Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Orzo

I made this dish last week to go with a yummy pot roast and it made my meal feel festive. Now I'm not suggesting that you serve this at your Christmas dinner, but the colors just screamed Holiday and Christmas, so I gave it the name Christmas Orzo. And during this hectic time of year, isn't it great to put together a healthy, colorful side dish that's ready in less than half an hour? I certainly think so!

Christmas Orzo
Serves 4

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-3/4 cups canned chicken stock or broth (low sodium, fat free)
1 T additional olive oil for sautéing vegetables:
1 red pepper chopped
4 oz cremini mushrooms chopped
1 small onion chopped
2 cups baby kale chopped
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
1/4 - 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (optional)

Prep your raw vegetables.

And slice/chop the baby kale, which by the way is an excellent source of vitamins A, K and Folate. You can use more or less of the kale than I've recommended, but if you're not sure about the flavor (which is rather pronounced) go with a lesser amount. Here's the package I bought:

In medium size saucepan on medium low heat melt your butter and oil. Add the orzo and toast on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until some of the grains become toasty and brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low (very low) and cook 12-13 minutes.

While orzo is cooking add your olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat on medium to medium low (my stovetop cooks hot). Add your prepped red pepper, mushroom and onion and coat with oil. Add a pinch more of salt and your Herbes de Provence. Stir to combine veggies and seasoning. After the vegetables soften (about 5 minutes) add your chopped kale. Cook another minute or so until the kale wilts.

Mix the warm vegetables into the cooked orzo and add some cheese if desired.

Serve alone or with anything your holiday heart desires. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Egg Nog and Bananas Foster French Toast

My fabulous cooking friend Kim has been posting "25 Days of Egg Nog Recipes" and she inspired me last night. Oh did she inspire me!!! I fed myself a decadent dinner and packed up the leftovers for friends at work today.  Who doesn't like French toast? And who doesn't want to jazz up this simple dish every once in a while? Well, the bananas in my fruit basket were calling my name and the egg nog was already in my fridge anticipating Kim's suggestions. I'm happy to share this simple, yet decadent recipe. Oh, and it's a one dish meal, how nice is that?
Bananas Foster French Toast
Serves 3
6 slices firm white bread
3 large eggs whisked
1 cup eggnog
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Banana Syrup/Sauce:
3 bananas sliced 1/4 inch
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter
3-4 T water
Butter and Canola Oil for sautéing the toast
Ready for some simple instructions and mediocre pictures?
Combine eggs, egg nog, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk together until you have a smooth custard. Soak each piece of bread in the mixture.
I didn't let them get too soggy, and placed each piece of bread on a tray until I was ready to fry them. In large sauté pan, add some butter and canola oil and heat on medium low. I did not measure the amount, but you know me, I was pretty careful not to over do it. Now add your egg-noggy soaked bread and cook a few minutes until slightly brown on each side. I was able to cook 3 at a time.
Remove cooked bread from pan and set aside. Now it's time to cook the bananas. In same pan that you cooked the toast, add the butter and brown sugar and cook until they are combined. Now add the sliced bananas and let them caramelize in the sugary mix. I wanted to stretch the sauce, so I added some water which seemed to work fine for me.
I did a double decker plate for myself. I took one slice of toast and topped it with the bananas.
Then I added another slice of toast and topped it with more bananas. Of course I topped the whole shebang with powdered sugar.
How can you make this even better? Add a few slices of bacon. That would do it for me. Or a shot or two of whiskey or rum to the banana sauce. I love being decadent during the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Flavor Explosion

A few weeks ago at our pot luck Halloween lunch at work I sampled kielbasa cooked in yellow mustard and apple jelly. It was served on toothpicks as an appetizer. And wow, was it good. So last week I took this yummy idea a step further and made a soup with kielbasa, cabbage, onions and potatoes. And cooked them in the mustard and apple jelly mixture. Flavor explosion is all I can say. And easy peasy.

Kielbasa and Cabbage Soup
serves 4

1 package kielbasa (I used the light)
1/2 head green cabbage sliced or chopped
1 large onion sliced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp canola oil
water to cover kielbasa
2 cups chicken broth
1 Russet potato diced
9 oz apple jelly
4 oz yellow mustard
salt and pepper

Let's get cooking. Slice your kielbasa so it fits in a medium size sauce pan. Cover with water and cook on medium heat until the sausages begin to plump, about 25 minutes.

Prep your cabbage and onions and set aside. Remove kielbasa from pan and let cool. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid for broth. When kielbasa is cooled a bit slice into 1/2 inch rounds and mix together the mustard and apple jelly.

In large soup pan on medium heat, add canola oil and toast the mustard seeds for almost a minute, until they start to pop. Now add the cabbage and onions and lower heat to medium low. Cook cabbage/onions until slightly wilted.

Now add the apple jelly mixture and reserved cooking water and chicken broth. Add back the kielbasa and the chopped potatoes. Cook another ten minutes and your soup is done. Taste to see if you need to add any salt and pepper. I added a pinch or two of both.

This is one hearty meal, and the combo of the apple jelly and mustard just takes it over the top. It's a little bit sweet and has just the right amount of tang due to the mustard. Yummers, I'm going to try this again and add a little bit of bacon. And next time, you can be sure I'll have a crusty loaf of bread on hand for dipping. Oh yeah, I'm getting ready for winter.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thai Inspired Red Curry Satay Chicken Soup

I can't get enough of the Thai flavors. The red chilis, lemongrass, peanuts and coconut milk to name a few. You name it- I'm hooked. Last night's dinner was simple to make and fabulous to slurp. And served with Jasmine rice, well it was over the top delish. Want to make this? I can't wait to re-live putting this simple dish together. And don't let the long ingredient list stop you from making this. It's mostly a "can opener" experience and very little prep. Let's get going.

Red Curry Satay Chicken Soup
Serves 4

1-1/2 to 2 pounds bone-in chicken breast or breasts with skin removed
Kosher salt
1 T canola oil
1 small onion diced
2 T Thai red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 can (14 oz) lite unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 cups water or chicken broth (I used water)
1-1/2 T fish sauce
2 T brown sugar
1/2 cup Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay Sauce (easy to find in international aisle of your market)
1-1/2 T chili garlic sauce
1 red pepper sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
Juice of one lemon or lime (I used a lemon, no lime in the fridge)
chopped dry roated peanuts for garnish
scallion slices for garnish
Fresno chilis sliced for garnish

Clean and wash your chicken breasts. I had a breast in my package that was soooo big, I ended up just using the one. It was about 1-3/4 pounds. Remove skin, sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside.

In large soup pot on stovetop, add canola oil and heat on medium to low heat. Add onions and sweat for about 3-4 minutes. Now add your chopped garlic and red curry paste.

Let aromatics cook for a few more minutes on low until you can smell the chili and lemongrass in the paste. It's now time to add the coconut milk, water, fish sauce, brown sugar, peanut satay sauce, and chili garlic sauce. Stir together with a spatula to combine and add your chicken breast(s).

Well, I had a nice photo array of the chicken cooking, veggies being added and it seems that my photos are no longer compatible with my blog. So, trooper that I am, I'm finishing the post without anymore new pics. Grrrrrrrrr. That's directed at you Google.

Anyway, cook chicken on low, covered, until done. Don't over cook it. My whopper breast cooked for 36 minutes on low/simmer and rested for about 10-15 minutes until I could handle it and shred it.

While chicken is resting, slice your red pepper in strips, prepare your garnishes and make your Jasmine rice in a separate pan. I'm not a great rice cooker so I use the Success brand Jasmine rice. Ready in 9 minutes.

Add shredded chicken to soup, add sliced red pepper and let them cook together 10-15 minutes. Now add the peas and corn. Cook about another minute and add the juice of one lemon or lime. When plating, I put a dome of rice in the center of each bowl and added the soup around the edges. You see, sometimes I just enjoy a mouthful of rice with very little broth and sometimes I like it nicely mixed. This way you can do both. Garnish with scallions, Serano chilis and crushed roasted peanuts. Cilantro would be a natural, but there was none available in my market. I hope you enjoy this. I had a taste tonight before writing and it's just as good if not better than yesterday. And look at that fabulous color. A very happy meal I must say!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oven Baked Creamy, Cheesy, Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole

Diane Smith is one of my go-to cooks on the internet. So when she posts a yummy recipe (especially a casserole), you can be sure I'm right there, writing down the ingredients and making plans to put her good cooking and excellent instincts to a test run in my kitchen.  This dish is inspired by Diane and I sure do have to give her the credit for her timing in cooking brown rice in the oven. As many of you know, I am seriously brown rice impaired, and Diane made it simple for me to pull together a perfectly cooked, creamy chicken and rice dish in one pot no less. Her original recipe can be found here, and it's made with poppy seeds. I am not so much a poppy seed fan, but love the combo of creamy, cheesy anything and want to share my little journey putting this beautiful and tasty oven baked dish together. Warning- It's not a 45 minute casserole, but worth every minute in the oven.

Oven Baked Chicken and and Brown Rice with Tarragon, Dijon and White Wine
serves 4

1 c uncooked brown rice
salt and pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese grated
2 large boneless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 10 oz can non fat/low sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 c lite sour cream
1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 to 1-1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 c dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers crushed
1/4 c unsalted butter melted

Let's cook: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray or butter. I was feeling decadent and used the butter, (good choice I decided later). Spread uncooked rice evenly over prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 the cheese over rice and place chicken on top.

Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top of the chicken. Set the chicken aside and mix your condensed soup, sour cream, tarragon and Dijon mustard

Spread mixture on top of seasoned chicken. In a medium size measuring cup, combine chicken broth, and wine and pour over the top of the casserole. This flavorful liquid along with the condensed soup is going to magically cook your chicken and rice to perfection. Looks good already, doesn't it?

 Place casserole uncovered in oven and cook for 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

And now my favorite part...the Ritz crackers and butter. Top casserole with the crackers and drizzle butter lovingly on top of the crackers. Place casserole back in oven.

 Bake another 25 minutes and dinner is done. And well worth waiting for. How delish is this?

I'll answer that since you haven't made it yet. It's creamy, cheesy, crunchy, and oh! so flavorful. It tastes like a meal fit for a king or queen. Plus the possibilities for this dish are endless. I might add some veggies next time- like baby peas or asparagus. Or some roasted red peppers. As I said to Diane, "this is not just a recipe- it's another way of cooking chicken and rice to perfection.... which is not easy!" As always, thanks Diane for a wonderful cooking experience! Loved every minute, especially the eating part. LD

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stick to your Ribs

Sometimes after a day in front of the computer I want a hearty, comforting soup  for dinner and that's the only thing that's going to make me happy. And with real estate taxes due in a little more than 15 days I've been skimping a bit on my grocery supplies and the pickin' have been slim. "Not to worry," I said to myself, "there's always something around here to make you happy." And I was right. If you like the smokey flavor of bacon, don't mind adding a few of Nathan's Bigger than the Bun hot dogs, some canned Great Northern Beans and a small serving of orzo, this soup is seasoned just right and can be done easily on a weeknight. Don't let the long list of ingredients inhibit you, the prep/cooking time goes fast!

Stick to your Ribs Bacon, Franks, Orzo and Bean Soup
Makes 2-3 large bowls or 4 smaller portions

4 strips bacon cooked and crumbled
1 T bacon fat
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2-1/2 cups no fat chicken broth, I forgot to get the low sodium so I added...
1-1/2 cups water
8 oz tomato sauce
1 dried bay leaf
2 tsp sriracha sauce- or Frank's hot sauce would work nicely with its vinegary flavor
1 T brown sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 can (15.5 oz) Navy Beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry orzo
4-5 frankfuters sliced 1/4-1/2 inch
4 oz baby spinach chopped

Let's cook! Cook your bacon (not too crisp) and set aside. Reserve 1 T of bacon fat. In large/medium soup pot add the bacon fat and 1-2 tsp of olive oil. On medium/low heat add the diced onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Now add your chopped garlic, cook about 1 minute max and be very careful not to let it burn. Add the Old Bay, kosher salt, and ground black pepper and stir to incorporate into the onion/garlic mixture. Toss in your dried bay leaf.

Add 2-1/2 cups no fat (store bought) chicken broth, 1-1/2 cups water, 8 oz canned tomato sauce and stir to combine. Now let's season this baby up with the srirscha, brown sugar and Dijon mustard. Bring to a simmer and add your cooked bacon, beans, hot dogs and orzo. Cover and cook on a very low simmer until orzo is done, about 13 minutes. Now toss in your chopped spinach, and cook uncovered until wilted. Taste broth for seasoning and make adjustments.

Ladle up this bit of comfort food. I think you will enjoy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Eggs and Cheese

I love having sweet potatoes in the house. They're such a healthy vegetable and so tasty. And they're not just for Thanksgiving. But sometimes I just don't know what to do with them besides simply baking, shredding for latkes or adding mini marshmallows. Last night I put on my thinking cap, took a tip from Pat and Gina Neely from Food Network and made their Mother's Day Hash. I used their recipe almost to the letter except I added Sazon Azafron seasoning to the vegetable mix (flavor explosion!!) and sauteed everything in a small amount of bacon fat (why did they leave that out?) and canola oil. I omitted the smoked paprika and parsley which I did not have. Here's my version and lots of pics.

Sweet Potato Hash
Inspired by the Neely's
Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed about 1 inch
1T bacon fat
1T canola oil
1/2 large onion chopped 1/4 inch
1 red bell pepper chopped 1/4 inch
1/4 cup scallions chopped (white and green parts)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 package Goya Sazon Azafran
Additional 2T bacon fat and 1-2T canola oil for crisping the potatoes
Kosher salt and pepper

4 fresh large eggs
Additional salt and pepper for seasoning the eggs
4 T shaved parmesan cheese

Lets get cooking with some pictures. I'm loving re-living this meal. In medium sauce pan add cubed sweet potatoes, a generous amount of salt and cold water. Place on high heat until water boils. Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 10 minutes until potatoes are mostly tender. (We'll be sauteeing them later).

Drain cooked potatoes and dry on a kitchen towel or paper towels. While potatoes are cooking, prep your veggies. Now grab a saute pan and add 1T of bacon fat and 1T canola oil. Heat to medium and add your pepper, onions, and scallions. Cook for a few minutes (4-5) to soften, and add the garlic and the Azafron. Cook a few minutes more to let the veggies absorb the seasoning. Remove mixture from saute pan and set aside.

Now it's time to put this hash together. In the same pan that you cooked the pepper mixture, add about 1-2T canola oil and 2 T bacon fat. What we're doing here is crisping up the cooked sweet potatoes. Place a layer of the cubed potatoes in sauce pan. Don't crowd them, You want them to get crispy, not steamed. And gently turn them so they are browned on all sides (or almost all sides). Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper.

We're almost there, so now add back the pepper/onion mixture and add a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper.

Gently mix together and your hash is done and ready to serve. But if you want to take it to a different level, grab a large muffin tin, spritz 4 of the indented tins with cooking spray and divide your hash to fit each halfway up each large crevice. Pre heat oven to 425 degrees.

You see where I'm going with this. Crack an egg over each prepared muffin tin and liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Add some shaved parmesan cheese. And anything else your little heart desires. I could only think of cheesy, sweet potato hash and a semi runny egg.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Let cool a bit before you serve. I dug right in and was happy I did. What a simple dinner. And a great little brunch entree for guests or family.

To me this is comfort food. I'll be re-heating the rest in the microwave for brunch tomorrow after my workout and I'm thinking (hoping) if I don't break the eggs they're going to be great.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tortellini Lasagna, oh yum


Here's a little ditty I made while talking on the phone with Didi the other night. Yeah, it's that easy. And it's delish. Kinda like a quick lasagna. I warn you, there's lots of cheese involved (my weakness) but you can adjust it to your tastebuds. I made this with ground beef, but I think it would be just as good as a vegetarian dish with the mushrooms and spinach while omitting the beef. It would make a great appetizer either way or a main course with a salad and some crusty bread (my other weakness). Here's the recipe:

Cremini Mushrooms and Spinach Baked with Ground Beef and Tortellini
I'm not sure how many servings- 9 for an appetizer and maybe 6 for a main course

1 T olive oil
1/2 large onion diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms diced
1 lb ground beef
2.5 oz fresh baby spinach
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and black pepper
1 12 oz bag of frozen tri-colored tortellini
1 28 oz jar of marinara sauce
1-1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

In large skillet on medium heat, add your olive oil. Now add your onions and mushrooms. Cook a few minutes and add the ground beef. Add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook mixture until pink disappears from the meat. Drain any fat that accumulates.

Now add your spinach. It looks like a lot, but really, next time I'll add more because it sure wilts down to almost nothing. And I might chop it next time too.

Now add your marinara sauce and pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In small baking dish (I used an 8x8 inch Pyrex) add a layer of sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Add half the bag of frozen tortellini.

Top with half the meat sauce, then add half the shredded cheese.

Repeat the tortellini/meat sauce/cheese layer. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes uncovered. Let cool about 15-20 minutes before serving. Ooey, gooey, cheesy deliciousness, that's what it is, yum.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I've been having some issues with my computer lately and missing sharing some new recipes that I've been making. Computer issues lead to stress, and cooking for me is a stress reliever. And orzo seems to do the trick. Yeah, I've been on an orzo kick this year. Bear with me folks because I'll latch on to something else soon (maybe, maybe not so soon), but this is a flavorful side dish (now my favorite) that will go with anything you serve for lunch or dinner. If you're a mushroom fan and like the earthy flavor of creminis and spinach, this is a must make. And it's a quick fix.

Cremini Mushroom and Spinach Orzo
4 servings

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1-3/4 cup water or chicken stock (both work great)
1 T additional olive oil to saute mushrooms and onions
8 oz cremini mushrooms
1/2 onion diced
1 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach chopped
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese (or as much as you like)

Melt butter and olive oil in medium size saucepan on low heat. Add orzo and toast on medium heat for about 2 minutes until some of the pasta has become toasted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now add your broth or water and bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 12-13 minutes. While orzo is cooking, slice the mushrooms. Don't they look yummy already?

Dice your onion. In separate pan saute mushrooms and onions in olive oil. I use a medium low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and any other spices you might like. I think tarragon or garlic would be nice, but I've taken the simple route. Just S and P.

Now take the spinach and add it to the pan. Cook for a minute until it wilts.

The buttery, toasted orzo is just about ready. Take your veggie mixture and add it to the orzo, stir and serve hot. Oh, and right before you're ready to eat, add your shaved parm and give the dish another stir so it gets melty and a little gooey. You're gonna like this!