Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shrimp and Quinoa with Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Dinner from Trader Joe's!

Some nights I am too lazy - I mean, BUSY, to cook something that requires a recipe, but I really want some “real” food. On those nights, a frozen dinner just won’t do. This is a recipe I discovered when I was trying to clean out my fridge at the same time that I was trying to get out of cooking anything that required thought. As it turned out, it was really good!

All ingredients can be found at Trader Joe’s, too – so if you live near one, it’s a one-stop-shop!

The Recipe
Serves 6

1 package Trader Joe’s quinoa (about 2 ½ cups)
1 1-lb package Trader Joe’s frozen, cooked shrimp (any size), tails removed
1 jar Trader Joe’s Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes (undrained)
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (for topping)

Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. (This will require about 15 minutes of unattended cooking time.)

While the quinoa cooks, thaw the shrimp. (I put them in a bowl of water and put the bowl in the microwave on the “defrost” setting. Works like a charm.)

Add the cooked, thawed shrimp to the quinoa, along with the jar of tomatoes, the olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

If you’re feeling dedicated, serve over cooked vegetables (green beans or broccoli would be good). When I want comfort food, I just spoon some of the shrimp/quinoa mixture into a bowl, top it with Parmesan cheese and eat it. YUM. Good-tasting and good for you! Woo-hoo!

(Yeah, the picture isn't great. It tastes better than it looks, though! ;D)

Friday, November 13, 2009

We're back!

Well, I'm back. We'll see about Mom.

If anyone is still out there (and I can't blame you if you aren't!), posting will re-commence on Sunday, with a couple of new recipes! Probably on a more sporadic basis, though. I'll probably post once a week (maybe twice), but I'm not going to promise to stick to specific days. Too much other stuff going on! (And if you want to read about that, you can check out my personal blog for your mostly-daily dose of Too Much Information. But, really: TOO MUCH INFORMATION. You've been warned. ;D)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Missing Recipe!


I apologize for not posting a recipe today. My dad died Saturday late afternoon, and I've been running and gunning ever since. Between funeral arrangements, transportation arrangements for those coming from other states, keeping up with food--lettuce salad, really!--and laundry, making sure his bills are paid, and wading through the Trust's language to see what's what, I haven't had time to do anything else!

His funeral's Monday, so I don't know whether or not I'll post next week, either!

Again, my apologies!

I hope to "see" you all in a couple of weeks!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Berry Spinach Salad

I had a version of this in a Vail, CO, restaurant. I tried to find it on the internet just now, but I failed. It was a diner, rather than the usual upscale places you find there. We were tired and didn't want to deal with the energy of an upscale place! We were ready for a simple dinner and some sleep! Ha! I didn't expect more than the usual iceberg, tomato wedges, and some onion rings in a salad, and at that point, I didn't care. (That tells you just exactly how tired I was!) To my surprise, there was the salad I expected, in all it's variations, AND there was a spinach salad with raspberry dressing. And THAT'S what I ordered.

As I ate the salad, I (of course) kept tasting the dressing, trying to figure out the ingredients. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out more than raspberry. I finally asked, and the server said it was raspberries. I said, yeah, I know, but what else? She laughed and said, nothing, just raspberries. It opened up a whole new world. I would never have thought of using just a fruit and nothing else!

I've used that jumping-off point many times. I've varied the salad ingredients, but never, never the dressing! I have tried other fruits for dressing, with varied degrees of success. Obviously, summer is the best time for berry anything, since they're in season now--and affordable! I made this salad for my daughter, who was visiting me, and it was January. I bought, for a ridiculous price, a pint of raspberries for this dressing and fed her the salad. She took her first bite, her eyes widened, and she said, "This is the best salad I've ever had!" She ate with a look of rapture on her face. And this was Jenna, who eats what's handy and does as little cooking as possible! Ha!

So, enjoy this salad with its amazing dressing!

4 servings

10 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and drained (Costco's organic baby spinach is great)
1 red onion, sliced into rings and separated
1/2-1 cup walnut halves (I don't use candied ones!)
2 pints strawberries, most halved and 12 left whole (If the berries are all large, you might want to halve them all!)
OPT: 1 pint blueberries

2 pints raspberries

On 4 plates, layer the spinach, red onion rings (you don't have to use all of them--especially if it's a large red onion! Ha!), walnuts--the amount varies depending on your taste, strawberries, and the optional blueberries.

Rinse and drain the raspberries. Toss them into a blender, and buzz until they're smooth. The seeds will still be in there, unless you have a high speed blender (like Vita Mix). The texture of the seeds is good!

Pour equal amounts of dressing over each plate.

Your other option is to pile everything into a salad bowl, pour the dressing over it, and toss. Serve in 4 equal portions. (I usually do this, as it's a lot easier! Ha!)

Either way: enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whipped Cream Fruit Salad

I love this salad now, and I loved it when I was a kid! My brother was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 3 (I was 6), so we didn't get to eat sweet stuff! And my parents are from the midwest, so when we visited our extended families, there was always a picnic! And always, always, someone would bring Ambrosia, the sweet salad with marshmallows, jello, and canned fruit! I'm sure there's other stuff in it, but I never got to eat it, either, so I don't know! (My mother fed us only what Mark could eat. A serendipity was that I didn't get cavities, so there's always an upside! Ha!)

This is my mother's version of a diabetic "Ambrosia."

1 15 oz can unsweetened pineapple bites, or tidbits (rings cut into bite-size pieces), drained
1 14 oz. can unsweetened peach slices, drained and cut into bites
1-2 (depends on the size) bananas, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/8"-1/4" slices
1-2 cups whipping cream, whipped and sweetened (my mother used saccharine) with Splenda or xylitol, if you don't want to use sugar!

Mix the drained fruit and bananas. There will still be juice on them, so mix in 1 cup whipping cream, whipped and sweetened. This should be plenty for a dressing! The 2nd cup is for people like me, who like the whipped cream more than the fruit! Ha!

I've actually tried this with fresh everything. Ironically, I think this is the only fruit salad that I like better with the canned fruit. I wondered if it has something to do with the canned juice! I may try it again with fresh, because it goes against my "grain" to recommend canned anything! Ha!

Also, I've been dealing with my dad's failing health and heart for quite a while now, and "easy" is almost my middle name! The last few salads have been what I think of as "refrigerator salads," which means open the fridge and see what one can add to lettuce to make it at least more interesting! Also nutritious! Also tasty! Sleep is out, so I'm using food for energy these days!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Plummy Salad

Champagne grapes, which I bought for the first time at Costco, taste a lot like red grapes. I think they're slightly sweeter, and they're tiny! They're fun to eat--we just sucked them right off the stem! Ha! I don't know about Steve, but I definitely felt like I was "getting away with something!" Ha! My very proper, Southern-upbringing mother might have frowned, or she might have joined me! I never could guess which it would be, making for an interesting childhood! Ha!

And two days later, I found champagne grapes in another store, and they were almost as big as red grapes! So, red grapes halved would be good! Ha!

4 servings

For the salad:
4 ripe red plums, seeded and diced (Black plums will work, but red plums are prettier!)
1 bunch champagne, or red, grapes
5-oz. bag of mixed greens (or a handful, or two, of greens from a 1-lb. container per plate! MMM!)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2-3 slices white onion, quartered and rings separated
1/2-1 cup pecans (this depends on how many nuts you like on a salad!)

For the dressing:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (try Costco's Balsamic Vinegar of Modena! MMMM!)
2/3 cup canola, or safflower, oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
OPT: sweetener (agave nectar, xylitol, sugar, etc.) If you're using a high-quality balsamic, it will already taste sweet, so these won't be needed!)

Wash and dice the plums. Rinse the grapes and drain in a colander or on a towel (or?). If you haven't already done so, halve the red grapes, if you're using them.

To serve:
Put the washed lettuce on 4 plates. Top with the cilantro, plums, and grapes. Sprinkle the onion pieces over this. Sprinkle the nuts over the top. (This is a nice-looking salad: red skin and yellow meat of the plums, red grapes, green cilantro and lettuce, white onion pieces, and brown nuts!) Serve with the balsamic dressing!

If you're using more lettuce, this can be a main dish salad. If you've limited yourself to a 5-oz. bag, then it's a side salad--which would be great with grilled chicken! To add more color, add roasted ears of corn! MMMMMMM to any or all! Ha!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Peachy Keen Salad!

And still more salad! Woohoo! Ha!

A word about lettuce--well, several, really! Ha!--I always buy the 1-lb. size box (or bag) of mixed greens. This gives me enough to eat salads for lunch and to feed extra people, if they drop in. A 5-oz. bag gives me 4 skimpy servings, but I also know that not everyone eats salad like I do! I love to pile lettuce on the plates; it gives a salad a luxurious feeling. It's not a "diet food," if it seems luxurious! And it's okay to eat a lot of it, because it's not only nutritious, it also doesn't add a lot of calories--or fat, if you're just drizzling the dressing, instead of pouring it on! Ha! But I actually do like--yes, LIKE--the taste of greens!

4 servings

5 oz. bag mixed greens
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 peaches, halved and diced
1 c. pine nuts

1/3 cup great quality balsamic vinegar (try Costco's Kirkland brand Balsamic Vinegar of Modena--yes, it's really imported! I have to thank Jill Erickson for introducing me to this!)
2/3 cup canola oil (or 1/3 c. olive oil and 1/3 c. canola oil)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
OPT: sweetener or sugar, if balsamic isn't a great quality one! Dressing should be without a lot of tartness!

Combine the dressing ingredients and buzz, shake, or stir!

To serve: layer lettuce, cilantro, green onions, peaches, and 1/4 c. (each salad) of pine nuts. Drizzle dressing over it, add a fork, and enjoy! (Chelsea just said, "It's good." Complete with a roll of her eyes--this is ecstasy, for her! LOL!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watermelon Salad

I love salad, and I'm grateful to warm--or hot!--summer weather, so no one here expects me to turn on any heat whatsoever! Ha! I'm also grateful to Mother Nature for giving us lots of fun fruits to mix with various vegetables! I try to do seasonal fruits, even though I know they're available year-round; it seems like someone somewhere is in the middle of summer at all times! Ha!

This is quick, if you use seedless watermelon. I sometimes choose to pick out seeds, because I think the seeded watermelons are better than the seedless! They're more flavorful and sweeter. BUT seedless ones work, too.

The chili powder adds extra flavor, which I also prefer. Chelsea likes less chili powder and a bit more salt. So, maybe I need to add salt, pepper, and chili powder shakers to my table next time!

1 small seedless watermelon, cut into bite sized pieces, or melon "balled."
1 small jicama, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
5 oz bag of mixed field greens
Opt.: 1 small avocado, diced

1/3 c. lime juice
1/2 c. canola oil (or some other mild oil--safflower, for instance!)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp agave nectar, or to taste (this depends on how tart your limes are!)

Mix watermelon, jicama, cilantro and green onions. Add dressing, and toss to coat.

To serve:
Place a bed of mixed greens onto four plates, and spoon the salad mixture over. Spoon the rest of the dressing over the watermelon salad, so the lettuce below will have some, too! Top with avocado pieces, if you're using them. Sprinkle a little chili powder over the top, if you want some extra zip!



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sweet Summer Salad

I still love salad!

Serves 4.

For the salad:
5 oz. bag mixed greens
1 pint grape tomatoes (small plastic box!)
2 ears white corn, niblets shaved off and ears reserved
1/4 medium red, brown, or white onion, diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium ancho (aka "pasilla") chile, diced This should not be a hot chile! Instead, it's a sweet tasting chile! Be sure to remove ALL the seeds!
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/4 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and shredded
2 ripe avocados, cut in large dice (4 cuts lengthwise and 4 cuts crosswise)

For the dressing:
2 large, or 4 small limes, juiced--should be about 1/4 cup juice
1/3-1/2 cup canola oil (Olive oil is too heavy for this!)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves, finely crushed as adding
Corn "milk"--stand the shaved ear on a plate, and run a knife down it to force the rest of the kernels and the juice out. Add this to the dressing to add texture and sweetness.
Agave nectar to taste; this dressing needs to have a sweet taste to it! (Some limes are sweeter than others!)

Mix the salad ingredients except the avocado, and chill. Make the dressing, and chill to allow the flavors to meld.

To serve: mix the salad, still omitting the avocado, and the dressing together and dish it onto 4 serving plates. Top with avocado "cubes." Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Broccoli, Onion, Tomato, Carrot, and Jicama Salad with Creamy Dressing

I just realized that I didn't post this yesterday! SORRY!

Have I mentioned in the last 5 minutes that I love my food processor? Or how MUCH I love my food processor?!! And this salad is a perfect food processor meal! Woohoo! Of course, if you like chopping, you can do that, too. In fact, Marste just might be in 7th heaven, if she chops this. I think her body releases endorphins, or something, when she chops, because she says it relaxes her. Me, though. For me, the endorphins are hiding; chopping makes me crazy! I LOVE my food processor! Ha!

So, that said ad infinitum, use the pulse button for this. You don't want microscopic pieces, nor do you want a large piece of broccoli! Something in the middle would be good! Ha!

I fed this to 5 of us on Tuesday night, 2 growing teens, 3 adults, and occasional cubes of jicama to my dogs (who love it), and we ate it all.

6 cups small broccoli florets, chopped
4-5 slices medium brown onion, finely chopped
3-4 medium tomatoes (I like Romas, because they don't have as much juice), or 10-12 cherry tomatoes, chopped and drained (Food processors: use the pulse button 4-6 times on the cherry tomatoes, or on the regular tomatoes: cut them into quarters lengthwise and halve each piece crosswise. Pulse them 4-6 times, also! If you get foam, pour them into a collander and rinse briefly. Drain and toss them into the salad.)
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 medium jicama, 1/2" dice--okay, I didn't use the f. p. for this!

1 c. mayonnaise
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. agave nectar or sugar
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt

NOTE: I like tangier salads. This salad, as written above, appeals to everyone else I know! So, if I'm making this just for me, I cut down the quantities--obviously!! Ha!--and leave out the carrots and jicama. I also leave out any sweetener in the dressing, and I add 1/4 tsp. oregano leaves. I LOVE this version!

To assemble: chop, shred, dice, etc. the ingredients and toss together. Mix the dressing and add it, a little at a time, until the salad is a consistency you like. (I like a lot of dressing, but Chelsea likes the vegetables! Ha!) Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


My mom fixed us a version of this when I was a kid! I loved it when she did! Typically, she fixed it in the summer--my family ate hot food exclusively in the fall and winter--but I fixed it all year round. Everybody liked it, including whatever drop-in guests that we had! And I usually had all the "fixings" hanging around, so it was no big deal! And what an impact!

And even I know that this bears absolutely NO resemblance to the current taco salads--or any Mexican food, period! It's great-tasting, though, if you're in the mood for a fun-food lunch or dinner! I usually made it without the meat, although my mom's version had 1 lb. ground beef or turkey, fried until it was done. She didn't add any seasonings to it, other than salt and pepper, and it made this salad very filling!

If you're in the mood for spicy, you can add Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper to the dressing or to the soy meat. The addition of spices to the soy meat, or meat, is more contained than the dressing addition. Also, I've tossed in stray bits of jicama and/or corn I have sitting around, which adds sweetness and crunch. This is good, but the original version, left alone, is better! Ha!

For the salad:
Optional: 12 oz. package soy meat, plain
Optional: 1/4 tsp. salt
Optional: 1/4 tsp. pepper
1 head romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2"-3/4" dice
1 medium brown, white, or red onion--it depends on what I have!--chopped or diced
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more, if you like)
1 small can chopped ripe olives (Jenna won't remember this; I hate olives, so I never added them!)
1 6-8 oz. package good quality yellow corn chips, crushed, but not pulverized!

If you're using it, brown the meat with the salt and pepper, or the soy meat with the pepper.

You can cut stuff up during this time, or you can do it later, while the meat is chilling. To chill the meat quicker, put it on a paper towel on a plate in the freezer. Check it every 20 minutes, or so, because it actually will start to freeze fairly quickly! I learned this the hard way! Ha!

For the dressing:
You can make your own, or you can just buy 8 oz. (we like more) of thousand island dressing.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup catsup
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
Optional: few drops of Tabasco sauce
Optional: 1/8 tsp. or more cayenne pepper

Mix everything together in a container. For best results, refrigerate it for a couple of hours. On the other hand, I never plan that far ahead, and I generally use it immediately. Nobody's ever complained! Ha!

To assemble:
Put the lettuce in a large bowl--large enough to toss everything without spilling! Put the meat, or soy meat--if you're using it, obviously!, tomatoes, onions, kidney beans, cheddar cheese, and olives in pie-slice-shaped wedges around the salad. Put it on the table, so everyone can see your artistry! Now, pour the crushed chips over the top. Add the dressing, starting with about half the above recipe, and toss it to coat everything. I think this is a bit dry, so I add more dressing--like, the rest of it! I'm the type who likes a little salad with her dressing! Ha! Serve IMMEDIATELY, since the chips will absorb the dressing and get soggy pretty quickly!

To serve later: do the lettuce and the "pie wedges," cover, and refrigerate until you're ready to eat. Add the chips and dressing, and toss!

This is so good; I'm really looking forward to dinner! Ha! MMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Sunday Update

Ok, so I've got some changes going on in my life, and probably won't be posting totally regularly for a while (if at all). I think Mom is still going to post every Wednesday (last I heard, anyway), and I'll just post when I can. At the moment I'm trying to get through some leftovers before they turn, so I haven't been cooking a lot, but when I have a new recipe, I'll post. :)

In the meantime though, I'm trying to move and study for law school entrance exams (woo-hoo!) at the same time, so my posting will be sporadic while my life shifts and moves. I'll still post new recipes as I come up with them, but I make no promises to post every Sunday! :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Spinach Grapefruit Salad with Citrus Dressing

I love salads. I even eat them in the winter, when tradition dictates warm stuff. So, we have sort of warm salads; I roast vegetables and put them on lettuce of some sort! Ha! After 35 years of this, my husband, Steve, doesn't even blink anymore! His was a meat-and-potato household, as was mine, but I think my mom was more adventurous than his was. Of course, my mom fed the four of us: 2 kids and 2 parents, while his mom fed 12: 10 kids and 2 parents! Under those circumstances, I'm not sure how adventurous I'd feel in the evenings, either! Ha! She amazes me still!

This is one of my favorites, and it's the dressing that pops it. The ingredients for the basic salad are spinach, grapefruit, and onion rings, and, like fashion, if you coordinate the colors, it's pretty enough for a party salad. Pink grapefruit sections with white onion, or white grapefruit with red onion. Either way, it goes great, color-wise, with the deep green of the spinach!

Per serving:
2 cups spinach leaves, washed and chilled
1 thin slice of onion, off a medium-sized one
1/2 grapefruit, peeled (To cut the grapefruit sections away from the membrane, run your knife from the outer edge to the inner core along the membrane walls. Remember, there are 2 sides to each section, so you're running your knife twice between each section! It's quicker the more you do it; "practice makes perfect," to be sickening about it! Ha!)
OPTIONAL: 1/2 an avocado adds creamy texture (and a yellow color, if you're using pink grapefruit and white onion). You can also add walnuts to this. (The brown color provides an "earthy" note!) These two ingredients are just filler, though; the real taste is the combination of spinach, onion, and grapefruit. Obviously, you can add other stuff, too! I wouldn't add really strong-tasting stuff, like olives, for instance!

For the dressing, also per serving:
1 Tbl. lemon juice (1 small, ripe lemon gives about 2 Tbl. juice)
2 Tbl. canola oil
1/2-1 tsp. (or a bit more) honey, agave nectar, xylitol, or sugar--sweetener amount depends on how tart your grapefruit is, so tasting--of both grapefruit and dressing--is involved here!
a few grains of salt to punch the sweetener--not enough to actually taste! 2-4 at the most! So, a tiny pinch of salt!

Stir, or whisk, to dissolve the sweetener and salt and to mix the dressing.

To serve:
Put the spinach on a plate. Separate the onion into rings and arrange on the spinach bed. Arrange the grapefruit over the onions. Pour the dressing over, and eat! MMMMM!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Garlic Chicken - Part 1

This was inspired by a noodle dish that I used to love (well, I still do, but it's REALLY bad for you, so I don't make it very often). I used the same spices and sauces on chicken, and it came out pretty well. (I cooked it a little long, so it was a little dry – but I know what I should have done differently, so the recipe is fixed. :D) I call this “Part 1,” because later I’ll shred the chicken in the recipe below, add some veggies and some cooked pasta, and stir-fry the whole thing. YUM.

Note: I made this in the CrockPot, but you can do it in a roasting pan (or glass baking dish) in the oven. Just cook it on 350 for 45 minutes (if using thawed chicken) or an hour and fifteen minutes (if you're using frozen chicken).

The Recipe:
Serves 2 hungry adults, or 2 adults and 2 kids (Figure about 1 pound of chicken per person, if you're using bone-in pieces. I only had 3 pounds, so that's what I used. But that's why the serving size is weird. Just FYI.)
3 lbs chicken pieces (I used breast halves with the bone in and the skin on)
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
8 cloves garlic, minced (yes, EIGHT)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/3 cup oyster sauce
½ tsp hot sauce (optional)

Put the chicken pieces in the CrockPot. Mix the sauce ingredients together and pour over the chicken pieces. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. (I cooked it on low for nine and a half hours, and it was really dry. Don't cook it longer than 8 hours. Seriously.)

Ta-da! Yummy goodness. (Oh, and that funny white mark is where I tore a piece off to see JUST how dry it was. Very dry. Eight hours MAXIMUM, my friends. No lie. Nine and a half was WAY too long.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green Beans, Mushrooms, & Sweet Potatoes

I'm sure these dishes will publish in reverse order:  "steaks" after Green Beans & Sweet Potatoes.  They do go together, however!  If this is too much cooking, try adding Rosemary potatoes instead, published on 4-8-09, which are easier, since they bake in the oven after shorter prep time!  The sweet potato dish will go better with the eggplant, but the potato dish would be good, too!

This is the other part to my "comfort food" dinner, one that at least looked like my childhood memories!  Ha!  If I add a salad, I even have my "3" sections on my plate!  (And, although this goes better with a salad and citrus dressing, published at the bottom of the Eggplant Steaks recipe, have I mentioned recently that I love Balsamic Vinaigrette?  1/3 c. balsamic vinegar, 2/3 c. olive or canola oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper gives you a great dressing!  If it's too tart--all balsamics are not created equal, so to speak!--add 1/4-1/2 tsp. sugar or xylitol.  Costco sells a balsamic that's sweet and smooth and imported from Italy!)

I fed the eggplant steaks and the green bean/sweet potato dish to my carnivorous father and brother, and there were no leftovers!  Ha!

You can use yams, but sweet potatoes are more easily digestible than yams for most people.

Serves 4-6, depending on the appetites.

1 large sweet potato or yam, or 10-12 fingerling sweet potatoes or yams
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. fresh green beans, cleaned, or 1 lb. frozen
6-8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried leaves, crushed when adding (dried leaves will be added earlier in the cooking process than fresh, so they have a chance to soften!)

Heat water under a steamer in a large saucepan or soup pot.  Quarter the large sweet potatoes or yams lengthwise, and cut them into 1/2"-3/4" pieces.  (Similar size allows for even cooking.)  Or cut the fingerlings into 1/2"-3/4" pieces, halving them if the pieces are fairly large.  Place them in the steamer basket, and steam until fork tender.

Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic, and cook a minute or two, or until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the green beans (and the dried thyme, if you're using it--do not add the fresh yet!), and cook until the beans start to become a brighter green, just a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms, and cook until most, if not all, of the water has evaporated from the pan.  Add the cooked sweet potatoes and fresh thyme, and stir until well mixed.  Continue heating over low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning, until the sweet potatoes begin to break down, coating the green beans and mushrooms with a little color.  Immediately remove from heat; you don't want complete mush!

To serve with the eggplant steaks:  put the eggplant on a plate, spoon a little sauce over them, put the green beans, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes on the side, and enjoy!  MMMMMM!  Comfort food!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eggplant "Steaks" with Lemon-Rosemary Sauce

Sometimes, we just like the Standard American Diet--or at least, something that looks like it!  And since I'm still running and gunning, we're still eating out a lot, only eating at home when I think I'd have to hurt someone if I had to look at, let alone eat, more restaurant food!  Even GOOD restaurant food!  That isn't usual for me, by the way!

So, comfort food, according to my upbringing, is meat, potatoes, and vegetables on a plate.  Not combined.  Three separate piles.  And today, I really want comfort food a la childhood!  My dad's doing a lot better, and my stress level should be going down, but it kind of all "hit"--hence the comfort food crave!  Ha!

I love eggplant grilled on a barbecue of any kind!  So, I highly recommend this!  Unfortunately for me, our grill is gas-powered, and the tank is empty, so I'll brown these in a skillet, instead.

Serves 4-6, depending on side dishes!

For the eggplant:

Canola oil spray
1 Tbs. canola oil (olive oil is too heavy a taste for this), per batch
1 garlic clove per batch, minced
1/4 tsp. salt, per batch
2 eggplants, cut in half lengthwise (easier to fit into a pan; don't do this, if you're grilling!) and sliced into 3/8" slices

For the sauce:
(Double this if you're grilling.  It makes a great basting sauce for the eggplant!)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Spray a large skillet.  Add canola oil, and heat on low.  Add 1 clove of garlic and the salt, and cook a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant.  Turn up the heat to medium-medium high.  (Eggplant soaks up oil like crazy and becomes heavy with oil, has a gloppy texture, and tastes disgustingly like oil unless the heat is high enough to cook the eggplant quickly.)  Place the eggplant slices in the skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the slices are lightly browned on one side.  Turn the slices, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes more.  (The oil should be gone; DON'T ADD MORE!  If you've sprayed the pan, it won't stick.)  Now turn the slices again, cooking briefly to darken the color.  And turn for a brief time on the other side.  Dish them onto a plate, and put it into the oven on the lowest setting possible--150 degrees, or so!  Finish cooking the remaining eggplant slices, starting with 1 garlic clove for each batch.  Add them to the plate as they're finished.  On the last batch, cook the eggplant slices a bit longer on lower heat, until they're tender.  (Placing the plate with the first slices in the oven continues the cooking process, and the slices will be tender when they're ready for eating.) 

While the eggplant is cooking, between bouts of turning slices!, combine the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper.

To serve:  place eggplant on a plate, and spoon the sauce over it.  Serve this with salad and citrus dressing ( 1/3 cup oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/16 tsp. pepper), and Green Beans, Mushrooms, and Sweet Potatoes.  MMMMMMM!  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Taco Chili Souper Salad

I’m not a big chili fan. Something about the texture weirds me out. But I made chili using coarse ground beef (instead of regular) the other night, and it was FANTASTIC! I was so excited! Plus I’m using up the beans in my pantry, which I don’t tend to eat, so this was a win-win, as far as I’m concerned. :)

This is also a fairly healthy dish. There is a little bit of fat in the beef and the sausage, and of course if you add guacamole, cheese and sour cream, you’ll increase the fat a LOT, but even still it’s not too bad. (And the avocado fat is even good for you! Actually, I think it’s all pretty ok, unless you’re allergic to dairy, but different studies say different things about that, so I’ll just sing the praises of the avocado, ok? Everyone seems happy with plant-fats.)

I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet though, so I also didn’t really want to just eat a big bowl of chili. I started thinking about serving it over salad, and ta-da! Taco-chili Souper Salad! (Cutesy name, huh? I can’t decide if I like it or not.) The cold, crisp texture of the lettuce, tomatoes and onions contrasts really well with the warmth of the chili. AND since the chili has some juice in it, you don’t even need dressing! (No, really. Trust me. I’m the dressing QUEEN. I promise you don’t need it here, though. ;D)

The Recipe:
Chili only: 6-8
Chili over salad: 8-10

The Soup:
nonstick spray
1 pound coarse ground lean ground beef (ideally 10% fat or less)
2 Italian sausage links (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
1 15-oz can black beans with juice
1 15-oz can white beans (also called cannellini or Great Northern beans) with juice
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice
1 4-oz can diced green chilis
1 package taco seasoning

Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and add the ground beef. Cut the sausage casings open and put the meat into the skillet with the ground beef. Add the onion and cook the whole mixture until the meat is browned.

Beginning with the meat (if you’re using 10% fat or less, don’t drain the fat), add the ingredients to the crockpot, and stir to combine.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Saute the onions in a large pot. Add the beef and sausage and cook through. Add the remaining ingredients, and allow to simmer
until heated thoroughly. This will produce a slightly thicker chili than the crockpot.)

The Salad:
3 romaine hearts, chopped/shredded/whatever
16 oz cherry or grape tomatoes
sliced red onion
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly (optional – I did not include it in mine)
1 14-oz can corn (optional – I did not include it in mine)

On the side (optional):
sour cream
shredded cheese

On a plate, pile up the lettuce. Spoon some hot taco-chili over the lettuce, and top with the remaining salad fixings. (Because there will be juice in the chili, you won’t need dressing.)

Perfect: healthy, comforting and refreshing, all at the same time. Who knew? :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

What I Ate for Dinner - Trader Joe's to the rescue!

I did NOT feel like fixing dinner the other night. I stood in front of my freezer, contemplating my options, which basically boiled down to either cooking something or eating a TV dinner. Neither option seemed particularly appealing.

And then, peeking out from behind some frozen ground beef, I saw it! Trader Joe’s Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry! It’s a self-contained meal with shrimp, veggies and a salt-and-pepper mixture, and all you have to do is stir-fry it.

But. I didn’t feel like expending the effort to get out a pan.

Yes, I was feeling JUST THAT LAZY. Shut up.

BUT! I figured that it had similar ingredients to a TV dinner, and THOSE are microwaveable, so why not the stir fry?

As it turned out, it takes a LOT longer to zap something that isn’t meant to be zapped. Altogether it took about 10 minutes in the microwave, and the veggies did come out a little weird. Also the shrimp were a little tough. (I didn’t care. I didn’t have to stir-fry.)

Having said that, I drained the water off and it was perfectly fine. (I will note here that when you stir-fry this stuff, it’s FANTASTIC. Microwaved . . . slightly less fantastic. But still good!)

The picture at the bottom is an entire package. So figure on one package serving 2 moderate adult-sized portions. Since the whole package is fairly low-cal, I ate the WHOLE FREAKIN’ THING, and it was YUMMY. MMmmmmmmm . . .

Wait, what? Where was I? Oh! Oh, yeah.

I almost always add some sort of extra sauce to it: oyster, plum, hoisin, peanut, whatever. But in truth, it’s really good as is, and it’s relatively inexpensive! (No, I don’t remember how much I paid for the package. Wouldn’t that be nice? *sigh*)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eggplant and Zucchini Puttanesca

"Puttanesca" is Italian for--well, let's just say that "ladies of the night" made it to attract customers.  So, the sauce is fragrant and tasty!  It could also be served over tilapia, chicken, salmon, or shrimp, with or without the zucchini or eggplant.  (I'd keep them, just for the extra vegetables!)  Also, you can add pasta, but I never do, unless I have guests drop in, and I need extra food in a hurry!  Ha!

4 servings, vegetables only.  6 servings, if you include pasta

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, preferably red, cut into smallish wedges
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" dice
3 medium zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2" pieces  (These are denser than eggplant pieces, so cutting them smaller allows them to cook at about the same rate as the eggplant.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed as adding  (or 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh!)
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed as adding  (or 1 Tbs. fresh!)
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (less if you don't like much spice, more if you like it hot!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. capers, drained
2 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian (flat-leafed) parsley (or 1 Tbs. dried parsley)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling over the top
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted--I hate olives, so I definitely consider this "optional," although it's a traditional ingredient in this!  Ha!
8 oz. pasta, also optional!

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, and cook the onion until tender, about 8-10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook until it's tender, too--a couple of minutes.

While it's cooking, add the next tablespoon of olive oil to another large pan.  (I use my soup kettle.)  Add the zucchini, and cook, stirring occasionally, until its browned on a couple of sides.  Add the eggplant, brown it, and add 2 Tbs. water, and cook, covered, until the zucchini and eggplant are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While this is cooking, go back to your skillet, and add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes to meld the flavors.  It will also reduce the sauce, so you might need to add a couple of tablespoons of water at the end of this cooking cycle.  Add the capers and olives, if you're using them.  Heat through.  Turn off the heat.

During this cooking time, cook the pasta, if you're using it.  Drain.  Set aside.

Drain the tender zucchini and eggplant.  Pour the sauce over them and toss.

To serve:  place some pasta, if you're using it, on a plate.  Spoon the vegetables and sauce over it.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.  This is great with spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, red onion slivers, and balsamic vinaigrette!  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mu Shu Chicken!

Yay! for Mu Shu! I love that stir-fried goodness, all wrapped in a rice pancake and topped with some plum sauce! MMMMMmmmmmm . . . Ok, I actually don’t really care about the pancake. I like the vegetables and the plum sauce. Protein is a bonus.

PLUS! It's HEALTHY! It's almost all vegetables, plus whatever protein you add. There's a little bit of fat for cooking, but other than that, the only thing you really have to be aware of is what's in your sauce. Who could ask for anything more?

The Recipe:
Serves 6-8

2 Tbs canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 head of celery, stalks sliced diagonally into quarters (in other words, BIG pieces)
½ 10-oz bag grated carrots
1 10-oz bag sliced mushrooms
2 10-oz bags presliced cabbage
6 large green onions, white parts chopped, green parts cut into 3-inch lengths
2 cups cooked protein: chicken, scrambled eggs, steak, whatever (I usually use eggs, but had some leftover chicken to use up, so I used that in this recipe)
*Note: I do NOT add salt or pepper to this; most of the sauces you’ll put on top have salt, and that will be plenty.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onions and celery, lower the heat, and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery begins to soften just a little bit, and the onions begin to get translucent.

Add the carrots and mushrooms, stir to combine, and cook until they begin to soften.

Add the cabbage and green onions, and stir gently until the cabbage begins to wilt. (Note: you might have to add the cabbage a little at a time, stirring until it wilts before you can add the next couple handfuls. Your pan will be REALLY, REALLY full.)

Add the protein and heat through.

Spoon generous portions onto plates, and top with plum sauce.

*There are LOTS of sauces that will work with this: sometimes I add oyster sauce or soy sauce mixed with chili sauce. I’ve added sesame oil, I’ve added fish sauce, I’ve added spicy peanut sauce. These particular veggies seem to go best with an Asian-style sauce, but feel free to experiment. The only flavors you’re working with are the vegetable flavors, and the sauces usually have salt, so I don’t even add that to the mix.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Make Your Own: Ranch Dressing Mix

I love Ranch dressing. Really. A LOT. So much that I really try not to have large quantities in the house at any given time, because I will eat it with a SPOON, ok? And Ranch dip is even BETTER. But since I didn't want to store opened packets of dry Ranch mix, I made 2 cups of dressing when I opened a packet. Two cups is about a cup and a half too much for me to have laying around. Ahem. Plus, there’s the chemical problem. Have you ever READ the ingredients on a packet of dressing mix? Scary stuff.

So I poked around on the internet for a while, cobbled together a bunch of recipes, and came up with my own!

The Recipe:
Makes about 1 ½ cups mix

1 cup dry buttermilk (found in the baking aisle)
2 tsp salt*
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried minced onion
4 heaping tsp parsley
Optional mix-ins**:
2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp dill seed
*My original recipe called for 4 tsp of salt, but it was WAY too much. Start with 2 and add more as you see fit.
**Regarding the optional mix-ins: sometimes I add these to the finished dip. There isn’t actually any dill at ALL in packaged ranch mix though, so this is strictly a personal preference.

Combine buttermilk, salt, garlic powder, onion and parsley in a bowl. Store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Dry buttermilk will actually go bad once it’s been opened, so always store it in the fridge.)

To make dressing:
1 – 2 Tbs mix
1 cup milk
1 cup mayo
Combine thoroughly and chill.

To make dip:
1-2 Tbs mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayo
Optional mix-ins:
2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp dill seed
Combine thoroughly and chill.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Zucchini "Quiche", Crustless

Okay, this "quiche" has no cheese!  I just couldn't think of another name to call it!  Ha!

My dad is still having health issues, and we've gotten tired of eating in more-or-less fast food places--the kind where you order at a counter, and someone brings it to you!--AND fast food places!  So, I've been making what I think of as "blender food."  I went from lots of soups, which we also got tired of, to other things that involve some sort of cooking.  This is probably the longest, time-wise, thing I've made.


It has occurred to me that these are good for those of us who "run and gun," to use my brother's descriptive phrase, pretty often!  They're also good for those of us who hate to cook and want to spend as little time as possible doing so!  Ha!


350 degrees F.

4 servings



1/8 small onion

1 small clove garlic

1 small zucchini

4 large eggs

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

OPT: If you're not using the sauce, you can add one of these to perk up the flavor:  1/2 tsp. of dried basil, dried thyme, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried savory, or any other herb you like!


OPT:  Lemon Basil Sauce

1 small clove garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

OPT:  1 tsp. sugar, or its equivalent, if the lemon juice is too tart!

1/4 c. packed basil shreds


OPT:  2 green onions, thinly sliced


For the quiche:

Put onion in a blender, and pulse until it's coarsely chopped.  Add garlic, and pulse it.  Add zucchini, and pulse it until it's coarsely chopped.  Add eggs, salt, and pepper, and blend it until everything's mixed, but not necessarily smooth.  Put this into a sprayed, 8x8 baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees F. until the top is light brown and a knife tip inserted into the middle comes out clean.


For the sauce:

Put the garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and sugar (if you're using it), and blend.  Pour into the measuring cup you used, and add the basil shreds.  Stir.  


To serve:  put 1/4 of the quiche on a plate.  Spoon some of the sauce over it, spreading the basil leaves with the back of the spoon.  Add green onions, if you're using them.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Herb-Crusted Salmon

I looked high and low for a recipe for Ranch Dressing Mix. I finally found one, and promptly proceeded to alter the ingredients so that I could coat salmon in it and grill the salmon.

YUM. (Although it doesn't taste at ALL like a packet of mix - which might not be a bad thing.)

The Recipe:
Serves 4

1 pound salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbs mayonnaise (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs dried minced onion
4 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs cracked black pepper
1 Tbs dried dill weed (optional - this doesn't actually appear in Ranch dressing; I just like it.)
1 Tbs dried dill seed (same note as for dill weed, above)
1 tsp ground coriander (also not part of Ranch dressing, but . . . well, you get the idea.)

Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl or into a casserole dish, and soak the salmon pieces for about 15 minutes. (This will remove the fishiness from the salmon.)

While the salmon soaks, combine all remaining ingredients except mayo in a shallow bowl.

Remove the salmon from the buttermilk and pat dry. If you're using the mayonnaise, rub some mayo THINLY over the fleshy part of each salmon piece. (Note: the ranch mixture will stick just fine without the mayo, but the mayo makes it a little crispier and moister.) Coat both sides of the salmon in the herb/Ranch mixture.

Using a non-stick grill pan (or a regular frying pan sprayed with non-stick spray), cook the salmon over medium heat for 5-7 minutes per side. (It will seem like too long. It's NOT. The salmon will get a little charred around the edges. That's GOOD. It needs to cook that long because it was soaking in liquid, but it won't be dry.) When the fish flakes easily with a fork, ta-da! You're done!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What I ate for Dinner - Spinach and Protein - Your Choice! - in Garlic and Butter

I love spinach with garlic and butter. LOVE. Add a little pepper, and I’m an even happier camper. Add a protein source, and EVEN BETTER.

You can use any protein source in this, or none at all. I used turkey Polish-style sausage because I had some in my fridge that I needed to use, and I was jonesing for a little comfort food. But you could use chicken, shrimp, beef, tofu, whatever. Garlic and butter go with pretty much anything. (Which is part of the reason I love them. I’d have garlic’s and butter’s babies if I could. It’d give a whole new meaning to the term butterball! Ok, ok, I’ll stop now.)

The Recipe
Serves 4

Nonstick spray
1 lb (approx) protein, your choice, cut into bite-size pieces (In the pic below, I used Jennie-O Turkey Polish-Style Sausage. Yes, it’s been that kind of a day.)
2 Tbs butter
2 cloves minced garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp dried minced onion
2 pounds fresh spinach (I used prepackaged salad spinach that was nearing the end of its freshness.)
Butter spray (or more butter) (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray)
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a large pan with nonstick cooking spray, and add the protein. Saute over medium-high heat until cooked through, then remove it from the pan and put it on a plate. (We’ll come back to it.)

Turn the heat to low and add the butter, garlic and dried onion. When the butter is melted and the garlic is golden, add a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach. Use a pair of tongs to turn it until it’s wilted, then add a few more handfuls, spray on a little butter spray, and turn that batch. When it’s wilted, repeat. Keep adding spinach and butter spray until you’ve used up all the spinach and it’s all wilted down. Add a little salt and pepper, and toss the protein back into the pot. Heat through, and serve.

(As an FYI, the calorie content of the spinach alone works out to about 370 for the whole thing. So figure just over 90 calories per serving for the spinach part. And then whatever protein you add.)

(Note: The picture below would serve about 3. I was REALLY low on spinach – I had about a pound and a third – so there isn’t QUITE enough to serve 4. If you use 2 pounds of spinach, you’ll be fine.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spinach and Mushrooms on a Zucchini "Crust"

Have I mentioned lately how MUCH I love my food processor?!

My dad's been in and out of the hospital for the last 6 weeks--right now, he's in and about to come out!--so I haven't had much time to cook!  My diet has consisted of restaurant food, for the most part.  Last night, I couldn't face this again, and I had these bits in my fridge, leftovers from things I'd hoped to make!  Ha!  The rest of my ingredients got tossed, and these remained.  

It was pretty great, if I do say so myself!  Ha!

1 large onion, sliced (I halved it and used my food processor!)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, or 1 tsp. dried
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 medium-large zucchini, sliced (again, I used my food processor!)
About 1 lb. sliced mushrooms (you guessed it:  f p!)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
10-12 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz. basil leaves, shredded (If you put the leaves on top of each other and roll them together, it makes the fine slicing easier.  The leaves stay put!)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
OPTIONAL:  12-16 roasted tomatoes

In a sprayed, large skillet, cook the onions until they're soft.  Add the garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper, and cook until the garlic is soft, about a minute or two.  Add the zucchini and stir.  Turn the heat up to medium-high.  Cook the zucchini, stirring it often enough so that it doesn't burn, and cook until the water has evaporated out of it, perhaps 30 minutes or more, depending on your heat level.  Pour into a sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish, and set aside.

In the same skillet, pour the mushrooms.  Cook them until the water has evaporated--this won't take nearly as long as the zucchini!  Season with salt and pepper, stir, and add the spinach leaves.  Cook just long enough to wilt the spinach.  Spoon this over the zucchini mixture.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top, and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until the top is light brown.

To serve, place a square on a plate, and top with basil shreds and green onions.  If you're using roasted tomatoes, add them to the toppings.  The picture shows sundried tomatoes--an experiment--but I wouldn't recommend them!  Ha!  I didn't have tomatoes to roast!  Remember, this is from leftover ingredients!  Ha!

Also, you could add artichoke hearts to the mushroom part and delete the tomatoes all together!  Add them before the spinach and heat them through, and then proceed with the rest!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

(Veggie) Sausage and Grilled Onion Breakfast Casserole*

*with a healthier version below! ;)

Serves 6-ish

When I was growing up, every Christmas morning we had some sort of breakfast casserole (well, until I was about 12, and Mom got sick of making the same freakin’ thing every year; then we started having stuff like Shrimp fra Diavolo – for brunch!). There are 5 components to a breakfast casserole: meat, cheese, bread, milk and eggs. The varieties you use of each are interchangeable, and you can add whatever else you feel like adding, but those 5 things are the backbone of the recipe.

They’re also practically the definition of what’s wrong with the American diet. Not a fruit or veggie in sight! But if you grew up with some variation of the Standard American Diet (does anyone else notice that the acronym for that is SAD?), breakfast casseroles evoke either pleasant, warm, comforting feelings or the gag reflex. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. I fall into the former, though, and I needed some comfort food recently, so this is my version of the breakfast casserole. (And for good measure, I altered the recipe to make a frittata below – no bread, less milk, WAY healthier. But not QUITE as comforting on the nostalgia scale. I’m just sayin’.)

The Recipe (1):
1 Tbs canola or grapeseed oil
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 croissants OR 6 slices of white bread (Don’t even bother with using whole-grain bread for this; it tastes weird. Just make the frittata below if you can’t bring yourself to buy white bread.)6-8 cooked sausage patties, chopped (I use Morningstar Farms veggie patties, just because I like them and they’re easy.)
2 cups grated jack-and-cheddar cheese blend (or 1 cup each, if you’re grating your own)
12 eggs
1 ¼ cups whole milk
½ -1 tsp hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is my favorite in this, although I’ve been known to use Sriracha sauce from the Asian food aisle.)
1 Tbs fennel seeds (optional: they add a lot of flavor, but it’ll still be good if you don’t have any on hand)
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onions, breaking them up as you add them. Add a light sprinkle of salt, stir, and reduce the heat to low.

Spray a 8 ½ x 11 casserole dish with nonstick spray, and then shred half the bread of your choice into the bottom. You want pretty small pieces: maybe ½ an inch or so.

(Stir the onions. They should be getting soft by now, so turn the heat up to medium.)

Chop the sausages if you haven’t already, and add them to the casserole dish.

(Stir the onions. Continue to stir them whenever you have a minute. We want them to get really brown and soft. Altogether they’re going to spend about a half-hour on the stovetop, just FYI.)
In a LARGE bowl, crack the eggs. Whisk them together, then add the milk, hot sauce, fennel, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

When the onions are done (read: pretty brown), spread them over the sausage in the casserole dish. Top with half the cheese. Shred the remaining bread over the mixture, then pour the egg mixture over THAT. Top with the remaining cheese and set aside.

Now. If you’re going to cook this within an hour or so, I’d just leave it on the countertop. (Note: that is NOT recommended by the food safety folks, so proceed at your own risk. No one in my family has ever gotten sick doing that, but we’re pretty blasé about these things.) Otherwise, put it in the fridge and let it sit for a couple of hours. Take it out of the fridge about 40 minutes before you want to cook it, so it can come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole covered for about 30 minutes, take the cover off, and bake it for about 15 more, so the cheese on top is melted. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes so it sets before you cut it up.

This is great on its own, but if I’m serving it to guests, I usually put out extra cheese, some sour cream, ketchup, salsa, guacamole, cheese, whatever I can think of that I have on hand. Pretty much EVERYONE feels the need to mess with their eggs (including me).

Um, usually I have a picture here. But I had guests, and I served it before I thought about it. Oops.

The Recipe (2):
Serves 4-6

This is a little healthier. The key to the preparation on this is to use an oven-safe skillet. Otherwise it’s a HUGE pain. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1 Tbs canola or grapeseed oil
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
6-8 cooked sausage patties, chopped (I use Morningstar Farms veggie patties, just because I like them and they’re easy.)
1 cup grated jack-and-cheddar cheese blend (or ½ cup each, if you’re grating your own)
6 eggs (8 if you have a BIG pan)
½ -1 tsp hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is my favorite in this, although I’ve been known to use Sriracha sauce from the Asian food aisle.)
1 Tbs fennel seeds (optional: they add a lot of flavor, but it’ll still be good if you don’t have any on hand)
Salt and pepper

Prepare the onion the same as above.

While the onion cooks, chop the sausages, and set aside.

When the onion is done, add the sausages to the pan and heat through. Spread the mixture out evenly over the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, ½ the cheese, hot sauce, fennel, salt and pepper together. Pour the mixture over the sausage mixture in the pan, and allow to set – DON’T STIR IT. When the eggs start to solidify around the edges (it will still be liquid in the middle), sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, remove the pan from the heat, and put it (uncovered) into the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The cheese will be melted, and the frittata will get nice and puffy-looking. (It’s actually pretty impressive.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

What I Ate for Dinner - Old School Chicken Salad

I LOVE chicken salad. With lots of mayonnaise and celery and onions. I LOVE IT. But I have to admit that I don’t usually eat it on bread. My favorite way to eat it is spooned over a generous plate of cooked, chilled broccoli. I know, I know, it sounds weird. But it’s really, REALLY good, especially in the summer when it’s hot out, and the cool chicken salad and broccoli is a nice change from regular, lettuce-based salads.

The key here is to use LOTS of vegetables (well, lots for chicken salad, anyway) and REAL chicken, chopped. Don’t use canned chicken, although chopped pre-cooked chicken works just fine.


The Recipe:

1 pound cooked chicken, chopped
6-8 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
5-7 large celery stalks, chopped
Mayo, salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Chill, and then serve over cooked, chilled broccoli.

FANTASTIC. Really. ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vegetable Curry

I ran across a blurb (Better Homes and Gardens) about research on bone health done at Tufts University.  It seems that, as you get older, your kidneys don't excrete acids as efficiently, so bones release alkaline stuff--including calcium--to restore the chemical balance.  When you eat fruits and vegetables, your body creates bicarbonate, which counteracts the high acid levels.  So, your bones are more likely to retain their calcium and stay stronger if your eat more produce!  Yet another reason for my being a vegetarian!  Ha! 

Here's a recipe for Thai curry that's mostly vegetables.  I looked up a bunch of curry recipes online to figure out the main ingredients, excluded the ones I couldn't buy here, and included the ones I could buy and liked!

We liked the result--except for Marste, who hates coconut milk!--and so did our neighbors!

I've used zucchini instead of mushrooms, and I've used zucchini with the mushrooms, but I like this combination best!  I haven't yet tried green beans, broccoli, or any of the other myriad vegetables, but I intend to!  Broccoli, in particular, interests me because of its stronger flavor!  So, broccoli and zucchini....

I hope you try this.  It's easier than it looks!

1/2 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not fat-free!*), shaken before opening to recombine the milk and the fat
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped**
1 Tbs. micro-grated, or finely minced, ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. eggplant, unpeeled, cut into even pieces
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs. canola oil
3/4 c. green onions, sliced
1 Tbs. curry powder
Small pinch of red pepper flakes (We thought 1/8 tsp. made it too hot, but we don't like a lot of heat!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 cup cashews (you can also use peanuts, if you don't like cashews!)
1 lime, quartered

Combine rice, water, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on lowest heat for 45 minutes.  In a blender, or food processor, put 1/2 cup coconut milk, cilantro, 1 tsp. ginger, and 2 cloves garlic, and buzz until it's smooth.  When the rice is cooked, stir this mixture into the rice.  Set aside, and keep it warm.

Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Cook the eggplant over medium high heat.  Turn the pieces occasionally, until they're all brown on every side.  (I usually do "almost" every side; I'm learning not to be perfectionistic!  Ha!)   Add the mushrooms, and cook until they're soft and all the water has evaporated.  In other words, the pan is dry!  Add the green onions, curry powder, pepper flakes, salt, 1 clove garlic, and 2 tsp. ginger, and cook until green onions are slightly softened, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the remainder of the coconut milk (about 1 1/4 cups), and stir it in.  Add the tomatoes, and heat through.  

To serve:
Spoon some rice on a plate, and ladle some of the vegetables and sauce over it.  Sprinkle a few cashews over the top.  If it's needed, add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a lime quarter to the plate, so each diner can squeeze as much as s/he likes.  Enjoy!

*Coconut milk with the coconut fat will mitigate the heat of the red pepper flakes, in case you get heavy-handed.  Also, the coconut fat is a plant fat, as opposed to animal fat, and it's considered good for you!

**More nutrition trivia:  cilantro is a very cleansing herb.  There are studies (that I read online) that say it helps the body release toxins, including heavy metals.  It also has many beneficial nutrients.  I consider these a bonus; I'd eat it anyway, because I just like it!  

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summer Salsa "Soup"

This is for Emily, who needed something that her whole family would eat! Hopefully this works. :)

I love salsa. I mean, I could eat it with a spoon, straight from the container (and have been known to do just that). I’m talking about the salsa from the refrigerated section, full of tomatoe-y, garlicky goodness. I finally figured that maybe I should stop eating salsa from the container because a) it gets expensive (seriously – do you know how much those little containers COST?) and b) it’s not really all that good for you. I came up with this to split the difference. One of the things I like best about this recipe is the "build your own" component with all the add-ons at the bottom. I usually have all but the tortilla chips on hand, and I just throw things together as they sound good. It adds nice variety, and if you're serving this to guests (or families), everyone gets something they like.

The most important thing below is to make sure that you have RIPE tomatoes. Don’t even bother making this in the wintertime, and if you shoot for early summer or early fall, at the beginning and end of tomato season, it’s probably best to get tomatoes on the vine. Get the big round ones, too, not the skinny little Roma ones. You need the JUICE for this to work. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Recipe:
Serves 6

6 large hothouse tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine, chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2 cloves garlic, FINELY minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
juice from 4 limes
½ -1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and FINELY minced (if you like spicy food, use the whole pepper; if you HATE spicy food, just leave it out)
¼ cup olive oil
2 10 ¾-oz cans broth (I prefer beef broth, but vegetable broth works, too. Chicken broth tastes WEIRD, though. Just FYI.)
1 pound cooked steak strips (optional – I don’t usually include them, but sometimes I need some extra protein)
sour cream, for serving
guacamole, for serving
crushed tortilla chips, for serving
shredded Mexican cheese blend, for serving

Combine everything not labeled “for serving” above in a LARGE bowl. (The picture below is a 4-qt. bowl, and it has no steak in it. This makes a LOT of soup.) Stir to combine, and (ideally) refrigerate several hours or (even better) overnight. (Note: it’ll be good even if you don’t have time to refrigerate it, but it’ll be FANTASTIC if you do.) Also, you probably will NOT need salt for this. I know, I know, I’m the salt queen, but the broth is already salted. Mix it up, let it chill and taste it before you add salt. Seriously. I’m NOT KIDDING. You might be sorry otherwise.

Serve with optional garnishes (not shown below):
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips
shredded cheese

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini with Lime

Sorry about the late time!  I tried to schedule it, since I knew I wouldn't be around to post it today!  Obviously, I still have a lot to learn!  Ha!

This isn't hard to do, if you have a grapefruit spoon!  They're inexpensive, and they're in grocery stores, so they're easy to acquire!  I really like the varied tastes and textures of this!

Nezu, this fits your criteria, I think!  And Emily, if you add quartered orange slices as "sails," your guys might like it, too.  Also, if I'm serving it to young kids, I omit the lime juice in the mix, instead serving the boats with lime wedges.  Squeezing the juice over the cooked stuffed zucchini appeals to adults but not always to kids!  I'm often surprised, though!  Ha!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 cup slivered, or sliced, almonds
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and scooped out, being sure to leave enough on the sides so the zucchini boats don't collapse!  Reserve pulp, and chop it.
6 Morningstar Farms breakfast sausage patties, diced  (This is in frozen foods in most grocery stores with other meatless "meats," like Boca burgers.  It doesn't have as much soy!)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large, pre-sprayed skillet, cook the almonds on low heat for just a couple of minutes until they're lightly browned, and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat 1 Tbs. canola oil.  Sauté onions until they're soft.  Add the garlic.  Cook 1 minute.  Add the zucchini pulp, and cook it until the water has evaporated, 20-30 minutes.  Add sausage, oregano, lime juice, and toasted almonds.  Heat through, and fill the zucchini shells.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the stuffed zucchini boats.  Bake 1/2 hour at 350 degrees, or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Less Congestion Pot Roast for Dad

This is the second dinner I made for my dad.  Beef is really too fatty to benefit congestion, but it does have some stuff he needs (iron, e.g.), and he requested it!  Ha!  I agreed, as long as it he agreed not to add potatoes, which contribute to his congestion.  So, with that compromise, here's what I did!  (And the stuff that helps congestion is in bold print!)

3 lbs. beef for slow cooking!
1 14-oz. can beef broth
1 huge onion, or 2 smaller ones
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
4 medium zucchini, cut into 4 chunks each
6 medium carrots, cut into 5 or 6 chunks each

Into a 6-qt. slow cooker, place beef.  Sprinkle with a little salt and a lot of pepper.  Add the onion and the garlic.  Pour the broth around the edges.  Cook on high heat for 5-6 hours.

Add the carrots, making sure they're in the broth.  Add the zucchini chunks, placing them on top of the roast and carrots.  This way, they won't be completely mushy when everything else is done!  Cook for another 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the carrots are tender when you poke them with a fork.  (AKA "fork tender.)

Dad wanted bread to substitute for his beloved potatoes, so I bought him some bread made of half quinoa and half wheat, because wheat worsens his congestion, too.  I toasted a slice of bread, buttered it, laid it on a plate, put meat on it, and ladled the beef broth over it.  With vegetables on the side, he felt he'd been given manna!  Ha!  He ate all of it!

And now, I have both chicken and beef to shred for tacos and other dishes that I can use more of the peppery spices that seem to do the best work for de-congesting!  Woohoo!

I'll keep you posted on our progress!  At this point, he's actually walking farther than he was 3 days ago!  I'm excited!  He's breathing better, so he's not as breathless as quickly!  He's even feeling optimistic, so that's a plus, too!

What I Ate for Dinner - the Half-A$$ed hors d'oeuvres

Ok kids, I'm dealing with some bug issues at my apartment, so this is a SERIOUSLY compromised post. There will also be no Sunday post, as I will be scrubbing everything down after fogging the WHOLE FREAKIN' PLACE.

Not that I'm frustrated. Ahem.

BUT! There's still a half-a$$ed post for today! Woo-hoo!

This is for Karen L., who asked about hors d'oeuvres to serve at parties: preferably easy ones that didn't look like they came from a package. THIS is my specialty, folks: finger foods that look WAY more impressive than they are. (Because I love feeding people, but at some point I WANT TO PLAY, TOO.)

The Stuff (because you know, it's not really a recipe):

Hands-down, the easiest thing (which is still impressive-looking):

But wait! It's better than it sounds.
Salami: Get a good quality salami. You can get something presliced, but if it came from Oscar Mayer, pass on by. Get a package (or 2) of the Columbus brand (found in the fancy cheese case). They have regular AND peppered, and I usually grab one of each package.

Cheese: At least two kinds. I like a double- or triple- cream Brie and a soft blue, and occasionally a Jack or Cheddar, if I'm not sure of my guests' tastes (Cheddar is a SUPER safe choice). Trader Joe's makes a FABULOUS soft blue (Castello? Costello? Something like that. Squeeze it a little: it will be as soft as a good Brie. When you find that blue - or bleu - cheese, that's it! Buy it! Buy a LOT of it! YUM . . . )

Crackers: Two words, folks: WATER. CRACKERS. Doesn't really matter what brand. Whole-grain crackers work, too, but only the fancy kinds. Don't go busting out the Triscuits, ok? (Although I DO love some Triscuits, I won't lie.)

Fruit: The part that makes your spread look fancy! Red grapes or sliced apples. If you slice apples, squeeze some lemon juice over them. It'll change the taste a little, but it will still be good with the other ingredients. I'm not gonna lie though, red grapes are my FAVORITE. They're AMAZING with salami and blue/bleu cheese.

The key to that spread is to put everything on plates, and ARRANGE it. It doesn't really matter HOW you arrange it; just don't dump it all on there, and it will look fantastic.

So there's that. Depending on the gathering, you also can't go wrong with potato chips and onion dip. I'm working on a substitute for the packaged dip, but honestly that Lipton crap hits people right in the nostalgic part of their brain. It's ALWAYS a winner.

Cookie dough! Even from a package, in teeny-tiny cupcake holders. These are a little time-consuming though, and be advised that they don't keep out on a table very well for very long: they turn a funny color. Yeesh. But a few at a time are always good. I use a cookie dough scooper (yes, really - STOP LAUGHING AT ME!), which forms them into little balls, so they look cute(that's the part that's time-consuming), and then sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top of them. Mmmmmm.

Ummm . . .

Bruschetta is easy if you have a broiler. Get a baguette, slice it up the night before, toss it in the fridge with a package of Bruschetta topping. The next day, arrange the slices on a broiler sheet, top them with the Bruschetta topping and broil them for about 3 minutes. Ta-da!

Alternately, you can brush the bread slices with some olive oil (or if you're lazy like me, just pour some olive oil on a plate and dip the bread in), sprinkle them with garlic powder (or add minced garlic to the oil on the plate), salt and pepper, and then dust them with grated Parmesan. Broil for the usual 3 minutes, and they'll be nice and toasty without TOO much cheese.

Olives! Olives are great and easy. Toss them in a pretty dish, put a smaller dish of toothpicks on the side, and you're done! But go to the olive bar for these, and get a couple of kinds: Kalamata, maybe some cheese- or garlic-stuffed green ones, whatever looks good. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy your olives in the jar in the middle aisles of the store. They taste funny for this type of thing. DO. NOT. Seriously.

Antipasto platters are also good. Remember that baguette? Slice it up and arrange it on a platter. Now on a separate platter, pile up some prosciutto (or thinly sliced ham), a little salami, some jarred roasted red peppers, some jarred sun-dried tomatoes, a little bit of olive tapenade, and some knives to spread all the stuff with. Let people build their own almost-crostini ('cause you know, crostini are toasted, and these aren't)! If you're feeling REALLY adventurous, add some pickled vegetables. (Giardiniera is fabulous - and I probably misspelled it - I never can remember how to spell it. But it's pickled carrots, cauliflower and pepperoncinis. YUM.)

Put out a dish of cleaned radishes. Next to that put a dish of butter and some salt. You dip the radish in the butter, sprinkle a little salt over it, and you're done! (Yes, really. It's good. I SWEAR.)

Watercress sandwiches! Ok, I know that sounds weird. But they're YUMMY. You need a baguette, sliced (are you seeing a theme here?). Put some butter on each slice and top it with some watercress. The watercress has sort of a peppery bite to it, and the butter balances it out nicely. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over the top, and it's pretty, too!

What else can I think of? Hmm . . .

OH! Meatballs! But not in BBQ or Teriyaki sauce, because EVERYBODY does that (unless you make a REALLY, REALLY good one). Serve meatballs in marinara sauce, with a little dish of toothpicks on the side. (You can either make your own marinara, or buy a good quality version from the store. Either way works.) Seriously, I know it seems sort of pedestrian, but people love meatballs. Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over them if you want it to look fancy.

Ok, I think I'm tapped for now. (Nope, one more: if your friends are like MY friends, put out some hummus and pita chips. But put the hummus in a bowl and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. A LITTLE, I'm not kidding about that part. But it makes it look more gourmet. If people only knew . . . )

Ok, NOW I'm tapped out. No pictures today (I can't even IMAGINE cooking all that for a post), so you'll have to use your imagination! And if you have any other ideas that have worked well for you in the past, by all means post them in the comments!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Zucchini-wrapped Spinach and Carrots with Parmesan Asparagus Spears

I apologize for no picture--Chelsea's not here to help me!  Ha!  I do have a picture, and I'll try to add it later tonight!

This is for Emily, who had several guidelines for us.  She wanted to know if we could come up with dishes that were low in fat and carbs, more vegetables than meat, didn't include a lot of processed soy products, would appeal to her son who "lives on carbs," and also would appeal to her 2-year-old son!  Last, but not least, both sons are becoming pickier eaters.  A CHALLENGE!

My three adult daughters were each 2 at one time!  Ha!  One loved pasta, one loved granola, and one loved broccoli and mushrooms!  And whatever ONE loved, the other two hated!  So, I spent some time thinking about this stuff.  On days when I was fried, we ate cheese or pepperoni pizza, which they all seemed to think was okay.  We ate a lot of pizza in some phases of life!  Ha!

I was a meat-eater then, but I remember some of the criteria:  color, fun, simple tastes.  Interestingly, I found this easier to accomplish with vegetables!

Baby carrots that number the same as the zucchini slices--next item!  (I'm assuming the carrots are the fatter version, like Costco's or a grocery store's.  If you're using thinner ones, like the ones from Trader Joe's in the snack-sized bags, 2 or 3 per zucchini slice would be better.)
2 medium zucchinis, sliced with a potato peeler into about 30-35 slices  (It has to be thin enough to roll!)
Garlic salt
Onion powder
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and stems removed (or 1 bag of baby spinach, with plans to use the rest for salad--which is what I did!)
30-35 toothpicks
1 can vegetable broth
Veggie Dressing (See below, or look at March 24's post!)
1 lb. asparagus spears
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Pasta for Simon!  (Maybe tossed in a little oil and garlic salt?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Steam, or microwave (about 2-4 minutes--depends on thickness), the carrots until they're crisp/tender.  Set aside.

Lay zucchini slices on a cutting board.  Sprinkle with a little of each:  garlic salt, pepper, and onion powder.  (If my own kids saw onion pieces or bits, they wouldn't eat this!  So, I used powder, which became "invisible" but imparted the taste, so Steve and I could eat it, too!)  Top with a few spinach leaves, just enough to cover the zucchini slice.  Place the carrot at one end, and roll the zucchini slice with the spinach leaves around the carrot.  Secure with a toothpick, and set it in a pre-sprayed 7 x 12 baking dish.  Continue until all the zucchini slices with spinach leaves and carrots have been wrapped.  (This sounds like a horrific time-consumer, but it was surprisingly fast!)

Pour the broth around the edges of the baking dish.  (I used a smaller baking dish, because I wanted the rolls touching, so they wouldn't dry out in the oven.)  Do not cover!  (If you cover it, the rolls will fall apart when you remove the toothpicks!  This way, they dry a bit and stick together better.)  Set aside, and fix the asparagus. 


Wash and break ends off asparagus spears.  In a plastic bag or container that seals tightly, put asparagus spears, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Lay asparagus spears in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Do not cover!

Put both dishes in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Heat water and boil pasta.  To serve:  remove the toothpicks, and put the rolls and a few asparagus spears on a plate.  Drizzle a little Veggie Dressing over the top of the rolls.  Add a spoonful of pasta (or rice or?).  Enjoy!

NOTE:  This is something you can make in bits during the day.  For example, the zucchinis can be quickly sliced while you're waiting for toast to pop up, and then tossed into a bag and into the refrigerator.  The carrots can be zapped any time.  Same for tossing the asparagus.

Also, I added wild rice pilaf (as the picture shows), because I was experimenting with a recipe.

Veggie Dressing:

3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. thyme leaves, crushed
2 Tbs. water
1 cup olive, or vegetable, oil

Put everything but the oil into a container that pours--I use a squeeze bottle that used to contain honey.  Shake to dissolve powders and salt.  Add oil, shake, and pour--or squeeze!

I keep this on hand in my refrigerator door.  My whole family LOVES this stuff!  Even my brother and father will eat vegetables with this!  If you decide to double the recipe, as in the March 24th entry, DON'T double the herbs and spices!  Just double the oil!