Salmon with Puff Pastry & Pesto

I LOVE SALMON!

Thought I’d get that out of the way.  Though I prepare salmon in various ways there are two recipes that are my “go-to” favorites, whether for company or just for me.  I can’t take credit for coming up with this recipe – it is from Giada De Laurentiis, is super easy and absolutely delicious.  I assemble mine a bit differently than she does and I’m showing the recipe for one serving.

Salmon with Puff Pastry & Pesto     1 serving

  • puff pastry – cut just large than the piece of salmon
  • 4-6 oz piece of salmon
  • 1 T sliced almonds – toasted
  • 2 T pesto
  • sliced tomato

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the puff pastry on one side, the salmon on the other (not touching). Bake for 10 minutes.

To serve, place the puff pastry on the plate, top with the pesto – as shown below:

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Now add the tomato slice(s), followed by the salmon and top with the almonds.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

On Sunday when Mom came to dinner, she brought me three perfect, lavender baby eggplants from the Farmer’s Market.  I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture.

I thought of what I had on hand – fresh Michigan tomatoes,  fragrant basil from my herb garden, tart goat cheese and toasted breadcrumbs made from my homemade croutons and came up with this recipe last night.

They were….phenomenal.  And I’m going to share how I did it in case you’d like to make these little melt-in-your-mouth bites of goodness. They would be great for appetizers, side dishes or a meatless entree.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

  • three baby eggplants
  • 1 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c goat cheese
  • breadcrumbs

Trim the tops and bottoms off each eggplant then slice them in half. Place the eggplant halves on paper towels, flesh side up and salt them. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, blot the eggplant and drizzle olive oil over the cut side lightly coating the surface. Place them flesh side down on a grill pan (I used my cast iron one) and roast them for 15 minutes.  Chop the tomatoes, add sea salt and garlic powder to taste, chiffonade then stir in the basil and set aside. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the eggplant over (skin side down), top them with chunks of goat cheese, chopped tomatoes mixture, then a sprinkle of the crunchy breadcrumbs and place them back into the oven. Turn the oven off and remove them after 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.

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Wedge Salad with Easy Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

The other night I threw a small dinner party. As I was putting together the menu, I thought – how about Wedge Salads?  I’ve never made them, but love the crunchy, freshness of the lettuce with all the toppings – plus I’m a bit obsessed with blue cheese. If I may say so, this was a huge hit with my guests!  You can certainly use a chunky blue cheese dressing from the store but this simple recipe takes less than 5 minutes to make and it’s worth the effort.  For the Wedge Salad, I’ll tell you how I top it and you can decide how many you’re making at a time.

Easy Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 3/4 c chunky blue cheese
  • 1/2 t red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • sea salt & coarse ground cracked black pepper to taste

Place together in a bowl and stir together until mixed.  It’s ready to serve and will be even better in 24 hours.

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Wedge Salad

  • Iceberg lettuce – cut into wedges (I can get six wedges from a head of iceberg lettuce – remove the core)
  • chopped tomatoes
  • chopped crispy bacon (I sprinkle pepper on my bacon before cooking it)
  • chopped fresh chives
  • blue cheese dressing
  • blue cheese crumbles to top

When I served this the other night, I neglected to take a picture.  I placed six wedges on a vibrant green platter and then topped them. It was gorgeous and a showy way to present a Wedge Salad for a dinner party. Tonight, I made up two for Spence and I.  Here’s what my wedge looks like.

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Chicken Parmesan Casserole (plus bonus recipes)

Chicken Parmesan Casserole      serves 6-8

  • 4 c fully cooked chicken – shredded or cubed
  • 28 oz marinara sauce (see bonus recipe below)
  • 3/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 c seasoned bread crumbs (see bonus recipe below)
  • 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh chopped basil, thymes, chives & parsley

In a large casserole dish, layer the chicken, top with the marinara sauce.  Mix the cheeses together, then layer over the sauce.  In a small bowl, mix the chopped herbs with the bread crumbs and sprinkle them on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove and let it rest for five minutes before serving.  I served this over herbed fusilli pasta, with Caprese Salad (recipe in yesterday’s post) and bread from our favorite Italian bakery. 

Marinara Sauce (Red Sauce) – from the Extra Virgin Cookbook

  • 28 oz can of Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • red pepper flakes – optional
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 T fresh basil – torn just before adding to the pot

Pour the tomatoes into a saucepan. Using an immersion blender to smooth the sauce breaking down the tomatoes.  For a more rustic sauce, you can crush them by hand or with a wooden spoon.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion.  Saute for 6-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  If you are adding red pepper flakes, do so now as well as salt and pepper.

Add the onion and garlic mixture to the tomatoes, stir to combine and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 T of fresh torn basil.

Homemade Crouton Bread Crumbs

  • 6-8 c stale bread cubed (any combination of breads)
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 2 t garlic seasoning
  • 2 t Italian seasoning
  • 1 t dried rosemary – crumbled

Place the bread in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Combine the olive oil, butter and seasonings together.  Pour over the bread and toss together to coat.  Place in the oven at 275 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove and stir the bread. Place back in the oven for at least 15 minutes more or until crunchy.  Remove and cool.  You could stop here as these are now delicious croutons but if you want scrumptious bread crumbs, place them in a ziploc bag and pulverize them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin.

 

 

 

 

Caprese Salad

Is there anything much better than fresh tomatoes from your garden or the Farmer’s Market? This summer I’ve been getting the most delicious tomatoes and am constantly building my meals around ways to incorporate them.  Here’s my easy Caprese Salad – I’m giving you the ingredients and a photo, just build the amount that you want for this evening’s meal and enjoy!

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Caprese Salad

  • fresh, sliced tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • fresh basil – either tear or chiffonade the leaves
  • good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • pesto
  • sea salt (or other finishing salt)

Assemble the tomatoes, then mozzarella and repeat.  Sprinkle the basil over the top, drizzle olive oil over the platter, drizzle pesto and then finish with a bit of salt to taste.  It’s just that easy and such a refreshing side salad or meat-less entree.

 

Refreshing Fruit Salad & it’s zero points

Inspired after finding dragon fruit at my local Meijer’s Grocery Store (as posted a few days ago) and seeing some stunning fruit medleys on Pinterest, I put together this recipe. It can be served as a salad, breakfast or snack.  Perhaps best of all, it’s zero points on Weight Watchers!

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Refreshing Fruit Salad – makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups

  • zest from 1 navel orange
  • 1/2 navel orange – sectioned & squeezed for the juice
  • 1 dragon fruit – halved, then scooped out with a melon baller
  • 1/2 c fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 c fresh blueberries

Place the dragon fruit, raspberries, blueberries and orange sections in a bowl.  Add zest and orange juice, using a spatula to gently combine. Chill and serve.  How easy is that?

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Having recently reached my goal weight (to achieve lifetime status) in spite of traveling and enjoying delicious foods, it remains important to me to stay on track with Weight Watchers.  At this time of year, the Farmer’s Market has so much to offer and I’m planning to make dishes that are colorful, healthy and low in points. Stay tuned – there’s more to come…

The Joy of Discovery…at the grocery store

Earlier this year Spence and I traveled back to Aruba. Unlike our prior visit, this time the endless breakfast buffet included the elusive dragonfruit.

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The splendor of Passion and Dragon Fruits enjoyed each morning – bliss!

I’m obsessed with the Food Network and have seen dragon fruit pop up now and again yet had never encountered it in the flesh (a little fruit pun, couldn’t help myself).  After gorging on it during our trip, I feared I might not see it again for a long time. Upon returning in June, I stalked the produce departments of every grocery and specialty food store in a one hour radius; not one to be found.  I gave up and moved on.

Not unlike finding a good man, the minute I stopped looking – there is was!  Fat magenta beauties with just enough “give” when softly pressed to make me certain that they were ripe.  I bought three (though I considered buying all of them).

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I was giddy with my discovery. I called Spence from the parking lot. Not home. I called Mom exclaiming “I’ve found dragon fruit!”  She was happy for me (what can you say when someone is that excited about a piece of fruit, right?)

These were perfectly ripe, creamy and refreshing, a cross between kiwi and pear in flavor.  They are simply beautiful – and a whole dragon fruit is zero points per Weight Watchers!!  What??? As if I needed more reason to love them.

I’ve since learned that dragon fruit is a type of cactus and comes in three colors – 2 shades of pink and the other yellow.  They are a good source of Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and antioxidants.

The grocery tag on those I purchased says USA though they are mostly grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and Israel.

Here is a mouth-watering dragon fruit collage for your viewing enjoyment with photos culled from Pinterest!

 

 

 

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

I’ve mentioned my maternal grandfather and his talent for cooking in earlier posts, sharing some of his best recipes with my followers.  This is one, once discovered, that he made often for us; I haven’t made it in years. Farmer’s Markets are currently brimming with vibrantly fresh zucchini and I’ve been thinking how hungry I am for this easy and satisfying dish. As always, I’ve tweaked the recipe but just a bit…. and it was great!

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats  serves 4-8

  • 3 – 4 zucchini
  • 1 lb italian sausage
  • 1/3 c chopped shallots
  • 1-2 large cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan + more for topping
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 c plain bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 t fresh thyme (you can use dried)
  • red pepper flakes to taste (optional)

Start by boiling salted water in a large deep pot. Place the zucchini (whole) in the pot for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

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In another pan, brown the sausage, onions, garlic and green pepper, drain.

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Slice the zucchini in half, scoop out the middles (I used a melon baller), saving them for the stuffing.  Turn them face down on a paper towels to dry a bit, then place face up in an oven safe dish.

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In a separate bowl, chop the zucchini that was scooped out.  To that, add the egg, parmesan, mozzarella, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes. Stir just to combine.  Add the cooled sausage mixture, stir together. Spoon the sausage filling into  the zucchini.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and top with a few handfuls of parmesan and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until melted. Let them rest for 5 minutes and serve. Bon appetit!

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I made these the day before which allowed the flavors to blend even more.  I removed them from the refrigerator about an hour before baking and served them with my (famous) bruschetta.  Watch for that recipe in future posts…..

 

 

Easy Slow-Cooker Baby Back Ribs

I have a confession.  I have never successfully prepared ribs….until earlier this week.  My failure many years ago left such an indelible memory that I decided it was easier to order them out.  Then came the challenge from my Mom.

“You’re such a great cook, how come you never make ribs?”  

Well, this week after researching “baby back ribs” and “slow cooker” on Pinterest I decided, “if not now, when?”  Challenge accepted!

Spence is out of town visiting his best friend and I needed a dinner partner to honestly critique my creation, a compilation of several recipes. Mom was happy to oblige. It was a simple, set it and forget it preparation and most importantly they were delicious!

Easy Slow-Cooker Baby Back Ribs   – serves 2-4

  • 3 lbs baby back ribs
  • Dry Rub Spice for Pork  (I used one from Market Street Saloon in Charleston SC)
  • 1/2 vidalia onion – cut into thick slices
  • 1 can A&W Diet Root Beer (you can use Coca Cola)
  • BBQ Sauce (I used Open Pit Original)

First remove the silver skin from the backside of the ribs.  Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that by slipping a butter knife under it, pulling gently backwards it will come off easily – if it’s too slippery pull it with a kitchen towel.  (Omitting this step had lots to do with my epic fail years ago).

Cut the rack of ribs into 3 sections. Generously cover all surfaces of the ribs with the dry rub and massage into the meat.  Wrap the ribs and put them back into the refrigerator for 24 hours if you have the time.

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I used a Reynolds Slow Cooker Bag which incidentally makes clean up super easy.

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Place the sliced onion at the bottom of the slow cooker followed by the can of root beer.

Next place the ribs into the liquid and turn your slow cooker to the low setting. Cover and step away for 3 hours.  After 3 hours, turn the ribs reversing the top side with the bottom and cover again.  Let them slow cook for another 3 hours.

Set oven at 375 degrees. Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and place onto a foil covered pan.  Baste all surfaces of the ribs with BBQ sauce. Place into the oven for 10-15 minutes until the sauce carmelizes.  Serve and enjoy!

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The Happiness Tag

This morning I found that I’d be given The Happiness Tag by a favorite fellow blogger, Becky Ellis at beckysbubblesblog.wordpress.com – here’s the link: https://beckysbubblesblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/the-happiness-tag/

Becky’s blog encompasses information about my favorite bubbly adult beverages and frequently pairs them with amazing recipes; I hope you’ll check her out!

To accept The Happiness Tag:

  • 5  Things that Make Me Happy
  • 5  Songs that Make Me Happy
  • 5  Bloggers who Make Me Happy and Notify those Bloggers

5 Things that Make Me Happy

Being married to my soulmate.  Spence and I spent 18 years together before making it legal. As we approach our 7th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, I’m grateful knowing how lucky we are to have found each other and made this life together.

Being Cat Mom to Tipper and Biscotti.  Our two kitties were born in our back yard. Once they’d made eye contact with us we had to make them a part of our lives. Seven years later and each day they show me love with snugggles, purrs and playfulness.

When they were kittens…

Cooking. If you’ve followed my blog you could have predicted that it would make the list. There is something soothing and zen that happens to me during the creative process of preparing delicious food.  Learning new techniques, trying out recipes, tantalizing aromas filling our home and of course, sharing the meals with others who enjoy them all equal happy to me.

My garden.  In the first warm days of Spring, my hands start itching for contact with the dirt and with each week that passes, I’m in some stage of planting, pruning, gathering blooms and herbs, weeding and photographing it. Since retiring I’m able to spend more time enjoying it, stopping to smell the roses.

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Travel.  A goal of mine since retiring two years ago was to travel with Spence as much as possible. Our travel is comprised of new destinations and returning to places we love.  I have chronicled many of our trips in my blog and hope to share many more!

5 Songs that Make Me Happy

  1. Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars – no matter how many times I hear it I can’t resist the urge to break into dance. Every.Single.Time.
  2. Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull – a throwback to my teenage years, this has remained a classic rock favorite that never loses it luster for me. The beat, the lyrics, the imagery plus the power to transport me back in time, simply brilliant.
  3. September – Earth, Wind & Fire – doesn’t this song make everyone happy? I defy you not to smile and stay in your seat.
  4. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys – one of the greatest songs about love. Ever.
  5. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond – so many great memories of this song, seeing Neil Diamond perform it when I was a teen, singing and dancing along to it in the ensuing years at numerous parties with great friends.

5 Blogs that Make Me Happy

tastingeverything.com – Chef Anne is not only responsible for creating healthy, delicious recipes but her food photography is unequaled.  She plates like an artist and I only wish she was in Michigan so that I could try her food.

storyshucker.wordpress.com – Stuart M. Perkins has a writing style that is honest, touching and his stories make me slow down to savor each word.

badcatchris.com – This blog may have begun with Chris, The Baddest Cat You’ll Ever Love (and he looks like my Biscotti) but he shares this blog with his siblings including recently adopted and adorable kitten, Floki.  Cat lovers, this blog is one you need to check out.

https://purrseidon.wordpress.com – Purrseidon is the star of this blog and is a cat. A cat who a fearless lover of water and a water sports enthusiast. But more than that, many posts written to Purrseidon’s “Furiends”  feature stories of siblings, selfies and everything that is good, informative and helpful for cat moms and dads.  “Purr-fectly fun”!

lovingleisuretime.wordpress.com – Frances is a breath of fresh air, pairing beautifully photographed flowers with perfect quotes and sharing delicious recipes.  Retired since 2013 her posts are like a welcome visit with that friend that truly “gets” you. Simpatico.