Category Archives: MAIN DISH RECIPES

HAMBURGER DIP SANDWICHES WITH ONION AND DRY SHERRY AU JUS

Well once again I have managed to use one of the many 1 pound packages of ground beef that currently takes up about a half shelf in our not-so-tiny freezer. Hurray for me! Don’t get me wrong, I love ground beef. But it does tax my old brain trying to think up new and inventive ways to serve it.

But, lucky for me, one of the best ways I know to dress up simple ground beef, is to use it in a dipping sandwich.

Almost everyone I know loves a good French dip sandwich, as long as the au jus and meat are really flavorful. (I hate some of the weak tasting excuses for an au jus served in many restaurants. But I’ll save that pontification for a rainy afternoon when it isn’t so pleasant outside.) But before I leave the subject, I would also appreciate if the sliced beef had some good flavor. Yes, I know – I’m picky, picky, picky!

Well one thing you can be sure of, although this sandwich is not made with thinly sliced prime rib, it is extremely flavorful. The ground beef is seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning (my favorite) and the au jus is absolutely divine. Also easy to prepare. And might I add – reasonably inexpensive. Always a nice thing.

So next time you have a pound of ground beef staring at you when you open your freezer door, take it out and make it into one of these sandwiches. You’ll thank me. They are just really, really yummy.

  • 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 T. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 T. dry sherry
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ c. hearty beef broth (I use beef base and water)
  • 1 chewy baguette, cut into individual portion sized pieces, then halved and toasted just before serving

In a small bowl, gently combine the ground beef and Montreal seasoning. (You never want to work ground beef too hard or too long or you lose the wonderful tender quality of the beef.) Shape the meat into long and narrow patties. (Basically you want the meat patties to be just a tad bit larger than the size of your baguette pieces.)

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Fry the patties until they are done to your liking. Remove patties from pan and tent with aluminum foil. Set aside. (And no, they won’t be piping hot when your sauce is ready, but that’s why God gave us microwave ovens. Just don’t nuke them for too long. You want to slightly warm the meat, not over-cook it. No hockey pucks, please!)

Add the onion to the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the dry sherry and then the flour, whisking the entire time. Slowly whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and beef broth. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, place patties inside prepared baguette pieces and place on dinner plate. Pour the dipping sauce into small individual bowls and set beside the sandwich. Add a nice salad or roasted potatoes or vegetables, and dinner’s served!

 

 

SHRIMP APPETIZER OR MAIN COURSE SALAD

I love shrimp salad. But I don’t much care for the tiny, pre-cooked shrimp that are labeled “salad shrimp”. I prefer the nice big guys, lovingly sautéed just before adding to whatever version of a shrimp salad I happen to be preparing at the time. And yes I do know that the biggies are more expensive, but I’d rather have less shrimp if push comes to shove.

So, when good friends Jim and Margo invited us to dinner a couple weeks ago, and I asked what I could contribute, Jim said “how about an appetizer salad?” I said “how about a shrimp salad” and he said yes!!

So this is the result.

And if I do say so myself, it turned out pretty darn tasty. Plus it was very easy to prepare. (I just love it when a recipe comes together and it works! But believe me, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I try a dish, and although it is edible, it’s not something I ever want to serve again or pass on to my readers.)  But this recipe is a keeper. It’s terribly elegant when served as an appetizer and just plain wonderful when served as a main dish salad.

Speaking of main dish salads, I simply must tell you about eating a salad for dinner while on our recent trailer trip to British Columbia. (You can stop reading now if all you care about is this recipe. But if you want to hear a bit more about our recent trailer trip, continue reading at your own peril.)

As the pictures below show, we had a fabulous campsite at BCs Juniper Beach Provincial Park on the banks of the Thompson River. Ideal setting with the river so close, but not the ideal backdrop for a quiet dinner. I say, not quiet, because just across the river the main east/west line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad runs about 30 trains over any 24 hour period. And on the side of the river where we were camped, the Canadian National Railroad runs another 30 or so trains a day on their own east/west main line. So in case you are mathematically challenged, that’s a total of about 60 trains blasting our camp site with noise during every 24 hour period. And these are not dainty little trains. These are all incredibly long mother bear trains! Mr. C. counted the cars on a good number of the trains. The longest was 230 cars long! I kid you not! The average size was only about 150 cars long. Only! And many of the cars we counted had a second container on top of the one that was riding the rails. We didn’t even bother counting the second tier freight cars. It was just too overwhelming.

We were at Jupiter Beach for three nights and the trains won, hands down! Before camping at this park, I absolutely adored the clickety-clack of trains, especially at night. But after this episode with the trains from hell, I feel like a new mother just having gone through a difficult childbirth and saying to herself and anyone else who would listen, that never again would she subject herself to such an experience! But I suppose, like childbirth, the memory of “the trains” will fade and I will once again be able to look at a train and not flinch. I hope so. Because for 73 years I have loved trains with a passion. I hope to get back to that place, but frankly only time will tell. (Mr. C. thinks I’m suffering from PTTD (Post Traumatic Train Disorder), and I think he may be right. But good news. I recently read that gin helps with this disorder, so that’s encouraging. If gin truly is the wonder treatment, I should be fine in no time. I’ll let you know if it works.) Enjoy the recipe.

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. lg. uncooked shrimp
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • ½ c. finely diced red, yellow, or orange bell pepper (or combination of peppers)
  • juice of ½ lg. lime
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • dash hot sauce or 1 jalapeño, seeds and veins removed and finely diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 Hass avocado, diced
  • romaine or Bibb lettuce leaves

Heat the butter in a medium-large fry pan. Add the shrimp and sprinkle on the seasoned salt. Sauté until the shrimp are just done. Do not overcook. Remove the pan from heat and set aside. Rough chop the shrimp when they are cool.

In a medium sized bowl combine the shallot, celery, bell pepper, lime juice, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and dash of hot sauce/diced jalapeño. Let stand for at least 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning. Gently fold in the chopped shrimp, tomato, and avocado. Adjust seasonings and serve as an appetizer either wrapped in lettuce leaves, heaped on one lettuce leaf, or over cut salad leaves. (See picture above.) Or serve as a main dish salad (see picture below) with whatever amount of cut lettuce you want stirred in with the other ingredients.

 

BANH MI (VIETNAMESE-STYLE SANDWICH)

OK, confession time. I have never tasted a real Bánh Mì sandwich. (I live on an island, remember! No local Vietnamese restaurant. We’re lucky just to have a half way decent grocery store on the island!) Anyway, our good friend Todd told Mr. C. and me all about his love for Bánh Mì sandwiches while we were enjoying a mini golfing vacation with him and his wife Cindy this last May. Todd just kept saying how much he loved these sandwiches. So sure enough, last week I decided to do some research and see what all the fuss was about. (My best sources were Cooking Light and nytimes.com.) I get it! Even though I have no idea if this recipe comes even close to what a “real” Bánh Mì sandwich should taste like; it is so good I just had to share it with you, regardless if it has as much semblance to a real Bánh Mì sandwich as a “Ritz” apple pie does to a “real” apple pie. I really don’t care. This is simply one very delicious sandwich, call it what you may!

So next time you want to tantalize your taste buds, give this recipe a try. And while you are busy in the kitchen fixing this recipe, I am going to try and find a Vietnamese restaurant less than 60 miles away. And when I do, I am going to order a real Bánh Mì sandwich. If I find that the recipe I have just shared with you has absolutely nothing in common with the real thing, I will do an edit, and call this by some other name, like “Pork Sandwiches with an Attitude” or Pulled Pork Step Aside Sandwiches”.

So, if you happen to be a Bánh Mì aficionada, and have a great recipe you would consider sharing, please send it my way. If we agree it is amazing, I’ll publish it faster than the time it takes to explain how to pronounce segue correctly.

  • 1 med. carrot, julienned
  • 1 small English cucumber, mostly peeled, cut in half, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 4-5 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 T. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1-2 T. Sriracha or other chili sauce
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 T. Asian fish sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ c. chopped fresh basil
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 4 individual ciabatta rolls, split, and toasted
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and thinly sliced, opt.
  • mint sprigs, opt.
  • cilantro sprigs, opt.

Toss the carrot, cucumber, radishes, vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the green onions, and 1 tablespoon of the Sriracha. Taste and add additional Sriracha to liking. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining chopped green onion and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add pork and cook, breaking up the ground pork with a spatula, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in the fish sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, lime zest, and lime juice. Adjust seasoning.  

Cut each ciabatta in half; bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 7-10 minutes or until the bread is nicely heated and crisp.  Lightly spread all of the cut sides of the toasted ciabatta halves with the mayonnaise mixture. (Use it all!) Spread the bottom half of each cut ciabatta with the pork mixture. Press the jalapeño, mint, and cilantro sprigs into the pork. Spoon some drained pickled vegetables onto the sandwiches and serve immediately. Serve any extra pickled vegetables on the side.

 

 

BACON CHEESEBURGER PATTIES

OK, I like a good old fashioned bacon cheeseburger as well as the next guy. Maybe even more than the next guy. Add a slice or two of avocado and you have the recipe for my favorite burger.

Now either I’m getting sloppier or restaurant burgers are getting bigger and therefore more unwieldy. Whichever, I seem to always make a horrible mess when I eat a hamburger. Even if I try really, really hard, I usually manage to get hamburger detritus all over the front of me, the table, and whomever I am dining with! (Not a pretty sight!)

So the other day when I wanted to serve a ground beef pattie for dinner, I went on line and found the bones of this recipe on the allrecipes.com site. Of course I had to make a couple of changes, like adding an egg. The organic, open range, loved and pampered cow from whence our ground beef had cometh, was so lean, that if I didn’t know better, I’d swear the cow had been anorexic when butchered. But not to fret. This cow had been loved and well taken care of throughout its short but happy life. (Thank God no vegetarians will be reading this recipe. My reputation as a fairly decent person would dissolve in the time it takes to pop the lid on a container of hummus!) But fellow carnivores, back to this burger.

When I saw this recipe, or the bones for this recipe, I knew that I would love the outcome. And oh my, the burger patties were even better than anticipated. Next time I make them, I am going to serve them on really nice toasted buns (maybe brioche buns), with slices of avocado, red onion, tomato, and lettuce. And dressed with Thousand Island dressing. Yum. I figure if I’m lucky, with the bacon and cheese contained in the burger itself, I have about a 50/50 chance of making less of a mess. Wish me luck.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. dehydrated onion
  • 1 T. prepared horseradish
  • 1 egg
  • 4 slices cooked lean bacon, chopped  
  • ½ c. shredded sharp cheddar, pepper Jack, or blue cheese

In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion, horseradish, and egg.   When well combined, stir in the bacon and cheese. Shape into 3-4 patties. Preheat your grill. When ready to cook the burgers, lightly oil the grill grate. Place patties on the grill, and cook for 4 minutes per side, or until done to liking. Or fry in a pan. That works too!

 

CHICKEN, PROSCIUTTO, AND PARMESAN CHEESE SALAD

While we were on our last RV camping trip to Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington (remind me to tell you someday about watching a rattlesnake being killed on the site across from ours) I decided that upon our return I would start working on summer salads perfect for taking on picnics. (And no, none of them include baked rattlesnake even though I’ve heard it tastes a lot like chicken.)

So last evening I prepared this salad. (Unfortunately we couldn’t get away for an actual picnic because of time restrictions and uncooperative weather, but none the less we persevered.)

Anyway, this salad was just plain delicious. Mr. C. really loved it. (I think it’s probably the crispy prosciutto that really won him over.) Regardless, he said he could eat it any old time I wanted to fix it. (Always a good indication that he really likes something.) And truly, what’s not to like? The salad in and of itself is wonderful. But when topped with moist and tender chicken, crisp prosciutto, shaved Parmesan, and croutons, well it’s just a flavor burst with every bite. And, a meal unto itself. (I’m getting fonder and fonder of one dish meals. Part of getting older I’m sure!)

So while it’s still summer, whip up one of these salads and dine al fresco. Doesn’t need to be up in the mountains or next to water. Can be on your deck, patio, or lanai. Anywhere that reminds you that summer is the bomb. (Of course, if you live in a South Western state and the air temperature is 118F, you might want to stay inside cuddled up to your air conditioner.) But for those of us that live for long days, no rain, and temperatures in the 70s, it’s outside dining as much as possible.

So enjoy the rest of your summer. Stay cool. Go on picnics. Eat salads. (That’s my bonus recipe for a wonderful way to stay both healthy and happy.)

  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. minced shallots
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • cooking spray
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 4 c. baby arugula
  • 1 romaine heart, chopped
  • ½ c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed or shredded (I use my recipe for Baked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (see recipe below) or when I’m feeling lazy, one of the chicken breasts from a Costco rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/3 c. shaved Parmesan, Asiago, or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 c. croutons (see recipe below if you want to make your own croutons)

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and shallots. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified and thickened. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Spray a small amount of cooking spray on a medium sized fry pan or griddle. Add prosciutto; sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until the prosciutto is crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool break into bite sized pieces.

When ready to serve, toss together the arugula, romaine, tomatoes, and chicken in a medium sized salad bowl. Add enough dressing to moisten the ingredients, but not drown them. (You may have extra dressing. All the better to use on another salad later in the week.) Scoop onto 2 dinner plates. Sprinkle on the cooked chicken, crispy prosciutto, shaved cheese, and croutons. Serve immediately.

This dish is loosely based on a recipe in the Cooking Light magazine.

BAKED BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS

  • 1 qt. warm water
  • ¼ c. kosher salt
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika

Combine the warm water, kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, and garlic cloves in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the mixture until it looks like most of the salt is dissolved.  Add the 8 pieces of chicken breast and let them sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat as dry as possible with paper towels. 

Using the same pan, washed and dried of course, place the chicken breasts in a single layer. Pour on the olive oil. Using your hands, best tool in the kitchen BTW, massage the oil all over the chicken. Wash your hands and mix together the seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.  If you use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature at the thickest part of the breast, it should read about 170 degrees. Remove from oven, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

GARLIC CROUTONS

Chop up some small bite sized pieces of a chewy, artisan baguette. Place in a frying pan with butter or olive oil (or a combination) and sauté until each crouton is crunchy. (This takes about 45 minutes because you need to go low (heat) and slow.) Add more butter or oil as needed. When desired crunchiness is attained, sprinkle with granulated garlic. Allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container.

 

 

BAKED BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS

Yah, yah, yah! I know at this time of year I should be posting a recipe for grilled chicken breasts, but hey – I’m lazy. It’s just so much easier to pop chicken breasts in the oven than heat the grill, go back and forth to the grill, and then clean the grill. Like I said, I’m lazy. And truthfully, heating up our grill for 4 chicken breasts just seems kind of wasteful. Well not so much of propane, because both grilling and firing up our oven require propane, but of Mr. Cs time and energy to clean the grill.  

So, if you will forgive me this crime against summer grilling, I will share with you one of the best ways to ensure a flavorful and moist piece of meat. The chicken is wonderful all by itself, but also perfect used in your favorite recipes that call for cooked chicken.

So give this recipe a try. And yes I know this recipe is not as easy as just slapping the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, sprinkling them with a little salt and pepper, and throwing the whole mess in the oven. This recipe takes a little time and planning. But please believe me, the time your chicken breasts spend in a warm soothing bath is well worth the effort. When prepared this way, the meat will practically melt in your mouth. And isn’t that so much better than trying to swallow a piece of meat that really should be classified as “chicken jerky”. (Believe me, I have made more than my share of chicken “jerky” in my time. I’m just sad it took me this long to figure out what I was doing wrong!)

Anyway, I hope you profit from my quest for a better cooked chicken breast. And don’t hesitate to share your new found knowledge with everyone you know. After all, brining isn’t just for turkeys anymore. It’s also absolutely wonderful with pork.

And should you wonder if it would work to grill the chicken rather than baking it, please give it a try. If it turns out just great, just let me know so I can feel even guiltier about being such a lazy daisy.

  • 1 qt. warm water
  • ¼ c. kosher salt
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika

Combine the warm water, kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, and garlic cloves in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the mixture until it looks like most of the salt is dissolved.  Add the 8 pieces of chicken breast and let them sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat as dry as possible with paper towels. 

Using the same pan, washed and dried of course, place the chicken breasts in a single layer. Pour on the olive oil. Using your hands, best tool in the kitchen BTW, massage the oil all over the chicken. Wash your hands and mix together the seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.  If you use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature at the thickest part of the breast, it should read about 170 degrees. Remove from oven, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

Please note: This recipe can be halved, doubled, tripled etc. with no ill effect. In fact, the picture shown is of only 2 chicken breasts.

 

GREEK GROUND CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH TZAZIKI SAUCE

Sometimes dishes get served before I have a chance to take a picture. That’s exactly what happened at a recent pre-concert JazzVox meal. Before I could take a picture of these meatballs based on a recipe from the Juicy Bites website and the tzatziki sauce (my recipe from about 25 years ago), they were history.

So the next time I serve this delicious combination, I will take a picture. But for now you will just have to content yourself with a mental image of light colored baked meatballs, smothered with a white sauce with green things in it, aka – tzatziki.

Now most of you know that I love chicken and serve it a lot. But chicken can be a bit boring. Well I’m here to tell you, there is nothing boring about these meatballs. The mint and the dill give the dish a unique flavor, and when slathered with tzatziki, well frankly, there is just nothing finer. (Actually, I think dog kibbles would taste good if they were slathered in tzatziki. But I’m not going to stand behind those words; just offer them up as a lazy summer afternoon rumination.)

So next time you want to serve ground chicken or turkey (I use ground turkey as much as I use ground chicken), give this recipe a try. Serve the meatballs and tzatziki with a savory pilaf, a crunchy Greek Salad, and a beautifully chilled bottle of white wine, and you will have captured the wonderful flavors and essence of Greek dining. Huh? Maybe Greece should be our next overseas adventure. Time to buy a couple travel books and see if Greece meets our criteria as a perfect travel destination. We love to visit countries with an ancient culture, beautiful art and architecture, interesting museums, pleasing climate, fun and friendly people, and of course – fantastic food. Wait! I don’t need a travel guide to tell me that Greece would be perfect for us. I already know all of our travel desires would be met in Greece. So, time to make a plan and present it to Mr. C. I know, I’ll serve up my idea along with a meal as described above, and I’ll bet you he’ll be searching our calendar for dates within an hour. Wish me luck! And enjoy the meatballs.

At the bottom of the post you will find 2 pictures of our orange cat Miles. The first picture shows Miles sound asleep on our catwalk. No problem, right? Wrong! The second picture shows why his sleeping at the end of the catwalk is of concern. It’s 9 feet down if our little darling were to fall. And since that part of the catwalk is above the bottom of the stairway, there is no way for either of us to fetch him. And no, when I designed our home Max and Miles were not even a glimmer in their papa’s eyes. We had another pair of orange brothers who were very coordinated and we never worried about them falling.

A little background. Miles and his brother Max are two of the least coordinated and skittish cats we have ever had the pleasure of owning. They can fall off the back of a couch and land on their backs at the slightest movement that might be threatening, like Mr. C. turning a page in his book, or me walking by with a glass in my hand. So the thought of either one of the brothers being startled awake while on the catwalk and reacting quickly to a perceived threat always scares the pickles out of me. And since I’m sure you want to know, Miles survived his nap and my heartrate is back to normal.

  • ½ c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 c. whole milk
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ¼ c. finely chopped Italian parsley
  • ¼ c. finely chopped mint leaves
  • 3 T. finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano (Mexican preferably)
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (not too much)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 lbs. ground chicken or turkey

Pour the milk over the panko bread crumbs in a large bowl and stir until liquid is absorbed. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, mint, dill, oregano, salt, pepper, eggs, olive oil, and lemon zest and juice. Mix together with a fork until well blended. (I use the large serving fork that came with my silverware set. Works great!) Add the ground chicken and stir with the same fork until just blended. (Do not overwork the meat.)

Using a small ice cream scoop, shape the balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil and coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until just done. (Do not overbake or the meatballs will be dry.) Serve with tzatziki sauce. Recipe below.

TZATZIKI  

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 c. plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 small or 2 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1½ tsp. chopped fresh dill or ½ tsp. dill weed
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 English cucumber, partially peeled, seeded, and grated

Combine all ingredients. Adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Garlic trick:

If you are using fresh garlic in a recipe, but would like to reduce a bit of the “garlic bite”, place the peeled garlic cloves in a small bowl and cover with milk. Warm the cloves in your microwave, but do not cook them. Then remove the cloves from the milk and slice or mince according to your recipe. You will find that the flavor is still there, but the bite has mysteriously disappeared.

 

MEXICAN STYLE STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS

I love stuffed green peppers. I always have. Even as a small child I favored them over a simple meat and potatoes dinner. There was just something delightful about each of us having our own delectable container filled with seasoned meat. I liked the tidiness of the presentation. And along with the stuffed pepper would always come our very own baked potato. Again a tidy package on which to heap all kinds of lovely ingredients like butter, salt, and pepper. No sour cream, bacon, or sliced green onions in those days. But as much butter as we wanted. (We had our own cows and my grandmother churned our butter. So butter was not a luxury, it was simply taken for granted and eaten enthusiastically.) Sigh……..

So yesterday while we were at the grocery store, I noticed that green peppers were on sale. I looked at Mr. C, he looked at me, we nodded yes simultaneously, and the making of our dinner menu was hatched right there in the produce section of our local IGA. (It’s OK, we’re married! Hatching dinner plans in public is still considered acceptable behavior for married couples!)

Anyway, when we arrived home I decided to work up a recipe for stuffed peppers featuring Mexican ingredients and seasonings. So I began my task and came up with this recipe. I hope you enjoy it. And don’t hesitate to serve it to your children. They might balk at the pepper part, but I bet they will love the filling. And to its credit, the filling is high in protein and some other really-good-for-growing-children ingredients. Including, and this is the fun part, you can sneak wheat germ into the filling and your kids won’t even notice. Hah – is that great or what?!?! For this recipe, I would suggest about a quarter cup of wheat germ. At least, that’s the amount I used per pound of meat while I still had kidlets at home.

For more information about the health benefits of wheat germ for children, visit www.parentinghealthybabies.com, then search under Health Benefits of Wheat Germ for Children.

Please note: For my recipe for a delicious, unmistakably Italian stuffed green pepper, search under Stuffed Green Peppers on this site.

  • 4 green peppers, tops sliced off and seeds and membranes removed and discarded (save the top to finely dice and add to the filling)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (first carefully remove the seeds and membranes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano (Mexican preferably)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce 
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c. cooked brown rice
  • ½ c. low-fat sour cream
  • ½ c. grated shredded sharp cheddar or cheese of choice, plus more to sprinkle on top for presentation

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and fry until cooked through and browned. Add onion, jalapeño, and the finely diced flesh from the top. Cook until the veggies are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, chili powder, tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and add the cooked rice, sour cream, and cheese; mix well. Adjust seasoning.  

Lightly grease an 8×8-inch baking pan. Place the peppers, cut side up in the pan and fill with the meat mixture. (If you have extra filling, bake it in another small baking dish.)

Bake the peppers in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 75-90 minutes or until the pepper is very soft and starting to brown. (If the filling gets too brown during the baking process, cover with aluminum foil.)

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a small amount of grated cheese. Serve immediately.

 

 

CURRIED CHICKEN CASSEROLE WITH BROWN RICE AND BROCCOLI

In my opinion, people who think casseroles are uninteresting, too fattening, and a thing of the past, simply don’t have enough empirical study on the subject. And I mean to help with that problem by offering up one of my favorite casserole recipes to assist with said research.

Now I know broccoli, chicken, and curry casserole (Chicken Divan) has been around for decades. But my version is healthier, less caloric, and if I may be so bold, tastier than most. (If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be posting this recipe in the first place! Duh!)

So what makes my spin on this classic different?

  • no cream of mushroom or chicken soup
  • no sharp cheddar cheese
  • no bread crumbs
  • no butter
  • no sherry or white wine
  • the addition of a small amount of cooked brown rice
  • broccoli and chicken cut into really small pieces so that each bite contains a small bit of each ingredient
  • the addition of a small amount of onion
  • the addition of Dijon mustard to give the sauce a bit of a kick

So as you can see, this recipe has just a few ingredients either lacking or added to make this casserole just a tad bit unique. It’s still really Chicken Divan. But I think my execution of this dish better reflects the current taste for more sophisticated yet wholesome preparations. But as they say – vive la différence! If you have a favorite recipe for Chicken Divan, I say, stick with what you know and like. But if you are a novice to casserole preparation, and feel up to the task of researching casseroles to enhance your culinary expertise, I would recommend this recipe. You have to start somewhere after all, so you might as well start with a casserole that is easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare, and just plain delicious. In Mr. Cs words, “this is really wonderful”. (I love it when those words pop unsolicited from his mouth. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Of course the pre-dinner martini helps with that feeling too. But it’s healthier mentally to believe that Mr. Cs comments are the real reason for my elation!)

  • ½ c. uncooked brown rice*
  • 1 c. water
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • 3 c. very small pieces of broccoli flowerets and peeled stems  
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite sized pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. finely minced onion
  • 2 tsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 c. low-fat sour cream
  • 1/3 c. light mayonnaise    
  • 1 T. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 c. coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley, opt. garnish*or 1 cup leftover cooked rice

    Combine rice, water, and seasoned salt. Cook while you are assembling other ingredients. (I use my rice cooker.)  While the rice cooks, steam or blanch the broccoli until crisp tender. (You don’t want the broccoli tender at this point. It will continue to cook while it cools and during its tenure in the oven.) Set aside.

    Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the diced chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the chicken cubes just until done. (They should have some brown on them.) Remove from pan and set aside.

    Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Do not let the onion get brown. When the onion is done, whisk in the flour and curry powder. (The flour will be quite dry.) Cook for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning. Bring to just under a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in the cooked rice, broccoli, and chicken.

    Scoop into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the casserole is hot. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

 

 

ASIAN FLAVORED GROUND BEEF PATTIES WITH WILTED GREENS

Ever on a quest for ground beef recipes, I decided an Asian spin on ground beef would be nice for our dinner last evening. I had some left-over fried rice and an English cucumber lying recumbent in my refrigerator, so why not make an Asian influenced night of it? So on to the wonderful world of internet I proceeded to do some research on the subject.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “You get lots of your recipes from other people, don’t you Mrs. Carr?” And to a certain extent, that is absolutely true. But in my defense, I usually have the main idea of what I am after already in my head. But being the lazy resourceful cook that I am, I often start with someone else’s recipe, or a combination of several people’s recipes. Then of course, I mess with it or them until I have a recipe that appears adequate to the task of pleasing my discerning palate. And, of course, I always try to reconstruct the recipe(s) to reduce the fat and salt content, as well as changing the cooking instructions in ways that allow the recipe to be more accessible to cooks who may still have limited culinary experience. (Lofty goals, right??) Then I present the recipe to you.

So, that’s exactly what I did yesterday when I changed a recipe from the Eating Well magazine site. The recipe provided me with the “bones” of this dish. But through judicious application of my experience with food, I added a few ingredients that I felt would make the dish even healthier. I added garlic, an egg (binder), and Tamari. I substituted kale and other dark greens for watercress*, and cooking spray for canola oil.

And again, I know what you’re thinking. “So Patti, if you change everyone else’s recipes, why shouldn’t I change yours?” My answer – you should, you should! All I am offering is an idea for a healthy and delicious dish to serve to your family and friends. A dish that is good for you, fairly inexpensive, easy and fast to prepare, and above all free of all the unnecessary, unpronounceable ingredients found in processed food. In other words – homemade! And even if your dish ends up nothing like mine, who the heck cares!?!? You will have served a dish to your family that is not only fun to eat, but a little different and therefore more fun for you to prepare. (The reason I never wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen is because I would have had to prepare the same dish night after night after night ad nauseam!! I get bored too easy for that. And I know a lot of really outstanding home cooks who feel the same way! They love to cook, but bring on the adventure of new and exciting food challenges. Thank you.)

So treat your family some evening to a fun and delicious Asian inspired meal. These ground beef patties are perfect served with brown or fried rice and Sunomono (Japanese Cucumber Salad). Sunomono recipe on site.

*Analysis of the vitamin content difference between kale, spinach, and watercress as found on the www.healthyeatingsfgate.com site. “Kale has the highest vitamin content of these three greens, with a cup serving providing 684 percent of the daily value, or DV, for vitamin K, 206 percent of vitamin A and 133 percent for vitamin C. Spinach contains the most folate, with 15 percent of the DV, compared to 5 percent for kale and 1 percent in watercress. While watercress has the least vitamins overall, a cup serving still provides 106 percent of DV for vitamin K, 22 percent for vitamin A and 24 percent for vitamin C. Your body needs Vitamin K for blood clotting, vitamin A for immune function and vision, vitamin C for healing wounds and forming collagen and folate for creating new cells and, in pregnant women, preventing neural tube birth defects.”

  • 6-8 c. chopped and massaged curly kale
  • 6-8 c. thinly sliced greens*
  • 2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce   
  • ½ c. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 4 T. hoisin sauce, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced, divided
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely diced   
  • 8-9 finely chopped scallions
  • ¼ c. plain dry breadcrumbs or Panko
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • cooking spray

Combine the kale and greens in a bowl. Set aside. Whisk together the Tamari, rice wine, 1 tablespoon of the hoisin sauce, and ½ of the minced garlic in another bowl. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the bell pepper, scallions, breadcrumbs, egg, remaining 3 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce, ginger, and remaining ½ of the minced garlic.  Gently mix in the ground beef. Form the mixture into 4 patties. (The less you mess with the ground beef, the more tender the finished product.)

Lightly coat a large non-stick fry pan with cooking spray. Heat the pan and fry the patties until done to your liking. (Flip only once as the patties have a tendency to fall apart.) When done, remove from pan and cover with aluminum foil.

Add kale and greens of choice to the pan; stir-fry for about 4 minutes or until wilted. Divide the cooked greens among 4 plates. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the Tamari mixture. Whisk until smooth, bubbling, and slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Top the greens with the ground beef patties and drizzle with the pan sauce.

*use any greens, i.e. napa cabbage, bok choy, spinach, chard, watercress, etc.