Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fruit, Bread, and Cheese Plate

While exploring the internet one day last week, I found a blog post about serving a cheese plate before dinner, or as a light meal. Honestly, the whole post, especially the comment section at the end, was pretty pretentious, but the idea stuck with me. I often lament that my kids don't eat well enough and in pondering this cheese plate idea I decided to try it. If nothing else it will help fill them up when they don't like dinner.

Well, it turns out that our family was afflicted with the dread stomach bug this week, and a light supper of bread, fruit and cheese was just what we needed.

Clockwise: grapes, Gala apples, pecans, Honeycrisp apples, strawberries, Red Delicious apples. Middle: honey

Clockwise from bowl: olive oil w/ cracked pepper, toasted bread, plain bread, cinnamon-cranberry goat cheese, brie, and cheddar.

One of my favorite treats of this dinner was bread topped with the goat cheese and pecans, drizzled with honey. I also liked the brie with apples.

This would be a nice treat for a light supper, like we did, or to complement a soup. Add in a bowl of chicken salad and you have a light summer lunch without heating up the kitchen. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fruit Smoothies

One treat my kids always look forward to is fruit smoothies. The variations are endless, and it's pure nutrition they're getting! I usually make a batch in my blender, serve them their drinks, and use the rest to fill up popsicle molds. Later, they have delicious frozen treats with very few empty calories. Here's a basic recipe:

1 banana
½ cup frozen berries
1 cup (8 ounces) yogurt, your favorite flavor
¼ - ½ cup milk
View full recipePlace all ingredients in blender; process until smooth!

* Use strawberries and banana, adding a spoonful of chocolate drink mix/syrup
* Use peaches in place of the berries, with peach yogurt
* Use orange juice instead of milk

Basically, you can combine any of your favorite fruits to make these. My kids' favorites are Banana-Berry and Orange-Peach. Even The Boy, who will pretty much eat only apples, bananas and pineapples is very adventurous in the smoothie department. Just the other day he begged me to buy the special ingredient we needed to make Mold Shakes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheese Quiche

Every once in a while I'll make a quiche and eat it for breakfast or lunch all week. Mainly because (you guessed it!) no one else in the family likes it. But that just means more for me!

Cheese Quiche

2 cups (16 cups) 4% cottage cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese or mozzarella
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Pepper-Jack cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Combine flour, baking powder, pepper and salt; add to the cheese mixture and mix well. Transfer to a greased 9-in. pie plate. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake 30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Of course, you can use any combination of cheeses you like. I prefer the bite that the pepper-jack gives, but you can mix and match your favorites easily. Another version of this that I like is to use Swiss in place of the jack cheeses, adding in chopped green onion. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Joe's Sloppy Joes

Whenever I ask The Boy if he has any requests for dinner over the following week, he invariably replies with "Sloppy joes."  This recipe is just for him.

Joe's Sloppy Joes

1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey or venison)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to your taste (you may not have to add any)
1 bottle chili sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup beef broth (optional)

In a large skillet, saute meat, onion and garlic over medium heat until the meat is browned. If you use very lean turkey or venison, you may need to add in a tablespoon or so of oil. Stir in seasonings and saute for a couple more minutes; then add in chili sauce, ketchup and salsa. At this point you really just have to heat the mixture through for 5-10 minutes and it's ready to eat. I prefer to add in some beef broth in order for it to all simmer together a while longer. This makes enough for about 8-10 sandwiches.

*This freezes really well!
* An option we all like just as much is to use barbecue sauce in the place of the salsa. They still taste like sloppy joes, but with a smoky flavor.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Planning a Party

*** Update: I added the link for the spinach dip! My only change was using reduced-fat mayo and cream cheese instead of the full-fat. ***

I love having an excuse to cook for people, probably because (though they have many good qualities) the people in my house do not get excited about food. Most of the time. There is an unwritten rule in my house apparently, which states that at any given meal at least one person may not like what is served. I think they decide ahead of time who that will be. But I digress ... Party food! That's what we're talking about today, really.

When I know people are coming over, my first thought is what to feed them. My first step from there is to pull out my "handy-dandy ... notebook!" (sorry, three kids and all ...) I've mentioned it before, but it's basically a listing of every magazine and cookbook in my house along with which recipes I want to try.
Armed with a pen and an index card, I flip through and write down the recipes I think I'll use. Tonight I have a jewelry party planned so I just need snack foods. Since it's St. Patrick's Day I kind of had green in mind and ended up settling on Lemon Burst Tartlets (which I changed to lime), a hot spinach dip, and my potato-leek pizza. I also chose Chocolate Nutella Cookies because I've been dying to make them! I'll serve baby carrots and good crackers with the spinach dip. My basic outline for party food is to make sure the foods will complement each other, and to provide a mix of what I think of as "salty and sweet". This time I'm a bit apprehensive about serving a spinach dish and a dish with leeks since I usually try to make sure I have at least one thing that's neutral that almost everyone likes. We'll see how it goes tonight!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lasagna Tip

Since I recently shared with you several lasagna recipes, I thought I'd share a very helpful tip with you today. When prepping your lasagna noodles for your dish, DO NOT use your pasta pot. Grab a large skillet and layer them, criss-crossed,  in the boiling water.

Your bonus tip of the day is to add a dollop of oil into the water, and generously salt it.

And here's something just to make you drool a little:
Homemade lasagna sauce. Mmm ...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Tiramisu is an Italian dessert whose name translates to "pick me up". That's pretty appropriate since it involves espresso! I made my own version of it for our church's ladies' meeting last night and it was a big hit. It's basically an adaptation of my banana pudding recipe.


8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, cream the cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

1-3.3 oz. box cheesecake instant pudding mix
1-3.3 oz. box white chocolate instant pudding mix
3 cups cold low-fat milk

In another large bowl, whisk the pudding mix and milk until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the pudding to the cream cheese mixture and blend well. Fold in:

8 oz container of whipped topping, thawed

In a trifle bowl, place a single layer of:

ladyfingers (finger-shaped sponge cakes - check in the bakery section of your grocery store)

Drizzle the ladyfingers with:

chilled espresso (you'll use about 1/2 cup total, so a few tablespoons per layer)

Top the espresso-soaked ladyfingers with about a third of the pudding mixture. Repeat layers, ending with pudding. Dust the surface with cocoa powder. It's best to make this 6 hours or more before serving, keeping it stored in the fridge.

***You can get espresso in a few ways 1) get your handsome husband to make it in your espresso machine. That's what I do. 2) Drive through Starbuck's and order a doubleshot 3) buy espresso powder from the grocery store and mix together your own.***

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There is little that is more frustrating than attempting to prepare a recipe and realizing you're out of that ingredient you were so sure you had! I've compiled for you (and me!) a list of substitutes for a few common ingredients that I run short of or simply don't buy because of its limited use.

Biscuit/baking mix - this term is code for "Bisquick". For each 1 cup biscuit/baking mix called for in a recipe, use 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening. Cut the shortening in with a fork or pastry blender.

Egg - 1/2 banana, mashed (medium size) + 1/4 tsp baking powder or 2 tablespoons applesauce or 1 tsp baking powder + 1 1/2 TBS water + 1 1/2 TBS oil

Buttermilk - for each 1 cup called for, stir together just under a cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

Self-Rising Flour - 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Women Walking Worthy

My friend Lisa and I have worked out the perfect plan for us to do food about once a year for our church's monthly ladies' meeting. She buys the food and I cook! The only real problem is that it's nearly impossible to guess how many ladies will be there at any given meeting, but I'm planning a menu based on a guess of about 30.

The leadership team asked for lasagna this month. I was pretty happy about that because I LOVE lasagna and Handsome doesn't so I don't get to make it often. After pondering a bit, I decided to go with three different kinds to give everyone options.

1) Traditional Lasagna -- this is your basic, delicious lasagna recipe! I use a mix of venison and Italian sausage to make the sauce.

2) Chicken Lasagna -- a non-tomato based, yet still delicious lasagna. The creamy sauce is blended with broccoli, carrots and chicken.

3) Lasagna Rolls - Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis, this meatless dish is made special by two different sauces.

For dessert, I've been promising to make Mocha Cupcakes and Mocha Punch. I'm also planning Tiramisu, which will be a variation of my banana pudding recipe. I'm experimenting, so I'll let you know how it turns out! Of course we'll have rolls, and another friend  is bringing salad and dressing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ice Cream Affogato

Again with the un-recipes! But seriously, this dessert is incredibly, unbelievably good and all it involves is assembling ingredients. Here's what you need:

Vanilla ice cream
Chocolate syrup
Handsome man to make an espresso -- you could drive through a Starbuck's and order an espresso to take home with you, but if you happen to have a good-lookin' fella around the house who happens to make a really good espresso ...
Whipped cream

Just scoop your ice cream into the serving bowls, top with chocolate syrup, pour a few tablespoons of the espresso over each serving and top with whipped cream!

It is really hard to believe that something this simple tastes so good, but the combination of flavors is out of this world!

Almond Custard Fondue

I love to find desserts that are a little different! I don't have much of a sweet tooth at all, so I prefer those recipes that aren't too heavy on the sweet. This Almond Custard Fondue recipe was perfect! It was so creamy and delicious we couldn't stop eating it. We chose chopped apple and mini croissants (cut into thirds) to dip, but bananas would have been great, too. I made only one change - I didn't want to buy almond extract so I used a blend of maple and vanilla extracts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rosemary-Lemon Tilapia

Yesterday, I decided to finally cook a tilapia fillet that has been languishing in my freezer. All I did was to thaw the fillet, sprinkle it with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Meanwhile, I melted a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. After sprinkling the fillet with flour, I placed it in the skillet for 3-4 minutes on each side.
While it cooked, I chopped up some garlic and rosemary.

After the fish was cooked through, I put it on my plate and left the skillet on the heat. I sauteed the garlic and rosemary for a minute in the pan juices, then deglazed the pan with a tablespoon more of lemon juice and a splash of chicken broth (maybe 1/4 cup). When the sauce had reduced by half, I served it over the tilapia. It was SO good!

I served it with my Greek Pasta, and you're welcome to pretend I had something green and healthy on the side. That would be great, thanks!
Place green beans here ^