Glazed Salmon and Scalloped Potatoes

I have a confession to make… I’m usually lousy at cooking salmon.  Since I found two pieces on “mega-sale” at the store today, I thought I’d give it one more try to see if I could come up with something really yummy.  I have to say that this entire meal ended up being one of my favorites… and it was ridiculously easy!  This post isn’t just a recipe for dinner, it’s also got a great side dish (I serve these potatoes for Easter EVERY year) and a salad dressing.  If you’re looking for an easy and impressive dinner, this is it.  Yum!

GlazedSalmon_ScallopedPotatoes

Glazed Salmon

Ingredients for Salmon:

  • Salmon fillets
  • Salt/pepper
  • Coconut oil (or your favorite fat/oil)
  • Glaze
    • 2T jam (I used Loganberry jam)
    • 2t balsamic vinegar
    • 2t white wine (I used a lightly oaked chardonnay)

Salmon Directions:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper.  In a hot saute’ pan, melt coconut oil and then sear the seasoned side of the salmon filets.

  • As the salmon sears in the hot oil, blend the glaze.  You’ll need to warm the jam for 10 seconds in the microwave.  You’re not trying to melt the jam… you just want it loose enough to blend with the vinegar and wine.  You’ll want to adjust the seasonings with a little salt and pepper…. make sure to taste the glaze before using it.
  • Once the one side of the salmon is nicely browned, turn the fillet over and pour the glaze over top. Since the salmon won’t be thoroughly cooked, I put the entire pan into the oven and allow the fish to roast until dinner is done.
  • NOTE:  I started the potatoes about 30-40 minutes before I began making the salmon, so the house already smelled amazing before I started on the fillets.

Scalloped Potatoes

Ingredients for Scalloped Potatoes (This recipe serves two/three.  You can add/subtract as needed to serve more people)

  • Three medium potatoes (I like to use Gold potatoes)
  • Half an onion
  • Flour (1/4-1/3 cup)
  • Salt/pepper
  • White wine
  • Shredded cheese (I used 1/2 bag of sharp cheddar)
  • Milk (I only have skim in the house, so that’s what I used)

Directions for Scalloped Potatoes

  • Slice potatoes thin (I use a mandolin, but that’s not necessary as long as the slices are all equally thin)
  • Slice onion in half (you only need 1/4 onion for each layer) and slice as thin as potatoes
  • Layer your dish:
    • Half potatoes
    • Half onions
    • Sprinkle with flour (this will ultimately thicken your cheese sauce, so don’t skimp)
    • Season lightly with salt and pepper
    • Thumb wine lightly over mixture
    • Top with a light layer of cheese
  • Repeat layer, ending with cheese
  • Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and the top is bubbling and browned.

This recipe showed me that, with a little ingenuity and imagination, I could create a fabulous, easy, “guest-worthy” meal that would satisfy all my expectations.  This is a starter recipe that will impress the pickiest visitor… try it and see what YOU think!

BONUS RECIPE:  I’d like to share my absolute favorite salad dressing recipe with you.  This recipe makes an impressive amount of dressing that is much lower in calorie than you’d ever imagine. I have NEVER actually measured the ingredients for this dressing, so you’ll have to forgive me for not including any.

Blend the following ingredients:

  • Balsamic Vinegar (a small puddle in the bottom of a salad bowl)
  • Mustard (I tend to use horseradish mustard or dijon mustard)
  • 1 envelope of sweetener (Equal or Splenda, depending on what’s in the house)
  • 1T of a prepared dressing (I typically use a creamy dressing of some sort)

Mix ingredients together and toss with thinly sliced romaine.  This is full of flavor and better than you’d expect!

 

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White Summer Couscous Salad

It’s that time of the year again… summer is finally here and I have a fabulous salad to share with you!  I first had this dish in California, when we went to visit some dear friends in San Diego.  I watched our hostess whip up this delicious side dish and couldn’t help but be impressed with the clean taste, gorgeous colors, and wonderful blend of flavors.  While it’s not a dish that my husband would like (he doesn’t like the texture of couscous), I immediately knew it would become a personal favorite.  I hope you’ll consider trying it sometime soon and let me know how you like it!

WhiteSummerCouscousSalad

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Couscous
  • Garlic (I used about 1T crushed garlic)
  • Olive Oil (I think the directions call for a specific amount – I used about 2T)
  • 2 cups liquid (I like to use 1 cup bouillon and 1 cup dry white wine)
  • 1 small block feta, diced (or one small package of crumbled feta)
  • 1 package grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2T fresh basil, sliced thin (more if desired)
  • 2T balsamic vinegar
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl (I use a glass pyrex bowl), heat the garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds.  Add the 2 cups of liquid and heat for 4-5 minutes or until boiling. (see top right photo)
  2. Add entire box of couscous, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. (see top left photo)
  3. While the couscous is finishing, you can prep the grape tomatoes, feta, and basil (See lower left photo).  When all liquid is absorbed, fluff the warm couscous with a fork. Toss in the tomatoes, feta, and basil.  Season with balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

 

Note:  I like to serve this salad chilled, but it’s just as delicious as soon as it’s made.  You can add bits of avocado and/or grilled chicken to make this into a filling lunch.  The original recipe called for whole tomatoes, diced, but I really like the texture and sweetness of cherry or grape tomatoes.  Feel free to use your own preference to create something uniquely your own!

Starter Recipe: Healthy Shepherd’s Pie

I have been making some version of “Shepherd’s Pie” for ages, but I wanted to try and make something that would be a simple recipe for others to duplicate.  This recipe is pretty healthy, has lots of “hidden vegetables”, and tastes absolutely divine… a perfect comfort food dish for those who are just learning to cook and those who are proficient.  HealthyShepherdsPie

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • Coconut oil – I used about a Tablespoon
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 handful of baby carrots, diced
  • 1/2 sweet pepper, diced (I used 2 small yellow peppers)
  • 3 mushrooms, diced fine minus stems (I was trying to hide them)
  • 1 handful of frozen peas (added at the very end)
  • red wine (I like the flavor when added to ground turkey)
  • granulated garlic (or use fresh, if you have it)
  • salt/pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dollop ketchup
  • flour (use as a thickener – I just sprinkled some over the pan)
  • mashed potatoes (I used a batch of leftover potatoes, but use what you’ve got… if you don’t have any on hand, just boil two or three potatoes and mash with milk/butter)

Directions:

  1. Brown onion and carrots in coconut oil over medium heat until onions are translucent.  I then added the peppers and mushrooms but feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  This is a great way to use up things in your fridge!
  2. Once veggies are cooked, add the ground turkey and brown thoroughly.  I use a potato masher to get all the meat separated so it browns evenly.
  3. You’re now going to flavor your dish.  I always use red wine when I’m cooking ground turkey – I feel it adds a depth of flavor to the turkey and gives it a more “full” taste.  Once the wine was incorporated, I sprinkled granulated garlic, added salt and pepper, and flavored things with the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup.  I like to add the ketchup in something like this because it adds a touch of sweetness without getting a cloyingly sweet/sugar taste.
  4. When the flavors are balanced, I sprinkled on some flour to thicken the dish and tossed in the frozen peas.  Stir all to combine and put into your serving dish.
  5. Top your dish with mashed potatoes.  I love to use this dish when I have leftover mashed potatoes but it’s not difficult to make a small batch of mashed potatoes if necessary.
  6. Bake this dish for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, in a 350 degree oven.  I love to serve this with garlic toasts (made from sliced ciabatta rolls, this is a simple side that can add a lot to the meal).

I hope you find this to be an easy recipe that makes your winter a little “warmer”.  Comfort food that doesn’t take hours to make is something that makes me very happy!  If you have any questions, as always you are welcome to message me and I’ll do my best to help walk you through the process.  Cooking should be fun and enjoyable… don’t stress over making it too “perfect”… it’s simply food and you’re feeding the ones you love.

Enjoy the process!

Starter Recipe: Red, White, and Blue Trifle (with variations)

Desserts can be one of the most fun things to bring to a gathering.  Not only is it the last thing people may have that evening, it’s also an easy way to up the “wow” factor in your contribution to the event.  I adore trying new things that are complicated and take lots of steps, but there are times when all I want is to be able to whip up something simple and quick before hurrying off to a friend’s house.  This is the BEST dessert for such an occasion, IMHO.  I love that you can personalize it any way you choose, you can increase or decrease the calorie count, and you can substitute almost any flavor and still have a really fantastic dessert.  RedWhiteandBlueTrifle

Here are the basic ingredients:

  • cake (I used a store-bought angel food cake, but any type of cake or brownie will work well here)
  • filling (I used 2 store-bought pie fillings, but you could opt for mousse or pudding if you so prefer)
  • wine (you can omit this addition if you like…. again, do what you want!)
  • whipped topping (anything light and airy is wonderful… real whipped cream or whipped topping… your choice)

NOTE: In this specific dessert, I added a few tablespoons of a light, dry Pinot Grigio to each can of pie filling before I began assembling my dessert. For the first layer, I tore half the angel food cake into small pieces and spread them on the bottom of a trifle dish.  I then added one can of strawberry pie filling (to which I had already added the Pinot Grigio) and then spooned an entire small container of light whipped topping and spread it out to the edges. *Make sure to spread each layer to the edge of the dish so they’re easily seen from the side.  For the second layer, I tore the remainder of the angel food cake into small pieces and spread them across the entire dish.  I added one can of blueberry pie filling (which had already been doused with wine) and spooned the second container of whipped topping to cover the dessert.  My final addition was a sprinkling of gold sugar crystals, just for decoration.

My cousin makes this recipe using cherry pie filling and then names it “Cherries in the snow”… it’s my son’s “go-to” dessert when he’s asked to bring something to an event.  I’ve also added vanilla pudding between the pie filling and the whipped topping (or you can add it between the cake and the pie filling).

If you really like chocolate, I would HIGHLY suggest making a brownie trifle:

  • Use red wine in place of the water in a store-bought brownie mix and use that to replace the angel food cake
  • Use chocolate pudding or chocolate mousse in place of the pie fillings
  • Add a bag of toffee bits to each layer, just above the pudding/mousse layer
  • Stick with the basic whipped topping so there’s a lovely white layer in among all the chocolate

Trifle desserts are such fun to make and create.  Use your favorite ingredients and come up with your own favorite flavor combination… you’re only limited by your own imagination!

Starter Recipe: Easy Red Sauce

When you’re cooking, it’s always nice to have a great basic recipe for an easy pasta sauce in your arsenal.  Something that you can pull together with items from your pantry can make you feel prepared to whip up a great dinner any night of the week.  This is that sort of a recipe… it’s foolproof, yet easy to adapt to each family’s favorite tastes, which makes it a perfect “starter recipe” to have on hand.EasyRedSauce (1)

Ingredients:

  • 1-28oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste (you’ll only need an amount the size of your thumb)
  • Seasonings (I like Italian Seasonings, Basil, and Oregano, as well as salt & pepper)
  • Red wine (Use as much or as little as you like – I used a dry red that I had in the fridge)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (One of my favorite ingredients to use to punch up the flavor)
  • Brown Sugar (I used 2 spoons-worth, but use as much or as little as you like)

In a medium saucepan, blend the entire can of crushed tomatoes, a thumb-worth of tomato paste, the seasonings and red wine.  Once this mixture simmers for a bit, add a bit of the vinegar and the brown sugar… make sure to taste your pasta sauce as it cooks and adjust the seasonings as needed.

For the latest dinner, I roasted a few turkey meatballs and added them to the sauce before dinner.  I served the meatballs and sauce on a bed of cooked thin spaghetti and it was a huge hit… everyone soaked up the last bits of sauce with pieces of bread, which is a positive sign in our house.

Hope you enjoy making this sauce for your own family… feel free to adjust and alter ingredients to make this sauce your own!

Starter Recipe: Chocolate Fudge “Jury Gems”

As a Starter Recipe, I try to make things easy and simple so that anyone just learning to cook can make the recipe.  This snack food fits the bill, in my opinion.  I was put on a jury recently and wanted to make something to share with my fellow jurors on our final day… this was the food I brought to keep us focused as we concluded our duty.

Ingredients:ChocolateFudgeJuryGems (1)

  • 1 box chocolate fudge brownie mix (or your favorite box mix)
  • 1 can solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • Mini chocolate chips (I used about 1/4 cup)
  • Red wine (I used a Pinot Noir, but you could use any dry red wine or even substitute espresso if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray your cupcake tins with cooking spray.  I used two small cupcake pans (12 small cupcakes in each) and one mini cupcake pan (also with 12 mini cupcakes).
  2. Empty the brownie mix, pumpkin, and chocolate chips into a large mixing bowl.  Pour in a small bit of wine/liquid (start with 1/4 cup) and mix all ingredients together until well incorporated.  If the batter seems too thick, add a bit more wine/liquid.  I like this batter to be fairly thick, but not so thick that the batter could stand alone, like a cookie dough.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, ladle out the dough into the cupcake tins.  I used a medium scoop for the small cupcake tins and a small scoop for the mini cupcake tin.
  4. Sprinkle with decorations, if desired (I used gold sugar) and put the tins into the oven.  I baked the mini cupcakes for 15 minutes and the small cupcakes for 3 minutes longer (18 minutes total).  Use a toothpick to test when making sure the fudge-cupcakes are cooked thoroughly.

These fudge-y cupcakes will get very sticky if served the following day, so be sure to allow them to dry a bit so they don’t actually stick to the fingers of your guests.  I got lots of positive comments on these snacks from my fellow jurors and that solidified the name for me… Jury Gems.  We had three days together and I hope that everyone feels they did their best according to the law, as required.

If you have a chance to make this recipe for your friends, feel free to alter the name a bit… these are delicious, healthy, and surprisingly filling.  Enjoy!

Starter Recipe: Easy Lemon Shrimp

It’s been awhile since I last wrote… but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped cooking, or planning out recipes for this blog! Here’s an amazing (and easy) recipe that is sure to impress even the pickiest of guests who enjoy shrimp.  I love pulling a dinner together in under 20-30 minutes, and this recipe is one that delivers every single time.  I hope you’ll try it and make it your own!

Ingredients:EasyLemonShrimp

1 bag of frozen raw shrimp (I buy mine whenever they’re on sale at the local grocer and keep them in the freezer… anything sized large or above is worth the money, in my opinion)

1 lemon

1 jar of your favorite preserves (I happen to like using fig preserves these days, but apricot or any light colored fruit would work well)

Butter (just a pat to sear the shrimp) and olive oil (just 1T for searing shrimp)

Wine (or your preferred liquid of choice)

1 package microwave brown rice (for convenience… feel free to use the cheaper stuff if you’d prefer)

Directions:

  1. Peel shrimp and have them ready to cook.  I always remove the tails because I hate the idea of having to put the empty tail shell back on my plate.  I also like to salt/pepper my shrimp prior to cooking, but it’s up to you if you want to do this step.
  2. Put butter and olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat on to medium high.  Allow the fats to mingle and get really hot..
  3. Sear shrimp on both sides in the hot butter/oil mixture – my husband likes them to have a bit of “crisp” to the edges, so that’s how I make it in our house.  Just make sure the shrimp is thoroughly cooked before making your sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, make your sauce using the juice of the lemon, some wine (I used a half cup of sparkling white wine that we had in the fridge, but feel free to use whatever you have), and a few spoonfuls of preserves.  Mix everything together.
  5. Add sauce to the cooked shrimp and allow to thicken.
  6. Pop brown rice in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds (this is why I prefer to use this type of rice… so easy and quick!)
  7. Once the sauce has thickened, plate your meal with some brown rice, spoon the shrimp evenly between the dishes, and pour over the sauce.
  8. Yes, it’s just THAT easy.  Now, enjoy the compliments that come raining your way.

I have altered this recipe in many different ways, but I really love the way that lemon compliments shrimp.  If you want, you can make a vegetable and top the veggie with some lemon zest… brings all parts of the meal together nicely.  Last time, I used a bag of green beans, tossed the cooked beans with a pat of butter, salt/pepper, and the lemon zest. It was fabulous! Using the preserves counteracts the strong tart taste of the lemon juice and really does a nice job of pulling everything together.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If making this shrimp dish, don’t use a red or deep colored preserve as it will make the shrimp look as if it’s under cooked or raw.  Trust me… I did this once and will never forget the reaction.