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What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Tomato Salad with a Twist

25 May
Doesn't it look delicious?

Doesn’t it look delicious?

It’s been a little while since I have posted a new recipe and I’ve been wanting to share this one since last month when we first tried it. The recipe is one that one of my daughters found on the back of a Whole Grain Wheat Reduced Fat Triscuit box. Our family loves these Triscuits and we keep them on hand regularly, so once we saw this recipe, we continued to see it on every box of Triscuits we bought. Each time we’d buy a new box, my daughter would say, “Mom, we have to make this!”

Finally over the school break in April, I made sure we had all the necessary ingredients, and we finally made it. I truly enjoy cooking with fresh veggies and it makes me so excited for summertime, when we have our own garden. Tomatoes are a favorite of almost everyone here, and we especially love the more unusually colored varieties along with the typical reds. This time around I bought a large container that had a mixture of several types of tomatoes in it, and it made for such a beautiful salad.

Since one of the girls eats a gluten free diet, I chose to make hers separately with no Triscuits and no red onions, since she doesn’t like those either. Tomatoes are one of her favorite snacks though, so she was just as excited as everyone else for this new recipe.

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we'd be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we’d be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

This was a simple recipe to follow. It is called a Panzanella Salad, but it’s very much like our usual Caprese salads, just with a bit of a twist, provided by the added Triscuits. There is no cooking involved, just chopping, slicing, dicing and assembling, so the preparation was quick. We just had to keep stopping ourselves from snacking as I was prepping.

While I cut up the tomatoes and the cheese, I had my daughter prep the Triscuits, counting out the amount the recipe asked for, and breaking them into bite-sized pieces. That was definitely a “one for me, one for the bowl” activity as well.

We served this with a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers, and it was the perfect side dish. It’s going to make a great addition to our sides for this upcoming summer. We loved the added crunch to the salad that the Triscuits provided, and my younger daughter enjoyed her gluten free version just as much as we enjoyed ours.

Here is the recipe according to the Triscuit box:

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup slivered red onions
  • 18 Triscuit Reduced Fat Crackers, coarsely broken
  • 3 Tbsp. reduced-fat balsamic dressing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

 

Directions:

Combine  first 3 ingredients in medium bowl.

Mix  dressing and garlic until blended.

Add to cracker mixture; mix lightly. Let stand 30 min.

Tear  basil into small pieces. Add to tomato mixture along with the pepper; mix lightly.

 

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

 

 

 

I’m in love.

1 Feb

It’s February, and I’m in love.

My heart pitter-patters and I think about the new object of my affection constantly. What will we do together next? What new things will we try? For years I hoped and prayed I’d find love like this again. It had been so long since my last love affair.

I wasn’t even planning for this, and it has taken me completely by surprise, which I guess is the best kind of love.

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That’s right, I’m in love with my new Stir Fry pan from Pampered Chef. Now I’m not a Pampered Chef consultant, and I don’t pretend to even play one on TV, but I.LOVE.THIS.PAN.

And I’m pretty sure my husband does too.

You see, years and years (and years) ago, my husband and I had received a beautiful piece of cookware from his grandmother. It was a nice, deep Teflon saute pan and it had a glass cover for the top and two handles for the side. I loved that pan. We used it constantly and it was the perfect size for all our meals, even as our family expanded from two, to three, to four, and finally to five hungry mouths to feed. We could saute, cook, simmer. You name it, we cooked it in that pan.

And then, one day, try as we would to deny the obvious, we realized our pan was getting old and scratched and we thought we were seeing evidence of little bits of Teflon coming off.

Clearly, you’re not supposed to use Teflon as an added ingredient in your recipes.

We had to say good bye to our pan.

I missed that pan every.single.day.

Don’t get me wrong, we had other pans. We even had two cast iron pans that we loved, but it wasn’t the same. We had to use both pans at once to make some of our saucier meals because one wasn’t deep enough to hold everything. My stir fry meals toppled over the sides of just one pan, our sauces bubbled over. We didn’t have a true matching cover to go with our pans.

I was sad.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t!

A few weeks ago, my very good-I’ve-known-her-almost-as-long-as-I’ve-known-my-husband-friend Marcia asked me if I would host a new kind of Pampered Chef party. She’s been a consultant for years and years now, and there was a new kind of party she wanted to try: a virtual party on Facebook. Would I try it?

Sure thing! I love Facebook because it’s where I get to see lots of family and friends from all over the country, all over the world! And, it’s where I get a lot of great recipes! I invited hundreds of people. Literally. I can fit a good 10-12 in my living room, but this let me be unlimited. I didn’t have to worry about space or weather or distance. I had all kinds of out of state friends on my list.

The party would last one hour and be completely virtual. No ingredients to buy, no house to clean, no makeup to put on. I could sit in my bed under my electric blanket and play along with the games, talk to my guests and watch the videos of all the great new tools that I would suddenly have to have.

As many parties as I’ve had in the past, it never even occurred to me to check out the January hostess benefits, or even to ask. Suddenly though, as I had my party, the orders started coming in. Notification after notification arrived in my email inbox. As my youngest daughter partied in my bed along with me, part playing along and part watching iCarly on the TV, I decided we’d better check things out on the hostess benefits page of my party website.

Sure enough, January was DOUBLE hostess benefits month!

Who knew?

Well, probably lots of people, but I was happily surprised!! Suddenly, even my daughter was paying attention to them and we looked at the videos and photos popping up throughout the party with new eyes.

Granted, I have lots and lots of Pampered Chef tools. I have been creating a collection of great pieces since before my wedding when I had my first party as a newly engaged young 20-something, and I use them all the time.

When all was said and done, I had earned……

Wait for it…..

$530 to spend outright, plus five half price items and one 60% off item, and I received two booking credits for people who had agreed to also have virtual parties after participating in mine, so I’d get really great discounts if I saved a few things from my list and ordered from their parties too.

I was amazed and I was so ready to shop. Normally I don’t have this much to spend.

Or should I say, I have NEVER had this much to spend.

I had a running wish list as the party had progressed, but it was full of little things. With this much money to spend, I could now afford many of those little things and then some really big, expensive things.

And that’s when it happened.

As I turned the pages of my paper catalog now in hand, I saw my newest love: the Executive Chef Stir-fry Skillet. The words Executive Chef made my heart stop for a mere second and I took in a breath as I looked at the pan. I think I even heard angels sing.

It was definitely love at first sight. It was a pan which was not Teflon, but rather a baked on non-stick aluminum. It had handles on both sides, it was ever so deep. It could even go in an oven of up to 400 degrees. What fun we would have together! I pictured all of our recipes being made right in that pan. Cranberry chicken, Chicken Marsala and any one of our favorite stir fry recipes, all bubbly and steaming and yet not bubbling right over.

After placing my hostess order, I planned out our next two weeks of meals, which conveniently coincided with the arrival of my shopping spree. I planned out all of the above and then some. Cranberry Chicken was up first, per request from one kid. Chicken Marsala was up another time, per request of another kid. Shepherd’s Pie, Taco Bake, Lasagna.

I began to daydream of cooking two pounds of ground beef at once in a pan with two cans of creamed corn mixed in for our Shepherd’s Pie, or being able to saute 15 chicken tenderloins in the pan with two cups of cranberries and two cups of water all at once for our Cranberry Chicken recipe.

Sure enough, when my order arrived and I unpacked it all, reminiscent of a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, my pan was all I’d hoped for and more. That very first night, I rejoiced as I happily made our Cranberry Chicken, and beamed as everyone commented how great it came out. My meat browned evenly, there was plenty of room for everything and it all tasted delicious. I think it tasted even better than usual in my new pan!

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I’d highly recommend any Pampered Chef party and any of their products to any of my friends and family, always. However, I must say, this new virtual party was fantastic! It was such fun “seeing” everyone that I wouldn’t get to see at my own in-house party. It was fun watching the videos and seeing some new must-have products, but most of all, it was fun falling in love-with a stir fry pan- all over again.

Happy February!

 

 

 

Fun Friday: Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from Budget Bytes

30 Oct
This has been a delicious treat all week long!

This has been a delicious treat all week long!

Going Orange for No Kid Hungry today? We are!

In honor of the big day, I thought I’d share a brand new recipe with you that we tried earlier this week and enjoyed very much.

Over the weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 16th birthday, and at the gathering my cousin Val handed me a couple of recipes she thought we’d enjoy. One of them was today’s recipe from Budget Bytes for their Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.

Oftentimes when I look at a recipe for consideration, the title tells it all, and this recipe was one of those times. I knew that we loved baked oatmeal, and I knew that we loved pumpkin pie. I knew that we would love this recipe. I had plenty of each of the ingredients on hand, in fact, when I saw that a basic recipe makes an 8×8 dish, I decided to double it for our family, so I did, and I used a 9×13 dish instead.

Photo's a little blurry, but I doubled this recipe so we'd have plenty to last the week.

I doubled this recipe so we’d have plenty to last the week.

I chose to make this recipe for Monday’s after school snack, knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday are my typing days which means I don’t have a ton of time to eat or cook anything. I eat at my desk usually, typing in between bites and when the kids come home from school, they’re on their own for finding food to satisfy their ravenous hunger. This would last me through both days and provide hungry kids with a choice for something to eat if they wanted it for after school or for breakfast one morning.

Everyone loved this recipe, it was tasty, it was filling and it was easy. I saw that it recommended whipped cream or maple syrup as well as milk or nuts. We went the maple syrup and whipped cream route and loved it. My oldest daughter even thought that caramel would be good on top, and I’m sure it would be, but I nixed that idea this time around, just because it would negate any of the healthy aspects of it.

I also used homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice because apparently I’ve been out of that in my cupboard for quite some time. I know this because when I opened up my cupboard, not only was there none there, but there was a note taped to the inside of the door-most likely from last fall- for a recipe from allrecipes.com for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice. I doubled that recipe and it was exactly enough for what I needed to double this oatmeal recipe.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

1 Apr
There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

There was not one bite of this left over! It was a huge hit.

ORIGINALLY POSTED FEBRUARY 5, 2014:

Recently we cooked a big Sunday dinner of roasted chicken. I love when we have that on the menu because it automatically means another chicken meal later that week using the leftovers.

Sometimes we’ll just reheat the leftovers as is; a repeat of the meal we’d just had days before. Other times I’ll make a Chicken Pot Pie. We will make soup or chicken salad too, depending how much and what is left.

This last time we had our leftovers, I still had a single pie crust left from the last Chicken Pot Pie I’d made but I did not want a pot pie again. Although my daughter Liz swears that “Chicken Pot Pie never gets old, Mom,” I beg to differ. I’d done two in a relatively short amount of time. I wanted something different.

I thought of my single crust in the fridge and what else I could do with it instead of pot pie. I decided to make a quiche. Everyone in our family likes broccoli and eggs and cheese, so I knew a quiche would be a hit, but I had no idea how much of a hit it’d be.

It flew off the plates!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

Luckily I realized I needed to write down the recipe BEFORE I filled the plate!

I actually didn’t have a recipe to follow, but I adapted a recipe for a Quiche Lorraine, changing the ingredients. The funny thing is, my recipe was on a plate! I have an old plate that I remember my mom having when I grew up, but I actually think that my grandmother had one too, and this one is hers from her kitchen we she moved a couple of years back.

I went along, following my recipe, but changing the ingredients to fit my meal, when I suddenly realized I needed to write it down or once I filled the plate, I’d not have the directions for baking temps and times!

Since I used the plate as my guide, along with my own ingredients, I’m putting my recipe for you below. It was SO delicious! I’d definitely make this again, and it was a great change to our usual leftover chicken choices.

CHICKEN BROCCOLI AND CHEESE QUICHE
INGREDIENTS

4 eggs lightly beaten

1 cup fat free cheddar cheese, shredded

1/3 cup chopped onion (I just used half a smaller sized onion.)

2 cups skim milk

2 cups diced chicken

2 cups broccoli (I used about half a package of frozen broccoli florets, partially thawed.)

salt and pepper to taste

one crust for a nine inch pie

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

Layer your ingredients into the crust, adding your liquid last.

DIRECTIONS

Spread the pie crust in a 9″ pie plate, creating a decorative edging.

Lightly beat eggs and milk together.

Layer your ingredients in the plate starting with your solid ingredients first.

Pour your liquid mixture of milk and eggs over your solid ingredients. Your plate will be full to the top.

My baking dish said to bake the quiche at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, turning it down to 300 for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean, letting it stand for 10 minutes.

Our quiche took much longer to cook, I believe because of the liquid in the frozen broccoli that I used. Another cookbook I looked at had similar directions, with the second baking temperature at 325. When you make your quiche, you’ll know when it’s done; a knife will come out clean. At the end, we broiled ours on low to crisp it up a bit.

I hope that if you’d never made a quiche before, you’ll give it a try. You can really put almost anything in it, and two of my kids actually requested a spinach and chicken quiche next time, which I’d thought of, but I knew not everyone likes spinach at our house.

Enjoy!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Creamy Mushroom Orzo

4 Mar
I loved the texture and flavor of this recipe!

I loved the texture and flavor of this recipe!

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 15, 2014: Recently my friend Melissa shared a recipe that came through Facebook. Although Facebook is a great place to find and share recipes, you can’t always be sure where the recipe truly originated, so it’s hard to credit someone. It seems as this recipe for Creamy Mushroom Orzo may have originated on the page of Sharon Fox, who lists herself as author, food editor, radio personality and personal chef. However, even she says that the recipes found on her page are not from her own cookbooks, but are recipes she’s tried and loved. But, we do the best we can. I always like to give credit where credit is due, if I can.

No matter what, I’m so glad that someone, somewhere, originally made and share this recipe! I really loved it. I used it as a side dish for a kind of “boring” meal that we were having and to me, it made my meal so much more exciting.

The kids did not love it quite as much and I think it’s because it calls for white wine and it really holds the flavor.

I think that’s why I loved it so much!!

The recipe was fast, easy to make, and delicious; all my top qualifiers for a recipe.

I’m sharing it here, give it a try if you’re looking for something to jazz up one of your own meals!

This was an easy-to-make recipe, fast and delicious!

This was an easy-to-make recipe, fast and delicious!

CREAMY MUSHROOM ORZO

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

2/3 cups orzo

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon fresh sage

1 tablespoons butter

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or water)

3/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS
1.In medium sized skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic.

2.Stir, cooking until onions are golden and soft.

3.Add orzo, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, sage, and butter. Cook, stirring about 5-6 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

4.Pour both chicken broth and wine into orzo mixture. Bring broth to a boil. Stirring often cook 10-15 minutes or until orzo is soft and liquid is absorbed.

5.Stir in Parmesan cheese before serving.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Light lunches

4 Feb
A perfect light lunch for those days you just can't eat another sandwich.

A perfect light lunch for those days you just can’t eat another sandwich.

Ever have that feeling where you wake up in the morning, still full from the night before? Well, we woke up in January still full from December. Stuffed.

When it came time to go back to school, I was looking for some lighter lunch ideas to pack in my family’s lunch bags and other than the usual salads and sandwiches, I was stumped. Over the past year, I’ve really revamped what goes into the lunchbags, and I’ve been so pleased with what they now eat for lunch versus in years prior, but I was still looking for something new and different.

One weekend afternoon however, we were watching some sort of cooking show and my daughter saw a recipe that she said looked delicious, and when I saw it, I knew it’d make a perfect lunchbag lunch. Even better, it wasn’t a salad and it wasn’t a sandwich. The recipe was for a lettuce wrap that contained hummus and diced peppers. The peppers they showed were red, but here at home we happened to have some green peppers on hand, and that works just as well. I had everything we needed, so the very next time I was packing up all the lunches, those who like hummus got a lettuce

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

wrap, some pita chips for dipping or for crushing on top, and a plastic fork and knife, just in case the wrap was too heavy to eat by hand (which it turned out it was.)

It was a success; a nice, light change from our usual lunches, and I got a thumbs up at the end of the day. With such success, I did another type of lettuce wrap later that week, using some quinoa tabouleh that my husband had made with leftover quinoa from a previous meal. We didn’t have chick peas to throw in, but we had everything else.

Another great, light lunch. One of the days my husband even combined the hummus and the tabouleh into one in order to make a loaded salad, loving all this eating from his Lebanese heritage.

These lunches were quick, healthy, affordable and easy to do in the mornings and I was so pleased with the positive reviews, I’d definitely do them again. They were a nice, light change to start off the new year.

I think you can practically make a lettuce wrap out of anything, or put anything on top of a salad, so tell me, what kinds of things do you put into a lettuce wrap or on top of your salad?

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Soup for everyone

5 Nov
Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Earlier in the school year I did quite a bit of food preparation ahead of time, making and freezing foods for future use. One thing I’d wanted to do but hadn’t had time to do, was make and freeze some soup.

Recently when I had one child home sick for an extended amount of time, I had an afternoon where I’d have a couple of hours to make some soup. The only question was, what kind of soup? Everyone has a favorite. I love cream of broccoli and creamy cauliflower soup, as does my oldest daughter, who happened to be the one home sick. But, my other daughters and my husband, they love the cream of tomato soup that I’ve been making lately and my middle daughter in particular had been asking for it quite often.

When I thought about the recipes though, they were all pretty similar. Other than the actual vegetable for each soup, namely broccoli, cauliflower and tomato, the base ingredients and instructions were all pretty similar: onion and chicken broth. The tomato soup had a few extra spices thrown in, and the broccoli soup had celery added in and some milk and flour at the end, but ultimately I realized that I could actually make all three at the same time, almost like an assembly line: cut up all the onion, divide it into the soup pots, cut up each veggie and add them in, and then simmer. If any additional steps or ingredients were needed, it wasn’t all that hard to do. Nothing was complicated, expensive or time-consuming. In an hour I’d be done. The tomato soup has an option to put in tortellini and shrimp at the end, but this time around I was doing it without those last two ingredients mostly because that is what had been requested.

Just like that...three soups, done and everyone's taste buds were happy!!

Just like that…three soups, done and everyone’s taste buds were happy!!

Although I cried a lot of tears cutting up all those onions, overall it was a great experiment and all went off as planned. I had enough soup for whoever wanted whatever kind they wanted over the next couple of days, and then using quart-sized bags, I froze the rest. We already had a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon where a few of us had soup for lunch from the freezer, and there’s still more for whenever we need it, whether it’s for an after school snack, a lunch or a dinner where someone doesn’t like what’s on the regular night’s menu.

Since these soups have already been featured on my blog, I’m putting the links below so that you can refer to them if you’d like to make any or all of them for yourself. The weather here is starting to cool down and it will be nice to have some soups for the upcoming chilly days and nights ahead!

Here are the links for you.

If you’d like to make the Cream of Broccoli Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Cauliflower Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Tomato Soup, click here.

Enjoy!