Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Burgers

Thought I'd show you a picture of MY burger from today, and one of Eric's.  He had a fancy Asiago Cheese Ciabatta roll.  Me?  Low carb.  Who cares when the burger and toppings are this good????

Leaf of romaine lettuce on the bottom.  Then burger (seasoned with salt, pepper and bacon grease, grilled to perfection by Eric).  Topped with blue cheese, bacon, jalapenos, tomato, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and sliced avocado.  A drizzle of blue cheese dressing finished it off quite nicely.

I hardly even know what all he piled on here.  It's just so pretty it had to be photographed.  The fact that he got his mouth around it amazed us all.  He says he's part rattlesnake - dislocated jaw deal, I guess. 


Sunday, May 29, 2011


When we were in Florida, I ate some grilled pineapple.  I've had it before, but it tasted especially good just then.  Since then, I've had a hankering for it again.

Why not put it on a skewer with some shrimp, peppers and red onion?  And pop it on the grill for just a few minutes to make it extra good?  And serve it up on a bed of herby, buttery rice?

You can use whatever protein you want on kebabs.  Any vegetable, too, for that matter.  This was a particularly nice combination, so here it is.

This amount made PLENTY of kebabs for our family of 8, with a couple leftover for a lucky person's lunch tomorrow :)

Shrimp Kebabs

2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, but with tails on
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced

Put all of the above in a bowl and marinate for about an hour.

1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
1 each red, green, yellow bell pepper
1 pineapple, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for about 20 minutes.  Thread shrimp, peppers, onions, and pineapple onto the skewers.  I tried to fit 5-6 shrimp per kebab.  Drizzle all with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Grill over coals, turning and watching carefully, for about 7-10 minutes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rhubarb Berry Crisp

Do you love rhubarb?  Do you grow it?

I have, on retainer, an under-gardener who shall remain nameless.  At any given time, he is available and willing to move plants, plant seeds, dig dirt, turn compost, and anything my little gardening heart desires.

He's only made a couple of mistakes.  One spring he covered my Bleeding Hearts plant (ok, he yanked out the "weed" first) with landscape fabric and rocks.  Oops.  Forgot he gave the plant to me for Mother's Day the year before. 

Then a couple years ago, he moved the rhubarb plant from a terribly shady and rocky area to the middle of my herb garden - well done!  Except, the next spring when it started to come up, it appeared to his under-gardener eyes to be a weed and therefore was summarily yanked.

It's a very good thing my dear friend Michelle has a large amount of rhubarb in her garden.  This week, I became the happy recipient of a grocery bag full of the crispy, sour, springtime deliciousness.

My repertoire with rhubarb is fairly limited.  Know what I don't like?  The custardy rhubarb pie that most people moan and sigh over.  Something about the eggy creaminess combined with the rhubarb sends me a-gagging. 

I prefer Rhubarb Crisp!  My opinion is that rhubarb needs friends, so I usually do half rhubarb and half either berries, apples, peaches, or some other fruit.  It's one of the easiest things to whip up in 30 minutes. 

It's a "bit of this and that" recipe, so I'll talk you through how I make it. 

Rhubarb Berry Crisp

I get a big bag of mixed frozen berries at Costco.  In a 9 x 13 pan, pour in about 4 cups of these, or any one single berry, or your favorite combination.  Frozen or fresh, whatever you like, but frozen is so handy - no washing or stemming!

Then, take several stalks of rhubarb and slice/dice into the size you like - I like about 1/2 inch pieces.  When you have close to 3-4 cups, dump that into the pan with the berries and sort of toss them around.

The amount of sugar to use is up to you.  I sprinkle on about 1/2 cup and toss the berries/rhubarb again.

Now for the topping.  I use my homemade granola (which you can find under breakfasts), mixed with some melted butter, brown sugar, and a bit of flour.  You can use store bought granola, or you can just use plain old rolled oats.  For this size pan, I put 2-3 cups of granola into a bowl, and add 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour.  Toss this around until it's combined and moist. (If you use plain oats, you'll need to add some spice like cinnamon, some nuts if you want, and a bit more sugar.)

Using your hands, sprinkle the topping onto the crisp.  It's ok if some of the fruit pokes through.  It's no biggie.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until the topping seems crunchy and the fruit is soft and bubbly.

How to serve?  Hello ice cream.  Or whipped cream.  Or, if you're feeling old fashioned, put a serving of the fruit and topping into a bowl, and slooooooowly pour on a drizzle of heavy cream.  Watch how the fruit juice bleeds into the cream and makes little swirly patterns and turns it all pinky-purple.

TIP - there's nothing better than having both your berries AND your rhubarb ready to go at a moment's notice.  So, make nice with a friend who has lots of rhubarb, or buy some from your local farmer's market, dice it up, and put it in 2-3 cup amounts in a freezer bag.  It lasts in the freezer for several months.  Then you just open the freezer, pull out the rhubarb and the berries, dump them into your pan, top, bake and eat.  Make sure you save one amount of rhubarb for fall - Apple-Rhubarb Crisp or Pie is the best thing ever.

(Sorry, can't give a serving picture, taking this pan to a party tonight . . .)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meal Plan Monday, May 23rd

There's a holiday coming up this weekend, and doesn't that mean FOOD?  It sure does at our house.  We try to make something tasty and out of the ordinary for holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Those are the summer "bookends" and they need some special attention.

So this'll take us through next Monday.  I think we're going to do grilled burgers with some new "add your own" toppings.  I've pulled a few pages from magazines with great ideas, like guacamole, blue cheese, mushrooms, roasted peppers, arugula, bacon.  Mmmmmm, bacon!

Have a great week - and hey!  Summer's almost here!

May 23rd - May 30th

Monday - Homemade Cheese Pizza, top-your-own with peppers, onions, sausage, mushrooms, arugula

Tuesday - Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

Wednesday - Tuna Melts; Veggies and Dip

Thursday - Crockpot Asian Beef Roast; Rice; Stir-Fried Peppers

Friday - Shrimp-Pineapple-Pepper-Red Onion Kebabs; Green Rice

Saturday - Party at a friend's house!

Sunday - Grilled Chicken; Pasta Salad

Monday - Grilled Burgers with more toppings than ought to be allowed :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eggplant Lasagna

Hello Sassy pals!

I have been absent, true.  Finishing up homeschool for the year, garden planning and organizing, low-carb eating, you name it, I've got excuses.

But no more.

I saw gorgeous, shiny, dark purple, fat, luscious eggplant at the store the other day and I felt it whisper to me "hey, you, let's make some low-carb lasagna."  And when eggplant (or any other vegetable) whispers to you at the grocery store, you either listen, or stop at the shrink on the way home.  I chose to listen and obey.

Even if you aren't doing low-carb eating, or are gluten free, or are tired of regular lasanga, you GOTTA try this recipe!  It just hollers "summer garden, come and get it!"

Let's do it, then.

Oh, and please, do NOT skimp on ingredients.  Use the best and richest things you can afford and find.

Eggplant Lasagna

3 large eggplants
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

6 cups "red sauce" of your choice
1 large egg, and 1 large egg yolk
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 teaspoons red chile flakes (or to taste)
several grindings black pepper
large pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled or broiled, chopped (can sub ground beef or sausage, browned)

8 slices provolone cheese
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.  Slice eggplant the "long way", about 1/4 inch thick.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay on baking sheets.  Roast at 400 for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, mix egg, ricotta, parmesan, salt, pepper, fennel, chile flakes, and parsley.

In a 9x13 pan, coat the bottom with a thin layer of the red sauce.  Lay slices of eggplant over this.  Spread each slice with the ricotta mixture.  Top this layer with 6 slices of provolone.  Cover with a layer of sauce.  Repeat eggplant and ricotta layers, then a layer of all the chicken, then a layer of 6 slices of mozzarella cheese.  Cover with sauce again.  One more layer of eggplant, ricotta, then a mixture of the rest of the slices of mozzarella and provolone.  One more helping of sauce, then sprinkle with the 1/2 cup of parmesan.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until it is nice and bubbly.  Let it set up for 15 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.  This would serve 8 nicely, with a salad and maybe some bread (for the bread lovers) to mop up the sauce.

Roasted eggplant.

Spread on the ricotta mixture.

Ready to bake.

Mmmm hmmmmm.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables

Caramelize.  That's a lovely food word.  I get a kick out of how often it's used today, in reference to everything from onions and carrots, to steaks and hamburgers. 

It means browned, sweet, intense flavor!

Which is why I've gotten to oven roasting my potatoes and other vegetables more often than cooking them in water or with the roasted meat.  I want that browned crisp edge possibility!

You can use nearly any vegetable you can think of in this basic recipe.  Really - broccoli, wedges of greens like romaine or cabbage, everybody in the onion-leek-garlic family, all the roots, corn, tomatoes - anything!

The temperature I always use is 375.  One or two large, rimmed baking sheets and a knife and cutting board are the only equipment you'll need. 

The other constant for me is extra virgin olive oil.  Butter would burn, so I don't use that. 

Do you have fresh herbs in your garden?  Pick them and use them!  Today I used garlic chives and oregano.  I've used thyme, parsley, sage, mint, lemon balm, regular chives, rosemary and more in the past.

The recipe I made tonight follows.  Use more or less of whatever you like.  Roast at 375 for about 45 minutes, depending on how soft or hearty your veggies are.  Stir them once or twice during the cooking time.

Oven Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, peeled, and halved, then cut into wedges
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly snipped garlic chives (2 tablespoons)
handful of fresh oregano, coarsely chopped

Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl, or directly on the baking sheet.  Spread in a single layer.  Roast at 375 for 40-45 minutes, stirring once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grilled Flatbread

Oh, am I in the mood for charcoal and flames!

It was 70 and mostly sunny here in the northern part of the world.  My kids were barefoot all day, and they are filthy and tanned and happy!  Yesterday, a snapping turtle was caught by our resident crazy 12 year old,  and if any of you want to tell me how dangerous it is, and that my kids need to be more careful, I'll just tell you to go back to your x-box and your screen-book and your whatever.  It's just how we roll.

But I digress, as usual.

I grilled a whole, butterflied chicken tonight.  It's such a favorite, and such an economical way to enjoy some good eats from the fire.  It was slathered with home made barbecue sauce, and served with some greens, quartered tomatoes, blue cheese dressing, and Grilled Flatbread.

All you really need is pita bread from your grocery store, along with olive oil and seasoned salt or garlic salt.  Lavash works great, as does Naan bread.  Anything flat, pre-baked, and just needing a kiss of seasoning and a sear on the grill.

Ready?  This is not a recipe.

Take some flat bread (I did 8 pita breads).  Brush them on both sides with olive oil, or melted butter.  Sprinkle with seasoned salt or garlic salt.  Stack them on a plate, and have another empty plate ready to go.

After your meat comes off the grill, brush off the grates to remove any residue.  Put two of the flatbreads over direct heat, and be ready to flip them almost immediately.  They might puff and swell, and it might take all of about 15 seconds.  FLIP, and count to 15 or 20 on the second side.  Remove to your second plate.  Usually you can cook two or three at a time, depending upon your grill and your coals.

We serve this as a "side" to grilled meat and veggies, but they are divine used as a base for many things - they can be tacos, wraps, tostadas, pizza crusts, and a million other ideas that inspire you.  Imagine some grilled shrimp or chicken kabobs, along with some kabobs of pineapple and red onion and green pepper - plopped onto a grilled pita, with some tangy apricot jam-yogurt-herb sauce drizzled on top, then folded over, and as you take a bite, all the goodness oozes out and drips down your elbow and you remember why you survive each winter.  Or some shredded grilled pork, diced avocado, pico de gallo and jack cheese, with a few hot pickled jalapenos on top.  You get the idea, don't you?

Summer should be tasty and easy.  Kids should be dirty and tan and full of bug bites and scratches.  Put your candles outside, turn on the music, forget the dishes, and have a big bite of warm weather!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Smoked Salmon Spread

EDIT 12-25-12

I made this again - with leftover smoked salmon from Christmas eve - and it was even better!  Here's a pic, and a recipe:

Smoked Salmon Spread, 2

6 ounces smoked salmon, flaked
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tsp dried dill (or 2 tsp fresh)
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

Mix all in a bowl until combined and fairly smooth.  Serve with crackers


This recipe has been sitting on a hand-written card in my recipe box for years.  Literally, years.  No, Senator, I cannot recollect from whence it came, but came it did, and it never got tossed because I was sure I'd make it some day.

Smoked salmon, lemon, cream cheese?  Uh huh, it belongs in my mouth.

I'm having a group of lady friends here tonight - and I told them to bring something "springy" to share.  It has been horridly cold and dreary, even for Minnesota.  You know when there's snow flurries on May 2nd that you need to force some spring, no matter how.

I'm glad to say waiting to make this recipe was worth it.  But I would also wish to be glad I'd made it sooner.  That sounds like grammar mess, doesn't it?  I also had some kiwi that were slightly past their prime and some ripe bananas, so I made a quick batch of kiwi-banana-vanilla ice cream.  I just love my counter top electric ice cream maker.

This makes a good 2 cups of spread, plenty for our group and hopefully a teensy bit leftover for Eric to enjoy tomorrow.

Happy Spring!

Smoked Salmon Spread

8 ounces smoked salmon, skin removed
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons finely minced shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons minced lemon peel
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
snipped fresh chives, or chopped green onion, for garnish

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl (except chives).  Make sure the cream cheese is well-incorporated.  Cover and chill for 1-2 hours so the flavors can blend.

Serve with crackers or thinly sliced crispy baguette.  Garnish with chives!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Meal Plan Monday, May 2nd

A friend just posted on facebook that she really needs to start meal planning.


I know plenty of people work, have small families, larger incomes, whatever.  But really?  Meal planning is about so much more than those things.

It's about planning, fun, pleasure, saving money, trying new things, pleasing your family, anticipation. 

So here we are for the week.  Write down your evenings, your schedule, check your pantry and freezer, and git er done.

Monday:  Spaghetti with Sweet Italian Sausage Red Sauce; Sauteed Bell Peppers and Onions; Salad

Tuesday:  Bible study potluck dinner at my house :)  Kids get pizza and a movie in the basement.  I'm making Smoked Salmon Spread - recipe posted tomorrow.

Wednesday:  BBQ Beef Brisket; Mashed Potatoes; Glazed Carrots

Thursday:  Eric and I are going to see Tim Hawkins!  And having dinner at a Mexican restaurant afterwards with friends - Cinco de Mayo!  Kids will have sloppy joes from the freezer.

Friday:  Beer-Battered Fried Fish; Green Rice; Salad

Saturday:  Grilled Whole Chicken; (probably) Grilled Mixed Veggies; Herb Cheese Bread

Sunday:  Brunch after church with the family, and some Grilled Chicken and Steamed Mussels for dinner!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's on YOUR grill?

Hey, Sassy readers - what do you grill?

Favorite grill food or recipe?

Meat, veggies, pizza, bread, even dessert?

Most unusual thing you've ever grilled?

Gas or charcoal?

Let's hear it - I'm in the mood to grill and I'm guessing the rest of the country is, too.  Even thought it's May 1st and there were s*** flurries in Minnesota this morning, we are a positive people.

Thanks, eating pals!