Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The "Chopped" dinner....

Well, this has been a long week with graduation ceremonies and masses and winding down my current job.  By the time I got home from work, I had exactly 30 minutes to whip up something to eat.  I felt like one of those cooking show contestants on TLC's Chopped that have to put together a meal in under 30 minutes!  I wonder what the judges would have said!

I decided to go the pasta route.  Easy, quick, and who doesn't like pasta!

While that was cooking, I defrosted a package of sweet sausage and popped them into the Forman grill.  Time to start cutting up my favorites.... vidalia onion, red pepper, and bella mushrooms.  I cooked the onions and peppers first, added fresh garlic last.  Then shut off the heat and added the mushrooms....There are just a few folks that I shared my trick about adding mushrooms, which is to only cook them by the heat of the food and not the stove... and now a lot of people know this! They come out perfect, heated through but still have a little crispness to them.
The pasta was cooked so I threw that into the mix.... 15 minutes down, 15 to go.  Cut up the sausage and tossed that in.  Then I defrosted and add some chopped spinach and cut some cherry tomatoes in half and added them...I treat the tomatoes the same as the mushrooms.  No need to cook them either! 
Ok, so my meal is almost complete.  Just need to taste it and add the final touches.  This is where the magic happens!  I need something to pull it all together, something other than tomato sauce, so I grab the mayonnaise....yup, the mayo!  A couple of spoonfuls, 3-4 handfuls of parm cheese, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper, a whole bunch of fresh basil, and now I taste....   I have 5 minutes to plate this dinner.... A few tweeks of more garlic and some parsley, and S&P.
So...... how does it look?  I have to tell you, I made it in exactly 30 minutes and the 3 judges in my house decided not to chop me, so I guess they liked it.   

Lucky for you all, I will be back another night!  Just wish I could win the $10,000 prize......

Monday, May 21, 2012

did someone say chicken parm?

Sorry for the lapse in posts...sometimes life just gets too busy and when I have to decide between sleeping and posting?

But I am back, with a vengeance!  I have two things to share with you tonight.  The first is a really yummy chicken parm recipe that has evolved over several different renditions.  The one thing I have gotten away from is using bread crumbs... no matter how you cook the chicken breasts, the bread crumbs always soak up the oil and it tastes like chicken and oily breadcrumbs!   My favorite way is making a batter of flour, water, garlic and onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and lots of grated parm.  The consistency is like pancake batter.  Dust the chicken with flour and dip in the batter.  Let the excess drip off and cook in a hot pan with olive oil and butter.

An alternative way is what I did last night, which was to dip the chicken breasts in bread crumbs, then into a mixture of egg, milk, salt & pepper and parm cheese.  Drop right into a pan with oil and butter, and brown.  I can't explain it, but the flavor is outrageous!  Pop it in the oven with some cheese to finish cooking.  A little sauce and parm, pasta, and you're good to go.

Call me crazy, but I have been known to slice and cook egg plant the same way.  After cooked, I would either layer the egg plant with ricotta and sauce as a lasagna or put out on a platter sprinkled with parm cheese, and a dish of marinara sauce for dipping.  Yup.....crazy!

Lucky for you there is yet another installment to share with you.  Sometimes when I come home from work, I feel like eating something tonight.  I had a hankering for mac and cheese.  Unfortunately I didn't have all the traditional ingredients necessary to make a really good cheese sauce, but I did have some interesting choices.  This is called raiding (or cleaning out) the refrigerator....

I was looking for something that could become a cream sauce...Not only did I have a little left over lobster spread, but I had some artichoke dip, cherry tomatoes, and cooked pasta.  I don't know about you, but I see a dinner brewing here....  I get a pot, pour some half and half in it, spoon in the lobster spread and artichoke dip, some fresh garlic (of course!), grated parm cheese and a little muenster cheese (just because I had some).  Grated some fresh black pepper and sea salt, threw in the pasta and cut up a bunch of cherry tomatoes.

Unfortunately I had to stop there because I had to scoot out to my son's lacrosse game, but had I more time, I probably would have added some kind of protein like sweet Italian sausage and fresh spinach.  I have to say, though, it was pretty tasty the way it was.  And, I used up a bunch of things in the fridge!

I hope all these things I create get your creative juices flowing enough so that you can create yummy masterpieces too!  If not, at least it is entertaining reading, right?  ox

Thursday, May 17, 2012

honestly? all this work to post and no responses????

Nothing personal, folks..... I just have no idea if anyone is even reading all of my posts!!!  I figure, a long way down the road when I am not around any more, my kids and friends can read all of these and say.... "ahhhhh, Suzanne....  she was such a cool dude.  It's so nice to read's like she is still here!"  kinda morbid, but it is sort of like leaving a legacy....right?

So tonight, I have all 4 of my children home which is sooooo cool.  But of course, they scatter in a million different directions, and have all been eating a ton of chicken lately!  So, I have to come up with plan B.  Pork tenderloin..... my best friend!  I have to tell can cook it whole, butterfly it and stuff it, or slice it and cook as medallions..... any way you slice it, it is easy and cooks fast!!!  So, without here it comes..... pork medallions with jasmine brown rice with almonds and cinnamon, and roasted hericote vertes.....

Slice the semi-frozen pork tenderloin.....pound flat, dust with a combo of flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, S&P and rosemary.... cook in a little canola oil, sprinkle with parm cheese and warm in the oven...hazaaah.

rice:  brown jasmine rice cooked in chicken broth with onion.  When done, add sliced almonds and sprinkle with cinnamon (yes, cinnamon....yummy).  Beans (hericote vertes) are tossed with olive oil and S&P and roasted..... and there  you have it.  Dinner in under an hour.  BTW.... next day, leftover pork medallions are yummy in a sandwich!

I just have to share a couple of pictures of my two daughters at our dinner out last night...21st birthday celebration for my first child...

Hopefully you can try this dinner some night.... it really is yummy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another dinner in a pinch...

These last few days have been crazy busy with looming graduation.   Award nights up the ying yang!    So, last night was one of them!  I needed to make dinner for the kiddos who were staying at home.... so, I figured a one-pot pasta dish was in order....

Decided to raid the pantry and freezer.  Grabbed some frozen shrimp, a can of artichoke hearts, a couple of red peppers, a vidalia onion, a handful of carrots, fresh garlic, and basil, thyme, and crushed red peppers (my old stand-bys!).  Didn't cook the shrimp or artichokes because the heat of the cooked pasta would take the chill off... Was dying to add olives and mushrooms, but half of the crowd said no!  

When the pasta was cooked, I added diced tomatoes

Then I dumped in the rest of the ingredients in, as well as a ton of parm cheese.  This dish was screaming for fresh basil, but alas...I had none.

So, I hope you can get the gist of these one-pot meals.....ingredients that have great fresh flavor.  For me, sweet sausage would probably have been a better choice, but daughter #1 wanted shrimp!  Don't mind me...everyone loved it with the shrimp....I am just a picky chef!  ox

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Soup Natzi for the night

I don't know about all of you, but after the beautiful weekend we had, it has decided to rain again.....Even though it isn't cold outside, it kind of felt like a soup night, and the recipe I am about to tell you about is quick, easy and I haven't found anyone who doesn't love it!  This night I only had a little time to get something going, plus I needed something that could get dipped into over the course of a couple of hours. So.....Chicken and wild rice soup it is.

I start out by cooking a package of wild rice.  Any brand will do.....I use Carolina wild rice.  While that is cooking, I cook up some onions in another pan.  Add cut up chicken, either white meat or thigh meat (thigh meat is more flavorful and doesn't tend to dry up).  When cooked, add 2 14.5-oz cans of chicken broth, a couple of cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp dried tarragon, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, and 1 can of evaporated milk.

I throw the mushrooms in last because I don't like them to cook too much.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and thicken with a couple of tbs of white wine with a tbs or two of cornstarch mixed in.

I really hope you can try to make this sometime!  As you know, there are just some recipes that are keepers, and this one definitely is!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What I choose to do on Mother's Day...

First let me wish everyone who is celebrating Mother's Day a beautiful day.  It is a tough job being a mom, and we can only hope we are doing the best job we can!  My kids seem pretty happy with the one they have!!!

So I am sorry for not posting much this week.  Either my dinners were not my best endeavor, or we ate out, or we ate late and I was too tired to blog.....  This morning I have decided to share an amazing recipe and share some photos of what I looked at this morning.  I was up early and decided it was so nice outside, I just wanted to hang out and enjoy it all...

I came out my back porch door and looked down on my new fire table.  We sat around it last night and it was so beautiful.  I looked to the right and realized how much I appreciate my hot tub!  How convenient is it to climb out of the hot tub and walk over to the fire pit...

I walked back to the waterfall pond and fed my koi.  There is something about just standing there and watching fish swim around that is so peaceful!

Next stop on my tour was the other pond under my kitchen window.  Yesterday I decided my 4 gold fish needed some company so I bought six more...

On other picture I wanted to show you was these really cool lights I put around my yard.  They give off the coolest pattern of light.  Not sure if you can tell by this picture:

You must be tired of looking at fish right about now.  So I will now share a recipe with you for the best Irish Soda Bread you will ever eat.  It came from Ruth Hannon, a dear friend of my mom's.  It's one of those recipes that comes out delish every time you make it!  Here goes:

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 large container sour cream
1 1/2 cup raisins (I use craisins me crazy!)

Combine dry ingrediants and then blend in remainder of ingrediants.  The batter will be thick, a little gooey.  I scoop it into a round pan, about 2 inches deep, but I suppose you could cook it in a rectangular pan if you wanted.  I sprinkle sugar on the top and pop it into the oven.

cook for 50 minutes, check to make sure it is done, and voila!

Like I said, fluffy, moist and yummy... not like your usual soda bread that is dry and crumbly, not that there is anything wrong with dry, crumbly irish soda bread....I just happen to like the fluffy, moist kind!

Ok, so I am off to grocery shop... Like I said, what I choose to do on my Mother's Day is cook!  ox

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This has to be the all-time winner dinner.....

So, I know I have been away for a spell.....alot has been goin on in my life, things that have just blown me away.  I believe I had a near-death experience with a cancer scare, although other people think I was worrying way too much!  I have also had some major career changes that have blown me away in a good way.... so, the emotional rollercoaster has been out of control.  And, when that happens, it rocks my whole world, including my cooking!

Anyway, I have landed on both feet and am charged up and ready to go, so look out!  tonight's dinner was a killer.  Karyl, you should start taking notes at this point!!!

Tonight?  Chicken thighs, couscous, corn, and edamames....  just wait til you see....

So you have to hear about the was phenominal!  No, better than that....orgasmic!  Don't know any other word to describe it!  Listen.... 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup peach mango salsa, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tbs dijon mustard, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1/2 tsp cumin... Mix together and pour over chicken, once it has been seared.  In this case, I used thighs...

Once seared, put in a 9x13 pan and spoon sauce over.  Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.

After the chicken was cooked, I decided to make some parmesian, pine nut couscous.... great for soaking up the juice!

Sorry it is a bit blurry, but couscous doesnt have to be esthetically correct!  So, let me see....chicken thighs, couscous, edemames, and corn....a done deal!

There are certain recipes, as you know, that are very easy and end up being one of the most delicious meals you have ever had..... well, this is definitely one of them... I'm not sure if you used another part of the chicken, say the breast meat, that it would have come out as well....  it's totally up to you!  Hope you loved it as much as my fam did!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One grateful "old stand-by" dinner

When I think about my life, what I do, where I go, all of the people I love.....I realize how lucky I am.   I don't think I have ever been in the position of realizing that I might not be here a year from I was  during the past two weeks...  I am so grateful to get good news, news that I am fine.  So what do I want to do to celebrate?  cook... in my new kitchen!  So, sit back and enjoy.  This dinner is something great to fall back on when you just don't have a clue what to make!

So, I get my mom's favorite wrought iron pan, and I saute sweet onions, peppers, and sweet sausage.   When they are just cooked, I turn off the heat and add cherry tomatoes and fresh mushrooms.  The heat from the pan will slightly heat them, but they don't get squishy....which is what you want! (this is my signature trick...)

While this is all happening, I cook a pound of pasta (cavatappi is a fav!).  When it is al dente, I drain it and add it to the veggies and sausage.  I must have added atleast 8 cloves of garlic, fresh and dried basil, parsley, S&P, and really good grated parm cheese (please don't ever use Kraft parm cheese that is on the shelf!  yuck!)  Now add a jar of vodka sauce (I like Bertoli).  Oops, I forgot to tell you to add black olives and artichoke hearts...


I didn't end up using the diced tomatoes because I had cherry tomatoes in the fridge to use up.  The glass of red wine did not end up in this dish.....

So there you have it.  A one pot dinner that I guarantee the leftovers will be gone by tomorrow night!  This is the kind of meal that is heavier on the good stuff, and lighter on the pasta.  What I mean is, you know when you go to a restaurant and order a pasta dish with, say, shrimp.  When it comes, it is mostly can actually count the shrimp because there are so few!  No my friends, not in this restaurant!  I am a heavy believer of having an over-abundance of the good stuff so that there is no need to start picking it out!  Hazzah!