Friday, July 30, 2010

A European Twist on Toasted Cheese Sandwich

I had the most amazing sandwich today. It was heaven on a baguette and now I want to make it at home. This is a fresh and deliciously yummy summer meal that is both simple and light in fare. However, rather than wait until I can obtain the ingredients I snagged a photograph off the Internet to show you what I'm talking about. It doesn't do the sandwich justice, but it's the closest image I can find.
French Quarter Baguette


* French Baguette
* Fresh tomatoes
* Brie cheese
* Fresh mixed greens

1. Take the bread and slice down the middle like a sub. The length can be anywhere from 4-12" depending on the amount of sandwich you wish to have. Toast lightly.

2. Slice tomatoes and brie cheese. Layer in between the bread.

3. Serve with mixed greens on the side or tucked in with the tomatoes and cheese. Extra twist is to add a very light vinaigrette to the greens.

* Note the hotter the bread and the longer you let the cheese sit will allow for some melting or softening of the cheese.
Bon Appetite!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

Anyone who knows me knows that I love pickles. Although I prefer dill pickles and don't really care for the sweet ones, I did come across this recipe recently that Kendall and I both really liked (it's on the sweeter side of things). They're not your normal pickle, but they are very good and best of all, very easy to make.

Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white sugar
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed

Mix the cucumbers and salt and let sit for one hour. Do not drain mixture and follow by adding the sugar, onions, bell pepper, cider vinegar and celery seed. Mix well, cover and refrigerate.

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Halleluiah! It is done!

I just finished going through all of the past posts on this blog and tagging them. Hopefully, you are now able to find previous posts easily.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Banana Crumb Muffins

I was looking for a recipe to use up my very over ripe bananas. I had several Banana Bread recipies and this muffin recipe. The muffins won the coin toss. They are husband approved so I think I'll be making more in the future. I made a few changes to the recipe which I noted in italics in various places below.

Banana Crumb Muffins

Original Recipe Yield 10 muffins (because of using more bananas I easily made 12 muffins)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed (I used 4 bananas because that's what I had on hand. I did cut out the really bad spots so it was more like 3 1/2 bananas. I made no other adjustments to the ingredients and everything still turned out fine.)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons (see note about topping below) flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

*note on topping: I guessed instead of measuring the butter for the topping so I had to add additional flour to make it crumbly enough. I think this probably worked out well because my muffins ended up with ample topping.

**from the All Recipies website

Friday, July 23, 2010

Late-Summer Vegetable Soup

Recipe courtesy of 2008 Super Fresh Monthly Savings Magazine
Serves 6
Prep time/Total time: 35Min
(per serving: 182 cal; 5.6 g fat 9.8 g sat fat; 6 g protein; 31.1 g carb; 4.7 g fiber)

"The produce-packed soup is cooked quickly to preserve the fresh flavor of the vegetables. the orzo simmers right in the pot."

- 4 ears corn, husks and silks removed (if fresh corn is not available use frozen or canned, but be sure to rinse before putting in the pot)
- 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 cans (14.5 oz each) reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 8 oz. fresh green beans (stem ends removed), cut into thirds (again, frozen can be substituted if fresh is not available)
- 1 can (14.5) oz diced tomatoes in juice (or substitute
4 fresh medium tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup orzo pasta
- water

1. Cut off tip of each ear of corn. One at a time, stand ears in a wide bowl. With a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release kernels. Discard cobs; set kernels aside.

2. In a Dutch oven or 5qt pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add zucchini, green beans, corn, tomatoes (with juice), and orzo; cook, uncovered, until orzo is tender, 8 to 11 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To FREEZE: Ladle 1 1/2 cups into each of six resealable plastic bags. Store flat in freezer, up to 3 months. Before reheating, thaw in refrigerator.

Related Links:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pasta with Rosemary Tomato Sauce

Please excuse the murky photo, I took it with my phone and I thought it was a little clearer.

This recipe, which I call Pasta with Rosemary Tomato Sauce was actually one I discovered while eating breakfast in a restaurant last week. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but when one woman at a nearby table started rattling off quick and simple recipes to her friend my ears perked up. The following is my adaptation of what I overheard:

* Boil water for pasta. Any pasta will do, but I used the medium shell pasta and it worked well. (I used half a box, which when mixed with other ingredients was enough for lunch for my husband, daughter and myself and left me with some I could pack for my husband's lunch the next day.) When water is rolling boil cook pasta till al dente (approx 8 minutes).

While water is boiling prepare the sauce:

* Warm deep frying pan and add 1-2TBS of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

* Drop in 1-2 cloves of garlic minced and fresh rosemary (I chopped mine a little). Heat in the pan until the garlic is just browned, not burnt.

* Add 1 can of tomatoes (I used a 14.5 oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes from Hunts, but any diced tomato, stewed tomato or even fresh would work. Fresh tomatoes might take longer to cook, so plan accordingly.)

* Simmer sauce on the stove for 15-20 minutes, longer if using fresh tomatoes.

* About 3-5 minutes before the cooking time is up add 1-2 TBS of balsamic vinegar and stir.

* Serve hot over cooked noodles.

* Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Options: I had some leftover grilled mild Italian sausage, which I reheated and chopped to put in with the pasta. It was delicious. Leftover grilled chicken or shrimp would work too -- or this could be left as a vegetarian dish by omitting the meat.

This was delicious and was enjoyed by my husband and 3 year-old.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weekly Menu

I labeled this as a weekly menu, but in reality my menus usually last longer than a week. Our style is to have a list of meals posted and to randomly pick what to eat based on what sounds good or our schedule. What was/is your menu and how do you plan your meals?

Weekly Menu
Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs--for my dad's birthday party
Savory Beef
Breakfast Food
BLTs & fresh fruit
Baked Potatoes
Hamburger Stew**

** Hamburger Stew is one of my husband's all time favorite "man food" meals. It is also a freezer recipe that makes 4-5 future meals. I always dread the work of making a huge batch of any freezer meal, but every time I make this recipe I realize it is actually much easier than I remember.

Help for Busy Days

Yesterday I had an unexpected window of time to do some cooking because of a cranky baby needing an extra nap and a toddler happily watching Cars. So I got busy! Here's what I got done:

  • Browned a bulk package of hamburger, made chili in the crock pot and froze the extra in meal sized portions for future meals
  • Cooked unused chicken breast from the bulk package we bought for my dad's birthday meal (see my menu post) using my George Foreman wannabe grill. Chopped and froze meat for future meals
  • Hard boiled eggs for salads and breakfasts/snacks
  • Made jello cups for Nathan's lunches
  • Sliced up strawberries for quick eating

Nathan was thrilled to come home to a hot meal all ready to eat and I was happy to have some freezer cooking done.

I have learned to stock up on marked down meat from the grocery store and freeze it for future use. My grocery store marks down it's meat 24 hours before the sell by date. The time the meat is packaged is stamped on the label. I didn't know what the process was until I asked. I've also learned how wonderful it is to have meal sized portions of pre-cooked meat in my freezer for quick meals.

What ideas help you plan ahead for quick meals or help save money on packed lunches? I always love getting new ideas.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Sandwich Recipe

I know, I know, I'm kind of ashamed to post a sandwich recipe. Really, if you can't make a sandwich, you're probably not reading cooking blogs. But this is a really good sandwich.

My husband likes egg sandwiches. They consist of a fried egg, mayo, bread and pepper.

He really likes them. That means if he stops home at lunchtime, we have them for lunch.


Meet the California Egg Sandwich. An antidote to the plain, dull egg sandwich. And, it's "healthy". Because it has vegetables. And fruit! That's what I tell myself, anyway. It sounds weird, but it's surprisingly good.

Ranch dressing
1/4 avocado (or more)
Little pat of butter
2 eggs (I use 1 egg, 1 egg white)
2 slices bread

Spread mayo on one slice of bread and ranch on the other (or mayo and ranch).

Put slices of tomato on one side and avocados on the other.

Fry the eggs in a little butter. I smash the yolks with a fork and lift the edges of the egg as they cook to let the uncooked egg run underneath. That way it cooks very evenly.

Plop the egg on top of the avocados, close the sandwich, and gobble it up!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fajitas! I Just Made Some Easy Fa-jiiiiiiiiiii-tas!

You know you want to belt that out to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story.

In the summer, I put all my baking recipes away and start using my giant 12" high sides nonstick pan. You can make a lot of things in a pan like this and it's easy to clean up!

Fajitas are great because you can use up veggies that have been hanging around in your fridge, or just buy whatever is on sale. I usually use some combination of onions and bell peppers, and you can also throw in mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, or whatever other vegetables you need to sneak in and use up. I used up a leftover steak and some purple cabbage with my onions and peppers in the above-pictured meal.

Easy Leftover-User-Upper Fajitas
Serves 4


1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped in half and then into eighths.
2 bell peppers (of whatever color), again, halved lengthwise and chopped into fat strips.
You can stop there. Or you can add another cup of chopped veggies.

2 pieces of leftover grilled chicken or steak, sliced. Or two steaks or boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces. Or skip it altogether.

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspooons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (I use less)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more...)
If you have cilantro lying around, chopped up (because you're making guacamole or something), you can toss some in as well.


1. Mix together seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Heat oil in large pan. Add vegetables and stir fry to nearly desired doneness over medium-high heat.

3. If you're making this meatless or using raw meat, skip this step. If you're using leftover meat, add it to the pan now - you're just warming it up.

4. Sprinkle about 2/3rds of the seasoning over the vegetables (and meat), and add about a 1/4 cup of water. Stir to evenly coat and let the water evaporate. Taste it and see if you want to add more seasoning. If you do, repeat step three with the rest of the seasoning!

5. If you're carnivorous, and using raw meat, take the veggies out of the pan, stir fry the meat, and repeat step three with the remaining 1/3 of seasoning. You can serve the meat separately or combine it with the vegetables.

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese (I know, it technically isn't done - but it's GOOD!), sour cream, and guacamole in burrito shells. And lime slices, if you're fancy!

For Jack (my 18 month old), I skip the burrito shell, cut everything up a little more, mix it together, and feed it to him like a casserole. When my husband saw that, he decided to eat his in a bowl without the shell too. So, gluten free option!

EASY "CHIPOTLE" GUACAMOLE (from the "Chipotle Fan" website)
2 Avocados
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (REALLY minced, if you're not into spicy)
1/4 red onion, minced
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (confession: I just chop it, stems and all, until there are no more leaves. And no one has died or gagged)
1/4 of a lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add additional lime juice or salt to taste.

Disclaimer: I'm originally from Minnesota. And Minnesotans voted Taco Bell their third favorite Mexican restaurant (I can't find the link, but it was in City Pages in 2007 or so). So that may explain some things.

Lil Smokie Bacon Appetizer

Vegetarians look away! The recipies around here have been looking a bit too healthy so I figured it was time to post something totally naughty. Our friend, Ryan, brings this appetizer to parties and it is always a hit.

16oz lil smokies
12oz thick sliced bacon
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Cut each bacon slice into 4 pieces. Wrap each smokie with bacon, secure with toothpick. Place in 13x9x2 pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 30-35 min. Transfer to a crock pot to keep warm.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


This gazpacho recipe is from Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant in DC. I've had it in the restaurant and it is sublime! The chef gave out the recipe to the Washington Post several years ago, and I make it without fail every summer as soon as the real tomatoes are available. Last week I was seduced into buying a 20-lb flat of damaged/spotted tomatoes at the farmers market (only 69 cents/pound! and just as good as the regular ones once you cut out the bad spots!). Fortunately that impulse purchase coincided with record high heats, so I made two pitchers full of gazpacho in a short space of time.

I don't usually mess about with all the garnishes. Also I don't strain it, so it is literally something you can toss in the blender, blend, chill, and eat. Although last time I did make the croutons and they were great.

For the gazpacho:
10 (2 pounds) plum tomatoes, quartered
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or more to taste (THIS IS THE SECRET!! Rush out and buy some immediately!)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish (NOTE: I usually only use 1/4 cup or so. It's fabulously rich with the whole amount. Sublime, but not everyday fare.)
1 to 2 teaspoon salt

For the garnish:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 slice rustic white bread
12 cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 pearl onions, quartered and separated into segments
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Sea salt
4 chives, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the gazpacho: In a blender or food processor, add the tomatoes, cucumber, green bell pepper, garlic, sherry vinegar and water and blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid. Taste for acidity (this will vary with the sweetness of the tomatoes) and add more vinegar if necessary. Add the oil and salt. Blend again briefly to thoroughly incorporate the oil. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher or large bowl. [I usually skip this step. Too much hassle.] Cover and refrigerate until cool, at least 30 minutes.

For the garnish: Meanwhile, in a small saute pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When it is shimmering, add the bread and cook until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes. Break the bread into small pieces to form about 16 croutons and set aside.

To assemble the soup, distribute the croutons, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onions evenly among the bowls and drizzle with sherry vinegar and the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and chives. At the table, pour the chilled gazpacho over the garnish. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source:
Adapted from “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America,” by Jose Andres (Clarkson Potter, 2005, $35).

Did I say "sublime" twice in the same post? Try it and see if I'm not justified in a little hyperbole.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

How to Sneak in Veggies?

I have a 14 month old boy who would live on carbs, meat, cheese, yogurt and apple sauce if I'd let him. Any ideas for how to sneak in veggies or other tips for getting a toddler to eat a more rounded diet?