Monday, May 27, 2013

Curried Cashew, Pear, and Grape Salad

Summer is not only time for grilled food, but for fresh salads! This one I made for our latest Dr. Who night, and I think it was pretty tasty. I may play around with the cashew seasoning next time, other than that, it was a fun and different salad take.


 3/4 cup cashew halves
 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
 1 tablespoon melted butter
 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
 1 teaspoon curry powder
 1 tablespoon brown sugar
 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
 2 tablespoons honey
 1/2 cup olive oil
 salt and black pepper to taste

 1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
 1/2 medium Bosc pear, thinly sliced
 1/2 cup halved seedless red grapes


In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.
Return skillet to medium-high heat, cook bacon strips until crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and soak up grease with a paper towel. Coarsely chop bacon, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together butter, rosemary, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, and toasted cashews. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together white wine vinegar, mustard, and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large salad bowl, toss dressing with greens, pear slices, grapes, and bacon, and sprinkle with nut mixture.

I did double the recipe, because really, what was I going to do with 1/2 of a pear? Based on multiple reviews, my first change was to roast the cashews in the oven. I started the bacon by baking it on a baking sheet in a non-pre-heated oven on 450 for about 15-20 minutes. I added the cashews once the oven was heated and cooked for about 10 minutes. The cashews got a little toasty on the bottom, so I think I'd decrease the time to 8 minutes. I do not overly love spicy food, so I decreased the cayenne pepper to just a sprinkle. 
 Also based on reviews, I decreased the oil in the dressing by a little more than half (I used 7 Tblspns instead of 1 cup of olive oil). That seemed to be the perfect amount - it was an awesome tasting dressing, and not too oily. I left the dressing to be put on to taste - it's pretty strong, and I think it would wayyyyyyy overpower the salad if made in the specified proportions. My only addition to the recipe was to add some blue cheese (on the side, for any non-blue cheese lovers), which I think was quite yummy. 

So now, with that all said, it's back to my Gilmore Girls marathon. On season 2, and Rory just broke her wrist....Oh calamity! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Veggies

It is summer, and I'm a firm believer that summer food is grilled food! Seriously, could live on anything grilled. So I started some chicken breasts marinating, with the purpose of grilling last night. Then realized that we were out of charcoal, and I wasn't going shopping until AFTER dinner. Well then. So what did I do with my yummy marinated chicken, you may ask? Created a masterpiece! :D This is a versatile creation, so play around with the seasonings and have fun!

Makes 8 servings

4 chicken breasts, marinated in GrillMates Mexican Fiesta Marinade made as directed
~2 pounds of potatoes, cut into small chunks
Asparagus (I used a steamer box that was 8 oz...would increase next time!)
~3 Tblspn Olive Oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
Garlic powder, seasoning salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Once everything is cut into small pieces (chicken, potatoes, and veggies), drizzle in olive oil, pour over the remaining marinade from the chicken, add seasonings, and mix until evenly coated. Divide into 2 9x13 baking pans, and drizzle with melted butter. (I think it would be fine to leave this step out - the olive oil does a good job, but it did make it extra tasty!)  Bake both pans on the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes, then stir. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked and getting lightly brown. Serve, and enjoy!

My only addition/future change to this would be to add green beans as an additional veggie. I added some today when I reheated leftovers, and it was delectable! It just added that little extra something. I'd also like to try it mixing sweet potatoes in the mix, or maybe some acorn squash. The possibilities are endless! I definitely recommend marinating the chicken prior to roasting - the flavor was incredible, and I think without it, the chicken would be a bit bland.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Chicken Taquito or Quesadillas

So I started this by following a recipe on Allrecipes...then I deviated so far from the recipe that it really wasn't even the original recipe anymore. Hence, a sort of original! :)

This made 8 corn tortillas, and 3 quesodillas

4 chicken breasts
Chicken broth
1 can Cream of chicken (mine had herbs in it, but you can use the original)
1 cup Monterrey Cheese, shredded
Taco seasoning to taste
Garlic salt to taste
Corn Tortillas
Butter to brush on the tops of the tortillas


1) Preheat oven to 400. Poach the chicken breasts by putting enough broth (or you can use just water) in a sauce pan just enough to almost cover the chicken breasts. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, or until chicken breasts are fully cooked.

2) Shred the cooked chicken, pulling out any fat or gristle. The adding of the following ingredients is very subjective...use what you want! I added ~3/4 can of Cream of Chicken with herbs, 3 Tblspoons of taco seasoning, a sprinkle of garlic seasoning, and about 1 cup of shredded Monterrey cheese. Stir until fully mixed.

3) Put 2ish Tblspns of chicken mixture on a corn tortilla. Roll and place seam down in an 9x13 baking pan or baking sheet. Brush the tops with a small amount of butter. Bake in the pre-heated oven on the top rack for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are slightly brown. Can be served with additional toppings such as sour cream, salsa, queso dip, green onions, etc.

Optional - if you want to make quesodillas, use large flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Place several tablespoons of chicken mixture onto the tortilla and fold in half. Brush both sides with a small amount of butter and heat until brown, flipping once. Depending on your skillet, this takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes.

I think this will be a good and easy dinner that can be changed around to whatever mood I'm feeling like that day! The only addition I would have made to this batch was to add a little bit of hot sauce to the chicken mixture, adding a little extra kick. And maybe some extra cumin. And or onion powder. Oh, the places you can go! :)

      I had this situation earlier this week, and want to get some feedback from the internet world. What do you do when someone you have, or will be having, a professional relationship with, starts bad-mouthing one of their competitors? For me, it's a very frustrating moment. I don't need to hear about their competition - I would hope that their work can stand for itself, without putting others down.
     So what does one do? I have handled it both ways - I have ignored it and just let them talk, and I have interrupted them and asked them to get back to talking about whatever it was that pertains to their company. I don't want to be rude, or inconsiderate, but I do feel like if no one ever addresses it, the situation is never going to get better. It is never acceptable to go in to how your company is so much better than a specific other company. Be proud of what you do, and your company, but do it in a way that doesn't bring other companies in, or even say "this is something we do that a lot of other companies don't do".
     Thoughts? Is there a way to challenge this kind of sales pitch/marketing behavior without being considered a jerk? And if it happens, should it be addressed in your first meeting with the person, or later if it comes up again?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kentucky Hot Browns/Bocci Ball

Happy Derby Day!!! The Kentucky Derby is quite the event at my household. I've been following/watching the iconic race since I was at least 14, and while in later years I haven't been as zealous at following the pre-race horse history, the actual race is always something to be excited about. We pick our favorites, cheer loudly, and crow proudly if we correctly guess any of the top three placers. (I would like to boast at this point that I did in fact pick the winner this year - Orb) This year we cranked up Derby fever a bit and added classic Derby food to the day! It was quite yummy, so I am going to share it with you. Enjoy! (Recipe copyrights go to Shine on Yahoo)

4 thick white bread slices 3/4 pound sliced roasted turkey 
Mornay Sauce (see below)
1 cup (4-oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese 
3 plum tomatoes, sliced 
8 bacon slices, cooked 

1. Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and broil 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until toasted. 

2. Arrange bread slices in 4 lightly greased broiler-safe individual baking dishes. Top bread with turkey slices. Pour hot Mornay Sauce over turkey. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

3. Broil 6 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned; remove from oven. Top sandwiches with tomatoes and bacon. Serve immediately. 

Mornay Sauce 
1/2 cup butter 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
3 1/2 cups milk 
1/2 cup (2-oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 

Melt butter in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. 

      Follow as directed (pretty much ;p). I used Garlic Texas Toast for the bread, and shredded block Parmesan in the food processor. I did bake the bacon prior to starting the recipe - I feel like once you get started with the sauce, you're stirring until you put everything together! As a result, the bacon wasn't piping hot, so instead of adding it right before serving, I put it on top of the bread/turkey/Mornay sauce/Parmesan combo before putting it back in the oven to broil for the 3-4 minutes. This was perfect, as it browned the bacon just a bit more, and didn't interfere with the browning of the Parmesan. I used 1 piece of bacon, and 1 and 1/2 thick cut slices of turkey breast per sandwich, which was a great ration of meat to bread.
       The sauce is a little bland...I think next time I would spice it up with some sort of seasoning +/- extra salt. There is also a TON of sauce made with this recipe! I typically like things really saucy, and even making 6 sandwiches, I still have over half the pot of sauce left! Definitely recommend halving the sauce portion of the recipe, or devising something else you could use it for!  And while in traditional Derby fashion, this should be served with a Mint Julep...I just don't like them! I'm not a big fan of drinks with mint in them. So we opted to serve a Hunt classic - The Bocci Ball! 
     The Bocci Ball is pretty simple - mix orange juice, club soda, and amaretto together (as much of each as desired, and served cold - typically it's 1 cup orange juice, 1/3-1/2 cup club soda, and 1 shot amaretto) with a splash of lime juice. Stir well and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


So this is an interesting, and potentially healthier version of mashed potatoes? This is a recipe where my food processor (Merry Christmas to myself!) came in super handy! I think I would try it again, with a couple of minor changes. (see below) Being of Irish orgin, it would be the perfect accompaniment to your next St. Patty's Day meal!


Original recipe makes 4 to 6 servings

 1 pound cabbage
 1 pound potatoes
 2 leeks
 1 cup milk
 salt and pepper to taste
 1 pinch ground mace (or you can use ground nutmeg)
 1/2 cup butter


In a large saucepan, boil cabbage until tender; remove and chop or blend well. Set aside and keep warm. Boil potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
Chop leeks, green parts as well as white, and simmer them in just enough milk to cover, until they are soft.
Season and mash potatoes well. Stir in cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the kale or cabbage and heat until the whole is a pale green fluff. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix well.

      This recipe took more research than most! I chopped up my two leeks, and was thinking to myself, "this is a TON of leeks!" It looked equal to the amount of both cabbage AND potatoes! I then googled "how big is an average leek?" (my leeks were probably a little over 1 foot long and 3-4 inches wide) Google informs me that "average leeks" are 2-3 inches long, and 1-2 inches wide. Ummm, yah, thinking I have an over-abundance of leeks at this point! ;) I used 1/4 of my chopped leeks, and I think I may decrease it a little bit more next time.
      My second point of research came when it was time to boil the cabbage. I have never boiled cabbage before! How long does one boil cabbage "until tender"??? Back to good ol' Google...apparently if the cabbage is in wedges, about 10 minutes. (if it's already chopped, boil for 3-5 minutes) And I'll just throw in, if you've never boiled potatoes, it takes about 15 minutes if they're in chunks.
    Ok, continuing on. I used 1 head of cabbage (because I'm not 100% sure how much of 1 cabbage is a pound, and didn't have any plans for leftover cabbage), 6 medium sized potatoes (again, over a pound, but it looked to be about the right ratio to match the cabbage), and about 1/2 of ONE leek. Used the food processor to mash the potatoes and cabbage, and once the leeks had finished in the milk, stirred them all together with the butter, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. I really liked how the food processor blended the cabbage. I think it made the potatoes a little TOO smooth for my taste - I like a little more texture in my potatoes. I simmered the leeks in 1 cup of milk for about 7 minutes - I would increase that time by a couple of minutes. The leeks seemed mostly cooked, but a little stringy compared to everything else that was very well blended. I did forgot to add the nutmeg (which is a substitute for mace, if you are wondering what else you could use), which would have been an interesting counterpart to the rest of the ingredients.
    My mixture turned out pretty soupy, so I put it in a 9x13 and baked it uncovered for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees, which gave it a tinge of brown on top and sucked up some of the extra liquid. I may decrease the milk, or squeeze the excess water out of the cabbage with a cheesecloth or something. All the flavors came together pretty well - you could taste the cabbage, potatoes, and leeks individually, but they complimented each other too. The leeks were a little more over-powering than I would have wished, but with using 1/3 of a leek next time, I think it would be perfect. Salt and pepper to taste. A keeper recipe, but probably won't make it into the frequent rotation.

Do you ever have that day when the stars align, and you feel extra-loved by all those people in your life? Last night was one of those for me. :) I was held up at work, and was supposed to make these lady bug crackers for my Special group that night, so I called the hubby and asked if he could start them for me. Not only did he search and find the exact recipe I was referring to, but he made them all, and had them packed and ready for me to grab when I came skidding home about an hour later than expected. And because I was running late, he foresaw I would not have time to eat the soup he made for dinner, so he made me a delicious sandwich! (He used garden vegetable cream cheese, red head lettuce, monterrey cheese, and clementines, things I never would have combined, but it was AMAZING!!) Had the evening stopped there, it would have been perfect, yet it gets even better!
   I got to meet with my special group (yes, that is our name), which basically consists of us getting together, eating amazing food, and talking books and life, and laughing, laughing, laughing. Last nights menu consisted of lady bug crackers, strawberries, gouda cheese, asparagus, dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, homemade sugar/cinnamon pecans, and orange/vanilla monkey bread. I challenge you to find a better combination of food anywhere on the planet!
     With a full heart, I came home, and found a facebook post from my boss, just saying how much she appreciated me that evening. Kind of the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae! I felt so loved and blessed by everyone, it was definitely a heart-happy evening. And these are the things I need to remember when I'm frustrated, or having a grumpy day. Hence immortilazation in blog form. ;) In whatever form that means for you, I hope you have a heart-happy moment this week.