Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Honey Crystal Almonds

There's still time to make this one for Christmas! I got this toasted almond recipe from a coworker when she brought her holiday leftovers to work one year. I was on them like a seagull on an abandoned bag of Doritos. For that very reason, I would recommend making a double batch. Then you have plenty for guests, and you can hope for some left over when the guests are gone. I also have the nasty habit of picking at them after I've made them, just to "make sure they're okay." That usually takes several testings for some reason. One bit of advice - after you've made the almonds, let them sit on the cookie sheet for maybe one or two hours. They're pretty sticky little guys, and letting them air out a little helps when it comes time to putting them in a bowl.

2 cups whole raw almonds
1 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbs. butter

Spread almonds in a shallow pan. Place in cold oven; turn oven to 350 degrees and roast 12 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until well-roasted. Over medium heat in a medium saucepan, heat honey and butter to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add almonds; simmer and stir 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer almonds to a baking sheet greased with butter or vegetable oil. Spread in a single layer and cool slightly. Toss almonds with sugar to coat.

There are serving suggestions with the recipe my coworker gave me, but I usually just put them out with all the holiday goodies. Her suggestions were to serve them with sharp cheddar and blue cheese, champagne, and fruit salad.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yellow Split Pea Soup

This is a very easy meatless pea soup recipe. It takes time but requires very little effort on the part of the cook. Try adding dumplings for something extra filling!

1 lb. yellow split peas
3 quarts water
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 whole allspice
4 whole peppercorns
1 cup diced carrots

Boil all the ingredients, but the carrots, slowly for about 4 hours or until peas are tender. Add carrots 2 hours before soup is done.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steamed Vegetable Salad

If you're looking for a potluck salad for the holidays, here's a good one. It's colorful and full of flavor. Make it a day ahead to give the vegetables a chance to marinate.

2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups baby carrot, halved

1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Steam the vegetables, making sure they are still crisp. Rinse under cold water. Put in large bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid, and let it set for about 20 minutes. Shake well and drizzle over vegetables. Refrigerate salad and serve cold.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Italian Beans with Sundried Tomatoes

I've had a little fascination lately with cooking with pasta sauces in place of regular tomato sauce. I'm not one for opening a can of tomato sauce anyway, so when a recipe calls for it, I usually just mash up some tomatoes as a replacement. But when the snow is blowing, it's not the time for tomatoes. To avoid canned vegetables, I often turn to good jarred tomato sauces. There are lots of sauces on the market with no preservatives or added unnecessaries. The one I used here is Delallo Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce, but you could use any one of your choice here, with a few sundried tomatoes thrown in for added flavor. This is a recipe fresh from my kitchen today. I served it with Italian sausage and a green salad.

2 cups dried navy beans
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup Sundried Tomato Pasta Sauce (Delallo) or 1 cup sauce your choice with a few chopped sundried tomatoes added

Boil the beans, changing the water a few times (to reduce gas issues later!), until the beans are almost soft. At this point, keep only enough water in the beans to avoid sticking to the pan. Add all other ingredients but the sauce. Cook until the beans and the onions are soft, stiring occasionally and keeping the water level so there's just enough to avoid scorching. Remove the bay leaf and add the sauce. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Herbed Vinaigrette

Here is a nice alternative to bottled dressings. Mix up a double batch to keep in the fridge if you prefer. I put mine in a glass jar and give it a couple shakes before putting on a salad. Experiment with different herbs or add chopped garlic for variety.

2 Tbs. vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup quality olive oil
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano

Mix all together in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. If using dried herbs, let it sit for about 30 minutes before using. Shake before pouring on salad.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Italian Meatloaf

Here's a nice little twist on an easy meal. We had this for the first time tonight. In fact, it was one of those happy things that occur when you've got a few ingredients and some time to fiddle. This variation is zippy and full of flavor. My husband kept bemoaning the fact that we had no wine. Wine with meatloaf! It was a hit with us. I hope you enjoy it too. (I think it'd make a great meatloaf sandwich as well. Sort of an Italian meatball sandwich feel.)

Try to get a nice hormone-free ground chuck. It'll be lower in fat and tastier too.

2 beaten eggs
3/4 cup milk
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 lbs. beef ground chuck
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup pasta sauce (I used Delallo's Sundried Tomato Sauce - no preservatives!)
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Mix eggs and milk, then stir in bread crumbs, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and mustard. Mix in meat and put into a loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Pour sauce on top and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, mashed potatoes, and a green salad.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Refried Black Beans

Black beans are incredibly healthy. They are loaded with fiber and iron, and they help stabilize blood sugar levels while reducing the risk for heart attacks. They're also full of antioxidants. If you're looking for a good way to reduce your meat intake, black beans and other legumes are the perfect way to do that. They are rich in protein. Here is a tasty way to enjoy all their benefits. One more great thing - this recipe is even better the next day!

3 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 Tbs. sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup olive oil

Boil the beans in water until slightly soft. (Changing the water and rinsing the beans a few times will cut down on "gas" issues!) Add the garlic and salt. Cook until beans are very soft. Drain beans, reserving some of the liquid. Either mash the beans with a potato masher or put them in the blender, adding some of the reserved liquid and the cumin, chili powder, and olive oil. Stir in the onions and serve wrapped in warm tortillas. If you prefer, add chopped green onions, chopped tomatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese to the burrito as well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Greek Tzaziki Chicken Pockets

This is a recipe that I enjoy making for guests. Its sweet flavor mixed with the red onion and the Cucumber Garlic sauce is always raved over. I got the original recipe from an old booklet full of chicken recipe contest winners, but I've made a few alterations over the years. If you make it just once, you'll crave it until you have to make it again!

2 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless breast and thigh meat, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
8 small pita breads
1 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Cucumber Garlic Sauce (recipe following)

In a medium bowl, mix lemon juice, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. In large nonstick frying pan, place oil over high heat. Add chicken with marinade 1/2 at a time, and stir-fry about 15 minutes or until browned. Spoon into pita breads, add red onion and parsley, and serve with Cucumber Garlic Sauce.

Cucumber Garlic Sauce:

In a small bowl, mix together 1 (8-oz.) carton plain Mediterranean style yogurt, 1/2 cup peeled and seeded chopped cucumber, 1 Tbs. chopped green onion, 1 large finely minced garlic clove, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Refrigerate until serving.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tantalizing Turkey Noodle Soup

If you've read my other blog The Mommy Spot, (see sidebar for link), then you know I've been battling the flu for a week now. This may help explain why this is the second soup recipe in a row! And yes, I do have a third coming down the pike very soon. Nonetheless, this is a tasty recipe and a wonderful way to use up some of those holiday bird leftovers.

1 1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 sliced green onions
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp. celery seed
3 - 4 Tbs. olive oil
10 cups water
1 large handful fresh chopped dill
1 large handful fresh chopped parsley
6 oz. egg noodles
juice from 1/2 lemon
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste

Put the turkey and vegetables into the pot with the water, oil, celery seed, salt, and pepper. Boil until carrots are almost soft. Add noodles and cook for another 15 minutes or until noodles are fully cooked. Remove from heat, add dill, parsley, and lemon juice. Serve with a dollop of plain mediterranean-style yogurt in each bowl.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Simple Roasted Potatoes with Garlic

I really enjoy the combination of potatoes and garlic. This is one I make frequently when we have a craving for fried potatoes. They're made in olive oil, and since they're in the oven, they require a lot less of the oil. I initially got this recipe from Jamie Oliver. Whether or not I've altered it over the last couple years, I'm not really sure. But here it is as I prepare it.

3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and sliced like french fries
1 garlic bulb
Olive oil for coating
Sea salt

Place the potato wedges in a bowl. Separate the garlic cloves and cut just the tough ends off. (The skin of the garlic helps protect it while roasting, and it's very easy to remove when eating.) Use enough oil to coat the potatoes and garlic. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Place potatoes and garlic on a cookie sheet. Put in oven preheated to 350 degrees. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 - 10 minutes.

(Cooking time varies, according to the pan used for baking.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mushroom & Barley Soup

This is a very nice soup to serve as a first course or as a way to warm up in chilly weather. There's just something about it that makes me a little glad it's cold and grey out. I use quick cooking barley for this soup, but if you'd rather not, just boil some pearl barley first for about 40 minutes in 2 cups of the stock.

1/4 cup quick-cook barley
6 3/4 cup chicken stock (I sometimes just use water)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped thin
1 Tbs. butter
12 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin
1 Tbs. dried tarragon
1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until they are soft.

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft.

Add stock and bay leaf, and bring to boil. Stir in barley (with cooking liquid, if not using quick barley) and mushrooms. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add tarragon and parsley in the last minute or two of cooking.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Herbed Roasted Turkey

A few days ago my husband received his annual frozen turkey from work. Two hours before the end of his shift, he put it in the trunk of his car - on an unseasonably warm November afternoon. We had turkey last night. Call it a taste of things to come. Here's how I roasted it. It came out wonderfully. I served it with the garlic mashed potatoes (also found in this blog), a cabbage salad, and acorn squash. We'll save the pumpkin pie and cranberries for next week...

1 turkey
olive oil
Sea salt & pepper
(I used dried herbs here.)

Rinse turkey and place in roasting pan. Rub with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle herbs, salt, and pepper over turkey. Cover with a tent of foil. Bake at 325 degrees until turkey timer pops out or meat thermometer reads 170 degrees in breast and 185 degrees in thigh meat.

Basil & Tomato Pasta Salad

Here's a nice dish when you want to forgo the meat for dinner. The whole wheat pasta makes it filling and full of flavor, and if you're lucky enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day, it's even better! Great for those potlucks too.

1 pint grape tomatoes
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 handful chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. red wine or balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
12 oz. whole wheat organic pasta
4 quarts water, boiling
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup black olives (optional)

In a large bowl, lightly mash the grape tomatoes. Add garlic, basil, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Toss well to mix and set aside. Cook the pasta per package instructions, drain, and add to tomato mixture. Toss; serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Moroccan-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash

My goal on this blog is to provide healthy, easy recipes for you. On occasion, we all want something a little more complex; and a little more challenging recipe is fun every now and then. This one is added to my blog on special request for "Shmenkie", who asked that I include it. Bon Apetit!

2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. butter, melted
2 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 Tbs. ground cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked couscous

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C)

Arrange squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until tender. Dissolve the sugar in the melted butter. Brush squash with the butter mixture, and keep squash warm while preparing the stuffing.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, celery, and carrots, and cook 5 minutes. Mix in the garbanzo beans and raisins. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.

Pour the water into the skillet, and mix in the couscous. cover skillet, and turn off heat. Allow couscous to absorb liquid for 5 minutes. Stuff squash halves with the skillet mixture to serve.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Slow Cooker Paprika Chicken

Very simple with few ingredients - but unbelievably tasty! This is great with a side of mashed potatoes and a nice salad. Perfect for a chilly November evening.

1 (2 to 3 lb.) whole chicken, rinsed inside and out
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Paprika (about a tablespoon)

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Place in slow cooker. Cook on high for one hour, then turn temperature to low. Cook an additional 8 to 10 hours, or until the juices run clear and it's no longer pink in the middle. (Make sure not to overcook, as it can start to get mushy.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Easiest Salad You'll Ever Make

This truly is a quick and easy salad. Made with cabbage, it gives you an opportunity to enjoy this vegetable raw - something most of us don't do very often. With the fresh dill, it's great to liven up a meal. If you eat meat, it works well as a side to balance out beef. Enjoy!

1/4 head cabbage, finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
1 handful cut fresh dill
Sea salt to taste
A good olive oil
Cider Vinegar

Rinse the sliced cabbage and put it in a bowl with the salt. Crunch the cabbage with your hand. (This softens the cabbage and helps bring out the flavor.) Add the onion, dill, olive oil, and vinegar. That's it! Now, did I promise an easy salad or what?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Broiled Alaskan Salmon

This is our favorite way to eat salmon. We always watch our local grocer for ocean caught salmon, preferrably Alaskan. It's even good as a leftover! Now, who can say that about most fish?

(Serves Four)
6 Tbs. butter, melted
4 salmon steaks, about 3/4" thick
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Fresh chopped dill, parsley, and chives
Juice of one lemon
Lemon slices

Preheat broiler. Brush 2 Tbs. butter over salmon. Mix the rest with the herbs, sea salt, and lemon juice. Place salmon steaks on broiler pan and put in oven, the closest setting to the broiler. Cook 5 minutes on each side. In the last minute, pour on the sauce. Serve with lemon slices and a side of rice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Ice Cream Alternative

Ever get those nasty cravings for a big bowl of Ben & Jerry's right before bed? We've discovered a very healthy alternative to nip that craving right in the bud. It's so simple, you can whip up a bowl during a commercial break!

2 parts organic plain yogurt (a mediterranean style is my favorite)
1 part frozen blueberries

Drizzle with honey and mix. I guarantee you'll be hooked!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Slow Cooker Beef Roast

I love this recipe. It's great served as a roast or as pulled beef for sandwiches. Just save the juice for dipping or on mashed potatoes. Lots of flavor!

3 lbs. beef roast (try a good cut with no antibiotics, etc.)
2 onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
1/3 cup vinegar
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 5 - 6 hours on high or 10 - 12 hours on low. If shredding, shred with two forks and serve on good bread or rolls.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Not-So-Basic Vegetable Soup

Here's a great way to make a vegetable soup that is anything but boring! Try and use all the organic and fresh vegetables you can. It'll really make a difference!

2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 - 4 Tbs. olive oil
10 cups water
1 large handful fresh chopped dill
1 large handful fresh chopped parsley
juice from 1/2 lemon
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 peeled and chopped tomatoes, optional

Throw all the vegetables (but the tomato, if you're using it) into the pot with the water, oil, salt, and pepper. Boil until potatoes and carrots are soft. If adding tomatoes, do it here. (Putting the tomato in with raw potato and carrots can keep these vegetables from getting soft when cooked.) Cook for another couple minutes. Remove from heat, add dill, parsley, and lemon juice. Serve with a dollop of plain mediterranean-style yogurt in each bowl.

Remember, the secret to good soup is to taste it towards the end and adjust seasoning until it's just right. If it seems a little too flat, try a little more lemon juice or sea salt.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

Here's a great new way to give a kick to your mashed potatoes. Yes, it contains butter; I think if you're going to use it, go for the real thing. Better for you than margarine!

4 or 5 large potatoes, cut and boiled
5 or 6 large cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
1 - 2 Tbs. butter
Sea Salt to taste

Cut the tough ends off the garlic cloves - no need to peel them. Place them in a pan and toss them in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Place in oven at 350 degrees, tossing occasionally until the outsides are golden. (This is a good thing to do while the potatoes are boiling.) Place potatoes in a bowl, pull garlic cloves out of skins with a fork and add to potatoes. Add salt, butter, and enough milk to gain your desired consistancy. Whip with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Serves 4.