Tag Archives: quick recipe

Basics

12 Feb

If you don’t have one, run out and get one. What in the world am I talking about? A cast iron skillet. It is a kitchen must have. A basic. But don’t go to an expensive kitchen store to get one. Go to your local hardware store. You will find the best brand at your good old hardware store-Lodge.

As I love to cook, I have a couple cast iron skillets. One  of my favorites has ridges to sear a lovely tenderloin, grill some delicious hamburgers. or make a creamy warm panini. There are a zillion ways to use your cast iron skillet. If you keep it seasoned, it will also become something you can hand down through the generations. Here is one of my well seasoned cast iron skillets.

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How do you season it you ask? It is easy. But remember, you need to continue to season your cast iron skillet every so often. Here are some tips to season your skillet:

  • Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply melted solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware inside and out. Too much oil will result in a sticky finish so keep your application thin.
  • Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven to prevent pooling.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  • Store the cookware uncovered
  • Repeat as necessary
  • When I use and wash my skillet, I dry it not with a towel but over low heat on a burner.

I recently used this skillet to sear some zucchini for dinner. I simply split the zucchini lengthwise, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Next, I got my cast iron skillet good and hot on the stove. Then I seared the zucchini halves with the flesh side down first.

Grilled zucchini in my (very inexpensive) cast iron grill pan.  It was sizzling and searing.  Yum! I seared it much like a piece of meat. After searing one side, I turned it over and seared the second side. I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top. Ooh! So yummy!

I flipped the fleshy side of the zucchini up and put a little freshly served parmesan on top.  Ooh!  So good!

This recipe is a keeper.  It was super quick, hardly any ingredients, and so very tasty!  It was beautiful on the plate as well.  So look for variety not only in your food, but in ways to prepare them.

 

 

 

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Soup Time!

30 Dec

Cold weather is soup weather. When the chill sets in, the soup goes on. I decided to try making a soup I had never made before. And I wanted to make it from scratch. My darling Denis talked about his sister Kathy’s Italian Wedding Soup. He remembered it being quite delicious. Decision made.

Italian Wedding Soup has meatballs, so my first order of business after finding a recipe that I could start with (while making it my own) was to make meatballs. I used a couple of types of ground meat, bread crumbs, a beaten egg, and some italian seasoning. While some epicureans fry their meatballs, I bake mine. I cooked up a big batch so there were extra to put into the freezer for another day.

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While the meatballs were cooling, I assembled the rest of my ingredients. Cooked meatballs, chicken stock (both homemade and store bought), shredded carrots, celery, arugula and spinach, orzo, eggs, parmesan cheese, and finally salt and pepper were set to come together in one magnificent soup. The homemade chicken stock was loaded with succulent herbss-and would perfectly season the soup.

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Next I started chopping. I like everything ready when I begin making something, It just makes it easier to assemble.

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Just a little FYI…when I use celery in a recipe, I use both the outer stalks and the leafy insides. I don’t waste any flavorful tidbit when I cook.

Next I sautéed the carrots and celery in a little butter. Then I added the stock. My first  ever soup kettle of Italian Wedding Soup was underway. The tantalizing aromas floating through the house brought my darling Denis to the kitchen. One of the many things I love about cooking…the kitchen becomes an impromptu gathering place.

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The soup was bubbling away, and the scents wafting through the house made the frosty day outside fade away . Next, more building of the flavors when the chopped arugula and spinach went into the broth.

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Then it was time to froth up the eggs. When I add eggs to any recipe, they sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to come to room temperature before adding them to a recipe. Eggs work better in recipes when they are room temperature.

 

After whipping the eggs, I stirred the soup and slowly drizzled the eggs in-they cooked slowly as they were added. The soup was coming together beautifully.

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The house was filled with the warmth of bubbling soup.

In went the meatballs. They just had to be heated through and the soup was complete. Time to dig in!

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Freshly grated parmesan garnished the soup. Cripsy garlic bread completed the meal. While it was chilly outside, inside it was warm and oh so delicious.

Soup lends itself to personal csutomization. It can be easily tailored to taste. Love pepper? Grind some flavorful heat into the soup. Want more veggies? Chop them up and toss them in. Is vegetarian soup your preference? Use tofu and vegetable broth. Easy Peasy. Let your food express your personality and have fun!

 

Roasted Veggies 3 Ways

23 Dec

The other day I had two things:  a lot of good fresh vegetables and a little extra time.  So why not roast up those vegetables! I started peeling, chopping and layering.  This was going to be a big honking batch of veggies!  Mushrooms, bell peppers, squash, onions…Yum!

A big batch it was. My largest kitchen bowl was full of colorful vegetables. What next? I dusted the vegetables with salt and pepper. I sprinkled basil and parsley on the vegetables as well.

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Olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar completed the prep work.  After a good healthy stir, I poured them onto a lined baking dish and placed them in a preheated 400 degree oven.  Almost immediately, warm succulent aromas began to fill the air.  My mouth began to water with those decadent scents wafting from the oven.

I checked the vegetables after 15 minutes in the oven and couldn’t resist sneaking a taste. What a delicious bite!  Back into the oven for a few minutes, and then they were ready.  The roasted veggies were delicious that night for dinner with lovely grilled salmon.

Did I mention that it was a big ol’ batch of roasted veggies?  And that I love leftovers?  Did we ever have leftovers! And like spaghetti, the vegetables were better the next day. How did they get used up?

Leftovers day one: Roasted veggies made an amazing addition to an omelet the next morning.

Leftovers day two:  I cooked quinoa to mix into the vegetables.  That created  a protein and nutrient dense powerhouse that were perfect after a workout.

Leftovers day three: Roasted veggies piled on a turkey sandwich.  Who needs mayo?

And that is what you do with leftovers my friends.  When you have a bit of extra time, cook big. Then enjoy good food and time savings later! Let me know what you do with your leftovers!

Snap

13 Jun

Want dinner in a snap?  I think it is possible to put a healthy dinner on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Yes, a healthy dinner can be on the table in about half an hour.  With planning.

Sure it takes planning.  But that can be done while standing in line, waiting for a dentist appointment, or waking up with that morning cup of coffee.  It can be as simple as jotting down notes.  I use my smart phone to make my grocery list, and that advance planning helps me get through the store in a snap.

Sometimes planning is just a simple trip to the freezer to pull something out in the morning to cook in the evening.  Let me tell you how simple planning helped me with a healthy home cooked meal last week.

In the morning, I pulled some chicken out of the freezer and popped in the fridge.  By the time I came home from work, the chicken was thawed.  I fired up the grill, lightly seasoned the chicken, ans tossed it on the grill to cook.  The chicken breasts were thinly cut, so I knew they would cook quickly.

In the meantime, I put a pot of water on the stove for some pasta.  Angel hair pasta cooks quickly, so I pulled that from the pantry. It would be perfect with the leftover pasta sauce in the fridge  I took some frozen asparagus from the freezer, and thought it would round out dinner nicely.

The pasta cooked in about 5 minutes.  I also tossed frozen peas (I warmed them with the sauce) into the pasta for a little color. The chicken was done in about 20 minutes.  I let it rest for a few minutes, then sliced the breasts thin.  (Culinary side note:  meat is more tender when allowed to rest.  I time my proteins to be done 10 minutes before everything else.  I then drizzle olive oil over the meat, cover with foil, and let rest). The asparagus went into the microwave.

With a little planning, I had a healthy dinner on the table on a weeknight in about 30 minutes.  what can you make with little time on a weeknight?

Dinner in a snap.  Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus.  YUM!

Dinner in a snap. Grilled chicken, angel hair pasta with cheese pea sauce, and asparagus. YUM!

Seven Super Spices-Mission Accomplished!

29 Dec

Busymomswellnesss has been on a mission to get more spices in use in our kitchens.  The benefits of spices are undeniable, and hey…who doesn’t need a kick in the wellness pants every now and again?  Spices, all plant based, provide a wonderful flavor punch to food, are loaded with beneficial antioxidants, and they have medicinal healing properties.  Adding spices to our food can have a big impact on overall good health.

Cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, turmeric and sage have been covered in this series of super spices.  Time to move along to the seventh and final spice.  Remember, though, while these spices are fantastic, do not be limited by these seven.  Use them as a springboard to inspire planning, cooking, and discovering new flavors.  Allow these seven fabulous spices to expand the palate and mind.  That said, the seventh super spice to discover, rediscover, and use is…clove!

For quite some time I thought clove was either an “artsy” cigarette that was super cool (what can I say?  I have never been a smoker!) or something poking out of a ham.  Yikes!  Did I really just admit to that level of ignorance?  Ugh!  Good news though.  I have now moved far beyond that in the quest to increase wellness through an in-depth second look at super spices.

Cloves, like all spices, have positive effects on wellbeing.  How so?  Cloves have been used for healing in Indonesian and Chinese medicine for centuries, a tradition that continues today.  Cloves have been attributed with the ability to relieve everything from an earache to toothaches.  They are great for gastrointestinal disorders and upset, such as nausea.  They reduce hypertension.  Cloves can he;p reduce inflammation related to arthritis.

From a nutritional standpoint, cloves are a good source of fiber.  They are also rich in vitamin C, important for tissue repair in the body, and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting.  Cloves are a great source of manganese, which is beneficial for bone health, regulating blood sugar, and helps thyroid function.  The list goes on.   There is no downside here folks.

Cloves are buds from an evergreen tree that is indigenous to Indonesia.  They are available to use in three forms:  whole, powder, and oil.   As you can imagine, they have the same benefits but are used differently.  Whole cloves are woody and used in many dishes, but often removed prior to consumption.   Cloves in powder form are often added to sweet dishes, such as muffins, and savory dishes like sweet potato casserole.  Clove oil is a natural remedy for infections and pain.  It is widely used, but since oil is concentrated, it must be used in moderation.

To get started, try this simple stewed fruit recipe. 

Stewed Fruit

  • 2 apples or pears, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • 3-4 cups water

Place the chopped apples or pears, sugar, cloves and water in a medium-sized pot and cook on medium heat till the apples are soft. Drain and remove cloves.   Toss them warm onto oatmeal for a hearty breakfast or allow them to cool and add them to your favorite low fat low sugar yogurt.  Isn’t it time to see what wonderful dishes you can discover with cloves?  Bon appetite!

Here comes the sixth super spice!

22 Dec

Spices have wonderful medicinal healing powers.  The benefits are undeniable.  There is no reason to leave them out of our home cooking.  Don’t like heavy flavors?  No problem. Use them lightly.   Spices, even in small amounts, have healing properties.

So far, we have looked at cumin, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, and turmeric.  Next comes sage.  This is a real brain booster so lets start adding it to our wellness improvement program!

In my past, I associated sage with pork breakfast sausage.  And I heard that some folks added it to their thanksgiving stuffing.  My mom was not a fan of sage, so I wasn’t familiar with it as a child.  And while she may not have liked sage, my mom gave me a creative spirit, a love of cooking, and a deeply ingrained value of family and togetherness, so I discovered sage on my own cooking for my kids.  I gotta say, I am digging it!

We have been discovering sage together as a family.  With the flavors and positive health  properties in mind, I purchased a bottle of dried sage.  We all opened the bottle and smelled it.  I talked about the recipes and flavor profile with my family.  I also reached out to others to get another point of view on sage.  Off we went.  Sage has been a wonderful addition to our culinary palate.  The medicinal properties are an added bonus.

Herbalists will likely recommend sage for an upset stomach or sore throat relief.  Stories abound of monks in the middle ages using sage leaves to make a healing syrup for easing symptoms of bronchitis and coughs.  Rumor has it that opera singers gargle with sage tea to reduce voice strain.  Sage is also credited with boosting memory and increasing attention span.  Hey, I will try anything to decrease my occasional brain fog and reduce my brain farts!

Ready to try sage?  It really is wonderful.  Liking bottled sage, I have graduated to using fresh sage leaves sometimes.  I have a wonderful recipe to kick off your experience with sage.  It is a simple pasta sauce.

Sage Pasta Sauce

  • 8 ounces Pasta, cooked al dente
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 t. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 cup stock (I use chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, added when pasta is done
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Whisk gently to incorporate.  Add sage leaves and lemon juice and zest.  Whisk gently.  Set aside while the pasta is cooking.  Put sauce back on a medium heat after the pasta is done and drained.  Bring to a gentle simmer.  Add the stock and pasta cooking water.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the cheese, toss with pasta and serve.

There you have it.  Now start creating!  Be inspired! Get healthier!  Let spices do their thing and start enjoying better health in a simple manner.  Bon appetite!

Simple side

17 Sep

Fall is in the air, but I am still savoring the end of summer.  I have made one last big batch of summer barbecue  and slaw, but I could not resist adding a twist to my tried and true barbecue menu.  It was so delicious and refreshing that I am now adding it to my list of favorite simple sides.

Fresh delicious side!  Loaded with flavor, packed with nutrition!

Fresh delicious side! Loaded with flavor, packed with nutrition!

Just look at that!  Beautiful on any picnic table, dinner table, or brunch table!  It was a snap to make, and a healthy side dish.  I like crisp textures, a visually appealing presentation, and natural pure  tastes.  Here is my recipe:

Amy’s Fresh Greek Melon Salad

  •  1/4 of a watermelon, about 2 cups,  chopped
  • 1/2 cantaloupe, about 1 cup, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, chopped
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 T. chopped mint

Keep ingredients refrigerated in separate containers until serving time.  Just before serving, toss together.  Serve.  It is that easy.  And this is a fantastic recipe to adjust to what you have on hand, to fit into a certain budget, or for the personal taste of who will be eating it.

Personally, i enjoy the taste of fruits and vegetables together,  There is nothing like a good fall lettuce salad with chopped apples or pears.  You may not think that you will like the cucumber mixed in with the melons, but cucumbers are mild and sweet, and the pairing just works.  Give it a go, add your own flair, and enjoy!