Archive | April, 2013

salad splendor

21 Apr

Spring is here…well for many of us!   Some folks are still braving some pretty cold weather, but spring is here, at least by calendar standards!  No matter what the weather outside is telling us, it is April.  Farmers markets, with beautiful fresh ingredients, are opening up. It is time to stroll through the farmers market and get some nutritious crisp vegetables.   Get ready to dress those vegetables up nice and pretty.  And put away that bottle!

Okay, so I am not going to put Hidden Valley Ranch out of business.  But I can certainly make a better salad dressing than they can!  I can tailor my salad dressing to any taste and to any salad.   Dressing out of a bottle?  How passé!  Showcase those beautiful vegetables and make a delicious salad dressing yourself!  It is simple and takes only moments.  Here we go!

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 c. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 c. vinegar (I get creative with this, as there are many flavorful vinegars to choose from. My favorite “go to” is balsamic.)
  • 1 T. Lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 t. honey (optional)

Whip ingredients together with a fork.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve!

Salad dressings are great fun to adjust to taste.  This vinaigrette is just a starting point, so go have fun with it.  Put in a little more of this, a little less of that, and make the fresh spring vegetables on your dinner table shine.  I use this vinaigrette on sandwiches too.  I like putting lettuce, arugula, bell and banana peppers on a deli style sandwich, and this dressing really adds delicious bold flavor kick to a sandwich when drizzled over the vegetables.

So have a salad, or top off a sandwich, enjoy these lovely spring vegetables and dress them up with a yummy fresh vinaigrette!

Creamy Bleu Cheese Dressing

Fun Food!

12 Apr

Food is center stage in my home quite often.  The kitchen is truly the heart of our family home, and I love hanging out there.  When I say that food is important to my family, I don’t mean constantly eating junk laden food.  Taking the time to prepare food with family is enormously rewarding.  It is a family value and time well spent together in a warm comfortable accepting environment.

My children have always felt welcome inviting their friends over for meals.  My youngest son recently said “mom, my friends asked me what my mom would do if you told her 30 friends were coming over.  I told them that you would say…Are they staying for dinner?”.  He said it in a matter of fact way.  He meant it.  And he was right!  That is the true heart, the essence of my home for which I am truly grateful.  My children’s friends are welcome, and they know it.  My friends too.  I love a home filled with friends, family, food and fun!

We have great meals and nutritious food, but we have loads of fun too.  I enjoy cooking, but am not much of a baker.  I can sure improvise though.  And have a blast.  My kids do too!  I love to cook, but the teeny tiny side of me that bakes rears its ugly head every now and again.  Not really one for cookies, I turn to making cakes with the children.  We put a spin on it though.  We will make fun cakes for most any occasion!

My daughter Delaney and her friends Lorena making the traditional "Bunny Cake" for Easter!  So Fun!

My daughter Delaney and her friends Lorena making the traditional “Bunny Cake” for Easter! So Fun!

When we make cakes, we use a high quality cake mix.  Those work just fine for non bakers like myself.  But I always make the frosting from scratch.  I learned how to make out of this world frosting from my mom.  She very wisely advised me to “always make a little too much frosting by accident”.  Was she ever right!  I was never voted Prom Queen, but when I make frosting I am Prom Queen for a moment..the most popular girl ever!  What do I mean by popular?  Let me tell you!

When I bust out my frosting, a line forms in the kitchen.  Kids.  Denis.  His mom.  Everyone lines up to grab a spoonful of frosting before it makes its way to the cake.  Everyone but my youngest son that is.  The baby of the family (I am one too!) is a scrappy bunch.  We learn survival of the fittest at a very young age!  Anywhooo, my son doesn’t grab a spoon and stand in line. Nope, not him.  The moment he notices a naked cake cooling on the counter and a stick of butter nearby softening, he loudly “calls the beater”.  Now that is the holy grail when making frosting, let me tell you!  He is a smart kid.  No line, no waiting, and a solid guarantee of a good dose of moms incredible buttercream frosting.  Yup, that’s my boy!

But I digress!  Back to the cakes.  I do not have lots of room in my kitchen for a bunch of specialty cake pans.  So I improvise.  I make 2 round cakes, or a round cake and a square one,  and cut it to fit the occasion.  I have also made a rectangle cake for my sons, and with colored frosting made everything from a football field cake with action figures to a construction site cake with matchbox bulldozers.  So much fun, and the creativity flows.  Food should be fun, so go have a blast!

Our fun bunny cake!

Our fun bunny cake!

Our heart cake for Valentines Day.

Our heart cake for Valentines Day.

What’s for Dinner?

9 Apr

My friend  Beth hates this question.  I love it.  For me, it is the creative ending to my busy day.  A chance to express my artsy side.  Hanging out in the kitchen is a time for family to connect after a long day.  Sometimes I will stop at the grocery on the way home from work if I want to make something fresh, like fish.  But usually, I just head to my fridge, freezer and pantry.  Then I unleash the creative juices!

So last night, this is what I pulled out for dinner.

  • Fresh leftover veggies including tomatoes, mushrooms, and yellow squash.
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Penne pasta (dried in the box)
  • Italian bread, 1/2 loaf pulled from the freezer
  • 1/2 cup leftover pesto
  • a hunk of parmesan cheese

And that, my friends, was dinner.  I started with the chicken.  I seasoned the meat simply, with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  After starting the grill and letting it get hot, I plopped the chicken on there to cook.  Meanwhile, I started a pot of water to boil, and then cut the veggies up.

When the chicken was done, I brought it back inside and tented it with some tin foil.  It is a perfect way for meat to stay hot and juicy, and meat should always “rest” for 10-20 minutes prior to serving.   Then I tossed the pasta into the water for its 10 minute boil time and sautéed the veggies in a bit of olive oil.  I seasoned the veggies with a bit of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and some basil.  Simple.

These are the veggies that I sauteed for dinner!

These are the veggies that I sautéed for dinner!

As the pasta finished cooking,  my son set the table.  It was, after all, Manners Monday, so we talked about table settings and appropriate dinner conversation topics.  In my home, while I cook the other family members (and even guests!) are helping to get the meal on the table.  Meals are, after all, a family affair, and all should be present and participating.  Setting the table, pouring water, placing napkins out…these are all necessary prior to the meal coming to the table.  Everyone pitches in.   And to keep the mood light and joyful, I always have music playing.

Okay, so next I drained the pasta, chopped up the chicken, finished sautéing the veggies and tossed it all together back in my big stock pot that the pasta cooked in.  Conserving dishes is important on most work nights!  We loaded up our plates and to the table we went.  Quick, nutritious, homemade, and voila!  A family meal, and moment, came together.  Try it.  What’s in your fridge?  What are you making for dinner?

Dinner!  Pasta and veggies with pesto, and crusty bread! Yummy and easy!

Dinner! Pasta and veggies with pesto, and crusty bread! Yummy and easy!