Category: Entrees, side dishes, and salads

Enjoy Fall Cranberries with Sauce, Crisp and Cocktail recipes

Cranberries are a small, interesting fruit with a tart flavor that can be enjoyed in many dishes ranging from appetizers, sauce, stuffing, crisp, candy, and cocktails.  Cranberries have been reported to provide a wide range of health benefits, including control of chronic inflammation, chronic cardiovascular diseases and urinary tract infections (UTI).  This is attributed to the high concentrated source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,  and vitamin C and vitamin E, which are important antioxidant nutrients.

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Background

These delicious little berries grow on a low-lying vine that requires special growing conditions, including acid peat soil and freshwater.  Cranberries typically grow in low-lying beds or bogs that were created by glacial deposits.  Modern cultivation practices use wetlands ponds and other water bodies.  The North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is the fruit recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the standard for fresh cranberries and the cranberry juice cocktail.  It grows on trailing vines like a strawberry.

Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and still bearing fruit.  While Wisconsin is currently the major growth region for cranberries (>50%), they are grown throughout New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.  Other regions grow cranberries as well, including Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.   Cranberries are typically floated in water for easy harvesting and there are no shortage of cranberry festivals across the country.

Recipes

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce (prepare extra for the crisp recipe below)

I absolutely adore the tart flavor of cranberries and I associate this distinct flavor with fall and the winter holiday season.  Orange is a great complement to cranberry.  Preparing cranberry sauce is so easy.  Dump everything in a pot, heat until the berries pop and the mix thickens, transfer to a storage container.  Doesn’t get easier!

Here is a link to my favorite Cranberry Orange Sauce Recipe.  I didn’t have a zester handy at the cabin, so I had to use a peeler and slice the strips with a knife.  If you don’t have the right kitchen gadget don’t give up.  There is always an alternative.  The trick is to avoid the bitter pith (white part of the orange peel).  I recommend going light on the sugar addition.   For me the recipe specified just the right amount, but it’s always best to add to your desired sweetness level as berry sweetness can vary.

Wisconsin Cranberries

Wisconsin Cranberries

juice the orange

I love this kitchen juicer. Makes it easy to add juice to the recipes that follow.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Mixing all of the Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients over heat.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe at onceuponachef.com

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Grilled oyster recipes that everyone can enjoy

Raw oysters are great, but try grilling/broiling with spinach, garlic & Parmesan or Chorizo & cheddar. Don’t like raw oysters? Try these recipes.

As a kid, I spent a significant part of my summers down  in Gulf  Shores, Alabama.  We loved slow-living on the bay, fun times with family and good friends, and the delicious Gulf Seafood.  Shrimp, stuffed flounder, and crabs were fantastic, but my younger brother and I were HUGE fans of raw oysters.  One summer, during a side trip to New Orleans, my parents couldn’t get the trays of raw oysters to our table fast enough.  My favorite dinner as a ‘grown up’?  A wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese accompanied by at least one dozen oysters with lemon, horseradish and hot sauce.  Mmmmmmm!

While not everyone appreciates the slimy texture of oysters like I do, it is possible to prepare oysters that everyone will enjoy.  There is something primitive about cracking open the shells.  Throw a few on the grill and enjoy.

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Spinach Parmesan Grilled Oysters

Chorizo Jalapeno Cheddar Grilled Oysters

Where to buy oysters?

We found a local grocery store that often carries oysters.  I definitely recommend that you call ahead and order in advance.  You don’t want to prepare a menu only to find out oysters are not available.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience on this point.

The guys at our fish counter always give us a few extra.  They are typically priced by the dozen and usually one or two of the oysters are not good (won’t open or they are stinky when you open them).  Request that they pack the the oyster in a bag on ice.  Once you arrive home, be sure to open the bag when you place them in the refrigerator so the oysters can breath.

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Parchment paper cooking: Eat a healthy fish dinner & spend more time with family

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Life happens fast.  We all have too many things we need need to do: work, sports, school activities, help with homework, etc.  Our lives are also filled with a long list of the things we want to do: spend quality time with friends & family, read a book, take a bath, travel, spend time working on a hobby, etc.  For me, family time has become more  critical than ever as I realize my son is growing up way too fast.  How did he get to high school already?

We also want to eat healthy and save money.  All of these conflicting desires and demands can really stress out a parent.  Let’s figure out a way to slow down the clock, hear about our kid’s experiences, achievements, and challenges over a healthy, easy, budget-friendly meal.  Here is a quick and easy cooking technique for shrimp and fish that will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I enrolled in a cooking class at a nearby farm.  We had a chance to try several different fish recipes and cooking techniques.  I immediately realized that ‘en papillote’ had the potential to change my life in the kitchen.  This fancy French term?  It describes an easy cooking method for healthy food with minimal clean-up!  Count me in!

I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen.  My kitchen experiments have not always turned out as planned and are never perfect, but  this is real life and I don’t recall a time when my family has ever turned down a meal.  The recipe outlined below works well with shrimp and any sturdy white fish such as orange roughy, tilapia, haddock, sole, or halibut. Buy whatever your budget allows.  I purchased a pack of individually wrapped tilapia filet (6) for about $10 at Target.

I really like the flexibility of this recipe.   It allows you to use what you have available for marinade or toppings.   It can be varied easily to make this part of a regular meal rotation without boring everyone’s taste buds.  If you keep a bag of fish filet in the freezer, you can make this last minute to avoid expensive food delivery or an unhealthy drive through visit.

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Plan an Oktoberfest celebration for family and friends

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Planning guide for Oktoberfest

OKTOBERFEST!  The best fall party of them all!  This is a perfect time of year to enjoy beautiful fall weather with family and friends.  Attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany is on many people’s Bucket List (mine too).  For good reason, the party (originating from a wedding celebration) has been a tradition since 1810.  The official event in Munich typically takes place between mid-September and early October (Official 2017 dates: September 16th-October 3rd).  It’s time to start planning your Oktoberfest event.

Event Budget

This party can be as simple/complicated and budget-friendly/expensive as your heart and bank account can manage.  Smaller is simpler, but Oktoberfest provides a great excuse to mingle family, friends, and co-workers.  Just be sure to ask for help.

As the size of the party increases, consider asking guests to bring appetizers, entree, desserts, or beverages to share.  Many guests love the challenge of preparing a special, party-appropriate dish.

Invitations

Evite is a great way to send out a party invitation.  It’s easy to set-up and allows you to review guest RSVP’s quickly and easily.  You can even ask guests to sign up for food or beverage contributions.  This feature makes it easy to ensure your guests will have adequate food and beverage and prevents having too much of any one item.

If Evite doesn’t work for you e-mail is an easy option.  Hard copy invitations dropped in mailboxes or formal written invites sent by mail also work, but they do require a bit more planning.

Venue or Location

You driveway, patio, or yard provide a perfect venue for Oktoberfest.  If it’s cool build a bonfire or have baskets filled with blankets and extra sweaters to keep guests comfortable.  Tents are part of traditional Oktoberfest celebrations.  Don’t have a tent?  Consider borrowing a tent from a neighbor.  Tents and tables can be rented, but this will add significant cost to your party budget.  Another option is to decorate your garage or open your home to guests.  You might also consider renting a picnic facility in a nearby park.

Beverages

Oktoberfest food and drink

In my opinion, the guest list is the top priority.  Next in importance?  Food and beverages.  To keep the party simple, enlist the help of your crock pot, family, and friends.

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When life gives you lemons? Make dinner, dessert and cocktails!

I adore lemons.  I love the yellow color; they always make me feel happy and bring a smile to my face.  I also love the smell of the blossoms and fruit and cannot get enough of the flavor.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Hjalmar18).

When we lived in our little Spanish Bungalow in Long Beach, CA we had a lemon tree in our front yard.  I loved walking past it numerous times each day enjoying the smell and activity of the bees buzzing busily around it.  When we moved back to the Midwest, one of the things I missed most (besides milder winter weather, of course) was my little lemon tree.

Several years ago, my son gifted me with a lemon tree for Mother’s Day.  I loved this little tree, but it did not like indoor life in my home.  After about 1-year nearly all of the leaves had fallen off and it certainly wasn’t flowering or bearing fruit.  I almost threw my little lemon tree away, but decided it couldn’t hurt to place it outside on our porch for the summer.  The sunshine and fresh air breathed new life into my resilient little tree.  A couple of years later, summers outdoors and winters indoors, it is healthy and now it has two lemons ripening.

There are approximately 50 varieties of lemons.  They range in flavor from sweet to sour and in acidity.  They are grown all around the world and are thought to have originated in northeastern India.
The ancient Egyptians are credited with ‘inventing’ lemonade around 500 AD.  However, only the Pharaoh and royal family were allowed to enjoy the beverage.  In 1630, a lemonade soda (lemon juice, honey, and sparkling water) was first sold in Paris.  Through the 1840’s demand for lemons grew as a cure for scurvy.  This debilitating disease was caused by a lack of Vitamin C and significantly impacted sailors and miners during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s.  This demand for lemons resulted in the many California lemon groves, some of which still exist today.  Even in current times, many websites suggest that increasing consumption of fruits like lemons decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and lower weight.

And now that you have learned a little bit about lemons, let get to the recipes!

Dinner

Lemon Chicken is a quick and easy meal for a weeknight.  Add a salad and rice or pasta and you have a perfect meal. Continue reading

A simple recipe for a quick and healthy Alfredo sauce – 3 variations to add variety to your menu

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Why healthy Alfredo sauce?

I love to cook and I love the idea of preparing healthy meals.  I have been following the 21-Day Fix eating plan on and off for just over 1-year.  It helps me balance portion sizes and  the right mix of food groups.   I feel great when I stick to the plan, especially with some exercise.

I try to eat healthy, but comfort food tastes great and sometimes it’s just good for the soul after a stressful day.  Fettuccine Alfredo is one of my all-time favorite comfort meals.  The traditional recipe uses butter and heavy cream and this is served over pasta.  Unfortunately, the comfort feeling doesn’t last long and tends to turn into a bloated feeling and state of guilt for me.  Fear not, comfort food can be adapted into a healthier, feel better version.  I have tried several ‘healthy’ Alfredo sauce recipes and have found the recipe provided in the link below to be a great base.  Think of the recipe as a really nice blank canvas.  You are the artist who gets throw on the color and design the finished product exactly to your taste.

Don’t get me wrong,  I love carbs too and can’t give them up.  However, I do try to manage my carb intake (that little yellow box is way too tiny fellow 21-Day Fixers!).  I recently purchased a spiralizer and really enjoy using it to prepare ‘zoodles’ (zucchini) or even better yet, daikon radish noodles.  Seems strange (pungent smell), but perfect base for a creamy sauce.  Even better than pasta with a creamy, heavier sauce.  Try it!

How do you prepare a satisfying meal with a healthy Alfredo sauce?

A great 21-Day Fix version of Alfredo sauce.  Check out this great link.

Ingredients for a basic  Alfredo sauce:

  • 1-1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons low fat milk or almond milk
  • spices (garlic powder, salt, pepper) can be added if you don’t follow the variations outlined below; go light with the salt as the base flavor can be salty from the Parmesan

Instructions for Alfredo sauce preparation:

  • Mix  cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese in a saucepan or dutch oven (I LOVE my Dansk Kobenstyle cookware)
  • Heat on medium-low, mixing just until the Parmesan cheese melts.  Temperature is key.  Be patient (I know this is hard after a long day of work).  Be warned, if you overheat everything separates.  Please be patient, it really only takes a few minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly and carefully transfer the sauce  to a blender.  Ensure bottom is attached tightly to prevent leaking.  I’m thinking about trying an immersion blender the next time I prepare this recipe, which is probably next week!
  • Puree the Alfredo sauce in the blender, adding the milk to get the desired consistency.  Don’t make it too watery, you have another opportunity to add more milk when you reheat the sauce.
  • Transfer the sauce back to saucepan or dutch oven, add any protein or vegetables that you may have prepared (see quick meal tips and recipe variations below).
  • Serve over pasta, zoodles , or Daikon radish noodles.

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4 great recipe ideas for leftover ham

Links to recipes are provided below. Enjoy!

 

Over the weekend, we enjoyed another fantastic barbecue.  We had family over, so we grilled lots of food including a double-smoked ham with apricot glaze from Ray ‘Dr. BBQ’ Lampe’s Slow Fire Barbecue guide.  That is not a mirror image below; we threw two hams on the smoker.  A couple hours into the low and slow smoke, we covered the hams with a simple glaze prepared by blending apricots in syrup, ketchup, soy sauce and molasses.  What great flavor.  We also grilled salmon and asparagus.

 

 

 

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Re-purposed leftovers: Grilled Tuna Steak dinner followed by Salade Nicoise

I love to shop at Costco.  The large packaging sizes can be a problem…..or they can be a benefit.  We like to purchase the tuna steaks.  They are typically offered in a package of two large steaks.   Great price, great quality and they make a simple meal on the grill.  I use this basic recipe for Grilled Tuna and then add in whatever fresh herbs I have an hand or whatever interesting spice I come across in my cabinets.  I am a scientist, so I do like to experiment.  Even in my kitchen with my dinner!  On this particular BBQ evening, I stuck with the lime and used cilantro.

For the original meal, I served the grilled tuna with a salad, crusty bread and roasted garlic (easy enough to throw on the grill in some foil while the fish cooks or preferably earlier so it has time to get warm and carmelize).  The steaks were very large, so after a few appetizers the three of us only managed to chow down on one of the two tuna steaks.  Leftover problem….no problem!

These are the grilled tuna steaks we enjoyed for dinner #1.

A couple of years ago I had a wonderful Salade Nicoise at a local restaurant.  Sounds fancy, but really provides a substantial meal and the flexibility to use what you have available.  I was fortunate enough to have a grilled tuna steak, but canned tuna works as well.  ‘Standard’ ingredients include potatoes and hard boiled eggs.  I started boiling the potatoes and after about 15-minutes, I added the eggs.  I like my potatoes al dente (a bit crispy; apologies for mixing Italian in with French) in a salad.  Another ‘standard’ ingredient is green beans.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any available.  If I did, I would have cooked or blanched them with the potatoes and eggs.

Here’s is a great basic recipe for a French Vinaigrette.  You can see the ingredients I used below (olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, tarragon, lemon, salt and pepper).  I really enjoy the ‘zip’ of Dijon mustard and use it on sandwiches, as a marinade on meat, and in dressing.  I buy bucket-sized jars of Grey Poupon at Costco, but my favorite brand to date it Maille.  I have seen this at World Market (Cost Plus).  I was lucky enough to visit France last week.  Can’t wait to use my souvenir mustard.  They had all kinds of interesting ’embellishments’ (dill, pepper, herb mix).  Shallots are another great option in addition to or in place of the garlic.  I love tarragon.  I throw everything in a jar and give it a good shake.  Simple!

 

 

Again, this salad is about what you have on hand (romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, anchovies, capers, olives, radishes).  If you love it, throw it in.  Wow!  Look at this amazing, fresh, healthy, satisfying meal.  Yum!

The assembled salad.  Dinner #2.

Please let me know what you think by adding a comment using the link just under the post title.  Do you have a great idea for leftovers?

take care.

Laura

Leftover beef tenderloin panini

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start.   I know many of you may have healthy eating resolutions.  I do too, but I start Monday.  For now, let’s talk food!  

Over the holidays, I hosted a Christmas dinner for my family.  It was a lovely evening and I served a roasted beef tenderloin.  Normally, we would have grilled.  However, the temperature on the day of our party was below zero with Arctic wind chills.  I’m not sure we would have been able to get the barbecue up to a high enough temperature.  Needless to say, it was a wonderful dinner and the tenderloin was delicious .  I was so busy serving 15 guests, I completely forgot about pictures.  What a shame.   No such thing as  a free dinner……next time someone in the family will be assigned this important task.

The cut of meat was rather gigantic, so there was quite a bit left even after sending some home with guests.  I threw it in the freezer for a later date.  Well, that date arrived.  One great option for leftover tenderloin is Beef Wellington.  On this occasion, I didn’t have puff pastry in the freezer.  However, I did have a nice loaf of jalapeno cheddar bread, so beef panini came to mind.  Even better idea knowing I had horseradish cheddar cheese in the refrigerator.  Who doesn’t love a little horseradish with a tender slice of beef?  Just one problem, no panini press.  I mean how many kitchen gadgets can I cram into my cabinets?

This is where I had to get a little creative.   I could just use a frying pan, but I was determined to have grill marks.  I didn’t have a grill pan available because I was cooking at the cabin.  I expect a grill pan would work if you had a way to weigh down the panini.   My solution?  I just used my waffle iron and a little cooking spray.  I love my waffle iron even more!

Quick to assemble and just a matter of minutes to get the bread crusty, meat warmed, and cheese gooey.  Threw some minestrone soup mix in a pot and a delicious dinner for a cold northwoods evening was on the table in no time at all.

We enjoy serving tenderloin for nice dinners and typically have plenty of leftovers.  Please share your ideas for how to use left-over tenderloin.   I am always looking for new ideas.

Thanks for sharing!  Laura

October cabbage and shrimp tacos

 

cabbage

We better enjoy the  last of our farm-fresh produce.  The farm plot is now closed until spring.  Over the weekend we had to remove all of the tomato cages and other gear.  No more stories about the farm until January, when we start planning our summer crop and starting seeds.

This fall we had a nice mini crop of red cabbage.  I am German and I do like cooked red cabbage, but I really like cabbage better in the raw state.  I am a big fan of coleslaw.  When I was living in California, I loved fish tacos with cabbage slaw.  Seems that lots of people like fish tacos.  They are much easier to find outside California.  I wasn’t sure what to do when I came home with these beautiful cabbages, but I decided to do a little internet research for a fish taco recipe.  Honestly, I can’t pickle everything!  Or can I?

 

 
img_3930img_3931I happened to have frozen shrimp in the freezer, so I substituted shrimp for fish.  I like to keep a bag of shrimp in my freezer at all times.  They thaw out in minutes, allowing for delicious, healthy meals.  During my search, I came across a fantastic recipe for Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Lime Cilantro Slaw.  Turns out the combination of the cabbage and the sauce is the key to taco success.  The hardest part is really the sauce, and that comes together quickly with the help of a blender.  I didn’t have Southwest Seasoning, so I just mixed a little Old Bay Seasoning with the other spices and threw in a few extra dashes of Chili Powder for good measure.

 

 

 

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I served these delicious tacos with some guacamole, Supremo Queso Chihuahua (white cheese available at Costco and most grocery stores), and refried beans.  What a great dinner!  Everyone at my home loved it.  I appreciated that it was fairly quick to prepare and healthy.

Enjoy!

Laura

 

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