Sunday, July 29, 2007

Country Style Hamburger

hamburger and gravy
I know that today's recipe does not qualify as a recipe. It's not a photogenic dish, either. It is not close to gourmet or "company-quality."
However, when my kids and my husband see that we're having "Country Style Hamburger," they smile and sometimes even cheer. It's what I make when I need a "tried and true"-- when I don't want to hear any complaining or see any disappointed faces.

These homemade mashed potatoes are topped with browned ground beef mixed with a jar of beef gravy. That's it. (See what I mean?) I sometimes add sauteed onion, green pepper, and sliced mushrooms which makes it a teensy-weensy bit more sophisticated.

How do you make your mashed potatoes? I recently realized that the most important step to prevent gluey mashed potatoes is to warm up the milk before adding it to the hot boiled potatoes. I pour some milk into a Pyrex measuring cup, along with a pad or two of butter, and then microwave it until it's nice and warm. Did you already know to do this? In my ever present need to rush, for the last 15 years I have poured milk right from the jug. Who knew?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tossed Salad and Omelet

tossed salad and omelet
Tonight I spied some leftover Spam (eek!) in the fridge, so I cut a slice of it into tiny pieces and sauteed it with a bit of onion and red pepper. Next, this salty mixture was added to the middle of this soft, creamy omelet, along with a few crumbles of feta cheese. It was just enough after a long night at the baseball fields.

Have you ever eaten an omelet and a salad together? I think they go very well together(crunchy, creamy). I must confess, however, the first time I heard this idea was while watching Frasier. ("Now I don't know what to with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs...") Good night everybody!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Boneless Chicken Routine and Knife Scare

Tonight we had lemon-pepper grilled chicken, but I must confess...The marinade came from a bottle! Gasp! I also made some basmati rice, steamed broccoli and a simple Romaine salad with balsamic vinaigrette. My kids even loved it. To quote my 11-year-old, "I'm a big fan of this chicken."

Boneless chicken was on sale this week in massive packages. As a wise kitchen gal, I came home and dealt with the chicken immediately. After cutting off the extra fat, I cut each breast into two pieces and pounded them a little so they would cook quickly on the grill. Knowing that I have even more of this pounded chicken in the freezer (safe in freezer bags) is quite exciting to me. They defrost quickly and cook quickly. All the work up front definitely pays off.

But get this! I almost lost my eye while I was cutting the chicken! It came as a shock when my serrated knife suddenly broke in half and flew up to my face. This knife is a good quality knife that I've had for about ten years. Let this be a warning to you! I won't tell you the name of the company until I give them a chance to respond. I was not injured but merely frightened to death. I may have some future knife phobias, however...
Update: The company, Henckels, advised me to send the knife to them, and they'd look at it. A new serrated knife arrived in the mail a short time later at no charge. However, a piece from the handle of the new knife has already broken off. It is now uncomfortable to use. I'll buy myself some new knives when I can. (Probably not Henckels, however.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Easy Garlic Bread

easy garlic bread

Hi everyone! It's been a few days since I last posted. I haven't done a lot of cooking. The other night we had take out pizza and Greek salad, and last night we went to a party and had burgers.

Tonight we had an easy meal of Buitoni four-cheese ravioli, leftover Greek salad, steamed zucchini and summer squash, and garlic bread.

I make garlic bread the way my Mom always made it when I was a kid. It has buttery garlic taste on both sides of the bread! When I make my garlic bread, however, I use two appliances my mother never used -- the microwave and the toaster oven. Once you've made garlic bread this way, you'll never feel the need to buy frozen garlic bread again (if you ever have). Note: If your bread is extra long, you may need to cut the bread in half or use your oven.

Garlic Bread

In a small dish or custard cup, place about 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Squeeze a clove or two of fresh garlic into the mixture. Microwave on high for 30-second intervals until you can smell the garlic. Optional: before microwaving, you can also add other herbs such as oregano or basil. Grated parmesan is also a nice touch. Next, make vertical slices every inch or so going down the entire length of the bread. Here comes the fun part that kids enjoy doing. Using a brush dipped in your oil mixture, paint the insides of each slice of cut bread. Finally, wrap the yummy-smelling bread in aluminum foil and bake in the toaster oven at 350 degrees until warm. It usually takes about 10 minutes or so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Better Way to Cook Hamburgers

I made burgers last night, but I made two changes to my usual routine.

(By usual routine, I mean, "Form patties, place on grill.")

First, I seasoned them like a meatloaf. In one pound of ground beef, I put about 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs, one egg, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce, and 1 tablespoon of A-1 Sauce. Then I formed my patties.
I'm not sure where I heard to do this, but my next step was to make a small depression with my fingers in the center of each patty before cooking it. The idea behind it is that this thinner center will allow the burger to cook faster than usual. As a result, the cooked burger will be nice and moist. It worked! I highly recommend! The flavor was enhanced by the Worcestershire and A-1.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Veggie Pasta - Simple Abundance Style

The book "Simple Abundance," by Sarah Ban Breathnach, is one that I find myself visiting quite often. It reminds me to be grateful for each day.

My favorite parts of the book are what she calls "Joyful Simplicities." She gives ideas about how to celebrate each month throughout the year, based on the weather, available foods, holidays, etc.

I was recently inspired by her July 10 entry titled "Kitchen Mysticism." Here she explains that through cooking, you mix food with love and emotion to create a sense of balance in your home.

Here's her recipe for this delicious Veggie Pasta. I used regular tomatoes and eggplants, and I didn't have any fresh oregano or yellow peppers, but it still came out excellent. The slow cooking brings out the sweetness of the vegetables.

"Slice red and yellow bell peppers, tiny eggplants, and zucchini into strips. Chop red onions, fresh basil, oregano, and Italian plum tomatoes. Saute slowly in good olive oil and minced garlic until the vegetables are soft. Take a sip of wine. Add penne pasta to boiling water for six minutes. Grate fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese...Call everyone to the table. Stop to give thanks. Offer a toast and a thanksgiving for good health, love, companionship, delicious food, and a moment of contentment. A day fully lived, simply abundant."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Homemade Popsicles

homemade popsicles
What do you think of my new popsicle molds? They are made by Tovolo, called "Yellow Groovy Pop Molds," for $7.99 at Amazon. As you can see, they create a substantial popsicle.

I searched for some good popsicle recipes online, but I didn't have enough ingredients on hand, so I made this recipe up. In my blender, I pureed some frozen mango and strawberries, and then I added some Stonyfield Vanilla Yogurt and a squirt of honey. They are a mixture of creamy and fruity.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Insalata Caprese Sandwich

insalata caprese sandwichAs you may have noticed from my previous posts, DB and I love fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Last night I made these sandwiches which are so delicious! The "recipe" is so basic, but the result is a yummy mixture of creaminess, tartness, sweetness, and a bit of crunch. It's the perfect recipe for a summer night.

Insalata Caprese Sandwich

Start by warming a 6-inch section of French bread (for each sandwich) slightly. I wrapped mine in aluminum foil and placed it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes. Remove bread from oven. On each side of the bread, sprinkle balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Fill sandwich with layers of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes (season them first with kosher salt and pepper), and chopped fresh sweet basil.

Have you made this sandwich before? A layer of prepared pesto would be a nice addition. I am interested in hearing your comments on how you make this, or how you would improve it. Thanks!

Zucchini Pie

Since I last posted, I experienced a little getting-ready-for-party burn-out. Today I felt inspired by all the pretty produce in my refrigerator. I found and adapted, however slightly, a recipe from Allrecipes called "Mimi's Zucchini Pie," and it looks so pretty! Although it looks like a quiche, it tastes a bit more cake-y. I used slightly less oil than what was called for. Next time, I would top each serving with some warm marinara sauce.

Zucchini Pie

4 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose baking mix
1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
1 1/2 cups sliced yellow squash
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large ripe tomato, sliced
garlic salt, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
marinara sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch deep dish pie plate.
Whisk together eggs and oil in a bowl with salt and pepper. Stir in baking powder and baking mix until moistened. Gently fold in zucchini, summer squash, and onion. Pour into prepared pie plate, and arrange sliced tomato over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garlic salt to taste. Bake in preheated oven until puffed and golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Leftover Blues

Yesterday we ate party leftovers for lunch and dinner. I can't even look at that stuff any more...

Because I felt that we had been eating too much beef recently (for sure), we went out to a seafood restaurant Thursday night. It was our first time at this restaurant which is quite popular, nestled in the heart of a seafaring town. The menu says that the fish is taken off the boats each day. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and you can see sailboats pass as you wait for your dinner.

I had the grilled salmon, and DB had the citrus swordfish. The menu said the salmon would be topped with "herb butter," but I didn't detect any herbs. The fish was a bit bland, but it was okay. The butternut squash that it came with was delicious and probably loaded with butter. DB's swordfish was good, he proclaimed. The fish sat in a creamy citrus-y sauce. We will go back there and try something else next time.

Friday, July 6, 2007

4th of July Bash

We ended up having an extremely fun party on the 4th. The food came out great and the rain held out until the end.
I served the BBQ Beef Brisket (that I had tested a few days before) and it was a hit. My best reviews to date! (Please see July 1st post for recipe.)
We had about 21 adults and 14 kids. It turns out, however, that I bought too much brisket (15 pounds). I just had too many other food choices.
I was surprised how much the brisket cost ($60). I froze some and will bring the leftovers to another party tomorrow. Here's the whole menu.
4th of July Menu:
BBQ Beef Brisket (in rolls)
Sweet Italian Sausage, Onions and Peppers
Meatballs in Marinara
Hot Dogs (for the kids, mostly)
Baked Beans
Zucchini and Tomatoes
Homemade Cole Slaw
Store bought Red Bliss Potato Salad
Garden Salad
For dessert we had sliced watermelon, cheesecake bites and brownies with ice cream.
I spent yesterday cleaning up, for the most part.

So what's the photo of, you ask? My very thoughtful neighbor brought this chicken teriyaki on skewers as an appetizer. I loved how she presented it. There was chicken on one side, and on the other skewers were: green and red peppers, onions, and fresh pineapple. They went like hot cakes! She just marinated the chicken in bottled teriyaki sauce and grilled them. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Curried Rice with Steak

Last night I decided to broil the top sirloin steaks we had bought from Omaha Steaks. I sprinkled some salt, garlic powder and olive oil on them. The steaks came out perfect! Quite tasty and juicy. I also made some sauteed onions and mushrooms with garlic and a salad with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Finally, I made some curried rice. It's kind of a strange pairing with steak, but it worked for me. Here's the recipe I adapted from Allrecipes.

Curried Rice

adapted from

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cherries (or raisins)
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted

1. In a large skillet, saute onions and garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in rice and curry powder. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until rice is lightly browned.

2. In a saucepan, heat broth and salt. Pour over rice mixture; stir. Cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from the heat; stir in dried cherries or raisins and almonds.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

BBQ Beef Brisket

Last night I tried out a recipe from in preparation for our upcoming big bash on the 4th. My goal is to make something that I can prepare the day before, and this dish fits the bill.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe. First, I did not take the time to let it marinate overnight. It didn't seem to make a difference. I also cut down on the smoke flavoring in the sauce. It was suggested to double the sauce, so I did. There was more than enough! It was tangy and sweet and yummy.

After slicing the meet (after only 4 1/2 hours in the oven, my family was hungry), I put some slices back in the oven with the sauce. The kids ate their meat plain (so tender), and DB and I put our sauce on top. Very good! The meat was so tender. I highly recommend this recipe!

BBQ Beef Brisket


4 pounds lean beef brisket
2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour liquid smoke over brisket. Rub with onion salt and garlic salt. Roll brisket in foil and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Place brisket in a large roasting pan. Cover and bake for 5 to 6 hours. Remove from oven, cool, and then slice. Put slices back into pan.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, ketchup, butter, water, celery salt, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir, and cook until boiling.

4. Pour sauce over meat slices in pan. Cover and bake for 1 more hour.

Best Banana Bread

banana bread food processor

For Mother's Day, I treated myself to the most beautiful food processor ever. After much consideration, I chose a Cuisinart.

I have been having lots of fun playing with it. Although I bought this new toy to make savory dishes (mostly hummus), I have made a few sweet treats.

When I bought the food processor, I also bought The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz.

This morning I made her Best Banana Bread (for the 4th time) in my food processor. It's so quick to make! What I love about this recipe is that it only uses 1/4 cup oil. This recipe is also unique because it calls for 3 teaspoons of baking soda, and it's cooked for a very loooong time in a slow oven (275). The bread is darker than most. Because I'm a big fan of the crust, I make four small loaves instead of one large.

Best Banana Bread

from Norene Gilletz

3 medium very ripe bananas (the blacker the better)

1 cup sugar

3 tsp. baking soda

dash salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. lemon juice plus milk to equal 1/2 cup (or 1/2 cup buttermilk)

2 Tbsp. ground flax seed or wheat germ (optional)

Using the steel blade in your food processor, process bananas until pureed (15 to 20 seconds). Measure 1 cup banana puree. Add sugar, baking soda and salt; process for 30 seconds. Add eggs and oil and process until blended, about 10 seconds. Pour flour over, then add sour milk or buttermilk. Process 8 to 10 seconds longer, until smooth. Blend in flax seed or wheat germ, if using.

Pour into greased bread pan. Bake on middle rack in preheated 275 degree F oven about 2 1/2 hours, or until loaf tests done.

* I make 4 small loaves instead of one large. I bake these smaller loaves for 1 1/2 hours and it is fine.