Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sweet and Sour

In case you're wondering, the heading of this post has everything to do with the pot roast I cooked on my stovetop last night and does not refer to my mood swings. At least once a year I make Rae Fox's sweet and sour sauce and decided it was time to mix a little of her old world genius with an inexpensive cut of meat and see what happened. The result was a fantabulous, fall-apart pot roast that took on all the flavors I was looking for- tangy, sweet, sour, oniony all in a mild tomato base. It almost reminded me of Joan Nathan's grandmother's brisket, but I think (I know) it was better. It's time consuming, but certainly not difficult to prepare. Check this out!

Sweet and Sour Pot Roast
serves about 6

The Roast:
2-1/4 pound bottom round roast
2 T flour
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
2 T canola oil

The Sauce:
2 lemons juiced
1/2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can of water
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (omit if you're serving children or those with mild pallettes)
1large onion sliced

Pat all moisture from your roast- paper towels work just fine for me. In shallow plate combine flour, salt, and black pepper. Dredge meat on all sides in flour mixture and set aside.

We're going to make our sweet and sour sauce now and it's so simple, there's no cooking involved. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or measuring cup and whisk ingredients to make sure the sugar has dissolved.

Set this mixture aside and let's get back to the beef.  On stovetop in large skillet heat your oil on medium and sear meat on all sides. You want to create a nice crust that will keep the meat moist and seal the juices in.

 Now add your sliced onions and sauce.

Bring mixture to a slight boil, cover and lower heat to the lowest your stovetop can handle and cook 3 hours. I had the time to hang around the kitchen so I turned my roast over every 30-45 minutes. I'm not sure you have to do that. After 3 hours you will discover that the meat is tender, and begging you to take a taste. Please do that, just don't burn your fingers!

So how do you serve this you might be wondering? A side of mashed potatoes would be great. Egg noodles even better- anything to soak up the delicious sauce. But I took a different route and made deli sandwiches that were out of this world. I shredded (or pulled) the meat apart and served some serious comfort food. Messy, drip down your arms potato rolls stuffed with sweet and sour pot roast with and without cole slaw.

If you were wondering, my mouth was definately big enough to wrap around these little darlings and they were gone in no time. And I was wondering, if anyone has any other food additions that would work on this tasty sammie. If so let me know, I've got some left overs and would love to give your ideas a try!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Love

There's nothing like summer love and I'm giddy with the two new recipes I discovered this week and feel like inviting John Travolta and Olivia Newton John over for a taste of these super delish dishes. My mom used to make a dish like this first one- fresh cucumbers and onions with a tangy, somewhat sweet vinegar dressing. She never left me the recipe, but Amy H from Just a Pinch recently posted her version of her family's recipe and Yes! it's just like my mom's. And it's simple and takes no time at all. What a great accompaniment to just about any summer meal. I recommend you double or triple the ingredients though, because I made these last night and have to make some more by tomorrow.  They are a great side dish to have on hand.

Easy Pickled Cucumbers and Onions
adapted from Amy H from Garden City, MI

1 large seedless cucumber peeled and sliced thin
1/3 sweet white Spanish onion sliced thin
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup Splenda or sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp celery salt

Place cuke and onion slices in medium size bowl or jar. In a seperate bowl whisk together the water, Splenda, apple cider and celery salt until combined. Pour over the cuke/onion mixture and let the veggies bathe in the fridge for a few hours. You will be very happy later.


Next up, a super simple chicken casserole that I also got from a Just a Pinch member- Millie J from Valley Head, AL. You know I love my casseroles and anything that can be made ahead and reheated. And this little darling was just the new casserole that I was looking for! I down-sized Millie's version and cooked it in an 8x8 inch pan.

Garlicky Chicken Casserole
inspired by Millie J

Cooking spray
2 chicken breasts cooked and chopped or shredded- I used store bought rotisserie
1 can cream of chicken soup- I used the low fat low sodium
1/4 soup can water
4 oz low fat sour cream
1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese grated and divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or a 1/4 tsp more if you like- that's what I did)
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery salt (Millie uses celery seed, but realized I didn't have any and used the celery salt and it was wonderful)
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers crushed
1/4 stick of butter melted and slightly cooled
2 bags of Uncle Ben's Boil in Bag Brown Rice cooked 6 minutes- this was not in Millie's original recipe, but I thought I'd give it a try and ...yes, yes! it worked

Spritz an 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray and pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Set pan aside. Now let's get cooking! In medium large bowl combine chopped chicken with soup, water, 1 cup of the cheese, sour cream, garlic powder, salt and pepper, onion powder and celery salt. If you have some dried or fresh parsley add some. I didn't, so had to do without. The nice thing about this casserole is that there are no eggs in it and you can actually take a taste and not feel like you're eating raw eggs. So take a taste and season to your liking. I added a tad more celery salt, just because I like the flavor!

Cook your rice on the stove and remove after 6 minutes, cool a bit, and add to the chicken mixture. It's not fully cooked, but will finish it's cooking in the oven. That looks good already.

In a zip lock bag or bowl crush your crackers and add the slightly cooled melted butter. Mix with your clean fingers. Ooh, this is where I always fall in love in the kitchen. Ritz crackers are buttery on their own, and with this small amount of butter added in, you'll be right there falling in love too.

Let's get to the assembly. In sprayed 8x8 pan add half your cracker mixture. Now add the chicken mixture and top with the rest of your cheese. Finish with the remaining cracker mixture and bake 30 minutes uncovered. Now this is what I call summer love!

The re-mix possibilities are endless with this casserole. I say chopped bacon would be simply loveable (sticking with the theme). And even some veggies tossed in- maybe some fresh peas from the garden would be nice, I love fresh peas in a casserole. Anyway, give this quick casserole a try, and add some new twists of your own. I'm lovin' summer and especially these two new dishes I discovered!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cherry Cobbler with Oats

This is a quick post to let you know that the peach cobbler I made a while back can be re-mixed with frozen cherries and some oats for a marvelous crunch. Love when I can add a few oats in my desserts! Here's the recipe:

Cherry Cobbler
serves six

12 oz frozen pitted cherries, drained of juice and defrosted
1 stick unsalted butter melted
1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup Splenda no calorie sweetener
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 tsp vanila extract
1/4 cup Splenda no calorie sweetener for topping

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray. Melt butter and set aside to cool. Mix your dry ingredients together with a whisk (flour through the one cup of Splenda). Now add your buttermilk, vanilla and butter and stir to combine. Top with the cherries and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Splenda. Breakfast or dessert will be done in 1 hour. Easy and super yummy. Hope you give this a try!  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

We've been told for years bananas are good for us, and now we're seeing articles and ads on diet/food sites that say they promote belly fat and aren't as healthy as they're cracked up to be. Who are you gonna believe? I can see both sides of this debate, but I'm going with the belief that bananas are good! Did you know they protect your heart, quiet a cough, strengthen your bones, and control your blood pressure? And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their good qualities. This is a recipe blog so I won't preach nutrition or diet since I'm neither a nutritionist or dietician. But I'm thrilled to share a super rich banana chocolate chip cake I made this weekend, topped with the most decadent chocolate frosting you've ever tasted. I lightened the cake up the best I could, eliminating much of the fat and sugar, and both the cake and the frosting are quick fixes, and so worth making.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake
makes 16 small servings in an 8 x 8 inch pan

cooking spray
2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter, room temp
2 T canola oil
3/4 cup Splenda no calorie sweetener
2 large eggs, room temp
1 egg white, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Dark Chocolate Frosting
this is Diane Smith's soon to be famous (although I think it's famous already) recipe using dark cocoa

1/4 cup butter, room temp
1/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1/4 cup low fat evaporated milk
dash of salt
1-1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

The first thing I do is spritz my baking pan with cooking spray and pre heat my oven to 375 degrees. Then I combine my bananas with the sour cream and set it aside. I think the secret to some of the richness in this cake is due to the extra ripe bananas mixed with the sour cream.

In medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk (flour, baking powder and salt). Set this bowl aside and get ready to cream your butter, canola oil and splenda. I use a large bowl for this because eventually all the ingredients end up in here. Cream the latter with a hand mixer for about 3 minutes, making sure to wipe down the edges of your bowl to incorporate all ingredients. Add the eggs, egg white and vanilla to the butter mixture.

Combine with hand mixer and add half the flour mixture. At this point I bring out my rubber spatula and fold in the flour. Once you're adding the dry ingredients, you don't want to mix too vigorously. Now fold in all of the creamy banana combo. When that seems to be combined, add the rest of the flour and gently stir, removing as many lumps as possible. Now fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake puffs up quite a bit and then settles down as it cools.

While the cake is cooling, make the frosting. In medium size bowl combine butter, cocoa, evaporated milk and salt. I use my hand mixer for this. When all looks incorporated, add the powdered sugar and contiunue mixing until smooth. Take a taste or two and see if you need more powdered sugar. I've been happy with 1-1/2 cups, but you can adjust to your liking. When cake is completely cooled, pour on the frosting and frost away.

Dig in and enjoy. If you want to get a bit more decadent, sprinkle some additional chocolate chips on top of the frosting!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Roasted Veggie Pasta Salad

We're having a heat wave in New England and I've been looking for lighter type foods to eat. I know a lot of people are firing up their grills and enjoying steaks and other types of goodies, but I've been staying inside enjoying the AC and nibbling on this delicious roasted vegetable pasta salad. If you're feeling like me, Mrs Plah (thank you Carol for that nickname) you might want to give this Mediterranean inspired salad a try. The salad is not plah at all; it's perfect to fight the heat and still enjoy some healthy vegetables, creamy goat cheese and a spunky dressing that will almost make you forget how hot it is outside. And you know I've made it a simple fix.

Mediterranean Inspired Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

1 8 oz container grape tomatoes
1 8-1/2 oz can quartered artichoke hearts (in water) drained
12-15 Kalamata olives halved
4 scallions chopped
4 oz goat cheese crumbled
1-1/2 cups penne pasta (I love Dreamfields, low carb)
Olive oil or cooking spray
Black pepper
Dash of dried oregano

1 clove garlic chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 or 2 extra Ts rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Ready to put this quick dish together? Let's go! Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Spritz tomatoes with cooking spray or toss in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes until they begin to pop a bit and get a little toasty brown.

After I roasted these I decided to roast the artichokes. Why not, I thought, because sometimes artichokes out of a can can taste a bit raw. So do the same thing with the chokes. Roast about 8 minutes and flip them over and cook about 8 minutes more. No raw artichokes invited.

While the chokes are cooking, make your dressing and cook your penne pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water. To make the dressing combine all ingredients. I like to make mine in a small jar and shake to combine. Finally, time to assemble this salad. Place all veggies in bowl and add pasta and that very small pinch of oregano.

Crumble your goat cheese, add your dressing, and ta-da! salad is ready to be refrigerated for about a 1/2 hour. Serve and enjoy, and don't let the heat get you down!

Re-Mix: to keep it vegetarian, add a T of capers, they will add a nice kick. And a drained, rinsed can of cannellini beans is great for some extra protein. To make more of a meal of this, add a can or two of tuna or salmon. Or to go another route, add a few chopped hard boiled eggs. Sometimes I find that the pasta soaks up a lot of the dressing, so before serving, add an additional T of olive oil and 2 tsp of vinegar, just to regenerate the salad. In this heat we all need a little regenerating.

Monday, July 1, 2013


There was a recipe floating around facebook a few weeks ago for a Peanut Butter Chocolate Eclair Ice Box Cake. I've never made an ice box cake, nor eaten one as far as I know, and thought this would be a new learning experience. And it sure was. It turned out that some of the measurements were incorrect and I was left to improvise. For anyone who makes my recipe, please let me know if this is what an ice box cake should taste like, since I am a bit clueless. Oh and I lightened this baby up as much as I could because I know you're all going to want seconds.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Eclair Cake with Chocolate Frosting
makes 16 slices in a 9 x 13 inch pan

Cooking spray
1 box chocolate graham crackers (you will have a few left over)
2 boxes Jello Sugar Free/Fat Free Instant Vanilla Pudding (1 oz each)
3-1/2 cups fat free milk
1 8 oz container of Sugar Free Cool Whip defrosted
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup mini chocolate chips

this is Diane Smith's recipe and it is out of this world rich
1/4 c unsalted butter softened
1/4 c cocoa- I use Hershey's Extra Dark, yummmmm I really see a difference when I use this brand
1/4 c low fat evaporated milk
1-1/2 c powdered sugar- Diane uses more and you can too, but I decided to cut back
dash of salt
2 T peanut butter (my addition)
2 T crushed dry roasted peanuts (also my addition)

Spritz a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In large bowl combine instant pudding and milk. Whip a minute or two (I used a hand mixer) and add your peanut butter. Whip a few minutes more until all seems combined. Now fold in your whipped topping. 
I discovered a half a bag of chocolate mini chips in my freezer and decided to toss those in too.
Set this creamy bowl of loveliness aside and let's get ready to assemble the cake. In sprayed baking pan lay 7-1/2 graham grackers on the bottom.

Top with half the pudding mixture.

Add another layer of graham crackers and top that with the rest of the pudding mixture. Just one more layer of graham crackers and we're ready to make the frosting.
In large bowl cream the butter, cocoa, salt and evaporated milk. Now add the peanut butter and whip until incorporated. Add the powdered sugar and combine until smooth. Spread over top layer of graham crackers and sprinkle with crushed peanuts.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. Then get ready to dig in. Well, not really dig in, try and cut this as civilized as possible. I cut mine into 16 portions, and I must say, cutting the cake was the hardest part of this experiment. But I did it and it tastes great! And it's so much lower in calories and fat than other cakes of it's kind. Doesn't this look decadent and inviting?
Give this cake a try, I know you will like it. And when you do, get back to me and let me know if this is indeed an ice box cake and maybe some instructions on how to easily cut it.
The re-mix: I might try this combo as a trifle. And I may at sometime replace the peanut butter with a creamy raspberry/vanilla type pudding with the addition of fresh raspberries. I might even make the chocolate frosting with a hint of raspberry jam. Ooh this was delicous fun!