Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dinner Ideas That Keep the Kitchen Cool

We lost a great film writer this week in Nora Ephron this week.  What a talented woman she was.  She wrote three of my favorite movies -- When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail.  My favorite Nora Ephron quote is "You should eat your last meal every day, because when the time comes, you probably won't feel like it."

 During the next week or two it sounds as though the temps will remain 100 degrees plus and I've been trying to get a little bit creative in the kitchen to serve healthy meals that will be appealing and satisfying to my heat weary family.

My Pampered Chef Grill Pan and Press will get a good work out for sure.  I think it may just be to hot to even step out and stand over the gas grill.  I don't say that very often.  Chicken breasts coated in olive oil and seasoned with one of my favorite Pampered Chef seasonings or rubs take 15 minutes to cook on the stove top.  They are perfect to serve whole or sliced and place on top of a salad.

The grill pan and press are also perfect to prepare the beef tenderloin medallions (available at Dierbergs).  I season these with salt and smokehouse pepper only and cook them for only about six minutes per side.  They are delicious and so tender.

The refrigerator is stocked with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, grapes and cherries.  There are lots of veggies too -- carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  The veggies are perfect with Ranch salad dressing as a dip.  Quick, easy, and delicious.

Don't let the heat get the best of you.  Keep your family well fed even if they think they don't feel like eating.

Stay safe in this heat, and be sure to check on your neighbors -- especially those who are elderly or who you may suspect cannot keep their home cool.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heat Wave 2012!

I can't get over the forecast for the next week.  We have hot summers in St. Louis, but this is going to be ridiculous!  Four out of the next seven days will be 100 degrees or hotter - two days are projected to be 104.  That is beyond hot and there is just no escaping that heat if you have to be outdoors for more than a minute.

There are lots of hot weather recipes already posted on the blog.  This is a reminder of what to type in the search box above to find those recipes.

Fruit salad
Chicken Salad
Egg Salad
Hot Weather

Stay cool during this heat wave and feed your family lots of fresh fruit and veggies.  Don't use your oven, but fire up the grill outdoors if you need to cook.  Do what you can to keep the heat out of the house.

In anticipation of the heat I grilled a dozen burgers and 3 lbs of brats to keep in the fridge to just warm up in the microwave over the next few days.

I also have lots of melon, berries and grapes in the fridge to grab for a quick cool snack.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Tried A New Product Tonight - Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade

I stopped to get a couple of steaks to grill for dinner.  As I walked down the condiment aisle, I spotted a trial size of a product I've never used before -- Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade.  For $1.28 the package marinated and seasoned our steaks, and there was enough of the dry spice to sprinkle over the fresh broccoli  we steamed as our veggie for tonight.  The flavor I bought was Onion & Garlic (two of my favorite flavors).

Daddy Hinkle's comes in a two section package.  One side contains a liquid marinade and the other is a dry spice mixture to sprinkle over the steak.  I let the steaks marinate for about five minutes and then sprinkled them with the dry spice mixture on both sides and let them sit for about 10 minutes while the grill preheated.

I  trimmed the broccoli crowns and placed them into the Pampered Chef Steamer Basket.  I placed the basket in a 4-quart saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water.  I sprinkled them with sea salt and then about 1/2 tsp of the Daddy Hinkle's spice mixture.  I put the lid on the pan and cooked it over high heat for about 15 minutes.

I placed the steaks on the grill and let them cook for about five minutes on each side.  Once removed from the grill, I let them sit for about 10 minutes while I prepared a simple lettuce salad topped with fresh peach salad dressing.

This was a perfect hot summer night dinner.  I'll certainly be buying Daddy Hinkle's Instant Meat Marinade again.  The flavor of the steaks and the broccoli was terrific!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Liam! -- Total Cake Annihilation

Liam is one year old today!  He and his cousin, Christian shared a Double Trouble birthday party on Saturday.  What a day it was for both boys.  They had a blast!

There is positively nothing funnier than watching youngsters on their first birthday attempt to eat their cake.  Liam took it to a whole new dimension.  That little boy totally annihilated his cake.  But, he had fun!

This is precisely why all first birthday parties should be at home.  Liam went straight to Uncle Paul and Aunt Katy's bathtub from the high chair.  The good news . . . he is not permanently stained red.

I will forever remember this face!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Perfect Vegetarian Dish - Carrot, Avocado, and Orange Salad

I am the farthest thing from vegetarian that exists, but I do try to keep a few recipes handy for those times when I have people coming for dinner and I'm unsure of everyone's dining pleasures.  This is a salad that's perfect for your vegetarian friends.  I love it too, because it has three of my favorite ingredients.

4 medium garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)
Sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb baby carrots about the size of your pointer finger
3 oranges
3 avocados (chilled)
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cilantro sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and smash the garlic and mix with a pinch of salt.  Work into a wet, smooth paste.  Put the paste into a large mixing bowl and add the cumin and red pepper flakes.  Add the olive oil and stir well.

Add the carrots and toss to coat with the oil and spices.  Sprinkle with 3 pinches of sea salt and continue to toss.  Pour the carrots into a baking dish.  Tilt the dish and pour 1/4 cup water into an empty spot to avoid removing any of the coating from the carrots.  Cover with foil and put in the oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for about 25 more minutes.  The carrots should be as tender as the avocados.

While the carrots are roasting, peel and cut the orange into segments.  Pour any juice into a small bowl.

When the carrots are done, allow them to sit and cool until slightly warm.

Halve the avocados and remove the pits.  Cut the flesh lengthwise into slices about the same size as the carrots.  the slices should be sturdy enough that they don't break when you toss them.

Put the avocado slices in a large serving bowl and add the reserved oranges.  Combine the orange juice, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp olive oil, and a healthy pinch or two o sea salt.  Toss gently and well with your hands. Push the avocado to one side of the bowl.  Add the carrots a handful at a time, scraping and tossing them in the beautiful green liquid in the bowl before adding the next handful..  Make sure to scrape out and add all the garlicky spices left in the baking dish.  Toss it all together gently, being careful not to break the avocado slices.

Serve in a pretty serving dish and top with a little bit of Cilantro.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Even a Good Cook Can Make An "Oh No" Dinner

Last Friday night I went to happy hour at Jilly's in High Ridge with several of my co-workers.  In addition to the expected beverages :) we ordered lots of appetizers to share.  I had never had Deep Fried Cannelloni Bites, but these things were awesome!  After eating a bit more than my share, I was convinced I could make those yummy little bites myself.

As I did my grocery shopping last weekend I bought what I thought I would need to make them - Cannelloni noodles, ground beef, Sweet Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, onions, garlic, and bread crumbs.  The meat  mixture with cheese turned out absolutely awesome.  The flavor was spot on.  But . . . when it came to stuffing the cut cannelloni noodles, most of them split apart.  It's a little tough to bread and deep fry something that's falling apart before it goes into the deep fryer.  We wound up with a plateful of crispy noodles and crusty ground beef and sausage.  Top that with a little marinara sauce and that was dinner.

Such a disappointment!  From now on, if I want Cannelloni Bites I'll go to Jilly's or find them in the frozen section of my grocery store.  This is one recipe you won't find posted on this blog.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Irresistible Chicken Salad Sandwiches

We all have a favorite sandwich.  Mine happens to be Chicken Salad.  I fix this one of two ways -- either with canned chicken (the big 20 oz cans from Sam's) or leftover cooked chicken breasts that I cut into cubes.

2 cups of chicken
1/4 cup chopped bacon bits (I fry 4 strips of bacon and chop it)
3 stalks of celery finely chopped
2 green onions finely sliced (white part included)
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup Miracle Whip

This is always a crowd pleaser.  Sometimes I'll add a handful of Craisins to brighten it up.

Tip:  We have fried bacon with breakfast most weekends.  I freeze my leftover fried bacon to use in recipes like this when I need it.  That can be a real time-saver.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberry Delight - The perfect summertime dessert

Summer begins at 6:09 pm on Wednesday, June 20th.  Get ready for the heat and humidity of summer and arm yourself with some recipes for delicious hot-weather food.

Strawberry Delight is the perfect dessert to take to an outdoor family gathering or to serve your family after a summer dinner.

One angel food cake (prepared)
2 (3.4 oz) pkgs Strawberry Jell-O
2 1/4 cup hot water
1 large tub of Cool Whip (32 oz)
2 small pkgs of frozen strawberries

Mix Jell-o and hot water until dissolved..  Add strawberries.  Let mixture sit until slightly thickened.  Fold in cool whip.  In a large bowl, break up the angel food cake into small pieces.  Add Jell-O mixture and stir well.  Pour into 9 x 13" pan.  Refrigerate until set.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pumpkin Bars

This post is for my sister, Kim, who will hit the half century mark on Friday.  Happy Birthday Kim!

We all have that one special recipe that we go to when we need to take goodies for a special event.  Pumpkin Bars is Kim's "go-to" recipe.  The only problem is she can't ever find the recipe.  Well, this post should fix that.  Just go to my blog and type "pumpkin" in the search box and this post will be at your finger tips.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (beaten)
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup oil

Mix ingredients together.  Pour into a jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool fully and then frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1 Tbsp cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temp.  Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer until fluffy. Add the liquid ingredients and the powdered sugar.  Mix well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet Glazed Carrots

I am always looking for new and delicious ways to add veggies to our meals.  I found this recipe on Kraft's website several months ago, and it's  become a regular at our house.  The kids love it!  It has just the right amount of tangy and sweet.

8 carrots (peeled and sliced)
1/2 cup Kraft Catalina salad dressing
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cook carrots in boiling water in large saucepan 5 minutes or until crisp tender; drain.  Return to saucepan.

Add dressing brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce and mix lightly.  Cook on low heat 5 minutes or until carrots are evenly glazed, stirring frequently.

Stir in parsley and serve.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grilled Pork and Pineapple

It's summertime and there is no better time to add fresh fruit to dinner.  Give this refreshing dish a try.  I use my Pampered Chef Pineapple Corer to easily peel and core the pineapple so it can be cut into perfect rings.

4 - 3/4" thick boneless pork chops
1 fresh pineapple (peeled and cored)
3 Tbsp orange marmalade
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup roasted, lightly salted cashew halves

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut pineapple into 1/2" thick slices and set aside.
Place the chops on a hot grill over medium-high heat.  Cook for four minutes.
Turn the chops and add the pineapple slices to the grill.
Brush chops and pineapple slices with 2 Tbsp of the orange marmalade.
Grill for 3 - 5 minutes longer until pork is fully cooked.

Combine yogurt and remaining marmalade.  Arrange pineapple and chops on plates.  Top with yogurt; sprinkle with roasted cashews (roughly chopped).

Friday, June 8, 2012

Grilled Veggies

There hasn't been much time for blogging lately.  My work world has been extraordinarily full the past many months and especially the last three weeks.  Monday we began transacting business in a new accounting/inventory software package.  There was data to convert and processes to reinvent.  We survived our first week and I am so proud of the exceptional people I work with.  What a fantastic team we are!  That hasn't left much time for cooking or thinking about recipes to share.

Last night I was just so hungry for good food.  I had to cook.  I went to Dierbergs for beef tenderloin medallions to put on the grill and decided we'd have some grilled veggies to go along with them.  This recipe makes use of my Pampered Chef BBQ Flexible Basket and it couldn't be any easier.

Slice your veggies into 1/2" chunks/slices.  Place them into a large bowl.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and then sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Shake to coat all veggies and allow to sit until about 10 minutes before the rest of your dinner is ready.

Place the veggies in the grill basket and secure the handles.  Place the basket on the grill and lower the lid (the handles will stick out the front of the grill).  Grill five minutes on each side.

So, you ask, what kind of veggies can be grilled?

My favorite:  Portabella Mushroom Caps and Yellow Onions -- Wash and slice the mushroom caps into 1/2" slices.  Peel and slice the yellow onion into 1/2" slices and then separate into rings.  These veggies grilled together are a perfect compliment to a good steak.

Alternate:  Zucchini, Yellow Squash, and White Onion -- Wash and peel the zucchini and squash into 1/2" chunks.  Wash, peel and slice the onion into 1/2" slices and then separate into rings.  These are perfect with just about any grilled entree you choose.

Grilled veggies are a family favorite -- even the little kids like them.  There's just something about the grill that makes food good.