Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Salad Fun

Warm weather is upon us and I am definitely not a fan. But while I can't control what Mother Nature brings our way, I can control what I choose to eat on those hot summer days.  One big hit throughout the spring and summer season is a good salad. They are so refreshing and can perk up any meal. They're also so versatile so you can pretty much put anything in a salad.

Yesterday became one of those 'put everything you can find in it' days. My son and I were hanging out at my mom's house and it was lunchtime.  I started scrounging around in the fridge for something that wouldn't be too heavy on this 90 degree day.  Well, nothing was looking good until I saw a bunch of giant mushrooms from the best place on earth.  (That would be Costco by the way.)  Anyways, the mushrooms became the inspiration for a light, but loaded with veggies, salad.  I looked around for some other things to throw in and before I knew it, I had a tasty bunch of salad friendly fare.  After slicing and dicing, it was time for a dressing.  This also needed to be light to match the day and the ingredients in the salad.  I wanted something simple but packed with flavor so I grabbed a little lime juice, oil and honey.  I thew them in bowl and had a taste.  Tang. It needed tang.  Apple cider vinegar for sure.  I love apple cider vinegar and it is one of the best ingredients to always have in your pantry.  More on that later though...

Please enjoy this brisk salad by itself or with a yummy sandwich. I prefer more vinegar taste to oil in my dressings, but just like everything in life, adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes.

Summer Salad with Sweet Pepper Lime Dressing


  • 2 TB lime juice
  • 1 TB plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper


  • About 2 cups spring mix lettuce
  • 1/2 tomato, sliced
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 c red onion, sliced

Mix all dressing ingredients together well. Mix all salad ingredients together and toss with dressing.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

For the Love of Blueberries and Coffee Cake

It's so much more economical (and healthy) to create as much food as you can from scratch these days. And when you're a busy mom on a budget, wanting to control what goes into the mouths of your family, dessert is no exception.

I put together these little coffee cakes based on some research of others out there as well as an inventory of what I already had in the fridge.  They were super easy to make and definitely satisfied that sweet tooth craving in that 'melt-in-your-mouth' type of way.  Not only is it made with a few simple ingredients that almost everyone has around the kitchen, but you don't have to worry about how long it's been sitting on a store's bakery shelf!

Mini Blueberry Coffee Cakes

  • 1 8oz. pkg cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 pkg crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350.
1. Beat cream cheese and egg in mixer until completely blended. Add sugar and mix well. Add lemon juice and beat until fluffy.
2. Open crescent roll cans and lay out dough so you have four rectangles. Pinch together the seams and then cut each rectangle into 2 squares.  
3. Place an equal amount of cheese mixture in the middle of each square, about 2-3 TB, and spread out slightly.  Make sure to leave a bit of a border around the cheese. 
4. Drop about 1-2 TB of blueberries on top of cheese mixture.
5. Take opposite corners of crescent roll squares and pinch the points together on top of blueberries. Take other two corners and bring to the middle on top of the first.
6. Cook in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden.  Allow to cool and drizzle with glaze* if desired.

1 TB melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together.

Makes 8 servings

It's All About the Sauce : The Best Spaghetti Sauce Ever

Over the years, I've had a lot of people ask me for a good spaghetti sauce recipe.  I always have the same response for each one, "My mom's sauce is the best. I'll email you the recipe."  Sure, I might be a little biased because no one makes better sauce than a good Italian woman, but give it a try for yourself and tell me what you think.  It's a hearty sauce that is great on a pile of spaghetti noodles served with some garlic bread.  It also holds it's own in lasagna (recipe to come) or any other baked pasta. This recipe makes a lot of sauce but it freezes well so go for it!

Mom's Meat Sauce
  • 1 - 1.25 lbs ground round or turkey
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil 
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 - 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 - 14oz cans tomato sauce
  • 3 TB tomato paste
  • 3/4 c water
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. In large stock pot, cook meat, onion, celery, and carrot in oil and butter over medium-high heat until meat is browned, breaking up the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Add garlic, basil, oregano, allspice, nutmeg, parsley, and sugar.  Mix all ingredients well and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until garlic is fragrant.
2. Add crushed tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and wine. Bring to a boil, add bay leaf, then reduce heat and simmer about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Stir occasionally and add a little additional water or tomato juice if necessary if you'd like a thinner consistency. About a half hour before serving, add mushrooms and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper. 
4. Serve or cool completely and freeze in portions.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweetness with a Dash of Cute

Around Easter, I decided to try my hand at creating some cake pops. If you haven't heard of this exciting new term, you must look into the subject because they seem to be trending everywhere these days.  The wonderful thing about cake pops is that they can be super easy to make or very tedious with so much detail that your entire day can be consumed by these tasty little treats.  I went with the middle ground for my first batch.  

Since it was Easter, I wanted something festive but not too difficult.  I settled on two different shapes and designs to showcase my artistic ability and not go too crazy on budget.  The result was a few hours dedicated to colorful displays of yummy goodness in lollipop form. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Little Lemon Rice for the Soul

I got my love of food from my dad. When I was a little kid, he would create the most wonderful recipes and expose the family to such strange and interesting foods. It was an exquisite adventure every time a new dish was created.  We ate foods that most kids wouldn't even bother trying but somehow, he got us wanting more. We had things such as frog legs and artichokes.  How many 7-year-olds do you know eat artichokes? With oyster stew!  Granted, artichokes aren't as unheard of now as they were then, but I still dare you to ask some first graders what they had for dinner last night. And little did I know that this early culinary cuisine would pave the way for my ability to create in the kitchen. 

I think it all started when I would get sick and stay home from school.  Everyone wants comfort food when they're under the weather and I would try to recreate the chicken soup that my grandma made for us so many times before. I'm still working on that one after all these years but I think I get a little bit closer each time.  

Until I get that so-soothing chicken soup just right, I've been working on my own recipe for Chicken Lemon Rice soup. I was struck by the idea one day while my little guy was sick. He's a big fan of soup and he really liked one from a local restaurant so I decided to whip up my own version. I, and mostly my 2-year-old son, really like how it turned out.  So, if you're feeling a little sick and can't quite grasp that recipe for 'chicken soup that grandma used to make', I'd suggest giving this one a try.  It might not be as good for you as grandma's was, but it will sure make you happy while you're eating it.

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3 chicken breast
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 6 TB flour
  • 7 TB butter, divided
  • 1/3 c lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked white rice

1. In large pot, cook chicken in 1 TB butter until no longer pink and browned slightly.  Remove from pan. 
2. Add 6 TB butter and melt.  Stir in 6 TB flour and cook over med heat for about 5 minutes or until golden in color.  Slowly add 8 cups chicken broth and bring to boil. Meanwhile, shred chicken into small pieces.  Once broth has boiled, add chicken back to pot.
3. Beat 5 egg yolks with 1/3 c lemon juice in separate bowl.  Temper egg mixture with a little broth so the eggs don’t curdle.  Slowly add egg mixture to pot, mixing continuously. 
4. Add rice and continue to cook over med-low heat until heated through.  

I hope you enjoy this feel good food. It's simple ingredients for a simple meal. I'd suggest serving it with a crusty piece of bread to make a hearty and filling dinner for yourself and the little ones.