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!

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: 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!

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!

Lemon Wine Sugar Scrub

It’s officially spring around here and I have been searching for something to help get my winter skin ready… I think this recipe is a FABULOUS way to give you the soft skin you want as we start wearing less layers each day.  I looked at hundreds of recipes that called for so many wonderful-sounding ingredients, but it all came down to the idea that I wanted to find something easy to make (and remake) anytime I want.  I hope you’ll find this recipe to be the easiest… and one that can be altered in a myriad of ways to suit anyone’s taste preference.LemonWineSugarScrub (1)

I started with one cup of white sugar and one cup of brown sugar.  To this, I blended in one quarter cup of coconut oil and one quarter cup of olive oil as well as one Tablespoon of lemon extract and one Tablespoon of white wine (I used a Chardonnay for this recipe).  Once all the ingredients are mixed together in the bowl, use a whisk and thoroughly incorporate the ingredients until they resemble a very light and airy cookie dough.  They will separate at a later point, but this is your scrub.

Once the sugar scrub is light and thoroughly blended, spoon it into resealable containers.  You can see that I chose one plastic jar and one glass jar for the photo – this is simply because I had both on hand.  Use whatever you prefer or choose to use.

This scrub will keep for a few weeks… it’s not necessary to refrigerate the scrub as the oils will solidify and have to be warmed up before use if you do so.  I like to use this scrub on my feet and hands to keep both soft and smooth.  Feel free to keep some by the kitchen sink to use after doing dishes or in the bathroom for use in the shower or at bedtime.  It smells lovely and your hands & feet will appreciate the attention. This makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for anyone on your list.

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!

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.

White Mini Cinnamon Rolls

It’s the holidays, so this is when I try to take some extended time in the kitchen to play around with recipes… and this holiday season was no exception.  I knew that my husband would love it if I could come up with a way to make his favorite breakfast of Cinnamon Rolls, so I started with a basic bread recipe and played from there.

The recipe I started with is one that came from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna German.  This is a link to an Amazon page where you could purchase any of her #1-4 cookbooks… I have cookbooks #1, #2, and #4.  She has some amazing recipes and I love looking through her books for inspirations.  I found her recipe for a Cinnamon Swirl bread and started from there.  WhiteMiniCinnamonRolls

Into my bread machine, I put the following, in order: 4 oz water, 1 oz white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio, but you can simply replace this with more water), 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cup4s flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast.  I then set my machine on the “quick dough” setting and began to collect the remaining ingredients.

I warmed some butter (about 4 Tablespoons) in a ramekin and added a dash of salt and a drop or two of vanilla, whisking all together before setting this aside.

I then collected about 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a bowl and added a dash of salt, a tiny amount of nutmeg, and a few teaspoons of cinnamon.  I tossed this together and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray your mini cupcake tin with cooking spray.  NOTE:  I like to put the pan on a baking sheet covered with foil so I don’t have to worry if the filling cooks over the edge and so it doesn’t drip onto the bottom my oven.  I love easy cleanup!  I also like to put a small amount of the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. It’s only about 1/4 teaspoon, but it seems to bake into a yummy topping in the end.

Once the bread machine had done it’s work and the dough was ready, I rolled it out on a board, into a large rectangle.  Take your vanilla butter and spread it evenly all over the dough.  Sprinkle all the spiced brown sugar over top and then begin to roll the dough into a log, length-wise, starting with the area closest to you.  Cut the log into 12 even slices and put each slice into a muffin cup.  I also like to press the rolls down lightly to push them into their individual cups.  Bake your cinnamon rolls for 17-20 minutes or until the rolls are nicely browned and puffy.

While your rolls are baking, you’ll want to make your frosting.  You can make yours any way you choose… use a prepared frosting, make a cream cheese frosting, or make something as simple as a blend of butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar. I added a wedge of laughing cow light cheese to some butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar… this is where your creativity can have fun.  You can add some orange juice instead of the milk if you want a little citrus taste… if you have some evaporated milk left over from a recipe you could use that instead.  It’s really all about what tastes good to you.

Once the rolls are baked, I like to turn them upside down on a rectangle platter and slather as much frosting as I can load onto these little yummy morsels.  You’ll want to serve them warm with milk or coffee… they are fabulous!

Wishing you sweet, delicious mornings and a very Happy New Year!