Summer Watermelon Salad

It’s summer!  The time of fresh fruit and lazy days… the time when you want to be able to go outside and enjoy your friends and family… the time for easy or starter recipes…  This is when I like to have a few recipes on hand that make my life a little easier, especially on those days when the temperature is high and my energy is not.  For those days, I give you the Summer Watermelon Salad!

PicMonkey Image

This recipe couldn’t be easier… four ingredients and easy to adjust for the number of people you’re feeding!  This is actually one of my favorite lunches… light and simple, it just screams “SUMMER” to me.

Ingredients:

  • Watermelon – cut into bite-size pieces.  Use as much or as little as you like, but this is your *main* ingredient.  I typically use about 3 cups.
  • Feta cheese – I like to use crumbled *light* feta, but you can use whatever type makes you happy.   I dump in some from the container – about 1/2 cup.
  • Basil – if I have fresh, I take a small handful and cut into a chiffonade (little ribbons).  If not, I take a generous pinch of dried.  I’ve done both and fresh is definitely better in this – it’s a wonderful flavor!
  • White wine – I use what I have in my fridge, about 1/8-1/4 cup total.  I’ve used dry (Chardonnay and Pinot Gris/Grigio) and I’ve used semi-sweet/off-dry (Vidal Blanc and Viogner)… use what you like!

Directions:

  • Cut watermelon into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and basil.  Toss lightly and adjust amounts as needed.
  • Thumb 1/8-1/4 cup of white wine over the salad and allow time to marinate before serving.
  • I typically drain a bit of the liquid off before serving.  This ends up being a mixture of wine and watermelon juice that isn’t really necessary.
  • Enjoy!

This is a great example of how I use “The Force” when cooking… so many variations to make this salad and it’s always delicious.  Hope you’ll try it and come up with your own favorite way to make this salad!

Mimi’s Peas

You’ve had the traditional “Green Bean Casserole“, right?  It’s the one on the back of the Campbell’s soup can…. the one that has been around forever… the one that everyone makes for holiday meals.  What would you think if I told you that we make this same casserole with PEAS instead of green beans?  THIS is a game-changer, people.  It’s absolutely amazing and is a staple on almost every holiday menu (or at least Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) in our family.

mimispeas

Ingredients:

  • Frozen Peas (1- 1 1/2 16oz bags)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 can French’s Onion Rings (reserve 1/2-3/4 cup for topping)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I like a dry or semi-dry wine)
  • 1 packet G. Washington Brown boullion *Trust me, this stuff is worth finding.  LOVE it and use it in so many ways!

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together, topping with the reserved Onion Rings.
  2. Bake in greased casserole dish at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until bubbly.

This is our family’s “must have” recipe on any holiday table.  It also works well when mixing with turkey, stuffing, and gravy (and topped with mashed potatoes) to make a leftover turkey shepherd’s pie.

Give it a try sometime… you may find that you like this even better than the standard recipe!

Easy Red Beef Stew

I was headed out to do some holiday shopping recently and decided that I wanted to make a simple crockpot dinner so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to rush home and make something that evening.  I had a nice piece of beef in the fridge and had picked up a package of baby potatoes at the store, so this was a really easy dinner to create.redbeefstew

Ingredients:

  • Beef – I don’t know much about cuts of beef, but I knew enough to get a “chuck roast”.  The one I chose was on sale, so I grabbed one that was on the smaller side so we wouldn’t have much waste.
  • Flour – I tossed some into a plastic bag to coat the beef before putting it into my crockpot.  Don’t honestly know how much… just enough to coat the meat.
  • 1+ onion – I cut this into thick chunks and used one whole vidalia onion and one half a red onion that I had in the fridge
  • 1 packet country gravy
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 package (or similar amount) of baby potatoes (see photo of what I found at the store… this one included a few cloves of garlic and two sprigs of rosemary)
  • Red wine – the original recipe simply called for water, but that won’t cut it in my house.  WHY USE WATER WHEN YOU CAN USE WINE??
  • Frozen peas – I didn’t measure, but you could use whatever vegetable you like best here.  NOTE: If you’re planning to use carrots, I would allow them to cook with the beef instead of popping them in at the end.

Directions:

  1. Slice onion into chunks and put in the bottom of a large crockpot.
  2. Toss the meat in a plastic bag with some flour and then shake to cover.  Place meat on top of onions to cook.
  3. Open package of potatoes (or chop up large potatoes to fit around roast) and lay them around the meat in the crockpot.
  4. In a separate bowl, open the packets of gravy and onion soup and mix together with red wine.  I did not measure the amount of red wine used – I simply poured the wine and mixed it with the dry ingredients until it looked like enough.  I have a habit of adding too much liquid to my crockpot recipes, so I went a little lighter than I might have otherwise, which ended up working out well.
  5. Pour liquid over the roast.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
  7. During the last half hour (or 15 minutes before serving), stir the roast a bit and add your frozen peas.  These won’t take long to cook and you don’t want them to disintegrate into the gravy.
  8. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the gravy… it’s delicious!

This was one of the most simple of meals but such a crowd pleaser.  If your family is picky about onions, feel free to slice them a bit smaller, but I liked the chunks of onion with the bites of meat and potato.  Feel free to experiment with other vegetables or seasonings… it’s your meal for your family, so use what you like!

Enjoy!

Fish in a Flash

I’ve written this recipe a few times, but wanted to update it a bit for everyone.  This is one of the easiest and fastest three-course meal recipes I’ve ever written and I love that it’s also incredibly versatile.  The basic premise is the same but the specific ingredients can be adjusted, depending on your preference and what you have available.  I hope you love this recipe as much as me!fishinaflash

  • I call this recipe “Fish in a Flash” because you’re only going to need 15 minutes to make this three-course meal for your family.  It’s full of flavor, cost-effective, and adjustable… what more could you want in a recipe?

Ingredients:

  • Fish (Feel free to use whatever fish is on sale or what you happen to have in your freezer)  In this case, I used two tilapia fillets, but I’ve made this dish with flounder, haddock, or any other light, flaky fish.  I haven’t used salmon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t!
  • Crackers (Ritz crackers, Cheese crackers, club crackers, saltines, etc) crushed
  • Salt, Pepper, and any favorite seasoning (I like Paprika)
  • White wine (use whatever you have on hand or you can substitute water)
  • Broccoli flowerettes (I used a half bag of Broccoli-Wokly from the local grocer)
  • Bag of microwave brown rice (or your favorite starch)

Directions:

  • Spray a microwavable dish with cooking spray and arrange your fish fillets on dish.
  • In a small bowl, crush the crackers and mix in your seasonings.  Sprinkle fish with seasoned cracker crumbs.
  • Using your thumb as a stopper, gently “thumb” wine over the crumbs to lightly wet them  to create a coating on the fish.  You can also spoon the wine (or water) over the fish.
  • Top fish with broccoli flowerettes – I did them in a decorative fashion for these photos, but I typically just add a layer of broccoli over the fish.
  • Wet a paper towel and lay on top of the broccoli – this will help to steam the veggies.
  • Pop your dish into the microwave and cook on high for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is flaky and well-cooked.
  • Remove the fish from the microwave and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
  • Cook the 90-second brown rice in the microwave.
  • Remove rice and divide onto individual plates.
  • Serve meal with brown rice on the plate, topped with fish and vegetables.

This has been a staple in our menu selection for most of my 28-years of marriage.  I’ve adjusted and altered the recipe to the point where this is the cleanest and most simple rendition.  The original recipe (from my first year of marriage) included a half stick of butter and lots of lemon juice… this version is much healthier and the flavors really seem to pop.

I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how your family likes our Fish in a Flash.  It might just become a favorite in your house too!

Pad Thai a la Ali

When my son E was in high school, I would make Pad Thai every few days for his volleyball team.  His friends would drive him home and then back to school again for practice, so I would make homemade meals for them to thank them.  Since I had never included this recipe on my blog, I thought I would post it now.padthai

Ingredients:

  • Sweet sausage (about 1 cup)
  • Broccolini (sliced into 1 cup of small pieces)
  • Thin Spaghetti (approximately 6 oz)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1T sugar
  • 1T soy sauce
  • 2T white wine + enough to deglaze pan
  • crushed garlic (about 1 thumb-worth)
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1 large shallot (thinly sliced)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2T sliced almonds (lightly toasted for better flavor)

Directions:

  1. Heat 1T sesame oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Sear sausage until cooked through, deglazing pan with wine, then add broccolini and saute until both are cooked and toasty.  Remove until ready to toss meal together for serving.
  2. In separate pan, cook spaghetti until al dente.
  3. In small bowl, mix ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, wine, and garlic.  Set sauce aside until ready to toss with meal.
  4. Heat remaining 1T sesame oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Saute shallot until softened, then add garlic cloves to pan.  Once both are lightly cooked, add the cooked sausage and broccolini to pan and bring to temperature.
  5. Add cooked spaghetti to pan and toss with reserved sauce.  Saute until everything is thoroughly coated and heated through.  Divide among two plates and sprinkle with toasted almonds to serve.

This post is my own interpretation of a favorite Weight Watchers’ recipe that I used years ago.  That recipe used shredded chicken and had a few other tweaks, like using rice noodles and peanuts.

Suffice it to say that I love to play with recipes to create new versions that use wine and work with ingredients or flavors that are favorites of my family members.  I hope you enjoy coming up with new ways to change recipes of your own!

White Roasted Stir Fry

Have you ever wanted to make dinner but you didn’t actually want to “make dinner”? That was my night tonight.  I had an idea to make a stir fry, using a bag of frozen shrimp that I had thawed during the day, but I had no desire to stand by the stovetop.  Enter the idea of a “roasted stir fry”.  While it was a bit of a gamble, I do think it paid off in the end when we sat down to dinner.  It was yummy!  The best part is that it can qualify as a Starter Recipe because it’s just so darn simple.  Check out the recipe for yourself!WhiteRoastedStirFry.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen shrimp
  • 1 bag broccoli bites
  • grape tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • half onion, cut in half and sliced
  • a thumb of garlic (I used a tube, so it was about the size of my thumb… probably 1 clove, crushed)
  • teriyaki sauce (just a small pour)
  • white wine (a large splash)
  • Splash of cream (totally unnecessary but looked good)
  • 1 pkg 90-second brown rice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees and cover baking sheet with foil.
  2. Remove shells from shrimp and put raw shrimp in a bowl.  Toss in broccoli, grape tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
  3. Pour sauce over shrimp mixture and toss to combine.
  4. Pour shrimp mixture onto baking sheet and pop into oven.  Cook 20-25 minutes, until shrimp are cooked.
  5. If you decide you want to add the splash of cream, you can add it by removing baking sheet from oven, pour cream, and toss to blend before serving.
  6. Cook brown rice packet as directed.
  7. Serve with shrimp mixture over brown rice.

To finish off our dinner, I like to add bread when I make dinner… I typically have sliced bread in the freezer, so I grab a few pieces, spray it with Pam and season with garlic salt. Feel free to play with the ingredients and create something that fits into your family’s favorites… add veggies, serve on noodles, change out some of the sauce flavors… the sky’s the limit when it comes to making dinners that everyone will like!  Enjoy…

Shrimp and Peas with Pasta

We were looking for something easy and delicious for dinner tonight.  I knew I wanted to use shrimp, so I started there.  Scrounging around the fridge produced grape tomatoes and some frozen peas, so I came up with this yummy meal.

ShrimPeasPasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen shrimp, thawed and shelled.  Salt and pepper shrimp before cooking.
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Coconut oil
  • White wine
  • Savory nutritional yeast flakes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta water
  • Thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente’
  • 1 Egg yolk, whipped with a fork and tempered with a few spoons of pasta water

Directions:

  • In boiling, salted water, cook your pasta, saving 1 cup of pasta water
  • In a large saute’ pan, heat coconut oil and sear shrimp on both sides until toasty.
  • Add peas and tomatoes, saute’, then add some white wine and allow to cook through.
  • Season dish using dashes of yeast flakes, parmesan cheese, and a bit of pasta water. Taste after each addition before moving forward, adjusting as needed.  Pasta water will add a bit of thickening, so take your time with this step.
  • Drain pasta and add cooked pasta to shrimp mixture and toss to combine.
  • Remove from heat and add whipped egg yolk to add in a bit of creaminess.
  • Toss well and serve.  I like to top with parsley or minced chives.

This is one of those meals that can be thrown together fairly easily.  I like to keep bags of frozen shrimp and peas on hand.  If you don’t happen to have grape tomatoes in your fridge, you can substitute a small amount of sun-dried tomatoes (sliced thin) or leave them out altogether.  Play with your ingredients and come up with your family’s favorites. Enjoy creating your own version!