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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Salads and Barbecues

I have been wondering why summer salads, like pasta and potato, always have to be in thick and heavy cream and/or mayonnaise based sauces? Summer is a time that can be fresh and light, as we all shove ourselves into shorts and swim suits. Why all the meat and cream? Even though I worked all of Memorial Day weekend and holiday, I ate more meat than ever, from grilled chicken to hamburger and grilled pork. Each meal came fitted with heavy beans and a cream salad or two. I am very thankful for any prepared meal I can get, especially when I get home after 8:00pm from work, but I need a complete overhaul in diet just from this past long weekend.
My thought is make it light. Instead of a heavy cream pasta salad, make your own dressed with olive oil and vinegar. If you want a little bit of a cream consistency add some cubed mozzarella or crumbled feta. Same holds true for potato salad. Try dressing it with a sauce made from lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, mustard, and maybe a hint of honey for sweetness. To go with more of a creamy side, try humus or find a recipe that utilizes Greek yogurt. Instead of a barbecue of hot dogs, brats, and burgers, try grilled portobello mushrooms or a medley of grilled vegetables. I usually marinate and grill onion, red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, eggplant and sweet potato. Once grilled I chop them up and mix them into prepared quinoa,  pearl couscous, or regular couscous. Top with a little bit of feta cheese and you have a wonderful tasting, yet light, meal.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Super Easy Mac n' Cheesy

I don't know of anyone that doesn't love mac n' cheese...especially when it comes to the little ones. Here's an easy way to make mac n' cheese at home, that's not much more challenging than ripping open a package of powdered cheese.
  • 1 Box Pasta (Choose whatever kind you like...I prefer whole wheat and love cavatappi)
  • 1-1/4 Cups Milk (I would recommend using something stronger than skim)
  • 8ozs Cheddar Cheese (You can add a 1/4 cup of Parmesan too if you have it and would like)
  • 2 Tbsps Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg
Cook your pasta according to package directions. Once drained, add back to pot and cook slightly longer to remove extra liquid. Next dump in the remaining ingredients and cook till cheese is melted and incorporated. This will be a gooey mac n' cheese, but it couldn't be more simple. It kind of turns out a bit like the recipe at Noodles. I found this recipe while watching Emeril's Table one day. I'm not usually that interested in watching Emeril, but this particular episode was targeted for kids...how fun! Here's the link to the recipe:  http://www.emerils.com/recipe/8113/Merils-Mac-and-Cheese

Friday, May 11, 2012

Greek Gyro Burger Dinner

I had some ground lamb that I wanted to use for dinner, and decided to make a Greek themed dinner. The dinner has flavors of a Gyro, and was super tastey! I've also heard that lamb is fine, even if you're Vegetarian. ) Here's how to make it.
  • 1lb Ground Lamb (just as a side note...you could substitute any ground meat)
  • 1/2 Zucchini (grated)
  • 1/2 Red Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 Clove Garlic (minced)
  • Whole Wheat Pita (4 whole or 8 halves)
  • 2/3 Cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 Cucumber (peeled and finely diced)
  • 1 Green Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 Lemon (squeezed)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsps Greek Seasoning (I use McCormick Gourmet Collection)
  • Feta (to top pita burger)
  • Fresh Greens (to top)
Mix ground lamb, grated zucchini, finely chopped red pepper, minced garlic, salt/pepper and 1 tsp Greek seasoning together and form into 4 patties. If you had other greens on hand, such as Spinach or Kale, you could finely chop that and add it to the burgers. Meanwhile mix the yogurt, lemon juice, diced cucumber, chopped green onion, salt/pepper and 1 tsp Greek seasoning together. For grilling, you may want to oil the grates as the burgers are a bit wet and can stick if not well seared. To assemble, lightly toast pita halves. Cut burgers in half and place a half in each half of pita. Top with greens, cucumber sauce and feta. Good sides may be a salad and some roasted potatoes...and as always...a nice red wine. This was a great dinner and tasted very fresh! Opa!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Com Post

Today, May 9th, is the start of our compost. We are utilizing a bin, available for purchase through the City of Milwaukee. First items in:  coffee grounds and filter, egg shells and a banana peel. It was fun taking the girls out to do it this morning, and Elia got to dump all the items in. Hopefully by next year we can utilize our own organic compost for our garden.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Homemade Tomato Soup

Elia and I enjoy having a lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup, however, I'm not the biggest fan of canned condensed soup. Here's an easy way to make your own, and oh...it's way better than the canned stuff!
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes (You can substitute whatever kind you have and adjust the amount depending on how much you want to make)
  • 1 Clove Garlic chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 Onion chopped
  • 1 Handful Kale chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth
Cut the tomatoes in 1/4s and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven at 400 F for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile sautee the chopped garlic, onion and kale in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add vegetable broth to cooked vegetables and heat. Place tomatoes and the sauteed veggie/broth mixture in a Vita Mix or blender and blend till pureed. Serve with grilled cheese if you like...and enjoy!! : ) It's yummy!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Slow Cooker Lamb Stew

I have been thinking of having more of a stew lately, and wanted to make it with lamb. I think I saw a Diner's Drive-In's and Dives episode where a lady put a lamb dish over couscous...anyways that gave me the inspiration for this dish. When I was at Whole Foods the other day, I bought some Israeli Couscous in bulk. If you haven't tried it, it's more of a pearl size when cooked, which we find is easier for the girls to eat, and easier for us to clean up off the floor. : ) I also asked the meat guy what he would recommend for the lamb portion of the lamb stew. He suggested boneless shoulder cut and chopped it into stew-size pieces for me. Since I only got a pound, and didn't check for recipes prior to going to the store, I made up my own concoction. Here it is:
  • 1 lb-Lamb Stew Meat
  • 1 Medium-Onion chopped
  • 5-6 Carrots chopped
  • Handful-Kale chopped
  • 1-Zucchini chopped
  • 1/2-1 Red Bell Pepper chopped
  • 1-Sweet Potato chopped
  • 1 Stalk-Celery chopped
  • 1 Can  (14.5oz)-Fire Roasted / Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup-Beef Broth
  • 1 Cup-Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 tsp-Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp-Coriander
  • 1 tsp-Cumin
  • Sprinkle of dried Cilantro
  • Salt / Pepper to taste
  • 2 Cups-Dried Israeli Couscous + 2.5 Cups-Water (or Broth)
  • 1 Tbsp+- Olive Oil
I threw all of the above ingredients, minus the couscous, into the slow cooker and set it to high, with a little drizzle of olive oil. Originally it looks a bit low on the liquid, but as it's cooking, everything is starting to release their juices. For the Israeli  Couscous, put 2 cups in a pot with 1 Tbsp olive oil and lightly toast, about 3 minutes. Add 2.5 cups water to this and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a low simmer, cooking an additional 8-10 minutes. For added flavor, broth can be added to the couscous instead of plain water. If too much water remains in the pot, drain the couscous as you would any other pasta. Serve the lamb stew over the couscous. A nice green salad and red wine would pair well with this. Haven't tried it yet, but I'll let you know how it is tonight. It looks yummy!