Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Normally at this time of year I've been browsing Food Network and other foodie favorite places looking for new and interesting ideas for our Thanksgiving dinner.  I just haven't found the time to do that yet this year.  A post on Facebook was kind enough to point out that Thanksgiving is just five weeks from today.  I had better get started!  I am looking forward to planning a fantastic meal for the whole family and any friends that choose to join us.

Thanksgiving is a day to count our blessings and one my blessings is cooking for the people I love and knowing they enjoy their meal.

Check in often for creative and tasty ideas for this year's feast.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Produce Co-op - Fresh Fruit & Veggies

A little more than a year ago I joined a produce co-op.  Every two weeks I spend $21.50 to pick up a very large and very heavy bag of fresh produce.  This is hands down the best bargain for my grocery dollar.   This is enough produce to feed a family of four for two weeks.  The co-op offers a variety of extra fruits and veggies that can be purchased in addition to cage-free brown eggs.  There are a large number of pick up locations throughout the St. Louis area on both sides of the river.  Take a few minutes to check out their website and take advantage of the opportunity to save money on good food for your family.

This is a picture of part of this week's bag.  The bag held a pineapple, bananas, apples, limes, portabella mushrooms, 2 lbs of carrots, 3 lbs of sweet potatoes, red onions, grapes, spaghetti squash, spinach and 2 lbs of strawberries.  I promise you, you won't begin to buy this quality of produce for anywhere near the price you pay for this  bag.

Just recently they began selling cage-free brown eggs for $2.50/dozen.  I was skeptical that I'd notice a difference in the eggs, but I did.  And what sealed the deal for me was my son Luke telling me my scrambled eggs were better than ever.  He knew nothing about the change in eggs.  As far as he knew they were still the same eggs I always brought home from the store.  There really is a difference.

Check out their website and start saving money yourself.  Copy and paste this website into your browser.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Has Finally Arrived

I couldn't help but notice the change in the color of the leaves as I drove to work this morning.  As much as I dislike winter, I love watching the leaves change and the color pop in the bluffs that surround us.  Sometimes I think it would be nice to live where it's 78 degrees year round, but then I think about what I'd miss.

There is nothing like seeing the first signs of spring poking up through the cold ground in late-February or the leaves beginning to bud on the trees.  Summer is hot, but filled with goodies from the garden.  Fall brings the brilliant leaves on the trees and cooler days and nights for bonfires and roasting marshmallows. And then there's winter.  I like to see the snow -- it's beautiful before it's trampled -- but I don't like to have to get out in St. Louis traffic and drive in it.  St. Louisans have issues when it rains . . . and SERIOUS issues when it snows.  But, there is nothing more beautiful than an undisturbed 4+ inch snow.

I couldn't live anywhere where there weren't four distinct seasons.  Yes, it's the warm sunny, breezy days I like the best, but I would certainly miss the simple pleasures of the rest of the days if I lived anywhere else.

Fall brings cooler weather and I automatically start thinking of soups, stews and comfort food.  Be sure to check back often for new recipe ideas.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Summer Squash Stir-Fry

Those of us who garden have tons of zucchini and yellow squash that we just don't know what to do with this time of year.  If you're like us, you even have the neighbors over-supplied with the fresh veggies.  Well, here is a recipe that will put some of the summer squash to use.

1 lb zucchini (unpeeled)
1 lb yellow squash (unpeeled)
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (pressed)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper

Use the julienne attachment on your mandoline to cut the summer squash into matchsticks.

Place squash in a colander set in the sink or over a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp salt.  Let squash stand 10 minutes, then squeeze as much moisture out as possible.  Do not rinse.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring often.  Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisptender, about 5 minutes.  Fold in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Taco Salad with a New Twist

Every once in a while I run across a recipe that is easy and delicious.  This is one that became a family favorite the first time I made it.

7 oz Nacho Cheese Doritos (broken up)
1 lb ground beef (browned)
1 pkg Taco Seasoning
3/4 cup water
2 cups of Kraft Shredded Mexican Cheese
2 cups lettuce (bite size)

Place the broken Doritos in the bottom of an 8" x 10" baking dish.

Brown the ground beef and drain.  Add the taco seasoning and the water and simmer for five minutes.

Spoon the seasoned ground beef over the Doritos.  Sprinkle with the cheese and top with lettuce.

I like to serve this topped with a sprinkling of Pico de Gallo, a dollup of Guacamole, and a dollup of sour cream.

I've previously posted recipes for Pico de Gallo and Guacamole.  If you can't find them, or if you're in a hurry, send me an e-mail and I'll send them to you.

Note:  The first time I made this I baked it for 10 minutes to melt the cheese before adding the lettuce.  While it did taste good, once it was no longer hot the cheese was just a hardened mess.  I don't recommend baking this . . . it's much better unbaked.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Life is Entertaining

Life with a two-year-old in the house when you're in your fifties is entertaining.  There are very few moments of boredom when youngsters fill your evenings and weekends.

Last night my grandson, Liam, decided he was going to sleep in my bed.  He announced in his cool, crisp little voice "Gammy's bed" as he climbed the doggie stairs to crawl in next to PaPa (his ultimate favorite person).  He fell asleep quickly and PaPa got up to go watch TV in another room and fell asleep.  By the time I went to bed, I woke Emily (Liam's mom) and she decided she'd sleep on one side of Liam and I'd sleep on the other. Aerobic bedtime doesn't even begin to describe the night I had.

     Liam rolls over on me -- the dogs (who think it's their bed) growl

     I roll over on my side to give Liam a little more room -- the dogs growl again

     Liam rolls closer -- I pick him up and put him back in the middle where he began the night

     Liam rolls over on me -- the dogs growl more

     Okay - you get the picture.  A very restful night!

At 5:00 AM Liam wakes up screaming "PaPa".  Of course, PaPa is not in bed.  After a diaper change and a refilled cup of milk I thought the little man might go back to sleep.  Oh no!  Only PaPa would do.  PaPa came in to get him and he laid down with him in the bunk beds for about 20 minutes.  Just as I was falling back to sleep I heard a sweet little voice saying "Gammy's bed" as he climbed the stairs once again.  I told him to lie down on the pillows and he immediately began to yell for PaPa yet again.

Needless to say, there was no more sleep for anyone in the house.  But . . . that is not the end of the story.

As I was showering this morning I heard a loud thud.  Liam had climbed into the bathtub in his jammies and diaper.  He looked up at me saying "shower -- shower".  He was so cute!  I was trying to rinse my hair and he said, "Gammy - shower mine".  Who knew?  At two, he's taken over my bed and the shower.  What's left?

As for me, I was tired - very tired - today.  Liam -- he had a 2 1/2 hour nap this afternoon.  He's good to go!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Emma's in France - What an Experience

I admit that I was apprehensive about Emma and Matt leaving the country, but they are having a wonderful time in France.  Emma sent a few pictures today.  They are staying in a little town about 5 hours outside of Paris.  I got quite a kick out of the picture of the beds in their room -- there were two twin size beds - she says one is actually smaller than a twin and is called a single.  I asked her if they pushed them together and she said they tried, but they are on wheels and they keep rolling apart.  Ah . . . sweet, romantic memories for the two of them.

They are trying foods they wouldn't normally eat and finding out they really like them.  This is a fantastic opportunity for the two of them.

The plated food was dinner for them Monday night.  The pretty gate was in front of a residence.

They have cooking classes each morning and then scheduled tours each afternoon.  They have a few hours of free time too on a couple of days.

I love that Emma has this chance to travel to France, but I will be breathing a little easier when we pick them up at the airport next Saturday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Guacamole Party Dip

Do you want to be the star of your next pot luck event?  Well, give this Guacamole Party Dip recipe a try.  It is unbelievably good, and I'm proud to say, it's my own recipe.

2 large avocados
1 pkg of Produce Partners or Tostitos brand Guacamole seasoning
1 (14 oz) can of whole kernel white corn
2 cups of Pico de Gallo (see my recipe -- it's on this blog)
1 can of black olives (sliced into quarters)
1 cup of Ranch Dressing (I like Wishbone Guacamole Ranch Dressing)

Mash the avocados and add the seasoning mix.
Place in the bottom of a clear glass 2-quart casserole or serving dish.
Top with one can of white corn (drained)
Top with Pico de Gallo
Top with the sliced black olives
Pour the Ranch dressing over the top

Making this dip is pretty labor intensive, but it's so worth it!  Serve it with Totstitos.

Pico de Gallo

I have become a big fan of Pico de Gallo.  I used to buy lots of salsa, but these days I make my own Pico de Gallo and use it in every recipe that lists salsa as an ingredient.  It's so easy to make!

2 fresh red tomatoes (seeded and diced)
1/2 red onion (diced)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Cilantro
1 garlic clove (pressed)
1 Jalapeno (diced) -- I leave this out
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

The secret to really good Pico de Gallo is making sure your cuts of the tomatoes and onions are the same size.

Combine all of the ingredients and then refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

I don't like the flavor of jalapeno, so I leave that out.  I know most people love it, so use it as you like.

 I use Pico de Gallo when I make Guacamole, Fajitas, Layered Dips and just as a dip for Tostitos.  It is a family favorite.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our grandson, Liam, had surgery last Friday to tighten the muscles in his eyes to prevent them from crossing.  Our poor little guy is just terrified of going to the doctor, so he begins crying when we enter the doctor's office and doesn't stop until he is safely back in his car seat in the car.  Needless to say, this gets to be a little unnerving!  Imaging how much screaming he did when we arrived at Cardinal Glennon as instructed 2 1/2 hours before his scheduled surgery.  Once the doctors and nurses in Pre-Op had their fill of his unwavering screaming they suggested a sedation they called Baby Valium - it had a formal name, but I can't remember it.  Emily and I were relieved that Liam's crying would stop.  

The drug was in liquid form, and of course, Liam threw almost all of it back up since he'd been crying for so long.  Our first thought was, "Oh no!  Now it won't work."  But two minutes later we began recording the following videos.  Poor Liam could barely remember the words to Ring Around the Rosie or figure out how to play Pat-A-Cake!  It's impossible not to have a chuckle!

It was quite a trying day, but Liam's eyes look great!  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Little Meat Math

Do you ever find yourself struggling to figure out just how much meat to buy for a meal or dinner party?  Just follow the chart below:

Meat                                                       Per Person

Lean or Extra Lean Ground Meat              1/4 lb

Spareribs                                                  1 lb

Steaks - boneless tenderloin,
rib-eye, sirloin                                           1/4 lb

Steak - T-bone                                         6 oz

Chicken - boneless                                   4 oz

Chicken - bone-in                                     1/2 lb

To figure out how much meat you'll need for a party just multiply the amounts shown by the number of guests you expect.  Add a few extra servings to have enough for second servings or leftovers.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Asian Sesame Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is an inspiration from, believe it or not, two different recipes that have nothing to do with one another.  I made a salmon dinner for my hubby's birthday this week.  I don't usually prepare seafood unless it's crab, lobster or shrimp.  But . . . for the hubby's 60th  birthday, I had to make an exception.  The salmon was baked with an Asian glaze and I almost liked it.

I'm a lover of sweet potatoes and I'm always looking for ways to fix them that the family will find appealing.  I chunked the 3 lbs of sweet potatoes and topped them with the Asian glaze and baked them.  They are delicious!  And not loaded with brown sugar and butter.

3 lbs of sweet potatoes (peeled and chunked)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup honey
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds (I toasted them)
1 tsp dried minced onions
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and chunk the sweet potatoes and place them in a foil-lined 13 x 9" baking pan.  Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Combine the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.  Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes and stir to coat.  Roast the potatoes for 20 more minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Liam Cracking Up

Kids are priceless!  My grandson, Liam was just finishing dinner tonight as I was watching American Idol.  I simply cleared my throat and he totally cracked up.  This poor child laughed so hard he couldn't catch his breath.  His face was totally red!  I ran for the camera hoping to recreate the moment.  This was as close as I came.  Note the mashed potatoes in his hair, eyes, ears, and lap.  Needless to say, his glasses had to be removed -- it's a little tough to see through mashed potatoes. 

This is a can't miss!  Give yourself a smile moment and watch this video.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Super Bowl Menu

I am a football fan, and Super Bowl Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year.  It's the biggest game of the year!  Food is part of the game experience, but should not take the host away from the excitement. 

So . . . here we go . . .  This was our Super Bowl menu this year.

There was plenty of good food.  The menu centered around "Hooter's Chicken Wings" (not pictured here - they went into the large white serving bowl).  I deep fry wings breaded in the Hooter's brand breading and then coat them with Hooter's wing sauce just before serving.  We had an assortment of fresh veggies and dips (Dill and Fiesta Ranch) and fresh fruit.  There was fresh shrimp and cocktail sauce, Guacamole and Tostitos, sliced cheeses and Greek Salad Bites.  The table looked great and the food was yummy!
The Greek Salad Bites are so easy to make and they are delicious.  You have to give this recipe a try when you want to impress your friends.
3 - 4 Persian cucumbers sliced into 1/4" rounds
12 cherry tomatoes (halved) -- look for small round ones
24 black olives
1 pkg of fresh mozzarella cheese (cut 24 square cubes)
 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp oregano
Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

Use a toothpick to skewer the tomato, then the cucumber, then the olive and finish with a cube of mozzarella cheese.  Repeat until all ingredients are gone. 

Arrange on a serving platter.

Put lemon, oil, fresh pepper and oregano in a jar and shake to mix well.  Drizzle dressing over the skewers just before serving. 

This is a very easy dish to make and it looks really impressive.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner

The weather has been very cold this week and it's definitely been the perfect week for comfort food.  Tonight we took it one step futher . . . we had breakfast for dinner.  Who doesn't like that?

The menu:    Scrambled eggs
                    Fried potatoes and onions
                    Country gravy

It was definitely a home run dinner.  The only thing missing was everyone dressed in their PJs. 

Last weekend my hubby asked me, "How do you make your eggs so fluffy?"   I guess the grandkids don't like his eggs so much.  :)

My secret to fluffy eggs is to add about 1/2 cup of milk to about 12 eggs. Whip with a whisk until somewhat frothy.  Pour into a pan with melted butter over medium heat.  Keep your egg mixture moving so it does not  brown.  Your eggs will be fluffy and yellow - not skinny and brown. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Enchiladas - Not Out of the Box

Every once in a while I feel the need to totally revamp a recipe either to use specific items I have in the pantry or just because I feel like changing things up.  Last night we had Enchiladas, but they weren't the boxed El Paso dinner.  I used my Quesadilla Casserole filling and rolled it in whole grain tortillas and topped it with Enchilada sauce.  Hands down, these were the best Enchiladas I've ever eaten.

1 lb ground beef
1 tsp seasoning salt
1 onion, diced
1 - 15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 - 15 oz sweet kernel corn (drained)
1 - 15 oz tomato sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 - 15 oz Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Cheddar Jack cheese
8 - 10 whole grain tortillas

Brown the ground beef with the diced onion.  Drain.

Combine beef, black beans, corn, and tomato sauce.  Add all spices and heat until bubbling.
Pour 1/2 cup mixture onto a tortilla and roll.  Place the rolled tortilla into a 9 x 9" baking dish
Repeat until all tortillas are used.
Pour the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortilas.
Sprinkle cheese over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve topped with sour cream.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

McCormick Gourmet - Bourbon Spiced Pork

I discovered a new product in the grocery store last week.  It's a spice/seasoning packet found in the gravy/sauces/seasoning section of the store, and it's called McCormick Gourmet.  There were several flavors, but I chose to try the Bourbon Spiced Pork.  There is a recipe on the back of the package, "Bourbon Spiced Pork with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples", and it was just delicious.

1 pkg McCormick Gourmet Bourbon Spiced Pork seasoning mix
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) peeled and cut into 1" cubes
2 apples, cored, unpeeled and halved

Combine seasoning mix and brown sugar.  Reserve 1/4 cup aside.  Brush pork with oil.  Rub with remaining seasoning mixture.  Place pork in the center of a large shallow baking pan.

Mix reserved seasoning mixture and orange juice in large bowl.  Add sweet potatoes and apples; toss to coat well.  Arrange sweet potatoes and apples, cut sides down, around pork.

Roast in preheated 425 degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until pork is done and sweet potatoes are tender.  Toss sweet potatoes and apples with pan juices; serve with sliced pork.

Because I decided on a whim to try the new seasoning packet tonight, I had to work with the ingredients I had on hand.  I replaced the pork tenderloins with butterfly pork chops and the sweet potatoes with butternut squash.  Dinner was absolutely delicious!  You have to try this one.

Thanks, McCormick for a fantastic new product!  I will definitely be trying the others.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Resolutions for the New Year

Call me a rebel, but I don't usually make a list of resolutions before New Year's Eve.  My list of resolutions usually develops as the new year progresses.

2012 ended with a few unexpected things popping up:
           1.  My car needs new tires - front only
           2.  The crack in my windshield ran all the way across the driver's side
                 right in my line of vision
           3.  The ice maker in the freezer quit making ice
           4.  The ceramic cook top on my stove cracked

Each of these was discovered literally within 24 hours of the new year beginning.  I don't know if this is simply a crappy ending to 2012, or a tough beginning to 2013.  I choose to believe it's a crappy ending.  2013 should be a fantastic year!

My first resolution is to get my financial house in order.  It won't be easy, but it can be done.  With two kids in college and a retired hubby who watches our 3 grandchildren everyday, finances can be challenging.

My second resolution is to make better use of the limited space we have in our little house.  We have a portion of our space that is not utilized to its fullest potential.  My hubby is a pack rat who has issues with parting with anything.  Not me - if it's not being used, it needs to go!

My third resolution is to laugh more.  I believe humor helps even out any situation.  I find myself totally stressed out quite often and it affects my ability to concentrate and even participate in some daily activities.  My mood is just awful and I'm certainly no fun to be around when I'm stressed out.  All of that should change in the next few months - stress levels should reduce immensely - and laughter will come more naturally again.

We can all find areas in which our lives can use improvement.  The choice is ours to do something about it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

HGTV Dream Home

I have been religiously entering the sweepstakes to win the HGTV Dream Home on Kiawah Island, SC.  The home is absolutely gorgeous and who wouldn't want to live there?  Today, I realized what I'd be giving up if I win that $1.5 million home.  I'd have to give up MY KITCHEN.  I have the perfect cook's kitchen.  We've lived in our home since 1984 and it has had multiple renovations - mostly involving the kitchen and dining room.  It's my perfect space.  Sure,  I would like to have a new home, but it would mean giving up the space I've spent years perfecting.  Not so sure how I really feel about that.