30 August 2013



Still looking for ways to use up all the zucchini from your garden?  Here's a great recipe for you.  This is perfect for a busy weeknight because it's fairly quick and cooks all in one pan.  Only one pan to clean!  I love those recipes.  The other thing I love about this recipe is that it contains twice as much zucchini as sausage, but my family didn't even notice.  Not only is it a great way to stretch out your food budget (feeding a family of 4 on half a pound of sausage), but it's healthier too.  I've been doing a meatless meal about once a week for a long time now, but I have also recently started trying to reduce the amount of meat in our other meals too.  Don't worry; I'm not leaning towards becoming vegetarian.  I just think it's a good idea to try to incorporate more veggies and less meat at each meal.  And like I said, so far my family hasn't noticed one bit.  This recipe is slightly adapted from one I found at Better Homes and Gardens.

Zucchini Sausage Skillet

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
½ lb. ground Italian sausage
1 lb. zucchini (about 2 medium), chopped
1 (10¾ oz.) can 98% fat-free condensed cream of celery soup
1 box Stove Top stuffing mix, lower sodium chicken variety
1½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions:
Heat oil over medium heat in a broiler-safe 12-inch skillet.  Add onion and cook until beginning to soften.  Add sausage, cook until brown. Drain off fat. Add zucchini to skillet and cook, covered, until it has reached desired tenderness, stirring often.

In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and broth to moisten.  Preheat broiler to high.

When zucchini is tender, stir cream soup into skillet.  Top with moistened stuffing mix.  Place skillet under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until brown on top. 

Makes 4 servings.


I know some of you are put off by the fact that it uses cream of something soup.  I don't use it very often, but I do keep a can of it in my pantry for "emergency" dinner situations.  It makes this recipe perfect for busy weeknights.  You can always make your own sauce with a simple roux and some chicken or beef broth.  The original recipe called for half cream soup and half sour cream, but I omitted the sour cream because my youngest is allergic to dairy.  The cream soup often contains some dairy also, but it's usually a small enough amount that it doesn't bother her too much (she's three and her allergy is starting to get better).


You might find this a little heavy on the stuffing topping.  It can easily be cut in half, but I used the whole package because my kids love that stuff.  


If you are not sure your skillet is broiler-safe, one thing I would recommend doing is to wrap the handle in foil.  Usually it's the handle that is the least heat-safe.  That also helps to remind you that the handle is really hot after you take it out of the oven.  I've had major problems with that in the past!



My husband and both kids (3 and 5) all raved about this recipe.  


27 August 2013



How about another grilling recipe?  This is part of the feast I made for my husband on Father's Day.   Brussels sprouts are tossed with olive oil and fresh dill, then grilled to perfection and finished off with bright lemon zest and mild champagne vinegar.  It's slightly adapted from Weber's Time to Grill.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Champagne Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp champagne vinegar

Directions:
Prepare grill for direct cooking over low heat (250°-350°) and preheat the grill pan.

In a medium bowl, mix olive oil, salt, and dill.  Add Brussels sprouts and turn to coat evenly.

Spread Brussels sprouts in a single layer on the grill pan and grill over direct low heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until crisp-tender, turning several times, about 10-15 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl and add lemon zest and vinegar.  Toss to coat evenly.  Season with salt, if necessary, and serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

These were some pretty yummy Brussels sprouts.  I used dill instead of thyme because I think it goes really well on green veggies and is very summery.  I loved that the recipe called for champagne vinegar because it is by far my favorite vinegar.  Very mild, with just the right amount of tang.  



This is the grill pan that I used.  It worked pretty well.  The basket kind would work too.


I have a hard time controlling the temperature on a charcoal grill, and mine was a little higher than "low heat". They cooked really quickly and some of them burnt before I realized it.  So try to keep the heat down if you can.  Luckily I was able to salvage enough of them for dinner.


These Brussels sprouts made the perfect veggie for the Beer Grilled Ham I made on Father's Day.  My husband loved them.  Also pictured is Slow Cooker Cheesy Potatoes.


24 August 2013



I know this isn't a great picture, but I made this for houseguests and therefore didn't take the time to get a pretty picture of it.  But I really wanted to share it with you now while peaches are in season.  This would make a great addition to your Labor Day picnic.  It's adapted from Vanilla Garlic.

Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:
¼ cup canola oil
½ large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tbsp chili powder
½ tsp chipotle chili powder
½ tsp liquid smoke
Salt, to taste
Water to thin, if necessary

Directions:
In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the peaches, vinegar, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender.  (If you don’t have one, let the mixture cool and puree in batches in a regular blender.)  Add the bourbon, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, chipotle powder, and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.  If it seems too thick, add a little water to thin it out.

Sauce can be used immediately or refrigerated until needed. 

If you would like to can this sauce: Ladle into hot jars leaving ¼” of headspace. Secure with hot, clean lids. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes. Sealed jars can be stored in a dark, cool place for a year. Opened jars keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Makes 4-5 cups of sauce.

I didn't do the canning step, so I can't comment on that.  I tossed the sauce with shredded chicken for bbq pulled chicken sandwiches.  It was really good.  A little on the sweet side, so if you like things hot, increase the chipotle powder.  I was cooking for kids so I didn't get too crazy with it.

Don't fret if you have no interest in buying a large bottle of bourbon just to use 1/4 cup here.  I didn't either.  Go to your local liquor store and ask them if they have any tiny bottles.  I got two 1/4 cup bottles for about $3.  Can't beat that!  The original recipe called for adding the bourbon before cooking down the sauce, and I felt like I couldn't taste it at all.  So I amended it to be added after it cooks down.  A quarter of a cup of bourbon in 4-5 cups of sauce isn't going to get anybody drunk.



Making your own barbecue sauce is really easy and it's a great way to "spruce" up your picnic fare.  Some other homemade barbecue sauce recipes you might be interested in:

Apple Butter Barbecue Sauce
Traditional Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Mango Barbecue Sauce



22 August 2013



I know a lot of people are looking for zucchini recipes right now, so I've got a great one for you.  A yummy quiche made with very thinly sliced zucchini and fresh summer corn.  The layer of sauteed zucchini arranged on top makes for a beautiful presentation.  I saw this recipe at My I Have That Recipe? and adapted it slightly.

Corn and Zucchini Quiche

Ingredients:
1 (9”) refrigerated pie crust
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly (⅛”)
6 large eggs
½ cup corn kernels
2 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled
½ tsp dried dill
¼ tsp salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat a 9” pie plate or quiche pan with baking spray.  Remove pie crust from fridge and let come to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Place about 20 slices of the zucchini in the pan in a single layer.  Cook for a few minutes, or until zucchini is brown on one side.  Flip and cook a few more minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside. 

Place eggs in a medium bowl and lightly beat.  Add corn, goat cheese, dill, and salt.  Roughly chop remaining zucchini slices and add them to the egg mixture.  Stir well to evenly distribute. 

Unroll pie crust and place inside the prepared pie plate.  Pour egg mixture into pie crust.  Arrange browned zucchini slices on the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until eggs are set.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Nutrition Information
Serving Size: 1/6 of quiche
Calories: 262
Fat: 13g
Sat. Fat 5g
Cholesterol: 197mg
Sodium: 369
Potassium: 156mg
Carbs: 20
Fiber: 0g
Protein: 9g
Vitamin A: 9%
Vitamin C: 7%
Calcium: 4%
Iron: 5%

Nutritional information was calculated by me and will vary depending on the brand and variety of ingredients used.


 Isn't it pretty?  I just love how summery and fresh this quiche is.  I didn't have any fresh corn the day I made this, so I used frozen.  I'm sure it would be even better with fresh.  



This made a lovely meatless meal for us served with salad and garlic bread.  

17 August 2013



It's time again for The Salad Bar, hosted by Wendy of The Weekend Gourmet.  


This month's theme was avocados.  I had always wanted to try making an avocado dressing, so this was my opportunity.  I found a great recipe at Skinnytaste and changed it just slightly.  I omitted the jalepeno and used a little bit of dry ranch mix instead of salt and cumin. That gave it really great flavor.  Here's my version.

Avocado Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:
1 cup low fat buttermilk
¼ cup of fresh cilantro
1 medium avocado
1 green onion, sliced
1 tbsp ranch dressing mix
Water to thin, if necessary

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients except the water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water to thin it out if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

This dressing is awesome.  It comes out really thick, but I didn't mind so much. I thinned it out with about 1 oz. of water.  I had it on a salad and loved it.  I stuck some carrot sticks in it and gave it to my five-year-old as a veggie dip and she raved about it.  



I just love the flavor of this dressing.  Obviously you can really taste the avocado.  The buttermilk gives it a really great tang, and the cilantro makes it all taste bright and fresh.  Using the ranch dressing mix instead of salt brings even more flavor to the party.

The original recipe called for the juice of 1 lime, but I forgot to get a lime at the store.  I thought the dressing would lose its color by the next day, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it still bright green for several days.  I'm guessing the acid in the buttermilk kept it from browning.

Check out all of the other great avocado salad recipes below and come back next month to see what kind of Asian salad I make. Yum!



15 August 2013



I know what you're thinking: "Why is Lesa posting a picture of burnt chicken?"  Fear not, this chicken isn't burnt, it's just coated in a very dark glaze.  A delicious glaze.  There are lots of yummy flavors going on in this chicken.

It's reveal day for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.


This month's assigned ingredients were chocolate and vanilla.  I immediately got hungry for a twist cone.  Then, as usual, I thought it would be fun to try something savory with these two ingredients.  Not easy.  But I did some creative googling and found a Cooking Light recipe for chicken with a vanilla balsamic glaze on it.  I thought that sounded really interesting. Then, instead of seasoning the chicken with just salt and pepper like the recipe called for, I used a cocoa spice rub on it instead.  I adapted a recipe from Michael Chiarello for that.  Here's what I came up with when I merged these two recipes.

Cocoa-Rubbed Chicken with Vanilla Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:
½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 (2”) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp smoked paprika

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine chicken broth, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds into broth mixture, reserving the bean for another use. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until it has reduced as is thick and syrupy (about 20-30 minutes). 

Arrange chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a baking dish coated with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, cinnamon, coriander, white pepper, salt, and smoked paprika.  Sprinkle chicken evenly with cocoa spice rub. Bake for 15 minutes.

Brush half of broth mixture over chicken and bake another 15-20 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through.  Remove from oven and brush remaining glaze on top.

Makes 4 servings (2 thighs each).


 This was a great way to use the Beanilla vanilla beans I got in my Taste of Michigan swag bag last fall.


 Look at all that vanilla goodness.




The chicken with the cocoa spice rub.  

This chicken was really good!  Unfortunately, the balsamic vinegar kind of overpowered the vanilla flavor, so it wasn't prominent, but it was still really tasty.  You could really taste the cocoa though.  It didn't make the chicken taste like chocolate at all though.  It just gave it a really great depth of flavor. One of things that will make people say, "Hmm, what is that?"  No one would guess it was cocoa.  I can't wait to use the cocoa spice rub on other things.  I think it would be great on pork chops.

Check out all the great chocolate and vanilla recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with pasta and cheese.



12 August 2013



I know that kids all over the country are going back to school right about now, but mine don't go back until after Labor Day, so I'm still fully in summertime mode. Not even ready to think about school yet.  So I've got another couple of weeks' worth of fun summertime recipes to share with you before I launch into fall foods.

This is a pasta salad I made a couple of weeks ago when I had a bunch of family in town.  I didn't use a recipe; I saw a picture of a Greek pasta salad on Pinterest and decided to create my own.  It's really simple to make: just toss together cooked pasta, a variety of veggies and feta cheese, and dress with a bottled salad dressing.

Greek Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb. radiatore pasta
1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
¼ - ½ cup Greek salad dressing
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Greek seasoning, optional
Fresh oregano, chopped, for garnish

Directions:
Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Place in a large bowl.  Add artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and olives.  Toss to combine.  Stir in ¼ cup of the Greek dressing and toss.  If it seems dry, add a little more dressing until it’s as saucy as you like it.  Add feta cheese.  Taste for seasoning, adding additional Greek seasoning if desired.  Garnish with fresh oregano.

Makes 16 servings as a side.

Warning: this recipe makes a lot of pasta salad!  The bowl in the picture is huge, and I actually couldn't fit all of the pasta salad in it.  I fed a total of 11 people that day, but four of them were kids (my five-year-old ate it, but my three-year-old couldn't because of the cheese. Bad mommy forgot to set aside some pasta and veggies before adding the dressing and feta.) and two of the adults didn't eat it.  So I had lots leftover.  Sixteen servings is just a guess; it very well could serve more than that.

I couldn't find the brand of Greek dressing I usually buy, and the one I ended up with was a little on the bland side, I thought.  That's why I added the Greek seasoning to it.  It gave the salad that extra punch of flavor I was looking for.

Pasta salads are such great sides for summertime and this is a fun twist on the usual kind.  


07 August 2013



Today I've got what I call a "Triple S" recipe for you: a Super Simple Supper.  Three ingredients (four if you want to get fancy and garnish with fresh herbs) served over your choice of starch.  It comes together in about 15 minutes.  I certainly don't mind taking a little help from the store, especially on busy weeknights when dinner has to be on the table quickly because my husband has a meeting or something.  This is adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe.

Smoked Sausage and Yellow Squash with Italian Dressing

Ingredients:
14 – 16 oz. smoked sausage, sliced on the bias
2 yellow squash, sliced on the bias
½ cup Italian salad dressing
Cooked pasta, potatoes, or rice to serve
Fresh dill, chopped

Directions:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and the yellow squash.  Cook until both begin to brown and squash begins to soften.  Add the Italian dressing and cook another few minutes, stirring often, until some of the dressing has absorbed into the sausage and squash, and the squash has reached the desired tenderness.  

Serve sausage and squash over your choice of pasta, potatoes, or rice and garnish with fresh dill.

Makes 4 servings.

*This recipe is dairy-free provided your Italian dressing and choice of starch is dairy-free. It is gluten-free if you serve it with rice or potatoes.

Couldn't be easier.  BHG served it over broiled bread, but I thought that sounded kind of weird.  I went with orzo.  I tried a new recipe for the orzo, but as you can see, it didn't turn out so well, so I'll have to tweak that one a bit.  But it would be good served over any kind of pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice.

This is a great recipe for those of you who have an abundance of yellow squash coming from your gardens.  It would be good with zucchini too.


04 August 2013



It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club


This month I was assigned to Sarah's blog, The Pajama Chef.  I've been following Sarah's blog for quite a while since we've both been in Group A for a long time now.  I also felt a special connection to Sarah when I learned that she was a student at Indiana University, which is my alma mater.  (I attended the campus at Fort Wayne.)  Go Hoosiers!  Sarah has a really great blog with some amazing recipes.  Despite the fact that July was crazy busy for me, I ended up making two of Sarah's recipes.  The first one was her Salmon with Lemon, Tarragon, and Garlic Sauce.



I was excited to try this because I had never cooked with tarragon before.  It was really good, but I used the wrong kind of mustard (regular Dijon instead of whole grain) and the sauce turned out a bit salty.  I fixed this problem by thinning it out with water, but that made it a bit thin, obviously.  It was still really good and my husband raved about it.  I will definitely try it again using the right kind of mustard.  I ended up liking the fresh tarragon more than I thought I would and look forward to cooking with it again.  (And btw, that is some purple jasmine rice that the salmon is sitting on.  It was a mix of white, black, and purple, and I had no idea that the purple color would bleed and infuse the whole thing.  Made for a weird-looking picture!)

The next recipe of hers that I tried was her Peach Shortbread Bars.  We had out-of-town friends staying with us overnight so I made these for dessert.  We had five kids ranging in age from 1 year old to 5, and these bars were a hit with everyone!  They are so easy to throw together, but they definitely deliver the "wow" factor.

Peach Shortbread Bars

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
2 peaches, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°. Coat a 9×13 inch pan with baking spray. 

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, baking powder, flour, and ginger. Using a pastry blender or two forks, incorporate butter and beaten egg into the dry ingredients. Mixture will be crumbly.  Reserve 1½ - 2 cups of the crumb mixture and press the remainder into the bottom of the pan, pressing down to set. Cover crust with peach slices in a single layer. Top with reserved crumbs. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Yield: 24 squares.



The only change I made to Sarah's recipe was to use powdered ginger instead of cinnamon and nutmeg.  I just really love the combination of peaches and ginger, so I had to try it.  I would say that the ginger flavor is pretty muted, being easily overshadowed by the gorgeous peaches.  




 Aren't they beautiful bars?  I love how the pretty red parts of the peach slices make an appearance.  Our friends thought they had two different kinds of fruit in them.





I am so glad that I had Sarah's blog this month, because I not only got a chance to cook with an herb I had never used before, but I also got a fantastic summer dessert recipe to add to my collection.  Thanks Sarah!



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