Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brown Rice, Tomato, & Basil Salad

This is my somewhat loose interpretation of an Ina Garten recipe.  I used tomatoes from my own garden and just used as many as were currently ripe, and I used less of a different type of vinegar.  Regardless, the salad was really good!  My husband loved it and ate most of it.  Definitely a repeat around here!

Brown Rice, Tomato, & Basil Salad

1 C brown rice, cooked and lightly salted and then partly cooled
tomatoes, chopped into large chunks, however many you want (I used 2 large ones)
about 1/2 C roughly chopped basil
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (you can use less or more, according to your tastes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients.  Serve slightly warm, room temperature, or cold. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ravioli Lasagna

I came up on this recipe at the blog Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids and made it that night, it just looked so good and easy!  You don't even have to cook the ravioli first.  Best of all, it turned out REALLY well.  My lasagna loving husband said he liked it better than regular lasagna, which is saying a lot.  I was worried it may end up a little watery from all the raw spinach, but the ravioli absorbs all the excess liquid very nicely and the entire thing is just divine.
 Ravioli Lasagna
1 lb ground beef
1 26 oz jar/can prepared spaghetti sauce (it doesn't have to be fancy, I used Hunt's Four Cheese)
about 20 oz uncooked, refrigerated cheese ravioli
3 C grated mozzarella
1/3 C grated parmesan
4 oz raw baby spinach
Grease 9 by 13 dish and preheat oven to 350. 
Cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium high, and then stir in spaghetti sauce. 
To assemble the lasagna, spread a small amount of the meat sauce in the baking dish, then make a single layer of ravioli, half of the spinach, 2 Tbsp of the parmesan, 1 C of the mozzarella, half of the remaining sauce, the rest of the ravioli, the rest of the spinach, 2 Tbsp of the parmesan, and the rest of the sauce.  Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.  Remove the foil, top with the remaining 2 C mozzarella and the remaining parmesan.  Bake 20 minutes longer or until it's bubbly throughout and the cheese is browned.  Let the lasagna cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Basic Granola & Raw Raspberry Jam

This month, I was assigned a beautiful blog called The Smoothie Lover.  It's written by a young Danish girl named Josefine.  In addition to making very creative and mostly very nutritious recipes, Josefine takes absolutely gorgeous photos.  This is her first month doing Secret Recipe Club and I hope she had fun!

In the course of choosing a recipe to make from Josefine's blog, I actually looked at all the recipes she posted and settled on two: Basic Granola and Raw Raspberry Jam.  I made both to go with homemade Greek yogurt.  Both turned out really well.  My husband is the granola eater around here (he eats fruit and granola with lunch every day), and I am happy to have a recipe that contains much less sugar than most.  The jam is perfect in yogurt, I just stirred it into the plain yogurt and didn't need to add any other sweetener.  It's also great on toasted English muffins!  Raspberries are probably my favorite fruit, but I'd like to experiment with peaches or strawberries, too. (Update: In the month since I first made the raw jam, I have also made raw peach, grape, and strawberry jam, with great results each time!)

Basic Granola

1 1/2 C oats
2 Tbsp applesauce
1/2 C chopped raw nuts (I used cashews)
1/2 C seeds (I used sunflower and sesame)
1 Tbsp melted coconut oil (you can do this in a measuring cup in the microwave)
1/4 C water
3 Tbsp honey or maple syrup (I used honey)
1/2 C dried fruit (I used dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats and applesauce until evenly coated.  Stir in nuts and seeds.  In a small bowl, stir together melted coconut oil, water, and honey or maple syrup.  Pour evenly over granola mixture and stir to coat.

Evenly spread granola on parchment paper and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until granola is golden and dry.  If you're not sure whether it's dried yet, you can remove a little from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes, it will quickly harden if it's ready.

Let granola cool completely, then pour into a container, add dried fruit, and shake to combine.

Yield:  About 8 servings

Raw Raspberry Jam

2 C raspberries (I used a 12 oz bag of thawed, frozen raspberries)
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp chia seeds

Puree raspberries with a food processor or immersion blender, then stir in  honey and chia seeds.  Store covered in the refrigerator overnight so the chia seeds can expand and thicken the jam.

Yield:  About 2 cups

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pepper Parmesan Vinaigrette

Today I'm sharing my new favorite salad dressing!  I found it over on the Brown Eyed Baker blog and have made it several times.  My version is slightly different from hers and I just love it.  It's very peppery, salty, vinegary, and just all around really good.  It also could not be any easier to make and keeps fine in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Pepper Parmesan Vinaigrette

7 Tbsp Canola oil
3 Tbsp olive oil (too much will make it bitter)
7 Tbsp white vinegar
4 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth with an immersion blender, food processor, or blender.  Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.  Shake before serving.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lovely Lemon Bars

This is another recipe from Joanne Fluke, the cozy mystery author.  I just love the Hannah Swensen series, they're the comfort food of the literary world for me!  These lemon bars are from the first book in the series, The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.  I made them when a friend came to visit a couple of months ago.  We loved them so much that they all got devoured before I had a chance to take a picture.  Okay, I take that back- there are some pictures of my puppy licking lemon bar off my friend's baby's hand, but that's it!  In spite of being crazy about them, for some reason this was the first time I made lemon bars, but we liked this recipe so much that I don't see myself trying any others!

Lovely Lemon Bars

2 C flour
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, cold
4 eggs
2 C sugar
1/2 C lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour and powdered sugar, then cut in the cold butter with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.  Dump the mixture into the greased baking dish and press it down evenly with your hands.  Bake in preheated oven until golden around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.

While the crust cooks, prepare the filling.  Whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then whisk in the baking powder, salt, and flour until smooth.

When the crust has finished cooking, immediately pour the filling over the top and return the baking dish to the oven.  Bake until golden on top, about 20-30 minutes.  Let cool before cutting into bars and serving.

Yield:  About 12 bars

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cheesy Ranch Potatoes

I stumbled upon this recipe on Natasha's Kitchen recently and have made it twice in the past month.  It's so simple and very, very tasty!  The first time, I used red potatoes with the skin on, bottled ranch dressing, and green onions, and this time I used peeled russet potatoes, homemade ranch dressing (actually homemade ranch dressing mix plus mayo and milk), and bacon.  Both were great!

This is very much a "do what you want" recipe.  You can make just a small amount of potatoes, or a whole lot, and pretty much any kind of potato will do.  You also don't have to measure anything, just use your own judgment!

Cheesy Ranch Potatoes

ranch dressing
garlic salt
grated cheddar cheese
cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)
thinly sliced green onion or chives (optional)

Wash and peel the potatoes if desired, then cut them into 1 1/2 inch chunks.  Boil in salted water until they can be pierced with a fork, then drain thoroughly.  Carefully fold in desired amount of ranch dressing, you want them to be coated but not swimming in it.  Spoon evenly into a greased baking dish, season to taste with garlic salt, then bake until the potatoes start to turn golden in places on top, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with desired amount of grated cheese, plus the bacon if you're using it.  Return to oven for 5 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle with the green onions or chives if you're using them, then let the potatoes for a few minutes before serving.  Leftovers reheat really well!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Arroz con Pollo

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the fabulous blog, Kitchen Trial and Error!  It's written by the lovely Kate, who lives in Rochester, NY with her family.  She's a busy lady but still cooks all kinds of great looking recipes.  I had a very difficult time choosing one this month and seriously had about 20 set aside to pick from.  Tempting recipes included Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting, Tomato & Meatball Soup, Apple Chicken Chili, and Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken.  Her recipe for baked ziti looks fantastic as well, but it's basically the same as my recipe since it's from the same source!
The recipe I ended up going with was Arroz con Pollo.  I've always wanted to try this dish and for whatever reason, it's the one my mind kept migrating back to.  My minor changes were to use bacon grease instead of olive oil (I followed the recipe back to its source on another blog and it said to use bacon), my bell pepper was a different color, I used a full 4 C of chicken broth, and I only simmered the rice for 20 minutes since that's how long my rice usually takes to cook and I didn't want it to get mushy.  Next time I would wait to add the chicken back to the pan until I add the rice to prevent it from being overcooked, but that's the only change.
Small tinkerings aside, this was a good recipe.  My husband loved it and gave the chicken a 9 and the rice a 10, which surprised me.  He doesn't even like peas, but liked them here.  We actually made this together and it was a lot of fun.  We had an insane amount of rice leftover (no surprise since it uses 3 1/2 cups!), but I'm going to freeze the leftovers to serve with tacos and the like, which will be fun.  In the future, I will use another pound of chicken.

Arroz con Pollo

2 Tbsp bacon grease
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cleaned and cut in half
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz beer
4 C chicken broth
8 oz tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin, plus more to sprinkle on chicken
3 1/2 C white rice
1/2 C frozen peas

In a dutch oven, melt bacon grease over medium high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin, then brown on both sides in bacon grease.  Remove to a plate.  Add onion and bell pepper to dutch oven and saute until they turn translucent, then add garlic and saute another minute or so until it turns golden.  Stir in beer, chicken broth, tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano, and the 2 tsp cumin.  Simmer on low for 10 minutes, then stir in chicken pieces and rice.  Bring to a boil, cover the dutch oven, and reduce the heat to low.  Let cook without lifting the lid for 20 minutes, then remove the dutch oven from the heat and stir in the peas.  Replace the lid and let it sit for a minute so the peas can thaw.

Yield:  About 8 servings but with a LOT of rice

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