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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Old Fashioned Pea Salad

With summer upon us and the 4th of July right around the corner, this is a super easy recipe that will be a welcome change at your next cookout.  Instead of the usual macaroni or potato salad, this simple, old-fashioned recipe is something everyone will love, and they will be asking for the recipe!

We wanted something light and cool to serve at our barbecue tonight, and I was trying to come up with something new.  Then this recipe popped into my head and I knew it would be perfect.  Pea Salad is something I have not made in many years, and I can't believe I had not thought about it before now.  With a very short list of ingredients, and literally one or two minutes of stirring, this will be the easiest salad you've ever made.  Sweet baby peas, chopped eggs, a little grated cheese and mayo plus a few seasonings and you are ready to serve.  That's all there is to it.  Enjoy!!

16 oz  Frozen Peas, defrosted
2 TB  Chopped Pimentos
1/2 cup  Light Mayonnaise
2  Large  Hard-Boiled Eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup  Grated Cheddar Cheese
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Ground White Pepper

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients and stir until blended.  Will keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Penne Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

This delicious Italian dish was inspired by a recipe on Jacques Pepin's television show.  His recipe called for eggplant and escarole as the main focus of the dish, which was a yummy vegetarian choice, but we switched it up a bit by using chicken breast and baby spinach.  The results we so good, even our picky eater gave this dish a thumbs up. Yay!

The ingredients in this dish are things you probably already have on hand.  You could use just about any regular or whole wheat pasta shape including fettuccine or linguine noodles.  The one secret ingredient in the sauce is a small can of anchovies.  (Don't tell my daughter!)  I know many people don't like anchovies, but I hope you give them a try in this recipe.  Anchovies add lots of flavor and really make this sauce something special.

What makes this meal even better is that it's cooked in one pot, and for me, that is a major time saver.  This made a really light summer meal, focusing more on the chicken and spinach and going a little light on the pasta.  A glass of Chardonnay wine adds the final touch.  Enjoy!!

2 TB  Olive Oil
2 lb  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut thinly into 1-inch diameter slices
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Red Pepper Flakes
3 oz can  Anchovies, chopped, oil reserved
2  6-oz bags  Baby Spinach, rinsed and large stems removed
1 lb  Pasta of Your Choice, such as Whole Wheat Penne Pasta

In a medium pot, cook pasta according to package directions.  Keep warm.

In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken to the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Cook the chicken for 4 minutes, turning several times, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan, stir and cook 4 minutes longer, or until the chicken is no longer pink, then reduce heat to medium.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a platter;  cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the anchovies along with any oil from the container to the pan and stir, then add the spinach and stir again.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook over medium heat for about 4 - 5 minutes or until the spinach has reduced.

Return the chicken and any collected juices to the pan and stir, then drain the pasta and add it to the pan, stirring well to combine.  Cook for 2 - 3 minutes longer while the sauce thickens.  Serves about 8.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Braised Chicken and Mushrooms with Mustard Sauce

Whew, what a busy month it's been!  After a visit from relatives and a quick trip to Universal  Studios,  it's time to get back to cooking. 

I've been wanted to try this recipe for quite some time because I love to cook chicken breasts on the bone, and braising adds lots of flavor to the chicken, while keeping the meat moist and juicy.  Cooking the meat with the bones on does add a little extra time to the cooking process, but the extra flavor is well worth the additional time.  Once again, cooking low and slow delivers excellent results.

This recipe seemed so simple, I wasn't sure what to expect, but to my surprise, this dish is not only very simple to make, the flavor is rich and elegant enough to serve as a special occasion dinner.  The final touch to this dish is the brown mushroom sauce that pulls all of the flavors together.

Herbs de Provence is a new seasoning blend that I was not very familiar with, but I was excited to try.  Basically a combination of thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, chervil, bay leaf and savory, this blend includes all of the classic French herbs in one jar.  Even with a cabinet full of herbs and spices, this one is something extra special, and I can't wait to try it in other dishes.  The flavor is just incredible.

This dish starts with braising the chicken in olive oil and butter, adding sliced mushrooms, white wine and the herbs, then slowly cooking the chicken in the braising liquid.  When the chicken is cooked, the sauce only takes 5 minutes to prepare and dinner is ready.  Serve with wild rice and steamed veggies.  Enjoy!!

3 - 4 large  Bone-In Chicken Breasts, skin on
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 TB  Olive Oil
3 TB  Butter
10 oz  Mushrooms, sliced
1 TB  Herbs de Provence
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup  Dry White Wine, divided
2 heaping TB  Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup  Heavy Cream

Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper.

In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat, then add the chicken to the pan, skin side down.  Brown the chicken on all sides, about 12 minutes total.

Remove chicken from the pan to a platter and add the mushrooms to the pan.  Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits.  Add the chicken back to the pan, sprinkle the chicken with the herbs, then pour the 1/2 cup of white wine around the chicken.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.  (The chicken breasts we used were fairly thick, so they needed the full 40 minutes.  You could also use chicken thighs instead of the chicken breasts.)

Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a platter.  Cover with foil to keep warm.  Add the 1/4 cup white wine to the pan, stirring to blend, and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add the mustard and cream to the pan, increase the heat slightly to medium, and stir until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.  Serves about 6.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Kitchen Garden

When I was growing up, my Dad always had a garden.  I don't remember a single year when he didn't have at least a couple of tomato plants and some green onions, and we even had a year of two when broccoli, corn and watermelons made an appearance in our back yard.  I still think he grew the biggest Beefsteak tomatoes the Midwest has ever seen.


So, it must be in my genes that every spring I have this urge to plant something.  In Florida, the first tomato plants of the season appear in our local garden center in early February, and I have to force myself to wait just a little longer to buy them, until the last cold snap has moved on, in favor of warmer temperatures.  Then the fun begins.

This year I wanted lots of basil to make homemade pesto, so I started my plants from seeds.  If you've never seen basil seeds, they are extremely small, and it's nearly impossible to count out just 2 or 3 to each pot.  So I planted this packet of seeds, and I what I thought would be about 10 basil plants turned into 25!   As a result, not only will we be making lots of pesto, and freezing the basil in cubes, but several of my husband's coworkers will be receiving basil plants of their own..lol.


 Other goodies in our kitchen garden this year include a jalapeno pepper and a poblano pepper plant, lots of green onions, chives and parsley, along with cherry tomatoes and full sized tomatoes.

Many people think you need a lot of space for a garden, but all of the items above are growing beautifully in pots, with the exception of the large tomato plants, and they don't take up very much room.


If you've never tried to grow your own herbs or vegetables, there is still time this season to pick up a few plants at your local garden store.  Gardening is also a great project for kids.  Not only will they enjoy watching the plants grow, they will be excited to help decide how to use the harvest.

Tomatoes, both the full size and the cherry tomatoes can be used in salsa or salads, and they are yummy on pizza.  Fresh herbs like basil, oregano or chives can be added to salad dressings and many dishes, and they are all very easy to grow. 

Thanks for visiting my Kitchen Garden and check back soon. We have lots of great recipes coming up using this years harvest. Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shrimp and Crab Po'Boy Sandwich

It's always been a custom at our house that the birthday person gets to choose anything they would like for their birthday dinner.  It's been an especially fun tradition to watch as our kids grew older.  Their tastes have changed each year as they experienced new foods and cuisines, and they have learned which foods they love and even some foods that they don't like.  And as a very proud Mom, I have to admit, they have never, not even once, asked for McDonald's for their birthday dinner. YES!!

So tonight, for my daughter's very special 13th birthday, she chose a Seafood Po'Boy sandwich.  She really didn't specify at first what kind of sandwich she wanted, but just gave me a basic suggestion of shrimp, made into a po'boy.  So we came up with this sandwich together, and she was very pleased with the results.

What made this dinner even better, was that it is super easy to make.  Shrimp, crab meat, a few seasonings, lots of garlic and a quick 10 minutes to marinate and you are ready to cook.  Sautéing the seafood mixture takes less than 10 minutes, and a quick broil to crisp up the rolls is just 4 minutes longer.

This is a great seafood sandwich that's full of flavor and gets a little kick from Sriracha sauce.  You might notice we use fresh and dried basil in this dish.  This is something we've done for many years when cooking shrimp, and for some reason, as good as fresh basil tastes, the flavor is further enhanced by the dried basil.  I'm not sure why, but it tastes great when they are blended.  You could also use only fresh or only dried basil in this recipe and the results would still be delicious.  Enjoy!!

6  Hoagie Rolls, sliced lengthwise
1-1/2 lbs  Medium Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 oz  Imitation Crab Meat, flake style (also called Surimi)
1/3 cup  Olive Oil
3 TB  Minced Garlic
2  Heaping TB  Chopped Fresh Basil
1 TB  Dried Basil
1 TB  Paprika
2 TB  Sriracha Sauce  (use 1 TB for less heat)
3 TB  Balsamic Vinegar
1/8 tsp  Cayenne Pepper
Grated Parmesan Cheese for Garnish, optional

Place the hoagie rolls on a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.

In a large glass bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients.  Stir gently to evenly coat the shrimp and crab, then set the mixture aside to marinate for 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high.  When the skillet is hot, add the shrimp-crab mixture and spread into an even layer.  Cook for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turn the seafood over and cover the skillet with a lid.  Cook for 4 minutes longer, then stir the mixture to make sure all of the shrimp are cooked through and pink.  Remove the skillet from the heat while you make the sandwiches.

Spoon the seafood mixture into the hoagie rolls, pressing the mixture down slightly while stuffing the rolls.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the sandwiches and broil for 4 minutes or until golden on top.  Serve with cole slaw.  Serves about 6 and any leftover seafood makes a wonderful lunch the next day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich

The legendary Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich is said to have originated in the early 1930's in Philadelphia.  This hearty sandwich is served on French or Italian rolls and consists of very thinly sliced roast beef, sautéed onions and peppers, and melted cheese.  There seems to be a lot of disagreement regarding the type of cheese to use, but provolone and American seem to be the favorites.

Instead of buying deli roast beef for our sandwiches, which currently runs $10 or more per pound (ouch!), I bought a bottom round beef roast, which at $4.50 per pound is a great bargain and my favorite choice for sliced beef sandwiches.  This cut of beef cooks quickly, and only needs a generous coating of seasoned salt and cracked pepper before roasting.  Cooking the roast until it reaches 145 degrees in the center, then letting it rest for about 20 minutes, delivers a tender and juicy cut of beef that is right around medium-rare and ready for slicing.  The 3 pound roast used in this recipe is about twice the amount needed for the 5 of us, but the leftover beef is great for sandwiches, and the 3 pound size seems to always cook perfectly, so I always buy the same size.

For the toppings, we sautéed sliced onion and green and orange peppers for our sandwiches and topped them off with smoked provolone cheese.  A quick 3 minutes under the broiler melted the cheese until it was bubbly and the bread was slightly toasted. Delicious!

3 lb  Bottom Round Beef Roast
Seasoned Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 TB  Olive Oil
1  Green Pepper, cored and sliced
1  Orange or Red Pepper, cored and sliced
1  medium Onion, sliced
Smoked Provolone Cheese Slices
French or Italian Hoagie Rolls, sliced lengthwise

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking pan with foil and place the roast in the pan, fat side up.  Generously coat the roast with seasoned salt and pepper, then bake uncovered for about 60 to 90 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to rest for 20 - 30 minutes.  Once the roast has cooled slightly, slice the meat very thinly and place the meat on a platter until you are ready to prepare the sandwiches.

Line a baking sheet with foil, place the hoagie rolls on the sheet and place a slice of provolone cheese in the base of each roll; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the peppers and onions to the skillet, add a little more ground black pepper, and sauté until tender, about 8 - 10 minutes. 

Add about half of the meat to the skillet with the peppers and onions (this will serve about 6 people) and set the rest of the meat aside.  Sauté the mixture quickly, stirring the beef, onions and peppers together.  If the beef looks a bit dry, add one or two teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet, and continue to stir, only cooking the beef for about 2 minutes.

Scoop portions of the beef, onions and peppers onto the hoagie rolls, pressing the mixture into the rolls.  Top with slices of provolone cheese, then place the sandwiches under the broiler for 2 - 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the rolls are slightly browned.  Serve immediately.