.

Posted by Dianne at 7:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 31, 2008

Summer Salsa: Where Zucchini and Cucumbers Collide!

Summer Salsa

It's summer and you've got a ton of zucchini and cucumbers...Now what do you do with them? Why not make a fresh salsa. Salsa with cucumbers and zucchini? Yes...Salsa! This salsa is a bit different in that it contains no tomatoes, but trust me you won't miss them because you're adding a bunch of different vegetables in their place! The fresh vegetables, along with the choice of spices, give the salsa just the right punch and the possibilities of what you could do with this mix are endless!

To see more zucchini and cucumber recipes be sure to stop over at Dinner Tonight with the editors of Everyday Food. They've got a fabulous section today entitled "Garden Goodies: Cuke & Zuke Fest" and you know that is going to be good and I just had to participate right along with them when I found out about it yesterday, because zucchini and cucumbers...What's not to like? And I know many of you are always looking for new recipes to utilize your summer abundance of vegetables, especially cucumbers and zucchini since you comment and e-mail me often. So stop on over at Everyday Food to see what awaits you there and let's dive right in right here shall we?

Summer Salsa

What You'll Need:
1 large zucchini, seeded and chopped
3-4 pickling cucumbers, seeded and chopped
1 yellow squash, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (Note: Any color will work.)
1 chocolate bell pepper, chopped (Note: Again any color you have on hand will do.)
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped fine (Note: I like to use the milder version of these, but you can use the regular ones if you like.)
1 small red onion, chopped (Note: Have I mentioned lately these should be called purple instead of red? ;oP)
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A generous pinch of sea salt
A very generous pinch of finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Chop veggies and toss together in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the veggies and toss to coat. Add in spices and mix well. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. (How simple is that?)

This mixture will store in the fridge for up to a week.

Summer Salsa

Notes: You can use any mix of peppers that you like. If you want a milder mix leave out the jalapeño and cayenne peppers. If you like it really hot then nix the bells and add in a mixture of all hot peppers. It's completely up to taste and what you like. As for serving...You could use the salsa to top grilled chicken or fish, it would make a fabulous, surprising topper for your standard mashed or baked potato or you can go super simple and just grab some tortilla chips and dig right in like I did! Sometimes simple is best, especially in the summer!

Posted by Dianne at 9:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 28, 2008

Pan Seared Scallops

Pan Seared Scallops

I love seafood, but I often forget scallops. I don't know why...I really enjoy them, but for some reason when I go to make seafood scallops are regularly not the seafood I go to. Once in a while though I get a craving and off to find scallops I go!

The other day Alexis and I had to run Jamison's lunch to him at his office and we stopped by the store on the way home. This is the store in the past were I have found lovely, fresh seafood on sale and let's face it on sale is always a good thing and fresh is even better and it just so happened that they had fresh scallops on sale! Alexis and I grabbed a pound and made our way home.

In my opinion scallops are best done simple. They have such a lovely flavor that it is a shame to cover it up with a lot of unnecessary culinary frills. What you have here is simple, basic, easy and delicious...And as it turns out that is just perfect when you're talking about lovely scallops.

P.S. On a totally unrelated note...If you didn't see my question yesterday about themed weeks take this link and let me know what you think! I've gotten some really great ideas and feedback so far...Keep is coming! :o)

Now on to the scallops!

Pan Seared Scallops: Fresh Scallops

What You'll Need:
1 pound of fresh scallops, rinsed and drained
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

First off you want to start with fresh scallops. How can you tell they are fresh you ask? There are two simple ways...First the scallops should not have an overpowering fishy smell. If they smell strong then you do not want them, they have been sitting around to long! Second the scallops should be firm to the touch and not feel overly squishy. If you touch it (and you can do it through the packaging) and the scallop falls apart or crumbles that is another sign it's not fresh.

Once you've chosen your scallops, rinse and drain them.

Next drizzle the scallops with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt:

Pan Seared Scallops: Ready to Marinate

At this point I like to let the scallops sit for 5-10 minutes and just rest/marinate.

While the scallops are sitting preheat a large skillet over medium heat until it is very hot. Brush the bottom of the pan with a little extra virgin olive oil and place the scallops in a single layer on the bottom of the skillet to sear:

Pan Seared Scallops: Searing

Scallops cook quickly. It only takes 3 or 4 minutes on each side to cook completely. Turn them once and then leave them alone until you remove them from the skillet.

Remove from skillet and serve immediately.

Makes two servings.

Notes: You don't really need any sauce for these. They are prefect as is.

Posted by Dianne at 7:09 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 24, 2008

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with a Honey Drizzle

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with a Honey Drizzle

So yesterday I woke up with the mother of all migraines. I mean seriously!

Oh.

My.

GOD!!!

The stupid thing lasted all day and in fact my head is still sore and foggy, but such is life. Luckily Jamison can work from home, so he stayed home, worked, took care of Alexis and did conference calls while I stayed in bed, only to arise when nature called and such. It was not pretty. My doctor's assurance that these things get worse as you grow older doesn't help all that much as you can imagine! ;oP

So there was no "What's For Dinner?" last night because well I have no clue what Jamison and Alexis ate. I'm assuming they did eat, but you know what they say about assuming! ;oP We will have "WFD?" today though so check back this afternoon!

Now let's talk some sweet potatoes shall we?

I love sweet potatoes! There are so many thing you can do with them and they are such a nice change, not to mention a healthier alternative, to your standard white potato. Mashed sweet potatoes are ridiculously easy to make, all while giving a bit of a wow factor and by all means sweet potatoes are not just for Thanksgiving anymore!

What You'll Need per Person:
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into rounds
Water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of honey

In a pot of water over high heat bring sweet potatoes to a boil and boil until tender. Once tender drain the potatoes and using a potato masher mash the potatoes until well mashed. Stir in and place mashed potatoes on a plate. Drizzle honey on top of each serving.

Notes: Sweet potatoes are sweet in and of themselves. The don't need a lot of sweetener and natural sweeteners (i.e. honey, natural brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, etc.) are best. You could also add in a bit of freshly ground nutmeg if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 7:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 18, 2008

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

It's fresh cucumber season! I just love when the cucumbers start coming in. English cucumbers are a nice substitute during the rest of the year, but there is just something about a cucumber fresh off the vine that gets me every time!

This salad is a quick, healthy side dish, or even main course if you like cucumbers as much as I do! It's perfect for a week night dinner, a picnic or even a snack! It will keep in the fridge for days so you can just grab it whenever you like! If you like cucumbers and Greek yogurt then this is the dish for you!

What You'll Need:
4-6 cups of sliced cucumbers
1/3 cup of fat free Greek Yogurt (Note: If you've been here before you know I like Oikos, if you haven't then that's what I use! ;oP Fage will work too, but the flavor of the Oikos is much better in my opinion.)
1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh chives, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
A tiny pinch of sea salt

Cut cucumbers and place in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Cucumber Salad

Mix together yogurt, dill, chives, black pepper and sea salt until well incorporated. Add yogurt mixture to cucumbers and toss to coat. Chill for at least 1 hour and then serve.

Notes: I really like this with cucumbers only, but if you wanted to you could add in some bell peppers and/or red onion.

Posted by Dianne at 7:37 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 26, 2008

Vegetable Stir Fry

Vegetable Stir Fry

The other day I set out to make stir fry, vegetable/tofu for me and beef for Jamison. Jamison's stir fry turned out great, mine tasted like cardboard! Not to be dissuaded I decided to tweak it and try making it again for lunch since I had some left over rice and let me tell you the second time was a charm! This meal is healthy, hearty and oh so good! It's the perfect combination for a quick, easy meal!

What You'll Need For The Marinade:
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/4 cup of soy sauce (Note: Normally I would recommend using low sodium soy sauce, but in a marinade I prefer using regular.)
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1/2 a block of lite firm tofu, cut into cubes
2-3 scallions, chopped (green and white section)
1 green or red chile pepper, chopped fine
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine

Vegetable Stir Fry: Marinating

In a canning jar or glass bowl mix together sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegar until incorporated. Add tofu, scallions, chile pepper, ginger, black pepper and garlic and toss to coat. (Note: If you put it in a canning jar it makes it really easy since you can just shake the jar.) Marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour stirring or shaking occasionally.

Vegetable Stir Fry: Vegetable Cooking

What You'll Need To Finish The Stir Fry:
Extra virgin olive oil or non-stick spray (Note: I used olive oil spray.)
1 cup of snow peas
4-6 mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchstick pieces
1 cup of edamame
The contents of the marinade (See above)
1 - 2 cups of steamed broccoli
1 cup of cooked brown rice per person

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté snow peas, mushroom and carrot, until mushrooms are tender. Stir in edamame until mixed. Next stir in the contents of your marinade and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Add broccoli and toss to coat. Serve over brown rice.

Makes 2 generous servings.

Vegetable Stir Fry

Note: You could do this with chicken, beef, shrimp, scallops...Well you get the idea! Any vegetables you like work as well.

Posted by Dianne at 7:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 23, 2008

Black Chick Pea Salad

Black Chick Pea Salad

Alexis loves chick peas so when I saw black chick peas I knew we just had to try them! Before they are cooked they are dark black, once they are soaked and cooked they turn a chocolate brown color. The flavor is much like regular chick peas, perhaps only a slight more nutty. You can eat them plain, whip up some hummus or even throw them into a salad...The possibilities are endless!

This salad takes elements from many different types of food. The vinegar gives it a slight sushi aspect, while the fresh vegetables give it an air of chopped salad. Any way you look at it, you've got a cool, refreshing, easy, healthy dish that really hits the spot on a hot summer day!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of cooked black chick peas, coole
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup of edamame
1 cup of corn kernels
1 cup of pea pods, chopped
1/3 cup of sushi vinegar (Note: As always look for a version that has no high fructose corn syrup! Or better yet make your own.)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss together black chick peas, celery, carrot, edamame, corn and chopped pea pods until completely incorporated. Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together sushi vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper until mixed. Pour mixture over tossed vegetables and stir to coat. Serve immediately or chill and then serve.

Note: Because of the vinegar you'll want to eat this salad within 24 hours or so of being made. The vinegar will start to break down the vegetables and after that it will just be a mushy mess. You can add other vegetables into the mix. Some crumbled nori would be a good addition too.

Posted by Dianne at 7:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 19, 2008

Grilled Dill Shrimp With Asparagus

Grilled Dill Shrimp With Asparagus

I love shrimp and Alexis does too. In fact shrimp is one of those things she asked to try recently, though she had had it when she was younger and liked it then too, but had forgotten about it and I'm all about the "If you want to try it, we'll try it!" thing because one of my biggest pet peeves is saying you don't like something you've never tasted! So when she wants to try something we get it for her to try. She wanted to try raspberries, though I'll admit I'm not a fan of those, but if she wants to eat them then fine! She wanted to try lobster so we got a lobster and steamed it and she loved it!

See there I go getting side tracked again...The point is if she wants to try something I'll make it happen, but back to what we were really talking about.

Where was I? Oh yes...shrimp!

I rarely buy shrimp because even with Maryland being a water state it's hard to find truly fresh shrimp! Maryland is proud to be more of a blue crab/oyster state. Sometimes even if you buy frozen shrimp it is old! But every once in a while I'll stumble on to some that is actually fresh and in the case it was fresh AND on sale! Now what is better than that? So of course I grabbed some and we headed home.

There are so many things you can do with shrimp and all sorts of ideas popped through my mind. I thought about making some kabobs with thyme (which by the way you should try because they are to die for!), I thought about boiling some with some Old Bay Seasoning, I thought about making a white shrimp pizza, but my inspiration finally came from Alexis.

Alexis and I love to spend time on the front porch. We have a swing, her sand box, chairs and plenty of room to move around and play. It's just perfect because it's completely shaded in the afternoon. We were out on the front porch enjoying a lovely summer day and she decided to taste my dill plant. She knows that she can eat anything out of my herb box. It's all organic and she can munch to her heart's delight. She hadn't tried the dill before, but that day she decided to give it a munch and low and behold she liked it! So that made me think about possibly adding some chopped dill to the shrimp and thus the idea for dinner was born!

This dish is quick, easy and healthy. Throw in some grilled asparagus and a side salad and you've got a wonderful meal!

What You'll Need:
A pound of shrimp
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Asparagus to grill

Grilled Dill Shrimp: Shrimp

In a bowl toss cleaned and deveined shrimp together with the olive oil, dill, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and put covered in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grilled Dill Shrimp: Ready to Grill

Heat your grill or grill pan (which is what I used) until hot.

Brush the grill pan/grill with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle the asparagus with a little sea salt and place it on the grill first and grill for about 5-6 minutes until it is just starting to soften.

Grilled Dill Shrimp: Grilling

Next add the shrimp turning and cook until just pink. This will happen quickly, approximately 2-3 minutes. Don't cook them too long or they will turn rubbery.

Grilled Dill Shrimp: Grilling

(The burger was for Jamison! ;oP)

When the shrimp are cooked remove them from heat and serve immediately or you can serve them chilled. They are good either way!

Notes: If you don't like dill you could do this with rosemary or thyme. You could also do this with scallops instead of shrimp.

Posted by Dianne at 8:56 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 18, 2008

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken

While my first attempt at a slimmed down General Tso's Chicken didn't turn out completely as I had hoped, and wasn't quite what General Tso's Chicken should be, it did turn out to be quite lovely! It had a very spicy element along with a little sweet. It was good and I would make this again, but I'm going to have to experiment a little more. For now I'll share this with you, because really if you like a little sweet an spicy then this is the dish for you!

What You'll Need:
1 tablespoons of sesame oil
3-4 scallions, chopped (both white and green parts), Plus additional scallions cut into strips for garnishing
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 large green chili pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of rice vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup of honey
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup corn starch
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2-3 cups of steamed broccoli
Cooked brown rice (Note: Brown rice takes about an hour to cook so keep this in mind. The dish itself takes about 30-35 minutes from start to finish.)

In a medium sized pot over medium heat sauté scallions, ginger, chili pepper and crushed red pepper flakes until onion is wilted and tender. Stir occasionally to keep from burning.

When onion is tender add soy sauce, rice vinegar, sea salt, honey and 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir together remaining chicken broth with 1/3 cup of corn starch until smooth and add to the pot. Stir sauce until thickened (this usually takes a minute or two) and remove from heat.

Let sauce cool for a minute and then strain into a bowl. Set aside.

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken: Browned Chicken

While the sauce is cooking, in a large skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil sauté chicken until browned and done through. Once cooked add strained sauce and cook for a minute or two to let the flavors meld.

While the chicken is cooking steam broccoli and the strips of green onion until tender. (Note: I usually do this in the microwave by putting a few tablespoon of water in the bottom of a glass bowl and then putting the vegetables on top. It takes about 2-3 minutes in my microwave.)

To assemble place a cup of rice on a plate and then top with the chicken/sauce mixture. Top with the steamed scallions and broccoli. Serve immediately.

Not Quite General Tso's Chicken

How easy and delicious is that?

Notes: You could do this with shrimp or beef instead. Or if you wanted an entirely vegetarian dish you could use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and mushrooms or tofu instead of meat. If you wanted to make it vegan you'd have to find a substitute for the honey. Agave nectar might work, but I'd have to play around with that to be sure.

Posted by Dianne at 8:58 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 4, 2008

Fruit Salad a la Alexis

Fruit Salad a la Alexis

Last week when Alexis and I were at the grocery store one of the people that worked there gave Alexis a piece of paper that had kid geared recipes on it along with some cartoon character, which I don't remember at the moment, designed to get kids interested in cooking. I didn't want to burst the person's bubble and tell then that Alexis already was interested in cooking so we took the free handout and went home.

When we got home Alexis of course wanted to read the sheet. I glanced over it and there was nothing offensive (i.e. trying to market a specific product to a child) so when she asked me what the main recipe said we read it together. She can read some small words, but she can't read completely by herself yet, though she gets better at doing just that everyday.

The recipe was for a Waldorf type salad. It had apples, grapes, mayonnaise and sugar. (They were actually marketing this as a "healthy" recipe...Um no!) Alexis immediately told me "Let's make this! But I want to add cherries and strawberries." Easy enough. "Oh and Mom no mayonnaise and sugar!" Well I agree with that too. "And when we finish I want for you to put it on your 'bog'!" "Blog..." "That's what I said!"

So today's recipe is directly from Miss G! She also liked this so much she had it for lunch two days in a row! I pointed out that she had had fruit salad many times before, but she told me "Your fruit salad is good, but mine is better!" OK then!

Anyway, so this is the fruit salad that Alexis "came up" with...She's so my child! ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 large apple, chopped
1 cup of grapes
1 cup of strawberries
1 cup of sliced cherries

Toss fruit together and serve.

Notes: Any fruit will work.

Posted by Dianne at 9:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 2, 2008

Steak Sandwich Done Right

Steak Sandwich: The Inside Goodness

When I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and lived in the dorm there was a grill across the courtyard from my dorm that had the best (and the time the only) steak sandwiches I had ever had! The grill wasn't on my meal plan, but you had "bonus" dollars on most plans and those could be used there. A friend of mine and I would go down to the grill once a week or so and indulge. Given we had to walk a mile or so to class and then a mile or so back for many of our classes and we were usually walking quite quickly we easily burned off these splurges and I do mean splurge!

Let's take about these gut buster sandwiches why don't we? These sandwiches had lord knows how much fat and calories! The meat was cooked in butter and then if you added vegetables (I always had just mushrooms) then those were cooked in butter too. After that they'd slap down a little more butter and "toast" the bun on the grill and then put the whole thing together! And I'm not talking just a little butter, I'm talking like 1/4 of a cup at least for each thing that was "cooked" or as the case may be fried! Then we'd top it off with a large order of French fries. Oh my! I can hear my arteries hardening just thinking about all that butter! ;oP

As I have gotten older I just can't eat like that anymore. Over the past two years anything that has too much fat or if I eat too much fried stuff it just doesn't sit well. Plus who wants that much butter in a sitting? (OK...Maybe Ina or Paula Deen, but still! ;oP) Also I really worry about beef in general. I don't eat a lot of beef and I most definitely eat grass fed beef when I do. Mad cow anyone? I think not! It was time to take your basic steak sandwich and take it to a whole other level.

This sandwich actually uses a steak. It does not use that minute steak stuff, which I'm sure is not grass fed. Throw in some mushrooms, some provolone and serve it on some whole grain toasted bread and you've taken the standard, greasy steak sandwich and made it into something much lighter and much better for you. Who says you can't revamp something bad into something better?

What You'll Need:
1 - 1 pound grass fed steak
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sliced mushrooms (optional)
Sliced onions (optional)
Sliced bell pepper (optional)
4 slices of whole grain bread, toasted
2 slices of Provolone cheese

Slice a 1 pound steak into thin strips. Place in a glass bowl and drizzle with some olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and then toss to coat. Place bowl covered in the fridge for at least one hour.

Steak Sandwich: Steak Marinating

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little olive oil and cook mushrooms, onion and pepper until just tender. (I used only mushrooms, but you can use all of them or none of them...It's completely a matter of taste.) Once vegetables are tender add steak and cook until the meat is done to your likeness. (I like mine medium.) Remove from heat.

Steak Sandwich: Steak and Mushrooms Cooking

To assemble the sandwich place the layer of meat/veggies onto a slice of toasted bread. Top with Provolone. Add any condiments that you like. (I like a little light mayo.) After the condiments top with the other slice of toasted bread. Cut in half and serve.

Steak Sandwich: Ready for Cheese

Makes 2 sandwiches.

Notes: This method would work with chicken too if you wanted. At the grill they served the sandwich on a hoagie bun. You could serve it on a whole grain bun if you liked. For a vegetarian version you could just use more mushrooms and/or other vegetables.

Posted by Dianne at 8:22 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Corn On The Cob With Thyme

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob with Thyme

It's almost summer and fresh produce is starting to come in! When I saw some local corn (which in all honesty I kind of doubt the local part given how much rain we've had and how cold it's been up to this point!) I had to grab some! Alexis and I both love corn, so how could we pass that up?

When you think corn on the cob most likely you think boiled and then served with some butter, salt and pepper, but it doesn't have to be. You can roast it using some foil and season it up with a few herbs, giving you a delicious, healthy side dish. And to top it off this is the perfect picnic or barbeque food! What's not to like?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 ear of corn
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Dried thyme
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven 425 F.

Shuck and clean an ear of corn and place it in a square of aluminum foil.

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob with Thyme: Pre-Seasoning

Using a basting brush brush the entire ear with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme, sea salt and black pepper.

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob with Thyme: Sprinkled and Ready

Fold the foil around to make a packet and place corn on a baking pan.

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob with Thyme: Ready for the Oven

Bake for 20-25 minutes until corn is tender.

Oven Roasted Corn on the Cob with Thyme

Notes: You could do this with any herb you like. Another good topper for corn is Old Bay Seasoning. This method can also be used on the grill by placing the foil packet on the grill for 10-15 minutes.

Posted by Dianne at 8:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 23, 2008

Yellow Squash with Vidalia Onions

Squash and Vidalia Onions

Growing up in the South squash was one of those foods that you saw a lot especially in late spring and on into summer. If you've ever ventured South or have partaken of Southern cuisine you've most likely seen fried squash and to be completely honest it just never spoke that much to me, but then again you're taking about the girl who pulls the breading off of fried shrimp and just eats the shrimp. I like breading sometimes, but there are just certain foods I'd rather have sans breading and yellow squash (and shrimp for that matter) is one of them.

Growing up my mom used to make squash with a little onion. It normally involved some water and/or most likely some margarine, a little diced onion, along with salt and pepper. I decided to take that classic and lighten it up a bit with extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper and throw in some Vidalia onions for good measure.

I've been making squash this way for years and it's delectable. The squash itself has a buttery flavor all on its own so no butter is needed and the olive oil helps bring out a nutty flavor as well. This is a delicious, quick and healthy side dish that is just perfect when you want something a little different.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
5 or 6 yellow squash, cut into rounds
1 Vidalia onion, diced (Note: Any type of onion will do.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sized pot add a little extra virgin olive oil. Dump in squash and onions and add a pinch of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently to ensure it's not burning until onions and squash are soft. Serve immediately.

Did I mention how sinfully easy this is? Who says healthy food has to be difficult and taste bad?

Notes: Sometimes I do a mix of squash and zucchini. Or you can do this with zucchini only.

Posted by Dianne at 11:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 22, 2008

Pan "Fried" Broccolini with Garlic

Pan "Fried" Broccolini with Garlic

For the past few years I've heard people go on and on about broccolini, but I had never seen any in the store to actually try. Last week I actually found some at a local market while Alexis was in her dance/gymnastics class flitting and having fun. I couldn't wait to get it home to try! I decided to pan "fry" it with a little garlic that very night and it was heavenly!

Broccolini is a cabbage hybrid that actually looks like a long broccoli floret. It has a milder flavor than broccoli and it doesn't have that sometimes harsh green flavor that broccoli can have when it gets old. Overall it has a mellow undertone that is a bit sweet. It was just perfect pan "fried" and next up I want to try steaming the vegetable to see how that works. Perhaps I may even try to bake some and see how that turns out as well.

Broccolini

Oh the possibilities! I love finding new things to try!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Broccolini
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet over low to medium heat sauté garlic until just tender in a little extra virgin olive oil, careful not to burn. Add broccolini and sprinkle with sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until broccolini is just tender. Serve immediately.

Broccolini

Notes: Did I mention how easy this was? Start to finish you're done in about 10 minutes tops. You could add in other seasonings if you liked, but I think simple is better here. A splash of lemon juice would make a nice addition however.

Posted by Dianne at 1:05 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

Fruity Watermleon Smoothie

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie

Most mornings I eat some sort of fruit and occasionally I like to make a smoothie. Smoothies are great because it's an easy way to get in several servings of fruits and/or vegetables in one sitting, all while having a delicious breakfast or snack! Pick the fruits and/or veggies you like (you can even throw in nuts and/or seeds if you like!) and take it for a spin the blender and you've got an instant, healthy breakfast or snack that will really hit the spot.

What You'll Need:
1 cup of watermelon
1/2 cup of blueberries
3-4 strawberries
1 banana, sliced (Note: I usually use a frozen banana, but I didn't have any frozen bananas today so I used ice instead. If you use frozen fruit you can leave out the ice.)
1/2 cup of orange juice
5-6 ice cubes (Optional)

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie: Ready to Blend

Dump ingredients in the jar of your blender and blend until smooth. (Did I mention how easy this was?)

Makes one large smoothie or two small smoothies.

Fruity Watermelon Smoothie

Notes: There is no need to use any sweetener in a smoothie as the fruit/juice is sweet enough in and of itself. You also don't have to use ice or frozen fruit, but I like the way it makes the consistency of the smoothie.

Posted by Dianne at 9:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 2, 2008

Spring Salad

Spring Salad

On Saturday after spending all morning at the farm festival and then all afternoon supplementing my plants for the garden I wanted something fresh for dinner. Being outside always makes me crave fresh food.

I had some seasonal sugar snap peas and strawberries and decided it would be fun to create something with those two ingredients. I just kept adding vegetables and fruit and this is what came about. I guess it's true that simple is normally best.

You could make this a side salad in a smaller portion or a meal in and of itself as I did. It's just perfect for one of those days that you just want something different, yet delicious all while being fast and easy to make. It was fresh, springy and really hit the spot!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 cup of sugar snap peas in the pod, chopped
1/2 cup of strawberries, sliced or quarted
1/2 cup of green grapes
1/2 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup of cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
The juice of one orange
1 ounce of blue cheese, crumbled

In a bowl toss together sugar snap peas through walnuts and toss to mix. Set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar and orange juice until fully incorporated. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat fully.

Sprinkle the top of the salad with crumbled blue cheese and serve.

Did I mention how easy this was? ;oP

Notes: Any vegetable/fruit combo you like will work. You could also mix and match the nuts and seeds according to taste.

Posted by Dianne at 1:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 14, 2008

Creamy Vegetable and Chicken Pasta

Creamy Vegetable and Chicken Pasta

Alexis and Jamison could eat spaghetti every night of the week if I let them, but I get bored with just plain old spaghetti so I often shift things around and make a pasta topper out of fresh tomatoes and veggies all while changing the herbs an things to make it different every time. This is one of those creations.

This pasta topper is healthy and creamy with just the right punch of herbs and flavors. The fresh tomatoes give it a wonderful depth of flavor and it's a quick easy meal that comes together in no time! Pair it with a tossed salad and you've got a delicious dinner that will break the same old pasta blues!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of cooked pasta of your choice (Note: I used corn spaghetti since I made Jamison spaghetti at the same time and of course his has to be gluten free.)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in two
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of California style frozen vegetables
2 cups of cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite sized pieces (Note: A rotisserie chicken would be perfect for this dish.)
1 cup of baby spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon of corn starch or flour (Note: If you use corn starch and pair it with a corn or soy pasta this dish is gluten free. I used flour this go around since Jamison wasn't eating the dish.)
3/4 a cup of water
Parmesan cheese to top (Note: About an ounce per person.)

In a large skillet sauté tomatoes, onion and garlic with oregano, thyme, sea salt and pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until onions are tender. Add frozen vegetables, chicken and spinach and cook until the vegetables are thawed. Next stir in flour and water and cook until the mixture thickens. Serve over pasta noodles and top with some shredded Parmesan cheese.

Makes two good sized dinner sized portions or three smaller sized portions.

Notes: You can add in type of veggies that you like. I like to add mushrooms to the mix. You can also mix and match the herbs of your choice.

Posted by Dianne at 9:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Gluten Free Beef with Broccoli

Beef with Broccoli

As I mentioned in passing a while back on the banana pudding post we recently discovered that Jamison can't eat gluten (or in more technical terms he has Celiac Disease). While that sounds dire, in reality it just means he has a gluten intolerance and needs to avoid it entirely. Needless to say for a person who had a diet largely made up of wheat in some form or another this has been a huge adjustment, but I must say he's done very well, if not for a grumble here or there, cutting the gluten out of his diet. (Note: The banana pudding recipe is NOT gluten free as it was made before we found out he couldn't have gluten. the pudding itself and the bananas are gluten free, but the vanilla wafers are not.)

As this journey begins you are startled by how many things have gluten in them that you wouldn't expect (various medicines/vitamins, almost anything that is a pre-packaged food which Jamison was a fan of, candy, and of course any breads/crackers and I even discovered that the brand of garlic salt I used had wheat in it! What's that about?) Once you know you can't gave gluten you have to start reading labels even closer than you did before and let me tell you I'm a label reader to begin with! You quickly learn what is and what isn't gluten free and you regularly visit the Celiac Sprue Association's Grain Page. I'm still learning, but I'm becoming more and more comfortable every day saying what is and what isn't gluten free.

One of those things that you wouldn't suspect to have wheat is soy sauce and because of that a lot of Chinese foods, especially those with brown sauces, are now off the market if you can't have gluten. Unfortunately Jamison loves Chinese and all of the dishes he eats are cooked in that soy filled brown sauce and this is how this recipe came about. If you can't have gluten then you just have to start adapting recipes of the things you love. In some cases it isn't easy, but it is doable and in this case it was a quite easy fix.

Chinese cuisine has an aura about it that makes a lot of people think it's hard to cook, but don't worry it's not! If you can steam some veggies, stir fry and make rice, you're golden! It also doesn't take a long time to prepare. It's a quick, easy and healthy option for when you want take out, but can't necessarily have it for health reasons or any other issue.

You'll also notice we have a new "Gluten Free" category on the side bar and I'll be adding to it as I adapt Jamison's favorites to gluten free equivalents. So far it's been hit and miss and I've yet to find a bread recipe that isn't grainy in texture and green in taste, so that's an adventure in and of itself, but I have been able to adapt some other things, so stay tuned! Oh and I will conquer that bread too! I'm anything if not determined! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar
4 tablespoons of gluten free soy sauce (Note: La Choy soy sauces are wheat free according to their label. I always use the version that has less salt. If in doubt read the label! Wheat should be readily labeled and if it says something along the lines of "food starch" in most cases that means wheat so steer clear!)
2 tablespoons of corn starch
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds of beef, cut into bite sized chunks
1 pound of broccoli, steamed
1 cup of cooked brown rice, per person

In a medium sized bowl mix water, rice vinegar, cane sugar, soy sauce and corn starch and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add meat and stir to ensure that all the meat is covered. Cover the bowl tightly and then refrigerate to let the mixture marinate for at least an hour to overnight.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and take it out of the sauce. Do not discard the sauce as you will need some of it for the recipe.

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté the meat in a little olive oil until the outsides are slightly browned. (Note: Don't go overboard with the oil. You want enough to just coat the pan, roughly 1 tablespoon max.) Once the meat is browned add 1 cup of the marinating liquid and cook until the mixture thickens and the beef is done through. If you like a lot of sauce add more of the marinating liquid.

While the meat is cooking steam the broccoli until just tender and set aside.

Most varieties of brown rice take around 1 hour to cook. The Beef with Broccoli takes about 20-30 minutes to cook depending on how big your chunks of meat are so make sure you give enough time for the rice to be done. You want 1 cup of cooked brown rice per person.

To serve place some rice on a plate and top with the cooked beef mixture. Next add 6-8 broccoli florets and serve.

Notes: You could add in different types of steamed vegetables (i.e. carrots, snow peas, cauliflower, etc.) to make a Mixed Vegetable version. You could also substitute chicken or shrimp for the beef if you're not a beef fan. If you wanted to make a completely vegeterian/vegan version you could use tofu or mushrooms in place of the meat. The possibilities are endless!

Posted by Dianne at 7:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 20, 2008

Tomato Chick Pea Soup

Tomato Chick Pea Soup

Tomatoes and chick peas go very well together, so why not make a soup with both? This soup utilizes those two ingredients, along with some other vegetables, to make an easy, quick, hearty, healthy soup that really hits the spot. What's better than that on these days that can't figure out if they are winter or spring even if today is the first official day of just that?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 - 15.5 ounce can of chick peas, drained
1 - 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 quart of broth (vegetable or chicken)
2 cups of spinach, chopped

Sauté onion, carrot, leek and thyme in a little extra virgin olive oil until onion is tender. Add chick peas, tomatoes and broth and stir until mixed. Bring to a rapid boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add chopped spinach and cook for 5-8 minutes until spinach is just cook. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add other vegetables into the soup if you liked. You could also add some shrimp or chicken if you wanted a meat element, but the soup stands alone with the chick peas and is hearty in and of itself without extras.

Posted by Dianne at 7:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

Greek Yogurt Smashed Potatoes with Rosemary, Garlic and Caramelized Onion

Greek Yogurt Smashed Potatoes with Rosemary, Garlic and Caramelized Onion

When you think mashed potatoes you immediately think rich and bad for you, but they don't have to be. There are ways to make delicious mashed potatoes, all while ensuring that they aren't bad for your waist line. Add in some Greek yogurt and some herbs, garlic and onion and you've got a fantastic potato side dish that really hits the spot when you want some good old smashed potatoes!

What You'll Need:
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into rounds
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into small wedges
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt (Note: I like Oikos.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sized pot boil potatoes until tender, drain and place back in the pot.

While the potatoes are cooking in a medium sized skillet cook onions until caramelized and then add garlic and dried rosemary and cook for an additional 2 minutes to soften garlic.

In a small pot heat greek yogurt until just heated through (about 2 minutes) and add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Once potatoes are cooked and drained add the heated yogurt mixture to the potatoes smash the potatoes with a potato masher until somewhat smooth. Stir in onion mixture until incorporated and serve.

Notes: You can use other herbs if you like. You could also leave out the onions or even substitute shallots or scallions instead.

Posted by Dianne at 7:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 12, 2008

Improvised Miso Soup

Improvised Miso Soup

I'm a huge fan of Miso Soup, I mean big time! I've always wanted to try and make it at home, but it was just one of those things I just never got around to. Plus when I've read about it in the past it's a bit intimidating, mainly in that you can not let the soup boil once the miso is added. Talk about pressure! ;o)

Last week I decided I finally wanted to try my hand at making Miso Soup. I got some brown rice miso and some tofu and thought I'd be good to go. I didn't however get any dashi stock. I did some reading and found that one version of dashi stock was made with dried mushrooms. The only problem with that was I didn't have any dried mushrooms on hand. I did however have some baby portabella mushrooms so I decided to make some mushroom broth from that and go from there. In other words I improvised! The end result turned out great and was an almost dead ringer for the Miso Soup I order when Jamison picks up sushi for me.

What You'll Need:
1 package of mushrooms (Note: As I mentioned above I used baby portabellas.)
Enough water to cover the mushrooms in a 2 1/2 quart pot
1 package of firm tofu, cut into small squares
1-2 tablespoons of miso
2 cups of spinach, chopped into strips

In a 2 1/2 quart pot cook mushrooms in water until mushrooms are tender. Remove mushrooms and reserve broth. (Note: You do not want to add salt to this as the miso is salty enough to flavor the whole soup. Also you can eat the mushrooms as is or use them in something like Mushroom Stroganoff or Mushroom Spread.)

Once the mushrooms are removed add in the tofu and let it cook for 5 or 6 minutes. (Note: Tofu absorbs flavor from the components of the soup. On it's own it doesn't taste like much.) After the tofu has been in for a few minutes lower the heat and make sure the soup is NOT boiling! Stir in miso until dissolved and make sure the soup does NOT go to a boil after the miso is added. (Note: I don't know why you're not supposed to boil it, but I kept reading that over and over in terms of miso and it's even printed on the side of my miso container. If anyone out there knows why drop me a comment! ;o))

Once the miso is added add the spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted. Serve immediately. (Note: I used the bagged baby spinach and I know it says it's "triple washed" or some such who hah, but wash it! They put some kind of stabilizer or preservative on it, even on the organic versions, and when I don't wash it it makes my tongue numb. That tells you it's something you don't want to be eating! Wash, wash, wash! ;o) Plus you don't know who has handled it after it was "triple washed" so don't take any chances!)

Notes: Using the mushroom broth makes this vegan, just so you know. I even ended up freezing part of the batch for use later. You can also top this soup with chopped green onion. The place I order mine from does both spinach and green onion, but I didn't have any green onion on hand.

P.S. Oh and don't forget the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series for your chance to win some free herbs and spices!

Posted by Dianne at 6:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 10, 2008

Pan "Fried" Feta and Thyme Polenta with Caramelized Onions

Pan "Fried" Feta and Thyme Polenta with Caramelized Onions

Polenta is a food I have just recently discovered. For years I associated it with grits and as I've mentioned before I'm not a fan of those, but polenta itself is a healthy, whole grain, alternative to other starchy side dishes. (And for those of you who didn't know it's a Weight Watchers Core food as well!)

This version involves seasoning the base polenta with thyme and feta, letting it set up, cutting it into squares, pan "frying" the squares and then topping them with caramelized onions. The taste combination really melds together well and the whole dish is hearty and filling, which is always a good thing when you're trying to eat less. Healthy most definitely does not have to be boring!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of polenta (Note: I used Bob's Red Mill.)
3-4 cups of water or broth
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces of fat free feta
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt (Note: I like Oikos.)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into small wedges

In a medium sized pan bring 3-4 cups of water or broth to a boil. Stir in polenta and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until polenta is thick and creamy, usually about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove polenta from heat and stir in a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, thyme, Greek yogurt and feta and stir to incorporate. Pour polenta into an 8 X 8 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour until polenta is set up. (Note: You can do this in the fridge if you want. You could even do it the day before you want to use the polenta.)

Once polenta is set up cut into roughly 9 squares. Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Place squares into the pan and "fry" on each side until golden brown. Top with caramelized onions. (See below.)

In a separate pan or skillet cook onion in a little extra virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon tops) until onion is caramelized. Use to top the polenta. (Note: If you choose to let the polenta sit overnight then do this right before you get ready to serve.)

Notes: You could use rosemary instead of thyme or any other herb you like. You could also add another cheese. I prefer fat free feta because it's one of the few cheeses that actually tastes ok in fat free form. Most fat free cheese taste like cardboard, but feta retains it's body and flavor even when made fat free.

P.S. Oh and don't forget the March edition of the Dianne's Dishes contest series for your chance to win some free herbs and spices!

Posted by Dianne at 1:25 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 28, 2008

Cajun Adzuki Beans with Brown Rice and Chicken

Cajun Adzuki Beans with Brown Rice and Chicken

Alexis loves beans! Lima, red. black, garbanzo, green...You name it and she loves it! Tuesday on our weekly trip to My Organic Market to get groceries I decided to grab a package of red adzuki beans and give them a try. Alexis saw them on the counter and wanted to make them for dinner Tuesday night, but I told her that we'd have to soak them overnight. So we did just that and yesterday for lunch we had a fresh pot of adzuki beans.

Now while Alexis enjoyed her beans with some brown rice, I wanted to spice things up a little. I was in a spicy mood yesterday (but I guess that's true of most days) so I pulled out Cajun seasoning and a few other elements and this quick and easy rice dish was what I came up with. The spicy goes a long way toward helping you feel full longer and every aspect of the dish is a nice and healthy change from lunch time doldrums. Sometimes it's nice to spice things up in the middle of the day, the added benefit being that you don't want to snack as much as the afternoon wears on. That's always a good thing!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 of a large onion, chopped
1/2 a bell pepper, chopped
3 mushrooms,
1-2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning (Note: The seasoning I use is salt free. If you use a version that has salt included then omit the pinch of sea salt below.)
1 tablespoon of chili powder
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 cup of cooked adzuki beans
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into chunks (Note: This is completely optional. You could add in shrimp to mix things up a bit or even just add in mushrooms if you wanted a completely vegetarian option.)
1 cup of water

In a skillet or medium sized pot sauté onion, bell pepper, mushroom and garlic until onion and pepper are tender. Add seasonings and stir well to mix. Add brown rice, adzuki beans and chicken chunks to the veggie mixture and stir to coat. Add water and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until water is gone and has absorbed into the dish. Serve immediately.

This makes two large main course servings or four smaller side dish portions.

Notes: You can make this as spicy (or not spicy) as you like. Simply adjust seasonings to your taste. I was going to add celery to mix as well, but we are out. You could also add in any other veggies that you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

Seasoned Mushroom and Pearl Onion Chicken with Brown Rice

Seasoned Mushroom and Pearl Onion Chicken with Brown Rice

Who says eating healthily has to be boring? You can take your basic chicken breast and spice it up with a little seasoning, pair it with some veggies and brown rice and you've turned it into a scrumptious meal! On top of that it can be done quickly and easily. What's better on a weeknight for dinner?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small package of button mushrooms
1 - 1 1/2 cups of small pearl onions (Note: I used fresh pearl onions for this.)
Seasoning Mix (Note: I used Kirkland Signature Organic No-Salt Seasoning, which I got at Costco. It is a dried mix of onion, garlic, carrot, black pepper, red bell pepper, tomato, orange peel, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, basil, celery, lemon peel, oregano, savory, mustard seed, cumin, margoram, coriander, cayenne pepper, citric acid and rosemary, but what ever kind of seasoning you like works.)
2 cups of cooked brown rice

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a making dish coat each chicken breast, onions and mushrooms with a little olive oil. (Note: You just want a thin coat. A few teaspoons per breast at most.) Sprinkle seasoning over mixture and toss to coat. Bake for 35-45 minutes until chicken is done through. Serve chicken, mushrooms and onions over cooked brown rice.

Makes two servings.

Notes: You could use other veggies if you like. It's all a matter of taste. The seasoning I used has enough flavor that salt isn't necessary, but if the one you use doesn't then add a pinch of sea salt and even some black pepper to the mix as well.

P.S. It's Tuesday and you know that that means...Tuesdays with Dorie! This week's recipe was Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits and was chosen by Ashley of eat me, delicious. I sat out this week's recipe due to having way too much going on last week, but don't forget to pop over and see what everyone else baked up!

Posted by Dianne at 7:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

Chicken Soup A La Alexis

Chicken Soup A La Alexis

"Mommy I want to make some chicken soup."

"OK."

"And I want it to have big chunks of chicken."

"Anything else?"

"And salt, pepper, peas, corn, onion and leeks."

"Is that all?"

"Oh and egg noodles!"

"Sounds good."

"And when we get finished I want you to take a picture of my soup and put it on your 'bog'!"

So we made some soup just as she asked and I'm sharing it with you now. Why stifle creativity? ;o)

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 leek, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
At least 1 quart of chicken broth
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1-2 cups of whole grain egg noodles

Sauté onion, carrot and leek with a pinch of sea salt until onions are tender. Add chicken breasts and chicken broth and cook until chicken is done through. Remove from soup and cut the chicken into chunks and then return to broth. Add peas and corn and cook until they are unfrozen (about 5 more minutes). Add noodles and cook until tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: Thyme would be a good addition to this soup. Any other veggies you wanted to add in would be good as well.

Posted by Dianne at 7:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2008

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

For years I've been trying brussels sprouts and have been less than impressed. I've had them boiled, steamed, baked, with lemon, with herbs, with cheese and even deep fried and I just didn't care for them! I kept trying them though, because they have so many health benefits so I thought there must be some way that they could be prepared where they were edible. This week I finally found what I was looking for...Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic! Not only is this recipe simple, it's also healthy and delicious. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
Brussels sprouts, picked over and cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil (Note: You want just enough olive oil to coat the brussels sprouts...Roughly one tablespoon per 3 cups of sprouts. They should not be sitting in oil.)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large cloves of garlic, diced per 3 cups of sprouts

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Wash brussels sprouts and pick off any brown leaves. Cut each sprout in half and place in a baking dish. Once all the sprouts are cut toss with olive oil to coat. Then sprinkle the sprouts with a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and diced garlic. Bake for 25-35 minutes until brussels sprouts are browned and tender. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

Notes: You could add in some herbs if you wanted, though I think simple is best in this case. This would be great tossed with some roasted tomatoes and served over a little whole wheat pasta.

Posted by Dianne at 7:16 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 21, 2008

Wasabi Mustard Slaw

Wasabi Mustard Slaw

This is a spicy take on classic slaw, that cuts out the mayo and spices up the ingredients making it healthier overall and also adding a bit of a kick, but it's oh so delicious. Sometimes it's fun to play with a classic and make something totally new and if that creation is lighter than the original then all the better!

What You'll Need:
1/4 a head of cabbage, cut or shredded (Note: You're looking for roughly 2 cups.)
1/4 a head of red cabbage, cut or shredded (Notes: Again roughly 2 cups.)
1 large carrot, shredded
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup of rice vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of wasabi mustard (Note: I you can't find wasabi mustard you could use 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon of wasabi.)

Wasabi Mustard Slaw: Vegetables

Toss together the cabbages and the carrot until completely incorporated. Set aside.

Wasabi Mustard Slaw: Dressing

In a small canning jar (or you can use a bowl and whisk if you want, but I think it's easier to put it in the jar and then shake!) add olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, pepper and wasabi mustard and put a lid on the jar. Shake until all ingredients are mixed then pour the vinegar mixture over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Chill for 1 hour and then serve.

Notes: I was going to add a couple of tablespoons of celery seed, but I was out. This slaw is best served the day it is made as the vinegar content makes it wilt quickly if stored for too long. Also the red cabbage tends to lose it's color the longer it's in vinegar, though it won't change the flavor of the slaw itself, you might just end up with reddish purple dressing.

Posted by Dianne at 7:08 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

Mexican Chicken Stack-up

Mexican Chicken Stack-up

Mexican food is one of my all time favorites, but as you know it can be very heavy and fat laden. It doesn't have to be though. This "Stack-up" is the perfect substitution for nachos. By layering your ingredients the flavors all meld together and the end result is light, yet satisfying, all while being full of protein, vitamins and good fats. What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 cup of beans (Note: I used black beans, but you can use red beans, pinto beans or a mixture if you like.)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked in Mexican spices (See instructions and ingredients below.)
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 an onion, chopped
1 ounce of light or fat free cheddar
1/2 an avocado, sliced
1-2 tablespoons of light sour cream

Heat beans in a small pot.

Mexican Chicken Stack-up: Chicken

While the beans are cooking cut chicken into strips or chunks and place in a skillet. Cover with chicken with water. Add 1 tablespoon of parika, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, a pinch of sea salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 tablespoon of cumin to the water. Give a quick stir. Put pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Cook until water evaporates.

While the chicken and beans are cooking sauté onions in a little extra virgin olive oil until caramelized.

Now on to assembly...The first layer is the beans and the second layer is the chicken.
Mexican Chicken Stack-up: Beans and Chicken

Next add the onions.
Mexican Chicken Stack-up: Beans, Chicken and Onions

On top of the onions place the cheese and let it melt a bit and then top with avocado.
Mexican Chicken Stack-up: Beans, Chicken, Onions, Cheese and Avocado

And finally top with sour cream and serve immediately.

Notes: You could use steak or shrimp instead of chicken or if you wanted to go completely veggie you could sauté some mushrooms and use that instead. Portabella mushrooms would work really well, but any mushrooms will do. Also you can sauté some bell pepper with the onion is you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2008

Vegetable Soup with Quinoa and Barley

Vegetable Soup with Quinoa and Barley

Nothing is as warming on a cold winter day as a hearty, healthy bowl of soup! Last week when we were iced in for two days Alexis wanted to make some vegetable soup and this is what came about. It's rich, warm, chunky and oh so filling, all while being healthy. What's not to like? So if you want to chase away the winter blues whip up a pot of this healthy, yet quick soup, and in no time you'll be warm and toasty!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 button mushrooms, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 leek, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup of frozen peas
1/2-1 cup of quinoa
1/2-1 cup of barley
1 quart of broth (Note: You can use vegetable or chicken broth, whichever you prefer. If the soup seems too thick to you add more broth. You'll most likely have to add more broth to left overs as the soup ingredients absorb the liquid the longer it sits.)
3 tablespoons of tomato paste

In a medium sized stock pot sauté vegetables in a little non-stick spray until onions are tender with a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper and oregano. Stir in frozen peas, corn, quinoa and barley. Cover the mixture with broth and stir in tomato paste. Bring to a quick boil and the lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes covered or until barley is tender.

Vegetable Soup with Quinoa and Barley

Notes: You can add any vegetables you like. Alexis wanted to add some ABC noodles to the mix as well so we did to hers. Garlic would be a nice addition. Soup really is an easy dish to tweak, so add what you like!

Posted by Dianne at 7:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

Baked Vegetable Chips With Dill

Baked Vegetable Chips With Dill

I have to admit I'm not a big fan of the conventional potato chip. They have always been too greasy and heavy for me. I do however like a good baked chip and decided to try my hand at making some baked vegetable chips. The result was heavenly!

This is the perfect, healthy alternative to regular old potato chips. You control the ingredients and the amount of fat you add, yet you end up with a crisp, satisfying chip that you'll want to make again! These chips are just perfect when you want to crunch! ;o)

What You'll Need:
Root vegetables (Note: For this batch I used a sweet potato, a large carrot and a rutabaga.)
Dried dill (Note: If dill isn't your thing you could use any other dried herb you like or leave out the herbs all together.)
Sea salt
Black pepper (Note: For this you want finely ground black pepper.)
Olive oil spray or other non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Thinly slice each vegetable into rounds. (Note: You can do this with a knife or a mandolin cutter. If you use the latter you can even make crinkle cuts.) Place cut veggies on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Spray generously with olive oil or non-stick spray. Sprinkle with dill, sea salt and pepper.

Place try into your oven on the highest rack and bake for 1 hour. (Note: Keep an eye on the chips and make sure they aren't burning. If they appear too brown then lower them to a lower rack. The sweet potato will turn a lovely chocolate color as it bakes, but that doesn't mean it's burning.) After an hour move the pan to a lower rack and cook for an additional 30 minutes to an hour until chips are crisp. Remove from oven and let chips cool on the pan. Store in an air tight container.

Baked Vegetable Chips With Dill

Notes: The chips are really best served the day they are made. If they soften up a bit when you store them you can re-crisp them by putting them back in the oven for a bit.

Posted by Dianne at 11:21 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 7, 2008

Shrimp and Artichoke Whole Wheat Fettuccine

Shrimp and Artichoke Whole Wheat Fettuccine

Fettuccine. What's not to like? But in reality it's laden with fat and calories. You can easily lighten up this dish by using whole wheat pasta and leaving off the cheese. With the garlic and the healthy fat in the olive oil, you won't miss the cheese at all!

What You'll Need Per Person: Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1-2 large mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of artichoke (Note: You can cook the artichoke yourself, or get it from a can. I cooked a couple of artichokes with a little lime. sea salt and pepper and used it for this dish, but either method will work.)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 shrimp
2 ounces of dry whole wheat fettuccine noodles, cooked according to package directions (Note: Reserve pasta cooking water.)
1/3 cup of pasta water

In a large skillet sauté onion, mushrooms, artichoke and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper, until vegetables are tender.

Shrimp and Artichoke Whole Wheat Fettuccine: Artichokes Cooking

Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp are pink. Add cooked pasta and pasta water and toss to coat. Cook for an additional minute or two until pasta water evaporates. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add in other vegetables if you like and if you just have to have cheese you could add in some Parmesan, but remember with the cheese you are also adding fat and calories.

P.S. Don't forget the Death by Chocolate contest over at Culinate! The voting ends tomorrow at noon, so if you haven't voted already, then hop on over and do so! You could win a trip for two to Napa's Chocolate festival at the end of February! My entry is my take on my Mom's Hot Fudge Cake.

Chocolate...What's not to like? ;o)

P.S.S. I'm finally figuring out this new version of MovableType (or more honestly I'm putting in my own html to make the entries look more like they did before the move and more like I'm accustomed to)! I'm still working out kinks here and there and there are still a few blips on the main page, but it's slowly coming together. Moving to a new server can be a pain, but I highly reccomend LivingDot if you're looking for a new server youself! They've been awesome!

Posted by Dianne at 1:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 5, 2008

Taco Soup

Taco Soup  

Want some tacos, but want a slightly healthier twist on the sometimes fat laden classic?  Why not make some taco soup?  This soup has all the elements of your basic taco, minus the corn shell, but with corn thrown in to give it that same taste.  Top it with a little light sour cream and light cheese and your taste buds will be convinced you’re eating a taco!

What You’ll Need:

Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound of lean ground beef or turkey (Note: If you want you can leave out the meat all together.  You could add in textured vegetable protein, soy crumbles or even just add some beans.)
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups of cooked red beans
1 - 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 - 15 ounce can tomato sauce

In a large pot sauté onion and bell pepper until just tender with a pinch of sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  (Note: You can add more cayenne or less depending on how hot you like things.  This is the same with the chili powder as well.)  Add ground beef or turkey when the onions and peppers are about halfway done and cook until it is browned.  (Note: The light ground beef/turkey has little fat in it and usually doesn’t have to be drained.  If the meat you are using has a higher fat content then add the spices AFTER the meat is finished and drained.)  Stir in red beans, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour to let the flavors meld.  Serve warm.Taco Soup

Notes: You could add in different types of beans if you want.  Black beans would be really good in this mix.  You could also add in some jalapeños if you like them or even cilantro, though I wouldn’t because I’m not a fan. 

Also, don't forget that you can still vote over at Culinate in the Death by Chocolate contest!  You could win a trip for two to Napa to their chocolate festival at the end of February!  My entry is Hot Fudge Cake

Chocolate...What's not to like? 

Posted by Dianne at 9:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 31, 2008

Balsamic Steak with Feta and Thyme Sweet Potato Medallions

Balsamic Steak with Feta and Thyme Sweet Potato Medallions

Balsamic vinegar and feta go very well together, but who is going to eat feta simply with a little balsamic vinegar? By marinating a steak in some balsamic vinegar and topping it with feta, you've got a wonderful taste combination. Pair the steak with some Thyme Sweet Potato Medallions (which go together well in flavor too!) along with some baked or steamed asparagus and you've got a healthy, filling meal in no time!

What You'll Need for the Thyme Sweet Potato Medallions Per Person:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium to large sweet potato, cut into rounds
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Add a little extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of a baking dish and spread around to coat. (Note: you only need a few teaspoons to a tablespoon max. Use a basting brush to spread it around on the surface of the dish.) Layer sweet potatoes into the dish and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Thyme Sweet Potato Medallions

Notes: Depending on how many potatoes you are cooking this may take more or less time. Keep an eye on them. You could leave off the thyme if you aren't a fan and simply top them with a little sea salt and black pepper OR you could even just sprinkle with a little nutmeg and/or cinnamon. It you go with the nutmeg and/or cinnamon route don't think you need to add any sugar. Contrary to popular belief though sweet potatoes really don't need any sugar added, they are naturally sweet all on their own!

What You'll Need for the Balsamic Steak with Feta Per Person:
1 single serving type steak of your choice (Note: An appropriate sized serving of meat is roughly the size of a deck of cards or your palm.)
1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
1 ounce of feta cheese (Note: I used fat free feta, but you can use whatever type you like.)

In a bowl cover the steak with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, turning the steak occasionally in order to coat evenly.

When you are ready to cook the steak the cooking method is up to you. You can remove it from the marinating solution and pan sear or "fry" it until it's done to your likeness, you can grill it or you can even bake it. I chose the pan searing method and I prefer my steaks medium so it took about 3-5 minutes in a very warm skillet.

Once the steak is cooked top with feta while the steak is still hot and serve immediately.

Notes: You could use goat cheese instead of feta if you wanted, because what's not better with a little goat cheese! ;o) Also the balsamic vinegar caramelizes as you cook it so it gives the outside of the steak a beautiful dark chocolate color.

Posted by Dianne at 8:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

Sushi Revisited: Shrimp Rolls

Sushi Revisited

Can you take a healthy dish like sushi and make it even more so? Sure you can! Anything is possible with a little creativity. How do you do it you ask? You can use brown sushi rice instead of white! The result is delicious and what's better than something less processed? ;o)

This go around in the sushi making adventure I even added in some shrimp. This is the first time I've actually made a roll that had fish in it, albeit cooked, but there's a first time for everything! ;o)

This time I made one shrimp roll and two veggie rolls. I've done veggie rolls before, so the instructions below are for the shrimp rolls. You can see some of my other sushi here and here.

If you like sushi and you've never tried to make it before just try! It really isn't as hard as some lead you to believe! :o)

What You'll Need:
Brown sushi rice, cooked according to package directions (Note: You need about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooked rice per roll. I usually go with the lesser amount when it's a packed roll such as this one.)
1 tablespoon of sushi vinegar per cup of cooked rice (Note: A lot of the commercial varieties of sushi vinegar have high fructose corn syrup in them. The one I linked does not. Read the label carefully to make sure it's made with real sugar or something other than HFCS!)
Nori sheets
4 small steamed shrimp per roll, cut in half lengthwise
3 or 4 cucumber matchsticks
3 or 4 carrot matchsticks
2 slices of avacado
Wasabi powder, prepared according to the label directions (Note: You can buy prepared wasabi if you want to, but again be careful because a lot of brands have high fructose corn syrup in them too for some odd reason! Wasabi isn't supposed to be sweet!)
Low sodium soy sauce

Sushi Revisited: Ingredients

While the rice is cooking (it takes about 50 minutes) cook your shrimp. You can do this by steaming them, microwaving them quickly until pink or whatever method your prefer. Remember shrimp only take a few minutes to cook. As soon as they turn pink they are done! Don't over cook or you'll just end up with rubber! Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them if desired. Set aside to cool.

20 minutes before the rice is done start cutting your vegetables and have them ready to go. Cut the cucumbers and carrots into matchstick pieces. Slice the avocado into slices. Set aside.

Once rice is cooked add 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of cooked rice. Let cool slightly until cool enough to touch. This usually takes about 4 minutes

Lay a sheet of nori out on a clean towel or a bamboo sushi mat. Using a wooden spoon that has been dipped in water so the rice won't stick, spread rice out leaving an inch at the top with no rice. Layer vegetables at the opposite end of the roll away from the free inch left over.

Sushi Revisited

Using the sushi mat or towel carefully and tightly roll up the roll. Normally it will seal itself with the moisture from the rice, but if it appears not to be sealing then dip your fingers into water and run it along the edge of the nori to help it seal. Roll it as tight as possible. The tighter the roll the easier to cut. (Note: I could have rolled this roll a bit tighter. It still cut ok, but it wasn't as tight and neat as I would have liked. The carrot/cucumber roll I made was rolled perfectly.)

Using a serrated knife cut the roll into slices. Serve with wasabi and low sodium soy sauce.

Notes: With sushi the ingredients you use are up to you! Experiment and have fun! I've even thrown in sprouts a few times. If you like it, try it! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 24, 2008

Whole Wheat Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

Whole Wheat Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

Eating healthy is usually associated with eating boringly, but that's anything but the case! Whole Wheat Chicken and Vegetable Pasta is a hearty, satisfying, yet healthy alternative to other pasta dishes. The vegetables bulk up the dish without bulking up the calories, while the whole wheat pasta gives you a whole grain kick that is better for you than plain old ordinary pasta. This dish is just perfect for one, or even to share! Pasta...What's not to like?

What You'll Need Per Person:
2 ounces of the dry whole wheat pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions
1/2 a boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked until done
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 a small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut lengthwise
1 cup of California Style frozen vegetables (Note: The version I used had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and zucchini.)

Cook pasta, drain and set aside.

Cut chicken into chunks and cook in a skillet with a little non-stick spray, sea salt and black pepper until done through. Set aside.

In the same skillet you cooked the chicken sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes in a little extra virgin olive oil with sea salt, black pepper and oregano until tender. Add frozen vegetables and cook for a few minutes until veggies are thawed. Add cooked pasta and chicken then stir to coat. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes to let flavors meld. Serve warm.

Notes: You can add in other herbs if you like. Basil might be a good addition or thyme. You could also top with cheese if you wanted, but remember that cheese can rapidly add up calorie wise. You could also use shrimp instead of chicken, or you could leave out the meat entirely and add more mushrooms for a meatless option.

Posted by Dianne at 12:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 17, 2008

Double Mushroom Soup

Double Mushroom Soup

It started snowing about an hour ago and we're supposed to get 3-5 inches of accumulation. When it started snowing I decided to make some soup for lunch, because snow automatically makes me think of soup. I thought about making some Maryland Crab Soup, but decided to save that for another day. Instead I thought it might be good to make some Double Mushroom soup instead.

Snowy Soup Day

Double Mushroom soup is very versatile and it's just perfect for when you want something beefy, but don't necessarily want beef. You can mix and match ingredients and broths, but the mushrooms come together perfectly to create a healthy alternative to French Onion soups, which can have a lot of fat in them. The mushrooms and broth definitely give the soup a "beefy" kick that hits the spot on a cold winter day!

Oh and on a side note...Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow! ;o)

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into strips
A pinch of sea salt (Note: The broth I made the other day didn't have salt in it. If the broth you are using is salted you can omit the pinch of salt.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1-3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary removed from the stem
2 large portobella mushroom caps, sliced
6-8 button mushrooms, sliced
1 quart of mushroom broth

In a medium sized pot sauté onions until slightly caramelized with rosemary, sea salt and black pepper.

Double Mushroom Soup: Onions

After the onions are tender add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes until mushrooms are slightly tender, but not falling apart.

Double Mushroom Soup: Mushrooms and Onions

Add mushroom broth and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. (Note: The longer the soup cooks the more the mushrooms add to the flavor of the soup making it more "beefy".) Serve warm.

Notes: You can use thyme instead of rosemary, but I forgot to grab some when I was at the store. You can also make mushroom broth by boiling mushrooms in water with a little sea salt and black pepper. If you don't want to use mushroom broth or don't want to make it, you can use beef or chicken broth instead. If you want you can top this soup as you would top French Onion soup with cheese and croûtons, but it's perfectly delicious and much healthier as is. Also if you make the soup as I did above it's vegan in case you need a vegan dish for a mushroom lover. :o)

Posted by Dianne at 11:08 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 16, 2008

Sprouted Lentil and Chicken "Fried" Rice

Sprouted Lentil and Chicken "Fried" Rice

After our adventure today I wanted something filling, yet packed with healthy goodness. This stir fry came about from that. Katherine and Nelson decided to stay for dinner since Ben had to work late. I knew I wanted to utilized the sprouted lentils I had sprouted earlier this week as well, along with some veggies and brown rice to round out the dish. This mix up packs just the right punch of veggies, whole grain from the rice and protein from the egg/chicken and with a serving size of just over a cup you'll be more than satisfied too!

What You'll Need:
Non-stick spray
Sesame oil
2 eggs
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 button mushrooms, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
1 1/2 cups of sprouted lentils (Note: You can buy sprouted lentils, as well as other grains, beans and seeds, in many stores now. If you can't find them they are simple to grow yourself, which is what I did with these lentils.)
1 - 6 ounce package of fresh snow peas
2 cups of cooked chicken, chopped into small pieces
Black pepper
1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce (Note: Regular soy sauce would work too, I just prefer the lower sodium variation.)
1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt
2 cups of cooked brown rice

In a large skillet, wok or stock pot scramble eggs with a little non-stick spray and sesame oil and break the egg up into very small pieces as it cooks. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Respray pan with non-stick spray and add some more sesame oil. Sauté onions with carrots, sprouted lentils, snow peas and mushroom until onions are tender.

Sprouted Lentils

Add chicken and stir to mix. Next add soy sauce, black pepper and garlic salt and stir to incorporate. Cook for 5 minutes or so until the soy sauce absorbs into the veggies. Add the scrambled egg back to the pan and stir to mix. Heat for 1-2 minutes to reheat eggs. Add rice and stir again to mix. Heat for another 1-2 minutes to ensure rice is warm and then serve immediately.

Sprouted Lentil and Chicken "Fried" Rice

Notes: You could use any vegetables you like. You could substitute shrimp or beef for the chicken or leave out the meat entirely. You could also substitute olive oil for the sesame oil.

Posted by Dianne at 7:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 14, 2008

Creamy Tomato Vegetable Soup

Creamy Tomato and Vegetable Soup

It's a cloudy cool day here in Maryland today and I immediately thought of soup for lunch! What's better on a cold, cloudy day than a nice, hot pot of soup!

This soup is thick, warm, creamy, filling and also healthy if you stick to low-fat or fat-free sour cream. The rosemary and oregano give it a nice flavor, while the garlic and onion give it a bit of a kick. The sour cream comes in at the end to make things nice and creamy, while giving the soup a mellow undertone throughout. Your end product is just perfect for a cold winter day!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups of greens beans, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
1-2 tablespoons of oregano, chopped
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup of broth (Note: Any type of broth you like will work. I used some homemade chicken broth that I made the other day.)
1 - 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with basil (Note: If you can't find them with basil you can add 1 teaspoon of dried basil to the soup.)
1/3 cup of sour cream (Note: Any type will work. I used fat-free.)

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onions, celery, carrot, green beans, leek and garlic until onion is tender. Add rosemary and oregano and stir to mix. Next add mushrooms and corn, along with the broth and tomatoes. Stir to incorporate and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour. Add sour cream and stir to mix throughout the soup. Cook for an additional ten minutes to heat the sour cream and then serve warm.

Notes: I had originally wanted to use thyme in this soup instead of rosemary and oregano, but I realized I was out of dried thyme and I didn't grow any this winter to keep indoors so I went with fresh rosemary and oregano, which I do have growing. You could leave the basil out of the soup entirely if you wanted. You could also eat the soup without adding in the sour cream.

Oh and don't forget! If you like chocolate and haven't entered yet be sure and enter Dianne's Dishes first ever contest for four bars of Green and Black's organic chocolate!! You have until Today, January 14, 2008 at 5:00 PM EST to enter. So take this link and register if you haven't already. Oh and tell your friends! Comments will be closed after five and I'll contact the person who has won to get their address so I can send their chocolate their way. Tomorrow morning I'll announce who has won so good luck!

Free chocolate...What's not to like? ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 11:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 3, 2008

Tomato Rosemary Soup

Tomato Rosemary Soup

Who says healthy has to taste bad or be difficult to make? Unfortunately all to often that is the perception, though it's very far off base. This soup is warm, hearty, all while being good for you too and that's what a lot of us are looking for! It's just delightful for when the weather outside is oh so frightful! ;o)

What You'll Need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 a large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 button mushrooms, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1-1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1-2 springs of rosemary, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onion through rosemary with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onions are tender. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and cook for 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately. (Note: You could also just dump the ingredients into your slow cooker and cook for 4-6 hours on low.)

Notes: You could add in any vegetable that you like. You could also add in other herbs if you wanted to, though I think the rosemary is perfect by itself. If you want the soup to be a bit thinner you could add in a couple of cups of any type of broth, but again that is a matter of personal taste. I think it is wonderful thick and chunky.

Posted by Dianne at 8:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

Three Bean Chili

After a little something sweet, what better than to spice things up a bit with the gift of Three Bean Chili! This version is very basic, but basic doesn't have to be a bad thing. This is the perfect meal on a snowy day and it just so happens today is just that! ;o)

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

What You'll Need for the Jar:
1 quart jar
3-4 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon of onion and/or garlic powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of three different types of beans (Note: I used pinto. scarlet runner and navy white beans.)

In the bottom of the jar mix spices and then layer beans on top. Dress up the jar any way you like, with fabric, ribbons and bows, but remember to include the directions for the chili (see below).

What You'll Need to Make the Chilii:
1 Three Bean Chili Gift Jar (see above)
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 - 10 ounce can of Rotel
1 potato, peeled and cubed

Scoop beans out of the jar and leave the spices behind. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak over night.

In a large stock pot sauté onion, tomatoes and garlic until onions are tender and tomatoes start to get soft.

Three Bean Chili: Veggies

Add seasonings from the jar and stir to mix.

Three Bean Chili: Veggies and Spices

Next add tomato sauce, Rotel, beans and 1 1/2 jars of water. Stir to mix and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 hours at least. The longer the better. Chili only gets better with time! 20-30 minutes before serving add the potato and cook until tender.

Three Bean Chili

Notes: The potato is a thing my dad does to chili. I think he got it from my grandmother. I don't do it every time I make a pot of chili, but it adds a nice little surprise that most people don't expect so I do it from time to time. You could also add in a cup or two of corn in place of the potato if you wanted. Depending on what type of canned tomato sauce you use you my need to add more salt. Taste the concoction as you go and modify the spices to your liking.

Posted by Dianne at 9:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 2, 2007

Turkey Avacado Salad

Turkey Avocado Salad

Who says turkey only has to be on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas? This is the perfect recipe to use for left over turkey. It's quick, easy, delicious and healthy. That is a mix you can't go wrong with!

What You'll Need:
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked turkey breast, chopped
1 small avocado, cubed
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 small red onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon avocado oil (Note: If you don't have or can't find avocado oil then you can use extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups spinach leaves, whole

Mix all ingredients except spinach and toss well. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Notes: How's that for simple? ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 8:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 23, 2007

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad is a great go to dish and makes a wonderful pot luck recipe. By using whole grain pasta you're making it that much better and the really great thing is much like soup it just gets better and makes wonderful left overs!

What You'll Need:
1 - 10 ounce box of whole wheat pasta (Note: I like Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Spirals with Milled Flax Seed.)
1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
1 cup of fresh or frozen corn
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1 an English cucumber, chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of vinegar (Note: Sometimes I use apple cider and sometimes I use white balsamic vinegar. It's a matter of personal taste.)

Cook pasta according to package directions and cool to room temperature. Set aside. (Note: You can fast cool the pasta by running cool water over it and use it immediately if you like.

Place all of the veggies in a large bowl and toss to mix. Add pasta to veggie mixture and toss until mixed. In a small bowl mix remaining ingredients until well incorporated and pour over pasta mixture. Stir well.

Serve chilled or at room temeperature.

Note: Other veggies would work well. You can also use other herbs if you prefer or different rations. The key is to make it taste good using the ingredients you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 16, 2007

13-Bean Soup

13-Bean Soup

As a kid growing up in the south pinto beans were a big thing and I'll readily admit I HATED them at the time! In fact I kept on hating them up until the point that I was pregnant with Alexis and then I craved them! Beans now are one of her favorite foods. Go figure. Now I like beans from time to time, yes even pinto beans and this soup mix reminds me a lot of the pinto beans my mom used to make as a child, even though there are more than just pintos in the mix.

The mix consists of navy beans, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, baby lima beans, large lima beans, garbanzo beans, red lentils, great northern beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, yellow split peas, green split peas and regular old lentils. Sure this is a "packaged" bean mix, but it's just beans and all natural with no additives as Bob's Red Mill is famous for and to be honest who wants to go to all the work to put them together yourself?

This soup is a simple, warm, hearty, delicious meal that is just perfect for a crisp fall evening. Who says delicious has to be difficult? Sometimes simple and straight forward is the way to go.

What You'll Need:
1 package of Bob's Red Mill 13 Bean Soup, soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
Water or broth

Soak beans overnight.

Rinse beans and dump into a large pot. Chop an onion and dump that in with the beans. Cover with water or broth until just covered. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook covered for 1-2 hours until beans are tender and soup is creamy.

Notes: There are really not notes for this one, but as I mentioned before old habits die hard! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 1:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 9, 2007

Old Bay Roasted Chicken

Old Bay Roasted Chicken

Chicken, chicken, chicken! It's been a chickeny few days around here at Dianne's Dishes. I had chicken in the freezer that needed to be used so there's been a whole lot of chicken! It's fall clean out time of the freezer! You've heard of spring cleaning? Well I like to do it in the Fall too! ;o)

Old Bay Roasted Chicken is chicken with a kick! My sister, who isn't a fan of Old Bay seasoning, even enjoyed this when we had it for dinner last night! It's another simple go to dish that you just roast and go! Pair with rice or potatoes and a side salad and you've got a nice healthy meal!

What You'll Need:
1 whole chicken
Extra virgin olive oil
Old Bay seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash and dry the chicken. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and coat with Old Bay seasoning. Be sure to sprinkle Old Bay into the cavity of the chicken too.

Bake for 2 hours or until chicken sticks to 180 F. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Notes: Old Bay has a bit of a kick to it so if you've never tried it be aware. If you remove the "crust" that the Old Bay forms it removes some of the heat. But if you like things hot then the more the better! :o)

Posted by Dianne at 8:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 8, 2007

Basic Chicken Soup

Basic Chicken Soup

I love fall (well usually this 90 degree stuff in October is past old, but that's another story all together!), but fall also brings on allergy season. As I've gotten older my allergies have gotten worse and the pollution around here doesn't help matters either. Sometimes it's nice to just whip up a nice pot of Basic Chicken Soup. It's a healthy comfort food that helps you feel better when you're suffering from allergies or even a common cold.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 quart of chicken broth
2 cups of chicken
1 cup of edamame

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onion and carrot with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onion is tender. Add broth, chicken and edamame and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Notes: You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and leaving out the chicken. Any veggie will work. Sometimes I add leek and/or peas and corn. It's an easy soup to mix and match. You can also add in pasta of some sort if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 1, 2007

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

My what a busy weekend we had! On Friday afternoon Alexis ended up having an unexpected playdate. Then on Saturday we dropped Jamison's car off to have it serviced and what was supposed to have taken an hour ended up taking 4 so we ended up having to kill more time than we originally thought! Yesterday Alexis had another playdate and somewhere in between all the other stuff we found time to watch some TiVo and free up some room on the DVR as well as watch a Netflix movie or two along with having a manicure/pedicure.

Man weekends are tiring! ;o)

Today I woke up thinking about Greek Salads, in particular one of my favorite Greek Salads growing up in Tennessee from a restaurant called Gondolier. My father liked to go there on Sundays after church because they have a buffet. I'm not a big buffet eater and never have been. Nine times out of ten I would order the Greek Salad instead. I haven't been to Gondolier in years, but I started thinking about it and decided it wouldn't be hard to make my own Greek Salad!

This morning when Alexis and I set out for the grocery store to pick up a few things I decided to pick up the ingredients and see what I could come up with on my own. The result was not exactly like their original, but it was pretty good none the less! It's amazing what you can do with a little feta and olives! ;o)

What You'll Need Per Person:
2-3 cups of lettuce (Note: I was going to use iceberg, but the choice this morning wasn't that great in terms of iceberg lettuce so I went with Romaine lettuce instead.)
1 cup of tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cup of cucumbers, sliced
1/3 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted
1 ounce of Feta (Note: You can serve the Feta however you prefer. I like to cut it into wedges, but crumbled works too.)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Croutons

In a large bowl toss together lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and olives until mixed.

Whisk together olive oil and vinegar until incorporated. Pour over lettuce mixture and toss to coat. Add Feta and croutons. Turn Feta to coat with dressing. Sprinkle salad with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Notes: You can add other veggies if you like. I've seen artichokes and carrots added into the mix, but I think it's best to keep this simple. More is not always better. ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 11:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 26, 2007

Roasted Carrots with Dill

Roasted Carrots with Dill

Dill and carrots? Surprisingly dill complements the taste of carrots quite well. The two pair very nicely and this is a lovely side dish that always draws raves. That's always a good thing. Another added benefit is that carrots are very healthy and chock full of vitamins and minerals. That's a good thing too. ;o)

What You'll Need:
6-8 carrots, cut into chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon of dried dill
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a medium sized baking dish toss carrots with a little extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with dill, sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes until carrots are tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: No real notes for this one, but old habits die hard! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 25, 2007

Avocado and Red Bean Salad

Avocado and Red Bean Salad

Who says salad has to have lettuce? It's fast and easy to toss together some great ingredients and come out with a wonderful salad sans the lettuce. This particular combination has a bit of a Mexican flare. It makes a great lunch or even a good pot luck type dish. The best part is that it's quick, easy and healthy. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 15.5 ounce can of red beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup of red onion, chopped fine
1 large avocado, chopped
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of paprika
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch of chili powder
A pinch of of cumin

Toss together all ingredients and serve immediately.

Notes: Due to the avocados you want to make this right before serving and no more than 30 minutes ahead of time. You could also add the avocado later and mix up everything else ahead of time. You can add other types of beans in place of or along with the red beans. Corn and/or tomatoes would also be a nice addition.

Posted by Dianne at 11:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 21, 2007

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

I'm a big fan of both avocados and grapefruit and lately I've seen them paired together quite often. I decided to throw together a little salad and see what the taste combination was like. I must say I really like the combination! It's simple, healthy and a quick fix for lunch or a light dinner. If you like avocado and grapefruit, you'll love this!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 avocado
1/2 a large red grapefruit
Avocado oil (Note: If you can't find avocado oil then extra virgin olive oil will work fine.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt

Slice avocado and grapefruit into wedges and arrange in a fan pattern around a plate. Drizzle with some avocado oil, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.

Notes: Due to the avocado this salad is an eat it when you make it kind of deal. If you try to store it the avocado will turn brown and mushy. I wouldn't make it more than 30 minutes before you plan to serve.

Posted by Dianne at 9:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 17, 2007

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

I just love this time of year! The mornings are brisk, the days are cool and those beautiful fall leaves are right around the corner!

Ah...Fall! My second favorite season, Winter being my favorite. Winter, Fall, Spring and then Summer. That's my list! ;o)

My sister commented the other day that it has become Pumpkin Central around here at Dianne's Dishes the past few days and Alexis and I have certainly been rocking the pumpkin recipes! I mentioned before that it is amazing how many things you can make with three small sugar pumpkins! But when they are local, fresh and oh so lovely, why not utilize them?

For years I've read about Pumpkin Soup, but I had never tried it because it sounded odd to me. I'm not sure why that is given I love Butternut Squash Soup and the two are very similar, but sometimes you just get an idea about food in your head and it takes actually trying something to knock out a preconceived notion.

I decided to whip up a batch of soup and much to my surprise I loved it! Alexis did too. It's warm, healthy and hearty. Who can ask for a better combination?

What You'll Need:
4 cups of raw pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (Note: I like to cut the sugar pumpkins into slices as you would a cantaloupe. From there you can scoop out the seeds on one side and use a potato peeler to peel the skin off the other side. Then it's simple to cut the slice into chunks once it is scooped and peeled.)
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped into chunks (Note: You don't have to remove the skin from the sweet potatoes. They have a lot of vitamins and such you don't want to get rid of, especially in this soup where it's all blended in the end anyway.)
2 large carrots, cut into chunks (Note: Again there's no need to peel them.)
1 small onion, skins removed and cut into chunks
3 or 4 thyme branches (Note: If you want you can strip the leaves off the branches, but you don't have to. As the thyme cooks the leaves will fall away from the stem and then you can remove the stems before you blend.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Water

Dump all of your ingredients into a large stockpot. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (about a teaspoon or so) and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook until ingredients are all completely cooked through and tender.

Remove veggies from cooking water and reserve water. Remove thyme branches and discard. Process veggies in a food processor or blender until smooth adding some of the cooking water to help smooth out the mix. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor or blender. Return pureed mixture to your empty stock put and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over medium to ensure it is warm through. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add any root vegetable that you like to the mix. Parsnips would be good especially. It's a very simple mixture, but it's delicious none the less. You could also make this with a couple of cans of canned pumpkin by adding it during the processing stage or you could freeze pumpkin to use later.

Posted by Dianne at 1:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkin Smoothie

It's amazing how much pumpkin three small sugar pumpkins actually put out! So that just encourages me to come up with new uses for pumpkin. This morning I was thinking about pumpkin and I wondered how a pumpkin smoothie would taste, so I whipped one up. If you like pumpkin then this little gem makes a great fall time breakfast or snack!

What You'll Need:
1 ripe banana
1 cup of cooked pumpkin
1 cup of milk (Note: I used EdenBlend's Rice Soy blend, but you can whatever type of milk you like.)
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
1 cup of ice

Dump all the ingredients into the jar of your blender and blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you wanted to add some cinnamon they that would be a great addition, but I'd leave out the peanut butter. Also I think the banana and pumpkin "sweetens" the smoothie without having to add any other sweeteners, but if you think it needs something more then I would go with either a tablespoon of honey or a tablespoon of maple syrup. I'ts nice to stick with natural sweetners and not processed ones.

Posted by Dianne at 7:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

Quick and Easy Veggie Soup

Quick and Easy Veggie Soup

One night last week we decided to have a simple dinner. Jamison wanted grilled cheese sandwiches and I decided to whip up a quick pot of Veggie Soup to go with them. This soup is quick, easy and healthy. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 small carrot, sliced in half and chopped
1 small leek, chopped
1 cup of spinach, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of frozen corn
1 box of broth (Note: Veggie, chicken, beef...Whichever you prefer.)

Sauté onion through mushroom in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until veggies are just tender. Add broth and cook for 10 minutes and then serve immediately.

Notes: You can add any veggies that you like. If you want to change this to a "tomato" based soup then add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste. You could also add a cup of freshly chopped tomatoes. If you like noodles you could add some sort of pasta or even add chicken or seafood to "beef" it up a bit.

Posted by Dianne at 8:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 7, 2007

Tomato Salad with Fresh Dill and Mozzarella

Tomato Salad with Fresh Dill Mozzarella

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere! I just love this time of year! And there are so many lovely things to do with those tomatoes! This salad, is quick, easy and delicious. It's perfect for a fast lunch or even an easy dinner!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half (Note: You can use all one type or mix and match. It's up to you. I used roughly 1/2 cup of yellow grape tomatoes and 1/2 cup of red.)
1/4 cup of fresh mozzarella, torn into shreds
At least 1 tablespoon of fresh dill, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and serve immediately.

How simple is that?

Notes: You could substitute goat's cheese for the mozzarella, but if you do that I would advise using thyme or rosemary leaves instead of dill. Onion would also be a good addition. This salad doesn't store well. Only make what you will eat in one sitting. Also remember that fresh mozzarella is very tender and is much creamier and less salty than the type you buy preshredded and such. If you're making this as a main course instead of a side dish then you might want to double the numbers above for everything but the olive oil.

Posted by Dianne at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 4, 2007

Shrimp and Veggie Kabobs with Thyme

Shrimp and Veggie Kabobs

These kabobs are so versatile! You can add the veggies you like and/or meat of your choice. You can bake them, pan fry them or even cook them on the grill. It's a perfect way to utilize fresh veggies from the garden for a quick, easy dinner. Pair with some wild rice and you've got the perfect, healthy, summer meal!

What You'll Need For Two People:
1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
1 small yellow squash, cut into chunks
4 small tomatoes, your choice of type
4 whole mushrooms, your choice
2 small chunks of onion, your choice of type
8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Kabob sticks (Note: If you choose to grill the kabobs it is wise to soak the kabob sticks in water for at least 20 minutes so that they won't catch on fire.)

Preheat oven to 425 F, heat frying pan over medium heat or ready grill.

Arrange veggies on kabob stick. Brush each kabob with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme leaves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Veggie Kabobs

Repeat process with shrimp by placing 4 large shrimp per kabob.

Shrimp Kabobs

Bake vegetable kabobs for 25-30 minutes, pan fry with a little non-stick spray for 20-25 minutes or grill for 10-15 minutes until veggies are tender. Bake, pan fry or grill shrimp kabobs for 3-5 minutes until pink. Serve immediately.

Notes: I used both red and yellow tomatoes. I also used button and baby portabella mushrooms. I also chose red onion. Asparagus would be a nice addition. Leeks would be good too. Any veggies that you like works. Mix it up! You could also use chicken or beef in place of the shrimp. Beef and chicken would take longer to cook than the shrimp so they could be placed on the same kabob as the veggies.

Posted by Dianne at 7:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad

This morning Alexis and I set out to run some errands and we ended our adventure at My Organic Market. They had the most beautiful local heirloom tomatoes and we just couldn't resist! We got a yellow tomato, a red tomato and a "chocolate" tomato, which in all reality is more purple than brown, but that's what they call it anyway. The tomatoes, coupled with the overflowing herbs from my garden, which are the only thing that has survived the drought, made a delectable, cool, light, fresh lunch. It was just perfect for a warm summer day!

What You'll Need Per Person:
4-6 slices of tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons of chives, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup of parsley leaves
1/4 cup of basil, cut into strips
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of Parmesan, grated

On an individual plate or a large platter if you're making multiple servings place a layer of tomatoes. You can use all one color or mix and match. I prefer to mix and match as it makes it more colorful, but any tomato works.

Top tomatoes with herbs, drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt (I like Celtic gray salt, but kosher sea salt will work as well), freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you want you could add a little drizzle of vinegar to the salad as well, though I usually don't. This is one of those salads you want to serve immediately. Left overs turn to mush due to the salt. Any fresh herb could be added. You can also take this and layer it into several layers into a pie shell, top with a bit of crumbled goat cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown for an Heirloom Tomato pie.

Posted by Dianne at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

I love tuna, but I don't eat it that often due to mercury concerns. Every once in a while I grab some a tuna roll, grill a tuna steak or make some tuna salad. Yesterday was one of those days that started on a bad note and unfortunately when you start on that path you get caught up in a negative feedback loop and it's hard to snap out of it and it was just a sour day all over. Tuna salad is one of those ultimate comfort foods for me, so I whipped up a batch.

Tuna salad is usually heavy, but it doesn't have to be bad for you. In fact it can be good for you, though as I mentioned above with mercury concerns it's not something you want to eat everyday, but it is possible to make a lighter version of the heavily mayonnaised versions you might get in a deli or even grandma might have made. You can make it into sandwiches, serve it in a bell pepper or tomato or even just eat it plain. The possibilities are endless and it's quick and easy to mix up. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
2 - 8 ounce cans of tuna packed in water, drained
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/4 cup of sweet pickle relish
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon of light mayonnaise
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl to incorporate. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add in chopped bell pepper and/or chopped cucumbers to the mix as well. I also sometimes omit the pickle relish. I always use light mayo because it has half the calories and fat, but still tastes like the full fledged equivalent.

Posted by Dianne at 1:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Fresh Tomato Sauce

With all the fresh tomatoes coming out of the Farmer's Market and garden right now, what better to do with them than play a little? This fresh tomato sauce is simple, quick and very tasty. What more can you ask for from summer cooking?

What You'll Need:
6-8 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped roughly
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 small onion, chopped
1 small package of button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey, optional (Note: This should only be added if the tomatoes are quite acidic. The ones I used for this recipe were sweet in and of themselves so I didn't add sugar. Give the mixture a taste and then if it needs it go for it.)

The first step is to cut the top off the tomato and squeeze the seeds out into a bowl. Don't worry if you have a few seeds hanging on. You're just trying to get rid of most of them.

Tomato Seeded And Ready For Tomato Sauce

Roughly chop the tomatoes and cut the stem end out of the top and pop them into a food processor or blender.

Tomato Ready For Tomato Sauce

And remember as I said before a few seeds here and there not a big deal. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Process tomatoes until smooth. (Note: You can leave a few chunks if you want to. It's up to you. If you're going to be using this for pizza sauce then smoother is better. For pasta topping or lasagna you can go as chunky as you like.)

Add in oregano, basil, sea salt and black pepper and pulse a few times to mix. Set aside.

Tomato Sauce Processed

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onion, mushroom and garlic until slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add tomato mixture and cook for 10-15 minutes to let flavors meld. From there it can be used however you like. (I made lasagna and saved some for pizza later this week. Nothing like making the better part of two meals at once! ;o))

Notes: You can add in whatever veggies you like in your sauce. Bell pepper would be good, perhaps some leeks. It's up to you! You can store the sauce in the fridge for up to a week or freeze to use at a later date. You could mix up the herbs and change the ratios. I just prefer more oregano than basil.

Posted by Dianne at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

"Hobo" Dinner

Hobo Dinner

This meal is the epitome of easy, fresh and cheap dining! With all the veggies coming in at the Farmer's Market and in the garden this is a very easy dish to pull together. It's perfect for camping cooked right over the camp fire (that's where we always had it and it reminds me of summers at the lake), grilling or even in the oven. Mix and match what you have on hand and you can have a basic "Hobo" Dinner or even a "Not So Basic" version. What you put in it it completely up to you, but you'll enjoy it none the less!

What You'll Need Per Person:
Aluminum foil
Non-stick spray
1 serving of meat (ground beef, chicken, fish, seafood, steak, etc.)
1 small potato (sweet potato, russet, yellow, etc.)
1 small yellow squash
1 small zucchini
2 slices of onion
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Take aluminum foil and foil up sides to make a square "dish". Spray the foil with non-stick spray and place meat serving in the middle of the the "dish". (Note: To make this completely vegetarian/vegan you could use mushrooms in place of the meat. Just slice a few button mushrooms and add to the bottom or use a large Portabella mushroom cap.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Next layer potatoes over the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Do you see a pattern forming here? ;o)) Next add the zucchini and then a bit more salt and pepper. Top with sliced onions and fold the foil over to form a packet and seal.

Place foil packet on a baking sheet or in a dish and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until meat is done and veggies are tender. Serve immediately by sliding the packet onto a plate. You've got everything right there in the packet, ready to go.

Notes: You could easily add other veggies. What ever you like would work. Corn would be nice. Carrots would be good too. Rutabaga, turnip...Well you get the idea! You could also add in other spices or seasoning. Old Bay seasoning would be perfect with shrimp or seafood. Mix it up and make it your own!

Posted by Dianne at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

Roasted Herb Tomatoes

Roasted Herb Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes are perfect roasted with a few fresh herbs. It's a simple, quick way to may a wonderful sandwich or even pizza topping! They are even delicous as a side dish!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 Roma tomato, stem end cut off and sliced lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary leaves, removed from stem
Fresh thyme leaves, removed from stem

Thyme

Preheat oven to 400 F. (Note: I like to do this in the toaster oven, especially in the summer. It doesn't heat up the house!)

Place each tomato slice onto a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. (Roughly a teaspoon or so per tomato. Not much at all. Just a light coating.) Sprinkle each tomato with sea salt, black pepper and the herbs. Bake for 8-10 minutes until tomatoes soften. Serve warm or chill in the fridge and use later.

Notes: You could use other herbs with this. Oregano, basil and/or parsley would make a nice addition. You could also add some finely chopped garlic. When the tomatoes are stored the liquid from them tends to pool. Just pour the liquid off before using. With a little avocado they make a wonderful sandwich. With a little Parmesan and Mozzarella you're got a perfect pizza topping!

Posted by Dianne at 7:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2007

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad

I like to get this salad from time to time at steakhouses. Jamison is a big meat eater, and I am to some degree, though I've tried to steer away from it and I don't eat that much red meat, but for some reason I just crave it when I don't eat it, even when I've actually gone months without. Oh wait, that was a tangent...Where was I?

Oh yes, Blue Cheese Wedge Salads...This is a basic, simple dish that is classic in many ways. What's not to like about lettuce, tomatoes and homemade blue cheese dressing? And when the dressing is low-fat and just as delicious at the "normal" version it's a lovely, cool treat on a hot, steamy day and folks let's face it we've had a ton of those around here lately.

The Blue Cheese Dressing itself came about a few years ago when I couldn't find a commercially produced variation that was what I had in mind as to what blue cheese dressing should be. I wanted real, big chunks of blue cheese throughout and not those little bits of blue cheese that were present in most store bought varieties. Some varieties didn't even have chunks of blue cheese at all! That's not what blue cheese dressing should be!

If you like blue cheese dressing, then you'll love this version. Everyone I've ever served it to has loved it, in fact it was the first thing my sister requested for me to make for her after Nelson was born! This is one of my most requested recipes in the real world. :o)

What You'll Need for the Dressing:
1 cup of fat free buttermilk
1 cup of light mayonnaise
1 cup of light or fat free sour cream
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 teaspoons of freshly cracked black pepper (I add more or less depending on my mood.)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder or salt
1 cup of blue cheese, crumbled or chopped coarsely

In a large bowl or mason jar mix buttermilk, mayo and sour cream. Stir in sea salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then add blue cheese and stir or shake to mix. Serve immediately or can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

What You'll Need for the Salad:
1/2 a head of a small Romaine lettuce or 1/4 a head of iceberg lettuce
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced or quartered
2-3 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing

Place the lettuce wedge in the middle of a plate. Top with tomatoes and blue cheese dressing. Serve immediately.

Notes: This blue cheese dressing is much lighter than full fat versions and it's much better than any commercial brand I've ever tried, but then again that's not hard! ;o) It has about 70 calories for 2 tablespoons and according to MasterCook about 7 grams of fat, but MC does not have an option for light mayo or fat free buttermilk, so it might be slightly less. It tastes divine and you'll never miss those extra calories or fat! ;o) Other variations could be the addition of crumbled bacon, or sunflower seeds. Sometimes I omit the garlic powder or salt from the recipe too. It just depends on my mood.

Posted by Dianne at 7:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 9, 2007

Whole Wheat Quesadillas

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas

I'm a big fan of Mexican food, but if you eat it out, although it's highly scrumptious, it's also highly calorie and fat laden! It's one of those occasion things you like to splurge on, but there's no reason you can't slim it down at home and eat it more often! The result is yummy and is not so bad for you. Who can argue with that? ;o)

What amuses me about things such is quesadillas is that some people think it's a hard dish to make. When I've served them in the past I've had people comment about how they were amazed I had bothered, because they were so hard to make. That couldn't be farther from the truth! If you're nervous about making them just follow the step by step run down below. You can't go wrong!

What You'll Need Per Person:
2 whole wheat tortillas (Note: I usually use Tamixicos 100% Whole Wheat Tortillas. They have 300 mg calcium, 10 whole grains and 50 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids EPH/DHA. What's not to like?)
1/3 cup of chicken, shredded
1/4-1/3 cup of salsa
2 tablespoons of cheddar, Monterrey jack or Colby Cheese
Salsa and/or sour cream for dipping (Note: If you want to dip it in salsa you can leave it out of the quesadilla itself. I use medium salsa, but it's a matter of choice. Also light or fat free sour cream is what I usually use.)

Place a large skillet or griddle over medium to high heat to heat pan.

Step One:

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas: Step One

Lay one of the tortillas on a large cutting board and layer with chicken.

Step Two:

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas:Step Two

Add the salsa and distribute evenly.

Step Three:

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas: Step Three

Sprinkle with cheese.

Step Four:

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas:Step Four

Place the remaining tortilla on top and press down slightly.

Step Five:

Spray your preheated pan with non-stick spray. The pan should be hot! Place the quesadilla in the pan careful not to let any of the filling spill out. Press the top down with a spatula to help things stick. Don't walk away! Stay with the pan and check every 20-30 seconds to see if the bottom has browned. It usually takes no longer than 2 minutes per side. As soon as it has browned remove the quesadilla from the pan and place on a cutting board. (The cutting board makes it easier to flip the quesadilla to cook the other side.)

Step Six:

Use the cutting board and a spatula (or your hand if you're really tough ;o)) to flip the quesadilla over to brown the other side. Press the top again with the spatula and keep checking until browned and remove to cutting board again.

Step Seven:

Cut into wedges. (I've found that a bread knife works really well in cutting them into slices.) Cut the quesadilla in half and then cut each half in three or four individual peices depending on how large you want them.

Step Eight:

Garnish and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Chicken Quesadillas

Notes: You could leave out the chicken and add in cooked mushrooms for a vegetarian option. You could also just go with cheese for a Cheese Quesadilla. You can use a mix or cheese or just one. It's completely up to you! For an appetizer portion this would make two servings. For a main course it would make one serving.

Posted by Dianne at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 8, 2007

Easy Fruit Salad

Easy Fruit Salad

This truly is a very simple recipe and it gets raves whenever I make it. Mix and match the fruits or even add some seeds and/or nuts. There are infinite possibilities!

What You'll Need:
1 pint of blueberries, picked over for stems
1 pint of strawberries, capped and sliced
4 peaches, pitted and chopped
2-3 cups of grapes, sliced
1/3 cup of fresh lime juice

Mix together sliced and chopped fruit. Pour lime juice over fruit and toss to coat. Chill for at least 30 minutes and then serve.

Quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: As I mentioned above other fruits are great too. Watermelon, pineapple, apple and banana are often additions when I make this dish. It makes a wonderful breakfast. You can even use it as a topping for plain yogurt. If you want you can serve this salad with a little angel food cake and whipped cream for a dessert. The best part is it's so simple to make, but people love it just the same!

Posted by Dianne at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 7, 2007

Rosemary Thyme Baked Chicken

Rosemary & Thyme Baked Chicken

My herbs are about the only thing that this drought hasn't killed! Herbs, herbs, herbs galore! What do do with all those glorious summer herbs coming out of the garden? How about pairing them with some chicken. It's the perfect compliment!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Brush each chicken breast with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and then top with chopped herbs. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden browned and done through. (Note: If you're paranoid you can cut into the chicken breast at its thickest point to make sure it's all the way done, but it isn't really necessary.) Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Rosemary & Thyme Baked Chicken

Notes: Again this is a perfect grill recipe if you don't want to heat up the kitchen. You could also use a steamer. The flavor from the thyme and rosemary infuse the entire chicken breast and give it a wonderful, fresh flavor. You could also add in a little grated lemon or orange rind for a nice citrus compliment. This chicken is perfect paired with whole grain brown rice and a little steamed spinach for a delicious, healthy meal.

Posted by Dianne at 7:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 6, 2007

Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad

What better to do with left over Salt and Pepper Shrimp than make some shrimp salad! It's cool, delicious and not so bad on the waist line either. You can't go wrong with that.

What You'll Need:
2 cups of shrimp, cooked and chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 teaspoon of celery seed
1-2 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning (Note: More if you like it with a zing, less if you don't. If you're not a fan of Old Bay you can leave out the seasoning and add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper instead.)
2 tablespoons of Hellmann's Light mayonnaise (Note: I use light mayo because it has 1/2 the calories and fat of regular mayo, but it still tastes like real mayo, unlike the fat free stuff that to me is too sweet! Also apparently they're known as "Best Foods" west of the Rockies, but are known as "Hellmann's" to the east...There's your useless fact for the day! ;o))

Dump ingredients into a bowl and stir to mix. Let set in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve on lettuce leaves, a split tomato or on bread as a sandwich.

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

This makes four generous sized servings at about 170 calories a serving without the bread. You can't beat that!

Posted by Dianne at 7:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 4, 2007

Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Shrimp are a quick, simple and delicious addition to a healthy meal! They are perfect along with a few steamed or baked veggies. They are even good the next day right out of the fridge! What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
Shrimp
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rinse and dry shrimp. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. (2 pounds to 1 tablespoon ratio.) Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Bake for 3-5 minutes just until shrimp turn pink. (Note: Don't overcook or the shrimp will become rubbery. Keep an eye on them and as soon as they turn pink bring them out!)

How is that for fast, easy and delicious?

Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Notes: Jumbo shrimp work the best. Don't want to heat up the oven? You could easily do this in a steamer as well. Just steam for 4-5 minutes until pink. You could also put them on a skewer and do them outside on the grill. The guy at the fish counter said you should figure one pound of shrimp per persons served so I bought a pound for Alexis and I, but it could have easily fed 3 or 4 grown people along with the steamed veggies.

Posted by Dianne at 9:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 8, 2007

Lentils and Split Peas

Lentils and Split Peas

Alexis loves split peas, lentils, quinoa and any other sort of bean or grain. The other day it was a bit fall like outside (Oh yeah! I love that kind of weather!) and Alexis asked for split peas. I decided to play with a little bit and this is what I came up with. Alexis loved it and so did I! I was very pleased and will most definitely be making this dish again.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
3 large button mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of yellow split peas
1/2 cup of green split peas
1/2 cup of lentils
1/3 cup of barley
1/3 cup of quinoa
32 ounces of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

Sauté veggies in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Add split peas, lentils, barley and quinoa and stir to mix. Pour in broth and let cook for 30-40 minutes until lentils and split peas are tender and the broth is absorbed.

Notes: You could also add more broth and make a soup out of this recipe. It's totally up to you. It would also make a good filling for a wrap or burrito with a little cumin and chili powder added.

Posted by Dianne at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 8, 2007

Hummus

Hummus

Hummus is one of those multi-purpose dishes that can be used in many ways! It can be used as a dip, as an accompaniment to salad or even as a sandwich spread. It's hearty, healthy and good in so many ways. It's easy to make and nutritious. What's not to like?

What You'll Need:
2 cups of cooked chickpeas
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 teaspoon of cumin (optional)
2 tablespoons of tahini (optional...I actually don't like tahini so I don't usually add it unless I'm making it for someone else)

Hummus

Dump ingredients in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth. Serve immediately with cut veggies, chips or even as a sandwich spread. The hummus can be chilled before serving (which I actually prefer). You can also store hummus in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Posted by Dianne at 7:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 7, 2007

Strawberry Granita

Strawberry Granita

Sometimes it's nice to have a cool treat that is light and fruity, without the dairy and big calorie content. Coming in at about 65 calories a servings, Granita is just the thing! It's a basic, easy, relatively healthy little dessert. I made up a strawberry batch since we've got tons of them right now in the garden. It's cold, fruity and delicious!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
3 cups of strawberries

In a medium sized pot cook water and sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove simple syrup from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Place strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add simple syrup and process or blend until mixed.

Pour mixture into an 8 X 8 glass dish and place in the freezer. Check every 20-30 minutes and scrape with a fork. The sides tend to freeze first so scrape them toward the center. Repeat this step until completely frozen (1-4 hours depending on your freezer).

This can be made several days in advance of when you want to use it or the same day. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 8 servings.

Notes: You could use pretty much any fruit you like. Orange juice would work, so would pineapple, or blueberry, or well you get the point. This mixture would also make excellent popsicles. Just pour the liquid into the popsicle mold and freeze. For an adult treat stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of light or coconut rum.

Posted by Dianne at 8:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 6, 2007

Spinach and Fruit Salad

Spinach and Fruit Salad

This is an oldie, but a goodie. With all the strawberries coming in in the garden it gives me the chance to make a lot of old strawberry favorites! My sister actually gave me a recipe similar to this when I was pregnant with Alexis and I craved it! Not surprisingly you're looking at 4 of Alexis' favorite foods now right there in the bowl (spinach, strawberries, blueberries and almonds...throw in some chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella here and there and the kid is in heaven! In fact in her mind she could survive on those alone, but that's neither here nor there.)

The original recipe called for champagne vinegar (which I couldn't find/wasn't sure about using when I was pregnant anyway) and just strawberries paired with the spinach and almonds, but over the years I've tweaked it. Sometimes I use sugar in the vinaigrette, which the recipe called for and sometimes (and most of the time in fact) I use honey instead. I've tossed in cashews instead of almonds or used both of them at once. I've even used walnuts and paired it with apples and blue cheese. Feta works as well and any kind of fruit that strikes your fancy would be good, though I usually stick to just strawberries and/or blueberries and/or oranges.

Regardless of how you toss it (yeah I just went there! ;o)) this salad is the perfect meal for a summer time dinner or even lunch! It's also another one of those that is easy and fun to play around with, making numerous yummy variations as you go!

What You'll Need Per Person:
2 cups of baby spinach, washed and drained (Note: Even if the bag says it's triple washed or whatever WASH it! You don't know who has touched it or what conditions it has gone through despite of their claims. Unless you saw it washed with your own eyes don't take the chance!)
1 cup of strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup of blueberries
1/3 cup of almonds (whole, slivers, slices, whatever you like)
1 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon of vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar, but you can use whatever vinegar you like)
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey

Toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries and almonds until incorporated. Mix olive oil, vinegar and sugar or honey to make a dressing. Drizzle over salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Notes: Due to the vinegar in the vinaigrette this salad wilts if stored so don't make it too far in advance and realize that leftovers won't store well and will end up a big wilted mess. I usually make it no more than 30 minutes in advance. Also I prefer more vinegar to oil, but if you prefer more oil equal the ratios or switch them around. It's all according to personal taste.

Posted by Dianne at 8:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 5, 2007

Sushi Salad Dianne Style

Sushi Salad

I love this time of year! This is the time of year that things start coming in in the garden! Not only do we have strawberries galore, we've got carrots that were over looked last year during harvest that are ready to go and we've got snow peas that are starting to pop up! When these early harvest things start coming about it's fun to start making things using those ingredients! You can't get more local than your own back yard!

This dish is a variation of the one I found at Fat Free Vegan last fall. This is my twist on her original idea. Sometimes I use sushi rice and sometimes I use short grain brown rice as I did last night (which for all practical purposes is sushi rice that hasn't been processed). In fact any sort of rice you prefer would work fine. I bet orzo might even pass in a pinch and it's pasta, not rice, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, Sushi Salad Dianne Style is cool, delicious and gives you that sushi kick if you like that sort of thing (which I do) without the roll. Even if you don't really care for sushi (or think you don't) try the salad...It's a dish in and of itself and if you like fresh, you'll love this!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of uncooked short grain brown rice, cooked according to package directions
3 tablespoons of sushi vinegar
1 - 10 ounce package of frozen edamame
1 carrot, cut into rounds
1/2 a large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 - 6 ounce jar of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 tablespoon of prepared wasabi (Optional...I LOVE wasabi, but if you aren't a fan of the heat then leave it out. It definitely gives it a bit of a kick, though it does mellow out in the leftovers.)
1 cup of snow pea pods
1 sheet of nori, chopped or torn (Optional)

Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and place in a very large bowl (I prefer glass) and stir in sushi vinegar immediately. Next stir in frozen edamame into the rice/vinegar mixture while the rice is still hot to thaw them and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add carrots, cucumbers and mushrooms and stir to mix. Add wasabi and stir well to incorporate. Sprinkle the top of the salad with snow pea pods. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Right before serving add a bit of chopped or torn nori as a topping to each serving if desired.

Posted by Dianne at 8:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 2, 2007

Sushi: Cucumber and Avacado Rolls

Sushi: Cucumber And Avocado Rolls

After having sushi on Saturday I decided to try a backward roll (that's what I call the ones with the rice on the outside). It turned out pretty well. Next time I need to roll it just a bit tighter. So for lunch today I whipped up a Cucumber roll (backward) and an avocado roll. There is just something so light and refreshing about sushi. It reminds me of spring!

What You'll Need:
2 Nori sheets
1 cup of cooked and prepared sushi rice
1 small cucumber
Sweet pea shoots (optional)
1/4 a large avocado
Sesame seeds
Wasabi
Low sodium soy sauce

If you've never rolled or made your own sushi before check out this entry I did in January that gives you the basics of making a roll. It's very easy! Don't let it scare you!

For the Cucumber Roll I spread the rice out on the sheet of Nori as you normally would when making a sushi roll. Then I flipped it over where the rice side was down and put a row of cucumbers and some sweet pea shoots on the bare Nori. I then rolled it up and sliced it. Voila! A backward sushi roll. (And as I said above that's just what I call them. I have no idea if they have a real name or not.)

For the Avocado Roll I spread the rice out on the Nori sheet, sprinkled it with some sesame seeds (less than a teaspoon) and rolled it up as usual. I then sliced it into pieces.

Serve with wasabi and low sodium soy sauce if desired.

Posted by Dianne at 12:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Sushi: Veggie Rolls

Cut Sushi

When we moved to Maryland I tried sushi for the first time and immediately fell in love! Since Alexis was born I haven't had much of a chance to actually eat sushi given most sushi restaurants are not kid friendly and Jamison is an extremely picky eater and sushi is nowhere near to any form of food he would even try, let alone eat.

Several times over the years I've thought to myself that sushi (though everyone tries to tell you otherwise) would not be that hard to make. Right after Alexis was born my sister even made me a little "sushi kit" complete with bamboo sushi mat, sushi vinegar and wasabi powder so I could give it a whirl. Today, 3 1/2 years later, I decided to do just that! The was only one problem...I have already packed my bamboo sushi mat (we're planning to move to a new house sometime this year and I'm packing up things that aren't essential to get a jump start on the whole situation!) and it never fails the minute you pack something you need it, but luckily I found an article online that suggested using a dish towel instead of a bamboo mat and it worked, though I would wager it would be a bit easier with the bamboo mat, but we'll revisit that little hunch when the new house materializes.

So my experience with sushi today stuck with veggies as I'm doing a little experiment with no meat for the month of January. I'll most likely add back in seafood and fish once the month is over, but for now the veggie thing is working out quite well. And to be perfectly honest I like the vegetarian sushi better anyway. At first I could eat the raw fish, but as time has passed there is just something about the consistency that I just don't care for, so I usually stick to cucumber rolls or avocado rolls or the like.

Today's incarnation has avocado, carrots and cucumber and I was extremely pleased at how well it turned out! Over the years the reason I haven't tried to make sushi up to this point is it's one of those things that has an aura around it and some people who are good at making sushi like to make it seem harder than it really is. I'm here to tell you that it was EXTREMELY easy! I was shocked at how easy it was and how easily it went together!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of sushi rice, cooked according to package directions and cooled to handling temperature (Makes roughly 2+ cups of cooked rice)
2 tablespoons of sushi vinegar (If you can't find sushi vinegar you can make some yourself. (See step 2). I haven't tried this method, but I plan to as soon as I run out of the bottle I have.)
1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 of an English cucumber, seeded and cut into long strips
1/2 of a small avocado, cut into strips
Nori
A bowl of lukewarm tap water with a pinch of sea salt
Soy sauce
Wasabi

Sushi Ingredients

Once the rice is cooked according to package directions remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of sushi vinegar per cup of cooked rice (2 in this case) and stir until incorporated. Let cool.

Once rice is cool to the touch lay a single piece of Nori on a bamboo sushi mat or a clean dish towel. Wet your fingertips in the bowl of lukewarm water and spread sushi rice to the edge of the Nori leaving a 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch edge on the bottom:

Nori and Sushi Rice

Next line your ingredients across the bottom edge of the rice on the end with the edge:

Ready To Roll

Using your sushi mat or dish towel slowly roll the sushi placing the seam side down:

Sushi Rolls and Ingredients

Slice and serve with soy sauce and wasabi.

Cut Sushi

I personally like my sushi a bit chilled so I put it in the fridge, covered for about 30 minutes prior to eating. You can eat it immediately if you like.

This recipe made 2 rolls with just a little rice left over.

Posted by Dianne at 1:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack