Friday, March 29, 2013

Herbs de Provence Pork Tenderloin


Years ago at a party a delicious dish of pork tenderloin was served that I absolutely LOVED!  I quickly sought out the man who had prepared the dish and to my happy surprise he said that the recipe was simple....a pork tenderloin and herbs de provence.

When I was recently in my own personal happy place walking around Pikes Place Market in Seattle I came across a spice store.  This could get ugly as I have a tendency to be a hoarder of spices and can pretty much convince myself that I "need" everything!

As I walked up and down the aisles, sniffing all the exotic spices, I found myself gawking like a child looking at a huge Christmas tree.  So many options!  So many herbs and spices!  It was seriously a place I could walk through for hours.

I knew I wanted to get something but I also wanted to be sure to get something I would use and if it was a spice I didn't already have that would be nice since I recently combined all of my duplicate spices into mason jars due to by aforementioned obsession with spices!

Finally I came across the herbs de provence!
That was something I knew I didn't have and immediately the thought of cooking pork tenderloin with it came to mind!

I made my purchase and with a stupid grin on my face I left the shop my dreams are made of!

As soon as I returned home I called my dad and told him of my new spice addition stating that I thought we should make it for Sunday dinner....since pork tenderloins were on sale at the grocery he was totally on board with my idea!

Herbs de Provence Pork Tenderloin
Pork Tenderloin, trimmed of fat
Herbs de Provence
Dijon Mustard
Salt and pepper
Trim the pork of any fat and tendons and place on a roasting pan.
Brush the tenderloin on all sides with dijon mustard.  Dust with herbs de provence (the photo above shows WAY too much of the herbs....you want to lightly dust the tenderloin so that the herbs do not overpower the flavor of the meat).  Insert a meat thermometer.  Roast until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes

Slice and serve immediately with horseradish sauce.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blue Cheese Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Mushrooms


As I have mentioned several times, one of my favorite emails to get is from family and friends with new recipes they want to try.  I spend so much time trying to think of something new and different to make so when someone else makes this decision for me it is all the more fun!

My sister-in-law is one of my most consistent donors to this cause and is the origin of this recipe.  I think the email she sent with the recipe simply stated "We have to try these soon!"  So the very next Sunday dinner was going to be our opportunity!

In my family you could pretty much stuff a mushroom with anything and we are going to like it....my brother will request that some sort of meat is included but we don't always listen to that request.

These absolutely did NOT disappoint.  A friend of mine, who isn't the biggest blue cheese fan, even liked them as he claimed the blue cheese wasn't too strong.  I like those sorts of reactions!  When people end up liking something they were unsure of going in....just makes me feel like I have done something right!  Who doesn't love that feeling???

Blue Cheese Filled Bacon Wrapped Mushrooms
as adapted from Lauren's Latest

12 large baby portobello mushrooms
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
salt
pepper
6 dashes hot sauce {or more if desired}
6 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees or the grill to medium heat. If baking in the oven spray a cooling rack with cooking spray and set on top of a baking sheet.  If using the grill, grease the grill lightly.
Clean tops of mushrooms with a damp cloth and remove stems.  Using a melon baller, scoop out the inside of the mushroom delicately to give ample room for the stuffing.
In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, blue cheese, salt, pepper and hot sauce together (I did this in my stand up mixer and it was super easy).
Divide cheese mixture evenly into mushroom cavities.
Cut each slice of bacon in half. Wrap around mushroom and place a toothpick into the mushroom where the bacon ends overlap. {Make sure the toothpick is sticking out the side and is not in the top or bottom.}

Cook on the grill or in the oven until the bacon is done.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

How To Make Newspaper Pots for Seedlings

Each year around this time I get the irresistible urge to play in the dirt.  After being cooped up all winter long I find that my need to get out and plant and play in the garden becomes overwhelming.  A few years ago I  found these great seed starter kits at Home Depot where I planted my seedlings in biodegradable pots making the planting in the garden seamless.

As I thought about it I kept thinking there had to be a more green and efficient way to do this....and lets be honest, a cheaper way would have been nice as well.

This pondering has been swirling around in my brain for over a year now but I just couldn't come up with anything that just seemed ingenious....Pinterest even failed me in this pursuit, but as it never does, Instagram did not disappoint!

I came across a picture of these little treasures from my cousin who also loves to garden and cook so I immediately sent her a message asking for the instructions.

With these instructions all I had to purchase was the soil and seeds....that is exactly the type of budget friendly plan I was wanting!

After a few awkward attempts I finally got the hang of making these little pots and pending successful growing I will be doing this every year!!

How To Make Newspaper Pots for Seedlings

originally found on Bonzai Aphrodite

Take a one page from the newspaper and tear it in half
 
 Fold the page in half 
 Fold one of the lengthwise ends giving it about a half inch seam
With the seam at the top, take a can of soup and roll the newspaper around the can.
Set the can upside down and fold the bottom down to create the base.
Slide the can from the newspaper slowly so everything stays together.
 Using the seam, fold the half inch piece over itself to secure it.  
This can be done with a paper clip as well if needed. 
 
Fill each pot with soil.  I did this after creating each one so that they would stay together.
 
Add the seeds and then top with a little more soil.
 
 Water and watch them grow!!
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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Most Delicious Vinaigrette


Simply put I have officially found my new favorite salad!

My friend, Jennifer, recently came back from a weekend at the cabin with some friends....we will skip over the fact that I wasn't invited...it's ok, I am clearly over it....and she was raving about this amazing salad a friend had made for one of their meals.  

As she started reeling off the list of ingredients my mouth started watering.  Everything she was listing was included in my top 5 favorite things to put on a salad.  I begged her to get the recipe so as soon as I got it I knew I had to make it.

Since that night I was planning on making a big pasta dinner I thought making an arugula salad topped with avocado, toasted almonds, pears, Gorgonzola and this delicious dressing would be the perfect compliment to a heavy entree!

Ashley Reed's Salad Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp prepared mustard (I actually used Dijon)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
I used mixed arugula, pears, Gorgonzola cheese, avocado, and toasted almonds in the salad

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Black Bean Hummus



For whatever reason I have been intimidated to make my own hummus.  I am not entirely sure why as I was always fairly certain it was just a matter of throwing a bunch of things in a food processor and turning it on, but what if I screwed up the texture, or what if it just tasted like pureed baby food?

I had many concerns, clearly, so I just avoided the topic all together....head-in-the-sand approach which I have perfected over the years!

Finally, I found a recipe that require so few ingredients that I thought, what could I lose?  If it was terrible I would just pitch it and be out the cost of a few cans of black beans and a bunch of cilantro.  That wouldn't be so bad, right?

As my cousin sat on the counter watching me throw everything into the food processor and we both held our breath in anticipation for what would be the final outcome I just kept hoping it would be good....mainly because I was starving, but also because I had company coming over and nothing to serve as a backup for my appetizer.

It turned out better than I could have imagined!  The perfect combination of freshness from the cilantro, a fantastic kick from the jalapeno and chili powder combined with the delicious smokiness of the cumin.

I loved it!

Black Bean Hummus

as adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Put the black beans, onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
Pour the black bean dip in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips and/or cut up vegetables.

This dip is gluten free, just serve with gluten free chips/crackers.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta


As many of you know who have been reading for a while one of my favorite things to do is have friends and family over for dinner.  There is something about gathering at the table, sharing a meal, a few glasses of wine (or champagne if we are feeling festive) and a million boughts of laughter.

Standing in my kitchen cooking with friends surrounding me is truly my happy place.  There is no place in the world I would rather be.  Entertaining is definitely my favorite thing to do!

Recently I wanted to have some people over but didn't want to spend a fortune.  In the same respect I wanted to make something that would knock their socks off!  I consulted Pinterest and as is typical, it did not disappoint!

I have always been a fan of chicken marsala and I have a soft spot in my heart for dishes that have anything to do with pasta so when I came across this recipe, read the ingredients and realized I would only need to grab a few things at the store, I was sold!
    
Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta
recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen

1 package thin sliced, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
10-12 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound dry pasta + water for cooking (I used penne, rigatoni is also good)
1 cup Parmesan cheese + more for serving
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
minced, chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet until foaming. Cook chicken until lightly browned. Transfer to plate when done.
Boil water and cook pasta according to the directions.
Melt additional 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet, add garlic, mushrooms and 
onion and cook for about 6 minutes. 
Add the Marsala, chicken broth and cream and bring to a boil.
Simmer until sauce is is slightly thickened.  Add cooked chicken back into the skillet.
Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. 
Return the pasta to the pot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. 
Add the mushrooms and chicken mixture and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and cook until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce, about 1 minute, adding the reserved cooking water as needed.  At this point I added all the pasta water and about another 1/4-1/2 cup of cream....I know, gluttony, but it was delicious!
Remove chicken and slice into strips.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with additional 
Parmesan cheese and a garnish of chopped parsley. 
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Friday, March 15, 2013

The New Menu at The Original Corner Pub

There is no denying it, Corner Pub in Green Hills is pretty much my favorite place to meet people for a drink, watch a football game, hangout for dinner/lunch, or pretty much do anything that includes a bucket of Coors Light and merriment!

It is kind of my happy place.

There is really no negative in my mind to this fantastic establishment.

Every Sunday my family and I meet there for lunch after Mom has taken my nephew to church, Dad has gotten everything prepared for Sunday dinner and my brother, sister-in-law and I have had a chance to have a cup of coffee and catch up from the weekend.

It is one of my favorite traditions that we started a couple of years ago.  

With all of this being said, there are only so many burgers, chicken wraps and baskets of wings a girl can have before she wants some variety!  Don't get me wrong, they do all of these beautifully but after countless Sundays I was ready for something new but the location certainly wanted to change, nor did I want it too, so I just settled into the fact that this was my lot.

Well this all changed with the release of the much anticipated NEW MENU!

There have been rumors of it for years but I never actually thought it was going to happen!  Alas, it arrived and as my eyes perused the new menu items my taste buds started jumping up and down!

It had everything I had ever dreamed of and more....well perhaps that is a bit dramatic but there was nothing new on there that I didn't want to try!  It all looked absolutely scrumptious!

Here is a glimpse at a few of the items on the new menu at The Original Corner Pub in Green Hills!

Not that their salads haven't always been perfectly satisfying but now there are so many more options.....and of course there is my favorite...the wedge!  Anything that acts as a carrier of their delicious ranch into my mouth topped with bacon can only mean good things!
I can't even begin to describe how delicious the B-5 Bombers are....just trust me on this one and get yourself an order....you will not regret it!
Finally another option to my burger cravings that might make me think, albeit perhaps falsely, I am being a bit more healthy in my dining choices!
Sliders are kind of my perfect solution when I don't think I can manage an entire burger!
And last but most certainly not least, my FAVORITE new menu options....the meatball sub. I could literally write an entire post about how perfect their meatballs are and how they have chosen the exact right bread, toasted to perfection with just the right about of cheese and marinara sauce but I will save that for another day. 
Bottom line, the new menu rocked my world and I highly recommend you do yourself a favor and spend your March Madness days watching from the comfort of a booth at Corner Pub munching on something delicious from the new menu!
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms


If I am being honest, I must admit that if I go to a restaurant and see spinach and artichoke dip anywhere on their menu it is a pretty safe bet that I am going to be ordering it!  It has to be one of my all time favorite appetizers in the world.  

With the right combination of cheese, spinach and chunks of artichokes how can anyone go wrong especially when coupled with a warm, salt tortilla chip?

You can't, that is the simple answer!

When I was recently playing on Pinterest, because that is seriously one of my favorite past times, along with being an amazing resource of recipes, I came across this little gem.

My family seems to love all different kinds of stuffed mushrooms so I thought it stood a pretty solid chance making it through the semi-finals of getting chosen for Sunday dinner.

Alas, it was chosen, made and devoured!  There was so much filling left over in fact that I just put that in a ramekin, heated it up with the mushrooms and served that along side with some Triscuits and pita chips!

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms

20-25 crimini or white mushrooms
4 ounces (1/2 pkg) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup light Hellman’s or Best Foods mayo
(this brand really is best…less greasy and doesn’t separate as much)
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, sqeezed to remove excess liquid and finely diced
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Splenda/sugar
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (not shredded – the powdery fresh from the deli-cheese case)
Pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wipe mushrooms clean; remove stems and gently scoop out the gills to make room for the filling.

In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, mayo, diced artichoke hearts, spinach, garlic, Splenda, Parmesan, and cayenne.

Fill each mushroom cap with 1 tablespoon of dip mixture.

Place on a baking sheet (with sides, as the mushrooms will release liquid) and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and the filling is golden. Serve warm. Makes approx 10 servings of 2 pieces each.
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Monday, March 11, 2013

Getting The Garden Ready!!

With spring just around the corner and a beautiful weekend just behind us I felt the urge to spend every last second I could outside.  I opened up all the windows in the house and enjoyed the fresh breeze that blew through each room.  It is as if spring cleaning begins for me with an airing out of the winter mustiness that seems to slowly consume a house over the colder months.

It was amazing.

I even had to restrain myself from going to the hardware store to get all the soil and makings of my spring and summer garden!

A friend of mine recently asked me to give some tips on planting her own garden so here are some of the things I have learned over the years:

1) Planning is a must!

Don't got to the nursery with a general idea of what you want to plant.  It is important to know in advance since this will dictate the gardens placement and how many beds you will be planting.

Certain things simply grow better next to each other while some plants get bigger than you could even imagine thus taking over more space, and in some cases, covering up smaller plants.  For example, tomatoes and basil grow beautifully next to each other.  I have even been told that the tomatoes will be sweeter if they are planted next to basil.

Never grow smaller herbs like thyme or oregano next to squash or zucchini....for that matter, I wouldn't grow much next to squash or zucchini simply because those plants get so large they tend to take over the rest of the bed.

What I typically do is have one bed for my squashes, another for my peppers, another for my tomatoes which is where I also set up the lattice for my cucumbers and snap peas, and then finally a bed for my herbs.  If you wanted to you could combine the tomatoes and peppers as they don't seem to have a problem being next to each other.

I find that it is best to lay out the plants you want to grow and then do a little research on their need for sunlight and how big the plant will get.  Certainly plants such as cucumbers and tomatoes like a lot of sunlight while such things as arugula and other leafy greens will burn up if they are in direct sunlight all of the time.

2) Timing is everything

Here in middle Tennessee you want to wait to plant your garden until at least April 15th as we typically will have at least one more freeze between now and then.  My mother says it is something about dogwood winters or blackberry winter or something.....all I know is you don't want to be out there with sheets covering your garden in 30 degree weather because you planted too early.

Young plants and seedlings are extremely sensitive to frost and will die quickly if they get too cold which means you will have to replant everything which is expensive and no fun for anyone!

3) Only plant what you will use

I have spent countless summers playing in a garden full of some things I will never use.  For example, one year I planted sevia and though I had grand plans of what I would do with this natural sweetener I never once did anything with it.  I have found that the herbs I use most, and that do extremely well, especially when planted in the ground, are thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives and mint.  I typically plant the mint in a pot though as it is in factThose are the ones I consistently use and the ones that, with the right care and watering, will absolutely flourish in a spring and summer garden.

The same can be said with the vegetables.  I have found that the plants I will gain the most bounty from are cucumbers (sweet heavenly days one of these plants will leave you with an armful of cukes so don't feel like you need to plant five of these to get a good return....not that I did that once and ended up with 42 cucumbers when I returned from vacation), tomatoes (obviously!), summer squash, zucchini, snap peas, peppers (of all different shapes and sizes though the red bell peppers take the longest to ripen - I suggest green bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos and any other hot small pepper), and lettuces (I prefer to plant a mixed green "gourmet blend" of seeds along with some arugula because I am obsessed!).

4) How to Build/Plant Your Garden?

The first time I built my own above ground garden, which I find to be the best/easiest way to build a backyard garden, I started with the theory of "Square-Foot Gardening" which I have found quite efficient!  I have found that actually square beds, as opposed to rectangles, are easier to manage as you can pull weeds from all sides and not have to climb in the middle.

Here is a very brief synopsis of how I build my garden:

First I buy the wood, nails, rebar, netting, poles and brackets that I will need for the beds and the lattice which will be needed for the cucumbers and snap peas.  All of this is explained in the square foot gardening book but if you have specific questions please don't hesitate to ask!

Don't be afraid to ask the kind folks at the hardware store either about the supplies you will need.  They are all familiar with raised beds and can be a wealth of knowledge when trying to determine all that you will need in the supply department!

Second I lay out all the supplies in the space where I want to build the garden making sure it is exactly where it should be based on the amount of sun and shade each plant requires.

Third, I build the beds....seems obvious but it is an important step!  One step I have found most helpful at this point is to lay newspaper in the bottom of each bed and wet it with the hose.  This will keep natural weeds from the ground coming up into your bed.

Fourth, I fill each bed with gardening soil.  I have tried Mel's Mix and though it is a wonderful mix and the soil is the foundation of a garden I have found that the same results will come from using the gardening soil you can get at Lowe's or Home Depot.

Finally I divide each bed into the squares by measuring a foot on each wooden border, tapping a nail in and then tying twine to make a grid similar to the image below:











 








With this layout I can make sure that each plant has enough room and are equally spread out among the bed.

Here is a picture of the first above ground gardens I built.  They were rectangular and did fine but in the future I will be making all of mine square as that seems to be much more manageable!

Last but not least, it is time to get the plants in the soil!

5) Plant Marigolds Around Your Beds!

Rumor has it these lovely little flowers will keep the bugs out of your garden.  Also, if you find that you are having problems with rodents in your beds either plant a few cloves of garlic throughout your bed or sprinkle garlic powder or red pepper flakes in the bed and this usually helps take care of that problem!

6) WATER, WATER, WATER!!!!

I am the worlds worst at watering plants unless I am on a strict schedule so a few years ago I finally invested in a timer for the hose so that each morning my garden would get the water it needed whether I remembered or not.  I usually have the sprinkler run for 15-30 minutes depending on the heat that time of year and in the dogs days of summer I run it twice, once in the early morning and then again around 4:00 in the afternoon so that the plants don't completely burn up!

There are many different theories as to when is the best time of day to water your garden but my family for generations has always held firm to the belief that first thing in the morning (and I mean between 5-6 a.m.) is the best time to have your garden watered.  This allows the water to get into the soil before the heat of the day burns it off.  If a garden is watered at night you run the risk of root rot from the moisture sitting on the root system before the sun has a chance to evaporate any excess moisture.
 

I hope this has been helpful but if there are any specific questions you have please don't hesitate to leave them in the comments section and I promise to research and reply!  I guarantee you that if you have a question then someone else is thinking the same thing and I am sure I have left something important out in this brief description!
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Friday, March 8, 2013

Long Grain Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Shallots


For the longest time I had myself convinced I didn't like rice....except for fried rice, but who doesn't love fried rice? Oh, and except for rice with a whole bunch of soy sauce, but that was more because I just love anything that acts as a carrier of soy sauce into my mouth.  I love soy sauce!

I had myself pretty convinced of all of this and just thought it was something I was ok not really liking....that lasted until I had wild rice and ate it with an open mind.

Now granted it didn't have soy sauce on it but whatever the flavors are in that little packet of goodness sure made me happy!

Now any sort of wild rice dish immediately draws my attention.

Because of this revelation (maybe dramatic, but just go with me on this one) I have come to realize that perhaps, just maybe, there are other things out there that I "don't like" that I might one day find are my new favorites....we shall see!

This side dish grabbed my attention with the wild rice but locked in my appetite with the mushrooms and shallots....I am a sucked for mushrooms and shallots!!
 
Long Grain Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Shallots
as adapted from FortheLoveofCooking.net

Box of wild rice mix, prepared per instructions
1 tsp olive oil
6 oz of button mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
1 tsp butter
1-2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Prepare the rice per instructions.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the mushrooms then leave them alone for 3-4 minutes before flipping them with a spatula; 
add the shallots and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. 
Add the butter and soy sauce to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Once the rice has finished cooking, mix in the mushroom mixture and most of the parsley then gently fluff with a fork to combine the mixture. Sprinkle the top with the last bit of parsley. Serve immediately.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sauteed Asparagus with Dijon Vinaigrette



You know those days in college when you really have no money left and all you want to do is go out with your friends but there is some silly rational part of your brain that is telling you that food is probably more important than beer?  No?  Me neither..................ummmm......

 Well if anyone might have found themselves at a point in their lives when they paid for food with quarters and beer with the credit card you can understand what drove me to my love of veggies.  At this time in my life Kroger would constantly have 10 for $10 on frozen bags of vegetables.  

Since I thought this was a steal as I could make one bag of fordhook lima beans last two meals, I was constantly loading up the freezer with frozen vegetables. 

I have always been a good veggie eater....for the most part...but it was during my frozen food eating college days that I really gained a greater appreciation for the healthy devils.

Once I really got into cooking I soon realized that the fresh veggies, especially the ones that come out of the backyard garden, are so much more tasty than the frozen vegetables from the freezer isle, so I started to experiment. 

Annnnnd by experiment, I steamed broccoli and roasted asparagus

That was pretty much it.

That is how I cooked most of my "vegetables" for the first few years of my culinary life.  That is until I got really daring and thought it was time to add other ingredients in there with the broccoli and asparagus.

Here is my new favorite way to have asparagus....so easy....so delicious!!!       

Sauteed Asparagus with Dijon Vinaigrette
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar
1/2 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 1/2-inch lengths
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and sugar, to taste, in a small bowl.
Heat a skillet that has been coated in cooking spray over medium heat. Add asparagus, and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. 
Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until asparagus are just tender, 5-6 minutes.
Drizzle the asparagus with the vinaigrette, toss, and serve immediately. Enjoy.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Lettuce Wraps


Ever since the first lettuce wrap I consumed at PF Chang I have been dying to know how to make them.  I have pinned a bigillion recipes for them never once giving them a try, until now!

My dad has been saying for years that he found this recipe and for the life of me I cannot remember it's origins, but he claimed they were just as tasty as the ones from PF Chang if not better.

Bold statement I thought, but I could at least give them a change.

As I assembled the ingredients and started cooking I just knew this was going to be heavenly...taste test after taste test proved that they were only getting better with each addition.

That lasted until I do what sometimes happens in the kitchen.....the sound of Willie Nelson and Ray Charles has me utterly distracted, I am singing at the top of my lungs, the dogs are hiding somewhere as this is not always a pleasant sound, and I don't quite read the instructions on the recipe.

When I went to add the ginger I saw 2 tablespoons, instead of teaspoons.  We had a similar mishap with salt and oatmeal cookies when I was much younger so clearly there is some consistency here, but alas, even with the copious amounts of ginger they were delicious!

I would recommend sticking with the 2 teaspoon portion of ginger but besides my own falter in the kitchen these lived up to all my dad's raves!

Lettuce Wraps
1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons shredded ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic chili pepper sauce
1 (8 oz.) can water chestnuts, chopped
1 bunch green onions
2-3 teaspoons dark sesame oil
iceberg lettuce

Saute the turkey and onions over medium heat until the turkey begins to brown.  
Add garlic, soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, vinegar and chili sauce.  Cook until mixed together.  Add water chestnuts, green onions and sesame oil.
Stir and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.  
To serve spoon mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap.
Serve with plum sauce.
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Mom's Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole


You know those friends you have who make you laugh just thinking of the hilarious memories you have made together?  Well then there are those people who make you snort while laughing so hard you are no longer making any noise.  

That is my friend Cathy.  

She is the only person I know who could write and entire college essay on the pros and cons of condiments and make it worthy of scholarships and accolades.  She is such a riot to be around and will have you in stitches with her quick wit and spot on sense of humor.  

Cathy and I have been friends since the summer before our freshman year in high school.  We went through our awkward phases of high school together long before either of us knew what a pair of tweezers and some well places highlights could do for our appearance.  

We stumbled our way through college with each other as a sounding board for the trials and tribulations that most 18 year old encounter the first time they are away from home for any extended period of time.  

We have seen each other through so many different highs and lows and through it all we have only gotten closer and kept on laughing!

Aside from always keeping me laughing, Cathy is one of the most generous souls I have ever met.  She gives of herself without ever asking of anything in return.  

People like that are quickly becoming few and far between.  

When I decided to do a series on my blog of budget friendly means Cathy was the first one to step up and send me some of her recipes!  Here is the first one from Cathy's lovely list that I thought I would try!  Enjoy and thank Cathy Sue Cleavage....I love you! 

Just so you know, I added the broccoli and mushrooms myself just because I love them but you could leave them out of add any other veggies you like, so long as they do not produce to much liquid (i.e. I wouldn't use frozen spinach)

Mom's Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
6 oz Uncle Ben's Wild Rice, prepared by directions on the box
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup flour
1 c. whole milk (I think the original recipe called for Half and Half, but I always use milk b/c that's what's always in the fridge. And it lightens it up a smidge for just a weeknight meal)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon season salt
dash of pepper
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 crown of broccoli, trimmed
1 small container fresh baby bellas, sliced

Cook chicken at 375 degrees.  I add a pat of butter to the top of each breast topped with a little salt and pepper and then I put some chicken broth in the bottom of the dish to keep the chicken from drying out.
Melt butter over medium heat in a pot or dutch oven.
Add onion and cook till transparent.
Add flour, stir and let cook for 1 minute.
Gradually add milk and chicken stock 1/4 c. at a time, switching off and stirring constantly. 
**(This is where you could deviate from the recipe and use whatever white sauce you usually make. But, I have to say that I love the combination of the chicken stock and milk. The milk lightens it up a bit but still tastes creamy and rich and the stock adds a depth of flavor that's awesome. This is how I always make my white sauces now.)  Stir in pepper and season salt.
Add raw broccoli, mushrooms, cooked rice and cooked chicken.
Stir in parsley
Pour into a greased pan and bake at 425 for 30 min or till bubbly.
**** if you're bringing it to someone else for dinner, stop at the second-to-last step and include the baking instructions (425 for 30 min or bubbly) when you drop it off
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