Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner Traditions

I can remember the smell of the cornish hens roasting in the oven, the sweet smell of Christmas cookies, and a lingering smell of wrapping paper.  These are all memories from my childhood Christmas with family.  Now that I am older and married.. we are starting new traditions.

The last few years I've started a new Christmas dinner tradition of mashed potatoes and pork tenderloin - among other things.  This year, I was trying to save myself $10 and decided to go with a regular cut of pork rather than a tenderloin.  Typically a pork tenderloin and can be found already seasoned.  The cut of pork that I bought was not seasoned.  It was time to get creative.

I found a couple of marinade tips on  Yes, I always claim not to use recipes from others but, I was in need of some help.  So I took a recipe and made it my own...

Recipe of Pork Marinade
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
- 3 TBSP of Liquid Smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 2 cloves of grated or minced garlic

I marinated the pork in liquid smokiness for about 4 hours.  I placed the pork in a baking pan and baked at 400 degrees for 75 minutes.  The internal temperature should be 170 degrees if you are using a meat thermometer.  Continue cooking until the internal temp reaches 170.

A bottle of liquid smoke will run you about $10.  The price might be steep but the flavor is outstanding.  It will add great flavor to any cut of meat.

I paired the pork with cheesy, garlic mashed potatoes and a salad with homemade dressing (Honey Mustard Vinaigrette).

We also enjoyed a nice bottle of Christmas wine, which complimented the pork very well.  We both look forward to building on this new tradition for many more years to come.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Happy New Year too!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Set it and Forget it - Christmas Morning

Set it and forget it.  That was one of my favorite things about our Christmas morning breakfast.  This year I decided to have a breakfast already prepared for the morning.  

The day before Christmas I mixed a breakfast bake together.  All I had to do in the morning was preheat the oven and put the dish inside.  Set it and forget it.

There are so many different varieties of breakfast bakes.  But here is one that I made for our first Christmas as husband and wife.  :)

Sausage Breakfast Bake
- 10 to 12 breakfast sausage links  (You can also use bacon - which is what I prefer but, I had sausage left over and wanted to use it up)
- 12 eggs
- 1 small diced onion
- 1 diced tomato
- 1/2 cup of chopped spinach  (I used frozen and drained spinach)
- 1/4 cup of shredded Asiago cheese
- 1 TBSP Italian seasoning
- 1 TBSP seasoning salt
- 2 slices of diced white bread  (I had hoagie sandwich bread left over so I used that)

Brown the sausage (or bacon) in a skillet.  In a separate bowl combine the eggs and seasoning.  Whisk until completely combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.  Pour into an oven-safe pan.  Cover and set aside until ready to bake.  

When ready to bake, keep it covered with aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.  

Before baking in the oven.

Cooked and ready to eat on Christmas morning!

Our Christmas morning also included a special coffee.  I just used our regular coffee.  In the bottom of the coffee mug, I added a couple dashes of cinnamon and then about 1 shot of Irish Creme Liquor.  It was a nice treat on our day off.  If I wanted to get really fancy, I also would have added whip cream and a dash of cinnamon to the top.  Give it a try.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Family Christmas Appetizer's

Well, Merry Christmas to my faithful followers and readers.  I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21

When I think about having Christmas with my family and with my in-laws.. I automatically think about the delicious food that will be served.  What does your family serve for Christmas?  Some of my families most favorite appetizers are...

Christmas Appetizers 

- Spinach dip with bread and rye chips
- Red Crab Meat dip
- Smoked Oysters (hey, don't knock it until you try it)
- Cookies made by Mom
- Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

Every year I make a special request for my Mom's spinach dip - it is served cold, not hot.  I really enjoy the crunch from the water chestnuts and dipping rye bread in it.  Here is a quick fix if you would like to try it for a special family gathering.

Spinach Dip
- 16 oz of sour cream
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 package of vegetable soup mix
- 1 can of water chestnuts chopped
- 1 container of frozen spinach, drained
- 2 tsp of lemon juice

It's just that easy!!

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Man Needs Meat & Potatoes - Part 2

Let's be honest.. it is not very often that I, the woman, get a craving for a potato.  It's also not very often that I don't cook a meal with my husband's potato-loving tummy in mind.  So here is another one-pot meal that is similar to the first Meat & Potato post.

Due to the chaos of the Christmas season, the busyness that comes from working at a church, and the every day tasks.... I am almost embarrassed to say that I have not done a thorough grocery trip in over 3 weeks (I'm talking the kind of shopping that you hit every area of the store).  Shocking, I know.

My husband's job is seasonal and allows him to have off in the winter.  This means that our refrigerator primarily consists of manly substances - such as bacon and beer.  Yes, I am due for a large overhaul of my refrigerator.  I must take back my territory and fill it with heart-healthy non-bacon foods.. like lettuce, soy, and turkey.

Well until I have the opportunity to get to the grocery store, I was forced to tap into my food creativity yet again this week.  I looked through my slim-pickings and came up with this....

Country Chicken & Potato Bake
- 3 or 4 Chicken breast.. cut into chunks
- 4 potatoes thinly sliced (any kind of potato is fine.. no red potato though)
- 1 medium onion diced (If you don't like onion.. substitute this with celery or broccoli)
- 1 can Cream of Chicken
- 2 cups of white or brown rice
- 2 TBSP of basil
- 1 TBSP of 4/S Special Seasoning Salt (or just use regular seasoning salt and paprika) 
- Pepper to taste (do not add more salt until after baking - if needed.. the seasoning salt provides enough)

In a skillet, brown the chicken breast pieces and sprinkle with the seasoning salt.  In a medium sauce pan, cook 2 cups of rice.  Read the directions on the package or box of rice but it's typically twice the amount of water to the rice.  Once the chicken and rice is done cooking.. combine ingredients in a separate baking dish.  Add the rice, chicken, onion, and cream of chicken... mix thoroughly.  Add the potatoes, basil, and pepper to the top.  Bake covered at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Uncover and add the cheese.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

It is hearty meal that your man will love.  My husband had about 3 servings.  It's simple and probably includes ingredients that you already have.  Try this recipe tonight if you find yourself in a similar refrigerator crisis.  Enjoy!  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Casserole Creativity 101

Have you ever had one of those days that you know the refrigerator stock is running low and what ever is in the pantry is not appealing?  Well this happens to me every so often - which forces me to become really creative with dinner that night.

If you ever find yourself in this situation... DO NOT PANIC!  Sometimes getting creative is much better for your pocket book and waste line because, often times we would rather have someone else make us dinner (i.e. pizza, freaky-fast sub sandwiches, etc).  So open up the pantry and get the creative juices flowing.

There was one particular week that I had made the Enchilada Casserole and had a leftover bag of hash browns.  The next day I was in desperate need of a trip to the grocery store but running on very little sleep and energy.  SO, I got creative.

I do not have the exact recipe written down for this dish but, I'd like to suggest trying something like this for a casserole dinner some night.

Crunchy Southwest Chicken Casserole
- 1/2 bag of diced hashbrowns
- 1-2 lbs. of chopped chicken breast or tenderloin (feel free to use shredded chicken if you have that)
- 1 medium chopped onion
- 1 bag of frozen corn
- 1 1/2 cup of crushed tortilla chips
- 1 can of green chili's
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 chopped green pepper
- 1 cup of shredded marble jack cheese
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (or use fresh if you have it)
- 3 to 4 slices of cubed cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 TBSP of Arizona Dreaming (or use Smoked Paprika)
- Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the chopped chicken breast in a pan.  Combine all ingredients into a pan.  Tuck the cubed cheddar cheese in various places of the dish and then cover with a thin layer of more cheese. Bake covered for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes.

If you feel that it's too dry.. I would suggest adding salsa to it or creating a type of "gravy" from the pan drippings left over by the chicken.  If you want it to be SPICY.. I would recommend adding some chipotle seasoning OR perhaps a little Adobo sauce if you have any canned chipotle's on hand.  I love adobo sauce.  Do not use too much.. maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of a tablespoon.  A little goes a long way.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Art of Pasta Salad's

When invited to a party or planning a party.. you know of specific people with specific food specialities.  Do you have a speciality?  I have a few party favorites but, my over all favorite is definitely... pasta salads.  And when I say pasta salad, I am not talking about your traditional multi-colored noodle salad.

One of my main ambitions in life is to put a book of pasta salads together.  Everyone has there thing and this is just one of mine.  I truly see a bowl of pasta like a painter sees a blank canvas.  It is one of favorite kinds of art.. because you can eat it too.  :)

This weekend, we were invited to a Christmas party for church and the theme was "Italian Christmas".  We were asked to bring some type of salad.  PERFECT, I thought.  Immediately I thought of mini-pepperoni's and some type of oil dressing.  That's about as far as my mind went.  While walking through the grocery store.. the ideas began to flow.  I guess an artist just needs to be in their artistic environment in order to flourish.

Prep time = 10 minutes
Cook time = 10 minutes

Pizza Topping Pasta Salad
- 1 box of Rotelle pasta (or any type of pasta that is not flat)
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 5 to 6 scallions, chopped
- 1 container of halved grape tomatoes
- 3/4 cup of chopped or torn Arugula
- 1/2 to 3/4 of Italian dressing
- 1 TBSP of sea salt
- 2 TBSP of Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup of mini or regular size pepperoni
- 1/2 cup of Asiago & Parmesan cheese

In a large pot.. add water, sea salt, and 1 TBSP of Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil and add the pasta.  When the pasta is tender, drain and shock with ice or cold water.  This will cool off the pasta quickly.  In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients.. including an additional TBSP of Italian seasoning and the Italian dressing.  Feel free to add salt or pepper to taste.  The arugula already adds a nice peppery taste and the pasta should be boiled with salt so adding additional salt of pepper won't be too necessary.

Everything combined.

Close up of the salad.

I hope that you enjoy this pasta salad.  There are many more to come.  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beefy Soup Gone Right!

Beef stew feels like winter in a bowl to me.  Although I haven't always been a fan of beef.. I do enjoy this hearty meal.  My husband is an enthusiast of beef stew so, I bought the ingredients to fix him a healthy, filling stew.

After all that excitement and preparation, I ended up skipping a major step.  I forgot to add flour to the meat after it was browned.  Our stew was more of a super delicious SOUP.... and we were actually okay with it.  So I'm rolling with my not-so-unfortunate mistake and calling this "Rosey's Beef and Vegetable Soup".

The great thing about home-made soup in the winter is that you can make 3 or 4 meals out of it.  You can also freeze it for a later date too.  Simple sides, such as dinner rolls or biscuits, add to a complete dinner.

Rosey's Beef and Veggie Soup
- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. of stew meat (I buy it pre-cut because I am spoiled)
- 5 or 6 large, peeled carrots (chop into bite size pieces)
- 5 or 6 large celery stalks (don't be afraid to use the celery leaves - chop all into bite size pieces)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5 or 6 chopped potatoes (doesn't matter what kind of potato you use, as long as the pieces are the same size)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 container of cherry tomatoes, whole
- 2 cups of beef stock
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1 cup of water
- 1 can of stewed tomatoes
- 2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 TBSP of dry Basil
- 2 TBSP of dry Tarragon
- 1 TBSP of Sea Salt
- Cracked pepper to taste

Brown the meat in a separate skillet or in a large pot with EVOO.  Once the meat is browned combine all the ingredients in the large pot and bring to a boil.  After it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Before boiling

Check out those colors! This was after simmering for 40 minutes.

The fork didn't work so well after I realized this was a soup.

You may notice from the pictures that the vegetable pieces are larger in size and probably the size you would see in a stew.  When I make this again, I will cut the vegetables smaller for the soup.  I may even add some type of bean or lentil.  Yum!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Delicious Medley - Every Time!

It never fails... any time I combine spinach, tomato, and garlic on ANYTHING... the flavors will explode. My husband and I had some left over jars of Bloody Mary ingredients and I wanted to use up what was left of the artichoke hearts.  So I decided to combine the artichoke with shrimp and the delicious medley. Wow!

I still need to spend some time perfecting this recipe before I can give it out but, I'm definitely on the right track with something.  I'll give you a few tips as I continue to work on this one though.

- Butter, garlic and chardonnay make a great sauce when combined. It's so light and pairs well with a seafood pasta dish.
- I tried whole wheat linguine in this shrimp dish and... not a fan. I'm not sure that I believe anyone that actually enjoys eating it. "It's healthier".. yes, I know. But I want my food to taste GOOD, not like cardboard. Use the good noodles.. I insist.
- Do not use to many artichokes from a jar or can. Chop them finely if you choose not to use fresh artichoke. The flavor will compliment the medley but too much of anything canned can leave a bad taste.
- Try Asiago cheese on a pasta dish. I recommend it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

Do you ever feel like no matter how many times you say.. "Thank You" it just isn't enough?  This is what I love about Thanksgiving.  For me.. it is more than grubbing on juicy turkey and starchy side dishes.  It's a day to reflect on the blessings from God over the last year.  This is something that we should do every day but, Thanksgiving is a chance to really take a look at all we have been given and say "Wow, God has been so good to me. I am so undeserving but, thank you!"

Thanksgiving is the ultimate comfort holiday.  It's a chance for some of us to grab a pair of slippers, put on fat pants, pig out on pie, watch Christmas movies, unplug the phone and play games with family.  Is there anything better?  It was the first time in a long time that I felt disconnected from the world and connected to the people that mean the most to me - my incredible family.

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of watching my mother develop the fine art of orchestrating Thanksgiving dinner for a constantly growing family.  I can quite honestly say that the 1 turkey, 7 side dishes, 2 bread options, 2 cranberry options, and condiments are ALWAYS packed with flavor.  I am so thankful for my Mom's ever-growing patience and kitchen skills on this holiday.  She is such a blessing to our family.

This year, I filled my plate with sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turkey with gravy, and stuffing that will make your mouth do cartwheels.  With the combination of love, fellowship and great food... what is better than Thanksgiving?  There is such a feeling of warmth and comfort when you look at your plate of Thanksgiving dinner.....

... immediately followed by a loosened belt and an afternoon turkey coma.  Shortly followed by pie, coffee, and perhaps some wine.  Seriously.. I LOVE this holiday.  :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lasagna Inspired - Husband Tested

As mentioned in my earlier blog, Inspiration in a Bowl of Meat, I decided that I was going to create a dish that was inspired by my Mom's lasagna.  I really wasn't sure how this was going to turn out or if it was even going to cook correctly but.. I was going to give it a go.

Earlier this week, I gathered all my typical lasagna ingredients and replaced the noodles with......... pizza dough. :) My ultimate goal in this dish was to make it taste like lasagna AND also taste like pizza.  I knew that it would be a challenge to keep it from being soggy and watery.  So, I have a theory on how to fix my error...

Lasagna Pizza
- 1/2 or 1 lb of ground meat (I used turkey meat but, sirloin or pork would be good too)
- Half of a medium size onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 jar of pizza sauce
- 1 1/2 TBSP of fennel seed
- 2 TBSP of dried Parsley
- 1 lemon - squeezed (or you could use 1 TBSP of lemon juice)
- 1 container of ricotta cheese (sorry, I didn't write down the size but I'd guess that it was 2 cups)
- 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 roll of pizza dough (I used store bought Pillsbury but, you are welcome to make your own if you prefer)
- Salt and pepper

So, I started by laying out the pizza crust on a baking sheet.  To avoid a watery pizza.. I would suggest baking the pizza dough alone before applying the toppings.  Follow the directions.. or just bake at 425 until golden brown - which would take 8 to 10 minutes.  While the crust is baking, brown the ground meat in a separate pan - add the fennel seeds at this point (the fennel will give it that pizza taste).  In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, lemon, parsley and garlic.  Once the crust is done baking and the meat is browned.....

.... Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the top of the crust.  You might notice that I did not bake the crust first.. my pizza was a little watery.  On top of the ricotta mixture... spread a layer of the pizza sauce.  The point of lasagna is to see the distinguished layers and that was something I was trying to keep in this dish as well.

Over the pizza sauce, add a layer of ground meat.  If you don't like too much meat on your pizza.. I would recommend only getting a 1/2 pound.  Over the top of the meat, add a layer of cheese. 

Bake at 425 for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Serve and enjoy! 

The taste is pretty incredible.  It really does taste like lasagna and pizza had a baby.  The spices and flavors blend perfectly and you do get the 2 separate tastes.  Very delicious.  I hope you like it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Ate Steak.. and the Farmland's Rejoiced

It was 9 years ago that I willingly gave up red meat.  Not for any religious beliefs or animal rights reason.  I've never really enjoyed red meat.  It's just a personal choice.

I can, in fact, remember the last time that I ate a steak.  It was the night of my high school graduation almost 9 years ago and it was at a restaurant in Hales Corners.  Someone once said that I probably don't like steak because I must have eaten a poorly grilled steak.  Hmm.. nope.  I'm not sure what it was.  I don't know if the texture bothered me.. or the fact that a dead animal was still bleeding on meat on my plate.  What ever the reason.. I just plain and simple did not want to eat red meat any more.

Well, 6 months ago I married a red meat lover.  My husband is your typical meat and potato kind of guy.  This past week, he was out of state for work and had to endure the vicious winds of our recent land hurricane in the midwest.  He worked so hard and had one request upon his happy return.  Steak.

I'm sure that you could see my dilemma.. not being a fan of meat.  Usually if the hubby wants a steak.. he will pick it out and grill it himself.  The task of finding the perfect steak for him posed to be quite the challenge.  But, like every woman that loves her husband... I marched right up to that deli counter at the grocery store and.... asked for help.  I'm sure that every blonde hair on my head was beaming as I said, "Umm.. my husband wants steak and I don't eat steak so I don't know what to get but, can you pick out something lean and seasoned for him.  Please and thank you."

For my husband's returning meal I made him steak, smashed potatoes, and salad with his favorite dressing.  Usually I will thaw a chicken breast for myself but.. completely forgot.  So, I ate steak.  And guess what... I actually liked it.  :)  I mean.. I should practice what I preach... do not ever be afraid to try something that you once didn't like to eat.  Taste buds change.. things change.. you might surprise yourself.

Here is the smashed potato recipe...

Parmesan Garlic Smashed Potatoes
- 1 or 2 lbs. of red potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 TBSP of fresh or dried parsley
- 2 TBSP of italian seasoning
- 1 TBSP of olive oil or butter
- 2 cups of sour cream
- 1 medium sized diced onion
- 1 of finely shredded parmesan cheese (I used a blend of Asiago and Parmesan)
- Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the red potatoes to a boil - cut into the same size pieces and NOT pealed.  Once they are fork tender.. drain into a colander and let it sit.  In the pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil (or butter, if you prefer)... this will take some of that raw flavor out.  Saute to your preference - I prefer mine to still have a crunch.  Do not saute the garlic too long, otherwise it will burn.  Add the spices at this point.. parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes back into the pot.  Combine.  Over low heat.. add the sour cream.  Take out your days aggression on your food by smashing it.  They do make fancy tools for dishes like this but.. if you do not have a smasher.. a large spoon or fork would serve the same purpose.  Once all ingredients are combined... add the cheese, cover and let it melt.

The textures and flavors compliment each other well.

My steak.. medium well. 

I paired this with a salad and a homemade honey balsamic dressing.  My meat and potato guy was very happy!  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Inspiration in a Bowl of Meat

The last 4 days I have spent recovering on my couch from a minor but necessary surgery.  During those 4 days, my Mom came to visit and help with things around my house.  As part of her visit, she made one of my most favorite and comforting Mom-meals...... Lasagna.  Yum!

I'm not sure if it was the ricotta cheese, turkey meat, or pain killers but.. something about my Mom's lasagna inspired me.  So, I guess this is my way of saying.. stay tuned for a lasagna-inspired dish.

Although I can't give you my Mom's lasagna recipe.. I will, however, provide a few tips to spice up your existing lasagna recipe.

Tip 1:  In the ricotta cheese mixture.. it is typical to have parsley, ricotta, and an egg.  I would suggest adding lemon zest and a couple pinches of nutmeg.  It will give your dish that "hmm-factor".

Tip 2:  In the meat mixture... I would definitely suggest adding a grated or minced clove of garlic - in addition to the meat and tomato sauce.  If you do not have a head of garlic, try garlic or onion powder.

Tip 3:  Switch up the cheese!  The typical lasagna cheese is mozzarella.  If you are up for a burst of flavor and total change from the average pan of lasagna.. then grab some feta or bleu cheese and sprinkle it in with mozzarella.  Both of these cheeses pack a huge punch so it should definitely be used sparingly.

Bowl of meat and sauce.

Pre-baked lasagna

Lasagna ready to eat.

So again.. in a couple days I will post something about my lasagna-inspired idea.  Stay tuned.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's OK to Play With Your Food!

Finger food is OK!  Experimenting with food is OK too.  I encourage you to do both.

Ladies.. it is possible to cook a healthy meal and it is possible to fool your husband's man-taste-buds into thinking that it's bad for them.  My husband works outside all day and works up quite a hunger by the time he gets home.  So last night, I wanted to make him something that would fill him up, something that would taste awesome, and something that was quick.  If you're not sure if a meal like that exists... I encourage you to try this....

I see shows on the Food Network doing something with chicken nuggets or chicken tenders quite often.  I decided to give it a try... after all, how hard could it be?  I couldn't believe how easy it was.  

Prep time = 20 minutes
Bake time = 20 minutes

Italian Breaded Chicken Tenders (Recipe for 2)
- 6 medium sized chicken tenderloins - or you can use more if they are smaller
- 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- McCormicks Italian Seasoning - or what ever Italian seasoning you might have on hand
- 1/2 cup of All-Purpose Flour
- Salt and Pepper

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- 2 TBSP of honey
- 2 TBSP of yellow mustard
- 1 TBSP of mayo
- Cracked black peppercorn

Roasted Vegetables - Italian Style
- 2 or 3 yellow squash
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 medium size sliced onion 
- 1 clove of minced garlic (not grated)
- 2 or 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- McCormick's Italian Seasoning - season to taste

You will need 3 shallow bowls or plates.  On each separate plate will be the flour, egg (beaten), and bread crumbs - in that order.  Season the bread crumbs with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Lightly season each chicken tender with salt and pepper.  I used tongs to be move each tenderloin from the flour to the egg to the bread crumbs - but feel free to use your fingers if you cool with touching raw chicken.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes.  

In a separate dish, combine the honey, mustard, and mayo.  Whisk.  Serve on the side of the Italian Chicken Tenders.

On a baking sheet.. combine all the ingredients mentioned above for the Roasted Vegetables (feel free to use what ever veggies you have at home - I never liked yellow squash but it tastes pretty great when it's roasted with garlic).  Drizzle EVOO over the top and season with Italian Seasoning, salt, and pepper.  I used my hands to mix and distribute all the ingredients evenly over the baking sheet.  Bake at 425 for 15 to 20 minutes.. or until golden brown.  If you have a grill pan.. this can also be cooked on the grill.  

Roasted Veggies.. Pre-Baking

Roasted Veggies - Post-Baking

Chicken Tenders after baking

To fill my husband's tummy.. I used instant mashed potatoes as a side.
Rolls or biscuits would also be a nice side for these 2 dishes.

My husband said that he wishes he could eat the honey mustard sauce every day - and that it also tasted just like a very popular fast-food restaurant.. only better!  I'm sure that your man will love it too.  

Enjoy! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pre-Holiday Turkey Teaser

What is your favorite holiday?  Well, my favorite is Thanksgiving.  I love being surrounded by family and sharing in delicious food and drinks together.  I love that it's a Pre-Christmas celebration and our heads aren't quite wrapped in the chaos of shopping yet.  And more than anything.. I love the way my Mom can cook a turkey.

I have much to learn about cooking this holiday dinner and will continue to observe our very-own Thanksgiving dinner expert.  My Mom has been cooking Thanksgiving for our family since the late 80's, I believe.  There were definitely our fair share of kitchen mishaps but, overall.. there is nothing that woman can't do in the kitchen.  I only hope that I can cook a turkey as good as her some day.

Since Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite dinner event of the year... I thought I would do a little pre-holiday main course.  This was the first time that I made this recipe and there will be a few changes along the way but, definitely a great effort thus far.

Cranberry Turkey Breasts
- 2 or 3 turkey boneless, skinless turkey breasts (I happen to get these on sale a couple weeks ago and kept it frozen)
- 1/4 cup whole canned cranberry
- 1/2 cup of Craisins
- 1/2 sweet onion thick sliced (I diced it and decided that didn't work out too well)
- 1 or 2 TBSP of Tarragon
- 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 TBSP honey
- Salt and Pepper

Place the turkey breasts into a roasting pan.  Cover in EVOO and season with salt and pepper.  Add the tarragon, onions and craisins.  Bake at 425 for 25 minutes.  In a separate dish, combine the balsamic vinegar, canned cranberry, 1 tbsp of EVOO, and honey.  Whisk until completely combined.  When the turkey is done baking.. pour the cranberry sauce over the top.  Serve and enjoy.



The only downside to baking this the first time and not using a roasting pan.. is that the onions and craisins did get a little burnt if they were on the side off the pan.  I would like to try a raspberry sauce that can be baked over the top of the turkey.  I will experiment with that one.

I paired the turkey with something simple... buttered pasta noodles.  What ever you decide for a side, I would recommend something simple in flavor.  We also enjoyed a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay with this meal.

Happy Turkey Meal to you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trout Springs Winery & Vineyard

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin.  The husband and I decided to take a drive to Lake Michigan.  Along the way, I snapped many pictures and admired the abundance of God's fall color palette. It is absolutely beautiful in Northern Wisconsin this time of year.  With fall comes colors and with colors comes tourists flocking to the Midwest's wine country - Door County.

Jon and I did not drive all the way to Door County but, we did find a very nice winery only 30 minutes from our home.  So we made a stop at Trout Springs Winery & Vineyard in Greenleaf, WI.  

It's a smaller and newer vineyard.  The tasting room and shop are in the same room - which gives a more intimate feeling that you might not get at larger winery's.  We decided to do the wine tasting for $3.50, which includes 7 wines and pairings.

Although I didn't take notes, like the woman to my left, I was thoroughly impressed with their wine knowledge and the amount of time they put in to finding delicious cheeses to pair with the wine.  A majority of their wines are reds and are typically paired with a BelGioioso Cheese (Freedom, WI).

They will start by allowing you to smell, sip and taste the wine.  Then you are given a small piece of cheese that has been beautifully paired to compliment the wine.  I can honestly say that 5 of the 7 wines that we sampled just popped with such incredible, intense flavor.  There were a couple times that I just had to close my eyes and follow up with a "wow" compliment.  Oh my goodness.  Obviously, I highly recommend the wine tasting at Trout Springs.

I wish I could give individual assessments of each wine but, I'd rather that you try it for yourself.  We'll just say that I'm typically not a fan of reds and ended up purchasing 2 bottles of the Syrah.  The only downside to a smaller winery is the prices.  According to the owner, they do not sell through distributors yet and sell out of everything that they make, which can make some of the prices a little high.  However, I thought it was totally worth it.

Such a lovely afternoon!  :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ugh vs. Mmm!

When I was a kid, I can remember the torture and pure pain of trying to survive vegetable night at our kitchen table.  Mom would bring over a microwaved dish filled with plain.. boring.. dull.. disgusting vegetables.  There was nothing worse than a microwaved piece of broccoli.  It was smelly and chewy... and food like this should just be banned, in my opinion.

I longed for the days of having my own kitchen - in which I could control the outcome of dinner. Chocolate cake?  Sure!  Carmel apples?  Why not!  Reese's peanut butter cups?  Even better!  Well those desires have come and gone.. and obviously I do not serve chocolate for dinner (although my husband would love that).

Instead.. I have learned ways to dress up vegetables.  Don't get me wrong... I love vegetables.  If you know me then you also know that I'd rather have a plate of lettuce over chicken any day.  But, with age comes wisdom.. and with wisdom comes delicious food.  Let's face it.. God put flavor into the world and taste buds into our mouths for a reason.

So for tonight's dinner.. dress up your veggies!  Need some ideas? ... Stay tuned!  :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate!

Last week, I made a trip to the Farmers Market and bought a ton of tomatoes and basil to make bruchetta. Well some times life gets a little crazy and there is no time for something "fancy". Plus I wanted my husband to be around for this creation.. I knew his palate would be pleased. Our schedules didn't match up this week.

This morning I decided that I would make bruchetta for lunch. The tomatoes and basil wouldn't last much longer and I wasn't sure how long the bread would be good. When I checked the bread.. it was sporting a few spots of blue. I found this to be slightly inconvenient since bread is one of the essential parts of bruchetta. WELL, in times like these.. it forces us to get a little creative.

Thankfully, the Food Network came to my rescue. One of the shows this morning was making grilled cheese with salsa. PERFECT! I checked my refrigerator and I had the makings for a perfect grilled cheese.. including Muenster cheese - a great suggestion from a friend and reader.

Bruchetta Grilled Cheese
- 4 to 5 small or medium tomatoes (I used red, orange and yellow. Great fall colors!)
- 1 TBSP fresh basil
- 1/4 cup minced sweet onion
- 2 small cloves of garlic.. or one large clove
- 1 TBSP Olive Oil
- 4 slices of Muenster cheese
- 4 slices of bread
- Butter (I used light)
- Salt & Pepper

I started by mixing the tomatoes, garlic, basil, onion and EVOO into a small bowl.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Over a medium heat, add the bread and cheese. To the top of the cheese..
add 2 heaping TBSP's of the bruchetta mixture. Add another piece of cheese over the mixture and then another piece of bread. The 2 pieces of cheese will act like a glue and hold everything in the sandwich.
Slice, serve, enjoy!

I paired this with Campbell's Broccoli and Cheese Soup.

Seriously.. one of the best things I ever ate. There is something extremely comforting about tomatoes and cheese on 2 slices of bread. I highly recommend this for lunch or dinner on a cool fall day.. it will bring you comfort and warmth. I hope you like it as much as I did.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We're in Tomato Season!

The end of summer marks the beginning of tomato season. It is the beginning of Bloody Mary Festivals all over the state... the beginning of basement canning sessions across America... the beginning of many meals full of the fresh tomato flavor... and the beginning of many episodes of acid reflux for some of the unlucky ones.

Tomatoes were on sale at the grocery store last week and I also happened to find some great deals of colorful tomatoes at the Downtown Appleton Farmer's Market as well. Last week I was planning to make bruschetta but, decided to go with something a little different to use up the over-stock of tomatoes in my refrigerator.

I started by making bruschetta and then altered the recipe about half way through. This is about how 40% of my recipes start. And it ended up rather fantastic.. I hope you like it.

Balsamic Bruschetta Tortellini
- 3 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 TBSP of balsamic vinegar
- 1 or 2 cloves of minced or grated garlic
- 2 or 3 small to medium size chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup of chopped scallions
- 1 box of tortellini (found in the pasta aisle.. not the dairy section)
- Salt and pepper

So I started by combining the EVOO and minced garlic into a serving bowl.  I whisked with a fork, added salt and pepper.  Then I refrigerated the mixture for 20 - 30 minutes.  While in the refrigerator.. boil the tortellini, drain and rinse with cold water.  Take the mixture out of the refrigerator and add the balsamic vinegar.  Whisk together.  In the same serving bowl, add scallions, tomatoes, and the tortellini. Combine and serve at room temp or chilled.

No need for additional herbs or spices.. let the tomato be the star in this dish!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Flavors Define Our Seasons - Chili

Our food can often define our seasons. When you smell a certain smell.. it can revive memories. When you taste a certain taste.. it can bring a feeling of comfort and love. And for me.. a nice big bowl of chili pairs perfectly with the fall season. Chili in the food dictionary should be right between Mango Salsa and Cranberry Turkey.

As a new wife, I haven't had the opportunity to make chili for my groom very often - just a couple times before we were married. But with the help of my Mom's cooking tips and random strangers in the grocery store.. I'd like to think that I pulled it off rather nicely. :)

Chili is one of those dishes that can be made in many different ways. Some people prefer it really spicy and some people prefer it without spice. Some eat it with noodles and some do not. It can be smooth or it can have texture. Since my husband does not enjoy spicy food, I always plan my recipes with the intent of being able to add more spice to my portion later on.

Mara's Turkey Chili
- 1 lb of ground meat (I used a mixture of lean beef and turkey.. I like the flavor and it's less fat than ALL beef)
- 15 oz can of kidney beans (drained)
- 15 oz can of chili beans (spicy or not)
- 28 oz can of chopped Italian tomato (any kind will do though.. I was going for smaller bites of tomato)
- 12 oz of tomato soup (as recommended by the nice lady in Aisle 3)
- 1 medium size chopped sweet onion
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 2 tsp of ground cumin
- 2 tbsp of medium chili powder
- 2 tbsp of Smoked Paprika
- 2 tsp of ground cinnamon (Mom says it will give it that "hmm" factor)
- 2 tsp of Chipotle Chili powder (Optional)
- 1 tbsp of Penzey's Arizona Dreaming spice (Optional: I haven't tried it yet but, I heard it's great for spicing it up)
- 1 box of Small Elbow Pasta (or whatever you might have in the pantry)
- Toppings: Scallions, Chedder or Colby Shredded Cheese, Sour Cream

Start by browning the meat in a skillet. When finished.. combine all the ingredients (other than the pasta or toppings) in no particular order into a large pot. Bring to a low simmer, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Stir occasionally. Cook for 45 minutes. Serve over noodles with something to dip in it (Pillsbury Grand Biscuits).

Before simmering for 45 minutes

After simmering for 45 minutes

My portion with toppings and a biscuit!

We could all use a hint of more time!
Copyright 2011 A Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tonight's Dinner - Featuring Peanut Butter

In college and when I was living on my own.. this recipe was an absolute favorite.  It was the perfect dinner for one person and could easily be doubled. My version of Thai rice has so many different variations... it can be spicy or sweet... it can have a lot of veggies or none at all.  That's one of the great things about cooking.. it doesn't have to be exact and substitutes of ingredients are acceptable (and yes, that was a dig at baking).

Right now, I do not have chili or sesame oil in my pantry but, I'd definitely recommend using it if you have it available. Also if you do not own a wok.. then a wide pan would be okay.

Spicy Peanut Thai Rice
- 1 cup of Jasmine Rice
- 1/2 of a medium chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped pea pods
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1 clove garlic minced or grated
- 1 chicken breast chopped (optional)
- 2 eggs (optional)
- 1 cup of celery or green pepper, chopped
- 3 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1/2 cup of peanut sauce (I will give tips and a recipe for this)
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil (optional)
- 4 drops of chili oil (optional - and depending how spicy you like it)
- 1 or 2 tsp of crushed red pepper (optional - and depending how spicy you like it)

Steam or cook the rice in a medium sauce pan. I do have a rice steamer and would recommend using that if you have one. If you are making this for more than 2 people.. increase the amount of rice by 1/2 cup for every 2 people - especially if this is used as the main course. When the rice is done steaming.. combine these ingredients into the wok (or large pan) - onion, garlic, pea pods, green pepper (or celery), rice and carrots. Add any seasoning to your preference (i.e. crushed red pepper, salt, pepper). Once all ingredients have cooked over high heat for 5 minutes.. reduce heat to medium-low. Part the rice or create a "hole" in the center. Add the eggs. Once the eggs are heated through.. turn the heat back to medium and add the soy sauce and/or peanut sauce. Heat for a couple more minutes and serve.

Depending on how much time you have and what ingredients you have.. I recommend 1 of the 3 options for the peanut sauce. 
- Kraft Asian Sesame Dressing
- Bangkok Peanut Sauce (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
... or ...
Combine 2 tbsp of peanut butter (melted), 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of honey. Whisk together. 

Enjoy!! :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.