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My Kind of Salad

I don’t know if this is a regional dish, or if they appear at holiday dinners everywhere, but I grew up with what my family calls “24-hour salad” at almost every holiday meal.

You mix canned fruit and mini marshmallows in a bowl, then sprinkle instant pudding mix over the entire thing. Stir in a container of Cool Whip, and then stick it in the fridge overnight. Bam! Holiday side complete. And since it’s a salad, you can eat it alongside your ham AND have seconds before dessert even appears. What’s not to love?

Oh, right. Things like instant pudding and Cool Whip.¬†Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a generous serving of 24-hour salad at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if a more “homemade” option exists, I’ll try that too. ūüôā

I stumbled on this recipe last fall when Karen, Janelle and I were planning our Friendsgiving 2.0 menu. I was immediately intrigued. It looked like a cranberry version of the traditional 24-hour salad, and it used real whipped cream instead of Cool Whip. I had a stockpile of cranberries in the freezer, and I almost always have whipping cream in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the salad got scratched from the Friendsgiving menu because we had SO MUCH FOOD.

I didn’t forget about the recipe though. As I started planning our Easter menu, I knew I wanted to try the cranberry salad. And since we were having people over for dinner, I knew we wouldn’t have to eat the entire bowl ourselves.

I used my food processor to chop the cranberries and walnuts (not together though). After that, I simply mixed everything together and put it in the fridge. Right before dinner, I whipped the cream and folded it into the cranberries. It was probably the easiest part of the meal. It was one of the tastiest parts too. I definitely went back for seconds and thirds on salad.

One of the downsides to this recipe, if there is one, is that it doesn’t keep nearly as well. The whipped cream starts to separate and get soggy after a day in the fridge, so you should plan on eating it all in one sitting. Good thing it’s always OK to have more salad.

CreamyCranberrySalad

Creamy Cranberry Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups of mini marshmallows
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups of heavy whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, pineapple, apple, sugar, salt and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream and walnuts into the cranberry mixture. Serve immediately.

From Taste of Home

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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Side Dishes

 

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Quick & Easy Shrimp Dinner!

Things have been pretty quiet around here (again). Whoops. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about fast, easy dinners instead.

Thanks to Zaycon, I have a stockpile of shrimp in the freezer. And since shrimp thaws and cooks quickly, it’s perfect for nights when I really don’t have much of a game plan for dinner. (Which, if I’m being honest, are happening more often than I’d like to admit lately. I need to get back on the meal-planning wagon.) ¬†Anyway…

I found this recipe in an old issue of Everyday Food, and it met all of my criteria for the evening:

  1. Cooks in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Dirties minimal dishes.
  3. Uses everyday pantry items.

Win-win-win. Oh, and it tasted good! That should go without saying though. I’m not going to share something that doesn’t taste good. ūüėČ

Potatoes are one of my favorite things, but I would have never thought to pair them with shrimp (or curry powder) before. The potatoes get extra crispy, which is my favorite part, and the curry adds the right amount of spice and flavor. Since I don’t own a nonstick skillet, I used my cast iron skillet with no problems, which shouldn’t surprise anyone by now.

CrispyPotato&Shrimp

Shrimp with Scallions and Crispy Potatoes

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 baking potatoes, approximately 1 pound, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons curry powder
coarse salt and pepper

In a large skillet (nonstick or cast iron), heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, which should take about 12-15 minutes. Add the scallion whites to the pan and cook for one minute more. Scoop the scallion-potato mixture out of the pan and onto a plate. Set aside.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan, and then add the shrimp and curry powder to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about two or three minutes. Slide the potato-scallion mixture back into the skillet and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and then top with the scallion greens. Serve immediately.

From Everyday Food, November 2008

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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Main Dishes, Seafood

 

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Another Sourdough Win!

I’m now two months into this sourdough adventure, and life with Fester is going fairly smoothly. I haven’t forgotten to feed him (yet), although I do have him down to just one meal every week. Three cheers for low-maintenance “pets.” (And this why we don’t have a dog. Or houseplants.)¬†

So far, I haven’t had to actually “discard” any of the starter when it’s time to feed Fester. Most of it has wound up in¬†cinnamon raisin bread and pizza dough. Last weekend, however, I didn’t have time to make¬†anything with the discard. I couldn’t bring myself to toss out the half cup or so of starter though, so I put it in a container and stuffed it back in the refrigerator. I figured I’d find something to do with it after the weekend, even if that meant eating pizza again. (Not that anyone here complains about pizza.)¬†

I remembered that Karen had sent me a link for sourdough biscuits with cheese and chives in them, so I went looking for that recipe. While I didn’t find her original link, I stumbled on a recipe for caramelized onion sourdough biscuits from King Arthur Flour. I didn’t have chives on hand, but I figured a scallion would be an acceptable substitute.

The biscuits were¬†pretty easy to put together. I started caramelizing the onions as soon as I got home from work, and while those were hanging out on the stove, I chopped the scallion and mixed up the rest of the ingredients. The recipe said to let the caramelized onions chill for three hours, but that meant we’d be eating biscuits at 9 p.m. So, I did what any short-on-time cook would do: I put them in the freezer for 15 minutes instead.

When I added the starter to the dry ingredients, it didn’t seem to have enough moisture to hold the dough together. So, I added a splash (probably less than a tablespoon) of half-and-half to the dough to bring everything together.¬†If my sourdough starter was thinner, I probably wouldn’t have needed it, but my starter seems to be on the thicker side.

These smelled incredible while they were baking, and they were easily our favorite part of dinner. At the rate I’m going, I’ll have more uses for discarded starter than for “fed” starter!

SourdoughOnionBiscuits

Caramelized Onion Sourdough Biscuits

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 1/4 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1 scallion, finely chopped
9 ounces (1 cup) unfed sourdough starter
half-and-half, optional

Heat a large skillet (I love my cast iron for this!) over medium-low heat. Place the onion, brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and caramelized, which should take about 30 minutes. Remove the onions from the skillet and place them in a small bowl. Allow the bowl to cool in the refrigerator or freezer until the onions are thoroughly chilled. (This took about 15 minutes in my freezer.) 

Preheat the oven to 425¬į and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

While the onions are cooking / chilling, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Stir the chopped scallions into the mixture, and then add the chilled onions.

Stir the sourdough starter into the bowl and use a rubber spatula to gently work the starter into the flour-butter-onion mixture. (If the mixture is too dry after the starter is fully incorporated, add a tiny splash of half-and-half to help things come together.) Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently pat into a 1″ thick disc.

Use a 2-1/2″ or 3″ biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Pat any leftover scraps together to cut out additional biscuits. Place the rounds about 2″ apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Yield: I got nine 3″ biscuits out of the recipe; King Arthur Flour says eight. No one’s complaining about an extra biscuit here.

Note: I haven’t tried this, but I think these would freeze well before baking. I’d make the dough and cut out the biscuits, and then put them in the freezer on baking sheet lined with waxed paper. When they’re frozen solid, transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Then you should be able to just bake them straight from the freezer whenever you need biscuits. ¬†

From King Arthur Flour

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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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Balancing Out the Cookies

Raise your hand if your calendar is often crammed with activities. I don’t know about you, but our social calendar seems to revolve around food. In December, for example, I had three separate events centered around cookies. From cookie exchanges to cookie Fridays at the office, I was slightly overloaded on the sugar. Earlier this month, we hosted the dessert portion of a progressive dinner, and then, I decided to bake some cupcakes for our small group just because it had been a while since I’d made some.

I firmly believe that life (as far as food goes, anyway) is all about balance, so when our social life became all about dessert, I started looking for something to offset all the sweetness.

I wanted something that would be easy to put together. Bonus points if I can make it with whatever was in my pantry / fridge. I remembered Annie’s white bean dip, and I thought it’d be perfect for the occasion. Plus, it’s healthy, and it takes all of 5 minutes to make. Cutting the veggies for serving takes longer than making the dip!

And, even better, it’s a dip that Andy truly enjoyed, which is saying something.

garlicwhitebeandip

Garlic Rosemary White Bean Dip

2 15 oz. cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely minced. Add the beans, salt and water to the bowl and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the bean mixture and process until it is fully combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then process another 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Taste the dip and season with pepper and salt if needed.

Serve with sliced vegetables and crackers. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

From Annie’s Eats, originally from A Couple Cooks

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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Upgraded Hamburger Helper

I did not grow up eating Hamburger Helper, or Tuna Helper, or any of those “add a pound of meat and enjoy” type meals.¬†It just wasn’t something my mom bought. My dad did make his own version though, adding ground beef, onions and peas to mac and cheese. While I haven’t had that in a really long time, it was always a hit in our house growing up, and it’s easy to see why: cheese, pasta and meat, all in one pan.

Now that I’m responsible for making dinner every night, I can totally appreciate the convenience of a one-pot meal. Especially one that’s full of pasta and cheese. If I’m really on the ball with things, I can have all of the prep dishes (which are just a couple measuring cups / spoons, a cutting board, cheese grater and a knife) washed before dinner’s ready.

When I first saw this recipe, I thought it had a lot of potential. I mean, we love pasta, beef, cheese and Tex-Mex flavors. The sour cream and cream cheese worried Andy at first, but he was hooked after one bite, and now it’s one of our favorite comfort food dinners. Sometimes I take a page from my dad’s playbook and throw in frozen peas for a true, one-dish dinner. It’s also great with a side salad if peas in your Tex-Mex sounds weird to you. ūüėČ

creamytacomac
Creamy Taco Mac

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green (or red or yellow) pepper, diced
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
4 tablespoons taco seasoning (I always make my own.)
8 ounces small / short pasta
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro

Brown the ground beef in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the meat is close to being browned, add the onion and chopped pepper. Cook until the onion had turned translucent. Drain any extra fat off of the pan, if necessary.

Add the diced tomatoes, taco seasoning and beef broth to the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then stir in the pasta. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender (about 7-10 minutes).

Add the cream cheese to the pot and stir until it has melted into the broth. Add the peas, if using. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream. Stir until the sour cream is well-incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with cheese and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Barely adapted from Elly Says Opa, who adapted it from Delish

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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Beef, Main Dishes

 

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Mid-Week Winner

A few weeks ago, I was looking for some inspiration. I was in the mood for fall food, and I needed some fast, easy meals. I pulled¬†several issues of Everyday Food off the¬†shelf and started leafing through the pages. Nothing seemed to catch my attention until I hit page 44 of the September 2012 issue. (And this is why I hang on to my cooking magazines. If I’d recycled that one, we’d have missed dinner!)¬†At a glance, it looked like something that I could make without going to the grocery store.¬†The recipe also promised one-dish ease, something I am always down with. ūüôā

I swapped the sweet potatoes for carrots, since that’s what we had from our CSA. One orange vegetable is as good as another, right? I decided that no roast is complete without onions, and some fresh thyme seemed like the perfect complement to the fall flavors. And while the recipe called for a roasting pan, I saw no reason not to use my favorite skillet.

I was amazed at how incredibly easy this was to throw together. I made it the evening before we left for our most recent adventure (a backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore), and I had enough time to make dinner, make cookies for the trip AND pack my backpack. Win-win.

ci-pork-roast

Cast Iron Pork Roast with Apples, Onions and Carrots

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 2-1/2 lb. pork roast
3 Gala apples, quartered and cored
3 medium-large carrots, cut into 2-3″ chunks
1 red onion, cut into wedges
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 to 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475¬į. Coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet with two teaspoons of olive oil. Place the pork roast in the center of the pan, fat side up, and generously season it with salt and pepper.

Roast until the top of the pork is golden, about 15-20 minutes.

While the pork is roasting, toss the apples, carrots and onion together in a large bowl with the remaining two teaspoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pork from the oven and place the vegetables in the pan around the pork. Sprinkle the thyme on top of the vegetables and pork. Return the pan to the oven and roast until the vegetables are tender and the pork registers 140¬į, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.

Let the pork rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board, and scoop the vegetables into a bowl. Place the pan on a burner over medium heat. Whisk 1 tablespoon of flour into the drippings and cook for a couple of minutes. Slowly whisk the chicken stock into the roux and cook, whisking constantly, until the pan sauce has thickened.

Slice the pork roast, then return the meat and vegetables to the pan, coating them with the pan sauce. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, September 2012

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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Main Dishes

 

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Neighborly Love

As soon as Andy and I bought our house, we knew we’d won the neighbor lottery. We closed on the¬†house on a June afternoon, and, like any newly-minted homeowners, went right over to see our new place. Duane and Joyce came over¬†to¬†introduce themselves and gave us a quart of fresh-picked strawberries from their garden. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.

Since then, they’ve shared lots of fresh produce with us – everything from tomatoes and zucchini to butternut squash and the world’s largest cabbage. They spend lots of time cultivating their garden, and it shows. The veggies are in neat rows, without a weed in sight. The tomato plants are twice the size of ours. The lettuce plants don’t even have dirt on their leaves! (They put a ground cover over the dirt next to the lettuce, so the rain doesn’t splash mud on the plants. So smart.) It’s as close to perfect as a garden can get. Maybe someday ours will look half as good.

One day early on, Joyce asked us if we liked rhubarb. I told her that I thought we did, and she gave us a plate of rhubarb squares to try. If we liked them, she said we could have some rhubarb from their flourishing rhubarb plant. We ate the squares in record time, so I made sure to get the recipe along with some rhubarb from Joyce.

We now have our own rhubarb plants (which have started to take over the entire garden), and this is the first rhubarb dish I make each spring. You use the same mixture for both the crumb topping and the bottom crust, which saves time AND dishes. It’s a flexible recipe too, letting you swap rhubarb for strawberries or apples (or a combination if you choose), but, nine times out of 10, I’ll make the rhubarb version. And every time we eat it, I’m so glad we live where we do. ūüôā

rhubarb squares

Rhubarb Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350¬į.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar. Pour the melted butter over the top of the flour mixture and mix until combined. (It will be crumblier and looser than a batter Рmore like a pie dough.)  Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping.

Press the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Whisk the sugar, water and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and becomes clear. Stir in vanilla and then add chopped rhubarb. Pour filling over the crust in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over the top of the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

From my neighbor, Joyce

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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Dessert

 

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