Strawberry Balsamic Pie with Granola

It’s strawberry season, and this week they were on sale and ridiculously sweet. I made an easy and delicious strawberry pie for a midweek dessert.  I cheated and used a pre-made pie crust but it would have probably been even better if I would have made it myself, if only I had more time.  The filling would also be delicious topping over ice cream or yogurt.

One pre made graham cracker or shortbread pie crust ( make one yourself if your feeling up to it)

2 quarts fresh strawberries washed

2 T Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 sugar

2T water

2t cornstarch

1T fresh lemon juice

For topping:

whipped cream

granola

Slice about 12 large strawberries in half and cover bottom of pie shell ( use whole strawberries if they are small)

For filling: slice remaining strawberries, Place in nonstick skillet with balsamic vinegar over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl until dissolved, add this and sugar to pan and bring to a boil.

Heat for 1 minute stirring constantly, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Cool and pour over strawberries in pie shell.

Cover and refrigerate until cool, about 3 hours.

Top with whipped cream and granola.

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Ricotta Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.75 lbs ground meat, (anything would work here, I used a pork, beef  mix)

1/2 c ricotta cheese

1 egg

1 t minced garlic

1T lemon juice

1T 1/2 and 1/2 or milk

1T Italian Seasoning

1/2 t salt

1/8 t black pepper

1 c panko bread crumbs

Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, I use mine hands, make sure you incorporate the ricotta into the meat mixture well.

Roll meat into balls wetting fingers with water to prevent sticking if needed and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, leave room between them so they cook evenly.

Bake for 1/2 hour, or until no longer pink in the center.

Add to pasta or make subs with your favorite sauce, or try making your own.

I like them on a roll with tomato sauce, arugula and asiago cheese, but the possibilities are endless.

Creamy Blue Cheese and Bacon Potato Bake

All my favorites, potatoes, blue cheese and bacon come together in this yummy side dish.

6-8 med sized red potatoes sliced thin (I left the skins on but you certainly could peel them)

1/2 yellow onion chopped ( about 1/4 cup)

1 clove garlic minced

6 slices of cooked bacon chopped

2T butter

1 1/2 T flour

2 c milk

2 oz blue cheese ( I prefer buying a wedge and crumbling it myself, the crumbles don’t have enough moisture or flavor)

1/2 t salt

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375

Layer sliced potatoes in a baking pan, I used a square 8×8 pyrex pan (you may need to adjust cooking time if using a different size or material pan)

In a sauce pan melt better and sauté the onions garlic and bacon about 3 minutes over med high heat, or until onion in soft. Turn heat down to medium. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture and cook 1 min. Add in milk and stir, continue cooking over med heat, sauce should thicken and coat a spoon, add crumbled blue cheese stir until cheese is melted into the sauce, add 1/2 t salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Pour the sauce over the sliced potatoes

Cover with foil and bake 45 min, take foil off and cook for 15 more min or until potatoes are soft.

Feeds 4-6. This recipe can be doubled for a larger crowd. Use a 9×13 pan instead.

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle: Everyday, Everyday, Everyday… Everyday I make the Soup

Just indulge me on the title, I was at the Elvis Costello concert last night. I got the tickets last minute and was excited but it was on a Tuesday and I still had to make dinner for the kids and us before we went to the show. I didn’t want anything too heavy, there might be dancing and drinks to be had. But I still wanted a one pot type meal that I didn’t have to worry about and that was easy to clean up. This soup has a light tasting, gingery broth and the fresh herbs and vegetables give it flavor and texture without weighing it down and its relatively quick and easy.

32 oz low sodium chicken broth

1/2 yellow onion finely chopped

1/4 c peeled and minced ginger ( I used a microplane grater)

3 cloves of garlic minced

1/4 cup sliced carrots, about 2

1T fish sauce (found in asian section of grocery store)

1t Sriracha sauce (or any hot sauce)

1/2 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

3c water

3 boneless chicken breasts cut into bit sized pieces

1/4 pound vermicelli/angel hair pasta broken in half

1/2 cup fresh spinach roughly chopped

2T fresh cilantro

2T fresh basil

2T sliced green onions

In a large pot or dutch oven combine the 1st 11 ingredients (stop before adding the noodles) bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat until chicken is done about 15 minutes, Add pasta noodles and cook until tender.

Put soup into bowls and add chopped fresh vegetables and herbs right before eating, the hot soup will wilt them slightly. You could use any herbs, sprouts, lime wedges etc… I used what I had on hand and in the garden. This also allows each diner to customize their soup, much like a taco.

Stir and enjoy. Oh and by the way Elvis Costello puts on a great show and still sounds amazing.

Creamy Chimichurri Sauce

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, perfect for grilling and dining al fresco with the boys. I stopped by the meat market and got some steaks, my boys love red meat.  I love the creaminess of Bernaise sauce  but I also love the freshness of a Chimichurri sauce. For those of you who are not familiar, Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce made from fresh herbs, oil and vinegar served with grilled meats. Since my herb garden is overflowing with flat leaf parsley at the moment, I decided to try and make a creamy Chimichurri sauce  to combine the creamy and the fresh. It was a huge hit and I will be making this again, I want to try it on chicken next.

2T fresh oregeno

1/2 c fresh flat leaf parsley

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 t red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp salt,

2 T white wine vinegar (any vinegar would work)

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 c sourcream

1/2 T  fresh lemon juice

Put oregano, parsley, garlic, salt and red pepper into a food processor, pulse a couple of times to chop up , then slowly pour the oil and vinegar in while the machine is on. The herbs and garlic should be well chopped and combined with the oil. Scrap out the contents from the food processor with a rubber spatula into a small mixing bowl. Add sour cream and lemon juice and mix together.

Cover and chill for at least 1/2 hour to let the flavors meld, stir and serve with your favorite grilled meats, would also be a great topping for a steak sandwich.

What’s for Dinner: Menu Planning 101

I just don’t have time, it’s too hard to plan a menu, I never have the ingredients I need, these are several complaints I have heard from myself and friends as to why the food in the refrigerator  spoils and we end up eating out, getting take out or relying on convenience foods. The trick is to have a system in place, only buy what you need and to know your weekly schedule in advance. This will help you save time, money and your sanity. There are several ways to do this but I am going to share what works for me.

Pre planning, This can be the most time consuming of the process but is the key. I keep a spiral notebook that I use for everything that way I only have to look in one place for all I need to know. Mine has pockets which are useful to hold important papers and recipes, sale ads, coupons etc… I start a new page for each shopping week. I like to shop on Sunday nights or Mondays after the kids get home from school. This way I am guaranteed to have someone here to help put groceries away.

During the week ahead I look for recipes, I try to only use 2 sources of recipes per week to lessen the confusion. An example would be the new Food Network Magazine and My Southern Living Cookbook. I will go through these while watching TV, or  waiting to pick up the kids and use sticky tabs or post it notes to mark the recipes I want to use. Then I make my list of the ones to use and the page number or source where they came from. Other good sources besides cookbooks and magazines are Pinterest, Epicurious.com, or the Martha Stewart  Everyday Food App, for smart phones.

The next step is to make the actual grocery list. I set up my page like my grocery store is set up.

I then go through my recipes and add the ingredients that I need in the right categories, check the pantry to see what other things I need, as well as asking the rest of the household if they need anything. Then I shop. I make sure I also have my menu with me in case I need to make any substitutions if they are out of something or something else is on sale. I find with this system that now I only need to shop once a week which saves time and money.

The Menu Board: After I get home and unload all the groceries I write the weeks menu on a chalkboard in our kitchen. I try not to put any meats into the freezer because if you forget to defrost you are heading out for takeout that night and your whole meal plan is ruined. So I check the dates on the meats and try to use the ones that expire first earlier in the week. I also try to do the easier meals on the nights when we are busy, and add in take out for the nights when cooking is impossible, or on Fridays, I never cook on Fridays, but thats my own little rule.

The menu board helps me stay organized and eliminates the need for me to answer, “What’s for dinner ?”, a thousand times each week. I got mine at Ikea. And of course the last rule is be flexible, we are a family of four and things come up and emergencies happen but that is what the eraser is for. 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Cookies: Lemon Cranberry Cookies

The leftover produce of the week was lemons. I do have a great Strawberry and Lemon muffin recipe, but this time I decided to make cookies. They came out more like a shortbread than a sugar cookie, delicate and crumbly with just the right amount of lemon. These would also be good with dried blueberries or cherries.

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1cup sugar

1 1/2 sticks of butter (12 T)

1 large egg

1/4 c fresh lemon juice

1 T lemon zest

1 c dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

Preheat Oven to 375

In a med sized mixing bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl beat together room temp butter and sugar. Add egg, lemon juice and zest, then slowly add the flour mixture while beating on low/med speed. Stir in dried cranberries (or other fruit).

Roll into 2 inch balls and press flat on a an ungreased cookie sheet (use a silpat if available) with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.  Bake until golden on the edges about 9-11 minutes.

Pinspired: Sweet Potato Hummus

I love, love, love, Pinterest. I get so many great ideas and recipes there. When I saw this on the site I knew I had to try it. Smoky sweet potato hummus was originally found on www.blissfulbblog.com and thankfully someone pinned it. I had a book club meeting for Saving C.C. Honeycutt and knew this would be a perfect dish to bring, but I made a double batch so I could take it to a family gathering the next day. It was a hit at both events.

This is the recipe I used since I was making a large amount, but make sure to check out the original recipe here:

4 sweet potatoes

1 lg can 19oz of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 chopped chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce)

2 garlic cloves

the juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste found in the ethnic food section of the supermarket)

salt and pepper

Wash and pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes for 1 hour on a baking sheet lined with foil. Cut in half and scoop out the potato into a food processor. add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. You may add more olive oil or water to get it to your desired consistency. Top with smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.

Popsicles!: Cantaloupe, Lime, and Mint

Who can resist a tempting, colorful, icy treat ? Not anyone in my house. These low calorie, all natural, no sugar added, ice pops are perfect for after dinner of after school treats.

1 cantaloupe cut into chunks, seeds and rind removed

1T fresh lime juice

6 half lime slices

1t fresh chopped mint

Put the cantaloupe and lime juice into a food processor puree until smooth, add mint and pulse until chopped and incorporated.

Pour mixture into a measuring cup with a spout, fill popscicle molds almost to the top.

Put one half slice of lime into each mold ( not necessary but looks pretty)

Insert stick and freeze overnight.

Eat and enjoy this guilt free treat.

 

Camping in Style, Shredded Asian Pork

Camping, I love it, especially this time of year, but all the planning and packing can be a challenge, especially when it comes to the food. Keeping everything at the right temperature, handling raw meats without hot water to wash up, making sure you have enough food  and that it is cooked properly and that you have right condiments and ingredients can be a hassle. My solution is to make it ahead of time, freeze it and heat it up there. This eliminates the need for bringing raw foods that could spoil or contaminate the other stuff in the cooler, lessens the amount of ingredients you need to bring and keeps the food cold enough to last a couple of days. I try to bring foods that will feed a crowd and that can do double duty, this time I did an Asian style shredded pork, It can be eaten alone, on a sandwich (or hot dog bun) even mixed into eggs as an omelette. Even better its a dump and cook in the Crock Pot recipe which left me time to pack the day before.

Here’s how you do it:

2lb rib end pork roast

7 green onions (scallions) chopped into 2 inch pieces

4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

2T ginger chopped

5 T sweet chili sauce ( found in the asian section of the supermarket)

1T fish sauce

1T rice vinegar

1T soy sauce

2c  water

!T lime juice

2 T fresh cilantro

Toss that all in the crock pot and cook on high 4 hours or low 6-8 hours, or until it shreds with a fork.

If you are packing it for camping, let it cool and put into a freezable storage container with enough of the juices to cover, and freeze overnight. Pack into a cooler with ice. When ready to eat, heat in a pan over your grill or camp stove. I bring a bag of shredded cabbage and asian dressing and mix that together in batches at the camp site, this keeps better than a mayo based salad. I serve it as a side or on top of the pork on sandwiches.