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!

White Cranberry Bread

I’m really not sure when I got this basic recipe from my sister, but it was the perfect one to use when making a quick bread to give to the guys who are out plowing our neighborhood in today’s snow storm.  I, of course, added a little white wine, but you can certainly omit that if you prefer.  Here’s how to make this delicious quick bread:WhiteCranberryBread (1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 2 T white wine
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 T melted butter
  • 1/2 c coconut
  • 1 cup craisins (or chopped fresh cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 2 t orange rind, freshly ground is preferred
    • NOTE: original recipe called for 1/3 c pecans and NO chips or seeds)
  • 1/2 confectioners sugar
  • 1 t margarine
  • 1 t almond milk (more, if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a loaf pan and lightly coat with sugar (I used cinnamon sugar)
  2. In large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and then mix in orange juice and wine.  In separate bowl mix coconut, craisins, chips, and seeds – toss together with a spoon of flour to prevent clumping.
  3. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in the liquids  Mix well.  Add coconut/craisin mixture and blend everything together until just combined.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Blend confectioners sugar, margarine, and milk to make a thin glaze.  Use your best judgement and feel free to use orange juice or wine instead of milk for a different taste, if desired.
  6. Pour glaze over the entire bread while still warm.  Remove from pan when slightly cooled and slice as desired to serve.  Great when warm but equally good cold.

This recipe is quick to put together and looks amazing when cut.  You can leave it as a whole loaf if giving as a gift (we used to do this for teachers) but it’s moist and full of flavor.  Best part, in my opinion, is that it makes the kitchen smell heavenly!

Enjoy this recipe and please, stay safe in this blizzard we’re experiencing on the East Coast!

Starter Recipe: White Kielbasa and Homemade Kaiser Rolls

I have to say that this meal is probably one of my favorite recipes to pull out on a given night.  The recipe for the rolls is one that I have been making for decades and is both delicious and forgiving, which immediately makes it “fabulous” for me. The kielbasa is another component that is easy when trying to make a quick, healthy dinner that will please all the picky eaters in my house.  I’ve been making both of these things, together and apart, for so long that I was astounded to find that I’d never posted the recipe before.  Please forgive my error and let me rectify this as quickly as possible!

The “Kaiser Roll” part of the recipe:  WhiteKielbasa&Rolls (1)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T vegetable oil (but I’ve used most any oil I have on hand)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 t yeast (I typically add a little more, especially if I already have the tablespoon measure in hand)

I use my bread machine to make the dough for this.  If you don’t have a bread machine, I’d suggest finding a basic bread dough recipe and following those instructions because I truly haven’t made bread without the machine for so long that *I* would have to look up “how to make bread dough” if I were going to make this recipe without the machine.  Once the dough is made, you’ll want to section off equal size pieces of dough and form them into rolls.  For a full recipe, I typically make 9-12 rolls, depending on how large I want the rolls to be when I’m done.  If I made a half recipe, I like to get 6 rolls out of the dough… everything depends on how big and what shape you want your rolls.

When forming the rolls, I like to pull the dough from the top of the ball and squish (technical term, right?) it into the bottom so I’m forming a very round ball.  I then pull the dough out from the center and stretch the roll to make it “flatter” and wider. Once formed, I place the rolls onto a greased cookie sheet and allow them to rise until doubled (maybe a half hour or so). Bake the rolls in a pre-heated 375* oven for 10 minutes, turn the rolls around in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. They should be nicely browned and come off the pan easily.  NOTE: I spray the rolls a few times (once going in, once inside the oven, and again after turning the rolls) with ice water.  I’m honestly not sure what this does, but my original recipe told me to do this, so I continue to do so.  The crust doesn’t get too crispy and the rolls are puffy and light.

The “White Kielbasa” part of the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Oil/fat (I like a mix of olive oil and coconut oil, but butter/margarine is fine too… use what you like)
  • Turkey Kielbasa (I use 1-2 packages, depending on how many mouths I’m feeding)
  • Onions (I use a half onion, sliced, per package of kielbasa, but use as much/little as you like)
  • Seasonings (I like granulated garlic, salt, and pepper)
  • White wine (I use whatever wine I have on hand… just don’t use anything that’s too sweet)

I like to first saute’ the onions in some variation of fat, until they’re lightly browned and toasty. If you want to do a full-on caramelization of the onions, go for it… they’ll be a terrific addition.  It’s all about what you’d like to have with your dinner.  Slice the kielbasa into “pennies”… I cut them slightly off kilter, so they look pretty, but it’s all about what works for you as the chef.  I’ve cut them into long slices, but the kielbasa tends to curl up so the “penny” shape works better for me. Add the kielbasa into the pan and season with garlic, salt and pepper.  Saute the kielbasa pieces thoroughly on one side before flipping them over and browning on the other side.

Once the kielbasa and onions are cooked thoroughly, I like to add some white wine to add a bit of a sauce to the pan.  The wine picks up the browned bits and adds a nice back note to the meal.  You certainly can omit this step and still have a delicious dinner… it’s all about what you’d like to make and how you’d like it to taste.

I hope you’ll consider trying this recipe sometime.  I love to keep turkey kielbasa in the freezer for that day when I want to make dinner but don’t have a ton of time… this meal fits the bill for me!  Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions or comments… I’d love to hear from you!

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!

Caprese Bruschetta with a Port Wine Glaze

I’m never quite sure what to bring when someone asks me to contribute an appetizer to an event.  I love making dips, but sometimes they clash with whatever is being served and I really wanted to make something that would look lovely, taste wonderful, and take advantage of the fresh tomatoes of the season.  Enter, the Caprese Salad!

Of course, since I was taking the dish to a fellow wine-friend’s home, I was going to need to incorporate wine somewhere, so I tried to find a recipe that would fit all the necessary categories.  Finding a few ideas on the web, I set to work creating a Toasted Caprese Salad on Bruschetta with a Port Wine Glaze.CapreseBruschetta&PortGlaze

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Port Wine (whatever you like or have on hand)
  • Butter (just a small tab is enough to “gloss the sauce”)
  • 2 loaves of long/thin French/Italian bread (I made my own, but store bought is also wonderful in this recipe)
  • Olive oil (enough to brush each side of the toast slices)
  • Tomatoes (I used two large, ripe tomatoes, but use whatever you have on hand)
  • Basil (Fresh is preferred, but I only had dried, which worked well)
  • salt/pepper (to taste)
  • White Wine (I used a Pinot Grigio, but use whatever you have available)
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese (I bought a log of sliced mozzarella and cut it into strips)
  • Extra basil (fresh is preferred but dried is perfectly acceptable)

I made the Port Wine Glaze first, since it would be need time to rest and thicken.  Pour the 2 cups of port into a sauce pan and simmer the wine until it is reduced to 1/2 cup.  You can tell it has thickened enough if you can see a faint/quick line after drawing a spatula through the sauce from top to bottom.  Add a small tab of butter to “gloss the sauce” and adjust seasonings using a pinch of salt/sugar as needed.  Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.  If you’re making this step a day ahead, keep the glaze in the fridge and warm slightly before using so the butter isn’t solid when spooning it over the bruschetta.

Next, make your tomato mixture.  I diced two tomatoes fairly fine and then tossed them with salt/pepper and a bit of Pinot Grigio.  The tomato was fairly juicy, so just before using it, I placed the mixture into a small colander to drain the excess liquid off to keep the bruschetta from getting soaked.

To create your bruschetta, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Slice the loaves of bread into ~3/4″ pieces (as thick or thin as you like) and layer them onto sheet trays lined with foil.  NOTE: Using foil will make the final toasts easier to move to a serving tray.  LIghtly brush the top of each piece of bread with olive oil and allow to toast for 5 minutes.  Flip the toasts over and brush again with olive oil before toasting the second side for 5 minutes.

To assemble, top each toast with a layer of tomato mixture, a sliver or two of mozzarella, and a sprinkle of basil.  Once each toast is adequately topped, pop your bruschetta into the oven for a final 5 minute toasting to melt the cheese a bit. When they come out of the oven, spoon the Port Wine Glaze over top of each individual toast, allowing the glaze to pour over the edges and be soaked up by the bread.  Serve as quickly as possible – these are best when warm, crispy, and dripping with glaze.  NOTE: If you have leftover bruschetta, you can re-toast them the following day to brighten up the flavor.  You can also chunk them up and toss them into a salad to create your own version of a Panzanella salad.

This is a really beautiful appetizer that is surprisingly simple to make. Adjust or alter things as they appeal to you and your family.. that’s what makes cooking such an adventure!

Chicken and Snow Pea Stir-fry

As promised via Instagram, I am posting my recipe for a delicious and amazingly simple dinner of chicken tenders, snow peas, and brown rice.  I have gotten this dinner down to a quick and easy “go-to” for our family and have altered it too many times to count.  I am sharing this basic version so you, dear reader, have a place from which to “jump off” and create something that will appeal to the individual tastes of your own families… so let’s get to it!ChickenSnowPeas&Chard

I started with one package of chicken tenders and most of a bag of snow peas.  I cut each of the tenders into bite-size pieces and then added salt, pepper, and parsley before setting the chicken aside for a few minutes.

In a large skillet, I melted a bit of coconut oil on medium-high heat and browned half a diced onion,  Once the onion was browned, I added the chicken tender pieces and gave them time to cook thoroughly before adding the sauce.  I created the sauce by pouring about a cup of Chardonnay (I used Bread and Butter Chardonnay, because that was what I had in my fridge… feel free to use whatever white wine you have or prefer) into a bowl, adding a large glug of a pre-made sweet and savory sauce from Sam’s Club that we had in the fridge, along with a “thumb-size” amount of cream cheese, and pouring that into the skillet.  I added the snow peas and stirred everything together until the cream cheese had melted into the sauce and the peas had a chance to cook a bit.  I then served the stir-fry over a bed of brown rice.  I should also note that I added a bit of the same “sweet and savory sauce” into the rice when it was cooking, so there was some syncing of the flavors between the stir-fry and the rice.

Honestly, this is all I did to make dinner last night.  I have made variations in which I substitute the sweet and savory sauce with some pre-made housin sauce but I’ve also done the same thing using wine, the juice of a lemon, and some light-colored jam (I like apricot, peach, or fig preserves).  Play around with this recipe on your own and find your favorite version to serve.  It’s amazing how fresh and wonderful things taste when you play with ingredients!