Sunday, January 30, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

My first year living away from home in college, mom gave me a bunch of old cookbooks of hers so that I could try my hand at cooking. This one I tried three years ago and it's been a favorite ever since that I continue to make regularly. It came from a book with all slow-cooker recipes, so it's super easy....but it's also super delicious! Here's the recipe:

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Makes 4-6 Servings


3 lbs chicken, cut up, skin removed (I usually just buy frozen chicken and put in as many pieces as I want..)
I'm not even gonna put the onions on here because I don't with mine :)
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cilantro sprigs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1 can (15 ounces) chick-peas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
cooked couscous or rice.


Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine broth, tomatoes, apricots, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cayenne and cilantro sprigs in medium bowl; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken from slow cooker; place on serving dish and cover to keep warm.

Combine cornstarch and water in a cup and stir until smooth. Stir into slow cooker. Stir in chick-peas. Cover and cook on High 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Pour sauce over chicken . Sprinkle with cilantro and almonds. serve with couscous or rice.

Tip: To toast almonds, heat small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds and stir or toss constantly about 2 minutes until browned on both sides. Remove from pan at once.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tortilla Soup

When soup weather comes around, you have to make tortilla soup at least once. If it turns to spring and you haven't made a tortilla soup to keep you warm during the winter, you've blown it.

Because of the tortillas stirred into the soup, it makes for a stand alone meal. I really don't think there's any need for side dishes with soup like this. Yum!

The first tortilla soup is an old favorite. It is so good. Don't skimp on the toppings either. The toppings make this soup so flavorful and hearty. The second tortilla soup is one I tried for the first time just last week. I actually made it because I was missing a few ingredients for the first tortilla soup recipe. The second tortilla soup recipe is a great pantry recipe because nearly all of the ingredients are canned or frozen--so you can have them on hand at any time.

It is such a simple recipe that I worried that it might not be flavorful enough. I toyed with the idea of adding additional ingredients, but I decided that I would make the soup as is first and then see if anything else was needed. It was so good as written! I mean, if you wanted to add protein, you could easily add chopped chicken or ground beef, but I don't think it's necessary. I really liked the fact that it was such a light and easy soup.

Also, on the website, it said that it would only take 15 minutes to make. I'm often wary of estimated prep and cooking times because it tends to take me a lot longer to make a recipe than the recipe tells me it will. But I swear, this soup only takes 15 minutes to make. It was sooooo easy! So, if you're short on time, don't have a dinner plan...but do have a well-stocked pantry, this soup is for you.

Chicken Tortilla Soup


2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. fresh, chopped garlic
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
2 cans chicken broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 pkg. frozen corn
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped


Saute chicken breasts in butter until done. Add onion and garlic and saute a bit longer. Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, taco seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour. Add cilantro and corn and cook a bit longer (just until corn is warmed). Serve with toppings of choice.

Suggested toppings:

Shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips or baked corn tortilla strips (see notes below)
Sour cream
Additional cilantro
Cubed avocado

Source: I got this from my Mom, but I have no idea where she got it from.

Notes: I usually double this because it makes great leftovers. Tortilla chips are nice because they taste great and they are very easy. However, I think with this particular tortilla soup, I like the taste of baked corn tortilla strips. To do this, use kitchen shears to cut corn tortillas into strips (if you don't have kitchen shears, use a knife to cut the tortillas into strips--but you really should have kitchen shears. They make things so much easier in the kitchen!). Then, place tortilla strips on a foil lined baking sheet and spray strips with cooking spray. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-20 minutes (or until the tortilla strips have reached your desired degree of crispiness). For me, personally, the crispier, the better. Also, I like to use kitchen shears to roughly chop the stewed tomatoes (I usually chop them with the shears right in the can before pouring them into the soup). I chop the tomato slices into quarters. Otherwise, you get some really large tomato pieces in your soup. But if you like your soup really chunky, keep the tomatoes whole.

Above: 2013 update: we had this with our pie night after Thanksgiving. This soup is sooooo good!

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans

Serves 4


1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup crushed tortilla chips, plus more for serving (optional)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving


In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic and chili powder until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper.

Bring soup to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Add tortilla chips; cook until softened; about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and, if desired, more chips.

Source: Martha Stewart website. Everyday Food recipe.

Notes: I only made two changes. After testing the broth, I decided to add more lime juice. The lime juice is really the standout ingredient that kicks up the flavor of this soup, in my opinion. Also, I only added tortilla chips as a topping. I didn't add it to the soup and allow it to soften. As I've mentioned before, I cook for my in-laws. They all eat at really random times. I knew that if I added tortilla chips to the broth that they would be too soggy by the time my in-laws got around to eating it. Besides, when you add the tortilla chips as a topping, it doesn't take long for the tortilla chips to soak up the broth.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I've already mentioned that I like salads with a lot of stuff in them. Lately, the grocery store has had some very nice berries in stock. It's not quite berry season yet, but when berries look that yummy, it's hard to resist.

We had a family dinner a couple of weeks ago and my Mom stopped at Harmon's to grab a pre-made salad. It was to die for. It was a very basic salad that we were able to easily recreate because of the ingredients. It has spinach, nuts, and four kinds of berries. Yum!

Last summer, my Mom tried a mixed berry fruit salad that I am sharing as well--it is absolutely scrumptious too.

Berries can be kind of pricey, but when they're this good, sometimes they're worth the splurge!

Spinach, Walnut, and Mixed Berry Salad


Fresh baby spinach
Walnuts, chopped (you can toast them, if you like)
Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Poppy seed or raspberry vinaigrette dressing (store-bought or homemade)


Place spinach in a large bowl and top with walnuts and berries. Lightly toss the salad. Top with poppy seed dressing after serving rather than tossing the entire salad in the dressing (this will keep the salad fresh longer and help it to avoid wilting too soon).

Source: Harmon's grocery store. We simply copied a store-bought salad!

Notes: I didn't offer any amounts for the salad ingredients because it really depends on how big you want to make the salad. Put as many or as few berries and nuts in your salad as you like! You could also use any dressing that you like. But I think a sweeter dressing compliments the berries better. In fact, the salad is so good on its own that you might just want to eat it dressing-free. My sister-in-law loves it that way. The poppy seed dressing that we used was Litehouse brand. It can be found in the refrigerated area of the produce section. But raspberry vinaigrette compliments the salad well too (there is a low fat raspberry vinaigrette offered by Girard's that is to die for). The Litehouse dressing isn't low-fat (which is probably one of the reasons why it was soooooo good), but there are nice low-fat poppy seed dressings available under other brands (for instance, Maple Grove Farms offers a yummy, yet somewhat tart, poppy seed dressing).


Update 8/17/2016: This salad has been a favorite of ours over the years. After my son became allergic to walnuts, we substituted almonds in this salad and it has been just as delicious.

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint


2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered, if large)
1 cup raspberries (4 ounces)
1 cup blackberries (4 ounces)
1 cup blueberries (5 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn


In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and liqueur or orange juice. Gently fold in strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and mint. Serve immediately (or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours).

Source: Martha Stewart website. From the Everyday Food magazine, July/August 2008 issue.

Notes: We used orange juice in place of the liqueur and it was fantastic.

Cookies and Cream.... a la France!

While I was in France I happened upon a bookstore with many fabulous cookbooks. I was really excited when I found one on the many types of Creme Brulee. I've been a creme brulee connoisseur for some time, as I've dabbled in the art of making creme brulee in recipes other than vanilla (ie: coconut, chocolate, almond, white chocolate macadamia nut, cookie dough and cake name a few :) ). So this purchase was a no-brainer....even if the recipe was written in French. No worries, with the help of my trusty sidekick Amelia we have translated the recipe for you. Actually she also wrote a blog post here that is probably already better than the post I'm currently writing. Anyway, this particular creme brulee is much like the usual french dessert, except it contains a yummy Belgian cookie called speculoos inside! I knew when I bought the cookbook I'd want to make that recipe so I bought the speculoos cookies back when I was in France...however their U.S. equivalent is the biscoff cookie which can be found in Walgreens it can live on even after the speculoos have disappeared (which may be soon after I looked up another recipe that uses them too...yummy.)

And now....for the translated recipe.....

Pots de creme a la vanille et speculos 

(Makes 4-6 servings)

1 1/2 Cups Whipping Cream
1/2 Cup Milk
Just under 1/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
Vanilla (just under a tablespoon)
4-6 speculos cookies


Put milk and vanilla in a saucepan on low heat.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Add the whipping cream and mix well. Little by little, add the hot milk/vanilla mixture to the cold mixture in the bowl. Put in the fridge for at least two hours.

Set the oven for 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the contents of the bowl in your ramekins. Place the speculos cookies on the top of the mixture in each ramekin.

It was so delicious. One of my favorite creme brulees I've ever made...and it looked just like the picture in the book so I was very proud!! Also I would like to note that I am aware that my blog seems to plagiarize Amelia's a lot...and I am okay with that.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top of the Muffin to you!

You know, I really love muffins. Some people even call me love muffin. Well just my husband. Okay just kidding, he hasn't ever called me that. But the point is, muffins are very tasty! I have been making muffins fairly regularly while I have been pregnant. Bran Muffins, to up my fiber intake and sweet muffins to just hit that sweet tooth without pigging out on cake or donuts or something that is probably less healthy for you. Not that these muffins are necessarily healthy, but they do fill you up and that's better then a candy bar I say!

The fist muffin, pictured above is the tried and true Bran Muffin. Oh bran muffin, what would I do with out you?

I actually got this recipe off of the Bob's Red Mill Wheat Bran package.

1 cup Bob's Wheat Bran
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins ( I omitted the raisins. Not a fan!)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
1/2 cup molasses or honey (I used honey)
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup chopped nuts
2 T oil
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 400. Combine bran, flour, baking powder and soda. Stir in nuts and raisins. In a separate bowl, blend applesauce, milk, molasses or honey, oil and egg. Add to dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pan and bake 15-20 min.

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

I'm not exaggerating, these are the most delicious muffins I have ever tasted. I love them so much. I think that this might be one of my favorite recipes period. I just love the lemon/almond flavor and the ricotta makes a nice moist texture. You've got to try these. I got the recipe from Giada De Laurentis, from the Everyday Itailian show on the food network. I have to say, pretty much all of the recipes of hers that I have tried have been super yummy and easy. I need to buy her cookbook!

Nonna's Lemon Ricotta Biscuits


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar or more as needed for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds


Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended (the batter will be thick and fluffy).
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds and then the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar over the muffins. Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And last but not least, The Banana Crumb Muffin. These muffins are a great way to use up over ripe banana's. They are very yummy and the brown sugar topping makes it feel like eating dessert. I like to add a few tablespoons of Wheat Germ to boost the fiber. It doesn't change the texture or flavor much. I got this recipe from

Banana Crumb Muffin


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter


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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Breasts

Usually when I make slow cooker chicken, it ends up shredded. But I found a new recipe and I am sharing an old recipe that don't get shredded up. You have to remove it carefully from the slow cooker to keep the chicken from breaking apart, but it makes for some yummy, tender, moist chicken. Not to mention that it also makes for a very easy main dish! Throw together some easy sides and voila! Dinner is ready in a jiffy.

Chicken Athena


6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 medium onions, chopped (see notes below)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped
1/3 cup pitted Greek olives, chopped (Kalamata olives)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt


Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with the remaining ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 1 chicken breast equals 237 Calories, 6 g fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 467 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 36 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home recipe submitted by Radelle Knappenberger of Oviedo, Florida.

Notes: I used red onions and I thickly sliced them rather than chopping them. I placed the onions in the slow cooker first, put the chicken on top of the onions, and then placed the remaining ingredients on top of the chicken. I also served the chicken with a little feta cheese sprinkled on top. They were so flavorful and so easy! I served it with a side of couscous and the Basic Greek Salad that I already posted on our blog. You can find the recipe here. The only change to that salad recipe is that I forgot the banana peppers.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu


6 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to flatten slightly
6 thin slices ham
6 thin slices Swiss cheese
1/4-1/2 cup flour, for coating
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (or use more chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1/ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cool water
salt and pepper, to taste


Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on each flattened chicken breast and roll up. Secure with toothpicks and roll each in flour to coat. Place mushrooms in the slow cooker, then the chicken breasts. Whisk together the broth, wine (if using), and rosemary; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.

Just before serving, remove the chicken to a warm plate and add cornstarch mixture to the juices in the slow cooker; turn slow cooker on high and stir until thickened. Salt and pepper, then taste and adjust seasonings. Pour sauce over chicken rolls and serve.

Serves 6.

Source: I got this recipe from my Mom, but I'm not sure where she got it from!

Notes: I served this with a bagged salad kit, a frozen vegetable kit, and a box of Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes. Super easy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Taste of the Caribbean

As I mentioned before, we celebrated my son's birthday at my Mom's house on Sunday. Also as mentioned before, I made a pirate cake. We thought it might be fun to do a Pirate's of the Caribbean theme for the night and do Caribbean food for dinner. Sure, my son only turned two. He, of course, didn't know any better. He would have been cool if we had hot dogs for dinner. But, we thought it would be fun for everyone else.

It was a really fun dinner--especially for this time of year. It was so refreshing to have something so different from all of the rich holiday meals everyone had been eating for the past few months.

If you associate pork with being tough and dry, you're not eating pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is so moist and tender. The pineapple relish that went with it was fantastic too. The side dishes were fun and easy too. Also, it was so nice to have tropical fruit and fruit dip on the side. Yum!

Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Pineapple Chutney

For more heat and spice flavor, use up to one tablespoon Easy Jerk Seasoning (recipe below). The chutney is also delicious over chicken and fish. You can sprinkle the seasoning over meat, chicken, or seafood, and grill, bake, or broil. It is even tasty over popcorn. Store in a jar or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces pork and about 1/2 cup chutney)



1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (1 1/4 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 teaspoons Easy Jerk Seasoning (recipe below)


1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups finely chopped fresh pineapple (about 1/2 cored pineapple)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare pork, heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Rub pork with 2 teaspoons Easy Jerk Seasoning. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Place pan in oven; bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

To prepare chutney, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add pineapple and remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve over the pork.

Nutrition information: Calories 276, Fat 9.8 g, Iron 1.9 mg, Cholesterol 97 mg, Calcium 25 mg, Carbohydrate 14.8 g, Sodium 377 mg, Protein 31.5 g, Fiber 1.6 g.

Source: Cooking Light, January 2006

Notes: We probably cooked the pork for an extra 5-10 minutes because my family doesn't tend to like really pink pork tenderloin. Don't worry though, it will still be juice and tender--even if it is a little more well done.

Easy Jerk Seasoning

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: about 1/2 teaspoon)


1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons apple-pie spice
1 teaspoon ground red pepper


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Nutrition information: Calories 5, Fat 0.1 g, Iron 0.3 mg, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Calcium 6 mg, Carbohydrate 1.1 g, Sodium 71 mg, Protein 0.2 g, Fiber 0.4 g.

Source: Cooking Light, January 2006

Gallo Pinto (Beans and Rice)

This classic dish is breakfast fare in Costa Rica, but in the States, it's definitely for the main course.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup)


2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup uncooked long-grain parboiled rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
Tangy Tamarind Sauce (recipe below)
Bottled Pickapeppa sauce


Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Discard the bay leaves. Set rice aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (onion through garlic); saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add rice, cilantro, and beans, and cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Serve with Tangy Tamarind Sauce or Pickapeppa sauce.

Nutrition information: Calories 136, Fat 2.9 g, Iron 2.1 mg, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Calcium 38 mg, Carbohydrate 23.7 g, Sodium 310 mg, Protein 5.2 g, Fiber 3.1 g

Source: Cooking Light, April 1995

Tangy Tamarind Sauce

Yield: 1 cup (serving size: 1 tablespoon)


1/2 cup Tamarind Puree (recipe below)
6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded
1 garlic clove


Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.

Nutrition information: Calories 5, Fat 0.0 g, Iron 0.1 mg, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Calcium 3 mg, Carbohydrate 1.1 g, Sodium 74 mg, Protein 0.1 g, Fiber 0.1 g

Source: Cooking Light, April 1995

Tamarind Puree

Yield: 1 1/2 cups


1 (8 ounce) package wet tamarind pulp (see notes below)
2 cups hot water


Combine tamarind and hot water. Let stand 1 hour; then using your fingers or a fork, break tamarind into small pieces while it is still in the water. Let tamarind soak an additional 3 hours.

Press tamarind mixture through a sieve, reserving liquid; discard seeds and fibers.

Source: Cooking Light, April 1995

Notes: Tamarind and tamarind paste isn't very easy to find. You would probably have to go to a specialty store to find it. My mom asked someone at Harmon's and the person there said that usually, the closest you can find is dried apricots. Harmon's sure is a great store for stuff like that. The employees are really knowledgeable and helpful. The dried apricots made a great substitute. So, basically, you would soak the dried apricots in water and then mash them with a fork or throw the mixture (with the water) in a blender to puree it.

Cuban-Style Black Beans

Though it's tempting to rush a dish like this, the flavor improves with a slower cooking time. Packed with half of a day's fiber supply per serving, these luscious beans taste even better after a day in the refrigerator.


1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (15 ounces each) no-salt-added black beans, drained
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 avocado, sliced


Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until the onion softens.

Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute longer or until fragrant.

Add the beans and orange juice and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.

With the back of a large silicone or wooden spoon, smash some of the beans into the sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Serve with the avocado on top.

Source:, copyright 2007 Rodale

Caribbean Fruits with Key Lime Dip

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 fruit skewers and about 1/3 cup dip)


1 (8 ounce) carton key lime pie fat-free yogurt (such as Breyers or Yoplait)
1 1/2 cups fat-free cream cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup mango cubes (about 1 medium mango)
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks or canned pineapple chunks in juice, drained
2 cups whole fresh strawberries
2 kiwifruit, peeled and cut into wedges
12 (6 inch) wooden skewers


Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth.

Thread fruit alternately onto each wooden skewer. Serve skewers with dip.

Nutrition information: Calories 151, Fat 1.3 g, Cholesterol 6 mg, Calcium 158 mg, Carbohydrate 25.9 g, Sodium 329 mg, Protein 10. g, Fiber 2.9 g, Iron 0.6 mg

Source: Oxmoor House, January 2001

Notes: We skipped the skewers and simply used our forks to dip the fruit into the dip.

Laurie here: Might I add an entry to the Caribbean theme dinner? My hubby LOVES this dish. In fact he says it is one of his favorite things that I have ever made! I made it for him a long time ago and then lost the recipe! So I did a google search and found it. Good old google! Not sure if its exactly the same, but the concept is the same. It is pretty tasty. This picture isn't the greatest, because I snapped it right before hubby took a bite! It would be even better served with the tasty sides listed above and a nice tropical salad, but I am poor and we just had it with couscous and a regular salad.

Peanut Crusted Fish with Fried Bananas

  • 2 unripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • two 6- to-8 ounce skinless flounder or orange roughy fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice plus lime wedges as an accompaniment
Peel the bananas and cut them lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a large ovenproof skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides, in the fat sauté the banana slices for 1 minute on each side, or until they are golden, and transfer them with a spatula to a plate. Pat the fish dry and sprinkle it with the cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Have ready in separate shallow dishes the egg beaten with the salt and the peanuts. Dip each fillet in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off, and dredge it in the peanuts. To the skillet add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, heat it over moderately high heat until the foam subsides, and in it sauté the fillets for 3 minutes. Turn the fillets, top them with the banana slices, and sauté them for 2 minutes more. Drizzle the fish with the lime juice, transfer the skillet to the middle of a preheated 450°F. oven, and bake the fish for 5 minutes. Transfer the fillets with a spatula to 2 heated plates and serve them with the lime wedges.

NOTES: I used tilapia this time instead of orange roughy because of cost and it was still delicious. The first time I used orange roughy and it was even better.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Many Faces of Pot Roast

There are a lot of variations on slow cooker pot roast out there. I've tried quite a few...and do you know what? I've liked most of them! I mean, what's not to love about a meal that you throw into the slow cooker in the morning and then by dinner time, you have a savory and filling meal that is main dish and side dish in one?

I made a pot roast tonight because it is my son's second birthday. He can be kind of a fussy eater sometimes. But he loves tender potatoes and carrots and the last time we had a pot roast, he gobbled it up without having to be coerced. That always makes me happy! He ate the roast, potatoes, and carrots tonight quite happily!

So, I thought I would share a number of great pot roast recipes with you. I would love to hear any other pot roast recipes that you might have discovered as well.

From my experience, the best way to get a tender roast and vegetables is as follows: make sure the roast is completely thawed prior to putting it in the slow cooker, make sure there is plenty of liquid to keep the roast moist and tender, and finally, don't cook it for too short a period of time. The roast might technically be done (in that it is fully cooked) after only six hours, but it might need that extra two hours or so to become fork tender.

I am only including one picture for pot roast, because honestly, doesn't all pot roast end up looking more or less the same? I mean, you've got your roast and you've got your veggies. The sauce/gravy varies slightly for each recipe, but I think with one picture you get the idea! The exception is when you opt to skip the vegetables and serve the roast with mashed potatoes and gravy. But I think we all know what that looks like!

Tonight (pictured above), I made a very easy pot roast recipe that called for A1 steak sauce. Honestly, that is what drew me to the recipe initially. I like A1 and I was curious to see how it would work in a pot roast recipe. The answer? Quite well. It adds a definite tang or kick to it. Anyway, we all liked it and I hope you will too! The other recipes are just as scrumptious! Don't forget to use the slow cooker liners to save time on your clean up!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast


1/2 cup A1 Original Steak Sauce
1/2 cup water
1 pkg. (0.9 oz) onion-mushroom soup mix
1 boneless beef chuck eye roast (2 1/2 lb)
1 lb. baby red potatoes
1 pkg. (1 lb.) baby carrots
1 onion, thickly sliced


Mix first 3 ingredients.

Place meat in slow cooker. Top with vegetables and sauce; cover.

Cook on low for 8-9 hours (or on high for 6-7 hours).

Source: Kraft Foods recipe (found on

Notes: I didn't mix the first 3 ingredients prior to adding them to the slow cooker. I placed the meat in the slow cooker and topped the meat with the soup mix, water, and A1. I also generously salted and peppered the meat and vegetables prior to cooking. I used a larger roast than the recipe called for and increased the A1 steak sauce to about 3/4 cups (because I had increased the meat, potatoes, and carrots).

Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast


1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast
1 (16 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


Place onion soup mix in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place roast in the slow cooker and top with cranberry sauce.

Cover, and cook for 8 hours on low.

Remove roast, and set aside. Set slow cooker to high. Whisk together melted butter and flour. Slow mix into the liquid remaining in the slow cooker to create a thick gravy. Slice or thickly shred roast while gravy is thickening. Serve gravy over the roast.

Source:, submitted by ATLANTAKIM

Notes: I sprinkled the soup mix over the roast and then topped that with the cranberry sauce. I also used a little more flour than called for in the recipe and I created my slurry with water rather than with butter.

Spade L Roast Beef


1 beef roast (2-4 lbs)
Spade L Ranch Beef Seasoning
1/2 cup of water

Serving suggestion: Serve with mashed potatoes. Use the roast drippings to make a gravy to pour over the roast and mashed potatoes.


Place meat in slow cooker. Rub Spade L Ranch Beef Seasoning onto the roast, according to your taste. The more you use, the spicier your roast and gravy will be. Cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Source: I don't know. This is a recipe that my Mom has been making for years.

Notes: If you would like to use the roast drippings to make gravy, simply use 1-3 packaged beef gravy mixes and substitute the water called for on the package with the beef drippings. If you don't have enough drippings, supplement with water to get the amount of liquid called for on the gravy packet. This makes some spicy and tasty gravy!

I usually find Spade L Ranch Seasonings easily in the grocery store (I usually shop at Smith's). But if you can't find it, check out their website here.

Pepsi Pot Roast


3-4 lb. pot roast
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
12 oz Pepsi (not diet)
2-4 chopped carrots (or use baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, chopped
Potatoes, cubed (I usually just eyeball the amount of potatoes when I am filling the slow cooker)
1 onion, thickly sliced


Place roast in slow cooker. Sprinkle dry onion soup mix over the roast and pour can of cream of mushroom soup and Pepsi on top. Add vegetables.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Source: Again, this is one of my Mom's recipes and I'm not sure where she got it from.

Notes: You can either slice or thickly shred the roast, depending on your preference.

Italian Pot Roast


1 tbsp olive oil
1 can whole tomatoes in puree (28 ounces)
1 1/4 pounds small white potatoes, scrubbed
1 large onion (cut into 8 wedges)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried and crumbled)
3 pounds beef chuck roast (trimmed and halved crosswise)
4 garlic cloves
coarse salt and ground pepper


With a sharp paring knife, cut 4 slits in beef roast; stuff slits with half the garlic. Generously season beef with 1 1/2 tsps salt and 1 tsp pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. cook beef until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.

In a 5 quart slow cooker, combine beef, onion, potatoes, tomatoes (with puree), rosemary, and remaining garlic. Cover; cook on high setting until meat is fork-tender, about 6 hours (do not uncover while cooking).

Transfer meat to a cutting board; thinly slice (or thickly shred, if you prefer), and discard any gristle. Skim fat from top of sauce. To serve, divide beef and vegetables among bowls; generously spoon sauce over the top.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe.

Notes: When I made this, I browned the meat as suggested in the recipe. It adds a
nice color and flavor, but in my opinion, this step is not terribly necessary. If you are pressed for time, insert the garlic into the beef, place the uncooked and unbrowned beef directly into the slow cooker, and then add the remaining ingredients. You can also cook this on low for 8-10 hours.

Awesome Slow Cooker Pot Roast


2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (1 ounce) pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 1/4 cups water
5 1/2 pounds pot roast
See notes for veggies that I added


In a slow cooker, mix cream of mushroom soup, dry onion soup mix, and water. Place pot roast in slow cooker and coat with the soup mixture.

Cook on high setting for 4-6 hours or on low setting for 8-10 hours.

Source:, submitted by Brenda Arnold.

Notes: I also added some baby carrots, cubed potatoes, and one thickly sliced onion. I added veggies according to my taste (basically, I filled the remainder of the slow cooker with potatoes and carrots!).

Lindy's Pot Roast


1 rump roast (or your favorite cut)
4-6 potatoes
1 onion
1 bag baby carrots
Beef broth (1 can, or about 2 cups)
2 small cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Seasoned salt, to taste
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion power, to taste
Celery seed, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste


Season roast liberally with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic salt, onion powder, celery seed, and Italian seasoning. 

Brown roast in a pan with olive oil.

Peel onion and cut into wedges. Put onion in bottom of slow cooker. Place browned roast on top of onions. Peel potatoes and chop into large chunks. Put potatoes into slow cooker. Add carrots. Stir tomato sauce and beef broth together and pour over the top. Cover and cook 8-10 hours on low heat.

Source: Lindy Kingdon.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Arrrrrr, Mateys! It be a Birthday Cake!

My son's birthday is this Wednesday. I decided to go for a pirate theme. I found this cake idea on the Betty Crocker website when I was searching for birthday cake ideas for my son last year. However, since he was only turning one year old last year, I didn't think he'd really appreciate the cake then. This year, on the other hand, he's all about the pirates and whenever you ask him what a pirate says, he will answer "Arrrrrrrrr!"

We celebrated his birthday at my mom's house tonight. I will be making another (much simpler) cake for our own small family celebration on Wednesday night). We also did a Caribbean themed dinner--which was fantastic--I'll be blogging those recipes very soon.

This cake doesn't really require a specific recipe...just a game plan and some creativity. I had so much fun making this cake. I was worried that it wouldn't work out, so I made some cupcakes too, but as you can see above, the cake turned out bee-yu-ti-fully. I'm really quite proud of it!

In addition to the Betty Crocker website, I did a Google search for "treasure chest birthday cakes" and found a plethora of ideas to draw from. Some people created cakes that were far too elaborate for my current skill level. There were adorable cakes and absolutely lifelike cakes too. Some people used frosting, and others used fondant. You could honestly go crazy with all of the options. And don't even get me started on pirate ship birthday cakes! If you do a search for those, you'll find a ton of cute cakes. But again, those ones surpassed my skill and energy least for now!

I'll start by sharing the original Betty Crocker recipe and then I'll tell you what changes I made.

Have fun!

1/19/2011 Update:

Here is a picture of the much simplified treasure chest cake that I made on my son's actual birthday when we celebrated with my husband's side of the family:

Above: This is simply a Betty Crocker strawberry cake mix, topped with Duncan Hines whipped white frosting, sprinkled with the generic store-brand vanilla wafers that I made into "sand" by pulsing it in a blender, and topped with a tin treasure chest, coins, and beads that I purchased at a party store (Zurchers). Still pretty cute and a whole lot less time-consuming! Everyone really liked the addition of the vanilla wafers. As my husband pointed out, it is the perfect topping for people who aren't in love with frosting. The cake was still frosted, of course, but the vanilla wafers added a nice texture, a subtle sweetness, and a way to tone down the frosting a little bit.

Treasure Chest Cake

To see the recipe and picture on the Betty Crocker website, click here.

Brimming with candy coins and jewelry, this rich cake is a clever addition to a pirate-themed party.

Makes 15 servings.


1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist chocolate fudge cake mix
Water, vegetable oil, and eggs called for on cake mix box
Tray, 24x20 inches
Yellow and orange paste food colors
1 container (1 lb) Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy creamy white frosting
Red pull-and-peel licorice
Gold foil-covered chocolate coins
Candy necklaces
Round hard candies
Gummy ring, halved


Heat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pan). Spray bottom only of 13x9 inch pan with baking spray with flour. Make and bake cake mix as directed on box for 13x9 inch pan, using water, oil, and eggs. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

From center of cake, cut one 3-inch crosswise strip. Cut the strip diagonally in half to make two 9-inch triangular wedges. (Discard 1 cake wedge or reserve for another use.)

On tray, place a 9x5 inch cake piece. Stir food colors into frosting to make a golden yellow.

Spread 1 tablespoon of frosting on 1 edge of triangular wedge of cake. Attach wedge, frosting side down, to 9x5 inch cake piece on tray, placing wedge along top edge of larger cake piece. Freeze all cake pieces 1 hour.

Spread 1 tablespoon of frosting on top edge of triangular wedge of cake. Attach remaining 9x5 inch cake piece to cake wedge to look like partially opened treasure chest. Spread remaining frosting over entire cake. Pull fork through frosting to look like wood grain.

Use pull-and-peel licorice to make handles and straps. Fill chest with chocolate coins, candy necklaces, and other hard candies. Add gummy ring half for clasp.

Tips: This treasure chest can be turned into a jewelry box for a princess party. Tint the frosting pink, and use colorful hard candies for gems and strings of candy for necklaces.

You can substitute a white cake mix for the chocolate.

Nutrition information: Calories: 350 (Calories from Fat 160), Total Fat: 18 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g, Trans Fat: 2 1/2 g), Cholesterol: 40 mg; Sodium: 360 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 5 g (Dietary Fiber: 0 g, Sugars: 33 g), Protein: 3 g.

Source: Betty Crocker website.

Notes: See my version of the recipe below.

Treasure Chest Cake--my version


Betty Crocker cake mix of your choice (I used Devil's Food Cake since that's what I had in my pantry already)
Water, oil, and eggs called for on box
2 large containers of frosting (I used Duncan Hines chocolate frosting because it was the frosting that was on sale!), or homemade frosting of choice
Chocolate gold coins
Ring Pops
Metallic beaded necklaces
1-2 rolls of Fruit by the Foot


Bake cake according to package directions. Remember to coat pan with Pam Baking Spray with Flour.

Once cake is finished baking, turn over onto a foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.

Cut a 2-3 inch section out of the middle of the cake. Slice this section diagonally to create two wedges.

Before frosting the cake, experiment with the way you want to place the pieces so that it lays just right to look like a propped open treasure chest.

Place one half of the cake onto your tray, serving platter, or foil-lined baking sheet. Frost this piece. Place the two wedges on top of the cake to help prop up the other half of the cake. Frost these pieces, being very careful not to break the cake apart. This takes a lot of frosting and a careful touch so that you don't turn the wedges into crumbs. This doesn't have to look pretty and it doesn't have to be completely frosted--just enough so that it will hold the top half of the cake in place.

When you are finished frosting the wedges, place the remaining half of the cake on top. Frost the entire cake. Smooth out the frosting and then run a fork over the frosting to look like wood grains.

Cut the Fruit by the Foot to fit your cake. Wrap it around the cake (as shown in the picture) to look like leather chest binding. You can use a fork to push the Fruit by the Foot under the cake and under the top lid of the chest.

Press golden candy coins, Rolos, necklaces, and Ring Pops into the frosting to appear like they are spilling out of the treasure chest. Sprinkle any remaining candy and necklaces around the treasure chest on the tray.

Notes: When I looked at other versions of the treasure chest cake online, I decided that I liked the look of chocolate frosting better because it looked like darker wood...and because I love chocolate frosting on chocolate cake. I also opted to use Fruit by the Foot instead of licorice because I thought it would be easier to handle.

Speaking of handles...I was going to use canned black frosting to create a handle on the treasure chest, and then I decided to skip it altogether. It looks great without a handle anyway! I saw Rolos on another treasure cake picture I found online and liked the look of it because it looked like gold nuggets. We were going to do candy necklaces, but I was having a hard time finding them. I was starting to have second thoughts about whether this cake was going to work or not (I had visions of it crumbling into pieces as I tried to cut it into pieces and reassemble it), so I started looking around for pirate party stuff at a local party store (Zurchers). They had a bag of plastic gold coins and metallic necklaces for $5, so I bought that to use instead of the candy necklaces. Zurchers also had a little treasure map for $3 and I bought that to place the cake on. I figured that my son would have a good time playing with it afterward anyway.

I originally planned to make homemade frosting...but let's face it, life is busy and I'm also pregnant. With a busy Saturday ahead of me combined with pregnancy exhaustion, I had a hunch that I might not want to make homemade frosting. Sure enough, after getting my son to bed later than usual (we've been transitioning him from his crib to a toddler bed), I broke out the canned frosting that I had bought on sale just in case.

I like the notes at the bottom of the Betty Crocker recipe. If I ever have a daughter, it would be fun to make a jewelry box cake. You could use a strawberry cake mix and strawberry canned frosting.

This really was so fun to make. I had a blast doing it...and when I finished...I just stared and stared. I was so proud of myself! Besides, don't we all have a fixation with pirate treasure?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Summer Soup

Well, I thought I'd continue my trend of posting seasonally inappropriate recipes!

Fall and winter are the perfect time for a hot bowl of soup. But what kind of soup can you enjoy in the summer when it is sweltering outside? Gazpacho, of course!

I don't mind winter...until about mid-January...and then I long for it to be over. This year hasn't been quite so bad because I have a sweet 2 year old son who is so much fun to play with in the snow. My son loves to eat the snow and you know what? I do too. That's one of the best things about snow. Not to mention the fact that my son loves snow ice cream too (and so do I!).

What? You've never tried snow ice cream? Okay, we'll take a quick detour...

Snow ice cream is so easy to long as you have the right supplies! You just have to have a nice, fresh, pollution-free snowfall! There's no specific recipe either, because it's all about the right consistency and flavoring the ice cream to your taste. But here's the gist of it:

Snow Ice Cream


Freshly fallen snow
Milk, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Flavoring of choice, to taste (vanilla extract, almond extract, other favorite extract flavoring, Italian Soda Syrup flavor of choice, etc.)


Mix snow, milk, sugar, and desired flavoring together until you reach your desired consistency and taste. Use less snow if you want more of a shake-like consistency. Use more snow if you want a thicker ice cream. It's as easy as that!

Source: My grandma used to make this for my Mom and her sisters when they were kids. Then, my mom made it for us when we were kids.

Notes: You know, snow ice cream is one of the best things about winter. It brings back so many childhood memories for me. It just tastes soooooo good. The basic way to make it is to use vanilla extract for a basic vanilla snow ice cream. But I've used Italian soda syrup and made hazelnut and white chocolate snow ice cream so far this winter and those were super tasty too. So, get creative and have fun. If you're craving snow ice cream during the summer, you can satisfy your craving if you own an ice shaver or ice shaving machine. You can also make a snow slushy/snow cone and skip the milk altogether. You can mix the snow with Italian soda syrup, snow cone syrup, or soda pop until you find a consistency you like. I tried this with some sugar-free raspberry Italian soda syrup and it was really yummy--and a lot lighter on the calories too! on to the real purpose of this blog post. Gazpacho. Now, who wants cold soup in the winter time? Yuck! No one! But who wants a cold, refreshing, spicy, savory soup with a bit of crunch in the summer time? Most everyone (except my husband. He does NOT like gazpacho at any time).

I made the first gazpacho in the spring and summer, but failed to post it because I was waiting to get another gazpacho recipe from my mom...only to find out that I had the recipe all along! D'oh! It's kind of like The Wizard of Oz. The scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion travel to Oz to ask the Wizard for a brain, a heart, and courage...but they really had those things all along! I mean, come on, the scarecrow is always coming up with the game plan and the tin man cries at the drop of a hat. But the cowardly lion...well, he was pretty much a coward to begin with. So, I guess the trip to Oz was all for his sake!

Anyway, I hope you like these two gazpacho recipes.



2 1/2 cups tomato or vegetable juice (such as V8)
1 cup peeled, seeded, finely chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Combine the juice, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, vinegar, oil, garlic, parsley, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper in a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve cold.

Serves 5.

Nutrition information: 117 calories, 2 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fats, 690 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber.

Source: South Beach Diet cookbook (this is an older version...I'll have to get the publication year later).

Notes: This is time-consuming because it requires a lot of chopping, but it is tasty! I usually double it.

Rico Mexican Market's Shrimp Gazpacho


32 oz. Clamato Juice
10 oz. cocktail shrimp
1/4 cup jicama, diced
1/4 cup avocado, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
2 Tbsp. green onion tops, sliced
1 Tbsp. yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Garnish: Hot sauce, lime juice, and salt to taste


Combine all ingredients. Chill and garnish as desired.

Source: This is one of my Mom's recipes. Judging from the title, I'm guessing it originally came from a place called Rico Mexican Market!

Notes: If you like a chunkier gazpacho, feel free to increase the amounts of chopped vegetables. Also, I accidentally bought tomato juice instead of clamato juice (they were right next to each other in the grocery store and I somehow reached for the wrong one. I didn't notice my mistake until I got home). It works just as well with the tomato juice as the clamato. So, if you hate clamato juice, just use tomato juice.

I Cuss, You Cuss, We All Cuss for Asparagus!

Does anyone remember Gary Larson? "The Far Side" was one of the best comic strips ever, in my opinion. Maybe it's just because I'm older, but the comics have definitely lost their luster.

There's a Far Side cartoon that is entitled "Failed Marketing Ploys" and it has a guy driving around in a truck similar to an ice cream truck, but it has a sign that says "I cuss, you cuss, we all cuss for asparagus." Now, I really like when I have it, there's no cussing involved. Though I don't cuss as a rule, anyway!

Again, I must apologize that I am posting a type of food that is out of season right now. Asparagus is best (not to mention less expensive and more widely available) in the spring. But my baby is due in six weeks and judging by how I was with my first baby, I don't think I'm going to have a ton of free time to blog. So, I wanted to post this while I had the time--despite the fact that it is out of season. Also, I must apologize that I don't currently have any pictures of either of these dishes.

I hope you like these two asparagus recipes. Also, if you have any other asparagus favorites, I would love to hear about them!

Roasted Asparagus


1 1/4 lb asparagus spears, rinsed and trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus with next 3 ingredients. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until tender, shaking pan often to roast asparagus evenly.

Yield servings.

Nutrition information: 61 calories, 5 g carbohydrates, 3.4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 2.5 g fiber, 2.5 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 147 mg sodium, 25 mg calcium, 0.5 mg iron.

Source: This is a Weight Watchers recipe, but I'm not sure where it came from specifically.

Notes: This couldn't be easier. When I was younger, I really only thought of steaming or boiling vegetables. But now I prefer baking/roasting vegetables. They are so much more flavorful and crisp that way! Yum!

Sesame Snow Pea and Asparagus Salad

Snow peas and sesame are a natural combination. Adding fresh asparagus makes for a very elegant and classy salad. Serve this alongside a main dish, or enjoy it as a light lunch.


1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cooked
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cooked
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 scallions, sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes


In a large serving bowl, toss the rice with the canola oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Stir in the snow peas, asparagus, and sesame seeds, and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the scallions and red-pepper flakes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 239 calories, 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 314 mg sodium.

Source: The South Beach Diet Cookbook, published 2004.

Notes: This is another recipe I found while preparing meals for my in-laws. I made it quite awhile ago, but according to my memory, I doubled the recipe and adjusted the seasonings slightly according to my taste (I added a little more soy sauce and crushed red-pepper flakes). This has a nutty, robust flavor that is very satisfying. I used low-sodium soy sauce as opposed to lite soy sauce too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Strictly on the Corny Side

My sister just returned from a study abroad trip in France. Apparently, they don't eat a whole lot of corn over there. But thankfully, we eat a lot of it here in America!

So, I decided to share some corn side dishes. They have Mexican and Italian influences. So, I guess we're not the only ones who appreciate this tasty vegetable!

I also realize that this particular entry should have been posted in the summer time because corn really isn't in season right now. So, sorry!

Mexican Corn Salad


1 (16 ounce) package frozen shoepeg white corn, thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno pepper (about 1 large)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced, or 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic


Combine all ingredients in a bowl; toss well. Cover and chill 8-24 hours. Stir well before serving.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size 1/2 cup)

Nutrition information: 112 calories, 3.1 g fat, 2.8 g protein, 19.1 g carbs, 2.8 g fiber, 0 mg chol, 0.2 mg iron, 199 mg sodium, 8 mg calc

Source: Cooking Light Salads cookbook.

Baked Polenta Fries

These delicious baked polenta fries can be made using tubes of prepared polenta found in the refrigerated section or Italian section of local supermarkets.


2 tubes (18 ounces each) plain prepared polenta
3 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, or dried oregano


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unwrap and cut each tube of polenta in half crosswise. Then cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges.

Drizzle olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper, and turn gently to coat with oil. Arrange wedges in a single layer.

Bake, turning once with a thin metal spatula, until golden and crisp, 45-50 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Transfer to a shallow dish, and toss with Italian seasoning before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart website and Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

Notes: I made a batch using regular polenta and another batch using polenta that had sun-dried tomatoes in it. I just thought "What the heck." Both versions of the polenta fries were fantastic. So fast and easy to make and super tasty.

Basil Corn on the Cob


4 Ears of corn (the fresher the better!)
Basil, 3 leaves per cob
Butter, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Remove husks and silk from each ear of corn. Place each ear of corn on a square of aluminum foil. Butter and salt and pepper each ear of corn to your taste. Place 3 basil leaves on each ear of corn. Wrap aluminum foil around corn.

Place foil wrapped corn on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender, turning ever 5 minutes.

This can also be cooked on the grill.

Source: This was originally a Weight Watcher's recipe that used 4 ears of corn, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 2 tsp reduced-calorie stick margarine, 1/4 tsp salt, and 24 large basil leaves. However, I don't think we've really followed the recipe that way since the first time we made it. However, if you would like to, it makes 4 servings at 2 WW points per serving.

In the picture above, I used white sweet corn on the cobb. I love white corn! But yellow corn is delicious in this recipe too.

My Guess as to my Father-in-Law's Mexican Rice and White Bean Salad


3-4 cups cooked white rice
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 pkgs. frozen white shoepeg corn, thawed
4 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
cilantro, about 1/2 cup chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
small can of tomato sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced


Saute garlic and onion until tender. Add tomatoes and saute until just soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato sauce until heated. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine rice, white beans, shoepeg corn, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Add cilantro and more salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Source: This one came from the mind of my father-in-law (who is a very talented cook). When I asked him about it, he said that he had just made up the recipe. I asked him if he could write it down for me. He looked at me like he thought I was just plain silly and said that he would...but in my heart, I knew that he wouldn't write the recipe down. :) So, I hoarded away some of the leftovers and tasted them while I did my best to write down the ingredients and the method of cooking I thought he had used. I think I got it as close as I'm going to get without getting the exact ingredients and method from him. But I don't think I ever will!