Tangy Salmon Fillets

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish. I especially like it marinated and then grilled, broiled or baked so the edges get crispy. This tangy mustard, vinegar, sesame based marinade is a favorite. I usually serve it over a non-seasoned rice medley with roasted asparagus or roasted green beans on the side, if I am baking the salmon anyway.

Tangy Salmon Fillets

1-2 lbs salmon fillets
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon EVOO
1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
3 green onions or chives, sliced

Combine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, oil, mustard, and ginger in a microwave-safe measuring cup. Warm slightly, 15-20 seconds, to help the honey dissolve and blend with the other ingredients. Stir well.
Place the fillets in a Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over them. Seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, turning over at least once.
Drain and discard marinade.
Bake on a foil-lined baking pan at 450°F for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and onions or chives.

Broil: Place under a preheated broiler for 8-10 minute. Turn over and continue broiling for 5-10 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork. You will need to keep an eye on it as it may start smoking if too close to the broiler element. If your fillets have skin, broil the skin side first. It will bubble and crisp up with makes separating it from the meat a lot easier.

Grill: Grill covered, over medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

If you want to roast asparagus or green beans at the same time, place trimmed and washed ones on another foil-lined pan. Mist with EVOO and stir lightly to coat. Add fresh ground pepper and salt to the green beans or just salt to the asparagus. Bake at 450°F for about 12-15 minutes or until tender.

PLEASE NOTE: I have a convection oven which enables me to bake both pans at the same time with even results. If you don’t, you will probably need to switch and rotate pans halfway through.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions

Butternut squash used to be one of those pieces of produce that I shied away from in the grocery store. I mean, it just isn’t super intuitive as to how cook the darn thing! Then a friend from South Africa served us this amazing combination of roasted butternut squash, apples and onions. I was hooked! Some recipes call for added herbs or spices, like thyme or cinnamon, but we prefer it plain and simple. I recommend trying it this way, and then adding additional flavoring as suit your taste.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled. cored and sliced
  • 1 sweet vedalia onion, peeled and sliced

Place all ingredients on a foil-lined baking pan. Spray with extra virgin olive oil, stirring to coat.  Roast at 425°F for about 30-40 minutes, stirring twice, until squash is soft.

It can be served as a meal in and of itself, or as a side dish for baked fish or chicken. I usually just add the fish on another foil-lined pan to the oven approximately 10-12 minutes before the squash is done, depending on thickness. It’s a super easy, healthy meal and cleanup requires just throwing the foil away!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

As an added bonus, you can make the leftovers into soup. Just place enough chicken broth to cover the ingredients in a pan and heat until warm. Use a submersion blender to puree until almost smooth. If you prefer a creamier soup, add a few tablespoons of milk or cream. Garnish with ground cinnamon, nutmeg or a few springs of herbs.

Bruschetta Chicken

Fresh, flavorful, uncomplicated and healthy.  What’s not to love??

It’s always nice to find a new recipe that is different than anything else I make. To find one that we love which is also so easy to prepare is a huge bonus. The combination of fresh tomatoes, flavorful herbs and tangy balsamic vinegar over juicy chicken topped with a combination of Italian cheese is superb. Pair it with freshly baked ciabatta bread and an oaked Ox-Eye Vineyards Pinot Noir and it defies description.

Bruschetta Chicken

1 lb. thin-cut boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbls. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbls. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 pint diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Place chicken breasts in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Combine the EVOO, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Italian herb seasoning, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour HALF of the marinade over the chicken, reseal bag, and in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours. (Overnight is fine.)
Preheat your grill to medium high or about 350 degrees F. Combine remaining marinade with diced tomatoes; set aside. Transfer chicken from marinade onto grill surface and discard marinade. Grill chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. (It is also okay to fry them in a pan over medium heat.) Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Spoon bruschetta mixture over chicken and top with basil; serve immediately.

The Ciabatta Bread is mixed in a bread machine on the Dough Cycle and then baked in the oven. I honestly could make a meal out of just it dipped in a high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil seasoned with real grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh ground pepper. The dough is very sticky. Don’t give into the temptation to add more flour. Treat it gingerly to keep from bursting all the lovely air bubbles that form. It makes two loaves. If you don’t need both immediately, double bag one and stick it in the freezer. Thaw it at room temperature for several hours. It was pretty darn close to fresh baked.

 

Fish with Eggplant, Tomatoes & Basil

Found this on Rachael Ray’s website. I made a few tweaks. She called for cod pieces, but I used flounder fillets. I also used African blue basil from my herb garden instead of traditional basil, and I cut back on the olive oil.

Fish with Eggplant, Tomatoes & Basil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
1 eggplant (1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 12 round slices (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 pound flounder fillets
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil

Preheat the broiler. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Add the halved tomatoes to the pan; season with salt and pepper. Cook, undisturbed, until tender on one side, about 5 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with foil; place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Mist the eggplant on both sides with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Broil, turning once, until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.

Spoon the tomatoes on top of the eggplant and cover with the fish. Broil until the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer to plates. Top with the basil and garlic.

Homemade Brownie Bites

I adore my brownie recipe. It produces such a moist, decadent brownie that it is difficult to not sit down with a spoon and eat the whole pan at once. Bliss in a dish!

I recently needed to make some desserts for a fundraiser. I knew the brownies would be a hit, but the traditional “cut into bars” version can be difficult to eat while standing around talking since they crumble easily. I decided to try making them in my mini muffin pans instead.

The results were amazing!

Homemade Brownie Bites

1⁄2 cup shortening
1⁄2 cup real butter
1 cup dark chocolate cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease 48 mini muffin tins.
Melt shortening and butter over low heat or in the microwave.
Remove from heat and add cocoa, blending well with a wooden spoon. Add sugar and mix well.
Add eggs ONE AT A TIME, beating well, by hand, after each addition. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt.
DO NOT OVER BEAT!
Bake 9-11 minutes.

The centers will still be a bit soft. That helps maintain the fudginess of them. If you bake them longer, they will be more cake-like and drier. Cool about 10 minutes and carefully remove them. Cool completely and dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

 

 

Breakfast Cookies

These are so much better than store-bought breakfast cookies or bars for a quick grab-and-go option. The oats, whole wheat flour and peanut butter help keep you full for a long time. The cookies were soft & delicious which contrasted nicely with the crunch of the Cheerio’s.

Make sure to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make the cookies. If you make them smaller, they will be too dry and hard. My kids prefer dates over raisins. I’ve used both old fashioned oats and instant without difficulty. The recipe works well with either wheat or white flour. I have used store brands, but the cookies are definitely better with Cheerios. It also makes a difference to use real butter rather than margarine.

Cheerios Jumbo Breakfast Cookies

1 1⁄4 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup butter
1⁄2 cup peanut butter
1⁄4 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup raisins or dates
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal

Heat oven to 375°. Stir together sugar, butter, peanut butter, water, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except cereal. Gently stir in cereal.
Drop dough by rounded 1/3 cupfuls 4 inches apart onto ungreased large cookie sheet. Flatten dough to about 1 inch thick.
Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Store in a zip-lock bag.

Yields: 18 large cookies

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Beef and Bean Oven Tacos

These are a nice change from traditional tacos. Baking them in the oven adds a different dimension to the overall taste. It also helps soften the hard shells, which makes them easier to eat. Sometimes, I place the filling in a crock-pot and used it to assemble traditional tacos later. This approach works well for having supper ready within minutes of walking in the door or when taking something to a potluck meal. It’s especially popular with the kids.

Beef and Bean Oven Tacos

1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained (optional)
8-10 taco shells
1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Brown the lean ground beef with the chopped onion. Drain well, if needed. Stir in the black beans, taco seasoning, petite diced tomatoes and corn. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Line up the taco shells in a 7×11-inch baking dish that has been lined with foil. (Easy clean up!)
Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top with cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Serve with any or all additional toppings: shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, avocado chunks or guacamole.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Several years ago, I started making my own taco seasoning. It tastes better and is so much cheaper than buying the little packets. Plus, there aren’t any additives. One of my nephews used to get headaches every time he ate tacos. They finally figured out it was the meat seasoning. Apparently, he was allergic to the preservatives used.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 6 tsp. chili powder
  • 5 tsp. paprika
  • 4 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients together and keep in an old spice jar or other sealed container.

Makes enough for about 4 or 5 pounds of meat, depending on how much you use each time.

Use 1 ½ – 2 Tbls. of seasoning per pound of hamburger.

Lemon Limeade Bars

I love a Sweet Tarts.

I love Sweet Tart Jelly Beans.

I love homemade Lemon Limeade.

I love coming up with a recipe that satisfies that sweet/tart craving in a cookie form. These bars are a slight tweak of a recipe I had tried before that I felt needed a little extra umph. If you don’t care for a strong lime flavor, use only half the zest from the lime. It does seem to be stronger than the lemon. You can also use 2 lemons, but what’s the fun in that?? Now I’m trying to figure out how to add some cherry flavoring for when I’m craving Cherry Limeade….

Lemon Limeade Bars

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3⁄4 cup flour
2 eggs, large
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 lime, juice and zest
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
Zest and juice the lemon and the lime. Combine the juices and zest in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined with an electric mixer. Beat in the flour.
Measure out 4 Tbls. of the juice and zest combination (it should leave you with about 2 Tbls.) Whisk together the eggs and 4 Tbls. of juice and zest. Beat it into the flour mixture for 2 minutes at medium speed until smooth and creamy.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 minutes, should turn golden around the edges.
Allow to cool completely before glazing. Do not over bake, or the bars will dry.
Add the powdered sugar to the remaining 2 Tbls. of juice and zest. Adding more powdered sugar if necessary to get the right thick-glaze consistency.
Spread the glaze over the brownies with a rubber spatula and let glaze set. Cut into bars and serve.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

The first time I had these I was 9 and staying at someone’s house. When the lady said she was making Bran Muffins for breakfast I was pretty sure I was going to have a miserable meal. Boy was I wrong!! These are fantastic! I usually cut back on the sugar as they are a bit on the sweet side if made according to the original recipe, which called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar. If I am using all oil, I use 1 cup. If I use half oil and half unsweetened applesauce, I use 1/2 cup sugar.

The batter keeps very well in the refrigerator, for a week or so, so you can bake fresh each morning as many muffins as you need.

Please note that the first ingredient is wheat bran, which is NOT Bran Cereal. Wheat bran looks like sawdust and is usually sold in the health food section or at a bulk food store.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins

2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup sugar
2 1⁄2 cups flour
2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup oil (I use half unsweetened applesauce)
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons molasses

 

Mix first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. If you wish, you can also add chopped apples, raisins or other dried fruit at this point.

Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350°F for 16-18 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

Best served warm with or without butter.

 

Roasted Italian Sausage and Potatoes

True comfort food!! So easy to make and the taste is sublime! Plus, if you are careful with the amount of olive oil and use the turkey sweet Italian sausage instead of pork, it is a comfort-food dish you can indulge in without any guilt!

Using red potatoes versions white or yellow versions cuts down on the roasting time. Make sure to cut your peppers and onions into big chunks or they overcook.

The foil-lined pan makes for super easy clean up as well. I prefer non-stick foil to make sure the potatoes are easy to stir while baking. Leftovers can be made into an easy soup or used as pizza toppings.

Roasted Italian Sausage and Potatoes with peppers and onions

red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
red bell pepper(s), cleaned, and cut into 1 inch pieces
sweet onion(s), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage

Preheat oven to 425.
Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a large foil-lined cookie sheet. (There should be space between the pieces or they won’t brown.)
Spray lightly with the olive oil and stir to coat. Place sausages on top of vegetables.
Roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice. Bake until potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the sausages are browned. Serve hot.

Friday Night is Homemade Pizza Night

Homemade pizza on Friday nights has been a tradition for me practically my entire life. Now granted, my mom disliked cooking and kind of “cheated” with frozen bread dough and canned sauce, but at least it wasn’t the frozen cardboard most people were eating in the 80’s! Some Fridays, we’d play board games while we ate our favorite meal of the week. Most of the time, we tried to talk my parents into watching TV, which was a special treat. Once the VCR became a part of our teenage lives, we moved on to it being movie night as well. On a side note, it was also the only night we drank soda and ate ice cream. Yes, times have definitely changed!

But back to the pizza… When I married, I brought this favorite food ritual with me. I quickly learned that making pizza dough was no big deal. The recipe I used the most required kneading and some rise time. I also had one that 30 minutes of prep for those days when I had more going on but it wasn’t as good. After several years, our homeschooling schedule changed and all of the sudden, I wasn’t home during the day on Fridays anymore. I tried making the dough ahead of time and freezing it after the first rise. That worked well…as long as I remembered to take it out of the freezer in the morning before I left. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for pizza dough made in a bread machine. Oh my!! It was the most amazing pizza crust I had ever made and very close to takeout. So chewy and flavorful! I threw all the other recipes out (well, not really) and haven’t used them since.

Pizza Dough (Bread Machine)

1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
cornmeal, for sprinkling (optional, but recommended)

Place all ingredients except cornmeal into your bread machine according to your manufacturer’s directions. For my bread machine it is in the order listed above. Choose “Dough Cycle.” (It works fine to set it to start several hours later.)
Once dough cycle has finished, turn out onto a large pizza pan sprayed lightly with oil and then sprinkled with cornmeal. Pat and stretch dough out into a 14-inch round.

Pizza Sauce

1 cup can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons grated, reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients and spread over pizza dough.
Top with favorite  toppings and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 400°F for 20-22 minutes or desired doneness.

Another really delicious option is to make Spinach and Tomato Pizza. I’ve tried a couple different recipes which usually had you combine olive oil, garlic and herbs for your “sauce.” You then topped it with fresh spinach and fresh tomatoes. All of those options were very tasty. However, I ended up improvising one week when we got snowed in unexpectedly and I didn’t have fresh spinach or tomatoes on hand. The result was so popular, that’s what I have stuck with except for when tomatoes are in season.

I don’t really measure any of this. Just eyeball it. I drain really well one (15 oz.) can of petite diced tomatoes. Then I thaw out about 2 cups chopped frozen spinach in the microwave and squeeze the water out of it with paper towels. (After, it will be less than 1 cup of spinach. Don’t worry about that.) Combine the tomatoes and spinach in a bowl. Add some Italian Dressing, homemade if possible. (Maybe 1/4 cup?) Then mix in some grated/powdered Parmesan cheese to thicken it up a bit. Spread on crust. Top with cheese, mozzarella and feta are really good together on this. Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning if desired. Bake at 400° for 20-22 minutes.

Spinach and Artichoke Pizza is also good.  I topped my pizza crust with garlic & olive oil, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, feta cheese and sprinkled it with some dried basil. Bake as described above.

If seafood is your thing, you might want to prepare my Shrimp or Lobster Gourmet Pizza. My family declared it “the best ever” when I fixed it for them.

My Mediterranean Greek Pizza is another tasty option to try.

No matter what your flavor preference, I hope you too will enjoy the tradition of homemade pizza!

Last Minute Dinner Rolls

Have you ever realized a half hour before dinner time that supper would be so much better with fresh baked bread? This recipe can be a lifesaver! Okay, so really only a meal saver, but you get the idea. I believe the original recipe came from a Taste of Home magazine about 15 years ago. It called for self-rising flour, which I never use. If you do, just omit the baking powder and salt. (By the by, if you haven’t tried the new, at least to me, baking powder without aluminum, you should. It tastes so much better than traditional baking powder. No metallic aftertaste!)

Even though the texture of these rolls aren’t as chewy as a traditional yeast roll, they are lighter and fluffier than a muffin. They are excellent with soups, stews or just with jam on them. I bet they’d be tasty with some herbs added to them as well.

Last evening, I made them buttermilk. It made the batter thicker than usual, so I thinned it down with water. Next time, I’d probably use 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/4 cup water. They sure were delicious!

Last Minute Dinner Rolls

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients.
Fill 6 greased muffin tins half full.
Bake at 375°F for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Chicken Marsala with Sun-dried Tomatoes

I don’t usually think of “Coastal Living Magazine” as a source for recipes. Maybe I should! This dish was an instant hit with the family and with those I have shared it with. As usual, I have altered it a bit to cut back on the fat content, but it is still a flavorful, restaurant-quality meal that is easy to prepare.

Chicken Marsala with Sun-dried Tomatoes

4-6 thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (8-ounce) package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup light cream

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a food-grade plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts one at a time and shake to coat thoroughly between each addition.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. (I actually spray my pan with an oil mister.) Add the chicken breasts, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Transfer chicken to a platter, and loosely cover with aluminum foil.

Add remaining 1 Tbls. oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to turn golden. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and Marsala; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until slightly reduced. Stir in cream; simmer 2 more minutes. Return chicken to skillet, turning to coat with sauce; simmer until heated through.

Fish with Tomatoes and Caper Sauce

Monday evening is usually “fish night” at our house. This is a holdover from when we weighed in at Weight Watchers on Tuesdays. Yes, eating a light meal Monday night really did make a difference!

For years, the only kind of fish dish I knew how to prepare was fish sticks. Trust me, that is not considered light or healthy when you are trying to lose weight! We’ve discovered a few favorites, but this recipe definitely tops the list. I have prepared it with tilapia, hake, flounder and cod. Basically, any mild white fish. I usually serve it over Parmesan couscous.

Pan-Fried Fish with White Wine and Capers

1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can tomatoes (use fresh when in season)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 to 1.5 pound uncooked tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 spray cooking spray
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp light butter
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium lemon, cut in wedges (optional)

Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.
Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge fillets lightly in flour, and coat both sides of fillets with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets; cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; turn fillets, and cook 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove from pan.
Add wine mixture to pan; cook 30 seconds up to a few minutes, depending on how much you like your tomatoes cooked in a sauce, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; stir in butter until melted. Spoon wine mixture over fillets; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings