March 31, 2010

March 31: Stuffed Jumbo Pasta Shells

1 package (12 ounce) jumbo pasta shells
4 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 Tbs chicken food base (or granulated bouillon)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs dried basil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped spinach, drained if frozen
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (in a jar, or your own)
additional mozzarella and parmesan for the topping

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool. I keep mine in cold water until ready to assemble. Mix next ten ingredients in a bowl well. Pour spaghetti sauce into large 9x 11 baking dish. Spoon a heaping large spoonful of the cheese mixture into each shell until it is overflowing. Put grated cheese over the top of the single layer of shells. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Broil the top if it is not browned and serve. Serves 6-8.

Conversation starter: Why do you think people take drugs? Why do you think it is so hard to quit drugs?

March 30, 2010

March 30: Flavored Caramel Corn

Chocolate: Light (like Crunch & Munch)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 3/4 cup white sugar
6 Tbs. butter 1/2 c. butter
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder 1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. light corn syrup 3 1/2 Tbs. light corn syrup

For both recipes: 12 cups of popcorn, old maids
removed. 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. vanilla.
1/2 cup peanuts.

Place popcorn and peanuts in a large rectangular cake pan. In a small pot, combine sugar, butter, (cocoa), and corn syrup. Stir constantly on medium heat until butter is melted and mixture comes to boil. Cook, without stirring, for five minutes more. Remove from heat and and add baking soda and vanilla. Stir through. Pour over popcorn and stir until well coated. Place in 300 degree oven and cook 15 minutes. Stir once and then cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from pan and soak pan in water. Let cool. Break popcorn apart and place in air tight containers.

Conversation starter: What's your favorite: sunrise or sunset? Why?

March 29, 2010

March 29 THE MONDAY MENU: Roasted Lemon Pepper Chicken

Chicken is a blank canvas that yearns to be painted with flavor. On a warm spring evening, few flavors brighten the culinary pallet quite like the crisp refreshing taste of lemon.

But contrary to what you might think, the lemon in this dish is not the show stopper. The "wow" factor in this dish, in my opinion, is the fresh peppercorns. So, why does the lemon receive top billing, you ask? The answer is, because without the lemon no one would appreciate the pepper.

Consider some of history's iconic duos. What would Batman be without Robin? Or Butch Cassidy without the Sundance Kid? And where in the world would Bert be if he did not have Ernie? Without lemon's acidity the rich savory flavor of the pepper would be harsh, and perhaps for some people even overwhelming. Lemon provides a necessary contrast to the savory ingredients in this dish and brings together all the colorful flavors on our canvas.

Try this simple, easy to make chicken dish. I am confident that you will agree that lemon and pepper will go down in history as a duo as iconic as Laverne and Shirley, Fred and Barney, or even Calvin and Hobbes.

Conversation starter: What iconic duo has most influenced your life?

Roasted Lemon Pepper Chicken

1 - 3-4 lb whole chicken


Juice from 3 large lemons
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup peppercorns
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbs. Kosher salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 Cups hot water
2 large lemons (to be used in when roasting)

Combine ingredients for marinade and mix well ensuring that salt and brown sugar dissolve completely. Chill for approximately one hour or until cold.

Using a sharp knife or sharp cooking shears remove the backbone from the chicken by cutting lengthwise along both sides. Pull the two halves of the chicken open and smash flat with the heel of your palm to crack the breastbone. Finish spitting the two of the chicken. Using two resealable gallon size freezer bags place one half of the chicken in each bag and fill with half of the marinade. Purge all excess air from each back and refrigerate overnight.

To cook, place oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Remove chicken from marinade, pat dry and place in a medium to large roasting pan.. Lightly salt and pepper both halves using fresh cracked black peppercorns. Squeeze the juice from the two large lemons evenly over the chicken.

Cover chicken with foil and bake at 500 degree for 25 minutes.After 25 minutes remove foil and reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for an additional fifteen minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Allow chicken to rest for five to ten minutes before cutting and serving. Serve over rice.

Variations: Add 1 tablespoon garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, and/or 1 teaspoon before roasting. Or, top with marinara sauce and serve serve over pasta.

March 28, 2010

Sunday Samplings by Jane Jarrell

As Spring begins to knock on our front door our favorite grocery stores or farmers market begin bringing in the first fresh bounty of a new season. Take advantage of the seasonal produce to get the best results on your tabletop. Add grilled salmon, chicken or pork tenderloin for a heartier dish.

Linguini Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup snow peas
1 pound fresh asparagus, tops only
1 (8-ounce) jar artichokes
6 cups linguini spinach pasta, cooked al dente
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup basil pesto
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Fresh basil sprigs

In a large saute pan, add olive oil and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes to reduce slightly. Add snow peas, asparagus, and artichokes, and continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta and basil pesto to snow peas, asparagus and artichokes, stir well to distribute ingredients into the pasta; continue cooking until pasta is hot. Remove from stove top. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves.

Conversation Starter: If you were a pasta what kind of pasta would you be? Angel Hair, Farfalle, broad egg noodle, Fettuchini? So many pastas, so little time.

March 27, 2010

March 27: Dutch Babies

4 large eggs
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup milk
Dash salt
Dash ground nutmeg
4 tsp. butter

Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla until frothy. Add flour to egg mixture and beat lightly until smooth. Add milk and best with a wire whisk until well combined. Stir in salt and nutmeg.

Heat two 12 inch skillets that are oven proof on the stove top. Add 2 Tbs. of butter to each and melt thoroughly. Spread melted butter over whole pan. Add half of the Dutch baby mixture to each pan and then pop them into a preheated 425 oven for 10-14 minutes. When cakes are slightly browned and cooked through, turn on the broiler and broil each one until the tops are browned and puffy.

Conversation starter: What five things would you plant in a garden? Why?

March 26, 2010

Friend Fridays: Stephen Bly's Matador Cowboy Barbecue Sauce

A Recipe For the Cowboy in Your Life

The Matador Hotel in Albuqerque, New Mexico, became a  sort of "old folks home" rental for seniors of all sorts, including 5 cowboys featured in the fiction novel,Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (to be released June 2010). The menus at the restaurant ranged from fair to middlin', but anything tasted good when dunked with the cook's special barbecue sauce. Quirt Payton watched the cook make it one time and told my grandpa about the ingredients. My grandma often made it after that. Since then, I've taught my wife, Janet, a secret: when you're stuck with a lot of leftovers, get your gang to eat whatever you pull out of the frig, by letting them dunk it or smother it with Cowboy Barbecue Sauce.

Matador Cowboy Barbecue Sauce


2 teaspoons bacon grease

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup ketchup

1 cup chili sauce

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup lemon juice

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

Hot pepper sauce, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the bacon grease over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, chili sauce, sugar, lemon juice, and Worcestershire. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Season with hot sauce.

NOTES: I left out the ½ cup of Jack Daniels, but I hear that can zip it up. :-) For those on special diets, you might try some substitutes for the recipe above, such as virgin cold-pressed olive oil for the bacon grease, plus honey or molasses or Splenda® instead of brown sugar. I've used 1/2 the artificial sweetner and 1/2 brown sugar before with fine results.

Conversation Starter: Do you know any real cowboys? What kind of food would you expect cowboys to eat?

On the trail,
Stephen Bly
Stephen's 2009 release: Creede of Old Montana (hardback)
Coming June 2010: Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon (hardback)
Help a child get face-to-face with God:
Friend Stephen or Janet on Facebook.
Follow BlyBooks on Twitter.

March 25, 2010

March 25: Chicken Carrot Casserole

4 chicken breasts, bonein and skin removed... or 8 thighs or drumsticks
1 3/4 cup strong chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. dried parsley
1 Tbs. dried basil
1 1/2 cup calrose rice (the Japanese sticky variety)
1 1/2 cup shredded carrot (or substitute any vegetable, as long as it is slice or chopped finely.)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Combine broth, wine, sour cream, and spices in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Lightly grease a 9x 12 casserole pan and pour in rice and carrots. Mix them together. Add half of the liquid mixture. Place the chicken pieces on top and pour the remaining liquid over them. Cover the dish with foil and bake 50 minutes at 325 degrees. Uncover the casserole and bake 15 minutes longer. Add cheese to top and broil until it melts. Serves four.

Conversation starter: Describe someone who has a beautiful soul.

March 24, 2010

March 24: Marinade for Pork

1/2 cup fruity olive oil
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
dash Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. hot chili sauce
2 tbs. steak sauce
1/2 cup chopped green oinions
1/2 tsp. of each: basil, oregano, and rosemary
4 cloves of pressed garlice

Marinate 2/3 pounds of pork (I use tenderloins.) for 12-18 hours. Grill on medium heat for 30 minutes. Slice into medallions and serve.

Conversation starter: Who is someone you know who is hurting? Why? Let's pray for him/her tonight.

March 23, 2010

March 23: Fruit Pizza


2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

Beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add flour and combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into 12 inch greased pizza pan and bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes until crust starts to brown. Let cool.


8 ounces softened neufchatel (light cream cheese) cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat above ingredients until smooth. Spread "frosting" evenly on crust and top with slices of fresh fruit. I like to use strawberries, red grapes, and kiwi fruit.....but be imaginative!

Conversation starter: If you could be amazing at any sport, what would it be and why?

March 22, 2010

March 22 THE MONDAY MENU: Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin

I'm always amazed by the fact that some of the most beautiful and tasteful dishes are in fact some of the easiest to make. Today's recipe for pork tenderloin is no exception.

Pork tenderloin is one of those meats that comes with a lot of its own flavor, but at the same time easily and willingly accepts the flavors of other ingredients. You can spice it up, or sweeten it, or serve it savory. This recipe for Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin does a little bit of all three.

Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin


3 pound pork tenderloin
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1 leek
1 teaspoon fresh minced Rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh minced Thyme leaves
2 cups peach preserves
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Cooking twine


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butterfly pork tenderloin by first slicing it fat side down lengthwise one inch from the bottom. Next, carefully pull the halves back and continue to slice into each half one inch from either end. The tenderloin will now be laid open. Cut lines across or diagonal on the meat being careful to not slice all the way through the roast. Salt and pepper both side of the meat and set aside.

Slice leek lengthwise into two half. Brush on a small amount of vegetable oil onto both halves and sautee over medium heat for about two minutes. Remove leak halves and set aside. Add a little oil to your pan, turn heat up to hig.h and let your pan get really hot. Once hot, add pork tenderloin with the fat side down. After that side has caramelized, remove from heat.

Coat the inside of the tenderloin with the spicy brown mustard, sprinkle both sides with thyme and rosemary, and lay the leak halves lengthwise on top. Carefully roll the tenderloin back together and tie with twine.

Place tenderloin in a roasting pan on a wire rack.Coat the outside of the meat with peach preserves and finish in oven uncovered until internal temperature reaches 100 degrees.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for ten minutes (internal temperature will rise to 120). Pork tenderloin is now ready to be sliced and served.

March 20, 2010

March 20: Healthier Guacamole

2 ripe avocados (Make sure the skins are dark and the flesh seems to have some give to it.)
Juice of one small lemon or lime
2 Tbs. nonfat sour cream
6 Tbs. salsa
Salt and pepper to taste.

I serve this alongside salsa and chips for a great appetizer. This only keeps for a few hours, so serve it immediately upon its concoction.

Peel and pit the avocados. Mash them with a fork, being careful to leave a few lumps and chunks for character. Add remaining ingredients and stir through. You may want to add tabasco sauce for a zip.

Conversation starter: Has someone you know inspired you lately or maybe it was a book or movie you found inspirational?

March 19, 2010

Friend Fridays: Cara C. Putman's Cajun Shrimp

Cajun Shrimp

A spicy, hands-on dish that is a lot of fun to eat and great when served with spinach salad and bread. The sauce is perfect for dipping bread in.

2 sticks melted butter
2 sticks melted margarine
8 oz. Worchester sauce
Bulb of garlic (or 2 T. minced garlic)
4 lemons (2 juiced and 2 sliced thinly)
4 T black pepper
1 t. Rosemary
2 t. salt
2-3 lbs uncooked shrimp in the shell (1 1/2 lbs is good for 4 people)

Mix all ingredients except shrimp and sliced lemon. Pour 1/2 of mixture in bottom of pan; top with shrimp. Then pour the rest of the sauce over the shrimp. Top with sliced lemon. Cook 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees or until the shrimp turn from grey to a pinky salmon color.
Conversation Starter: How did you see God show-up during your activities today?
-- Cara C. Putman
Canteen Dreams (2008 ACFW Book of the Year -- Short Historical)
Sandhill Dreams (2009 ACFW Book of the Year Finalist)
Coming in 2010: A Promise Forged (HP), Stars in the Night (Summerside Press), Patchwork Mysteries #4 (Guidepost Books)

March 18, 2010

March 18: Apple Butter

9 medium apples, cored, peeled, and sliced (4 pounds)
1 1/4 c. apple cider
3/4 c. apple cider vinegar

Suggestion: use Jonathan, Winesap, King, or Gravenstien apples. Makes about 5 pints.

In a large pot, cook the above ingredients together on medium heat until apples resemble apple sauce. Put mixture through a strainer. (I use electric beaters...I like little chunks.)

For each c. of pulp, add 1/2 c. brown sugar. To the entire amount add 1 Tbs. cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, 1/2 tsp. allspice, and 1 tsp. nutmeg.

Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until a small drop on a plate leaves no rim of liquid separating around edges. Pour into hot, dry, sterilized jars (Pint or 1/2 larger). Wipe rim. Use hot, clean NEW lids and screw metal bands on tightly. There is no need for water bath or paraffin, just make sure the lids seal. (When you push down, there should be no popping noise.) Cool on folded dish towel.

Conversation starter: If you could change one thing about your school or your job what would it be? Why?

March 17, 2010

March 17: Fudge Truffles

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbs salted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
bakers cocoa powder

Place all ingredients in a microwave proof bowl. Place bowl in microwave on high for thirty seconds. Take it out and stir thorougly. Place it back in for thirty additional seconds. Stir.

Do this until mixture is completely melted through. Cool mixture in refrigerator until it it relatively hard. With a teaspoon, scoop out a ball. Roll it in your hands until it is perfectly round. When you have rolled all the balls (about thirty), roll them in bakers cocoa powder (non-sweetened). Keep refrigerated. Serve in little paper or foil cups with hot coffee and ice cream.

Conversation starter: If you were going on a trip and had to pack so light that you could only take three personal items, what would they be?

March 16, 2010

March 16: Homemade Pita Bread

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs. sugar
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add all ingredients in order in a bread machine and process on dough cycle. By hand: Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and wait two minutes until bubbly. Melt butter and add to yeast. Pour yeast mixture into flour and salt. Knead 8 minutes until elastic. Let rise in warm place until doubled, one hour.

Divide dough into ten balls. Let rest fifteen minutes. Roll each ball into an 8 inch circle. Place two on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Flip. Bake for 3 more minutes until browned on both sides. (It is fun to watch them puff up in the oven!!) Repeat with remaining circles. Makes 10 pitas. To slice, let pita cool and cut diagonally. A pocket should be formed within.

Conversation starter: Describe the perfect day. What would you do? What would you see?

March 15, 2010

March 15: THE MONDAY MENU: "Here's the beef!"

Back in 1984 an 81 year old woman named Clara Peller starred in a commercial for the fast food restaurant Wendy's and asked a simple question: "Where's the beef?"

The other day I asked myself that same question. Where is the beef? While Clara was inquiring about ground beef, my taste buds craved roast beef - cooked rare, sliced thin, and dripping with Au jus. But finding really good roast beef without paying the proverbial arm and leg can be as rare as the beef itself. Of course, you could always go cheap and buy it from a fast food restaurant, but the buyer should beware.

If you buy a roast beef sandwich from a fast food restaurant the meat on your sandwich will not be just meat. Fast food restaurants buy "roasts" that are often comprised of different cuts of beef that have been bathed in a chemical flavoring agent then slathered with an edible glue. These parts are then pressed into a mold at extremely high pressure so that after the meat is cooked it can be easily sliced.

The more tasty and healthier alternative is to go to a deli or some other non-fast food restaurant that cooks their own roast beef. But you better be ready to lighten the load in your wallet because overstuffed roast beef sandwiches with 6 -8 ounces of roast beef can sell for up to $8-$15 each! I don't know about you, but I refuse to pay that kind of money for a sandwich when I know that I can make it myself at home for only $2.50 per sandwich.

Yes, you can feed a family of four roast beef sandwiches for only $10. So the next time some asks you, "Where's the beef?, be sure to tell them that it's not in a restaurant; it's at home

Conversation starter: Clara Peller's line "Where's the beef?" sparked a nationwide phenomenon in the United States. To see the commercial click here. What lines from movies or commercials have made their way into your list of cliches? What lines do your friends use?

Herb Crusted Roast Beef with Au Jus

1 Eye round roast (3-4 lbs)
1 bunch fresh Thyme (leaves only)
2 sprigs Rosemary (leaves only)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
6 cloves garlic (depending on tatste)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/3 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet (preferred).
Once skillet is hot sear the roast on all sides until evenly caramelized.
Place a wire rack into a shallow roasting pan. Remove roast and set it on the rack.
Using a food processor (or blender) combine remaining ingredients.
Evenly coat roast with herb paste on all sides.

Cook roast for two hours or until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees F. Do not overcook or much of the roast's flavor and tenderness will be compromised.

Once cooked, remove roast from oven and place it on a platter. Cover with foil forming a tent. Allow meat to rest for fifteen minutes before slicing.The internal temperature of the meat will rise to 140 degrees F which is the perfect temperature for rare roast beef.

Au Jus

1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
Pan drippings from roast beef
1/4 teaspoon dried Thyme

Place the roasting pan and its dripping on your stove top (will cover two burners)
Using medium high heat begin caramelizing the pan dripping. Because an Eye Round roast has little to no fat, there may be very few drippings.
Add wine and using a wooden spoon loosen drippings from the bottom of the pan. Reduce mixture and add beef stock. Simmer over medium heat until mixture is reduce by half.
Add Thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: There are a couple of different ways to serve this roast beef. My preferred way is to eat it cold on a sandwich, but this requires some patience. Allow the roast to cool to room temperature, then wrap it uncut in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, unwrap it and slice it thin (1/4 inch or less). Build your sandwich according to taste. I personally like my roast beef sandwiches with: 1 tablespoon garlic mayonnaise ( four cloves of garlic roasted in butter until soft, mashed, cooled, then mixed with one cup mayonnaise) on a toasted onion roll, a teaspoon of prepared horseradish, Swiss cheese on 6 -8 ounces roast beef, lettuce tomato and a thinly sliced red onion.

Also, you can reheat the roast beef by dipping it in hot Au Jus for two or three minutes,.then serving it on a sub roll as a French dip, or as an open face sandwich. The roast can also be sliced thick (1/2 inch) and served as part of entree with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable. However you slice it, it will be delicious.

March 13, 2010

March 13: Oriental Noodle Salad

1 pound Yaki Soba noodles
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. Thai peanut sauce (You can get this in the Asian food section of your local supermarket)
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 cup water
1 red bell pepper, julienned

Combine vinegar, sauces, sugar and water in salad dressing container and shake well until combined. Toss with noodles and pepper until well coated. Saute noodles in 1 Tbs. canola oil plus 1 tsp. sesame oil over medium high heat. Cook about ten minutes until noodles have fully absorbed the marinade. Place in salad bowl and chill in refrigerator until cold, 3 hours. Top with 2 Tbs. sesame seeds and 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Serves 8-10

Conversation starter: What movie have you seen that best describes your life?

March 12, 2010

Friend Fridays: Lena Nelson Dooley's Cornbread

Lena's Cornbread

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2/3 Cup white cornmeal
1 1/3 Cup unbleached flour
1/3 Cup sugar (I use Florida Crystals Organic Sugar)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
Whisk together:
2 eggs
1 Cup milk
1/3 Cup oil

Whisk in dry ingredients until well mixed. Spray muffin tins with Pam. Fill muffin tins about 1/3 full, using all the batter. Bake about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 1 dozen cornbread muffins.
I had a recipe from my mother, but I changed quantities until I had a sweeter cornbread that didn't crumble so much. We love it on a cold winter day when I make beef stew.

Conversation starter: If you could write a book about anything, what would you write about?

Lena Nelson Dooley, multi-published author of Minnesota Brothers and Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico
Lena Nelson Dooley -  Author - Speaker - President DFW Ready Writers - Author interviews/Free books - Regular Blogger

March 11, 2010

March 11: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 c. shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Sift together dry ingredients in one bowl. Cream together cheese, shortening, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Fold into dry mixture. Add chocolate chips. Drop cookies onto sheet, pressing a crisscross pattern into each with the tines of a fork.. Bake at 350 degrees for nine minutes. Makes 3 dozen.

Conversation starter: Which would you rather have: braces or glasses? Why?

March 10, 2010

March 10: Balsamic Green Beans

4 cups steamed green beans
1 red bell pepper, julienned and steamed with beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. fresh oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese

Combine olive oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic powder and oregano in dressing container and shake well. Pour over hot bean and pepper mixture. Crumble feta cheese over the top, and toss. Serves 4-6.

Conversation starter: When are you most creative? In the morning? At night? The afternoon?

March 09, 2010

March 9: Orzo Chicken Pasta

3 cups strong chicken broth
1 cup water
3 Tbs. parsley
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup orzo pasta. (This is rice shaped pasta. You can find it the pasta section of your grocery store. Ronzoni makes a good orzo.)

Combine broth, spices and liquid and bring to a boil. Add orzo and turn to low heat. Cover and cook for 25 minutes.

2 whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned and cut into strips
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup choppped red onion
2 cloves garlic

Saute chicken breasts, onion, and garlic in oil until chicken is cooked through, ten minutes. Keep warm. When pasta is done, add chickent mixture. Mix in fresh herbs:

2 Tbs. fresh parsley
2 Tbs. fresh basil
1 Tbs. fresh oregano

Serve in a large pasta bowl and top with 4-6 Tbs. freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Conversation starter: What one thing would you like to change about yourself? Why?

March 08, 2010

March 8: THE MONDAY MENU Authentic Mexican Stew

Today I am sharing a recipe for Mexican stew, because I want you to understand (if you do not already) one of the basic principles of cooking. I want you to taste what it means to build flavors into a dish and how to extract those flavors to their fullest through slow cooking.

One of the best examples of building and extracting flavor from a dish through slow cooking can be seen in the creation of authentic Mexican cuisine. Notice I said "authentic". When most American's think of Mexican food they think of their local restaurant where they can get a bottomless basket of tortilla chips that they can dip into an unlimited supply of salsa while waiting on a poorly seasoned beef or chicken taco or a deep fried burrito. But this is not not authentic Mexican food.

Authentic Mexican cooking is an art form. A single dish can sometimes take hours to prepare. But the food is worth the wait as all the rich and wonderful flavor of each ingredient is extracted by cooking the food "low and slow". Try this simple, easy to prepare stew and you will see what I mean.

Conversation starter: Which country has the best spicy food? Why is spicy food from there better than other countries? Do these countries share a common history that you know of that may have influenced the culture of other cuisines?

Authentic Mexican Stew


3 lbs skinless chicken thighs (bone in) or
2 lbs beef roast cut into large pieces or
2 lbs pork roast cut into large pieces
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large sweet Spanish onion -rough chopped
2 large carrots - rough chopped
2 cups whole kernel corn
6 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos (depending on taste)
1 large dried Ancho chili
4 cups whole stewed tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup cilantro
1 lime cut into wedges


Reconstitute Ancho chili by placing it in water or vegetable oil for twenty minutes. Remove and puree' in a blender or food processor and set aside.

In a large stew pot add vegetable oil and chicken (or other meat), salt and pepper and sautee over medium high heat until meat is browned.

Add onions, reduce heat to medium, and cook an additional seven minutes stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Add remaining ingredients except the corn, lime and cilantro and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer dish for up to four hours or until liquid has reduced by one fourth, stirring occasionally.

At this point check to see if additional salt is needed. Remove jalapenos, and any bones and gristle that may have separated from the meat. Add corn and simmer an additional thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve: Ladle over white or Spanish-styled rice to eat as a stew (or add less broth and wrap in a warm corn tortilla), top with cilantro and drizzle with lime juice.

Serves 4-6

Variations: Garlic can first be roasted and then cooked with the chicken and onions to add another level of flavor to the meat. Add two stalks celery for added depth of flavor. Cook rice in 2 cups of broth from the stew.

March 07, 2010

Simple Pork Tenderloin with grilled vegetables

Need a good meal fast? What about a company savvy recipe ready to go at a moments notice? Pork tenderloin is my go-to meat when quick and quality are in order.

Pork tenderloin is the simplest meat to cook. It almost always turns out moist and you can pair it with any of your favorite sauces or vegetables.

Here are a few examples for quick marinades:
Melted jalapeno jelly
Melted apricot preserves
Pineapple chunks with juice
Hoisin sauce and chopped green onions

Pork Tenderloin Recipe
By Jane Jarrell

2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons salad oil
salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare pork tenderloin, slice into 3/4-inch medallions; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and place in food processor or blender until well mixed. Pour over meat and marinate 1 hour or overnight. Grill 4 minutes on each side. Place on serving platter and cover. Add grilled vegetables to the platter and serve.

1 large eggplant, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
2 red peppers, halved
1 large zucchini. Sliced into thin strips lengthwise
Mozzarella cheese - 8 good sized slices
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste


Start by slicing your vegetables and mix up a little oil and vinegar in a bowl.

Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with this mixture and grill your peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. These will not all finish at the same time, so keep an eye on your veggies and get them off the grill once they’re ready - the zucchini will take 3-4 minutes per side, the peppers and eggplant 7-8 per side.

Conversation Starter:
What vegetable are you most like and why?

March 06, 2010

March 6: Apple/Spinach Salad

1 bunch of rinsed and torn spinach
1 large apple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Honey mustard dressing ( recipe below)

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 Tbs. water
4 Tbs salad oil  (Shake ingredients together until dressing becomes creamy)

Be sure to rinse and re-rinse spinach.  There is nothing worse than finding grit and dirt in a salad!  Right before you are planning to serve the salad, cut the apple.  (Or cut earlier and toss the apple
with lemon juice to keep if from browning).  Add sunflower seeds and toss with dressing.  Serve!

Conversation starter: If you adopted six children, what would their names be?

March 05, 2010

Friend Fridays: Harmony Watts, Butterscotch bars

Butterscotch Bars

A cousin of the renowned Seven-layer Bar, these delectable treats appear suspiciously unhealthy at first glance, and even more so upon first taste. But whole grains, fat free sweetened condensed milk, and a limited amount of sweet butter make for not-so-guilty snacking. You can substitute chocolate or peanut butter morsels for the butterscotch if you wish, but I think the butterscotch are far superior here (and I'm a choco-peanut-butter-holic, so my vote counts for a lot). These are fabulous alongside a steaming cup of coffee or tea, and become fresh-from-the-oven melty all over again if you reheat them for 30 seconds in the microwave. Delish!

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
1-1/4 cups butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray, or coat lightly with butter.

Combine sugar and melted butter in a large mixing bowl, and stir until thoroughly blended. Stir in vanilla and egg.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking soda. Stir in the oats. Add the dry mixture to the sugar mixture about a cupful at a time, stirring well after each addition. The mixture will be crumbly. Scoop about 3 cups of the dough into the pan, and press evenly with the palm of your hand to form the bottom crust.

In a microwaveable bowl, stir together the condensed milk and butterscotch morsels. Microwave on high 1 minute or so, stirring every 20 seconds, until morsels are melted and fully incorporated into the condensed milk. Immediately, pour over the bottom crust, using a spoon or spatula to spread the filling evenly, all the way to the sides of the pan.

Top with the remaining dough mixture, and pat gently, pressing the dough slightly into the butterscotch mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. To ease removal later, run the blade of a knife around the sides of the pan. Cool completely, and cut into bars. Makes 18 bars.


Harmony A. Watts
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Conversation starter: If you could make up your own bar cookie, what would it have in it?

March 04, 2010

March 4: Very Good Mashed Potatoes

9 medium russet potatoes, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Enough chicken stock to boil the above in. (about 8 cups...To cut the cost down, use homemade
stock or powdered bouillon.)

Cut potatoes in half, and add all the ingredients to the chicken stock. Boil for about 45 minutes until onions and carrots are tender. Drain mixture, but save stock. To vegetables add:

1/2 cup stock
4 Tbs. butter
salt, pepper, parsley, and paprika (to your liking)
1/2-3/4 cup milk or cream.

Mash mixture using beaters or hand masher. Potatoes will be slightly orange and will be full of flavor. Some may not even want to add gravy!

Conversation starter: If you could give your best friend any gift, what would it be? Why?

March 03, 2010

March 3: Sweet and Sour Chicken

3 boneles, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped
20 or so snap sugar peas
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic

Saute above ingredients in a medium high wok until chicken is done and onions are translucent. Prepare the sweet and sour sauce as follow.

1 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs. ketchup
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add them to the stir fry mixture. Stir on medium heat until sauce thickens. Serve over rice.

Conversation starter: If you were the President of the United States, what would you do on your first day of office?

March 02, 2010

March 2: Carrot Bran Muffins

These are moist and full of fiber (and they taste great!) Kids love 'em!

1 1/3 cup grated carrot
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup bran (I buy mine at the bulk food section, or you can smash up bran cereal)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Cook the grated carrot until tender: Place it in a microwave-proof bowl with 2 Tbs. water and cover with saran wrap. Cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until tender. Drain off excess water. Set aside. Sift together flour, bran, baking soda, and cinnamon. In separate bowl, cream together sugars, orange juice, applesauce, oil, eggs, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium low speed. Stir in carrot mixture to wet ingredients. Fold wet mixture into dry mixture using a wooden spoon, being careful not to overmix. Carefully fold in nuts. Pour into paper lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

Conversation starter: What is your favorite cartoon character and why?

March 01, 2010

March 1 THE MONDAY MENU Tarragon Chicken Salad

Consider the salad.

Salads are amazing. When thought and care go into designing a salad, God's wonderful, rich natural flavors are layered one on top another forming a grand and glorious edible edifice that radiates with beauty, and dances upon the pallet like a ballet.

Or maybe not.

If salads were that incredible I would not be sitting here weighing over three hundred pounds trying to convince you and me both of the glories of lettuce. This is not to say, however, that with a little thought and creativity some salads can really stand out.

Personally, I like salads that eat like a meal. Cobb Salad, Caesar Salad, and of course the world famous Chef's Salad come to mind. Still, there are times when the old standards simply are not enough and I want something different, something bold. So, believe it or not, that is when I turn to chicken and make a great big bowl of my chunky Tarragon Chicken Salad.

Conversation starter: Chicken is one of the most diverse foods on the American menu, and unless you're a vegetarian, you've probably eaten a lot of chicken dishes. Go around the table and see who can name the most chicken dishes in 20 seconds. With each round cut the time 5 seconds. Dishes can not be repeated. Players are eliminated when they have the least number of responses or run out of time. The last two players have two seconds to come up with an answer.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 pounds poached chicken cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon Tarragon - preferably fresh and minced fine
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups finely diced celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice from one small lemon
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Poached Chicken

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery (rib or branch - not a bunch)
2 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth - or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Prepare vegetables by cutting them into large pieces. Peel the garlic, but leave it whole. Trim chick of any excess fat and set aside. Leave chicken breast whole do not cut it up at this time.

In an 8 or 12 quart stock pot add broth or water, salt, pepper, vegetables and garlic and bring to a boil. Add chicken and return to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast.

Remove chicken and allow to cool to room temperature before cutting. Retain poaching liquid and use as stock in other recipes.

To serve: There many ways to serve this salad. The dish can be combined with a bed of Romaine lettuce or baby spinach, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers, to make a light delicious lunch. It can also be stuffed into an tomato picked fresh from the garden, or served on your favorite bread. This salad can also be served a topping in a bruschetta, or on a cracker as tasty snack.