Monthly Archives: March 2011

Strawberry Apple Compote (or Strawberry-Applesauce)

One of my kids’ favorite lunchtime snacks is applesauce. Hey, in fact, even when I was a kid I remember getting so excited for the nights that my mom would make applesauce with her pork chops. I do have reservations about buying too much prepackaged food though, but since applesauce is so easy to make this is a fantastic fresh alternative to a kid favorite. Actually, this is the perfect thing to make as a big batch and serve it all week. Yep, I’ll say it… this is the go to meal for when the kiddos are sick and don’t want to eat anything. And yeah it’s easy.  For a grown up version you could use it as a side dish, or crumble some graham crackers on top for a sweeter treat. My mom makes this without the butter and she uses Splenda, but I like the rich flavors that develop in this version. You can puree it in a blender for a smooth sauce or leave it diced for a more rustic version.

Shopping List:

2 cups firm apple, peeled and diced (use any kind except red delicious, they get too mushy)

2 cups diced strawberries  (or you could just do a pure applesauce)

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat melt the butter.

2. Toss the berries and apples in the butter so that they are coated evenly.

3. Stir in the brown sugar and put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer 15-20 minutes, until the apples are soft when poked with a fork.

4. For an alternate version: use only apples and add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

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Make-ahead Mushroom Salad

Make-ahead Mushroom Salad

I think it’s the vinegar that always sucks me in to those marinated mushrooms at the deli counter. Really, it’s the salty and sour combination, I think. Just so you know, I don’t ever buy them anymore, but I see them staring at me when I’m waiting for my sliced turkey breast. If you’re anything like me, you fight with yourself about buying those other seemingly fresh salads in the deli case. Again, I don’t buy them, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have those moments where I crave that classic picnic fare. From time to time I try to reinvent these favorites, whether it be for a potluck or for a dinner party of my own. I mean most of those salads are the make-ahead type and who wouldn’t love to make everything ahead on a weeknight too.

I think of this recipe as a take on that marinated mushroom favorite…with a little bit of class. In my mind this dish is half-way between a steakhouse side of mushrooms and the deli counter marinated mushrooms. This is one of those go to recipes for when I serve a crowd because it so simple.  This makes a pretty regular appearance at family gatherings since I can make it in advance and serve it at room temperature. Many years ago I came across this recipe in the LA Times and have been making it ever since.In this version I’ve adjusted the measurements to be four side-dish portions.

Shopping List:

1 box sliced white mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon squeezed about 1/4 cup

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper to taste

3 cloves garlic, crushed

4 slices REAL bacon (it’s important to use the real stuff because you want to have the flavor from the drippings in your dressing.)

Instructions:

1. Heat a large non-stick saute pan on medium-high heat.

2. Cook the bacon in the pan until it is crispy, this takes about 5-7 minutes. When it’s done place it on paper towels to drain excess fat.

3. Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic and olive oil. Cook this 3 minutes. Then remove it from the heat.

4. Let the oil mixture cool about 5 minutes. Then add lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to the oil mixture.

5. Pour the dressing over the mushrooms and toss it well . Then toss in green onions. 

6. Let this rest 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving.

7. To serve gently toss in the bacon.

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken with Orange Carmelized Yams

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken, in this photo I used boneless skinless thighs

I am always looking for meals that can do double duty…you know they can morph into a new meal done in a different way for the next night’s dinner. It seems no one wants to eat leftovers, but if you transform them into a different dish entirely it can save a tired mom a lot of headaches come witching hour.

So when I’m meal planning I tend to think not just about dinner tonight, but what I can add to it for tomorrow’s meal. And I don’t mean just tossing it in a salad. For example, this chicken dish morphs beautifully into a Lazy Lasagna which you can even pop in the freezer if you want.

This one is super easy too! You can literally spend 5 minutes prepping stuff and toss it on the grill and it’ll be ready to go. As you’re doing clean-up after the meal that’s when you can become super-mom and save the day tomorrow! I’ve also added the recipe for some Orange Carmelized Yams that you can make in the microwave, so there’s an entire dinner for this week.

Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Shopping List:

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons raspberry seedless jam (apricot, strawberry and grape work fine too)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons dry rosemary

Sauce:

1/4 cup raspberry jelly

1/4 cup balsamic

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

Carmelized Yams Shopping List:

1 12-ounce package precut yams [The orange flesh ones are yams (although Trader Joe’s labels them as sweet potatoes) 🙂 Any shape will do. I bought spears, and then cut them in half…I think they’re more kid friendly if they are smaller bites.]

1/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

Instructions for both:

1.Heads up: You will need to marinate this  for one hour or overnight. To make the marinade, just simply place the chicken in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and pour 1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons rosemary, and the garlic on top. Zip it up and mush it all around so it’s all covered. Then let it marinate in the refrigerator as time allows.

2.When it’s done marinating, heat your barbecue to high heat for about 10 minutes. Then, place the chicken on the oiled grates.

3. Let it cook (untouched)  for 5-7 minutes. make sure to close the lid too. Then flip the chicken and cook another 5-7 minutes on the other side.

4. Meanwhile, melt the jam in a small microwaveable bowl in the microwave for 1 minute on HIGH or until it’s very syrupy.

5. Then, add the remaining SAUCE ingredients to the jam and stir. Set this aside and use it to baste the chicken the last few minutes it is on the grill.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium size microwaveable bowl (preferably one with a lid), melt the 2 tablespoons of butter for 30 seconds on high.

7. To the melted butter stir in the orange juice and brown sugar. It will start to get lumpy if you use cold juice, that’s okay, it won’t change the taste.

8. Toss the yams in the juice mixture to coat all the pieces. Then cover it and microwave it for 7 minutes on HIGH.

Leprechaun’s Mousse

Can you catch a Leprechaun? We can.

“Leprechaun’s are sneaky, strong and fast,” says my Little Guy. You’ve got to be just as wily as they are to catch one, so we created this desert to trap all the leprechauns. He’s been gearing up for this week’s festivities, anxiously plotting against the gold-hoarding tribe. And he thinks that they will be lured in by the minty, green mousse, and then he will be able to nab one.

Just like any kid, I impatiently wait around for the month of March when Mc Donald’s rolls out their Shamrock Shakes, and my Girl Scout cookies arrive. What better way to pay tribute to the month than with this special holiday treat. I felt like I had struck gold when I thought to combine them both for one irresistible indulgence…in hopes of catching some little men to tell us where the gold is hidden of course.

I do have to mention that I’ve been trying pretty hard to cut out all of those prepackaged foods that make a working mom’s life easy, but last was week’s busy! And next week is looking even more packed. So, when I originally thought of making this recipe I had planned on making the pudding from scratch, but as the week wore on I had less and less time for experimentation. And I thought why not go with the tried and true for this one. 

Shopping List:

1 package Jello Cook and Serve vanilla pudding mix (plus milk required for recipe, the instant will work fine here too, that’s what I intended on purchasing anyway)

8 ounces cool whip, thawed

1 teaspoon pure mint extract

about 3 drops green food dye

1 sleeve (23 cookies) Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies

1 cup mini-marshmallows

Instructions:

1. Cook the pudding according to the directions. Add mint extract when the pudding is cooked.

2. Let the pudding cool 10 minutes, then transfer it to a large mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure to push the plastic on the pudding so a skin does not develop. Place this in the refrigerator and let it cool for at least 3o minutes.

3. Once cooled, remove the pudding from the refrigerator and add green food dye until it is your desired color.

4. Then, gently stir in half of the cool whip and the marshmallows. 

5. Break the cookies in half and place them on the bottom of a 8 x 8 glass baking dish.

6. Top the cookies with the green pudding mixture. Then cover it with the remaining cool whip.

7. Put this back in the refrigerator to let it firm up a bit. It won’t get very firm, but if you skip this step it’s pretty hard to serve.

Short Ribs

Lazy Sunday Dinner

Sundays get a bad rap, but in my book they’re great way to laze around the house and get stuff checked off my list.  I really do like to clean and organize the house on Sundays, in between meals and trips to the park of course. There’s something about doing the laundry, filing the mail and vacuuming the floors that makes me pretty happy. I know I’m a freak of nature here, but really, I like starting the week this way.

OK enough, now, back to food. Sundays are also a good day to make a meal that cooks slowly all day and is full of flavor. I find it more and more seductive that I can throw a few ingredients in a pot and let them simmer (on the stove or in a slow cooker or in the oven) all day. For some reason these meals always end up tasting so luxurious, but really the effort is minimal. I think of this as the ideal Sunday supper because you could just sit around and do nothing once you put it in the oven and it would still taste sublime. Also, these taste fantastic the next day in a sandwich or a soft taco.

Shopping List:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

coarse salt and pepper

2.5 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs (I had about 10 ribs)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 carrots, cut into large chunks

1 onion, quartered

1/2 cup red wine

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Also, heat the oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven or heavy oven-proof pot over medium heat.

2. Place flour in a plastic zippered bag and season with salt and pepper (I used about 1/2 teaspoon each). Toss the ribs with the flour mixture and shake off excess.

3. Place the ribs in the pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. If you need to use two plates to do this that’s ok.

4. Once browned move the ribs to a plate temporarily ,while you add the carrots and onions to the pot. Stir up any browned bits and cook until the veggies are lightly browned too, about 3-5 minutes.

5. Next add the wine, broth, thyme and tomatoes. Nestle the ribs back into the pot and bring it all to a boil.

6. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven to cook one hour.

7. After one hour, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook about an hour more. Serve with the sauce over rice or pasta, or let cool and refrigerate up to one day.

Serves: 4

Homemade Cream-Style Corn

Homemade Cream-Style Corn, and yes you caught me, that's BBQed ribs on the side.

Although it’s not summer yet (read: oh please let it be summer!), the weather is warming up in these parts. I hope I didn’t just jinx it for everyone in LA with saying that our weather is getting warmer. Anyway, I am fantasizing about spring and summer which reminds me of the barbecue and lazy days at the beach. Piling the corn and the burgers on the grill after a sun-soaked day can certainly quench anyone’s hunger. And of course, what mom doesn’t know foods that go on a grill are always simpler to make–less clean-up  you know.  Sorry this recipe isn’t for the grill. But it sure is easy, and it’s a nice segue into putting fresh corn on the grill in a couple of months.

This recipe can certainly satisfy that craving for a steakhouse-style creamed corn anytime of the year with being friendlier on your waist. It uses frozen corn, garlic, a touch of butter, broth and flour–that’s it! And…wait for it… this morphs into corn chowder so easily. Just add more broth. Puree it in the blender. Stir in some shredded potatoes and supermarket chicken and this will stretch into next evening.

Shopping List:

16 ounce package frozen corn

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 whole garlic clove

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.Place the frozen corn in a large microwave safe bowl and cover it. Microwave it on 50% power for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat.

3. Once the butter begins to melt, sprinkle in the flour and stir it around until the flour and butter become a golden paste. This is called a roux (pronounced: rue, like I will rule the world, except no l.). Be forewarned: once you know how to make a roux you’re on the road to making homemade macaroni and cheese.

4. Once the roux is golden, add the garlic clove and heat for 2 minutes, this is pretty much when you start to smell it.

5. Then add the defrosted corn and broth. Stir it all up and put the lid on that baby.Reduce the heat to low.

6. Let it warm for 10 minutes, then remove the garlic and add salt and pepper if you like.

Best Caramel Corn Ever!

I was making a lot of popcorn for snacks after my baby girl was born, and then I came across this recipe in Family Circle and it all went down hill from there. I started making this in huge batches to give out to people as a thank you gift. And then you know how it goes, you make it so much you get tired of it…well that was it’s fate…until now. I’m bringing it back baby!

Best Ever! because popcorn is a pretty healthy snack as it is, but then you can mix it up and add in whatever you like to personalize it. This batch is with peanuts and cranberries, kind of like my granola bars, but you could certainly replace it with any dry fruit or nut you like. Oh Yeah! Did I mention that it’s super easy…can you say microwave?

Shopping List:

12 cups fresh popped corn (to pop on the stove: use a 6 quart pot, 2 tablespoons oil & 2/3 cup kernels. Cover and pop on high)

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup salted peanuts

1 large brown paper grocery bag

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions:

1. Place the popped corn, cranberries and peanuts in the paper bag. Shake to combine.

2. Melt butter in a large microwave-safe bowl, 1 minute.

3. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Microwave 2 minutes. The mixture will boil. Carefully stir and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

4. Stir in baking soda. It will foam up (a fun step for the kids to do). Carefully pour over the popcorn mixture. Fold the top of the bag over and shake to coat popcorn.

5. Place the bag in the microwave; cook 1/2 minutes. (Watch carefully, as higher wattage ovens may cook faster. Alternatively, transfer to a greased pan; bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring.)

6. Remove bag and shake. Microwave an additional minute. Pour on large cookie sheets to cool. I like to put in on a silpat, so it’s easier to remove.

See how this all went downhill? It’s just too easy to make…it’s bad news…especially since I fool myself into forgetting that there is an entire stick of butter in this one. As a side note, you could make this even more dangerous by topping it all with a drizzle of melted chocolate while it cools, but I won’t even go there today:)