Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Honey & Orange Roasted Carrots

Now is that part of the summer when I start reaping the benefits of my garden.  All the bug bites, back aches and sweat is worth it when I'm able to wander out to the back yard and come back with a bag filled with lettuce, green beans, peas and carrots.  Ah, the beautiful bounty of the earth!  It makes me wax poetic.  Well, that is if I had a poetic bone in my body.

Anyway, one of the things that I have a bumper crop of is carrots.  My son loves to pull a couple out, brush off the dirt and eat them fresh from the garden, literally.  Now, that my gross out some of you, but one of my brothers used to eat the dirt from our sandbox and he's a big, strapping man, so I figure a little dirt won't hurt Tanner.

On Sunday, we went out with the idea that we would  pick just a few for lunch, but there were so many perfect ones, we just couldn't stop.  We ended up with about 20 beauties and I knew I needed something special for them. 

Here's your Cast of Characters.

15 - 20 Medium-sized carrots, whole
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Orange marmalade
1 Tsp. sea salt
1/2 Tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 Tsp. curry powder
1/8 Tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking oil.  Clean carrots, cutting off both ends but leaving whole.  Place in a single layer on cookie sheet.

In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Microwave for 30 seconds until warm.  Mix well.

Drizzle over carrots and roll them around to get completely coated.

Roast on top rack of oven for 45 to 55 minutes, stirring halfway through to redistribute glaze.  Once glaze has thickened up and reduced almost completely, and carrots are still, ever-so-slightly firm, they are done.

Plate up, and serve immediately.

The sweetness of the honey and marmalade are cut perfectly by the curry and cayenne pepper.


**Note:  I will not be posting on Thursday as we will be visiting family in Missouri and getting ready for my nephew's wedding.  See you all next Tuesday!**

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grandma Roberts' Apple Fruit Rolls

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was talking about my family coming for a quick visit?  I only had a couple of meals to cook for them, so I was trying to cram all their favorites in?  Any of this ringing a bell?  Okay, good!  The reason I'm refreshing your memory is because tonight's recipe is one of those favorites I mentioned:  my grandma's apple fruit rolls.  I think for my brother and me, that dessert is the epitome of comfort food.  The aroma of apples and cinnamon while it's baking takes me right back to my grandma's kitchen.  When it is dished up and the first bite is consumed, I am transported to some of the best times of my youth.  I'm pretty sure that's how my brother feels, too, although he'll never put in those exact words.  It's for those reasons that I make it whenever he comes to visit.

Here's the thing, though, I was so busy trying to get everything made that I a.) wasn't thinking ahead that I might want to use it for the blog, and b.) didn't take any pictures, not even finished pictures.  Sorry, folks.  Normally I wouldn't post without, at least, a finished photo but this recipe is too good not to share.  You'll just have to use those wonderful imaginations this time.

Here's your Cast of Characters:

4 Medium-sized tart apples - peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 Cup sugar
2 Tsps. cinnamon

Biscuit Recipe:
2 Cups flour
2 Tsps. baking powder
4 Tbsp. shortening
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. cinnamon
1 Cup milk

3 Cups sugar
3 Cups water
2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss apples with lemon juice, then stir in sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

For the biscuits, mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.  On a floured surface, roll out the biscuit dough in a large rectangle until thin.  Spread chopped apples evenly across it.  Take the long side, and roll tightly into a thick rope, pinching the seam together.  With a sharp knife, cut into 2 inch rolls.  Place the rolls cut side down in a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Next, in a medium saucepan bring the syrup ingredients to a boil, and continue boiling until the sugar dissolves.  Pour boiling syrup over the rolls.

Bake until rolls are a dark golden brown and done in the center, about 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm or cold.  Once the rolls have cooled a little, the syrup will thicken up to a nice sauce.  When you dish the fruit rolls up, spoon some of the sauce over each roll.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grilled Halibut

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Well, I might have mentioned this little tidbit once.....  Or twice.............  Or maybe a few times before, but it is definitely worth repeating.  Here it is.  Pay close attention!  SIMPLER IS ALMOST ALWAYS BETTER! 

Let me rewind a little bit.  My daughter has been visiting family in Missouri for a week and a half, and I dropped my son off at camp on Sunday, so it's just my husband and me.  I have to admit, I haven't really wanted to cook much, just for the two of us, but I took pity on my husband tonight. 

After work I walked across the road to the grocery store, hoping inspiration would strike......AND IT DID!  I headed to the meat department, thinking I'd find something to throw on the grill, but didn't make it past the fish counter.  The halibut was calling my name.  It looked big and fat and absolutely beautiful, and even though I've never had halibut before, I didn't let that intimidate me.  I did, however, Google the biggest tip in cooking halibut - don't over-season it or put a heavy sauce on it.  The flavor of the fish is so light and tasty that it can be easily overpowered.  Go easy on everything and let the natural taste shine through.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Large halibut steak (This was just shy of 1 lb. and was enough for my husband and myself, to give you an idea.)
1 Tbsp. of melted butter per 1 lb. steak
Old Bay seasoning
McCormick Perfect Pinch Lemon Pepper
McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb

No, I didn't leave anything out - you didn't miss anything.  This is it.  So beautiful in its simplicity!

Preheat grill to about 400 degrees.

Brush one side with butter and lightly sprinkle the seasonings all over.

Place seasoned side directly on grill and cook for 5 minutes.  Use a large spatula to turn the steak over and brush with remaining butter.  Grill for another 2 1/2 to 5 minutes, until halibut is white and flaky.  The flesh should flake easily.  If it's still firm, it's not done yet.

Serve immediately. 

Let me reiterate, this does not need anything else to be delicious.  No lemon squeeze, no tartar sauce - nothing.  Perfection as is!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Garden Fresh Pasta Primavera

Sorry, folks, I had a bug on Monday and Tuesday that had me crashed on the couch for the better part of those two days.  It didn't even hit me until yesterday that I had missed the post.  The good news is that I am feeling much better today.  Good enough to go raid my garden for some homegrown produce.

My  plan was to find enough baby potatoes to go with our steaks.  Let me just say, that was an epic fail.  I found one lone potato big enough to eat, which I did throw on the grill and let me husband have.  However, my row of sugar snap peas and green beans had a little surprise for me.  They were loaded with fat peas and beans.  Beautiful!

Time for Plan B.  Tanner and I snagged everything that was ready, while I started planning pasta primavera in my head.  Oh, how I love pasta primavera!  Mostly because whatever fresh veggies you have lying around will do just fine.  I only wish that I had some yellow summer squash ready.  It would have been perfect in here.  As it is, my light, summery pasta dish hit the spot.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1/2 Lb. shell pasta
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
2 Medium onions, preferably green onions with the stems, diced
2 Tsp. minced garlic
2 Sprigs, each, fresh thyme and rosemary
1 Cup of chicken broth
1 1/2 Tsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1 Tsp., each, freshly ground pepper and McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb
2 Cups of fresh veggies, I used sugar snap peas and green beans

Cook pasta, for the minimum time recommended, in a heavily salted pot.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter.  Saute diced onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary (only use the leaves and disregard the stems) for 2 minutes. 

Add broth and bring to a boil for 2 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn to medium heat and add veggies and seasonings.

Give a quick stir, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Pasta should now be done.  Scoop out with a spoon and throw in the skillet with the vegetables.  It's okay if a little of the pasta water gets in there.  It will help thicken the remaining sauce.

Stir, cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Add last tablespoon of butter, and mix in until melted.

Serve immediately.  Garnish with a little Parmesan cheese, if desired.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brine for Pulled Pork

Tonight's recipe is short and sweet.  Well, not sweet, but short, nonetheless.  I have family coming for a super quick visit, so I've been cleaning all night.  Not that my house was filthy, but I usually do the big cleaning on the weekend.  I just crammed 2 days worth of cleaning into 4 hours.  Holy cow, am I tired!

So, back to the family.  One of my brother's, my sister-in-law, a nephew and his fiancĂ© are coming to pick Bailey up and take her back to Missouri for a 2 1/2 week visit before we go down for my nephew's wedding.  They will get here sometime tomorrow morning and leave Saturday morning to make the 15 hour trip back (I don't envy them that trip!).  I only have them for 2 meals, so I am making the most of those.  For lunch, I am preparing 2 of my brother's favorite foods:  Grandma Roberts' Chicken Pot Pie and her Apple Fruit Rolls.  We grew up eating them, and it's a special treat for him now.  For dinner, I let my nephew and his bride-to-be choose.  I gave them some options and they chose barbecue, so I am going with Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Spicy Southwest Slaw and a side of Caramelized Cauliflower.  Have I mentioned how much I love to cook for my family, and extended family?!

So, in between cleaning, I cooked the chicken for the pot pie, and set the pork roast to brining.  Yay!

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 1/2 Cups apple cider vinegar
14 Cups of water (just 2 cups shy of a gallon)
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup Kosher salt
1 Sprig, each, fresh rosemary and thyme, left whole
1/2 Tbsp., each, Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb blend, McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb blend, and whole peppercorns

Coarsely crush peppercorns.

In a large bowl with a lid, mix all ingredients until brown sugar is dissolved.

Submerge a 4 - 6 pound pork roast, preferably a butt roast, completely in the brine. 

Cover and let brine for 24 - 48 hours, before preparing in your favorite pulled pork recipe. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Vegetable Salad

Last Friday, we took off for our annual weekend trip to my sister-in-law's lake house, with all of my husband's family.  It was filled with much laughter, good food and drinks and plenty of great water sports.  They only thing I hate is when we have to come home because that's when the unpacking happens, mountains of laundry appear and the fatigue hits.  Needless to say, I am still trying to get caught up on sleep.  Regardless, I love every minute at the lake, and wouldn't change anything.

Because my butt is still dragging, I haven't had the ambition to cook the last couple of night's.  Yesterday I picked up pizza, and tonight was leftovers, except one thing:  Summer Vegetable Salad.  Recently there was a huge produce sale at one of the local grocery stores, and we stocked up.  I have used almost all of it, but had a cucumber and a couple of tomatoes that needed to be eaten right away.  After grabbing a couple of green onions from my garden, I was all set for a barely dressed, fresh and crispy combo.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Large cucumber, peeled and cut in half, lengthwise
2 Roma tomatoes, cut into small chunks
2 Small green onions and stems, diced
1/2 Sweet bell pepper, chopped, any color (I had a red one in the picture but found 1/2 an orange one that needed to be used, instead.)
1/4 Cup light sour cream
1/4 Cup fat-free half and half
1 Tsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1 Tsp. black pepper
1 Tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb seasoning blend
1 Tsp. Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning blend
1/2 Tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Tuscan seasoning blend

In a medium bowl, slice cucumbers into 1/4 inch pieces.

Add remaining ingredients, and stir well to combine sour cream and half & half, and coat all veggies.

Cover and chill for 1/2 hour to an hour before serving.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Potluck BLT Pasta Salad

It's 4th of July, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I know that everyone, including me, wants to be outside enjoying the beautiful day.  In fact, I am putting the finishing touches on the children's games I have planned at our community get-together, while I have my husband busily filling water balloons.  And, it's from this community potluck, that you get today's recipe.

The reason I called it "Potluck BLT Pasta Salad" is not because I am taking it to the potluck, but because it is enough to feed a lot of people, so be prepared.  It could easily be halved, for a smaller portion, though.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 - 16 Oz. package of bacon
2 - 12 Oz. boxes of pasta (spiral or shells)
4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 Head sturdy lettuce, like Romaine

1 - 2.5 Oz. package real bacon pieces
2 Tsp. minced garlic
1 Large green onion
1 Cup fat-free half & half
3 Tbsp. reserved bacon grease
3 Cups mayo - not salad dressing
1/4 Cup prepared horseradish
2 Tsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1 Tsp., each, black pepper, Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb blend and McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb blend

Cook pasta according to package directions.  You want them a little firm, not completely tender.  Meanwhile, cut bacon into 1 inch pieces.

Separate and begin cooking on medium heat.

Cook until very crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside.

Drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Chop up tomatoes into small chunks and put in the pasta, along with the bacon.

For the dressing, in a food processor, place package of bacon pieces, green onion and garlic.  Pulse until finely chopped.

Add half & half and bacon grease.  Process on high for 30 seconds.

Add remaining dressing ingredients and process on high 1 -2 minutes, until thoroughly blended.  By adding the bacon pieces and reserved grease, the dressing has a real "bacon-y" flavor for an authentic BLT taste!

Reserve 1 cup of dressing, and pour the rest over the pasta.  Stir well to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, up to 4 hours.  Just before serving, add lettuce that has been cut into1 inch ribbons.  Don't add before because the lettuce will get wilty.

Stir in remaining dressing.  Serve immediately.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chicken and Fresh Veggie Skillet

Last night, I planned to make chicken for dinner.  I even told one of my coworkers that I intended to grill it with a sauce made from teriyaki, honey and orange marmalade.  I had it all worked out in my head.  So, why then, does it say Chicken and Fresh Veggie Skillet above?  Well, funny you should ask.

Have I ever mentioned that my new office is right across the street from a grocery store?  It's a little too handy, sometimes - I've been known to hit it 3 times in one day.  I am not kidding.  Anyway, I needed to go in to grab a bag of Jolly Ranchers before I headed home.  Just one thing.  A bag of hard candy that Bailey and I need for our morning run, to keep our mouths from getting dry.  But, once I got both feet in the store, my illness kicked in.  You know the one - it makes a person feel the need to walk down every aisle of the store even though you only need ONE THING.  So, as I walked, I saw a bag of boneless, skinless chicken breast strips on sale.  Hey, I could probably use those sometime.  Then I wandered to the produce department.  I'm pretty sure, at that point, that I was talking to myself.  I might even have scared a few people.  I'm not really certain, but I do know that I saw a bag of Yukon Gold new potatoes and said to myself, "The chicken strips and potatoes would be great cooked in a skillet together.  When I found the sugar snap peas and baby bella mushrooms, I could be heard saying, "These will go nicely, too."  Then, came the fresh rosemary and thyme, upon which I cried, "Now it will be perfect!  The perfect chicken and veggie skillet!"  That's when I noticed people fleeing, came to my senses and piped down.  After paying, I quietly drove home and made this fabulous skillet supper.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 1/2 - 2 Lb. bag of small, new potatoes, halved.
3 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 Bag boneless, skinless chicken breast strips, or 3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 Bag fresh sugar snap peas, or 2 cups
1 Box sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 Large green onions, chopped
2 Tsps. minced garlic
1 Sprig fresh rosemary, pulled apart
1 Sprig fresh thyme, pulled apart
1 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tsps. Lawry's season salt
1 Tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic and Herb seasoning
1/2 Tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Parboil for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, place chicken and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet.  Sprinkle with seasonings, but not the measured amounts.

Cover and cook on medium-high for 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms, garlic, peas, green onions, parboiled potatoes, rosemary and thyme. 

Saute for another 5 minutes, covered.

Add chicken broth and measured seasonings.  Cover and cook on medium-high for 15-20 minutes, or until everything is cooked through and potatoes are fork-tender.  Stir occasionally.

Add cream and remaining tablespoon of butter.  Stir and cook until just heated through and butter has melted.