Monday, May 26, 2008

Not So Fried Zucchini

I think it tastes like fried zucchini- it’s technically sautéed in just a little olive oil though…

2 green zucchinis
½ onion chopped (green onion works too)
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning (basil, thyme, oregano)

Begin by sautéing the onions with the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini so that you have round circles ¼ inch thick. Continue to stir the onions and sauté until browned. Add the zucchini and stir in salt and seasonings. Cover for just a minute or two then uncover and turn the zucchini so that each one is browned on each side. You will sauté the zucchini for a total of about 8 minutes so that it is soft but not limp or soggy.

Memorial Day Cookout!!

I am scared of grilling. Well, maybe not scared but I have never done it. This Memorial Day, I am not making burgers. Instead, I am making Not So Sloppy Joes with Not So Fried Zucchini. No grill needed :)

While the Manwich mix isn't bad, you can really taste the difference when you make your ‘Joes from scratch. Don't forget to toast the buns. This quick but necessary step ensures the bread doesn't turn soggy the second the juices hit the roll.

Not So Sloppy Joes
By Real Simple Magazine Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 hamburger buns, toasted
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Cheddar (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until no trace of pink remains, about 7 minutes. Spoon off and discard any excess fat. Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 12 minutes. Spoon the beef mixture onto the bottom half of each bun and top with the Cheddar and a dollop of the sour cream (if using). Sandwich with the top half of each bun.

Not So Fried Zucchini

I think it tastes like fried zucchini- it’s technically sautéed in just a little olive oil though…

2 green zucchinis
½ onion chopped
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning (basil, thyme, oregano)

Begin by sautéing the onions with the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini so that you have round circles ¼ inch thick. Continue to stir the onions and sauté until browned. Add the zucchini and stir in salt and seasonings. Cover for just a minute or two then uncover and turn the zucchini so that each one is browned on each side. You will sauté the zucchini for a total of about 8 minutes so that it is soft but not limp or soggy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Viva Italiano!

I have weeks were I just crave one type of food. This week is Italian- in all its variety. From the "Americano- Italiano" Parmesan Chicken and Chopped Salad to something a bit more authentic- Toscana Soup. Buon Appetito!

Parmesan Chicken with Chopped Salad

Farfalle with Tomatoes and Basil

Colorful Pasta Salad

Toscana Soup

Penne with Spicy Carrot Sauce

Three Cheese Manicotti

Farfalle with Tomatoes and Basil

From Melia DeCamp
1/2 lb. of farfalle (bowties)
olive oil
1/2 onion--chopped finely
6 roma tomatoes
1 tsp. of salt
2 tsp. of sugar
black pepper
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
8-10 chopped basil leaves
Leftover or pre-prepared chicken breast

The amounts I have here are for four adult servings:
Cook 1/2 lb. of farfalle (bowties) according to the package instructions. Make sure you generously salt the water. If the package says "10-12 minutes" cook them for 10. By the time everything's finished, they'll be perfect.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add: 1/2 onion--chopped finely once the onion is soft and translucent, add 6 roma tomatoes, diced

Cook the onions and tomatoes on medium-high heat until the tomato pieces have turned into sauce. You want to cook out a lot of the water.

Your pasta probably needs to be drained sometime in here, but scoop out a mug full of the pasta water before you drain it. I'll explain later.

Add about 1 tsp. of salt (make sure to taste it because seasoning is personal), 2 tsp. of sugar, some black pepper, and some red pepper flakes if you like a little spice.

Dump the pasta into the sauce and stir in 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 8-10 chopped basil leaves, and 1 chopped, grilled chicken breast.

Now is when you use the reserved pasta water to control the texture. I'm sure that sometimes you've cooked, or been served pasta that is dry and stuck together and just not perfect. Well, you can avoid that with the addition of a little pasta water. It works best because it's salted so it won't dilute the sauce, it's hot, so it won't make the dish cold, and it has some starch that the pasta abandoned during cooking so it won't make the sauce too thin. Add a little water and stir it in until the pasta is covered in perfectly textured, shiny sauce. Do it again when you come back for a second serving and the pasta looks all dried out. Also, whenever you're reheating pasta, add a little water before putting it into the microwave.

Colorful Pasta Salad

2 lbs Tri color rotini
1-2 cups Olives, your favorite variety, halved
1 bunch Scallions, chopped
1 lb Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
1 Bell Peppers, diced
½ bunch Broccoli, stems cut and chopped into less than bite size pieces
3 Carrots, diced
Italian vinaigrette dressing (at least ½ bottle)

Set a pot of water to boil and prepare the rotini according to package directions. DO NOT overcook. Slightly less than al dente is great.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain, toss with some olive oil and set in the refrigerator to cool.

Meanwhile, wash and cut all of the vegetables and prepare the other ingredients.

Once the pasta is brought down to room temp at least, pour all ingredients into a large serving bowl and toss with vinaigrette to taste. Keep in mind that the pasta may soak up some of the dressing so taste again before serving and add more dressing if you would like.

Toscana Soup

5 ½ cups or 3 cans of chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
2 potatoes roughly skinned and sliced into thin circles
4 cups Kale, rinsed thoroughly
1 lb ground beef
½ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes

Combine the broth and potatoes in a large pot and bring to a boil until potatoes are almost cooked. Be careful to keep covered so the broth does not reduce (or just add a little water in the end if its too salty for you).

Meanwhile, cook the beef in a pan, drain off the grease and set aside. Cut the Kale so that you separate the tough stems from the leaves. Take the leaves and then cut them into thin strips.

Add the kale to the potatoes when they are just about cooked. The idea is to cook the kale until it is softened but keep the nutrients- about 7-10 minutes.

Add cream and cook a minute or so longer and then serve.

Penne with Spicy Carrot Sauce

From Jill Barson

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
½ lb ground beef
1 ½ cup milk
½ can tomato paste
Basil to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup shredded parmasan
1 lb penne pasta, cooked

Saute onions and garlic in some olive oil. Add carrots and celery for a few minutes. Add ground beef and stir until cooked. *If the beef is not particularly lean, cook and drain it separately and then add to the carrots.

Mix in Milk, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and basil. Cook over medium heat until reduced or thickened.

Stir sauce and parmesan with cooked penne in a large serving bowl and serve.

Three Cheese Manicotti

From Melia DeCamp

1 (8 ounce) package manicotti shells
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 egg
2 tablespoons dried basil or fresh
2 (26 ounce) jars pasta sauce

Extra spinach if you have it

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add manicotti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. In a bowl, mix 3 cups mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, garlic, egg, and basil. Stuff cooked manicotti with the mixture.
  4. Spread about 2 cups pasta sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange stuffed manicotti in the dish, and cover with remaining sauce and extra spinach leaves you may have. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan, and continue baking 10 minutes, until mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This Week's Menu

Not too long ago, I found myself checking out a book called The Sneaky Chef from the local library. The reason I checked it out? A picky husband who won’t eat his veggies and turns his nose up at anything “whole wheat”. The book is full of ideas, tips and recipes on how to pack (and disguise) healthy stuff into your kids’ meals and snacks. For example: pureed veggies mixed in to meatballs, casseroles or sauces. But that’s only one tactic. I suggest you check out the book for tons of other great ideas.

It wasn’t until after I marked the book on my “To Buy” list and returned it to the library that my toddler started rejecting his veggies too. So, I have begun collecting kid-friendly recipes which I hope to share with you this week and again here and there as I get some more good recipes for you to try on your little ones. For those of you without kids (or kids with more acquired tastes) I think you will enjoy these recipes as well- they just might remind you of mom in the coming week as you eat your veggies.

This Week's Menu

Your Grocery List

Mini Pizzas
Cheese Fondue- Kid Style
Quick Fix Mac N' Cheese
Chicken Stick Dippers and Sweet Carrots
"Birangas" and Sweet Potato Fries

photo from the St. Petersburg Times

Cheese Fondue- kid style

Fondue is best when kept warm in a fondue pot. However, I find then when you sit down for a meal you are done eating before it has cooled too much anyway. So you can make this in a regular pot and serve in a serving bowl, or if your kids are old enough, individual mugs or soup bowls for each child! OR if you are using a round loaf of crusty bread, cut the top, empty the soft bread inside and use the crust as a bowl to serve fondue.

My sister and her kids eat picnic style in the living room and dipping into the same bowl in the middle of the blanket when they eat fondue.

Serve with

Sliced Pears and Apples
Crusty bread chunks
Steamed (not too soggy) green beans, carrots and broccoli

1 1/2 cups milk
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese or other favorite brick cheese (shredded)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cubed

In a large saucepan, stir the milk and cream cheese over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in shredded cheese and garlic salt; cook and stir until heated through.

For the more daring kid

Veggie Fondue
Al P. at All

1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together milk, white wine, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese and cream cheese. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted, about 10 minutes.
Stir in green onions, spinach, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and black pepper. Continue cooking until all ingredients are well blended, about 10 minutes.

Chicken Sticks with Sweet Carrots

Chicken Sticks

Thinly sliced strips of chicken breast
yogurt - plain
crushed cereal - shredded wheat, cheerios or corn flakes
Shredded parmesan cheese
Add-ins- ground flax seed, wheat germ

Mix the crushed cereal with flax and/or wheat germ if using. Roll chicken strips in yogurt then coat with crushed cereal of your choice. Bake on lightly greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.
Serve with a dipping sauce like:
Tomato Sauce
Yo-Ranch- mix plain yogurt and ranch dressing
Honey Mustard Sauce- mix honey and your preferred type of mustard to taste

Mozzarella Sticks
Same as above but roll mozzarella sticks instead of chicken.

Brown Sugared Carrot Sticks
Or the Maple Syrup version

1 small bag of baby carrots or bag of large carrots skinned and sliced
Brown sugar or maple syrup

Steam carrots until tender. Shock under cold water in a strainer. Quickly add to empty pot while still the carrots are still warm and stir in 1 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. (turn on the heat under the pot if needed to dissolve sugar)

The maple syrup version is a little less sugary (and not as sticky).
Just as you begin to steam the carrots drizzle some maple syrup over the top of them. They will steam and soak in some of the flavor, but a lot of the sugar will seep down below into the water. Do not rinse in cold water but remove them from the steamer and let them cool in the fridge or serve right away while still warm.

Mini Pizza’s

I bet you have some leftover zucchini squash and/ or spinach. If so, you can hide it in this recipe Sneaky Chef style. Just puree the squash and/or zucchini and mix it in with your tomato sauce. Use it on the pizza and a dipping sauce for chicken fingers tomorrow night!

Set up the ingredients and let your kids assemble.

English muffins (multi grain are not bad!) Leftover veggies (pureed)
Tomato Sauce (with puree mixed in if desired)
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Toppings your kids will eat (leftover sliced meat, sliced olives, peppers, etc…)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Half the muffins, place them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for a few minutes just so they aren’t soggy pizzas. Remove from the oven (remove muffins from the hot cookie sheet if the kids are doing the toppings) top with sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake until cheese is bubbly.


Cream cheese
Block cheese thinly sliced
Zucchini Squash (Julienned and steamed)
Baby spinach leaves (washed and dried)
Turkey, Chicken Breast or other Meat Slices Watch out for preservative and nitrates other wise you can use leftover meat- just shred it.

Lay tortillas on plate, spread with a very thin layer of cream cheese, top with meat slices, cheese slices and veggies. Lay julienned slices so that you see the ends when rolled (like sushi)
Roll into a tube.
Cut the tube into separate portions.
For kids who are old enough, use toothpicks to hold the "pinwheel" slices together. Otherwise a dab of cream cheese should keep the roll closed.

Birangas with Sweet Potato Fries

I don’t really know how to spell the name of this food. Its just the phonetic spelling of what my mom called it… My mom used to make these all the time. Now I realize she did because they are both easy to make and cheap!

1 16 oz can of vegetarian refried beans
Cheese, sliced
Salsa, sour cream and/or avocado

Preheat a skillet under medium heat. Place a dollop of beans on the center of a tortilla. Top the beans with a slice of cheese and fold the tortilla over itself so you make a square packet. Spread some butter over the fold and immediately place butter side down on the skillet. Butter the side facing up and flip when the bottom has turned brown. Once both sides are browned and crispy they are ready to serve. The beans and cheese will be warm and gooey yum!

Serve with salsa, avocado or sour cream OR mix all three for a great dip.

Sweet Potato Fries

1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin optional
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground red pepper
1 tablespoon(s) vegetable oil
2 large (about 1 1/2 pounds) sweet potatoes

In a small bowl, combine cumin, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the sweet potatoes: Peel potatoes, cut each in half lengthwise, and cut each half into 6 wedges. In a large bowl, combine the cut potatoes, oil, and spice mixture. Toss until potatoes are evenly coated.

Bake the fries: On a baking sheet, arrange potatoes in a single layer and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake until edges are crisp and potatoes are cooked through -- about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Quick Fix Mac n’ Cheese

I make this all the time when I want an easy, easy- fix meal I feel good about serving and I know my toddler will eat.

I buy Annie’s Homegrown Natural Mac and Cheese. It comes with a white cheese sauce packet so I think the following “fixes” work splendidly. The cottage cheese melts and adds such a nice creamy protein component Mmmmm I am not sure how well this will work with the yellow Kraft macaroni and cheese.

1 box Annie’s Homegrown Natural Shells and Cheese White Cheddar
1 half bunch broccoli
8-10 oz cottage cheese
¼ cup milk

Bowl a pot of water and start the pasta. Roughly cut the broccoli so there is not a lot of “trunk” on each “tree”. Set in a steamer pot and steam until well done (you can break a tree with a fork). Drain the pasta once it is cooked to your taste. Return the pasta to the pot or a large serving bowl. Mix the milk and cottage cheese into the pasta and then add the cheese mixture packet. Once the pasta is well covered in a smooth cheese sauce stir in the broccoli, purposely breaking it was you stir. The broccoli should be broken down enough to stand out in color but not so much in texture.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ultimate Veggie (or meat) Chili

By Anne Tegtmeier

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon each chipotle chili powder and red pepper flakes
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen and thawed OR ground beef if prefer
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapenos, drained
1 (4-ounce) can green chiles, drained
2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup whole roasted cashews
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnishes: sour cream, shredded Cheddar, more roasted cashews, optional

In a large stockpot, saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat until onions are starting to soften. Stir in cumin, chipotle, and red pepper flakes. Crumble the thawed tofu into the mixture and saute 5 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium. Add all tomatoes, jalapenos, green chiles, black beans, kidney beans, corn and cashews; mix well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Garnish with sour cream, grated Cheddar, and additional cashews, if desired.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

This Week's Menu

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Hunan Orange-Ginger Roast Loin of Pork

Asian Cole Slaw

Pork with Dijon Mustard Sauce, New Potatoes and Honey Dill Snap Peas

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread

Black Bean and Corn Salad


* juice two limes
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
* 3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 bag frozen corn kernals
* 1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
* 1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
* 2 tomatoes, chopped
* 6 green onions, thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Serve with tortilla chips


1. Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid, and shake until ingredients are well mixed.
2. In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing, and pour it over the salad. Stir salad to coat vegetables and beans with dressing, and serve.

Hunan Orange-Ginger Roast Loin of Pork

3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon dried
2 1/2- to 3-pound boneless pork loin*
1/2 cup apricot jam

1. Mix together the orange juice, wine, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger in a medium bowl.
2. Place the pork loin in a plastic container just large enough to hold it. Pour the sauce over the pork, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
4. Arrange the pork loin in a roasting pan and pour the sauce over it. Place the pan on the center rack of your oven and roast the loin for 1 hour.
5. While the pork is roasting, place the apricot jam in a small bowl.
6. After 1 hour 15 minutes, remove the roast from the oven. Take 3 tablespoons of pan drippings from the roasting pan and mix it with the jam in the bowl. Spoon the jam mixture over the loin and return it to the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes more or until the meat reaches a temperature of 150° – 160° F. on a meat thermometer. Let the roast sit for 10 minutes before cutting into 1-inch slices.

Serving Suggestions
• Serve with white, brown, or wild rice.
• Serve steamed snap peas

Asian Cole Slaw

w/ leftover Hunan Pork Loin or order some egg rolls to go
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.
2. In a large bowl, mix the green cabbage, red cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, green onions, and cilantro. Toss with the peanut butter mixture just before serving.

Pork with Dijon Mustard Sauce, New Potatoes and Honey Dill Snap Peas

4 oz boneless pork loin
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup cream
8-10 Red Potatoes
All Purpose Spice Shake
½ pound sugar snap peas
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp dill weed (dry)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Quarter the potatoes and pour onto an oiled cooking sheet. Sprinkle with all purpose spice shake and bake until potatoes are soft and browned.

Set snap peas to steam over boiling water until softened. Immediately rinse peas in cold water to stop cooking and retain color.

Slice the pork loin into ½ in thik slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Oil a skillet and cook over medium high heat about 4 minutes until browned. Set the pork aside and add broth, mustard and cream to the skillet. Simmer for about 7 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Serve potatoes and pork with mustard sacue. Drizzle honey over the peas and sprinkle with dill.

Spinach and Orzo Salad

From All Recipes by Christine R

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo pasta
1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/2 pound crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup pine nuts (you can substitute walnuts or even almonds if you don’t want yet another nut variety in your fridge. Pine nuts can be pricey- I know. )
4-5 basil leaves finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in spinach, feta, onion, pine nuts, basil and white pepper. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread

From “All Recipes”

4 tomatoes - peeled, seeded and diced OR 16 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste
Sliced bread of your choice (multi grain with a hard crust is best)
4-6 slices of Monterey Jack Cheese

1. Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.

3. Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

4. Top sliced bread with cheese and broil until cheese bubbles. Serve with warm soup.