April 30, 2010

April 30: Piroshki's

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
7-9 Tablespoons very cold water

Combine flour, salt and shortening with pastry blender until crumbly. Add water 1 Tbs. at a time until dough is moistened and pliable. Form into a ball and let rest.

1 onion finely diced
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups ground pork or beef
1 large cooked and peeled potato, diced
1/4 sour cream
1 Tbs. dill
1 tsp paprika

Saute onion, garlic, and meat until meat is thoroughly cooked, about ten minutes. Stir in cabbage and cook until wilted, ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. To assemble, divide dough into 12 parts. Roll each portion into a six inch circle. Put 1/4 - 1/2 cup filling into center. Pull dough over and seal with fork tines. Pierce with 3 vent holes and brush with and egg yoke. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Makes 12.

Conversation starter: What is your most frustrating habit you'd like to break?

April 29, 2010

April 29: Hearty Farmer's Omelet

3 large potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. Cavendar's Greek seasoning (Or use your favorite seasoning salt to taste.)
5 eggs, scrambled
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cubed ham or Canadian bacon
1 Tbs. parsley
1 tsp. basil
1 cup shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese

Place cubed potatoes in microwave-proof bowl and add 1/2 cup water. Cover with saran wrap and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes until potato cubes are tender. Drain excess water. Melt butter in large heavy (and ovenproof) skillet and add green onions. Cook on medium high heat and stir until cooked through, about three minutes. Add potatoes and Cavendar's seasoning and brown them, ten minutes. Place potatoes in bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Combine eggs, salt and pepper, cheese, ham, parsley and basil. Pour into potato skillet. Cook omelet style, occasionally poking holes in it, so the top part becomes solid. Spread potato mixture over the top and then sprinkle with provolone or mozzarella cheese. Place whole pan under the broiler until cheese melts and becomes brown. Serve in pie wedges. Serves 4 hungry breakfast eaters.

Conversation starter: What argument with a friend do you most remember? What happened?

April 28, 2010

April 28: Apple Walnut Salad with Apple Vinaigrette

1-head bibb lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 granny smith apple, sliced thinly with skin (as if you were preparing them for a pie)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Arrange lettuce on two salad plates. Top with apple slices in a circular pattern (as if the slices were flower petals) Add chopped walnuts. Drizzle dressing on when ready to serve. Serves one romantic couple!

Dressing: In a lidded jar add 1/4 c. mayonnaise, 1/4 c. apple juice, 2 tsp. white wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1 Tbs. honey or sugar. Shake well.

Conversation starter: What five things would you do in the mountains if we were there today?

April 27, 2010

April 27: Minted Carrots

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into three inch sticks
1/4 cup chicken stock (You can use bouillon for any of these recipes.... I use a chicken food base
called Le Gour at our local Costco)
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried mint
2 tsp white wine

Place the carrots sticks into a microwave proof dish with the stock. Place plastic wrap over and cook on high for three minutes. Place carrots in a frying pan with the butter just melted. Saute for one minute. Add sugar, mint, wine, and 1/4 cup of the remaining stock. Bring to a boil. Serve immediately.

Conversation starter: What does it mean to manage your money well?

April 26, 2010

April 26 THE MONDAY MENU: Chicken Cordon Bleu

My wife is a wonderful lady who about once a month reminds me that in our seven years of marriage I have not once made for her one of her favorite entrees - Chicken Cordon Bleu. Tonight I made it for her in the traditional American way.

There are however several variations of Chicken Cordon Bleu. While no one knows what comprised the original version, what we do know is that centuries ago countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy were known to eat chicken or veal roulades filled with ham and some type of cheese. Italian versions of the dish were filled with prosciutto (Italian Ham) and Parmesan.

In the 1960s the recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu evolved into what we know it to be today. Thinly sliced deli ham is now used instead of prosciutto, and instead of Parmesan, the cheese of choice varies between mozzarella, Gruyère, and Swiss.

Regardless which recipe you prefer, Chicken Cordon Bleu is a fairly simple dish to make.

Conversation Starter: Recipes like this one evolve over time. What recipes have been passed on to you that you amended to suit your family's pallet? Perhaps you have passed a recipe on to someone else. Did they change the recipe? What did you or someone else do to make the dish different?

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (or crushed croûtons)
1/2 cup flour
2 Tablespoons melted butter
8 thin slices of hickory smoked ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
2 eggs beaten
Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pound chicken breast with flat side of mallet until 1/4 thick.
Add melted butter to the bread crumbs and mix well.
Season beaten eggs with salt and pepper.
Layer 2 slices of ham and 1 slice of cheese onto chicken.
Gently roll chicken into what will look like a jelly roll. Tuck in the sides.Toothpick or wooden skewers can be used to hold the roll together if necessary. Layer and roll each chicken breast the same way.
To bread the roulades, lightly dust each one with flour, dip into egg wash, and then coat with bread crumbs.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until roulades are browned and chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Remove toothpicks or skewers before serving.

Chicken Cordon Bleu can be cut into pinwheels and served as an hors d' oeuvre or served as an entree.

April 24, 2010

Semi Sweet Herbal Iced Tea

Our kids LOVE this iced tea!

8 tea bags (Our family likes any infusion of green tea, cranberries, or pomegranate. If you use a berry tea, the tea turns a great shade of fuchsia!)
¾ cup sugar
4 cups water

Boil tea bags and sugar until tea is rendered. Remove tea bags. Pour liquid into 1 gallon pitcher. Add ice cubes and water until the pitcher is full. To the entire mix add:

5 Tbs. lemon juice (I use the concentrate kind.)

Conversation starter: When was the last time you ate a lemon?

April 23, 2010

Friend Friday: Leslie Wilson's Easy Chicken Enchiladas

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cubed
3 cans of Progresso Chicken Cheese Enchilada soup
1 cup medium cheddar (shredded or grated)
1 cup sour cream
Salt, to taste
Tortilla chips OR corn tortillas

Mix soup, cheese, sour cream and salt in a saucepan over low heat until cheese is melted. Layer in a 9 x 13 greased pan:
· Tortilla chips (or corn tortillas)
· Chicken breast—cubed/shredded
· Enchilada sauce

REPEAT until you reach the top of the casserole dish. (Sauce should be the top layer.)
Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts—approx. 45 minutes. Serves eight.

Conversation starter: What's the best book you've read in the last six months?

April 22, 2010

April 22: Cream of Tomato Pasta (with chicken or seafood)

Alfredo sauce:
1 cup heavy cream (Only eat this once a month---It's fattening!)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
4 Tbs. white wine
1 Tbs. basil
1 Tbs. parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. salt
ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in small saucepan over medium low heat until butter and all cheese melts.

In skillet, Saute:
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cups cubed (raw) chicken breat or fish meat (halibut or swordfish are good choices)
2 lg. cloves garlic
1 can chopped (not cooked) tomatoes, or three large fresh tomatoes, chopped

Saute onion first, then add chicken (or fish) and garlic. (Cook meat thoroughly!) Stir in tomatoes over medium heat. Reduce to low and cook ten minutes. To assemble, cook any shaped pasta (long noodles work well with this dish) in boiling water according to package directions. (Cook enough for four adults.) Drain pasta and place in pasta bowl. Top with tomato mixture and toss through. Pour Alfredo sauce over. Top the dish with fresh parmesan and parsley. Serves four.

Conversation starter: List five things you are thankful for today.

April 21, 2010

Yes, there is good food to be had if you have colitis!

My friend Angie Breidenbach has written a cookbook for those who suffer from colitis. Please comment on this post for a chance to win it! Here's a sample recipe that looks delish!

Spanish Tortilla
A tasty, mild egg and potato omelet some might call a frittata. There’s no flour. This is not bread like Mexican tortillas. I learned this traditional Spanish tapas recipe from Maite’ Pressler when I lived in Spain. Tapas are small snacks served in pubs. It’s modified for simplicity and easy digestion. Bonus: add ingredients as you build your food list. The trick is two eggs for every potato in case you want to expand the recipe size. Important: Standard potato—the size of a light bulb for two eggs.

Serves 8 as tapas, 4 as the main entrée.

2 large potatoes, washed, peeled, & bite-size
4 eggs or the equivalent in egg substitute
1 tsp. water
½ tsp. salt
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped Garlic
¼ Cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons Sun-dried tomatoes, julienne
4-5 large mushrooms, sliced
Chives to taste
4 thinly cut slices of ham
1 thinly sliced fresh tomato
1 cup grated medium cheddar*
Additional sharp cheddar, grated for garnish

In heavy frying pan coated with olive oil, sauté potatoes over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. If you are able to tolerate onion, cook with potatoes. Lower heat to low and cover. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until soft. Test for doneness. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees and begin eggs.
Whisk all eggs, salt, and water. (The water fluffs the eggs when cooking.) Oil or spray a round pie glass-baking dish. I prefer not to use non-stick or dark pans to avoid overdone edges and tough bottom. The traditional round shape doesn’t matter as much as the depth. This recipe will puff. I make this for large family gatherings of 10-12. Then I use my largest glass-baking pan and multiply by three.
Add the mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic to the potatoes and sauté for one minute. Pour vegetable mixture into the glass-baking dish. Pour the whisked eggs over the vegetables. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The goal is to set the eggs hard without turning them overly brown. If the eggs set well on the bottom, but still too much liquid on top, turn on broiler 5 min. to finish.
Top tortilla with cheese. Spread ham to cover the round tortilla, and place sliced tomatoes around the top. Return to oven. Broil for 2-3 minutes to heat the toppers and melt the cheese. Sprinkle with chives for garnish.
Serve warm or cold. We eat it fresh out of the oven for a dinner and then eat it cold the next day for lunch or breakfast.

Insider Tip: Medium cheddar is important for flavor and melting ability. Sharp is fantastic, but doesn’t melt well. Mild cheddar is too bland when paired with potato and egg. So put the sharp on last for decorative visual appeal as an option for more flavor. Optional additions as you add foods to your diet. Each addition makes this dish more complex and more nutritional. But the colors make it beautiful and a highly sought after meal.

Time Saver Tip: Microwaved potatoes speed up this recipe by almost half the preparation time. Microwave washed potatoes the night before. Then it’s easy to slip off the skin and chunk into bite-sized cubes. Saves at least 20-30 minutes of prep time, possibly more. Still sauté in the olive oil for a few minutes for the flavor and the oil is an important part of the recipe.

Please let me know what your favorite recipes are and your impression of the cookbook. There are recipes for celiac and weight loss noted as well by the + and * signs on the recipes. If you share a recipe, please only share the Spanish Tortilla. The reason is so that it will leave the other recipes in the book and people will then want to buy the whole book.

It's available for purchase at: http://www.mygemofwisdom.com/products-page/books/creative-cooking-for-colitis-e-cookbook/  or off the accompanying blog at: http://ColitisCooking.blogspot.com

$1 of each cookbook sale goes to the Jadyn Fred Foundation to help support children in need of financial assistance for medical costs outside insurance coverage.

Beautiful cook book with simple to simply elaborate recipes sure to thrill you and your family. 25 Tips and Recipes on how to start living and eating confidently again! Full color photos for every recipe. Insider tips on cooking, eating with families, colitis diet, and shopping. Lovely recipes for elegant parties and holiday treats. Available in e-format or CD format.

About the cookbook author:

Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009, author of Creative Cooking for Colitis, works with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries, the American Heart Association, and the Jadyn Fred Foundation. Angela also teaches online classes and coaches one-on-one in courageous confidence, personal growth, and powerful living. She’s certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and Assisting Minister. She serves as the American Christian Fiction Writer's Publicity Officer and is a multi-award winning inspirational speaker and author. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain, but she is also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. She is married, has a combined family of six grown children, one grandson.
Find Angela Breidenbach

http://WritingByFaith.blogspot.com on Wednesdays each week

April 20, 2010

Penelope Carlevato's microwave lemon curd

After reading Jane's great story about lemon curd, contributor Penelope Carlevato emailed me this simplified microwave version! Wow!

Microwave Lemon Curd

4 ounces lemon juice
4 eggs beaten
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
1 pound sugar

Mix juice and sugar in a glass mixing bowl and stir well. Add in
the stick of butter. Place in microwave oven and cook on high for 2
minutes. Stir well. Repeat until butter is melted.

Take out of the microwave and slowly add in beaten eggs. Use a
wire whisk to beat in the eggs.

Place mixture back into the microwave. Set timer for 1 minute at
medium power. After each minute, beat the mixture with the
whisk. Continue cooking for one minute intervals, stir, etc.,
until the mixture is like thickened pudding. It doesn't need to
be really thick, as it cools, it will continue to thicken.  At this point,
the curd can just be put into clean jars and refrigerated.  This is so good
on English muffins, used in place of jam on Scones, or mixed with equal
parts whipping cream for tarts.  It doesn’t last too long, so make it when you
know you will be using it, at least within a week or less.

April 19, 2010

April 19 THE MONDAY MENU: Seafood Linguine with White Wine Cream Sauce

My conversation with Bill began simply as two men getting to know one another.
Bill was married, slightly older than me, and loved to cook. He asked me about my favorite cuisine, to which I shared with him my love for the flavors of the Orient and my love of fish. Curious, I inquired about his favorite food, a question to which the following answer was given.

"I love the flavors of Tuscany, Italy. When my wife and I travel we rent a farmhouse and hire a private chef to cook for us. There is nothing quite like Tuscany. The region is one of the most beautiful in the country with its olive trees, and miles of grape vines. We're going back in the summer because there is no way you can get good Italian food here in the United States. People here, of course, call it Italian, but it does not compare to real Italian cooking...."

Bill could have talked for hours about his love for Italian cooking, his many trips to Tuscany, not to mention his love for the wine. And who can blame him for being so passionate? True Italian cooking is hard to find here in the United States, which brings me to the point of this story.

Most ethnic cuisine that Americans eat today have very little resemblance to the dishes prepared in their countries of origin, especially if it comes from a restaurant chain. Because the average U.S. citizen was not raised to appreciate the different flavors of other cultures, most ethnic dishes have been "Americanized".

For example, when was the last time you made spaghetti sauce using red wine? Do you really think that the people of China sit around the buffet table eating General Tso's chicken? And is bratwurst cooked on the grill - or even cooked in beer - really good German food?

The next time you go on a trip, do your homework and do a little digging. Find that quaint out of the way mom-and-pop diner that serves food from the old country. No, it will not look like the fancy chain restaurant with all the glitz and glamor. But it won't taste like it either, because the food will be authentic, and real. In the mean time, try this Italian, slightly Americanized recipe for seafood linguine. Buon appetito!

Conversation Starter: Almost every country in the world is known for at least one dish that its people consider to be a delicacy, but to outsiders is the last thing in the world a human should eat. Raw fish, brains, animal testicles, and insects quickly come to mind. What food(s) do you consider detestable? Is there a food that you were afraid to try, but did anyway? What happened?

Seafood Linguine with White Wine Cream Sauce

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic - grated and divided
3 Tablespoons flour
5 Tablespoons butter - divided
1 Cup chicken stock
1 Cup Cream
1 Cup dry white wine
1 pound Baby Portabella or Button Mushrooms - washed and sliced
1 pound 31-50 count shrimp - pealed and deveined
10 - 12 Sea Scallops - cleaned and connective tissue removed
1 pound linguine
1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
Fresh grated mutmeg to taste
Sea Salt
Fresh grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Parsley for garnish

To cook the linguine, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high heat. Cook pasta until it is almost al dente.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine two tablespoons of olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, and mushrooms and sautee for 5 minutes.Add 3 tablespoons butter and flour and mix thoroughly for about a minute. Slowly whisk in wine. The sauce will thicken quickly. Whisk in chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add cream and allow to reduce for two minutes stirring continuously. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare shrimp and scallops by sprinkling then with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and coating them with the remaining olive oil. In a large, hot sautee pan over medium to medium high heat, sear scallops on both side for 2-3 minutes until lightly caramelized. Remove scallops and add shrimp. Cook shrimp until almost pink. Add remaining butter and garlic and return scallops to the pan. Cook for about a minute over medium high heat. Remove scallops and all but approximately 1/2 cup shrimp.

Add two cups cooked linguine and 3/4 cup sauce to the remaining shrimp. Mix well and cook for one minute (the linguine will finish cooking at this point without being overcooked). To plate, place 2-3 scallops on top of the noodles. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and garnish with parsley. Repeat this step for each plate.

Serves 4

Variation: Skewer scallops and shrimp and cook on the grill over wood or charcoal.

April 17, 2010

April 17: Nana's Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter, chunky or smooth
6 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 6 oz. package chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1/3 bar of parowax

Mix the first four ingredients together and form into one inch balls. This is a messy job, but licking your fingers when it's all done can be fun! Let refrigerate overnight.

Melt the chocolate chips and paraffin in a double boiler. Stir often. Dip the cold peanut butter balls into the chocolate mixture and place on wax paper to harden. Be prepared to be eaten out of house and home if these are in your pantry.....an excellent gift.

Conversation starter: Ask the person on your right a funny question.

April 15, 2010

4/16/2010 Veal and Italian Sausage with Creamy Pesto

Veal and Italian Sausage with Creamy Pesto

from Gail Gaymer Martin
My husband and I visited a new Italian restaurant and enjoyed a very different style of serving as well as some wonderful new recipes. The food was served family style, and this dish was unique. We studied the ingredients, and when we got home, we wrote down what we figured was in the entree. We made a good guess, and now enjoy this wonderful Italian dinner at home. We also found a way to make it simpler so notice the tip below before you panic. Hope you enjoy this in your own home.

Veal and Italian Sausage with Creamy Pesto

1 red pepper1 Tablespoon Olive Oil2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced½ pound ground veal½ pound Italian Sausage, removed from its casing12 to 16 ounces of pasta (I like bowties)1 recipe Creamy Pesto Sauce ( see recipe below)

In a large pot boil water for pasta.Clean and slice red pepper into strips.Add olive oil to frying pan and sauté red pepper until fork tender and set aside.Add minced garlic to frying pan and then add veal and sausage.Cook until no longer pink.Cook pasta el dente. Drain and place on serving platter.Drain grease from meat, place on top of pasta and then add Creamy Pesto Sauce.Garnish with red pepper strips.

Pesto Sauce (needed to prepare the creamy pesto)

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves1/2 c olive oil3 Tbsp pine nuts (or walnuts)2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled1 tsp salt
1/2 c fresh parmesan cheese3 Tbsp butter, room temperature1 Tbsp boiling water from cooking pasta
Put basil, oil, nuts, garlic, and salt in blender orfood processor and reduce to paste. Scrape bowland stir in cheese and butter. Just before servingadd the water.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup butter2 cups heavy cream1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper1 cup grated Parmesan cheese1/3 cup pesto

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in cream, and season with pepper. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir Parmesan cheese into cream sauce, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Blend in the pesto, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until thickened.

Either sauce can be mixed with 12 to 16 ounces of your favorite pasta cooked el dente.

No time to prepare the sauce? You can substitute 1 McCormick Pesto and 1 McCormick Creamy Pesto sauce mixes. Just use both mixes, but follow the directions for the Creamy Pesto, increasing the oil by 3 Tablespoons.

Conversation Starter: Have you ever eaten something wonderful in a restaurant and tried to analyze the ingredients? Have you asked if the chef would share his recipe?

April 15: Yaki Soba

16 ounces yake soba noodles (In the produce section, near the won tons and tofu.)

2/3 cup soy sauce
4 Tbs. ketchup
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
1/3 cup white sugar

Pour contents into a lidded jar and shake well. Set aside.

2 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbs. corn oil
4 half boneless, skinless chicken breasts, julienned
2 cups chopped vegetables.... I use pea pods, carrots, broccoli, onion, and water chestnuts

Saute chicken in oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or wok. Add vegetables when chicken is nearly cooked through, and cook until veggies are tender but not overcooked. Add noodles and pan fry until starting to brown. Pour sauce over and incorporate into the vegetables, chicken and noodles. Serve immediately.

Conversation starter: What bothers the person to your left the most? Why?

April 14, 2010

April 14: Chicken Curry Salad

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into one inch cubes (I usually just use
leftover chicken from a roast if I am not in the mood to make soup.)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 apple, chopped into small dices
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. mild curry powder (I try to buy mine at an import store like Cost Plus...It is more
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Place chicken, celery, almonds and apple in medium bow. Combine next five ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. Add to chicken mixture and toss. Serve over a salad, or in a

Conversation starter: Who is the funniest person you know? Why is he/she funny?

April 13, 2010

April 13: Mary's Salsa

1/2 onion finely chopped
2 medium red tomatoes, chopped finely
2 medium yellow tomatoes, chopped finely
4 green onions, minced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
juice of 1/2 small lemon or lime
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup well chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce or chiles to taste

Place the onion and tomatoes in a bowl. Mash them slightly to create a little juice. Add all of remaining ingredients and stir through. Let mixture sit at room temperature for an hour, then serve or chill in refrigerator. Use as a dip for chips, or as an accompaniment to any Mexican dish.

Conversation starter: Who is the biggest cheerleader or encourager in your life? Why?

April 12, 2010

April 12 THE MONDAY MENU: Rethinking the salad

About a month ago in my post for Tarragon Chicken Salad I lamented over the United State's number one food for dieters, the salad. I know eating salads can be good for you, but personally I take very little pleasure in having a relationship with three or four different types of lettuce.

However, when my doctor tells me that if I do not lose weight I will most likely have a heart attack before I am fifty (nine years away), lettuce suddenly sounds good.

But not all salads are created equal. If you are like me, good food needs to have that "wow factor". Flavors need to pop and dance upon the taste buds. And in my opinion, salads should be no different. Most people who eat salad are aware of the high fat content in many salad dressings, and the need to steer clear of them. When the dressing is set aside, though, what's left is little more than glorified rabbit food.

So, how do you make salad dance on the taste buds without all that fattening goodness? The answer is simple; forget what you know about traditional ways to make salad and treat your taste buds to a buffet of flavors

1. Add fruit.

Mandarin oranges, kiwi, raisins, grapes, and apples compliment many vegetables and pair nicely with several proteins such as chicken, shrimp, or ham commonly used in salads. Stay away from fruits with high acid content like pineapple, and avoid fruits that are sour such as grapefruit.

2. Spice up your salad.

When used in moderation, fresh herbs such basil, oregano, parsley, mint and even dill, will add a completely new dimension to your salad experience. These herbs can can be incorporated into a light vinaigrette consisting 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 1/2 teaspoon of dried mustard, crushed red pepper, black peppercorns, or fresh garlic can also be using to create a flavor that will leave your taste buds smiling.

3. Deluxe your salad

My favorite way to eat salad is with meat - preferably grilled. However, if the meat is cooked properly and tastes good, I can forgo the smoked flavor that I like so much (see my recipe for roast beef). Chicken is perhaps that easiest protein to pair with salad as it easily accepts both the sweet flavors of fruit, and the savory flavors of the herbs ands spices.

When I grill chicken for salads I like to use 2 pounds of boneless skinless breast meat soaked for 24 hours in a basic marinade:

1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic
1 cup water
1/4 cup Bourbon Whiskey.
3 cups ice

Combine all of these ingredients, except ice, and cook over medium heat until salt and brown sugar are dissolved. Cool the marinade by adding three cups ice. Once marinade is cool, add the chicken and refrigerate.

Grill the chicken over low heat. Breast meat takes approximately 25-30 minutes to cook, while thigh meat can take up to 45 minutes. After the meat is cooked, let is rest for seven minutes before dicing it into bite-sized pieces to be placed on the salad.

4. Go a little crazy.

Last week I made a Mexican chicken salad for my family. Unlike times in the past when I made this dish, I decided this time to do something a bit different. Using a tablespoon of vegetable oil I caramelized a handful of sweet onions with a medium sized diced jalapeno and added it to my grilled chicken. The chicken and onions, along with a handful of corn chips served as the base for my salad, which consisted of 2 cups lettuce, 1/2 cup diced heirloom tomatoes, red onion, pepper jack cheese, 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream, and fresh homemade salsa (1 cup diced tomato, 2 teaspoons red onion, 2 teaspoons diced Serrano peppers, 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice from 1/2 lime).

My salad however did not have to come with a Mexican flare. I could have easily paired the caramelized onions with roast beef and a touch of horseradish, and then topped it with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, cucumbers, Ect. Just as easily, I could have also paired my chicken with mandarin oranges and a raspberry vinaigrette. The number of combinations are limited only by one's imagination.

The whole point is that salads need to be healthy, but at the same time should not be boring.They should, in my newly reformed opinion, be allowed to dance on the same stage as rib eye steak, barbecue spareribs, and loaded baked potatoes.

Conversation starter: One of the buzz words in today's political arena is the word "change". When a religion changes, it is said to be reformed. What "change" or "reform" in the past 100 years has had the greatest impact on your world?

April 10, 2010

Curds & Ways by Jane Jarrell

A couple of summer's ago we did a taste test of lemon curds at The Dallas Morning News photo studio, we wanted to see just what was the best curd to use for quick desserts. After a panel of tasters did the job the product winning the ribbon was Wilkes and Son, a smooth yet tart thick pudding-like treat just begging to be part of someones dessert repertoire. Layer between chunks of angel food cake. Mix two tablespoons with a can of store-bought frosting and ice cupcakes, layer in parfaits with whipping cream and fruit, slather a bit on thin gingersnaps and top with a second snap and top a rich vanilla cheesecake with curd.

For a beautiful tart, buy a prepared pie crust and bake according to package directions, fill with lemon curd and refrigerate, garnish with powdered sugar. For an interesting "tart art" look cut a design into a piece of paper, lay the paper over the surface of the filled pie shell and finely dust with powdered sugar. Gently remove the "template" from the tart and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with raspberries.

Let these ideas "jump start" your creativity to make quick and tasty tart treats in minutes.

Conversation starter:
Lemon curd is tart, smooth and delicious. Given the ideas above what else might you consider as a dessert option using this product?

Photos--Evans Caglage

April 10: Garden Pasta With Bread Crumbs

1 zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup green beans
1 clove garlic
1 yellow squash cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Spaghetti noodles to feed four
Fresh parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. While it is cooking.......
Saute zucchini, beans, garlic, and yellow squash in butter over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Add salt, pepper, and bread crumbs over medium heat, until bread crumbs turn darker brown. Keep warm on low heat. Drain cooked pasta, and place in pasta or serving bowl. Drizzle olive oil and parmesan over pasta, tossing to coat. Add bread crumb mixture and toss well. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serves 4.

Conversation starter: What was the best place (hotel, campsite, friend's house) that you've stayed?

April 09, 2010

Friend Fridays: Nathan Hanscome's sprinkledoodle cookies

While making our favorite snickerdoodles one afternoon, my son Nathan asked if we could roll them in the usual cinnamon/sugar mixture AND in sprinkles. They turned out so yummy that Nathan dubbed them sprinkledoodles. So credit for this recipe should really go to Nathan Hanscome, age 7.

Preheat oven to 400
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup shortening
1 egg
1 1/3 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt

Form dough into balls then roll in a mixture of:
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (or a little more)
1 T colored sprinkles

Place balls about an inch and a half apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes (a little more or less depending on your oven and type of cookie sheet you are using).

Conversation starter: What is your favorite cookie?

April 08, 2010

April 8: Grilled Zucchini and Yellow Squash

1 zucchini (about ten inches long)
1 yellow summer squash (looks like a yellow zucchini) 10 inches long
4 Tbs. Olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. kosher sea salt
ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Slice squash lengthwise, making 1/4 inch thick slabs. Combine marinade in shallow baking dish. Toss with the squash. Refrigerate 4-6 hours.

Heat grill to medium high, and put squash on as if you would put a steak on the grill. Turn when starting to brown. Make sure the squash becomes translucent, and that it has grill lines. Return to marinade and keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. Serves 4.

Conversation starter: Ask Mom or Dad any question you want about their childhood.

April 07, 2010

April 7: Curried Carrot Soup

1 red onion, chopped finely
1 Tbs. olive oil
Four cups of chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cups of sliced and peeled carrots
3 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Saute onion in oil until onion is starting to brown. Add chicken stock, garlic, carrots, curry, salt, pepper, and wine. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots are completely cooked. Use a hand held blender to puree all the ingredients. (Or, let soup cool, and process in batches in a blender.) Bring heat to Low and add cream and parsley. Stir through. Makes 6 servings.

Conversation starter: List five things you could give to a homeless person. Why those things?

April 06, 2010

April 6: Chicken Apple Curry

2 full chicken breasts, boned and cut into long strips
1/2 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 Tbs. butter
1 large apple (I used Braeburn, you could use any kind), cut into 1 inch cubes
2 Tbs good quality mild curry-powder (I buy mine at Cost Plus Imports.)
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. chutney (optional)

In a large skillet, saute onion in butter on medium high heat until staring to brown. Add chicken and cook through. Add apple and curry and cook until apples are tender. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and add sour cream and chutney. Stir until sour cream is dissolved. Serve over basmati or jasmine rice. Serves four.

Conversation starter: What do you think the word grace means?

April 05, 2010

April 5 THE MONDAY MENU: Shrimp & Grits

Having grown up in Oklahoma and Texas for the first decade of my life, it was not until my family moved to North Carolina when I was eleven years old that I discovered the sacred dish of the South known as grits.

When I ate my first grit I do not know. What I do recall are all the debates that I heard throughout my teenage years about the proper way to eat grits - thick versus runny, with butter only or with cheese, with gravy or without, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three? So sacred was this dish made of ground up corn that people got their feelings hurt if you insulted their preferred way of eating it.

And then there is Shrimp and grits.

Contrary to what some folks may think, shrimp paired with grits did not originate in Louisiana. Yes, the Cajun style of eating shrimp and grits is quite possibly the most popular, but historical records tell us that coastal fishermen in South Carolina were eating the dish for breakfast in the early 17th century during shrimping season (May- December).. Back then the common way to cook the shrimp was in some bacon grease and then pair with grits that were simply boiled in water until cooked.

In this century shrimp and grits are now served in a hundred different varieties. And, of course, there is plenty of room for debate is to which way is best. Today I offer to you the recipe for my preferred way to eat shrimp and grits. However, in the name of fairness I am also offering you some unique variations that I hope will please your pallet. Enjoy.

Conversation Starter:
What dishes are considered sacred in the culture in which you grew up? Why do you think people elevate foods to such a level?

Shrimp & Grits


2 pounds medium (26-30 count) shrimp peeled, cleaned, and deveined
1 clove minced garlic
1 small onion -finely diced
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt


2 Cups chicken stock or water
2 Cups Half and Half, cream, or whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Cup quick grits (Quaker works best)
1/2 teaspoon ground curry (not hot)
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar cheese



In a 3 quart sauce pan prepare grits by combining over medium high heat chicken stock, Half and Half, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, begin stirring with a whisk. While stirring, slowly add the grits. Continue stirring for about a minute to ensure that no lumps have formed. Reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring occasionally. Allow grits to cook for approximately 5-7 minutes until thickened and all the water has been absorbed. When fully cooked, grits should be smooth and creamy. Add Cheddar cheese and curry and mix well.

Tip: If grits stick to the bottom of the pan but are not scorched (they will smell slightly burnt), simply remove pan from the heat and stir. Cover with lid and let grits sit off of the heat source for three minutes. After three minutes, stir grits again scraping the bottom of the pan. Stuck grits will come right off. Be sure to mash any lumps.


In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and allow them to get soft and translucent. Add garlic and sautee' for three more minutes. Add shrimp, red pepper and salt and cook over medium heat until all the shrimp have turned pinkish throughout.

To serve: Top one cup of grits with desired amount of shrimp.


As I said before, this dish literally has hundreds of variations. I offer you three.

1. Replace curry and cheddar cheese with Smoked Gouda. Serve with shrimp according to the recipe above.

2 Make a reduction sauce out of 2 cups diced tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 small diced onion,1 clove minced garlic , 1 teaspoon ground red pepper, and 1/4 cup dry white wine. Mix and reduce by half stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and two pinches of salt, cook and serve over curry grits.

3. Sautee' over medium heat 1/4 cup diced onion and 1/4 cup bell pepper in three tablespoons butter until onions are translucent. Add three tablespoons flour and mix well. Cook for an additional six minutes stirring often. Slowly add 1/2 cup chicken broth in small increments stirring constantly. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk in small amounts. Allow mixture to come to a low boil, stirring constantly. Once mixture has begun to boil, reduce heat and add shrimp. Cook for 2- 3 minutes. Serve shrimp over grits finished with Smoked Gouda cheese.

April 02, 2010

Friend Fridays: Sandi Glahn's broccoli slaw

Sweet Broccoli Slaw
From the kitchen of author Sandi Glahn
Raw stems from 2 heads broccoli
1/3 c. poppy seed salad dressing (Brianna's is best)
3 T sliced almonds
3 T craisins
7 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained (optional)
Grate broccoli stems (I use the "grate" setting on my food processor). Stir in poppy seed dressing, almonds and craisins. Add pineapple, if desired. Mix together and refrigerate for one hour. Goes well with fish and chips.

Conversation Starter:  Can you remember making a mud pie? When did you? How did it feel? (And did you eat it!?)

April 01, 2010

April 1: Baked Potato Salad

6 large baking potatoes
8 ounces of bacon
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Wash and prick potatoes and bake at 400 degrees for an hour. (Do not peel.) Let cool. Cut into 1 inch cubes leaving skins on. Cook bacon in its own fat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy but not burnt. Toss bacon, bacon fat, potatoes, oil and vinegar and let marinate one hour. Add onions, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, and mustard. Stir through and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves about ten at a potluck.

Conversation starter: Why do bad things happen to good people?