August 13, 2012

Meatless Monday: Asian Peanut Salad

Asian Peanut Salad

I've been on a peanut kick lately. If there's something that can be done with peanut butter I'm there! This salad is satisfying as a main meal, or lovely as a side dish, and it has a delectable, fresh flavor with a satisfying crunch. It really hits the spot on a hot summer day, when you just want to eat something cool and refreshing and not have to bother with the stove or oven. It's also easy to make subtle differences by switching things up a bit, and it is ready in under 15 minutes. What's not to like about that?

Asian Peanut Salad: Ingredients

What You'll Need for the Salad:
1/2 of a large head of savoy cabbage, chopped or shredded
2 cups of snow pea pods
3 big or 6 small carrots, chopped
1 cup of sliced almonds or chopped peanuts
2 cups of chow mein noodles

Chop cabbage and place in a large bowl:

Asian Peanut Salad: Savoy Cabbage

Next add snow peas:

Asian Peanut Salad: Snow Peas

Then carrots:

Asian Peanut Salad: Carrots

Then Nuts:

Asian Peanut Salad: Nuts

And finally the chow mein noodles:

Asian Peanut Salad: Ready for Dressing

Set the bowl aside and mix the dressing (see below). Once the dressing is made pour the dressing over the top of vegetables and noodles in the bowl and toss to coat.

Asian Peanut Salad: Tossed

Serve immediately

Notes: You can use any type of cabbage with this, though I wouldn't recommend red cabbage since the vinegar makes its color leech and though it might taste OK, the visual isn't pretty. Also this really is an eat it now sort of salad. It might hold up for one day in the fridge, but the noodles will become mushy if you try to store it much past that time.

Asian Peanut Salad: Peanut Dressing

What You'll Need for the Peanut Dressing:
1 cup of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of natural brown sugar
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/3 cup of peanut butter (Note: You can use creamy or chunky if you want a bit more of a peanut crunch.)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup of brown rice vinegar

Place all ingredients in a jar:

Asian Peanut Salad: Peanut Dressing Ready to Mix

Place the lid on the jar and make sure its tight. Shake the jar for a minute or two until the contents are completely mixed.

Now the dressing is ready to use!

Notes: You can use regular cane sugar if you want, but the brown sugar really gives it a nice flavor punch.

Posted by Dianne at 1:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 4, 2012

Meatless Monday: Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

It's that time of the year...

The time of year when veggies start coming in slowly, but surely...

Tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, oh my!

In fact I picked my first ripe tomato of the season on Saturday. The farmer's market has all sorts of fresh ingredients and it's fun to play around with local food. It's also fun to eat cold food! Sometimes when it's really hot outside I don't want to eat anything warm. I like to eat cool salads and fruit instead.

This salad Is just perfect for a light summer meal, and really hits the spot on a way too hot and sticky day! It's simple, easy to put together, yet very delicious. This is also perfect to take to picnic, or served at your backyard barbeque. If you like tomatoes and cucumbers this is the salad for you!

Oh and P.S...Not only is this vegetarian, it's vegan too!

Let's dig in!

What You'll Need:
6-8 cups of cucumber rounds, cut in half
4 cups of grape of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 large onion, cut in half and sliced, segments separated (Note: I used a Vidalia onion, but red onion will work as well, or any sweet onion)
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Thyme and/or rosemary (optional)

In large glass bowl toss together cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Set aside.

In a separate bowl or a canning jar stir or shake together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sugar, a generous pinch of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. You can also add in a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh thyme and/or rosemary if you want, but that's totally optional.

Pour liquid over vegetables and toss to coat. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Notes: You can add in some grated Parmesan cheese if you like, or other veggies such as shredded carrots, snow peas, chunks of grilled bread, etc. Shake it up!

Cross posted at The Greenists.

Posted by Dianne at 10:04 AM | Comments (2) | 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

June 14, 2011

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Garnished

I've become obsessed with grilling. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I loved to grill! But once I met Jamison I didn't grill as much because he's very picky about how his food is prepared and hates being outside.

I know, I know! Have I mentioned lately my culinary skills are lost on him?

Anyway, I'm becoming snarky at my old age of 37 and I've decided by golly I'm going to grill more often and I have been! I like to grill in the spring, fall and winter, because I'm also not so keen on the heat during the summer. I don't want to stand over a scorching grill when it's 90+ degrees outside. But really that's neither here nor there in the grand scheme of this salad, so we'll move on.

I started thinking about making a grilled salad. The idea of warm salads intrigues me, but up until this point I had not had a warm salad that I actually cared for. I like potato salad warm occasionally, right after it's been made, but that isn't really what you think about when you think about a salad.

I've heard of people grilling lettuce chunks before, but that didn't really appeal to me. I might try it someday, but for this I wanted more hearty/sturdy vegetables and definitely bread. What's not to like about bread?

I also decided I wanted some sort of grilled seafood added to the mix. Alexis and I both love shrimp and lobster so I decided to go with one of those. I had some lobster tails in the freezer so that ended up being what I went with this night. Our local store puts them on sale occasionally for $3 to $5 for a nice sized tail, so when they do I buy a few and freeze them for later use.

The lobster is really a great grilling "fish" because of its shell. You don't have to worry about putting it on a cedar plank because it will flake away on the grill like you would with a fillet of fish. When it's a bright red color it's ready to go! This usually takes 15-20 minutes depending on the heat of your grill.

So after I had the idea I started chopping and this is what resulted. This is a perfect summer time dinner that doesn't take a lot of time, but you end up with a really fabulous result. My kind of dinner!

What You'll Need for the Salad:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes cut in half
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 small package of button or baby Portabella mushrooms
1-2 bell peppers, cut into big chunks
2 carrots, cut into thick sticks
1 large zucchini, cut into big chunks
1 large red onion, cut into thick strips
1/2 loaf of day old french or Callah bread, cut into cubes
1-2 lobster tails
Grated Parmesan

First mix up your dressing and set aside:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Dressing

See the recipe below for the dressing. Shake again really well before adding to the salad.

Then sprinkle your veggies with a little sea salt and pepper and then toss with some extra virgin olive oil to thinly coat:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Veggies Ready to Grill

Next sprinkle your cubes of bread with sea salt and toss with a little olive oil as well:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bread Tossed with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Now we're ready for the fun part...Grilling!

I like to use natural charcoal. It gives the food such a wonder flavor and it doesn't have any of the weird chemicals in them that many other brands do. I like to use Stubb's. They don't have their charcoal listed on their website, but I've found it at Lowe's.

Now to use a charcoal chimney or not?

I really love the ease of use of a charcoal chimney. You don't need lighter fluid, which is again an accelerant and who wants to add that to your food, because if you're cooking over it your food is absorbing whatever is burning underneath it.

BUT

I don't think that a charcoal chimney holds enough charcoal to actually cook something well. I like a lot of coals going beneath my food. So lately I've been using brown craft paper spread throughout the coals to use as "wicks" if you will and splash a little PGA on top of the coals to get it going. Be careful if you're using the pure grain alcohol because that stuff ignites fast and big!

Once your coals are hot you're ready to start grilling!

I like to do the "sturdier" vegetables first. The softer the vegetable is the faster it will grill. You also want to get your lobster tails on first as well. The bread will come last.

So you grill and flip:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

And grill and flip:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

And grill and flip some more:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilling

As you can see some of my veggies "jumped" into the grill because I was careless when turning them. The bigger the chunk of vegetable, the less likely you are to lose it through the slits of the grill. Live and learn as they say. Or maybe in this case it would be do and learn.

When things become done you'll remove them to a plate or platter and set them aside until the other aspects of the salad become done:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Grilled Lobster and Bread

When you grill the bread be careful. Each side will literally grill in 30 seconds or less over direct coals!

Once everything is grilled it's time to assemble your salad!

First place the bread in the bottom of a bowl:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bread

Next cut the grilled tomatoes into wedges and then add to the bread:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Tomatoes

And then the mushrooms:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Mushrooms

And the bell peppers:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Bell Pepper and Carrots

Zucchini:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Zucchini

Onions:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Onions

And then add the carrots and roughly chop the lobster meat and add to the bowl as well:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Lobster

Finally sprinkle the veggies with some Parmesan:

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Parmesan

And some of the dressing (see recipe below):

Grilled Vegetable and Lobster Salad: Ready Toss

And it's ready to toss!

Now dig in and enjoy!

Notes on the Salad: As I mentioned above you could use shrimp in place of the lobster or even a cedar grilled salmon would be great too. I sometimes like to serve this with extra grilled vegetables as you can see in the picture at the top of the entry. You could also use grilled squash or cherry tomatoes, or whatever you like in place of, or in addition to what I used.

What You'll Need for the Dressing:
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of balsamic or champagne vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon of dried Italian Seasoning mix
~OR~
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried basil
2 teaspoons of dried oregano

Add all ingredients to a glass jar. Put on an air tight lid and shake until mixed. Use to toss the salad.

Notes on the Dressing: You can use either type of vinegar that you like. I like to use balsamic when I want a bigger flavor punch. I use champagne when I want it a more delicate flavor.

Posted by Dianne at 1:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 14, 2011

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies

Jamison and Alexis are big fans of pasta, lasagna and spaghetti to be exact, and to be honest while I like both, I get bored with eating the same thing over and over and over and over....Well you get the idea! So sometimes when they are eating one of those two I go out on a limb myself and make some sort of pasta. It's easy to make a vegetable topping to go with any kind of pasta and it's so much better than you standard fare!

The fun thing about this dish is that there are no wrong answers. You can add whatever appeals to you, you can switch around the herbs, you can use fresh vegetables, or even frozen, you can use egg noodles, spaghetti, penne, bow ties, etc. Did I mention there are no wrong answers with this? It's the ultimate mix and match sort of dish!

Another fun thing about this is that you control what goes in to the dish even more than mentioned above. You don't have to worry about preservatives, or weird chemicals that sometimes are present in prepared sauces. It's a win, win all around!

What You'll Need:
1/2 a package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions and set aside
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1-2 cups of zucchini
1-2 cups of yellow squash
1 cup of baby Portabella or button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion chopped
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
A generous pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/4 a cup of heavy cream or half and half

Cook your egg noodles, drain and set aside:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Egg Noodles

While your egg noodles are cooking begin preparing your vegetables. I like to cut/chop the vegetables all at the same time and put them in a bowl.

First slice your tomatoes in half:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Tomatoes

Next chop your zucchini and squash and add them to the tomatoes:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Zucchini and Squash

Then slice your mushrooms and add them to the veggie mixture:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Mushrooms

And finally chop your onion and add to the bowl:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Onions

Once all the veggies are chopped get ready to add everything to a large pan:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Veggies, Herbs, Sea Salt and Pepper Ready to Go in the Pan

Add a thin layer of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat.

Then add the vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Veggies Beginning to Cook

Cook the mixture, stirring often, until tomatoes start to fall apart and vegetables are just tender:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready for Cream

Next add heavy cream or half and half and cook for an additional five minutes:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready for Noodles

And then add the noodles and toss to coat and distribute the vegetables:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready to Serve

The vegetables tend to stay on the bottom no matter how much you toss, so when serving make sure to "dig deep" with the spoon to make sure each serving has plenty of veggies.

Serve with a side salad and/or garlic bread. And if you're really feeling crazy why not top it with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese? ;oP

Notes: Sometimes I like to use rosemary and thyme. Red onions or shallots are particularly good in this sort of thing, but I was out of both when I made this. Peas are also a good addition. Like I said, mix and match it! That's what dishes like this are all about!

Posted by Dianne at 11:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 9, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

I first had eggplant in college. Being a poor college student, when I went out with friends and they chose Olive Garden, I would often order the Eggplant Parmesan because at the time it was the cheapest main course on their menu. I wasn't sure what I thought about eggplant at first and I never actually bought one and tried other things with them until a few years ago. I didn't know what I was missing!

Eggplant is a really versatile little fruit, which most people call a vegetable, and is a very good source of fiber. You can use it in soups, in casseroles, in salads, pretty much any way you can think of. Eggplant Parmesan isn't exactly an every day food, but it's a really great treat from time to time!

Eggplant Parmesan does take a bit to put together, but it's worth it and it isn't difficult at all. You basically set up an assembly line and go! Plus it isn't an exact science. You can use as much of the things that are in the dish as you want. You can make a big dish, or a small dish. It all depends on how many you're feeding. Alexis loves helping with these sorts of things, so it's a good dish to get the kids in the kitchen too and that's always a good thing!

What You'll Need:
1-2 large eggplants, sliced
2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of dried basil
3 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil
Marinara sauce (Note: I like Organic Newman's Own Marinara sauce, but you could make your own if you wanted.)
Shredded mozzarella
Shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Slice the eggplant into rounds and set aside:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant

Next put the bread crumbs, salt, herbs and spices in a pie dish and stir to mix:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breading

Then add eggs to a separate pie dish and beat until mixed. Once the eggs are beaten set up your assemble line:

Eggplant Parmesan: Assembly Line Set Up and Ready to Go

Once the assembly line is set up you're ready to bread!

First place a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet and turn heat to medium. Let the oil heat up as you're breading your eggplant.

Next take a slice of eggplant and dip both sides in to your beaten eggs:

Eggplant Parmesan: Egging

Now it's time to dip the the egg covered eggplant into the breading mixture:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breading

Make sure both sides of the eggplant are covered with the breading mixture like this:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breaded and Ready to Fry

Now it's time to start frying!

Continue breading your eggplant slices as the other slices that are ready are fried and repeat the process of breading until you run out of eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices in the skillet:

Eggplant Parmesan: Frying

And then brown both sides:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant frying

Once browned on both sides remove from the skillet and drain on a few paper towels:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant Draining

Continue frying until all of the eggplant is browned.

Now you're ready to assemble the Eggplant Parmesan! I usually start doing this as the eggplants have drained, while I'm still frying the other pieces to speed the process along.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray or brush it with olive oil. Choose a baking dish based off of the amount of eggplant you've prepared. I used a medium sized dish for this batch.

Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish:

Eggplant Parmesan: First Layer

It's OK to cut the eggplant in half to fill the corners if you need to.

Next a a little marinara:

Eggplant Parmesan: Middle Layer

Again it doesn't have to be perfect. Just make sure most of the eggplant is covered.

Now you add a layer of Parmesan Cheese:

Eggplant Parmesan: First Layer

Continue this process until you get to the top of your dish:

Eggplant Parmesan: Last Layer

The top layer will be topped a bit differently. Add Parmesan AND mozzarella cheese:

Eggplant Parmesan: Ready to Bake

Place Eggplant Parmesan on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

Eggplant Parmesan: Baked

Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

This is just perfect with a side salad and a slice of garlic bread.

Notes: I have wanted to try this process with Portabella mushrooms, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Remember you can make this as big or as small as you like.

Posted by Dianne at 1:03 PM | Comments (4) | 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

October 14, 2010

Creamy Noodle Salad

Creamy Noodle Salad

A while back my friend Jessica was talking about noodle salad on FaceBook. I asked her how she made it and she shared what she had put together. Her creativity sparked mine and this is what I ended up with! The picture is horrible, but trust me this is a delicious meal!

By pairing noodles with vegetables and some simple additions you end up with a really fabulous "salad" that is easy to make and is just perfect for a pot luck, picnic or even your standard weeknight dinner. Trust me, this "salad" will not disappoint! Thanks to Jessica for inspiring me!

What You'll Need:
1 - 12 ounce package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of sliced mushrooms, sauteed
1 cup of peas
2 large carrots, shredded
1 - 3.5 ounce package of sun dried tomatoes, chopped or julienned
1/3 cup of chives, chopped
1/3 cup of light mayonnaise
1/3 cup of light sour cream
1/3 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
Crispy Chow Mein Noodles for topping

Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and place in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

While noodle are cooking saute mushrooms in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender.

Add mushrooms to the noodles and toss to mix. Next add peas, carrots, sun dried tomatoes and chives toss again until incorporated. Set aside.

In a glass bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, sea salt and black pepper until completely mixed. Pour this mixture over the noodles and vegetables and toss to coat.

Serve immediately with some crispy Chow Mein noodles sprinkled on top. Or store "salad" in the fridge for up to 36 hours and top with Chow Mein Noodles when ready to serve.

Notes: You could add other vegetables in to the mix if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 9:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2010

Creamed Corn

Creamed Corn

Even though fall weather is settling in (And thank goodness for that! I'm more than tired of this way too hot summer we've had!) you can still find fabulous, fresh local produce. One of my favorite summer gems after tomatoes and cucumbers is corn. This grain is so versatile!

Fresh corn is fabulous, but after a few rounds of corn on the cob, or corn removed from the cob I like to shake things up a bit. Soups are always a good choice. Or you can make a multitude of salads utilizing fresh corn.

As a child I used to love creamed corn. I haven't had it in years because I rarely eat things out of metal cans anymore and prefer frozen vegetables instead. I have never found a frozen version of the creamed variety. I keep looking, but I've never had any luck.

A while ago I saw a recipe for creamed corn in Washingtonian magazine. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, given it had shallots in it among other things I can't remember at the moment, and I wanted something a little more pure...A little more old fashioned if you will. So I took their theory and went out on my own as I often do and the results were fabulous!

I ended up freezing most of what I made since I'm the only one that would eat creamed corn in the house. I plan on using some to make corn casserole at Thanksgiving. Whether you eat it now, or freeze it for later, you have a really fabulous, really basic creamed corn that will hit the spot!

What You'll Need:
4 tablespoons of butter, divided
10 ears of corn, kernels removed
2+ cups of half and half, divided

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot. Be careful not to brown the butter.

Creamed Corn: Corn Removed From Cob

While butter is melting remove corn kernels from the cob. When all the kernels are loose place 1/2 of the kernels in the melted butter and saute for 5 minutes stirring often. You want the corn to become slightly tender, you don't want it to brown.

Creamed Corn: Corn Kernels

While corn kernels are cooking take remaining kernels and process until relatively smooth in a food processor or blender:

Creamed Corn: Corn Creamed

Add corn mixture to the kernels in the pot, along with a cup of half and half and 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook over low heat, stirring often to prevent browning. Cook until the mixture thickens and the half and half is reduced.

Creamed Corn: Cooking

Next repeat the previous step and cook again until it has thicken and reduced more. At this point you have a pretty fabulous creamed corn. If the corn still seems that it needs to be a bit more tender you can repeat the step of adding the half and half minus the butter as often as you like until it reaches the consistency you like, but two rounds should do it.

Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes and serve.

Notes: A lot of the recipes I came across called for sugar to be added. I don't see that is necessary since corn is sweet in and of itself.

Posted by Dianne at 12:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 19, 2010

Summer Time Mexican Rice

Summer Time Mexican Rice

I've mentioned in the past (many, many, many times) my adoration of Mexican cuisine. Any time someone suggests Mexican I'm there! I make my versions of Mexican dishes at home as well and this is one of my favorites. It's not completely authentic, but it's tasty so that's all that matters!

This time of year I like to utilize the abundance of tomatoes and peppers that sometimes pile up. This is a quick and easy dish that you cook entirely in the microwave, making it ideal for those hot summer days! Not to mention the fact it's really delicious. What's not to like about that?

So grab those summer veggies and lets get started!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of instant rice (Note: You can use white or brown.)
2 cups of tomatoes, chopped
2 ears of corn, kernels removed (Note: You can use left over corn that is cooked or add it in raw. Either way works.)
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of cayenne (Note: More if you like it hot, less if you don't. You can leave this out all together if you prefer.)
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 bunch of chives, chopped (Note: About 1/3 to 1/2 cup.)
2 cups of water

First place rice in the bottom of a large glass dish. (Note: You'll need one with a lid.) Next add tomatoes:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Rice and Tomatoes

Then add corn kernels:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Corn

Then add red onion:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Red Onion

Have I mentioned lately how much it annoys me that something that is purple is called red? No? Well then there you go! ;oP

Anyway....

After the onion add bell pepper:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Bell Pepper

You can use whatever color you have on hand. I used a yellow variety this go around.

Sprinkle chili powder, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chives and sea salt over the top of the veggies:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Spices

And last add the water:

Summer Time Mexican Rice: Ready to Cook

Place lid on the dish and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Replace lid and microwave on 3-5 minute intervals until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Be sure to keep an eye on this toward the end. You don't want it to "boil" over in the microwave and make a mess. Not that I've done that before or anything! ;oP

Remove lid and stir. Place lid back on the dish and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: You can add in beans too if you like. I like black or red in this dish.

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August 2, 2010

Summer Pizza

Summer Pizza

I love to make pizzas with fresh vegetables, especially this time of year. This pizza is simple, yet uses those tomatoes and zucchini that can sometimes overwhelm you this time of year! It's a mix and match kind of meal, but it really can't be beat!

What You'll Need for the Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: You can use white whole wheat flour instead.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 to 1 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

You can use your favorite crust for this. This is mine.

In a large glass bowl stir together flour and sea salt. Set aside.

In a glass measuring cup or small glass bowl add water (start with 3/4 a cup and if you need more you can add it later), yeast and sugar or honey. Let sit for 2-5 minutes until foamy.

Slowly add the yeast/water mixture and olive oil to the flour and stir until dough ball forms. You may need all of the water or just some it, or maybe a touch more. It all depends on humidity and such. Knead for about a minute. (I just do this in the bowl.) Let sit for an hour to rise.

Use to make the pizza of your choice.

Summer Pizza

What You'll Need to Make the Summer Pizza:
Pizza dough (see above or use your favorite)
1-2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
6-8 leaves of basil, cut into strips
1 tablespoon of oregano leaves, chopped
Mozzarella, shredded
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Goat cheese, crumbled
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Spread dough out on a pizza pan that has been oiled or sprayed with non-stick spray. Or you can makes smaller pizzas on a baking pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Once dough is spread place a layer of tomatoes on top of the crust, covering as much of the surface as you can. Next spread zucchini out over the top of the tomatoes and be sure to cover any holes left by the tomatoes. Sprinkle the garlic over the top of the zucchini.

Top vegetables with mozzarella, Parmesan and goat cheese evenly. Last add basil and oregano and then sprinkle the top of the pizza with sea salt.

Bake for 12-18 minutes until crust is browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: You can really add any other vegetables that you like, onions, yellow squash, mushrooms, etc. You could probably make this a grill pizza too.

Posted by Dianne at 2:13 PM | Comments (0) | 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

March 4, 2010

Creamy Vegetable Noodles

Creamy Vegetable Noodles

I love pasta. It's such a fun, versatile sort of ingredient that really has no bounds! By adding a few vegetables, and some cheese, you end up with a really hearty, really comforting dish that is ready in no time! It's just perfect for a hectic weeknight dinner. Pair with a salad and maybe a glass of wine, and you're set to go!

What You'll Need:
1/2 a large package of egg noodles cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of cooked spinach
1/3 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (shredded yourself)

Cook eggs noodles, drain and set aside.

While the noodles are cooking saute onion, garlic and grape tomatoes in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onion and tomatoes are tender.

Once vegetables are tender stir in spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.

When spinach is warmed stir in half and half and Parmesan and cook until cheese melts.

Once cheese melts stir in noodles to mix and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add other vegetables if you liked. I like to add mushrooms sometimes, and even peas.

Posted by Dianne at 11:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 3, 2010

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of those quintessential sides dishes that often grace dinner tables across the world. Don't get me wrong, a basic mashed potato has its place, but it's also fun to shake them up a bit! Jamison is a strictly plain mashed potato sort of guy and Alexis actually doesn't care for mashed potatoes, so I don't shake them up often, but when I do oh my!

Rosemary is one of my favorite all time things. I can't even begin to explain to you my adoration for rosemary. I like it dried, I like it fresh and oh my the smell of rosemary can just perk me right up on the weariest of days! In other words rosemary is good!

By pairing two simple ingredients garlic and rosemary, with a little Parmesan, you end up with a really fabulous, really delicious side dish that really hits the spot. What is better than that?

What You'll Need:
1 bulb of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds of red skinned potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of fat free half and half (or any other type of dairy)
1 tablespoon of crushed Rosemary or 2 tablespoon of freshly chopped rosemary
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese (the kind you shred yourself)

Preheat oven toe 425 F.

Cut the top of the bulb of garlic off and place on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and then wrap up the foil around the bulb. Place in a preheat oven for 20-30 minutes, until garlic sticks tender.

Let cool and then squeeze the roasted cloves of garlic out of the skin. Set aside.

Cut red skinned potatoes into chunks (don't remove the skins) and place in a pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking place butter and half and half in a large glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or so until butter is melted and half and half is warm. Add roasted garlic, rosemary, a generous pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and stir until incorporated. If your garlic is chunky then mash it a bit to make it a bit more smooth.

When potatoes are done drain well and add them to the bowl with the butter mixture along with the Parmesan. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and stir to mix in the ingredients from the bowl. I like the texture to be a bit chunky, but you can mash them as fine as you like.

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Serve immediately.

Notes: The garlic can be roasted and stored in the fridge for up to a week. You could also sprinkle on some chopped parsley on top if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 12:53 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 16, 2010

Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips

Want to hear some fabulous news? I mean really just stellar?

Do you?

Are you ready?

Sun! Melt, Baby! Melt!

We only got an inch of snow last night! An inch! Today the sun is shining and more importantly it's going to be above freezing mind you! And the most important part of my happiness today, and the part that might just save my sanity, is that as of the time that I'm writing this, there is no foreseeable snow accumulation in the 5 day forecast!

None!

Zip!

Nada!

Zilch!

And did I mention none? And did I mention the sun is shining? And did I mention the part about it being above freezing?? (This could change, but I'm going to be Pollyanna and looks for the joy instead! ;oP)

Seriously this makes me more than happy. Who ever thought that I, the Snow Queen, would be actively seeking no more snow! It just goes to show that too much of anything is not a good thing! A variation of The Law of Diminishing Return if you will. But the point is, no snow! (Let's hope Mother Nature doesn't curse me for that statement! ;oP)

(Update: 1:34 PM: Well that didn't last long. Now they are saying we might get snow tomorrow, but "less than a half inch possible". *sigh* It could be worse I suppose! ;oP)

So now that that is out of the way, let's talk some sweet potato chips!

I have a soft spot for sweet potatoes. I just love them! For a while now I've want to make an actual sweet potato chip. I'm not a fan of potato chips in general, but occasionally I do like a sweet potato chip. I've made baked vegetable chips before, which are divine by the way, but I've never made chips the "old fashioned way" until yesterday.

This is another one of those things I assumed was hard. You'd think after all the things I've assumed were hard, yet found out to be anything but I'd get past that, but well I'm stubborn. Yes I'm stubborn. There I said it. Most of us are, but isn't admitting it the first step?

So all of that to say I've thought about making sweet potato chips for a long time, yet I hadn't made them. Boy was I sorry I had not! They are even better homemade than any I've every tried out in the wide blue yonder!

So I'd say these were a huge success. Next time I'm going to play around with sea salt and vinegar chips, but I'm not going to wait as long! ;oP

What You'll Need:
Oil for frying (Note: Safflower, vegetable, olive oil, etc. You choose. I do not recommend using canola oil, for this or anything really.)
Sweet potato(es)
A big bowl of water
Sea salt

Heat your oil to 375 F. I use a fryer.

While your oil is heating set up your ingredients and the things you will need for your frying process:

Sweet Potato Chips: Set Up and Ready to Go

You'll need a big bowl of water, a sweet potato (or more if you want to make a big batch of chips), a potato peeler, a baking sheet lined with paper towels, a tool to remove the chips from the hot oil and sea salt.

You might also want to grab a cutting board and a very sharp knife if your sweet potato is big in diameter. We'll get to that in a few minutes.

Peel your sweet potato:

Sweet Potato Chips: Sweet Potato Peeled

Look for a long skinny potato. Also look for one that is relatively unblemished and with few "eyes".

Next you want to make your potato "chips":

Sweet Potato Chips: Ready to Put in Water

I like my chips to have a bit of a thickness to them, but you don't want them too thick or you'll end up with fried sweet potato chunks and not sweet potato chips.

You can use a mandolin if you have one (which I do, but I've never gotten it to work properly) or you can use a potato peeler (which I did).

Place "chips" in a bowl of water:

Sweet Potato Chips: Soaking in Water

This prevents the potatoes from turning brown while the oil heats and you're slicing the rest of the chips.

If your potato gets to be too cumbersome in the middle to make chips, cut the sweet potato in half:

Sweet Potato Chips: Cut in Half

Continue slicing with the potato halves.

It also helps as you're cutting your chips to rotate the potato on each slice so that you don't end up with a slanted edge and you keep your cutting surface relatively flat.

Once your oil is heated take a handful of chips out of the water and drain on a paper towel to remove excess moisture:

Sweet Potato Chips: Draining Before Frying

Place chips in a thin layer into the heated oil, stirring with a metal strainer occasionally until the chips begin to curl:

Sweet Potato Chips: Frying

Once the chips start to curl, continue to fry for another minute or two until they are slightly golden and continue to curl.

Remove chips from oil and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels. Add a generous sprinkle of sea salt immediately:

Sweet Potato Chips

Repeat process until you run out of potatoes.

Serve immediately, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Notes: I always like to use organic ingredients when possible. This is especially true with potatoes who tend to store pesticides in them readily! Find a really good organic sweet potato or yam. You'll be glad you did!

Posted by Dianne at 12:53 PM | Comments (2) | 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

September 24, 2009

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

I love eggplant. I wasn't always smitten with this lovely plant, but over time it is one of those things that has grown on me and then some! It's amazing how tastes change over time.

There are many ways to prepare eggplant, but I have to say this version has to be my all time favorite! These "fries" are just perfect and I seriously think I've found a new addiction! If you want something a little different, and a little bit healthier than your average fry, then look no further...You've found exactly what you didn't know you were looking for!

What You'll Need:
1 eggplant, cut into strips
1 cup of plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Extra sea salt for sprinkling
Extra finely ground black pepper for sprinkling
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut the top and bottom off of your eggplant:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Top and Bottom

Cut the eggplant in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Halves

And then cut the halves in half:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Quarters

Next cut the eggplant quarters into slices roughly 1/4 of an inch thick:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Slices

Now cut the eggplants pieces into strips roughly the size of french fries:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Strips

Continue cutting strips until you run out of eggplant. Place all of the strips on a plate:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Eggplant Strips Ready to Dredge

Sprinkle strips with sea salt, finely ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Sea Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil

Toss around to coat. It's easiest to just use your hands for this step.

Set aside for a few moments.

Now you are going to mix up your breading. In a shallow dish, such as a pie dish, stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon each of sea salt, finely ground black pepper and oregano. Mix well.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Breading

Roll sticks in breading mixture:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Dredge

Until coated on all sides and then place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Ready to Bake

Make sure the "fries" are mostly not touching.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Eggplant "Fries": Baked

Serve immediately with Creamy Onion Dip (see below).

Notes: You can use this method with mushrooms, zucchini or yellow squash as well. You can store any left over breading in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a month. It's good on chicken too.

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip

What You'll Need for the Creamy Onion Dip:
1/2 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of chopped dried onions
1/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (Note: You can use garlic salt if you like, but if you do omit the sea salt below.)
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

While the "fries" are baking make your dip.

Place dried onions in the bottom of a glass bowl:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Dried Onions

Pour boiling water over the onions:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip: Creamy Onion Dip: Onions Soaking

Let sit until water is all or mostly absorbed by the onions.

This will take 1-3 minutes. Don't worry if all of the water isn't absorbed. A tablespoon or so at the bottom isn't a big deal and actually helps the dip come together.

Stir in seasonings and sour cream and mix until completely incorporated. Chill or serve imediately.

Notes: If you don't have, or can't find dried onions, then you can caramelize 1/2 of a small onion and use that instead.

Posted by Dianne at 9:58 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 22, 2009

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

Creamy Corn and Cucumber Salad

This one is another throw together what you've got and make the perfect meal! The flavors of this salad are mild, yet refreshing. The dill gives it just the right pop! By utilizing fresh, local ingredients, You've got a salad that can't be beat!

What You'll Need:
6-8 ears of corn, stripped from the ear (Note: You can use cooked or raw corn.)
1-2 large cucumbers, cut into strips and chopped
2/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup of light sour cream or fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I've made it with either, but I prefer sour cream.)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Chop vegetables and herbs and toss together in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

In a separate glass bowl stir together sea salt, pepper, sour cream and vinegar until smooth. Pour mixture over the vegetable/herbs and toss to coat. Chill for up to 4 hours, or serve immediately.

Notes: You can add in shredded carrots, chopped scallions, zucchini, squash, etc. It's all a matter of personal taste.

Posted by Dianne at 1:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 9, 2009

Smash Potatoes

Smash Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the quintessential side dishes that you often see on the menu. Most people like potatoes so they are a safe bet in most cases. Mashed, roasted, boiled, fried, the ways to make them are endless, yet perfect!

This version uses boiled new potatoes and takes them to a whole other level! Herbs, garlic and olive oil combine to make an interesting, yet delicious take on a classic side dish. Who says potatoes can't have a little pizazz??

What You'll Need:
1 pound of new potatoes, cooked to fork tender
Extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
Fresh chives, chopped
Fresh Rosemary, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper

In a large pot of water boil new potatoes with a little sea salt until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside:

Smash Potatoes: New Potatoes

Chop herbs and garlic and have them ready to go:

Smash Potatoes: Herbs and Garlic

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Place cooked new potatoes on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper:

Smash Potatoes: Ready to Smash

Using a heavy cup or glass smash the potatoes flat:

Smash Potatoes: Smashed

Drizzle with olive oil:

Smash Potatoes: Olive Oil

Add garlic:

Smash Potatoes: Garlic

Sprinkle with herbs, sea salt and pepper:

Smash Potatoes: Herbs

(Note: I actually forgot to add the salt until AFTER they baked, but this is where you should add it, before you put it in the oven.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown:

Smash Potatoes: Baked

Serve immediately.

Left overs also make the perfect addition to a big salad:

Smash Potatoes: Leftovers in a Salad

Notes: You can use any herbs you like. You could also add some grated Parmesan cheese if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 12:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 8, 2009

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

I love pasta salads. They are so easy to throw together and you have something fabulous, yet delicious that is so easy to share! Pasta salads are just perfect for cook outs, picnics or even pot luck dinners.

This is the pasta salad that I ultimately sent to the shelter a few weeks back. It combines pasta, fresh vegetables, a few canned items and dried herbs to make the perfect all around dish. Easy and delicious...Now I like that!

What You'll Need:
1 - 1 pound box of bow tie (farfalle) pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 - 3.8 ounce can of black olives, drained and sliced
1 cucumber, speared and chopped
1-2 raw ears of corn, stripped
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese

Cook bow tie pasta, drain and set aside to cool. (Note: If you want to speed up the cooling process you can run cool water over the pasta and it cools almost immediately.)

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Bow Tie Pasta

In a large glass bowl toss together diced tomatoes, black olives, cucumber and corn until well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Vegetables

Next up is mixing your dressing. I like to use a canning jar and shake it all together, but you can whisk it in a bowl if you like.

Add olive oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, thyme, sea salt, pepper and Parmesan to a glass jar and place the lid on tightly. Shake until ingredients are well mixed:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad: Dressing

Add cooled bow tie pasta and dressing mix to the bowl with the vegetables and toss to coat:

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Chill for at least 2 hours to overnight and then serve.

Notes: You could add chopped onion and or bell pepper. Since this doesn't use fresh tomatoes you don't have to worry as much about the vinegar breaking down the tomatoes. I would still eat it within a day or two or making it though.

Posted by Dianne at 1:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 3, 2009

Kicking Up A Tomato Sandwich With Cornmeal Waffles!

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich

I'm late today, but I'm here!

Yesterday was one of those days. I woke up with a migraine that would just NOT GO AWAY! It wasn't a functioning migraine either, it was a shut myself in my dark room with the fan on and sleep all day sort of migraine. Even after the migraine finally started to abate around 4:30 yesterday afternoon I felt tired, zombie like and sore. Days like that make me glad Jamison works from home most days! I woke up this morning feeling better, but way behind on everything!

So without further ado, let's talk some cornmeal waffles/tomato sandwiches!

Tomato sandwiches are one of my all time favorite summer treats! There is just nothing like a tomato sandwich on a corn cake! It takes a while to make corn cakes though, so I started thinking of ways to speed up the process. I'm all about finding ways to do things faster!

Corn cakes are cooked like pancakes, so there is a lot of standing around waiting to flip them and such. Pancakes made me think of waffles, because I prefer waffles over pancakes for the simple fact that you can make them much faster, and then I decided the perfect way to cook corn cakes would be in waffle form, so I decided to give it a whirl and it worked perfectly!

This method is a quick, easy way to make delicious, hearty yet healthy, whole grain corn cakes. What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
2 cups of yellow stone ground corn meal
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs
Tomatoes
Sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat waffle iron at medium heat.

In a large bowl stir together corn meal, salt, baking soda and baking powder until well mixed. Next add milk and eggs:

Cornmeal Waffles: Making the Batter

Stir together ingredients until thick batter forms:

Cornmeal Waffles: Batter

(Note: Depending on humidity you might need all of the milk, part of the milk or maybe just a bit more. You want a thick batter that is not runny.)

Spray your waffle iron with non-stick spray or brush with oil. Place scoops of batter on your preheated waffle iron:

Cornmeal Waffles: Ready to Cook

If you want you can spread the batter out to the edges to make them uniform, but with these I actually like them to be a bit rustic.

Cook for 2-4 minutes until golden brown:

Cornmeal Waffles

Repeat until you run out of batter. This will make 6-8 waffles.

Cornmeal Waffles

Now you're ready to make your sandwiches!

How you put together your sandwich is a matter of choice. I like tomato sandwiches when they are on corn cakes or corn waffles pretty simple. I either like them with mayo and tomatoes, or with mayo, tomatoes and cheese. This go around I stuck with the former. If I eat a tomato sandwich on regular bread I like it with avocado, green pepper strips, cucumber, sprouts, cheese and mayo, which is probably my all time favorite sandwich, which is neither here nor there.

Anyway...

You want a nice ripe tomato and big, thick slices:

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich: Tomatoes

This is an heirloom variety we got from our CSA.

Place your condiment(s) directly on to your waffle and then top with tomato(es) and sprinkle with sea salt:

Cornmeal Waffles: Tomato Sandwich

Add lettuce, cheese, bell pepper, avocado, etc. Whatever floats your boat and then top with another waffle and voilà...The perfect tomato sandwich!

Notes: No notes for this one!

Posted by Dianne at 12:43 PM | Comments (2) | 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!

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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 19, 2009

Old Bay Macaroni Salad

Old Bay Macaroni Salad

A couple of weeks ago I was testing out pasta salad ideas trying to decided what I wanted to take to church for them to bring to the shelter. This was one of the dishes that I came up with and I loved it! You know me and Old Bay...It's one of my favorite things!

I really loved how this turned out, but not everyone is a fan of Old Bay and some people think it's a little hot, so ultimately I went with something a bit more "tame", but I wanted to shared this with you anyway! The vegetables are just the right cool bite, while the Old Bay gives it some zing! This is just perfect as a side dish or even as a main course on a hot summer day!

What You'll Need:
1 - 14.5 ounce package of macaroni noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained and cooled (Note: I used a whole grain variety, but you any kind will do.)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, cut into spears and then chopped
1 carrot, shredded
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1-2 ounces of sundried tomatoes, chopped (Note: I like to use the ones that are not packed in oil for this, but either would work.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of light sour cream
1/4 cup of light mayo
1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning

Cook your pasta, drain and cool. If you want to cool it quickly rinse it with cool water.

Old Bay Macaroni Salad: Macaroni

Place cooled pasta in a large glass bowl. Add bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, carrot and sundried tomatoes and toss or stir to mix. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together sour cream, mayo and Old Bay seasoning until well mixed:

Old Bay Macaroni Salad: Dressing

Add Old Bay mixture to the pasta/vegetable mixture and stir to mix:

Old Bay Macaroni Salad

Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Notes: Squash or zucchini would be a nice addition, or perhaps some sautéed mushrooms or peas. Some shredded Parmesan would be fabulous too!

Posted by Dianne at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2009

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish)

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish)

Tomatoes! Tomatoes! Tomatoes! I just love fresh tomatoes! There is just nothing that can compare. Sure they're fabulous for eating all by themselves, but their flavor is really good cooked as well!

Tomato slices are really fabulous paired with mozzarella, herbs and Parmesan and baked as a pizza! With a few simple ingredients, you've got a really fabulous pizza that is just perfect paired with a salad as a summer meal!

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Tomatoes!

What You'll Need for the Pizza Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: You could use white whole wheat flour instead.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of yeast
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar or honey
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3/4-1 cup of warm water

In a large glass bowl stir together flour, sea salt, yeast and organic cane sugar. (Note: If you are using honey add the honey to the water.) Stir to mix.

Add olive oil to the flour mixture and then slowly add water, stirring until dough forms. Depending on humidity and things of that nature you may need some of the water, all of it, or even perhaps a bit more. When the dough ball forms you know to stop. You want a slightly sticky dough, but not too sticky.

Set the dough aside for at least 10 minutes to an hour.

This is enough dough to make one 12-14 inch pizza or several individual sized pizzas.

What You'll Need to Make the Pizza:
Dough (see above)
Tomatoes, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Basil, cut into strips
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan
Garlic powder or salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.

First up you'll need to decide what size pizza you are making. I went with individual sized. If you are making a big pie then spread the dough out onto a pan that has been oiled or sprayed with non-stick spray. If you're making the smaller variety I usually bake them in "rough" form on a baking sheet lined with my Silpat.

After the dough is spread you want to top it with tomatoes and mozzarella slices. You can do this one of several ways...You can fan them out like this:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Ready for Basil

Or you can make a layer of tomatoes and then top it with a layer of mozzarella or you can place the layer of mozzarella first and then top it with tomatoes. It's completely up to you.

Next you want to top your mozzarella with basil, a sprinkle of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, a generous sprinkle of dried oregano, a drizzle of olive oil and a nice shake of garlic powder or salt:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Ready for Parmesan

Note: If you are going to use garlic powder then omit the sea salt.

Last add a generous sprinkle of Parmesan and then pop it into the oven:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Baking

Bake for 8-12 minutes until crust is golden, cheese melts and tomatoes are tender:

Fresh Pizza Margherita(ish): Baked

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Notes: You could use fresh oregano if you liked, but I really think that dried oregano just has such a lovely concentrated flavor. You could also use fresh garlic, but the powdered garlic gives it more of a uniform taste. This is one of the few places where I prefer powder garlic versus fresh.

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

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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 30, 2009

"Fried" Green Tomatoes

"Fried" Green Tomatoes

I have a confession to make...

Are you ready?

I grew up in Tennessee, but I never had a Fried Green Tomato until I moved to Maryland. There's a lot of those quintessential southern foods that I somehow missed growing up. This is probably because my mom didn't fry a lot of things.

Shortly after we moved to Maryland I was over on the Eastern Shore, because for those of you who don't know I'm a water person. Big time water person! Anytime I have the opportunity to be near the Chesapeake Bay, or more importantly the ocean, then by golly that's where you'll find me! It doesn't happen as often as I'd like, but when we lived over next to the Bay, you'd often find me hopping across the bridge. I can't even remember who was with me on this little jaunt, but I remember we stopped at this little seafood place, right on the water, and they had fried green tomatoes on their menu so I thought I'd give them a whirl!

To be completely honest I wasn't really impressed with that first bite. They were made more like a deep fried/battered concoction and I thought they were heavy and tasteless. But that first bite made me start thinking...What if you seasoned the green tomatoes really well and then cooked them similarly to how I cook okra? You'd have a "fried" tomato, but it wouldn't be as heavy and tasteless. And you know what? It worked!

These tomatoes are really fabulous! They make the perfect side dish. I actually like green tomato cut up and in salads, but this is a great way to use up some of those green tomatoes toward the end of the season, when the days aren't quite long enough to make them ripen, if you're not quite sure about just eating them as is.

What You'll Need:
Sliced green tomatoes
Sea salt and pepper for sprinkling
1 cup of stone ground yellow corn meal
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of dry Ranch dressing mix
Extra virgin olive oil

First you want to slice your tomatoes to about the same thickness:

"Fried" Green Tomatoes: Mostly Green Tomatoes

As you can see this one was starting to turn red inside, but that's ok.

Once you have all your tomatoes sliced lay them out and sprinkle them with sea salt and black pepper:

"Fried" Green Tomatoes: Salt and Pepper

Once they are seasoned on both sides set aside.

Place a large skillet on medium heat and place a think layer of olive oil in the pan to heat while you do the next step. A tablespoon of oil should be more than enough. You may need to add more as you "fry", but we'll get to that in a minute.

Mix together corn meal, sea salt, black pepper and Ranch dressing mix until completely incorporated and place mixture on a plate or flat dish. Next place one tomato on the mixture to coat:

"Fried" Green Tomatoes: Ready to Dredge

Then flip the tomato over to coat the other side:

"Fried" Green Tomatoes: Dredged

Now you're ready to "fry"!

Place the tomatoes into the heated skillet/oil and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown:

"Fried" Green Tomatoes: Frying

Once done remove from skillet and place on a plate lined with paper towels to "drain":

"Fried" Green Tomatoes

You won't get a lot of draining since you didn't use a lot of oil, but there may be a little.

In between batches of tomatoes you might need to add a bit more oil to the pan. Just keep an eye on things. Repeat the process until all the tomatoes are done.

Serve immediately.

Notes: No notes for this one. When does that ever happen?? ;oP

Posted by Dianne at 10:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 23, 2009

Bread Salad

Bread Salad

I love all the fresh vegetables that are readily available this time of the year. It's so easy to eat fresh and local when you're in the height of the summer season! Most days, at least one meal (and sometimes two), there is a salad, utilizing these ingredients involved. I often eat salad for lunch, and many times there is a salad component to dinner too.

Salads are so much fun because you can have endless variations, using the same ingredients, only tweaking them a bit. Salads also don't have to be boring and if you don't want to use lettuce or some other green, who says you have to?

This salad takes lovely, ripe local tomatoes, and pairs them with other in season vegetables to make a fabulous base. Add in some cheese and the unexpected Callah Bread and you've got the perfect, cool, don't heat up your house summer meal that really hits the spot! What could be better than that?

What You'll Need:
2-3 cups of plum or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cucumber, cut in half and then sliced
1/2 a red onion, cut into strips
1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped
1/2 loaf of Challah Bread, cut into cubes
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese

First up let's discuss glass bowls. I've gotten several e-mails as of late asking why I often specify glass bowls to use when mixing. That's an easy answer actually...Plastic skeeves me out! Seriously I do NOT put anything that is hot and/or acid into plastic containers, even to mix briefly. I do a lot of storing food in glass canning jars for left overs and such and while I do have some plastic storage containers I use glass far more often that I use plastic. Acid and heat can leach the chemicals in the plastics out into your food. Not sure if you're a fan of weird chemicals in your food, but I'm not. So that's why I specify glass. I also don't use anything that has non-stick coatings, and avoid aluminum for the most part too.

Ok, now let's get started on this salad!

First off put your tomatoes in a large glass bowl:

Bread Salad: Tomatoes

Then cucumbers:

Bread Salad: Cucumbers

Red onions:

Bread Salad: Red Onion

Bell peppers:

Bread Salad: Bell Peppers

And feel free to use whatever color of bells you have on hand!

Next add sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and vinegar:

Bread Salad: Salt and Pepper

I chose to use a fine ground pepper this go around to really let the pepper get into the salad and give it a little zing!

Then the chopped parsley:

Bread Salad: Parsley

And last (but not least!) add the bread and Parmesan:

Bread Salad: Bread

I picked up the Callah bread at my local bakery, but you can certainly make it yourself if you prefer.

Toss it all together and serve immediately:

Bread Salad: Tossed

And remember this is really an eat it now sort of of salad! You can store everything but the bread for later. If you have left overs I would recommend picking the bread out, because it will just turn into mush as it absorbs the moisture from the salad.

Bread Salad

Notes: You can add in any vegetables that you like. Fresh corn would be great, or how about squash and/or zucchini. You could also add fresh oregano, thyme and/or rosemary.

Posted by Dianne at 9:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

I love mangoes, but I rarely eat them because they really are a pain in the rear to cut up. I've tried the tricks that supposedly make cutting them easier, but I have never really found one that I like. Often I buy frozen mango for smoothies, but once in a while I'll buy an actual mango to enjoy.

Mango is great all by itself, but it's really a fun component to add to salsa! This version is cool, fresh and really great to compliment a summer meal. Who says salsa has to be tomato based?

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Ingredients

What You'll Need:
1 mango, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1-3 jalapeños, chopped fine
2 cups of cooked black beans
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped (Note: I am not a fan of cilantro, in fact I despise cilantro, but if you're a fan you could substitute this if you desired. I won't vouch for the over all taste of the salsa though if you do choose this route.)

First chop a mango and add it to a large glass bowl:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Mango

Next add the chopped red onion:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Red Onion

Have I mentioned lately how these should be call purple onions instead? There is not red there! I haven't? Well there you go then! ;oP

Next add cucumber:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Cucumbers

Then jalapeños:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Jalapeño

And then the black beans, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa: Salt, Pepper, Oil and Vinegar

Toss everything together until well mixed. Then add chopped parsley and stir until incorporated:

Black Bean and Mango Salsa

Serve immediately or chill for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes: This is great on fish or steaks. Also you'll want to use this within a day of making.

Posted by Dianne at 1:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2009

Fresh Vegetable Penne

Fresh Vegetable Penne

As I've mentioned before Jamison and Alexis are all about spaghetti and at this point after knowing Jamison for 13 years I'm about as spaghettied out as you can possibly be. Once in a blue moon I get a craving for the traditional spaghetti, but for the most part I'd much rather make my own pasta topper.

This time of year it is so easy to whip up a fresh pasta topper with vegetables that are coming into season. You can use fresh tomatoes and pair them with various other vegetables and herbs to make something healthy, yet satisfying. Now that is my kind of pasta!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped into chunks
2 garlic scapes, chopped
1 cup of peas
10-12 yellow or green beans, chopped
3-4 Brussels sprouts, chopped
4-5 button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce of Parmesan, grated
2 ounces of dry whole grain penne pasta, cooked according to package directions

Cook pasta. Drain and set aside.

Add vegetables and herbs to a glass bowl and stir to mix:

Fresh Vegetable Penne: Ready to Cook

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and vegetables:

Fresh Vegetable Penne: Cooking

Add some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir to mix. Cook for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes soften and vegetables are tender:

Fresh Vegetable Penne: Ready for Parmesan

Add cheese and penne and stir to mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts:

Fresh Vegetable Penne: Ready to Serve

Remove from heat and let sit for 2 minutes and then serve.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Fresh Vegetable Penne

Notes: You can use any combo of vegetables or herbs that you like. Carrots would be a good addition and/or asparagus. Squash and zucchini would be good too.

Posted by Dianne at 9:05 AM | Comments (0) | 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 18, 2009

Parmesan and Onion Potatoes

Parmesan and Onion Potatoes

If you've been around Dianne's Dishes a while you've heard me talk about how picky Jamison is when it comes to what he will eat. Honestly I get bored for him. So sometimes I go out on a limb and make something that he normally eats (such as potatoes) and kick them up a bit. He of course tolerates this, though he gives me that look as if to say "Really? Again?" and then digs in and eats around my additions.

Never changes. Have I mentioned lately how much I love him? ;oP

Anyway, this was an attempt to unbore his food. He ate it, though as I said above ate around most of the additions, but at least it made me a little less bored for him for the evening. While Jamison would just prefer his potatoes plain, I really enjoy this version and will definitely be making it again...Just maybe not for Jamison! ;oP

What You'll Need:
6-8 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt (Note: I like Celtic Sea Salt.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush a baking dish with olive oil or spray with non-stick spray. Set aside

Cut potatoes into chunks and add to the bottom of your baking dish. Add chopped onion and garlic over the top of the potatoes evenly. Next drizzle the potato mixture with extra virgin olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) and stir to coat.

Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and then top generously with grated Parmesan cheese:

Parmesan and Onion Potatoes: Ready to Bake

Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and potatoes are tender:

Parmesan and Onion Potatoes: Baked

Serve immediately.

Notes: You could use any type of onion that you wanted for this dish. Leeks would also be a nice addition.

Posted by Dianne at 8:49 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

June 15, 2009

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms

First off let me say again (as you can see!) things are a little different around here this morning! I finally got around to the redesign. I'm very happy with everything so far and things seem to be going smoothly!

Also I'm still in search of Maryland food bloggers. As you can see I've added a section on my blog roll to compile a list of those of us here in Maryland that blog about food. So if you are a Maryland food blogger or know one let me know! Also if you see something a little wonky around the site let me know that too!

On a totally different note I will be doing a cross post entry for Allie's Answers tomorrow about the importance of eating local when possible with a great recipe with ingredients straight from my CSA! I'll be joining Allie and Courtney once a month or so to blog a little green food so stay tunned....You won't want to miss that!

Now let's talk some mushrooms!

As I've mentioned before I like to substitute mushrooms for meat. They are a hearty, yet healthy alternative that are fun to play around with. This version pairs the mushrooms with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and onions to give you a savory combination that is just perfect when you want something satisfying, yet want to give the meat a rest.

What You'll Need:
2-3 large portobello mushroom caps, cut into slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Dried onions
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil or spray with non-stick spray. Place mushrooms in baking dish and drizzle with olive oil (roughly 1-2 tablespoons) and balsamic vinegar (about 2-3 tablespoons). Next sprinkle with onions, sea salt and black pepper.

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms: Ready to Bake

Bake for 25-30 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: Leftover mushrooms make a great topping for baked potatoes, rice or pasta. You could use fresh chopped onion if you liked, but I had some dried onions I wanted to try.

Posted by Dianne at 9:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 9, 2009

Roasted Carrots and Fennel

Roasted Carrots and Fennel

I'll readily admit that fennel has always sort of scared me. The phrase "sort of tastes like licorice" turned me right off from actually trying it, but last week I decided it was time to bite the bullet so to speak and just try it. One of my biggest pets peeves in the entire world is when some says "I hate X!" and then in the next breath "Of course I've never tried it, but I hate it anyway!"

You. Can. NOT. Hate. Something. You. Have. NEVER. Tried!

Jamison and I have this discussion often. ;oP

Anyway, so if I say I "hate" something I've tried it at least once, if not a few times. You might try something you think you don't like and end up liking it later. That is how I was with brussels sprouts after all! So when we had company last week for dinner I decided to play around with fennel!

I decided I would pair the fennel with something I knew I liked, that way if push came to shove I could just eat around it, but I actually enjoyed it just fine! I wouldn't say it tasted like licorice, but it did have a savory sort of burst that was similar. Overall I was very pleased and I think I'd even like it on its own!

What You'll Need:
6-8 carrots, cut into chunks
1 bulb of fennel, top remove and chopped
1/4-1/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Roasted Carrots and Fennel: Ready to Bake

Chop carrots and fennel and place in a glass baking dish that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with dill, sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until carrots are tender and dish is slightly browned.

Let rest for 5 minutes and then serve.

Notes: You could leave out the dill and use rosemary and thyme instead if you prefer, but dill really goes fabulously with carrots!

Posted by Dianne at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | 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

March 11, 2009

Pasta & Peas, My Way From Diane

Pasta and Peas

Diane with one n blogs over at Napa Farmhouse 1885. We bonded over our similar name and I was so excited when she agreed to guest blog for me this week! Be sure and stop over and say hello to her on her blog and she what fabulous things she has cooking over there!

pasta & peas, anyone?

i was so happy when my twitter friend dianne...(i always refer to her as “2 n dianne” because I, too, am diane, but with only one “n”)…asked me to guest host her blog while she went on a holiday…I have a blog, napa farmhouse 1885™…and usually write about food…i am a broken record regarding how much I love fresh, seasonal, organic or sustainably-farmed-when-possible ingredients….my motto, “the ingredients really do make the difference”.

like many people, i have become fascinated with the ninety three year old great-grandmother who is hosting a you-tube series on depression cooking. if you are unfamiliar with her story, clara cannucciari shares recipes and techniques for inexpensive, practical dishes which are filling, nourishing and tasty. one of her grandsons started filming her to record her recipes since she...like many grandmothers...never writes anything down. i love this story and wish i had done the same thing when my grandmother was alive…how cool it would be to have not only her recipes, but her voice sharing all the details of the dishes I loved while growing up…

anyway, clara’s grandson started putting his videos on you-tube and they became an instant hit…what perfect timing in this economy to be taught the lessons our grandparents and great-grandparents learned about simple basic food…and how to stretch a dollar. clara is a hoot as she tells stories about what it was like living through the great depression while also demonstrating her cooking techniques. i have watched all the videos and must confess that I am utterly charmed…she seems like such an honest, genuine person...you feel like you know her.

clara’s first video shares a recipe for pasta & peas...and when i saw the title i was immediately interested. pasta and peas is one of my favorites…a really fast, really easy, really delicious go-to recipe because i always have the ingredients on hand…when i saw clara’s version, however, i realized that our two dishes...while named the same…were miles apart…both interesting…but very different. due to the “great-depression” timing, clara does not emphasize fresh, best-quality available ingredients...how could she? she talks about how hard it was during that time…and how you ate what was available. her recipe uses potatoes, onions, canned peas(including the juice) and pasta all cooked together to create an almost stew-like dish. i imagine it was very filling, very warm, very good and very, very welcome during a cold winter night in the midst of the depression.

my version is lighter...no potatoes…fresher...frozen peas during most of the year...fresh peas in spring…and, as always, places an emphasis on the ingredients…but, i think, still delivers on the premise that excellent food can be simple, inexpensive, local, fast...and pretty easy…

please check out clara’s videos…and try my recipe…and let me know what you think...both in the comments section of this blog...and by visiting me over at my place…napa farmhouse 1885.

Pasta and Peas

pasta & peas, my way
1 lb short pasta (like fusilli)
½ yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy..i do!)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lb bag frozen peas (or 1 lb fresh in season)
grey sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Pasta and Peas

bring large pot of water to boil…when rapidly boiling, salt water well and add pasta. cook following package directions (10-12 minutes) until just al dente(firm to the bite)…do not overcook. during the last minute of cooking add the frozen peas to the pasta…using a ladle, remove one ladleful of the pasta water and set aside. drain the pasta and peas in a colander. meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic just begins to brown…add the pasta, peas and reserved pasta water to the onion mixture, stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. serve immediately, drizzling pasta with extra virgin olive oil if desired. top with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

best,
diane

Thanks Diane with one n! That looks fabulous. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what's up next during our Guest Blogger extravaganza!

Posted by Dianne at 10:03 AM | Comments (1) | 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 19, 2008

Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

Want to take a basic baked potato and take it to another level? Why not stuff it with goodness? This recipe is simple, yet so delicious...You really get bang for your buck (so to speak!) ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 potato, cut in half and baked until tender, pulp removed after baking (Note: I like to bake them in the oven, but if you don't have time you can "bake" the halves in the microwave. I think potatoes in the oven though are much better, but if time is a factor alternatives always work!)
3-4 broccoli florets, chopped
Pulp removed from baked potato
2 tablespoons of sour cream (Note: I usually use light sour cream.) Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cut potato in half and baked it flat side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet. Bake until potatoes stick done (30-40 minutes) and remove from oven and cool.

Remove pulp from the cooled potato leaving 1/4 an inch of pulp in the potato, much like you would when making potato skins. Place pulp in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In the bowl with the pulp add sour cream and stir to mash together. Stir in cheese and broccoli, along with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Divide mixture and place half into each potato shell and place in a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and potato is slightly browned.

Makes 2 servings.

Notes: You could use other types of cheese or veggies if you preferred.

Posted by Dianne at 8:12 AM | Comments (0) | 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 15, 2008

Dianne's Guest Blog Week: Monica's Grandma Edith's Pea Salad

Monica and I became internet friends a little over four years ago (oh my has it been that long!) when she visited another blog I had and basically jumped in to defend me against some Internet trolls. We have kept up with each other ever since. I have no doubt that if we met in person we could sit down, have a cup of tea and spend hours talking! She is definitely a kindred spirit and I'm very thankful that we have become friends as unconventional as our friendship may be! For now though sit back and get ready to be wowed by Monica's grandmother's simple, yet scrumptious looking pea salad!

Monica blogs about politics, life, knitting, photography, quilting and a little bit of everything in between over at Blatherskite.

Pea Salad

Every year when my family gets together for Thanksgiving we pay homage to our late grandmothers by making a dish that was ever present at their holiday tables. My Granny Mary's dish is Tomato Aspic (not exactly my favorite thing to eat in the world. It can be described as tomato jello). My Grandma Edith's dish is Pea Salad.

Pea Salad may sound like it is not very appetizing on the surface. However, it is very delicious! It is a very quick and easy recipe and is great for potlucks because, since it is a salad, it is served cold. It is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.

So, without further adieu, I present Grandma Edith's Pea Salad.

Ingredients:
2 cans of peas, drained
1 cup of shredded cheese
1 cup of shredded carrots
1/4th cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup miracle whip
1/2 cup of mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together in a big bowl. Eat and enjoy.

Easy peasy, right? I'm all about fast and easy. As for the Miracle Whip, I am not a fan of it. I hate the taste of it on sandwiches. However, I have never tried this salad without it. I suppose if you wanted to you could go with a cup of mayo instead. Unlike Dianne, I am not one to veer too far from the recipe. I'm just not very confident in my cooking skillz. (Dianne Note: I do tend to veer a lot don't I??!? ;oP)

Hope you enjoy it! It certainly is a big hit in my family.

Posted by Dianne at 8:18 AM | Comments (2) | 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 5, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed Tomatoes

For a while stuffed tomatoes have been calling to me. I don't know why and it's not something I've had a lot in my life, but they've been in the back of my mind calling "Hey Dianne...Make us!" I've made a stuffed tomato before, but that version just wasn't quite what I had in mind for this go round, even though goat cheese...Well what's not to like?

When I first envisioned this dish I had thought I would use wild rice in the mix, but as luck would have it when I went to cook the wild rice I discovered mid batch that my steamer had gone to the big steamer heaven in the sky. (What is up with my appliances/kitchen tools lately?? First my food processor, then my manual can opener, then my steamer. And my mixer keeps going in out too. What's up with that?) So I took that as a sign and opted to use a version of lentils instead and let me tell you the substitution was fantastic!

Stuffed Tomatoes are extremely easy to make and they taste fabulous as well, so what are you waiting for?

ddtomatoweek2008

On a totally unrelated note it looks as though we may have a visit from Topical Storm Hanna over the weekend. The last tropical system that hit Maryland that had a major impact was Isabel in 2003. Alexis was four months old and we lost power for seven days! Seven very long, very icky, very primitive days! Lex looked at us after a day or so like "Really? This is getting old!" Let's hope and pray that this time around things aren't as bad shall we?

Oh and we have two more tomato recipes coming up this weekend! So don't forget to check in. Hopefully the storm won't affect posting! ;o)

Now...On to the recipe!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of cooked black beluga lentils (Note: They are called this because they look like beluga caviar.)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of red onion, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of baby spinach leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
1/2 cup Pecornio Romano or Parmesan cheese, shredded, plus some for sprinkling
Tomatoes

In a large skillet sauté onion and mushroom in a little extra virgin olive oil until onion is slightly caramelized. Add spinach and garlic and cook until spinach is just wilted. Add a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper and the pancetta and cook until pancetta is slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

While the veggie/pancetta mixture is cooling cut the tops off of your tomatoes:

Stuffed Tomatoes: Tomatoes Ready to Hollow

Next scoop out the flesh and seeds of the tomato and set aside:

Stuffed Tomatoes: Tomatoes Ready to Stuff

(Note: There is not need to waste the stuff you scooped out. I like to put it in the freezer and use it when I make chili or tomato soup.)

Once the tomatoes are hollowed out mix cooked lentils into the veggie/pancetta mixture along with the grated cheese and stir to mix. Stuff each tomato generously and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with some shredded cheese and drizzle with a little olive oil:

Stuffed Tomatoes: Ready to Bake

Bake tomatoes for 25-30 minutes until the tomato is tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Tomatoes: Baked

With large tomatoes this easily makes a main course. Pair it with some steamed vegetables and/or a salad and you've got the perfect meal!

Note: This mixture will fill 4 large softball sized tomatoes, but you could also use smaller golf ball sized tomatoes and make it an appetizer instead of a main course. If you wanted to make it vegetarian you could leave out the pancetta.

Posted by Dianne at 7:10 AM | Comments (4) | 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 2, 2008

Tomato Week 2008: Corn Cake and Tomato Sandwiches

Corn Cakes and Tomatoes

One of my sister and my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is to make Corn Cake and Tomato sandwiches! I remember having tomatoes and corn cakes as children, but I don't remember making sandwiches with them, though we do now! The corn cake is the perfect base for the sandwich and compliments the juicy, ripe tomato so well! This is a quick, easy and delicious way to utilize all those luscious ripe tomatoes!

ddtomatoweek2008

What You'll Need for the Corn Cakes:
2 cups of corn meal
1 cup of white whole wheat flour (Note: Unbleached white flour works fine too.)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk (Note: You may need more or less. You want the consistency of pancake batter.)
Non-stick spray or oil for the pan

Corn Cakes: Browning

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

While the skillet is heating in a large bowl stir together corn meal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt until well mixed. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Corn Cakes

Spray pan with non-stick spray or brush with oil. Spoon batter into the hot pan as you would pancakes and brown on each side, flipping once. Once done through remove from heat and place on a plate for serving.

Corn Cakes and Tomatoes

What You'll Need to Make the Sandwiches:
Corn Cakes (See above)
Tomatoes, sliced
Sea salt
Light mayonnaise

Spread a corn cake with a light layer of mayo, add a tomato, sprinkle with a little sea salt and top with another corn cake. Eat whole or slice.

How easy is that?

Notes: You could add cucumbers and bell pepper strips to the sandwich too if you liked. Or even a slice of cheese, but they really are fabulous just with the tomato!

Posted by Dianne at 7:31 AM | Comments (5) | 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 20, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna: Topped With Sour Cream

Mexican lasagna has always intrigued me. I've heard about it for years, but had never tried it. I knew the general idea was that you used corn tortillas as you would noodles in a more traditional lasagna, while also utilizing more traditionally Mexican ingredients. I made this version sans meat and I must say I really liked the result! What's even more fabulous is that the longer it sits the more the flavors just come together making it the perfect recipe for leftovers! And let's face it leftovers are a good thing...Lunch anyone? ;oP

What You'll Need:
12 Corn tortillas
1 - 15 ounce can of pinto beans (Note: If you want you can use pre-made refried beans, but I like to make my own.)
6-8 scallions, chopped (Note: Both green and white parts.)
Cayenne pepper
A pinch of sea salt
1 - 4.25 ounce can of whole green chillies, drained and chopped
1 - 19 ounce can of enchilada sauce
Chopped peppers (Note: You can use any type of pepper that you like. I used chopped sweet banana peppers, but bell peppers will work fine too. If you really want to heat things up then you can use a hot pepper as well.)
Shredded Cheddar, Colby or Monterrey Jack (Note: I used Colby Jack. Or you can use a combo of any of them.)
Sour cream for garnishing if desired

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mash pinto beans and stir in chopped scallions, a generous pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. (Note: If you don't like a little spice then leave out the cayenne, but I like for it to give a little kick. You can use as much or as little of it as you like.) Set aside.

Mexican Lasagna: First Layers

Spray and 8 X 8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray and place 4 corn tortillas in the bottom of the pan, overlapping, until the entire bottom surface of the dish is covered. Spread out half of the bean mixture to cover the top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with chopped chilies and peppers.

Mexican Lasagna Second Layer with Cheese

Next add a layer of enchilada sauce and cheese. Repeat these steps one more time.

Mexican Lasagna: Top

After you have done two layers add another layer of tortillas and top it with enchilada sauce and peppers. Then top with a layer of cheese.

Mexican Lasagna: Baked

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts and browns slightly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Mexican Lasagna: A Slice

Cut into slices and serve plain or with a dollop of sour cream.

Note: Guacamole would be a good topper for this too. You could add some shredded chicken too if you liked, or even some mushrooms to continue in the vegetarian vibe.

Posted by Dianne at 7:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 19, 2008

Parmesan Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Parmesan Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Today is a busy day, so I'm going to share with you a quick, easy, fabulous side dish that you can whip up in no time! This one will get you raves and you won't be in the kitchen all day either. That's a win win in my book! ;oP

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 potato
Extra virgin olive oil
Course sea salt (Note: I like Celtic Sea salt.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, stripped from the stem and chopped

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Cut a potato in half and then make slices about 1/8 of an inch thick. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, Parmesan and rosemary and place in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are slightly crisp and golden. Serve immediately.

How easy is that?

Notes: You could use thyme if you liked in place of the rosemary or use them both.

Posted by Dianne at 7:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 18, 2008

Stuffed Peppers a la Dianne

Stuffed Peppers

Wow the weekend passes so quickly! You blink and it's simply gone! It seems like just a few minutes ago it was Friday afternoon and now bam it's Monday morning! Where did the time go? I'll tell you...It went to house cleaning and lawn mowing and laundry and errands and generally boring stuff! So let's not talk about it and move on to the peppers shall we?

Stuffed peppers...I've heard horror stories about them and I must say I've never actually tried your traditional stuffed pepper, nor have I actually had a chance, and these stuffed peppers are most definitely not what most people are used to! I also made some Stuffed Mediterranean Peppers last year and they weren't exactly what you would call traditional either, but that is not necessarily a bad thing!

Traditionally (From what I understand...Again I've never eaten a stuffed pepper) stuffed peppers involve some form of tomato sauce, maybe some onion, possibly some rice, perhaps some ground beef and seasonings. Sounds good, but I wanted to take it a step further. I decided to cut out the tomato and meat, add in risotto instead of regular rice, all while tossing in some cheese and giving them a spicy kick. What resulted was fabulous and if you like things a little spicy then these are the stuffed peppers for you!

Stuffed Peppers

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 mushrooms, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
2-3 cups of baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup of arborio rice
Freshly ground black pepper
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper (Note: If you're not a fan of spicy use less or omit this. If you like spice add more!)
1 quart of broth, plus more if needed (Note: Chicken or vegetable will work.)
1/4 a pound of queso blanco
2 ounces of goat cheese

In a large skillet sauté onion and mushroom with a pinch of sea salt until tender. Add chopped spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted. Add arborio rice and cook for a minute or two, then add black pepper and cayenne pepper and give a stir to mix. Add broth and cook, stirring occasionally until arborio rice is tender.

You may need to add more liquid. I usually use broth at first and then if I need to add more I add water instead. If the liquid has absorbed, but the arborio rice is still stiff add more water 1 cup at a time. Sometimes you may not need to add liquid at all, other times you may need to add liquid 3 or 4 additional times. I'm not sure why this is, but I suspect it is much like flour and has to do with humidity.

Stuffed Peppers: Ready to Stuff

While the arborio rice is cooking, cut the tops off of bell peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. (Note: This mixture will fill 6-10 peppers depending on what size they are. I used four, three green and one chocolate, and had some filling left over.) Set aside.

Stuffed Peppers: The Filling

Once the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed remove from heat and stir in cheese until mostly melted. Let sit for about 5 minutes to rest.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Stuffed Peppers: Read to Bake

Stuff each pepper with filling until it is completely filled and place the top of the pepper back on. Place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or brushed with olive oil. Baked for 10-15 minutes until peppers are soft. Serve immediately.

Notes: This filling mixture is fabulous all on its own if you don't want to stuff peppers. This filling would also be good to stuff mushrooms.

Posted by Dianne at 7:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 11, 2008

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: Up Close Crust

Wow...The weekend seems to go by so fast! On Saturday we decided to go the new local library and see what it had to offer. They had booths set up with fun things to do and clog dancers, which Alexis really enjoyed, and of course the new library and all the books! What's not to like about that?

Saturday night Jamison made dinner and then I gave Jamison a haircut, after which he put Alexis to bed. I then spent several hours watching Dr. Who on BBC America...Sure they are old episodes, but David Tennet was on the screen so what else could you ask for? Perhaps a Dr. Who/Torchwood marathon would have been even better...Yes I'm a geek! ;oP

Speaking of being a geek I saw a quote on Facebook Flair that I just loved: "Come to the dork side...We have π!" Get it...π...Pi...Pie...Oh never mind! ;oP

Where was I? Oh yes...

Anyway, yesterday I spent the day doing lesson plans and Jamison and Alexis spent the day annoying one another, which they are rather good at! ;oP No seriously though Jamison kept Alexis occupied...They played in the basement, they played outside and had fun as they always do. It's amazing how much you can get done when a curious five year old isn't under your feet! Don't get me wrong I find her curiosity all consuming and exciting, but lesson planning is much more fun for both of us if I can surprise her once the lessons actually roll around! All of that said, we had a wonderful weekend though the weekend always seem to blaze in and out before I catch my breath. Two days just doesn't seem like enough does it?

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: Dig In

Now let's talk some tomatoes shall we?

Believe it or not I was not always a fan of tomatoes. In fact as child I hated them...I didn't like them on salads, I didn't like them on sandwiches and I didn't even like them plain! But years ago, the first time I did Weight Watchers, back before WW had Points or even the Core Plan, I rediscovered tomatoes through cooking with them and then progressed into enjoying them all by their little selves. It wasn't immediate, but over the course of a few months my whole outlook on tomatoes changed. Now I can't get enough of them!

My initial plan was to make a traditional tomato/goat cheese tart with a pie crust, BUT my crust failed miserably. Oh well that happens sometimes, but what next? I briefly thought about making a buttermilk biscuit crust, BUT I was out of buttermilk. Oh well that happens too. So I decided to settle on a pizza crust instead and the result was fabulous!

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart

If you like tomatoes and goat cheese then pull out your tart pans...This one is for you!

P.S. This was my tomato inspiration of this week's garden party over at Dinner Tonight...I'm a few days early, but it's going to be such a busy week I knew if I didn't get it done early it wouldn't happen. :o)

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: A Slice

What You'll Need for the Pizza Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (Note: I meant to use white whole wheat flour, but got side tracked. You can substitute that if you like.)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of warm water
1 tablespoon of honey
4 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

What You'll Need for the Tart Filling:
2 pints of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
A generous pinch of sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped (Note: I love rosemary. In my opinion there is no such thing as too much rosemary. Seriously if I could figure out a way to chocolate coat it I would! However if you aren't a fan of rosemary or like it in small doses use one sprig.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces of goat cheese
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Slice tomatoes in half and place in a glass bowl. Sprinkle generously with sea salt an toss to coat. Let tomatoes sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours to draw out moisture. After that time dump the tomatoes into a mesh or stainless steel strainer and let drain for 20-30 minutes.

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: Tomatoes

In a glass bowl stir together flour and salt until mixed. Set aside.

In a glass measuring cup add honey and yeast to warm water and let sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy.

Next add olive oil to the flour mixture and then slowly add water/yeast mixture stirring until ball of dough forms. (Note: Depending on humidity and such you may need a little more or a little less water. Eyeball it as you go. Once the ball forms you'll know to stop. It's hard to mess this recipe up. It's very forgiving. If you go too far with the water add more flour a little at a time until ball forms.)

Press dough into a tart pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Let dough rise while oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake crust for 5-6 minutes until done, but not browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the oven is preheating and the crust baking, prepare topping. In a large skillet sauté onion and tomato, with rosemary, garlic and black pepper until tomatoes are soft and most of the liquid has cooked off. (Note: If the liquid doesn't appear to be cooking off don't sweat it...Simply strain the cooked tomatoes before putting them on the crust.)

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: Tomatoes Cooking

Once tomatoes are cooked spread them out on the partially baked crust. Sprinkle the top of the tart with goat cheese and Pecorino Romano cheese. Return to oven and bake for 5-6 additional minutes until cheese is melted and crust golden. Remove from oven and let sit 5-6 minutes before serving.

Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza Tart: The Inside

Notes: You could use other herbs if you liked. Dried thyme would be fabulous in this! You could also add in other vegetables if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 7:25 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 8, 2008

Southern Baked Beans

Southern Baked Beans

Growing up when we had a barbeque or cook out nine times out of ten baked beans would be present. I don't know if that is just a Southern thing or what, but invariably there would be baked beans and potato salad. As I've gotten older my version of what baked beans should be has changed a bit, but sometimes it's fun to take a trip down memory lane and make them like the beans of my childhood. I still like my version a bit better, but these beans are ridiculously easy to make and sometimes ridiculously easy is exactly what you need when you want something in a hurry.

Oh and on a side note I'm taking the weekend off so What's For Dinner (after this afternoon's addition) will be back on Monday! Have a great weekend everyone! :o)

What You'll Need:
2 large cans of pork and beans
1 cup of a good, sweet barbeque sauce
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of mustard
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large baking dish mix together all ingredients until well incorporated. Bake for 1 hour.

As far as serving you can serve them right out of the oven, or you can chill them first and then serve them cold. They are good either way.

See...Ridiculously simple!

Notes: You can also add in a chopped bell pepper if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 7, 2008

Not Your Mama's Green Beans

Not Your Mama's Green Beans

Green beans...Perhaps not the most exciting ingredient, but it doesn't have to be that way. When I found out that the ingredient for this week's garden party at Dinner Tonight was green beans I was momentarily stumped and I knew my normal, boring way of making them was not going to cut it here, but then my mind kicked into high gear and I came up with several ideas.

But first let's discuss how I DON'T Like green beans...And this is a very important thing to understand from my point of view.

As a child growing up in the South the way you would most likely see green beans is cooked until they are almost mush, which I have to give my mom credit, she somehow managed to never let them go that far, or in some sort of green bean casserole or salad, neither of which I am a fan. Another way that I don't care for green beans is steamed...If you bite into it and it's still crunchy (not to mention waxy!) then I'm not interested. These are simply not the way I like green beans.

Now let's talk about how a green bean should be...

A green bean should be tender, but not mushy and the standard way of cooking them is pretty boring...A little water, some salt and pepper and cook until tender, but as I mentioned above, and most importantly, not mushy! Yawn! I'm bored just typing that sentence! At first I thought about making some risotto with green beans, but then I decided that wasn't the way I wanted to go. I usually add green beans to soups too, but that wasn't the direction I wanted to go either.

So I started wondering is there was a way to cook the green beans in a skillet, with a few key ingredients to give them a fabulous flavor, that would give you a tender bean, without it being too crisp or letting it get too mushy, and this stir "fry" what I came up with and I'll readily admit this is not the healthiest option (though I did lighten it up a bit by using center cut bacon instead of the version with more fat), but as a sometimes food we're talking pure heaven! And sometimes you need a little heaven...Even if it does just come on a plate! ;oP

Not Your Mama's Green Beans

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped fine
2 pieces of center cut bacon, chopped or cut into pieces (Note: Regular bacon will work too, but you might need to drain off some of the fat. Center cut bacon tends to be a lot less fatty than its counterparts.)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2-4 cups of whole green beans (Note: This is a nice bunch in your hand, but if you want to measure it exactly grab a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup and stand the green beans up in the cup and repeat this twice. If it's full you've got roughly the right amount, but there is really no way to go wrong here.)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot add olive oil and cook shallots and bacon until bacon is crisp and shallots are slightly caramelized. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding green beans. Cook the green beans 5-8 minutes until tender, but not falling apart. Serve immediately.

Not Your Mama's Green Beans

Notes: Some grated Parmesan cheese would be great on top of these beans! If you don't have shallots red onion will work fine. Another substitution you could make would pancetta for the bacon.

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

July 17, 2008

Wild Rice Squash Bake

Wild Rice Squash Bake

So you've got all of these zucchini and yellow squash from your garden and/or your CSA...Now what do you do with them? You can make pizza, you can sauté them, you can make some tempura, or some veggie kabobs, or a Hobo Dinner, or a Summer Pie, or some Zucchini Bread or you can even make a casserole using them as the main ingredient!

This casserole could easily serve as the main course for a lovely summer meal. Pair it with a fresh side salad and you've got a lovely, vegetarian meal. Sometimes during the summer that is just what you need!

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups of wild rice
3 cups of water
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large zuchinni, cut in half and then chopped
1 large yellow squash, cut in half and then chopped
2 leeks, chopped
4 button mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of fat free Greek yogurt (Note: I like Oikos.)
6 ounces of feta
1/3 cup of Parmesan, shredded
1/3 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Parmesan, shredded

In a medium sized pot cook wild rice with 3 cups of water until tender (about 50 minutes) or follow the package directions according to the rice you use. (Note: There is no need to add salt. You'll do that later.) Set aside.

Wild Rice Squash Bake: Veggies

Once the rice is cooked, in a large skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil add zuchiini, squash and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.

Wild Rice Squash Bake: Veggies and Herbs

Next add leeks, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until leeks are just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Wild Rice Squash Bake: The Cheese "Sauce"

Next to make the "sauce" in a large bowl mix together Greek yogurt, feta, Parmesan, parsley, milk and garlic. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wild Rice Squash Bake

In a very large bowl stir together rice and vegetable until mixed. Add "sauce" and stir to coat. Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out to cover the dish. Cover with panko bread crumbs (I like the whole wheat version) and Parmesan. Bake for 15-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes and then serve.

Notes: You could use only zucchini or only yellow squash if that is all you have on hand. You could also add in eggplant. If you don't have Greek yogurt on hand then you can use sour cream, but I'd recommend the light variety and not fat free like the yogurt.

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

May 29, 2008

Not Your Mama's Mashed Potatoes

Not Your Mama's Mashed Potatoes

As I've mentioned before Jamison is a super picky eater. Meat and potatoes, the occasional fruit and a few vegetables and that's about the extent of what he eats. As a result mashed potatoes are often seen on his menu and thus there are often mashed potatoes left over. So what do you do with those left overs? You can make bread, or jazz up the mashed potatoes with goat cheese, or you can really soup them up like the variation below! Who says you can't have a little pizazz on the side?

Oh and for the record Jamison wouldn't touch these with a ten foot pole! ;o)

What You'll Need:
2 cups of mashed potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6-8 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1/3 cup of black olive slices
1 ounce of goat cheese
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
1-2 tablespoons of oil from the sun dried tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a medium sized pan sauté onions in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender. Add sun dried tomatoes, olives and cheese and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Add mashed potatoes to the veggie/cheese mixture and add a little of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes. Stir until mixed.

Place the potato mixture in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and baked for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Not Your Mama's Mashed Potatoes

Notes: You can add in other vegetables if you like. Mushrooms would be good, as would chopped bell pepper. You could also switch around the cheeses if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 7:11 AM | Comments (9) | 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 16, 2008

Spinach, Swiss and Vidalia Quesadillas

Spinach, Swiss and Viadalia Quesadillas

Yesterday for lunch I wanted something Mexican and the more I thought about it the more quesadillas kept popping into my head. I had some Swiss cheese, I had picked up some Vidalia onions the day before and I needed to thin out my spinach window box (you can't get more local than your own front porch!) so I decided to put them together, along with some whole wheat tortillas and make a quick lunch.

What You'll Need per Person:
2 whole wheat tortillas
1/4 of a Vidalia onion, cut into strips (Note: Any kind of onion will work.)
1-2 cups of baby spinach leaves, julienned
Extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ounce of Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and sauté onion and spinach leaves in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper and some cayenne pepper until tender. Remove the sautéd veggies and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and heat over high heat until hot. Spray with non stick spray and place a tortilla into the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the side down is golden browned and then remove from the skillet and place the browned side down on a cutting board. Give the skillet another spritz of non stick spray and repeat the procedure with the other tortilla.

While the second tortillas is cooking place the sautéd veggies on top of the tortilla that is resting on the cutting board. Top veggies with cheese. When the second tortilla is browned add it browned side up on top of the other tortillas. Carefully place the tortillas on a baking pan so as not to loose any of the filling and bake for 3-4 minutes to let the cheese melt and blend with the other ingredients.

Remove from the oven. Let sit for 2 minutes and then cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream and/or salsa.

Spinach, Swiss and Viadalia Quesadillas

Notes: You can add other things to the filling. Mushrooms work well, so do bell peppers. If you want you can add beef, chicken and/or shrimp. The filling is completely up to you.

Posted by Dianne at 12:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 15, 2008

Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach

A friend of mine's mom used to make a mean creamed spinach. I always loved coming over to her house when I was in Knoxville, because inevitably she would make that dish because she knew I loved it as much as her family did. It was a nice little oasis away from the drudgery of everyday life.

As much as I love this dish I never asked her how to make it, because at the time I doubted my abilities in the kitchen...Years of being oppressed can do that to a person, but many years later I put two and two together and figured out exactly what was in the dish and was able to recreate it to the point that it brings back such fond memories.

Every time I make this dish I think of her, even though I haven't seen her in years. In a way I guess it's my little tribute to her and that makes me happy.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
6-8 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 1 pound bag of frozen spinach (Note: You can use fresh spinach, but I don't have quite enough of it yet to do that, but it's growing everyday!)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup of half and half or heavy cream
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large sized skillet over medium to low heat sauté garlic for a minute or two until soft. Don't let it go too far and turn brown. Add the spinach, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated and the spinach is soft. Stir in half and half or heavy cream and cheese and cook stirring constantly until cheese is melted and any liquid is gone (about 2 minutes). Serve immediately.

Notes: Sometimes my friend's mom would switch things up a bit and add in sautéd mushrooms or onions in with the garlic. It's a very forgiving recipe and very easy to tweak.

Posted by Dianne at 8:49 AM | Comments (1) | 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 28, 2008

Creamy Potato and Celery Soup

Creamy Potato and Celery Soup: A Spoonful

My spring allergies seem to get worse with every spring that comes around. The sun and warmth call me to be outside, most likely playing in the dirt, but once I get out there I pay for it by sneezing and coughing and man does it hurt to sneeze! Not fun at all! When my allergies just get to the point where I want to curl up in a ball and wait for next winter to come and freeze out the allergens it's time to make some soup and it's quick and easy to boot!

Now the standard go to soup when you're not feeling well is a basic chicken soup, but sometimes when you want soup, you just want something creamy. This soup is smooth and hearty, all while not being too heavy. It's just the ticket for when you just want something a little velvety. It's the perfect match to chase away those allergy blues!

What You'll Need:
2 teaspoons of butter
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
A pinch of sea salt (Note: If your broth is already salty then skip the sea salt.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large sized potato, cut into small cubes
1 quart of chicken broth
2 cups of mashed potatoes
1 cup of milk (Note: Any milk will work...I used skim.)
1/4 cup of corn starch (Note: If the potatoes thicken the soup sufficiently for you then you can skip the corn starch.)

In a medium sized pot sauté onion and celery with a little sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until tender. Add the chopped potato and cook for 2-3 minutes until potatoes are slightly browned.

Creamy Potato and Celery Soup: Potatoes, Celery and Onion

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender.

Creamy Potato and Celery Soup: After the Broth is Added

Stir in mashed potatoes and milk until smooth. If the potatoes don't thicken the soup enough for your liking then stir in 1/4 cup a corn starch and cook until mixture thickens.

How easy is that?

Creamy Potato and Celery Soup: In the Bowl

Notes: You can add in other vegetables if you like. Leeks would be good, but I didn't have any on hand. You could add corn or carrots or even more potato. It's completely up to you and your tastes.

Posted by Dianne at 8:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 2, 2008

Mushroom and Tortelloni Salad

Mushroom and Tortelloni Salad

I love a good pasta salad. The mix of pasta, vegetables, olive oil, vinegar and cheese just melds so perfectly together and makes a wonderful all in one meal!

Pasta salads are a good pot luck dish or even make a good addition to a picnic. You can mix and match ingredients and you always end up with a hearty, satisfying dish that can be changed the tiniest bit or drastically depending on what you're in the mood for, all while giving you a familiar, yet different experience. It's an extremely versatile alternative to your common salad. What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce package of Barilla Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni or equivalent product, cooked according to package directions and cooled (Note: If you want to cool it quickly you can simply rinse it in cool water.)
1 package of button mushrooms, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 scallions, chopped
1 small can of black olives, drained
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded

Cook tortelloni according to package directions, drain and let cool.

Slice mushrooms and sauté in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until mushrooms are tender. Let mushrooms cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl toss together vegetables and olives to mix. Add tortelloni and toss to incorporate. Set aside.

In a glass canning jar with a lid shake together vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and oregano until completely incorporated. (Note: You can also do this in a glass bowl with a whisk, but the jar method is much easier.) Pour over the vegetable/tortelloni mixture and toss to coat.

At this point you can do one of two things. You can refrigerate the salad for an hour or two, sprinkle with Parmesan and then serve. Or you can just sprinkle with Parmesan and serve at room temperature. Most pasta salads don't store well due to the vinegar content breaking down the vegetables and are best eaten when made or within a couple of hours there after.

Notes: You can add in other veggies if you like. Cucumbers are a wonderful addition to pasta salads, as are peas and corn.

Posted by Dianne at 7:38 AM | Comments (6) | 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

March 5, 2008

Corn Fritters

Corn Fritters

I have to admit I had never tried corn fritters before Saturday on our "fry" day, but I was sold after one bite! This recipe is adapted from one from Paula Deen and I have to give Miss Paula props because she is most definitely the Queen of all things fried!

We ended up making some Ranch Dressing to dip them in and the combination was just wonderful together! If you've never had a corn fritter before they are similar to hush puppies, but they have corn kernels incorporated in the batter. The combination just goes so well together. I'll definitely be making these again in the future!

What You'll Need:
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 package of frozen corn

Preheat oil to 325 F.

In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl beat together milk and eggs. Next add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir to incorporate. Stir butter and corn into the batter and mix well.

Drop batter by the spoonful into the preheated oil. Cook the fritters until golden, turning once or twice to make sure it browns on all sides. Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve alone or with Ranch Dressing.

Corn Fritters

Notes: Leann and I talked about it and we think it might be nice to add some chopped onion into the mix as well. I think buttermilk would be a good addition in place of regular milk as well.

Posted by Dianne at 6:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 4, 2008

Fried Dill Pickles

Fried Dill Pickles

When I first heard of fried dill pickles a few years ago my first reaction was "Why???" I mean I love dill pickles in and of themselves, but fried? Then I actually tried one I was extremely surprised that they were pretty good. My sister loves them. When we told her we were doing a "fry" day she immediately asked both of us "You're making fried dill pickles right?" So we made some fried dill pickles, because what the pregnant lady wants, the pregnant lady gets! (Pregnant and dill pickles...Oh the stereotypes! ;o))

The batter for this version came completely out of my head. When I was thinking about making them I thought it would be nice to add dill into the batter to amp up the dill flavor. Leann and I both were very pleased with the result! We nibbled on quite a few as they came out of the fryer. Katherine liked them dipped in Ranch Dressing, but Leann and I both thought they were best on their own without any sauce. The things people do with dill pickles! ;o)

What You'll Need:
Sliced dill pickles (or what they call "hamburger chips"...I actually just sliced whole dill pickles myself.)
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of dried dill
A pinch of black pepper
1 egg
1 cup of buttermilk

Preheat oil to around 350 F.

If you are using "hamburger chip" dill pickles drain them and set aside. If you're slicing them yourself slice and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and stir to mix. Add egg and buttermilk and stir until a thick batter forms. If you need to add a bit more milk don't worry about it, it all depends on ambient humidity and such. If you need to add a bit more flour add it a tablespoon at a time until it's thick enough. You want the batter to be slightly thicker than pancake batter. When you insert a pickle into it it should stand up without really falling over.

Dip pickles into the batter and then place them in the fryer in a single layer. Turn them as they cook to ensure that they brown evenly on each side. You want them to be golden brown. Remove from the oil when they are slightly browned (they'll continue to brown a bit after you remove them from the oil) and drain on a paper towel. Serve alone or with Ranch dressing.

Notes: No notes for this one...It is a stand alone kind of thing!

Also today (and I'll have it up soon) this week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe! You'll get two recipes for the price of one today! ;o)

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

March 3, 2008

Let's Talk Some Fair Food or Otherwise Known as Leann and Dianne Have a "Fry" Day! Plus the Recipe for Vegtable Tempura and Soy Yogurt Dipping Sauce!

"Fry" Day Spread

I've had a fryer for several years now. My mom got me one of those new fangled covered Fry Daddys with the built in air filter and though I don't use it that often (in fact the last time I used it was two years ago after Alexis' birthday party when we had a fish fry) it's fun to pull it out and play with it from time to time. My friend Leann got a Rival fryer and we decided right then and there we needed to get together one Saturday and just fry the heck out of everything! That Saturday was this past weekend and we had a ball!

In my fryer we made chicken fingers, fried dill pickles, tempura, french fries and pineapple eggrolls. I decided to try frying in light olive oil, as I had always wanted to try this, and I was very pleased in the results. In Leann's fryer we made corn fritters, honey mustard chicken fingers and corn dogs. Then we even heated up some light olive oil on the stove top and made some funnel cakes too! We had fair food galore and we nibbled as we cooked, and whipped up some dips as we went, including a soy yogurt sauce for the tempura, some ranch dressing for the corn fritters and some honey mustard dipping sauce for the chicken fingers and the french fries. It's fun to create as you go!

Needless to say this isn't something you want to eat everyday, but it's fun to do this sort of thing every once in a while, especially when you've been really good all week! We had some natural brewed root beer, some homemade lemonade and some natural cream sodas, we chatted, laughed and munched along the way! It was a great day all in all and over the next few days I'll be sharing the recipes with you! (On Tuesday you'll get the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe AND a "fry" day recipe!) So sit back, relax and get ready to enjoy some good old fashioned fried up food! ;o)

Up today...Tempura and Soy Yogurt Sauce! (Oh and forgive the lack of quality of the picture below. We got busy eating and I didn't get a picture of the Tempura so I zoomed in the picture of the spread above.)

Tempura

What You'll Need for the Tempura:
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
1 egg
1 - 1 1/2 cups of ice water
Veggies of your choice (We did mushrooms, sweet onions, zucchini and squash. I had planned to do sweet potato and asparagus, but the process of frying everything we wanted to try took longer than we thought it would initially so we nixed those two as we went along.)

Preheat oil while you are preparing the batter and your veggies. I fried these around 350 F.

Wash mushrooms and dry them. Slice onions into rounds like you would for onion rings. Slice zucchini and squash into rounds. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl mix all ingredients together until batter forms. Dip veggies into the batter and place in the hot oil. Turn several times while frying. Remove when they are slightly golden.

Notes: The dipping sauce for tempura usually is rather salty so salt is not added to the batter. If you need to add more water do. It's all about humidity and such when you're dealing with flour. You want a slightly thick batter like you would make for pancakes that isn't overly runny. You can also use this method to make shrimp tempura.

What You'll Need for the Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup of less sodium soy sauce
1/4-1/3 cup of Greek yogurt (Note: I used the fat free version.)
2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil

Whisk together ingredients and serve immediately with tempura.

Notes: The sesame oil gives the sauce a nice, nutty flavor, but if you don't care for sesame oil you could use olive oil instead.

Posted by Dianne at 6:14 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 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 13, 2008

Creamy Corn Polenta

Creamy Corn Polenta

Grits...Polenta...Supposedly the same thing, but oh so not! I grew up in the South and I can tell you unequivocally that I do not care for grits...They are so, well gritty, all while being very gummy too! That should be an oxymoron, but sadly it's not. But Polenta is smoother overall and a much finer grain, or maybe it was just the grits I was exposed to as a child. Also the taste is different overall. I remember grits as being very strong and slightly harsh, yet the polenta was very smooth and the added corn brought out the overall flavor of the polenta itself.

I know, I know, Creamy Corn Polenta is redundant, but it's oh so appropriate for this dish! This is the prefect side dish (I had it along with pot roast and roasted carrots and parsnips) and this version is light and healthier than some. If you like polenta and/or corn then this is the dish for you! And as an added benefit it's quick and easy. What's better than that?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 cup of cooked polenta (Note: I used instant Polenta and it cooks in roughly three minutes. It's just a process of adding the polenta, which is fine ground corn meal, to boiling salted water or broth.)
1 cup of frozen corn kernels that have been cooked
2 tablespoons of light or fat-free sour cream (Note: I use light sour cream. I think fat-free sour cream is too sweet and has a weird consistency, but if you want to use it you can.)
Sea salt to taste

It's important to remember that polenta thickens quickly, so you'll want to work equally as fast. Remove the polenta from the stove and immediately stir in the corn kernels and the sour cream. Stir until creamy and serve immediately.

How's that for quick and easy?

Notes: If you have any polenta left over you can spread it out into a baking dish and use it later for grilled or pan "fried" polenta. You can add in garlic, onions. rosemary, mushrooms or anything else that strikes your fancy. A lot of people add in cheese, butter and/or heavy cream, but remember if you do this then you're adding additional fat and calories. This dish is very flexible and it's all about what you like.

Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids in the Kitchen!

P.S. Don't forget Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids In The Kitchen for your chance to win one Pampered Chef "My Safe Cutter" along with one Pampered Chef "Kid's Apron and Chef's Hat Set"! Just leave a comment on this thread with a valid e-mail address (and don't worry, no one will see your e-mail address but me!) before 5:00 PM EST, Thursday, February 14, 2008. I'll print out the participants and my little sous chef will pull a name out of the hat. I'll e-mail that person for their address and announce the winner on Friday, February 15, 2008! Anyone anywhere on our little planet earth is eligible to enter so what are you waiting for?

Good luck! Oh and tell your friends! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:22 AM | Comments (2) | 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 11, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Spread

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Spread

Since the my first batch of ricotta was a wash yesterday I thought I'd come up with a recipe that utilized the goat cheese that I made that came out so beautifully! I'll get back to the ricotta next week sometime, but for now something with goat cheese is always good! ;o)

This spread (or dip...you could use it either way) is a good replacement for Tapenade if you're not a fan of anchovies. It's creamy and has just the right combination of flavors. You can use it as an addition to a sandwich, or as a spread on toast bits or even just dip into with some cut up vegetables. Versatility is always good!

What You'll Need:
1 bulb of garlic
1 - 12 ounce package of button mushrooms
1/2 cup of black olives (Note: You want the type of olives that are stored in brine. You can normally find these in the salad area of your grocery store. And do yourself a favor and get the ones that are already pitted, unlike me who wasn't paying attention to them when she purchased them and had to cut out all those little pits!! ;o))
1/3 cup of goat cheese
3 tablespoons of mushroom broth
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wrap an entire bulb of garlic in aluminum foil and roast garlic until tender. (Note: Approximately 25-30 minutes usually does the trick. Just stick it with a fork if you're unsure and if it's not soft keep baking!) Let garlic cool until it's cool enough to touch and handle.

While garlic is cooking and/or cooling place mushrooms in a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until mushrooms are tender. (Note: This process makes a basic mushroom broth. You'll need a few tablespoons of this broth for this recipe. Reserve the rest of the liquid, add a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper and you can use it as you would any broth. You can even use it as a substitute for beef broth in a French Onion type soup. The broth can be stored in the fridge for two weeks or frozen for months before use.) Once mushrooms are tender drain and reserve broth.

Once the garlic is cool enough to handle cut the top of the bulb off and squeeze the roasted garlic into your food processor. Add mushrooms, olives, goat cheese. mushroom broth and black pepper to the garlic and process until smooth (or you can do chunky either one...It's completely up to you and what you like). Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: You can serve this warm or cold. It's delicious either way. Thyme and/or rosemary would be a good addition. You could also add in some caramelized onions. You do not need to add salt to this recipe as the olives are salty enough to season the entire spread. If you can find them, olives in sea salt are always better than the those brined in table salt.

Posted by Dianne at 10:47 AM | Comments (2) | 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.

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December 7, 2007

Bean and Pea Soup Gift Jar

Bean  and Pea Soup

Bean Soup is a basic, healthy, yet oddly satisfying soup that is just perfect on a cold winter day! Who says comfort food has to be bad for you? This soup is all about whole, real goodness and it makes a perfect gift! How wonderful is that? The soup is what you make of it, but it's always a big hit!

(Note: I forgot to soak the beans last night so I don't have a finished product picture right now. I'll make the soup Sunday afternoon and add some pictures to the entry then.)

What You'll Need for the Bean Soup Jar:
1 quart jar
6 types of beans, lentils and/or peas (Note: I used navy white beans, black kabuli chick peas, petite crimson lentils, scarlet runner beans, yellow split peas and black beluga lentils.)

You want to layer the beans,lentils and/or peas you choose so that no two of the same color are next to each other. The jar above has 1/2 cup of navy white beans, 1/2 cup of black chick peas, 1 cup of petite crimson lentils, 1/2 cup scarlet runner beans, 1/2 cup of yellow split peas and the rest of the jar is filled with black beluga lentils. Dress up the jar however you like, but be sure to include the directions for the soup (see below).

What You'll Need to Make the Soup:
1 Bean and Pea Soup Gift Jar (see above)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Broth or water

Dump contents of the Bean and Pea Soup gift jar into a large bowl and cover with water. Let sit overnight. (Note: If you choose only lentils and split pea varieties you can skip this step as they don't need to soak overnight. They can soak, it won't hurt them, but it isn't necessary.)

In a large stockpot sauté celery and onion with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until just tender.

Drain beans and peas and rinse. Add to the stockpot with the tender celery and onions. Cover beans and peas until just covered with water or broth. (Note: Most of the time I use water. The beans and peas have enough flavor to more than make the soup, but if you want you can use chicken or vegetable broth instead.) Cook for 2-3 hours until beans are tender. Serve warm.

Notes: You could also add in other veggies to the soup such as leeks of carrots. I even add in mushrooms from time to time. It's completely a matter of personal taste.

Update: 12/09/07: 2:29 PM: Now with a picture of the finished product!

Bean and Pea Soup

This soup is warm, hearty and oh so creamy. Who knew healthy could taste so good? I also ended up utilizing my Crock Pot for this soup. All you have to do is dump in the ingredients and cook for 4-5 hours on high and you're good to go!

Posted by Dianne at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | 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.

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December 3, 2007

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Tis the season to give gifts, but in reality most of us have plenty of stuff, so why not give a gift that can be enjoyed and then be gone! ;o) This soup mix is a basic vegetable soup that is warm and hearty. It also comes together quickly and cooks up fast as well! What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need for the Jar:
1 quart jar
1 cup of Just Veggies or freeze dried vegetable mix
1 cup of Just Peas or freeze dried peas
1 cup of Just Corn or freeze dried
4-6 tablespoons of Vogue Cuisine Instant Vege Base Soup and Seasoning or vegetable bullion powder

Layer ingredients as listed above into a quart canning jar. Put the lid on the jar and you can dress up the jar any way you want. A nice piece of material on the lid and a ribbon to dress up the jar make a nice addition. You also want to include the directions to make the soup (see below) so that the person you give it to will know how to make the soup.

Veggie Soup

What You'll Need to Make The Soup:
Extra virgin oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 Veggie Soup Gift Jar (See above)
3 jars of water

In a large stock pot sauté carrot, onion, celery and leek with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until onions are tender. Add contents of the Veggie Soup Gift jar and 3 jars full of water. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes and then serve.

Veggie Soup

Notes: You can add any type of veggies that you like. You could also use veggie broth instead of water. The vegetable bullion powder I use does not have a lot of sodium in it. If you use one that does omit the salt.

Posted by Dianne at 4:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Corn Casserole

Corn Casserole

This is another adaptation of an old family favorite. I don't remember when it was added to the holiday menu, but after it was it was such a hit that it came back on Thanksgiving and Christmas every year after that! This dish has a consistency similar to corn pudding. It's warm, creamy, delicious and oh so comforting! After all holiday meals should be just that! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 – 10 ounce package of frozen corn
1 cup of fat free half and half
2 cups of cornmeal
½ cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
¼ cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of light mayonnaise (Note: I like Hellmann’s Light)
1 cup of light sour cream
2 eggs
1 – 16 ounce package of frozen corn
8 ounces of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the 10 ounce package of frozen corn and half and half to a quick boil. Remove from heat and process in the food processor until slightly smooth. (Basically you’re making creamed corn. By bringing it to a boil you’re just knocking the chill out of the corn to make it easier to process.) Set aside.

While corn is heating, in a very large bowl mix cornmeal through sea salt until mixed thoroughly. Add mayonnaise, sour cream and eggs and stir well. Stir in creamed corn mixture and the 16 ounce bag of frozen corn. Stir ingredients until mixture is completely mixed. Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch dish OR a three quart baking dish that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 45-55 minutes until done through. Top with shredded cheddar and bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Let sit for 10 minutes and serve OR the casserole can be frozen for up to six weeks and thawed and reheat for 20-25 minutes at 350 F until warmed through.

Corn Casserole

Notes: As I mentioned before this is a recipe I adapted from one of my Mom’s holiday favorites. The recipe she uses calls for canned corn, creamed corn and Jiffy cornbread mix. I simply brought together the same components, without using the more processed equivalents. The result is spot on in taste and with a lot less preservatives. It’s a win, win situation all around. ;o)

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November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes...Another quintessential dish synonymous with most Thanksgiving and/or Christmas celebrations and much like any other holiday favorite there are countless ways that people make them. Most families have their own favorites and I go back and forth between two versions myself, but none the less Sweet Potatoes help start the holiday season no matter how you like them.

What You'll Need:
6-8 sweet potatoes, cut in half lengthwise (Note: Here in America yams and sweet potatoes are often synonymous, though they are really two different things. Either will work for this dish, but I recommend real sweet potatoes if you can find them.)
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (Note: I usually use freshly ground nutmeg, but if you're using it out of the bottle go with the measurement given here. If you're grinding it fresh give 4-6 passes over the grater.)
Marshmallows or pecans to top (Optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place sweet potatoes cut side down on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake for 30-35 minutes until potatoes stick done with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Once potatoes have cooled squish or scrape cooked flesh from the skins into a large bowl. Mix with brown sugar, honey and spices until well mixed. Pour mixture into a dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or buttered. Top with marshmallows or pecans if desired. If you wanted to just go "crazy" you could do both! ;o) If you don't want either they are equally as good plain.

Once the potatoes are topped (or not) you can either bake them immediately in a 350 F oven for 20-25 minutes until heated through OR you can place them in the freezer for up to six weeks. If you choose the freezer method thaw before cooking and reheat the same way.

Sweet Potatoes

Notes: Sweet potatoes are sweet in and of themselves so you need little to no sugar. Just add enough to give a brown sugar flavor, but not enough to make them sickly sweet. You could use maple syrup instead of honey if you prefer as well. This year I decided to add marshmallows to the top. Last year I went with pecans. I usually go with pecans in fact, but I was in a marshmallowly mood this year. If you go the marshmallow route read the label of the marshmallows and make sure they aren't made with high fructose corn syrup. You could even make your own marshmallows if you wanted, minus the sprinkles of course! ;o)

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

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October 26, 2007

Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes are perfect on a crisp fall evening, or a cold winter evening, or a brisk spring evening, or even a warm summer evening! Oh who am I kidding, they are good whenever! This makes the perfect side dish or throw in a salad and you've got yourself a meal!

What You'll Need Per Person:
1/2 potato, baked and pulp scooped out and reserved
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup of broccoli, chopped
1 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 ounce of shredded cheese (Note: Any cheese will work. I usually use white cheddar or Monterrey Jack.)
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Bake potato and sit aside to cool. Once cool cut in half and scoop out pulp leaving a 1/4 inch rim similar to a potato skin. Place pulp in bowl and set aside. Place potato skins on a baking pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Sauté onion, broccoli and mushroom in a little extra virgin olive oil until just tender (about 2-3 minutes) and add to the bowl with the potato pulp. Stir in cheese, salt and pepper until incorporated. Fill each skin with half the veggie potato mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until potato starts to brown.

Notes: Any veggies will work. You can make a southwestern potato by adding in some salsa and/or a little chicken. The possibilities are endless.

Posted by Dianne at 8:01 AM | Comments (1) | 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 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 28, 2007

Tortellini Salad

Tortellini Salad

Tortellini Salad is a quick, easy and delicious way to utilize those end of season veggies that are coming in in the garden and farmer's market right now. This is another good pot luck special and with no vinegar you could easily make it the day before to make things even more simple. Simple is always good.

What You'll Need:
1 - 8.9 ounce package of tortellini, cooked according to package directions (Note: This is an approximation as I don't know what other sizes the packages come in. Between 8-10 ounces would work fine. You can also pick whichever flavor you prefer. I chose spinach and ricotta.)
2 cups of tomatoes, chopped
2 cups of cucumbers sliced (Note: I like the little pickling cucumbers for this salad. They make perfect bite sized slices.)
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook tortellini according to package directions, drain and sit aside to cool. (Note: If you want to do a rapid cool down you can drain the tortellini and then rinse it in cool water to cool it down quickly to use immediately.)

In a large bowl toss together cooked tortellini, tomatoes and cucumber. Add parmesan and toss. Stir in olive oil, oregano, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper and stir to coat. Serve immediately or put in the fridge and serve later.

Notes: Other end of the season veggies would be good in this too. Squash or zucchini would be a very nice addition, as would any late season peas. You could also add dried basil in addition to or in place of the oregano.

Posted by Dianne at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | 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 11, 2007

Fresh Tomato and Thyme Risotto

Fresh Tomato and Thyme Risotto

9/11...Who can forget that day? I can still tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing that morning when I found out what was happening and how Jamison's dad and I had been in DC just a few days before. The whole day was surreal, but then again you can probably tell me the exact same things about your day that horrible morning as well.

It's hard to beleive it's been six years. On days like this you just need a little comfort food! Add in some fresh veggies and herbs to this dish and you've got the perfect mix of fresh and comfort. Sometimes you just need to indulge and why not do so with some good stuff thrown in as well.

What You'll Need:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 a red onion, chopped
4 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters (Note: I used two cups of orange cherry and 2 cups of red cherry tomatoes.)
2-4 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of risotto rice
2 cups of broth
Water
2 1/2 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
1/3-1/2 cup of Parmesan, grated

In a large pot or skillet sauté onion, tomatoes and thyme with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper in extra virgin olive oil until tomatoes and onion are soft. Stir in risotto and cook for 2 minutes. Add broth and stir occasionally until broth evaporates. Add water 1 cup at a time and repeat the stirring until it evaporates. Keep adding water 1 cup at a time until the rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Let sit for at least 5 minutes until serving. (Note: The longer it sits the creamier it gets.)

Notes: As always risotto is not a hard dish to make and you can tweak this until your hearts content. You could use different cheeses or add other veggies. You could use rosemary instead of thyme or another herb of your choice. It's an easy dish to mix and match.

Posted by Dianne at 12:28 PM | 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 5, 2007

Not Your Mama's "Fried" Okra

"Fried" Okra

Fried okra is one of those quintessential Southern foods that automatically makes you think good, not to mention heavy and fat laden, but it doesn't have to be that way. Growing up in Tennessee it was amazing the many different ways that I had this dish. Some people dipped the okra in batter and then deep fried it, others fried it up in a pan with bacon fat or lard. My mom's method of cooking was pan fried in melted shortening, but regardless of how it was made and no matter how good it tasted you could bet it was heavy as all get out!

When we moved to Maryland it obviously became harder to find okra as it's more of a southern crop. I finally found a local farm owned by some older folks who grew it and that is where I picked it up, that was until last summer. Last summer, and I'm not sure why, the local farm closed and I think it's because the couple became too old to farm the land. They were the sweetest little couple. The gentleman reminded me of my grandfather, but I digress.

Anyway, I could occasionally find okra at Whole Foods and once in a blue moon it would show up at my local Giant store, but it was definitely harder to find. At the Farmer's Market on Saturday one of the vendors had okra and I was excited to see it as I hadn't seen it all summer! Over the years my sister and I have slimmed down the "fried" okra and substituted the healthy fat of olive oil, for the heavier unhealthy fats and/or trans fats. You still "fry" it, but you use a lot less frying medium and as I mentioned that medium is healthier too.

Oh and it's easy to make to boot! That's always an added plus! If you like okra, then you'll love this!

What You'll Need Per Cup of Okra:
Okra, sliced
1/4-1/3 cup of corn meal
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a large pan over medium heat with a thin layer of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan).

In a bowl mix corn meal, sea salt and black pepper. Add okra and toss to coat.

Okra Ready to Cook

Add prepared okra to the preheated pan and cook stirring occasionally until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes: You can also use this method for zucchini, squash or green tomato slices.

Posted by Dianne at 7:23 AM | Comments (9) | 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 24, 2007

Sweet Corn Chowder

Sweet Corn Chowder

When you think Corn Chowder you think rich and decadent, but it doesn't have to be. You can cut out a lot of fat and calories by reducing the amount of fat you use and slimming down the dairy. It's a simple way to make things lighter, yet just as delicious.

I've seen many recipes for similar chowders that call for a stick or more of butter, topping it off by adding heavy cream, but in this version you use just enough butter to give it flavor, then utilize the healthier fat in olive oil to get the job done. You also let the onions help in that area as well, as they add a heavenly background flavor. The fat free half and half makes it taste decadent too, but it's a very pleasant illusion. Fresh corn rounds out this recipe and helps thicken and sweeten the pot.

Sometimes you just have to rethink the way you do things. Lighter doesn't have to be bad.

What You'll Need:
4 ears of sweet corn, removed from ear
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1 pint of fat free half and half
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the kernels off of one ear of corn. Place in the food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Cut the kernels of corn off of the remaining three ears of corn set aside.

In a medium sized stock pot sauté red onion in butter and olive oil over medium heat until caramelized. Add pureed corn, corn kernels, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and fat free half and half stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil and then lower heat to simmer and cook covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings.

Sweet Corn

Notes: The pureed corn helps to thicken the chowder. You could easily make this soup in the middle of winter with frozen corn kernels by processing 1 cup of corn kernels until pureed and also adding 2 cups of frozen corn kernels or by freezing corn during the summer for later use. It's good either way, but the fresh corn right of the cob really can't be beat! Also the leftovers are even better the next day!

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

July 25, 2007

Orzo Salad

Orzo Salad

This is a fast, easy dish that could easily feed a crowd! It's cool, fresh and delicious! It really hits the spot on a hot summer day!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of tri-color Orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions (Note: If you can't find tri-color then just use regular Orzo instead.)
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen edamame
1 cup of frozen corn
1 carrot, shredded
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped fine (Note: I used a Vidalia onion, but a red onion would work just as well.)
1 - 15.5 ounce can of red beans, drained and washed
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Cook Orzo according to package directions, drain and rinse in cool water to chill. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss peas, edamame, corn, red beans, cucumber, onion and carrots until mixed. Add parmesan and stir until incorporated. Slowly stir in Orzo until well mixed. Set aside.

In a bowl or mason jar mix oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk (or put the lid on the jar and shake) until incorporated. Pour over Orzo mixture and toss to coat. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Notes: You can add tomatoes and/or avocadoes before serving. Do not add them into the salad itself because the vinegar will break down the tomatoes and the avocado will turn brown.

Posted by Dianne at 12:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Summer Pie

Summer Pie

With all the fresh veggies and herbs coming out of the garden and the Farmer's Market, why not utilize them and make a great dinner pie? It's hearty and filling! If you like pasta, veggies and ricotta you can't go wrong with this dish!

What You'll Need:
1 - 1 pound package of fettuccine noodles, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups of fat-free ricotta
2 eggs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of parsley, chopped
1 large zucchini, sliced into rounds
2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into rounds
3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Summer Pie

Cook fettuccine according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Sauté onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender and set aside.

In a large bowl mix ricotta, eggs, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until completely mixed. Stir in parsley, cooked onions and garlic and stir until incorporated. Add noodles and stir to mix/coat.

Spray an 8 inch spring form pan with non-stick spray and pour noodles mixture into the pan and press down. Next add a layer of zucchini to cover the noodles completely. Then add a layer of tomatoes on top of zucchini and cover completely. Sprinkle the top of the pie with Parmesan and bake for 30-40 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes, cut and serve.

Summer Pie

Notes: You could add in more/different veggies if you like. Mushrooms would be good. Yellow squash would make a nice addition as well. It's completely up to you and what you like.

Posted by Dianne at 8:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2007

Dad's Cucumbers

Dad's Cucumbers

Every time I make these I can't help but think of my grandfather and smile. This was one of his summer favorites that he made when we spent summers out at the lake. I'm not a fan of sweet pickles at all, but these are really delicious! It's a cool, sweet, yet tangy treat. If you like cucumber and/or pickles try them and see!

What You'll Need:
Cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 to 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar (Or vinegar of your choice...If you like the twang go with more, if not go with less.)
About 2 cups of water

Fill a Mason jar with sliced cucumbers to the top of the jar. Mix sugar and vinegar and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour sugar/vinegar mixture into the Mason jar. Slowly add water (about 2 cups) until the jar is full. Tightly place the lid on the jar and shake to mix. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Notes: These will keep in the fridge for about a week. They are by no means long terms pickles. In fact I only like them the first or second day they are made. After that to me they become too rubbery, but a friend of mine likes them after about 4 days. It's completely a matter of your taste. You can also add in sweet onions or bell peppers to the mix for a bit of a change.

Posted by Dianne at 7:11 AM | Comments (2) | 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

July 5, 2007

Summer Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

Fresh vegetables make great pasta salads! You can mix and match the veggies, add your favorites and each time you make it it's a bit different, but there is no wrong answer. It's a very easy, very delicious go to summer meal!

What You'll Need:
1 - 12 ounce box of penne pasta, cooked, drained and cooled (Note: You can use any kind of pasta you like, shells, macaroni, etc. I just happened to have penne on hand.)
1 small bell pepper, chopped fine
4 scallions, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil (optional)
1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and wash with cool water to chill, let it come to room temperature or even chill it in the fridge.

In large bowl toss pasta and veggies (minus the tomatoes) to mix.

In a small bowl mix olive oil, vinegar, Parmesan, herbs and sea salt and black pepper. Pour over pasta/veggies mixture and toss to combine.

Right before serving add tomatoes (otherwise the vinegar will break them down). Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Posted by Dianne at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 3, 2007

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Fresh Tomato Sauce

It's that time of year for fresh tomatoes! Fresh tomatoes make my mouth water just thinking about them! There are so many things you can do with them...Tomato sandwiches, salads, stuff them and even make fresh tomato sauce! What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
8-10 cups of tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced

In a pot cook tomatoes, sugar, oregano, basil, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper until tomatoes break down and sauce forms. (Note: I like to leave the skin on and seeds in for extra fiber. If you want to peel and deseed them you can, but it's not necessary.) Once the sauce forms you can chill or freeze the mixture until ready to use or you can proceed to the next step below.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add the tomato mixture and stir to combine. Use sauce as you would normally as a pasta topping or as I did in lasagna. Either way you can't go wrong!

Posted by Dianne at 3:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 1, 2007

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread is one of those things that immediately sounds delicious if you're in to such things. There are many variations of this bread, but my recipe is an adaptation of my mom's Banana Bread. I've even seen recipes that called for chocolate chips! The possibilities are endless, but anyway you slice it (yeah I went there again! ;op) it's delicious!

What You'll Need:
2 large zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup of safflower oil or unsweetened apple sauce
2 eggs
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup of raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together oil (or apple sauce) and sugar. Stir in eggs and zucchini. Add remaining ingredients and place batter into one prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35-30 minutes or until golden brown and sticks done.

Zucchini Bread

Posted by Dianne at 8:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Fresh cucumbers are finally here! They are exceptionally delicious this year as well! This salad is something I started throwing together years ago. I needed something for a ladies lunch at church and I came up with this and a fruit salad with a key lime dressing at the same time. It's cool, creamy and delicious! It's just what you're looking for on a warm summer day!

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup of low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup of chives, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 cups of sliced cucumbers

In a small bowl mix sour cream, dill, chives, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir until incorporated. Pour mixture over sliced cucumbers and toss to coat. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Posted by Dianne at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

Stove Top "Baked" Beans

Stove Top "Baked" Beans

Baked beans...Another one of those Southern cook out foods! Traditionally in most cases baked beans are made with canned pork and beans and baked in the oven, thus giving them their name, but given I didn't have any of those so I decided to give it a whirl with soaked pinto beans instead and since they had cooked on the stovetop, I decided to just finish them up there too instead of having to heat up the stove and thus heat up the house. They turned out perfectly!

Baked beans most definitely made me think of childhood summers at the lake, where we'd grill hamburgers and hotdogs, have potato salad and baked beans, along with hand cranked homemade ice cream. I really miss the lake.

What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups of raw pinto beans, rinsed (Note: Rinse and soak beans over night or do the "fast" soak method by covering beans with hot water and boiling for 2 minutes. Then remove beans from heat and let sit for 1 hour before cooking.)
1/2 a Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of organic ketchup
1/4 cup of yellow mustard

Cook pinto beans according to package direction until tender. (Note: see instructions above in terms of soaking the beans.) Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook covered over low heat for at least 1 hour until mixture thickens slightly. The longer you cook them the more the flavors meld.

Pinto beans can be served warm, or cold. Both ways are delicious! I usually serve them warm the day I make them and then eat any leftovers cold right of the fridge.

Notes: If you have a sweet barbeque sauce made up you can use that in place of the ketchup, brown, sugar and honey. You can also bake them in the oven for an hour at 375 F instead of on the stove top, but on a hot summer day who wants to heat up the stove? A friend of mine adds ground beef to her baked beans and another adds bacon. I like bacon and do that from time to time, but the point is you can add what you like. :o)

Posted by Dianne at 1:24 PM | Comments (0) | 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 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

June 4, 2007

Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna

Four Cheese Lasagna

Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food. Noodles and cheese, melding with tomato sauce and Italian herbs hits the spot when you want something hearty and warm. Most families have their own versions of lasagna and their own ideas about what goes into them, which may change over time, or who you are making for, I know mine does. Regardless of what you like in your lasagna you can always tweak a basic lasagna recipe and add what you like.

A while back a saw an episode of The Barefoot Contessa where Ina made a lasagna with goat cheese. Now my adoration of goat cheese has been mentioned here many times before and will most likely be mentioned again, but I never got around to actually trying it until the other day and I must say I was highly impressed! It's added a creamy, tangy background that melded just perfectly with the Italian seasoning and tomatoes. Though I've never tried it I would hazard a guess that Feta would be good as well. I may just have to try that notion the next time I make lasagna.

Cooking is all about tweaking here and there and adding ingredients that speak to you. Most importantly you should have fun, while making something that you enjoy. Lasagna is the perfect dish for experimentation and this Four Cheese Veggie Lasagna could be tweaked infinite ways. What sounds good to you?

Oh and this lasagna makes superb leftovers! But then again lasagnas usually do! ;o)

Four Cheese Lasagna Baked

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 - 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained
1 - 12 ounce package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
1 - 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
1 - 4 ounce container of goat cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté onion and mushrooms in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender and then stir in garlic and cook until garlic is done. (Roughly 1-2 minutes.) Add a pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil and oregano and stir. Next add drained tomatoes and stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.

While your veggies are sautéing cook 1 package of bionaturæ lasagna noodles according to package directions to al dente, drain and set aside. (Note: Any lasagna noodle will do, but I like the bionaturæ lasagna noodles because they are the perfect size for an 8X8 dish without having to be cut!)

Brush an 8X8 glass dish with extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking and follow the steps below.

Step One:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step One

Place two noodles in the bottom of the dish. (Note: As you add layers you may add three noodles to subsequent layers because most dishes have a slight slope to them and get wider as they approach the top.)

Step Two:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Two

Add a layer of ricotta cheese.

Step Three:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Three

Add a layer of the veggie mixture, spreading it out to cover the ricotta.

Step Four:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Four

Sprinkle some parmesan over the veggie layer.

Step Five:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Step Five

Next add some goat cheese crumbles.

Step Six:

Four Cheese Lasagna Step Six

And lastly add a layer of mozzarella. (Note: I used pearline fresh mozzarella and like the name suggests, it's simple little balls of mozzarella about the size of a pearl. You can use whatever type of mozzarella you have on hand and tear it if it's fresh mozzarella or shred it if it's from a block. I ran out of pearline so for the top layer I tore some fresh mozzarella from the ball.)

Next repeat steps one through six until you get to the top of your dish.

On your top layer you do NOT want to put a layer of ricotta, nor do you want to put goat cheese. The top layer consists of a layer of noodles, topped with a layer of veggie mixture, sprinkled with parmesan and mozzarella.

Four Cheese Lasagna Ready For The Oven

Place lasagna in the oven on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until cheese on top slightly browns. Remove from oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with a tossed salad and/or garlic bread.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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

May 18, 2007

Waiter, There's Something In My...Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes And Peppers

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This month's "Waiter There's Something In My..." challenge is that of stuffed fruit/vegetables. I had many yummy ideas run through my head...Strawberries stuffed with a cheesecake filling (which truth be told I think I'm going to make soon anyway!), cucumbers stuffed with crab dip (again it will probably be a future recipe) and sweet potatoes stuffed with raisins and pecans, just to name a few. I finally decided to go with a Mediterranean inspired stuffed tomato/pepper combo, because after all two for the price of one is always a good thing!

Stuffed tomatoes have always intrigued me. Truth be told I've tried various baked varieties and have never found one that I quite liked...That is until I decided to throw in some goat cheese and spinach! I decided the mixture would also be delicious in a pepper too so I tried both! The result was delicious!

These lovely little morsels would make perfect appetizers or you could even use larger tomatoes and peppers and easily make them into a main course. No matter how you eat these Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes And Peppers, do try them, they are scrumptious!

Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes

What You'll Need:
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 6 ounce bag of baby spinach, washed and drained
1 - 14 ounce can of small artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
8 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
18-24 small tomatoes (about the size of a golf ball), tops and seeds removed
4-6 long sweet peppers, tops, seeds and ribs removed
1/3 cup of bread unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea Salt
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a medium pan sauté onions and garlic with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over medium heat in butter and olive oil until just tender. Add spinach and cook until wilted down. Add artichokes and stir in goat cheese until just melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Scoop out seeds from tomatoes and seeds and ribs from the peppers and place in a 13 X 9 baking dish. (Note: I like to save the insides of the tomatoes and freeze them to use in chili or soup later.) Using a spoon stuff each tomato and pepper with the slightly cooled goat cheese/spinach mixture.

After the veggies are stuffed sprinkle the tops of each with bread crumbs, then Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of sea salt. Drizzle to tops with olive oil and bake for 30-30 minutes until lightly browned and the peppers are tender.

Serve immediately.

Notes: You could used bigger tomatoes and/or bell peppers to easily make this dish a main course, though they would most likely need a bit more baking time. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition, either cooked with the filling or stuffed with the filling. Either way would be delicious! The stuffing also would make an excellent dip.

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

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

May 17, 2007

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff

As a child my Mom used to make Beef Stroganoff from time to time and it was one of our childhood favorites. She used ground beef instead of thin steak, but it was delicious none the less and as I've mentioned many times as I've gotten older red meat normally makes my stomach hurt so I've adapted a lot of my old beef recipes to substitute mushrooms instead. Trust me you'll never know the difference!

You can use whatever type of mushrooms you want with this recipes. Portabellas are particularly good in this dish, though I usually use button mushrooms because even though they are simple they are my favorite. In this case I used the left over mushrooms from the Mushroom Broth, but you can use fresh mushrooms or if you're a meat eater then you can add thin steak or ground beef. It's just a matter of taste and there is no wrong answer.

What You'll Need:
Mushrooms left over from Mushroom Broth or 1 1/2 pounds mushroom caps of your choice, sliced
1 envelope onion soup mix
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup of tomato paste
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup of sour cream
6 cups egg noodles, cooked according to package directions

If using fresh mushrooms in a large skillet over medium heat sauté mushrooms in non-stick cooking spray until almost tender. If using the already cooked mushrooms from the Mushroom broth then proceed to the soup mix. Stir in onion soup mix, flour and tomato paste. Add water and sour cream stir until well mixed. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Serve immediately over cooked egg noodles.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Posted by Dianne at 9:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

Mushroom Broth

Mushroom Broth

I started using mushroom broth about a year ago. A lot of the commercially prepared options have way too much salt in them though! I did a little research and most broths are made from dried mushrooms. I purchased some dried varieties and I put them in the cupboard meaning to make broth. Months passed and I still hadn't done just that!

Every spring I like to clean out the cupboards and freezer, It's part of my spring cleaning routine. When I came across the dried mushrooms I decided it was high time to make some broth! This is the first time I've made homemade mushroom broth, but it turned out to be delicious! Plus it's super simple and that's always a plus.

Mushroom broth can be used in place of any broth. It is especially good at replacing beef broth because many mushrooms have a beefy flavor, especially portabella mushrooms, though there are no portabellas in this rendition. Mushroom broth also makes a very good soup similar to French Onion soup as well.

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 ounces of dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 ounce dried crimini mushrooms
1/2 ounce of dried oyster mushrooms
Water
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Place mushrooms in a medium sized stock pot and add enough water to just cover the mushrooms. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Remove mushroom broth from stove and strain. Keep mushrooms for another recipe. (Mushroom soup is a good choice or Mushroom Stroganoff is what I used them for. The recipe for that will come tomorrow.) Store broth covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Note: The broth is very strong, so you will need to dilute it with a little water when you actually use it for cooking. You can also use whatever type of dried mushrooms you like or can find. It's completely up to you.

Posted by Dianne at 10:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 8, 2007

Guinness Risotto With Goat Cheese And Thyme

Guinness Risotto With Goat Cheese And Thyme

What do you do with left over Guinness from Saint Patrick's Day? Why get creative of course! Throw in a little goat cheese and a few veggies and you've got a risotto that is to die for!

What You'll Need:
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small package of button mushrooms, sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 - 15 ounce package of Arborio rice
1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups of frozen green peas
1 - 11.2 ounce bottle of Guinness
Water (4-6 cups)
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 - 5 ounce package of goat cheese, crumbled

Note: If you've never cooked risotto before, don't be intimidated by this dish! It has an aura about it, but it's really quite easy to make. Basically you just keep adding liquid. The liquid is almost absorbed and you keep adding more 1 or 2 cups at a time until the risotto is tender and ready to serve.

In a large pan sauté onion and mushroom with sea salt, black pepper and thyme until veggies are tender. Add Arborio rice and let cook 1-2 minutes to slightly toast the grains. Stir in mixed veggies, peas and the bottle of Guinness. Cook until liquid mostly evaporates and then add 1-2 cups of water to cover grains. Cook again until liquid evaporates and keep repeating this step until risotto is fully cooked and tender. Once the risotto is fully cooked remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and goat cheese until smooth and melted. Serve immediately.

Posted by Dianne at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 4, 2007

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

I love goat cheese! In fact I more than love it...I adore it in ways that can't be explained in simple language. Goat cheese is extremely versatile and it's creamy, slightly tangy flavor, compliments so many dishes! I'm always trying to come up with a new way to incorporate goat's cheese!

A few nights ago I was making mashed potatoes, which are one of Jamison's favorites and I thought, "I bet goat cheese would be fantastic in this!" So I whipped up Jamison's batch (he's a plain Jane sort of eater) and then took the rest of the potatoes and added goat cheese to the finished product. The result was not only deliciously decadent, but also ultra simple!

What You'll Need:
6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of crumbled goat cheese

Boil potatoes until fork tender and drain.

When potatoes are almost done, in a small pot melt butter and heavy cream until warm.

In a large bowl add cream, butter, sea salt, black pepper and mash until smooth. Stir in goat cheese until melted and serve immediately.

Posted by Dianne at 9:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 30, 2007

Rosemary And Celtic Sea Salt Roasted Baby Red Potatoes

Rosemary And Celtic Sea Salt Roasted Baby Red Potatoes

Potatoes are often a side dish because they are just so versatile! Baby potatoes are especially good. These Rosemary And Celtic Sea Salt Roasted Baby Red Potatoes will fast become a favorite!

What You'll Need:
2 pounds of baby red potatoes, washed
Extra virgin olive oil
Celtic Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2+ tablespoons of fresh rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place potatoes in a baking dish and add enough with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper and rosemary over the potatoes evenly and bake for 35-35 minutes until potatoes stick done. Serve immediately.

Notes: If you don't have, or can't find, Celtic Sea salt than regular sea salt will work or even kosher salt. Celtic Sea salt adds a nice touch and has such a nice flavor though and I highly recommend it if you can find it. Also you can add as much rosemary as you like. I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as too much rosemary! Or chocolate for that matter, but that's a tale for a different time! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 2:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2007

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Homemade pasta sauce is easy and you can't beat the taste! You control what's in it, especially in terms of things such as salt and herbs! Whip up a batch...You won't be sorry!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large can of unsalted tomato sauce

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms with oregano, basil, sea salt and black pepper until veggies are tender. Add tomato sauce and simmer on low for at least 30 minutes (or as long as you like) to let the flavors meld. Serve over cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Notes: You can add in whatever veggies you like. Bell pepper is a nice addition and so are leeks! Whatever you like would be great.

Posted by Dianne at 9:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

Smashed Buttermilk And Parsley Potatoes

Smashed Buttermilk And Parsley Potatoes

Nothing says comfort like smashed potatoes! The possibilities of what you can do with them are endless! You can throw in a few different ingredients and mix and match and you have dish after dish of yummy goodness!

What You'll Need:
2 pounds of red skinned baby potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup of buttermilk
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4-1/2 cup parsley

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash potatoes and cut into quarters. Toss with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until tender and then place potatoes in a large glass bowl.

Right before you remove the potatoes from the oven heat buttermilk and butter until butter melts. Pour mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and smash. Stir in parsley (more if you like or less, it's up to you) and serve warm.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Posted by Dianne at 7:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 5, 2007

Creamy Potato Leek And Mushroom Soup

Creamy Potato Leek And Mushroom Soup

Some days you just need comfort food and nothing is more comforting than a creamy, warm, delicious bowl of soup! This recipe could easily be used in any recipe that calls for a can of "cream of" soup by adding an extra tablespoon of flour, or by cooking up the recipe without the extra flour and letting it cool in the fridge before using in a casserole if you have the time. By using shredded potatoes, instead of chunks of potatoes, you end up with that lovely potato flavor and creaminess, but you have a soup that cooks up in half the time. No matter how you do the soup it's delicious!

What You'll Need:
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
6-9 baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 potato, peeled and shredded
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of skim milk

Sauté onion, leek and celery in butter and olive oil until tender. Add shredded potato, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and cook for about 2 minutes to soften up the potato. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour. Stir in milk slowly, while stirring, and cook for 8-10 minutes until soup is slightly thickened.

Posted by Dianne at 9:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 4, 2007

Whole Wheat Taco Pasta Salad

Whole Wheat Taco Pasta Salad

I love pasta salads. They are so versatile! Just by switching the herbs and spices around, or adding one vegetable or another, you can come up with a completely different taste sensation! This pasta salad uses the flavors you would usually associate with Tacos and melds them into a pasta creation! Try it...You won't be sorry!

What You'll Need:
1/2 of a 12 ounce package of Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Penne with Milled Flax Seed, cooked according to package directions
1 cup of frozen corn
1 small red onion, chopped fine
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small English cucumber, chopped
1 - 16 ounce can of black beans or red beans, drained and rinsed (Or you can soak black beans overnight and use roughly 2 cups of cooked beans. I decided to make this at the last minute so soaking wasn't an option, though to be honest it's my preferred method.)
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Cook pasta and drain in a strainer over frozen corn to knock the freeze out of the kernels. Pour into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta and corn and stir to toss. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Notes: You can top this salad with tomatoes when serving, but I wouldn't add tomatoes into the salad itself. The tomatoes can not hold up to the acidity of the vinegar for storage and will break down to mush if you add them to the salad itself and then store the left overs.

Sliced avocado would also be very good added to this salad when served, but I didn't have one on hand last night when I was making dinner.

You could even top with a little shredded cheddar, sour cream and chopped scallions to really compliment the Taco flavor.

If you like cilantro (I do NOT), you could chop up some cilantro to add into the mix as well.

Sliced black olives would also be a good compliment to the salad.

As always play with it...Make it your own! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 10:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 3, 2007

Creamy Pea Soup

Creamy Pea Soup

This is a very simple, very fresh soup. Hot or cold, it's delicious!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into slivers
1 clove of garlic, minced (You want just a hint of garlic for this soup. You do not want to over power the creamy flavor of the soup with too much garlic.)
1 - 16 ounce bag of frozen peas
2 cups of water
Sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt

In a medium sized pot sauté onion and garlic until tender and slightly carmelized. Add peas, water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook covered for 2-5 minutes until peas are done through. Drain peas and reserve cooking liquid. Place peas in a food process and process with yogurt and enough of the cooking liquid to make a creamy, smooth soup. Serve warm or chilled, whichever you prefer, with a dollop of sour cream of plain yogurt.

Posted by Dianne at 11:36 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

April 1, 2007

Mini Eggplant Pizzas

Mini Eggplant Pizzas

I came up with this idea the other day when I was trying to think of an alternative to pizza dough for pizza for a change. I tried it out tonight and it worked like a charm! It's warm, hearty and delicious!

What You'll Need:
An eggplant
Pizza sauce
Pizza toppings (Mushrooms, Onions, Mozzarella, Parmesan, etc. Whatever you like on your pizza. I even tried out some veggie pepperoni tonight!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Slice eggplant into slices and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. I also roasted some mushrooms and red onion on the same pan. Roast for 5-6 minutes until slightly tender. Remove eggplant from the oven and spread each slice with roughly 1-2 tablespoons of pizza sauce depending on the size of the slice of eggplant. Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of Parmesan cheese and arrange pizza toppings on top of sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella and put them back into the oven. Bake for 4-6 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

How's that for a nice little twist on pizza without the dough?

Posted by Dianne at 5:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

Roasted Mushrooms

Roasted Mushrooms

I'm always amused when I make these and people ask for the recipe. They are so simple, but people are stunned when you tell them how they were made! In fact it's so easy I'll call it a Semi-Recipe!

What You'll Need:
Mushrooms
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place mushrooms in an oven safe dish and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until mushrooms are tender. Serve warm.

Like I said simple and delicious!

Posted by Dianne at 7:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

This is my take on a classic Southern potato salad. Growing up in Tennessee when you had a barbeque or a day at the lake, chances are there would be potato salad. My mom taught me how to make it way back when, in fact I don't even remember how old I was, I just remember always knowing how to make potato salad. At some point when I was in high school when the occasion arose to make potato salad, the duty became mine. It's one of those things that you just do by heart. It's good cold or hot. It's very versatile. In fact my mom and I often would have a little bowl when it was warm, while we let the rest of it chill. Try it, you'll like it!

What You'll Need:
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of celery seed
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 of a large red onion, chopped fine
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1/3 cup of sweet pickle relish
2 heaping tablespoons of yellow mustard
1/4 cup of light mayo

Boil potatoes until fork tender. (I usually boil the eggs in the same pot with the potatoes. It kills two birds with one stone!) Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still hot add cheese and seasonings and stir to mix. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. You can serve the salad warm or chilled. I like it either way, but some people prefer it chilled.

Makes 4 servings.

Posted by Dianne at 6:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

Creamy Vegetable Orzo

Creamy Vegetable Orzo

This is another first for me...I've never made Orzo, or even had it before, but I've always been curious. I must say I really liked it and will be making it again soon!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of Tri-Color Orzo Pasta, cooked according to package directions
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a small onion, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
2 large baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped

Cook Orzo according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Sauté veggies (minus peas) in a little extra virgin olive oil until tender with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Add peas and Orzo and cook for about 2-3 minutes until peas are heated through. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley. Serve warm.

Quick, simple and delicious. Who can ask for more?

Posted by Dianne at 6:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Spicy Corn And Beans

Spicy Corn And Beans

This spicy, little veggie dish really hits the spot, especially when you're craving something a little spicy and you want it done quickly!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 cup of frozen corn
1 can of red beans
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of sea salt

Sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic and tomatoes until tender in a little extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook for 10-20 minutes until heated through and spices meld. Serve with cheese and sour cream to garnish if desired, or just serve plain.

Posted by Dianne at 4:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

Vegetable Enchiladas

Enchiladas

My sister and Nelson came over to play in the dirt last Thursday (You've gotta love spring...It's time to plant things again!) and we decided to whip up some dinner. My sister suggested enchiladas and I thought that sounded heavenly! We whipped up this dish and it's not something you'd want to eat every night (lots of cheese, and thus calories), but it most definitely is worth making now and then! ;o)

What You'll Need For The Enchiladas:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a large onion, chopped
4 large or 6 small mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 small container of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1 - 8 ounce block of low fat cheddar, shredded
1 - 8 ounce block of Colby cheese, shredded
1 cup of milk

What You'll Need For Toppings:
Guacamole
Salsa
Sour Cream
Tomatoes
Green onions
Etc.

Enchiladas

Mix cheeses together and set aside

In a large skillet sauté bell pepper, onion and mushrooms until tender with a little salt and pepper. Stir in Tofutti and half of the cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon Tofutti/veggie mixture into the middle of corn tortillas and fold over. Place seam side down in the baking dish and repeat until all the filling is gone. Top with remaining cheese and milk and bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Enchiladas

Top with toppings of your choice after serving.

Notes: You can add whatever you like in the filling. Next time I think I'm going to try some crawfish and shrimp! You could also add some green chilies, or jalapeños, or even a little salsa. Whatever strikes your fancy go for it! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

Alexis and I eat a lot of soup and I go through stages where I like cream based soups, broth based soups or like I am now, tomato based versions. This soup could easily be done without the tomatoes and just broth, but it's delicious as it is!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
2 cups of frozen cherry tomatoes (Note: Alexis and I eat A LOT of cherry tomatoes. When they are just about to go bad, but we aren't eating them fast enough (which is rare truth be told) I put them in the freezer. When I'm making soup I pull them out and throw them in. As the soup cooks they break down and make a wonderful addition! You can use fresh cherry tomatoes instead.)
1 cup of frozen corn
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of barley
1/2 a box of vegetable broth
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
2 cups of water

Sauté onion, celery and leek until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate. Bring to a quick boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for at least one hour until root veggies are tender.

That's the good thing about soup...It's quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: You could add in some rice or noodles if you like, but I personally just like the barley as a substitute for those ingredients.

Posted by Dianne at 9:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2007

Vegetarian Red Beans And Wild Rice

Vegetarian Red Beans And Wild Rice

I LOVE red beans and rice! But even when I ate pork, I never cared for the sausage they put in the dish and I would always eat around it. This is the first time I've made it from scratch, though I have tried the Zatarian's mix a few times over the years (usually with chicken or shrimp instead of sausage though). I started thinking about how easy it would be make my own version and I must say I was very pleased with the results! It's hearty, delicious and it has just the right spicy kick!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a large yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped (leaves are fine)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of Creole, Cajun or Soul Food seasoning (Any of the three will work. I used Soul Food seasoning)
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 can of red beans (Or you can soak some beans overnight and cook them instead)
1 cup of wild rice
2 1/3 cups of vegetable broth
Several generous shakes of hot sauce

Sauté onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in a pinch of sea salt, cayenne pepper, Creole, Cajun or Soul Food seasoning and paprika. Add 1 cup of wild rice and let cook for about 2 minutes to bring out its nutty flavor. Add beans, broth and hot sauce and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. (Usually about 25-30 minutes. Check the directions for the wild rice you purchase to get an idea of how long your rice takes to cook.) Serve warm.

Vegetarian Red Beans And Wild Rice

Notes: Left overs with this dish are delicious! It also reheats very well. After sitting overnight the spicy flavors meld even more! It's a win, win situation!

Posted by Dianne at 8:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2007

Vegetarian Irish Stew

Vegetarian Irish Stew

Irish Stew is a traditional dish that usually has lamb or beef in it, but I decided that a vegetarian version would be just the thing! It's thick, warm, hearty and delicious! It definitely hits the spot!

What You'll Need:
2 tablespoons of Irish butter (or regular butter)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, cut into chunks
1 small container of button mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 small container of baby portabella mushrooms, cut into quarters
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 box container of vegetable broth

In a large stockpot over medium heat melt butter with some olive oil. Stir in onions, leeks and celery and cook until tender. Add the rest of the veggies and seasonings and top with some Irish whiskey and vegetable broth. Cook for at least two hours until veggies start to break down and stew thickens.

Posted by Dianne at 9:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Boxty

Boxty

Apparently there's an old Irish proverb that if you can make Boxty you'll get your man! I guess it's like the old adage here that the way to man's heart is through his stomach! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 cup of grated potato
1 cup of mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon of potato starch
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 tablespoons of melted butter
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2-3/4 cups of milk

Mix ingredients and form into patties. Pan fry over medium heat in butter or nonstick spray, until browned on each side. Serve warm.

Posted by Dianne at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Champ

Champ

I had heard of the Camp for years, but had never made it. It's a twist on mashed potatoes, but it's oh so good!

What You'll Need:
6-8 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into circles
Irish butter (or just regular butter if you want)
Heavy cream
Sea salt
Black Pepper
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
More butter for serving

Boil potatoes in a large pot until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Mash with butter, heavy cream, sea salt and pepper.

While potatoes are cooking sauté scallions until just tender and set aside. Once potatoes are mashed, stir cooked scallions into the mashed potatoes until mixed.

To serve place a mound of Champ on your plate and make a small well in the middle to be filled with butter:

Champ

Then eat and enjoy taking a bit of butter with each bite! :o)

Posted by Dianne at 9:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

Vegetarian Dingle Pies

Vegetarian Dingle Pie

At the beginning of this year I made a move that I had been flirting with on and off for years, I became a pescatarian. (I eat fish and seafood, eggs and dairy, but not pork, red meat or poultry because they always make me feel a bit ill). So when I see a recipe I like, I adapt it to one that is vegetarian, vegan or substitute fish. Dingle Pies normally have mutton or lamb in them, but even when I ate meat, I didn't eat baby anything, so it wouldn't have worked for me even then. So I decided to play around with it a little and this is what I came up with! They were delicious! My sister and her husband both liked them and my nephew did too!

What You'll Need For The Crust:
2 1/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
9 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of ice water

Process flour and salt in a food processor to mix. Add butter and process until butter is crumbly. Add water and let crumbly dough form. Pour out onto a floured surface and form into a dough ball. Place in the refrigerator wrapped until filling is ready.

Note: If you don't have a food processor you can make the dough with a pastry cutter or fork. Simply mix flour and salt and then cut in butter until crumbly. Then stir in water until dough forms.

What You'll Need For The Filling:

Vegetarian Dingle Pie: The Inside

1 small potato cut into small cubes
1 carrot grated
4 large or 6 small button mushrooms chopped
1/4 of an onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place cut veggies in a glass microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3-6 minutes or until tender. Remove from microwave and season with sea salt and pepper.

Cut pie dough into fourths and roll out flat. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter and place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle. Top with another circle and crimp edges with a fork. Once you have used all of your dough and filling poke each pie a couple of times with a fork to vent. Brush the top of each pie with a beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Vegetarian Dingle Pie

Posted by Dianne at 6:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2007

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

I never liked Tomato Soup until I started making my own. The canned stuff is just blah! But then again canned soups usually are. Sometimes I make my Tomato soup plain and sometimes (like last night) I add in mushrooms and onions, but either way it's delicious!

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 a large yellow onion, chopped fine (optional)
4 large or 6 small button mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of dried basil
1 -15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup of vegetable broth

Sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic in some extra virgin olive oil until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Posted by Dianne at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

Lentil Taco Soup

Lentil Taco Soup

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
4 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of lentils
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 of a 2 pound box of vegetable stock
1 - 16 ounce jar of medium salsa

Sauté onion, celery and mushroom until tender. Add lentils through vegetable stock and cook for about 50 minutes until lentils are plumped. Stir in salsa and cook for an additional ten minutes. Serve warm.

Notes: Sometimes I add green pepper into this soup and/or textured vegetable protein, but last night was out of both. If you like things a little less spicy then use less chili powder and mild salsa.

Posted by Dianne at 1:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2007

Mixed Vegetable Risotto

Mixed Vegetable Risotto

Until I actually tried making some, I was a little intimidated by risotto. It's one of those dishes that people sort of place an aura around, but in reality it's not that hard to make! It's creamy, good and oh so satisfying! Try some...You'll LOVE it!

What You'll Need:
1/2 tablespoon of butter
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 a small red onion, chopped
1/2 a leek, chopped
2 large button mushrooms chopped
4 asparagus spears, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup of frozen peas
2 cups of Arborio rice
Water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of Parmesan cheese

Sauté onions, leek, mushrooms and asparagus in butter and olive oil until tender in a large pan or pot. Stir in carrots and peas. Add Arborio rice and 2 cups of hot water. Cook stirring occasionally until water evaporates. Add more water (1 cup at a time) and let evaporate until rice is tender and sticky. (You may end up doing this 6-8 times...Just keep an eye on it!) Remove from heat and stir in cheese to melt. Stir in a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes and then serve warm.

Notes: Any veggies will work. Use your favorites and mix it up!

Posted by Dianne at 2:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 7, 2007

Creamy Kale Soup

Creamy Kale Soup

I've been looking for a recipe with kale lately that actually didn't turn my stomach. I love spinach, I love Swiss chard, but there is just something about Kale that just does not touch my fancy! Kale has so many wonderful, healthy properties that I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into something I would eat, so I started searching and this soup was just the thing I was looking for! It's creamy, satisfying and delicious! What is better than that?

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of lentils
1/2 cup quinoa
4 packed cups of kale leaves, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water
1 no sodium veggie bullion cube
2 tablespoons of almond butter
1/2 cup of fat free half and half
Sour cream to garnish

In a medium sized stock pot sauté onions and garlic until tender. Stir in lentils and quinoa and let brown for several minutes. Add remaining ingredients (minus half and half and sour cream) and stir. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until kale is tender, liquid has been incorporated and lentils have plumped (about 35-45 minutes). In batches process ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and then stir in half and half. Top each serving with sour cream if desired.

Posted by Dianne at 3:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

In Honor Of The Chinese New Year: Vegetable Egg Rolls

Veggie Egg Rolls

In honor of the Chinese New Year I thought it would be fun to make some egg rolls! I had never made them before, but I figured it wouldn't be too hard and I was right! They're fast, easy and delicious!

What You'll Need:
1 carrot, cut into matchstick pieces
1/8 of a head of cabagge, cut into strips
1 leek, cut into strips
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of black pepper
2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
Egg roll wrappers
Oil for frying

Step One:

Heat oil to 350 F. (I used and usually use safflower oil when frying.)

Step Two:

While oil is heating, in a medium sized skillet saute veggies with salt, pepper and vinegar until just tender and remove from heat. The filing is now ready to fill the egg roll wrappers.

Egg Roll Filling: Cabage, Carrot And Leek Cooked

Step Three:

Lay an egg roll wrapper flat and place some filling in the middle.

Egg Roll Step One

Step Four:

Fold bottom corner to the middle and tuck under the filling.

Egg Roll Step Two

Step Five:

Fold and tuck corners. It will resemble an envelope at this point.

Egg Roll Step Three

Step Six:

Close and seal your "envelope" by rolling the egg rolls over. Dip your fingers in some water and run along the seam and gently press closed to seal.

Egg Roll Step Four

Step Seven:

Fry egg rolls for 45 secnds to 1 minute until brown. Once removed from oil the egg rolls will continue to brown. Don't over do them!

Egg Rolls Frying

Step Eight:

Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately or you can reheat them later by placing them in a warm oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes 6 egg rolls.

Posted by Dianne at 1:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2007

Dianne's Fresh Salsa

Dianne's Fresh Salsa

I like to make this little "salsa" from time to time when I'm in the mood for something fresh. It's basically a kicked up pico de gallo, but it always gets raves!

What You'll Need:
4-6 Roma tomatoes, seeded (4 if they are large, 6 if they are smaller)
1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (There are usually 8 or 9 scallions in a bunch)
The juice of one lime
A pinch of black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch of sea salt

First Step:

Seed your tomatoes. (I always freeze the pulp for soup or chili later.)

Seeded Tomatoes

Cut seeded tomatoes into strips.

Tomato Strips

Dice tomato strips and place in a medium sized bowl.

Diced Tomatoes

Second Step:

Cut Bell Pepper Into Strips.

Bell Pepper Strips

Dice pepper and add to the bowl with the tomatoes.

Tomatoes And Peppers

Step Three:

Chop scallions and add to tomato/pepper mixture.

Step Four:

Add lime juice and seasonings. Stir to mix. Chill at least 1 before serving hour.

Notes: This "salsa" breaks down quickly due to the citrus juice. Make it the day you plan on eating it and if you have any left overs you can freeze them and use it in chili or tortilla soup later.

Posted by Dianne at 1:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Refried" Beans

Piping Hot Refried Beans

"Refried" Beans are very easy to make and much better for you if you do! Try them! You'll love them!

What You'll Need:
1 small package of dry pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 1/2 red onions, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch of black pepper

Beans

Cover beans with water until just covered and bring to a boil Reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally. Half way through cooking time stir in chopped onions. Cook for several hours (4-6 hours) until beans start falling apart.

Remove from heat and mash beans with a potato masher until pasty. Stir in seasonings and serve.

Posted by Dianne at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Onion And Portabella Soup With Swiss Cheese And Croutons

Onion And Mushroom Soup With Swiss And Croutons

I must admit I've never actually eaten French Onion soup, but the idea intrigued me. Usually the base of French Onion soup is beef broth from what I've been reading and that wasn't going to work. I knew that vegetable broth was not exactly the right taste for this soup, so I kept thinking of other alternatives, but wasn't having much luck. Then it hit me...Mushroom broth! When I came up with the mushroom broth idea I then started thinking about how good portabella mushrooms would be in soup as well and this is what I came up with! It was exactly what I had in mind. That's always a good thing!

What You'll Need For The Soup:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, sliced into strips
4 portabella mushrooms, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sea salt
Black Pepper
1 container of mushroom broth
Swiss cheese
Croutons

In a stockpot over medium heat sauté onion and mushrooms until onions are slightly brown and mushrooms are tender with garlic, sea salt and black pepper. Stir in mushroom broth and bring to a quick boil and cook for 5 minutes. Spoon soup into a bowl and top with Swiss cheese and croutons.

Onion And Portabella Soup With Swiss And Croutons

What You'll Need For The Croutons:
6 slices of bread
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Cut bread into cubes and drizzle bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Bake until golden brown.

Onion And Portabella Soup With Swiss And Croutons

Posted by Dianne at 7:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 9, 2007

Apple Blue Cheese Salad With Walnuts

Apple Walnut Blue Cheese Salad

This really isn't a recipe it's just a salad I threw together for dinner for Alexis and I and it turned out quite well!

What You'll Need:
Baby spinach
Cucumbers
Carrots
Super salad shoots
Sweet Pea Shoots
Red onion
Apple
Walnuts
Blue cheese
Sea salt
Black Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Mix veggies. Top with blue cheese, walnuts, a pinch of sea salt, a little black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Posted by Dianne at 6:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2007

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

As a kid most of us ate alphabet soup, but these days who wants to eat soup with all those preservatives and such a high salt content? Not me! And I certainly wouldn't feed it to Alexis! So here's my take on the classic. It's warm and oh so comforting! It will remind you of your childhood.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of dried oregano
1 pinch of dried basil
ABC noodles

Alphabet Soup

In a medium sized stock pot over medium heat sauté garlic through scallions until tender. (Note: Carrots will not be tender. They will continue cooking while the soup cooks.) Add the rest of the ingredients except for ABC noodles and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes and serve immediately.

Note: You can put in as few or as many noodles as you like. I like more so I added between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups.

Posted by Dianne at 7:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 6, 2007

Veggie Tacos, Guacamole and Dianne's Kicked Up Mashed Red Beans

Guacamole, Veggie Tacos and Dianne's Kicked Up Mashed Red Beans

I don't know many people who don't like tacos and done properly they don't have to be bad for you! They have grains (the shell), veggies (the fillings) and dairy (cheese and/or sour cream). What's not to like?

What You'll Need For The Beans:
1 can of red beans
1/2 a red onion chopped
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Over medium heat cook beans mashing as your stir. (I usually let them cook 20-30 minutes to become really soft.) Stir in chopped onion and simmer for about 20 minutes until onions are slightly tender, but still have a bit a bite to them.

What You'll Need For The Tacos:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 a red onion, chopped fine
1 cup of Textured Vegetable Protein, rehydrated according to package directions
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Sauté onion and pepper until tender. Stir in rehydrated TVP, water and spices. Cook for 5-10 minutes until flavors meld. You could also do this ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey, but I prefer the meatless alternatives.

Taco Fixings:
Tomato
Cheese
Scallions
Lettuce or spinach
Taco shells

The toppings are really up to you. I used a grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach and a Monterrey Jack/Cheddar blend.

Taco Fixings

What You'll Need For the Guacamole:
2 ripe avocadoes
1 cup of tomato, chopped
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped fine
The juice of a lime or a lemon
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Mash avocadoes in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Note: If your avocadoes are ripe, but a little firm you can stir in a little sour cream to smooth things out. This will not however work if the avocadoes are hard (i.e. not ripe).

Posted by Dianne at 9:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 31, 2007

Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Nothing says comfort food like mashed potatoes! I like to jazz up mashed potatoes a bit and I also like to cook the potatoes in the oven, instead of boiling them. They're more smashed than mashed, but delicious none the less! This recipe is quick, easy and delicious! What more could you ask for?

What You'll Need Per Person:
1 potato of your choice (Idaho, Red Bliss, etc), skin on, cut into cubes
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
A splash of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of milk, heavy cream, half and half or buttermilk, warmed

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place potatoes through olive oil in a baking dish and toss to coat. Roast until tender about 40-45 minutes.

Place hot potatoes into a mixing bowl and mash with warm milk. There's no need to add butter because the potatoes are roasted with olive oil and it gives them a wonderful flavor! Serve immediately.

Posted by Dianne at 2:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meatless "Meat"loaf

Meatless "Meat"loaf

Since I started my no meat in January test I started thinking of ways to take "classic" meals that have meat in them and transform them into veggie versions that make you never miss the meat! Actually I've been doing this over the past few years when I started avoiding red meat, given it makes me sick to my stomach. Meatloaf was one dish that I had never tried to adapt though. Given the main ingredient of meatloaf is well, meat, the idea was a bit daunting, but I'm never one to be persuaded when I put my mind to something.

I started scouring the internet to see what was out there. I found rice versions and lentil versions and though they looked delicious, they just weren't what I was looking for. Then I came across Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style and decided that it would be the perfect for a "meat" loaf and I was right...It worked like a charm!

What You'll Need:
2 packages of Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style
2 eggs (If you want to veganize this you could substitute egg replacer)
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup of organic ketchup, divided
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix GLGBS, eggs, oats, bell pepper, red onion, 1/2 cup of ketchup, sea salt and black pepper with your hands until completely incorporated. (You've got to get your hands dirty to make a little comfort food!) Place mixture into a loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out/flatten to form a loaf. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of ketchup and baked for 30-35 minutes until browned on top.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 8 servings.

Note: I actually halved this recipe and made two mini meat loaves. I had one for dinner last night and froze the other one for later.

Posted by Dianne at 2:23 PM | Comments (2) | 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