Friday, January 28, 2011

Apple Vanilla Almond Crisp

2 cans apple pie filling OR 6 fresh apples peeled and sliced evenly
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 real vanilla bean pod scrapped out into the brown sugar and mixed into the brown sugar by hand.
1 stick of butter softened
1/3 cup brown sugar packed (mixed with vanilla bean)
1 cup instant oats

Mix apples and cinnamon. Mix the vanilla bean with the brown sugar and then add butter and oats. Top the apples with the oat topping and bake at 400* for 30 minutes or until brown and fruit is tender.

Ginger Peach Crisp

2 cans sliced peaches in syrup - drained OR sliced fresh peaches that are in season or fresh frozen peaches thawed.
2 tsp ground cinnamon.
1 stick of butter softenend
1/3 cup brown sugar packed
1 cup instant oats

Preheat oven to 400*
Mix drained peaches with ginger and cinnamon. Place sliced peaches in greased small ramekins or oven safe bowl.
Mound the topping on top of the peaches in each ramekin. Place ramekins on a small backing sheet and bake for 15 minutes..or until the top is golden brown and fruit is tender. Remove from oven and cool slightly before topping with ice cream.

Carnitas Tacos with Spicy Slaw

Mouth Watering Goodness!

1 pork tenderloin 

Put in crock pot the night before:
Pour over pork: one package taco seasoning and one can of dark cola ie: diet pepsi, pepsi, coke. Set to low and leave until the morning)
Remove pork from crock pot and shred. At this point you can store the shredded pork up to three days in the refrigerator until read to use) discard juice.

When ready to make carnitas, add shredded pork to:
1 can enchilada sauce (i use mild)
1/4 small finely diced onion
Simmer on low 10 minutes.

Spicy Slaw:
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup real mayo
(you can use light on these)
2 T Louisiana hot sauce
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 pkg of shredded Cole slaw
Mix all well together

Construct your taco with a soft shell, seasoned pork, spicy slaw and you can add your own other toppings such as shredded cheese, salsa, tomatoes, avocado ect. I like ours just with the meat and slaw.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ham and Cheese Sprials

Are these babies delish!!! They are also super quick!

 Mix in bowl:
Three tablespoons olive oil
1 T crushed garlic
2 tsp Italian seasoning
fresh cracked pepper

Roll out a refrigerated pizza dough
Brush with the olive oil mixture
layer across entire dough, thin sliced either : ham, roast beef, turkey, ect
sprinkle over it your favorite shredded cheese
and roll starting at one end using your hands to roll entire dough up into a log.
Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices using sharp knife.
Place on well greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minute or until browned @ 375* oven.

Inspiration begins.....

Inspiration is defined as something inspired, as an idea. A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.

What inspires you? That thing that you do and with in seconds you feel as though you breathe easier, your heart feels lighter, your mind feels clear.........
Whatever it is, it's a true gift. One that you should try to do more of in your life. For me? that is being in the kitchen and using my creativity to create dishes that hopefully my family and friends will love. I love the traditions that can stem from what I love doing.

 I spent many days as a child, with my mom learning, helping, laughing in our kitchen at home. I was blessed early on to be able to spend as much time as I did with my grandmother. There were times when I would spend weeks with her during the summer when my parents went on vacation. I remember asking my grandma (whom I wanted to be just like) what time she would be getting up in the morning. She would tell me 3:00 am and I would say " well get me up with you, Ill go to work with you and help" That following morning, I remember waking up and hearing her downstairs moving around and then the door closing. I looked out the window of my bedroom and saw her walking up to the restaurant, it was still dark outside, but I knew it was her. Under the street light I could see a dark figure walking with one hand on a wagon pulling it behind her. It was her. She always took the wagon with her, carrying things she would need for the day. You see, in all my grandmas years, she never had a drivers licence. My grandpa always drove her where ever she needed to go. Why didn't he take her up to work in the mornings? I laugh as I type this because my grandma was also very independent. If it was in her power to do it herself? She did it. The restaurant or "cafe" as they called it, was only two blocks from her home. So it wasn't to far of a walk for her.

I remember that morning clearly. I jumped out of bed and tossed on my clothes, shoes and passed on the rest of the morning rituals like brushing my hair, teeth or even pausing to use the bathroom... and sprinted out of the house. I caught up with her quickly and it was funny to see the expression on her face when she noticed the ease at which the wagon became as she pushed it. I looked up at her and said "you let me oversleep, and I gotta work today!'' She laughed and said " pull this wagon and lets get moving then". That wagon was heavy to pull. But I didn't say anything about the weight of it. If she could do it, so could I.

This was exactly like my chair. Only mine wasnt red.

At her cafe, I stood there while she flipped on several ovens, lights, adjusted the heater, and got down several items and then she passed  me this old chair. It was my favorite chair. And for years, I thought it was specially made just for me. It was a bar stool looking chair. Made of metal, with a flower patterned vinyl back rest and seat. Directly under that seat was all of this stuff, and at first I thought it was the oddest looking place to store stuff. Then my grandmas pulled all that stuff out. It cascaded down into two little steps. I loved it! She pulled it up to the counter and let me crawl up there to sit. I watched as she made her coffee and took her first sip. And she asked me if I wanted some. I said yes eagerly and she poured me a half cup full. That mug ended up being mine over the years. It was brown on the outside, and nearly the same on the inside from years of coffee stains. But I loved it, almost as much as the chair. She watched me as I took my first couple of sips. Apparently she could read my expression because she asked me if I liked it. I said "yes" and  not very convincingly because she poured in a bit of milk, and a little bit of sugar and stirred it up for me. I ended up being much better. It was also our secrete because my mom wouldn't want me drinking coffee so young. Grandpa said it would stunt my growth. :)

I noticed early on that my grandmother talked less than my mom in the kitchen. Watching her work in the kitchen was mesmerizing. She was very precise and fluid in her motions. I am sure this came from years of practice and knowing the next step long before that step came. She rarely used a cookbook, I am sure that those recipes were long burned into her memory. Only occasionally did I ask questions. And it was usually "why do you roll it like that?" "why do you use that tool" and she would answer me and then go back to her work. Our conversations were not many. But I learned alot. She let me help where I could. And there was always samples. The air in her cafe was like something magical. Close your eyes and imagine, apple, blueberry, pumpkin, peach, and cherry  pies, kringla, caramel pecan rolls, cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, and then top that off with oodles of breads, dinner rolls, and biscuits. Pots of simmering stew, chicken dumplings, mashed potatoes, sausage gravy, and much more...all filling the air in this 6 room cafe.

This is not her kitchen. But this is as close I could get to what her refridgerator looked like. Some of the doors to the fridge had glass so you could see in. Others had mirrors on them.  

It felt like a dream when she would hand me the cafe keys. I loved being the one to go to the front of the cafe and use the keys to open the door. My job was not just to unlock, but to make sure the front entry was swept off and clear, the open/close sign was turned, the front light was turned on, and that the front dining section was all ready to go. This was grandpas job. He would come up to the cafe later in the morning and make sure that the tables were set and the display cases were full of desserts and the daily menu board was correctly updated. Grandma used to say that he needed to be double checked so that he didn't forget anything. Grandpa used to say that grandma was just too picky. I wouldn't really truly understand this until I got older and married myself. :)

These are her dishes that she used in her ice cream counter.

It wasn't long before the bell over the door would ring and you could hear the stomp of shoes as the farmers started coming in for their breakfast. "Good Morning Peg" or "Good Morning John." were the typical greetings after they found their favorite tables. Many of them would come in a sit together like one big family, talking about their mornings out in the fields, their crops, complaining about too much or too little rain. I used to get to put coffee on the tables for them. You know...those white Thermos's that you fill up with coffee and leave so the customers can use as much as they'd like. I would blush all morning long I tell ya. Those big men would scootch over when Id say "excuse me, I have coffee"  and they'd say stuff like "well what do we have here... a little Peg with long blonde hair" or "You know John, she makes better coffee than you do, you should have her working here more often". And they would curse too. And then get all quiet and check to see if I was around where I could hear. My grandpa and grandma would let me do just as much as I could do around there. And I was ever so eager to do it too. I loved it. And often felt like it was my own place.

The bar stools that lined the main counter where customers could eat. May would I get chewed out all of the time for spinning around and around on these babies! HAHAHAH

Today, they "cafe" still stands. The last time I was there, was when my grandma died. The then owner, who knew my grandma and grandpa from when he was little, offered to have her luncheon there after her funeral. After all, she loved that place so much. It's changed alot since I was little. But it makes me happy to see that it still stands...

Thank you so much for everything grandpa and grandma. People ask me today, where I get the drive, the inspiration, the energy to do the things that I do.... this is where it all began....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's a Wrap!!

I love easy dishes to make. The fail proof foil dishes are spectacular in that its all in one easy, mess free, easy clean up package.
Because lord knows... I would rather not do the dishes! So here are a few of my families favorites!

Fish Foils
(ok so this is my favorite(s) not my boys hate fish :)
Tilapia, Cod, Salmon, Halibut: any will do or use another fish if its what you like best.

Create a square piece of foil and spray non shiny side with pam cooking spray. Place one tablespoon of butter in the center. Place washed fish on top. Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning ie: Cajun, Northwoods, Lemon Pepper, Old Bay, ect

Add to this vegis that you have on hand ie: fresh green beans, pealed and sliced carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, canoli beans, sliced red potatoes, mushrooms,  asparagus, ect

A quick dash of salt and pepper and your good to go!

Bring the sides of the foil together and fold creating a package. Fold in the sides and seal by making a couple folds. Once your foil packet is all folded, put on cookie sheet and set into a pre heated 350* oven for 30 minutes.  One foil package for each person.

Want to skip the fish? Use chicken or pealed and cleaned shrimp. Want to skip the meat all together? Load up the veggies :)

Foiled Potatoes now this is where my boys come into play... they love love these!

Preheat your oven to 350* and prepare your foil sheets with pam spray like above and include the pat of butter.
Peel and Slice russet potatoes and slice (making your slices even thickness will result in even baking time and doneness)
On top of your potatoes sprinkle salt and pepper. Slice an yellow onion and add 3 sliced rings to the top.  Add a nice amount of shredded cheese (insert your favorite kind here) and top with chunks of crisp bacon...(you can also use turkey bacon or even ham!) and seal that puppy up! Bake for 35-40 minutes until potatoes are tender. (i usually stick a knife right thru the foil and if it slides in easily your good :)

Quick and Yummy Chicken and Rice

Ran across this recipe awhile back and for some reason, it sounded really yummy for dinner. Its super quick, super yummy, and healthy to boot!



1  8.8-ounce package  cooked brown or white rice
1/2  cup  frozen peas
1  pound  chicken breast tenders, halved crosswise
1  tablespoon  cooking oil
1/4  cup  bottled stir-fry sauce
Packaged oven-roasted sliced almonds

Stir peas into rice pouch. Heat in microwave according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir rice mixture into skillet. Stir in stir-fry sauce; heat through. Sprinkle each serving with almonds

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cheesy Taco Casserole

2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1 pound ground beef cooked and drained
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 15 oz can chili beans
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
lettuce, salsa, crushed Doritos, sour cream

Cook macaroni according to package. Cook and drain beef. To beef add taco seasoning, chili beans and tomato sauce. To cooked macaroni add milk and cheese and stir until mixed. Layer these two in a 9x13 casserole dish. Top the dish with shredded cheese and bake

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Bonnie's Homemade Mac n Cheese
12 T butter
3 cups good white crusty bread cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 cups whole whipping cream or half and half
1 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t garlic powder
1/4 ts nutmeg
6 cups of your favorite cheese shredded (Vintage white cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Swiss Cheese, Gouda, Romano Cheese, Muenster)
1 8 pkg cream cheese
2 pounds macaroni

Preheat oven to 325*. Place bread in medium bowl. In the microwave melt 4 T butter and 1/2 t of garlic powder. Pour butter into the bowl with bread and toss. Set aside.

Melt 6 T butter in large sauce pan over medium heat. When butter melts, add flour. Cook, whisking for one minute. While whisking, slowly pour in milk and cream. Add salt and pepper and remaining garlic powder and nutmeg. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in your shredded blended cheeses - while reserving about 1 1/2 cups of it for the top of mac and cheese. Add cream cheese
Stir until blended. and set aside.

Make macaroni according to directions on package. Drain. Add to cheese mixture and stir until well coated. Pour into mini ramekins, 9x13 dish, or whatever you'd like to serve it in. Top with remaining shredded cheese and butter soaked croutons. Bake for 30 minute or until bubbly and croutons have browned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grilled Mexican Chicken Salad

Ok, I promised a healthy recipe :)

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, chopped cilantro, minced garlic, sugar,  minced red onion and ground cumin. (Don't want to mess with making a dressing? Use a LF Bbalsamic Vinaigrette or other favorite dressing.

Dressing Ingreds:
6 T olive oil
1/4 c lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 minced garlic cloves
1 small minced red onion
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Place 4 T in a large resealable bag; set the remaining dressing aside.

Add thinly sliced chicken cutlets to bag of dressing and seal. Shake to coat chicken and refrigerate 1 hour - over night.

In large bowl, combine romaine lettuce, plum tomatoes, black beans, shredded pepper jack cheese and frozen corn (thawed)

3 hearts of romaine, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (I use lf)
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)

Heat grill to medium heat and grill chicken 3 - 4 minutes per side until done. Discard the marinade. Chop chicken and add to lettuce mixture. Drizzle with reserved dressing and toss well to coat.

makes about 6-8 servings. You can grill up the chicken and make the lettuce portion up separately. And enjoy this salad as your lunches at work, dressing the salad as you go each day.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mini Lasagna's

Ok, So it's not "really" diet food. But hey.. it's wonderful comfort food! And it is winter time :) What better time for comfort food.

Ok...let's get started!

Pasta: you can use store bought sheets just fine. I prefer to make my own. Recipe for homemade noodles is below. If your using store bought, cook according to package.

Pasta Dough:
2 1/4 cups flour (start with 2 cups and add a bit more of the 1/4 cup as you mix)
3 slightly beaten eggs

Put two cups of flour in mixer. Add all three beaten eggs. Mix and slowly add more flour until it starts to form a ball. You don't want it wet and sticky nor dry and crumbly.

Once your dough is finished, your ready to roll! You can use a pasta roller or do it by hand. (by hand takes much longer) Starting on the pasta roller, start on setting #1 and run thru once, fold dough over and run thru again once. Then run dough thru (without folding) settings TWICE EACH 2 - 5 with 5 being the last setting. this will create a long pasta sheet that is thin. Cut into strips, or rounds to fit your dish. Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil pasta sheets 3 minutes each. DONE!

Now for the other part :)

Brown 1 1/2 pounds hamburger and drain well.
You can use whatever sauce you like (I prefer Newman's Own Marinara)
Mix this with the drained hamburger

Cheese Mixture:
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Now for the construction :)

Spray each ramekin with Pam cooking spray.
One tablespoon of meat sauce in bottom
Layers go like this:
Noodle round
1/4 cup (approx) meat sauce
Shredded Cheese mixture
Continue to make three layers pressing down as needed, and making sure cheese mixture is on the top. Sprinkle with oregano :)

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

if your doing this in a cake pan/loaf pan/square pan. Assemble the same way :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

This is super easy. The pot pie inside can be made ahead of time, and topped last minute with homemade crust and baked.

2 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on

Freshly ground black pepper and Salt

5 cups chicken stock 

2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 stick butter

1 small onion diced. 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups medium-diced carrots
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 large potatoes pealed and diced


Add these three in a food processor and pulse ten times.
3cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Add these two below that have been diced:
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 pound cold  butter, diced
Drizzle slowly while pulsing the water.
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
The egg is to brush dough before baking.
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Sea Salt and cracked black
Chill this in the fridge for 20 minutes before topping pot pies.

Preheat oven to 375*
Cook in oven seasoning with salt and pepper chicken and debone, cut into cubes. Want to speed it up? buy a roasted chicken from the store deli or used precooked chicken and dice.

In a stock pot, add your butter (melt) add your diced onion and cook five minutes on low. Add  3/4 cup of flour and stir until thick. Cook one minute. Add five cups of chicken stock and bouillon. Add 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Add diced carrots, peas, chicken, and potatoes. Add cream. Simmer on low until nice and thickened.

Spoon mixture into individual ramekins, or a baking dish of your choice.
Using your dough, cut the dough into four sections. Roll out about two inches bigger than the dish you are using. Fold over the filled ramekins and pinch edges. Using one egg, beat well and brush the tops of the dough, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and make three slits in the top of dough. Bake for 1 hour.

Using Beef? Change beef stock, beef bouillon, diced roast, steak or your favorite meat!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fish Tacos

I know... some of you are cringing. Please 'reel' back your first impression of this word 'fish' and have an open mind. It really is something that at first I was thinking. "Nasty" and I am even a fish lover. But for some reason .. "fish taco's" just didnt chime with me. Then I tried it. Now... I crave these babies! They are healthy, easy to make in less than 15 minutes and FILLING!

This is my very own recipe. And its versatile. So you can mix it anyway you like it to your tastes.

Mahi Mahi Fish Fillets
Cajun Seasoning or Northwoods Seasoning
Shredded Cabbage
Salsa or Pico de gaio
LF (low fat) Shredded cheese (optional)
LF sour cream
1 pkg guacamole seasoning
Sm flour or corn tortilla shells (you can also use a slice of lettuce as a wrapper)

Mahi Mahi fish fillets. ( I buy the unbreaded fillets at Sams/Costco in individual frozen packages which are easy to use, thaw and are great. Fresh fish at the market is great too)
I used one fillet for one person. Will get 2 fish tacos out of it.
Thaw if frozen. Quick tip? Set frozen fish package in a bowl and run cool water over for a few minutes. It will thaw beautifully. Once thawed, cut against the grain into 1 1/2 inch slices. (about the width of your finger) and sprinkle liberally with your favorite seasonings (something with some kick) . I use Cajun seasoning or Northwoods Seasoning.
In a hot skillet, grill pan, or on outdoor grill, cook fish on both sides until done (since they are slices, they take no time at all. Usually 1-2 minutes each side if that)

Mix 1/4 cup sour cream with 1-2 tsp of guacamole seasoning

I put two slices of grilled fish, a small amount of seasoned sour cream, a hand full of cabbage, ground pepper to taste, a dab of shredded cheese (for looks really so my inner chubby doesn't feel cheated), and some salsa.
Wa La!!! They are so yummo!!!

Cheers! Here's to a yummy new year!

Ok, let's get started! It is a new year and with that brings new ideas, new dishes and some old traditions with a new twist.

You can tell it is January because of the healthy commercials, how to loose weight tips, and the new year resolutions to get fit. All of these are great ideas. And we all know that life is short and why not make the best of each day that we are blessed with.

I am not a nutritionist, diet specialist, or even a perfect example of how to eat and live healthy every minute of every day. I too over splurge on food. I am guilty of eating past 7:00 pm and ill admit..I love my carbs.

But really...think about it...who the heck likes to diet? Surely not me. Who wants to be healthy? Well all of us do! The best way to accomplish both of these is moderation. I adore my cupcakes. In fact I get a craving once in awhile for that sweet moist melt in your mouth cake. Cupcakes are the best because they are already portioned for you. You don't have to guess the size of the slice your cutting. I cant cut the cupcakes out totally. I have found that when i am craving a cupcake.. I might as well just eat one and get it over with. Because denying myself that cupcake just means that I will eat and snack out of control because i am trying to curb that cupcake craving. So what is worse? Eating the small cupcake and then being satisfided? Or eating the half bag of chips, cheese and crackers , and small container ofo yogurt AND then finally eating that cupcake? I say...pass the cake!!
That said....I said cake. Not pan..or cakes! Haha

I am not going to start out my year on a diet. I am simply just going to watch my portions. Eat slower. And a realize when i am full. Again, moderation. I did a little experiment. For one month I ate just like i said. And tried to pick health options when i was hungry but not craving anything specific. If a time came and i was dyin for a cookie? I ate it. A cupcake? I ate it. I just didn't give into that craving constantly. I can wait out a craving for over a day. If that baby was still there the next day? Then I must really want it. So guess what? I ate it.
After that month I went back to just eating like rebellious child. ( insert evil chuckle )
I felt sluggish, sick to my stomach half the time, and tired and wanted to nap alot.

So...rather than reading a stack of books about this diet, or that diet. Rather than shelling out money for meetings and other weight loss programs, I am going to spend that money on something else. Clothes, my kids, family nights, or maybe if the mood strikes me..that cupcake!

That is my new years resolution. Just simply to pay attention to what I am eating. for that dreaded excersise word. It isn't eazy. Its hard work. Its sweaty work. It's also necessary. I and found that I do better on my own. However, I need accountability. Accountability for me is simply a fun goal. Preferably one that i can't get out of. My goal of choice is racing. I schedule the year in advance, so it's like a little reminder on my shoulder each day saying "hey! Chubbs! Ya got a race coming up..your going to look mighty funny if you can't finish!". Trust one wants to embarrass themselves on purpose.
So....that said. Lots of new recipes are coming this year. I promise they will be easy, delicious, and your family will love them. As far as being healthy? Yes. I have a bunch of fun healthy recipes that are simply and delightful.

Are you ready for the new year?

On your marks, get set, GO!