Our Favorite Lemon Salad Dressing

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I’ve been on a kick of making my own salad dressings.  After looking at the ingredients on bottles from the store, I realized it’s so easy to make something from ingredients we can all pronounce!  This is a favorite of my girls;  we put it on all kinds of salads, but they especially like one that includes quinoa. Give this a try and let me know what you think!

 

4 Tbls fresh squeezed lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp salt

1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, depending on your prefrence

1 1/2 Tbls sugar

1/3 cup light-tasting oil (I use Extra light olive oil or avocado)

Blend all ingredients well and chill.  Store in an airtight jar.

*When I do use this with quinoa, I pour a little onto the quinoa while it’s still warm so I can absorb the flavors.

 

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Vegetarian Lasagna

One of my girls has become a vegetarian so I’m trying to cook more meatless meals to entice her over for dinner!  Even my husband didn’t miss the meat in this dish, it’s so filling and just plain good!

lasagna

 

1 (16 oz) pkg lasagna noodles, cooked al dente according to instructions and rinsed with cold water, drained and set aside

2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

16 oz fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 large zucchini, sliced

1 each red and green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 to 1 whole brown onion, chopped (to own taste)

3 cloves garlic, minces

1 (24 oz) jar pasta or marinara sauce

1 (15 oz) container part skim ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Add olive oil to a large sauce pan or dutch oven.  Over medium-high heat, cook onions until translucent.  Add mushrooms, zucchini, green peppers, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and dried basil and allow to cook a few minutes more.  Heat the pasta sauce in a small sauce pan.

In another bowl, mix together ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and the eggs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×9 (or 10×10 if you have it) baking dish.  Spread  1 cup of the pasta sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish.  Layer lasagna noodles, ricotta mix and vegetables (in that order).  Repeat layering but end with sauce and top with the remaining shredded mozzarella cheese.  **Be sure to drain the veggies of any water before you add them.  Also, you most likely will not use all of the lasagna noodles.

Bake, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread and a nice red wine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranate Citrus Sangria

sangria

 

1 bottle red wine (I used a blend)

½ cup Gran Marnier liqueur

2 cups pomegranate juice

¼ cup simple syrup

2 medium oranges, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 lime, thinly slice

 

Pour the wine, liqueur, juice, and syrup into a large pitcher.  Add the sliced fruit and put into the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.  Serve over ice.                                   

  ** To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a small pot and simmer until slightly reduced.  Cool before using.

 

 

 

 

Pina Colada Cake

This cake is one of my favorite desserts.  Pouring a syrup onto the cake while it’s still hot ensures that it’s super moist and oh-so-good.

Pina Colada Cake

Cake

1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, cut in half

1 box yellow cake mix

½ cup cream of coconut

½ cup sour cream

4eggs

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup water

 

Syrup

1/4 cup sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup light rum

Glaze

3 oz pkg cream cheese, softened

¼ cup cream of coconut

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Cake:  Spoon drained pineapple evenly into the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan. Lay the cherries evenly spaced on top of the pineapple.  In large mixer bowl, combine remaining cake ingredients.  Blend on low speed until mixed, then beat on medium for 3 minutes.  Pour into pan and bake approximately 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

 

Syrup:  While cake is baking, combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and boil for 2 minutes.  Stir in the rum and boil one minute longer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Remove cake from oven when done and, using a fork, immediately prick deep holes into the cake at 1 inch intervals.  Slowly pour on rum syrup.  Let cool on wire rack for 30 mins.

Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

 

Glaze:  In a small bowl, gradually beat cream of coconut into softened cream cheese until smooth.  Spoon over cooled cake.

 

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake.  It may be my all time favorite dessert, and I LOVE dessert.  I made many a cake until I was happy with this recipe.  It’s consistently moist and ultra chocolately (is that a word??).  Anyway, it’s a great cake and the reason rarely make cake from a box anymore.  It’s really not difficult at all, perhaps a little more time consuming but well worth it.  Try it and see if you don’t agree.

 The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

1 cup butter, plus extra to grease the pan

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan with butter.  Combine butter, cocoa, and 1 cup water in small saucepan and stirring over medium heat, turn it off as soon as it comes to a boil. Make sure all the cocoa is dissolved.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.  Combine the flour, sugar, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer).

Pour the cocoa mixture into the flour mixture, along with the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan and bake until firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 30-40 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan onto the rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting. 

 

THE Chili

chili

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound breakfast sausage (in a large roll)

2 pounds bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 onion, diced

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup tequila

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 Tablespoon cumin

1 Tablespoon seasoned salt

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup tomato paste

1 28 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups water

In a large dutch oven or pot, brown bacon until almost crisp and remove.  Saute the onion in the grease until soft, then remove from pot. Drain all but a few tablespoons of the fat and brown the ground beef and sausage in the remaining bacon grease, breaking up as it cooks.  Sprinkle the brown sugar in and cook the meat over medium high until it’s very brown, almost caramelized; then add tequila and cook for 3-4 minutes, allowing alcohol to cook out.  Add onions and garlic back to pot along with the remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover.  Simmer for at least an hour if not two.  This is one dish that will taste even better the next day.

Top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, corn chips, chopped green onions, sliced jalapenos, or whatever else sounds good to you!

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Chicken Fajitas

 

 

chicken fajitas

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin

1 each green and red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin

1 brown onion,  sliced thin

1 tbls chili powder

1 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

canola or vegetable oil

Juice of one lemon

Corn tortillas

 

Put the chicken slices in a ziploc bag and pour a small amount of oil into the bag.  Add the lemon juice and spices, including the salt and pepper.  Close bag and mix together. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Heat a large skillet and pour a small amount of oil into it, then add peppers and onions.  Stir frequently until the onions are slightly golden on the edges.  Remove vegetables from skillet to a plate.  Place the chicken into the hot skillet, trying not to get too much of the marinade as you don’t want it to “steam” the chicken.  As the chicken cooks, if there is too much liquid in the bottom of the skillet, drain some out with a large spoon.  Cook the chicken on high heat so that it cooks quickly;  it should take about 10 minutes.  Return the vegetables back to the skillet along with the chicken to reheat.  Keep warm.

 

In a much smaller skillet, and working two tortillas at a time with tongs, pour the tiniest amount of oil into the heated skillet.  Place one tortilla down, quickly turn it so the other side gets oil on it then put the other tortilla on the bottom of the skillet so that THAT tortilla soaks up oil (placing the first tortilla on top of the second one). The idea is to just barely heat the tortillas, softening them using as little oil as possible.  When the first two tortillas are pliable, remove them to a paper towel on a plate and repeat with 6 more tortillas.  Make tacos out of the chicken mixture and top with sour cream, cheese and pico de gallo.

 

 

 

 

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

There are so many chicken noodle soup recipes out there but I’ve pretty much perfected the art of making one that’s quick yet still “homemade” tasting. I use cheesecloth to strain the soup as it catches all the little bits that you don’t really want in your broth. You can find it in the baking section of your grocery store.

chick-noodle-soup-pic

1 rotisserie chicken (from grocery store)

1 onion, peeled and halved

4 stalks celery, including leaves

3 carrots, cut in half

8 cups chicken broth

2 cups frozen peas and carrots

1-2 cups frozen pearl onions

1 package frozen Grandma’s Homestyle Noodles, thaw as directed

salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken broth in a large stock pot and add the whole chicken, onion, celery, and carrots.  Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for at least an hour, or up to two hours.  Using a large piece of cheesecloth laid over a colander, strain the soup into another large stock pot. Discard vegetables.  Let the chicken cool while you add the peas and carrots, pearl onions and thawed noodles to the pot.  Cook until noodles are done.  Pick the chicken off the bone and add the meat to the soup.  Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

 

 

 

Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart

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1 frozen puff pastry, thawed

5 oz fontina cheese, shredded

1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus

olive oil to drizzle

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16×10 inch rectangle.  Trim uneven edges and place onto a baking sheet (I used parchment paper).  Take a knife and lightly score the dough 1 inch from the edges to mark a rectangle, then pierce the dough with a fork inside the markings at 1/2 intervals.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Do not worry if it is “puffed” up.

Remove the pastry from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus to fit crosswise inside the tart shell and lay them in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until asparagus is tender, about 20 minutes.  This tart would work well with a variety of other vegetables, including mushrooms or bell peppers.  Experiment with your favorite!

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken-cacciatore6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup flour, seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, for dredging

4 tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 brown onions, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

4 tbls butter

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup red wine

1/2 cup  fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tsps fresh thyme, chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour.  Heat the olive oil in a deep dutch oven or heavy stock pot over med-high heat and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time.  Transfer the browned pieces to a plate while you finish the others.  Do not cook the chicken through.

Once the chicken is all browned and on a plate to hold, add the butter to the pot, then add the  onions and peppers and cook over med-high until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits from the bottom.  Cook a few minutes to reduce the wine.  Stir in the tomatoes and add half a can of water. Stir the herbs and  in.  Return the chicken to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and simmer uncovered until they are tender and chicken is cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

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