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!

White Cream Puffs

This recipe is one that has been used in my family for as long as I can remember.  As a child, my mom would make these cream puffs for her bridge club nights.  She’d make the cream puffs, cut off the tops and fill them with vanilla ice cream, then frost them with some chocolate before serving them to her honored guests.  Occasionally, we’d be given one of these treats before the ladies arrived and they always looked so incredibly elegant.  What a gift to find out, years later, that this was a simple recipe that I could share with my own guests… and now I get to share that gift with you!WhiteCreamPuffs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups boiling water (I like to use 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup white wine)
  • 1/2 cup butter (don’t skimp… butter is the only way to go here)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water/wine with the butter and bring to a boil.  Once melted and fully boiling, add the flour/salt at once and stir, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Drop by teaspoons onto 2 greased cookie sheets (or baking sheets lined with parchment), shaping dough to peak in center and round out on the bottom.  Place dough 2″ apart.
  3. Bake in preheated 375* oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350*  and bake for an additional 25 minutes.  Cool and fill.  Freeze or use immediately.

These cream puffs make a lovely dessert – slice off the top of the puff, fill with softened ice cream and replace the top, then frost with a bit of chocolate.  My Red Fudge Sauce is fabulous with this dessert (as seen in the photo), but you can use whatever sauce you like best.

Another alternative would be to fill the puffs with a small amount of my Nutty Chicken Salad and serve for a fancy luncheon. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to using these cream puffs!  Enjoy!

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!

 

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!

White Veggie Cups

I’ve now made two or three different renditions of this recipe and it’s become one of my favorites. It’s a great way to use up any leftover vegetables in your fridge and is healthier than most of the things I can come up with to eat for a quick meal. Veggie cups (made with some white wine) are delicious, versatile, and even freeze-able!

Ingredients: 

  • A leafy green vegetable (I’ve used a bunch of Swiss Chard, Spinach, or even Kale), chopped fairly fine
  • Onion (I like to use 1/4-1/3 of a sweet onion), chopped fine
  • Leftover vegetables from the fridge, chopped.  I used a small yellow pepper in these photos, but I chopped up a tomato recently and it was equally delicious
  • Shredded Cheese (I sprinkled a small amount on each muffin cup – it totalled about 3/4 of a cup).  I have used Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese – use your favorite
  • 2 cups of egg mixture (I used 1 1/2 cups of fat-free egg substitute, 1/4 cup egg whites, and 1/4 cup white wine
  • Seasonings (I like simple salt and pepper, but go wild and use what you like!)WhiteVeggieCups

DIrections:

  1. Chop all your veggies, put your egg mixture together, spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, and pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Into each muffin cup, place some chopped greens, chopped onion, chopped veggie (yellow pepper, tomato, whatever you’re using), and top each with a sprinkling of cheese.  Add seasonings.
  3. Ladle a bit of the egg mixture into each muffin cup, using the ladle to push the veggies and cheese into the egg mixture.  If you have extra egg mixture left over, add it to the cups so everything is as equal as possible but DO NOT overfill the cups.  They should be about 3/4 full since they will puff up as they cook.
  4. Cook the Veggie Cups at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes until the egg is set.  Allow the veggie cups to cook slightly before removing them from the pan and serving.

This recipe is extremely versatile.  You can add bacon, sausage, or ham to the veggie cups if you’d like.  You can substitute vegetables as you prefer.  This is a great way to make a quick breakfast sandwich but simply toasting an english muffin and putting one veggie cup in the middle.  Play with this recipe and see if it doesn’t become one of your favorites as well.

Enjoy!

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!

I’ve been asked to Guest Post on a blog!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a guy named Julien Miquel, who asked if I might be willing to create a recipe for his wine blog, Social Vignerons. image

I had never been asked to “Guest Post” before, so this was a pretty big thing for me.  Couple that with the fact that Julien found me on my Twitter account (@Alisportshots), his blog was recently voted the 2015 Best New Wine Blog, and is a trained wine maker…. this was HUGE to me!

I decided to create Stuffed Pork Chops with Dry Rose’ Wine for his blog.  This is one of my favorite recipes but I had never posted it with a Dry Rose’ before… Sharing a special recipe with special people just seemed like the perfect fit.  Julien also linked my formally-posted Twice Baked Potatoes recipe on his site, so I hope people find both recipes enjoyable!

I do hope that all who read this blog will begin to follow Julien and his wine blog… he offers a new perspective on some old-world expectations.  Enjoy!

Aunt Louise’s Blueberry Cream Pie (with wine)

I have to say that this is a recipe that was handed down to me by my mother, from her mother’s sister, so the original recipe did not contain wine.  That being said, it wasn’t hard to add a splash of wine so I could include this delicious pie on my blog. It’s simple, yet elegant… and one that most everyone in our family loves to have as the sweet ending to a meal.  It’s definitely not a “low cal” sort of dessert, but it could be made a bit lighter if you’re inclined to tweak things here and there.  For me, it’ll all about recreating a beloved dessert, so I don’t adjust it too much.BlueberryCreamPie (1)

Ingredients:

  • one small package of cream cheese (I’ve been instructed not to use light or non-fat for this dessert)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (again, don’t skimp for calorie sake or the flavor will fall flat)
  • Pie shell – use your favorite, but we found that we like a pastry shell more than a graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 can blueberry pie filling
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of white wine (or use lemon juice if you prefer)

Directions:

  • Cream room temperature cream cheese  and add sugar and vanilla, then beat well
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream just until stiff peaks form
  • Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream with great care
  • Pour into pie shell.
  • Blend wine into the pie filling and top the pie with the blueberry mixture
  • Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

This pie has been on our Easter table for years… it’s also a fabulous addition to any picnic or family gathering.  You can substitute fresh fruit for the pie filling if you prefer…. it’s all about making something that your own family will love. Traditional or not, making food for those you love is the whole idea.  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.

Leftover Recipe: Turkey Spring Rolls

I was searching for a new way to use up leftover turkey when I stumbled upon The Pioneer Woman, showing her spring roll recipe and I knew I had my inspiration.

I started by letting a small round of rice vermicelli sit in hot water until they were soft (this is, by far, the easiest thing to do!).  I then created a turkey mixture using thin sliced turkey, a spoon of apricot jam, some rose’ wine (white wine would be just as good, but I had leftover rose’ from Thanksgiving and I think it goes beautifully with turkey), a dash of sesame oil, a blob of ketchup, a little commercial orange sauce, salt & pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  I set this aside and then sliced some cucumber into thin sticks for crunch and opened a bag of broccoli slaw.  I was now ready to assemble these delicious spring rolls.TurkeySpringRolls

First thing was to pull out a few rice spring roll wrappers.  These things are great…. just soak them in hot water until they are limp and you can wrap them around anything.  They are a little tricky when you first start playing with them, so be ready to have an extra or two on hand, just in case.

I laid out the soft wrapper and assembled each of the spring rolls by layering a little of the soft vermicelli, then the cucumber sticks, a bit of the turkey mixture, and topped it with the colorful broccoli slaw.  Once they were assembled, the creative part had to happen…. I had to roll these things into logs!  I started by pulling the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling, then folded each side in, and rolled the whole thing into a log.  The first one was a bit funky-looking, but they got better as I went along.  NOTE: I had two spring rolls that each got holes poked in the sides from the broccoli slaw, so I just added a second wrapper around the original spring roll.  No biggie… 

Once all six rolls were done, I made a dipping sauce out of a mixture of apricot jam, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and a drizzle of honey.  Calling this a “dipping sauce” is sort of a mis-nomer… it was more like a “spooning sauce”, but you get the idea.  I could have made it runnier by warming the jam up a bit, but this was so yummy that I left it alone.  I liked the thick texture of the sauce when spooned onto (or into, after a bite) the spring roll, so it was all good.  I also sprinkled a tiny bit of sesame seeds over top to make it look pretty, but that was totally unnecessary.  These things were gorgeous in their own right.

Try this recipe sometime… you’ll be amazed, just as I was, at the fresh twist you get from using turkey in such a unique way.