Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tomato Feta Salad

I got this recipe from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa - good. easy. simple.
Tomato Feta Salad
4 pints grape tomatoes, red or mixed colors
1 1/2 cups small-diced red onion (2 onions)
1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 1/2 pounds feta cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a large bowl. Add the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley and toss well. Dice the feta in 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes, crumbling it as little as possible. Gently fold it into the salad and serve at room temperature.

Heirloom Tomatoes

I got these beautiful heirloom tomatoes up at the farmers market. So delicious - and they couldn't be a more simple side.
Heirloom Tomatoes
3 or 4 Heirloom Tomatoes (I love getting them in different colors)
Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

That's it!! Just quarter your tomatoes, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Perfect Pork Chop

I wanted to make a special dinner for my husband tonight. I called him and asked him if he could have anything in the world to eat - what would it be. This happens pretty regularly, so he tries to mix it up. He requested Scalloped Potatoes and a Pork Chop. Usually I delight in the challenges he presents me. Not this one.


He was raised on this meal. He luuuuves his pork chops. Me, on the other hand have never met a pork chop I liked. My Mom made pork chops all the time when I was growing up but they were waaay over cooked and took 25 minutes to chew 1 bite - stupid pork chops...

I have recently learned the importance of premium meat. So, first thing first. I went to my local organic butcher and bought 2 pork chops. Premium pork chops baby. Since I have never cooked a pork chop in my life, I did some research. I googled "how to cook pork chops" and read on several different sites - several different methods/ideas and I settled on this one on Wikihow HERE. I edited the verbage and didn't use rosemary as in the original recipe.

The Perfect Pork Chop
Pork chops
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
EVOO
Butter
Chicken Stock

Use a heavy pan - cast iron, anodized aluminum, or a good stainless steel pan is best. Non-stick pans will suffice, but they won't give you as good of a crusty caramelized exterior.
Heat the pan on the stove top on medium high. Season the chops with salt and pepper.
Add the oil. Don't add oil to a cold pan.
Add the chops gently. Be careful not to splatter yourself with hot oil in the process!
Leave the chops alone for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the edges of the chops start to come up slightly from the pan, it's time to flip the chops. DO NOT use a fork, only use tongs or a metal spatula. If you try to flip too early, the pork could be stuck to the pan and tear, making the pan very hard to clean and ruining the caramelization.
Cook the chops on the new side until the edges come up from the pan, like before - about 5 minutes.
*MY NOTE You can tell they are done with the "touch test." They should be firm. If you are unsure, use your knife and make a slit in the middle of the chop to make sure it is no longer pink.*

When they are done, take them out of the pan and set aside on a warm plate.
Add some water, wine, or broth to the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the pan. This will deglaze the pan. The liquid will boil shortly and begin to evaporate off. In cooking terms, this is called "reducing". In fat guy terms, this is called "making gravy". Once the liquid has boiled almost all the way off, you'll notice a new sound. Now is your time to spring into furious action!
Grab a couple pats of butter and start swirling the liquid around the pan to combine. Add the chops back to the pan with the juices that have run out. Flip the chops and coat the other side.

*MY NOTE Make sure you drizzle that delicious pork chop with that heavenly gravy.

So, Mr. Pork Chop Expert finished his dinner and said "Top 3 best meals I have ever had in my life" TOP 3!! AND guess what! I ate that pork chop with all that delicious gravy and thought to myself - Oh. My. Gosh! Where have you been all my life!?! AND all 3 of my kids loved them. I am officially adding pork chops to the Vietti household 'regulars'.

Emeril's Scalloped Potatoes

Proceed with CAUTION. These potatoes are rich, delicious and creamy... and should only be made on occasion OR after you've had one of the best workouts of your life. Otherwise you may blow up to look like Marlon Brando...
I followed this recipe almost exactly the only substitution I made was that I didn't use Swiss cheese I used this delicious, wonderful Irish white cheddar... mmm...mmm...
Emeril's Scalloped Potatoes
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/4 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.
Place the cream in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper, and stir well. Add the potatoes, adding more cream if necessary to completely cover the potatoes. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are barely fork tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.
With a large spoon, transfer 1/3 of the potatoes with some of the cream to the prepared dish, forming an even layer on the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the cheese, and continue layering the potatoes and cheese, ending with cheese on top. Place on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

I made both chicken and bean burritos for dinner the other night. One of my sons fav things for dinner is a bean burrito (black beans and refried beans mixed up together, microwaved, topped with cheese and then folded burrito style). We had a bunch of left overs (including the chicken) so I came up with this simple recipe that satisfied us all...
Mexican Chicken Lasagna
3 c cooked rice (cooked in chicken stock is ALWAYS the way to go OR mexican rice would be awesome)
2 boneless skinless grilled chicken breasts, diced
1 c corn (I love Bybee Foods Organic frozen corn)
16 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz refried beans
1 large onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced (or 16 oz canned diced tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic (or 1 t of the minced in a jar)
3 T chili powder*
1 1/2 T paprika*
1 1/2 T cumin *
Tomatillo sauce
Flour tortillas
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (or if you don't have little ones a mix of cheddar and pepper jack would be delish)

Sautee onion, tomato and garlic until the onions start to soften. Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, chicken, black beans and refried beans. Mix well.

PAM a casserole dish. Pour in your Tomatillo sauce - just to coat. Put a layer of tortillas on top of the sauce. Layer the tortillas with rice. Then layer the rice with 1/2 the cheese. Then cover the cheese with the layer of chicken and bean mixture. Layer with more tortillas. Layer the tortillas with corn and then layer the corn with the rest of the cheese.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly and the cheese is all melty and crusty on top.

My son tore the top layers of tortilla, corn and cheese off the top in one piece and started mackin' on that - he told me that part was his favorite Mexican food ever (I swear it's that sweet corn!) next to bean burritos of course...

*These 3 ingredients make up your average Taco Seasoning mix - but without all the silicone dioxide, monosodium gluteamate, etc. You can substitute them for your fav Taco Seasoning mix.

**I just want to say that I absolutely don't intend to sound judgy. It is easy to take short cuts - I've taken short cuts all my life. With that said, through my "food knowledge" journey I have realized that there are several easy substitutes for pre-packaged seasoning mixes. Not judging - just sharing knowledge here...

Adult Grilled Cheese Sammie

I was a short order cook tonight. I gave the kids their 'grilled sammie' options. My son wanted a plain old grilled cheese sammie. Both my daughters wanted tuna melts. Since I stumbled on this recipe for Tuna Sammies - it's the only way the tuna base is made in our house - the tuna, mustard, w-sauce, mayo, salt and pepper part. I made a tuna melt for my husband this past weekend and he said "growing up on tuna sandwiches and loving them is one thing. Eating tuna sandwiches this way - is just the best sandwich ever."

I didn't have either the grilled cheese or the tuna melt - I opted for an invention of my own...
Adult Grilled Cheese Sammie
2 slices sourdough bread 1" thick
Butter
Mayonnaise
Tomato, thinly sliced
Red Onion, thinly sliced
Basil Leaves
Mozzarella, shredded or sliced
Havarti, shredded or sliced
Salt & Pepper

Spread mayonnaise on one slice of bread. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with Havarti cheese. Top with tomatoes, onions and basil. Then top with Mozzerella and the other slice of bread. Butter the outsides of the bread. Grill in a panini - or cook in a skillet and use a heavy pan to smoosh the bread down. Cook until the cheeses are all melty and the bread is nice and golden.

This sandwich was a toothy bite. It could definitely feed 2 adults - depending on which part of the sourdough loaf you get your slices from - mine were from the middle - A HUGE sandwich!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snacks

Muriel, my super awesome friend asked me for some ideas on after school snacks for her kids - some of these are SUPER obvious - so bear with me...

I also recently read an article via O magazine on Jessica Seinfeld (the author or Double Delicious and Deceptively Delicious) did she has a ton of great ideas and has given me lots to think about. She gives a lot more great ideas for after school snacks HERE.

Fav's around my house:
Jicama Chips
Sweet Peppers
Sweet corn (I buy the Bybee Foods Organic Sweet corn frozen at Costco - when they want a snack, I just get a little bowl full out of the bag and run them cool water to thaw. That way they are still nice and cold and delish!)
Whole Wheat tortillas (my kids love to warm them up in the microwave for 15 seconds - then they roll them up and eat away)
String Cheese
Yogurt
Hard Boiled eggs
Ants on a Log
Peanut butter or Sunbutter on everything from crackers to whole wheat toast
Cucumbers drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with chili powder
All kinds of nuts
'Ann's House' brand Soy Energy Blend (which I personally do not like - but my husband and son love)

Things to dip in your favorite salad dressing or honey
Baby Carrots
Sugar Snap Peas
Cucumbers
Radishes

What are your favorite go to snacks? Share!
*We also do fruit snacks, granola bars, Cheerios, etc.
**I save the fruit for dessert - a much better alternative...

I don't know how many of you read the comments - so I am going to post them right here for all of you to see - we are all looking for great snack ideas!!

From Wendymo: My favorite go-to snack right now is trail mix. My favorite has unsalted peanuts, dried pineapple, dried cranberries, raisins, and mini white chocolate chips. So tasty!

I also eat whole wheat toast with a wedge of light Laughing Cow Swiss cheese spread over it instead of butter. It's delish!

Thanks Wendymo!!

Skillet Lasagna

So this recipe is from the AMAZING blog of Sisters Stuff. These girls are great! I have been following their blog for awhile and using their ideas and recipes. I just love everything about them! This recipe has recently become a staple at our house. Even my picky baby loves the stuff and usually wants seconds! I modified it a little bit for our taste but here is the original recipe. You can find my add-ons and substitutions at the bottom. Enjoy! And PLEASE check out their site. SistersStuff.blogspot.com

Skillet Lasagna
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/4 cups water
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups bow tie pasta, uncooked
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Dash basil, pepper

In large skillet, brown beef with onions and garlic; drain. Add tomatoes, water, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, oregano, and salt. Mix well. Stir in uncooked pasta. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover, simmer for 20 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring once. Stir in cottage cheese. Cover with and Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle in basil and pepper to taste if desired. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Sisters Stuff Tips:
* I usually just use dried chopped onion and garlic. It is just easier for me.
* I strain the cottage cheese before adding it.
* I only add 1 tsp. dried parsley.

My subs:
*I have made it with ground beef and it is DELISH! But my hubs and I LOVE it with Italian sausage instead of ground beef. It is amazing!
*I also use italian flavored stewed tomatoes sometimes instead of diced tomatoes and it adds a lot of flavor.

Thanks Sisters Stuff for this recipe it really has become one of my "GO TO" meals. We LOVE it!

The picture shows mozzarella cheese on top instead of parmesan.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Food Rules

I watched an episode of Oprah last week on "The Vegan Challenge" I missed the first half of the show, so I was bummed - but what I did see was very informational.

That show helped me realize that I am personally responsible for the food choices of 5 people. My likes, dislikes, preferences and food choices directly affect not only me - but my husband and my 3 kids. WHAT A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY!

MY GENERAL FOOD RULES
In general, I felt pretty good about my food choices. I try to buy organic (but I don't go out of my way to find it), I try to introduce and serve as many veggies as possible (my kids request beets and asparagus on a regular basis - how many kids do you know that do?) and even with beverages - options here are water and milk. Every once in a while I'll buy juice boxes (that are 100% juice) or orange juice but that's an exception. Soda is a complete no-no here. About a year ago, we went out to pizza with friends that ordered a pitcher of Sprite for the kids. Feeling a little peer pressure, hubs and I let the kids try Sprite (or any soda for that matter) for the first time. My son absolutely hated it "it's too spicy" all those bubbles I guess. My daugter fell in love - sweet nectar of the earth. My 2 yr old didn't get a sample...

In the last 2 years I have completely cut out white bread. We only eat whole grain bread - unless I make the bread myself. If you are looking to switch to wheat bread that your family won't complain about, try Oroweat. My personal fav is Oroweat Oatnut (so frakin' delish!) but since we have nut allergies in our house we also always have Oroweat Whole Grain 100% Whole Wheat on hand. It really is so good - and no one complained at all during the switch over and they've never asked for white bread since. That said - I felt like I've been pretty responsible with the food choices I've made for my family.

MEAT TO TABLE
I have to preface this part of the post with a 'little ditty about Ham & Je-en...' haha. 3 or 4 years ago I bought a ham. The kind you buy for Christmas or Easter. My husband usually dissects the meat/poultry/pork. I decided that I was going to slice it into lunch meat, julienne it for salads and cube it for breakfasts, quick (kid) snacks, soups, etc. I wasn't even 1/4 of the way into this process when I realized that this was THE. MOST. DISGUSTING. THING. EVER. Being the go-getter I am - I resolved to accomplish my original goal no matter what. That lead to lots of perfectly cut ham to eat in the following week(s) and freeze BUT it also lead to a full year+ of no ham or pork product for me. I was so grossed out having dealt with that process I really couldn't even look at it for a very, very long time.

I got online and viewed some of the Oprah show I missed. I started watching the segment on how beef goes from the cow to our plates. Feeling a sense of obligation towards the 5 mouths I feed I watched as much of that process as possible. Not too far into the video, I slammed my computer shut, shivered, gagged and realized that while I want to have more knowledge as far as what I am feeding my family and making 'good' choices as far as what to feed them - I just can't go there.

Should I just suck it up and watch those segments for the greater good? What do you think??

I shared all of this with my husband and he nearly fainted when the words "Vegan Challenge" escaped my lips. So, just as I did with him - I must explain that I don't judge any lifestyle. I think there are tremendous benefits to most ways of eating. I know that for myself and my family I will never be Vegan. I personally know that my husband will never go for that. I also personally think that the protein and fat in meat and poultry is necessary in a child's diet. Only now, I am reconsidering where that meat and poultry come from.

EDUCATION
On that episode of Oprah, she had Michael Pollan as a guest. He is an author of several books, one being "Food Rules" that I bought and have found as an interesting read. He is not Vegan. He lays his food rules out and a lot of them make sense and are practical for the average person.

A few of his Food Rules are:
Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.
Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. He uses "Go-gurts" as an example.
Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
Eat only foods that will eventually rot. He uses "Twinkies" as an example of something that won't rot.
Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
Stop eating before you are full.
The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead.
Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
Don't get your fuel at the same place your car does.
It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
It's not food if it is called by the same name in every language i.e. Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles, etc.

Good rules right??
He also says "A lot of what you see in the supermarket I would argue is not really food," Michael says. "It's what I call edible, food-like substances." Another thing he says is "My research has convinced me cooking is an important part of the solution. It's the only way to take back our diet from the big companies." Smarty pants.

REALITY
Through this knowledge quest I've kept my husband updated on my research. He is happy with the way I've been feeding him and the kids. He doesn't want things to change. He feels that I have been responsible with my food choices. With my updates, I mentioned that the Santa Fe Farmers Market is the only year round Farmers Market in New Mexico and that through my research, I learned that at the Santa Fe Farmers Market we can purchase "grass fed" beef - which is apparently the way to go. Go organic, go grass fed, go crazy...

Hubs surprised me Saturday morning. He was determined to take me to the Santa Fe Farmers Market to give this new fangled path/discovery a try - for my sake. We bought 2 New York Strip Steaks that were from grass fed beef as well as 2 lbs of grass fed ground beef for a total of $36. WOWSA. I posted HERE about those steaks and will post again when I use the “grass fed” ground beef later this week.

As I said – it’s a food knowledge journey for me. I would appreciate any feedback, information, research, articles, what have you on food knowledge that you have and I will continue to post my findings here for you too!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BASICS: Vegetable Storage

I just may be the biggest food idiot on the planet. I've come to accept and change this. I think the drawer in my refrigerator labeled "vegetables" is to blame for this - that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I used to refrigerate all my vegetables - until I knew better.

Here are some veggie rules:
Beet greens, Swiss chard, Collards, Green onions, Kale, Lettuce, Mustard greens, Spinach, Turnip greens
Store in the refrigerator crisper and maintain high humidity by keeping the crisper more than
half full. Wash and drain well before storage.

Store the following vegetables in a crisper separate from the above vegetables, in plastic bags or containers in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Lima beans, Mushrooms, Peas, Radishes, Rhubarb, Sweetcorn (if unhusked, keep close to the freezer compartment), Turnips

Ideally, the following vegetables keep best at 45 to 55 degrees F due to their sensitivity to chilling injury. Store in the refrigerator no longer than about seven days. Use soon after removing from refrigerator.
Bell peppers, Hot peppers, Cucumbers, Ripe melons, Snapbeans, Summer squash

Store the following vegetables at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees F) and away from direct sunlight.
Dry garlic, Melons, Dry onions, Tomatoes (mature green, partly ripe and ripe)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Food Allergies

We found out my oldest (almost 8!) was allergic to eggs when he was 3 years old. Through careful monitoring his diet and complete abstinence - he grew out of that allergy. He is still gun shy about eggs in general. At this point, he'll eat things made with eggs (like pancakes and waffles) but I'd never be able to talk him into eating an egg salad sandwich.

Because of his food allergy, I have been very sensitive to my other kids likes/tastes/reactions to food. My 6 year old has no allergies whatsoever - but my baby (now 3) started showing signs of eczema when she started eating solids. I was suspicious that she also had food allergies - but as far as food allergies go - doctor's won't 'test' for it until the child is atleast 1 year old.

I got her tested as close to her 1st bday as possible and found out that she was allergic to eggs and peanuts. When your child tests allergic to peanuts at such a young age, they suggest you abstain from all tree nuts as well - just to be safe.

We moved out of state right after my kids were tested - proving that my oldest had grown out of his egg allergy and proving that my youngest was allergic to eggs and peanuts. Since we moved, I have tried several times to locate a doctor that specializes in children's food allergies. I have come up empty handed. It's crazy. And frustrating. And annoying. And infuriating.

Children diagnosed with egg allergy often grow out of that allergy - as my oldest did - and more recently (although not 'tested' in a dr's office - tested in my house under my supervision) my youngest also outgrew her egg allergy. She is thrilled to be able to eat cakes, cookies, pancakes, etc.

Children diagnosed with peanut or tree nut allergies are most likely NOT able to grow out of that allergy. The great thing is that since I caught this food allergy when she was at such a young age - if she accidentally ingests a peanut or tree nut - her exposure has been so minimal that her symptoms are managable. I can't imagine being a Mom to one of those kids that goes into anaphylactic shock when a bag of peanuts is opened - bless them:)

Since my approach with the egg allergy has been complete abstinence - I took the same approach with my youngests peanut and treenut allergies. Until recently...

Through this whole "food knowledge" quest I am going through (which I promise to post about!) I have realized that abstinence in the traditional manner isn't the way to go. She will most likely have this peanut and tree nut allergy her entire life - so substitution is important.

Peanut butter is a great source of protein for my older kids - I lamented the fact that my youngest didn't get that yummy protein in her snacks like the other kids did. Who doesn't love celery with peanut butter (and raisins aka ants on a log) or peanut butter and apple slices or pretzels dipped in peanut butter?

I found this awesome peanut butter substitute through my research. It is made from sunflower seeds (which are seeds and not nuts) AND it has just as much protein and good fat as your run of the mill peanut butter does...
AND I found it at my local Wal-Mart. I know! I have several 'shopping lists' on my iPhone - one for the Asian market, one for Whole Foods, one for Wal-Mart, one for the gourmet store, etc. and although my shopping lists are seperate - I look for obsure ingredients wherever I shop. I was surprised and excited to find this at Wal-Mart.

To be honest, it doesn't taste like peanut butter. But, it is the same texture, and it has a peanut butter 'quality' about it AND my daughter loves it. She is so excited to be able to have peanut butter toast, PB&J's, pretzels, apples and celery with it. So - although it is more expensive - it's totally worth it.

BASICS: Bacon

A family friend (my kids call her Nammy) mentioned HERE and HERE is one of the best chefs I personally know. Everything she makes is divine. Her and her daughter (my sister in law) mentioned HERE, HERE and HERE inspired me to be a better cook and to make things the right way - even though it takes more time.

Several years ago Eleanor gave me one of the greatest cooking tips ever. She learned this tip from watching "Good Eats" with Alton Brown...
The best, easiest way to prepare bacon: Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay out the bacon (this picture is of 1 lb of bacon). Put the bacon in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees and set the timer for 25 minutes. That's it!! Perfect bacon.

Since every oven is different - I'd check your bacon around 20 minutes and then keep an eye on it the first time around to find out how long your bacon needs to cook in your specific oven. ENJOY!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Steak...

Per the post below, my husband and I packed up the kids - drove for an hour up to the only year round Farmers Market to buy some grass fed beef. It's was our first time buying and eating grass fed beef and let me tell ya - IT. WAS. GOOD.
I saw this video on how to make the perfect steak - and that is just how we made ours - only we cooked it on the grill. Perfect.
and by the way... if you want your kids to eat mushrooms - sautee them up with onions and butter. My kids will eat mushrooms for days made that way!

Grass Fed Beef

As I have mentioned, I am going through this whole "food knowledge" quest of sorts. I started a post about it - but the information is so vast and extensive, I feel like it will never be complete. I will post about it. I will.

In the meantime, if you too are interested in expanding your food knowledge like I am - take a look at this informative video on grass fed beef!
Check out this great MSN video: Where grass-fed beef is king

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BASICS: Salad Dressing

I make all of my family's salad dressings myself. There is so much junk in store bought salad dressings that I feel like it's silly not to make your own. I forgot to add lemon juice and dijon mustard in this pic. Here is my arsenal... Apple Cider Vinegar, White Vinegar, Sesame Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Honey, Rice Wine Vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, and even though the Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix has some of the junk in it - the mix has far fewer of those ingredients than any salad dressing at the store...
This is what's currently in my fridge... Honey Lime Dressing, Mary's Vinagrette (made with White vinegar) and Ranch dressing
If you make a vinagrette, make sure you just make enough for the event/dinner. Home made vinagrette doesn't refrigerate well b/c of the olive oil, but you can't leave it out on your counter b/c mustard needs to be refrigerated.
Occasionally, I'll make Ranch from scratch using this recipe HERE.

Don't be intimidated. It's easy. It's much healthier than the alternative and it's delicious.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cheesy Rice Ball Fritters

I saw these on "Down Home With The Neely's" on the Food Network. I made them for dinner last night - and they were good. All my kids agreed!
The only thing I'd do different next time is to serve them at an appetizer/potluck party instead of for dinner - they are FILLING!!
Cheesy Rice Ball Fritters
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces ham steak, diced into chunks
2 cups cooked long-grain white rice
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten*
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Peanut oil, for frying

Preheat a deep-fryer to 375 degrees F.
Saute the shallot and garlic with the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the ham, cook until lightly crisp and then stir in the rice.
Mix the ham mixture, cream cheese, Parmesan, mozzarella, and parsley together in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls and put on a baking sheet.
Add the flour, beaten eggs, and panko to separate pie plates. Season the panko with salt and pepper. Roll the balls through the flour, then the egg and then the panko. Gently add the fritters to the deep-fryer and fry until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the fritters to a serving platter and serve.
*We have food allergies in our house - so instead of using eggs, I used a milk and sour cream blend and it worked great!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BASICS: Cookware Care

For Christmas, my husband and I got a new set of pots and pans. The miscellaneous pots and pans we had accrued or inherited over the years had seen their day - and even on their very best days - none of them were half way decent.

We didn't spend a lot of money (relatively speaking!) for a new set. We spent about $100 at Costco for this 10 piece Bialetti "Commercial Cookware" set. I can't believe the difference it has made in my cooking in such a short time. Other than having even heat on the entire pans surface. That is something you may think you are getting - but if you pay close attention the next time you cook with one of your old pots or pans you may notice 'hot spots' or warping (does your pot/pan ever wobble?) The thing I have been most impressed with is the non-stick factor. I was constantly scrubbing stuff, bits, gunk off of my pots and pans - no more my friends, my new (perfectly cared after) pots and pans practically clean themselves!
I think most cookware sets are non-stick these days - BUT taking care of your cookware makes all the difference when it comes to keeping them non-stick (contrary to popular belief - non-stick pans do lose their coatings) and in tip top shape.

A few basic principals to keep in mind:

1. Only use wooden or plastic utencils with your cookware. Metal utencils (even your serving spoon) scratch the non-stick coating and ruin the integrity of the pan. There are so many great options out there. My recent fav purchase is a plastic coated whisk. Great investment - very little cost.

2. NEVER have your dishwasher clean your cookware for you. I mean never. Use a plastic cleaning brush and dish soap to clean.

3. On that note, use water tempered to the temperature of your pan. If your pan is still warm when you are ready to wash it - use warm water to clean it - that will prevent warping.

4. Don't leave your pan full of soapy water. If your pan is aluminum, it will get discolored.

That's basically it. Start with a decent set of pots and pans and take care of them - they will serve you well, make your life so much easier and will actually make you smile instead of grimace when you are considering what to make for dinner. Instead of thinking "ugh! I have to use so many different pots and pans to make that recipe!" you'll think "my family will love this recipe - I can't wait to try it!"

Good Luck!

BASICS: Alfredo Sauce

One thing I love is Alfredo sauce - or "white sauce" as my kids call it. It's so easy to make!!
Basic Alfredo Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced*
2 T flour
2 c heavy cream
1/2 c half and half
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute - be careful not to cook it for too long – it will get bitter. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the heavy cream and half and half whisking constantly. Once incorporated, whisk less frequently. It will start to thicken and bubble. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over your fav pasta – or on top of your pizza dough.

*I use the minced garlic in a jar. The brand I get says ½ tsp = 1 clove.

BASICS: Roasted Garlic

As promised, another installment in my BASICS posts. Roasted Garlic - yummmm...
Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Cut off approx 1/2" of the top of cloves. Set the cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic. Make sure you cover it well. Wrap the cloves up in the foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Use your fingers to squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. Use in your fav recipe!

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