Great Greens!

Did you know that you are supposed to eat 3 cups of green veggies every day?  (And no – iceberg lettuce does not count!)  Some people go nuts over salad, so this isn’t a problem for them.  If you’re like me, the thought of salad EVERY DAY gets old after a while.  I like to change it up a bit.  Here are a few tasty ways to prepare greens that I serve at my house, and you may just want to try.  For all of you knowledge junkies, click on each picture to learn about the nutritional value of each of these “Great Greens”!

Spinach                                                       

Grab a bag of fresh spinach and throw it in a saute pan on medium low heat with some butter, fresh minced garlic, and salt and pepper.  Use the whole bag (about 4 servings) because it will cook down considerably.  Saute, stirring frequently for about 4 to 5 min.  It tastes GREAT when you serve it up fresh – NOTHING like the canned stuff. Yuck!

Bok Choy

Chop a head of Bok choy and throw it in the saute pan with some butter or olive oil and salt and pepper as well.  Saute on medium heat for about 5 min.  This is a tasty green that not a lot of people think to use.

Swiss Chard or Green Chard

Chop the chard and add to saute pan with about a tbsp of olive oil.  Add shiitake mushrooms and fresh minced garlic, a touch of lemon pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  DO NOT SALT this green as it tastes salty enough with the olive oil – even for salt lovers!  You can also swap the Chard for Kale, which is very rich in nutrients.

These are a few of my ideas for easy ways to get your servings of greens in.  Now let’s hear from you.  What are the ways your family does greens?  Do you get creative, or is your family good with the basic green beans, etc.?

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Meat Loaf – A Must Have

I am a Southern girl.  I come from a long line of true Southern women who know how to cook, pray, love, and gossip with the best of them.  One thing I have learned from my momma, and all those before her, is every woman needs to have a good meat loaf recipe under her belt.  Yes, take a trip with me back to the days of June Cleaver and Laura Petrie; the days when the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.  Ok, so maybe some things never change.  My point is, there is a goodness, a heartiness in this All-American classic that brings the family together.  Not only that but it is a simple entrée to make, and yet the family still appreciates that someone took the time to bake for them.  Let’s bring goodness back to the family dinner table.  Let’s bring back meat loaf!

Meat Loaf  from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350°F

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup milk

2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or 2 cups soft bread crumbs (I like the soft – great way to use those leftover heels!)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tbsp snipped fresh parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried sage, basil, or oregano, crushed (I like to use sage)

1 1/2 lbs ground beef, lamb, or pork

1/4 cup catsup

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp dry mustard

1. In a bowl combine eggs and milk; stir in bread crumbs, onions, parsley, salt, sage, and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Add meat; mix well. Lightly pat mixture into an 8 x 4 x 2-in loaf pan.

2. Bake in a 350° oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until internal temperature registers 160°F. Spoon off fat. In a bowl, combine catsup, sugar, and mustard; spread over meat. Bake for 10 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This is a super simple recipe that is easy to whip together and gives you plenty of time to make your side dishes while it is baking.  I like to have mashed potatoes with meat loaf.  A fresh tossed salad or green beans also go well with this dish.

Potato Chips Are My Kryptonite

I think you should know before I write anything else that I have a weakness for potato chips.  The reason I exercise is so I can eat chips.  Yes, I am shamelessly one of those people.  Unfortunately, the older I get the more I have to exercise in order to eat smaller and smaller portions of chips.  At least the chips that we typically know as chips.  You know the ones: hydrogenated oils, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate (whatever that is), and the list goes on.  BUT I have discovered a new way to make homemade chips in the microwave, and I’ve got to tell you – I am in love.  No hydrogenated oils – in fact, no oils at all!  No artificial coloring or flavoring of any kind.  No mystery ingredients of any kind.  How are these wonder chips made you might ask?  I will tell you, or rather, I will show you.  I’d like to give a special thanks to my friend Lani who clued me in to the Pampered Chef Microwave Chip Maker.

You can use potatoes (russet, red, or yellow), Sweet Potatoes or yams, apples, or yucca.  I tried the               russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and apple.

 

Now, this would be an exhausting project if you tried to slice everything up by hand – unless you just LOVE to slice, and you are so adept you can generate slice after slice of 1mm-thick cuts. Otherwise I would suggest using a slicer.  I used my Simple Slicer (also by Pampered Chef) and was able to have everything sliced and ready to go in a matter of minutes.  (If you are starting to sense I am a Pampered Chef junkie, then you are right.  They have the best kitchen products – great quality, great functionality, and almost everything they sell comes with a warranty.)

 

 

 

 

After you get everything sliced, lay them out on a paper towel and season.  I used Season All Season Salt on some and regular salt on others.  You could use sea salt or low sodium salt to keep the sodium down if you prefer.  Then press with a paper towel to eliminate extra moisture.  Next lay them on the Microwave Chip Maker in a single layer.

 

 

 

 

Then you can stack the chip makers in the microwave to double up on batches.  The suggested cook times for all of these items are around 4 min, but every microwave is a little different so you will want to keep a close eye on them for your first couple of batches.  It took my chips about 6 min until they were light and crispy.

 

 

 

They were so tasty too; my family gobbled them all up – apple, russet potato, and sweet potato chips.  These are great for packing in school lunches or taking to work for an afternoon snack.  And best of all, I don’t have to exercise myself to death just to have my beloved chips!  I highly recommend the Pampered Chef Microwave Chip Maker and the Simple Slicer.  See my endorsed Pampered Chef link for more information and to get yours too; you will not be disappointed!

Symphony in My Mouth

Pan Seared Chicken With White Wine Tomato Sauce

For those of you who like precise measurements and control over what every little ingredient is doing, this one is probably going to drive you a little crazy.  For those of you who love to go by “feel” and watch everything tie in together beautifully like a great story,  give this recipe a try.  No matter the personality type (whether you have to struggle through or it comes easily to you), you will not be disappointed.  Believe me.  I made this for dinner tonight; we have no chicken left, but I am figuring out what to have for lunch tomorrow, so I can enjoy that sauce all over again.

Stage 1:  Heat some olive oil over medium in a large skillet (choose a skillet with a lid).  Add raw chicken pieces to hot oil (I used 5 good-sized, bone-in thighs).  Let the chicken brown a bit, cooking about 20 min.  Add a bit of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, white wine (about half a cup, whatever you have will work – I actually used some white zinfandel tonight), and spices.* Cover with the lid. Cook about another 15 minutes.  Be sure you are turning your chicken every 10-15 min or so throughout the entire process.

* My spices: Season All Seasoned Salt, Garlic Salt, Garlic Pepper, Lemon Pepper, and Sage (be liberal with the seasoning)

Stage 2:  Add fresh minced garlic and finely chopped onion (about a third of a cup).  I also added a dash of salt and black pepper at this point.   Cover with the lid and cook for another 20 – 25 min.  (You do not want to add this too early or it will burn in your olive oil and wine sauce.)  Be sure to use your lid most of the cooking time to keep that lovely moisture in your chicken.

Stage 3:  Add chopped tomatoes (I used 3 romas, and left them in rather large slices), chopped fresh parsley, and about half a cup to a cup of chopped fresh spinach.  Just distribute evenly over the top of your chicken and sauce, and cover with the lid again.  These need to be added around the last 10 minutes of cook time to keep them from burning up or withering to nothing as well.  Don’t forget to turn that chicken!

Cooking chicken can be tricky.  If you are a pro at it, then you will understand the importance of my 3-part stages.  If not, do not be ashamed to cut into your chicken periodically to check on it.  Better to have some chicken that has been hacked at a little than to put out raw food or burn everything else because it took longer to cook the meat than you originally thought.  Plus, this sauce is so wonderful that you will want to spoon some over your chicken when plating, and no one will be able to tell the difference.

The Fried Egg Sandwich

When you hear the term “Comfort Food” what do you think of?  Sure there are certain types of foods that come to mind.  Foods that are universally satisfying.  But I mean what are some of the things that really speak to you; the things that are near to your heart for a specific reason.  When I think “Comfort Food” I think of fried egg sandwiches. Now if you have never tried one, you might consider a fried egg sandwich to be the weirdest thing you have ever heard of.  For me, they are heaven.  You see, I don’t merely think of the sandwich itself; I think of my mother.  I am thinking of all the times I heard my mom ask with her special smile, “Do you want a fried egg sandwich?”  They became a tradition between the two of us.  So many times we worked together in the kitchen in unspoken agreement to create our favorite breakfast.  I think of all those mornings when she loaded me up with an egg sandwich and a mug of hot cappuccino for my hour drive back to the university every Monday morning.  The combination of the salty, cheesy sandwich with the strong, sweet coffee was divine.  Then later when I would go to her house for a visit, she would ask on Saturday morning, “Do you want a fried egg sandwich?”  Always with her smile.  We would sit with our sandwiches and drink our coffee together, talking for as long as we could get away with before the household became alive.  Such a simple thing really, but the memories make all the difference.  And I cherish every one.  So many important moments happen over food.  Now you will find me with my children on some random Saturday morning, talking and laughing over fried egg sandwiches.  And I look forward to the time when I will see my mother again.  Do you think there will be coffee and egg sandwiches in heaven?  I do.

Fun For All Salad Bar

Family Salad Bar

 

If you are like me you are always trying to find ways to get the kids to eat their vegetables.  Sometimes I hide them in sauces and mixtures; at other times I try to make them fun so they want to eat food that is good for them.  This was a fun family salad bar we made to encourage them to pick out and add to their own salads however they wanted.  As you can see we had some nice greens accompanied by some color and tasty additions; like olives and mushrooms.  I could have gone all out and added croutons, boiled egg, cauliflower, colorful sweet peppers, etc.  You get the idea.  The trick is to put the things you absolutely want them to have in your base – in the greens.  Then give them a nice big bowl for them to fill on their own.  Everyone really enjoyed our salad bar; so much, in fact, that there was only enough left for me to have as a side salad for lunch the next day.

Crunchy Mixed Greens and Brussel Sprouts Salad

My base greens require a lot of chopping, which works fine for me because I enjoy slicing and dicing.  If chopping is not your thing, consider making one big salad and storing in an airtight container to eat on for the week.  Add fresh tomatoes and cheese to daily portions.

Combine mixed leafy lettuces (bag salad is fine), chopped fresh spinach, chopped fresh Brussel sprouts, chopped fresh basil and parsley, chopped green onion, chopped broccoli, shredded or chopped carrot.  Anything else that appeals to you.

Homemade Dijon Dressing

3 tbsp Plain Non Fat Yogurt

1 tbsp Miracle Whip or Mayo (Optional – use more Yogurt if you prefer to skip the Mayo)

2 tbsp sugar or Agave Nectar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp vinegar

Whisk all ingredients together.  This dressing has somewhat of a coleslaw dressing taste with a little kick to it.  It is meant to be lightly used; toss in salad to lightly coat.