Archive | May, 2013

Fun Friday: Oven Fried Parmesean Zucchini Rounds

31 May
This recipe from the Sugar Free Mom blog make a great after school snack!

This recipe from the Sugar Free Mom blog make a great after school snack!

Happy Friday to you!

Part of my Friday routine usually includes a visit to my Grandma Rose with my kids after school. We spend some time together, have a few snacks and treats and then off we go until the next visit.

One thing Grandma Rose is famous for is her Fried Zucchinis. She has a knack for slicing them, coating them and frying them perfectly. Whenever there is an event, she makes about 100 of them.

The funny thing is: she doesn’t even like them!

Let’s just say it’s a good thing I am not the one responsible for bringing them to events. I’d probably start out with 100 and end up with about 50 of them by the time I arrived.

Lately, with our low fat dietary restrictions, I’ve been finding other alternatives to some of our favorite foods, and this recipe from the Sugar Free Mom blog was a great option for us. The author of the blog, Brenda is a local mom in our community.

The zucchini rounds are baked, not fried and they are much lower in fat. Brenda adds in Parmesan cheese to her recipe, where Grandma Rose does not, but it adds a great flavor to it.

Here’s the recipe as Brenda has it on her blog. Be sure to visit her blog as she has loads of great recipes on there, and she has lots of healthy options. No matter what your restrictions are, you will find something you like on her blog.

Sugar Free Mom’s Oven Fried Zucchini Rounds

I used my Pampered Chef slicer to make prettier sliced zucchini.

I used my Pampered Chef slicer to make very pretty sliced zucchini.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large zucchini, sliced (6 cups sliced rounds)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2cups Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Spray baking sheets with cooking spray.
  • Beat the egg and white in a shallow bowl, set aside.
  • Place the Parmesan, garlic powder and parsley in another bowl and mix well.
  • Dip zucchini rounds in egg mixture then in Parmesan and place on baking sheet.
  • Do not overlap zucchini on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10 minutes then flip them over and bake until 10 minutes or until the are golden brown on top.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Anthony’s Stir Fry in Valerie’s Cast Iron Skillet

29 May
This was a recipe with all the best ingredients.

This was a recipe with all the best ingredients.

Many of you who have been reading this blog since its inception and even those of you who used to read my Sauce vs. Gravy recipe blog way back when, know that recipes mean more to me than a good meal.

To me a good recipe is one that means something to me because of a connection that I have to it, whether it is from a family member or a friend, whether it’s a dish I ate at a memorable event or maybe even stems from a family tradition that we hold near and dear.

Recipes connect me to others and to memories of others.

Today’s recipe is from my friend Anthony. Anthony owns Reel to Real Recording Studio here in Cranston and we will sometimes bump into each other at local events, but we are friends on Facebook so we “see” each other on there all the time.

Recently, Anthony posted a photo on Facebook of a stir fry he was making for dinner at his house. It looked delicious. I had to have it and I asked him if there was anything special in the stir fry as far as a sauce, but he said it was simple: olive oil in the bottom of the pan, and Worcestershire sauce mixed in while cooking, basically made to your liking. Anthony listed some ingredients he will often throw into his stir fry, including chicken or shrimp,  zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower.

The next time I went to the store, I bought chicken AND shrimp, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower. I couldn’t wait to get home to make our dinner that night. There was going to be something in this dish that everyone loved.

Even better, I was going to be using our new cast iron skillet, given to me by my cousin Valerie just a few weeks ago. When Val asked me if we had a cast iron skillet, I said that we didn’t, and she said she had an extra one that she would bring to me when she came down for Alexandra’s First Communion.

When she arrived, she gave me the pan and along with it, an envelope with my name on it. Because we were having the party, I didn’t get to read Valerie’s note until the next day, but when I did, I almost cried as I read.  In the letter, Valerie told me the story of the skillet and how she’d found it while shopping with her brother in-law during their annual summer consignment shop shopping trips. She mentioned that it’s just she and he who love these shopping trips. Her husband and his sister are not fans of the “junk” that Val and John bring home.

The story of my cast iron pan makes everything I cook in it, including Anthony's Stir Fry, that much more special.

The story of my cast iron pan makes everything I cook in it, including Anthony’s Stir Fry, that much more special.

The skillet was part of a set of three, “dusty, rusty, neglected diamonds in the rough,” Valerie wrote. She told me of how she and John bought the pans and took them home. She knew that these treasures only needed “a good home, a hot bath, and someone to make them feel useful again, things we all want.”

Valerie cleaned and seasoned our skillet for us, giving us the last of the three rescued trio of pans in the set that she and her brother in-law had found last summer.

“Good, old, seasoned cast iron is a treasure. it is a work horse in the kitchen. It holds the heat well, cooks evenly, is the original ‘non-stick’ cookware. it makes mean fried eggs, crusty hash browns and frittatas to die for,” Valerie said.

Last week, my new cast iron skillet made a fabulous stir fry, Anthony’s Stir Fry, and it was delicious.

Good friends, good pans, and treasured family members. I am blessed to have them all.

Give Anthony’s Stir Fry a try with your favorite ingredients in it.

And if you have a cast iron skillet of your own, definitely use it.

Fun Friday: Just a reminder

24 May
Remember that this weekend is not just for cookouts!

Remember that this weekend is not just for cookouts!

As we come up on Memorial Day weekend 2013, often seen as the unofficial summer kick-off weekend, many of us have plans over the long weekend that might include cookouts or gatherings with friends.

In my job as a reporter, I’ve had the honor of attending many Memorial Day remembrance ceremonies over the years, and I like to take the time to remember the reason why we have a long weekend, the reason why we have a Monday holiday here in the United States.

Although I enjoy the long weekend and I look forward to our annual traditions, I will not forget those who have died, especially those who have died defending our country, our rights and our freedom to celebrate with friends.

Enjoy the weekend and enjoy the day, and God Bless those who have gone before us as well as those who protect us now.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: John Wayne Casserole

22 May
This was a great Mexican dish that we were able to make using many nonfat ingredients.

This was a great Mexican dish that we were able to make using many nonfat ingredients.

My family enjoys eating Mexican foods. I make a good Taco Bake, we eat quesadillas, tacos and a yummy nacho bake. We’ve had to tone down our menu to make it more fat-free or at least low fat, but it’s easy to do with most of those items by changing just a few key ingredients.

Today’s recipe is one that was sent to me by my father-in-law a couple of weeks back. The title of the email said, “Looks good.”  And indeed, it did look good.

I was able to use the recipe by making the following substitutions:

Ground turkey instead of ground beef

Nonfat sour cream instead of regular

Nonfat cheddar cheese instead of regular

Light mayo made with olive oil instead of regular

I also had to cheat a bit and use salsa instead of the fresh onion, tomato and pepper, because I thought I had a pepper here and when it came time to make dinner, I did not.  If I make this again I’d do the fresh veggies instead, but the salsa did work fine.

Of all people, Alexandra was the kid who loved this the most. She’s by far the pickiest eater. Caroline liked all but the top and Liz liked it well enough. Don and I loved it. I even ate it leftover and it was just as good.

It did make a lot, and I think the next time I’d cut it in half, and use an 11×7 dish rather than a 9×13 dish.

Don even said he’d throw the corn right in the layer with the meat. It was definitely a hearty dish and a tasty one! If your family enjoys Mexican meals too, I’d recommend this!

The recipe as my father-in-law sent it, is below.

JOHN WAYNE CASSEROLE

Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained
1 (1.25-ounce) packet taco seasoning
4 ounces sour cream
4 ounces mayonnaise
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cups biscuit mix
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 (4-ounce) can sliced jalapeno peppers

Directions

1. Heat oven to 325. Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning and water, according to packet instructions; set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, 4 ounces of cheddar cheese, and half of the onions; set aside.

3. Stir biscuit mix and water (directions on box) **our box said to use milk so I did and it was skim**to form soft dough. Pat dough on the bottom and one-half-inch up the sides of an 9 x 13 in. greased casserole dish.

4. Saute remaining onions and bell peppers until slightly tender.

5. On top of biscuit mix, evenly distribute ingredients in the following order: ground beef, tomato slices, green peppers, onions, jalapeno peppers, sour cream mixture and end with remaining shredded cheese.

6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until edges of dough are lightly browned.

Monday Musings: The Making of a 50 States Bedroom

20 May
Alex's project had gone viral.

Alex’s project had gone viral.

Last April we began renovations on our house that would allow each daughter to have their own bedroom for the first time ever. Choosing colors and themes and decor became the topic of many a conversation.

So the day Alexandra came out of her room and announced that when it was her turn for a new room, she wanted a 50 States Bedroom you might think we wouldn’t be shocked, but we were. For months she’d been saying she wanted purple walls and a horse-themed room. Now, she wanted ocean-blue walls and a cross-country theme. According to my mother-in-law, the two had concocted the new theme for her room over the phone one day and Alex was sold on the idea.

Once we knew this new room theme was a keeper, I told Alex I would put a request for postcards from all of the states out to my friends and family on Facebook and see what we could collect that way first. Whatever we couldn’t get, we’d find another way of getting them. The postcards would later be used as a border around her room after the blue paint went on the walls.

I put the request out in mid-March, right around her birthday, explaining the 50 States Bedroom idea. Once I did, the postcards started rolling in. The first week or so she was receiving handfuls a day. My father-in-law, on his end, put out a request to all of his friends and family around the country as well, and stated that her birthday was coming up, too. It was so much fun receiving postcards that said, “Your grandpa wanted us to wish you a Happy Birthday from North Carolina,” or whatever state the cards were coming from. In years to come, when Alex looks at the messages on the cards, she’ll read things like, “I went to high school with your daddy,” “I went to the White House with your sister,” or “Vermont has great maple syrup,” and many other fun and exciting messages from all over the country. One cousin sent us 27 postcards from a cross-country trip she’d taken years ago. Her personal collection was now Alex’s. That gesture from a cousin we had never met, meant so much to us.

We received over 14 feet of postcards from all over the world to be used in Alex's new room.

We received over 14 feet of postcards from all over the world to be used in Alex’s new room.

Before we knew it, we had received over 150 postcards literally from all over the world. Postcards came in from the east coast, west coast, London, Canada, St. Maarten and Alaska. It was amazing. We all looked forward to the arrival of the mail each and every day. I did my best to go on Facebook often and thank those who sent or requested postcards, and I’d give an update of what we had gotten so far and what we were still missing. By April vacation week we were down to just nine states left and we were ready to empty out, clean out and paint the room over the week. Alex and her daddy went to the store and she picked out the color of paint that she wanted, and the process began.

I had forgotten that underneath the "little kid" border was the baby border we'd hand stamped on the walls before Caroline was born.

I had forgotten that underneath the “little kid” border was the baby border we’d hand stamped on the walls before Caroline was born.

It was a little sad, I must say, when Don began scraping away at the border we put up in 2005, only to discover the border of Snoopy and Woodstock that we had hand-stamped in 1999 as we prepared for the birth of our first baby. When all of the wallpaper border was down, and the stamped art remained, there was a small lump in my throat, and a part of me wanted to say, “No! Let’s just keep this! Let’s go back.”

But I know, you can’t ever go back.

So the new paint color went on the walls over the nursery yellow and the pink and blue border, over years of picture holes and sticky tape marks, making the room look fresh and new with the great color that Alex had picked out. In two days’ time Don had transformed the room to a big girl room, and we moved the furniture back in, setting it up in a new layout.

As the postcard mail began to trickle down and we had just a few states left, I took the whole lot of them to our local learning store, Lakeshore Learning Store, to be laminated. We also laminated some maps that she wanted in her room as well. We had a Rhode Island map which has hung in our basement for years, that she wanted on her wall. She particularly likes the fact that it has the dates 2006-2007 on it and she points it out to whoever comes into the room. We had a world map in one of the kids’ rooms that was not being used, and I ordered a special US map from the Highlights Magazine “Which Way USA” club, that we had now enrolled her in. The laminated postcards stretched from our sliding glass door in our dining room to the coffee table in our living room, about 14 feet in length and about two feet across.

I found this cool project in Family Fun magazine, that I just had to replicate for Alex's walls.

I found this cool project in FamilyFun magazine, that I just had to replicate for Alex’s walls.

I went to Hobby Lobby one afternoon and found huge letters that were on sale for half off: N, S, E, W in pink and blue sparkly colors and Don put them up on her walls, using a compass so that they were really placed accurately pointing North, South, East and West. I found a cool project in FamilyFun Magazine while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room one day, and I had to replicate it on her wall. I knew the perfect spot. Alex noticed a blanket in the trunk my car that I’d made for the kids years ago, a 50 States blanket with a map of the country on it. We washed it and brought it up to her room and placed it at the bottom of her bed, which was still awaiting a back-ordered, horse-themed “bed in a bag” set. She found a globe at the book store, and used some gift money to purchase it. The room was coming together in our minds, and on the walls, piece by piece.

Finally, it was time. I took the huge roll of postcards and began cutting them apart. I filled an entire wicker basket with them. I found some double sided foam tape at Walmart, specifically designed to keep the paint on the walls in tact, and Caroline and I placed little pieces in the center of each laminated card, being careful not to cover the messages on the cards if at all possible. And then, on Mother’s Day afternoon, I began placing each one on the wall.

As I did this, I was struck by the awesomeness of this whole project, from the idea itself to the connections it has given Alex to our family, our friends, our past and our present. The postcards have special stamps on them, special postmarks, and special messages. They are priceless and yet the cost of them was so minimal.

My version of the Family Fun project, with postcards to match.

Adjacent to the North Wall is my version of the FamilyFun project, with postcards to match.

Alex has decided that the South Wall over her bed will show maps of two "featured states" as she receives them from the "Which Way USA" program through Highlights Magazine.

Alex has decided that the South Wall over her bed will show maps of two “featured states” as she receives them from the “Which Way USA” program through Highlights Magazine.

And so, as I finish up this blog post and I show you the photos of the finished walls, I want to say thank you to everyone. Thanks for sending Alex her postcards, for spreading the word to your families and friends all over the country and the world, and thank you for taking the time to make a little girl’s day, every day. On the night that the walls were finished, she walked into her room, looked up at the walls, and she slowly turned around and around. The look of amazement on her face was one I will never forget.

And I more than appreciate it.

Thank You.

The East wall houses her Rhode Island map and its coordinating RI postcards.

The East Wall houses her Rhode Island map and its coordinating RI postcards.

The West Wall is over the back of her door and over her closet. The wall over the door houses her Texas postcards and her Cowgirl sign.

The West Wall is over the back of her door and over her closet. The wall over the door houses her Texas postcards and her Cowgirl sign.

Fun Friday: Mozaik 48 Piece Mini Dessert Set

17 May
These were so much fun I just had to feature them for a Fun Friday post!

These were so much fun I just had to feature them for a Fun Friday post!

A few weeks ago we hosted our daughter’s First Communion at our house. Besides cake, we had several other desserts and today I wanted to feature one of them.

My friend Paula had sent me this cute little 48 piece mini dessert set in the mail,  a set from Mozaik. When she saw it in a store near her, she said she thought it would be perfect for First Communion, and she was right.

Around the same time, the girls and I had attended an event at our local library that I covered for the newspaper. Advertised as a Teen Cooking Challenge, the kids had to each create their own healthy trifles, using pudding, whipped cream, and fresh fruit.

Trifle picture

I never imagined that I’d find my First Communion dessert at a kids’ cooking event at our local library!

When I saw the kids’ trifles, I knew I’d found my dessert, simple as it was, for First Communion.

And when I say simple, I mean really.simple.

The desserts I made were in two variations: Jello Sugar Free, Fat Free instant cheesecake flavored pudding or chocolate flavored pudding, prepared using skim milk, and topped with a low fat topping from Aldi’s that’s like Cool Whip. I topped the cheesecake desserts with fresh strawberries and the chocolate desserts with fresh blackberries.

Yup. That’s it!

Each little cup has a matching little spoon, which made for a really cute, yet seemingly elegant, healthy dessert! They were such a hit, there were just a couple of them left over at the end of the day.

There are so many cute ideas that you could use this set for, both desserts and appetizers. Picture a healthy veggie dip in the bottom with a few celery, zucchini and carrot sticks sticking out, or picture individual shrimp cocktail sauces with a few shrimp. Perfect, right?

Right.

And that, my friends, is my Fun Friday post for today!

Enjoy your weekend!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Sweet Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

15 May
This was a great crock pot recipe, and I'd definitely make it again!

This was a great crock pot recipe, and I’d definitely make it again!

I will apologize in advance that I do not know where this recipe originated. Don saw it online and sent it to me in an email. I later also saw it online on a friend’s page, she was sharing it from a recipe exchange page called Renee’s Exchange.

What I do know is that we tried the recipe and liked the recipe and I’d make it again. I had to do mine on high for less time because I got a late start, but it still came out great. We had enough leftover to serve a second night and it was just as good the second time around.

We served ours with couscous and sauteed zucchini the first time and over brown rice with a side of green beans the second time.

The only thing I cannot figure out is that the original picture that I saw showed the chicken very glazed and crispy, with the glaze sticking to the chicken. Ours was very juicy rather than a glaze. Still very tasty, but different than what I expected.

The ingredients are simple and the directions…even more simple! Give it a try on your next crock pot night!

Sweet Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken:
Ingredients:
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins  (**I used an entire 2.5 pound bag of frozen tenderloins.)

Directions:
Add all ingredients to the crock pot and cook on low 6-8 hrs and they should just fall apart. Enjoy!

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