Monday, August 22, 2011

UN-stuffed zuchinni

3 ribs celery chopped
6-7 white mushrooms sliced into fourths and then cut in half
3 zuchinni halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise again, then cut middle/seeds/core away. Cut each "spear" into 5 pieces (about the size of your large toenail)
1 and a 1/2 pounds of ground beef browned and your favorite seasoning added. I used garlic salt and lemon pepper
2 eggs
3 cups favorite cheese. I used colby-jack

Brown ground beef and remove to separate bowl.
Stir fry celery 2-3 minutes in pan that had the ground beef in it.
Add mushroom and continue stir frying for another 2-3 minutes
Add zuchinni pieces and continue stir frying for another 2-3 minutes. Sometimes I put the lid on the pan and let it all steam a little to get the veggies cooked and softened slightly.
Return ground beef to pan with veggies. Allow all to cook through and veggies are ALMOST done.
Crack 2 eggs into the pan and stir the eggs into the mixture. As the eggs cook, the mixture will be slightly stuck together.
Sprinkle 3 cups of grated cheese over all and fold in. Mixture will be slightly gooey and stick together.

In the meantime, I cook our favorite quick noodles. Usually a Rice a Roni flavored noodle. Tonight's selection was a parmesan angel hair. (This is our favorite)

Serve a hefty spoon full of the zucchini alongside a spoonful of the noodles. (If you're brave, you can even mix them!)

Quite yummy!
I would love to hear from you if you try this.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grilled Artichokes!

Grilled Artichokes!

4 medium sized artichokes
chicken broth
3 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Trim stem off bottom of artichokes.
Trim about 1 inch off leaves at top.
Place artichokes in large pot stem down.
Pour chicken broth over artichokes covering them about 3/4 of the way.
Add water if needed.
Add bay leaves, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and salt and pepper
Boil about 20 minutes till artichoke stem is softened but not mushy.

While artichokes are cooking make marinade.
2/3 cup olive oil
3 TB soy sauce
3 TB water
3 TB balsamic vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
set aside to use later

Remove artichokes and drain. Allow to cool 15 minutes
Cut artichokes in half starting at stem end
Remove inner leaves and fuzzy "choke"
Brush marinade on inside of artichokes.
I also like to try to drizzle some INTO the leaves
Grill 4 minutes on each side, brushing with more marinade if you'd like

While artichokes are grilling, separate 1/2 cup marinade in small dish and add about 2 TB mayonnaise to make dip.

When artichokes are done, place on a dish with balsamic mayonnaise dip in the center for your guests to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Swiss Steak A.K.A. "Ultimate Comfort Food"

1-2 pounds cube steaks
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper (I use garlic salt and lemon pepper)
4-6 ribs celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
1 large (16 0z) can of diced tomatoes. I use the ones with herbs and spices
1 small can tomato sauce
4 TB worcestershire
1 TB Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup water or red wine

Cut meat into finger size pieces
place in large plastic bag
sprinkle flour, salt and pepper in bag. Shake bag to coat meat.
Meanwhile, heat several tablespoons of shortening in large frying pan.
Fry meat on all sides till brown.
Cover meat with celery and onion.
In 4 cup measuring cup mix tomatoes, sauce, worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar.

Pour 1/4 cup water or wine into pan with meat and veggies. Scrape bottom to loosen bits. Top with tomato mixture. Stir. Turn down heat and let cook on low-medium for 1-2 hours. Stir occasionally. During last half hour, remove lid to allow juice to thicken.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

So yummy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Torie's Clam Chowder

My friend Torie served this to us on Friday for lunch last week at school. Let me just say, I think Torie is my new best friend. She knows how to make us teachers feel special, and comfort food at the end of a long week is one of the ways she does that. THANKS AGAIN, TORIE!

1-51 oz can of chopped clams
1 pkg of bacon chopped
1 cup minced onion
2 cup diced celery
3 cups cubed potatoes
2 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste

1. Begin with all your veggies prepped. Pan fry the bacon till crisp, add veggies and sautee them until they have absorbed a lot of that bacon flavor. (Sometimes I split the carrots, onions, celery in one batch, then potatoes in another batch because otherwise it takes a really large pan). Season these veggies as you go, they don't need a whole lot of salt because you are cooking in the bacon fat, but taste every step as you go.
2. Drain juice from clams over the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots. Add water to cover, and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender. Season to taste.
2. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook for 1-2 minutes just to get rid of that raw flour taste. Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through, but do not boil.
3. Stir in clams just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
4. This soup really cooks quickly. If you start with your veggies all prepped, it will only take about 30 minutes. And it really doesn't get 'that' much better as it simmers (like most soups would). It's stove to table with a very full bodied flavor as if it has cooked all day. Add milk if it gets too thick :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Signs of Spring

It all usually starts about Valentine's Day. I start looking for blossoms as I drive past the almond orchards on my way to school. This year, God's special Valentine came to me in the form of one perfect pinky/purplish blossom blinking its hello to me as I drove past the ornamental plum tree in my doctor's parking lot. The best Valentine's gift I ever got!

Next in line in the Spring parade are the lilacs. Their deep lavender color sends me right back to the backyard of my youth. I thought my dad was the most gifted gardener that ever lived. We had the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, and my mom often cut huge bouquets of gladiolas, calla lilies, roses, and snapdragons to put on the church altar. We had a huge lilac bush in the corner of the garden and I remember laying under that bush, staring up at the clouds through the clusters of fragrant blooms. I don't have any idea what I thought about during my youthful escapes, but the view of that dappled sunlight is so vivid I could swear I'm there now. My wonderful husband, Gary, has planted a lilac tree in the corner of our yard too. And for those of you who know him and have been to our house, you know he is one of the most gifted gardeners in the world! :-)

Before you know it, all my spring favorites are in bloom. There are daffodils of all sizes, clusters, and shades of yellow, cream, and orange. The iceland poppies wave hello to everyone who passes by. Their little round heads that bob in the wind right before they open remind me of some kind of party surprise. Before you know it, POP, the flower bursts forth with sunshiny shades of pinks, oranges, and yellows. Gary makes sure these happy flowers are in the front and the back so I can see them from everywhere.

Do I love Spring so much because the cold, gray dreariness of winter has left me longing for warmer, longer days? I think so. But I also know that these harbingers of Spring come just before my favorite holiday, Easter. Spring flowers symbolize what Easter is all about in my opinion. ..... the promise of New Life. This Spring, take time to notice the Signs of Spring, and enjoy them for the gifts that they are.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unexpected surprises

The lilacs are blooming already. In fact, they're in full bloom and will be gone in a week or 2. Now, that's not really an unexpected surprise, but a day off today to enjoy them is. We needed to get our car into the shop to have it inspected/tuned up, so that left me with lots of quiet time to myself this morning.

Which was an unexpected thing. You see, I had an appointment scheduled, but the friend who I was supposed to meet is trying to get her little baby back to health. They found themselves in the hospital due to his illness. Hopefully he gets to come home today. Unexpected surprise, and not a very good one at that for them.

Seriously, is there anything worse than your kids being sick? or hurting? or floundering somehow? I can't think of anything. Of all the things that have caused Gary and I the most hurt and worry, it's our kids. Bumps on the foreheads needing stitches, broken arms, ear infections, weird rashes, calls in the middle of the night for pick ups...... from them, or the police..... yep, we've been through it all.

Where do you turn when life deals you an unexpected surprise?

RUN! Run to the arms of God, your Father. Tell Him your fears, worries, frustrations, and anger. Hold on to Him and His Word.

That's the only way I've gotten through any of my big unexpected surprises.

I got another unexpected surprise yesterday from Gary. He knows I love the Avila Beach area, so without asking, he just made reservations at a quaint little inn in the foothills over there for us during my Easter vacation week. What a lovely surprise! Ahhhhh, breathing in the fresh ocean air, taking long walks in the foothills, hot tubbin' it, walking on the pier, eating clam chowder, and time.... time to do nuthin'! and whatever we're wantin'. I am really looking forward to it.

So, back to the lilacs. I'm glad I got to enjoy my unexpected time with them this morning. But I do hope that my friend and her little Rusty are home and enjoying a long nap. In the meantime, I'm going to go see what else might be blooming out there. What else is God planting, fertilizing and watering for me to be surprised with?

Oops.... unexpected surprise #3. Mitchell just called and wants to know, if I'm not too busy can I bring him a soda and some crackers.... HA HA HA! I'm glad I'm home and can do this for him today.

Let me know how you were unexpectedly surprised lately. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta

Oh my YUM-A-LUM!

1 pound turkey italian sausage, remove casings
1 TB olive oil
1/2 yellow or orange pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
28 oz. canned, diced tomatoes (I used the ones flavored with basil, oregano, and other herbs)
1 1/2 TB minced garlic
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or yes if you like it a little less spicy)
8 oz. uncooked whole wheat fusilli
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt or a teaspoon or 2 of chicken bullion. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook to desired doneness. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, to make sauce, in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage, stirring and breaking up meat. When cooked through, remove to a plate.

Heat olive oil in same skillet. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook till veggies are crisp-tender.
About 5-7 minutes.

Add wine, cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let cook for 5-7 minutes.

To assemble, add 1 cup pasta to a bowl, top with 3/4 cup meat and veggie sauce. Top with parmesan cheese if desired, and fresh basil. Serve with spoon to get all the juicy goodness in every bite.

We served it with red wine and freshly baked soft french bread. I thought I was in heaven!
This is an adapted Weight Watchers recipe and without the wine, cheese and bread, it is about 8 points.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stir Fry Broccoli Beef

3 TB cornstarch divided

¼ tsp. garlic salt
¾ pound lean sirloin beef trimmed, raw, thinly sliced. (I also sometimes use chicken breast)
2 tsp oil
1 c. chicken broth
sliced mushrooms (I do about 2 cups) (you can do more or less to suit your tastes)
1 white onion cut into 8 wedges and broken apart
5 cups (don’t skimp) broccoli florets (or asparagus!) (or green beans!)
2 tsp minced garlic (I’ve been using the jarred minced garlic) (SO MUCH EASIER!)
⅛ tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it HOT)
¼ cup lo sodium soy sauce

Combine 2 TB cornstarch and garlic salt. Add prepared meat and toss to coat. Stir fry meat in hot pan in small amount oil about 5 minutes or till lightly browned. Don’t over cook. Remove to plate and set aside. Add ½ c chicken broth to pan to loosen bits. Add veggies, starting with the crisper veggies that take longer to cook. toss occasionally, cooking till crisp-tender. Add 1 TB water or chicken broth if needed. Add garlic and pepper flakes - stir all till fragrant - a minute or 2. In a cup, stir together soy sauce, remaining ½ cup chicken broth, 1 TB cornstarch, and 2 TB water till blended. Stir into pan - bring to simmer and allow to thicken. Return meat, allow to heat through. Test veggies, serve when veggies are soft the way you like them. (I like them crisp-tender)

Serve over white rice, noodles, or just as is for a low-carb meal. YUM-A-LUM!

Approx 6 Weight Watchers points per 1⅓ cup serving

Creamy Lemon Shrimp (or chicken!)

A light creamy lemony sauce mingles with jumbo shrimp and fresh veggies of your choice ( I use asparagus and mushrooms). Serve over your favorite pasta, or alongside rice pilaaf. Good with chicken too.

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled (I like the jumbo ones.... about 6 pieces per person) or 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces.
1 TB olive oil
1 TB butter
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups asparagus spear pieces
1 clove minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
14 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 cans cream of celery soup
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. dry mustard

Cook favorite pasta and set aside. (Try bow tie, fettucini, or angel hair)

Melt butter and olive oil in large non stick pan. Add peeled shrimp to pan along with the mushrooms, the asparagus, the garlic, and the lemon zest. Stir fry 5-7 minutes or until shrimp is firm and pink and veggies are crisp-tender. If you are using chicken, cook the chicken 2-3 minutes, then add veggies, garlic, and lemon zest. Cook till chicken is cooked through and veggies are crisp tender.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix the cans of soup, the milk, the dry mustard, and the lemon juice.

Add to shrimp (or chicken) and veggie mixture. Stir in artichoke hearts and heat through.
Serve over pasta.
Serves 6-8

* I'd love your feedback if you try it!*
Weight Watchers points looks to be about 12 depending on how much of this you use as a serving.

Monday, March 21, 2011

As promised, here is the Greek Chicken recipe!

Greek Chicken
A Rachael Ray recipe

I like this recipe because it is a good dish to fix for company or a crowd. I love the creamy texture and taste of the feta with the bite and strength of the kalamata olives and pepperoncini.
Let me know what your favorite thing is about it!

4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh oregano, finely chopped
4-6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 pounds jumbo shrimp
salt and coarse black pepper
1/2 pound orzo pasta
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 pound feta, crumbled
3 TB banana pepper rings, chopped (pepperoncini)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for orzo pasta.
Crush 2 cloves of garlic and place in shallow dish with about 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 thinly sliced sliced lemon, red pepper flakes, oregano, chicken or shrimp. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When meat or shrimp has marinated for 10 minutes, (up to 30 minutes is OK), and pan is screaming hot, add chicken or shrimp and lemons. Cook chicken 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally or cook shrimp 6-8 minutes or until pink and firm, tossing with tongs frequently. When you add chicken to pan, drop orzo in boiling water and start vegetables, see below. If you're cooking shrimp, start orzo then start vegetables and then throw shrimp in hot pan.
Meanwhile, heat a second skillet with 2 TB olive oil, over medium high heat. Add red onions and bell peppers and season with salt and pepper, cook 5 minutes. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic and toss a minute, then add olive and tomatoes to the pan and cook a couple of minutes more. Drain orzo and toss in serving dish with vegetables, parsley, feta, and pepperoncini. Place chicken atop, squeeze with juice of lemon if desired, and serve.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Oh My!

Well, I'm NOT going to give you a recipe every night. That would just be too much! For you, and for me! But, I was just wondering if any of you have any questions about cooking.... or anything else. I'll come up with an answer. It may not be the one you want, but it will be honest. So, post away, and check back for answers, and, tell your friends! Mama Mona is here!

BTW, have any of you ever taken a road trip with a bestie? I don't mean a one day trip to the coast or the mountains... although, if you haven't done that ... GET IN THE CAR NOW and GO!!!! I can give you some suggestions of day trips if you need some....

No, I mean a loooooooooooooooong road trip! Think Thelma and Louise here..... at least a tame version of it.... like G rated! I had the pleasure of going from Fresno, California to Chicago, Illinois with one of my besties, Jodie, last summer. From the painted rocks of New Mexico to the Art Museum of Chicago and every antique red barn in between, it was FANTASTIC! We saw bison in Yellowstone, the faces of Mt. Rushmore, and the beauty and grandeur of the Grand Tetons rising above wildflower filled meadows. I ate Chicago Style Pizza, Papa John's Pancakes, and tons of snacks (mmmmmm, humus!) in the car. I was licked by a cow! (very slimy! but everyone should do it at least once!), slept in a different bed almost every night, and excitedly saw fireflies flickering along the roadside in rural Iowa. America is a grand country! EVERYONE should travel cross country by car at least once in their life. I was so glad I did! In fact, hubby Gary and I are planning on driving north this summer. Why don't you try it? You'll probably like it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Toscano Soup

This is the very first recipe I ever made totally on my own. I took inspiration from a recipe Gary brought home from a staff luncheon (Thank you, Kari Stacey) and from Rachael Ray.

1 pound Italian sausage
2 fennel bulbs (also known as anise) (You could also use 2 yellow onions, or 1 onion and 1 fennel bulb) The fennel has a VERY mild flavor. Don't be afraid of it! Embrace it! Something new!
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into medium sized chunks
2-3 tsp minced garlic
1 and 1/2 c heavy cream
1 can tomato sauce
2-3 cups chopped kale. (Don't include the chewy stalk. Remove the leaf from the stalk and chop)
4-6 cups chicken broth (You can used canned chicken broth, or make your own using chicken bullion)
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can kidney beans - drain and rinse

Fry sausage till cooked through
Add onion and/or fennel and garlic. Let cook/sweat with the sausage for about 7 minutes.
Add potatoes and carrots. Cook/sweat for about 4-5 minutes.
Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste - bring to boil
Add beans - bring back to boil
Add kale - bring back to boil
Stir in heavy cream. Turn off. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes.

I like to serve this with hot crusty rolls. We find the Tahoe Joe's brand of rolls to work great. You'll find your favorite.

Bowser Style Goulash

2 cups egg noodles (cooked, or not)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use the kind that are canned and flavored, like with basil, herbs, etc.)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can corn
1/2 c sliced black olives
1 small can sliced olives (or you can use fresh, about 1/2 cup)
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
2 cups grated cheese (we use the marbled colby/jack)

Mix all together in big bowl. Top with about another 1/2 cup of cheese. Pour into a 13x9 pan that has been sprayed with PAM. Cover with foil and bake in a 325 oven till bubbly and hot. (about 45 mins. or so) Gary's mom always served this with canned pears and slices of sourdough toast. You'll find your own way to make it your favorite.