Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homemade Croutons



Who doesn't love a crouton?


Making homemade croutons is a great way to use bread that’s no longer fresh.  I like to make a big batch and then keep them in a airtight container.  They are good for snacking as well as great on salads.  


Simple to make, you just cube day old bread.  French bread is perfect, but you can also use a country wheat, and my favorite, sourdough.  You can then either bake them up, or place them in a freezer bag for later use.  


Kitchen Tip:  Cubed bread keeps really well in the freezer.  This allows you to bake a whole bunch or just a few at a time.  (Great time saving tip)




To bake them you just want to toss the bread crumbs with either olive oil, or melted butter.  Now comes the fun part.  You can flavor them with anything you like.  Here are a few examples:  minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, spices.  Or you can use dried herbs in a pinch and create a variety of flavors.




NOTE:  Southern Sundays will return this Sunday June 3rd.  Featured recipes will also be awarded...Hope you will all join!



Homemade Croutons
3 cups cubed bread

2 T olive oil or melted butter
herbs, cheeses, or spices (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In large bowl combine bread and olive oil. Toss well to coat. If using herbs or spices sprinkle on and toss to coat.  Spread our onto a large baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring after five minutes to brown evenly. Cool completely before storing.  Keeps 1 week.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day weekend in San Diego


Hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day weekend!

MGG and I spent the weekend away in San Diego.  A little rest was in order..
We had a wonderful time exploring different areas of the city.  The picture above is our view from lunch on Coronado Island, looking back at downtown San Diego.  Beautiful!

We started off the weekend at Powerhouse Beach in Del Mar.  Del Mar is a quaint little beach town south of Los Angeles near San Diego.  This has got to be one of the best parks I've been to.  Look at this place!  It was so wonderful hanging out here for the afternoon.  The weather was a cool 70 degrees, with a light wind.  Just perfect!


On to our hotel located on Shelter Island, which has a Marina on one side, and the Harbor shoreline on the other side.  Here's our view from our room.  Gorgeous!


A beautiful park next to the shoreline.


A view from Shelter Island looking at Coronado Island and downtown San Diego in the background.  The Naval base is visible as well.



Off to Balboa Park we went to enjoy some of the museums there.  First off was the Space and Air Museum.  Some wonderful plane there.



After that we started walking through the park and boy was it crowded!  Thinking that it was just the holiday weekend we discovered that they were having an International food festival.  Booths with food from all sorts of countries were set up and selling like crazy!  We saw food from Peru, Hungry, France, India, Pakistan, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Philippines, you name it....it was there!  So much fun!  We sampled a lot as you could believe and enjoyed comparing the different flavors from the different countries.  Would you believe that we saw at least 10 variations of Baklava??  So delishhh!  Unfortunately we didn't stop to take pics during the feast...hard to sample and snap shots...you understand.

So as this is a food blog, I can't forget to show you some luscious food....!

We had lunch yesterday on Coronado Island at the Village Pizzeria.  We sat outside and had a wonderful view of the bay and downtown San Diego in the background.  Here's a wonderful view of the aircraft carrier, Midway.



We shared a Pear and Gorgonzola Salad...I have to make this soon!  We also tried one of their famous pizzas.  Heaven!  A light and crispy crust, with a spicy sauce, and fresh toppings.  Try this restaurant out if you are ever in San Diego.




We had an excellent time in San Diego.  We'll definitely be back soon!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chicken Marsala



Italy is one of my favorite places and so I goes without saying that I also love it's cuisine.

My mom and I were fortunate enough to travel to Italy and fell in love with the people, the country, and it's food.  We spent 5 wonderful days in Rome, wandering the streets, shopping, site seeing, and eating!  I can't begin to describe the feeling of being in a city that has so much history.  To be able to stand where the ancient Romans stood, to walk where they did, and to dream of another era, but also to be able to see their achievements in monuments, and ruins, that decorate this magical city.  We did a lot of walking...I mean A LOT of WALKING!

Which made us work up an appetite!  We had made quick friends with a local restaurant owner and would visit him nightly for the special dinner he would have prepared for us.  Each day was something different, not from a menu, but made special.  Oh...the risotto...to die for!  And every meal ended with a Baci or kiss!  Such good memories of our time there. 

One dish I adore, and my mom does as well, is Chicken Marsala.  There is something special about the flavors in this dish.  The wine and the cream marry so well and turn out a delicate but full of flavor sauce that tops a simple chicken and mushroom dish.  

The technique is simple, by sauteing chicken and then creating a pan sauce.  Deglazing the pan is important step so that you pull up the little brown bits (fond) that are in the bottom of the skillet, which lends great flavor to the sauce.  To really get good brown bits use a stainless steel pan which allows for a little sticking in the pan.  

Kitchen Tip:  Pound chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4" thickness if desired.  This will reduce the cooking time for the chicken by several minutes.

Here's my ode to Rome and my take on Chicken Marsala.  I hope you enjoy it.

Some step by step pics.

 stainless steel pan

 

  See the brown bits?

 







scrape up the brown bits...







add the cream



Heaven in a pan!!!




Chicken Marsala

serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 c flour

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Marsala wine
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Add flour to a pan for coating.  Take each piece of chicken and dredge it in the flour, shaking off any excess.  In a large skillet, cook chicken in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side (4-5 minutes for thin breasts)  Remove and keep warm.  (refer to Kitchen Tip above for pounded chicken breasts.

In the same skillet, saute mushrooms in remaining oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add wine, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by a third. Stir in cream.  Return to a boil; cook until slightly thickened.

Return chicken to pan and cook to warm through spooning sauce on top of chicken.  Garnish with parsley. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day Menu


It's almost Memorial Day Weekend!


Traditionally, celebrated in memoriam of the fallen soldiers in our Armed Forces, more unofficially the start of the summer season.


What better way to celebrate than with my All American Cookout menu.  It's filled with different options to create a wonderful meal the whole family would love.

Hope you enjoy your weekend and make some memories to look back upon!

All American Cookout Menu

Main Course:
    Southwestern Chicken Salad
    Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs
Side Dishes:
    Grilled Greek Potato Salad
    Grilled Asparagas
Drinks:
    Orange Iced Tea
Dessert:
    Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream











Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vermont Cheddar Popcorn



I'm in love with popcorn!


Popcorn has always been one of my favorite snacks.  I mean what's not to love??  It's light, fluffy texture, and it's tasty goodness.  It even smells like Disneyland to me!!  Can't get much better than that!


So I pop it often as a snack.  We like to watch movies and eat popcorn.  But to tell you the truth I like it whenever...even cold!  I think it runs in the family, I've seen them all eating their share of popcorn too!


This is a quick, simple recipe.  But don't let that surprise you, it oh soooo good!


Vermont Cheddar Popcorn combines your favorite popcorn with the cheesy goodness of  cheddar.  The cheddar I used is from King Arthur Flour and it called Vermont Cheese Powder.  You can find it here.  If you recall, this is the same cheese I used to make my stovetop Macaroni and Cheese.  This product is excellent.  Make sure to pick so up.  There are so many uses for it!  This recipe is super simple to assemble, and the flavor?  Outstanding!


Let's make popcorn!




Vermont Cheddar Popcorn

6 cups of popped popcorn
3-4 T of melted butter
2 T. Vermont Cheese Powder (or more to taste)

Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn, mixing to distribute evenly.  Sprinkle with cheese powder and mix well.  Serve!






Sunday, May 20, 2012

Southern Sundays





Happy Southern Sundays!


Summer is coming fast and the Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner.  Although this seems to be the unofficial start of summer, I think it's already started where I live.  The weather here is already hot, promising a scorcher of a summer, I think!  It's time to clean up the old grill and get to some outdoor cooking.


I love eating "alfresco".  Most summers that is where you'll find us.  Outside, enjoying the sunshine, long evenings, and food food.  I've already strung up some beautiful mercury glass outdoor lights I picked up the other day.  They provide a beautiful glow at night, just right for setting the mood for a outdoor dinner experience.  You can see my lights here.  Oh!  I just saw a beautiful monarch butterfly near my new flowers. Gold and black...just gorgeous.  Which reminds me that's another thing I do this time of year...planting.  My love of flowers comes from my mom.  Container gardening is such fun and easily decorates around our dining table...it brings a splash of color and freshness to the area.  What do you do to prepare for a season of outdoor living??




So, on to Southern Sundays!  Last week we had some excellent recipes that you all shared!  I'm overwhelmed by the creativity, and surely am gaining weight from all this!  The most popular recipes are being featured here today.  A great round of applause for these wonderful dishes and to their creators!  Excellent cooking!


Check out these wonderful dishes, and stop by and say hello to the artist behind the dish!

by Marguerite of Cajun Delights


by Alyssa of What's Cooking Love?


by Lisa of Flour Me With Love

I'm Hungry now!

So let's party...

Guidelines:
Please become a follower by joining my site with Google Friends Connect in the right side bar.
Link back to your specific recipe and not to your main site.
Link back to Southern Sundays either in your post, or grab my Southern Sundays Button located in the right side bar.
Please visit a few of the links in the post and say hello to your fellow bloggers!
Enjoy, have fun, cook lots of food, and relish your Southern Sunday!





Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spiced Meatballs with Saucy Tomatoes



Boy do I have a treat for you!


How about a dish that is nice and light and healthy!  Another plus is that it doesn't require many ingredients, and most you probably have in your pantry or refrigerator already.  


MGG and I love to go out to dinner and try different cuisines.  One we particularly like is Persian or other regional Middle Eastern food.  I love the kabobs, the rice with saffron, the blends of different flavors, YUM!  


A few weeks ago we were out running around in Westwood and decided to go to dinner.  MGG knew an area that they call little Tehran, a street lined with Persian restaurants.  YEA!  So off we went to dinner and a wonderful little restaurant that was romantic and quaint.  One thing that was so cool was that there was a guy in the back making bread by hand.  Rolling out this dough, and then throwing it, literally, in an open fire oven that was shaped like a cone.  The bread was tossed on to this cone shaped wall and cooked very quickly.  The next thing I know is that we are served a basket of this wonderful bread! Not really a Lavash, more like a flatbread.    I HAVE to learn how to make this.  Obviously I don't have a cone shaped oven....but I we'll figure something out.  The entire meal was wonderful!  A great evening, good food, and excellent company.  What is better than that?


So when I came across this recipe from Good Housekeeping I was intrigued.  Spiced Meatballs with Saucy Tomatoes had all the middle eastern flavor that we love. Flavorful meatballs served with feta topped tomatoes.  The dish is served with toasted pita, or flatbread.   So I promptly made this.


Hope you will try this, it is a quick weeknight meal and can also be made ahead.  The meatballs can be refrigerated overnight before cooking.  If you choose the do-ahead method, make sure to cook them an extra 5 minutes to ensure proper cooking.


The flavors in this dish are outstanding!














Spiced Meatballs with Saucy Tomatoes
by Good Housekeeping
Serves: 4

1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus additional for garnish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt
Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
Toasted pitas, for serving



  • In large bowl, with hands, combine beef, garlic, parsley, cumin, 1/2 cup onion, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper until well mixed.
  • With wet hands, shape mixture into 12 small (2-inch-round, 1-inch-high), slightly flattened meatballs.
  • In 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high until hot. Add meatballs in single layer. Cook 8 to 9 minutes or until they are browned and instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 160 degrees turning once. Transfer meatballs to plate.
  • Drain fat from skillet and discard. To same skillet, add remaining 1/2 cup onion; cook on medium-high 1 minute, stirring. Add tomatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until tomatoes soften and some burst, stirring mixture occasionally.
  • To serve, divide meatballs and tomato mixture among serving plates. Sprinkle feta and parsley on top of each. Serve with toasted pitas.

  • Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Asian Chicken Salad







    The other day for lunch we went to a nice little place that serves rotisserie chicken, salad, and wraps.  While waiting to order I spotted a Chinese Chicken Salad on the menu.  Wow! I haven't had one of those in years.  I'm not sure why either.  I mean, I love them, especially the nice sweet dressing that just adds that zip.  


    So, I decided to order it, and it was really good.  I mean, really good, and it brought back all the memories of why I used to eat it often.  The sweet, the crunch, the soft roasted chicken.  Yum!


    So I got to thinking "why don't I ever make this at home?".  It's easy....


    So if you recall, the other day when I was making the Cajun Chicken Pasta I grilled an extra, plain, chicken breast. 



    I saved it with this dish in mind.  Planning ahead made this dish come together in a snap!  We had this for dinner and I served it with some rustic bread.  Perfect!  






    Hope you enjoy my version of an Asian Chicken Salad.  Next time I'm going to add some mandarin oranges.  I didn't have any on hand this time, but they would be great in this salad.






    Enjoy a healthy dinner!


    Asian Chicken Salad

    serves 2

    1 precooked boneless skinless chicken breast half 
    1/4 c chinese chicken salad dressing
    2 c mixed salad greens
    1/2 c snow peas, sliced diagonally 

    1 carrot, cut into match like sticks or shredded
    2 T. roasted cashews

    fried wonton strips (optional)


    Slice chicken into bites size slices.  Divide lettuce among two plates.  Top with  snow peas, carrots, and nuts.  Drizzle with dressing.  Top with fried wonton strips if desired.
      

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Cajun Chicken Pasta



    Wanna put some zest in your life?


    This dish will do it!  I love chicken, don't you?  I mean, it's so versatile.  Yes, some people say it can be a somewhat bland, but think of it as a blank canvas that lends itself to exploration.  It takes on many, many, different flavors by using an array of spices for rubs, herbs for marinades, and sauces that lend a variety of flavors.   It can be translated in to a multitude of world cuisines.  I just love it's versatility!


    Often I cook meals just for two people.  Just enough for MGG and myself...or for myself and leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.  This dish was inspired by my need for a quick meal after work, a craving for something spicy, yet I wanted comfort food.  So I created this semi-homemade dish of Cajun Chicken Pasta which satisfied all three demands!


    I love the spiciness, which marries well with the Alfredo sauce.  This dish is a winner!!  It's sure to  appeal to many palates.


    Please try my version of Cajun Chicken Pasta and let me know what you think.  For other great chicken dishes do a search on "chicken" in the search field in the sidebar.


    Here are some pics to help you along with the process.


    Kitchen Tip:  You may notice that in one picture I'm actually grilling two chicken breasts.  Doing double duty by grilling another non-spiced breast to use in a salad later in the week, which I'll post next.  This is a great time saver when you can plan meals in advance and get part of the cooking done at one time.  Don't you love that!

     















    Cajun Chicken Pasta


    serves 2 (Double the recipe to serve 4)


    1/3 lb. pene pasta
    1 boneless skinless chicken breast
    1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
    1 10oz container of Alfredo sauce
    2 tsp. fresh parsley minced


    Cook pasta according to directions on the package.   Heat an indoor grill pan, or an outdoor grill to medium heat.  Rub Cajun seasoning on both sides of the chicken breasts.  Grill 6-8 minutes per side depending on thickness, until thoroughly cooked through.  Cut into bite sized pieces.  


    Drain pasta and return to the pan.  Add Alfredo sauce and chicken breast, stirring to blend.  Heat on low for 5 minutes until everything is heated through.  Remove from heat.  Add minced parsley, stir, and serve.












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