Saturday, September 25, 2010

Feeling Nostalgic!

 Challenge should be my middle name.  I love a challenge no matter what it is.  My Bible Study group challenges me as I am always trying to be the devil's advocate and anticipate questions that some might have.  I love challenges at work....between environmental and communications.....that is an endless challenge to keep up with changes and the current regs or products.  Then comes my cooking....I challenge myself all the time to find special recipes for friends and their dietary needs; challenges to change great tasting recipes that contain items that I can't eat or my hubby doesn't do well with.  Also, I love to challenge myself to use leftovers from one meal to make another great meal....not just warm up the same meal.  Many times certain dishes actually taste better the next day because the flavors have had a chance to really marry.  So, don't get me wrong, I LOVE leftovers especially when I can take them for lunch and have a great tasting and great looking meal that the whole office can smell as I heat it up! 

But, tonight I made a meal using a leg of lamb which I had cut off pieces to make a lamb shish-ka-bob meal a while ago.  Once I cut off the pieces I needed, I carefully packaged the remainder which included the bone and froze it, labeled it and planned to use to for a roasted leg of lamb dinner.  Well, that dinner was tonight.  It's a long slow roast, so today was a perfect day for me to do this. 

Preparing the meat for roasting couldn't be simpler.  First, I thawed the meat, dried it with a paper towel (this is something I always do with meat, it helps to give a much better sear rather than a steam) and then rubbed it with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Prior to prepping the lamb, I weighed it so I would know which pot to use.  I heated up my wonderful orange-red LeCreuset pot, (I love those pots, they not only cook great, but they clean like a dream).  Once the pot was hot enough I put the lamb in the pot and seared it well on all sides.

The smell of searing meat wafting through the house is so inviting.  Once the sear was complete, I removed the meat and added white wine (leftover from a chicken recipe) and some water.  I stirred and scraped the pot for all the goodies on the bottom of the pan.  While this was steaming I went outside to my herb garden and snipped fresh rosemary and thyme.  I cut a whole garlic in half skin and all, placed all the herbs along with some bay leaves in the bottom of the pot, replaced the leg of lamb on top of all the herbs and placed the lid on the top.  It was time to go into the pre-heated oven.  Two and a half hours later it was ready.  The lamb was then placed on a plate to rest while I strained the liquid to heat and reduce for an au jus.

While the meat cooked, I just had a hankering for thousand island dressing on my salad and also wanted to cook carrots.  So, I decided that this was becoming a nostalgic family meal.  The lamb is one of my mom's favorites, the thousand island dressing I made from scratch which is how my auntie always made it and the carrots were prepared with butter and cinnamon which my cousin and I call "granny's carrots".  It seemed like I was going down memory lane.  Boy, is that dressing good....I love the tartness that I add with red wine vinegar. 

I can taste this just by looking at it!
Auntie's thousand island dressing...

"Granny's carrots"

With this one piece of lamb I was able to prepare two simple meals and also incorporate leftover wine from another dish.  A couple weeks ago I made a whole roasted chicken and then have made four different variations using some of the leftovers; in fact I have another part of that meal as a leftover which I can use for a fifth meal!  This is so much fun.  Less food goes down the drain or in the garbage can while trying to create something different from something already cooked.

Nostalgia makes me think of not wasting anything and eating everything on your plate!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flax and Flex

Everyone is concerned about nutrition and health these days, right?  We all like to have something to pick up and snack on that tastes good but is also healthy.  I have just the answer. 

Flax seed and flax seed oil is a good source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and is great for helping to keep cholesterol in check.  Eating flax can also help flex those muscles as we exercise, too.  So flax and flex can work together very well.  Oats, almonds and blueberries also add some health benefits, too.

Instead of buying granola bars and power bars, why not try making some of your own.  It's easy and so chewy and yummy you'll be making them a regular snack and they also work well as a cereal! 


Bake in a smaller pan and cut into bars


Bake in a larger pan (as shown above) and break into pieces for snacking or cereal

I personally love the chewiness of the dried fruit.  I use unsweetened, unsulfured
cranberries, dark cherries and blueberries.  You can use whatever fruit you like best...
...remember that BLUEBERRIES are high in antioxidants!!!

Recipe upon request.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer is time for FRESH fruit

For me summer means juicy ripe fruit that runs down your arm when you start cutting it.  I just can never get enough fresh peaches, berries, cantaloupe, melons and pineapple.  When they are in season, nice and ripe they usually are put on special and are so flavorful.  I've learned to purchase one or two items when they first go on sale and make sure that they are tasty and fresh and not pithy or mushy.  Then I will gather up as much as I can and plan menus which will use the fruit.  One of my favorite things to do for a quick cool meal is to put together a big fruit salad and dress it with a non-fat yogurt dressing.  I've even branched out and added a touch of fresh basil for a little "gourmet" touch.  After all, basil is in the mint family and I will add mint to the dressing. 

Choose the freshest of ingredients
berries are a great source of nutrition
Don't be afraid to try something different
a nice ripe avocado (which is a fruit)
adds a great little texture
Non-fat plain yogurt with a tablespoon of honey,  juice of a lime and fresh mint
Fresh fruit dressed with the yogurt dressing
YUM, YUM, YUM......this was so good, I always make extra so I have some for lunch the next day.  This works great.  I put it in a glass jar and the yogurt keeps it moist and fresh. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


K.I.S.S. usually refers to "Keep It Simple Stupid".  That is exactly what I did this evening.  I try to plan out my meals for a few days at least and shop quite often so I have the freshest ingredients (and also so they don't go bad before I get to them).  You know how the best laid plans can sometimes go by the wayside?  I had planned to make an easy salad with homemade bleu cheese dressing and then cut up cantaloupe and wrap it in proscuitto.  Sounded great and would have been if I hadn't forgotten to purchase the proscuitto!  So, plan B...there is always a plan in the back of my head.  No meat, just salad, or use something else that would sorta substitue for the proscuitto.  Now, I just so happened to have bought some maple bacon, (it was on sale) and it came to me....BLTA salad!  It was so simple and it was delicious. I even adjusted the dressing to be low cal...well, remember we did have some bacon.  So, I cooked up the bacon and drained it twice while it was cooking and then put it on a paper towel to catch all the excess fat.  Then I tore two type of lettuce and washed and spun them in my handy salad spinner..(I love that tool; I don't know why I waited until now to get one).  Next, I cut up a home grown tomato, avocado and a little finely diced red onion. 

While the bacon was cooking, I prepared the dressing which consisted of bleu cheese, a little light mayo, non-fat plain yogurt, non-fat milk, a drizzle of champagne vinegar, salt and pepper.  Who says you have to use heavy cream and whole milk!  This dressing was great.

My hubby said he could eat this dish every night.  It was amazingly filling that we never even got to the cantaloupe....another meal coming up.

This was the perfect ending to a VERY crazy and busy day.
Enjoy the process.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's All Greek To Me

Can I say, "Yum, yum, yum?"  Our Friday night dinner last night was outstanding.  It all began the week before as my Friday night cooking mate was looking through my newest Food Network magazine and she kept exclaiming, "oh, wow, yum, ummmm!"  It left us with so many options, it might be hard to decide what to prepare for this week.  Alas, when push came to shove we chose the lamb dish.  What wonderful timing as I watched one of my all time favorites, Ina as in the Barefoot Contessa, to see that she was cooking up a Greek feast.  I adapted the Tzatziki and her Greek salad to compliment our roasted tomatoes and fennel and lamb on a bed of white beans.  Timing once again came about when my husband delivered a bag full of freshly picked hothouse cucumbers from a client who grows them here in the valley.  There was no question that Greek it would have to be.

We gathered the ingredients that I had in my cupboards and then formulated our grocery list for the remaining items we needed and hit the store.  Our shopping was an interesting exercise when we could only find packages of five lamb chops and we only needed four.  Then we wanted to purchase six tomatoes, but all the boxes only had five in them.  Little did we know that we would have a surprise guest joining us for dinner and we would not have to fight over the fifth lamb chop!  Amazing how the Lord knew all this before we did and HE mulitiplied our portions to have plenty with leftovers!


Champagne Cheese
Tzatziki with Pita Crackers
Greek Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Veggies
Lamb Chops on a bed of White Beans
Sweet Blood Orange Garnish

Dessert was not typical for a Greek meal but it was necessary for me to try this recipe and see how I will "tweeck" it for an event I will be doing in a couple months.  Tiramisu was served in large red wine goblets and it was as tasty as it was pleasing to the eye.  I will, however, make a few slight adjustments to the recipe.

Let's get started with the prep.  First and foremost, you will be happiest and the flavors will be the best if you can use the freshest ingredients.  Instead of using canned beans my culinery sidekick had soaked the dry white beans the night before, drained off that water and cooked them with salt and a couple bay leaves the following morning.  No matter what the directions state, it takes many, many hours to cook the beans so they are tender enough to put on a plate.  The lamb chops were setting at room temperature during our prep of the other ingredients.  Meat takes a better sear if it is at room temperature rather than right from the refrigerator.  Also, a very hot skillet also gives the chops beautiful color and flavor and truly sears and seals in the juices and flavors as opposed to steaming it.  You should also pat your meat with a paper towel to remove any excess water to attain the nice brown crust you want.

Time to begin the appetizer so the flavors will have a little time to marry themselves together and since it is the first course, it was the appropriate dish to prep.  Wash, dry, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds from the hothouse cucumbers by using a spoon and scrapping down the middle of the cucumber. Using a fine grater grate the cucumber over a bowl and allow the juice to enter the bowl as well.  Main ingredients are Greek yogurt, sour cream, freshly squeezed lemon juice, white wine vinegar, fresh dill, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Add all these  ingredients and mix well.  This can be served with pita chips, crackers or toasted pita bread.  Refreshment will fill your palate as you savor this dip which is also figure friendly. 

Prep the tomatoes and fennel for roasting and finish the beans with some fresh toasted garlic, fresh oregano and parmesan cheese.

Cut up the veggies, herbs and feta cheese for the Greek salad and then mix up the dressing being sure to emulsify the liquid ingredients.  Pour over salad and smell the freshness and taste the crispness in the fresh veggies.  Always sample your dishes before serving them to be certain you didn't mistake the sugar for salt or mix up the proportion of oil and vinegar! 

Prep the chops as stated above, dust with kosher salt and cracked pepper and anticipate the sizzle as you place them in the pan.

Our resident wine steward chose a lovely Syrah to compliment the menu which was dy-no-mite!

Dessert was quite a hit as well.  I'll post it step by step once I revamp it a little. 

For a mouth watering Greek Mediterranian meal, look no further! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold Winter Nights

Well, fans, (like I have millions), I'm back to blogging meals.  At least I will try to post a few as often as possible.  I have been taking pictures of most of my creations as I cook; however, I just haven't found the time to sit and compose anything interesting to read.  So, here goes!

With the nice cold winter nights (and some foggy ones) we are beginning or continuing to experience, the heartbeat of warm comfy soups, stews and chilis which just can't be beat.  I have a favorite chili recipe that I love so much, I always make up enough so I can freeze it and pull it out whenever I want it.  You can imagine the disappointment I felt when I had my mouth watering for it and realized we had eaten it all up a while ago.  It is so good that I love taking it to work for lunch and warming it up in the microwave and make everyone around me jealous with the wafting aroma.  What is especially nice about this recipe is that you can doctor it up depending on your taste buds at the moment just by changing up a few items.  Use hot Italian sausage for a little more zip; use mild sausage, flavored or not for variety.  Go a little heavier on the spices or pull back if you have a mild palate.  Either way, the final result will be pleasing to anyone.

When I started to prepare this dish, I was so anxious to just get it going that I omitted taking pictures.  What I will post will be the final result.  If you think you just can't live without the recipe, I'll be happy to send it to you.  You start out with ground turkey, (you can use beef if you like, I just always use turkey because I prefer it); you add sausage (without the casing), your aromatics, spices, tomatoes, wine and beans.  With the beans, you can also change that up to your liking.  I prefer to mix black beans and kidney beans.  You can throw in any combination you like.  Just know that the bouquet will have the salivary glands of anyone within 500 feet jumping.  Here's the end product and don't forget, you have to put some up (I always use glass jars) for later or lunch!

Of course, you can always finish it off with some cheese of your choice.  I just happen to have a lovely slice of gouda which I dropped in the bowl and my favorite "dollop" is Greek yogurt.

You might also be very surprised that this is an extremely healthy dish and who isn't watching
out for their health and their waistline?