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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grilled Salmon with a Maple-Mustard Glaze

I love salmon and usually make a topping out of herbs, butter, lemon juice and white wine.  It always tastes delicious, but as you might guess, I like to try different things, so I decided a glaze made out of maple syrup, grainy mustard, thyme, and salt and pepper might taste good.  I have used maple syrup with scallops before and really loved the combination, so I thought it would taste just as good with salmon.

The exact measurements are:

1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tbs whole-grain mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper (1/8 tsp each)

Heat the glaze to just a boil, then remove from the heat and let it cool down.

I coat the fish with some melted butter and parsley, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper.

Heat the grill to about medium-high, and start by cooking the fish skin side down. Cook with the cover down for about 3 minutes.  Then flip the salmon over and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  One more flip and paint on the glaze.  I turn down the heat and just let the glaze cook on for a couple of minutes.

I cut up some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese and drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them.

Last but not least, I whipped up a batch of rice pilaf.  Dinner is served!

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to disguise the dreaded leftovers....


I got home from work tonight  and heard the all too familiar question..."what's for dinner?"  I was getting a late start and didn't have a whole lot of time to try to figure out what to make.   I opened the refrigerator and saw left over ravioli and sauce with meatballs......something no one would touch.  They really didn't look that appetizing!   Folks in my house are not crazy about leftovers.  It is 7:00 p.m. and everyone is hungry. 


Then it came to me.   Cupcake lasagna would definitely work.  I had the main ingredients.  All I needed to do was add a little more substance to the sauce...sausage to the rescue!  What was great about this was I only had to cook the sausage.  Everything else was ready to go.  I reheated the sauce and cut up the meatballs a little. 

 I defrosted 4 sausages, removed the casings. and cooked them with some fresh parsley and basil.  It was so nice to only have to cook one ingredient.
Now all I have to do is put it together.  Start with a ravioli, add some sauce with meatballs and some of the sausage, then some cheese and repeat once.

Try to press everything down a bit with the back of a spoon.  Top with cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

You would never know this was leftovers!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your basic steak and garlic mashed potatoes dinner......

The other night was the first night that my college graduate was back home....I almost had a full house, so I wanted to make something that I knew everyone liked...Steak, garlic mashed potatoes and broiled green beans.  What's not to like?

I started by marinating the steak tips in something very basic, that most people have on hand.....Good Seasons Italian dressing mix.  I made a batch and let it soak for a few hours.

Right before they went on the grill, I added some garlic powder and onion powder, as well as some black pepper.    They only took about 20 minutes to cook on a nice, hot grill.  I try to leave the cover down and let them get a good sear on one side...probably about 10 minutes or so.  Then turn them and close for another 10 minutes.  The smaller pieces cook faster, so I take them off and let the thicker ones cook for a few more minutes.

I use the "squishing" method to check for doneness.... if they are too squishy then they are too rare.  If they are too firm, then they are really well done.  I try for middle of the road, and 99% of the time I am right on!

As for the beans?  You know the vegetable roasting routine by now..... Put the beans in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and grate some salt and pepper on them.  Pop them into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Give them a stir and leave for another 5-10 minutes.  When they start to get a little bit brown and are tender, take them out and add some shredded Parmesan cheese.  That's it!

Now for my specialty.....garlic mashed potatoes.  I can't believe I am sharing my secret recipe!  One could say I have quite a reputation for making them taste so good!  Now, normally, you would boil some potatoes, mash them, add some garlic, butter, etc.... this way takes quite a while, and sometimes you just want to whip up something in half the time.  Well, listen to this....

Believe it or not, I make a batch of Potato Buds instant mashed potatoes.  My first secret is to use chicken broth instead of water.  Add in the milk and butter that it calls for, along with 3 or 4 crushed cloves of garlic. Just before it begins to boil, remove from the heat and stir in the potatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 of a block of cream cheese, probably about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and to thin them out if need be, I use either half and half or in this case, butter milk.  You want to make sure they are "garlic-y" enough.  If you need to add more, you can either add another crushed clove, or simply some garlic powder.  There is no real measurement of how much to add.  Just keep tasting and adding until you have them just right!

You won't believe how delicious they taste.  No one will know you used instant mashed potatoes, except for anyone who has read this blog!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Shrimp and Vegetable Stir fry

I wanted to cook something light with veggies, and not too time-consuming....and not chicken, pork or beef!  I have had a bag of raw shrimp in my freezer for quite some time, and decided now was the time to use them.  So, while they defrosted, I started cutting...

 3 large carrots, 4 ribs of celery, and one Vidalia onion

I add just a little olive oil to the veggies and start cooking them.  I shredded probably about 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger right into the pan, as well as adding 3 cloves of garlic that I minced and some crushed red pepper.

When the veggies start to become soft, I transfer them into a bowl and cook the shrimp.

The shrimp I have was on the large side, so once they were thawed, I cut them in half.  I figured that would give me twice the amount of shrimp, which is a good thing!  I cook them in a hot pan with a little oil.  I want them to cook quickly so they won't get tough.
The last thing I added was two zucchinis sliced up.  I add them at the very end because I don't want them to over cook and become mushy.  They only take about 5 minutes to heat through.

As each ingredient is done, I add it to my bowl of veggies. 

 Time to make the sauce.  Believe it or not, I used 1/2 cup of honey and about 2 tablespoons of corn starch.  Once the cornstarch is blended in, I pour it over everything.  Turn the stove on low  and mix well until it starts to thicken.  If it gets too thick, you can always add a little chicken broth.  I decided to add some fresh spinach at this point, because I thought it needed something dark green!  I add it at the very end because I love to have the spinach just start to wilt

My last brilliant idea was to add some peanuts, just to give it a little crunch.  Unfortunately I didn't have any, but I did have some "extra fancy Mixed Nuts" and thought why not?  I chopped up a couple of handfuls and tossed them in.    Time to do a taste test.  All it needed was a little more ginger, some salt, and a little more crushed red pepper.

This made a huge pan full, and within 30 minutes, the entire pan was empty!   I guess they liked it...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Answer to a question about a new twist on chicken, broccoli, and ziti..

I love when people comment on my posts!

I was asked if this could be made with a red sauce.  The answer is absolutely!  I would probably make more of a vodka-type sauce.   This is totally off the cuff, so bear with me!

Take a can of stewed tomatoes, probably 1/2 cup of vodka (if you wish), and add half of a vidalia onion that you roughly cut up.  I would stay away from adding something like oregano or basil, because you wouldn't want to mask the flavors you already have going on.  Throw in half of a stick of butter, and let simmer on the stove, covered, for about half an hour.  When the onions are nice and soft, take it off the stove and use your hand blender to puree.  Now you can add your goat cheese, milk or cream or half and half, whichever you would prefer, and some Parmesan cheese.

Taste and see if it needs salt, pepper, or crushed red pepper, and pour over the pasta mixture.  Whoever tries this, let me know how it comes out!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A twist on Chicken, Broccoli, and Ziti

Chicken, broccoli, and ziti is such a staple when it comes to delicious dinners that are easy to make.  For some reason, I always try to put a different twist on these basic dinners to make something new with a unique taste.

 I happened to have some broccoli in the fridge, so I began by lightly steaming it in my favorite deep fry pan, just until it turned bright green.  I poured it into a bowl and set it aside.

Next up, what to do to change this dish..... I opted to cook up some sweet Italian sausage instead of using chicken.  I don't know about you, but I get chicken'ed out after a while. We all use chicken because it is healthy and low in fat, but there is only so much you can do with it!!!  I took the casings off of 6 sausages and broke them apart as I cooked them.  When done, I just added it to the bowl of broccoli.

The next change was to use some yummy flavors.  I had about 8 strips of bacon in the fridge, so I chopped them up, along with half of a Vidalia onion, and cooked them up together.  The smell of the bacon and the onion was to die for!  So now I have broccoli, sausage, onion, and bacon as ingredients.

The last thing to do is cook the ziti.   While it is boiling away, I remembered reading a recipe recently that used goat cheese instead of Parmesan, and I thought what a great way to finish off this "new" broccoli and ziti dish!  The tartness of the goat cheese would go really well with the broccoli and bacon/sausage combo.....

Once the pasta was al dente, I put aside a cup of the pasta water to use as a thickener before draining the pasta.  I ALWAYS forget to do this, so this time I wanted to make sure I did it.  Add the pasta and all the other delicious ingredients together in your pan. 

Now for the fun part.  I break apart a log of goat cheese and mix it in.  Once it has melted, I start adding small amounts of the pasta water until I get the texture I want.  I decided to sprinkle in a few flakes of crushed red pepper for some heat, and after tasting it, I had to add just a touch of salt and pepper.   I did break down and throw in a little Parmesan cheese at the very end, and it was the perfect ending to my creation!

I have to tell you, the slight change in ingredients and cheese was the best idea!  This came out so delicious!  I could taste the bacon, the sweet onions, the broccoli with just a little crunch, the sausage, and the best part?  the goat cheese!  Who knew?   I will definitely be using that again....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pasta Fagioli in the middle of May? Yup!

It's hard to believe that I am even thinking about making soup in the middle of May, but here in Boston, we are having a cold snap that none of us like!  We're supposed to have frost in the morning.  So tonight, hot soup was definitely in order and for some reason, I really felt like a soup that makes you all warm and happy inside..... pasta fagioli.  I looked up a whole bunch of renditions and combined them into one that I thought would taste good.

There are not too many ingredients:

about 1/2 pound of bacon chopped up (the more bacon the better, so feel free to add the whole pound!)
1 onion, chopped
about 6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 large can of beans (either cannelloni or small red, whichever you prefer)
a box of chicken broth
fresh spinach
crushed red pepper
salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese
basil and parsley
your choice of pasta....something on the small side

I started by cooking the garlic and bacon with a little olive oil.  When the bacon is just starting to brown, I dump in the tomatoes and beans, along with about 1/2 of the chicken broth. 

 I also add the parsley, basil (probably a tbs of each), a sprinkle of crushed red pepper, and the salt and pepper.   I let this simmer a bit, while I start cooking the pasta.  I saute my chopped onion which also gets added in.

 The last steps are to add rest of the chicken broth and the fresh spinach.  I shut off the heat so that the spinach just begins to wilt. The last thing to go in is the cooked pasta.  You don't want it to stay too long in the soup.  Otherwise it will start to fall apart.

At this point, all the flavors are combining into one delicious soup!  Taste it and see if it needs any more salt, pepper, or crushed red pepper.  Be liberal adding the grated Parmesan's like the frosting on the cake!

You will find that the longer this soup sits in the pan, the more the liquid gets absorbed, so keep adding more of the chicken broth.  If need be, you can add another can of diced tomatoes as well.  A loaf of roasted garlic bread and...... thou baby!